Some religions say a waiting place exists. A place a departed soul goes to after death, and before judgment. Some religions adamantly deny this place exists. You decide.
Five people died, all of them total strangers. Since they all died at the same exact moment, they all arrived together in the same place. The land of the dead is a barren place, with campfires burning here and there; it has dark overcast skies, with a damp chill in the air. From where the new arrivals were standing, they could see people milling about or gathering into groups. Some were dressed in modern clothes; others wore clothes from decades or centuries ago.
Across the grey bleak skies, flashed scenes from people’s lives. From birth to death, the scenes of each and every individual’s lives were displayed for all to see. The triumphs and the tragedies, the heroic and selfless deeds, and the dark moments were stretched across the sky. No one would have any secrets here.
As the five looked about them, they noticed they were not only seeing their immediate surroundings, they were seeing into the world of the living as well. They could see not only their companions and objects in front of them, but also into the lives of their loved ones as well. Eddy could only watch as his heartbroken mother collapsed at the sight of her youngest son being zipped up in a body bag. Maria watched as her husband to be, identified her at the morgue, and then fainted and went into a coma.
From where they stood, they could see down into a small canyon. One side of the cliffs had a large cave entrance with two demonic looking creatures standing guard. Above the cave were the words abandon all hope ye who enter here. They watched as a small group of glowing winged beings, which looked very much like angels, flew down to the cave carrying a struggling crying wretch. He begged for mercy, and more chances, as the winged men gave him to the demons. One of the demons dragged the wretch down into the cave and returned a moment later alone.
Immediately opposite that was a small valley. In that valley, there they saw a large glowing bowl, and next to it what looked like an opening in the air or a portal of some kind. There were more of those glowing winged beings. They were taking ghostly looking shadows from the bowl and escorting them through the portal. Other angels were assisting people into the bowl.
Over in the distance they could see a city that looked like it was made of crystal. It had more winged beings flying over it.
The five looked around them, each trying to take in their new surroundings and new companions. Some were certain they were dead, others were unconvinced. They each reflected on the circumstances that brought them here.
Eddy Campbell was a nervous man, with several complexes and poor self esteem issues. After many of life’s smaller problems, which he amplified in his own mind, Eddy decided to take his own life, and end his imaginary anguish. The true irony was Eddy was a very likeable man. He was tall and ruggedly built, so the girls did attract to him until his poor social skills got in the way. In all his forty-eight years, he never really connected with another human being. He swallowed the last of his sleeping pills and slit open his wrists. He maintained enough presence of mind to start the engine of his car to fill the garage with carbon monoxide. His last mortal thought was this should do it.
Mike Quinn walked down the steps from the library; he had just finished taking notes, and gathering the necessary information for his thesis. He came from very modest roots and put himself through college this far without anyone’s help. He was an average sized man with bright red hair and a large beard. He wore thick glasses as opposed to contacts.
Mike had always taken his studies seriously, ever since childhood. He was determined to go above and beyond his parents, whom he held in disdain. His father was an asshole that always distanced himself from his family. His mother was a drunk that couldn’t read or write. She didn’t have respect for education, so Mike determined to become a college professor.
Once he achieved his goal of a PhD, he could move on to a professorship. Not only would he be the first college graduate in his family, he’d be its first teacher. As he walked down the street to his bus stop, he passed a small group of street toughs selling drugs. A car screeched to a halt and four men got out, they opened fire on the street thugs with automatic weapons. The thugs survived, but Mike was killed.
Foster Martin left the bar, he knew he was too drunk to drive and didn’t give a damn. He had problems and the bourbon made it all better or at least less stressful. He walked to his car on very wobbly legs. He fell over twice, too drunk to walk let alone drive. Foster was thirty-eight years old with the emotional maturity of a fourteen year old. He had few friends and carried a chip on his shoulder. He was fortunate enough to own his own company otherwise, he’d never find work. He clipped a light pole on his way out of the parking lot and drove his car out onto the avenue.
Maria Black left her bridal shower. Her friends helped her load all her presents into her car. It was such a nice party, they surprised her with. She was twenty two years old, blonde, and very pretty, and had just graduated with a teaching degree. She loved kids and had always wanted to be a teacher and now she would. The state had just certified her as a substitute teacher, so she’d have plenty of work. Her wedding was just a few days away, and her husband to be had just gotten a promotion with a sizeable raise. They had just purchased a new home in a very nice neighborhood. Everything coming up looked wonderful and their future together was bright. They planned on a large family and she vowed to be the best mom she could be.
She started her car and drove one block to a red light. Her light turned green and she started forward. Foster continued on his way, the effects of a half bottle of bourbon catching up with him, he fell asleep and swerved his car into Maria’s car, head on at fifty miles an hour. His car flipped over, and Maria went through the windshield, both died instantly.
Lou Piro lay in his hospital bed. The cancer he had was incurable; the doctors could only do so much to alleviate his pain. Several rounds of chemotherapy cost him his hair and the ability to walk. The treatment seemed worse than the disease, every day he seemed to get worse. He welcomed death. It would end his suffering. Suddenly he felt very cold despite the heated room and his blankets. He decided not to call the nurse. It was his time and he was anxious to end his suffering. He felt a deep breath come up out of him and he died.
The wounds they received in life were also there in the afterlife except there was no pain. Eddy’s wrists were still bleeding; Mike still had bullet holes across his chest and head. Maria’s once beautiful face was cut and ravaged beyond recognition.
“I’m supposed to be dead,” cried Eddy as he lay on the ground curling up into a ball, “it’s supposed to be over. I’m supposed to go to sleep and never wake up. I want my death!”
“That’s your business buddy, I don’t want to be dead,” Mike responded getting to his feet. “I had plans for MY life. Now they’re gone because of bunch of street punks. I want my future back!”
“Future? Plans? You stole my future you son of a bitch, you killed me!” Maria screamed getting to her feet. “You booze soaked bastard I had plans for my life, a home, a career, a family! Gone because you had to drink and drive. Look at me! Look at my face! Look what you did to me!” Maria lunged at Foster who ducked and covered his head.
The others all looked at Foster as they would at a bug. “I’m sorry,” was all he could mange to say. Foster looked at the ground, of the five, he was the only one without scars or physical problems of any kind.
“You insect!” Mike yelled. “You killed this woman and destroyed not just her life, but her family’s as well, and the best you can do is ‘I’m sorry?’”
“Fighting amongst ourselves won’t resolve anything,” Lou said trying to calm the situation. He was able to stand, the pain was gone. He might look like hell, but Lou felt better than he had in years. Maria, crying hard about her lost future and what would happen to her family, sat on the ground next to Eddy who was still curled up in a ball. Eddy was still sobbing because he wasn’t dead as he’d hoped.
An Angel flew over to them and said “HEARKEN YE WELL DEPARTED SOULS, YOUR TIME ON THE EARTH IS THROUGH. YOU NOW AWAIT YOUR DAY OF JUDGMENT. MANY OF THESE SOULS HAVE BEEN WAITING HERE MANY LONG YEARS. IF GOD IS PLEASED WITH YOUR WORK, YOU WILL BE ALLOWED INTO THE CRYSTAL CITY FOR ALL ETERNITY. IF HE IS NOT, YOU GO DOWN INTO HELL,” he said as he pointed first to the city then the cave. IF YOU TRULY REPENT YOUR WAYS AND WANT TO RELIVE IN ORDER TO PRESENT HIM WITH A CLEANER SOUL FOR JUDGMENT, YOU ARE ALLOWED TO REINCARNATE. WHEN IT IS YOUR TIME TO BE JUDGED A GROUP OF ANGELS WILL CARRY YOU TO GOD.” With that, he flew away.
“Death means it’s supposed to be over, I wanted my life to end, to go to sleep, and never wake up now I’m stuck here,” wailed Eddy sitting up.
“That’s only part of your problem mister,” Mike told him in a cold hard tone. “By the look of you, and your words, you tried to take your own life. In any religion I ever heard of, that’s a no, no. So you might want to consider the reincarnation option. Reset and try again.” He looked down at Eddy and smiled. “Maybe it will be better the next time, if you go to judgment with a suicide on you it’s a one way ticket to those guys!” he said pointing at the demons.
Mike shook his head in disgust at Eddy’s weakness, as he watched him curl back into a ball and cry racking heaving sobs. “I wanted to be a college professor until I was killed. I’ll take the reincarnation option! I’ll just fill that goal in another life that’s all. Stop your damn crying! Be a man and face this, tears won’t make anything go away.”
“I’m going for it too,” said Maria. “If I can’t be his wife in this lifetime, then I’ll be his child. One way or another I’ll watch over my man. My dreams might be dead, but my love for my man isn’t!” she spit on Foster, and said, “I’m with you.”
“I’m going too,” Foster cried as he got up, wiping the spit from his cheek. “I’m so sorry for what I did to you. I made some big mistakes in my life, and some I enjoyed, but this is beyond anything I can handle. I can’t expect to be forgiven because I can’t forgive myself.
Mamm; I swear by the God that will judge us, I swear by my soul! I will dedicate my next life to stop drunk drivers like me! That will be at least part of my penance I will dedicate an entire life to stop drunk driving.”
“Since we all arrived together I’ll escort you to the valley,” Lou told them. “But I’m not reincarnating, I’m happy with the life I led. The cancer at the end wasn’t fun, and I don’t want to go through that again.” They all helped pull Eddy to his feet and started on their way to the valley.
There were lost souls wandering here and there. Some were being watched over by angels, some being harassed by demons. As they started down the hill, they saw a soul that seemed to fade in and out. The poor wretch was half dead. He had one foot in their old dimension, the other in the new. They all remembered the pain of their own deaths, but that was instantaneous; the poor man was in agony. It was the sort of suffering that made one sick to watch, Eddy threw up, and Lou wept openly at the pain the man must be feeling, remembering all to well the pain of his last days.
As the five continued on their way, their path was blocked by an ugly looking, foul smelling creature with leathery looking skin and glowing red eyes. Its voice sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard.
It reached for Eddy and said, “You belong to my master, you took your own life. For that my master claims your soul.” As he reached for him, an angel flew between them. “TOUCH YE NOT THE MAN FOUL ONE, EACH NEW ARRIVAL HAS THE RIGHT TO REINCARNATE. SO SAYS THE ONE WHO’S RADIANCE OUT SHINES US ALL!”
With that the demon retreated. Before leaving, the angel turned to Eddy and Foster and said “WICKED SOULS! REINCARNATION IS YOUR ONE CHANCE TO SATISFY GOD. USE IT WISELY!”
Eddy shivered from both the chill and from fear. He hated life which is why he killed himself. Now he faced the choice of going back and going through life all over again, or, stay and spend hundreds of years playing tag with demons, only to be eventually judged and given to them anyway. He resented it, but he had no choice but to reincarnate.
Foster was sick to his stomach with remorse at what he did to Maria. His dark secret was Maria was not the first death his drunkenness caused, he had killed before. A young family had died because Foster had four gin and tonics too many.
He almost went to jail on that one. A sharp lawyer and several thousand dollars in bribes later, and he were cleared of all charges, even though he knew he did it. Foster prayed he wouldn’t meet the O’Brien family here. These scenes were now being flashed across the sky. The others looked at him in disgust.
Now that he was dead, he realized what Richard and Patty O’Brien and their three preschool aged sons Frank, Brad, and Rocky must have gone through. He was now seeing first hand the pain of such a lost future had on a soul. He swore again under his breath he’d dedicate his next life to stopping drunk drivers.
As they continued down the slope towards the glowing bowl, they met a young women sitting cross-legged on the ground, engulfed in flames. She was crying from heartbreak, not pain.
“What happened to you?” Maria asked.
“I was a member of the temple of honesty and truth,” the girl responded. The temple had world wide devotees, whose leader the self ordained reverend Frank Scott, was known for using brain washing techniques for recruiting followers. “Reverend Frankie told me my death would prove our cause and I’d be guaranteed entry to heaven. He never mentioned this place!”
“You’re a Frankie fan?” asked Foster using the term in the news for the reverends followers. The girl simply nodded.
The so-called reverend was a self-styled prophet that collected followers despite the fact none of his predictions ever came true, and despite the fact none of his ‘preaching’s’ had any basis in the bible, Koran or any other religious text.
He was a nut that actually ordered his followers to do gruesome things to themselves just to display his power to the law makers of his area. On his command, the young girl doused herself with gasoline declared his name as the holy one, and ignited herself.
An angel told her due to the way she killed herself, she must remain in this state, engulfed in flames, for one century before being allowed to reincarnate. Like all those in the land of the dead she could see into the land of the living. As she sat there in flames, she watched as her beloved prophet spent the money his followers raised, on drugs and prostitutes. Like most religious martyrs, she died for nothing.
There was nothing they could do for her, they continued on their way the bowl. A group of angels flew down to them “FOSTER MARTIN, YOUR TIME OF JUDGMENT HAS COME. WE WILL BRING YOU TO GOD.”
“But I’ve only just arrived, there are many others that have waited far longer than me, and I’m going to reincarnate,” Foster told the angels.
“NAY MORTAL, A SMALL FAMILY THAT LIVES IN THE CRYSTAL CITY PETITIONED GOD FOR YOUR JUDGMENT BEFORE A REINCARNATION.” As the angel spoke, the scenes from the death of the O’Brien, family flashed across the sky. The angels took Foster by the arms and flew him off to the crystal city, and his trial before God.
The others looked at each other, no one missed the drunk driver, but they all feared whether they’d make it to the bowl, before their sins caught up with them.
As they continued on their way, they heard a screaming from above. They saw Foster being carried by two angels towards the cave. He and the angels were being followed by the O’Brien family; they would be allowed to watch as Foster was cast into hell. Maria smiled as she listened to Foster beg for a second chance. “This place sucks,” complained Eddy. “Life was better than this!”
“Then make a better one in the next life, reincarnate and try again!” Mike told him.
“I’ve been watching the scenes of your life,” Maria told him, “And from what I’ve seen, you had your share of heartbreak and bad luck. I’ve known people that had it far worse. Just don’t repeat your decisions in the next life.”
As she said this, she could see into the real world, and watched as a romantic rival she had rid herself of long ago, was taking care of her groom. “You fucking vulture! I’m not even cold yet. I’m not even in the ground yet, and you swoop in,” she screamed at the image.
They returned to their journey. As he walked, Mike looked into the lives of his friends and family. He had few friends and was distant from his family, no one really missed him. No one held a memorial service no one sent flowers.
Suddenly a group of angels flew down on the group.
“MIKE QUINN YOUR TIME OF JUDGMENT HAS COME,” said the first angel.
“But I had my life taken, I was going to reincarnate. I have plans,” Mike told them.
“GOD HAS DECIDED YOUR JUDGMENT IS NEXT.” They scooped him up and flew him off to his judgment.
“We’d better hurry before they come for us!” said Maria as they started off.
As they walked, Eddy looked into the lives of his family and friends. He was surprised to see women crying for him, and the few friends he had trying to consol his grieving mom. His father, whom he hadn’t seen since he was twelve, showed up crying openly. All of them were praying for his salvation.
“See!” Maria told him, “It was all in your mind! You had people that loved you.”
“We should be on our way,” said Lou. As he walked down the slope, Lou looked into the lives of his family. He watched as his grieving wife prayed for him in church. He saw his eldest son comfort the youngest son, the baby of the family. He was now the man of the house and would look after his mother and younger siblings. They all told his wife the same thing ‘he won’t suffer anymore’ and they were right, he felt fine. As they neared the bowl, they saw there was a line waiting to get in.
As he watched Eddy and Maria get in line to enter the bowl, Lou said to them, “Good luck, I hope your next lives are better than the old ones were.” He shook their hands and walked away. Eddy and Maria fell in line behind the others to wait their turn at being reincarnated.
The man in front of them apparently had been decapitated he held his head in the crook of his arm against his chest. His neck was completely blown away. He turned around and the head spoke to them. “Hello, my names Charles Greychuck, nice to meet you.”
Eddy and Maria introduced themselves and they all exchanged stories of their deaths. Charles lost his head when he was murdered on the orders of a local drug dealer.
Charles had been collecting photos, and license plate numbers, and any other evidence he could, to turn over to the police. He had lived in his apartment building for thirty years with no problems. Once the drug dealer moved in, his home was broken into twice, and there was almost always a group of hooligans out on the stoop.
Charles wasn’t going to have it. So he collected evidence to get rid of them. The drug dealer had him killed, to both stop his collecting, and to send a message to the rest of the tenants, that he was the boss here.
He planned to ask if he could be a cop in his next life, when he got to the bowl. That way, by the time he grew into manhood and became a cop, he could bust the puke that killed him.
Maria wanted to ask to be born into her grooms family, husband, dad, or brother he was her soul mate. Eddy planned to ask for an easier life.
They finally reached the entrance to the bowl. An angel greeted them, and explained that there was no guaranteeing where a new life would be, or what someone’s new gender will become. There was no telling what someone will reincarnate into, it was simply new life, a second chance to please God.
Once inside the bowl they would experience a moment of intense pain, as their souls was stripped of all vestiges of its last life, to prepare for the new one. After that, their souls would be warehoused until it was their turn to reincarnate. Some wait for years for their turn, and they would be aware of the passage of time. When their time came an angel would escort their soul to the portal, where they would be sent back to earth born into who knows where.
Eddy and Maria looked at each other, they’d come too far to turn back now. Neither one wanted to remain in land of the dead, but the warehouse thing sounded a bit scary.
There was no choice they had to reincarnate. At least that way they had a second chance, and they avoided the demons and the cave.
When the angel gave them permission to enter, they walked hand in hand into the bowl. Anything that ever was about Eddy and Maria was instantly dissolved, and their souls were reduced to their basic essence, and added to the multitude of souls that filled the bowl. One day they would be born into new lives. Elsewhere on the land of the dead, a new group of souls appeared and the cycle began anew.