‘The Blessed or the Damned’ by Guest Author Paul DeThroe

Guest Author Paul DeThroe

I came back from the dead.  It was the most horrific experience.  When I first died, my soul went to the end of the waiting line for the Divine Court of Eternal Judgment.  It was a damned long line and it didn’t move very fast so I took the time to make some new acquaintances.  Most of us hadn’t planned on dying, but fate being what it is; we had little choice in the matter.  All of us had been led from the great light to here by relatives that had been dead for ages.  The relatives had to leave once we reached the line, though, because no one was allowed to wait with us in the great line.  So, it was just us, the blessed or the damned.

In my case, I felt really stupid for trying to shoot my wife’s lover when I’ve never even fired a gun before.  When I came home early and walked in on their sordid affair, I was utterly flabbergasted.  I had misguidedly believed that my marriage was in good shape, but as she moaned and groaned in response to her lover’s violent thrusts, I knew I had been duped.  I looked down and saw a handgun sticking out of the man’s trousers that lie on the floor.  I took it and aimed at his tattooed back.  When I pulled the trigger nothing happened.

My wife’s bad guy boyfriend heard me and even though they were deep in the throes of passion, he jumped naked from my bed, took his gun away from me without much struggle and promptly put a bullet in my head.  Now he is in hiding while a nationwide manhunt is underway.  My wife or I should say, widow, will be rich for the rest of her life because of our life insurance policy and her lies.  She told the authorities that she had been sexually assaulted by the boyfriend after he murdered me, killing two birds with one stone.  Oh, the irony of it all!

When I finally reached the Pearly Gates that served as the entrance to the Divine Court, there were dozens of dazzlingly beautiful, yet fierce looking angelic beings with fiery swords standing guard that they refused to let anyone pass until their name was called from inside.  Only one person could enter at a time, even if they were members of the same family or had succumbed at the same time.  Once a person passed through the security measures and walked inside the Court they were never seen again, at least not from the outside of the Pearly Gates.

When it was my turn to enter, I quietly floated into the great hall with my head hung low, staring uncomfortably at the intricately detailed, religious themed, marble path that led to where I would face the judge.  I stopped just in front of where the judge sat high on a pedestal and tried to avoid looking up but my eyes were forced by some supernatural means to meet the dreadful judge’s eyes.

The judge was by far the oldest looking person I had ever seen.  The ancient man didn’t look hundreds of years old; he looked thousands of years old.  He wore a thick silver chain around his neck that held dozens of huge, rusted skeleton keys that looked so heavy that they seemed to drag the frail looking old judge down.  Despite the aged appearance of the ethereal arbiter, his creepy, all seeing eyes were keen and alert and it seemed as though he could peer right into my very soul, the thought of which sent cold chills racing up and down what used to be my spine.

I cringed when I read the crude carving on a granite nomenclature that sat in front of his pedestal, ‘Everlasting Judge, Peter, the rock’.  It is hard to describe the decrepit feeling in the gut one experiences when standing in front of the man who symbolically holds the keys to Heaven.  I returned my gaze to the floor, where I swore I would keep it, and swallowed hard on the awkward lump in my throat but couldn’t make it go away.

“All rise!” snarled a gruff looking angelic bailiff as he strode forth to silence the court.  “The court of the Everlasting Judge Peter will now come to order.  The case of William Bernard Studemeyer will now be heard.”

“Are you William Bernard Studemeyer, sir?” asked Judge Peter in an alarmingly booming voice that startled me immensely.

“Yes, my lord,” I answered meekly while looking hard at the marbled floor for fear of locking stares with his dreadful eyes again.

“William Bernard Studemeyer, the saga of your soul is to be heard in my courtroom today,” St. Peter advised me.  “If you are deemed worthy you will be spend eternity in paradise with those of your family and friends that have also been deemed worthy.  However, if you are deemed unworthy, then you will spend eternity in a lake of burning fire with your family and friends that were deemed unworthy.  Do you understand the seriousness of this matter, William?”

“Yes, my Lord,” I replied, still looking down.

“You have the right to have an angelic attorney represent you,” he continued.  “This court will appoint one, if you so desire.”

“No, my Lord,” I replied guardedly.  “I would prefer to defend myself.”

“So be it,” he muttered as he waved his hand dismissively to a waiting angel and then turned in the general direction of the monstrous demon attorney that was impatiently waiting to prosecute my case and claim a soul.  “Let’s get on with this, shall we?  Mr. Prosecutor-Demon, would you care to read the charges against Mr. Studemeyer?”

“Yes, judge,” replied the fiery breathed devil as he gave me a wretched gaze, causing me to drop my eyes to the floor again.  “It appears that Mr. Studemeyer has done a novel’s worth of evil deeds, ranging from multiple degrees of lying, petty theft, jealousy; nothing major really, except this one little recent matter of attempted double murder that led to his untimely, but necessary, demise.”

“I can explain that, my Lord,” I pleaded to the judge.

“Silence, Mr. Studemeyer,” scolded the impatient judge as he angrily slammed his knotted oaken mallet down on its gavel.  “Explanations are no good in my court.  Is it not known as a fact that everyone is responsible for everything they have ever done, good or bad?  To be deemed worthy of entering Heaven, you must have done more good deeds than bad.  You have heard Mr. Prosecutor-Demon’s charges; you must now answer those charges, deed for deed.  For example, helping a little old lady across a busy street may equal telling a white lie, but it most certainly does not equal attempted double murder.  Do you understand, William?”

“What about the book of my life?” I implored.  “May I use it?”

“Humans are not permitted to read the Book of Life,” admonished Judge Peter.  “Only spiritual beings can.  You turned down your opportunity for help from an appointed angelic attorney, so your only recourse would seem to be using your own memories.”

So, I began telling my life’s story.  I impressed myself by getting off to a good start and started feeling like I actually could prove that I had done more good deeds than bad, but then I petered out.  As my life flashed before my eyes, it was hard to pick up some of the individual memories I needed most, but the sudden influx of memories did make it painfully obvious that I had no defense for attempted double murder.  I had never done anything as good as that foolhardy move had been bad.  As a last ditch effort to avoid surrendering to the Prosecutor-Demon, I started trying to add several good deeds together to try to match the one really damning deed.  If negotiating didn’t work I planned to throw myself at the mercy of the court.

After a nice string of rather good deeds, like helping a broken down young single mother change a flat tire on a dark stretch of interstate highway, calling the police when a neighbor was drunk and assailing his wife, and talking one of my depressed nephews out of suicide, I finally ran out of good deeds to add to my tally.  Judge Peter patiently waited for me to come up with more, but I couldn’t, so he quickly deliberated my case and came to judgment.

“Mr. Studemeyer,” called the terse voice of Judge Peter, cutting through the silence that his deep thinking had commanded, “you sound like a very good person, good at heart, good in intention; but you have seriously compromised your soul’s opportunity for eternal peace and happiness by failing to avoid the temptation to take matters into your own hands when you caught your wife in an adulterous relationship.  I am sorry to inform you that I cannot, under the rules set forth by the Supreme Being, permit your soul to cross into what we call Heaven.”

I gasped aloud and quickly threw my hands over my mouth to hide my shame as flashing red lights exploded in my head, impulsively commanding me to fall to the ground and start begging for mercy.  Despite my histrionics, Judge Peter just sat there quietly allowing his cold words to sink deep into my wounded psyche.

Then he showed some much needed leniency and partly let me off the hook by saying, “However, you also have failed to meet the criteria required for potential demonhood set forth by the Elders of Hell.  That places you squarely in the camp of souls officially in limbo.  In most cases, those spirits never make it to the Pearly Gates, because they either do not know they have died, or they refuse to accept that they have died.  Your case is different and frankly compelling.  It is very rare that I hear a case were a person’s good deeds exactly match their bad deeds.”

I started to say something in my defense, but he raised an antediluvian finger to silence me before continuing.  “Because of these special circumstances, I am going to make the exceptional judgment of transporting your soul back to Earth.  You will re-enter your body and live for an uncertain amount of time to attempt establishing a clearer picture of what the fate of your afterlife shall be.”

“Thank you, wise judge,” I quickly replied, “I assure you that I will make the best of this extraordinary opportunity to make things right.  I swear to use my mind and body to do many good deeds in whatever time you see fit to allot me.  You will see that I am a changed man who is worthy of angelhood!”

“Perhaps you shouldn’t be such a rush to think that this will be an easy task, Mr. Studemeyer,” cautioned Judge Peter temperately.  “The fact that you have died brings the clear impression that you have sufficiently devastated your Earthly body.  You will have to live with the consequences of your actions.  It is doubtful that you will ever regain any physical capabilities in the uncertain amount of time that you will exist upon the Earth in ephemeral reprieve.  You should pray that you will at least have some mental capabilities upon your return, because that too is largely uncertain.”

I was terribly shaken by Judge Peter’s ominous caveats, but I had no choice at all in the matter so I painfully agreed to his terms.  Despite my lack of input, I had to ask, “If I am to be stuck in a situation where I can do nothing, how am I supposed to sin or even atone for my sins?”

“Sin is readily abundant upon the heart and the tongue of a human,” replied the great judge.  “Whether or not you can fix the problems that you have caused is not my concern.  As you can plainly see from your short wait in line, I am a very busy judge.  You may have fared better by taking an angel to represent you, so that your ignorance of the laws of Heaven would not have adversely affected you.  Alas, it is what is.  The ruling is confirmed, there can be no appeals and you must be off!  Wherever fate and fortune may take you, William Bernard Studemeyer, I wish you the best and bid you a most fond farewell.”

Within mere moments, my surroundings were gone; replaced by dominant total whiteness.  I could feel the warmness of evaporated water passing through my soul and intuitively knew that my soul was being transported by a cloud, or more like a spiritual UFO cloaked within a cloud.  After a boisterous and turbulent journey through the sky, the thunderous cloud paused over the hospital where my body lay near death, in a deep coma.  With a thunderous clap, the cloud cast a supercharged bolt of electricity towards the hospital’s lightening rod, and my venturing soul rejoined my damaged body in a jolting electrical rush.

When I opened my eyes I could see nothing but blurriness.  Even though the room was dim, the light attacked my eyes with ferocity, forcing me close them tight before blinking a dozen or so times to finally adjust.  When I could finally see clearly I realized I was in a hospital bed with tubes and wires all over my body.  I couldn’t feel or move anything.  It was a horrible feeling of entrapment that wasted little time striking me now wakened mind with primal fear.  I existed essentially as just a pair of eyes and ears, a heart and a mind.

When the anxiety finally wore off and I began to accept the inevitable, I forced my eyes to stay open and started darting them around to see if anyone was in the room with me.  The room was empty.  I started thinking and asking myself the obvious questions, “Where is my wife?  Does she care so little for me?  If it were her lying here, I would be keeping an around the clock, bedside vigil!  Why aren’t the doctors and nurses trying to help me?  Can’t they tell that I am awake and need help?”  That is when I first realized that for the rest of my live, I would be nothing more than a forgotten burden.  That awareness was a fate worse than death.

As I went into the heart of what was the worst despair of my life, I heard the sweetest feminine voice I had ever heard.  Even sweeter than when my wife used to whisper, “I love you”, during the heat of our most passionate, young lovemaking.  Even sweeter than when my dear mother used to sing lullabies to me as she held me in her arms, rocking me to sleep as a youngster.

My eyes scanned left and the right looking for my wife, even though I was sure it wasn’t her voice.  There was no one there.  I was sorely disappointed, thinking my mind was playing tricks on me but the voice kept seductively calling me.  Her strangely amorous voice confused me because she sounded as if she were both right next to me and at the end of a long tunnel at the same time.  I could easily feel the vibrations in the tone of her beautiful voice that kept popping in and out of my head, but I couldn’t see her, for the life of me.

Unable to handle the confusion, I instinctively went deep within myself to find the kind of mental focus that I would need to discover if her voice was coming from my imagination or if it was something more sinister.  I started by meditating and controlling my breaths and it didn’t take very long before I was able to master the rhythm of the respirator I was hooked to.

I recalled a new age spirituality book that I once read that described the technique of astral travel.  After allowing my mind to clear itself of thoughts, I warily allowed my soul to rise out of my body.  I looked down upon myself and started to feel very queasy but then realized that my spirit was tethered to my body by an invisible umbilical cord.  With the scare of floating away gone, I started dancing around the quaint hospital room, relishing my new found freedom.  Then I saw the beautiful young lady with the waiflike voice for the first time.

The spectral being that so enthralled me was as ethereal as a shimmering rainbow and seemed to float in the air without any interference from a tether like the one that kept me attached to my body.  She smiled at me and my heart melted.  I could feel a magnetic radiance about her but when I reached out to touch her and she disappeared.

Humbled by the rebuff, my soul withdrew from the air and slammed back hard into my body.  At that very moment I realized that she didn’t disappear because of anything I had done, but because she sensed a visitor coming.  That was the moment that my wife walked in with doctor and nurse in tow.

“I think my husband has suffered enough,” I heard my devoted wife say.  “He has been like this for two long weeks.  He came to me in a dream last night and asked me to remove the life support and allow his soul to go to Heaven.”

I had heard my wife lie to me before and I could tell she really wanted me dead so that she could collect the insurance money and live happily ever after.  How could I blame her?  I was the one that worked seven days a week to provide her with fine material possessions while ignoring her physical and emotional needs.  That is why she started having an affair with a bad guy in the first place.

How could I expect her to ever want to take care of me now that I was a worthless vegetable?  As they kept discussing her plans to rid the Earth of me, I noticed that they paid no attention to me whatsoever, so I shut my eyes and just listened.

Not surprisingly, the doctor didn’t offer much in my defense; probably because of the financial risk I presented.  It would be so much easier for everyone to just let me expire, but it was too damned hard for me to lay there and hear my wife acting like she cared so much, when the truth of the matter was; she couldn’t wait for this to be over.

After living with a person for over a decade, you can pretty much tell when they were lying, and my wife was playing it like an Academy Award winner, while at the same time outlandishly flirting with and touching the doctor who would ultimately kill me.  Déjà vu?  I couldn’t take it anymore!  I opened my eyes and started blinking wildly.

“Doctor Philachek,” bellowed the young nurse that had accompanied the woefully distracted physician.  “He’s blinking!”

“Well, yes, he is,” said the doctor in amazement as he rushed to my side, shining an infernal light in my eyes which caused horrible discomfort in the only part of my body that I could actually feel.  “It seems that Mr.  Studemeyer has decided to rejoin the living.”

“No,” moaned my wife grimly before correcting herself, “I mean, I can’t believe it!  It’s a miracle!”

Soon, my wife and the doctor hastily left and the nurse strapped me into a wheelchair and rolled me to several different hospital departments where they performed test after test on my brain and bodily functions.  Then she wheeled me back to my room, hauled me into bed and left me there all alone, trapped like a goddamned rat.  After becoming depressed, I mentally took the Lord’s name in vain, and then prayed a few times to neutralize that sin.

In reality, all I could do was pray, silently sing or lay there going crazy with panicked, insane thoughts that ultimately led me back to praying.  Then her ghostly voice would come again to rescue me again from my madness.  Just like before, her bewitching melody seemed both near and far away.  It became easier and easier for me to leave my body now, especially when she called me.

Whenever I visited my new friend, I was delighted to find that I full function of all my body parts and that was such a wonderful, outstanding, and spectacular feeling!  It was the kind of feeling that I had always taken for granted when I was alive.  We would dance like sprites and sing like hippies and talk like the best of friends.  Then, just as quickly as she had swept me off my feet, she would just suddenly disappear, leaving me breathless and wanting.  Inevitably a doctor or a nurse or an aide or my unfaithful wife would walk through the door, forcing me back into my near lifeless body which would serve as nothing more than my prison for the foreseeable future.

On this particular occasion, my wife and doctor walked through the door.  I pretended to be asleep so that I could listen to the doctor talk about long term solutions such as what type of nursing facility I should permanently enter.  I was devastated.  Not one person in this Earthly world cared for me and now they wanted to rip me from the arms of my new friend from some other realm.

I did not know if my ghostly friend was a ghost that was trapped for eternity in this lonely hospital room, my guardian angel that refused to give up on me, a devil sent to tease me relentlessly in preparation for my soon to come fate or just a figment of my imagination.  I was afraid to ask her because I feared scaring her away, but I did know I could not be taken away from her.  Then a passionate sound rushed through my ears that I had heard numerous times during my married years and I recognized it immediately.  My wife was seductively moaning while the doctor touched in her most beautifully secret features.

I wanted to die right then and there.  If I could have used my arms and hands and had access to a gun, I would have finished the job that my wife’s previous lover had started.  Unable to do so, I held my breath for as long as I could and I prayed that the ventilator would fail and I would never have to take another breath.  But as my prayers went unanswered, I dawned on me that I had just sealed my fate in Court of Eternal Judgment.  With no other recourse, I just helplessly lie there with my ears filled with the sounds of their rushed lovemaking on the visitor’s chair, as if I didn’t know or it didn’t matter.

“Come my love,” came the deliciously haunting voice of my friend.  “Let’s get out of this place and away from these heartless people.  I will show you the way.  All you have to do is let go of your tether and follow me.”

It was the first time she had revealed herself to me with other people present and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  I left my body, grabbed her hand, floated away from my body until my tether tightened and then I ripped myself from it and zoomed ephemerally through the wall.  Together we floated outside over a ledge that sat high over the parking lot.

I gave her a hug and whether it real or imagined, I could feel her warmth and it felt like the sweet moistness of a warm summer night.  My heart opened to her and sensed that her love was unlike anything I had ever felt because of her purity, sensuousness and compassion.  It was sweeter than those long ago hugs that my mother gave me, usually after she beat me and felt guilty about it.  It was better than my wife’s hugs, because her love was always conditional.  It was perfect love and I knew right then and there that I had met my soul mate.

Then I started to feel the crush from the pressure of reality as I realized that just like all the rotten luck I had ever had in my life, I would be forced to lose her.  My wife would move me to some ran down long term health care facility where I would be neglected for the rest of my sorry life.  But at least for a few precious moments my friend and I would dance in the wind like insatiable lovers and fly about like carefree dragonflies on the journey of a lifetime.

She told me in her wraithlike voice that everything would be ok and I swooped in for another heartwarming hug when I felt my life energy being sucked out of my body.  I flew back through the wall and into my room and saw my wife and the doctor standing over me with guiltless looks on their faces and I silently cried because my time with my new lover was finished.  My wife leaned over me and started turning off the life support machines but the doctor frantically reached around her to turn the buttons back on.   My wife smiled at him alluringly, snatched his hands away from the medical equipment and admonished him, “If you don’t want me to ruin your reputation by telling everyone how you took advantage of a grief stricken widow, then you will forget all about this little matter.”

“I suppose you are right,” sighed the doctor as he realized that she held his career and his balls firmly in her tight grasp.  “It should be a matter of a few minutes and he will expire.  I will write it up as congestive heart failure directly related to his brain injuries.”

“That will be just perfect,” cooed my soon to be widow.

Unable to feel the pain that my lungs were surely experiencing, I quietly lay there waiting for the inevitable.  Slowly my vision and hearing senses started to dim while the white glare that foreshadows the totality of death appeared.  I was dying, again.  Then I heard my sweet friend anxiously calling my name, pleading with me not to leave her.  I could see her outstretched arms, but then I turned and looked into the direction of the light and I could see and hear my family members calling for me to join them once again.

The blinding light’s pull on my soul was immense and terribly powerful, but I stubbornly resisted and started pulling away from it with everything I had.  Finally, I was able to reach my lover’s hands and pulled me to her.  I stood there watching as the glaring white light receded and the voices of my family faded. I smiled happily because I was free to be with my new friend for eternity.

After the rush of fighting off both life and death, the perception of my surroundings began to get clearer and I could see my body lying dead while the doctor stood beside my corpse, filling out my death report and my wife faked sobbing over her loss in front of the nurses who had come into the room to remove the wires and tubes.  Everyone soon left and my lover held me tight as I floated above my own corpse and cried.  After a few lonely minutes, a crew of morgue workers came in, put a tag in my big toe, then they coldly put my corpse in a body bag and wheeled it away on a gurney.

“The same thing happened to me,” whispered my sweet lover and she squeezed my ghostly hand in encouragement.  I leaned in close to her, so close that I could feel her ethereal breath on my lips and I passionately kissed her for the very first time, feeling the exchange of electrical energy warm the tiny molecules that made up our existence.  Then we zipped through the outside wall and romantically floated away on the cool nighttime breeze.  She led me to a young maple tree that grew on a secluded spot on the hospital grounds.  Our love would be as timeless as the tree that we would share as our eternal home, while never even caring if we were blessed or damned.