“Mr. Richards?” the tall, thin figure coughs gently into his hand, waiting for his latest client to notice him. Normally he would have waited, after all, dying was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, he had glanced at Lenny Richards file before he had arrived and knew he was in for a long haul. Damn agnostics.
Lenny turns from his body, finding himself strangely calm. Even the thought of his porn collection being found no longer made him sweat. Of course, it might have to do with the greater embarrassment of how he died. Losing your balance while putting on your underwear in the morning and braining yourself on your bedpost was entirely undignified. At least it was quick. Shaking his head to clear it, Lenny looks at the figure that called him. “A black suit and a black tie? Seriously? I mean, could you be more cliché Death?”
“I am sorry sir but you are mistaken, I am not Death. You may call me Colum. I am one of his Envoys,” Colum steps forward, offering his hand to shake. Inside, he completely agreed with Lenny but the last update to the uniform regulations had been forty years ago. At least Colum thought, he looked good in a suit.
“Sorry, sorry,” Lenny shakes Colum’s hand and frowns. “So you’re Death’s Envoy? Shit, are you a Demon? Am I going to Hell?”
“I am not a Demon. I am an Envoy. Why would you…” Colum grimaces, reaching up and touching his face. “The redness Mr. Richards is a sunburn. I just came back from my annual holiday.”
“Oh…” Colum stops, glancing back at where his body was and blinking as he realises that his apartment had slowly receded while they were talking. The pair of them had started floating upwards, the Earth diminishing beneath their feet. Enraptured by the view, Colum stays silent before another throat clearance makes him look back to Lenny. “Sorry. I hated flying when I was, you know, but that was cool.”
“Yes, very much so. Shall we get started?” Colum gestures and a seat appears for Colum alongside a table, chocolate chip cookies and a pint of beer.
“Oh wow, are those…” Lenny hurries over, the smell of the cookies tickling his memories. He grabs one, stuffing it into his mouth and then talking around the mouthful. “These are my mother’s! I haven’t had these in years. How did you…?”
“It was in your file,” Colum says, taking a seat opposite Lenny. As he does so, reality flickers and they sit in a bare white room, the majestic view of the Earth gone. “These were made and stored for your eventual death.”
“That’s just like her,” Lenny says and pauses, hanging his head for a moment as the familiar feeling of loss rushes through him. Like his other feelings, it seems slightly muted now that he was dead. “I guess we should start. Am I being sent to Heaven or Hell? Or am I reincarnating?”
“That Mr. Richards is up to you. My job is to ensure you are fully satisfied with your after-death experience. Shall we begin?” Colum says, and at Lenny’s nod continues. “It says here you were brought up Church of England by your mother but your father was Buddhist. Is that correct?”
“Mmmhmmm,” Lenny replies, his mouth stuffed with the cookies.
Colum manfully ignores the breach in etiquette as he continues, “Well then, we shall begin with them.” A snap of his fingers and suddenly a pair of new beings are in the room at either end of the table.
On one side is a tall, muscled, expertly coifed and fashionably dressed black man. Above the man’s head a golden halo floats while a pair of angel wings flare out behind him, the feathers on the wings glistening even in the white of the room. On the other side of the table, a short, flat-chested young woman appears, looking no older than sixteen with her blonde hair in pigtails and dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform. A cute, button nose and a pair of glasses complete the ensemble. Even without his body’s hormones kicking into overdrive, Lenny finds himself staring.
“Hey! That’s cheating. Colum!” the angel protests, pointing at the lady across from him.
“Bel…” Colum says exasperatedly and Bel sticks her tongue out at the pair before flickering. In a moment, the Catholic schoolgirl fantasy of Lenny’s dreams is gone, replaced by a tall, red succubus in biker leathers. Lenny deflates, barely even casting a glance at the preening and voluptuous redhead.
“Now then, Lenny. This is Jezebel and Sariel, they’re here to pitch Hell and Heaven to you,” Colum says before holding a coin out. “Would you care to flip?”
“To see who pitches first of course,” Colum replies.
“Uhh… you can do it,” Lenny says, looking between the pair again. The two seem perfectly content to sit across each other, waiting while Colum flips the coin and catches it. As Colum removes his hand, a crossed pair of pitchforks is shown. “Hell it is.”
“Yes!” sticking her tongue out again at her rival, Jezebel stands up and slinks over to sit on the table next to Lenny. “Right then Lenny, come join us. You know how it goes, Heaven might have Mozart but we’ve got all the best rockers. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life listening to people play on the harp do you?”
“Uhh…” Lenny edges away from Bel further, smiling wanly at the Demon. “I’m not, you know, partial to being, umm… tortured.”
“Aaarrrgggh!” Bel growls while Sariel smiles slightly. “That’s just mud-slinging. We don’t torture anyone in Hell. Promise!”
“You tell him!” she points to Sariel who keeps his mouth shut. “Lenny my dear, why don’t you ask our dear Sariel the truth. He’s an Angel right? He won’t lie to you. Will you?” The last is said with a glare at the black Angel who grins.
“So ummm… is she telling the truth?”
“No,” Sariel replies instantly and Lenny backs further into the chair.
Bel frowns at Sariel’s pronouncements before her eyes widen. “Oooh! You rules lawyer! Ask him if I was lying about the torturing part.”
“Uhh….” Lenny says again, so far off his chair that he’s almost on the ground.
“Sariel, please answer the questions truthfully,” Colum says. “Otherwise we’ll be here the whole week.”
“Oh, very well,” Sariel pouts and then answers. “She wasn’t lying about the torture. No one tortures people, not Heaven or Hell anyway. Well, okay, maybe if you ask really nicely but it’s all consensual. I mean, some of us do like our sex to be a little edgier, you know darling?”
“TMI! TMI! TMI!” Bel says, putting fingers in her ears and chanting that out.
“Oh,” Lenny sits there, staring at Sariel who just blew his mind. Colum just sighs, putting his head in his hands. Why did it have to be these two?