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Here it is, folks--Once Upon a Very Bad Plan, a story about five people who are extremely naive, quirky, and often hypocritical.

When Megan realizes that she and her friends have a lose-lose situation regarding their afterlives, she concocts a plan to set things right. A very bad plan.

Click on the links within the text to read the footnotes.

Feel free to e-mail me to comment on the story, make suggestions--for any reason at all. I'd love to hear from you. :)

Also, before I'm asked and/or mocked 50,000 times: Yes, this story was intended to be completely ridiculous.

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Chapter One: Formulating a Plan

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On our way to the bus one afternoon, Holly and I got around to discussing whether or not either of us--or any of our friends, for that matter--would end up going to Hell. With a chuckle, she told me that she and Emily, a close friend of hers and an acquaintance of mine, had actually gone so far as to compose a list of the names of our friends they knew for sure would end up burning in a fiery pit. Basically, we were all listed. Except for Ian, that is.

“He’s too...” Holly paused to search for the right word to describe our sorry lunch mate, “Good.” We hauled ourselves up the few stairs on the afternoon school bus, tossed our bags to the floor in front of our favorite seat and plopped down. I nodded in accord,

“He’s probably gonna end up sitting on a cloud all day wearing one of those togas and plucking at a harp.”

Holly nodded. “Boring.”

After yelling at several students and adjusting her bra, the bus driver started up the bus and we slowly began to move away from the school.

“At least if I’m gonna end up in Hell,” I said, looking to the bright side, “I’ll be in good company. I’ve got you, Alexa, Léa, Alexa’s mom, Chris Rock, Justin, and if we’re lucky, Billy and Wendy.”

Holly attuned.

“You know what’s ironic, though?” I asked with a slight smile, “For acting downright un-Christian--whatever that means--on a regular basis and associating with an Atheist(1), we’re rewarded with the presence of our friends and entertaining Hollywood icons, while Ian, who followed all the rules, must loll around alone all day on a cloud, learning to play a useless instrument, and gorging himself on nectar and ambrosia.”

“That was the Greeks, moron,” grumbled Holly, eyes rolling heavenward.

I narrowed my eyes at her. “I’m sure that if the Greeks have nectar and ambrosia, God’s found some way to import some from Mount Olympus to Heaven. I mean, the guy’s all-powerful.” She looked like she wished she had a gun in her mouth.

But really, I’m no idiot. I take to sprouting out nonsense--but quite funny nonsense, if I do say so myself--all the time. It’s just for laughs.

“But yeah,” she conceded a moment later, “I do see your point. Sucks that we won’t truly be rid of his constant babbling about all things Russian, though.”

My brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

“Well, you know the famous Russians he likes--Ivan the Terrible, Stalin--probably went to Hell. I mean, look at Ivan’s title: ‘the TERRIBLE’?” She cocked an eyebrow for emphasis. “Definitely Hell fodder.”

“So you’re saying that we’ll be stuck with those obnoxious Russians for the whole of our afterlives?” I inquired with a fearful expression. Before she could respond, I went on. “It’s bad enough having him greet us in Russian, but having Russian babbled at us for all eternity? FEH! Holly, I’ve come to a conclusion!”

“And that would be...?”

“We must repent! All of us! You, me, Alexa, Léa...” I paused. “I think that’s pretty much all of the outlandishly sinful gang members; Alexa’s mom and Chris Rock can take care of their own affairs.”

“But won’t repenting just get us to Heaven with Ian?” asked Holly.

“Not necessarily,” I said, sounding muy inteligente(2).

“What do you mean ‘not necessarily’?” she said, furrowing her brow in disbelief as she always does when she gets ready to contradict me, “if Ian’s in Heaven and we repent, we’re going to end up in Heaven with him! There’s no getting around it!”

“That would be correct,” I said with a confident smile, “if I didn’t have a plan.”

* * *

Chapter Two: Mocking the Plan

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“You call ‘trying to trick Ian into burning a box of Bibles so that he won’t go to Heaven’ a plan?” demanded Holly, sounding incredulous.

I grinned at her. “Claro que si(3), my dear! It will keep him out of Heaven, will it not? That’s got to be a deadly sin! And we’re multiplying it by a whole box!”

“Hypothetically, just how do you suppose you’ll go about doing this?” she asked.

“Easily enough!” I said with certainty. I lowered my voice. “Here’s the plan: to repent, we become nuns. Nuns do community service. And one bit of that community service is the passing out of Bibles in the wagons downtown. All we have to do is ask Ian to join us for the afternoon--which you and I both know he will do--and after I work out a few kinks, we’ll administer Phase Two of my plan and voilá; we’ll be on our way to an Ian-free paradise.”

“‘Work out a few kinks,’ huh?” she said, skeptical. “What kinds of kinks?”

I gave a nonchalant shrug. “Oh, you know, just little things. I’ve got the big picture painted, Holly, don’t worry.”

“Do Alexa and Léa know about this yet?” she asked.

“No,” I said, gathering the strap of my side bag in my hand as the bus slowed to a stop, “But we’re meeting them as soon as we get off the bus, remember? We’ll tell them then.”

Holly slung her bag over her shoulder and I followed the motion. The bus driver opened the door and we slunk off, struggling under the weight of our bags’ contents. We stepped out into the familiar downtown area and at the moment our feet hit the pavement, the door slapped back into place and the bus roared away, spraying smog out its rear end and into our faces (4).

We made our way down the sidewalk, passing an ice cream shop, a bookstore and a bakery, until we came to a small opening in the wall. We had to turn sideways to shuffle down the long passageway, and with the added weight of our bags, it took a fair amount of time to make it to the end, where a dirty, walled in room lay. By the only light available--some peeked in from above, as there was no roof--we could see Alexa and Léa sitting together on the beat-up old couch (5) we’d found there when we’d first discovered the place. Relieved and grateful, we pitched our bags into the corner and took seats in the old office chairs across from the others.

The place was called Sardinia, named by Alexa who felt it was a fair title because of the way it packed us all in; like sardines. It was our haven. Few knew about it, few wanted to find out what lay at the end of the passage, and few could fit down there even if they were interested. And we were glad.

“Megan’s got a plan,” said Holly, “It has to do with ensuring Ian’s eternal suffering.” Their eyes grew hungry and I’m sure that if my idea had been part of a buffet, they would have snuck some home.

I glanced sideways at her. “It’s not eternal suffering, really,” I said, “because he’ll have his Russian chums. The plan will really just ensure that we don’t have eternal suffering.”

“Well, go on,” encouraged Léa. I could just see the forks glistening behind her eyes.

I cleared my throat dramatically. (6) “Because we have no need for Ian in the afterlife, and scarcely any for him now, I’ve concocted a fool-proof and--I must say--ingenious plan to ensure that we are in a completely different place after death. You see, before my plan, had we gone to Hell as anticipated, we would have been away from Ian, but stuck with his equally Russian predecessors, Ivan the Terrible and Stalin. You two know, as well as Holly and I know, that Russian is an intolerable language with a close verbal resemblance to Klingon, and there is no need to hear any more of it than is absolutely necessary. That is why we’re going to make sure Ian goes to Hell along with the Russians, and we go to Heaven.” I closed my speech with a modest cough.

Léa and Alexa sat still for a moment or two, staring blankly over at Holly and my side of Sardinia, and then seemed to have realized what I had said and burst into peals of laughter.

“Us?” tittered Alexa, struggling for breath, “In Heaven? Are you kidding me? How in the world would ANYONE pull that off?”

“I agree,” said Léa, once she had composed herself. “You’ve come up with some pretty good schemes before, but I doubt you can pull this one off.”

“Oh, come on!” I said, feeling rather embarrassed. “You haven’t even let me explain it yet!”

“Go on then,” said Léa, folding her arms across her chest, “but I still don’t think it’ll sound any smarter once it’s explained.”

“Yeah, well, neither did Alexa, but nobody minds anymore,” I quipped. Cackles of laughter--including Alexa’s--followed my remark. Once everyone had calmed down and looked ready to listen, I cleared my throat again--loogie free--and began to explain my plan in detail.

* * *

Chapter Three: Dressed as Nuns

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To give you the short of it, the gang warmed up to my plan right away. Of course, who wouldn’t have? What could have been more genius yet so simple a plan as mine? Nothing, I think. Or rather, I thought (7).

It turned out that there would be no need for repentance at all. Léa, whose parents attended church regularly, informed us that the nuns were doing their ‘pass out Bibles to those who look unholy’ bit the very next afternoon! It was the perfect opportunity to apply for the positions of “nuns-in-training.” The only problem the gang found with my next phase of the plan, which I shall describe in great detail, was that without repentance, how in the world would we make it into Heaven? Well, I said to them, I figured that God would consider us getting Ian banned from Heaven about even. He was probably just looking for an excuse himself. As far as I’m concerned, we were doing him a favor.

The gang wasn’t completely convinced that I had the right idea about God’s views on Ian, but they didn’t say anything more about it. I guess they figured we’d deal with it when the time came.

As for the next phase of my plan, it went as so: Ian, who had agreed to help us pass out Bibles, would be approached by an eccentric old woman peddling hand lotions (Alexa in costume) who would insist that he try her new scent. Once he did so, his hands would be very slippery, a quality needed for the next part. Léa, dressed as an old man, would next approach, cigar in hand, and ask for a light. And Ian, being Ian, would only have a matchbox. Once the cigar was lit, his fingers would inevitably fumble and the match would slip from his hand, falling to the nearest chunk of matter, the stack of Bibles in the wagon. Elementary, my dear readers, elementary.

The next day, Saturday, we moseyed (8) on over to the church parking lot and, seeing that the front door to the church was cracked, we slipped inside, quiet as a cotton ball being slammed into a pillow. We rushed into a small room to our right and when we saw what was inside, we felt as if we’d died and gone to Heaven.

“Doughnuts!” we cried, rushing toward the long table beside the closet. We each seized our favorite type of doughnut and chowed down.

“You think the nuns will mind?” asked Alexa, wiping off a chunk of jelly from the corner of her mouth. “They probably set these out for themselves.”

“They should have guarded them better!” I said. “I mean, who leaves precious pastries out in the open like this?” I gave my glazed doughnut an affectionate pat.

“Oh, crap!” grumbled Holly, staring down at her leg. “The damn doughnut sprang a leak!” It was true; a big smear of jelly ran down her shin.

“Why don’t you check in that closet for a towel, or something?” suggested Léa, gesturing to the door beside us. Holly nodded, walking the few steps to the closet carefully so not to spread the jelly. She opened the door and gasped in delight at what she saw (9).

“Look!” she cried excitedly, pointing inside of the closet. We all gravitated and were equally pleased.

“Nun costumes!” Alexa cried, seizing one.

Léa raised her eyebrows. “They’re not nun costumes, you moron! They’re clericals!

“Same difference,” muttered Alexa.

“This is wonderful!” I whispered excitedly. “With these, we don’t need to become nuns! All we’ve got to do is put them on and pull the hood low over our faces. We can say we’re from a nearby church and we’ve come to help; nuns never question these sorts of things!”

“But we can’t pull the hoods over our faces!” insisted Holly. “They’re not long enough! Besides, that would look suspicious!”

“Then what can we do?” I said. “Surely they won’t believe us if they can see our faces!”

Alexa stepped inside of the closet and disappeared into the darkness. Holly and I stopped our argument and went with Léa to look. Alexa emerged a moment later with a small cardboard box in her hand.

“What’s that?” asked Léa.

“A box of disposable surgical masks,” said Alexa. “I knew they’d be in there; in situations like these, the protagonists always find exactly what they need right when they need it.” She opened the box and passed each of us a mask.

Without a word, we slipped the clericals over our clothes, put on the masks, and pulled the hoods up onto our heads. Any remaining doughnuts were either devoured at an ungodly rate or pocketed for later hungers. Then we left the small room and set out to find the nuns.

* * *

Chapter Four: Deceiving Ian

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It didn’t take us long to find the nuns, especially because they were the only other people in the church and their voices echoed all over. We caught them just as they were heading out the back door.

“Sisters! Wait for us!” I called, grabbing at my skirt so I could jog. The nuns turned around, big cardboard boxes in hand, filled with what we could only guess were the Bibles. They looked surprised to see that other nuns--or others they perceived to be nuns--were present.

The sternest looking nun stepped forward and I could sense my friends shrinking back behind me.

“What are you doing here, Sisters?” she asked in surprisingly pleasant tones, “And why in Heaven’s name are you wearing those masks?”

Beneath the mask, I felt myself blush. I hadn’t yet figured this one out either. I coughed to give myself a moment.

Holly appeared beside me. “We’re feeling a bit under the weather,” she lied. “But not enough to keep us away from our duties! We could never miss out on community service!”

The other nuns, or real nuns, I should say, glanced nervously at each other and mumbled amongst themselves for a moment or two (10).

The stern looking nun stepped forward again. “Here,” she said hastily, shoving the large box at me, “you girls take the upper part of downtown, and we’ll take the lower.” I struggled beneath the weight of the box, yet somehow managed to nod along with my friends.

“Make sure to pass them all out,” she instructed. “It’s always good to come home with an empty box.”

“We sure will!” Léa enthused. “It’s the best way to spread God’s love!”

The real nuns gave her indulgent smiles.

“Before you go,” I said as they began to walk away, “would you mind directing us to your wagons?”

The stern looking nun’s face fell along with several of the others’.

“I’m sorry, Sisters,” she said, “but this is our only wagon.”

I stared enviously at the wagon that flanked her, but I could tell that they were all genuinely remorseful. The kind of remorseful that makes you feel remorseful as well. But only for a moment; an image of myself seated between Ivan the Terrible and Stalin flashed through my mind and I heaved the box upward to get a better grip on it. With a courteous nod to the Head Sister, I said,

“Thank you for the Bibles, Sisters.”

“It was no trouble at all,” Head Stern Sister said, and the others around her nodded their agreement. Both parties started through the back parking lot toward the sidewalk and we’d nearly made it before H.S.S. (11) called to us.

“Don’t forget to meet us back at the church at 3:00,” she said. “The congregation members will be arriving from both churches for the party by then. But of course, you already knew that.”

“Of course,” I replied with a smile she couldn’t see, relieved she hadn’t seen through our disguises. With nothing else to address, she and her nuns went their separate way.

“That was close,” breathed Holly, removing her surgical mask now that we had made our way back around to the front of the church. The others, as well as myself, followed suit, looking relieved.

“Yeah,” Léa agreed. “Good thing they were already having some sort of party with another church. Wonder what’ll happen to those other nuns, though.”

“What other nuns?” asked Alexa.

“The nuns that were supposed to pass out the Bibles instead,” I said, grunting under the box. I looked around at the gang. “Do any of you want to be a real pal and--”

“NO!” they cried, scurrying a few feet ahead of me.

Swearing under my breath, I re-gripped the box again and sauntered after them. It seemed like forever before we reached our post a few blocks away, and by that time my forehead was sprinkled with perspiration, two large rings of sweat garnished the area beneath my armpits, and I felt like pitching that entire box of Bibles into the dumpster.

But I resisted. If I did that, I’d go to Hell for sure, repentance or not, and then what would I do? Ivan and Stalin would be making Megan sandwiches for all eternity (12)!

We positioned ourselves at the street corner beside a bench and a crosswalk, which, if you are a nun-type person who actually enjoys and takes pride in what we were doing that Saturday, was a very fine place to be because of both the bench (so I could sit and rest my tired limbs) and the crosswalk, where we would encounter many people to bother.

Speaking of bother, no less than five minutes after we arrived and set up, Ian showed up clad in his Sunday best; a button-up royal blue shirt, black creased pants, and shined shoes. In a word, he was, as the British would say, a swot.

“Why are you lot dressed as nuns?” was the first thing the poser said to us. He threw us a puzzled look.

“The question is: why aren’t you dressed as a nun?” asked Léa. All but Ian laughed.

I could see that he was in no mood to joke (13), so I intervened.

“It, uh, adds to the church-y affect,” I BSed, “If people think we’re just some kids handing out Bibles on the sidewalk, chances are they’re not going to take us seriously.”

But the truth was, we were just some kids handing out Bibles on the sidewalk. Bad kids.

“Right,” muttered Ian, falling into place beside the knee-high box.

Half a minute later, I gave one of the coded cough sequences Alexa, Léa and I had worked out earlier that day. Two coughs for “get going, you numskulls,” three for “be more forceful with your peddling, Alexa,” and a lone cough for “now that’s not a very good old man act, is it Léa?” Right now, the first one was in use; I coughed twice.

From a few feet away, I distinctly heard Léa mutter to Alexa: “What does that one mean again?” I clapped a hand to my forehead. Thank goodness Ian, who was in the process of giving his cryptology book a flip-through, hadn’t heard her.

I tried old faithful next. “Go,” I concealed in a faux sneeze. Holly, in her position beside me, forced herself not to laugh.

“Oh!” whispered Léa in a flood of remembrance. She and Alexa scuttled past me. As Léa made her way by, I muttered, “ Smart one, eh (14)?”

With a giggle, she hurried on, only just remembering to say, “We’re going to get some lunch.”

“What a way to skive out on one’s duties, eh?” said Ian, trying not to use his pretentious tone. As well as being a wanna-be Brit, Ian also took pleasure in the vernacular habits of our neighbors to the north.

“Yeah,” muttered Holly (15).

Anxious and excited, I squirmed about a bit and picked up a couple of Bibles to busy myself. A couple and their young child was crossing the street, approaching quickly. With a smile and “it is better to be embraced by God’s love than his anger!” I thrust the books into their hands. They exchanged amused glances, took their child by the hand and walked off without so much as a thank-you.

I shrugged it off; I probably would have found it amusing too, had I been in their place.

Ian shifted position to the other side of the corner, leaving Holly and me beside the box.

“I hope they come back soon,” whispered Holly. “I don’t want to be here all day.”

“Neither do I.”

Luckily, we saw them approaching from the end of our street less than a minute later. I silently applauded them on their speedy changing. Alexa lengthened her stride so that she would reach us before Léa. When she did, she brought the lotion bottles out from under her tattered cloak and stared awkwardly at them.

“How am I supposed to do this?” she asked. “Just go right up to him and ask him to try them?”

“Pretty much,” I said.

“He won’t try them,” said Alexa.

I cocked an eyebrow. “Are you backing down?”

“No, but--”

“There is no ‘no, but’,” I asserted, “it’s either yes or no.”

She sighed. “I’ll do it, I’ll do it.”

“Good,” I said, satisfied. Holly, however, sympathized with her.

“Maybe we can help her,” she said. “Because she’s right; Ian won’t try it unless we absolutely insist. Here”--she grabbed a bottle--“you and I will put some on, Megan, and tell him how great it is. And once we insist, there’s no way he’ll say no!”

“Alright,” I grumbled. What could I do? It was fair enough. Holly popped open the cap and squirted a dime-sized portion of lotion into each of our palms. The lotion was quite pleasant, actually--apricot mango. A bit girlish for Ian, though. Or was it (16)?

Holly and I rounded the corner with Alexa close behind. When he saw us, he looked up from his book.

“Ian,” Holly enthused, “you’ve got to try this lotion!” She stepped aside to allow Alexa-- disguised as an old woman (17)--room to appear. She flipped open the lotion’s cap.

Ian, the uncooperative swot, shook his head and fixed his gaze back onto his book.

“I don’t want any.”

“But it’s wonderful!” I insisted. “You must try it!”

“I don’t want any.”

“Oh, come on!” pleaded Holly.

I don’t want any. Will you lot leave me alone? I’m trying to read (18).”

“You know,” I said with a triumphant smile, for I had found the sure way of success, “you agreed to help us pass out these Bibles, and all you’re doing is lounging on that bench reading.”

“But,” added Holly, catching on, “we won’t be angry if you try the lotion.”

Groaning, Ian clapped the book shut, pocketed it, and stood up, palm outstretched. Honestly, he looked as if he were being sentenced to death, or something. I grinned evilly (19) as Alexa over-squirted the lotion into his palm.

Seeing that her job was done, Alexa shoved the bottle back into her cloak pocket and walked off. I assumed she was going back to Sardinia to change.

When I got back to the box, I noticed that Ian looked disgusted with his slippery hands, but possessed far too much dignity to wipe them off on his pants.

Léa came limping along a minute or so later from behind the garbage can in a marvelous impersonation of an old man (20). Ian scooped up a Bible from the box and held it at the ready, but when Léa reached us, she waved it away.

“All I need is a light, sonny,” she rasped, waving a Cuban cigar in his face.

He forced a cough to show his disgust, but nevertheless rummaged through his pockets. All he could come up with was a matchbox. How typically Ian. With fumbling fingers (because of the lotion; hehehe) he lit it and tapped it to the end of her cigar.

Léa barely got to “Why thank you” before it happened; Ian had made to shake out the flame on the match when my plan fell beautifully into action; with his slick hands, he had already been struggling to keep his grip on the match, but it was the shake that did it; almost in slow motion--I had savored the moment that much--the match tumbled from his grasp and landed smack dab in the center of the box. As the Bibles began to burn, Holly and I both felt slightly guilty, although thrilled the plan had worked. And though we hadn’t set the Bibles on fire, we had set up the whole affair and deep down we wondered if this would come back to haunt us. Léa, too, looked pained; although she acts sinfully on a regular basis, she did attend church with her parents and is a Christian. But there was nothing we could do about the Bibles anymore; the damage was already done.

“Water!” cried Ian. “We need water!”

“None of us have water!” replied Holly. “You’ll have to go get some!”

“There’s no time for that!” Ian snapped, and began an attempt to stamp out the fire. Bad idea. It didn’t help it at all and his pant leg came out rather singed.

There was nothing to do now but go and find water. And make a long job of it, too, or the Bibles wouldn’t fully burn and it might not count against him. Holly and I zoomed around the corner and past a couple of shops; then we slowed to a walk.

“Books,” whimpered Holly. “We burned books.” After a moment, though, she added, “But they were Bibles; that doesn’t really count.”

I chucked nervously, really wishing she hadn’t said that. We had already committed enough sins for one day.

We went into the next shop, requesting to borrow their fire extinguisher, and then turned back toward the end of the street. By the time we reached Léa, Ian, and Alexa (who had just returned), a small crowd had gathered around our box muttering, whispering, panicking, and trying to put out the growing fire with the water in a Dixie cup.

I rushed toward the scene.

“Back up!” I bellowed, arranging the fire extinguisher in my hands. I set it off; a cloud of white smoke cloaked the box entirely.

When it cleared up, all that was left was a burnt, soggy, indistinguishable glob of what used to be cardboard and Bibles.

* * *

Chapter Five: The Bonfire

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The fire ended our afternoon with Ian. He went straight home looking rather flustered and shaky. The gang and I only stayed long enough to clean the glob up off of the sidewalk and then we made for Sardinia like the plague was after us. When we had all gotten comfortable on the couch and the office chairs, I spoke.

“It worked.” My voice was flat and I avoided eye contact with the others.

“Yeah,” muttered Léa. “It did.”

“He looked so worried and shameful,” fretted Holly.

“I thought it worked out rather--” began Alexa, but shut up when I threw the pebble at her head.

“We didn’t do it,” I reminded them, “he was the one who dropped the match into the box.”

“You know what’s even worse than feeling guilty?” said Holly. “Wearing these clericals; their holiness is making my skin burn.”

She pulled it over her head and forced it into a pile on her lap. Alexa scrambled to get hers off as well. Léa and I took ours off at a normal pace. Once I had the nun clothes off, I didn’t feel quite so guilty any more. It had been Ian who’d shaken the match into the box, not any of us. So what if we had set the whole thing up; he didn’t have to give “the old man” a light. He shouldn’t even carry matches with him in the first place! What did I have to worry about?

Oh, I felt much better. And it was easy to see that my friends were feeling better as well.

“Well,” I sighed, “I guess we’d better run these back over to the church.”

“Wait,” said Alexa, “I’ve got a better idea.” She dug her hand into her overall pocket and pulled out a thin matchbox identical to the one Ian had used to light “the old man’s” cigar. “Ian left these behind. I figured they’d come in handy.”

Holly’s eyes lit up. “A bonfire,” she whispered excitedly.

“Exactly,” grinned Alexa. I couldn’t help but grin as well.

“If only I had brought some marshmallows along!” Léa said. We wished that she had brought marshmallows along, too. Sardinia really needed to be equipped with some sort of food storage system.

Intoxicated with our avidity, we rushed down the passageway and around the building to the weedy lot out back. There was a large dumpster perched against the building piled high with cardboard; the perfect material to start our fire. Each of us grabbed several long pieces and stampeded to the center of the lot, creating a new pile of cardboard and clericals. Alexa lit a match and pitched it on top of the mound. Ardently, we danced in a circle around our fire, barely believing what we’d made happen a little less than an hour ago.

* * *

Chapter Six: Stairway to Heaven

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After the bonfire we went back to Sardinia, feeling triumphant and full of energy. All of our previous guilt was forgotten. The celebration continued with animated chatter and gossip, as well as an extra large pie from the pizza joint down the road. Eventually, though, our night reached its end--as did the contents of our pizza box--and Alexa and Léa announced their leave.

Holly and I stayed behind, however, to tidy up a bit and talk a while longer.

We were about to walk down the passageway to catch a bus home when from behind us came this amazing light. The entire room glimmered with a powerful golden light, as if the sun itself were descending upon Sardinia. Holly’s and my eyes met and we fell back against the wall in awe. When the light had cleared up for the most part, we could see that it had left something behind; a golden staircase.

If you recall, Sardinia, being the space between large office buildings, was roofless, and the only place for the staircase to go (beside the office buildings, which would make for quite a boring story) was up.

Not just to the top of the buildings; I mean UP. High, high above the city’s buildings, past the clock tower--past any man-made structure in the history of mankind. It seemed to travel far into the clouds and into...

No; it couldn’t be. There was no way, we thought. We stared at each other again, looking uneasy. But we felt a sort of obligation to climb the Magic Golden Staircase. After all, what else had we to do?

“Let’s go,” I whispered, and we began our journey.

Usually when storybook characters embark on a journey, it’s a heroic affair (21) generally involving a chase of some sort and a good cause. Our journey possessed neither of these things. The only thing we were after was the top of the staircase. And there was not a cause--never mind a good one--in sight. What our journey did possess, however, could fill a book (22). Our feet ached from so much climbing; our legs were sore from all of the leg-lifting demanded by the stairs; our stomachs were queasy (23) from the frequent glances we took behind us ; and our eyes were crossing over from staring at the stairs for such an amount of time. On top of that, we were cold. We had been stupid enough to burn the clericals, which would have been an excellent--though embarrassing--source of warmth, and all we were left with were our day clothes. Trust me, T-shirts and jean shorts are not the best choice of wear if you’re planning on nearing the mesosphere.

After such a trying and terrible experience, the sight of our destination in the distance really put the silver lining in our cloud. Fifty or so stairs ahead, the whitest, most solid--yet comfortable--looking clouds hovered, forming a sort of wall that went on for miles. The only interruption in the brilliant blockade was the tall, golden, fancy gate our staircase led to.

Once more, Holly and I exchanged glances.

“Do you think we’re really in...?” asked Holly anxiously. “Are you sure we’re not just dreaming?”

“Would you like me to push you off of the staircase so you can find out?” I offered.

Holly glared at me, but scooted away from the rail-less edge of the staircase. I noticed her give herself a little pinch on the arm out of the corner of my eye.

“So how d’you think we’re going to get this gate open?” I said.

Holly gave it a look-over. “I dunno; it seems pretty sturdy to me.”

“Sturdy, eh?” I mumbled, stepping forward to grip the bars on the gate. I gave it a good shake and with a “click!” it slid forward, allowing us our first real look at Heaven.

* * *

Chapter Seven: Booze, Shirts and Tunnels

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I felt as if I’d stepped into Disneyland. Except there were no rides, no concession stands, no under-paid teenagers dressed as chipmunks, and obviously no small children demanding their autographs.

Then what, you may wonder, reminded me of the well-known theme park?

Well, it did have beautiful fields of wildflowers complete with woodland animals and mountains and shimmering waterfalls in the distance, rows of old-fashioned, two-story buildings in the city section to our right, architecture from every country, enormous hotels popping up everywhere, a main street brimming with people having a grand old time, and the best part of all: a gigantic castle almost identical in design to the Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.

In that moment I knew that Walt Disney had gone to Heaven.

We started our walk down the flower-bordered sidewalk, away from the gate and the shrubbery that flanked it, and toward the merry city.

If I didn’t have an extreme abhorrence for Disneyland (24),” said Holly, “this would be the coolest place I have ever been to.”

I grinned. “You think it looks like a Disney creation, too?”

Holly snorted. “Are you not seeing the colorful buildings, awnings, cobblestone streets, large hotel chains, gigantic blue-and-white castle, gorgeous trees and shrubbery, laughing, singing and dancing people, and woodland creatures?”

“It’s definitely Disney,” I agreed. “But even you have to admit that it makes a pretty awesome Heaven.”

Holly waited a moment before responding. “I guess so; but did they have to leave out the rides?”

We laughed and spent the remainder of our walk visually exploring our surroundings.

The sidewalk had come to an end at the entrance to the city where an official-looking man stood waiting for us. He stepped forward and said,

“What business could two living girls possibly have in the city?”

“We don’t quite know ourselves, sir,” I said. “We were in Sardinia when this Magic Golden Staircase arrived out of nowhere and we followed it here. We assume someone wants to speak with us.”

“The Magic Golden Staircase, was it?” he muttered. “Alright, you may enter the city, but don’t tarry; his majesty wants a word with you.”

Not wanting to speak to the guard anymore, we nodded quickly and hurried into the city, giggling like the schoolgirls we were.

“This is fantastic!” I cried, and then proceeded to skip, which was quite uncharacteristic of me.

“Indeed!” Holly cheered from behind me. “Now I know why everyone wants to go to Heaven! Look at this place!”

She stopped dead in her tracks, eyes bulging more than the ugliest fish in the sea.

“What is it?” I asked, concerned. I scanned the area for signs of a disturbance, but nothing about our surroundings had drastically changed.

Holly pointed excitedly at a hanging sign above our heads.

“A pub!” she cried with an ecstatic jump. Several people nearby paused their songs and dances to give her bizarre stares. “Where there are pubs, there’s alcohol!”

I rolled my eyes--well, I can’t say heavenward, seeing as we were in Heaven at the time; I’ll have to settle for upward.

“No, Holly; we’re not stopping for alcohol. Didn’t you hear the guard at the gate? He said not to tarry.”

Holly folded her arms across her chest, determined, and said,

“I refuse to go anywhere except for the pub until I have my fair share of Kahlua.

“You are impossible,” I grumbled.

Holly flashed a toothy grin. “Not if you give me everything I want.”

With a sigh, I pushed through the western-style doors to the pub. I glanced over my shoulder.

“Come on then, Holly. Let’s get you snockered.”

And snockered she got. I had only planned on letting Holly order one Kahlua and then forcing her out of the door, but I quickly learned that when Holly says “my fair share” she really means it. Not five seconds after she’d downed her first bottle, she called to the bartender to deliver another.

“What about you?” the bartender had asked. “What’ll you have?”

Both she and Holly stared expectantly at me.

“I don’t need anything,” I mumbled. Frankly, I didn’t have a taste for liquor and still don’t. Holly’s Kahlua landed in front of her with a clunk and the bartender retreated to the back.

Six Kahluas later, Holly was too drunk to order any more, thankfully, and we could finally get out of there and to our meeting.

In addition, my having to watch Holly down Kahluas so quickly was utterly disgusting, not to mention for the other sensible drinkers guests in the pub. It was nice to be over the embarrassment. Or so I thought it was over.

(The next chunk of Holly’s dialogue has been heavily translated by yours truly.)

“That was great Kahlua,” slurred Holly, though you cannot tell by looking at her dialogue due to my spectacular translation. “Can you ask her to give me another?”

I pretended not to hear her.

“Excuse me,” I called to the bartender, “how much do I owe you for her drinks?”

The woman giggled. “You’re new here, aren’t you?”

I blushed. “You could say that.”

She picked up a dusty glass from the shelf behind her and began to polish it with a rag.

“You don’t have to pay for anything in Heaven,” she told me. “That’s part of the reward.”

I wouldn’t have been surprised if my chin had slammed into the counter.

“Free?” I whispered in disbelief. An image of myself with dollar signs as eyes flashed before me (25). “But if we don’t have to pay, how do you get paid?”

“We don’t,” she replied simply. “We don’t need the money.”

I felt immediately stupid for my question. If everything in Heaven was free, she obviously wouldn’t need money.

“Why do people assume job-like positions, then?” slurred Holly. I translated.

“Because even after death many people still enjoy volunteer work, as well as the orderliness customer service provides,” explained the bartender.

“It is quite nice,” I agreed. “Especially not having to pay.” I neglected to mention that I didn’t have money either way. I don’t know what would have happened had Heaven been run like the real world.

Holly hopped cheerily from her chair and staggered out the doors. I took this as my cue to leave and bade the bartender goodbye before hurrying after my friend.

As I pushed through the doors I could see Holly directly in front of the pub. She was twirling around in circles singing “God Save the Queen.”

She had barely gotten to “Happy and glorious,

long to reign over us” before I grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her to take a seat on a nearby bench.

“Oh Lord our God arise, scatter our enemies, and make them fall!” she sang, throwing her arms out before her as if she were going to give someone a hug.

“Holly,” I said, trying to stop her.

“Confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks, on Thee our hopes we fix, oh save us all!” Man, was she melodramatic. She sang it as if the Queen were on her deathbed.

“Holly,” I tried once more.

“Thy choicest gifts in store, on her be pleased to pour, long may she reign!”

“HOLLY!” I yelled. “Would you STOP? We. Have. To. GO.”

She looked cross. “Why? What’s so urgent, anyway? What’s he going to do, punish us for tricking Ian into burning the Bibles?”

I had an epiphany. I then understood why the guard had wanted us to make haste to see God. He probably does want to punish us, I thought. I bet he’s really angry.

“Actually,” I said, rising from the bench. “I think he does.”

Somewhere in her drunken mind, Holly snapped.

“I knew it! We told you God loves everyone! Including Ian! He didn’t think it was any sort of favor we did for him! I bet he’s going to fry our asses for this mess!”

I rounded on her. “Don’t talk like you didn’t go along with the plan just like the rest of us! You didn’t want to end up with the Russians either! And I didn’t see you coming up with any better plans!”

Holly took a deep breath. “All right, let’s stop yelling for a minute so we can assess our situation.”

I chuckled to myself at her statement. After all, how well could a drunk person assess?

“We tricked Ian into burning a box of Bibles and now God probably wants to flood the entire earth again on our accounts,” she continued.

I joined in in jest. “So that leaves us with three choices; we can go meet him and receive our eternal punishments, sneak away from the city and back down the Magic Golden Staircase, or we can prepare for the inevitable flooding of the earth and find supplies to build an ark.”

“Right,” breathed Holly, flustered, “you find the animals and I’ll hit Home Depot.”

Not wanting to waste time explaining my joke to a drunkard, I simply waved my hand in a dismissive gesture.

“No. Forget the ark. The only way out of this mess is to sneak away from Heaven and permanently go into hiding, like Salman Rushdie. And when we end up in Heaven for real, all we’ll have to do is avoid him; he’ll probably have forgotten all about it by then.

“Besides, if he doesn’t, Heaven’s plenty big.”

“But isn’t God omniscient?” questioned Holly. “There’s no way he’s going to miss this. And if we leave, he’ll just track us down again!”

“Look, Holly,” I said pointedly, “let me put it this way: would you rather be punished now or later?”

She took a gander over both shoulders. “You’re right. We need to sneak back to Sardinia.”

I knew that would convince her.

Without a word, she dragged me over to a cone-shaped topiary and we ducked down behind it. Holly adopted a conspiratorial whisper.

“I’ve just thought of something; Disneyland has an underground system of tunnels for its employees to use. That means, since nobody is actually employed in Heaven, that anyone wanting to use them to--oh, I don’t know--escape from an angry divine being, would have quite an easy time doing so.”

I was genuinely impressed with Holly’s scheme. Especially because she was drunk.

“There’s only one problem,” she said. “I have no idea where one would enter them.”

Rather than sag my head in eminent defeat and suggest that we head on to accept our punishments (as I probably should have), I grinned widely and Holly (eyebrows arched) immediately questioned me.

“Why are you grinning? I really don’t see how this is in any way amusing.”

“It is to me!” I said. “Because I know exactly where the entrance to the underground tunnels is!”

“But how?” she inquired.

“Remember that job at the inventorying agency I told you my mom used to have?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied, “but what does that have to do with Disneyland’s underground system of tunnels?”

“Well,” I continued with a smile, “one of the agency’s jobs was to inventory Disney World. Mom got to go down into the tunnels; of course I asked her all about it. I’m sure if Disney World has them, Disneyland has them, and so does its airborne duplicate.

Holly looked relieved. “I am so relieved that you know this. Where is the entrance?” She used a branch of the topiary to help herself to her feet. I followed in a less destructive manner.

“Where do you think they’d be?” I said. “In the back, of course! Where do stores keep everything interesting?”

Suddenly, Holly’s hands flew to her temples and she began massaging them vigorously.

“Argh. I feel an awful headache coming on.”

“Your fault,” I said brusquely. I grabbed her by the elbow. “Come on. We need every second of our time to get through those tunnels and out of here.”

Holly moaned and covered her temples with her palms. I had no choice but to drag her across the median we were standing in with her hands still clapped to her head.

We entered a tiny clothing store across the street and a bell tinkled overhead. There weren’t many people inside, only five, and the woman who would have been a salesperson had we been on earth, was very busy assisting them with their selections, one of which was a shirt that read, ‘I climbed the Magic Golden Staircase.’ There was even a picture of it below the text--a very small picture in comparison to the real staircase, obviously. Because even combined, all of the shirts in the world couldn’t properly display it.

It was my turn to be the hindrance.

“Holly!” I whispered in excitement. “Look at that woman’s shirt!”

Holly paused from her temple massaging to read it before the woman disappeared behind a dressing room curtain.

“Yes? And?” she grumbled, resuming her previous activity.

“I want it!” I cried. “I’m sure there are more on the racks!”

Before Holly had a chance to stop me, I darted off to a rack of clothing that was similar in color to the shirt the woman had. I had barely begun sifting through the rack when the “saleswoman” appeared beside me.

“Do you need help with anything?” she asked.

I looked up at her. “Yes, actually. Could you show where you keep the shirts that say ‘I climbed the Magic Golden Staircase’?”

“Certainly,” she chirped.

I followed her to a circular rack near the dressing room cubicles where she selected four of the shirts--all in different colors--and held them out for me to see.

“Would you like it in yellow, green, blue or red?”

I knew I didn’t look good in yellow for sure (it also blended in slightly with the staircase) and red isn’t the best color to wear when you’re trying to escape. I had to choose between blue and green.

“May I?” I asked. I held my hands out for the aforementioned colors.

With a nod, she passed them over and I slipped into a dressing cubicle. After trying both shirts on, it was obvious that I should choose the blue one. The green one I gave to Holly, who was still clutching her head in pain when I emerged, clad in my new piece of clothing.

Holly stepped into a cubicle to change and she, like I had, left her old shirt in a careless heap on the dressing room floor.

During the few brief moments I waited outside of Holly’s dressing room, I suddenly remembered why we had gone into the shop in the first place and my eyes gravitated to the open door behind the “cash register”. I glanced over at her. She was still helping customers. It was the perfect opportunity to sneak into the back room and down the tunnels

The curtain swished and Holly appeared at my side.

“There’s the entrance to the back,” I whispered, nudging my head toward the open door. “Let’s go. She’s busy with customers and she won’t see us.”

We crept across the store behind several jam-packed racks of clothing on our tiptoes and switched to crawling on our hands and knees to be sure that we couldn’t be spotted. I nearly sneezed when we did this because we stirred up a small cloud of dust when our hands clapped the carpet. The cool floor of the back room against our shins and knees told us that we had made it and we hauled ass through the plain, wooden door my mom had once described to me. After we shut the door we were immediately consumed by the darkness of the tunnel. Or so we thought. A moment or two later our eyes adjusted and past the few stairs below us we could see the beginnings of a very bright room.

I jumped the length of the staircase but Holly, who was neither the more graceful nor the more athletic of the two of us, preferred to take the stairs one at a time.

She gasped in surprised when she saw the tunnel properly. I half-smiled at her reaction; I’d know what was coming.

The tunnel was about thirty feet across with ceilings twice our heights that had florescent lights hanging every few feet. The walls were an ugly, boring concrete, absent of any sort of picture or finishing, and rows of lockers ran down them. The only differences from the earthly tunnels were the absence of the character costumes and the busy, working employees that would have been passing through had we been in Orlando or Anaheim. The tunnel was ours.

“This is really cool,” said Holly, whose temples had finally stopped throbbing.

She looked around the tunnel with a child-like glow in her eyes. It was quite unfamiliar to me.

We began to walk.

“Do you think there are any stores outside of the city limits?” I asked, and my echo chorused after. “Outside of the wall?”

“Probably not,” said Holly. “But if we find a store that’s near the other end of the city, maybe we can take some boxes out of the back and make a staircase to get over the wall.”

A rush of nausea filled my stomach. “Holly, I think we’ve had enough staircases to last us a life time.”

I had expected her to snap back with something, but instead she stopped dead in her tracks with a horrified look on her face. My heart raced out of instinct.

“What? What is it?”

“Listen,” she hissed.

I did. But there wasn’t much to hear. Only our own breathing and a distant mechanical sound. I calmed at once.

“I don’t see anything worth panicking over.”

“That’s because it’s on its way!” snapped Holly.

She grabbed my arm and pulled me over to the lockers. She wrenched two of the doors open and entered one.

“Get inside!” she ordered, and her door slammed shut.

Confused and worried for my friend’s sanity, I jammed myself inside of the locker in front of me and closed the door.

There was a moment of silence except for the distant mechanical sound. Then the sound came closer and closer until it seemed to be only on the other side of the thin locker door. My heart began to race again and it took all of my self-control to keep from screaming in terror. It felt like I was in that crammed, cold locker for minutes upon end, frightened and feeling claustrophobic for the first time in my life. In truth, it took only about ten seconds for the mechanical beast to pass.

I heard Holly open her locker and step out and, figuring the coast was clear, I did the same.

“What was that?” I breathed.

“I...think it was some sort of vehicle,” she whispered. “But it’s gone now. We’re all right. Let’s keep going.”

“Yeah,” I muttered, glancing tentatively over my shoulder. “Okay.”

We started walking again, faster than before, although we would take breaks every ten yards to stop and listen for the vehicle. While we didn’t hear any sign of it, what we were missing was the light--almost mute--patter of feet from behind us. That was why, when we stopped for the sixth time, we were extremely surprised and terrified when two hands grabbed the backs of our shirts. We screamed and were released.

We were even more surprised to see the guard from the city’s entrance when we turned around.

“What are you doing down here?” we all demanded in unison.

The guard pulled a stern face. “You think you’re so clever hiding from me in lockers,” he said. “But I tricked you. I parked my golf cart back by the stairs to that clothing boutique and crept along behind you.” Then he added, “I told you not to tarry. And by your new attire and alcohol breath”--Holly turned a festive shade of red--“it is clear that you didn’t listen.”

I focused my gaze on one of the locks to a locker. It felt as if a teacher were scolding me or my parents were lecturing me. They both fall into the same category, really. The only words I heard after those first few sentences were “going to the office of the Lord.”

Internally, I groaned. This felt like going to the principal’s office. He grabbed us both by the arms and marched us further down the tunnel. And as with going to the principal’s office, a weighty feeling of dread seeped into the pits of our stomachs, growing heavier and increasing our anxiety with every step we took. This wasn’t any ordinary principal. The man in the big chair in the imposing office wasn’t going to give us a sermonette and pat our heads and send us back to class. The man in the big chair in the imposing office preferred worse forms of torture. Sodom and Gomorra, flooding the earth, plagues of locusts, killing firstborn sons. Yeah. We didn’t stand a chance.

* * *

Chapter Eight: The Man Upstairs

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On the way to God’s office, we passed many ‘exits’ if you will, small staircases presumably leading up to other stores in a linear succession of steps. When we came to the final ‘exit’ we saw that it was different than its predecessors. It, like the Magic Golden Staircase, was golden, and rather than taking its climbers straight to the door, it wound gracefully upward. The treat of using such a beautiful staircase, despite our previous climbing experience, shed a small amount of light on the punishment looming in the very near future.

After ascending the smaller golden staircase, the phrase ‘size is no guarantee of power’ held a greater meaning for me. Earlier that day, we had scaled the largest staircase to ever come into existence and had arrived in a very interesting yet familiar place. Later we went up a regular sized, ordinary staircase and we were met with one of the most amazing sights of our lives. In truth, had we not ascended the Magic Golden Staircase, we wouldn’t have been able to climb the smaller golden staircase, but the effect gained from what was waiting at the top of the smaller golden staircase far surpassed the feeling I’d had when I took my first few steps into Heaven.

God’s office was amazing. Though I’m not sure it was an office, per se. The entire floor was a bright field of wildflowers dotted with frolicking, furry white bunnies. Exactly in the center of the field rested a large, mahogany desk at which God himself sat, fingers steepled sagely. And though the “office” had no walls, there seemed to be one in the back due to a wall-like structure formed by millions upon millions of ticking clocks. Every few seconds hundreds would flash red and then glow blue on the face. The “blue period” lasted only a moment or two before the clock sank back behind the others and a new one took its place, starting over ticking. Some of them didn’t glow blue, however, when they stopped flashing. As if frozen in mid-flash, the face of the clock remained red, then acted in the manner of the blue-faced clocks and allowed its replacement to take over. Another attention-grabber of the office was a bookcase. A simple, wooden bookcase. One wouldn’t normally find such a thing intriguing or out of the ordinary, but this case was an exception. God certainly kept an interesting library; Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, Ulysses, Frankenstein, Lord of the Flies, and I even caught sight of the familiar spines of the Harry Potter books.

Now that the visual tour was complete, our eyes fell upon God. Huh. How oddly funny. He greatly resembled the painting in my grandmother’s family Bible (26). He had the same golden-brown beard, same dress-like attire, same facial features--everything. I hadn’t expected this.

“Please sit down,” He offered, gesturing to the pair of vacant seats before the desk. We sat.

“What’s with those clocks?” I asked, indicating them. “Why do some turn red and some blue?”

“You’re aware that not everyone is admitted to Heaven?” He asked, and at our nods He continued, “When the face of a clock glows blue, it means the deceased has a place in Heaven. But if it glows red, the person was not admitted and thus goes to Hell.”

“Sir,” I said, after absorbing the new information, “for what reason have you summoned us here?”

“I’m glad you asked,” He said, pulling open a drawer to His desk. He removed a tan folder and placed it like a dinner mat in front of himself. “There are many reasons.” He cleared His throat. “You plotted the corruption of an innocent-- yet admittedly obnoxious (27) --soul, staged the burning of a box of perfectly readable Bibles, assisted the burning of clericals, stole clericals, stole doughnuts, stole a box of surgical masks without intention of performing surgery, sneaked into a church, lied to nuns, impersonated nuns, and you insulted the Russians.”

“What about all the other people I’ve insulted?” I questioned.

God looked up from His list. “I’d almost forgotten about those.”

My head slumped down toward my chest.

“So...we’re totally banished to Hell, aren’t we?” said Holly.

“On the contrary,” He said, sliding the paper back into its folder, “you’re not banished at all. Not yet.”

Holly and I exchanged uneasy, although grateful, glances.

“Not yet?” I echoed.

“You have one more chance to redeem yourselves,” He warned. “And by redeem, I don’t mean steal from churches and lie to nuns. Lay off Ian, also.”

“But--” I started to protest.

“Not another word about the Russians,” He ordered. “Now make yourselves scarce; The Simpsons comes on in five minutes.”

* * *

Chapter Nine: Not What it Seemed?

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Feeling like vindicated criminals (which, in truth, we were) we made our way--along with the smug city guard, damn him--to the front gate of Heaven where the guard rudely parted with us (28) and we started our descent of the Magic Golden Staircase. The second journey proved to be as dismal as the first and our moods were extraordinarily bad before even crossing the halfway point.

“What a stupid idea,” groused Holly again, aiming nasty glares my way. “Tricking Ian. I can only screw up one more time now!”

I glared right back. “Did I puppeteer you?” I demanded. “Did I make you go along with my plan? I think not.”

I hated having the same argument twice.

She gave me a shove. “You made everyone else join in. It sounded feasible when you all discussed it. Logical.”

I pushed her back. “You did everything on your own. Willingly. End of story.”

She shoved me again, harder. I stumbled backward, sticking my foot out to stop my fall. Except the solidity of the stairs never came. I toppled over the edge and sunk through the clouds, falling faster and faster with each passing second. I waved my arms frantically, hollering loud enough to raise the dead. The wind rushed through my ears, deafening me, drowning out my screams. My stomach flipped and flopped, giving the feel of a roller coaster ride. My last thought before I crashed into the earth was of the fight.

Or so I thought I’d hit the ground--until I shot into a sitting position on the worn, probably crab-infested couch of Sardinia, eyes hubcap wide, chest rising and falling heavily from the shock of my vivid dream. I surveyed the room; only Holly remained, sleeping still. They were the same conditions from after the bonfire.

We’d passed the time sleeping! Going to Heaven was only a dream! A dream that was wonderful, frightening, tedious and interesting all at once. I only wished we’d dreamt the earlier part of our day too.

Sprawled across the two equally disgusting office chairs, Holly stirred. She sat up, glanced around the room, spotted me and gave me a look to match my own; she seemed frightened, excited, worn out--just plain spellbound.

“Bad dream?” I mused.




(1) Alexa. And on top of that, she openly displays her indifference toward an inevitable fate of burning pits by making fun of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. We all find it very amusing, though. Which is why, I suppose, we’ll be joining her. [Back]

(2) They make me take Spanish, I’m gonna use it. [Back]

(3) “Of course” in Spanish. [Back]

(4) Rather like being farted on by an enormous, yellow animal. Quite unpleasant. [Back]

(5) Probably infested with crabs, that old couch was. Keeping my mouth shut about Alexa and Léa though. [Back]

(6) Hadn’t been such a good idea. I ended up hocking a loogie, which killed the effect I had been going for. [Back]

(7) Don’t you love it when the authors do that? It’s amazing how easy it is to give away the entire outcome of the initial incident. Only took me four words. [Back]

(8) I live in Deland. In Deland, we mosey. End of story. [Back]

(9) No, Holly; it wasn’t Yaoi. [Back]

(10) Even nuns would kick us out in the face of a cold. [Back]

(11) Head Stern Sister. [Back]

(12) A *insert name here* sandwich is when two people sit on either side of another person and either squish the person in the middle with all their might or sit/stand so closely that it feels as if they are. Quite fun when you’re not the victim, actually. [Back]

(13) Not that he is ever in the mood for joking... [Back]

(14) The ‘eh’ was thrown in deliberately because of Alexa’s Canadian friend, Adam. Léa finds ‘eh’ endlessly amusing. [Back]

(15) When Holly mutters to Ian, it is usually because she is ignoring him, yet trying to give off the impression that she is actually interested in what he has to say. She really has too much heart. [Back]

(16) Heh, heh, heh. [Back]

(17) She had really gone all out; not that she needed much disguising. Her hair was sprinkled with white powder, her face had been made-up with various warts, and from somewhere--probably a dumpster--she had found a cane to hobble on. [Back]

(18) Quite an attitude that boy had! His mother ought to have taught him to be a bit more friendly. Hadn’t he ever heard of accepting offers out of politeness? [Back]

(19) The only way to grin. [Back]

(20) A shame, because I had really been itching to use that coded cough. [Back]

(21) Meaning, if the book goes to film, fast-paced music will accompany the scene. [Back]

(22) And here we are. : D [Back]

(23) It was an amazing height we had reached. Talk about making a person sick. [Back]

(24) Holly’s official Disney statement: “I detest Disney. It is a constant vile profanity to every bit of myth, legend and history that exists. Like, shoot yourself in the face kind of hatred. But the rides are fun.” [Back]

(25) Probably due to the amount of cartoons I watched as a child. [Back]

(26) Though Holly swears she saw a teenaged cross dresser with rose-colored sunglasses. [Back]

(27) It pleased me that we were in accord on this matter. [Back]

(28) “I expect this will be your last moment here. Enjoy it,” he smirked. [Back]

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Once Upon a Very Bad Plan © Gracie Perrier

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