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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?”


“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?”


“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.

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