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N.D.E.

by Luther Kross about a month ago in fiction
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Near-Death Experience

In 2011, I had my first fatal heart attack. I died, right in the back of that ambulance. But they revived me three minutes later.

At the time, I was cruising towards my sixtieth birthday. I could feel my old age catching up to me, but I still got around fairly well back then.

Anyhow, I'd been invited out to the bar by some coworkers. They wanted to have a few drinks in honor of a mutual friend's promotion. I was a lonely old widower whose kids had grown and moved away. What else could I possibly have to do?

So, I dressed in my nicest jeans and my favorite band tee. I didn't want to look like a complete slouch, but I also didn't much care what they thought of me. No way I was gonna wear a monkey suit in my off time. Besides, I was just a few years away from retirement, and I was oh, so ready for that.

When we got to the bar, Jared, one of my colleagues, ordered everyone in our group a single shot of whiskey. We all toasted and gulped them down as one. It was an unintentionally synchronized moment of pure beauty. Then, Jared sent out a round of beers for us all.

I wasn't necessarily opposed to having a few drinks with these guys and hanging out, but I really wasn't into getting hammered. Despite the fact that it was Friday evening, I still didn't want a hangover to nurse the next morning.

After I finished that first beer, I slowed down and sipped the fresh one brought to me. Somebody from our group had hit the jukebox and an old Merle Haggard song filled the small barroom. I wasn't into country at all, but I was getting free drinks, and I was out of the house for the first time in quite awhile, so I just went with it. Pretty sure I even caught my head bobbing along a time or two.

"Having fun?" Jared asked, sidling up to the bar next to me.

"Actually, yeah," I said with a bright smile. "It's nice to get out of the house."

"Thought you might feel that way. I'm glad you came, man. I worry about you. You know?"

This wasn't the first time Jared had approached me this way. He was just one of those guys who could sense it when someone else was struggling, and he insisted on "helping them out." It could be annoying at times, but I'd say his heart was in the right place.

"Yeah. So, you tell me from time to time."

"Well, listen, Barry," Jared said, lowering his voice and leaning in, "if you ever need someone to talk to, man, just hit me up. My cell number's in my email signature. You can call me any time. All right?"

"Yeah, Jared. I know," I said, feeling a bit uncomfortable.

"Cool, man," Jared said, holding his fist out. I bumped it with mine and he said, "Catch you later, bro."

"Later, Jared," I said, sipping my beer.

I heard the bell over the front door ring and looked in its direction. I froze. The woman that had just walked in the front door looked exactly like my late wife…when she was about twenty years old. I did a double-take and rubbed my eyes. When I moved my hands, she was looking at me. She smiled and walked up to the bar.

"A beer, please," she said.

The bartender chuckled. "You got a preference?"

"Yeah," she said with a nod, "whatever's cheap."

The bartender raised an eyebrow. "Your loss. I've got some mighty fine stock back here."

"I'll take your word for it," she said. The bartender had finished pouring her beer and set it down in front of her. "Thanks," she said, taking a couple large gulps. Some of the foam stuck to her upper lip and she licked it off the exact same way my wife would have. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

"Excuse me?" I asked, bewildered.

"You look like you've seen a ghost, old man. You okay?"

I laughed nervously. "You, uh…You really look like someone I know. Uh, used to know, I mean."

Her face became solemn. "I get it. I'm sorry. Let me buy you a beer."

"Oh, no," I stammered, "that's okay. I appreciate the offer, though."

"More for me, I guess," she said with a shrug.

With every single word that left her lips, I became more and more convinced that she was Danielle. She acted exactly like the young woman I'd first met, so many years ago, but that was impossible. Danielle was dead. I was at her funeral. Then, I got an idea. A way to prove to myself that I was just being an old fool, and that I wasn't sitting next to my late wife's doppelganger.

"What's your name, by the way?" I asked. "I'm Barry," I said, holding out my hand.

She took it and gave it a light, feminine shake. "Danielle," she said, with a bright smile. "Danielle Irons."

The smile fell from my face and I swear my heart skipped a beat. "What did you say?"

The smile fell from her face, too and was replaced by a look of concern. "Barry, are you okay? You don't look so good."

My mouth worked like a fish out of water. I couldn't speak. An immense pain took over my left arm and I felt lightheaded. "Something's…wrong…" I said, sliding off my barstool and falling to the floor with a weak groan.

"Oh, God!" Danielle screamed. "Somebody call an ambulance! I think he's having a heart attack!"

I started sweating, despite feeling cold and the pain in my left arm refused to let up. I heard someone on their cell phone and after a few minutes they cried out, "They're on their way!"

The world became a jumbled mess of pain, loud noises, and moving colors. It was no longer coherent to me. I lost touch with reality and slipped into a darkness so deep, there is nothing to which I can compare it.

But, then, there was a light. It grew as it sped towards me. I was enveloped in it. Blinded by it. And then, I heard…clapping. And cheering? What the hell?

"Hey-o, folks! Welcome back to Purgatory's number one game show, Where To Next?" There was a pause and the crowd filled it with cheers. "Where we determine the fate of whatever poor schmuck has just found themselves dead!" The crowd roared. "A big round of applause for today's schmuck…"

My head cleared and I could make out the shape of a man standing nearby. He came into focus then. A tall, bearded man with slicked back hair and thickly framed glasses. He wore an ugly striped suit and held a microphone out to me. I looked at the microphone and then back to him. I noticed he was wearing a name tag, "Big G."

"Big G?" I asked, scoffing.

The man smiled. "No, goober. That's my name." The audience laughed, as if on cue. Big G held the microphone back out to me. "What's your name?" He asked, as though he were talking to a two-year-old.

"B-barry," I said, my voice booming from speakers somewhere overhead.

"What's your last name there, Barry?"

"Sorenson."

"Barrrrrryyyyyy Sooorrrreeennsssoooonnn, ladies and gentleman! Give him a hand, will you, folks? He seems a little shy."

The crowd erupted in applause. Some of them even chanted my name for a few beats. What the hell is all this?

"And now," Big G said, turning back to the audience, "a word from our sponsors." He turned back to me. "You're going to have to step up your game, Barry. Show a little enthusiasm."

"I don't understand," I said. "What's going on? Where am I?" I tried to bring my hand up to wipe the sweat from my brow and realized that I was unable. My hands and feet were tied down. Strapped to a chair.

Big G opened his mouth as if to speak, but then paused, touching a finger to his right ear. He nodded and then said to me, "Going live again, Barry, in three, two…" Big G turned back to the crowd, "Welcome back, folks! Are you ready for some fun?"

The crowd went wild, screaming and whooping like revelers at a public execution. Then, the chanting started again. A low rumble at first, but it soon became a tsunami of sound. "Barry! Barry! Barry!"

"All right, folks, let's quench that thirst for bloodshed, shall we?"

The crowd cheered even louder, something I hadn't thought possible, until I'd heard it.

"Okay, Barry. Listen up. Before you are two brightly colored boxes. One red and one green. Your choice determines your fate. Which will you choose?"

I froze. My first thought was to use the colors as a guide. Red means "stop" and green means "go" so the choice seemed obvious.

But, what if they've used that against me. They'd switch the boxes so that red held the good outcome and green the bad one. Of course, if they were smart enough to think of that, then they'd probably know that I would think of it, too. Which means, they'd have switched it back so that red was bad and green was good.

"I'll take the green one, Big G," I said, proud of myself for figuring out their game.

"He'd like the green box, ladies and gentlemen. Are we ready to see what he's chosen?" The crowd erupted with cheers and applause. Big G grabbed the handle on top of the green box and pulled the lid off to reveal a card laying face down on the table. The back of the card said, "Where To Next," in a stylized font. Big G picked up the card and flipped it over to read it. "Oooh! Looks like he's chosen poorly, folks. Who's up for a little game of Truth, or Scare?"

The crowd exploded with cheers and applause. I won't lie, I felt like I was about to pass out. Whatever this game was, it surely wasn't going to go in my favor.

Big G came and stood next to the chair I was strapped into and gently laid a hand on my shoulder. "What do you say, Barry? Truth or Scare?"

Before I could even debate it in my head, I'd opened my mouth and said, "Truth."

"A wise choice, Barry," Big G said, shuffling the stack of cards he now held. After a few moments of shuffling, he took the first card off the top of the stack and flipped it over. "Okay, Barry. Here goes. You ready?"

I nodded.

Big G opened his mouth and took a deep breath. "Is it true, Barry, that in 1987, you had a short affair with your hot young secretary?"

"No!" I shouted into the microphone. "Of course, that's not true!"

Big G faked a gasp and held a hand up to his mouth. "Barry, did you just lie?"

"What? No. I-"

"I'm sorry to say it, folks, but I think Barry's a fibber."

"N-no."

"Barry," Big G said, giving me an overly dramatic look of contempt. "Come on, Barry. Tell us the truth."

"She seduced me, okay? There! Are you happy now? It wasn't a damn affair. It was a one night stand, and it wasn't even my idea." The crowd filled the studio with boos and disapproving growls. Some people even shouted, "Send him down below!" or "Send him to The Lake, Big G!"

"Calm down, folks! Calm down," Big G said, laughing. "Barry," he said, turning to me again. "Truth or Scare?"

I knew if I chose "Scare" something terrible would happen to me. That was the name of the game, after all. Either, I reveal a horrendous truth about myself, or I take whatever medicine Big G prescribes. I figured I'd take my chances with the embarrassment and shame. "Truth," I said, hanging my head.

"Your choice, Barry," Big G said, shuffling the cards a bit before pulling one from the top of the stack. "Ooh," Big G said, twisting his face up into a grimace, "this one's a doozy, folks!" He turned to me. "You ready, Barry?"

"Just get it over with."

"O-kay," Big G said with a smile. "Tell us, Barry, is it true that you were grateful when Danielle passed away? That you thanked God that she was dead?"

My skin went pale and my mouth went dry. "No, that's not right. That's not right at all!"

"Barry," Big G said in that disapproving tone. "Are you fibbing again, Barry?"

"No!" I screamed, jerking against my restraints. "You don't understand," I said, a few tears falling from my eyes. "She was in so much pain, by the end. I couldn't stand to see her suffer, any longer. I was just happy that she'd finally found peace, is all. I swear. I never wanted her to die."

"Whether it was born of compassion, or malice, Barry, you still longed for your wife's passing. What kind of husband does that?"

"The good kind," I said, gritting my teeth and setting my jaw. "Now, let me out of here," I growled, struggling against my restraints again.

"You know what, Barry," Big G said, sliding closer to me. "I don't think I like your tone. Is that a hint of arrogance I hear in your voice, or is it sheer insolence?"

"Screw you, pal!" I growled, struggling harder. I could feel the chair beneath me beginning to sway with my movements.

"All right, folks! Looks like Barry's chosen a scare! Let's find out what's in store for our friend here!"

A giant wheel descended from somewhere above. There were hundreds, maybe even thousands of covered slots around the outside edge of the wheel. I had no idea what was hiding under those tiles, but I knew that it couldn't possibly be good.

"Are you ready, folks?" Big G asked the crowd. They cheered and clapped their enthusiasm back at him. "Spin!" Big G screamed, and the crowd joined in. "That! Wheeeeeeel!"

The giant wheel began to spin, faster than I would have thought possible for such a massive thing. The covered boxes whizzed by at lightning speed. The thing maintained its momentum for quite awhile, before it began to slow. "Ooh, it's so tense in here!" Big G guffawed. "You could hear a pin drop!"

Then, there was a small click from the wheel as it landed on my fate. Big G pulled his microphone up to his face and said, "Show us what he's won, Bobby!"

The tile covering my selected torment fell away to reveal a picture of a centipede. Oh, God…Oh, dear God, no. No.

Somewhere above, I heard a trap door spring open and thousands of writhing centipedes fell from somewhere up there, covering me head to toe in squirming insectile bodies. I could feel their little legs crawling all over my skin, and then the biting began.

The little vermin began chewing and digging, squirming their way under my skin. I could feel them slipping inside of me, crawling through my veins. Eating me, from the inside out. The pain was so monumental that I couldn't even cry out. I just sat there with my mouth agape in a silent scream, jerking against my restraints because the pain would not allow me to sit still.

It wasn't long until they must have chewed their way into my brain, because things got really weird. I could hear the loud colors of Big G's ugly tweed suit jacket. I could taste the sound of the audience cheering, and it was bittersweet on my tongue. Memories flooded my mind, blending together, and creating a soupy mess of my life, and then, it all began to fade. Just like it had at the bar.

When I came to again, I was whole, but still in that damn chair, Big G standing nearby with his stupid microphone. "Welcome back, Barry!"

I groaned and rolled my eyes.

"Ready for the next round?"

"Just kill me already," I grumbled. "Please. I can't take this anymore."

"Such a spoilsport, aren't you, Barry?"

"Please," I begged. "Just end it.

Big G smiled, then turned back to the audience. "What do you say, folks? Is it time for us to answer the question?"

The crowd cheered and clapped. As one, they stood and cried out, "Where To Next!"

"All right, folks! Ask and you shall receive!"

"Bobby," Big G said, looking to a corner of the studio, "the wheel, if you please?"

There was a strange fluttering and a low rumble. They only lasted a split second, and when they stopped, the wheel looked different. It was much smaller and had only a few tile covered slots.

"All right, Bobby," Big G said, raising his hand in the air, "Let her rip!" he shouted, dropping his hand like he was starting a race.

The wheel spun fast and hard. I could feel the breeze it produced with its movement. I watched in abject horror as the spinning began to slow. Each click of that godforsaken wheel brought me closer to whatever screwed up torture Big G had in store for me. And for his audience.

The clicking stopped.

"There it is, folks!" Big G cried out, gesturing to the wheel. "Barry's fate hangs in the balance. Shall we proceed with the big reveal?"

The audience cheered and applauded. Soon, they broke into a chant. "Where To Next! Where To Next!"

Big G put his hands up and brought them down slowly, bringing the crowd down to a low simmer. "All right, Bobby. You heard the audience. Let's find out where Barry's headed!"

The tile covering the slot on the wheel fell away to reveal the words, "Catch and Release."

"Oh-ho!" Big G cried out. Looks like you lucked out, Barry, my boy! You're going back!"

"Back? What?"

"Back to where you came from, duh!" Big G said, shaking his head. "Bye bye, Barry! It's been fun!" He pulled a giant lever next to the chair and I was sucked downward, through the chair, and into some kind of brightly lit, multi-colored tunnel. Voices and colorful shapes whizzed by, making me queasy. Then, I came to a crashing halt. I slammed into my body like a runaway car into a tree. Immediately, I woke up, screaming.

"Barry, calm down, okay? Everything's going to be all right, Mr. Sorenson. Don't you worry. Okay?"

"Wha-" I asked, shaking my head. "Where am I?"

"You're in the back of an ambulance, sir. We're on our way to Our Lady of Grace. You've had a heart attack, Mr. Sorenson."

I flopped back down onto the gurney. It was over. I'd survived. But, ever since that experience, I am absolutely terrified of death. I don't ever want to see Big G or his studio audience again, but I fear that's all that awaits us on the other side.

fiction

About the author

Luther Kross

I am not merely an author. I am a conduit to the many worlds beyond this one. Step into the darkness, if you dare. Welcome to my little house of horrors. Here, you will find many a dark tale in just about every variety you can imagine.

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Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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Comments (8)

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  • KH Obergfoll10 days ago

    WOW WOW WOW is all I can say, I loved this story! Perfection at its finest.

  • Mitchell Hogg13 days ago

    The way you described the centipedes made me physically uncomfortable, well done.

  • Lance Jasper20 days ago

    Couldn't help but read it all the way through! Thanks for sharing this dark-humored after life, what if!

  • Sana M20 days ago

    Dark and humorous take on life on the flip side. Thanks for an enjoyable story

  • Addison M27 days ago

    Excellent read. Captivating, and interesting take on a near-death experience. Purgatory as a gaudy gameshow feels a little too on the nose. Thanks for the enjoyable story, one of the best I've read in a while. Keep up the good work.

  • Jason Hauserabout a month ago

    good story.

  • Nicole Fowlerabout a month ago

    Love this! ❤️Makes you wonder what’s on the other side. I love the twisted humor that it is all game.

  • Joshua Luke Johnsonabout a month ago

    Wow. Amazing story, Luther. One of my favorite pieces I've read this week. Such gripping and vivid imagery throughout. Thanks for being part of the community.

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