1 A Chance Meeting

"Welcome, Gerard, to the realm of gods," a woman's voice echoed through the air, ringing with an otherworldly clarity. The sound seemed to bypass the normal laws of physics and reach his ear in a comforting and surreal way.

Before him, a figure sat on a luxurious velvet chair, shrouded in an aura of unworldly light, their features indistinct.

"I'm sorry to give you some bad news, but you died in a horrific accident at the ripe old age of eighty-two."

Gerard looked at his shrivelled, incorporeal body in disbelief. It glowed from the light radiating from the otherworldly being.

*Definitely dead, I guess.* He thought.

"Horrific accident? Like, from being hit by a truck?" Gerard muttered, his thoughts a jumbled mess. "The last thing I remember was going to bed."

He scanned his surroundings, taking in the room composed of nothing but a floor of pure white. Beyond the floor, surrounding darkness extended infinitely, like the void of space.

"A meteorite crashed into your entire estate," the being spoke, their voice expressing palpable sadness. "It killed you, your staff, and your granddaughter."

"What?!" Gerard swung his head back around, staring at the figure before him.

"We understand that it is hard for you to hear."

Gerard felt a wave of grief wash over him, and his heart ached with an unbearable loss. He approached the edge of the room and knelt while coming to terms with the information, peering into the darkness below, but all he saw was the endless void.

"If I'm here, what happened to them?" Gerard peered at the blinding figure.

"We've allowed everyone who died in this accident to move on to the next world. They will be fine."

"Okay, I'm glad they're safe, but what did you mean by 'we'?"

"I, and the divine entities that oversee your world and ours."

"I understand," Gerard replied without looking at the blinding figure that claimed to be divinity.

He approached the edge of the room with caution. Once at the border, he knelt down to look underneath the floor, only to find he, along with everything else, was suspended in the never-ending darkness.

"You're adjusting quicker than we predicted." The being seemed amused.

"Eighty-two years is a long time. My death was inevitable." Gerard turned around, took a few steps towards the strange being, and sat back down.

"Maybe so, but you were supposed to live for another twenty years. Only to die while you held your daughter's hand not long after meeting your great-grandchildren."

Gerard sighed, feeling a sense of regret. "Did you have to tell me that?"

"Well..." the being hesitated.

"No answer? So, why am I here?" Gerard asked.

"We've brought you here to offer you a choice. Option one: You can be reborn as an infant back on earth with your memories erased. Option two: You can go to what you would call heaven. Option three: You can reincarnate into another world with monsters, magic, swords, and other races. So, what will it be?"

Gerard thought for a moment, considering the choices presented to him. "Another world?" he asked, intrigued despite himself.

"The place we would deliver you to is the world we govern. You'll be reborn on a planet called Terra, in Eirt, the biggest continent of five. Humans and other races populate the world, but they are all threatened by monsters and dangerous beings. You'd have time to learn more while you go along, though."

Gerard shook his head. "No, I want to stay dead," he said. "I lived a good life on Earth, and I can't say my next life would be as rewarding, peaceful, or long-lived. I've died, so let me stay that way."

"Are you certain?" the being asked, their tone conveying a sense of caution.

"What do you mean? It's not like dead could be more dangerous than being alive?" Gerard replied, his brow furrowed. "I don't understand."

"Very well," the being said. "We have heard your request. We wish you luck and give you our blessings."

With those words, the world around Gerard spun away. He disappeared into the darkness as the floor beneath him disappeared.

*Wait, is death just experiencing eternal darkness? I thought I'd cease to exist! I take it back; I don't want this!*

He flailed his arms in frustration, and they struck something solid.

*I can move? I have a body?*

He wriggled around and felt for his surroundings. A container of some kind trapped him.

*Is this what death is? It can't be.*

He punched the surface above him.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Crack. Crack. CRACK!

It broke. Something poured into the container through the new hole. Some of the substance landed in Gerard's mouth. He tried to spit it out, but he couldn't; even though it was in his mouth, he couldn't taste it. He couldn't even feel his tongue. Quickly, he used his fingers to try and clear his mouth.

It was then that he noticed his face felt odd. Gaunt, as if there was nothing between his skull and his fingertips.

He punched against the surface again until the hole opened wider. He clawed his way out through the solid mass before him.

Gerard kept digging in pure darkness, without knowing how much time had passed.

*How much further do I have to go? I haven't eaten, drank, or rested and feel fine.*

Digging became easier the longer he persisted. Then, one hand broke free into a space without restriction. His other hand broke through, and he pulled himself from the hole. The light warmed his face—wonderful, blinding light.

He held his hand up to block out the sun—his skeletal, fleshless hand. He looked down to see exposed ribs between the time-worn rags that covered his skeletal body.

*This isn't possible. How can someone be alive if they're just a pile of bones?*

Gerard remembered a fantasy game on a video game console that his grandson convinced him to play. There were creatures born of magic known as the undead. Zombies, from countless horror movies, were the most common example.

*Undead? I told the gods I wanted to be dead. Not the living dead!*

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