In 1997, a researcher inadvertently confirmed the existence of the afterlife. Her research and her invention confirmed both the existence of souls and the terrible knowledge that each soul remains alone after death, unable to communicate with the other dead and with the living.
Then in 2001, the technology she invented gave rise to the AfterNet, a worldwide network that allowed the dead—or disembodied as most preferred to be called—to interact with the living via the Internet. The device or terminal she had invented projects an electromagnetic field that the disembodied can recognize and manipulate.
Unfortunately there is no easy way for a disembodied person to prove who they were in life. The energy of a disembodied person is unique, however, and could be used for later identification, but gave no clue if that person was male or female, of what race or ethnicity or when they had died. People could record their individual energy signatures before they died (for later identification), but that didn’t help those who’d died before the discovery of the afterlife.
One could petition the AfterNet to verify one’s identity, but obviously the more famous a person one claimed to be, the harder it was to prove. And consequently the more famous an identity, the more claimants there were to it.
The majority of the disembodied, however, were just happy to be able to communicate again. Sadly, an eternal existence trapped with no ability to interact with the world had left many disembodied psychologically damaged.
Even if a disembodied person has not succumbed to despair, the reality of the afterlife is still daunting:
The disembodied cannot be seen and cannot hear, although the dead can see the entire electromagnetic spectrum. They also have a 360-degree field of view. The disembodied cannot smell, touch or taste. They do not sleep.
The disembodied are so insubstantial they cannot affect the physical world, but their energy can be contained. They can’t walk through walls, open doors or clank chains. They are easily trapped in rooms until someone opens the door. The living are constantly colliding with them. To the living, the collision is unnoticeable; to the disembodied, it is very annoying.
The disembodied vastly outnumber the living, but still have little economic and political power because of the difficulty in laying claim to their legacy, unless they made provisions before death. Thus many disembodied still work after death, to help provide for family members left behind or to pay for those amusements that help make eternity bearable. After all, reading books and watching movies and television (with subtitles) require the wherewithal to pay Amazon and Netflix.
The disembodied are unaware of each other and can only communicate via an AfterNet terminal and the Internet. The AfterNet is a multinational, non-profit organization that provides free public terminals and maintains the AfterNet portal, that offers free email to the disembodied.
The AfterNet also maintains the free terminals that most disembodied use to communicate. These nondescript black boxes can be found in shopping centres, libraries and post offices.
Using a terminal is not easy; a disembodied person has to form his or her thoughts clearly enough for the terminal to translate those thoughts into text or speech for the living to understand.
Living persons who wish to speak directly to the disembodied cans simply use the Internet, or use a portable terminal, a device similar in size and appearance to a smart phone. One speaks aloud and the terminal translates the words and projects them into the AfterNet field for the disembodied to read. The thoughts of the disembodied are similarly turned into speech for the living to hear, usually through an earbud.
A person who can project his or her thoughts directly into an AfterNet field—a difficult task for the living—could find employment as an avatar, representing a disembodied person who had managed to claim their identity and their legacy.