A New Soul In Heaven

By Vaughn Romero


The first thing I remember is the sound. It was like a light breeze on a warm day, a sound that tickled and teased my awareness but stayed just out of reach. Its presence was comforting, a soothing song of water over rocks, of wind rushing through leaves, and rain wetting earth. I can't tell you how long I listened to it, but while I listened I knew joy unlike any I had known before.

And it was this thought that roused something in me. There had been a time when I had not heard this beautiful song - a time when I was not of this place and free of all cares. I had been alive once. I had been a man, and I had led a life full of doubts, sorrows, and striving to find a place. I had died alone, as I guess we all do, on the day after my eighty-fifth birthday, and now I was here in this place that sang of promise and peace, and I had a final choice to make.

And it called me. The Symphony, a name I did not learn until later, beckoned me to join it. I felt within me the music of my own essence harmonizing with the sound I heard. With a thought I knew I could join it, be one with the peace I had yearned for all my life. I heard my own voice for the first time then, "Home."

There were many other souls waiting to enter. The vastness of their number was almost too much for me to take in, faintly glowing souls everywhere the eye could see. I stood awhile in wonder marvelling at the mass of them walking with one purpose to a shining city beyond - the end point of our journey. Looking at their faces, so full of hope, brought tears to the eyes I didn't even know I had not moments before.

It would be a while before I reached the city gates, and I spent the time marveling at my new-found condition. I had the body of a young man again but without the scars and blemishes I had worn in life. My skin shone with a pale white light and down my back long locks of hair I had not had in years danced in a soft breeze. I broke into a grin, which widened even further when I discovered my face bore the short beard I had resisted growing for decades as a youth.

A soul behind me chuckled, "You almost look like him."

I turned to see a tall pale woman with kindly eyes. "Like who?"

"Like Jesus, the man we're about to meet." As the last words left her mouth she closed her eyes and smiled.

I cast my eyes down shyly, a sense of dread washing over me. "I suppose this is... Heaven?" I mumbled.

"Of course. We are walking this very moment to our eternal reward. Don't you see the angels?" She pointed to the shining city behind me.

I turned and followed her hand with my eyes.

"See them flying above the wall? How glorious it will be to have wings of our own."

Black wings. The angels had black wings. A group of three of them had just lifted off from the wall and were beating their dark wings to gain height. Something about them filled me with fear. Were angels supposed to have black wings? That was the least of my worries. Were agnostics supposed to go to Heaven? I was about to find out.

The woman's name was Karen. She had been a teacher most of her life. She had struggled with cancer for four years and had finally succumb when she stopped seeking treatment.

"I knew it was my time," she said.

She had been a Christian all of her adult life. She had never doubted in Heaven and her place in it. This was her reward for her faith and her love for Jesus, she told me.

"Were you a religious man?" she asked innocently.

"Not really," I heard myself saying. "I believed... I believe in an all-loving God, but he is a mystery to me." I was starting to feel awkward, I could sense her next question before she even spoke.

"But you believed in Jesus, yes?"

She had finally voiced the question I had been dreading. Here in Heaven, before the Pearly Gates with my immortal soul hanging in the balance.

"No." The answer rang in my head long after I had spoken. Listening to the echoes of it my heart began to race.

"I admired the stories about him... He was a good role model, but..."

"Oh, you poor soul." Her eyes were suddenly wet as if from a great sadness. "To have come this far without Him. Perhaps it is not too late? There is still time if you open your heart to him." She stopped and kneeled on the ground with one leg. She offered a hand to me. "Shall we pray?"

She was so certain. Her eyes held the promise of infinite salvation if I would but join her and call His name. I had known doubt all my life, so I recognized the feeling the way I would a long-time friend coming to visit. It did make sense: there was the glorious calling that had brought me here, a gathering of hopeful souls, the shining city, and angels flying overhead. I would be a fool not to believe now, and yet my heart was not in it.

"I wish I could, but it would be a lie. I don't want to lie. Not here, not now."

She remained staring at me for a long while, her hand open and waiting. I had faced many difficult decisions in my life, but nothing had prepared me for this moment.

"Let my God judge me as I am." I turned to walk away, but stopped after a few steps. Looking back, I saw her still waiting, faithful to the last. "Thank you, Karen. I'll always remember you." I turned away certain I would never see her again. It was time to face my Maker.

The angels at the gate were like nothing I had ever seen. A winged serpent with 6 eyes coiled it's tail around a column and glared down at the souls entering the city. Besides the serpent was a what appeared to be an alien from a science fiction movie, a sexless humanoid with no hair and large eyes. The second angel at least resembled a human, whereas the first was a thing of fantasy come to life.

Beyond these two were a host of "real" angels, or what I thought of as real angels - humans with wings and halos. The "real" angels were smiling and greeting the souls as they entered the city, but only after they had past the monsters at the gate.

Many things raced through my mind. Perhaps only the damned see these angles as monsters? Perhaps it is the final test to separate the wheat from the chaff?

Try as I might I could not block out my final moments with Karen. I had been given a choice, and I had turned away. I was beginning to regret my decision when I stepped up before the two judges of my fate.

"Why is he frightened, Most Holy?" The alien sang words I had never heard but nonetheless instantly understood.

"There are many possible reasons, my friend, let us inquire and settle the matter definitively." As the serpent's song faded it turned all six eyes in my direction, looking me up and down.

"You are Mason del Rio, son of David and Ester." It was not a question, alien though it was, I swore I saw its eyes register recognition of my name. "Why do you fear Heaven, blessed one?"

My moment of judgment had come. "I am not a Christian... What I believe does not seem to match this place..." I paused for a long moment hoping my judges would fill the space I had left open. The pair stared at me silently, waiting.

"I was given a choice outside these gates..." My fear reached a crescendo; I wanted to run, but I knew there was no escape. God is love... God is love... the thought gave me courage to finish.

"A woman offered me the comfort of her faith, and I could have embraced it falsely to pass these gates. I chose not to..." My spirit was spent; I could not continue.

The serpent's eyes bored into me, or so it felt, and time slowed to the point of near non-existence. Only my ragged breaths spoke of the passage of time.

Reaching some decision, the serpent turned to the alien and sang, "Witness, Power, the burden placed upon their shoulders. Choosing without knowledge, fearing the very gates of his salvation, this human demonstrates how fragile a destiny can be. It would be wise to remember him in your own struggle toward destiny."

"How so, Most Holy?" The alien responded.

"There may come a time when you must choose to follow your beliefs or adopts those of seeming-convenience. Will you be willing to risk your soul as this human has done? We have much to learn from the blessed." Turning finally to me, the serpent spoke, "Welcome to Heaven blessed one, already you serve us well."


Back to the INC Mainpage.
Back to the Fiction page.

Send mail to the Curator