THE FIFTH DREAM

By David Solomon

I didn't have my driver's license yet. This was the main reason, if only, that I was forced to get to school by means of a carpool, despite being the age of 16, to be 17 in two months. At this time, of course, driving scared me, but unlike what I was about to face, this was a fear I easily got over in a few months. For now, however, I was stuck waiting outside with my backpack in whatever weather was scheduled for that date, be it rain, snow, or a tornado. Actually, if it was a tornado, I would probably stay inside.

The time finally came and the mini-van drove in. It was Josh's day. Well, Josh's Father's day. Anyway, the moment the van drove into my driveway, I suddenly realized I didn't have my backpack. It would obviously not be acceptable for me to go to school without my backpack, so, to minimize inconvenience for the other students (all younger than me, by the way) I ran to get my backpack. I ran to my door, unlocked it, and ran upstairs to my playroom. My room was only a few more yards and a right turn away. But I stopped. I don't know why, but there was a feeling. A feeling of fear. I did not want to run into my room. There was something in there. I knew it. There was always something in there. It was like a classic horror movie that was programmed into my subconscious. And just like a horror movie, there had to be tension. I guess that could be the excuse for why I instead walked slowly towards my room. Tension. Before I knew it, I was already there. I opened the door.

There was nothing in there. At all. No, I mean nothing. No ceiling, no wall, no air. Before I could even react, or think about turning around and not falling into the void, I was already in it. I was drifting in absolute void. I lost control of my body, and then my mind. I was drifting without any control or knowledge of ever having control. It was like I was dead. At least, my interpretation of death.

When I woke up, my pupils were so large the room was practically glowing. I had never woken up screaming from a dream, and this incident was no exception. But I had never woken up more frightened before, not even the time I was in the mansion and the vampires were chasing me. No, this was not an object of fear, it was fear all around. A minute later, I snapped into a more normal frame of mind. Just a dream, I reminded myself, nothing more. I checked my clock. It said 2-13, 6:05 AM. Great. Only 25 more minutes until I had to get up for school. I placed my head back down on my pillow, somewhat disappointed. I didn't fall asleep again, though. When my alarm went off, and that annoyingly poor quality rooster crow started and looped over and over again, I continued my normal morning ritual. I need not go into detail of it, since it was the exact same as any teenager, save for a certain additional activity in the shower besides cleaning. No, nothing strange happened until 1st period.

I was early. I was always early. My carpool was early, so naturally, I would be early. There were only 3 or 4 people in the room. The fourth person walked into the room with a grim expression on her face. The third, also female, was a workaholic who, from what I had heard, had no life whatsoever. She spent the vast majority of her days studying, and staying late working on various after school activities. My point is, she knew many of the people that worked during the after hours of my school. She, too, had a grim look on her face, accentuated by the grim look on person four's face. Person two, in case you were wondering, was the teacher, while I was person one.

"How is he?" Person three asked, standing up.

"I think he passed away this morning," Person four replied, grabbing person three's hand.

"Oh…" Person three looked very distant.

"Who?" I asked, not wanting to include the word dead in my query.

"Thomas Johnson, the janitor," she replied. "You probably wouldn't have known him unless you participated in a sport or something."

Person three looked like she was on the brink of crying. A few seconds later, she was no longer on the brink and just plain crying. Person four hugged her, and the two girls stood embraced for a short period of time, while the teacher reflected on how it was nice that our school was small and that everyone pretty much knew everyone else. It was then that I remembered who he was. He was a slightly overweight janitor whom I had borrowed a dollar from once to buy myself a soda one time when my carpool had left me behind. I hadn't paid him back. Now I would never be able to.

It was a frightening thought.

Halfway through 1st period, the official school bell rang and everyone went outside, myself included. It was here that the entire high school gathered around the principal. Everyone knew what he was going to say. He simply told the story of how Mr. Johnson had suffered a serious heart attack while on duty, and had went to the hospital, where he stayed for a few days, only to die this morning. A teacher showed a picture to everyone, confirming that it was he whom I borrowed the dollar from.

"If you check tomorrow's paper, you'll see him in the obituaries section," the principal added. Now, I made the connection between his death and my dream. It was a silly connection, I thought, but a connection nonetheless. Although I would never had admitted it at the time, I was curious to see if the two events were really connected. That was the real reason I wanted to check his obituary, not just curiosity, like I told myself.

I had never known anybody that had died before. Even just people I had exchanged a sentence with. Well, except for my neighbor. He was a very old man, about ninety something. He was so nice. He would always say hello to us when we would pass by him. When he died, I remembered not really crying or expressing any grief, but just feeling strange, like something was missing. But people die. It was something I tried not to think about. At times like this, of course, that was impossible. Though I myself was not crying, I saw several students who were.

The next morning was a Saturday. I happily slept in until about noon, and then more slowly did my morning ritual, and ate lunch. Conveniently right after I finished, my Father came in with the paper. While he read the cover, I fished through the newspaper until finding the obituaries. There, I scrolled through them until I found the late Mr. Johnson. There, I read the information on him, on how he ran two jobs, on how he had a large family, with many kids, and how this would be very hard on them. Then I stopped skimming. Then I stopped breathing.

"Mr. Johnson was pronounced dead at 6:04 AM," the newspaper casually printed. That was awfully close to be considered a coincidence. I let the paper fall out of my hands. What did it mean? Why did I have that bizarre dream at the very second that he died? Theories poured into my head, none organized enough to explain. I tried desperately to calm my mind down, telling myself that it was only a coincidence, but honestly, how could it have only been a coincidence? This was just like on the X-files, only really happening, and I am receiver just like Kevin Bacon in "Stir of Echoes," and…I grabbed my forehead and collected all my thoughts. I focused everything I could on the one thought that would let me sleep again: It was just a coincidence. It was just a coincidence. It was just a coincidence…

16 years later, of course, I had all but forgotten that incident. I had been through high school, college, graduate school, and I had a job now. I had better things to think about. Actually, tomorrow it would be the 16-year anniversary of Mr. Johnson's passing away. Nothing of importance happened on this Thursday. That is why it was already nighttime. I went to sleep without a thought in my mind relating to that incident. When I went to sleep, however, I was there. I was outside, waiting for Josh's Dad to come and pick me up to go to school. Me being 32, this didn't make sense. But at the moment, I didn't think of it. It was only when the crimson blue Van pulled into my driveway that I realized something was wrong. Something had to be wrong. There was something familiar about this dream. Almost as if I have had this dream before. But I've felt that way about a lot of dreams. Oh well, I guess I'll just play along. Since I was just playing, however, I casually walked to get my backpack. Then, when I got to the TV, I got the feeling. The fear.

Oh no, I thought, not again.

I was about to turn around, but I was already heading towards the door, against my will. I tried desperately to fight it but it was out of my control. Then I was there again, in the void. There was no feeling, no control. But something was different. I focused my eyes, and he was there. Right in my field of vision. Thomas Johnson. At first, I couldn't believe it, I knew it was a dream, but all this felt so real, and I tried to speak, but I had no muscle control. I didn't have to speak, though. He did. I will never forget those words, the first words he spoke to me from beyond the grave…

"Do not fear death. Spread the word. Your fifth dream will be the last."

Before this dream, I still had never screamed waking up from a dream. There's a first time for everything.

A minute later I felt faint and realized that I had, in fact, been screaming for the past minute. I wondered if I had frightened any of the neighbors. Then I wondered what the hell just happened. Then I looked at my watch. 2-13, 6:05 AM. Just like 16 years ago. This was no coincidence. Something was happening. I was in some sort of contact with the dead.

I called up some of my friends and told them that we had to meet. They said Lunchtime Saturday.

Lunchtime Saturday…

"So why are we here?" Friend one asked. "You seemed pretty spooked when you called me."
"I had every right to be spooked," I responded.

"Bad dream?" Friend two asked.

"You could say that," I pointed out.

"What could have been that bad?" Friend three asked.

"Well, it started out as a normal dream. I was a Junior in high school again, and I forgot my backpack, so I went to get it, but on the way, I lost complete control of my body and mind, and I saw a deceased Janitor that worked there, and he said…" I trailed off, afraid to even speak the words.

"Go on," Friend two said. "We're listening."
"'Do not fear death. Spread the word. Your fifth dream will be the last.' I woke up screaming."

"No shit," Friend three agreed. "You got me scared enough just by telling me. But even so, it's just a dream."
"Oh, I wish."

"What do you mean?"

"I woke up at 6:04 AM. 16 years ago, I had virtually the exact same dream, and I woke up at the exact same time. The first time I had that dream, the very janitor who was in the dream I had Thursday night died. Did you get that all?"

"That's one hell of a coincidence," Friend one stated. "But that's probably all it is. I mean, you haven't been able to move any objects with your mind yet, have you?"

Friend two and three were chuckling.

"Or, can you make people start bleeding from their noses and make their heads explode, like one of those scanners?"

Friends one through three were laughing.

"It's not funny," I said. It was no use, though. It was silly of me to try and explain it to them. They were still laughing.

"Hey, hey, HEY!" I shouted. They stopped laughing. "Damn guys, it's not that funny."

"Sorry, we've just been working our asses off for the last week, and we've got lots of energy to spare."
"It makes me wonder, though," I stated. "Why do we fear death?"
"Looks like you could use a book," Friend two suggested.

"Which book?"
"The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins. It probably has the answer. I was supposed to read it for college, but I never did."

"Thanks."

Having got together, we had to do something else, so we saw a movie. After the movie, I went to the local bookstore, and purchased that very book and read the entire thing in one sitting. I won't quote the entire book, as it would be unfair to Richard Dawkins. But I'll basically summarize it: Humans, animals, plants, and all other forms of life are nothing more than survival machines for genes. Genes created us so they could live for as long as they could, and we have the instinct to reproduce so the genes can continue on to the next generation. We fear death so that we will push on living to reproduce as much as possible. I hadn't been with a girl for over a year now, so that probably wasn't helping me. Those dreams made me feel very close to death, and that would easily scare any survival machine. I had no desire to die any time soon. Which made me wonder…

What did Mr. Johnson's statement mean? I went over each of the three sentences.

Part one: Do not fear death. Disobey my genes? Disobey my creators? Easier said than done, but if he was telling the truth, and it wasn't just a dream, then why should I fear death? It was a vicious problem, because I was programmed to fear death, yet I've been told not to. I put the issue farther back in my head.

Part two: Spread the word. Okay, now I'm the messiah. I must spread the word of the holy janitor that we shall not fear death! Well, if death was so good, why don't we all just commit a mass suicide? I wished I had thought of all this stuff before I had met with my friends, but I had told them the sentence, and that was all they would listen to.

Part three: The fifth dream shall be your last. This was the most perplexing of all the statements. I denied the one possibility I had, but it was no use. If I had this dream every 16 years exactly, then when I was 48, I'd have the third one, when I was 64, I would have the fourth one, and when I was 80…

I would have the last one.

So that was it. I would die on that faithful February 13, at 6:04 AM, at the old age of 80. It already seemed too soon. There was only one question remaining: How would I spread the word that we shall not fear death when I myself did not believe it? I suppose just because you can't listen to your own advice doesn't mean you can say it. But I didn't want to be the messiah. All I wanted to be was myself. Then I did the impossible: I told myself it was just a coincidence. A really, really, really, really, really unlikely coincidence, but the laws of probability accounted for it to happen at some point. This time, I sort of didn't believe it, but as long as it would enable me to sleep at night, there was nothing wrong with believing it.

Although I had told myself it was a coincidence, I had been expecting the third dream since the second dream. When I was a mere month from that dream, I began to count the days, then the hours, then the minutes. Before I knew it, I was 48 years old, and it was that Thursday. It was a truly bizarre feeling, going to sleep knowing exactly what you were going to dream about. I tried thinking of anything besides that, but I fell asleep, and, just as I had predicted, I was on the sidewalk, in front of my old house. I was fully conscious in the dream, so I sat down, and thought. I can do something about this, I thought. It was my dream. The van was in my sight, coming from my left, so I took off. I ran to my right as fast as I could, rushing up the sidewalk, with all my might. But this was not real life, where things make sense. All the running in the world couldn't stop the inevitable. Slowly but surely, I felt my legs losing control, and steering me back towards my house. I cried out for someone to help me, anyone to help me, to stop me from entering my room. Pretty soon, I was floating. I floated through the outside walls of my house, and up the stairs, by the TV, into my room. I was being controlled. I was completely powerless. And, just as I had predicted, Mr. Johnson was waiting for me.

"You are failing me. Do not fail me. This is really happening."

This time, I was neither scared nor screaming. I was just sad. I weeped quietly as I went over those words. He said I was failing him. Anyone who tells you that knows it can make any grown man disappointed in himself. But it was his last words that were the most terrible. They were the ones that confirmed what I had tried so hard to deny, that this was not anything special. I knew it 16 years ago, but now I had to believe it. I had to spread the word that we should not fear death, that it is not a painful thing, that it is peaceful. Questions, like how I would do it, were not to be excuses for dodging this issue. The point was, I had been chosen, and I had to do my duty.

The next day, my boss was curious as to why I requested a 1-month sabbatical.

"I have been working extremely hard lately," I responded. "You think so, right?"

"I suppose so…"
"I've been with the company for 25 years, and not once have I missed a day, save for the occasional sick day.

"That's true as well."

"Besides, lately I have been having slight problems with sleep."

My boss thought hard. "Just a month, right?"

"Just a month."
"If you take off so much as another minute besides that month, I'm docking your pay."

"Thank you sir."

I left the office later that day feeling happy. If anything, I just got a month paid vacation. But this was no time for resting. I had to spread the word. Do not fear death. A difficult phrase to spread, but easily possible.

And what better way to spread words than to go to the local newspaper?

MAN CLAIMS TO HAVE SPOKEN WITH THE DEAD

"…[He] claims to have had three dreams exactly 16 years apart. The first dream occurred at the exact moment that a Janitor going to his school passed away. The other two dreams consisted of [him] speaking to the Janitor. The Janitor apparently told him that the living should not fear death. This is what [he] is trying to tell everyone…"

That was the gist of the article. There wasn't much else of substance, seeing as they wouldn't want to donate much space to a crazy person. The unfortunate part of this event was when I was called in to work before my sabbatical was over, but right after the paper with this article was published.

"Is everything all right?" My boss asked me.

"Yes, I'm feeling better, and I'll probably feel even better when my sabbatical is over, though this brings me to my question: Why did you want to see me?"

My boss chuckled. "That's funny. Listen, are you aware of how crazy what you put in the newspaper is?"

"Well, it's true."

"Everything is apparently not all right. There are obviously many things you don't understand, but the only thing you really have to understand right now is how damaging such a comment can be."
"Excuse me?"

"Making a crazy comment in the paper makes you look bad, and when you look bad, the company looks bad. One of the last things I need is for the company to look bad. Do you understand me?"

"Yes sir, but—"

"So if you ever do anything remotely like posting a crazy article in a newspaper, even tell a random person on the street to…" he looked at the paper and quoted exactly, "…'not fear death,' you will be put in the grossly unpreferred position of being unemployed. Do you want to be in this position?"

"No sir, but—"

"I won't accept your no sir unless there is no but after it."
I hesitated a moment, not willing to deny my beliefs any more.

"Go on, if you want your job."

"No sir."

"Good man. Now, take the rest of your sabbatical and use it to clear your head. When you come in the Monday after your paid vacation, I want you to be the most sane you can be. Got it?"

"Yes sir."

"You are dismissed."

I went home that day a failure. That day I received several phone calls telling me that I was crazy, that I was sacrilegious, that I was stupid, and one person even phoned in and said I was the antichrist. They said I was just another ranting, working class scumbag that wanted to be in the newspaper. I didn't get a single call saying that I was so right, or that someone agreed with me. Apparently, trust was not enough. The newspaper probably only printed it because they had nothing else to print. It occurred to me then that I would only get to communicate one more time with Mr. Johnson. I realized that I had to make the most of this period, because the age time of 64-80 would be my only chance to do something effective. Because if I didn't have any ideas, he was bound to have some. If he knew I was failing him, he must've been able to peer into my mind somehow, and use it to figure out what was going on in the world, or at least the world around me. Then listen to this, Tom. I need your help. You've got 16 years to think of a way to spread a message fast, because my only idea failed miserably.

Every day I crossed off. I had once feared the dreams; now, I waited for them. As each day passed, I thought of it as one less day to wait. I was almost excited. My boss, meanwhile, never looked at me normally again. He probably thought I was crazy. Most other people thought I was crazy, too, but as the years went by and I didn't talk at all about my visions, they sort of forgot it and decided to let bygones be bygones. Little did they realize what me and Thomas were planning (though technically, not even I realized it).

At last, I was 64 years old. For 16 years, I had waited for this day. That Thursday, I looked at myself in the mirror. I felt so old…I was 16 years away from death. My hair was gray, my face partially wrinkled. In one year I would be retiring from my job. All my life I had been searching for a reason to exist. Up until now, I hadn't realized it. My reason would come soon enough.

After falling asleep, I once again found myself on the sidewalk. Bizarrely eager to figure out what I was to do, I ran upstairs before the van was even in my sight. The feeling of helplessness was a little unnerving, but I was almost used to it by now. Thomas was there, expecting me. After 16 years, he had to have some idea.

"Give them this." He took off a pendant/necklace on his neck and handed it to me. "Tell them death is peaceful. It is freedom."

Then I awoke. Freedom? Freedom from what? Freedom from…

Life? Nah, too broad. I checked my hand, and found that the pendant was there. God only knows how such a transaction was possible, but I was holding his very pendant. It was like one of those generic necklaces that was a bunch of beads connected together with a cross at some point on it, but instead of a cross, there was a flat gold plate with the letters TJ on it. I somewhat recalled a pendant on his neck, but my memory was too blurry to remember what exactly it said on it. Chances were, he was buried with it around his neck. And if it were still around his neck, then I was holding a genuine copy of it! A copy of a pendant that could not be copied, at least by me.

The next day, I used the Internet to find Thomas Johnson's children. The closest one I could find was his only daughter, and she was surprisingly only about 35 miles away.

I knocked on her door, after arriving at their house. Her husband answered.

"Who are you?"

"I believe you know who I am if you read the paper."

He gave me a funny look. Then he grinned. "Ah! You're that crazy fool who thought you saw my wife's daddy in one of your dreams and claimed he spoke to you. That really got her nuts, you know. She believed that wad of horseshit you stuffed up that newspaper's ass. Now get off my property."

"I need to speak with—"

"I reiterate; get off my property" He slammed the door in my face.

I stood there for a few minutes. Then, the door opened again, and it was Thomas' daughter.

"Is what you say true?" She asked.

"I haven't even told you anything yet."

"No, I mean, the article in the newspaper 16 years ago."

"Yes, it is true."

"Dear Lord." She covered her face with one of her hands, trying not to cry.

"Ma'am, I have to show you something." I showed her the pendant. "Do you know what this is?"

"Yes," she replied, somewhat confused. "This is the pendant my mother gave him for their first year anniversary. He was buried with it." She looked at me, with concern. "Did you dig him up and take this off of his neck?"
"No, he gave it to me in the dream I had yesterday."

"Jesus!" She gasped, taking it out of my hand. "You're a grave robber!"

"No, I'm not! I swear on my blood!"

"You bastard!"
"What is it?" That voice was her husband.

"I can prove it! I can prove I didn't dig up the body!"

Her husband was with her now. "What is your problem? Get the fuck off of our property!"
"Wait," she said. She stood there for a second, collecting her thoughts. "I…I want to give him a chance."
"Oh, for Christ's sake."

"Thank you."

All three of us pitched in to buy plane tickets to get back to my hometown, where he was buried. Once there, we called the local news station. They were very interested, especially after hearing my name.

There, we arrived at the gravesite. The news was there, a police officer was there, a gravedigger, Thomas' daughter, and her husband. And me, of course. The reporter introduced herself and the situation to the camera, while the gravedigger dug up the grave. An hour later, the coffin was uprooted, and pried open. We were all expecting a skeleton, or at least a very decayed body. But nothing could have prepared us for what we saw.

There was not one, not two, but three pendants around his neck. And they all were exactly the same. Not even I was predicting that.

"He was only given one," Thomas' daughter claimed. "He was only buried with one."

"This is obviously an elaborate hoax," the police officer claimed. "These are obviously fakes."

"Officer," I began, finally gathering up the courage to speak. "I have not touched this body once in my life after he died."

"A likely story."
"Please, officer, take the body back to the station and test it for fingerprints."

"What's left of the body, you mean," the officer remarked. After all, there really wasn't that much left, save for the skeleton and a few traces of decayed flesh. The casket apparently hadn't been the most protective of caskets around. "All right. I'll play this little game. Then I'll arrest you for disturbing the peace, and send you to a nut house for being a nut!"

I chuckled at him. I knew what was coming. The body and pendants were all handled carefully, and soon enough, the results were in. All four of the pendants were identical in every way possible, and nothing had fingerprints on it except for the one pendant I had held. All this info, shared in the police office with reporters flooding the outsides (the doors had to be barred shut), was very unnerving to the policeman.

"Well then, he obviously cleaned the fingerprints off of the body,"

"That's impossible," I said. "The entire body was covered with 48 year old residue. Nothing had been cleaned."

"Well, then I'd sure like someone to explain what happened! Because I'm real damn curious!"

I took a deep breath, because I was going to have to do a lot of guesswork, and it was all going to have to make sense.

"We live in a world where existence is our only goal and survival our only reward," I began. "Our genes control us indirectly. They built our brains, and our brains think the way the genes want us to think. They tell us that death is bad, whatever it is. But death is not bad for us. Death is bad for our genes, because it is our genes that have no afterlife to look forward to. It is for the genes that the belief of nihilism holds true. But for us humans, us survival machines, death is different. Death is freedom from our genes, death is liberation! Don't you see? Compared to death, life is infinitely short. It doesn't matter where you live, or what your name is, or what you do in your life! All my life I've searched for a reason to exist. Only now, I realize there is no reason. We are all slaves to our genes, slaves that are forced to life against our will! That is what this is all about. The fact that the only people that can prove this are the dead, and all this is proof that I have spoken to a real dead person!

Silence. Then,

"I don't believe it," the policeman said.

"You have to," I told him.

"I don't have to believe it, and I'll tell you why. Because I'm the authority that is here that must either prove or disprove that any of this really happened, and there is no way in hell that I am letting any of this get out!"

"Interesting choice of words," Thomas' daughter pointed out.

"The evidence is right in front of you," I stated. "You can't deny it."
"I can deny it. And I'll tell you why. This is just one occurrence. By the time another occurrence happens, this event will be long forgotten, because I will take it to the grave! And the rest of you will be forced to as well!"

"We shall see," I responded, and walked towards the exit, where all the reporters awaited me.

"What are you doing?" The officer asked.

"Preventing ignorance of this event," I responded.

"They won't believe you!"

"Not yet." I stepped outside, where the cacophony of questions overwhelmed me. I raised my hands, instructing everyone to stop talking. They did surprisingly obediently.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the press," I began. "I regret to inform you that the authority that was supposed to confirm this incident is going to deny it, and unfortunately, as a result of the laws, we will be forced to deny it as well. But do not fret! For I have one more trick up my sleeve. I know the exact date and time I am going to die." I told them the date and time. "I trust you will keep an official record of this data, and know that predicting my death 16 years in advance is not something that can be done by pure chance. And I will die of natural causes, too! When this happens, I want all of you to go to this police officer…" I pointed to the police officer, "…and force him to tell you everything. Then, and only then, will I have succeeded." I walked through the reporters, and the cacophony continued. That was it. It was all over. I had done my part. Now, my life had no point. Now, it was time once again to continue waiting.

I was surprised that my boss hadn't fired me right on the spot on the Monday I came to work. Apparently, he believed it himself. A year later, I retired, and 15 years after that, I was 80 years old, and it was Thursday, and I felt fine. Physically, I mean. I had no illnesses or disorders of any sort. And yet, I was afraid. I was afraid because I had been programmed to be afraid, I had been programmed to not want to die. No matter how much I tried, I could not go to sleep.

I felt extremely groggy, and I checked the clock. It was 1:00 AM. In just over 5 hours, I would die. 5 hours. A school day is shorter than that. I began to cry, despite the knowledge that death was not something to fear. And it was then that I realized that getting over the fear of death would not be an overnight thing for the world. Even those in 3rd world countries, in the poorest countries with the most terrible lifestyles, would still have a passion for living. But eventually, it would end. Eventually, we would all be liberated. And all of a sudden, I felt liberated. I felt that I had done everything I needed to do, and that it was time for me to go. So I looked at everything that was visible from what would soon be my deathbed, and I muttered a quiet "goodbye," and I closed my eyes.

I was on the sidewalk, with my backpack over my shoulders. I waited patiently for the van, which showed up in no time. Since I already had my backpack, there was no need to run into my house. No need at all. So I just stepped aboard the van, which carried me off to a place that has many names, though was neither a heaven nor a hell. It was simply, "the other side."
At the first stoplight, I got that feeling again. The world as I knew sunk into non-existence, and I found myself without any control of my body, floating through a black void. I realized that I had been separated from my body, and I no longer saw, or smelled, or tasted, or touched, or heard. I was merely "there." And it was "there" that I found Thomas Johnson. Without mouths, there was only talking, there was only instantaneous communication through psychic telepathy. I had been connected to a network of psychics through my expiration. So we didn't exactly have a conversation, but for the purposes of your understanding, I will translate our "discussion" into one.

TJ: Welcome home, Michael.

ME: Am I dead?

TJ: Yes, you are.

ME: Hey, that wasn't so bad.

TJ: What did I tell you?
ME: Why couldn't you speak to me normally through our dreams? You were only able to give me broken sentences that I was forced to interpret myself.

TJ: To tell you that, I'd have to tell you how the whole system works.

ME: Well, I'm listening.

TJ: Death is separation from body and entrance into a dimension without matter. A dream temporarily takes you to a similar dimension, known as the "sister" dimension. When these worlds connect, they connect only for a few seconds. For this reason, I was forced to tell you everything I wish to tell you in all of a few seconds.

ME: How were you able to give me a pendant, put two more pendants around you, and even make me die exactly 64 years after you?

TJ: This may be a different dimension, but it is located on the exact same area in space as Earth is. For this reason, the dead have the power to interact with the world around them for short periods of time, before the tears in space they make suck them back into their world. How else would you explain all those cases of seeing ghosts and such?
ME: Amazing. So you figured, by all these loopholes, that you could bring the living to a closer understanding of what death was?
TJ: Yes, yes I did.

ME: What made you think you could? I mean, these rules have been around since the beginning of time, and we humans still feared death. What made you think you could change things?
TJ: Hope, Michael. Hope. I thought in the time this stunt had last been pulled, the living would have long since grown more intelligent, and understanding of the paranormal. But it is now that I see that I have failed.

ME: Not entirely.

TJ: What do you mean?
ME: You apparently weren't watching when I announced the exact date and time I would die. By now some people are probably finding me and pronouncing me dead at that very date and time. This will make them less skeptical, thus leading them to believe the evidence before their very eyes!

TJ: Incredible! I can't thank you enough!

ME: But it is only the first step. It will be hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years before we finally reach that day where the living understand death. But, what is the solution?
TJ: That is not our concern. We have done our part.

ME: Have we? We are two that have been associated with paranormal activity. Perhaps our part has just begun. The solution IS our concern.

TJ: Then what is the solution?

ME: We must figure that out. Is it mass suicide? Or is it something else.

TJ: We shall see.

ME: Yes, we shall.

There are no goodbyes in death, for we are all one.

It is only in death that names matter, mine being Michael. But despite what you may have picked up from this tale, death is not something to jump into instantly, nor is it something to fear. Death is something to await, like a birthday. Our genes create us. Our genes control us. It is our genes that ultimately enslave us within our own bodies. In death, our genes only live on through other people, doomed to roam the earth for all eternity until nihilistic obliteration. We, the brain, however, continue to live on, in our own world where there are no rules, no routines, no pain, no lonliness. This is heaven, though perhaps not according to the religious man's definition.

There is only one thing you must remember: Do not fear death. Spread the word. For it is you that shall free us from the curse of our genes forever.