Contains some graphic images.
It was their last moment of joy.
The dead and dying were brought here, during those last moments before the end, or those first moments after, brought to a sky beneath the surface of the earth. Once it had been grass, then dirt and now old cobblestones held the swings aloft as they moved through the grey clouds. This was all there was in the afterlife, thin metal swings and a last moment of joy.
They were welded in place, skin was seared and screams of pain echoed across the vast sky but all so they wouldn’t fall too soon. Left in place, and pushed just once, they started to move – slowly – slowly – until the pain subsided enough for the euphoria of the drugs and oxygen to take over. The faces were blank at first, sweat falling and slipping into their mouths as their lips curled up into slight smiles.
The oxygen was high – high – higher until they were breathing only oxygen, every molecule that they inhaled was taking them higher and the smiles became bigger.
It reverberated back and was felt though the chests of every life, a wave of glee followed, from that first giggle out until everyone was laughing, swinging higher, feeling happy.
This was the part of the job Reb enjoyed, as brief as it was.
They were happy, these dying and dead, they were enjoying themselves and Reb could relax for a few minutes as they swung higher and higher through the thick oxygen. It wouldn’t last long, it never did, but it was wonderful to watch, it was all that kept him going through the day – their last moments of joy in life before the end.
It had never been his intention to end up in a job like this, he’d not had grand plans, but he’d always hoped to be higher up in the grand scheme of life and death. Maybe inserting the souls into newborns, or even extracting souls from the dying. His lot in life had found him here though, controlling the swings and it was tiring, draining.
He could feel it; a sliver of his very core being chipped away with every to and fro of the dying, with every scream and sharp intake of breath.
With every death.
He hadn’t done anything to deserve this post, this position in life, it was neither reward nor punishment. Things didn’t work like that, not for him, not for his kind. So there was no complaining, no one to complain to. Not that he would; he did his job, over and over, losing more of his soul even though eventually he would be empty and not even their joy would get him by.
When he was empty he would be cast aside like those on the swings and another would take his place.
It was inevitable.
The joy was reaching it’s crescendo.
Reb would not get a last moment like them.
The oxygen was becoming a toxin now, a few coughs could be heard, some were already twitching. The best was over, the end was here. The oxygen was had built up in their systems and were over-whelming their very cells. There was a ripple of panic, dulled by confusion and nausea. Some were sick, some convulsing. Violent and dirty, hands were ripped free of their positions on the chains, blood flowing from their veins and through the air, down – down – down.
They began to fall. Just a few at a time. Bit by bit and the fall was swift as they disappeared into the ether with a howl.
Most fell to sleep; it was strange to see – twitching lips, convulsing arms and legs, the odd snore making it’s way through the shouts and shrieks towards Reb’s booth.
This was it. The end.
A quick flick of his hand and remaining lives were let go, hands torn from the cold metal and their bodies sailing down through the clouds into oblivion. They were done then.
So was Reb.
As they next lot were brought down and placed onto the swings, he sat back in his own chair and closed his eyes, waiting for the ache in his chest to dissipate for another few minutes. He was coming to his own oblivion.
He welcomed it.