Heaven Is A Gated Community

A blond-haried angel with huge wings and a small Celtic harp

Hark as she first appears – wonderful but incredibly naive.

You have to love an internet quiz.

It’s probably the law.

Earlier tonight a friend of mine took an internet quiz that aimed to tell her “What her job would be in the Afterlife”. It turned out she was destined to be a gatekeeper in Heaven.

Which is as much of an excuse as I need to share an extract of Wonderful with you all. Be careful what you wish for, would seem to be the message. And just possibly beware the kind of people who think they probably deserve to go to Heaven.

***

‘Fill out these forms and hand them to my colleague,’ said the spirit of what was once Geoffrey Alexander Mottershead, his nasal whine perfectly recreated despite him only having the spiritual memory of a nose to whine with. He was bored almost to tears, and that, according to the rules, was perfectly fair.

When Purgatory had been abolished some years previously and Azrael had gone off to ‘find himself,’ Heaven and Hell had seen a massive influx of new residents. And while the Son had protested, as he did to anyone who would listen, that in His Father’s kingdom there were many mansions, Heaven was full of the kind of people who didn’t think any Johnny-come-lately should be able to just turn up and get a mansion, when they obviously hadn’t been devout enough to deserve one outright. If there were mansions, they felt, then they should be reserved for those indigenous, unquestioning believers who had been pure in their belief while they were alive.

The Son had sighed, reflecting, not for the first time, that he’d left a rather significant loophole in the system. Believing in him had seemed like a foolproof entry requirement when he’d first thought it up, but as time had gone on, he’d noticed that it did let through rather a lot of people who weren’t, when all was said and done, as it invariably was by the time he ran into them, very nice. The Crusaders were a more or less devout bunch of chaps, but they would insist on slaughtering people who were different to themselves. Likewise, the Spanish Inquisition fellows (who had, as comic convention appeared to demand, appeared en masse one morning, unexpectedly), were nothing if not enthusiastic believers. The Son had stopped arguing altogether when the Reverend Falwell had turned up. It was obviously pointless. Besides, the Father had no problem with these people.

And so there they were, all the mansion-claimers in their ultimate gated community. And while Heaven was in absolutely no sense a democracy, there were rather a lot of these people, and no-one likes unfriendly, muttering neighbours, so a solution had been found. Hell might be a bureaucracy, but in terms of its ability to stretch a point, spin a line or pick a nit till it howled and begged for mercy, Heaven was more like a law firm. One of those ‘how-much?’ ones that celebrities and rock stars use when they’ve shot someone in the face and need a defence. A solution had been found, or rather engineered. There were plenty of menial jobs in Heaven, most of which had previously been done by the meek – because after all, they never complained and they were due a big windfall one of these days – or by virtue of Grace, the atmospheric field of Heaven.

Now all the new arrivals found themselves doing these menial jobs – tuning harps and cleaning out trumpet spit-valves, polishing thrones and diadems, paving streets with something that glittered, but which fundamentally wasn’t gold, or, in the case of the real borderline specimens, doing the paperwork. Heaven generated a lot of paperwork these days, though of course it wasn’t real paper, any more than the streets were paved with real gold, or the trumpets were filled with real spit. But in a universe where everything was non-material, including the people, it felt real enough to Geoffrey Alexander Mottershead and his colleagues. It felt real enough to the mansion-claimers too, who smiled smugly at what they’d managed to achieve, and agreed to put their heads together more often. It might be Heaven, they said among themselves, but that didn’t mean it had to be fun.

Not for everyone, anyhow.

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