Dolan Ray loved Manhattan, especially the theatre district and Broadway. Ever since he was taken as a little boy by his parents’ to watch the musical ‘Annie’ on Broadway at the Alvin theatre, he had been captivated by the wonder and mystery of the theatre. Although he was only taken once, he was completely hooked and would put together his own productions at home, getting kids from the neighbourhood to act out the parts while he would run the show as Stage manager. As Dolan grew older he had aspirations of moving to the big city and getting into the theatre business and living out his childhood dreams, but the real world wasn’t as obliging as Dolan had hoped, and neither were his family. They scoffed at his futile dreams, especially his father who systematically drove all the enthusiasm out of him, crushing his spirit. So by the time he graduated, Dolan’s dreams fell by the whey side and went into full time employment. For almost fifteen years he worked at WANGS Oriental food factory, supervising and checking in crates of stock that came in from the big rigs, printing up shipping and address labels, marking the pallets with the correct labels and making sure that they were put on the right trucks, ready for delivery. Despite being one of the hardest and most productive worker at the factory, the chance for advancement was always just out of Dolan’s grasp.
“I’m so sorry Dolan, maybe next time?” said Mr Ling faking a sympathetic smile as Dolan stood there nodding as his heart sank into his boots.
“Sure Mr Ling, maybe next time.”
Dolan’s younger brother and sister had already left home years ago, got well paid steady jobs and had lives that put Dolan’s to ruin. Although his sibling’s never flaunted their success or happiness in front of him, he was deeply jealous and very resentful.
Dolan’s only release from his life was that he would travel down to Manhattan once a month and stay there until Sunday evening, taking a train out of Grand central station, leaving the bright lights and the magic of the city behind him as the train took him on the long journey back and back to reality. Being in the big city gave Dolan a great sense of purpose and meaning. There, he felt wanted and appreciated so it seemed quite ironic that Dolan had chosen the very place that had brought so much joy into his life to be the place to spend his final moments.
In the past few months Dolan’s thoughts had taken a turn for the worse. It was not long after he had been passed over for promotion yet again, that ‘dark thoughts’ began to sink in. Dolan had tried everything and rid himself of these insecurities and fears: therapy, psychiatrists, drugs, alcohol and things that if his family found out would tear them apart. Then one day a light went off in Dolan’s head as he had a moment of crystal clarity.
Dolan had thought long and hard about this, maybe too long. Dolan knew this would hurt his family, but he didn’t care anymore, It was too late for that now.
Sitting down on the bed, the springs below him contorted and squeaked as Dolan picked up his t-shirt and mopped his moist brow. Even though it was late September and the temperature should have dropped by now to a ‘reasonable’ fourteen or fifteen degrees in the evening, Dolan was sweltering in the early evening heat as the mercury thermometer on the wall next to the window read a stifling twenty-six degrees. Dolan had opened the window and taken his shirt off straight away as soon as he had got into the room and turned on the small desk fan that sat on the chest of drawers just beyond the end of his bed now to blow cool air around the room. Throwing the t-shirt on to the bed behind him, Dolan reached over and grabbed his black overnight back that lay a few feet away from him at the end of the bed. Unzipping it, Dolan moved a few items and reached down deep until he found what he was looking for. As he pulled out the small calibre Silver revolver from the depths of his over night bag, the barrel catching shine of the moon which was crowning in the inky black sky. Tossing the bag onto the floor, Dolan picked up the half empty bottle of Wild Turkey Whiskey and put the revolver down. He took the cap off and drank from it generously. As the last drops fell from the bottle onto his tongue, Dolan threw the bottle onto the bed.
Despite not being very popular at work, there were some people on the factory floor who would speak to him and didn‘t make snide comments behind his back. In those chosen few he found Kenny Hong. Kenny was a young upstart who worked as a delivery driver on the seven-to-three shift. Kenny thought of himself as a “player” and a “gangster” and bragged to anyone who would listen about all the things he had “allegedly” done. So one afternoon just as he was getting off shift, Dolan approached Kenny with a proposition.
“Kenny, can I have a word with you?”
Sure dog, what up?” replied Kenny with his usual swagger.
“I need to ask you a favour?”
“Sure, what you need son? Money? A little something to take the edge off of life, maybe a little honey to make you feel good? What ever your bag, Kenny knows where it’s at!”
“That’s good to know Kenny, but I’m looking for something a little more ‘dangerous’ if you get my meaning?”
“What kind of dangerous are you talking about dog?”
Dolan watched with great satisfaction as Kenny stood there squirming, trying his best to keep his composure.
“So, can you help me?”
“Ugh sure, no problem dog,” replied Kenny as he put his hand in his pockets. “It’ll take me a couple of days to look into it, but Kenny can deliver!”
“But it’ll cost you big time.”
“Not a problem.”
Almost two weeks went by before Dolan saw Kenny again. Dolan found him in the yard with the other driver’s. When Kenny saw Dolan, the blood in his head fell into his shoes.
“So, did you get it?”
“Yeah, I got it dog, but it wasn’t easy. I took a big risk for you man.”
“I appreciate it Kenny, so where is it?”
Dolan followed Kenny across the parking lot to his car where Kenny opened the trunk and underneath a load of junk was something wrapped in a brown cloth. Kenny picked
it up, making sure no-one was watching them as he unwrapped it.
“Here it is, do you have my money?”
“After shift ends,” replied Dolan as the sheen of the revolver sparkled in the sunlight, catching his eyes.
Don’t worry Kenny, I won’t play you,” Dolan smiled.
As promised after their shift had ended, Dolan was waiting for Kenny beside his car. They drove out to a bar on the edge of town and made the transaction in the parking lot.
“Just one more thing bro,” said Kenny as he started the engine. “What do you need a piece for anyway? I ain’t never seen you have a beef with anyone? If you got problems bro, Let me and my posse handle it, because we cool now bro.”
“Thanks for the tip Kenny.”
Dolan picked the revolver up and flipped open the chamber. It was fully loaded just as Kenny had promised. Taking a deep breath, Dolan slid off the bed onto the floor. He took one last look around the hotel room as he began to feel tears well up in his eyes. Cocking the revolver, he put the barrel in his mouth, closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.
The ringing in Dolan’s ears was incredible. He felt his whole jaw tingling from his bicuspids all the way back to his wisdom teeth. As Dolan opened his eyes and looked down, he saw the blood over his chest. As the panic began to set in he saw someone moving in the shadows. As the tingling in his jaw began to subside, Dolan tried his best to form a coherent string of words.
“Is someone there?” Dolan whispered as his head began to rattle and hum as the shadow person continued to pace back and forth in front of him.
Dolan tried to move his legs but they felt like dead weight.
“Can you help me? I can’t move!” Dolan said as the shadow person ignored his plea and continued to pace in the shadows muttering and cursing.
Dolan tried to move his legs again, this time he was able to move one of his big toes. Smiling at this little triumph, Dolan tried to move his other toes when the shadow person came to a dead stop right in front of him and looked over.
“Who are you?” said Dolan as the shadow person stood there glaring at him from the shadows, unresponsive and ignorant.
As Dolan began to feel movement in all his toes and then his legs, he used his arms to try and life himself up and with a little persistence and a lot of pain, he was able to pull himself on to the bed as the shadow person came into the light, revealing them self to be a petit woman with flowing dark hair, pale skin, wearing horn rimmed glasses and dressed in a black pant suit, cradling something under one arm.
“What are you doing in my room?” said Dolan as he began to feel light headed.
“Take a wild guess?” the shadow person said picking up the revolver with two fingers and dangling it in front of Dolan’s eyes.
“I’m dead aren’t I?”
“Well you should be,” replied the shadow person as she threw the revolver on to the bed and stood up.
“But something is stopping me from finishing my work and I don’t like it!”
“Lila, what have I told you about stomping your feet?” said a voice from the shadows as Lila suddenly went rigid.
“Sir, what are you doing here?” Lila said nervously. “I had this under control I swear to you. I was just about to fix this when…”
“Lila, stop babbling.” said the voice from the shadows as Lila stepped back as someone came into the light. It was a man, but in the loosest sense of the word. He was tall and gaunt, dressed in a dark suit and holding a cane gripped by one long bony hand. His face was ash grey and he had the darkest eyes set back into a skulls’ face. His long black hair was pulled back behind his ears, tightening his skin. He was the most terrifying thing Dolan had ever seen.
“I don’t understand sir, what’s happening?” said Lila as the pale man stood there staring at Dolan as Dolan used every ounce of resolve not to scream.
“Lila, I am feeling rather peckish, why don’t you go and get me something to eat while I have a conversation with Mr Ray here,” the pale man said as Lila tried to protest.
“But sir…” said Lila as her tablet suddenly beeped from under her arm.
“Lila, I won’t ask you again,” said the pale man throwing her a scornful glance.
“Very good sir,” replied Lila taking the tablet from under her arm and pressing the screen as she suddenly disappeared into the shadows.
The silence filled the air as the pale man stood there watching Dolan, his long bony fingers tapping the head of his cane.
“I expect you have questions?” said the pale man as Dolan nodded nervously.
The pale man made his way over to the round table in the corner of the room and placed himself in the already pulled out chair.
“What happened to me?” said Dolan as the pale man made himself comfortable.
“You put the revolver into your mouth and pulled the trigger,” replied the pale man narrowing his eyes. “If your questions are going to be pointless, then I’m going to leave.”
Dolan stared at the pale man for a moment biting the inside of his lip as he mulled over his next question very carefully.
“Why am I not dead?” said Dolan as the pale man turned his head slightly and tapped the bottom of his cane on the floor.
“Better,” replied the pale man. “But let’s leave that little conundrum on the back burner shall we? How about we start with something more simple?”
“You do know who I am don’t you?” said the pale man as Dolan sheepishly nodded his head.
“Good. Then I won’t have to subject myself to the mundane task of introducing myself.” replied the pale man as he placed his cane on the table and placed his bony hands on his lap.
“And do you know why I am here?”
“Because I am dead and you are here to reap my soul?” said Dolan as the pale man rolled his eyes and sighed heavily as Lila reappeared, holding in her hand two white paper bags with the words GALAXY BURGER on the sides and one brown paper bag with MAD DOG LIQOUR.
“Well, then why are you here?” said Dolan causing Lila to almost drop the bags .
“Show some respect!” Lila snapped as the pale man placed one bony hand on her arm.
“It’s alright Lila,” replied the pale man looking up at her as she felt his stare. “He is more than entitled to be a little frustrated,” said the pale man turning his attention back over to Dolan. “But talk to me again with such insolence and I will flay the skin from your body before you have time to contemplate screaming. Are we clear?”
“Very,” replied Dolan feeling his throat go very dry and felt a warm sensation beneath him.
“Put the food on the table and leave us.” said the pale man as he let go of Lila’s arm as she walked over and placed the bags on the table.
“I shall return when you are ready to leave,” said Lila as the pale man waved her away as Lila took her tablet from under her arm and pressed the screen, disappearing into the shadows once more.
“Come, sit with me.” said the pale man as he took his cane off the table and opened the brown bag, taking two bottles of beer and two plastic cups out and placing them on the table before folding the paper bag in two.
“I prefer to dine alone, but it would impolite of me not to ask you.” said the pale man as Dolan reluctantly got up from the bed and made is way over to the table, pulling out the chair opposite and sliding in.
“Please,” said the pale man taking the tops’ off the beers’ and slid one of the bottles and cups’ towards Dolan. Taking hold of the bottle, Dolan poured the beer into the cup as the brown liquid rose causing it to foam slightly.
“I took the liberty of ordering some cosmic chilli-cheese dogs, a particular favourite of yours I believe?” said the pale man as he poured out his beer into a cup as Dolan nodded coyly thumbing his own between his fingers. Opening one of the GALAXY BURGER bags, the pale man took out two wrapped cosmic chilli-cheese dogs and placed them on the table.
“Don’t be shy,” said the pale man moving one towards Dolan as he unwrapped the other while Dolan picked up his cup and took a liberal sip of beer. Pushing his cup to one side Dolan took the chilli-cheese dog and unwrapped before picking it up and taking a bite.
“Good isn’t it?” said the pale man taking a bite of his own as Dolan nodded before taking a larger bite as the cheese oozed out of the bun.
“So I suppose you would like me to answer your previous question concerning your current predicament?”
“Well, it would be nice,” replied Dolan trying to avoid eye contact.
“You know, most people would be more courteous if they were in your position right now.” said the pale man as he picked up his cup and drank from it before wiping his mouth.
“I suppose?” replied Dolan putting down his cosmic dog and going for his beer. As he grasped the cup, Dolan felt a tingling sensation in his fingers which soon spread into his hand, then his arm and then his chest.
“What’s happening to me?” said Dolan as the tingling began to intensify.
“You really have an inflated sense of your own self worth.” said the pale man as
Dolan suddenly put his hand to his chest as he felt it tighten.
“To me, you are nothing more than a bacterium. If I were to snap my fingers right now and take you, the world would continue to function as if you were never here.” said the
pale man as one side of Dolan’s face began to sag as he started to slid off of the chair.
“But not today.” The pale man said as he waved one bony fingered hand as the pain began to leave Dolan’s body.
“Why?” said Dolan regaining his composure as the pale man poured out the last of the beer and drank it.
“Despite your inflated sense of self worth and your constant whining,” said the pale man as Dolan’s face drained of colour. “I see great potential in you.”
“You do?” replied Dolan taking hold of his cup and draining it of all it’s contents.
“I have been watching you for a very long time. I know everything about you and
I believe that with the right motivation, you can live up to your full potential.”
“Thank you?” replied Dolan wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“I have been around since existence began, I am infinite, forever. My work will continue to the end of days and beyond. But even someone as omnipotent as me needs help from time to time.”
“You mean Lila?”
“She is one of many who help me do what is necessary to keep the natural balance in check.” .
“I still don‘t understand what you want from me though?” Dolan said as he saw the pale man’s eyes narrow as he picked up his cosmic dog and took a large bite from it before chewing it down and swallowing hard before wiping his mouth.
“Sorry,” said Dolan bowing his head. “So is this like some sort of job interview then?”
“Of sorts,” replied the pale man picking up and finishing off his cosmic chilli-cheese dog before wiping his mouth and balling up the wrapper and napkin and putting it into the paper bag.
“So how am I supposed to prepare for this when you already know everything about me? ” said Dolan as the pale man sat there staring at him stone-faced and unresponsive.
Dolan could see that the pale man was becoming irritated again, so he straightened up and kept quiet.
Finishing off his beer, the pale man wiped his mouth with another napkin before
putting the empty cup, beer bottle and napkin into the paper bag that housed the balled
up wrapper and rolled over the top of the bag so it was secure.
“Before we begin, can I ask you a question?” said Dolan as the pale man looked at him with suspicious eyes.
“How did Lila come to work for you?”
“Lila is not her real name,” the pale man said. “When I propositioned her to work for me, she went by another name. But due to her, shall we say interesting past, she wanted a fresh start.”
“Where did you find her?” said Dolan as he relaxed slightly and poured the last of his beer into his cup.
“Initially, I found her in France. But I came to her in England in 1431, she was in a
rather difficult situation and with her last dying breath before being burned at the stake, she accepted my humble offer to serve me and circumvent my will.”
“England in 1431?” said Dolan biting his lip in confusion. “Wouldn’t that mean she’s…”.
“I told you I see great potential in people.” the pale man replied as Dolan nodded in agreement.
“I don’t get it? If you have people as gifted and as special as that working for you, I can’t see what I could possibly bring to the table to make you interested in me?” Dolan remarked, trying to lighten the mood again as the pale man narrowed his eyes again.
“Sorry,” said Dolan biting his lip. “When I get nervous, I babble and ask stupid questions,”
“I can see that.” replied the pale man as the corners of his mouth curled slightly.
“But I wouldn’t be going through this charade if I didn’t think you had what it takes to do the job now would I?” replied the pale man.
“I guess not?”
“You have the skills but what concerns me is whether you have the hubris to do what is needed to get the job done?” said the pale man as Dolan stared at him queerly.
“I don’t follow?”
“He’s right, he’s not the sharpest tool in the box is he?” said Lila suddenly appearing on the bed, causing Dolan to nearly leapt out of his skin as Lila sat on the bed smiling.
“Lila, what have I told you countless times about?” said the pale man as Lila wiped the smile from her face.
“Sorry.” said Lila as she crossed her legs and sat there biting her lip.
“You see I have to deal with?” the pale man said unlinking his bony fingers and gingerly pointing towards Lila.
“What I was about to say, was do you Dolan Ray have hubris to reap a soul seconds before death and take them over to the other side?” the pale man said as Dolan sat there mulling as small beads of sweat began to form on his brow.
“I shall my leave now so you can think it over. Lila the card.” The pale man said picking up his cane and the other GALAXY BURGER bag as Lila got up from the bed and walked over, taking out a small white card from her suit pocket and placing it on the table in front of Dolan.
“Take your time, think long and hard. When you are ready, just rub the card. But I warn you, I don’t like to be kept waiting.” the pale man said disappearing into the shadows.
“No pressure,” smiled Lila as she disappeared into the shadows leaving Dolan all alone as he Picked up the card and read the single sentence in bold black ink;
DEATH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING.
It was just past eight o’clock on Sunday evening when a yellow taxi cab pulled
up to the curb outside Dolan’s house. Dolan paid the cab driver and got out, shutting
the door behind him. Stepping onto the curb, the cab pulled away leaving Dolan
standing there alone. Staring up at his parent’s house, Dolan let go of his bag as it dropped to the floor but he did not react. He just stood there, numb and void of speech as a red corvette pulled up beside him and honked it’s horn, pulling Dolan back to reality.
Looking round, the driver rolled down the passenger side window.
“Mom has been freaking out because you never answered your cell phone!”
Crouching down, Dolan leant on the side of the corvette.
“Oh hey sis,” I didn’t see you there?”
“Mom’s been having a conniption fit for the past hour because you didn’t answer you cell phone douche bag!”
“Sorry, I guess I must of just lost track of time?”
“You could have been dead for all we knew Jack-ass!” Sandi snapped as Dolan began to snigger.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” smiled Dolan as Sandi pushed open the passenger door as Dolan picked up his bag and got in as Sandi rabbit punched him in the arm.
“What was that for?” winced Dolan as he shut the passenger door.
“So, aren’t you going to tell me what adventures you had in the big city?” said Sandi as she put the corvette into first gear.
“Maybe later,” replied Dolan.
But he never did, he never told anyone. And soon he forgot all about it.
The next eighteen months were quite a change for Dolan. Two weeks after he came back, he walked straight into Mr Ling’s office and handed in his notice. This sudden outburst of irregularity caused concern amongst his family.
“What are you going to do for work now?” John Ray said demanding an answer from his eldest son.
“I don’t know?” Dolan replied casually as he opened the refrigerator and took out a sixer of beer and closed the door.
“You not going to stay under my roof if you think you’re just going to sit around all day like some bum.” his father yelled as Dolan popped open one of the cans and put it to his lips and drank from it.
“Fine, then I won’t stay here.”
“What do you mean, you won’t stay here? You have no place else to go.” said his father while his mother sat on the edge of the couch weeping into a handkerchief.
“Actually, I have a contact in the city who says there is a place going in their apartment building and that they can get me some stage work in one of the off Broadway theatres.”
“Your moving out?” sobbed his mother removing a handkerchief from her reddish nose.
“For Christ’s sake,” muttered Dolan as his father suddenly pushed Dolan up against the wall knocking the cans of beer to the ground.
“Listen here you little shit, I am not going to have you upsetting your mother and parading round here like you’re the cock of the walk.” Dolan’s father growled as he pushed his right arm up under Dolan’s chin as his mother began to wail.
“Stop it John, your hurting him!”
“Never you mind, he needs to be taught to respect his elders.” John Ray said suddenly feeling a shooting pain in his right arm.
“Let go of me.” Dolan said calmly as the pain in his father’s arm became more severe.
“What are you doing to me?” gasped John Ray as the pain began to move into his right side as he let go of Dolan and fell to the floor as Dolan’s mother dropped down to her husband’s side.
“Catch you later old man,” said Dolan as he made his way up the stairs, never looking back.
A few days later, Dolan packed his bags and headed for the big city. It was a struggle in the beginning, being on his own, but Dolan adapted quickly and landed on his feet. The job his contact had mentioned was just what Dolan had dreamed of. A stage job in a small theatre just off-Broadway. The hours were long and the work was hard, but Dolan was living the dream. After a few months a position to be a stage manager at another theatre came up so Dolan went for it and got the job. It was there
that Dolan met and fell in love with an understudy called Jo. Six months later they moved in together and two months after that, Dolan asked her to marry him. She
Standing by the elevators’ of the Waldrof Astoria Hotel dressed to the nines and about to have cocktails with friends, Dolan suddenly felt a chill run right through him. He couldn’t explain it, but it felt like something had just passed right through him? Shaking it off, Dolan felt his pocket vibrate as he took his phone out and answered.
“Where are you, everyone is waiting?”.
“I’m on my way sweetie, I‘ve just got to pop back up to the room.” replied Dolan as he felt the chill again
“What are you like?” Jo laughed as she hung up.
Looking around him, Dolan shook it off once more as he pushed the UP button. As the elevators’ doors opened, Dolan stepped inside and felt the chill again as he saw a petite woman with long flowing blonde locks in a tightly fitted red dress in the corner of the elevator who had her back to him as Dolan pushed the button for the 40th floor.
“Nice night isn’t it?” said Dolan but the petite woman didn’t answer.
“Okay then…” Dolan said as the doors’ began to close.
“Hold the elevator!” a voice shouted as Dolan pressed the button to reopen the doors as two men dressed in suits and a woman in a ball gown jumped inside the elevator as the doors shut.
“Thanks pal,” said one of the men in the black suit as he leant over and pressed the twenty-first floor button.
“Sure, no problem.” smiled Dolan as the elevator suddenly began to shake as the other occupants begin to scream.
“You never gave him an answer,” said the petite woman as Dolan’s face went pale as the elevator‘s cables began to snap above them.
“Looks like he‘s going to make it for you.” she said smiling as she linked her arm through his as the suspension cable above them snapped as Dolan closed his eyes as he felt the elevator plunge downwards into the darkness.