There’s an inherent romanticism in saying, “Meet me in the afterlife.”, but Nadine was of the opinion that it was an overrated piece of trash line authors turned to when they wanted to kill off a character, make the story ‘heart-wrenchingly beautiful’ or break up a hugely successful ship without angering the fans enough to send them hate mail. Because apparently if two people promise to find each other in the afterlife, it’s the ultimate sign of everlasting love and loyalty, nevermind if in your next lives your ex-lover is reincarnated as your cat who secretly hates you. I think it’d be wise to add at this point that Nadine was, in fact, a very cynical person who was frustrated by most things in life, and had made it her life's desire to be skeptical and sardonic even once her teenage years had passed so that she could give no chance to people to attribute her attitude to teenage whims and turbulence. But let’s make one thing clear- since this is not a romcom or a 2010s YA book, Nadine was not a chain-smoking, heavy drinking, maroon lipstick wearing goth princess adorned in black clothes and band t-shirts from head to toe, nor did she spout lines such as “I’m weird. I’m a weirdo.” out loud, ever. She was an ordinary, even popular teenager who embodied the meme “I keep saying mean things and people think I’m joking.”
Disillusionment with the concept of love is not a foreign concept among teenagers. In fact, it occurs after every breakup. But Nadine simply felt that the overdependence that comes hand in hand with love was quite stifling. Who wanted to be someone’s ‘other half’ or better’ half’ all the time, when she had a better half- it was the left side of her profile, everyone knew that. The whole ‘yin and yang’ , ‘two parts of a whole’ made her feel absolutely squeamish.
Who said you have to be with someone to be whole?
Fiercely individualistic, she did not buy into the entire myth of the afterlife and its connotations with regards to love.
Which is where her dilemma came into play.
Nadine woke up one day to discover she was in the Afterlife. And if that wasn’t enough, she had been given a long scroll that seemed straight out of a bad movie, that contained a list of things she had to achieve by the end of the week, and in bold capitals the first task read “FIND SOULMATE”. Nadine was immediately exasperated. Wasn't love being everyone’s first priority overdone on Earth already? Why continue this never ending bullshit in the world of the dead too? And how was she supposed to find her soulmate, considering that she’d never even loved anyone? It was bad enough that she no longer had access to her favourite cinnamon rolls from the bakery across from her old house in this soul-sucking place, but now to be tasked with the one thing that she would rather never do? It was too much. She rolled over in her weird hammock and fell asleep.
She woke up disoriented, what seemed like only moments later. Time just crawled in this place, and it was quite infuriating not to have any yardstick to measure her existence by. A cherub about two feet tall poked her side with a stick and glared at the scroll. “I would’ve never signed up for the Afterlife if I knew I’d have to complete tasks like a video game” Nadine grumbled. “Oh wait, I didn’t.” The cherub simply ignored her existence and moved away.
Nadine cursed in three different languages and approached a girl with a resting bitch face. “Can we fake a soulmate? If yes, will you sign off and pretend to be mine?” she asked her. The girl stared at her like she was delusional, and then snorted. “Go pick a chit from the basket over there.” she said. “Really? That easy?” Nadine wondered, and it must have shown on her face because the girl rolled her eyes and replied “You can't buy soulmates. Nice try though, even if it was supremely unimaginative.” Nadine felt immediately affronted by this and took it on as a challenge. Who was this random soul who called her ideas unoriginal? Smirking, Nadine took a step backwards and assessed the girl. Dressed in a black and white plaid miniskirt with a pale grey, full-sleeved top and hair in a long braid, she looked like she was ready for kicking someone’s ass in MUN, or world domination. On closer inspection, Nadine noticed that she had mascara smudged in the corner of her eye, her nails were closely bitten and the set of her jaw was stubborn beyond measure.
“Your soulmate rejected you, didn’t he?” Nadine asked. The girl looked slack-jawed for a moment and then promptly tackled Nadine to the ground, pinning her under her arm with such force that Nadine felt choked.
“Sorry… you..can’t..face..r-reality.” she managed to spit out, somehow grinning in spite of the weight. If the girl had looked annoyed before, she looked positively murderous now.
“Who fed you this story, huh? Was it the blonde guy? The Bangladeshi one? The girl with the pixie cut?” she demanded. Nadine raised her leg, kicked her in the shin, and attempted to roll over. She failed spectacularly. This girl had arms of iron. Finally wanting to breathe again, Nadine pleaded with her to let go. She got up and raised her hands defensively.
“Well, now I have something over you. You need a cover to save yourself, I need to finish this godforsaken task so that I can level up and go to whichever place it is next that doesn’t hopefully suck this bad.”
The girl contemplated it.
“You aren’t even the tiniest bit attractive,” she murmured.
Nadine looked flabbergasted. All her human life (all nineteen years of it) she had been used to tons of attention, that she of course never reciprocated. In fact, it was a daily occurrence for at least two people to tell her how pretty her hair was or how her dimples stood out. In other words, her massive ego was thoroughly bruised.
The girl laughed.“Oh, so you’re secretly very vain. Should've guessed it when you strutted in here with your arrogance that touched the clouds. Quite literally.”
Nadine tried to figure out what to say next. “Well, you’re not anything great to look at either. Besides, I don’t even like girls.” she sputtered.
The girl raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
Nadine turned fifteen shades of purple. Never had she been in a position of vulnerability in an argument. She wanted to run away, fast. Of course, said ego didn’t allow her to.
She raised her chin defiantly and continued.
“So, I think we should start off by standing on that table over there and dedicating our favourite songs to each other. I’ll go first. I ain't no ho, but I do be on g-”
The girl yanked her off the table so hard Nadine swore she felt her knuckles crack of their own accord. Damn this girl was violent. The girl turned to her. “Do that again, and I’ll snap your neck in half the next time you sleep.”
“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Afterlife’s most epic tale of enemies to lovers - soulmates began.”
The massive TV stopped blaring and shut off.
“Shaadi.com really pulled out all the stops for this ad, huh?” an angel with bright blue hair questioned.
“They got those two to star in it. Can’t even imagine how many trips to Earth they must’ve sacrificed for it. But then again, more souls are going to be eager to use it than ever! They’ve even tackled the stigma of not knowing who your soulmate is when you first arrive here.” an angel with bangles adorning her hands replied.
“Well, this’ll silence their critics for sure. Personally, I think shaadi.com- the soul version is literally the best startup idea in the Afterlife.” blue hair murmured.
In the corner, a girl with the biggest dimples ever seen, sneakily pulled out a chair from underneath a girl with a plaid skirt, who then promptly punched her hard, before kissing her cheek.
(yes this tope exists in the Afterlife too because it’s the best one don’t even attempt to argue with me.)
Author: Ananya Chaure
Editor: Prachi Saini