My senses drown in a black sea. My thoughts leave me as I’m pulled upward. So this is it, I’m dead. The farther away from my body I go, the more calm I become. I lived a good life. I hope Bree forgives me; I did promise I’d outlast her.
Pulled, twisted, my senses are violated, but the calm doesn’t leave me. Every time I can feel panic almost set in, it’s snatched away. Why? As my ascension slows to a stop, I notice a bored old woman in a white robe.
“Welcome.” She blows and pops her blue bubblegum.
“…” I open my mouth but no sound comes out. She merely nods.
“So your sin…” The old woman opens a big book and flips through some pages. “Let’s see…. Brown hair, green eyes, almond-shaped eyes. Genetic anomaly. Ah yes, here we are. Aki Sato. Atheist. Makes sense.” She nods slowly.
“…” Voice doesn’t come. What makes sense?
She looks at me and motions me forward. “Let’s dispel a notion from your head before it takes root.” I walk forward.
“…” A pained groan escapes my throat.
“You didn’t lose your voice for blasphemy. God isn’t a jealous school-kid who throws a tantrum every time someone says he doesn’t exist. No, your sin is of actual substance.” The old woman leans over and rubs my back. “Close your eyes little one, what do you regret?”
The calm leaves as I’m forced to relive the worst moment of my life. I was fourteen. Dylan was my best friend. He came out as gay and instead of standing by him, I stayed quiet when he was being bullied. I didn’t tell his parents or the teachers. I remember that smile that carved itself into my mind. That impossible smile as I lost my best friend.
The weight grabs me by the ankles as I’m shown all the times I’ve kept a secret because I valued confidence placed in me over their lives. I gasp for air. I can’t. I can’t. Why. Please. Stop.
“Now. Would you like your voice back?” Warm arms surround me. “Aki, you have two choices. Enter the gate or give someone a second chance. What do you choose?”
“…” I breathe heavily and close my eyes. Even as the various debates rage in my mind, my heart already knows its answer. Yes. Yes, I need to help those who deserve to try again.
The old lady nods and when I open my eyes Dylan is on the stage coming out to the school. Time to get my voice back.