Fred and Astra find themselves floating in a thick white mist that glows
with a light of its own. At first they can't remember anything, but then
their memories slowly come back to them, and they recall with painful
clarity their last few minutes, and all that they went through before that.
"Where are we?" Astra asks, trying to make sense of it all.
"I don't know," Fred says. "I think we.. we... I think we're..." His voice weakens for a moments as we says, "I think we're dead."
They're silent, struck with the suddenness of their death and the strangeness of this life-after-death. Where are they? How did they get here? What's going to happen to them now?
Suddenly, as if in answer to their thoughts, a door appears before them out of the mists. They stare at in shock. They glance at each other, though Fred tentatively reaches out and opens the door.
On the other side of the door is what appears to be a small office, with a desk, a bookshelf, a potted plant, and a door on the far side. Sitting at the desk is a young man. There's something strangely familiar about him; Fred and Astra feel as if they should know him somehow.
The man looks up. Then he recognizes them. "Oh, hi! Please, come in."
Fred and Astra feel themselves floating into the room, drawn by a great power beyond their control or comprehension. The force sets them down in two seats in front of the man's desk, shutting the door behind them.
"Hi," the man says again, smiling amiably. "You must be Fred and Astra." He reaches out and shakes their hands. "I'm Sir Seeker."
"A-are you an angel?" Fred asks nervously.
"Hmm? Angel?" Sir Seeker frowns. "Oh, no. I'm only an author."
"An author?" Astra says.
"Yes," Sir Seeker explains. "I'm one of the guiding forces behind your adventures. We, the authors, determine your fates and the fates of all of the who you meet."
Fred's eyes go wide. "Y-you mean... you're..."
"Oh, no, no," Sir Seeker says. "We're not what you think. It's just that... you see, the two of you are living inside a story in which you, Frederigo, are the main character, and you, Astra, are a supporting character. We, the authors, write your stories and squabble over your fates. We're the ones who cause everything that happens to you two to happen."
Fred and Astra are silent for a long time. Then, finally, Astra asks, in a slow, quiet voice, "So why are we here?"
"Well, it seems an author has killed you in one of your storylines," Sir Seeker explains, "and you've been sent here so we can deal with it."
"Deal with it?" Fred says.
"Yeah," Sir Seeker says. "You see, until now there's only really been one 'afterlife' episode, episode 60, and every time -- or virtually every time -- that Fred has died he's been sent there. Now that both of you, Fred and Astra, have died, we can't very well send Fred there without doing something with Astra. We had to create an entirely new afterlife to deal with this."
"Wow, I'm sorry..." Astra says.
Sir Seeker shrugs. "Hey, that's okay. It me another opportunity to write myself into the story."
"Wait," Fred says impatiently, "do we have to die?"
"That's the other thing I have to tell you," Sir Seeker says. "As long as we've had to create an entirely new death episode we've taken the opportunity to create some new death options as well.
"Normally," he continues, "We'd just send you to heaven or... err.. the other place, or send you back to the beginning of the game, or something like that. This time, though, we're offering you some other options for the afterlife."
"Like what?" Astra asks.
"Well, first of all, if you want to continue your adventures in the living world, you can go for the reincarnation option. We'll send you back to earth in different bodies -- don't worry, we'll send you back together, and fully grown -- and you'll complete a new quest for us. When you're done with your quest you can keep the bodies for the rest of their natural lifespans. If you don't complete the task, though, or fail it, I'm afraid we'll have to repossess the bodies and you'll have to come back here.
"Second, we can send you back to earth as guardian angels. You'll have to look out for someone else on earth, keep him (or her) out of trouble, and so on. You'll get cool powers and, better yet, stylish wings. Unfortunately, no one will see you, not even the person you're protecting, and you won't be able to interact directly with the world.
"Third, we can send you back as ghosts. You'll be assigned a graveyard or an old castle or something, and you'll have to haunt it and terrify as many people as you can. It could be fun if you're into that sort of thing, but, again, you can't talk to anyone or interact directly with the world, and, even worse, you'll disappear in the daylight and only appear again at night.
"And, of course, I can always refer you to the ol' pearly gates -- though I'm afraid you'll have to go separately."
"Is there anything else?" Fred says.
"Hmmm..." Sir Seeker says. "Maybe. I'll have to check my computer. And I've left the episode extendable, just in case another author comes up with something better.
"So," Sir Seeker finally says, looking Fred and Astra in the eyes, "what do you want?"
10/16/1999 10:52:08 PM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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