In The Afterlife
Somewhen in the afterlife – when, because time has little relevance once you're dead – a doctor, a preacher, and a pilot meet and strike up a conversation. And, since this being the afterlife and all, the topic eventually came around to the natures of their demise.
"So, what brought you to this place, if you don't mind my asking?" the doctor asked, the burr of his Scottish brogue taking the sting out of the question once he broached the subject.
The preacher, whose graying corn-rowed hair and goatee seemed at odds with his collar, smiled thoughtfully. "A righteous zealot in thrall to a corrupt and powerful government gut shot me because he didn't think I was worth the honor of his sword," he said, his deep mellifluous voice reflecting neither resentment nor anger at the recollection. He placed a hand low on his abdomen. "Here."
"Och, gut wounds," the doctor said and offered a sympathetic smile in return. "Nasty way to go."
"Yes," the preacher said with a sad nod. "But it gave me the time to warn my friends. I am at peace with it all."
The doctor looked at the pilot, who even in death still retained an air of boyish goofiness. "You look like a healthy lad – I take it it wasn't pleasant."
The pilot rolled his eyes and flung his arms out in pure exasperation. "Tell me about it, doc. I had probably just done the most brilliant piece of flying in the history of mankind – brought a dead in the air gorram brick down out of a flat spin in one piece, mind you – and didn't even get to bask in the glory before bam, I was pinned to my seat by a tamadah Reaver boarding harpoon like a bug." He slumped and gave his companions a slightly bug-eyed look. "I tell ya – where is the justice in that?" Then in the next instant he was a lost puppy as he turned to the preacher. "I wonder if Zoë wore something slinky to my funeral. Do you think she wore something slinky to my funeral? Because I really would have liked that."
The preacher smiled and nodded. "I'm pretty sure she did," he said a little more wistfully than a man of the cloth had a right to.
"Zoë?" the doctor asked.
The pilot sighed and the echo of its longing stirred the ether. "My wife – the most beautiful warrior woman to ever grace the heavens." Then he glanced around sheepishly. "And if she heard me say that, she'd kill me with her pinky finger. Oh, no, wait …." His hands came up again in frustration as he shouted, "She can't. I'M ALREADY DEAD!"
Both the doctor and the preacher reached out comforting hands and patted the young pilot on the back.
"I'm sorry," the pilot said and nodded a thanks to the two men. "So, what about you, doc? How'd you die?"
The doctor grimaced and the action brought dimples out from behind his stubble. "A bloody exploding tumor," he all but growled.
The preacher blinked and the pilot's expression froze in a rictus of embarrassment. His eyes widen and darted briefly towards the preacher as his mouth formed a silent 'o'. An uncomfortable silence surrounded the three, and this being the afterlife it was as still as the grave and more than just a tiny bit unsettling.
The pilot cleared his throat. "No, really – how'd ya die?"