"I need to speak to God," the young priest said.
"Godís busy," said an officious looking angel/ receptionist. "Why donít you have a seat? Heíll be with you when he has a minute." She gave the young man a toothy smile and turned her attention to the 50ís era switchboard behind her.
"How longís the wait?" the man asked. The angel turned, looked up at the young man, shrugged and smiled.
The priest found a seat in the waiting room. The room was so enormous he couldnít see the end if it. Rows upon rows of plastic seats. Most of them filled with beings very few of which were human. The priest found an empty seat between two alien looking individuals. "Is this seat taken?" he asked. There was no response. The creature on his right resembled a large stick insect. The one on his left looked something like a salamander if salamanders were made out of camembert.
"Excuse me," the young priest asked again, "is this seat taken?"
"No," said the insect, "itís yours if you want it." The young man sat down relieved to have a place in the vast room. He was amazed that he could speak freely with these alien beings but chalked it up to just one more mystery in a universe he couldnít hope to understand.
"Have you been waiting long?" he asked the bug.
The bug pulled a curious device from its carapace and consulted it for a few seconds. "About six years," it said.
"Holy smokes," the priest blurted, "thatís quite a wait."
The insect gave what passed for a shrug and pointed to the lizard. "Uma here has been waiting almost twice that long. Isnít that right, Uma?" The cheese lizard nodded its head.
"11 years? Why so long?" the young priest asked, a note of hysteria in his voice? For a brief instant he wondered if his question, which had to do with the meaning of life, was all that important. "Why such a long wait do you think?" was what he managed to ask.
"Iím assuming Godís busy," said the bug. "He appears to enjoy creating stuff more than he likes dealing with his creations. For him the universe is a work in progress. Things like customer service and dealing with complaints donít interest him. At least thatís what my religion teaches us. My advice is to just relax and enjoy the wait. Time goes fast here, youíll see."
The alien was correct. Time zoomed ahead. The young priest had years to contemplate his situation. The waiting room itself proved to be beyond his comprehension. What was once a crowded, generic room resembling a train station gradually changed and morphed into a theater in which was projected scenes from an endless stream of alien worlds.
After a few years that went by like so many hours, the priest began to doubt his questions would ever get answered. He turned to his neighbors and asked, "Does anyone ever get to see him? God I mean."
"Donít ask me," replied the insect, "I havenít." The cheese lizard stretched out and opened a magazine, the same magazine heíd been reading for a decade. After what seemed like days but might have been months, the young priest fell into a fitful sleep.
When he awoke he found himself and his companions on a simple wooden bench along a muddy trail in what might have been a swamp on Venus if Venus had swamps. It wasnít clear if what was before them was a projection or a real place. It looked as though he could get up from his seat and walk into that swamp. The priest decided to stay put and admire the world being displayed before him. The variety of vegetation and animals was mind boggling. Such color, such astounding richness, such diversity. Un-Earthly calls and colors left him awe struck. His immediate companions, the bug and the cheese lizard, were likewise transfixed by the spectacle.
After several more of these startling transitions, the priest got the idea they were all in some mind bogglingly enormous theater watching a holographic projection of some of the near infinite number of worlds in Godís creation. He turned to his neighbor on the left and said, "Uma isnít it?" The lizard nodded in assent. "Iím Walter, Walter Flemish from Earth." Walter held out his hand but Uma didnít recognize the gesture and chose to ignore it. "Isnít this amazing?" he asked the lizard.
"Amazing," Uma agreed.
Walter turned to the insect on his right and sighed. He could feel he was in for a long wait.
The priest turned his attention to the stick insect whose name was unpronounceable. The priest had taken to calling him Glick which was a rough approximation of the creatureís real name. Glick didnít seem to mind. Turning to the more talkative Glick, the priest asked, "I was just wondering if all this spectacle we are witnessing might be some sort of projection."
"Well, thereís one way to test that theory," Glick replied. "You could get up and walk into the scene. If itís fake youíll know it soon enough."
The next time he awoke, the waiting room was in an underwater environment unlike anything heíd ever seen. Colossal coral fans the size of trees waved gently overhead. Transparent fish the size of battleships cruised slowly by. The variety of life on display was stupendous. The young priest felt like applauding such creative imagination. He had no idea where he was or how he managed to breathe. He assumed that anything was possible to an omnipotent God and this was Godís way of excusing his absence. Every time the priest dozed he awoke to another world. He was forced to admire the creative genius that populated so many staggering environments. The young priest felt his faith grow ever stronger even as his wait stretched into decades.
One day Walter awoke in desert world so barren and spare he was hard pressed to see any life at all. He looked over at the insect and was about to express his disappointment with the scarcity of living things when the ground in front of him began to move and a lizard emerged from the sand. It tasted the air and dove beneath the surface. He realized that there was probably a rich ecosystem underground where he could not see. Looking closer at the dunes stretching before him, Walter noticed a variety of crystalline, almost transparent life forms making their living from the sand. Even here on this barren bit of emptiness a complex and unique set of creatures existed. You had to admire Godís sheer creative power.
When he next awoke, Uma, the cheese lizard, was gone. He had disappeared during the night. They were in a vast peculiar forest sitting on a fallen log. Nearby a waterfall crashed down a cliff face and splashed into a clear pool. "I say, Glick," said the priest, "do you think Umaís number was called? You think heís having his audience with God right now?"
"Who knows," said Glick. "Maybe he saw a world that reminded him of home and walked off into it. Maybe he got tired of waiting or, more likely, maybe he found the answer to his question."
A few years or minutes later, Walter awoke to find Glick too gone. He was alone on rocky ledge looking over a majestic panorama of forest and canyons. Snow capped peaks stretched away as far as he could see. He missed his companions and, for the first time, grasped his insignificance in creation. He tried to remember his question. Something about the meaning of life, wasnít that it? He had to laugh at the preposterousness of that question. As if he could even understand the answer. He looked again at the grandeur before him and began to fade away. When blackness engulfed him he knew the answer to every question.