He sat in the housing department, waiting. He looked around, a box trying to be a room. He stood up and shook his memories loose. He frowned. There was a reception desk not far. A woman sat there, young. Her face; a placid definition of the word placid.
“Where am I?” Frank asked.
The woman sighed. “The housing department.”
“What am I doing in the housing department?”
“Everyone comes to the housing department first.”
The woman nodded.
Frank didn’t move.
“Can I help you with anything else?”
Frank crossed his arms. “Well, what am I doing at the housing department?”
“What do you normally do at the housing department?”
“Do I look like I’ve been here before?” Frank asked, sardonically.
The woman nodded, “yes.”
Frank didn’t know how to respond, so he stood glaring at the woman. She took no notice and eventually he sat down. A man with a gray suit, yellow name tag and a smile called his name after an hour or so. Frank followed the man into a back office–a box trying to be an office.
“Where am I?” Frank asked the man, not yet sitting.
“The housing department,” the man informed him.
“Oh–piss on this,” Frank said. “Just tell me what is going on.”
The man shrugged. “You don’t seem stupid. You know you’re dead. So, when you move somewhere new, what do you think is the first thing you need?”
Frank glared at him, “answers.”
“Nope,” the man said, “a home. And so, follow me.”
The man, stepping out a door behind his desk, didn’t give Frank much choice. So, Frank followed. It stank like burnt hot-sauce and roadkill.
It was a city. It reminded Frank of New York if buildings could hate themselves. There were people everywhere. Not people–meat; sweating, thick dirty meat. The dirt rained from the dark sky. The man from the housing department smiled.
“Here we are.”
The where they were was a box pretending to be a building. Inside, Frank was led to and dropped off at a door. He was given a key.
“What in hell is going on!” Frank cried, as the man held out his hand for a shake.
“Home,” the man said, and walked off. So, with a key and a door as the only things Frank had at his disposal, he went inside. The room was not even a box, it was a sewer pipe, pretending to be a box, pretending to be a room.
“Hey roomie,” a half-naked man said from the ass-end of the one bed. He was a big man, covered in hair.
Frank closed the door.
“I’m Charlie,” the man said. He stood and walked to Frank. Frank didn’t hold out his hand.
“So is it your job to tell me what’s going on then?”
Charlie laughed. “You’re in The After. Heaven, hell, limbo–depends who you ask.” He let his hand fall.
“So, what do we do?” Frank asked.
Charlie looked around the “room,” he shrugged. “This.”
Frank frowned at the dark walls, stained mattress. Charlie watched his gaze.
“It’s not so bad,” he said. “I grew up in a place much worse than this.”
Frank doubted it.
“How long have you been here?” Frank asked.
Charlie looked up at the ceiling. “A couple years, come on, let’s meet the neighbo–”
“Is everyone here?” Frank interrupted.
Charlie nodded, “as far as anyone can tell. Wait–”
Frank opened the door and stepped out. Charlie followed him out.
“Where are you going?” he called after Frank.
Frank didn’t turn. “To find my damn family,” he called, kicking open the stair-well door.
Charlie sighed. From next door an old woman stepped out, she was completely nude.
“Newbies, am I right?” Charlie said.
The woman spit on the floor, shrugged, and went back inside.
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