Chadpocalypse 1:7

For those who are looking to catch up: Part 1-2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

The Priest and the Bottle

Chad left the restaurant feeling full, but unnerved. The presence of Mrs. B’s grim yet somehow cheerful specter had left him in shock only momentarily. After a few minutes to ponder, the answer had come to him: I should have paid more attention in church. Earlier in life, Chad’s parents had been devout Catholics, attending church every Sunday, and doing their part to indoctrinate him. Of course, that had all changed on the day of his sister’s death. Just days after the funeral, they had fucked off to Florida to celebrate a new culture of nihilism and fruity drinks, and he hadn’t seen them since.

All the same, from his first taste of communion wine, Chad had known that religion was not for him. He worshipped, daily even, but the only god he ever found solace in preached from the bottom of a bottle. At least alcoholism doesn’t judge you. Chad pondered the idea of going to find a drink, but decided that for the moment, a church was more important. His logic was that some member of the clergy likely knew about the dark arts, and most priests in his experience were drunks anyway.

It didn’t take him long to find a church, after all, they were more common in south Midway than gas stations. Chad didn’t think that most people in town were religious, but having that sense of normalcy was worth spending a few hours a week in a hastily constructed wooden sweatbox. Whatever the reason, people still went, and more churches were built every day. The one he stumbled on was old, with fading bricks threatening to crumble beneath the steeple’s weight. An elderly gentleman wearing the black cloth of the priesthood stood at the top of the steps ushering passersby in.

“Come on in folks and see the miracle of salvation. God’s house is open to everyone if you’re just willing to take a few minutes.” His tone was light and had little of the exasperation that came with the repeated rejection of the public. He had short, curly white hair that had begun to thin on top and wore a friendly smile. Before Chad had even begun to mount the steps, the man spotted him. “Hello there, young man,” he beamed.

Chad smiled back at him, trying not to betray the uneasy feeling that cropped up every time he entered a church. “Good morning,” he called, with an exuberant wave.

“Do you have time for the man Jesus Christ today?” asked the priest, not missing a beat. Young folks in Midway didn’t really take to religion, so to find one on the church steps, and friendly at that, was a boon. If only he had known.

“Only if you’re willing to answer a few life questions,” joked Chad with a hearty false laugh. And tell me where I might find information on the apocalypse.

The man chuckled. “Son, if you’ve got time for Jesus, I’ve got all the time in the world for you. Come on in.” Motioning toward the large oak doors that served as the church’s entrance, the man led Chad in.

As they passed beneath the stone archways and intricately etched, but fading stained glass, Chad felt a chill sweep over him. The musty, cool air that came from places of worship whipped out of the door and made sent a prickle racing down the back of his neck. Just being in the church made him feel somehow unclean. For a moment, he hesitated. It’s just the hangover talking, he told himself and walked in.

Inside shafts of muted light cut through the dusty air, illuminating pews with a holy reverence. The stained glass glowed in the heat of the morning light, giving uncanny life to the characters it portrayed. There were a few churchgoers, but Chad expected far more. “Little light of a crowd for Sunday don’t you think?” he asked.

The priest turned around and looked at him quizzically. “It’s Tuesday, son.” He shook his head in disapproval. “Maybe you need more help than I thought.” There was an air of disappointment to his voice, but he did his best to cover it with a warm smile.

Shit, demons coming to rule the earth and I missed work again. With his string of recent absences, Chad had no doubt that if he wasn’t fired, he was at least on toilet duty. Even pizza joints had standards, and the kid manager was always looking for ways to prove his authority. Chad slipped his phone out of his pocket, sent the manager a quick lie about being so ill he couldn’t stand, and returned his attention to the priest.

“My office is this way.” The priest motioned down a short corridor that ran parallel to the church’s chapel. Together they walked down a hallway lined with pictures of saints and depictions of Christ himself. The eyes seemed to follow Chad as he walked like something out of an old mystery cartoon. From childhood he had always felt uncomfortable in places of the divine, but this day felt different. A deep chill took hold in his stomach as he made accidental eye contact with the portrait of a rather pained looking Christ.

If the priest noticed Chad’s uneasy demeanor, he made no comment. They continued down the hallway and through a door at the very end. His office was furnished lavishly with what appeared to be the entirety of the church’s library. In the middle of the room was a dark wooden desk, neatly kept with a bible in the center. Surrounding it were shelves lined top to bottom with dusty tomes and polished church relics. On the floor were clearly catalogued stacks of books that hadn’t quite been able to fit.

This is the place, thought Chad with hope. There has to be something in one of those about the apocalypse.

The priest walked behind the desk and sat down at a large plush armchair, motioning to the wooden seat on the other side for Chad. “Come, sit. Tell me what’s on your mind and what brought you to our fine church today.”

Chad shifted uncomfortably. “You’re not going to like it.”

The priest gave him a knowing wink. “I think you’ll find that I’ve seen quite a lot in my time here.”

Chad let out a long sigh. Here goes nothing. “Last night I was contacted by one of the four horseman of the apocalypse who told me judgment day is a year away, and this morning I was accosted by a prophetic dead woman during breakfast.”

The priest’s eyes first creased as though he were about to laugh, but when Chad showed no sign of joking, he stammered uncomfortably. “J-judgment day?” His voice was still disbelieving, but with a flicker of panic.

“Yes, last night a demon appeared at the foot of my bed… Well, someone else’s bed. Doesn’t matter. He was a real high-and-mighty prick on a horse, picked me up, shoved me through a portal and showed me hell. He said that because of “fair play” rules they had to tell someone, and they picked me.” Saying it aloud felt ridiculous, but if a priest wasn’t going to believe him, who would?

“And when you saw the spirit during breakfast?” the man’s hands were shaking slightly.

“She told me it was true and then got dragged back to Hell by some big fucker with horns.” Chad made a brief gesture to Heaven for Mrs. B, thought better of it and pointed it below.

“And the horseman told you one year?” The priest reached slowly into a drawer in his desk and pulled up a dusty bottle of Johnny Walker.

Chad’s eyes lit up and he felt his hand clench in anticipation. “Yeah. Hey, you going to share that?”

The priest took a hefty swig straight from the bottle and passed it to Chad. “Son, we’re going to need a lot more than this.”

New Orleans Short Story

I know, It’s been another MIA week with no posting, but this time I’m going to use New Orleans as my excuse. I was just there for seven days taking in the sights and working a bit. Luckily, I also got some inspiration to start my sequel to A Man of the Mountain (I know, the titles are rough, but I’m sticking with them). Please enjoy the opening chapter of A Woman of the Swamp, the tale of a not-so-great necromancer in Louisiana.

A Woman of the Swamp

By Ashton Macaulay

“Alright now, repeat it back to me so I know you understand the plan.” Marie’s voice was patient, but stern; it was the only way to get through to the recently reanimated.

“I-Inside,” the man moaned through a mouthful of teeth that were attached only by decaying sinews of what used to be gums. She had broken through the bricks and plaster of his grave just days after his entombment, but moisture and heat made short work of flesh. Even the night air was thick, pooling in drops on her skin. One of the man’s eyes wandered off to the side, focusing a trombone player setting up on the corner, just below a sign that read First one’s free at the Snappin’ Turtle.

“Hey!” she snapped, waving a bejeweled hand in front of his face. “Focus. What are you going to do once you’re inside?” The street corner they stood on was dim, but it was only a matter of time before one of the passing drunks would notice. She also longed for the sanctum that was her air-conditioned loft. The dark robes she wore were hotter than Hell (she suspected anyway), but tourists tipped better when she looked legitimate.

“I,” the zombie stammered. “I… Eat brains!” His mottled mouth curled into a wide grin and he clapped his crooked hands together with a sickening squish.

Marie ran a hand through her long, dark hair, beginning to rethink the steps that had gotten her to this point. “Fuck it,” she sighed, I’ll steal it myself. You just go wait over there.” She pointed to a bench under a broken street lamp. “Spell should wear off in ten minutes and you’ll just be another John Doe curled up for his last rest in a gutter.”

“John,” repeated the zombie, mindlessly.

Screw this. Marie turned the zombie toward the bench and shoved him hard on the back. “How dare you try to touch me, pervert!”

A couple passing by looked at the stumbling man in disgust and flashed Marie a quick thumbs up. They continued without a second thought to the recently dead man eyeing them from the darkness. The trombonist had been joined by a few other band members, and together they started to play.

Satisfied that the zombie was out of the public eye, she set off with her heart racing. “Guess it’s your turn,” she whispered and pulled out a jar of spiders from her robes. Despite her fear of the wretched creatures, they were discreet when they needed to be. The walls of the French Quarter were thin, and no one would hesitate to call the cops on another crazy trying to break into the Voodoo Museum.

Carefully, she unscrewed the lid on the jar, making sure to keep her hand firmly pressed against the top. She cringed as she brought her lips close to the edge and began to whisper. “Scuttle under the door, find a key, but don’t touch anything.” Despite wanting to break in, Marie still held a great respect for the craft. In fact, had she not been kicked out for trying to study the darker arts, her path might have led her to a practitioner’s position. Revenge was a fickle beast.

Pretending to stumble slightly, Marie dropped the glass onto the cracked concrete. The shattering sound would garner no notice from the neighbors. People only called the cops for break-ins or assaults, everything else was thought to just be the remnants of Bourbon street. From the remains of the jar, four jet black spiders smoldered into existence and scrambled toward the Voodoo Museum.

After the last had slipped through the door, Marie moved aside and waited under the flickering light of a gas lantern. There was an audible click, and the door swung open. “Return to me,” whispered Marie to the spiders. The four creatures skittered from the darkness and into the street. “Damnit, return to me.” She reached her hand out and muttered a brief incantation.

The largest spider gazed at her with its beady eyes for a moment as if considering the proposition, and then scuttled away with an angry chitter. The others were quick to follow, heading toward the moaning corpse of the zombie in the opposite gutter.

Marie sighed. The spiders had taken her months to acquire and hours of pouring through dusty old books. Replacing them would be no easy feat. Brushing her hair aside, she stepped through the now open door and into the gloom of the museum.

Death Co – The First Day

The First Day

John wasn’t always so cavalier about death. In fact, before he had crossed over, the concept had filled him with dread and terror. Even after undergoing the painful process of his own demise, talking about it still sent shivers up and down his slowly rotting spine. When he joined Death Co., he was given very little information, as is customary for trainees and new arrivals. The higher ups thought of it like a rite of passage. So, when John heard his name called that first day, he had no idea what to expect.

“Alright everyone, we’ve got a car crash, at least 14 dead on the scene. I’m going to need five agents, and make sure you take the new kid with you!” shouted a man in a pressed suit that had been glued over his sagging corpse to make it appear presentable. This was a common tactic for remaining stylish among the freshly deceased. John found it difficult not to stare, but also felt rude, so he focused on the flickering fluorescent lights above instead.

He had been post-mortem for about twenty-three hours, and at his assigned desk for fifteen minutes. The visions of his death were still fresh in his rotting brain, and the side effects of decomposition had not been entirely staved. Most of the time, requisition agents can halt the decomposition process before it goes on too long, but John died on a busy night…

When the man in the oddly pressed suit shouted, “new guy”, John froze, unable to think about the idea of taking another’s soul as his was so freshly departed. Luckily, the man, aptly named Barker shouted at him once more.

“Get up! Every second we stand here is another that those poor souls have to sit down there, caked in their own shit!” Half of Barker’s mustache had been burned off in the accident that killed him, and in moments of fury the half that remained, quivered, threatening to fall off entirely.

Charging through his hesitation, John jumped out of his seat and followed a group of agents that had stood up. They all moved slowly down the hallway to a room lined with rows of shiny metal cylinders on each side stretching on for what looked like miles. At the time, John had no idea what a wreck that required five agents met. He hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of the seventeen-thousand-page employee handbook that had been dropped on his desk.

The woman in front of him pressed one of her hands to a metal cylinder and it slid open with a violent hiss. Inside was upholstery that was either dark red, or heavily stained. John didn’t have enough time to find out, because the cylinder snapped shut and there was a boom like cannon fire from within. For a moment, he just stared, and then the boom of another cylinder firing made him jump. His skin slid up and down across his muscles unsettlingly.

“I’m sorry new guy, did no one tell you what to do next?” It was Barker, speaking in an uncharacteristically saccharine tone. He moved briskly over to one of the pods that had just fired, and motioned for John to follow. “Oh come on now, don’t be shy,” he smiled. The bit of mustache on his upper lip shook slightly.

John stepped forward and before he could do anything, Barker had grabbed his hand and slammed it onto the surprisingly hot metal. The container snapped open once more, and Barker shoved him in. “Best to hold your breath,” he instructed, and then added, “and don’t look down.” He laughed madly and gave John a sarcastic wave as the cover closed, blocking him from view.

Almost immediately there was a hiss as pressurized gas filled the cylinder. It smelled vaguely of formaldehyde and burnt toast. In truth, the dead had no need to breathe, but they did it anyway to maintain a sense of normalcy. In that moment, John wished he had listened to Barker. As he went to disobey Barker’s second command and look down, there was a deafening bang. The floor dropped out beneath him, revealing an endless swath of clouds flanked by bright stars. It was the border to the mortal realm. The boom had been the sound of John’s unearthly essence being catapulted at terminal velocity downward.

John tried to make his body straight to ease the decent, but he couldn’t help it, the situation was terrifying. His limbs flew out at all angles and he screamed bloody murder. He saw a few of the other agents laughing at him, but fortunately, the drop didn’t last long. A sickening thud cut off his decent and the world went momentarily black. For a minute or so, John was sure he had died again. Luckily, thanks to the miracle of divine science, he was uninjured. Later he would find out that the gas he had been sprayed was a mixture of pain meds and rubberizing material.

Upon realizing that he had not sustained any major injuries, other than his pride, John stood and found himself in the middle of a busy highway. At first, he flinched, but then realized that nothing was moving. On all sides, he was surrounded by cars, trucks, and motorbikes filled with people going about their daily lives, but for the moment, all that had stopped. He spun around wildly, looking at the unearthly snapshot of everyday life, and stopped when he saw the bus.

The destruction was unlike anything he had ever seen. During life, John had only had to deal with the ugly parts of the day in a courtroom. That usually meant photographs or an eye witness testimony. Nothing compared to seeing the real thing. Had he not known that scene in front of him was undoubtedly fatal, John would have been in absolute awe. In fact, a part of him still was.

A semi-truck spewed silent flames from a ruptured gas tank into the sky above. Shrapnel and concrete hung mid-air from where a mini-van had jumped the barrier into oncoming traffic, trying to avoid the accident. A woman was driving, her face frozen in terror, long hair flying all about the cabin.

“Don’t worry,” said a voice from behind John. “She makes it.” It was the young woman who had gotten in the cylinder before him.

“How do you know?” asked John, still dumbfounded.

She held up a clipboard and tapped it. “Did you forget your requisition sheet?” John was about to ask what a requisition sheet was, but she just rolled her eyes and walked over to show him hers. “There’s a slot by your desk, one of these pops out every time we get an order. It tells us the souls we’re meant to collect…” she stopped suddenly as her left eyeball fell onto the clipboard and bounced to the ground.

John made an involuntary wince as she bent over to pick it up.

“Oh, don’t be a prick about it,” she snapped, and popped the eyeball back into place. It rolled unsettlingly in its socket and then settled facing forward. “I’m going to have words with one of the stitchers when I get back up there. This damned thing won’t stay in.”

John gulped.

“Hey, not all of us are so lucky,” she motioned to his decomposing body.

He certainly didn’t feel lucky. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

“It’s alright, I’m sure you’re a bit overwhelmed. Name’s Naomi, just try not to get emotional about it all. They,” she pointed at the accident, “are already emotional as hell.”

John remained silent, at a complete loss for how to even begin.

Naomi looked at her clipboard and surveyed the crash site. At the center of the wreckage was a school bus filled with missionaries. “Anyways, Tough break for your first day. Lucky they didn’t give you the kids,” she chuckled. Let’s see, you’ve got Father Bryan.”

“A priest?”

“Judging by the rosary, yup.” She pointed a crooked finger at a man who was halfway through catapulting out the school bus’s main window. A bible hung inches in front of his face, as if taunting him. “Always thought it was weird that buses didn’t require seatbelts,” Naomi remarked, and then set off towards the bus. “Good luck with yours,” she called.

John turned back to the scene unsure of what he was supposed to do, but before he could ask questions, time started suddenly forward once more. The priest took flight and collided with the side of the semi-truck, exploding in a most spectacular fashion. There was a terrible grinding and crashing as the rest of the accident took place, and then time stopped once more.

The priest’s crumpled and broken body blurred suddenly, and then he stood up, leaving his body behind, and creating an odd double. One broken version stood just above the body, looked around confused, and then turned to John. “Am I dead?” he asked plainly? There was a tremor in his voice, but overall not bad for the accident he had just been in.

“Yeah,” blurted John, unable to think of anything better.

“What a natural,” muttered a muscular requisition agent climbing into the remains of the bus.

“Oh dear,” stammered the priest, tears welling in his eyes. “But my work isn’t finished.” The priest’s voice rose slightly. “Surely the lord must know that?”

“Uh…” In his brief time among the departed, he hadn’t seen, or even heard any mention of God. Being an atheist in life, John hadn’t found it all that intriguing. He supposed that if there was an entire corporation surrounding death, then an almighty wasn’t that far-fetched.

“The Lord must be able to send me back,” pleaded the priest.

Come on John, think of something. “Look at your body,” he said, pointing to the crumpled heap still halfway through colliding with the semi-truck.

The priest winced. “Oh my, is that me?”

“Sure is,” replied John with a little too much cheer. Tone it down a bit. “So, I could put you back in there.” John wasn’t sure this was true, but the priest didn’t know either. “It would be excruciating, and you’d come out worse for it. Simply put, no medical miracle is going to pull you out of there.” The words started to flow more naturally as he continued.

The priest began to sweat profusely, even though his body no longer had need for the function. His eyes widened with understanding and terror. In that moment, John understood the magnitude of the power given in his new position. Tears flowed in rivers from the priest’s eyes. John had known plenty of decent lawyers who might have buckled at the site, but he had not been decent, and the priest’s tears were all too familiar.

John had seen similar grief before, in a church of all places. He doesn’t fear death. He fears judgment. There was a time when John’s family had been religious, but he only remembered one thing from it. It was the pastor’s wide eyes as he was dragged from the church for running an illegal gambling ring out of its basement. At the time, he was told to feel no sympathy, as the man’s actions had been against God, but from his newly eternal perch, the moral ambiguity was apparent. The blubbering priest kneeling before him now had the same wide-eyed expression.

Taking John’s pensive silence as quiet judgment, the priest began to shed his secrets like water. “I’ve confessed my sins!” he screamed, past bargaining and into desperation. “All the years of drinking, and the other…” he trailed off, “indiscretions. They were all foul temptations sent by The Devil himself. It was only a momentary step off his eternal path!”

John stopped listening and turned his attention to the others while the priest finished up his final sermon. A small group of youths walked out of the broken bus, led by the requisition agent who entered. The agent talked in hushed tones, keeping them calm, and trying to block the babbling priest from view.

John was about to turn and shut him up, when Naomi yelled: “Angels on the way! Everyone form up!”

 

Chadpocalypse 1:6 – Hell in a Diner

For those looking to catch up:

Parts 1-2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

1:6 Hell in a Diner

Mrs. B stared at him as if she wasn’t the ghostly specter of a woman that once was, impatiently tapping her pen on the order pad.

Chad could do nothing but stare back at her blankly.

“Just the coffee then for now?” she asked, weetly.

“Pardon,” started Chad, unsure of what to say, “but aren’t you dead?” Saying the words sent a fresh chill rushing down his spine. He desperately wished the diner hadn’t lost its liquor license years ago.

“Oh, straight to the point then, eh?” Mrs. B brushed herself off as if to look more presentable and sat down opposite him. There was no sound as she did so. An eerie, muffled silence had set over the diner, making it feel like something out of a dream.

Chad continued to stare, unsure of how to process the image before him. Does no one else see the dead woman sitting across from me? He looked around the diner and found that there was no one else there to notice.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” chimed Mrs. B politely. “We’re sort of in a frozen state right now. They can’t see us, and we can’t see them. I’ll pop you back proper when we’ve finished our talk.”

Chad’s head thrummed with the psychotic beat of his hangover. “Alright then,” he managed, wincing from pain, “but can I at least get a cup of coffee?”

“I think I that can be arranged.” She held out her hand in the direction of the coffee pot and it came zooming over to them.

“Right, if being dead means you get Jedi powers, I’m about to kill myself.”

“Don’t be silly,” she chided, pouring him a cup of the steaming hot liquid. “I’ve only got them on loan for the day. Higher beings decided they might come in handy, and they weren’t sure you’d be so receptive to the idea.”

“Receptive to what?” he blurted. “Dead women coming back to serve me breakfast?”

Mrs. B made an impatient clucking sound with her tongue. “No dearie, with the impending apocalypse and all.”

Chad froze in his chair. No way. There’s no way. “Apocalyp…”

Mrs. B cut him off, growing annoyed and checking the clock. “Yes Chad, now sober up and pay attention.” She pushed the cup of coffee toward him. “You’ll recall your meeting with the horseman last night, correct?”

“Well I was pretty far down the bottle…”

“Jesus Christ, the Devil sure knows how to pick them. Why oh why did it have to be you?” She sighed.

“Hey, I didn’t come here to get berated by the recently deceased for my life choices, poor as they may be.”

“No, you came here to fill your body with enough grease to sop up one of a thousand hangovers that was to be the rest of your life. Sound about right?” She raised an eyebrow.

Chad nodded.

“Right, well you’ve been given a chance to deviate from that path. How much do you remember of the horseman?”

Chad strained his mind, and saw flashing images of a molten lake of fire, and a pretentious equestrian in a polo shirt. “I remember he looked like a bit of a prick.”

Mrs. B rolled her eyes. “Well of course he was a bit of a prick. Being a herald of the apocalypse isn’t a job for a good Samaritan.”

“Fair point,” admitted Chad, and drank greedily from the coffee he had almost forgotten. The liquid cascaded down his throat and the tension behind his eyes began to ease.

“Now, I’ll explain this to you one time, and one time only.” Mrs. B looked at the clock again, nervously. “I don’t have much time. When the apocalypse comes, the horsemen are required to pick one mortal to pass the knowledge on to. This is supposed to be indicative of fair play between the regions beyond. So, to make it easy on themselves, they picked you, no offense.”

“Some taken,” muttered Chad.

“You’re going to have to show them that was a mistake,” she continued.

At the far end of the diner, Chad noticed a small crack beginning to open on the floor. Just your mind playing tricks on you, he thought. It wouldn’t be the first time a hangover had taken a turn for the hallucinogenic.

“But why…” Chad trailed off. The crack in the floor had continued to grow, and red light was streaming out of it.

Mrs. B turned to look behind her. “Oh shit. It looks like we have less time than I thought.”

The crack ripped open and fire spewed to the top of the diner.

“What in the holy hell is that?” exclaimed Chad, jumping onto the vinyl seat as if the floor were lava.

“Well, it’s Hell of course,” she spat. “They’re coming to take me back dearie.”

A massive, clawed hand reached out of the floor. Chad’s mouth dropped open.

“Ok, listen to me Chad. You need to find Nick Ventner. There’s no time to explain, just do it.”

“Mrs. B!” Chad yelled. “Look out behind you!” His heart thumped wildly in his chest and his senses cleared, forgetting the hangover that had dulled them moments earlier.

A black demon with massive, curling horns jumped out of the hole and onto the quickly crumbling tile floor. It’s eyes glowed red with hellfire and it expelled smoke with each heavy snort it made. “Mrs. B, pleasure to see you,” it grumbled, in a deep British accent. It cocked its head to one side and lunged forward.

“This is going to hurt,” moaned Mrs. B.

With one swift strike, the demon plunged its massive claw through her back, and out the front of her chest, spraying the diner with black, congealed blood.

“Holy shit!” Chad screamed.

“Don’t fuck this up,” whispered Mrs. B, and then fell limp.

“See you soon, Chad,” chuckled the demon, and then with the grace of an Olympic diver, twisted through the air diving back through the hole in the floor.

All at once, sound rushed back into the diner, and people popped up in every booth around him. Chad stood on the vinyl seat, mouth hanging open, clutching a breakfast menu. The blood was gone from his shirt, and there was no sign of the massive hell portal in the tiled floor.

“The usual, Chad?” asked a man standing just by his side.

Chad jumped, and slid into the corner of the booth.

“Jesus man, you alright?” the voice asked.

Chad turned to see George, holding an ordering pad, looking concerned, and expectant. “S-sorry,” Chad stammered.

“Another wild night?” George laughed.

“Yeah,” Chad said. “Something like that.” His stomach rumbled impatiently. “I think I’ll have the eggs benedict…”

Death Co [Extended]

death_co

I’ve gone back and fixed up the first chapter of Death Co., giving it a proper ending, and fixing some grammar. Take a look, let me know what you think, and subscribe if you like it! Also follow me on Twitter / Facebook

Let’s see, job qualifications: 1. Must be dead, they’re a real stickler about that one. 2. Preferred to have some legal experience, they’ll let that one slide occasionally if you’re a ‘people person’. 3. Must be just desperate enough to live forever, but also apathetic enough to spend that forever doing paperwork. 4. This one’s the most important of them all, must have a strong constitution when it comes to blood, otherwise the first day would be a real drag.

I don’t even know where to start. What I did, what I still do in a way, is quite a lot to take in. The topic of death tends to conjure images of eternal rest and the infinite abyss, not so much an office building just on the edge of time. Years back they had the aesthetics redone to look a bit more imposing, but honestly, it’s all a bit Wall Street for me.

The origin of the supernatural mega conglomerate known to most as Death, is a simple one. When shop was first opened all those eons ago, there was only one. The world was a lot smaller, and the dawn of man a much simpler time. Let’s just say the primitive Neanderthal brain didn’t have a handle on writing, much less appeals paperwork. I didn’t come on the scene until much later, but it’s important to know history so that we don’t repeat ourselves.

Before the dawn of man there wasn’t much need for death. Don’t get me wrong, it still happened quite often, but there wasn’t a need for the abstract concept of it. To be frank, God didn’t give much of a shit about the dinosaurs, see: Giant asteroid, molten rain, etc., and as a result, their afterlife was almost non-existent. That worked well for a while, unless you were one of the pea-brained brontosauruses floating in the inky blackness confusedly chewing their last pieces of grass.

Whatever your opinion on the subject, dinosaur rights advocates need not apply, the system worked. Things didn’t get messy until humans came on the scene. Higher order brain functions led to higher order questions. Suffice it to say, the powers that be: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, have never been very good with questions. Rather than answer them, they voted to create a buffer. It was the only way to keep a watchful eye on the humans while still managing to get uproariously drunk at the inter-departmental parties.

The first question humans asked that the divine sought fit to answer was a simple on. It’s the same question that drives many to the brink of insanity and the cusp of creativity. What happens to us after we die? Ever since the inception of humanity, questioning what lies beyond infinity has been one of our driving characteristics. The truth is rather sad; it involves a lot of math on the part of the divine and they’re too busy mucking about with climate change to bother explaining.

As a result, the institution known as Death, now incorporated, was formed. The first employee in the company of Death was a simple man by the name of Ug. He wasn’t a man of many words, being of the Cro-Magnon persuasion, but could follow orders exceedingly well. God found Ug after he had fallen off a cliff after an unfortunate mammoth drive accident. When the creator found him, Ug had broken just about every bone in his body and was drowning in gore.

This was understandably not a great way to go. Understandably, Ug, unable to express his complex questioning of the creator, but could do no more than scream bloody murder and wave his hands. God happened to be paying attention to Ug that day, he had caused the mammoth drive to go south, and honestly felt quite embarrassed by the situation. Rather than deal with the awkwardness that was hearing out a primitive’s complaints, God appointed Ug as Death. This solved the problem of all the unresolved questions surrounding the end of life, and left God free to work on his concept of warring, dogmatic religions.

Ug was snapped back into shape, rather painfully I am told, given a black cloak, and made immortal. God tasked Ug with the job of acting menacing, collecting the souls of the recently deceased, and answering one question from each of them before the end. Whether Ug understood this was beside the point. Before he could utter so much as a confused grunt, God was gone, and Ug was left to his morbid job.

For the first few centuries, he was a terrible death. The powers of the divine were difficult to master, and as such, more than a few deaths slipped through the cracks. This led to the half-dead returning to terrorize the living, and more than a few zombie outbreaks that put ethereal egg on the creator’s face. Still, this arrangement continued to function for a few hundred years, and eventually, as time wore on, Ug got better at it. He learned to teleport to the location of death, the secrets behind freezing time, and the most painless way to escort the soul from the land of the living, to the realm beyond.

The real problems started when civilization continued to grow, something that none of the powers at be had expected. Humans were created as incredibly combative and prideful creatures, and it surprised everyone when they began to cooperate with one another. This in turn led to wars, which increased Ug’s workload significantly. Purgatory literally overflowed, raining bits of decomposed flesh and bone into both Heaven and Hell. This led to the expansion of Purgatory, which should be finished in another hundred million years when the contracts go through, and Death getting a horse.

Why the high angels decided it was a problem of transportation and not understaffing is something we may never know. Ug, who had since learned a few basic words, named his horse Buttercup, and the world continued to spin for a little while longer. Unfortunately for the heavens, Earth’s population continued to grow exponentially, and things got complicated.

At our present pace, we get about 155,000 souls a day. That’s quite a few, and with the demands of our newly technological society, the demands of the dead have become complicated. Needless to say, it was far too much for poor Ug to handle by himself. At one point, he tried to kill himself, but when you’re already dead, that doesn’t do a whole lot. In the end, it made an awful mess, Ug was retired, and the corporation we know today.

The first team was a group of recently deceased therapists, but they talked to much and fell behind schedule. It was a nice sentiment, trying to help the dead cope and move on with their afterlife, but ultimately, it’s not our job. Mostly, the recently dead are stuck in the bargaining stage until they realize that the agents of death have no true authority. That’s when they tend to get uppity.

Speed is a prized commodity in the realm of death, as long lines of the deceased tend to smell. So, the corporation needed a group of people who were good at paperwork, divorced from their emotions, and ruthless. That’s where I come in. My name is Jon, I’m an ex-lawyer, and I’ve been dead for about sixty years. My business is death, and business is good.