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Second Chances - The Book of Nightmares
Beginning and Ending
Second Chances
This is a story I wrote for a creative writing class I took a while ago. I don't even remember where the original kernel came from anymore. I intend to rewrite and expand the story for sale, so I think posting the whole of ver.1 here isn't a bad idea.

behind a cut so not to mess with people's friends pages.

Second Chances
Darkness, then light. The world was bright, fuzzy and off-kilter. Mark blinked rapidly and the world cleared. He was lying on a polished white floor that held a crystal clear reflection. Ahead lay a seemingly endless white hallway studded with doors. He rolled onto his back and looked in the opposite direction. More hallway and more doors but at least he could see the end of it. He stared at his reflection in the ceiling for a few moments, than slowly stood up.
“Hello,” Mark shouted, “Is there any one here?”
“Greetings,” a voice over his left shoulder said.
Mark spins around but there is nothing behind him. “Hello?”
“You want the fourth door on the left. Once you are there, things will be come clearer.”

Mark knocked on the office door and entered after a moment of silence. The room behind the door was a nice sized office. The center of the room bore a large antique desk. Behind the desk sat a handsome young woman with light hair that looked silver in the artificial light. She looked up from the file she had been looking through and smiled. She gestured to a seat across the desk. Mark settled into the padded chair as she started talking.
“My name is Fin and I’ve been assigned to handle your case. Since you’re a new arrival, we’re going to need to start a file for you.” She pushed aside the file she had been looking at and opened the one below it. Looking up, “Name?”
“Mark David Hodgeson. Is this important?”
“Yes, very important.” she said with looking away from her writing. “Ok, Age?”
“I’ll be 25 in two months.”
“Would have been 25. Remember you’re dead. Gender, you are a man, right?”
“Yes,” Mark said, a little annoyance in his voice.
“I know is sounds invasive, but you come to us with the body you had before you died and sometimes you just can’t tell.” she smiled, “Marital status?”
“I’m married.”
“Good for you. Did you have any children?”
“We don’t have any kids yet, but my wife will be giving birth in a few months.”
“How nice. What was your occupation?”
“I’m a writer. Mainly technical manuals, but I’ve done a bit of fiction.”
“Interesting, did you enjoy it?”
“Most of the time. I’ve had some rough patches of the years.”
“The cause of death? I’ll fill that in later. Grie-
Mark jumped up, “How did I die?”
Fin leaned back in her chair and looked at him. “Are you sure you want to know? Most people prefer not to.”
“No, I’m not sure. But I need to know.”
Fin sighed. “Ok, fine. I can’t say no if you ask. First, how much do you remember?”
Mark sat back in the chair, thinking for a moment. “I was on the train. I was going to LA to take a manuscript I had just finished to the publisher. I remember hearing the train horn and the air brakes and then a crash and next thing I remember I’m here.”
She shook her head. “I still think this is a bad idea. You were killed, indirectly, along with thirty others when your train struck a delivery truck that had stalled on a crossing and was derailed. You didn’t die immediately, you suffered severe head trauma and slip into a coma. You officially died at 3:10 this morning, Pacific Time of course. He lived, by the way.”
“Who did?”
“The truck driver, lucky that. Aren’t you glad you asked? Now, back to business. Do you have any grievances that we can help you with?”
Mark shook his head. “Not really, but I need to go back.”
Fin looked surprised. “As a ghost? That’s highly unusual but as long as you promise not to cause any trouble, we might be able to arrange it.
Mark shook his head. “No, that won’t work. I need to get back to my own body,” His voice rising, “I have to.”
“Shouting isn’t going to get us anywhere, so just calm down.”
“Sorry, I haven’t really been myself lately.”
She grinned “Think nothing of it, I’ve gotten used to these kinds of things over the years. Are you sure this what you want? Resurrections are quite rare; we don’t authorize more than one every twenty or thirty years.” Fin stood up and walked to the line of filing cabinets standing against the east wall. She gestured down the length of the filing cabinets. “These are all the cases, which I personally have fielded, where a person has wanted to return to their body after death and we weren’t able to help for one reason or another.” She placed a hand on short stack of folders. “These are the few that we were able to help. We haven’t had one yet this cycle, so the odds may be stacked slightly in your favor. But don’t think that will help you much, in the end it will all depend on you.”
“What does that mean?”
“Let me give you a bit of background on some of the ‘people’ who will be judging you. Half the panel is made up of the Moirae, or The Fates. They are Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. Clotho spins the thread that makes up human life. Lachesis measures the thread that determines the span of human life. And Atropos determines how each person dies and cuts the thread to end each human life. It’s almost impossible to convince them that your thread was measured and cut wrong, so you need to appeal to their ‘sentimentality’ and hope they grant you an extension. The Fate who will observe the rest of our business will be Atropos. The other half of the panel is made up of Monitors. They observe everything, and I do mean everything, that happens anywhere. It’s been said that they’ve been watching and recording events since long before recorded history. They don’t share with us very much.”
“I’m sorry, I’m even more confused.” Mark said with a sour look on his face.
“I can understand. It’s not a very simple procedure. Are you ready to start?”
“Yes, might as well. There’s no time like the present.”
“As you say.” Fin smiled, “Atropos is ready any time.”
After a moment the door opened and Atropos entered. She walked across the room to stand next to fin. She is a young woman with dark brown hair, wearing a dark blue Greek dress.
“and here she is. Greetings, Lady Atropos.”
Atropos smiled, “Good morning, Fin.” she gestured at mark, “Is this the petitioner?”
Fin nodded, “Yes, that is him. You may begin anytime, Mark.”
“Ah, yes of course, thank you. Um, well, there’s not really much to say. And you probably already know what my reasons are.”
Fin grinned, “Well, I think I got the gist of it but it has no weight unless it comes from you.”
Mark took a deep breath. “We’ve only been married for a year now, and my wife is pregnant with our first child, it’s going to be born in three months and I told Sara that I’d never leave her alone.”
“Do you know what the gender of the child is?” Atropos asked.
He shook his head, “No, we wanted to wait until it’s born to find out.” Mark grinned, “All that matters is that it’s healthy, right?”
“That is always best. What would you do if the child wasn’t healthy?” Atropos asked.
Mark stared for a minute, “I don’t know. We didn’t really talk about that.”
“Thank you for answering my question,” Atropos said. “I must tell you that while your reasons are valid; they are quite common and will have little impact on our decision.”
“Thank you for telling me, anyways.”
“Before we can go any farther, the panel must discuss your request.” Fin said, “We’ll meet again here, in two days. At the same time we met today.”
“Two more days!” Mark grinds his teeth and says under his breath. “I have to be patient.”
Mark got out of the chair and left Fin’s office without another word.
“So, what is your opinion?” Atropos asked.
Fin stares at the door for a moment before speaking. “I don’t know, I’ve just got this feeling that something bad is going to happen.”

Two days later, Mark entered Fin’s office. Fin was at her desk looking through a folder. Atropos stood at the back of the office looking at the papers on the wall.
“Mark, we have run into a problem.” Fin said, “You should sit down before I tell you.”
Mark sat down quickly, “What, what’s wrong?”
“When a case is being deliberated, we set the ‘system’ to flag any information about the case that comes over the wire.” Fin pulled a small piece of paper out of the file on her desk. “In a supreme act of irony, we got this when there was only one judge left to convince.” She said as she handed the mark.
Mark took the paper and read it aloud. “Sara Hodgeson had the body of Mark Hodgeson cremated at 4:30pm today.”
“That, of course, would be yesterday not today.” Fin added quickly.
“What does this mean?”
Atropos came away from the back wall and leaned on Fin’s desk. “It means that even though we eventually agreed to your request, we have nothing to put your spirit into. There is a three day window, where, as long as the body is whole, we can return the spirit to the body. But once the body is ‘destroyed’, through autopsy, embalming or cremation there’s nothing we can do.”
Mark jumps up. “That’s it? That’s all I get? You take away my only chance to see my wife again and all you can say is that you’re sorry.”
“Silence,” Atropos snapped. “None of this is our fault. Your body was cremated according to your wishes; we had no way to know your wife would have the cremation performed so quickly. We approved a resurrection for you and your wife unknowingly prevented it, you can’t blame any of this on us.”
Mark sat down in the chair, looking deflated. “You’re right, I’m sorry.”
Fin grinned, “You thought that was your only chance? You’re quite mistaken. There are other ways to return you to the mortal realm.”
“Oh, really?” Mark said, not sounding convinced, “What are they?”
Atropos came around to Mark side and sat down on the edge of the desk. “Well, there’s resurrection. That’s what you were hoping for. There’s also reincarnation, that way we return your soul through rebirth in a new body. You probably wouldn’t come back as a human. There’s possession, but without a willing host the results wouldn’t be pretty. And there’s haunting, but if that was an option we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
“That’s it?”
“There is one other possibility.” Fin said.
Mark perked up a bit, “There is, what is it?
Fin shook her head, “No, never mind. It’s not really a very good opportunity and it’s a lot of hard work. I don’t think you’d be interested.”
“Tell me, damn it.”
Fin smiled conspiratorially, “If you come work for us, we’ll have a body tailor-made for you to use in the material realm.”
“Will I look the same?”
Fin shook her head, “You could make your body look any way you like, but people you knew in your past life won’t be able to recognize you. So even if your body looked the same to you, it wouldn’t look the same to people who know you.”
“Would I be able to see my wife?”
“Of course, if you wanted to.” Fin said, “But, I wouldn’t suggest it. Much too painful.” She shrugged “Hell, maybe you should do it once, to get it out of your system. But as I said she won’t recognize you and you won’t be able to tell her who you used to be.”
“Damn it. Is this my best chance?”
“Most definitely.” Atropos said simply.
“Ok, I’ll do it” He stopped short, “wait, what do you guys do?
Fin smiled again, “I thought you’d never ask. We’re administrators. We handle requests like yours, of course. We also act as a sort of buffer between the material realm and The Upper Realms. Inhabitants of The Upper Realms often have business in the material realm and they have to get their transitory passes from us.”
“Transitory passes? What are those?”
“If you think of them as passports, it will make things much simpler.” Atropos said.
Fin nodded. “Atropos has it pretty much correct. Not everyone can get a pass from us, though. They have to get their passes from the black market.”
“What would I be doing?”
“Glad you asked,” Fin said, “You would be one of our terrestrial agents. Your main job would be tracking and containing those with fake passes.”
“Is the job difficult?”
“It can be. It really depends on the target.” Fin said “On the plus side, you’ll have much more freedom the other departments.”
“This is my only chance to get back to earth and see my wife, isn’t it?”
Pretty much, you could ascend to your own personal heaven and wait for your chance to be reborn. But your wife might be long dead by then.”
“I could apply for one of those passes couldn’t I?” Mark asked hopefully.
“Sure, you could. In 60 or 70 years,” Fin said, smirking, “Passes are only granted to those with very pressing business.”
“That is why so many people have to get them from the black market.” Atropos added.
“So, really my only option is to help you guys.”
“Now, now. Don’t be so sour.” Fin said with a smiled “The benefits are great.”
“Ok, I’ll help you. Looks like I’ve got no other choice.” He said.
“Good, I don’t think you’ll regret this a bit. I’ll have to get the paperwork together for you. Come back here first thing tomorrow and we’ll get everything done.”
Fin stood and extends her hand across the desk. Mark took it and they shook.
“Thank you, I think.”

Mark stood on the sidewalk outside an average looking house. The lawn was scattered with toys.

“Was it everything you expected?” Sal asked as she came up behind him.
“I don’t know. I guess I thought seeing her one last time would feel better.”
“It’ll get better, it does for everyone.”
“So you’ve had this problem too?”
She laughed, “That’s a story for another time.”


Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

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