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Sarah opened her eyes with a gasp, jumping out of her seat. Gentle but firm hands pushed her back down.

“Welcome to limbo,” someone said. Sarah put her hand to her head and wondered what was going on. She tried to piece together her memory as the voice droned on in the background.

She had been in the car, hadn’t she? She tried to concentrate, not listening to the suited woman who was droning on at her. Slowly, her memories came back to her. She had been in the car, and it had been raining.

“Now, if you’ll just follow me.”

Sarah looked up, startled out of her shattered memory. She followed the suited man out into a waiting room where he told her to take a ticket and a seat. She had already done so before she realised that he had been a woman a few moments earlier.

“What the hell is going on,” she muttered, shaking her head.

“Limbo,” an old man next to her said. She stared at him, confused. “It’s not hell, it’s limbo,” he explained.

“Umm. What?”

He looked at her and nodded sagely. “Accident or violence?”

She looked at him blankly.

“The ones that come in off accidents or violence never catch The Talk. You’d have thought they’d learn and give you a chance to collect yourself first, but no, they just talk at you while you aren’t listening and then plonk you straight into the waiting room. What you missed them telling you is, welcome to limbo. You take a number and wait, then eventually they’ll give you a reincarnation”

Sarah’s eyes widened. “Reincarnation? You mean I’m…”

The old man patted her knee reassuringly. “Yes, you are, but look, your number’s coming up soon. Not much of a wait for you.”

She glanced at the ticket in her hand, and up at the screen. True enough, her number was only a couple away from the one on the screen. She looked at the ticket the old man held. It was a lot higher than hers. She frowned.

“You were here before me, how come your number’s higher?”

“Oh, the tickets don’t come out sequential, love. The more you have to think over from your life, the longer you have to wait. I was ninety three. Plenty to think on.”

Sarah looked around the room. It seemed to stretch out and go on forever, with thousands of people waiting their turn.

“How does this work? I mean, what happens now?”

The old man laughed. “Heh, I can see it’s your first time around. You’d remember if you’d been here before. Your number comes up, you go into a booth with a reincarnation officer, and they give you a new life. You get born afresh, somewhere back on Earth.”

Sarah took a deep breath. This was a lot to take in. “Where?”

The old man shrugged. “Could be anywhere. You’ll go somewhere that’ll let you learn the lessons you need to learn.”

“So long as it isn’t France,” Sarah muttered.

The old man smiled as if he knew something. “Why not France?”

Sarah gestured vaguely. “You know. Horrible food. Stupid complicated language. And the people.” The old man looked as if he was trying not to laugh. “Well, they’re just so… so… French.”

Sarah was saved from further explanation by a soft ting from the screen. Her number had come up already.

“Au revoir,” the old man said with a wink as Sarah stood up. A suited person – this time she simply couldn’t even hazard a guess on gender- guided her into a booth and sat down opposite her.

“Okay, Sarah,” the person said in a friendly but efficient way, “We have assigned you a reincarnation with a lovely family in Bordeaux. You’ll be their first child, since you’ve already been through being the youngest.”

High school geography briefly fluttered through Sarah’s mind. “Hang on,” she said. “Bordeaux? That’s in France isn’t it? I don’t wanna be French!”

Her reincarnation officer smiled up at her, shuffling papers. “We’re well aware of your prejudices, Sarah. That’s precisely why we chose Bordeaux.”

© Kari Fay

Author’s Note: By way of explanation- when Lady Gaga’s song ‘Bad Romance’ came out, my boyfriend swore she sang the line “I don’t wanna be French”…