“Look, Nancy, I said tell him I’m busy,” Charles ordered. “I’ve got three meetings lined up, and I don’t have time to go to lunch.”
“Very well, sir,” Nancy replied. “I’ll tell your son you can’t make lunch again today.”
“Thank you,” he replied and slammed down the phone.
After taking a few short breaths, Charles returned to his work. His next meeting was coming up in less than an hour, and not being at the top of his game could cost the company millions.
Sam, once again disappointed, thanked Nancy for trying, and then turned and walked off.
By the time Charles loosened his tie and was able to relax, the clock was reading almost midnight.
He walked over to his bar and poured himself a double shot of his favorite scotch.
The meeting had gone great, and the company was looking at making a boat load of money over the next year with their new client.
He fell hard into his leather chair, letting out a sigh of relief and took a long drink of his scotch.
His phone beeped from inside his drawer. He always put away his personal phone when he had an important day like today, though he never put away his business phone. He hadn’t put it away when at his wedding, nor at his son’s birth, but it had been worth it for him and his family.
Eighteen messages were waiting for him, some from his son, some from his wife, and a few from people he continued to be friends with.
He glanced over all of them. The ones from his friends were all congratulatory. Apparently, word had spread fast of his successful meeting.
The ones from his wife were angry as usual. This time she was upset how he couldn’t take just one afternoon to spend with his son, who had just been accepted into a great university, and he wanted to celebrate with his dad.
The only ones that even slightly made him feel bad were the ones from his son. They were messages of disappointment that he couldn’t have lunch with him and that he was heading out with friends to celebrate instead.
His son’s disappointment was hard to swallow.
‘Doesn’t he understand I do it all for him and his mother?’
Staring out the window of his thirty-seventh-floor corner office, always made him feel powerful.
He had grown up poor, ‘but look at me now,’ he thought.
When he finished his drink, he looked at his watch, and seeing that it was already midnight, he put his empty glass on the bar and collected his things to head out.
As he turned out of the parking garage, he still felt giddy from how well the day had gone. It wouldn’t be long before he had everything he could ever want.
Still feeling his elation, he never saw the truck that ran the red light and t-boned him, killing him instantly.
All around him, there was white.
He looked down to see what he was standing on, but as far as he could tell, he wasn’t standing on anything.
He couldn’t even feel any pressure on the bottom of his feet, informing him that he was on solid ground.
He was still wearing his suit, and except for a sense of floating, he felt normal.
Suddenly, he felt a presence, though he didn’t know where it was coming from. It almost felt like it was coming from inside of him.
A tap on his shoulder spun him around to see the most horrific sight he could ever have imagined.
Waiting for him when he turned around was a seven-foot skeleton, wearing a black, tattered cloak, and holding a long scythe.
He turned and tried to run away, but even though his legs were moving as if he was running, there was no forward movement.
If it wasn’t for the monster that stood behind him, he thought he must look like a cartoon character, quickly running in place, before launching away.
The creature didn’t move. It only watched as Charles tried to run away.
Coming to terms that he was not going to be able to escape the creature, he stopped running.
Not wanting to prolong the nightmare any longer, he turned to face the looming monster.
No sound came from the it, but Charles could hear the creature talking in his head.
“Time to go,” it said.
“Go where?” Charles asked. “I don’t even know where I am now!”
“Dead”, the creature replied.
“What do you mean, dead?” Charles asked.
Instead of words, the whiteness around him turned into a whirling cloud, and the creature showed him the crash that had killed him.
Seeing his own death was surreal. He honestly didn’t know how to feel about it. A part of him was grateful that he hadn’t felt any pain, and still didn’t, but another part of him instantly grew sad that his life was over.
Once he realized what was happening, his heart instantly filled with regret. He thought back to all the mistakes he had made, concluding with his last day.
He thought about how his victory that day now seemed meaningless. The company would profit from his success, but now that he was dead, it didn’t serve him the slightest.
While he was preoccupied with thoughts of regret, the clouds changed to showing what appeared to be his funeral.
He was surprised at how few people had shown up. A few of his coworkers, his wife, and son.
Charles had thought he had impacted the world more.
As quickly as they had appeared, the images disappeared, and he was once again alone with the creature he had come to realize was death itself.
“Time to go,” Death stated.
“Wait,” Charles started. “I can’t go like this. I can’t go knowing that instead of focusing on what was important, I focused on wealth.”
Death only stared at him.
“There’s got to be something I can do to make things right before I die,” Charles pleaded.
Death continued to stare at him.
“Let me go back,” Charles said. “Let me make things right.”
Death carried no expression. He only stood motionless as Charles made his case.
“Please,” Charles begged. “Let me go back and try again.”
He was about to break down completely when Death replied to his pleas with, “One day.”
Charles was about to ask what Death meant, when the world around him vanished and he shot up at his desk, waking from a deep nap.
He looked around his office confused, not sure where he was or what was going on.
Suddenly, his phone rang.
Reluctantly, he picked it up.
With a clearly shaken voice, he said, “Hello?”
“Sir, your son Sam is here,” Nancy said. “He said he was meeting up with you for lunch.”
Charles almost instinctively told her that he was too busy to go to lunch with his son, when the memory of dying came crashing in.
He couldn’t be sure if it was real, but it sure seemed real, and it caused him to think before he answered.
He wanted to believe that all that he had just experienced had been just a bad dream. He wanted to believe that he had fallen asleep at his desk, and that none of what he thought had happened, had actually happened.
He was about to tell Nancy that he was too busy, like he normally would, but when he went to answer, he instead said, “Tell him I’ll be right out.”
Sam was wearing a smile when Charles walked into the lobby.
“Hi, dad,” Sam said when he saw him.
Even though he couldn’t be sure if his death was real, it felt real enough for him to want to make the most of what was left of the day.
“So, I hear someone just received his acceptance letter today,” Charles said proudly. “Come on, let’s go celebrate.”
As they started to walk out, Nancy said, “But sir, what about your meeting?”
Charles no longer cared about the meeting. Even if his deathly experience wasn’t real, he realized that if it was, and he did die, only the company would prosper from his success. His son and wife, who should and did matter more, wouldn’t benefit at all.
The thoughts of nobody coming to his funeral, regardless of how hard he had worked to get where he was, was a constant reminder of how little his success truly mattered in the grand scale of things.
He had a great time with his son at lunch.
When he returned to work, the meeting was still going on, so he made his entrance and was still able to make the deal.
“Nancy, cancel my other meetings,” he said.
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. In all of his years there, he had never canceled a meeting, even at times when he seemed to be on his death bed.
“What excuse should I give them?” she asked.
“Just make something up,” he said. “I need to spend the day with family.”
“Um, okay,” was all she could say.
His wife couldn’t believe when she saw his car pull into the driveway. She couldn’t remember the last time he had come home while the sun was out, especially when he had important meetings like she knew he had that day.
Her first instinct was concern.
“Honey, is everything okay?” she asked, genuinely concerned.
Almost immediately after walking in, he embraced his wife, squeezing her hard.
“Wow, someone missed me,” she said laughing as he released her.
“I’ve just come to realize that I’ve focused on work too much over the years, and not enough on my family,” he replied. “How about tonight we get dressed up and go out to a nice, romantic dinner.”
Blushing, she answered, “That sounds great.”
While he was getting ready for dinner later that evening, he noticed he got a text from an unavailable number which only read, “One day.”
The smile he had been wearing since he snapped up from his desk, faded for a moment, before it returned.
Something inside knew that what he had experienced was real. If anything, it only motivated him to enjoy his time with his family more.
His plans were to take his wife to a great dinner, and for them to meet up with their son, where he would be celebrating with his friends.
“Are you ready, honey,” his wife asked, peeking her head in the door.
Putting away his phone, he said, “Yes, let’s get going.”
Over dinner, Charles recounted every amazing moment he had with his wife throughout the years, and the ones with Sam.
She couldn’t stop smiling as they recounted the stories.
It was hard for her to believe that he had remembered so many details from their travels and all the great times they had all shared.
There were even a few times when she interjected with her own stories, or her own versions of his.
They laughed and enjoyed the entire evening.
She also noticed that during the entire time, Charles rarely let go of her free hand, except to eat and take a sip of his wine.
Once they had finished, they walked out of the restaurant hand in hand, where the valet was already waiting for them.
As he helped his wife into the car, Charles felt a presence and looked over his right shoulder.
Standing in the shadow at the entrance to an alley, stood Death, silently watching him.
Charles looked away, walked to the driver side of the car, and got behind the wheel.
They drove to where their son had texted he was at, and they waived when they saw him with his friends.
As the hour drew nearer to midnight, Charles once again saw Death off to the side watching him.
He instantly knew what it meant.
“I’m getting tired,” Charles informed his son. “I want you to know how proud I am of you. Of who you are, and who you grew up to be. I love you, son.”
Sam, slightly uncomfortable with seeing his dad tear up, embraced him.
“I love you too, dad,” he said, tearing up himself. “Thank you for all that you do for me.”
After a short moment, Sam released himself, and Charles turned to his wife.
“I’m going to pull the car around,” he told her. “I want you to know I love you very much. You are the love of my life, and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend and wife to spend all these years with.”
She looked at him quizzically and said, “I love you too, honey. Not sure why you’re acting all weird, but you have made my life so wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for a better husband and best friend.”
Doubting his resolution, but knowing what he had to do, he smiled, took one more look at both of them and walked away.
His heart was heavy as he turned on the car and rolled into the street to pull the car around.
As the light turned green, he closed his eyes and stepped on the gas. He never saw the truck that had run the light and tee boned his car, killing him instantly.
Published on March 25, 2020 17:59
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