Papparazzi, shmapparazi—just press the shutter, already.

Heaven Photographed by Hubble Telescope
By Rachel Jensen ©2011

And so they ask: “How can you be sure?” “Is it REALLY Heaven?” “When’s the last time you even talked to God?”

We never have a direct answer, giving them the answers a layman would accept and understand, such as, “Trust what’s in your heart.” “Isn’t Heaven actually everywhere, if you only believe?” “Don’t doubt what God has given us.”

We always avoid the last question. If God wanted to talk to us, he would.

The telescope first picked up sightings the first day in July, a hot humid day, as they all are in July, and we reported back what we saw, the bright light that only seemed to grow brighter. Helen Basker, who had suffered from a heart attack once, and was dead for 37.2 seconds, shivered as she turned away from her computer. “

That’s just what it was like,” she said. “Just like that.”

Down in the archives, we see many things. The distant galaxies, scattered bright lights that rarely make a pattern or have a star that died millions of years ago, are the most common, but sometimes we’ll get nebulas—Horsehead, Tarantula, or Eagle—the interstellar clouds of beautiful dust and gas, and these are the most pleasing to look at. We’ll spend hours archiving the images, taking our time to gaze on the bloating pinks and oranges floating through the blackness of space. But these gaseous formations do not compare to what we found that day in July, and Helen couldn’t come back to work for awhile. She said it brought back the fear of death.

After we began to allow visitors, thousands each day, we sort of struggled to keep up with our own work. Their reactions were always so different, so individual and personal to them, and yet, we felt like we’d seen them all before. Grown men and women would drop to their knees, shouting in tongues with tears gushing down their cheeks as their children stood back in amazement until they too began to cry because that’s what their parents were doing.

We sometimes wonder too, if maybe we haven’t created something larger than itself, really. One woman refused to leave. She stood in front of the computer for over six hours—three hours past the time limit for visitors—and gaped with her eyes wide and her mouth strained.

“How do we get there?” she said.

No one answered her.

“There’s got to be a way to get there. Put us on a ship.”

When no one answered again, she began to panic. She didn’t cry, but her eyes changed almost completely white, as if some other being inhabited her skin.

“Tell me! Tell me! How do we get there?” She began to pull at her hair and massage her own temples. The woman who came with her, her daughter, pulled her away from the image, gently.

“My father died three months ago,” she said over her shoulder.

We all nodded. We’d seen and heard it before. We helped the woman sit down in a chair in the welcome area and gave her a few cookies and juice. She calmed down after a few minutes. We all went back to work, collecting different viewpoints of the great white light, but no one commented on how they all looked exactly the same.

The woman came shrieking down the stairs, we heard her foot catch on the hard rubber tread, and the thump she made when she hit the floor. The ambulance came and took her away; they’re on standby these days, since we seem to call them at least three times a week for emotional and physical disturbances. The daughter followed them out, crying.

Sometimes we talk about it, if what we’re seeing is really Heaven, but then people like Helen Basker get mad, saying we’re not believers. We don’t disagree with her, but no one offers up their condolences to her either. We’re pretty sure that’s what she wants, sympathy for what she went through, feeling her heart give out and then no longer being in existence for thirty-seconds and suddenly existing again. We want to ask her want it was like, if she changed at all from the time her brain and body departed—if she even remembered what it was like to be dead at all or if she made up the light to make herself feel better. But no one ever asks, and Helen doesn’t propose any comments either.

The past few days, only amateur astronomers have been hanging around. The first few months, scientists flocked from all over the world—each wanting a session with the telescope, images flashed all over televisions and documentaries were made in mere days. Naysayers denied its existence, and on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC arguments between believers and nonbelievers alike, formulated around Heaven and space, were shown in schools and churches around the world. There were riots of course, proclaiming the apocalypse was upon us, but when nothing happened after a month, and then two, those proclamations died away. Now it’s left to amateurs and the everyday visitor, each hoping to notice something that will change the way earth views Heaven.

When they ask how to get there, because every person does in their way, we usually remain silent with simple grins on our faces, hoping to not influence them one way or another. We just remain in front of our computer screens, moving files into folders and photographs into portfolios.

We like to remember one couple in particular. They were young, recently married, and they held hands the entire time they were in the room. At first, they seemed as shocked as the rest of the crowd that passed through that day, some saying that it was brighter than the last time, and definitely bigger, but eventually the two of them relaxed and gazed on it as if they were watching a sunset or an attractive landscape. The young man leaned in to his wife and asked her a question. She didn’t hear him so he repeated it.

“How do you think we get there?” he said.

The young woman paused and smiled. “Suppose we already are,” she said, and she rested her head against his shoulder as she turned back to the viewing screen.

We continued to face our individual computers, our smiles unchanged, and the light growing brighter by the minute.

x x x

A debut story for February and Ms Jensen. Welcome her aboard the good ship anotherealm with comments on our BBS. - GM

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