Benny Dalton had his eyes closed tightly, seeing only darkness. He could feel himself moving and knew that he was still in the line. The long line that he just happened to show up in and couldn’t budge from at all, for he surely had tried. It has to be a dream! Benny thought again for the millionth time. There was no other explanation for how he ended up where he was. Benny never remembered being so afraid in his life. Except for the time he was mugged in Chicago, but even then, he had more control over the situation than what he had right now. He was moving through the line without even feeling himself walk! And where was the line headed? He wasn’t at the grocery store or waiting to get to a ticket booth for the latest scary movie and he certainly was not at Wrigley Field waiting to get a hot dog piled with items that would surely give him indigestion later. No this was definitely a different kind of line and that is what scared Benny the most. Even if what he was in was only a dream, the details were so vivid, and the feelings so real he could only shiver at the possibilities.
Gulping, he opened his eyes once again and saw the same scene he had moments ago. Was it moments? Or hours? How long had he kept his eyes shut? Just a couple feet in front of him was a rather large round man. Benny had plenty of time to study the man and noticed the man wore light blue jeans with a much too tight t-shirt tucked inside of them. He had on red suspenders, that must have been for show because the pants were snug enough to not slip down. Benny looked at the back of the man’s head again, at the same small patch of hair on the back of his scalp. Why even keep that small patch of hair? What is that doing for him anyways? Benny wondered, not for the first time. However repulsive the man’s image appeared to Benny, that wasn’t what made him cringe. What really bothered Benny was the fact that the man was transparent! Nobody on earth was transparent, period. So that brought Benny back to the thought of a dream.
Benny tried again to look around the large man in front of him and once again, could not look very far. It was like he was in a very small box. He couldn’t even turn around to see if he was last in the line or if there were more transparent people behind him. The furthest he could see to the rear of him was to his sides. There was nothing but gray, swirling mist all around. There were no walls, trees, houses, windows, cars, buildings. There was nothing to indicate where he could be. He only knew he was in a line because he could slightly see more people, through the man in front of him. And they all kept moving forward.
The Twilight Zone came to mind, but that’s not any more real than his alien abduction theory. Benny sighed. He must have been in the line for quite some time to even remember half of the theories he had come up with. As his mind raced on, contemplating more ideas and theories, a light tap on his shoulder made his heart leap out of his chest. Instinctively, he tried to turn around, but an unseen force kept him from doing so.
“Yeah, you can’t turn around, I know. Pretty strange.” A female voice spoke from behind him. Benny suddenly realized that there were low murmurs all around him of people talking that he never noticed before.
“It is strange.” Benny mumbled, looking into the gray mist.
“Excuse me?” The large man in front of Benny yelled. The man’s voice was like a loud boom, causing Benny to jump. “There is nothing strange about passing gas, it’s not my fault you are back there.”
“Um, okay? I’m not talking to you.” Benny said to the back of the man’s mostly bald head, keeping himself from laughing.
The large man harrumphed.
“Really? It sure seems like you are talking to me.” The female voice responded coolly behind him.
Benny’s eyes widened. “But I am talking to you.” Benny said, trying desperately to turn around, but once again failing.
“Son, you just said you weren’t talking to me. Are you confused back there?” The large man boomed again.
“Oh, well—” The female voice behind him started.
“I’m NOT talking to you.” Benny said, incredulously to the large man.
“Make up your damn mind.” The woman hollered, causing Benny to flinch.
Benny slapped his forehead and rubbed his eyes. What in the hell kind of conversation was this?
“Listen, miss—” Benny said, holding a hand up.
“Miss? I ain’t no woman there bud.” The large man stated, getting angry. “You ever smell a fart like that out of a woman?”
“I have been listening, but you say you are talking to me then you say you aren’t.” The female said behind him.
Benny put his extended hand on his hip and shook his head. “I’m not calling YOU a woman! And I sure as hell don’t care about what you pass from your behind.”
“You’re damned right, I ain’t no woman!” The man yelled.
“Well I am not a man! And nothing came from my behind thank you very much. I have no idea where that came from.”
Chuckling, Benny rubbed his temples then crossed his arms. The three of them were not getting anywhere. What did he expect though? You couldn’t look at anyone in the face to talk to them. What a ridiculous dream!
“Anyways,” The woman said softly. “I just wanted to tell you that you have nice hair. I’ve been looking at it since I’ve noticed you there. Young men these days keep it all crazy.”
Benny’s right eyebrow cocked up. Nice hair? They had no idea who either one was nor what they were doing or where they were going and the woman liked his hair? He sighed.
“Thank you, I appreciate that.” Benny told the woman, even though he did not care.
Benny heard the large man laugh hysterically in front of him.
“You’re welcome. Wife must have given me beans for dinner. Seems to be uncontrollable right now.”
Keeping his lips closed Benny turned his attention to the swirling gray mist and hoped he woke up soon. He never remembered being in a dream while he was sleeping. It was not only strange but unnerving as well.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Benny began to see a sign emerge through the swirling mist ahead. It was large, with elegant wording on a white backboard. He couldn’t quite make out the words yet.
“Wow, do you see that sign up ahead?” The woman asked from behind him.
Benny didn’t answer, only tried to focus on what the humongous sign read. As they moved closer, he could make out what the large words were elegantly scribbled into. The Gateway Offices. He felt his face wrinkle up in confusion. What in the world are The Gateway Offices? And why were they all headed to it? The woman behind him mumbled something as well as did the man in front of him, but Benny did not hear them. Did I watch some sort of movie last night with this same sign?
Closing his eyes again he tried to think where he may have seen a sign like that.
Benny’s eyes snapped open. Glancing around he realized the large man that had been in front of him was nowhere to be seen. What stood before him now was a large gold desk, although large did not seem to be the correct word for it. Maybe massive. The desk stood high above him and he was well over over six feet.
“Sir, I need your name please.”
Looking up at the voice that had spoken to him, Benny could only stare. On the other side of the desk was a beautiful woman with shimmering white skin, bright, strawberry-blond hair, white dress...but what caught his eye were the shimmering white wings. Benny blinked. The woman before him had wings! She was staring at him impatiently. What was she waiting on? What did she want? His mind raced. For some odd reason, he felt pressured and under a time constraint. Oh yeah! His name.
“Uh, its..my name is Benny Dalton.” He managed to stammer out, feeling like he was just in time.
The perfect woman in all white only nodded, grabbed something from behind the desk and handed it to him. He then watched her pick up, what looked like an old quill pen, only 100 times larger and scribble something down in a glowing white book open in front of her. “Take this package, go to your right and through the middle door.”
Benny took the bright yellow package that was shoved at him and stepped out of the line to his right. He stopped and saw three large white doors in front of him. Above the first large white door were large letters, that read THE UPPER CITY. Above the middle door scribbled THE VOID and above the last door read THE LOWER CITY.
Benny nervously chuckled and turned around. “Okay, okay, I get it, this is a joke, right? I don’t have any idea what these signs—” He stopped short when all he saw was the gray fog again. No woman, no desk, no line, nothing. Of course, this is when everything isn’t real in the dream and you get scared, he thought dryly. He turned back around to the doors that were still looming in front of him.
Benny hesitantly stepped forward to the middle door as that was the door he was supposed to go through. He wondered if he should really step through it. What would be on the other side of it? The sub-conscious was a powerful thing. Benny could only imagine what his sleeping mind was brewing up. While he was contemplating on what to do, he felt a push on his back.
Turning around, Benny’s mouth dropped in horror. Behind him stood a gold colored demon, holding a black night stick. The repulsive face of the thing seemed to be smiling at him. Not only was the thing a gold demon but the gold demon was wearing a blue uniform!
“Step through the middle door, please, we must keep to the schedule.” The hideous creature said in a voice that seemed to sing with authority. Benny immediately turned away from it and stepped forward to the middle door involuntarily. He felt like a puppet on strings again, being forced to move on. He put his hand on the gold handle of the door, took a deep breath and slowly turned it.
Awe spilled over Benny’s face as he stepped through. Before him was a large city. Roads, trees, sky, ground and, and people? No not quite people. Benny squinted closer at all the things that were bustling around the city.
His mouth fell open. No, they weren’t exactly people that passed by him, around him. Skeletons, demons, angels, ghosts and zombies littered the sidewalks, streets, and cars.
Everyone or thing was dressed in robes of all colors, no jeans or t-shirts or shorts, walking, laughing, talking, even driving! But they weren’t the only strange things in the crazy land that he had just stepped into. Benny looked past the “things” on the street. All the buildings seemed to be designed in a tilted, zigzag way. There wasn’t one that looked normal. The light silver sky was dotted with red clouds, some dark red and some with a light pinkish tint. Almost directly overhead was a large blue ball that Benny figured must be the sun because he couldn’t look at it for very long. The only thing that looked normal was the bed of dark green grass that surrounded everything. That and it seemed the sidewalks and roads were made of cement.
Closing his eyes, Benny took another deep breath. When I open my eyes, I will be awake in my apartment. My cat will want food and I will be dreading work for the day. Everything will be normal. But when he did open his eyes, the bizarre city was still all around him and Benny frowned. He wanted to leave. He wasn’t in Kansas anymore and certainly never remembered any kind of tornado.
The door! Benny remembered excitedly. He spun around to go back through the door, not worried about the gold demon, but stopped in his tracks. The door was gone, just as the beautiful woman at the desk and the people in line had been gone. All that lay before him was more of the strange city, and more “things”. What the devil was going on here? Spotting a blue bench that wasn’t shaped like any bench in the normal world you would see at bus stops; this bench was large at one end narrowing smaller as the bench went on to the other end, a badly rejected model still put out for people to sit on. Regardless, Benny decided he needed to sit down before he fell over. I can handle this. It is just a crazy, crazy dream that I will surely laugh at when I wake up.
Sitting down at the larger end of the oddly shaped bench, Benny looked down at the yellow package in his hands and let out a yelp, flying right back up, as if he had sat on hot coals. No longer interested in the package that had fallen to the ground, Benny looked wild-eyed at his hands. His hands had no skin, they were just bones! Instinctively Benny reached up and touched his face then his bare arms, legs, feet. Nothing but bone too! He needed a mirror. Just a second ago, he had all his skin! He was sure of it! Probably transparent skin, but skin nonetheless! Then as suddenly as he was startled an eerie calm came over him, did he really want a mirror?
“First day to The Void?”
At the first sound of a voice since walking through whatever door it was, Benny snapped his head up at a girl that stood before him and jumped back. Well, he assumed it was a girl. She was a skeleton, like what he appeared to be; only she wore a bright red robe. Long red hair also poked out from under the hood she wore. She had hair but no skin? He also saw that the two hollowed sockets where her eyes should have been were two dark green orbs. The sight of the creature before him would have been beyond any horror on Earth, yet for some reason, she was not as frightful as his imagination could be. She did not have flesh hanging off of her, wasn’t trying to attack him; it was just the plain out visible fact that she was a skeleton…that talked.
“Um.” Stay calm. It’s just a dressed-up skeleton talking to you, no big deal. Just think of it as a future mother-in-law…Benny didn’t know what to say and startled himself when he found he could talk at all. He had no idea what The Void was or what he was doing there or why he suddenly had no skin. Dream or not, this was as bizarre as it gets, at least he hoped. He jumped backwards again when the girl skeleton before him laughed a light high-pitched laugh.
“I acted the same way.” The girl skeleton said with her thick New Jersey accent, smiling. “If you can believe it, I used to be a model. So, this look took some getting used to, well sort of, I’m pretty sure I was just as thin.”
Benny just looked at her. What was she talking about, used to be?
“You can close your mouth anytime now, I’m not the boogeyman or anything, actually people tend to stay away from him here.” The girl/thing took a bony finger from her right hand and circled it around the side of her face. “He is just plain crazy, I hear.”
Benny tried to close his mouth, but her rambling of whatever she was talking about made it hard for him to concentrate on anything. Finally finding his voice he interrupted her, “U-used to be…a model?” He stammered out, trying to swallow. He took another step back as she reached down and picked up the yellow package that he had dropped.
When she came back up she handed it to him. “It’s all in here. After you read it you should be okay. Or at least understand.”
Staring at the package she held, he made no movement to take it from her.
“This,” She started, shaking the package. “nor I bite.”
He just looked at her. Benny did think those jaws could in fact bite. She waited patiently with her arm held out, still smiling. Swallowing nothing but dryness, he carefully reached for the package not wanting to touch her long bony fingers in the process. If she was offended, she didn’t show it.
Benny quickly snatched the package tightly to his chest and looked around him once again searching for the large white door. It had to be somewhere! How could he walk through a door and it completely disappear? Another question among questions he has had, with no answers pouring in.
The girl skeleton in the red robes must have known what he was looking for. “If you’re looking for the door you came through, forget it, it’s gone.” She said, pushing her purse farther up on her shoulder. Benny looked at it and wondered why the skeleton was carrying a purse and for that matter even wearing a hooded robe. Or, what the hell, even talking. “I looked for a while too, but again, when you read everything in your package, you’ll get your answers or most of them.”
Benny shook his head, tired already of the talk with this thing, “Look, uh, you, in a robe, talking, I…appreciate you being nice, really, but this is a crazy dream and I really just want to wake up.” He said, trying not to sound mean, but failed. He saw no change on her face. Her strange smile stayed intact.
“Tell you what,” The girl started, ignoring Benny. “I doubt you’ll open that package up now, so come with me and we’ll get you a place to stay. All that information is in there, but it’s supposed to rain soon and we should probably get moving.”
She then spun around and started down the street away from him. When she sensed he wasn’t following she stopped and turned around. Her red hair blew in the wind around her bony face. “I know you may be scared, but really it’s okay, come on.”
Benny glanced around him again and shook his head. “I’ll just stay right here, thanks.” If that door came back, there was no way he was going to miss it. The skeleton in the red robes studied him for a moment, shrugged and walked away. Benny returned to the bench and looked at the ground. He didn’t want to see all the “things” walking around. Hell, he was ready to wake up. Any moment his alarm clock would go off and for once the annoying sound would be welcoming. He would not mind his cat whining to be let out, or whining for food. He wouldn’t even mind the irritation of his hardly working coffee maker and the fight he knew he would have with it as he did every morning. Anything would be better than where he was.
Benny looked up at the silver sky and noticed that it had darkened from earlier. It looked like the skeleton with the red hair, red robes, high pitched voice was going to be right. The dark clouds threatened rain. The things in the city looked as if they were hurrying to get to their destination in case the clouds began to open up. Everyone except him. Benny would sit there all day in the pouring rain for the white door, which still hadn’t appeared. Becoming a little restless and nervous that the door wouldn’t come back, Benny began to tap his kneecap, and then stopped when he heard the loud hollow sound that it made. He tried with all his might to will the door back, but nothing happened. Benny put his face in his hands. He counted to twenty, moved a finger from an eye so he could see. Still no door. He repeated this. When he was at two hundred and sixty the skeleton with the red robes sat down on the bench next to him. Benny slid away from her until his bony hip hit the side.
“Still here I see.” She said, looking at her non-existent nails. They looked painted to Benny, but he couldn’t make out the color.
Benny looked away from her. Maybe if he ignored her, she would leave again. He heard her sigh next to him.
“I’m telling you, that door will not reappear.”
Benny glared at her. Why did she keep saying that? It had to! He walked through it after all. Looking back to where the door had been Benny frowned. The thought that this skeleton may be right crept into his head. He furiously pushed it away, and jumped off the bench.
“Look, I don’t know you, nor care too, but please, do not tell me that a door that I walked through won’t be there again. It’s illogical.”
The girl just looked at him and nodded and stood up near him. “It’s illogical that it’s not there after coming through it. Look again then, and tell me, what you see.”
Benny turned away in the same direction he had been staring at for what seemed like hours and all he saw was the life of whatever The Void place was. Taking a deep breath he closed his eyes in defeat as she stared at his back.
“Okay, well, why don’t you start with opening the package then?” The skeleton suggested, her tone had softened.
Benny looked down at the yellow package that he had been gripping tightly. He shook his head. “For all I know it could be a bomb or put me in another line where I am greeted by hippos this time.”
The skeleton laughed. “A bomb, hippos?”
He looked at her. “Do I really need to explain what those are?”
She frowned at him. “I know what they are, but that’s far from what’s inside that package.”
Benny sighed. He didn’t want to open the package, didn’t really want to be holding it. He sat back on the bench with the red headed skeleton following. And they sat for quite awhile. When the door still didn’t appear, Benny hung his head.
The red-robed skeleton stood up and stared at him pointing at the sky. “You see those dark red clouds over there?”
Benny looked at them and saw several large dark red clouds quickly heading their way.
She didn’t wait for him to answer. “That means a thunderstorm and chances are rain will come with that storm. Just come with me so we don’t get soaked. We need to get you a change of clothes anyways.”
As much as he didn’t want to go with her, he really didn’t know what else to do. He didn’t mind sitting in the rain, if it meant getting out of where he was. He looked at the red skeleton, staring at him impatiently as the winged creature behind the abnormally large desk had done. Rain or not, he had the feeling that this skeleton would not leave him alone. Benny tucked the package under his arm and began to follow her into the bizarre city. Away from the disappeared white door that he knew would somehow change his life, regardless of it being a dream or not.