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9 minute read.
When you die, two things happen. First, the thing you will learn to think of as God will take you to a white room with no windows or walls, a place where even the concepts of “windows,” of “walls,” and of “rooms,” for that matter, do not exist. As you will have transcended to a higher plane, this will not disturb you in the moment.
It is here, in this non-room “located” outside of the meager confines of corporeality, that the second thing will happen, which is that the thing that you will learn to call God will sit you down before what is effectively a TV. Make no mistake, you will not truly be sitting, seeing as you are suspended, or more accurately, submerged in negative space, and, what’s more, this TV will not look like, nor function, like any TV you have ever seen.
(Regardless, as you are presently incapable of thinking beyond the arbitrary bounds that govern your precious existence, for the sake of this experiment, much like when it comes to visualizing the “white room” you are in, you would do well to imagine this screen as a kind of 360 degree, universe-spanning, atomically-immersive screen (albeit, one that encompasses every mote of your vision, every figment of your imagination, and every fiber of your being.))
Now then, with that out of the way, the next thing that will happen is that the thing you are debating with yourself on whether or not it really is, in point of fact, God (i.e. God with a capital G) will explain to you, in no uncertain terms, exactly what is about to happen. Unfortunately, you will be distracted. It’s not so much that you won’t be listening (for in the absence of ears, the idea of hearing is moot in this “time,” in this “place”), rather, that you will be so enraptured by what the thing you are starting to think must be God “looks” like that you won’t have a thought to spare towards what it is “saying.”
You see, to say that the thing that is for all intents and purposes God does not look like you might have expected (that is, back when you possessed a degree of temporality—i.e. eyes, a body, maybe, if you were lucky, an imagination) is quite the understatement. Had you staunch atheistic thoughts back on Earth, they might temper your disappointment, but ultimately, whether or not you were religious will matter little in the face of it, what you can’t quite be sure is God, but which must be given the dearth of other options.
(It’s not that the thing you will eventually call God won’t be godly-seeming, it’s that this god, (let’s just call it God) won’t look particularly omniscient, or omnipotent, or even all that scary. There will be no boundless glory to bask in. It will not take the form of a molten hot ball of light, a la Dante, and it won’t have a beard, a la Michelangelo, or at least it sort of won’t, for, in point of fact, it is genderless, and yet intrasex—naked and yet fully clothed—mustachioed, yet clean-shaven—everything and its opposite, simultaneously, asynchronously, timelessly, infinitely, etc.)
Anyways, in any case, you will doubtless be left wondering why this thing that you are still oddly hesitant to accept as the one true God (even though it surely is) looks so familiar. In point of fact, you’ll think to yourself, God looks quite like my dad… my mom… my mailman. Whenever you think you’ve got it down pat, the likeness will shift, will change without changing, for what’s changing is your perception of it, and suddenly, the next “second,” (so to speak), you’ll be face-to-face with your third-grade teacher in the throes of marital ecstasy, or the nurse who cleaned the shit out of your bedpan while you pretended to be asleep, or the once-upon college classmate who strangely, you never forgot nor forgave for not pulling their weight on some intangible, meaningless (in the grand scheme of things) assignment.
In short, God will take the form of any number of people, strangers, non-persons, all relevant to you; in shorter, it will present itself as the ghostly amalgamation of every man, woman, and child you have ever interacted with, nay, that ever lived, and yet who you can name and recognize and remember intimately regardless.
Whereupon you will be forced to contend with a newfound realization… that the thing “standing” before or “looming” above you is functionally God, that, for the sake of your sanity, you have to assume is God (if not “the” God, then at least “your” God, your individually-assigned, tailor-made God, perhaps an extension and/or dilution of the “real” God, whomever they may be (for you will still be holding out hope that “your” God isn’t all there is, that is, this thing that is all things and no things and nothing at all, this smorgasbord of faces and fleshy bits, clarities and distortions, appendages and orifices, fetuses and embryos, vaginas and penises)).
Whatever the case, whatever it is, this god-type thing, by the time it is finished what with its explanation, you, having zoned-out, will not have retained a single “word,” but will be too embarrassed to ask (alas, embarrassment still exists in negative space) to ask it to repeat itself. And so, instead, at long last, eons hence (for time is passing around you in all directions) you will figuratively hold your breath and wait for the thing you have learned to call God to play the what-is-not (but-what-you-might-as-well-think-of-as) a tape, or VHS, or “whatchamacallit,” and you will watch as the universe-spanning TV described some six paragraphs above will light up (so to speak) and quite literally subsume you.
What the television depicts will take eons and yet mere moments to consume. Firstly, your life, but not as you know it, not from your eyes, rather, the eyes of others, that is, every other living thing that ever laid eyes on you, or was affected, directly or indirectly, by you, for no matter how brief of a span. This will include, but is not limited to: fellow humans, pets, insects, blades of grass, the duck you unknowingly killed as a child after it choked on your waterlogged sandwich (your mother didn’t cut off the crust; you threw it in the pond), the unrequited high school crush with whom you once, in daydreams, envisioned a life (who, as it turns out, never paid you any mind), not to mention every busker you ever tipped, every mosquito you ever swatted, every animal you ever ate (you will trace its existence from the moment of conception to its eventual resting place, your plate) and not just the meat, but the wheat, the fruits, the vegetables, too—
To blink is to miss a lifetime, but if you’ll remember back, you have no eyes, let alone eyelids to close them with, and so you will be able to register everything, every life, every happening, every unintended consequence, the good and the bad, every little butterfly effect branching out from the fact of your having ever existed; moreover, you will bear witness, whether you like it or not, to the full extent of every life, animal or otherwise, that was shaped by, impacted, or intersected with yours.
(It is important to note, this “tape” will not progress linearly, nor even concurrently, as it is functionally endless and beginningless and above all else, non-existent, therefore having no length. To appease your imagination, then, you may as well pretend these lives the “screen” depicts are ones you yourself have lead, that you are experiencing yourself as others saw you, though this is not actually the case and really a rather drastic oversimplification, but anyways—)
In any case, you will be made to grasp the implicit burden immutably tied to life, to living, to “free will,” that is, the breadth of consequences stemming from every minute decision and how those tremors altered not just the scope of your life, but of everyone and every thing else’s. And then the video will take a turn.
Having “progressed” from sentient creatures to plants, its depictions will veer into the even more inanimate. Every piece of trash you ever threw away, every morsel of food you ever ate, every neuron you caused to fire off in another animal’s brain, every particle you disturbed, every molecule displaced, all of it resonating endlessly through space and time, irrevocably changing the “fabric,” the thread of a tapestry too big and folded in upon itself for you to ever really conceptualize in its entirety or understand, though you will try…
Lastly, you will experience the be all and the end all, the last vestiges of your passing, from the worms that dined on your corpse (or the fish on your ashes), to the plastics that will take centuries to decompose, to the children’s children of a man you once passed on the subway, all of it—you will feast your eyes on the interminable echo of your life, and you will both take stock in and be greatly distressed by it, for even immersed in liminal space (make no mistake, this is the farthest thing from the womb), having seen all that you have, you will be ill-equipped to reckon with the emotions, the love, the hate, the beauty and the damnation.
Only after you have ingested (and been regurgitated by) the cassette, the DVD, the cave painting, the holodeck, what have you, will the thing that you know with utmost certainty to be God, the one true God (after that display, what else can it be?) reveal its hand and see fit to ask you two strange, seemingly innocuous questions. Should you answer correctly (God will explain), you will be permitted to ask one (just one) question of it in turn.
The first, cheekily enough, consists of three parts: were you an agent of stagnation or change? Chaos or order? Creation or destruction?
You will dwell on as much, but you will not answer. Eons will pass in the space of an instant, whereupon, God will ask you question number two: Is there a difference?
Once again, you will take your “time” to respond, not because the question intrigues you, but because you’re confused. Confused as to what the thing you have learned to call God’s aim is. These are not the kind of questions you would have thought the thing you once worshiped (or didn’t) would concern itself with. No matter. Eventually, you will answer, though it will matter not, for as soon as you respond, the thing you believe in your heart of hearts to be God, giddy with excitement, will cheat and see fit to pose a third, final, and most terrifying query: And what did you think of my creation?
It is at this “moment” that you will undergo what can best be described as an “epiphany,” a realization that all before you have come to, and that all after you will come to, too—that you will see the thing you so lately learned to call God in a new light, with startling clarity, and realize that it is not what you chalked it up to be. That it is something else entirely, something at once more and less than your original conceit. Something grand, but powerless. Something empty. For, you see, the thing you’ll have learned to call God is nought but a spectator. A witness.
But what does that make you? The unwilling participant, the unknowing patron. It will strike you verily that not only was the universe designed with an audience in mind, but that God is the worst thing it could ever possibly be: an artist. An aspiring one, at that.
Suddenly, the thing you had just come around to accepting as God will deflate, having read the “expression,” plain as day, on your “face,” for you will balk, disgusted that this thing you mistook for God should be so, so, so… self-conscious. It will dawn on you that it has no more control over its creation than a writer does their published work, than a painter their purchased portrait. That it’s not that it will not intervene, but that it can’t. That it has lost the story, that the plot is out of its hands, that it has no influence on the narrative beyond whatever it might choose to scrawl in the margins. And even then, all that might be okay, forgivable, even, if it weren’t for the fact that the thing you know to be God is chiefly concerned not with your well-being, not even with your enjoyment, no, but with your interpretation.
Needless to say, you will take umbrage. That life is nothing more than a prolonged excursion through an artiste’s gallery, death merely a shuffling of the patrons, will be more than you can take. All the same, the thing you will regret having ever called God will “smile” nervously and remind you that you, too, get a question before you’re swept up into the nothingness that awaits you beyond its creation.
And so you will ask, as all before you have asked, as all after you, or, more accurately, simultaneously to you have asked, did ask, will ask, are currently asking: What the fuck is wrong with you? What was the point, then? What did it all mean? Where does it begin, where does it end? Did the universe ever succumb to its eventual heat-death? Why do we need to die at all? And if it’s absolutely necessary, why disease? Why heartache? Why suffering? Why cancer? Why rape? Why all the terrible things? Why did my dog have to get hit by a car? Why not find a way to intervene? What was the lesson? What was gained? And perhaps most importantly: who the fuck do you think you are?
Eventually you will shut up, as all before and after you shut up, and let the thing you have all collectively forgotten you learned to call God speak. And God will duck its “head” sheepishly, “blushing” in a sense, and yet “smirking,” like an insolent child so recently reprimanded, and say, “I said you get one question.”
And you will “snort,” figuratively gritting your teeth, and grant God a concession, condensing a million questions into one. “What,” you will spit, “does it all mean?”
To which God will sigh, roll its disappointed, non-existent eyes, shrug its bountiful, boundless, infinite, indiscriminate shoulders and say: “You tell me.”
Stuart Evans is a fledgling horror and spec-fic author hailing from Toronto, ON. When he isn't reading or shoveling the driveway, he posts semi-regularly at: https://www.creepy-crawlies.com/