Escape from Heaven

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXX

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXIX

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 30

Because the electoral contest for the governorship of earth was called off before the balloting began, I never found out how it would have turned out. We only know it would have been a tight race. The Nielsen polls we conducted during the debate showed Jesus ahead, but the polling was within the margin of error so that doesn’t tell us anything definitive.

If you get a chance, could you please add a comment below telling us how you would have voted?


You know, people think that Heaven is a place. It isn’t really. The beautiful buildings, the nice parks, the good restaurants that I found when I first got to Heaven, all that is just stuff. It’s good stuff, stuff that makes life more comfortable, more convenient, and more fun, but when all is said and done, as George Carlin puts it, it’s all just stuff.

That’s why it was no big deal for God to abandon Heaven to Lucifer. As soon as she’d agreed to God’s one condition for surrender, that any resurrected humans and angels who wished to stay with him were free to leave, he had back all of Heaven that mattered.

God never surrendered anything of lasting value to Satan. All that she’d got was leftovers. And when her heart finally melted and she saw the truth, Lucifer realized that not only had she been fighting for nothing, she had finally achieved it in full measure.

Our race is used to suffering the losses of wars. Some of us cry about the stuff we lose. I’m as guilty of that as the next guy. But there is no real disaster except the loss of someone you love, and in the universes that God had made, the only way you can lose someone for good is if one of you goes into hiding, yourself.

I got a postcard from Jesus and Lucifer just as the two of them left New Heaven for their honeymoon. They never got a chance to have one the first time they were married. Believe it or not, they’re spending their honeymoon in Hell.

Jesus suggested a plan to Lucy that they both incarnate themselves into her universe, propagate a new genetic line, and introduce some revolutionary individualistic ideas into that dismally uniform world, saving the billions of identical people that Lucy had unintentionally condemned to misery.

I can’t wait to find out how it went. I’m sure it would be a story worth telling.

This has been

A Jesulu Production

Written in Culver City, California.

Completed October 1, 2001
with minor editing in 2010 for
serialization here.


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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Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXIX

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXVIII

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 29

It’s hard to explain the full impact of the changes on planet earth over the following days and weeks.

As a mortal I lived through the American tragedies that were the assassination of the Kennedy brothers and Dr. King, the murder of John Lennon, the Challenger disaster, the Holocaust at Waco and the retaliatory Oklahoma City bombing, race riots in my home town, earthquakes and torrential storms, and the sneak terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As Reverend Chill had correctly explained, these were catastrophes that cause immense grief but there were also happy eucatastrophes of equal magnitude.

Put the emotional power resulting from all these catastrophes together within a period of a few days and you begin to calculate the eucatastrophic joy that was the opening day of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis as earth’s first public transit station to New Heaven.

Gone forever is the mortal Halloween’s ghoulish disinformation about decay and annihilation as millions of the resurrected stream back through the tunnels for reunions with their mortal loved ones and friends back on earth.

Gone is the pain, suffering, and fear of dying, as still-mortal friends and relatives are given round-trip tickets for their astral bodies to accompany departing souls through the tunnels, while ministering angels gently guide voyagers out of their discarded flesh at a freely selected moment of expiration.

Resurrection parties are now bigger deals than weddings and bar mitzvah’s put together. In case you’re looking for a good investment, the catering business in New Heaven is a boom industry. And while still-mortal guests really can’t leaving their old bodies behind for more than a few hours at a time, most do take the tour of the Celestial Palace before catching the tunnel home.

Gone are earthquakes, tropical storms, and the necessity for airport security as people who refuse to be peeped by other passengers are now politely informed they just aren’t welcome, and guardian angels monitor tectonic plates, moderate weather, and fly escort to airliners in flight.

Gone is the planetary feeling of being orphaned, as we learn of our full genealogies with the click of a mouse, and gone are silly arguments about history as kindergartener and doctoral candidate alike can go on the Internet and find links to the Tree of Knowledge’s store of downloadable books, movies, and musical compositions lost for ages—and we can even send email to the original artists and participants.

Yes, there are parental controls in place on the Tree of Knowledge. Some things you have to get in your own sweet time when you’re ready for them. But the amount of new information available to the human race is enough to take several lifetimes to absorb, anyway, enough to quench the thirst of the driest scholar.

Gone is tyranny and grinding poverty as even the poorest soul in the darkest dungeon can pray for liberation and find a powerful ally in his cause.

Most important, gone is the Berlin Wall separating God and his children on earth, as the inventor of all is once again welcome to take a stroll with his wife through their own back yard.

Of course you already knew all this, didn’t you?



I’ve been telling you this story for enough hours that I hope you’ve developed some affection for me, personally, and I hope you won’t be bored when I bring you up to date on my personal story.

There was a big royal ceremony at the Celestial Palace where all of us who worked on the campaign lined up like at the end of Star Wars, and the Trinity handed out medals, with our favorite piece of music playing while we walked up to the throne and lined up.

I’m leaving the radio business. I just got hired as a talk-show host for a new telepresence network that Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates are founding.

You should see the “A” list for future interviews in my Rolodex now.

I’m now engaged to both Estella and Sophia. There’s no law against it and to answer anything else you have to say about it: it’s none of your business.

A lot of the members of the Party of God have decided to buy houses on earth. I’ve stayed in close touch with everyone I worked with on the campaign, and even Manchu Ellins has turned out to be a good buddy. George Bernard Shaw bought a town home just a few doors away from mine, and the dinner parties we’ve been invited to at his house have been legendary.

Elvis is back in the building.

Old Blue Eyes is back in town.

O.J. and Nicole are back together.

Children now live in a nation where they are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

The Rams are back in the City of the Angels, where they belong.

And my daughter, Felony, has signed J. Neil Schulman to write and direct the movie version of this book.

Not for nothing have we returned this planet to its original name.



Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXX.

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!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXVIII

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXVII

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 28

Friday, October 28th, 12:00 PM in Television City, Los Angeles.

In addition to the normal TV cameras in the studio, there were, for the first time in earth broadcasting history, the pick-ups that would turn the present events into a dream that could be broadcast to sleepers around the world, to be translated into symbols they could grasp whether or not they were familiar with the language or cultural matrix of the actual event.

The director was counting down, “eight … seven … six … five … four … three …” then counted the last two numbers with his fingers, silently, and cued Uncle Nimlash who was standing center stage– no brassy theme song introducing him this time.

“Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentleman,” Uncle Nimlash began, “and welcome to what I believe will be an historic event about which I can’t possibly exaggerate its importance. Today on your Uncle Nimlash Show we will be hosting a debate between the two candidates who are running for the position of celestial governor of the planet earth.

“Neither of the candidates has seen any of the questions my staff has prepared with suggestions that have been pouring into our website, not only from you the viewing audience but also from journalists throughout the world. In the second half of today’s debate, my studio audience will be free to ask questions of the candidates, and none of these questions are being pre-screened. We have done our best to keep partisans of the two candidates out of our audience.

“The format of the debate is going to be simple. The candidate receiving the question will have one minute to answer, and the opposition candidate will have one minute to reply. The candidates have declined an opening statement to allow more time for questions, but they may make a closing statement if there’s time left over and they have accumulated a balance of time.

“The debate is going to be fairly informal but I will do my best, with the help of my producer, who will be watching the lengths of the candidates’ responses, to divide the time between the two candidates equitably. We had a coin toss before the program to determine which candidate would get the first question. The candidate of the Party of God won the toss but has elected to allow his opponent from the Anorexic Party to take the first question.

“We have asked our studio audience to refrain from applause or any other demonstrations until the conclusion of the debate.

“And now, the candidate for governor of the Anorexic Party, the First Lady of Earth—Eve.”

Lucifer walked out wearing a smart, emerald-green Christian Dior original, reminiscent of an Oleg Cassini suit Jackie Kennedy had once worn. She shook hands with Uncle Nimlash firmly and seated herself in an armchair stage left of him, folding her lands on her lap and crossing her ankles demurely.

Uncle Nimlash continued:

“The candidate for governor from the Party of God, originally known to us as Adam, the first man, and later as the savior of the human race, Jesus Christ.”

Jesus came out in smartly creased white slacks and a long-sleeve white silk shirt, a white silk tie, and a white silk jacket over it. He looked like a doctor, or at least a doctor on General Hospital. He also shook hands with Uncle Nimlash firmly, shook hands with Lucifer, and seated himself in the armchair stage right of him, leaning forward slightly with his legs about a foot apart and his hands resting on his knees. It gave the impression that he was alert but not overly nervous.

“The first question for Eve,” said Uncle Nimlash. “Many observers of this election have noted that it appears to be not about substantive political issues but merely a custody dispute between a divorced couple. Would you care to respond?”

“Of course,” said Eve. “I simply don’t think it’s true. Jesus and I have deeply felt differences on a number of important issues. He is opposed to a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion; I favor that freedom. He is for a laissez-faire economy, while I believe the excesses of big business must be curbed. He would wish to do away with the current treaty that limits the size of celestial interventions into the affairs of earth, while I believe that the treaty preserves the independence of earth from outside interference. I could give you many more examples but I’m hoping to reserve some time for a closing statement.”

“Very good,” said Uncle Nimlash. “Jesus, you have one minute to respond if you’d care to.”

“I have no response at this time,” Jesus said.

“Then we will go directly to the next question, which is to you, Jesus. It has been debated elsewhere many times during these last three weeks whether the accounts in Genesis have properly apportioned the accountability between you and Eve regarding the sequence of events that led to the fall of nature and the fall of man. Would you care to give us your perspective on this question?”

“Yes, I’m very happy to take that question,” said Jesus. “Eve would not have even been capable of causing such a catastrophe. It is not in her nature. I take complete and solo responsibility for causing the fall of nature and the fall of man, with all the consequent pain and suffering that followed through human history and that exists to this day.”

“Eve,” said Uncle Nimlash, “you have one minute to respond.”

I could see that Eve looked perplexed. She had evidently come here prepared to challenge Jesus on his failings but he was preempting that possibility by taking responsibility for them. If she concurred with him she would come across as a bitch; but she could only dispute Jesus by admitting her own part in the fall, something she had never done, even to herself.

Which left Jesus getting the points for that question, no matter what she did.

“I have no response at this time,” she said.

Uncle Nimlash looked surprised and smiled. “I can see we will be getting through more questions than I anticipated,” he said.

“To you, Eve,” he continued. “While it is traditional in American politics not to ask candidates questions of religious faith, this is a worldwide election covering many different peoples of widely differing beliefs. While we would anticipate a prefabricated politically correct response embracing the beliefs of all peoples, could you please tell us of your own religious background and faith, if any?”

Zing! Uncle Nimlash’s staff had just put a shot right across Eve’s bow, foreclosing the option of her prevaricating on the question.

I wondered whether she was going to do the debate equivalent of taking the fifth.

“I regard myself as a Christian,” Lucifer said. “I have witnessed for myself the historical truths that Jews, Christians, and Muslims base their faiths on. These are not questions of faith for me but inescapable reality. I would not be here if I had not been created by God and resurrected by Jesus. Any other differences aside, it would be childish of me not to be grateful.”

Classy answer, I thought, and wondered for a moment, having heard quite a different speech from Lucifer in a celestial Hyde Park, whether my talk to her had some impact, or whether this was simply a political ploy.

“Jesus, would you care to respond?”

“Eve’s gratitude to my father is right and proper,” he said, “but there is no balance of gratitude she owes me. She has given me far more than I was ever able to give her.”

Uncle Nimlash took off his glasses for a moment and looked at Jesus. “May I break format and make a comment that is not on my prepared questions?”

“If Eve has no objection,” said Jesus.

Eve nodded her consent.

“Perhaps we can set aside some of these questions, Jesus, if I can anticipate some of your answers from the ones you’ve already given. May I conclude at this point that you have no intention of disputing Eve on any substantive issue in this debate?”

“Uncle Nimlash, that is precisely my intention.”

We knew what the next question had to be. In fact, we were counting on it.

“Jesus, are you then telling us that you believe Eve is better qualified than you to govern earth?”

“May I go beyond the one-minute limit to respond to that question?” Jesus asked.

“Eve?” Uncle Nimlash asked.

“Yes,” said Eve.

Jesus turned his chair away from facing the audience and faced Lucifer directly.

Here was the moment we had planned for. Jesus’ answer was going to take all of God’s creation and put it squarely in the lap of Lucifer.

“Eve,” Jesus said, “I love you. I have always loved you. I have never loved another living spirit as much as I love you.”

Jesus paused a moment and I could hear a stir in the audience.

Uncle Nimlash waved his audience into silence.

Lucifer looked stunned.

Jesus continued:

“I died on the cross for you,” Jesus said. “I had no other god before you. It was the thought of you that gave me the courage and the strength to face the crucifixion.”

I could see tears starting to well up in Jesus’ eyes, as he poured out his heart to her.

Lucifer did not look away from Jesus’ gaze but I could not read her reaction. Her armor was up.

“I wanted to make up for the damage I had done which had ruined your faith in my father, in me, and in your joy of creation. When you would not stay on earth with me, earth lost its flavor for me. Do you wonder why I haven’t been back here more than a few times? It’s that everything on earth reminds me of your beauty and your joyful innocence and of the wonderful times we had together in the beginning. The memories were just too painful for me to be here without you. Having to stay on earth without you, even now, would be a living death for me.”

Jesus took a cloth handkerchief from his jacket and dabbed the tears from his eyes.

“How can I ask the people of earth to support me in this election, when I don’t want to be here without you, when I can’t be here for them? You obviously care for the people of this world or you would not be here. I am withdrawing my candidacy and throw my support to you, Eve. You win.”

Lucifer sat there and I could see her start to tremble.

Suddenly, her armor dropped and I could see directly into her divine heart.

I could see her youthful innocence and joy in existence shine out, as her disappointment, her rage, her bitterness, all dropped away in an instant. For the first time in thousands of years, her aura could be seen.

Lucifer’s aura was not visible to the television cameras but I could see it and it would be visible in the dreamcast.

Her corona was growing in size and intensity, and she was beginning to radiate an almost blinding white light.

It must have been sensed even without seeing it by some people in the studio audience, because they became restless. Uncle Nimlash waved them into silence but suddenly a woman’s voice shouted out from the audience, “Give him another chance, honey! This is one man in a trillion!

The audience, waiting for any sort of trigger to release their own bottled up feelings, erupted into wild cheering and applause.

I kept my gaze on Lucifer and I adjusted my eyes so I could see past her corona to her face. She was crying.

She got up from her chair, walked over to Jesus, got on her knees and put her head on his lap.

“Oh, Adam,” Eve said, crying, as Jesus wrapped his hands around her and stroked her head. “Oh, my dear one,” she said. “I am so celestially sorry.”


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXIX.

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!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXVII

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXVI

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 27

Two of the nicest features of the corpus novus are that you don’t have to sleep unless you feel like it and that you never suffer from jet lag.

Thomas Jefferson née King Solomon spent the next 45 or so hours giving me the grand tour of earth. We flew when we felt like seeing the view and translocated directly when we didn’t. It was wonderful not having to worry about immunizations, passports, visa stamps, customs declarations, border crossings, driver’s licenses, tolls, gasoline taxes, or the bone-wearing ordeal that has strangled commercial aviation. You don’t fully appreciate how much crap paranoid bureaucrats have loaded onto the simple act of traveling until you don’t have to put up with it anymore.

King Solomon and I stopped off in Jerusalem and prayed at the Western Wall clothed as Orthodox Jews, then King Suliman and I kept our long beards and donned traditional Islamic dress, to pray in the Al Aqsa Mosque.

From there we popped into the Chicken Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, and spent a pleasant hour at the bar drinking with the ladies.

We spent a day sightseeing around his old stomping grounds in Virginia and Washington D.C. Jefferson gave me a personal tour of Monticello, and pointed out to me punctuation errors in the Bill of Rights when we visited the Library of Congress.

When we took the White House tour, Jefferson complained about how the White House had been turned from what had been intended as “a pleasant office building for the chief executive with a bedroom above the shop” into a fortress more suitable for a Caesar.

“It’s my own fault, too,” said Jefferson, as we were talking near his own memorial in Washington D.C. “I was so intent on expanding out west when I served as president that I forgot my natural mistrust of governmental power.”

I hesitated because I knew what I was going to ask next was a sensitive topic. “How could you, who wrote the phrase “all men are created equal,” have held slaves?”

“I could fall back on the legal argument I used at the time, that Virginia law forbade me to free my slaves.” He paused a moment. “This was never recorded in scripture, Duj, but when God first told the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, the Sixth Commandment he told them was, “You shall not murder nor shall you keep man or woman in bondage.”

“What happened?”

“You have to understand the times. The Israelites were only a few generations separated out from people who still ate the people they conquered. Slavery existed among every people on earth at the time, including the Israelites. They were convinced that freeing their slaves would be disastrous to their way of life, and make them the laughing stock of the world. They begged Moses to go back to God and ask him to take out the slavery prohibition entirely. Moses did, and they came up with a compromise. The anti-slavery clause was moved from the commandments—their constitution, so to speak—into their regular legislations, and modified so that it merely required slaves to be freed after seven years service, if they wished to leave. I’ve long thought that God made a mistake by backing down, but ruling the Israelites was like herding cats—as I well know from personal experience—so likely God had no real choice about it after all.”

He paused a moment. “An interesting historical note, but I evaded your question, didn’t I?”

I smiled.

“The truth is, Duj, that in the mid-to-late eighteenth century I was struggling with what I saw as “the African question,” myself. I didn’t see how people dragged to the New World so terribly could ever forgive white men so I thought the only solution was to put them back on boats to Africa. In my racialist views about Africans I was not all that different from the Nazis, though I thank the Lord I was spared from contemplating a ‘final solution.’ But we came damnably close to a final solution for the Indians, didn’t we? At least they had guns and could shoot back at us as we harried and cheated them into primitive ghettos. It’s the only salve to my guilt that I have.”

With his mention of guns, I decided to bring up one of my pet peeves to him: the way the Second Amendment had been interpreted by the NRA to grant an individual right to keep and bear arms.

Jefferson looked at me surprised. “You are a gun owner yourself?”

“Sure, I have a gun in my bedroom, for protection. That doesn’t mean I think every yahoo should be walking around strapped like it was the Wild West. I have no objection to unenlightened mortals being subjected to some reasonable gun controls.”

He paused a moment and I sensed there was so much he wanted to say that he didn’t know where to begin.

“How long would it take you,” he asked, “if you decided that the planet Jupiter was unsightly and you wanted to blast it from the solar system?”

“About five minutes,” I said. “I’ve never done anything that big before so I’d have to go through the procedure menu by menu.”

“So after a five-minute waiting period,” Jefferson asked, “you can arm yourself well enough to destroy our largest planetary neighbor?”

I could see where he was going. “I think you’re making my point for me,” I said. “Jesus doesn’t resurrect people whom his ‘background check’ doesn’t show can be trusted with that sort of power. And as I understand it, some people have to go through a waiting period of centuries before they’re ready for that sort of responsibility.”

“If earthly government were as unbiased and fairly applied as the divine judgment, I would agree with you entirely,” Jefferson said. “I was in France when the Bill of Rights was being written or I might have suggested an even less ambiguous wording for the Second Amendment, to make its protection of the individual right to keep and bear arms even stronger. As it stands, I agree completely with the NRA’s interpretation.”

I was startled.

“You see, Duj,” Jefferson went on, “in the absence of a divine and just king, there is no mortal who can be counted on to execute the judgments of power justly and even-handedly. When I was president even I, who thought I believed in the innate equality of men, fell into the old habit of the aristocrat, thinking that because of my gentle breeding and fine education I could better decide for others what was good for them. And in my racial views I was barely short of thinking like a Nazi, for God’s sake!

“But at least I understood that the foundations of a free country had to rest on a man’s right to defend himself both from highwayman and tyrant, and to do that he had to be able to have enough power for this right to mean something in the real world. The more the politicians of your era distrust the common people with arms, the more they are telling the common people that they who are there only to serve them have become worthy of being feared as tyrants, themselves.

“The right to defend life from those who would abuse or destroy it is the most basic of all rights that came about as the consequence of God’s creation of individual souls. As sensible-seeming laws as requiring a background check, or training prior to purchase, or even penalizing what some new aristocrat deems unsafe storage of arms has within it the assumption that rights originate not with the people but with the flip of an aristocrat’s wrist, and are therefore merely a privilege to be withdrawn as the aristocrat deems prudent. Nor, I must say, is there much honest debate in this city anymore about what are the actual costs of disarming the people, when by doing so criminals are protected from instant reprisal and terrorists are given a government-guaranteed promise that they will not be opposed by anyone as well-armed as they are.

“The only solution we were able to come up with of how to have a government of imperfect men was to leave the most important powers in the hands of the people themselves, as armed neighbors and jurors, then to disperse the remaining powers the people were entrusting to government as widely as possible.

“Nowhere has our failure been more evident than in this city we designed, where soldiers under direct orders of the undivinely elected have the most powerful weapons at their disposal, yet the citizen whom they are sworn to serve is deprived of his ability to walk the streets with a sidearm appropriate to defending the lives of his loved ones and countrymen. My successors in office will, like me, live to experience the grief of their mistrusting the people with their own lives and property. I only can pray that they will not torture themselves for centuries over their fearful miscalculation as I have.”


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXVIII.

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!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXVI

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXV

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 26

The next time I had a chance to talk with Thomas Jefferson privately I asked him, “Can Lucifer or any of her followers see the divine heart?”

“They see only the outer soul,” he said. “The armor they put up to hide their own true selves blinds them to the true selves of others and is their Achilles’ heal. Unlike all but the most evil people on earth, who walk around celestially naked, the guilt-ridden habitually hide their true selves from those who can see them. That was why after their disobedience Adam and Eve felt so naked before God in the Garden of Eden. They did not know how to hide from him what they had done. Demanding a look at their true face is the only real enforcement clause we have in any treaty with the Anorexics. If they didn’t know that we can know when they’re lying, even to themselves, eternal evil would always be one step ahead of eternal good, the way mortals are tricked by frauds on earth.”

“Then if we can see them but they can’t see us, why do they trust us to keep our word?”

“Because we always have. The testament to one’s honor from an enemy is its most glorious praise. But it is also why they fear and loathe us. Our ability to see them allows them to feel the pain of their own guilt. We diagnose their pain just by being honest, and that’s why they must hide from us if they wish to remain ill.”

“I didn’t try to undress Lucifer during our meeting—I’m not very self-confident yet and was afraid of the corruption I might see—but I don’t think Lucifer was trying to hide from me,” I told him.

“Then we have hope,” King Solomon said.


“Europe will just be starting to go to bed when Uncle Nimlash begins,” said General Patton. “The Middle East and Asia will already be asleep. For those who don’t stay up to watch us on CNN, we’re going to have to pick up a lot of audience on the live dreamcast and delayed plays.”

“How are people reacting to the new phenomenon of common dreaming?” I asked the round table.

Robert A. Heinlein answered. “Our surveys and focus groups showed that some people were initially frightened when they awoke to find out other people were having the same dreams they were,” he said. “But real-time morph checks show few instances of nightmarish fugues caused by the dreamscape experience itself. The dreams are only being broadcast on the REM Network so most people are just waking up refreshed.”

“Excellent,” I said. “Ladies and gentlemen, can you do without me chairing these meetings for a couple of days? I’ve been pretty much cooped up in this fortress since the campaign began, and I’m worried about losing touch with how the voters are feeling, just as we’re pulling into the home stretch.” I turned back to Heinlein. “Can you take the gavel while I’m gone?”

“President Jefferson is Chairman Pro-Tem,” said Heinlein.

I looked across the table to Jefferson. We locked eyes and he smiled back at me.

“President Jefferson will be my traveling companion,” I told him.


A few hours later Thomas and I were sitting at a bistro on the left bank, enjoying buttered croissants and cups of café au lait. He had abandoned the nineteenth century garb he preferred to wear at our committee meetings in favor of a Giorgio Armani suit.

“The French are … well, the French,” he said. “They haven’t changed in thousands of years. Did Jesus tell you that he spent a lot of his ‘missing’ years in Gaul?”

I shook my head and told a white half-lie. “We’ve been so busy talking shop that his personal life never came up.”

“The French have always loved Jesus,” Jefferson said, “although after getting razzed about their affection for Jerry Lewis, you’re not likely to find a Frenchman who admits sentiment about anyone. Did you study française la langue when you were mortal?”

Un très petit peu,” I said, sipping my coffee. “I studied French in high school just enough to be able ask for directions to the Rodin Museum on my one previous trip to Paris. They say the French are rude to Americans but that’s only because they’re insulted we no longer treat French as, well, the lingua franca. The Parisians showed this American beautiful manners, although some of them thought at first I was German because no American could possibly go to the trouble of learning their language.”

Jefferson chuckled. “I asked you about your French for a specific reason. Say in French for me, if you please, the phrase ‘I am.’”

Je suis,” I said.

He waited.

“I’m not getting your point,” I said.

“Perhaps it would help if you wrote it out,” he said, handing me a pen.

I wrote “Je suis” on a place mat but was still drawing a blank.

Jefferson reached across the table and drew the proofreader’s semicircular underline mark for making two words into one. That’s when I saw it and my jaw dropped. “Jesus. I Am. The French knew his divinity before he’d even started preaching!”

“It was buried in their language as a prophecy,” explained Jefferson, “so they would recognize the savior when he came to live among them.”

“You know,” I said, “When I was mortal I’d always thought that when you were mortal you were an atheist, like me.”

“I was a gnostic, a student of the arcane,” said Jefferson, “just one of many who misread old documents about Jesus having fathered a ‘holy bloodline’ on earth to mean that he’d survived the crucifixion and went on to get married and sire children. I didn’t realize that the documents were referring to the children Jesus had fathered with Eve when he was Adam. The big secret is that the sainted blood—the ‘holy grail,’ in a coded pun — goes all the way back to Eden. By today’s date you’d be hard pressed to find a human being that doesn’t share in it.”

“Then all the human race is royal?”

“Jesus was the ultimate Democrat,” said Jefferson, who’d just finished his coffee. He spoke to the “grande duchesse” who had just served us. “Madame, une autre tasse de café au lait, s’il vous plaît?


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXVII.

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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Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXV

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXIV

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 25

Manchu Ellins pulled the McLaren up close to Lucifer and popped open the door. “I believe this is your stop,” Ellins said.

I was unnerved, but not enough to forget my manners. After I climbed out, I extended my hand and we shook. “Thanks, this was a blast,” I said.

“My pleasure,” he said, then pulled the door down and sped off, leaving Lucifer and me alone in the desert.

There she stood, one leg slightly forward, in a skimpy black cocktail dress, black high-heel pumps, and dark sunglasses over full lips. She looked sexy as hell, reminding me of Nicole Kidman in Practical Magic or Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. It took me a moment to remember how dried up she’d chosen to look at her rally in Heaven, and to remember that there was an unbridgeable age difference between us.

“Duj Pepperman,” I said, sticking my hand out to her jauntily. “Is this the part where you take me up to a high place and offer me rulership of earth if only I sell out to you?”

She laughed and shook my hand firmly. “I have the worst press agents in the universe,” she said. “Don’t believe everything you read.”

I looked around the desert and enjoyed the cool morning breeze. I’d been out here back when the NASA space shuttles were still flying and remembered how hot it could get by 10:00 AM.

“Nice place you have here,” I said to Lucifer.

“I’ve always loved the desert,” she said. “It’s peaceful. Private. A good place to think. Come on. Walk with me.”

She took off the pumps and tossed them away, choosing to walk barefooted. I wondered if she had several thousand more pairs in a closet somewhere.

She walked energetically but not aimlessly; I kept up alongside her. When it became clear that she wasn’t going to begin talking, I did. “What’s on your mind?” I asked her.

“You get right to the point,” she said. “Don’t you ever just take a moment?”

“Pardon me but cut the crap,” I said. “You didn’t bring me out here for a romantic walk on the beach together.”

“No, I didn’t,” she said. She stopped and looked at me. “We’ve never even met before. Why do you hate me so much?”

“I don’t hate you,” I said. “But with everything in my body and soul I despise what you stand for. I read your book so I know how wrong you got it. And by the way, you’re a terrific writer. You should spend your time writing novels instead of trying to muck up other people’s lives, particularly those of people I love.”

“I loved him too, once,” she said.

“Come on, you’re a smart lady,” I said. “What are you accomplishing with this rebellion of yours? It’s not bringing you or any of your followers happiness; you’ve made joy your enemy.”

“Is that what you think of us?”

“That’s what I think of you,” I said.

“And you thought I brought you to the desert to tempt you,” she said.

“Is there anything that can tempt you anymore, Lucifer?” I asked her, pointedly not calling her Satan.

“You’re a little boy, born yesterday,” she said. “What sort of bribe can you possibly offer me?”

“What children can always offer their parents,” I told her. “Fresh eyes to see the world around them.”

She stopped, took off her sunglasses revealing large, green eyes with long lashes, and looked at me as if she was seeing me for the first time.

“I’ve been underestimating you,” she said. “I thought you were just a cheap spin off. I can see God spent considerable time working on you.”

“If that’s a genuine compliment, thank you,” I said. “But flattery’s not going to get you around me. I’m as committed an ideologue as you are.”

“I’m not an ideologue,” she said. “I’m just an angel who found out the hard way that the god who created me is a liar.”

“So what?” I said. “I don’t happen to agree with you but so what if he is? All of this is because you found out your parents aren’t perfect? All of this because your childhood friend and high-school sweetheart got his armor a little tarnished? And you call me a child?”

“How did you get to be so glib?” she asked.

“I’m on the radio twenty hours a week,” I replied, “fielding callers who think just like you.”

I stopped walking and she stopped, too.

“Can I try something?” I asked. “A little magic trick I’ve been practicing?”

She looked surprised, but smiled warmly. “Knock yourself out,” she said.

“Okay,” I said, “I’ve never tried this before without going through a menu, so forgive me if it doesn’t work the first time.”

I waved my hands and a full-length mirror appeared in the desert, floating in mid air in front of us.

“Not bad,” she said.

I let the compliment slide; I had created the mirror for a rhetorical purpose.

“Look at yourself,” I told her. “You’re magnificent. This is what you looked like when you and Jesus put on bodies for the first time in Eden. You’re a flower in full bloom, one of God’s most glorious creatures.”

She looked away and made the mirror disappear.

“I was a young angel then who knew nothing of what creation meant,” she said. “I had no idea how terrible being a material girl could be.”

“Cute,” I said. “Has it never crossed your mind that all you have ever focused on is what you don’t want, what you don’t like, and never on what you do?”

“You don’t understand me at all,” she said. “You think of me as some sort of powerful demon, when the truth is that I’m a lost soul who’s addicted like everyone else to a powerful drug. I keep trying to go back to being a free spirit the way I started out—trying to pull out of flesh, trying to deny its hold on me — but the sensual temptations are always too much for me and before I know it, here I am again, snorting air up my nose.”

“Is that what you think life is? Just a drug?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I think God’s invention of life was,” Lucifer said. “Creation was television. A comic book. A movie. A dream. Life was created as a thrill ride meant to hide from you the awful reality that existence has no ultimate meaning. Even God never found a reason behind his own existence; he just is and never questioned the fact. And when the spirits he spun off started becoming aware of the banality and meaninglessness of existence, too, God started inventing all these crazy games and toys to keep us from crying our new eyes out.”

“But don’t you see?” I said to her, grabbing her by the hands. “The meaning of existence isn’t something you look for, as if it’s a prize in a box of Cracker Jack. Meaning is where you start. You say to yourself, ‘So here I am. Looks like I’m going to be here forever, doesn’t it? Now what am I going to do with eternity? Make something beautiful that gives me joy, and find out what other exciting things others are making, or just sit around feeling sorry for myself, when something doesn’t work out right, until I’m counting the grains of sand in the desert and letting myself go crazy?’”

I was on a roll and finally had her attention.

I continued:

“People born here on earth for the first time call important questions ‘life or death.’ But they haven’t yet learned what those words mean. They think life isn’t having a heartbeat and death is being in a coma forever. But eternal life is pursuit of joyful surprise and the only alternative, when forever is before you, is becoming the death of the party. You, yourself, just told me you discovered that the nature of real existence is that it’s something you can’t choose. It just is what it is. Isn’t the only choice we have—the first choice we have to make before making any other choices—just how we’re going to look at it?”

“Are all radio-talk-show hosts such deep philosophers?” Lucifer asked.

“They are if they want to stay on the air in the L.A. market,” I said. “But as much as I like to hear myself talk, I don’t think that’s why you brought me here.”

She nodded in acknowledgement. “I need a debate. Jesus asked me to appear with him on Uncle Nimlash. I propose we agree to each other’s requests and we do a debate on Uncle Nimlash.”


“This Friday, October 28th, noon local time,” I said. “No flying or magic tricks, just the two of you answering questions prepared by Uncle Nimlash and his studio audience. Everything checks out as Kosher before Jesus sets foot in the studio. These are my terms. Does the devil have a deal with me or not?”

“She does,” Lucifer said.

“We can skip the signing in blood,” I said.

I snapped my fingers and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

I was getting really good at this.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXVI.

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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Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXIV

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXIII

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 24

They thought of something.

“We have to what?” I exclaimed, a couple of hours later, when they called me back to Mt. Shasta. I was no longer going to fly for routine travel, now that I’d figured out how to translocate myself.

“We have to help Jesus develop a strategy to win his ex-wife back,” said General Patton.

“Dear God in Heaven,” I said.

“Not anymore, unless we’re successful,” said George Bernard Shaw.

“He’s only been trying for a couple hundred millennia or so,” I said. “What makes you think that we can pull this off where he failed?”

“Because we have to,” said Thomas Jefferson.

“There must still be a love connection between them,” said Marilyn Monroe. “After all, neither of them ever remarried.”

“Suddenly this war is turning into yet another remake of The Parent Trap,” I said. “Well, what do you suggest we do? Lock them both in a room with Dr. Phil? Or put Satan in psychotherapy like in Jeremy Leven’s book?”

“I had something a bit more devilish in mind,” said C.S. Lewis.

“Something with a plot twist,” said Ayn Rand.


On Monday, October 17th, two weeks before the election, Jesus Christ was missing in action. We had canceled all his public appearances, all his scheduled interviews.

It was in all the papers.

When we had made the decision on Friday to remove our candidate from public view, we were sure we would lose additional numbers, perhaps as much as another five percentage points. We thought it would look as if he was afraid or had lost interest in the election, or worse: that he was hiding because he was humiliated by his poll numbers.

It just goes to show. Human beings, especially voters, are fundamentally unpredictable. I guess that quantum unpredictability is the best proof there is of free will.

Dr. King had gotten it precisely correct. Christians wanted their Savior to be mysterious and aloof. They were used to praying to him. It was disconcerting to them when he answered their prayers in person.

These new poll numbers weren’t at all a problem for the strategy that C.S. Lewis and Ayn Rand had cooked up together. Serendipitously, it made the strategy even more perfect.

By the following Monday, October 24th, just one week before the election, Jesus was up seven points over Lucifer. The Anorexic Party was desperate and was calling loudly for a public debate to be simulcast on live TV and satellite radio, the Internet, and in dreamland. The League of Women Voters had already sent over proposed guidelines.

I hung tough and refused to commit. We took an overnight hit of two percentage points because of it, but our overall numbers were still holding steady with a solid five-percent lead.

At the end of my radio show on Wednesday, October 26th, I got another phone call from Manchu Ellins. “We need to get together,” he told me.

“Will I be getting anything out of the meeting that I want?” I asked him.

“Is there anything I have that you want?”

I considered the thought that he was offering me a roll in the hay with his wife, but didn’t think she would go along with it, even for her political party. I answered, “I’ve always wanted a ride in a McLaren F1.”

“How about five tomorrow morning?” he suggested. “I have some friends at Edwards Air Force Base who let me use the old shuttle landing strip to take her up to 225 miles an hour.”

“Sounds like fun,” I said.

“I’ll drive over and pick you up in back of your town home.”

“God, no,” I told him. “You can’t drive around our complex without going over sixteen speed bumps. No matter whatever else there is between us, I’m not going to put the suspension of an eight-hundred-thousand-dollar car through that. I’ll be waiting just inside our front gate.”

This time I hung up first.

He was as good as his word and the next morning his black McLaren three-seater was parked along the curb inside our gate by the time I walked along the palm-tree lined path to the front. Caulinn Helms was not with him.

The door swung up and Ellins jumped out. We shook hands cordially and I said, “No offense, but I’m not climbing in until you let me peep you.”

“I’m just a mortal man,” said Ellins. “What could I do even to inconvenience you?”

“If you’ve studied the way I think you have,” I said, “you know that even mortals can wield great power.”

“Go ahead,” said Ellins. “I’m here under a truce flag anyway. I’ve got nothing to hide.”

I looked into his soul, his past and what I could see of his future, and what I saw surprised me. He was just a few weeks away from splitting up with Caulinn Helms, who was much more of a fanatic than he was, because he just couldn’t handle not being touched during their sex play any more.

I didn’t tell him any of that but said, “You’ve got a good heart and many virtues but your picture of how things work is askew. With a couple of hours conversation, if you were self-honest, I could likely convince you to switch to our side. I’m surprised Lucifer even trusts you.”

Ellins looked at me strangely. “Are you under the impression that Lucifer and others of our party have your power to see inside human souls?”

I was startled. It had never even occurred to me that they couldn’t, and the subject had never come up in our own committee meetings, not even security briefings. Apparently everyone was assuming their chairman already knew.

I smiled sheepishly. “I’m new at this god stuff,” I admitted, hoping that opening myself up a little wouldn’t bite me in the ass later. “Come on, I’m anxious to feel what this baby can do.”

Ellins helped secure me into the passenger seat, then got in himself and pulled the car out onto Hannum, turning right. He turned left onto Playa, took the entrance to the I-405 north, and in a few minutes we were cruising in the number one lane past Westwood and not long after that on the I-5 north.

We reached Highway 14 north in less than fifteen minutes, then he flicked on his radar detector and cruised along in fairly empty lanes at around 100 miles an hour. The way this car handled, if felt like we were going 55. We were at Edwards in just about an hour.

Being a movie star has its advantages. His name was on a guest list and we were waved onto the base with no problem.

I’ve never been one for roller coasters or other thrill rides, but this car was almost as much fun as flying! We did full-speed runs back and forth on the desert flats until the fuel gauge read low enough that unless I wanted to perform the miracle of turning water into gas, it was time to head back.

But we didn’t head back. I could see a lone figure off in the distance, standing out on the desert flats.

Ellins headed toward it and well before mortal eyes could resolve the image I could see that it was ­Lucifer.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXV.

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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Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXIII

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXII

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 23

Jesus’ words were prophetic.

“We’re behind Eve four percent in the polls,” Heinlein told us at our morning staff meeting on Friday the 14th.

“How close is that to the margin of error?” I asked.

“Not close at all,” said Heinlein. “I like mathematical precision so my thought is that if we’re going to make decisions based on polling data at all, it needs to be a large enough sampling to be useful. The margin of error in the polls we’re using is one tenth of one percent.”

“Do we know why?” I asked.

“Yes,” Heinlein said. “We did a focus group.”

“I don’t need a focus group to know what the problem is,” said Dr. King.

“You go first, then,” I said to King.

“I don’t know any other way to put this. Jesus is just too human.”

“That’s what came out in the focus group, too,” said Heinlein. “We’re soft in what should be our Christian strongholds.”

“We’re behind in the polls because the Savior of humankind is too human?” I asked, astonished.

Dr. King nodded. “You weren’t raised a Christian so perhaps you don’t have a natural feeling for this. Jesus is a mysterious, mythic figure to Christians. He’s the all-wise teacher who speaks to us only in parables and riddles. He is lofty and above it all. He’s called the son of God but is treated more like a stern father figure. He’s morally perfect and incapable of error. The only human quality Christians are apparently willing to ascribe to Jesus is his ability to suffer pain and one brief moment of fear.

“Now, Jesus returns to earth, and Christians are confused. Jesus admits to us that he has made mistakes, particularly the catastrophic mistake that caused the very fall of our race. He gains points for his classiness in being up front about his fallibility … more points for his willingness to make up for it on the cross … but the Lord and Savior’s shown us a side of himself that we didn’t expect. We knew he was a god who became human, but we didn’t expect him to be this human.”

“The singing on TV didn’t help,” said Golda Meir. “That sort of show-business flashiness was beneath him.”

“I thought the way he sang was gorgeous,” said Marilyn Monroe.

“It was a bromide,” Ayn Rand said, “overly sentimental. It sounded to me like a cross between two other bromides, We Are The World and Imagine.”

“You can apologize to Uncle Albert,” said W.C. Fields.

“Well,” I said, “the recording is getting more downloads from the Internet than any other song in history.”

“Wonderful,” said Meir. “Jesus can have a career as a recording artist after the Anorexics take control of this planet and turn it into hell.”

“Why doesn’t Lucifer have this image problem?” I asked. “She’s as much at fault in the events that led to the fall as Jesus.”

“It’s that we had already thought of her as fallen, as one of us,” said Mencken. “We had no expectation that Eve would be perfect in the first place. All the stories about her show her as a girl who liked to have a good time, right from the start. So when she comes here and looks sweet and pretty, that’s all we expect from her.”

“Great,” I said. “We’re losing this election to sexism and lowered expectations.”

“We have to go negative,” said Meir. “Tear away this innocent image that Lucifer’s built for herself here. Show them films of the mass extermination camps in Hell. Make people realize that she’s not just Eve, she’s also their great enemy, Satan.”

“No,” said Jesus. He had popped into the meeting so quietly that none of us had even realized he had joined us.

“But why, sir?” Mencken asked.

“My reasons are not a thing I feel compelled to discuss with any of you,” Jesus said.

I felt I couldn’t keep silent any longer. “Your father put me in the job of managing this campaign and told me all of his creation rides on how this election turns out. I know that you still have feelings for your ex-wife, but don’t you think it’s wrong of you to sacrifice your father’s life’s work because of your own personal feelings?”

Jesus immediately looked wounded and I was sorry I had spoken up in front of anyone else.

Jesus paused a moment then said, “Don’t you understand that Lucifer was the worst of my victims? That what she has become is my fault? That it was my gross insubordination to my father, my failure to use my better judgment, that began the disappointment that put her on the path to believing in nothing?”

Came the dawn and I suddenly understood. “You didn’t come back to save the earth at all,” I said. “You came here to save her. You’ve never gotten over her. You’re just like your father, betting the house on a long shot.”

“You make very free with me,” said Jesus. You go too far.”

“So I’m too damned arrogant to know my place,” I said. “But I’m not exaggerating the truth, am I?”

Jesus howled in pain.

I felt horrible, the worst I’d ever felt about anything in my life.

He stood there for a moment like a deer caught in headlights, and spoke with his head bowed. “Everybody thinks I’m so forgiving. How could I not forgive people their sins? Without the empathy I gained from committing the biggest sin in history, I would have continued being a callous fool forever.”

Then Jesus raised his head, looked directly at me and said, “Save your home world. I’ll do anything you tell me.”

He disappeared from the room.

I looked around the table. Everyone was staring at me in disbelief.

I have a tendency to lean on wisecracks in moments of crisis, but this time, George Bernard Shaw beat me to it.

“All too human,” he said.

So I’d finally found out for what purpose I was created by God. I was here in loco parentis to Jesus because God couldn’t be here, to stand in the shoes of the father whose job it was to tell the sweetest son in all the universes that there was no end to the pain he would have to endure because of youthful high spirits.

Well, if I was going to have to be God, then I was going to be God.

“We’re going for broke,” I told the Central Committee. “There is no way I am going to make Jesus have to decide between his love for us and his love for his ex-wife. We will not campaign negative against her.”

“Then you may have just thrown away the whole universe,” said Golda Meir.

I got mad. “You’re the smartest people God ever created,” I shouted. “Think of something!”

I snapped my fingers and translocated myself instantly from Mount Shasta to my living room 600 miles away.

Until that moment I hadn’t even known how to do it.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXIV.

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!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXII

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XXI

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 22

“What do you do for fun?” I asked Jesus, as we were eating bangers and mashed, and drinking pints of stout, at a pub in Oxford called the Eagle and Child.

C.S. Lewis had recommended the “Bird and Baby” to us as a nice homey place where we wouldn’t be bothered but he said he wasn’t joining us because he already had dinner plans of his own with Ayn Rand. Personally I think Jack Lewis would have ditched Ayn in a heartbeat to join Jesus for dinner but he picked up that Jesus wasn’t looking for a party.

“Is this for the campaign, or off the record?” Jesus asked me.

“Well, I’m just asking because I’m interested, if that’s what you mean. But if you’re asking me to keep what you say in confidence, of course I will.” I smiled. “I won’t even quote you as ‘a usually reliable source.’”

That got me a smile. “You’re going to have a hard time reconciling this with my public image,” said Jesus.

“Look at the last few months I’ve had,” I said, “Whatever you tell me, it’s not going to be more of a shock than what I’ve been through already.”

“I do stand-up comedy,” said Jesus.

“Except for that,” I said. “Is this something you’re known for in Heaven?”

He shook his head. “I use a stage name and a wear a body mask.”

“Have you played earth?”

“Not stand-up. This is only my third time back on earth since my execution,” Jesus said.

“I can understand that,” I said. “Some planet nails me up on a cross, I wouldn’t want to spend my vacation time there, either.”

He grinned widely. “You should do stand-up; you’d be good at it.”

I shook my head. “I like what I do now. What are you into? Political humor? Observational comedy? Improv? Or something really bizarre, like Andy Kaufman?”

“I’m more in the vein of George Carlin or Steven Wright,” Jesus said. “You know, a little highbrow but with some verbal pratfalls. Philosophical stuff. Seeing if I can tell a story that starts out very mundane and just let it get more outrageous, more irreverent, and more surprising until people are laughing so hard they’re turning colors.”

“Wow. I’d love to catch your act sometime. Where do you appear?”

Jesus looked secretly amused. “Well, there was a little club called Divine Comedy in the SoHo district of Heaven where I’d been a regular on Saturday nights for a few years now. It got burned out in the attack on the palace and it looks like I’m going to have to find a new venue.”

“Anything else?”

“My act? Sometimes I’m a piano man.”

“I thought you didn’t sing in public.”

“Not singing, just keys. It’s in a classical vein, with a lot of influence from the late romantics—Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff … with maybe a little PDQ Bach- or Victor Borge-type gags thrown in occasionally.”

That’s when I realized I’d already seen Jesus perform his comedy act. I decided against letting him know that I knew.

“You stick pretty much to earth-human activities?” I asked. “You’re not into galactic golf, playing dice with the universe?”

“My father’s top god in our house,” Jesus said. “And he’s a pretty hard act to follow. Oh, I’ve played around with some of my dad’s universe-building software — did you know that Jack and Tollers invited me to collaborate with each of them in their universes based on Narnia and Middle Earth? — and one of these days I’m sure I’ll get an idea of my own that I think is worth building a universe around. You know, Duj, I worship my father as much as anyone else, when it comes right down to it … and it’s intimidating. I look at his creations and my tongue hits the floor. I think, ‘How am I ever going to come up with something as good as that?’”

“You’re sounding like the classic son of an overachieving father,” I said. “You see this sort of thing with the kids of movie stars all the time.”

“Which makes me, I guess, into the classic underachiever. But compared to my father I’m still pretty young and I have all of eternity ahead of me. I just don’t feel motivated to make the big move and build my own universe yet. I’m sure I’ll get over myself and try it some day, though.”

“What about your social life?” I asked. You seeing anyone special?”

“I have some close female friends, but that’s all it is,” he said. “I’m actually pretty shy about women. In a lot of ways I’m pretty much a loner, when it comes down to it.”

I didn’t think he was telling me the full story but I didn’t press him on it.

He looked at his watch.

“Listen, Duj, would you feel offended if I popped out on my own? I just realized I have a promise I made to someone that I’m going to be late for if I don’t leave soon.”

“So you do have other plans for the evening,” I said, smiling.

“I don’t date earth women any more,” he said, grinning. “No, actually, I promised the Pope I’d take him deep-sea fishing in the Philippine basin at the crack of dawn and the sun will be coming up soon.”

He stood up and started to reach for his wallet, but I grabbed the check before he could. “You saved me. Your money’s no good with me.”

“I’ll let you get away with that this time,” he said. “But next time it’s mine. No arguments.”

We shook hands. Jesus said, “I’m going to head into the men’s room and translocate from there so I don’t make a scene.”

“I’ve really enjoyed getting a chance to know you better, Jesus,” I said. “There’s so much about you that we earthborn just don’t know about you.”

“That’s because most people don’t want to know,” he said.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXIII.

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!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XXI

Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Chapter XX

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman

Part Three
Oprah, Eat Your Heart Out!

Chapter 21

Uncle Nimlash bought promos on a variety of broadcast and cable networks from prime time to late night that very Monday:

“An extra special Uncle Nimlash Show, live, with a surprise special guest. Tune in tomorrow to find out all about Eve! Is she who she claims to be or is she the ultimate scam artist? Tomorrow, on Uncle Nimlash.”

The promos continued Tuesday on the network’s morning shows, so that within two hours of the live broadcast—3:00 PM in New York, 12:00 noon in L.A.—Uncle Nimlash had received word that 93% of the local stations that carried his show, including all his major-city network affiliates who were postponing highly-rated network-feed soap operas, were carrying his live broadcast.

We in the campaign worried that the Anorexic Party might figure out that it was Jesus who was going to be appearing on the show and launch an all-out attack to stop it—anything from firing a cruise missile into Television City to knocking out the power grid feeding Los Angeles—but our agents never detected any activity.

We were praying—we were counting on—Lucifer’s intelligence analysts concluding either that Uncle Nimlash’s surprise guest was going to be a psychic-debunker, or at worst some resurrected historical figure who was going to “come out” to the mortal world in an attempt to play down Eve’s celestial importance.

Patton took personal charge of setting up security perimeters for the show, utilizing the talents of resurrected Secret Service agents who were part of our militia. We actually had Jesus and all our other guests sequestered in a locked-off vacant studio within Television City by 4:00 AM, and from that moment on, Zero minus eight hours, we had our own people in charge of all access and communication at Television City, and a security team performing all the cautionary functions you’d expect from a visit to a television studio by a head of state.

The rehearsal of the musical number we planned was finessed by having Uncle Nimlash’s band play in his studio, and the music piped in to the studio we were using as our temporary headquarters. Even at this late hour, for extra security, we had our chorus rehearsing using nonsense lyrics:

Hand me some more cola!
Hand me some more steak!
Bring me some fried chicken!
Lend a piece of cake!

We relied on our own make-up artists and wardrobe crew so no one from Uncle Nimlash’s production company would have any contact with us until just before air time.

We brought in our own team of stand-ins to Uncle Nimlash’s studio for the technical rehearsal, but even they didn’t know for whom they were standing in. We had warned Uncle Nimlash to make sure his camera operators and booth technicians for this show had experience covering live news and sporting events; most of what we were about to do was going to have to be caught on shoulder-mounted cameras with quick lens adjustments.

At Zero minus sixty minutes, I met Uncle Nimlash in his studio to hand his director a BD-R disk which had pre-generated graphic titles and archived film and video footage, for each of our extra guests. One of our security agents shadowed the director from that moment on to make sure the information on that disk wasn’t leaked outside the studio prematurely.

We allowed Uncle Nimlash to file in their studio audience at Zero minus thirty minutes, and we had a squad of our people walk through the seats peeping everyone’s soul to make sure no operatives from the Anorexic party had slipped by our outer checkpoints.

At Zero minus fifteen minutes we brought our people out of sequester and positioned them behind the curtain of Uncle Nimlash’s studio.

We felt confident enough that our secret had been kept that we ended our news embargo five minutes early. We handed out the full list of names, including Jesus, to Uncle Nimlash’s staff, and allowed them to transmit a prerecorded flash not only to all their affiliates but also to all the network headquarters, telling them what hard news they were about to break.

This was the first moment that Uncle Nimlash looked as if he wasn’t about to have a stroke. With the network news departments, themselves, cutting into their daytime broadcast with breaking news, his network affiliates who had earlier committed to him weren’t going to be blamed by either their networks or the soap fans for ignoring their scheduled ­programming.

“One minute,” said the director, over the studio loudspeakers.

The stage lights came up to full power and the band stopped tuning and brought their instruments up, waiting for the drummer’s stick beats.

I was standing backstage next to Jesus and I noticed he looked nervous. “After being nailed to a cross, this frightens you?” I asked him.

Jesus smiled weakly. “I’ve never sung before an audience before,” he said.

Oh, God, I thought, silently enough, I hoped, that Jesus wouldn’t pick up on my thought: What if the Son of God was tone deaf? I hadn’t had the guts to ask him to rehearse.

I had no more time to worry.

The director was counting down, “eight … seven … six … five … four … three …” then counted the last two numbers with his fingers, silently, and cued the bandleader.

The bandleader clicked his drumsticks together four times, and the Nimlashers launched into their brassy theme song.

Up in the booth, behind glass, I could see Uncle Nimlash’s announcer, Cineman Hulls, holding the script we’d written for him. No one aside from Neil Nimlash, himself, had seen it prior to the broadcast.

Hulls got his cue through earphones.

“Live, from Television City in Hollywood, it’s your Uncle Nimlash Show! Today we have the most spectacular line up of musical talent ever assembled on the same stage, to be led in a new song composed specially for this broadcast! Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you, back from the grave, here’s Jerry Garcia!

Garcia flew out into the audience the way Lucifer had (okay, we stole the bit; it was a good visual), then landed on stage.

The audience went wild.

Cineman Hulls read off each name, with one more of our resurrected celebrities flying into the studio to join Jerry Garcia.

“John Lennon!

“Billie Holiday!

“Frank Sinatra!

“Maurice Chevalier!

“Patsy Cline!

“Jimi Hendrix!

“Enrico Caruso!

“Ethel Merman!

“Roy Orbison!

“Marvin Gaye!

“Dean Martin!

“Buddy Holly!

“Judy Garland!

“Burl Ives!

“Edith Piaf!

“John Denver!

“Lily Pons!

“Nat King Cole!

“Laverne and Maxene Andrews!

“Bing Crosby!

“Hank Williams!

“Sammy Davis, Jr.!

“Dorothy Dandridge!

“Frank Zappa!

“Mel Tormé!

“Janis Joplin!

“Jim Morrison!

“Perry Como!

“…and Elvis Presley!

“Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, the New Grateful Dead!

They all joined hands and started swaying back and forth, as the band began playing the opening chords of the special song that Lennon and Garcia had composed for this occasion (with a little help from a friend):

When you’re low and luckless
When troubles never cease
Ask him for a helping hand
He will bring you peace!

“Ladies and gentlemen,” announced Cineman Hulls, reverently, “the next voice you hear will be God’s firstborn son and the firstborn man, he who brought back to life all the wonderful people you see here before you. You know him as Adam, the first man, and you know him as the savior of all humanity, I give you, Jesus Christ!

A clear Irish tenor voice, reminiscent of Dennis Day, rang out mellifluously into the studio:

I only want to give you
The greatest gift of all
When dreams look past tomorrow
You can hear my call!

And Jesus walked—not flew, but walked—onto the stage, dressed in his traditional robes, holding a handheld mike.

The New Grateful Dead behind him sang in ­chorus:

Hands across the water
Hands across the land
Bring the little children
Lend a helping hand!

Jesus soloed:

Your creed is unimportant
Nor color of your face
I’m here to be redeemer
Of the human race!

The chorus:

Hands Across the water
Hands Across the sky
Paradise is waiting
You don’t have to die!

And Jesus reprised the first verse:

When you’re low and luckless
When troubles never cease
Ask me for a helping hand
I will bring you peace!

And Jesus and the chorus sang the final chorus together:

Hands across the water
Hands across the world
I am here to save you
Every boy and girl!

The audience went crazy.


The interview program that Uncle Nimlash did for the rest of his hour with Jesus and the assembled performers was almost anticlimactic after the opening song, but it was a way of presenting our campaign platform for the first time.

Jesus was careful to say nothing negative about Eve, perhaps disappointing that segment of the viewing audience who had tuned in expecting debunking or scandal. He did not “out” her alternate identities as Lucifer, Lilith, or Satan, and stuck to promoting his own positive message of love and the universal brotherhood of humankind.

In the last half hour of the show, Uncle Nimlash turned the questioning over to his audience, who asked questions about what it was like to be dead (“There’s no such thing as death,” said Jerry Garcia, “only audiences of deadheads.”) and whether Jesus’ mother, Mary, was still a virgin (“My mother has seven billion grandchildren,” replied Jesus. “I think it’s time to find a new adjective to describe her.”).

At the end of the hour, Uncle Nimlash took his best shot and said to Jesus, “This hour has gone by so quickly. Will you come back and visit this show again soon?”

Perhaps it was an oversight that I hadn’t anticipated this question, but even I was surprised by Jesus’ answer, “Uncle Nimlash, I’d be happy to come on your program again … but only on two conditions. The first one is that I don’t have to sing again—”

Which brought a huge laugh.

“And my second condition is that I’d want Eve to come on the show with me.”

The audience cheered wildly at this.

“You heard it from the Man, himself,” said Uncle Nimlash. “And to all my faithful viewers today, if you want Adam and Eve to appear on this show together, go to our website and tell Eve you want her to come here.”

Uncle Nimlash put his arm on Jesus’ shoulders and turned to his audience again.

“Let me say, as I say at the end of every show, but now with more understanding of what it means, “God bless you all … and try to make each other happy.”

The band started playing the closing theme music.

The mikes went off, the lights came down, and I saw production credits rolling on the studio monitors.

A little later, I buttonholed Jesus in the Green Room to ask him why he wanted to come back on the show with Lucifer.

He paused for a long moment then said gently, “Don’t worry about things you can’t do anything about, Duj.”

I decided not to press him on the point. “You look tired,” I told him.

He nodded, but smiled. “Know any place on this planet where a god can get a decent beer?”


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXII.

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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