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The Windows of Heaven

Previously published in ‘Laughout Magazine’, Issue 11, Autumn 2007.

He was moving very slowly down a tunnel. He seemed to be lying down, but could see clearly ahead, suggesting that he was propped up on pillows, but he could feel none under his head. In the distance was a bright light, which was getting steadily closer. He had an overwhelming desire to move more quickly towards it, but was powerless to do so. After what seemed like an eternity he reached the light and was somehow sucked into it. He was temporarily blinded and when he regained his sight he found himself lying on a bed in a room with white walls and ceiling. At first he couldn’t focus properly, but gradually he became aware of two figures looking down at him.

One of them leant forwards and spoke: “It’s alright, Len, you’re safe now. We’ll look after you.” He sat up with a start at the sound of the man’s voice and rubbed his eyes. He looked again and to his horror recognised his father’s face.

“Dad? It can’t be you. You’ve been dead for ten years at least.”

“That’s right, son, and now you’ve come to join us.”

“You mean I’m dead?”

“Now don’t get upset. ‘Course we all hoped you wouldn’t be joining us quite so soon, but you know what they say, when you gotta go you gotta go, isn’t that right, Alf?”

Len became aware of the second figure in the room. The face came into focus and he exclaimed: “Uncle Alf!”

“That’s right, lad. Did you enjoy the trip here?”

“In a funny sort of way I did.”

“The Management,” Alf raised his eyes towards the ceiling, “think it’s best to give people what they expect when they come here. All that ‘bright light malarky’ was based on people’s accounts of their near death experiences. Pretty good, eh?”

He was starting to gather his faculties and something important struck him. “’Ere, where’s Mum?”

“Ah,” his father looked troubled, “the thing is she ain’t here.”

“But she died before you, Dad.”

“I know, but she didn’t get in. You explain, Alf, I still find it sort of painful.”

“What yer Dad’s trying to say is, yer mother didn’t qualify, on the grounds of that episode with the milkman.”

“What! What you on about?”

“Well, not to put too fine a point on it, yer mother had, shall we say, a liaison with Bert Miller who delivered the milk. It went on for quite some time by all accounts.”

Len was finding all this too much. He closed his eyes and when he opened them again he was in another room, also with white walls, seated in a white armchair. His father was sitting opposite him, but Uncle Alf was nowhere to be seen.

“You feeling better, son?”

“Yeah, but this is all a bit of a shock, you know.”

“I understand, lad, everyone finds it hard at first, but you’ll get used to it.”

He looked around at his surroundings. “Why is everything white?”

“The Management think that’s what people expect. After a while, you’ll find you don’t even notice it.”

Len felt uneasy and bewildered. He had been carrying on quite normally, minding his own business and then…….he tried to remember what had happened. He’d gone out to buy a paper and crossed the road, that was right, and he hadn’t looked right and a car was coming………He had a vague recollection of flying through the air and hitting the windscreen, then everything went black.

“The thing is,” he said reflectively, “I feel like I’ve got unfinished business. There was still a lot I wanted to do. I wanted to see the kids grow up for a start. Now I won’t know how they got on until they wind up here, or not depending on what they get up to.”

“You don’t have to worry about that, son. You’ll be able to see how they get on. I’ve been watching you since I got here.”

“How?”

“Through the windows.”

“What windows?”

“The Windows of Heaven; you can book a slot in the viewing area and when the windows open, you can see what’s going on, back on Earth. The only problem is you only get limited time. It’s pretty crowded here. After all, people have been going to heaven since the beginning of time, so there’s a lot of demand. ‘Course the people who’ve been here a long time sort of lose interest. After a generation or two you don’t ‘ave the same feelings about your descendents, but there’s still a lot of us who want a butcher’s at the ones who are left behind.”

“How do I book?”

“An angel will be round later to take your order.”

Len soon found that time had very little meaning in heaven. It was also very difficult to keep track of its passing as the earthly order of periods of light and darkness did not exist in heaven. As Uncle Alf put it:

“What’s the point in worrying about an hour or two when you’ve got all eternity in front of you, eh?”

From to time he would feel the need to close his eyes and then later he would open them, without any clear idea how much time had passed. In the beginning he was afraid that he would miss his slot in the viewing room, but he soon learned that an angel would come and find you and take you down there when the time came, regardless of where you were and what you were doing.

He had looked forward to his first ‘viewing’ with eager anticipation. In the event, he had been a little disappointed. It was evening back at home and his wife and children were sitting at the table having their tea. All the curtains were drawn, so he thought it must be winter. He was a bit disappointed to see that they seemed quite cheerful. His wife, Gloria, was wearing the sweater he had given her for Christmas. This pleased him, as he hadn’t seen it on before his untimely departure. He wondered how long he had been gone, but had no way of knowing. The conversation was sparse and ranged over the events of the day. Then, as they were clearing away the dishes, his younger daughter said: “I do miss Dad, you know. I wish he was still with us.” Len felt a warm glow inside. She continued: “If he was here I could tell him about”….bang!  The window slammed shut.

When he was next given the opportunity to visit the viewing room he imagined that only a few days had passed since the last time. Once again it was evening but, whereas it had been winter before and all the lights had been on, now there was sunshine streaming through the window and his family were dressed in summer clothes. The remains of the evening meal could be seen on the table, but his wife and daughters were sitting in the armchairs watching television. He was rather frustrated to find that they weren’t doing anything and there wasn’t any conversation which might indicate what was happening back home. At any rate they all looked very well. Then a news broadcast started.

“This is the evening news on Monday 26th of July, 2006,” said the news reader.

“Blimey,” thought Len, I’ve been gone six months already!”

After a while he heard the door bell ring and his elder daughter went out into the hall to answer it. She returned moments later with a young man he hadn’t seen before. “You alright, Gav?” asked Gloria, without looking away from the screen.

“Fine thanks, Mrs H.”

“We’re going down the pub, Mum,” said Janet, picking up her bag and heading for the door.

“Alright, love, see you later.”

He wanted to follow his daughter and her new boyfriend and was pleased when he was able to see them go out into the street and proceed at a leisurely pace towards the ‘The White Horse’. Soon they were settled in the bar, Gav with a pint of bitter and Janet with a Bacardi and Coke. She looked serious. “I’ve got something to tell you, but I didn’t want them in doors to hear it ‘til I’d told you.”

“What is it, doll?”

“The thing is I’m……” The window snapped shut.

Len looked forward to his next viewing session with mixed feelings. It was nice to see that the family were alright, but it was frustrating that he was prevented from seeing what was happening just when things were getting interesting. However, when he was invited back, he went along with the angel willingly enough.

As far as he could tell it was day time and Gloria was sitting in her armchair glancing at the pages of a glossy magazine. The doorbell rang and she went to open it. He could see a figure through the doorway and as he came in he recognised their neighbour, Jeff Lambert.

“You might as well come right up,” said Gloria, smiling.

“Alright love, you lead the way.”

They went up the stairs and he noticed Gloria’s tight jeans stretched over the pleasing curves of her buttocks. Jeff had clearly noticed this as well and didn’t take his eyes off them all the way up. To his horror they headed straight to the master bedroom.

“Right then, I’ll see if I can help you with your little problem.”

“I’d really appreciate it if you would.” He didn’t like the way Gloria was looking at Jeff as she spoke.

“So where exactly is the problem?”

“Come over here and I’ll show you, darlin’.” The window slammed shut.

This was more than Len could bear. When he met his father soon afterwards he told him about his experiences.

“That always happens,” he said ruefully. “They don’t mind us being able to see that our loved ones are doing OK, but They don’t want us snooping on them and finding out their private business. Well, I mean, think about it. How would you have felt if I could have seen what you and Gloria got up to in the marital bed, eh? No it’s better this way really. In any case, dead people shouldn’t get over excited.”