I rose, gravity loosing its grip, rising past colonnades of cumulus, the ethereal air weaving jubilant harp music with the glorious sunlight that fell in shafts.
I passed through a final cloud layer and was deposited light as a feather before a luminous gate. A haggard looking man dressed in white robes stood at a rostrum supporting a monstrous book. “Are you sorry you stumbled into a cliche?” was the man’s first words.
“You heard me the first time. Harps, God’s glorious light.” The cantankerous man looked around. “Clouds. Perpetual, boring clouds. I’d kill for some fucking trees.“
I’m just standing there with my mouth open. He leaned in and whispered conspirationally, “If you ask me, this is purgatory. I really need to get another job.”
“Why don’t you?”
“Because you fucking people persist that I’m Peter of the pearly gates. Why couldn't it have been John? Hell, Judas would be more qualified! He was a fucking bean counter!”
“Live and uncensored from heaven!”
Peter shook his head. “Useless. How many years?”
“Why are you all always so fucking dense? How many years on earth?”
“Uh, thirty three. Why?”
Peter scribbled in his notebook. “Standard procedure. Pesudo-karmic count and all that.”
“What about my sins?”
“That’s inconsequential. Hey, wait. You are human, aren’t you?”
“Homo Sapiens, born and bred!”
“Typical response. You definitely are human. Eye color?”
“Of course I am! Blue.”
“Another typical response, though that would be easily confused with of the Dinaalis.”
“You’re cribbing from Star Trek!”
“Why am I not surprised you know this? Besides, just because it’s a fiction doesn’t mean it’s a fiction.”
“What do you mean?”
Peter ignored me. “Your sins are inconsequential. The Big Honcho found it easier to keep track of yearly counts than individual iniquities. He kinda stole the idea from the Hindi pantheon and knocked it up with His own flair.”
“What happened to the Hindu gods?”
Peter shot me a look simultaneously incredulous and derisive. “God ate them, of course. They’re just stories now, rumbling about inside His Copacabana vacationing gut while we toil at his will up here. Weight?”
“Bullshit. One seventy five.”
“It’s true. You don’t have to believe me. I just work here.” Peter scribbled in his book. “Sex?”
“It’s a yes or no question, buddy.”
“Oh. Um, I’ll just go with yes.”
“Thank you. Which one are you?”
“And I thought we were making progress here. Which one are you: Eliza, Minette, Sarah, or Matthew?”
“None of them!” I couldn’t believe he was confusing me with people in my life.
“Oh. That one. Okay.” Peter scribbled in his book then looked over his nose at me. “You are also these people. It’s the weird thing about God’s brand of reincarnation. He’s all powerful so Time means nothing to him.”
Peter waggled his finger at me. “He likes to fuck with people. Sends them playing with himself like some kind of cosmic Dharmic masturbation.”
My head was spinning at this point. My only thought was of a nice cool beer. Or trepanning. Anything to escape this madness.
Peter smiled. “Want a cold beer already?” He chuckled. “You just might get one sometime soon, depending on how much of an ornery kid you are.”
“What do you mean?”
“Why do you persist with the denseness? You might as well be a brick in the wall. Hey, wait, you are!” Peter giggled at this. “Okay, next.”
“It’s time to pass, my impenetrable friend. The next phase is at hand. You have risen into vapour... it’s time to become condensate, and fall, fall towards continued misery. Next!”
“Isn’t my life supposed to flash before my eyes? Isn’t there a recitation of my sins?”
Peter rolled his eyes, nodded at the gate. “Just cardboard. Sins, salvation, etcetera etcetera. That’s Hollywood embellishment. The reality’s much less romantic. Remember sin is extinct. You’ve served your time on earth, and now that you’re here, you’re given an extended sentence. If this is purgatory, then that—” Peter pointed a finger at the roiling ground. “—is hell.”
St Peter gleefully waved a hand. “Back to your story, my friend. See you next time around. Vaya con Dios!” He cracked up, clutching his belly, barely managing to pull the lever sprouting from the wispy ground behind the rostrum.
I fell, gravity taking hold, plunging past colonnades of smog and sun lashed humanity into the bleat of traffic and over-sexed cellular phones until I became but a nascent moment in a collision of chromosomes.