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Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 17

On Saturday, October 8th, I received a report that a tunnel had opened up briefly above Lakewood, California, and a lone occupant had flown out. Our militia had given chase but whoever it was had managed to elude them.

In King Solomon’s legal opinion this was a clear treaty violation, and Dr. King filed a formal protest with the Anorexic Party on our behalf. The Anorexic Party’s official response was uncharacteristic: they admitted the breach and asked us what balancing we wished in compensation.

We answered that we were going to hold them to an equivalent protocol exception of our choosing to be redeemed at any point before or after the election. Amazingly, they agreed.

They were being way too affable. Now I was really worried.


A bell went off in my head announcing that I had an instant message on my internal desktop. It was steganographically coded for maximum privacy, and I had pretty good confidence that not only couldn’t it be intercepted or decoded, but that it wouldn’t even be recognized as a message. The message’s private key signature proved that it was from Lindbergh. When decoded, the message in its entirety was, “Success. Awaiting your signal.”


I found out what I had to be worried about the next morning at 8:00 AM local time, on the Reverend Doctor Sun Amen Chill’s top-rated Sunday broadcast program, a one-hour globally telecast worship service named Morning Glory.

Sun Amen Chill wasn’t your typical TV evangelist.

He was built like a football player, was as good-looking as a movie star, had a singing voice reminiscent of Jim Morrison, and always began his program by running out to his pulpit like a game-show host, with brassy theme music appropriate for a late-night talk show. He was always dressed in a designer suit of the latest fashion.

His denomination was nominally Baptist, but he was famous for dispensing with dogma and inviting Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Native American Indians, and even Wiccans to join him on his pulpit and offer up whatever prayers to the Deity they wished to, in the language of their own traditions.

His sermons preached directly from the Bible, but he always managed to relate biblical passages to whatever was in the news, and his sermons often had the flavor more of a stand-up TV comic doing “blend” than of a traditional religious service.

His musical choices were even more unusual. Instead of the standard program of praise and worship music, he managed each week to astonish his TV viewers with musical talent worthy of Saturday Night Live or the Tonight Show. Musical guests on his program had included Grammy-winning artists in rock music, classical, jazz, and country. He’d performed more duets with other singers than Sammy Davis, Jr.

And it probably won’t surprise you that Caulinn Helms’ grunge band, Seminal Lunch, had appeared on the program over half-a-dozen times, four-letter words and all, but bringing their loyal followers into the fold with them.

Reverend Chill let his band do an opening number while he ran through the front rows of his congregation, kissing women and shaking men’s hands. Then it was his custom to run back to his pulpit, grab a mike and join his band in an opening song of his own composition, usually something reminiscent of David Bowie or Sting.

This was always followed by the words, “Please stand. Let us pray.”

But something was different this Sunday.

When he returned to his pulpit he waved his bandleader into silence, said, “Please be seated,” and waited for silence.

His congregation, many more of them kids and teenagers than you might expect, looked surprised but expectant. They knew he was a showman—that’s what brought them here—but he was breaking format.

“Brothers and sisters,” he began, “there are moments in history that come without warning and change everything forever. Some of these moments are terrible, and we say they are a ‘catastrophe.’ We have had way too many of these: earthquakes, sneak attacks that begin great wars, assassinations.

“But there are also transforming moments that are wonderful and great … and there’s a word for that, too: eucatastrophe. The greatest of these moments, until now, was when our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and showed us the path to Heaven.

“I have been blessed with an honor that I have done nothing to deserve, but that as an obedient servant I can only thank God for permitting me. There has been a new incarnation, one which proves to us the reality of the Bible, of God, and of Heaven. We have always thought that the New Age would begin with the return of Jesus to cast Satan out of his throne on earth, but I have come to learn that this is only one of the prophecies of Saint John the Divine that were in error.

“My brothers and sisters, it is the very mother of the human race that has come back to us directly from her home in Heaven, the great spirit who is known as the wife of our Lord and Savior, and who was here at the very beginning of our creation.

“Tonight, everyone on earth will have a dream, in which she will visit you personally and confirm to you the truth of my words.

“Brothers and sisters, what you are about to see is not stage magic, it is not trick photography, it is not a special effect, computer generated or otherwise. The members of my congregation who are here and watching this pulpit will be able to give you personal eyewitness testimony to what they see at this service.

“They will be able to confirm from the evidence of their own eyes the reality of the miracle you who cannot be here in person with us are about to see. We will invite the news media to join us after this service to observe and see for themselves whether or not these are genuine miracles. We invite any scientist or other skeptic who wishes to do so to set up experiments verifying this reality.

“But right now—live, in resurrected flesh, and making her first open appearance on earth since the days of Eden when she was our mother, I give you—Eve!”

The band began playing ethereal chords, a musical stairway, broken by the herald of trumpets … then, looking absolutely virginal and gorgeous, dressed in a white satin gown, long red hair flowing behind her, Lucifer flew out from the wings, directly over the congregation slow enough for them to touch her hands, which she extended down to them, and as they gasped in astonishment, she flew back to the pulpit and landed next to the Reverend Doctor Sun Amen Chill.

Suddenly spotlights backlit her in a glorious corona, as she smiled benevolently, and her first words rang out to everyone watching with a voice like butter:

“My children, I have come home.”

I looked over to my right and saw that my chief of staff, Robert Heinlein, had materialized and was standing next to me, watching my TV.

“Oh, boy,” I said to him. “Am I ever in big trouble.”


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XVIII.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

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