Having Heaven 7 – The Return

It was an instinct really, the reaching out to touch her mother’s face as she had done so many times as a child and Mayra had not expected to make physical contact but hoped she could feel something, a vibration perhaps or a tingle of static electricity, anything to confirm that her mother was actually standing in front of her. Unexpected was the resistance her palm encountered upon making contact with her mother’s intangible cheek, only for an instant, before it passed through and the café went dark.

When Mayra awoke, or rather, when she was finally able to piece herself back together to the extent she realized she had eyes to open, she found herself curled into a fetal ball, shivering within the enormous palm of God. No one told her the hand belonged to God, she simply knew it to be so. With no effort at all, for her body seemed to have no discernable weight, she lifted herself first to her knees then to her feet where she was able to perfectly balance herself on the tips of her toes like a ballerina en pointe in a ballet performed in zero gravity.

Beyond the palm, all of existence was a white devoid of heat in every direction she cast a glance. She opened her quivering mouth to speak, to question, to beg for clarity, understanding but her voice issued forth like song. Not lyrics but actual music and each of her emotions were represented by a different instrument, rising to a crescendo, filling the vast whiteness, crowding it with vibrations until…her voice cracked.

The music ceased instantly. She clutched her throat and forced herself to make a sound that would not come. Gravity returned and she crumpled onto the palm creating an impact crater that sent hairline fractures spiderwebbing out from the palm that ran up along each of the fingers. The hand shook under the force of a great tremor and began to segment and divide and fall away like so much debris. She hopped from the bits that fell away onto safer purchase until there was nowhere else to go. The hand disintegrated and Mayra, no longer weightless, began falling into the white void and she was covered by a slimy coldness that slowly took over her entire body, a bitter frost that shot straight through to her marrow and filled her mind with an image of being buried in the cold damp ground in a coffin-less grave as her body slowly succumbed to lifelessness.

Then she was no longer falling and eventually the glacial pearl environment dissipated in cloudlike swirls revealing the café beneath like an underpainting brushed onto canvas by an expert hand. At first, the interior and the people who surrounded Mayra were merely shapes, two-dimensional. Then details were added and the shapes took on definition and depth of field separated near from far but her perception was off. She realized she must have fallen to the floor because the shape she was now able to make out as Bethany hovered over her, mouth opening and closing rapidly. Her best friend was talking to her, obviously trying to revive her, but the words sounded odd and the café itself no longer smelled right.

Adina’s ghostly face registered a look of concern. She reached down to help her daughter up but Mayra shied away from her touch. As much as she loved her mother, if coming into contact with her brought about this feeling, she promised herself she would never do it again.

“Bethy, get me out of here, please,” Mayra said, teeth chattering.

“Are you sure you’re all—”

“Please!” Mayra demanded.

“All right,” Bethany said, helping her friend to her feet and wrapping her own coat over Mayra’s in an effort to warm her.

At the café door, Mayra turned, saw her mother’s confused expression and said, “Sorry, Mom. I just can’t,” before exiting the café.

Outside, the spirits of the dead were everywhere, crowding, overcrowding, the streets. They had come in their thousands and moved past scared witless pedestrians in lock-step like a multi-headed beast or a shoal of fish to some unknown destination. The only sounds to be heard were the shoes on pavement as people scrambled to get out of the dead’s way and the distance screech of car tires.

“I can’t tell you how much I don’t like this,” Bethany said, trying to mask the fear in her voice as they made their way quickly to the nearest subway station.

“There are more dead people wandering around than the living,” Mayra said, carefully avoiding coming into contact with any of the spirits.

“Makes perfect sense if you think about. Heaven is real, was real, which means reincarnation is a load of bullshit, so all the righteous livers spend the rest of eternity in paradise and now that paradise has gone poof on us, where else would those souls go except the place they originated from?”

Apparently, word of mouth spread not to get too close to the dead because on the subway, people were doing their level best to avoid touching the spirits who were taking up seats and pole spaces, which meant the living had to squash together to make enough space for them all. The air in the train car was filled nervous tension but that had not stopped people from pulling out their smartphones and filming the ghosts but the dead were not bothered one bit. They seemed like they were going through the motions of trying to live the life they’d had before they died.

Mayra wasn’t ready to go home to deal with Gavin so Bethany suggested they go to her apartment. Fortunately, there were no spirits wandering around in her place.

“Small miracles, eh?” Bethany said after checking the entire apartment. “Now let’s see if we can get something into you to warm you up.”

“That would be nice, thanks,” Mayra followed her friend into the kitchen and took the seat nearest the radiator.

“So, your mom…that was weird, right?” Bethany said, rummaging through the cupboards. “What was the like, I mean, if you’re okay talking about it? You nearly scared me half to death, passing out like that.”

Mayra exhaled slowly and tried to explain as much as she could, avoiding the dream or delusion or whatever it was. It, along with the initial dream seemed personal, private, something meant for her alone.

Mayra took the tablet from her bag and over hot bowls of soup and coffee that still couldn’t chase the cold from her bones, they several live streaming news broadcasts. Unlike the news reporting delay of The Knowing, the dead returning made the headlines instantly.

Reporters were made of questions, but none of the hastily gathered experts had answers. They discussed what they believed had happened, which coincided with the assumption Bethany came up with. When a psychic was brought into one station to try to communicate with a spirit roaming the news studio and concocted some phony message about the dead returning to restore peace but who ran away in sheer terror the moment the spirit attempted to touch her, the tablet was turned off.

They sat there digesting the events of the day in silence for a while the way people who have known each other for a long while can be in each other’s company without the need to fill the air with random babbling, when Mayra broke the silence:

“Oh my God, I am the shittiest friend in the world!”

“What are you on about?”

“I never considered what you must be feeling, being an atheist and all.”

“First, not an atheist,” Bethany clarified. “Or an agnostic. I know religion is a touchy subject for you, which is why we don’t do spiritual talk. Unlike people who need to label themselves as a nonbeliever and pass judgment on people’s religious beliefs, I’m cool with you believing in what you believe in as long as it leads you to do no harm.”

“Bethy, I don’t want you to think I judge you for not having a—”

“Belief system? I do have one. I believe we aren’t smart enough to know our origins and this includes Big Bang and evolution, but we’re arrogant enough to assume we do with authority. Sometimes I wish I could just conform and go along with the flow. You’d figure it wouldn’t be that difficult. You know how super religious my family is, forcing me to go to church every Sunday when I was small. Sometimes we’d spend the entire day worshipping if our church visited another church for evening services and I’d be furious that one of my two-day freedom from the drudgery of school had be wasted this way. I tried to believe, tried really hard to feel the holy spirit but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. Then I hit my teens and made a bold stand to stop going to church by pretending to be sick, too sleepy, or what have you, which was initially ignored but eventually I wore my folks down and they allowed me to skip church. The trade-off? I was given a host of choirs that needed to be completed before I could go outside to play. They meant it to be a punishment, they wanted to break me, make me relent, but to me it was the ultimate get out of church free card. I even tried to lessen the blow by telling them I was a practicing Deist who accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason but rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind. And they tested me on it by making me write several essays describing my belief system and worship methods. But I still hadn’t felt a connection to a higher power so I tried agnosticism on for size and eventually gave up trying to force myself to believe in something just because everyone else does. Turns out I’m not a joiner.”

“But you’ve acknowledged that Heaven is gone so you must feel something,” Mayra realized her words came out stronger than she meant and hoped her friend had not felt attacked.

If Bethany was bothered, it did not show. She answered, “Sure, I feel something just not what you think. I don’t automatically assume that heaven not existing is the cause of what I’m feeling because it’s a place that doesn’t exist for me. It didn’t exist before all this and it still doesn’t now. What I feel is that something is different, the same way you feel when you move to a new neighborhood or start a new job or enter into a relationship with someone new. You suddenly become aware of space within your existence and that space is new and because it’s new, it’s a void. Picture the space as an empty glass and everything you do in the new job, neighborhood or relationship adds something to the glass, knowledge, familiarity, routines, skillsets, whatever. Each day, a drop gets added to the glass. It ceases to be empty the moment the first drop lands but it isn’t by any stretch of the imagination full, either. I’m not explaining it right because I still haven’t figured it out myself, so I know it doesn’t make sense to you, but that’s how I feel. I discovered an empty glass and it’s slowly, very slowly, filling up with something new.”

“I sort of understand but I don’t understand,” Mayra said. “Does that make any sense?”

“Completely,” Bethany smiled. “Now, why don’t we talk about what’s eating you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve got your own life, I’ve got mine. When we catch-up, we usually do it by text or phone but you needed to see me in person, which indicates something serious, and not at your place or at mine, which means you’re trying to avoid getting emotional, so what is it?”Wow, Mayra wondered, Am I really that obvious? “Bethy, you’re going to hate because there is something I want to tell you…but I think I owe it to Gavin to speak to him first.”

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 6 – The Virgin Points

Although Mayra had some very clear and solid memories of her mother, most of what she knew about Adina came from the stories her father used to tell. Of course, she was only able to properly hear the stories after the debilitating grief of her mother’s death had abated, after the many counselling sessions, and when she was finally able to cope, when she became afraid she was forgetting her mother, she hounded her father to repeat the stories over and over again and bless his heart, he did so despite the pain it caused himself.

“Adina grew up with her mother in a single parent household,” her father said. “Some men aren’t meant to be part of a family, so her father left as soon as the pregnancy was announced. Your grandmother kept a full-time job and took on extra work to help make ends meet which meant your mother had to fend for herself around the house. Her relationship with her mother was mostly good, they were more like sisters than mother and daughter but as work slowed down, money became tight and job offers became scarce, her mother started to drink and that put a strain on the family income and their relationship.

“Your mother was a little older than you are now when she had to get a part-time job after school and when her mother’s drinking problem got worse, school was no longer an option as she had to start working full-time in order to pick up the slack. Then, because misery loves company, your grandmother met a guy who liked lonely women who liked to drink. He moved in shortly afterward and suddenly there were three people living in a one-bedroom apartment but only one and a half of them were working. Her mother’s new boyfriend somehow became the man of the house without actually bringing home any of the bacon. He never got fresh or raised a hand to your mother but just because he wasn’t physically abusive, that didn’t make him a good guy. He was a passive aggressive prick—”

“Dad!” young Mayra chided.

“Sorry, kiddo, but some things you just can’t sugarcoat. He was a prick, and I never want to hear you using that word.”

“But you just said—”

“Never mind what I said, and quit interrupting unless you want me to stop telling the story. Is that what you want?”

“No,” Mayra wanted to prove her point but wanted to hear the more so she gave in.

“Okay, so he was a loser, is that better, a jerk who was quick with a snarky comment or a put down that sucked every iota of positivity out of the room. After an exhausting journey of maneuvering around the adults’ rocky relationship, and after an argument that was an aggregate of all the pettiness that had occurred between them since the day they first met and after her mother sided with the prick over her, your mother packed her belongings and left home and never looked back. Years later, when she learned of her mother’s death, she regretted not having the strength to stay and force that loser out of their lives and help her mother sober up. Of all the regrets in her life, that was the biggest.”

Then Mayra’s father told her about convergence points but her young ears at the time heard it as virgin points and she thought that it had something to do with the Virgin Mary because that was the only association she had with the word at the time so she thought virgin meant holy. Years later, even when she realized what her father actually said, she still thought of them as virgin points because some names just stuck. Her father believed that things like fate and destiny weren’t stored in people because there were simply too many variables involved within a human being and their free will. He thought fate actually ran beneath the surface of the planet like ley lines or energy and purpose that connected at certain spots just waiting for a collision to occur in order to activate a destiny.

He firmly believed that the 22-year-old Adina, with a battered suitcase in her hand and nowhere to live stepped on and activated one of those virgin points when she ran into a childhood friend she hadn’t seen since she left school to work full time. After a bit of a catch up and explaining her situation, her friend said she was sharing a place with two other childhood mates and offered Adina a place to stay until she got back on her feet. It was a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx and after some hemming and hawing the roommates gave the okay. The two roommates shared the bedroom while Adina and her friend took the pull-out sofa. They all worked at a temp agency and got Adina a job there as well. They were scratching and surviving, just barely able to make rent and bills.

“Then one day your mother had her hands full with bags from some greasy takeout joint, not looking where she was going and she bumps into a man…”

“And that man was you,” Mayra chimed in.

“Say, have you heard this story before?’

“Only a bazillion times.”

“I can stop telling it,” her father teased.

“No, pleaseeeeee.”

“So yes, your mother bumps into me and she drops the take-out food she bought with the last of her money and just stares at food scattered all over the pavement and began laughing until it turned to tears. Naturally, I offered to replace her meal but your mother wasn’t big on the idea of accepting handouts so she turned me down. It took me a good fifteen minutes to convince her it wasn’t a handout and there were no strings attached and that I’d feel terrible if she didn’t allow me to make up for my mistake.”

“But you said she bumped into you.”

“Sometimes being kind is better than being right, you’d do well to remember that. Reluctantly, your mother let me take her to a diner that was close by and there was a Help Wanted sign in the window. The place was packed, filled with angry customers trying to get the attention of the overburdened waitress on staff. So, your mother, still not totally sold on accepting anything from a stranger, marches up the owner and offers him a proposition. She offered to work a shift immediately in exchange for a meal for herself and for me and if she didn’t screw things up royally, he’d take the sign down from the window and she gets the job. All it was going to cost him was two meals so of course he accepted, and watching your mother work and handle the irate customers with patience and kindness, that’s when I knew I was going to do everything within my power to marry that woman. And you know what, kiddo? It turned out the very spot we bumped into one another was the same place she ran into her childhood friend. That’s when I knew convergence points existed.”

But Mayra knew virgin points hadn’t always brought about good luck for that very same spot was where a taxi hopped the curb and ended her mother’s life while she was on her way to work.

***

Mayra bit down on her lip and her voice quivered as she said, “Mom?”

Adina, translucent in the light of the diner, turned around slowly, cocked her head slightly, her eyes registering a familiarity she couldn’t quite place. Mayra realized that she was only a little girl when her mother last laid eyes on her.

“Mom, it’s me, Mayra.”

Adina’s expression brightened and her kind smile broadened as the recognition came.

“This is bad,” Bethany said, approaching Mayra from behind.

“You’re wrong. This is great,” Mayra replied. “I’ve got my mom back.”

“No, you’re not thinking this through. Your mom being here, all those other spirits being here means we have proof that Heaven’s gone. What does that mean for us? If there’s no Heaven, what happens when we die? Are we going to get stuck wandering Earth for all time?”

Bethany’s concerns were lost on Mayra, whose total concentration was on her mother. She reached out to touch her mother’s face, and suddenly everything went wrong.

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 5 – The Sighting

Bethany Hamilton, face buried in her smartphone, might have missed the place completely if Mayra hadn’t spotted her and tapped on the window. She had been sitting lookout because the café was a small and easy to miss, nestled in a nook that was hidden away in the downtown side street. It hadn’t changed much since she had last been here, the chairs and tables were arranged differently but the rescued furniture, now fit for retirement, and the stained and color-faded, peeling wallpaper were the same. In an age where designer coffee beverages were all the rage, it was one of the few places you might be able to get a café au lait but the chances of that were only slightly better than winning the state lottery.

The only other customers were three elderly people, two women and a man, who sat at separate tables with their coffee and bagels but were engaged in conversation with one another.

The shopkeepers bell, a small brass bell mounted on the door by a hooked spring steel bracket, chimed when Bethany stepped inside with a Starbucks Iced Salted Caramel Mocha in hand.

“I was just about to call you,” Bethany said as she kissed Mayra’s cheek and sat in the booth across from her.

The waitress brought a chocolate egg cream and placed it on a napkin square, laying a wrapped straw beside it. She looked at Bethany, “Get you anything?”

“A menu,” Bethany answered to which the server merely pointed to the menu slotted in the metal condiment holder on the table. Bethany gave an embarrassed little shrug, thanked her and the woman went away.

“How’d you ever find this place? It’s so middle of nowhere in the heart of everything.”

“My mom worked here, she used to bring me when I was little,” Mayra said listlessly. She pointed to a stool at the counter over Bethany’s shoulder. “I’d sit at right over there and sip the best chocolate egg cream in the world and read comic books while she served tables. I just need to be in a familiar place right now, with familiar people.”

Mayra stared through the egg cream.

“What’s wrong, Mayra?”

“Everything.”

“This is about that Heaven thing, isn’t it?” Bethany whispered the word Heaven and Mayra thought, What an odd thing to do. “Honey, you have to get past this.”

“How do you past the obliteration of Heaven?”

“What? No, I meant, you know, passed the crazy thoughts.”

Mayra puzzled over this a moment before Bethany’s meaning dawned. “You think I’m going to commit suicide?”

“I…well, you know, look at you. You’re a fragile wreck. And there is this epidemic going around.”

“Epidemic,” Mayra said to herself. She shook her head to dislodge the memory of the news reports. “You’ve got the wrong end of the stick, Beth. Taking my life? I-I just don’t have that in me.”

“I didn’t really think so, but just in case, you know? Erring on the side of caution and all that.”

“How are you dealing with it?”

Bethany sipped her drink and answered, “Optimism or denial, maybe. I’d like to think that nothing more is going to happen. That somehow we all suffered some freakish mass hallucination.”

“It’s been over a week and the anxiousness hasn’t subsided. I’m constantly on edge like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

“What other shoe could there be?”

“It seems like everyone else is thinking something has happened, right? But what if it’s actually something is happening? What if the Heaven thing, as you call it, is just the precursor for something bigger?”

“Bigger like…” Bethany stopped in midsentence, her eyes sliding off Mayra to look out the café window. “Holy shit. I think I found your other shoe.”

“My other shoe?” Mayra said, puzzled and traced her friend’s eyeline and saw…well, she couldn’t rightly say what she saw at first. Her first impression was pastel shapes moving along the sidewalk but as comprehension focused in her mind she saw that the shapes were actually people that were somehow wrong. These people were translucent like faded photographs, no, more like images viewed through celluloid held against a light. She wiped at her eyes with the heel of her palms and looked again. If what she was looking at was really there she knew there was only one name for what she saw: spirits. Spirits of the dead. This was exactly what she was expecting, the very proof the world needed to get off its collective backside and do something, but she found now that it was here, all she wanted was for it to go away.

She wrenched her attention back to Bethany to run a few of the theories flooding her mind but over her friend’s shoulder she spotted a spirit walking through the café door dressed in a waitress uniform in the same style as their server. This outfit was dated, something she hadn’t seen since…

Mayra rose from the table and moved tentatively toward the spirit whose back was to her. Bethany called after Mayra trying to stop her from making contact with the spirit. This was uncharted territory for her and she wanted to protect her friend in case the unthinkable happened. But she need not have worried for Mayra stopped at arm’s length from the spirit. The faded figure turned around as if sensing something and Mayra saw something in its features, the sad way its eyes slightly drooped at the outside corners, the way its mouth curled into a kind smile. She bit down on her lip and her voice quivered as she said, “Mom?”

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Having Heaven 4 – The Epidemic of Suicides

Linda Wilson, a 16-year old girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma suffered severe carbon monoxide poisoning and was rushed to the hospital but later died. Her mother, Mary, made a statement to the authorities that her daughter killed herself after she had a nightmare that “Heaven had been destroyed by the Devil.” Following the dream, she constantly asked family and friends if they felt the same emptiness, the same pointlessness of life. Her family attempted to divert Linda’s attention and told her that what she was feeling was only temporary and it would pass, but she wouldn’t listen. The following Sunday, when her family went to church, the girl stayed behind complaining of an illness. When the house was empty, authorities say, she dragged the barbeque grill from the backyard into her bedroom, sealed the door and window with garbage bags and packing tape. She then filled the grill with charcoal briquettes and lit them. Mary, sensing something was wrong with her daughter, left church early and discovered Linda still alive but in a critical state.

The Metropolitan Times, August 17, 2017

Nearly one week to the day after the bizarre dream, Mayra finally got her wish though not in the way she wanted. The Knowing had finally made the news in the form of a story bearing the headline:

TEENAGE DEATH BY HIBACHI DUE TO FEAR OF NO HEAVEN

And as was often the case with tragic news, Linda Wilson’s death opened the floodgates. Every type of news outlet from tabloids, the news hour, and morning shows to prime-time magazines, network and cable evening news and print news magazines were filled daily with related death stories, such as:

A man who committed suicide by slitting his wrists on his wife’s grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York; the murder-suicide of a family in Sri Lanka; the self-immolation of a woman on the streets of Guyana. A middle-aged man in the UK who held up signs on his live Twitch stream, apologizing to his friends and family for the pain he was about to cause them before placing a Glock G43 to his temple and pulling the trigger. Reports came pouring in from all over the world, Kazakhstan, Cote d’lvoire, Suriname, Equatorial Guinea, Lithuania, Sierra Leone…

A wave of emotions crashed down so hard on Mayra she felt as though she was unable to breathe. She stared at her laptop screen, not quite able to fully take in the list of suicides that grew longer as each day passed. Gavin sat on the couch beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Mayra leaned against him and kissed the back of his hand, grateful for the support.

“I don’t understand,” Mayra said.

“We knew nothing good could come of this,” Gavin sighed.

“But mass suicide? How could this be the only option for so many people?”

“Babe, we all just got the eternal rug pulled from under our feet. That’s all some people have to live for, the thing they desperately cling to as they suffer their way through a lifetime of daily hardships and bullshit. Without that, what’s the point? Why does it matter if you die sooner rather than later? Without some sort of great reward for completing life as a decent human being, you’ve got no advantage over some scumbag that’s been shitty all their lives, or all the sex pests and murderers, so why not choose to end your existence on your own terms? The only thing awaiting you is the same eternal nothingness that exists for everyone else.”

“So, you’re saying you’re okay with this, that we should sit on our hands and do nothing to help these poor suffering people?”

“Why are you trying to make me out to be some heartless monster when all I’m trying to do is play devil’s advocate and see things from another point of view? You know what, don’t answer that. Let me try it from a different angle, something’s that’s been rolling around in my head for a few days. If the Heaven we know, let’s just call it Christian Heaven even though I’m sure its scope is much wider than that, but if our Heaven is gone how can we be absolutely sure that we aren’t now being judged by another religion’s rules about getting into an afterlife that doesn’t conform to our belief systems? What if, instead of Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, we wind up coming face to face with Hades or Anubis or some other wacky being?”

“Gavin, if you’re not going to take this seriously, I don’t know why we’re bothering to have this conversation.”

“Just because I can’t name the various religions’ afterlife gatekeepers doesn’t mean I’m not serious and if you took a step back and looked at it objectively you’d see the thought has some merit. Before this Knowing business nobody knew for sure that Heaven existed and if one version of heaven can exist why can’t others? Who’s to say our religion was the only one to get it right? And if I felt my soul was going to be rerouted to some foreign destination…well, all I’m saying is I get it. Now might be the time to make the decision to shuffle off this mortal coil in the hopes I wouldn’t end up in Valhalla or some junk like that. My only worry would be winding up in Hell, if that place is even still open for business. I mean, can one exist without the other? Aren’t they a package deal?”

“I don’t know, but that can’t be the way it works,” Mayra said, setting the laptop down on the coffee table. “Hell, to me, is the place where people are sent who need to be punished for purposefully living terrible lives. People who are so depressed they don’t feel they have any other choice shouldn’t automatically be sentenced to endure unending torture among the truly evil. Shouldn’t they instead be helped by someone in Purgatory? Shouldn’t there be someone to examine the cause of why the person felt the way they did? Shouldn’t they be allowed to expiate their supposed sins before going to Heaven? Not that I’m sure there’s truly a right reason to hurt the people who love you by taking your own life, but if they don’t believe they have another option, I hate the thought of Hell being the consequence for that.”

“But that’s not for you to judge, is it?”

“What?”

“The Bible states anyone who commits suicide is a sinner, babe, end of story. If someone punches their own ticket, their designated next stop is Hell,” Gavin took Mayra’s face in hand and turned it so that she met his eyes. “You’re one of those people who wants to believe that Heaven is a truly good place, but how good can it be if it excludes good people who don’t happen to be Christian or Jewish or the religion du jour?”

Mayra hated to admit it but Gavin had a point and she was ardently defending her position on the rules governing a place that no longer existed. When the silence in the room grew deafening, she picked up the remote and clicked on the tv. On CNN, Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, Archbishop of New York, was delivering a live speech broadcast from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, addressing the issue of how the seeming absence of Heaven was going to affect the living going forward and all the souls that used to reside there.

As if he knew, Mayra thought. She could tell from that same absence of hope expression on his face that he had no more knowledge than the rest of the world. But she knew why the speech was necessary. The church always laid claim to having inside knowledge, albeit limited, on the way God and the afterlife equation worked and the recent rise in the suicide rate meant people could no longer pretend what they felt wasn’t real. But this telecast, although presented as the official religious word, wasn’t going to be enough. Instead of trying to pacify the masses with false assurances, the church should have introduced a new doctrine to try to help everyone come to terms with what Heaven being gone truly meant.

“Well, that was a waste of time,” Gavin said. “So much for the church being clued in to what’s going on.”

But Mayra realized the problem was bigger than that. Before The Knowing everyone lived in a world where hope existed but now that hope was gone. Perhaps even forever. Without hope of a reward for living like a decent life, of continuing existence on a higher plane, what was to control the savage base nature that lurked within us all? The loss of Heaven changed life of the planet in ways she couldn’t even begin to imagine. But when she looked at Gavin it seemed another normal day to him. Like he never cared all that much about what might come next. Again, she questioned if he truly believed in God, which made her wonder if she was truly still in love with him. Loving him was easy. Seeing him as the man she wanted to be with for the rest of her life… she shook her head and pushed the thought aside again. There were far too many more pressing thoughts in her mind for her to start questioning their relationship status, especially if she was misreading the situation in the midst of all the confusion. What she really needed at this moment was a healthy dose of Bethany.

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

The above excerpt is a work of fiction but if you have been affected by any of the issues raised here, or are thinking about suicide, or worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline may be able to provide help and advice. Call 1-800-273-8255. Click this link and you can find someone online immediately and find other phone numbers to call for immediate help, and also find resources to help someone you know who is having suicidal thoughts. There is even a text-for-help option for U.S. Veterans. Someone is available to help 24 hours everyday.

Having Heaven 3 – The Knowing

As swiftly as it had arrived, the voice inside her head departed and all Mayra was left with was the sound of breathing, but not just her own. Beside her, Gavin was also sitting up, a bewildered expression playing on his face. “I had the craziest nightmare, babe. There was something going on but not on Earth and somehow Heaven got destroyed.”

But she knew it wasn’t a nightmare, it was a realization. Heaven was gone. And just as she knew it was the truth, she also knew that everyone else in the world knew it, as well. Without a word passing between them, they sat in bed for what seemed like hours in stunned silence, their breathing synchronized in the darkness, experiencing the loss together but separately.

Eventually Gavin succumbed to fatigue and went back to sleep, but that was not an option for Mayra. She was made of questions and speculation so she pulled the tablet out of her messenger bag and padded quietly on the balls of her feet out of the bedroom and into the living room. Settling on the couch, legs folded beneath her, she reached for the remote and turned on the tv. Clicking through the twenty-four-hour news channels and even the syndicated stations that ran local news, she was trying to get confirmation that other people felt the disappearance as well, but there was nothing. Well, almost nothing. She thought she noticed something in the faces of the news anchors, a lack of expression but something else too. It was difficult to work out but she read it as either the absence of hope or the longing for something lost in oblivion. Was she imagining it? Conjuring clues to prove that she and Gavin weren’t alone in this? That she wasn’t as nutty as she felt? Too many strange emotions were at play within her, all happening at once, competing for her attention.

She turned the tablet on and just as she had done with the tv, she searched internet news sites and social media and found nothing. She began to doubt herself. Surely if other people felt what she had someone would have posted about it. The thought crossed her mind to post something herself, but she couldn’t find the words to express it properly, so with a sigh, she turned off both tablet and tv and went back to bed.

Gavin was sleeping on his side facing her so she slipped herself beneath the sheet and pressed her back to his chest in the little spoon position and wrapped his arm around her belly. She wanted him to feel it, the life growing within her. She wanted him to know without her having to tell him, the same way he knew about Heaven.

But it was no use, she couldn’t sleep so she spent the morning at the kitchen table staring at her laptop, nibbling her bottom lip and absently stirring a mug of coffee. Gavin shuffled in, rubbing sleep from his eyes and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. He kissed her temple on the way to the coffee pot. “Did you get any sleep?”

“I tried,” Mayra answered. “But my mind won’t shut down.”

He poured himself a cup of coffee and took a sip. “I guess your hand won’t either.”

“What?”

Gavin pointed at her hand raking the spoon in continuous circles in the chipped coffee mug. “If you stir that any more you’re going to drill a hole through the table,”

“Oh,” she let go of the spoon.

He glanced at the empty stovetop, said, “Guess I’m making breakfast?”

“Sorry,” she said, pointing at the laptop. “Distracted.”

 “Anything interesting in the news?”

“Absolutely nothing. Just the same old trivial nonsense. No mention of what happened.”

“I’ve been thinking about that. If the media could prove it’s real they’d be on the story quick fast and in a hurry, but this feeling,” Gavin shook his head. “It not newsworthy right now. There’s no proof that what we felt meant anything.”

“I don’t know how but I’m certain everyone felt it, Gavin, even if they’re incapable of understanding it, they felt it. That has to mean something.”

“Come on, I’m not stupid, babe.” Gavin grabbed four eggs and an open pack of bacon from the refrigerator. “Of course, everybody feeling it means something, but how does the media report about a thing like this until something concrete happens? We need signs and even if the sky opened up and a winged angel appeared and made an official proclamation, people would still find some way to debunk it as a Hollywood movie promotional stunt or something. Far easier to shrug it off as a nebulous possibility than deal with the frightening reality.”

Mayra nodded with an audible sigh. “So, what happens next?”

“Nothing good,” he pulled a skillet from the wall mounted pot holder and placed it on the stove over a low flame. “When people come onboard to the fact that Heaven is gone, that there’s no great reward at the end of the journey for living a good life…” he let the sentence trail off as he peeled bacon strips and carefully laid them in rows to sizzle on the hot skillet. “Right now, I think I feel safer with people not believing it happened. The moment that changes is the moment we start running out of options.”

“So, we just pretend the world is the way it’s always been?”

“That’s just it, babe, the world is the same. Even with the absence of Heaven it doesn’t change the fact that we need to live our lives.” Gavin held an egg in his hand, “How do you want ‘em?”

“Scrambled,” she answered but wasn’t really hungry. She also wasn’t the sort of person who was good at pretending things were fine when they weren’t.

***

Mayra was eager to get to work. She convinced herself she needed a distraction but the truth of the matter was she needed to get out of the house. Although Gavin was being incredibly and unusually adult about the situation, she felt the nagging suspicion that he wasn’t as invested in Heaven’s disappearance as she was, which led her to think, did Gavin actually believe in God or the afterlife? Had she unknowingly been living with a secret atheist? She wasn’t even sure if there was such a thing as secret atheists, but she knew some space needed to be put between the both of them.

She worked as veterinary receptionist at the Calumet Animal Hospital. It was a temporary job, kind of, sort of, loosely related to her field of interest. At least that’s what she told herself to keep her spirits up. She was on a gap year between earning her bachelor’s degree and starting a graduate program. Her goal was to become a marine biologist. The time off from her studies wasn’t so much a mental break as it was a necessity. Her grants didn’t allow her the luxury of living on campus so she and Gavin moved into the cheapest one bedroom they could find to make ends meet. Only Gavin was in between jobs at the moment so the burden fell on her to bring in some income until he got back on his feet. The animal hospital was the best fit as it was within a comfortable walking distance from their apartment and offered a ton of overtime.

But work wasn’t the distraction Mayra hoped it would be. Just as with the tv news reporters, she saw in the faces of the clinics’ clients the same longing.

During lunch, she picked at the yogurt cups and grapes she brown-bagged from home, still not hungry. When one of her coworkers, Susie, asked, “What’s the deal? You’re usually all energetic and talky.” Mayra brought up what she now referred to as the knowing.

 “Maybe you should give tv and the internet a break,” Susie said.

“I just can’t believe there isn’t anything on the fact that Heaven is gone.”

“How do you report on something like that? Without sounding crazy? I mean, maybe, despite all the religious flag waving, most people don’t care because to them it’s something that never existed in the first place. Finding out Heaven’s gone wouldn’t change anything for them.”

This was no use. It was like talking to Gavin. But perhaps they both were on to something. What if it wasn’t a lack of caring, but shock. It was definitely a hard thing to wrap one’s head around especially if people stopped to consider how the world would be affected by the absence of Heaven.

“And maybe people are changing religions,” Susie continued. “With Heaven confirmed, what’s to say other religious or mythical afterlives aren’t real also? Plenty of alternatives to choose from.”

Sighing, Mayra stood, gathered her lunch and dropped it in the trash. Even though her shift was half over, she knew it was going to be a long rest of the day.

To Be Continued…

©2017-2020 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys