Fred Phelps’ eyes opened onto what looked like Grand Central Station. He’d been there, and hated it, on a few occasions before.
But, wait–wasn’t he just on his death-bed, dying?
Yes, yes, he had been…so where was his heavenly reward?
Matthew Shepard approached him. He recognized his face immediately.
“Oh my God, I’m in hell!”
“Why would you say that?”
“Because you’re a faggot and you’ve been in hell for 5,634 days…”
“Did you count leap years, Fred?”
“Well, now..” He wasn’t sure if he had or not…the number wasn’t clear in his head, and everything was muddled.
Another young man approached Matthew Shepard and Phelps.
“And who are you? Another faggot?”
“If I am, then you must wonder what you’re doing with us here, in ‘Hell’.”
The former pastor just looked, dumbfounded. He had no signs to hold up and yell about.
“My name is Antinous of Bithynia. You’ve never heard of me, but I’ve heard of you. I’ve seen you and all of the things you’ve done upon the earth because of the hatred in your heart. You can’t do any harm there any longer, and there are many who are glad to know that you’re dead, and even now are cursing your name. Some are even making plans, if they have not started already, to have ‘gay sex’ on your grave.”
“Those damned faggots!”
“Yes, if you like, Fred. You have reaped what you’ve sown.”
“What about you, you faggot? What are you here to do?”
“I’ve been tasked with instructing you on what comes next.”
“Why did they send a faggot to do that?”
“You keep using this word…but your god never used it, and would look poorly upon you using it.”
“It’s a good biblical word, ‘faggot.’ It gets used in the Old Testament…”
“No, it doesn’t, not once. You’re done talking now, Phelps.”
He tried to raise his voice, but he couldn’t–not a word would come out.
“Go ahead: try and say ‘faggot’ one more time. The breath will be taken out of you, and you will be able to say nothing at all.”
“Fine, then! I’ll find another word, you–” But the words stopped again.
“‘Fudge-packer,’ was it? Or ‘fairy’? Or ‘flamer’? Or ‘fruit’? Or ‘god-damned queer’? Try it; try any of them, and you will have the same results.”
“This is not fair, and I’ll sue your ass off for it!”
“Sue? SUE?!?” Antinous and Matthew Shepard laughed at him. “I have more judicial authority here than you can even imagine, Phelps, and our laws are not those you used to manipulate people toward your own ends so easily and so unjustly.”
Fred Phelps kicked the ground a few times after a pause. “So, what now, then?”
“It’s time for you to depart to your heavenly reward.”
A smug smirk like he’d not had in decades crept over Fred Phelps’ face.
“But, first you must make a choice.”
The smrik departed as quickly as it had arrived. “Choice?”
“Yes, a choice.”
“Well, if it’s between God and The Devil, then there is no choice: God for me!”
“Oh, Phelps–there are so many gods, and most of them hate you. But no, that isn’t the choice. This is.”
In walked a beautiful man, bearded, dark-haired, about average height, dressed in a linen robe. He didn’t seem American, perhaps Middle Eastern, but that was okay, Phelps thought. The man held a book in his hand. Phelps had made his choice already–this must have been Jesus and His Word.
“Phelps, this is Judas.”
“Yes, Judas, the disciple of Jesus. You have been preaching his gospel for many years now. This is one of the two options in the choice you must make. Here is the other.”
In walked another beautiful man, bearded and dark-haired like the first, about as tall, but much thinner. He was not wearing a robe; in fact, he wasn’t wearing anything at all, not even a loincloth, and the only thing covering him was blood, bruises, and the gashes from a whip.
“This is Jesus.”
Fred Phelps stared in disbelief at the sight.
After a moment’s thought, he said, “Well, then, I choose Jesus.”
“It’s not that simple, Phelps.”
“What do you mean?”
“You can’t just say ‘I choose so-and-so’ and expect it to be a valid choice. That’s called a thought, not a choice, not an action.”
“I am justified by my faith alone!”
“No, you are not! Your faith is not faith, but fear, and your words have been actions on their own, but not actions that do anything other than increase the fear and hatred in the world, not only for you, but for me as well.” It was Jesus speaking these words.
“So, Phelps: choose,” Antinous resumed.
“Well, then, I choose Jesus.”
“No: you must embrace him. Take off all of your clothes, be as wretched as he is, and then embrace him. Feel his blood on your skin, taste his blood in your mouth when you kiss him. Let his divine blood fill your every space–“
“Yes, even that space, Phelps.”
“I will not!”
“Then choose Judas, as he was the choice you made every day for the last several decades.”
“Fine, then, I choose Judas!”
“Not that simple, Fred,” Matther Shepard said.
“What do you mean?”
“Judas’ way is not nearly as bloody as that of Jesus, true. But, he’s just as beautiful, and far more seductive. You know you want him, you know you want this, and have always wanted this…”
Fred Phelps felt a stirring he’d not felt for a very long time in his loins.
“You make your choice for Judas by doing what you’ve always wanted to do.”
“By fucking him?”
“No–why would you say such a thing? Unless that’s what you’ve always wanted to do. No, by pouring your every desire into the Gospel that he holds. Unfortunately, here we’re rather literal about some things, and you can’t simply say that you choose someone, and by ‘pouring desire’ we mean of course that you’ll be ejaculating onto that book he’s holding.”
Phelps was aroused, but now he was entirely confused, and the blood wasn’t sufficiently supplied to his brain to engage his critical faculties.
“But which is heaven and which is hell?”
“Neither one is heaven or hell, Phelps. It’s simply the dilemma you’ve set yourself as a result of your way of life: truly accept what it is you’ve claimed to accept in the person of Jesus, or truly accept what you’ve also preached so vehemently and violently in the Gospel of Judas. Make your choice, and be happy with it for the rest of your life–or, rather, for eternity, because there will be no rebirth or further reward nor punishment for you, only what you’ve already sown.”
“Now, if you will excuse these faggots,” Matthew Shepard said after Antinous finished his explication, “but we have much more enjoyable things to be doing at present.”
Fred Phelps didn’t know which one to choose.