I really did not want a tour of the DMV.
I arrive early, just as they open the doors, and there is already a line. We file in, each taking a paper number. The people in front go straight up to the desks. One window processes two people in only ten minutes each and then promptly puts up a closed sign. I guess it’s exhausting, working so fast.
Everyone waiting looks strained or sullen or stressed at the DMV. Shoulders hunched, heads down, the ones in power suits on their phones, but the phones keep cutting off in the DMV. Some sort of special shielding, I would bet.
I have number 17 and get to go to a window after 2 hours.
The clerk smiles at me. She is pale, pale, but has horns and pitch black wings, no feathers, like a bat.
“Unitarian!” she says, grinning.
“Um,” I say, eyeing the wings.
She looks wicked and then her wings are classic white feathered. She is browner and well, I’d guess Filipino. “Worried?” she says.
“No.” I say. “Tired. Sad. Curious.”
“What would you prefer to see?” she says and morphs. Now she has one bat wing that changes to black feathers then through rainbow feathers, to the snowy white feathers on the other side. Her skin tone is very dark on her right hand and then lighter across to pale with red freckles on her left hand.
“Nice.” I say.
“Which heaven would you like?”
“Unitarians do not believe in hell. Send me back.”
“You just got here. Violently and by surprise.” she wrinkles her nose. “Riots again. Sorry about that. We have opened a Unitarian space.”
“No. Send me back.”
She sighs and pulls down a heavy paper file. All the papers have gold edges, except for those with black. “You found your true love.”
“Yes. So what. We didn’t have time to make it work.”
“Don’t you want to wait until she dies so you can head down at the same time?”
“No. She’s only 32. And there is work to do.”
She is paging through the file. She snaps it shut. “Two week vacation. The minimum required. Go to the door on the right.”
I sigh. I want to argue but I’ve done that before. She will add on an extra week for every word I say.
My memories are intact here. Of all the lives. It’s always a bit overwhelming when I first arrive.
I go to the door on the right. A small page with grey tattered wings opens the door for me. I think it is a boy but he is wearing a Tinkerbell style tunic.
“I am your guide today.” No, it is a girl. I think. They may be able to morph that too.
We go in the door. My guide is shedding feathers, one every few steps. I pick one up. “Sorry.” she says. “Puberty. So, where do you want to spend your two weeks?” We are in a half circle shape hall, with hallways branching off. The hallways have no end that I can see and there are open doors all along them.
“I just want to go back.”
She pats my arm absently. “Oh, yes, they told me. You have to take breaks. You are wonderful, though, we love you.” She is leading me to one of the halls towards the left. We go past two doors and to the third. “See?” she says. “Unitarians. Of course, they can come in and out and go in all the others and argue with everyone. We wouldn’t want them to get bored.”
The room is empty at the moment. “And I guess they are all in other places!” The room across the hall seems to be a classic hell, with demons and pitchforks and a grim rocky landscape with pits of burning tar. I can see a dinosaur caught in tar, and a really huge crowd of people. There is a lot of screaming.
“Some people insist.” says my guide. “Where to next? Evangelical? Valhalla is rather fun for males and certain females, we’ve got fluffy clouds and harps, or are you more interested in touring Asian, African, Australian? We do have paleolithic sites and many people are interested in Egyptian themes. The cliff dwellers interest many as well. “
She frowns. “Of course, but that room shuts down consciousness and you have to have two weeks of consciousness before you can go back.” She is leading me back into the central half hall.
“Ok,” I say, giving in. “I am not trying to be difficult, you know.”
“Yes, and everyone told me correctly that you are difficult. All the ones that go back over and over are difficult. And there are more every year.”
“Take me somewhere new, ok?” I am looking now at the frieze over the door that will take me back. Two weeks. I can manage. I am resigned. The frieze is cupids and then male odalisques, then female, then leopards, and then they are cupid fauns with horns on their heads, morphing towards adulthood. Yet the carved letters stay the same:
Deus Machina Verum
and I follow my guide into another hallway to find a place for my two weeks.
This poem inspires me to post today’s story: https://narble.blog/2021/08/17/if-there-are-no-dogs-in-heaven/
I think the hell in heaven also fits today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt: scorch.
I took this photograph sitting on the steps of the Renwick Gallery, finishing a cup of tea before I went in. I was back visiting my son and old friends in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
They should rename it the Baltimore-Washington superhighway.
And is it a revelation that you see things like this in Washington, DC? It’s a pretty weird place.