Michael Christ In The Land Of The Dead
After 12 hours, Michael Christ felt that the joke was wearing thin. If he had known that he would be up for so long, he probably never would have allowed his co-workers to dress him in an adult diaper and nail him to their plywood cross to begin with. He didn’t mind the crown of staples, though—“you have to expect these sort of jokes with my name,” he always told himself in such circumstances, “and the staple-crown took that sweet girl in Accounting hours to make.” Michael had had a crush on the sweet girl from Accounting ever since he started working in the office, but was still working up the nerve to ask her out, just as soon as he worked up the nerve to ask her what her name was. Now, as the tittering of his co-workers had finally started to die down, Michael thought maybe they would let him get back to work.
“Come on now, guys, let me down, I’m losing a lot of blood here,” Michael pleaded, not realizing that this comment was going to send them all into a howling rage of laughter, making it all too funny to stop once more. In addition to his unfortunate surname, Michael was the spitting image of the Aryan Jesus found in so many Christian paintings. So when Michael would plead for an end, all of his co-workers were imagining The Son Of God saying it.
Around this time, one of the co-workers had the brilliant idea of taping a sharpened pencil to the end of a yard stick, and spearing Michael through the side. Had Michael seen the spear coming, he would have said something. Then again, saying something would probably have only made things funnier for them, and worse for him. As the spear went in, Michael’s last words were “This job sucks,” which of course had the office in stitches for days after the body had been carted away.
Michael thought that in death, he would finally be able to escape the constant jokes and silliness that came attached to his name. He had hoped for a great void that would swallow him into a peaceful and somber nothingness. Unfortunately for Michael, death would turn out to be a far sillier place even than life.
“You got that right,” were the first words Michael heard in death. They had come from a gruff voice somewhere in the dark corner of the room in which Michael found himself. Supposing the first word a person says in death to be equally as important as a person’s first word in life, Michael, after much consideration, settled on: “Huh?”
He took in his new surroundings with the same calm resilience that he took to most of life. He was in what looked like a cave, only it was clearly made of plastic and chicken-wire. Michael thought that the cave would probably collapse given one good push, and the duct tape covering large holes and dents in the walls told him that it wouldn’t be the first time, either. Thunder and water-dripping noises played through speakers that were doing a miserable job of pretending to be rocks. A disheveled man in a tattered red robe stepped forward carrying a wooden staff. He looked just like Moses, if Moses had gone on a five-year binge in Atlantic City.
“Welcome to The Dark And Terrifyin’ Land Of The Dead,” he intoned, perfectly accompanied by a crash of lightning from the rock-speakers and bright strobing light effects coming from behind Michael that acted as punctuation. If Binger Moses had intended to sound either dark or terrifying, he had failed. If he had meant to sound like a disgruntled tour guide in a haunted house, however, his impersonation was uncanny. “Jesus, fuck!” Binger Moses yelled, temporarily blinded by the garish lighting choices of the chicken-wire cave of The Land Of The Dead, and permanently scarred by the sight of a grown man wearing an adult diaper and a bunch of staples as a hat. Binger Moses proceeded to pull a clipboard and pen out of his robe, and crowed out “Name” in a distracted monotone.
Michael Christ decided that his second word in death should carry an equal amount of significance as the first, but was at a loss to come up with anything that could top “Huh.” So he reiterated.
“Life’s over, pal, time for the… uh, other thing. Now what’s yer name?”
“Michael. Michael Christ… sir,” he ventured. Binger Moses scrawled the name out disinterestedly on his clipboard, refusing to look up again at the staple-wearing pervert before him. “Where am I? The Land Of The Dead?” Michael asked, instantly regretting the question, as it was accompanied by yet another garish crack from the speakers, and an eye-stabbing flash from the lights.
“Fucking asshole,” Binger Moses yelled. “You ever say that again in here, and I will beat the shit out of you with this stupid fucking stick,” gesturing to the staff he held in his elbow, “Now what’s yer middle name?” Michael, having very recently quit (or possibly been fired from) a bad job, felt instant sympathy for Binger Moses.
“Joshua,” Michael answered.
“Date of birth?”
“December 25th, 1973,” Michael said, knowing full well what was coming next.
“Jesus Christ,” Binger Moses half-heartedly exclaimed.
“Tell me about it.”
“And the… er, other one?”
“I’ve only got the one… sorry,” Michael responded, who was for the first time ever starting to worry that having only one date of birth might make him in some way deficient.
“No, smart ass, the date of yer, um… demise?” Binger Moses hazarded, when once again the blinding light attacked. “Dammit!”
Michael was a bit flustered to suddenly have to know today’s date—dying had made him forgetful. Reflecting on the events of the day, however, he soon remembered. “April 1st, 2008,” Michael said.
“And the cause?” Binger Moses asked.
Michael had been dreading this question, but now that it had been asked, he gave himself up to fate. “Crucifixion.”
“Yer fucking kidding me,” Binger Moses looked up from his clipboard and took another good look at Michael. Michael wondered if Binger Moses had always been doing this job in The Land Of The Dead, and if he had, whether Michael was giving him an acute sense of déjà vu. If that were the case, Binger Moses certainly wasn’t letting on. He shrugged it off, and returned to his clipboard. “Life’s a bitch, and then you… well, you come here” was all the comfort he could muster, emphasizing “here” in order to imply that death was at least every bit as much of a bitch. “Let’s get out of this fuckin’ Mickey Mouse cave and I’ll give you the gist of it,” Binger Moses offered.
“The gist of what, exactly?”
“Death,” Binger Moses answered nonchalantly, forgetting that that was another phrase which triggered the cave’s light and sound show. “Mother Fucker!”
As they stepped out of the cave’s metal exit door, Binger Moses took off his robe, revealing a badly stained white t-shirt and jeans. He hung the robe on a peg by the door, and leaned the staff up against the wall next to it. “Name’s Walter, by the by,” Binger Moses told Michael, and with a cringe of his own, added, “Walter Moses.” Michael had never met another deity-doppelganger in life, and felt an instant camaraderie.
The room they had walked into was a long, beige hallway lined with labeled metal doors and red lights above each one that read “Receiving.” The labels said things like “Cloud,” “Fire Pit,” “Outer Space,” and of course “Cave” was written on the door the two had just passed through. The words “Stupid Fucking” were scratched into the door directly above the label. “This is the reception office for The Land Of The Dead,” Walter explained, shuddering as a light flashed underneath the metal door. “All the newlydeads arrive in one of these here rooms, and we try to act out their fantasies,” he added, apparently convinced that he was done explaining things.
“Huh?” Michael asked, fearing that it might become a catch-phrase.
Walter Moses let out a long sigh and answered. “Everybody figures they know what’s gonna happen when they die, and they’re all wrong. Over there,” he said, pointing a thumb at the door marked “Cloud,” “is Heaven. We rig up a fog machine, have a guy in a white dress play on a goddamn harp, and let the little pissants think they were right all along.”
“I never thought that death was going to be a chicken-wire cave with fake lightning,” Michael protested. “I was hoping for non-existence.”
“Yeah, sorry ’bout that, but ‘non-existence’ is fuckin’ hard to approximate. We thought a dark, Nihilistic cave would be good enough, but if you want, I can stuff yer ass in the janitor’s closet and you can spend all of eternity huffing fumes in a god damned diaper.”
“Sounds better than an eternity of fog and harp music,” Michael replied.
“We don’t keep them there forever, we just wanna break the news to them slowly,” Walter Moses explained.
“’The news’?” Michael asked, fearing the worst as always.
“Death is a lot like life,” Walter said, “there’s just… more of it. A lot more.”
“No kiddin’. Now come on, I need a drink.”