Bill awoke in a poorly-lit rectangular room against a concrete wall. He couldn’t tell for sure what the room’s dimensions were, but he guessed that the opposite end of the room was at least two hundred feet away. Bill was standing. It felt odd, but incredibly gratifying to feel the weight of his own body. Gravity was something he’d taken for granted. Along with his body, the walls were completely bare, or they at least appeared to be due to the minimal lighting. His feet were numb. Evidently they’d been pressed against the cold tile floor for some time. Bill realized that he was breathing again and even though he was standing bare-ass naked in some spartan room, he felt a wave of euphoria run over his body. The sensation of air filling his lungs and then flowing out his nostrils was infinitely more pleasurable than sitting his fat ass down in the Eagle’s leather chair.
The only visible object, other than the faint outlines of walls, was a small red sofa at the opposite end of the room. It looked like it could barely hold two people; the dream seat for a high school boy trying to milk a make-out session out of a movie. A couple of dim ceiling lights hung above it. The lighting they gave off made the couch look like a prop in an amateur theater production. It seemed inviting enough, so Bill decided to mosey toward it and pop a squat.
He made it halfway to the other side when a door opened behind him, right behind where he’d been standing. Startled, Bill swung around. His pupils dilated as white light touched his eyes. The sliding door wasn’t a door in the normal sense. The wall was simply splitting into two equal pieces. Whatever hidden motor powered the door’s opening made the tile floor shake and produced a jackhammer cacophony. As he covered his ears and clenched his teeth to prevent them from grinding, Bill saw two figures approach from beyond the opening. He couldn’t make out any of their features because of the blinding light that was pouring out of the door; a portal had seemingly been opened to the surface of the sun. The door began to shut as soon as the two figures stepped onto the tile.
“Go to the couch and sit down! Don’t face us until you are sitting!” commanded one of the figures. Its voice was androgynous; baritone but with a feminine timbre.
Confused and vulnerable, Bill covered his genitalia and turned towards the couch. He started to walk, but only made it a few steps before the light-bearers chastised him again.
“Run, don’t walk!” This imperative was piercing. It was the same voice as before, but projected in an ethereal falsetto.
Bill obeyed. He hadn’t run in fifteen years and his gait looked like a cross between a gorilla and a pregnant woman. Out of breath, he reached the couch and sat down. The soft fabric of the cushion gave his ass a borderline erotic sensation. It was heavenly comfortable. He reluctantly looked up at his new acquaintances. Like children pretending to be ghosts, they were draped in white sheets with an elastic opening that revealed black faces, but hid their neck and forehead above the eyes; their head coverings’ tightness and fit resembled a nun’s coif. The way the fabric clung to their sides made Bill think that the freakish klansmen had no arms.
The two figures came under the ceiling lights, which illuminated their faces and gave BIll a better look at their features. They didn’t resemble black humans, not even African humans. Their skin and eyes were the shade of tar; completely black. Their facial structures were as gender ambiguous as the voices that came out of them. Bill considered them to be virtually identical, except for one distinct characteristic. The being to Bill’s left was missing an eye in the right socket, while the one to his right was missing an eye in the left socket. The two awkwardly stared at Bill, who had become acutely aware of his nakedness.
“Don’t suppose you folks could tell me where we’re at right now.” Bill chuckled and laid his hands over his genitalia.
The left visitor walked towards Bill, stopping a foot in front of his face. It wasn’t particularly tall, maybe 5’10’’. The one on the right walked around the sofa and faced its counterpart while standing an equal distance away from Bill.
“You’ve made it to heavens’ gate. Congratulations.” said the one in front of Bill.
“So we did crash? I guess that means that I’m dead?”
“Only in the physical sense.”
“Are you an angel?”
“We are members of an angelic race, yes, but likely not one that you’ve heard of. We are the Seraphs of the Tribunal. Now that your incubation has concluded, it is our sacred duty to sentence you.”
“What do you mean incubation? And sentence? I thought you said this is heaven’s gate?”
“It is indeed. We stand at the nexus of all realities. I am the decider of what yours will be. The incubation was the time that you just spent in the waters of the lower deep. Fear not, that time was not used in vain.”
“Was I actually there? What are your names, by the way?”
“I am called Wrath, for I am the mouthpiece of the Godhead’s judgment and my associate is Perdition, for it is the liaison to the Adversary. Regarding the reality of your incubation, physicality, in the sense that you understood the concept in your previous life, is no longer a meaningful notion. We placed your soul in the abyss to prepare it for baptism, just as John prepared the way for Christ.”
Virtually nothing the Seraph said made specific sense to Bill. However, he understood the main theme was doom.
“I…I’ve already been baptized. No need to do it again, right?”
Wrath smiled wide, a cross between the Grinch and the Joker, and the mute Perdition behind Bill chuckled. It was the first human display of emotion they’d shown and the first sound that Perdition had uttered.
“Oh yes, of course you did, Rev. Dr. William Hilton. And what did that sacred event allegedly symbolize for you?”
“I don’t need to be lectured on piety. I accepted Christ as my savior.”
“And what? Then I became a Christian? Then I entered into the Kingdom of God?”
“There it is. Thank you, Dr. Hilton for your academic insight. Yes, yes. It symbolized your entry into the kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven. So too shall this baptism prepare you for admission. However, this time you’ll be granted entry into a different dimension of Yahweh’s cosmic infrastructure. The incubation gave you a chance to reflect on your past. It made you relive every facet of your existence in vivid detail, sometimes painful, sometimes orgasmic. You were brought to the brink of sanity because you became bored of your own memories. After marinating in memories old and new, you’re ready to be sentenced.”
“What are you saying? That I’m not being admitted into the kingdom of God? Into heaven?” Bill put on the solemn face reserved for vulnerable divorcees and added a dash of pity to the pose.
“Dr. Hilton. We can see your thoughts. We can access your memories. The Tribunal is immune to your disingenuous posturing. Don’t be coy. Until this very moment, you didn’t believe the kingdom of God even existed. It was just another product that you were selling for your own benefit. Every ministerial abuse that you perpetrated was tantamount to the rape of our Lord. Your life was not of Christ, it was of Caligula.”
How ever fearful he was of the heavenly minions, it wasn’t enough to curtail his wounded ego. Bill Hilton never like the word no. He didn’t like it when Hope said it and he liked it even less when the Seraph said it.
“No! That’s not true! I spread the Gospel to thousands! To millions! I expanded the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth! Sure, I’ve sinned like anyone else, but you can’t deny that I didn’t preach to millions. I brought them to the Lord! What other motive would I have?” Bill started to whimper as he spoke the rhetorical question.
“Spare us your propaganda, televangelist leper. We have custody of your soul and thanks to the Archangel’s decree of corrective torment, bureaucratic red tape won’t delay our proceedings. You are to be sentenced. In the court of Yahweh, there is no trial. Your judgment has been decided. Your charges will be read to you as the corresponding punishments are inflicted.”
“Please stop this. I beg you. I implore you! This is madness! I’m a servant of the Lord! I’m…a…a modern day prophet!” Bill felt his body pulled back into the couch, as if something was simultaneously pushing him down and pulling him back, deep into the cushion.
“SILENCE, PARIAH!” Wrath bent down and roared into Bill’s face; the way his lone eye moved made Bill think it was scanning his thoughts. Neither Seraph had physical arms, but there was no question in Bill’s mind that they had limbs of another ilk.
“Well, I suppose you are a prophet, Dr. Hilton. You’re a prophet of whores. The gospel you taught was infinitely less holy than the syphilitic menstrual blood that lubricated your insatiable adultery. Here is your sentence, William Hilton, begat from Rodney. You are to be cast down into the Temple, housed in the seventh degree of purgatory. Your charges will be enumerated to you there. Are you comfortable?”
Bill tilted his head and squinted at the limbless angel.
“Am I comfortable? I beg your pardon.”
“The couch. Is it to your liking? Do you find it pleasant to sit in?”
“Yes. I suppose I do. It’s a comfy couch. Beats the hell out of…what did you call it…the “lower deep.”
“I’m glad you find it pleasant. Take in that feeling Rev. Dr. Hilton, because this is the last sensation of pleasure or comfort that you will experience for at least an age, possibly an eternity, depending on you respond to the corrective torment. Stretch your legs out. Allow your back to be supported. Pretend you’re a king and wipe your cock against something other than concrete, rock and steel. Those are going to be your only options unless parole is offered.”
“Jesus Chris-…I mean..well, shit, you know I didn’t mean it the blasphemous way. I meant ‘Help me Jesus.’ But, what did I do that was so horrible? I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t try to kill anyone. I’m not a child molester. I’m not a rapist.” Tears ran down his face. For once, Bill displayed a genuine emotion.
“Oh but you are, Dr. Hilton. You are a defiler as prolific and victimizing as any of the criminals that you just mentioned. I know that somewhere in your heart you know this to be true. However, I am a stickler for procedure, so we’ll continue with ritual of correction. By the time the Warden of the Seventh is done with you, you’ll understand the scope and magnitude of your life’s devastation.”
Bill became defiant. He stood up. Looking directly into the Wrath’s one eye, Bill verbalized his indignation
“I demand to speak to the Father himself! Or Jesus! Or the damn burning bush. I don’t care! I want to see one of them, now! I want my judgment to come from God. That’s what people are led to believe happens in this scenario; not that we’re going to be judged by some lower-level cog in the machine. Is there no…well, damn due process here?”
“This is due process. This is what your evil hath wrought. The Godhead doesn’t have the slightest interest in your judgment or your pathetic, but amusing appeal. Nor do I have an interest in burdening my superiors with laughable requests from the damned. They rely on me to make such granular operational decisions. My powers in this area are broad and vague.” Wrath chuckled again. “Broad and vague. As an administrator of the Tribunal under Gabriel’s dominion, I interpret the Holy law as I see fit.”
Bill felt something enter him. It wasn’t physical penetration. It was mental occupation. The quiet Seraph, Perdition, had taken hold of Bill’s motor functions and firmly sat Bill back down on the sofa.
When his ass touched the sofa, Perdition pulled a black sack over Bill’s head and, without the use of arms or hands, pushed Bill into slumber.