by Felix Alexander
Robert had a heart attack one day, and died. A week later, his friends and family and workmates and colleagues went to the local funeral parlor, and his wife Jan, his sister Aloïse and Mark his best friend since childhood spoke: They reflected on his life and his achievements, his concern for his friends and family, and how we was such a great and kind guy. Aloïse said “… and I know you’re in a better place now, and we’ll see each other again”. He would’ve hated that, but everyone sympathised.
After a while, Robert woke up. Aloïse was right: they did see each other again, because she’d just woken up too. They were confused. Neither knew where they were, or how they’d got here. Aloïse, in particular, remembered well the sixteen years after her brother’s heart attack and death, and how lonely she’d been. She’d missed her big brother. They agreed it was odd. Aloïse was thirsty, and Robert needed the loo, so they went off to fulfil their needs.
Sixteen years later, they saw each other again. The government had collapsed. The Queen and the Governor-General and the Prime Minister were gone—simply missing, there wasn’t even a trace of them—but dozens of people were calling themselves such, or the King too. So they’d decided to just have an election. But there’d been dozens of Electoral Commission heads too, and more besides who thought there was some other process.
Meanwhile, the police had been confused into inaction too, and petty thieves became gang leaders while concerned citizens became vigilantes. Both became warlords and the constitution stopped mattering anyway.
They were walking through the sewers, because they were safe from warlord henchmen. They saw each other, but she wanted to spew, and he was hungry, so they kept going their separate ways.
They saw each other again after another—well, who knows. It could’ve been sixteen trillion years for all the difference it made to anyone. Aloïse had been so depressed she could hardly move. But then, one day, she could. So she jumped off a twenty-storey building: death had to better than this. But she didn’t die when she hit the ground. Her bones shattered and she just became some sort of jelly-person at the bottom of the building. People trampled over her. One of them was Robert.
That wasn’t the last time they saw each other, either. Aloïse’s body healed enough she could move around again, but the pain hadn’t left her. She crawled into a pub. Robert was there, drinking away his sorrows till the booze ran out again. Everyone was. This place was some sort of hell-on-earth.