by Peter 9 Bowman
Copyright Peter 9 Bowman 2016
Also by Peter 9 Bowman, Published at Shakespir:
Armilus: It was the best of times; it was the End of Times
Who Wants a Cookie?
Owner of the House
Wednesday. Okay. So I’m feeling really tired for the last couple of days. I notice that my pee is coming out kind of orange and I double up on iron pills because that usually means I’ve got some bleeding going on. It’s not the first time it’s happened. In any case, I go to bed early and the next morning I wake up dead.
I know what you’re thinking: How could you be dead and still write this? I could make up some baloney about zombies or whatever but the truth is I just don’t know. I do know that I wake up dead. If you don’t believe I’m really dead stop reading right here.
Okay, good. You’re still reading. So you’re probably asking, What’s it like? Well, it isn’t at all what I expected. Forget about walking toward a light and pearly gates and all. I’m in a giant line of people like security at an airport. We’re all holding our shoes and walking behind rope barriers that snake back and forth. There are kids and old people and whole families and we’re all moving along at a pretty good clip.
I want to see what happens when we get to the front of the line. Is there one of those scary worm hole things or maybe some kind of entrance exam? What about purgatory – or hell? Is it a dry heat? I have a lot of questions. You would too.
We must walk a mile down this hall before I finally see it: a huge dome with a bunch of moving walkways. There’s a sign over each walkway: Adonism, Advaita, Agnosticism, Ahl-e Quran, Ahmadiyya, Akhbari, Alawites, Alevi, Ananda Marga, Anishinaabe, Anito, Anthroposophy, Arya Samaj, Asatru, Ash’ari, Ashtanga, Ayyavazhi, Azali, Azraqi. And those are just the A’s. There have to be three or four hundred walkways and people are choosing which one they want to get on. I guess it’s a kind of Grand Central Station for dead people.
I see signs for Catholicism and Buddhism and Hinduism and Islam and Judaism and Scientology and Wicca and Unitarianism and dozens of Protestant sects. There’s also Secular Humanism and Celtic Neopaganism and Invisible Pink Unicornism. No, really. Unicornism. Google it. And Chaos Magic and Last Thursdayism and Vailala Madness. And each walkway has a recruiter hawking the perks of that religion’s afterlife.
The barker under the Catholicism sign is offering a limited time special – six millennia off purgatory. I was baptized Catholic but it didn’t take. I never went to confession, never went to mass, never recited a single Hail Mary. I don’t want to spend eternity playing Bingo in some smoke filled hall so I move on.
The fellow under the Islam Martyrs sign is shouting like the hotdog guy at a ballpark, “Get your six dozen virgins, get ‘em while they’re hot. Six dozen black-eyed virgins here…”
I never studied Islam and I’m pretty sure I didn’t martyr myself. But I have to admit that six dozen virgins sounds like a deal. Until now I’ve only been friendly with one virgin and even that was a maybe. Six dozen. By the time I say hello to the last one I won’t remember the first one and I can start fresh all over.
I head toward the Martyrs’ line and the recruiter in the walkway next to him under the Thursdayism sign says, “Don’t do it.”
I say, “Six dozen. Sounds pretty good.”
“There’s a reason they’re still virgins. Don’t do it.”
That kind of put me off. I ask him what Last Thursdayism is about. He says, “We believe you created the universe last Thursday looking billions of years old and that the universe will end next Thursday.”
“Me? I created the universe last Thursday?”
“At 3:01 in the afternoon you created the universe as a test for yourself. Everyone but you was pre-programmed as part of your test. Everyone but you knows this.”
“But I can remember having supper last Wednesday. Lasagna.”
“Last Thursday at 3:01 you came into existence complete with memories of things that never really happened. Before 3:01 none of this existed.” He swept his arm across the hall.
“Ahh. You’re making fun of Creationists.”
“Not at all. You created them at 3:01 on Thursday along with fossils and dinosaur bones and everything else as part of your test.”
I turn around to the people behind me. “Excuse me. Can I have your attention? Do any of you think I created you? Are you just here for a test I made up?”
Most everybody ignores me but a big sweaty guy says, “Bite me.”
I turn back to the Thursdayism barker. “Nobody seems to think they’re just here for my test.”
“What do you expect? That’s what you told them to say.”
“If I’m the Creator, how come all those girls I liked wouldn’t give me the time of day? Susan, Marilyn, Lenny, Joni Mitchell – not one of them even knew I was alive. And all those literary agents – nothing. Don’t you think the Creator would at least get a decent rejection letter?”
“They all wanted you. They just had to keep it a secret. Rules are rules.”
“If everyone else here is just a prop you must not have many Thursdayism members.”
“Everyone here is a member. But they have to keep it to themselves.”
“Why is everyone going to other walkways?”
“Wouldn’t it be suspicious if they all came here?”
He had me. “So what kind of eternity do you offer?”
“You’ll be rewarded based on how well you did on your test.”
“My test – who grades it?”
I might be dead but I’m not stupid. I stepped on to his walkway and ended up here. It’s 3:00 on a sunny Thursday afternoon. I’m lying in a hammock next to a river of lemonade and under a tree of thinly sliced Wagyu beef, rare – just the way I like it. I’m writing this to tell everyone that I know you’re all just here as part of my test and you can stop being such assholes to each other and start being nice any time you want. And I think
Autumn in New Hampshire. The air is crisp, the moonless night still. Bonnie and I tilt our chairs back against the rear deck railing and take in a brilliant celestial canopy. How can there be so many stars? Were they hung there just to remind me of my own insignificance? A satellite hurries by overhead, scurrying like Alice’s rabbit against a grand backdrop of distant suns. Its frenzied pace seems almost comical – a Charlie Chaplin hustling among the slow moving gods and goddesses of the heavens. A meteor streaks across the sky – a thin line of sparks that disappears in the blink of an eye. Bonnie says it comes from Orion’s club. Did I really see it – or only imagine I saw it? I feel tiny, just an old man on a little back porch of a small farmhouse in a tiny town on a speck of a planet in a speck of a solar system in a speck of a galaxy remembering bits and pieces of a life of almost; almost rich, almost famous, almost brilliant – now almost done. Some of these stories are told for the first time. Some are family heirlooms repeated over and again the way my mother did. Stories of her childhood dog, how she met my father, the terrible war – I can recite some word for word. I used to think maybe she repeated them so that they might outlive her frail body. Now I’m sure of it. Sam said, “When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not. But I’m getting old, and soon I’ll remember only the latter.” I know the feeling, Mr. Clemens. Did it happen or was it a hope, a misunderstanding, a dream? All of the Porch stories are as true as my memory permits them to be. I’ve changed some names, added context here and there, but each tale’s core is as accurate as I could make it. These works are dedicated to those who’ve loved me back – and the remaining few who might love me forward. Enjoy – Peter 9 Bowman P.S. – If you enjoy these short stories you might try my novel Armilus: It was the best of times; it was the End of Times also available on Smashwords.