The armrest on the bus was stabbing me in my side. The seat on the small van was too small
So How Did You Spend Your Last Days on Earth?
Doing stupid shit, duh.
I'm an atheist, and this comforts me. I've been judged enough in life, and I've had my fill of myself.
Still, I imagine what it might be like getting to the gates.
"You aren't Saint Peter."
"He outsourced this job to me. I'm actually still alive, working remotely from a small part of India that hasn't been destroyed yet, but I'll be here soon. They only pay me $1 a day, but I get to learn how to answer the questions, or how this place works, and they guaranteed I'd basically get in regardless."
"Why are there three of us? Aren't we each supposed to be questioned or whatever?"
The Indian looked at me.
"We're hoping that this way, you guys will be able to learn from each other, or earn your way out of hell or purgatory more quickly."
Finally another guy, Joe, chipped in.
"That sounds like horseshit to me. Aren't those decisions permanent, or preordained anyway?"
"Yeah," said Chang. "This smacks of cost cutting to me, and I should know. I was building smartphones since I was seven."
Chang didn't look over 14, but as a half Chinese person myself, I knew we tended to look younger, and despite his youthful appearance, he had the bitterness of an adult.
The Indian, who had a name tag that read "Bob," shook his head.
"This is not a good way for three atheists to start. You already have that strike against you."
He pointed at me.
"So how did you spend your last days, math guy?"
He looked at the others and explained.
"This guy knew the end was coming. So tell me, how did you die?"
"I died in front of a computer working from home. Even when the city started flooding, I kept on working and getting drunk like an idiot."
Chang and Joe both nodded sadly, but Chang was angry.
"So you knew, but you kept going anyway. Doesn't seem too smart to me."
Joe was a little more compassionate.
"Come on Chang, everyone has their own problems. Maybe he had a family to support, and none of us knew the exact date. We still had to eat."
Chang shrugged, but didn't look satisfied.
"Look at him. He didn't have kids. Americans don't care about their families. This fucker knew, and he kept on working anyway."
Joe looked at him.
"So how did you die?"
Chang looked down at his feet.
"The Apple factory I worked at burned down. Too many Lithium batteries stored too close together. They basically exploded."
Joe looked at him sadly, then back to Bob.
"This is bullshit. You're supposed to be asking the questions. You get three of us up here together, and we do your bullshit job for you."
Bob looked up from his smartphone.
"Fine. So how did you die, Joe?"
"You already know but I'll tell you anyway. Once I knew the end was near, I quit my job and went nuts. I had been sober for 20 years, but didn't feel like it anymore, so I took out as many loans as I could before I quit and blew it all on booze, drugs, and prostitutes. I bought a cabin in a mountain for my wife and kids and loaded it up, but figured they were going to die anyway, so I told them I was going out to get more supplies and never came back."
"You're right about that. They're all dead. They actually died even before you did. A freak storm destroyed them, and I mean destroyed. Guts, blood, and limbs everywhere. They died screaming."
Joe punched Bob in the face.
"Well that's one advantage of not dealing with a real saint, but I would have punched Saint Peter, too. Why the fuck not at this point?"
Bob stood back up. His eye was already starting to bulge and turn black. He pointed at me.
"You go to hell. Chang goes to purgatory. Joe goes to heaven."
"It can't be worse than being burned alive building stupid phones."
"I'll take hell over my last job."
Joe looked surprised.
"Why the fuck do I get to go to heaven."
"Chang, you will be building phones in purgatory. And you." He pointed at me. "You'll be doing the same job in hell."
Then he looked at Joe.
"And you get to be reunited with your family. They know what you were up to before you abandoned them and died, so you'll get your chance to make peace with them."
Joe looked at Chang and me.
"Either of you guys want to change to places?"
Chang was enraged.
"What the hell is the difference between hell and purgatory?"
"I'm not doing shit in hell. I'm going to blow off that stupid job and spend my time watching porn, and I don't care what kind of VPN you have or security measures, I'll beat them. I apparently have fucking eternity."
"No one wants to change places? My wife isn't attractive and my kids are a pain in the ass, but they won't hate you for the gambling and prostitution."
"All decisions are final."
Chang and I looked at each other and nodded. We looked to Joe and he got it, too.
"What if we murder you right now? Then we all get to go to hell."
Bob said it was impossible, but looked nervous, so we murdered him, and Saint Peter appeared.
"Goddammit. I knew this outsourcing was a mistake. You all get purgatory. And you'll be seeing Bob there shortly."
Joe scratched his head.
"He said he was guaranteed a spot in heaven, and it seemed like he wanted to go."
Saint Peter laughed.
"He didn't get it in writing, and his little fuck up here blew it for him. But don't feel too bad. Heaven is just like being a middle manager. The title makes them happy enough, but we keep everyone working, heaven, purgatory, hell, whatever. It's all really just purgatory. Kind of like life."
"Is there beer and cigarettes in purgatory?"
Saint Peter looked at me like I was an idiot.
"Of course there is. Not even God is crazy enough to take cigarettes and alcohol away."
Joe looked up at him hopefully.
Saint Peter waved him off.
"You won't need them. The women are just as bored as you are, and when you're all stuck together working all the time, the sexual harassment modules we make you watch--and we make you watch a lot--don't really matter that much. The women make the first move once they realize it's illegal for you to."
"What about me? I worked from home."
Saint Peter sighed.
"You'll break through the VPN fast. And your cat is going to die soon, so life will pretty much be the same, except you can blow off work completely. Try to get yourself fired, that's my advice."
Chang looked up at Saint Peter.
"What about me? I never had a computer or a phone, and I worked with kids, and I'm not into that."
Saint Peter looked bored.
"Just steal a fucking phone and google whatever you're into. You're already in purgatory, and more age appropriate people in shoddy Apple factories will be dying shortly. You died a virgin, but you won't be one for long. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to find a new Bobby. Maybe I should take one out of purgatory. I'm telling you, this job is the real hell. You wouldn't believe some of the horseshit I've had to listen to."
Joe looked up at him. Saint Peter was preternaturally tall.
"This is a fucking scam. We're all atheists. Why can't we just vanish into the ether and stop existing like we all wanted and expected?"
Saint Peter sighed.
"Fucked if I know, and I'm a fucking greeter, or hostess. So forgive my lack of compassion."
He opened the gates, but turned and called back to us as we entered.
"You were right to be atheists, but you just didn't take it far enough. You're fucked wherever you go."
"What about the billionaires who fucked us all?" asked Chang.
"They all get torn to pieces in their bunkers by their staff."
Joe put his arm around Chang.
"Well at least that's something."