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  • I went with one of Jdeschene's suggestions - Harps.

    Thank you all so much for your feedback and reviews!


    I think this is going to be it for the text of the story. I still need to come up with a good name. Suggestions would be appreciated. If I get a winning entry, I'll cite them as an author's note.

    So far, the best I have is

    • The Keys of the Kingdom
    • Lyres and Liars
    • Harps in Heaven

    Jdeschene suggested

    • A New Song
    • Harps

    L0CKED334 suggested

    • Joyful Noise
    • Resounding Justice

    The hospital equipment beeped as the young Chaplain recited the ancient ritual. "God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

    "Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come.

    "May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.

    Cardinal Walsh managed to gurgle "Amen" through the oxygen mask. After the countless times he had given the Last Rites, this time he was the one receiving it. His end was near. The physical world around him was slipping away.

    "You know this far better than I," the Chaplain said. "The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is one of the seven sacraments of the Church. A priest only acts in the person of Christ. Our Lord ultimately judges us at our death as only He can see our heart and soul objectively. Now is the time to confess those sins you swore you would take to the grave."

    He shook his head.

    The priest stared at him. Then with a burst of speed, he folded away his stole and went to his next assignment.

    That whelp was fishing, Cardinal Walsh thought. He thought the chaplain was arrogant. It was as if he expected some sudden revelation. Walsh knew that all his misdeeds had been confessed already, and there was nothing left to add. Besides, he still had his pride.

    Any chance to change his mind slipped away when his nurse pressed the "Morphine" button by his bed. Unconsciousness overcame him. The next thing he knew, he was racing through a square obsidian tunnel. Ahead was what looked like an inverted starfield, with a bright background and dark stars. The polished black walls of the tunnel reflected this light.

    Next, he found himself standing in a long line, still wearing his hospital gown. The world was bright. Everything was somehow more intense and vivid than anything he had ever seen. People of every appearance stood in queues that stretched from horizon to horizon. Behind him, an Asian woman shouted questions at him in a language he didn't recognize. The man in front of him talked to a little girl from Africa in Hindi.

    As he neared the head of the line, all he saw were people standing and directing traffic. A quick direction to go to the left or to the right. No pearly gates, no angels with wings and no sign of Saint Peter. Rather anticlimactic, he thought. They weren't even professionally dressed. The man in charge of his line wore white overalls and a T-shirt over a pronounced belly. He looked like he would be more at home fishing. A confused woman was talking with him in Russian. Walsh stepped past the people in front of him and went to the head of the line. "Excuse me. Am I in the right place?"

    The man studied the gold tablet in his hand and froze. His mouth slowly opened as his eyes grew wide and then narrowed. "Cardinal Thomas Walsh," he said with a pronounced Southern drawl.

    A woman in a simple white tunic and a cloak that covered her hair glanced at her tablet. She pushed the man in overalls aside and stepped over to Walsh, flashing a smile. "This way, Cardinal Walsh. My name is Maryam. It will be my pleasure to escort you to your eternal reward." She was short and dark, and her tiny hand tugged on his and led him away from the crowd. The man had to be Southern Baptist, and she looked like an Arab. God must let non-Catholics into heaven to perform menial tasks.

    "Thank you," he said, following, "I was getting concerned. There were some very unsavory looking people in that line." He was surprised one little servant was all the reception that a Prince of the Church got. He had expected a procession.

    "This is Central Receiving," Maryam said. "Everyone starts off here, no matter their station in life. Your works have earned you special treatment before God." She led him through an archway. On the other side was a series of small changing booths. Maryam stopped at one and pointed. "Change your clothes here."

    He stepped in, anxious to get out of the undignified hospital gown. Clothes far grander than anything he had ever imagined appeared before him. Every piece was incredible. Spun gold footed leggings and a diamond-studded gold cassock. Most exquisite of all was triple crown tiara of gold and diamonds. It made the Napoleon Tiara in St. Peter's Basilica look like costume jewelry. He put them on, and they fit perfectly. This was far more befitting his position.

    When he stepped out of the booth, Maryam pointed to a golden pedestal. "Stand here," she said. After inspecting him, she handed him a harp. "God has judged you worthy to join a distinct group. The power of your harp will testify that every judgment of God and the Lamb is just."

    The pedestal rose up and flew to a beautiful temple that shined like a pearl. He sailed through the grand doorway. The walls glowed with the silvery light of the moon. When he saw a glorious throne, he knew who would be sitting there. He was to become one of the 144,000 written about in the Book of Revelations. This was a proper honor for his position in life. What could be grander than proclaiming God's word by playing the sacred harp of High King Brian Boru? As he flew around this marvelous building, he recited from Chapter 14 of the Book of Revelations.

    "Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.

    "And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth.

    "It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found; they are blameless.

    If lung cancer had not unfairly taken his life at such a young age, he would have become the next Pope. Francis couldn't live forever, and Walsh had already begun securing the necessary alliance. The keys of the kingdom would have been his. He had earned this honor.

    The pedestal took him to an open spot. He wondered what was going to happen next. His right arm answered that question. It plucked a single note on his harp in unison with a sea of others. The roar was like cannon fire. The vibration rattled his entire body. He was assaulted by a sudden flash that was as bright and hot as an atomic bomb. His eyes were seared, and his skin was flayed off by the shockwave. The heat of the nuclear explosion made his golden garments glow red. His genitals burned in searing agony. If he were alive, the nerves in his body would be burned away. Here in Heaven, he felt the torment all over again.

    Wet with sweat and still in pain and shock, he found himself plucking the harp again. The sheer violence of the sound shook every bone he had. Foul-smelling pus ran out of his ears and onto his face. His teeth chattered. Retching and nausea overcame him, but there was no end to his dry heaves. Thirst soon consumed him, but he had no way to quench it.

    When he tried to throw the harp away, he found that it was welded to his arms. As hard as he struggled, he couldn't get rid of it. When he tried to leave, he found that the feet of his golden leggings were now part of the pedestal. They gripped him tightly. The pressure made the pain in his two plums turn from excruciating to beyond imagining. He tried to remove the triple crown, but it constricted about his head with unendurable force.

    Any one of these torments caused far more pain than anything cancer had done to him. These struck all at once and grew worse by the moment. Despite the agony, his hand kept plucking the harp in time with the sea of others. If he were alive, he would have passed out from the pain. Here, his suffering was without end.

    The Mother of God smiled as she watched her son's judgment of Cardinal Thomas Walsh on her tablet. After centuries of listening to the pleas of other mothers, there were sins for which she had no sympathy. She smiled and repeated a verse from the Gospel of Luke. "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble." Walsh knew right from wrong better than night from day. There would be no forgiveness for destroying the innocence and faith of children.

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    • I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure about the creepy sauce myself. I will abstain from saying yay or nay, and let someone else decide if it's ready or not.

      One grammatical issue I came across:

      "Stand here," she said. After inspected him, she handed him a harp.

      It should either say: After inspecting him, she handed him a harp.

      Or: After she inspected him, she handed him a harp.

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    • I really liked this.  I think it needs only a few tweaks and cleanups to make it really great.

      First, in terms of plotting, it was fairly predictable.  I knew what was coming, I just didn't know how.  I want to stress that I don't think this is a problem.  It becomes a fun kind of game this way.  We know he's headed for punishment, the only question is how and when the penny's going to drop.  That said, the punishment comes on very suddenly, ending the delicious suspense of the middle.  It might be a good idea to drag this out a bit more and build that sense of dread that creepypasta readers will be expecting.

      Also with regard to plotting, there are a couple of things that I think could be teased far sooner.  You hint in the earlier moments that there's some kind of unconfessed wrong that this Archbishop hasn't offloaded.  I don't think you have to tell us what it is outright at that moment, but a few more hints would make it more interesting and prepare us a bit more for the ending.  There are lots of vague, ambiguous things you can pull from there.  The second thing that needs to be clearer is who Mary actually is when we meet her.  I certainly got it because of my background, but it's understated enough here that another reader---many, in fact---might miss it.  Mary is huge in Catholicism, so it's unlikely a Catholic priest would arrive in Heaven, meet the Holy Mother, and not have some kind of an awestruck reaction.

      Now, in terms of execution, you seem to shift a lot between showing and telling, and I know you know that showing is more effective.  Here's one example that stuck out to me:

      "His teeth chattered, and his ears felt like they were exploding."

      Half of this sentence shows, and half of it tells.  Ideally, both should show.  Especially for a scene like that ending, you really want to make sure everything is rooted in the physical senses.  That will give it the most impact.

      There appear to be places where it looks like you've tried to include too much information in one sentence, resulting in a bit of awkwardness.  Here's one example:

      "A woman in a simple white tunic and a cloak that covered her hair glanced at her tablet and nodded."

      With this sentence, I suggest first establishing her presense with the nod in one sentence.  Then use a second to describe her.  Then, perhaps a third to introduce her tablet.  That will just decongest it and allow all of the information to sink in.

      I need to also bring up word choice.  I strongly suggest finding alternatives for "bits" and "manly bits."  These terms are inherently comical and out of keeping with the tone and voice of your story.  They break the reader's concentration and ruin the suspension of disbelief.

      Finally, there are some minor grammatical errors and typos.  For example, you shift back and forth between "Walsh" and "Walsch," but I know you're going to proofread this and catch all of these little things.

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    • I almost forgot.  The last paragraph should be cut entirely.  "There would be no forgiveness for such sins" is such a strong sentence to end your story with.

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    • Thank you both for your reviews. They were very helpful.

      Ready - no. It's not. I took it as far as I could, but I could feel that it will take a couple of more drafts to develop it sufficiently. I'm figuring it will be around the first of the month before this story is ready to post.

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    • DrBobSmith wrote:
      Thank you both for your reviews. They were very helpful.

      Ready - no. It's not. I took it as far as I could, but I could feel that it will take a couple of more drafts to develop it sufficiently. I'm figuring it will be around the first of the month before this story is ready to post.

      I think it's better than your response implies.  All it really needs is some tuning followed by a surface level edit of the mechanics.

      One thing I forgot to mention: I don't think it's necessary to include Rev. 14:4 - 5 as 1 - 3 are totally enough for your purposes.  I understand what you're going for here, but it doesn't quite add as much as it needs to in order for that to be effective.

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    • Jdeschene wrote: I think it's better than your response implies.  All it really needs is some tuning followed by a surface level edit of the mechanics.

      One thing I forgot to mention: I don't think it's necessary to include Rev. 14:4 - 5 as 1 - 3 are totally enough for your purposes.  I understand what you're going for here, but it doesn't quite add as much as it needs to in order for that to be effective.

      Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

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    • I didn't expect this one to be ready so soon. You keep surprising me Doctor. I like that!

      Interesting take on the afterlife, where it's a bit of all in one; where there a single God yet the system comes off as Polytheistic. "The Queen of Heaven" here felt a lot like Ashera, Hera and Ishtar. Heaven and Hell are not exactly divided. They are in fact one and the same. It's all a single plain of existence. They are the Sheol.  That's a nice take, definitely has some classic myth taste to it. Good job with the characterisation. 

      I'll say this, I like how the Archbishop isn't exactly marking out for his vision of heaven "Oh shit, this is how I anticipated it!" or is completely and utterly confused, "ugh... what's... ugh... going on...?" He knows he's somewhere in the afterlife, he was expecting this. He was truly a believer. Good, however, his mistrust for his situation is a little lacking, somehow, I think, you should add some sort of doubt or worry on his part. 

      Also, I think you should give "Mary" some of her more probable attributes. Have her be a first century Jew (who might be dressed in fancy clothes from the classic antiquity) named "Miriyam", or have her go by some nickname. I think it's kind of obvious who Mary is in the divine kingdom. 

      The punishment of Walsh is pretty original and neat, and fucking painful. Being made into a half living statue is a probably awful. Not to mention the burn injuries... Bloody hell. You could make it appear more colorfully painful, you're good with language and unique phrasing. 

      "Manly bits" should go, you can come up with something better, I mean "holy scepter" was a great way to descibe a describe.

      Maybe don't mention Walsh's need to atone for whatever at the beginning, it would make the sudden twist less obvious. It was clear, but your writing still made it fun to anticipate, I was interested to see what will happen to the lad more so than I was shocked to find out he was getting the shaft. 

      Also, I'd like to believe that "stealing the innocence from children" isn't as literal as it sounds. What if he was a corrupt communal "politician" who drove people into the dirt, or perhaps dabbled in trafficing people, or maybe took part in some terrorist organization that used children. You're better than to use vengeance or pedophilia as "the big bad" reasoning.

      This has a good base, but it could use some tweaking.

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    • Bloody Spaghetti,

      Thank you very much for the review. I have gotten some wonderful help and ideas on this one.

      Dr. Bob

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    • This isn't a big deal, but I generally don't imagine clergymen dying in hospitals.  I've sort of always evisioned them lying in tiny beds in modest rooms, tended by their fellow clergymen who sit around reading from the Bible and waiting.  It's probably not what happens to most of them, but I figured I'd throw that out there in case it inspired you.

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    • Jdeschene,

      This one would get the best care modern medicine could offer.

      What inspired me was reading about Cardinal Pell of Australia.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Pell

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    • Thank you to all who have given me help.

      Any additional reviews would be very much appreciated.

      Bloody Spaghetti, I have gone back and forth between Miriyam and Mary more times than I can remember. As "flute" is a very common Irish idiom for penis, I used it. I also considered "schlong" (sounded funny) and shillelagh (possibly too obscure).

      Jdeschene,

      There are a couple of words in Revelations 14: 4-5 that I thought had irony as Walsh could recite it but not live it. As for delaying the payback, I know the story is quite short but I haven't figured what is needed to drive the ideas forward that isn't there already.

      Dr. Bob

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    • It's very good.

      My reasoning for excluding the last part of the Bible quotation is that it goes on for two long and stops the action dead.  However, if you really wanted to include it---and I can definitely see the benefit that would have---I'd suggest breaking it up.  Say he recites the 1 - 3, and then stops to reflect on his worthiness, deciding that yes it must be because he's never dallied with a woman, or something.  Then he can go on to recite 4 - 5 and it will feel more meaningful while maintaining the flow.

      For your description of Mary, I like the prejudice-tinged direction you went, but I would leave out the word "big" before nose.  If you'll pardon the pun, it's a little too "on the nose" along with having the potential to distract from the point you want to make.

      Finally, in this story, and in your writing in general, I really wish you would leave euphemisms behind.  There's no need for a penis euphemism in this story, and simply saying "penis" or "penis and testicles" would be far less disruptive to the overall tone and voice of the story.  Those words are okay and there's no need for something more colorful here.  Euphemisms only a) draw more attention to the fact that there's a penis in the story somehow and b) make the reader laugh, thus ruining the tension.  And no, there is no euphemism you could use that would not have these effects.

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    • "On his two plums" works fine. Though, in lieu of the "like an arab", why not be cheeky about it and name her "Marie" as a girl might be named in the Francophone Christian community of Lebanon. 


      I am missing the part where his arm and head are killing him, give it a tad bit more description sauce. 

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    • Hi,

      Any good ideas for a title would be very much appreciated. I have a few.

      • The Keys of the Kingdom
      • Lyres and Liars
      • The 144,000
      • Harps in Heaven
      • For what shall it profit a man
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    • A New Song

      Harps

      Walsh's Reward

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    • A New Song could work. So could Harps.

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    • A FANDOM user
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