The Auction Hall

It is a commonly held misconception that one’s actions in life dictate where one will go in the afterlife. Many believe that if one leads and good and virtuous life, he will go to Heaven; and of course, if one leads a wicked, vice-ridden life, she will go straight to Hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. This is, in fact, not the case. The Powers That Be – God, Satan, what have you – bid for each soul, with Death himself as the auctioneer.

Soul auctions, as they’re called in the business, are held on the first Saturday of every month, with the participants’ representatives collected in the Afterlife Auction Hall, each equipped with a little paddle emblazoned with their particular faction’s emblem – a golden halo for Heaven and a black pitchfork for Hell. Death stands at the front of the Hall and reads out each soul’s name, a brief list of deeds and the opening bid. Most bidding is sedate and reserved, and souls generally pass into their afterlife without much fuss. Occasionally, though, word leaks through the auction network that a special soul will be offered and the bidding becomes frenzied and sometimes wars break out.

This particular Saturday, when Death arrived to begin his pre-auction duties, the Hall was packed with spectators. Death whistled through his teeth as he surveyed the veritable sea of faces. He took the stairs two at a time and ducked into his third-floor office before glancing over the list of souls that would be on the block today. He did a double-take and cursed quietly. No wonder his Hall was packed! Death picked up his ancient telephone and called down to the security desk. Yes, they were aware of today’s special circumstances. Yes, they had requisitioned extra help. No, they didn’t anticipate more trouble than usual. Oh, and was Sir aware that the Bosses were going to be in attendance today? Death cursed again and hung up. He slowly rose from his elderly executive chair and began pacing the length of his office, wringing his hands and worrying.

The Bosses were going to be in his Hall, watching him work. Although this was not unexpected, it still made him terribly nervous to know his every move would be scrutinized. And when that soul arrived, all heck would break loose! He was sure that his Hall had never seen such an auction before. Oh, sure, they had survived Hitler, Carrot Top, and even Paris Hilton without too much disruption, but this soul was more controversial than those three combined.

In due time, Death found himself at his podium at the front of the Hall, reading out the details of one Shirley Smith, retired school teacher, frequent contributor to humanitarian causes, baker of the most delicious double chocolate brownies Lucas County, Iowa, had ever known. The soul in question stood quietly, albeit a bit nervously, at stage right and watched the bidding, eyes bright and inquisitive. She was amazed – as all recently deceased were – at the actual machinations of eternal life. It gave souls one last feeling of pride to be bid over; it made them feel wanted. As expected, Heaven met the reserve price and Hell didn’t bid once. Shirley Smith passed into her heavenly afterlife without much fuss, just as Death liked it.

The Auctioneer looked down at his list and cleared his throat nervously. He nodded to the soul handlers standing just outside the main Hall and they lead in a nondescript-looking soul, not too tall, elderly, and with a bit of a simian look to him. The crowd gasped and soon was buzzing excitedly. That soul was finally on the block! He stood in the same place as Shirley Smith and looked around with wide eyes, clearly amazed. Death gave him a quick once-over and then shook his head. So much fuss over this one.

“Next item available to you is Number 20090120, George Walker Bush, forty-third President of the United States of America. Also known as the Great Liberator of Iraq, Duh the Monkey Man, and the worst leader the Free World has ever known. Frequent liar, unfortunate victim of Richard Cheney and oil companies world-wide. This soul was tried and convicted of war crimes and served out his 20-year sentence quietly and cooperatively. Bidding will begin at one million dollars.”