By Benjamin Davis
Welcome to “What Happened When Frank Died.” In this column, for as long as I’m allowed, I’m going to kill Frank. Like—a lot. Worse, every two weeks, he will then be subjected to a multiverse of afterlives: absurd, funny, brutal, depressing, wild, creepy, heart-wrenching afterlives. Some will be based on existing theories, some on my own demented imaginings. In each, Frank will begin anew, searching, as always, for his lost family in the messy business of the many potential Great Beyonds. Frank (thankfully) does not remember his past-afterlives. Yet, attentive readers who pick up clues along the way will be able to solve the mystery of what happened before Frank died.
A limb of some sort, from somewhere, landed in front of him.
“What the—” he started.
But then, someone lopped off his head.
He looked around. A dusty brick-laden hall full of men, all in the same white outfit. It stank. He squinted through the mess. Men were putting on armor, taking all manner of weapons from the seemingly endless variety covering every inch of the walls.
“Excuse me?” He tapped a man pulling an AK-47 off the wall. The man turned.
“Hey, uh, so what’s all this?”
The man turned. “Getting ready for the fight.” He cocked the AK-47 and started walking off.
Frank dashed after him. “Wait, sorry.”
The man turned, again.
Frank backed up. “It’s just— what fight?”
The man smiled. “The only fight there is. For the gods.”
Somewhere, a breeze flooded in. Then, everyone ran. Frank followed. He was bustled through an archway that had appeared, into a golden dome, a stadium. It could have fit an ocean.
“Holy shit,” Frank muttered before a man next to him blew them both up with a grenade.
The dust got in his eyes as soon as he opened them. He was back in the hall.
He looked to his left. A man sat, naked. He was big, covered in hair.
Frank coughed. The man turned. He smiled.
“You look like you’re having a blast,” he said.
Frank looked the man up and down. “You too.”
The man looked at his own body. “Yeah, well, I wasn’t naked the first time I died, so I’ll be damned if I’m going to go out in white scrubs with a sword in my chest.”
Frank watched other men in the room gathering their gear.
“What is this?” Frank asked.
“Well, depends who you ask. If you live long enough you can see that there are people watching. Some call them gods.” He shrugged. “I like to think we’re in a video game and the lives we remember are merely the imaginings of some sadistic game developer. But, who knows.”
Frank thought about it. He sighed. “Is it all men?”
The man nodded.
“Not that I’ve seen.”
“How long have you been here?” Frank asked.
The man leaned back, resting his head on a broad ax, pondering. “A bit over a year, I think.”
The man looked around. “Just more weapons, more meat.”
“Shit,” Frank spat.
“Shit indeed. Anyway, I’m Charlie.” He held out a hand. “You know, harder to kill it after you name it kind of thing.”
Frank smiled. “Frank.”
A breeze flooded the hall.
“Here we go,” Charlie groaned.
The crowd rushed out of the door. Frank watched Charlie run, naked, into the mess. He leaped onto a large man and took him to the ground. He beat the man senseless with the handle-end of his ax and stood up, spattered with blood. “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?” Charlie yelled at the surrounding chaos.
Frank stepped back.
Then bullets ripped through Charlie, hitting Frank in the process.
Back in the hall, it didn’t take him long to find Charlie. He still had his pants on but his shirt was laying in the dirt beside him. It looked like people were trying to avoid him whenever possible. Frank, on the other hand, walked up and asked, “So, is there any chance to win and get a favor or something?”
“Nope,” Charlie said, reaching to pull a spear down from high up the wall. He then used the spear to knock a rocket launcher loose from even higher up. The launcher fell; Charlie dropped the spear, and caught it.
“What is the point of all this?” Frank asked.
Charlie rested the launcher against the wall and pulled off his pants. He laughed and said, “Was there ever a point to anything?”
“If this is what life amounted to?”
“If this is what life amounted to,” Charlie confirmed, removing his underwear.
Frank thought for a moment. “No, I suppose not,” he decided, watching a paunchy middle-aged man heft a warhammer off the wall. The man looked at Frank, then Charlie.
“You want a taste?” Charlie asked the man, spreading his legs. The man stared a moment, then walked off. Charlie shrugged.
Frank stood and watched the mindless armoring of men.
Then, Frank took off his shirt, his shoes, his pants, and his underwear. He took a sword from the wall and sighed.
Charlie patted him on the shoulder.
“Atta’ boy,” he said.
Benjamin Davis is the author of a novella, The King of FU (Nada Blank), and shorter works appearing in Star 82 Review, Maudlin House, 5×5, Cease, Cows, and elsewhere. More of his work can be found at benjamindaviswriter.com.
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