35 Warriors

“This is the heaven of the Warriors. People who live here are competitive, adventuresome, and protective of others. They largely prefer to be independent and self-reliant. They possess highly developed survival skills.

“If you choose to stay here, you will be with people who share your same value system. The terrain is rugged and challenging. It has steep mountains as well as beaches. It fits your definition of ‘Paradise.’”

“I’m guessing every level has an ocean. Who doesn’t like beaches?”

“You’d be surprised. I’m going to take you to heavens six through ten. I have some people for you to meet along the way. You’ll be leading a team of six on the mission. There will be two each from the Sixth Heaven, Eighth Heaven, and Ninth Heaven. They already know they have been chosen for this assignment, but they have only been given a few details. They have been told you will direct them when you meet.”

“Wait. If we are picking up two people from each of the other heavens, why am I the only one from the Fifth Heaven?”

“The residents of the Fifth Heaven have very strong personalities. Warriors are like betta fish. If you put two together, they will likely fight to the death. You will function better if you are the only one leading.”

“That makes sense and it sounds like my life on Earth. How are we all going to exist together in the same universe for all eternity?”

“Well, first your assignments will keep you apart. And many Warriors eventually get assigned to other galaxies.”

“Are you telling me there is life in other galaxies?”

“That answer will have to wait until later. It’s multi-faceted.”

“Then, I have another question. If I’m going to give the team their instructions, shouldn’t I be briefed on the specifics now?”

“Yes and no.”

“That’s a very open answer.”

“I’ll explain everything as we move forward. There is a space for everything. Let’s take another walk.”

“Walk? I thought we would be flying here.”

“Oh, you will be. You just aren’t ready yet. I can fly, but don’t want to show off in front of you. It might be an affront to your manliness.”

“Ha, as if.” Seneca looks over his shoulder and smiles at me. I like this guy, but he has a very busy personality. His body movements are naturally slower than mine, but his mind moves quickly. A better description would be his mind moves complexly. I’m increasingly frustrated with the information he’s withholding. My training tells me people who withhold information don’t have it, or they are using it to their advantage. The soldier in me says we should have been having dialogue about the mission from the beginning to ensure details aren’t overlooked.

I don’t have a choice but to adapt to Seneca’s pacing and timing for now. He knows his way around, and I do not. After another half mile is behind us, he stops walking and perches himself atop a bleached boulder. He picks up a long stick and begins drawing in the black soil.

“Alright, let’s review some things before we meet your team. Heaven begins in the Fourth Dimension. This is where I first met you. In the heavens, we interchange the words Dimension and Heaven. Levels above the Fourth Dimension do not experience time. Trust me when I say this: you haven’t really lived until you’ve lived outside of time. It’s a beautiful thing.

“On Earth, man is forever running against an imaginary clock. If he can’t find a way to turn it off, it will steal the joy of the moment and leave him with little more than regret and anxiety. Time was one of the curses put upon man and Earth after sin entered the world. There was no element of time in Eden, and there is no element of time here.”

Seneca is making his point in his sand drawings quickly. For a man who has a very relaxed style, he emits a sense of urgency. “As you witnessed firsthand, the Fourth Heaven has a realm of free-flowing travel. It’s the crossroads between the human dimensions and the spiritual ones. There’s no delicate way of saying this: It’s also the place where the souls of men bound for Hades come for their sentencing. They’re held for only a short time. They do not receive the pleasant awakening you did. They wake up in a dark secluded holding cell in an area we call ‘The Court of the Damned.’”

“Well, that’s a pretty clear title. I think I get what happens there.”

“Yes, these souls receive their sentencing and are taken away by the demons. On the positive, this is where the souls bound for an eternity with Almighty awaken in their Paradise. After they are acclimated, the angels escort them to the Pearly Gates of St. Peter in the Seventh Heaven. Here, they enjoy their official welcoming. The Fourth Heaven has many different settings that adapt to each person’s idea of Paradise. For you, it has always been the ocean. It’s why you woke up near one. Everyone wakes up in their view of perfection. It helps them to relax into the transition. Nice perk, right?”

“Yes, impressive.”

“You were also dressed in your favorite clothing.”

“Yes, I was. That’s interesting. If I were to guess, I would have thought we arrived here naked, or in robes. How did you guys gather the clothes info? I feel violated.”

“Your guardian angel and spirit guides enter all the data on you. If I were to describe our tracking system to your generation, I would be like a huge data server. Your life is uploaded as it happens. Every detail is recorded.”

“That sounds like a huge—and unsettling—task. I must keep my team busy. I rarely sit still, and I’m often in danger. When you say upload, how is the data entered?”

“The citizens of Heaven have telepathy. Data can travel from the angels and spirit guides directly into your storage area in an instant. They don’t have to leave your side to transfer information to storage.”

“This sounds like the Engage app causing a lot of controversy on Earth right now. It’s storing all of man’s data and making it available to the public with very few walls of protection. It is shattering privacy veils and leaving citizens exposed to discrimination. It’s also estimated the number of lawsuits filed against it in the United Kingdom alone will consume eight years of their nation’s court’s time. I guess man doesn’t like to be tracked or have his secrets revealed. When you say the citizens of heaven have telepathy—does that include you? Can you read my mind?”

“That question has a complicated answer.”

“I guessed as much.”

Seneca ignores my sarcasm and addresses my original question. “I possess the skill to read your mind, but only if you allow it. We cannot forcibly read each other’s minds. The external information I speak of is collected from observation, not from mind reading. It’s sensory for us and it permeates all of Heaven. It is translated into a haptic language so we can all tap into it.

“Almighty holds Himself to the same standard. As much as people want to believe their Creator reads their thoughts, they are misguided. I will explain more when we get closer to the Mission. For now, relax. Though everyone here can read your mind, they can’t do so without your permission.”

As we begin to walk again, Seneca turns towards me and gives me a quick up and down look. He begins to snicker. “Before we go too far, we need to do something about your outfit. I know you chose these items for comfort, but they will be a riot here—and may cause one too.”

“What’s wrong with my clothes?”

“You’re wearing a Beatles shirt.”

“So?”

“In 1966, John Lennon told an interviewer that the Beatles were ‘more popular than Jesus.’ He went on to say ‘rock music would outlive Christianity.’ I was thinking maybe you should change your clothes before you meet Jesus.” Seneca lets out another belly laugh. It echoes behind him as he leads on to another location. Seneca’s laughter is contagious. I admit the thing about my clothes is funny. He seems to be a very happy man. I’m looking forward to knowing his level of contentment. That sounds like Paradise to me.

My mind wanders as we walk. I imagine everyone reflects on their life when they wake up here. Some probably face regret, wasted time, missed purposes, lost loves. I’m aware I did little more with my thirty-one years than move from one duty to the next. I treated life as if it were a checklist.

I also see my military career gave me an excuse to live in self-imposed fear every single day of the last nine years. As sad as that may be, it turns out my fear was unfounded—I was always on a protected path leading to my purpose here. We humans seem to think our death is about ending our journey on Earth. It isn’t. It’s about beginning our journey in Heaven. This should be announced at funerals. It might ease the pain of loss. Now that I’m on the other side, I can see that life on Earth is a short part of an unending existence. As it turns out, entertaining fear was the worst idea of my life.

Seneca has probably seen it all by now. Even if he can’t read my mind, I’m certain he’s profiled me. I’m probably not the first ‘lone wolf’ personality he has encountered. No doubt, he has figured out I have a strong wall built around my emotions. He is probably well-aware that after one failed relationship, I found life to be more manageable if I kept everyone at a distance. I sleep better knowing no one has the capacity to hurt me. Choosing to participate in relationships is one of the few things men can control—and I do it well.

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Triple Digit TOC by K.M. Sheridan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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