“Three minutes before I died, I was eating a hamburger. It was quite good, if you were wondering. Lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and onions. No pickles, obviously. Who do you think I am? I had a side of fries. Did you know fries are actually really good if they’re dipped in a mixture of ketchup and mayo?”
Three minutes before I died, I was eating a hamburger. It was quite good, if you were wondering. Lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and onions. No pickles, obviously. Who do you think I am? I had a side of fries. Did you know fries are actually really good if they’re dipped in a mixture of ketchup and mayo?
Don’t look at me like that! It’s good!
My mom taught me that combination. We were on vacation in Guadalupe. It’s a little French territory in the Caribbean. Just the two of us. And we had gone out to eat at this “authentic” takeout place. I had been mooching off my mom’s weird shrimp dish, as my chicken salad was pretty terrible. She reached down into the bottom of the plastic bag we had gotten our takeout in, and she pulled out a styrofoam container full of fries.
She opened the plastic lid with a crack and, to my horror, there was a packet of mayonnaise in there. But I tried it out, and it was pretty good. Mom said it was more of a European thing to do. Ever since then, whenever I asked for mayonnaise with my fries, people looked at me like I had just shot a man. But I could handle it.
I could handle a lot of things. Like bullies.
I mean, I never was bullied that much. Let’s be real, Bruce Nightcon picked on everyone. Being 5’8” helped him out in that regard too. No one dared challenge the tall kid. That was just something you did not do. Ever. Kids who did that ended up with bloody noses if Bruce was in a good mood.
The only person Bruce never picked on was his sister, Amelie Nightcon, and his “friend,” Nick Whaner. Nick just didn’t want to get beat up, so he pretended to like Bruce.
Neither of them were very smart. It didn’t help their reputation that every time they got a math question wrong, someone got a bloody nose. He beat up the school counselor once.
What am I even saying? I should introduce myself. My name is Tempest Jyrs. And I am dead.
Pretty dramatic, huh? It took me a while to think that up. Y’know, just start with some useless information, then hit them with a boom! Guess what, baby?! You’re talking to a dead man!
I guess I shouldn’t be so happy to share this about me, but it’s like opening up. Like I relieved a great weight, a boulder, nesting on my shoulder blades. (Hear that metaphor? I should do this writing thing more often.)
Anyway, maybe you should learn a bit about me. My name is Tempest Jyrs, as you know, and I would’ve been starting 10th grade next year had I not, of course, died. I was born in a town in Illinois, called Bloomington, but I moved to Oklahoma City in 1st grade. I was young enough not to care at the time, since you don’t make real friends until 3rd grade.
My mom and dad divorced just after I was born, and my dad got all the rights to me, so I never really knew my mom. I only know my cousins, aunt, uncle, and grandparents on my dad’s side. I’m also an only child, but I’m kind of glad about that part. My friend, Rodney, has three other siblings, and he hates all of them.
“Imagine a pet, except they’re not cute, can speak English, and can never be fully house trained. Then, you’ll have half an idea of what it’s like to have a little sibling,” he had said once.
I had laughed, thinking he was kidding. Then I slept over at his house, and I realized I so wrong.
I was always a pretty good student, too. I mean, I always got A’s and B’s. I did well in Phys-Ed. I was on a soccer team, too. Not because I was good, but because I was fast. I played right striker ‘cause of it. And when I say “fast,” I mean fast. Really fast. Like, “how-is-he-all-the-way-over-there-he-was-just-right-here” fast. I also enjoyed hockey. I played goalie, ‘cause I wasn’t good enough to play anything else. I could hardly stand on two blades. The only reason I played was because my dad had played in college and loved the sport since he was a child.
And because I enjoyed playing. That, too. There was nothing quite like the thrill of making a save to me. Your team patting you on the back, the crowd cheering.
And I had a girlfriend. I mean, Genesis and I liked each other. We kissed a couple of times, but it was still a new relationship. We could have probably stayed together if I hadn’t, of course, died.
Now that I think about it, you’re probably dying to know how I died. I mean, if I truly am dead, then how am I writing this? Do they maybe have computers in Heaven? Is my spirit writing this? Or am I still alive? So many questions that I don’t want to answer. Don’t know how to answer. But I’ll try to explain this the best I can.
First of all, yes, I am really dead. This is not a hoax. This is not a prank. Secondly, no, I am not writing this from Heaven. At least, I assume Heaven wouldn’t have such a loud ceiling fan. Really distracting. I’m writing from… well, I’m not quite sure. I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough, though. I mean, someone’s coming out of the office door and into the lobby. He’s coming towards me and smiling at me right now.
“Hi there,” he said cheerily, extending a hand.
His nails were perfectly manicured. I took it hesitantly.
“I’m Murphy,” he continued, “but you can call M-Dawg, Murph, or Dr. M.”
“Okay, Murphy,” I said, making sure I didn’t use any of his nicknames. “I’m Tempest.”
Murphy let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, I know,” he said, his black eyes twinkling. “So, how’s Genesis?” he inquired.
That right there stopped me dead.
“Excuse me?” I said, turning to him slowly.
“Genesis?” the man said, confused. “Oh, did you not meet her yet?”
“Yes, I’ve met her,” I spat. “She’s my girlfriend. But how do you know her?”
“Listen, buddy. I know things about you that you don’t even know about you,” he said, his dead eyes sparkling. “I know who you’ll marry, when you’ll die, how you’ll die. Call me your guardian angel, if you will. Now, come with me,” he said abruptly, beckoning over his shoulder.
By now, I was utterly confused to say the least. I wasn’t sure if I was alive or not, and I just found my “guardian angel,” I guess. He seemed a bit too intense to be an angel, though. I always assumed they would be so calm and peaceful, and floating around in togas.
As if reading my thoughts, which at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if Murphy could, he let out a long sigh.
“Not what you expected, right?” he said.
“What?” I responded, shaken out of my thoughts.
“Me! Whenever you think ‘guardian angel,’ you think two things. Cinderella, and a fat baby playing the harp and wearing a toga.”
“What? No! That’s not what I imagined at all!” I said, though that happened to be exactly what I had imagined.
He turned around as we stopped our march in a short, white-walled hallway in front of a small, white door. In faded brass, the number 441 was stamped across the front.
“This will be your room,” Murphy said as he fitted a small, plastic card into a slot by the handle. Testing the knob, the door glided inwards on soundless hinges.
As I peeked my head into the room, it was rather bland. Let’s just say I was disappointed but not surprised. Directly to the right of me was a small, carpeted bathroom, and to the left was a cramped walk-in closet. As I walked farther into the apartment, the hallway abruptly spread out into a larger room. In the far right corner was a neatly made bed that looked decently comfortable. Spread across the left wall was a mini-kitchen, containing a cutting board, shelves stacked to the ceiling, a fridge, a sink, an oven, multiple pots and pans, and what looked like a small dish of spices. Finally, in the closest left corner was a small desk with a lamp, computer, and a few stacks of pen and paper. There was plush, white, stain-free, wall-to-wall carpeting about an inch thick covering every corner of the room.
“Well,” said Murphy, his wide smile unfading, “I’ll leave you to it.”
And there I was. Confused, lost, and utterly speechless.
My first order of business was the computer I had noticed when I entered. I searched all around the internet, searching for answers to my endless questions. I was even looking at posts such as “What To Do If You’re Kidnapped,” or “Do Aliens Exist.” Even, “Are You A Victim Of Amnesia?” Which, at this point, I wouldn’t be too quick to deny.
What had happened? Was I stabbed after eating that burger? Oh, that reminds me of something! You don’t actually know how I died, do you? Well, I’m going to be honest. I don’t quite know. I was just reaching for a napkin after finishing my burger. Then suddenly, there was a lot of noise behind me. I was about to spin around, and then everything went blank. And by blank, I don’t mean all I saw was dark, or my vision went white, I mean I fell asleep there, and I woke up here. There is simply is no memory in between. Nothing. And then I decided to fill you guys in.
Well, I think I’ll go catch some sleep now. This has been a long day.
So I just woke up and, judging by the clock hanging up on the wall above my bed, I got at least eleven hours of sleep, so that’s good. I don’t really know what to do now. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to leave my room, or if I even can (I haven’t tried yet.) I heard voices outside my door earlier, so that might mean something. I’m just really confused.
I found eggs and bacon in the fridge, so I put an omelet on the pan and waited. While it was cooking, I continued my endless goose chase to try and find out where I was. That’s when an epiphany hit me. Two words, friends: Google Maps! With desperate fingers, I quickly searched it up, begging for answers. But I was greeted only with a blank, white screen. So I waited for it to load. And I waited. I waited so long, my omelet started to burn. I waited so long that soon, thin black smoke was pouring off the pan and into the windowless room that was my apartment. Only then did I shut off the oven, my eyes never leaving the white screen.
I would’ve sat there all day and all night if I weren’t interrupted by three sharp knocks on my door. With heartbreaking clarity, I realized that Google Maps would never load. I could have sat there for a million lifetimes to no avail. So I pulled myself out of the wooden desk chair, turned off the computer, and walked to the door. It had been unlocked, as a matter of fact, or at least it now opened easily to reveal a smiling Murphy.
“Go on and get dressed. Today’s the big day,” he said cheerily.
“These are the only clothes I got,” I barked, unusually grouchy.
“Oh, there’s a suit in the closet for you. I’ll wait outside.”
I slammed the door on his smiling face and dragged myself over to the closet. In it was a perfectly tailored suit, which I was sure hadn’t been there yesterday. I pulled it on. It was more comfortable then I’d like to admit.
“I’m ready,” I said as I opened the door once again, now fashioned in a clean, white suit.
“Come right this way, then,” Murphy said, waving as I followed glumly.
“Where are we even going?” I inquired.
“To your hearing,” he responded.
I already did not like this. “Hearing” made it sound like I was about to be placed in front of a judge and jury. I voiced this to him, though maybe a little less politely than I did to you.
“Oh, everyone has those concerns. And rightly so,” he said. “But what it really is, is we review your near-death experience, then decide whether you deserve to die.”
He said all this like he was discussing what to have for lunch or how the weather was. I, on the other hand, stared at him in horror.
“So you decide whether or not I will die?” I spat, enunciating every word clearly.
“That’s right,” he said, grinning.
I was still recovering from that truth bomb when we walked into the courtroom. It looked exactly like a courtroom should. Or, at least, what I assumed a courtroom should look like. I had never been in one before, but it looked just like those ones in Law and Order.
Murphy gently tapped me once to get my attention, and pointed towards a large, uncomfortable-looking chair next to the black-robed judge. There was already a whole jury full of other Murphy-looking men and women, all wearing a collection of black, white, and grey suits. I walked towards the chair hesitantly. I could feel every eye in the room on me.
Once I was seated, the black-robed judge nodded once ominously. A large screen then lowered down from the ceiling, and it flickered once, before revealing a frozen image of, well, me. I was casually hunched over a burger.
“We will now review Tempest Swartinhien Jyrs’ near-death experience,” the judge said, his loud voice echoing scarily in the dead silent room.
Suddenly, the frozen picture jumped to life. I wished that I had paid more attention to my table manners that day, as my chewing and munching sounds were amplified awkwardly throughout the room. I coughed once into my elbow. Then, I wiped my hands, thankfully, on a napkin. I reached for a fry and ate it slowly. I remembered this bit now. I had been imagining what it would be like to breathe under water. I smiled a little. Then, I reached over and took another bite of my burger.
Just looking at the burger now made my mouth water, as I remembered that I hadn’t eaten breakfast.
The scene seemed so innocent now. No one would’ve expected I might die in the same three minutes.
Then, the shouting started. As I heard it on tape, it seemed much clearer than in person. I heard the shouts.
“Oh my God!”
Then, I had gotten up and spun around. I knew all this, but I needed to see how I died.
I had spun around and…
The video freeze-framed right as the bullet entered my skull. The area around my head was an explosion of red.
“He was shot,” a voice said, dragging my eyes away from the projector and back to the real world.
That voice turned out to be Murphy. “Never did anything wrong in his life, and he was shot. Wrong place, wrong time. A tragedy that we can change. There is no reason in any universe for this man, this child, to die.”
As much as I despised being called “child,” it was heartwarming to see Murphy doing this for me.
“Furthermore,” Murphy continued, “If we did vote to kill this man, then we would be breaking the hearts of even more people who never did a thing to deserve that. A father, a girlfriend. A dog, for God’s sake!”
There was scattered clapping from the jury.
“Never has there been less of a reason for his man to die.”
There were more claps and murmurs of agreement.
“I,” said a new voice, “disagree.”
I turned to the man who apparently thought that I should die. He was wearing a deep black suit and a blood-red tie.
“Don’t we all deserve to die?” he said. “I mean, really. This child is a waste of air. A polluter, a mistake, and a useless human. I would say the same thing for his guardian, too!”
There were shouts of shock, and the jury seemed flabbergasted. Murphy, on the other hand, looked like he didn’t care about the insult.
“Give me one example why this child deserves to die,” Murphy said calmly, inspecting his nails, confidence and cockiness plain in his voice.
The opponent looked a little confused, before he shook himself and said, “Well, when he was thirteen, he littered.”
There was utter silence. Not one person was swayed by his extremely convincing argument.
“Not guilty!” the judge roared abruptly.
There was quite a lot of clapping now, and Murphy took a single bow. I had never been more relieved in my nearly-ended life.
I stood up slowly, not sure if I was even allowed to. But Murphy smiled at me from across the room and beckoned me over. I walked to him.
“Thank you!” I gasped. “Oh my God, thank you so, so, so much.”
“Ach, as soon as I get them to like me, they have to forget me,” he said playfully.
“Um, what?” I said.
“Oh, you see. Before you leave, you’ll have to do a quick memory wipe. This ensures that we don’t have a bunch of our visitors rambling about us,” he responded.
“So I won’t remember any of this?” I asked.
“That’s right,” Murphy said, his smile back on his face.
“When will the wipe happen?”
I nodded slowly. We walked in silence for a little while walking back towards my room.
“Is it a needle?” I asked abruptly. Murphy laughed.
“No, it’s just a little drink. Tastes like strawberries.”
“How do you know? Have you tried it?”
“Oh no. It just says that on the label,” he laughed.
So did I. It was a nice moment. I was going to be sad to not remember this place. Then, it struck me. This story. I tried not to let Murphy notice my realization.
Instead, I quickly asked, “Is it like one of those things like amnesia, where if you see something, it might trigger a memory?”
“Well,” Murphy pondered, “it would be possible. But for that to happen, you would basically have to hear a full recount of what happened here. And even that might not be enough.”
I tried to suppress my smile.
When we got back to my apartment, I smiled and tried my best to act casual. I imagined myself as a calm and collected guy, leaning against the doorframe waiting for Murphy to leave, thanking him for walking me back to my room, and still managing to seem a little sad to forget this place. And I would’ve been sad, that is, if I was actually planning on forgetting it.
As quickly and accurately as I could, I wrote all of this down on my computer and finally headed off to bed.
The next morning, I was woken by the sound of three harsh knocks on my door. I quickly got dressed, looked longingly at the small, nearly unused kitchen, and opened the door. Murphy waited outside in a crisp, black suit, which brought out the color of his completely dead eyes.
Without a word, he turned and started walking, clearly expecting me to follow him. I sighed and trudged along after him.
“Did we have to do this so early?” I groaned to Murphy.
“We were lucky to have gotten a wipe the day after the trial. The DBMMR has a very busy schedule,” Murphy said.
I felt oddly scolded.
“DBMMR?” I questioned.
“You’ll see,” Murphy smiled.
I was starting to regret saying that I liked him. We walked all the way down another, slightly more colorful, blue-walled corridor. Murphy rapped on the last door on the left’s white paint three times.
Just like he had done for me. I wondered quite randomly if everyone here had their own specific knock so people would know who they were opening the door to. But that would be stupid. This place couldn’t be that organized. Nowhere could be that organized. Could it?
When the door swung open on soundless hinges, I was completely unsurprised that there was no one who was close enough to have opened it themselves.
Murphy gestured forward.
“Patients first!” he said, without a hint of sarcasm.
I stepped into the room hesitantly. When no one said I couldn’t be there, I walked farther into the completely barren room. The only thing in there was a man, his back turned from us. He was hunched over a clipboard. I coughed once to get his attention. He spun around, startled.
“Oh, it’s just you. Well come in!” he said. “I’m Prescoff, Director of the Board of Mandatory Memory Removals here.”
I quickly worked out in my head that this guys must be the DBMMR.
“So your dosage today is 39 mL of strawberry flavored wipe. Am I correct on that?” he asked.
Before I had a chance to answer, Murphy cut in, “Yes, that is correct.”
“Okay, that is just fine,” Prescoff responded, nodding and muttering to himself.
He waddled over to a small keypad by the door that I hadn’t noticed before. He gingerly pressed a button with a small microphone on it. “39 mL, strawberry,” he said.
A few seconds passed. Then, there was a small chime. A previously invisible wall slot opened up, and a small tupperware container was offered forward. In it was a light pink goo that didn’t look too bad.
Prescoff picked it up, nodding to himself as he went.
“So,” he started, “bottoms up!”
I took it from his hand cautiously, as if it might explode any second. It looked normal enough. I opened up the lid with a satisfying crack. I sniffed it once. I’ll be honest, it smelled damn good.
Murphy smiled encouragingly while Prescoff seemed to have lost interest already. I took a deep breath and drained it all in one mouthful. It tasted just as good as it smelled. So good it made me feel weak. My limbs felt heavy. And what the goo wanted me to do was fall asleep.
No, that wasn’t the goo. That was Murphy.
Wait, who’s Murphy? I like his name though. Murr-fee. Murr-feee. Haha!
I’m gonna sleep now.
And just like that, my whole world went blank.
I woke up in the hospital bed sore, groggy, and with no clue of where I was. Even though I was conscious, I kept my eyes closed. I had no idea how long I’d slept, but I felt like I could sleep another week at least. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t fall asleep again, so I grudgingly opened my eyes.
I immediately wished I hadn’t. There were people surrounding me, and the moment I opened my eyes, they all started making noise. So much noise. I immediately shut my eyes again, hoping it would make the noise stop. But it didn’t. When the noise subsided into a tense silence, I once again peeked through squinted eyes. This time, I had more time to take in what I was seeing.
I was in a hospital bed, I was sure of that. I was also surrounded by people. I recognized my father, my cousins, my uncle and aunt, Genesis, my grandpa and grandma, and my dog sitting patiently off to the side. In the very corner I saw someone who I didn’t recognize. She had her hood up, and there was a clear separation between her and everyone else. It wasn’t until I saw that her and my dad where in the positions as possibly far away from each other, that I realized she must be my mom.
I opened my eyes again fully, and there was absolute silence. You could’ve heard a pin drop. Then, all of the sudden, everyone burst out talking. My father was crying in a corner. My grandpa and grandma lunged towards me and held onto me so tight, I was sure I was going to nearly die again. I didn’t know how I knew, but I knew I was shot. Maybe that’s just something you know after you nearly die. Like a sixth sense.
My dog was freaking out and nearly snapping his leash trying to get to me. When my grandparents finally cleared away, my German shepard, Mochi, was already on my lap, licking my face. The whole time, I couldn’t tear the smile of my face.
I stayed at the hospital for only a couple more days after that. The doctors said I was recovering “remarkably fast.” I hoped a little that Murphy had something to do with it. Yes, I still got headaches, and light and sound wasn’t easy on me, but I was alright.
I only found this document again a few days after leaving the hospital, when I was looking for something to do, since I couldn’t go outside and was barely allowed to move. That’s when it all came rushing back to me.
And now you know. You know everything. Not quite as much as I do, but a lot. I wonder if Murphy is watching me right now, cursing himself that they never thought about that. I assume they’ll be removing the computers from the rooms after this.
But it’ll be fine. Just our little secret, you and me. I know even if I told the whole world, no one would believe me. People would just assume that I had some brain trauma. I don’t really blame them.
Only a month ago, if someone told me this, I’d assume they were insane. But maybe you’ll believe. Maybe. You don’t have to. If you do believe me, though, maybe don’t spread the word. We don’t want the whole world thinking you’re crazy, too. Or maybe the whole world will believe us. That would be pretty nice. But it’s just fantasy to hope that.
So this is our little secret. Just between the two of us. No one else.
Oh, and by the way.
My name is Tempest Jyrs. And I am not dead. Not yet.