The Kurt Cobain Apparatus by Emma Wolinsky
Surprise, you’re dead. You didn’t plan this but then again it partly is your fault isn’t it? A freak accident with a supposedly extinct Tribe of Navajos in Ohio finally did it. Always knew you were going to die in Ohio, didn’t you? Got too close to a spear during a fertility dance and was impaled with an arrowhead that was actually manufactured in China. The lack of authenticity relating to your death is mentioned in your obituary. You’re too dead to know though. So, vacation in Ohio was a bust and now you are surfing the channels of the afterlife trying to find the Gates of Heaven. Meet Me, I’m you’re guide. Don’t worry though; this is nothing like that book in Beetlejuice. I’m a lot more reliable. I’ll get you to Hell Heaven in no time. The precarious part about the afterlife is that it’s nothing like an “afterlife” at all. Contradictions are God’s hobby. Think of this more like a multitude of train stops. You’re going to stop at some offbeat places and encounter what this journey has to offer, like it or not. But let me make this clear, the path is the same for everyone. It is a journey that every dead man has to take. The catch is that not everyone makes it to the end. Hopefully you will, and hopefully your local neighborhood neo-Nazi will not.
Take a look around, ok? Where are you? Do you see a 7/11? Yes? Good! No? You’re going to Hell; sorry you had to find out like this. Go into the store and buy yourself a slurpie. The flavors are annihilation apple and necrosis nectarine. Mix the two flavors. Your brain will slowly begin to dissolve. Do not panic. This is a necessary step for you to get to part two of your journey.
When you slowly begin to piece yourself back together (like the lifeless puzzle you’ve become), you will find yourself in a galaxy surrounded by rogue train cars. Remember when I said this would all be like hopping on a train? Well the stops, turnstiles, and tracks are now gone. The cars will be floating around you like pieces of popcorn out of an Amazon package. Don’t touch the cars; they are not made of styrofoam and they are notoriously dangerous. Cautiously walk amongst these vehicles; some of them will be playing music, “Whoopee! We’re all gonna- ” And some motor static, “SSSSSHHHHHHKKKKK.” Currently, you aren’t up or down or North, South, East, West, Thort, Weso, Eaest, or Ortortnor. You’ll walk sideways until you see Aretha Franklin, but keep walking. It’s not really Aretha Franklin. It’s a snake suit. If you approach it and start up a bad rendition of Respect, it’ll explode and you will re-parish from snake venom. It’s bumps in the road such as these that weed out Heaven’s unwanted; God doesn’t want any soul fans in Heaven (He’d rather be constricted by the boa that potentially lives inside Aretha than listen to you sing all day). This was trial number one. If you’re a soul fan, you’re not getting in. Glad you kept your mouth shut and passed.
Let’s continue. Now you’re walking alongside the galaxy of the afterlife wondering what God may say when you get to Heaven. Will you be reprimanded for all those times you lied to your nearly deaf priest because you changed your sin each time he asked, “What’d you say?” You’re not too sure; his personality is still in questioning. Stop! Quick! Jump into the quicksand up ahead and end up on the other side of Myrtle Beach. The defunct version of Myrtle Beach of course. We don’t get many luxuries here. Look at the fragmented seashells between your toes, those are the dried up shriveled souls of ISIS members. I don’t think God liked them too much; good thing you weren’t with ISIS (or the Westboro Baptist Church). Take out the deck of cards from your pocket. It’s there, I promise. Shuffle them and drop only the jokers into the sand. Wait forty-five seconds. Slowly, the two pilgrim looking folk from American Gothic will rise from the waves in a dramatic fashion bearing a pitchfork and challenge you to a game of Go- Fish. This is test number two. God doesn’t want fishermen in Heaven. (If you don’t laugh at that joke, God might consider smiting you. The Big-Man likes puns.). Wrestle the pitchfork out of the uptight colonial man’s hand and stab Grant’s creation. Repeatedly. If you so feel the urge, check their pulses and hopefully there will not be one. If you need a reference as to what a dead man’s pulse feels like, compare it to your own. Never, ever say yes to a rousing game of Go-Fish in the afterlife. Once you have dipped yourself into the ocean to wash off their watercolor blood, start trekking to the amphitheater. This is where your third and last test will occur. Better be on your way.
While looking for this cryptic third and final test, God has given you some time to explore, and you take advantage of this. You also think it’s odd there happen to be sidewalks in the galaxy/afterlife. Call it what you please, I am just the guide not the end all be all of “dead colloquialism”. The sidewalks sparkle, (like God definitely wanted this experience to be laden with pizzazz from point one to two) but they’re also cracked. Like people have walked here before and become disoriented, confused, even angry. As you walk on and let your feet drag through the crunchy fallen universes at your feet, you let your mind wander up to the train cars up above your head. What’s inside? Especially the one stuck on static radio? Is it those dogs playing poker? Is it Marilyn Monroe? Manson? Does anyone know? Your feet begin to walk up. Yes, up, up towards the not- Styrofoam cars, your curious arms cascading out. Don’t do it, I warned you about the consequences.
Well, well, well. You’re lost. I’m not shocked. This tends to happen when you touch that one car playing Country Joe and The Fish. Anyways so here we are, fieldtripping together through your memory trying not to laugh at your grandmother’s funeral. Fuck. Everyone is looking. But they’re not looking because you’re about to burst out in the world’s most inappropriately timed tears, but because when you were a kid, you decided you wanted to be a writer. Scratch that, you wanted to be a novelist, a poet, a wordy heartbreaker. You told your crying mom one morning in the kitchen that you’d speak at Grandma’s graveside. Perfect publicity. And everyone has tears in their eyes, while, you’re trying to force some to well up because this is for some reason, a lot funnier than you thought. Even though she died suddenly. And the aunt looking at you expectantly is currently going through chemo. And your grandpa just died last year and you can see his headstone out of your peripheral vision. You talk about how much she loved her grandkids, Judge Judy, and the jungle. How her bathroom was wallpapered with jaguars and ironically, venomous snakes. You’re standing there, talking about the probable angelic reincarnation of your grandma and her bathroom wallpaper when you feel the laughter rising in your throat. You try swallowing it back but it only rises up more. You try taking a deep breath but you feel it coming on even stronger. It’s inevitable now. Your mother starts giving you the look. It’s not a good look. You know the look very well at this point in your life. The letter drops from your fingers while Satan himself has to look away from second hand embarrassment. Now, the entire crowd is half pitying and half despising you, laughing your cracked-in-half heart out. A small lone tear begins to make its way down your cheek, and that’s where the memory ends- Oh look! Kurt Cobain!
You’ve finally made it to the amphitheater where Kurt Cobain is sitting alone on the stage strumming on a three stringed banjo. His hair dangles over his face, covering his eyes, his expression, everything. You can see that through the holes on his mustard colored sweater he’s thin and has goose bumps littering the pale skin. Heaven hasn’t treated him well. He makes a hacking noise but doesn’t look up, continuing to strum away with his smart calloused fingers. You stand quietly, swaying to the music that sounds dead. It actually sounds dead.
“Did you feel it?” he asks.
“What?” You’ll respond back in slight disbelief that Kurt Cobain himself has just acknowledged your presence.
“I asked did you feel it?”
“What is it?”
“Young Grasshopper-“ Kurt begins, “This whole thing you call ‘life’, is simply an overbearing hallucination induced by the consummation of what one person defined as love. When you die, you begin to see things for what they are. And I’m asking you how your journey was?”
“Oh. Well, I guess it wasn’t that great. I spent a lot of time thinking about this moment. You know, dying. But I think everyone does. I mean, if you liked your life, who gives a shit what goes down after? I’ll ask God.”