A Man Wakes Up On A Ship
A little story about Life and Death
A man woke up on a ship with no memory of how he got there.
This was clearly a Viking ship given its size, the dragon head pointing straight ahead at the front, and the tail curled towards the water in the back. It contained neither sails nor oars, and each side was boldly decorated with a row of green shields. A massive pile of kindling sat in the middle, and miscellaneous items were among the burning material. These weren’t items that you’d normally find on a Viking ship, but rather everyday items like a toy train, a baseball glove, and a briefcase.
As for the precise location, the man couldn’t tell where he was. Given the scent, this had to be the sea. Fog was everywhere, obscuring his vision. He could hear nothing at all, for the sea was too calm to hit even the smallest of waves against the ship.
“Is anyone there?” he pointlessly screamed into the thick fog. “Please help me!”
How was he even going to get out of there? There were no sails attached, and the closest thing he could find to an oar was a cane. Seeing no other option, he grabbed it and rushed to the side of the ship. He had to lean out quite a bit to get the cane in the water, only to realize that there was no way he could use it to navigate a ship this size in any direction.
Abruptly, the cane was swallowed by the sea, nearly taking the man with it. As he was trying to process what just happened, a watery silhouette was launched out of the water and onto the ship. A thick layer of water drastically shed right off the body, revealing a green-skinned figure with flowing emerald-colored hair that covered its possibly nude body. They held the cane in their hand and stared at the man with golden eyes. The greenest smile spread across their face.
“I would appreciate it if you’d keep your items out of my home,” the creature said in an almost hypnotizing voice as they dropped the cane.
“How did I even get here?” the man asked.
“I don’t know. Might’ve been by train, by car, or even by noose. I can’t say because I wasn’t there.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Maybe you’ve brought yourself here out of hopelessness. Maybe someone else sent you here out of spite. Maybe you’re here by accident.”
“Stop speaking in riddles and answer me! Where am I and how did I get here?”
“You are no longer in the world you once knew. As for how you got here, I cannot say. They just sent you my way without any information. For all I know, you could’ve gotten drunk and fallen off a building.”
Coming to his wits’ ends, the man picked up the cane and swung at the mysterious creature, only for them to turn into a puddle that suddenly shifted across the floor. The body of water turned back into a body and projectile vomited so much seawater at the man that he was nearly knocked off the ship.
“I take it that your end came without warning,” the creature said. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t be so confused. Either you were killed from behind without warning or you died in your sleep. Either way, you had no idea that you were dying. Your hysteria is understandable.”
The poor man remained sprawled out by the side of the ship, drenched from head to toe. He could barely sputter out a word as he looked up at the sky that he couldn’t even see. His attention shifted down to the items around the kindling. He was so busy panicking earlier that it didn’t register that these items had once belonged to him. That toy train, which was a gift for his third birthday, had been played with to pieces until Father could no longer put it back together. That particular baseball glove was the last one that he had ever used before he eventually quit baseball. He recognized the briefcase as the first one he’d ever used as a businessman. The other items included his high school graduation cap, the ring box that contained his wife’s engagement ring, and the teddy bear that he had picked out for his daughter when she was born. As for the cane, he had been using it for five years now, but he didn’t seem to need it when he woke up earlier.
“Why are all of these things here with me?” the man asked.
“These are your milestones,” the green stranger said. “These represent what you’ve encountered through life from childhood innocence to retirement. They are what you must take with you in the afterlife as records for what you were in life.”
“What afterlife must I be subjected to?”
“That is up to you. Look straight ahead.”
After a short pause, the fog finally disappeared, revealing three separate islands spaced out on the horizon. The stranger pointed at them as the sun finally shone its heavenly beams.
“Each island represents a different afterlife,” they explained. “One is Heaven, one is Hell, and one is Purgatory. Based on what you’ve done and what you’ve brought with you, this ship will deliver you to the island you are to call home. Someone will be there to welcome you. Now, once I am gone, the kindling will be lit in order for the ship to sail.”
“Wait, you’re going to kill me before I even reach one of the islands?”
“You’re already dead, remember? Besides, your past life must be observed and then destroyed in order for you to fully pass on. Don’t worry, you should reach the shore before the entire ship perishes. Now, go.”
Before the man could ask one final question, the creature backflipped right out of the boat and into the water. The man steadied himself as the flames were lit, finally jerking the ship forward. As the flames grew, he couldn’t feel any heat at all. He didn’t even feel a single ounce of pain when one of the burning train wheels rolled over and hit his foot. He picked it up and saw that the flames had no effect on him whatsoever.
The flames continued to devour the pile of kindling and milestones when the man noticed the teddy bear that he had given his daughter all those years ago. Despite all that had happened between the two of them since then, he just couldn’t let the sweet memories go. He quickly snatched the bear before it could be touched by a single flame. Then again, he was told that his past life needed to be destroyed in order for him to move on, so what if his interference were to send him to Purgatory or Hell? Of course, even if his interference didn’t determine his fate, his past life would. Not all of his decisions were the right ones to make, and he was anything but perfect. Sure, he didn’t make too many mistakes in his past life, but what if it only took one mistake to send him to Hell? Did he have any chance of being forgiven? What would happen if he were to reach Hell? Would he be immediately set on fire? Would the Devil put him in chains? Was he ready for whatever lied ahead?
The ship still burned beautifully as it reached the shores of Heaven. A stunning woman dressed in white stood there in the sand with a white wolf by her side. She had seen the ship as it ignited on the horizon and had waited patiently for it to arrive. Oddly, no one stepped off the ship. She stood there puzzling until she noticed the literal body of water walking onto the shore. All the water shook off, revealing the same green person that the man had encountered when he awoke.
“Where is he?” the lady asked. “Where is the soul that was I meant to welcome?”
“I’m sorry, my lady, but he has chosen to refuse his fate and simply disappear. I witnessed it all from under the surface.”
“But why would he do such a thing?”
“I believe he was afraid that he didn’t make it into Heaven and didn’t wish to face any possible consequences. He’d rather vanish than learn that he didn’t make it to paradise.”
“How unfortunate,” the lady sighed as her wolf nuzzled against her leg.
“Look on the bright side,” her visitor said with that mossy smile. “At least our old friend in the sea finally got his first meal in years!”