Historical Fiction Teens & Young Adult Fiction

Trembling at Heaven’s Gate, where earthly time ceases and a man’s fate is decided, I’m about to be immersed in my Final Test.

Feeling strangely exhilarated in a state of wonder, confusion and dread, Heaven's Gate, like a gothic tower rising in the clouds has, inside, a cozy English pub..

Cordially invited by blissfully charming angels who’ve brought me to meet Peter the Great for my initial interview.

He approaches with arms outstretched to embrace  me, double kissed me on the cheeks, his stubby mustache felt rough.

        Welcome, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Stunned and delighted with the convivial relaxed atmosphere, I recognize many faces smiling with knowing winks  all giving me the thumbs up sign.

Not knowing whether they were waiting for, had completed their Final Test, or were enjoying their heavenly reward, I wasn’t going to risk muffing my chances, so I didn’t ask.

Passing close by a table where Beethoven and Mozart were involved in a game of chess also composing at the same time, I overheard Mozart, a mischievous fellow with such swagger and sway;  

        Ludwig, Mein Herr, a little more arpeggio

        Nein, die  Sonate ist Perfekt, he growled.

My entrance had caused interest and naturally, wanted to appear at my best so I had borrowed the ceremonial dress from 

my portrait by Jacques Louis David in the National Gallery. 

What an artist!  Neoclassical perfection a masterful improvement on the excesses of rococo design.

 Immaculate cream trousers, dark blue jacket, and gold epaulets gleaming,  I’m portrayed from the ground up to emphasize an imposing bearing.  I never looked better.

After the museum closes and the cleaners have finished, the place comes alive. Sliding out of our gilt frames free to roam but obediently returning to silent upright imprisonment minutes before the first guards’ shift begins. All were my friends.

What a thrill and privilege we felt  to dwell in the magnificent museum and witness the explosion of growth and success of this wonderful experiment in democracy called America.  Washington, birthed in a swamp has flourished like a mighty eagle soaring beyond all expectations. 

         Be assured, Comrade, Peter said,  escorting me into a private suite with large open French windows and a terrace beyond.

         We don’t grade actions . We    


         Into the contents of a man’s heart hoping 

         to see great love there

         and what he has bequeathed to the world.

My knees stopped shaking but the heart? that was 

beating like the guillotine drum roll.

         See , he said,  your advisors are viewing you. They

         have the option to intercede on your behalf…

Merde!  Marie Antoinette, that quasi-peasant appeared heading the procession, resplendent and twirling in lilac toile-de-Jouy. even brandishing the shepherd’s crook, a trifle over the top. She waved with a weak smile, I doffed my bicorne.  She snickered at my obsequiously low bow.

      Why do you wear your hat sideways?   

Not waiting for an answer, showing no interest she pirouetted off, to my blessed relief.   

Peter stroked his chin thoughtfully muttering to himself.  I sensed his desire to give me a fairer shot. 

         England! he chortled.  

Nom de Dieu! Not Wellington I silently begged.

Breezing into view………was it, could it be the Bard?  

Indeed, elegant and suave with noble brow and pointed beard wearing striped doublet and hose it was William Shakespeare, acknowledging me with a quick bow from the head.

 He could be loads of fun or downright ugly with a predilection for daggers and dark, stormy nights, I wasn’t feeling too chipper.

         Greetings, Emperor 

Stepping into the room, extending his hand which I grasped fervently. No lingering revenge here, thank goodness.  

Scanning my rap sheet, his brows arching, he was solemn.

        Zounds! Napoleon, Verily thy record is pessimal. Haircuts, donuts, Brandy……

William, mon ami my achievements do they count for nothing? 

Look further, I beseech you.  Centralizing the French government and all the trouble I went to with the Pope 

         Now Emperor, he said curtly, regarding the Pope.         

         let’s draw the veil of charity over that one.

The Napoleonic code streamlined the French legal system. I persisted.

Help me out here.  I was almost frantic. I’m either to descend or ascend right? Nodding he was silent.

          Ah, what’s this excellent observation I now see?                    

          Pray, allow me to congratulate you.

           Never interrupt your enemy when he is making   

           a mistake.     

           Good one, Emperor, I wish I had thought of it.

           Alas, the link to charity and love still isn’t clear.                                 

           Only the heart can speak or hear that which is 


The heart?  The heart is it.?   Look at my letters to Josephine.

            Now you are beginning to understand, 


            Charity is the ultimate virtue we seek in a man.                 

             the perfection of the human spirit so dear to 


             Divine One.

Oui c’est va.  See this one I wrote to my sweet wife.

As for me to love you alone to make you happy to do no thing which would contradict your wishes, this is my destiny and the meaning of my life……

              Emperor, Emperor, that’s all well and good in 

              matrimony but we still need evidence of     

              unconditional love.

 Did I not suffer deeply with separation from my dear child.?

              You had a child?

Of course, I only saw him at a young age.  So dear to my heart. I would dip my finger in claret and let him suck.  He would laugh heartily.  I loved the boy. Dedicated many of my books to him.  My last words were I should like to have seen my wife and son again, but God's will be done.

               Dear friend, I too have known this most 


               love. My only son, Hamnet died at a young 


              Twin brother to my second daughter, Susan. 

               Unable to verbalize, I concealed my grief in 

               sonnets and plays, where the aching loss can 


               magically healed. but can do nothing to 


               the family’s heartbreak revived every birthday.  

Embracing each other, two fathers united in suffering, we sobbed unashamedly. I was opening my heart, with humility showing sincerity as never before.  

Let us retire, mon ami, I said.  Knowing he had cemented my deliverance from foolish pride. I felt confident of success in the forthcoming Final Test.

What better way to celebrate than with dinner at the fine cuisine of Heaven’s Gate?  

With a glass of very good Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and a wry twist of fate I drank a toast to William Shakespeare, Englishman, my savior.

As we laughed and reminisced I persuaded him to try that most delectable of French desserts crème brûlée, which he agreed wholeheartedly was superior to his nation’s unutterably mediocre, Spotted Dick.

Word count 1102

November 18, 2022 18:12

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Chris Campbell
04:20 Nov 19, 2022

Mary, The Pearly Gates exhibit in Night at the Museum, where Mozart, Beethoven, and Shakespeare - three of the most important figures in creative history roam the passageways of the afterlife, while forced to spend time waiting around with none other than Napolean, the war monger - who arrives looking for sympathetic ears to help him gain passage through Heaven's Gate. Your story shows that no matter what we do in life, whether we have led armies, wrote sonnets, or symphonies, or in the case of the commoner - just survived a challenging exi...


Mary Lehnert
05:15 Nov 19, 2022

As usual, Chris , I’m complimented by your insightful comments. No I’m not yet adept at typing on a tablet. Learning from your stylish presentations though. Thankyou so very much


Chris Campbell
06:54 Nov 19, 2022

You're very kind, thank you. I tip my hat to anyone that types on a tablet. I recommend getting a compatible keyboard for it - if you don't have a computer. Things will flow much more quickly. I just need to point out that your story is in two separate prompt categories. I don't think Reedsy will allow that. You can enter as many different stories as you like, but not one in different categories. I'd keep the one that has the comments and likes. 😂


Mary Lehnert
16:52 Nov 19, 2022

Got it. Chris. That was an unfortunate mishap. Waiting to see how this new hobby progresses - so far. quite well. I deplore how my family spends hours on the computer. Swore I’d never be a slave but as the old saying goes. The best laid plans………


Chris Campbell
22:42 Nov 20, 2022

Mary, Consider the computer as an extension of your creativity. It beats writing it all down by hand, anyway...


Mary Lehnert
22:52 Nov 20, 2022



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Graham Kinross
11:01 Dec 06, 2022

Can they just wait in the pub and put off being judged? That almost sounds better than going to heaven if there’s a risk of going to hell, and for a man known for war, that’s a big risk.


Mary Lehnert
15:17 Dec 06, 2022

Graham, you just gave me the next chapter. I thought by subbing in Peter the Great instead of His Holiness would be most fortunate for Napoleon. Getting the pub as a starting off point was a temporary gift, one tyrant to another, considering the proletariat were outside standing in line. What a transformation, so cocky in full regalia to a sniveling penitent looking for mercy from an Englishman. His ultimate reward, not for me to judge, tho the pub sounded good to me too. So nice to get your response, and here’s tae ye! Cheers.


Graham Kinross
21:14 Dec 06, 2022

You’re welcome. If you write it, I’ll read it.


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Michał Przywara
21:42 Nov 24, 2022

The idea of there being a pub outside heaven's gate is fantastic :) But then again, why not? Interviews take a while and the line is long. Might as well have somewhere comfortable to sit. Napoleon's an interesting POV too, as he certainly got up to a lot in life. I like his emotional journey, from self-assured confidence, to doubt, to dread, to relief. I wonder if there's a way to stress this harder? Perhaps he realizes things are going bad and he'll be descending - he gives up. His greatest regret is not being able to one day see his so...


Mary Lehnert
22:38 Nov 24, 2022

Thank you Michael! What a gift is Reedsy to writers like me to get readers like you. I truly agonized over this one. The wonderfully talented writers on Reedsy are indeed the best audience/teachers one could wish for. You have complimented me greatly by your intelligent comments yet playing along with that bizarre English streak. Careful a little encouragement goes a long way. Happy Thanksgiving BTW. Mary


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Delbert Griffith
10:53 Nov 19, 2022

Nice story, Mary. Half morality play and half inner dialogue, it felt like a dream sequence tinged with all-too-lucid reality. I found it oddly pleasing that Napoleon bonded with Shakespeare. That was pretty cool. Good writing, Mary. I think that your word processor is playing tricks on you, for many of your sentences are not on the same line. Was that intentional?


Mary Lehnert
11:35 Nov 19, 2022

Wish I could blame something for the odd appearance DelbertNo. it’s my own incompetence. Loved your assessment of my story Impressed by your creativity and the high level of several other authors on Reedsy. It inspires a dimension in my own work. Thank you so very much


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