Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer
“I assure you, Mr. and Mrs. White, the procedure is quiet painless.” I steeple my fingers together and settle deeper into my chair, smiling with cunning charm at the elderly couple sitting across from me, their doubt and fear clearly at odds with their fragile hopes.
“How does it work?” the husband ventures tentatively.
“The technicalities are far too droll, rife with complexities and esoteric jargon which would only burden your understanding, Mr. White. All you need know is that upon the pronouncement of biological death, before the onset of true brain death, our expert team of doctor’s and technicians will effortlessly translate your consciousness into the Heaven of your choosing.” I gesture to an illuminated wall decorated with myriad icons and symbols of all the world’s faiths.
“As you can see, we cater to all religious denominations here at Heaven’sGate. Whether it’s the Timeless Bliss of Nirvana, the Immaculate Gardens of Jannah, or the Eternal Glory of Jehovah’s Kingdom in Heaven that you seek, we have specially crafted virtual realities guaranteed to satisfy any and all of your desires for an afterlife. And if you’re atheist,” I chuckle, “we have a Build-your-own Paradise Package.”
Husband and wife share a furtive, hope-filled glance as Mr. White squeezes his wife’s arthritic hand.
“Will we… be together… when I…?” Tears rim Mrs. White’s rheumy eyes.
“Absolutely! By choosing our Family Package you can join your loved one upon the moment of your death and be reunited for eternity.”
“What happens to my… the body of the deceased?” Mr. White’s question is followed quickly by his wife’s own query, “May I visit the grave?”
“To answer your question first, Mr. White, for the purposes of sanitation and economy of space, upon completion of the funeral services our policy is to cremate the body. However, to address your concerns, Mrs. White, we do provide – for a nominal fee, of course – a Virtual Visitation with your dearly departed.”
“Virtual visitation?” The dubious question creeps from both couple’s lips.
“One of our many services.” My broad, sympathetic smile embraces them. “We at Heaven’sGate believe in life after death. How could we not? And we’ve made it possible to commune with those who have gone to the Great Hereafter in person at one of our many facilities worldwide, or in the convenience of your own home, with an on-line Séance. Our Medium Package allows direct communication with the consciousness of the deceased, anytime, anywhere. Doesn’t this sound wonderful?”
“Too good to be true,” Mr. White says with a hint of skepticism.
“Oh, but Harold, it would be such a comfort for me to be able to… to…” Mrs. White bursts into tears and is gently embraced by her husband.
With rehearsed sympathy, I pluck a handkerchief from a box on my desk and offer it to the weeping woman.
“Our services provide a sense of relief for the surviving family to know, for certain, that their loved ones are safe and content in the afterlife, Mr. White. We at Heaven’sGate have eliminated the terrifying existential uncertainty. No more sleepless nights wondering where we go when we die. At Heaven’s Gate, your eternal happiness is our guarantee.”
I hold the contract tablet out for Mr. White, who, consoling his sobbing wife with one arm, reaches for it with his other. He pauses before sealing the deal.
“Any Paradise I want?”
“I’ll feel no pain?”
“Not even an itch.”
“As certain as death and taxes.”
Mr. White presses his thumb print into the tablet.
I grin broadly, thinking mischievously, “There’s one born every minute.”