Advice For The Dead

By: Michael Fowler

Dear Gabriel,

I died two years ago and I’m still inside my damned coffin. The only thing I have to make death bearable, aside from the silk lining and plush interior of my container (okay, it’s a nice coffin) is The Beyond Times, which appears daily beside my satin pillow as if by magic. I particularly enjoy your advice column and the fashion news from the “other side,” i.e., the land of the living. Other than that, all I have is a small hand-held mirror, and that brings me to my question. To my horror, my skin looks more cracked and decomposed every day. Do you know of any skin care products I can have delivered to me along with my paper? Maybe my “breakout” moment will never arrive and I’ll be stuck inside this box forever, but it will help me to pass eternity if I can eliminate any signs of decay, especially facial ones.

Rotten in Denmark

Dear Rotten,

I can’t be certain, since our computer system is down for retooling and I’d be hard pressed to put my finger on your Permanent Record in our hopelessly out-of-date card catalog, but it sounds to me like you’re being punished. Were you a bit of a narcissist when alive? If so, that might explain the nature of your penance. I know what you’re thinking: since when is looking one’s best a sin? But the rulebook lists personal vanity as a form of pride, and as such, definitely a transgression. So I hope you’ll understand when I tell you that skincare products are out of the question for you right now. But don’t despair: your situation will likely be reviewed in the next several millennia, and then everything could change. You might even get that “breakout” moment you desire and ascend from your tomb to the Isle of the Hot. Meanwhile keep your chin up, chafed and unattractive though it may be.

Dear Gabriel,

What can I do about noisy neighbors? I know the Beyond includes the damned and the saved alike, all jumbled together. I get that. But I just found out the hard way that the people in the apartment next to mine are damned. They dress up in black and blast death metal music all night, stuff like Styx and Megadeath. I’m blessed and have to get up at six each morning for work, and nothing I say to these souls makes any difference. I’ve spoken to the landlord, but he says the rental agreement I signed prohibits me from complaining about noise. Don’t the good have any rights here?

Sleepless Down Under

Dear Sleepless,

Sorry, but none of your rights override the sacred contract between landlord and tenant. But why not drop a hint your tormented neighbors will notice? Next time they’re asleep, crank up Heavenly Harp Hits, a truly mystical and soul-satisfying CD. That’ll grab their attention, and good things may result. Who knows, they may bring you some homemade cookies and place a memorial wreath on your mailbox, and even start meditating.

Dear Gabriel,

I’m traveling dead with my mother, who was ninety-three when she passed away, and we’re supposed to take a ferry next week from our house, where I left the oven on with my head in it, to some otherworldly destination. What I’d like to know is, is this like a cruise? Can we get special non-smoking accommodations, and how much will I need to tip?

Not-So-Accidental Tourist

Dear Not-So-Accidental,

It is just like a cruise, except that you and Mama may be asked to row a few miles and be whipped a little. That’s a joke, but seriously, there are cruise lines almost that bad. I recall one I took off the Ivory Coast in 550 BC that was attacked by pirates and there wasn’t even a masseuse on board. That said, if you and your mother are redeemed, you get to sit in lounge chairs the entire time and can visit the buffet and bar as often as you like. You can gamble, too. Do remember that the sprites and imps waiting on you count on your tips to support their families.

Dear Gabe,

I just got here after my car crash on prom night, in which I died while my date Jennie was miraculously spared. Yeah, I know, almost like in that driver’s ed flick. Anyway, I was wondering, where can I go to meet cool dead chicks? I need to get things moving up here.

Fast Lane Eddie

Dear Fast Lane,

There are regular mixers for deceased teens in the innermost circle of most major cities. Consult the high-speed rail schedule in your town if you don’t have wheels. Be aware that the music, disco from the 1970s, shuts off at midnight, since the city managers have determined that it’s just too nerve-wracking to the damned and blessed alike to have it blaring all night. And please, dude, it’s Gabriel, not Gabe.

Dear Gabriel,

I’d like to register a complaint about your paper, The Beyond Times. Every morning for the first ten years after my death, I would stroll out my front door, waft over the sparkling, gently rolling silvery plain where I have come to reside, walk past the smiling, two-headed dogs and luminous cats to my mailbox, and there find my Daily Heaven. Now I find The Beyond Times instead, and I prefer the Heaven. Somehow Heaven seemed written just for me and my angelic friends, whereas the Times could have been written for anyone, even devils. Is there any chance my favorite paper will return? I know you’ll put this down to the lunatic ravings of a corpse, but I want my Heaven back.

Goodie Two Shoes

Dear Goodie,

As I hope everyone knows by now, The Daily Heaven, and its sister publication Hell’s Beat, were recently merged into one newspaper, The Beyond Times. This change, made after much soul-searching, enables us to conserve much-needed resources and best utilize our reporting staff. It also allows us to avoid using terms like Heaven and Hell, which many find insensitive and objectionable, and simply refer to the Beyond, which indicates either or both of those afterworld alternatives. I know it can be confusing, but in general the Arts and Entertainment and Society sections of the Times continue to feature your favorite writers and photographers from the late Heaven, and for our less blessed readers who enjoyed Hell’s Beat, the Business and Politics and Sports sections retain the talented crew from that publication. With that as your guide, I know you’ll come to love the Times as much as you formerly did the Daily Heaven, which, alas, will not return until the start of our Apocalyptic Promotional Days.

Dear Gabriel,

Man, I’m having the time of my life here, or I guess I mean the time of my afterlife. I never thought the Beyond was a real place, but now I’m a believer since there are fireworks every night and the discount stores are open 24/7. My only complaint is, where are all the neat people I thought I’d find here? Where’re Christ and Gandhi and Einstein and Socrates and people like that? Most everyone I meet is someone I used to work with on the electrical grid in Chicago.

Missing Persons

Dear Missing,

All those great people are here, and having the time of their immortalities. The thing is, they’re super-busy on special projects, and so you’re not liable to run into them. But, for our faithful readers of The Beyond Times, this column will showcase a new format beginning next week. I, Gabriel, formerly your humble advice columnist, will be going one-on-one with some of Heaven’s most desirable citizens, asking them the question: are you in the right place? Their answers will astound you! First up: Whitney Houston! The following week: Andy Griffith!!

And for you residents of the place formerly known as Hell, don’t worry, I won’t neglect you. On alternate weeks I’ll be asking some of the best-known denizens of the lower realm the same question: are you in the right place? You won’t believe their responses! First up: Colonel Gaddafi! And the following week: Uday and Qusay Hussein in an exclusive double interview!!

Till next time,



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