Extract: The Man Who Never Was by Douglas Kruger

David shares a close bond with his eight-year-old son, Chris, but their family is destroyed when David dies. In the afterlife, he is given an opportunity. He is told that he may be granted three viewings by which to look in on his son. What David sees will not leave him, and he decides to make a simple but impassioned request.



“I can’t tell you what the angel showed me of this vast kingdom, but I can tell you what I was permitted, and it was surprising.

‘The Great Chasm between us and the world of your past can’t be breached,’ the angel explained. ‘It is a divide not just of distance but of type. You can no more go there than music can build a mountain or pain pile stone upon stone.’

He paused. I think he knew that I was thinking about Chris and about his mother. Jen, who had come so far; Jen, who had kept her head above water all Chris’s life, even to her own astonishment.

To the centre of my being, I ached to see my beautiful boy. Just to tell him he would be okay, to let him know that I was okay, and to impress on him that he didn’t have to be scared; that his daddy went on. Thinking of him feeling scared because of my removal twisted parts inside me.

And Jen … she was a decade out of the deep waters.

Please God, don’t let those tides turn.

Not being with them didn’t feel like mere separation. It felt like having a part torn out of me. Ripped off, then hidden.

I know full well that my pain is not a unique one. We have felt that pain since the dawn of our species. Each of us hands the capacity for it to the next generation, like some loathsome, precious baton, and yet to each of us, as we experience it, it is the most acute and personal ache there is. It is real like nothing else is real.

‘However,’ the angel said, ‘as a mercy and a gift, you may be shown someone you love.’

I stopped walking.


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