Oh-oh. A waiting room. I hate waiting rooms. And this one looks particularly bad.
There were silent people scattered around the room like leaves after an autumn storm, if the leaves were sitting in a solicitor’s waiting room trying to claim damages, and the walls were the kind of off-white painters have a special name for.
I walked to the counter.
“Take a number please.”
The lady motioned without looking up. There was something vaguely familiar about her. She looked like she was in her mid-fifties. Or perhaps her mid-sixties. Mid-seventies? Well, whatever she was, she was certainly right in the middle of it.
The hard plastic chair attacked my behind with all the ferocity an essentially inanimate object can muster. I looked at my watch. Eleven to twelve. I looked at the number on the display. Eleven. I looked at my ticket. Eighty-six. Darn.
What seemed to be an advertisement for a travel destination lay nearby. Inside was a picture of beautiful people singing. The suggestion being, presumably, that visitors there would find choirs just roaming around, ambushing passers-by with beautiful song. I tossed it away acrimoniously. I don’t mean to appear cynical, but I generally am, so that’s how it comes across.
I checked my watch again. Still eleven to twelve. The room smelt of sterilized air, like an airplane smells when it isn’t busy crashing. I waited five minutes and checked my watch again. Eleven to twelve. My watch was broken. Darn. Either that or my watch was working perfectly and time itself had stopped. But seeing as my watch, unlike time, ran on a 1.5-volt battery, it seemed unlikely. This was going to take a while.
Several thousand years later, a number showed up to no response. I seized my opportunity.
“Name?” the lady asked without interest.
“Stephen Grellet.”
“14 June, 1961.”
“Cause of death?”
Ah yes. I’d forgotten about that. My mind went back to that cabin; the silence, the screams, the impact, the silence.
“Plane crash.”
She tapped her keyboard.
“And would you like to go to Heaven or to Hell?”
“What? I get to choose? Just like that?”
“It’s that easy?”
I felt vaguely suspicious.
“Well Heaven, obviously. That’s a stupid question.”
She typed some more. A worried expression crossed her face. Her tapping became uncertain.
“So, um, Hell then, was it?”
“No, Heaven! I said Heaven!”
She clicked the mouse uselessly.
“I’m afraid I’ve accidentally booked you for Hell.”
“What?! I’m not going to Heaven?”
“No... I’m afraid not. Sorry.”
She seemed quite unconcerned. My shoulders sank and I exhaled. Somehow I’d expected this.
“I might be able to transfer you to purgatory. We have some openings there. Shall I try that?”
“Yes, go ahead,” I sighed.
After several more moments typing she smiled.
“Alright, purgatory it is. Just step through that door please.”
I passed through, and all my thoughts vanished.
Oh-oh. A waiting room. I hate waiting rooms. And this one looks particularly bad.