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The Spiral Staircase
I saw the girl in line, the one I had only seen in yearbooks since graduation. And she had been featured as, “Shining Star” while I’d been, “Most Likely to Head to Jail.” She was wearing designer, not a surprise, and her eyes were as glossy as her perfect, red lips. But now, we were both stuck waiting, and I was up next. Guess we both faced our Judgment Days eventually, at least I‘d get wherever it was before her.
To my surprise, she took the next line over, the one where less people stood waiting. She had come up right next to me, and I had opened my big mouth to remark on something when there was suddenly a disturbance in the mass of people behind me. A man in front of me freaked out over something and screamed over and over, as if the walls caved in around us. A hulking guard came over and dragged him below, we only heard his muffled cries from where we stood, waiting still. Never saw him again to be sure.
I nodded over there, nervous as a flock of lambs, “What’s his problem?”
She ignored me, the ice princess still, “How’s life been, Graceless?”
“It’s Grace,” I corrected stiffly, “Why? How has yours been Ariel?”
She gave a flip of her perfect, showering ringlets, “Perfect. Had a husband and two beautiful children.” Her lip quivered slightly, moisture beading on her bronzed skin, “I was supposed to have another, but then the doctors said it was me or the baby and……I never got to hold my little girl.”
I didn’t feel any pity, how could I? She had treated me like trailer park trash, I could only bark, “Sucks. I never got latched onto a man, I wanted to rise to the top of the business world. Firing here, screeching there, owning a Mercedes. It was all in fun, I was supposed to attend a meeting but….” My brow furrowed, what had happened to get me here instead of New York? I was driving when….I’m not sure. I turned here and there, and was met only with blank, hard walls. Like a prison, or an insane asylum. Feeling uncertain, I walked up to the podium further up and excused myself from the girl with a curt, “Excuse me.”
Nearing the podium, I saw a lady with a black bob, ungodly red nails, and a figure to die for. She stared at me with a bored expression, toying with a cigar and blowing smoke rings in my face, “Can I help you, hon?”
“Yeah, where is this?”
She grinned, showing yellow teeth, “Ah, you’re in line number six. Don’t worry, hon, your wait’s almost done. Apparently you did something pretty bad to get stuck up front.” Puff, puff, puff, she kept blowing smoke in my face from her hacked up lungs, “But I could give you some paperwork if you’re in a rush.”
“Whatever,” My eyes hardened, my voice taking on an edge of steel, “Just stay out of my way, bit----”
“Hmmmm……..” The way her voice took on a tone of amusement, I stopped in my tracks. She scribbled something down and handed it to me. I dumbly took it and sat down in a miraculous waiting lobby that I had never noticed before. The first thing I noticed was that the world had shifted into a dull gray, and I could hear faint garbled speech and distorted music in the background. Staring at the words swimming and nipping at random edges on the page, I could barely focus. Most of it spoke of death and “sinful deeds done.” I dropped the papers and wandered back up to the woman.
“I finished.” I lied, just wanting to get back to my life.
She grinned, “Haha, another number six. Wait here, you’ll get yours soon enough..”
I was pissed, but then was caught off guard when I spied Ariel, from before. Her image was featured on a flat-screen monitor above me, she dressed all in white and grinned upwards with a stupid expression, as if drugged. She finally went up a spiral staircase that seemingly went on forever and left from sight. The scene shifted to a wailing infant, and then brief moments that shone gold, like blurred excerpts from a rerun, ran across the screen. Finally, the camera panned to a funeral, where everyone cried and sobbed for “such a good child.” And a man, with two somber children at his side, held an oblivious infant to his shoulder. The only problem was, I focused on the child’s eyes, blue with blonde ringlets. Just like Ariel.
“It was me or the baby…..I never got to hold my baby girl.” Her dress earlier had been bloodied and stained with afterbirth…….
I looked back to the woman, “Wait, is that it?! I’m dead, she’s dead! Am I going wherever she’s going, will I follow her up there? Answer me, you do not want to piss me off, GOD!”
She shook her head at me, as if chiding a stupid invalid, “Oh hon, if only, but god? I’m far from it. We seem to be getting more number sixes, though, lately. Lucky you, you’ll meet other business tycoons just like you down there! You’ll be discussing the economy and Mercedes with them…well, forever.” Her trembling, stiff hand pointed straight towards a staircase leading down, down, down forever into eternal blackness.
She tore a paper from my hand, miraculously the stack I’d left behind, completely filled out. She had reading spectacles on the bridge of her hooked nose and glared down at me, had the podium rose so high? “Jealousy, petty crimes, and oh? What’s this? Murder, theft, stealing, money laundering, counterfeits, and suicide? Pity….” She held a red stamp over the paper and raised it high. I collapsed to the ground in a silent scream, clutching at my throat, gasping for air to plead shamelessly with.
I glanced at the red stamp before fading into nothingness, “The Spiral Staircase, six hundred and sixty-six------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Guess I had never made it to New York for that meeting.