It wasn’t the way I’d expected it to be at all; firstly there was no white light, no great shock to my system, no spiral path. I was suddenly but gently in another room, well the space felt room sized but my senses were dull and my perception/radar whatever was picking up less visual information than before, before, when I was alive. In a peaceful incoming wave, carried like a stray piece of seaweed or driftwood the thought lapped into my mind and spun slowly on some purposeless current. “When I was alive, that was then, now I’m alive but not living as I was. I have died and this is life after..” The thought drifted on, I felt no panic, no need to grasp it back, no need to explore much of anything inside me, the grey haze of where I am now was slowly beckoning.
The grey fog did seem to surround everything and was sucked into all my stuttering senses. Sounds and smells were unclear, as if a hat or an opaque cover was pulled down over my eyes. I thought I was standing but I could have been staggering, I could have been lying down. I sensed arms, hands, fingers, legs but they were dumb oddly slow-witted as if they had things, functions to relearn. The grey was moving now, steamily evaporating like a monsoon shower struck by the break through of the sun and steaming back to the heavens to be reborn in some other shower later in the hot and sticky afternoon.
So the vapour trailed away, time not mattering much and my thoughts were still muddy. I wanted to question myself, feel myself, rewind in some way the recent events and put together a picture so that understanding was available. I was like my memory and familiar automatic functions hadn’t stopped, just become unavailable and dormant. My mind was a library of unopened, unread books, cataloguing experiences, ideas and events, lists and inventories of my time and passions and desires. These all now had closed with the dull thud of a finished book and it appeared would remain archived and remote for the time being or perhaps forever. Am escaping though suggested that really, right now they were of no consequence, their time had passed and they were unremarkable. That my life was stored and “unremarkable” didn’t trouble me in the least. That I was here now and found myself unbreakable was much more significant. The lack of panic, fear, pain and any rush of excitement, things I had assumed accompanied death and the stepping into the afterlife was now a mild maladjusted surprise. A bit like loosing a very pleasant Christmas present unexpectedly from unpromising wrapping and an unlikely source. Triggered by the Christmas thought I briefly pictured the Biblical descriptions of Heaven and Hell. The process of queuing, awaiting the judgement call, the angels praising, the truth being revealed, Hell and all it’s promised terrors opening up for me as I fell through the crust of the earth whilst the great and good travelled on some silver escalator high above, happy and oblivious of my fate.
The grey stayed featureless but was now less grey, bluer, warmer and accommodating though I could not pierce the membrane of unknowing that floated in and around me. My awareness grew gradually, some senses seemed to be returning, others sharpening, others dying and I found these states shifted even as I tried to concentrate on each one. Hearing was sharp, then dull as the white noise of heaven receded, sight clear as I focused on a pinprick of light catching my eye from the edge of a gaseous cloud, feelings pained then cocooned by a corset of nerveless ness. My consciousness took an abrupt turn back to earthly life when I suddenly realised I was reading. It was a sign, but not written, not pasted or posted up. It seemed to be inside my head but still in my field of external vision. It said “Ministry of Divine Works, Matters and Happenings: Newcomers and relative beginners required for career development, project work and satisfying outcomes. (Please do not apply if you have already been refused a position – second helpings of mercy are not available).”
I was aware of smaller print (?) below the main notice, try as I might I could not read it, it remained a mysterious and off putting blur. Anyway who or what was behind this notice anyway and how exactly had it become implanted in my brain? As I thought that thought the ridiculous idea that I should even begin to understand what was going on dawned on me. Here I am dead, passed away, on the other side and I expect normal rules and conventions to apply. At this point another “sign” materialised: “Debt collectors and accountants, sin and good deed consultants, criminal experts and perversion actuaries – we need you at the Ministry of Redemptive Management”. There was more blurred small print draining away at the dog end of this even more confusing advert. I found it even less attractive than the first as I began to conclude that there were significant imperfections in built in this perfect afterlife. I was apparently a continuation of some vast public sector bureaucracy, determined to mine and manage heaven or wherever I was in a structured way. The final add did it for me:
“Get your own back, square the score, settle your account with a rewarding position at the Ministry of Divine Intervention, no previous experience needed. Candidates must possess drive and determination, statistical skills and the ability to exert a strong one-sided influence over group work, no team players please!
A new life was now calling me from the Ministry of Divine Intervention. I had to find the application form. *
*Application forms in heaven are hard to find. There is general rule that if you can’t find or obtain by whatever means the form you need then you were never really meant for the job you wanted. It all smacks of a higher kind of total predestination. The forms themselves, when found, are quite easy to complete. Always in block capitals and often with plain yes/no tick boxes.
For a moment I thought I could hear Christian rock music, or was it country music drifting by in the distance? It rose and fell on some tired, laconic breeze. I looked around hoping to see the source and just as I was about to stop looking he appeared. He was a goat, well a man with a goat’s head, a white goat head and a beard. He was grinning and lighting a thin cigar or cigarillo. He puffed blue smoke from a corner of his goat mouth and with his woolly hands pulled the cigar from his mouth and spoke. “I can get you that form boy, but it will cost you dear, I need you for some of my chance happenings, are you in?”
I spoke out loud for the first time since I’d died “How difficult can it be?” As I breathed in after talking I tasted salt on the air from my breath. “How difficult can it be?” I repeated…..to be continued.