George Mercer was a very stubborn man.
Because of his stubbornness George refused to stay an extra night in Florida as his wife had requested. Because George refused to stay an extra night in Florida, he left on his own a day early. Because George left on his own a day early he was bumped from his original flight and because he was bumped from his original flight, George ended up on flight 773 to Toronto.
Finally, because George was on flight 773 to Toronto, it crashed.
Investigators would later conclude that the crash was caused by a set of mislabeled and improperly fastened Golf Clubs owned by one George Mercer that shifted midflight which caused the already loose right wing of the plane to buckle and split, but no one on the plane would survive the crash to blame him.
There were a lot of thoughts going through George’s mind during the flight; why people insisted on taking babies with them on planes, why the person in front of him always had to put their seat back all the way the millisecond they were in the air or how he somehow managed to always be in the seat farthest from both the washroom and the food cart. As he played a mindless game on his phone, he also thought about how there was nothing he despised more than the un-skippable ads he had to sit through when he needed more lives in Candy Crush. The vexatious way advertisements seemed to leech into everyday life was one of the vilest and irritating things George could possibly imagine, and had he been sitting next to anyone other than a loudly snoring woman who didn’t seem to speak a lick of English he would’ve started up a rant about exactly that.
All of these thoughts and especially the last one, washed over George leaving him hot headed, frustrated and bothered.
However despite all that, the last thing through George Mercer’s mind before his plane crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania, instantly killing every person on board, was his wife.
It wasn’t in a romantic, sensitive, compassionate way that slowed time to a crawl and made the readers’ hearts wretch with unbridled compassion. Nor was it in a way that would imply they’d had a troubled marriage, filled with strife, infidelity and anger, no; the way George Mercer thought of his wife in the final moments of his life was mundane & uninteresting, much like George himself.
Luckily for George there was no drawn out, painful burning of his flesh when the fireball engulfed him and his fellow passengers. Perhaps it was the knowledge that this was, without a doubt, the end of his life that saved him the pain of burning alive but whatever the reason his death was quick, painless and was followed by an all-consuming, all engulfing blackness.
A black without equal, for it was a darkness which housed the absence of all things that had ever and will have ever existed. It was an abyss of nothingness that enveloped time, space and everything that was, has been and will ever be; pure, absolute, plain and simple “nothing.”
Then a man walked out.
For George, the time between his untimely death and the appearance of this well-dressed man who wore a thin, attractive auburn beard lasted less than a second. He walked out onto what could only be perceived by George as an empty black backdrop.
“Hello.” The man said looking at George.
Instinctively George looked down expecting his body but instead found that he was incorporeal and unable to move.
“Don’t be alarmed but you’re dead.” The man said with almost a smile before laughing softly and continuing, “You may not know me, in fact if you’ve died before 2453, you probably have no idea who I am – my name is Lester Brook. I’m a pretty well-known celebrity in the year 2458 and I’m here today to tell you that even though you’ve died, you’re welcome to come back.”
The man had a strange charismatic nature to him which George felt a bit apprehensive about at first however the black scene quickly changed to a bright, beautiful city landscape, the likes of which George had never seen before. The sky was a soft blue and the city brimmed with life and energy as if it were living itself. Houses and building – the likes of which George had never imagined rose to the sky. The colours were vibrant and yet warm as if familiar; it was a future that George had never imagined.
Lester turned around and regarded the landscape with a false sense of awe, as if pretending to experience it the first time would comfort George. After a brief moment he continued on.
“This is the world today. It’s a glorious, peaceful utopia in every sense of the word filled with generous, kind people who have devoted their lives to entertainment, art and scholarly pursuits…”
George turned to Lester and tried to talk, however he could not. Suddenly large red text flashed before George’s eyes:
PLEASE RESERVE QUESTIONS UNTIL AFTER THE SHORT VIDEO
George looked back at Lester and patiently watched.
“…there are no more wars, no more needs; the entire world has fresh, clean drinking water, all societal restrictions on sexual preference and gender have been stripped away and we’ve made glorious leaps in space exploration, science and technology…” Lester said turning to George, “…technology like the one that gives us the ability to bring people back.”
The background again changed to a laboratory filled with intelligent looking young people in lab coats, rushing around with test tubes and clip boards. Lester grabbed a chair from a desk and sat in it facing George.
“Scientists have found a way to bring people like you back, to experience the world as it was always meant to be; free from strife and conflict. For the past 5 years we’ve worked to bring each and every person who has ever existed from 1900-2450 back into our world to experience everything we’ve worked so hard to create.” Lester spoke with a sincerity that George had already grown to enjoy.
Again the background changed to videos of families hugging, elderly people holding hands and children being reunited with their parents as George watched eagerly.
“Our program has a 100% success rate. Every person that we have brought back is currently living a happy and meaningful life with their family, friends or even alone exploring the world or the universe. This includes your parents George.” Lester said turning to George as the background changed, showing his parents happily standing arm in arm on the beach.
Lester stood up from the chair and dragged it closer to George, he felt so real and yet George knew that it was a projection of sorts.
“George, we cater each presentation to our subject so you know that I mean the truth when I say this, we want you back.” Lester smiled an honest, caring smile, “…Your wife wants you back too.” Suddenly George’s Wife May walked out behind Lester and smiled playfully at him, before fading away.
Lester smiled as well and stood up as the chair faded away. The background was now a stage and Lester stood upon it and spun around to face George.
“Mr. Mercer, in truth, the reason we have a 100% success rate is because we always give you a choice.”
As the words left Lester’s mouth a large red button appeared before George with the very clear words “REMAIN DEAD,” written upon it. As George looked at the button he suddenly felt his body come into existence. Excitedly he looked down at his hands which felt fresh and new, yet familiar. After a short beat he laughed to himself, a joyous, lighthearted laugh, and looked back up to Lester with anticipation.
“I know, I know, Remain dead is a bit on the nose, but we didn’t want to misconstrue anything – the minute you press that button it’s over – we won’t bother you again.” Lester said with a playful smirk.
Lester took a breath and sat down on the edge of the stage towards George.
“The choice is always yours; press that button and you will remain dead, your life will be over and that’s it – no strings.” Lester said with an honest tone that felt almost concerned. After a beat George looked down at the button and then back to Lester.
“Now is the time,” Lester said as he stood up, “where you can ask me anything you’d like.”
George suddenly felt the ability to speak wash over him, as if the ideas in his head finally had been formulated and his mind swam with questions for Lester.
“So, my wife, my parents and children…. they’re all here?” George asked almost anxiously.
Lester nodded, “And your children’s children, and their children’s children and so on,” Lester laughed.
George was overwhelmed with emotion as he paced around. He’d stop every once in a while and look down at his hands, wondering how old he really was and as he strained to do the math he suddenly lost interest and shot a look towards Lester.
“Is there a time limit?” George asked hesitantly.
“None whatsoever,” Lester said with a smile, “you can think about it for as long as you want!”
George nervously nodded and smiled as the questions once again buzzed within his head. No matter what questions came up, none seemed important enough to delay his future and after a short breath George cleared his throat and turned to Lester. The words we’re all but out of his mouth before he paused, a slack jawed almost dumb expression on his face.
For thirty years prior to his death George had been inundated with metaphorical strings. This wasn’t heaven after all so no matter how tempting it may seem there must be something to gain for someone.
“What’s the catch?” George said flatly.
“No catch,” Lester said genuinely, “there is nothing you owe George, you don’t need to sell your kidney, pay off the body, work for the government or become a slave – it is as good as it sounds!”
Lester held his hand out towards George with a genuine joy that George felt wash over him. Softly George nodded at Lester.
“Then I think… I’d like to live again,” George said as tears began to form in his eyes.
Lester smiled coyly, “I’m happy to hear that, your kids have missed you.”
Lester pulled a large red button out from seemingly nowhere and placed it to the left of the “REMAIN DEAD,” button only this one said “CHOOSE LIFE.” George took a deep breath as he regarded to the two large buttons.
“They don’t ask for anything,” Lester said as George began rubbing his hands together excitedly, “I mean, unless you count the 30 second advertisement after you press the button.” Lester said almost absentmindedly as he excitedly spun on his heels.
George stopped rubbing his hands together and slowly looked up at Lester.
“What?” George asked flatly.
Lester turned back around, as if surprised at Georges question and with a flat almost dismissive tone he said, “oh… well the company that makes the bodies for you, they donate all the bodies for all new lives and all they ask is to play a short advertisement for face cream or something once you choose life…”
As Lester explained, the smile and anticipation washed off of George’s face. The once elated man now stood with clenched fists and as Lester saw George’s expression fall flat he began to back pedal in an almost confused tone.
“George, it’s a 30 second ad, you can’t really be care about adverti-
But that was all that Lester managed to say before George pressed the large red “REMAIN DEAD” button, and with an annoyed, almost disappointed look on his face George once again returned to nothingness.
After all, George was a very stubborn man.