Hot Tubs In Hell and Other Guilty Pleasures

“Those boobs up top sure got things wrong preaching about how bad hell would be,” Anton said between sips of Bushnell’s Irish whiskey.

“Goes to show you the power of propaganda,” Damon added.

The two lost souls, as they laughingly called themselves, got up from their table and left the waiter a big tip. As they strolled down the well-paved main street they decided it was time to take a hot tub and to smoke some killer Purple Kush.

Hot tubs in hell are huge. The two joined a group of ten people passing LSD tabs around and singing songs of freedom. The multi-colored lights in the hot tub danced off the faces of the happy revelers.

Anton passed a blunt to Damon, who took a big hit, and passed it on. Jim Morrison was singing the long version of The End while making suggestive sexual moves with his microphone.

Janis Joplin was explaining why hell always got such a bad rap to a group of eager-eyed rock and roll fans. In a nearby wading/walking-pool the size of New Jersey, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler kept looking over their shoulders in fear while paddling around the perimeter.

“I’m not sure I should be in the same room with those two murderous dictators,” Anton ventured. “I was no angel, but…”

“I get your point,” Damon replied. “We need to find someone who can explain this oddity. Neither of us are mass killers. A drunk, and a politician, but not killers.

An hour later, Anton and Damon entered through the bat-wing doors of the most popular bar around – The Hot Spot. Both bellied up to the bar and called for Scotch.

Billie Holiday, with Jelly Roll Morton on the piano, were performing Lady Sings The Blues on a small stage in the rear of the bar. The dance floor was expansive, providing room for fifty gyrating couples.

Damon noticed Friedrich Nietzsche sitting at the end of the bar and nudged Anton, “There’s the guy that might have the answer to our question,” he said. They got up and approached Nietzsche cautiously.

“Excuse us sir, but we could not help noticing you. We are both big fans of your work and have a question for you.” Nietzsche narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Yes…”

“How is it great thinkers like yourself, or just common guys like us, are in the same place as mass murders like Hitler and Mussolini?”

Nietzsche did something he seldom did up above, he smiled.

“It’s my pleasure to tell you,” he said, and stood up facing them.

“First I must tell you there are many theories why everyone ended up in the same place. Mine, a well-thought out one, centers on the fact that I was right about there being no God, or Devil. 

“Second, there is no heaven (with harp-playing angels and golden gates), but there sure the heck is a hell. That’s why we’re down here together – regardless of what we did above. But there’s no devil directing activities. Just a lot of people who never learned to get along together when they were alive.”

“Finally, and this is the one that’ll rock your world, you fools were in heaven! That’s right. That time you had alive…that was it, my inquiring friends. You were in Heaven.”

As It Stands, just adding to the many ongoing conversations about what’ll happen when we die.

Swimming With Sharks On Saturn

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Saturn – Newil Intergalactic Air and Space Center

“Be careful you clumsy idiots! If you drop that tank I’ll have your hairy hides for lunch!” the loading dock foreman shouted.

The four giant Ujit laborers from Uranus growled to themselves as they slowly walked down the ramp. The glass cage was covered with a black tarp. Inside, a Great White shark slept, dreaming of easy prey.

The Ujit’s were met by a lifter robot. It took the cage with ease and rolled off to a special receiving area for earth’s sharks.

Newil City – The Temple Of Meat 

“And I say to you my children, there are many pathways to Heaven. Swimming with sharks is one of them,” the preacher said.

The congregation of 500 worshippers all tapped their feet in unison and chanted, “We are meat! We are meat! We are God’s chosen elite.”

As they chanted, a line formed next to a massive aquarium. A ladder led to a small platform at the top where worshippers jumped off and swam for their lives. A school of sharks instantly descended upon the first swimmer.

The water quickly turned red as they tore the worshipper apart. Meanwhile, more worshippers were jumping in and swimming for a safe platform set up on the north side of the giant aquarium.

The congregation watched in fascination as the sharks mauled, mutilated, and ate their fellow worshippers. On this particular day, one worshipper actually made it to the safe platform unharmed.

A roar of approval went up as he raised his arms in triumph. He was a saint now, joining the others who successfully made it before him.

Newil City Hall

The city elders were having a special meeting to decide what to do about some of the religious cults that were luring innocent Saturnians away from their civilized society and beliefs.

Some, like The Temple of Meat, slaughtered their own parishioners, but were able to get away with it because all religions were allowed to practice their faith in any way they saw fit.

It was the law.

The city elders argued for hours about possible solutions to stop the dangerous trend. Cults were popping up in the city like poisonous mushrooms. Something had to be done. They had no way of knowing that an answer was coming soon.

It started when the earthlings decided the declining population of sharks demanded an answer. An international, and intergalactic, message was sent out by authorities, “Earth’s sharks can no longer be hunted, or imported.”

The House of Meat maintained an enormous underground habitat for it’s sharks. A dedicated staff fed and took care of them. Despite their best efforts, all attempts to breed them failed. So, they did their best to keep them alive for as long as possible.

When the first quake hit, it was like an atomic bomb had gone off beneath the city of Newil. Huge fissures opened in seconds. Then a pause. Then a series of lesser quakes that shook domes, bridges, and towers for minutes.

Among the devastation was the shark habitat. The waters had drained away leaving broken glass and slowly dying sharks.

Among the survivors were three “saints” from the Temple Of Meat. They realized that they could no longer practice their religion on Saturn. With heavy hearts, but with hope, they took the next commercial flight to earth.

After reading all they could about earth, they decided to go to the United States of America where everyone was guaranteed the right to practice their own religion.

As It Stands, this piece is an off-beat comment on religions, and people’s rights.

Plutonian Plans of Conquest Dashed

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“Plutonians!” the court’s Master-of-Arms called out “the time to expand our influence in Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belts, is here!”   

The crowd of thousands applauded. The clapping resonated across the open courtyard of the castle and rose to the balcony where the King, and Master-of-Arms, stood with their arms crossed.

“Our scientists and engineers have built a spacecraft that will allow us to travel to the nearby dwarf planets of Haumea and Makemake. After observing them for decades the consensus is there’s life on both planets!

“I don’t have to tell you what that means. Our over-population problem is solved. But we must first explore these planets by sending an expedition to each one.

Long live the King!”   

“Long live the king!” the crowd echoed.

Later, inside the castle, the King was sitting on his throne and laughing with amusement at the life and death struggle before him. The knights were armed with short swords and they were both bleeding from numerous wounds.

Finally, the shorter one drove his knife into the open mouth of his opponent! Blood instantly gushed out as the warrior fell dead on his feet. The winner, Sir Doucet, turned to the king and bowed deeply.

“Good move!” the approving monarch gushed, “You shall lead the expedition to Haumea. Your primary job will be to pacify whatever people live there and make them our slaves. You’ll be accompanied by a team of our leading scientists who will explore the planet’s natural resources and see if they are of use to us.”

“As you say, my King. I’ll leave in the morning.”

When the Plutonian ship landed on Haumea, Sir Doucet gathered a group of knights to accompany him. They donned their space suits and went out the air-lock.

There were a lot of things they didn’t know about the planet they were going to conquer. Another team composed of scientists went the opposite way towards a mountain range.

After Sir Doucet’s team had been walking for days in the arid desert they came upon a forest. It extended as far as they could see. There was no way around it. The trees and thick underbrush hid the sun’s rays.

Sir Doucet turned on the light mounted on his helmet and gestured for the twelve men to follow.

Strange animal shrieks and other odd noises coming from the trees made the men jumpy. Then the ground started to rumble as something large approached the team. When the beast landed in their midst the carnage was instant!

Blood soaked the forest floor and body parts flew as the initial attack survivors tried to get away from the monster’s fury. It was hairy and huge. Bigger than any living thing on Pluto.

Only Sir Doucet, and a badly wounded knight, managed to escape from the deadly forest. Both men were in shock as they slowly made their way back to the ship.

Back on Pluto

“I read your report Sir Doucet, and I can’t say I’m pleased. There’s not one good reason to inhabit Haumea!”

“Forgive me, my lord. We tried.”

“You’re going to have to try harder when you go to Makemake! I want good news this time, or I’ll use your head for a kick ball! Now, get out of here!”

The trip to Makemake took longer than the last one. Sir Doucet had plenty of time to think about his lost comrades, and the king’s dire warning. He felt trapped.

Makemake

This time the team didn’t need helmets to breath. The atmosphere was the same as their planet. A real good sign.

The scientific team was thrilled to find minerals and other usable resources. Sir Doucet’s team roved around looking to make contact with someone, or something. They walked across fertile fields of grass and saw mighty rivers flowing into the horizon.

They saw small mammals and brightly colored birds. The multi-colored trees made a beautiful backdrop to the landscape. The temperature was mild with a gentle breeze as the team trudged on.

When the team stopped to take a break, a bright light suddenly hovered over them! The light grew larger and moved around until it faced the team.

“Welcome to Heaven,” the angel said, while becoming visible to them. “Just repent your sins and you can stay.”

Back on Pluto

“I don’t care! I want another ship built!” the king roared at his court.

“But sire, we sent our best scientists on the last expedition that disappeared,” the Court Chamberlin replied.

As It Stands, I thought this was a novel way to get to Heaven!

The Lone Wolf and the Space Cruiser

renderfin_by_adamkop-d9c9jw1The first company to offer public Space Cruises was Skyliner Corporation, in 2103.

The privately owned company was known for its innovations in space travel as a contractor for the U.S. military since 2078.

Space travel was becoming routine when the company’s first public space cruiser took its maiden flight in 2099. The 230 passengers consisted of family members of the entire team that built the giant luxury cruiser, and celebrities who paid top dollar to be on the historic flight into outer space.

The Captain, Joseph Van deMare, was a veteran space traveler who set numerous flight records during his career with the military. Skyliner’s CEO, Todd Knight, lured him out of retirement with the offer to make history, and a lot of money.

The two passenger levels offered a 360-degree view of the wonders of space. Every modern convenience was available to make passengers comfortable. The food, offered up by a 5-star chef was, as the company literature boasted, out of this world!

After the three-day cruise was over, passengers raved about their experiences. They made appearances on popular TV shows and shared their stories of awe and wonder. Some even claimed it was like a religious experience.

Afterwards, the designers and engineers went over the giant ship to see how it held up. One of the many computer techs found something in the software that troubled him. He went to his boss and explained his concern.

There were a couple of minor failures in the re-entry system software, and if not for the fail-safe system backup there could have been a disaster. All those happy passengers could have been roasted like chestnuts in a fire.

The board of directors agreed more work needed to be done before the next public flight. They also made sure no word got out about how close they’d come to a catastrophic event.

A year later the designers, the engineers, and the computer techs, patched the problems and added another back-up, to the first back-up system. Throughout this time controversy sprang up on social media platforms, and television, about man’s need to leave the planet.

Most agreed it was a good thing. Space travel for the masses might someday save mankind. Others thought it was blasphemy that people would want to leave the planet God made for them. Even for a short time.

Captain Van deMare stood on a platform next to the Space Cruiser, christened The Arc by the press, and the Milky Way Express by the owners, and patiently answered questions.

“Is it true there’s going to six weddings during this cruise?” a reporter from CNN asked.

“Yes. And I’ll be marrying them.”

“Any safety concerns?” another reporter from a local news station asked.

“If there were, I wouldn’t be going. This big bird (he slapped the side of the space cruiser’s hull) is indestructible,” he assured the reporter.

Watch it!” another reporter joked, “Isn’t that what the owners said about The Titanic?” 

“Well, that’s about all. I have to get ready now, we’re leaving in six hours. Thank you all for coming. I’ll see you again when we get back,” Captain Van deMare said.

DAY ONE

All of the passengers are having the time of their lives with the exception of one man, Abraham Klein. He’s sitting quietly at a table for two. Before him, an Autumn Vegetable Salad with Beetroot Dressing has hardly been touched.

He waits for God to speak to him. He’s ready.

DAY TWO

Alone in his room, Abraham pulls out the leather pouch from beneath his shirt. He carefully pulls the leather string and peeks inside – the miniature bomb’s shiny surface picks up the overhead light and he sees his face.

But no word from God.

DAY THREE

Abraham continues avoiding conversations with people. It’s lonely being God’s servant. He has a moment of guilt when he sees a new bride kiss her husband on the big screen. Their joy almost seems heavenly he thought, then caught himself.

No. He was the heavenly one. Soon to be one of God’s angels.

DAY FOUR

When the captain offered a tour of the massive space cruiser, Abraham joined in with the other passengers. His heart sped up. Was this going to be his opportunity?

Two levels below the second passenger level, there were three fusion reactors that powered the behemoth. As the curious passengers stepped out of the elevators, Abraham felt his chest, and the leather bag underneath his shirt burned.

Then God spoke.

Back on Earth

Press from around the world surrounded Skyliner Corporations headquarters.

The Milky Way Express had gone dark two days ago. Phone calls to, and from, the space cruiser suddenly stopped. Military space ships searched the route the space cruiser took, but found nothing.

As It Stands, this is my nod to the terrorists we face today. Especially to “Lone Wolfs.” 

 

The Gods Last Meeting

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Celestial music. Clear blue skies. Trees and flowing rivers heavy with fish.

A gentle breeze tickles the grass meadows where the gods are gathering. Their colorful flowing robes mimic exotic butterflies.

They’re coming from every culture in earth’s history to the Elysian Fields to attend an emergency meeting. The site had more room than the Christian God’s Heaven, Seven Heavens, Tian, and Valhalla.

The atmosphere is electric with powerful energies. A mighty horn blast suddenly gets everyone’s attention. All eyes fall on Odin as he walks into the center of the gathering. His one good eye ablaze with emotion:

“I’m sorry to say we’re all going to be forgotten by mankind soon. Every book about us will turn to dust. Every story will be forgotten. No one will ever call upon our names again in times of need.”

Zeus stood up and asked, “Who dares to threaten the gods!”

“Mankind,” Odin replied.

“How so?” Aphrodite asked.

“First off, let me say all of our fates are not the same.  Allah, Jesus, the Christian God, Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi still have many believers who worship them. The dwindling pagan population in the 21st century however, is barely enough to preserve the rest of us.”

“What about scholars? They read about us. They know of our numerous followers,”  Chalchiuhtlicue asked.

“The scholars get fewer by the day,” Odin explained. “Our real problem is that mankind is turning away from all religions. The ones that still exist are fighting a daily battle that is going badly for them.”  

 “How can this be?” Horus asked. “Mankind has always needed us.”

Hsi-Wang-Mu rose from his sitting position and stretched. “Has this not always been a concern?” he calmly asked.

“You speak the truth,” Poseidon agreed. “Why should we worry now?”

Odin looked at his fellow gods and a trace of sadness momentarily crossed his face.

“I didn’t arrive at this observation alone. For years Apollo, Mercury, Frigg, Isis, Thor, Venus, and I, have been studying these modern humans. They are rejecting the idea of a higher power.”

“But like you said Odin, they still believe in some gods, and we are still living in libraries worldwide,” Athena pointed out.

The gods that are still openly worshipped have been losing followers at a rate never seen before in history. As for libraries, they too are becoming a thing of the past,” Odin said.

“Then this is our last meeting,” Dionysus said, after sipping his wine.

“It appears that way,” Fortuna agreed. “Our luck has run out.”

As It Stands, where do you turn when in crisis or seeking solace?

All Aboard the Soul Train!

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A dimly lit train station surrounded by darkness.

Flickering souls, like giant fireflies, waiting impatiently. They hover around the loading platform. A train’s whistle breaks the silence…

“Step right up folks! Have your holo-tickets ready. No shoving or cutting into line now,” an old man with a conductor’s hat on, called out.

The train took off into the vast darkness, its steel wheels humming like celestial music. Inside, two souls were deep in conversation:

“That sure was close,” the first soul, whose name was Rosco, said with a sigh of relief. “If it wasn’t for those extra points I earned giving up my life for those kids, I think I would have gotten a one-way trip to hell.”

“Don’t be too confident now. We still face challenges before making it to Heaven,” the second soul, whose name was Harry, pointed out.

“You’re right, of course. We still have three trials to face before getting our wings,” Roscoe agreed.

“My first ticket is to a place called Agincourt, on October 25th, 1415, during the Hundred Years War,” Harry said.

“What’s your new name?” Roscoe politely asked.

“Peter Archer, I’m a long bowman for King Henry V.”

“My new name is Albert McColloch, and I’m a bystander at the OK Corral shootout in Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26, 1881,” Roscoe said, after closely scanning his holo-ticket stub.

“Looks like you’ll be getting off this train after me if the stops are chronological,” Harry observed.

“I hate to admit it,” Roscoe said, “but I was a politician in my old life.”

“That explains your close call for getting the tickets.”

“I know,” Roscoe confessed. “I’m sure grateful that I qualified for the Karma program and got these opportunities to show why I’ll make a good angel.”

“Next stop coming up!” the conductor’s voice suddenly rang out.

Harry stood up and stretched.

“Agincourt!” the conductor announced.

“Good luck to you Roscoe. I hope to see you in heaven some day,” Harry said before hurrying down the narrow aisle to the open door.

Roscoe watched him leave and the conductor close the door. He looked out into the darkness and prayed that he wouldn’t run for mayor of Tombstone.

As It Stands, souls, and what happens to them, are one of my favorite themes.

Bowling For Souls

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Boyd had a major heart attack while bowling and died. At the funeral, his family all said that at least he died doing what he loved.

The next thing Boyd saw after he dropped his bowling ball and died, was a giant bowling alley, and he realized he was standing in an empty parking lot. It was pitch black outside. The interior of the bowling alley was lit up like a lighthouse in a sea of souls.

He knew he was dead, but somehow it didn’t bother him. He’d devoted his whole life to bowling. He even won a state championship once. He didn’t have friends, and what family he did have, didn’t like him.

No wonder. He was a small selfish little man who had no empathy for others. Now, this bowling alley looked like heaven to him.

He walked up to the front doors and peered inside. The place was packed with people bowling. This was too good to be true, he idly thought. Then he was inside. The cacophony of bowling balls slamming into pins sounded like celestial music to him.

He wandered around for a while looking for a place to sign up and play. Then someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and saw a middle-aged man wearing glasses too big for his face.

“You’ll be playing on Lane 13, against Stanley Benning in ten minutes,” the man told him and then blended back into the crowd. Turning back to the lanes, Boyd saw a projection above each one with different messages.

“You lose. Report below.”

Congratulations, you won this round.

“Good job. You’re one step closer to salvation.”

Boyd’s stomach started churning. Alarms were going off in his head. This wasn’t heaven. Was it hell? 

He zombie-walked over to Lane 13. A thin man with bright red hair was sitting at the scoring table. He was holding an animated conversation with himself.

“Why am I here?

Because you were a shit! 

Boyd waited until he stopped, then introduced himself.

Yeah right. I was expecting you,” the thin man with bright red hair, and whose name was Stanley Benning, replied.

“Is this hell?” Boyd asked.

“No, that’s the next stop from here, if you don’t win and make it to heaven,” Stanley said.

“Is God keeping score?”

“I have no idea. All I know, is that you have to win five games in a row against five different opponents to cash your ticket to heaven.”

“Do you mean,” asked Boyd, “that the good and bad souls all go here first?”

“Oh heck no! The good souls go directly to heaven. We’re somewhere between heaven and hell.”

Frame-after-frame they stay tied, until the ninth when Stanley left an open frame. Both of them bowled the game of their lives. Boyd was better that day, and won. Stanley simply disappeared.

Not sure what to do next, Boyd sat down at the scorer’s table. He watched the end of the lane intently waiting for a message. One down, four to go. He just might be able to pull this off he thought.

Then the projection on the wall read, Next Opponent…Earl Anthony!

Even though Boyd knew it meant he was going to hell, he couldn’t help but feel honored to get to play with one of the greatest PBA legends of all time.

As It Stands, I get a kick out of envisioning the hereafter!