Opening his eyes, Charlie feels alert and awake as he steps through the entrance of an all white tile room. Stumbling through past the threshold the door slams shut behind him. Wiping around he pulls at the door handle. Standing on the door ripping at the handle, Charlie grunts and yells. “Ah. Come on. Just budge a little...bit. Fuck”
“It won't open.” Says a sweet voice from behind.
Letting go of the door handle, Charlie falls to the floor landing hard on his shoulder. Startled he screams and scoots himself up against the door. “Where the fuck? What the fuck? Who are you?”
A sweet and frail looking older woman stands at the other end of the room, waiting with the patience of a saint in front of a set of elevator doors. She smiles and waves to Charlie, saying. “Oh dear, would you mind your language? I don't really appreciate such talk.”
Brushing himself off as he stands up, Charlie takes a look around the shimmering white room and says. “Yeah? Sure, whatever...Now, uh. Uh. Where are we...exactly?”
“I haven't the slightest clue.”
“And...how long have you been in here? Uh? Still didn't catch your name.”
“Oh, excuse me. I'm Gladys. Gladys Pepper. And you would be?”
Taking her hand. Charlie gives her a gentle handshake, saying. “M'names Charles Wood. Go by Charlie.” Stepping back, he takes a small box out of his jacket pocket. Pulling a single toothpick from it, Charlie flicks it into his mouth onto his tongue and continues. “So? What's the deal with this place?”
“I couldn't tell you even if I wanted. I feel like I've been in here for days.”
“What do ya' mean, days?”
“I mean. I feel like I have been in here for days. Just. Well, waiting.”
“That's absurd. It's just the lack of clocks lady.”
“I thought that at first too. I tried the door just like you too. No, I feel there is something special about this place.”
“Great. The doors locked, no buttons for the elevator and. To top it off. I get stuck with a crazy old bat.” Charlie mumbles to himself under his breath. Coughing for a second to cover it up, he continues saying. “Okay. So the door won't open, what about the elevator?”
“Oh...No. It doesn't work. I tried that too.”
Smacking his lips together against his toothpick, Charlie scratches vigorously at his neck hair saying. “Okay. Alright. Okay...”
“Are you alright?”
“Perfect! I'm perfect Gladys. I love being stuck in blinding white chambers with strangers.”
“Well. Maybe it would help if you tried to remember how you got here.”
“You should try to remember. I found it difficult at first too. Don't worry. This place does something to your head.”
Turning red in the face. Charlie takes a calming breath, then shakes with rage while exhaling and says. “Gladys. Could you give me a minute. Would you?”
“May I have a minute please.”
“Sorry. Yes. I'll be quiet.”
Poking both temples with his pointer fingers, Charlie thinks really hard for a minute and mumbles. “I. I. I think I was shopping? What the hell? I was shopping?”
Gladys chuckles a little saying. “That's okay, honey. Keep trying to remember.”
Grunting a little with his eyes closed. Charlie looks at Gladys frustrated and says. “I got nothing. What do you remember? Maybe you'll jog my memory.”
“Well, I was at home watching T.V. With my husband Harry. I remember going to bed for the night. When I woke up. I walked through the front door just like you did.”
Charlie stares at Gladys in silence for a few seconds and then says. “Bullshit.”
“Fuck that. You are insane. The door is broken or something, and you obviously have that mental disease. That. That. Shit. What is it? Parkinsons or whatever.”
“Oh my. Would you speak to your mother or grandmother this way?”
“Yes. They spoke to me this way. They always talk to me like this. Now get out of my face Gladys. I'm gonna try the elevator doors.”
Quietly moving out of his way. Gladys shuffles over to the front side of the room and stands in a corner. Enraged, Charlie sticks his fingers into the slit between the doors and begins to pull. Straining himself, he keeps prying at the doors until they simply open of their own accord. Shocked, Charlie takes a step away from the interior of the elevator.
“Hi.” Says a man clad in all white bell hop attire. Standing inside the ancient elevator design, holding onto a level that literally reads UP or DOWN in bold gold letters.
“Um. Uh. Hello?”
Walking up to the elevator Gladys happily greets the man saying. “Hello. Is it time?”
With a giant white toothed smile, the man zealously replies. “Absolutely. Who want's to go first?”
“Oh. I suppose she should right? I mean she was here first and all...”
Chuckling the man waves a hand out for Gladys to enter the elevator. “Great. Stand here please.”
Standing in position, Gladys could not be happier. She squeals with excitement asking. “Whats next?”
Ever jubilant the man tilts his head directly to Charlie. As if talking to him and declares. “Going down.”
At the same time both Charlie and Gladys ask. “What?”
The elevator doors slam shut on Gladys and a piercing red light shines through the crack of between them as it slides down. Horrible wailing echoes from the elevator shaft out into the main chamber. Horrified. Charlie steps further away from the elevator as it glides back up into position. The doors slide open a with a ding.
“What...Where did you just take her?”
Never blinking, never breaking his smile the man inside the elevator says. “Down.”
“Where the hell is down man?”
“You got it.”
“What the hell?”
“Exactly.” The man says laughing.
“That's right Charlie. She went to hell.”
“The fuck man? Why her? She seemed like such a sweet old lady.”
“She killed kids Charlie...She killed kids. Looks can be deceiving. Eh? Care for a ride?”
“That's some heavy shit man...Well. I mean. Alright. Do I have a choice?”
With a bigger grin then before the man shakes his head happily saying. “No. No you don't. Coming?”
Getting into the elevator, Charlie uncomfortably chuckles saying. “Yeah...man. Fuck. I mean. Might as well. Right?”
The elevator doors close on Charlie as the man pulls the lever going up. The doors shimmer gold for a few seconds and then open. Embraced in a warm light Charlie steps through and the doors close and disappear behind him. Echoes of his life flash before his eyes leading to his final moments.
Checking out in line at the convenience store. Charlie spots a beautiful woman leave before him. She walks around the building into the alleyway leading to the street. Being a little lonely Charlie watches her pass through the glass panes of the store. Noticing a guy following her. Charlie grabs his groceries and he takes the same route into the alleyway.
Finding the man assaulting the woman behind a dumpster. Charlie dashes to help her shouting. “Hey. Hey! Man. Get the fuck off of her.”
Ramming the man with his shoulder Charlie knocks the attacker to the ground. Hastily Charlie picks the woman up and sends her running back toward the store yelling. “Go. Go. Get help.”
Turning to follow her, the man lunges at Charlie tackling him to the ground stabbing him in the kidney. Stabbing Charlie a few more times the man makes a run for it. Cold and alone, Charlie bleeds out on the asphalt near his favorite convenience store. Fading out his eyes close and he soon awakes entering a pure white tiled room.
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The characters are deep and clearly have a voice of their own,even when the story is short. It's such a simple scene of conversation between two strangers, yet it is so engrossing. I liked the twist when Gladys goes to hell. (On a personal note, i knew she would. She was too sweet. That was my cue!)
Ben - Thank you for sharing your story. You have written two very vivid characters. I feel like I had a clear picture of both Charlie and Gladys. Although I was sad to see Gladys go to hell, I appreciated the unexpected twist, since we automatically assumed the non-swearing, little old lady would go to heaven and the gruff, aggressive Charlie might not. Keep up the good work!