No Vacancy: Part Two
“Yes, you’re dead. Welcome to Central Processing. Please wait for your number to be called”
I woke up and saw the large, butcher paper banner.
It was hand-written in heavy, black marker. Except for the message, it wouldn’t have been out of place at my granddaughter’s high school pep rallies.
In my right hand, I had a paper slip with the numbers “A0F35B1 - Francine”
I was sitting in a grey, plastic folding chair. In the third row of a waiting room. Fluorescent lights filled the space. It felt sterile, bland.
Twenty or so others sat around me. But we were all at a distance. Maybe six feet apart.
I heard papers getting stamped. The ding of a computerized bell. A distant, muffled voice through a speaker. The low humdrum of a television in the background.
The front of the room was lined with plexiglass booths. A worker sat in each one. Some of them were speaking with people through a microphone and speaker.
Is it true? The last thing I remember was lying in bed. My daughter Cheryl was holding my hand. Tears were dripping down her cheek. Then it all faded.
I must have died in my sleep. No pain.
I shook my head and sighed. I accepted my fate. And looked forward to the afterlife.
Ding! “Now serving: A0F35B1. Please proceed to Window H” I looked at my paper slip again. That’s me. I rose from my seat, eyed the booth labeled H and made my way over.
It felt good to be walking again. I don’t think I’d been so light on my feet in the last five years. I arrived at Window H. The attendant was a woman in her fifties, and she had a professional smile on her face.
I nervously smiled back and greeted her “Hello there! So this really is the afterlife?”
“Yes ma’am, it is. Can you do me a favor and look into the retina scanner please?” the woman replied politely.
I obliged and put my face up to the scanner. It made some whirring sounds. And then gave out a chime.
“Francine Pollyanne D’Angelo, is that right?”
“That’s me. What happens now?”
“Well for you, you’ve lived a good life. You’ve volunteered with your church, you gave to charity, you shared with neighbors and you smiled at babies. I’ll get you your paperwork and… “
Her phone started ringing. And so did the phones of all other booths.
“Give me a second, this phone never rings” the attendant picks up the phone.
“Hello … uh huh…. Well what about the … I see …” she speaks into the receiver. “OK, thanks for letting us know.” And she hung up. And the phones from all the other booths are hung up as well.
“So you were saying about the paperwork?”
“Well Francine, there’s been a change in plans. We’ve run out of space. No one else gets through unfortunately.” The attendant started putting loose papers in folders.
I stared at her. “What?”
“I’m sure it’ll be figured out soon enough. In the meantime, I’m afraid we will have to send you back to Earth” She shut down her computer.
“That’s not so bad is it? You’ll get to spend more time with your friends and family” The attendant stood up and pulled down a screen to cover the booth.
“But I’ve been waiting to get into heaven for so long”
The attendant bent down to meet my eyes again, “Don’t worry. Give it ten years at most. I’m sure it’ll have itself sorted by then. Just don’t go doing bad deeds. Enjoy!” She turned the lights off in her booth and exited through the back.
I was deflated. I had been so close to the afterlife and now I’m going back to earth.
An announcement came over the intercom, “Due to technical difficulty, there is no more space in the afterlife. Please follow the lighted path to the exits. Your earthly body awaits.”
The fluorescent lights went out. The three sets of double doors appeared in the back of the room with large neon signs above them “EXIT”. The doors opened outward, and blinding light shone from outside.
I shielded my eyes, followed an illuminated pathway on the floor, and walked toward an exit.
I stepped out and awaited my fate.