A/N: Sorry for being absent for some time now. But it was my birthday, and also – I was sick. Or, actually, I sorta still am. Yeah, in case you haven't noticed already, I'm sick a lot. Anyway, my point is: don't worry, I haven't forgotten about your fics. I just haven't read them yet. God, I feel like I'm always apologizing for being so late. BAD Mickis, you're a horrible reader! So anyway, I was having dinner with my family, (dramatic change of subject) and we ended up talking about the afterlife. I walked down the path of humorous thinking and a plot bunny decided to make his entrance. It wasn't meant to be this long, though. Seriously, this was just meant to be a short, short one-shot. It's just.. I had so much fun writing it, the words wouldn't stop coming – even when I asked them to. It's written solely for the purpose to entertain you – nothing else. I don't think this has anything to do with the real afterlife. At least I hope not. I promise I'll post the final chapter as soon as I'm done working on it. Anyway, leave a review if you want. I won't force you. Of course, I'd be delighted if you did. But the decision is entirely up to you. Thanks.
Summary: A silly fic consisting of only two chapters. Basically, it's a humorous take on the afterlife, with a twist to suit our favorite bunch of mutant turtles. Oh, and BTW, this story suffers from a bad case of madness.
Staring at the tall building in front of me, I had to bend my head backwards in order to see the top of the damn thing. And even then, with my neck half doubled over my back, I couldn't see the end of it. It literally reached through the clouds of the sky, as though it went hundreds of stories past heaven, or whatever this place was. One thing straight, though: it was bright as hell. The endless surface of windows reflected the piercing light as if the glass were made out of the sun itself. It was one hell of a skyscraper. Nothing like the buildings they have back in Scotland.
By now, I'd managed to come to the genius conclusion that I wasn't home anymore. It's always been a talent of mine to put together obvious clues when they're dropped in front of me.
I couldn't admire the view for very long, though. 'Cause the next thing I know, I was rudely pushed by some old, cranky woman coming from behind me, almost knocking me over as she crashed into my shoulder.
A quick "move your legs, idiot!" slipped out of her mouth as she hurried off towards the giant entrance of the building. It was one of those humongous rotating doors, as if they had to fit en entire elephant through the damn thing. Whatever this place was, they sure weren't holding back on the cash.
I did what came naturally and walked up to the doors. Once on the other side of the glass constructed merry-go-round, I found myself in a lobby of some sorts, a huge lobby. The ceiling easily looked like it was four stories high, and there had to be over a hundred people inside, and yet it wasn't remotely close to being crowded. There was plenty of room for plants and comfy benches, which were all taken, by the way. But it's not like I felt like sitting, anyway. Having just died a few moments ago, I wasn't really up for relaxing, you know? So instead, I got in line by one of the receptions. But even though I picked the shortest line, there were still at least ten people ahead of me. So while standing there and getting ticked off for having to wait so god damned long, I took the time to admire the decoration.
The white painted walls were dressed with tons of giant posters - in multiple languages, nonetheless. My eyes managed to catch one in English that read: 'We live to serve you, when you don't.'
Peachy. Cracking jokes at the expense of the newly deceased. Talk about rubbing it in your face, eh? 'Oh, I'm sorry. Are you dead? Well, that's too bad for you, lad - cause I'm not!' Oh, ha ha. Why not just point and laugh while they're at it?
Worse thing is, the poster had a picture of this perky lady handing some kind of paper to a walking skeleton. Now that's just going too far. Sure, I'll be the first to admit that I'm dead. At least I think I am. It's the only way to explain all this crap. But it's not like I'm a walking corpse or anything. I look just like I did when I woke up this morning, right before I had my coffee and collapsed in the hallway on my way to work. I didn't even get as far as putting my shoes on. I bent over to reach for them on the floor and then BAM – heart attack.
I guess it only makes sense when you think about it. Life usually strikes when you least expect it, so why not death too, then?
Rita, my wife, she wasn't of much help when screaming hysterically as I lay there with chest cramps on the verge of death. Can't really blame her, though. Had it been her kicking the bucket this morning, I probably would've behaved the same way. Panic has a way of doing that to you. But I guess that's all in the past now. And whatever my future holds, this shopping mall-ish place has to have the answers.
Finally, after waiting for what felt like twenty minutes, it was my turn. And what do you know? The receptionist was a perky young, blonde lady. Typical.
"Welcome to Afterlife Incorporation. How may I help you?" she asked in a spotless American accent, one that made me cringe in my skin.
God, I hate Americans. Not that I've ever been there. But I still hate them. And you didn't have to be related to Albert Einstein to know that she was trained to say that to all her costumers. Just like she had to use that giant teeth smile of hers. She looked like she was an employee on the Home-shopping Channel, for Christ's sake! I felt like turning my back on her and going back the way I came. I couldn't stand her, the name of this place alone made me want to buy a last minute ticket to hell. I swear, had there been a guy outside by the entrance, selling black one-way tickets to hell, I would have bought one off of him. But, suppressing most of these thoughts, I turned to look at her with a sarcastic smirk decorating my features.
"You might not happen to know anything about me magically turning up on your doorstep, now would ye?" She dropped her smile for a moment, obviously bothered by my sarcastic attitude. Good, that's what I was going for. "Oh, and I might be going on a limb here, but I think I might be dead."
"Uh-huh," she nodded, not the least bit surprised. Instead, she casually turned to her computer to her right, her right hand cupping the mouse. "Your name, sir?"
She looked up at me, her fingers hovering just above the keyboard. "I'm gonna need your full name, sir."
My full name? Why not just ask for my social security number, like a normal receptionist? "Roy Frederick Hart."
She began typing, her perky blue eyes locked on the screen. Seconds later, she reached for the mouse and scrolled down whatever page she was looking at. "Right," she said. "Roy F Hart. Male, Scotland. Heart attack at the age of 54, is that correct?" She turned to me with a polite smile, almost as if she was proud that she'd managed to look me up on her expensive little computer.
"Yeah," I nodded, a bit stunned by what had just happened. "You got all that by just my name?"
"Yes, it's all right here on the computer," she confirmed with a trained smile.
"Yeah, but I mean…" I tried to find the proper words, but my confusion was making it very hard to do so. "There's.. there's gotta be hundreds of guys with my name. How'd you…?"
"Yes," she nodded understandingly. "Well, you're the only one for today." She turned back to her computer and frenetically started typing again. "Our next Roy F Hart isn't due till… August next year," she finally revealed.
"You can see that?"
"Yes," she nodded happily. "It's all right here."
Taking a moment to digest what I'd just learned, I stared at her with my mouth open, watching little, pink penguins playing pinball with the reality, as I knew it.
"Sir?" she asked, searching for my dazed off eyes. "Are you alright, sir?"
Turning back to her, I nodded mutely, having no clue what to answer at the moment.
"Well, anyway," she said, sliding a white sheet of paper across the desk. "If you just sign your name here - at the bottom - then I can--"
"What? Where?" I asked, staring at what looked like some sort of contract.
"Right here, sir," she clarified, handing me an ink pen that was strictly chained to her desk. Paranoid receptionist. Like I would actually steal her stupid pencil? Please, I've just learned that I'm dead, and that destiny's pretty much booked the time of death for the entire human race on her computer. I've got better things to worry about.
Accepting the pen, I glanced at her in suspicion. "Why? What's this for?"
"It's just a guarantee that you are you, sir. Basically a legal document to prove that you're dead."
Nodding in a foggy state of understanding, I grabbed the pen tighter and scribbled down my signature on the ridiculously familiar dotted line. It seemed no matter what you signed: your car receipt, withdrawing money from your bank account, or as in my case, signing your own death certificate, that thin, dotted line never changed.
"So I'm really dead, then, am I?" I asked, handing the chained pencil back to her.
"I'm afraid so, sir," she replied, accepting the pen and claiming the document. "Here's your death identification." She handed me what looked like your ordinary business card. Looking closer, the card had my name on it, my date of birth, my nationality and some other weird looking numbers I couldn't quite figure out.
873BH XX449 PQR31
Yeah, why don't you try cracking that one. It's not exactly a kiddie-riddle on the back of some cereal box
"Now," she continued, "just take the elevator to the 74th floor, and the receptionist there should be able to help you further."
"What elevator?" I asked, searching the lobby for anything of that description.
"It's right down there to your left, sir," she explained, pointing to the left side of the lobby, where dozens of elevators were placed - an entire wall of spotless, shiny steel doors. "There are brochures over there by the entrance, if you have any questions. Everything you need to know should be in there."
Nodding slowly, I turned my back on her and set off to the shiny rack of pocket-sized folders. Indeed, they were placed by the entrance. I must've walked right past them in my shocked state of being recently deceased. They were all placed in nice little pockets on this circle shaped brochure-case on wheels. I turned the thing around in search of the ever so familiar British flag, but settled for America when quickly getting tired of looking. I snatched a brochure and gazed upon the yellow front cover, reading:
'Afterlife Incorporation – your guide in death.'
Sounded awfully morbid for a bright place like this. Had it not been for that fact that I had just died, I'd think this was some sort of fancy office building. The word 'death' sure didn't come to mind as you stepped through those spinning glass doors. There was a picture of a perky, pink angel on the cover, though. So I guess that made up for their swift lack of obnoxiousness.
Absentmindedly looking through the folder, I walked up to one of the elevators. Just as I was about to push the 'up' button, a blonde, young lad beat me to it. He offered a swift smile in apology and quickly turned back to staring at the oncoming elevator. Soon, a soft ding interrupted our short companionship and the shiny metal doors neatly slid apart. The boy motioned for me to step inside first, so I did, reluctantly. As soon as the both of us were standing with our backs to the wall, he turned to me with a creepy smile.
"Vilken våning ska du till?"
Great. I'm locked inside an elevator with a friendly foreigner half my age. Just my luck.
"Just FYI, I have no idea what you just said."
"Oh, you speak English?" he said, his surprisingly bad accent making my ears want to retire immediately.
"Yeah," I replied shortly, so he wouldn't mistaken my answer for me wanting to continue our conversation.
"My name is Karl," he said, offering a steady hand. "I'm from Sweden."
I should've known. Had to be a Swede with an accent that bad.
"Roy," I told him, swiftly shaking his hand to get it over with.
"So," he said. "What floor, Roy?"
Ugh. Great, now he thinks we're on a first name basis. I should've introduced myself as Mr. Hart. Sure, I've never done so during my 54 years of living, but just because I'm dead, that shouldn't mean I should stop trying out new things. Oh well, I guess it's too late for that now.
"74th," I replied, putting my ID card and the brochure in one of the back pockets of my jeans. Good thing I had time to put on a pair of pants this morning. I would hate to have to spend eternity in my shabby morning robe, especially since it's been a while since I last washed it.
"That far?" he asked, pressing one of the buttons. "I'm going to 32, myself."
"Hmpf," I mumbled, executing my plan of using as few words as possible.
Finally, he turned away from me to stare at the red number above the door, rising along with the floors we passed. I thought I had managed to dodge the bullet just as he opened his merry mouth to speak again.
"Impressive place, isn't it?"
I nodded quietly in forced agreement.
"The architecture looks like nothing I have ever seen before. A skyscraper of this size is really something to be admired."
Great. He wants to chat about architecture. Someone just shoot me. Shoot me now. I wouldn't mind dying twice in one day. Honestly, you'd be doing me a favour.
"I mean, the buildings in New York City are amazing, I can admit that," he continued, not the slightest bit aware of how bothered I was by the mere sound of his voice. "But… Have you ever been to New York?" he then asked me, turning around to look at me.
"No," I shortly replied, firmly sticking to my plan.
"That's a shame," he said, turning back to stare at the floor number. "It's like no other city. But this…" he motioned to the claustrophobish walls around us, "this building is truly fantastic. A real work of art."
Finally, when I had begun to seriously consider repeatedly slamming my head into the wall beside me, the elevator stopped and dinged. The doors softly slid open, introducing what looked like yet another lobby.
"Oh, what do you know?" he asked with a smile. "This is my floor."
I swear I heard the ecstatic voice of my inner child crying out 'yes!' in my head.
Once again he offered me his hand, which I reluctantly took. "It was nice to meet you, Roy," he said, shaking my hand frenetically. Creepy Swede.
"Sure," I mumbled, pulling my hand out of his clingy grip. Then, he quickly turned around and left the elevator. Had I been able to do a back flip, I would have.
I pressed the button for floor 74 and witnessed the doors closing together in front of me. Then, I enjoyed the silence of standing in my own company – without Karl. So far, it was the most fun I'd had since coming here. I really should spend more time with myself.
After what felt like much too short, the elevator dinged again - and the doors opened up to reveal floor 74.
Reaching for the brochure in my back pocket, I stepped out of the elevator and into something that looked like an overpopulated waiting room. It had to be the biggest waiting room I had ever seen; yet since coming here, it wasn't really much of a surprise to me. On one of the walls, above a long waiting bench, the British flag hung proudly. I logically assumed floor 74 was reserved for Brits like myself. So, not knowing what else to do, I made my way towards the reception, where only one person was standing before me. As soon as he was done, I approached the young brunette on the other side of the counter-window.
"How may I help you, sir?" she asked, London shining through in her accent.
"Hi, yeah," I began, reaching for my ID in my back pocket. "I was told you'd be able to help me," I said, handing her the tiny card.
"Of course," she said, accepting the card through the window and turning to her computer, still holding my card in her left hand. "Your number, sir?" she absentmindedly asked.
"My number?" What damn number? That weird one on the card?
"You did take a number, didn't you?"
Turning around, I noticed an 80-year-old man standing behind me, holding a small ticket in his wrinkly hand.
"Sir? I'm gonna have to ask to see your ticket," she insisted, looking at me through the glass window.
Turning back to her, I asked, "Where could I get one of those?"
She sighed audibly, sliding my ID across the counter. "There's a ticket machine over by the elevator, sir. Come back once your number is called." With that said, she kindly turned to address the man behind me. "Hi. How may I help you, sir?"
Bitch. Just cause I don't have a number, that doesn't give her a reason to treat me like wasted air.
Leaving her and the senior citizen alone, I turned around to approach the elevator. Just like she said, there was a ticket machine standing there, just waiting for me to rip a number out of it. Pushing its tiny red button, a small note came out of the machine. I effortlessly snatched it to myself, having loads of experience in ripping tickets in the postal office, and stared upon the number in my hand.
Turning to look at the screen above the reception, the number displayed read: 201.
Using my half-assed math skills, I managed to figure how many numbers I had to endure. Great. There are 47 people ahead of me, and as far as I could tell, there's nowhere to sit. I had no idea dying would be such a bitch. Even in death, you have to wait in line. Where has the world gone to? Honestly, I feel embarrassed on the behalf of the deceased population. Have we really become that organized, that we have to wait in line even in the afterlife?
Taking comfort in leaning against the first piece of wall I could find, I grumpily studied the decoration in the waiting room. Just like down in the lobby, there were benches and flowers. But unlike the harsh posters they had down there, they had portraits of celebrities on the walls. The title above the pictures read:
'Famous people we've served.'
Cute. This place actually takes pride in having treated a bunch of dead celebrities. Among those pictures, I could recognize John Lennon, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and… is that Shakespeare? Once stepping closer to the portrait, it was confirmed that it truly was a picture of William Shakespeare on the wall. Wow. This place really goes back a long time. Shakespeare must have died ages ago.
Looking closer at the fine print of the picture, I learned that he was born in 1564 and died in 1616. That would make him 52 years old. Nice to know I managed to outlive Shakespeare with two years, even though I smoke and drink. Ha! In your face, Shakespeare!
Once getting bored with looking at pictures of dead folks, and there were still 26 more numbers to go, I managed to find an available seat. Being bored beyond what should be possible, I turned to the free brochure I'd tucked away in my back pocket. Never before had I read anything even remotely as stupid.
Just to prove my point, I'm going to quote a few paragraphs from the 'Basic Facts' chapter.
'As you may have realized by now, you are no longer a member of the living population. Being physically dead, your body will no longer require bothersome tasks such as sleeping, eating, or making any kind of bathroom visits. Therefore, Afterlife Incorporation sees no point in serving food or hosting public restrooms.
'However, we take great pride in our entertainment department, which can be found on the second floor of the building. Here, you can comfortably relax in one of our movie theatres and watch a film about the foundation of the company. Or, you could participate in one of our many support groups, where fellow deceased souls take comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone in going through this crucial process.
'Just because you're dead, that doesn't mean you have to hurry. Take a moment to explore our second floor.'
I'm not making this up. This is what the brochure read, word for word. You may now understand how relieved I was once my number was finally called.
Leaving the brochure on my seat, I got up to approach the reception, this time clutching my ticket number. The forced smile on the brunettes face told me that she must have recognized me, as did the stifled irritation in her voice once she addressed me.
"How may I help you, sir?"
"You tell me," I said, sliding my ticket across the desk. "I got a ticket this time, so ye can't send me away."
Pretending she wasn't bothered by my rudeness, she casually took the ticket in her hand to inspect the number.
"248," I told her, earning an annoyed look from her. "That is the number you called, isn't it?"
"Yes," she confirmed, her jaw a little tighter as she spoke. "Now, if you would please hand me your death identificatio--"
Before she had time to finish her sentence, I quickly slid my ID across the counter. "I have no idea what that thing means," I said. "Then again, I guess that's your job."
She briefly offered me a fake smile. "Of course."
Taking the card in her left hand, she turned to her computer and began to type in my information. A few seconds later, she handed the ID back to me.
"All right, sir," she began. "If you would please continue down that hall," she professionally pointed down the corridor to her left, "there should be a door with the letter B on it."
"Lemme guess," I said. "I'm supposed to enter it."
She didn't even bother to acknowledge my wiseassness. "Further information will be found there. Thank you." Then, she quickly treated me like the mass of air she saw me as, and looked beyond me to call the next person. "Number 249."
Taking my identification from the counter, I gave her a nasty glare and set off in the direction I'd been pointed to. It was a rather narrow corridor. Two people could barely walk next to each other without grazing the light blue wallpaper, and I chuckled at the image of an obese woman with a huge ass and enormous bitch tits getting stuck between the walls. Good thing I smoked as much as I did, or else my lack of exercise would have shown on my weight.
Reaching the end of the corridor, there were to doors across from each other. One with the letter A, and the other with the letter B. Remembering what she told me, I turned the handle to the latter door and stepped inside what looked like a giant classroom. Up front, a strict man sat behind his desk, while there were dozens of smaller tables placed around the immaculate room. Almost every desk had a person sitting by it, writing something.
"Yes?" the old man behind the desk looked up, a questioning look on his flat features.
"I was told you'd help me," I said, stepping between the narrow rows of tables. Once reaching the man by the desk, I quickly held out my ID.
"That will not be necessary," he said, he too sounding like he was from London. He nonchalantly waved off my card and offered me a piece of paper along with a pencil. Generous man. At least he didn't keep it chained to his desk like the woman down in the lobby.
Accepting the two things, I looked at him with a perplexed expression.
"You may take a seat," he said, flatly. "Once you've filled out the document, you're to leave it neatly on my desk." He pointed to a pile of identical papers to his right. There had to have been hundreds of documents in that pile, so I suppose I wasn't the first to fill them out.
"Sure," I said, turning around to look for a place to sit. I found an available desk down by the left corner, which suited me just fine, being as I preferred solitude to crowds. Approaching the desk, I took a seat in the cheap looking chair and adjusted myself by he table, the sound of my chair scarping against the floor causing everyone to look up at me.
Oh, excuse me for interrupting your precious silence. I must go hang myself immediately. Idiots.
Gripping the blue ink pencil in my right hand, I turned my focus to the paper. I quickly realized it was one of those 'check the box of your choice' documents. Good, that shouldn't take as long as the rest of the stuff at this place. But when looking closer at the paper, I realized how wrong I truly was in that assumption.
You wouldn't believe some of the questions they had on that paper.
It started out like any other statistic survey. Crossing one box for your gender, filling out your name and age. Yadah, yadah, yadah… But then, once those first questions were answered, everything went downhill.
The point was to fill out how well each statement suited you, by either checking the box for 'False,' 'Partly true,' or 'True.' Then, there were questions such as - and again - I'm quoting this word for word:
'I enjoyed life… Box No. 1: False, Box No. 2: Partly true, or Box No. 3: True.
'I prefer the summer to winter… False, Partly true, or True
'I wouldn't mind having siblings… False, Partly true, or True
'I wouldn't mind being born into a poor family… False, Partly true, or True'I wouldn't mind being born as the opposite gender… False, Partly true, or True
'I wouldn't mind being born with a chronic disease…'
The list just went on and on from there. I'm telling you, these people must've been around dead folks for too long. And who would actually – willingly – choose to be born poor, or sick, for that matter? Obviously, this was some sort of list you had to fill out in order to be reborn. I suppose my answers are meant help them picking out a suiting life for me. Personally, I don't think this list has anything to do with my future life to be. Let's face it, everyone's pretty much choosing the same boxes. No, I just think it's a way for them to earn more time, to stall the process even further. I mean, Christ, it's been hours since I passed away on my hallway floor, and I'm not any closer to being alive than I was the moment I entered this freaky building.
Having filled out the list, I got up from my desk and dropped the piece of paper at the very top of the pile. The strict man motioned for me to give him back his pencil, which made him shrink to the same level of fat headedness as the paranoid receptionist in the lobby.
"Good," he said. "You may leave through the door to your right." Then, he quickly turned back to reading some sort of book he had in front of him.
I turned to look at the door he was talking about, and realized it wasn't the same one through which I came in. Shrugging to myself, I did as I was told and exited the classroom.
Once again, I stepped into a waiting room of some sorts. Only this one was even bigger than the one I mentioned earlier, and even more crowded, at that. There were people everywhere, most of them keeping quiet, while some of them mindlessly chatted with their dead neighbour. The wall to my left was entirely made of windows, expensive glass that reached from the ceiling all the way down to the floor. With the help of these windows, light practically burst into the overpopulated room. And the light seemed to land upon something in particular, as if God himself was pointing it out to me.
Recognizing the oh-so-familiar ticket machine in front of me, I groaned to myself, knowing I had a lot of waiting in front of me. I got myself a ticket and surveyed the number written on it.
Great. Four digits. How does this system work, anyway?
The moment I was about to start sulking over the fact that I had no place to sit, number 1.008 was called, leaving a seat open. I could tell I wasn't the only one to notice, as half the people in the room seemed to sprint towards the bench in question. This time, though, luck was on my side. I was merely two steps away from the bench, and snatched the seat before anyone else had the chance to even pose as a threat to me.
Showed them, crazy dead folks.
The man to my right chuckled at my victorious facial expression, and I quickly turned to look at him. He was bald, and the few tufts of hair he still had left on his cue ball-shaped skull were sand-blonde. Also, the guy's belly was big enough to fit triplets, yet he didn't look to be much older than 30, 40 at tops.
"Congratulations," he said, his accent sounding almost Australian, if I wasn't ridiculously wrong. "You certainly won the seat fair and square."
"Yeah well, I had a head start," I answered, still smiling over the fact that I beat them all.
"Name's Michael," he said, offering me his hand. "But all my friends call me Mike, or at least they used to," he jokingly added.
I firmly shook his hand, smiling at his ability to be able to joke about his death. "I'm Roy," I told him.
"Roy, huh?" he asked. "You know that means 'red'?"
"What? Like the colour red?"
"Yeah," he nodded.
"No, actually, I didn't," I replied, somewhat puzzled over his topic of choice for conversation starter. "In what language?"
"Huh?" he asked.
"Red. In what language does Roy mean red?" I wondered.
Taking a moment to think about it, he soon shook his head, smiling broadly. "I have no idea. I guess I forgot that part," he light-heartedly admitted. "But, I'm dead sure that's what it means."
"I believe ye," I said.
"So, are you from like Ireland or something?" he suddenly asked.
"Ireland?" I repeated. What would make him think that? "Are ye crazy? I'm from Scotland. Anyone can hear that."
"Yeah well, I'm Australian myself," he explained, pointing to himself with his thumb. "So I don't know a whole lot about Scots."
"Australia?" I questioned. "But I thought this floor was for Brits only?"
"It is," he quickly ensured. "But you see, I moved to London when I was… 22, I think. So I guess legally that makes me British."
"I guess it does," I agreed, casting a glance at the number board, reading: 1.114. Great, only about 300 more to go. It should be my turn any minute now.
"What's your number?"
I turned to look at him in surprise. "Huh?"
"Your ticket, what's your number?" he asked, looking at me with wide brown eyes.
"Oh, uh.." Stealing a glance at the note, I answered him, "1.312."
"I guess you've got some waiting to do then, huh?" he grinned, and I noticed for the first time his small group of freckles on his nose and cheeks. Not that often you see a grown, bald male with freckles. Then again, it's not that often you die and have to wait in line to be served, either. So I guess his freckles aren't that big of a deal.
"Unfortunately," I confirmed with a heavy sigh. "What's yours?"
"Oh, no I came yesterday," Mike quickly explained. "My number's already been up."
"Yesterday?" I repeated. Somehow, I had a feeling I'd be sitting on this bench for a long time. I had always known I would have to do a lot of waiting in this room, but days? The fantasy of the hell-ticket salesmen outside the building started to sound more and more appealing to me. Too bad I didn't have any money on me in that fantasy of mine.
"Yeah. I'm in the database," he said, waking me from my thoughts. "They're just waiting for an opening. But I think that could take a while."
"An opening?" How long has this guy been here? He's already using their terms and everything. I'm not even sure I want to know the words I'll be using by tomorrow. Surely, at this rate, they'll have me completely brainwashed by then. Maybe I'll even be sitting behind one of those counters, greeting people with fake smiles. Oh, God, let it be my turn soon.
"Yeah well, you know. I'm in line, waiting to be born," he explained. "Or reborn, I guess I should say," he corrected himself, rolling his eyes.
"And you've been waiting since yesterday?"
"Finding the perfect embryo takes time, or so I've been told anyway," he muttered under his breath.
"What do you mean?"
"What I mean is that us old folks here in room B has to step back for all those young, fresh studs across the hall. There's a reason you weren't picked to go to room A, y'know?" he said, poking me on my bulging belly. Like he's one to talk?
"Old folks?" I told him, slapping away his hand from my stomach. Had this guy ever heard of personal space? "Buddy, I didn't even get a chance to retire." And ain't that a bitch? You work and slave your whole life, and then you don't even get the chance to enjoy the fruit of your labour. Talk about being ripped off.
"Yeah well, look around ya," he said, his eyes travelling across the crowded room. "Can you see anyone in here below 30?"
Looking around the bright room, I realized how right he was. I couldn't find any children, which was odd, since they died too every once in a while. Even I knew a kid who'd died long before his time. And out of all the grownups in the room, not a single one of them appeared to be under 30. Most guys were bald, while the larger group of the woman in the room had an ass as wide as the backseat of a Vista Cruiser. Either that or tits that dangled all the way down to their knees. It wasn't pretty, I'll tell you that.
"What the hell?" I mumbled to myself, trying to put the pieces together. "What kind of discrimination is this?"
"I dunno," Mike shrugged. "I guess they feel younger folks are a priority in getting picked to be reborn, since they didn't get to live as long as we did. It's the only reason I can come up with, anyway."
"As long as we did?" I questioned sarcastically. "Who drew the line, anyway? Having just passed 30 and dying is not exactly doing old, y'know?"
"You're thirty?" he suddenly asked, losing complete interest in what we were just talking about.
"No," I answered bitterly. "But that's beside the point. The point is, you're saying that if I'd died from pneumonia when I was 17, then I wouldn't be waiting here for my number to be called?"
"Great," I muttered in annoyance. "I should've just refused to take the penicillin when I had the chance." Granted, I wouldn't have met my wife and had my two kids with her, but you can't miss something you never had.
Michael chuckled, shaking his head in amusement. "Yeah, and I should've just stayed in the water when they yelled 'shark' on the beach."
The two of us laughed in spite of ourselves, but our laughter soon died out, and I found myself staring at the number board in trance, watching the digits change in slow motion. It was like watching a plant grow – a very slow process.
"Hey, you know what?"'
Turning to look at Mike, I arched an eyebrow in curiosity.
"I have an idea," he announced with a wicked smile, one I felt like I already knew. I guess he wasn't that hard to read. It seemed he plastered all his emotions on his face. "But you need to watch my seat so none of those vultures steal it while I'm gone," he then added, posting a slightly more serious look on his features.
"Where ye going?"
"Not far," he answered swiftly. "Just tell them I went to the bathroom or something."
"They don't have bathrooms here," I quickly reminded him, thinking back to that brochure I'd read earlier. The entire concept of not being able to pee was still kind of hard to swallow.
"Oh yeah," he said, nodding to himself. "I totally forgot about that. Actually, I miss peeing," he confessed sadly. "And eating," he quickly added.
"You and me both," I told him, patting my stomach. "I miss being hungry." The two of us were left reminiscing the sweet taste of food, when I suddenly remembered something. "So, weren't you going someplace?"
"Oh right!" he quickly realized. "Hold my seat," he said as he got up and hurried across the room, his short form disappearing easily in the crowd. As soon as his ass left the surface of the bench, tons of people moved in to claim the throne as their own. The first one to approach was a red haired woman on her 50s. Her eyes were locked on her target like a hawk.
Putting my hand on the seat to keep her from sitting, I quickly told her, "Sorry, lady. This seat's taken."
"By who?" she demanded, crossing her fat arms over her sloppy tits.
"By Michael, that's who," I told her. 'By who?' What kind of question was that anyway? Like knowing his name would make her change her mind and back away.
"Then where is Michael now?"
I told you it wouldn't matter.
"He'll be right back," I insisted. "He just saw somebody he recognized."
"Oh," she replied, a bit dumbfounded by my quick answer. "Well in case he's not coming back, I'm waiting here," she added snobbishly.
"Fine," I said, keeping my hand on the seat. Stubborn bitch. I wonder if she was this stubborn in life. I find it hard to believe a hawk like her would give in to death once it came to claim her. Must have been a slow process.
A few seconds later, Mike showed and I removed my hand to allow him to sit. Sending the woman a proud grin, she huffed at me and walked away. Then, I quickly turned back to Mike, who was holding a ticket of his own in his hand.
"What's that for?" I asked. "I thought you'd already been called?"
"I was," he confirmed, reaching inside his dark blue sweat pants for something. Once his hand returned, it clutched a black ink pencil.
"They let you keep yours?" I asked, quite surprised over the fact.
"This?" he questioned, motioning to the pen in his hand. "No, this one's my own. Good thing I had a pencil in my pocket when that car hit me, huh?" he chuckled to himself.
"You were hit by a car?" I asked, my heart sinking at the thought. At least my death was my own fault. He was killed by somebody else.
"Yeah, some speeding asshole that didn't care about the traffic light being red. I was out for my morning jog when he hit me," he explained, taking off the cork with his teeth.
"Sorry," I said, not knowing what else to say. What can you say?
"Don't worry 'bout it," he shrugged, speaking with the cork in his mouth. "We're all dead here, so it's not like I'm special or anything."
"True," I nodded, trying to picture him on his morning jog. It was hard to imagine, a guy with a belly like his. I was quickly forced to give up on the futile thought. "So what are you doing, anyway?" I asked, trying to peek on his ticket. The number on it read: 131, which instantly led me to understand that it was a used ticket. He must've picked it up from the floor or something.
"One of the oldest tricks in the book," he snickered, adding a thick black line in front of the number, magically transforming it to: 1.131.
I couldn't help but snicker with him. "That looks like a pretty decent replica," I commented. "It's not your first time cheating, is it?"
"Not really," he replied, looking up at me with a wide grin.
"But what about the guy with the real ticket?" I suddenly remembered. "There'll be two of us up there once number 1.131 is called."
"So what?" he shrugged, corking his pencil. "It's your word against his. Just act ignorant."
"And that'll work." I said, unconvinced of his word.
"'Course it will," he insisted confidently. "How do ya think I managed to sneak 80 numbers ahead of my ticket?" Smirking, he slipped his pen back inside his pants pocket.
Grinning, I snatched the ticket out of his grip. This might actually work. Good thing I ended up next to a devilish guy with a black pen in his pants.
"So how'd you go?"
"Huh?" I looked up at him in confusion.
"Die," he explained. "How'd you die?"
"In the hallway," I answered, smiling to myself. "When putting on my shoes."
"In the hallway?" he repeated with wide eyes, fear shining through them.
I simply nodded.
"Was it a burglar?" he worriedly wondered.
Chuckling to myself, I shook my head in amusement. "Hardly," I said. "Just a good ol' heart attack." I punched at my chest to point out the viscus in question.
"Oh," he realized sheepishly. "Sorry."
"Nah, don't be," I told him. "It's like you said: we're all dead here."
He nodded in agreement. "Yeah, but still," he insisted. "What a way to go."
"I know what'cha mean," I told him, nodding in agreement. "I always thought my death would be much more… I dunno.. special. Like a rare disease, or-or even a car accident. But putting my shoes on? It's not exactly something I'd wanna put on my resume."
"Like 'run over by an inconsiderate ass' sounds much better?" Mike offered with a smirk.
"You've got a point," I agreed with a chuckle.
After chatting about everything between heaven and earth for a few minutes, my replica-made number was finally called. Sharing a wicked grin with my partner in crime, I rose from my seat with the ticket firmly clutched in my hand. Just like we predicted, there were two of us with that number. Someone else approached the booth the same time I did. With my usual luck, it turned out this 'someone else' was the same snobby woman that had tried to steal Mike's seat earlier. I mean, what can I say? Typical.
"How may I help you?" the perky blonde receptionist quickly noticed there were two people standing on the other side of her protective glass window. "Excuse me? Is there a problem?"
"I don't know," I said, turning to glare at the woman next to me. "Is there?"
"What are you implying?" she asked, in that upper-class British accent of hers.
"May I see your tickets?" the receptionist asked.
"Sure thing," I told her, dumping my ticket on the counter, my rival doing the same with hers.
"How did this happen?" the blonde suddenly asked, inspecting my ticket a little longer than I felt was comfortable. It's a number, okay? How long do you have to stare at it?
"I don't know," I replied, acting ignorant according to the plan. "I've been waiting for hours for my number to come, and when it finally does, this happens." I pointed to the two tickets in her hands, resting my other arm on the counter, trying to look relaxed.
The receptionist sent me an unimpressed stare, one of her eyebrows raised in doubt. I could almost feel the sweat dripping down my forehead.
"Certainly, that's very strange, sir," she said, handing back my ticket to me underneath the window. "Because this ticket is forged."
"What makes you say that?" I wondered, trying to keep it cool. All wasn't lost yet, as long as I remained ignorant; she had no real proof that my ticket was the false o--
"There's a black stain on this ticket," she declared, sliding her hand beneath the window and pointing to the stain in question. "Looks a lot like the ink that's been used in writing this number, sir," she spat, pointing to the digit Mike drew.
"Yeah well, I have no idea how that got there." What? I suppose you would've had a better answer.
"I'm sure you don't," she said, staring at me through a pair of blue-green, unforgiving eyes.
"How'd it go?" Mike curiously asked as I approached him. He quickly removed the hand he'd been keeping on my seat to save it from being taken by the persistent vultures.
"She caught our bluff," I blatantly revealed, holding up my new ticket to him as I sat down. "I've got number 1.398."
"Man.." he said, shaking his head in sympathy. "What a drag,"
"Isn't it?" I agreed, glancing at him through the corner of my right eye. "That's why I told her it was your pencil," I added smugly.
"You what?" he outburst, turning to look at me in shock. "You did? You sold me out?"
"Damn straight I did," I snapped. "If it wasn't for you, I'd still have number 1.312."
"Yeah, but I only did it to help you out," he insisted. "I had no idea you'd get caught."
"Whatever," I said, shutting me ears to his explanation. "I have a feeling you'll be waiting here with me, so there's no hard feelings." I told him, patting him on his left shoulder.
"Gee.. thanks," he muttered in annoyance.
Two days. It's been two whole days since my number 1.398 was called. The receptionist calmly added me in her database, telling me to take a seat and wait for an 'opening' to come. Well, while waiting for them to call my name, Mike and I have witnessed people come and go; people that came in here long after we did. I'm beginning to think this is something personal.
There's been a lot people leaving through that door to the right of the reception – and none of them have been me. How long can it take to find an embryo, anyway? Millions of people bump uglies on a daily basis, some of all these couples should have made a baby in the process, be it accidental or on purpose. And yet, here I am, still waiting for that damn embryo that's supposed to have my name on it. Could I at least have been tired, I could've taken a nap or something. But no. We're not allowed to have glamorous urges such as hunger, tiredness or that familiar pressing sensation in the crotch. Damn, I miss peeing.
Stupid rules. Someday, I'll break them all. Be it in this life, or the next.
"What?" I asked, turning to look at Mike in irritation.
"Did you know that when I hold my hand like this," he said, hiding two of his fingers by holding up his hand at a certain angle, "it looks like I've only got three fingers." He chuckled to himself, playfully waving his three digits.
"Oh, for Christ's sake," I muttered and rose from the bench, giving absolutely no damn about the crowd that made a break for my seat once it was available on the market again.
"Roy, where ya going?" Mike called out after me.
"I'm sick of this place!" I called back to him, pushing myself past the 30 plus crowd in the room. Raging towards the reception, I didn't care about the old man that was being served at the moment; I simply made room for myself right next to him. "I want out of this place!" I demanded, practically sticking my face up against the booth-window.
"Sir, I'm gonna have to ask you to return to your seat." It was a new receptionist. She looked as though she came from India, but she spoke British fluently, like any other chick from London.
"The hell I will!" I refused. "I've been waiting for two days for you to call my name, I'm not waiting so much as another moment."
"I'll just wait till he's done," the old man mumbled, carefully stepping aside with his ticket.
"No-- sir, wait," the receptionist called out after him, quickly losing the sight of his crippled form once it disappeared in the crowd.
"You're gonna help or not?" I demanded, knocking on the surface of window to get her attention.
"Sir, if you don't return to your seat, I'm going to have to call for security," she threatened, keeping her tone professional.
"And then what?" I wondered. "They'll make me wait two more days?" Come to think of it, that would be really bad.
"Sir.." she began, looking at me through the glass, her dark brown eyes almost pleading with me to return to my seat.
"Look," I said, leaning my arms on the counter, gazing into her eyes in search of understanding. "I know you can help me," I said calmly. "Just look something up on the computer."
She lowered her gaze from mine, glancing at her computer beside her.
"Please," I whispered. "I just want out."
"Roy, the hell are you doing?" Mike asked, appearing next to me with a bewildered look on his face. "I had to give up my seat because of you."
I sent him a quick look, letting him know it wasn't the right time to be arguing about lost seats. I had bigger things to worry about. Like being born, for example.
"You've been here for two days, sir?"
Quite shocked when she addressed me, I looked at her and nodded. "Yeah," I confirmed. "And he's been here for three," I added, pointing to my short friend standing next to me.
She took a moment to think about it, biting the inside of her cheek. Good thing it was a new receptionist. The old one wouldn't have hesitated to throw us out. Lucky me, they seemed to be working in shifts at this place.
Finally, after looking over her options in silence, she turned back to me. "I'll see what I can do," she said.
"Thank you," I told her, while Mike added a few more 'thank you's' to the plate, each more enthusiastic than the previous. Good thing she was protected behind that glass window, or he probably would've showered her with Australian kisses. Maybe that's a custom there, I don't know. He seemed pretty thankful, though.
The woman smiled awkwardly and turned to her computer, her fingers dancing across the keyboard. Mike and I looked at each other through her clicking, smiling in relief, knowing we'd be out of here soon.
"Well," she finally said, her hand cupping the mouse, clicking on something on the page she had open. "There are four openings available at the moment..."
"We'll take it," Mike and I said in unison. My inner child was cheering wildly in anticipation, jumping up and down in a pure act of joy.
"...but the bodies in question are turtles," she then revealed, bursting our shiny bubble.