Welcome to Paradise by Newton Webb

Updated: Oct 20


Paradise isn't all it's cracked up to be.



The sound of birds woke David. He groaned and pushed back the thick duvet. Sunlight poured in through the windows as he snuggled deeper into the comfy mattress.


Where was he? This wasn't his bed. He had something important to ask someone, but he could remember who or what. He opened his eyes and sat bolt upright, triggering a splitting headache. His mind felt muddled.


A man in a pure white suit was sitting next to his bed, beaming with a beneficent grin. "Hello, David."


"Who are you? Where am I?" David threw the sheets back. His heart was racing.

"It is okay, David. Your memory will return in time. You died and are now in Paradise. I am here to manage your onboarding process. A kind of spiritual liaison if you like."

"Died? How?" David rubbed the side of his head. “I’m not dead.”

"You will remember in time. The important thing is to get you settled. My name is Azrobius, and I will be helping you with your eternity in Paradise." The smile was constant, his teeth painfully white. "I will let you get dressed and wait for you on the veranda."


David waited for him to leave and then rose, removing his soft, white pyjamas. He padded barefoot across the thick pile carpet and marvelled at the marble walls and floor tiles. Beautiful frescos adorned the walls. He admired a depiction of a group of angels feeding apples to the poor.

Opening the wardrobe, he pulled a face. No Iron Maiden in Paradise, apparently. He flicked through a selection of pastel colours that would make a geography teacher's dress sense seem risqué. David pulled on some light blue jeans and a tight white vest.


Azrobius was waiting as promised with two glasses of champagne. They toasted as they overlooked the beautiful marble city. Children played in a nearby park, birds sang and-- Good lord! The hymns rose in a discordant mess to jar his ears. David couldn't see how they could sing worse. Timing, tone and pitch were enthusiastic yet abominable.

"What is that ghastly noise?"

Azrobius winced. "Paradise is an all-inclusive place where we encourage everyone to join us in church and sing. This means we get every level of ability with all the associated issues that causes.” After the briefest of deliberation, Azrobius locked eyes with David. “We encourage it. It is a wondrous social activity. It really flexes the lungs.”

Pulling a face, David took a sip. “What now?”

“Now, you enjoy the little spot in Paradise you’ve earnt. There are some rules, though.” Azrobius put on his best stern face, managing to look like a wounded puppy. “This mansion is all yours, but you are responsible for maintenance. Paradise has limited space and lots of new guests, so we start people in mansions and then move them down housing grades if they cannot look after them. With all the newcomers, it is almost impossible to move back up a grade. Something to be wary of.” Waving at all the different beautiful buildings below them, Azrobius smiled. “We just want everyone to end up in the property that is right for them.”


His mind was niggling at him. Through the mental fog, he clutched at a thought. “I’ve a wife. Where is she?”

Whipping out a pristine, new notepad and flipping through it, Azrobius frowned. “Nothing here. David, I would wait until your memories return. I have been doing this for six thousand years, and we’ve not misplaced anyone yet.” Running his finger over the marble tabletop, he frowned, “Dust already. It never ceases to amaze me how fast it accumulates on marble.”

“What about money?”

Azrobius laughed, “Money? You are in Paradise, no mortgage, no bills, and the finest food and equipment automatically fill your pantry. We have Tuscan tomatoes, truffles from Florence, wines from France.” He looked at the glass critically. “Before climate change ruined the harvest, I might add.” He raised his glass. “Enjoy your afterlife.”

Smiling, David clinked his champagne flute in a toast. No work, everything for free. He exhaled, the stress rolling off his body like a maritime fog.

Azrobius stood and bowed, “With that, I fear I must leave you. Other clients and all that, no rest for the angelic! I shall return tomorrow to check in with you.”


Following Azrobius to the huge double doors downstairs and waving goodbye, he marvelled at his pillared front porch and extensive garden.


Heading back inside, he explored his wondrous new palace. Finding the stoppered bottle of champagne, he poured himself another glass. Contemplating breakfast, he opened the fridge. It was rammed. The scent of fresh herbs and vegetables was delightful. Ferreting around for the bacon and eggs, he was left disappointed. The contents were entirely vegan. Thinking about it, he realised that slaughterhouses weren’t really on brand for Paradise. Pulling out tofu, he scrambled it with fried garlic, chives. To finish, he grated fresh turmeric and black truffle over the top, seasoning with ground pepper.


Taking the dish to the veranda, he ate with gusto whilst planning his day. Seeing the line drawn in the dust by Azrobius, a sigh emerged. Day One in Paradise would have to involve a proper spring clean then! As he finished his breakfast, he hunted down the cleaning implements. The cast-iron pans were great to cook with, but he had to use steel wool to clean them as they had yet to be seasoned. Blitzing the house, he hoovered, mopped and dusted each room in turn until he had finished the downstairs.


Lunch was toast with hummus, topped with sesame seeds and a slice of lemon. Cracked black pepper added texture and heat to his dish. There was no toaster in Paradise nor an electric kettle, but the bread and hummus were truly outstanding.


Gathering up his cleaning implements, he rose for his next challenge. Upstairs. Suddenly, rage filled him. Rust coloured mould was forming at the bottom of the stairs on his marble. He fell to his knees and scrubbed frantically until it was all gone, breathing heavily.

Sitting back on his haunches, he laughed. What was all that about? Mould? Was he so precious that he couldn’t tolerate a blemish on his otherwise perfect house?


Taking the equipment upstairs, he carried on cleaning. Exhausted, it wasn’t until sunset that he finished and got to recline in an easy chair with a bottle of red. The evening dinner was a simple one. He cooked some fresh pasta, tossed through with olive oil, rock salt, diced tomato, basil leaves and fried garlic, devouring it heartily.

The wine was exceptional. As David drank it, a vague memory relating to his wife blossomed.


He was in the hills of Sicily, drinking red wine with his wife, Beth.

He raced downstairs for olives, and as he munched on them upstairs, more memories returned. He could see Beth now, beautiful auburn hair, thick curls and a smile that could pierce the coldest heart. Warmth flowed through him, and he leaned back in his chair, drank his wine and held the image of the love of his life in his mind.


A stabbing pain brought him back to Earth, or Paradise at any rate. Rubbing at his temple, he wandered around checking cupboards. After a while, he gave up and returned to his wine. Apparently, paracetamol wasn’t a thing in Paradise either. It made sense. Big Pharma was probably turned away at the door. Another question for Azrobius. As the night air cooled, he gently dozed and didn’t remember dragging himself off to bed.


*****


The morning was heralded by bird song, off-key hymns and a truly horrendous hangover. Why would they have hangovers in Paradise? He jerked as he saw Azrobius looming over him. “Stop letting yourself into my house. Ring the bell like a normal person.” The angelic being’s brilliant white teeth accentuated the pounding headache.

“Of course, I will make a note of that, David.” Pulling out his notepad, he scribbled for a moment. “If I may say so, you appear quite discombobulated this morning.”

“It’s a hangover,” David confessed. “Why exactly would they exist in Paradise?”

Azrobius patted David’s shoulder sympathetically. “Free will, David. When you drank all that wine, you made the decision to have a hangover. We would never rob you of that. Free will is the greatest gift humanity ever received. We sadly do not have the same gift, existing only as servants of the All-mighty.”

“Well, you are welcome to have my hangover,” David muttered. “Wouldn’t want you feeling left out.”

“You are very funny, David. I enjoy my visits.”

Looking closely for sarcasm, David decided he was probably genuine. “Give me a minute, and I’ll see you on the veranda.” As Azrobius bowed politely and left, David fumbled around getting dressed. His headache was spectacular today.


David joined Azrobius later, dressed in his pastel clothes once more. He accepted a glass of champagne from him, hair of the dog, and sat down with a grunt. “Beth is my wife’s name. Any news? She would love this house.”

“David, that is wonderful news. Your memories are returning to you. I’m so pleased. You will be able to answer that question yourself soon. I have full faith that she is where she belongs.” Raising his glass, they both toasted her memory. “I am so happy that you are settling in so well. Have you gone out and socialised yet?”

“I haven’t had a chance. I deep cleaned the house yesterday.” The hymns started up again with a newfound fervour causing David to narrow his eyes.

“If you wake up in time, then I recommend the choir.”

David snorted, “Oh, no, not a chance.” He finished his drink. “Who is Ben?”

“Who?” Azrobius cocked an eyebrow.

Shrugging, David looked puzzled. “I don’t know, but I know it is important to me that I find out.”

Patting him on the shoulder, Azrobius stood. “You will get there soon. The transition takes time, that is all. Patience.” Pulling out an envelope, he handed it to David. “Your daily inspection, fairly good, except for a rather ugly patch of mould—”

Azrobius didn’t get to finish his review as David, swearing furiously, leapt up and tore down the stairs. The mould was back. This time it was more prominent. The rust coloured patch had reached the wall and was starting to creep up it. Racing into the kitchen, he wet the cloth and ran back to rub it clean. Vigorously scrubbing, he sat back panting after his exertions.

“Are you quite alright, David?” A concerned voice drifted down the stairs as Azrobius descended.

“I’m sorry, I overreacted. I just hate this mould. This house is perfect in every other way. It infuriates me. Perhaps it has a damp problem there?”

David saw him out and then prepared a breakfast of baked flat mushrooms in garlic, olive oil, fresh tomato and panko breadcrumbs.

Scrubbing the tray clean, he noticed dust on the work surfaces. He wiped them down, finding more dirt. David realised he hadn’t been as thorough as he had thought yesterday. Resigning himself, he got up and resumed cleaning.


Breaking for a light lunch of garlic bread and a tossed salad, he had a memory of himself. He was in a restaurant kitchen. In the memory, he was angry, shouting at the kitchen staff over some error when Beth arrived and took him outside. The memory came into crystal-like focus. She had kissed his hands and the rage had fled. As he stared into her eyes, he wondered how he had come to be so lucky. It was then that she told him she was pregnant. A tear fell down his cheek as he remembered the waves of emotion that had flowed over him. They had been so happy that they had danced in the street. They had wept unashamedly. Tears returned to him as he remembered shouting his news to the sky.


Was Ben his son? Who was he? The question kept rolling around in his brain. Who was Ben?


He had a glass of wine and then cleaned the upstairs of the mansion. It was late when he had finished, but every surface sparkled. He cooked a quick dinner of oven-roasted red peppers and fennel, then shallow fried aubergine slices coated in garlic and tomato puree before being dipped in panko breadcrumbs. He scrubbed the pans down and then oiled them. Now he could remember doing this in the kitchens on Earth David actually enjoyed the activity.


Taking his dinner upstairs to the veranda, he eagerly devoured it and then sat watching the sun dropdown. It was truly beautiful here in Paradise. The bottle of red wine he took with him slowly evaporated. He smiled at the God awful hymns. At least he got free wine.


*****


"David." The softly spoken word jerked him into consciousness.

"I said 'knock!' don't just invade my house." David's head felt like someone had taken an ice pick to his right temple. He whimpered with pain and rubbed it with his knuckles.

"You did not answer David, I knocked for a very long time. I had to see you as I have bad news."

He looked up to see the concern in Azrobius's eyes. "What is it?" Sitting, David clutched at his temple. Of all the days to have to deal with this.

"I am afraid your maintenance is not up to scratch. I am here to give you your first warning."

Rage blossomed in David's heart and he threw back the sheets. Sitting up rapidly, he stopped only when his head erupted into fresh needles of pain. "What do you mean?"

"The mould David. You have a responsibility to--"

Leaping up, ignoring the pain, David raced downstairs. The mould had spread all across the footwell and was now spreading up the wall. Pulling off his nightshirt, he rubbed at the stain.

"David, you are not being very rational."

Ignoring the angelic being at the top of the stairs, David ran to the kitchen, tossing the contents of the cupboard aside until he found the bleach spray. He raced to the foot of the stairs to furiously scrub at the mould. His eyes were red and wet with rage.

"I am very concerned for you, David. Let us talk."


The mould was gone, for now, David lay back exhausted and in pain. "I don't want a warning Az, I just want a different house. Help me, please."

A hand rested on his shoulder, "Of course, David, come with me. I am here to see you get the Paradise you deserve."


Azrobius took David by his hand and led him from the mansion. It was David's first time outside, but he took nothing in. People stared at the shirtless man in his pyjama bottoms and he couldn't blame them. He didn't care anymore. Next door was a smaller but still beautiful house. A weak smile crossed his face. With relief, he reflected that it would be easier to look after.


Opening the front door, the staircase was different, the house was different, but when he looked over to the footwell, he saw the same mould, even bigger now. He screamed and fell to his knees, the pain of landing on marble eclipsed by his frustration and the searing agony in his head.

"David?"

He turned to Azrobius. He just felt numb now. "Paradise isn't Heaven."

Azrobius nodded, "Of course it is not David. Why would you end up there?"


David remembered. He remembered being home. He had been so angry. "Who is Ben?" he had shouted at his heavily pregnant wife. "Who the fuck is Ben?" Crack, his palm had smashed into her cheek. She had stumbled and he had watched in horror as she fell down the stairs. He'd followed and cradled her head as blood flowed across the footwell. She had been dead.


He'd walked numbly to the gun cabinet, arterial blood leaving red prints behind him. Pulling out his pistol, he'd pressed it against his temple and pulled the trigger.


*****


The sound of birds woke David. He groaned and pushed back the thick duvet. Sunlight poured in through the windows as he snuggled deeper into the comfy mattress.


Where was he? This wasn't his bed. He had something important to ask someone, but he could remember who or what. He opened his eyes and sat bolt upright, triggering a splitting headache. His mind felt muddled.


A man in a pure white suit was sitting next to his bed, beaming with a beneficent grin. "Hello, David."

57 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All