NEW YORK—An emergency coalition of deities from several major world religions is still sorting through the wreckage of a tragic bus accident that claimed 67 lives Friday in the culturally diverse Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens.
According to authorities, at approximately 6:45 p.m. the Q45 bus crashed into a power generator at a busy street corner after swerving to avoid a slow-moving group of elderly Chinese pedestrians. Police say that a Korean laundry, an Irish pub, a Senegalese restaurant, and a churro stand were also severely damaged in the resultant smoke and flames.
More than half a dozen gods reportedly responded to the scene within moments of the crash. Because the victims hailed from 14 countries and professed an as-yet-undetermined number of religious faiths, however, the soul-placement process has been laborious, and fewer than a third of the deceased have so far been escorted to their appropriate afterlives.
"What a mess this is," said Ganesha, the Hindu lord of success and obstacles. "Assuming we ever manage to figure out who worships our particular pantheon, there's still the problem of divvying up the Buddhists, Jains, and other non-Hindus who worship me, Lakshmi, Vishnu, and about 1,000 other gods."
In the gods' haste to resolve the matter, some of the souls were apparently misplaced. In one instance, an adherent of Buddhism slated to be reborn into an Ohio family was temporarily reincarnated as a tree sloth. And as of press time, a self-avowed atheist who at the last minute took God into his heart has yet to be retrieved from the void and placed among the faithful.
Many of the gods were struggling just to maintain order.
"Honestly, who ever heard of a Jew named Shinjoku Murikami?" the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu said. "I had that guy halfway to haunting a shrine as a kami spirit before I realized my mistake."
The religious triage suffered severe setbacks from the beginning because many gods serve a relatively low number of devotees and are unaccustomed to rapid response.
"The moment we saw that there was someone named Hawkwind, we knew we'd be there for a while," said the Sikh god, Waheguru who explained that, due to a verbal agreement struck several millennia ago, no deity is allowed to leave until all souls have been claimed. "On top of that, it took the Wiccan goddess of the Moon, Earth, and Sea three full days to show up."
One god, who asked that His name not be spoken aloud, said the theological muddle was a rarity, and that He and the other deities usually have no trouble operating without an official post-disaster protocol.
"We don't normally have to deal with these kinds of details," the god said. "If there's a rocket attack in the Middle East, it's pretty easy to figure out who goes in to mop up."
Further complicating matters is the presence of the devil, Beelzebub, who has demanded that the coalition relinquish all souls to him.
"These are all vile, vile sinners, and I'm not leaving until I get them," the dark lord said, though other gods appeared unreceptive. "Look, my numbers have been way down this month. I'm sure everyone here did something damning at some point, right? Come on."
Several lesser-known gods, such as Jengu, an archaic water deity still worshipped by some of the Sawa people in Africa, arrived on the scene despite having no devotees among the dead. Jengu said he knew there was a "really good Cameroonian place" in the neighborhood and assumed that he might be needed.
"I guess not," the minor god said. "I'll probably hang out anyway, though, just in case."
While the aftermath has been generally chaotic, the most inconvenienced deity appeared to be the God of Abraham, who is worshipped by billions of Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
"Ideally, I'd just take all of them in one pile, but there are about a thousand little sects and denominations and all that nonsense that I have to act like I care about," God/Yahweh/Allah said. "Did you know there was a guy who practiced Santeria on that bus? Christ, what a nightmare."
The deities were all unanimous in agreeing that the sole Catholic fatality should be condemned to forever roam the Earth as an anguished, wretched ghost, as Catholicism is the only truly false religion and has no god to accept its faithful when they die.