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At the End of the Tunnel

fantasy by Jeremy Zimmerman

The Pearly Gates were closed when Josh and Lewis approached.

A vast crowd milled about before the high lectern next to the Gates. A clock face sign hanging from the lectern promised, “Will be back at:” The hands had been removed from the clock.

Lewis said, “We’re dead, right?”

“If we aren’t, I don’t want to see what we look like, after that accident,” Josh replied.

Josh walked up to a nearby woman. “Excuse me. What’s going on?”

“The gates are closed,” the woman said, looking forlorn.

“Right. Got that. Why?”

She shrugged.

“How long have you been here?”

She shrugged again.

Josh repeated the conversation several times with other bystanders.

“I swear, these people are like sheep,” Lewis muttered.  He poked a man standing near him, who pulled away with a frown.

Josh peered through the Gates. On the other side, people walked in quiet contemplation. Simple smiles adorned their faces.

“Hello!” he shouted. They did not respond. He gripped the bars of the gates and looked up.

“Hold up.” Lewis held up his hand.  He turned to the crowd. “Has anyone tried climbing the Gates?”

A man raised his hand.

“How’d it work out?”

“I came down on the other side, but I landed back out here.”

“There you go,” Lewis said. “God’s got a plan.”

“His plan is, ‘Don’t let people climb over the Pearly Gates?’”

“I didn’t say it was a good plan.”

“Fuck this.” Josh climbed on top of the lectern and waved his arms over his head. “People! Listen up! You have all been locked out of Heaven, right? And you don’t know why?”

People nodded.

“And we all want to get into Heaven, right?”

More nods.

Josh paused for dramatic effect. “Why don’t we make our own Heaven out here?”

A ripple of excitement spread through the crowd.

“You’re becoming a religious leader?” Lewis asked Josh, sotto voce.

“Don’t be so negative,” Josh whispered. To the crowd he called out, “We can build our society right here, live an eternal life where we are!”

“I don’t think reading If the Buddha Dated and going to church with your girlfriend on a Walk of Shame qualifies you to cater to spiritual needs.”

“Shut up,” Josh hissed.

Lewis looked out at the crowd. Some looked aghast, but their mute horror was overwhelmed by the vocal enthusiasm of their peers.

“Who’s with me?” Josh said.

Hands shot up. “Me! Me!”

“No,” Lewis said. His answer cracked like a gunshot, silencing the clamor.

Lewis backed away from the lectern. “This is absurd. I’m not a big fan of just standing around, but I’m not going to make you leader of Heaven 2.0.”

The crowd began to polarize between the two men. They separated from one another to gather around their respective figureheads. The two groups now had a purpose, and now had someone across the line opposed to that purpose.

The factions stared at one another. The silence persisted. The tension built.

One man spat. The woman hit by it lunged forward in frustration. The groups dissolved together into a riot. Already dead, they could not die. But they could feel pain, and in their fury did not hesitate to inflict it.

Josh and Lewis scrambled back from the violence, ducking low in the fog. Finally, when the people were too hurt to continue, the Gates opened.  A slim man emerged, dressed in an old-fashioned suit. His dark hair parted in the middle, jutting ears, sad and intense eyes didn’t look much like the Saint Peter they had expected.

“Could this be God?” Josh whispered to Lewis.

Lewis shrugged. “Beats me.”

The new man walked through the area, surveying the damage.

The crowd struggled to lift themselves from the ground. “Can we go in now?” one asked, in a cracked voice.

“After all this?” the new man said. “You’re lucky I don’t send you to a deeper Hell.”

“But the Gates —”

“Were closed on purpose. It’s hard to judge a soul. We get the best sense of a person’s character when they find someone to vent their frustrations against.”

“Hey,” Josh said, standing up. “We didn’t fight.”

“We just got here,” Lewis added.

“Being instigators and cowards doesn’t make you good people. It makes you assholes.”

“Please, God,” Lewis pleaded. “Can’t we have one more chance?”

“I’m not God.  He’s busy, so think of me as His spokesman. I’m the best the likes of you deserve.”

“Just who are you?” Josh asked.

“My name is Kafka.”

Copyright October 2010 by Jeremy Zimmerman

Jeremy Zimmerman lives in Seattle, with his girlfriend and five bossy cats. His passion is for games and storytelling. His writing for games has been published by Guardians of Order and Goodman Games. Jeremy’s fiction can be found in Crossed Genres and Wily Writers. He blogs about what interests him at bothy.

[Return to the October 2010 stories]

4 Responses

  1. […] At the End of the Tunnel […]

  2. Nice setup and payoff at the end. Have you seen the “Kafka in Heaven” exhibition by Volker Maerz?

  3. […] In Short on October 3, 2010 at 12:10 pm Lewis said, “We’re dead, right?” ▶ No Responses /* 0) { jQuery('#comments').show('', change_location()); […]

  4. It’s nice to know that I’m going straight to hell and won’t have to contend with those unruly assholes.

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