David’s Commute – by Eric Robbins
David awoke with a start. Was he too late to get Jane out the door to her school bus? He fumbled for his cell-phone and checked the time. 6:40, not too late then, whew! Quickly he texted her, “Sweetie, school, hop up!” and waited for her reply after hearing the little notification jingle from her phone in the next room. While he waited, he checked the weather forecast on the little screen, hoping to have dry conditions for his walk to work. The day was predicted to provide seasonably cool weather with partly cloudy skies. Briefly he wondered which was cloudier, “partly cloudy” or “mostly sunny.”
Before he could look it up in Wikipedia though, he was distracted by the sound of his ten-year-old daughter’s feet hitting the floor, a dresser drawer screeching open, and his cell lighting up with her usual reply, “thnx dad c u after wrk.” He smiled, stretching mightily, and got to the business of checking his e-mails. While most of his communicating was through Twitter, vines, and texts, some of the people who mattered most to him were still doing everything with old-fashioned e-mails.
Sure enough, there was a nice note from his brother Bob, just wondering what’s new, as well as some automated messages about his online purchases of the previous day. Looking these over, then checking his Twitter feed, helped him to wake up while the pleasant sound of Jane pulling herself together and banging the front door on her way out to catch the bus at 7:09 made the apartment feel alive. He texted her once more, “b good J” and smiled to himself. What a wonderful life he had. Maybe today he would have time to write that piece on family life that he had been planning. Smiling about that, he fired off a quick message to his parents. “Hope you’re doing well, check out my photos of Jane on FB, can’t wait to c u thnxgvng!”
Getting dressed and out the door was a matter of minutes, since he had learned that it was more efficient to get his coffee from the coffee machine at work, and his breakfast from the sandwish machine. Right on schedule he locked the door behind himself at 7:25, as always taking the mail from the mailbox to carry to work and throw away. Almost invariably it consisted of catalogs, pleas for money from philanthropic organizations, and political surveys. The occasional bill would go in a pocket and be dealt with accordingly as soon as he could access his online checking account during a scheduled break at his workstation. This morning, however, there was an actual letter, in an old-fashioned envelope, no pre-printed address or cellophane window showing the sender. Handwritten in a flowing style, making the word “copperplate” pop up in his mind, it was addressed to him, and was unusual enough that he briefly pocketed his cell-phone in order to squint at the return address, intending to open it while he crossed the—
The faint echo of screeching tires and blaring horns skittered away from David’s thoughts as he tried to understand what had happened, and where he now found himself. Inexplicably, he was standing on something very soft, cool and pleasant to his bare feet, and everything around him was dim in the comforting way of a hotel lobby late at night, at the end of a long day’s traveling. There was no way to tell if he was indoors or outdoors, since whatever was providing the low light was lost in mist far above, and he couldn’t see anything to either side. He was standing in line behind many other people, all of whom were wearing simple white robes, moving forward incrementally on what he presumed were similarly bare feet. He couldn’t know for sure, because there was a low mist that obscured everything from the knees down. The line disappeared into the dimness some twenty or thirty people ahead of him. He turned to see that a handful of others were behind him, their expressions variously peaceful, baffled, and faintly interested as he was. Checking himself, he found that he was clad in the same white robe, a very simply cut thing made of what felt like well-washed linen. There was one pocket in his, right over his heart. Just as he patted it, not knowing what to expect, he felt the familiar vibration of his cell-phone and took it out, surprised and gratified to find a familiar touchstone.
There was a text message, new and unopened, from an unknown source. Curious, he clicked “open” with his texting thumb. There was a brief pause, and a very pleasant notification jingle sounded. Glowing on the little screen, in the familiar eight-point text that defined so much of his life, was written, “Welcome. Your afterlife is important to us. Please remain in line and we will review your application shortly. B Good J.”
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