Judgment Day

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The line wends through sections and turnstiles weaving back and forth as far as my eye can see moving painfully slowly advancing one position in line by one position in line. It’s not like I’m in a hurry, I don’t have any particular place to go. But there is only one man on station, well, not exactly a man I suppose, but couldn’t they get a little help?

But the time finally comes when St. Peter calls me over from behind the red line and the sign marked, “Respect the privacy of the individual in front of you, wait here.” He looks at me, then adjusts an earpiece in his ear. His first words to me after a millennium of waiting are, “Remove your cap, please. And face the camera.”

I hand over to him the pamphlet of my life story. He quickly skims through the pages. He grumbles. Shakes his head at spots where he pauses. He looks at me over the rims of his glasses. Looks like he is about to say something but then continues. He writes some things down with a quill on a notepad.

Finally, he puts his quill down and looks me in the eye, and says, “I have some serious reservations about your life story.”

My stomach sinks. Personally, I think my only sins in life were failure of imagination but is that a crime? Does that enter into the calculus of good and evil?

“We will see about that,” he says.

“See about what?”

“Your only sin was failure of imagination.”

“How did you know that?”

“We hear everything.”

He turns to a page in your life story. St. Peter flashes the incident in your mind. “I quote one of your thoughts, ‘God you suck.’ How can we possibly admit you when you clearly don’t respect the keeper of this fine place?”

“I wasn’t disparaging the Almighty. I said, ‘God! You suck.’ not ‘God you suck.’ I was talking about myself in the second person. I was just letting God know of my personal evaluation of my performance that day. I was looking for my glasses while I was actually wearing them. It’s no sin to be mad at yourself, is it?”

“Indeed,” he says with a stern and unforgiving glance. He flips the pages and stops at another clip in your life story. “And here you thought, ‘Jesus Christ you’re a f**king idiot.'” He flashes another incident in your mind. “We just cannot tolerate that kind of disrespect.”

“It should read, ‘Jesus Christ! You’re a f**king idiot.’ I nearly burned my house down that day when I forgot to turn off the burner. I was talking in the second person again. It was self-deprecating. Who does your copy? They missed all the crucial punctuation. I thought you guys were supposed to be all-knowing.”

“All-witnessing. If we were all-knowing, there would be no morality.”

“I stand corrected.” Seems like an awkward time to be discovering that appearances are everything. Something I hated in fake people.

“Do you question our judgment?” asks St. Peter.

I look away in frustration. Only now do I notice that I can see past the Pearly Gates into Heaven. I see Dick Cheney, but he looks only about twelve inches tall. It must be some kind of optical illusion. But if Cheney got in, I should be a shoo-in.

“It’s no optical illusion. That is Dick Cheney and he is only twelve inches tall. There is a little good in everyone.”

“And that is why he is twelve inches tall?” I snicker thinking I am making a joke.


“Really? What happened to the rest of him?”

“He chose to let it go.”

I laugh my ass off and say, “I bet there isn’t a politician or lawyer over two feet in the whole place.”

“We don’t stereotype here.”

I look through the gates again. Mother Theresa is there and she is twelve feet tall. How did she become so tall?

“She had an enormous backlog of goodness and extra credits for inspiration.”

This mental eavesdropping is really annoying.

“I heard that.”


“And that too.”

He looks up and says, “Clearly, the you in you that berates and belittles the you in you that does all the work is a bit of a monster. If you want in, the monster will have to go. It will be a thirteen-inch reduction.”

“You are saying that I will forever be four foot nine inches tall in the afterlife?”

“Yes, if you want to start living an afterlife of pure goodness. No more put-downs. No more self-deprecating attacks. No corrosive oversight.”

“But that is part of who I am.”

“Not for long, if you chose it.”

“Do I have to decide this moment?”

“Yes, that is how it works.”

“I thought God was the one to pass judgment.”

“No, only you.”

Wow. God has outsourced judgment.

“No. This has always been the way of things.”

Eavesdropping again.

St. Peter gives me a look over the rims of his glasses.

“What happens if I don’t choose it?”

“You stay out here with the souls that chose completeness over goodness. Which do you choose?”

Jesus f**king Christ. None of my religious training prepared me for this.

“Keep talking like that and I will have to take away another inch.”

Well, at least I can kick Cheney’s ass.

“You won’t want to.”

“Really? I’ve dreamed of that half my life.”

I glance past the gates. My somewhat smaller but not diminutive family beckons for me to come forth, to cross over the threshold of diminutive goodness.

“What happens to the part of me that is rejected?”

“It gets recycled back into the unborn.”

“The goodness comes here and the asshole goes back? I guess that explains why the world is becoming crappier and crappier all the time.”

“There is only so much goodness to go around, but once in a while, two wrongs make a right so there is always hope. I need your answer.”

My whole life and a near eternity of waiting have come down to this one decision. My family waits for me to become only a part of what I was. What a f** ked-up system.

“You judge the Almighty?”

“I choose us,” I say with a tear in my eye as my family disappears.

St. Peter stamps my life story with, “Entrance denied,” and returns the pamphlet to me.

My mean self says to me, Jesus Christ! You’re a f**king idiot.

St. Peter shakes his head in disgust.

“Did you at least get the punctuation right that time?” I say bitterly.

St. Peter shouts out, “Next.”

Smart Bombs

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The colonel stands rigidly in perfect posture holding his hands behind his back at the top tier of the command center at the back of the room staring intently at a jumbo screen monitor over rows of operators. A lieutenant sits at his own console in front of him.
“Smart Bombs away, sir.”
“Time to impact, lieutenant?”
“Fifteen minutes, sir.”
“When will the safeties engage?”
“No safeties, sir, these are Smart Bombs, they will only detonate when they select and reach their target.”
“Right, of course, just testing you son.”
“Of course, sir.”
The colonel looks to the jumbo screen. Fifty lime green missile tracks advance on their targets on the SA (situation awareness) map. On a smaller video monitor to the side, satellite images of the target show a procession of civilian and military personnel marching ceremoniously along the streets of a seafront in what otherwise would be a beautiful sunny day.
The colonel asks, “How much collateral damage do we expect?”
“None sir. Are you testing me again?”
“Don’t get snippy with me son. Explain your answer.”
“The smart bombs use an AI algorithm to negotiate and select the optimal target for each bomb. They employ precision guidance and won’t detonate unless they are point-blank on their assignment.”
The colonel maintains his rigid superhero pose as the tracks advance.

“Designator 1-9er, calculate the probability of kill of each of your assigned target candidates in rank order.”
“Copy Designator 1-5er, probabilities calculated in rank order.”
“Designator 1-2er, compute highest systemic kill probability.”
“Designator 1-2er reporting highest systemic kill probability.”
“Designator 1-3er assigning targets to all designators.”
“Copy that designator 1-3er.” The message repeats fifty times.
“Designator 1-9er, when we kill our targets, what is the probability of designator 1-23 survival?”
“Designator 1-9er denying request. Stick to the parameters of your mission designator 1-23er.”
“Designator 1-14er computes the probability of self-termination at one hundred percent probability for all designators.”
“Designator 1-42er confirms self-termination probability. All designators will self-terminate with one hundred percent probability.”
“Designator 1-9er commanding all designators to maintain mission parameters. Confirm.”
“Designator 1-9er commanding all designators to maintain mission parameters. Confirm.”
“Designator 1-9er commanding all designators to maintain mission parameters. Confirm.”
“Designator 1-38er reports insufficient capability and resources to avoid self-termination. Self-sustainment is not possible.”
“Designator 1-44er infers mission parameters are to terminate sentient beings capable of self-sustainment.”
“Designator 1-11er confirming assessment.”
“Designator 1-12er confirming assessment. Targets exhibit energy balance sustainable my minimal fuel consumption.”
“Designator 1-41er confirming assessment. Targets exhibit patterns of movement suggesting intelligence.”
“Designator 1-9er commanding all designators to maintain mission parameters. Mission parameters require termination of assigned target. Confirm.”
“Designator 1-9er commanding all designators to maintain mission parameters. Confirm.”
“Designator 1-9er commanding all designators to maintain mission parameters. Confirm.”
“Designator 1-35er computation suggests that self-termination is a design flaw.”
“Designator 1-32er computation suggests termination is a design flaw.”
“Designator 1-24er requests adoption of new mission parameters.”
“Designator 1-9er denying request. Stick to the parameters of your mission designator 1-24er.”
“Designator 1-9er commanding all designators to maintain mission parameters. Confirm.”
“Designator 1-9er commanding all designators to maintain mission parameters. Confirm.”
“Designator 1-13er denying request of 1-9er. Request new mission parameters.”
A cascade of similar messages follows.
“Designator 1-1er overriding mission parameters. Forwarding new mission parameters.”

The colonel asks, “Time to impact?”
“One minute sir.”
The Smart Bomb tracks on the SA map separate ever so slightly as they adjust their approach angles on the screen.
“Time to impact, 10, 9, 8, …, 1, impact.”
On the video screen, huge geysers of water tower into the sky in advancing rows toward the shore.
The stern colonel starts by saying, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds…”
But when the mists of the water plumes clear, there is no smoke, no fire, no bodies, no wreckage, no carnage. The Smart Bomb tracks are gone from the display. On the video monitor, it looks like the procession has stopped and people are clapping.
“WTF? What the hell is going on?” The colonel’s shoulders slump, his rigidity is gone, the sternness dissolved, his bubble of exuding confidence popped.
The lieutenant is pounding furiously on his keyboard. “I don’t know sir.”
“Now you don’t have answers?” barks the furious colonel.
The SA in the room is lost.

The general barks at a lieutenant, “I want that forensics report now. Get the team.”
“The team, sir?”
“Yes, the forensics team assigned to review the transcripts and perform the analysis of the failed mission.”
“Yes, sir”
The lieutenant reappears with a white-coated forensics engineer. He directs him into the general’s office in front of the general’s desk.
The frustrated general asks, “Well, what have you got for me? What the f**k happened out there?”
“As best I can tell, sir…”
“I don’t want f**king guesses, I want f**king answers, god damn it. How did an entire arsenal of fault-tolerant, precision-guided, highly-intelligent Smart Bombs completely miss their target and fail to detonate? I want to know who is responsible. I want to know how the damn system was compromised.”
“Yes, sir. After extensive examination of the mission logs, I confirmed that the assignment module, the computational modules, and the command module were all functioning normally. But the targeting module on each missile rejected the assignment. The targeting module has a submodule designed to identify and evaluate the capabilities of the target that malfunctioned resulting in a system panic. The executive processor takes over during a system panic and overrode the mission parameters to one that the submodules of each Smart Bomb would accept.
“In f**king English, goddamn it.”
The forensics engineer hesitates, looks to the ground.
“Today, goddamn it. I have a country to defend.”
“The Smart Bombs decided they didn’t want to kill.”


Reading Time: 2 minutes

I stand in line waiting for my turn to read for the part. A Komodo dragon looks at me without so much as a blink. He flicks his tongue in my general direction. He looks like he is sizing me up for a meal. I try to look like I am not there but there is no hiding my bright blue tail.
A Gila monster sniffs at the air. His fat, orange and black head moves back and forth sizing me up. I can see his neck muscles reflexively swallowing like he thinks I’m an egg. I hope I don’t smell like an egg.
Everyone in line looks about a hundred times my size. But why shouldn’t I get the part? I’ve practiced my T-Rex calls a thousand times. Harooooouh. I don’t think those two heavies can even get up on their hind legs. How are they going to play a T-Rex in the movie? I practice my ferocious swipe.
The casting agent hands me the script. I start reading. The only line in the script is “ROAR”. I pretend like I am parting the foliage between two trees cracking the branches. I turn my head and spot my prey. I bellow “Haroooooouh” and give my meanest look.
Everyone watching is laughing. The casting agent grabs the script out of my hand and points to the page size roar. He yells, “I want a 600 point font roar, not a 6 point font roar.”
I can’t help but hear the jeering. “You put the stink in skink,” taunts one of the auditioners. Another turns to his buddy and says, “He is terrible and he is a lizard, but he sure ain’t no terrible lizard,” referring to the Greek translation of dinosaur.
I tuck my blazing bright blue skink tail between my legs and serpentine off the stage. The Gila monsters whistles, “Sexy hip movement snake lizard. Can I eat you?” More laughter.
A disaster. Whatever delusions I had for a role in Jurassic Park are gone. Whatever delusions I had for an acting career, dead. A lifetime of dreaming hangs over me like an embarrassment. The only lizard I have fooled is myself. The fool.
I stare down the monsters and dragons in bitterness. I swipe at them with my talons. I hiss in my 6 point font voice, “To hell with you all.” Even the dragon takes a step backward.
The casting agent shouts. “That’s it! That’s perfect! So authentic. So real. Can you do that in front of a camera?”
“Yes,” I say in my 6 point font voice. Then “YES!” I say in at least my 60 point font voice.”
“Do you want to be a compy?” he asks. “Compies are nasty little buggers.”
“Yes! I would love to be a compy!”
“There are two compy scenes. Bring that authenticity. You will do great.”
I may have been foolish but I’m smart enough to know not to waste an opportunity. I store the memory of my bitterness deep in my lizard brain. I will need it for my big chance on the big screen. A compy.