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

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