"How was it?" the voice of a young man inquired.
Two men stood by the side of a brook. The cool, grey water filled the scene with a natural ambience as it flowed on through the woods. A mist clung in the air, hiding the distance and stripping the world of color; the air was cold.
"That's not my place to tell you," the second man said, "but for you to find out for yourself." His clothes were plain, jeans and a solid red shirt, which took on a greyish tint in the mist. He had brown eyes, sharp eyebrows, a slender jaw, and looked in his thirties. He turned to his friend, whom was dressed sharply in a business suit, with hair trimmed close to the scalp and a clean shaven face. Both men shared a characteristic, in that they both looked incredibly ordinary.
The man in the suit leaned against a nearby tree, and closed his eyes as his friend sat by the brook. His name was John, the man in the suit, and his friend with the red shirt was named Derek. John exhaled deeply as his mind wandered to distant thoughts. With closed eyes, he saw a road laden with ice, he saw a bottle of Jack in the passangers seat, his arm stretching out and his fingers wraping the bottle tightly. He remembered seeing the ravine through teared eyes, and he remembered his car sliding off the road. A picture of his wife, taped to the sun visor, was the last thing he saw.
"Was it suicide?" John asked, opening his eyes. His friend, Derek, sat with his back turned to him, and was running his hand through the water of the stream. The silence spoke volumes. John's shoulders sagged, and he exhaled deeply as he walked to his friend. John sat at his side, and allowed the sound of the flowing brook to prevail for a few moments longer before asking, "Is the same for you?"
"It's the same for all of us here," Derek replied.
Once more, John asked, "How long have you been here?"
Derek withdrew his hand from the stream. Where his skin should have been wet, it was dry. He could touch the water, but he could not feel it, and it ignored him as surley as if he did not exist.
"A very long time," Derek finally said before standing to his feet. "Come on, let's go," he added in conclusion as he began to follow the stream downhill. John, however, did not budge, but sat motionless in place. This gave Derek pause, who then turned to his friend, and thier eyes locked with one another.
"You know, I was happy. In a thousand different circumstances, I could still be alive," his eyes drifted back to the grey water of the brook. "I had a wife, and in a thousand lives I couldn't imagine living one without her. You know how I died? I followed my wife here."
"Where is she now?" Derek inquired.
"I don't know," John responded somberly. His head lowered slightly, and his eyes glazed over; he looked defeated.
Derek looked away from his friend for a moment, and glared at the ever present mist. The mist made it so one could only see what they were about to walk in to, and seeing beyond that was impossible. He forced a smile on his face, walked to his friend, and rested a hand on his shoulder, "We'll go find her, then we'll leave."
John looked up, his eyes still looking as if they belonged to a shattered soul. However, there was a spark. Of gratitude? Maybe, but more likely a spark of hope. The hope that this place, this punishment, wouldn't codemn him to the lonliness he feared. In this place, his friend was a godsend. John stood to his feet, gave his friend a small nod, and together they continued down the stream.
"You know," John began, "they always said when someone dies, the last thing they saw was a blinding light, but it wasn't like that. It was more like waking up from a sleep." John's voice trailed off as he concluded with, "do you really think we can leave?"
Derek shook his head, "Yes. We're going to find your wife, and then we'll all leave together."
"Do you really believe that?" John asked.
It took Derek a moment to reply, "I think even in here, we can still find the light. We just have to look for it."