When Aaron and Amber die they will wake in Purgatory. Unable to rest they will choose the unthinkable. They will walk into Hell hoping to find Heaven, and all they have lost, on the other side. Once in Hell they will spark a rebellion 2,500 years in the making. Heroes Will Rise The Weak Will Find Strength The Damned Will Be Redeemed.
The deep summer sun burned the asphalt of mid-town Manhattan. The sky had been clear for days giving the sun a direct sight of the buildings and people huddled together on the 300 square mile island denying the heat any place to hide. Aaron had been wandering for hours. Sweat had begun to soak through his socks after the second mile in the mid-day heat and the back of his white t-shirt was damp. The past week he had begun going for walks, each day the distance grew and the route changed allowing for some variety. He figured he didn’t have much to do since he had recently lost his job as a financial adviser. The market had quickly gone from top to bottom in record time and within days of living on the top of the world he was cleaning out his desk in his downtown office and watching his checking account quickly tick to zero.
He often wondered where he sat in the cosmic food chain. He wasn’t religious. He often times wondered if religion had ever actually done any good. But then at times he couldn’t help but feel like there was at least some guiding force. Not a god per say but more like the banks of a river guiding and directing the flow of the stream. Sure it might flood at times but in the end the course stayed fairly constant following a natural progression. Within that flowing river of people there must be some hierarchy. Though a hierarchy unlike the one that people had set up for themselves with the rich and famous taking the top and the meager and unimportant picking at the crumbs. No, this hierarchy would be based on criteria that no person could fathom, one that ebbed and flowed and constantly left us guessing. Where he fell in that list he couldn’t guess but he figured he was probably scraping at the bottom.
Aaron’s apartment was a tiny studio stuffed away in a corner of the fifth floor in a doorman-less decrepit building on 104th St. and 3rd Ave. His view was a beautiful mural of graffiti adorning the brick wall four feet from his window. On clear windless nights he often watched a yellow stream of urine pass by his window when the drunk who lived above him chose to save the environment by pissing out his window. Walking on 73rd St. far away from his home, he could think clearly and contemplate the future of the job market. He found the greatest irony to be that in his situation he couldn’t even afford his current lap of luxury. He was afraid of where he would end up if he didn’t find a job soon.
Amber’s shoes slapped the sidewalk as she slalomed through the sea of pedestrians on 3rd Ave. Her three-year-old black leather shoes were already near the grave and running to work wasn’t helping. She had thought about replacing them but the excess of zeros in her checking account and the complete lack of a savings account slammed the door on that idea. Her credit cards were nearly maxed out as well and asking her roommates for money was out of the question. Even the term roommates wasn’t completely true. She didn’t pay any rent and slept on the couch in a friend’s apartment on 54th St., so moocher might have been more appropriate. At the moment this was insignificant because she was late for work at The Clothing Barn on 73rd St. and if she was late, she knew she would be fired. If money wasn’t an issue, she wouldn’t care, considering how much she hated her job, but it was and she needed a paycheck. She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket as she tore up 3rd Ave. moving faster than a cheetah, or at least that’s how she felt while she knocked men, women and children out of her way. She dialed her coworker and quasi-friend at The Clothing Barn who was finishing her shift to see if she could stay a few minutes longer until she got there. Maybe then her job might be safe for another week or so until she gave her boss a different reason to fire her.
The problem with Amber was that no matter how hard she tried it always seemed that the stars were aligned against her, even if she didn’t believe in that sort of thing. With each passing day her level of misery never seemed to improve. Since the tragedy that nearly crippled her and sent her life into a tailspin about six years earlier, her life seemed to only have gotten slightly better. She remembered those days every morning when she woke up and every evening when she went to sleep. The memories haunted her like a persistent ghost unable to find peace. It took her years to simply find the job at The Clothing Barn. She spent that time leaning on friends and living with various people. She was down to her last friends now and she knew, if they kicked her out, she wouldn’t have anywhere to go. It was sad too because she finally had a job, was attending night classes at a nearby college working on her English degree and was back on speaking terms with her mother. If she was homeless now, she didn’t know how she could maintain the semblance of order that had taken years to create. She still felt too proud to ask her mother. It didn’t matter much anyway because four years ago her mother had moved to Florida in an attempt to escape from the insanity of her daughter’s life meaning Amber would have to move. Living with her mother would strain the already fragile relationship that the two of them were rebuilding. No, she had to stay; she just didn’t know how she could convince her friends to let her.
Jenna, her friend at The Clothing Barn, answered her phone. She stubbornly agreed to stay but made sure to remind Amber of all the times she had stuck her neck out for her and that this would most likely be the last time. Amber figured she used the words “most likely” because she knew it wouldn’t be the last time Amber asked for help and it wouldn’t be the last time Jenna would agree. Fortunately for Amber this meant that her shift would be covered for the few minutes it would take her to get to the store.
Amber’s black blouse flowed in the wind. She turned at 73rd St. and saw the sign switch from big red hand to white walking guy. She jumped into the crosswalk running. Looking up, she saw a man in a white t-shirt with his hands in his pockets plodding into the crosswalk from the other side of the street.
The Food Nation Grocery delivery truck turned onto 3rd Ave. from 63rd St.. The boxes of food shifted in the back as the driver hit the turn way too fast for city streets. The cab in the middle lane quickly flicked his steering wheel to avoid the oncoming truck cutting off another cab that nearly took out a pedestrian that was about to cross the street. The truck was destined for the store on 78th St. but the delivery was the furthest thing from the drivers mind.
At 49 Jack Kally had been married for 19 years to a woman that all his friends and family had graciously told him to stay as far away from as possible. It was for this reason, and because people often mistook her for a model, that he immediately married her. Since then he lived with the notion that his family and friends were much smarter than he gave them credit for. The first few years were memorable but it was shortly after things quickly shifted. Money was, of course, a definite obstacle for them but soon they learned the dismal truth that she would never be able to carry a child. This made things even worse. He tried to keep her happy but his income was never enough. She also had a tendency to use the lack of children as a crutch to complain and grow insanely angry. So, on multiple occasions he slept at his friend Murray’s place. For the last few years he had become resigned to the fact that he and his wife would never be happy, but now he was learning that things had become far worse.
Jack was on his cell phone with a man named Harold Shawman, a private investigator that he had hired to tail his wife, and he was learning that she was, in fact, cheating on him. The news wasn’t exactly a shock but the fact that she was cheating on him with Murray was. In fact, he was finding it almost impossible to finish his lunch. He had begun eating his ham sandwich that he made at Murray’s that morning when his phone had rung with Shawman’s call. He had been waiting for the call so he set the sandwich on the passenger seat and answered the phone. The redder his face became throughout the conversation with the detective the faster the truck seemed to go until he took the turn onto 3rd Ave. and nearly took out a cab. After that traffic slowed because he was entering rush hour and 3rd Ave. was beginning to backup as the afternoon loomed. Jack screamed into the phone and slammed on the brakes stopping at the light on 3rd Ave. and 69th St. and his sandwich hit the f loor with a thud. This sent Jack into a deeper rage and profanities that must have come from the depths of Hell because no person had ever heard them before came flying from his mouth like water from a fire hydrant.
The light turned green and traffic began to move but Jack was grasping for his runaway sandwich. Horns blared and Jack sprang up cursing and flashing his middle finger at anyone who would give him the time of day. He saw the gap that had built between his truck and the cars ahead when the light had turned green so he floored the pedal. The truck lurched forward and picked up speed. Cars were flying around him honking and screaming. A cabbie to his left was yelling out his open window and Jack couldn’t resist the urge to show his finger once more and make sure that the cabbie heard what he had to say. The cab slammed on his breaks and Jack looked forward. The light had turned red in front of him on 73rd St. and the intersection was full. Jack hit the brakes as hard as he could but he knew that the SUV in front of him was too close. A woman ran in front of the truck from the left and a man wandered in front of the truck from the right. He had just enough time to gasp befo re the two were crushed between his truck and the SUV that was stopped in the intersection.
Jack froze. The rear of the SUV had been lifted a few feet off the ground and the driver had fallen out but was alive and only shaken up. People on the street were screaming. Some had already run over to see what had happened to the two that were pinned between the truck and the SUV. He pushed his door open and slowly lowered himself to the ground. There was blood under the truck and he knew that the only consolation was that they must have died on impact. He could barely see a trace of them from the front of the truck. The truck and the SUV looked now to be part of the same vehicle. In seconds his life had changed completely, all his old worries were gone. Jack fell to his knees crying. He knew he wouldn’t get mercy from those on the ground, he could only hope he might find it from someone above.
If only Aaron could find some job he thought. He didn’t know where he could move if he couldn’t find one. It would probably have to be somewhere besides New York. He looked up and saw the light turn green. He figured if he continued down 73rd St. he would get to the park, it seemed like a nice day to wander there. The wind through the trees would feel good and maybe he might come up with some idea. He stepped into the street thinking about sitting on a bench and feeling the light breeze brush his face. He looked up as a loud horn woke him from his trance and saw a woman dressed all in black running toward him. From the left he saw the hulking mass of a truck bearing down on him. He turned his face away the instant the truck hit him and the woman in black.
Copyright© E. Milan. All rights reserved.