“At least he dies quietly.”
“In a sense. At some point, he will just start over in receiving.”
“Does that trouble you?”
“Well, no. It just seems…”
The small man raised an eyebrow. “Excessive?”
“Not exactly the word I was looking for, but sure. I mean, what did the guy do?”
“Yes, who cares? I have a business to run here, Mr. Penny. Shareholders to answer to. I let the Judge worry about the ‘whys.'”
The walking tour was getting under Clyde’s skin. His underarms were soaked and he didn’t know how many more mutilated, undying corpses he could face before his lunch forcefully ejected itself.
The two of them left the lobby and moved into a series of blinding passages. It took a minute for Clyde’s eyes to adjust.
“The fire caves are brilliant, don’t you think?”
Clyde looked up. It reminded him of the countless Tennessee caves he explored as a kid. Flames flowed like water. He need only pretend that the fire was a stone ceiling.
The small man gave him no time to reply.
“My idea, of course.”
Another hundred yards and they arrived at a pair of sawhorses holding up a piece of plywood. A dusty, ten-foot stack of papers and a tiny nameplate were sitting on top.
The small man reached out for a shake.
“I apologize for your missing chair. We needed the firewood, but should have something for you by next millennium.”
Speechless, Clyde took the clammy hand into his own.
“And so concludes your tour. Welcome aboard. If you need anything, please hesitate to ask. If you really need something, just head down the Endless Hall and make a right at the Torturematic. Ask for Betsy. You can’t miss her, or should I say, her smell.”
The small man left as abruptly as he’d shown up.
Clyde stood in front of his desk and chewed over his fate. It was going to be a long day.
He pulled a small stone out of his pocket. Upon his arrival, it had been promptly attached to his waist with an unbreakable piece of golden twine. He stared down at the words finely etched onto one side:
Clyde Penny, Age 7, 1944, May 12th, 11:38AM EST – Watson’s Drug Store – Stole a pack of gum.
This bit of dark, comedic flash fiction was the result of pulling two random sentences from two random novels (one is from George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, the other is from Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon).