A lot of time passed.
The doorbell rang.
“You have a doorbell! Nifty,” The big cheery man exclaimed when Frank answered the door.
Frank raised an eyebrow. “You are?”
The man held out a large hand.
“Charlie, you called?”
“Oh, yeah. The imagination guy.”
“Imagination Consultant,” Charlie corrected.
“Yeah, right, come in.”
Charlie walked in and looked around. He made some thoughtful noises like hm and ah.
Frank scowled at him. “Something wrong?”
Charlie smiled. “Not a bit, just doing some research.”
“Well, stop. We can get to that in a bit. Drink?”
Charlie laughed and shook his head. “Nah, I spent five years in a sea of whiskey.”
Charlie took a seat on the sofa. He chuckled. “And I mean a literal sea. That would have been about three hundred years ago, before I cleaned myself up and started doing this.”
Frank looked at his hand and a glass of whiskey appeared, good stuff. There is only good stuff in heaven. Unless of course you like the bad stuff, then, there is that too. Frank took a sip.
“What exactly do you do?”
“Well,” Charlie rubbed his hands together, “when most folks get to heaven, they are thrilled, I mean, anything you can imagine and poof! It’s a riot.”
“So, you know, people go a bit nuts. Now, what happens next?”
Frank raised an eyebrow. Charlie scratched his face, thoughtful.
“Well,” he continues, “unlimited possibilities is a bit much for most folks. Eventually, folks end up deciding to simply relive a copy of their life, or create a new life. But,” Charlie holds up a finger.
“They always end up back and in the end, boredom sets in. After all, endless possibility doesn’t give you endless intelligence, or imagination for that matter.
And so, I invented a little profession. The first profession in heaven I’m pretty sure. And there you have it.”
Frank had listened, or half listened. It had been a long time since he talked to anyone he hadn’t created himself. He nodded.
“So, how are you going to help me?”
Charlie leaned back.
“A swap. Your imagination has dried up. It’s no wonder. You’ve been here how long?”
Frank shrugged. “A few thousand years, maybe?”
Charlie whistled. “That’s a stint. Well you might think you’ve tried it all, but trust me, I’ve heard some stuff. So, the deal is, you give me a story, and I give you one. A story for story. However many you tell me is how many you get.”
Charlie snapped his fingers and a small box appear in his lap. It looked like a recipe catalog. He pulled out a card and smiled at Frank.
“Whenever you’re ready.”
Frank took a breath.
“Okay, so I created a town made of talking mailboxes, and,” Frank stopped. Charlie was shaking his head.
“No, Frank. Not that kind of story. Everyone has those kinds of stories. A real story. From your life. That is what people want. Tell me something real Frank. What did you do in life?”
Frank shrugged “I was a cop.”
“Now that, could be interesting. Why’d you become a cop?”
Frank took a sip of his very fine whiskey and thought. It had been so long. He’d spent thousands of years with all different variations of his wife and son. Their real faces were forgotten. When he created some new child, it was just a doll that called him Papa. Frank shook off a wave of sadness.
“I had a son,” he began, “he was lost, taken. Many years before I died. My wife and I searched for him for,” Frank thought back to what time used to mean, “many years. So, I became a cop. Thought it might help.”
“Cool, I mean, not cool, but good stuff.”
“Yeah,” Frank muttered, refilling his glass with a wink.
“So, what story have you got for me?”
Charlie held up a hand. “Wait, so what happened to the boy, your son. Did you find him?”
Frank frowned, rolling his glass in his palms.
“Hm. They found him. Or, they found what was left of him. His things. In some house that burned down.”
Charlie frowned. He nodded thoughtfully. “Go on,”
“And there was a grave, for all the boys, so,” Frank shrugged, “I held on, for a couple years but, couldn’t take it, so I ended it, wife too.”
“You killed your wife?”
Frank tried to smile. “No, no, she killed herself too. I guess I was pretty hard on her after we found out.”
“Is she up here?” Charlie asked.
Frank nodded. “We found each other, were happy for a while, but,” Frank paused.
“Never found your son?” Charlie guessed.
Frank sat there for a few minutes, remembering. Charlie stayed quiet, watching Frank curiously. Then, Frank began to cry, slowly, quietly.
When Charlie realized Frank was crying he put his cards down and walked over. He bent down and placed a hand on Frank’s knee. Frank frowned at it.
“Odd, isn’t it?”
Frank looked at Charlie.
Charlie continued, “who would have thought that, in heaven, the end, a place of limitless possibility, a real memory and a real touch would feel so foreign.”
Charlie sat on the couch. He put his arm around Frank. Frank wept. Charlie patted him on the shoulder.
Frank pulled himself together and sat back.
“So, what story do you have for me?”
Charlie looked at the cards and laughed.
“Oh, those are blank. I don’t tell people each other’s business, wouldn’t that be a shitty thing to do?”
Frank frowned and then began laughing. He hadn’t laughed in thousands of years.
It felt good.