Forever

Vin Donatello died the way he would have expected, a car chase, a hail of bullets. The only kink in the script was his kid brother. Robbie was the good one – a real family disappointment. He wasn’t supposed to be there.

Vin blinked in the blinding white of the first moment of his afterlife. An amazed, ‘Jesus Christ!,’ escaped before he could check himself. He waited for the consequences. There was no lightning. No sudden fall. His eyes adjusted to the scene. It was all there. The clouds. The filmy white gowns of the figures circling serenely around him. The little fairy wings. ‘Where am I?’ He said it almost to himself. Then a thought occurred to him. ‘No, no. There’s been a mistake. This is Robbie’s spot. I need to talk to someone.’

‘That’s how it starts,’ said a voice nearby.

‘I’m not supposed to be here.’

‘Where do you reckon you are mate?’

‘I’m…I…Heaven I guess. But I…’

‘Men’s Cloud Number 9, Mate. Ethereal as all hell. That’s the point. Always with a twist. You’ve copped a ripper. Doubt. I don’t envy you. Well strictly speaking I do. You see that’s me right there. Envy. But doubt; that’s not bad.’ The speaker, a swarthily angelic man with a long facial scar, whistled like a cartoon bomb.

‘I don’t believe you!’

‘See. Doubt. Like I said. Live with it mate. Eternity.’

‘No. It’s Robbie’s. He never did anything wrong. He deserves this.’

‘Does he? Reggie Castle’s the name. Envy’s the game. Jealous of everyone and everything. How’d you get such a nice gown, anyway? Look at the cut of this one.’

‘Envy.’

‘See. Even here. Can you believe it? Oh no, sorry. Doubt. Still I’d swap places if I could.’ His handshake had a fraternal familiarity. ‘Over there is Carson, merchant bank CEO…you know…before.’ He gestures towards a man who continuously alternates between being seated on his fluffy cloud seat and standing up from it. ‘Can’t make a decision to save his life. Well you know what I mean.’

‘What do you all do here?’ Vin could feel a curtain of melancholy descending over him.

‘Do? What do we do? There is nothing to do, mate. It’s a bloody cloud. We suffer. That’s what we do. We beat ourselves up. Doubt, envy, guilt, uncertainty, unattainable desire, regret. Doc Roberts over there relives his whole life the way other people saw it. Niggles, mate. His bloody water torture.’

‘Who?’

‘Him. The big G. Geeze, he sure got this bit right.’

~

Robbie Donatello blinked in the hot red light. Psychedelic flames flicked around him. Music pumped loud. Beneath his rocky vantage point bodies writhed in unison to the beat. Beyond them a feast of food and excess sprawled into every corner of the cavernous space. A young woman, a wicked flick to her pretty smile, knelt beside him. ‘Persephone,’ she whispered, helping him to his feet. ‘Glad you could join us. I’ll show you around.’

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