Mario is not dead by John Hardison September 17, 2019
Mario opened his eyes. His stomach felt awful – but also better – at the same time. Like when you throw up and feel better immediately for having done it. He looked around and realized he hadn’t thrown up. His eyes got wide; what was this place he was in? A small cube-like room with a little white bed. It was very clean, mostly glass, very sterile-feeling, a white floor and glass walls and no door that he could see. There were other rooms, though, all connected, and there were people in them, people a lot like him, looking around like they, too, were wondering where they were.
“Hello” said the man in the next room. Wait, that wasn’t just a man, it was Larry from the writer’s club! The writer’s club, yes, that was where he was just before he woke up. That was where his stomach had been hurting. Was it from something Larry read at the meeting? No, people reading their stories aloud to the group had made him feel nauseous before, but nothing like this. It must have been something he ate. Maybe something they all ate? Yes, he remembered more clearly now, everyone was sick, everyone was groaning and doubling over in their chairs and some people were vomiting and then he remembered hitting the floor and things went black and then suddenly waking up here. But where was here?
“Larry, where are we? What is going on?” asked Mario. He didn’t ask the next question because fear had suddenly gripped him: are we dead? For most of Mario’s adult life he had rejected the idea of an afterlife, of god, of heaven or hell. He could NOT be dead, because he was standing up in a little room and that was totally contrary to what he believed in. Or didn’t believe in…it depended on how you looked at it.
“We’ve been reset” said Larry, like it was obvious. “Looks like everyone has. Must have been the food to have gotten us all.” He looked around at all the adjoining rooms, then back at Mario’s concerned expression. “Is this your first time?” Larry asked.
“My first time? This has happened before, or happens more than once? What are you talking about, Larry? What is going on?!” Mario was getting to be exasperated and his voice was rising.
“Cálmate, amigo, nadie te va a lastimar aquí” Mario turned toward the sound of the new voice coming from an adjacent cube. It was Ken. “Why are you speaking Spanish, Ken?” But Ken didn’t answer, he lay down on the little bed in his cube and muttered unintelligible bits of Spanish to himself.
“I’ve found you don’t remember what goes on in these cubes much when you get sent back,” Said Larry, “But traumatic or exciting experiences in the Earth simulation can carry over to here, and seem to become ingrained in your programming. I guess it is a little like reincarnation, except, well, in a computer.”
A computer? They were in a computer? Mario looked thoughtfully at Ken. “Well,” he said, “Ken has had lots of exciting times in Latin America and around the world. I guess some of that would carry over. And you say experiences somehow get put into our, well, programming, you say? Ingrained in our programming for the next time?”
“Yes, I believe so.” Speculated Larry. “I mean it has to. I know this has happened to me a lot, and you may have noticed, but I love writing about heaven and hell and waiting in limbo to get to either of those destinations. Well, look around you” and Larry raised his arms and pivoted back and forth as he stood in his cubicle. “If this isn’t limbo, I’m not sure what is!”
“I see.” Said Mario. “And you say we get placed on Earth, but it is some sort of computer simulation?”
“It appears to be. I don’t have much to go on, but when I die, I come to this place. In theory, this is just another simulation to keep us occupied until we get placed back in the Earth simulation. A program in a program in a program, really” Larry smiled at Mario.
Mario glanced over at Ken who was still muttering in Spanish. Then he turned to face another cubicle. He recognized John from the writer’s club sitting on his little bed. Jesucristo, was that guy going to haunt him here as well as on Earth? Mario guessed it was all true, they were all here. He could see others in cubicles all around him. They had eaten something bad at the restaurant and died, but instead of an afterlife, or nothing, they were here. Reset. Programs waiting to go back. Mario felt dejected, then he smiled, and then he started to laugh. All of a sudden Mario started to dance around his small cube laughing and smiling.
“Have you gone bonkers?”, asked John. “What has you so happy?”
Continuing to dance, Mario said, “Don’t you see? I’m still right. The universe may not be what I expected, but there is no heaven, there is no hell, and there is certainly NO GOD!”
John watched Mario dance for a moment, then he said, “But what if this is all happening inside god’s computer?”
Mario stopped dancing.