Shannon woke alone on a comfortable chair in a dim room. The light seemed purposely weak as if to avoid taxing her eyes. She had no trouble making out the soft blue color on the wall. She did not know where she was, but she felt comfortable.
“Hello?” She sat up in her chair and called out to the empty room. Shannon’s body jumped when a sudden knock pounded on the door. A second later a man in a dark navy suit walked in carrying a white file folder. He smiled at Shannon.
“Shannon Ramirez, right?” The man asked as he sat in a nearby sofa seat. Shannon nodded and relaxed; she let herself lean back against the chair. “I’m Ezekiel, most people call me ‘Ezey’,” he said. He opened the folder and looked at the front page.
“Do you know where you are?” Ezey asked. Shannon took another look around the small office. It reminded her of a therapist’s office that she’d never been in, but somehow felt familiar.
“I think…” She turned her attention back to Ezey. “Am I dead?” The man nodded, made a mark on the sheet, then asked another question.
“Do you know what happens next?” he asked. Shannon began to shake her head, but then the motion turned into a gentle nod. She pointed at Ezey.
“I think you’re like my caseworker or something? You’re supposed to help me improve the mistakes I keep making. Righ?” Ezey nodded again.
“Good, that saves us a lot of time. You’re pretty good, according to your sheet you’ve only died a handful of times. Most people take about 20 or 30 lifetimes before they start remembering this part,” Shannon smiled to herself. Ezey flipped through the rest of the sheets one at a time, then collected the small stack and put them away in the folder.
“Well, congratulations! You’ve gotten past the first hurdle, and now you get a reward.” Ezey said. He reached into the pocket of his coat, pulled out two french fries, then tossed them in his mouth.
“Reward? Wait, what do you mean the first hurdle?” A look of confusion darkened Ezey’s face, so he opened the file again and read over the first sheet. After a few moments, he shrugged then closed the folder again.
“Rules don’t say you have to know to get your reward. I guess most people figure it out before they get to this point.” Ezey adjusted his posture and locked eyes with Shannon. “The life you just lived, it’s practice. Once you learn enough you get to move to the bigger pond, or you can keep living the same life to get better at it. That’s your reward. You can choose whether you want to move on, or try the same life again. You did not make enough mistakes to fail the tutorial, but you still made some.” Ezey said.
“What happens if I move on?” Shannon asked. Ezey shrugged.
“Not my department. I stamp your form and they move you along. I’m honestly still pretty new myself, so I really have no idea what goes on over there yet,” he said.
“What about you? How’d you get your job?” Shannon asked. Ezekiel pulled more fries out of his pocket and ate them while he answered her question.
“I didn’t even know it was a possibility. They offered me the job, I accepted, and here I am.”
“Well…” Shannon sat up in her seat again. “I want to apply for a position like yours. How do I do that?’ Ezey shrugged at her while chewing another mouthful of fries. “Don’t just stand there eating, you’re my caseworker aren’t you? Work on my case!” She said. “I want a job.”
“Okay,” Ezey said after he swallowed. He grabbed her file folder and reached into his pocket. This time he pulled out a red rubber stamp instead of french fries. “I’ll ask around. In the meantime, it seems silly to make you wait here. Go ’round again and maybe I’ll have an answer for you next time.” He pressed the rubber stamp against the outside of the white folder.