Short Fiction

Afterlife for the Post-Modernist

By Matt Johnson
January 6, 2003

Being an atheist for most of his life, the man had no idea what to expect once he died. Much to his surprise, he found himself facedown on a giant bank of fluffy clouds.

"Get on up, young one," a voice said. "You have fallen. Stand up!"

The man ambled to his feet and stared at a giant being, dressed in robes as white as pure light, with a long white beard and a kind smiling face.

"Welcome to eternity, my new friend," he said in a low, rumbling voice.

The man looked around. He seemed to be walking on the flat top of a giant puffy cloud that extended as far as the eye could see in every direction. The bright sun shined above and the bright blue sky extended from one horizon to the other.

"Is this heaven?" the man asked.

"Some call it that," the Being said. "Come. Walk with me to your new home and we will talk some more." The man ran to keep up with the strides of the celestial giant as his questions came pouring out.

"What is this place? Why am I here?" the man asked. "And who are you?"

"This is the afterlife where all enlightened souls who seek true harmony with the universe end up, and I am your guide in this new journey."

"You are? Are you like an angel, or God, or Buddha? You know, I didn't believe in any god when I was on earth," the man said. "I thought that man invented god to explain what he didn't understand about the laws of nature and to act as a security blanket in life after death."

"And that was true for you while you lived on earth," the Being said, "and it was surely right as you wanted it be."

"Oh," the man said dumbly. "But what about sin, and the Bible, and all that stuff?"

"Sin?" the Being asked. "Sin is judging others instead of paving your own path and following the road that is right for you. You have arrived on this higher plane because you followed the one true rule of the universe--you were true to yourself. You passed no judgment upon others and sought no moral council from an ancient book of virtues. You followed your heart, and your heart has lead you here."

The two approached a giant golden gate. Inside, the man could see countless people dancing and singing merrily inside, and his spirits lifted. It looked like a giant party here for all to enjoy. The man smiled and mopped sweat from his brow. Wasn't the sun beating down awfully hard? It feels so warm up here. Perhaps because I'm closer to the sun, he thought.

A smiling man with blonde hair and giant white wings stood by the gate. He held a giant book in his hands.

"And your name?" he asked kindly.

The man told him and asked, "Is that the guest book for this place?"

"Oh no," the angel said. "This is our uninvited book. All are welcome here except those whose names are written in this book."

The man frowned. "Who are they?"

"The closed-minded and the intolerant who don't share our rich diversity of values. Don't worry, your name is not written inside."

The man nodded and stared for a moment at the golden gates. The paint seemed to be flecking off in places. The Being took him by the hand.

"Are you coming?"

"Sure," the man said quietly as they passed through the door together.

The golden gates slammed shut. The man whirled around and stared as the gold paint vanished and was replaced with rusty iron. The sun disappeared and the blue sky dissolved into a rocky ceiling. Fire and sulfur replaced the fluffy clouds and the man realized that the humans weren't singing and dancing--they were wailing and writhing in this fiery cauldron.

The man turned and stared at the wise old Being, who smiled hatefully in return.

"Welcome home," he hissed as he raised his pitchfork.