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This work was over two years in the making, and was inspired by my partner, HJK Cardinalis, as we drove home through the beautiful canyonlands along Highway 199 in northern California and southern Oregon. It started with a discussion of spiritual power and weakness in human beings, and then went on to religion and the afterlife. We both really love Dead Like Me, the short-lived series by Bryan Fuller, and that confluence with our discussion topics started the fire.
I didn't want it to read like a sermon, so I didn't write it like one. If anything, I wanted to answer Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Inferno, which is one of my all-time favorite novels. In that story, the protagonist dies and goes to Hell. I personally don't believe Hell exists; and I am tired of authors avoiding Heaven. It's too boring, they'll tell you. Perhaps the standard Christian version is; but not mine. I suspect Heaven, which I do believe in, is infinitely more interesting, and so are its occupants, including its Creator.
I also wanted to take a crack at another religion: materialism. Many of its adherents are as infantile as Christian fundamentalists, and as damaging. This age we live in is the most atheistic in human history, and the results are evident all around us. I can't--and I won't--just stand silent as so many do while the earth burns. Technology won't save us; only a real and permanent change in our spirits will.
I have posted the first five chapters.
The airplane Professor Ray Wilms was in just exploded. Somehow he survived the fireball and tons of burning metal as it blew away into the night air over San Diego, California. He has no idea how he's still conscious. He's strapped to his seat and hurtling straight for the Pacific Ocean thousands of feet below.
Astonishingly, he's not frightened. As the ocean rises to smash him dead, a vision of the angel who was sent to save him engulfs him. It's a vision of the past, of their meeting for the first time, but seen from over the angel's shoulder.
Dr. Wilms was once an unyielding skeptic and atheist. As the final seconds of his life tick away, he wonders: What am I now? As he gives over to the vision and follows the angel around, he must decide before the dark sea claims him.
Come an' sing me down
Give my conscience a poundin'
Come an' shake my ground, Lord
With the sound of Heaven's houndin'
~from "Clogger" by 16 Horsepower
Love, and do what thou wilt.
~Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430)
Enter by the narrow gate.
For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leadeth to suffering,
and those who go through it are many.
But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leadeth to true life,
and those who find it are few.
~Jesus of Nazareth (c. 2 BCE - c. CE 33)
THE CROWD along
in , did not see him appear. But no
one in that shithole town ever sees anything. Assholes. All of them. The whole
fucking city. San Diego, California
I should know. I was one of them—an asshole. Blind, deaf, and goddamn dumb.
He told me that God doesn’t mind strong or harsh opinions. He shared my opinion of this town and its citizens and its dusty, desolate, corporate, polluted, gang-tagged ugliness. I remember what he said about it. He said cursewords aren't a problem either.
I sure hope he's right, because I'm about to die.
The little girl—Carrie—smiled at me, and then unbuckled her seatbelt and left to rejoin her guardian. The FASTEN SEATBELTS sign had just gone off. I said good-bye to her. And then I knew my time was up.
I almost wasn't surprised when the plane exploded.
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!—and the whole front of it peeled back over me and was gone. There was an ear-piercing burst of sound— shrieks of mortal horror, violently decompressing air, metal twisting and snapping, the hot, blinding roar of the fuel tanks ... and then only the steady sound of wind howling in my ears. I'm falling. I'm strapped to my seat and I'm falling.
Slow motion. I’m flipping and twisting in mid-air. The orange lights of the city and
Tijuana to the south spin around me, as does the
sliver of a new moon rising over the . It reflects in
the giant blackness following it. The Pacific. That’s where gravity is taking
me. I’ll die when I smash down into it. Laguna
How did I survive the explosion? The force of the wind should've ripped my head from my shoulders. The tons of metal flying back—how did it miss me? How can I be conscious?
The scientist in me can't believe it. The probabilities ...
Oh, fuck the probabilities. For years I wore them like blinders. I'm falling; I'm conscious; and I'm about to die. I'm not even all that frightened about it.
The explosion. Just after it the vision came—Calliel appearing suddenly in the crowd walking up
There was no flash of light with his appearance, no sounds of angelic trumpets
blaring, no choir of celebration. He was just there between the lady with the poodle and the skinny bearded man
with the Bob Marley beanie hanging precariously on his huge 'fro. Did I just
laugh? I believe I actually did! Laughing—at the moment of my death! Calculate that probability, motherfucker!
It's a miracle. It’s a proper goddamn miracle.
All of this is.
I think it finally sank in, for good and forever, when Carrie was talking to me. Everything Calliel had said was right.
Carrie. She's safe. Infinitely safe. There's not a single atom of doubt in me that she is. It was quick for her. Painless. She'll get another shot.
Slow motion. The spinning sea is coming to kill me. The vision of Calliel is inviting me back. The dizzy lights of the city are spreading like glittering garbage over the cresting black wave of the horizon.
Will they find my body? I don't believe I give a shit if they do.
It's a miracle—all of it.
The vision is calling. I think as my final act on this Earth, I’ll let it take me.