“Come on people, line up in single file! Lady, I said SINGLE FILE!”
I sighed and brushed past the flight attendant, her voice screaming through the megaphone.
“Single File! All aboard the Kanarli Airlines, heading to the Islands Of Paradise!”
I scoffed, thinking Why would I go to the Islands when Heaven is already paradise?
I was a ghost.
If all of y’all are thinking about YOUR vision of Heaven. . . just stop.
I’ll tell you what it’s really like.
Not everything was made of clouds, though a lot were. The clouds were a variety of pastel colours; pink, blue, yellow, and of course, white. The clouds were solid, like the bendy plastic that is in battery packaging.
Since we weren’t made of clouds and the ground was clouds, technically that would mean that we would fall through the sky, but thanks to the solidness of them, we're safe.
There were three parts to Heaven: The Fero, The Hylada and The Islands.
I don’t know why they called the first one ‘The Fero’ because that sounds like ‘farro’ when you speak it and that’s a type of grain.
I might be hungry.
The Fero was where all people of common status, like business people, students, teachers or grocery sellers would go after they die. Any person that didn’t live an extravagant life went to The Fero.
The Hylada was where all the wealthy people went after they passed on. People like the owners of tech companies, billionaires, people that owned 5 private jets . . . the list goes on.
And The Islands were very unnecessary, if I do say so myself.
They were islands, if you couldn’t tell by the name. They were more luxurious than The Hylada, which is . . . unimaginable.
Another thing why not many people go there is that you get brainwashed by all of the luxurious things in The Islands, but then you become immortal and technically DO live out your dream, but you’re isolated from everyone else in the world during that time.
Which, in theory, is forever.
“Last call for anyone travelling to The Islands!” the lady said again, while one person hurriedly sprinted into the plane while the door slid down behind him, shearing off the zipper of his backpack.
Three-quarters of the population goes to The Fero, one quarter goes to The Hylada, and then whoever thinks that they are superior to others decides to live in The Islands and live by themselves for the rest of eternity.
I lived in The Hylada, if you were curious about that.
Who are you?, you might’ve asked.
I’m William Shakespeare.
And before you go around shrieking “Art THOU so lovely? THEE is so!” just stop.
So, most of you people, aliens, animals and all others who might know me think of me as that poet in England with those giant collars, puffy pants and poetry with articles such as ‘Thee’, ‘Thou’ or ‘Art’.
Just remember that that was me 400 years ago.
The day I had entered Heaven, I was relieved for two reasons. One, I wasn’t in Hell, and that’s always good. Two, everyone already, or mostly, knew me so I didn’t have any issues convincing the salesmen to give me a free apple or two. Heaven looked much different 400 years ago than now, of course, and in that time I was able to meet many incredible people.
I got to meet Archimedes, the great Greek philosopher, who took me on a 50-year field trip to every museum in Heaven, most of which he had designed.
I also got to meet Cleopatra, the Egyptian Pharoah, who talked to me for about 10 years about how she served her country, her system of government, her golden cat and other whatnot.
My most recent meeting was with George Washington, the first president of the United States, who taught me how to start my own business and how to write a Constitution.
I used the business advice but not the Constitution ones because I don’t plan on sitting down and writing a long list of boring rules anytime soon.
Before you ask me what business I started, I started- hmm, well, I’ll save that story for another time.
“All aboard the Kanarli Airlines, heading to The Hylada!” a man dressed in navy blue shouted through another megaphone.
This line was much longer, people who went on vacation or had left their homes to help the lower status’ lined up in front of the plane.
“What’cha think of that Mary? Where did all your customers go?” the man said with a smirk, aiming his question to the woman in front of The Islands plane.
Mary just shot him a scowl.
I joined the end of the line, peering at the person in front of me. They were a bit tall, had grey hair and a beard that ended ten centimetres below their chin. They wore a dark grey shirt that was topped off with a curled collar, the texture looking like felt.
He turned around and met my eyes with a mean glare plastered on his face.
I knew I had seen him before.
“Sorry if I’m wrong, but are you-”
“I’m Galileo,” He said. “Galileo Galilei. You?”
Galileo nodded and his glare dissipated into a friendly smile. “How are you doing? We never really got to meet, we were alive during the same era, weren’t we?”
I nodded. “I’m doing well! You? Yes, mid-1500s, wasn’t it?”
“I’m doing very well! What year were you born?”
“Why, we were born in the same year! How coincidental,” Galileo exclaimed with glee. “We were on the opposite sides of Europe though. A real bummer.”
“Yes, I agree,” I said.
“Would you like to visit my mansion on this fine day? I only dreamed of meeting the great William Shakespeare since I was a wee 90 years old.”
I blushed at the compliment and responded, “Of course!”
Galileo beamed and I followed him into the plane. On the outside, it looked like one of those planes the mortals now flew.
What did the British people call them?
Aeroplanes, wasn’t it?
The inside was much, much, much better than the aeroplanes mortals flew.
In all aspects.
The seats were cushioned with furry lining, for comfort. There was a small vending machine for preferred drinks and food, in which you could also input your allergies if you had one. There were also barriers between each seat that were made of glass-looking material so none of the germaphobes would freak out. Whoever talked to you, their voice would be magnified to you, and to all others there would be no disturbances whatsoever.
Galileo sat down in the seat across from me and pressed a few buttons on the vending machine, ordering himself some green tea with some milk, a roast chicken with rosemary garnish plus a medieval chocolate mousse for dessert.
I ordered English Breakfast tea, of course, some eggs and toast, complete with a vanilla ice cream on the side.
“So, William! Are you writing any new poems?” Galileo asked excitedly.
That was the problem being a famous playwright, everyone thought you were writing plays or some new revolutionary poem all day.
“No, but I’ve recently learned how to cook butter chicken!” I said just as excitedly.
“Butter chicken? What era was that created in?”
“Quite recent actually. It’s from the place called. . . Indi? No, India! Yes, it’s from the Indian cuisine.”
“Hmm,” Galileo said, stroking his grey beard. “Does it have lots of butter, like the name implies?”
“No, it has a lot of curry powder though! Curry powder is one of my favourites,” I said, salivating at the thought.
“Interesting! Well, I just discovered-”
A steaming plate with roast chicken appeared from the bottom of the vending machine, a cup of tea perched on the edge of the plate and the mousse on the opposite side. The plate popped out right on top of Galileo’s lap, surprising him and causing a sprig of rosemary to fall to the ground.
“Well, I’ll tell you about that later. It’s time to-”
My plate popped out, the toast having not a single trace of burnt bits.
“Dig in!” Galileo said.
“Bon Appétit!” I exclaimed.
“What does that mean?”
I sighed. “Never mind.”
“We have arrived! All passengers step off the plane, please! We hope you had an exhilarating experience with Kanarli Airlines!” the flight attendant’s voice said, flooding the plane with her enthusiastic voice.
“William, follow me!” Galileo exclaimed, gesturing towards me to follow him.
I ran down the steps behind Galileo and took in the view of the newly renovated Hylada.
It was Paradise.
With a capital ‘P’.
The sky was in the middle of a beautiful sunset with rose pink fading to violet, and then to yellow. Modern glass mansions rose up into the sky, the colours refracting and creating a kaleidoscope of hues. A big marble fountain in the middle of it all spewed water as clear as the buildings from the mast of a pirate ship statue, symbolizing courage and bravery. The ground was also glass but was a bit blurred, as if you blew steam onto a pair of eyeglasses. It was made of glass so you could observe what was going on in the mortal world, but not completely clear so you would know that you’re not stepping through the air.
“William, look at this!” Galileo said, pointing down towards a scene where a needle was getting inserted into a person’s arm. “Do you know what that is?”
“Hmm . . . I think Archimedes told me about it,” I said, scraping my brain for the word. “I think it begins with a ‘v’.”
“Isn’t it for the protection against diseases of something like that?” he asked.
A lightbulb flicked on in my brain.
“I think I’m on the right track . . . vaxs? Vacks?” I said, still a bit unsure.
“Vaxs sounds about as right as a cup of green tea,” said Galileo.
“No, it’s called a vaccine!” I said in triumph.
“Or that, That also sounds right,” Galileo said. “Wait, does that mean there’s another virus going around?”
“It’s been around for a year or so,” I responded. “Something along the lines of ‘Covae’.”
Galileo swatted his hand in the air, sighed and said, “Doesn’t matter too much, what the name of this virus is, does it? I would like to tell you about that discovery I mentioned earlier. Oil paint! It’s so creamy and I absolutely adore the smell of walnut oil! Even the turpentines aroma reminds me of my ol’ Grammy’s soup . . .”
A bright light was growing right before my eyes, as bright as my father’s new undergarments.
“ . . . oh how I miss Grammy! I should tell her to try to make butter chicken! She’s been stuck with her soup recipe for 500 years, surely she’ll want a new one! Do you have a . . .”
The light grew brighter and brighter, blinding and deafening me until Galileo’s voice was far away as the distance between his teeth.
“William? Are you okay? You look a bit faint. Ohhhh. I should talk about Grammy’s soup some more, yes? You’re probably getting so hungry . . .”
Galileo’s voice disappeared completely as a cool breeze whisked me away into the light.
Someone pushed me out of the light into a blank black room where I stood on a white circle. A stern-looking man from the maybe-1300s stood in front of me with a slim tablet in his hands.
I was in the carnation studio, and not the flower.
Carnation as in reincarnation.
Most ghosts try not to be reincarnated for as long as they can, because who would want to leave the paradise of Haven and go back to the mortal world?
The other thing is that you don’t get to choose when you leave.
‘They’ referred to whoever you respected to most. If you were Christian, maybe it would be God. If you loved dogs, maybe it would be a dog. The thing you respect the most would your ‘They’.
Mine was my play director.
All went blurry when he appeared right above the man’s head. His arched eyebrows and twirly mustache looked the exact same as it had 400 years ago, his red and gold embellished outfit intact. His bald head oddly shone in the non-existent light, his eyes glinting with the usual suspicion that I had sabotaged something.
“William, it’s for you to leave now,” he said, his voice sounding like my internal one.
“Why? I’m so happy here!” I protested.
“Everyone has to go back out there, and you know that. Managing to stay here for 400 years is quite remarkable. Rosa Parks was alive less than a century ago and she’s already been reincarnated 3 times.”
“You know you’ve been putting this off, William. It’s time for your turn and just remember, you’ll be back in 70 to 100 years. No need to rush.”
And with that, he disappeared.
I sighed and glanced back at the man.
“You ready?” he asked.
I solemnly nodded.
“So, most things are gonna be random, but you can pick your gender, where you’re born and your skin colour, First things first, boy or girl?”
I already lived as a boy for 52 years anyway, so why not see the other side of things?
“Girl,” I said.
He scribbled on his clipboard. “Next, what country?”
Everyone in England had been obsessed with the New World, so why go there? George Washington was such a friendly guy, so it should be a jolly great time.
He scribbled some more. “Skin tone?”
I didn’t have to think about this one.
“Olive,” I said quickly.
Olives tasted quite good.
“Okay,” said the man, “ready?”
“For what? How do I get ready?”
“You have 10 seconds. Curl up into a ball on the floor.”
I gave him a puzzled look.
“Just do it, you have 5 seconds left!”
I curled up into a ball on the white platform and suddenly heard the vague sound of voices.
“See ya William!” the man called.
I squeezed my eyes as hard as I could until I felt cold air surround me along with the voices.
I opened my eyes cautiously and met many pairs of eyes boring into me. People dressed in big blue scrubs and masks peered at my face, while a man just sat there, smiling. Two hands grabbed me from behind and turned me around, meeting a woman’s face who was filled with delight.
“What should we name her?”
I sighed, curled up into a tighter ball and thought:
Pray to Galileo that he tells his Grammy about butter chicken.
If he forgets I will come up into heaven and-
“What about Mary?”
I remembered the lady shouting in front of the plane heading to The Islands.