I’ve been keeping a slightly lower profile than usual on my blog as I’ve been spending the last month or so putting the finishing touches to my book, Don’t Carp, Marley Tiffin (https://etiennehanratty.wordpress.com/dont-carp-marley-tiffin/) which I’m hoping to self-publish in a couple of weeks assuming it gets past my beta reader (i.e my wife) unscathed. The previous sentence, by the way, is what is known in literary circles as a plug; if it offends anyone, I can take it down. The story, below, however, is offered with as much sincerity as anything I write. It was inspired by Al Forbe’s photo from the natural science museum (be sure to check out the stuffed thylacine if you visit, by the way; since I left my twenties, and financial freedom, behind me, it’s become the highlight of my trips to the capital) and the recent release of the Led Zeppelin remasters. Incidentally, if anyone from a religious background reads this, please don’t be offended-it’s meant affectionately.
Sometime after the Led Zep remasters came out, they tore down the stairway to heaven and replaced it with a shiny new escalator. It was time, the reasoning went, to bring heaven into the twenty-first century. There was opposition, naturally. The afterlife was a beloved institution, said the sceptics, to change it for change’s sake was tantamount to sacrilege. If Robert Plant was being held up as a beacon of modernism, the cynics asked, why hadn’t he changed his haircut since 1969? It didn’t help that the Private Finance Initiative the archangels had negotiated locked them into a punitive maintenance contract for the next thirty years. Had nobody learned anything from the experience they had purgatory with that Health Centre?
Once it was built, of course, the angels gritted their teeth and put up with it. Patience is a virtue, after all. The trouble came when the type-A personalities got fed up waiting for the escalator to reach the pearly gates and started jostling past their fellow souls in an attemot to get to paradise first. St Peter tried to put an end to it but there was nothing in the Ten Commandments that said jostling was forbidden. He looked into the possibility of sticking in an amendment but the archangels wouldn’t accept another change so soon after the escalator. In the end, he had to content himself with putting up a sign-“No Jostling, No Bombing, No Heavy Petting”. It didn’t make much difference but he felt better just being seen to do something.
The long-term consequences of the escalator were disastrous. Heaven, for so long the home of the great and the good, filled up with bankers and company directors bragging about their golf handicaps. Desperate to avoid a fate which was now worse than death, the population on Earth started sinning with a vengeance, which was itself-probably-a sin. As a result, purgatory filled up almost overnight and they finally had enough souls there to fix that Health Centre.