I remember that I dropped a shotgun outside the last exit portal. I run through the darkness, over to another part of the field. The ground is churned up and muddy here. There's my shotgun, lying in the muck. It's loaded. Tangled in the weeds next to it I find one extra shell, which I jam into my hip pocket. The rest of my supplies are trashed, scattered around. This weapon will have to do.
I run back to my previous spot in the thickening rain. I'm already late, so I waste no time creating the portal. I walk over to a miniature electrical tower made of steel triangles of scaffolding, and pull two sheets of notepaper from my coat pocket, and throw them on the ground. Deadly snakes of electricity march down the tower and collect around the wet papers, which begin to glow. The light becomes blinding, and I step as close as I can to it, trying not to hit the scaffolding with my shotgun. "If this doesn't work I'll be stuck here forever", I grimly think. The light leaps up around me.
I find my feet on the vines of a jungle floor. I stand up, raising my head over a wooden partition that forms a wall across the path. I spot two demons, hunkered down a few partitions away near a tree. One of them is aiming a rifle at me. I duck down just in time to avoid a bullet in the head.
I attempt to trade shots with the demons, but every time I raise my rifle and pull the trigger, it refuses to fire. The demon with the gun is a good shot, and I have to keep moving to avoid injury. Holes appear in the wooden partition. One shot zings by so close that it cuts into my ear. I touch the wound and my fingers come away with white goo on them instead of blood.
The demons start lobbing grenades at me. The first one explodes in the bushes far to my left; an embarrassing attempt. The second lands behind my partition, at my feet. I hurl my useless shotgun (Yes, it has turned from shotgun to rifle back to shotgun) onto the trail, hunch over, and spring up with my arms over my head. I fly up out of the forest, evading the explosion.
I look down, and see the cement arena of my elementary school. The space is crowded with people of all ages. Walking amongs them is a short little boy, a toddler wearing second-hand clothing -- brown corduroy pants and a shirt with a collar. People are clustered around him, following him, eager to be near, but the press of the crowd stops abruptly at five or six feet, making a ring of open space around the boy. No one is brave enough to get any closer.
This little boy is God. Whoever gets to him first, and kisses him on the forehead twelve times, is the winner of the battle.
I land at the edge of the woods, on the crumbling perimeter of the cement arena. The two demons now look like my mother and father. My mother rides out from between the trees on a mechanical horse, weaving in close around me, trying to shoot me down with a pistol. I draw mine, but it refuses to fire. Once again I throw the weapon away and fly into the air.
This time I land at the top of the ramp leading from the office. My father emerges from behind the office door, carrying a heavy, serious looking snub-nosed weapon under one arm. He walks up to me and begins describing the different modes that the gun can be set for, such as repeat fire, needle fire, grenade launcher, et cetera. It has a big red counter on the side. He demonstrates needle fire by aiming the gun at me. I fly up and dodge in the air, avoiding most of his shots, but a few scar my face. I return fire with a smaller weapon of my own, and the needles hit his head and plow into it, vanishing. He ignores the attack and starts walking across the arena. I fire a different weapon at him, which covers his head with white powder. The powder becomes a white sludge that burns into his head and scars it, but he keeps walking.
I drop the gun and fly up over the crowd. I see my father weave into it, and get within twenty yards of the ring of space where the toddler is. Then he fades away. I can't figure out where he's gone, so I float over the woods trying to decide what to do next.
Beneath me are a half-dozen picnic tables. All the demons are on lunch break, along with the school kids. They eat from sack lunches and discuss their work. I enter a steep dive, and snatch a ball-point pen off the table in front of a demon resembling a young actress. I hold it next to her ear with my thumb over the button on the back of the pen, as though I could shoot her in the head with it, but instead of pressing the button I fly back into the air. I store the pen in my back pocket.
Now I'm floating above a table with regular kids at it. One girl has a binder open in front of her, full of papers. It's supposed to be my work. I've been canonized as a guardian angel, and my name has become world-famous. Kids are given copies of my work to help their studies. I float down and examine the open binder in front of the girl, but the writing isn't mine. Someone is perpetuating a scam in my name. The girl is dissatisfied with the binder, and I don't blame her.
I fly out over the schoolyard again. If the demons are all on break, perhaps now is my best chance to sneak in and win the battle. I locate the open spot in the crowd where the boy should be, and dive down to it. The boy is gone, but in the middle of the open circle is a single almond, crushed halfway out of a thick shell. "Well, it's still a living thing, it could still be God", I think. I lean down and touch my lips to the shell of the almond. One, two, three, four ... twelve times. "Was that enough? What happens now?"
I stand up, and notice that the people all around me are slowing down. Some are in mid-stride. Some are talking to others, but their lips slow down and their voices fade to nothing. The birdsong from the forest disappears. The wind stops.
I feel an invisible hand of pressure grasp my body, and pull it back and to the side. Behind me, a huge brass set of balance scales appears in the sand of the playground. My body drops to a kneeling position and my head bows, though I make no conscious decision to do so.
A metal track appears beneath me, extending straight out to either side of the balance scales for fifty feet. At each end of the track, a glowing banner appears in the air, and a couple of humanoid figures beneath each banner. The banner that's fifty feet to my right says "GOOD." The figures beneath it are kneeling angels -- people with white robes, gold belts, and big feathery wings. They could have stepped right out of a Family Circus comic. I glance at them, and think, "Good, eh? The other side must be Evil?"
I turn my head and look at the other end of the track. Standing there is a demon, all red skin and horns, and next to him is a hooded cloak, formed loosely around the shape of a body, filled with blackness. The banner floating above them reads: "DEATH."
"'GOOD' and 'DEATH'?", I think, "This is supposed to be a choice?"
My body is slowly sliding along the track, towards the side reading "GOOD". If I don't make a choice, I'll end up at "GOOD" by default, apparently. I realize that this isn't the case for everyone. This is happening because my previous actions in life have been good ones. Still, I know that it's important for me to make a conscious decision. I raise my head, and state in a bold voice, "I choose good." My words resonate around the cement schoolyard with a confidence I do not feel. I glance nervously at the black figure beneath the other banner.
The invisible hand pulls me again, quickly down the track to the "GOOD" banner. The kneeling angels slide out of the way as I arrive beneath it. Then the hand turns me sharply around. My right arm comes up, bent at the elbow, with the hand in a fist. A large Turkish chair with gold upholstery slides up to face me in the sand. I recognize the chair from the house I grew up in. Reclining in the chair is another angel, and in her lap is a young child, no more than three years old, but tall and gaunt for his age. He is wrapped in a blanket and laying back with his eyes lidded, as though half awake. It's God again.
A bandage slithers through the air and curls itself around my right forearm, covering it in a tight spiral up to the end of my wrist. The chair moves forward until my bandaged arm is resting on the child's blanket, over his chest. He begins to mumble words I can't understand, performing some kind of ceremony.
Every few phrases, the child leans slowly out and kisses my forehead, then leans back and resumes his litany. An intense feeling of sorrow dulls my mind, and spreads down to the pit of my stomach. I apologize to the child for taking so long to arrive, bleating out the words even though I realize I'm distracting him. I apologize for my forehead being so dry. I apologize for "being human". "I'm sorry for everything", I finish, lamely.
The chair zips away, carrying the boy and the angel with it. The bandage leaves my arm. I stand up. My hair grows longer. I feel the billowing of translucent robes behind me. I turn and lean forward, floating over the ground instead of walking upon it.
A voice booms out: "NOW, GO INTO THE WEST. CLAIM YOUR THINGS."
I move over to one of the picnic tables. Angels are standing around me, as escorts. Spread on the table are scraps of paper - a triangle from an envelope with some writing on it, a holiday card signed by my friends, a candy wrapper with a playful picture drawn on it, and other papers. They are reminders of my friends and loved ones. These are the things I've chosen to keep with me for eternity, the most important things. Just looking at each little message conjures a bittersweet ache of affection and loss, distending my throat, dimming my eyes. I push the papers into the pockets of my robe, unable to bear looking at them right now.
I turn away from the table. It's time to leave this place. I close my eyes, and the complete stillness of the air is gradually invaded by pleasant birdsong, and the rushing of waves on sand. I wake up, sweating in the bed, hearing the birds and ocean through the open window. I reach out for the laptop, folded against the wall by the dresser, so I can write down the dream before I forget it. As I open the laptop, the bedside alarm clock rings.