Insufficient Stories by Patrick Alexander
An asteroid hit the Earth and everyone died. All 110 billion people who had ever lived arrived in Heaven at the same time. There were streamers and balloons taped to the wall, and a chocolate cake on the kitchen table.
“Welcome, children,” said God, smiling a big smile. “Who wants to have some fun?” He waved his hands in the air and went, “Yaaayyy!”
Humanity responded with mixed levels of enthusiasm. God’s was undiminished. He handed out party hats and sat everyone in a circle on the floor, for a game of pass-the-parcel. “Spread out, spread out,” he said. “Let everyone in.”
God sat on a chair to one side, playing ‘Dorothy the Dinosaur’ from a cassette player on his lap. Whenever the song ended, he would rewind the tape – “The music hasn’t stopped! Keep passing, keep passing!” – and play it again. It took three and a half thousand years for the parcel to pass through everyone’s hands once, and God liked to playfully build tension by having it go around the circle three or four times before pressing ‘Pause’.
Suicide was, of course, unthinkably rude, and futile in any case. Anyone who managed to convince his neighbour to strangle him to death, or who very gradually cut open his wrists using a staple taken from his party hat, would immediately return to life and health, with a shellshocked warning for those sitting nearby: “Don’t do it. You get sent back to the start, and have to sit through the whole thing again.”
Then God would shush him for talking during the game. Quite often he had to shush huge sections of the circle for developing minor civilisations, with rich oral traditions and party-hat-based technology. “You’re spoiling the fun for others,” he would say, wagging his finger. If the chatter continued, soon enough the parcel would stop in the midst of it, and someone would unwrap a matchbox car, violently disrupting the local economy and leading to a total collapse of social order – thus restoring quiet.
The human species lived its own lifetime over and again, playing pass-the-parcel. Then came duck-duck-goose, musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey… and so it continued for countless aeons, until at last, it was time to go home. Everyone got a lolly bag and a few molecules of chocolate cake, and was reincarnated as his own stomach. And that is the scientific explanation for indigestion and existential dread.
I thank my learned peers for their time and attention.