The first time you share tea, you are a stranger.
The second time you share tea, you are an honored guest.
The third time you share tea, you become family.
So… what do you call a slice of life story when the protagonist dies at the end of the first chapter?
Whatever you do, Under the Whispering Door is a delightful example thereof.
Wallace starts out a kind of terrible person.
The machine had broken down, and though no one was infallible, Wallace needed to switch out the part for a new one. He’d worked too hard to let it fail now. Last year had been the most profitable in the firm’s history. This year was shaping up to be even better. No matter what condition the world was in, someone always needed to be sued.
And then he dies.
“What?” Wallace said faintly. He wondered if it was possible to have a second heart attack, even though he was already dead. And then he remembered he couldn’t actually feel his heart beating anymore, and the desire to curl up into a little ball once again started to take over. Agnostic or not, he hadn’t expected to hear something so enormous said so easily.
This is the story of what comes next.
No, not that next. Not Heaven or Hell or rebirth or whatever you so happen to believe in. The inbetween. What you do and where you go after you’re dead and before moving on. It’s a setting you’ve probably seen before, but the setting isn’t really the point, but more a vehicle for the story.
“He growled under his breath before reaching out to pry the doors open. His hands went right through them.
“Oh, right,” he said. “Dead. Goddammit.”
He walked through the doors.”
It’s quite the touching piece. A bit about coming to term with your life and death and perhaps learning a bit more about it all before moving on. It’s sweet, it’s touching, and by the end I’m really rooting for Wallace.
“It’s life, Wallace. Even when you’re dead, it’s still life. You exist. You’re real. You’re strong and brave, and I’m so happy to know you. Now, tell me what happened with Alan. All of it. Leave nothing out.”
It’s well worth the read.
“What do we do now?”
“I don’t know,” Hugo said. “Whatever we can, I guess.”
“Make the most of the time we have left,” Wallace whispered.
And Hugo said, “That’s all anyone can ask of us.”
The sun drifted slowly across the sky.”