For my last meal, I went all out. Prime rib with horseradish sauce, roasted new potatoes, roasted asparagus with a small spring salad. A blackberry cobbler with real vanilla ice cream. A nice pinot noir to drink with the meal was requested for the meal, with a Praeger tawny port to drink while smoking cigars after my meal. Although I’ve made friends and re-established three friendships with others who died and are here, I’m dining alone. I like being alone. The Caretakers weren’t surprised. About half the people request solitude for their last meal. The other half like being part of a big party.
As I understand it, and they made it clear in orientation, I’ve already died, killed in a car crash in my new Ferrari. I can’t believe my timing. I was just making it big. Now I’m dead.
At least I don’t need to worry about my heart and cancer any longer. Or my hair. I can’t gain weight or do anything to this body. I won’t have it tomorrow morning. I’ll die and be reborn, starting over.
Doing the stroll, I say good-byes to the world. Bright orange poppies proliferate in a sandy field. Birds wheel, collect and land. A comforting sea breeze chops up the ocean. Waves splash with sunshine. This place, Aition, is temporary. It reminds me of the central California coast, just south of Half Moon Bay, where I lived my life. Born and raised, a California native. I stayed there, except for Vietnam, marrying twice and divorcing the same, with five children resulting from these unions. Richard, one of my boys, had preceded me in death. He was the oldest and the brightest. I tried finding him here but he’d already left, they said. I would have like to see him again. His death in a plane crash gutted me.
These thoughts carry me to the Solarium. I sought a final glimpse of my new sun and planet. Looking at them, I still can’t accept the truth of what I’m being told. The sun is the size of an orange. My planet is like a blue, green and white pea.It’s already populated with eight billion humans. I’ll join them tomorrow.
I kept asking, “Is this a model?”
No; that’s the planet. Those are all planets and suns.
“How many?” I wonder aloud.
“Billions and billions,” they reply.
Expanding my scope of seeing, I look up, down and across from the overhang where I stand. It looks like billions and billions.
I’ve compared my new Earth to the Earth that I left. It’s several suns over. They look pretty much the same.
We never cease, they told me. We just leave one place and go to another. This stop is a sop to us because we’re always wondering what happens when we die. It’s not a good sop. It opens up as many questions as it answers, and then, I’ll die here, be reborn elsewhere, and have most of my knowledge gone.
“How do I get a job here?” I asked a couple of the Caretakers. They’re all beautiful, perfect people and seem serene and happy. Why not? They’re living the perfect life. “Who do I see?”
“You can’t do anything to get here,” they all answer. “You’re born to here,” Juarez said. “Just like you’re born to other worlds.”
It seems capricious, arbitrary and unfair, just like the world I just left.
Time to eat. See you all later.