Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

Orientation

 

Kara belly-flopped onto a cold stony surface. Face glued to the floor, she raised an eyebrow. The floor vibrated against her cheek. She winced. Chaotic noises hit her ears, as though thousands of voices were speaking at the same time.

She lifted her head off the ground and looked around. Her jaw dropped.

She was surrounded by people. As she jumped to her feet, she saw they were gathered inside an assembly hall the size of ten football fields. Lines of people of every shape, size and ethnicity twisted through a maze of offices and corridors. The air was humid, and it smelled remarkably like the ocean.

Crack!

Kara turned just in time to see the elevator with chimp 5M51 disappeared back into the ground. “Well, there goes one monkey I’m not going to miss,” she muttered to herself.

The commotion was louder than a rock concert. Kara pressed her hands to her ears. There were thousands of them, and they were all dead—just like her. They pushed and shoved one another, itching to get to the front of the line. This wasn’t exactly how she had pictured the afterlife, especially not with self-satisfied apes that picked from your scalp. But then again, she had never really given much thought about the spirit world, or death for that matter. She was only sixteen. She had felt invincible.

Kara was alone, lost and dead. She knew she should be feeling something like happiness. After all, she’d just discovered that life after death existed. Beside her, an oversized middle-aged man chatted happily with an old bald man. They looked pretty excited. Most of the walking dead around her seemed overjoyed, except for a few people who looked like she felt—nauseated and horrified.

Not knowing what else to do, Kara joined the line nearest her. She stared at her feet. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make eye contact. She wasn't up for a chat, especially with some stout dead old guy who was prancing around like he’d just won the lottery.

But she wasn’t ready to die just yet…she wasn’t finished. All her hopes and dreams—vanished into thin air. The soundless empty hole where her heart once lived was cold. She knew her life was over.

“Ahem.” Someone cleared their throat.

Oh no. Kara kept staring at her feet.

“Excuse me, miss. Are you feeling okay?” the man persisted.

Was there any hope that she could avoid sharing? Couldn’t she just disappear?

Unfortunately for Kara, it appeared that he wanted to share. “You know, it's really not that bad,” continued the voice.

Kara stole a look and saw that the voice belonged to the fat old man. His face was plastered with a lopsided grin. He licked his pink lips in anticipation. “We're in Horizon! Alive! Can you believe it! Well—sort of alive. We're dead but alive! Isn't this great!”

Kara lifted her head. She tried to fake a smile, but the corners of her mouth were sewed in place. “Yeah. It’s really great.”

The man beat the air with his arms. “This is so exciting!” And with great effort, he leaped into the air and twirled. His tiny legs kicked underneath his gigantic undulating belly. He hovered for half a second and then landed with an echoing boom. “Who would have thought that Horizon actually existed! Life after death—it's real!” If he wasn't already dead, Kara was sure his heart would burst out of his chest like red chunky sauce and hit his neighbor smack in the face.

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