The following writing may contain mature subject matter that some readers may find unsettling: gratuitous religiosity, depictions of gore, dark contemplations of the human mind, the use of drugs, expressions of sexuality, vocalizations of vulgarity, displays of nudity and other mature themes.
This writing is fiction. Names, characters, settings and events are either used fictitiously or are products of the writers' imaginations. Any resemblance to real events, settings or people, dead or alive, is coincidental unless stated otherwise.
Chapter 2: Hell & All Its Furry-Winged Angels
"I tried to commit suicide by sticking my head in the oven. However, there were freshly baked cookies in it."
The roof was high, and the flames were higher. They danced and damned, billowed and brazed, demented and destroyed; these were the flames of Hell!
George Fletcher was one level above them. The flames were not so hot there. They caressed and harassed, indecisively. He was never sure if he was getting a good tan while contemplating his actions with a bad migraine, or whether he had been burned alive, wishing he was only in a tanning salon. And eventually, he came to the conclusion that it was all, indeed, inside his head. Perhaps a nightmare that would not seem so real once he woke up.
And it was then, after a week in Purgatory, that the air became drier and stuffier. Smoke choked the lungs of the many. Some were babies and fetuses whose parents felt the need to expect them to be there while they prayed. Others, like George, had given in to the pinnacle of self-criticism; suicide.
The flames ceased to hug warmly, and had begun to boil George's skin. Desperately, he wanted a shower - to wash himself of this. All of it! The sweating. The act of it. The thoughts of it. The whole mentality. And it was then, when he realized it was a mistake, that the ceiling shook. The unbaptized baby beside him, playing with a hot coal, looked up with a gaping tiny mouth and big eyes.
There was a man, middle-aged, with wings. An angel. He flew down, trying not to fan the flames of Purgatory as he hovered above George. However, it was unavoidable. And he yelled over the raging fire, "Hrue hrould harve harken hyer harntee herpressants, Heyorge!"
And it seemed to George that the man's hair was burning, in the heat, to a crisp white. However, George reconsidered this as angels do not burn in Hell, so George was taught to believe. And the angel through something at him. Small, round and brown.
Do angels come to stone us? This is a new part of the schedule. At least it's eventful. And evadable unlike the flames.
It landed next to the baby. The baby crawled to it, her raggedy pink dress that was against the hot floor now flaming, and it put it in its mouth.
"Hyorry!" George heard the angel call from over the noise of the burning flames. Sorry?
George walked through the flames, shading his eyes, towards the baby. He leaned down, and looked at it. It was indeed chewing on the rock - no, it was a cookie! And George was awfully hungry.
A second one landed next to him, and he picked it up. Looking up, he saw the angel do a somersault in the air as if happy it almost hit him. He picked up the projectile - another cookie - and nothing had ever tasted so good. Well, only in this context. Because George was in Purgatory and had not eaten for the last eleven days of his stay there. And then he realized that he had had these cookies before. That smug, angelic bastard, this is Gran's recipe!
And as the flames cleared, and the angel's hear continued to whiten and his features sagged ever so slightly, George Fletcher recognized Bryan Fletcher, his paternal grandfather. It had been decades since they had seen each other.
"You weren't supposed to make it before your father," he said, tossing his adult grandson another cookie.
And suddenly, George Fletcher was young again, a child of nine standing amongst the flames of Purgatory. Chewing on one of his grandmother's cookies with a grin on his face - the kind children get when eating cookies. The kind that always looks best when the melting chocolate chips leave brown smudges on their lips. Because he was in purgatory, they tasted like they were right out of the oven.
"Don't worry, George," his Grandfather said, "I found Lesley like this."
Grandma drowned herself in the hot tub not long after he passed away. I remember. And the flames around George Fletcher seemed to fall a bit, dimly.
The baby looked envious, and tried to crawl toward George's cooler section. And yet the baby never got any distance. She looked on, uncomprehending, and stopped crawling towards him.
"Don't worry, George, her parents are praying for her. She'll get out soon."
"And me, Grandpa?"
"Gimme a hug, y'old boy. Give your Grandpa a hug."
And a teenage George Fletcher, now six inches taller than his grandfather, rose up in the angel's arms and hugged him tightly.
The baby began to cry, and rolled towards them on her bottom. As George's legs left the floor of the cavern, the baby's hand passed through his leg. And tears fell from George's eyes. You burned with me, you cute thing. I'll see you soon.
George let go of his grandpa's neck and looked him in the eye as they flew up through the smoke, "Where's Grandma?"
"Well, Lesley took on some Hinduism philosophy. At the moment, she's reincarnated as a butterfly. But that cycle will end soon."
"Oh," George said, this giving him pause, "Neat. You're still together, right? Dad would freak if you two got separated!"
"We aren't fond of divorce, George. Of course not. She's just taking a vacation. After all, she has all eternity. And after knowing mortality, we know not to waste it."
"Hmm..." George said, as the crevice in the ground closed below them. "Where are we?"
"Wherever we want to be, George. This is the afterlife. Here, have a cookie."
"Can I have wings?"
"You have wings," said Bryan Fletcher, immediately letting go of his grandson, and resuming an appearance of middle-age.
A look of shock met George's face as he began to plummet back towards the crevice of Purgatory, in whatever piece of mentality they were on. Have faith, he told himself, and his wings spread, out each shoulder blade. And with a ping, a gold halo appeared above his head.
And with a few quick flaps of his newly sprung wings, George gained equal height with his grandfather.
"That's the best way to learn."
"Not as bad, Grandpa, as when you taught me and Ellie how to swim at the cottage."
"No," he chortled, "Not as bad. Not at all."
And they rose into the clouds, as a heavenly world took shake around them. George Fletcher munched on a delicious chocolate chip cookie. However, he realized that without the softening warmth of Purgatory, the cookies were rather stale and no longer seemed 'fresh out of the oven'. And he began to wonder how long ago Granny had baked them.
"Grandpa, where are we going?"
"Watchcloud. You've got a funeral to watch. I reckon it's someone you know, though perhaps not well enough." She didn't take the news well, George.