… and now something a little different …
My chest is humming. Another life essence has run its course of time on Earth. I used to look forward to bringing home souls. They tell interesting stories about their experiences. It went sour when they started sending me after the “specials”.
This is most likely a “special”. Read that as a special pain in my ass. Now I get only the difficult ones known as “specials”. I don’t know why. I don’t care. Wish I could live out a life on another plane just to see what it’s like. They all go and have these great times. Grow as beings and I … Maybe I’ve been doing this too long.
My sleep sling is so comfortable. For days, the number of retrievals has been insane. This happens sometimes when times get tough and it triggers the wish to be returned to the Hub of the Planes of Existence. My body is crying out for rest. The call comes again and I swing my legs down to the cold floor. The com lights up across the room. My boss is all smiley face and way too perky.
“Rayleigh, I’ve got a good one for you this time! Major tyrant. Six wives. You know the drill.”
“Henry’s coming home then?”
“Yup. His info should be up on the screen for you.” He looks down for a second at some notes on his desk. “He won’t come easy. Especially, not for a woman.”
“Then, why am I getting him?” They always give me the especially difficult ones. “Give him to Josh.”
“We always give you the especially difficult ones.” He breaks the link.
The information about the retrievee shows up. No real surprises. Henry VIII, King of England.
Well, best get on with it then. I open the door and step into a huge bed chamber. It’s ornate Tudor with all sorts of wood paneling and tapestries, of course. My attention is on the mound of flesh in the opulent bed. There are courtiers and priests surrounding the mass of smelliness. Bathing was not a part of Tudor life and his leg wound is just all putrifaction. The medical arts were pretty much that. No science.
I pass right through the witnesses to his demise and arrive at the bedside. A few shudder as if a cold draft passes across the back of their necks. There he is in all his sumptuous squalor.
“Come.” I order him.
He stares at me and I hear his thoughts, Who art thou? I am King here. I take no orders from a wench.
Oh boy, he’d be toast if I could let loose. “Come now or face the Fires.” That gets him moving. No one likes to think about the Hell plane. His life force rises from the bed as a young and handsome prince. I turn and walk towards the glowing portal. He follows me – as he should.
“I want to know what comes after me.” They all want to know how the story ends. “Doth my son rule long and well?”
Sometimes I tell them when I’m feeling especially cruel. This time I won’t. He can read about it after we get to the processing center.
Stepping through onto the cold hardwood floor, I see my com is lit again. Another one so soon?
“Got another one for you, Rayleigh. This one’s a bit sad. Not your usual nasty.”
“I just brought Henry through. I still have to get him to the processing center.”
“I’ll get Zoster to finish him.”
“Mathematician. Did some code work during the Second Great Earth War. Father of Artificial Intelligence. Name’s Turing, Alan Turing. Info coming up on the screen.” He yawns.
“On my way.” I step back through the portal and into a small room from 1950’s Britain. A youngish man lies on a bed alone.
“Come.” I order him.
He looks at me. “I have to finish.”
“It’s done. Now come.”
He looks at me and at his hands.
I take his hand and walk him through the years to people wearing smart watches. I lead him through the gateway.
My sleep sack is calling my name and I fall into it, happy or maybe just relieved to have finished.
My chest hums again. I wish there was a better way of signaling me.
The com link lights up across the room. “Stop pretending to be asleep. We’ve got a runner. Wish these people would just give it up when they’re suppose to pass to the next level. I need you in my office now.”
Henry? Can’t be Henry and Alan wanted to come home. It’s not one of mine. I look at the boss person pictured on the screen. “Not one of mine.”
“Who said it was? Now get yourself together and get down here. NOW!”
I slowly wander off to the head office.
“When I say ‘now’ I mean ‘now’ not five minutes from ‘now’.”
“Not one of mine.”
“I don’t care. We need you to go after this loser and retrieve her. She’s an eighty-year old grandmother. Should have been easy, but Frank botched it. How do you lose an old woman? She’s not even five foot.”
“So you give her to me?”
“Her name is Margaret. Good luck and don’t let us down.”
I stomp from his office and step through the portal. There Margaret is arguing with a shopkeeper while eating his grapes. “These, I tell you are too sour. You should be ashamed!” She takes another and pops it in her face. “You should be ashamed!” The poor man’s face is beet red.
I tap her shoulder. “Let’s go.”
“What? Go where? I’m not going any where with you.”
‘It’s time and the fires await.” She can only be going in one direction.
“What fires? And, who are you? I’m not going anywhere with a strange person.” She turns back to the grocer. He’s looking at her like she’s not all there. Which she’s not.
I have to say, this is the first time I’ve had to snag someone from the produce section. She should be in a bed surrounded by loving relatives, if she has any. This, I’m beginning to doubt.
“We have to go now,” and I turn to leave.
“How much for the green beans? I’m not going any where without some fresh green beans to cook for supper.” She picks up a bunch and starts to snap and eat them. The grocer grabs a bag in the faint hopes she’ll fill it. “Those came in fresh this morning.”
She nibbles another. “I’ve changed my mind.” Margaret turns and walks out the door leaving the poor soul literally holding the bag. Making her way to a very battered Buick she climbs in, starts the car, and backs out into traffic causing lots of car honking. I zip into the front seat and find no room for my legs. The seat is too close to the dash. Sometimes it sucks to be tall.
Days like this I wish I was a demon. I could just zap her and haul her off. Nah they would leave her be. She’s the type they love to leave running around sowing stress and discord.
Her body should be dead and I should be hauling her soul back for processing and reassignment. Every now and again we get one who refuses to let go and stays living. Margaret’s a very stubborn soul. How am I going to get her back to the hub? “I can take you to your beloved husband who crossed over many years ago…”
“That bum? Why would I want to have anything to do with him? Best day of my life when he fell off the toilet dead.”
This may be the hardest retrieval ever. “What about your mother? Your dad?”
“My mother loved my sister. Everything was for my sister. Me? I got nothing. My dad? He should have been gone all the time at the bar.”
“There must be someone …”
“No. I’m not going anywhere. I have to stay here. My daughter-in-law knows nothing and I have to make sure my son understands why he should never have married her.” She waves her right hand in the air. “She can’t do anything right. Dresses all wrong. The colors she picks for her house – terrible. She’s a horrible mother.” Now she’s waving her finger in my face. “No! I have to stay and make sure she doesn’t ruin his career. Why did he marry her when he could have had that nice banker’s daughter with all the money?” She throws both hands up and looks at the roof of the car. “Bad people from the wrong town. I’m telling you, she comes from the wrong town. No country club membership. No money in that family.” We run a red light and barely miss three parked cars.
Oh, my heart bleeds for the daughter-in-law.
“It’s time to go. He can manage on his own. He’s a big boy now.”
I can’t snatch her from a moving car. It’ll keep going and possibly kill someone before their turn. Then again if we keep going … How will I explain this to the boss – Mr. Perky. I have to get the car stopped somewhere safe.
Imagining the inside of the engine compartment while she goes on and on about her son’s terrible wife, I seek a way to stop the car safely. Just have to lock something up in here to make this whole mess come to an end. There. Got it. I activate the brakes and turn off the ignition. The car rolls to a stop in the middle of the road. Good enough! I reach over and grab her shoulder. My teeth are clenched as I say, “We’re out of here now.” Shoving open the door, I move toward the cross over point with her struggling in tow.
“I can’t go anywhere. I have a luncheon with the girls this afternoon.”
“It’s going on four o’clock.”
“Happy Hour! I’m meeting them at the club for drinks and dinner.”
She shakes me off and heads off in another direction. This is going so well.
What if I don’t bring her back? Will it alter the time line and change this existence plane. For good or for evil? Maybe they’ll stop giving me runners and the especially difficult. Maybe they’ll bust me back to nada. What did they do to Frank for failing?
What if I let her go and I take off? They’ll send someone for the both of us. Who? That was my job. They’ll send Zoster. Well he’s useless. They have no one to come after me. I can do this. I know all the ropes and the only person who can see me is Margaret. Maybe we can cut a deal. She could help me. Show me what life is really like.
Where is she? She said the club. Must be the country club. I teleport there and find her in the bar alone.
“So where are the girls?” I slide onto a bar stool next to her.
She’s staring down into her drink. “They’ll be here soon. Let me get you a drink. Bartender, a drink for the lady,” she indicates the bar top in front of me. The man looks puzzled.
“He can’t see me. Only you can.”
“Don’t be foolish of course he can see you.” Turning to the puzzled soul, “Get her an Appletini. Put it on my account.”
“Sure, Ma’am,” He gathers what he needs, Vodka, Apple Schnapps and Cointreau. Mixes them in a shaker and pours them into a chilled martini glass. Adds an apple slice and a cherry.
With a flourish he places it in front of me. “Enjoy,” he says to a point somewhere around the middle of my chest.
It looks so good. I reach out my hand and it passes right through it. I know then my running away will not work. I can manipulate some things to effect fate but I can never really experience life here. Not like this.
“Here dear let me.” Margaret picks up the drink and holds it to my lips gently tipping it until it flows onto the seat of the bar stool. “Isn’t it great! You just have to love it.”
“You know, I know a place much better than this. Has a dance floor and a live band. Some new drinks everyone loves and really great food.” I put my arm around her. “I know you will really enjoy this exclusive club. Members only.”
“Well what are we waiting for.” She smiles at me and slips off her stool.
I usher her through the portal. Looking back I see the bartender trying to awaken her body slumped on the bar. Appletini dripping on the floor from the barstool next to her.