Father Paul Stevens led an exemplary life. His parishioners loved him, he was held in high esteem in the community and the Archdiocese honored him on more than one occasion for increasing the Church’s membership. He’d instituted an after-school program for latchkey kids, volunteered at a soup kitchen and created an annual charity drive to benefit those living in poverty. In his parish he was thought of as a saint.

When he fell over dead during Wednesday’s Mass he was more than a little surprised to find himself unable to move on. He expected the Gates of Heaven to open for him and Saint Peter himself to usher him through. To say he was disappointed was an understatement. At first he was sure there had been a mistake. He kept trying to break the silver cord that connected him to his corpse but his efforts failed. His spirit was left floating above it like an obscene balloon.

He watched as the paramedics tried to bring him back, shocking his deflated body over and over. He knew it was futile; his doctor told him his heart was too big and would give out one day. He never saw that as a bad thing–dying from a heart that was too large was better than not having a heart at all. He did wish he hadn’t died standing at the pulpit. He would have spared his flock from seeing his death if given a choice.

His doctor was amongst the churchgoers and pronounced him dead right there beside the altar where the good Father had spent most of his adult life. From his vantage point, he didn’t just see his congregation’s grief but felt it. It washed over his incorporeal form like a shock wave, weighing him down with pain and sorrow. Their love for him shone through the darkness and brought him great comfort. He felt their prayers for his soul and for one tiny instant he thought he felt the Holy Spirit beside him, ready to carry him off to his place in Heaven.

The moment passed and he was dragged along with his body to the mortuary. He didn’t relish the idea of seeing his own embalming but he knew it was necessary. He winced as a young man cut his body out of his vestments, somber suit, shirt and undergarments. Ruining perfectly good clothing that could go to the needy seemed like a sin to Father Paul. As he saw his naked form laid out on the stainless steel, the instruments of preservation looking more like instruments of torture, his spirit dropped. He was really here, stuck in a ghostly realm, and not with his Lord in Heaven as he should be. He trusted his Lord but if his big heart could beat again, it would be breaking at this unexpected turn of events.

He watched as the young man washed his body and respectfully covered it with a white sheet before wheeling the table into a refrigerator. Father Paul had no choice but to follow, the thread tying him to his remains was less than six feet long. He was locked up in the cold room and while there were other bodies in the refrigerator with him, there were no other souls. The priest recited a prayer for the departed, hoping with his piety, he himself could move on. He didn’t.

Time had no meaning in his new existence so when the door opened sometime later, he had no idea how many hours had passed. The mortician, Amos Howell, entered the room. He peeked under the sheets, looking at each cadaver for a moment before moving on. When he came to Father Paul’s body, he paused and a smile crossed his face. He pushed the table back out into the embalming chamber.

Father Paul was surprised to see a young woman he recognized in the room. She was one of his parishioners, as were her parents. Aimee Underwood grew up in the Church; he’d given her her first Communion.

Before he had time to wonder why she was there, his question was answered. Amos pulled the sheet off his body as if unveiling an enticing meal. By the rapt expression on Aimee’s face, Father Paul feared their intentions. He was right to be afraid.

Amos stepped back and watched as Aimee approached the corpse, licking her lips as if let loose in a candy store. Father Paul couldn’t hear her excited exclamations but he could see them and feel her emotions; it was similar to the sadness he felt from his congregation when he died, only Aimee wasn’t grieving.

She stroked his face, laying a tender kiss on his dead lips. Father Paul’s spirit was overwhelmed by Aimee’s emotions as he watched his young parishioner run her hands adoringly down his bare body. She ended with her hand on his penis.

If the priest’s spirit could have gasped he would have as he watched Aimee climb on top of the table, straddling the corpse. She leaned over and took the limp member that had never known the sins of the flesh in life in her mouth. She seemed to relish what she was doing, and the pleasure swamping Father Paul’s soul confirmed it.

As he watched with horror at the act being performed upon his body, the priest was conflicted. The enjoyment he was receiving from her spirit didn’t make the sin seem so bad, though when it came to sexual congress a soul would burn for eternity in Hell for having it with a corpse.

The priest prayed for her soul as the emotions within Aimee, and thus him, continued to build until Father Paul expected his spirit to shatter from the intensity of it.

Just when he thought he couldn’t take anymore, a bright light illuminated him and the silver cord attaching him to his corpse disappeared, but so did the exquisite pleasure. He was cut off from it as swiftly as he’d lost his life, only now he was left floating in a cold void, unable to feel the emotions of others.

Father Paul Stevens was finally called home to the Kingdom of Heaven but as his spirit floated up to join his Lord, he couldn’t help but mourn the loss of passion he’d never felt in life.