Welcome to the reflection room.
You should know, firstly, that you are dead. This may come as a shock or as no surprise at all, but either way it is how things are. There is no going back.
People often start to worry at this point, but there is no need: there is no God, there is no hell, and there is no heaven. I am sorry if this news is disappointing.
What comes after? It is no big secret. After, comes nothing. When the ions stop coursing through your nerves there are no more thoughts created, no more images or sounds or smells processed and interpreted. It is exactly like turning off a computer at the mains. You will think nothing, feel nothing, and the nothing will be infinite. It is incomprehensible, so I would not use your dwindling time dwelling upon it.
The reflection room is a pause on your journey to the end. Here, you have the opportunity to look back on your life. It was, in fact, a little inaccurate to say that you are dead; you are not quite dead. In this moment, the signals are still pulsing, your synapses are still firing – more so now than in any other time in your life, as it happens – but it will not last long. You have enough time for three reflections, so choose wisely. Which moments from your life will you revisit?
Your reflections, once chosen, will be fully immersive. You will feel everything as you felt it when you lived. The warmth of bare skin beneath your fingertips, the smell of buttered popcorn, the taste of expensive red wine.
You might choose the moment you first met your wife, boyfriend, partner. You’ll hear the band’s music vibrating through your bones, and the dizzy feeling of alcohol in your blood. Or perhaps you will choose to recall winning your Olympic gold medal; stand again on the podium as the crowd roars and you realise a decade of your life has come, at last, to fruition. Or perhaps you will go back to a quiet moment that has happened a hundred times: laying your sleeping daughter in her cot after rocking her gently in the dim light of the streetlamp that slips in through the blinds at three in the morning.
You could go down another avenue, of course. Sex, drugs, deviance. There is no judgment in the reflection room. Could you resist one last chance to feel the ecstasy of an expertly performed blowjob? Has there ever, really, been anything as wonderful as the last hit you scored before thirty years of sobriety?
Then there are those who come to the reflection room to self-flagellate. To relive the screaming of the breaks and the look of terror in the small boy’s eyes as you swerved too late, your reactions dulled by two too many beers. To whisper ‘I’m sorry’ like a mantra to the husband you left alone in bed while you sought out younger, leaner men. Still others wish to feel once more the anger for one who has inflicted pain: your father who packed his bag and promised he would visit next week; the priest who said that you were special.
There have been children, too. Sweet innocents, some too young to even comprehend the reflection room (yet somehow still able to navigate it by a kind of instinct) who choose the smell of warm milk, first tastes of ice cream, the ripples caused by the falling of breadcrumbs on duck ponds.
There are some who seek out memories that would turn the stomachs of others, for all lives pass through the reflection room, all manner of cruel tastes and dark perversions. Others have requested no reflection, a life too hard and too long, now blissfully over. And there are those who fear reflection can only lead to regret.
You might wonder whether you have featured in the reflections of those who have already passed this way, but the room is for reflection only, it does not remember. There are surely some who have appeared in many hundreds of reflections – pop stars who sang background songs to a hundred proposals, movie stars who filled cinema screens as countless numbers of hands edged nervously towards each other in the dark. There are likely many, many more who have arrived here having never been the subject of another’s reflection. That should not be a concern now, at the end.
Your time in the reflection room is ticking slowly by. You might be surprised to learn that you have only been in the room (as much as this is a room, and as much as you can be ‘in’ it) for less than a split of a split second. Time feels drawn out here, but there is not so much of it that you shouldn’t hurry a little and make your choices.
Who did you love? When were you happy? These are the questions you should ask yourself as you search your memory for the moments that made your life worthwhile. Do not waste time on reliving your final, waking minutes – cleverer visitors than you have tried to do so in the hope of spotting a way to save themselves, to stem the flow of blood , or gasp for air. It will not work. You are too far on your way to blackness to claw your way back.
So. Choose wisely, choose quickly. Your time in the reflection room is nearly over.
Angela Wipperman is a writer living and working in East London. Angela writes short stories, flash fiction, and is working on a speculative fiction novel about the seductive power of immersive technology.
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