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Last Stop: Eternity MAG
No one ever said my job was easy. If it were, the souls doing their service hours for Heaven would have been assigned, not just those "chosen few" who are permanent members of Purgatory. Maybe one day I'll get out of this job. Not that it matters to anyone if I rot on this bus I'm doomed to drive for the rest of eternity.
"Faustus? Faustus, are you there?" a voice crackled.
Steadying the steering wheel, I took the walkie-talkie from its cradle.
"What do you want, Eve?"
"Well, aren't we a ray of sunshine," she replied.
I could just imagine that girl sitting at her little desk in front of all her monitors, shaking her head at my voice.
"Am I giving you too much credit to assume you had a reason for beeping me?" I asked. Even in life - or what I could remember of it - I was never one for small talk.
"If it wasn't my job, I wouldn't tell you after hearing that tone of voice" she replied with an edge.
"It is your job, Eve. Personally, I don't care if you complete your little service to prove to Heaven you deserve to be up there with all the other saints and pansies, but either make yourself useful or get off the line."
"We've got another in your area. Sector C34-12," she said coldly.
"As helpful as that bit of information is, whom I'm supposed to be picking up would be nice."
The little monitor lit up next to my speaker. Ah, so Eve actually did know what she was doing. I read the data:
Name: Morgann Anne Griffith
Date of Death: 11/21/03, 10:03 a.m.
Cause of Death: Leukemia
Destination: Purgatory, to be assigned a position
Assigned a position? I felt for the kid. My death report was probably similar, just like all the other permanent working residents of The Void. The only thing she was going to get in Purgatory was a new name and an occupation to spend the rest of eternity huddled over.
I glanced at the picture. This Morgann didn't look like she was much more than 14. Why did she look so familiar?
"Eve, can you offer me more on this girl?"
"The Judges only send me the necessary information, you know that. Why do you ask?"
"She looks like someone I'm supposed to know."
"Faustus, you've been in that bus too long."
"You think I don't know that? You know what, forget I said anything. I'll get her there on time for her meeting with the precious judges." Yes, precious they were; as precious as a poisoned dagger on stage in place of a prop knife.
"Faustus, do you think you could actually, you know, pretend you care about this one? She's had it rough, and she's got enough confusion and pain without you-"
"Faustus out." I shut off my speaker.
Care about this one? Impossible. Maybe Eve can afford to have a bleeding heart doing her service hours until she's earned her ticket to Heaven, but it doesn't work that way when you're driving the actual bus in the actual Void. You have to be unemotional to do my job. If one gets even the tiniest bit attached to these sinners - and they are all sinners - then one thing will lead to another and before anyone knows it, they're trying to sneak the soul into Heaven. Then where would that leave them? Hell? Ha, I'd rather deal with what I earned than share an undeserved fate with someone I got attached to.
The infinite black of Sector C34-12 stretched for eons, a huddled soul glowing in the darkness like the last dying star in an empty universe. That must be the girl.
I opened the door, glancing at her. For a split second, I thought I saw something more than Morgann Anne Griffith - a younger girl, with laughing green eyes.
"Be careful of the ice, Mark ..." a distant voice rang out.
"Excuse me?" a meek voice called out, the laughing green eyes vanishing behind a pair of bland ones. "You're not the usual bus driver ..."
"You're right. Get on."
Looking up at me with those big green eyes, she climbed on, grasping the handle to assure herself it was real. She was even younger looking than her picture.
"Where's Ace, the usual bus driver? This is still the bus to the hospital, right?"
"Girl, you have more important places to go than some hospital."
"That is for others to decide."
Morgann looked at me strangely, taking the seat directly behind mine. I shut the door, and watched her in the rear-view mirror. To my surprise, she didn't look afraid. Her face was made of concrete, solid yet worn from what had walked on her over the years.
"Why can't you tell me where you're taking me?" she asked again.
"Because I have no impact on what happens to you. My job is just to take you to Judgment and then leave."
Silence. I don't know why she affected me the way she did. The disposition she held, the way she carried herself, it was unlike anything I'd ever seen, and yet so familiar it was scary. Why did I feel like I knew this girl?
"Mark, for once, be normal and drive carefully. The roads are really icy tonight ..." the voice rang out again.
"Morg, I'm not going to get into an accident. I've driven in bad weather before, and nothing's happened," replied a second voice. My ... own?
"Not all the way back home on your own, though."
"Chill out, kid, I'll be fine."
Ignoring every fiber of common sense in my being, I said, "You have no idea where you are, do you?"
"I'm on a bus to the hospital," she responded, puzzled. "You're a strange one, considering you're driving."
"Why are you taking a bus ?"
"Well, Mom's always working when my appointments are, and Dad flew off a long time ago." Quietly she added, "My older brother Mark used to drive me, but he got into a car crash last December."
"A car crash?"
She nodded numbly. "Slid on the ice."
I nearly slammed on the brakes. I looked again at those eyes, those sad green eyes that were always laughing when we were young. Those were the eyes I was looking for every time I picked up a soul that followed me around like a vulture waiting to feast on the barrier to my memories. Finally, it started coming back, all the memories of Mark that had disappeared when The Judges gave me the name Faustus.
I knew who she was: Morgann, a quiet tomboy who loved playing in the rain, who had the worst temper and the best laugh, who hated her father, who suffered with leukemia yet lived each day like it was her last ...who would be forced to occupy the eternal Void if I brought her to those Judges.
I picked up the walkie-talkie and turned on my speaker.
"Faustus? What are you doing calling me? Have you delivered the girl yet?"
"Not exactly. Eve, is there anyone aboard the Heaven dock in Sector D43-09?"
"No ... Faustus, what are you doing?" she asked, confusion in her voice.
I glanced back at Morgann, who was unsuspecting. I'd explain it to her later, once I was sure she'd be safe, or at least out of the perpetual, unchanging, unforgiving darkness. Either was my goal.
"I can't tell you. You got your wish, though. There's just something I can't not care about. We've got nothing to lose if I fail."
"Faustus, please don't tell me you're going to break the girl into Heaven."
"Then just turn off your speaker and pretend I don't exist."
"Faustus, you can't! You'll never make it, and you'll both end up in Hell!"
"Hell is a hell of a lot better than sitting around in The Void for the rest of eternity. Eve, you've got a shot at Heaven, we don't. I don't expect you to understand what I'm about to do, but don't stop me."
Morgann stared at me in the mirror. Firmly I added, "I can't let my little sister stay in The Void."
Morgann's eyes grew wide. "Mark," she choked out.
"Faustus-" Eve cried in desperation.
"Good-bye, Eve," I said, clicking off the speaker before her words of protest could stop me.
"Mark," Morgann whispered. "Mark, you're ..."
"Dead, I know. Just trust what I'm going to do on this one. Even Hell is better than the fate The Judges have assigned."
Morgann nodded, her eyes showing her confidence in my words. Taking a deep breath, I changed my course to Sector D43-09. We had both managed to see Hell in our own ways before now, so if we didn't make it, why not just finish the job?