WTF Mortality

Watch this…

Watch this guy…

He’s reaching…
Yup, he’s reaching, he’s jumping up…

He’s jumping up for the retractable fire escape…

He’s… God knows… Who knows..? Maybe he’s stepped out for a smoke, and he’s too damn lazy to go back inside the right way… Maybe he’s just curious about seeing how the thing works…
Either way, here he goes…

He catches it with the back of his hand…

He falls back to the ground a little further forward…

And bang, the mechanism slips, the bottom part of the stairwell slides out, one of the rungs catches his forehead, and that’s it, he’s slammed diagonally backward to the ground, and his neck’s gone…

And that’s my cue.

I step on over, across the green toward him, sliding my half-eaten sandwich back in the bag, and back into my jacket pocket. By the time I get there, he’s already getting to his feet, his back to his own corpse. That’s generally for the best, actually… It means that I can put a reassuring arm around his shoulders and lead him a little way away while he’s still disoriented, which means that he won’t see his body straight away. And that means that I get to calm him down before he realises that he’s lost the ongoing battle between competence and mortality.

You’d think that most people could get through their day without fatal incident, wouldn’t you? You’d think that basic things, like crossing the road, or walking down stairs, or for God’s sake, going through a revolving door, would start to come naturally to you people after a few years of doing them. But no, it seems that the more practice you get, the more careless you become…

And that’s why I’m so busy. In case you haven’t worked it out yet, I’m the Patron Saint of Pointless Death, the outlandish, contrived and ridiculous my areas of expertise.

All of those increasingly drawn-out set-pieces you’ve seen in hospital dramas, or the bizarre, almost Darwinian news stories of the hapless victims of fatal circumstance that you dismiss as urban legends grown out of control, or more cynically as the results of natural selection of the smart over the stupid – it’s down to me to usher those poor, bewildered souls across the way to what comes next.

And you shouldn’t get too smug about it, either… I’ve seen the rich or educated as well as the dumb or poor freak out over their own premature demise – and the fact of it is, more comfortable people pay less attention to their surroundings. I mean, the victims of addiction or violent crime, or of environmental fuck-ups like tenement fires or building collapses don’t fall into my jurisdiction. Although on occassion I’ve found myself fetching up at the scene of a multi-car pile-up or accidental manslaughter that somehow made it onto my schedule, and had to flip a coin with the attending PS at the scene for who got to deal with the victims.

But my caseload tends to be filled with the obscure, and I can go weeks without seeing one of my colleagues, or sometimes even encountering witnesses to the incidents, besides the victims. The deaths I deal with tend to happen in isolation… it seems that people are at their most dumb when there isn’t anyone watching.

Like the woman from last week, who seemed adamant that there was nothing dangerous about using a crotchet needle to pick one’s nose, even once she was faced with the evidence of her own dead body in contradiction.

Or the poor missing university student that I met a fortnight back. His fellow students were convinced that he ran away in the messy aftermath of finally coming out as gay to his family last month, and his parents went on television to appeal for his return.

What had actually happened was that he had dropped a favourite teeshirt into the trash by mistake, and when he went looking for it in the large campus dumpster alongside his dorm, he’d fallen in. His head had lodged between two bags of garbage, and gravity had forced the rest of his body round and down, snapping his neck.

His body isn’t due to be found for another two weeks, at one of the city dumps.

You wouldn’t believe how many people that, or something similar to that, happens to. Although let’s face it, you’re kind of suprised that it happens to anyone at all, aren’t you?

And yeah, the broken neck is kind of a common motif in my field. It’s a relief, actually… I get a lot of nicked veins and arteries, and every now and then I have to go out to the country or to the factory districts for heavy machinery incidents. Those are never pleasant experiences, for me or the departed.

Still, this guy seems to be taking it okay. I guess I’ll be able to show him his body in a minute, but you probably won’t want to be around for that. It can get pretty harsh.

There’s a lot more to the job then this, of course, but maybe some other time…

Why’m I showing you this? Well, uh, no real reason. Just killing time, is all.

Anyway, got to get on with getting on, I suppose. This guy isn’t going to move on to his final reward all by himself.

You walk carefully, now.

I’ll see you soon.

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Nicolas Papaconstantinou
Nicolas Papaconstantinou is an enthusiastic amateur creative type, and the chap behind Elephant Words. Be nice to him. He growed up kinda wrong.

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