‘Ah Death. Come in, come in. Sit, sit.’ Satan shuffled some papers and shushed the carvings on his desk which were beginning to howl in the presence of the terminal scythe. ‘Perhaps you’d pop your little doofee in the umbrella stand. Just for now?’
Death reluctantly propped his scythe and sat.
‘Now, before we begin, you don’t mind if my lad sits in? He’s on a week’s work experience and I said he could watch a couple of meetings.’ He nodded at a bowl of spawn which sneered lethargically.
Death nodded his assent.
‘Marvellous. I won’t beat around the bush. We’re planning a few changes.
Satan winced. ‘That’s the first. Can you speak in lower case?’
‘BUT I’VE ALWAYS…’
‘Yes I know but, here’s the thing. We need to move with the times. Meet our customers’ expectations.’
‘Clients. Partners. We carried out a survey…’
‘More a user-interface facilitated focus group. And the clear message was we need to work on our delivery.’
‘You are talking about those about to die?’
‘We like to think of it, in Hereafter 2.0 as transitioning from one state – life – to the next – death. After all that’s what we’re here – you specifically, Death – are here to provide. That moment of transition.’
‘They just die.’
‘They did but, see they’re looking at a better death experience. They spend their whole lives celebrating important moments: birth, birthdays, weddings, academic successes, you name it and then, poof, one of the real biggies and there’s nothing. No pomp. They’re after making it an event.’
‘If you saw their faces, you’d know it was a pretty big deal.’
‘But you have to admit it lacks a certain something, a bit of pizzazz. You appear, a quick swipe of the old hand axe…’
‘The Grim Reaper’s Scythe…’
‘Yes, that’s another thing. We’re dropping the ‘grim’. Doesn’t give the right impression. Sort of too unequivocal.’
‘They’re going straight to purgatory. Of course…’
‘Yes, Purgatory’s being relaunched. We took soundings and the consensus was, as death was the start of the next phase – the beginning of non-existence – we should think of the antechamber more as a crèche for the recently departed. We provisionally called it Hugatory given the plans for a series of enveloping experiences but someone pointed out that it sounded like a fringe event at the Conservative party conference which is worse than hell, so we’re continuing to work on a title. If you have any ideas?’
‘What about me? How’s this going to impact my work?’
‘Ah, yes, right. Well we’re still working out the details but we are about to launch a Prepare Your End app where people can be notified of their impending doom.’
‘You’ll tell them?’
‘So many have a pretty shrewd idea what with medical improvements and right to die planning and cryogenics. And they’ll be able to ask for a bit of leeway.’
Death sighed. ‘I still get to…’ He made a twirling motion with his hands, mimicking the swish of his scythe.
‘Yes, but there’s a couple of changes we thought about here. You see your appearance is, well, it’s not conducive to a calm progression across. So we had this idea for a hat.’
‘Lower case, please. Yes, well, more a hat-come-mask. We got the idea from this book.’ Satan reached below his desk and extracted a large wizard’s hat. ‘One of the other suggestions was we give people a steer on where they’re going. It’s a bit old school to just to take their breath away, as it were, and then pop them into torment for what appears to be eternity before they find out their eventual destination. So we thought – here, just pop it on,’ Death reluctantly pulled the felt concoction over his shiny pate, ‘we thought you could give then a bit of guidance. We’re calling it the Sorting Hat. You intone “Heaven” or “Hell” or “Valhalla” or wherever so they can check out the services and facilities while they’re in Holding and they don’t see your face either which, frankly, has to be a good thing. So? What do you think?’
‘You do? You sure? I mean, we did wonder and we’ll probably just outsource the in-death services for now. Uber Death is one possibility or Deliveroo for the Deceased another. But what about you? What will you do?
‘Oh, I’ll get by. The corporate speaking circuit has always appealed. Our goals are much the same after all. And I’ve done the odd DED Talk already.’
‘Well let’s see shall we? Keep in touch, eh?’
‘Thanks. Yes. I can’t say it’s been fun. Can I keep the hat?’
This is written in response to Sue Vincent’s latest #writephoto prompt, here