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  • warehouse / junk store - those dumb dead toys. Aisle after aisle of dusty broken stuff. I didn't want anything, but I was interested in it all. One aisle had sympathy notes and foreclosures mixed up in plastic garbage bags. If you close the right bag you might get the deed to a farm. Thinking about all the people who must have died made Brannon sad and he cried on my left shoulder with his whiskery face. Doesn't that make you sad? Doesn't it? It didn't.

    That old nun, they said, was good at the only thing that kept the place out of total collapse - proper shelving. Nothing wanted to stay on the shelves - it would leap to the ground given a chance. There were two-foot tarantulas all over the place and she kicked them without fear, making edebroux howl with delight. Once the nun kicked one right off its legs. We screamed when the legs kept walking. One came for me and I pushed it away. It wouldn't stop coming back.

  • walking the prison yard

  • I was a dead man who had been sent back to collect three things for my soul before I could go on. The first two were self-explanatory, had to do with humbling myself, learning lessons I should have while alive. I took these first two to her, the spider queen of hell. The lessons were represented by either code numbers or little glass bottles of solution. I placed them on the tray. A giant monitor hung in the sky, speaking to me, mostly judging me. It was impossible to know how far away it was, and it wouldn't be looked at for too long. His face was too much.

    She said my kitten was sick. This upset me alomst to tears, because I knew what it really meant. No one got sick here without dying in much pain. It was the edge of the world. A green boiling sea that moved up to my feet. Everything like a negative of the proper colors. I couldn't see the spider queen but I knew she was there.

    My kitten down in the hold split into three smaller kittens as I watched. She didn't seem to mind - it seemed to have released her sickness and pain.

    The monitor showed me the dog I had seen in my travels on earth. They had been keeping him in the basement because he was old. It made me furious. This dog, and the others, had been in some sort of accident but were going to be all right. A relief. I thought they were going to be dead.

    So, I humbled myself. Tried and tried to figure out what the third missing element could be. I knew I was not understanding. I listed all my faults and tried to work through them. I had years to do it, but I was anxious to get out of hell. I did not feel punished, it just was not the right place. I was so close to leaving. They laughed at me for trying to go. Worst, I had the shadow of knowledge - reasonable guesses as to what God was going for. Hope made me miserable, frustrated. God would not answer me.

    A dead man fell down from the ceiling, clanging against the metal parts of the unseeable structure overhead. He thumped on the sand heavily. He had only one arm. He was not dead. I saw but did not see his eye flicker open, his sneer toward the spider queen. I could not let it happen to her, but I could not kill him. I snatched what he was holding - what he was going to kill her with. An audiobook. I threw it into the ocean and instantly apologized. This ocean was not for things. The water seethed and hissed green around the edges of the box and returned it to my feet. I apologized over and over. I ripped the tape out of the cassettes Yards and yards of brown ribbon that I dropped into the hatch for the kittens to play with. They were all happy, no longer sick.

    It was good, what I had done. But I still could not get into heaven.

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