Lucien Potts knew he was dead. It was the next bit he was rather foggy about. Death itself wasn’t a surprise – too much to drink, a narrow road and a firmly rooted beech combined to terminate the breathing part of his existence. It was while he was falling from the fourth branch that he became aware of someone -thing – next to him as he fell. The thing – let’s say ‘person’ because Lucien, in death as much as in life lacked many things – money, charisma, vocabulary – coughed in that waiterly way of wanting attention without any dramatic overreaction.
‘Sir? Mr. Lucien?’
The fact the ‘person’ knew his name made Lucien sit up. This is in fact a metaphorical state of being since you need the core of an international gymnast to sit up while falling from a tree while undertaking your last aspirant action and that was another thing he lacked.
‘Yes? What do you want?’
‘I need your signature sir.’
‘What?’ Lucien glanced at the rapidly approaching, noticeably not-the-sort-of-ground-to-fall-on-if-you-want-to-walk-away surface below him.
‘No need to brace, sir. You’ll be better relaxed. Never mind.’
It is a little known fact that bracing while in the act of death by falling merely makes the shock of landing and not hurting all the more extreme. You scream and sob before you realise you are, in fact, in tact. Then you feel really rather silly. The dead feel few emotions, post mortem, but heightened embarrassment is one that nature has seen fit to leave in place.
‘Oh god, sorry. I’m such a fool. Ha! Of course, I’m dead. I’m not going to hurt, am I? I’m …’
‘Sir, the form?’
Lucien stopped burbling. ‘Are you an angel?’
‘No sir, but I do care. Please, your signature.’
‘Why do I need to sign?’
The ‘person’ pointed Lucien towards his left. An ornate door which Lucien was sure had not been there before he careered off the A412 to Swindon, stood between two oaks. ‘If you are going to use the lift, sir, you’ll need to indemnify Hereafter PLC against any acts, omissions or eternity allocations that might occur. Applications for relief are occasionally made and we have found that if the restatused…’
‘You sir. The deceased. If you understand what is about to happen then you are less likely to apply to a higher authority because, well, frankly He’s getting a bit crotchety about this litigious mindset, especially now Health and Safety have removed his thunderbolts as a sanction and required the plague of locusts to be organic and fair trade. So your signature sir?’
‘Wait a moment. What happens, in the lift?’
‘You can go up or down sir. It’s a lift. It’s in the name. You are familiar with the concept of the lift?’
‘Of course.’ Lucien paused. ‘What happened before lifts? I mean I know how they work but what about, say a medieval knight who’d lost his head?’
‘Stairs, sir. Not popular but one has to work with the state of knowledge at the time. In fifty years… No never mind.’
Lucien rubbed his hands. ‘This is fascinating. So I get to chose do I? I can have the harp or the permanent bonfire?’
The ‘person’… Lucien held up his hand. ‘Hang on. You, the writer, can we get past, ‘person’? It’s a bit impersonal.’ Lucien smiled. ‘Well, your name?’
‘I do have a name sir, but since this is the only time we will meet and we might, were I to give you my name, slip into a state of what one might call redundant intimacy, can we merely acknowledge I am a being, 70% supernatural, 20% cotton and the rest a mix of garlic, horror and Oreos, and move on. Your signature?’
‘Ok. I think I’ll go up. I’m not your risk taker.’
The ‘person’ looked at the crushed car and severely severed beech and merely raised what near enough passed for an eyebrow. ‘Um, you don’t get to choose.’
‘Hardly. There needs to be some balance. Can’t have everyone up top, can we?’
‘Sure there’s an infinite celestial horizon but there’s got to be an incentive. Carrot and stick. Heaven and hell.’
‘What if I stay?’
‘What? Stay here?’
‘Yes. I don’t sign and I just hang about. A ghost?’
‘You want a ghost contact? Are you sure?’
‘There’s a ghost contract?’
‘Of course. Now I need to tell you about the revised terms, in the light of social media. No ghost can infiltrate any electronic devise.’
‘Ok. Not a problem.’
‘You will be obliged to spend, erm, fifteen years in retribution time. To make up for your sins.’
‘What sort of retribution?’
‘Watch your wife, your mother in law and your daughter having sex..’ The ‘person’ sniggered. ‘Not a threesome of course.’
Lucien rubbed his chin. ‘So if I sign and go through the door, I’ll either go up or down?’
‘Like life.’ The ‘person’ shrugged. ‘Some you win…’
The ‘person’ checked a clipboard. ‘I think in your case Mr. Lucien it’s a case of ‘Come on down.’ The smile, when it came lacked sincerity.
This is in response to SueVincent’s #writephoto prompt here