The Psyche's Last Chance is a psychological theory brought up within Nathaniel J. Nelson's 2017 supernatural thriller novel Quantum Flight 888, a reflection of several storylines depicted in prior media.
The theory holds that, when a human being is near death from a certain type of offense, their mind will conjure up a fantasy world which they will perceive as totally real (their brain stimulating all five senses) in which they will be given the chance to accept their emotional hangups and wake up, or fail to accept them and slip into death. Within Quantum Flight 888, the theory was proposed by an unknown psychologist at some time in the past, and has been a subject of debate for many writers such as Gene Bell.
Quantum Flight 888
In Quantum Flight 888, the Psyche's Last Chance theory is first mentioned in a school paper written by Eva Van Savage, involving the horror genre and how it may reflect real-world psychology. She references Gene Bell, a nonfiction writer whose works involve the supernatural: Bell referenced the Psyche's Last Chance in his 1991 book They're Not Just Movies: How Horror Relates to the Hidden World. Eva goes on to write about how many psychologists dispute the theory, claiming it is borderline supernatural in essence, while Bell claimed that human beings are inherently supernatural.
The theory is later brought up in a flashback by Jessi Gibson, who has recently written a school paper on the subject: she refers to the fantasy world as a "lucid dream," and is unable to answer when David Gosselin asks how the Psyche's Last Chance would fare if the subject has been shot.
In the third act of the novel, all the point of view characters (excluding Neil Munster and Eva Van Savage, who at this point are deda) are sent into the Psyche's Last Chance by the spiraling powers of Caleb Poore. Delilah Arain finds herself on a desert island known as Last Chance Island, where she is confronted by a version of her father and learns to accept that, despite her constant guilt, she has done nothing wrong by rebelling against her religious upbringing. Joshua Teller finds himself in a labyrinth beneath a pyramid, in which he realizes that he has caused all his own problems by blaming others for his shortcomings. Jessi Gibson finds herself in a Colonial New England carnival, in which she accepts that her greatest fear is not being taken seriously by others. Caleb himself finds himself in a cemetery – implied to be more supernatural than psychological – in which he meets both of his now-dead parents and accepts his role as unintelligent but supremely powerful. Caleb later witnesses the minor characters' fantasy worlds, including Joan Krantz (in a classroom, continuously reliving her misunderstood relationship with Eva) and Robert Noran (in which he is performing an autopy on a man who holds great significance to him).
The characters in Quantum Flight 888 who survived their fantasy worlds go on to lead better lives, although the memories of these discoveries fail almost immediately after they wake up: Delilah manages to forgive her father, and even allows him to give her away at her wedding; Joshua dedicates his life to studying the supernatural and returns his stolen artifact to its rightful place; Jessi no longer sees herself as a victim by default, learning to value strength over anger.