He made a choice.
Jack didn’t remember dying. He remembered the bridge and waiting for the trains to come. He remembered laughter and friends and the taste of cheap, stolen beer. He remembered her hand in his asking about the future.
He didn’t remember the moment the other one came. He was an older man, with hair like Einstein. He wore flip-flops and board shorts. His shirt had images of pineapples. Jack liked pineapples.
The man called himself, Sal. He was fast-talking, like a used car salesman from a small town. Jack didn’t understand why no one else could see Sal. Maybe he was the only one drunk off the beer.
Jack couldn’t feel her hand anymore. He reached out to touch her face but his hand went straight through her, like she was a ghost. It would take him several more attempts before he realized he was the one who was no longer solid.
His eyes searched Sal, pleading with the old, strange man for some answers. Sal only spoke in riddles about gates and choices and the end and recruits.
“There isn’t much time, kid. We need to get to the Gate,” Sal said.
Jack didn’t understand. He wanted to ask questions, but he felt lost, confused and unable to control his own body. His eyes closed. His breathing slowed.
And then they were at the ocean.
How? Jack thought. Weren’t they on a bridge just seconds ago?
“Listen, kid. This is the Gate. Here is where it happens,” Sal said.
What happens? What Gate? Jack didn’t see a gate. He saw the darkness of the water, but he did not hear the sound of waves.
“I need you to make a decision. The others will be here soon,” the old man said. “You chose to go through the Gate to whatever fate waits for you on the other side or you stay on this side and I give you a job.”
Sal said it so matter-of-factly, like it made perfect sense. Maybe it did. Maybe the choice was easier than anything else Jack ever did. He was curious about the Gate. Where did it go? And why was it kept in the ocean? He had questions. He knew he should be asking something. He needed more details, more information about the Gate and the Job. Mostly, he needed to ask why he was here.
But Jack didn’t ask questions. He watched the water. He remembered what the ocean sounded like, but did not hear it. He could not smell it. Jack knelt down in the sand. He dragged his fingertips through the sand, but felt nothing.
“Kid, do you understand what I’ve told you? You go or you stay. It’s your choice,” Sal said. Had he been talking this whole time, Jack wondered. “Hey, kid, you hear me? They’re here. What’s your decision?”
Jack saw the others walking out of the ocean.
He made a choice.
©Danielle Tauscher, 2017