©2005 by Richard S. Crawford; 938 words
On the day of the Rapture, Jim and I sat on Aunt Francine’s porch, drinking beer. It was fun, watching people being pulled up into the sky by unseen Hands, but around noon it started to get boring. Most of the Christians in the neighborhood had gone up at once earlier that morning, and now there were just a few stragglers, folks God must have overlooked.
Jim elbowed me and pointed. “Hey, Simon, there goes Mr. Foley.”
I looked. Sure enough, our old science teacher was flying heavenwards, arms flailing.
“You owe me ten bucks,” said Jim.
I reached into my wallet and took out the last of my money. I should have known better than to bet with Jim; he was always right.
Jim pointed across the street. “Hey, check out Mrs. Ferguson.” She was on her front lawn, arms upraised, jumping up and down. “Ten bucks says she goes up.”
“Nah, I’m broke.”
“You can owe me.”
I stood up. “No, no more bets. I’m going to take a nap.”
“Suit yourself, bro’.”
I went inside and lay down in bed.
I was startled out of my doze by a loud THUMP from the living room. Then someone said, “Oof!”
I lay there with my eyes open, listening. A few minutes passed and I heard nothing further, so I tried to go back to sleep. Then:
I sighed and got out of bed, grumbling. You’d think a guy could get a little sleep once in a while.
I found Aunt Francine in the living room, up on the ceiling, as if she’d been pulled up by strings. She had the hose of the vacuum cleaner in one hand and was trying desperately to reach the floor with it. She wasn’t even close. Her cat, Miss Boo, sat on the sofa, staring up at Aunt Francine with that mixture of curiosity, boredom, and outright disdain that only a pampered decade-old Persian can achieve.
“What’s going on, Aunt Francine?” I asked.
“It’s the Rapture. Bother. If I’d known it was going to be today, I would have cleaned yesterday.”
Huh. I had never figured my Aunt Francine for the religious type. I’d lived with her for ten years, ever since dropping out of college, and she’d never so much as even mentioned church. But, then, I usually slept until two in the afternoon on Sundays, so what did I know?
“So, what, God’s trying to pull you through the ceiling?”
“Looks that way.” She suddenly fell to the ground, as God released His grip on her, and she landed with a THUMP, barely missing the vacuum cleaner.
I helped her up. “Maybe I should take you outside.”
“Oh, I can’t possibly go now. Look at this place! And I was going to do so many things today.” She started to sniffle.
“I’ll take care of them,” I said. I knew I probably wouldn’t. Chores weren’t my thing. But she was distressed, and I thought I should at least try to make her feel better.
Aunt Francine smiled and put her hand on my cheek. “You’re a nice boy, Simon. If you promise to vacuum the curtains and dust the fans, you can take me outside.”
“Sure, I promise. Come on, let’s go.” I took her withered old hand and started in the direction of the front door.
In the dining room, she let out a little “Whoop!” and crashed into the chandelier.
“Oh, dear, another mess to clean up,” she fussed, as I tried to pull her back down despite God’s strong pull. “Oh, and look! I never realized how dusty the top of the china cabinet is. While you’re cleaning, Simon, could you perhaps –“
“Yes, Aunt Francine, I’ll take care of it.”
Forget cleaning, I decided. I could just sell the house. But not before I finished my nap.
Out on the street, things had gotten weird. Hailstones were falling out of a clear blue sky and bursting into little explosions of flame, scorching the asphalt. Bright red water ran down the gutters. And across the street, Mrs. Ferguson was still there, jumping up and down, dodging the hailstones, an ever-hopeful look on her upturned face.
“Where’s your nice friend Jim?” Aunt Francine asked me. “I thought I heard you talking to him out here.”
I shrugged. “Probably off getting beer. You know how he is.”
Aunt Francine gave me a hug. “I’m so sorry you won’t be going with me. It looks like you’re in for some trouble.”
“Eh,” I said. “It won’t be so bad. It’s only seven years of Tribulation, right? I can repent at the end and join you up there.”
Aunt Francine hugged me even tighter. “Now, Simon, you be sure to feed Miss Boo, you hear? She only eats Purina, nothing else. Whoop!”
And with that, God reached down and swooped her up into the sky. She got caught on the branches of a tree for a second or so, and her robe got tangled up in them, but she was soon free and flying high into the air.
I watched her until she was just a tiny dot in the sky, then turned to go back inside. Nothing was going to stop me from getting a little sleep now.
But before I could step inside, a force like a giant fist gripped my torso and hauled me upwards at incredible speed. I bumped into the roof, then crashed painfully through the branches of the tree before I realized what was happening. I groaned.
Just great, I thought. Now I’ll never get to finish my nap.
This story was originally published in Issue #1 of Shimmer magazine, and is reprinted with permission. It was my first print sale, and I’m quite proud of it. If you’ve never checked out Shimmer, you definitely should.
NOTE: You can actually buy Issue One of Shimmer here. And you should definitely consider a subscription.