Angels in Hell
“I remember being killed. Is that weird? I was walking off stage at the Indiana State Fair. Posing for pictures, shaking hands. Then I get punched in the back, fall off the stage into the mud. All I remember after that is the press of people and all of them screaming for someone to call 9-1-1.”
The man behind the desk, the one who had greeted me when I woke up in this nice office, smiled. “Not at all, Colby! Those who die when awake usually remember their last moments in the flesh. It’s the people who die in their sleep that drive us here in Receiving and Orientation nuts; usually takes hours to convince them that they aren’t dreaming.”
Sam - he had told me his name when I showed up - laughed at some joke only he was getting. I pressed on. “Just to be clear here, and meaning no offense, did you say I’m in Hell? Not quite what I was expecting. I’m not sure if I should even be here! I led a life of public service!”
Sam was leafing through a thick file that hadn’t been there before. “Oh, you belong here. Colby Garrand, junior United States Senator for Michigan, former Governor of Michigan, former Deputy DA for Oakland County. At the time of your death, you were on your way to the Republican nomination for President. Seems you lied, backstabbed, and cheated your way to the top.” Sam peered at me over the top of the file folder. He had very dark eyes. “A man after my own heart, really. Know what you haven’t asked?”
I shook my head.
“You haven’t asked who shot you. It was Miles Matthews, nephew of Frank Matthews, the man you railroaded into prison and death.”
I shot to my feet. “Now you hold on one darn minute. . .”
Sam also lept out of his chair. He was very big. “No, YOU wait. You withheld evidence from the defense, you intimidated witnesses and you bribed a judge. Then, as Governor, you manipulated the parole board. Frank Matthews was innocent, and he died in an attack in a prison workshop. That alone gets you into Hell.” Suddenly this wasn’t funny. My mouth got very dry. I tried to swallow past the lump in my throat.
Sam noticed my distress and produced a couple of beers. “Now, let’s talk eternal punishment! Since both your exes are in Heaven, you’ll be assigned a bachelor pad. You’ll be close to the library - which has everything ever written - and a rec center. Oh, I’ve taken the liberty in enrolling you in the Infernal Bar Association. Lawyers in Hell, who knew, right?” Sam laughed at his joke. “Mostly it’s a debate forum and drinking society. Now what else do we have here. . .”
“Bar Association? Rec center? What kind of punishment is this?” I couldn’t help myself.
Sam looked up. “Oh, that. Excuse me for a moment.” He stood up and left the room.
Before I could wonder where he had gone, I was suddenly enveloped in a blanket of pure love and protection. Infinite love, freely given, as old as creation. Then it stopped. I fell to the floor as Sam reentered. “Please!” I babbled, “Please do that again! I’ll pay anything! Anything!”
Sam considered me from the edge of his desk. “No, that was your one shot. That was what you gave up; that was the presence of God. You could have had that for eternity.” He pulled me back into my chair. “Know why we Fallen hate you so much? You’ll get over this. You’ll heal. It’s the gift that we fought the Throne for, the Free Will denied to us. We won the war, did you know that? But in the peace we were exiled to watch you termites build a new nest. What you just felt is our birthright, and you cast it off in pursuit of temporal power and pleasure.” Behind me a door swung open. “This entry interview is over. Get out. Take your reception packet and leave.”
I hurried out the door, clutching the thick envelope of papers that had popped into my hands. Behind me, before the door could close, I could faintly hear Sam sobbing.