STORIES
His Eminence was dying. He welcomed it. A life of deprivation and hardship would finally
get its just reward. He felt sure he would go to Heaven. He had more than made up for
that one event in his life where he had taken the wrong turn. God had forgiven him. There
could be no doubt. The waxen cheeks of the old man blushed for a brief moment as the
memory of this fated event welled up inside him as though it had only just occurred.

How powerful a memory can be, he thought, as the waves of shame washed over him
with undiminished fury. I was only thirteen, it was a mistake, stop, please stop ... the old
man muttered to himself as he was forced to relive that dreadful moment once more.

                                                          ***

It had been a perfect day, his first time away from home. His parents had misgivings about
sending their son to the summer camp, but finally gave in. He enjoyed the games and the
camaraderie. As an only child of staid, elderly and deeply religious parents he knew little
of such things.

He was lying on his bunk, wearing only a pair of underpants; exhausted, but happy. He
must have dozed off. Loud laughter awoke him. There by his bunk stood Tommy, the
school bully and Ned, one of his cronies.

"Look at the bastard, he's got a hard on you could crack a safe with. Bet he doesn't know
what to do with it!" Tommy was pointing at the boy's erect penis, laughing so hard, tears
were streaming down his face.

"Want to show him what its for," Ned screeched eagerly.

"You bet!"

Before he had a chance to defend his modesty Ned was holding him down and Tom had
stripped off his pants. Tom gripped his member with one hand and his scrotum with the
other.

The boy tried to struggle free but Ned was too strong. He felt a twinge of shame when he
realised that Tommy's grip on his penis felt nice, very nice. A turmoil of contradictory
feelings flooded him. His struggles stopped as the feeling in his groin intensified.

Tommy's practised strokes sent wave after wave of sheer pleasure through his body. Ned
was no longer holding him, there was no need. His surrender was complete. He wished
the experience would last forever. When he finally erupted, his seed gushing all over his
abdomen and chest, Tommy screamed: "Now he knows!"

Ned scooped up some of the semen with his finger and rubbed it across the boy's lips.

"How did you like your little wank, pretty boy," he teased. Without waiting for an answer,
the boys ran off, laughing loudly.

The boy lay there for a moment, spent.

Then realisation hit him. He had sinned! In the worst possible way! With horror he stared
at the evidence of his depravity scattered across his body.

For hours afterwards he stood under the shower, scrubbing himself with fury, trying to
come clean. It was useless. No soap could touch what he was contaminated with.

Next morning he joined the queue for breakfast, his eyes downcast, still trying to deal with
the aftermath of his experience. He did not notice Ned coming up behind him.

"Like some more?" Ned's hand rubbed his buttocks as he whispered in the boy's ear. His
penis responded instantly, straining the cloth of his trousers, trying to break free. He could
feel his resistance melting, wishing to surrender again.

Then something inside him screamed: "No! Not again! Never again! Away from here,
away from temptation before it is too late!"

Blinded by tears he ran from the dining room to the nearest phone. He told his parents he
was homesick. His parents picked him up in the afternoon.

                                                          ***

"Go forth my son, and sin no more," the old parish priest had said at confession.

Two Hail Mary's and three Our Father's did not seem to be a severe enough penalty for a
sin of this magnitude. The boy decided on his own penance. He would dedicate his life to
God and forgo all earthly desires. He would scourge himself until all evil was extinguished
from his soul.

And so it went. Priest at twenty-five, bishop at forty, cardinal at sixty. A distinguished
career.

He stopped flagellating himself when he became too feeble to wield the whip. He felt
clean now. God had accepted his penance and absolved him from further punishment by
depriving him of the strength to continue the self castigation that had been part of his life
for so long.

                                                           ***

"Father forgive me, for I have sinned," the old man muttered aloud.

"I have forgiven you my son," a rich baritone voice said in answer.

It took all his effort to turn his head enough to see the stranger at his bedside.

"Thank you Lord," the cardinal said. "I knew I would be forgiven for my trespass."

"I think you are mistaken. I was not talking about your trespass, I was referring to your
wasted life." The stranger fluffed up a pillow and propped the old man up so he could see
more of his surrounds. "Besides, I am not your Lord, nor are you dead yet."

"Who are you? What do you want of me?"

"Let us say I am here to offer you a last chance. It grieves me to see you suffer that much.
Let me show you what could be yours."

With that the stranger pointed to the wall. The wall became transparent and revealed the
view of a lush meadow. It was a brilliant day. People were about; laughing, drinking,
picnicking and ...

"They are fornicating!" The cardinal gasped and closed his eyes in disgust.

"I know who you are! Begone Satan! You are not going to deprive me of Heaven!"

The sudden exertion had been too much for the dying man. Exhausted he sank back into
his pillows.

"I am trying to save you from Heaven, you fool," Lucifer said gently. "Hear me out before
you reject me."

The cardinal, his eyes still tightly closed, was too feeble to protest.

"You have suffered much, serving an abomination," Lucifer continued. "Eons ago I saw
what He was and distanced myself from Him.

The millennia have not mellowed Him. If you, but for a minute, had considered The
Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the sacrifices and wars in His name, even the sacrifice of
His only son for His own glory, you would have realised long ago which one of us is the
evil one.

And look what He did to His chosen people! Those poor Jews! The most persecuted
people on earth. And their reward? The promised land. A barren piece of ground that has
seen nothing but death, destruction, hatred and fanaticism ever since.

"What He demands is total obedience and sacrifice and then He wants to be praised on
top of it! All He ever gave in return was hardship.

"I, on the other hand, have celebrated the pleasures of life. If there is evil in that I fail to
see it."

"Begone Satan," the cardinal cried with his last strength. "Thou shalt not have me!"

"Have it your way," Lucifer said sadly. "I am sorry you are so blind."

                                                           ***

"Welcome to Heaven." An old man with an enormous golden key in his hand addressed
him.

"Thank you, St. Peter," the cardinal replied.

"Please proceed to room 3011 for your introduction. You will be given a schedule and the
rules of Heaven will be explained to you there. Dominus vobiscum!"

"Et cum spiritu tuo." The cardinal went down the corridor St. Peter indicated and entered
room 3011.

Room 3011 was a modern auditorium with a capacity of about two hundred people.
There were several people already in the audience. He quietly took a seat and waited. He
felt elated. He had made it. In spite of all adversity he had finally gone to Heaven.

As the auditorium filled the cardinal studied the expression on the faces of the arrivals. He
found his own feelings of elation, excitement and anticipation reflected in their eyes.

The lights dimmed. A spotlight focussed on the curtain. Slowly the curtain opened,
revealing a small stage. A tall, blonde haired man with penetrating blue eyes and ruggedly
handsome features entered from the left. He was dressed in white flowing robes with a
gold border on his sleeves and around his neck. A golden sash girdled his waist. He was
barefoot.

                                                           ***

"Welcome to Heaven. I am Archangel Michael. I am here to explain to you your new
home.

"All of you are shortly to be moved to Heaven 695RC.

"695RC is reserved for people such as yourselves, who have served the Lord with
dedication through His holy institution, the Roman Catholic Church.

"Before you arrive there you will proceed through the Second Gate. There your bodies
will be transformed. You will no longer be subject to the needs of mortal flesh. Your new
bodies will be quite incorruptible. They will not need sustenance, therefore there is no
need for orifices of evacuation, neither is there need for reproductive organs. You will
never feel tired, nor will you ever need sleep again.

"You will be pleased to know that from now on you will be able to devote every minute of
your time to the service of the Lord.

"Here we have no day or night as you know it. Instead, there are colour periods. Each
colour period has a special significance.

"Period yellow is 'Gloria in excelsis deo,' a period of praise.

"Pink period is reserved for 'Hallelujah', another period of praise.

"The green period is for the 'Credo', where you re-affirm your faith.

"Blue is Pater Noster which is the holiest of the periods, as you will recite the Lord's
prayer as taught by Jesus, His only begotten son.

"You will find a more thorough explantation in your Handbook to 695RC which will be
handed to you shortly.

"Which just leaves one more point to be covered right now. In charge are the angels. Their
word is law and therefore must be obeyed. They have the power to compel you to follow
their directions, though this is rarely necessary. We prefer you to render your service to
the Lord willingly, and I am certain you are all too dedicated to the Lord for us to have to
resort to such an extreme measure.

"The rank of the angels is determined by their sleeve and collar markings as well as their
belts.

"Archangels gold, Cherubim red, Seraphim blue and so forth. You will find the details in
your handbook.

"That just about covers it. Any questions?"

"When do we get to see the Lord?" The question that was on everyone's mind was voiced
by an old nun in the front row.

"The coming of the Lord is close at hand," the Archangel replied.

"But we thought ..." The voice of the old nun trailed into nothingness as she tried to hide
her disappointment.

"The ways of the Lord are inscrutable. He will reveal Himself when He judges it proper.
In the meantime you must be patient. Patience is the supreme virtue. You are surrounded
by eternity. Days, years, centuries, even millennia mean nothing here. Be patient. The
Lord will come! Soon."

"Now where have I heard all this before," the Cardinal wondered briefly before brushing
away his thought as cynical and unworthy of him.

An angel with green markings was handing out the handbooks.

'I must look up what he is,' the Cardinal thought as he picked up his copy. He was about
to thumb through the slim booklet when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Please come with me your Eminence. It is time for the Second Gate."

                                                          ***

The Second Gate was a narrow passage bathed in pink light. He shed his clothing as he
was instructed and slowly walked the twenty yards or so to the exit. As he walked he
became increasingly aware of a feeling of well being that he had not experienced since he
was a young man. Elated he leapt through the exit into a small ante room where another
angel was waiting for him. The angel handed him a white robe and a white belt. Before he
dressed he looked at his new body. The skin was flawless, like polished marble. There
was no body hair, nor were there any signs of gender. His nipples and penis were gone,
even his navel was no longer there. No warts, no moles, not even a wrinkle! Just pure
unblemished white skin, perfect curves, firm solid flesh sculptured to perfection.

He donned his robes and followed the angel to a jetty where several boats were moored.
Wide open barges with seats. Except, there was no water. They seemed to float in mid
air. The angel motioned him to a barge that displayed a large sign 695RC.

He was one of the last passengers to board the vessel. Soon the vessel was moving
noiselessly forward. As they left the harbour the barge was enveloped by a green mist.
For what seemed like hours there were no discernible features, just green fog.

Suddenly they were through. The Cardinal stared at the spectacle. It was beautiful! They
were in open space. Before them were galaxies of stars, glowing with a soft, bluish white
sheen, arranged in perfect symmetry around an imaginary axis.

The barge headed for a cluster to the right. As they came closer the cardinal realised that
this was not a star system as he knew it. All the stars appeared to be of the same size all
perfectly spherical. They then passed one of the stars at fairly close range. This was no
star! It looked like an enormous metallic globe some two kilometers in diameter. It was
marked 302JW.

He turned to one of the angels next to him and asked what it meant.

"Jehovah's Witnesses Nr. 182," was the curt reply, "this is one of their heavens."

"Do you mean to say they have a heaven of their own?" The cardinal was staring at
another of the globes that had just come into view. It was marked 102SUM. "And what is
this?"

The angel appeared somewhat annoyed at the cardinal's questions. Nevertheless, he did
offer an explanation.

"This means Sunni Muslims No 102. All the religions have their own heavens. It is
necessary. There could not be a coherent service if we brought all the rituals together in
one locality. The confusion of languages and variations in worship would create
disharmony, to say the least. We try to keep them separated according to dogma and
culture.

"Anyone who worships and praises the Lord goes to Heaven. It does not matter to the
Lord what form that worship takes, or if the dogma is correct. None of your dogmas can
be correct, by definition. God is unfathomable!

"In his infinite mercy he embraces anyone who worships Him, however demented the
ideas that led to it."

With that he abruptly turned around and went to the bow.

They passed hundreds, perhaps thousands of heavens before they reached their
destination.

695RC. The yellow markings on the silver grey globe were clearly visible now.

Soon they would be home.

As they approached an opening appeared in the globe and a platform slid into place. The
barge slowed and manoeuvred into position. Several angels fastened the vessel to the
platform.

One of the Seraphim climbed aboard and addressed the passengers.

"You will depart in groups of five. Each group will be assigned an escort. The angel
assigned to your group is there to help you settle in and familiarise you with your duties.
He is the representative of the Lord and must be obeyed in all respects. His directions are
not to be questioned." With that the Seraph turned around and went back into the globe.

The cardinal's group was one of the last to disembark. The angel in charge was a rather
stern character of few words. He motioned the group to follow him and they climbed the
steps to the platform, entered the globe and followed a narrow, brightly lit corridor to a
lift. The angel picked up a microphone and said: "Level 317." With a soft hum the lift
started its ascent.

When the lift door opened the cardinal stood there riveted. He had never seen anything
like it. The globe was hollow. Enormous platforms, like grandstands in a football stadium,
jutted towards the centre, packed with people.

In the centre of the globe a gigantic crucifix appeared suspended in mid air slowly
revolving around its axis.

Below the crucifix on a suspended platform were a group of Cherubim that appeared to
lead the prayers. The globe glowed blue.

"Move!" The angel in charge prodded the cardinal in the back. Still stunned the cardinal
moved forward.

"Follow me." The angel went down the aisle for about half a kilometer and then motioned
the group to take their places in a pew. The angel remained standing in the aisle.

"Sed libera nos a malo..." the congregation prayed.

"Amen."

"There must be 0ver a million people in here," the cardinal reflected. What a service! He
felt odd. It had been a long time since he had been in the pews with the general
congregation.

Then the light turned yellow.

"Gloria in excelsis deo" the Cherubim intoned.

"Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis," the cardinal responded.

"What did you say?" The angel at his side looked angry.

"I gave the proper reply, did I not?"

"Do you know what it means?"

"Of course I do. You said: 'Glory to God in Heaven,' and I replied: 'And on earth peace to
people of good will.' Isn't that correct?"

"Do you think that the Lord is a liar? When have you ever seen peace on earth amongst
people of good will? This is something your church has said, not the Lord. That was never
part of the deal. Hear me?"

"Yes sir, I hear."

"Don't let it happen again! It is: Gloria in excelsis deo, laudamus te, benedicimus te,
adoramus te, glorificamus te, and so forth. Understand?"

"Yes sir."

The light changed to pink. Time for the Hallelujahs.

The pink period went slowly. 'just how many hallelujahs can you utter without getting
bored' went through the cardinals mind.

Now green, Credo time.

"Credo in unum deum...." The cardinal was feeling somewhat restless.

"Patrem omnipotentem...."

'Is this the promised reward for all the deprivation and pain I have suffered,' he asked
himself, rapidly sobering from his earlier elation.

"Factorem caeli et terrae...."

His thoughts were not with it any longer Mechanically he went through the rest of the
service when the background changed to blue.

"Pater noster ... qui es in caelis ... adveniat regnum tuum ... siccut in caelo et in terra ...
panem nostrem quotidianum da nobis hodie ... et dimitte nobis ... debitoribus nostris ... Et
ne nos inducas intentationem...."

"Sed libera nos a malo...."

"Amen."

Yellow again - More Glorias!

And as realisation began to dawn the cardinal wondered:

"Exactly how long is eternity?"
Heaven 695RC
by Hans von Lieven