I stared blankly at the bright screen in front of me. It was past two A.M. when I opened my eyes again.
This was now one of many nights doing nothing more than sitting in front of my computer. Lost in a haze of half memories from the nights before. My blonde hair was disheveled and had grown long. Despite my mother’s constant complaining.
After my eyes finally adjusted to both the darkness around me and the pain inducing monitor light before me.
The page on the computer had long crashed. The address bar indicated the episode of Mr. White’s latest escapade I had fallen asleep watching.
My name is Alex. I picked up and chugged down what was left of an energy drink off my desk. One of many containing various amounts of various ages. If I had known what was coming in the next few minutes. I would have lamented the idea of being more awake to experience it. Either way this night became the most important in my life. Or... After my life I suppose.
My head was very fuzzy and light. I jumped when the computer made a sudden beeping noise. A message popped up on the screen:
UNKNOWN: Feeling tired Alex?
I shook my head to wake myself up. My head was full of pins and needles. As far as I was concerned in that moment, I didn't know how to breath or see with my own eyes. You know that feeling when it's early in the morning and you have to take five minutes to remember who you are and how to be human again? I picked up a can of energy drink off my desk and chugged the last of it. The can hit the floor, and I placed my hand on the keyboard and started typing.
ALEX: Who is this?
A small swish indicated the message had sent successfully. I sat back in my chair, anxiously waiting for a response. The room seemed oddly quiet, even for this late. I could have sword that my TV was on before I had passed out. I glanced up at the ticking clock on the wall, and noticed it had not yet moved.
Must be broken, I thought to myself. Just as I started to ponder why an old clock like this one would suddenly stop working, the computer dinged again.
UNKNOWN: A Friend.
I hoped this was just Mitch again trying to mess with me.
ALEX: Who are you then?
I was getting impatient with whoever was sending these. It was too late in the night to have to deal with a troll. I shivered, the room seemed to be getting colder. The computer dinged again, this time the message showed a username.
CHARON: You tell me.
I groaned in frustration. Leaning forward, I grabbed the mouse and moved it viciously to the bottom of my screen. My browser was open before you could say ‘Error 404.’ I immediately searched the name Charon, the page came up:
Sorry the page you have requested may be too shocking for you at the present moment, talk to him a bit more first.
I slid back again in my chair, obviously baffled by the computers strange behavior. At this point I was convinced I was dealing with a crafty virus. I scoffed under my breath.
"Charon,” I said aloud with disbelief. Another message popped on screen.
I looked up and gasped. I slowly put my hands back on the keyboard.
ALEX: Why are you bothering me?
CHARON: You are next on the list Alex.
ALEX: Next for what? The grand prize if I give you my credit card number?
CHARON: Not quite.
ALEX: Then what list?
CHARON: The final list you will ever be on?
ALEX: You are being unbearably vague! Who are you really?
CHARON: First of all, take a quick look around my friend. Trust me.
I wouldn't have trusted whoever this was as far as I could have thrown them. Which based on past experience with bullies, isn't far. I stood up out of my chair and looked around. The light was off, but the room did not seem entirely dark. I was surrounded by an ethereal blue glow, very faint. The computer dinged again.
CHARON: Look outside.
I reluctantly walked over to the window. I was breathing heavily in fear by the time I got there. Grabbing the drawstring, I pulled the blinds open. At first it just seemed like I was seeing the darkness of the night. After a few moments however, I noticed that it was completely black. No backyard, no tool shed, no driveway. Everything was gone. I leaned forward, using the windowsill for support.
CHARON: Breath Alex.
I turned when I heard the increasingly frightening dinging noise. Which was a noise I never expected to be scary. Really though, who would?
CHARON: We have a lot to talk about. But first, finish that search you tried earlier. It is time you know who I really am.
I jumped back into the desk chair and minimized the chat window. I reopened the page and pressed F5 as fast as my fingers would allow me. The information refreshed and displayed properly this time. What I saw made my heart sink in my chest.
"This can't be happening,” I said aloud.
Only two things came up in the search. Charon means either a moon of Pluto, or it is the Greek name of the Ferryman of the River Stix. I opened the message window again after hearing another ding.
CHARON: Figure it out yet?
ALEX: This is a joke right?
CHARON: Does it feel like a joke?
ALEX: So the pages are telling the truth?
CHARON: Yes. I am the fifth moon of Pluto.
I sat in silence. Another ding broke my confusion.
CHARON: Just kidding.
What was I supposed to think at this point? It didn’t seem like a joke anymore. No one would have gone this far. Not even Mitch. I continued to type.
ALEX: What's going on?
CHARON: Pretty sure you already know that.
I hesitated before writing my next response. The reality of the situation was starting to wash over me, I'd be an idiot to ignore the truth, no matter how ridiculous it was.
ALEX: Am I dead?
CHARON: Yes. I'm here to guide you to the next steps.
I inhaled loudly. I stood up and backed away from the computer. In the corner of my eye I spotted movement, from the mirror. I walked over to it slowly, a light suddenly turned on within it. Nothing I had experienced in my lifetime, not the beatings, not the drugs, nothing, could have prepared me for what I saw behind that glass. As with a normal mirror, it reflected the exact room in which I stood, but it did not show my reflection. I stared through it as if it was a window. Everything within seemed to be moving in slow motion. A tear ran down my face when I saw a figure sitting in the computer chair, my own body. I stared at my motionless corpse as my Mother, who had just turned the light on, slowly ran towards it. I could tell she was screaming but I couldn't hear it. I screamed at the top of my lungs in terror as I backed away from the mirror. I tripped on a pair of shoes left on the floor and fell backwards. I sat on the floor crying, another ding came from the computer.
CHARON: Do you understand now?
I crawled back up and sat back in the chair. I could barely breath.
ALEX: Why is this happening?
I was typing very slowly, feeling completely drained.
CHARON: You know why.
ALEX: I'm clean now.
CHARON: What are you really asking me?
ALEX: How did I die?
The cell phone on the desk suddenly rang. I jumped at the loud noise. I picked it up and slid to answer.
"Hello Alex," A male voice said.
"Charon?" I asked. Knowing the answer beforehand.
"Yeah, sorry for the sudden call."
"No worries," I was calmed by the sound of his voice.
"This type of news shouldn't be given over a computer screen, no matter what the bosses say," Charon said. I was confused by his odd caring demeanor.
"What news?" I asked.
"I'm afraid you have died of a sudden heart attack."
"Oh..." I couldn't think of anything else to say. "Why did you use the computer to talk to me?"
"I thought it would be the most suited for you," Charon said.
"What do I do?"
"You'll need to take the test."
"Test for what?"
"Test to see where you will be going?"
The computer beeped again, showing a new image. I read the header of the page.
Welcome to Parasise Dot Com!
"Paradise Dot Com ?" I asked.
"We've updated since the rowing days," Charon answered.
"What do I do?"
"Follow the instructions Alex, then you will know where you are going."
"What do you mean where I'm going?"
There was a minor pause.
"Heaven or Hell," As soon as he said this, the phone clicked and the voice was gone.
"Hello?" I said. No one answered. The computer screen flashed again, displaying a button on the screen.
Click here to begin.
I moved the mouse over to the button and clicked, the site moved to a new page. A box asked what my name was, I typed it in and pressed the enter key. A picture of me loaded at the top of the page, with all of my information below it.
Is this you?
I reluctantly clicked the "yes" button on the screen. A new page loaded, displaying a message.
Don't be afraid.
Through this system you are going to answer three very simple questions for me. These will determine where I will have Charon escort you when you are done. Bear in mind, you will only have one chance to answer each question. Think carefully.
This test is only administered to certain souls here Alex, you should know the facts of the situation. You are aware why you died tonight. Do not lie. Do not deceive. Be strong. I do not want you to fail, but many have before.
You are one of few who equally belong to either eternity.
Don't be afraid. I'm with you now.
I probably don't need to sign my name, infer from context my son.
Infer from context indeed, I couldn't believe what was happening to me. I decided my best course of action was not to sit and stew, so I continued with the page promptly. The first question came up.
What caused you to pass on tonight?
A small box appeared below to question for the answer. I sat in the chair, trying to figure out why this was the first question. The note had said not to lie. I walked over to the mirror again. Although things were still moving very slowly beyond the pane, the paramedics were already surrounding my body. Lifting me onto a stretcher. My body's arm flung off the side, giving me a clear view of the reason behind my death. The holes along my arm were already starting to turn purple. I rubbed my eyes, my sin caught up to me. All the years of bullying was alway my excuse. No room for excuses. My first reaction was to lie, he obviously knew that. I walked calmly back to the computer and sat down. Typing my answer into the box:
ALEX: The damage to my body from the drugs.
I hesitated to press the enter key. The computer dinged and moved on to the next question before I even could.
Was Alicia's death your fault?
I immediately started to panic. How could I possibly answer the question. I looked upwards, even in this exact copy of the bedroom the pictures were still there. Including the last one she ever took, just before they got into that car. I knew the answer I had to say, I fessed up and typed it right away.
ALEX: I truly believe so.
The computer once again dinged and moved on. The final question displayed on the screen in front of me. This was it, I started to breath very heavily. It seemed like a lot of pressure to put on three questions. The first two already put me on the verge of breaking down, the last one started me crying like a baby.
Given the chance, would you apologize to your family?
I sniffled and shook for several minutes while staring at this question. I spent my whole life up until this moment believing I never had a choice. Believing that all of the fighting and tragedy was justified because of what I went through in school. I closed my eyes for a few moments to think. When I opened them, the computer was gone. I found myself standing in complete darkness, nothing surrounding me. The room was gone.
"Hello Alex," I heard a familiar voice say behind me. I turned around to see a young looking man standing before me. He was wearing jet black robes and carrying an oar in his hand. The oar had several engravings near the top. His face was young, sporting a small beard and a very clean face.
"Charon?" I asked.
"Bingo," He replied.
"Why am I here? I had one more question left."
"Yeahhhh, that was less a question. It displayed more to prepare you."
"Prepare me for what?"
"Listen Alex, I like you. You've been far more honest than most up until now. The bosses have prepared a test for you. It's not going to be easy, but I encourage you to remain calm."
"Speak from your heart my friend."
He lifted his oar and pointed it to a door in the distance. I walked towards it, following the clear command. I had never been more afraid in my lifetime. I placed my hand on the doorknob and looked back to Charon. He simply nodded, and smiled at me. I opened the door slowly and entered.
I found myself standing in a new room, A very familiar room. The walls were covered with several paintings and drawings. I continued to cry looking at each one.
"Oh I'm so sorry," My voice was broken.
"I know," Another familiar voice from behind me spoke. A young female voice.
I turned to see Alicia standing in front of me. Just as she looked the day she died.
"Alicia..." I said quietly.
"Hey big brother, I missed you," She said.
I just breathed in. I knew what they wanted me to do.
"It was all my fault," I managed to say.
"Don't, I don't want to hear that. Tell me, how's Mom?" She asked.
"She was never the same after... The accident."
"She'll be even worse now."
"What can we do?"
"Nothing. You don't want to hang around. Haunting will just make it worse."
"How are you so calm?"
"I've been here awhile Alex, they teach one to forgive here."
"I really am sorry Alicia."
As the words came out of my mouth I knew I meant it. I never thought I could say it. How could someone ever apologize for what I did to her.
"I believe you," Alicia said calmly.
Before my eyes, Alicia and the room faded away.
"No!" I screamed. "Bring her back please!"
I collapsed to the dark ground. Once again crying my eyes out. I couldn't tell how long had passed as I sat. I suddenly stopped when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Good job Alex," Charon said.
"Now what?" I asked.
"The boss wants to see you."
He simply smiled. I took his outstretched hand and stood up. He lead my down further into the darkness.
"Where are we?" I asked.
"Purgatory," Charon said.
We walked the rest of the way in silence. Eventually reaching another, larger door. It was a large white, Victorian door with gold embroidery on it. I turned to Charon.
"Thought there would be a boat," I said.
"That's only for our downstairs neighbors," Charon said.
"Is it weird that I kinda wanted to see it?"
"Maybe a little, can't blame the curiosity though, but trust me, there are far more interesting things where you're going," He smiled large.
A crack filled the air as the door started to open. I turned to notice Charon had disappeared.
I stared into the doorway. As it opened a warm feeling filled me. I marveled at the sight beyond the door. A seemingly endless corridor, glowing diamond-like blue. I turned my head to the left as I entered, a figure stood close to the wall. He stood very still, staring directly at me. He wore a black suit, with a white shirt and a golden tie. His beard was white and very well kept.
"My god," I whispered.
"That's what they all say.”