A man with a naked mole rat of a head was shaking Frank’s hand.
“Welcome,” he said. He had a clipboard tucked under one arm.
Frank looked around. A great expanse of nothing looked back from all directions. Frank pulled his hand away. He frowned.
“Welcome to what?”
The hairless man looked at Frank like a student who forgot to study. “Death?” he managed.
Frank rubbed his hands together. “Uh-huh.”
“Sorry, man, I’m just here to assign you your job, so, uh, let’s go.”
The man turned and began walking away. Frank walked slowly after him.
“What the hell, exactly, are you talking about?” Frank managed, after a minute.
“A lot of work to be done,” the man called back to him. A split in the nothingness opened in front of them and they walked through. Frank and the man stood in a park. People mulled about with clipboards, making notes with short black pencils.
“This is you.” The man told Frank.
“Your job is, it seems,” the man looked down at the clipboard, “counting the number of duck feathers on that family of ducks over there.”
“Excuse me?” Frank said.
“Those ducks, over there. You need to count how many feathers they have individually, then, as a group.”
Frank looked hard at the man. “Bullshit,” he decided.
“Charlie!” The man called out, ignoring Frank’s remark. Frank looked up in time to see a large hairy man crouched over a patch of dirt straighten up and jog over.
“What can I do for you Mr. Potato head?” Charlie asked, smiling. The hairless man glared at him. He shoved the clipboard into Charlie’s hands. “Why don’t you explain to Frank here how things work, cheers.”
Then, the man stepped sideways and was gone. Charlie looked at the clipboard in his hand.
“Duck feathers huh? Lucky you.”
Frank crossed his arms. “What is this nonsense?”
Charlie shrugged. “Omniscience.”
“Omniscience, you know, knowing everything.”
“I know what omniscience is. What does that have to do with this?”
Charlie shrugged, “well, it seems that we collect data, for, you know, God? I guess. I don’t really understand it to be honest.”
“Well, shit on that, nice to meet you, but I’m leaving,” Frank declared, starting to walk.
Charlie caught him up. “Wouldn’t do that.”
“Why is that?” Frank asked.
“Well, you’ll just get reassigned. I walked away from my first job and they had me categorizing different levels of dark in musty old cellars for a year. And that’s not the worst of it. I met a guy who spent three years counting all the hemorrhoids in New York. Now that, my friend, is hell.”
“If that is hell, what is this then?”
Charlie shrugged. “Something to do? It’s not awful. We get breaks and no one really seems to care how long a job takes; god existing outside of time and all that, seriously, if you fight it, you’ll regret it. And sometimes you can even make requests, if you’re working hard.”
Frank stopped walking. He looked around. The people carrying clipboards seemed happy enough.
“What sort of requests”
Charlie shrugged. “Better jobs. Categorizing brands of strawberry ice cream, or counting nipples at a fashion show, maybe. Or, I don’t know–”
“Is everyone doing this, like, everyone who has ever died?”
Charlie shrugged. “As far as I can tell. Met a guy in a cellar in Bosnia counting cracks who claimed to be Julius Caesar. Doubtful, but, maybe.”
“So, if I do this job, could I request being on the same job as a family member?”
Charlie thought about it. “I don’t see why not, that seems to be the game.”
Frank snatched the clipboard from Charlie’s hands.
“Show me the damn ducks.”