What's to expect when falling from a 17 story building? Other than the obvious splatter on the concrete, there's not much else. You're dead, and that's that. For most. Now, from my experience- it can work a little differently. And my experience?
Darkness. Eternal darkness that went as far as the eye can see. It was so thick it was practically suffocating. Other then that, I saw a door. No, it wasn't special- it wasn't ten feet tall, suppressed the cries of the innocent or made of solid gold. It was just a door. A white door with a brass handle and a nameplate at eye level. Reading "P-000." The most average looking door, connected to nothing but darkness. No wall, no floor, it was all a black vacuum of emptiness. This definitely broke some law of physics, but from where I stand it looks like that wouldn't even matter. I walked up to the door, each step felt somewhat like I was walking on cotton, my feet threatening to sink. Finally, my hand was on the door knob, ready to reveal whatever was behind. As I said before, I had no expectations for what it could be. Schroeder's Cat in a way. All possibilities are endless until the door's opened. I could go on about the metaphors and meaning of life- but I'm getting impatient.
The knob turned smoothly, the door opened with a creak to reveal... A waiting room, straight out of a doctor's office. The floor was gray speckled tile. Throw rugs were placed near entries, seating, and the singular reception desk. The wallpaper was strikingly white with green trim. Chairs were arranged neatly around the walls, the seats were faded pink nylon. Every three seats and at the corners were wooden magazine racks with old vogue and gossip issues. A cheap tv was also in the corner, the screen engulfed with static. There was a faint scent of disinfectant that tickled the nose. It was surreal, it looked right- but at the same time it felt off.
Five people also occupied the space. An old man with hollow eyes was nodding off in his seat, he wore a tweed coat over a wool sweater and khakis. There was a young woman in her twenties or so. Her face looked like a porcelain doll's, pale and smooth without single imperfection. Her dark brown hair was pulled into a loose bun. Brown eyes full of worry as she thoughtlessly played with the string of pearls that adorned her neck. Next were two children, a little boy with messy blonde hair and blue eyes. And a girl slightly older with wild brown curls and hazel eyes. They were putting together a puzzle, and conversing. I spotted the receptionist filing her nails, and walked over.
"Um, excuse me?"
She looked up, eyes bored and sullen. "Can I help you?" Her voice was breathy and monotone, like she was reciting a script. "I, um-" What was I supposed to even say? I can't exactly tell her I was just lost in the vacuum of space and stumbled upon the door. She stared expectantly, fingers drumming into the desk in impatience. "Ah, can you tell me where exactly I am?" I coughed into my hand, evading the woman's eyes. She spun in her chair to a computer,
She said nothing more, and punched it into the computer key by key. The individual clicks were grating, and I am beyond thankful I have a short name. She scrolled through the results, icy eyes focused on the screen and lips pursed. "Jillian Aileen Coilfer, born January six, death..." She paused, eyes narrowed.
"Is everything ok?"
My voice wavered slightly, whatever she found it did not look like good news. She removed her glasses. The wrinkles in her face were much more pronounced.
"Ma'am, is everything ok?"
"Jillian Coilfer, you weren't supposed to be dead for another sixty years!"
All other questions I had before fled my mind. 'Dead, I'm dead? Well that explains a lot… Kinda?' The receptionist rose abruptly from her seat. Her hand gently pressing into the small of my back forcing me to follow her. She sidestepped to another door next to her office, fumbling to unlock it. "Grimm's office is the seventh room to the left, he'll sort this out." With that she motioned me inside and slammed the door behind me. The lights were dim, and not much furniture adorned this place. Not much of anything actually. It felt like you were walking to the principles office after you got into trouble. Still, stagnant-I half expected a bomb to go off to relive the tension. I did not like this, not one bit. Everything was, aggravated. I wanted to go back outside in the waiting room. But, if I wanted answers, this 'Grim' was my best shot. I counted each door, 1-2-3 and so on. "Grimm R. Afterlife Placement and Agency" seventh door on the left hand side of the hall, just as she said.
The door opened smoothly to a neat office. The walls were bleak and plain, it smelled like incense and faintly of lavender. A wood work desk with a stack of paperwork, an open laptop, and a mug that said "I have 99 problems but life 'aint one." Sitting was a man looking over a manila folder. The man was pretty average, had the whole overworked office grunt aesthetic down to a tee. I cleared my throat to try and catch his attention. His eyes swept up, briefly glancing at the folder, before returning to meet my exasperated gaze.
"Ah, you must be Jill," His voice was surprisingly cheerful, it had a very playful and bubbly tone to it. "Al told me you were coming in," He stood up and opened a file cabinet behind him, "Of course, I wasn't expecting you this soon." He chuckled lightly, trying to lessen the whole "Holy shit I'm dead and whatever" tension. Well, if that's even a thing. I didn't respond, just stared blankly, dismissive of any small talk he was trying to engage in. Instead, I tried to decide what should I ask him first. I've never been a beat around the bush sorta person, you need to either get to the point or shut up.
"So... How's life- um, Death?" Ok, this is pathetic. I wasn't sure if I should try to lay it straight or go along with this. I feel a twinge of pity for him, he was just trying to have a conversation. Still, this is the Grimm Reaper. The lord of death. (Yes, I can put two and two together, this was the big guy with the scary black robe and scythe, I'm not an idiot-unlike most protagonists)
If he was just going avoid what matters, I might as well get this going somewhere productive.
"Look, let's just start with what we know. I'm dead, but apparently not supposed to be." He nodded in agreement, this was a good start. "You, are supposed to fix that."
He sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. "It's, not that simple." My face fell briefly, if he doesn't know what to do then where do I go? But, wait he's still talking. "I-well-I don't control death," He took a deep breath. "No one does, not even the big guy upstairs. I'm only supposed to guide you to the afterlife." He slid a file towards me. It was plain, only my full name on the upper tab. I flipped through. The first paper was a simple bio. My credentials and physical attributes like blood type, weight, height, etc. The next paper was a timeline. It started from my birth, and each event looked like a near-death experience. Like the time I was three and tried to eat my mom's pills, or that time I was five and went a little too far into the road. Next page, each event from the timeline was written in detail. Every possible outcome was printed in a list. Finally, the pages went blank.
"That right there is your life, every time you were in a threatening situation we had to document it." He fiddled with a pencil, letting it spin between his fingers, as he searched for the right words to say. "Your life is a judgement period, for where you'll eventually end up. The problem is, you haven't had enough time to be judged." I gently placed the folder back onto his desk. "Wait, where's my death? I mean, that is pretty important." Grimm turned to his laptop, and flipped it around. "The records say you fell out a window." He turned the screen towards me, on it was some sort of security footage. I was in my apartment, before I stood up and opened the window and looked outside. Then, the screen went fuzzy, and by the time it cleared; I was falling headfirst.
"Here's the problem, it doesn't look like an accident per say. More like you were pushed." I nodded, unsure exactly of where he was getting at. But I didn't like it.
Grim folded his hands on the desk, allowing the video to keep playing over and over. "There is a system to how we do things around here. A code, we call it fate."
"Fate, like predestination stuff?"
"No, F.A.T.E. Finalized, Afterlife, Terminal, Evaluation. It's a procedure we use to determine everyone's due-date, and where they'll end up afterwards. Everyone from birth has one, and the intermediate is used to judge on whether you're going upstairs or down,"
"But, I died before anyone could tell,"
He nodded solemnly. "Well, kind of. you see, you did die before your due date, but that happens all the time. Usually it's a faulty code or a glitch. Something you would recognize, like a heart attack, a stroke or even a stillborn. Those are mistakes. We can go on pre-existing data for judgement, or we can simply send them back to the living in a new form. Once again, by a system you know as reincarnation."
"Ok, so why can't you do that now?" I'm getting impatient, this isn't making any sense, and I just want a straight answer. Is that too much?!
Grimm cleared his throat, "Jill, we think your death was caused by an outside force, like a spirit. That's why we can't just send you on your way. Normally, yes. You'd would be filling out some waivers and shipped off to the afterlife. But, if my suspicions are correct..."
Grim sighed, and paused the video, right before I fell. Through the distortion, you could see a shadow. He zoomed in closer, and it looked much more like the outline of a person. "You're saying, a ghost pushed me out the window?" I guffawed, is this some kind of joke? Caspar, the not so friendly ghost, pushed me out a window. Just wait until I tell the J-man (or Lucifer, you never know) about this.
"Jill, this is serious. There are rules about causes of death that were established hundreds of thousands of years ago. If something like a demon, or even an angel interfered, that's a first order violation."
I still couldn't wrap my head around this whole spirituality stuff, or even why I should care. I'm already dead, that's done. If the vengeful spirit of my dead goldfish wanted some closure, he got it. Why can't we just move on?
"So, what are you gonna do about it?"
Grimm rubbed his temples, he definitely looked frazzled. "I don't know. Our safest option is to wait this out. We can't send you back with the living, but we can't exactly keep you here..." Grimm pursed his lips, his hands in a steeple position on the desk. "There is a lot of tension between Heaven and Hell right now, worse then it's ever been. there have been petty feuds in the past, but now, I don't know." He paused, "If your death was used as a pressure point, or as a way to ignite war, things are going to get messy. We might actually have an apocalypse." he shot from his seat, and gripped me by the shoulders.
"Jillian, I'm going to ask you something crazy, "-Don't call me that," He ignored me.
"-I'm going to ask you to help me find your killer! If we don't, it will be the end to all life- Do you know how much paperwork that is for me?!"
This man- er, Grimm was desperate. He already looks exhausted, and despite the fact that I could care less about some angelical feud, I couldn't stand to see him like this. Also yeah, death of humanity would be pretty bad.
"It's ok if you... Wait, did you just say you'll do it?" I shrugged, "Yeah, sure. I'm already dead, I don't see what else I have to lose."
I couldn't quite process what happened next, except for the fact that I'm not touching the ground anymore. Grimm swept me off me feet in a hug, muttering 'thank yous' in a million different languages. He finally set me back down, and awkwardly dusted off my shoulders. "So," I started. "We'll leave in... I have no concept of time, whenever you're ready!" Grimm called, as he stepped over his desk and out the door. It shut with a slam, leaving me alone to question just what exactly have I signed myself up for.