She took a long drag on her cigarette. "No."
"Oh, um. Are you sure 'cause I'm just looking for—"
"Move on!" She bellowed and blew the smoke in his face.
"Gotcha!" He hurried along. This is ridiculous, he grumbled. How could I have taken a wrong turn? Is it supposed to be this hard?
The hallways were white and clean, which he liked, and lined with numbered doors. He stared at the numbers, wondering what they meant and praying that he would find directions before he got desperate enough to knock on one of them. Every so often there was a clock hanging on the wall and much to Ted's confusion each one read 4:59. After what felt like a half hour of walking he came upon a man in steel toed boots and a leather jacket with a skull on the back. He was fumbling with a key, trying to get into door number 1325 and swearing under his breath.
The man didn't answer but took the key out and shoved it in the lock again angrily.
"Excuse me?" Ted tried again.
"WHAT?! Can't ya see I'm busy here?"
Ted was about to walk away and try his luck on someone else when the man narrowed his eyes and asked, "What's with your face?"
"My face?" Ted touched the sticky film on his cheek and followed it up to the gaping wound in his head. He felt the spongy, slippery matter of his brain as it oozed out from his skull. "Oh that," he laughed sheepishly. "Bicycle accident."
The man grunted.
"See, I was riding my bike and I didn't see the bus coming. I don't remember anything after the impact except for a bright white light. So, well, I went towards it of course. The problem is I think I took a wrong turn somewhere and—"
"You got LOST on the way to the LIGHT? BWAHAHAHAHAHAH!" The man laughed until he hacked and coughed, then laughed some more. "How stupid do you have to be to get lost on the way to the light?" Once again he roared with laughter and slapped his knee. "Ya know, I don't usually help sorry lookin' types like yourself but now that you say that-I think you need all the help you can get!" He slapped Ted's back playfully, a small wad of brain landing on the man's shoe. "Damnit!"
"Sorry about that." Ted reached self consciously toward his head.
"No worries. Nothin these shoes ain't seen before! Anyway, you wanna make your way down this hallway here until you see a door labeled waiting room. They oughtta be able to help you there."
"Thanks. I appreciate it."
"No prob, bro. Take care of yourself."
Ted walked on for what seemed like another hour. With each step he was increasingly worried that he missed his only shot of getting into the white light. Finally, when he doubted that the burly man had helped him at all, he saw a door with a sign that read Waiting Room.
The room was filled with cubicles and inside each cubicle was nothing but a phone. Now what?! Ted walked around the room searching for an unoccupied cubicle although when he got one he had no idea what he'd do. A clock larger than he had ever seen hung on the far wall. Like the others, it still read 4:59.
"Tell her I think of her all the time…" An old woman rasped into a phone and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.
"Tell her if she marries that low-life I will roll over in my grave!" A man a few rows over yelled. "Of course you can tell her that! I didn't raise her to settle down with an unemployed, useless fool. Tell her that too! Yes you can! What kind of medium are you? Well then give her money back because I didn't raise to her to be- HEY! Hello? Hello?" The man slammed the phone down and stormed from the waiting room.
Ted took the seat and looked around helplessly before spotting a laminated sign tacked to the cubicle wall. It read:
Priest: Dial 1
Medium: Dial 2
Still not clear on how this was supposed to help him, he dialed zero.
"Thank you for using AT&T, how may I direct your call?"
"Um..." Ted looked around still searching for an answer but no other signs were posted. "Heaven please?"
The line clicked and there was a moment of silence followed by a long series of Beethoven scores.
"Heaven, how may I help you?"
Ted, who had been dozing to the music jumped at the sound of someone's voice. "Yes! Hi! Um, I was on my way towards the light and I think I took a wrong turn or something…"
"You what?" The receptionist suppressed a giggle. "You got lost on the way toward the light?" At this she couldn't control herself anymore. She cupped her hand over the mouth piece and spoke to someone in the background. "Hey Mary, get a load of this: a guy thinks he took a wrong turn on the way to the light. I know, I know. Seriously. You still there?" She returned to the phone.
"Well I have no where else to go now do I." He checks himself for using a smart tone with who could possibly be the only person that can help him. "Yes, I'm still here."
"Well I'm not sure you what you want me to do…" She started to laugh again.
"This isn't funny. It's actually quite frustrating. I need to get to the light, I'm stuck in….in…"
"I think so."
"Well there's no such thing."
"There has to be such thing, I'm there."
"No, you can't be there."
"I am telling you I'm there."
"Sorry, but I wasn't raised Catholic."
"Whatever!" Ted yelled. "Just get me to the light!"
"There is no need to yell!" She snapped.
"Can't you transfer me to Peter or Paul or something?" More stressed than ever, Ted tried to run his fingers through his hair but dug them into a mess of viscous goop. "This is bullsh-."
"Profanity is not tolerated on this line sir."
"Look, Peter is on break and Paul never answers his pages. Let me see if David can help you."
"Fine. David. That's fine."
The classical music returned for another long while before an ancient sounding man with a raspy, tired voice picked up the phone. "Moses speaking." The man spoke slowly.
"Oh I was waiting for...uh...never mind. Hello Moses." Ted explained his dilemma, detailing the bicycle accident, his vision of the light and the hallways through which he journeyed and finally his conversation with the receptionist. He waited for an answer. "Hello?" he said into the phone when he was met with silence. "Hello?"
No way. That's not fair! "Heeellllooo!!" He screamed trying to wake Moses but the man continued to snore. The woman in the cubicle next to him shushed him. "Moses! Wake up! Please!" He pressed all the buttons and yelled more to no avail. The room shook with the thunderous sound of a gong as the clock struck five. He slammed the phone down, picked it up again and dialed zero.
"Thank for using AT&T, how may I direct your call?"
"Heaven. Connect me to Heaven."
The line clicked just like before however Beethoven did not come back on. Instead, Ted was met by an automated message. "Thank you for calling heaven. Our business hours are between 8am and 5pm. If you are receiving this message please hang up and try your call again during our hours of operation."
Ted hung up the phone with a shaking hand. Calm down, he told himself. Calm down. I'll get some shut eye and in the morning I'll just try again. He stood, still staring at the phone.
"You ok, dude?" A young man with a bandana around his head and large, gaping hole in his chest was standing by the cubicle, apparently waiting to use the phone.
"Yeah." Ted answered, dazed. "Heaven's closed…gotta call back tomorrow…"
"Boy! Sucks to be you!" The man pushed him aside and laughed as he picked up the phone. "Days around here last ten thousand years ya know…"