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Death, Dreams, and Decisions
In front of me lay death. It was so close that if I stretched out my hand, I could feel the cool, coarse wood beneath my fingers. I tried to take deep breaths, but my throat didn't allow it. My breath came in short, raspy gasps.
In front of me, the first door. Behind me, the second door. To the side, the third door. They all held options, each with their own pros and cons.
I tried to pay attention to the man beside me, who was dressed in all dark clothes. Questions buzzed through my head, making it impossible to hear.
"Aren't you supposed to be dressed in white?" I interrupted, staring at him suspiciously. "You know, the whole near-death thing, with the angel at the end of the tunnel. I mean, I've made some bad choices, but still... I expected an angel in white."
He paused and sighed. "Some bad choices would mean getting into a fight with your siblings. You smoked throughout your life despite knowing the health risks and had a criminal record." He smiled. "And you fought with your siblings."
"People have done worse," I mumbled defensively.
"Naturally. And I'm sure they would deserve a black outfit."
"Yours is black."
"Charcoal, my dear. There's a distinct difference. Besides, the whole color scheme isn't real. White, black, charcoal or magenta- it doesn't reflect on your life choices. It just so happens that you, the troublemaker, got stuck with charcoal."
"Who are you, anyway?" I sighed, admitting defeat.
He smirked. "That's for me to know, for you to eventually find out."
I groaned. "I thought I left that stupid phrase back on Earth."
"Oh, right." His face sobered. "We're here on urgent business. Right now, you're in a coma in a hospital."
"That would explain the hospital gown," I said, plucking at the thin white sheet barely covering me.
A grin slid over his face, and he coughed to conceal it. "It's rather see-through, wouldn't you think?"
"Hey!" I snapped. I folded my arms over my chest and glared at him. "Get on with the speech, will you?"
"Right." He choked back laughter and continued, "the Boss sent me here to find out which path you'd like to take. I'm sure you've figured out the first door."
"Death," I whispered, tracing a finger down the dark, uneven oak door in front of me. It smelled of the no longer living, with an aura around it that was tinged with sickness and grief.
"Right. I'm sure you can figure out the second door."
I stared at it blankly. It looked like a slightly cleaner version of the first door, with the smell of lilies and an aura of difficulty.
"Open it," he prompted.
Cautiously I stepped towards it, not bothering to question the black floors beneath me. Normally I would have wondered why I could not see the floor, or why the walls seemed to blend seamlessly with the ground, but I was immersed in curiosity of what the second door held.
The doorknob was smudged with fingerprints, but not dirty, as it was with the first. It swung open to a long, unbroken road lined with flowers.
I let the metaphor sink into my brain and silently closed the door. "I... live?"
"You fight hard, with lots of pain, and live relatively uninjured for a long time," he corrected me. He smiled lightly, and it faded. "And the third door."
The doorknob was cloudy on the third, the door splintered, the bottom jagged as though it had never been finished. I did not need to look into the path. I had already figured it out. "I live, but I don't fight. I'm lazy. I live life injured and continue smoking and eventually die quite young."
He smiled mysteriously, keeping his mouth closed. I stood there, uncertain, wrapping my arms around her hospital gown.
"Which path do you choose, Elaine?" he asked softly. "Live, or die? Work, or go with the flow?"
I swallowed hard. My throat was barely open by now. My breath was coming quick, whether from panic or my illness, I was not sure.
"See you later," I said, voice hoarse.
"Hopefully much later."
I laughed quietly and took the handle of the second door, stepping uncertainly onto the road, looking at it stretch on for miles.
I hoped it would never end.