You were on your way home when you died.
It was a helicopter accident - and quite an unusual one. Fatal, of course. You left behind a well respected legal firm and countless soon-to-be-heartbroken friends.
And that’s when you met me. Again.
“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, nicely.
“There was a… helicopter and it…”
“Yes, dear.” I said.
“I… I died?”
“It's normal, dear. Don't worry about it,” I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Are you god?” You asked.
I winced. “No, dear.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said, ignoring me.
“You didn't own them, dear, but go on.”
“Will they be all right?”
“They'll be fine.” I paused. “Anything else?”
You looked at me with fascination, ignoring my question. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like a parent that hadn't got enough sleep for a few years. You decided I must be male, and I sighed again.
“What about Alice?” I asked.
“My dog?” You asked. I nodded. “Well, Cathy will take care of her. So what happens now? Wait, I'm remembering... this is like that story with the egg. The universe egg!”
I waited, silently. You have to take your silence where you can.
“The universe is an egg, and I am every person in it - am I right? I'm learning to be compassionate by living every human life one after another - yeah? Every human misery is just something I've inflicted on myself - so I can be like a god one day?”
“Almost, dear,” and despite myself at that point tiredness took over and a small edge entered my voice. “Remember I told you before, not every human life, but the life of every social animal.”
“What?” You said, blankly.
“You're learning what cruelty and love are, dear, so you live through all animals that feel those things - all animals that can form emotional relationships. Humans, elephants, dolphins, dogs, even cats.” I said. “Not hamsters. Let's go for a walk.”
You followed along as we strode through the void. “Why are we walking?”
“It's good for you.” I said, shortly. “Alice is going to be upset that you died. You adopted her from her mother when she was a puppy - she thinks of you as her parent.”
“So what's the point?” You asked, ignoring me once more. “Wasting a lot of time learning how wolves live together. What's the use in that?”
I stopped walking and hugged you to give myself a moment to find loving words. “You'll understand that when you're older, dear. Now I think it's time for you to go.”
You looked frightened, and I hugged you again, as hard and as long as I could.
“Who will I be, next time?”
“I never tell you,” I lied, “It's best for you to find out for yourself. I love you, dear. I want you to remember that.”
And I sent you back to the abattoir.