Story Time: OK Charon!

*Thanks, Clicky… /lights up… We should probably mention… /drags… ‘Christmas Death Wish’ and… /streams smoke… ‘Walk I, With You’ as well…*

*Already done? Excellent…*

Happy Halloween, Dear Reader. Today is in fact Sunday 31st October 2021 and I hope you remembered to put your clocks back last night…

*S’okay, Clicky, I did it… /flicks ash… I made sure after reading Leggy’s story…*

… As promised, the latest installment in my Ronageddon series, ‘OK Charon!’, from Underdog Anthology XV is presented for your enjoyment, below…

*******

OK Charon!

by Roo B. Doo

Death was feeling anxious. Until a year ago the Grim Reaper was incapable of feeling anything, but that was before Halloween 2020 when the Devil had given him a front seat to the start of the attempted apocalypse. Since then, Death had developed, if not exactly feelings and emotions, then certainly intuitions. Right now he was intuiting anxiety and he didn’t like it.

“Where is she?” He demanded, pulling his PsiPad from the folds in his robe. He held it out so that Brian, the haughty goose overseeing the God Lobby, could see the on-screen flashing message. “See that? It’s an emergency audience request from God.”

Death squared his shoulders and gave Brian his most menacing death-stare, but to no avail; Brian was not easily intimidated, least not by a homunculus grim reaper, no taller than himself.

Honk!

“You said that ten minutes ago,” Death fumed, “And ten minutes before that.” He casually extended the retractable scythe from his sleeve so that the feathered receptionist could get a good look at the blade and the sparks of electricity that buzzed along its keen edge. “Some of us have work to do.”

Brian hissed and reluctantly pulled the PA microphone on his desk closer to his beak and switched it on.

HONK!!!…ONK!!…Onk!…

The sound reverberated around the vast God Lobby, bouncing off the walls and ricocheting into silence. The swelling sea of souls beneath the elevated position of the reception area seemed to collectively hold its breath for a moment before continuing its low moan.

“There,” Death said, retracting his scythe, “that wasn’t difficult now, was it?”

Brian gave Death a withering look and flapped his wing, indicating that Death should take a seat.

Honk Honk.

“No thank you. Liquids go straight through me,” Death replied drily and sat down. He placed the PsiPad on the seat next to him and drummed his bony digits against the cover. From his island vantage point at the centre of the vast cavern that stretched far beyond the horizon, he watched the tides of souls ebb and flow with hypnotic sway. All was rhythmic movement and soft murmur, dampened by the rolling Mists of Time.

Death attempted to meditate while he waited, inviting calm to flush out his anxiety, but still the phalanges of his skeletal hand beat out a steady tempo. It wasn’t God’s emergency request or even Brian’s truculence that caused Death such disquiet, although neither were particularly helpful. He suddenly had a flashback to the previous year when he’d sat impotently in the front of a London taxi cab, driven by the Devil, listening to the destruction of Famine and Pestilence as War savaged them in the backseat. He’d experienced his first bout of anxiety then and knew the cause of his anxiety now – it was the date; Death was haunted by Halloween.

A deep shadow loomed over him…

***

“I’m sorry, but times have changed and we have to change with them,” Jocasta Darling’s manager informed her from the safe distancing of a computer screen. “If you don’t agree to get vaccinated, you will not be able to work for us any more.”

Although it had been universally accepted that everybody’s lives had significantly changed with the advent of the Rona, the rogue virus that in less than two years had shuttered businesses, relationships and minds worldwide, Jocasta was precisely aware of when change had come to her. It had been back at the beginning of spring, on a cold, bright morning in April, when a chance encounter with her repugnant Member of Parliament had afforded the usually placid Jocasta the opportunity to serve up a piece of her mind. It turned out to be a generous slice, as a cold fury took possession of her. She had let rip, and the recipient had promptly dropped down dead. The experience had changed Jocasta alright.

“But I had the Rona last year, Suzie, you know I did.”

“Yes-”

“I caught it at work.”

“We know-”

“As a consequence, my natural immunity is far superior to anything a vaccine can provide.”

“It’s company policy-”

There was no stopping Jocasta; she was on a roll. “Then do what you have to do, because I refuse to consent. I don’t agree to having my immune system dumbed down by an experimental drug that’s still being tested. And I’m certainly not going to take it just so you can keep your fat salary job.”

“Now, that’s unfair,” the image of Suzie wailed.

“Well, so’s my backside. Deal with it.” Jocasta terminated the zoom call and snapped the lid down on her laptop. Her hands were shaking but her voice was steady. “For God’s sake!”

Tiny fingers plucked at Jocasta’s sleeve, demanding attention. Molly, her daughter, stood next to her in silence, but her eyes were full of questions.

‘Everything is fine. Do not worry,’ Jocasta signed. She got up from the kitchen table and walked over to the sink.

‘Are you sure?’ Molly signed back. ‘You look angry.’

Jocasta sighed as she let the icy flow from the cold water tap beat down upon her wrists. She was angry and she needed to calm down and cool off. She did not relish having to find a new job, not if vaccination against the Rona was to be a prerequisite for future employment, but right now she felt far worse for the residents of Frampton Lodge, the retirement home where she worked.

Jocasta had gotten to know the old folks there as she cleaned their rooms, listening to them tell their stories of past glories, complain about the food or simply wonder when their families would visit. On weekend shifts, she used to take Molly along and the residents simply adored her, especially Mrs Roundtree. In fact Molly and Mrs Roundtree had struck a deal in which lessons in signing were exchanged for reading aloud. Both thrived in the attention given to each other, but especially Molly, who’s speech had developed to such a level that her profound deafness wasn’t so readily apparent when she spoke.

But that was before the Rona and lockdowns had arrived. Now the residents were more like inmates. Where they were previously starved of visitors at the best of times, now no visitors were allowed at all, and on top of that, a shortage of staff meant basic needs at the home were barely being met. Jocasta shuddered when she thought about what lay in store for the old dears, and all because a stupid virus had managed to scare half of the world batshit crazy.

She turned off the tap and dried her hands on a tea-towel before turning to Molly. ‘A little bit but I am mostly sad. Do not worry, it will pass soon enough. Now, should you not be getting ready? It is getting late.’

Molly didn’t move but continued to stare at her mother. ‘We do not have to go.’

‘Of course we do; it is Halloween. We never miss trick or treating.’

Molly didn’t look convinced. ‘I do not want you to get into any trouble.’

‘Me, get into trouble? Never. Besides, it is all arranged. We are going to have a lovely time tonight.’ Jocasta playfully shooed Molly from the kitchen with a flick of the tea-towel, before following her into the hallway. “And we won’t let the bastards grind us down either,” she said over her daughter’s head.

Jocasta flopped down on the front room sofa and switched on the TV whilst she waited for Molly to change into her Halloween outfit. She immediately regretted it when the jowly, grim faced Prime Minister filled the screen. He had all the appearance and gravitas of an obese Wurzel Gummidge.

“Not another bloody press conference,” Jocasta moaned and stabbed the off button on the TV remote. “Begone, you bloviating baboon. And brush your bloody hair.”

She remembered that day in the park and the stricken look on her ex-MP’s face as she berated him, just before he died. Oh yes, if I ever get the Prime Minister alone, Jocasta thought, I won’t hesitate to tell him a thing or two.

***

“Ey up, Chuck, is this seat taken?”

Death glanced around at the rest of the empty chairs in the deserted reception before looking up at the source of the shadow. “Hello, Marge. Be my guest.” he said, picking up his PsiPad.

Humans once believed that babies were delivered by stork, although Death doubted they had anything quite like Marge Gerana in mind. To be certain, she had the long legs, slender neck and stiletto-sharp beak of the order Ciconiiformes, but the stripy stockings, chiffon scarf and pince-nez she wore are not generally found on specimens in the wild. Neither do they carry oversized carpet bags like the one Marge clutched in front of her body, accessorization not making the list of priorities for storks.

“Did you get the emergency alert too?” Marge asked, sitting down and carefully placing the bag by her partially webbed feet. A muffled wail came from within. “Shush now,” she crooned at the bag. “I was – am – in the middle of a delivery. Have you been waiting long?”

“Yes, I’ve been here for 25…No, 26 minutes,” Death replied tersely. Tardiness is not tolerated in the Grim Reaper Service, he thought to himself.

“Oh well, we in Newborn Deliveries can be a tad more flexible than your lot,” Marge said, reading his mind. “Do you know if we’re waiting for anybody else to turn up?”

“I wasn’t aware that I was waiting for you.”

Marge lifted her beak disdainfully. “I am surprised. Didn’t you read the She-mail that came with the alert?”

Death hadn’t; he rarely ventured into his inbox after the first foray, when he had balked at the sheer quantity of spectral spam he was expected to wade through. He switched on his PsiPad and tapped the winged envelope icon. He scrolled down the list until he found a She-mail entitled ‘DEATHCON ONE’, opened it, and read:

Would you be so kind as to make your way to the God Lobby immediately. The situation with humanity has significantly worsened and a high-level conflab is in order.

Regards

God

p.s. Additionally I will also send an alert direct to all of your PsiPads as I am aware that some – Big D – do not keep up to date on She-mails. G

“She’s got you sussed,” Marge smirked.

Death scrolled back up to the addressee line but the names of the other invitees were missing. “There’s no indication of who else has been summoned,” he sighed. “I hope they turn up soon whoever they are; I have a schedule to maintain.”

Marge adjusted her pince-nez and coquettishly crossed her long, stockinged legs. “Do you think he’ll know?” she asked Death, raising a plucked eye brow as she directed his attention with an obvious glance in a specific direction.

Death followed Marge’s eye-line to the reception desk where Brian stared back, preening himself. “Possibly.”

“Shall I go ask?” she whispered conspiratorially, without taking her eyes off Brian who was now slicking back the feathers on his head.

“Perhaps you will have more duck, I mean luck, than I,” Death replied. “Brian has been less than forth-”

“Okay I will,” Marge cut him off. She stood up and slid her carpet bag in Death’s direction. “Watch this for me.” She puffed out her plumage and sashayed seductively toward the reception desk.

Death was impressed. Mardi Gras Passistas have nothing on you, Marge, he thought.

The carpet bag wailed again. At first Death ignored the cries that came from within, but as he watched Marge and Brian flirt with each other, he grew more and more irritated at the length of time Marge was taking to illicit any pertinent information. Eventually Death had had enough.

“There, there,” Death cooed as he extracted a crying baby from the bag. “I agree – waiting around and being ignored can be very, very annoying.”

Death cradled the babe in the crook of his bony arm and gently rocked the fleshy bundle. Gradually the baby’s cries transformed into whimpers and then a gurgle.

My goodness, Big D, you’re a natural.

Still holding the now yawning baby, Death slid down from his chair and bowed his head. “Ma’am.”

God had finally arrived and she wasn’t alone.

“Well, fuck me. That’s not something you see everyday.” War mocked from behind God. She was dressed in tight, lycra shorts and an even tighter tee-shirt. The name of her earthly side-business ‘Fighting Fit’ was emblazoned across her ample bosom. “That’s a proper Kodak moment, that is.”

Pass the child to me, Big D.

Death handed the now mostly silent baby over to God.

You’re a cutie, aren’t you? Yesh you are, oh yesh you are.

“Hello War,” Death greeted his long-time teammate. “Still doing the keep fit? I thought you would be leading several armies by now.”

Death had last seen War in the spring when he transitioned one of her conscripts, who’d suffered a fatal heart-attack following a punishing workout.

“I do, short-arse. I have a franchise now,” War sneered. “Who knew a politician’s death would prove so popular? Fighting Fit now has a presence across the UK and I have plans to take it global at the start of next year. It’s gonna be brutal.”

Indeed. That’s why I’ve invited War along to this meeting. I apologise for being late, Big D; I know how much you value punctuality, but for some reason War isn’t on the CCNN network, so I had to go and collect her.

“Yeah, I was in the middle of a mega-high intensity workout class and I couldn’t just bail half-way.”

War made me run, Big D.

“But you feel so much better for it, Ma’am,” War said, as she clucked at the baby in God’s arms.

God remained silent.

“Ma’am, are we expecting many more to join us?” Death asked.

No. I take it from the presence of this little one that Marge Gerana has also arrived. Ah, I see she’s somewhat engaged with Brian. Shall we head for the Situation Room?

Death and War exchanged glances. “I didn’t know we had a Situation Room,” Death said slowly.

We didn’t. I created one this morning specifically for this meeting. Come along.

Death collected the carpet bag and PsiPad from the seating area and followed in the wake of God – with babe in arms – and War to the reception desk.

Good to see you Marge.

“Ma’am,” Marge whispered hoarsely and curtsied.

I believe this is one of yours?

“Yes. How ever did you escape, little one?” she asked the baby jovially, whilst shooting Death, who was still lugging the empty carpet bag behind him, an evil stare. “I’d be happy to relieve you of the child now, Ma’am.”

That’s quite alright. I’m enjoying the cuddle.

Death dropped the bag at Marge’s feet. “You’re welcome.”

Could you buzz us through please, Brian?

Brian reached under his desk and pressed a button.

The air behind reception began to coruscate and a set of glowing gates appeared. The gates, inlaid with iridescent nacre, shimmered with a rainbow lustre that only mother of pearl can provide. Brian hit the button again, and the gates slowly opened.

This way.

The baby blinked as if in agreement and blew a spit bubble as it cooed.

One by one, God, War, Death and the Great Birthing Stork Marge Gerana walked into the luminous cloud of aether that lay beyond, and disappeared.

***

The rain was starting to come down harder by the time Jocasta and Molly arrived at their destination. The evening was already dark, and although there was plenty of traffic on the journey over, the pavements were completely deserted. No groups of trick or treaters this year, lockdown having put paid to any of that, and the poor weather was lending an assist in keeping any brave or rebellious souls in their homes. People are still afraid or have simply forgotten, Jocasta thought sadly as she parked up at the rear of Frampton Lodge.

She looked over at her daughter sat in the front passenger seat, who had a look of nervous excitement on her face. She was dressed all in black, with a pointy hat and cape. Jocasta crossed her fingers and held them up for Molly to see. “Ready?”

Molly nodded vigorously, so that the witch’s hat shifted backwards and forwards on her head.

Jocasta couldn’t help but smile. “Go,” she said, punching both index fingers forward.

Molly exited the car, unknowingly slamming the door, then ran towards the back of the building, dodging the raindrops as she went; her mother remained in the car and looking on, smiling ever wider as her daughter progressed. Once Molly had made it to the staff entrance, Jocasta reached over to the back seat and grabbed the straw broom and Halloween goodie bag that were laying there. She drew a deep breath and opened the car door, plunging herself into the downpour. She reached the entrance in a far soggier state than Molly had. Jocasta pressed the intercom button.

“Hello?” a tinny voice replied from the speaker.

“It’s Jocasta and Molly.”

The door made a long buzzing sound before opening. They pushed against it to get inside and out of the rain.

Jocasta’s colleague, Mary, was waiting for them. “Oh my god, look at you two.” She waved at Molly. “How long do you have left, Jo?”

Jocasta flung an arm around Mary’s neck and kissed her cheek. “A month.”

Mary placed her hand on Jocasta’s swollen belly. “I must say, you’re looking very well.”

“I’m doing okay, thanks. Getting the odd twinge now and then but other than that… Is the coast clear?”

“Oh yes,” Mary replied, helping Jocasta out of her wet coat. “It’s Sunday. Skeleton staffing, you know, and management have already pissed off for the night.”

Jocasta was relieved. She positioned herself so that she could speak directly to Mary without Molly being able to read her lips. “Suzie zoom called me today. I’m not going to be allowed back after my maternity leave, not unless I get jabbed.”

Mary frowned. “I’m so sorry. That’s totally fucked up.”

“It’s the way the world is right now,” Jocasta replied.

“But will you get it?”

“No, I’ll still be breastfeeding.”

“I’m thinking of jacking it all in,” Mary confided. “I know I’m double jabbed but it’s all just getting too much.”

Jocasta’s face fell. “That bad?”

“It’s only the residents that keep me going.”

Abrupt silence fell between the two women. Molly looked up from one to the other, before tugging on her mother’s sleeve.

“Oh my goodness, we have some trick or treating to do,” Mary cried. “Molly, your outfit looks fantastic. Very witchy.”

Molly beamed a gap-tooth smile and took the bag from her mother. She held it open for Mary to look inside; it was full of chocolates and sweets and paperback books.

“Thank you,” Mary said, pulling out a chocolate bar. “That’s my favourite. I will have that with a cup of tea later,”she said, placing it in her pocket. “Now, we had better get moving before the residents go to bed.”

Molly gave the bag back to Jocasta and took the straw broom. She slipped her free hand inside Mary’s outstretched hand and the three of them took the stairs to go trick or treating.

***

It is a fact that the vast majority of humanity never have, nor ever will, step foot inside a Situation Room. If asked, a person might describe such a room as having a huge table dominating the space, dozens of chairs around it for generals and other important types to sit in. Moreover, there will be wall to wall computers, all manner of communications equipment, and a large viewing screen at one end, of the highest definition of course. This has been learned from countless films and TV shows that this is exactly what a Situation Rooms looks like. Or perhaps even that this is exactly what a Situation room is supposed to look like.

That was not the kind of Situation Room God had envisioned at all. Hers was a perfect cube six foot by six foot by six, with slate grey walls, ceiling and floor, inside and out. It looked like a block of stone from the outside and a bare prison cell from within. The only fixture in the cube was a light bulb set in the centre of the ceiling, with white pull cord hanging down from it.

“I’ve been in some tight spots but this ain’t like any Situation Room I’ve ever been in before,” War said dubiously, inclining her head to one side so as not to bump it on the ceiling.

“It’s certainly cozy,” Marge agreed, feathers ruffling.

For once Death’s diminutive size proved to be a distinct advantage, so he remained quiet, preferring to keep his own counsel.

God stood at the centre of the compact room, still holding the baby.

I thought the most productive way to discuss a situation would be if we could first see it for ourselves.

She reached up and pulled the cord on the light bulb and the room immediately pitched into solid blackness.

And then it wasn’t.

“Where are we?” War asked. “It looks like some old lady’s bedroom.”

Correct.

The slate grey walls, floor and ceiling of the Situation Room had dissolved into transparency, giving the occupants a 360 degree view of their surroundings.

War spotted an elderly woman sitting in an armchair with a tartan blanket over her legs. She looked contented as she listened to classical music from a transistor radio beside her. The overhead light was switched off so that the room’s shadows were lit from the soft glow of the lamp on the night-stand next to a bed.

War was intrigued. “Can she see us?”

No.

“Hear us?”

No.

“Can we leave the box?”

You mean the Situation Room? Yes, but you definitely shouldn’t.

“Me specifically? Why?”

Because you will be seen and heard.

War thought for a moment. “Because I have an earthly body?”

Correct.

“So the Situation Room is completely invisible? I like it. I mean, it could do with a bit more headroom, but invisibility is a cool feature.”

Thank you.

“Actually, why do I have an earthly body?” War asked. “I’m still confused about that.”

“Because,” Death answered gravely, “you died last Halloween. Pesto poisoned you.”

War’s jaw dropped. “What?!”

Death knew this time would eventually come. “To be fair, you did eat Pestilence first. And Famine. You should have seen the mess…”

War’s jaw took on a sardonic twist.

“Of course, you don’t remember.”

“Whoa there, short-arse.” War stared down at Death, mouth agape. “How?”

Death hesitated. How much of that particular ghost story should I tell? he wondered.

He felt the light touch of God’s hand squeeze his scapula. “The Devil tricked us all, War. All of us.”

There was a sharp knock on the bedroom door. The old lady turned the volume down on the radio and removed the blanket from her legs. She made a couple of attempts to stand up, finally managing to push-pull herself out of the armchair. “I’m coming,” she called out.

Inside the Situation Room, Death could feel his PsiPad gently vibrate. He pulled it from his robes and checked the PsiCalendar – there were two alerts, one of which read ‘Molly’. “Ma’am. I do believe the situation is about to occur.”

***

“Trick o’ trea’!”

“Molly!” Aida Roundtree cried as she opened her bedroom door. “Come in, come in.”

“Trick or treat, Mrs Roundtree,” Jocasta said, grinning.

“Oh, Jocasta. Come in. Quickly. Don’t let the Gestapo catch you in the corridor. You too, Mary.”

Aida ushered her visitors into her room and shut the door. “It’s so lovely to see you both.”

Jocasta and Mary moved further into the room, whilst Molly grabbed Aida’s hand and guided her to her chair.

“Well, don’t you look lovely, Molly? Give me a twirl,” Aida said sitting down. Molly duly obliged.

“And how are you keeping, Jocasta? You look ready to pop.”

“Another month to go.”

“Do you know the sex yet?” Aida beckoned Jocasta closer.

“No, we want a surprise,” Jocasta laughed but allowed Aida to feel her belly.

“Low and heavy. Ripe. Feels like a boy,” Aida pronounced. “Molly, you’re going to be a big sister soon.”

Molly raised her arms in a silent cheer before wrapping them around Aida’s neck and kissing her cheek.

“I’ve missed you too, darling.” Aida hugged Molly back. “Terrible times we live in,” she addressed Jocasta and Mary with solemnity over Molly’s shoulder. “It reminds me of the war.”

“Aida, you were born in 1945,” Mary chided. “How could you remember what the war was like?”

“I grew up in the aftermath, bombed out buildings and rationing. I remember those and I also remember what my parents told me about what went on during the war. Terrible times,” Aida said and hugged Molly tighter.

***

“Great times,” War sighed wistfully, breaking the silence within the cube. “World War Two was brilliant, so much innovation. In fact the whole of the twentieth century was a fucking blast.”

“It was a boom time for us after the war,” Marge reminisced. “There were so many deliveries to make, we were pulling double shifts left, right and centre. So many babies.”

“See? It wasn’t all bad.” War sounded vindicated. “Humans had a fucking good time, too.”

“Hmm.”

What is it Big D?

Death was thinking. “She mentioned rationing, Ma’am. I believe there are reports of food shortages currently in the press.”

Famine?

“Possibly…”

***

Mary moved toward the bedroom window. It was slightly ajar and the net curtain inside was getting soaked from the lashing rain. “Aida, have you been smoking in here again?” she asked accusingly, closing the window.

“So what if I have? What are they going to do? Put me in prison? Ha! I’ve been in one for nearly two years.”

Mary shook her head. “If they find your cigarettes, they will confiscate them.”

“Then I’ll get some more,” Aida replied defiantly.

“Ah, that reminds me…” Jocasta tapped Molly on her back and motioned her to offer the bag to Aida. “Now, Mrs Roundtree, dig deep. I put your treat in at the bottom.”

Aida rummaged inside the goodie bag Molly held out. She pulled out an olive green box with a grotesque image on the outside. “Lovely. Benson and Hedges kingsize. I’d offer you one, but apparently it’ll harm your baby,” she said, holding up the pack for Jocasta to see the image of a sick, intubated baby.

“Aida!” Mary snapped.

“That’s alright, Mary. I saw the picture when I bought the pack. Aida and I know it’s just propaganda.” Jocasta was keen to the calm the situation; Mrs Roundtree was something of a smoking militant and could rant for hours on the subject if given free rein.

“That right, it’s propaganda. Goebbels would be proud.” Aida grabbed at Jocasta’s wrist. “You haven’t had the vaxx, have you? Please don’t get it.”

Jocasta gently removed Aida’s hand and held it in her own. “No, Mrs Roundtree. I will not have the vaxx.”

Molly had been watching the conversation silently. She pulled on Jocasta’s sleeve. ‘Mummy, what is ‘go bells’?’

***

“She’s got a point,” Marge said, stretching her neck. “We’ve never delivered a smoke damaged child. Now Thalidomide, DDT, the Rona vax…”

You are seeing damage from the Rona vax, then?

“Yes, Ma’am, some. Mostly miscarriages though.”

God stroked the soft brow of the sleeping baby in her arms.

Babies poisoned in the womb.

“Pesto,” Death whispered.

***

Mary had had enough of the conversation. She was tired and her head was starting to ache, plus she still had another three hours of her shift to work. At least three hours, and she was beginning to regret agreeing to Jocasta’s request for the secret visit. She tolerated Aida’s smoking rants but she didn’t want to hear her opinion of the Rona vaxx. Not again. And was it really worth getting caught for a chocolate bar, even for a Kit-Kat Chunky?

“Okay, I think that’s enough for tonight.”

“Oh no, Mary, can’t they stay a little longer?” Aida appealed.

“No, it’s okay, Mrs Roundtree. Mary has rounds to do and Molly has school tomorrow.” Jocasta lent down and gave Aida a kiss on both cheeks. “It has been lovely to see you.”

There was a rapid knocking on the room door. “Mary, are you in there?” a voice beyond it asked urgently.

Mary motioned for the others to stay quiet and walked rapidly to the door. She opened the it a crack. “What is it?”

The person outside sounded flustered. “Mr Perkins has collapsed in the lounge. Oh Mary, I think he’s dead.”

“Okay, I’ll be right there.” Mary turned away from the door. “I have to go. It was lovely to see you Jo, Molly. Can you see yourselves out?”

“Of course, you go. Thank you,” Jocasta called as Mary left the room. “Oh no, poor Mr Perkins.”

“Double vaxxed,” Aida said smugly. “Had his booster shot two days ago.”

“Mrs Roundtree…”

***

Death checked the alert on his PsiCalendar. “I hate being late. Excuse me.”

***

“Well, he did get his booster shot two days ago.” Aida was adamant. “They’re finally doing it; they’re trying to kill us all off.”

“Who are they?” Jocasta regretted asking as soon as the words left her mouth.

“The new world order, same as the old world order.”

Jocasta looked blank.

Nazis,”Aida hissed.

***

Molly could tell something serious had happened and that it had happened to Mr Perkins. Her eyes widened when the little man she sometimes saw appeared out of thin air from the corner of the room. He was always dressed in black and he sometimes carried a big stick with a knife on the end. She watched as the little man glided across the room.

He paused as he reached her. ‘Hello,’ he signed.

Molly smiled, signing ‘hello’ back.

The little man nodded and made the stick-knife suddenly appear before continuing to glide out of the room, through the door.

Molly looked around nervously, but her mum and Mrs Roundtree were still talking. She didn’t think they’d seen the little man in black. No one ever sees him, except me, Molly thought.

***

“We really should be going.” The last thing Jocasta wanted was to get into a conversation about Nazis. If Mr Perkins had died, then management would be called and it was best that she and Molly weren’t here when they arrived. Plus she really needed to pee. “Mrs Roundtree, can I use your bathroom?”

“Of course, Jocasta, you know where it is. It’s clean but the new girl isn’t nearly as thorough as you.”

“Thank y-OwwW!” Jocasta clutched her stomach. “Ow. Oh no, I hope to god I just peed myself.”

Mrs Roundtree looked at the puddle of fluid forming on the carpet between Jocasta’s legs. “No, dear. Your waters have broken.”

“Oh my god, it’s too soon.”

Aida turned to Molly and looked at her squarely, hands either side of Molly’s face. She spoke slowly and clearly. “Molly, go into my bathroom and fetch the big towel on the rack.”

Molly was scared; her mum was in pain and had wet herself. “Wha’s happnin’?”

“Don’t worry. Mummy is going to have a lay down on my bed.”

“Is it the beby?”

Mrs Roundtree nodded. “Yes, dear. Now, after you get the towel, go and fill my kettle over there,” she said, pointing to the far corner of the room, “and fill it with cold water from the tap in the bathroom. Then switch it on.”

Molly nodded and sprung away like a gazelle.

Jocasta leaned back against the bed panting. “Not again.”

Aida got out of her chair at the first attempt and rushed over to the bed. “Not again? Did Molly arrive early?” she asked as she helped Jocasta onto the bed and plumped up the pillows behind her.

“You could say that.”

“At home?” Aida started to remove Jocasta’s boots.

“In a taxi.”

Aida paused mid-pull. “Oh my.”

“The taxi… oh, oh,” Jocasta noisily breathed out,”…crashed.”

“Awkward.” Aida dropped the boot on the floor and lifted the hem of Jocasta’s dress. “This should be a doddle for you then.”

***

God was gazing down at the baby in her arms and softly crooning.

“Ma’am.” Marge Gerana held the open carpet bag between her wings. “It’s time.”

I know.

War was pressed up against the side of the cube watching the two women in the room. “She gave birth during a car crash? That’s brave.”

She is.

“And the old girl seems to know what’s she’s doing.”

“She should,” Marge snorted. “Aida Roundtree is one of the best midwives I’ve ever worked with.”

War pointed at Aida. “She’s a midwife? That’s convenient.”

Isn’t it.

The walls of the cube suddenly rippled and a small witch, wearing a large hat rushed through. Molly stood stock still, with eyes like saucers. God stepped aside, allowing the child to collect the kettle.

‘Thank you,’ Molly signed.

You’re welcome.

The walls of the cube rippled once more as Molly left.

We had better leave before the child comes back.

God placed the baby into the carpet bag.

Be yourself, little boy and good luck.

“Ma’am.” Marge bowed her slender neck and left.

God grasped the cord to the light bulb.

Ready, War?

“Aren’t we waiting for Death?”

No. Big D is on duty. He’ll find his own way back.

“What’s the dealio with Death and those two anyway. They were there that day in the park when my rich politician kicked the bucket. I miss Jimbo; he always paid over the odds.”

God cocked her head to one side as if contemplating what to say. She smiled.

The mother sat on him.

“On who?”

On Big D.

War’s eyes fluttered as she tried to comprehend what God had just said. “Wait…” She counted on her fingers. “Did Death give her a boner?”

God tugged the cord and it all went black.

And then it wasn’t.

*******

*I’m glad you enjoyed it, Clicky… /final drag… It was a lot of fun to write… /stubs butt…*

A Christmas installment is next, Dear Reader, for Underdog Anthology XVI. Fuck knows what the state of the world will be in by then. We can but hope and… have a Song 😉

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