When St. Peter got up, the first thing he did was to switch on the new computer. While it was booting up, he got her diskette from the vault. He loved having everything computerized — so much better than that incredibly heavy and unwieldly book with the faded and muddled entries. Keeping the gate was much easier now that he could call up any entry with a couple of clicks. The only problem was when someone tried to claim to be someone else, someone better than they were, but a quick aura check caught those easily.

Inserting the diskette into the computer, he ran it through the virus scan. Still no registration of any problem. He sighed. He ran it through diskscan and a couple of other "check and clean" type of programs before he removed the diskette from the computer. The diskette still glowed a clear, unheavenly rose pink. He frowned at it, pursing his lips in disapproval. He tipped it to catch the light better and re-read the label: Mary, Queen of Heaven. He sighed unhappily, unconsciously placing his hand over his heart.

Why had she done it? Why was she still doing it? Women! Of course the damned souls were suffering in Hell! They were supposed to suffer in Hell! That was the whole point of Hell — otherwise, why bother? She wasn't supposed to go there and try to comfort them. She wasn't supposed to tell them they could still be redeemed, she definitely wasn't supposed to say that they could be free of both Heaven and Hell. Why did she have to be so infernally sentimental about them? She'd been there nearly two millennia now, almost ever since she had come back from Earth. Her proper place was here in Heaven. They needed her here; it was her duty to be here.

He sighed again, trying not to think the next thought of his morning litany: they all missed her — he missed her so much.

Absently, he slipped the diskette in his pocket and went to have breakfast. He never, ever let himself wonder if he, too, could be free of both Heaven and Hell.

PS. You can tell that this was written awhile back. St. Peter now has everything stored on a cloud and a solid state drive. He keeps it all completely up to date. Her files are different, though. In additon to being on the cloud and all, he still keeps a copy on a diskette which he stores in his pocket, and he still checks it every morning to see that it's all right. And yes, she is still ministering to the damned souls. What Peter doesn't get yet is that she will probably do that as long as there is a hell. He could be helping her, but of course he has his gatekeeping work to do. Besides, that would more properly be up to Joseph or Martha, but Joseph is still in heaven teaching carpentry to anyone who wants to learn. As he says, it's a useful skill. Martha is very busy too, doing the things she does.

The art works on this page are:
St. Peter by Peter Paul Rubens
Mater Dolorosa by Jusepe de Ribera

Copyright © 1998 by Jessica Macbeth. Updated 2017. All rights reserved.
This fable originally appeared in Otherworld Arts, 1995.

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