I died, having fulfilled my assigned work, and headed back to The Hall. On my way, I was accosted by an angel. I saw her at a great distance, but I knew at first glance she was coming to intercept me.
I call her ‘she’ because she had the outward appearance of a beautiful young woman – extraordinarily beautiful, elementarily attractive; everything I am was attracted to her. Even though I knew angels have no sex, no sexually-specific organs, no sexuality. They do not love. Rather, they have a capacity for a strange kind of empathy, totally inhuman. That’s mostly it: they’re utterly inhuman. All the same, I’ll continue to address it as ‘her’, in deference to her almost overpowering attractiveness.
She approached me, and addressed me by name. I nodded.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said. “You’ve been due anytime the last few days now.”
“What’s up?” I said.
“Well, if you wouldn’t mind … What’s life like?”
I thought a moment, and responded the only way I could.
“I’m new here, and I’ve never been alive,” she said. “I can’t imagine it, really. What can you tell me about it?”
“I’m not sure I can tell you anything …You ought to ask a teacher. Have you spoken to Socrates? Or a poet – Keats, Byron, one of the Romantics I’d guess, could tell you best.”
“No, I …”
“Or how about Jesus? If you could sit down with him, he could probably tell you in five minutes, even three maybe …”
“No I’ve talked with them. I took Aristotle’s course. I even auditioned L.Ron… all they did was confuse me. I want to talk to a normal person who’s been there.”
“I can’t tell you what life’s ‘like’. It’s unique. It isn’t ‘like’ anything else. I couldn’t even tell you what I experienced, it wouldn’t mean anything.” I paused a moment. “Why not get yourself an assignment? That way, you could be alive yourself. It’s the only way you’ll ever know. Go on! While you’re there, go to school, study somethng you can only learn among the living. You could study Chinese cooking! You ever have any? You’d love it!”
She hugged herself. “I don’t know. I… guess I’m scared.”
“It is scary, Life requires bravery, thatI can tell you. It also requires sleep. O, there’s so much to learn… But on the other hand, you can’t fail. Whatever you do, whatever happens – that’s life.”
She looked down and was silent for a moment. When she looked at me again, she seemed more serious, focuseed and composed. “I guess there’s no way I can try it – get a sample. Is there?”
“Not that I know of. In order to live you’ve got to be born.”
“Yeah. Born, or some animals are hatched. From eggs.”
“Isn’t there some other way? I’ve read about that stuff. It’s messy, and it’s really hard work.”
“The only other way things start living is, like – plants sprout in the soil, germinate from seeds or spores. But like I say, that’s only for plants.”
“Well, what if I was a plant this time around. I could kind of get the idea…”
“Plants don’t have ideas, see: if you got an idea as a plant I don’t know what you’d do with it. I think you’d be better off just diving in. That’s what the rest of us do, have done practically forever.”