The contestants filed out one by one and stood behind their column. A glowing button, red, in front of them. He talked to people with a great fluency. My father in this life had a direct manner that he had not possessed when I had known him. He was rapid and witty. He was physically changed; sturdier, a cleft chin, hair greying at the sides. He was American, not Swedish. He had a catchphrase: Time for you to push it! He meant the button but maybe also maybe their personal sense of what was doable. What was worth the risk. A woman won five thousand pounds and started to cry with joy. All the tears lit up red across her face. Her throat was chugging up and down. Goodbye, and until next time, my father said to the camera.

At the support group, we drank lukewarm coffee from one of those industrial aluminium dispensers. The button jammed and I fought with the urge to kick it over. Many of us were angry all the time. There was water, too, in dissolving paper cups. Somebody had brought coconut-and-jam macaroons that flaked all over us. I was very into details, the noticing of them, as if the noticing could prevent disaster or at least allow me to prepare for it. Hyper-vigilance. It is a formative trauma, the head of the support group told us. Accept and honour it. I did not want to, belonging as I did to the section of the group that did not like to talk about their parents. We were a slouching, antisocial few. It was good to remember that I was not alone, at least. But when the others stood up and recited their stories (some of which had been performed for us before) I realised I would never tell them about my father sliding batter around in a hot pan or tying up my shoes, let alone his appearance one evening on the television when I was moving from channel to channel, the automatic motion of my thumb on the control. Flick. Flick.

At the beginning of the discovery, I spent a whole weekend watching old clips of the gameshow. I downloaded everything I could find and watched in horror, in love. I recognised him at once, despite the differences. They said you could do that. A spark was left. The same spark responsible for déjà vu and for love at first sight. A neurological doubling. Lots of things had found themselves explained across the last few years. It was good to have the mystery squeezed out of things, to leave the dry husks lying where they lay. Yes, I was unromantic. That weekend I cried many non-cathartic tears. I also tried to make a list of evidence, but there was nothing concrete to write except for something in my brain lurching towards his, an imprint somewhere primeval. He laughed a big and chesty laugh, almost a cough. He waved a fist happily through the air. Somebody had won the jackpot and he had orchestrated it. That was purity. That was benevolence.

There was no denying that, the death of my parents aside, the boom had been good for me personally. My role was Future Resting Executive. I worked closely with those near to death and together we came up with a show-stopper. People went to funerals the way they had gone to weddings in the past. They accumulated ideas in embossed leather folders for their ceremonies and discussed caskets, fireworks, dining options. If the client was wealthy I would work with their end-of-life consultant, the professional figure who helped orchestrate those last moments, doling out the pills or perhaps putting their hand on the trigger in a soft guidance, perhaps even ministering the lethal injection themselves, although the ins-and-outs of it all were still sort of hazy and needed hammering out, legally speaking. But whether you could afford a consultant or it was just you, alone in a room with your quick last breaths and your fear and excitement, shadows playing on the wall—the outcome was the same. You went somewhere else. You disappeared and reappeared. It was my responsibility to orchestrate those plans we had picked out so carefully. I remained a person left behind.

It was important to have a vibrant social life, the head of the support group told us, so we sometimes got together of an evening and tried to pretend that we were friends. The others were mostly younger than me and earnest. We went dancing, or drank cocktails, or sometimes would watch a documentary on a projector at someone’s house and then it would lead into a debate about the ethics of the personal revivalism movement, but we were all on the same side so it was never really that much of a debate, unless I decided to throw a grenade in. I knew how to push people’s buttons. I would invent a scenario and then sit back and watch them worry it like dogs with a chew toy.

How often could you do it and remain spiritually uncompromised, a question on the movement’s official FAQ page asked. I checked the website all the time, looking for new research. It was ostensibly part of my job. It depends on the revival, and the person in question, the answer came. As with so many things regarding health, we believe it depends on constitution, genes, and more. I clicked off and went to a YouTube video where a sweating man talked about the soul in terms of a shoe with fragile leather. You can only put it through so much, he explained. Each time, you lose shine. The material will crack irreparably, in the end.

I liked to talk to my father when I was cooking. I switched the sound off on the television and looked back over my shoulder occasionally, listing off what I’d done that day. I wanted him to look right into the camera. Sometimes I thought about the strange luck of his being recalled to this time period, when the options were literally infinite. Again, the neurological doubling; the invisible fish-hook of another connected spirit. It was more common than you would have thought. At the support group, Sad Keith talked about going to church and seeing a baby hefted up by a stranger, a baby that was definitely his mother. He had asked to hold her and been refused. He said the whole episode had really set him back. We had all found ourselves running back along the road at some point, chasing somebody who had passed us. Once I even thought I had seen my own mother in the jaunty tail-swing of a bird, a drab tan and grey one. Anything felt possible of the dead. Was there a limit to how much they could amaze and dismantle us? I didn’t think so.

A client was assigned to me, a woman my age, in the expectation that I would provide an empathetic and on-trend experience. Lucy. She was jittery, even though it wouldn’t be happening for a few weeks. I looked at her soft face and wondered whether she would return as a pure, new baby or an old person gasping back to life after an episode of sleep apnoea or a cyclist, grievously injured, coming to from a road collision. It was impossible to tell. It was not really my place to wonder. Instead I brought out my mood-boards and colour schemes, some sample menus. We sorted everything out and by the end she was beaming. I was good at my job. Afterwards I went into the bathroom and cried rare tears for a while.

My parents had done it quite close to the start of the boom. My father had gone first, walking off into the snowy forest that surrounded our house one winter day. My mother had followed him, a month later. She was less on my mind because she had never returned to me. Maybe our bond had never been that strong. I was seventeen years old. I stayed in the house for another year, alone, feeding sticks into the woodburner and hunting birds with a pellet gun and foraging for morels when I wasn’t at school. It was that sort of resilience that made me good at my job.

Are you going to be bold? my father asked the contestants, but also me. I was eating a microwaved dinner of wild rice and meatballs. I had overcooked it and there was a crisped wedge of sauce attached to the edges of the plastic dish, the sort he would have been horrified by. Sauce burnt on at the edges of the tray, probably carcinogenic. Are you ready to press the button? Will you be fast enough? Will you be the winner? I abandoned the food and went into the kitchen and put white wine and ice into a blender together so that it became a delicious alcoholic slush. It was this kind of innovation that I wished I could share with another person, but when I raised my glass to the television screen nobody could see it, of course.

Lucy came in again. She was going to die in two days’ time. She wasn’t jittery any more, just pleased and excited. What a great adventure I am going on, she said to me, like she was going to climb Everest or visit Rome. We discussed her method. I had a gallows humour that I tried to reign in unless I could sense that the party in question would be into it, but I didn’t get that vibe off her. Lucy’s funeral was going to be elegant. She had asked for linen drapes, everything in cream and ecru. Baby-blue and lilac peonies and hydrangeas. Afterwards there would be a sit-down meal with chilled garlic soup and madeleines served afterwards on silver trays. She was from a rich family. ‘I’ve picked up a lot of ideas from my friends’ weddings,’ she told me. ‘It just needs to be classy. I want them to weep until they drown.’

Sometimes, I had read, it was possible my father dreamed of me. It is possible he awoke from some distant memory of squeezing a child’s fat leg and looked in the mirror the morning with the edges of the dream still upon him, somewhere, and felt unknown to himself.

Before the support group I went to a bar and drank three vodka martinis alone. Everyone in the bar was young and precious, fitting their lives like a glove. They looked like there was no reason for them to seek spiritual growth elsewhere. There were chrome lamps drooping from the ceiling, small plates of elaborate food. When I got up from my stool to go to the meeting, the room dipped and righted itself. Everyone seemed very disappointed in me.

There was a person missing from the support group. It was Sad Keith. ‘He has gone to a better place,’ the group leader told us. ‘Or maybe a much worse one!’ I shouted back, and everyone looked at me as though I had sworn. ‘I think you should go home now,’ the group leader told me. She was right. I walked home with my arms swinging. I switched on the television. There were only re-runs of the show, no new episodes. ‘Can’t you see that I need you,’ I told my father. He couldn’t see. I poured another vodka into a small, dirty glass. I smashed the glass when I had drunk it. I ground it under the heel of my shoe. Something began to uncurl in my thoughts.

‘Trouble sleeping—we see that a lot,’ the doctor had said to me as he scribbled the prescription, a long time ago. He’d winked at me as he’d handed it over. ‘Hope that helps.’ It was a huge prescription, for three hundred pills. I still had most of them.

I stood in my living room with the TV on mute and stared at the wall. There was a patch of mould just above the bay window, and it had bothered me vaguely for months, but in that moment I fixated upon it, hated it with a million volts of hatred electricity. The patch of mould seemed to sum up everything wrong with my life, the dirty tenaciousness of it, the sadness of it, the fact that even though you could find solutions and be positive, ultimately there was no making things clean and good. It was only a matter of time. I took the pills.

And then—there was a light. It was pale pink and pulsing, like I was inside a giant ear, listening to the throb of blood. I was lying on something soft. It was so comfortable, I could have stayed there all day. The soft thing started to cocoon me. I started to become the soft thing. All my cells were dissolving. I was a liquid hovering in the air, and suddenly I was the light, and moving quickly down a plughole. I wasn’t scared at any point. It was sort of like the time the bad ones in the support group had thrown an unofficial Out Of Body But Still Ourselves party, and I had taken a lot of ketamine and lain underneath a blanket, warm and paralysed. Now when I twitched my fingers, there was a shimmer of light around me, still descending down this strange red plughole. The pulsing turned into a thudding the further down we got. Boom. Boom. Boom. I closed my eyes and felt the sound become louder and louder, pressing in on me until it was the roar of a jet plane, until I was squeezed into a pip, a drop of blood.

And then I opened them. And I was in hospital. A hard white bed with the covers all tucked in. A tube down my throat. My head hurt. By the side of my bed was my father, but not my father. He looked exhausted. At his side was a tiny blonde woman with a sharp face, a person I assumed to be my mother, though I didn’t feel the same pull, the neurological doubling, the whatever. Thinking about my father-not-father made my head hurt more, so I decided not to worry about it. When the woman noticed my eyes upon her, she burst into tears. ‘Look,’ she said, pulling at my father’s sleeve. ‘She’s alive!’

‘She’s alive!’ my father called out, jumping to his feet. Other people echoed it too. Lots of nurses and doctors ran in and started doing things to the machines surrounding my body. I could tell from their voices that I was in a different country. My new mother touched my knee very gently, over the covers. My body felt very small. I had no idea what age I was.

And already the person I used to be was fading quickly. I shut my eyes again and called it up. Soon there would be nothing there for me to remember. I thought Godspeed to the human whose body I lived in now, wherever their own soul, their little scrap of ether and mystery and fizz, had gone. I remembered, I remembered, I remembered. This is what they were all talking about, I thought to myself as a deep rush of joy flooded my entire body. Then like that, as if the joy had replaced everything—though it would remain in some shape or form for years, the memory of that warmth, puzzling, which the doctors would attribute to my miraculous recovery from the injuries sustained in an accident I could not quite remember—I forgot, and I was gone.