Henry had died a heroic death. A car was speeding nearly out of control towards an old woman in downtown Los Angeles when he dove into the headlights of a corvette while pushing an old woman out of the way. With a flattened body whose bones were so badly crushed a soul floated up above the clouds as the blood spread into a deep red puddle on the streets.
Unconscience, Henry would rise to an unknown world where the grounds were marble, the columns were a solid stone and the ceilings were fluffy white clouds.
“Get up!” were the first words that Henry heard in this foreign and unseen world. His eyes shot open and his body sprang up heaving what it could as the shock of being hit by a car were still engrained in his body. Suddenly, he realized there was no more pain. He patted himself up and down realizing that all injuries obtained from the accident were now gone. Relieved he laughed to himself and chuckled. An action with no consequence? Wonderful.
“Shut up!” was the second phrase that Henry heard that brought him to attention. Before him, he saw a jury of twleve to his left and a judge sitting behind a podium directly in front. There was no audience.
“Do you know where you are?” asked the judge, a man dressed in a traditional gown and whig.
“No. Some sort of court, right?” responded Henrey hesitantly.
The judge smiled at the ignorant guess, “You are in God’s court and if you pass you shall go to heaven and if you don’t then you shall go to places so horrible that they are unspeakable. One wrong answer and you shall die. Say and mean the correct answer and you shall dwell in God’s garden, also known as Heaven. Do we understand the terms of your conditions?”
“Heaven? I-I died?” said Henry nervously.
“That’s generally what happens when you run in front of high speeding vehicles. Know the consequences of your actions before you act! Shall we begin?”
“Get over here!”
Henry, caught off guard walked hastily to the middle of the court room.
“State your name and religion.”
Caught off guard, again, he blurted “Henry Michaelson, sir… and Religion? Would I be going to hell if I said Atheist?”
“No, you just have to swear on your family’s existence. But, before you answer, you are in God’s court so you better think about what you truly believe in. Remember, God respects honesty.”
“Okay, then yes I’ve been Atheist.”
“Do you swear?”
“Yes I swear I’m Atheist.”
“No do you swear that you are telling the truth?”
“Good. Now as you see we don’t do things traditionally around here. Seems Earth these days, especially America, tries to fancy things up making everything ‘official’”, he made the quote signs with his fingers, “ Are you ready to begin trial for entry?”
“I am,” said Henry confidently.
With that, the Judge flipped open a heavy book to its first page, “I see here that you died saving an old woman’s life. Good for you. You made a Grandma and a family very happy. She’ll live another four years because of you.”
“You know this?”
“They will be visiting your funeral in gratitude this Sunday. Yes. I also see that you have other questionable reasons, though, that justify not allowing you entry into the gates of Heaven.”
“Well I mean, whatever I did I meant nothing personal by it. It truly must have be-”
“Silence. You speak when I allow you to speak. You listen when you are required to listen. Pop quiz. Which should you be doing now? Listening or Speaking?”
“Speaking now as I am doing now but once my lips close I assume listening like a good little school boy,” Henry said with a slight smirk on his face.
The judge disaproved of this very much, “Smart ass.”
“I see here that you have had many sexual encounters with women over the past 27 years of your life. You have beeen in three major relationships, 49 sexual encounters and have experienced God’s pleasure of intercourse exactly 149 times. Not bad.”
“Um, I’m sorry. I have a question,” asked Henry worriedly, “Actually two. Do I get a lawyer and isn’t this somewhat personal- this previous question?”
“As I said before, Mr. Michaelson, this court is not traditional and no, nothing is too personal when it comes to the topic of sin versus non-sin.”
“Okay,” he held his wrist in his hand.
“Out of these 49 sexual encounters, 30 were womanized by your persistance and 5 are on Earth still thinking that you will call them back. In a couple of days they will hear the news from a newspaper and realize that it’s time for them to move on.”
“Womanize?” Henry was insulted,“ That’s a strong word to label me as. I am not a womanizer. Those women, I had met at clubs and bars. They knew what they were getting into!”
“98 percent of them asked for your number due to how you made them think that there was more beyond the one night stand. Only 2 percent of them knew the truth because of random moments of honesty that you never tend to show. Why is that?”
Henry was in disbelief, “I stand here fighting for my right to experience heaven and what you go to is how I treated women?”
“Not just any women, Mr. Michaelson, but women that you took advantage of in their innebriated states and had sex with.”
“I never got any of them pregnant!” Henry defensively said.
“Yes you did. One girl, Veronica Seth, got an abortion and never told anyone about it because of how ashamed she was. You put a woman in a difficult position that caused her to cut the potential out of someone else’s life that she never got to know.”
Henry fell silent and ashamed.
“Have you anything to say?”
Henry knew that even the word ‘sorry’ wouldn’t cut the deed he had done.
“Moving on,” continued the judge, “Let’s go to middle school. Chucky Lickson- does that name ring a bell?”
“Somewhat, ” said Henry slowly. His head raised in interest, “What did I do to him?”
“It’s not what you did that matters in this situation, Henry. What you really should be asking is what you did not do.”
“What did I not do?”
“Chucky Lickson was in trouble on a Friday afternoon right after school. Do you remember what happened?”
“No. I remember him though. He was that weird kid who always called us best friends even though I only knew his name and nothing else. What happened?”
“Well, one day he stepped onto the wrong side of the playing field which caused the five territorial bullies of the school to pier pressuring him into meeting them behind the school near the dumsters when class ended. Remember now?”
“No. It was sixth or seventh grade. How would I?”
“Well, Chucky Lickson went to his best friend for help. Do you remember how you helped him?”
“No. Not exaclty. Didn’t I tell him to not meet the bullies and just leave the situation?”
“Exact opposite, actually. You told him that he should face them so that he could, and I quote, ’ become cool like me’.”
“I never said that,” objected Henry.
“Yes you did. Everyone on this jury is witness to the event. Right jury?”
The jury members all hastily nodded their heads in agreement with the judge like a shelf of bobble heads in a bobble head store.
“But I was never the cool kid at my school! Barely anyone knew me!” said Henry with pressure welding up in his back.
“Oh yes you did. In fact that was how your friendship lasted up until his loss of mobility.”
“Loss of mobility? And, again, what friendship?”
“This is what went down. He would come to you always asking for advice because you were the only one who cared, or so he thought. You’d always give him the worst advice at the expense of his misery- and for what? Pure entertainment. The real bully during this time weren’t those who temporarily disabled him. It was you for telling him he could get all the girls at the school if you, and I again quote, ‘manned up with your fists up their asses.’ Remember now?”
“No. Because I didn’t do it. I don’t remember it at all.”
The judge with no choice stood up and called behind Henry’s position, “We’d like to call Chucky Lickson to the front as witness, please.”
Suddenly, a bright opening that remained as an abyss opened up on the marble walls in the back of the court where Chucky Lickson walked out in a ghostly and haunting manner. With a blank expression on his face he stood face to face with his old time friend from the one-sided friendship.
“Remember now?” said Chucky as his eyes beamed into the pupils of Henry’s.
In a heavenly way, suddenly Henry saw his actions.
“Yes. Yes, unfortunatly I do remember, “Henry saw everything beyond just his own doing now,” I told you to man up and fight them. When you did I never saw you again- because you were in the hospital for the next five years. It took you eight surgies to fix your neck after it had been stepped on and another three surgies to fix your legs. You lived a happy life after that until you were randomly caught in the destruction of the 9/11 attacks in New York, “Chucky broke eye contact with Henry and began to walk away, “Those were five years you could have spent well. Chucky… Chucky!”
Chucky didn’t respond. He just kept walking back into the mysterious bright abyss world.
“Chucky! I’m sorry Chucky! I’m sorry!”
Chucky disappeared into the bright abyss where the opening would shut closed from an unknown source. The abyss suddenly was inexistent.
Henry turned around to the judge fearing the sudden lonely feeling that settled deep in his stomach.
“The last case we will be reviewing is your relationship with your origins,” said the Judge sorrowly.
“My origins?” asked Henry lost.
“Yes your family. Specifically with your mom and dad.”
Henry slowly turned himself around now and braced for impact, “Let’s hear it,” his eyes remained low and sad.
“Your relationship with your mom and dad are fine. That is all.”
Confused, Henry looked up at the judge who sat there pleasantly and satisfied.
“You ready to go to Heaven, kid?”
“No,” said Henry agrily, “I’m not ready at all!”
“Really? This is a first. Explain.”
The jury was as confused as the judge.
“My relationship with my parents are horrible. My mom and dad, God bless their souls by the way, are wonderful people who made sure that before I was born, were financially ready for an only child like myself. They were so prepared they gathered finances that could have lasted for three children after me- even with inflation! And what did I do with that money? I went to public schools so I could take the spare money and spend it on myself. Hell, growing up, all I would do is ask them for money. ‘Buy me this!’ ‘Buy me that!’ All these money needs so I could look fancy and pick up chicks I would meet at school. And why did I spend so much money on clothes and fancy shit? Because I didn’t like the person who looked back at me in the mirror. So with slicked hair and button ups I strided through the streets and fed an ego that was built entirely on their wealth. And for what? So I could brag to my friends about all the pussy I was never getting at the age of 15? So I could raise my status in the hierarchy of cool kids at the highschool I went to? So I could cheat the education system of college so I would graduate faster and get a job working at same unfulfilling career? The only reason why my flat is so nice is because I still relied on them for money. I didn’t deserve a single dime of it and they still fed it to me. They did this because they loved me and didn’t know any other way to love me. They wanted me to be the best, so money became the root of our love. God Dammit I don’t know how anyone does it anymore!”
“Does what?” asks the judge.
“Does… Life! This weird challenging place full of social norms and responsibilities- and when you’ve completed one, there’s another- and when you’ve completed that there’s another miserable one. All these responsibilities and choices!” Henry collapsed to the ground crying, “I hate Earth. I hate what it made me. I hate that this world makes everything about status!”
“Status. What an interesting concept,” the judge got up from his podium and walked down to the marble floors that Henry wept on. The jury remained silent and continued to judge the situation, “Stand up, boy.”
“Why? It’s meaningless. Just send me to hell already.”
“We haven’t even come to a verdict yet. Please stand.”
Henry wiped his face and stood face to face with the old judge. In the judge’s face, he could see the grey old skin and the dry, fragile wrinkles on his cheaks. His eyes sagged and his jaw was stirdy. This man had been through a lot.
“I see a boy who merely hasn’t lived a proper life, and given the deeds you have commited and faced today, I have an understanding for your loss. Just the fact that you would throw yourself in front of a speeding car shows much about your personality. You are just a boy unsure of what you can truly offer this world. This first moment you ever saw that you could offer something meaningful was when you threw yourself in front of that car. You are only a human but even more so, a hero, ” he faced the jury, “What shall it be, angels of God?”
All stood together uniformly and said, “Heaven.”
The bright abyss opening flashed open behind Henry.
“Go forth, Henry Michaelson. You have passed the test.”
“I don’t deserve it,” said Henry sadly in his own misery.
“Yes you do,” said the Judge, “You are only a human and we were testing that you had the compassion of one. You are obviously a member of God’s garden. Go forth, kid. Go forth.”
Henry began to understand and shook the judges hand firmly with respect like no other. He turned around and entered a place so amazing that the words I type couldn’t express its beauty.