Place us in the universe and we are microorganisms.
what happens to the soul
of an apple once it dies?
what happens to the soul
of a tree, the soul of an
ant, the soul of a bee?
what happens to a lego
house once taken apart?
where does the house
go? who can we ask?
who really knows? is it
the bricks that make a
house, or a house that
makes the bricks? is it
our body that makes us
move, or our souls that
make us tick?
how do we make sense
of what we’re told? how
do we make sense of
our very souls?
Antje looked down at some sort of scale. “Fuckity fuck fuck,” she said, “we’re going to be short again. There isn’t enough.”
“Great, as if we weren’t in enough shit already,” Erich chimed in.
They were responsible for this farm. Thousands of cows with thousands of workers. Milking away. They literally stood in cow dung that came up to their ankles.
“Any chance we could fudge the numbers? “ Erich continued, “When was the last time we…”
“Fudge the numbers?” Antje interrupted, “Are you out of your mind? What if someone notices? What if an angel does an audit? Or worse, what if God is looking? Are you willing to take on that responsibility on behalf of all these people? We’ll all suffer for this.”
“We’ll suffer if we’re short, and we suffer if we lie. What are the odds?”
“I am not in the mood to play the odds. We’ve played the odds before and we have the scars to show for it.”
“We can try and recruit extra help.”
“Who will come here now? We don’t have the time to recruit people anyway.”
“Well, I spoke to the guys at the rooms not too long ago. They said they’d see what they could do.”
“Oh? Who did you speak to? I hope not to the Buddhists. There’s nothing more useless in hell than a Buddhist,” Anjte said with a slight smirk. The type of smirk that tried to balance itself between truth, humour and some sense of impending doom.
“No no. I spoke to almost everyone else, the Muslims, Christians, Hindus, atheists, agnostics. And a whole bunch more. I don’t know if any will come through.”
“Hmmm, but if they do we might be in good shape. Maybe.”
“But here we are now. And here we are still.”
“Still, it’s better than handling bees.”
“That it is,” Antje looked back down at the scale, “That it is.”
i remember yesterday
as if it were yesterday.
and the day before that
as if it were the day before yesterday.
but the moment i remember any day
before the day before yesterday
as if it were yesterday,
i forget the day
that was yesterday.
“Mariam is in heaven,” said the imam.
“In heaven?” asked Nabeeha.
“Yes, all children go to heaven. Well, most children go to heaven.”
“Why are we in hell? Shouldn’t there be judgement before hell? Aren’t we supposed to be in our graves?”
“Should? I don’t know what should happen. I can only tell you about what has happened, and about what is happening. There’s a lot you have to let go after death. You can’t depend on the things you’ve read, or the things you’ve been taught for that matter.”
“So, what is happening?” asked Saleem.
“You died and you came to hell. Your daughter went to heaven. As to why you are in hell? I don’t know. It’s always seemed arbitrary to me. Maybe you did something that didn’t please the Lord. Or maybe you were just ignored.”
The group heard a roaring thunder. Rain drops fell from above, never reaching the ground. They meshed into the fog, and it thickened. It became harder to breathe.
“Have we angered the Lord?” Nabeeha asked.
“We may have,” said the imam, “but this is normal fare.”
“What is it?”
“The rain you see above the fog, every drop of that is a prayer. A prayer God’s ignored or unanswered, which is most of them. Those prayers fuel this fog.”
“How can we see Mariam?” Nabeeha asked, coughing from the fog.
“How do we get to heaven?” asked Saleem.
The imam laughed, “Heaven? No, we aren’t going to heaven. But we are going to have to get to work.”
“I’m sorry this is all so sudden and jarring,” said the paramedic, “it’s a lot to take in. We’re going to take you out to meet Nabeeha now. I have to prep the room for the next person.”
The imam took Saleem by the hand and helped him off the bed. They kept walking and Saleem could not see an exit to the room. A few steps later a wall with a door appeared before them, as if the imam had willed the wall into being. The world outside seemed familiar, a lot like earth itself. Paved roads, but no cars. The trees and grass were present, too. But there was something different. It was hard to see and breathe. A constant warm fog lay over everything.
In the distance Nabeeha was examining a leaf on the ground. It lay there amongst the others, lifeless and void of colour. All the leaves on all the trees were the same, and so too the grass, lifeless.
“It’s true what they say,” the imam pointed out, “the grass is greener on the other side.” If anything hell was not void of humour.
Saleem started to rush toward Nabeeha.
“Don’t,” said the imam as the couple went into an embrace, “don’t do that.”
Nabeeha and Saleem felt a warmth between them, as one would would in an embrace like this. Body heats meshing in a hug. Skin touches skin enhancing emotions. But this embrace was unlike any other. Their warmth turned to a sharp pain, and they let go of each other. The punishment for embrace is pain, it’s the price you have to pay to be with a loved one in hell.
The imam caught up to the couple, “I’m sure the two of you have many questions.”
“Where’s Mariam?” they two said together.
Saleem woke up to a blurred daze. One not much different from before he had passed out. He felt strong glowing lights in a room that seemed like it would never end. He was on a bed, connected to a drip that you would see in any typical hospital along with a machine showing his heart beats. Two men sat in two chairs. One of them seemed familiar, like the paramedic in the ambulance. The other man was too hard to see, some things were still blurry.
“Are you okay, brother?” said the paramedic.
“What happened?” asked Saleem.
“You were in an accident.”
“An accident?” Saleem had almost forgotten, “An accident! Where’s Nabeeha, is she okay? Can I see her?”
“Yes, you can see her soon. She’s already awake.”
“Oh, thank God!”
“How are you feeling?”
“I feel warm, like I’m heating up. I think I’m feeling sick. Where are we?”
“In the entry room.”
“The entry room? What’s an entry room?”
“It’s where people from accidents like yours first come.”
“I don’t understand. Where’s Mariam?”
“Saleem, I need to know if you’re in the right state of mind before we can have this conversation,” the medic said, with a stern look on his face.
The second man in the room came closer to the bed. He wore a black kufi that sat upon his greying hair, but matched his thawb. He held a tasbeeh in his right hand, the full 99 beads. Saleem immediately thought that he was some imam, here to recite some blessings for his daughter in some attempt to console him.
“Oh God, this can’t be happening. Tell me she’s alive. Tell me that Mariam isn’t dead,” Saleem said in a manic panic while he rose to sit in his bed.
The paramedic held Saleem’s hand, an odd form of reassurance.
“Saleem, you’re all dead.”
“What? That doesn’t make any sense,” Saleem could feel his heart rate slowing.
“The warmth you’re feeling isn’t sickness, Saleem. You are in hell.”
i have been waiting
for quite a while, but
those positive vibes
you said you’d send
those vibes aren’t alive,
and even if they did arrive,
they’d be dead on arrival.
far beyond repair,
far beyond revival.
i think sending vibes is
a feel good thing –
for the sender.
do me a favour then,
put them on some shelf.
keep your vibes to yourself.
maybe next time you
can send me something
useful, like a set
of disposable pens.