Just a thought from a CR since 1987: "Afterlife" is intriguing and (not but) would be a good preface or prequil to .....
Yeah. The blank is intentional.
Hope someone (SK) picks up on that and takes it home.
I liked that the guy in the office doing the administration of the afterlife
had to do it as punishment for the factory accident. He made a mess of the administration, but matters of life and death are messy in a way: the seemingly randomness of diseases, accidents, disasters etc. comes across as messy.
I feel though the story ended too soon. When Bill steps back through the door to live his life again it doesn't specify WHICH mistake in his life he would concentrate on to remember for the next life, so that he could rectify it.
Most likely he would concentrate on taking his doctor's advice and get himself checked for cancer earlier, because that was the severest mistake that led directly to his death.
But he could also concentrate on an earlier mistake, because maybe the younger he started making changes to his new life, maybe the sooner he could change his whole life around.
If he would concentrate on the mistake of stealing the watch when he was seventeen, you could end the story in a fun way:
He goes into the store, planning to take the watch. When he is about to do it, however a strong feeling of déjà vu comes over him; almost like something inside him warning him strongly not to do it (which would be the memory from all the lives before which he planned to hold on). Then he brushes it aside as people always have doubts when commiting a crime and he will say to himself: 'I'll do it just this time, just once. It's not like I have ever stolen something before or will ever steal again.'' Well, maybe not in the current life, but in fact he was doing it over and over again over the course of many identical lives.
And then depending on if you want him to repeat the mistake once more, he can take the watch. Or when you want a more positive outcome, he would listen to the warning inside him and leave the watch in the store.
In the story now it says that there were an endless amount of possibilities, but it doesn't specify whether Bill is finally able to change his mistakes, which is a bit disappointing.
I actually prefer if he would not steal the watch. After all, the fact that there are two doors in the afterlife implies that the creator, or god, is concerned with people making choices. If you're allowed to make that main choice of going back or just disappear altogether, it must be possible to make more choices. But just wanting to rectify mistakes with your personality, mind or even your heart doesn't seem enough, it's as if your SOUL must want to change.
The story makes no sense in the end. What if a person in Bill's life (like his brother, or his student girlfriend) at THEIR death chose the right door and just have it be over and done with for good? Then they couldn't return in Bill's next life, and his life would change whether he made different choices or not - he could never live the exact same life without these people.
I don't think it's one of his best thought out stories, but it is fun to speculate about.
What a déjà vu is? Maybe it's not even a memory - because you're never able to relate it to something from your past. I think it comes across as a memory, but probably is something different. You also have the feeling you're reliving an EXACT same moment, which is never the case with a memory - when you're reminded of something it's never coming back in a complete and full way in the present. A memory rather assembles in small bits: first you're reminded of one thing, then another, then something more - and you never remember it ALL. This excludes that a déjà vu is a memory, unless indeed you're reliving the same life over and over, which I just don't believe.
I used to have way more déjà vu's in the past, haven't had one in a long time. Do others have too that they decrease as you get older?
Is it an unscientific side-effect of all the medication I need to keep me above ground?
Maybe my good-buddy déjà vu wondered off because of my physical limitations - I used to run hither and yon, gaze at the sky, try to notice as much as possible about the world around me.
Now, I can't do that stuff.
But, at least I did do it.
But, back to the story: oh, the story.
It's about my favourite subject - trying to be the best person that you can.
And what happens if you can't be that person.
Or won't be that person.
Topped off with a light dusting of philosophy and suspense.