“I’m not very good at dying. You get very little training in it and, as far as I know, you only get the one chance so if you muck it up, you don’t make the proud exit of your dreams but shuffle off in an awkward clumsy way which does little for your reputation, once you are no longer there to safeguard it.
None of that would have mattered if I hadn’t been “tipped the wink” by some severe pains across my chest, and a weird conspiratorial glance from some guy across the room who clearly thought he knew me in some way. As I leant or almost fell against the wall, he walked over to me, and said, in a semi-discreet aside, “Not long now old chap” in the manner of one who wished he had a more exalted station in life or death. I say “Death” because that was his name. He handed me a visiting card which was miraculous in the non-inspiring way because it glowed briefly in my hand, and for long enough for me to see his name and address and then vanished.
His name, according to the card, was “Dr Death” and underneath his name was the boast, “Qualified Grief Counsellor” and an address which was given as “Everywhere”. “What’s going on. What are you doing?” I asked him and he told me.
“People die all the time, you know, and I would be rushed off my feet if I couldn’t make use of the ‘Split-Personality App” to be in more than one place at the same time.” The pain was spreading now and I was almost crouching over as nausea and faintness overcame me. People round me were starting to turn and look at me, and a voice associated with one of my more irritating nieces, nearly as difficult in character as her mother, my sister, was asking me if I was alright.
In better circumstances I would have been tempted to say, “Never felt better” because who would ask such a question of man bent double with pain and about to fall over, but there you go. “Dr Death,” who I could see quite clearly was grinning and wiping tears of laughter from his eyes was finding the whole thing highly amusing.
In that alternative “Time-Facility,” people often experience in those last moments, when many wished they’d taken out funeral insurance, I asked the proud Doctor why he was wasting his attentions on me when people of fame, fortune and noble character where keeling over in droves in every corner of the planet.
He smiled and said, “Oh what a good question” and almost licked his lips at the thought of replying. “In my game” he said, “We see all manner of people doing the “Oblivion Shuffle” as I call it, but not many of them are as spineless, ungifted, vain and self-serving as you, and I thought it would be a real refresher, a shot in the arm or however you would describe it to see a man of registered delusion and mediocrity lurch over to “The Other Side” and get his debriefing from whatever grade of Angel has been allocated to his passing.
What do you mean “Grade of Angel” and he explained that when one of the “Heavy-Hitters,” a statesman of note, a poet who would be world-famous in two generations, or a mass murderer with a decent number of killings under his belt died, an angel with peerless experience and wisdom would conduct the de-briefing before assigning them to an Infinity of suitable colour.
“With accredited mediocrities like you,” he continued, “Who had no idea what was going on, and were like an irritating fly in every room they entered, any matter of substance in their life is understood in a microsecond and they are just sent to a holding bay for bores before being assigned to their ultimate destination.”
My last thought before I felt myself lift out of my now redundant body was , “Things can not get worse” but I was wrong, because my designated Angel told me, You are going to the “Knitting Room” where you will pearl stitch for an eternity. “But I hate knitting or even the thought of knitting” I said, and our revered Doctor smirked and said, as he turned to leave. “That is the idea. In death you learn to love what you hated in life. Welcome to my world.”