Chapter 4: The Deal
I can see fear welling up in her big, blue eyes. But I don’t care. I corner her against a wall.
She hands me a pen and a small piece of paper. “Take this. It may look just like a useless pen and paper, but it’s the most important thing you will ever possess.”
I crumple the stupid paper into a ball and flick it against the reddish wall.
Her eyes sharpen, “I hope that your light is not too burned out.” The door slams shut.
A strange ringing sound puffs into the air like a balloon. It sounds like the ringing of a cell phone from miles and miles away.
I tuck the pen in my front shirt pocket and snatch up the useless crumpled ball, stuff it into my pocket, and run back to the casino. I trip and fall, over and over, as the room spins sideways, and I am as intoxicated as a drunkard passed out on the side of a street. I am going to find those three men. I must find them before I am whisked away into another nutty-ass place in here. I slur out loud, “A plan. We were—we were—going—goooo-iiiii-nnn-ggggg to devise a plan. A plan—a plan—a plan,” I repeated inside my head and staggered around the floor and then . . .
Over there—there it is! I see it. The small bar. I swivel my lucky ass back into the small cigar and wine bar, stumbling in. There’s just one little problem. The three men are no longer there. One person however retains his position. That man in the corner, still sitting in the leather recliner, puffing away on a Montecristo cigar. His eyes are like fire.
“Back so soon?” he snarls, “I’ve been waiting.”
Another uncomfortable chill runs down my spine. I look around for a waitress. But there are no waitresses. No casino tables. No people. Nothing. Edges of the room start crumbling and disintegrating around me, diminishing the room to a small cramped space, enough to house only me and this abstruse man. We eyeball each other with only about an inch of space between us. I am locked in an airtight bubble with the devil himself.
“What did you expect, Ben. You are inside your soul,” he looks at me as though reading my mind.
I try to not look at his blackened teeth as he speaks.
“It’s just like opening a box inside another box. And now, you’re in a new box. What box will open next, Ben? It’s never gonna end,” he grins menacingly.
“I can help you though,” he wickedly continues.
I don’t say anything. His body is old and withered. His thinning gray hair is hanging limply to the left side of his oddly shaped head. His voice is deep and hoarse.
I don’t want to hear him speak. I can’t even look at him.
“Don’t you wanna know my name, Ben?”
I ask him with a disgusted look spread across my face, “What’s your name?”
“Whatever you want it to be, Ben”, he says.
I shake my head.
He opens his mouth wide, and a thundering sound comes pouring out of his abhorrent mouth, so loud the walls tremor like its mocking my soul. The walls vibrate through my body and start whispering condescending words in my ear.
I peer over the top of this man’s head at the bizarrely thin bubble-like wall enclosing us so tightly. It’s shiny.
I glance once more at the man’s face and throw myself full force towards the shiny film and straight out onto the edge of the darkest deepest nihilistic cliff I could have ever imagined.
I dig my fingernails deep into the ground of this one-foot wide ledge of dirt and look over the edge. What meets my eyes is a dark pit—a void, an absence of life itself.
Oh my God.
I can see the man slowly sliding through the bubble onto the cliff behind me, laughing incessantly. Uncontrollably.
My body freefalls, but to my surprise, within two seconds, I have come to a complete stop. I now float over this enormous black canyon of complete nothingness. Never have I seen such an inexplicable, space and timeless paradox of non-existence.
Still laughing, the freakish man grabs me by the ankle and pulls me back to the cliff and we burst back through the bubble like jumping through a piece of chewing gum.
Cheek to cheek, we stand once more in our confinement.
“Look I don’t know who you are, but I am tired of this game. I want out! I want to go back to my life, my company, and my God, I have to figure out how my ex-wife and I are going to set up visits with our son. I need to get back to some normalcy!”
“Oh, you miss your son, huh?” the man blusters, a displeasing expression growing steadily on his face.
“Yes—” my voice cracks with desperation.
I start thinking about Leo, and about how long it’s been since I last talked to him.
The walls slowly begin to roll out like a pot of boiling water. With greater space in the room, he gets up out of his chair and laggardly walks over to me.
“Let’s make a deal,” he suggests.
“You follow me into the next—uh, box—let’s just call it a box.” He pauses for moment to ponder. “Look—I call it a box, because that may be the only way you understand. So . . . you follow me, through the next box, and you will see your son.”
“You’ll bring him here? You can do that?” I ask.
“Yes, um—all you have to do is follow me. I will even create a room of forgiveness, and in this room, he will be there. And he will have forgiven you. For all those years when you devoted more time to your company than your own son, Ben.” Forgiven . . . a clean slate. Then you can go back to your so-called life.”
“All I have to do is follow you?” I ask apprehensively.
“Yes,” he said.
“Ok, deal!” I nod at him.