Johnny felt warmth spreading across his skin. His eyes were closed but the darkness behind them began to brighten; then, he heard the soothing sounds of crashing waves. A gentle breeze kissed the top of his bald head and convinced him to open his eyes.
He found he was laying down and sat up to look around. He was in a wicker chaise sitting on a bright sandy beach; but, if he didn’t know better he would swear he was upside down. The sky was a beautiful clear, sea-green color while the ocean looked like a glassy blue sky beneath it. The smell of cooking meat filled the air, then he heard voices. Johnny looked behind him and saw hut style bar about 50 feet away. There were four people, two women, and two men, that seemed to be having a good time. One of the men, the one that looked like a mountain, was tending a grill.
Curiosity and surprisingly, hunger got the best of Johnny and he decided to wander closer. The last thing he remembered holding his wife’s hand in bed. He was glad he got to say goodbye. He did not doubt for a second he was dead. He hoped heaven would be an island paradise but he expected more of a welcome.
“Hey! Who’re you!?” The shorter, blonde woman shouted when she noticed Johnny. He froze and the other three turned around to see what the woman was pointing at.
“Oh man, I totally forgot!” The taller woman yelled. She rushed across the sand toward Johnny; he noticed her sea-green curls matched the sky. Her outfit was as disjointed as the horizon. She wore a navy blue business jacket that looked completely professional from the waist up. Around her waist, she wore a navy blue sarong and she had bright golden flip-flops strapped to her feet. “Johnny, I need to apologize for forgetting our appointment,” she said as soon as she reached him. She hooked an arm into his and led him back to the group. “I’ll give you an extra perk on your next life to make up for it.”
“My n.. next life?” Johnny asked. He got the question out just as they reached the group.
“His NEXT life?” the blonde woman asked. “Do we get a next life too?”
“Johnny, my name is Isla,” the blue-haired woman said. She smiled and shook his hand. “I’m your caseworker for the afterlife. We’ve met several times already but it takes quite a few before you start remembering me.” Isla gestured at the shorter woman. “This is Lisa, ” the blonde crossed her arms and glared at Johnny. “…and that’s her brother Lionel,” Isla pointed at the burly man at the grill. He lifted his hand and waved backward at Johnny without turning around. “The shirtless gentleman with the fresh ink is Miller.” Miller was a lean man with six-pack abs and sheet of plastic glued to his chest. It was protecting a tattoo of a silver scythe. A 14 was inked in red numbers on the blade.
“So… am I in heaven?” Johnny asked.
“Oh god, no. Why? Did you want to go to heaven already?” Isla asked with wide eyes. Then she gave her head a firm shake. “You wouldn’t remember. Hold on.” She lifted her hand and wiggled her fingers at the air. A black hole opened next to her. Before Johnny could grasp what was going on she rushed into the hole. He turned to see everyone else’s reaction but none of them seemed impressed. Within a few seconds, Isla walked out of the hole again holding a manila folder. The portal closed behind her.
“Phew,” Isla smiled. “All good, you’re on the right path.”
“What’s going on?” Lisa asked. “If he’s dead, are we? He’s on the right path, but not to Heaven? What other paths are there?”
“I’m not in heaven… but I am dead, right? Where am I?” Johnny added more questions. Isla sighed.
“I don’t have time to answer all that,” she pointed at Johnny. “Your window here is limited, and it’s almost up. Everyone listen, no interruptions.”
“But-” Lisa’s interruption was halted by her brother’s giant hand covering her mouth; and, almost her entire face.
“Thank you,” Isla said. “Now, most of what you…, “she pointed at Lisa. “… and you…,” she turned to point at Johnny. “…think you know about life is wrong.” Lionel cleared his throat politely. “oh right, and you too I guess or whatever,” Isla added. “The truth is-“
“Isla?” A deep voice sounded from behind her; everyone turned. A tall man with a golden mane of curls flowing down his shoulders and a matching golden beard was striding across the sand toward them. “My name is Regal…,” is the last thing Johnny heard. His vision went black and the world fell silent. Then he was born again.