Author : Thomas Desrochers

Tomov couldn’t help but climb up to the marble altar. It was underwhelming: red shroud embroidered with a white shepherd, a single candle, an offering of roses. A quiet place, hidden from the world by the rows of towering quartz, the vast and ancient ceiling hidden by their upper reaches. The southern edges of the silent worshipers glowed red and blue in the stained glass light.

“It used to look much different.”

Tomov jumped at the priest’s voice, turning to find her standing beside him, naked body glittering as the living memory drifted down her skin.

“Instead of stones there were benches,” she continued. “Instead of interning themselves after death, the flock would gather once a week in life to worship.”

“That’s not what my mother told me,” Tomov said. “She told me the church has always been this way.”

“Oh no,” the priest said, smiling. “Heaven on Earth has only existed for four hundred years. The church is almost two and a half thousand years old.”

Tomov frowned. “Is that even possible? What happened to all the people from before?”

“They died, just like we will. Their memories were scattered to dust.”

“Then they couldn’t exist after death?”

The priest laid a hand on Tomov’s head. “Do we exist after death?”

“That’s what my mother told me,” Tomov replied. “She said that we put our memories into the pews so that we can be with the flock forever. In this manner the essence of our ego can persist beyond the dissolution of our corporeal selves.”

The priest turned to Tomov, taking his hands in her own. Tomov watched the endless scripture as it slid down her hands, his eyes catching

how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?

before it slipped away between two knuckles.

“Tell me,” the priest said. “What do you remember of your own life?”

“Well.” Tomov paused. “I remember getting into a fight with another boy because he didn’t like my metal hands.”

The priest shook her head. “That’s your great-grandfather’s memory.”

“Wait.” Tomov frowned, trying to make sense of what he remembered. “I- I remember Job’s face when his heart fractured, the sound of it ringing in my ears as he stumbled. Wait, no…” Tomov shook his head, his eyes bright with tears. “That’s not who I am.”

He watched

away with those prophets who say to christ’s people “peace, peace,” where in there is no peace

crawl down the priest’s stomach.

“You are Tomov,” the priest said. “You are thirteen. You wanted to stargaze, but the stars were clouded by smoke and the horizon was lit with the fires of the Sixth Cleaning. Do you remember?”

Tomov was still for a moment. Tears began to move. “I remember it was so hot,” he said. “I remember the fires, and I didn’t see the scrappers until they were on me, with their masks and tools.”

“And they shattered you,” the priest said. “They were afraid of you.”

“I’m dead, aren’t I,” Tomov said. “I remember it now.”

“Yes,” the priest said. “You died out there. Which is why you’re here, among family.” The priest knelt down, looking Tomov in the eye. “Would you like to enter into heaven?”

Tomov nodded.

“Welcome,” the priest said. She kissed Tomov’s forehead, sending his essence off into the milky stones of home.

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