Caption: Heaven, the Tree of Life, southwestern climb route, just below the halfway point. Friday 9 May 1980. 4:45am GST.
<Thick foliage below sways in a cool breeze, revealing glimpses of the cities of Heaven far beneath and of the branching, spiraling paths that connect them. The breeze carries on it just the barest hint of the never-ending songs of praise. Above, the foliage begins to thin, and the perpetual, gentle "sun"-light of Heaven shines through breaks in the leaves in ever-changing patterns of light and shadow. A hand reaches up through the leaves below, searches for purchase, finds it, and Joseph pulls himself up onto the wide branch. He is a departed Soul, in his mid-forties at the time of his death. Kneeling, he reaches back into the leaves and helps his wife Lyn, a Soul called home in her early thirties, climb up beside him. They in turn help Paquel and Modiel, their wings tied down with golden threads, climb up onto the branch.>:
Modiel: Well, <Glancing around.>: I'm not certain, but I believe we've reached the halfway point.
Lyn: So now we just wait here until one of the Gardener Angels shows up?
Modiel: Yes, that's the way it works.
Lyn: More meditation and prayer?
Modiel: Only a little, not like before we started up.
Joseph: Well, I, for one, am certainly ready for a little breather.
Lyn: <Smiling brightly.>: You do know that one of the advantages of being "dearly departed" is that you don't have asthma any more?
Joseph: You know that, and I know that. It's my lungs that haven't quite gotten with the program yet.
<Lyn takes Joseph's hand. He pulls her into his arms and they kiss gently, then more passionately. Paquel clears his throat and then steps closer as their lips part.>:
Paquel: Actually, echoes of physical infirmities are not uncommon for Galials.
Lyn: We've heard several angels use that term around us. Just what is a Galial?
Paquel: Didn't they explain this to you when you were processed?
Joseph: Almost nothing was explained to us. The bridge collapsed. Our car dropped eight hundred or so feet. We were obviously dead. But beyond that... there seemed to be a lot of confusion when we got to... Klinael?
Lyn: Yes. Not exactly what I expected my first moments in the afterlife to be like.
Modiel: You died on April seventeenth, didn't you?
Lyn: How did you know?
<Paquel and Modiel exchange a meaningful glance.>:
Paquel: There's a computer here in Heaven, the Soul Routing System, that automatically send most Souls to their reward or punishment, leaving the angels in Davide'el free to concentrate on those Souls whose lives were a near-perfect balance of good and evil. On the seventeenth, it had... an issue.
Joseph: An "issue"?
Modiel: It crashed. Many Souls were cast adrift in the Midlands and had to be retrieved manually and processed the old-fashioned way.
Joseph: You're not running MacroWare Doors are you? Cause it's a piece of crap.
Paquel: <Laughing.>: No. We have our own programming staff.
Joseph: I'd like to hear more about this crash.
Lyn: So would I, but first; Galial?
Modiel: Between the SRS and the manual processing in Klinael, Souls are sorted into three categories: Mortien, Souls bound for eternal damnation in Hell; Bobubiel, true unbelievers who will wander limbo forever; and Aurael, those who will be cleansed of their sins and granted their eternal reward in Heaven. Over three hundred trillion Aurael live in Heaven now. A very, very small percentage of the Aurael are known as Galials.
Lyn: OK, so, we're unusual.
Modiel: More than unusual. There are more than fifty thousand Earths, yet decades may pass without a single Galial appearing.
Lyn: But WHAT are we?
Modiel: The vast majority of Souls, especially Aurael, arrive at Klinael, the processing center in Davide'el, with a sense of calm, whether bound for reward, punishment, of the near-oblivion of Limbo. They are generally accepting of their fate. Galial, on the other hand, though bound for Heaven, are very restless and inquisitive, questioning everything and everyone around them. They, YOU, are still able to experience the full range of human emotion, though the more peaceful, joyful emotions are more common, stronger, and longer lasting. You are also able to freely travel between Heaven, Davide'el, and Eden. And for reasons that HE has not chosen to share with the angels, Galials are admitted directly to Heaven without being purged of their sins in Sarothe'el, nor spending time in meditation and prayer in Sille'el. Some have theorized that the occasional chaos caused by the Galials is necessary for the health and growth of Heaven.
Lyn: So we're part of HIS plan?
Modiel: More so than the average Aurael, I would guess.
Joseph: But even in Heaven, we still don't get the answer to the question, why are we here? That's just fantastic.
<The other laugh at Joseph's sarcasm.>:
Caption: Heaven, City of HIM, antechamber to the Hall of Anointing. Friday 9 May 1980. 9:17am GST.
<Four angels wait in the antechamber. The room, like Heaven itself, is heptagonal. Its walls, floor, and vaulted ceiling are carved from pink marble slabs shot through with veins of silver glinting in the light of hundreds of candles. Three of the walls feature immense hardwood and iron-bound doors. One leads outside. The other two, nearly opposite, lead further into the Hall of Anointing. At the top of each wall, just as the marble curves into the ceiling, are shelves of pure white stone with delicate jade inlays. Two are empty, as they have been ever since the Fall. The third features a jeweled and precious metal statue of the Archangel Barachiel who died defending Eden at the Battle of Vondarael. The others hold similar statues of the four living, unfallen, Archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Phanuel. The four walls not dominated by doors are lined with long wide benches. On one of these sits the four angels: the Seraphim Saphrael, dressed in a silken white robe with red piping; the Powers Jeremiel and Zate'el; and Archangel Gabriel. Quietly at first, then rising in volume, from behind the interior doors, a chorus of angels begins to sing, their voices ranging from crisp high sopranos to ground-shaking baritones. Saphrael recognizes the voices and jumps to her feet, tears welling in her eyes.>:
Saphrael: Oh, Jeremiel, thank you!
Jeremiel: You deserve a proper send-off. There's over two hundred and fifty of the best of the Second Choir. And I had ten times that many volunteers.
Saphrael: This is so wonderful, but I really don't deserve this.
Jeremiel: You were a part of the Second Choir from the very day that HE and Gabriel put me in charge of rebuilding it. You becoming a programmer, a member of this Task Force, and very shortly, becoming human changes nothing. You will always be a member of my choir and I will mark the days until your sweet voice is again part of it.
Saphrael: Thank you, Jeremiel. And thank you, Zate'el, for being here. I know how incredibly busy you are.
Zate'el: I would not miss this. Davide'el can run itself for a while. And everyone's so busy working on the April-Seventeenthers on top of the normal workload, I doubt they'll even know I was gone.
Saphrael: I know not everyone agrees with my decision to do this, but I truly believe in what I'm trying to accomplish here. I just can't help but wish though that we'd been able to prevent it.
Zate'el: You have nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. Mikvael told me that you were the one who realized that the library files had stayed locked through the reboot and also figured out how to unlock them. The SRS would've been down for a hour or more without you.
Saphrael: I'm sure you would have done just fine without me.
Zate'el: Nonsense. When this business is done, and you're back home safely with us, if Jeremiel here doesn't steal you back, I'm making you Head Programmer.
Saphrael: No, no, no. I'm not that good.
Zate'el: You're more than that good. Now just finish this, and come back.
<The first song ends and a second begins.>:
Saphrael: "God's Light Leads Where Angels Fear to Tread." Nice choice.
Jeremiel: I thought you'd appreciate it.
<One of the interior doors opens. A Throne, dressed in a sparkling white robe so bright that it appears to be made of light, holds the door open.>:
Saphrael: <Surprised.>: Daelotial!
Daelotial: You were expecting someone else?
Saphrael: I thought Raphael forbade anyone on the Task Force from participating in any part of my transformation.
Daelotial: He did. I'd have made a lousy human. I have a real problem with "Thou Shall Not." And besides, this could be the biggest fool's errand in the history of All Creation. I wouldn't miss it for anything.
Saphrael: And Raphael?
Daelotial: Thrones, even those of us on Task Forces, operate outside the normal hierarchy. How do you think Modiel and I got away with taking you to Gabe here in the first place.
Gabriel: <Under his breath.>: Gabriel.
Saphrael: He's going to be furious--
Daelotial, interrupting, dryly: Yes, real wrath of God stuff.
Saphrael: --but thank you. <She hugs Daelotial and turns to the others.>: Thank you all.
Daelotial: OK, let's not get all sappy.
Saphrael: You've never been sappy in your life.
Daelotial: Yes, and I'd hate to break my perfect record now. Let's get you annointed. Then Pentas Greenribbon and the Fifth Vaertons and I will escort you to Vondarael.
<Saphrael holds her head up high and strides through the door. The others follow solemnly and the massive door swings shut silently behind them.>:
Caption: Heaven, northwest of the City of Zate'el. Friday 9 May 1980. 11:42pm GST.
<Two Ophanin stand on a hilltop that overlooks both the shimmering city and the flame-lit gates that separate Heaven and Davide'el. Behind them, the gently rolling hill with its spring-green grass and rainbow of flowers gives way to a monstrous piece of equipment, all sharp corners and dull metal and bank upon bank of indicator lights in a variety of colors, all currently unlit.>:
River Arcadia: We could wait until tomorrow.
Aquae'el: It practically IS tomorrow. And we were supposed to be done with this thing yesterday.
River Arcadia: Maybe we should test--
Aquae'el, interrupting: We've tested everything! Thrice! It will work.
River Arcadia: That's what I'm afraid of. That we'll actually figure out why it crashed and that someone will actually be to blame. The closer we get to turning it on, the worse the sick feeling in my stomach gets.
Aquae'el: We need to know. You didn't get me pulled out of the Archives just to build this thing and then let it sit.
River Arcadia: I know. You're right. Let's start it up.
<They turn to the machine. Above the banks of darkened lights, a hand-lettered bit of parchment reads: Soul Routing System Simulator, Mark I. They prepare the machine, adjusting knobs, pushing buttons, flipping switches, and checking gauges. Satisfied that all the settings are correct, they step to opposite ends of the huge front panel, each stopping in front of gigantic levers. Grasping them, they look at each other.>:
Aquae'el: On three. One. Two. Three.
<The throw the giant levers. The machine begins to hum. The hum grows until they can feel it through their feet.>:
River Arcadia: Now we wait.
© Copyright 2001-2009 Michael J. Ahlers. All Rights Reserved.
and © Copyright 1980-2009 Michael J. Ahlers. All Rights Reserved.