|Posted by Aaron on July 9, 2017 at 11:20 AM|
I have just read your short story entitled "Afterlife." While I honestly do not think it was the best written, nor the most entertaining in the collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (of those I have read so far The Bone Church was probably the best written and Morality was the most entertaining) I have to comment on this story in particular.
I have chosen not to send you this letter for many reasons. One - you probably get way too much fan mail; Two - what seems like something very meaningful to me probably will have little to no meaning in your life; and Three - I like the idea of you finding this letter rather than me sending it to you directly (then you might feel a little like I did when I read your "fantasy story."
I was raised Lutheran and still value my core beliefs, and though growing up causes many of us to question and some of us to doubt, I feel very stable in my relationship with my God. I've been writing for what seems an eternity, but I decided to persue that course late in high school. As a believer and a writer I've found a wonderful tool to explore my faith through creative and analyical processes. I've had dreams that make me wonder what do I expect will happen after we die?
Many years ago I came up with (what I thought was) a brilliant and unique question. I suppose "there's nothign new under the sun," but I had never been asked this question by anyone else, nor thought of it before. What if when I died I was given the chance to go back, and start my life over without remembering my previous life or "this afterlife part"... would I do it? At first I was even scared to answer my own question - why would I want to lose my memories? My life was "soooo valuable" and precious...could i really do that to myself? After thinking about it for some time I decided the answer was yes! Yes was the brave answer, yes was the acceptance that I could do it all over again.
What if I accepted life again and in that new life I rejected God, and instead of arriving at the pearly gates like I had the first time maybe I would go the other way? Why stand at heaven's door and say "no, I'd rather go back to Earth and risk it all again"? And my eventual answer was faith! Faith that behind those gates there really was a Father who loved me, and he would make himself known to me in any life I lived! Returning to earth was not, somehow, a lesser eternity. If we are only going to get a limited time on Earth, then shouldn't we chose life here while we can?
When I was able to put these feeligns into words I posed the question to some of my friends and family. I greatly enjoy discussing religion, faith, the afterlife, and these things...trying to understand what and how other people believe what they do. I was shocked to hear my own mother say she could not choose to come back to Earth - that she would only choose heaven right then and there. Even after I explained my views she did not seem to agree, or understand. It's strange when people who you are so close to seem to suddenly feel so different.
I hadn't thought about those ideas in quite a while until I read your story. As the story began I was wondering what great twist you would write...it seems like there's a hook in every story that gets to me one way or another. But this one - wow - with each "new" idea you presented I was thinking "Stephen King, get out of my head!" But there it is, in black and white. The "original ideas" that I had pondered years ago were not so original after all.
In your foreward your phrase "fantasy story" really stuck out like a sore thumb to me. I winced - I know you used those words on purpose. And sure, it is a fantasy story - we don't know for certain what really happens, but your ending in this one reminds me of my own conclusions. We choose. Free will is what makes us human.
A part of me thinks you will never read this, and a part of me hopes you don't. Like I said, maybe I'm making this into something it's not. However, I'm not convinced it really is a coincidence. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. Anyway, I hope you keep choosing to go through that unfound door and I can't wait to finish this book!
-Aaron E. Lee