“Let us pray,” said the Preacher.
“Amen,” shouted everybody in the known universe.
“Children of God,” he continued, “only the righteous shall be chosen by Him, to do His Great Work in the Other World.”
“Only he or she who is clean in mind and body and spirit shall be chosen by Him, to do His Great Work in the Other World.”
“His Divine Hand shall pluck only those whose spiritual path has led to great righteousness. He will only deem worthy the good sheep from the flock. So, the time a-comes when every human being in the face of the known universe must ask themselves: am I a-ready for the plucking? Can I get a hallelujah?”
The great lid of the known universe was lifted then, exposing the dark world beyond. The inhabitants of the known universe were whipped into a zealous frenzy, running on their treadmills, pacing, collapsing, speaking in tongues.
The Preacher fell to his knees, kissing rosary beads, whispering, eyes closed, clutching a hand-written bible. He could barely hear himself shouting over the din, “take me, oh Lord, take me.”
The mighty Hand of God reached into the known universe from out of the blackness and scooped up a particularly righteous soul whose eyes streamed tears of joy for being chosen and tears of pity for everyone who wasn’t.
In a moment, the parishioner and the Hand of God, were gone, and the lid was put back on the known universe.
The Preacher also wept, tears of self-pity.
“Won’t you join us for feeding time, Minister,” asked Tippy, one of the Preacher’s favored disciples.
“No,” the Preacher said, “I’d like to do a little bible study today. I’ll feed later.”
Tippy bowed respectfully, but with unreserved disappointment.
“May the Hand of God bless you, child,” the Preacher said, and escaped into the quiet of his personal corner of the known universe.
Two weeks had gone by, and in that time the Preacher seethed internally. His mind burned and his soul became wintry. The Preacher was unquestionably a most pious man, the most pious of men, in fact, in the known universe. Yet, he had not been chosen.
He was older than most and had written the bible, by hand, spread the Good Word, and still he was ignored. He had always gotten by on the belief that he was spared because he was needed to do God’s Good Work, spreading the Message, preparing the souls of his parishioners as the mortician prepares the body for interment. But now he questioned his beliefs.
He was jealous. Secretly, he was beginning to hate the Chosen for the less than convincing ways in which they showed their faith, and for their role in his personal torment.
The Hand of God would descend from the heavens the very next day, so the Preacher made a vow:
“If I am not chosen tomorrow, I renounce my faith.”
Feverish rapture and glossolalia gripped the inhabitants of the known universe, everybody running pointlessly around the inner courtyard, falling over, hands raised to the sky. The Preacher tried something new.
He had always fell reverently to his knees, when the Hand of God appeared. This time, he would allow the joy of exultation to flow rapidly through him, starting in his toes and overflowing from his reaching fingers. He had nothing to lose this time. He stood in the center of the courtyard and raised his arms up to the sky, believed like he never believed before that his faith was a magnet. His heart swelled, the tears streamed down his face, his legs worked, jogging knee-high steps in place, he twirled around and cried out, really letting go. Certainly, the most pious man in the known universe was never more pious at any time than he was now.
The Hand of God reached down and gently scooped him up and raised him up, up toward the dark mysteries of the heavens, the unknown universe beyond.
He waved goodbye and called out to those below as was raised up, weeping uncontrollably, blowing respectful kisses.
“Thank God. Thank God, thank God.”
The Hand of God placed him inside another world, another universe, not dissimilar to his own.
It was the same size roughly, but mostly barren and rocky, with no treadmills or living quarters. Just different kinds of rocks, large gray ones, and small red ones.
He wandered about for a frenzied moment, wiping tears away, thinking. Another world, he thought, this must be the afterlife. Perhaps it’s a world all for me, to sit and ponder the mysteries of life and God for eternity. Or maybe it’s heaven’s waiting room. I must wait, while God looks into my soul and does a righteousness inventory.
He smiled, and sat down on the rocks, calmly.
The red rocky floor shuffled around one of large gray rocks. He sat up, and went to investigate. This must be it, he thought, God’s messengers come to take me to heaven.
He felt the tears of joy well up in his eyes again. He got half way over to the rock and stopped dead in his tracks.
“Oh no,” he heard himself say. “Oh dear God, no. It can‘t be. I have been forsaken!”
From behind the large gray rock, a gigantic creature, not found in the known universe, slithered hungrily toward him.
ONE MORE SMOKE FOR THE ROAD
9 years ago