Posted by: lordkyler | January 7, 2017

The Writer – Short Story

I took a writing class this year, and for our final session, we were asked to bring a short, humorous piece, just for fun. This is the result. It should be noted that the instructor’s name is Peter.


The writer blinked and rubbed his eyes, unsure of where he was or how he’d gotten here. He was accustomed to taking in his surroundings with an author’s eye, picking out details or concocting colorful descriptions for later use – but there was nothing here to see. Not a blank room or an empty landscape, but a void, without shape, form or substance. Not blackness, but a total lack of sensation.

Well, that was interesting all in itself. It was troubling, but not painful, and it gave him a chance to think. How had he gotten here? The last thing he could remember was puzzling over a problem in his new novel as he drove to…

Oh. Right. He hadn’t noticed the stop sign at the blind corner, or the truck barreling through behind it. Was this shock? A coma? Or something else altogether? It wasn’t too bad – he had enough ideas to keep him occupied for quite a while – but the thought of languishing in this oblivion for an extended period was terrifying. He needed people to talk to, things to do, a way to write down the stories in his soul.

Ah, there. Thank heavens. Something was emerging from the nothingness – a pale tendril of mist that curled lazily into existence. More tendrils appeared, like leaks in a breaking dam, until all at once he found himself standing on an endless plain of clouds, radiant in the light of an eternal sun. Startled, the writer looked down at himself. He was still here, thirty years younger and wearing a simple white robe. More importantly, he had his manuscript with him, clutched tightly in both arms.

Okay. So he was dead, but he was still around, and apparently in heaven. Clichéd, perhaps, but better than the alternative. He’d never considered himself the religious sort, but he tried to be a good person, and if that meant he could spend the rest of eternity in paradise, he wasn’t about to complain. All the time in the world to write.

Hopeful, yet trepidatious, the writer took a step forward, savoring the cool softness of the clouds underfoot. Through the haze ahead, he spotted a golden glow, like the lights of a distant city, and made his way there, flipping briefly through the pages he held. It was his most recent draft, complete with the half-finished sentence he’d been working on. It finished itself as he stared, filling in with the exact words he’d planned to write.

He grinned. And they said you couldn’t take things with you.

He reached the Pearly Gates a moment later. It was exactly like every cartoon he’d ever seen – gleaming golden fences, a glorious city of lights, and Saint Peter standing at the threshold in front of a massive leather-bound tome, waiting with a patient smile. For all that, it still took the writer’s breath away. No cartoon could convey the sheer wonder of this place. The magnitude, the majesty, the weight of it. It was every beautiful dream he’d ever had, everything he’d never known he wanted and now couldn’t stand to live without.

He hastened up to Saint Peter’s podium, grateful there were no lines. The old man bowed his head in greeting, and the writer returned the gesture.

“Ah, there you are, We’ve been expecting you.”

“Oh, uh, thank you. Thank you?”

“Let’s see, now,” the saint muttered, running his finger down the page. “Looks like things are more or less in order. No particularly grievous sins, decent scores on kindness and charitability… hmm.”

Of all the officials from which a person did not want to hear a pensive hum, the gatekeeper of heaven had to be close to the top of the list. “What’s- uh, is there a problem?”

“To be honest, sir, it’s not goodly terribly, but it’s not terribly good, either. You’ve held onto a few grudges, fudged a few rules, and… it’s been a while since your last dentist appointment, hasn’t it?”

The writer raised an eyebrow. “That counts?”

“Well, you promised your mother…”

“Oh.”

“Well, you’re not hellbound here. Nothing to warrant that, but we’re not sure your soul is exactly heavenly material either. It looks as though we’re going to need some additional evaluation.”

“What does that mean, exactly? Reincarnation?”

“Purgatory, actually. I know that can be intimidating. Nobody enjoys having their sins purged, but eventually you’ll get through it and be allowed to enter.”

“I see.” The writer glanced at the heavenly city with disappointment. It would be worth going through any amount of torment to spend eternity there. He sighed. “Very well. How long do I have to spend in Purgatory?”

“Looks like… thirty thousand, nine hundred and forty two years,” the old man said casually. Seeing the writer’s shocked expression, he looked up and offered a rueful smile. “Mortality is really the time to work these sorts of things out, you see. Time works differently here. You’ll experience every one of those days in the moment, but once you’re through, it will seem like nothing. Far from pleasant, I’ll admit, but…”

The writer swallowed hard and tightened his grip on his papers. “Is there… well, any other way?”

The gatekeeper adjusted a pair of celestial spectacles on the end of his nose, peering at the writer intensely. “Let’s see here,” he muttered. “Oh! You’ve got something there.”

“My book,” the writer admitted, displaying the pages briefly. “Well, part of it, at least.”

“A writer, eh? People can’t carry possessions here, but sometimes the soul reflects things that are especially close to the heart. That does change matters.”

The writer felt hope surging within him again. “It does?”

The saint nodded solemnly. “You see, writing reveals a great deal about a person. Heart, mind and soul spilled out on a page. The Book of Life here shows deeds, but a book shows us your potential. If you’d like, we can use your novel to expedite the judgement process.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful. How does it work?”

“Just take your story down to the secondary gate over there,” the angel said, pointing to a smaller entrance on the right. “We’ve got a different Peter working there – Saint Peter [Lastname]. He’ll take your story, read it aloud, and then critique it with a group. That’s all it takes.”

The writer stared at the glowing figure by the secondary gate, perched on the edge of a desk and looking down the length of his nose at another soul’s submission.

“That’s all, huh?” the writer asked, “Just read it in front of everybody and listen to what they have to say?”

“That’s it,” Saint Peter confirmed.

The writer nodded absently to himself and glanced at the papers in his hand, then looked back up at Saint Peter and drew a deep breath. “How many years was that again?”

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