I could’ve used the extra rest this weekend but instead decided to tackle a bunch of long-neglected chores. I cleared out some old magazines from our overloaded coffee table. I made a trip to the dump. I replaced the filter on our air-conditioner and got caught up on my laundry.
Also, I was raptured.
I know — I couldn’t believe it either. I hardly seem like the type. You’d think I’d be one of the ones left behind. They say the Lord acts in mysterious ways and I guess this — and the continued existence of the Bravo network — proves it.
Like most of the educated world, I had pooh-poohed the predictions of the elderly zealot from California who proclaimed the world would end at 6 p.m. Saturday. Global earthquakes followed by the ascension of a few million true believers followed by five months of tribulation seemed pretty unlikely. (I dread a summer full of humidity and bad TV as much as the next person, but it hardly qualifies as a “tribulation”.)
I had almost put the whole thing out of my mind by Saturday afternoon when I’d finally taken a few minutes to lie on the couch and watch the Preakness. As the ponies pounded down the backstretch, I felt that primal power of their hooves thundering against the turf. Then I realized the thundering seemed louder than usual, and might instead be a looming storm outside. I stepped out onto the porch to see if we were having an earthquake.
What I saw next amazed me. At first, I thought it was some of the vultures that’d been circling over our neighborhood since that possum had been hit by a car Friday. Then I looked closer and saw what appeared to be Mr. Marshall, from the house two doors down, rising slowly skyward, still clutching his cane and the two dogs he routinely walks around dinner time each night. They were being summoned to heaven! (Even the cockapoos!)
I started back into the house to warn my family about what was happening when I too felt an upward pull. Suddenly, I was off the ground and rising up past the treetops. It was the strangest sensation I ever felt — like I had been fitted into an invisible harness for my journey skyward. It even gave me a wedgie, although since it was of the celestial variety, it wasn’t uncomfortable at all.
Normally, I’m afraid of heights but this experience filled me with peace. It did get a little chilly as I approached the lower reaches of the ionosphere. The guilt I’d felt earlier in the day about lazing around in sweatclothes quickly evaporated as the fleece served to protect me from the elements. I started to worry about getting enough oxygen this high up, yet as soon as I did, the clouds parted and I saw the magnificent gates of heaven.
Considering how many people were being raptured at the same time, the line wasn’t that bad. Vendors had set up some kiosks where the line snaked around the Heavenly Palace so you could buy hotdogs, cool drinks, even souvenir t-shirts (my favorite: “I’ve Been Raptured And All I Got Left Is This Crummy Soul”) while you waited. I could just barely see the turnstiles in the entranceway and God seemed well-staffed to handle the surge in business.
When I got to the front of the line, I expected to encounter the legendary St. Peter who would review my accounts and make a final determination that truly I was invited. Instead, a man whose nametag identified him as “Saint-in-Training Jerrod” was on duty. He asked my name and made a brief notation on the scroll he held, then gestured behind him saying “right this way.” His manner was efficient but he seemed bored. I’m guessing he was a temp.
As soon as I got my hand stamped, I was through the gates and there it was — the Face of God. All the people who had gone in before me were nowhere to be seen. Either they had hustled off to some especially popular corner of Paradise (like the folks at Disney World make a beeline for Space Mountain) or else they had already been immediately transformed into a spectral realm, shedding their corporal being for one instead made of pure energy.
The Lord motioned for me to take a seat next to him. It was at the right hand of God, which seemed like a good sign. We sat there speechless for several long minutes. He was hogging the armrest that our two seats shared, but I figured I better not make an issue out of it. Soon, He turned to me and spoke.
“You’re probably wondering how you qualified to be here,” He said in what I’d describe as an Australian accent.
“Frankly, I am a little surprised,” I said. “I’m not a criminal or a Republican or anything like that, but I didn’t think I’d be good enough to rank among the chosen to be saved.”
“Well, you’re not,” He said crisply. “But our human resources guy is making us do this whole ‘diversity’ thing, so I’ve tried to mix in some non-believers with the rest.”
“So, you’re saying You really don’t want me?” I asked.
“Not really,” He answered.
“Tell me,” I said, leaning in closely in an attempt to gain a frank assessment of the situation. “Is everlasting life and eternal bliss really all it’s cracked up to be?”
“Depends on your tastes,” He offered. “Some find all the purity a tad boring. It’s a contented life, that’s for sure, but some might say it’s lacking in excitement.”
“So what do I face back on Earth if I decide this isn’t a good fit for me?” I asked.
“Well, there will be five months of what we call the tribulation. Normally, that means the Earth becomes a veritable hellscape of war and want. Under current conditions, however, it won’t be that much different from what you already have down there,” He said.
“Then what happens after five months?”
“That would put us around Halloween,” He said.
“Yeah,” I pressed, “but what about the billions of damned souls left behind?”
“Right after Halloween would come the end of the world,” He said. “About the time they start putting up Christmas decorations in the stores.”
“What will that look like?”
“You’ll see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, representing Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death,” He said. “They’ll ride throughout the land, signaling that the end of times has arrived.”
“That’s a lot of area to cover for four horsemen,” I countered.
“They’re really fast,” He said.
“You know, I think I’d just as soon take my chances back down below,” I said. “I know it’s only five months, but there’s this project at work I wanted to finish up, and we already have a deposit on a cabin in the mountains for June. Would that be okay with You?”
“Suit yourself,” He said. “Jerrod, this one’s going back. Get the skydiving equipment ready.”
I thanked the Lord God Almighty for His time and made my way back through the turnstiles. I was directed to the loading area labeled “RETURNS,” fitted into my gear and stepped off the platform. Within just a few hair-raising moments, I floated softly back to the surface, within a block of my house.
By the time I made it back to the couch in front of my TV set, the Preakness was over. Shackleford had held on for a narrow victory over Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Once again, there’d be no Triple Crown winner.
By the way, Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death all finished out of the money.