I shuffled forward one place. Somehow, even in this crush of people, we all knew which way the queue went. Hundreds of thousands of us, all crammed into what looked, to all intents and purposes, rather like a government office. Like a stereotypical DMV in an American TV show, or a passport control booth. You following?
I knew I was near the front now. I could hear the bubble of anxiety straining at the edges. Luckily, I had a hand to hold to ease the worry. Unluckily, it was my own and was no longer attached to my shoulder.
‘NEXT!’ I made my way forward to the counter, a standard deal with the plastic window stretching as far as I can see upward… A very long way. I placed my arm onto the counter, where a shadowy figure sat in a long, hooded cloak. ‘Name?’ A voice like tombstones dropping from the sky echoed around me.
‘Cyrus. Cyrus Barton.’ My own voice paled in comparison, thin and reedy.
‘Full name.’ Thud. Thud. I sighed.
‘Cyrus Martin Arthur Syllabub Barton the Third.’ How my family didn’t get bored with filling out paperwork after CMAS Bartons One and Two, I’ll never know. How many names does one person need? Made it useful to find aliases though. Always did need them in my line of work.
Crap, missed some questions there. Hold on, has my mouth been answering for me while I’ve not been paying attention?
‘Garbage disposal for the criminal elite. The Rubbish Man, they call me.’ Never seen a skull raise an eyebrow before, but this one managed it. ‘Gotta earn a living somehow.’
‘Hmph. Cause of death?’
‘I got shot.’ Well, I had. Kind of. In a fashion. A bit.
‘Pal,’ The word sounded foreign and wrong in that eldritch voice, ‘I’ve been working deceasions and passings for the past eight centuries. Know how many people die a year? Fifty five million people. Every single year. Even broken down by regions, still massive. And pal,’ There it was again. ‘If you just tell me how you died, I can get your paperwork finished and then you can move on.’
Dealing with jobsworths. Never figured the Grim Reaper would be one. ‘Well, Pal,’ I stressed the word, focusing on its realism in that strange, hot massive tiny room, ‘It all went a bit like this…’
The Idiot in Tin Foil