Copyright © 2011
Michael Martin thought he was just going to work...
It all happened so fast, I could barely react. I hit the brakes, and tried to turn out of the skid, but the trailer of the jack-knifed truck just continued to slide towards me. I heard a dull thunk and the sickening sound of twisted metal as my car slid under the trailer.
The scream caught in my throat. I stumbled a step or two forward as the anticipated collision never happened. I felt disoriented as every where I looked was white and foggy looking. Where the hell was I?
I walked a short distance and I started to make out what appeared to be an aircraft of some kind. As I got closer, I could see it was an old Constellation, only it didn’t have any propellers. I could see several people climbing stairs to enter the plane. A few people seemed happy and ran up the gangway. Others, looking elderly, their shoulders were hunched and they seemed sad, even though it was hard to see.
“Ah, Mr. Martin. You’re right on time.” A voice coming from my right scared the crap out of me. I turned to the direction of the sound and saw a distinguished looking gentleman in a dark suit. “I’m Mr. Jordan. I’m here to help you to your final destination.”
“What is this place? Who are those people? Last thing I remember was…” The last thing I remembered was the truck trailer, the windshield of my car and some twisted metal rushing towards my nose. Oh my God!
Mr. Jordan continued to smile and gestured towards the plane. I looked at Mr. Jordan, the plane, at the fog and down at me. Finally, with my mouth hanging open I asked, “Am I dead? Is this heaven?”
Mr. Jordan looked like he’d heard these questions a billion times. He calmly said, “Yes, and no. Yes Mr. Martin. I’m afraid you died in a very terrible car accident.” He pointed to the plane. “Several of those people were in neighboring cars. But as you can see, you all have arrived here, right on time.”
My eyes narrowed. “What do you mean, ‘right on time’? This accident was supposed to happen? Couldn’t you have stopped it?”
With a sigh of resignation, Mr. Jordan held up an electronic notepad with a list of names and dates. “See this line? Right here, Michael Martin with the exact date and time of your scheduled death. Your last moment was scheduled before you were born. Some times we can nudge someone if they’re about to do something that will get them killed before the schedule, because it causes a major clean-up operation. Some times, a complete unexpected random act, like a murder can throw a spanner in the works, but most endings, like yours, happen right on schedule.”
I stood there dumbfounded staring at the notepad. There indeed was my name, the scheduled time of my death, the actual time and the means of death. I said, “This can’t be happening! I have an important meeting to go to. I have a wife and kid! This is wrong!”
Mr. Jordan let a look of frustration cross his face as he said, “I can sympathize with you Mr. Martin. What’s done is done and it’s all part of the Grand Plan. Now, please Mr. Martin, get on the plane.”
Suddenly, hidden from the fog came a voice saying, “Mr. Jordan! Mr. Jordan! You need to wait!”
Mr. Jordan let out a deep sigh and under his breath said, “Not Mr. Henry again!”
A short, nervous looking man stepped out through the fog. “Mr. Joran! You must wait. I hope I caught you in time. There’s been a huge error. We just now caught it.” He looked over at me and said, “Who’s he?”
Looking irritated, Mr. Jordan said, “This is Michael Martin. He needs to be getting on that plane.”
“You say Michael Martin? Oh dear me! This is terrible! We have to correct this immediately!”
“Get a hold of yourself, man. What are you talking about?” asked Mr. Jordan.
Mr. Henry pointed at me and said, “Him! He’s the problem we need to correct. Is it too late? Can we return him?”
Mr. Jordan shook his head and said, “No, the body was mangled almost beyond recognition. My apologies Mr. Martin. He can not be returned.”
“We have to correct this and soon or else we’ll be facing a cataclysmic cascade of monumental proportions!” Mr. Henry looked like he was about to explode.
Mr. Jordan calmly said, “Come now Mr. Henry, Mr. Martin’s death has been on the schedule since before his birth. How can there be a mistake?”
Mr. Henry shrugged and said, “Someone got sloppy. There was a calculation error. Mr. Martin is actually supposed to live until he’s ninety-two, not thirty-two. The Adjustment Bureau was supposed to have nudged him to a different route to work, but they missed their cue.” He began fidgeting before he said, “This is huge. We won’t be able to stop the cascade if it starts.”
Mr. Jordan said, “This is serious. What’s the trigger? Any suggestions on how to prevent it?”
Mr. Henry nodded. “It’s his daughter. Without him to guide her these next crucial weeks, she does something terrible, losing her soul as well as a few others in the process. But that’s just the start. Her granddaughter, who she will now never have, is supposed to become a brilliant surgeon who saves thousands of lives directly and millions more indirectly with other surgeons using her technique. Those saved or their offspring go on to become great doctors, scientists, and artists who greatly enhance the human experience bringing the human race a step closer to fulfilling its destiny. None of this will happen because of Mr. Martin’s death.”
Mr. Jordan said, “Come, come, Mr. Henry. There’s been accidents before that also triggered a cascade. We were able to nudge and make corrections that limited the scope of the cascade.”
Mr. Henry said, “The scale is just too big. This could even lead humanity into several major wars. Free will can really be a bitch…oh, sorry…sometimes.”
“So, Mr. Henry, what do we do?” asked Mr. Jordan sounding frustrated.
Pointing at me yet again, Mr. Henry said, “He has to go back and stop his daughter. We owe him a life anyway, and he’s the most likely person to be able to stop his daughter from making a tragic mistake.”
I watched in silence as Mr. Jordan and Mr. Henry studied their notepads, ran calculations and mumbled to each other. People on the plane were looking through the windows at us, some with curiosity and others with irritation.
I still couldn’t come to grips with the fact that I was dead. But I couldn’t explain what I was seeing. Either I’m experiencing a strange hallucination in the last few nano-seconds of my life, or I’m actually standing in a fog talking to two guys who claim I’m erroneously dead.
Still looking at his notepad as he walked towards me, Mr. Jordan finally said, “We have a golden opportunity coming up in just a few minutes, Mr. Martin. However, the decision is yours. We can’t force you to do this, but remember, one of the people at stake is your own daughter. If you agree, you will assume the life of a person who is scheduled to die in about 3 minutes. This person is a cheerleader at the same school your daughter attends and is even in a few of her classes. “
“Wait wait wait.” I stammered. “You’re killing a teenage girl for me to take over? That’s insane! I’m not doing it.”
Looking frustrated again, Mr. Jordan said, “We’re not killing her. It’s her time. It’s not up to us to question the Grand Plan. Your daughter knows her. It’ll be easier to gain her confidence. On Earth, it’s been two weeks since your death.”
“What does my daughter do that’s so bad anyway?”
“We can’t tell you.”
“Well, when does she do it?”
“We can’t tell you that either.”
I shake my head. “Man, bureaucracies suck in Heaven too it seems.”
“The clock is ticking, Mr. Martin. What is your decision?” Mr. Jordan just stood there stoned faced.
“What happens if I fail?” I asked.
“Nothing, Mr. Martin. You’ll be absorbed into the girl’s life and you will be unaware of anything that has happened. Your daughter will be arrested and her soul lost forever. Millions of lives yet to be will be extinguished or imperiled. But no pressure.”
“If I succeed?”
“If you succeed Mr. Martin, your daughter’s life will be brought back into the plan with only minor meddling from the Adjustment Bureau and everyone’s schedule remains intact.”
“And that’s when you put me in the life of a NFL football player?” I asked.
“You watch too many movies, Mr. Martin. No, you will remain as the girl. As a reward, you will retain part of the memory of your past so you can keep a connection with your daughter. You can resist, but the girl’s life will soon consume yours.”
“Thirty seconds,” said Mr. Henry.
“Or you can turn your back on your fellow man and get on board the airplane. Your choice, Mr. Martin. But please, make it a quick one,” Mr. Jordan said very seriously.
“I’ll do anything for my daughter. Yes, I’ll do it.” I said breathing hard.
“Make it so, Mr. Henry.”
End of Part 1
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