Extract from the Hades Herald series: ‘Time Fillers For Infinity: Jobs For The Dead.’ Interview conducted When Living Temerity Plain.
Zelda Bywater is a Portal Management Volunteer who has been helping the recently departed to cross over since her own demise during the exceptionally foggy spring of 1911 when she erroneously mistook the herd’s bull for its prized milker and gripped what turned out to be very much not a teat.
‘Zelda, you’re a translucent. Does that help you as a PMV?’
‘Oh, indeed. Being so transparent helps those who’ve just experienced the shock of transmission to see what’s ahead.
‘Exactly. They don’t realise how exposed they are, on crossing. I’m there to make sure there are no untimely incidents with the pre-dead. Some have called it their first out of body experience and if they don’t cross quickly there’s the possibility of an interface and no one wants that.’
‘How do you make sure they know what to do?’
‘Oh, well, that’s where the training comes in. When you volunteer to be a Portal Manager, you’re given your mighty Orb-staff and…’
‘Staff, please. We’ve moved on from such over-glucosed appellations. Those who are passing are used to the imagery of the woman with the Disc-pole indicating a crossing from their pre deceased existence and so tend not to notice how, erm, d… d…’
‘…Diaphanous they are. It’s a bit of a shock, all that absence of substance shtick. Seeing me, positively sheer against this gorgeous back display…’
‘It’s lovely isn’t it?’
‘Willian Morris was a volunteer one time, so they say. The Powers That Were don’t like unnecessary adornment, given that aesthete vibe they cultivate, but they thought this worth keeping. It mesmerises most newcomers and they are drawn into the Pre-Portal Zone…’
‘Can you explain to our subscribers what the Pre-Portal is? They may not remember.’
‘No, quite. There’s a lot to absorb on your first day in the Afters. The Pre-Portal is like a waiting room at the doctors only with more flowers and less oxygen. It’s here you’re directed to the specific After that will be home to your next phase. My role is to see you safely installed and ready for your interview. I like to think I can help take their minds off what’s happened as well as what’s ahead.’
‘Do you have many problems?’
‘Well, naturally there are the disbelievers, the how do I go back crew but most are pretty sure what’s going on. Some even ask about my time; it’s natural to try and find some comfort from someone’s actual experience.’
‘You don’t tell them, do you?’
‘Gosh, no, Temerity. If I learnt one thing in my training it’s that it’s taken years to get the Living to stop all this science knows best malarkey and embrace fake news. Just as well since the established religions have been losing their grip on feeding the credulous a diet of hope and bombast. If they found out for most of us it’s just a lot of sitting about staring into your particular void, they’d work harder at staying put and then who’d do this job?’
‘Quite. Thank you, Zelda, for explaining your role. Next week and we will be joining Dennis Conundrum who has just volunteered to join the ranks of the Grim Reapers. As Dennis will tell us the training before you can become a Reaper, learning the art of breaking the Ultimate in bad news is hard and not everyone gets a Sickle. Until then, stay dead!’
This piece was written in response to Sue Vincent’s latest #writephoto prompt