All Stories, Fantasy

A Hell of a Story Part 2 by Frederick K Foote

To whoever has the misfortune to find and listen to this recording, this is not a hoax, joke, or the results of delirium, hallucination, or a fevered drug dream. My name is Oslo Jennings, and I’m a 64-year-old victim of a fatal heart attack while driving. My medical records at the San Juan Medical Center document I was dead for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.

During the period of my death, I experienced an afterlife. This recording is a detailed description of my afterlife experiences.

***

I found myself dressed in the clothes I was wearing at the time of my death, standing in a line boarding a ship the size of which dwarfed any ship I had ever seen or imagined.

The vessel appeared to be at least 80 stories high. The main deck was swarming with crowds, and long lines were everywhere. And the line I was in stretched endlessly down the pier.

While there was lively chatter and animation on the main deck, our line shuffled along quietly without conversation, a cough, or a sneeze.

A small drone stopped, hovered above me, and broadcast: “Mr. Jennings, you are out of sequence. Please step out of line and board the ship. A purser will process you.”

I strode aboard, and a young crew member in a sparkling white uniform welcomed me aboard and took me to the spacious office of Dr. Sally Ann Ryan, the cruise director.

Dr. Ryan was a square-faced, square-shouldered, serious, even stern woman trying too hard to be cordial.

“Mr. Jennings, do you know where you are?”

I smiled at her. “No, but I know I’m dreaming. I mean, the ship is fabulous, but it’s not real.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

I suddenly felt warm, almost feverish. I tried to remember what I was doing before I fell asleep. I was starting to sweat. “Wow, I, ah, I don’t recall exactly what… I don’t remember.”  

“Mr. Jennings, you were in an automobile accident, and unfortunately, you did not survive.”

“Dr. Ryan, that’s not funny. That’s not funny at all.” I opened the top button on my shirt.

Dr. Ryan folded her hands and looked at me with pity and contempt.

I used both hands to mop the sweat from my face.

“I’m dead? Come on. I’m not dead. I’m dreaming. I have grandkids. I—have bills and obligations. My creditors won’t let me die. I don’t feel dead!

“Mr. Jennings, please put both of your hands, palm down, on my desk.”

“Why?”

“Please.”

I complied, and the bitch stabbed me with a letter opener twice, fast as lightning in both hands. I leaped out of my chair.

“What the fuck! Are you crazy? What kind of fucking doctor are you?”

“Mr. Jennings, please, sit back down. Do you feel any pain? Are you bleeding?”

“Of course, I’m bleeding—but I wasn’t bleeding. And I didn’t feel any pain. What the fuck was happening to me?”

I fell back into my chair. I kept watching and rubbing my hands. “You didn’t have to do that.”

Ryan gave me a wretched little smile and displayed way too many small sharp teeth. “You died in the San Juan Medical Center from a heart attack. You also suffered rib and chest injuries.”

I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to wake up. My hands didn’t show signs of being stabbed. I distrusted Ryan. I needed to wake up. I concentrated on waking up.

“Mr. Jennings, you are aboard the good ship H&HE Trail of Tears, and our captain is President Andrew Jackson. This cruise ship carries approximately one million passengers and crew—”

“Wait! Wait—is this Heaven or Hell? Who are you again? What kind of medical doctor stabs people—even dead people? I’m confused.”

“Of course, you are. That is a normal response. This ship is a joint enterprise of Heaven and Hell—”

“What? Are you for real? Heaven and Hell don’t work together? That makes no sense?”

Dr. Ryan shot me another horrid little smile. “Heaven failed from inception. St. Peter quickly realized that heavenly entrants didn’t want to spend eternity with loved ones. The new admissions labeled Heaven as the new Hell.”

I thought about that for a minute. I surely didn’t want to spend the rest of my eternity with my parents, siblings, exes, and children. I thought my heaven would be a nice creek with good fishing and some shade. I could read and relax and have a fish fry anytime I wanted. And I could pick my fishing companions and how long they stayed. That sounds like Heaven to me.

“Okay, alright. That makes some sense, but why a cruise ship? And what about punishing the evil and rewarding the good or faithful or whoever?”

“Those are outmoded concepts, I’m afraid. The purpose of the cruise is to modify behaviors until the passengers are suited for our ideal of Heaven. These are voyages to becoming better beings. And everyone is redeemable.”

“I’m still lost. How do you modify the behaviors of the dead? How the hell does that work?”

“Well, it’s a very complex process, but let me give you an example. Come with me.”

As we walked, she told me my eventual ship would be the Jonestown, captained by Reverend Jim Jones. She explained the how and why of ship naming and captain selection in some hellacious detail. At that point, I stopped paying much attention to her mumblings. Frankly, I was overwhelmed.

We arrived at a cabin on the main deck about the size of a jail cell with a bathroom slightly bigger than passenger jet bathrooms. The colors were battleship gray and Army green. Death row inmates have better accommodations than these.

“Dr. Ryan, this is horrid. This is miserable and miserly. This is so cramped. I would get claustrophobia in here. I mean, there’s hardly room to turn around.”

Dr. Ryan chuckles like a chicken being strangled. “This is part of your behavior modification therapy. You and your roommates—”

Roommates? You must be kidding. Are you stone crazy?”

Dr. Ryan moves quickly into the closet-sized room and pulls four beds out of the walls. She turns sideways to exit the room.

I look away as she grins at me. “Mr. Jennings, your roommates will be Young Hee, Valentina Hernandez, and Rona Liptak. These are the mothers of your children, correct?”

“Hell no! I don’t even know a Rona Liptak. And Young and Valentina will kill each other—again. This is, is Hell. This would be a living hell.”

Dr. Ryan consulted a phone she pulled from her pocket. “You were stationed at a Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar in 1981?”

Oh, shit! I was there temporarily for 30 days. Me and two other guys from my unit. It was a nonstop party. “Dr. Ryan, I don’t remember anybody named Rona or Liptak. You might have me mixed up with someone else, maybe?”

Another hideous smile, “No, the DNA is conclusive. You have another son.”

I dropped onto a bed and bumped my head against the overhead bunk. My head was spinning. I saw spots in front of my eyes.

Dr. Ryan was gleeful. “You see, these women will move from anger at each other to anger at you. This will change your attitude toward family—”

“Wait, wait, please, please give me a moment.”

I closed my eyes. I took deep, slow breaths.

I could feel Dr. Ryan’s sly eyes on me.

I kept my eyes squeezed shut. “Dr. Ryan, none of this is going to make me want to be with these mothers, and alleged mother, of my children or them, want to be with me. It will drive them away from me. This is a stupid idea.”

“Ah, but it will unite the mothers against you. That’s a three-to-one gain. They could spend all eternity hating you.”

I had a roaring headache.

Dr. Ryan plopped down beside me and patted my knee. “There, there, you will have an eternity to adjust.”

I yanked my knee away from her and bolted from the shabby little sardine can and onto the main deck.

I fell onto a lounge chair. I closed my eyes. I tried again to wake up from this nightmare.

I heard someone heavy drop into the lounge chair next to me.

“Don’t be so stressed, Oslo. Don’t let Dr. Ryan get to you. Nobody likes her anyway. Just chill.”

I kept my eyes closed. I thought about being alive.

I spoke to the unseen stranger. “Look, tell me if I’m wrong. You are stuck with your attitudes, emotions, and beliefs when you die, right? I mean, you can’t change or grow because you’re dead, right?”

“Yeah, that sounds about right, Oslo.”

“Wow! Thank you. Thank you. So, what is this cruise ship scam?”

“Well, it’s a work in progress. It’s feeble, but we haven’t solved the reunion rejection problem just yet. So, this is a stopgap measure.”

I was silent for several minutes, thinking about this whole mess.

“Let me ask you something else.”

“Sure, Oslo.”

“Our souls can’t ever change or grow after we die, right? And we exist for eternity, right?”


“Oslo, Oslo, Oslo, what are you getting at?”

“There is no solution. We are who we are forever. There is no Heaven. There can’t be. A collection of flawed, stunted, discontented souls living forever does not a Heaven make.”

“Oslo, you’re a short-timer this time.”

“What? What are you saying?”

“Ryan should have told you this. You’re returning to life. They will revive you in about 20 seconds their time. Look up Rona Liptak and your son—or not. I’ve enjoyed talking to you, Oslo.”

“Hey, wait! You have always known that Heaven is impossible, and Hell is our reality, right? RIGHT?”

***

Too late. I was back in the hospital with tubes, alarms, doctors, and nurses. I’m fucking alive.

So, that’s my story as best I can recall, and I’m sticking to it.

You know what? I’m going to have another party in Southside Park and invite all my family and friends. And Rona and my unknown son if I can find them. And you. You’re invited too. It will be heavenly.

Frederick K Foote

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay 

A Hell of a Story – Part 1

5 thoughts on “A Hell of a Story Part 2 by Frederick K Foote”

  1. Hi Fred,
    It is quite a skill to write a stand-alone story within a series. That is why we don’t publish many that are sold as such. But each of these are interesting and well thought out and the fact that they are related becomes a bonus.
    All the very best my fine friend.
    Hugh

    Like

  2. Part 2 is wonderful. As others have said the two parts could sit separately, but they also work so well together. I really enjoyed the snappy dialogue and the quirky vision of the afterlife. Superb final line too!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.