When I woke up, I was sailing on a canoe. I sat up gripping the side of the canoe and looking over the edge. I saw water, dark as night. A distance away from the canoe, floating in the water, there were lanterns lighting the path. They formed a straight lane where the canoe traveled. This must have been a dream.

I dipped my hand into the water, staring directly into its midnight surface. I looked around curiously.

Where was I?

I looked forward, to the canoe's path of travel. Ahead of me, I could see a door, dark and bulky. There were two large torches on either side of the door. Soon, the canoe hit the edge of the land, where the door was. I looked around. I stood steadily and hopped off, stumbling forward a bit, leaving the canoe behind.


I spun around and stumbled back closer to the door. I looked up, startled. In front of me, a beautiful girl stood next to the water's edge. I swallowed. I opened my mouth but no sound came out.

The lady spoke again. "You are dead," she told me, her voice even. "Right now, you are at a crossroad of two choices."

I interrupted her. "What do you mean I'm dead?" I said. My own voice sounded hoarse.

She kept talking without pausing to answer me. "One. You can crossover and visit your next life. Two. You can stay here."

"How can I be dead?" I asked.

"You died in a car accident," she said and continued, trying to convince me. "You feel deep regret. Do you remember what you were doing while you were out?"

I thought for a second, then replied. "I was buying my little sister's birthday cake." I paused. "I was walking home. I had a certain time to be there by and I crossed the street and there was a car coming…."

The screeching of the tires sounded loudly in my ears; I twisted my head away from her. I had crossed the street and heard screaming, then was hit by a speeding car that tried to stop. Then I saw a blinding white light. That's what I remembered before the dream.

"That's how you died," the lady said. "Do you accept this?"

"No…" I said.

The lady was silent. "Would you like to hear about yourself?"

I glared at her. "I'm me. I know everything about myself." Except, I didn't. I didn't remember anything about me.

She started filling me in. "You were male. Kind when you wanted to be," she said. "A good person. Perhaps your only regret was not being able to wish your sister happy birthday."

I shook my head disbelievingly. "How do you know any of this?"

The entire conversation, she had stood there, unblinking. "I am the keeper of gates," she said, sounding as if she had rehearsed his many times before. "I've seen many die and pass on, and many choose to walk the plank into limbo. And now I watch your decision. Shall I open the gate, or will you turn away?"

"I'm not dead!" I said.

"Aren't you?" she said, staring me down.

I bit my lip, a lump building in my throat. "I'm not," I said again. I would wake up, and I would see my little sister. I must have fallen and hit my head. I was in a hospital bed. I was dreaming the whole thing. Anything seemed better than this psychological warfare.

"You want to see your sister again."

I growled at her. "Shut up!" I said.

For once, the lady blinked. When she opened her eyes again, her gaze had softened. "Go to her, then," she said. "Go through the gates and meet her in the next life."

I put my hands on my head and pulled my hair. "Why do you keep saying these ominous things?" I asked. "I don't understand, what is this place?"

"This is the passage," she said. "Choose. I don't have all eternity."

I cursed, averting my gaze. "I want to go home…"

She was silent for a moment. "What's stopping you?" she asked. I turned back towards her, slightly puzzled. She stepped aside, showing me the water; there was no canoe anymore. "Go home."

My eyes widened slightly, and I ran towards the water. I stepped in and started to swim. I swam, far. When I looked back, I couldn't see anything but the lanterns. I swam more, but I was starting to get tired, so I turned on my back and closed my eyes for a minute.

When I woke next, I was on land. There was thick mist everywhere. I looked around, standing. "Hello?" I called, walking.

After a while, I sat down and sighed. Which way did I go to get home from here?

I blinked when I heard water rippling.

I turned my head and saw the dark water. The lady from before stood waist deep in it. She was holding on to someone tightly, like they were a precious jewel. She turned, giving me a sideways glance, and she looked so sad.

When I looked at the body, my eyes widened. It was me. I didn't have a face really. I don't knew how I knew it was me, but I did. I suddenly felt a hidden connection slipping. I wanted to call out, but just couldn't bring myself to do it. Slowly, my body slipped away from her fingers, and I was miles away.

I blinked, and the vision was gone, surrounded mist again. I panted and leaned back on my hands. I felt my hand sink into something mushy and then pulled it back to look at it. Pink frosting, from my sister's birthday cake.

My body trembled, and I let out a sob that bubbled up randomly. I buried my hands in my eyes to keep the tears from spilling over. "I want to go home," I said.