Thursday, July 22, 2010

Edge Explains the Afterlife

Welcome to the afterlife, where men are men and the angels are fallen...

My newest book, Edge of Heaven released on Tuesday. It's an irreverent look at life...well, after life. And it features two hot guys, stuck in limbo, trying to find a little heaven.

Edge of Heaven can be purchased through Loose Id at:

Here's the blurb:

It was a reckless act of passion that ended Edge’s life and left his soul in limbo—literally. Now, he’s stuck here. While most of the other angels-in-training move quickly up the celestial ladder, Edge knows it can never be that simple for him. He’s dealing with issues that are a lot more complicated than a simple lack of closure.  
While Edge doesn’t know for sure what it will take to get him into heaven, there is one thing he’s certain won’t help—his latest assignment guiding angel-baby Matteo Matinucci while the newbie find his wings.
But twenty-something Mattie—sexy, beautiful, recently departed and openly gay—could turn out to be the answer to all of Edge’s prayers, as well as the fulfillment of all his fantasies, even the hot, sweaty, secret ones he’s never confided to anyone.   
Instead of a traditional excerpt, I thought I'd let Edge explain some facets of life in the afterlife...

How do I describe this place in a way you’ll understand? Being in limbo… Well, it’s a lot like being booked for an indefinite stay at a very exclusive executive retreat. Sure, it’s posh, it’s peaceful, it’s pleasant. It’s just about anything you want it to be, within limits. But there’s a reason why heaven’s called heaven and limbo…is not.
It’s all just a little too bland here, a little too remote. There’s this sense of being isolated, of being out of touch that you never quite get used to. Just like you can never completely lose the feeling that you’ve been cut off from something pretty damn important. Even if you’re not quite certain what that something is.
It might take you a while to notice that last part, though. If you’re a new arrival in limbo, I can guarantee you the first thought in your mind is not gonna be, How can I keep busy? Stay long enough, however, and that’ll change. Time doesn’t exactly pass here in what I like to call never-never land -- it just is. But all the same, with nothing but your own sorry thoughts to occupy your mind, eternity has a way of weighing on your spirits after a while. To say nothing of the way all that peacefulness gets to wearing on your nerves.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of tasks we angels are called upon to perform -- from the very simple, such as finding lost keys or arranging for an open parking space, to the more profound. Keeping vigil in hospitals and at deathbeds. Riding shotgun in emergency vehicles. Providing comfort for the grieving and protection for those in danger.
While we’re generally happy to be of service in any way we can, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some jobs we prefer more than others and some assignments we’d just as soon they give someone else. Pulling the kind of duty I’m stuck with now, just one step removed from babysitting and a big, fat goose egg on the adrenaline-pumping scale -- it irks. I can’t help thinking my talents could be better utilized doing something else, and not to put too fine a point on it or anything, it’s a bit of a time waster. I can’t see how holding the hand of yet another fledgling angel is ever gonna help me move ahead.
Not that there’s anything ordinary about this particular fledgling. He’s like a shiny new penny in a pocketful of change. Bright. Untarnished. Makes me wonder how he ended up in limbo at all.
Angels tend to be pretty easy on the eyes in general, one of the perks, I guess, but even so, this is one good-looking kid. Broad shoulders -- even I can’t help but notice those. He’s slim and fit and decently muscled. He’s got dark blond hair, sun streaked, maybe a little too long, and gold-hued skin with just a dusting of hair along his forearms and on his legs.
Even if the way he’s dressed -- in shorts and a loose tank top, like maybe he just got done playing beach volleyball when he died -- wasn’t a tip-off, I still would’ve known from his skin color alone that he must have spent a good part of his time on Earth outdoors. That healthy a glow was never a gift from the tanning-bed gods.
While we’re on the subject of appearances, let me say something about clothes. We’re angels, all right? We’re not ghosts. We’re not stuck in the same clothes we were wearing when we died. We put on our pants one leg at a time just like anybody else.
When we’re on assignment back on Earth, we dress to fit in. When we’re here, we dress however we like. Usually, that means wearing the kind of clothes we felt most comfortable wearing in life. In my case that’d be jeans, a T-shirt, leather jacket, and a pair of boots -- nicely broken in. But we get all types here, and like I said, no one ever thinks too much about it.
Angels don’t age. Have I mentioned that already?
For the most part, we all look pretty much like we did when we were alive, maybe a little bit better, with any design flaws corrected, any damage repaired. The usual default age for angels is twenty-nine. If you died at fifty, you’ll look twenty-nine here. If you died at ninety, you’ll still look twenty-nine. If you see one of us looking much younger that that, we’re likely here as the result of some kind of tragedy -- accident, misadventure, malfeasance, stupidity.

I can learn everything I need to know in the Hall of Records.
Okay, quit laughing.
Yes, it exists, and yes, that’s its name. There’s a reason clichés become clichés, all right? It’s a place, vaguely hall-like, where the records are kept. What else you gonna call it?
You can find pretty much anything you need to know there, about anyone, alive or dead. But “need to know,” that’s one of the primo criteria for entry. A burning desire for truth and justice will also get you in the door. Idle curiosity won’t.

I have to admit it is an impressive sight -- especially at first glance -- with its vaulted ceiling, its terrazzo floor, the gleaming alabaster shelves, and heavy leather-bound tomes. The atmosphere is hushed, solemn -- a cross between a cathedral, a mausoleum, and that first breathless pause right after a ball is hit so sweetly you just know it’s going to be a home run.
 “Time doesn’t really exist,” I say, cleverly sidestepping the question. “And good and bad -- those are also illusions.”
“I see.” Matt’s brow crinkles up. He looks around curiously. “So what is this place, anyway, Hindu hell?”
“What? Hell? No, it’s not hell, and…why Hindu?”
“Okay, Buddhist maybe. Same basic philosophy, isn’t it? Nothing you see is real. It’s all illusion, and everything’s the same: good and bad, pleasure and pain, action and inaction, blue and green.”
I blink at that last part. Now he’s got my attention. He’s nuts, but he’s got my attention. “Uh…blue and green?”
A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “Well, yeah, you know, cause that’s how the world looks, right? From a distance?”
I don’t want to do it, but I can’t help laughing. “Cute, pal. But I’m pretty sure the Divine Miss M’s no Buddhist.”

Let me explain one of the more interesting aspects of existence here. Space in never-never land tends to follow the same laws that govern time. In other words, it doesn’t really exist either. Everything you need is generally right where you need it, which is usually right where you are too. Makes things pretty interesting, upon occasion, particularly when the thing in question is not an it but a who. But that’s beside the point.
The process of getting where you want to go is not quite as automatic as gravity. It requires a certain amount of involvement on your part, but as is the case with many other critical skills -- riding a bike, learning to swim, walking through walls -- it’s not so easy to explain. It’s effortless once you know how to do it, impossible until you do. It’s less click your heels together and wish, more leap and the net will appear.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you there aren’t ghosts. They’re the real lost souls, the ones who never properly recover from the shock of their deaths. They don’t know who or what -- or even where -- they are. They have no hope. That’s the major difference between us and them. No matter how close to impossible our situation may appear to be, everyone here in limbo knows there’s at least a chance we can someday move on. At least, we believe that’s the way things work. How could it not? What kind of benevolent deity would tempt us with the possibility of a heaven that exists forever out of reach?

There’s an ambulance speeding through the streets of Los Angeles. I’m in the back, offering comfort to the worried young mother. She can’t see me, which is the case more often than not. People only see us when we need them to -- which is a lot less often than you might think. You’d be surprised at how much we can accomplish without ever making our presence known.
The reason for our reticence is simple. It’s the message that’s important -- not the messenger. I didn’t always understand that as well as I do now. In the past, I’d have been more focused on me. On what I was going to do next. On how I was going to handle things.
Tonight I realize it’s all about them: the pale redhead with the worried blue eyes and her daughter. The little girl has suffered a seizure brought on by a high fever. She’s unconscious now. Her eyes are closed, and her golden lashes lie too still atop her rosy cheeks. I lay a cool, healing hand on her brow to ease her discomfort. I clasp her mother’s hand and whisper silently, “It will be okay.”
It will always be okay, no matter what. That’s something else I’m finally realizing. Everything -- even this -- is part of some perfect divine plan. We just don’t always see it for what it is.
And yes, I said we. It’s like I keep trying to tell you -- none of us is perfect. None of us knows everything. We’re all just muddling along, doing the best we can.
As soon as we arrive at the hospital in Santa Monica, the little girl is whisked away. Her mother is occupied for a time with filling out forms and answering questions, but then she’s left alone -- with a clipboard and a new set of forms. That’s when the fear really hits her. That’s when I decide to take physical shape. She just needs someone to talk to -- a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on. She just needs to know she’s not alone. It’s the same thing we all need, really.

This place -- limbo -- it means borderland. The ancients believed it existed on the outskirts of hell. Personally, I always thought they’d got that wrong. I figured it for the edge of heaven instead. Right now I’m kind of rethinking my stand on the subject.
The never-never land might not actually be heaven, but it sure isn’t the other place either. But if I have to spend an eternity staring into Mattie’s trusting brown eyes, knowing all the while that I’ve betrayed him and don’t deserve his trust…I guess I might just as well be in hell after all.

Mattie’s eyes light up when he sees me. “You’re back.”
He’s still in our room, right where I left him, making me wonder again about the passage of time here. To me, it feels like I’ve been gone for most of a day, maybe longer. Did it seem that long to him too? And has he been lying here, sprawled naked across the bed -- waiting for me -- all the while? Or does it seem to him that only minutes have passed?
I hope it’s the latter, and I hope that when he’s gone and I’m all alone, I’ll still be able to find my way here if I want to and that the days will feel like minutes and the years will feel like days.
Not that it will matter, I suppose. Because they’ll all add up eventually -- empty and endless -- and the weight will surely crush me.

“I fibbed a little,” I tell him. “When I was talking to them. I let them think you were already up in heaven watching over them all. So unless you want to make a liar out of me, you pretty much have to go now, don’t you?”
“Is that true?” His eyes light up. I think I’ve finally piqued his interest. “I mean what you just said. Could I really do that? I mean if I were in heaven, could I watch over people and see what they’re up to…stuff like that?”
I shrug. “Well, I haven’t been, so I can’t really say for certain, but it’s what I’ve always heard.” The top-echelon angels who pass through here now and then have always implied as much -- the thrones and dominions and whatnot. Of course, that could just apply to them for all I know, and they’re as different from us as the proverbial chalk and cheese.

I avert my eyes as I speak, because I know what happens next -- what always happens when one of us ascends. They glow with an unbearable brightness, so filled with light it hurts to look at them. By the time the light fades and you can see again…they’re gone, leaving nothing behind but a faint scent of roses. I have a strong suspicion I’m going to hate that particular fragrance from now on.
I need to take another deep breath and steel myself before continuing. I’m pleased that my voice remains steady as I say, “It’s been an honor knowing you, Matteo Matinucci, but it’s time for you to move on now, angel. It’s time for you to go home.”


Meg Benjamin said...

Wow, PG, what an imagination you have! This must have been lots of fun to write.

Kelly Jamieson said...

I think that is some truly beautiful writing. Bought my copy yesterday!

PG Forte said...

Aww, thanks Kelly. *blush* And I hope you enjoy the finished product.

Meg--it really was fun. Edge's voice had me cracking up pretty much the entire time.

Kinsey Holley said...

This is at the top of my TBR pile (which is getting seriously out of hand, BTW).