Gone in an instant. Of my past self, there is only a soul. A disincorporated existence in a non-linear timestream that makes moot the notions of past, present, and future. I am an evanescent amalgam of impermanence and fluidity.
Consciousness? I perceive billions of other souls and there is no social interaction, no friction, no intermingling of thought with all the others. The aloneness is not coupled to loneliness. I am a singularity within a commonality; complete and without need. Bubbled? Cocooned? Moving in a pixelated fashion to and fro? Contemplative? None of these descriptions is apt. I merely am.
There is no presentation of a playbook or the house rules, no orientation session. I internalize the what, where, and why of it all as I move through a New York City subway turnstile silhouetted against a bifurcated horizon, purpling sunset on the right, golden-hued daybreak on the left. I am imbued with an instantaneous understanding of the situation as I veer toward the purple.
Time loops like a Möbius strip, and we souls have a penchant for our Earthly thoughts, brushing up against them and eliciting the thing humans label déjà vu. What it actually is—and haven’t we all yearned for an explanation—is the coinciding of our soul and our corporeal selves sharing the same place and time… a duplication rather than a reminiscence. Sometimes we souls find others’ selves… you know that shiver that runs down your spine when you have an unpleasant thought? That’s a stranger’s soul crashing into you. Most disagreeable; fingernails on a chalkboard.
When we collide with our infant selves, we work to extend the event. The pleasant times babies spend cooing and lolling about in their cribs? Yep, kindred existences enjoying each other’s company. We seek these innocent, agreeable stretches and so, by sheer dint of numbers, often bump into a baby that was not us in the bodily world. Why do babies cry a lot? Now you know. No amount of parental soothing can quell incongruous meshing. The non-self soul leaves in due course and the baby becomes herself again; no more demon child and the parents can stop tearing their hair out.
Once a sufficient period of time—whatever that is—deemed appropriate has passed to purify a soul’s religion at hand, we assemble facing our original entry point, the golden sky half of the equation behind us. The atheists, having spent no time beholden to any religious cultishness, cut to the front of the queue. Three doors exist beyond the turnstile at the end of the line.
I am to return to Earth time. It turns out Lavoisier was right… not even the heavenly authorities can destroy matter. Recycling on a grand cosmic scale, but the resurrection thing includes a twist. I am not to return as a Homo sapiens. The honorable in our ranks get to choose among the great apes or H. neanderthalensis. The not-so-virtuous? Flatworms, fruit flies, sea urchins. The artistic are rewarded: songbirds, porpoises, or butterflies. The evil may elect from the vast array of fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Each selection is coupled to equilibrated movement in the opposite direction through the turnstile, a new soul entering the continuum.
Me? The great ape option is denied me, but I am to have a comfortable, furry coat. I contemplate grizzly bear, family dog, and gray wolf. I opt for the opportunity to be “a very good boy.”