Raelo’s Flight (parts 5–8)

5.

The elevator door opened, which revealed a single room with a single cubicle. Within the cubicle sat a soul stroking his long, white beard.

“Go say hello!” said Siddartha to his companion.

Raelo did not want to do so. What sort of soul would find contemplation to be sufficient for satisfying the will of his God? Who would possibly be able to be so skeptical that he’d never commit to truth and not act?

“Aha, a visitor! I am Socrates,” the soul declared. He walked up to Raelo. “Do you know what piety is?”

“This guy creeps me out,” Raelo informed Siddartha. But Siddartha was gone, as well as the elevator.

“Perhaps, but answer me this: how is that piety itself is a declarative statement?”

“I didn’t say it was.”

“Yes you did, you said ‘this guy creeps me out’ upon me asking what piety is. Is this true?

“It is true.”

“Then it is true that you say piety is ‘this guy creeps me out’.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Your words confuse me. When you speak, do you not mean what you say?”

“I do.”

“If you mean what you say, then you don’t say what you don’t mean.”

“You are correct.”

“On the other hand, you said just now that you said what you did not mean.

“This is false.”

“But how is that false if my repetition of your words is exact?”

“The meaning was my doing, it’s not up to you.”

“So, the meaning of a statement you make is what you place within it.”

“Undoubtedly.”

“By interpreting your statement, is this not from the meaning you placed within it?”

“It is.”

“Yet you did not mean for that meaning to be found.”

Raelo hesitated, for he realized that Socrates was tricking him to argue more. The conversation bored him. “Hey, wait. I wasn’t even talking to you.”

“I was the one who spoke prior, then you responded. The words went to me.”

“Your game, ain’t gonna work.”

Socrates stopped. “I’m so lonely, because I still didn’t figure out what piety is! No one visits this tier, no one knows how to be pious and stick around.”

“Piety is you!”

“Me?”

“Yeah, you. Annoying, friendless, and a schmuck.”

“But is piety made of schmuckishness?”

“Socrates! You don’t listen! It was tongue-in-cheek.”

“It couldn’t be, your tongue wasn’t in your cheek.”

“Wow, are you really so dense?” Raelo walked to the Greek gadfly’s desk. There were no books, no calendars nothing. How smart! God figured out how to truly shut him up once and for all. Piety was a lie, God knew it. All the while, Socrates would ask questions endlessly. And no piety would be found. Raelo laughed.

“In which case, can a man be dense, or can a man be not-dense?”

“A man can be both.”

“Does being so dense preclude being so not-dense?”

“It d– — — I’m not falling for it!”

During Raelo’s desperation, the elevator at last appeared. Siddartha walked out as soon as the doors dinged open. “I had a few errands. I am so glad you got to talk to Socrates!”

Raelo was already in the elevator.

6.

The elevator opened up to pure emptiness. Neither Raelo nor Siddartha were able to say they saw something or nothing.

From the nothingness, a voice yelled with a panicked tone. “Life is absurd, you’re absurd. I am the knight of resignation, and God has abandoned me!”

“What was that?” Raelo inquired.

Once more, cries came from the nothingness. “Anguish!”

“Kierkegaard! They forgot to remove the button to tier four,” Siddartha explained.

“Anguishhhhh!”

“This is bad. Faster, faster!” Siddartha said to the elevator as he jammed the tier five button.

7.

Siddartha held the door for Raelo, who stepped out. In front of them, a sign was standing. The words on the sign said ‘Marriage Tier’. Behind the sign was an infinitely long hallway, with an infinite number of hallways going left and right.

“Way too many hallways. Can’t we skip this?”

“Oh, no, you’ll like it here. Follow me!” Siddartha began running.

“Slow down,” Raelo called.

“I cannot! We get the full marriage experience.”

Siddartha turned many corners. Raelo figured they were lost, however. Suddenly, a cage fell onto Raelo and trapped him. Siddartha watched in silence.

“Oh, here it is. You have to hear about how great marriage is here, great perks. You won’t want to go back to Hell.”

A winged soul floated down from the ceiling. “My name is Donny. I’m the best at marriage!”

Another winged soul floated down and began to speak in a language that Raelo recognized as similar to Legalese. “The set of phonemes aimed to pick me out as an individual among other souls is Helena. I am knowledgeable of formal exchanges of agreements between individuals which establish an existence-long commitment as witnessed by God.”

The cage lacked any door or keyslot. Try as he might, the vertical bars would not bend from Raelo’s efforts. “I don’t want to get married!”

“I love marriage. Been married a lot,” Donny said.

Raelo continued to search for an escape, but he still spoke. “But I want freedom.”

“The possibility to act outside the rules and regulations prescribed by marriage still remains. The disregard of such rules may still yet occur, for marriage does not take away freedom,” Helena replied.

“Yeah, I get broads all the time. All 10s. Freedom wins,” Donny bragged.

“The rating scale is a complex of traits by which human physical appearance is measured in American culture, mapped to a ten-point scale, with the fewest positive traits mapped to the lowest number. 10s are the best to have by virtue of their maximal appeal, and marriage co-occurs with attaining a 10, thus the freedom to select a 10 is reliably attained through marriage. No other methods in Heaven exist by which one is able to acquire the greatest of tens, as connoted by the American English slang term ‘broad’”.

Raelo breathed fire in order to melt the bars. Immediately, he set to work, but soon it was quite clear they were not warming up. The effort failed. In resignation, he chose to sit down and wait out the lecture.

“She’ll be your one and only love, forever. Until she becomes a 9.”

“Being a male soul, your partner will most likely be a female soul by most statistical measures. As such, this hypothetical partner will not break the deal of marriage until and unless said partner falls below 10 on the rating scale. The duration of marriage extends as far as existence persists. Before the point of contract breech, the partner will declare to not discover another person that will produce physiological symptoms that include increased heart rate, and psychological symptoms that include a tendency to overlook reason. As a result, marriage is beneficial to one’s soul.”

“So, sign this, and we’ll get you a real woman!” Donny said eagerly.

Helena pulled out a scroll that was lined in gold. She unfurled it, held it in front of Raelo, and pointed to a blank entry. “Upon this horizontal line no thicker than a string, you may place — with an ink-based writing instrument — a series of markings that signify your nominal identity by means of their ordering and context. The souls referred to as Donny and Helena will then proceed to find a woman for the signing party. Based upon ancient norms that women of lesser intrinsic value were incomplete, the woman will be of complete quality.”

“I need a pen,” Raelo said, but Donny already held one out. After taking the pen, he wrote ‘Satan’. For Raelo, the moment of revenge was exhilarating. Satan was now bound by divine decree to deny his pride and status as a unique one. Now the evil one would find out what real nagging was. Satan and his wife visiting Hell-House Depot together on Saturdays was a glorious image.

“Thank you!” said the pair at once. The cage levitated up to the ceiling as Donny and Helena flew away.

“Freedom,” Raelo said.

“To the next tier,” Siddartha proclaimed. The companions ran back to the elevator.

8.

“Look, Siddartha, I don’t want to meet your friends,” said Raelo as the elevator hummed its way upwards. “Really, I don’t.”

“You must.”

“Why?”

“Humph!” Siddartha sighed and said nothing more. He crossed his arms and turned away. Divine revelation was a Christian’s ultimate means to acquire wisdom. The silent treatment was God’s language. Five words were unfailingly stated by the silence: you know what you did.

The elevator door opened with a ding. Raelo stepped out into a carpenter’s workshop, while Siddartha remained until the door closed automatically. Souls spread around were manipulating clumps of dough on a table that stretched beyond the desert horizon.

One soul wearing sandals and a cloth shirt stopped his work to greet Raelo. “Welcome to my DIY virtue workshop! I’m Jesus.”

“On the sixth layer?”

“I had a great business idea, so I came here. Would you like to build a virtue?”

“Well, I guess I have some time.”

“Here, sit at the table!”

Jesus waved his hand to extend the table. He shoved a glob of dough in Raelo’s hand and pressed on his shoulders to sit him down. Jesus sat down next to him.

“Sprinkle and mix, it’s easy,” said Jesus as he dropped purple sprinkles onto the beige lump. With both hands, he held the lump aloft. “Behold! A virtue! Now you try.”

Raelo kneaded his lump out. “Okay, first, I’ll sprinkle on some Egyptian afterlife.”

“Tasty!”

“And a little bit of Hindu Brahman would be good to add.” Raelo made sure to rub the seasoning all around.

“Interesting idea.”

“As I knead, I’ll be using a Zarathustran technique to get it to bind perfectly.” Raelo twirled the dough in his hands.

“Wow, I never saw that before!”

“And I shall pluck a hair from my head to put myself inside.” Raelo pulled out a hair and folded it into the dough.

“Smart.”

“I almost forgot to put this in. Morsels of miracles from pagan gods.”

“That should add variety.”

“Now, I’ll let it set until the winter solstice.”

“I can’t wait. What do you call it?”

“Plagiarism.”

Jesus narrowed his eyes and furrowed his eyes. “Hey, you’re not nice.”

“It’s my virtue, and I made it.”

“This is not allowed.”

“What, are you embarrassed?”

“It’s just…”

“Are you feeling guilty?”

“My cult was a remix.”

“So you didn’t give credit because it was a remix?”

“Yes! I mean, no. Fine. God got mad at me for plagiarism, and put me on the sixth tier. Happy?”

“Very.”

“You big meanie!” Jesus pouted and turned his back to Raelo. As had become evident, Siddartha had learned from Jesus the finest techniques of passive aggression. Jesus in turn probably learned it from God. After all, God told Abraham to kill his son, but didn’t even say sorry for thinking Abraham wasn’t faithful. Instead, God acted like it was a great plan all along.

The elevator door opened. “I knew it, I knew you would have some fun!” said Siddartha. “Let’s see more souls, Raelo.”

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To be continued…