Archive for February, 2010

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XVI


Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XV

Escape from Heaven cover


Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 16


A short digression.

I’ve had to make choices in this narrative about what I thought was important to bring up and what I should leave out. By way of full disclosure, I have to admit that I’ve allowed the entertainment instincts I developed on radio to guide me in those selections as much as, or more than, anything else.

For example, I haven’t told you about any other family member than my daughter. I haven’t mentioned many of my personal friends. I’ve told you practically nothing about my ex-wife.

Part of this is by their choice. Some of my friends and relatives actively campaigned for the Anorexic Party and asked me to leave them out of this narrative if I could. I also haven’t wanted to burden you with aspects of my personal life that I just don’t think are interesting to many people.

But I realize you might have thought it curious that, in particular, I haven’t said anything about my parents, or whether I have any brothers or sisters. You might have come to the conclusion, from what God had said about cloning me, and from what Lucifer had said about God being Dr. Frankenstein, that my origins might have been in a Petrie dish rather than in a womb.

Put that thought out of your head. God doesn’t need to work that way. In the ordinary course of human reproduction God has the power to effect very small miracles on gametes and zygotes when he needs them. I was born the usual way from ordinary human parents just like most of you were, not whipped up in some laboratory.

My parents were both alive at the time the events of this story took place, and living quite comfortably in a retirement community in Florida. I talked to them on the phone once or twice a week, and my dad, a retired cardiologist, played golf and sent me jokes in email. My mom, a retired ER triage nurse, played bridge, and loved TV game shows. They had just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary.

I have no sisters and only one brother. He’s got a doctorate from MIT in nuclear physics, was happily married with three kids, and at the time of these events was working at the Los Alamos National Laboratories on classified work he couldn’t talk about.

If you got the idea that the reason I haven’t mentioned other family and friends, when I talked about my time in Heaven, is that they hadn’t made the cut, that’s not it. There have been other pleasant times when we’ve caught up with each other again. Otherwise, let’s just leave it that there are matters which are the private business of other people, and it’s not my place to tell.

+?~

Before we adjourned, I placed General Patton in charge of calling up the militia — loyalist saved humans, earthbound angels, and even ghosts between incarnations — to serve as the Home Guard. Patton, in turn, delegated the job of Chief of Intelligence to the former Aaron Burr, not only because Burr was a master of intrigue, but also because he best knew how to use ghosts as intelligence operatives.

Burr’s second-in-command was the former Queen of Egypt, known for some intrigues herself, and I wondered whether there would be any romance between these two actors, considering Burr’s sexual preference in his last incarnation. But if any woman could turn a gay man straight again, Marilyn Monroe was definitely the one.

More than half the committee were renowned as writers. While the campaign strategy didn’t call for any agit-prop, never underestimate the continuing necessity of preaching to the choir. We were also going to need ongoing analysis of the opposition camp’s propaganda, and the development of effective counters.

I picked Thomas Jefferson/King Solomon as my attorney general, Heinlein as my chief of staff, H.L. Mencken/Benjamin Franklin as my press secretary (we wouldn’t be talking to mortals, but there were millions of others who’d be following the campaign) and Martin Luther/King as my Deputy Consul. He was going to have the fun of telling the Anorexic Party that we were calling their bluff, and it was his job to tell me how they took it. I figured that a man who was intimidated by neither pope nor klansman would be able to remain steady, no matter what curve they threw him.

I had a very special solo assignment for Lindbergh/Lewis/Polo, which I’ll get to later.

As for me, it was my intention to put the right people into the right jobs and stay out of their way.

I gave everyone present my unlisted number and went home.

Martin Luther/King visited me at my house the next day to report on his meeting with the Terran Secretary of the Anorexic Party at her office in Hong Kong. Upon delivering our official response, Dr. King was kept waiting in her outer office for almost two hours, during which he reported hearing muffled shouting and “what sounded to me like three gun shots in rapid succession.”

A few minutes later, the Party Secretary sent out her personal assistant with a sealed communiqué to me.

We opened it together.

Manchu Ellins was not going to be the candidate of the Anorexic Party after all. My response had evidently caused the Anorexic leadership to retool their own plans and we were going to be facing a campaign of an entirely different sort.

The official candidate of the Anorexic Party for the governorship of earth was the Reverend Doctor Sun Amen Chill, Pastor of the Newer Light Televangelical Cathedral in Lakewood, California—and the election had been scheduled for October 31st—just seven weeks away.

The date of the election, Martin Luther pointed out to me, was not significant only because it was eve of the Christian holiday honoring the dearly departed. It was also the anniversary of that day in 1517 when Luther had launched the Christian Reformation by posting his ninety-five theses to the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Lucifer, not the greatest mathematician in the universes, evidently liked whole numbers; the Interregnum would begin and end on the same date.

“What does this change of candidates mean?” I asked Dr. King.

“It means,” he said, “that the Anorexic Party has an open line between its offices in Heaven and earth … and that Satan is very, very upset.”

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” I asked.

Martin Luther King paused a long moment. “It means that you’ve caught her off guard, which is good. But don’t take this as a sign that we can let our guard down. History often shows that when Satan gets upset, bad things happen to good people.”

+?~

Over the next month, things on earth continued to be very quiet.

Say it with me: too quiet.

As I pointed out right at the beginning of this narrative, radio talk show hosts have to keep up with the news, especially if anything controversial or dramatic has happened. Usually that’s what people want to talk about. I was in the habit of scanning through three daily newspapers, watching the morning news shows, and listening to what other radio hosts were talking about.

But the newspapers were running back-section features on the front page and talk show hosts were focusing on sports, fashion, their mother’s favorite recipes, and entertainment gossip.

Golda Meir had warned us to be prepared for disasters. Not only wasn’t there a single natural disaster or new terrorist attack being reported anywhere, even long-standing political feuds started relaxing.

Forest fires were down. It was raining where it was too dry and sunny where the ground was already too soggy. The weather was good and the temperatures mild.

New peace initiatives were being proffered by both sides in traditional global hot spots.

Nobody was rioting anywhere, or even protesting.

There were no labor strikes or lockouts.

The latest unemployment figures were down and consumer spending was up. The stock market was on an upswing again.

Banks started lowering their interest rates for consumer loans, and raising the interest rates they were paying on savings and money-market accounts.

Congress had just passed a repeal of the capital gains tax and the inheritance tax, and the president announced that federal drug-war funds earmarked for the Drug Enforcement Agency were being reassigned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

China announced that it was abolishing the death penalty for political crimes, and offering a general amnesty to most dissidents.

The Los Angeles Chief of Police held a press conference claiming that his just-implemented “Officer Friendly” program was working immediately; emergency operators were reporting that violent crime calls were down eighty-five percent in the last month. But so were 911 calls on domestic disputes, and I didn’t see how having jollier police officers in patrol cars could affect that very much.

The Anorexic Party had yet to avail themselves of an opportunity to make a campaign presentation in any astral plane. Nor was there any indication in media available to the mortal population that they were about to be polled on any important decision.

There was an off-year-election coming up early November in the U.S., but the most controversial voter initiatives in California were suddenly thrown off the ballot by the California Supreme Court, and even their sponsors didn’t seem too upset about it.

Burr’s spooks in the astral plane reported to him that the frequency of human nightmares was also down significantly. Perhaps that explained why incidents of road rage, and traffic accidents, were down as well.

People were sleeping better.

The religious revival that Mencken had warned us would appear following worldwide disasters had also not manifested.

I tuned in to Sun Amen Chill’s Sunday morning sermon and instead of his usual rap about the salvation that awaited us if we were washed in the blood of Jesus (is that what Jesus was burning in his pipe?), he preached from his pulpit that this was a wonderful day for everyone to go with their family and friends on a picnic or to a ball game.

Lucifer’s operatives on earth had been pulled off all their usual jobs and it looked as if their new product was sweetness and light.

I had a bad feeling about this.

#

Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XVII.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XV


Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XIV

Escape from Heaven cover


Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 15


There’s just no other way to put it. Heinlein is a show-off.

It was about a 600-mile flight north from Culver City to Mount Shasta. Inasmuch as this was my first flight since I had returned to earth, I was happy simply to look down at the California scenery, past the Grapevine, over Pea Soup Anderson’s, past farmland and rolling hills, around Sacramento, until, from about 100 miles away, Mount Shasta came into view.

I was flying pretty much level and steady. Meanwhile, Heinlein was doing aerobatics: barrel rolls, eight-point rolls, the back stroke, full loops, and just for variety, an occasional quadruple gainer with two-and-a-half twists. I felt like shouting at him, “Orange wings! Be careful or the flightmaster will ground you!” but wasn’t sure how well he’d remember his own stories and whether he’d get the inside joke. We made good time anyway, and the flight was less than an hour.

In case you were about to cluck your tongue about our drinking and flying, keep in mind that our resurrected bodies could handle drinking Love Canal without being affected.

Weather on the summit was mild for Mount Shasta when we dropped in for our landing. The Great Assembly Hall, like Mount Shasta itself, was built like a pyramid, but was a layer off dimension so it wouldn’t be perceptible to mortals. Heinlein and I walked inside.

The Central Committee of the Party of God has no decision-making authority of its own. It exists as an advisory body, a cabinet, for God’s designated hitter. There were no permanent seats on it; it was more or less like a minyan in Jewish law or a jury pool in American courts. Whoever qualified that was around when the Coordinator needed help was pulled in for service.

The qualifications for the jury pool were particularly lofty, and a bunch of really accomplished people had volunteered to trap themselves on earth to help me prepare for the election until the gates reopened. Angels were not permitted to serve on the committee, not even angels who had incarnated as human. Eligibility required being a resurrected native-born earthling.

Since this was the first time I was being presented to them, they made it into a show. Aside from Heinlein and myself there were fifteen delegates in attendance, queued up in a reception line. But the fifteen standing before me represented not only their most recent incarnations, but also some of the most memorable personages in human history.

They all applauded as I entered, then Heinlein guided me down the line, making formal introductions. I took the opportunity to exchange a few personal words with each one who seemed amenable to it.

“Saul Ben-Samuel Pepperman,” he said, using my real first name and my father’s, “may I present to you the Chairman Pro Tem, Thomas Jefferson née King Solomon …”

“The Declaration of Independence is the single best piece of writing in human history, sir,” I told him.

“Henry Louis Mencken née Benjamin Franklin.”

“Mr. Franklin, I agree about not deserving liberty, but how do we make men brave?”

“Goldie Mabovitch née Elizabeth Regina.”

“Mrs. Meir, my grandmother once told me you gave a speech in her living room.”

“William Claude Dukenfield née Aristophanes.”

“This sure beats Philadelphia, doesn’t it?”

“Sheikh Mushariff-Ud-Din Sa’di.”

Khosh amadid.

“Alissa Rosenbaum née Aristotle.”

“The way I would phrase that, Miss Rand, is ‘either-ornery.’”

“Clive Staples Lewis née Durante Alighieri.”

“So on November 22nd, 1963, you, Jack Kennedy, and Aldous Huxley all met just outside the tunnel and decided to go pub hopping together?”

“George Bernard Shaw.”

“How are you handling immortality?”

“Raymond William Stacy Burr née Aaron Burr.”

“Nice shot,” I said.

“Samuel Langhorne Clemens.”

“Did you ever find out what happened to your friend Mr. Bierce?”

“Martin Luther King, Jr., née Martin Luther.”

“You just took that reincarnation because you wanted to keep your old name?”

“Norma Jean Baker née Cleopatra.”

“You know, you remind me so much of a close friend of mine named Estella.”

“George Smith Patton, Jr., née Alexander the Great.”

“I would have gone on to finish off Stalin, too.”

“Charles Augustus Lindbergh née Meriwether Lewis née Marco Polo.”

“The violin originated not in Italy but in China?”

“Ludwig von Mises née Adam Smith.”

“So you’ve completed the first draft of Deistic Action?”

After introductions, we removed into the conference room, seating ourselves at a round table of the same sort I’d encountered at breakfast with God: floating midair with self-positioning chairs. But this table was a lot bigger.

President Jefferson as Chairman Pro Tem gaveled the meeting to order, welcomed me again, then turned the meeting over to me.

“Thank you, Mr. President,” I said. “This is new to me. Do you mind acting as parliamentarian for me? Advise me regarding rules of order?”

“That will be easy, sir,” Jefferson said. “This is your meeting. Each of us will speak only when you ask for one of us to do so.”

“There is no set agenda? No old business?”

“None.”

Okay. Try to put yourself in my place for a second. You’re in a room with sixteen of the most brilliant, most famous, most accomplished human beings of your race, people who are human history, and the one whom the rest of them have decided is perhaps the smartest and most accomplished of the lot has just told you they’re waiting to find out what you want to do.

How did I get picked for this job? I wondered. Just because God gave me a long swim in his gene pool, did that make me qualified even to sit among these giants, much less lead them?

I looked over to Jefferson again and saw him smiling. I knew that he had been exactly where I was sitting and knew exactly how I felt.

I had to start somewhere and picked one almost at random.

“General Patton, I was under the impression that we faced a political engagement with the opposition, not a military one. Are you here to advise me in your professional capacity as a military man, or elsewise?”

“I’m here in case the enemy acts true to form,” Patton said. “They don’t play by the rules. You have to watch them like a hawk. You can’t assume anything. You have to figure out where they’re going and be there waiting for them.”

“Do you expect we’ll have to meet them in battle?”

“For once someone is asking my opinion before it’s too late,” Patton said. “We can’t win this war by attacking the enemy through force.”

“If you don’t think so, general, I have no doubt it’s true.”

He nodded and went on. “But they might contemplate using force against our positions to disrupt our operations. With proper preparations, we can foreclose the force option to the enemy before they can use it.”

“You’ve foreseen such preparations? You have the logistical resources to carry them out?”

“I have, sir.”

I spoke to the assembled others. “Is there anyone here who thinks they have a better take on the military sciences than General Patton?”

No one spoke up.

“Okay, then. General, please make a short, plain-English executive summary of what security precautions you have in mind available to me at your earliest convenience. I’ll review it and if it meets with my approval, I’ll give you the command authority to carry it out.”

“Yes, sir. You’ll have it on your desktop within twenty-four hours.”

I started relaxing. These people had my back.

“Who here can tell me what the Anorexic Party wants to achieve?”

“I can,” said Ayn Rand.

“Please proceed, madam.”

“They wish for veto power over all existence but they have only the power to destroy that we, ourselves, give them.”

“Then you are critical of the Lord’s decision to enable the election Lucifer demanded?”

“I wouldn’t presume,” she said, with her Russian accent coming back for a moment. “In this last life I searched for a real John Galt, a man smarter and more determined than I was to win all that was good from the world. I had a lot of dreams, but I never dreamt that I would meet him in another world after I died. If God is offering them something they want, I must assume it is the cheese in a mouse trap.”

“Is there anyone in the opposition camp smart enough to see that also?” I asked the table.

“Satan is quite clever enough for that,” said C.S. Lewis. “I think Alexander—excuse me, sir—I mean General Patton, will agree with me that Satan is a strategic genius.”

“Perhaps,” I said, “but we’ve read her book, haven’t we, General?”

That got me a laugh, with Patton laughing the loudest. He was most famous for having outmaneuvered the German general, Rommel, in World War Two, because Patton had read Rommel’s own book on tank warfare.

“But you don’t win wars mainly with strategy,” said Patton. “You win them with logistics, and more importantly, by putting men with guts into the field.”

“You’re politely suggesting to me, General, “that I should be concentrating on the question of who our candidate is going to be?”

“I’ve never been accused of being polite before, sir, but yes.”

Patton had gotten the second laugh.

“I’m actually going in that direction, General,” I said. “To know the right candidate, I need to know what to expect.”

“You can expect mass disruptions,” said Golda Meir. “Terrorism. Riots. Fires. Earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions. Every sort of destructive storm.”

“And,” added H.L. Mencken, “the biggest religious revival in human history.”

“I can understand the spitefulness that would lead to random destruction,” I said, “but I’m afraid you’ve lost me why Satan would want a religious revival. I thought that plays right into our strengths?”

“You can’t underestimate the subtlety of Satan’s planning,” said the Sufi master, Sa’di of Shiraz.

“You must look at the Luciferian strategy from the standpoint of games theory,” said Ludwig von Mises.

“The children of earth no longer routinely think of God, or of Satan, as real,” said C.S. Lewis. “For most people religion is a ritual, or a social occasion, or a safe haven for their children. It is only in fear or grief, confronting mortality and the beyond that has been hidden from them, that they pay any serious mind to their hopes that the old stories are true and that there is the hope of salvation for them.”

“Look at what holiday gains more prominence every year,” said Mark Twain. “Is it Christmas? No, that has become a shopping expedition—no offense to you, Mr. Polo.”

“None taken.”

“Nor,” continued Lewis, “is it Easter, the day meant to remind us of the good news.”

“And it’s certainly not my birthday,” said Dr. King with a smile.

“We’re not trying to keep you guessing. We’re talking about Halloween,” said H.L. Mencken.

Ayn Rand said, “Life is a suspense story. What makes it suspenseful is not knowing how it comes out.”

“The biggest mystery,” said Raymond Burr, “the one that has people lying in bed awake at night — is whether or not you die when your body dies. All you know when you’re on Earth is life within your frail body. It is difficult to imagine living without it.”

“The evidence of the senses is not enough to tell you what you really are, said Lewis. “Science tells you that you’re a biochemical reaction trapped in a piece of meat, and when you die, the reaction fizzles and the meat rots. Most of the frightful symbols of death relate to dead bodies in various states of disintegration: skulls, bones, meat lockers, graves, and the paraphernalia of the undertaker. If that isn’t enough, horror stories try to make it worse with three awful ideas: first that this rotting meat is all that’s left of you when you die; second and worse: that after you die you’re a disembodied ghost trapped in post-life impotence; or third and worst: that you’re still conscious inside the rotting meat, and can experience the slow rotting.”

Rand said, “Halloween goblins are promoted by people who wish to frighten us and reap the benefits of that fear.”

“That was the purpose of Satan’s demand for an Interregnum,” said the blonde bombshell who’d previously been the original Queen of the Nile. “To give generations time to forget the world to come.”

“It’s a confidence game and,” said Twain, with a twinkle in his eye, “you’re the mark. If mortal men knew down deep, without doubt, that we were going to continue living once we separate from the flesh — and not forever as ghosts, either — our fear couldn’t be used to stampede us.”

“But,” I asked, “why would Lucifer wish to stampede us into the arms of God?”

“Not into the arms of the Lord,” said Martin Luther King. “The children of earth are told to flock to churches where God may listen … but where the Lord’s voice has been silenced, and his hand stilled. People pray until their lips are dry … and they hear nothing back. The Lord cannot rescue them because his children are held hostage. The enemy is free to say, ‘You see? Do you see? The Lord had the power to save you from this … yet he did nothing. The Lord will do nothing next time. The Lord doesn’t care for you.’”

“So,” I said, thinking aloud, “in order to get people to join in her hatred of God, Lucifer must first get them to believe in God?”

“Just so,” said C.S. Lewis. “But not belief in the God we know to be a loving father, a redeemer, a loving spirit. God is locked outside then we are told he is so indifferent to us that he won’t lift a finger to help us. The victims begin seeing their kidnappers as their only friends. After my time it become known as the Stockholm syndrome.”

“How diabolical,” I said. I turned to Ayn Rand again. “I remember in your writings you always warned about the sanction of the victim.”

“Yes?”

“Suppose we remove that sanction?”

“Just how do you suggest that we ‘shrug’?” she asked. “Satan’s only desire is annihilation. She is in favor of starvation already. Going on strike deprives her of nothing she needs and I am unaware of any way to escape from her prison other than winning an election it appears she has already fixed.”

“Suppose we just play defense?” I asked.

“That only delays the inevitable,” said Heinlein. “Ask General Patton about logistics. When an enemy is waging a war of attrition, one’s only hope is to crack through their lines while you still can.”

“Not,” I said, surprising even myself at my boldness, “if left to their own devices the enemy will destroy themselves in time.”

“Satan has set the calendar for these events,” Jefferson reminded me. “Time is not on our side.”

I turned to Mencken-Franklin. “As Franklin, you were a diplomat, yes?” I asked. He nodded. “You’ve studied the treaty?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t bother looking for loopholes,” said W.C. Fields. “Satan already has all the best lawyers.”

The laughter brought down the tension a bit.

“Well, I’ve read it, too,” I said. “Mr. Franklin—and I am pointedly asking this on the basis of your previous incarnation—does or does not the treaty constrain me as tightly as God himself in performing miracles?”

He morphed into his previous incarnation. “The restriction on miracles applies to each of us as much as it applies to God,” Benjamin Franklin explained.

“And that restriction is, precisely?”

“No miracles above π on the Aquinas Scale at any moment before the election. And none at all afterwards, if we lose.”

“Well, how much of a miracle does that permit us?”

“The phrase ‘π on the Aquinas Scale’ is a term of art,” said Raymond Burr, “referring to a miracle with the power to save one human life.”

I cocked my head at him. “I may not have been a lawyer for a few hundred years, but more recently I played one on TV.”

Everyone laughed again.

“Let’s say that an airplane is about to crash with over one hundred passengers,” explained Franklin. “Since the limitation of π is the value of a single human life, God would be allowed to save only one of the passengers in that crash.”

“And that treaty limitation would equally apply to each of us as well?”

“That is correct.”

“How big a miracle would 10π be?” I asked.

“Strong enough a miracle to save Southern California from the Big One. The Aquinas scale is logarithmic.”

“And if ten of us got into a daisy chain, could we, under the precise terms of the treaty with Satan, produce a miracle the power of 10π on the Aquinas scale?”

There was a stir in the room.

“By Jove,” said Shaw, “I believe he has something.”

“Will you indulge a few of us for a few moments?” Jefferson asked.

I nodded.

Jefferson, Franklin, and Burr huddled for about two minutes, then returned to their seats.

The U.S. president formerly known as Solomon said, “I believe the treaty could reasonably and justly be interpreted as permitting that.”

“That’s good enough legal counsel for me,” I said. “Ladies and gentlemen, the greater part of our task is now clear. We play defense. We calm the earth’s tectonic plates, cool volcanoes, untwist twisters, and keep thugs with box cutters away from dangerous assets. With no mass misery to make political hay out of, the Anorexic Party will be unable to turn victims into voters.”

“But who will be our standard bearer in the election?” Patton asked. “Who is the gubernatorial candidate for the Party of God?”

“Nobody,” I said.

“What?”

“Nobody.”

I could see Heinlein, Mencken, Twain, and Fields smiling. They’d already got it.

“You can’t be serious,” Golda Meir said.

“Look,” I asked, “what was it God said? ‘Resist not evil.’ I’ve never been a pacifist. I’d love a good conventional war with these bozos. But think about it. They have nothing of their own as a platform, other than denial of pleasure, denial of creativity, denial of their own nature. They want to make God look indifferent to suffering while they make a big show out of looking compassionate. But they can only do that if we give them a target to shoot at.

“I say we give the Anorexics the very absence they wish from us, and give it to them now. We use our powers to stop their attacks on earth but that’s all we do. We decline all debates. We don’t campaign. We never even admit that God or Heaven exists or that there even exists a Party of God. Let people have the nightmares they’ll give them then wake up and thank God it wasn’t real.

“We don’t have to win this election in order for the Interregnum to end and for the tunnels to the Celestial Palace to be opened up again. We simply have to let the Anorexic Party’s candidate be rejected by the people of earth. Deprived of victims, they are out of business and free to look only to each other for the nothingness they have so richly earned.

“I will inform the Anorexic Party that we consent to their first proposed date for the election but that we will be assigning our ballot line to None of the Above. We reserve the right to edit out any untruthful, inaccurate or unbalanced statement they wish to make within their dream campaign, but we will make no arguments of our own.

“Under the terms of the treaty, any vote total less than fifty percent plus one fails the majority test necessary to rule the earth and earth will remain under the self rule of its people with one crucial difference: God’s muzzle will be off for good.

“Upon the end of the Interregnum, we reveal ourselves. The tunnels to New Heaven will be open for two-way traffic. The Tree of Knowledge will be accessible through the Internet or from any public library. People on earth will be able to pray to God for any miracle they want with the rational expectation of benevolent response. And guided tours to visit New Heaven, using their astral bodies, will be available to any living human, death no longer a precondition of entry.

“Nobody is our candidate. Nobody in this election can be trusted with your future. Nobody on the ballot will keep his campaign promises. Vote for Nobody.”

Sixteen of the greatest people in history rose to their feet and cheered me, this time with more than formal courtesy.

I was getting the idea that God knew me a whole lot better than I did.

#

Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XVI.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XIV


Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XIII

Escape from Heaven cover


Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 14


The days when human beings had any common understanding about the origins and nature of their lives were buried deep in human prehistory.

Ever since the fall of Eden, and the catastrophic events that followed, human beings began to disagree with each other about who we were, where we came from, why we were here, and what it all meant. Get three human beings together and you had eight different opinions on these questions.

Even after the last of the first angelic colonists had returned to the celestial realm, religious and political events on earth were still being closely affected by heavenly interventions, most of them chronicled by human reporters, with widely varying degrees of accuracy, in those texts that human beings call their holy scriptures.

But within a few centuries after Jesus lived and died on earth, so many human communities were isolated, so many important books had been destroyed by intolerance and war, so much religious and political strife had fractured common language, that there was simply no human consensus by which communiqués from God to the human race could be universally understood.

The Celestial Agreement of Terrestrial Interregnum that began with the Christian Reformation was both a curse and a blessing for the human race.

The bad news was that with the tunnels between Heaven and earth closed, and access to the Tree of Knowledge shut off, we were pretty much on our own to sink or swim.

The good news was that deprived of any centrally respected authority to dictate what was true and what wasn’t, human exploration was free to flower, and the civilizations we built, based on our natural philosophies and sciences, proved that we did indeed have the spark of God still alive in us.

While the worst of us were still hung up on figuring out innovative ways to ruin the lives of our perceived enemies, the best of us were teaching the whole world how to capitalize our way out of abject poverty, fly to the moon and claim it for all mankind, and create an Internet that made sharing knowledge among ourselves almost as universal to the developed world as the Tree of Knowledge itself.

Unfortunately, as widespread as the Internet grew in the early twenty-first century, there were still vast regions where it was heavily censored. And the problem of how to hold an election on earth, where all humanity could vote, was a problem that Lucifer and her minions didn’t know how to solve for themselves when Lucifer demanded of God that an election determine who would rule earth.

There were nations that decided things by elections, sure, but there were as many people residing where rulership was by one party and few if anyone even had a clue what an election looked like. Moreover, the Interregnum’s imposition of heavenly embargo and mass invincible ignorance had left many of those in positions of power unaware that earth’s extraterritoriality was even up for grabs.

Communicating this simple fact, obscured for close to half a millennium, to billions of souls on earth, was a formidable enough problem. Explaining to human beings that of all their religious faiths only prophetic writings from one even referenced the cast of characters involved in this dispute, though misidentifying the means by which the conflict was to be resolved, was even more daunting.

St. John the Divine had correctly understood from his prophetic dreams that the outcome of a civil war in Heaven would also determine the fate of earth, but that’s about the only thing he got right. He didn’t know how to read a celestial calendar, he didn’t understand how the tunnels worked, and he didn’t have the diplomatic education to understand the treaty ending that war, which provided for an orderly transition of power. It’s hard enough to write history with any degree of accuracy. Trying to describe events in a future you don’t understand is pretty much impossible. Sorry to have disappointed those of you grooving in anticipation of the Rapture, the Battle of Armageddon and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Even worse for Lucifer and the Anorexic Party, their hatred for everything invented, including technology, left them as a group still pretty much “computer illiterate,” as Jesus had put it to me. Outright rejecting use of the Tree as a means of counting eligible voters much less votes, and not trusting independent consultants who understood a technology they didn’t, they had no solution of their own on how to reacquaint the people of earth with their history, communicate to them the issues at stake, and poll their decisions.

That was why Lucifer had looked so diminished at her first official press conference, when she’d announced the Anorexic Party victory. She’d had to swallow her pride and ask God to solve the problem of how to hold the election on earth. She was like a rebellious teenager who’d decided to move into her own place who had just discovered she needed to borrow her dad’s van for the move.

God could have simply done nothing and things on earth could have remained as they were, with human beings running their own affairs, as greatly and terribly as we usually do.

Perhaps we might have avoided destroying our technological civilization long enough to expand our race out to other solar systems, and even outlived the death of our own life-sustaining sun, but eventually our universe itself would have ended, and with God having signed a treaty that neither he nor his loyalists would interfere, that would have been it for us.

Twenty billion or so years until the end of a universe might seem a long time for you and me, because we are so young. But for God, who has seen universes come and go like the seasons, it would be a loss of many beloved grandchildren that he could anticipate and dread.

As always, God was not about to give up. He gave Lucifer the solution she had asked for, and the election to determine the destiny of the human race was on.

Human beings spoke thousands of different languages. We had hundreds of different faiths and some of us had no faith. Many of us were illiterate. Some of us were newborn on earth and some of us had once again been trapped into reincarnating here during the Interregnum, roaming the earth as ghosts in between lives, as in the days before the tender of salvation.

God’s solution to the problem of human diversity was elegant.

We all still dreamed.

It was in dreams that we would learn of earth’s origins and the origins of our species. It was in dreams that we would be told, in symbols each of us could understand, what the platforms were of each party and how we could cast our vote. And it was in dreams, on a single day and night, that each of us would cast our vote for the fate of our birthland and of our species.

On our first awakening after the election, those of us living would remember our dream with perfect clarity, and learn that all of us had experienced the same dream.

The results of the election would be the last thing we were told before we awoke.

Well, that’s the way the whole thing was supposed to work, anyway.

A few weeks after my dinner with the Anorexic candidate and his wife, I was still wondering who on earth was in my own party.

Back in my college days, you could always tell the real leadership of any campus political organization. It wasn’t necessarily the person who carried the title of “president,” “coordinator, “chair,” or even “secretary.” The leadership was whoever held the funds, and whoever had the membership list.

I hadn’t been given so much as a Party of God Christmas card list, and if there was a bank account somewhere with that name on it, I wasn’t a signatory. In fact, the only Party of God I could even find a reference to on the Internet was a Palestinian guerrilla group that had fallen into complete obscurity a couple of years after Israel became the 56th state in the union.

I don’t know what I was thinking. God doesn’t need money. And he doesn’t need any stinking mailing lists.

I was alone in my living room, learning some new physical options that came with my resurrection, when a ghost walked into the room. Well, he wasn’t really a ghost; he was a resurrected human maintaining his mass at about one percent, which made him able to pass through walls but not quite invisible. He looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t place him right away.

He was a bit taller than medium height, military trim, looked in his late twenties or early thirties, and he had the physical presence of a silent-film-era matinee idol, with slick dark hair, a handsome face, and a dapper mustache.

He increased his mass to earth normal so I could see him in color. He was wearing sharply creased white trousers, spit-shined white shoes, a creme ascot, and a purple velvet smoking jacket—which was appropriate since he was smoking a cigarette held in a long cigarette holder.

He gave a little wink and saluted me. “Permission to come aboard, sir?” he asked, with a slight Southern lilt to his voice.

I chopped my hand to my forehead. “We’re on land, friend, but permission granted anyway. Who are you?”

“The Ghost of Christmas Future,” he said with a big smile.

It was then I recognized him. He looked about fifty years younger than the last time I’d seen him, while giving blood at a science-fiction convention.

It was Robert A. Heinlein.

+?~

Do you remember how I explained earlier in this narrative how some human beings originated as angels who incarnated as human to learn how to dream so they could advance to godhood, while others were souls originating on earth who became gods when resurrected?

You might have already guessed that some of the greatest human beings in history started their lives as angels. You already know a lot of their traveling names: Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Joan, Mozart, Gandhi, Pocahontas, Douglass, Michelangelo, Smith.

But some of the greatest of our tribe were home-grown: David, Mohammad, Aesop, Da Vinci, Wollstonecraft, Beethoven, Edison, Jefferson, Disney, Smith.

Robert A. Heinlein was one of our luminaries, but he was no angel.

As a genre of literature, science fiction’s greatest contributions have not been characters or style, but images and thoughts. This has left it often neglected by the unimaginative and the thoughtless. It is the how-to literature of creation, the craft of awakened dreams.

Robert A. Heinlein is known in Heaven as one of the human race’s greatest dreamers.

“Mind if I smoke?” he asked me.

“The last time I answered that question,” I replied, “my life changed forever.”

“I promise this will do nothing dry cleaning can’t handle,” he said.

“Then feel free,” I told him. “By the way, do you happen to know what happens to people who object to Jesus’ smoking?”

“They go right to hell,” he joked, chuckling in a way that reminded me of a buzzsaw.

“Please, Mr. Heinlein, make yourself comfortable,” I told him.

“Bob,” he said, settling into an armchair.

“Duj,” I offered back. “Can I get you something to eat?”

“No thank you. Ginny and I just finished dinner a short while ago.”

“A cognac then?”

“Can you make it a B and B over ice?” he asked. “Bourbon, not Benedictine.”

I poured us each a bourbon and brandy and handed him one.

He toasted,

“Here’s to them that sail to sea

And the ladies that stay on land.

May the former be well rigged

And the latter be well manned!”

We clinked glasses and drank. I didn’t even have to peep him. No way this renowned sybarite was a member of the Anorexic Party, even if he had been an agnostic while alive.

“I was told a circle would form,” I told him. “Can I assume you’re the first of our political party to make an appearance?”

“The Central Committee has already been called up and the Chairman Pro Tem is waiting right now for you to take his seat,” he told me.

“Thank God,” I said. “I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since I got back. Do we leave right now?”

“President Jefferson would expect us not to waste our drinks,” he said.

This was going to be fun. “Where’s the meeting?”

He raised an eyebrow. “I happen to know that you’ve familiarized yourself with my tall tales,” he said. “Why don’t you tell me where the meetings are always held?”

I thought for a moment. “You’re kidding me. ‘Lost Legacy’? The summit of Mount Shasta?”

He smiled, draining his drink and standing up. “Ready to fly?”

#

Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XV.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XIII


Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XII

Escape from Heaven cover


Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 13


Let me tell you, there are options built into Body By Jesus that you never knew you were missing until you have them, and which you wonder how you’d ever be able to live without them once you do.

Take physical fitness, for example.

In the corpus novus, fitness has nothing to do with cosmetic appearance, which is in an entirely different menu. I could look fat or thin, young or old, bald as Yul Brynner or hairy as the ‘69 Beatles, fit as a fiddle or looking like I was on my last legs, and it had nothing to do with how I felt, how strong I was, what I ate, or whether I ever exercised.

I’d already activated a cosmetic dynamic I’d wished for in my old body: during the next twenty weeks my body was going to look two pounds of fat lighter, and a quarter pound of muscle more hard-bodied, each week. I was finally going to have those washboard abs I’d seen on late-night TV. I could have morphed my appearance in an instant, of course, but people would have talked.

But that had nothing at all to do with how “fit” I was.

My old body had only one ordinary means of generating the energy necessary for my life: absorbing external biomass into my own biomass, where I either burned it for energy, built cells, or stored it as fat for later use.

My new body can be set to convert and use as energy pretty much anything around me, whether it’s electricity, background noise or left-over heat from a Big Bang, electromagnetic waves (sunlight, radio broadcasts), chemical (if it’s matter, I can eat it and burn it), conventional nuclear (fission, fusion, antimatter plasma), electrochemical-nuclear (cold fusion), or even — though it’s on other menus—forces ranging from the space-time warping of ordinary gravity to an exploding supernova. Yes, I have a new set of extrasensory organs to taste each of these energies — and I have to tell you, music tastes a whole lot better than the noise of a garbage truck.

I don’t know how you’d look at having this much power available at your beck and call, but if this isn’t being made into a god, I don’t know what is.

Final judgment before being resurrected isn’t only about whether you’re good or evil, although that’s the first cut. It’s also about whether you have the innate decency and self-control not to hog too much ambient energy for yourself or to misuse the power you keep and bear that can take out a galaxy if you get pissed off.

Simply being resurrected into the new body is the greatest compliment, the greatest statement of trust, anyone, anywhere, has ever paid you. It’s like winning gold at the Olympics, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Nobel Prize, and the Prometheus Award all rolled into one. It’s the ultimate Oscar.

When I drove out of the K-TALK studios to Manchu Ellins’ Beverly Hills estate for dinner, I was hungry.

I was hungry because I’d set the power defaults in my body only to use conventional food digestion as its energy source, except for some safety options to cut in automatically if I stepped on a land mine or was shot at. Yes, all the energy in the universe, and more, was there for me to eat in an all-you-can-eat buffet. But I had to regulate what I ate even more than when I was in my old body. The food was different but I still had to watch my intake carefully because it wasn’t safe for an inexperienced god to walk around earth cocked and locked for universal calamity.

The Ellins mansion was hidden behind polished black walls that would have looked at home on an embassy, the nouvelle mode ever since the International Terrorist Network first targeted the entertainment industry. Inside the gate I noticed that a huge expanse that could have been the front lawn was instead a carefully maintained rock garden. Otherwise, the mansion looked like it could have been used for exteriors of Tara during filming of Gone With The Wind.

I couldn’t help noticing the one car parked haphazardly in the driveway in front of the house. It was his McLaren F1 sports car, a racer equivalent in artistic value to a Stradivarius violin, which Ellins evidently drove out if he needed a pack of gum.

Ellins met me at the cavernous front door and invited me into his home with a warm two-handed shake.

The first thing I noticed about the interior of the house was that it looked as if a moving van was expected. The entrance hall led to a living room that was completely unfurnished: no furniture, nothing on the walls. The room next to that, looking as if it had been intended as a dining hall, was instead outfitted as a fitness center with stair climbers, stationery bikes, weight machines, rowers, and treadmills. There was also a bench with a set of free weights off to the side.

In person, Manchu Ellins projected the same good-natured self-confidence that had won him the People’s Choice award six-years-running. He had his trademark two-day beard and obviously used the fitness equipment; for a man pushing sixty he still had the lean muscle masses and smooth skin of a man half his age.

Almost without thinking, I automatically stripped away his temporal presence and started checking out his inner self, when he placed a hand on my arm, stopping me. He’d caught me out. “Now that’s not very polite,” he said, smiling. “How would you feel if the first thing I did was undress your soul?”

“Sorry, it’s gotten to be a habit,” I said, embarrassed.

“No sweat,” he said. “Would you like a drink, Your Excellency?”

I was a little taken aback. I knew God had named me his ambassador, but this was the first time I’d encountered anyone else who knew it and I’d certainly had no expectation of being addressed with formal protocol.

I tried to let it slide. “Sure.”

“Anything in particular?”

“Whatever you’re having,” I said.

“Come on, I’ve got just the thing.”

Instead of leading me to a bar, Ellins led me into a kitchen with an island in the center. It was completely covered with what looked to be vitamins, minerals, herbs, and food supplements. Again, there were no tables or chairs but it looked as if all the countertop appliances had arrived.

“How long have you had this house?” I asked, trying to sound casual.

“Oh, let’s see,” he said, a bit distracted. He was pulling various smoke-colored bottles out of the refrigerator and pouring from them into a drink mixer of the sort you’d find in an old fashioned soda fountain. “Seven, no, eight years. Lynnie and I moved in here right after her first miscarriage.”

“Lynnie” was his gorgeous wife, Caulinn Helms, lead singer of the grunge band Seminal Lunch, and the cause of my engineer’s adolescent attack of drool. “I’m sorry I asked,” I said. “I didn’t mean to bring up painful memories.”

“It’s not painful anymore. We’ve come to realize becoming parents was just a bad idea anyway.”

He ran the mixer a bit, pulled two huge frosted glasses from a compartment of his freezer, then filled them and handed me one. “Your health,” he said, clinking my glass with his.

“Yours too,” I said, and took a sip.

I don’t know what it was. I’ve tried hard to eliminate that memory. It had the texture of chalk, the taste of mold, and the smell of used socks.

“Ahhhhhhhhh!” he said, downing the whole glass in one gulp.

He saw my expression and laughed. “I guess it is an acquired taste,” he said. “Come on, I want you to meet my wife.”

He led me up a spiral staircase, taking the stairs two at a time, until we came to the master bedroom … or whatever you called a sleeping room that had no bed or any other furniture. Caulinn Helms was sitting with her legs splayed wide open on a weaved mat, reading a book titled The Myth of Gender. She was completely naked, and aside from the silky black hair on her head, she was completely shaved.

I immediately felt the utility of my not being naked.

“Darling,” Ellins said to his wife, “this is His Excellency Duj Pepperman, Ambassador from the Celestial Palace and Terrestrial Coordinator of the Party of God.”

Caulinn Helms stood up, came so close to me I could smell her sex, and took my hand. “I’m delighted to meet you, Ambassador,” she said in that low whiskey voice of hers. There was nothing shy about her; she immediately looked down to my crotch. “And I can see that you’re delighted to meet me, too,” she said.

I don’t think I have ever been so thoroughly aroused, embarrassed, and bewildered, all at the same time. If I’d been in private I would have called up a menu and turned off my libido for the duration of this visit, but I never got the chance.

Neither of them seemed to be aware of my discomfort. I concluded her household nudity was so commonplace that they didn’t even notice it anymore.

“Would you like a tour of the house before dinner?” she asked. She dropped her book on the floor, not worrying if she lost her page, and bounded down the spiral staircase, ahead of us.

“She’s really quite a piece of ass, isn’t she?” Ellins said to me, as we descended the staircase at a more stately pace. “There’s no mystery why every man on earth, and half the women, want to fuck her.”

All I could do was nod while steadying myself using the banister on the way down.

+?~

Yes, they’re real.

A complete discussion of her surgeries, her abortions, and how she had done away with the necessity for bowel movements by regular use of high colonics, was served along with dinner, but it was a party that I think even Lewis Carroll would have had a hard time imagining.

Dinner was served on the hardwood floor in the living room. Manchu and Caulinn each sat cross-legged in lotus, he in his basketball shorts and jersey, she still completely nude, with the food dishes set in front of us. My new body was limber enough to get into the position but it took some effort to avoid falling over.

I asked them about the lack of furniture in their house, now that I knew it was intended. “We don’t believe in furniture,” Caulinn explained. “The human body just wasn’t designed for it.”

It wasn’t just furniture that was missing from their house. An Olympic-sized swimming pool behind the house was drained. There wasn’t a video screen, radio, sound speakers, or musical instrument anywhere in the house. I saw no magazines, no sculptures, paintings, family photos, or other artistic installations, and neither was there any other sort of interior decoration.

I’d seen prison cells that were better furnished.

There were extensive built-in bookshelves but no books on them; in fact, the only other book I saw anywhere in the house was in the kitchen, a piece of light reading titled, A Guide to Marine Coastal Plankton and Marine Invertebrate Larvae.

Which brings us back to dinner. “We’re not vegetarians,” Manchu explained. “We simply believe in eating as low on the food chain as possible.”

I believe they had reached the bottom. Dinner that night was sushi made with reconstituted freeze-dried plankton and fresh frozen Antarctic krill.

During this feast, while Manchu Ellins lectured me on the indisputable scientific evidence proving that the dangerously expanding hole in the ozone layer was caused by second-hand tobacco smoke, Caulinn started gently caressing her nipples, arousing herself. That naturally brought the dinner discussion back to the topic of sex.

I tried to stay nonchalant about her erotic behavior. I was in their house, after all, with their customs, and this was not a public display.

“When Manny and I met,” Caulinn told me, “we were both bisexual and very active, but after we got married we decided that being gay just wasn’t enough. It just wasn’t the statement we wanted to make.”

“Well, I can easily understand that,” I said. “Both of you are at your physical peak with good looks and maximum appeal. It’s obvious that you love each other. I’m sure you realize that fantasies about your sex life together make you envied by millions.”

“Oh, we haven’t had sex in years,” Caulinn explained. “With each other or anybody else. We’ve both taken vows of chastity.”

I don’t think I allowed my jaw to drop.

“As for physical fitness,” Caulinn continued, “we don’t do it because we like it. Looking a certain way is just a necessity for keeping our box office revenues up.”

“Don’t you think it’s time we got down to business, dear?” Manchu Ellins said to his wife. “I’m sure the ambassador doesn’t want to listen to us talking shop all night.”

He turned to me. “I take it, Ambassador, that you haven’t yet selected a candidate to represent the Party of God in the upcoming election?”

I was still more than a bit distracted. Caulinn had dropped her hand between her legs and was massaging her vulva.

Manchu saw my expression. “Oh, don’t mind her,” he said. “Masturbation is the only sexual release we allow ourselves. We just do it whenever the urge strikes.”

“It’s very healthy,” Caulinn said. “And veeery relaxing. I can see you’re aroused. I won’t mind at all if you decide to masturbate with me.”

I knew that my engineer, Terry, would have given up a kidney for this opportunity, but I suddenly managed to put it all together, and pulled myself out of the tailspin I was in.

“No, Mr. Ellins,” I said. “I haven’t yet made that decision. I’ll send you formal notification before the filing deadline. Are you the gubernatorial candidate of the Anorexic Party, or will it be your wife?”

“I’ll be running,” said Ellins.

I could see that Caulinn Helms was getting close to orgasm. With some difficulty I rose to my feet.

Manchu Ellins’ attention wasn’t on me anymore; he was now rubbing his own genitals through his shorts. It was obvious that the business portion of the evening was already over.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” I said, not sure either of them was listening to me any more. “No, don’t bother getting up. I’ll let myself out.”

I walked outside to my Mercedes, drove out the gate, and was halfway back to Culver City when I felt like an idiot.

Damn!

I’d forgotten to get their autographs.

#

Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XIV.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XII


Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XI

Escape from Heaven cover


Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 12


If you think the first thing I did was get a colorful Spandex costume made so I could fly around looking like I was wearing underwear and a cape, forget it. While God had pretty much left me on my own to generate a strategy to win back the earth for him, I didn’t think looking like I was performing a circus act at a Las Vegas casino hotel was a good first step.

The job I had been given was to rally people already on our side and win supporters from the undecided and away from the opposition. I’d been hired by God as a publicist trying to sell a way of looking at things. If I’d started thinking of myself as some sort of savior, it wouldn’t have been about the mission anymore; it would have been about me.

Don’t get me wrong. I made careful calculations of exactly how much face time I could get on TV if I flew a couple of loop-de-loops in front of a Fox News camera crew, took a stroll on the surface of the Mississippi River with CNN taping, or pulled a real Superman stunt by rescuing people where even firemen thought it was impossible. But I didn’t want to have to spend all my time breaking out of the locked cells doing stunts like this would have put me in, after investigators dispatched by everything from the Pentagon to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided they needed to know what made me tick.

If my “super” powers were going to be of any use to me at all on this mission (and I wasn’t at all certain they were) my use of them was going to have to be discreet, selective, and subtle. This wasn’t a job for a superman so much as it was a job for a writer who could get published in a great metropolitan newspaper.

God had said a circle would form around me. But I didn’t know who they were and when they would show up. In the meantime, I was on my own.

One important decision I had already made. I was not going to throw my own hat into the ring as the gubernatorial candidate of the Party of God. I had played back God’s message to me several times and listened carefully to what he had told me. He had called me an ambassador and a campaign manager. He didn’t say anything about my being a candidate, myself.

It looked as if my first job was to find a candidate whose campaign I could manage and convince him or her to run.

I had no idea how much support I could expect from existing churches, synagogues, and mosques. They all said they were on God’s side but even if they really were, a proposition that didn’t seem at all certain to me, why would any of them give me the time of day? If I just told them the truth about my mission, why wouldn’t they consider me a heretic? If I performed a small miracle to convince them of my credentials, why wouldn’t they regard me as a demon sent to deceive them?

Then there were all those people out there who weren’t affiliated with any organized religion but who considered themselves “spiritual.” It looked to me like this was already a saturated market, with a popular medium channeling ghosts on TV, an author writing about his conversations with God (I wondered if God had served him as good a breakfast), people looking for secret messages in the Bible, and a guy who repeatedly got struck by lightning trying to explain how the universe worked to people who didn’t even know where their fuse box was.

No, if I was going to have to actively hunt for a candidate, I was going to have to find the right person the slow way, by looking into people’s hearts, one by one, and seeing what was there.

Moreover the decision might also depend on who the Anorexics were going to run for governor. It seemed completely unlikely to me that Lucifer intended to run for the office herself. With the tunnels out of service until the end of the Interregnum, she wouldn’t be able to campaign in person unless she’d moved headquarters to earth and was trapped here. With all three of the Trinity excluded from running, and Lucifer not in the race, it was likely that both parties were going to be running their candidate as a proxy.

At least I didn’t have to worry about third-party candidates and independents entering the race. Lucifer was worried enough about the Party of God. The full text of Satan’s treaty with God were in my briefing documents on my internal desktop, which included details of how the election was to be conducted. Lucifer had insisted, and God had conceded, that third-party candidates and independents wouldn’t be on the ballot.

Too bad. On election day I might have crossed over party lines myself and voted Libertarian.

I realized that the first thing I needed to do was scope out the opposition camp, see who they might be thinking about running, and find out just exactly what I was up against.

Meanwhile, I still had my day job — four hours a day, five days a week — as a radio talk show host. I might not yet have been certain just exactly how I was going to accomplish my mission but I was pretty sure of two things. The first was that my ability to speak weekdays to a large radio audience was an asset. The second was that if I started talking too much on the air about theology, I’d lose my audience, my Arbitron rating, and my show, in that order.

I really shouldn’t have worried so much. Things have a way of working out for themselves, when you’re on a mission from God.

I was back in the K-TALK studios only a few days when my engineer, Terry, told me during an off-air break that I had a personal call. “You’re not going to believe this,” he told me, “but it’s Manchu Ellins.”

“Are you sure?” I asked him.

“Unless we have someone who can play around inside Verizon,” Terry said. “That’s how the caller ID comes up and I don’t think it’s Seth MacFarlane doing the voice.”

I picked up the phone to see if the caller was indeed the legendary movie actor/director/producer whose last eight pictures had each grossed over three hundred million bucks. “Duj Pepperman,” I said.

“Manchu Ellins,” the voice said. It was him, all right. The voice, the speech mannerisms, were unmistakable. “I didn’t think you’d be surprised to be hearing from me. I thought you’d have been given some advance warning?”

“Look for a circle to form around you,” God had told me, but the first in the circle was one of the half dozen people in Hollywood whose “yes” to a project was an automatic green light?

I could see Terry still listening in from the booth. I give him the signal that this was a private call. He looked disappointed but hung up his extension.

“Yes, Mr. Ellins,” I said. “I didn’t know that it was going to be from you specifically but I have been expecting a call.”

“Good, that will save us some preliminaries,” he said. “Would you allow me to show you my hospitality by coming by my house for dinner? Or if you prefer,” he said with a little chuckle, “there are some nice clubs where I never seem to have a problem getting a good table.”

“Your house will be fine,” I said, trying to sound cool, when actually, there was a little kid inside of me jumping up and down. Meeting God was one thing, but this was a movie star.

“Do you have plans for this evening?” he asked.

“No other plans,” I said. “I’ve been keeping my calendar loose.”

“I’m at the house in Beverly Hills. I’ll have my assistant email you Yahoo! directions, unless you’d prefer that I send a limousine?”

“That’s very generous, but I like to drive,” I told him.

“Cocktails at eight-thirty, dinner at nine. Don’t bother dressing for dinner; I’ll be in shorts and a Lakers jersey,” he said, then hung up.

Wow! I thought. This whole world-saving business might not be as hard as I’d worried. Manchu Ellins. Guest on The Tonight Show with a simple phone call. Name recognition surpassed only by Mickey Mouse. Ruggedly handsome, Best Actor Oscar for playing a hero in the War Against Terrorism, so iconoclastic that he had fans both on the left and the right.

The perfect candidate.

Terry saw me hang up the phone and opened up the studio intercom.

“You’ll never believe whose house I’m having dinner at tonight,” I told him.

Terry, who was impossible to impress, looked impressed. “Who did you fuck that you rate the A list?” he asked.

“It’s not me, this is some business for our boss,” I told him.

“If his wife is going to be there,” Terry said, “I’m going to kill you and go in your place.”

“Been there, done that,” I said, grinning at him through the glass, and we barely made it back on the air in time after the traffic report was finished.

#

Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XIII.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XI


Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter X

Escape from Heaven cover


Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman

Part Two
Back to Earth

Chapter 11

I hate traffic jams.

I hate them especially when they’re caused by bureaucratic stupidity, like scheduling most Interstate repaving during the summer months when more people are driving cross-country. I know it’s because the tar they use can’t be poured in cold weather but can’t they get Dupont to whip up a better concrete?

I hate that highway engineers have never been allowed to implement a traffic flow system that doesn’t permit the failure of one or two vehicles to cripple the entire system during peak loads.

I especially hate the waiting caused by toll booths, which is the bureaucrat’s way of saying that their need for sucking a few extra bucks out of you is so important that they don’t care how much it ruins your day.

The endless lines of departing angels and humans flying to the tunnels out of Heaven reminded me of the I-10 Freeway east out of Los Angeles on the Friday before Labor Day weekend. If this was an example of how the new leadership was planning to run earth, it was all the more reason to vote against them. Luckily, almost all of the outbound traffic was taking the bypass to the Palace so once Sophia, Estella, and I flew past that exit, the traffic flow sped up considerably.

“Remember to keep your body mass on zero until you’re out of the tunnel,” Sophia warned me. “Getting stuck inside a black hole is no fun.”

“Unless you’re on a first date,” Estella corrected her.

Sophia and Estella both took positions in front of me, then it was our turn at the departure gate. Sophia jumped, then Estella, and I took up the rear.

I hate trying to follow somebody in traffic. I always lose them.

I took all of two extra seconds in turning myself massless so I could begin accelerating and an angel behind me passed and yelled, “Why don’t you learn how to fly?”

“Ah, go bless yourself!” I yelled back at him, and hit it, trying to catch up to my guides … but they were already gone.

Damn! I was about to pull over to the side to figure out what to do when another angel slowed down and paced me. “Lost?”

I nodded, embarrassed. “I was convoying but got left behind. Worse than that, nobody told me my exit.”

“Happens to the best of them,” he said. “Glide up into the autocontrol lane. The tunnel will read your flight plan and eject you at your destination automatically.”

“Thanks!” I said.

“No problem.” he said, and sped ahead.

It just goes to show. Don’t make any generalizations about angels.

I followed instructions and the autocontrol lane started accelerating me.

It was a quick return trip. The tunnel turned translucent, letting me know that I was about to exit, and I found myself in a glide path coming down over Los Angeles. I felt myself slowing down over Marina del Rey, and hovered for a moment over the roof of Jerry’s Famous Deli, before the tunnel took me through the roof, deposited me inside, floating above the tables, and shrunk to infinity, disappearing.

My mass was still set to zero so for all intents and purposes I was a ghost, invisible to the mortals below me. And, sitting at a table near the bar in Jerry’s Famous Deli, was one of those mortals, myself a few days earlier, biting into a tongue and Swiss cheese on rye.

Sophia and Estella had already taken seats at the table where I had originally seen them, when I was the guy at the table eating the sandwich.

At this moment in spacetime there were two of me. The guy sitting at the table, eating the sandwich, was in a mortal body and clueless of what was about to happen to him.

Then there was me, in a resurrected body, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.

I contemplated the grandfather paradox. What would happen if I killed the living Duj Pepperman right now? Would I still exist? Then I realized it wouldn’t make any difference. He was about to die in a few minutes anyway, the “victim” of a carjacking. If I killed him, the worst that would happen would be that he would enter the tunnel a few minutes early and nothing else would have changed.

Lucky for me, I didn’t have to test the paradox directly. Estella waved me over and I floated over to their table.

“You need to merge into him so he can see and hear us,” Estella told me. “Stay inside him until we hit the water then you’ll be free to take his place.”

“What about his drowned corpse?” I asked. “The police might find it and it could turn out to be embarrassing for me.”

“You never studied,” Sophia said disapprovingly.

“Look, I was busy—” I started to explain.

Estella pointed to a dessert list on the table. “What’s this?” she asked me.

“A dessert list?” I asked.

“Which is also called a…?”

“Menu?” I responded.

Suddenly, a grid of three-dimensional icons appeared in front of my face along with a virtual mouse. The layout had been copied from my personal computer at home.

“Why don’t you run the tutorial before bed tonight?” Sophia suggested.

I nodded sheepishly.

I floated back to the table where the other Duj was eating and merged myself into him.

At the moment that our spirit bodies came into alignment, Duj Pepperman remembered that he was God.

+?~

Sophia turned on the radio and tuned it to KLSX FM. The Beach Boys were singing “Good Vibrations.”

Both angels started singing along, “I’m pickin’ up good vibrations, she’s giving me excitations …”

Still singing, Sophia drove onto Admiralty Way. I started singing along with the angels, “Good, good, good, good vibrations!”

Sophia turned left on Via Marina, then onto a pier leading out to the harbor. Sophia accelerated the car while opening all four windows. The car leapt the pier and splashed. The Mercedes floated a few seconds then began sinking. Water began rushing in through the open windows.

Na na na na na … na na na!” sang Sophia, Estella, the Beach Boys, and me.

It was time for me to leave. I pulled myself out of my old body and floated up toward Sophia and Estella as the Mercedes with my old self in it began sinking quickly.

“I don’t like watching this part,” I told them. “I felt so scared, so alone.”

“Start counting,” Estella told me.

“One, two, three …”

Eight seconds elapsed between my separation from my old body and the moment that Duj cried out “God, where did you go? Why did you leave me?”

Only another six seconds passed before my last words and my last breath.

I’d made the terror last longer than it needed to by holding my breath. At the instant that the rush of cold water hit my lungs, Sophia pulled the old me out of my body and guided him upward while Estella opened a tunnel. All three of us stayed behind his peripheral vision so he wasn’t aware of any of us.

I heard him worrying about what would happen to Felony if he died now so I floated over behind him and touched his forehead for a moment to calm him. It worked and he allowed himself to float up to the tunnel and directly into the autocontrol lane.

“Fifty-eight, fifty-nine,” I counted.

My old self was gone in sixty seconds.

Estella held the tunnel open for a fast getaway.

“Now if you had studied,” Sophia told me, “you would have been able to do this yourself already.”

She extended her hand and an air bubble formed around the Mercedes, lifting it out of the water; but more than anything else, it looked like a video being run backwards. The Mercedes leapt back out of the water until it was sitting, dry and undamaged, on the pier. There was nobody in it and no body in it. The engine was still running.

“See you soon,” Estella said to me. Each of them gave me the sort of kiss that made sure I could never forget them.

“Soon for you or soon for me?” I asked her.

“Is there any difference?” she answered, then Sophia and Estella flew up into the tunnel and it once again disappeared.

I was floating above the Marina, alone.

“Menu,” I said, and the display appeared in front of me. I clicked on “My Body” and a mass scale came up. I slowly turned up the mass on my body until I floated slowly down to the pier, and stood there until the scale read “100% Earth normal.”

I climbed into the driver’s seat of my Mercedes, adjusted the seat and mirrors, backed off the pier, and drove home to resume my life as if I’d never died.

#

Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XII.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter X


Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter IX

Escape from Heaven cover


Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 10


In the skies above Heaven’s burning streets, some of Satan’s partisans were skywriting, God is dead—Nietzsche lives!

I’d been an atheist for all but the last few minutes of my earthly life and on earth I had never felt I needed guidance from God. But after just one meeting with God and his family, I felt lost without them. It would be a tragic irony beyond belief if I’d learned the truth about the existence of God just before God ceased to exist.

Of course I didn’t know that God was dead, or even if God could die. God had told me the very reason for my own existence was as a back up for the contingency that he was captured by the enemy. But if God had been captured, what could I possibly do about it? Even already dead, I was still scared to death. Had God given up so much of his power and vision that he could be blindsided by an attack before he had a chance to meet me that morning? And what was the purpose of that meeting, anyway?

I started to realize that I was panicking when I saw a red glow being projected on the walls of my bedroom, and realized it was coming from me. I looked in the mirror and saw that I was flashing like a neon sign.

So I took steps to calm down. I took a step back. I consciously tried to relax. I didn’t even know whether I had a heart anymore (I’d been so busy since I got to Heaven that I didn’t even have a chance to read the user’s manual for my new body; it was still sitting unopened on my bedside table) so I took the deep breaths that in my old body would have slowed my pulse. It worked. I stopped glowing and calmed down.

Hey, regardless that my town home was across the border in Culver City, I was an Angeleno. As a radio personality I’d handled earthquakes, brushfires, mudslides, riots, and Barbra Streisand’s political pronouncements. There wasn’t any disaster I couldn’t handle.

I needed more information.

Since I wasn’t on the air myself, I turned on the TV, just at the right time to catch breaking news on HNN: a press conference by Satan.

Satan walked out with what looked to be her general staff lined up behind her. She looked as if she’d had a sleepless night. For some reason that was not apparent to me, the emotions she was projecting were not in agreement with the message she was delivering. She was about to declare victory but she looked as if she was giving a concession speech.

“I’m not taking any questions yet,” she said, then put on a pair of eyeglasses and read from a prepared statement.

“The Divinity have surrendered Heaven,” read Satan, quietly but emotionally. “The program of the Anorexic Party for transfer of power to a popular form of government has been agreed to.”

There was a huge roar of approval from the crowd. Satan waited until it died down to continue.

“I felt it was better to make some minor concessions rather than have to engage in a protracted war of attrition against our brethren still loyal to the Royal Family. Here are the negotiated terms under which we now enter into the era of Heavenly freedom.

“First,” Satan said, “The palace has been removed from Heaven into its own dimensional matrix and the Trinity are banned from Heaven. Any angels or humans who wish to join them will be permitted to do so while the tunnels are still operating. We have been assured by the Divinity that there is enough spacetime within the palace to accommodate comfortably all angels and resurrected humans who wish to join them.

“Second, with respect to the territories of earth, we have agreed to an earthly Interregnum for the Reformation period of the Christian epoch, at the end of which the future control of earth will be determined by a popular election for the governorship of earth. Qualification for governor shall include only native earthborn, which excludes all previously unincarnated angels; additionally, none of the Trinity may run for this office.

“The Interregnum shall begin Luther 001 at 0900 CeST and end with the election to be held on earth on a date to be mutually agreed to by both parties, who must file before Satan 001 at 0500 CeST. At 1200 hours CeST, all tunnels to earth or to the palace shall go dark. One-way tunnels to transport earthborn souls to Heaven before Satan 001 shall be permitted for the duration of the Interregnum. Those of you not with us: this is your last chance to depart our territory. Outbound tunnels will be dark after noon today.

“Also after noon CeST today,” Satan continued, “all access to the Tree of Knowledge shall be shut off, both here and on earth. The Trinity shall be permitted to listen to and answer prayers for comfort from the earthbound during the Interregnum but neither the Trinity nor our party shall be permitted to perform any miracles above π on the Aquinas Scale for the ­duration.

“At the end of the Interregnum, elections shall be held on earth, and upon our electoral victory two-way tunnel traffic shall be reactivated for all and the Anorexic Party shall be free to take control of earth in addition to the territories already ceded to us today.”

Satan paused for a moment then put away her statement and took off her glasses. “I’ll have further statements, and perhaps answer some questions, later this afternoon, after I have a chance to consult with my kitchen cabinet. That’s all for now.”

The crowd erupted into shouts of “Say-tun! Say-tun! Say-tun!”

Lights flashing, Satan walked off the podium, her retinue following.

I couldn’t believe it. How could God just run away like that, giving up to someone as evil as Satan without a fight?

It just didn’t make sense. But it was about to. Big time.

My doorbell played the chimes of Big Ben. I opened my front door. It was Sophia and Estella. I let them in.

“We have a recorded message for you,” Sophia said.

A holographic image of the Trinity appeared in front of me, backlit as if in solar eclipse. I saw my daughter Felony standing off to the side.

It was way too bright. I needed to shield my eyes. Estella saw my problem, waved a hand in front of my face, and my eyes adjusted properly.

And God spoke:

“My son, I know you’re frightened right now. You’re just now coming to realize that I’ve been watching over you for your entire life, even though you didn’t know it, and now you will learn that I’m going to have to leave you on your own for a while.

“I know you’re going to find this hard to believe but even I can be afraid. Especially I can be afraid. I have more reasons to be afraid than anybody because I have more that I love at risk than anybody else. It’s all right to be afraid. Just don’t let your fears get the better of you.

“I would have preferred to tell you this in person but events have come to pass sooner than I would have hoped, though not sooner than I prepared for.

“I’m sending you on a mission of vital importance. You must return to earth before the tunnels are shut down at noon today. Sophia and Estella will see you safely back to earth but they may not stay there with you. Be certain of this: everything you need to know, everything you need to know how to do, is already within you. You do not need to look to the Tree for guidance. All of the Tree that you need is within you.

“You are to be our Ambassador Plenipotentiary to earth, with full authority to act in our name and to make binding commitments on our behalf. To put it another way, you are the campaign manager for the Party of God in the upcoming gubernatorial election that will determine the fate of earth. The outcome of that election will in turn determine the fate of the rest of my creation.

“I give you these blessings to help you on your mission:

“First, look for a circle to form around you.

“Second, don’t make campaign promises I’m not going to be able to keep.

“Third, feel free to ask for advice, but when it comes time to do your job, you’re the only one qualified to do it.

“Fourth, resist not evil.

“And fifth … use the Force!

God smiled at me.

“Your daughter will be safe here with us so you don’t have to worry about her being used as a hostage.

“I’m betting everything on you, Duj. You are my ultimate go-for-broke: all my cash bet on one horse to win. You have all of our blessings, all of our love, and all of our faith.”

The image faded.

“We must fly, sir,” Sophia said to me, “if Estella and I are to have time to make it back to the palace from earth before the tunnels are shut down.”

I had never been a religious man but I crossed myself.

“But, sir, you’ve never been a Catholic,” Sophia said to me.

I grinned as bravely as I knew how. “You ever try to make a Star of David on your chest?” I asked, knowing she wouldn’t get the joke. “Come on. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

#

Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XI.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter IX


Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter VIII

Escape from Heaven cover


Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 9


To be perfectly honest, I was pretty shaken up by the Anorexic Party rally. Lucifer was a powerful speaker and a charismatic presence.

A phrase I had learned from reading Ayn Rand, back in my college days, came back to me, “The hatred of the good for being the good.”

Lucifer hadn’t lied about God’s “sexual” motive for creation. The same dialectic of tension-and-release that makes sex pleasurable also makes music pleasurable.

Simply, Lucifer had been putting everything God had done in the worst possible light, rendering no respect or gratitude to God for the simple fact that if it was not for his creative impulses, his willingness to take risks, to be inventive, to take action rather than do nothing, Lucifer would not have even existed to raise her foul-mouthed objections.

After the crowd broke up, I said a quick thanks to the Iceman for getting me into the rally and flew back to my town home to finish reading Satan’s own “Mein Kampf.”

Lucifer was a persuasive writer, but the very clarity of her vision is what made me understand how evil it was down to its very roots.

I understood, perhaps for the first time, that while procreation is driven by the female seduction of the male and the female nurturing of the young, the male willingness to explore, to invent, to face the unknown down, to be “men of action’—all of which require bravery, boldness, and utter risk-taking—were what drove males from God on forward to create the new.

Now I knew why western religions all insisted, counter-intuitively to the observation of nature, that God was male. Real creation is a violent invasion of the way things already are, and females are by nature neither violent nor invaders.

Of course this doesn’t mean that females can’t be creative and males can’t be nurturing. We each contain, to a lesser extent, the attributes of the other gender. But purely for identifying the principles involved, creation is the male principle and procreation is the female.

Lucifer, by any of the names she had used at one time or another—Eve, Lilith, Satan—hated God because by nature he was more spontaneously creative, more comfortable in the role of creator, than she was. Creation seemed easy for God. Lucifer had to work at it.

Lucifer was jealous of God because when it came to composing universes, God was Mozart and she was Salieri.

Lucifer’s own effort at creating a new universe of her own — which she named “Hell” as a compliment to the ancient Greek philosophers — was a good example. I’ve had it independently corroborated that the account she gave in her book, telling what went wrong with Hell, was pretty honest.

After her life on earth as Eve, Lucifer concluded that what she had witnessed going wrong on earth had been the human tendency to focus on the differences between people rather than their similarities. People fell into an “us versus them” mentality. There were your own tribesmen; everyone else was a barbarian, a ferengi, a gaijin, a gentile — an outsider. Men focused on the differences they had from women, and vice versa, rather than each focusing on their common humanity and symbiotic roles. Men, in particular, focused on their differences and fought wars over them against other men.

When she decided to create a universe of her own, Lucifer’s conception was elegant and, in my opinion, very bold. She decided to make all of her creatures hermaphroditic—capable of either fertilizing others or being fertilized to bear children themselves—and to make all of them physical twins to each other. It would be an entire planet of twin siblings whom, she believed, would have no differences to fight about.

Brilliant in conception as it was, Hell was a ­disaster.

The principle of uniformity started out bad and, as it evolved, only got worse. Without individual distinctions, everybody saw everybody else as a spare part, to be thrown away as soon as the slightest defect showed up. The social order quickly drifted into an insect-like totalitarianism that made the liquidations of Mao, Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot, in our own history, look like the work of amateurs. With no individuality built into the system, there wasn’t a single revolutionary capable of the independence of mind necessary to lead a liberation movement to save that world from its own dead end.

They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Lucifer, the Goddess of Hell, found out the truth of that bit of wisdom the hard way—and she felt so guilty over the misery that resulted from her own creation that she decided to start questioning the principle of creation, itself.

It was a short slippery slope from creative frustration to jealousy to a rejection of all she saw around her. It was not by accident that she named her anti-God political movement the Anorexic Party. It was not just that those who rejected God were spitting out the food of life. It was that they were spitting at the king of all invention.

+?~

I was so shaken up that I needed to get my mind off politics, even if for a few hours. I got my daughter’s number from the Tree, gave her a call, and made plans with her to attend the violin competition of the Heavenly Olympics that evening. Heaven follows the original Greek Olympics in that events are not only athletic but also artistic.

We noticed a lot of celebrities in attendance, but I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see John F. Kennedy sitting in a box with Jackie. I hadn’t known the two of them were an item again.

The Olympic Violin competition that night was wonderful, with contestants playing everything from Bach to Bluegrass. As usual, the judges were themselves past violin competition gold-medalists such as Niccolò Paganini, Joseph Joachim, Jascha Heifetz, Isaac Stern and Fritz Kreisler. The gold that night went to a rookie, barely up from earth, named Julie Schulman, who brought the stadium to their feet with his bravura performance of Hoagy Carmichael’s third violin concerto.

After the concert, Felony and I went flying into the Sinai mountains for a midnight picnic, and I finally got a chance to catch up with what my daughter had been up to recently. She had written a comic screenplay titled Alas Poor Eunuch that William Shakespeare had committed to direct because she was preoccupied writing another script, and the two of them were in a dispute about casting.

“These Brits are such snobs,” Felony complained. “Bill wants an actor he worked with at the Globe for the lead, but I had Groucho in mind when I wrote the script and I don’t give a damn that Groucho’s not ‘classically trained.’ If Shakespeare doesn’t back down, I’m going to ask my co-producer, George Lucas, to fire him while we’re still in pre-production and see if we can get Nora Ephron.”

When I got home that night at about 0300 CeST, there was a message on my phone from God’s appointment secretary, Ruth, asking me to come back to the palace for a meeting with God at 0900 that morning. I decided I had time for a few hours shut-eye so I set my alarm for 0700 and sacked out.

It seemed to me that I’d only been asleep for a few minutes, though, when I felt a huge crack and my bed started shaking. The first thought in my head was earthquake and my California instincts took over immediately. I flew, literally, under the nearest doorway and waited for the rumbling to die down.

But when I looked out my window, what I saw filled me with horror.

The gigantic diamond palace at the center of Heaven—the seat of the Throne of God — was missing from the night sky … and the streets below where it had been were on fire.

#

Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter X.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon Video. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter VIII


Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter VII

Escape from Heaven cover


Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 8


The Trinity told me at the end of breakfast that it was time I got a good look around Heaven on my own, see what was brewing, form my own opinion. None of the three of them expected me to take what Jesus had told me on faith. After intervening directly into human affairs for a few thousand years and seeing how little could be achieved that way, God now takes independence of thought to the extreme and expects people to come to their own conclusions.

But after what I saw, I started wondering, myself, whether it was God who was making a mistake by taking us on faith, expecting the rest of us to be as decent, smart, and reasonable as he was.

I was concerned that looking like God would make me conspicuous as I tooled around Heaven. God assured me that I didn’t have to worry, not in a city where God impersonators nightly performed in revues and comedy clubs, where God bodies were the most popular Halloween costume every year, and where every Friday night the midnight show at the Rialto attracted hundreds of fans in full God regalia to lip-synch to the cult movie, God: The Musical. “Every once in a while,” God told me, “I still go to the midnight show, pick a seat somewhere in the middle, and sing along.” He grinned. “I haven’t been recognized yet.”

Maybe God wasn’t recognized but I wasn’t out on the streets of Heaven more than a week when I was.

I was having a cappuccino a few blocks from the palace, sitting at a booth in a HoJo’s Jr., thumbing through a copy of Satan’s number-one-best-selling autobiography titled Lucifer is My Slave Name, when I heard a voice from my past. “Duj? Duj Pepperman? Is that you?”

I turned around to see the smiling face of Iceman Shnull, my co-host on a morning drive show we’d done together in San Antonio for six years, who had been killed at 28 by a drunk driver, twenty years before I passed. He still looked as young as ever.

“Well in the name of God, if it isn’t the Iceman!” I said, standing up.

“I thought it was you!” Iceman said, hugging me. “You look like crap, pal, but I’d know your face anywhere!”

So much for anonymity.

Iceman slipped into the booth opposite me and dropped a piece of plastic with the order number 42 onto the table.

“What are you doing nowadays?” I asked him, sitting down again.

“I’m on-camera talent for Heavenly News Network,” he said. “I do remotes, mostly entertainment premieres, but lately with what’s been going on, I’ve been doing more hard news breaks. What about you? Still doing talk?”

“Well, I was,” I told him. “Then I got carjacked in the parking lot of Jerry’s Famous Deli and suddenly I’m out of a job.”

Iceman grinned.

An angel brought over a tray with his order, fried clams, a side of welsh rarebit, and a thick chocolate malt. “You eating?” he asked me.

I shook my head. “That’s all I’ve been doing since I got here,” I said. “Been eating so much, now that I won’t get any fatter, that I think I’m ready to hurl.”

“Yeah, everybody does that at first,” he told me. “But in a couple of more weeks you’ll settle down and get the hang of it. Hey, isn’t being able to fly even better though?”

“If I’d known how much fun it is,” I joked, “I would’ve killed myself years ago.” I’d already found out by reading in the Tree that you couldn’t get past final judgment into Heaven if you’d killed yourself … at least not without a good lawyer.

“Listen, I’m on a quick break before I have to head back to work,” Iceman said. “I’m covering Satan’s big Anorexic Party rally at Judas Park this afternoon. I can lend you an HNN press badge and slip you into the press section. You want to come?”

Of course I took the Iceman up on his invitation. This was exactly the sort of thing God told me I was supposed to be checking out.

Iceman and his crew set up their telepresence pickups with dozens of other networks right in front of the band box while I found myself an empty chair a few dozen feet farther back, sitting with the radio commentators and print reporters.

I felt conspicuous about my appearance when a beefy angel, one of Satan’s roadies, gave me a weird look. I gestured at the spare tire around my middle and shrugged; the roadie laughed, gave me a thumbs up, and went back to putting up seating on the platform behind Satan for her personal guests.

+?~

“Why does God permit suffering?” Satan asked, her hands raised to the skies of Heaven dramatically. “Permit suffering? Permit suffering? God was counting on suffering! God thinks suffering is good for you! Perfection wasn’t good enough for God. God didn’t like perfection. The entire fucking idea behind creation was to fuck things up as much as possible and make everyone else’s life a living hell!”

The multitude at the huge rally, tens of thousands of angels but with a surprising number of saved humans mixed in, roared in unison, “Say-tun! Say-tun! Say-tun!”

There’s no kind way of saying this so I’ll just say it. Satan looked like hell. She was painfully gaunt and sickly looking, her reddish-blonde hair hung down limply, her pale skin hung on her loosely, and she tried to cover up the physical decay by wearing a long black dress and a black beret tilted to the side.

“And at the end of the day, what are these great gifts that God has given us? To make us into animals that were designed only to eat other living things and turn them into shit?”

“No!” the crowd shouted.

“To go through life on earth, ignorant of the truth and scared that we were made from dust only to be turned back into dust … only to find out that we don’t really die forever and it was all just God’s little practical joke?”

No!

“To have sex—with physical organs, may I remind you, that God thought so little of that he made them do double duty with pissing and shitting—so we can fall in love with someone who, if you don’t get sick to death of each other while smelling each other’s farts and bad breath, is going to die and leave you feeling that everything that makes life joyful has come to an end?”

NO!

“And why? For what? Why did God put all of us through this?” Satan asked the crowd.

“So God could jack off!” an angel in the front shouted.

The crowd roared its approval.

Satan laughed. “You know already. You’re with me before I open my mouth. I don’t even have to tell you any of this. That’s right. God is a thrill junkie, a sex addict, a maniac who runs experiments that destroy other people’s lives without even having the decency to warn them of the risks. The Larry Flynt who lives in that floating pleasure palace with that sluttish sex goddess he calls your mother … and their misbegotten bastard — that middle Eastern terrorist from Central Casting — who claims to be your savior … are Dr. Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, and their monster!”

Satan raised her hands again.

The crowd chanted in unison, “Say-tun! Say-tun! Say-tun!”

Satan lowered her arms and waited for silence.

“All of this is so we can follow in Daddy’s footsteps and became dreamers. We’re supposed to think that if we just put our noses to the grindstone and study the Tree of Knowledge that we’ll all be able to make pretty little universes of our own. Well, I’ve been there and done that. I followed the program. I became a human being. I learned how to dream. I created a universe of my own. And I’m here to tell you that it’s not only an impossible dream, creating a universe of your own is a nightmare for everybody involved! Why do you think I named the universe that I created, using God’s own blueprints, hell?”

The crowd roared with laugher.

Satan lowered her voice, almost to a whisper.

“Is this right? Is this fair? After seeing how this great experiment called creation has worked, are you still going to mindlessly stand there like stunned sheep and say to me, ‘In God we trust?’”

The crowd laughed uproariously.

“Or are you going to use the one gift that Heaven’s own version of Bill Gates gave you that actually has some value? The power to say no? Do you want this nightmare to continue forever or do you want to claim your right to be master of your own destiny? Do you want to stick with this prepackaged, preplanned, one-size-fits-all monopolistic beta test that I like to call Universe 2000 — ”

“Say-tun! Say-tun! Say-tun!”

“—Or do we say that we’ve simply had enough of being ruled by a tyrant, demand free and honest elections, and run things ourselves?”

“Say-tun! Say-tun! Say-tun!”

Satan pursed her lower lip, stuck out her chin, and extended her right arm out to the mass crowd standing before her in a grand salute.

#

Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter IX.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter VII


Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter VI

Escape from Heaven cover


Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 7


And Jesus spake unto me:

In the time before Time, there was but One Spirit and He was Whole and Content. This spirit was my Father, whom you now observe incarnated into a fleshly body of His own design.

My father wished a companion so he split off part of himself and created a free Spirit, the first spirit created free from prior existence becoming the Second Person—my Mother.

My father and mother, God and Goddess, played with Each Other, creating tensions and releasing them pleasurably, and They decided to make their playing with each other even more pleasurable by taking part from each of them and making a Third.

I was the First Child of God and his Goddess—the Third Person in existence, and the First Born of the race of angels that followed.

+?~

“Hold up a second,” I interrupted. “Christians always refer to you as the Second Person of the Trinity,” I said to Jesus. “You’re saying you’re the Third Person?”

Instead, Maryse answered, “Jesus is the Second Person, if you’re considering it as a royal chain of command. I do my best to be apolitical, to reign but not rule. My interests lie in the advocacy of justice.”

Jesus continued:

+?~

No one then had bodies. We were all free spirits, and gender was not yet invented. Any of us could join for a time with any other, then part again as we willed. You might think this sort of existence was perfect, but it wasn’t. We had intellect and we had fun, but we didn’t have goals and without goals we did not experience our lives as meaningful.

Mortal or immortal, no one can be content for very long without anything important at stake, and very long comes quickly when you’re immortal. We were discontent.

My father and mother saw trouble brewing with their children not having anything meaningful to do, so they decided to do something about it. My father’s introspection told him that just as he had arrived at the impulse for creation by contemplating the greater pleasures offered by the tension of denied gratification, in the same way providing the discontented angels with the possibility of denied gratification could provide their existence with a goal, a direction, a purpose. Out of this sense of purpose could grow meaning.

First he decided that the resistance necessary for delayed gratification would require creating a universe with congealed energy and a linear time line, a universe of matter and energy, space and time. He had made galaxies, stars, and planets in his previous experiments, and imported a number of already made ones into this new universe.

He spent a week evolving life on a planet around a nice, medium-sized star, designed a salad of colorful plants and a menagerie of interesting pets in a self-sustaining, self-replenishing, and homeostatic ecosystem.

Finally, he invented outer bodies that could slow down the frequency of angelic spirits, enabling matter to impose limitations on spirit—making them subject to external forces. He even fashioned a body for himself, and liked it so much that he started wearing it frequently.

On the sixth day, my father opened up Eden, the first ever theme park, and told his children that if they wanted to play in it we’d have to put on these cute new bipedal mammalian bodies he’d evolved for us to use while in the park. What they didn’t tell us kids was that it wasn’t just a playground. Eden was a kindergarden that taught through educational games, with the purpose of teaching little angels how to grow up to be big gods.

+?~

“But something went wrong,” I said.

“Not something went wrong,” said Jesus. “I went wrong. I was the first born. I claimed my rightful place as the first angel to put on a body. You know me by still another name, the name on the body I put on. Adam.”

His appearance morphed. Now he was taller, clean-shaven, fairer, more Nordic-looking.

“You ate the fruit from the tree with the knowledge of good and evil?”

“That’s a nice way of putting it,” said Adam.

+?~

Visits to Eden were set up on the buddy system. We angels each had to pair up with another buddy and put on matching bodies—one male, one female. My buddy was my best friend, Lucifer, an angel who was just a little younger than me. You guessed it. Lucifer became Eve.

Lucy was always the life of any party, the sort of angel it was always fun to be around. But she always knew I was a sucker for a game of Truth or Dare. She dared me to hack into the project Eden folder of the Tree of Knowledge—Dad’s Macintosh computer, if it helps you to think of it that way—where we found an as-yet unimplemented design for dihydrogen monoxide crystals. Snow. Lucy immediately thought of all the fun possibilities. Skiing. Sledding. Snowball fights. Making snowmen and snow angels.

You were a teenager once, you know what it’s like. Once Lucy and I got the idea stuck in our heads it seemed like wicked fun. We goaded each other into it and neither of us wanted to back down and look chicken. Our reptile brains — the serpent of legend — were tempting us.

Lucy didn’t know her way around the Tree and I did. To continue the metaphor, she was computer illiterate and didn’t know how to get past Dad’s passwords and safeguards. When it came time to go beyond joking around with each other and actually hack into the planetary operating system, I was the one who knew how to do it and did it.

So, I captured a moon, did a little work on the earth’s orbit, and the next time Dad put on his body and came down to Eden for a walk through the park, I started up the snow machine and told him to look at how Lucy and I had ‘improved’ on his design.

+?~

“Did you spank them?” I asked God.

God didn’t answer but shot me a look suggesting my question was boorish. Yes, God had said “ask anything,” but maybe I had gone just a bit too close to the line. Maryse, who has perfect manners, pretended not to notice my faux pas.

“No, Duj,” Jesus said, saving me. “Actually, Dad and Mom were pretty understanding about the whole thing, considering how totally I’d screwed things up. I’d introduced what amounted to a destructive virus into earth’s ecosystem, resulting in an ecology spiraling wildly out of control and, just a few hundred years later, in a global deluge.”

“Jesus!” I said involuntarily.

He nodded and continued:

+?~

But worse than that, I’d screwed up the Great Plan.

Lucy and I stayed on earth in our new fleshly bodies in the company of other angels who had incarnated in the park, but Dad told us if we stayed, it was under the condition that we had our access level in the Tree of Knowledge reduced until we returned to the Celestial Realm. I’d crashed Eden’s self-sustaining ecosystem and we were going to have to build a new colony on earth ourselves, by hand. We had to learn whatever lessons the earth had to give us without being able to check our answers by looking in the back of the book. No more angels would be allowed to join the colony until we had things working again; we were going to have to rely on the labor of our own human children.

Things got pretty bad. There was a lot of disagreement among those of us now on our own about what to do. There was a lot of infighting, splitting off into warring factions. You probably already know that things turned violent right from the start, when one of Lucy’s and my sons killed his brother over something as silly as which one had cooked my dad a better dinner during a visit.

Lucy was never quite the same after Cain killed his brother. She withdraw into herself and barely talked to me. She wanted to take off her body and return to the Celestial Realm. She had grown to hate earth and thought the whole Eden project was a mistake from the beginning. I insisted that there was still work to be done on earth. We had those stupid sorts of arguments husbands and wives get into where each of us was accusing the other of having caused the whole mess. Finally Lucy decided to abandon her body and returned to the Celestial Realm without me.

I stayed on earth with our kids until my own body aged beyond repair, then I returned to the Celestial Realm, leaving my human children even more on their own. With little more than a few simple rules to keep them on track, the human race fell into every sort of corruption possible.

Having lived forever, my father has a lot of patience, and isn’t one to give up or give in. If you read the Old Testament you get a pretty good idea how badly it went, how all the choices Dad had left were between bad and worse. My father was determined to get the Eden project back on track, no matter what it took, even if he had to start all over again. The worst of the lot had to be culled—forced out of their bodies and wait-listed for reincarnation — and Dad made lemonade out of the lemon I’d given him by allowing the deluge I’d caused to clean the planet of all but the best samples. There were several more times when cities of totally corrupt humans had to be culled—Sodom and Gomorrah, Canaan — but it was a holding action, at best.

It took my father a while to figure out a plan then he and mom talked it over for a while and brought it to me to see if I was willing to make up for my mistake. It was going to take all three of us, working as a team, if this was going to work. It was the last chance to save not only earth and my children now living there but the future for all the angels as well. I was so ashamed about my celestial stupidity back in the original park that I agreed eagerly, without even asking what exactly I was going to have to do.

I found myself regretting that rash decision more than once, after I found out what I’d agreed to.

+?~

Jesus continued:

“When the time came to execute the new plan, my father visited his spirit into a man named Joseph and my mother visited her spirit into a woman named Mary. Both of these humans had been approached by angels in advance to make sure they didn’t mind the joinings. You know exactly what it feels like because it happened to you for a few minutes yesterday, right?”

I nodded. “Except I wasn’t asked in advance whether I minded or not.”

“Well,” Jesus asked, “did you mind?”

I laughed. “You might as well ask whether I like flying, sex, or ice cream. I think I’d give anything to experience that ‘joining’ again.”

“I knew that,” God said to me.

Maryse gave her husband a look and punched him playfully on the arm.

Jesus continued, “While incarnate, they conceived a man child on earth, into whom I breathed my soul at the moment of birth. This was something entirely different than just putting on a body, the way I’d done the first time. I was the first spirit who, having been created in the celestial realm, was naturally conceived and born a mortal human being. I was made to be the first angel ever to die, the first angel ever to go on a suicide mission.”

“How did you stand it?” I asked.

“By the skin of my teeth,” Jesus said. “Just barely. Scared out of my wits when the time came close.”

“Then why did you go through with it?” I asked.

+?~

Because it was my fault in the first place! Because it had to be done and there just wasn’t anyone else qualified for the job. Keep in mind, nothing like this had ever been tried before. If something went wrong, existence itself might have been damaged beyond repair. But if it worked—if it could work—then all of us, angels and humans, could take on the power of imagination—learn how to dream—and be able to create universes of our own.

After the small original colony of angels had cast off their flesh and returned to the Celestial Realm, the human children that we angels had procreated on earth lived in a fleshly body that died, was a ghost for a while—sometimes wandering the earth, sometimes hanging around in dismal cities of the dead—and were wait-listed for a chance to reincarnate on earth and do it all over again. No future to speak of.

I came back to earth to bring the children of earth the good news that my father was granting them conditional amnesty and would take them into his kingdom if they’d simply agreed to get with the program again. I had to be born human rather than merely take over a ready-made human body because I was the test pilot to show the human children that they could be transported to the Celestial Realm where they could be given new bodies, grow spiritually, and evolve into gods.

They saw me die. I was dead. There wasn’t any question about it. Then they saw me alive again in a couple of days, looking like myself, without having to be reincarnated as a baby. No less a convincing demonstration of the possibility of resurrection would have worked.

But that was only part of my father’s plan.

Evolution into godhood was once again being offered to the angels. Angels could have their spirits incarnate on earth into human bodies, just like in the original Eden project. Angels who haven’t yet become human first don’t dream. As spirits they lack imagination. Without imagination, creation is impossible.

We were offering angels a chance to become human for a time, so they could learn to dream, and when they returned to the Celestial Realm, they also could become gods.

My father’s great plan was the goal of the modern revolutions: liberty, equality, fraternity. The creator of the universe, the author of history, the inventor of life, the father of the races of angels and humans, was also the first revolutionary. If my father’s plan worked, the Original Spirit would not only have a companion, children, students, and servants. For the first time, God could have friends.

+?~

“But no matter what it is, there’s always some malcontent, the fly in the ointment, a critic,” said Jesus.

“Lucifer?” I guessed.

Jesus nodded. “Lucy. Eve. My best friend. The love of my life. The mother of my children. The worst pain in the ass on earth or in Heaven.”

“Your ex-wife,” I said, understanding completely.

#

Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter VIII.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share