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

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