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.
Frank looked down at the woman rubbing his feet.
“Hello, Mr. Morgan. How was your life?” She smiled.
Frank’s life backpedaled in his mind. He looked down at his unblemished wrists. “But I…” Frank began. Then his life kept going backward, even further. Frank remembered.
He looked around the recovery room of the clinic. He looked back at his smooth, young wrists. He looked down at the woman running her small fingers through his toes. He glared at her.
“You people are sick!” He jerked his foot away and stood up, the small towel falling to the floor.
“I want to speak to a manager!” he demanded.
The woman nodded and ran off.
Frank paced around on the heated floors of the recovery room in a rage. A few minutes later an older woman in a purple suit and high heels click-clopped her way into the room. She stopped some ways from Frank; she held a clipboard and contempt.
She raised an eyebrow, looking him up and down, smirking.
Frank picked the towel up off the floor and wrapped it around his waist.
“Thank you. What is the problem, Mr. Morgan?”
Frank seethed. “What is the problem? What kind of life was that? I-I -” He rubbed his temples. “I fucking killed myself, didn’t I? Hell, lady, you end it with killing myself? What kind of sick fucks are you? First, you killed my son and my wife, then this? How can you justify this?”
The woman sighed and flipped a few pages on her clipboard.
“It was a simulation; you don’t have a wife and son.”
“I know that NOW!” Frank cried.
“Calm down. It seems here you signed up for an ordinary life.” The papers fell back into place, her expression challenging. “I don’t understand the problem.”
“You don’t? You don’t understand the problem? You really are sick. That wasn’t ordinary, that was a fucking travesty. I’ll sue you. I’ll sue this whole damn clinic and I’ll plug you in and send you through hell. How about that?”
The woman’s eyes went blunt around the edges. “Mr. Morgan, we do not control what happens. We do not pre-program your life. It happened the way it happened because of the decisions you made. You chose an ordinary life. Ordinary lives are often filled with tragedy. But,” she took the measure of him in a glance, “you young rich kids come in here wanting to be edgy or impress some girl or prove something to your parents and then throw a tantrum when you realize that an ordinary life is not so wonderfully quaint as you expected.”
Frank glowered at her. Her words knocked him impotent. He had signed up for the simulation so a girl from his Introduction to Philosophy class would go on a date with him.
The woman in the purple suit nodded. “Thought so,” she said. She reached in her pocket and pulled out three little cards and held them out to Frank, who grabbed them.
“What are these?” he grumbled.
“Coupons,” she smiled, “for your grief.”
She held them out.
Frank didn’t move.
“So, what happened to him?”
She frowned. “Who?”
“My son – or – fuck, whatever, the simulation kid. Was it, after he was taken – you know…” Frank adjusted his towel and looked away from the woman. “Did he suffer?”
The woman’s contemptuous mask cracked a little and she said, “He wasn’t real, Mr. Morgan. Take solace in that.”
She set the coupons down on the chair and, before leaving, told him, “Next time you might consider our Extraordinary Life Package. Fewer sharp objects.”
Benjamin Davis has stories & poems in 25+ literary journals like BOOTH, Hobart, Maudlin House. His first book of poems, The King of FU (2018), was such a smashing success it shocked the indie press who printed it into an early grave. He is now working on his first six novels.