It started with a light. Quick, vivid, and blinding that triggered Stiles out of existence. Squinting his eyes, he stared down at Scott and Allison as he began to float upwards. Stiles watched as Allison brought an unsteady hand up to her mouth, tears filling her eyes as Scott paced the length of the room, shaking his head. Stiles tried to reach down to comfort them, to tell them that it was okay, but he suddenly reached the ceiling, beginning to drift through the layers of wood and shingles. However, before he reached the night sky, he caught a glimpse of his lifeless body; pale, motionless, and stiff. Stiles couldn’t believe that he was dead.
Stiles reached the cool night air, leaving the image of his friends in distress behind. He tried to move to the left to sway his direction, but he soon discovered that he had no control over where he was going. Looking down, he realized that he had no body to control. It was almost like he was a ball of energy, floating above the city. He kept rising higher in the sky, getting closer to the stars shining above him. Before he knew it, he was abruptly tugged to the right, picking up speed. From that moment on, it was like he was on a roller coaster.
Soon, Stiles was flying through the city, rising above buildings and below bridges, and taking sharp twists and turns as everything blurred together around him. Everything happened so instantaneously that he barely had time to comprehend where he was as he floated through the door of his father’s house – his childhood home. Looking around, the first thing Stiles noticed was how different it was inside. Instead of the plasma television that his dad had bought last Christmas, there was a huge wooden stand that had a tube TV sitting on top of it, playing something that he didn’t recognize. However, before he got the chance to explore more, he was floating towards the kitchen, where the sound of giggling was coming from.
Once he passed through the wooden door, he immediately picked up on the sight of his mother – a tall, beautiful, brunette woman with bright brown eyes and a smile that could light up even the darkest of nights – standing at the counter. There was a bowl of dough sitting in front of her and a chubby baby that resembled her endlessly perched on her hip. It wasn’t until the baby reached forward to poke his stubby fingers in the dough that Stiles realized that the baby was him.
“No, Stiles, there’s no room in the recipe for baby fingers,” His mother grinned down at him, letting out an angelic laugh.
The baby – Stiles – let out a gurgled giggle as he brought his hand up to his own mouth, sucking on his fingers sloppily. His mother just continued to laugh, pushing the bowl of dough back further on the counter before using her fingers to tickle his tummy, grinning wider as he giggled loudly.
Stiles hovered above the ground as he continued to watch the memory play out in front of him. He felt a deep ache somewhere inside of him that made it hard to concentrate on what was happening. Before he got the chance to see what happened next, he was flying out the back door. He wanted to scream until his throat was raw, wanted to turn back around and let the full memory play out, but he was simply helpless as he was floating up into the night sky once again.
It was like the first time; Stiles was flying through the streets of the city from above, allowing himself to be navigated to his next destination. This time, though, he was approaching his high school. However, instead of going into the school, he began floating over it. Looking down, he stared as the roof of the school passed under him. Without warning, he was pulled to a stop in the middle of the lacrosse field, hovering close to the cluster of boys spread out in a circle surrounding Coach Finstock. As Stiles looked around the students, he recognized himself standing close to Scott. They were both holding a lacrosse stick as Coach tried to get everyone’s attention.
“Let’s go! Gather around! Bring it in, come on! Come on!” He yelled, holding a clipboard in his hands as he directed a few stragglers to the group of boys. “Alright, you know how this goes. If you don’t make the cut, you’re most likely sitting on the bench for the rest of the season. You make the cut – you play. Your parents are proud. Your girlfriend loves ya! Huh? Everything else is cream cheese. Now, get out there and show me whatcha got! Come on!”
Stiles watched as him and Scott shared an amused look before raising their sticks in the air and running out to their positions with the rest of the team. The game started the same way it ended: with Scott and Jackson dominating the field and Stiles, well, not. He watched as Coach gathered everyone around him, once again. “Well, boys, it looks like this was an easy decision. If I call your name, that means you’ve made first line this season!”
Scott wrapped an arm around Stiles, giving him a gentle squeeze with an encouraging smile as Coach began calling out names, “Whittemore! Lahey! Boyd! McCall!” He continued down the list of students that made the team. By the end of it, it was no surprise that Stiles didn’t make first line. “If your name wasn’t called, that means you’re the benchwarmers for the season. Now get out of my sight.”
Stiles watched as he frowned and walked over to the bleachers, throwing his lacrosse stick down on the ground in frustration. “Hey, man, it’s okay! There’s always next year,” Scott said as he came up behind him, slapping his shoulder in a friendly manner. “I’ll work with you so that you’re prepared for next season.”
Stiles rolled his eyes, heaving a sigh as he pushed himself down on the bleachers. “It doesn’t matter how much practice I get, dude. I’ll never pass as a good lacrosse player,” He argued. It turned out that he was right.
Before anything else happened, Stiles felt himself floating higher into the sky, preparing himself for the next stop of this journey. He was still thinking about his nonexistent lacrosse skills when he noticed that he was advancing towards the front doors of the university library that he spends most of his time at. He floated through the closed doors, being led through the rows of books and tables full of studying students before he recognized himself. He was sitting alone at a table in the back, his laptop out and open in front of him as he flipped through pages of a textbook, highlighting as he went.
Stiles floated above the ground only a few feet away from the table, watching himself as he looked at the time on his laptop before cursing under his breath. Reaching into his book-bag that was thrown carelessly on the table next to his textbook, he rummaged around before pulling his cellphone out. He unlocked it, scrolling through his contacts and clicking on Scott’s name, pressing the phone to his ear.
“Scott? Man, I’m so sorry but I won’t be able to make it tonight,” He heard himself say, tapping his fingers against the table top. There was a brief pause before, “I know I promised, but I’m still studying. I thought that I would’ve been done earlier but…”
Bringing his hand up to his head, he began to rub his temples as he listened to what Scott had to say on the other end of the phone. “Can’t you just ask Allison to pick you up? I know. Look, I promise that I’ll make it up to the both of you. I’ll talk to you later, man, okay?”
Pressing the end button, he shoved his cellphone back into his bookbag before immediately picking up his highlighter, getting back to work. Stiles watched himself as he worked frantically, switching between scrolling through websites and flipping through the pages of his textbook as he tried to cram in as much studying as possible. As Stiles watched the memory play out in front of him, he realized that most nights were spent like this; studying at the library until two or three in the morning before waking up at six to get to the hospital.
Before he got the chance to dwell on it too much, the lights suddenly went out, leaving him in total darkness. However, a second later, they flickered back on. Only, he wasn’t at the library anymore. Instead, he was at the hospital. He watched from the corner of the room as a gurney was pushed through the hospital doors. A paramedic was pushing the stretcher down the hallway as Stiles walked up and grabbed the chart from a nurse.
“What happened?” He heard himself ask, flipping through the pages of the clipboard.
“A 38-year-old man was stung by a jelly fish,” The man answered, leading the bed into a room and pushing it up against the wall as another doctor began hooking the patient up to various machines, inserting an TV and placing a heart monitor on his finger.
Stiles watched as he nodded his head in understanding before scribbling something down on the chart.
However, he watched as he suddenly snapped his head up, staring directly at where Stiles was floating. He had a stiff neck and wide eyes as he lifted up the clipboard. Stiles was confused; this isn’t what really happened. Nevertheless, he was forced to read the writing on the chart; murderer was written in blood. Looking around, Stiles noticed that the paramedic and the patient were both staring at him, too. In unison, all three of them began chanting “murderer” while staring straight at Stiles.
If he had his body, this is the point where he would’ve had a panic attack. Instead, he heard himself begin to let out a bloodcurdling scream before there was a flash of light. Quick, vivid, and blinding that triggered Stiles back into existence.
. . .
Stiles sat up, gasping and coughing. Immediately, there was a cup full of water with a straw poking out that was placed in front of him. He wrapped his lips around the straw and greedily drank gulps of water, letting the liquid sooth his sore throat.
“You’re such an idiot, Stiles,” Someone hissed from beside him. Pulling back from the straw, he glanced over to see Derek standing beside the table, shaking his head.
“Derek?” He asked weakly, allowing himself to lay back down. “What’re you doing here?”
“I had to text him,” Allison whispered, sounding like she was on the verge of tears, “We couldn’t bring you back. It wasn’t working.”
“That’s why we had to use the endotracheal tube down your throat. The defibrillator paddles weren’t working.” Scott commented, running a hand down his face. He looked tired, worn out.
Before Stiles had the chance to say something, Lydia was rushing through the doors. She paused when she saw the scene in front of her; Stiles lying shirtless on the metal slab, Scott leaning heavily against the wall, Derek throwing the endotracheal tube away and Allison trying to control her tears.
“Does someone want to tell me what the hell is happening?” She demanded, crossing her arms over her chest.
No one said anything. Instead, they all looked at Stiles, waiting for him to tell Derek and Lydia what exactly was going on. Scott and Allison were already debriefed before the experiment began.
Stiles sighed, “I’ve been searching for the region of the brain that’s responsible for near-death experiences,” He began, “If the brain’s just another organ, why doesn’t it just go dark and shut off at the moment of death?” He looked around at his friends, not expecting a reply. “You know? Why the floating? Why the white-light? Why the sense of well-being? I mean, what is that experience? Is it a chemical? Or something else?” He paused, pulling at a loose thread in the blanket that was covering him, “Can we map that process the same way we can map a seizure? I wanted to document what happens to us after we die, so…”
“So?” Lydia questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“So, I had Scott and Allison stop my heart,” He stated, nodding towards the two.
“I can’t believe you went with this absurd plan! He could’ve died!” Derek yelled angrily, gesturing towards Stiles.
“We didn’t have a choice, Derek! He would’ve done it with or without our help,” Scott argued, wrapping an arm around Allison who looked like she might burst out in tears again.
“Wait, stop. Derek, weren’t you apart of this? I mean, you were here, right?” Lydia asked, turning towards him.
Derek shook his head, “No, Allison texted me when they couldn’t get his heart beating again,”
“Everyone shut up,” Stiles grumbled, swinging his feet over the table, “I signed a release form that would’ve absolved them from any responsibility. I knew what I was doing.” Pushing himself from the table, he went to stand up but immediately collapsed. He would’ve fallen straight on his face if it wasn’t for Derek wrapping his arms around his waist, holding him up.
“No, you’re insane. I can’t believe you’d do something this stupid,” Derek complained, allowing Stiles to lean his back against his chest.
“Yeah, well, what if I just proved what happens after death? Can you imagine the residency offers we would get? And forget about Dr. Deaton. I mean, we would be the world’s first specialist in the afterlife!” Stiles exclaimed.
“Okay, now you have my attention,” Lydia said, sounding thoughtful. “Did you have the machine take pictures of your brain’s hemodynamic activity?”
Before Stiles could answer that yes, he did, he wasn’t an idiot, thank you very much, Derek cut in, “You guys realize that we’re just medical students, right? Not doctors. Not scientists. I mean, this is insane,”
“You can stop with the lecture, Derek,” Scott said, “He already did it, alright?”
Allison nodded in agreement, snuggling in closer to Scott’s side. “We should probably leave before the cleaning crew comes down here,” She said softly.
“We’re all going over to Stiles’ apartment to look at the brain scans and figure out what happened,” Lydia decided, turning on her heel and beginning to walk out the door.
Stiles sagged against Derek’s chest, taking in a deep breath. “Can you help me pack up my things?”
“I shouldn’t,” Derek mumbled, directing Stiles to lean against the wall, “I should just leave you to fend for yourself,”
Stiles smiled, leaning back against the wall as he watched Derek begin to pack up his things, “You would never,”
“Yeah,” Derek said softly, “I would never.”