This morning, waiting in the doctor's surgery, I got out my kindle to read and damn near FELT my hand being slapped and the instruction "Write the story!" being zapped into my mind. So I opened Notes on my phone and wrote 600 words that it turned out had been in my head all along.
We all find relief in different ways. This has eased mine because it is what I believe, even though it can only be pure fiction.
“So, it’s not a mistake then?” A Heavenly Ops story by Jan Jones
“So, it’s not a mistake then?”
Miriam gave the smartly dressed woman in front of the desk a brief smile. “No mistake, no. Or, only in that you should have been here quite some time ago.”
“Really?” The woman consulted her iPad with a frown. She tapped something into it and turned back to Miriam. “In what way?”
“You were due to arrive earlier, but you’ve always managed to evade it. All those near misses dodging the London traffic. That time you stopped another hour at the party and didn’t disturb the burglars, thus avoiding giving yourself a heart attack. And this last scare - most people don’t even do the routine tests, let alone do them early enough to catch life‑threatening conditions in the early stages.” Miriam stopped, aware that she was starting to sound aggrieved.
The woman was giving her her full attention now. “You arranged this?”
“Of course not,” said Miriam. “That would be highly immoral. Nobody has a fixed term, merely points at which things might happen. But here in Ops we do keep an eye on the potential-arrivals list for useful individuals. Organised people, for example. Efficient.” Her gaze travelled to the waiting room where hundreds of comfy chairs were thoughtfully placed in front of hundreds of daytime tv screens. “Intelligent.”
“You headhunt the living?” The woman’s voice was filled with outrage.
“No, but we do log them. Oh, come on, think about it. You were a top agent. Formidable woman, exemplary preparation before every killer deal. You managed all that without doing any research?”
The newest arrival inclined her head. “You have a point. So, no mistake. I'm here for good. Where do I live?”
Miriam shrugged. “In broad terms, wherever you expect to.”
The woman raised her eyebrows. “You mean I walk out of here, catch the tube to my stop and there will be my apartment waiting for me, just as I left it last night?”
“Essentially, yes. People see what they expect here. They get what they expect. One of the pointers that told me I was right in my preliminary assessment was that as soon as you walked through the door of Arrivals, you saw what I see.”
“Actually, that’s fascinating. So everyone lives where they expect to live... How does that even work?”
Miriam smiled. “Mr Escher sorted something out. We do have a considerable pool of talent up here. They also eat at their favourite restaurant or find new ones just as good, shop at their favourite supermarket, go to fabulous concerts...”
“Endless possibilities, in fact. Right,” the woman consulted her iPad, “ah, yes, finances. What is the monetary system?”
Miriam craned her neck to glimpse the screen. Had she been making a list of things she needed to find out, just in the Fast Transit lift? Which, incidentally, Miriam hadn’t even known existed until the door from it had opened next to her desk. “There isn’t one,” she said. “We run a sort of general heavenly credit scheme. People get what they expect anyway. The nicer you are, or the more useful you are, the easier it is for you to manipulate your expectation factor.”
“So, the more I do, the better the quality of Dom Perignon in my fridge?”
“Something like that, yes. You’ll work it out.”
“See our Mr Jobs if you have any problems. Bless him, he’s been busy since the moment he arrived.”
“Excellent. Well, I’ll settle in here first, then go home. Where’s my desk? Ah, I see it.” She walked over to a book-lined alcove with a desk, three screens, fridge, kettle and coffee-maker that Miriam knew, just knew, hadn’t been there two minutes ago.
“You,” she said with respect and deep satisfaction, “are one fast learner.” She reached into her own fridge and produced two chilled glasses and a misted bottle that gave a soft, expensive pop when opened. She handed one of the foaming glasses to her new colleague. “Welcome to the Heavenly Ops room, Blake.”