You will not remember how you got here, only that you’re here now. Before you, an empty void of blackness sprawls in all directions. Unlike the darkness of the occasional midnight power outages that once defined your interpretation of ‘pitch black’, the shadows before you will most certainly be darker. Not only are they darker, however, but you will notice that they aren’t static as normal shadows are. You won’t quite be able to put your finger on it, but you could swear that the darkness itself is moving. It’s not the kind of ‘moving shadow’ you’ve seen before when your wife or the dog shifted in the night, for instead of just a single section of the void shifting you could swear that you can see every inch slowly pulsating and writing with unnatural, almost reflexive movements.
As most people often do, you will attempt to walk forward or feel around for a way out of the abyss that swirls lazily around you. In all likelihood you are under the assumption that you have awoken in your bedroom during another of the aforementioned lapses in electricity caused by a thunder storm, and blame the odd fluidity of the darkness on your grogginess and bleary-eyed arousal from a deep sleep. If you could just find a light switch, you’d get everything set right.
That’s when you’ll notice that you can’t move.
In fact, you will realize that you can’t feel your body at all. If you think about it, you are always able to subconsciously feel that all the parts of your body no matter what you’re doing. As of right now, however, it feels as though you don’t have a body at all. You will inevitably try to clap your hands together or touch your face, but you will not even feel the sensation of your limbs responding to your neural signals. Your body won’t feel numb, mind you, as most of you are imagining, but it will feel literally like you don’t have a physical form. You will try to call out, walk forward, even blink; but not a single physical piece of your former self seems to be present at this time. That’s when you will realize the truth. Something that you knew at the very beginning, but wasn’t in the forefront of your mind until now: You are dead. You don’t remember dying, but you will clearly recall the moments immediately before you died. Whether it was your family around you in either your own home or a hospital as the monitors beeped beside you, sitting at a stop light listening to your favorite CD as a pair of semi headlights suddenly appeared beside you, or even the taste of gunmetal on your tongue as you wearily read the heartfelt apology to your family again and again. Either way, you are firmly aware that you are now on the other side of mortality. Your body is still on earth, but your consciousness still remains firmly intact. The reason you are still completely aware is because you are now only a soul, and a human soul bears a direct connection to the neurologic systems of the body. It is an imprint of the experiences you’ve shared in life that have shaped who you are, and thus continues to exist almost eternally after the death of the physical body. Before you ask, no, this is not the same as ‘ghosts’, but that’s not something you need explained to you right now.
Before you the darkness continues to swirl, almost like a mixture of black and deep grey water lethargically flowing before you and seeming to extend forever. Even though this state of postmortem cognizance is not akin to any religion or philosophy’s teachings of the afterlife, and doesn’t bear a name that can be linked to one, this will strangely not bother you. No matter which creed you chose in life, or how devout you were to it, that will not be your first thought process. Instead, you will begin to look back over your life and reminisce about the good things. It’s always the positive memories first, no matter how depressed or pessimistic you were in life. You’ll then notice that, despite having lost your carnal form, your mental capability has been drastically increased.
You are now able to literally visualize memories and mental images. Not like you were able to in life, where even the most vivid of images still stayed firmly out of your literal vision, but instead you can see everything before you clear as day. This will not be like a virtual reality experience, as you are still aware of your separation and state of death, but it will be almost exactly like reliving it. You will see everything, even the most minute of details, in perfect clarity. You will smell things, feel things, hear things that you never remembered when thinking back on these moments while you were on Earth. You cannot change anything, as you aren’t in some kind of time travel paradox, but you won’t mind. You will remember things like the beeping of heart monitors as your children were born, the voice of your spouse and the tears of your family as they told you ‘I do,’, the first time you made love to someone you cared about and truly connected with another person, a memorable night ripe with liquor and music accompanied friends you kept your whole life, and anything else that defined the positive experiences in your life. A newfound nirvana will open up before you like a blooming rose, and you will undoubtedly pick a handful of memories that you can’t help but play over and over again. Each time you see them before you, you will feel just as happy if not happier than you did when they were first occurring. Even if it’s not much you’ll be content knowing that if you’re going to spend eternity like this, you can at least be unconditionally happy. However, that’s when the process begins.
The more you visualize these memories, the more they begin to fade. Soon the little details that you were just reintroduced to will begin to fade away, as will your ability to see them clearly before you, and the ones you replay most often will soon be no more than a vague visualization in your mind just as they were on Earth. Panicking at the thought of losing them permanently, you will pick different memories to relive in order to try and revitalize the ones that have begun to dissipate. This will be of no use. Even though you will actively avoid thinking about your favorite memories, the ones that began to fade first, they will still degrade slowly. Then, once only the broadest of details remain, the first memory will soon fade away completely. Strangely, even though it seems like it would be a major loss, you actually won’t mind losing it once it’s gone. Not because you’ve lost the ability to feel anything for that memory or the events it depicted, but because once the memory is gone you won’t remember that it was ever there. Slowly but surely, all of your favorite memories will follow suit, and the ones you placed the highest importance on are the slowest to fade away. Once you’re experiencing the increasingly minor happy moments in your life, you will find that they begin to disappear exponentially faster. First you’re forgetting your lover’s smile, the first thing you fell in love with, and before long you’ve no memory of getting your first Hot Wheels toy in kindergarten. Once you have firmly exhausted your mental gamut of happy memories, you will inevitably move onto those which lie on the opposite end of the spectrum.
This is, without question, the single most painful part of the process. The only memories with emotional attachment left in your mind are those that caused you pain, suffering, sadness or harm of any kind. You will relive in great detail moments such as your first heartbreak, the death of a loved one, the loss of important material possessions and even the day you received news of the disease that killed you. They will seem much more vivid and detailed than the positive memories, and though they fade at the same rate you will experience them for what feels like an eternity longer. Yet then, as the face of the boy who bullied you into self-harm soon fades away like all the others, the worst part will be over seemingly as soon as it began. You are now devoid of any memories linked with emotional connection whatsoever. As an added bonus, though you won’t consciously realize it, you have also lost the ability to feel any emotion at all. Part of removing those memories means disconnecting the attached feelings and instincts associated with them. This does not, however, mean that the process is completely finished.
Whether or not you realize it, your perceptions are shaped by so much more than the positive or negative memories you hold. What’s left in your mind will be things such as learned knowledge, motor skills, sensory input like taste and touch, and the mental images of inanimate objects and concepts. These are the next to go, and before you know it you no longer remember what you learned in college; you won’t even recall what college was, or any school for that matter. You will forget the smell of rain, the feeling of sand on the beach, even the taste of food and the accompanying rush of liquid washing it down. You won’t remember what snow is, nor the cars and their drivers that carelessly drove through it ever winter. What even is winter? You won’t be able to tell. You will forget numbers, letters, and eventually your ability to speak and even think in the language or languages you knew in life. Though you haven’t done either since you arrived, you will forget what it was like to walk and even how to breathe. This simultaneously strips away the most foundational of identities: your humanity. You won’t remember being human at all, nor will you remember anything about the human race or the planet they came from. In your mind, the swirling void before you will be the only thing you’ve ever known.
The only ability you retain is your capability to think, but your thoughts will be very sparse and spoken in a language that is impossible to recreate on Earth. It has an indescribably alien sound and grammatical pattern, and if one did somehow succeed in speaking it or even hearing it spoken while they were alive, it may very well drive them permanently insane. This vernacular is the language of souls, the communication tool of the dead. It is a nameless tongue that is rumored to have only been used by ancient necromancers and other cultists during the earliest years of recorded history, but they all fell prey to the described effects of hearing the words fall upon their mortal ears. Until this point, save for the sounds in your memories, the void around you will have been completely silent. Now that your mind is no longer clouded by assumed precognitions and recollections of your former life, you will hear endless whispers in the language of spirits. Though they will sound like they’re being spoken from across an empty gymnasium, they are very much real. These are other souls whom are either going through the process you just underwent or have finished. Those individuals who are still losing their humanity will not be speaking to the unknown number of souls around them, at least not voluntarily, but those who are firmly on the other side of the ordeal will be attempting to reach out and speak with others. It’s not uncommon to hear the dead whispering encouragement to those who are screaming out in mental anguish, suffering through the process of reliving their darkest moments. The moment you reach out and begin speaking to other souls, however, you won’t be doing so for long. You won’t realize it, but a soul who reaches out to another that has finished the process will only speak once before going silent. The minute you make a connection with another, no matter what you say, you will have reached the final step. It is at that moment that the process will be complete.
As you finish speaking with another of the dead you will hear a noise much akin to a stone dropping into the water of a pond, though in this state you won’t remember what that sounds like. All at once the inky blackness before you will split, revealing a sliver of piercing white light. At dizzying speeds the light will overtake you and momentarily throw you into a state of confusion, but you will not feel fear or panic overtake you. A living body’s eyes would need to adjust to the light, but you will not find that necessary. As the flash of white fades, you will find yourself no longer in the abyss that you had come to almost call a home. Instead you will be standing on a stone walkway, six brass torches lining its expanse before you. Green flames, almost seafoam or bright teal in hue, will top each of the braziers that sit along either side of the path. A few meters away the path will be obscured by the thick grey mist that surrounds everything you can see, only the flames visible against it, and if you are to look off the edge you would see that the stone structure seems to float in midair. Raw instinct will call you to move forward, but you will not walk. Rather, you will float like a moth towards the light of the flames in the distance. Occasionally a tendril of fog will dance in front of you, but you will feel no wind. You will, strangely enough, hear it faintly blowing as though it were somewhere far off.
You will trek down the path for a fair amount of time, more and more braziers coming into view as you do. You know that you have to reach then end, but you won’t be able to remember exactly why. Yet somehow, you are fully aware that something both necessary and important lies at the end of this journey. You continue to move down the walkway, which would clack and scratch loudly if you still had feet to walk upon it with. You soon will reach an arched stone doorway, with two highly elongated torches appearing to stand guard on either side. You can see beyond that there is more fog, but one thing is visible: an open stone square with the wall closest to you missing, almost like a podium or an office cubicle. Upon seeing it, you will feel an overwhelming urge to stand within it. You step into the doorway, your final destination perceived by you as being that meter-high structure before you. As you cross the threshold, however, you will see Him.
Truthfully, assigning any gender specific pronouns to this being would not technically be correct as the entity does not have any defined biological sex. In fact, He seems to go out of His way to appear androgynous. Yet for ease of explanation, and the fact that the creature bears a very masculine appearance at least in the torso, male pronouns will be used.
He is called the Justiciar. No religion of earth has ever described Him or revered Him, but almost all have had some deity or another fill His role. You will notice that He is massive, larger than any object on the Earth that you do not remember. For a visual to benefit the living that are currently present, imagine the tallest building or mountain you’ve ever seen. He is far larger than any of them. Even Mount Everest, called the tallest mountain on the planet, would sit tens of kilometers below His shoulders. He bears four arms which are crossed atop His rippling chest and abdominal muscles. His skin seems to glow from within and is the color of melted gold, appearing to flow over His form like quicksilver. Though it doesn’t bear the ripples or inconsistencies of a liquid it does indeed move in unison like one, and it will undoubtedly remind you of the way the darkness you have just left used to move. On His back are six feathered wings the color of steel, and each is folded tightly against His body. Despite His muscular and overall masculine body, what you will be able to see of his face appears very angular and feminine. You won’t see all of it, as a piece of cloth the same color as His wings is tied around his eyes and plasters the very tops of His ears down to His skull. He also bears no genitals, but that is simply an observation as to his genderless appearance. He will be sitting cross-legged atop a floating stone pedestal, which is just as massive as the Justiciar Himself. Though a human would undoubtedly be afraid at this moment, you feel a sense of calm overtake you. You will feel as though you know Him, and that you have been expected as one may expect an old friend’s arrival. That is because you have been expected. You’ve been expected by Him for a very long time.
As soon as you arrive at the podium before you, you will hear the sound of stone scraping lightly against stone coming from behind you. If you turn around, you will see the walkway rapidly falling away yet staying completely intact. If any thought of fleeing had been able to cross your thoughts, it would have dissipated at that moment. Once you turn back around, you will see the Justiciar’s blindfold begin to glow. Where His eyes would be underneath the shroud, two bright yellow orbs come to softly cloth-muted life and adjust to look directly upon you. He will rise to His feet, spreading all six wings with a sound akin to the unfurling of a sail or a flag caught by a gust of wind as he rises into the sky, keeping His gaze centered on you as all but those eyes disappear into the fog. He isn’t leaving you, however, because you will then realize that the stone podium you were standing on is now rapidly rising and leaving the Justiciar’s pedestal far below. After a moment, your movement will stop and you will find yourself face to face with the massive winged creature. For the first time since you arrived He will extend a hand in greeting as He speaks.
“Your transformation is complete,” He will say, “You are now ready to judge your deeds in life as Halcyon, with no reservations or pleas for mercy. You will be as I am, and will pass your sentence accordingly.” As the Justiciar speaks, you will notice that His mouth never moves. He speaks in the language of the dead, but He doesn’t speak with just one voice. Lending yet again to His androgynous existence, He speaks with the voices of both a male and a female in unison.
The process you underwent in the void was the process of becoming Halcyon, or tranquil and carefree. The loss of your human memories and functions serves only to make the final steps in your journey as painless and accurate as possible.
He will wave a hand before you, painting the fog in what appears to be a coat of melted glass. Before you now is no longer the Justiciar and the haze that surrounds Him, but a catalog of the memories you experienced when you first entered the abyss upon death. However, you are now seeing them as a third person viewer, seeing yourself and the actions you performed as a silent observer rather than the subject. On some level, you will realize that you are seeing yourself, but you won’t feel any emotional response of any kind towards it. You are seeing it as the Justiciar sees it; as a silent judge and jury deciding what is to come next.
Instead of showing you the happy, sad and inconsequential memories that you experienced before, He is now showing you your deeds and actions in life. He will begin by showing you the good things you did: moments when you were selfless, loving, willing to be there for others and make a positive difference in the world. Depending on the individual, this will be either the shortest or longest sequence in the list.
Then He will shift the fog before you, and you will see all of your sins. These range from universal sins that all would damn you for, to those transgressions which are much more specific. If you followed a religion or philosophical code in life, for example, He will show you when you violated the tenants of that dogma in life, proving overall your hypocrisy rather than your betrayal to your deity or deities. You will feel no emotions at either of these points, but you will be judging for yourself if the good you did outweighed the bad just as the Justiciar is doing.
Finally, we reach the single most pivotal sequence in this final process: the missed opportunities. Here the Justiciar will show you times that you could have done a good deed, helped someone, maybe not have shirked responsibilities and above all times when you could have followed your dreams and passions but chose not to. When He reaches the point of what you never accomplished in life, especially what you dreamed of doing, He will paint pictures of what your life would have been like if you had. This will register a slight emotional response with you if your desires in life were strong enough and the regret of not doing so still lingers, and He will most definitely notice that. Once that is finished, you and the Justiciar will rapidly descend back to the platform and He will seat Himself yet again.
“The Judgement is complete,” He will say, folding his hands and peering down at you, “You are now tasked with presenting your final conclusion as to your fate: Shall you be given salvation, damnation or a second chance?”
Damnation and salvation are the basis of most if not all religions across the word. Both are akin to what their respective religious versions depict, but without many specifics. Salvation, for instance, is a truly eternal state where you will exist in a white void and experience nothing but bliss and unending euphoria for all time. Damnation, on the other hand, is not eternal; you will be punished accordingly for all your wrong doings in life, experiencing torturous pain and nightmarish visions until your soul fizzles and disintegrates. That is the end of existence, where all consciousness will truly cease. Obviously one is preferable over the other.
The process of His judgement, or just ‘the Judgement’, weighs in a lot of things. Those who qualify for salvation are those whose good outweighs the wrongs they have done, and damnation is vice versa. If you are perfectly equal, which has never happened before but is still possible, your greatest sin and greatest act of righteousness will be weighed to decide. By the time you first enter His domain, He already knows what you will qualify for. However, adding you into the equation can make a difference beyond what you can imagine when it comes to the third option.
If an emotional response was elicited from watching the times in your life when you did not act, you will inevitably say: “I choose a second chance,” If your desire was strong enough that you still feel a stirring in your gut at this moment, which is more and more common in recent years, there is no question that the Justiciar will then present you with this: “If you chose to go back and live a life of fulfillment,” He will say, “You will not get it again. If you return to me having at least attempted to live a life of purpose, you will be given Salvation. However, should you again ignore the chances to better your life and the lives of others, you will be sent straight into Damnation with no fair trial. Do you accept?” Of course, you’ll accept His offer, as in your current state there’s no way that you could fathom a way to decline. Instantly your vision will fade to black, and your soul will be reborn into the body of an infant somewhere on Earth.
This sounds like the best deal of all time, don’t you think? You’re given a second chance to live it all over again, and you now have an entire process of post-death existence to give you that motivation. That, sadly, is not the case. You see, the process of becoming Halcyon is not something the Justiciar put in place; it is the natural state of the soul. A soul does not possess the capability to permanently retain anything save for the rawest of emotion, and once an empty soul enters a new body it will lose even the memories of its time after death. Thus, you won’t remember that you even took this deal. However, there are hallmarks of your rebirth that herald if you are the product of a second chance:
Those given their redemption on Earth are almost always born in the same country as their life, but are usually one step below where they were socioeconomically. Therefore you will be born into the middle class if you were rich in your first life, poor if you were middle class, etc. You will also undoubtedly suffer from depression, anxiety, or any other form of mental illness. This is the Justiciar’s way of testing your resolve, as no one in their first life suffers from any of those naturally. He wants to know if you can fight through those things and prove that you were worthy of a second chance on Earth, for if you were so content to pass them by in a neuro-typical life your resolve should thusly be greater when you suffer. It is also a natural part of the soul’s rebirth cycle, as the entity that is a soul or spirit is not made for two lives and will thus return exhausted.
It may not seem like a fair lot to draw, especially since you won’t remember the deal you’ve made, but it is the truth. Those who can muscle through those disorders are more than worthy of being given their second chances in the eyes of the Justiciar, and if you suffer from depression or anything like it you are most certainly on your second round here on Earth. If you do not, you still have a chance at a one-shot life.
How do I, your anonymous narrator, know all of this? Am I, who has remained unaddressed until now, just spewing some kind of spiritualist bullshit at you to scare you? No, no I am not. I shall remain nameless, but rest assured that what I tell you is entirely true. I have been to the void, lost myself to the Halcyon state, and met the Justiciar. I know He is real, and I know that I have been given a very rare chance. You see, the Justiciar has noticed that more and more of His second-chancers are wasting their lives, sentencing them straight to damnation. He desires to rectify this, but since He is not a being capable of creation or even altering what has already been created, He cannot make it so you remember upon rebirth. That is why He told me upon the seat of Judgement that I would be given a new kind of second chance: I would be returned to the life I was taken from by a drunk driver, so long as I became a prophet for Him on Earth.
No, I’m not trying to sell you a church with this. He specifically told me He does not desire worship or even reverence in the daily lives of man. He did, however, send me to put this on every digital medium I could find and even spread it by word of mouth if possible. He is using me as a vessel to reach out to those who have already been given second chances, and tell you all that you should not waste any more time. If you spend your life regretting everything you haven’t done or running from your passions because of some reservation you have, chances are high that you’re headed straight to Damnation once this life passes you by. There is no question of your impending doom if you are a sufferer of depression, which I know many on this particular website are. What better place to post this? Amidst the dread and terror of the horror stories you all fawn over, I know I’ll find many who need to hear this message.
Believe my warnings or not, I leave you with this: Is leaving your life unlived really worth risking your afterlife over? Are you truly sure that not living a life that makes a positive impact is really worth it? And, if it is true, are you really ready to risk the unimaginable tortures of damnation for just one more day of passing the world by instead of living in it? Who knows, this may be the last chance you get to at least try and fulfill the Justiciar’s one request of this second chance that you won’t ever get again. Is it really worth not believing what I’ve told you? If I’m just some crackpot who hallucinated until he woke up in the morgue with a scalpel ready to slice his shoulder, then you have only your perceived afterlife to worry about. Thus, if you do believe in an afterlife of some kind, the stipulations for getting in are probably far less rigid than what I’ve just described.
But what if you’re wrong?