The man laid there in the unknown space, eyes shut against the world. How he was conscious, he didn’t know. The last memory he had was of a truck barreling towards him and after that, nothing. With his eyes still closed, he moved each of his extremities just enough to check for a response. Everything moved at it should have, which brought a smile to his face.
“You are indeed dead,” a voice suddenly said. “Or at least, that version of you is dead.”
The man shot up, eyes wide open. Before him, seemingly sitting in thin air, was a man he had never seen in his life but carried an air of familiarity.
“What do you mean, ‘that version of me’?” The man asked.
“Well, saying ‘that version of you’ would imply that there are, or will be, multiple versions of you, wouldn’t it?” The strange man smiled.
“If I’m dead, then that means this is either heaven, hell, or some kind of purgatory.”
“Some kind of purgatory would be the closest approximation. It’s really more of a waiting room. It takes a bit of time to reset things and we learned early on it was better to keep your kind in some kind of “physical” space, rather than just floating in a void.”
“What do you mean, reset?” At this point the man was thoroughly confused. No religion he had ever heard of covered anything like this. This had to have been some kind of twisted joke.
“I mean we need to wait for existence to be reset to the time you were born,” the other man said.
“Why would existence need to get reset?” The man’s stomach dropped as he thought of all the people that he knew and loved that, if the stranger was to be believed, would be gone in an instant.
“Because you failed to live up to your potential.”
“What? Why would you reset all of existence because I ‘failed to live up to my potential’?”
“You see,” the stranger began, “it was decided a long time ago by the powers that be that civilization would be shaped by individuals nudging things in right direction. Your reality, is functionally a story, and when people don’t tell the story correctly we go back a few pages and make sure the actors understand their roles.”
“So I’m one of these people that’s supposed to nudge things in the right direction?”
“Indeed!” The stranger was elated at the man’s revelation. “I know you’re next question, ‘Why me?’. You were in the right place at the right time. The story is just fluid enough that we didn’t want to go through the effort of having to plan out entire genealogies, so when it comes time for a big push in the right direction, we pick someone who fits the bill.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” The man wrapped his head around what he was being told as best as he could. He didn’t see what made him so special.
“That’s for you to figure out,” the stranger said.
“How is that fair? You’re resetting everything and not even going to tell me what it is I need to do!”
“Yup. We’re not allowed to do that anymore. There were a few incidents with people who will remain unnamed who went on to become fairly important religious figures. We decided it was easier to just work around what they did rather than scrap a perfectly good universe.”
“So what happens if I don’t do what I’m supposed to before I die again?”
“We’ll just reset things again. If it takes you multiple times, don’t feel bad, Napoleon holds the record with 176 tries.”
“What’s to stop me from just living the exact same life again?”
“You’ll get to keep some memories. Certain things we’ll have to make you forget, but all the important bits that will keep you from repeating the same mistakes will still be there.”
“I don’t suppose I have any say in this?” The man asked.
“Unfortunately not,” the stranger said.
“Well, I guess I’m ready when you are.”
The stranger smiled at the man. With a slight nod of the stranger’s head, the man felt his “body” slowly fade away.