31 July 2009

"At the End of the Day"

By Curtis C. Chen

Sherman had to admit, three witches carrying cast-iron kettles was the last thing he ever expected to see coming through the spaceport.

He watched them limp toward his station with their heavy cauldrons, green skin, tattered black outfits, and pointy hats. They seemed ready to stroll right past security. Sherman stepped off his stool and stood in the way of the lead witch. She stopped and squinted up at him.

"Morning, ladies," Sherman said. "Boarding pass and ID, please."

"Eh?" the first witch said.

"I need to see your boarding pass and a valid form of government-issued identification."

"I am called Double," the first witch said. "These are my sisters, Toil and Trouble."

"That's nice," Sherman said. "I still need to see some ID."

"How dare you impede us!"

"I don't make the rules, ma'am."

A deep voice came from behind Sherman. "Problem here?"

Sherman turned and saw his father standing by the podium. Sherman frowned. He wasn't supposed to be here. "These ladies are refusing to show their papers."

Sherman's father looked over the three witches. "Are you sure you're not in the wrong place, girls?"

"We go when we are called," the first witch said.

"Why don't you step over here, girls," Sherman's father said, gesturing toward one side of the corridor, "and we'll figure out how to get you to your destination."

The witches grumbled and shuffled off, following Sherman's father. Sherman sat back down and watched them. His father wasn't supposed to be here, but he couldn't remember why.


He looked up and saw a very attractive woman holding out a boarding pass and a blue Solar Union passport. Her brown hair and blue eyes seemed very familiar.

Sherman took the papers and ran them under his scanner. He didn't recognize her name. He handed back the papers. "Thank you, miss."

She stared at him. "Do you remember me?"

He wanted to. He really did. "I'm sorry, miss. I don't think we've met."

The woman looked like she might cry. She nodded and moved on.

Sherman's father came back and stood next to him. "Well, that was awkward."

Sherman didn't see the witches anywhere. "Where did they go?"

"To the right place."

"I don't understand."

Sherman's father shrugged. "Gets tricky out here, you know? Humans and aliens mingling together, different species, different beliefs. Sometimes a soul gets sent through the wrong passage." He patted Sherman on the back. "That's why you're here, isn't it?"

Sherman frowned. "What do you mean, 'soul?'"

"Well, nothing lives forever," Sherman's father said. "And when we die, we need guidance to get to the right afterlife. It got a whole lot more complicated when these aliens showed up. You think their bodies look strange? Half the time we can't even visualize their souls." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "I guess today's filter is Shakespeare."

"You're dead," Sherman said to his father.

"Of course I am." The old man looked sad. "Don't you remember, son?"

Sherman blinked tears from his eyes. "Am I dead?"


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