This week’s picture prompt is
Where Do You Go To My Lovely
When Dolores Pumicestone, bookshop doyen of Little Tittweaking’s hermit community died she rather hoped she’d be given a cloud in the draught-free semi-shade, some thermal robes that covered her shoulders and something other than a harp to strum. She also wanted privacy. Lots of it. Life was simple when it didn’t involve people, though a career in retail wasn’t ideal for such a sociophobe. When, finally she found her niche – literally in the sense she lived in a small gap between two bookshelves – and ran the second hand bookshop with an honesty till, she could relax and study her favourite subject: the Afterlife. Having absorbed everything on the subject she was convinced (a) she was destined to have a decent shot at heaven, since the only negatives on her ledger were her refusal to consider brassicas a food and a bone deep antipathy to the woodlice who shared her niche, and which she crushed without compunction (b) if she was off to heaven she hoped there was room for those whose idea of good company was its absence, and (c) if the apparent insistence on its denizens’ musicality was a thing, she wanted something that you didn’t strum, since her nails were inclined to the brittle.
What the books failed to explain – and frankly, given the apparent ease with which you could get a grant to study for a PhD, Dolores considered it was a disgrace no one had written about the initial life-death transition – was what happened after the last breath. In Dolores case, the inhalation of a mummified woodlouse had been the proximate cause of that last breath and as she lay in her niche, aware that her chest wasn’t heaving she wondered, ‘And?’
It took her a moment to realise three shadowy figures had appeared. They may have been human shaped but they were so… so… ephemeral, it was difficult to say. As Dolores watched she felt something akin to hands lifting something akin to her body – though floated might better describe what was happening. The three shapes began to move with Dolores between them out of the niche, out of the shop and into a bustling High Street.
These days it was rare for Little Tittweaking to bustle; it was more likely to bristle and today a crowd of disaffected youth were, indeed in pre-bristle mode. As Dolores and her barely-there bearers floated across the street, passing through the people and street furniture it occurred to Dolores that, being dead – for that was what she was, she was sure – had its compensations in the complete lack of regard. It meant, for the first time in an age Dolores could be amongst a throng and not feel…
‘Jolly, isn’t it?’
The voice came from her left and above. Dolores looked in the direction of the sound. A female form wearing something like a 1960s air stewardess’ outfit and clutching a clipboard looked down.
The woman giggled. ‘I don’t know why we’re meant to check. It’s not like the wrong person dies. I know, I know, there were a couple of near misses when we went digital but if you can’t die, you can’t dissipate and having a deity as your boss means you can memory wipe. Anyways, enough of the goss, I’m Cindy and I’m you’re Transition Totty. You know, I’m Cindy, Die With Me. What do you know about the next stages?’
Dolores wondered at the outdated sexism inherent in this woman’s demeanour. Maybe no one had bothered to update the attitudes in the Afterlife. Maybe it was seen as a little too ‘Post Death’. She concentrated on the overly made up features. ‘Nothing. Not really.’
‘And you did all that reading. You should have put those dull old books away and had some fun, eh? Okay. So this is how it goes. The girls here will bring you to disassembly where they’ll…’
‘We have to render you completely non-corporeal. When they lifted your essence it’s possible the odd cell, even a molecule might have clung on. Once we’ve removed those you’ll be added to Transition and as you drift through you’ll meet your fellow deceaseds and learn…’
‘What’s transition?’ Dolores was growing more than a little concerned.
Cindy clutched the clipboard to her chest, doing strange pneumatic things to her bosoms. ‘That’s transition.’
Dolores looked where Cindy pointed. Ahead was the outskirts of the forest, just where the river bent left; there was a thick grey soup. It had been a foggy morning. ‘Where? I can’t see it?’
‘There. The Spectral Soup. If you look closely…’
But she didn’t need to say; Dolores could now see the writhing arms and twisting torsos. She gaped in horror.
Cindy squeezed her shoulder. ‘It’s such fun. Everyone is there. You’ll make so many friends as the ferrymen float you to your realm. It’s like your first day of school, all over again.’
Dolores shuddered. ‘Am I going to hell?’
‘Goodness, no. Apart from a few Lepidoptera voting against you, you had everyone wanting you in their realms. Goodness, you’d not want to go to hell. You’ll be left on your own, surrounded by all those fires…’
Dolores turned and held Cindy’s gaze. ‘I want a transfer.’