TotD: The Land Beyond (Flash Fiction)


By Alexandra Erin

No one really knows what happens to us after we die, the dead least of all. We experience it , but we do not understand it. Why am I here? What is my purpose? What am I supposed to do? What happens next? are questions that we ask each other and ourselves during the duration of our mortal lives, but always the assumption is there that death will answer all our questions, even if the answer to each of them is a resounding “nothing”.

How quintessentially human a trait it is, to assume that everything will work itself out eventually, that the things we seek must be, if not just around the bend, then certainly around a bend and quite definitely one that is in our path.

But no. Death is just one more hill to be crested on our march towards infinity, and the view from its summit is not even particularly inspiring. You die. You close your eyes, or so it seems from your own point of view, and then you open them in more or less the same place, though it is subtly altered.

You aren’t in heaven. You aren’t in hell, at least not that you’ve noticed. The place you’ve ended up in would be hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been here, so maybe that’s why it’s not quite what anyone seems to expect upon arrival.

It looks like the world you know, but it isn’t. It’s bigger, in places, in a way that you don’t notice at first. No matter how many people show up, it never quite fills up.

There are new rules to be learned, social ones alongside physical ones. Figuring out how to get around in this translated state is a bit like learning how to walk, with the added benefit of experience. You’ve done it before, so it stands to reason that you can do it again.

The land of the dead offers enough challenge and novelty to keep you interested for a time, but like all things except perhaps for death, this inevitably ends and you start asking the big questions again.

Why am I here? What does it mean? What’s it all about?

Every religion is represented in the land of the dead, every one that has existed in history and more besides. Some who were faithful in life believe that they are being tested or tricked. Some abandon the faiths of their mortal existence but cleave just as strongly to some new creed that promises answers or offers direction. Some give up the notion of belief in yet another other realm or a higher power entirely, though in the process many of them wind up believing all manner of equally esoteric theories that they say represents the skeptical viewpoint.

They may even be right. Who can say? If there is any land beyond that of the dead, not only has no one returned from it, but no one can say for certain anyone has gone to it. Everyone knows someone with whom they have lost contact with, but the land of the dead is vast, full of deep corners and crowded with the masses of the ages.