Offcourse Literary Journal
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Interim, by Michael Kinnaird.

 

For a little while, he thought he was having an unusual dream. It didn't take long for him to decide he was probably dead.

He was sitting in a murky darkness, and had the sense he was surrounded by a vast expanse. There was nothing around him which seemed to have any recognizable form. The more he stared into the depths, the more he seemed to detect dark variations of color, reds and browns, and brief swirls of motion. This could have been an optical trick, however, much like the "ant wars" patterns one eventually sees if one stares long enough at the bright static of a television screen whose station has gone off the air.

He could see his own body quite clearly. It seemed to be illuminated dully with a grayish light, but this light had no discernible source. As he swayed from side to side, there was no change in the light; only his body continued its subdued glow. He seemed to be sitting on a smooth surface. When he placed his hand toward the "floor", his hand appeared to stop rather than touch anything.

He could not hear anything, even the small noises one would expect from moving side to side. He considered testing this by clapping his hands or attempting to shout, but decided not to do this until he had gathered more information.

He was naked. He felt neither cool nor warm.

Since the last thing he could remember clearly was going to bed, and since the nearest thing in his experience that could begin to describe his present situation would be some sort of dream state, he naturally assumed at first that he was dreaming. But eventually he had to dismiss this theory, because as odd and inexplicable as his surroundings were, they did not possess that bizarre, random variability that historically characterized his dreams. This place seemed like a real place, he seemed awake, and there was an independent continuity to both the place and his person. He was somewhere.

He probably could have thought of some other scenario to account for his position, but once he decided he was not asleep, it seemed logical to him that he was in fact deceased. There would be no reason for someone to go to the trouble to take him from his bed, undress him without waking him, and leave him in some dark silent place such as this. He was not an important person, he owed no great amount of money, he had no important enemies. And the gray light, which seemed to shine from his body, had no natural explanation of which he was aware.

He thought it probable that he had suffered some lethal event in his sleep, a coronary, an embolism, an attack from a burglar, and he was either having a brief, odd, final sense of self awareness before oblivion, or he was experiencing "life after death."

As a child he had been told stories of heaven and hell, of course, how that when someone died they were either received into glory, or woke up in torment. If there was any truth to these stories, he should probably worry, since it did not fit the picture he had of a benevolent God to paint one florescent gray and leave one in the dark.

He did not think this was glory, but then he was not in torment, either. And he seemed to be thinking clearly and did not feel particularly anxious nor fearful. Perhaps the stories he had been told were false, or only partially correct, and he was expected to discover for himself where and what he was, and just what he should do next.

He had three more coherent thoughts:

This was only beginning.

This would never end.

Whatever had him in its grasp was no more than an errand-boy, making a delivery.


Mike Kinnaird's work has appeared in Offcourse Issue #5, Fall 99, Issue #7 Summer 00, Issue #11 Fall 01, and Issue #14 Summer 02.

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