Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous- to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd. - Thomas Mann
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Anatomy of Death

User Thread
 33yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Tboneactor is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Anatomy of Death
Anatomy of Death
Jeff Caudy opened his eyes after what felt like a very long nap. He stared blankly at, what he thought was the ceiling. Funny, he thought, I don't remember sleeping in Will's bed. He reached up and touched the ceiling. Well, he tried to touch the ceiling. As soon as his hand made contact, the ceiling began to slowly slide upwards. Well, this is certainly curious. Where in the world am I?
Jeff sat up. He stretched his tall torso as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. His face contorted as he felt his feet hit the ground. He looked up and saw no top bunk. Where the hell am I? He tried to remember what he did the night before. Jeff couldn't remember a wild frat party. He couldn't remember consuming enough alcohol to cause a black out ever. So where did the last twenty four hours of his life go?
Jeff started to look at his surroundings. The gentle breeze across his face made him realize that he wasn't indoors. Looking around, he could see for miles. He was on a hill. I know this place. I grew up somewhere near this hill. I found it before we moved. But that was over a decade ago. He looked back at the bed he awoke from. It was heavily decorated with thick, white sheets. He walked over to examine them closer. He could feel that they were made of a fine material. I've never owned sheets this nice before.
A noise of someone approaching the hill startled Jeff. He tried to call out to them, possibly find out why he was here, but no words escaped his mouth. Puzzled, he opened his mouth and tried to call again. Still, nothing. While still trying to figure out the predicament with his voice (or lack thereof), his quandary was added to by the face he saw walking up the hill.
Standing only a hundred yards away was William Harding, Jeff's roommate. I don't understand. Why can't I say anything to him? Jeff approached William, trying to get his attention. William seemed to be gazing right at him. No, through him. William! His mind kept screaming the name, but his voice stayed silent. Damn, he thought, What is going on?
Jeff's mind was racing. He couldn't comprehend everything that was happening. And, while his head was reeling with the new entrance of his best friend, more confusion entered the scene. Jeff turned to face the hill again. He saw more people taking the long walk up. His eyes widened in shock as he saw his family slowly walking up. He felt as though the world was spinning. Jeff shut his eyes as he tried to remember the last few hours before he went to sleep.
Think. I know I didn't have any alcohol lately, so I shouldn't be having black out problems. Suddenly, a newcomer started to walk towards him. But this one was different. Jeff didn't recognize him. The stranger was, somehow, taller than Jeff yet at the same time had a slighter build. He was young, too; couldn't have been older than Jeff. The stranger's slate blue eyes seemed to pierce through Jeff's very soul. When he was finally close enough, he opened his mouth and said, 'Welcome. Mr. Caudy.'
'Wait, you can see me?' Jeff was, by now, bewildered to no end. How was it only one person could even be aware of his very existence? He tried to remember the previous day. Wait! The store. I had gone to the store because William had finished off the milk. I was walking down Front Street. While his mind began to go over the previous events, the scene began to swirl in a soft blue haze.
'Now you remember,' the stranger spoke again, 'What you are about to witness will be traumatizing, but everything will be explained.' As the unknown man finished his statement, Jeff saw himself walking down the road. His cell phone rang. Instinctively, Jeff reached into his own pocket, realized there was nothing there, withdrew his hand, and resigned himself to watching the scene play out before him.
Past Jeff walked answered his phone. It was William, bitching about something else they needed from the store. Past Jeff made a snide comment, hung up, and dialed another number. With his attention diverted, Past Jeff began to cross the road. Suddenly, the sound of screeching breaks was heard and Jeff watched his own body sail twenty feet in the air before landing against a parked car. Past Jeff's head hit with such force, the car's window shattered.
Jeff stared at his lifeless self in horror. He had just witnessed his own death. No wonder he couldn't remember anything; his head hit with so much force, he was surprised he could remember his own name. Jeff turned to the new stranger and said, 'So I'm dead?'
The stranger laughed, 'Well, I've never seen someone hit a solid metal object with that much force, brush themselves off and continue on their way. Yes, you're dead.'
Jeff's mind was spinning. So where was he now? He didn't see fire or any torture devices. He didn't see any halos or harps. The stranger seemed to be reading his thoughts. 'I take it you want to know where you are. Well, I will explain.
'My name is Cristobel. You can call me Cris. I will be your guide throughout the next part of your journey. Everyone in the Realm of the Living knows about Heaven and Hell; whether or not they choose to believe in them is their own free will.' Cristobel paused to look at Jeff. Jeff seemed to be trying to understand. 'I suppose you'll want to know where you are going.' Cris smiled slyly.
'I honestly have no idea. I see no fire or any other signs of hell. But I also don't hear choirs of angels anywhere.' To this, Cristobel let out a loud howl of laughter that made Jeff blush. 'What's so funny?'
Through his laughter, Cristobel explained, 'I'm sorry, but, you humans are hilarious! All these wild ideas of what Heaven and Hell are like; fire, harps, halos, torture devices. It's all so ridiculous. Yes, your priests and hierarchy tell you these things, but do they really have the audacity to believe that they're correct? Who among them has seen Heaven? Who among them has experienced the tortures of Hell? And to call Purgatory a kind of punishment is just silly! So you'll forgive my laughter, but mortals can be so stupid!"
Jeff opened his mouth to comment, but instead, closed it again. Cris was right. Now that it was explained, it did all seem foolish. He thought carefully about his word choice for his next question. 'So, how do I find out where I will spend eternity?'
Cristobel smiled broadly, 'I thought you'd never ask. Do you know where you are?' Jeff shook his head. 'Allow me to explain. As I said, you are in a state known as Purgatory. I know what the church says about Purgatory, but again how would they know? Your time spent here with me will determine where you will spend eternity. You have a journey to make now, with me as your guide. I will be leading you through your three most egregious sins. While you have your own idea what those might be, you may be surprised what He has picked for you. While reliving these moments, you will have the luxury and the horror of viewing every side of the situation.' Cristobel paused again to make sure Jeff understood. Jeff nodded as if to saying he wanted to hear more. Cris continued, 'Your admittance to Heaven or Hell is determined on your ability to learn and grow from these sins. If you fail to grow in a manner He sees fit, you will experience the pain of eternal damnation. And let me warn you here and now: the fire and torture you have learned of from the Realm of the Living is like Heaven compared to what Hell REALLY is.' Cristobel shuddered.
Jeff stared numbly into space. He was dead, there was no denying that. But what in the name of God was he doing in purgatory? He remembered from the few times he actually paid attention in church that purgatory was supposed to be some kind of punishment for those who deserved Heaven but weren't ready. On the other hand, Cristobel had made it quite clear that living people knew nothing of life after death. With a heavy sigh of resignation, Jeff turned to Cris and said, 'Okay, where do we start?'
Cristobel's smile enlarged as though he were a toddler in a toyshop. 'Why do you ask?'
Jeff thought about his words carefully again; he had no desire to be laughed at. 'Well, the way I see, I have no options left. As you have shown me, I'm clearly dead. The dented car and broken window stand as a testament to that. And, as you have put to me bluntly, I know nothing about purgatory. I assume if I refuse this journey you speak of, I will be stuck here for eternity, seeing as I know nothing and probably don't have the powers to proceed. So, I need you to help me get through this. And without completing this, I'll never know what I was most sinful for. I guess it's some sort of consolation that, even if I fail and don't get to Heaven, I can understand my life and what it was worth.'
Jeff sighed again and looked at Cris. There was such brightness to his face that Jeff couldn't help but smile in return. Cris finally spoke, beaming from ear to ear, 'Congratulations! You have learned your first lesson. Your first sin was the carelessness you had for life. You spent the majority of your life partying, thinking you knew everything. By witnessing your own death from all angles, you have learned that you know nothing about His higher plans. No one can ever enter Heaven thinking that they know more than God. Your willingness to humble yourself and admit aloud that you know nothing shows that you are ready for the real tests. One lesson down!' Cristobel's face had a sudden graveness to it, 'Be warned, that was the easy part. The next two sins will be difficult to deal with.'
Jeff couldn't stop his jaw from dropping. Cris couldn't help but laughing at Jeff's reaction. 'Didn't think it could be that simple? That complex?'
'It's not that,' Jeff started, 'I just never thought myself careless about life. I thought I took precautions all the time. I wore my seat belt every time I was in a car, I ate a good diet, all that stuff. But I guess I see where fun can become careless.'
Neither of them spoke for a long while. Cristobel gazed unvexed by Jeff, waiting for him to be ready. Jeff let everything fester in his mind. When he had come to terms with everything, he let out another sigh, 'Where do we start?'
Cristobel, without saying a word, placed his hand on Jeff's forehead. Jeff instantly felt a cold filing him, as if he were being submerged in ice water. But it wasn't uncomfortable; it felt glorious. He couldn't see anything, but he could feel the world melting away around him into something else. When he finally felt Cristobel lift his hand, his sight was instantly restored.
Jeff was surprised to see his old high school hallway surrounding him. He recognized it as the 'secret' hallway. Everyone back at his school called the hallway in the English and Drama department the 'Secret Hallway' because there were so many nooks in the way you could hide in one for weeks and never be seen.
As he looked at the clock, he became very confused. 'Cris, why are we here? It's after hours; I never stayed after school much. And I can't remember being particularly sinful.'
Cristobel looked at him as thought Jeff has just interrupted his favorite television program, 'Just watch.'
Jeff obeyed and sure enough, after another few minutes, Jeff saw himself with his ex-roommate, William, walking towards the door. William spoke, 'I can't believe we both got a detention from the same teacher on the same day!'
Past Jeff laughed, 'Yeah, well, no one ever said Mrs. Deutch wasn't pronounced Douche!'
William howled and stopped at his locker. Past Jeff followed suit and was surprised to find a letter fall out when he opened the door. He picked it up and read it through. He chuckled as he read it out loud to William, 'Hey Will, listen to this! 'Dearest Jeffry, I wish I could express to you how I feel in oral discourse, however, I find myself hindered to do so by my shyness. I would like to begin courting if you would be interested. Please answer this by placing it in the vacant locker three to your right. Your secret admirer.''
Past Jeff and William paused for a moment, looked at each other, and burst out into hysterical laughter. William spoke first, 'Who the hell talks like that anymore?! I swear they must've been on drugs. Who do you think it was?'
'I honestly have no idea!'
'Really? I bet I know!'
Past Jeff got a very excited look on his face, 'Who?'
'Who sits behind you in every study hall? Who can be seen drooling whenever anyone says your name? It's gotta be the uber-creeper Rebecca Lackey!'
Past Jeff laughed again, only it seemed forced. Dead Jeff looked ashamed. He knew he really used to like Becca. She was a very sweet girl. Not necessarily pretty, but had a heart of pure gold. She spent her time away from most people so she could work on things like soup kitchens, food drives, and other volunteer work. And she was very intelligent. She could speak about anything fluently. Jeff clenched his jaw when he heard his past self answer, 'Yeah, who would want that loser as an admirer?'
William responded, 'So are you gonna answer?'
Past Jeff crumpled the paper up and threw it in a trash bin. 'No way.' The two boys turned and walked away, laughing loudly. As the doors swung shut, William said, 'Who'd ever date that girl?'
There was a moment of silence before Cristobel snapped his fingers and time froze. 'Any idea why He has chosen this moment for you?'
After succeeding so quickly with the first sin, Jeff felt some confidence building as he spoke, 'Yes. I really had liked Rebecca, but I couldn't bring myself to admit it to Will. I let the way people view me get in the way of my true feelings and my true personality. Isn't it written that vanity is one of the seven deadly sins? Well, my vanity here caused me to never be with Rebecca.'
Cristobel was unimpressed, 'Why never? Couldn't you have asked her out a few years later?'
Jeff raised one eyebrow, 'No. She...' He broke off; it was a very tragic story. They had found Becca in her closet, with empty bottles of pills around her. Jeff remembered it being in all the local papers. 'She died. Overdosed on pills. She had been dead for hours when they found her. But what does that have to do with that stupid anonymous letter?'
Cristobel gave him a grave look and snapped his fingers. Jeff watched confused for a moment. Nothing happened. He heard her before he saw her. Rebecca Lackey slowly walked out of one of the many nooks in the hallway. She walked towards the trash bin and grabbed the crumpled piece of paper, tears streaming down her face. Becca clutched it to her chest as if it were a priceless gemstone. As she sunk to the ground, Jeff felt a hand on his forehead and he began to feeling the chilling sensation again. It was not as pleasant this time. When Cristobel lifted his hand, Jeff saw he was in a small bedroom.
Before he could ask, the door swung open. Rebecca walked into her room solemnly into her room. In her hand, she tightly clutched a letter wrapped around a bottle of pills. Jeff watched in horror as she opened her closet and sank down in it. She had been crying for so long, her eyes had stopped producing tears. She started to take the pills a few at a time. Each new does brought a wave of more sobs. Finally, she rolled the letter up and put it in the bottle.
Jeff and Cristobel stood there for a few minutes watching her sit and crying. Her breathing started to pick up. She knew what was coming and eventually gave in. Her body slumped against the wall, still clutching the bottle.
'They'll never find that note you know.' Cristobel had moved towards the body as though it were nothing new to him. He reached down and took the note out of the bottle. 'Her parents will come into her room the next morning and be so distraught that they will throw the bottle away and this note will never be read. Any idea what it says?'
Jeff felt the pit of his stomach drop even lower. He slowly took the note from Cris and began to read it. 'I'm sorry. I couldn't take the names any more, Mommy. I couldn't stand being the one person no one would acknowledge existence to. And the one boy I truly love thinks I'm a freak. I guess that's what pushed me to this tonight. I love you.'
Jeff's eyes began to flood with tears. He handed the letter back to Cris who carefully replaced it. His mind was on fire. So he had caused her death. He never knew. He had always thought she just lost it one night. But to know his rejection of her was the sole reason for her suicide was terrible.
Cristobel approached Jeff, 'Well? Why are we here?'
Jeff summoned up all his courage. 'It's my fault she died. Had I not been so concerned with how other's viewed me, I'd have asked her out weeks before that. So not only was I vain with Will, but I basically murdered this girl. Not with weaponry, but with my words.'
Cristobel smiled gravely, 'Correct. Your own words drove this girl to take her own life. She showed nothing but love to everyone and everything. Yet you were so wrapped up in your own self image that you let it destroy her. And now,' he paused to look at her body, 'she's here. We've taken great care of her to wait for this moment. Rebecca?'
Jeff's jaw resumed its usual position of wide open as the body of Rebecca Lackey stood up and walked over to him. Before he could control himself, he flung to his knees and grabbed her hands, 'I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I never knew you liked me too. I always did like you. You were the most giving and sensitive person and I took that for granted. Everyone did. Can you ever forgive me?'
Rebecca smiled sweetly. 'We all have our lessons. One of mine was forgiveness. Of course you're forgiven. But the fact that you could come to me and apologize without being asked or anything of that sort shows that you're ready for the next step. Congratulations on completing your second phase. Cris can take it from here. Thank you.' She kissed him on the cheek and then, as though she were only a vision, she faded into nothingness.
Cristobel walked over to Jeff. He was still on his knees, tears rolling down his face. 'I'm not ready for this. I realize I have to complete this to get into Heaven, but this is too much too soon! I can't stand knowing that I inadvertently killed a girl, let alone one I had feelings for. I tried; I really did, to have a good life. I can't go on watching how miserable my life actually was; how horrible of a person I was. I just want...' He broke away. He didn't know what he wanted. But not this, not to see what he's done.
Cristobel stood silently. Without warning, he pressed his hand against Jeff's forehead again. The two melted away to their next destination. When they had stopped, Jeff didn't open his eyes right away. He was terrified what this last thing could be. What on earth was worse than driving someone to commit suicide?
Jeff took a breath and opened his eyes. He was standing on a street corner. He recognized it as one near his apartment. Looking around, he wondered when his past self would enter the scene. He needn't wonder long. Coming from the direction of his apartment, his past self walked along the sidewalk. From the other direction, a jogger in a hooded sweatshirt approached. The two moved towards each other as though nothing would happen. Jeff knew better. As he watched, Past Jeff bumped into the jogger, apologized and continues walking. The scene began to swirl as though someone has added a drop to a glass of water. The ripples finally subsided and Jeff and Cristobel were in the apartment, watching Jeff and William smoke marijuana.
Jeff sighed, 'So I decided to experiment once. I never did it again. I mean, I didn't think it was that big of a sin.'
Cristobel's expression grew stern again. 'How long ago was this?'
Jeff pondered for a moment, 'Must've been about a week ago. I always thought God wouldn't put more judgment on more recent sins that past if they weren't as mortal.'
'You are about to get a rare chance. You will be going back to the present. Think for a moment, who did you buy the drugs from? A friend who deals?'
'No, just some guy I heard had good stuff. My source was wrong.'
'Do you know what happens to drug money?'
Jeff thought again. 'I assume it would go into the business. Buy more stuff to sell. Pay debts. Stuff like that.'
'Well, here is your chance to see what happens to drug money. No one knows what is going to happen here. Except of course God. Although not even He is sure of the specifics or the outcome. That is the tragic flaw with the gift of free will. Humans are free to do whatever they please. You are going to see, live, what happens to drug money. God considers this your greatest sin. The outcome is unknown, but will definitely be unpleasant. Brace yourself.'
Jeff felt himself, not melting, but burning as though his image was being burnt into the scene. Horrified, he watched the scene playing before him. Alone in a deserted room, a small girls sat tied to a chair. Her face was dirty and streaked with tears. Although terrified, she could be heard singing 'Jesus Loves Me' through here sobs. A man suddenly burst into the room. The girl screamed but was soon stifled with a disgusting looking sock that was shoved in her mouth. Jeff's heart plummeted as he recognized the man as the drug peddler who he had done a deal with in the prior setting.
Another man came into the room, holding a letter a cell phone. 'Who's going to make the call?' he asked.
The first man replied, 'I will. We can get a pretty penny for her.' He walked back towards her and stroked her face with his grimy hand. She struggled to keep away from him. 'A young girl like this, from a wealthy family, could either catch a high ransom or be sold for a great fortune overseas.'
'How were you able to pull it off? I mean, it's not like she's a stupid little girl.'
The first man laughed, 'I told her that her precious mommy and daddy were in a car accident. The stupid little twit fell right for it.'
'How were you able to get a car that wasn't traceable? Someone easily could've seen you and reported the car.'
'It was easy. I just bought a cheap piece of junk with the money I got from some idiot first time buyer. I could've told him any price and he would've believed me. So I priced out what I wanted, called this moron up, made the deal and, tah-dah, instant get away!'
Both men laughed maliciously. The little girl had tears streaming down her face as she continued to hum her song with the sock in her mouth. The dealer walked over to her and slapped her, 'I thought I told you to shut up!' The little girl continued to cry, but never once gave in to her captors.
Jeff felt as though he had been hit by the car over and over again. This was all unfolding this very second. And it was all his fault. He wanted to have some fun and now it may come at the price of this little girl's life. Without thinking, he walked towards the little girl. His eyes looked into hers. And yet somehow...
It could've been his imagination, but he could've sworn that she was looking back into his own eyes. He knew from his last encounter with living people that he could not communicate with her. But, regardless, he dropped to his knees and placed his hands on the little girls head, screaming through his tears, 'God, I don't even care what happens to me. But please let her live. She doesn't deserve to suffer for my mistake. Whatever you decide my fate shall be that's fine. Just don't hurt her anymore!'
The little girl stopped crying. Jeff knew she couldn't see him, but somehow, she knew she was no longer alone. Cristobel moved towards Jeff, and for the first time, Jeff tried to resist. 'No. I need to stay here. I have to know what happens.' But Cristobel place his hand on Jeff and the two melted out of the scene. Jeff could've sworn her heard a bang as they were leaving but he couldn't see anything. He opened his mouth to voice his agony, but no sound came out. He and Cris were leaving.
Jeff's mind was racing as he traveled to wherever he was being taken. Was the little girl ok? How could Cristobel take him away from the little girl when she had realized she wasn't alone anymore? Finally, they came to rest back on the hill where Jeff had woken up previously in the day. The stars were now shining brightly. Jeff watched as Cris laid back to look at the sky. He was surprised how docile Cris still appeared, even after they saw what had happened.
'You were interested in poetry while you were among the living correct?' Cristobel's question startled Jeff. How could he be asking about poetry at a time like this? 'Sara Teasdale had the most ingenious ideas. 'There will be rest and sure stars shining. Over the rooftops crowned with snow. A reign of rest, serene forgetting the music of stillness holy and low. I shall make this world of my devising. Out of a dream in my lonely mind, I shall find the crystal of peace-Above me, stars I shall find.'' Cristobel paused and gave the words a chance to sink in. Jeff couldn't quite understand. 'She found it, Jeff. Because you reached out to her, that little girl found her 'crystal of peace.' It no longer mattered to her what happened because she was at peace.'
Jeff started to catch on, 'So another flaw with those who live is that they spend too much time worrying about what might happen and too little time concentrating on just living?'
Cristobel smiled. 'Correct. And with this you have learned your final lesson. You have witnessed what happens when you don't think about your actions in advanced. You have seen firsthand what a seemingly harmless action can lead to. You have also experienced the deepest kind of remorse a mortal soul can experience; realizing you've done terribly wrong and trying in any way you can to reverse it. In doing so, you removed the feelings of abandonment in that little girl and gave her hope. I can now allow you to see what will happen to her. You will only see; you will not be there.' He placed his hand over Jeff's eyes.
Darkness engulfed Jeff's sight as he felt a different sensation, as though he had become disengaged from his own body. He was watching the scene again. Only this time he couldn't find the little girl. He saw police and FBI interrogating the two men. But he couldn't hear what they were saying. Why can't I hear? Then he remembered Cris had only allowed him to see what was to happen. His eyes searched everywhere for the poor child. Finally, his vision came to rest upon a dirty shirt with a blood stain in the corner. No, it can't be. She can't die all alone!
His mind felt as swirling sensation as Cristobel compelled him to look through the closed door. He saw the girl sleeping in clean clothes in her mother's arms. His spirit soared with relief and he tried to call out to them. But, as it had so many times before, his voice failed to make a sound. He felt himself rejoining his body.
As he watched the hand being pulled away from his face, Jeff saw Cristobel's glowing face. 'Congratulations. You have passed your three tests with flying colors. We will now be traveling to the Gates of Heaven where you shall spend eternity.'
Cris reached for Jeff's forehead again but stopped. 'On the other hand, I think you have learned enough to know where we will be going. As a side test, I would like you to take me to the gates.'
Jeff cocked his eye brow in questioning. He studied Cris for a long time. His mind was racing. How on Earth can I know where Heaven is? I don't even know what it is. If there's one thing I've learned it's that I can learn something from every situation. His eyes flashed. He knew where to go. He closed his eyes and placed his own hand on Cristobel's forehead. He focused very hard on one place. Suddenly, he began to feel the familiar sensation of melting away.
When they hit solid ground, Jeff looked around at the hilltop where his funeral was. He turned to Cristobel, 'This was the place I felt most at peace in my life. This is where my own gate to Heaven lies. Am I right?'
Cristobel smiled and nodded. 'And it would appear,' he began, 'as though you are not making the final journey alone.' He pointed toward two trees that had not been there the last time Jeff was on this hill. Sitting beneath one of them, was William.
'Will!' Jeff cried out and ran towards his friend. As he got closer, he realized William's face was streaked with tears.
'It was entirely my fault. If I hadn't called you to ask you to grab me something stupid, you would've looked down the street. You would've seen the car. Neither of us would be here. I'm sorry.'
'What do you mean, 'Neither of us would be here?''
William's face fell, 'I couldn't take it. I couldn't take knowing I had been responsible for killing my best friend. I overdosed...' His voice trailed off. 'I was so overwrought when I got here, I couldn't focus on the sins. I failed, Jeff.'
Jeff looked into his friend's distraught face. He had worked and suffered so hard for this moment. Now, all he could think about was his best friend's eternity. 'Cristobel, isn't there anything I can do?'
Cristobel's face was grimmer than Jeff had ever seen it. 'There's nothing I can do. Those who are damned cannot be saved.'
Jeff thought for a long time. He thought over everything he had learned. His thoughts focused on the little girl. Yes, she had been saved. But it was pure luck. If she hadn't been saved at the moment, she inevitably would've died. With as much courage as he could muster, he stood and turned towards Cris. 'I have secured a place in Heaven. I have yet to enter. Let him go in my place. Yes, I passed my tests, but if they hadn't found that little girl when they did, her death would've been entirely my fault. I don't deserve the place as much as William does.'
Cristobel's face twisted in a way Jeff had not seen before; he looked perplexed. 'Jeff, do you not understand the severity of your situation? You have achieved eternal salvation. Some mortals spend their entire lives preparing for this moment and still fail.' With an air of disdain, he added, 'What could possibly be more important than spending eternity with our Lord?'
A slightly breeze picked up as Cristobel voices his challenge. Jeff stood, momentarily defeated. He glanced back at William to apologize. No one can say he didn't try. But as he looked down into William's eyes, he found his answer.
'Love.'
Cristobel looked quizzically at Jeff, 'What did you say?'
'There is something more important than spending our eternity with God; accomplishing what we were actually created to do. If I've learned anything from my time here, it's that the greatest power we possess we rarely use. We weren't created as little puppets for the shear entertainment of one entity. We weren't made as robots without emotion. What we were given was the power of choice and the ability to love. All my life, I used my powers of choice but rarely, if ever, did I ever use my ability to love to its full potential. As a mortal, I never understood what love really was. It's not about sexual pleasure or about your spouse and family. Love is showing that you care, regardless of who that person is. So the last choice I make before I'm through here is to use what I learned for good. William can have my spot in Heaven.'
When he finished speaking, he extended his hand to his friend. He has never felt more powerful in his life. Nor had he ever been more terrified. He knew that if William accepted, eternal damnation awaited. And, as Cristobel explained to him previously, his idea was not even close to the real thing.
But before William could take Jeff's hand, Cris spoke, 'Don't touch him. Reveal yourself, Beelzelbub.'
At that, Jeff watched his friend slowly begin to melt away like a candle before his eyes. As the flesh burned off, he began to see a creature that pained his eye to behold. Before his eyes, stood a demon with skin the color of blood. Jeff was stunned by how human-like the demon appeared yet was appalled more as he examined it. Instead of a normal nose and mouth, Beelzelbub had the snout of a wolf. And its eyes glowed an eerie orange. The demon stood, fully transformed to its original state.
'This is Beelzebub, Jeff. Assistant to Satan himself. He, alone, is responsible for over half of the souls in Hell. As you can see, he assumes the form of someone who means the most to you. He sits outside the Gate to Hell and attempts to lure those souls who have passed their tests into Hell. God would never allow someone into Heaven who does not understand what love truly is. You were willing to give up your own eternity for your friend; that is true love. Be gone, Beelzebub. I have only one mortal with me.'
With a slight glare, the wretched creature turned to face the tree he was sitting in front of and walked into it. Cristobel looked sideways at Jeff, 'Most people who pass the final test seem stunned when he enters Hell.'
Jeff chuckled, 'After witnessing all of this, nothing can ever surprise me again except to see what I expected!'
Cris smiled again, 'As you can see, the gate on the left is the entrance to Hell. If you're ready, the gate on the right is Heaven.'
Jeff drew in a deep breath. He looked from tree to tree. For a moment, he thought it was extremely ironic that the entrance to Heaven was a tree when a tree had lead to the damnation of Eden. Then again, could he really be sure of anything he had learned in his life? He looked from Cristobel to the tree and began to walk straight forward. As he neared the tree, he began to feel himself melting away again. This time, it felt more glorious than anything. As he reached the tree, he placed his hand against the trunk. Slowly, he began to cross between worlds. At the moment he felt he was on the line between Purgatory and Heaven, his eyes were blinded by a glorious warm light. Jeff knew at once he was home...
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Jeff Caudy opened his eyes after what felt like a very long nap. He stared blankly at the ceiling and rubber his eyes. He sat up and threw his legs over the side of his bed. He stood up slowly and stretched. Jeff had the strangest idea that he had just had an incredible dream. He let out a few choice curses as he thought and thought but could remember nothing.
He could hear William in the kitchen, cooking something. 'We're still out of milk!' he called out. He heard William curse and throw something in the trash. Jeff got dressed, picked up his cell phone and grocery list of his night stand, and walked out of his room. 'I'm going to the store to pick some stuff up. Do you need anything?'
William thought for a moment and then responded, 'Nah, but I'll call you if I think of something.'
Jeff walked out the door and called his voice mailbox. He had so many missed calls! He started to delete them as he walked farther along the street. The grocery store was only a few blocks away. After this crosswalk, he'd just have to turn the corner. Deleting more messages, he bumped into a tall young man who wore a ridiculous smile and a white tee shirt. 'Beg your pardon, please,' the stranger responded. As Jeff turned to glower at the young man, he saw the name 'Cris' printed on the back of the shirt.
He stopped suddenly. Something felt wrong. He had a sudden urge to turn around and walk back. He watched the stranger until he was gone, then stood to think for a moment more. After a few seconds of pondering, he determined it must be his own tiredness so he continued on his way to the store. His cell phone rang; he looked down and answered the call from William as he crossed the street...

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"A spoken word is a moment. A written word is eternal."
 49yrs • F •
A CTL of 1 means that Sorceress is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
This is an interesting story and a theme that is used frequently. I thought it was a fair attempt and the moral quest of the story for each soul to learn their life lessons is a good one but often hard to achieve without sounding preachy.
However I was a little confused with the ending. Did our hero reach heaven?

Also how much responsibility can one individual have over another's thoughts and actions? i.e the girl who commited suicide. I can see your point obviously that it was ultimately his dismissal of her effections towards him that led her to kill herself, but she obviously had self-esteem issues and are we to worry that every person we turn down or don't fancy is going to kill themselves because of our refusal of them. It was especially hard to accept as it was an anonomous letter.

Anyway it was a good story and I even had a tear in my eye at one point so you must have been reasonably succeseful with the story's emotive content. keep writing.
look forward to more of the same.

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""Each child holds the world in an open hand to mould it into any shape they choose.""
 41yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Chained Wings is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
This looks like a decent story....
from what little I read...

Ill give you this piece of advice T-bone, because I think you have talent.

Go back and edit this, with lots paragraphs and spaces.

After about 10 lines in, my eyes began to swim and it felt like each letter became ants crawling across the page.

I like the story, but I feel if you WANT people to read what you've written, you need to present it in a format that makes it easier to read.

I look forward to reading your revised format. But so as to get more people to read it, I suggest you make it more vision friendly.

Good luck.

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"When I was a child I flew! Then as an adult- I watched others soar."
 33yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Tboneactor is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Anatomy of Death

Jeff Caudy opened his eyes after what felt like a very long nap. He stared blankly at, what he thought was the ceiling. Funny, he thought, I don't remember sleeping in Will's bed. He reached up and touched the ceiling. Well, he tried to touch the ceiling. As soon as his hand made contact, the ceiling began to slowly slide upwards. Well, this is certainly curious. Where in the world am I?

Jeff sat up. He stretched his tall torso as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. His face contorted as he felt his feet hit the ground. He looked up and saw no top bunk. Where the hell am I? He tried to remember what he did the night before. Jeff couldn't remember a wild frat party. He couldn't remember consuming enough alcohol to cause a black out ever. So where did the last twenty four hours of his life go?

Jeff started to look at his surroundings. The gentle breeze across his face made him realize that he wasn't indoors. Looking around, he could see for miles. He was on a hill. I know this place. I grew up somewhere near this hill. I found it before we moved. But that was over a decade ago. He looked back at the bed he awoke from. It was heavily decorated with thick, white sheets. He walked over to examine them closer. He could feel that they were made of a fine material. I've never owned sheets this nice before.

A noise of someone approaching the hill startled Jeff. He tried to call out to them, possibly find out why he was here, but no words escaped his mouth. Puzzled, he opened his mouth and tried to call again. Still, nothing. While still trying to figure out the predicament with his voice (or lack thereof), his quandary was added to by the face he saw walking up the hill.

Standing only a hundred yards away was William Harding, Jeff's roommate. I don't understand. Why can't I say anything to him? Jeff approached William, trying to get his attention. William seemed to be gazing right at him. No, through him. William! His mind kept screaming the name, but his voice stayed silent. Damn, he thought, What is going on?

Jeff's mind was racing. He couldn't comprehend everything that was happening. And, while his head was reeling with the new entrance of his best friend, more confusion entered the scene. Jeff turned to face the hill again. He saw more people taking the long walk up. His eyes widened in shock as he saw his family slowly walking up. He felt as though the world was spinning. Jeff shut his eyes as he tried to remember the last few hours before he went to sleep.

Think. I know I didn't have any alcohol lately, so I shouldn't be having black out problems. Suddenly, a newcomer started to walk towards him. But this one was different. Jeff didn't recognize him. The stranger was, somehow, taller than Jeff yet at the same time had a slighter build. He was young, too; couldn't have been older than Jeff. The stranger's slate blue eyes seemed to pierce through Jeff's very soul. When he was finally close enough, he opened his mouth and said, 'Welcome. Mr. Caudy.'

'Wait, you can see me?' Jeff was, by now, bewildered to no end. How was it only one person could even be aware of his very existence? He tried to remember the previous day. Wait! The store. I had gone to the store because William had finished off the milk. I was walking down Front Street. While his mind began to go over the previous events, the scene began to swirl in a soft blue haze.

'Now you remember,' the stranger spoke again, 'What you are about to witness will be traumatizing, but everything will be explained.' As the unknown man finished his statement, Jeff saw himself walking down the road. His cell phone rang. Instinctively, Jeff reached into his own pocket, realized there was nothing there, withdrew his hand, and resigned himself to watching the scene play out before him.

Past Jeff walked answered his phone. It was William, bitching about something else they needed from the store. Past Jeff made a snide comment, hung up, and dialed another number. With his attention diverted, Past Jeff began to cross the road. Suddenly, the sound of screeching breaks was heard and Jeff watched his own body sail twenty feet in the air before landing against a parked car. Past Jeff's head hit with such force, the car's window shattered.

Jeff stared at his lifeless self in horror. He had just witnessed his own death. No wonder he couldn't remember anything; his head hit with so much force, he was surprised he could remember his own name. Jeff turned to the new stranger and said, 'So I'm dead?'

The stranger laughed, 'Well, I've never seen someone hit a solid metal object with that much force, brush themselves off and continue on their way. Yes, you're dead.'
Jeff's mind was spinning. So where was he now? He didn't see fire or any torture devices. He didn't see any halos or harps. The stranger seemed to be reading his thoughts. 'I take it you want to know where you are. Well, I will explain.

'My name is Cristobel. You can call me Cris. I will be your guide throughout the next part of your journey. Everyone in the Realm of the Living knows about Heaven and Hell; whether or not they choose to believe in them is their own free will.' Cristobel paused to look at Jeff. Jeff seemed to be trying to understand. 'I suppose you'll want to know where you are going.' Cris smiled slyly.

'I honestly have no idea. I see no fire or any other signs of hell. But I also don't hear choirs of angels anywhere.' To this, Cristobel let out a loud howl of laughter that made Jeff blush. 'What's so funny?'

Through his laughter, Cristobel explained, 'I'm sorry, but, you humans are hilarious! All these wild ideas of what Heaven and Hell are like; fire, harps, halos, torture devices. It's all so ridiculous. Yes, your priests and hierarchy tell you these things, but do they really have the audacity to believe that they're correct? Who among them has seen Heaven? Who among them has experienced the tortures of Hell? And to call Purgatory a kind of punishment is just silly! So you'll forgive my laughter, but mortals can be so stupid!"

Jeff opened his mouth to comment, but instead, closed it again. Cris was right. Now that it was explained, it did all seem foolish. He thought carefully about his word choice for his next question. 'So, how do I find out where I will spend eternity?'

Cristobel smiled broadly, 'I thought you'd never ask. Do you know where you are?' Jeff shook his head. 'Allow me to explain. As I said, you are in a state known as Purgatory. I know what the church says about Purgatory, but again how would they know? Your time spent here with me will determine where you will spend eternity. You have a journey to make now, with me as your guide. I will be leading you through your three most egregious sins. While you have your own idea what those might be, you may be surprised what He has picked for you. While reliving these moments, you will have the luxury and the horror of viewing every side of the situation.' Cristobel paused again to make sure Jeff understood. Jeff nodded as if to saying he wanted to hear more. Cris continued, 'Your admittance to Heaven or Hell is determined on your ability to learn and grow from these sins. If you fail to grow in a manner He sees fit, you will experience the pain of eternal damnation. And let me warn you here and now: the fire and torture you have learned of from the Realm of the Living is like Heaven compared to what Hell REALLY is.' Cristobel shuddered.

Jeff stared numbly into space. He was dead, there was no denying that. But what in the name of God was he doing in purgatory? He remembered from the few times he actually paid attention in church that purgatory was supposed to be some kind of punishment for those who deserved Heaven but weren't ready. On the other hand, Cristobel had made it quite clear that living people knew nothing of life after death. With a heavy sigh of resignation, Jeff turned to Cris and said, 'Okay, where do we start?'

Cristobel's smile enlarged as though he were a toddler in a toyshop. 'Why do you ask?'

Jeff thought about his words carefully again; he had no desire to be laughed at. 'Well, the way I see, I have no options left. As you have shown me, I'm clearly dead. The dented car and broken window stand as a testament to that. And, as you have put to me bluntly, I know nothing about purgatory. I assume if I refuse this journey you speak of, I will be stuck here for eternity, seeing as I know nothing and probably don't have the powers to proceed. So, I need you to help me get through this. And without completing this, I'll never know what I was most sinful for. I guess it's some sort of consolation that, even if I fail and don't get to Heaven, I can understand my life and what it was worth.'

Jeff sighed again and looked at Cris. There was such brightness to his face that Jeff couldn't help but smile in return. Cris finally spoke, beaming from ear to ear, 'Congratulations! You have learned your first lesson. Your first sin was the carelessness you had for life. You spent the majority of your life partying, thinking you knew everything. By witnessing your own death from all angles, you have learned that you know nothing about His higher plans. No one can ever enter Heaven thinking that they know more than God. Your willingness to humble yourself and admit aloud that you know nothing shows that you are ready for the real tests. One lesson down!' Cristobel's face had a sudden graveness to it, 'Be warned, that was the easy part. The next two sins will be difficult to deal with.'

Jeff couldn't stop his jaw from dropping. Cris couldn't help but laughing at Jeff's reaction. 'Didn't think it could be that simple? That complex?'

'It's not that,' Jeff started, 'I just never thought myself careless about life. I thought I took precautions all the time. I wore my seat belt every time I was in a car, I ate a good diet, all that stuff. But I guess I see where fun can become careless.'

Neither of them spoke for a long while. Cristobel gazed unvexed by Jeff, waiting for him to be ready. Jeff let everything fester in his mind. When he had come to terms with everything, he let out another sigh, 'Where do we start?'

Cristobel, without saying a word, placed his hand on Jeff's forehead. Jeff instantly felt a cold filing him, as if he were being submerged in ice water. But it wasn't uncomfortable; it felt glorious. He couldn't see anything, but he could feel the world melting away around him into something else. When he finally felt Cristobel lift his hand, his sight was instantly restored.

Jeff was surprised to see his old high school hallway surrounding him. He recognized it as the 'secret' hallway. Everyone back at his school called the hallway in the English and Drama department the 'Secret Hallway' because there were so many nooks in the way you could hide in one for weeks and never be seen.

As he looked at the clock, he became very confused. 'Cris, why are we here? It's after hours; I never stayed after school much. And I can't remember being particularly sinful.'

Cristobel looked at him as thought Jeff has just interrupted his favorite television program, 'Just watch.'

Jeff obeyed and sure enough, after another few minutes, Jeff saw himself with his ex-roommate, William, walking towards the door. William spoke, 'I can't believe we both got a detention from the same teacher on the same day!'

Past Jeff laughed, 'Yeah, well, no one ever said Mrs. Deutch wasn't pronounced Douche!'

William howled and stopped at his locker. Past Jeff followed suit and was surprised to find a letter fall out when he opened the door. He picked it up and read it through. He chuckled as he read it out loud to William, 'Hey Will, listen to this! 'Dearest Jeffry, I wish I could express to you how I feel in oral discourse, however, I find myself hindered to do so by my shyness. I would like to begin courting if you would be interested. Please answer this by placing it in the vacant locker three to your right. Your secret admirer.''

Past Jeff and William paused for a moment, looked at each other, and burst out into hysterical laughter. William spoke first, 'Who the hell talks like that anymore?! I swear they must've been on drugs. Who do you think it was?'

'I honestly have no idea!'

'Really? I bet I know!'

Past Jeff got a very excited look on his face, 'Who?'

'Who sits behind you in every study hall? Who can be seen drooling whenever anyone says your name? It's gotta be the uber-creeper Rebecca Lackey!'

Past Jeff laughed again, only it seemed forced. Dead Jeff looked ashamed. He knew he really used to like Becca. She was a very sweet girl. Not necessarily pretty, but had a heart of pure gold. She spent her time away from most people so she could work on things like soup kitchens, food drives, and other volunteer work. And she was very intelligent. She could speak about anything fluently. Jeff clenched his jaw when he heard his past self answer, 'Yeah, who would want that loser as an admirer?'

William responded, 'So are you gonna answer?'

Past Jeff crumpled the paper up and threw it in a trash bin. 'No way.' The two boys turned and walked away, laughing loudly. As the doors swung shut, William said, 'Who'd ever date that girl?'

There was a moment of silence before Cristobel snapped his fingers and time froze. 'Any idea why He has chosen this moment for you?'

After succeeding so quickly with the first sin, Jeff felt some confidence building as he spoke, 'Yes. I really had liked Rebecca, but I couldn't bring myself to admit it to Will. I let the way people view me get in the way of my true feelings and my true personality. Isn't it written that vanity is one of the seven deadly sins? Well, my vanity here caused me to never be with Rebecca.'

Cristobel was unimpressed, 'Why never? Couldn't you have asked her out a few years later?'

Jeff raised one eyebrow, 'No. She...' He broke off; it was a very tragic story. They had found Becca in her closet, with empty bottles of pills around her. Jeff remembered it being in all the local papers. 'She died. Overdosed on pills. She had been dead for hours when they found her. But what does that have to do with that stupid anonymous letter?'

Cristobel gave him a grave look and snapped his fingers. Jeff watched confused for a moment. Nothing happened. He heard her before he saw her. Rebecca Lackey slowly walked out of one of the many nooks in the hallway. She walked towards the trash bin and grabbed the crumpled piece of paper, tears streaming down her face. Becca clutched it to her chest as if it were a priceless gemstone. As she sunk to the ground, Jeff felt a hand on his forehead and he began to feeling the chilling sensation again. It was not as pleasant this time. When Cristobel lifted his hand, Jeff saw he was in a small bedroom.

Before he could ask, the door swung open. Rebecca walked into her room solemnly into her room. In her hand, she tightly clutched a letter wrapped around a bottle of pills. Jeff watched in horror as she opened her closet and sank down in it. She had been crying for so long, her eyes had stopped producing tears. She started to take the pills a few at a time. Each new does brought a wave of more sobs. Finally, she rolled the letter up and put it in the bottle.

Jeff and Cristobel stood there for a few minutes watching her sit and crying. Her breathing started to pick up. She knew what was coming and eventually gave in. Her body slumped against the wall, still clutching the bottle.

'They'll never find that note you know.' Cristobel had moved towards the body as though it were nothing new to him. He reached down and took the note out of the bottle. 'Her parents will come into her room the next morning and be so distraught that they will throw the bottle away and this note will never be read. Any idea what it says?'

Jeff felt the pit of his stomach drop even lower. He slowly took the note from Cris and began to read it. 'I'm sorry. I couldn't take the names any more, Mommy. I couldn't stand being the one person no one would acknowledge existence to. And the one boy I truly love thinks I'm a freak. I guess that's what pushed me to this tonight. I love you.'

Jeff's eyes began to flood with tears. He handed the letter back to Cris who carefully replaced it. His mind was on fire. So he had caused her death. He never knew. He had always thought she just lost it one night. But to know his rejection of her was the sole reason for her suicide was terrible.

Cristobel approached Jeff, 'Well? Why are we here?'

Jeff summoned up all his courage. 'It's my fault she died. Had I not been so concerned with how other's viewed me, I'd have asked her out weeks before that. So not only was I vain with Will, but I basically murdered this girl. Not with weaponry, but with my words.'

Cristobel smiled gravely, 'Correct. Your own words drove this girl to take her own life. She showed nothing but love to everyone and everything. Yet you were so wrapped up in your own self image that you let it destroy her. And now,' he paused to look at her body, 'she's here. We've taken great care of her to wait for this moment. Rebecca?'

Jeff's jaw resumed its usual position of wide open as the body of Rebecca Lackey stood up and walked over to him. Before he could control himself, he flung to his knees and grabbed her hands, 'I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I never knew you liked me too. I always did like you. You were the most giving and sensitive person and I took that for granted. Everyone did. Can you ever forgive me?'

Rebecca smiled sweetly. 'We all have our lessons. One of mine was forgiveness. Of course you're forgiven. But the fact that you could come to me and apologize without being asked or anything of that sort shows that you're ready for the next step. Congratulations on completing your second phase. Cris can take it from here. Thank you.' She kissed him on the cheek and then, as though she were only a vision, she faded into nothingness.

Cristobel walked over to Jeff. He was still on his knees, tears rolling down his face. 'I'm not ready for this. I realize I have to complete this to get into Heaven, but this is too much too soon! I can't stand knowing that I inadvertently killed a girl, let alone one I had feelings for. I tried; I really did, to have a good life. I can't go on watching how miserable my life actually was; how horrible of a person I was. I just want...' He broke away. He didn't know what he wanted. But not this, not to see what he's done.

Cristobel stood silently. Without warning, he pressed his hand against Jeff's forehead again. The two melted away to their next destination. When they had stopped, Jeff didn't open his eyes right away. He was terrified what this last thing could be. What on earth was worse than driving someone to commit suicide?

Jeff took a breath and opened his eyes. He was standing on a street corner. He recognized it as one near his apartment. Looking around, he wondered when his past self would enter the scene. He needn't wonder long. Coming from the direction of his apartment, his past self walked along the sidewalk. From the other direction, a jogger in a hooded sweatshirt approached. The two moved towards each other as though nothing would happen. Jeff knew better. As he watched, Past Jeff bumped into the jogger, apologized and continues walking. The scene began to swirl as though someone has added a drop to a glass of water. The ripples finally subsided and Jeff and Cristobel were in the apartment, watching Jeff and William smoke marijuana.

Jeff sighed, 'So I decided to experiment once. I never did it again. I mean, I didn't think it was that big of a sin.'

Cristobel's expression grew stern again. 'How long ago was this?'

Jeff pondered for a moment, 'Must've been about a week ago. I always thought God wouldn't put more judgment on more recent sins that past if they weren't as mortal.'

'You are about to get a rare chance. You will be going back to the present. Think for a moment, who did you buy the drugs from? A friend who deals?'

'No, just some guy I heard had good stuff. My source was wrong.'

'Do you know what happens to drug money?'

Jeff thought again. 'I assume it would go into the business. Buy more stuff to sell. Pay debts. Stuff like that.'

'Well, here is your chance to see what happens to drug money. No one knows what is going to happen here. Except of course God. Although not even He is sure of the specifics or the outcome. That is the tragic flaw with the gift of free will. Humans are free to do whatever they please. You are going to see, live, what happens to drug money. God considers this your greatest sin. The outcome is unknown, but will definitely be unpleasant. Brace yourself.'

Jeff felt himself, not melting, but burning as though his image was being burnt into the scene. Horrified, he watched the scene playing before him. Alone in a deserted room, a small girls sat tied to a chair. Her face was dirty and streaked with tears. Although terrified, she could be heard singing 'Jesus Loves Me' through here sobs. A man suddenly burst into the room. The girl screamed but was soon stifled with a disgusting looking sock that was shoved in her mouth. Jeff's heart plummeted as he recognized the man as the drug peddler who he had done a deal with in the prior setting.

Another man came into the room, holding a letter a cell phone. 'Who's going to make the call?' he asked.

The first man replied, 'I will. We can get a pretty penny for her.' He walked back towards her and stroked her face with his grimy hand. She struggled to keep away from him. 'A young girl like this, from a wealthy family, could either catch a high ransom or be sold for a great fortune overseas.'

'How were you able to pull it off? I mean, it's not like she's a stupid little girl.'

The first man laughed, 'I told her that her precious mommy and daddy were in a car accident. The stupid little twit fell right for it.'

'How were you able to get a car that wasn't traceable? Someone easily could've seen you and reported the car.'

'It was easy. I just bought a cheap piece of junk with the money I got from some idiot first time buyer. I could've told him any price and he would've believed me. So I priced out what I wanted, called this moron up, made the deal and, tah-dah, instant get away!'

Both men laughed maliciously. The little girl had tears streaming down her face as she continued to hum her song with the sock in her mouth. The dealer walked over to her and slapped her, 'I thought I told you to shut up!' The little girl continued to cry, but never once gave in to her captors.

Jeff felt as though he had been hit by the car over and over again. This was all unfolding this very second. And it was all his fault. He wanted to have some fun and now it may come at the price of this little girl's life. Without thinking, he walked towards the little girl. His eyes looked into hers. And yet somehow...

It could've been his imagination, but he could've sworn that she was looking back into his own eyes. He knew from his last encounter with living people that he could not communicate with her. But, regardless, he dropped to his knees and placed his hands on the little girls head, screaming through his tears, 'God, I don't even care what happens to me. But please let her live. She doesn't deserve to suffer for my mistake. Whatever you decide my fate shall be that's fine. Just don't hurt her anymore!'

The little girl stopped crying. Jeff knew she couldn't see him, but somehow, she knew she was no longer alone. Cristobel moved towards Jeff, and for the first time, Jeff tried to resist. 'No. I need to stay here. I have to know what happens.' But Cristobel place his hand on Jeff and the two melted out of the scene. Jeff could've sworn her heard a bang as they were leaving but he couldn't see anything. He opened his mouth to voice his agony, but no sound came out. He and Cris were leaving.

Jeff's mind was racing as he traveled to wherever he was being taken. Was the little girl ok? How could Cristobel take him away from the little girl when she had realized she wasn't alone anymore? Finally, they came to rest back on the hill where Jeff had woken up previously in the day. The stars were now shining brightly. Jeff watched as Cris laid back to look at the sky. He was surprised how docile Cris still appeared, even after they saw what had happened.

'You were interested in poetry while you were among the living correct?' Cristobel's question startled Jeff. How could he be asking about poetry at a time like this? 'Sara Teasdale had the most ingenious ideas. 'There will be rest and sure stars shining. Over the rooftops crowned with snow. A reign of rest, serene forgetting the music of stillness holy and low. I shall make this world of my devising. Out of a dream in my lonely mind, I shall find the crystal of peace-Above me, stars I shall find.'' Cristobel paused and gave the words a chance to sink in. Jeff couldn't quite understand. 'She found it, Jeff. Because you reached out to her, that little girl found her 'crystal of peace.' It no longer mattered to her what happened because she was at peace.'

Jeff started to catch on, 'So another flaw with those who live is that they spend too much time worrying about what might happen and too little time concentrating on just living?'

Cristobel smiled. 'Correct. And with this you have learned your final lesson. You have witnessed what happens when you don't think about your actions in advanced. You have seen firsthand what a seemingly harmless action can lead to. You have also experienced the deepest kind of remorse a mortal soul can experience; realizing you've done terribly wrong and trying in any way you can to reverse it. In doing so, you removed the feelings of abandonment in that little girl and gave her hope. I can now allow you to see what will happen to her. You will only see; you will not be there.' He placed his hand over Jeff's eyes.

Darkness engulfed Jeff's sight as he felt a different sensation, as though he had become disengaged from his own body. He was watching the scene again. Only this time he couldn't find the little girl. He saw police and FBI interrogating the two men. But he couldn't hear what they were saying. Why can't I hear? Then he remembered Cris had only allowed him to see what was to happen. His eyes searched everywhere for the poor child. Finally, his vision came to rest upon a dirty shirt with a blood stain in the corner. No, it can't be. She can't die all alone!

His mind felt as swirling sensation as Cristobel compelled him to look through the closed door. He saw the girl sleeping in clean clothes in her mother's arms. His spirit soared with relief and he tried to call out to them. But, as it had so many times before, his voice failed to make a sound. He felt himself rejoining his body.

As he watched the hand being pulled away from his face, Jeff saw Cristobel's glowing face. 'Congratulations. You have passed your three tests with flying colors. We will now be traveling to the Gates of Heaven where you shall spend eternity.'

Cris reached for Jeff's forehead again but stopped. 'On the other hand, I think you have learned enough to know where we will be going. As a side test, I would like you to take me to the gates.'

Jeff cocked his eye brow in questioning. He studied Cris for a long time. His mind was racing. How on Earth can I know where Heaven is? I don't even know what it is. If there's one thing I've learned it's that I can learn something from every situation. His eyes flashed. He knew where to go. He closed his eyes and placed his own hand on Cristobel's forehead. He focused very hard on one place. Suddenly, he began to feel the familiar sensation of melting away.

When they hit solid ground, Jeff looked around at the hilltop where his funeral was. He turned to Cristobel, 'This was the place I felt most at peace in my life. This is where my own gate to Heaven lies. Am I right?'

Cristobel smiled and nodded. 'And it would appear,' he began, 'as though you are not making the final journey alone.' He pointed toward two trees that had not been there the last time Jeff was on this hill. Sitting beneath one of them, was William.

'Will!' Jeff cried out and ran towards his friend. As he got closer, he realized William's face was streaked with tears.

'It was entirely my fault. If I hadn't called you to ask you to grab me something stupid, you would've looked down the street. You would've seen the car. Neither of us would be here. I'm sorry.'

'What do you mean, 'Neither of us would be here?''

William's face fell, 'I couldn't take it. I couldn't take knowing I had been responsible for killing my best friend. I overdosed...'
His voice trailed off. 'I was so overwrought when I got here, I couldn't focus on the sins. I failed, Jeff.'

Jeff looked into his friend's distraught face. He had worked and suffered so hard for this moment. Now, all he could think about was his best friend's eternity. 'Cristobel, isn't there anything I can do?'

Cristobel's face was grimmer than Jeff had ever seen it. 'There's nothing I can do. Those who are damned cannot be saved.'

Jeff thought for a long time. He thought over everything he had learned. His thoughts focused on the little girl. Yes, she had been saved. But it was pure luck. If she hadn't been saved at the moment, she inevitably would've died. With as much courage as he could muster, he stood and turned towards Cris. 'I have secured a place in Heaven. I have yet to enter. Let him go in my place. Yes, I passed my tests, but if they hadn't found that little girl when they did, her death would've been entirely my fault. I don't deserve the place as much as William does.'

Cristobel's face twisted in a way Jeff had not seen before; he looked perplexed. 'Jeff, do you not understand the severity of your situation? You have achieved eternal salvation. Some mortals spend their entire lives preparing for this moment and still fail.' With an air of disdain, he added, 'What could possibly be more important than spending eternity with our Lord?'

A slightly breeze picked up as Cristobel voiced his challenge. Jeff stood, momentarily defeated. He glanced back at William to apologize. No one can say he didn't try. But as he looked down into William's eyes, he found his answer.

'Love.'

Cristobel looked quizzically at Jeff, 'What did you say?'

'There is something more important than spending our eternity with God; accomplishing what we were actually created to do. If I've learned anything from my time here, it's that the greatest power we possess we rarely use. We weren't created as little puppets for the shear entertainment of one entity. We weren't made as robots without emotion. What we were given was the power of choice and the ability to love. All my life, I used my powers of choice but rarely, if ever, did I ever use my ability to love to its full potential. As a mortal, I never understood what love really was. It's not about sexual pleasure or about your spouse and family. Love is showing that you care, regardless of who that person is. So the last choice I make before I'm through here is to use what I learned for good. William can have my spot in Heaven.'

When he finished speaking, he extended his hand to his friend. He has never felt more powerful in his life. Nor had he ever been more terrified. He knew that if William accepted, eternal damnation awaited. And, as Cristobel explained to him previously, his idea was not even close to the real thing.

But before William could take Jeff's hand, Cris spoke, 'Don't touch him. Reveal yourself, Beelzelbub.'

At that, Jeff watched his friend slowly begin to melt away like a candle before his eyes. As the flesh burned off, he began to see a creature that pained his eye to behold. Before his eyes, stood a demon with skin the color of blood. Jeff was stunned by how human-like the demon appeared yet was appalled more as he examined it. Instead of a normal nose and mouth, Beelzelbub had the snout of a wolf. And its eyes glowed an eerie orange. The demon stood, fully transformed to its original state.

'This is Beelzebub, Jeff. Assistant to Satan himself. He, alone, is responsible for over half of the souls in Hell. As you can see, he assumes the form of someone who means the most to you. He sits outside the Gate to Hell and attempts to lure those souls who have passed their tests into Hell. God would never allow someone into Heaven who does not understand what love truly is. You were willing to give up your own eternity for your friend; that is true love. Be gone, Beelzebub. I have only one mortal with me.'

With a slight glare, the wretched creature turned to face the tree he was sitting in front of and walked into it. Cristobel looked sideways at Jeff, 'Most people who pass the final test seem stunned when he enters Hell.'

Jeff chuckled, 'After witnessing all of this, nothing can ever surprise me again except to see what I expected!'

Cris smiled again, 'As you can see, the gate on the left is the entrance to Hell. If you're ready, the gate on the right is Heaven.'

Jeff drew in a deep breath. He looked from tree to tree. For a moment, he thought it was extremely ironic that the entrance to Heaven was a tree when a tree had lead to the damnation of Eden. Then again, could he really be sure of anything he had learned in his life? He looked from Cristobel to the tree and began to walk straight forward. As he neared the tree, he began to feel himself melting away again. This time, it felt more glorious than anything. As he reached the tree, he placed his hand against the trunk. Slowly, he began to cross between worlds. At the moment he felt he was on the line between Purgatory and Heaven, his eyes were blinded by a glorious warm light. Jeff knew at once he was home...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jeff Caudy opened his eyes after what felt like a very long nap. He stared blankly at the ceiling and rubber his eyes. He sat up and threw his legs over the side of his bed. He stood up slowly and stretched. Jeff had the strangest idea that he had just had an incredible dream. He let out a few choice curses as he thought and thought but could remember nothing.

He could hear William in the kitchen, cooking something. 'We're still out of milk!' he called out. He heard William curse and throw something in the trash. Jeff got dressed, picked up his cell phone and grocery list of his night stand, and walked out of his room. 'I'm going to the store to pick some stuff up. Do you need anything?'

William thought for a moment and then responded, 'Nah, but I'll call you if I think of something.'

Jeff walked out the door and called his voice mailbox. He had so many missed calls! He started to delete them as he walked farther along the street. The grocery store was only a few blocks away. After this crosswalk, he'd just have to turn the corner. Deleting more messages, he bumped into a tall young man who wore a ridiculous smile and a white tee shirt. 'Beg your pardon, please,' the stranger responded. As Jeff turned to glower at the young man, he saw the name 'Cris' printed on the back of the shirt.

He stopped suddenly. Something felt wrong. He had a sudden urge to turn around and walk back. He watched the stranger until he was gone, then stood to think for a moment more. After a few seconds of pondering, he determined it must be his own tiredness so he continued on his way to the store. His cell phone rang; he looked down and answered the call from William as he crossed the street...

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"A spoken word is a moment. A written word is eternal."
 41yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Chained Wings is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
I like this story too. And most of Sorceress' comments I agree with.

You have a talent for bringing peoples emotions out in your writing, which is very important. Especially hard when it is a short story. well done.

Though, like Sorceress said, it wasn't so much the technical side (you write better than I did at 20 years old. ) I had problems with. Moreso the believability of some of the events. You can bring out a readers emotions- but in order to hold them- you need them willing to believe in what happens.

There were times, like the protagonist being punished for someone else's actions, I found hard to accept. It made it feel as if the world is one big butterfly effect, and we are all going to suffer when we die because of things outside our own control.

Someone will also have to point out what Purgatory is to me, since Im not that well versed in religion.

It sounds to me that no matter what you did in life (suicide is a sin.) you get a nice little Scroogelike trip; and if you answer a few questions right then you get to go to heaven.

It makes me scared that eventhough I toiled all my life to do the right thing , when I die and go to heaven, I will meet Charles Manson, Hitler, Bush and Saddam Hussein. Because those guys are cunning enough to know what people want to hear, and would say the right things.

I would hope the judgments are made on what you learnt before someone is giving you an ultimatum and youve finally discovered there IS a hell or heaven. Not a trip through a few points in your life with a few quick questions to answer, which will to deem you worthy for Heaven.

I would hope too, that the one giving the lesson and asking the questions would be judging on the humans morals, thoughts and beliefs before they died and were faced with the abyss. And that they asked your heart not your mouth the answers.

But see. The story has gotten me talking. And this is a good thing. It shows it did enough to make me feel when I read. Then think and talk about it after.

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"When I was a child I flew! Then as an adult- I watched others soar."
 49yrs • F •
A CTL of 1 means that Sorceress is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
I do feel that the story is a little easier to read now that it has paragraphs, because it is not so daunting for the eyes. When I saw the first post it was this massive block of writing and I thought shall I or shan't I attempt to read it? But now it gives the story a structure. Cool! Well done!

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""Each child holds the world in an open hand to mould it into any shape they choose.""
 33yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Tboneactor is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
When I wrote the story originally, it was in the right format...but when I copied it onto the site, i lost all the paragraphs and breaks. To answer some of the questions that have been posed:

Purgatory, in the Christian faith, is said to be like a waiting area. If you weren't a good enough person to get into Heaven but also aren't condemned to Hell, you enter Purgatory which is kind of like jail time; you spend a certain amount of time there to pay for your sins and then you receive admittance into Heaven. I've always thought that was a crock of shit so I decided to take my own spin on it.

Yes, in the story, all he had to do was answer the questions, but his soul was genuine agonized by what he saw and experience. God and Cristobel are clearly not idiots and would be able to see into the souls of Hitler and Manson and see there would be no remorse. So, if by some astronomical twist of fate my story ends up being true, you can rest assured you will never meet them in Heaven, Chained Wings.

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"A spoken word is a moment. A written word is eternal."
Anatomy of Death
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