Isabelle Lee | Art by Livia Zhu
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14
Mom, where do people go after they die?
Heaven, of course. Where God lives.
I stand before the towering gate. I’m unable to see what’s on the other side, and yet there’s nowhere for me to go but forward. Behind me, a dark cloud gathers, thick and murky, impenetrable. I don’t dare to cross through for fear that the shadows swallow me up. Perhaps the doors won’t open. Perhaps I’ll be trapped on this side for eternity, without a way out.
That’s right, God. He lives up there with millions of angels, and they never get old or sad.
I can’t remember how I died. I can’t remember how I got here. I can’t remember how… I can’t remember. It’s like I’ve woken from a dream, the fantasies created in my mind quickly fading away. I reach out to touch the gate. The metal is ice beneath my fingers.
Well… what do they do?
Why, they can do anything they want! Anything at all!
I press down hard, but the gate doesn’t budge. I push even harder, digging my feet resolutely into the ground. Still, it holds firm. I have the sudden urge to laugh at the incredulity of it all. Look at me, an ant trying to move a mountain.
Can I go there now?
No, honey, you have to stay here with Mommy. You’ll only go to heaven if you live well here on earth.
I lived well, mom. But there aren’t any angels here. There aren’t any people at all. Mom, I can’t even recall what your face looked like. Are you there? Beyond this armored gate that looms before me, are you waiting? If I find some way to break through, will I be reunited with the world I used to know? You used to have the answers to all my questions.
Dad, where do people go after they die?
Huh. I’m not sure about that. I suppose I’ll have to die to find out.
In desperation, I slam my hands down on the gate, kick it with all my might, throw my body against the cold metal. The pain doesn’t register at all, as if my actions haven’t created even an echo through my surroundings.
Mommy said that we go to Heaven.
Well that must be true, then. Your mommy is always right.
I don’t recall the pain of dying, nor the pain of living. I exist only in this moment, in a foreign land, denied entry through these impenetrable gates.
She also said that angels would be there, and God, and that we can all do whatever we want!
Hmm? Well that sure sounds fun, doesn’t it. I’d like to be able to do everything I want.
There’s only one other way out. I twist around to face the cloud of darkness behind me. I can’t see through it, can’t see any light coming from the other end. But if it’s a choice between standing here, trapped and alone, and that…
Will we be there together? Me, and you, and mommy?
Of course. The three of us gotta stick together, right?
It’s the only option. I can’t just stay here, stuck between two unflinching barriers, driving myself insane with the memories of a life that may not have even existed. Just as I’ve braced myself to charge through the mass of shadows, I hear a rumbling sound behind me. Slowly, I turn.
Good boy. Now go to bed. If you’re late for school tomorrow, Mommy might be mad!
Before me, the gates swing open, revealing a burst of light, so bright it blinds me. I pause momentarily, one foot over the threshold, my vision shrouded. Then, I step inside.