It was hot. We squinted as we glared into the ferocious sun.
He stood there up on the gallows, his wings bound to his sides by thick rope. It was mid afternoon and the sun hung heavy in the sky behind him, causing us in the crowd to squint. When these guys get exiled from Heaven, they always end up in towns like ours, just on the outskirts. It’s a shame really, they are meant to pass back down to Earth but a lot of them get caught up in drinking and gambling. This poor bugger ended up getting caught one too many times on the street, passed out in a gutter, so they authorities decided to make an example of him.
I headed off before they pulled the lever. I like to hear what they are up there for, but I have no stomach for the actual execution. Makes me feel a bit nauseous. I heard the crowd cheer behind me, so I knew that he must have dropped. Town was busy, people thronging in the streets. A lot of new guys as well. You can tell they are new because they always have a lot of trouble with their robes. Everyone gets a set when they enter, but they take a bit of getting used to — they will constantly slip off your shoulder if you are not careful.
I always feel a bit sorry for the new guys, they always seem a bit disappointed. People forget Heaven was established over 2000 years ago so life is still pretty primitive up here. It was a life of luxury and eternal happiness two millennia ago, but times change. Back then, a life of luxury was not being murdered in your sleep by some mongol horde. Now, people expect a bit more. There is still plentiful food and water, so you’re not going to starve, and apparently the hospitals are ok. Sanitation is basic though, and it’s definitely not set up for the number of people who are up here now. It was fine when it was only the real fanatics who were getting up here, but then there was a real recruitment drive. God went down himself and started telling stories and distributing books, getting everyone excited to come to Heaven. It was a genius campaign to be fair, self perpetuating, almost like a pyramid scheme — “Make sure you tell all your friends!”
However, the word of religion spread and soon everyone was getting in for a quick prayer and a few good deeds. Overcrowding began to became a real problem and they had to expand massively. There were huge queues at the gates, and St. Peter had to step down from welcoming everyone personally. People had to set up temporary camps, but these camps became more and more permanent and eventually turned into towns themselves. Soon, people were setting up shops and stalls, and thats what my family ended up doing. We’ve been here for centuries now, serving the needs of the people passing though. We all joke that one day we will redeem our pass and pass through the gates, but I am not sure anyone actually knows where theirs is any more.
I turned a corner in the road and saw a small group halfway down, a bunch of security guards surrounding a few young men. When I got closer I realised that the young men were representatives from Hell. Heaven’s security doesn’t much like it when these guys start handing out leaflets round here. You’ve got to feel sorry for them really — the finest trick of God was to persuade you that Hell was an awful place. When he starting spreading Heaven as THE choice for the afterlife, he presented Hell as a horrendous alternative. In fact, it’s quite nice. The weather is definitely better, and there are no demons or torture of any of that. There isn’t even a lot of red. I passed them by as they were hustled towards the station.
I couldn’t stop thinking of the Angel at the gallows. We seem to be getting more and more of them these days. Guys who are dissatisfied with the leadership in there, they think that God has become lax, resting on his laurels whilst Hell picks up the slack. If people aren’t coming to Heaven then they are definitely going to Hell. The guys that don’t like it, they either kick up a fuss and get chucked out, or they leave on their own accord. Either way they end up here.
They’re the only way we know what it’s like in there. No-one else comes out once their in, but they get special treatment, even during their exiling. Though being dissatisfied you never know whether they are telling the truth. Since the queues have been dying down recently I’ve been telling myself I will find my pass one day and head on in. See what it’s like for myself.