The Tuesday Tales feature continues with a new story this week. The previous story was Shadow of the Beast To read the story, click on each link: Shadow of the Beast Part 1 | Shadow of the Beast Part 2 | Shadow of the Beast Part 3
This story is a a departure from fantasy for me and into a bit of science fiction where the science is more setting and the fiction is nuanced with it. Click this link to read Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
by P. H. Solomon
Light cracked the darkness open like a shell. Jake ceased floating.
The soothing voice beckoned. “Archangel Lassiter, it is time.”
The cracks flashed wider. Jake gasped. “How long?” He shivered. He squinted and darkness departed.
“Please exit your container when you are able. Welcome aboard The Afterlife.”
His coffin tilted as the lid slid open. Cool air embraced Jake. He fumbled for a grip to exit his long entombment. “How many years?”
Silence fed him no answer.
He stumbled out of confinement. Jake sunk on weak legs to the floor and trembled in the light shining through the doorway.
Strength returned to his limbs. The light beckoned him from the cool, dark chamber and the stasis container. Jake stepped into the light and followed its guidance once more. He passed multiple bulkheads like door-frames until he halted at pearl-colored doors that wouldn’t open.
“They’re locked until the interview is completed.”
Jake jumped at the voice.
To his right was a recess where a much older man sat at a desk. “Welcome to The Afterlife. I’m Pete. And you are Jake if the stasis barge’s records are correct.”
Jake arched one eyebrow and glanced at the pearl doors. “Really? That’s your name?”
Pete chuckled. “I suppose someone assigned me here as a joke.” He motioned Jake to a chair.
“Why is everything based on such clichés?” Jake sat across from Pete.
“Well, when the EES came into being there was no more need for mortuaries. The industry logically transformed into the service and brought their sensibilities along. May I see your card?” Pete held out his hand.
Jake frowned. Card? He’d left everything behind.
“It’s just in your pocket.”
“Oh, yes.” He handed it over.
Pete fed the ID into a slot on the desk and information was projected before him. “An Archangel, I see. From previous service.”
Jake cleared his throat. “Yes. Is everyone so thirsty when they arrive?”
“Uh, what? Oh, yes. It’s from the vitrifaction. You’ve been re-hydrated but you’ll need more fluids. First the oath, and then your prepared quarters with proper refreshments and clothing.” His eyes flicked to hair that fell into Jake’s eyes. “And a haircut. We’ll send a stylist if you prefer that to the auto-cutter provided.
“Uh, the stylist.” Better than closed spaces. He’d been in one long enough. Jake shivered.
Pete tapped in the request. “Good, then. Are you ready for the oath? Any questions?”
Jake grunted. “I”m ready.”
“Please stand. Archangel, do you now swear to serve humanity in the Earth Exploration Service until the end of your days, leaving behind all former attachments, ranks, privileges, property and reputation?” Pete motioned to Jake’s hand.
“Oh, yes.” He raised his hand. “I so swear.” Like there was another choice or anywhere to go. “How long was I in stasis?”
Pete offered the ID back. “Thirty years. Been here ten, myself.” The attendant pointed over Jake’s shoulder. “Through those doors your ID begins working. It will indicate the way to your quarters. Good luck to you, Archangel.”
He nodded, stood and stepped over the thin line where the motorized, pearl-colored doors ran on tracks. Jake left behind all that went with his name and accepted what came with his new title.
Thanks for reading today. For more information about my writing, please see the page about my epic fantasy series, The Bow of Hart Saga, which includes two award-winning books.
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