“Name? Age? Nationality?”
“Frank Fischer. 54 years old. Germany.”
“Cause of death?”
“I … uh, well, heart attack.”
“Here.” The Welcoming Angel hands him a name card with a safety pin and Frank tries to pin it on his jacket.
“Is this going to last much longer?” booms a low voice behind him.
He steps aside unimpressed. “I’m already done.”
“It’s about time, too! I’ve been waiting here since … Hey! Why in hell’s name does my watch not have any hands on it anymore?”
“Gentlemen!” The Welcoming Angel is displeased. “You do not need your watches anymore. And another thing …” He looks at the man with the disappearing watch hands. “Cursing is not desired here. If it is important for you to do so, then you may freely decide in advance to proceed directly to the lower level.
The man without hands freezes.
“And what happens to me now?” asks Frank.
“You may look around until you are called.”
Frank nods to the angel and decides to take a walk through the clouds. Here, everything is light, soft and friendly. He hears soft music, violins and harps.
An angel waves him over. He vaguely reminds Frank of someone. Hesitantly he walks over to the angel.”
“Hi. Do we know each other?”
“You bet we do.” The angel looks at him probingly. “You don’t remember, do you?”
“Frank rummages through his memory without success. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I can’t place you.”
“Summer of 1977, camping vacation on East Lake?”
Frank looks at him still without a clue and the angel sighs. “The night when the snack bar burned down. Does that ring a bell?”
Frank’s eyes widen. His face turns scarlet red, “Tim?”
“Excuse me! Of course, Tom.”
“How about I give you a little tour around?”
Frank shrugged his shoulders, “Why not –“
They start walking.
“We have different areas. This one here is the largest.” Tom points to the right where stock market and news updates are being shown and computers stand ready for use. Everyone here seems restless. Eyes flutter nervously. Fingers are flying across keyboards, smartphones and tablets.
Frank is amazed. “Don’t tell me that there is still virtual contact with the Earth.” The thought actually appeals to him.
Tom laughs. “No, that would be asking too much. It is a kind of placebo. But it does help Newbies to accustom themselves; that’s why we installed it a little while ago.”
They move on. Every now and then an announcement is heard, like at a train station only nicer.
“Why did you never call?” asked Tom quietly. “I really suffered, do you know that? I thought that there was something really special between us.”
Frank coughs. “It was special.”
“Nonsense. You didn’t even remember my name.”
“I’m sorry, but after that vacation I started my studies,” he explained. “From then on I have done practically nothing else but work.”
“Yes, you were very successful, I know. I googled you once. So, here is the next area.”
It looks like a huge living room with couches and chairs out of scrunched white clouds. There are green plants, games and only a few television sets on which were playing reruns of Dallas and the like. The residents seem satisfied and relaxed.
“Here are all the people who worked hard their whole lives, but have no clue about computers. The generation of our parents and grandparents. New ones come only rarely.”
“Have you … been here long?”
“A while, yes. A Porsche took me out.” Tom leads him around a corner. “Didn’t you have one?”
Frank remained silent.
Proudly Tom shows him the next area. Here, humans and animals are living peacefully side by side, regardless if they are a lion, dog, crow or bear. All seem happy and fully relaxed. There is absolutely no electronic entertainment; instead it is full of nature. In addition there is music and dancing. And happy laughter.
“Here it’s really beautiful though!” Frank is amazed. “Why is this the smallest area?”
Before Tom can answer, a melodic voice announces, “Frank Fischer, please come to Counter 2.”
Frank’s smile freezes. “Oh no, that’s me. “ Insecure, he looks around.
“Counter 2 is over there. We’ll see each other later.”
“Wait! What kind of elevator is that next to the counter?”
Tom smiles mysteriously. “Only very special people get to use that. Let’s hope that you don’t belong to them.” A moment later he is gone.
Confused, Frank blinks, and then sees the lift again. In front stands a large man with a look of panic on his face. Frank’s eyes narrow; that is none other than Karl Abel, the broker! From him he received that tip earlier about the account.
A female angel holds Karl’s powerful arms and presses a button. The door opens. Abel tries to break free and shouts, “No, I don’t want to! Let me go you piece of shi-!”
Without any apparent effort, the angel slides the stubborn man into the lift and pushes a red button. The door closes and a piercing, spooky scream fills the air. Frank feels goose bumps rising on his arms. He does not feel well at all as he turns to Counter 2.
Behind it, the angel is bent over a list; Frank tries to peek, but cannot make out anything. What does it say about him? And what did Abel do to make him take the elevator?
A cool voice interrupts his thoughts, “These are your statistics, Mr Fischer. It reads: 17 broken hearts, 56,243 lies, 378,000 Euro of unpaid taxes and 13 enemies.”
The angel raises an eyebrow. “Some of them were at the funeral to make sure that you were indeed dead.”
“That’s very nice of you to tell me that,” Frank smiles forcedly and glances over to the elevator which seemed to beckon him over knowingly, as though saying, “I’m waiting for you …”
His collar is much too tight. He can hardly breathe.
Suddenly, Tom is beside him and Frank jumps. Where did he come from so quickly?
“And?” Tom wants to know from his colleague. “Which department?”
The angel gives him a slip of paper which Tom looks at. “That’s what I thought,” he says and takes Frank’s arm.
Frank feels hot, very hot. He tears at his tie knot and gasps.
Tom guides him in the direction of the elevator. He feels sick. Can a dead person feel sick? Can his heart begin to pound? That’s impossible! Damn that Swiss bank account!
The elevator. He doesn’t want to go in! Imploringly he looks at Tom. He doesn’t regard him at all and walks expressionlessly and slowly along, passing the lift.
Frank’s legs threaten to give out from relief. He is not going to hell!
As they pass the large computer area, a thought occurs to him.
“You didn’t answer my question earlier. Why is the most beautiful area here also the smallest?”
Tom points to the room in which the people stare on screens rather than communicating with each other.
“You can google it here. Simply type in Himmelpedia.god/Paradies. Be well, Frank.”
Translated from German by Shan Wardell