I expected an endless soft white plane, empty except for myself. Perhaps some god or other would meet me here, or perhaps I would just fade away into nothing. But this — this is a far cry from everything I was ever told in life.
Stray colors and lines make up this world. They twirl and intertwine with each other, constantly in motion, separate but together, confined to no space. Of the colors (many of which I have no name for), blue is the most playful, and its curiosity leads a small blotch of deep indigo to my cheek. It remains there, and I can, in my peripheral vision, see it stretching over my lips and up to my eyes, searching for something new. But it must recognize me, for the blotch leaps up for a moment, and rejoins the fray.
To my left is a man named Jon. His final form is neither old nor young, and in fact, it seems to shift seamlessly from one to the other before my eyes. I imagine I look the same, but of course I can’t see myself. Jon died young, of three bullets to the chest. I know this without knowing how I know this — but I think it may be due to our hands. He clasps mine tightly. We march on.
Beyond Jon is Colin, and beyond Colin is Hadiya. I know everyone, even as I cannot turn my head to peer at the others. I can feel then in Jon’s hand.
To my right is Manju. Her death was sweet. It came at a good time, in her love’s arms. This I feel in her hand, which I hold gently in my own. She had been ninety-two. Lito, to her right, had been seventy-nine. We march together.
There are others in a line behind me, and another line just ahead of me, but I know nothing about them. Perhaps Jon, Colin, Hadiya, Manju, Lito, and I were born together. Or, perhaps we died together. I can think of no other connection. I don’t believe we’ll be told, either, because there’s nobody around to do the telling. It’s just us, and the lines of strangers ahead and behind.
Another blue strand explores my face, but, as the other had, it grows bored and flits away. I wonder — how many deaths have I died, and how many more will there be?
From somewhere within the storm of colors, a single note sounds out. I can’t tell what instrument is being played, but I recognize the note as a high D, even though I was not musical in life. Manju had a lovely voice. Colin played the cello. I think of my children, who both play the violin.
I stop. We stop.
The colors stop, as if they, too, are listening for the next note.
Another high D, drawn out and commanding. We move forward again as the colors begin to move more frantically, writhing and reaching for us from our left and right, behind and in front, above and below. A brilliant gold streak follows the line of our arms, then disappears. Another one follows it, an urgent red, and it splashes itself upon our chests and necks and heads. When it recedes, it leaves behind a warm, spicy smell. It lingers in our memory.
Cider. We used to love cider.
Another note. We stop.
We think of the day we were born, since we have access to that memory, in our death. We remember the first time our names — Jon, Colin, Hadiya, Manju, Lito, and Rose — were uttered. Eyes of brown, blue, and amber alike look down on us with joy and wonder, though there is one dark, unhappy pair. We ignore that one.
The note that prompts our next march sounds out. We go.
Our favorite is the blue. We like how it rises and dips just to come back and see us again, and we remember certain shades from previous times. If we were alive, we would call it “friend,” but we died today. In beds, embraces, and on pavement, we died. We suppose, then, that in this lies our connection.
The line ahead — comprised of only four souls — is beginning to look like one, rather than many. Points of light mark their hands, still clasped together, but they have smeared into each other. The colors, too, have found points of entry, and the line becomes a living wall of blues, reds, greens, and colors for which we have no name. We don’t fear it. Surely this is how we appear, as well.
Another note. The wall ahead falls out of our vision. We march, as before, the first in what we think may be a never-ending procession of lines. Such thoughts are becoming difficult to bring to fruition. They blend into each other, as a particularly bright shade of blue blends with our souls. We try to hold it there with us, but it escapes, and we find that we are perched on the edge of our deaths.
We cease our march and wait for our high D. When it comes, it’s with a collective sigh that we lean into the next existence.
We will miss the colors, even as we forget them.