Monday, July 9, 2018

"Arrival" by Mary Steer



Whoa. What just happened? I wasnt expecting this.
     No. Quite often, people aren’t.
     Wait…. Who are you? What’s going on? I’m…I’m tripping, right? I’m high?
     No.
     Thenwhat? I’m not…I’m not dead, am I?
     Yes.
     Oh. I’m dead? I’m dead.
     Yes.
     That’s it? That’s all? I was expecting you to say something more like, “I’m afraid so.
     Why? Its nothing to be afraid of.
     Okay, I guess…. Is this – I feel almost presumptuous saying this, although now I come to think about it, I dont really feel almost presumptuous saying this…. Okay, Ill just say it: Is this heaven?
     Its the afterlife.
     Theyre not the same thing? No, I guess not. So is this hell? Or purgatory?
     No, those don’t exist.
     Wow, seriously? A whole bunch of people on Earth are going to be really pissed to learn that.
     No, I dont think so. Nobody here is ever pissed about anything. And of course many of them wont learn it the people to whom you refer until they come here themselves.
     I dont think you can say nobody here is ever pissed about anything. I’m here and I’m pissed about being dead.
     Are you?
     Hmm. Let me think about that…. No, I guess Im not.
     Try something else. Some people are writing on the internet that you were a poor fucked-up drug addict so of course it was only a matter of time before you died of an overdose. Some are writing that it makes no difference you were clean for so long once a fucked-up drug addict, always a fucked-up drug addict. How do you feel about that?
     You said fucked-up.Isnt that bad? I mean, the f-word and all.
     There are lots of f-words.
     But its a bad one.
     No words here are bad. Only human beings put bad constructions on words. Different human beings put different constructions on different words. So what do you think?
     All my life I was given to understand that fucked is a bad word.
     Well, now you can decide what to understand about it for all your death. But what I meant was, what do you think about people saying those things about you on the internet?
     Funny. Post-life humour. Wait, are people really saying those things?
     Some are.
     Let me think about that. No, youre right—I’m not pissed.
     How do you feel?
     Well – I’m kind of sorry for them. Sorry they seem determined to be haters. Sorry they look for the bad, not the good, that theyre making the world a worse place, not a better. Sorry they’re seeing things so, I don’t know, black and white? So unforgiving? But it’s funny, I dont really feel sorry in the way Im used to. Its more of an intellectual sorrow. Not a gut thing. And its slipping away – I cant hang onto it. I just dont want to think that way.
     No. Nobody sorrows here. Not really, or not for long. Its usually just as you describe it: a momentary sensation that quickly ceases once observed.
     Where is here, exactly?
     The afterlife.
     And its not heaven and its not hell and its not purgatory.
     No.
     So…is everyone here?
     Everyone whos died.
     I can see my mother? And my father?
     Of course.
     Can I see anyone? Can I see George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt? Gandhi, Mother Theresa, St Francis of Assisi? Oh, Marlon Brando! Marilyn Monroe! John Lennon! Shakespeare, Hemingway, Sylvia Plath –
     All souls come here.
     Hang on a minute though. What about…well, some of those people committed suicide. They get to go to the same place as the rest of us?
     The manner of death is immaterial.
     Some people don’t believe that.
     Some people are incorrect.


     So you come here even if you’re not buried in, what do they call it…
     Consecrated ground. Yes. The ground, the burial that is for the shell that housed the part of you that is here now. It does not matter where that is put. It is an empty vessel. Those who claim that the manner of death dictates the final resting place of the soul, only cause pain to those who believe it. The living cause each other much pain through their limited understanding.
     Wait now. Okay, so, forget the manner of death. What about the bad guys? Attila the Hun. Vlad the Impaler. Hitler. Goering. Guys like that.
     Theyre all here.
     How can they be here?
     They died.
     Everyone comes here? Really everyone?
     There is nowhere else.
     But thats crazy! Youre telling me it doesnt matter how bad you were on Earth, you still get an afterlife?
     No one is completely bad. What is good in you, comes here. Some souls are not very…substantial…after the dross is burned off.
     The dross gets burned off? What does that mean? That sounds like hell. Everything I ever heard about hell, involved burning.
     Did you sense any part of you burning, coming here?
     Well…no.
     Let me try to explain it in such a way that a newcomer can understand. You will increase in understanding all the time here, but for now, think of space and asteroids and meteors.
     Okay….
     When asteroids or meteors enter Earths atmosphere, some parts of them burn off. Sometimes, if the space rock is very large, there is still quite a bit left to land on Earth. Sometimes there isnt much left. Sometimes they do burn up entirely, which is not the case here, but I merely mention it as something you may have heard. Or did you never learn that, in science class or elsewhere? Some people do, some people don’t.
     I think I remember learning something like that. What we called shooting stars. Bright and then gone.
     Yes. It’s the same here, but in reverse. When souls enter this atmosphere, the bad parts of them burn off. Instead of being momentary, the brightness is the part that remains.
     Well….is there really anything left of Hitler?
     The artistic part, and the animal-loving part. As I mentioned, some souls are not very substantial by the time they arrive.
     So I could meet Hitler?
     You wouldnt recognize him. Your own features are not as they were, either. Differentiation ceases here, over time. Every soul here loves all other souls equally.
     I don’t love Hitler.
     Dont you?
     Im thinking about that. I dont know. I do love everything here, though.
     And Hitler is here.
     Then I guess I love Hitler?
     The Hitler who is here is entirely lovable. As are you. As is Goering, as is Gandhi.
     Wasnt Gandhi always lovable anyway?
     Not to the British rulers.
     But theyre here now. Arent they?
     They are.
     So they love Gandhi now?
     They do. And Gandhi loves them.
     Didnt he always, though? Being such a pacifist and all.
     Maybe yes, and maybe no.
     Its very peaceful here.
     Yes.
     I like it.
     I’m glad.
     Im glad I came.
     I’m glad you came, too.
     And everyone comes here?
     Yes.
     My wife and my children? When they die?
     Yes.
     Will I know them? Will they know me?
     Differentiation ceases here over time. You will know each other as beloved souls.
     Didnt you say that everyone here is a beloved soul?
     Yes. You will begin to feel it soon.
     I think I feel it a little already.
     Most souls are quick studies. Especially the more substantial ones, like yours.
     What were we just talking about?
     Earthly things. You have no need of them anymore.
     No, I dont, do I? I thought….I’m forgetting what I used to think. I think I thought death would be horrible. No.I think I was afraid of it. Or maybe I was just afraid of the pain I thought would go with it. How did I die? I think.I had some drugs, right? I thought I was just going to have a good time. I was just going to get a little high, trip a little. Then it was too much. It was too much, right?
     It was too much for your body.
     It didnt hurt, coming here.
     I’m glad. Some people hurt before they get here.
     I didnt. Well – not in my body.
     Your mind hurt. Your soul.
     Yes. I felt guilty and embarrassed and ashamed and weak, but I couldnt resist in spite of all that. Its funny – all those feelings are just things I can imagine in my mind, but I dont feel them at all now. But then.yes. My mind hurt. My soul.
     They don’t now.
     No. They dont. Is this all the afterlife is? An absence of pain?
     Is that all you are experiencing?
     No.no.
     What are you experiencing?
     I would say.I would say joy. Deep joy. Pleasure. Delight. Peace.
     Yes. You have arrived. Welcome home, beloved.

Mary Steer has been writing since before she could, well, write. She started by dictating (very short) stories to her kindergarten teacher. Many of these early works were about animals, such as cats and koalas. These days her stories are quite a bit longer and rather more involved, though occasionally they feature one or more cats. More of Mary’s work may be found at her website: marysteer.com

See Brian Henry’s schedule hereincluding writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Cambridge, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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