- The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
- For you but not for me:
- For me the angels sing-a-ling-a-ling,
- They’ve got the goods for me.
- Oh! Death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling?
- Oh! Grave, thy victory?
- The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
- For you but not for me.
Death has been defeated… but it’s not what you think.
It was all quite simple, really. A happy accident, you might say. It was discovered, not long ago, that death wasn’t always what we thought it was… although in many ways, it is.
It turns out that, as we always thought, people pass on to another plane of existence when they expire in this world. Unfortunately, it was always assumed that it would be a “higher” plane of existence.
When humanity finally discovered Heaven… it ruined a lot of expectations. It turns out Heaven is really quite boring. That light you see when you have a near death experience? It’s just a glimpse of the pan-dimensional portal aperture. How about when your life flashes before your eyes? Simply a compression of your life as quantum data, which is a periodic way of preparing you for the trip, so to speak. How about when you thought you saw something, just out of the corner of your eye, seemingly there but not? Just a ripple in the fabric between concurrent dimensions. Nature, as it’s often said, abhors a vacuum, and the previously held notions of death were fairly vacuous. Why create something only to wipe it out a scant century later?
And so, there was a solution. Xenotransport, as it came to be called: moving out of one dimension and into another. The ceasing of humanity to be human and to become… something more. Now granted, this isn’t what people wanted most of the time: Buddhists were cheapened out of Nirvana, Christians out of Heaven. But on the other hand, damnation suddenly became… quaint. It was simply another step in life: another place to live, another place to exist as a being of different matter, specialized matter. Another move to life eternal, even if eternal life didn’t turn out to be paradise. It didn’t turn out to be Hell, either… so it’s sort of a trade-off.
With death cheapened, the debate was almost immediately ignited: what do we do about it? More importantly, how do we continue life as we once knew it during this new landscape? And, as a distant corollary… is there any way to make money off of it? After all, you can take it with you, now. Naturally, the discovery was kept secret from the public until a necessary framework and coping strategy could be created. Needless to say, the religious community and the psychological groups stood to make a killing. But what of people that used to make their trade in the line of death? Undertakers, funeral homes, embalmers… their jobs seemed quaint now, outdated. However, most of them possessed a unique skill in the handling and acceptance of death, which made them perfect for a new line of work.
That’s how I came to be here: a former funeral home stooge who became one of the first trained for a new multinational outreach organization: Strategic Trandsimensional Yoking and Xenotransport, Incorporated. Someone was paid good money to come up with that one, I bet… but the term “yoking” wasn’t all that awkward as it may seem. In the early days of the discovery, most of the people vying for an optional Xenotransport (as opposed to waiting out the clock in this dimension) were widows and widowers, following the old biblical notion of being “unequally yoked.” Soon, however, using STYX as a way to get a fresh start in life became almost trendy, almost… desirable.
And for people like me who supervised the entire process, Boatmen of a new iteration, it became the ordinary grind of everyday work to cross dimensions regularly, ferrying people back and forth, making sure their journey was as uneventful and incident-free as possible. We even have one of those “this many days since our last accident” posters in the office. The only downside is, due to my frequent travel, I’m very sensitive to the boundaries between dimensions. Imagine that feeling you get when you feel like someone’s there, only to convince yourself they aren’t… only you have that feeling constantly… and people actually ARE there.
Still, it beats doing hair and makeup on the deceased… but it does allow for the odd experience of a previously departed criticizing you for the handling of their own funeral. You never really can get used to that one.