Heaven Is Full
As soon as the bullet pierced his chest, he knelt to the ground, ears ringing from the deafening noise. The wiry-framed young man clutched the wound desperately, applying all the pressure his weakened arms could. His gaze focused on the woman who shot him. He glared, vision hazy, down the barrel of the handgun held by her, a nail with red polish still hovering over the trigger. He fell, defeated once and for all, landing with a thud, head hitting pavement, his own gun burrowing into his side. Charles was dead.
A black-suited man stood in his bathroom, staring out the slightly agape window, and down at the city below. His eyes glazed over in tears for what felt like the millionth time that day. He laughed as the tears fell, laughed at his apparent foolishness, knowing this was not funny. His own idiocy ended him up here, in his dark house, in this cold bathroom, squinting out the open window in the middle of winter. He would be dead soon, the medicine taking over his senses. As the city faded from view, so did Jackson.
Waking up again, Charles whipped himself around, looking at everything he could as quickly as possible. This couldn’t be anywhere. All he saw was a white void, and others just as confused as he was. Among them stood murderers, modern-day saints, and everything in between.
A blinding presence appeared in the middle of the madness, one with wings and eyes of sunbeams carved with accents of a foreboding darkness, towering above everyone. It’s attention focused on the crowd that spanned the large space. People jolted away from the intimidating figure.
The being spoke in a voice that echoed beautifully like ringing glass, "Heaven is full, and for that matter, hell is, too."
The people mumbled in disbelief, their noises building up like a babbling creek. Charles sighed. This is just my luck, he thought, I finally die, and this is what I get?
Jackson took a step backwards, fixating his gaze on the creature of light and darkness. There had to be something he could do, something to save this situation, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t last time, and wouldn’t now. He shook his head, taking another step back, and collided with a young man.
“Watch it!” Charles yelled.
“I’m sorry,” Jackson muttered in reply, pretending to busy himself and walk away.
“Hey,” Charles grabbed Jackson firmly by his shoulder, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
Jackson looked to the ground, “Nowhere,” he managed to get out an answer.
“Yeah, sure,” Charles rolled his eyes, “You look official, so you must know something.”
Jackson briefly glanced around, hoping the fiery character was talking to someone else. Jackson furrowed his brow in annoyance and pinched the bridge of his nose, “What could I know that that thing doesn’t?” he motioned to the being of light with his arm.
“Well, maybe you could help me out then, buddy.” Charles mimicked Jackson’s cross expression.
“Look, I don’t even know your name,” Jackson swept away Charles’s scrawny hand, “I’m not really in the best mood, considering-”
“Yeah, considering we’re all dead?” Charles sarcastically remarked, “Me neither.” Charles kept his blue eyes pinned to Jackson, pausing before saying, “It’s Charles.”
There was silence for a moment, the pair staring at each other, before Jackson said, “Jackson. What are you even going to do?”
“Well,” Charles started, ready to bullshit his way towards a working plan, “We are going directly to the source of the news.”
Jackson’s mind was filled with questions, “We?! And what are we going to even do?!” He sputtered.
“First, you’re going to try and convince it, smart guy.” Charles pushed Jackson towards the creature, “Then, if that fails,” Charles took a gun from the holster on his leather belt, “We can use this.” Reading Jackson’s shocked expression, Charles added, “Don’t worry, I’ll save you. You’ll probably be useful later.”
Jackson took a few timid steps before realizing, “Wait… I never agreed to this in the first place!”
“Yeah, yeah, but think about this. What do you think that thing is going to do to dispose of us? We could be it’s next meal. So it’s now or never, bitch boy!”
Jackson grumbled before giving in, “Fine, I’m in. Hate to admit it, but you have something that resembles a point.” Begrudgingly, he said, “What have I got to lose?”
“Now we’re in business!” Charles clapped his hands together, briefly celebrating, “Go on up there, I’m going to be right behind you.”
Concentrating on his footsteps, Jackson walked, feeling his anxiety well up in his chest. He was a bad man. He was a bad lawyer. His reputation was raked through the mud because of his own ineptibility. He blinked away tears, and looked upwards at the monstrous being above. Why would he ever agree to this? He knew why though; it was for the greater good.
Charles ran, hiding behind person to person, the only obstacle he could find. This got him killed last time, and he’d be damned if he got killed again. He laughed at it, against all odds. Where would he even go? Another void? Hell? He knew he wouldn’t be ending up in heaven, and that was certain.
“Hello?” Jackson mumbled while angling his head upwards, barely audible among the chaos of fearful people.
“Greetings,” the being’s voice reverberated again, yet it spoke quietly.
“Do tell me something,” Jackson felt himself become more assertive at every passing word, “What do you intend on doing with us?”
“Ah, do not fret. There will soon be openings.”
“What?” Jackson felt confusion and partial relief, letting his shoulders relax a bit.
“Perhaps, for you…” it paused, “Three hundred… thirty four thousand… and three years. But it all depends.”
“That is far too long!” Jackson objected.
“The truly bad and the truly good will be placed accordingly.”
“Yes, they lucky few have their spots reserved.”
“What are we supposed to do?!” Jackson’s panic rose again.
“For hundreds of thousands of years?!”
As Jackson dejectedly turned away, he heard the sound of a gunshot. Many scattered, unveiling Charles beneath the sea of people, squatting down, gun in hand. Jackson turned to face him.
“Stop!” Jackson ordered as the bullet went through the monstrous being, doing no damage. It turned to Charles.
“You.” It’s eyes went dark, “You will go to hell.” The simple statement struck fear through Jackson, but Charles only smiled, stifling a laugh.
“As if I didn’t already know that.” Charles smirked cockily.
“Go,” the being willed the two, “If you prove yourselves worthy, perhaps…” The sentence trailed off. The being was quiet.
“Go?” Jackson asked, hoarse-voiced. He cleared his throat nervously, avoiding eye contact.
“Go!” It shouted, making special effort to drive it’s voice through Charles’s skull. The vibrations felt like an earthquake. Everything went blindingly white for the two.
Waking up, Jackson’s eyes were bleary. For a moment, he had forgotten everything. He had forgotten the white void, the creature, Charles, and waiting for death in his own bathroom. As he came to his senses, it all came back. His vision blurred before he could take in his surroundings. The floor was tiled and cold, and a breeze swept through the small room.
“Get up,” Charles kicked Jackson, who was curled into a ball. He was a blubbering mess of emotion, “Get up!” Charles kicked him again, raising his voice.
“No,” Jackson sobbed, refusing to look up at Charles.
“Fine, be that way. Do you know why we’re in a shitty, run-down bathroom?”
“Shut up!” Jackson pleaded, refusing to talk anymore, “I don’t even know you!”
“Yeah, but we’re in this mess together, so no time like the present, huh?” Charles waited for Jackson to say something, but was met with silence, “What’s your story, then?”
“Nothing,” Jackson refused.
“Fine, buckaroo, you stay put,” Charles concluded, “I’ll scope things out. Don’t you move until I say so, stupid.”
Jackson only nodded, and with that, Charles opened the door and left. As the flaky painted door gave way, Charles saw his surroundings transform from dark and cold-toned to bright, beams of artificial light shining down on his freckled face. A courtroom? He thought to himself. How in the hell did I get here?
“...and because of this, I firmly believe that my client is innocent.” There was no mistaking it. That was Jackson’s voice.
“Hey, hot-shot, what in God’s name are you doing here?!” Charles interrupted, but to his surprise, nobody acknowledged him.
“The jury may now come to its final verdict,” the judge ordered, but Charles noticed something peculiar. Like wet paper, the world started to disintegrate beneath him. His setting turned into a dim-lighted living room. The smell of sickness filled his nose. In the distance, he heard Jackson’s cries grow louder.
“Jackson!” Charles shouted, “Get your ass over here!” But Jackson could not hear him, and he grew ever louder. Charles’s ears led him to the same dark bathroom.
“Jackson!” Charles uttered his name again, hastily opening the door. There Jackson stood, pill bottle in hand, wide-eyed. Jackson saw Charles again for the very first time.
“Who are you?!” Jackson screamed through his grief, his voice cracking, “How do you know my name?! Get out of my house!”
“Fuck off with that! You know me!” Charles insisted, looking at Jackson’s whitened knuckles, clenched fists, then back at his face.
“You need to leave,” Jackson’s volume lowered, “You need to leave.”
“Jackson,” Charles muttered, “What the hell?!” He raised his voice again, upset at the older man’s actions.
“Get away! I’ve already-” his mind was racked with guilt, and again he cried, falling to the ground, putting one hand to his head. The other still held the orange bottle.
“Jackson!” But then it clicked. Why would yelling help? Obviously, it wouldn’t. Cursing his dim-wittedness, he softened his tone, “Hey, buddy.”
“Can’t you leave?” Jackson pleaded one final time.
“I’m not leaving this spot until you’re feeling right as rain.” Charles smiled warmly.
Jackson couldn’t help but laugh, “Right as rain?”
“Yep,” Charles cringed to himself internally, “Fit as a fiddle.”
And through the tears, Jackson started to laugh an ugly laugh filled with joyful screaming and snorts. Charles waited as patiently as he could, a newfound feeling bubbling up inside him. What was this? Joy? Generosity? Either way, he knew he was doing ‘the right thing.’ Why, though, would he enjoy it?
“Right, right…” Charles interjected as the laughing died down, “Now, tell me why you have these,” Charles grabbed Jackson’s hand still loosely holding the almost full pill bottle.
“Don’t make me talk about that.” Jackson looked away, so suddenly tense again.
“Yeah, yeah, don’t. ‘Kay, buddy?”
“My good name is ruined. My reputation...” Jackson’s voice trailed off. Charles only stared at Jackson, willing him to continue.
“My client… Perhaps I shouldn’t be talking about this.”
“Eh,” Charles bluffed a nonchalant disposition, “Do it or don’t.”
“He was found guilty today.”
“Yeah? How would that-”
“Of murder.” Charles stopped in his tracks, a chilling breeze surging through the room, “It’s all my fault.”
“Nah,” Charles shrugged, “You did all you could if you’re taking it this hard, right? Besides, you could help save more people if you aren’t as dead. Only if you wanted to, of course.” He thought briefly of the right thing to say, “It’s okay to fuck up every now and then.”
Jackson looked at him quietly, and Charles heard something clatter to the cold, tiled ground, rolling away. Jackson dropped the orange pill bottle.
“Thank you,” Jackson smiled before the Earth fell away like paper again. Everything went white, a new setting preparing to form.
Jackson jolted awake, feeling the hard concrete against his back. Pushing himself into a sitting position, he saw what appeared to be an empty warehouse. Charles was hunched over, grabbing his chest, face furrowed in pain.
“Charles?” Jackson meekly started, “Are you alright?” He somehow already knew the answer to his question.
“Jack- agh!” His strained voice was cut off by pain, “Do you remember what happened?”
“What happened?” Jackson strained his thoughts, but all he could remember was a feeling of fulfillment and closure, “Not quite.”
“You’re going to do good, got it?” And the world fell away.
The moon was full and bright, but did little for Jackson’s sight. He quickly noticed the world seemed to move without him. Next to him was Charles, running fearfully while shoving something into his pocket. Behind Charles was a black, old-fashioned car. Inevitably, Charles would lose.
“Charles? Where are you going? Are you in trouble?” Jackson used a calm voice, hoping his outward emotions would affect his, too. However, Jackson was unseen and unheard. The world changed its scene with haste. Now, they were stationary, in a dim-lit and musty warehouse, long abandoned by all but the people in front of him. A woman with ruby red nails and lips stood above Charles, pointing a gun at him. She fired, the noise rupturing the silent tension. Charles fell to the ground, defeated. Jackson hid until the woman was nowhere in sight.
“Charles!” He shouted, running to the scene, but not expecting to be heard.
“Hm?” Charles let out a grunt, “Oh,” he laughed despite everything, “Come to join me, moneybags?” He pointed out Jackson’s formal black suit.
“Ah, y’know,” Charles realized that Jackson did not know, “Thieving from the wrong guys. I really fucked up this time.”
“It’s going to be okay!” Jackson sounded rushed, panicked, “I could call you an ambulance!”
“Then what?” Charles chuckled again, “They’ll arrest me. Also, no way in hell I’d be able to pay that bill.”
“Then what can I do?!” Jackson was distraught.
“Keep me company. You seem like a good enough man to share my last moments with.” He shrugged, “Beats being alone.”
“Okay,” Jackson sighed, words echoing through his head. Charles’s voice? It's okay to fuck up every now and then, “It’s okay.”
“It’s okay that you mess up every once in a while,” Jackson imitated Charles’s words. He smiled, holding Jackson’s warm hand before fading from consciousness.
And then the world fell for the final time, everything turning back to that white void. The mysterious being of light that sent them on their journey stood tall, eyes glowing with light.
"I see your characters, strong and kind." It's voice calmed them sweetly, "What do you plan to do from here?"
The pair, now knowing, remembering all they've been through, looked at each other, a new glint in their eyes.
"Well," Charles looked at Jackson, and took a breath, "I think we could wait a while."
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