Up or Down
by Alex Moisi
Daniel Mosch first thought about his death on the morning he died. He wasn't a very religious man and he wasn't a particularly morbid fellow either. It was just that he simply could not avoid it. As soon as he got out of bed he noticed an angel and a devil floating above him. Both were smiling.
As any rational person would, he initially considered it a practical joke. He laughed and called to his roommates.
“That’s a good one, guys, but come on. Is that you, George? Cut it out, eh, Alan? We're going to be late for our morning meeting.”
Unfortunately for Daniel neither the angel nor the devil cut it out. Instead they made it very clear it was not a joke.
“Look, smart ass,” the devil said. “It's not a joke. Here’s a fish—does that convince you?”
Daniel stared at the huge salmon slapping its tail on his bedroom carpet and knew he must be dreaming. He rubbed his eyes, shook his head and muttered, “Was it the sleeping pills? Did George slip me a Mickey?”
“Let me handle this Melph,” the angel intervened.
Within seconds Daniel not only felt calmer than ever before but he now understood everything in his life that had brought him to this point. Every mumbled word he almost heard became clear. Every bit of knowledge he almost learned became true. It was the single most pleasant and uplifting experience he’d had in his short life. And when it ended, it was the single worst. He considered his past.
“So you two are my guardian angel and devil?” The two nodded solemnly as the fish flopped around a little more, its gills working for air. “And you are here because I am about to die?”
“Well, actually, we are here because there is no clear line as to where you would go after you die,” the angel said. “Your life was overall so mediocre, pointless and boring you never came close to either end of the spectrum.”
“You see,” the devil interrupted as Daniel blinked, perplexed. “Every human has a goal, up or down. And you missed it by so much the guys upstairs have no clue where to send you, damned bureaucracy.”
“And since you are not a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim, or any other religion that has an automatic solution for such a case, we are here to help determine were you should end up,” the angel finished.
“I am dreaming, right?” Daniel flopped back onto the bed.
“We appreciate it when clichés from poorly written stories are not employed by the future deceased. It slows the process considerably.” Another angel appeared at the foot of his bed. He was wearing black.
“The Angel of Death,” Daniel almost shouted as he stood back up.
“Please, let us proceed,” the angel said in a flat tone. “Up or down? Please choose one and present your case.”
Daniel blinked again, but realized quickly what was expected. “Fine, but I am sure that overall I have done more good than bad in my life. I mean, I took care of my mother until she died.”
“Had a grudge against her though the whole time. You felt she held you back.” The devil recited the counter charge almost mechanically. “Thus rendered null.”
“What about that girl I dated, back in high school? She was a drug addict but I stood by her.” Daniel tried again after thinking for a while.
“Actually,” the angel answered, “the correct thing would have been to help her recover. You just bragged about the cross you had to bear. Plus, you did enjoy a little, well, you know, carnal pleasure. I think you racked up more sins with her than your actual devotion covered. You cleaned the slate though when at the end of High School you babysat your sister instead of going to the prom.”
“You see, that is the problem,” the devil cut in again. “You always managed to clean your tab. One curse word, one dollar to a homeless person. One good deed, one bad deed. Normally it would be straight to purgatory for a few weeks and then on to heaven, but you just had to go on and become an agnostic, didn't you?”
Daniel took his head in his hands and laughed out loud. The absurdity of it all got the best of him and he wanted to yell to his roommates to come meet the unexpected guests. 'Hey, George, Alan, there are two angels and a devil in our house. Do you think they would like some chips?'
He finally composed himself. “So what do you want me to do?” he said as the fish jumped around one last time and hit him on the foot. “Oh, can you please get this thing back to where it came from, it's dying here.”
And before he could say anything else, several things happened. The devil let out a horrible curse as the angel laughed happily; and the fish disappeared as Daniel dropped dead.
“Thank you gentlemen,” the Angel of Death said, collecting the new soul. “I will take him to his judgment. But I trust you know the result already.”
As the Angel of Death melted away the angel smiled at the skulking devil.
“I told you that fish would get you into trouble someday. It’s not a very convincing miracle when you do it,” the angel said.
“Saved by showing mercy to a fish. That is ridiculous, you have to admit,” the devil responded in anger as they both left the empty bedroom of Daniel Mosch.
Previously appeared in Residential Aliens and the Residential Aliens “Best Of” anthology.
Alex Moisi is a Romanian born college student, living in Illinois and ignoring real life issues like angry friends and failing classes in favor of post-apocalyptic scenarios and disturbing "What if?"'s. His work can be found in Residential Aliens, Bewildering Stories, the Desolate Places anthology published by Hardley Rille books and Strange Worlds of Lunacy published by Cyberwizard Publications as well as on his website.
What advice do you have for other fantasy writers?
Keep writing and submitting, finish everything you start no matter how long it takes and submit it, write everyday and submit your stories again and again. Writing is ultimately a marathon, just hang in there and for the love of God don't be afraid of submissions.