Some Candy, Doctor? By Katelyn Topshee, Continued...
PURIEL: You’re not surprised?
JOHN: I’ve been sick for a long time, I suppose I knew it was coming.
PURIEL: Well, I’m glad we can ignore all the initial shock then! Makes my job easier.
JOHN: Yeah, um- and what exactly is your job? Like is this... the afterlife?
PURIEL: Well, yes and no. This is certainly after your life, but fear not! This is not where you will be spending eternity my friend! It would be quite the boring forever home.
(pause. JOHN shifts uncomfortably in his seat.)
PURIEL: Yes! Right, I will be explaining everything soon, just allow me to do some quick confirmation questions. And don’t worry, it’s not a test! It’s merely to confirm we haven’t made any mistakes while your soul was traveling here.
JOHN: Right. (beat) So souls do exist then?
PURIEL: Well it’s not the exact same thing, but yes, soul is the term we tend to use.
JOHN: Great- um. Interesting! (nervous laugh)
(another pause. JOHN is clearly uncomfortable, while PURIEL remains perfectly calm. PURIEL grabs a piece of paper and reads the questions from it)
PURIEL: Anyways! Here we are. First, what is your name?
JOHN: Uh, John Campbell.
PURIEL: And your profession?
JOHN: I am- or, I guess was a professor.
PURIEL: I’m sorry but you’ll have to be a bit more specific, Dr. John Campbell is frankly a more common title than you’d think!
JOHN: Oh, yes, sorry, I’m a religious studies professor.
PURIEL: And a good one, according to your reputation!
JOHN: Yeah, thank you very much. (he lets out a nervous laugh)
PURIEL: You are very welcome! And finally, you are not a religious man?
JOHN: Ah, well, I- not technically, but-
PURIEL: (he raises his hand to silence him) No need to backtrack on your beliefs Doctor! As I assured you this is not a test.
JOHN: Yes yes, of course, um- I am- or, was, an atheist.
PURIEL: Excellent! Now unfortunately this does make my job here slightly difficult but it shouldn’t be a problem!
JOHN: Oh! I’m sorry if I caused any trouble-
PURIEL: No! Not at all Doctor! Perhaps it would be simpler if I explained everything to you now. (pauses to rearrange some of the paper on his desk and makes an area to rest his arms.) So, you have died. But then you already knew that of course. (JOHN nods) Yes, so, when a person has died, their soul is brought to the next available Afterlife Gateway Manager, or AGM as we like to say. For you, this was me! And lucky for you I was voted “Most Reassuring AGM” for the last 236 years running! (smiles, clearly very proud of this accomplishment. JOHN nervously smiles back) But nevermind all that, you want to know what happens next I’m sure. Well, my job as your AGM is to find you an afterlife! Now usually if someone is religious, and was a good soul during their time on earth, we will simply send them to wherever their religion states is right. For example a Christian would go to Heaven, a Muslim to Jannah, and so on. Are you following so far?
JOHN: I- I think so, yes.
PURIEL: Wonderful! Now, complications will arise in a few scenarios, for example if someone was forcefully converted to another religion, or if their ancestors were subject to colonization, etcetera. One of those problems would be atheism, and where to put a soul who does not believe anything exists after death. Which is why you have come to talk to me today! Everything still understood?
JOHN: I’m here because you don’t know where to put me?
PURIEL: Well that’s a slightly sadder way of putting it but yes, essentially.
JOHN: So, where am I going to go?
PURIEL: Well, that’s the question isn’t it? I’m happy to inform you that you were a good person while you were alive, maybe slightly homophobic in your youth but you got over that in time!
JOHN: (relaxes slightly) Are.. you sure?
PURIEL: I am very sure, Doctor! Now-
JOHN: Like- really sure?
PURIEL: (pause) Of...course, John. (beat) Is something wrong?
JOHN: Ye- no. No. It’s fine.
PURIEL: (pause) It… doesn’t sound like it’s fine.
JOHN: I just- I don’t think I deser- no. No. This is ridiculous. Forget it.
(pause, PURIEL seems to be trying to read JOHN’S face, but gets nothing. PURIEL smiles)
PURIEL: Well, alright then! Now what this means for an atheist like yourself, is that you will get to choose where you go! And as you were an expert in many religions, I’m sure you are quite knowledgeable on the range of options you have to choose from! Now, that’s the end of my little explanation, but I am here to answer any questions you may have!
JOHN: Oh gosh, um- alright. Well to start, who are you?
PURIEL: I can’t answer that.
JOHN: What? I thought you could answer any questions!
PURIEL: I suppose I lied. I can answer most of the questions you may have!
JOHN: So I can’t know who you are?
PURIEL: Well, you can know some! My name is Puriel.
JOHN: Like the angel? From the Testament of Abraham?
PURIEL: Right you are! You really are an intelligent man!
JOHN: So you’re an angel?
PURIEL: Oh goodness no! We just share the same name. To be perfectly honest most angels are pretty rude, they don't like us very much.
JOHN: And… who is “us”?
PURIEL: Me and my siblings. It does make sense though, we contradict their God.
JOHN: Ok um- wow, so many questions. So there is a God?
PURIEL: There’s hundreds!
JOHN: Ah, yes, but is there- like, one in charge of you?
JOHN: Yeah, you and your siblings or whatever?
PURIEL: Oh! (laughs) I can’t answer that.
JOHN: For God’s sake, what can you answer!
PURIEL: In fairness, most people don’t ask those questions.
JOHN: How could they not?
PURIEL: Well Doctor, most people in your situation try to decide what afterlife they think is best, rather than fuss over who I am.
JOHN: But.. ok. I guess I’ll move on.
PURIEL: Quite alright with me! Oh! (holds out the bowl of candy to JOHN) Some candy, Doctor? I’m afraid I only have cherry, it is my favourite!
JOHN: Uh, no thank you.
PURIEL: Suit yourself! (places the bowl back in it’s spot)
JOHN: So, I can go literally anywhere?
PURIEL: As long as ten or more souls believed in a certain afterlife at some point in history, it exists! And if it exists, you can choose it!
JOHN: So like, even the Underworld? Valhalla?
PURIEL: Yes! Though I don’t think either of those are really your style-
JOHN: Even an etemmu? The netherworld of Mesopotamia?
PURIEL: Absolutely! They would be very surprised to have a new soul there though, it’s been millennia.
JOHN: Yeah, no I definitely don’t think it’s my first choice. (pauses, thinking.) So.. what happens to… the not good people?
PURIEL: What do you mean?
JOHN: Well you said good souls go to the afterlife they believe in, or the one they choose. So, what happens to the “bad” souls?
PURIEL: Well, I can’t really answer that.
JOHN: Why do you pretend you can answer my questions?
PURIEL: Hmm, allow me to reveal what I can. Souls are not quite as- indispensable, as you may think. Souls that are deemed “bad”, as you put it, are… destroyed.
JOHN: Destroyed? You mean you kill them?!
PURIEL: We don’t kill anyone, they’re already dead. And they have no idea that it’s even happening. It’s very similar to the atheist belief of death actually, it’s like before you were born.
JOHN: But, what makes someone’s soul “bad”?
PURIEL: Well it’s actually more difficult than you would think to turn your soul “bad”. But I cannot fully answer that.
JOHN: Right, of course! (pause) But… what if someone just… made some bad choices.
PURIEL: I’m sorry, but I don’t understand?
JOHN: What if- like who makes the rules? Who decides what’s bad and what’s good?
PURIEL: Well, I can’t-
JOHN: (panicked) Like what if- what if someone just never got the chance to- to become- (pause)
PURIEL: With all due respect Doctor, we technically have all the time in the world. (beat) But I think you’re avoiding the decision.
JOHN: What? No, I- no I’m not, I’ve barely been here three minutes!
PURIEL: This is true, but I can tell what you really want to ask about. What you’re feeling.
JOHN: You- you can?
PURIEL: You’re scared, Doctor. You feel guilty.
JOHN: Scared? I’m- I’m not scared!
PURIEL: (sighs) You have studied these possibilities your whole life. You know the pros and cons of each decision, and you have convinced yourself that no matter what you choose, you will choose wrong. You don’t think you deserve it.
JOHN: I- (pause) I guess you’re right.
PURIEL: Reincarnation is always an option! It may be a bit more paperwork for me, but if you're having trouble deciding you can let your future self-
JOHN: No! (pause) What if- (beat)
PURIEL: What if what, John?
(JOHN stands and turns away from PURIEL, clearly shaken up. He pauses, and eventually turns back to face him again)
JOHN: What- what if I’m a bad person. What if I go back to Earth, and I’m just a dick to everyone again!
JOHN: I mean you said it yourself! I sucked when I was a teenager!
PURIEL: Let us be honest, the actions of your 17 year old self is not what’s making this hard for you, Doctor.
(JOHN pauses again. He looks at his hands.)
PURIEL: You’re lying to yourself again, John. (JOHN finally sits down again. He can’t speak) You’re pretending the decision is about you. This isn’t about you. (pause) This is about your son, isn’t it?
(JOHN starts to tear up silently to himself. He looks up to PURIEL)
JOHN: He- he killed himself, Puriel. I- I failed him.
JOHN: No, no, don’t give me that “it wasn’t your fault” bullshit. I already got enough of it from people when I was alive. I don’t need it from a fucking angel too.
PURIEL: Well- I’m not an angel-
JOHN: I wasn’t there for him. I- I noticed something was bothering him and I couldn’t- I didn't-
(pause. JOHN puts his head in his hands.)
PURIEL: If the universe has forgiven you, then why can’t you forgive yourself? (beat) I don’t say you’re a good person just for the hell of it. There is a process that we follow, and I can see who you are. You deserve a happy ending, John.
(another pause. PURIEL turns to his computer and types a few things. Eventually he turns back to JOHN)
PURIEL: Your son is in Heaven.
JOHN: (sits back in his chair) Yeah, so I keep hearing.
PURIEL: No, John, literally. I found his file for you. He’s in the Christain Heaven.
JOHN: He- what?
PURIEL: It says here that he was an atheist who chose to go to Heaven. He thought his grandmother might be there.
JOHN: You mean- I could- I could see him again?
PURIEL: If you wanted to.
(JOHN begins to smile again, tears still in his eyes. He wipes them away)
JOHN: I can see why you won that damn award so many times.
(they both laugh)
PURIEL: So, have you made your decision?
JOHN: I- (beat) What’s it really like? In Heaven, I mean?
PURIEL: Well… I can’t-
JOHN: You can’t answer that, of course.
(JOHN laughs. PURIEL smiles)
PURIEL: But you will be happy. And you will be with your son.
(JOHN sits up straight. He nods.)
JOHN: Ok. Yeah. I’m ready.
PURIEL: Christian Heaven it is?
JOHN: Yes. I wish the kid had picked something more exciting maybe.
(PURIEL laughs. He turns to his computer and types for a while.)
PURIEL: Now, you’re all set. I’m sure you know how the Christian faith works, so you’ll need this.
(PURIEL opens the drawer of his desk and pulls out a piece of paper. He hands it to JOHN)
It tells them you’re not a Christian, you’ve simply chosen to be there. And should you ever wish to have another chance at life, reincarnation will remain an option for you. They’ll explain it more once you’re there I’m sure.
JOHN: Thank you. I mean, truly, Puriel. Thank you.
PURIEL: I’m just doing my job!
JOHN: (laughs) Yeah, I guess. (beat) Will- will I ever see you again?
PURIEL: Well, frankly I’m touched that you’d like to! I go on break in around (checks a watch on his wrist) 3 years, in your time.
PURIEL: (laughs) Yes, it passes much quicker for me. But I can visit you then. I’d quite like to meet your son, if I could have the chance.
JOHN: (smiles) Of course.
PURIEL: Now! Simply close your eyes, and shake my hand. (stands and extends his hand out) You’ll find yourself at the Pearly Gates in no time!
(JOHN stares at PURIEL’S hand for a moment)
JOHN: Thank you. For everything.
(PURIEL nods. JOHN closes his eyes, and shakes PURIEL’S hand. Lights fade to black)