stamp-of-conquest

Reclamation

Having taken his number, the man steps to back of a long queue. 12884. He tries to remember it, but finds himself constantly glancing between the small ticket and the electric red reader board above the lane of clerk booths, which display only odd numbers, incrementing only by values of two.

“They’ll come around to the evens after exhausting the odds,” a woman tells him.

He has brought the corpse. Before getting in line he leaned it up against a marble pillar and folded its hands together in a pose of thoughtfulness. Its chin droops toward its chest as if in sleep.

“My son is dead,” cries the man. “I demand reclamation.”

Over the loudspeaker a voice murmurs, “All demands to the end of the line, please.”

A map is brought to him, written in a foreign language, offering directions to the proper queue. The first step appears to direct him back out of the building.He wonders why the queues exist when they have numbers. He is told it makes the system twice as fair. All along the ceiling dangle multi-colored cocoons. He is told that during one phase of his grief he will be required to nest inside one of these pods and imagine a world where he is the son and his son is the father.

He cannot be sure how long he has waited. Clocks are forbidden here. A watched clock never boils.

When the line moves forward he begs his neighbor hold his place as he slides his son down to the next pillar. He has done this several times already, but the front of the queue appears no nearer than before. It feels as if the long row of clerk booths may be inching backward through the room. He is told to fill out multiple forms and follow exact procedures. “I am suffering so deeply it is difficult to be exact,” he says. They tell him it is the easiest thing in the world to bring a son back to life, but how can we know for sure this is your son and not some dead body you’ve dug up and dragged here? Perhaps you are trying to cheat your way to a second son.

A young woman runs past him. Tears fly from her cheeks. “There are never any reclamations! This is a world of distractions, where we wait until our longing for justice subsides.”

By nightfall his anguish has multiplied exponentially. He still cannot remember his number without referencing his ticket. He often glances at his son, as if expecting the boy to shake off sleep and smile at him. He suffers excruciating guilt at the thought that it would be easier to simply burry the dead. The lines on his map have changed. His instructions will expire at dawn.