The spiritual misadventures of an erstwhile traveler examined retrospectively.
|Our hero, Christian Roy looked up in the sky on the worst day of his life, and due to injuries received, he expected it to be his last, other than that it was a fine day, a clear sky bathed with a warm sun. What he saw, caused him to utter a string of filth laced profanities of monumental proportions that ended with the pronoun, B-52! Up until that point he wondered how it is going to end, then relieved it is ending, he quickly decided to do what any reasonable human being would do. He shuffled off the coil of heroic stoicism and ran away. Naturally he didn’t get far with the assumed and mostly literary sprinting; There came a big bang instantly followed by a black void and the sensation of falling.
He then fell onto a stepping-stone floor inside a hallway, with a wooden bench shoved against a quarried stone wall. He picked himself up, coughed up a bellowing plume of smoke and looked around. There is a door at either end of the hallway, with two fiery torches decorating the opposing sides of the frame. The first impression is he had a choice, a good door and a bad door, a gateway to heaven or to hell. Upon further consideration, he concluded it didn’t matter since both ways, are seemingly identical and then he realized another thing. Being dead, it wasn’t getting any worse so just take a door. When he opened the door straight before him, there she is.
At first glance she seemed taller than she’d eventually turn out to be.
“Advance warrior! I the Goddess Hel, ruler of Hel, in the Realm of Nifilheim as held in the Nine Worlds commands you to advance and identify yourself! Whereas you’ll suffer or be rewarded according to my judgement!” the woman wearing a black gown and antlers on her head bellowed commandingly.
“Acting Captain, Spec.4/E4p Roy, Christian, Third Infantry Division is I!” our hero shouted confidently as he strutted across the floor. He stopped before her looked her over, and then figured what the hell, Hel. He grabbed her by the shoulders, kissed her as he had never kissed anyone before and slapped her arse.
Whereas there on, she grabs him by his masculinity, twists, while displaying serious moral offense by announcing loudly, “I’m not that kind of girl! You cad!”
“Thank you for saving me from fatherhood,” Chris wheezed as she let go and he regained his breath while falling to the floor.
“Why’d you do that? I’ve seen greater warriors than thou tremble before me in abject fear and terror!” she demanded looking him over intently.
“Well,” Christian answered as his intestines descended into their rightful place as he carefully stood up. “If they were better than me, they wouldn’t tremble before you…Besides I’m dead. What are you going to do? Kill me a second time?”
Before she could answer, a dog began barking in the background. As she turned around and shot another door a hard look, Chris took the time to look around the large hall. There were two wooden arched doors again, with wall torches to either side set in one wall. Between the doors, and before a tapestry is a table with a bowl of bread and apples on it. Another table by the door he walked through contained a plate and a knife on top of an embroidered tablecloth, and more tapestries decorating every wall. The ceiling by the way, is vaulted with an iron ringed candle-lit chandelier.
“Garm! Shut your pie hole!” Hel shrilly yelled toward the right door.
“You have a dog?” Christian commented.
“Yeah…I’m lonely and needed companionship. When I’m not judging the quick and the dead, we play fetch in the hall,” she answered.
“Garm! Don’t make me come over there!”
Her dog continued to bark.
“Excuse me,” she then told Chris while turning around, summoning a polite smile. She hiked up her gown and took a small jump off the podium and quickly trotted toward the door. Chris watched her walk over, and then at the podium, then back at her.
“Her antlers are bigger than she is…” he nonchalantly noted and guessed the circular podium she stood on is about sixteen inches tall.
As for her, she flung open the door, grabbed Garm, who is the size of a black bear by the collar. She picked him up by the collar, his front paws a few inches off the floor scolding him. She then said, ‘Oh okay,’ calmed him down to the point where he wasn’t aggressive, then threw a stick that came from the table, somehow, across the room. The three-hundred-pound mass of fur fetched it then ran back into his room, which Christian observed to be filled with sticks, tree limbs and a mass of blankets. She then hiked her gown up and trotted back to him, but not before eating an apple off the table.
“You’re not really supposed to be here yet,” she smiled.
Before she could go on, there came a knocking to the door, then another warrior stepped into the chamber. He resembled the stereotypical Viking. He looked at Hel, scanned Christian, screamed and ran down to the other door. Once there, he opened it, and saw the same thing. From Christian’s perspective a mirror image. He slammed the second door shut, still screaming, returned in shock, looked around and ran back, closing the first door behind.
“That’s my one o’clock,” Hel uninterestingly noted. “I’ll let him run around in the hall for a few centuries…That’ll cool his heels.”
“Okay…” Chris whispered as the totality of events began to solidify into a tangible experience.
“Let’s get on with it,” Hel then announced. “Okay you passed the first examination and I find you courageous. Let’s go for the second examination…”
She then morphed into a half-decayed corpse, her right side, with the left half being a beautiful blonde. She assumed the emotional disposition of a battered housewife in search of sympathy. Chris is torn between wanting to puke at the decaying corpse and compassion for the wounded girl. To add to the discordant imagery, from nowhere, music wafted through the air of a sentimental nature. The sappiness of the melody, her clinging to his frame tore into him. After enduring her spiel, he held her in his arms gently swaying explaining it would take him awhile to get over the maggot dripping carcass part of her. After a minute she melted back into her original visage.
“You can put me down now,” Hel commanded.
He did, then watched her antlers grow back.
“Not bad…You still have a bad heart though. You overcame that well; I’ll give you six maybe seven out of ten. Below average, but passing, a little bit of work is needed though,” she observed and the took him by the nose and shuffled to the plate. She pointed to the plate and knife. “Behold the knife of despair and the plate of hunger…”
He looked at the plate and realized three things, that A). His grandmother was right about the afterlife in principle and B). She failed to mention that Monty Python was one of the screenwriters. C). He’s screwed, blued and tattooed. At this point he looked at Hel, who looked hungrier and hungrier as he felt the same. He knew it was a test and became more concerned with passing than being honest and he played himself. He surrendered.
“Now to the Wheel of Destiny,” the goddess chirped leaving Chris staring at the plate of hunger and knife of despair. She hiked her gown up, trotted back to the podium where a large, several feet in diameter wooden carnival wheel stood. “Let’s see what the wheel says, Bob!”
She reached as high as she could, grabbed a peg, and for lack of better language skills, threw some ass into it. Chris stood there and watched a swirling blur of numbers clack by as she struck of pose. Eventually the wheel slowed to a stop, the arrow pointing where he knew it end.
“Zero! You have zero charity!” Hel shouted. She then pointed off to her left, shouting, “What does the judges say?”
Looking over to his right, he wasn’t surprised to see twelve haggard and disheveled Viking types standing there with placards in their grubby hands. One by one they flipped up the boards to reveal numbers less than one, in fractional notation. Hel then dismissed them.
“Any of this surprise you?” she then asked Roy.
“No not really,” Chris answered honestly. “Except for the carnival wheel bit…That’s a bit off.”
“Well, I figured I’d leave you laughing,” she shrugged. “Now for the good part…Sort of.”
“You’re not throwing me in the dungeon of the damned until time ends?”
“No, I’m putting you back. You’re not supposed to be here yet,” she shrugged. “Listen you got some work to do on the charity bit. No matter how bad it gets, I’ll never leave you and I’ll always be waiting for you. Period.”
It seemed she wanted to say more, however the entrance door in knocked off its hinges and slams to the floor. Chris turned around to see a midget wearing leather straps carrying a scroll in his hands followed by two giants. They carried clubs and wore helmets.
“The Lady says to release this miscreant back to the temporal!” the midget shrilly yelled as he thrust the scroll into Hel’s face.
“I’ll have you know I already know that!” Hel yelled back. She snatched the scroll and hissed, “You mini-misanthropic mutant! He’s not a miscreant he’s cute!”
“Oh shit,” Chris wheezed.
The giants glanced at each other knowingly while giggling.
“Don’t let that go to your head,” the midget sneered while looking at Chris. “She’s says that about everybody. Now get a step on it you’re going!”
He followed them out into the hallway, to another door that wasn’t there before. He turned around and looked back into the hall he came from, observing yet another warrior being judged. The other is prostate before Hel, groveling.
“Go!” the midget then ordered pointing toward the now open door.
A door that opened into the stratosphere.
“What?” Chris chirped, afraid of heights and falling. Which in retrospect seemed weird, even for him, considering he as far as he knew, is already dead.
“I hate newbies…” the midget barked then pushed Chris through the door into nothing.
The next thing he knew is a face full of wet grass. He fell like something the cat dragged in and the maid refused to sweep out. He stood up, unbalanced and looked at the ground. The grass underneath him was wet, green and fresh. What wasn’t underneath him, is burnt to a white ash, a few inches beyond that, burned to a mass of entangle black strands and beyond that, everything else is on fire. He couldn’t believe it; everything is burning around him, including the soles of his boots.
Three days later he laid in the ICU at Wiesbaden wondering what happened. They’d told him he’d keep his leg, and with therapy he’d be able to walk again, they placed a plastic splint on the left side of his face to prevent Bell’s Palsy from causing a permanent droop. They told him he was lucky to be alive, though he doubted that. The ward itself could hold fifty, though he is the only casualty there. He was entertaining himself by wiggling the toes on his right foot when two visitors arrived. It took him a minute to recognize them.
“Do you know who we are?” Karren asked cautiously.
“You’re my cousin Karren…” Chris whispered and then nodded to the other. “You’re my cousin Kristen…”
“Do you know what happened?” Kristen chirped.
“Got hit by a B-52…I think the pilot was drunk,” Chris answered trying to be funny and failing miserably.
“Why’d you do it?” Karren then asked bluntly.
Now that’s the question, he thought. Any normal person would’ve run off. He had every reason to believe before he was hit by the B-52 his then injuries should’ve killed him. He knew he shouldn’t be laying there a bed with another big question hanging over his head; Why are you still alive? When they left with his truthful bullshit answer he thought back to what Hel said about charity. The issue, the onus of charity. He told them he did it for them. His cousins, were behind him, he knew he was injured bad enough before the B-52 came that the next morning wasn’t for him. He took Patton’s advice; If you know you’re going to die, die a hero. Was that charity?
Naturally the years went by and our hero became a civilian, worked a few jobs, got married, got widowed, got married again, had children, divorced and got grandchildren. Had houses and apartments and cars and a retirement plan. However, from time to time he wondered exactly about charity. After many years of rumination, it occurred to him. She was talking about how he treated himself over the course of his natural life span, not at that moment excised from time and space.