The Big Deal

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He started by telling them how they would die. Sometimes, he thought that selling deaths was all his job really was.

It was always good to start with the death. That's what the customer was invariably looking for. That's what really sold them.

Having described how his client would die, Quince would then go on in a rather matter-of-fact way to explain other notable features of the life he was hawking: childhood joys and traumas (as well as any exceptional neurosis that would result from them), love affairs, major accidents, famous things they would achieve, and so on. He would then finish off by displaying a rather nice rendering depicting a trans-temporal image of the body to be inhabited, tilting in holographic increments through infancy, childhood, adolescence, and so on until, after ninety degrees, to old age and death.

He would then look at them levelly and ask them: so?

Quince had never lost a client yet.

He had never lost a client. They always said yes. Not a single time in the whole of his existence - although he existed in a place where there was, technically, no time - not one single time had he even had to offer up a second life for perusal. The Poor Souls always snapped up what he had to give them.

Quince used to wonder if these Poor Souls were the only type. Certainly they were the only ones he ever came across. They were so empty and pitiful, these Poor Souls, these clients of his, so light. Of course, there was no sight here, just like there was no smell, taste, sound, warmth, cold, or anything else at all, at all, not even any time. And yet, were he asked to describe the Poor Souls, Quince would not have been at a loss for so much as a moment. They were symmetrical without having a shape. They were luminescent without having form or light. They were humble without having a self to humble. But, above all, they floated. Above all, they were light.

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It came to him one day, as a revelation, that they were Poor Souls not because they were to be pitied, but rather because they were not rich. The Rich Souls - if they actually existed - never came to him. His job was to provide the Poor Souls with a means of gaining weight - he assigned them a life in which they might be forged into something with shape and purpose. Existence here was not a life-affirming experience. Only life was one of those.

This was a typical example of Quince's work:

'Hello,' he would say, his awareness lightly skimming the life he was about to offer to his newest client.

'Hello,' would come the reply, a faint tepid breath.

'Well, how can I help you today?'

'Existence, please'

'Oh, existence is it? Jolly good, jolly good! Well, we have this rather splendid life just in, let me see, I put it down here a moment ago ... Ah yes! Now, what have we here ...'

He would then go through the motions, acting as if he were perusing the life for the first time.

'Yes, this one's a real winner,' he might exclaim, 'Real first class death. That's what you should look for in a life, you know, a real top-of-the-range death.'

'Really?' the Poor Soul would whisper.

'Oh, absolutely, no question!' Quince would reply with feeling, 'Very character forming event in your average life, death. Very important.'

Here he would lean forward - even though there was no space here, he would lean forward - and try and intimate himself with the (usually slightly bewildered) Poor Soul.

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