(A man, wearing a dark suit, stands alone at center stage with his arms folded across his chest. His legs are together, his eyes closed. His expression is straight and blank. He looks very peaceful, like he would if he were lying in a coffin except he’s standing. He is completely still. His voice plays through the sound system.)
Voice: (confused) Where am I?…Did I…? No, wait a minute. I know where I am. I…uh…think I’m dead. I don’t why I think that. I’ve just got that feeling, a strong feeling. I can’t shake it. You know what I’m talking about. The feeling you get when you know something, but have no idea how you know it. Yeah, that feeling…You know, I can’t even begin to think of how it happened. The last thing I remember I was in bed, waiting to go to sleep. Hey! Maybe I died in my sleep! Not a bad way to go, I guess. Painless. I’m glad of that. Didn’t know it was coming. I’m glad of that, too. I didn’t have to worry about it, right?
Anyway, I’m in this place, not sure where exactly. I’ll try to describe it for you, but I’m not sure that I’ll be able to do that great of a job. First, my body does feel a little weird. I can’t move anything and I can’t tell if I’m lying down on my back or standing straight up. To tell you the truth, I feel kind of weightless. I’m having trouble breathing too. I’d open my eyes and tell you what I see, but I can’t. Like I said, I can’t move anything. But I know that if I could open my eyes, the light would blind me. It’s so bright here, it hurts even with my eyes shut. And there’s this music, this beautiful music, the best a cappella singing I’ve ever heard. But it sounds muffled, like it’s a long way off or like I’ve got cotton stuffed in my ears or something. Look, I know it’s not the best description, but you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that this does seem like a pretty nice place. It’s warm here too, by the way. I forgot to tell you that, but I’m sure you’d agree that a good climate is an important part of where you’re going to spend the next…well, where you’re going to spend eternity!…(melancholy, thoughtful) I said that and now I’m thinking about death again. I’ll admit that I’m getting a little nervous. I’ve never been dead before. I don’t know what to expect, but, I mean, can this really be death? I admit it’s more than I ever thought it would be. I always thought that when you died, that was it. No more consciousness, no more nothing. You were just gone. But is this really all there is? Do I just stand here or lie here or whatever I’m doing and think? laughs) That would get boring after a while, huh? (laughs again and then resumes his thoughtful attitude) No, I can’t believe it. There’s got to be something else.
A few seconds later and my questions are answered. I feel these hands swiftly cover and then uncover my ears. I can hear a lot better now. (getting excited, hopeful) I wonder if I am dead! Maybe this is a doctor touching me! Maybe I’m still alive after all!…(calms down again, sighs) But somehow I know that isn’t true. I can hear the quiet movements of the person touching me, the sound of their steps and their slow breathing. Am I breathing that slowly? (laughs) Am I breathing at all? (sighs) So many questions. It’s unfortunate, but now that I can hear, the music seems to have stopped. A hand gently squeezes my shoulder. (Man falls backward and then regains his balance. He still does not open his eyes, but he can move everything else. The Voice-over stops and the man speaks for himself.)
Man: (confused, excited) I can move now! This is really confusing! Then the person lightly brushes my eyes. I blink them rapidly for a couple of seconds, still unable to bare the light, before I hear, "Open them," in a very non-engendered, very sweet voice from my toucher. I'm able to open my eyes now without the light bothering me.
I look at my toucher. (scared) His head is divided into fourths; a human face in front, a lion's face and a bull's face on either side, an eagle's face on the back of his head. I think for a second that it's some kind of mask, but no, it's too real. Whatever this thing is, those are it's real faces. It has six wings (motions to illustrate), three sets, with eyes completely covering the wings. It has human arms and hands and human legs, but it has hooves instead of feet. I know it sounds scary or grotesque, but it's actually quite beautiful.
And then I suddenly understand what I’m looking at. That, the thing that woke me up, is an angel! Which can only mean one thing. I have died. I've died and gone to Heaven and that's an angel. You'd think I'd be happy to realize this, but I'm not. Because I think I know what happens next. If I've died and this is Heaven, I must be waiting…to be judged…by God. And I'm afraid. Plain and simple. I'm more afraid than I've ever been in my life. I was never a religious person. All I know about God is what the media and American pop culture have portrayed Him as. And it's not like there was ever any uniformity among the fairly conflicting views circulating there! (honest, confessionary) But as I think about what I've just said, it seems that I should know more about God than only what others have told me. My mom used to take me to church before she died. (a shocking thought occurs) And then it hits me! (angry) If God is so grand, if He knows so much and is as powerful as everyone says, then why couldn’t He have made me realize all this sooner? Why couldn’t He have revealed Himself to me, given me some clue to help me understand Him? I’ve never been dead before, you know! Maybe if He had told me that this is what things, life and death and what you do and all that, were really all about…But now it comes down to this! Everything’s about to be decided and now I have no way to prepare and no way to effect the outcome! Maybe if I had had some more time. I’m not ready! Give me some more time!…(sighs, calming down, very melancholy) But I have no more time and no, it’s not God’s fault. Like I said, I used to go to church. This kind of reminds me of when I was in college. You get some people, maybe yourself included a couple of times, who show up to class and the prof’s handing out a test. They get this sick, panicky look going on and you know they haven’t studied. In fact, you’re sure that they didn’t even know there was going to be a test that particular day and now they’re going to fail the entire course. Only if they had shown up to class once in a while or even looked at their syllabus, they probably would have been okay. I guess I haven’t checked my syllabus in a while. I kept telling you that I’ve never been dead before. That was a lie. I understand now that I’ve been dead my entire life. It’s just now catching up with me.
(Completely calm, explanatory tone) I’ve accepted the facts and my fate the best I can for now. I’m ready to move on. I look at my angel, my guide, I guess, and nod. (nods) He smiles, perhaps a sad smile?, (starts walking across stage, miming holding the angel’s hand) and begins walking toward the double-doors of a great palace. When I started talking to you, I had been standing outside the gate of a grand courtyard. Many, many people, too many to name, are playing in the courtyard - running, jumping, smiling, people of all different ages enjoying themselves like children. And many more, much more than were inside the courtyard, are standing around the outside of the gate, in a seemingly comatose state, as I had been only a few moments ago when my discourse began. As I'm wondering about all this, my guide whispers to me through his bull's mouth, "You must become like a little child if you want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven." I want to stop and think about what he said, but someone's walking in ahead of me, a middle-aged looking woman, guided by another angel. The double-doors are swung wide open to receive her and the music starts again. (stops walking, raises his hands as if in a state of worship) Oh, how beautiful! My heart is broken, overflowing with incredible joy at the sound of it. The doors shut. (lowers hands) I can’t hear the music anymore. (Starts walking again.)
Two or three minutes later and I approach the double-doors. My angel opens one of them and gestures me in. (mimes opening the door and gestures as the angel would have) There is complete silence coming from inside. I'm suddenly nervous again. I guess I don’t get any music. The angel looks at me with an uncomfortable, sympathetic expression on each of its faces and again gestures me in. I nod (nods) to him, as if to say, "Thank you" and "Goodbye," look forward (looks forward), and take a step. (begins walking, looking straight ahead)
As I walk forward through the room, my eyes become fixed directly in front of me, on the Figure on the Throne. He is like a man, dressed in a long purple robe tied with a golden sash. His face is white, illuminatingly bright. His hair is also white. His eyes are alive and red, like a fire. And His tongue is a sharp, double-edged sword. He’s holding seven stars in His right hand.
(Looks down) It seems like I only catch a glimpse of Him for a second. I can't look at His face any longer than that. I don't know if it's because of the incredible humility and shame that I've begun to feel or because He won't allow it. I feel weak. My legs are about to cave in and I'd be glad if I fainted. I know what He's about to say: (angry) "You sinner! You're damned to Hell!" (looks back down)
(Looks straight at the audience) But He doesn't say that at all. (follows the motions and voice inflections described) He simply looks away, brushes a tear from His eye, and, in a choked up voice, says, "You're not mine." (collapses to his knees)
(Smacks the ground, angry, stands back up) The next instant I'm in Hell. The worst part is that I know I'm in Hell. I tasted Heaven. I saw God Himself! with all the angels around Him and people playing and laughing and singing for themselves and everyone else who made it into Heaven. I saw God in all His glory. And now look at me! I'm frustrated, I'm angry, I want to die, but I know I already have. There's no escape.
I thought I was a moral man. I lived the best I could! To think: I fell and never even knew it. I never even tried to get up. Now I'm alone and cold (I don't know where the fire's supposed to be, but I'm cold – very, very cold) with my thoughts in Hell. It's like I went to sleep and woke up here, somewhere in Satan's darkened theater. Oh, yes, he was the director and I was a simple actor, playing a very minor role, now to be typecast forever!
(peering off in the distance) And then I see the devil, that twisted soul himself, across the way. He looks at me and I hear him say, (in a mocking voice) "Didn't anyone tell you that you'd have to pay? It was a sure way to die. You shouldn't have gone that way. When it came down to the Narrow/Wide, you should have picked someone else to be your guide."
(Completely calm, sincere, addressing the audience) Narrow, the straight way. So few will find it and less will stay. Wide we've all started on, and on it, will continue to stray.
I never knew the choice I made, but now it's clear that it wasn't God’s. There's a fork in the road for all of us. Which way will you go? Will you serve Him? Or will you hear, “Didn't anyone tell you that you'd have to pay? It was a sure way to die. You shouldn't have gone that way”? Some will live and some will die. Don't you die with me...Don't you die with me.
(Starts, shakes his head) Then I woke up from that nightmare dream. I realized, that, by myself, I could not clearly see. So I prayed to God and asked if I could be redeemed. I knew I was dirty, but He said, "My son, you're clean."
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