It was a beautiful fall morning, and the blue-green waters of New York Harbor were flat and smooth, as if oiled, following the previous day's shower- Jack was sitting on his bed in his pajamas watching TV when a sudden gust of wind makes him do the thing he hates the most in the early morning-get up.
As he walks towards the window to close it, a postcard flies in and slams straight on his face. He lets out a small squeal of pain and picks up the card which has now fallen on the table,relaxing after its attack on Jack’s nose. He’s confused for a second, it's a photograph from last night,of HIMSELF. Beneath the photograph are words-Turn over NOW!
He turns the card, it reads as follows “You are going to DIE!”
Jack starts to laugh and crumples the photo into a ball and throws it in the bin.
He closes the window and walks towards his bed again saying to himself, ‘Things these people do nowadays for a small amount of pleasure-pulling such a devious prank,EH! Good thing I’m not one of those scary doofes!”
He bounces on his bed and picks up the remote,as he picks up he feels something stuck to it,puzzled he turns the remote only to find another note.He removes the note and opens it. Jack is now a little alarmed.
The note read, “Think carefully before you laugh and toss this note into the bin as well.” He starts shaking, what if the message was actually real, what if something terrible is at foot and he really is going to DIE!
Jack runs to the bin and picks up the rolled up photo and opens it up again.To his wild surprise the note had now changed. It read- Call on the number below.
Jack starts to dial the digits given on the note. It looks like a local number. ‘That’s it I’m going to bust this son of a gun. Who does this person think they are to pull such pranks?’
The call connects, there is a scary ringtone,probably part of the ruse. There’s a small click, “Hello Jack!”, says a muffled-voice from the other end.
Jack roars at him, “ Listen you little piece of shit! I don’t know how you’re doing this or what it is that you want from me, but this madness stops now. Or else I’m going to take this number & report to the authorities. So much for your master plan, you gave away your details. We don't live in the 18th century, psycho.”
The voice goes silent, Jack feels like he won this hand, you’re going down mister!
“Haha! Well you’re right about one thing. We live in the 21st Century. Why don’t you take a look at that note again in your right hand,sweet Lil’ Jackky!”
Jack is startled, “Wait, how the hell did you know I had the note in my righ-'' and before he can complete his sentence he gasps! “That’s right”, says the muffled voice, “The note is blank,isn’t it? Do me a favor and check your phone as well” he starts to laugh in a creepy way.
Jack looks at his phone, his heart skips a beat.The screen is completely blank, neither the touch nor the buttons seem to work.
Jack mumbles in a low-shaky voice, “Wh-what is this? Who a-are you?”
“Not important at the moment, what’s more important is have I shown you enough to take my words seriously?”
The voice on the other end says, “Good, I’m glad to see you’re now making better decisions.Today afternoon, come to 29A Park Hill avenue near the Starstuds restaurant. Take the first right from the signal and then go inside the blind alley. Keep walking till you see a green door. Press the buzzer. Don’t try any funny business or else it’s Jack and the doomsday for you,pal." The line goes dead.
“Hello,hello?” but it's no use. Jack shakes his head in dismay. Why? Just why is this happening to him?
He checks his watch, it's 10:30 am. It would take about an hour for him to reach the mentioned place.
He goes over to the basin in his washroom. Slaps some cold water on his face and looks at himself in the mirror. “Ok, Jack! Pull it together, whoever and whatever this is, you can deal with it! Come on!”
Before taking a shower he heads to the kitchen, takes off a bar of chocolate. He remembers Lupin’s words, “Eat, you’ll feel better!” (Harry Potter reference) And better he feels.
When life gives you the heebie-jeebies, have chocy-esss! With a small chuckle and the small pep talk, he heads for the shower. After getting dressed up, he decides it is best to arm himself for protection. He picks out the stick that he uses to scare the wild dogs in the neighborhood. He also keeps a small penknife and a pepper-spray can in his back pockets.
“All right! Let’s do it!”, he says & lets out a huge sigh. He’s feeling tingly for some strange reason, the kind probably the warriors felt when they were about to face their biggest battles.
Jack stands in front of the door. He looks around, the place is surrounded by garbage bins,some stray cats poking around here and there,looking for some food. There is no exit apart from the road he just took. The streets are crowded less than usual. Probably because of the weekend, all having fun. And look at me, stuck here in the middle of nowhere, when I should be having Ma’s scrumptious pasta and drink some good ol’ grapevine instead.
It’s almost 5 mins and there is no answer, Jack is about to turn around and leave when the door opens, a small creaking noise comes and as he tries to take a peek, just to be safe.It was all dark and he couldn’t see jack-shit! As he is about to take a step inside the house, the whole street freezes,Jack is terrified, it’s starting to happen. He quickly feels the pepper-spray in his right pocket.
He steps in slowly, steadily with caution. As soon as he enters the door shuts behind him with a loud thud! He can hear the sound of the horns and the passersby again. The entire place suddenly lights up. The hallway seems narrow and disused. There seems to be some stairs that lead upstairs, probably the place where he goes to rest after scaring the crap out of people, Jack says to himself.
He enters what looks like a living room, and scans the place. There is a stinky smell,the kind that would make you want to put a pair of nose-clips on. The floor is filled with tiling that's cracked and even broken completely at some places, there is a chair that keeps squeaking and startling him every two seconds.
He is still looking when there is a tap on the shoulder, he turns and yells out loud, “Oh shit,who’s there?” But no one is there.
“ME!” says a voice from behind again. This time when Jack turns, he can see the person as clear as the daylight. The man seems to be normal, yet scary. He has a round face, a slightly pointy nose, some wrinkles on the forehead probably because of his age and a weirdly haunting smile with few teeth missing.
“Well, I’m here as you asked. Now what’s this all about? Why are you after me?What do you want?” Jack starts to lose it, all the emotion seems to be flooding together and trying to gush out.
“I’m the one with many names. It is imperative that we focus on you but, for now. I understand that you’re a budding writer, one who’s looked up to by many. Rare for your age. You just entered your thirties. For someone who has so much potential,why do you seem to be wasting your hours by sleeping,hogging at the food and spending endless hours on entertainment?”
“Why do you care, old man? What is your deal? First you act like you are out to get me, now you act like some saint. What game are you playing?”
“Answer the question,FOOL!!!!” There is a huge gust of wind,and the temperature suddenly starts to rise. But there are no windows around. What is happening, Jack starts panicking. His fear gives in.
“Okay,okay. Look man, I have had a very rough year,ok? I lost my pop-pop(Jack’s grandpa) and then the agency fired me,obviously for the tornado of emotions that followed. My girlfriend left me for some dude that can hardly write an essay forget becoming the best-seller in the entire NY. I don’t know, I guess I am just lost. I have a few ideas in mind but I guess life just feels like too dark for me to see anything clearly. And then I get your note, that was like the ultimate blow,ok? So fine, go ahead, do your worst.”
The surroundings seem to be back to the old,simply scary times now. The crooked,scary smiles make a return as the old man seems to be satisfied at his poor-screwed up life.
“I know, see how good that felt letting it all out? Well I showed you so many tricks let me show you one more,alright? There was something you didn’t tell me, something important that you seem to be constantly looking for,asking for,from someone in particular."
“Well,yes. It’s a sign. I have been asking repeatedly to that upper dude up there- I am scared,really scared. Life seems to be like a pitfall which only keeps getting deeper with sad,terrible memories. So I keep saying everyday- Please,just give me a sign,one sign that will bring me out of this abyss, Lord, please oh lo-” and Jack goes silent. He suddenly feels like the ground beneath him is gone.
He has nothing but goosebumps all over his body. “Wait-a-minute! That means you’re!”
The man is smiling, he snaps his fingers! A bright light appears,it is so bright now that Jack has to cover his eyes, “What is happening?” He feels a tap again, as he slowly opens his eyes, he’s astounded. The old man seems to be different. He no longer has any wrinkles, the nose and the teeth are fixed,too. There is an aura of calmness and bliss surrounding and emitting from him.
He smiles,the smile of the divine, Jack has tears in his eyes. “Lord! Forgive me oh lord! I am blessed by your presence!”
Lord hugs him and asks him to sit, Jack looks to where he’s being pointed, the whole room seems to have changed as well.
There is a small fire lit in the fireplace,giving it a warm,cosy vibe.The entire place seems to be like a 18th century castle with a hint of 21st century that was given by the courtesy of the sofas surrounding the round table from the three sides in a perfectly symmetrical manner,so as to face the fire-place,the TV and the people.
It all seems marvellous, the paintings ,nameless but more beautiful than most art-pieces Jack had seen in movies or in tv shows. There is a large bookshelf with all kinds of books on it. There are three shelves each adding to the grace of the place with candles that not only luminate the place but also a sweet aroma in the room.
Jack sits and still tries to cope up with what happened in a minute. Lord says, “I understand that life has been particularly picky with you in the department of harshness. But that is how life is, it gives you tough moments so that you can toughen up for the next level. It’s a great sign that shows you that you have breached past the current level and ready for the next challenge. I hope when you step out of here now you can see that and get out of this shell you have created for yourself.
I know it’s safe in a way, but stagnancy is not what rivers are meant for, they are meant to flow-fully and freely!”
“I can see it now, my lord. I am terribly sorry for my failed attempts at seeing your sign posts as adversities. May I ask, was this all because I misread all those times then?”
“No,child! You asked for a sign,so I gave it to you. You do remember it, don’t you?”
Jack’s eyes lit up! “Of course, that’s what it meant! Yes, I do remember.”
“And what was the sign, dear?”
“I’m going to die”, replies Jack with a smile, having finally seen the true meaning behind the message that life is like a clock thats always ticking towards death-and it doesn't stop,till it stops!
“Seems like you got it all figured out now. Time to say goodbye,then.”
“I am grateful,Lord. Now and always. I’ll remember your message till we meet again”
“Haha! Yes,my boy! Spoiler alert- it’s decadesss away. So,live it fully,child.”
“YESSS! Pardon me asking,but how do I leave,lo-?”Before Jack could finish his sentence he sees the lord smiling and suddenly he seems to be falling. Jack reaches out to grab the table near him and yells out loud, “ Oh my-”
“God!!!!” Jack jumps and looks around, he is not in the room with the lord but in his own bed, the TV is running in the background.
Jack rubs his eyes, confused about what had just happened, it all seemed so real. Talk about a good dream!
Jack smiles a little, though it was just a dream, it felt like he had become a changed man now. No more downfalls Jacky! It's all a ride to glory now my friend!WOHOOO!
Saying this Jack jumps out of the bed to get started on his NEW DAY! He walks over to his basin in the washroom, as he goes to turn on the tap, he notices an envelope. “Huh, I wonder what that is”, he says and opens it.
It’s his photograph from yesterday. And beneath the photo are written the words, “Turn over NOW!”