I remember my hospital room. The walls had sort of a light brown colouring, with black patterns. I can't really describe the pattern, as I was half asleep, and I'd had a lot of painkillers injected into me about ten minutes ago. There were also framed pictures of flowers. My head was spinning, almost like I'd been thrown into a tumble dryer for twenty minutes, with no stopping, so I couldn't remember what they looked like. I remember the bedding. The blanket was thin but warm, and was the colour of white, and I laid there comfortably, but uncomfortably at the same time. I'm sure you would have felt that way, at least once in your life time. My arms were nestled relaxingly to both my sides, and my legs were spread apart, twitching a bit because of my pain. I looked to my right, towards a little table with a glass of water.
I slowly lifted my then shaking hand to pick it up, but when I did, my fingers couldn’t keep the grip long enough, and I heard the loud smash. I cringed as my ears started ringing. I could hear footsteps, loud footsteps, making my ears hurt more. I didn’t want to move my head, but I kept my eyes open. A nurse came in with a broom, accept, when I tilted my eyes up to see which nurse it was, I only saw a skull. Her skin and muscles were gone; in fact, when I tilted my eyes towards her broom holding hands, they also had no skin or muscle. I heard her speak a few words to me. I couldn’t tell what she was saying, but she made the ringing and pain in my ear go away.
I could hear the beeping of the heart monitor now, without being annoyed through my ear drums, only, I realized, instead of the usual beep, beep, beep, I only heard a long beep, that didn’t stop. I turned to the monitor to see the nurse had pulled out the plug, her face still boney, bonier than MY appearance was anyway. I felt uneasy, I was going to die… but wait, why hadn’t I died yet? I started quaking in the bed, and the nurse reached her hand over to me, and closed my eyes shut. I didn’t want to reopen them, I was too scared, but I knew that if I wanted to get out of the situation, I would need to.
I opened my eyes to the sight of people around me, I was on the platform of the subway station I would go to so I could get to work, except, I wasn’t in my professional work suit, nor did I have my brown, leather satchel. I was in my hospital gown, still skeletal looking, I knew this because of the state of my arms, still quaking, pale, and weak. I looked around, to see everyone else around me. Some people were obese, some were thin, some were bald, some were disfigured and mangled. I could see people in hospital clothing, few had normal clothes, others weren’t in any clothes, and everyone almost seemed dumbfounded to what was going on, as was I.
Had I blacked out, or was I seeing things? I didn’t know what to make of the situation whatsoever. I walked along the concrete platform, until I saw what looked to be a man with a security guard’s uniform, with their back turned to me. My eyes now widened, thinking that whoever this was could perhaps help me. I rushed over as quick as I could, and once I reached him, he turned around, and I saw his face, only, his face was a skull. I was freaking out, I didn’t know what to do except collapse to the floor, having experienced a form of shock. The security guard looked down at me and reached for my hand.
I took his hand and he helped me up. Before I could ask him anything, he turned back around, and I became too frightened to talk to him. I turned to a crowd forming around the edge of the platform, some looking like they’d fall in. For some reason, I suddenly got the strangest urge to join them. I slowly walked over, trying not to get too close to the yellow line. Once I settled into a spot, my mind started to wander. Why was I in the subway station of all things? How did I end up in the dimly lit, grey place with others who were just as confused as me? Am I hallucinating? Or… NO! It couldn’t be, I could in no way be dead – could I?
I stood there for a while, everyone else turned to each other, talking about what was happening. I didn’t dare open my mouth, too afraid about the situation. Suddenly, I heard a voice. “Excuse me.” I turned to the voice to see a tall, thin man, who same as the nurse and security guard, had a skull for a head. “Name please?” He asked. I could only stare and mutter the words, “I’m sorry?” Being disoriented once again.
“Your name? What’s your name?” He asked once again, a little more annoyed this time. “Um – Lex Charleston.” I replied with my voice shaking.
He looked at a clipboard for a second, his pen slowly moving down. “Let’s see, Larry Charleston, Lennard Charleston… AH! Here we are, Lex Charleston. You’re on the next train, leaving from Ridgebrooke Station.” He started to leave before I asked, “Wait! What’s going on?” He looked at me, before walking over to another person. What train? I thought to myself. Well, at least I knew what to do next, but why? I decided that since it would most likely take a while for the train to arrive, I went over to a small wooden bench in the middle of the platform, and I began the very long wait for the train to arrive.
I sat there on the bench for about ten minutes, which soon turned into twenty, and slowly, an hour went by. I began to almost doze off if not for the loudspeakers saying in a deepened, croaked voice, “Train 87,001,263,903, pulling into Ridgebrooke Station.” Finally, the train was here. I heard the screech of rails, and I got up, relieved that my waiting was over. I stood up, and walked to the edge of the platform, to get a look at the train coming. I couldn’t see any train lights coming from the tunnel, and I couldn’t see the train coming. It came from the tunnel with a flash, but I luckily was able to move out the way so it wouldn’t decapitate me.
The train stopped, and the people behind me were pushing me in. My heart was racing in those few seconds, until I landed on top of a seat. I took a breather, stressed out from the situation. I decided that if I didn’t sit down, someone would take the seat, and it would be difficult to find another. I quickly sat down, and put my hands under the seat tightly, so no one could push me off. The people on the train were struggling and bunched together, and others were trying to push their way on. I saw some of those security guards holding people back from entering the train. I was becoming more and more anxious. What would happen now? Were we going somewhere? If me and the people on the train WERE indeed travelling to another place, which place would that be?
The train doors then closed, and I felt in a way, safe. I looked out the windows to see people start to chase the train before we disappeared into the darkness of the subway tunnel. I sat there, more confused than ever. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me, I didn’t know why I was there. Suddenly, a door opened, and out came a skeleton with a writing board, in black conductor-like clothing. He went over to everyone, asking if they had their tickets. What ticket was he talking about? I thought to myself.
Finally, me being in the corner of the train car, he came to me last. “Ticket please?” He asked in a gentlemanly voice.
“I- I don’t ha- have a ticket.” I told him, afraid of his appearance.
“Oh, I see, newcomer hey? Here, hold out your hand.” I complied and lifted my hand, and he stared at it for a while before saying, “Lex Charleston, passed away at age thirty-two from an uncontrollable seizure, at 21:57 pm, no spouse, no children, and your ticket number is… 107,028,400,790.” He started to walk off before I said,
“Wait! I- I’m dead?” I asked.
“Of course, you are. Why else would death be looking at you in your eyes and speaking to you?” The skeleton asked in an almost joking tone.
“Wait, you’re death?” I asked in disbelief.
“Well, sort of. I’m death, in a way. I’m not the Grim Reaper or anything like that, I’m more of a guide. I’m known as the Conductor. I just make sure everyone is accounted for on their final journey. Actually, most of these people have been waiting many years’ time, just to get on this train,” He explained, “You’re one of the so-called lucky ones.”
“Lucky? I’m dead! I’m NOT lucky!” The conductor stared at me for a minute. “I don’t remember much about luck. I’ve been here for so long, guiding souls, I’ve forgotten most of the matter. All I remember is that I didn’t believe luck had much to do with anything in life, only fate.” I thought for a moment. “Fate.” Fate was the only word I came out with. The conductor walked over to the surprisingly empty seat beside me. “Fate.” He imitated. “I sometimes felt that fate was unfair, but fate was the thing that made me make my choice.” He explained.
“Choice?” I asked. “What choice?” The Conductor took a breath.
“There is a choice you make when you come to the afterlife,” the Conductor started, “There are three choices. Your first choice is to die, in other words, Heaven or Hell. Your second choice is to become like me. Become a spirit that helps guide souls. And your third choice, is to go back to Earth and start a new life. Be re-incarnated.”
“I suppose that’s why you said that I was a newcomer, huh?” I said.
“Yes. In fact, most people decide to live on Earth again.” He told me.
“Why did you become a guide?” I asked him, starting to feel calmer.
“That is a very good question. I just felt it was a good decision. Also, I didn’t live too much of a ‘good’ life on Earth,” he admitted, “I was a punk, a junky, and that landed me In hospital at about fourty years old. I died alone, realizing that I threw my life away. I suppose that’s why.” I had no comment. I just stared at him, thinking to myself, about my life decisions. I realized that I didn’t really do a lot of good, but I didn’t do a lot of bad either. “At least you’re redeeming yourself by helping others.” I told him. “Redeeming? Nah. I only count tickets. I’ve never actually interacted like this with someone else. It’s actually nice.”
I looked down, with a faint smile. “I suppose so.” The Conductor stood up. “Unfortunately, I still have some rounds to do before the train ride is over. We’ll be there shortly.” Then, he turned to the next door, and exited. I was left there, sat down, and thinking. I took a deep breath, dreading the choice of the three gates, but then again, I think in a way, I was relieved. Time went by, and I was still sat there with my thoughts, till I noticed a little boy sat across from me started to cry. I looked up to see his bruised and bloodied head. “You – okay?” I asked. The boy lifted his head to look at me, still sobbing. “I don’t want to die.”
I looked at him, still deep thoughts in my mind. “I don’t want to die either, but you know, sometimes fate is rough, but God knew that it was your time.” He still sat there sobbing. “I just wanted my Dad to love me. Why would he hurt me?” I hesitated, but I found the right words to reply. “Sometimes, people do stupid things. And sometimes, people do things that are just evil. But, sometimes, it’s those people that God uses to help us return to him.” He sniffed up his snot.
“Do you think so?” He asked me, unsure.
“I know so.” I replied. Suddenly, a voice came from the next seat over to my right.
“That’s a bunch of shit. God does all this to us because he hates us. He doesn’t care whether we die in a ditch, slowly and painfully.” He protested. “Well, I feel very sorry that you think that.” I told him.
“What do you mean? I’m telling you, there is no point to this. God is just a puppet master, and eventually, when he gets bored of the puppets he’s controlling, he just throws them away.” He tells me.
“Fate brought us here, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.”
“Whatever,” the man said, “I don’t care, just shut up about your God talk, alright?”
“Whatever you say.” I said with irritation. After a while longer, the train stopped, and the doors opened. People stood up and began to walk out. I decided to follow, suspecting that this was our final stop. I got out, to see that we arrived at another platform, even darker in lighting than the last station. There were skeletons around the room, dressed in white hoods, red hoods, and black hoods.
The ones with the white hoods appeared to have a halo above them, while the red hooded skeletons had horns poke out from their hoods. But the black ones, had scythes, and marched along side the people from the train, leading them to a large staircase. I joined the large group marching up the stairs. I looked up to see that it was a very long staircase. It took a while before reaching the top of the stairs, almost falling down them a few times. I looked around, to see that the Conductor was indeed correct about the gates. The gate on the left was the gate to the afterlife, the middle gate was the gate to become a soul guider, and the third gate was the gate of re-incarnation.
As the Conductor had ALSO foretold, there were more people going towards the re-incarnation gate. I stood there for a minute, deciding which gate to take, but on the train, I think I’d already made my decision. I went to the middle gate. And alongside me, was the young boy, and the man from the train. The man had chosen the re-incarnation gate. I suppose he wanted another shot to get things right in life, whereas the young boy went to the gate of the afterlife. He deserved it after being stuck with that awful sounding Father he had. I watched them both go through before I went through mine.
Sure enough, I spawned on the train, in a black conductor’s uniform, with a writing board, and black conductor’s hat, and in front of me, was the Conductor. “Welcome my friend.” He said to me, before I proceeded to a car in the train, beginning the rest of my death, as a guide.