(Author's Note: This is an experiment, so cut me some slack.)
Strictly speaking for myself, the most surprising thing I discovered about the Afterlife and Heaven, besides the fact that they actually existed and I ended up ascending instead of going down after I died, was that it has great cell phone service. Before I get off on the wrong track I'll just say Heaven is for the most part nothing like the old preachers and supposed holy men down on Earth ever imagined, but more about that later. But it was the pleasant chirping of my totally clear and reliable cell phone, the old flip open style, that awaken me from my blissfully restful sleep. One more little tidbit, everything in Heaven can be summed up as pleasant and blissful, naturally it should go without saying but because prevailing wisdom on Earth is so wrong about the place I just added that no one would get confused.
It was Saturday morning and the light of the sun was streaming through my apartment window providing a gentle and warm incentive to return to consciousness. Quick side note, yes Heaven for humans does look a lot like Earth with housing arrangements generally similar to what a person experienced while living, just exceedingly pleasant and cozy. I have weekends off from my job, yes you still have to work in Heaven, so I wasn't in any hurry to answer the thing. For several minutes I just stayed in my bed and stretched wishing these heavenly issued devices had a button allowing us still weary humans to turn them off.
No, the call wasn't the Chairman of the Board, one of the first things you learn on arrival is that the BIG GUY doesn't like the names mere Earthlings have given him over the centuries so he just goes by that title since it is something we can handle. But anyway, the Chairman is much too busy with his own affairs running the entire multiverse, nor was it any of his various angels, they are quite busy with their own duties.
Turns out the Chairman has discovered several of the most recent universes, those under twenty-something billion Earth years old, have an inherent design flaw requiring a huge software patch that has to work without rebooting the entire system, which would end the lives of untold trillions of intelligent lifeforms. The defect has something to do with the Higgs-Boson particle and that it decays far too soon. As for the angels, there are two groups of them, the first deals with those agents of the “Other Side” which amounts to a sort of Cold War that spans all realms of existence. A second smaller group of angels oversee how Heaven is run, which to to them is considered seriously crappy duty because they really don't like any mortal beings with humans near the top of the list. The analogy tossed around is that the angels liken it to humans having to babysit an over active slime mold.
But anyway, whomever was calling me was almost certainly human, I know only one extraterrestrial here in Heaven and while we're buddies I just don't see him calling me at home. As the chirping continued I couldn't decided if I really wanted to answer the thing, but curiosity was beginning to overwhelm me so I reluctantly rolled over and picked up the cell to read the name on the tiny screen. It was then that I uttered the closest thing to a melancholy sigh you can in Heaven, it was my ex-wife and since she didn't appear to want to give up on the call I was forced to answer the thing.
“Hello Diane,” I say trying to maintain the comfortable pleasant feeling that pervades all beings who reside in Heaven. “Just what do I owe the honor of this call my dear.” I finish hoping she didn't detect the all too mortal sarcasm trickling into my voice.
“Save the pleasantries Samuel,” she said back with her usual aplomb, “I need to met with you, it's about the kids down on Earth.”
“Damn, what's happened to the kids?” I ask suddenly worried.
“Nothing,” she said back harshly, “they're all still healthy and won't come our way for at least another fifty years.”
“Then what is the issue Diane? You know there is absolutely no way for us to influence them. Our children became adults before we died and even the grandkids are getting up there in years.”
“Never you mind,” she said, “just meet me at Le Cafe Paris.”
“The one in the French sector next the ocean?” I groan realizing my blissful morning was officially interrupted. Wanting to get this over with as soon as possible I agree to the location, ended the call, and rushed to get ready.
Another little fact about Heaven for humans is that it consists of several hundred planets, all many times larger than Jupiter, orbiting an array of stars in a complex pattern that every resident mortal, including many renown scientists, believe has some meaning. The best speculation is that the whole thing is a complex machine but neither the Chairman nor is winged minions have ever said one way or the other. Needless to say, there are other similar “machines” for all the other intelligent species, so many in fact it appears to be infinite.
Humans from the seventeenth century to the time I died in the early 2010's all share a single super-planet with the continents and islands divided up evenly. If that wasn't wild enough, humans run the whole thing with surly and bored angels keeping everyone above board and playing strictly by the rules. What it all amounts to is that varying sectors making up different eras, ethnic groups, religions, and nationalities living beside each other. Needless to say, it can be quite weird to live in an American sector with 1950's technology with your next door neighbor on one side being people from Ming Dynasty China and seventeenth century Persia on the other. When you think about it maybe the angels overseeing human interaction have a right to be pissed off about their assigned duties.
At least transportation across the heavenly super-planet is easy. I just used my cell phone to call for a taxi bubble, yeah it's exactly like it sounds. It's a bubble with four seats, comfortable bucket type made of rich Corinthian leather, controlled by a human driver – remember we all have jobs here.
My driver, or pilot turns out to be a guy named Blasius, an ancient Roman who fought in the second Punic War. He actually lives a couple of planets over but has been in Heaven long enough that he can transfer anywhere he wishes. That's also how I have my poker game with my extraterrestrial buddy, if you stay cool and cooperative after a couple of millennia the angels allow a being to get an unrestricted passport. My extraterrestrial buddy was originally from a planet in the Whirlpool galaxy 23 million lightyears from Earth. On his world, males are the submissive sex but can have up to fifteen wives depending on which of their planet's seven moon are full. An interesting evolutionary development complete with an overabundance of nagging females intent on literally biting his head off so it could be feed to the gestating offspring. He thinks my one ex-wife is adorable.
But anyway, just as soon as I get buckled in Blasius lifts off and we head east towards the French sector at about mach-10 where we both begin talking about our adventures while serving our respective nations. When I was alive I did four years in the active United States Army and did a tour over in Afghanistan after 9/11, a fact that Blasius finds funny as hell since he knows a guy who served there following Alexander the Great on his egotistical empire building adventure. Long story short, no matter the technological advances as far as humans are concerned somethings never change. After an all too relaxing conversation where we both bitch about idiotic junior officers and shitty food while in the field, Blasius drops me off in the French sector near the cafe where I will have breakfast with my ex-wife.
As I stroll by small shops and other cafes, I realize I should have told Diane I wasn't interested in seeing her. Upon death and arrival here after orientation most people link up with their immediate family but that wasn't the case with Diane or myself. Since neither of us were close with our respective families the bureaucrats, human type not angel, first put me on this particular super-planet and after Diane died they dropped her here as well. Not that we have similar living arrangements, since, like I mentioned earlier you generally get assigned living arrangements like you had on Earth when you died. But to some bureaucrat looking at the files of thousands of new arrivals our past relationship counted as family.
In Diane's case she got a nice McMansion in a seriously upscale neighborhood in a different sector. This is because of who she was married to on Earth at the time of her death, our former family dentist. As fate or whatever would have it while I was turning wrenches and working rotating shifts at one of the factories in our small Indiana hometown, Diane began hooking up with Dr. Stephen Dennis DDM. A fact I didn't learn about until after the bastard had cleaned my teeth several times and taken care of a couple of my cavities. You can't imagine how infuriating it is when you learn that the guy who regularly had his hands in your mouth was also boffing your wife at the local Motel Six a couple of miles down the road from his office. Top it all off, because some desk jockey in his office was never told to remove my name from the computer program that sent out reminders so for a couple of years after the divorce I got emails from his office telling me it was time for my semi-annual check up. I admit, there were dark moments when I would have killed the bastard had I chanced upon him in some dark alleyway.
On a side note, in case you're wondering it's really quite hard to end up in the “Other Place” after you die. Not only is there this forgiveness thing but the offenses that get you sent to hell are pretty extreme. You have to be on the level of a cold blooded murderer, serial killer, bloody homicidal dictator, abusing spouse or parent, or investment banker before the angels overseeing arrivals even begin to give your record a close examination. This attitude goes for religions as well, none of the senior management gives a damn about which book you follow as long as you weren't cruel to other living things and tried to make the world in which you were born a better place. As long as a person follows those two rules they are pretty much guaranteed to walk through the Pearly Gates.
Seemingly far too soon, I spot Diane sitting at one of the outside tables of Le Cafe Paris. For a second I consider turning around and heading back to the ocean front and having breakfast at one of the restaurants there but Diane spots me and begins jumping up and down calling my name. I admit, seeing Diane looking again like she did when she was thirty years-old brought back some urges I thought were long gone. One of the things they tell you upon arrival in Heaven is that your appearance defaults back to the time you were most healthy. For Diane it was the time right after the birth of our first child while I look like I did during my time in the army.
“Alright Diane,” I say taking a seat at the table, “what's up with the kids, Peter hasn't bankrupted another business?” I ask thinking about our youngest son who honestly couldn't find his way out of a wet paper bag.
“No, Peter is fine and from the last report I bought, he's doing quite.” She says obviously upset while carefully picking up the fine china teacup and then taking a careful sip of the contents. Her movements are slow and I can see the hand holding the teacup shaking.
You might wonder why I have anything to do with my ex-wife considering how our marriage ended. It all boils down to her job here in Heaven that allows her to receive reports from Earth. Such information is expensive when available and contrary to what is believed by some dirt side, the departed do worry about those they left behind. Yeah, since the only reason I having anything to do with her is for news back home I'm screwing with Diane, probably not as bad as she did me while married but it's still wrong. The ends may in rare times justify the means but that doesn't make it moral.
“Then is the news about Ken or Beth or one of the grandkids? I ask not certain what the hell is up.
Diane was being infuriating and wasting my time, almost enough for me to say screw it and leave, no matter the cost. It was then that something clicked in me, a basic compassion for someone truly in pain that was so damn awkward it was painful. So, I slid my chair over and put my arm around the woman who I once thought I would live with until I died.
“Okay Diane, tell me what's going on down on Earth,” I say to her in what I hope is a soothing voice. She hesitates then leans into my hug and I find it strangely comforting, it feels like old, happier times.
“It's about Stephen,” she blurts out and begins crying.
A small amount of hate-filled joy creeps into my heart. I begin thinking Diane has discovered the bastard has cancer or was murdered, but no, it's nothing like that at all.
“I learned that Stephen is engaged to marry Carol, my best friend.” After that she breaks down into uncontrolled sobs. Carol was indeed Diane's best friend and I try to tell her that how the living carry on, that they make new lives after loved ones pass away. It was then that Diane let the other shoe drop.
“They were having an affair almost from the time he and I were married.” Diane said seemingly oblivious of the circumstances at how her own relationship began with the philandering dentist. So as I sat at a cafe table with my ex-wife it then that I wondered if it was possible to kill a person already in Heaven and what the punishment would be.