The administration building was as dingy as he remembered, though now it seemed even more devoid of colour. He navigated the twist and turns to the executive office like he'd built the place, countless pairs of eyes watched and dull whispers sparked seconds after he passed like an audible wake. He blew past the secretary and a waiting room full of nervous looking people. He didn't need an escort; he knew the drill, showed himself in. The administrator looked pleasantly surprised, "Well, Well, Well. Look who's back. How long's it been? Seven years?"
"Eight! Well, you must have had an imaginative one. What did they have you doing? Aliens, cowboys, ninjas?"
"Nah, not this time. This one was different. This one was my friend."
"Huh. Really." The administrator opened a large book that blew a mushroom cloud of dust from the desktop as it came to rest. He licked the tip of his pencil a little too long; it looked like he actually enjoyed the taste. "Let me see. Ahhh yes. Toby Trueman. Oh, deceased." The administrator lifted his head. "I see."
"I thought I'd never had to come back here."
"I didn't expect to see you so soon neither, you served your time. You got allocated a lifer. Done."
"Your lifer was killed huh? How old?"
"Thirteen and still happy for an imaginary friend."
"We were happy. Yes."
"How'd he die?"
"I'm sorry. A lifer is a lifer. No guarantees on how long you get."
"I know. How long till I can get another?"
"A lifer? Wow. I don't know. There is a loooooong waiting list and less demand."
"Yeah. Less demand. Kids are imagining much less these days."
"Can't you bump me up the list a bit?'
"You know I can't do that. Some friends have been waiting in here for an assignment for decades. I know you're great at what you do, but the line has gotten longer since you been away too. iPads and such, kids don't want us no more. You got your lifer, you crapped out. Now, you'll have to wait for your turn. Back of the line. Sorry. You wanna forget him, go have your memory wiped, east wing, second floor."
"I know where it is."
"Otherwise go be a miserable someplace else, like the back of the line. I got friendships to forge."