Purgatory – a story

The afterlife is no fun.


TeeBeeTe felt a very odd jolt and opened her eyes.

“I’m dead,” she said aloud.

“I died alone. And in pain.”

She considered this for a bit and found she was upset – but having had died horribly didn’t seem to matter any more.  What she needed to do was deal with the now, and what was going on now that she’d actually died.

She was standing up, seemingly in a grey fog. She felt for her nose. She remembered the wallaby biting it off – it had been restored to her. She ran her hands over her body – same body she had when she died, but this one was not broken and flattened and squashed by the angry marsupials.

She didn’t know why she knew she was dead, but it was very different, fundamentally so. She noticed she was breathing – she stopped it, and nothing changed. Breathing was habit for this body, then, not required.

A pity, she thought, if this is heaven, that they didn’t restore me to when i was thin and pretty.

“Is this heaven?” she asked into the grey fog.

“Oh dear, another one of you Judea-christians, you’ll have to rid yourself of the whole heaven/hell myth,” said a voice next to her.  She jumped and stared.

She was standing next to a woman, indeterminate age, clothing and features.

“I’m wiccan, not a christian,” TeeBeeTe told her.

“Of course you are. It makes no difference what you call yourself, anyway – here it’s all about energy – energy of the universe and what you owe it for your existence.”

“Are you god?”

The woman sighed. “This may take some time. Here, take a seat.”

She pointed to a table and some chairs that didn’t seem to have been there a moment before. TeeBeeTe sat down facing the woman.

“Ok, here is the deal. You are dead. the afterlife deals with the energy debt of the living.”

“What’s that?”

“When you’re alive, you’re expected to put something useful into the world. that’s why you’re there. It’s not a god thing, just a nature thing. Nature expects you to do something. In the case of plants an animals, it’s very straightforward – but humans mucked it up a bit by having cultures and ethics and thought and free will, so we – the energy beings of the universe – represented by me in a form you can understand, we assess the dead, to see if they contributed positive energy while they were alive.

If they did, well and good, you get eternal peace, you cease to exist.

If they are neutral, there is a bit of time spent in the afterlife, where you get to do things that we can harness the energy of, and that energy gets you a positive balance. When it’s enough to justify the energy that went into creating you and a little more besides, you get to get eternal peace. You get to stop.

If you’re negative, and owe a debt of energy at death, well you just have to spend a bit longer in the afterlife to pay off that debt.”


TeeBeeTe looked at her.

“How do i know what i am then, whether i get peace,” she asked.

“That’s what we are going to work out now! Ok, i have some questions for you.” She produced a bit of paper with a checklist on it.

” First things first. What did you do for a living?”

“Nothing. I was looking for a job.”

“Did you voluntarily volunteer your time while you were not working?”

“Um, i did work for the dole.”

“that’s a half point…working creates positive energy, and volunteering your own time to do a cause you believe in gets you extra energy credits. Pity you had to be forced. Lets move on then. Did you nurse anyone or look after anyone who was ill or needed extra care? no….ok…Now, did you owe anyone money? Think back to any time you borrowed money from anyone, did anyone buy you things because you didn’t have money and you never paid them back.”

“Yes, a bit.”

“Ah. No so good then…well. I will get the details later. Now. Did you create anything? Art? books? Music? Poetry? Dance? Singing? Sewing? Gardening? No? did you add anything to the collective art experience of humanity?  Because creative points are really energy dense, this is why I ask. What’s that? You wore replica costumes to things that other people made and dressed up as other people? That doesn’t really make it to the creative list. That’s a very neutral thing to do, almost a waste of resources, really. it give no pleasure to anyone but yourself, and that’s not what this is about.”

The woman ticked a little box on the paper in front to her.

“How about relationships, is there anyone behind who will grieve you deeply. Grief is a great bonus!”

“My boyfriend”.

“All right…No kids? ok…. what about prior boyfriends? will they miss you? Family? I have to warn you too that relationship energy can be costly if the people you’ve stopped interacting with do not like you through things you’ve done to them. Hate and anger towards you accumulates energy debt to you. It’s really is better to lead a good and generous life and have people who will genuinely miss you when you go.”

TeeBeeTe sat and looked at her and her lip trembled.

“Here, you can write down the details,” the woman said and gave her a pen and  a notepad

“Don’t forget to put in money debts. And things people have done for you that you have not repaid – gestures of kindness, gestures of honesty you did not repay, things like that.”

TeeBeeTe wrote steadily for rather a while, then put down her pen.  This was, she thought, one of the most unpleasant things she ever had to do. A lifetime of double think and justification of her own actions seemed to have been removed, and so she could very clearly see her life for exactly what it had been. The life that others always saw her live, she suddenly could see it. She found she was ashamed.

The woman picked up the paper and read through it.

She tut-tutted and shook her head.

“Well, I’m sorry to tell you you have quite an energy debt, my dear. And you will be required to spend some time making up for it. Now, the good part is we are not evil here, it’s not about punishment – you can however find that you might punish yourself.

What we require of you is to do the things you like to do the best here, and do them to the fullest. that will generate energy for us and we bleed it off and push it back into the universe, and when the debt (which is pretty large, I’m sorry to say, you really didn’t do a lot of positive things did you?) is  paid off and a bit more besides you get to rest.

TeeBeeTe was pleased. “You mean – i just get to do everything I like? That’s fantastic!”

“Yes…good to see you agree….now we need to establish what it is you really like to do. How about nice food? Yes? Ok. Exercise? no? cooking, art? No? You like tall thin youthful men to romance you? Going on lots of dates and always being around a group of fun people? Ok, i think we can do that for you….I will organise something for you so that you can do everything you most wanted to do and nothing you didn’t want to do…ok. done. I’ll be back in a month or so to check on you. Go forth and enjoy yourself! You don’t need to sleep by the way – we’ve removed that option, jut took up time; and you don’t really need to eat here – but that is one of the pleasures you enjoy  – so you get dispensation. Now go, and start generating energy!”

The woman stood up and vanished.

TeeBeeTe looked around her; and she was at a party full of people in fantastic costumes, chattering, laughing, having fun. There was a table laden with wonderful looking foods and drinks. She went over and started sampling them. This was fantastic! what an afterlife! a luxurious party that she just knew she was welcome at, and all the most amazing food she could fit in her mouth.

She felt a hand on her arm and looked up into the beautiful face of a tall, pimply, high cheeked man-child. She felt herself melting into his arms.

“Hey Beautiful,” he said to her, smiling. “Where have you been all my life?”

“I’m going to like it here,” she told him, and allowed herself to be swept away into the party and love and romance.


A month later, at the same party, the woman materialized in front of TeeBeeTe, who leapt at her and clutched her by the lapels and started shaking her.

“You have to end it!” she screamed at the lady. “You have to end it!”

“End what? I’ve come to see how you’re enjoying your after life!”

“It never stops! The people never stop talking! They are not real people! They boys are not real boys! They have no feelings, they don’t care about me at all! I have to have sex 5 times a day with all these tall young men, I want to stop it but I can’t stop it! I’m sick of it! i want to stop eating, I want to eat a fucking VEGETABLE, not a cream cake! No more cream cakes and chips and soft drinks!  i want to sleep, i want to rest, I want to get away from going on dates and to events and out with people, I don’t get a minute to stop this stuff!  I’ve been bowling, to the zoo, to the aquarium, to the gerbil farm, to balls, to parties, in a never ending stream for a month with no rest, I can’t stand it any more!”

“Well, I’m sorry, dear, but this is your ideal afterlife. You have to keep going. You’ve barely made a dent in your energy debt”.

“But, I’m spherical now, I have eaten so much I don’t walk I roll, but i cant’ do any exercise!”

“We dispensed with this , you agreed to it. You’re getting everything you want and you don’t like it? They boys are still interested, yes? I don’t know why you’re complaining. There’s no going back. This is it.”

“It’s not what i want any more!”

“This is very distressing to us, oh my, deary, yest it is. You were doing so well for the first two weeks, so much pleasure and happiness was creating many many energy units, and it was eating into your debt. And then it seemed to stop to a crawl. What’s wrong with you? You’ve got your ideal life and you don’t like it? You’re going to have to do better than this, you know. You’re going to have to start enjoying yourself again or you will be just stuck here for an eternity.”

“This is purgatory! This is hell! This is torture!”

“Being stuck doing all the things you want to do? Not as good as it seems, oh really? Well, that’s your problem to find a solution to. Mabye you can learn to take some pleasure in being torture, that would help your debt…

Well other than your new spherical shape, you seem to be doing ok, I’ll be back in another month to check on you.”

TeeBeeTe stared at her in horror. “You mean, this is it? i just have to have this endless parade of meaningless fun with fake people, and try to enjoy it?”

“Well this is what your life on earth was, dear. Why is it different now? Replaceable shallow friends, meaningless fun, replaceable Boy-Men who adore you, endless food, never working, never doing anything hard, never doing anything for anyone but yourself…I don’t know what your problem is, really I don’t. You seemed to like it then. You don’t have to pay for food or rent here, you don’t have to pretend you only have one boyfriend, it’s all laid out and easy for you. You should try and get something out of it now. Now…By my calculations, at the rate you’re paying it off at the moment, you will be here at least 100, 150 years. If you can show some pleasure, that will drop. You might only have to stick it out for 80 before you get a rest!”

The woman leaned over and patted TeeBeeTe on the arm.

“You’ll do ok, dear, just you have to find your happy place,” she said.

And she turned and walked away, vanishing into the party, smiling slightly, so that she never heard it when TeeBeeTe started screaming.

Purgatory has many guises.




Purgatory – a story

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