If this is your first time reading this, please start with part 1, because otherwise you'll be just as confused as poor Benny!
When last we left Benny he'd been traded off to Francine, imprisoned, then had a rock stuffed into his chest with the threat of death if he didn't deliver it to a man named Simon. Ringo, however, had other ideas, ideas like 'rescuing'. Saving his partner, Ringo has taken Benny to their next stop: Heaven. And they're about to meet his old friend Lucifer.....
HOW TO SURVIVE THE AFTER LIFE: HUMAN EDITION
Now, I'm not a very religious guy, but even I knew who Lucifer was. And I also knew he wasn't supposed to be in heaven. Or at least, that's what the bible had led me and humanity to believe. But no. Apparently Lucifer was chilling in heaven with lime green water and purple skies. Ringo was chatting about something, but I was too distracted by a group of pink dolphins who were jumping in and out of the water and winking at me. No joke. Winking. At me.
“I said you're really learning how to just go with the flow.”
“Oh. Yeah. Kinda what I do.”
"It's a good quality! Okay so look, just be real honest, okay? He hates liars.”
“But I thought...”
“You thought what?” Ringo stopped walking, kicking up sand when he turned to face me. Whenever we moved, the sand we kicked up smelled of sunscreen.
“I thought he liked people who lie and cheated.”
“What? Luci?!” Ringo laughed. “Where'd you get that idea!?”
“Uh, the bible?”
I decided to give up right there. I also decided to toss out anything I'd even kinda sorta believed about the bible. Apparently we were all wrong. And Lucifer was chilling at a beach in heaven. Ringo and I walked on, the smell of sunscreen and salty ocean following us. After a few minutes what looked to be a cabana came into view. It's dome top was made of pink palms, and there were several large white umbrellas around it wafting in a gentle breeze.
“There he is! Hey Luci old pal!”
Ringo waved to a man laying in a lounge chair. As I came closer I got a better look at the Prince of Darkness. The first thing I noticed was that he was holding a coconut with a pink umbrella in it. The second was that he was he was Japanese. Or Korean. Or something. Whatever he was, he was definitely in charge. His black hair brushed to his shoulders like in those commercials with shampoo bottles and girls with shiny hair, and he had an island tan. He was also wearing swim trunks with large pink flamingos on them.
I stared down at my llama shirt. Lucifer was also way more ripped than me.
“Ringo! What are you doing here? I thought you were in Audir!”
“I was, I was! But it was a bust man, a total bust!”
“That's a shame.” Lucifer pinned dark brown eyes on me. And I swear to god I saw demons floating around in them. “Whose you're 3rd dimensional friend there?”
“This here's my new partner, Benny! Benny, this is Lucifer!”
“Nice to meet you.” I said loudly. I didn't want to mumble and insult him. He could snap me like a toothpick with his six pack alone. I needed to work out more. Do souls even need to exercise? Or do we just stay the way we are? I hoped not. I really needed to get into more shape.
Lucifer motioned for us to sit down and a waiter in nothing but a loincloth appeared, handing us coconuts with pink umbrellas. Lucifer smiled and I could see why so many people supposedly sold their soul to him. He even had a dimple. I mean, I love women don't get me wrong, but Lucifer had that...what do you call it? Animal magnetism. Something I wish I had more of. But I did alright for myself. Or, I had when I was alive. I had no idea what I ranked as in the afterlife. Or if I was even considered attractive.
“So Ringo, I'm assuming you're in trouble?” Lucifer took a sip from his coconut.
“Well, not too much trouble you see. Just a little.”
“What happened to the lovely Tayla? I was hoping to see her.”
“She disappeared.” I answered. Ringo smiled at me. I'm pretty sure he was tired of answering.
“Pity. Well, you've brought me this interesting new person so I suppose I can't be too upset. Benny, was it?”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Yeah. Uh. I've heard of you.”
Lucifer gave me that dimpled smiled again. Damn I wish I had his game. He sat up a bit straighter.
“I'm sure you have.” He chuckled. I never thought I'd use to that describe a laugh, but he did. “All those lies about me starting a war with God.”
“Of course not. It was all blown out of proportion. Me and God got drunk together and had a fight at Soul Food and his angels embellished it. Why they decided to tell humans about it I'll never know. It is a pretty good story though.”
“So....you're not the prince of darkness and demons and giving people things in exchange for their souls?”
“Oh I am.” Lucifer smiled. “I just never got kicked out of heaven. I took over what God didn't have time to handle. But lets not talk about old topics, they bore me. Ringo, what can I do for you?”
“Well see my friend Benny and I got in some trouble—just a little trouble mind you—and we need a way to get to Glorgian without being detected. And I need a Lithorope.”
“I can get you the Lithorope but a back way to Glorgian....that's a little harder. We'll have to ask—oh. Perfect timing.”
I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that God got drunk and that the world of good and evil was really just a bar fight when I saw Luciefer raise his coconut up at someone behind me. I turned and saw a young man my age walking up. He was barefoot and tanned and looked like he was Shaggy's cousin, from Scooby-Do. I mean, if Shaggy's cousin were darker and had black hair. But he was still lanky. And his smile nearly split his face in half.
“Lucifer you've got some party going!”
“I'm always where the party starts.”
Lucifer's loin clothed servant was already handing Shaggy's drink to him. Ringo didn't look to happy to see him though. His smile faltered for a moment and his feet stopped dancing for a couple beats. Then he went on tapping again, his large green eyes never blinking. I was kinda creepy, actually.
“I can see! And you've got a human with you.” Shaggy smiled at me. “Hey there.”
“Ringo was just asking for a little help. It appears he needs to get into Glorgian without being detected.”
“Really? Why do you want to go there, of all places? It's....Glorgian.”
“I left something there that I need.”
“You're always leaving stuff places Ringo. You left your shoes at my place last week.”
“Oh is that where they went?” Ringo laughed. But he didn't sound like he was enjoying it. “They're always dancing off somewhere you know? So listen, can you get me in Jesus?”
Jesus. Jesus? As in the Jesus? I didn't want to ask. I glanced down at his hands. I didn't see any gaping wounds. And he wasn't long haired and blond or emaciated and bleeding from the side. Hell, he looked like he'd just stepped out of a yoga class or something.
“I can...” Said Jesus slowly, looking at Lucifer, then me. Me. I felt my atoms waver slightly. I mean, if it was true I was seeing what every believer in the world wanted to see. And they probably wouldn't like it. My atoms wavered a little harder as I thought about home. But was it home? Or was home here now? Couldn't I just stay in heaven? I mean, it's where I'm supposed to go anyway right?
“Is Benny okay?” Asked Lucifer. Oh God. Lucifer. And I thought the lords name in vein. Was that allowed in heaven? Could God read my mind? Could Jesus? Could Lucifer?
“Hey oh hey, he's fine guys! He does this sometimes! He's still adjusting to his new body!”
“Are you sure?” Jesus didn't look like he believed Ringo, and he even took a step back from me.
“Positive! Benny kid, relax huh!?”
“Positive! Benny kid, relax huh!?”
Relax. Yeah. I was on a tropical island in heaven with the devil and God's only son. Sure. No biggie. Because I was dead. I was a soul. I was supposed to be here. I felt my atoms calm down and Ringo slapped my shoulder.
“See!? He's good! Don't worry! So Jesus about that back way...”
“Well, I do know a guy who could get you there undetected, but I almost don't want to give him to you. He's a little...messed up.”
“Can he get us to where we want to go?”
“Of course, but--”
“Then we'll do it! I really appreciate this! You guys are the best! Really!”
Lucifer and Jesus just smiled and clinked their coconuts together and then Jesus and Ringo wandered down the white sand beach to talk about the person about to take us to Glorgian. Lucifer was busy working on another coconut drink with a blue umbrella this time. Making sure his eyes weren't on me I took out the pamphlet and flipped through, looking for the name Glorgian. I found it in the same list I'd found Dregen. The list of 'places you might wish to avoid altogether'.
Glorgian: Located in the 5th dimension. A favorite tourist destination of 10th dimensionals, cats, and the ever popular Anubis. Humans considered deadly and are therefor strictly prohibited. If one were to put this on a scale of danger we would rate it quite a solid 9. Death to you is quite assured.
“I see they've updated the pamphlet.” Lucifer was peering over my shoulder and I could feel the rock sized stone in my chest thump. Not my heart. The actual rock Francine had jammed inside me.
“Yeah, that's what my Guide said.”
“Has Ringo seen it?”
“Just the cover.”
“Hm.” Lucifer looked up from the cover and then smiled at me. A salesman smile. The slimy kind that my friend Ryan used on me to buy a shitty car. “I'll pay you for it.”
“No thanks. It's not for sale.”
“Everything's for sale Benny. Everything.”
“Not this.” I put the pamphlet back in my pants pocket.
For a moment I thought I saw Lucifer's eyes flicker. Like behind his eyes were little flames I hadn't even noticed. But they were there. Red ones. Really creepy shit.
“You're smarter than most of his partners, I see. But perhaps stupider as well. I'll let you keep the pamphlet, but make sure you get that Fremite out of your chest soon. You won't like what happens when it activates.”
Before I could ask him to elaborate Ringo came dancing up to us, his five scarves extra glittery in the noon lighting. Lighting that had never changed. It was perpetually noon. For some reason the thought of the time of day never changing seemed weird. Maybe I didn't want to stay in heaven after all. Or at least not this section. But if you didn't stay in heaven, where were you supposed to go? Were you allowed to leave heaven?
“Hey oh hey Benny, time to get moving! We've got our guide to Glorgian! Luci old' pal you've really saved me!”
“Anything for you Ringo, you know that. Oh yes. Before I forget.”
Without doing so much as snapping his fingers or blinking his eyes or wiggling his nose, a coil of rope appeared on Lucifer's flamingo swim trunks. It looked like it was made of leather. In fact, it kind of reminded me of a whip, only white. Picking it up with his free hand he handed the rope to Ringo. Ringo took it and grinned, shaking Lucifer's hand hard.
“You're a real pal, Luci! Let's drink with the missus next time!”
“She would like that very much. Benny, remember what I said. Times ticking, as you humans say.”
If Ringo heard the last part he didn't give any indication. Instead he walked us over to Jesus and what looked to be a very scared monkey wearing an astronaut suite.
“This is Apollo. He's going through a bit of a midsoul crises, but he knows Gloriga like the back of his hand. Or, paw, rather. Apollo, this is Ringo and Benny. Make sure you take them to someplace safe on that planet, okay?”
Apollo chattered something and Jesus smiled. Ringo's feet were tapping faster. He shook Jesus's hand too.
“Thanks again for helping! Your tops man, tops!”
“Anytime. Take care. It was nice to meet you Benny.”
I didn't know how I felt about shaking Jesus's hand, and he wasn't offering it. So I just nodded. The paused. Wait. If Jesus was the son of God then he would know everything. Right? I had to ask.
“I uh. If say I needed to contact my Guide, how would I do that?”
“Tug your ear, of course.”
“Your ear. Tug it.”
Before I could try it out Ringo grabbed hold of my arm and tugged me away. Apollo was waiting for us with his big worried eyes and his sad, down turned mouth. It was the saddest monkey I'd ever seen. And I'd seen a monkey in a business suite dancing for money.
“Uh Ringo, are you sure we should trust this monkey?”
“Why shouldn't you?” Asked Apollo in the twangy accents of the South. “I'm just 'bout the smartest one here. Ringo, y'all ready?”
“I actually have a--”
“No time for questions Benny kid! This won't hurt as bad as the first time, but it's not as smooth as a Beat. We're ready Apollo!”
“Good. Alright ya'll, start clapping.”
“Yeah. We gotta reach the right frequency. Clap.”
I clapped, Ringo clapped, and Apollo clapped. I felt stupid. I mean, who the hell claps to go to another planet or dimension or whatever? Me, apparently. After 30 seconds of clapping I felt my body begin to get abnormally warm, and I couldn't stop myself from clapping. I was clapping faster too. So were Ringo and Apollo. My body felt like it was on fire. I closed my eyes against the pain, and I could hear our clapping echo around us, like it was bouncing off rocks and hitting me at different angles.
And then the echoes dulled and faded away, and I realized my hands had stopped clapping. When I opened my eyes, I was alone. Alone and in a swamp with a frog staring at me and my feet stuck in goopy mud up to my claves.
“Hey.” I said to the frog. It blinked one eye at me and then disappeared into the murky brown water of a pond on the other side of me. I looked up. Trees towered above me and yellow leaves fluttered down from the canopy in slow motion. No joke. They were falling at incredibly slow speeds.
“Well, well, well. If it isn't a 3rd dimensional.”
I twisted hard to stare behind myself where I'd heard the scratchy voice come from. Then I wished I hadn't. What looked to be a blob of melted chocolate and sticks was standing behind me, with two yellow eyes that looked like they belonged on a stuffed animal.
“Yeah. Hi. Name's Benny.”
“Beeennn-ai? That's a strange name. A very strang name. Tell my Benny, why I should help you instead of report you to the authorities?”
“Because he's with me.”
I knew that voice. Holy shit. I knew that sexy voice. From above me in trees the black cat that I'd first met at the bar, then in Dregen, sat. Her green eyes stared at me. I could practically see the pity in them.
“Oh. Well, if its you, then its fine. You got lucky today 3rd dimensional.”
With the grace of a cat, because lets face it, she's a cat—the feline hopped from the tree and sat down in a damp patch of orange grass that looked more like silly string.
“If you're here I suppose Ringo is too.”
“Yeah, but I don't know where he is.”
“For your sake, he's hopefully far, far away.”
“So...you're really going to help me?”
“I have to, if I don't want you destroying an entire dimension. Now let's get moving, we don't have a lot of time before Ringo finds you.”
“What do you mean?” I laughed. “Does he have a homing beacon on me or something?”
“Worse. He has luck. That bastard is the luckiest man in the all the dimensions put together.”
“And you would know because...?”
“Because I was his last 'partner'. Now get out of that mud, we have a lot to do.”
I knew I'd followed the cat next time I saw her. I just didn't realize the universe would answer me so soon. I mean, assuming the universe was doing what it was supposed to be doing. Which it probably was, if Frank was right. I kind of wish he wasn't.