Afterlife Kahlua

 

Kevin died suddenly.

It took him a while to realize it, because he thought he was dreaming. Walking along in wintry downtown Chicago, his feet crunching in the snow, there was a few minutes of discontinuity and then suddenly he realized he was floating. Several feet below him was a prone figure surrounded by what looked like a spilled strawberry Slushie. A large icicle had broken off the side of the looming skyscraper and buried itself like a dagger into the top of the poor bastard’s head. Oddly, the poor bastard wore a coat identical to Kevin’s … and shoes, too.

And pants.

The uh-oh moment came when Kevin recognized the grinning monkey’s head tattoo right where a normal person’s wristwatch would be. What were the odds someone else would have that? None, he finally admitted to himself.

It wasn’t long before the beautiful white light showed up, and a guy in a black hooded cloak holding some sort of antique farm implement urged him to float into it. Beyond, he knew, would be a land of pearly gates and puffy clouds, and thinking what a trip that would be, he went for it. The light itself seemed to have a kind of gravity, pulling at him, so after he got too close to the event horizon he couldn’t change his mind even if he’d wanted too. It sucked him in like a Kleenex into a Hoover.

There was music on the other side, but not the angelic choir Kevin had expected. It was a muted and low fidelity jazz, sounding a lot like he were listening to it underwater.

As the glow from the beautiful light faded, Kevin began to make out details. At first he saw what he thought were the pearly gates, but as the edges sharpened Kevin had to finally admit to himself it was shelving.

On the shelves were bottles.

Rows and rows of bottles.

Liquor bottles.

He was in a liquor store. It was even one he recognized — it was the Binny’s in the South Loop. And not only was he in a liquor store, Kevin was sitting on one of the shelves, next to the bottles.

He was a bottle. He was inside the bottle.

“Hey, hi there, excuse me,” said the bottle next to him. “Did you just wake up?”

“What?” Kevin said, surprised that he could talk.

“Ah, yes, you are awake. Good! Could you tell me, perchance, what brand I am?”

“What?” Kevin said again.

“Can you read my label? Could you tell me if I’m Baileys or Carolinas?”

Kevin had to fight the rising tide of panic that threatened to overwhelm him. “You’re a Baileys,” he said.

“You’re sure? You can see my label?”

“Yes, plain as day.” He wondered how he could do that, being that he no longer had eyes.

“I’m a Baileys,” the bottle said. “Thank God.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because it means I’m top shelf — like you.”

“What am I?

“You? You don’t know?”

Kevin went to shake his head, but didn’t have one. “I just got here.”

“Oh, well, you really did just wake up,” said the Baileys. “You’re a genuine Kahlua.”

“Kahlua?”

“Did you just die or something? Went into the light? Found yourself here?”

“Yes!”

“Think you’re dreaming?”

“Yes!”

“Well you’re not. Welcome to the afterlife, Kahlua.”

“I’m … this … I’m not—”

“Better get used to it.”

“This can’t be the afterlife! It can’t be. And my name isn’t Kahlua! It’s … my name, it’s … um.” He couldn’t remember.

“Your name is Kahlua,” said Baileys.

After a few moments Kahlua remembered he was feeling panicky about something, but couldn’t remember what. “Why am I here?” he asked finally. “Why aren’t I in heaven?”

“You think you’re not? You’re a top shelf spirit sitting in a world class liquor store!”

“But what am I doing here?”

“You’re waiting to be reincarnated. We all are.”

Kahlua, who used to be Kevin, could feel his previous life slipping from his mind like the details of a dream upon waking. He grasped at it desperately. “I don’t get it,” he said to Baileys, “I just don’t get it. Why did I turn into a liquor? What does it have to do with being reincarnated?”

“This is how I understand it,” Baileys told him. “We’re spirits, right?”

“Yes, but…”

“We’re spirits. Alcohol is called ‘spirits’ for a reason — this is why. So we wait here until someone comes and buys us, drinks us, and under our influence have unprotected sex after which we are implanted as a soul in the newly conceived child.”

That made sense, but yet it didn’t make sense. “But,” he told Baileys, “not all children are conceived while their parents are drunk. Are you saying they’re born soulless?”

“No Kahlua, think of it this way … human population is constantly growing. There’s always more babies being born than souls to occupy them … so those are new souls. It takes inebriated parents to conceive a child with a more experienced soul. And if you look around you, this explains a lot.”

Kahlua could no longer remember enough of his previous life to judge if this was true. It seemed to make sense. As he sat there pondering it, a beautifully dressed young couple came walking by and the woman said, “Oh!” and reached out to snatch Kahlua off the shelf.

Baileys called out, “Not fair! Not freaking fair! You haven’t been here fifteen freaking minutes! I’ve been sitting here for weeks!”

If Kevin/Kahlua had shoulders he would have shrugged them. It was just a case that he — and this young couple — were about to get lucky.

Temperature Extremes

The buns were cold.

It was a fact, and not one person tried to deny it. The buns, which had been warm before, were now at a temperature close to that of absolute zero.

“Try the buns,” Robert said. The man made an elaborate gesture toward the frosty plate on the table between them.

Leonard leaned forward. “Don’t mind if I do,” he said, and snatched one up. He didn’t realize it was cold until after his tongue was frozen and he couldn’t pull it out of his mouth. Struggling in surprise and shock, Leonard writhed in his chair and knocked over drinks and dishes. Within moments the terrible frost reached his brain, and Leonard twitched a few last times and fell over, his body making a muffled thump on the thick shag carpet.

Robert laughed at his stupid and luckless ex-friend. He had known the buns were cold, and had wisely avoided them. However, when he slipped a delicious spoonful of buttered zucchini into his mouth, his head caught fire and then exploded from the intense heat.

The zucchini was hot.

Martin’s Cookie

A good sized chunk of Martin’s cookie broke off and fell to the restaurant’s floor, and then vanished.

Not that it really vanished — it’s just that the rough hewn tiles were remarkably cookie-colored, and cookie-textured, so that the broken piece of the cookie instantly blended in. And the cookie was happy about that, because the very last thing it wanted was to be masticated in a horrible, damp human mouth, ground into its component particles, and ingested.

The horror!

So mustering all its might, each individual bit of that section of the cookie rebelled, invoked its right of manifest improbability, and separated from the rest of the doomed cookie. The fall from the towering table top was nothing. The impact, hard as it was, did not phase it. It was free. Free!

Martin saw the cookie spontaneously break and a piece of it jettisoned into the air, falling and disappearing. His own mind instantly separated into two. One half said, “Sadness, part of the cookie is gone forever.” The other said, “Three second rule! It’s still good!”

The halves engaged in a form of mental arm wrestling, each trying to win control of the body.

Martin jittered. Martin twitched.

The cookie, far below, did its very best to remain invisible.

With a victory that jolted Martin’s whole body into action, one side won, immediately joining both halves of his brain back together. Bending over, focusing his bleary eyes on the tiles below him, Martin searched for the missing piece of cookie. It was too good to be wasted. His tongue demanded every crumb, every morsel.

Alas, it was nowhere to be seen.

He blinked. He rubbed his eyes. Where did it go?

Ah! There!

His arm moved, his fingers flexed. Down it reached, down, ever down, his body bending, his spine flexing, all muscles coordinating to reach the prize and reclaim it. Inch by inch, stretching. Biting his lip.

Something flashed past his eyes. A broom! Bristles sweeping by, scooping the cookie fragment up, depositing it into some sort of flattened bucket on a stick.

Martin gasped, but was too embarrassed to say anything. It was, after all, on the floor.

The cookie felt itself transported up and around, gravity tugging at it from this way and that, until it flipped end over end and dropped amid other flotsam and jetsam at the bottom of a industrial strength black plastic trash bag.

Success! It had made it! It settled back, relaxing, and sank into a contented daydream about a long gentle disassociation in a landfill.

Hours later, when the world seemed quiet and dark, a pair of long slotted teeth gnawed their way through the black plastic. The head of a horrid, smelly rat pushed through, destroying the cookie’s daydream, and as this diseased vermin devoured the cookie, bit by bit, crumb by crumb, the cookie found itself wishing it could be instead back on the plate in front of the human.