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Will Night Ever Come?

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Emma opened her eyes. She didn't recognize the room. She didn't know how she had gotten there.

She was sitting down on a sofa, which was quite comfy. In front of her was a white wall, with vaguely threatening words printed in green on it. Emma read them a few times

 

Welcome!

Everything is fine.

 

"... What the fork?" She wondered out loud. "... Did I just say fork?"

"Emma Perkins?"

Emma turned to the voice. A tall woman peeked through a door. She wore a grey suit and a dark blue tie. Her long, white hair went all the way down to her knees.

"Good morning. Come in here, I have news for you."

Sure! Why not? Not much left to do, anyway. Emma got up from the grey sofa and followed the woman into her office. She sat down behind her desk, and Emma sat in front of it, in another criminally comfortable chair.

"Okay! Um, my name is Mariah, and I'll get straight to the point," she said, fidgeting with her fingers. "Emma, you are dead."

Emma had no reply. She died. She died and she didn't even get a chance to smoke the fattest bunt she had ever rolled. That was not okay.

"You were killed after you dropped a margarita mix in a store parking lot, and a line of shopping carts pushed you into the street while you tried to pick it up, and you were hit by a truck."

"... Oh. Well that's lame... What kind of truck?"

"All your file really says about it was that it was carrying a billboard advertising erectile dysfunction pills."

"Oh. Okay then. What were my last words?"

"... If I say them, the filter will censor me."

"What???"

"We have a swear filter on. It turns swear words into different words." Mariah explained.

Oh, Emma was definitely in hell. "I'll probably know what you mean."

"Your last words were, quote, 'Holy shirt'. It's how most react to an truck accelerating towards them."

Another letdown. "...Okay, yeah, this is great and all but what is this? Heaven? Hell?"

"Well, we ask you'd refrain from calling them 'heaven' and 'hell'. But there is definitely a Bad Place, and there's a Good Place." Mariah smiled. "Emma, you've made it. Welcome to the Good Place!"

Emma stared in disbelief. They put her in paradise. Some idiot put her in paradise by accident. How did they mess that up??

"Uh... Thanks." Emma finally replied, and Mariah laughed.

"I know, I know, it's a big surprise! But you did it! Come on, let me give you a tour of the neighborhood you'll spend eternity in! I designed it myself."

Mariah led Emma out of the office, beaming as they stepped out into the cobblestone streets. The streets were lined with vibrantly colored buildings, and the scent of vanilla and chocolate cakes wafted from a nearby bakery.  It was a cozy, charming place, underneath a lovely blue sky. Butterflies danced among the flowers planted beside the road. People went about their business, all with smiling faces.

They kept going, into a calmer part of the neighborhood. There was a quiet lake, and a bridge leading across to a small house surrounded by greenery and cool shadows casted from tall weeping willows. As they went back to the main streets, Emma noticed the roof of a mansion in the distance, peeking over the other buildings.

"This is seriously impressive," Emma admitted, "when you say you designed this... How long did this take?"

"I have no idea!" Mariah said. "I never paid much attention to time. Never needed to. You see, this is my first time doing... Human things. Most architects leave their neighborhoods behind, but what fun is that? Humans fascinate me! I love living with them."

"So what are you, exactly?"

"I'm an architect. I don't know quite how to describe it."

"Okay, yeah, sure, whatever."  Emma decided to leave it there.

"Let's go back to the center of the neighborhood. I've got a video to show to my new residents!"

Mariah led her to the humble patch of grass called the center of town, where there were lawn chairs facing a small, white stage. Emma sat down near the front, and like magic, a video of Mariah appeared out of thin air.

"Welcome, to the neighborhood of Hatchetfield!" Video-Mariah announced. "No where better to spend the afterlife in. But you probably still have a lot of questions, and I get that. You're wondering what it all means, and..."

Emma's brain tuned the video out in favor of watching a grasshopper climb up the arm of the guy sitting next to her. Grasshoppers were in Emma's list of good bugs, which meant she liked them. And she started to wonder what wonderful deeds a grasshopper could've done to end up in the Good Place, before Mariah tapped her shoulder and whispered to her.

"Your work as a lawyer racked up a lot of good points for you. You saved so many lives that were on death row... The world was lucky to have you."

Emma had no clue what she was talking about, and took that as a signal to get back to watching the video. But Mariah wasn't done talking.

"You were astounding, really. I could refresh your memory later."

"Yeah, sure."

"You will share your residence with your soulmate. That's right, they're real! But they aren't just romantic partners. Your soulmate can be like a best friend, or like another family member to you. No matter what, they're someone you can confide in, who you can truly understand, and who truly understand you."

Emma was intrigued by that. She wasn't sure how to feel about it. She wasn't really someone who needed a person to confide in. She never liked sharing her feelings. Maybe her soulmate hated hearing about other people's feelings. That would work perfectly. She lost interest in the video again, as she searched the crowd from her chair, trying to guess who she was paired with.

And Mariah snapped her fingers, and Emma saw memories that weren't hers. She saw someone doing amazing things, that she never could do. Someone better than her in every way. Someone saving lives. 

"Emma, I'm really proud of you."

She had never felt more misplaced.

 

After the video was over, Mariah took Emma to her house. Which was... A house. It was a house, for sure. She wasn't sure if she liked it. It looked sort of small, and the abstract style of the windows wasn't working with her. She wasn't sure if she liked the vibrant colors, either.  It reminded her of those funky sculptures she'd see in pictures of Chicago.

"Here it is! It's been designed perfectly for your tastes. It's the house of your dreams."

"Yeah, it's greeeaaat." Emma gave a thumbs up.

"Let's meet your soulmate! I told him to stop by."

Emma went up to the door with Mariah and they let themselves into the house. She didn't see anyone there right away but she saw the decor and hated it instantly. 

"So, uh... Is there some kinda like... Trend here of creepy clown paintings??" She asked. There were tons of them on the living room walls, and one giant grey scale painting on the back wall. 

"You liked clowns. Right?" Mariah said.

"Oh yeah. I love the feeling of being watched by creepy clowns. Great house. So lovely."

"That's wonderful! This is my first neighborhood, so I was a little nervous..."

"Yeah, no, it's fine."

"Lovely! Ooh, Emma, watch this!"

Mariah picked up a remote from the coffee table, and pointed it at the back wall. She pressed a button, and the clown painting lifted up slowly to reveal the bedroom behind it, playing some sort of circus music as it did so.

That was going to get annoying fast.

"Ta-da! Isn't that fun?"

"Yeah, that's really fun great, wow, yum."

"You soulmate isn't in there, either... He must be out right now." Mariah noticed.

Just then, a man walked in through the front door. 

"Oh, there he is!"

"Um, hi, Mariah," he said, "what are you doing here? Who's that?"

"Paul, this is your soulmate, Emma Perkins. She fought for human rights, and was a lawyer who defended the innocent people who found themselves on death row. She's a perfect match for someone like you. Emma, Paul Matthews is an ethics professor. He made sure every choice in his life made others happy. You'll get along great."

Emma just nodded and smiled. She was never really a fan of ethics. And she had a feeling she wouldn't be a fan of this guy.

"I'll let you two get to know each other. I'll be back in a bit!"

Mariah left the house, and the two stayed silent for a few seconds.

 

And then a few more seconds.

"Hey, um... Do you know if they have any weed here?" Emma asked.

Paul took a moment to respond. "I- I mean, I don't see why they wouldn't. But don't you want to talk? You've done great things! I want to hear about them! And you're my soulmate!  That's amazing!"

"Look, man, I have no forking clue what she's on about! But you're a professor, right?"

"... Right."

"Of ethics!"

"Yes."

"So like... If someone asked you to keep them safe from a potential fate of eternal damnation, you'd kiiiinda have to help them, riiiight?"

"What does that have to do with this?" Paul asked.

"I'm not supposed to be here. All that lawyer stuff is bullshirt! And I have no idea what they're gonna do if they find out!"

"... What?? Waitwaitwait- then- what did you actually do?"

"Oh, I was a sales rep. Sold fake medicine."

"Oh, that's... Awful."

"I was one of the best where I worked!"

"But that's worse. You do get how that's worse, right?"

"Eh." Emma shrugged. "I had to make money somehow."

"Okay, okay... How about a different question? What do you remember doing the day you died?"

"... Nothing." Emma lied, noticing that the only thing she remembered was throwing a cup of coffee at a Greenpeace girl asking for donations to help the efforts to clean the world's oceans. She missed, but still. 

"But it's not like I was awful! I didn't kill anyone or set any buildings on fire! I didn't, like, find a wallet  on the ground in front of an IHOP, thought about returning it but them saw that the owner lived out of state so I just took the cash and put the wallet back on the ground!"

"That's really specific, and makes me think that you definitely did do that."

"I didn't! My point is, I don't belong in the Bad Place!"

"I guess so. But what do you want me to do about it?"

"You can help me, right? Teach me how to be a better person! They'll never realize they forked up!"

"So... You want to lie to everyone?"

"That's not-"

"... I guess that'd be on you. But then I'd be helping you lie..." Paul trailed off for a moment. "I'm getting a stomachache... If I do teach you, I want you to actually try. I'm sure you could improve. Anyone can. But you need to try, okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever."

"Okay. Okay. Cool. Um. Maybe we'll start tomorrow. You just want me to teach you ethics?"

"I guess," Emma shrugged nonchalantly, "but mostly just don't make it boring."

"Okay! It's not a guarantee. I'm just gonna think about it because honestly you don't seem like the best and I don't know what that implies for me."

"I can like, hook up with you in exchange if you want." Emma offered.

"Uh, well- I think- no. Let's not do that."

"Lame."

Mariah popped her head in through the front door. "Your neighbors are heeeere!"

"Oh wooow, neighbors!" Emma exclaimed, putting her flimsily crafted good person costume back on. "I've never hated a neighbor in my life! Especially not all of the neighbors I've ever had!"

Paul elbowed her, but it didn't really hurt. "We would like to meet them."

 

Mariah took the two to the mansion that had been towering over the buildings, and Emma admired it with envy. So tall, and elegant. The type of home people were supposed to have in paradise.

A blonde woman greeted her and Paul in the front yard, smiling politely and shaking their hands. She introduced herself as Linda Monroe, and Emma noticed the quiet boy by her side. He was dressed in black robes, fiddling with his fingers.

"Who's that?" She asked, pointing to him.

"Oh, him? That's Ether. I was a fabulous mother when I was alive, so they gave me this... Strange teenager to take care of.  He took a vow of silence. The house is dreadfully quiet." Linda explained.

"Vow of silence?" Emma questioned further.

"It's tragic, really," Mariah said, "the poor boy was a member of an obscure cult. They sacrificed him at such a young age..."

"Oh, that is awful." Paul frowned sympathetically. "Do you know if he likes hugs?" He asked Linda.

"I have no clue! He doesn't tell me a thing, obviously."

"Oh. Well, I won't hug unless I know he's okay with it."

"How about a topic change?" Mariah suggested, "Linda, how about you tell them why you're here?"

"Oh, yes! I'm here for all of my charity work. It's nothing, really. I was born into a rich family by chance. What was I supposed to do while my sister was spending the family fortune on silly things?"

"Holy shirt! Sisters! I have a sister, Jane. She died just a year before me. She must be-"

"Oh, Emma..." Mariah interrupted in a sorrowful tone, "Jane's... In the Bad Place."

"... What? But she was perfect! She was so-"

"Look, I don't know why she's there. I just know she definitely isn't here."

"Well, that's..."

A silence washed over for a moment, until Mariah broke it.

"I've got an idea! Why don't we talk over some treats? There's a frozen yogurt place downtown."

"That sounds nice. Let's do that." Paul agreed.

 

The group continued their conversation, eating frozen yogurt.  Emma was eating it, but then she sort of picked at it. 

"Hm... I wish I had more toppings. I ate them all before the yogurt."

"That reminds me," Mariah said, "I have something to show you guys! Melissa!"

"Hi!"

The group jumped when out of thin air, someone with red hair and glasses appeared behind Mariah.

"Woah!" Emma calmed down, sitting up. "This place is great, you can make cute girls appear out of thin air."

"Not a girl," Melissa corrected, "I'm a vessel for all of the information in the universe."

"And she can give you anything you want!" Mariah added.

Melissa smiled brightly with a nod. 

"Okay, cool. Uh, Melissa can you- AH!!"

They were startled again as she appeared behind Emma, still flashing a charming grin.

"Hi!"

"That is gonna take some getting used to! Can you put some more sprinkles in my yogurt?"

"Sure thing! How many?"

"Uh... Fifty? I guess?"

And fifty more sprinkles appeared in Emma's cup. "Oh! Cool."

"Yes, that really is wonderful," Linda said with a smile, "she'd be a great help for the party later!"

"A party?" Emma was interested.

"Of course! We're in paradise. Isn't that worth celebrating?"

"Me and Paul will be there."

"Um, yeah, sure. We can go. But ask me before you say that I'm going, please."

"I mean, why wouldn't you go?" Then, she leaned towards Paul and whispered "I bet there's gonna be alchohollll".

 

Five minutes after they got to the fancy, formal party, Emma was drunk. She was trying to, and failing at, striking up a conversation with Ether.

"Heeeey, oh my god that's right you don't talk. Wait! I got it. I'm gonna make you want to talk. I'm gonna give you somethin' and you're gonna talk about it soooo much! Okay."

Ether tilted his head, but nodded slowly.

"I don't belong heeeeeeeeere." 

He reached for a glass of wine, and took a sip.

"I know, right! It's crazy! Haha!"

He cringed, before he spit the wine back into the glass.

"You can't handle a bit of wine, dude?"

"Emma, come on," Paul put a hand on her shoulder. "How many  drinks did you have?"

"None of your business, you forking narc."

He sighed through his nose. "Emma, I'm not-"

"Hey, they got shrimp cocktail! Move, homeboy, I'm 'bouta get it!"

"What-? Emma!"

But she had already run off, stuffing her face with shrimp.

"That's for everyone, you know!" He shouted to her.

"EXACTLY!" She shouted back, much louder, and with her mouth full. "Mmm... That's good shirt. Hey, what was that hot girl's name? From earlier? That... Alexa-like one."

"Melissa?" Paul questioned, and she appeared, nearly making Ether knock  the nearby table over.

"Hi! How can I help you?" She asked.

Paul pointed to Emma. "She wanted you."

"Yes, I desire her," Emma said, "carnally."

"You can't just say that!! You're drunk!"

"I can't help you there, ma'am," Melissa said, unfazed. 

"Oh shirt, that's right! I'm not a robo-forker!"

"Not a robot, but sure. If there's nothing else you want, I will be leaving."

"I'm goooood."

Melissa disappeared.

"Emma, we need to get you to bed." 

"Noooooooo! Paul!" She whined in protest. "I won't be drunk anymoooore! Promise!"

"That's not how it works."

"Besides, that... Mean giraffe is giving a speech."

"Mean giraffe...?" Paul looked to the small stage at the back of the beautifully lit room to see Linda. "She's barely taller than you, Em. She's just wearing heels. And how is she mean?"

"She keeps giving me funny looks!"

"Whatever. We'll listen to her, but we're going home after that."

"Listen to a speech? Fork you! I'd rather go home. I don't even like her! Forking... Ugly, frog-looking bench. She smells like a ladybug when they get all like... Goopy."

 

Paul took Emma back to her house, and set her down on the couch.

"Hey, Paaaaaul."

"Emma, go to sleep. "

"Paaaaaul!"

"What."

"Fork you."

He sighed, shaking his head. "Emma, you don't want to be good, do you? You just want to stay here."

"Sounds about right."

"If you stay like you are, you're going to make people miserable. If I don't tell Mariah what's going on, then I'll be to blame, too. You know that, right?"

"... Yeah."

"Give me a reason for me to not just tell her."

"Hey- hey hey hey, wait-! Dude, listen."

"I'm listening."

"I... I... I don't... Know."

Her voice went soft and quiet.

"I mean, really. I can't think of anything. People are probably mourning you. People miss you. You're actually nice. And you're probably smart. And you actually gave a fork. I'm just... Kinda... Dead. My parents died, and they're probably busy torturing each other. My sister's down there, too, apparently. I barely knew the rest of my family. Honestly, you totally got scammed with me as a soulmate."

"... I'm not going to tell anyone. I promise."

"... Okay."

"Let's sleep."

"Okay."

Emma got up and went into the bedroom. Paul followed closely behind, bringing the remote with him so he could close the room off.

The circus music was already becoming irritating.

 

Emma woke up to a hectic commotion outside, and she shook Paul awake.

"Huh? Wha? Who's-? What's going on??"

"Like I'd know! Construction, maybe?"

"People are screaming out there, I don't think it's construction."

Emma looked out the window. "Holy motherforking shirt balls..."

The previously cheery and quaint neighborhood was being terrorized by giant giraffes, and flying shrimps. Forks chased people through the streets, and everyone was dressed from shoulder to toe in yellow and black zig zags.

"What the fork is going on?!? This looks like something out of my fourth grade sketchbook."

"Emma... Oh. My god."

"Right?!?"

"No, Emma, I think the neighborhood is going crazy because you're doing bad things in it."

"You're going crazy."

"No, seriously. There's mean giraffes, forks everywhere, and you're the only one who isn't wearing those zig zags."

"Wait, they're gonna find out!! Paul, I think you really, really need to help me, like right now. Please. Please teach me how to be good. If this happens again it could totally blow my cover!"

"Oh my god there's a giant frog."

"Paul!"

"There's a giant ladybug?! This is terrifying!"

"I'm forked. I'm totally forked. I'm going to The Bad Place. Might as well already be there, cause, yeah, it's pretty terrifying right now..."

"We need to focus on this right now, okay?! Then I can help you."

"Wait, you're seriously going to help me...?"

 

Mariah and Melissa stood in the midst of the chaos in the streets.

"No... No no no... This is awful..." Mariah shrunk, looking close to tears. "The neighborhood's bad... It's bad... There's something bad... No! There won't be for long! Melissa!"

"Yes, Mariah?"

"Call an emergency meeting."