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Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 5

A lot of people think angels don’t have a sense of humor. I don’t believe it for a minute.

It must be obvious from this narrative that Sophia and Estella had been assigned to watch over me. Just exactly what that responsibility entails is a matter open to interpretation, but allowing me, while asleep, to float out of my open bedroom window buck-naked to do an aerial tour of the Heavenly City, does not in my opinion qualify as attention to duty.

At the time I departed earth, a lot more about dreaming was mysterious than understood. People tossed around terms like wish fulfillment, R.E.M. cycles, alpha and theta brainwaves, collective unconscious, directed dreaming, and bicameral minds. But the simple fact is that the ancients, who saw dreams as omens or prophecy, at least took what happened during dreaming as something as real as waking states of being. With the exception of the few remaining Australian aboriginals, practically nobody on earth had a clue why human beings were made to dream.

Almost immediately upon my arrival in Heaven, I found out what dreams are for. It was not only an inescapably obvious experience, but it was at the heart of a political struggle that made earthbound conflicts over abortion, Jerusalem, or skin color look like a bingo game by comparison.

The capacity to dream, to really dream, is what makes the human race “made in God’s image.”

I’m not talking about merely replaying waking experiences while asleep. That’s one of the lowest levels of dreaming that even a sleeping dog experiences. I’m not talking about the visiting between those living on earth and loved ones who’d crossed beyond, or even the antics of otherworldly trespassers who got off on using human dreamers as their personal entertainment consoles.

The sorts of dreams I mean are the ones that seem more real and important to you than what happens when you’re awake, dreams that are either a horror you awaken from with pounding heart and covered in sweat, or a transcendent bliss that breaks your heart when you awaken to mundane existence. Some people have taken dreams this intense to be visits to other realms, including Heaven and Hell, and in rare cases they were.

But what God designed dreams to be in his original specs for the human race is our ability, like God himself, to imagine new worlds into existence.

Not that I learned all this on my first night in Heaven. What I did learn that night is that the dreams I’d had as long as I could remember, in which I could fly, came true once Jesus had given me my new body. My old body being constructed of matter with the properties of mass, and consequently gravitationally attracted to all other masses, was simply not designed to rise out of a gravity well at will.

Back on earth, some living souls used their dream states as an opportunity to leave their leaden bodies behind a short while, for some astral soaring around the planet, while others flew by ignoring gravity in dream worlds of their own creation. Speaking for myself, I had a rare night of the first kind, in which I left my body behind in bed and soared above mountains and through cities, and quite a few more of the second, where my ability to fly was an ordinary feature of my created dream lands.

What I didn’t know, when I climbed into bed that first night, is that the new body Jesus gave me wasn’t made out of ordinary matter like my old body, and that its mass was a variable designed to be consciously controlled. Once I fell asleep and habitually went into one of my usual flying dreams, my new body automatically responded, and like a sleepwalker, I was propelling myself right out my bedroom window and floating above the treetops.

I was cruising along about a mile high and a couple of hundred miles an hour when Sophia and Estella caught up with me, gently caught me and started guiding me back home, still fast asleep. I awakened at about 3,500 feet up and about fifteen minutes away from my bedroom window to find myself naked but not cold, flying prone with the city lights of Heaven below me, two gorgeous angels as my honor guard, and my pecker pointing down like landing gear.

I didn’t have a chance to be embarrassed for very long. As soon as she became aware that I was awake, Sophia laughed merrily then pulled herself close to me, kissing me sensually. Estella joined in kissing me from the other side. I was way distracted after that but I can state with some authority that I wasn’t doing any more dreaming that night. I didn’t need to.

The science-fiction novelist and folksinger, L. Neil Smith, once asked in a lyric, “Can you get laid, up in Heaven?”

Believe it or not, even though the opportunity presented itself to me, my first choice wasn’t to spend the rest of my first night in Heaven doing a ménage à trois with a couple of angelic Playmates. I could fly. I hurriedly dressed and I spent the next few hours in flying lessons, soaring above and through the streets of Heaven with the two most beautiful flight instructors I’d ever seen.


While we’re on the subject, let’s get a few things straight about angels.

Angels don’t have wings. They’re not burritos like humans; they just use the one astral body, not pulled by gravity. The whole “on wings of angels” thing was a nice poetic metaphor but if you ask me it’s gotten a little old.

Angels are neither androgynous nor are they non-sexual beings. It’s just that they can choose what sex they want to be. God never neutered them. That tubby bitch Silent Bob got this last part wrong when he made Dogma.

Angels are not silent but beautiful sex dolls for humans, either, although I might have given that impression. Sophia and Estella just dug me and it was mutual.

Successful marriages between angels and humans are very rare. If you think the whole Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus thing is hard-going communication, try going on a third date when you really are from different worlds.

Human writers took the word “angel,” which translates as “helper,” then went off on long literary tangents portraying angels as nothing more than God’s messengers, choir singers, and clerical staff. Wrong. The race of humanoid spirits we call angels were God’s first children, our older brothers and sisters. Sure, they do chores around the house; they’re good people and enjoy helping out when they’re not too busy with their own stuff. There’s a corps of elite angels who serve in the Regiment of the Lord, when God needs soldiers, bailiffs, or police officers. But “angel” isn’t a job description. Even in Heaven, the phrase, “You’re an angel!” is mostly a term of endearment.

The important difference between humans and angels is that angels are those spirits who have never incarnated into flesh. Angels who have incarnated into flesh are pretty much the same as spirits grown on earth. They wouldn’t be angels any more; they’d be human. The angels that have never been human don’t sleep; it’s not part of their nature. They’re alert all the time.

Angels don’t dream.

There are angels who are jocks and angels who are nerds. You don’t want to go up against an angel in a karate match or on Jeopardy; they’ll cream you. But psychologically, angels are simply not human.

Angels don’t write novels or plays; they write elegant verse, encyclopedias, and history. They are fabulous mathematicians with tons of theorems attributed to them but none of them could have come up with the visualization that led Albert Einstein to E=mc2. They’re the best engineers around. Angels make wonderful portrait painters, photographers, and cinematographers; but there isn’t a René Magritte or Walt Disney among them. They’re terrific dancers but lousy actors; the universe’s best Renaissance musicians, circus performers, and Elvis impersonators — this last is the opinion of Elvis, himself — but an angel couldn’t write a joke if someone’s life depended on it.

That doesn’t mean that angels don’t laugh or aren’t witty; lots of things amuse them—usually human foibles, like my late-night nude excursion. I’ve been at cocktail parties where I saw angels, in duels of sarcastic banter, one-upping Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde.

I learned the hard way that you don’t want to take angels to a comedy club. Once I took Sophia and Estella to a club in the Soho district of Heaven called The Divine Comedy to see the 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe doing a stand-up routine, and twenty minutes into his act, Marlowe came down to our table and started ragging on me because I kept on having to lean over and explain to the angels why all the humans were laughing. I found out later that the girls had done this sort of thing before and, though they really don’t get human jokes, seeing me squirm was how the two of them were getting their jollies.

I’m getting ahead of my own story.

Morning came but I wasn’t tired. At about 6:30 AM by my living room clock, I took a quick shower, put on my meeting-with-the-affiliates suit, and flew out with Sophia and Estella for my breakfast meeting.

Have you ever noticed that the gospels refer to Heaven as the Kingdom of God? You wouldn’t know it from movies like Heaven Can Wait, Made in Heaven, or What Dreams May Come. You don’t see God playing any part in Hollywood’s version of Heaven. It’s a curious omission.

Heaven is a kingdom. God is the king. The Lord’s palace is at the very center of the city and is Heaven’s main tourist attraction.

What everything that had happened to me added up to, since line seven had lit up in the K-TALK studio, was that Duj Pepperman had been given a royal summons to appear at court that morning at 0800 hours Celestial Standard Time.

A number of traditions—Gnostic, Hermetic, Masonic — refer to God as the Great Architect of the Universe. Nowhere is this observation truer than in the design of God’s own home.

The Heavenly Palace is an enormous diamond whose lowest point hovers about fifteen feet — exactly ten cubits — off the ground. Think of the structure as two Great Pyramids joined together at their base, floating in the air, with the apex of one pointing up and the apex of the other pointing down.

Each facet of the diamond lights up in an ever-changing pattern of colors, so that the overall impression from any approach is that you’re looking at a display that combines the drama of never-ending fireworks with the intricacy of a Bach cantata.

On official occasions when God is holding open court, each of the facets becomes a view screen, and you can watch the proceedings from just about anywhere in the city.

Like the entrance to Jesus’ resurrection clinic, there are no doorways. You fly up to any outside surface and simply pass through to the inside.

The space inside the palace seems to operate on its own physical laws. You simply can’t get anywhere inside where you’re not invited; if you tried, you’d simply find yourself outside the diamond again, with the possibility that the outside surface wouldn’t open to you any more.

From whatever point public visitors enter the palace from the outside, they end up at the same reception hall inside, reminiscent of the lobby to a great museum.

The palace is a city within a city. Of course there’s the Great Hall where God holds court in the grand style, as well as God’s own personal residence and the private offices, apartments, and conference facilities used by the palace staff. Several museum-worthy collections housed within the palace are open to the public—art, historical displays, and a pavilion dedicated to the Lives of the Saints, as well as research facilities available to scholars who have been cleared for high-level-access in the Tree of Knowledge. There’s a library with every book or film that’s ever been burned on earth, including the missing works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others that were destroyed in Alexandria.

The palace also has 46 public restaurants ranging from fine dining to snack bars, and there are angels who act as docents for tours of the palace’s museums and ceremonial facilities, when not in official use. There’s even a souvenir kiosk where you can pick up miniatures of the palace, art reproductions, toys, and the inevitable shirts that read, “My parents went to Heaven and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

Sophia and Estella had security clearance to bypass the reception area and shepherd me directly from outside the diamond into God’s living room.

I don’t know what I was expecting from God’s personal digs, but this wasn’t it. There weren’t any fancy Louis XVI chairs or long halls with huge oil paintings; no displays of fine bone china or carved ivory miniatures; no desks with inlaid mahogany. The only obvious ostentation was shelf after shelf displaying books, musical albums, and movies. It’s a habit of mine to check out what people keep on their home shelves; it’s often a glimpse into their personality. God’s living room has the best collection of science-fiction and fantasy I’ve ever seen outside of the Ackermansion, but his listening tends toward music salad, from Camille Saint-Saëns to Stevie Wonder, from Dmitri Shostakovich to Astor Piazzolla, from Vince Guaraldi to Alanis Morrisette. Chris Isaak’s song “Wicked Game” was playing when I came in. Uh oh, I thought.

The place wasn’t designed for show but for creature comfort. There were plush couches and even plusher recliners, an extensive wet bar, a long table heavy with bowls of fresh fruit, candy bars, cheeses, crackers, potato chips, dips, and bottled soft drinks on ice.

There was a huge roman bathtub with massage jets, enormous stereo speakers in each corner, and the biggest flat-screen I’d seen anywhere.

You know how there are places in dreams that you keep on going back to, that you can describe in detail as easily as places you’ve lived, but that you know you’ve never been to before? Suddenly I had the strongest flash of déjà vu I’d ever experienced.

I’d lived in this room, in my dreams.

But that momentary precognition made it only slightly less shocking to me when God walked into the room, obviously the Lord of the palace because he was barefoot and wearing a silk kimono. God waved to Sophia and Estella, then grinned widely when he saw what had to be the queerest expression on my face when I first saw him.

Aside from my being overweight, I was an identical twin of God.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter VI.

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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