The Eternal Reward
First published in Heaven and Hell, 2002.
“You…?” The lady put the phone down and I could hear some frantic scrabbling. Something knocked the receiver and I heard muffled voices. Then the phone was picked up again and an infinitely warm, smooth as liquid bronze voice asked me, “How can I help you, Sir?”
I could not tell whether the speaker was male or female. I could only think of the bright angel I’d seen on my arrival, and thoughts of the black betrayer Lucifer flickered through my thoughts. No, I was beginning to accept that this was not Hell – rather, this was a Heaven cast adrift from all morality. Was this the task the Good Lord had given me? Did He wish for one of His flock to bring this corruption to the attention of lesser authorities? The Lord always lets us choose our destinies.
“Hello?” the liquid voice asked again.
“Yes,” I began, trying to control my shaking. “I wish to complain about the amoral behaviour of the citizens. They are fornicating; they are dancing; they are glutting themselves with rich foods and wine. This disgusting licentiousness must cease at once if we are to find Salvation!”
“Sir,” the angel said, carefully. “Sir, you’re in Heaven now. You don’t need to find Salvation, because, uhm, well, you’ve already found it.” He laughed pleasantly. “Do you understand?” He was talking to me like I was mentally ill-equipped to handle the concept.
I could not respond immediately – what was he trying to say?
“What are you trying to say? Are you trying to defend the fornicators? Fornicators are on a train ride straight to Hell!” I was screaming into the handset now.
“Ah, Sir, that’s true Sir, but you’re in Heaven now.” The golden voice sounded more confused than annoyed.
“I know I’m in Heaven. That’s not the problem. The problem is Heaven.”
“I see, Sir. Could you tell me your address? I’ll send the Inspector of Complaints over right away to help you.”
I blurted out the address before I realised he was just trying to palm me off. “Now wait here young man!” I screamed, completely forgetting who—or what—I was talking to. The angel politely hung up on me and I was left holding a dead telephone.
There was a knock at the door.