Suicide Bombings in Heaven? Computer Background Checks in Paradise? Peter, the security guard with a rifle at the gates? Do they have cable in heaven? You better believe it! This story was previously published in the Truth Magazine, July 2006. It was based on world events and partly on my experience working at a Mexican university in Oaxaca.
“Sorry, to be so … anal, but these days one cannot be sure enough,” Peter said, as he picked up the phone to call one of the angels. He briefly explained on the phone that there was need for an IBC. “Yes, I know. He forgot his badge,” he spoke into the phone. Then there was a pause. He nodded occasionally saying “uh-huh” and stealing glances at the young man who was waiting for a response.
Finally, Peter hung up, and addressed the young man with an encouraging smile, “No worries. They should be here in a minute.”
The man scratched his head and looked down at his shoes.
“So,” Peter said, “you must be new to the area.”
“Yes, that is correct,” the man replied curtly. After a short pause he added, “Two weeks.”
“Ah, I see,” Peter smiled and stroked his long white beard in contemplation. “You see it’s really indispensable to have your badge with you. At all times!”
“I know. I am very sorry for that. Won’t happen again. I promise.”
“So, you decided to go down there…take a peek so-to-speak?” probed the ever-curious Peter. The man grimaced and nodded quickly. He seemed to feel very self-conscious at the moment. Peter, with over two thousand years of experience had seen all types of people come and go, from all age groups, economic standings, ethnicities and backgrounds. Many were indeed afraid and quite perturbed at first, often sallying out at night to see their lost loved ones. The majority of them found it hard to accept that the game had come to an end, especially when it happened to them at a younger age. The man must have been in his middle or late twenties, speculated Peter.
“You still miss the old life, don’t you?” Peter added, slightly adjusting the rifle that was slung over his shoulder.
The young man’s eyes welled with tears.
“Now, now, one gets used to it. I mean, thank God that you are in these parts, you know. I mean, the other place is much, much worse, of course. No security whatsoever, high crime rates, and unbearable heat! But I can see that you are a good-hearted person. And I have seen many pass through here, ever since I was appointed gatekeeper. I mean the decisions are made above, ha, but I am sort of like a secretary and a guard. So, tell me, young man, what quarter you’re staying at again…I mean what was your religious conviction, for example?”
“Atheist,” he said, blushing quickly.
“Ah, don’t worry. It is a very, very common trend these days. Since…what’s his face…the French guy…René or something. Or was it Voltaire? Man, my memory is going.”
He paused for a while attempting to retrieve the name, but only managed to conjure up the face of a Frenchman in a long frockcoat and frills on his sleeves. He brushed his thoughts aside with a quick motion of his hand. “Ah, whatever! Anyhow, our security measures had to be increased in recent times. That nonsense of terrorism has taken its toll even up here. Everything that happens down there…it has like a ripple-effect…you know, when you throw a stone into a pond…and we get to feel some of its vibrations up here…Part of the whole free will issue…let’s-see-what-they-will-do-next kinda deal … You see, my desk over there?”
He pointed with his finger. “I got the latest newspapers there. Herald Tribune, Der Stern, Le Monde, The Vancouver Sun, Die Zeit. Got to keep up with the times, that’s what the Big One said in one of our weekly meetings. Yes, I mean, can you believe it, we had our own shoe-bomber some time ago. It was quite a scene.”
The young man was fumbling in his pockets and kept glancing through the electric, iron gate to see if somebody was coming soon.
“Yeah, it was nuts,” Peter continued. “Suicide bombings even in heaven! Can you imagine that! Will they ever stop and find peace? Can’t really blame them though… Strong unshakeable convictions and lots of suffering…feel sorry for them. Ready to die twice over… for their nation, their religion, what have-you. Young ones, too. Mind you, not all of them are inherently evil…You see all these things with badges and IBCs, that is Identity Background Checks, is relatively new. In the old days, we didn’t have computers either. It’s great, technology and all ... don’t get me wrong. Human kind has made some incredible strides. Really incredible, I say. We even got cable here…well in the office only. Residents are sheltered from it, though they get access to the cinema, quality foreign movies with subtitles…once a week…every Sunday. I’m sure you’ve noticed…Anyhow, I sometimes go through long spells of nothing…you know the majority of people get sent to the quote unquote other place. The abode of the evil brother. Yeah, anyways, we got cable all right, but none of the…what you call it there…pornographic channels. No, those are not allowed. Playboy is it or, the one that has the planet’s name…Uranus? No, Venus. That’s it. And also no Fox Network. Strictly forbidden.”
“Are there many … attacks here?” the young man suddenly asked.
Peter shook his head. “No, not since we buffed up the security measures. Many have tried to get in using fake names and personalities, forged IDs etc… Yeah, I really don’t know what’s happening with you people these days. We haven’t had this much confusion since the days of the crusade. Actually, I must say it’s getting kinda worse. For that reason, we divide people up, as you may have noticed, by their beliefs and ethnicities etc. Don’t want any brawls here, nor hatred or hard feelings, especially considering that people are supposed to be here for all eternity and such. That often causes friction, you see. Quite a few times, they find out something about the other person and get into fights. We have even had soccer rivalries extend to our parts. Anyhow, the Christians and the Jews and the Hindus and the Muslims have their own restricted areas, as you may note. The others we find rather more…how should I put it…flexible. We found that Buddhists and atheists, including scientists, get along quite well indeed.”
Some brightly colored birds flew around on the other side of the gate and the young man watched them attentively. The air was quite humid that afternoon, and vapory clouds were rising. You could hear a waterfall in the distance. With his sweaty palms, the young man grabbed on tightly to the piece of folded paper in his pocket.
Soon enough, the angel in a white bathrobe showed up, looked the young man up and down, asked him some personal questions while double-checking the responses to sheets of paper in his blue folder, then personally frisked the man and gave Peter a go-ahead nod.
“Welcome back, young man. Next time don’t forget your ID, OK?” Peter said in a playfully reprimanding tone.
The angel and Peter engaged in chit-chat while the young man made his way to his quarter. He breathed a sigh of relief, as the notes on how to make explosives had passed by unnoticed through the gates of Heaven.