Kevin Moriarty drove his car the same way that he did everything else in life. He had the best of intentions at the outset, but somehow he always managed to make a hash of it in the end. He got out of the car and inspected the rear end which he had scraped against a pole next to the parking bay. Inspecting the dent, he shrugged his shoulders and walked off to the Department of Manpower building where he worked. Another dent on his car was hardly likely to be noticed."Moriarty, you're late again!" The voice boomed out of the departmental controller's office as he opened the door at the end of the corridor.
Moriarty raced down to the basement and after dislodging his car
the obstinate pole he raced off home. He arrived there just as the
repair team were leaving. He waved them down and signalled to them that
he was the owner of the house. They turned around and followed him back
to the door. He fidgeted restlessly while they loaded the machine onto
the back of their truck. The team leader handed him a clipboard to sign
stating that the machine had been picked up.
"Be ready next Tuesday." he said as he got back into the van.
Moriarty jumped back into his car and raced back towards the office
get there before Roberts returned. Turning down Smith Street he spotted
Roberts' 4x4 in the traffic ahead of him. At the next intersection he
turned left again to avoid being spotted by Roberts in the traffic.
Moving along the unfamiliar streets, Moriarty looked down all the side
streets to see where he could turn down so that he could get to the
basement parking ahead of Roberts. Finally spotting a side street, he
gunned the motor of his battered VW to race across the intersection. So
intense was his concentration on the far side of the block to see if
Roberts' blue 4x4 had passed already that he did not see the tipper
truck that jumped the intersection. The truck hit the side of his car
with enough force to spin it around 180°. The truck hit the car
again crushing the driver's side down to half the original width. The
truck continued across the intersection and slewed across the road on
the other side with the VW still wrapped around the front of it.
Half an hour later the emergency crews were still working to try and
free Moriarty's body. Moriarty stood and watched them working. At first
he had been a bit puzzled about standing there watching all the
activity. When he tried to tap a fireman on the shoulder to ask him
about it, he started to realise what had happened. When all his other
attempts to talk to people failed as well and he even managed to walk
through the truck his worst suspicions were confirmed. He eventually
realised that he had died and his spirit was busy watching all the
activities around him.
He had always been a practising Christian so after the initial shock
had passed he waited around expectantly to see what would happen next.
After an hour or so he noticed that he had started to float upwards.
he went higher, he drifted increasingly faster. He looked around him
and it appeared as if he was in some kind of tunnel getting
progressively brighter as he came closer to the end of the tunnel.
When he stopped moving he shaded his eyes with his left hand and looked
around. At first he couldn't discern anything. As his eyes adjusted to
the bright light around him, he was eventually able to make out a huge
set of gates ahead of him shining in the light. In front of the gate
was a small hut and a line of people stretching away from the hut
towards him. Not seeing anything else to do, he joined the back of the
queue. Seemingly in no time at all he was at the front of the line. A
tall chap with a mop of red hair and an unruly beard looked up at him
from behind a small desk. A large book lay on the desk in front of him
and he had a pen in his hand.
"Your name please."
"Um, Kevin Moriarty."
"Hmm that's funny. I have a Kevin Moriarty listed, but no Um Kevin Moriarty."
"Yes that's me - Kevin Moriarty."
The man gave him a sharp look and said. "So why did you not say so in the first place boy. We don't have all day here you know."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to confuse things."
"That's OK. I was just pulling your leg a bit. We do actually have all day here. Sit and make yourself comfortable."
Moriarty looked around and saw a chair that he had not noticed before.
"Well Kevin Moriarty I'm really glad to see you here."
"That makes a pleasant change. Usually everybody is upset when they see me."
"Yes I know. That's part of the reason that you were chosen. It will make your job easier."
"Yes, but I'm being rude. Let me introduce myself first. My name is Peter. I am in charge of the Gates."
Peter sat and looked at Moriarty and smiled as if this explained everything. Moriarty continued looking confused.
"Which gates?" Peter looked a bit taken aback by this question. He stood up and raised his right arm pointing at the vast gates behind him stretching up as far as the eye could see. He turned back and looked at Moriarty with a worried frown on his face.
"The Pearly Gates of course." He sat down again.
"God has decided to give me a bit of a break you see. So you will take over my job here at the Gates for a few hundred years."
"A few hundred years!?" Peter waved his hand and smiled to indicate that this was not a problem.
"Don't worry about it. Time works a bit differently up here. A hundred years can pass in the blink of an eye and a day can last a thousand years. Once you go to the school you will understand all about it."
"I have to go to school here?"
"Oh yes everybody that arrives here has to go to school. Of course not everybody has to start at the same level, but we all need a bit of extra education to help us understand how things work around here. However, due to the timing of things, you can only go to school when I return from holiday." Peter turned the large book around so that Moriarty could see what was written there.
"Let me explain how things work around here and then I'll be off. It's quite simple really. When a person arrives here, you ask them for their name. If you can find their names in the book here then you hand them an admission slip like this one." Peter produced a slip of paper out of a desk drawer and showed it to Moriarty.
"On the admission slip you must indicate which level of schooling they will start on." Moriarty was getting more bewildered by the second, or was it by the year, he wasn't even sure of that anymore.
"How do I know what level they must start on?"
"It's written in the book here next to their names."
"Ah, I see, for example I am listed as preschool."
"That's correct. Tick the correct box on the admission slip and send them on their way."
"OK that sounds fine, but what if their names are not in the book? Do I enter them in then?" Peter was so shocked by this question that he couldn't utter a word for quite some time - irrespective of how time was actually measured.
"No. You never ever enter anybody into the book. It is not up to us to judge who is in the book and who is not. If their names are not in the book, then you hand them a complimentary fan and coke and send them to that escalator over there." Peter pointed to a large steel escalator visible in the distance. It appeared to be almost completely surrounded by a dark cloud and seemed to be glowing red with heat.
"Does that go where I think it goes?" Peter nodded wordlessly. Moriarty gulped and heaved a sigh of relief. Peter opened another drawer on the desk and extracted some cards that seemed like small ID cards.
"Let me explain the rest of your responsibilities to you quickly. These are exit passes. The passes with green backgrounds are for spiritual returns and the red passes are for corporeal returns." Peter looked at Moriarty's blank expression.
"That means the person returns either as a spirit or as a human being in a body." Moriarty slapped his hand on the desk and laughed.
"Of course, I knew that."
"That's good, you will need to know the difference. The only people who get exit passes are the angels, and it is usually a green pass. It is only in the most exceptional circumstances that a red pass is issued." Peter produced a small book out of the seemingly inexhaustible drawer.
"Once you have issued them with an exit pass, then you enter it into the logbook here and get them to countersign it. When they return then they must sign in again and return the exit pass." Peter placed the book on the desk which appeared somewhat cluttered now and stood up. He picked up a set of suitcases and handed Moriarty a red pass.
"Well I'm on my way at last. Please sign me out. Oh, before I forget, your halo and robe are in the drawer. I ordered them for you earlier. You better slip them on before getting on with the work. They are quite strict about the dress code around here." After Moriarty had entered the information in the logbook and Peter had signed it, Peter picked up his bags and strolled off into the distance. Just before he disappeared out of sight he turned around and shouted back. "Please be a kind chap and press the blue button next to the drawer." Looking down, Moriarty noticed a small blue button to the left of the drawer and pressed it. Instantly a large blue escalator appeared before Peter rolling downwards slowly. Peter stepped on the escalator and disappeared downwards.
It was some time later and Moriarty had put on the glowing robe and
halo. Unfortunately both seemed a bit large for him and he kept
tripping over the hem of the robe. Eventually he removed the halo as it
also kept slipping down over his eyes. At last he felt ready to start
attending to the line of people stretching away from his desk into the
distance. He first tried to tidy the desk up a bit before beckoning the
first person over. While he was returning all the various items to the
drawer, he noticed a small leather bound book lying at the bottom.
Taking it out he saw that it had the words "Gatekeeper's Manual"
embossed on the cover in gold leaf. He opened it and the front page
appeared as follows;
I do solemnly swear to abide by the following gatekeeper's commandments:
1. Always make sure of the person's identity. If you send a person to the wrong destination then it cannot be changed later.
2. Always be courteous to the public - remember it is their first time here and they are very confused now.
3. Never change a judgement made regarding a person's destination. It is not up to you to make that sort of decision.
4. Always double-check an exit pass. People often try to get back to warn loved ones to change their ways. This cannot be allowed to happen.
5. Business hours are from 8am to 5pm. (Heaven Local Time) Lunchtime is from 12pm to 1pm. If you need to take a break for any other reason during the day, then please dilate Local time so as not to delay the public.
6. Remember your vast responsibilities towards God and the people.
The rest of the book was filled with all types of procedures and maintenance systems to be completed. Slipping the book back into the drawer, he called the first person over to him. The man had a large smile on his face and extended his hand towards Moriarty.
"You must be Peter. I've really been looking forward to meeting you." Moriarty shook the chap's hand.
"No, actually I'm Kevin. What is your name?" The man backed away with a panicky look on his face.
"If you aren't Peter, then I'm not dead. So where am I then?" Moriarty raised his hand in a calming manner.
"Please calm down sir. You are dead and you are at the Pearly Gates. Now if you could please give me your name, then I could look you up in the book." The man looked at Moriarty in disbelief and continued shaking his head.
"But Peter is supposed to be in charge of the Pearly Gates, and you don't even have a halo." Moriarty smiled gently at the man. Standing up he picked up his halo from the desk and walked over to the chap who had slumped into a chair by now.
"Peter is away on holiday right now. I'm standing in for him. And see I do have a halo." Moriarty placed the halo on top of his head where it promptly fell over his eyes again. The sight of this sent the poor man into a frothing frenzy.
"Get away from me. This can't be heaven. They can't possibly be this disorganised. They would never allow anybody like you to man the Gates." Moriarty raised his voice slightly as he wrestled the halo off his head again.
"Listen to me sir. I know things look a bit bad right now, but this is my first day on the job so cut me a bit of slack please. If you could please give me your name then I can process you." By this time the man was lying on the floor and moaning softly to himself.
"I want Peter." Moriarty bent down and picked the man up by the front of his shirt. With his right hand he gave him a smart thump on the head with his halo.
"Listen here buddy, Peter is not here. You have to deal with me. You are also holding up the queue here. So if you do not give me your name in the next five seconds, then I will arrange for you to be resurrected and I will personally strangle you to death. Do you understand me?" The dazed chap nodded.
"Excellent! Cooperation at last." Moriarty let go of Zaslow's shirt and stomped over to the table. Running his finger down the list he found Zaslow's name eight from the bottom with a secondary school listing. Pulling out an admission slip he ticked off primary school and handed the slip to Zaslow. He pointed to the Gates with his arm.
"Through there and take the first left to the stores. After you get your robe and halo, they will direct you to the school." Zaslow nodded his thanks wordlessly and walked off towards the Gate. When Moriarty looked towards his desk, the next person was standing there already.
"Janet Claudine." She smiled nervously. Finding her name, he completed the admission slip and directed her away. The work continued mindlessly until he was disturbed by a buzzing coming from the desk. Opening the drawer he saw a clock that he had not noticed before. Looking at it he saw that it was five o'clock. He placed the clock and the book back into the drawer and walked off to the Gates.
"Hey what about me?" Turning around he noticed a teenager standing at his desk.
"Yes, what about you?" "Well are you not going to let me in or something?" Moriarty smiled at him the way a person smiles when you have to explain something totally obvious.
"Working hours are from eight to five. I'll sort you out first thing tomorrow morning." Moriarty turned around to walk back to the Gates again, but was stopped short by another shout.
"That's not good enough buddy. I want service now!" Moriarty turned back and walked up to the teenager slowly.
"Listen buddy, I missed out on lunch today. I am starved and would like to get something to eat. If you want me to sort you out right now, then I can send you for a trip on the red escalator, or else you can wait until tomorrow morning. What is it going to be?" The youth held up his hands in a placating gesture and backed away to his seat. Moriarty gave him a final look and stalked off to the Gates. Inside for the first time, he was taken aback by the beauty and splendour of everything. Wandering around, staring at everything in amazement, he came across a restaurant. Walking up to it, his entrance was blocked by a large chap with an impressive pair of wings on his back.
"You know that you can't go in there without your halo on. In fact you shouldn't even walk around on the streets without it on." Moriarty looked up at the giant's face.
"My halo doesn't fit properly. It keeps slipping off." The angel studied him for a while.
"If it wasn't for the fact that you're in heaven, then I would say that you're lying because everybody has their halo fitted at the store when they collect them. So how come your halo doesn't fit?" Moriarty explained to him the events of the day. At the end the angel understood and offered to get Moriarty some food at a take-away place just down the road. Sitting on the pavement eating his food, Moriarty questioned the angel some more about heaven.
"How come the big deal about the halos? I though heaven was supposed to be enjoyable and that everybody was free to do as they pleased." Shaking his head, the angel laughed.
"True freedom can only be achieved through the proper use of rules. Wearing a halo is one of those rules." During the evening, the angel told him more about heaven and where the stores were so that he could go and get a new halo and robe. Unfortunately he could not tell Moriarty how to dilate time as this sort of thing came naturally to angels and Moriarty would have to wait until he went to school before he mastered such things. Towards the end of the evening the angel made some enquiries and led Moriarty to the place where he would live. The small house appeared to contain all the necessities, and some luxuries, to make life quite pleasant. They had a cup of tea together and then the angel stood up to leave.
"Well it was a pleasure meeting you. If you ever need a message delivered then speak to me. I work for Gabriel. Just ask for Jason and I'll see what I can do to help you." After that Moriarty got into bed and slept soundly. The next morning he was woken up by an alarm clock again. He got up and after opening up various cupboards in the kitchen he discovered all his favourite breakfast stuff stashed away, ready for him. He finished his breakfast quickly and to his delight discovered a dishwasher under the sink. It was exactly the model that he had always wanted. He padded his halo with some toilet paper so that it could stay in his head in some manner. Similarly he managed to tack up the hem on his robe so that he could walk more than two steps without tripping. Looking around for a watch he discovered a Guess chronograph on his bedside table. He strapped it to his wrist and set off for the stores to swap his halo and robe for a more fitting size.
When he arrived at the store,
however, he found that they were also only open between eight and five.
He considered waiting until they opened, but thinking about the long
line that was still left over from yesterday he decided against it.
He walked back to the Gates which were visible from everywhere in the
city. This time he marvelled at the ease with which the massive gates
opened at the press of his fingers. It really was a miracle!
He walked up to his desk and settled in, getting out the book and his
pen. He called the teenager from the previous evening over. Before the
kid reached his desk though, five angels walked up to the desk. They
were covered in soot and were cut and bruised all over. Each of them
had a massive sword strapped to his waist. The leader, a truly massive
man at least two head lengths taller than the rest of them flipped five
green passes on Moriarty's desk.
"Sign us in please." Moriarty looked up at the leader.
"Have you ever thought of joining a queue like the rest of the people here?" The tall angel bent over almost double so that he could look Moriarty straight in the eyes.
"Look we have just come back from a long battle in the Styx. We are tired and would like to have a chance to clean up and have a rest." Moriarty pointed to the line stretching away as far as the eye could see.
"All these people have been waiting for this day all their lives. They are also anxious to get inside. Please join the back of the queue." The angel stared at Moriarty for a while.
"Excuse me, I don't think you know who I am. My name is Michael and I think God is quite anxious to see me again."
"Yeah, that's what they all say. Now hit the queue buster. The rules apply to everybody. Next time bring a note from God himself if you want to jump the queue." Michael's jaw hung slack in disbelief but eventually when he saw that Moriarty wasn't going to let him in he turned around and headed off for the end of the queue. Moriarty turned to the teenager who had witnessed the entire exchange with a thunderstruck expression on his face.
"Do you have any idea who you just spoke to like that?"
"Yeah his name is Michael. Would you like to join him at the back of the line?"
"No. No. Not at all. I was just curious if you knew who you were dealing with." As Moriarty was looking up the teenagers' name, he looked up at him again.
"You look somewhat familiar. I'm sure I know you from somewhere."
"I doubt it man. I haven't been around that long you know."
"What do you do for a living?" "I work in an appliance repair shop on 27th street."
"That's it! I knew it! You came to pick up my washing machine yesterday or whenever it was."
"Oh yeah man, now I recognize you. You drive that trashy VW."
"That's right." Moriarty handed him his admission slip.
"Well it's better that you ended up here man. That machine of yours was a goner man. There was no way that we could have repaired that thing." The teenager walked off to the gates and waved to Moriarty before entering. Sometime later the five angels came through the queue and Moriarty signed them in in total silence. He continued processing the line but was distressed to notice that more people were sent to the red escalator than the Pearly gates. That evening Jason joined him again for supper and they chatted more about heaven and the likes.