Ellen Vinke
Short Story // The Forms

époque press
pronounced: /epƏk/
definition: /time/era/period

Somehow he hadn’t thought the afterlife would involve so much paperwork. He’s in a room with off-white walls, which is empty but for the desk he’s seated at and the chair he’s sitting on. On the desk are the latest form and the HB pencil that he was told to use when he first walked in. The only other person in the room is the silent Clerk who stands in the corner watching him, only approaching to deliver yet another form. The singular splash of colour in the room are the words “PLEASE COMPLETE ALL REQUIRED FORMS AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN” written along one wall in three-foot high green lettering. He looks down at the questionnaire he’s currently filling out.

 

Question 4 – Did you do your best? (Please only select one answer):

a)  Yes [ ]

b) No. (I thought I didn’t have to because he was already better than me) [ ]

c) I always told people that I did [ ]

d) He was the only one who saw through me [ ]

 

He doesn’t know how to answer that, doesn’t want to think about it, so he decides to skip ahead a little.

 

Question 7 – Do you regret lying to him? (Please select all that are applicable):

a) No, I thought I was protecting him [ ]

b) Yes, of course [ ]

c) I wish I could take it back [ ]

d) It’s the worst thing I’ve ever done [ ]

 

He should be used to the odd questions and their scarily specific options by now, but even after filling in hundreds of forms he doesn’t understand why these people are asking him when they clearly already know the answers. His hands shake as he makes three tiny ‘x’s next to answers b, c, and d.

 

Question 8 – Did he cry when you told him? (Please select the answer[s] you find most appropriate):

a) I watched his heart unspool like thread [ ]

b) I cried too [ ]

c) We ran out of tissues [ ]

d) He didn’t stop for two days [ ]

 

The pencil snaps in two in his hands. A new one is placed on the desk by the Clerk. He makes another ‘x’.

 

Question 9 – Did you move on? (Please answer this as quickly as possible):

a) No. No. No. No. No. [ ]

b) How do you move on from the best thing you ever had? [ ]

c) I could smell his aftershave for weeks after, even though I kept the windows open [ ]

d) I had to stop listening to vinyl because the crackle of the static made me think of him [ ]

e) I met him in the park six months later and I still couldn’t look him in the eye [ ]

 

He didn’t think you could cry when you’re dead, but then again, he’s been wrong so many times today. For a moment he watches as his teardrops darken the paper in uneven splotches, then returns to the questions.

 

Question 10: Was it all worth it in the end? (More than one answer may be applicable)

a) I was never happy again [ ]

b) I ruined myself and him [ ]

c) Everything I had collapsed around me [ ]

d) Being here is the closest I can come to making it right [ ]

 

He buries his face in his hands in a vain attempt to smother his sobs. The Clerk arrives to take the completed
form with them, leaving another in its place. He wipes his face on his sleeves, picks up his pencil again and begins to make ‘x’s.

Ellen is a Creative Writing student graduated (without a graduation) from the University of Aberdeen this summer. Her fiction writing is as yet unpublished, but she has had great success (and by that we mean didn't faint on stage) at open mic nights.

 

Of her story Ellen says:

 

‘My piece is inspired by the fact that I imagine after a lifetime of living there is rather a lot of paperwork. And even when that paperwork deals with things such as love and heartbreak - after several aeons of filling it in, it becomes tedious no matter what it's about.’