Her life flashed before her eyes – all seventy three years of it. Being beaten by her father, reluctantly, under her mother’s orders; being groped by stinky Billy Carpenter in the dusty darkness of the shelter shed, uncomfortable and bewildering; falling madly in love with Ziggy Stardust in the 70s; getting her ears pierced, against the stern commands of her mother; pimples, periods, crippling anxiety; losing her virginity to brooding Craig McMillan in the back of his ashtray-smelling car; getting her arse squeezed by obnoxious Mr Morgan at the office Christmas party, so hard there were bruises; meeting Simon, and not exactly falling in love, but knowing he’d do; the relief of her mother’s passing; the sadness of her father’s; the hallucinatory mystical agony of giving birth to David and Paulie; the strange surreal freedom of Simon’s funeral; the pain of seeing Paulie move away, across the world; the lacklustre retirement party; the empty home; and the recent endless moments of lying in this beige world of nurses and ceilings and diminishing visits, knowing she was dying.
And then it was all over. And she was weightless, and everything was bright. And a voice spoke to her, infinitely calm, infinitely compassionate, felt rather than heard.
“So, we’ve got a few suggestions for you,” it said, not in anything so crude as words, just the knowledge itself implanting itself in her very being. “Based on your previous choices, we thought maybe a ‘single parent, only child, metropolitan, utilitarian’ scenario might suit you best, but of course, it’s totally up to you.”
“Who are you?” she thought-spoke, aware of nothing but infinite light and infinite borders, “Where am I?”
“You’re back here again.”
“Back where? What’s happening? Am I dead?”
The voice thought-smiled softly.
“It takes a few moments to re-adjust. But you won’t be here long.”
“Have a look at these,” the voice said, and immediately a thousand thousand life-fragments flew through her, enveloped her (though, of course, she wasn’t really a ‘her’ here, she was barely even a separate ‘it’). Faster than she could count them, she experienced the teaser-trailers of a thousand thousand different potential lives, until, all of a sudden, they stopped.
“Okay then,” the voice that was really a feeling said. “We’ll go with that last one then, shall we?”
“What?” she said-thought, “Wait! Am I dead or not?”
“Of course you are,” said the voice, “but your next life awaits you in ten. Ten-”
“I have to go straight back in? Can’t I… sit this one out?”
There was soft warm laughter.
“Why do you always ask that? No, you go straight back in again.”
“That’s just how it works. Seven-”
“Please! Can’t I just have a rest?”
“How long do we have to do this for?”
“And then what?”
And the light turned to darkness. And the formlessness became form. And the ever-banal, ever-miraculous cycle of life began again, again, again.