THE HOLYDECK

’Let me see,’ he says and scans his text,
picks up his feather pen, then ticks a box.
A feather pen! Whatever next? I stare,
wonder where such objects may be bought.
He reads my thought. ‘From my wings of course.
God’s gift - an inexhaustible resource.’

He checks my name, postcode and date of birth.
My many years on earth, he says, will mean
I’ve had much time to set my record straight,
repent my sins, abate my fate as I
await at Heaven’s gate. The feather flies.
Tick. Tick. Arithmetic. He sighs:

‘Another one. I know you all too well.
Unfit for Heaven, unripe for Hell. Lukewarm!
Read Revelation three sixteen. I’ve seen
you cluster here like copulating flies
Limbo? No. You’ve been baptised. So what
we do is this: In space we’ll simulate
the place you choose - we’ll use your very
own epitome of ecstasy
which seems to occupy your life and dreams.’

Hooray, I thought. I’ve never sought to spend
unending life with the elect. I’ll
select my heart’s desire. some Shangri-la,
far Isle of Innisfree. My girl and me
(sorry, ‘I’) will live there happily
make love nine times a day - then try for ten.

‘Stop right there,’ the angel said, ‘Your girl
has other fish to fry. Why should she
choose to be with you? Here she’s held
in high regard by Soren Kirkegaard.
Is quite at ease when quizzed by Socrates.
What right have you to blight her second life?’

‘Don’t look so glum,’ the angel said. ‘You led
a selfish life on earth. For what it's worth
 you’ll have her still, will feel she’s real. She’ll
squeal when tickled, be your dream, never
scream or throw the crockery about;
be your little lamb. A... hologram.’

‘Be damned to that!’ I began to yell.
‘I’d rather spend eternity in hell
than dwell with such a weedy wimp as this.
I’d miss her wit and bloody-mindedness,
my forgiving kiss, her wild caress.’
‘So now,’ I said, ‘what hope is left for me?’
‘Me, me, me,’ he echoed mockingly.
‘Eventually your spell inside this
hi-tech device will germinate
 its own precise command to terminate.’

‘And what then?’ I cried. The angel pursed
his lips, slowly preened his wings and sighed:
‘We’ll assess what progress you have made
and then, maybe..’ I cut him short. ‘Tell me
the use-by date? ‘ I said. ‘How long before
I qualify to meet my girl again...
enough to mollify the Powers That Be?’

The angel used one wing to scratch his head.
‘I read theology,’ he said, ‘and often
wish I’d done technology instead.
Here’s an uneducated guess:
Say five hundred years... more or less.’

‘Unjust!’ I gasped. He clasped his record book.
‘Look at it,’ he said, ‘An eye-blink in
eternity to get you off the hook.
Accept your choice and do your porridge.
End of story? No! A bridge to glory!
Rejoice! At last you’ll hear her voice again.’

’You must be a simple chap,’ I sneered
‘Don’t make me laugh. I disappear
for half a thousand years, anticipate
a ‘welcome home’ from her at Heaven’s Gate?’
In a pig’s ear! "Where the hell
have you been all these years?’ she’ll yell.’

The angel smiled. ‘Keep it simple. Tell the truth and offer proof. You’ll say:
"I’m afraid I’ve been delayed inside a sort
of Star Trek Holodeck. Check my story.
You’ll find I’ve been confined in Purgatory."'