When Fall Turns To Spring
by Benjamin Kensey
Michael Kitson’s day, which had begun with his death, was about to get worse. As he lay on the grass, he was already running through the chain of events and the more stupid of the decisions he’d made that led him to fall off his third-floor window ledge. Had he survived?
“Quite a shock to the system, isn’t it?” came a deep voice from above him. He turned over and peered up into the brightness where a tall figure stood, offering him a helping hand. Getting to his feet, he looked around. There was no open third-floor window above him. In fact, Avery House and its five floors of dour apartments had gone. The London suburb that had dashed every one of his impractical dreams back had disappeared too. Everything had gone.
“Let me get straight to the basics, Michael,” the tall figure said, dressed in what those on a more Earthly plane might describe as a posh bathrobe. “In our line of work, time is of the essence and must not be frittered away. My name is Ruben and as you may have already surmised, you have died.”
Michael’s eyes had briefly swept the bare horizon like the beam of a lighthouse but turned now to Ruben. Michael’s face wore the startled look of someone recently slapped. He swallowed hard. “Died? I fell from the ledge, didn’t I?”
“You did. The landing was spectacular, but only for the two fortunate witnesses, certainly not for your poor spine or your neighbor’s car.”
“So this is heaven? I behaved horrendously throughout. Have you people no standards?”
“We certainly do, but this is not heaven. We’re not here to judge today. You’re in what we call the Mid Between. The name was bestowed by one of my less able predecessors and was never meant to stick, but has displayed uncommon tenacity and survives to this day. All my suggestions for new names have fallen upon deaf ears.”
“I don’t understand.” Michael said.
“You are between lives. Your previous life is over thanks to your tumble. As it was not actually suicide, but merely gross stupidity, you move onto your next life. My role today is facilitator.”
“Am I dreaming?”
“No, you aren’t, Michael.”
“So my last supper was burnt toast and marmite? I’ve died and there’s a fresh leg of lamb in the fridge.”
“I’m sure the living will continue to need food,” said Ruben.
“Do you have a particular life in mind for me, Ruben?”
“Your mother is already in labor. You are about to be reborn, Michael. Rejoice!”
“I’m not sure I will. I don’t want to be born again. Send me upstairs and let’s be done with it. Do I get that choice?”
“Technically, yes, you have a choice, but not in practical terms. You can choose to stay here. Trust me, you do not want to stay in the Mid Between, Michael. Very few choose that path. There are some here, maybe a hundred or so of the more troubled souls,” Ruben said, now turning his own attention to the empty infinite miles that surrounded them, “but eternity is a long time and there is little to do. Come.”
“I need time to think. This has all happened very fast.”
“It’s best we get this over as quickly as possible, lest your mother suffer too much. Dithering and delay in the Mid Between will result in a long, painful labour. You understand the need for haste?”
“Of course. So what can you tell me about this baby, the life it will have?”
Ruben led Michael to an old stone bridge that lay nearby. There was no river or stream flowing underneath, just a continuation of the grass that flowed immense and blemish-free on all sides.
“The life you lead will be full of opportunity for happiness and betterment.”
“That sounds like a politician’s answer,” Michael said.
“We cannot and do not predict the future, Michael, but we work with tendencies, leanings and disposition. Decide and you will move on in the chain of life. A full and varied existence awaits you. All you need do is jump from this bridge and the rest will be taken care of. You’ve already shown a remarkable aptitude for falling from heights today.”
Ruben smiled mischievously at Michael, the white of the sky showing itself in the sheen on his cheeks.
“Ruben, I don’t think I’m ready for another go on the merry-go-round, not as a person anyway. Make me a cat in England where I can grow fat, lie on the carpet and toast myself in the sunbeams by the bookshelf.”
Ruben shook his head. “Only the ignorant perpetuate the myth of coming back as an animal.”
Michael leant on the low wall of the bridge, peering down into an imaginary stream, recalling the happy days of Pooh sticks he’d enjoyed with his brother years before the viciousness of life had taken over.
“Why were you surprised when you thought you were in heaven, Michael? You said you’d behaved horrendously.”
“I did, I had. I was always for myself, a selfish prick. I knew that and was unashamed about it. ‘You’re on this earth for yourself,’ I used to say. I assume you know what put me on that ledge today?”
“Yes. You climbed up there to scare your wife, in short, to win an argument and now she’s a widow.”
Michael looked down to see the shoes that had let him down so badly, only to find himself bare footed.
“My brother died when I was fifteen and I made it all about me, got into a lot of bother with the school, the police, everyone. It was downhill from there. I don’t want to go back and have another life of struggle, Ruben. Are you not going to tell me anything about the life I will, could have?”
“In a maternity ward of questionable hygiene standards, a mother sweats and strains to push new life into the world. Her six daughters wait in a home that’s little more than a shack with their father for the brother and son they’ve prayed for.”
“Ruben,” Michael said, staring out at the green sea, gentle waves moving across it as a breeze tickled the longer blades of grass to movement. “It seems that I am being thrown into a difficult life in a tough environment. Is this for some failure in my last life? Do I have lessons to learn that I have so far failed to take on board?”
“There are always lessons to learn and your four previous lives have indeed been rich in that respect. Money and location are no guarantors of contentment, Michael,” Ruben replied. “I think you would be the first to confirm that. You will start your next great quest with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. You will have the faculties to see, hear and taste the wonders of the world, a world you can bend to your dreams should that be the path you choose. In short, Michael, you are being given a perfectly crafted life to do with as you want. This is no punishment for past errors. On the contrary, you are being given the gift of opportunity, to make small amends. There will be wide-reaching consequences if you don’t continue on, Michael.”
“Is that a threat?” Michael asked.
“Some who are involved in this do not have the chance to spend eternity here in the Mid Between. You should know what will happen to the baby if you choose to stay here.”
“Will someone else go in my stead?”
“The baby will be stillborn.”
Michael sat on the low wall of the bridge and thought about his brother, of having that warm glow taken from his life at such a young age, the derailing stones it had put onto the tracks of his life, the lasting damage it had done him.
“Keep me away from those slippery soles, Ruben,” he called over his shoulder as he dropped.