What Happens When You Die? (Short Story)
I materialize inside a stuffy office. According to the brass nameplate on the desk, the bearded man sitting in front of me is God. My unfortunate predicament becomes abundantly clear.
"Hello God. Am I dead?"
"That’s a downer. Did I die well? I can’t seem to remember."
"No-one does. Let’s cut to the chase. You’re here because it’s judgment time. I’m going to decide if you’ve lived a benevolent and worthwhile life."
"Who made you the judge?"
"That seems fair" I mutter sarcastically.
"Hey, it’s my house, my rules! If you don’t like it, you can always get yourself a free pass."
"How do I do that?"
"Just believe that my son, Jesus, died for your sins and rose from the dead."
"That seems a bit far-fetched."
"Does being in limbo between worlds seem far-fetched too?"
"Fair point God." I stop to think for a moment, "OK, I believe! I believe that your son… um..."
"Yes, Jesus, died for…"
"Our sins, right. Then he rose from the dead! Can I get into heaven now?"
"Hmm, I don’t know."
"What do you mean you don’t know? Aren’t you omniscient?"
"I am, but I’m trying to break it to you kindly that I don’t think you’re as committed as other people I’ve let into heaven."
"What else can I do to convince you?"
"You have to really feel it in your heart."
I consider the terms, "hmm… hrrrnnnggghhh, errrggghhhh" I start sweating, "see, would you look at that, I think I’m starting to cry. I really feel it in my heart now."
God sighs audibly, "I’ll tell you what. Rather than throw you into hell, I’m going to send you next door."
"What’s next door?"
"Oh, well it was fabulous meeting you God. Fist bump? No? OK."
I leave God's office and find myself in a narrow corridor. To the left is another door. I enter to find it's identical to the room I just left. This time, however, there's someone else behind the desk.
"Hi, who are you?" I say.
"I’m Vishnu, your friendly Hindu God."
"Wow, you have four arms, and you’re blue like those things from Avatar."
"You’re not Hindu are you?"
"No, I’m, well, nothing particular. God sent me here. I don’t think he wanted to deal with me."
"The one who can’t think of a name for himself?"
"OK, I’ll do my best to help you. As you’re not Hindu, I can give you two options. Either I can reincarnate you, or I can send you next door."
"Reincarnate me? Awesome! Send me back. I’m ready to live again!"
"It’s not that simple. You won’t be the same being you were before."
"What will I be?"
"Sweet mother of… Vishnu, a penguin?"
"Yes, humans keep killing all the other creatures, but they think penguins are cute, so there’s lots of vacancies."
"You won’t feel it. Penguins have lots of blubber."
"No, I… never mind. I don’t want to be a penguin."
"Then I’ll have to send you next door."
"OK, it’s been nice meeting you Vishnu."
"I’d shake your hand, but I feel a bit outnumbered."
I leave Vishnu's office and return to the corridor. I enter the next door on the left.
"Hi, Vishnu sent me, who are you?"
"I am Allah."
"Oh, I was told about you."
"Nothing bad I hope."
"Errr, yes, all good."
"What can I do you for?"
"I was wondering how I get into Muslim heaven?"
"You must obey, worship, and submit to me; you must be disciplined; and you must punish yourself by fasting during Ramadan."
"That all sounds very S&M."
I feel the full force of Allah's words and leave the office immediately.
"Well that sucked. I wonder who's through this door."
I step inside the next office and find an empty desk. "Hello? What’s this nameplate on the desk? Zeus? I wonder where he is. Oh, there’s a note… Due to budget cutbacks Zeus cannot be here right now. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please direct all queries to Anubis next door”. "Drat, I’d better see Anubis then."
"Hello Anubis, I’m looking for a… holy crap… you have the head of a jackal."
The animal in front of me points to a scale of some sort. "What’s that you got boy? A weighing scale? What goes in there?"
"Woof" it points a finger at me.
"But I'm too big to fit in that little scale."
"Woof!!!" The animal shakes its head and pushes a finger against my chest.
"My heart? I’m not giving you my heart. We’ve only just met."
"Woof woof grrrr!!!" Anubis swiftly pulls a knife from his armor.
"Oh Christ! I mean Anubis! Sorry pooch, but my heart's in the right place."
I run into the corridor panting.
"Looks like I’m out of doors. I’ll try God again."
"Hey God, I talked with the others. They couldn’t help me either."
"Yes, that happens sometimes. You’ll have to wait in the corridor for a new position to open up."
"When will that happen?"
"When some wise ass dreams up a new religion with a new god and a new afterlife."
"That could take forever!"
"Not my problem kiddo."
"I demand to see your manager."
"You think I have a manager? I’m God."
"No, you’re a God. I’ve seen the others. I want to meet the one who fired Zeus."
"Oh her. She doesn’t like visitors and she won’t like you."
"What choice do I have? No-one can help me."
"You could let me judge you."
"No offence, but I don’t trust your judgement. Didn’t you flood the entire Earth, killing everyone?"
"That was the old me. I was a different god then. I became a right hippy two thousand years ago."
"Yea, well, I don’t want to end up in hell forever, so I think I'll pass."
"You could wait. Look, I’ll make a call and see if there are any new afterlives on the horizon."
"Shouldn’t you already know?"
"Don’t test me boy." God dials a number on his telephone and waits. "Hi, Dave, it’s me, God. I’ve got someone here asking for a different afterlife. You got any being cooked up down there?" A few moments pass. "Uh huh… oh, that’s interesting. I’ll let him know. Thanks Dave." God hangs up the phone and stares silently at his desk. I start getting impatient.
"Well?! What’s the gig?"
"Sorry, I was answering a prayer. Dave said the pantheists are looking good for it."
"It could take a few years, but you should know that it won’t be your typical afterlife."
"What do you mean?"
"The pantheists have a strange way of looking at the universe. Basically, you’ll be disassembled and every part of you will fuse with every part of everyone and everything else. It’ll be like one massive orgy from which you cannot escape."
"I told Allah I’m not into that sort of thing. Is there anything else?"
"No, that’s all there is. Now if you don’t mind, I have prayers to answer and people to judge."
"Hold on, I still want to see your manager."
"I knew you were going to say that."
"Well you are God."
"She won’t be happy to see you."
"I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it."
"Oh boy, this isn’t going to be pretty. Alright, get ready."
I hear a loud zapping noise, after which I find myself floating in space. Apparently, being dead means you don't require oxygen. A bizarre sight greets me.
"Wow, what are you?"
"I’m Mother Nature."
"Why are you female?"
"Because some wise ass… never mind that, do you have a problem with me being female?"
"No, I really don’t. What I don’t understand is why you look like a supermassive black hole."
"Are you calling me fat?"
"No, oh God, this isn’t going well."
"He can’t hear you now. I look like a black hole because I’m always being shafted by people like you. I also happen to like eating star systems such as the one I’m currently pulling into my event horizon. Don’t worry yourself though; the people on those planets have their own afterlife department."
"Lucky indeed. None of them will feel a thing when they die. How many can say that?"
"Not many I suspect. Can I ask you something?"
"If you must."
"Well, I’ve been trying to get into an afterlife, but none of them will have me. Can I visit a different afterlife department?"
"You know, you’re not the first person to ask that."
"Really, who was the first?"
"Oh, God’s friend?"
"No, why would you think that?"
"I don’t know. I guess everyone knows a Dave. Anyway, err… can I?"
"Sure, but you won’t be happy. You’ll be the only human there."
"What about Dave? Isn’t he there too?"
"No, he hated it so much he converted to Hinduism and was reincarnated as a beaver."
"Ouch. Well, I want to try it. There must be an afterlife for me."
"Hold on, I’ll put you on one of the planets I’m gulping down. You’ll have to join the queue."
"How long is the queue?"
"About twenty billion souls long."
"What? No, stop! I can’t wait that long! Oh for the love of God!"
© 2015 Thomas Swan