Fred looked down at the forest floor beneath his feet.
He noticed that it was about an inch below his boots. He was floating, but just barely. How did he get here?
He looked around him, and the woods spread as far as he could see, which wasn’t far because the forest was thick with tall trees.
There was a taste of sky blue far overhead.
Fred put one foot in front of the other, over and over, walking, and he made progress, passing one tall tree after the other.
Finally, he saw them. A young man and woman sitting beside a campfire, and there was a tent too. None of it, neither the couple nor the fire nor the tent, touched the forest floor.
Where am I? Fred asked. The young man looked at his companion and then back at Fred. You are where we are, between Heaven and Hell.
How long have you been here? Fred asked. We don’t know, the young woman replied. We only know that we are camping, nothing else.
At that moment, Fred heard a familiar voice, the voice of a woman he had loved long ago with an unspeakable intensity.
The voice said, I will be your sponsor.
Fred began to rise and, as he did so, he noticed the bark on the nearest tree, brown with green lichens and what seemed like woodpecker work.
Higher he rose, and this tree plus the others too began to change colors, pinks and purples that sparkled. Fred saw the blue sky draw closer, and finally he broke into an open field above the forest canopy.
And there was the woman he had loved with an unspeakable intensity. What is happening? he asked.
You have died, as have I, but you did not know, she said.
I am your heaven, and you will be mine.
Who are the couple below? Fred asked. They are sentinels for now, she replied. They died in one another’s arms, complicating their situation.
A butterfly passed before his eyes.