It’s been a while, but I have a lot of things to tell you.
I made a decision. I decided to ask Carmella to marry me. Well, first… maybe I should go back a little further, especially to preface as to why I decided to giving her my vows.
One day, while I was on my way home from a long day of hunting dust bunnies at school, this old guy came up to me. He asked me if I was interested in seeing something. I shrugged the guy off and as I walked by, trying to find some change to throw at him or something (mainly because he looked like a dirty old bum), he stepped in front of me.
I suddenly felt like he was going to try and rob me when all of a sudden he looked me right in the eyes.
Journal, if you can’t see I actually just opened my eyes wide and attempted to show you what his eyes looked like. I feel like if you had eyes you would have seen what I meant, but that’s beside the point.
He was wearing a large, disgusting duster… that’s the only word I can think of… it was something out of an old Clint Eastwood western. And this… brightness blinded me and even though I felt my eyes close and felt my pupils dilate. I shouldn’t have seen anything, but I did.
No Journal, he was not naked, but something did flash me…
It was almost like I had a sudden vision of my future. I saw myself on my wedding day. I was standing at the altar and I was dressed extra dapper. I mean, I was probably the most handsome man in the room, if I do say so myself. I saw my folks, my aunts and uncles, Grandma, even a few of my cousins I had never seen. Carmella’s parents and her huge family were on the other side too. I turned and saw that Hal was behind me smiling a sad smile, it was almost as if he felt sorry for me for some reason, but he held up two thumbs to try and pretended he was excited.
And then there she was for a split second. Carmella in a wedding gown.
Don’t roll your non-existent eyes at me, Journal! It’s true!
She was wearing a very classical wedding gown. It looked old, probably some old Italian tradition in her family. The veil was stitched with beautiful flowers and had sparkling stones as to which I could never identify. The cloth hugged her body in all the right places and made her figure stand-out that much more. There was a small trail of cloth dragging behind her, it made her look regal, let me tell you.
And then it was done, she had barely taken more than three steps and the vision was gone.
The old man covered himself back up and was inching his way towards me.
He said in some gravely sort of voice, “Do you want to see more?”
Before I knew what I was doing I had my credit card out and he was charging it on one of those card-swipper-thingies that people use on their smart phones. He charged me a hundred bucks to see what happened next.
He stood back and opened his coat again.
I saw her. Everything seemed to happen so quickly. She was walking up the aisle, but I heard nothing. It was quiet. I couldn’t even hear what was going around me as I saw it all. She was gorgeous. And somehow I knew that this was going to be my future. I knew that I was going to marry her.
Then it was over.
Journal, don’t go! Come back! I’m being serious.
A random bum in a duster flashed himself at me and it allowed me to see the future!
And my card really was charged for a hundred bucks.
So then the guy gave me his business card and said, “We offer many other unbelievable things, sir.”
Or something like that.
I still have the card. It’s all black. It’s super glossy. I’m looking at it right now. I’ll describe it to you in a sort of ‘American Psycho’ sort of way. Imagine my best Christian Bale impression, Journal.
It is jet black on a thick card stock. It’s not flimsy or cheap, this stuff is high grade card. Embossed in a sort of grey-silver (probably closer to sliver) in big flowing, but readable letters it says… The Underground. And then it has a phone number on the back in the same silver-ish cursive-like writing. And then right underneath it, all around the border are things I’ve never heard of and some that I have.
Reapers. Existence Flashers. Afterlife Sales. Quick and Easy Education. Elopement. Match-Making Services…
Then it just repeats itself.
I may give them a call, but to make a long story short…
I bought a ring. I want to talk to Hal if it’s a good idea to propose. I mean he broke up with her only a year ago, but now he has that cute little blonde girl that I told you about last time.
If you forgot her name it’s Alea, they met when he was working at KENNEDY MAGDA’S FRIGGIN’ HOME! Can you believe it? I still can’t. And this must be some awesome job that he got, because he left that cushy one for this other one. I think he called it Crane Enterprises or something similar.
I’m not the best listener, we all know that.
Anyways I texted him and he said he will be home tonight to talk to me about it. Hopefully he won’t be pissed or say that she won’t accept. I’m already freaking out as it is…
Plus I spent a crap ton of money on it and I doubt I could get the down-payment back on it.
I’ll let you know how it all goes later.
Stop His Death
“No…” Hal Brandon silently said to himself while riding on the bus.
He flipped through the red folder that lay open on his lap. All of the information was there. The name, address, personal information… it was all there, but there was something he did not want to believe. It was that it was in a red folder and had in large letters, on the cover, which read ‘priority’.
In his line of work, anything that came in a red folder and was labeled priority meant that he needed to sell them something quickly. That something was an afterlife.
Hal was an afterlife salesman for the Stork Corporation, a worldwide group that sold important instances in a person’s life. They were created to give fathers and mothers the children that they wanted and the company was first called Stork Delivery, but it soon grew into something larger. Now the corporation included the afterlife, adoptions, life changing moments, matchmaking and a few other key moments that people needed in their lives.
Hal was looking at the folder of his newest client. A client that was in a red folder marked ‘priority’ meant that they were to die soon, it was supposed to be a contract that was written up as quickly as possible, and finalized even faster. If a person dies without an afterlife it meant they died without one. It was a death with nothing to look forward towards. Hal, however, was there to remedy that. He was hired to sell people the afterlife that they wanted.
He just could not believe the newest client that he had received.
He looked at the name again in front of himself.
Vincent Paul Russel.
Vincent, otherwise known as Vinnie, was Hal’s roommate and best friend. He had just recently become engaged to a beautiful Italian beauty named Carmella Provenza. Carmella had been dating Vinnie for almost over a year now and suddenly Vinnie popped the question to her. Hal was happy, but felt a little strange about it at the same time. Before Vinnie and she were even dating, it was Hal who was dating Carmella. Hal, until recently, probably would have been moping in his bedroom about their engagement, but he had recently fallen in love with a co-worker named Alea Briar.
She was a lovely blonde artist, who he met at a strange internship that they both shared before the two of them were asked to work at Stork. He worked in sales and she created the afterlives that he sold. It was a perfect match.
He looked at the name again in the red folder hoping that it would change.
Vincent Paul Russel.
It still had not.
The folder on Hal’s lap told him that he had to sell his friend an afterlife quickly or else his friend would die and be stuck in a place that was nothing and there would never be anything for him. Hal did not want that, but he also started to notice an itch of something that he should not be feeling.
He wanted to find a way to save his friend.
Hal’s boss, Gareth Denton, had told him not to attempt to save a person, as fate will always find a way to correct itself and no matter what he did, the client would always die.
Hal had a memory to his last client, who happened to be a priority case as well.
It was Alea’s father. He had been diagnosed with cancer and died almost immediately following the sale of his afterlife. Alea was still dealing with her father’s passing and she was on her last day of leave. She was expected to go back to work tomorrow. Hal was unsure if he should talk to her about his discovery, but he thought that one close death would be enough for a while. He felt like he would figure this out himself.
The red folder glared up at him as if it were trying to get him to do something that he knew was wrong. Hal felt that the best thing he could do was at the very least to talk to Vinnie. There may be a health problem that he was keeping from him or illness even more foreboding.
If that did not work Hal would have to talk to his boss Denton.
He thought that was a good plan.
Plus, he thought to himself, what if it’s just all a misunderstanding?
He knew deep down that there was no misunderstanding at Stork. Everything had been running smoothly there for hundreds of years, what would change all of that now?
Hal looked up from the folder and realized that the bus was nearly a block past his stop. He stood and rushed the driver and told him to pull off to the side.
The bus driver gave him a dirty look and grumbled under his breath, but stopped the bus and opened the door.
Hal ran out of the vehicle clutching the folders of clients and ran the block to the entrance of his apartment building. Hal made his way to his door and fumbled with his keys to open up the door. He could hear the television inside, whic meant that Vinnie was more than likely home watching a show or movie or even playing a videogame. Hal hoped that Carmella wasn’t home with him.
Hal felt sweat trickling down his neck, behind the collar of his suit jacket and coat that he was wearing over it. It was still cold outside and he wondered why he was sweating from a run that was only a block long.
He opened the door after wiping sweat from his brow.
Vinnie was sprawled out on the couch with a videogame controller in his hand. He had his head elevated by a pillow to look at the television screen at the proper angle.
“Hey, there babe,” Vinnie said in his normal joking manner, “Get out of those clothes and make me some dinner.”
Hal suddenly felt the words slipping away from him. Hal was going to ask if his friend was dying. What kind of friend does that? What if he was not, would that mean he would die faster? Hal was unsure of all of the different possibilities that fate could try to enact if Hal reacted to the information that he had.
Vinnie must have noticed the blanched skin color of Hal and he paused the game and sat up.
“Hey man, you look like you’re about to pass out… Are you okay?”
Hal nodded, but nothing came out of his mouth. He finally found some of the strength to walk over to the kitchen table and sit down. Vinnie was already rummaging through the clean dishes tray neighboring the sink, looking for a clean glass to fill up with water.
“I… just… I…” Hal finally started to say as he placed the multitude of folders he had on the table in front of himself, the bright red folder lay on top as if it were trying to mock Hal.
Vinnie came over with a full glass of water and handed it to Hal. He sat down across from him and eyed the red folder that was on the top. Hal watched his roommate’s eyes glance over the word ‘priority’ multiple times.
“What’s the matter, Hal?” Vinnie asked, using Hal’s name, which he almost never used in such a serious tone.
“I… just… um… well…” Hal said as he touched the glass of water shakily. He brought it up to his lips and was ready to slurp it down greedily, but as soon as the liquid touched his tongue he felt like he might start to vomit. He took a small sip and placed it on the table.
“Is it Alea? Is everything okay with her?” Vinnie said, trying to guess what the matter was.
Hal shook his head, he was grateful that his goofy friend was trying to help him, but that just made everything worse at the same time.
Hal’s mind was racing between two things; should he ask his friend if he was going to die soon or should he just start asking him about the afterlife? He knew that if he tried to stop his friend’s death that it may just speed it up, but who could help him now? How much time did he have to try and stop his friend’s death? Was it a mistake to even attempt to stop it or even slow it?
Or should he just do his job and not cause any trouble?
He was already on thin ice at Stork, especially after the incident when he snuck Alea into the building after hours, to prove that he did in fact sell people the afterlife. They had almost fired him then and there, but they gave him a second chance. He had, in fact, just finished his punishment period at the corporation and was back in the saddle as a normal salesman.
Would Denton have an idea?
Hal remembered Denton telling him a story about the one time that he tried to save a person, but ended up in killing the client in an accident anyways. He did not want to be responsible for his friend’s death.
Hal felt like his answer was making itself clearer and clearer.
He would do his job, but that did not mean he would not ask others as to their advice on trying to save his friend’s life. He was not going to let his friend die without a fight. He had a wedding to plan with his lovely girlfriend. That was not right, she was his fiancé now.
Hal felt his voice return to him and he could almost feel the color come back to his cheeks.
“Vinnie…” Hal started, “Have you ever wondered about the afterlife?”
Vinnie looked at him with a strange look on his face, “Why do you ask?”
“Well, what if I told you that people sell the afterlife?”
Vinnie laughed at Hal, “Well, I would say that someone already sold me one.”
Sale In An Alley
Hal looked at his roommate, mouth gaping at him.
Vinnie took no notice and if he did he did not mention anything to Hal. Vinnie was looking down at his hands and wringing them. A smile flickered to his lips and then went out. It seemed to Hal that Vinnie was having a moral dilemma.
“What do you mean, ‘someone already sold you one’?” Hal finally asked as he gripped his glass of water tightly in his hands.
Vinnie laughed without smiling, “I was just making a joke. Don’t worry about it…”
Hal interrupted him with a sternness in his voice that he had never used on his best friend before. Vinnie even visibly flinched when Hal’s tone changed to something that was flirting between drastically fearful and touched with anger.
“What. Do you mean. Someone. Already. Sold you. One.” Hal said pausing in between words, not for any dramatic effect, it was more because he needed to take a deep breath each time. He felt as if he might be on the verge of hyper-ventilating.
Hal looked at his friend, his face looked haggard and old, like a man who had lived a long life, but his eyes looked like a child that had done something wrong. Who had sold him an afterlife? Did they know that he was going to die soon as well?
Vinnie looked like he was about to answer Hal, but decided against it last moment, “It’s… really, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
Hal stood and walked until he was next to his friend, who was still averting his eyes from him. He squatted next to Vinnie who was sitting and he placed an arm on the back of his chair, making Vinnie unable to stand without pushing his way through.
Vinnie sighed, but said nothing.
Hal decided that he should try a different approach. He knew he could not tell Vinnie that he sold people afterlives, he had gotten in enough trouble with that in telling Alea. However, he was supposed to sell Vinnie one. So did that make him able to tell his friend his vocation?
Hal thought so.
“Vinnie, I’m asking because I sell them.”
Vinnie’s eyes widened and then they looked into Hal’s. The sense of distrust and wonderment that crossed his friend’s face in a manner of seconds was something to behold. Hal watched Vinnie read his face almost as if he were reading a book. A multitude of emotions crossed over his face and flashed through his eyes as if he were unable to feel one particular feeling for more than a moment.
“You? I thought you work at Stork Corporation as a salesman?” Vinnie finally said.
Hal kept close to his friend, with his hand still on the back of the kitchen chair, “I sell people their perfect afterlife. I’m supposed to sell you yours. So I’m asking… who sold you your afterlife?”
Vinnie stared at Hal for a few more beats. Hal could almost hear the gears that were whirring in his friend’s brain. If it were a somewhat more relaxed situation Hal would have also imagined smoke coming out of his friend’s ears.
Hal wondered if there was a hiccup in the system at Stork and someone else had already sold Vinnie an afterlife and it was all a big misunderstanding. He hoped that it was all a mistake. He did not want to sell his friend an afterlife, especially when his friend was allegedly going to die soon.
Hal had not forgotten that he would have to try his best to save his friend’s life. He would need to figure that out later as he needed to make sure that his friend had an afterlife first, just to make sure that he had one.
Because Hal did not want to fail in both saving Vinnie’s life and selling him an afterlife.
“Some guy in an alleyway.”
Hal sighed in relief.
That was a normal place for Stork Corporation to sell afterlives. They always sold them in places that were out of the way. It was their policy to use their special devices that allowed concealment, which was a form of transportation and invisibility, but were all programed specifically to their clients. Hal understood close to zero percent of how it all worked, but all that he knew was that it did work and Stork Corporation used it daily.
“Was it a man named Gareth Denton?” Hal asked mentioning his boss, who was the man who gave him the folder on Vinnie.
Vinnie shook his head, “No… I don’t think that was it. I actually can’t recall his name.”
Hal was still relatively new, but he knew a handful of the other employees’ names in his building. He rattled off a few more, but Vinnie shook his head every single time. None of them sounded correct. Hal felt a nervous bubble start to build up in his gut.
“Vinnie,” Hal started as he swallowed down the bubble which was trying to creep up his throat, “It was the Stork Corp that saw you, right?”
Vinnie looked puzzled at Hal, “I don’t know. He never said.”
The bubble inside Hal burst and he felt the dread it was containing start to drain into his veins.
“Did a person randomly appear in front of you? Probably with a desk? Or was the desk already there?”
Vinnie looked confused, “There wasn’t a desk. Why would there be a desk in the alley? Are you okay?”
Hal was unsure if they always used a desk. He realized that it could be possible that it was a person from another district, building or country that worked for Stork. He was not entirely sure if they all used desks, some may just use a concealment process with no other bells and whistles.
“Well did they just appear? Did it feel warm where they were? Sometimes the warmth follows them through the conceal…”
Hal stopped as he watched Vinnie’s worried brow become more worrisome, “What are you talking about? I met a guy in the alley after I called his card…”
Hal shot up nearly smacking Vinnie in the face with his elbow, “Can I see the card please?”
Vinnie shrugged and massaged the place Hal nearly hit, “I think I still have it… Gimme a sec…”
Vinnie went into his room and Hal heard him start to shuffle things around. Hal paced as he waited. He gnawed on his fingernails and when those were gone he started to chew on the skin that surrounded the tips of his nails. Hal sat down and his leg twitched up and down nervously. He got back up and leaned against the sink.
He felt like he was going to explode if Vinnie could not find the card soon. He wondered if he should tell Alea, she may have a good explanation as to what was going on. Hal took out his phone to text her, but re-thought what he was about to do. Alea’s father had just died and she was still off from work to mourn him. Hal felt that if he texted her about a problem with his job, it would be just the thing to end their budding relationship.
Hal had made his way into the living room and was pacing in front of the television, when Vinnie finally came out of the room holding a crumpled card.
“It was in an old pair of pants. I really need to do some laundry…”
Hal snatched the card away from his friend and looked at it. He read it once, twice and then a third time. He realized that he was holding his breath the whole time. He finally let his lungs exhale before speaking to his friend.
“Do you remember the person who gave you this?”
Vinnie shrugged again, “I don’t know. He had a normal name. Like Jim? No. Gerald? That’s not right. James?”
Hal noticed a similarity in the names they all had the same starting sound, it jump started the name of a man that he had met at Stork.
“George?” Hal finally said interrupting his friend’s train of thought.
Vinnie’s ears practically perked up at the mention of the name, “Yeah! I think that was it. George.”
Hal swore and clutched the business card that was embossed in a really elegant script saying, ‘The Underground’.
“That four-eyed, creepy sonuvabitch!” Hal said under his breath as he grabbed his coat from where he left it and ran out of the apartment to catch the next bus that went back to Stork Corporation.
Hal however did not hear what his roommate said as he left.