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By RavenBlack, 12th September 2001.
Raven   ...And Then You Die

Life's a Bureaucracy, and Then You Die

A white room. The walls seeming to be the source of light.
Arrays of people, all dressed in the same glowing shade of white.
Somehow, their hair looks the same, no matter what colour it is.
All seated in the grid of glowing white plastic chairs.
In their white hands (even the darkest of skin looks glowing white, here), white papers and white pens. Glowing.

The room is silent, apart from very quiet soothing harp music emanating from all around, and the scratching of pens.

Every ten minutes or so, someone gets up, sets their pen and clipboard down, and leaves through a door at the far side. The queue to enter the room becomes one person shorter, as the leaver's seat is taken.

Finally, it becomes my turn. It seems I have waited for an eternity. I take my sheaf of papers, clip them to the clipboard, and sit. I stare in awe at the form. Two hundred sheets, in the tiniest of print.

Previous names, this life:
Names in last five lives:

How am I supposed to know that? I don't have my previous-lives notes here with me, and I can't remember all that stuff! None of the people around me seem to be having any trouble.

Occupation: (Title, address, date start, date end, contact)
Last five occupations: (Title, address, date start, date end, contact)

I'm supposed to fit whole addresses into these tiny boxes? I can't even fit an American-style two-line-address in there, and two of those jobs were in villages in England. I don't remember another two.

Occupation at time of death in last five previous lives:
Last five occupations in each of last five previous lives:

I come close to screaming, restrained only by the combination of the silence of those around me, and the harp music... It's soothing for now, but if I'm here much longer I'm sure it will start to grate.

Father's name:
Mother's name:
Mother's maiden name:
Father's previous names:
Mother's previous names:
Father's name in last five lives:
Mother's name in last five lives:
Father's previous names in each of last five lives:
Mother's previous names in each of last five lives:
Father's Father's name:
Father's Mother's name:
Father's Mother's maiden name:
Father's Father's previous name:

The form goes on, through to previous names in each of the last five lives of each of my four grandparents, in each of my last five lives. I can barely even remember my own grandparent's names. I leave the entries blank, sigh, and continue down the page.

Date of birth:
Date of birth in five previous lives:
Father's date of birth:
Father's date of birth in each of your five previous lives:
Father's date of birth in each of his five previous lives, for each of your five previous lives:

I see where this line is going, and I skip down to the end of the thread. I'm nearly two-thirds of the way down the first page out of 200 pages of the form, now, having neglected to write anything in for over nine-tenths of it, and my eye is drawn to the even smaller print at the bottom of the page.

Submission fee for this page: 500 Hail Marys.

My eyes narrow, and I flicker through the 200 pages of the form. At the bottom of each page is a similar fee, sometimes extending into the thousands - on one page it's 20000.

At the bottom of the final page, these words burnt into my retina:


An illegibly blurred address followed.

Almost hypnotically, I start to recall my previous lives. Something had triggered the memory. I remember I once went through the immigration process for America.

This is nearly as bad.

I can't afford the Marys. Back to the index.

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