No one knows who first started saying it, but now we all say it. We all say it because it’s the best thing you can say to let them know that something’s different, that something’s fundamentally changed, and for them to stop a take a beat. Which, of course, is exactly what they need to do.
You see, they’re always surprised to see us when we turn up. To learn that there is no Grim Reaper; just us suits, us mortals working our day jobs, day-in, day-out. I guess it all really is kind of strange, when I stop to think about it. But in the short time we’re talking I don’t really have time to get into how I became a suit, or about Hell Inc., or why He decided they should outsource their collections back to our mortal plane, and insisted on such secrecy around it.
Derek had to explain to me my first week on the job, you see, that they don’t remember. Even if they die in some horrific fashion, like getting crushed by a falling scaffold or blown away by a policeman’s shotgun or even doing the job themselves with a bathtub and razor blade, they never remember. They just wake up, confused and unharmed, with us suits staring back at them and then we say it. It’s the worst for the ones who die in their sleep, when they wake up and think it’s just a regular morning, and we’re there to tell them they’re going to Hell. And that there is no Heaven. But we don’t really have time to get into that either.
“I’m beat,” I said to Derek, “I’m going to call it a night.”
“Sure man,” he said, watching a cop car scream by with sirens flashing. “I’ll get the last one. Cya tomorrow.”
“Cya.” I went home and collapsed into bed. I didn’t even bother take off my suit.
When I woke up Derek was there in the house waiting for me, sitting in the chair in the living room, cigarette in hand, its long plume rising toward the ceiling.
“What’s up?” I said. “Another early start, or some fire to put out?”
Derek turned toward me with a look in his eyes I’d never seen before.
“Please, just take a moment.”