You wake up in the year 2006. No big deal, except that you’re from the year 1643.
I believe that I am dead.
I remember dying not. A man of good fortune like myself, I was neither ill nor in danger when I last slept. Yet how else? How else would I have found myself in such a heaven?
I awoke and I was in a city of metal and stone. I beheld roads smoother than gravel, and crowds of edifice after edifice, taller than the tallest spire I have seen in all of my two-and-twenty years. Like I, thou wouldst believe it to be a dream at first, no? But it was too, too real, as the air smelled of faint carbon and not manure, and the water I found in metal founts was the clearest that had ever graced my mouth.
As I strode through this marvel world, the day grew noisy with life. Great horseless carriages sped through the road faster than any beast. They screeched at me, and their chauffeurs yelled that I must keep to the sides of the road. I heeded their advice, for I wished not be flattened by the machines, and kept on discovering this new and heavenly land.
I saw women dressed as prostitutes and soldiers walking the street, my efforts at discretion futile upon the sight of their breasts and legs and hair. They seemed as goddesses from the most beautiful works of man. Their hair shone and flowed upon the wind unnaturally, their hips swung with the bounce of a song I must soon bind into my heart, and their eyes filled with mirth upon meeting me. I know not what they saw, possibly my fallen jaw or my eyes grown, but it amused them so.
They walked on, and I regained my faculties. What world was this? What world where women wore trousers and such tight clothing that it must be tailored by the finest of hands. With no business East, West, North or South now that I knew I must be dead, I kept my way to the tall edifices of glass and steel. They were taller still than I believed, and kept my eyes when I came so close as to know their true nature. So great a monument that they could tear through clouds.
A woman, one dressed in the normal way, with a loose gown and her hair covered for modesty, came to me with concern.
“Sir, are you alright? Do you need help?”
Sir? I chuckled.
“Maiden, I need nothing! I could feast my eyes with these great creations for years and never grow tired.”
“Um… Okay. Um… Are you…” Her brow furrowed at me. Perhaps she had been in this heaven so long she had forgotten the mind of one newly born into it.
“I am to my edge with joy!” I exclaimed. “The air, the great racing machines that nearly fly upon the road, and these, these built things so tall as to tear open the heavens and make them their own!”
I must have been the very picture of madness, for she began to hurry away, but that mattered not. I stood and viewed these beautiful things until my innards decided for me to explore this afterlife’s food and drink.
I found that I had no coin to spend on either, and my spirits fell. What foul lie was this? To place me in such a world and not a way to enjoy its wonders? Was I to starve and die twice? But this world of wonder was true to what it had promised with its beauty. I found a moor offering food and drink on the street.
“Yo, mister! Wanna try some free samples? We got these cheeses, we got this awesome new layered ham thing. If you want it, Jake’s Catering has it!”
“What is this unnatural yellow thing?” I asked, my mouth growing wetter as the seconds passed.
“Um. That’s the cheese. Are you–”
“O’course, o’course, here,” he handed me a small, pre-cut bite of the thing, and his eyes lit up on seeing my delight. “Look man, I don’t care if it’s ’cause you haven’t eaten in days, but business is slow, so if you could stand right here as you foodgasm, so that everyone knows how good our food is…”
He led me steps around his table, so that my face met those of others on the street, but I cared not in the least. I was to beg for another when I found he had filled a small plate with a half-dozen of those heavenly mouthfuls. I was near tears as I finished, and took the moor in an embrace, caring not for how unclean he may be. No devil from the South could be as evil as I had been told if they shared such delights with a stranger.
“Whoa! Dude dude personal space what are you–nevermind, somebody’s takin’ a picture, good for business, rock on, man.”
He embraced me as well, and offered atop the meal a wondrous bottle of a new kind of glass. Soft to the touch and easy to deform, this clear thing contained a most thirst-quenching drink than any I ever did taste. He claimed that “the good publicity” was “worth one of my gay tirades”, or at least that is what I understood.
The bottle had “gatorade” written upon it, so that may be what he spoke, but I did never hear of such a thing in my living years. Perhaps ambrosia had more names than one.
It was then, as I drank this heavenly nectar, that the man’s pocket chimed like a dozen bells. Startled, I jumped back, sadly spilling a few drops of the “gatorade” upon the ground. The moor’s eyes shifted from me to his pocket, and he bid me sit down. I obeyed, if only for my wish to know more of how he could hide so many bells within his pocket. As I sat and watched his movements like an eager child, his face grew wary.
“Dude, it’s just my notifications, chill,” he puzzled me with the words. I tried to decypher them, but as I did, and sipped some more of that “gatorade”, he brought forth a small tablet of glass and steel. The handles were missing, and it was indeed far, far too small to write any real message in, but then he pressed a small circle and light emanated from it. I leaned in and he looked at me with apprehension, but I could not hold back my curiosity. What was this? Whence came the light? There was no fire. The object was shiny but not a mirror upon the heavens. And even if it were, the day was not bright enough for it to shine so.
“Hey, it’s just my phone, man. Geez…” He pulled it a small distance away and I looked upon the lights as they changed, and I realized they were letters and symbols. Had I any doubt that I was dead, this erased it completely. Only in heaven could one find such whimsy, such magical writing, used without ritual or reverence.
“The guy who took the picture tweeted it. ‘@JakesCatering feeds homeless man’… that’s… wow. Buddy, are you homeless or hipster?”
“I thought you were a hipster going to like, the Renaissance fair or something but now I’m wondering.”
“I do not know of this fair…” I said, “or this Hipst place.”
“Hipst isn’t–wow. Holy shit are you insane? Are you a crazy homeless guy?”
“My friend, thou insult me. I am very healthy. As healthy as a dead man can be, in any case.”
His eyes bore into mine with a brew worry and confusion and fear beneath them. I knew not why, after all he had died once too, had he not? How else would he have come into this heaven?
“If I have done something to alarm thou, my good man, I shall do everything I can to–”
“Oh no. Oh shit.” The moor, said, rubbing his temples. I knew not what to say, and thankfully had no reason to, for a moment later an older moor, looking fat and jolly, bounced out of the door beside the table with a smile upon his lips.
“Trevon, is this for real?”
“Dad, look, we can’t–”
“I’m so proud of you!” The elder moor brought the younger, clearly his son, into an embrace so tight he nearly lifted him from the ground. “You’re getting involved in the community! Giving back! Remember that’s how good things happen in the world. You know what, let’s help him out more. Sir, you can sleep on my couch until you get back on your feet. In fact, do you have any experience being a waiter?”
I glanced upon the two men, turning my head to each one after the other, and my confusion must have passed for something else, for the elder moor did not wait for my answer. “You must be tired! Come on! I’ll get the blankets and you can have a nap.”
I knew not whether to object or obey, but the opportunity left as soon as it came, for the elder simply grabbed me by the arm like he would his own child and led me into his establishment. The staircase steps were long, and his couch was a machine that opened to reveal a bed hidden within. I knelt down beside it and stared at the pieces. How careful had a smith to be to create such a thing?
“There might be a bug or two in there, but… mi casa su casa, my man. I know what it’s like to have nowhere to go. You stay here long as you need, y’hear?”
“What is this?”
“It’s just a sofa bed, not much but…”
“The pieces are so small, this must have cost you a fortune!” I said, admiring the craftsmanship “you would lend me use of this just so?”. He gave me the same eyes of worry and suspicion his son had, but something within him struggled against it.
“…Of course. Yeah. Yeah, all yours. Come on, let me get you a blanket and some pillows, you can have a nap, and maybe you can be a waiter. We haven’t had much luck hiring anyone, and if you’ll work for room and board till we get the money rolling…” he spoke as he walked towards a closet, and pulled out the bedding.
“Of course, I… I cannot begin to think of how to repay your kindness, I…”
“No need!” He dropped the bedding onto the couch-machine. “Have a rest. I’m sure you’ll be… more normal once you’ve had a bit of shut-eye, ‘kay?”
I did not understand, but nodded regardless.
That night, I dreamed a dream that I was home, that my experience in this heaven was a dream itself. It was a swirl of days and lives and loves, as I remembered all I left behind upon my death. The baker’s daughter, who I’d fancied for three months, came to my house and spoke to me. My brother fought my mother once again over the mantlepiece. The priest told me to heed his words carefully, and then he spoke as though underwater and I knew nothing that he said.
My dream went left and right and up and down. My dog complained about my manners, as did an urchin that I paid to bring me bread every morn. It felt as though my mind had gone, and I could not tell you if I was asleep for short or long.
I can tell you, though, that I awoke in time to see the sun rise over the horizon, the sky changjng with its presence while the ground remained in shadow, hidden beneath the massive glass and steel sky-scraping towers. I watched the dawn bathe this heaven of steel and glass, and pondered what I was to do in this new world.