Ezekiel “Ezey” Yzaguirre awoke in a red leather booth, hunched over a white formica table. His senses kicked in as his eyes fluttered open. The first thing he noticed was a hunger inside him as if he had not eaten in months when he knew it had only been a couple of days. As his eyes adjusted to the bright interior of the diner he noticed what looked like a fresh hamburger on his table in a small plastic orange basket. Next to the hamburger was a pile of steaming hot french fries, with a tall glass of dark soda condensating next to the basket.
“Well, I guess I’m dead,” Ezey reached for the food without hesitation but noticed the dark sleeves of his suit as he pulled the food closer to him. He brought a french fry to his mouth, then looked down at his suit. He realized he did not feel any hair when he ate the fry and brought his hands up to feel his face.
“Not exactly,” a male voice said. Ezey turned to look for the source and noticed a man with a chestnut crewcut, and a suit matching the one Ezey wore, seated on one of the stools at the counter. Upon realizing he was not alone in the diner Ezey quickly grabbed the burger and bit into it. The man chuckled and stood from his stool to slide into the red booth across from Ezey. “Don’t worry, it’s not going to get taken away, and it’s free of charge.” The stranger’s hand dipped beneath the table. He brought it back up holding another burger basket with steaming hot fries. “As much as you like.” Ezey swallowed his bite, then washed it down with soda.
“What does that mean, ‘not exactly’?” he asked then took another bite of the burger. Though this time it was a smaller bite that he took his time chewing.
“It means you are. Unless you don’t want to be.” The stranger’s hand dipped below the table then returned with a white folder. He placed the folder on the table and opened it to reveal a short stack of papers. He lifted the top sheet and handed it to Ezey.
“I’m pretty okay staying here with the food,” Ezey grabbed the offered sheet and looked it over. His eyes widened, then he glanced at the next sheet in the stack. Without waiting for permission he grabbed the whole stack and leafed through them.
“Why do you have these?” he asked the man. A flash of anger coursed down his spine and his grip tightened around the sheets, crumpling the corner in his hand. “You’re the reason I haven’t found work in six months!?” The stranger gently shook his head.
“The originals that you filled out all went to the employers that you submitted them too, these are duplicates. They’re visual aids to help explain why you’re here.” Ezey turned to look at the diner around them, then he focused on the stranger again.
“Can we start with how I got here, before I ask you to explain where ‘here’ is?” Ezey asked. He calmed down enough to start picking at the fries again. The stranger nodded.
“You died. The details aren’t important, that life is over. However, we have a position open,” the stranger gestured at the white folder. “You aren’t the only one considering the position but given your eagerness to work, we came to you first.” Ezey’s mouth hung open enough to show a pale white ball of mush. He closed his eyes, swallowed the frenchfry he was working on, then took a moment to take a breath.
“Am I working for Heaven or Hell?” he asked. A slight smirk crept up the left side of the stranger’s face.
“Neither, but both. We’re the Middlemen. We just sort people out and get them to where they want to go.” Ezey looked surprised.
“Where they want to go? Don’t you mean where they deserve to go?” Again the stranger gently shook his head.
“If you take the job, you’ll learn as you go. People are funny, but they always get what they think they deserve. Even if they don’t realize it.”
“What if I don’t take the job?” Ezey asked. The stranger shrugged, closed the white folder, then held it up to show Ezey. “You’re already filed into Heaven. If you don’t take the job you move on to there.” Ezey’s put another french fry in his mouth as he debated.
“I should tell you though, there’s no food in Heaven. There’s no need for it, you’ll never feel hungry.” the stranger said.
“Oh.” He finished chewing his fry, then swallowed it. “I’ll take the job, where do I sign?”
Thank you for reading! I’m responding to prompts every day in 2018, this is #212. You can find them collected on my blog. If you’re curious about my universe (the Hugoverse) you can visit the Guidebook to see what’s what and who’s who, or the Timeline to find the stories in order.