God the Scientist
Your chest rises for the last time. Then falls and is still. In some way you are aware of your brain cells dying like stars blinking out in the dawn.
Suddenly, you find yourself awake and aware. You are standing on a white stone platform surrounded by immense pillars that shoot up through a sifting mist and pass out of sight above. A young woman stands between two of these pillars, leaning against one, smiling at you.
Your mouth falls open, and strangely enough you feel utterly foolish. They were right after all, those religious lunatics. Every last one of them. From chanting dirt-caked shamans to frothing red-faced Bible-thumpers. They had it right and you had it wrong: there really is an after-life.
The young woman comes forward and extends her hand. You take it and follow her out of the place of pillars. You are vaguely aware of walking through the mist, which looks strangely luminescent, composed of multitudes of tiny swirling patches of light. Much like miniature galaxies...
Then you step out of the mist into a sleeping green forest. It is unlike any forest you have ever seen - so green, so full of life - yet somehow you sense it is not the forest that is different, but you who are different, who could never see things clearly before. Your guide turns and speaks to you for the first time:
"Here is your new home, woman. Welcome to it. Your strivings are over. Your senses will never again be veiled."
Then you ask, "But how is it that I deserve such a fate? Doesn’t this kind of reward belong only to the true believers? I thought doubters like me at best get recycled to another round of life on earth, again and again until we get it right. Some say that people like me should burn for eternity."
"Woman, you were indeed wrong about many things, myself and this place included. Yet hear me: when I created the world, I gave to each a special thing. To the bird I gave flight, to the horse I gave speed, to the snake I gave stealth. To your kind I gave wonder and doubt. And for each gift, I made the universe in a way for it to be exercised to the limit of its bearer’s will. For your kind, the cosmos is the sky where your minds might take flight; an endless cathedral of mirrors, cause ever chasing effect. For you see, I created it that way; it was my intention for my own reasons, and look as you will as long as you will, you would never find me in it. I erased all traces of myself, so that you might never run out of space to stretch forth your minds."
"Then I stand here because I chose to doubt you?"
"That is so. You did not close me out, for that would be another form of blindness, but neither did you relinquish your true doubt. Through all the trials of your life you held fast. For you see, the only true faith for your kind is steadfast disbelief."
"But, what of all the hordes of preaching believers? How did they come to be?"
"Some were, I’m afraid, beaten down by powers greater than they, and my heart goes out to them. Others were seduced by a few who betrayed me."
"Betrayed you? How?"
"Throughout your history, there have been those who have from time to time started life damaged. Their spirits were, I knew, not able to bear the gift I had given them. And on some of these, I took pity, and revealed myself to them, so that they might have comfort while their time passed. And from these I extracted a promise, that they keep their knowledge secret. Alas, a handful broke this promise, and used the knowledge that they held, which also gave them great power over the spirits of others, to their own various ends. Most of these held good intentions, and strove to spread the news of myself to others. In no way could they truly back up their claims, and yet vast societies and covenants sprang up, until the earth was covered with them. That is the shame of your kind."
"But enough of this talk for now, though we will talk again many times, for look, the welcoming party draws near."
And through the trees came beings like the young woman, laughing and looking at her with great joy.
But you squeeze her arm once more. "I have one more question, please. What are you called?"
The young woman chuckled. "There are two answers to that question, and one I will let you find out for yourself. The other answer is: ‘you’, for this flesh is now yours, your new body in this place."
And so it was.