"Hey, you," Mortie waved a hand in front of Darren's face. "Is any of this getting through to your head?"
Darren stood there in stoned silence, then slowly shook his head.
Mortie groaned in exasperation. "Why do you young people need so much talking to? All right, all right, let me spell this out reeeal slooow."
"You, Darren, are dead. Don't ask me how or when, I'm just the gatekeeper around here. So far so good?"
"Dead as dead can be, I'm afraid. Which is why you have now come to Ghostopia."
So it was true after all. As he had feared, this was no prank nor dream. He really had died, and he didn't even know how. The bitterness of it didn't come all at once, but slowly he came to comprehend what being dead meant.
Being dead meant he would never see anyone he knew again. It meant all his dreams and ambitions were nothing but dust now. Most of all, he wouldn't get another chance with Emily. Ever.
"I do suppose I'm going to be here forever, aren't I?" he asked quietly.
"Forever." came the grim reply. "Till the skies part."
Darren pressed his eyelids together, willing the tears in his heart to come out through his eyes. However, he didn't feel like crying. In fact, he didn't feel like doing anything but to let it all sink in.
"Let's go," Mortie gave him a back-slap. "We can't afford to be wasting any more time. You'll learn to get along here, trust me."
Still with a faraway look in his eyes, Darren stared at him. "Go where?"
"Take this," He pushed a strange-looking card into his hands. "This will be the affirmation of your GIC. Lose it, and you lose your identity as a Ghost."
It was a six-sided cardboard with an indention of "DARREN 33866" and odd symbols below it.
"Now, go through that wall and you'll come to the townplace. Once you're there, choose your company well, and if you're lucky you should get a decent job in no time."
"If I'm lucky? What if I'm not? Then I don't get a job at all?"
"Maybe yes, maybe not. You could be a Demon, an Angel, or even take over my place. You'll just have to find your place in this world like you found yours in the previous."
It all sounded terribly discomforting yet exciting at the same time.
"Oh, well," Mortie sighed. "Since you're already here, you might as well make the best out of it. You're not the only one to have ever died young, you know."
Darren remained silent. "I guess I'll be seeing you around, then."
"Yeah sure, go knock yourself out." He propped himself back on his desk.