Instead of an afterlife in a heaven or a hell for those who are good or bad, respectively, there is a temporary sort of purgatory for all. In this pit stop, you might stay for what nears an agonizing eternity. Or, you might drift through on the way to the blissful afterlife, which is for everyone, by the way.
What irritates many people, is that the time of your stay is decided upon completely randomly. All the children of the gods are obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons and therefore decide the length of your sentence in purgatory by rolling a 20-sided die.
The second daughter of Lord Ganesha has an uncanny penchant for rolling natural 20’s. She also relishes meting out lengthy sentences, regardless of how well or poorly you lived your life.
What does this purgatory look like, you ask?
The very second you die, you are transported to a pane of existence, flat and constrictive. There, you cannot move. It’s a harrowing predicament to wake up to; the instantaneous switch from living in a three-dimensional world to a two-dimensional plane. It is like being in an industrial hydraulic press, minus the part about being smashed into a big hamburger patty.
Once you are there, you are bewildered to be witnessing mostly the mundane. You are the faces or bodies that people see in the patterns of tiles or woodgrain or drywall and plaster.
You might, for instance, be a face scarcely evident in the pattern of someone’s bathroom linoleum tiling. To your dismay, and potentially eventual torture, you witness people sitting on the toilet, taking their morning shit, staring down at you and trying to figure out if that looks like a face or not. The teenagers who have snuck into the house late at night, drunk, vomit all over you and do a horrible job cleaning it up.
It is worse than being Han Solo frozen in carbonite. At least Han was in a sort of catatonic state and didn’t have to witness the disgusting existence of Jabba the Hutt and Salacious Crumb. Nope, you are kept fully aware, at all times.
There is no sleeping. Therefore, you never dream. It is taxing, particularly with a longer sentence. If Goddess Santoshi (Ganesha’s daughter) rolls a natural 20, that is. You grow so weary, that when you are released to the afterlife you look worse than Tom Hanks at the end of Castaway. Not to fear, though, because the afterlife has 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffets on every street corner.
Other times, you might be the face in the texture of a crystalline ceiling. Remember the ones that were in almost every house built in 1966? From up there, you have to witness the awkward sexual fumblings of everyone who occupies the room until the house is demolished to make way for condominiums.
I was the unfortunate benefactor of one of Goddess Santoshi’s natural 20’s. She announced to me, with a wicked little grin, in front of all the other god-children, that I was to be a face in the bark of a tree. I cringed in horror when she selected a sapling Sequoia.
That tree stood for 933 years before it was cut down.
Gabe Bogart lives in Seattle, Washington, where he patiently awaits the return of the Seattle Supersonics. He learned to love words in his senior year high school creative writing class and from his sister and mother. It’s been a long time since he took a major road trip and he’d like to do it next in a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Super Sport. His work has appeared in Pareidolia Lit, Hencroft Hub, Collective Realms, TERSE. Journal, Fahmidan Journal, acloserlisten.com, and thesianetwork.com.