A fitting reward...
He didn't understand why the room was so crowded. Surely all of them could not be there for the same reason. Some of the faces were hard, grim, cold. Not one face there was like his, beautiful.
The room wasn't what he expected either. Four walls, no windows, two doors. The decor, shabby. Two worn leather couches, brown. A threadbare rug, beige. Three easy chairs which was beyond his understanding, who put easy chairs in a waiting room?
The walls were painted a cream color. What stood out, was one wall that the decorator had decided to cover in a garden scene. There were, flowers, a stream and a big tree. Here, he had to look at the tree closer. It was horrid, leafless, it's branches gnarled and twisted. It's posture grotesque and maligned. The appearance being something haunted and dead. To him, it was a cancer in the middle of the garden. Totally out of place within the scene. The room was not quite what he'd expected.
Funny, the faces of the others softened as they looked at the horrid tree. Some even walked over and touched the painted scene as if they could feel the branches.
He grimaced, why would anyone want to feel the thing, what were they seeing...
From somewhere a name was called. He looked around and watched a man raise himself painfully from one of the easy chairs. His ill fitted suit tattered and dirty. He touched the painted tree as he walked through the door.
Shaking his head, he smoothed the crisp white shirt he wore. Standing and stretching his lean legs, allowing the pants to straighten and fall. His appearance was always immaculate. Walking to the middle of the room, he stood for a moment. He needed them to see how they should have been dressed, how they should have taken extra time to look perfect for this appointment.
Another name was called, another tacky person, another touch of the tree.
The room emptied, one by one they were called. One by one they touched the horrid tree. One by one they went through the door.
His name was called. His chest almost burst with pride. His countenance rose to the moment. It was about time, really, he should have been first. Walking towards the door, his face beamed, he was about to get his just rewards.
Approaching the door, he thought he heard a whisper. Just barely, something said, "Touch me." It gave him pause, just for an instant but, he shrugged it off. He focused his attention on the door and turned the knob.
Flashes of light surrounded him. His breath seemed to leave his body. His senses heightened, he was aware of another presence in the room with him but, it couldn't be seen.
"Where is your fruit?" Where was his fruit? What fruit? His mind could not grasp the meaning. So, he sat mute and dumb.
"Why is it that you do not have your fruit?" Finally able to form a thought, he answered the question with a question. "What fruit, there was no fruit there, what fruit?" It was quiet for a minute. Then another question, "Tell me about the outer chamber?" He stood, cleared his throat, straightened his suit and began to speak. He steepled his fingers in front of his chin as if, he were the great orator.
"The outer chamber was not what I had expected at all. It's colors were drab, pasty, benign. The furnishings were even worse. I am not trying to insult the decorator, understand me but, it just seems something a little more lively could have been used. Perhaps blues, yellows, maybe a Berber carpet. Maybe soft Corinthian leather instead of the pleather that was used. In all, it was shabby to say the least. I don't mean to insult but, I do believe in telling it the way it is."
Another minute of quiet. Another question. "What about the painted garden, what about my beautiful tree?"
Beautiful tree? He burst out laughing, loud guffaws, taking a minute to catch his breath, he began to speak. "Are you referring to that malignant, twisted piece of dead dross." He was too amused to go any further.
The fingers of light that reached inside him, twisting his lungs, stopped his laughter. The touch that caused his heart to skip, sealed his lips.
A voice, like thunder, like millions of rushing waters, caused him to fall on his face. Squeezing his eyes shut until the tear ducts bled.
"IF YOU HAD BEEN A RIGHTEOUS MAN, YOUR EYES WOULD NOT HAVE DECEIVED YOU. IF YOU HAD BEEN MY TRUE PROPHET YOUR SENSES WOULD HAVE ALLOWED YOU TO BE HAPPY IN MY OUTER CHAMBER. IF YOU HAD BEEN DESERVANT OF THE REWARD, YOUR MIND WOULD HAVE PERCEIVED THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TREE. IF YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN THE TEACHER OF MY STUDENTS, THIS SIMPLE TEST, YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PASS. IF YOU HAD TRULY LOVED ME, YOU WOULD HAVE RECOGNIZED THE TREE OF LIFE, YOU WOULD HAVE PICKED IT'S FRUIT AND, YOU WOULD HAVE LIVED FOREVER."