James awoke from the darkness.
And James saw.
He was lying within a palace constructed of shimmering ruby, decorated with glowing plants and which floating upon a cloud that seemed as though it had formed from the residue of molten gold. The sky above him roared fiercely with the most vibrant blue James had ever seen.
"James Martin. You have died, and you have awoken," the voice spoke.
Died? In the hospital... had he finally gone? James' mind filled with images. The car had crumpled underneath the pressure of the semi-trailer... his wife. She'd died instantly but James had clung on. Oh yes. But in the end... he had pressed the button for the nurse. But none came. None came! Saint Vincent's Hospital... he remembered.
"Rise, James Martin. Rise and accept," the voice said again.
James rose to his feet with a youthfulness he had never experienced before, even when he was a teenager. It was as though he had just been born. But into what world?
There was carpet (or was it grass?) laid beneath him. The walls of the palace (which had no roof) seemed miles distant. Creatures lined them. Horrible creatures. Their heads resembled those of jackals, and their bodies resembled those of crabs. It was as though flesh had been pulled over poorly constructed skeletons.
"Fear not the servants of God," the voice said.
James looked around, struggling to find a point of reference. It wasn't as though the voice was coming from some distant source. It was as though the voice was bouncing out of the air itself.
"Those who seek my visage rarely find it corporeal, James Martin."
"Who are you?"
"The expression of eternity. The realization of reality. I am God," said the voice.
James observed the palace. It was indeed fit for a king. But fit for a God?
"The task I put before you is simple, James Martin. Accept me as your lord, and you may bask in this palace forever. You may talk to everyone you ever loved. You may visit all that you have visited. But do not accept me, and you shall return."
The creatures at the door had their attention fixed on James. Surely they were not the servants of God? What God would create such things?
"How can I be sure that you are God?" James asked.
"I will believe when you prove it. And when I believe I will accept."
"If one only believes when something is proven, than does not one never truly believe? But if you require it..."
The palace's ruby walls began to resonate with the voices of children, the voices of adults, and the voices of the elderly. It was only faint... but still breath taking. And then, in the depthless ruby of the palace walls, James began to make out a face. At first it was only an outline, but the image slowly evolved, until James came into full understanding of what it was.
It was a picture of his wife.
"Do you see now? Do you see what I am?" the voice said.
James was silent. Rather he just stared into the face that only a while ago he knew he was never going to see again.
"If you accept me, she will be waiting for you."
"But you have proved nothing.