Friday, 7 November 2008


Just as a side note, this was orignally going to have a stairway to Devon pun somewhere near the mention of the staircase, but it didn't feel right.
I'm not one for writing down my dreams, but I rather loved this idea.
A Morrisons supermarket. The location's not terribly important, but it may be in Wakefield's Ridings shopping centre. Towards the back, behind the checkouts is a single elevator. Nothing unusual about that, it takes shoppers to various levels of a multi storey car park.
All perfectly fine and good.
On a day like any other, a young boy (about 7 or so) decides to wander in and play with the buttons in the lift, being one of those kids that'll press every button in a lift in a skyscraper to see what happens. However, today the buttons are a little unusual. He's a short lad, so he can't normally reach any higher than floor three, but today the lift only has three buttons:
Which would be fine were it not for the fact that there isn't a basement level to the supermarket. Peculiar. He happily prods the button marked 1 and the lift slowly descends in that ponderous way that lifts do, as if they realise you're maybe in a hurry but they'll be damned if they're going to make any kind of effort on YOUR behalf.
20 seconds or so later, the doors open and the kid looks out to a small room, a little more than 2.5 metres on any side. The walls are painted dark brown and the floor is covered in a thin, dark brown carpet. A small, brown sofa sits in the centre and a fish tank is set in one wall, casting a slight blue glow over the sea of dreary brown. It's the only light source in the room and the only thing that's remotely entertaining. A man sat on the sofa looks up at the kid.
"Hey, you're not supposed to be here. You're far too young! I thought you skipped this part of the selection process if you were younger than 13? And where's your escort, anyway?"
The kid watches him for a while. The guy's not making any effort to get up or talk any more than he already has, but he has this wasted, hopeless look about him that suggests he's been here for a long, long time. He also looks like the kind of guy that the kid's mother warned him about talking to, so he goes back in the lift and presses number two.
The lift rumbles slowly down. The kid would be scared or at least nervous, but as a modern child he simply doesn't have the imagination to think of things that aren't highly marketable cartoons so the best he can manage is a vague sense of curiosity (which'll last about 5 minutes, thanks to his attention span). The lift eases to a halt, the doors swing open.
"Good afternoon applicant number 7431296472b. If you'll just hand me your two copies of form 27c, we'll have you on your way to... wait."
A man sat behind a fairly impressive leather topped mahogany desk looks at the kid over the top of a pair of half moon spectacles. His skin is bright red and he's sporting a short goatee beard and a business suit.
"How did you get down here, alone and at your age?"
"Played with the lift."
The man in the suit looks at the open lift doors, thinks for a moment then buries his face in his hands.
"The lift? Did Malice leave the safety catch off of the control panel again?! I told them, I TOLD them this is what would happen if they got cheap outsourced labour from Dis, but no, they wouldn't listen to me. No, only been doing this job for 15 blessed, sodding eons, haven't I..."
The kid isn't listening. He's stepped out of the lift and looking around at the small office, with its impressive desk, plush burgundy carpeting and blood red walls. A small hole next to the desk, about the size of a sheet of A4, flickers as if a fire's burning in it. A digital display on one wall shows a map of the world with a winking light over Denmark and a panel below reading "Now serving 7431296472b, Denmark, natural causes".
"... but you get what you pay for, that's what I always say.
Oh, are you still here? And now the doors have closed. Lovely. Look, just sit down, I'll get the service guys to come over, we'll have you back home shortly."
"What's this place, then?"
"Straight to the point, aren't you boy? This is the final step of the road for departed souls before they reach their eternal rest. You guys die and get escorted by... I think it's Gabriel doing collections this century, but they take you to the heavenly admin facility way upstairs. They check your files, run you through the system and tell you if you're eligible for access to heaven. Nice little place, too, I used to work the call centre next door, taking prayers back when I did my training."
The kid looks around. He sees no computer, he sees no telephones.
"But yeah, this place? This is where you drop off the last of your paperwork if you're found unworthy. 75000 forms signed in triplicate detailing the specific events of your life. They say that if anyone fills it all in correctly then they're deemed to have completed their required allowance of torture, but nobody ever does. Most people go insane and eat the forms at around 2300. So we drop the finished ones into the hole here for processing, then send them through a little door in the back for an eternity of fire, poking, rape and muzak. I think this place used to sell yoghurt and drinks until social services were invented a few years back. The higher ups thought it'd be more appropriate."
"Ha, yes. That was a joke, you see. You know how people say that you can't take it with you when you die? It's true. Give people a stand selling iced lemonade at the mouth of Hell, then watch them when they realise that they're wearing tattered robes with no money in their pockets. I wish we'd have had a camera, I really do."
The kid takes all this in. Last time he'd had a conversation like this was when he'd eaten 12 packets of Space Raiders before bed.
"What's on 1?"
"1? Oh, upstairs. That's Limbo. There's countless other rooms like that, but they're where you go when you're filling out your forms or when there's a bug in the heavenly system and they can't process you. I think there's a handful of people who they forgot about after fixing the servers, though. They do a quick check of the system every couple of millenia for stragglers..."
A door behind the kid opens up and the lift returns, only now there's a red skinned man stood inside with blue janitor overalls, a mop and a knowing grin.
"Come on lad, let's 'ave you out of 'ere."
The kid wanders back in. This place isn't too interesting, anyway.
The service demon hits the button for Limbo, waves at the infernal administrator (now talking heatedly ino his desk phone) and they ascend. As the doors are about to open, he hits a button with a horned finger and they stay jammed shut.
"'ey, lad. Want to see something fun?"
The kid nods. At least this guy seems more entertaining.
The janitor reaches out and holds down button 1, then presses 2. A third button, outlined in fire appears at the bottom of the row.
"Ever wondered if there's owt below Hell? That's the dark lord's pers'nal recreation room. Always wondered what 'e does to get 'is kicks, but he's got some fancy 'lectronic security locks or summat. I swear I can 'ear disco music from in there."
He lets go of the buttons and the door opens up at Limbo. With a cheery "'ey up Dave, just passin' through" to the figure on the sofa, he hits G on the panel then gives it a couple of thumps with some unidentifiable tool on his belt. The buttons melt into the panel and return to their normal, every day positions above G.
As they reach the floor where Morrisons is, he jams the doors shut again.
"Right lad, this is your floor. Don't ever tell nobody about this place, though, or we'll have the lift filled with satanist weirdos. 'tis the only lift downstairs that we've got, an' all, so there's a fair bit of traffic comes through 'ere, the only other option's the staircase in Moscow and the less said about the state of THAT bloody thing the better."
The kid looks at the lift for a moment.
"So if this is afterlife stuff, can't you just magic them down? Me RE teacher said God does stuff like that all the time. Or, like, shove 'em in a hole or something?"
"HA, magic? 'ere, lad, if you could only see how much paperwork needs to be done before you can pull off a miracle, you'd pee yer pants right 'ere. That's why they 'appen so much in t' old testament. We didn't 'ave auditors back then. We can't just build an 'ole, either, we need to get people back up 'ere sometimes. Like... reality TV, ever see that? That's one of ours, that is. Now go on you little bugger, I'll be seein' you soon."
The door opens, the kid steps out. A pot noodle and 4 hours of TV later, he remembers nothing.

No comments: