Noah opened his eyes. He had not been sleeping. But his eyes had been closed for some time, at least according to the crust scratching at his corneas.
His first thought was of a sandwich, a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and tomato. He could almost taste it. So delicious. And he was so hungry. BLT, he considered, why not BCT?
His second thought was the he was dead, or at least had died. He felt no pain. Saw no bruises or blood. But he was dead. He remembered falling off a roof. He had poked his pinky finger with a nail and the spot of blood sent him into panic.
His third thought was wondering whether dead people could eat. And, if so, how could he go about finding the necessary ingredients for a BCT. Did dead people have access to dead pigs? Or mayonnaise, at least?
"Noah, rise my Son."
Noah prayed, in the sense that a parrot speaks, that the voice had emanated from the speaker of a drive-thru window. It had not.
He stood from his bed, abnormally unashamed by his nudity, and saw that there was no bed. He had been lying on, and was then standing on, a cloud. The truly disturbing aspect for Noah, however, was that the voice had also belonged to a cloud.
The cloud hovered above Noah. It remained still, relatively speaking in the geographic sense. But it remained in constant motion, in terms of its own form and shape.
Noah stared at the face of the cloud, literally. The eyes remained the same, but that was all. Each of the remaining features of the face depicted by the cloud altered haphazardly, assuming, presumably, the variances and generalizations of every race and gender of Mankind.
Noah knew what was coming. He was pissed, but he knew it. He would get no sandwich.
"Shit," he sighed. "Fine. Let's get this over with."
The shape of the cloud face buzzed and blurred through a series of options, finally settling on that of a toddler Pakistani girl with pigtails.
"Do not worry, my Son," the squeaky, juvenile voice commanded. Noah decided that the laughable voice of God was less distracting than a five-year-old girl calling him "my Son."
"I can empathize with your soul," the helium-induced tone of a kindergartener announced. "So calm thyself. For Noah, there is no Purgatory. There is no eternal destination but here."
Noah panicked as though his pinky finger had been chopped off at the second knuckle. That is to say, if he could have felt any muscle, nerve, or sensation whatsoever in his body, it would have been panicked. It did not make sense. He remembered all the things that he had proclaimed back in his time as an earthling.
Jesus had masturbated. Jesus had groaned while taking a dump. Jesus had eaten with his elbows on the table.
Those could have been jokes. They had been genuine arguments, in his mind, but Noah realized that his commentaries might have also passed for jokes. Levity. Things said for a laugh, to unburden the mood. But one other sentiment, however, could not have passed for a joke.
Noah had actively professed, promoted, and prophesized the Atheist Revolution. According to the literature, which he had written, printed, and reproduced in mass, the Atheist Revolution was the ultimate and inevitable final revolution of Man. It was set to occur three hundred and fifty-seven years in the future, aka the year "When Stupidest People Got More Smart," again according to the literature.
"I can see what you are thinking," the annoyingly infantile voice giggled. "Trust, Noah, my dear Son, that lack of faith is held in regard. It was the flaw that made you most human. Most reflective of my most sublime creation. And for that there is no punishment. There is only reward. Because I have been watching you, every second of every year, every day of every decade. Thus, I know that you are deserving. That you have embodied the example in which you did not believe. Entirely in the vein of to thine own self be true. And you were, Noah. Your own self is true and worthy."
Noah felt his belly rumble. It bothered him. He wanted to squash the uprising in his stomach with large bites of prematurely masticated bread, cheese, bacon, and tomato. At the same time, he was bothered by and wanted to not hear what he had heard. He began to hyperventilate.
"Heaven," he managed to question. "Heaven? That's what you're getting at?"
"Yes, my Son." The cloud returned to its face of an old, wrinkled man, adorned in a long beard, obviously of white. And the voice returned to its deep, echoing tone. "Through these gates, you shall pass."
Noah felt his breathing deepen in hesitating bursts as his chest pulsated. He saw his fingers trembling as he raised them to calm his fluttering eyelids. He felt the acid rise to a steady boil in his stomach, creating a sizeable bubble of rage that ascended through his esophagus bypassing his naval cavity before enveloping his brain. The words sprayed from his ears, shot through his eyes, raced down his nostrils, and trampled over themselves to escape from his mouth before the erupting volcano fried his tongue.
"What!? No fucking way! Come on! This can't be happening!"
The cloud began shifting its face in quick rotation, again assuming all forms of human visages, pausing on each only for half of a second.
"It doesn't make any sense! You don't make any sense! You've never made any sense! How the fuck can this be happening!? This can't be fucking happening!? You can't fucking be!"
Noah saw only in passing the smile start to form under the dusty mustache of Mexican woman's face. And he could only tolerate watching as the smile continued to grow on the shifted face of the infant Korean girl before turning away in frustration.
"This is insane! It's ridiculous! All those believers, all those morons, they can't be right! They simply cannot! I've always resented and mocked them! And now you're telling me there is no Hell!? That I have to go in there and spend eternity with those assholes!? Hearing 'I told you so' from simpletons!? Forever!? Son of a bitch!"
Noah sensed an impending moment of clarity. He was not there yet, but his cone of staggered thoughts were funneling down to its point. He stared into the eyes of an Inuit septuagenarian whose gender was indecipherable.
"This is Hell," Noah stated simply, partially exhausted from shouting, largely out of respect for his deduction. "This is my Hell."
Noah stood sheepishly before the cloud. He remained silent as the image came into focus with deliberate lethargy. The smile reached its maximum strain as the face of the old man reappeared. The creases on his cheeks were distinct even through his beard and the lines on his forehead rose in unison as his eyebrows lifted.
"Through these gates, you shall pass . . . my Son."
Noah's ears twitched. They had sensed, but could not confirm, that the cloud had chuckled during the pause in its reply.
Noah shook his head. He looked from side to side and raised and lowered his hands three times. No words accompanied his gestures, inasmuch as relenting was the only course. He had been checkmated.
"You're unbelievable," Noah commented heartlessly. He watched the face of the old man wink as he strolled forward, becoming drastically more aggravated that even the divine creator was capable of resorting to such sarcastic corniness. It consecrated for him the extent and torment of the taunts he was sure to agonizingly suffer at the hands of the many waiting on the other side, all of whom were light years removed from omniscient.
Entirely defeated, Noah puckered his lower lip as he walked under the shade and direction of the cloud. Excessive saliva began to surface at the corners of his mouth. It served as a reminder.
"Are there sandwiches at least?"