“Yeah,” Gus sighed mentally. “That was definitely a dream.” He woke from a vivid, loud, colorful dream into empty, silent darkness. “I guess that means I’m still alive. Damnit.” He remembered everything about the explosion and the moment everything stopped.
The last thing he saw was the pair of kids he tried to shield from the explosion; he didn’t even know them. The last thing he heard was a thunderous boom and shattering glass. The last thing he felt was a searing, sharp pain on his back and head; then, everything went dark.
He woke sometime later unable to move or open his eyes. Gus tried crying out for help, but he had no idea if anyone heard him, or if he was even making any sounds. He felt like a ball of floating consciousness; he couldn’t feel his body at all. After realizing it wouldn’t get him anywhere to try getting attention he let his mind focus on the situation.
Gus couldn’t see, hear, smell, taste, or feel anything; but, his mind still worked perfectly. He tried keeping his mind active for as long as he could, but he eventually fell asleep. He was suddenly standing in line for kettle corn at the carnival. Bright lights, loud kids, and delicious smells assaulted him from all sides. He wandered around as long as he could; then, he woke up disappointed.
“If I’ve been falling asleep, but never feel tired.” Gus realized after dozens of dreams. He was sure several days had passed since the accident, but couldn’t tell for sure. “Not hungry either. That’s nice at least.“
A few dreams after that, something was different. Gus woke up to the now-familiar darkness and felt cold. As the chilling sensation grew, a speck of white light appeared in the distance.
“I CAN SEE!” Gus willed himself toward the light and glanced down. Despite not having any arms or legs, the light seemed to be moving closer, growing bigger. He felt colder and colder. “Wait. Did I die?” he wondered as the white light enveloped him.
He found himself, still looking down, standing in a brilliant white office. He had arms and legs and clothes now; Gus’ own body just as he remembered it.
“Where am I?” he asked. “WHERE AM I?!” he shouted and laughed when he realized he had a voice again.
“You’re in my office, please don’t yell,” a woman said behind him. Gus was slowly looking around the office, but it looked like nothing more than white space. He whirled around at the words and found a pale woman in a white suit sitting behind a white glass desk.
“Oh, uh, sorry,” Gus apologized. “How and why am I in your office? I remember an explosion… am I alive?”
“You are a hero, Gus,” the woman said. “You took several shards of glass into your brain and spine and you’ve been in the hospital for several months.”
“Months? Whoa,” the amount of time surprised him, he thought it was maybe a week a most. The woman kept talking before he could ask any more questions.
“Unfortunately, by the time I learned what happened, it was too late to save your body. So, I decided to arrange a new one for you.” Gus looked down at his wrinkled hands and beer gut.
“Not that I’m not grateful,.. but… you can make bodies. I wouldn’t have minded something leaner and younger.” The corners of the woman’s lips tugged upward, almost hinting at a smile.
“I can’t presume to guess what you would and wouldn’t mind, there are too many choices. That body is a temporary measure so we can have this conversation,” she waved a hand in Gus’ direction. A stocky dwarf with bulging muscles and a thick black beard appeared in front of him; Gus hopped back in surprise but the dwarf didn’t move.
“You’re here to pick one,” the woman said. The dwarf shimmer and sprouted upward. It was replaced a lithe silver-haired elf. It shimmered again and strong, athletic human appeared. Each shimmer brought something new; Gus saw a goblin, a troll, centaur, fairy and more. After several minutes a hovering mermaid fell to the ground and shimmered into the black-bearded dwarf again.
“25 races. Design any character you want to be,” the woman said. “Of course, you won’t be going back to your Earth, but the family and friends you’ve made will be able to visit you.”
“My Earth?” Gus asked as he watched the figure in front of him continue showing off his different choices. He looked around it at the seated woman.
“Does that mean I’m going to a different Earth?” he asked. She nodded. “In a different body?” he asked. She nodded. “Are you God?” he asked. The woman smiled and stood from her desk to walk around it.
“Of course not,…” she said as she walked up to him with an outstretched hand. “…I’m better. My name is Dana Sharp.”