Life really does save its surprises for the end.
|The boy or young man as he considered himself now, stood amidst torrential rains and a low lying, creeper mist. It lingered at his feet but never got high enough to cause a loss in visibility, which was unfortunate for him because the dreadful scene he was experiencing made him want to vomit. Bleeding into the night sky were the red and blue neon’s of a police cruiser, sirens turned off so that ominous screams could be heard, even over the clamor of rain on blacktop. Flames were straining to skies, illuminating everything with a schizophrenic light and polluting the air with a coagulated bleakness. A putrid odor of burning something had filtered into the man’s nostrils, but he couldn’t get his tongue around what exactly it was that burned. Then, for the first time since the spectacle he created went off in tremendous fashion, he faced the smoldering hunks of metal that were once two motor vehicles.
Exceptionally light-footed he moved toward the vehicle that had got it the worst; a Honda Prelude miniscule in comparison to the mini-van it collided with. The Prelude’s front end was crumpled worse than a paper bag gone ‘pop’, and the van had lost its whole left side, sheared off like nobody’s business. As the man approached the tin-can car he took notice to a corpse spread eagle on its rolled back hood, tongue out and touching the battery. The body convulsed as thousands of volts of juice ran through it. The man put a hand against the corpse’s fragmented skull and made a ‘tsk tsk’ noise. For a moment he questioned why the voltage had not run through him as well, but then he remembered that it was coursing his veins at this very moment. Mind you it was the ‘him’ on the car hood that was taking the zap, not the ‘him’ watching every grisly detail, ironically intrigued.
That’s right, our “young man” or Rick as his friends call(ed) him was indeed dead. Deader than dead actually, his body was an unfixable mishmash of tissue and his soul had been let out, or so he figured. What else could explain his presence here? Dead Rick took a step back through a pool of his own blood and brain matter, and turned his attention to the commotion around the mini-van.
Whereas he had been left to sizzle atop his own hood like a symbol of justice, the mini-van and its passengers were mobbed by men in white and blue. Resting against the bumper of an ambulance was a woman in hysterics.
“I don’t care if he’s dead!” she screamed at a frightened cop. “He’s a monster, a murderer a filthy murderer!”
“But ma’am please calm down, the doctors need to…No ma’am wait! Don’t be stupid!” The cop was shouting now, but it was too late. The woman kicked and screamed her way through the mob enveloping her and did something incredible. Well incredibly stupid, but incredible nonetheless. She ran up beside the Prelude, to where Rick fried sunny-side up and punched his softened flesh, unfortunately launching her some twenty feet into a surrounding tree. ‘Yikes,’ Rick thought to himself. ‘How did I do this?’
He walked over to the side of the road and took a seat on a composting log, turning his back to the tragedy at hand. The tragedy he created…he created. That thought haunted him still, so he rummaged his pockets and reemerged with a pack of smokes and lighter. He hung a smoke from his lips and rolled his fingertip along the wheel of the lighter, incinerating the tip of his cigarette…as he had incinerated his body. A forceful shiver attacked his spine and he ceased up. Taking a deep inhale, he tried to get his mind back to the situation before him. That fucked up and blame laden situation. But he couldn’t just blame himself right? After all Jack Daniel and the Devil’s dandruff had some explaining to do too. ‘Christ’ he said to himself, ‘it’s amazing how fate, with just the twist of its finger can turn bliss into blasphemy.’ A rustle in a thicket before him sent his frayed nerves over the edge.
The rustling continued to get louder and Rick continued to sit on the bug infested log in icy anticipation. His blood (if he still had blood that is) stopped flowing and thunderous hammer drops had replaced his beating heart. Who was coming?
A stocky man with dark skin and scruffy facial hair emerged from the bushes, dripping wet. Strung over his back he wore a cloak-like overcoat and on his feet were the kind of boots fishermen used on a stormy day out to sea, that is to say they were ridiculously oversized. The dark, stocky man stepped toward Rick giving him a casual wave as if they were old acquaintances. “Hello there Rick.” He said briskly. Rick was unsure, “Uh you can see me?”
“Of course I can!” the man replied bemused. “In fact I was sent here to see you.”
Rick stumbled on the words as he tried to get them out of his charbroiled, half-cut psyche. “Wha…? I don’t get…sent by who?”
The man, to whom Rick now associated with a bumbling innocent black bear that had eaten a few too man berries let out a low, reverberating chuckle. He tried to suppress a laugh when the man’s double chins waved in an out in an odd sort of trick. “You dead are just too funny.” He said. “Who do you think sent me? You have passed on after all…” Rick picked up the cue. “So God sent you then? Are you like a Grim Reaper or something? Here to take me to heaven are ya’? Christ (with this word the man winced) life sure does save its surprises for the end don’t it?”
“You got it!” fat man retorted, “And I’ve got another surprise in store for you.” Rick raised his eyebrow, the man continued. “I’m not actually here to take you to heaven just yet, because you haven’t made it.”
This cat and mouse game had become tiring. “Well then who the fuck are you?” The man sat himself down to Rick’s left and put a gentle hand atop his shoulder. “Rick my boy, you messed up and you messed up bad. Trust me, God doesn’t want you infesting his land of hope and happiness, oh no he doesn’t. But that’s why I’m here, to get you in. God has to make some exceptions you know, he can’t always be ruthless. I’m your afterlife attorney.”
Rick, so taken aback fell from his perch on the rotting log and landed in a puddle of sludge so black it reminded him of molasses…It was thick as the molasses his mom would make cookies with when he was younger. She hadn’t made cookies in years though. Not now with him being such a screw up and his dad ditching the family. Oh how disappointed she was going to be now though, not only dead but he was going to be going out a murderer. On the other hand this may have just ridden her of a huge problem, maybe she wouldn’t be sad and disappointed for long. Maybe she would even make cookies again.
It was funny that he should be thinking about his mother again. She had been the last thought on his mind before he crossed the center line and pummeled that poor unsuspecting family. The dad has been his last sight, dread building in his eyes giving the effect of black holes for retinas; it was a precursor for the drama about to ensue. He was nearly positive his own face showed no signs of such terror though, his composure had been solid for the most part and why not, he knew that death was coming the split second he saw that van. It was imminent and impossible to escape. He yelled a jumbled mix of swearwords however, but other than that…Once again Rick felt nauseous.
Standing up with sludge caressing the lines of his back, he eyed down the mysterious man, stupidly amused by everything. “So just how are we gonna’ do that ha? “How are we going to get me in?”
The man stood to join Rick, analyzing the accident under his breath. He paused for a second. “We are going to do that by finding you a deed that will make up for this mess you created, and what a mess!”
The two meandered along a bustling city street where high-reaching monstrosities of human engineering mimicked and bee like swarms of people buzzed from Point A to Point B, perfectly content with life as it went, which was generally lackluster in Rick’s eyes. But then again even a boring life was still a life, and that was something he would never experience again. He had left the hive. Bzzz.
So many people here, there had to be at least a couple deeds good enough to get him a one way ticket to the big show. “So how do I know what deed is going to do it?”
“Trust one hundred and ten years of experience to notify you when the time is right.
“One hundred and ten?! Damn, that’s a long time for one job; they must pay you a fortune up there.”
Attorney frowned, “Watch your language first of all; you’re damned enough as it is. Second, I don’t get paid. This is heaven we’re talking about, not the cesspool of greedy filth that is these earthly attorneys.”
Rick tried to imagine a society without greed and money, but couldn’t. Those were two values high on his list. “So then what’s the advantage of working so many years at the same job?”
“The advantage is that I get to work round the clock.”
“Sound’s like some bonus.” Rick murmured, thick and dripping in sarcasm.”
“It is when your other options to pass time include a day of philosophical psycho-babble with someone who has yet to evolve past the toga.”
“So is that all heaven is? A bunch of dead people discussing nothing?” he asked.
The attorney’s face distorted as he attempted to think up and adequate description of heaven. “Not quite, it’s a cerebral place for sure, but Elvis, Cobain and that new guy two something can still keep the new arrivals entertained, and no matter how many times you see Da Vinci paint a five minute Mona Lisa it never gets old.”
“Is it crowded?”
A portrait of heaven filled the forefront of Rick’s imagination. The magnified sun looked infinite in the sky and beyond that was a sea of the deepest blue a sky could possibly be. Feathery and manipulative clouds served as the platform on which a group of blue hairs played chess, “cerebrally”. Their garbs of satin white toga’s shimmered in the sun. Behind them a faceless group of new arrivals jammed to Elvis and in the middle of it all Leonardo Da Vinci painted with such a fury that you would have expected to see his seat lit up like the top of a stove. This wasn’t Rick’s kind of place.
“And Hell, what’s that like?”
The attorney didn’t even bat an eye or skip a beat when he answered, “Its non-existent. Those who don’t make it to heaven simply live like you are right now. They amble around this world unbeknownst and hidden to everyone, even each other.”
“No. Once their souls have been battered and broken down for long enough they simply fade into oblivion. A rather mundane existence if you ask me.”
Rick shook his head, but said nothing. He wanted that afterlife even less than his vision of heaven. “Alright let’s get this over with then.”
Attorney stopped at a bench and took a seat, Rick sat beside him. “Patience Richard, you’re going to need it.” With those parting words the attorney vanished with a “crack”, trailed by a soft fizzle.
“Hey!” Rick yelled to his non-existent companion. “Hey get back here you son of a bitch!”
No answer. Rick had never felt so discarded in his live. Nobody to talk to anymore, and more guide to a thus far unfair afterlife. He watched the people walk by, enviously.
The longer Rick sat and waited, the more evident it became that Attorney would not be coming back. Where had he gone? Unknown, but it was clear his promise of heaven had become a distant whim left unfulfilled. It made him wonder if this was all just a dream, but that would be too good.
He was startled by something out the corner of his peripheral. A kid, no older than two or three had dropped a bouncy ball that was now making its way directly for him. The young boy, hot on its pursuit took off into the busy street. To Rick’s right a car entered the blind corner and before him the kid entered a fast lane to death. Without a thought to his current condition, Rick ran out in the road and pushed the kid. Amazingly his palms were met with a meaty surprise as the kid was sent back on his rear in tears. Cars swerved and honked, only provoking the tears. The car that nearly killed the kid passed harmlessly through Rick, ignorant to the situation that almost occurred at its tires. A screeching mom took into the street where her carelessness almost cost a son his life.
A loud “crack” sounded from behind and Rick shifted his focus. Attorney gave him a bewildering stare and shook his head.
“Did you see that?! You had to have seen that, more importantly did he see that?”
The attorney breathed and sighed. “‘Fraid we all saw it Rick should have been good news. After all you passed the test; you saved a life without me.”
“Should be?” Rick started.
“Yes, unfortunately as I said before God sometimes feels the need to make exceptions…but sometimes…”
“You don’t mean?”
“Yupp, sorry kid but I…we can’t win ‘em all.”
Rick couldn't believe his ears as the last words he would ever have spoken to him, began to sink in. This was it. He sat down in the middle of the road and cried, even though he told himself he wouldn’t. Restraint wasn't going to come now, he was feeling far too sorry for himself and his pitiful new existence. These thoughts were reserved for him only though, in the eyes of the attorney and the busy workers of the hive he was just another one for the stats books and anti-drug campaigns. In their eyes he was just another pilfered life that they could "tuh-tuh".