“Do you have any questions?” asks Michael, my guide in Heaven.
“Yes, I do. I’m delighted to see so much progress up here since the old stories were written. I’d love to hear more about how it all hangs together and who’s running the show.”
Michael smiles. “Welcome to Team Heaven! You’ve already observed that our reformation has taken root and is beginning to flower. The biggest structural change in our world is that we have moved from absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy. Of course “Their” Word is always Supreme, but the other denizens of Heaven get to vote on important issues and their views are taken into account.”
Standing on Heaven’s mountain with my guide Michael, my ears pick up a sound that is familiar yet unexpected in this setting. “Surely I’m not hearing the tinkle of cutlery?” Michael smiles ironically.
“As the Solar Boat dips below the horizon, all the stars switch on to light up our celestial realm … and it’s time for dinner. Of course there is no time in heaven, nor does the astral body require food, but the illusion of a daily cycle breaks up the monotony provides the comfort of familiarity.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven. Rupert Brooke
Here I am, standing on the summit of Heaven’s mountain with my guide Michael. We are surveying a vast plain stretching away into the distance.
“Who are all those people, looks like angels on horseback?”
“These are the Heavenly Hosts in training. We are now in Heroes’ Heaven, home to all heroes from the greatest leaders to the humblest foot soldiers. Those who were warriors on Earth, by role or profession, often volunteer for the Heavenly Hosts. Our crack troops wear russet, but the rest of them weren’t giving up their fine uniforms. It’s all ceremonial nowadays so they may as well look gorgeous.”Continue reading →
“Now, I’m sure you’d like to go on a magical mystery tour of Britannia’s Heaven.” Michael, my new guide, is standing in front of a towering mountain in the centre of Heaven. I nod enthusiastically as he continues. “Traditionally this mountain has been known as Mount Zion, though Orpheus insists it is the spiritual peak of Mount Olympus, while other folks call it the Big Rock Candy Mountain.”
Words fail me to describe the glory of the Solar Boat, apart from a general impression of beauty, majesty and rhapsody. Besides, the ascent is so dizzyingly fast that the whole journey is over in a flash of light. By the time I recover my senses we’ve reached the cloud layer, stretching ahead as far as the eye can see and illuminated with a golden glow. Dropping the last vestiges of my scientific scepticism, I peer ahead eagerly in the hope of spotting some heavenly harpists. Disappointingly, all the clouds look empty.
Ra nudges me and there it is, the perfect fluffy white cloud…
It is easy to go down to hell; night and day the gates of Dark Death stand wide; but to climb back up again, to retrace one’s steps to the open air, there lies the problem, the difficult task. Virgil
“You will need a passport for your next destination,” says Morgana, my gracious guide to Hell. She hands me a familiar looking document with a gold embossed cover. “Here it is, personally issued by Sir Francis Walsingham, who decides who gets a passport.” I open it, scrutinize the flourishing Elizabethan signature admiringly and slip the passport into my pocket.
The darkness thickens as Morgana and I descend even further into the depths of Hell. We halt in a claustrophobic stone chamber lit only by a dim yet lurid phosphorescence on the clammy walls. The temperature drops perceptibly and I shiver as Morgana gazes at me sternly, stonily. “Souls you would call serious sinners go to the Dungeons. Please be clear we are not talking about the natural enjoyment of sensual and worldly pleasures, nor even about being rude to your parents or mean to your best friend. Such minor peccadilloes are part of the rough and tumble of life in which we are all sometimes unkind, angry, lazy, vain and all the other myriad faults and failings that human nature is prone to. Taken too far these actions may incur karma…”
I desire to go to Hell, not to Heaven. In Hell I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, but in Heaven are only beggars, monks, hermits and apostles. Machiavelli
“Do you have any questions?” asks Morgana, formerly Merlin’s apprentice and now my guide in Hell.
“Well, you’ve reassured me that there have been major improvements since I was frightened half to death with stories about this place. Even so, I’m curious. You say that people come here of their own free will, but why would anyone choose to go to Hell? I’ve heard people joke about how in the great hereafter they’d rather have fun with the sinners than sing hymns with the saints, but I’ve never taken it seriously.”
How can I describe my vision, the air of Hell is too thick for hymns! Arthur Rimbaud
“And now I’m gonna get medieval on yo’ ass,” says Morgana, my guide in Hell. She laughs uproariously at my look of alarm. “Not really, things have moved on a lot since the Dark Ages, when nobody cracked jokes about the Spanish Inquisition because you did expect them to come knocking at your door. Such excesses helped cause a backlash of unbelief that has frankly lifted a great burden from the hearts and souls of suffering humanity. At one stage we were almost closed down as numbers were diminishing so rapidly. Indeed, your compatriots ‘dismissed hell with costs’ two centuries ago in earthly time.
As I open my eyes, the mist clears and I find myself in a monumental spa, fully covered with black marble. Basins with gold taps line the sides, and I can just make out the labels, recognizing some of the finest Bordeaux vintages. My eye lights on an artisanal Black Forest gin, while my nose picks up the distinctive peaty aroma of a Talisker whisky.
I step out of the Olympic-sized pool, cosily wrapped in a fluffy black bathrobe, my feet shod in jewelled slippers. A figure in a dapper black uniform with slicked-back black hair glides up, wheeling a gold-plated drinks trolley. With a fixed blank smile, he proffers a huge triangular glass filled with vivid red liquid and two black olives on a cocktail stick. I eye it dubiously and he bows slightly. “Demon’s Blood & Balls”, he rasps metallically, “everyone’s favourite down here.”
I hate to be so rude as to refuse a drink, so I raise the glass to my lips and sip cautiously. “Not bad, you must give me the recipe for my next Halloween bash.”