“Sorry, but you don’t meet our requirements for a heavenly afterlife. Here’s a paper of other heavens you can try and hells if none of those work–sorted by least painful. You can try the reincarnation wheel, but tries are limited, so be careful,” said a tiny, elderly man with Mr. Magoo glasses amplifying his dark eyes.

The paper he dropped in my hands was lengthy and the variety of heavens and hells boggled the mind: food heavens, art heavens, sexual heavens, adventurous heavens, magical heavens, and library heavens, or suspension hells, burning hells, cold hells, sharp hells, annoying neighbor hells, and children-filled hells. They were all odd and too focused.

If I couldn’t stay in the large, ever-changing heaven, I might take my chance at the reincarnation wheel. It meant another try at that ultimate afterlife. I wouldn’t live forever.

But there were no indications of the reincarnation options. That fluttered low in my stomach.

I nodded to the Mr. Magoo gatekeeper. “I’ll take a chance at the reincarnation wheel.”

His hands clapped together, and the list in my hands vanished.

“We offer you one spin, and you get what you get.”

My muscles shook with fear and anticipation. “Okay.”

A wheel materialized from nothing, each option slivered so small that I could hardly make them out: human, ape, elephant, lion, rat, snake, guinea pig, worm, snail, spider, octopus, carp, eagle, pigeon…every animal on Earth was there. The range sucked a few hard breaths into my lungs.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

I stepped forward and spun the wheel with a good amount of force and watching it twirl for ten full seconds before it slowed. It ticked by with caterpillar, salmon, flamingo, frog, koala, ameba…tick, tick, tick.








I sucked in a breath and let it out just as quickly.


Darkness enveloped me, vision pixelated, but the scent of dirt swallowed me whole. I crawled up a path, following a familiar scent up to the surface. Grass and dew greeted me, and I marched on.

I chased my brethren toward candies and breads and cheeses…a tantalizing scent of buttered meat turned me off course, under a leaf. I trudged through shrooms and fungi to get to the giant morsel.

My exoskeleton itched, burned, and I chewed on the meat before returning to my hill, my family, and circled until I found myself out in the grass and underbrush again.

The moist air soothed the ache, but compulsion sent him to a place I couldn’t put my antennae on.

This became my days, home, food, and circling out to the damp and warm climate. My jaw ached as I bit and chewed. Then, my jaws clamped down, my body shook, and pain ripped through the top of my skull before everything erupted.

I blinked back at the gate.

“Sorry, but you still don’t meet our requirements for a heavenly afterlife. Did you want to try another spin of the reincarnation wheel?” asked the tiny, elderly man with Mr. Magoo glasses amplifying his dark eyes.


The wheel reappeared, and I gave it another good shove, dazed by the pain of my short life.









My legs wobbled, a warm tongue lapping across my head and shoulders. Fresh milk found my tongue as I suckled a teet.

Rough hands pulled me away, spread my legs, and handed me off.

Stuffed, I stood in a tight pen, chain around my neck, head through bars to keep from moving, and time slowed. My muscles ached.

Days and nights and meals ran together. I sat and ate and stood and slept, crying from the pain. Crying for my momma. Crying for it to end.

But it didn’t for a long, long time.

Fat and weak, I wobbled as they let me free of my chains and pain hit me in the back of my head. Dazed, I half-felt them dragging my limp body, tie up my hind legs, and hoist me into the air.

Burning and sharp, my throat split open, and I gurgled against the blood gushing down my mouth and eyes, into my lungs. My heart cried as hard as my soul

“Sorry, but you still don’t meet our requirements for a heavenly afterlife. Did you want to try another spin of the reincarnation wheel?” asked the tiny, elderly man with Mr. Magoo glasses amplifying his dark eyes.

Gulping back the possibilities, the last life made me gun shy. 

“This will be your last chance.”

One more time wouldn’t break me, and it could be the life I needed to find my way into heaven.


The wheel popped up before me, and I spin it with all of the gusto I could manage, but I still felt weak.

Options clicked by. Human long past. I should have known the chances of getting a second life as a human were astronomical.








I skittered across the dark, flat plane, a light flicked on, and I dashed away, finding nooks and crannies, and a means of escape. Light meant death.

Dipping and dodging, I found my way to the street only to hide under a bin as screams and the thundering of people moving too fast had me hunker down and wait.

Something didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t simply my new life.

I crept back out when the noise settled. 

A whistling sounded, and the sky was a mix of darkness and light.

Something slammed the earth, and I hunkered down as air rushed over my shell.

The mushroom cloud blooming into the sky sank what I had of a heart.

Cockroaches are the only thing that would survive a nuclear blast. 

How true was that, actually?

Check out the companion video!