Author’s Note: The reference here is Pascal’s Wager. Google it.
Chris Samuels woke up in a field of sunflowers. A clean smelling breeze wended its way through the oversized petals and tussled his hair slightly. The sun brightened clear azure skies. Yet, not a sound, other than the whisper of the wind, met his ears. No birds and no voices were within earshot.
On his tippy toes, he pushed passed the tall stalks and looked around to try and figure out exactly where he was and if there was any place to go. He paused a moment and tried to recall how he got here, wherever he was, but his mind was completely blank. Amnesia, he thought, fucking great.
He figured that he had an equal chance of being right or wrong walking in any direction, so he chose to head toward a line of trees to his left thinking that he would at least be able to climb up one of the taller trunks and get the lay of the land. Logical, he murmured to himself.
He moved unexpectedly quickly through the rows of sunflowers. It was as if they parted for him; they almost understood his purpose. The sun stood directly above at the noon position, but it was not hot at all. In fact, it was a perfect seventy degrees, Chris guessed. The wind crept up behind him, almost pushing him along even quicker. He needed to figure out how he got here, but wasn’t sure that where he was from could be nearly as flawless as this place.
As he neared the trees, he noticed the sound of gentle waters. He didn’t feel thirsty at all, but felt an urging toward the source. The forest was not dense, except the boughs above were thick with foliage, however, the light from the sun still somehow reached the floor allowing Chris to see without difficulty. In fact, he noticed, his eyesight seemed as keen as it ever was, so keen that he could see every vein of every leaf. Still, though, there were no whistling of birds or scampering of squirrels. Perhaps, he thought, his hearing was affected by whatever brought him here. Still can’t remember.
The sound of gurgling water came ever closer until he was soon upon a small creek that ran left to right. He had no concept of east and west here. The sun had been dead center in the sky when he woke and now the trees permitted no confirmation through the density of the clustered branches. How is the light getting through? The water in the creek was clear and smelled just as unspoiled as the breeze. Kneeling down, he cupped his hands and let them fill up. The liquid was cold, but not numbingly so. He brought it to his lips and drank.
Every part of his mouth instantly erupted with color as the water splashed down his throat. His tongue sensed sweet and sour, spice and bitterness, all simultaneously. The inside of his cheeks were smoothed and his teeth seemed to soften and harden all at once. His eyes closed as the liquid flowed down his throat then seemed to spread throughout his body as if he had been wading in it. His whole body seemed to be amidst the most intense state of frisson he had ever experienced and he thought nothing except to welcome it.
“Feels pretty fucking good, huh?”
The friendly tenor voice stirred him instantly out of his reverie. Beside him stood a young man, dressed in cargo shorts and a plain white tee half covered by a long wavy brown beard. Chris didn’t even hear the man approach. Something must be wrong with his ears.
“The water,” the man pointed, “it’s like nothing you ever felt before, right?”
Chris forced himself to focus quickly. “Yeah, it’s amazing.”
The man smiled broadly and nodded. But Chris had important matters to get to. “Hey, my name is Chris. Chris Samuels. I’m afraid I’m a bit lost and I seem to have forgotten how I got here. Can you help me out?”
His mysterious companion glanced down at the creek while fidgeting with a small twig. “Well, Chris, I got some good news and some bad news. Which do you want first?”
Ok, this is when this guy turns into some sort of murderous freak and tries to chop me up with his hunting knife. He tensed, readying himself for the bearded man’s homicidal lunge.
“I’m not gonna kill you, Chris.” His smile widened more so.
“So, the good news is that you’re in Paradise. I guess you can figure out the bad news from there.”
“Wait, I’m in Heaven? So, I’m dead?”
“Well, I call it Paradise, but same idea. It was, unfortunately, a brutal death, but you didn’t feel any pain. Drunk driver rammed you at an intersection. Your demise was instantaneous, but bloody. Cut you clean in two at the waist.” He made a slashing movement across his belt to accentuate his point.
“Dude! Could you be a little more sensitive? Jesus Christ, man, this is a bit much. I’m not sure I even believe you.” He shook his head, partly in amazement.
“Oh, yes you do. You felt something was way off since you woke up under the sunflowers.” His smile flattened as he fixed his gaze on Chris.
Chris succumbed to the suggestion, not clearly understanding why. “Yeah, well maybe I did. But, I don’t believe in Heaven or God or any of that crap.” Chris wasn’t sure why he remembered that, but he was certain it was true.
“And yet, here you are and here I am.” The man’s grin returned.
“You’re God? Like, the God?”
“The very same. The Creator, the so-called Holy Spirit, smiter of the wicked, the guy who cast out Lucifer, ultimate morality, et cetera, et cetera. But, call me Hal. I don’t like all that ‘my Lord’ and ‘your Holiness’ crap. It’s a bit much. Makes me look like an egomaniac.”
Chris rubbed his temples to clear the phantom throb that suddenly appeared. “Holy crap. Wait, how can I be sure that you’re Him? Like, how do I know you’re not bullshitting me?”
The man smirked, tilting his head slightly and then raised his hands aloft. At his silent command, the trees separated allowing the sun’s light to envelop him in unnatural light. “How’s this? This do it for you or do I need to turn water into wine or something like that? I don’t really like to perform tricks, but, for you, I’ll be a little more accommodating.”
The light didn’t blind him, yet Chris squinted. “No, I think that’ll do it.” He held his face in his hands for a bit, then looked up at God. The light had ebbed and he was back to normal – whatever that meant. “I have so many things to ask, God – “
“Um, yeah, ‘Hal’.” Really, ‘Hal’?
“I figured you would have a bunch of questions. All you atheists normally do.”
“Well, I guess you know what I’m gonna ask then.”
Hal turned and began walking downstream. “Follow me and we’ll talk.”
Hal strode slowly along the creek, his arms folded behind him, fingers clasped. Chris hopped to catch up with him, then kept pace easily. Twigs cracked and leaves crunched beneath his feet, but not under Hal’s steps.
“To answer the first question, ‘Why didn’t you make yourself known?’, I never thought it was my job,” Hal began, “to let you know I was here. The scope of my existence didn’t really require I prove myself to anyone, so I don’t blame you for not believing.”
“What do you mean by ‘scope of existence ‘”?
“I mean, I’m here to do one thing and one thing only. Create universes. Once I do, it’s ‘Check and Done’. Then I relax and enjoy myself a bit.”
So many questions came to Chris’ mind, but one rose to the top. “Jesus? Was he real?”
It was a strange kind of grin that Hal directed towards Chris at that moment. It was almost as if he felt insulted. “Yeah, he was real, but, no, he was not my son.”
“So, the stories? Bread, fish, water walking, resurrection…any of it real?” Chris knew these were ideas he rejected and felt a strange satisfaction finding out he was right about this at least.
“None of it. The Bible isn’t mine at all. In fact, no so-called holy book is. You folks just made all that shit up yourselves,” Hal stated almost disparagingly. “Let me say this, too, since I know you’re gonna ask; I don’t listen to prayers, either. There was no flood and, this universe is actually fifteen billions old. I remember well the day I created it. It wasn’t my first, y’know.”
“Not your first? Universe?” Chris heard of the multiverse hypothesis, but was pretty sure it would never be proven. Then again, that’s what he thought about God, too. He wondered if he was still correct in that regard. Knowledge of things seemed to come back to him easily, but nothing else.
“Yup. There are plenty of them strewn about. I whip one up, adjust a few metaphorical dials here and there and see what happens. You’d be surprised at what you find. For example, your universe created some pretty amazing life forms.”
Hal squinted leeringly at him. “Humans are the least interesting and probably the most annoying. Look at yourselves for a minute. So full of yourselves thinking that the universe was created for you and that the Creator, me, can be defined by a book you write. And you all can’t even agree on which book is the right one! Ha! The joke is on all of you because you’re all wrong. You atheists are probably the closest to the right answer. Isn’t that a kick in the pants?”
It took Chris a minute to process the irony and to find his reaction. “So why don’t you go down there and fix it? Tell everyone the truth. Maybe they’ll stop fighting each other or agree on a new way to get along.”
“Not my job, bud. And, honesty, it’s not that important to me. There are billions upon billions of galaxies in your universe alone and humanity isn’t the only species having some sort of existential crisis out there. You can either rise or fall on your own. I’m not here to intervene or take sides. I may have set it all in motion, but I’m not responsible for whatever happens after that.”
I should have been a deist, Chris thought because he would have been right. But, even if he were, this would not have been the God he would have imagined. He just doesn’t give a shit.
“No, I don’t,” Hal answered.
This was all so very confusing. If God, Hal, didn’t care, then why the hell was he in Heaven speaking with a human? Was this actually Heaven? And why was he thinking to himself when Hal could hear his thoughts?
“I was gonna mention that. But, hey, you were on a roll and I didn’t want to disturb you. And I’m gonna answer all of your questions, for sure. First, this isn’t Heaven. And there is no Hell, either. This is just a place I use to collect the consciousness from any living thing that expires. Consciousness is actually energy and that energy can be reused.”
Chris looked around for signs of other people, which would make sense since he figured that with so many possible life forms, there would have to be some that died at the same time. “Where are the others?”
“There aren’t any. This is your personal delivery locale. It actually exists inside of your consciousness so it’s unique. The one thing, I guess, you humans got right is that I am omnipresent. I’m here with you, Chris, but I’m also in millions of other places and, in some cases, having a very similar conversation. And, sorry to say, it looks like our conversation has come to an end.”
Hal pointed towards a small wood cabin complete with the usual front porch and bright red polka dot curtains hanging in the windows. He motioned for Chris to follow, easing up to the front door, then grabbing the dull brass knob softly. “This is the end of the line, Chris. After you walk inside, you will be gone. All of your memories, experiences, opinions and feelings will disappear. Erased from existence.”
Chris stepped back, suddenly threatened. “What the fuck, Hal? You just want me to go in there and disappear forever? Like, my whole life will have been wasted? That’s pretty shitty, man. I think I’ll stay here in the forest, thank you very much.” He folded his arms tightly and stood firm on the soil.
“You can’t stay here. Eventually, your consciousness will fade and this place along with it. Essentially, your energy will ebb and disintegrate. Little atoms of light fading into nothingness. Now, that would be a waste. So, either way, you’re a goner. If you walk in, at least there will be some grander purpose fulfilled.”
“Yeah, like what?” Chris asked belligerently.
“Recycling. I use your energy, along with the others that choose their doors, then pack them in real tight into a little ball. Then I float that ball out into the cosmos and create the next Big Bang. As you have come from the cosmos, you go back to it. And, what’s more is you help create the opportunity for new life and new mysteries to be discovered. It’s quite beautiful, actually.”
“Wow. That really is pretty fucking cool. That kinda changes things.”
“It does, indeed. So, will you go in?”
There was no sense of time here, so Chris had no idea how long he stood there deciding what to do. But, ultimately, he decided to walk though the door. In his own way, he thought that he had become a Creator in his own right. Plus, it seemed more logical to recycle and reuse.