I think Coral and I must have walked up this slow incline two or three days before we finally got to the Camp of the Resisters as she called it. When we got over the barren terrain leading to it, I was shocked to see people as far as the eye could see, each one off to himself a little, all of them just sitting there.
"What are they doing?" I asked Coral.
"Resisting," said Coral. "Each in their own way, but in the end resisting amounts to pretty much the same thing in everybody. If you walk up to these people, don't be surprised if they do not seem to see you or recognize you."
I did walk up to one or two of them and just as she said, they did not acknowledge my presence in any way, not even with a flicker of their eyes.
"How disconcerting," I said. "How do you expect to reach these people?"
"I don't," said Coral, "but there is another reason I brought you here. Terrence is here."'"
"My Terrence?" I asked, shocked. I had suspected Coral was not telling me all the reasons why she had insisted we come to the Resisters' Camp.
"He's probably not 'your' Terrance any longer," said Coral. "He's over there somewhere. I looked him up once and told him I was your sister but he did not respond to me in any way. As far as I know he has not responded to anyone since he got to the hereafter. They keep them for a while in hospital like places, and their relatives try to reconnect to them, but if they fail, eventually the resister just gets up and disappears one night. They seem to know there are others like them out here. So they come here to sit while their batteries continue to run down."
"A figure of speech," said Coral. "Haven't you noticed that we spirits don't really need to eat and drink in order to exist? We are running on energy contained in our essence as spirits. When this energy starts to run low, we reincarnate again. Think of all the nourishment people take in. It would take a thousand years to use all the energy our food intake in one life time generates. However, there are other sources of energy here but it takes a long time to learn how to tap them. Reincarnation is the simplest way to do it."
"I wondered why I didn't feel hungry."
"But the resisters don't want reincarnation. They don't want to learn to tap any other sources of replenishment. That is why their batteries really are in danger of running down if they just sit there too long."
I thought about Terrance no longer existing at all. I had always thought he was unusually gifted. Why would Terrance become a total resister? I had pictured him reuniting with his parents and somehow starting up again. Now Coral was saying his parents' attempts to reach him in the hereafter had failed. Was he really beyond all help?
Coral, reading my mind, said, "He may be beyond all help. He has a choice, you know. But we have such a large population of resisters now, the other spirits are worried. So they are coming out to study these people to try to figure out what happened. For one thing, they think that early substance abuse has played a large part in creating a big population of resisters. If a spirit reincarnates and immediately becomes addicted to the same substance again, they think that repeated lifetimes of substance addiction may permanently stop the progress of these spirits. They become like stars who are slowly burning out."
Permanently burned out people. That was a frightening thought to me. No wonder Coral said it was the biggest problem in the hereafter. People who resisted the hereafter. Were not reviving at all. I had pictured Terrance with eternal life. Now she said he was sitting here among all these people with their lifeless eyes. I was frightened at the thought of seeing him. His eyes had been hollow and empty enough when he was alive. I didn't need to see him in worse shape.
"I thought legalized abortion would create the biggest problem in the hereafter," I said.
"It is a very big problem," agreed Coral, "but it is a relatively new one in the annals of history. People were only able to legalize it after antibiotics were invented. Otherwise too many women died of infection. All good inventions can have their down side. As soon as it was possible to accomplish safe abortions, countries started to legalize it. Women die who have had them and come over there and see that their children have survived death just as they do, so they are rethinking this solution. It is too painful to deal with a child in the hereafter who has been aborted. Now substance abuse could have an effect on the numbers of deaths in abortion. Substance abuse affects everything in adverse ways."
"It is depressing to think of Terrance being a bad alcoholic in many reincarnations. It would be no wonder he seemed so intractable."
"The spirits who are studying the resisters aren't sure what is causing this troubling phenomenon. They don't know enough yet. They didn't see the need to study until the population of the resisters soared to new heights."
I passed on looking up Terrance that day, although Coral said that if I just utilized an inner data base I possessed in my spirit I would be able to find him almost immediately.
Such thoughts still made my head whirl. I told Coral I just wanted to leave. I thanked her for bringing me to the camp of the resisters and letting me know where Terrance was, but I had not thought of hooking up with him again. I had been just waiting for him to die to end our relationship since he would not stop drinking. I thought I could bear it until the end of life for one of us.
"I was thinking I could find a better man here than Terrance," I told Coral. "But I am not ready for a man's companionship yet. I am enjoying traveling around by myself or with you. I don't want to feel obligated to keep track of anyone."
"Most people elect to do that in the hereafter at first. The divorce rate here is very high."
"Is that regarded as a good sign or a bad sign?"
"Oh good," said Coral, "Since most relationships appear to become toxic eventually. I was only nine when I passed, so I didn't have one, but I must say I would not think of extending a relationship with a man longer here than I am going to enjoy. I did not mean to suggest you should take up a relationship with Terrance again by any means. I was just suggesting you could take an interest in what has happened to him."
"I am not really surprised he is still resisting, but I didn't know he had become one of a large group who are threatening the very existence of life itself."
"You know how it is, the trees all start dying. And people panic believing they are not going to be able to survive without trees, so they have to find out what is causing their deaths. The spirits aren't quite sure if the problem is substance abuse. That is the latest theory."
"I think it could very well be substance abuse," I said. "Terrance was a terribly addicted man, I know that, the worst I have ever encountered, while still remaining quite civilized and pleasant to be around, but now it sounds as though that all ended, too, if he is not even talking or recognizing anyone now.'
"There are just not enough people willing to work on the problems. Enough healthy spirits. We have all kinds of substance abuse epidemics going on, so addicted spirits are coming here in greater and greater numbers. That is troubling."
"I know there is an obesity epidemic. I was a bit obese myself, although I notice I have dropped off quite a few pounds here. I must have dropped ten pounds since I started traveling around with you, Coral. It seemed like we walked for three days to get to the resisters' camp. My word, do the fat people have a camp where they hang out?"
"Oh, there is a hereafter for them, too," said Coral. "It is getting bigger and bigger all the time. They need help over there, too, if you want a job."'
"What do you do to help the fat people?"
"You can imagine. Help them get over all the calamities health wise that befell them from being fat. As soon as you recover your strength, you will probably need a job, in order to keep busy. I volunteer lots of places, but mostly in the children's hereafter, since I was a victim myself."
"Oh, how was that?"
"Well, surely you realize that mother and dad had too many children too fast to really take care of them. I was just an extra throw away kid. When parents are too busy to take care of all their children watch out. One or two of them are apt to get in serious trouble and could be gone before you know it. Mother did not even know I had gone over to see my friend who was quarantined. I was about to expire before she even realized I was sick. Mother did not believe in taking kids to the doctor. It was too much trouble. It was either sink or swim with her."
"I didn't realize that. I remember her saying, "Oh Coral was our brightest and best. Why did she have to leave us?"
"Have to leave her? I needed more tender loving care in order to stay. I tried to tell her I thought I was getting really sick and she told me not to be a baby, I would be all right. Her garden was overgrown. It needed a little weeding out. Then fortunately she came to and tried to put a stop to the babies coming before she was ready. Child bearing in those days was out of control. Women did not know what to do to stop it."
"I am glad she found a way to stop having kids. I thought six children were all she could really handle. Oh Doctor White helped her out. He could see she was a woman who needed an end of kid surgery."
"Yes, he did not balk at making a tough decision. I think she told him Coral would not have died if she had not been like the old woman who lived in a shoe, had so many kids she did not know what to do. One right after another."
"So it is no wonder women thought they had been liberated when abortion was legalized, but now we have got to find a way to convince them that it is very inhumane, and they need to look for still another solution to prevent unwanted pregnancy."
"I have not talked about so many hard problems in such a short time in my life," I said. "Is that what heaven is all about?"
"That's what the hereafter is all about," said Coral shortly. "I don't know if you would call it heaven, but we inherit a great many problems here caused from bad solutions there. Aborted children have taxed all the helpers to the max in the children's receiving centers here. That is why we simply have to do something about that solution. You will see millions of aborted children that must be cared for. It is no wonder we are running out of helpers, but don't worry, they will be found, even if all reincarnation has to stop for a while in order for the spirits to take care of the children people are creating and sending here via legalized abortion."
"Oh my word," I said, my head reeling. "The hereafter is in even worse shape than I imagined in my worst nightmares. I will help where I am the most needed, of course."
So much for heaven. It looked like all I was going to get was a short rest in 'Green Pastures' before I had to start up my engines to go to work again. I had not worked at a paying job for years. But I had been a willing volunteer. Of course, these jobs here were all volunteer, since there was no money exchange in the hereafter I gathered, just like there was no cigarettes or beer, but I had found out on earth you could half way kill yourself doing volunteer jobs, too.
But our spirit needs were not all that great and my batteries were apparently in good working order. I should be good for a number of volunteer working years.
"I will try to decide as soon as possible where I am interested in working," I told Coral. "Is it okay if I take a few more days off before I look for a job? I haven't decided yet where I should report for duty."
Coral laughed. "Take all the time you want," she said generously, "but I need to get back to work as soon as possible." And to my surprise, she just up and left. It was plain she did not feel she had all the time in the world to welcome me into the heavenly spheres.
I sat down, feeling somewhat the spirit of resistance rising in me. But then I had probably not made the best use of my time for years, hanging out with a resister like Terrance. I knew I hadn't. He was such a lazy curse. He had been a bad influence on me. I tried to work around him, but sometimes it was not possible. The very thought of him sitting out there on that barren mountain resisting and doing nothing made me grind my teeth. Some people were so trashy.
But now that he was no longer my companion I would probably be able to turn the world upside down. I got up, looking in the direction Coral had gone. I would go to her place of work first and go on from there. Off I went as fast as I could go. Good heavens, if I didn't get to work as fast as I could another star might burn out, galaxies might die. Coral had pretty well convinced me that only hard work could save us all from extinction!