"Oh, come on. Wake up already."
The tiny, furtive whisper was probably supposed to be inaudible. It was probably something I wasn't supposed to hear. But there, swimming in the darkness with my head feeling like I'd had about ten drinks too many, I heard it all too clearly.
My eyes slid open.
"Oh!" I heard them say, rather more respectfully. "I- That is, uh. Welcome!"
She was young, I saw when I collected myself enough to look down. About my age.
About my age before the truck went skidding out of its lane and tearing across the freeway, that was.
"Where am I now?" I whispered. "I thought I was supposed to get another life."
They'd been very clear, in the classroom where I'd woken up. Reincarnation. Absolute insanity. I wasn't even Buddhist. No one seemed to care, and they certainly hadn't asked my opinion on things. They'd just jammed the test in front of me, moving on to the next human-shaped shade and repeating the ritual. I’d stared down at the list of questions, blinking away tears and completely, totally confused.
And then, without any other options available to me, I’d started to write. One word at a time, I’d answered their test, spelling out my ethics and life’s history and opinions. Okay, so I might have gotten bored about halfway through. I’d gone faster and faster, puking out answers in my desperate need to be done.
Until at last, I'd woken up here.
I stared at the woman standing in front of me. “Well?” My strength built with every breath I took. “What’s going on? Who are you? Where the hell is this?”
The young woman leaned away, clasping her hands in front of her. It was bright - and getting brighter by the second. Her blonde hair was braided into intricate loops she'd pinned back neatly. Combined with the glow from the blinding sun, the effect was stunning.
"There's been a bit of a change of plans," she said, inclining her head. "Something's happened."
"What do you mean?" I asked cautiously. Grief lingered there under the edges of my senses. I'd died. That sucked. But right then, fear was pushing out front, drowning out everything else under its shrieks. "Changed how?"
"It's- It's quite unusual, really," she said, looking down at the clipboard clutched in her arms. "Your scores were- Well, they were exemplary to say the least." She smiled up at me. She'd probably intended the expression to look pleasant. There was too much anxiety lacing the gesture to be anything of the sort.
"You've qualified for divinity. Congratulations."
I blinked. The world dipped and wove, spinning around and around. With every passing breath, our surroundings took form. Grass appeared under our feet. The brilliant sun overhead faded, exposing the blue sky at last.
"Divinity," I said slowly.
"As in, a god."
"....Yes?" she said.
"Are you asking, or are you telling?"
She sighed at last, shaking her head. "It's not proper, that's all. I...Well. It's not up to me. But there are a number of vacancies of late, and there's no arguing with your results."
"You have to know I didn't take that thing seriously," I said. Part of me screamed to shut up. Divinity, it said. Like, Godhood. What the hell was I doing? What would they do to me if they found out I-
"This isn't a test you can cheat on," she said, arching one eyebrow. "Surely you don't think we'd be as careless as that. The results are clear. You will be a good deity, I'm sure."
"Oh," I said, feeling the blood slowly drain from my face. "Wait. So. What do I-"
"We'll find you somewhere quiet," the woman said, flipping through her pages. "There are a few island nations that have recently undergone some strife. I believe they'd be more than willing to take on a new-"
"What's that?" I said, cutting her off with a raised finger. As the sky cleared, it left a haze in its wake off in the distance. It was difficult to make out with us so far away, but the white blemish on the otherwise-flawless sky was unmistakable.
The woman turned, following my finger - and froze. "D-Don't worry about them," she said, waving a hand at me. "The Greater Gods won't trouble you. Well. Jesus's missionaries might come knocking, but they'll wander off before too long. You've got nothing to worry about."
"So, what," I said, still looking up towards the sky. I'd liked life. I'd liked my job, and my friends, and my pets. I hadn't wanted to die. "I just need to find some godless folks to believe in me?"
The woman paused, furrowing her brow, and glanced back towards me. "Ah...something of the sort, yes."
But whether I'd wanted to die or not, it didn't look like I was going to get a choice. At this stage, I might as well make the most of it. I remembered my life well. The people. The questions they'd had. They'd had religion once. Even if they'd moved on, their hearts would remember. They just needed to be shown how.
That left a young, enterprising deity a lot of room to work with, didn't it?
More than anything, I was tired of it - the fear, the worry. It wasn’t fair. I’d barely gotten started, hardly had a chance to make a name for myself among the living. This woman wanted me to go live on some island, secluded from the rest of the world? How was that fair payment for the life I’d had stolen away from me?
"What did you say your name was?" I said, looking towards her at last.
She was still watching me, her expression carefully guarded. "You can call me Alice," she said, once again bowing towards me. "I've been assigned to aid you in this adjustment period."
I smiled, hearing my pulse thunder in my ears. I could take her advice, go hide on an island somewhere. I'd probably carve out quite a nice existance there.
But that sounded boring - and there was a bigger prize waiting for me.
"Well, Alice," I said, offering her my biggest, most confident smile. "Let me tell you about my idea, instead."