I promised I would provide a sample of my daft idea from Salmonweird when I got the chance to put my idea into text. A couple of nights ago, I wrote around 1500 words – the following piece is around half of that but it contains the most important information. At the moment, it’s placed linearly but I might move it within the story. I may eventually write a spin-off featuring the character I am about to introduce.
‘He was watching you from around the side of the building,’ Kensa growled, pushing him at me. The man stumbled and I instinctively I put my arms out to catch him but he passed right through me. She sheathed her sword and stood over him. ‘He followed you and Harry to the pub and he’s been waiting outside all this time for you to come out.’
He scrambled to his feet, looking embarrassed. The book he held in his hand was indeed leather-bound; he also wore contemporary clothing. It was no wonder that Corin Penrose assumed he was my son even though he looked nothing like me.
‘Is it true that you’ve been following me?’
He gave Kensa a shifty look. All of three seconds passed before she put her hand back on her sword.
‘Yes,’ he snapped his answer.
He picked up his book, open to the first page and began reading. ‘Dear customer slash future customer of Afterlife P-L-C. Following on from the announcement of our company’s winning bid for the franchise, we want you to know that we take our new role in the delivery of your afterlife service very seriously. As custodians of this prestigious brand name, we wish to continue to deliver the superior service you have already come to expect from the afterlife, but also present you some exciting and significant improvements on your existing service package. Over the coming weeks, we will announce a range of upgrades for our existing customers that we will roll out to our future customers.’
‘Hang on, wait a minute. You’ve been following me so you can deliver a sales pitch?’
He nodded and went on. ‘We have listened to our customer’s feedback and made significant improvements across the service area. As your new provider, we want to give you back the afterlife you deserve and make you proud to be one of our customers – we want to be a brand that you can see advertised and think “Yes, This Is a Brand I Love!”. Your satisfaction is our aim in what is the biggest overhaul in the two hundred and fifty thousand year history of human existence. This will not be easy, but we are ready for the challenge of the exciting times ahead of us. As a reward for your loyalty, for a limited time we wish to offer you our premium service at a significantly discounted introductory cost. The first three months will cost-’
‘What are these words?’ growled Kensa. ‘It sounds like evil and trickery, sorcery that no druid of mine would ever understand!’
I turned to Kensa. ‘Alas, Kensa my dear, welcome to what we in the 21st century call “Business Speak”.’ I turned to the man. ‘Listen you cheeky monkey, I’m not dead and I don’t expect to be any time soon so you’re wasting your time cold calling me.’
‘But sir, I just wish to take a few moments of your time, just to answer some questions we have about your needs.’ He temporarily closed his book. ‘Your feedback is important to delivering the improvements that we seek to implement.’
‘No thank you, but I’m surprised somebody decided to privatise the afterlife of all things,’ I said, amused. ‘One question – why?’
‘It’s simple,’ the man said, ‘the old bureaucratic system had become too large that it no longer functioned to the satisfaction levels that our customers expected. With the delivery package that Afterlife PLC offer to you today, you can expect a more streamlined service that listens and acts upon your needs.’
I raised my hand, ‘if it’s your intention to drive me to suicide through inane delivery of meaningless sales speak, then you are going about it the right way. Please, for the sake of my sanity, no more.’
‘Certainly sir, but we implore you to consider one of our amazing offers. We offer tailored packages to any deity and any faith entry system of your choice. We represent all four hundred thousand deities and will-’
I put my hand up again. ‘Wait – there are four hundred thousand gods now?’
He nodded enthusiastically. ‘We’re adding more every day to improve customer choice.’
‘So what are you, an angel?’
‘Oh good heavens sir, no. The angels – sorry, the Afterlife Executive Board of Directors – don’t do this sort of thing any more. I’m just a normal human being; dead, but human nonetheless. When I got to the other side last year, I was offered the job as a Customer Service Outreach Officer. Afterlife PLC promised benefits of a fast track to the Gold Customer Package and a few other perks. It was all rather agreeable.’
‘What’s your name strange-speaker?’ I’d watched Kensa throughout the conversation and she seemed no clearer on what we were talking about than she was at the beginning.
‘Well Tobin, what brings you to Salmonweir?’ I asked.
‘Opportunity!’ and then blow me if he didn’t put his hands up and slowly move them apart like one of those £100 per hour so-called Motivational Speakers.