“Next!” The man in the white suit announced behind the desk without looking up.
Nolan looked at the long line of people behind him. Different races, ages, fashion… hygiene. It looked like the crowd at the last Kiss concert. Nolan wasn’t sure how long he’d been standing here. There was no clock or windows so he couldn’t even tell if it was day or night. Funny thing, though, he wasn’t bored. He’d been content waiting as he pondered how he came to be in this line in the first place.
As Nolan looked around, he was impressed with how huge the stadium was. The walls and ceiling were so distant a cloudy haze smothered them as if the place was filled with fog machines, again, not unlike the last Kiss concert. The floor, however, was heavy marble and polished so glossy that it made Nolan actually wonder what floor polish they used.
The only other prominent feature, besides the line of people, was the tall, white, blank wall behind the desk, stretching from side to side into the haze. Nolan watched as people would approach the desk, talk to the man, and then walk through the wall as if by magic. It was a pretty good special effect even for a heavy metal concert.
“Next. Please!” The man announced again. He looked old, with thick gray hair, a stern face, and a strong jaw. He had a large virtual monitor on the desk that was somehow visible and invisible. The desk was solid, white, and high enough so Nolan could only barely see over the top.
“He means you.” Nolan heard from behind. He turned and saw an elderly Asian woman who looked ragged and weary.
“Oh. Sorry,” Nolan said. He cleared his throat and stepped up to the desk, which seemed to raise up a bit so he could only see over if he stood on his toes. “Hi.”
“Name,” the man said.
“Last known address.”
“416 Third Ave, Watertown, Pennsylvania, 13601.”
“Cause for being here.”
Nolan paused. “Excuse me… but where is here?”
The man finally looked up. He had deep auburn eyes that were alarming and calming at the same time. “What?”
“Where am I?”
The man sighed heavily. “You really don’t know? Look around. Where do you think you are?”
“Well, I thought it was a Kiss concert, but then you’d be wearing face makeup, so…”
The man contorted a frown that seemed to exceed the muscles in his face. “This is Heaven’s Gate. I’m Peter,” he said tapping a name plate that materialized from nowhere saying ‘Sir Saint Peter.’
“Heaven?” Nolan said as he looked around again. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Peter’s frown deepened. “Do I look like I’m kidding?”
“Uh, well, no. But I thought Heaven would be pearly golden gates, angels with harps, fluffy clouds… stuff like that.”
“That was last century. We remodeled for the new millennium.”
“Ah,” Nolan replied. “Looks nice.”
“Can we get on with it? Many people are waiting.”
“Right,” Nolan said, glancing back at the line extending into eternity “What was the question again?”
“Cause for being here… you know, how’d you kick the bucket?” St. Peter said, looking back at the screen.
“Oh, well I…” Nolan leaned in. “You see, uh, well, I was committing suicide,” he chuckled. “I guess it must have worked else I wouldn’t be here, right?”
Peter looked up, sighed heavily, and placed both hands on the desk while a third hand appeared and rubbed his face. “Really?”
“Yeah, why, is that a problem?”
Peter sighed again, or perhaps just continued the sigh he previously started. “No, just more paperwork for me. Let’s take a look.” He punched the invisible keys on his terminal.
“Wait. That’s not right,” Peter said, punching more keys.
“What’s not right?” Nolan said.
“Not right at all.”
“Jesus Howard Christ! You’re not supposed to be here for another fifty-three years!’’
“Sorry, I didn’t know,” Nolan replied. “And did you say Jesus’s middle name is Howard?”
St. Peter picked up a phone that materialized. “Bob, this is Pete, can you look up two two four six seven three two nine four six three five nine nine eight four one one three apple?”
Nolan rocked on his heels and pretended to whistle during the awkward silence.
“Yeah, that’s what I got too,” St. Peter said. “No, he’s right here in front of my bloody desk… OK.” St. Peter hung up the phone, which evaporated. “Please take two steps to the side,” he said.
Nolan stood staring as Peter tilted his head to the side, then realized what he meant and took two steps to his left.
‘‘Next!’’ Peter announced as he looked back at his screen.
Nolan watched as the Asian lady stepped up to the desk, which lowered itself to be the exact height for her to almost but not quite see over the top. Nolan stood there fidgeting as he felt the weight of a hundred thousand eyes staring at him like a criminal.
“Nolan Edward Carlson?” a voice said from behind him.
Nolan turned around to see another man in a white suit. He was slender, with a kind face and a name tag that said “Here to serve” and then “Bob.”
“Follow me.” Bob led Nolan through a small side door that emerged in the huge wall. This led down a hallway with no doors or windows. The hallway was so spotlessly white and clean it made Nolan wish he’d brushed his teeth before he did himself in.
Finally, a door appeared and they entered a small room. It had a small white conference table with two white chairs on each side and nothing else.
Bob sat down on the far side of the table and Nolan took the chair in front.
Bob leaned forward. “Mr. Carlson, there’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll come out with it. We can’t let you into Heaven.”
“Is that because committing suicide is a sin?”
“Pardon me, but that word is banned here.”
“Which one? Sin?”
“Yes, also other words like kill, murder, death, demise, anything like that. It may be a natural part of life on Earth, but up here they’re swear words. We prefer to use something more pleasant.”
“Uh, okay. So I can’t get into Heaven because I did… the watusi?”
“Oh no, we have lots of people in Heaven who’ve watusi’d”
“Oh yeah, they even have their own meetup group. They do things like “Watusi Wednesdays” where they use the FuturVision to see how they’re lives would have been if they hadn’t, you know, watusi’d.”
“Okay, so then, why can’t I get in?”
“The problem is… oh how can I say this. You weren’t supposed to die yet.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, you see. Ted has this Master Plan and everything fits together perfectly.”
“Yeah, the Big Man, Head Honcho, Top Dog… you know, God.”
“You call him Ted?”
“Yeah, he got tired of people calling him all different things or not knowing what to call him at all, so he picked a name.”
“And… he chose Ted?”
“Well, technically it’s Theodore, but yes. Anyway, Ted has this Master Plan and it fits together quite snug and, well, you weren’t supposed to die yet.”
“No. We believe someone in HUMA messed up. Perhaps a clerical error, like your name getting crisscrossed with another Nolan Edward Carlson’s on Earth, or perhaps someone was on break too long and missed the alarm. I mean we run a tight ship here, but mistakes happen from time to time. We’re only non-human after all.”
“Human Monitoring & Alerting” They’re highly trained Hirits that watch over mankind to make sure things track according to the Master Plan.
“Okay… and Hirits?”
“Heaven Spirits, like angels but without the cool title.”
“And they make sure everything on Earth goes according to the plan?”
“The Master Plan, yes.”
“But I thought I was supposed to have free will?”
“Of course. You can do whatever you want. That’s why HUMA exists. Sometimes we they have to intervene to ensure the outcome of your decisions stay on plan.
“Only when needed. Humans call it miracles. You know, like ‘Boy it’s a miracle you didn’t freeze to death in that blizzard’ or ‘It’s a miracle that speeding car didn’t hit you….’ Close calls are just us stepping in to ensure everything fits the Master Plan. Otherwise, there’d be unfettered chaos.
“Um, have you seen the Earth lately?”
“What do you mean?”
“It is unfettered chaos.”
“Oh no, no. That’s not chaos. That’s all going according to the Master Plan.”
“Really? I’d like to see this master plan of yours.”
“Yes, well, I’d love to continue explaining how Heaven works, but we’re here to talk about you. Why did you watusi anyway? Were you not satisfied with your life on earth?”
“Satisfied? Are you kidding me?”
“I want to know. Say on a scale from one to ten, how would you rate your experience with life?”
“You mean like a pop-up survey? Okay. Fine. I wasn’t satisfied at all. I would give it a big fat zero!”
“But why? Our environment teams work hard to provide a pleasant world for you. Our harvest and weather teams work to ensure a large bounty of food, and our discovery teams provide plenty of worldly questions and mysteries to keep you entertained and challenged. What more could you want?
“But what about all the wars, disease, starvation, poverty, politics, corruption, crime? I told you. The world is a frickin’ mess.”
“Those are all man-made problems. We have no control over that.”
“No control? You just said your HUMA team monitors and manipulates outcomes. You could fix it all if you wanted to.”
“Theoretically we could, but I told you we’re only allowed to do what’s—”
“—What’s in the master plan, yes, so you’ve said.”
“We’ve provided a very nice Eden. Ted says how you choose to use it is up to you.”
“So what you’re saying is the planet would be a wonderful place to live if it wasn’t for all the damn people living on it.”
“Oh, we don’t use the D word here, we say Flamingo.”
“Whatever. So what is this master plan anyway? Is it to make everyone suffer?”
“Oh no, just the opposite. The Master Plan is to make everyone happy.”
“Well, you are not doing a very good job. There are so many flamingo problems life is hardly worth living.”
“And is that why you watusi’d?”
“Yes, my life sucked. Are you sure this Ted is the right man for the job? How in the hell did he get to be God in the first place?”
“How in the snickerdoodle.”
“The word you wanted there was… You know what? Doesn’t matter. I’m sorry your experience was below expectations. And as far as how Ted got the job, it’s all explained in Genesis. After all, he did create all of this.”
“It’s in the Master Plan.”
“Oh my Ted! Is that your answer to everything?”
“Fine. So what happens now?”
“We need to send you back.”
“We’ve diverted from the Master Plan too much already.”
“So you’re sending me back even though I didn’t want to be there in the first place?”
A ding sounded as a computer screen fizzled into existence in front of Bob.
“Oh snickerdoodle!” Bob said as he picked up the phone that also fizzled in.
“What happened?” Bob said into the phone. “Yes, he’s right here. I was about to send him back.” Pause. “I put his lease on hold, didn’t—” Another pause. “Larry did it? Well lederhosen! I don’t know why Ted puts up with him.”
Bob hung up and looked at Nolan as the phone and screen evaporated.
“More trouble in paradise?”
“That Larry. He is going to be the boondoggle of me.”
“You call him Lucifer. He cancelled the hold on the lease for your body.”
“A lease on my body?”
“Yeah, your soul signs a lease before you’re born. You watusi’d before the lease expired. That’s how we knew you weren’t supposed to be here yet. I put a hold on it, but you know how Larry likes to muck with the Master Plan. He cancelled it and now someone else has your body.”
“Most likely a ghost. You know, someone who died but didn’t head toward the light and now floats around on Earth for eternity or until they find a soulless body with gas still in the tank. Once Larry cancelled the hold, they probably pounced on yours like elves to potpourri.”
“So someone else is living in my body?”
“And he’s walking around living my life?”
“And he’ll have it for the next fifty-three years?”
“But isn’t that against your Master Plan?”
“You’d think, but oddly enough as long as Nolan Edward Carlson is around in that body for another fifty-three years, we’re good.”
“Great… so what happens to me now?
“Well, you have two options. Either we send you back anyway.”
“But how if I don’t have a body?”
“You’ll be a ghost until one opens up.”
“Okay, what’s the other option?”
“Is that hell, or snickerdoodle, or whatever you call it?”
“Nah, it’s more like a Motel 6. You’ll stay there with all the others that can’t get into Heaven and yet can’t go back to Earth.”
“How many is that?”
“Twenty-two-million, two-hundred-and-sixty-four-thousand, one-hundred-and-twenty-eight.”
“Holy lederhosen! The motel must be huge!”
“No, but it’s pretty full. You’ll have to share a double room with 4271 other people. Oh and there’s no wifi.”
“And when would I get out?”
“You wouldn’t, unless Ted changes the rules, which he hasn’t done since, well, Jesus.”
“Great, I’m better off going back to Earth…”
“That’d be my choice.”
“But what if the next body is a drug addict or prison convict or, Ted forbid, a Republican?”
“You didn’t have a choice before, why would you get one now?”
“A lot of rappers OD before their time, perhaps you could be one of them.”
“But I can’t rap.”
“Well, some ghosts like haunting houses. Or you could try possessing a doll or robot. I also heard of some ghosts taking over the bodies of bears up in Canada and living decent lives.”
“Wait, is that what Bigfoot is?”
“I don’t know. I’m just saying you have options. Anyway, it’s time to go. “
“Fine.” Nolan said as he stood up. “I can’t believe this. My motto on earth was ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die,’ but I see it doesn’t even stop there.”
Russell Heidorn lives in suburban Minneapolis and scatters his time between working and family while pursuing his dream of writing. He is currently working on a novel about a suburban man who scatters his time between work and family while pursuing his dream of writing. However, any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH “Watusi”:
There are a lot of heaven and hell stories out there (and we’ve published several in the past), but in “Watusi” author Russell Heidorn gives some new and amusing twists. We found many chuckles throughout it. Our favorite line, though, is depicted in the picture we selected to accompany the story.