Well. Here I am again. Another day, putting boxes filled with various adhesives onto pallets ad nauseum just because I happen to like money. It pays for the essentials; you know, booze, video games, rent, food.
"004’s coming out, ready to have some fun?" my coworker yells from inside the truck. Oh joy! The heaviest box this company stocks. I never knew electrical tape was so heavy until I took this job. I mean, you take one and put it in your hand and it feels like it weighs practically nothing. Multiply practically nothing by 152 though, and you’ve got some fun times ahead of you, to the tune of about 60-70 pounds.
After I finish up my first pallet, I run around it a couple times with the saran wrap. We usually just walk around it a couple times with a small hand wrap until it’s stable enough for the tow motor driver to pick it up and get it all wrapped up proper at another machine. When Dave, our cheerful driver, comes to pick up the pallet, though, he comes in a little too hard, shifting the boxes just enough that the wrap breaks and the whole thing falls over.
Now, normally in this admittedly rare occurrence we would just pick up the boxes and restack the pallet. Unfortunately for me I just happen to be standing in the path of the falling boxes, and as if my luck wasn’t bad enough already they manage to hit me in the neck at full force. As my coworkers rush on over to check if I’m ok, I lament my crushed windpipe. I would have liked to have some cool or at least marginally funny last words, but blrgghargghghg isn’t in the dictionary. My last thoughts before I surrender to the void end up being "I hope my coroner’s not a necrophile."
The first thing I see...wait, see? Didn’t I die? I know that it couldn’t have been a bad dream; how could I have known what having a broken neck and crushed windpipe felt like previously? Plus most of my dreams usually involve some sort of pastry going on an adventure for some reason, and there's nothing of the sort to be seen here. Instead, I’m the latest in line behind a bunch of... forms. That’s the only way I can describe them. It feels like I’m in the middle of one big abstract art gallery, except for two things. The forms move and have either a giant phallus or a giant uterus floating above them. I guess that whole “look like how you were when you died” thing was a giant load of bull. I’m no expert, but these are probably a reflection of their minds.
The eeriest thing about it is nobody seems to be talking to each other. With a crowd this big, there should at least be some awkward small talk. Nothing though. I find out why a bit later, when I turn to the form next to me (this one’s uterus is HUGE! Maybe the size indicates age?) and try to say something. I realize the problem a second later when I remember I don’t have a mouth, so all I seem to be doing is moving... something. Her uterus waggles back as she too seems to be trying to say something. Oh great, as if being dead weren’t bad enough, I just wiggled my jubblies in front of an old woman. The afterlife is off to a fine start.
What feels like forever later I see the iconic (see what I did there?) Saint Peter. Again, I am baffled. Instead of the wise old man with the “book of life” the bible paints him to be, he turns out to be a severe-looking bureaucrat in a business suit with a laptop plopped on a mahogany desk. It seems like he doesn’t consider the lives of the deceased before judging them, just takes a look at a form, looks at the laptop, then points to one of two gates on his left and right with one damning finger. Great, even heaven has gone corporate. Maybe the only difference between heaven and hell these days is differing departments, with the few good souls going to heaven becoming upper management and the vast majority being the crushed peons that make their lavish lifestyles possible...
Eventually I reach the front of the line and my turn comes around. He turns the laptop towards me. My entire life flashes appears on the tiny LCD screen, even the parts I would rather not remember; my birth, my first kiss, memories of my first love, the discovery of the joys of rosie palmer, the few good things I did, every single time I lied or cheated, every bad, tasteless joke I ever made (and that is A LOT of them), the period when I was insane, and finally my last moments.
Wow... that was a pretty bad break. As he turns the laptop back towards himself, I look into the eyes of this arrogant-looking bureaucrat and see... pity. He points his finger to the left. Crap. Ah well, bring it baby! My form “walks” into the gate and I am once again human, sitting on a giant bench that seems to go on forever. There are people all around me on the bench, with eyes squeezed shut and pained expressions on their faces. The guy next to me is whimpering something about waffles. Now that would be an interesting hell! Suddenly, A man in a red business suit appears in a burst of flame and gives me the once-over.
"Oh, you’ll be an interesting one," he purrs. He snaps and a filing cabinet appears in a similar flash of fire. "Now, let’s get you sorted out."
He spends what seems, again, like hours (geez, this is a higher plane of reality and customer service is still slow) sorting through it. He finally selects a file from the middle drawer and with a flourish hands it to me.
"Open it," he commands.
"What happens if I don’t, oh great and powerful one?" I retort, trying my best to look like I wasn’t scared out of my soul.
"Then we wait here,” he says, with a smug expression on his face. "Time doesn’t mean anything to me. You’re not the only being I’m speaking to right now, nor are you the most important." He turns and waves his hand, and a couple hundred more people appear on the bench, before turning back to me. "You’ll get bored and open it eventually. I just like to see the reactions that people have to their own little hells. Customer feedback, you understand."
Being my usual patient self, it’s only a few minutes before I open the file and promptly pass out. When I come to (again), I’m not burning, i’m not being pierced by thousands of demons, there aren’t chains everywhere, Osama Bin Laden isn’t having drinks with Adolf Hitler. It’s just a normal street. I don’t feel the unbearable agony of torture, just... itchy. Why the hell am I so itchy?
Scratching, I look at a street sign. 84d455 57r337. Ok. Leetspeak. Minor annoyance. Probably building up to the big one, letting me get used to the hellish waters. I turn a corner, and suddenly people are all around me. Loud, obnoxious, ignorant-seeming people inanely chattering about what celebrity is screwing who and why this reality show is best and...ARGH! Speech bubbles start appearing over their heads, showing their conversations in text form. Their grammar is atrocious! How can one not know the difference between 'your' and 'you’re'! 'Their', 'there', and 'they’re'! Why is every other letter capitalized? What purpose does that even serve?
I tear my eyes away from their crimes against language to look around at some of the storefronts. Abercrombie and Fitch, H&M, Wal-Mart, even a Super Wal-mart with a Target inside it. In the streets, none of the cars have mufflers, their overloud exhausts joining forces with the banal droning of pedestrians in the relentless assault on my hearing.
It’s at this point that I wish Dante’s Inferno was right. Being subjected to one big, horrible thing would be much better than all these tiny little annoying things. OH PLEASE JUST MAKE IT STOP!