A memory from the pre-life (not a tax story)
Everything was quiet. Just ahead of me, angels were handing out forms to throngs of people as they filtered onto the cloud top.
On my lap was a carefully-typed paper, slightly luminous, with a list of questions:
Have you been good in this lifetime?
(rate yourself out of 10)
How many addictions or temptations were you able (with difficulty) to overcome in the course of your life?
Have you forgiven yourself for that really big mistake you made, and all the other ones too?
- Not at all
- Working on it
- I don’t know what you’re talking about
How kind have you been — to yourself and others?
(rate yourself out of 100)
Finally, where should we put you?
My pen hovered over the page. “Isn’t someone else supposed to do this?” I thought. But the thought floated uselessly in space, unable to connect with any other part of my brain. I filled in the paper, stood up, and waited in line behind a row of other souls to hand it in. I was pleased with my answers — although nervous to find out if I’d got them right. Especially the bit about Heaven.
We inched forward, one by one, until I found myself bathed in an opal light.
The angel, on whose features I could not focus without squinting, took my paper and gently confiscated my pencil. He thanked me, screwed up the paper and tossed it in a garbage can next to his desk. “Where would you like to go?” he asked.
“What about my paper?” I said. “Aren’t you going to tell me how I’ve done?”
“Heaven? Hell? Earth? Purgatory?” the angel prompted.
I tried to make the word Heaven with my mouth, but it wouldn’t come out. Suddenly my words were living things, with a will of their own. The angel waited. I was aware of a million other souls behind me.
“I think Earth,” I said. “Realistically.”
“Great,” said the angel. “Down you go.”
He waved me towards the back, where another angel instructed me to lie down on a mattress. Then I slid backwards through a dark void.
I don’t remember anything else.
Laurence Shorter is author of The Optimist: One Man’s Search for the Brighter Side of Life (2009) and The Lazy Guru’s Guide to Life.