Carl was having a relatively bad time when compared to a really bad time. Therefore, it could be considered a horrible time in reference to an average time. You could take any perspective and it wouldn't look much better. But then he had died and things had gotten confusing. His first thought was, "Well, that's never happened before."
The adjectives 'bad' and 'horrible' are relative words. They are used in reference to what is considered normal. A rich man who considers the greatest of service to be normal will claim a restaurant to be horrible, while a homeless man invited in for a free supper will claim the same restaurant to be spectacular. So, when one finds themselves dead with nothing to compare to, they realize they are rather lacking the proper adjectives...among other things of course.
The moment before his death had been horrible when compared to how life should be. But now that he was dead, was it still horrible? The main point was that Carl didn't know how death should be. He didn't know whether to expect a cold oblivion or a golden gate bridge through the clouds.
The actual trip to his death had been rather humiliating, really. He couldn't get it out of his mind. Which was strange because he rather thought he was supposed to be watching his life flash before his eyes. Maybe he was in the wrong theater. Whether or not this was true, the scene began to play one more time.
The tornado touched down just outside the town, but Carl was ready for it. At least, he was ready to take its picture.
He was wearing protective gear and a harness that was linked to the back of his jeep by a cord. His camera was in his hand, and he was aiming it at the tornado with a cry of glee. He was getting spectacular footage. He leaned into the wind, rocks ricocheting off his helmet and twigs whipping by his legs. Then he began to walk closer. But he stopped when he noticed the man and the boy running from the tornado. He zoomed in for the perfect action shot. They were holding hands and running for their lives. Carl's eyes were wide as he witnessed the drama.
He watched the heroic escape, his camera recording like mad. Then the father and the boy ran right past him. Carl cried out his enthusiasm and encouraged them to run faster. They didn't hear him through the raging winds. But they were certainly aiming to go faster. So fast in fact, that they decided running on foot just wouldn't cut it. They hopped into Carl's jeep.
Carl didn't deserve such a ride to safety. He was stupid enough to be killed by the tornado itself. But instead, he was dragged five miles as the tornado chased them down the valley. When the jeep finally stopped, he staggered to his feet and promptly got flattened by a falling billboard sign.
He winced. That was a pity, now wasn't it? Even the camera was destroyed. Hold on a minute. If the camera had been destroyed, then how was he watching the scene over and over again?
"Excuse me?" he called out into the dark. "Who took the footage I'm watching?"
After a long silence, a giant shadow moved against a wall. The wall had not been there before, but the shadow needed something to land on. So there it was. Then a very short man appeared from around a corner that had also not been there before.
"Ahem," he said. "What are you asking?"
"Nothing," murmured Carl. "I'm just wondering where I am."
"Well you're dead..." the man said slowly as if it was all rather inconvenient. "And if you had filled out the forms properly, you would've ended up at a reasonable destination."
"Um, what forms?" asked Carl.
"The ones you didn't fill out," the little man retorted, a lock of golden hair jumping on his forehead as he waved his stubby arms about.
"Well give them here. I'll fill them out then."
The man pursed his lips. "I'm afraid it's too late. You would cheat if I gave you the forms."
"I would not cheat!" Carl said. "Let me see the forms."
"The forms ask for you to briefly state what you believe the afterlife should be. You, who have already seen this place, could not possibly write something of value. If you'd had an opinion, you would've filled out the form before getting this far."
"Oh," was all Carl said.
"Now," the little man said with a vicious business tongue. "Let's get to it. State your beliefs."
Carl frowned. "Beliefs on what?" he asked.
"Beliefs on the afterlife."
"Oh...well I thought maybe you'd tell me. I mean, I left my watch at home, but I'm pretty sure the time is now after life. So...maybe you should welcome me in or something. Where is this place anyways?" Carl began to walk forwards and the little man let out a squeal.
"Stay where you are!" he cried. "There's nothing out here. This is the cold oblivion that you will surely face unless you believe in something else!"
But Carl ignored the man and sat down on a big, red, plump couch. "I believe this couch is fantastic," he said, putting his feet up and stretching his arms.
The man's eyes were bulging with anger. "The big, red couch is not a valid afterlife!"
"Oh come on," Carl said, taking a sip of beer. "People believe all sorts of crazy things. I happen to believe the afterlife is right here on this couch...Mmm, paradise."
The little man punched his hands against his side in aggravation. "You can't go believing whatever you want!" he cried. "Stop this at once! Didn't you ever get told what to believe?"
"Sure, plenty of people told me their ideas. I just couldn't decide what seemed best."
"Best? You're supposed to decide depending on your faith and religion and spiritual beliefs! Otherwise, you go to the cold oblivion!"
"If it's oblivion, then how is it cold?" asked Carl, turning the television channel.
The little man was about to give another outraged cry when he paused and looked incredulously at the scene before him. "Do you really believe you're going to get reception in the afterlife?" he asked, jutting a finger at the television. The screen turned to static.
Carl sighed and stood up. "Well I really don't know what I believe."
"Then off to oblivion with you."
"Wait, wait!" urged Carl. "I most certainly believe in...erm, heaven."
"You believe you should go to heaven?" The man looked doubtful.
"Of course," Carl said. "Let's go."
Carl blinked and realized he was standing on a cloud. There was a black man beside him wearing a white fluffy robe. "Well?" the man asked. It was the little man's voice.
Carl burst out laughing. "Dude, nice make-over!"
"Ahem," the man said. "When the scenery changes, I change."
"You're not going to be following me around, are you?"
"No, only until you're settled. So here we are."
The cloud lifted on a warm updraft and the pearly gates came into full view. Carl couldn't keep it in.
"Why are you laughing?" asked the angel. "This is what you believe in, right?"
"But it's all so cliché!" Carl cried out, in near hysterics. "There's the clouds, and the angels, and the big gates! It looks like a Hollywood rendition!"
"Well this is how it was originally pictured. So this is how it is. You, obviously don't believe in this. So now, tell me what you really believe in. And I don't have all eternity."
"Well..." Carl said slowly. "I've always thought...