Author : Michael Iverson

He was still seizing when the light hit his eyes. His head was pounding as he squeezed them shut, but it still tore into him, bright as the sun. His body was convulsing and his arms were trembling as he tried to hold onto himself. He wanted to lift his hands up and shield his eyes, but he was afraid he’d lose his grip and fall off into nothing. All he could see was white, impossible white, the light taking over his entire body, creeping into his soul. His headache faded, the shaking stopped, and he opened his eyes.

Walter was at a dinner party. He was naked. “Do you want some clothes?” An older gentleman with large eyebrows placed his hand on his shoulder. “You don’t have to wear anything, but most people prefer it.” The man smiled.

“This is just like life,” Walter said. He looked around at all the people talking, laughing, and dressed for all occasions.

“It’s a little better, I think.” The old man breathed deeply. “Heaven. Like life, but slightly better. How about those clothes?”

Walter followed him to the closet, and accepted the faded jeans with a nod. He put them on and found them just a little big. “Thank you. What’s your name?”

The old man held out a hand, which Walter accepted. “Frank Cohen, it’s a pleasure. Yourself?”

“Walter,” he said.

“So how’d it happen, son?”

Walter looked back at the old man.

“I hope you don’t mind me asking. Some newcomers can be sensitive about it, but after you’ve been here a while it’s just like talking about the weather.”

Walter glanced around. It was a beautiful house, with a light sage carpet and eggshell walls. There were probably fifty people here. He turned back to Frank. “It’s complicated. It took years.”

Frank frowned and nodded his head. “Cancer, my boy? It got my wife, Cherry, too. A few years after me. You’ll meet Cherry, she’s around here somewhere.”

Walter nodded, and Frank went on. “I had a heart attack in the garage, about a week after Erin’s graduation. Erin’s my granddaughter, of course. Must have been ten years ago, now. Maybe longer. A lot of us lose track.”

Walter glanced at the clock and smiled. “I can understand that. How long have I been here?”

Frank raised his eyebrows. “Five minutes, probably. Not much longer.” He laughed, “You’ve got a long time ahead of you. Would you like to meet Cherry?”

“I’d love to meet Cherry, Frank, but I think it’s going to have to wait until later.”

“Of course, my boy. Just wait right there, I’ll grab you a beer.”

Walter looked at the clock. “No, Frank. I’m sorry. It’s just about five minutes. I’ll be back here later. I’ll look for you.”

The ground erupted into light and collapsed beneath him. He hugged his knees to his chest and shut his eyes. The pounding in his head returned, he felt it throbbing against his eyes. He thought about Frank, and then he was sitting down.

He was in the laboratory. His assistant was holding his wrist, counting his pulse. He took a deep breath and smiled at her. She cleared her throat. “Walter? You were out for five minutes. Did it work? How was it?”

He let his head fall back against the machine. “It worked. Just how we imagined it.” He thought for a moment. “Maybe a little better.”

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