Dying was nothing like I had expected it to be.
A tunnel of light? Nope.
Angels around you? Ha!
Heavenly music? Ya right…
A feeling of bliss and a consciousness that expanded to understand all the secrets of the universe? Dream on, honey, dream on…
I just woke up in my room - at least, somewhere that I thought at first was exactly like my room - but when I turned my head to see what the weather was doing outside, the scenery beyond the window had utterly changed.
That was the first hint everything was not as it should be.
I got out of bed bed so fast my feet tangled in the covers and I fell on my face on the floor. For a while I stared at the carpet which I did not have – the second hint that something very odd had happened. At that point I just thought I had slept late and my mother had done some redecorating without waking me up. She is like that. She loves to change the curtains and carpets and reads blogs about decorating and all that stuff. And I usually slept like a log so a little of Mom's decorating would not have woken me up.
Swearing under my breath, I got up and opened the window to be sure my eyes were not deceiving me.
Mountains. Mountains? Mountains! But I lived in a town by an artificial lake. I did not even know there were mountains anywhere on the plates. How the heck had those mountains grown up during the night? Had I been transferred in my sleep to another plate? Who - and why? And especially - how? They would have to have slipped me a sleeping pill or something so I'd carry on snoring while the prank was carried out.
I stared at the scenery for quite a while but it didn't change. And that was the third clue about the strangeness of things - it was summer outside. It had been winter on our plate when I went to bed. Winter had been turned on a month ago and there would be two more months of it, to keep nature functioning as it should.
Going to bed in winter and waking in summer...
Then I got it. I was dreaming. I looked around my room and wondered how I could make myself wake up again. Everything seemed so real that this had to be a really, really deep dream. Maybe this was what they called lucid dreaming?
Oh, yeah, I forgot one more cliché about dying. A guide to escort you to the afterlife.
Well, that was the first of my experiences of death. Sort of. And no, it was not some gentle spirit taking my hand and assuring me all was well before we floated up into eternal light. Instead there was an ordinary knock on the door.
“Come in!” I said over my shoulder, expecting it to be my mother. “You’ll never believe the view from the window!”
“And why wouldn’t I?” an unfamiliar girl’s voice asked. “I’ve seen it plenty of times before.”
I swirled around so fast I almost tripped over.
“Who the heck are you?” I blurted out. "And what are you doing here?"
“I’m supposed to guide you around.” She sounded almost bored, and I was immediately reminded of my first day at school, a small child looking up at the older student who had been told to show her the toilets and classroom, except this one wasn't as tall as I was. She carried on standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips, observing me, and then asked a question I didn’t understand: “OK, so how did you die then?”
“How did I do what?” I stared at her. Some crazy woman had made it into my bedroom somehow.
“Die. Bite the dust. Go belly up. Kick the bucket. You know – give up the ghost.”
“Are you insane?” I spat out. “I’m very much alive thank you. And stuck in a nonsensical dream, it seems. Because you sure aren’t anyone I have ever met before.”
“Ah, right. You are one of them,” the girl sighed.
I wasn't sure I wanted to know what "them" meant. I looked at her. She was quite small, and had short black spiky hair and green eyes, a boyish figure and no makeup.
“You better follow me then.” She opened the door.
“I’m not dressed!” I looked down at my pyjamas.
“Hmm… I reckon you died in your sleep,” the girl cocked her head on one side, “as those are clearly pyjamas you’re wearing. People appear here in the clothes they were wearing at the time of their death. So that would explain why you are one of those who don’t realize they have died.”
I opened the wardrobe door and snatched out a familiar pair of jeans and a T-shirt, wondering how she could possibly come up with a good explanation for the fact that even though I was dead, I still had my own clothes in my wardrobe.
The girl did not show any sign of leaving the room so I just turned my back on her and got dressed as fast as I could. I put on my socks and the slippers I always wore indoors and was ready.
“Right.” I decided to play along. “Take me to your leader!”
“Follow me,” the girl shrugged, still sounding bored and opened the door wider so that I could pass through.
I stormed past her, eager to see who was playing this stupid prank on me. I had rushed out onto what I thought was the upstairs landing and instead found myself in an unfamiliar dining room. All sorts of young people were sitting around the table, eating breakfast, which was being served by a man with horns on his head and an ancient looking angel with worn slippers on his feet.