by = Tristan A. Arts
Reverend Jerry Falwell was working in his office late one night, quite pleased with the fruits of his labor, but concerned about all the work he had left to do in order to cleanse the world of sin. These thoughts so absorbed him that he failed to notice anything out of the ordinary, like the woman standing in front of his desk and staring straight at him.
When he finally looked up and saw her, he gave such a start that he felt a pain in his chest. And before he could do so much as clutch his pained heart, she reached into his chest as though he was made of air and pulled him out of his body. Not that he knew what was going on, though. He just felt her pull him out of his chair and across his desk.
He got up, wheezing, and leaned against his desk for support. When he finally caught his breath and looked up at the strange woman, he just got even more angry and confused. For “she” – whoever she was – was dressed up as Little Bo Peep, complete with a shepherd's crook in her right hand. His thoughts, for some reason, went straight to those festivals of sin called gay pride parades. But that was silly – she was a woman. But she was dressed abnormally, and had broken into his office and was bothering him mightily.
“What... who in God's name are you? How did you get in here? Guards!” he didn't know why, but he decided to run towards the exit. However, with a snap of her fingers, he found himself chained by his arms and legs to the floor. Now he was really scared. She possessed evil witchcraft! She must be one of those witches God hates, he thought.
Another snap of her fingers, and his mouth vanished, becoming just smooth skin. He could no longer talk! He struggled against the chains, and she walked over in front of him and looked him in the eye with anger burning in hers.
“If you promise to shut up and listen to me, or at least keep mostly quiet, then I'll give you your mouth back, Mister Falwell. Agreed?”
He glared at her.
She smiled sarcastically. “I'll take that for a grudging 'yes,' and your voice shall only be a whisper for it.”
She snapped her fingers again, and his mouth returned. He immediately tried screaming for help again, but all that came out was a soft moan. He finally gave up, but kept his head held high in defiance against this devil-woman who was trapping him. He wondered why no one had yet come to help him. Was she keeping them locked out with her magic?
“Good. I'm glad to see you've decided to be quiet. It really won't do you any good anyway, no one can hear you scream when you're dead. Yes, that's right,” she responded to his incredulous look, “I am the Discordian Grim Reaper, and you – Reverend Jerry Laymon Falwell – have finally spewed your last hateful sermon for this lifetime. Just look over there at your dead body sitting in your chair.” She allowed him to turn around and look. He saw it, but did not believe it, even though some part of him, deep inside, knew instinctively that she was right – the same way that most people feel a sense of vertigo when looking down a canyon wall or over the side of a skyscraper.
“You have no idea how long I've been waiting for this day,” she continued. “The only reason it didn't happen faster is because your God is very forgiving. No matter how much hatred you spewed in His name, He kept insisting that you'd see the error of your ways and repent. Well, that whole 9/11 bullshit you were spouting was a big point against you. And last night, he finally agreed that you were a hopeless cause.”
“Discordian?” he croaked out. “So you ARE a devil!”
She smiled. “No. Maybe by your definition – after all, anyone you don't agree with is a devil to you, right? But no. You see, there's this little thing called Free Will. And because of free will, The Source Of Everything knew that its children would return to It, call to It, in any way that came to mind. So The Source set it up so that no matter what name was being called, it was always The Source. Or God, if you will. And It set in place myriad lesser Gods, like your own God or Eris of the Discordians, in order to help that process along. And also, human belief in an entity creates that entity. Your God is just as much a creation of belief as Eris is, but they are both absolutely real.”
“Where is Heaven, then? Why are you here, if I really am dead?”
“Oh you do have a poor short-term memory, don't you? Either that or you need to be further convinced. Very well. You see, if you had ever actually read the Bible, you'd know that Jesus, when he was alive, was a rebel; a long-haired, bleeding-heart liberal. He was opposed to people like you. Had he been alive when you were, he would have been your biggest enemy. You two would be engaged in an all-out war of words with each other. And now a God with the same ideas and beliefs as the man Jesus was formed by belief in the historical Jesus, and so it's almost like having the real historical Jesus as your God. Which means that you will not be allowed into Heaven until you repent in your heart.”
A glass of water formed on his desk, and she picked it up and drank its entire contents. She set the glass down and it vanished as though it had never been.
“So anyway, Mister Falwell, because of your differences of opinion, your God does not want you in Heaven... yet. So He gave you to us.”
“If I was so bad,” Falwell said with a disbelieving sneer in his voice, “then why didn't He just send me to Hell?”
This bizarrely-dressed 'Discordian Grim Reaper' shook her head with a smile. “Oh, silly human. You think your God is as hateful as you are? Oh you are so pathetic. Yes, human belief creates these lesser Gods, but anything with malice in it cannot ascend to any form of Heaven without help. Gods with malice and hatred in them quickly sink out of Heaven and down to Earth. Here we are on the Other Side of Life, and I must tell you that if Jesus had decided to let you into Heaven, you would go there no matter how dense you are. And that's what hatred and malice are – density. The more filled with hatred you are, the denser you are. By the very laws of physics, those things that are densest will sink unless pulled up by something or someone else.
“But to answer your question of why not simply send you to Hell? Well, it's kind of hard to send you somewhere that doesn't officially exist. Yes, Hell does exist as a realm, but it's a place people only go if they think they have to. Thanks to being with me, your options are a little more forgiving.”
He started to ask, “So what are my op--” when she looked at her watch and said, “Enough of this foolish talk. We're keeping the bus driver waiting. He's been here since I have! You know, it's only for special cases like you that the bus waits for us instead of the other way around.” She snapped her fingers, and his chains changed. He was no longer chained to the floor, but chained by his hands and feet like a prisoner. And he was no longer dressed in his suit. He was now wearing a clown costume and face-paint.
“Hey! What the Hell is the meaning of this?”
“Well,” she said as she pulled him out the door and over to the elevator. “I'm dressing you up in an honest way. Shows your true self. You weren't a very good clown, but still... come along.”
The elevator took them down to the bottom floor, and they went through the lobby and out into the night. Then he saw it. It looked like one of those school buses for special-education kids: a 'short bus.' On its side, it said 'Afterlife bus – Discordian.'
She turned to him. “What is it, Mister Falwell?”
“My... my friends and family. I want to see them one last time.”
She pulled a piece of paper out of her frilly, lacy purse and looked at it. “Sorry, you're listed as 'rush processing.' We don't have time. You can see them again when you repent in your heart and finally go to Heaven. Now come.”
He tried protesting some more, and she made his mouth vanish again. He tried resisting, but she was stronger than she looked. She finally pulled him into the bus.
“Ha ha!” laughed a man's voice. “Oh you finally got him, Maggie! I know how long you've been waiting for the chance. Congratulations!”
“Thanks, Henry. But don't use my real name in front of the deceased. I am the Discordian Grim Reaper, they're not supposed to know my name. Just my title.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” He pulled the door closed behind them, and they sat down in the front seats.
“Rush processing, Jacob. Here's my Key.” She handed him a glowing purple key that looked like it had originally been a painting by Picasso; it still looked like it had only 2 dimensions. He took it, put it in a colored keyhole in the bus's dashboard, and turned it.
The outside world became a psychedelic light show for about 20 seconds before settling into a sort of mauve tunnel. The driver took out the key and handed it back to the Reaper girl. They continued to drive down the mauve tunnel for a while, and Mr. Falwell continued to struggle against his bonds to no avail.
Soon enough, there was the screech and hiss of air brakes, and they were at their destination, wherever that was. “We're here,” the driver said, stating the obvious. He reached over and opened the doors. As they walked out, the driver said, “Have a nice afterlife, Mister Falwell” and started to chuckle.
Jerry thought he'd seen the weirdest this place could get, but even through his growing sense of panic, he saw the strangeness of where they were now. For the only building in sight was nothing but a huge hallway to their side, and hundreds of copies of the Discordian Grim Reaper – all dressed alike – were funneling into the hallway, other people on their arms. As soon as he and his Reaper got there, everyone turned to look at them. The other people being reaped started to gather together. They were all smiling, and many of them were transvestites or were wearing gay pride t-shirts. Others wore pentagrams. Still others had various symbols of the Discordian faith upon them. As he was led past them, he overheard things like “There's Reverend Falwell! God, I wish I'd lived to see him die. I guess this is okay, though,” and “Fancy seeing him in our afterlife,” and “Hail Eris! All hail Discordia!” and “Fnord!”
Then, before they'd even gotten to the tunnel, the crowd started going sour. By the time they got into the tunnel and started walking towards wherever it led, the crowd broke free of their own Reapers and charged towards them angrily.
“Let us have him!” “Give him to us!” “Can I kill him a second time?” and other similar things were being screamed out, and Mister Falwell was getting nervous. He looked pleadingly at Maggie, the Discordian Grim Reaper, for help. She glanced at the crowd, then turned towards him and smiled.
“You know, Mister Falwell, the real reason why I don't like you? Because when I was alive, as now, I was transgendered. Born in a male body, but having a female mind and soul. And it was people like you and your friends who helped make my life a living Hell. When the old Discordian Grim Reaper retired, and I got the job, I was ecstatic! Because I knew you and your cronies were still alive on Earth. Oh, and how did I die?”
The crowd was getting closer. He did his best to indicate he didn't know.
“A few of your most devoted followers saw me dressed like this. My body was not as feminine then as it is now. Now I truly look like a female, because this is what my soul looks like. But I didn't quite 'pass.' So they beat me to death.”
And, not even bothering to replace his mouth or to unchain him, she tossed him to the crowd and watched with a satisfied smirk on her face as the riot she and her dopplegangers had started played out. They had very carefully put as many homosexuals, genderqueers, Pagans, Discordians, and other people who had reason to hate Falwell into a room nearby. For weeks – nay, months – they'd been collecting this crowd, even borrowing them from other Afterlives, and discussing the plan with them. The only thing Maggie regretted was that she could not see Mister Falwell anymore... he was buried in that mass somewhere, having the snot beat out of him.
Finally, when almost 20 minutes had passed, she and her dopplegangers broke up the crowd and started taking them back to their respective Afterlives. The Discordians, of course, stayed in this one. Falwell, who was bruised and bloody and had two black eyes, had to walk past every single one of them as Maggie led him to his judgment day.
“It's only a shame they couldn't have beaten you to death,” she said.
After many more minutes of walking, she led him into a huge purple room with a set of polka-dotted scales in the middle of it. On one side of the scales was a golden apple with the word 'Kallisti' written on it in Greek letters. The other side of the scale was empty. Standing behind the scale was a giant humanoid creature with a pink octopus for a head. The creature was wearing a silver suit, like they used to wear in those old sci-fi movies back in the 1950's.
Maggie saw him looking in terror at this creature. “His name is Craathis. He's the Discordian judger of souls. He used to be alive, too. That's what he looked like when he was alive, too. He's from another planet. Yes, Mr. Falwell, there is life on other planets.”
When they stopped, they were in the smaller of two lines, a line called 'rush processing.' There were several people in front of them. He wondered, if he was so important, why didn't they put him to the front of the line? He soon found out.
The first person in line, a soggy woman with a haunted look in her eyes, stepped forward. The giant octopus-headed humanoid named Craathis reached into her chest and pulled out a glowing white ball of light.
“Her soul,” Maggie explained. “She purposefully drove her car with her and her kids in it into a lake. I don't think she'll be getting a light sentence.”
Craatis set the soul of the soggy woman on the empty side of the scale and let go. The soul was so heavy that it launched the golden apple into the air where it soared for a moment, then fell to the ground. The soul itself fell off the scale, too, and bounced a couple times on the floor.
“YOU WILL FREEZE IN MACARENA FOR 100 YEARS!” Claatis announced. The woman's copy of Maggie picked up the soul off the ground and pulled a lever. A hole opened up in the floor, and she tossed the soul down and pushed the woman down in after it.
The next to be judged were the woman's four soggy children. Three girls and a boy, the boy being the oldest at age 12. Their souls were all weighed. The souls of the three girls barely moved the scales, and they got sent to Discordian Heaven. The boy's heart moved the scale a little more. Claatis looked torn between what he should say – which Maggie knew was Limbo – and compassion. Compassion won, and the boy went to Discordian Heaven with his siblings.
“They ended up here with her because they didn't realize that she'd killed them all on purpose,” Maggie said. “They didn't want to be separated from her.”
Two other people, a man and a woman, were then judged. They went to Discordian Heaven as well. And then the last person before Falwell was judged; a Muslim man.
“You're wondering why he's here? Well, he's a suicide bomber. Suffice it to say, Allah does NOT approve of violence, no matter who says He does.”
This man's soul also launched the apple into the air, but this time the apple became lodged in the wall.
“YOU WILL FREEZE IN MACARENA FOR 1,000 YEARS!” And down the hole he went.
Now it was finally Rev. Falwell's turn. Claatis apparently decided on a bit more drama for this case, due to Falwell's infamy.
“Reverend Jerry Laymon Falwell, you have been a very bad man. The hatred and intolerance you have spewed have been more damaging to the world than even the suicide bombings of men like he who was judged before your eyes. It is because of people like you who use your religion to justify your existing hatred that Christianity went from a very promising religion of love to a religion of hatred. There are, thankfully, people who are working hard to reverse this damage and bring Christianity back to focusing on the actual teachings of Jesus Christ. However, people like you keep making the job difficult.
“Jesus Christ has refused you entry to your own Afterlife because of the hateful lies you've told when you were alive. Because nothing you said when alive had any bearing on His actual teachings. Mister Falwell, THIS IS YOUR JUDGMENT DAY!”
Without further ado, he reached into Falwell's chest and pulled out his soul. He set the soul on the empty scale and let it go. For a split second, Jerry had the faint hope that it wouldn't move the scale. But then, the scale moved down so violently fast that the apple was thrown against the floor and the soul was launched into the air.
“YOU WILL FREEZE IN MACARENA UNTIL YOU REPENT IN YOUR HEART!”
Maggie took Falwell's soul in her hand, and held onto the lever. She looked at him. “That means your sentence is not for a fixed time. It all depends on you. It could be as short as a day, or as long as an eternity.”
He suddenly realized that he had his mouth back! In that same instant, she pulled the lever. She tossed his soul down into Macarena, and pushed him in after it.
He found himself in a large white apartment. Everything there was white. There was white furniture, including sofas and armchairs, end tables and a little kitchenette. There was no color at all. Even his own clothes were white. For a moment he thought he was in Heaven. Except that it was cold. He guessed it was maybe 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And then other people came into the room he was in. He saw the suicide bomber, the soggy woman, an angry-looking white man who was built like a tank, and what looked like an end-times preacher like you see on the streets, only cleaner.
Perplexed, he was about to ask the two strangers what they were in for when some force pulled them out of the room bodily, and slammed the door behind them. This same force then slammed him into one of the armchairs. White chains chained him to the chair and the TV in front of it turned on. It was the Teletubbies.
“AHHH,” he screamed. “OH GOD! Save me!”
Even though he couldn't move his hands, he began to pray for salvation. And, completely surprising him, within a few minutes the TV turned off and Jesus was sitting on a chair across from him. Except that Jesus was dressed not in robes, but as a hippy: baggy brown clothing that looked home-made, with a flower in his hair, wearing sandals, and granny glasses. He also had a peace symbol necklace around his neck. But despite the unfamiliar appearance, Jerry knew beyond any doubt that this was Jesus. And as he knew this, his chains came undone and he was free completely, more so than he'd been since after dying.
“Oh Jesus, oh thank you! Thank you for coming! These demons have kidnapped me! I knew you would save me, Jesus!”
Jesus held out a hand for silence. “Dude,” he said, “chill out and listen.”
Jerry, of course, nodded his agreement and listened. “Okay, Jerry. Yes, I'm Jesus. No, I have not come to rescue you. I'm sorry, but what they said was right. Like, you and people like you, you've acted quite against my teachings. You call yourselves Christians, but there are better Christians among the Pagans. In fact, a good many Pagans get what I'm saying even if they don't follow my teachings.”
Jesus took his granny glasses off thoughtfully. “And about 9-11. You keep thinking God has this almighty power and makes everything happen. But you're wrong. I mean, almighty power, yeah. But remember free will? God just MADE the universe. Might've tweaked it a bit here and there to get consciousness started, but now it just, like, runs. It's set up so that magic and prayer work, but you have to know that it will work. Anyway, my point is... you never listened to my words. Not really. Look what you became in your life! You became one of the money-lenders in the Temple, man!
“So you see, nobody up here makes disasters like that happen. The mortal realm is powered by the power of everyone living there. You see, the point I was trying to make when I was alive was that everyone is a God. Not just me. I didn't realize people were gonna misinterpret my words so bad.”
Jesus sat up and took Jerry by the shoulders. “I'm sorry. I love you Jerry, but I'd be a failure as a parent if I rewarded you for your bad behavior. There's no place in Heaven for intolerance and hatred. But there is no Hell, either. So this isn't a spanking, Jerry. This is a time out. You're gonna be by yourself in this room now. The TV will show you whatever you want to see, now. I've got a deal with Eris, you see. But you won't be alone. Call me whenever you need to talk. If I can't personally come down, I'll send an angel to you.”
He hugged Jerry. When they disconnected, Jesus said. “You'll get to come to Heaven when you've repented in your heart. I hope it's soon.” He stood up and started walking away.
“But... but Jesus!” Jerry got down on his knees and begged. “You can't leave me here! I'm sorry! I'm... I'm so sorry! Please forgive me!”
Jesus smiled. “I love you, and I forgive you. But you're only sorry that things in the Afterlife are not as you thought they'd be. This time out is for you, man. It may seem harsh, but it's not. I'll see you later, Jerry. Peace out, bro!”
Without further ado, Jesus disappeared, leaving Jerry – shivering – to think about his mistakes. Though a grown man, Jerry fell to the floor, buried his face in his hands, and wept.