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A few thoughts are racing through Claire's mind as she stares at two doors, one to harmony and one to yearning. It's a bit cliche, really, Claire thinks. The harmony door has that predictable bright light shining through the cracks of the door. Claire hears some gospel choir from behind the door, and she rolls her eyes so hard she can see her brain. "Jesus chirst," Claire whispers. Immediately the door opens to a thirty-something-year-old man with low-cut hair and a trim beard. He's wearing what Claire would call an eggshell top sheet and cheesy sandals that are now ironically popular in the United States. 

"Yes?" the man answers. He's smiling all too happily. 

"No, no, go back inside I didn't mean you," Claire states sternly. The man we can apparently refer to as Jesus frowns and slowly closes the door as if he's expecting Claire to change her mind. She does not. 

Before the door completely closes, Claire sees waves from a crystal clear ocean up ahead and a beautiful meadow with bright yellow sunflowers on the right. The field is overlooked by a colorful green mountain filled with deer. It's so beautiful yet so profoundly obnoxious. It reminds Claire of those corporate commercials showing employees happily packing boxes or maintaining the machines. Of course, they don't show the accidents where a finger or two is fed into a machine or the workers who pass out from exhaustion because they're forced to run across the warehouse for nine hours. 

But Claire knows there's a different kind of exhaustion in paradise- never-ending virtue. Harmony has no negative qualities; that's what it's known for. There are no bad days or bad weather or bad people, or bad thoughts. There are no secrets in harmony because there is no reason to have them. You are an open book so long as the book has only good things to say. All of the other pages get washed away. If you don't think much about it, it's a lovely place to be. When you're here, your natural reaction is to smile and appreciate. If you don't think, you thrive. Ignore the lack of books and ideas and things, and you'll be just fine. In harmony, you will never yearn for more. At least that's the idea.

As Jesus closes the door, Claire begins to think. Is that all she has to look forward to for eternity? Meadows and water? She already lives near a lake downstairs. Granted, it's less water and more sewage, but it still counts! 

"Ma'am, we need to wrap this up," the voice behind her says with annoyance. She turns around to Charolette, who has her arms crossed and her right foot tapping impatiently on the floor. " 

"Okay, just one more minute," Claire tells the- what is she, the employee? Of what, life? 

"Ma'am, this isn't an Old Navy at closing time; you need to choose and get out," Charlotte's voice becomes angry. 

"Funny," Claire says, "because that sounds exactly like an Old Navy at closing time." 

It's fair to say Charlotte was not in love with that response. The conclusion comes to us when Charlotte saunters up to Claire, get's an inch away from her face, and says, "you either choose a door now, or I throw you down one."

"Go to hell," Claire grunts. 

As Charlotte grabs Claire's shirt, a blast of smoke swarms around the two. The ground starts to shake as the door to hell begins to open. It's warm, Claire observes, but not like what she'd thought. It's less of an 'I'm going to burn' heat and more of a 'there are too many damn people on this dance floor' heat. The ground continues to shake as the door opens, and soon the smoke grows more intrusive. A sound grows increasingly louder, something Claire recognizes but can't put her finger on. It's not a pleasant sound, but she instantly tastes cranberry and vodka in her mouth. Then it hits her. 

"Oh god, no." "No, no, not The Chainsmokers." The smoke begins to clear, and Claire sees the speakers bouncing up and down as it plays "Closer" for the fifth time in a row. 

More smoke clears, and Claire begins to cough. It brings Claire back to her college years, and this is when she figures out that this smoke is from weed. She smiles for the first time in a while. 

There's a figure in the doorway, and a man appears. He's about six feet, wearing a muscle t-shirt and a backward hat, shorts that are too short, and the signature shoe for tools, the boat show. He looks like the spokesperson for Sperry. He comes out into the hallway, coughs, and says, "waaaaaduuuuuuuuuup I'm brent." Brent downs a Corona Light and burps.

Claire looks up and says, "no." She immediately walks over to the other door, opens it, and begins walking inside.

"Wait!" Brent shouts, "you'll have so much fun here!" Claire considers this; she has been for a while. Going with Brent would mean acting like an eighteen-year-old for eternity. Parties, smoking, pills, and all of the cliche shit we see in the movies. There is no reading or thinking or contemplating or crying, or relaxing. There is only a yearning for more drugs and parties with people you hate. There's a desire to please people who hated you on Earth and change yourself to fit their standards. Yearning is what fuels this place; you are never fulfilled for long. The music stops, the air is sprayed with wanting. That's when the music turns back on. 

"There has to be another option, these can't be my only choices," Claire pleads, though she knows that there aren't. 

"Nahhhh, it's just us!" Brent says happily. "It's chill here, all sins are welcome!" Brent laughs with the other men in boat shoes who walk to him.

The truth is, sins are welcome in both doors. It's just one celebrates them rather than correcting them, even if you don't want those sins to be fixed. 

"Great, I just love my options," Claire remarks, "Charlotte sweetie, can I stay with you?" 

"Absoultely not," Charlotte says with a stone-cold look. 

The door to harmony opens, and Jesus steps out. He smiles at the group that appeared and pretends as if he wasn't listening at the door and says, "Claire, we'd be so happy to have you."

Brent becomes defensive and stands up tall. Brent would not like it to be documented that he was on his tippy toes. However, he absolutely was. He tells Claire, "if you want 5 AM meditation sessions and zero alcohol that by all means, go," and readjusts his Barstool hat. 

Jesus stands up taller and puffs his chest out. Jesus would not like it to be documented that he was standing on a step stool. However, he absolutely was. He tells Claire while looking only at Brent, "if you want to be engulfed in trashy music and vape smoke, by all means, go," and readjusts his hideous cloth.  

Both men stare at one another, veins popping out of their faces. 

Charlotte stands in the back with her eyes on her phone. Charlotte would like to be documented that she gives absolutely no fucks about the masculinity show going on in front of her. And we promise this is absolutely true. After several uncomfortable minutes of the two men trying to look tough, Charlotte looks up from her phone and says, "Hey geniuses, she left."

Brent and Jesus look around and mutter, "huh," at the same time. 

"She didn't come into one of our doors, where else could she have gone?" Jesus asks. 

 "No idea, kid," Brent responds. 

"I'm literally thousands of years older than you," Jesus rebukes the 23-year-old looking douche bag. He adds, "speaking of which, who the hell are you?

Brent laughs, takes a hit from the joint that appeared in his hand, and answered, "I'm your favorite devil, kid, I thought I'd try on the new skin."

"Ah," Jesus nods, "well that is the scariest looking costume I've ever seen, and a few years ago you wore Ann Coulter."

Before Claire escaped the scene, she looked at the two beings, the two men, with puffed-out chests and veiny faces, and she felt like she was back at home. 

She laughed about all of this—the inability to escape entitled and insecure men even in the afterlife.

Claire was gone long before the men noticed; the men looked up long after Charlotte guided her to the other door, "our door," Charlotte winked. 

May 28, 2021 02:01

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1 comment

Tricia Shulist
18:20 May 29, 2021

Great story. I really enjoyed it. Thanks.


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