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 Main Index

Chapters
 Editor's Note
 Preparations
 My Trip
 My Arrival
 The Stench & Flames
 The Cigarette Man
 The Unpersuaded
 The Valley
 The Rich Man
 The Righteous Ones
 The Island
 The Angels
 Homeward
 Reflections

 The Bible & Hell

The Cigarette Man

I walked away, shaken, making my way through low, gray and lifeless hills, all without a bush or a tree, though not actually lifeless, for occasionally I saw a vague human form scurrying, like some frightened animal, among the shadows. Wiser now, I did not use my flashlight to examine them too closely.

As I wandered along it seemed to me the landscape had become slightly less forbidding. It had changed from shapeless gray to brown with rather more well-defined rocks. And though it may have been my imagination, it did seem that I saw tufts of grass, though how it grew in such Antarctic cold I can't imagine.

Having become used to the furtive cowering of the inhabitants of this land, I was surprised when, having crossed several hills of such negligible height that it is barely justified in calling them hills, and having entered a plain, I encountered a ghostly figure shuffling towards my path, eyes on the ground, apparently not bothered by being out in the dim glow of Heaven.

"Hello!" I said, as our paths drew together.

He looked up. "What do you want?" he replied.

"I am a reporter for the Heavenly Light newspaper," I said, "and I would like a word with you, if I may," I replied.

He eyed me suspiciously. Then, as we drew closer, he said, "You stink. You know that? You smell of sulfur and death."

"Ah. So I've been told," I replied. "I wanted to ask you, though, why you don't mind being out in the glow of Heaven, when others find it painful beyond endurance?"

"Wouldn't you like to know," he said, and began to walk off, but then, looking back added, "If you don't know, why aren't you lurking in the shadows?"

"I would be happy to tell you," I said, "if you will tell me why you do not mind being out in the glow of Heaven."

"I do mind being in the glow of Heaven, but it is not as painful to me as it is to some."

"Why not?"

"Say, you don't happen to have a cigarette, do you?"

"I'm sorry, I don't smoke. But as I was saying, Why is the glow of Heaven not as painful to you?"

"Because I'm stronger than they are."

"What do you mean?"

"Where I lived on earth we were taught that God did not exist. We were taught to live without God. And we did. We became strong."

"So you didn't believe in God at all?"

"No. I did not, though it was only through my strength. There were occasions, late at night when all was still, when a thought would come to my mind: 'There must be a God!' But I battled those thoughts and found that I could I push them away. It was difficult at times, but as I fought I became stronger, and the power of those thoughts faded before my strength."

"But don't you regret pushing those thoughts away now that you know God exists?"

"What did I just say? Weren't you listening? I am strong! I don't need God. Of course I regret that I am not in Heaven, but I regret even more that God has seen fit to populate it with weaklings."

"Do you suppose the glow of Heaven isn't as painful to you because you don't hate God as much as those who hide in the shadows?

"Ha! The glow of Heaven, indeed! More like the flames of Heaven. Your argument is that God isn't punishing me as much because I didn't know as much when I was on earth. Is that right?"

"Right."

"Say. Are you sure you don't have a cigarette? I could really use a cigarette and there just aren't many around here. No? Too bad. But anyway, your argument is just the other side of the coin, now isn't it? I reject God. God rejects me. But remember this, God was trying to get me - remember those thoughts I told you about? - but I rejected them. Remember? Ha! God wanted me but I was too strong for him. All he can get are the weaklings."

"I see... Well, I promised to tell you about myself, so ..."

"Never mind about you. I need to find a cigarette. Have you seen anyone around here with a cigarette?"

"No, I don't think..."

"See any butts along the way?"

"No," I said, and he walked away, scanning the path from side to side.

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© Copyright 2003 Brad Haugaard