Kirsty saw the red light glow on the camera, the floor assistant pointed and the producer in her ear said ‘Go’. She smiled at the dark robed figure relaxing in the guest seat.
‘Good evening Kirsty.’
‘I take it this is a boom time for you?’
‘You’d think so wouldn’t you?’
The interviewer raised her eyebrows
‘You mean you aren’t busier than normal!’
‘I’m not saying that Kirsty,’ the guest lifted his robe slightly and crossed his legs. ‘But it’s not by as much as you’d think, sitting on your side of the equation.’
‘Well I confess I am surprised given what the ONS says is the uplift in the mortality rate month on month over the last year.’
‘But there has been a15% uplift in mortality rates in the UK alone.’
‘And you’d be right in many ways to express that surprise but you must realise this is a global enterprise. In some regional sectors, the USA, most of Western Europe, China, there has been a significant rise in demand for our services. It is however a much bigger picture and its very much swings and roundabouts.
‘But they eliminated the virus entirely by the middle of last year.’
‘That’s certainly what they say.’
‘There’s an element of confidentiality involved here Kirsty and I don’t want to discuss individuals or even individual countries in detail, but just let’s say you can’t always believe what you read in press handounts, can you?’ His booming laugh made the camera shake.
‘I suppose not.’ Kirsty put her finger to her earpiece and listened to the producer telling her to move on. ‘But it would seem there has been a significant uplift in numbers for you then?’
‘You have to realise the uptick from the virus itself and the closing of care services to other users has increased demand but at the same time you have to look at the other factors.’
‘Well, wars have slowed down. Seriously. Many combatants are concerned. Even ISIS said they wanted Jihad to be Covid secure!’ Again the laugh. ‘But seriously, reduced transport means fewer travel related deaths, and not just road traffic incidents, all sorts of cases related to moving people and cargo about have reduced in the interim.’
‘But what of this rumour about you taking on new colleagues to cope? The Government was touting this as a way of retraining and offsetting unemployment.’
‘It’s a difficult one Kirsty and I think it isn’t breaking too many rules to say that there is an element of mystical, nay, spiritual activity involved here. I mean I may be just one…’ the figure hesitated and cocked its hooded head to one side, ‘…entity, and bound by the basic laws of thermodynamics and time as anyone, sorry, anything, else, but I do have certain advantages over purely corporeal beings in time management.’
‘Are you saying you don’t need any help?’
‘Well I managed pretty well during all previous pandemics; awarded a significant bonus for the Black Death if you can put up with a little hubris, but I did try some outsourcing during the twentieth century.’
‘And how did that go?’
‘Well on pure numbers on the doors it was okay, but it didn’t free up as much time as I’d hoped, and there were significant admin issues with some of the recruits. People don’t always see the reason for paperwork, but believe me in the event of a head office audit you don’t want to be caught out with poor accounting procedures. Believe me.’
‘So you had to let them go?’
‘I had to terminate their contracts, yes.’
‘And the paperwork?’
‘All up to date, but it took some decades of overtime, and even on a multitasking temporally flexible being like myself, that can be taxing. So I have been considering my staffing options for the immediate future.’
‘If you don’t mind my saying so, it all seems a little unplanned, a little ad hoc?’
The cowl swivelled so that the black void as pointed at the interviewer. Her breathing became a little difficult and she reached for the water glass on the desk.
‘I may be a key player on the team, but I don’t get taken into future event confidences you know. There’s an ineffability embargo in effect. It seems reactive because it is.’ There was a long pause while Kirsty gulped some water and the hood moved aside. ‘Sorry. But it gets a little wearing after a while. A small heads up would be nice now and again. I mean in the Cold War I was on constant tenterhooks. Should I recruit temporary staff or not? Thermonuclear Armageddon could have put a real spanner in the smooth running of the operation you know. The rules say each person has to have a personal one to one conducting operation at the point and moment of demise. Try that with split second multi-million annihilation. But did I know whether it was going to happen or not? Oh no! Not even nudge or a wink.’ There was a shrug from the guest and a rattle from beneath the folds of the robe.
‘That must be very trying?’ Kirsty offered.
The figure sat up straight in the chair.
‘It can be. But mustn’t grumble. Always busy and I’m essentially a people being, so the more the merrier.’ There was a flash of a very white smile in the depths of the hood. Kirsty put her hand to her ear again and got the time warning.
‘Well that’s good to hear. I’m sorry but we don’t have your abilities so I’m afraid we’ve run out of time. Thank you for being with us tonight for this unprecedented and intriguing interview.’
‘You are very welcome.’ The hood swung to face directly into the camera and the lighting caught a glimpse of the white dome inside.
‘Goodnight all. See you soon.’