Escape from Heaven

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XX

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

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 20

Until Zero Hour on October 11th, Jesus’ return to earth was the closest held military secret since D-Day.

The Anorexic Party had to be notified that we were placing Jesus’ name on the ballot, but they had no way of knowing that we wouldn’t be running an absentee campaign for him. As far as they knew, since they had thrown up what they considered an impenetrable blockade around the Celestial Palace, we had no way of getting any of the Trinity out of their “St. Helena” exile, much less squire one of them back to earth.

I’m not going to take even a smidgen of credit for the plan by which we opened up the tunnel from the Celestial Palace to our fortress on Mt. Shasta and returned Jesus to earth. The idea, the plan, and the entire solo operation was entirely General Lindbergh’s.

Charles Lindbergh had more flying hours than anyone else in human history and he had established speed records that even today are classified military secrets. His proposal to me, made privately just after my first meeting with the Central Committee, was to place himself on round-the-clock watch for the possibility that the Anorexics would break treaty and open up a tunnel. If and when they did, he was going to fly like all get-out and place himself inside that tunnel before it closed up again.

Once inside, he was going to climb into the auto-control systems and program them to open gates at his command. He then opened up a communications gate back to my desktop so tiny that it was undetectable. He’d found a similar microgate already in operation between Heaven and the Anorexic Party headquarters in Hong Kong, but left it alone because tampering with it would have alerted the enemy to his presence.

He used the new microgate he’d set up to send me the first coded message. Then Lindy hunkered down, took some sandwiches and a thermos of coffee out of a satchel he’d packed, and waited for my signal.

You know, things just go so well when you can work with the best of the best.


For once Duj Pepperman, Los Angeles’s top-rated evening-drive-time radio-talk-show host, was going to be useful to the campaign.

I didn’t base the appeal of my current show on guests so much as call-ins. But I’d been in the radio business for most of my adult life, and over thirty years, with changing tastes and formats, I’d had more top-rated celebrities sitting at my microphone than you can find in the audience of most award shows.

Radio is a volatile business. I’d always prepared for a day when my ARB’s might take an unexpected dip and station management might decide a restructuring of my format might be needed. Celebrity guests could be good for ratings in a crunch.

I’d sent out expensive gift boxes of Mrs. Fields cookies every Christmas to my “A list,” and with the thank-you letters I got, I’d kept my Rolodex up to date.

I needed to get an immediate booking with the top-rated syndicated TV talk-show host in the country—the man who knocked Oprah into the number two ratings slot the way she’d once pounced on Phil Donahue—and when you’re in a hurry, you can’t call a show’s booker; you have to have the unlisted phone number of the star, himself.

I had the unlisted, NSA-safe spread-spectrum, voice-encrypted, PCS cell phone number of Uncle Nimlash.

I caught him early Monday morning, October 10th, as he was driving his classic Tucker ‘48 into the parking lot of CBS’s Television City. He had a policy of answering his phone by yelling, “Yeah?!” at the top of his lungs to intimidate anyone he didn’t want to talk to; I’d gotten used to it and didn’t let it bother me.

“Hey, don’t shout at me, you filthy bastard,” I answered him, “or I’ll stuff a banana up the tailpipe of that old junker of yours.”

“Hey, Pepperman, you old fart, how’re they hangin?”

“More snugly than you’d believe, my friend,” I told him.

“Hold on a second while I unhook my phone,” he said, and after a few seconds I heard a door slam, the chirping of an alarm, and he came back on, “I’m walking into my office,” he told me, “You have thirty seconds to sell me on whatever favor you want.”

“It’s not what you can do for me, Neil,” I said, “it’s what I can do for you.”

“Bullshit walks,” he said. “Give me the deal, not a blow job.”

“One question first,” I asked him. “Have you booked Eve?”

“Yeah, right,” he said. “I told my bookers I’d give the one who got me Eve a year’s salary as bonus, and they came up with bupkas. She’s not doing any show where she needs to answer questions. Why, are you saying you can deliver her for a sitdown? Name your price if you can.”

“Forget Eve; she’s yesterday’s news. I can give you Jesus Christ.”

Under normal circumstances, Nimlash would have made a wisecrack and hung up on me … but Eve’s appearance yesterday had shaken the foundations of “normal.”

Cal Tech hadn’t released its formal report yet but inside sources were leaking a draft that said in its executive summary, “After presenting this personage with an extensive series of controlled tests in our own laboratories under conditions we controlled exclusively and which she could not possibly have anticipated or manipulated, we have found no evidence of fraud and must allow for the possibility that a genuine series of paranormal actions have indeed been performed.”

“How much?” he said.

“Not a penny to us, but there are conditions. It’s tomorrow or never. We get the whole hour. Jesus will be bringing a slew of guests; you don’t see the list. No breaks, commercial, promo, or PSA’s, except for FCC mandated station ID’s. We do the show live in your New York time slot, all satellite uplinks running, plus you put your watermark on it and allow every other network, independent station, and cable outlet who wants it to carry it live or delayed. All newscasts and magazines get to use the footage until November 1st. We’ll provide our own security detail. I’ll be faxing over some sheet music; you keep your band on overtime after today’s taping, rehearsing it with stand-ins for the vocal parts, who’ll be singing nonsense lyrics that match the real ones. If a word of who your guest is gets out to anyone prior to five minutes before air time tomorrow, including to your producer, your wife, or your make-up artist, we’ll know it immediately and walk. But you get your syndicate to promote this like the Second Coming, because, my friend, that’s exactly what I’m offering you. Do we have a deal?”

He sounded like he was breathing heavily. I extended my presence to make sure he wasn’t having a heart attack. His blood pressure was 160 over 90 but his heartbeat was steady.

“Duj, you got me a job interview when I was stuck in Tucson doing weather. You know how little weather there is to report on in Tucson? I’ve never forgotten that. But I have to ask you. Is this one-hundred percent? Because this means I have to call in every marker I’ve got and tell my affiliates I’m ending the show if they don’t carry me live tomorrow.”

“It’s one-hundred-percent, 24 karat guaranteed,” I said.

“Then, he said, “deal. But if I don’t have a faxed contract from you in my office within 20 minutes, then no deal. I’m sending a notary over to your condo in one hour to witness your signature.”

“The Fedexed contract with my notarized signature was signed for by your secretary eight minutes ago,” I said, “and your word was all I needed to proceed.”

He paused.

“You’re ending my career if one of us is being scammed, Duj, and I don’t think either of our business managers will be able to save even our pension annuities from the lawsuits. Matter of fact, we’d both be lucky to stay out of prison.”

He hung up.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XXI.

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 XIX

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

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 19

There was one immediate surprise waiting for me. It happened when Jesus walked around the table, greeting everyone.

When Jesus reached Robert A. Heinlein, he hugged him and said, “Judas, how are you, my old friend?”

I nearly fainted.

I turned to Heinlein. “You were Judas in a previous life? The Judas? Thirty-pieces-of silver Judas?”

Robert Heinlein and Jesus both looked at the expression on my face, then looked at each other, and burst out laughing.

“Tell me, Duj,” said Jesus. “How long do you think one of my apostles could hide an evil plot to betray me, given my power to look directly into men’s souls?”

I smiled sheepishly. “I keep forgetting to place the historical facts into the context of my new knowledge,” I said.

“Wisdom takes time,” said Jesus. “At the last Passover seder, when I said ‘He who dips after me will betray me,’ it wasn’t a prophecy. Why would anyone who was really secretly plotting to betray me reveal himself by dipping after I said that? It’s ridiculous. No. I was asking for a volunteer for the nastiest, dirtiest job I’d ever given any of my disciples. To betray me, take money for it to keep my real purpose a secret, and watch me die on a cross in horrible pain. Then, to make it even worse, he’d have to put up with his name being spit upon for two millennia, by people calling themselves Christians who can’t read a simple paragraph with proper comprehension. I granted him special dispensation to hang himself so he could be the first of my apostles to be resurrected.”

Jesus put his arm around Judas’s shoulders. He looked like he was trying to hold back tears.

“It was so terrible a mission,” Jesus continued, “that I didn’t feel I could just order one of my apostles to do it. This merchant marine turned commercial broker, at that moment in time, before any of the other apostles had started their missions and found their own courage, had more sheer guts than the other apostles all put together. He just took a sprig of bitter herb, dipped it into the salt water after me, and said, “Master, you’ve got yourself a boy.”

Jesus turned to the others in the room. “No matter what else happens in the next three weeks,” he said, “I will take it as a personal favor if all of you do your best to set the record straight about my most loyal disciple, Judas.”

And at that celestially perfect moment, Judas Iscariot, under his original name, got his first standing ovation in history.


Things went into high gear after that. The election was only three weeks away and with her slickly produced dream-campaign spot that night, Lucifer immediately established herself as the frontrunner. I wondered which Hollywood director Lucifer had working her media when I realized that it was a pointless question—she could have her pick of the best of them, and they were probably donating their services for free.

Meanwhile, we were playing catch-up.

Jesus had visited earth only a couple of times since his crucifixion, and hadn’t been allowed to set foot on earth at all in five centuries. So he decided to rely on the political judgments of his more up-to-date earthborn campaign staff. He reconfirmed my job as his campaign manager, as well as all my duty assignments, and when we all took our seats at the round table again, I continued to chair the Central Committee while Jesus just listened unless one of us asked his opinion directly.

We didn’t know precisely what our order of play was yet—a lot of campaigning is taking advantage of opportunities as they come up—but we knew that before Lucifer could get too much momentum we had to introduce Jesus to the world again.

Ironically, Lucifer had done half my job for me already. The publicity coup she and Reverend Chill had pulled off had the whole world talking about God, Adam and Eve, and the life of Jesus again. Our problem wasn’t so much going to be convincing the world that Jesus was real—Lucifer had already solved that problem for us — as it was getting out a more accurate version of historical events and getting the news coverage spinning our way.

Speaking in general about the next three weeks of campaigning, I have to acknowledge that both Jesus and I were relying on the judgments of men and women who’d had vastly more hands-on political experience that we’d had.

Most campaign decisions I immediately shoved onto the lap of my chief of staff, now holding the title of Deputy Campaign Director. Robert Heinlein had been heavily involved in political campaigning back in the 1930’s, even running for office himself, and one of his forty-plus books was a manual on electoral campaigning titled Take Back Your Government.

Heinlein, in turn, was making maximum use of our central committee’s top political operatives, people like Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, Golda Meir, and Benjamin Franklin/H.L. Mencken. Among them they had enough campaign experience that they could have elected a Republican as mayor of Chicago.

Mencken/Franklin stayed in his job as the campaign’s press secretary, but now he was going to have to manage daily contact with the mortal world’s news media.

It was clear this was no longer going to be a campaign restricted to dreamland, although that was still an important part of our media creation. Much of our campaign was now going to be in the waking world of mortal men, and Jesus was going to have to be as in-your-face as any other office seeker.

Right after he’d served the Anorexic Party with our just-under-the-deadline notice of ballot-line substitution, I gave Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the job of being Jesus’ advance man for rallies, demonstrations, and personal appearances. Martin Luther King knew as much about preparing a crowd and stirring them up as anyone in human history, including the Lord, himself.

Mark Twain and Bernard Shaw teamed up as Jesus’ main speechwriters—although Thomas Jefferson and Franklin/Mencken were also submitting speeches — but I was giving Dr. King everybody’s final drafts before Jesus used them and Martin was spicing up their rhetorical flourishes.

I gave W.C. Fields a job that is crucial to every successful campaign, but which few campaigns even admit exists. He was our joke writer. It was his job to stay close to Jesus at all times and on a moment’s notice be prepared to feed him snappy one-liners.

Not that Jesus wasn’t a master at snappy come-backs on his own anyway.

The central committee debated hard (but not long; we didn’t have the time) about what the theme of the campaign should be. We discussed using “The Second Coming.” But we decided the word “coming” has too much of a sexual connotation for use to a G-rated audience and when you’re in advertising, you never want to use a slogan your competitors can turn back on you. We played around with all the variations we could think of—“He’s Back” or “The Homecoming” — but they all sounded like slogans for a movie sequel.

We examined traditional themes associated with Jesus—even considered basing the campaign on Christmas and Santa Claus—but it just came across as stale and hokey. “Fisher of Men” just wasn’t going to work, either; the unavoidable imagery of having a fishhook down your throat was just too icky.

Finally, we decided to modify the idea of “savior” just slightly, and base our campaign imagery on rescue workers already associated with saving people when they were in trouble.

We didn’t have any trouble at all finding firefighters, paramedics, or ER doctors and triage nurses who wanted to pose with Jesus. As you can imagine, a lot of them had prayed to Jesus for courage in dire moments, and this was the sort of prayer Jesus had been permitted by treaty to answer.

That’s how our campaign theme became, “Your 911 call’s been answered. Jesus is here to rescue you.”

We decided it would be in poor taste to pose Jesus wearing any sort of uniform. That’s why, in our campaign handouts, posters, billboards, TV spots, and dreamscapes, we showed Jesus in his traditional robes, working side-by-side with firefighters, EMT’s, and ER personnel.

We needed to make a decision about which image of Jesus to use during the campaign: the short, bearded, Middle-Eastern Jew who had been born to Joseph and Mary, or the taller, blond, clean-shaven, more-movie-star-like Adam.

That was a no-brainer.

But our first job was to find the right venue to launch our campaign and introduce our candidate to the voters. Lucifer had set the bar very high for show-biz value but for once I wanted the good guys to outdo her.

We called in some outside talent of our own, and I think you’ll agree that what we came up with for Jesus first reappearance on earth on Tuesday, October 11th, was quite spectacular.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XX.

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 XVIII

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

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 18

Within minutes after Eve’s premiere appearance on Morning Glory, all hell broke loose.

Television crews, print reporters, scientists from Cal Tech, skeptics including a stage magician who was famous for debunking psychic phenomena, politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and just about anyone else who could get onto the freeways into Lakewood descended onto the vast manicured lawn surrounding Reverend Chill’s Newer Light Cathedral.

Lucifer performed just about every miracle in the Bible. There was a duck pond on the church grounds. Lucifer parted the water, walked on the water, and turned the water into wine. She waved her hand and suddenly the pond was full of fishes. One of the ducks had passed away and she raised it from the dead.

Manchu Ellins rang my doorbell and personally served me with a communiqué from Anorexic Party headquarters. There was a substitution on their ballot line.

Sun Amen Chill was off their ballot line.

Eve was on.

I called an immediate emergency session of the central committee, and Heinlein and I flew back to Mount Shasta. There was a substitution in my council since Lindbergh/Lewis/Polo was off on assignment. Taking his place at the round table was Sir Isaac Newton.

Jefferson and Franklin’s legal analysis of Lucifer’s sudden entry into the race provided us with little leverage. She had made no untruthful statements herself, nor even lent the appearance of truth to a false statement, since everything the Reverend Chill had said was carefully worded to stay within the bounds of semantic accuracy. The Anorexic Party had made no statement that we could object to, no grounds for us to demand a retraction.

Lucifer had performed no miracles above π on the Aquinas Scale.

She had not misrepresented to the people of earth her identity or her role in human history.

And there was nothing in the treaty that prevented the substitution of a name on a ballot line at any time previous to the opening of the campaign with its first dream presentation.

The only treaty violation the Anorexic Party had committed was her opening a tunnel to come to earth. Other than that, they had played strictly by the rules.

We’d been sucker punched.

“My friends,” I told them. “I’m not going to make any excuses. This disaster is directly due to my arrogance and ineptness. If we lose this war, there is nobody to blame but me.”

“Sir, with all due respect,” said General Patton, “that’s hogwash. Never apologize to your men. You lead them, they follow, that’s all. I apologized to one of my men once and I regret it to this day. You made a command decision, one—may I add—that looked good to all of us. Victory is never assured. All we can give it is the best we have within us.”

“Hear, hear!” said voices all around the table.

“I believe General Patton has expressed all of our feelings in this matter,” said Jefferson. “We still have complete confidence in you.”

I felt like crying but held myself in check. This was no time to come across as the weakest link.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your vote of confidence in me. Now let’s get back to work. Is there anyone at this table who thinks the strategy I outlined at our last session, of allowing Lucifer to run unopposed, has a chance in hell of succeeding?”

The silence was deafening.

“I concur. Mr. Attorney General, since the Anorexic Party has now made two substitutions on their ballot line, am I correct in concluding that we have the right to do so as well?”

“That is true,” Jefferson told me, “but only if we act immediately. Lucifer’s dream presentation starts as early as seven hours from now, triggering the active campaign. Any substitutions on the ballot must be served on the Anorexics before then.”

“Okay, then we haven’t time to shilly-shally,” I said. “It’s my opinion that the only candidate who would be able to take on Lucifer after the show she’s put on today would be one of the Trinity.”

“But that’s expressly forbidden by the terms of the treaty,” said Benjamin Franklin.

“We’ve got one treaty violation to our benefit coming to us,” I said. “I asked for a blank check in payment when they violated the treaty, and they signed it. I say, at this point, we are entitled to put one of the Trinity on the ballot.”

“That may be true from a legalistic standpoint,” said Aaron Burr, “but it still leaves us without an active candidate to campaign here on earth. If we put one of the Trinity on the ballot, they will still be legally restricted from opening a tunnel to come here.”

“I disagree,” said King Solomon. “Placing a different name on the ballot isn’t anything they need to grant us as a special favor; we’re entitled to do that anyway, just so long as it’s done by tonight. The treaty exception due us may include nullifying that clause which forbids the Trinity from standing for office. It’s my legal opinion that in compensation for Lucifer violating the terms of the treaty by coming to earth after Satan 001, we are entitled to bring in one of the Trinity here.”

“Keep in mind,” said Patton, “if we are seen trying to open up a tunnel, you’re going to see Satan’s military forces stationed on earth launching a counter-attack immediately. They’re not going to care about the legalisms of a treaty at that point. With everything at stake, they’ll fight.”

“General, can you secure this facility we’re in right now to withstand such an attack?”

“It was constructed for that very purpose, sir,” Patton said. “We’re inside a fortress.”

“So we open up the tunnel in here.”

“With what?” W.C. Fields asked. “Do you have a church key?”

“I’m not going to discuss that until the time is right,” I said. “Our first order of business is to decide which of the Trinity we need to run.”

“If we run God or Jesus, Lucifer will turn this into a sex war,” said Ayn Rand. “I have never been in favor of running a woman for a man’s job, but logic dictates the way to put the lie to Eve’s claim that she is the mother of the human race is to show the people of earth its real mother, Maryse.”

“My dear,” said C.S. Lewis, “I tremble at the very thought of disagreeing with you, but I must. Our celestial mother, Maryse, does not have what political analysts call ‘name recognition.’”

“The Virgin Mary isn’t good enough name recognition for you?” replied Rand. “Lucifer is using her earthborn name, why can’t Maryse?”

“‘The Virgin Mary’ on our ballot line would deliver a billion Roman Catholic votes,” said Mark Twain.

“But you would lose a billion Islamic votes,” replied Sa’di of Shiraz. “I’m sorry but Muslims simply won’t vote for a woman to rule them on either ballot line. The world of Islam would simply boycott the ballot.”

“You’re forgetting Muslim women,” Rand said.

“There is no League of Women Voters in the world of Islam,” answered Sa’di. “Our women are accustomed to doing what their fathers and husbands tell them to do.”

The silence that followed showed that Sa’di had made his point.

“Then we are deciding between the Father and the Son,” I said. “More comments?”

“God has better name recognition worldwide,” said H.L. Mencken, “but nobody on earth knows what he looks like and—with no disrespect to you, sir—his appearing similar to a radio-talk-show host might be fatally distracting to the voters. Nor do I think his appearing as a Burning Bush will prevail in an election against a beautiful woman, no matter what he says or what miracles he performs.”

“Then we are running a husband against his ex-wife?” I asked.

“That will be our Savior’s problem, sir,” said Dr. King, “not ours.”

“It’s my decision unless God fires me from my appointment as campaign manager of the Party of God,” I said.

“If Jesus is the candidate,” said Golda Meir, “you’re going to lose the Jewish vote.”

“What is that?” said Sa’di. “Ten or twelve million votes out of seven billion?”

“That could be five times your margin of victory in a tight race,” said Meir. “Look at Florida in the 2000 U.S. presidential election.”

“Jesus is one of Islam’s prophets,” said Sa’di. “I believe I can deliver at least a billion Muslim votes for Jesus, just so long as we distance him from Christian history and Christian doctrine. In what sort of election can you throw away that?”

“What about Hindus, Buddhists, and Chinese atheists?” asked Shaw. “Who has the best chance at their votes?”

“I don’t see that Lucifer has any better chance of locking up those votes on name recognition alone than we do,” said Rand, “no matter which of the Trinity we run.”

“Any other comments?” I asked.

There was silence.

Mencken turned to Golda Meir and said, “Suppose we put Jesus on the ballot as Adam. Would that play with Jewish voters?”

“It couldn’t hurt,” she said. “We might even do better if our Hebrew campaign handouts referred to him as Rabbi Yehoshua.”

“The name ‘Adam’ would probably do better than ‘Jesus’ with secular voters and perhaps even pagans,” said Mencken. “I could set up a focus group—”

“We don’t have time for a focus group,” cut in Jefferson. “Our ballot deadline is in just a few hours.”

There was a silence, which I took as my opportunity to take back control of the meeting.

“I was born Jewish,” I said. “You all know my relationship to God, how I’d do anything for him. But God gave me the job of winning this election, and I think Mr. Mencken is right. God hasn’t spent as much time walking precincts as Jesus has, and in my opinion that dirty-feet human experience is what’s needed in this election.”

I took a deep breath.

I continued, “I also think there’s no point playing games with the ballot, trying to conceal the full identity of our candidate. He is who he is, take him or leave him.”

Here I go again, I thought.

I said, “It’s my decision that the candidate of the Party of God for the governorship of earth in the October 31st election is our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, also known as Adam. Dr. King, please notify the Anorexic Party of our ballot-line substitution at the conclusion of this session.”

“Yes, sir,” said Martin Luther/King.

“Menu,” I said.

My desktop appeared before my eyes and I double clicked on an icon.

“General Lindbergh, can you hear me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Please open Tunnel Gates P2 and E1, using my desktop’s current position as terminal locus.”

A tunnel irised open behind me, the bottom level with the floor.

I stood, and as I stood, so did everyone else.

Charles Lindbergh, who had formerly been Meriwether Lewis, who before that had been Marco Polo, stepped into the room and saluted me.

I returned his salute.

He moved to a position standing near the table.

A moment later, everyone in the room bowed their heads as Jesus stepped into the room.

Jesus turned to me. “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” he said, and kissed me on both cheeks.

Some days it pays to get out of bed.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XIX.

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 XVII

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

Escape from Heaven cover

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.

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 XVI

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

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!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XV

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

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 15

There’s just no other way to put it. Heinlein is a show-off.

It was about a 600-mile flight north from Culver City to Mount Shasta. Inasmuch as this was my first flight since I had returned to earth, I was happy simply to look down at the California scenery, past the Grapevine, over Pea Soup Anderson’s, past farmland and rolling hills, around Sacramento, until, from about 100 miles away, Mount Shasta came into view.

I was flying pretty much level and steady. Meanwhile, Heinlein was doing aerobatics: barrel rolls, eight-point rolls, the back stroke, full loops, and just for variety, an occasional quadruple gainer with two-and-a-half twists. I felt like shouting at him, “Orange wings! Be careful or the flightmaster will ground you!” but wasn’t sure how well he’d remember his own stories and whether he’d get the inside joke. We made good time anyway, and the flight was less than an hour.

In case you were about to cluck your tongue about our drinking and flying, keep in mind that our resurrected bodies could handle drinking Love Canal without being affected.

Weather on the summit was mild for Mount Shasta when we dropped in for our landing. The Great Assembly Hall, like Mount Shasta itself, was built like a pyramid, but was a layer off dimension so it wouldn’t be perceptible to mortals. Heinlein and I walked inside.

The Central Committee of the Party of God has no decision-making authority of its own. It exists as an advisory body, a cabinet, for God’s designated hitter. There were no permanent seats on it; it was more or less like a minyan in Jewish law or a jury pool in American courts. Whoever qualified that was around when the Coordinator needed help was pulled in for service.

The qualifications for the jury pool were particularly lofty, and a bunch of really accomplished people had volunteered to trap themselves on earth to help me prepare for the election until the gates reopened. Angels were not permitted to serve on the committee, not even angels who had incarnated as human. Eligibility required being a resurrected native-born earthling.

Since this was the first time I was being presented to them, they made it into a show. Aside from Heinlein and myself there were fifteen delegates in attendance, queued up in a reception line. But the fifteen standing before me represented not only their most recent incarnations, but also some of the most memorable personages in human history.

They all applauded as I entered, then Heinlein guided me down the line, making formal introductions. I took the opportunity to exchange a few personal words with each one who seemed amenable to it.

“Saul Ben-Samuel Pepperman,” he said, using my real first name and my father’s, “may I present to you the Chairman Pro Tem, Thomas Jefferson née King Solomon …”

“The Declaration of Independence is the single best piece of writing in human history, sir,” I told him.

“Henry Louis Mencken née Benjamin Franklin.”

“Mr. Franklin, I agree about not deserving liberty, but how do we make men brave?”

“Goldie Mabovitch née Elizabeth Regina.”

“Mrs. Meir, my grandmother once told me you gave a speech in her living room.”

“William Claude Dukenfield née Aristophanes.”

“This sure beats Philadelphia, doesn’t it?”

“Sheikh Mushariff-Ud-Din Sa’di.”

Khosh amadid.

“Alissa Rosenbaum née Aristotle.”

“The way I would phrase that, Miss Rand, is ‘either-ornery.’”

“Clive Staples Lewis née Durante Alighieri.”

“So on November 22nd, 1963, you, Jack Kennedy, and Aldous Huxley all met just outside the tunnel and decided to go pub hopping together?”

“George Bernard Shaw.”

“How are you handling immortality?”

“Raymond William Stacy Burr née Aaron Burr.”

“Nice shot,” I said.

“Samuel Langhorne Clemens.”

“Did you ever find out what happened to your friend Mr. Bierce?”

“Martin Luther King, Jr., née Martin Luther.”

“You just took that reincarnation because you wanted to keep your old name?”

“Norma Jean Baker née Cleopatra.”

“You know, you remind me so much of a close friend of mine named Estella.”

“George Smith Patton, Jr., née Alexander the Great.”

“I would have gone on to finish off Stalin, too.”

“Charles Augustus Lindbergh née Meriwether Lewis née Marco Polo.”

“The violin originated not in Italy but in China?”

“Ludwig von Mises née Adam Smith.”

“So you’ve completed the first draft of Deistic Action?”

After introductions, we removed into the conference room, seating ourselves at a round table of the same sort I’d encountered at breakfast with God: floating midair with self-positioning chairs. But this table was a lot bigger.

President Jefferson as Chairman Pro Tem gaveled the meeting to order, welcomed me again, then turned the meeting over to me.

“Thank you, Mr. President,” I said. “This is new to me. Do you mind acting as parliamentarian for me? Advise me regarding rules of order?”

“That will be easy, sir,” Jefferson said. “This is your meeting. Each of us will speak only when you ask for one of us to do so.”

“There is no set agenda? No old business?”


Okay. Try to put yourself in my place for a second. You’re in a room with sixteen of the most brilliant, most famous, most accomplished human beings of your race, people who are human history, and the one whom the rest of them have decided is perhaps the smartest and most accomplished of the lot has just told you they’re waiting to find out what you want to do.

How did I get picked for this job? I wondered. Just because God gave me a long swim in his gene pool, did that make me qualified even to sit among these giants, much less lead them?

I looked over to Jefferson again and saw him smiling. I knew that he had been exactly where I was sitting and knew exactly how I felt.

I had to start somewhere and picked one almost at random.

“General Patton, I was under the impression that we faced a political engagement with the opposition, not a military one. Are you here to advise me in your professional capacity as a military man, or elsewise?”

“I’m here in case the enemy acts true to form,” Patton said. “They don’t play by the rules. You have to watch them like a hawk. You can’t assume anything. You have to figure out where they’re going and be there waiting for them.”

“Do you expect we’ll have to meet them in battle?”

“For once someone is asking my opinion before it’s too late,” Patton said. “We can’t win this war by attacking the enemy through force.”

“If you don’t think so, general, I have no doubt it’s true.”

He nodded and went on. “But they might contemplate using force against our positions to disrupt our operations. With proper preparations, we can foreclose the force option to the enemy before they can use it.”

“You’ve foreseen such preparations? You have the logistical resources to carry them out?”

“I have, sir.”

I spoke to the assembled others. “Is there anyone here who thinks they have a better take on the military sciences than General Patton?”

No one spoke up.

“Okay, then. General, please make a short, plain-English executive summary of what security precautions you have in mind available to me at your earliest convenience. I’ll review it and if it meets with my approval, I’ll give you the command authority to carry it out.”

“Yes, sir. You’ll have it on your desktop within twenty-four hours.”

I started relaxing. These people had my back.

“Who here can tell me what the Anorexic Party wants to achieve?”

“I can,” said Ayn Rand.

“Please proceed, madam.”

“They wish for veto power over all existence but they have only the power to destroy that we, ourselves, give them.”

“Then you are critical of the Lord’s decision to enable the election Lucifer demanded?”

“I wouldn’t presume,” she said, with her Russian accent coming back for a moment. “In this last life I searched for a real John Galt, a man smarter and more determined than I was to win all that was good from the world. I had a lot of dreams, but I never dreamt that I would meet him in another world after I died. If God is offering them something they want, I must assume it is the cheese in a mouse trap.”

“Is there anyone in the opposition camp smart enough to see that also?” I asked the table.

“Satan is quite clever enough for that,” said C.S. Lewis. “I think Alexander—excuse me, sir—I mean General Patton, will agree with me that Satan is a strategic genius.”

“Perhaps,” I said, “but we’ve read her book, haven’t we, General?”

That got me a laugh, with Patton laughing the loudest. He was most famous for having outmaneuvered the German general, Rommel, in World War Two, because Patton had read Rommel’s own book on tank warfare.

“But you don’t win wars mainly with strategy,” said Patton. “You win them with logistics, and more importantly, by putting men with guts into the field.”

“You’re politely suggesting to me, General, “that I should be concentrating on the question of who our candidate is going to be?”

“I’ve never been accused of being polite before, sir, but yes.”

Patton had gotten the second laugh.

“I’m actually going in that direction, General,” I said. “To know the right candidate, I need to know what to expect.”

“You can expect mass disruptions,” said Golda Meir. “Terrorism. Riots. Fires. Earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions. Every sort of destructive storm.”

“And,” added H.L. Mencken, “the biggest religious revival in human history.”

“I can understand the spitefulness that would lead to random destruction,” I said, “but I’m afraid you’ve lost me why Satan would want a religious revival. I thought that plays right into our strengths?”

“You can’t underestimate the subtlety of Satan’s planning,” said the Sufi master, Sa’di of Shiraz.

“You must look at the Luciferian strategy from the standpoint of games theory,” said Ludwig von Mises.

“The children of earth no longer routinely think of God, or of Satan, as real,” said C.S. Lewis. “For most people religion is a ritual, or a social occasion, or a safe haven for their children. It is only in fear or grief, confronting mortality and the beyond that has been hidden from them, that they pay any serious mind to their hopes that the old stories are true and that there is the hope of salvation for them.”

“Look at what holiday gains more prominence every year,” said Mark Twain. “Is it Christmas? No, that has become a shopping expedition—no offense to you, Mr. Polo.”

“None taken.”

“Nor,” continued Lewis, “is it Easter, the day meant to remind us of the good news.”

“And it’s certainly not my birthday,” said Dr. King with a smile.

“We’re not trying to keep you guessing. We’re talking about Halloween,” said H.L. Mencken.

Ayn Rand said, “Life is a suspense story. What makes it suspenseful is not knowing how it comes out.”

“The biggest mystery,” said Raymond Burr, “the one that has people lying in bed awake at night — is whether or not you die when your body dies. All you know when you’re on Earth is life within your frail body. It is difficult to imagine living without it.”

“The evidence of the senses is not enough to tell you what you really are, said Lewis. “Science tells you that you’re a biochemical reaction trapped in a piece of meat, and when you die, the reaction fizzles and the meat rots. Most of the frightful symbols of death relate to dead bodies in various states of disintegration: skulls, bones, meat lockers, graves, and the paraphernalia of the undertaker. If that isn’t enough, horror stories try to make it worse with three awful ideas: first that this rotting meat is all that’s left of you when you die; second and worse: that after you die you’re a disembodied ghost trapped in post-life impotence; or third and worst: that you’re still conscious inside the rotting meat, and can experience the slow rotting.”

Rand said, “Halloween goblins are promoted by people who wish to frighten us and reap the benefits of that fear.”

“That was the purpose of Satan’s demand for an Interregnum,” said the blonde bombshell who’d previously been the original Queen of the Nile. “To give generations time to forget the world to come.”

“It’s a confidence game and,” said Twain, with a twinkle in his eye, “you’re the mark. If mortal men knew down deep, without doubt, that we were going to continue living once we separate from the flesh — and not forever as ghosts, either — our fear couldn’t be used to stampede us.”

“But,” I asked, “why would Lucifer wish to stampede us into the arms of God?”

“Not into the arms of the Lord,” said Martin Luther King. “The children of earth are told to flock to churches where God may listen … but where the Lord’s voice has been silenced, and his hand stilled. People pray until their lips are dry … and they hear nothing back. The Lord cannot rescue them because his children are held hostage. The enemy is free to say, ‘You see? Do you see? The Lord had the power to save you from this … yet he did nothing. The Lord will do nothing next time. The Lord doesn’t care for you.’”

“So,” I said, thinking aloud, “in order to get people to join in her hatred of God, Lucifer must first get them to believe in God?”

“Just so,” said C.S. Lewis. “But not belief in the God we know to be a loving father, a redeemer, a loving spirit. God is locked outside then we are told he is so indifferent to us that he won’t lift a finger to help us. The victims begin seeing their kidnappers as their only friends. After my time it become known as the Stockholm syndrome.”

“How diabolical,” I said. I turned to Ayn Rand again. “I remember in your writings you always warned about the sanction of the victim.”


“Suppose we remove that sanction?”

“Just how do you suggest that we ‘shrug’?” she asked. “Satan’s only desire is annihilation. She is in favor of starvation already. Going on strike deprives her of nothing she needs and I am unaware of any way to escape from her prison other than winning an election it appears she has already fixed.”

“Suppose we just play defense?” I asked.

“That only delays the inevitable,” said Heinlein. “Ask General Patton about logistics. When an enemy is waging a war of attrition, one’s only hope is to crack through their lines while you still can.”

“Not,” I said, surprising even myself at my boldness, “if left to their own devices the enemy will destroy themselves in time.”

“Satan has set the calendar for these events,” Jefferson reminded me. “Time is not on our side.”

I turned to Mencken-Franklin. “As Franklin, you were a diplomat, yes?” I asked. He nodded. “You’ve studied the treaty?”


“Don’t bother looking for loopholes,” said W.C. Fields. “Satan already has all the best lawyers.”

The laughter brought down the tension a bit.

“Well, I’ve read it, too,” I said. “Mr. Franklin—and I am pointedly asking this on the basis of your previous incarnation—does or does not the treaty constrain me as tightly as God himself in performing miracles?”

He morphed into his previous incarnation. “The restriction on miracles applies to each of us as much as it applies to God,” Benjamin Franklin explained.

“And that restriction is, precisely?”

“No miracles above π on the Aquinas Scale at any moment before the election. And none at all afterwards, if we lose.”

“Well, how much of a miracle does that permit us?”

“The phrase ‘π on the Aquinas Scale’ is a term of art,” said Raymond Burr, “referring to a miracle with the power to save one human life.”

I cocked my head at him. “I may not have been a lawyer for a few hundred years, but more recently I played one on TV.”

Everyone laughed again.

“Let’s say that an airplane is about to crash with over one hundred passengers,” explained Franklin. “Since the limitation of π is the value of a single human life, God would be allowed to save only one of the passengers in that crash.”

“And that treaty limitation would equally apply to each of us as well?”

“That is correct.”

“How big a miracle would 10π be?” I asked.

“Strong enough a miracle to save Southern California from the Big One. The Aquinas scale is logarithmic.”

“And if ten of us got into a daisy chain, could we, under the precise terms of the treaty with Satan, produce a miracle the power of 10π on the Aquinas scale?”

There was a stir in the room.

“By Jove,” said Shaw, “I believe he has something.”

“Will you indulge a few of us for a few moments?” Jefferson asked.

I nodded.

Jefferson, Franklin, and Burr huddled for about two minutes, then returned to their seats.

The U.S. president formerly known as Solomon said, “I believe the treaty could reasonably and justly be interpreted as permitting that.”

“That’s good enough legal counsel for me,” I said. “Ladies and gentlemen, the greater part of our task is now clear. We play defense. We calm the earth’s tectonic plates, cool volcanoes, untwist twisters, and keep thugs with box cutters away from dangerous assets. With no mass misery to make political hay out of, the Anorexic Party will be unable to turn victims into voters.”

“But who will be our standard bearer in the election?” Patton asked. “Who is the gubernatorial candidate for the Party of God?”

“Nobody,” I said.



I could see Heinlein, Mencken, Twain, and Fields smiling. They’d already got it.

“You can’t be serious,” Golda Meir said.

“Look,” I asked, “what was it God said? ‘Resist not evil.’ I’ve never been a pacifist. I’d love a good conventional war with these bozos. But think about it. They have nothing of their own as a platform, other than denial of pleasure, denial of creativity, denial of their own nature. They want to make God look indifferent to suffering while they make a big show out of looking compassionate. But they can only do that if we give them a target to shoot at.

“I say we give the Anorexics the very absence they wish from us, and give it to them now. We use our powers to stop their attacks on earth but that’s all we do. We decline all debates. We don’t campaign. We never even admit that God or Heaven exists or that there even exists a Party of God. Let people have the nightmares they’ll give them then wake up and thank God it wasn’t real.

“We don’t have to win this election in order for the Interregnum to end and for the tunnels to the Celestial Palace to be opened up again. We simply have to let the Anorexic Party’s candidate be rejected by the people of earth. Deprived of victims, they are out of business and free to look only to each other for the nothingness they have so richly earned.

“I will inform the Anorexic Party that we consent to their first proposed date for the election but that we will be assigning our ballot line to None of the Above. We reserve the right to edit out any untruthful, inaccurate or unbalanced statement they wish to make within their dream campaign, but we will make no arguments of our own.

“Under the terms of the treaty, any vote total less than fifty percent plus one fails the majority test necessary to rule the earth and earth will remain under the self rule of its people with one crucial difference: God’s muzzle will be off for good.

“Upon the end of the Interregnum, we reveal ourselves. The tunnels to New Heaven will be open for two-way traffic. The Tree of Knowledge will be accessible through the Internet or from any public library. People on earth will be able to pray to God for any miracle they want with the rational expectation of benevolent response. And guided tours to visit New Heaven, using their astral bodies, will be available to any living human, death no longer a precondition of entry.

“Nobody is our candidate. Nobody in this election can be trusted with your future. Nobody on the ballot will keep his campaign promises. Vote for Nobody.”

Sixteen of the greatest people in history rose to their feet and cheered me, this time with more than formal courtesy.

I was getting the idea that God knew me a whole lot better than I did.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XVI.

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 XIV

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

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 14

The days when human beings had any common understanding about the origins and nature of their lives were buried deep in human prehistory.

Ever since the fall of Eden, and the catastrophic events that followed, human beings began to disagree with each other about who we were, where we came from, why we were here, and what it all meant. Get three human beings together and you had eight different opinions on these questions.

Even after the last of the first angelic colonists had returned to the celestial realm, religious and political events on earth were still being closely affected by heavenly interventions, most of them chronicled by human reporters, with widely varying degrees of accuracy, in those texts that human beings call their holy scriptures.

But within a few centuries after Jesus lived and died on earth, so many human communities were isolated, so many important books had been destroyed by intolerance and war, so much religious and political strife had fractured common language, that there was simply no human consensus by which communiqués from God to the human race could be universally understood.

The Celestial Agreement of Terrestrial Interregnum that began with the Christian Reformation was both a curse and a blessing for the human race.

The bad news was that with the tunnels between Heaven and earth closed, and access to the Tree of Knowledge shut off, we were pretty much on our own to sink or swim.

The good news was that deprived of any centrally respected authority to dictate what was true and what wasn’t, human exploration was free to flower, and the civilizations we built, based on our natural philosophies and sciences, proved that we did indeed have the spark of God still alive in us.

While the worst of us were still hung up on figuring out innovative ways to ruin the lives of our perceived enemies, the best of us were teaching the whole world how to capitalize our way out of abject poverty, fly to the moon and claim it for all mankind, and create an Internet that made sharing knowledge among ourselves almost as universal to the developed world as the Tree of Knowledge itself.

Unfortunately, as widespread as the Internet grew in the early twenty-first century, there were still vast regions where it was heavily censored. And the problem of how to hold an election on earth, where all humanity could vote, was a problem that Lucifer and her minions didn’t know how to solve for themselves when Lucifer demanded of God that an election determine who would rule earth.

There were nations that decided things by elections, sure, but there were as many people residing where rulership was by one party and few if anyone even had a clue what an election looked like. Moreover, the Interregnum’s imposition of heavenly embargo and mass invincible ignorance had left many of those in positions of power unaware that earth’s extraterritoriality was even up for grabs.

Communicating this simple fact, obscured for close to half a millennium, to billions of souls on earth, was a formidable enough problem. Explaining to human beings that of all their religious faiths only prophetic writings from one even referenced the cast of characters involved in this dispute, though misidentifying the means by which the conflict was to be resolved, was even more daunting.

St. John the Divine had correctly understood from his prophetic dreams that the outcome of a civil war in Heaven would also determine the fate of earth, but that’s about the only thing he got right. He didn’t know how to read a celestial calendar, he didn’t understand how the tunnels worked, and he didn’t have the diplomatic education to understand the treaty ending that war, which provided for an orderly transition of power. It’s hard enough to write history with any degree of accuracy. Trying to describe events in a future you don’t understand is pretty much impossible. Sorry to have disappointed those of you grooving in anticipation of the Rapture, the Battle of Armageddon and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Even worse for Lucifer and the Anorexic Party, their hatred for everything invented, including technology, left them as a group still pretty much “computer illiterate,” as Jesus had put it to me. Outright rejecting use of the Tree as a means of counting eligible voters much less votes, and not trusting independent consultants who understood a technology they didn’t, they had no solution of their own on how to reacquaint the people of earth with their history, communicate to them the issues at stake, and poll their decisions.

That was why Lucifer had looked so diminished at her first official press conference, when she’d announced the Anorexic Party victory. She’d had to swallow her pride and ask God to solve the problem of how to hold the election on earth. She was like a rebellious teenager who’d decided to move into her own place who had just discovered she needed to borrow her dad’s van for the move.

God could have simply done nothing and things on earth could have remained as they were, with human beings running their own affairs, as greatly and terribly as we usually do.

Perhaps we might have avoided destroying our technological civilization long enough to expand our race out to other solar systems, and even outlived the death of our own life-sustaining sun, but eventually our universe itself would have ended, and with God having signed a treaty that neither he nor his loyalists would interfere, that would have been it for us.

Twenty billion or so years until the end of a universe might seem a long time for you and me, because we are so young. But for God, who has seen universes come and go like the seasons, it would be a loss of many beloved grandchildren that he could anticipate and dread.

As always, God was not about to give up. He gave Lucifer the solution she had asked for, and the election to determine the destiny of the human race was on.

Human beings spoke thousands of different languages. We had hundreds of different faiths and some of us had no faith. Many of us were illiterate. Some of us were newborn on earth and some of us had once again been trapped into reincarnating here during the Interregnum, roaming the earth as ghosts in between lives, as in the days before the tender of salvation.

God’s solution to the problem of human diversity was elegant.

We all still dreamed.

It was in dreams that we would learn of earth’s origins and the origins of our species. It was in dreams that we would be told, in symbols each of us could understand, what the platforms were of each party and how we could cast our vote. And it was in dreams, on a single day and night, that each of us would cast our vote for the fate of our birthland and of our species.

On our first awakening after the election, those of us living would remember our dream with perfect clarity, and learn that all of us had experienced the same dream.

The results of the election would be the last thing we were told before we awoke.

Well, that’s the way the whole thing was supposed to work, anyway.

A few weeks after my dinner with the Anorexic candidate and his wife, I was still wondering who on earth was in my own party.

Back in my college days, you could always tell the real leadership of any campus political organization. It wasn’t necessarily the person who carried the title of “president,” “coordinator, “chair,” or even “secretary.” The leadership was whoever held the funds, and whoever had the membership list.

I hadn’t been given so much as a Party of God Christmas card list, and if there was a bank account somewhere with that name on it, I wasn’t a signatory. In fact, the only Party of God I could even find a reference to on the Internet was a Palestinian guerrilla group that had fallen into complete obscurity a couple of years after Israel became the 56th state in the union.

I don’t know what I was thinking. God doesn’t need money. And he doesn’t need any stinking mailing lists.

I was alone in my living room, learning some new physical options that came with my resurrection, when a ghost walked into the room. Well, he wasn’t really a ghost; he was a resurrected human maintaining his mass at about one percent, which made him able to pass through walls but not quite invisible. He looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t place him right away.

He was a bit taller than medium height, military trim, looked in his late twenties or early thirties, and he had the physical presence of a silent-film-era matinee idol, with slick dark hair, a handsome face, and a dapper mustache.

He increased his mass to earth normal so I could see him in color. He was wearing sharply creased white trousers, spit-shined white shoes, a creme ascot, and a purple velvet smoking jacket—which was appropriate since he was smoking a cigarette held in a long cigarette holder.

He gave a little wink and saluted me. “Permission to come aboard, sir?” he asked, with a slight Southern lilt to his voice.

I chopped my hand to my forehead. “We’re on land, friend, but permission granted anyway. Who are you?”

“The Ghost of Christmas Future,” he said with a big smile.

It was then I recognized him. He looked about fifty years younger than the last time I’d seen him, while giving blood at a science-fiction convention.

It was Robert A. Heinlein.


Do you remember how I explained earlier in this narrative how some human beings originated as angels who incarnated as human to learn how to dream so they could advance to godhood, while others were souls originating on earth who became gods when resurrected?

You might have already guessed that some of the greatest human beings in history started their lives as angels. You already know a lot of their traveling names: Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Joan, Mozart, Gandhi, Pocahontas, Douglass, Michelangelo, Smith.

But some of the greatest of our tribe were home-grown: David, Mohammad, Aesop, Da Vinci, Wollstonecraft, Beethoven, Edison, Jefferson, Disney, Smith.

Robert A. Heinlein was one of our luminaries, but he was no angel.

As a genre of literature, science fiction’s greatest contributions have not been characters or style, but images and thoughts. This has left it often neglected by the unimaginative and the thoughtless. It is the how-to literature of creation, the craft of awakened dreams.

Robert A. Heinlein is known in Heaven as one of the human race’s greatest dreamers.

“Mind if I smoke?” he asked me.

“The last time I answered that question,” I replied, “my life changed forever.”

“I promise this will do nothing dry cleaning can’t handle,” he said.

“Then feel free,” I told him. “By the way, do you happen to know what happens to people who object to Jesus’ smoking?”

“They go right to hell,” he joked, chuckling in a way that reminded me of a buzzsaw.

“Please, Mr. Heinlein, make yourself comfortable,” I told him.

“Bob,” he said, settling into an armchair.

“Duj,” I offered back. “Can I get you something to eat?”

“No thank you. Ginny and I just finished dinner a short while ago.”

“A cognac then?”

“Can you make it a B and B over ice?” he asked. “Bourbon, not Benedictine.”

I poured us each a bourbon and brandy and handed him one.

He toasted,

“Here’s to them that sail to sea

And the ladies that stay on land.

May the former be well rigged

And the latter be well manned!”

We clinked glasses and drank. I didn’t even have to peep him. No way this renowned sybarite was a member of the Anorexic Party, even if he had been an agnostic while alive.

“I was told a circle would form,” I told him. “Can I assume you’re the first of our political party to make an appearance?”

“The Central Committee has already been called up and the Chairman Pro Tem is waiting right now for you to take his seat,” he told me.

“Thank God,” I said. “I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since I got back. Do we leave right now?”

“President Jefferson would expect us not to waste our drinks,” he said.

This was going to be fun. “Where’s the meeting?”

He raised an eyebrow. “I happen to know that you’ve familiarized yourself with my tall tales,” he said. “Why don’t you tell me where the meetings are always held?”

I thought for a moment. “You’re kidding me. ‘Lost Legacy’? The summit of Mount Shasta?”

He smiled, draining his drink and standing up. “Ready to fly?”


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XV.

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

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Escape from Heaven — Chapter XIII

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

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 13

Let me tell you, there are options built into Body By Jesus that you never knew you were missing until you have them, and which you wonder how you’d ever be able to live without them once you do.

Take physical fitness, for example.

In the corpus novus, fitness has nothing to do with cosmetic appearance, which is in an entirely different menu. I could look fat or thin, young or old, bald as Yul Brynner or hairy as the ‘69 Beatles, fit as a fiddle or looking like I was on my last legs, and it had nothing to do with how I felt, how strong I was, what I ate, or whether I ever exercised.

I’d already activated a cosmetic dynamic I’d wished for in my old body: during the next twenty weeks my body was going to look two pounds of fat lighter, and a quarter pound of muscle more hard-bodied, each week. I was finally going to have those washboard abs I’d seen on late-night TV. I could have morphed my appearance in an instant, of course, but people would have talked.

But that had nothing at all to do with how “fit” I was.

My old body had only one ordinary means of generating the energy necessary for my life: absorbing external biomass into my own biomass, where I either burned it for energy, built cells, or stored it as fat for later use.

My new body can be set to convert and use as energy pretty much anything around me, whether it’s electricity, background noise or left-over heat from a Big Bang, electromagnetic waves (sunlight, radio broadcasts), chemical (if it’s matter, I can eat it and burn it), conventional nuclear (fission, fusion, antimatter plasma), electrochemical-nuclear (cold fusion), or even — though it’s on other menus—forces ranging from the space-time warping of ordinary gravity to an exploding supernova. Yes, I have a new set of extrasensory organs to taste each of these energies — and I have to tell you, music tastes a whole lot better than the noise of a garbage truck.

I don’t know how you’d look at having this much power available at your beck and call, but if this isn’t being made into a god, I don’t know what is.

Final judgment before being resurrected isn’t only about whether you’re good or evil, although that’s the first cut. It’s also about whether you have the innate decency and self-control not to hog too much ambient energy for yourself or to misuse the power you keep and bear that can take out a galaxy if you get pissed off.

Simply being resurrected into the new body is the greatest compliment, the greatest statement of trust, anyone, anywhere, has ever paid you. It’s like winning gold at the Olympics, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Nobel Prize, and the Prometheus Award all rolled into one. It’s the ultimate Oscar.

When I drove out of the K-TALK studios to Manchu Ellins’ Beverly Hills estate for dinner, I was hungry.

I was hungry because I’d set the power defaults in my body only to use conventional food digestion as its energy source, except for some safety options to cut in automatically if I stepped on a land mine or was shot at. Yes, all the energy in the universe, and more, was there for me to eat in an all-you-can-eat buffet. But I had to regulate what I ate even more than when I was in my old body. The food was different but I still had to watch my intake carefully because it wasn’t safe for an inexperienced god to walk around earth cocked and locked for universal calamity.

The Ellins mansion was hidden behind polished black walls that would have looked at home on an embassy, the nouvelle mode ever since the International Terrorist Network first targeted the entertainment industry. Inside the gate I noticed that a huge expanse that could have been the front lawn was instead a carefully maintained rock garden. Otherwise, the mansion looked like it could have been used for exteriors of Tara during filming of Gone With The Wind.

I couldn’t help noticing the one car parked haphazardly in the driveway in front of the house. It was his McLaren F1 sports car, a racer equivalent in artistic value to a Stradivarius violin, which Ellins evidently drove out if he needed a pack of gum.

Ellins met me at the cavernous front door and invited me into his home with a warm two-handed shake.

The first thing I noticed about the interior of the house was that it looked as if a moving van was expected. The entrance hall led to a living room that was completely unfurnished: no furniture, nothing on the walls. The room next to that, looking as if it had been intended as a dining hall, was instead outfitted as a fitness center with stair climbers, stationery bikes, weight machines, rowers, and treadmills. There was also a bench with a set of free weights off to the side.

In person, Manchu Ellins projected the same good-natured self-confidence that had won him the People’s Choice award six-years-running. He had his trademark two-day beard and obviously used the fitness equipment; for a man pushing sixty he still had the lean muscle masses and smooth skin of a man half his age.

Almost without thinking, I automatically stripped away his temporal presence and started checking out his inner self, when he placed a hand on my arm, stopping me. He’d caught me out. “Now that’s not very polite,” he said, smiling. “How would you feel if the first thing I did was undress your soul?”

“Sorry, it’s gotten to be a habit,” I said, embarrassed.

“No sweat,” he said. “Would you like a drink, Your Excellency?”

I was a little taken aback. I knew God had named me his ambassador, but this was the first time I’d encountered anyone else who knew it and I’d certainly had no expectation of being addressed with formal protocol.

I tried to let it slide. “Sure.”

“Anything in particular?”

“Whatever you’re having,” I said.

“Come on, I’ve got just the thing.”

Instead of leading me to a bar, Ellins led me into a kitchen with an island in the center. It was completely covered with what looked to be vitamins, minerals, herbs, and food supplements. Again, there were no tables or chairs but it looked as if all the countertop appliances had arrived.

“How long have you had this house?” I asked, trying to sound casual.

“Oh, let’s see,” he said, a bit distracted. He was pulling various smoke-colored bottles out of the refrigerator and pouring from them into a drink mixer of the sort you’d find in an old fashioned soda fountain. “Seven, no, eight years. Lynnie and I moved in here right after her first miscarriage.”

“Lynnie” was his gorgeous wife, Caulinn Helms, lead singer of the grunge band Seminal Lunch, and the cause of my engineer’s adolescent attack of drool. “I’m sorry I asked,” I said. “I didn’t mean to bring up painful memories.”

“It’s not painful anymore. We’ve come to realize becoming parents was just a bad idea anyway.”

He ran the mixer a bit, pulled two huge frosted glasses from a compartment of his freezer, then filled them and handed me one. “Your health,” he said, clinking my glass with his.

“Yours too,” I said, and took a sip.

I don’t know what it was. I’ve tried hard to eliminate that memory. It had the texture of chalk, the taste of mold, and the smell of used socks.

“Ahhhhhhhhh!” he said, downing the whole glass in one gulp.

He saw my expression and laughed. “I guess it is an acquired taste,” he said. “Come on, I want you to meet my wife.”

He led me up a spiral staircase, taking the stairs two at a time, until we came to the master bedroom … or whatever you called a sleeping room that had no bed or any other furniture. Caulinn Helms was sitting with her legs splayed wide open on a weaved mat, reading a book titled The Myth of Gender. She was completely naked, and aside from the silky black hair on her head, she was completely shaved.

I immediately felt the utility of my not being naked.

“Darling,” Ellins said to his wife, “this is His Excellency Duj Pepperman, Ambassador from the Celestial Palace and Terrestrial Coordinator of the Party of God.”

Caulinn Helms stood up, came so close to me I could smell her sex, and took my hand. “I’m delighted to meet you, Ambassador,” she said in that low whiskey voice of hers. There was nothing shy about her; she immediately looked down to my crotch. “And I can see that you’re delighted to meet me, too,” she said.

I don’t think I have ever been so thoroughly aroused, embarrassed, and bewildered, all at the same time. If I’d been in private I would have called up a menu and turned off my libido for the duration of this visit, but I never got the chance.

Neither of them seemed to be aware of my discomfort. I concluded her household nudity was so commonplace that they didn’t even notice it anymore.

“Would you like a tour of the house before dinner?” she asked. She dropped her book on the floor, not worrying if she lost her page, and bounded down the spiral staircase, ahead of us.

“She’s really quite a piece of ass, isn’t she?” Ellins said to me, as we descended the staircase at a more stately pace. “There’s no mystery why every man on earth, and half the women, want to fuck her.”

All I could do was nod while steadying myself using the banister on the way down.


Yes, they’re real.

A complete discussion of her surgeries, her abortions, and how she had done away with the necessity for bowel movements by regular use of high colonics, was served along with dinner, but it was a party that I think even Lewis Carroll would have had a hard time imagining.

Dinner was served on the hardwood floor in the living room. Manchu and Caulinn each sat cross-legged in lotus, he in his basketball shorts and jersey, she still completely nude, with the food dishes set in front of us. My new body was limber enough to get into the position but it took some effort to avoid falling over.

I asked them about the lack of furniture in their house, now that I knew it was intended. “We don’t believe in furniture,” Caulinn explained. “The human body just wasn’t designed for it.”

It wasn’t just furniture that was missing from their house. An Olympic-sized swimming pool behind the house was drained. There wasn’t a video screen, radio, sound speakers, or musical instrument anywhere in the house. I saw no magazines, no sculptures, paintings, family photos, or other artistic installations, and neither was there any other sort of interior decoration.

I’d seen prison cells that were better furnished.

There were extensive built-in bookshelves but no books on them; in fact, the only other book I saw anywhere in the house was in the kitchen, a piece of light reading titled, A Guide to Marine Coastal Plankton and Marine Invertebrate Larvae.

Which brings us back to dinner. “We’re not vegetarians,” Manchu explained. “We simply believe in eating as low on the food chain as possible.”

I believe they had reached the bottom. Dinner that night was sushi made with reconstituted freeze-dried plankton and fresh frozen Antarctic krill.

During this feast, while Manchu Ellins lectured me on the indisputable scientific evidence proving that the dangerously expanding hole in the ozone layer was caused by second-hand tobacco smoke, Caulinn started gently caressing her nipples, arousing herself. That naturally brought the dinner discussion back to the topic of sex.

I tried to stay nonchalant about her erotic behavior. I was in their house, after all, with their customs, and this was not a public display.

“When Manny and I met,” Caulinn told me, “we were both bisexual and very active, but after we got married we decided that being gay just wasn’t enough. It just wasn’t the statement we wanted to make.”

“Well, I can easily understand that,” I said. “Both of you are at your physical peak with good looks and maximum appeal. It’s obvious that you love each other. I’m sure you realize that fantasies about your sex life together make you envied by millions.”

“Oh, we haven’t had sex in years,” Caulinn explained. “With each other or anybody else. We’ve both taken vows of chastity.”

I don’t think I allowed my jaw to drop.

“As for physical fitness,” Caulinn continued, “we don’t do it because we like it. Looking a certain way is just a necessity for keeping our box office revenues up.”

“Don’t you think it’s time we got down to business, dear?” Manchu Ellins said to his wife. “I’m sure the ambassador doesn’t want to listen to us talking shop all night.”

He turned to me. “I take it, Ambassador, that you haven’t yet selected a candidate to represent the Party of God in the upcoming election?”

I was still more than a bit distracted. Caulinn had dropped her hand between her legs and was massaging her vulva.

Manchu saw my expression. “Oh, don’t mind her,” he said. “Masturbation is the only sexual release we allow ourselves. We just do it whenever the urge strikes.”

“It’s very healthy,” Caulinn said. “And veeery relaxing. I can see you’re aroused. I won’t mind at all if you decide to masturbate with me.”

I knew that my engineer, Terry, would have given up a kidney for this opportunity, but I suddenly managed to put it all together, and pulled myself out of the tailspin I was in.

“No, Mr. Ellins,” I said. “I haven’t yet made that decision. I’ll send you formal notification before the filing deadline. Are you the gubernatorial candidate of the Anorexic Party, or will it be your wife?”

“I’ll be running,” said Ellins.

I could see that Caulinn Helms was getting close to orgasm. With some difficulty I rose to my feet.

Manchu Ellins’ attention wasn’t on me anymore; he was now rubbing his own genitals through his shorts. It was obvious that the business portion of the evening was already over.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” I said, not sure either of them was listening to me any more. “No, don’t bother getting up. I’ll let myself out.”

I walked outside to my Mercedes, drove out the gate, and was halfway back to Culver City when I felt like an idiot.


I’d forgotten to get their autographs.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XIV.

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 XII

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

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 12

If you think the first thing I did was get a colorful Spandex costume made so I could fly around looking like I was wearing underwear and a cape, forget it. While God had pretty much left me on my own to generate a strategy to win back the earth for him, I didn’t think looking like I was performing a circus act at a Las Vegas casino hotel was a good first step.

The job I had been given was to rally people already on our side and win supporters from the undecided and away from the opposition. I’d been hired by God as a publicist trying to sell a way of looking at things. If I’d started thinking of myself as some sort of savior, it wouldn’t have been about the mission anymore; it would have been about me.

Don’t get me wrong. I made careful calculations of exactly how much face time I could get on TV if I flew a couple of loop-de-loops in front of a Fox News camera crew, took a stroll on the surface of the Mississippi River with CNN taping, or pulled a real Superman stunt by rescuing people where even firemen thought it was impossible. But I didn’t want to have to spend all my time breaking out of the locked cells doing stunts like this would have put me in, after investigators dispatched by everything from the Pentagon to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided they needed to know what made me tick.

If my “super” powers were going to be of any use to me at all on this mission (and I wasn’t at all certain they were) my use of them was going to have to be discreet, selective, and subtle. This wasn’t a job for a superman so much as it was a job for a writer who could get published in a great metropolitan newspaper.

God had said a circle would form around me. But I didn’t know who they were and when they would show up. In the meantime, I was on my own.

One important decision I had already made. I was not going to throw my own hat into the ring as the gubernatorial candidate of the Party of God. I had played back God’s message to me several times and listened carefully to what he had told me. He had called me an ambassador and a campaign manager. He didn’t say anything about my being a candidate, myself.

It looked as if my first job was to find a candidate whose campaign I could manage and convince him or her to run.

I had no idea how much support I could expect from existing churches, synagogues, and mosques. They all said they were on God’s side but even if they really were, a proposition that didn’t seem at all certain to me, why would any of them give me the time of day? If I just told them the truth about my mission, why wouldn’t they consider me a heretic? If I performed a small miracle to convince them of my credentials, why wouldn’t they regard me as a demon sent to deceive them?

Then there were all those people out there who weren’t affiliated with any organized religion but who considered themselves “spiritual.” It looked to me like this was already a saturated market, with a popular medium channeling ghosts on TV, an author writing about his conversations with God (I wondered if God had served him as good a breakfast), people looking for secret messages in the Bible, and a guy who repeatedly got struck by lightning trying to explain how the universe worked to people who didn’t even know where their fuse box was.

No, if I was going to have to actively hunt for a candidate, I was going to have to find the right person the slow way, by looking into people’s hearts, one by one, and seeing what was there.

Moreover the decision might also depend on who the Anorexics were going to run for governor. It seemed completely unlikely to me that Lucifer intended to run for the office herself. With the tunnels out of service until the end of the Interregnum, she wouldn’t be able to campaign in person unless she’d moved headquarters to earth and was trapped here. With all three of the Trinity excluded from running, and Lucifer not in the race, it was likely that both parties were going to be running their candidate as a proxy.

At least I didn’t have to worry about third-party candidates and independents entering the race. Lucifer was worried enough about the Party of God. The full text of Satan’s treaty with God were in my briefing documents on my internal desktop, which included details of how the election was to be conducted. Lucifer had insisted, and God had conceded, that third-party candidates and independents wouldn’t be on the ballot.

Too bad. On election day I might have crossed over party lines myself and voted Libertarian.

I realized that the first thing I needed to do was scope out the opposition camp, see who they might be thinking about running, and find out just exactly what I was up against.

Meanwhile, I still had my day job — four hours a day, five days a week — as a radio talk show host. I might not yet have been certain just exactly how I was going to accomplish my mission but I was pretty sure of two things. The first was that my ability to speak weekdays to a large radio audience was an asset. The second was that if I started talking too much on the air about theology, I’d lose my audience, my Arbitron rating, and my show, in that order.

I really shouldn’t have worried so much. Things have a way of working out for themselves, when you’re on a mission from God.

I was back in the K-TALK studios only a few days when my engineer, Terry, told me during an off-air break that I had a personal call. “You’re not going to believe this,” he told me, “but it’s Manchu Ellins.”

“Are you sure?” I asked him.

“Unless we have someone who can play around inside Verizon,” Terry said. “That’s how the caller ID comes up and I don’t think it’s Seth MacFarlane doing the voice.”

I picked up the phone to see if the caller was indeed the legendary movie actor/director/producer whose last eight pictures had each grossed over three hundred million bucks. “Duj Pepperman,” I said.

“Manchu Ellins,” the voice said. It was him, all right. The voice, the speech mannerisms, were unmistakable. “I didn’t think you’d be surprised to be hearing from me. I thought you’d have been given some advance warning?”

“Look for a circle to form around you,” God had told me, but the first in the circle was one of the half dozen people in Hollywood whose “yes” to a project was an automatic green light?

I could see Terry still listening in from the booth. I give him the signal that this was a private call. He looked disappointed but hung up his extension.

“Yes, Mr. Ellins,” I said. “I didn’t know that it was going to be from you specifically but I have been expecting a call.”

“Good, that will save us some preliminaries,” he said. “Would you allow me to show you my hospitality by coming by my house for dinner? Or if you prefer,” he said with a little chuckle, “there are some nice clubs where I never seem to have a problem getting a good table.”

“Your house will be fine,” I said, trying to sound cool, when actually, there was a little kid inside of me jumping up and down. Meeting God was one thing, but this was a movie star.

“Do you have plans for this evening?” he asked.

“No other plans,” I said. “I’ve been keeping my calendar loose.”

“I’m at the house in Beverly Hills. I’ll have my assistant email you Yahoo! directions, unless you’d prefer that I send a limousine?”

“That’s very generous, but I like to drive,” I told him.

“Cocktails at eight-thirty, dinner at nine. Don’t bother dressing for dinner; I’ll be in shorts and a Lakers jersey,” he said, then hung up.

Wow! I thought. This whole world-saving business might not be as hard as I’d worried. Manchu Ellins. Guest on The Tonight Show with a simple phone call. Name recognition surpassed only by Mickey Mouse. Ruggedly handsome, Best Actor Oscar for playing a hero in the War Against Terrorism, so iconoclastic that he had fans both on the left and the right.

The perfect candidate.

Terry saw me hang up the phone and opened up the studio intercom.

“You’ll never believe whose house I’m having dinner at tonight,” I told him.

Terry, who was impossible to impress, looked impressed. “Who did you fuck that you rate the A list?” he asked.

“It’s not me, this is some business for our boss,” I told him.

“If his wife is going to be there,” Terry said, “I’m going to kill you and go in your place.”

“Been there, done that,” I said, grinning at him through the glass, and we barely made it back on the air in time after the traffic report was finished.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XIII.

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 XI

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

Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman

Part Two
Back to Earth

Chapter 11

I hate traffic jams.

I hate them especially when they’re caused by bureaucratic stupidity, like scheduling most Interstate repaving during the summer months when more people are driving cross-country. I know it’s because the tar they use can’t be poured in cold weather but can’t they get Dupont to whip up a better concrete?

I hate that highway engineers have never been allowed to implement a traffic flow system that doesn’t permit the failure of one or two vehicles to cripple the entire system during peak loads.

I especially hate the waiting caused by toll booths, which is the bureaucrat’s way of saying that their need for sucking a few extra bucks out of you is so important that they don’t care how much it ruins your day.

The endless lines of departing angels and humans flying to the tunnels out of Heaven reminded me of the I-10 Freeway east out of Los Angeles on the Friday before Labor Day weekend. If this was an example of how the new leadership was planning to run earth, it was all the more reason to vote against them. Luckily, almost all of the outbound traffic was taking the bypass to the Palace so once Sophia, Estella, and I flew past that exit, the traffic flow sped up considerably.

“Remember to keep your body mass on zero until you’re out of the tunnel,” Sophia warned me. “Getting stuck inside a black hole is no fun.”

“Unless you’re on a first date,” Estella corrected her.

Sophia and Estella both took positions in front of me, then it was our turn at the departure gate. Sophia jumped, then Estella, and I took up the rear.

I hate trying to follow somebody in traffic. I always lose them.

I took all of two extra seconds in turning myself massless so I could begin accelerating and an angel behind me passed and yelled, “Why don’t you learn how to fly?”

“Ah, go bless yourself!” I yelled back at him, and hit it, trying to catch up to my guides … but they were already gone.

Damn! I was about to pull over to the side to figure out what to do when another angel slowed down and paced me. “Lost?”

I nodded, embarrassed. “I was convoying but got left behind. Worse than that, nobody told me my exit.”

“Happens to the best of them,” he said. “Glide up into the autocontrol lane. The tunnel will read your flight plan and eject you at your destination automatically.”

“Thanks!” I said.

“No problem.” he said, and sped ahead.

It just goes to show. Don’t make any generalizations about angels.

I followed instructions and the autocontrol lane started accelerating me.

It was a quick return trip. The tunnel turned translucent, letting me know that I was about to exit, and I found myself in a glide path coming down over Los Angeles. I felt myself slowing down over Marina del Rey, and hovered for a moment over the roof of Jerry’s Famous Deli, before the tunnel took me through the roof, deposited me inside, floating above the tables, and shrunk to infinity, disappearing.

My mass was still set to zero so for all intents and purposes I was a ghost, invisible to the mortals below me. And, sitting at a table near the bar in Jerry’s Famous Deli, was one of those mortals, myself a few days earlier, biting into a tongue and Swiss cheese on rye.

Sophia and Estella had already taken seats at the table where I had originally seen them, when I was the guy at the table eating the sandwich.

At this moment in spacetime there were two of me. The guy sitting at the table, eating the sandwich, was in a mortal body and clueless of what was about to happen to him.

Then there was me, in a resurrected body, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.

I contemplated the grandfather paradox. What would happen if I killed the living Duj Pepperman right now? Would I still exist? Then I realized it wouldn’t make any difference. He was about to die in a few minutes anyway, the “victim” of a carjacking. If I killed him, the worst that would happen would be that he would enter the tunnel a few minutes early and nothing else would have changed.

Lucky for me, I didn’t have to test the paradox directly. Estella waved me over and I floated over to their table.

“You need to merge into him so he can see and hear us,” Estella told me. “Stay inside him until we hit the water then you’ll be free to take his place.”

“What about his drowned corpse?” I asked. “The police might find it and it could turn out to be embarrassing for me.”

“You never studied,” Sophia said disapprovingly.

“Look, I was busy—” I started to explain.

Estella pointed to a dessert list on the table. “What’s this?” she asked me.

“A dessert list?” I asked.

“Which is also called a…?”

“Menu?” I responded.

Suddenly, a grid of three-dimensional icons appeared in front of my face along with a virtual mouse. The layout had been copied from my personal computer at home.

“Why don’t you run the tutorial before bed tonight?” Sophia suggested.

I nodded sheepishly.

I floated back to the table where the other Duj was eating and merged myself into him.

At the moment that our spirit bodies came into alignment, Duj Pepperman remembered that he was God.


Sophia turned on the radio and tuned it to KLSX FM. The Beach Boys were singing “Good Vibrations.”

Both angels started singing along, “I’m pickin’ up good vibrations, she’s giving me excitations …”

Still singing, Sophia drove onto Admiralty Way. I started singing along with the angels, “Good, good, good, good vibrations!”

Sophia turned left on Via Marina, then onto a pier leading out to the harbor. Sophia accelerated the car while opening all four windows. The car leapt the pier and splashed. The Mercedes floated a few seconds then began sinking. Water began rushing in through the open windows.

Na na na na na … na na na!” sang Sophia, Estella, the Beach Boys, and me.

It was time for me to leave. I pulled myself out of my old body and floated up toward Sophia and Estella as the Mercedes with my old self in it began sinking quickly.

“I don’t like watching this part,” I told them. “I felt so scared, so alone.”

“Start counting,” Estella told me.

“One, two, three …”

Eight seconds elapsed between my separation from my old body and the moment that Duj cried out “God, where did you go? Why did you leave me?”

Only another six seconds passed before my last words and my last breath.

I’d made the terror last longer than it needed to by holding my breath. At the instant that the rush of cold water hit my lungs, Sophia pulled the old me out of my body and guided him upward while Estella opened a tunnel. All three of us stayed behind his peripheral vision so he wasn’t aware of any of us.

I heard him worrying about what would happen to Felony if he died now so I floated over behind him and touched his forehead for a moment to calm him. It worked and he allowed himself to float up to the tunnel and directly into the autocontrol lane.

“Fifty-eight, fifty-nine,” I counted.

My old self was gone in sixty seconds.

Estella held the tunnel open for a fast getaway.

“Now if you had studied,” Sophia told me, “you would have been able to do this yourself already.”

She extended her hand and an air bubble formed around the Mercedes, lifting it out of the water; but more than anything else, it looked like a video being run backwards. The Mercedes leapt back out of the water until it was sitting, dry and undamaged, on the pier. There was nobody in it and no body in it. The engine was still running.

“See you soon,” Estella said to me. Each of them gave me the sort of kiss that made sure I could never forget them.

“Soon for you or soon for me?” I asked her.

“Is there any difference?” she answered, then Sophia and Estella flew up into the tunnel and it once again disappeared.

I was floating above the Marina, alone.

“Menu,” I said, and the display appeared in front of me. I clicked on “My Body” and a mass scale came up. I slowly turned up the mass on my body until I floated slowly down to the pier, and stood there until the scale read “100% Earth normal.”

I climbed into the driver’s seat of my Mercedes, adjusted the seat and mirrors, backed off the pier, and drove home to resume my life as if I’d never died.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter XII.

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