One of the great mysteries of life, or rather death, is what happens after we die. It has proven a constant fodder for authors to explore in short stories and novels. Often this exploration takes the form of some aspect of mundane life in order to provide a relatable experience to something that is completely unknowable.
In Thomas Seay’s “Blink,” which appeared in the April 2003 issue of Realms of Fantasy, the afterlife is a trainride through a dreamlike nightmare populated by various aspects of a person’s younger life. In this case, Gary finds himself aboard the train, wanting only to be reunited with his wife and daughter. Instead, he finds the clique he belonged to in college, who clearly viewed him as more of a hanger-on than a member of their group.
Gary’s ride includes brief encounters with a shape changing being who may well be God, who provides cryptic answers to Gary’s questions, but at the same time appears to be helping him to acclimatize to his afterlife.
While there are some versions of the afterlife which are appealing and others which are not, Seay’s afterlife seems like an unpleasant purgatory: an interminable train ride in which the illusions Gary built up to help him cope with the reality of life are carefully stripped away. Even as the truth is revealed to him, Gary retreats into a different fantasy world, denying the occurrence of his death and focusing on seeing his wife and daughter again.