“Hey.” Karim stared down at the back of his hands. They looked as he had remembered them: young, steady and sure, not weathered, gaunt and weak. “Neat. I could get used to this.”
Karim looked back up and walked forward. The bright light before him melted away to reveal a door. Karim’s firm grip turned the immaculate golden knob and he entered. The peaceful white of the antechamber no longer existed. In its place stood a stark contrast: a room armed to the teeth with levers, knobs, buttons and flashing lights.
“Huh.” Karim ran his hand across the nearest control console. He had never seen something like this in the wild before. He had grown up with touch screens and LED displays. These things looked as if they had been rescued from the Cold War. The musky smell confirmed it. These things were practically ancient.
Karim peeked around a computer tower about his height to find an older blonde woman frantically changing a reel of brown recording tape.
“Oh!” She jumped back, nearly dropping the reel. “You’re here! Finally! Fantastic!”
“Uh…hi. I’m Karim. I think I’m dead.”
“Fantastic!” She repeated as she secured the tape reel in place. “Fantastic!“
“Yeah…uh…thanks.” Karim rubbed the back of his head. There was hair there again. “Listen, uh…is this heaven?”
“Hahaha!” The woman’s laugh was maniacal enough to suffice for a ‘no’, but she intimated otherwise, “I suppose it is, Karim! I suppose it is!”
“Okay. Neat. So…could you show me where God is? He should be around here, right?”
“Oh!” The woman dashed away to the far end of the room to stab at an array of buttons that lit up green. “That would be me, I guess!”
“Ah.” Karim wasn’t sure how to feel about that. He had no religious preconceptions of God to go on, so this woman in the robin’s egg blue sweater would have to do. “Alright. So could you let me into heaven? The main…area…I guess?”
“Oh, Karim, Karim, Karim!” The woman launched herself back at him and squished his face between her palms, before pivoting away in some sort of mad dance to address a keyboard. “This is it. This is all there is!”
Karim’s face fell. “What? This control room? And you’re God?”
“Well,” The woman was about to hit the ‘Enter’ key, but stopped herself. “Not anymore!”
“Not…” Karim’s head tilted. “…anymore?”
“Well, you’re here now!” The woman smiled. “My time’s done!”
“This whole thing is yours, Karim. You get to be God now. Just like the man before me and the baby before him!”
Karim ran his finger over a dusty knob. The label had been worn clean off, but It was set to 85%. “I…don’t follow.”
“This is the control room of the universe, Karim! We all take turns being God until the next dead person shows up! Time’s not a constant up here, so it might be a while till the next one.”
Karim’s shoulders sunk under the weight of the responsibility. His heart rate increased.
“Ah. You’re panicking. Good.” The woman’s voice was beginning to fade, along with her corporeal form. “You’re going to need that adrenaline.”
“But I-I don’t know how to work any of this stuff! I just got here! I need some help!” Karim’s eyes darted from buttons, to levels to flywheels, all with faded, invisible labels. He could not process any of it. “How am I supposed to control everything? How am I supposed to make sure everything goes the way it should?”
“Nothing ever goes the way it should. Don’t worry about it! Just make it up as you go along!” Her voice receded into the ethereal distance. “That’s what everyone else did, anyway! Good luck!”
Karim watched the last fibers of the woman’s blue sweater dissolve into nothingness.
Soon, he was alone.
On the far side of the room, a button lit up in red. Karim shuffled over and examined the label. ‘-er Activation 1983’.
He pushed it.
It lit up blue.
Two towers over, a tape, now complete, flapped against its reel. A quick beeping noise emanated from a console in the center and several automated levers ka-thunked back into their initial positions.
Karim sighed and went looking for a new reel of tape.