An old card reader, of my acquaintance, claimed to belong to a long line of indigenous soothsayers that had passed down their knowledge of the other dimension through the generations by her tribe’s elders; was having a cuppa with myself and just shooting the breeze. As people who have known each other for some time do. If you’re going to waste time you may just as well do it with someone interesting. Now, Yula, who not only claimed to be psychic, professed to be able to see the departed and communicate with them. She maintained that she was in regular contact with the other side. So when the subject of Billy Snodgrass, who is dead, came up our conversation naturally drifted that way. Billy had made a fortune in his lifetime but a huge question mark hung over his business practices. Not that anyone questioned his honesty. It was more to do with the way that he used his position and money to get what he wanted. Nor that he was secretive but he did play his affairs close to the chest so that no one really knew what he was up to.
“What do you think happened to Snodgrass when he died?” I asked.
“It is a well-known story in the spirit world. I’ll relate it to you if you like?”
“Please.” With a pleading tone.
She began. “As is well known Billy Snodgrass was a self-made billionaire, born in the slums of Newtown, that’s before it became a trendy haven for the up and coming. He was the son of an American serviceman who bolted once he found out he’d knocked up a local girl who, I might add, didn’t want the child anyway. From this start and next to no education he went on to become a highly respected merchant. What is not known is that Billy owed the foundation of his fortune and his start in life to skulduggery. When he was a young bloke he had defrauded a poor lonely widow of her home which was all that her husband was able to leave her for her old age. Now penniless and homeless she took an overdose of sleeping pills to escape the utter misery of living on the streets. Not a living soul other than Snodgrass knew about this terrible tragedy. But no crime goes unnoticed by the eye of heaven.
When Billy was at the point of death two shadows darkened the door of his hospital room. And he was horrified to recognise the awful beings that now entered. The messengers of death. Dispatched, no doubt, by one of the assistant judges of the dead!
“You must not take me yet” he burst out.
“There is a crime on my conscience I have always been meaning to pay for in some suitable way, but somehow the matter slipped my memory until now. I still need at least a year to amass a store of merit by way of redressing the balance.”
“Be sure we know all about that” snarled the hawk headed one snapping his ugly knuckles ominously.
“The lady you defrauded has had a request for justice after your death before your judge who detests oppression of the weak and helpless. Still you’d need not fear that his discretion will make him unduly severe. His Excellency always sees to it that the punishment exactly fits the crime. You will probably be sentenced to merely impalement upon a red-hot metal pole for precisely the number of years cut from the virtuous widow’s life on account your cruelty. To compensate for the interest on the principle which has been accumulating all those years I dare say we shall be instructed to exercise the cat-of-nine tails on your flesh several hundred times a day or my friend here may be ordered to give you a daily lesson in virtue. Who knows?”
Alas, reflected the shuttering merchant if these two were human negotiators I could buy them off without the least of trouble but what use have these creatures for American dollars?
“Wait! On one’s death bed it is customary for rich men to donate a reasonable amount of their fortune to charity to provide the departing with sufficient spirit credits to purchase a fitting establishment in celestial regions. I will make a sizable donation to be turned into spirit money for the widow by way of compensation for what I have done. It stands to reason that the terrible assistant judge would be glad to accept a sufficiently handsome sum paid in genuine spirit money. And of course, another lesser amount given to charity on behalf of the messengers. Ah well, half my billions should fix the problem the other half I will divide between my sons. After all it was only thousands that I stole from the widow!”
He laid his plan before the messengers, to be answered with brazen laughter and a sharp command to finish dying, so as to be ready for this last journey.
“Give me at least a moment to think clearly. My mind is all over the place you have put me under intense pressure in this my final moments. There I have it! You have no right to stand between that poor widow’s spirit and an opportunity to improve her circumstances in the celestial regions. If you haul me off without giving me time to arrange things, the judge will have something to say to you! I undertake to make full restitution in spirit currency for the amount I stole from her, together with full interest for all the years that have elapsed since that unfortunate event. I must be allowed a few minutes to make arrangements with my sons.
The messengers conversed in harsh metallic undertones. Recognising that the poor widow’s spirit had nothing to gain from this vile human’s sufferings, however entertaining; they agreed that 90% should be given to a worthwhile charity and this would decidedly improve her standing amongst her heavenly neighbours and enable her to buy a pleasant property with a garden full of celestial fruit trees.
Accordingly although with some trepidation, they allowed Billy a further hour of life, although the extension had not been sanctioned by above and neither had the authority to accept bribes. Billy forthwith sent for his sons and without disclosing the disreputable reason, he changed his will, as he had committed, that 90% of everything that he owned was to be donated to charity and that 10% be divided between his sons. This done, he peacefully submitted to death and accompanied the messengers on their downward journey to the awe fetching nether regions, where the only music to be heard are the shrieks of greedy sinners and converted possession grabbers and the air is tainted with the stink of charred flesh.
No sooner had their father passed away in than eldest son said to his brother
“It seems Dad’s mind was wondering when he changed his mind in that last hour of death. Do you suppose that our father had it in mind to bribe his way out of any trifling difficulties that may await the spirit of a man so upright? Who never broke the law and never did a bad thing in his life. That would not look well for us.”
“True.” replied the second son. “As you say, our dear father’s mind was wandering towards the end. It would not be undutiful to disregard instructions given under such circumstances. Let us agree to split the money in half and destroy his last will. The money can only be of benefit to you and me and after all our father did earn it honestly.
Who knows what price he had to pay for his children’s loyalty and obedience? In this world of dust, even a dying man cannot rely on his children to carry out his last wishes!
“That’s some story. How long will Billy stay?”
Yula shrugged her shoulders. “At least as long as the widow should have lived.”
“Then he goes to heaven?”
“No, then the slate is clean, who knows? It’s not as though his life were full of good deeds that he deserved to go to heaven.”
It must be interesting to live in two dimensions at the same time.