Casey heard ringing before she opened her eyes. She was seated in front of a desk but the high-back leather chair behind it was empty. She looked around and took inventory of the office. She had no idea how she got there; but, she hoped that finding out where there was would give her some hints.
The phone that continued ringing in steady intervals was transparent and pink neon lights glowed from inside the clear case. The rotary on its inclined front glowed with a neon blue light highlighting the numbers. The phone sat on a small desk with a large, beige, CRT monitor taking up more than half of its surface. The walls consisted of wood panels decorated with dozens of posters. They advertised movies and bands that Casey had never heard of. She was somewhat amused by the fact that every person on every person wore sunglasses and a popped up collar. There wasn’t much else to the office except a closed door. As she thought about poking her head out the door opened.
A beautiful woman with aqua-blue curls strode in with an annoyed look on her face. She seemed surprised by Casey but she rolled her eyes and picked up the ringing phone.
“Ezey said no more phone interviews,” she said with a firm tone. “You have a client.” As Casey watched the exchanged she took in the woman’s appearance. She had olive skin with a star tattooed on her left cheek; the number 35 decorated the blue star. She wore a navy blue business coat that gave her a professional appearance from the waist up. A matching navy sarong was wrapped around her waist and showed plenty of leg when she walked. The woman hung up the phone, then smiled politely at Casey.
“Sorry about the wait, your caseworker will be right in,” she said. She turned to leave but Casey managed to find her voice.
“Where am I?” the confused woman asked. The woman continued to walk and smile; she did not slow at all.
“You’re dead,” she said as she walked through the door and closed it.
“I’m… dead?” Casey asked aloud to herself. She closed her eyes and furrowed her brow to think. “I’d been sick…” she remembered feeling hot and achy. She was soaking the sheets with sweat at night and waking up with chills. “I was going to go to the doctor today…,” she realized she had put off the doctor visit too long. The door opened again and a fat man walked in. He looked young. Casey guessed his age was somewhere around her own 28 years. His golden hair looked like a bird’s nest; stringy and disorganized. He had a skull tattooed on his forehead with the number 42 on its forehead in gold numbers.
He wore the same navy blue coat the other woman wore, but with a much more casual attitude. After seeing both of them, Casey assumed the coat was part of a uniform. His coat rested on his shoulders like a cape, his arms were free of its sleeves. Under it, he wore a tight red t-shirt that matched one of the posters on the wall, sunglasses and all. He wore sagging blue jeans and black high-top sneakers to complete the outfit.
“Casey!” he said with a broad smile as he entered and waddled around her to sit behind the desk. “I’m glad we finally get to meet.”
“Finally?” she asked. The rotund man nodded and reached into one of his desk drawers. He pulled out a manila folder, opened it and set it on the desk to look over it.
“Yeah. Normally I do it over the phone,” he said. He kept talking to the file instead of looking up to meet Casey’s eyes.
“Am I dead?” Casey asked. The man chuckled.
“Women are just dying to meet me,” he said playfully, then closed the file and looked up at Casey.
“You’re dead. We’ve talked on the phone a few times,” he shrugged. “Well, every time you die.” He reached a plump hand out across the desk to her. “I’m your caseworker, Chase.” Casey gave him a confused look instead of shaking his hand. He nodded then lowered the hand. “You’ve only died a handful of times, it’ll take several more until you start remembering me.”
“More? I’m going to die more?” Casey asked.
“Sure, it’s how the thing works. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out eventually. Bye,” he said with a smile and waved at her.
“Wait. That’s it? Just hi and bye!?” Casey asked with a hard edge in her voice. “I want answers!” she shouted. Chase shrugged.
“They used to give answers. Way back when. But now, there’re more people dying and not enough staff to deal with them.” He sighed. “Any answers I give you, you plain won’t remember. This is just a check in to let you know things are still on track and put you at ease for your next life.” Casey crossed her arms in a huff as if refusing to leave. Chase glanced at his monitor. “Okay, you have time for one question. Make it fast,” he said.
Casey thought about her last memories of being sick. She remembered the spasms she felt while coughing and wheezing, then she looked at her hands. Sitting in the small office, she wiggled her fingers. Wherever she was now, it felt as real as when she was sick. She decided on a question, but she wanted to word it carefully.
“Wherever I was before this office, it feels the same as now. So my question is… how did I get from there to here? I mean, what happened to me that got me from there to here,” she asked. Chase smiled.
“You died,” he said. “See you next time,” he waved again and Casey’s vision went black. Then, she was born again.