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Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 3

If you’d seen anybody on TV telling you what it’s like to die, the one thing you could pretty well be sure of is that they didn’t die all the way. So you might have heard the beginning part about what happens when you die before … but the part you’d heard was the part before it got really interesting.

Yes, I was outside of my drowning body almost immediately, floating about a dozen feet above the water. I could see things that I couldn’t have seen if I’d had to rely on my old eyes. It was after dark, and the Mercedes had already sunk under the water far enough that all I should have been able to see of it was the roof and a few air bubbles rising to the surface of the water. But I could apparently see right through the solid roof of the car down to my tied-up waterlogged body.

My drowned corpse should have been a gruesome sight but the part of me that was capable of being disturbed was left behind with my old nervous system. I can be dispassionate now in trying to describe what the experience was like but being outside my body was an emotional rush at the time, and the second peak experience I’d had within an hour.

You’ve heard before, from people who’ve described their death experiences, about the bright light. That’s part right and part wrong. We experience it as light, but it’s not what a scientist of our time would have defined as light. It’s not made up of photons (which you’d no longer have an optic nerve to perceive anyway), it’s not an electromagnetic phenomenon at all, but we call it light because that’s what we’re perceiving.

I could stop this narrative right now and switch to writing a textbook about what we are when we are no longer living in flesh. The skeptical talk-show host I was a few hours earlier would have been interested in questions about how we could think without a brain or central nervous system to process information, how we can see without a retina to catch the photons, why we still feel without neural receptors to be compressed, and so forth. If you’re really interested, you can do a search on astral physiology in the Tree of Knowledge, or just take a class. If you’ve read books on out-of-body and death experiences, keep in mind that about three-quarters of what you read was the guesswork of an author who, if he’d even reincarnated, was suffering from dinatal amnesia.

The short answer is: you’re a burrito. You’re an astral body stuffed into a flesh body. You have a consciousness that uses your brain like a computer mouse; you have a second body that is made out of a more durable substance than matter but can be hooked into flesh for a time. Your personality is not trapped in your brain but can be uplifted out of it; your fleshly body is designed for use in the plane of earth and once you’re out of it for good, it’s time to stick out your thumb, so to speak, and hitch a ride in the tunnels.

The light is, among other things, a boarding announcement.

I could see a tunnel mouth forming above me, and felt myself rising slowly at first. I hesitated, feeling an unbroken connection to my teenage daughter, but “remembered” being God again momentarily, and knew that I’d be seeing her again soon enough.

I allowed myself to be sucked up into the mouth and felt myself accelerating.

The tunnel was more like a glowing energy field than something made out of brick and mortar. If this was a movie, the special-effects shot of going into a tunnel would be like the Millennium Falcon going into hyperspace, or like the Starship Enterprise going into warp. And why not? The closest science came to describing a tunnel was a wormhole, and that’s wildly inaccurate. It’s a system of passageways that can be used for travel between worlds, universes, dimensions, time periods, and other sorts of places that twenty-first-century cosmology doesn’t even encompass yet. The tunnel between earth and Heaven is like a local on the New York City subway, if you consider all the possible destinations. Heaven is about two million years in the future and five thousand degrees to the left. Practically walking distance.

When my daughter was little, we’d start singing “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” whenever we drove through a tunnel. I’m not sure why but I started singing “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” and decided to see how long I could keep it up. I soon noticed that there was another voice singing along with me. I, and whoever was joining me, didn’t have to sing very long; I don’t think I was in the tunnel for more than a minute before I popped out the other end.

I felt myself landing on my feet. There wasn’t a mirror but I could look down and see that I seemed to have an ordinary body again, torso, arms and hands, legs and feet. Gravity—I could feel weight on my feet. Clothes, the same ones I’d been wearing when I left.

I looked around. My first impression of the arrival platform was aural rather than visual. I stopped singing “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” the moment I was out of the tunnel; but the other voice that had been singing along with me continued and was now close by. But I couldn’t see anything yet. For my new eyes, the place was supersaturated with light and objects were hard to distinguish. I could see only light and shadows.

One of the shadows moved toward me. I made an effort to focus and the shadow resolved into a silhouette, and the figure resolved into a human form, and the human form resolved into a very pretty girl who looked to be about 12 years old. It took another beat before I recognized her. She had been 18 years old the last time I had seen her, two weeks earlier.

“Hi, Daddy,” she said.

It was my daughter, Felony.

“Sweetie?” I said, shocked. “I don’t understand. You were in college when I left earth. Was there an accident? Are you dead, too?”

She came up close and hugged me; she had to reach up the way she used to when she was little. “I’m fine, Daddy,” she said. “I’m alive now and I’m alive back at college, when you left.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Everybody who’s going to end up here is already here,” she said. “This is the end of time. This is Heaven.”

I looked around but the only thing that I could see clearly was still my daughter. Everything else was still cloudy, the way Heaven was always portrayed in old movies.

“You have a million questions,” she said. “There’s a million answers waiting for you. But you’re not going to get them standing here. Come on.”

She took me by the hand and we started walking. I let her guide me.

“Why are you a little girl again?” I asked.

“Because that’s the way you’ve always seen me,” Felony said. “Everything you see when you first get here is subjective, dreamlike.”

“I’m not seeing what you really look like?”

“Well, you’re not seeing me the way everyone else does yet.”

“If you’re still alive back on earth, how did you get here before I did?”

“Do you really want a lecture on resolving the paradox equations in temporal mechanics five minutes after you get to Heaven? Or is it enough if I tell you that I gave you grandchildren and great-grandchildren before I died?”

I laughed. “Did you make any movies?”

She smiled. “I dedicated my first directing Oscar to you.”

“I’m sorry I missed it, sweetheart.”

“Who said you’re going to miss it?”

“I’ll take that lecture now,” I said, grinning.

Felony looked at me seriously. “Do you have any idea why you were brought here?”

“You mean you don’t know?”

She shook her head. “All I know is that I got a message telling me that you were arriving today and asking me to guide you until you’re reborn.”

I frowned. “You mean I have to go through puberty again?”

She laughed. “No, Daddy. Unless you want to stay a ghost, just using your second body, you need to get new flesh. Which, considering your love for all-you-can-eat restaurants, I don’t think you’d like very much. Come on.”

“Is it going to hurt?”

“Just because you’re being reborn is no excuse to act like a baby,” my teenage daughter the grandmother said.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter IV.

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 Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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