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.
He felt something cold and hard beneath him. A chair. And, not a very comfortable one.
“Hello?” he called out. He tried to stand but found he couldn’t. Not because he was tied down. Some law of the room held him down. Frank looked around. Nothing but him, the chair, four gray walls and a plain white door existed, as far as he could tell.
The door opened.
“I got this one!” a voice called to a cacophony of joy happening somewhere off screen. It was a man’s voice. And, a man entered. He smiled at Frank.
“Hey there, buddy!”
“How is it in here, huh?”
Frank looked around him then back to the man.
“How’s it look?” Frank asked.
“Looks pretty crap, if I’m being honest.” The man laughed. It was an ugly laugh. He was an ugly man. Paunches in all the wrong spots, soggy jawline.
“Are you going to help me?” Frank asked.
“Oh dear, no.” The man smiled. His face wobbled. He reached into his pockets, pulled out a handful of peanuts and shoved them into his mouth. A few fell to the floor. Frank looked at them.
“You want some?” the man asked.
Frank shook his head. He was trying to think.
“No use anyways. They’d just turn to ash in your mouth.”
Frank looked up at him. “What?”
The man split his ugly face with a fat grin. “You’re new. Oh! I love when I get a newbie.”
Frank glared at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
The man held up his hand. “No, no. Let me savor this. Please. I’ll explain in a minute.”
The man fell silent and looked to be humming with no sound. Finally, he clapped his hands together.
“Okay, well, you’re in hell. Well, heaven. But! Your hell. My heaven. Isn’t it genius! God Man should have been a real-estate developer. Would have made a fortune!”
Frank watched as the man chuckled at his own joke.
“Don’t you see? You didn’t believe! I did. So, every day I get to go out there and experience heaven. For eternity. But that isn’t even the best part. At the end of every day, we get to come in and tell all the non-believers about the amazing things we did all day! Frickin’ genius, man. I’d have prayed twice as much if I knew this was coming.”
The man’s face resembled that of a coked-up scientist on the verge of a breakthrough.
Frank kept his expression as passive as possible. He took a deep breath. “Okay,” he said calmly.
“Don’t you get it?” the man said. “You’re here, forever. And I’m out there because you were a damn heathen! Oh, man, we were right! You, you arrogant snobs. Now you all just sit there and, oh man, you want to know what I did today?”
“I flew! I flew. Buddy, you hear that? Like a friggin’ angel! I flew. I bet you’d like to know what it’s like to fly? Huh?”
Frank smiled. “That sounds lovely, tell me more.”
The smile on the man’s face twitched. “And, and, you know angels. They know everything! Everything. You can sit and talk to them about all of history. All that has happened or will happen. I know things that would make you shit yourself.” The man paused, red-faced. He leaned toward Frank. “And, they are damn gorgeous. They do things to you. You’ve never felt anything like it.”
Frank cocked his head up at the man. “Wow, that sounds incredible. You lucky dog. Tell me more.” Frank let his eyes go wide with interest.
The man stepped back and seemed to be trying to think of something else.
“Well, that’s what I did today.”
Frank frowned. “That’s it?” He let out a sigh. “Bummer.”
The man eyed Frank suspiciously.
“Well, I’ll be back tomorrow. And you won’t believe what I’ll do.”
Frank gave him a smile. “I can’t wait. Make sure you do something fun. Something really fun.”
“I will!” the man said. “You’ll see.”
He turned to go.
“Hey!” The man looked back.
“You can do it, buddy.” Frank smiled.
The man scowled then left muttering to himself. When the door shut, Frank looked around the room. He sighed.
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.