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“Where the hell is Vladdy? He was…where’s my f###ing watch? Isn’t anybody around here competent? Where’s my watch? Hello? What the … ? Where’s my Adderall? Vladdy? Vladdy? Where’s my Vladdy?!”

He stuck out his hand and stoved two of his teeny fingers against the cold stone wall. He screamed in protest at the pain, though most folx would have laughed it off. He blinked and tried to look around; re-orient himself. He was coming down from the Adderall. Nothing made sense. He was Undisputed King of the Universe. Yet, he seemed to be trapped in … well … it looked to him more like a prison cell than anything else. 

“F###! It is a prison cell! “ he yelled aloud to no-one in particular. “That’s right! God damn! I wish I believed in God because then … but without any of that Golden Rule crap or all the other Bull$hit. I just want a God I can call on to bail me out of trouble. Where the hell is my Vladdy?” 

He alternated among muttering, screaming, talking aloud, and pounding his teeny fists against each other. His long litany of people to blame was quite long by now. You couldn’t really say that he had the list memorized. It varied a lot from day to day, but it generally included at least the following minimal set:

{CIA, FBI, NSC, NSA, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Time, FORTUNE, FORBES, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, the US Military generally, and the USAF, USN, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Space Force in particular; The Wall Street Journal, the Obamas, the Clintons, FDR, JFK, Jimmy Carter, RINOS, rhinos, the UN, the EU, Brexit, Bad Luck, George Soros, Bill Gates, Bad Germs, Doctors, WHO, Doctor WHO, the FDA, OSHA, EPA, NASA, People of Color, Mexico, People of Color from Mexico, Asians, Asia, Africa, South America, Canada, immigrants, emigrants, migrants, grants, rants, ants, NTSB, China, UK, Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, homosexuals, hemophiliacs, hemispheres, trans people, cis people, people with big hands, people with other big stuff, any other people}. 

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“Look at this place! I need a palace! Not this place! Wait. All I need is the letter ‘A’ and I can change the “place” into “palace” — hah! I may be down, but I’m definitely not out. Now, where the hell to get an “A”? Hey, God!! YO!! Give me an ‘A’ — no? Nothing. That’s how it’s gonna be huh? Wait till I get out of here! Hey! You want to prove you exist? Give me an ‘A’ right now! No? Then, do me a favor and just kill me right this second.” 

Did you ever have one of those dreams where you fall off your bike and you jerk awake suddenly? Or, perhaps you’ve dreamt of flying but then it turns into a dream of falling and depending on your personality, it’s either kind of fun or absolutely terrifying. For him, it was terrifying. And, even though it only lasted for ten minutes, it seemed to him as thought it lasted forever. He never admitted fear during his entirely cowardly life before prison and he wasn’t about to start now. He kept a stack of chips close at hand so he could always put one or two on his shoulder. After a ten minute free fall of sheer dark pinwheeling terror, he judged that putting a whole damned stack of chips on his shoulder was not out of line. So, it’s perhaps understandable that his first words to Saint Peter were:

“Who the F### are you? And where the F### am I?”

I don’t know how you imagine St. Peter’s voice, but I think of it as full and deep like an opera singer’s voice. No. Not like an opera singer but more like a duet with a chorus in the background, yet with every word completely intelligible no matter how many hair cells you’ve lost along the way because you were a drummer in a Rock Band, say, or served in live combat unlike the protagonist of our current story, who would do anything and tell any lie to stay as far away as possible from live combat.

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So, the operatic fullness of St. Peter’s voice echoed as though in a nested set of cathedrals, each connected to others across the globe and back through millennia. This is what he said:

“We are here for the sorting. It won’t take long.” 

Perhaps it should appear more like this:

“We are here for the sorting. It won’t take long.” 

But that just makes it sound big, not resonant or magical. Best to stick with ancillary descriptions, wouldn’t you say? Let’s get back to the response of our protagonist.

“Sorting? What sorting? Wait! Is this that heaven or hell thingy? That’s all BS to grab money — or, so I thought. What?” 

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Again the voice — a voice that had overtones of oceans roaring, rain falling, thunder booming, bells chiming, children laughing, wolves howling, and the nightingale singing. This time it said:

“Oh, no. Not at all. It’s much more specific and subtle.”

Now you or I might wait till we heard more about the situation we were in before saying anything else. Here’s the odd thing. Some people would view as brave just thoughtlessly blurting out something that could alter the course of your whole life — or afterlife. But I view rashness as a sign of weakness and cowardliness. In essence, the blurter cannot stand not knowing the outcome. They turn to jelly in the face of the unknown. It takes more courage to gather data, gather data, always upgrading and updating your plan and doing the best that you know how. That’s wisdom and courage. Blurting out the first thing that flashes in your brain is neither. But that is what our protagonist is all about. 

“Well, I am rich and famous! So give me a great place — the greatest place — in all of heaven. Obviously!”

I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t think of Christian Saints as smiling exactly. Perhaps they have that beatific “All is Life and Life is All and God is All and All is Good” loving everything smile. Come to think of it, it’s very much like Buddha’s smile.

But no. Saint Peter’s smile this time wasn’t that smile. It was a genuine smile about 50% camaraderie. It also held 40% of the usual saintly “God is in me and you and it’s all good” smile. But, I swear, there — right there — at the corner of his lips —  was 10% the smile of irony, of karmic justice, of snark, of satire,  — all my favorite genres rolled into one. It cannot be said that it was a purely saintly smile. But, after all, anyone would have to be heartless not to see the beauty and the wisdom in our protagonist’s new “assignment” among the world of the living, or, more likely a world that seems like the world of the living.

Our protagonist found himself propelled backward in time to the womb of a very dark woman in Brazil. Her tribe had lived in this part of the rain forest for millennia. Now, they were being forced out for — well, I could give you a long causal chain — or really network — but let’s just cut to the chase — she was being forced out, along with her whole tribe for greed. That’s the bottom line. Some extremely wealthy people wanted to become more extremely wealthy and they didn’t really care if it meant uprooting a 5000 year old civilization and making life miserable for every one of the inhabitants. Oh, and I should mention, hastening global climate change catastrophes as well. 

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Anyway, she had to sell her own body and later her young daughter’s body as well (our protagonist in a former life) for food and transportation. It was a perilous journey; a difficult journey; a hellish journey. More than once, the child had been ready to end it all, but the mother comforted the child, now lame from too many beatings at the hands of her many molesters and urged her on. The mother told the child of a land where there would be no more beatings. In this land, they didn’t care about where you came from. They didn’t care about the color of your skin. They would give you a chance. No-one was above the law. When we get to this promised land, all will be well. All will be well is what she told her child.

When they finally got to that fabled land of milk and honey, that shining city upon the hill, something slightly different from the mother’s dream for her daughter came to pass.

They were separated and never saw each other again. They yelled and screamed for each other but there were just the two of them and those who pulled them steadily farther apart were many and armed and strong. Each heard the voice of the other becoming fainter and fainter. At last though, nothing but memory.

But that didn’t stop the molestations; not for mother; nor for her daughter. 

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Can it be that earth is actually an elaborate method to extract punishment? If so, how many lifetimes will it take for our protagonist to atone?

Does each person really write, direct, and star in their own play? Or, are some of us, merely bit players in dramas constructed for another purpose entirely? 

If we view Karma this way, isn’t there also a danger of blaming people born into bad circumstances because they must have done something bad in their “previous life”?

I believe we can co-construct the future on this earth. We can collectively write the play, direct it, and play parts. Of course, we’ll have to improvise as well. We can make this world less filled with pain, less filled with racism, less filled with misogyny, and more filled with truth and beauty and grace. 

Will we be rewarded in an afterlife

I don’t know. 

But I do know we will be rewarded through the lives that come after. Let’s make the world better for those lives. Countless millions made the world we live in better for us.

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Other stories in the “Heaven’s Gate” series. 






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