What does that word mean to you? A place of peace, I suppose, where the souls of the living are sent once they are "freed" from their carnal temples? A place of healing, where they are kept from pain and left with joy? The "better place" we hear of in mortality when we are in the presence of a body that is pale, cold, stern...devoid of life?
"She is happy now" the priest will say gently, gesturing to the corpse and patting the shoulder of a weeping relative. "She is in a better place."
And we, the living, would draw comfort from his words, assured by the utterances of a holy man. He must know we assured ourselves with a shaky grin. He is a priest, after all.
But what if I told you that the priest was wrong, that "Heaven" is a place of fiction invented to persuade the living that their loved ones are happy? What if I told you the truth?
I am not here to shatter illusions or break dreams. You must know that. I am here to explain, to enlighten and to inform. I am here to lead you from your sheltered interpretations of the World Beyond.
But before I can do that, I suppose I must tell you who I am. I am Angelica...although I suppose that doesn't help much with identification, as we are all known by that name here. We are all Angelica, though the daring ones have adapted some sort of variation, and those that were men are called Gabriel.
All of them.
I detest the name Angelica. Or perhaps it is simply that I detest having my sense of self ripped from me so harshly, detest being a clone. In life, I was not a mindless copy. In life I had individuality, a spark unlike everyone else's, and in life I was taught never to let that spark be doused. So here, in tribute to the mortality I have lost, since the Great One cannot reprimand my scribe until she comes to meet him, I will be known as Margaret. Margaret Wood, as I was named in life. I am here to show you the real Heaven.
The golden gates by which St. Peter sits resemble the bars of a prison cell. The souls that walk the clouds do not resemble their mortal selves; we are merely the barest essences of who we were, like shreds of mist with whispers for voices. We live in desire, in unforgiving want. The stained glass cathedral windows that shone like warm beacons in the reflecting sunlight, where we angels glide on gossamer wings with peaceful faces....how I wish they showed the truth! But alas, they are nothing but hue-tinted lies. Falsehoods, woven by priests to lure mortals into security...to protect them from what is to come.
The seraphs that share this world with me, they do not have wings. They move on the breeze, letting it lift them and tug them where they wish to be. We do not have voices, but rather the faintest whispers of the ones we had, and only when the Great One wishes a word with us are the whispers given life. But only then.
Nor do we have eyes...we cannot look upon the ones we love to watch them as they live. The one you call God looks upon them for us, tells us their doings and the words they send.
We have no power. No voice, no name, no sight, no body. We cannot write of this for lack of hands, we cannot leave for lack of vessel. And worst of all, we cannot hold the moments of our existence dear in times of need, for lack of a memory. I have only recently been "called home", so this at least has yet to be taken from me. But sometimes I wish that it had been the first thing to go, so that I would not know what I have lost....
Ignorance truly is bliss.
My scribe is growing tired as I am pulled, ripped away, back to that awful place...my strength is fading. As I go, I can only plead, for I know that once I return there, I will not be able to escape again. I will be kept prisoner even more than I am, and the fear I have of "Heaven" will slip away. I will become used to it, numb to the true sorrow of that world, and will not find reason to leave again. So please listen to me, and do not forget my words. I am a desperate angel, the only one of my kind new enough to that place that I understand it. I am asking you now to live your life, this life, the best that you can. Make as many memories as possible, and do not forget any of them. Experience. Love.
And one day, when something amuses you, laugh for me. Laugh as I once did, as I long to do, and remember that you have given me with that one action, a second chance at living, even if that chance only lasted for a moment.
With that request, all is lost. Margaret Wood is a notion of the past. Her feelings, her memories, her voice, her body, her personality, her life. All are gone, and I am forevermore Angelica...a hostage of that gilded prison.