A small room with no windows with only a few chairs and a wooden table. A single torch lights the room. Air can only barely escape through the crevice underneath the door. The smell of burning wood erodes the air. A bloody taste within my mouth.
Somehow, I can sense these things even though I'm dead.
I know I died, because I can still feel the lingering after-effects of my death. Being burned alive isn't something I can forget, even if I tried. It's plastered onto both mind and body.
And yet, here I am.
There's really only a few possible explanations for what's going on. Even in my semiconscious state, I can deduce this.
Just as I begin to explore these options, I hear a knock on the door.
"Ahh good, you've come to."
He walks in with purpose, but seems weary. A raven-haired man with blue eyes, fair complexion and average stature. He betrays no signs of his intentions, though from my experience I can only assume he wants something from me.
"That I have. Might I ask who you are?"
A weary smile for a weary man. The purest green jade abrades his skin.
"I'm here because it was the purpose given to me. But I'll explain that later. Right now it's important you understand your own situation."
"So please, enlighten me."
He pauses for a moment, collecting himself. A brief pause, but a well-practiced one.
"Humankind has always been plagued by the question: What comes after life? This is the divine realm, there is nothing we can study to conclusively determine the answer. Everything falls under speculation. The answer, of course, turns out to be much less interesting."
"Waking up to a barren room of a poor peasant's house?"
He smirks, as though reacting to a child's quips. Not yet patronizing, but unpleasant. Beyond that I cannot grasp his nature.
"There is an existence that governs this world. Not directly influencing, but merely giving it life by observing it. 'God' would be the closest term, but not altogether appropriate.
"I see. And what is this God's goal?"
"I don't know."
"...you don't know? How can you know that God exists then?"
I can't help being skeptical. Even in this dream-like environment, I can only trust what my senses tell me. Words must be treaded carefully.
"For conversation's sake, let's call this being 'Ω'. I don't know Ω's goal simply because I have never talked to it. I only understand that it exists, similar to how a spider understands how to weave a web."
"As for your question, It's quite possible that Ω holds no goal at all, no reason for creating this world. In fact, that is my prevaling theory."
"No purpose at all? Our lives are just the whims of some bored God?"
"That is simply my interpretation. My only insight is from the people like yourself sent here every few decades or so. For the most part, they've had backgrounds in magic so I assume Ω has some interest in the magics your world produces."
"... I see."
Frowning a bit, I take some time to collect my thoughts. The man doesn't seem altogether trustworthy, but at the moment I don't have any choice but to trust him. I need to understand him better.
"Why do you choose to obey Ω's instructions?"
Again, that unpleasant smile. As though he's answered this question a hundred times.
"An arm does not question the brain. Naturally, I am still human, but I understand the role given to me. It's not as though I'm being held captive. I have an enjoyable life and I have no reason to change it. This is merely one part of my duties."
Ugh, more metaphors. The whole atmosphere feels like it's going to suffocate me.
"You've had regrets for the life you've lived, have you not?"
Regrets. What a strange concept. I've never made a decision that I thought wouldn't be best for myself. Sure, some of those decisions turned out badly, but at the time I thought it was smart. It's hard for me to regret my decisions when I've done everything with this mindset.
I suppose not being able to finish the work I started could be considered a regret, but no need to tell him so much yet.
"Disappointments would be the better word. Disappointment at the world I lived in."
"Then perhaps you'd like to change that."
He looks at me with a straight face. Seems like he's not one for jokes. Still, a lifetime's experience of reality isn't enough to convince me yet. Even in this surreal situation, I hold my own ground.
"Change the world? It's not so easy. I spent most of my life trying to do just that. Are you offering me the power of a God? of Ω?"
"Not quite. But I can give you the next best thing."
"And what's that?"
"A second life."
Still staring across the table, his visage remains unchanged. Such [grand] words and he remains unmoved.
"A second life is hardly the next best thing compared to the powers of a God."
"True, but it's an opportunity that only a god can give you. In fact, there is no choice in the matter. You will be reborn as a human, and if your chosen path leads you on the magical route, you might even return here.
"What happens if I take a different route?"
"I don't know. I assume you would be discarded into the void."
Well, it's just about what I expected. I suppose death and nothingness is just an inevitability of the universe.
"Now come, it's time for me to explain the final phase."
He gets off his chair and exits through the door. I follow behind shortly after.