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After Life

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Rufus

Rufus knows he's not alive. Not anymore. He can recall the moments before, watching the video of Mateo singing and the split second— when the car honked and he saw  before he felt the impact. It was agonizing, but it's not like he expected anything else. Mateo probably hurt more, knowing that he couldn't keep his promise.

Mateo. The surge of emotion he feels thinking about Mateo has him in tears, and he blinks, wiping the tears on his sleeve. Then he blinks again, gaping at his hands. He still has a physical body even though he's dead as hell, which means one thing: there is an afterlife. The thought is reassuring, and he looks around for the first time since he arrived here, wherever that is. When his eyes focus, he realizes he isn't alone. The world is foggy and he can't see a thing, yes, but he hears voices up ahead. Rufus moves toward the voices almost instinctively, knowing that this is either a very good idea or a really, really bad one, but it doesn't matter either way. He's already dead anyway.

Dead. Even now he can barely wrap his head around it, although he can still see the blinding headlights and feel the cold calm of the wind whenever he closes his eyes.

He shakes his head at himself and continues walking until he sees a door. The door is a work of art, an iridescent of colors that makes him want to capture it on a canvas with paint— and he's not even an artist. He moves closer to the door, hoping to find a label or a clue of some kind, but there's nothing, so he opens the door. The mist obscures whatever lies beyond, so he grits his teeth, and walks in. The door shuts behind him with a soft click.

Mateo

Mateo has been here for a few hours now, in this hallway full of people. There's a door at the end, but he doesn't know where it leads. He has seen people walk in hand-in-hand with loved ones or new friends, catching only glimpses of the light beyond the door. He supposes that it's meant to symbolize the “light at the end of the tunnel”, but that hardly matters when you're dead. Still, he remains, humming American Pie softly to himself. He's sitting on a bench, with a book open in his hands— he doesn't know why people still need books in the afterlife— but most of his focus is on the clock overhead. It's 10:39PM — again, he doesn't know why clocks are needed here now either— and looks back at his book. Then the clock. Then the book again. He sighs, tapping his shoe against the tile floor. He's nervous, but not for himself. Rufus. Rufus is still out there struggling to stay alive, and he, Mateo Torrez, had already broken his promise to not leave without him. But there isn't anything he can do, so he waits.

Rufus

Rufus enters what appears to be a hospital hallway, the only difference being that there's only one door and that's at the end of the hallway. There are benches and bookshelves lined up against the wall and toys piled on a table. He doesn't see anyone he knows, so he walks over to the table and picks up some Legos. He fidgets with the pieces at first before making his Lego person, a small comfort in this strange place. When he's done, he places the Lego Mario on the table before heading toward the bookshelves. Rufus doesn't recognize anyone here, and he doesn't know how he's supposed to feel about that.

Mateo

Mateo can't concentrate. He has been on the same page for what feels like forever, and he's going crazy out of his mind looking at the clock. He folds the corner of the page over like a dog's ear, and places it on the bench. He'll get it later. For now, he'll go to the table with toys— surely there's something there to kill his boredom. So he gets up, and as he stands before the table, his eyes scan the items carefully until he sees what he's looking for: Legos. He grabs a few pieces and accidentally knocks a Lego person down in the process, so he picks it back up. As he does, he gets a closer look at the Lego person, and his eyes widen. It must be Rufus. He glances at the clock. But it is much too early, more than an hour before midnight. Still, he hurriedly makes his Lego Luigi before walking back to his seat on the bench. His book is still there, so he decides to return it to the shelf in case someone else wants to read it.

Rufus

As Rufus reaches for a book, someone else also reaches out to place a book back. Gently. Their arms brush, and he turns automatically toward the person. The book in his hand hits the floor with a faint thud, and his arms fall slack at his sides.

Mateo

Mateo is breathing heavily, his breaths coming in short gasps. It feels like he had run a marathon, with the way his heart was going.

Rufus

“Yo, Mateo.” Rufus greets. His expression is one of relief.

“I'm sorry.” Mateo blurts. “I know I promised you I wouldn't leave our little island, but I wanted to make tea for—”

“Shh, I know, I know,”  And then he's pulling Mateo in, his arms wrapping around him tightly. “I know, so you don't have to explain.”

After a while, Mateo pulls back but keeps his eyes locked on Rufus as he does, leaning in when he sees the glint in Rufus' eyes.

“Where is this place anyway?”

“I don't know,” Mateo answers. “But I was waiting for you.”

“Then let's go.”

“Let's.”

They go hand-in-hand through the door, ready to face whatever is next. Together.