In the old terms, it was a Crow Drop. Something deniable, a dead drop for the Devil’s agents. An unobserved, unguarded corner of nowhere that accumulated unbought souls. No-one had bargained for them, no-one had cleaned and accepted them, they fell from the meat of a body when the light went out and were picked up by those of a mind to notice.
One such drop was in a wood, once upon a time. But once upon a time has a habit of becoming here and now, and the wood was long gone. Houses lined up, streetlights followed, the town spread in like a cancer. It choked the wood and coughed up sparse rows of plane trees, erupting through rough tarmac shrouds.
The Crow Drop remained. Its signalman, an ancient rook with a cry even more rasping and grim than usual for its breed, sat on the eaves of the nearest house and clicked disapprovingly at passers-by. A shabby nest in the highest branches of a cherry tree served as its home, and had done for fifty years. Before that, an ash.
No-one knew the Crow Drop was there, a hollow log now deep below the ground and snug in the grip of the cherry’s roots. Inside, three blank, untendered souls brooded and bickered. Even within Hell’s ponderous, meticulous administrative system (and you may be sure there is one, and every mark on your soul is logged) sometimes details are lost.
The location of this Drop was indeed long-lost, so the three occupants remain inside as unconsidered trifles never to be picked up. The rook’s calls lost themselves in the clamour of the growing suburb, just another scratch in the soundscape of the outer city. Maybe some day, when humanity is long gone, when all the wars – terrestrial and celestial – are over, when the city returns to the countryside, returns to the sea, maybe the rook will be heard. It will sit, in the drowned world, atop the hollow log and drift on the currents. And whoever is still left to look might just find the last three names untallied in the long, deep books of the dead.