Heaven sucked. There was no doubt about it. Anika couldn’t stand it. Everyone wanted to go to Heaven, sure, but did they really? In her present circumstance, Anika was having post salvation regrets.
“Remember my lovelies,” the angel said. “Make sure to color in the lines.”
“Yes Miss Lucille…” The chorus came from a dozen adults of varying ages, though looking at the surroundings, it would have been more appropriate to guess that this was a preschool for people with that Benjamin Button disease.
The girls all wore big floppy bows in their hair and socks that were longer than the hems of their skirts. The boys all wore shorts that came up above their knees and button up shirts with slip on bowties. Marcus, another relatively new arrival, had started making jokes about an old rock band where the guitarist wore something similar but it just didn’t land. It didn’t stop him from trying.
“The lines are like tiny little commandments and guides so that we can make our prettiest picture. Just like how the Bible gives us all guides on how we live our best lives.”
“Yes Miss Lucille…”
Everyday. This. Again and again and again. Random parables. Bible study. Videos. Lessons. Before she was old enough to stay home, her parents took her to church every Sunday where she languished in first the nursery and then the “Little Learners” Room.
The nursery hadn’t been so bad. That had been just like daycare but with a few extra Jesus decorations. There were far worse ways to whittle away an hour or so while Mom and Dad sang hymns to the sky man.
Heaven, this level anyways, was like the Little Learners room. Lots of forced stories and songs and talks about how great God was and how this day was the day that the Lord had made. Everyday was Sunday in Heaven. At present they were sitting at circular tables…because God’s children were all equal or something something something Anika had zoned out half way through the Angel Teacher Lady’s explanation.
Anika would never say this outloud, but she was beginning to wish she’d been a little worse in life.
“Can you pass me the blue?” Anika asked her seatmate. The kid…girl…woman dressed like a toddler… looked up from her coloring sheet. “Yeah. Are you coloring Jonah and the Whale?’
Anika made the mistake of telling the truth. “Nope.” She brushed her light brown bangs out of the way. “Doing Noah’s Ark…I think.”
The other girl squinted her eyes and moved her lips at the squiggles on top of the coloring sheet. “I think so, too.” Nothing here was written in English, or any Earthly language. The angels had promised they’d learn to read Celestial Script in time, but at present they only got lap read to.
Anika took the blue crayon from her neighbor and started coloring the pair of birds on the tippy top of the boat. Coloring was in five dimensions here so it was particularly difficult to capture the range of color that a bird would get throughout its entire life and through every space and angle of light, but that’s what the lines were supposed to be for. If only she could see in five dimensions…
“I need a drink,” Anika muttered. She reached forward and grabbed a juice box from the center of the table. There was a cluster of juice boxes in the middle of every table, straw unwrapped and ready to be sipped from and it never went out. One benefit of Heaven: unlimited apple juice. The angel teachers promised that they’d get wine too when they’d ascended enough.
“Miss Lucille! Miss Lucille!” Anika’s neighbor shot her hand up in the air.
One of the angels, all named Lucille, glided up. “Yes, Hannah?”
The other girl leveled an accusing finger right at Anika’s temple. “Anika’s doing it wrong! She said she was coloring Noah’s arc but everybody knows that the birds holding the branch are supposed to be doves!”
The hair on the back of Anika’s neck stood up. So annoying! The first level of Heaven might have been Sunday School but every level of Hell was definitely other people, she decided.
The angel peered over her. “You’re right, Hannah. Good job for noticing!” Anika felt her skin start to prickle as Hannah got patted on the head. The brat could have just stopped her and told her she was about to make a mistake.
“Sorry,” Anika apologized but didn’t mean it. “I thought they’d look pretty as bluebirds.”
The angel teacher suppressed a light chuckle. “It’s pronounced ‘birds’, honey. ‘Bluebirds’. Not ‘boobirbs’.”
Anika felt taken aback. “That’s what I said…bluebirds.”
The angel enunciated the words back. “Blue. Birds.”
Her treacherous neighbors on either side of her started giggling behind their hands. Whispers of ‘baby’ made their way to Anika’s ears. “Blue. Birds.”
“I know what you mean, honey.” The angel ruffled Anika’s hair. “Well even if they are boobirbs in your picture, I think they’re very pretty.” That made her spirits rise a bit. “Though you accidentally scribbled over here where it hatches and colored it like an adult in the sunlight, when this particular one was born at dusk and hatchlings tend to be closer to gray.” Right back down again. “See your mistake?”
A sigh. “Yeah,” Anika lied. To her stupid, human, babyish three dimensional eyes it looked to her like the angel was just jamming her finger up and down on the same spot of paper again and again, but she was too embarrassed to admit it. It had been weeks and everyone else seemed to be getting the hang of this. She thought that if she just looked at it from the right angle she might see something.
No such luck.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get it. Just use the lines.”
“Yes Miss Lucille…”
“Miss Lucille! Miss Lucille!” That brat Hannah said. “Are there any coloring pages with ephalants! I love ephalants!”
“It’s elephants, dear. But I think I can get some for you. Maybe something from Garden of Eden”
“I said ephalants,” Hannah said, seeming offended. The blonde bimbo was getting a taste of her own medicine. But wait…if she couldn’t hear the difference between ‘elephant’ and ‘ephalant’, what did that mean for Anika’s ‘boobirbs’.
The angel started to walk away to another table but she doubled back seeming to remember something. “Hannah. Anika. Do either of you need to go potty?”
“No…” the girls said in unison. Anika didn’t need a mirror to see how much she was blushing. She had Hannah for that.
“Are you sure?”
Both girls faltered.
“Stand up. Let’s check.”
Both of them stood up, fidgeting while the Angel lifted up the hems of the skirt and inspected their disposable training pants.
That was another part of Heaven that Anika hadn’t rightly anticipated: Everyone in her class was in giant adult versions of Pull-Ups. Every boy had a bit of blue poking out above their waistbands and every girl had a bit of pink just barely noticeable beneath their skirts. Eventually, they’d been promised, they’d learn to not have to use the toilet at all but until they’d mastered themselves to that point, everyone had to wear Pull-Ups ‘just in case’.
It was hard to object to an angel’s demands. Even harder was the fact that she’d woken up in Heaven covered in her own excrement. People peed and pooped when they died. That evidently carried over with souls into the hereafter. Training pants had seemed reasonable at the time.
“Oh dear,” Miss Lucille said. “You lost your rainbow, Hannah.” Anika smirked, feeling smugged. Her fade when wet designs were gone. Appropriate considering she’d tattled about Noah’s Ark. Hannah didn’t seem too keen on it…
“And Anika…all dry.” The angel said. Anika beamed triumphantly. “Good girl. Now go try going potty for me.”
Anika balked. “I don’t…” she stuttered. “How am I going to learn to… you know…if I keep going?”
They were about the same height, but the air of authority and wisdom that the celestial being carried about her made Anika feel much much smaller. “Please, Anika? Try? For me?”
With a huff, Anika whirled around towards the class bathroom, a single toilet and sink with no door for privacy, again, ‘just in case’. “Fine…”
She might have been embarrassed how her skirt flared out when she twirled, or how everyone would hear her tinkling and see her Mary Janes through the archway. These days, the only thing that was at risk of being more dead than her was her modesty.
“Come on, Hannah. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
“Noooooo….” Hannah whined.
Being a big girl on the verge of true Sainthood, Anika got to use the potty. Being a little girl who had an accident, Hannah was being guided over to the cubbies to get a fresh Pull-Up. The only difference between her and a full on baby was that Hannah was allowed to get changed standing up.
Anika did her business, pondering the absurdity of the afterlife. She didn’t actually feel much bigger or that she was closer to enlightenment or whatever. She just felt like she was being potty trained again. Everyone binged on apple juice so that they’d have full bladders and try to hold it in for eternity, but all that seemed to accomplish was having to go to the bathroom more often or having an accident.
“Okay,” she called. “I’m done.”
Another, nearly identical angel teacher came up. She looked down into the training pants around Anika’s ankles and smiled condescendingly “Good girl! You’ll be ready in no time!”
An errant thought made its way out of Anika’s mouth. “For what?”
More cheerful chuckling. “Okay, let’s wipe and wash our hands.”
Anika stood still and held up the hem of her skirt so that literally immaculate hands could wipe between her legs. She really wasn’t that different from Hannah in this way. Hannah didn’t have to wash her hands while an Angel puppeted her wrists in and out of the stream singing:
“And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos…”
The girl tried to mumble along but found herself missing the words and melody every step of the way. She’d lost count of how many times this song had been sung to her and she still couldn’t get past the first or second ‘begat’.
“All done,” the angel said, which is good because Anika had absolutely no clue otherwise. Whatever happened to the ABG’s?
She walked back to the table, hoping to see an embarrassed Hannah being humiliated having to step into a fresh Pull-Up and be encouraged about her lack of improvement like a baby. She got more than she could have hoped for.
The Pull-Up and leaked all over the girl’s skirt. It was now balled up next to the used training pant by her feet and she was doing her best to keep her loud bawl a quiet one. “Don’t worry,” the angel said. “We just have to wash it. Nobody’s mad at you. You’re doing your best.”
Heaven had infinite juice boxes and infinite Pull-Ups that could fit over full grown adults, but had to wash their preschool uniforms? Anika didn’t care to question that since it was working out in her favor. She might not be able to color in five dimensions but she could still make it to the toilet.
The Lucille pulled Hannah into her arms and then boosted the girl up like a toddler. Angels like the Lucilles had impossible strength and stamina. Hannah might as well be an actual child. She certainly looked like one.
Now, everyone would know that stupid Hannah had messed up so badly that she’d lost her bottoms.
That brat was crying like a two year old.
And getting her back rubbed.
And having a pretty lady tell her it was okay.
And getting hugged.
And getting offered toys to make her feel better.
Why was Anika feeling so envious of this? And how could she get that kind of attention for herself?
She reached out and grabbed another juicebox…
Yup. Jessica had it figured out. Hell definitely was the place of cruel and unusual punishments. She’d expected fire and little guys with hot pokers. This was somehow worse…
“Awwww!” Another inmate mocked her. “Wood at duh baby! Such a widdle cutie walkin’ awound in huh Pampuhs.” Dude was no better off, truth be told. He was in training pants, same as hers. He just had shorts on over them. Jessica had peed herself so many times that the guards just took away her skirt.
“Yeah yeah,” Jessica rolled her eyes. “Tell me another one I haven’t heard before.” The new fish were the quickest pots to call the kettle black. They’d learn the hard way.
“Wussa mattuh. Did I huwt yuh feewings?” This guy was beyond oblivious.
Jessica turned and squared up to the idiot. “Do you even hear yourself?”
“Are you talking like that on purpose or…?
“Tawking wike how?”
That answered that.
One of the guards appeared right behind the idiot. “Jeffrey,” the demon said. “Are you making fun of Jessica?”
New fish’s eyes went wide with terror. “No ma’am.”
“Don’t fib.” She looked over to Jessica. Weird that a demon could be so oddly attractive. Jessica might have guessed the demoness was a succubus or something but ‘visually pleasing’ and ‘sexually arousing’ didn’t overlap in this instance. “Jessica?”
Jessica decided to play dumb. “Jeffey wasn’t bein’ mean at all, ma’am.” The slight babyish lisp wasn’t as pronounced as her would-be tormentor’s, but it was coming more naturally every day. “He was just tellin’ me I was wearin’ a diapee…I mean diaper.”
Jeffrey’s face fell just in time for it to contort in pain when the demon yanked him over by the ear and gave him a loud pop in the rear. “We. Don’t. Make. Fun. Of. Our. Friends.” Jeffrey went limp after the first swat. They all did. Something about the spankings here made a body go all ragdoll. It didn’t stop the pain or the embarrassment.
Jessica released her bladder again into the already soaking Pull-Up. Just watching the man-child get spanked was giving her immense satisfaction. Squeezing her legs together and feeling a bit of residue linger on her thighs did, too. More work for the faux caretakers of this place was a good thing. Passive resistance for the win.
She’d grown up a preacher’s daughter. In part that’s why she ended up dying an athiest. No book describing the afterlife, religious or otherwise mentioned this. Who’d have thought that Hell was a daycare?
A near identical demon tapped Jessica on the shoulder. “Come on, Jessica,” she sighed. “Let’s get you changed. I can see you sagging from here you soggy thing.”
Bow legged, Jessica took the monster’s hand and was led over to the cubbies to be wiped and given a fresh pair of training pants that she had absolutely no intention of keeping dry. “Yes, Miss Judy.”
“Here you go, sweetie,” the angel said to Anika, handing her a block, “Why don’t you play with these?” From out of the bottomless plastic bin, blocks made of solid light tumbled out. They were the stackable kind, but were still too big to swallow. “They’re only in three dimensions. I hope that’s okay.”
It was very okay. “Thank you Miss Lucille.”
“You’re welcome, Anika.” the Angel said. “Do you need to go potty?”
“No,” the woman lied.
“Not even a little?”
“Not even a lil bit.” Anika’s bladder was close to bursting, but she’d wait until after she had some privacy to wet herself. It wouldn’t be long after that. Average response time for the grand celestial educators to notice that Anika’s rainbow had gone away was six minutes. A few times she’d stopped and counted…though maybe the fact that she was stopping and counting was doing it.
She was in just a t-shirt and a Pull-Up now. Much more comfortable and only slightly more embarrassing. Far less embarrassing than it should have been, in truth. The dimensions of Heaven had shifted. Or perhaps a more apt explanation would be that her senses had expanded to notice more than the art tables and the playgrounds.
She was off in a corner with the other pantsless peeps; other people that were going backwards in their potty training instead of forwards. She got to play with blocks and finger paint while everyone else was doing more organized activity. And every time she had an accident, she got changed and fawned over and reassured that it would be okay. No Hannah either. Hannah had started asking for potty reminders, little goodie two shoes that she was, and was now sitting on a bowl every thirty minutes. Anika had made the better choice.
“Can I have some juice?”
“Of course you can have a cup-cup.” The angel said. She handed a sippy cup filled with apple juice. “Anything else?”
“No Miss Lucille.”
“Okay, you be good.”
Depending on your standards, Anika was good. She felt it was rather polite of her to relax things downstairs right as she glugged down her apple juice. Efficient too. Coldness inside and warmth directly outside, Anika shifted to her knees and went for the first block.
“Have you tried it?” A new voice asked.
Anika looked over her shoulder. “Tried what?”
The woman-child who’d spoken crawled up right next to her. She had olive skin and mediterranean features… “Eating the blocks.” The girl wasn’t wearing a t-shirt and Pull-Ups. She wasn’t wearing a prissy school uniform eithers. Her legs were just as bare as Anika’s, but her t-shirt wrapped all the way around her torso. Something white and puffy shown out through the too small leg holes. Anika didn’t need three guesses to know what it was.
A baby woman? Not a toddler or preschooler? Anika took this all in and tried not to stare. “I can’t eat them. They’re plastic,”
“I can’t eat them.”
“You can eat anything.” The new girl paused. She looked like her mind was in two places “What’s gonna…happen…? Do you think you’re gonna get…sick? From eating…light? In…” she let out a long, relieved sighed. “Heaven?”
Anika’s nose wrinkled. She’d gotten used to certain smells, but she still didn’t do that in her training pants. “Are you okay?”
The newcomer shifted from all fours and sat down on the flour. “Yeah. Why?”
Anika wanted to gag and barf just thinking about it. She tried to distract herself instead. “Where did you come from?”
The diapered woman motioned behind her. “From over there, with the other babies.”
Babies? Sure enough, in yet another area of the massive preschool was a completely different area, one with bright colors and toys, and every person there was crawling and giggling chaotically. Nowhere was the orderly diligence of the preschool art tables or even the quiet preoccupation of her toddler section. Just grown people acting like drooling idiots and loving every minute of it.
A disturbing thought: How long had Anika been dead? Had she once been in a big beautiful nursery like that with all of her needs cared for and loved unconditionally with no expectations…and forgotten about it? “Are you new here…or something?” She asked the other woman.
The new girl wagged her head. “Nuh-uh. I’ve been here for a long time. Ever since Mr. Levi was running this place and we worshiped Zeus.
“Who’s Mr. Levi?”
“Andromeda!” One of the Lucille angels called out. “There you are. What are you doing here you little stinker?” She looked slightly different than the other angelic teachers, mostly in her outfit. The others wore conservative but functional dresses and pants. They looked like archetypical teachers; elementary school to be specific. This one, besides the bleached blonde hair, had scrubs decorated with rattles and bottles and safety pins. There was no doubt what relative age group she worked with. “You let this big girl play with her blocks in peace.”
Up into the Angel’s arms the crawler went. “Yes, Mama Lucy.”
“Now let’s get you back over to all your little friends.” The angel sniffed audibly. “Let’s you get changed first.”
“Yes Mama Lucy.”
Tunnel vision overtook Anika. The entire baby section of Heaven zoomed into focus. Everything else blurred and muted out by comparison. They were all having fun over there. Together. Even here in just her Pull-Ups with the other kids who weren’t quite getting the swing of potty training (some of them might even be faking it like Anika) everyone was alone. Competition on one end. Isolation on the other. And friendship and camaraderie right in front of her.
And Mama…the angels over there were called ‘Mama’.
A well timed cramp snapped Anika back out of her head. She stood up, feeling the Pull-Up sag from the gravity and its weight. She’d just raise her hand and find a teacher angel. Tell them she had to go potty. Then she’d be sat on the toilet and changed out of her wet Pull-Up and…and…and…
“Excuse me…” Anika said to the angel in the nursery scrubs. She hadn’t even consciously realized that she’d toddled over to the nursery area. It really was like the church nursery back home. Just…bigger.
The angel turned around. Andromeda was already laying peacefully down on a changing table, her hands shooting up to mobile above her head, her unbuttoned onesie revealed a diaper that was badly in need of sorting out. The line in the middle had turned completely blue and there was the smell of something stronger wafting up too.
“Yes ba-?” The angel stopped and adjusted her gaze to eye level. “Oh hello Anika! Do you want to be a big girl and help me change Andromeda’s diaper?” Andromeda made no move or blush at the mention of a stranger seeing her in this state.
“Um…can I play?” Anika asked. “With the babies?”
“Sorry,” the angel said sweetly. “But big girls like you can’t play with the babies. You might accidentally hurt one of them. Go play with your blocks by yourself.” She spared a glance at Anika’s sodden training pant. “I’ll get one of the others to change you into a dry Pull-Up.”
Sulking, Anika turned away, and froze when she felt the waistband of her disposable panties get pulled back. “Huh?”
“Just checking. Yup. Still a big girl. Go play.”
Anika’s feet did not move. But her knees bent. Her thumb drifted in between her lips. She closed her eyes and did her best not to think about what she was doing.
“Could you…check me… again?” She asked.
She was checked. Mama Lucy told her to sit down on the floor while she finished changing Andromeda. She did. She went back first onto the changing table.
The garment that was slipped underneath her after she was cleaned up was not a Pull-Up. Mama Lucy didn’t make her go back to the bigger kids.
It felt like a win.
Jessica was the hustle queen of Hell. They were trying to break her and failing more and more every day. Pull-ups to diapers? Pfft. Kiddie toys? As if. Story time? She literally knew every story by heart and could correct the Judy demons where they got it wrong.
She could do any and all of this standing on her head.
It was easy. All around her, the screams of the anguish filled her ears. “No, I’m not a baby! Waaaaah! Stop it! Staaaaahp!” People who got too many rain clouds on their potty training charts ended up plopped back into nappies.
The charts went away after that, and for Jessica, away went the shame. They weren’t keeping track of it so why should she?
None of this phased her. She was harder than all of that. And through her efforts, she was working on adding the demons’ screams to the damned.
“No no, baby. Careful baby!” Hell was a daycare. Hell was a prison. Prisons had rules. Rules could be exploited. As long as she pretended to not know what she was doing, she wouldn’t get spanked.
Jessica leaned back in the giant highchair and craned her neck away from the goop in the spoon. “Spinach yucky!”
“Here comes the airplane!” The demon sang with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
“Spincahe! Yucky!” She swatted the spoon out of the Judy’s grasp and it splatted all over Jeffrey’s face in the next highchair. Jeffrey had followed her back into diapers soon after her own ‘failure’. Depending on one’s outlook, he was either adapting very well or not at all.
Jeffrey looked bewildered for a second and then burst out into tears, blubbering till the snot on his upper lip dripped down to the baby food on his chin.
“Sowwy, Jeffy.” Jessica didn’t mean it. It was an affectation, just like all the baby talk she was doing. She couldn’t remember when the last time she’d said a full sentence like an adult (probably the last time she did number two’s outside of her clothes) but all of her thoughts were suitably mature. Good enough.
“Sorry, Judy,” One of the demon’s said to the other. “I think Jessica is a little fussy today.”
“When isn’t she a fussy baby?” the other one rolled her eyes. “Seriously.”
Jeffy was taken out of the highchair by his chief tormentor and cooed and fussed over like an idiot. “I’m gonna go get him cleaned up. Try and cheer him up with a pop up book or something.” The demons talked to each other more than to their prisoners, like they couldn’t understand or something. It was more of the gaslighting that was such a common one in this circle of hell.
“I’ll catch up in a second.” Jessica’s Judy said to the first. “I gotta get something in this cutie’s tum-tum.” There was a time when being called a ‘cutie’ would have flattered Jessica. The demon tapped her chin and regarded her most difficult victim. “What am I gonna feed you?”
Jessica didn’t know but she was sure it was going to end up on the demon’s clothes. Too bad all of their clothes were literally stain proof. It was the thought that counted.
The demon daycare worker picked Jessica up out of the highchair and carried her out of the kitchen. “Maybe you’re not ready for solid foods yet,” she moved them out of the afterlife daycare’s kitchen. “Spoons can be scary if you’re too little.”
Jessica found herself in a rocking chair sitting in the monster’s lap. “Hungeeeeee…” she moaned. “Baby hungeee…” She groped at the uncanny valley caretaker’s breasts, hoping to get a rise out of her.
She got a much different response than she suspected.
“Oh? You’re hungry for this?” She lifted her shirt to reveal a nursing bra, quickly opened to show off a dripping, milky teat. “Does baby wanna breastfeed?”
She did. Jessica really did. The thought of breast milk mixed with blood after she bit down was so spiteful as to be arousing. Innocently, baby Jessica nodded her head. “Uh-huh! Uh-huh!”
“Okie dokie. Let’s get baby some milk!” Jessica’s head was guided towards the woman-thing’s breast.
She never did bite down…
She was too caught up in the sheer ecstasy of it. The world started to make less and less sense. Only the heartbeat of the Mommy and the taste of the milk mattered to her.
Faintly, she heard Mommy talking to one of the other grown-ups. “You know I heard Madison crying in her crib the other day. She was so upset, bawling that she was in Hell and being punished.”
Mommy laughed. “Punishment? They think this is a punishment? Silly babies.”
“Yeah. Who said this was Hell?”
“Okay Anika,” Mama Lucy said. “Give me burpies.” The angel started patting, thundering on Jessica’s back.
Contentedly, Anika let out a series of massive belches, the pressure in her tum tum lowering, as her eyes drooped. Mama Lucy’s milk always tasted like strawberries or pomegranates for some reason. It didn’t make sense, but it didn’t have to.
It was Heaven.
She’d figured out Heaven’s secret. The classroom and the promises of ascension? The work? The potty training? That was a test. And only by failing and accepting what a silly little infant she was and abandoning all that pride could she truly be happy.
Anika was happy. Happier than she could remember. She didn’t have to worry about a thing. She didn’t even have to burp herself. And Mama Lucy cared for her and all the other babies that had figured it out. The others were coming around too.
Even Hannah had realized that it was better to be a baby in Heaven and that anything less was Hell. They were good friends now. Them and Andromeda.
After her nap; milkies always made her sleepy; maybe she’d go crawl over and play with them. Or maybe she’d just stare at herself in the mirror and let herself forget that the cute reflection wasn’t another baby.
That could be fun too.
A quick trip to the changing table was the only way that Anika knew she was wet or messy. It wasn’t her problem anymore. Nothing was. Babies like her didn’t have problems. Problems were for big people and angels.
Instead of a crib, Anika was laid down on a playmat, with beautiful dangling shineys that she could bat at and kick with her hands and feet. The toes of her footed sleeper tasted like cotton candy…
“You can lay here,” Mama Lucy said. “And play until you fall fast asleep.” Oh wow. What a wonderful way to drift off! She smiled and giggled, stifling a yawn just as Mama Lucy gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead. “Night night, baby.”
“This is the life, isn’t it?” Andromeda asked. The two baby friends were laid down side by side on their own playmats. “No worries. No cares. No thoughts. It’s better than what I imagined the Elysian Fields to be.”
“Yeah.” Anika said. “Yup yup yup.” She closed her eyes, knowing full well that she wouldn’t open them until after nap time. “Andromeda.”
“Fanks for tewwing me the secwet.”
Andromeda giggled. “Who said this was Heaven?”
From the Journal of Professor Bumble:
Heaven and Hell, though locked in a perpetual cold war until some form of Armageddon or another, are not innovators. That’s what humans are for. Their short life and unique experience causes them to innovate where cosmic beings would be content to stagnate. Lucifer might be a master of betrayal, lying and murder, but Adam and his spawn invented the sport to be certain.
Innocence is also highly valued on both sides. Cleanliness may be next to Godliness but innocence- a word here meaning non-malicious ignorance- might be close to cosmic uranium. There are dozens of spells from on High and Below that value innocence either as a pure form of the human spirit, the very thing which Heaven might be constructed of, or its reaction with the environment of Hell in pure contradiction as a powersource.
Side Note: I remember coming across a coven in the 1800’s that believed that Original Sin was Heaven purposefully tainting the well to prevent Hell from utilizing fallen souls that had done nothing wrong yet not achieved salvation. Shame it never caught on.
Likewise, the longstanding rules of Limbo were seen as a form of non-aggression and pseudo neutrality. Even if fostered by Heaven, Limbo was staying well out of things and all of those cleansed minds and souls were not being put to use beyond giving a few angels very specific and matronly jobs.
In more recent events, sources tell me that since what has been dubbed “The Dante Incident”, the neutrality of Limbo is being reconsidered at best. More to the point, both sides are experimenting ways to manufacture innocence, the result being that a fraction (still a rather large number) of the arriving population is put into a Limbo substitute, gaslit, and mentally regressed until something akin to innocence is achieved.
It’s not nearly as potent as the real stuff, and it’s unpredictable, but each is taking the philosophy of quantity over quality.
The sad but tragic part is that as far as my sources indicate, neither side knows what the other is doing and they have no clue just how similar they’ve become.
Surprising perhaps, but not shocking.