"Hey! Slug. Hologram. STOP."
It was the little dead with a hologram. Larry again, looking exhausted, and no wonder; "I'm dead," he said.
Like Larry, I had changed. I was wearing a rayon figured dressing gown, shoulder pads, and mules; I had shaved. "I'm sorry," I said.
"It's not that bad."
"No." After a while I added, "What exactly do you like about it?"
"I like the clothes." He was wearing a terrycloth sleeper, with snaps; it smelled like milk; he seemed damp and sweet. "Why are you sorry?" he asked, rubbing his eyes. "That I'm dead, I mean."
I was quiet for a long time. Finally I said, "It wasn't fair."
He was quiet for a long time, too. Minutes, seconds, years. I wouldn't know the difference. "It's not that bad," Larry said at last.
"No." After a while, I added, "It's not that good."
You may say all this is nonsense, but when you think about it, about how short life is, and how long death, it is all ridiculous. When you think about eternity, and then that blink that is life--well! Finite is not the word for it! It's ridiculous.
But then, the worst is behind us, isn't it?
And death is full of surprises.
We're not alive, but we do live on. You can't explain that. But you don't need to. Explanation would be lost on us. We're not that bright.
When you get here, if you get here, I'll be the first to know. It takes some getting used to. But it's not that bad. In life, after all, how much can happen? You're born, live, and die. When you're dead, anything could happen.
Those last six minutes. The waiting period before recycling. On the way to the gate. The wheat and the chaff. Turning to stone. Turning transparent. Living on in another's thoughts. Living on in the things you loved. Living on in work you did. Not living on at all.
I try to keep an open mind. It gets opener and opener. It's so open that I understand it's possible that it actually is that bad, and I've made all this up as a form of denial, because it is that bad--terrible.
And this isn't happening.
And there's nothing but death, plain death./p>
I wouldn't know the difference, myself.
"Hey!" I called out to Larry, really just to keep him talking. "I thought you were going to join the Oversoul."
"I got mixed up." He looked it; if you can call it look.
"Hey! Is that your head?"
And he was trying to check, if you can call it try, when all at once, Larry's eyes quickened. He'd just got the joke. "This isn't really happening," he said, and I saw he was on his way to stone again.
Just before he got there, I told Larry, "It was still nice talking to you again. Even if it isn't."
"I wouldn't know the difference."
And, believe me, you won't either.
--For Larry McCready, 1945-1995