Written by Matt Birkenhauer
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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

image for Erased by the Light: A Choose Your Own Adventure Account of the Afterlife

You're driving home from work on a Thursday late afternoon as ordinary as the sausage and egg sandwich you stuffed into yourself on the way in that morning. You're behind one of those flatbed trucks with large wooden poles which you assume will soon adorn some neighborhood as telephone poles. You're wondering, as you often do when behind one of these flatbed trucks, how well the bundle of potential skewers is fastened, especially since the poles on this truck don't look quite as disciplined as others you've driven behind. Thinking this, you begin to wonder whether you should change lanes, but the lanes on either side of you are full and you're waiting to get out from behind this flatbed when, lo and behold, something gives and the whole pile of potential telephone poles do become deadly skewers--aimed primarily at you.

Strangely, the one thought you take with you to the great beyond is what a mediocre sausage and egg sandwich you had that morning from Burger Rex.

Turn to page 16

16

As the emergency crew lifts the thousands of pounds of wood off what's left of you, you're hovering above your mortal vehicle, feeling a strange sense of serenity. It's true, you think, there is an afterlife. You're floating above the hamburger that was once you--father, husband, college professor, campaign button collector, whatever--and realizing that all that was a distraction, unreal, before the sense of indescribable wholeness that now envelops you. But you suddenly remember your family--the fact that you won't be able to take the garbage out in the morning--and discover that you can move this incorporeal blob of whatever at will, so you begin to float home.

Then you remember that you were supposed to pick up the kids from daycare today, and can't do it in your present state, so you return to the scene of the accident, where they're still cleaning up the mess. You think: "So what the hell do I do now?" And then notice, off to the right, a bright shining light that beckons you toward it. Closer up, you notice that it's an entrance to a tunnel. With eternity to kill at this point, you think "Why not?" and head toward it.

Turn to page 101

101

Inside this tunnel, unfortunately, are lots of smaller tunnels leading to God knows where, and He ain't telling. So, much like the major you picked in college back in the 1970s, you pick one, which is pretty much indistinguishable from the rest of them. As you float down this tunnel you notice rooms off to the left and right. There, people of all kinds sit around playing chess, Euchre, Monopoly, and Trivial Pursuit (the Celestial Edition). They see you and some acknowledge your presence with a nod, but most of them seem perfectly content to do what they're doing.

After about forty-five minutes of floating down this tunnel with rooms representing every conceivable card and board game, your feeling of indescribable wholeness and serenity is quickly turning to boredom. You're wondering where this institutional white tunnel is leading . . .

To see where this institutional white tunnel is leading, turn to page 22.

22

. . . when you notice a particularly large tunnel entrance, with some sort of fish design above it--you've seen them on car bumpers before. There, surrounded by people of all ages and ethnicities, you see a man with a long flowing white beard, gentle in countenance, emanating, it almost seems, a kind of aura. You're drawn to this kind face after forty-five minutes of pointless wandering. He's got a list in his hands and he's checking names on it, approvingly. He looks up and sees you, his eyes reassuring, inviting, and asks your name. You tell him, hoping to come to some sort of closure, and he rears back and gives you a good hard slap--an incorporeal slap, it's true--but it still hurts. He yells, "Who the hell are you? You're not saved! You're not even on my list! Get outta here!"

You don't know what to say. All the people around him are glowering at you too. You ask him, stumblingly, "Are . . . are you God?"

He laughs and says, "No no no! I'm the Sergeant of Arms for the heaven reserved for those who are Saints and/or Saved. Whatever you are, you're not in here. So get out, pal; you know where the exit is."

Abashed, you leave the room, uncertain, wishing you had grabbed a copy of Betty J. Eadie's Embraced by the Light that someone was hawking in one of the adjoining rooms so you could make sense of all this.

If you're Saved or a Saint, stay here, with the other people of Quality.

If you're a Christian and religious, but neither saved nor saint, go to page 87.

If you're an atheist, turn to page 44.

If you're agnostic, turn to page 132.

If you belong to any other faith--Buddhism, Islam, Taoism,

Sufism, etc.--you're out of luck. This book is for W. A. S.-er,uh, I mean, White Anglo-Saxons Persons.

44

The End

87

Then, somewhere in a room to the left, you hear a voice, but you can't see it because people are standing in a crowd around it.

"The soul is sort of like a light bulb. Not the glary ones that you might put in your garage so you don't trip over an old car battery. But more like one with a dimmer switch, like you might put in your dining room. It sets a certain atmosphere or ambiance that can activate the dimmer switches of those around it in the corporeal world, which in itself is really not corporeal but only seems so to those with human bodies when, for instance, they trip over an old car battery in their garage.

"The pain from such a fall is not real--this is one of most amazing things I learned. You feel pain from such a fall because you expect or create in yourself the need for such pain. Your body, being corporeal, wants what's corporeal. And what could be more corporeal than a bruise? Cancer is the same way: Those who suffer from it attribute it to genetics and lifestyle, and they're partly right. But mostly cancer comes about because its victims desire the pain and agony that usually accompanies this horrible disease. It's a way for them to grow, to grow into and come to an understanding of the incorporeal.

"And that's the real divine secret, isn't it? Growth? God wants all of his creation, from microbe to mammoth, to grow." --You can't take this anymore, so you turn back to the page that launched you here, and recheck it. That's when you discover that you had accidentally turned to the page for those who are religious but are neither saved nor a saint.

If you are a Christian who is neither saved nor a saint, but has been decent to most people in your lifetime, you can stay here--one of the largest of the heavens in this sector--and listen to these blandishments, forever and ever.

If you are an agnostic on the wrong page, get with the program--turn to page 132.

132

After wandering around in a place that, were Crayola to give it a name, might be called Agnostic Gray, you find the exit and recognize that familiar and tedious tunnel. You wander in this tunnel for another forty-five minutes, checking out rooms on either side, and then hear voices in a room to the right, which you enter, because several of these voices are warm and inviting. You listen some more and discover what they're talking about: It seems that on a talk show they hosted someone had called in yesterday asking why, in spite of Biblical injunctions to the contrary, he was a homosexual. The speakers with the warm voices were convinced that something traumatic had happened to him when he was younger, in spite of the caller's assurance that he had had a relatively happy upbringing, and that both parents, after an initial bumpy period, had accepted his homosexuality. The warm voices decided among themselves that the caller was hiding something, and they would pray on it some more.

Then you hear another voice, a woman's voice, apparently from a nearby room, and like the other voices you heard, it's warm and inviting. Her name, you discover listening to her, is Shelly St. Bliss, and she's playing CDs. Now she puts on a song, and a voice, insipid and sentimental, croons out:

Sometimes when life's arrows

Shoot me down,

And I'm lyin'

Prostrate on the ground,

My hands, O Lord, form an arrow head,

In Hope that my troubles

You'll gladly shed.

You enter another, smaller room and see Shelly bending over some audio equipment, still talking away. She's got a chirpy and cheepy kind of voice, and can't go two sentences without invoking Jesus, the Creator, Our Lord Savior, the Alpha and Omega, the Law, or any number of proper nouns to which she has apparently surrendered all thinking and willful action. Suddenly she turns to you and chirps: "Surely the Lord is in this place, and you know it not." Although your bibles are Mark Twain, The Bhagavagita, the Tao Te Ching, and De Rerum Natura, you sort of recognize that quote--it comes from that book in the Bible where God, having created a species endowed with free will, decides to drown most of them for exercising it. Still, what that's got to do with you and the bundle of clothes Shelly is picking up escapes you.

She continues: "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet," though this time, seeing your puzzlement, she adds: "Ecclesiastes 17: 12." Then she smiles again, and you swear there's something sardonic about it.

Fixing on your still puzzled face, she raps you a hard one on the head, and explains: "Boy, you are dense. You're now a janitor, for us, WWLD, for as long as we need, which could be a long long time. While you're helping us, we and the Lord will minister to your needs, too." She smiles again, a blatant, almost crooked smile.

Now you're even thrown more, with that strangely sardonic smile, the pile of what are apparently work clothes. You blurt: "But where am I? You mean this"--you grab the clothes and shake them in front of her--"this is the uniform we wear in heaven?"

At that Shelly erupts into laughter, a laughter completely unlike her last name, "Bliss." Instead, you realize, it's demonic. Laughing, she says, "You thought this was heaven! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"

And then it all comes together--the three portly guys with the talk show, Shelly spinning the insipid CDs interrupted by someone hawking every kind of Christian Twelve Step program available, the fruitcake ranting on about Genesis and dinosaurs--and you realize, "Holy shit! I'm in hell!" Which for you is to spend eternity at a Christian Rock channel, as a janitor! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

The End

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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