2. Washing Up In The Afterlife

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Geoff rested his gaze on the collected works of their domestic existence

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Geoff rested his gaze on the collected works of their domestic existence. Initially, they had tried to make the one-room shack feel like a regular house by organising it into multiple, invisibly separated living spaces.

The bed went in the bedroom corner, only kitchen things were allowed in the kitchen quarter, the shoe rack sat near the door. But fitting together all the belongings of two people, and even a minimal amount of furniture, into a small cube, was just too complicated. With the added restriction that each object must be located geographically by domestic purpose, it was impossible.

What worked much better was to allow the shape of things to determine their position. And so while it was awkward to have the shoe rack in the kitchen, on the plus side, Geoff was now able to reach above his head, open the fridge door and retrieve a bottle of dry ginger ale without disturbing the long shape of Naomi, who had found her space snuggled between Geoff's rib cage and the wall.

There still wasn't much room in the shack. Not enough to swing a cat around. Bernie, their cat from before, was still alive, somewhere in the world above, so there was no cat with which to test this observation. And even if Bernie had joined them in the underworld, Naomi would never allow anyone to swing her around. It was such a strange saying. Whoever coined it clearly wasn't a cat person. Imagine the uproar if you tried to bring " enough room to shake a baby in" into common parlance.

 Imagine the uproar if you tried to bring " enough room to shake a baby in" into common parlance

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Geoff moved carefully away and stifled a groan as he stood up. He walked back into the kitchen. He was amazed that back pain could persist even when he didn't have any muscles or nerve endings left with which to feel it. Death and taxes, and back pain -- apparently that was the stuff of eternity.

Geoff wasn't a particularly neat person when he was alive. He developed the habit of washing up as a distraction, to get his mind off whatever worried him. Back then whatever he worried about was mostly death.

The thought of being dead one day had terrified Geoff. Especially as a teenager. Thoughts of becoming nothing, the terror of ceasing to exist, filled his every waking moment. When he turned off the television, and the picture disappeared into a colour spot in the centre of the empty screen he saw a small death of all the colours and sounds that had filled the room only moments before.

As Geoff grew older, he became less scared by the idea of oblivion. When he was in his thirties, he was too busy to think about death, and frankly, by that point, the whole non-existence thing seemed kind of relaxing. At least you wouldn't have to deal with credit card debt and sleep deprivation when you were dead.

The worst thing about existence was the combination of not knowing what happened when it ended, combined with the inevitability of it doing so. It was like being handcuffed into a rollercoaster and then told the end of the ride was a straight drop into the ocean.

Geoff wasn't scared of death anymore. He was a bit uneasy about the World Of Dust, but to be honest, he didn't have the energy to be anxious. Last time around he spent all his time being anxious and it turned out that what had come next was neither a terrible abyss of nothingness or revelatory enlightenment. All his worrying had been both useless and almost wholly divorced from the reality of the afterlife.

Death was something else entirely that, frankly, he hadn't considered. It was boring. He still had no idea what was going on. And he was still drawn to the kitchen habitually to clean.

There wasn't much to wash up. Geoff had only just finished a sink load earlier. But there was still three glasses and a bowl with leftover scrambled eggs hardening in the heat of the fire roof. There was always something to clean. The kitchen sinks of the underworld were an endlessly blossoming garden of teacups, toast crumbs and dried cheese on steak knives.

Geoff began to fill the sink with warm soapy water. He watched the bubbles form over the pile of dirty cutlery. He imagined the knives and forks were a bed of coral and the detergent was sea foam. The grater that fell into the filmy depths was the hull of a ship, cracked open and sinking. He plunged his skeletal hands into the tub, the floating Tupperware was an adventurer's life raft, and Geoff's fingers were the tentacles of an ancient maritime monster. They wrapped around the lone survivor and pulled him to a watery grave.

 They wrapped around the lone survivor and pulled him to a watery grave

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