Next in Line
rating: +12+x

Next!

I said NEXT! Don't hold up the line!

Alright, what's your case number?

What do you mean you don’t have one? I don't get paid enough for this. Look, this is a busy place, we don’t have time for… Oh. Oh you're serious, aren't you?

Are you my replacement? Where the hell have you been?? You were supposed to be here ages ago. Where did you even come from… No. No. I can tell by that stupid look on your face that you have no idea what I’m talking about. Probably just wandered down here once you finally heard about the assignment. Took your sweet time too, it's not like I'm gonna have several centuries' worth of extra paperwork to catch up on once I get to my actual assignment. Whatever, seeing as you're a few millennia late as it is, we should get started on your initiation training.

As of today you officially work for the Afterlife Reincarnation Court. Or more simply known as the A.R.C. “The A.R.C. is the last hope of preventing a flood of souls in the afterlife”. Corny right? Someone up in Management thought they were being clever. But under the terms of my contract, I'm obligated to say it to all the new transfers. Something like a division motto or whatnot. I think it was originally some bs about easing the process for the recently deceased. I can't really remember anymore.

Lose the funny look. Rolling your eyes like a smartass isn't gonna help you down here. So if you’ve got any complaints about your new position I'd advise you to get them out of the way now. I guarantee bringing it up to any of the souls out there will cause you more problems than it's worth.

And believe me, we get a lot of souls down here. Someone accidentally gets dropped in the wrong spot or manages to sneak away and a delivery ends up one soul short. Courageous heroes who fought to stop a planet-wide civil war and died a martyr's death. Or maybe they had been a nefarious pirate sailing the cosmos, stabbed in the back by one of their crew. Doesn't really matter who they were, we get 'em all down here. Who they were on the mortal plane is utterly meaningless to us. The important thing is to gently remind them that by the time they show up here their corpse has been cold and lifeless for days, stinking up a mess in whatever patch of dirt they were buried in.

Ah, sorry. That might be a tad morbid, but I find most souls react best when confronted with the truth. Keeps the line moving quicker. So keep that in mind. You’re going to have to learn these tricks for yourself if you want to keep your line moving quickly.

But I’m getting a bit off track. Down here in the A.R.C we carry out our duty to pick up stray souls that’ve fallen out of the system and sort them out. The whole death thing is supposed to be a quick affair. They die, Management decides where they end up, and someone delivers the souls to the proper destination. Keeps the void from getting clogged up. But sometimes a soul doesn’t end up where it needs to be.

And that's nothing but a problem for us. Souls that fall out of the system can’t be neatly put back into place. Has to do with the flow of energies as the souls leave the body and its connection to the realm they end up in. I don't really understand the whole process, but Management feels pretty strongly about it. So they have to go through us before they get shipped off again. Your part in all of this is pretty simple: take their case number, file their information, and send them on to go talk to one of the Sovereigns. At that point, your job is basically done. They talk to the judge and their case for why they should be reborn back into the system is reviewed. They get approved, they get reborn. They live, they die and hopefully end up where they're meant to be the second time around. Hoo-ray.

Are you getting all of this newbie? I don't have time to explain all of this again. You are? Good. I get there's a lot to go over, but you'll need to make sure you’ve got a handle on all this. Cause I guarantee you won't have anyone to help you once I leave… Yeah, I'm serious.

Take a look around, notice how long those lines are? Hell, your line has gotten at least 200 souls longer since I started talking to you. Not one of your fellow workers is going to take the time out of attending to their own workload to help out the clueless transfer. Regardless of how many souls come through those doors, it's your duty to process every last one of them… Every… last… one…

Oh! I suppose you'll need a hands-on example, right? Here, I'll process this one, then you'll start handling the rest.

Next in line!

~Where… Where am I?~

Welcome to the Afterlife Reincarnation Court. Please place your hand on the sensor and we’ll get you right on out of here.

~ Afterlife… What? I'm not dead. It's such a sunny day, I was just walking my children home…~

Unfortunately, you most certainly are dead. Standing in the center of a gas main explosion does tend to be quite lethal, I'm afraid. While I'm very sorry for the loss of your mortal form, We’re here to help you. Please sign this form and we’ll get you processed.

~What?! Oh, God! This can't be happening. I-my kids. WHAT HAPPENED TO MY KIDS!~

I'm very sorry for the loss of your mortal form. Your children also passed away in the accident. But I'm happy to say your kids are just fine. They were processed ahead of you. Sign here and head through the first door on your left to see them. I’m sure they’re ready to see you again.

~My kids. My dear sweet children. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry…~

Please, sign the form and you can go to see them. They’re waiting for you, you know? Don’t you want to see them again?

~ Yes…my kids. They deserve so much better. They’re such beautiful, sweet kids. Please Let me see my kids. I just want to see them again~

Your kids are just fine, and you will be too. I know this is scary, but please, you need to sign your form. The sooner you do, the sooner you and your kids can be together again. I'm certain they miss you. Don’t you want to see them again? Don't you want your kids to see their mother again?

~ You’re right. I… I need to see them~

Right, so that's that. Remember, these souls aren’t as aware as they once were. Basically just a bundle of memories and emotions leftover from their living days. They tend to hyperfocus on the last thing they can remember. In this case, it would be her children. It's important to steer them back on track during your conversation so you can process them quicker. Otherwise, you run the risk of letting them get out of control, and nobody wants to deal with that. Tears and temper tantrums are not conducive to a productive workplace. Especially when it's coming from an immortal soul with nothing but time and a blind obsession on its side.

No, I have no idea where those kids are. At the very least they’ve never come down here to the A.R.C. It was just the quickest way of getting that soul to move along and keep the line flowing. Whatever it takes to get the job done. Oh, don't give me that look. Telling a gentle lie to a soul is far from the worst thing you could do for them. Why make your job harder by dealing with an emotional wreck of a recently deceased soul if you don't have to. Besides, getting approved for reincarnation is a good thing. If they happen to think they’ll be reunited with loved ones in the meantime, then it's all the better.

Now, policy says I have to answer any questions you have before you start, and then I'm finally allowed to leave. So c’mon, If you’ve got any more self-righteous objections or need some last-minute pointers on how to get the job done, now's the time.

“What happens if a soul doesn't get approved?” Is that really what you want to ask me? Why? It's not like knowing would help you in any meaningful way. Can't just take it up to Management and complain about it. And it’s certainly not going to help you move those souls through your line any quicker. Besides, if that information ever got out we’d be dealing with panic, rioting even. And that's not the kind of paperwork I feel like doing…

Actually, it wouldn't really be my problem anymore, would it? I'm being transferred out, so if anything happened it’d be your ass on the line, not mine…

The technical term is redundant assets. You see, there's no point for souls to be forced through the reincarnation cycle if there's no benefit in it for Management. So whenever a soul doesn’t get approved, it gets terminated. Spooky right? Ah, don't worry about it, it's nowhere near as violent as you're probably picturing. Terminated souls just end up being peacefully ejected into the cold, dark oblivion of the void to spend the rest of eternity conveniently out of sight…

Mmm, on second thought that is pretty scary, isn't it?

Oh, don't give me that. There's no point in trying to feel bad for any of them. Just gets in the way of the job. The approval process is almost instant, they aren't even aware of what happened to them until it's already over. Every last one of them has their own sob story they're gonna try to sell you. “ I just want to be with my kids again”. or “I’m too scared to go on.” Every last one of them has some reason they need to be reborn. And IT. NEVER. STOPS.

After a few million go by, all the anguished wails of those specters just start to blur together. You will never get those sights or sounds out of your head. And it doesn't even get easier to deal with overtime. You barely have time to process one soul before you’re dealing with another. You just keep sorting through them and eventually, you just forget to care.

The only solace in knowing what happens to them is you get to take comfort in the fact that regardless of where they end up, you’ll never have to deal with them again. Maybe the one soul you just comforted: assured that everything will be fine and prepared for a brand new life- is floating in the inky reaches of the void, cursing your existence for the rest of eternity. You’ll never know. Never have to feel their fear again as they wait in front of your desk. Never have to listen to their begging again.

Not as honorable a job as you were expecting newbie?

Don’t you get it yet? At the end of the day, this is the job, and the job is all that matters. Without us, those souls would simply wander the afterlife. Do you have any idea what a logistical nightmare that would be! Things are backed up far enough without them all wandering aimlessly across the planes wherever they damn well please. And what if they ever got back to the mortal realms? Who knows what mayhem that would cause? Is that what you want? Because we’re the only thing stopping that from happening! We’re the only ones keeping this whole place together! US! I’ve sat in that chair for 18 thousand years, processed countless numbers of those damn souls because no one else will. You can denounce my methods as cruel or heartless all you want, but I’ve just been doing MY JOB! I…

I…

I just don't know.

Things were never meant to be like this.

We were supposed to be here to help them, not whatever it is we’re doing now.

We were put down here to guide the souls that lost their way, to give them a second chance. And we were happy to do it. We were honored to be fulfilling such an important role in Managements system. Sorting through a few souls is one thing. But we’ve been getting an insane infux of souls in recent years. It’s just not right. Something in the system is clearly broken, but we can't do anything about it. We’re stuck to these desks so there's no chance to leave and fix things. Any questions we ask are outright ignored. We’re just told to work through it without any explanation for what's wrong. I don't know why Management hasn’t come down here to fix this yet. We’ve been begging for years to get some help to fix this mess. Why is it all taking so long? Don't they care that their own system is crumbling?

But I guess it's not my problem. Not anymore. I've done my best to keep this place together, not that it counted for much. Now you're the one officially on the job. Maybe you’ll get some answers one of these days, maybe someone will finally come and fix things. But I doubt it…

Good luck on your shift newbie. Remember, it only feels like an eternity because it is.

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