The escalator was at least two hundred miles high. High enough that it pierced the fluffy white clouds like a needle pricks a balloon. High enough that icicles hung underneath at around sixty thousand feet and hail as big as tumbleweed would drop randomly from the sky onto the pristine metal steps. High enough that despite its firm structure the thing swayed in the turbulent winds of the stratosphere. An effect that had caused Dave to grip the golden handrail until his knuckles where white. He had been travelling now for seven days and did not want any mishaps to occur such as him falling off the side. The thought alone made him shake his head. He had come too far to have to start this journey all over again.
The theme from ‘A Summer Place’ wafted gently in the air as it had since he stepped foot on the escalator, its caramel tones calming him at first on this, the most important journey of his life. Alas on the ten thousandth rendition the track, despite its sincerity, had begun to dismantle his mind into that of a primordial savage and for the best part of his second day he wished nothing more than to bash in the skull of its composer with whatever came to hand. Now however he hardly noticed the song at all. In fact Dave only noticed the piece when it stopped abruptly as it sometimes did but even then he was more preoccupied with the fact that when the music ceased so too did the escalator, leaving Dave stranded on a very lonely stretch of metal. When it first happened Dave was able to look out over the side and see his childhood family home; Dad in the front garden mowing the lawn while Mum baked cinnamon buns; the scent of which would breeze through the spacious house, inviting hunger wherever it roamed. That lovely little house in the ‘burbs with his brother and sister in the back room building a fort that they demanded him to help with as well as also pretend to be the dangerous ogre hell bent on destroying it. Dave smiled as he looked down, the image below obscured slightly by a golden haze. True his house didn’t quite look like that in real life. In fact it had been a squalid council flat in Margate. His dad never having a lawn to mow and Mum only cooking on occasion for dad and himself- what with being an only child. Still the memories below seemed much nicer than his own and so Dave appreciated the effort put into their conjuring while hoping someone somewhere wasn’t riding an escalator of their own and being thoroughly disappointed with a drunk dad smashing up a grotty seaside flat on a winter’s night. The ability to see such images from his vantage point had waned some time ago however as now when the escalator stopped and Dave peered over all he saw was the lustrous green outlines of continents on an increasingly distant earth. His current orbit making him assume if not pray that he was soon to come to the end of his pilgrimage. Sure enough with a sudden creak and judder the escalator and Muzak began again and Dave continued his ascent.
On the eighth day Dave finally reached the top of the escalator. Ahead of him lay a perfectly preserved lawn upon which a giant white cube gently lay. A thin outline of a door barely visible. As he approached his reflection began to materialize ahead of him. He’d never seen himself so well presented. A wool light grey jacket and trousers tailored to fit over his portly temple with a rich cotton shirt and cream tie to match. Dave stroked his fingers across the smooth skin of his chin, a texture he had forgotten through the years of being unshaven. In fact when he looked closely he was sure that his pockmarks had gone also, or at least depopulated his face slightly. All the same it was an unequivocal improvement. He looked at least five hundred dollars which to Dave was the equivalent of a million. So long did he stare at his visage that he did not notice the door of the cube open to reveal a petite white dressed receptionist who watched him marveling himself. When Dave finally noticed her he fumbled an apology but it was jelly to a concrete wall. Behind her black cat eye glasses it was hard to tell what her reaction was without assuming a prefix of antipathy.
Dave entered the dome as instructed and sat in a lavish mahogany room. The soft leather of the sofa relaxing each muscle on impact to the point that he could not resist giving out a loud sigh, catching the receptionist’s attention with his outburst. Apologizing again only made her look back at her desk before she spoke. “Your Resume?” she said and Dave nodded and stood up, gently unfolding a piece of paper from his inside pocket before ironing it out neatly onto the receptionists desk who eyed it with suspicion. A suspicion based on the fact that in big black bold ink it said Dave under which a heading entitled “good deeds” left a lot of pure virginal white paper. To be fair to Dave his bad deeds section was not that big either. The reality was he hadn’t really done much of anything. The receptionist looked at Dave once more and Dave smiled like a man who thinks of a funny joke in front of his firing squad. Swiftly she stood up and walked to an interior door marked simply as “sorting room”, leaving Dave to resignedly sit down on the sofa.
Dave waited for the receptionist to return but return she did not and so began to worry on his past. There had been that old lady he saw get hit by a bike, he thought, why the hell hadn’t he called an ambulance for her, performed CPR, done something to prove he was a decent human being? Oh wait, that’s right, she’d hit him with the bike, before proceeding to punch him in the jaw and steal his wallet. Dave rubbed his chin in memory of the sharp pain- he wouldn’t have minded too much but he was only fifteen at the time. Truth was that racking through his life Dave couldn’t really find much dramatic stuff that proved his good intentions. His life had been a little drab to say the least with nothing particularly exciting ever happening to him. He once saw a baboon escape Blackpool zoo when he was ten. Damn why hadn’t he put that in his resume? Actually best not, he considered, didn’t end very well for the baboon, especially after it started flinging its filth at anyone who came near it. From that day on Dave never laughed with his mouth agape again. Deep in meditation he neglected to notice another presence in the room but then looking up he saw across from him a familiar face. It was his friend Nigel, grinning at him gormlessly as he used to on earth. Nigel too was dressed in similar smart attire. In fact, as Dave eyed him up and down, it was the exact same attire. Right down to the haircut. “Alright, Dave?” Nigel said.
“Yeah,” Dave said “alright Nige’?”
“Yeah,” said Nigel “alright?”
“Um, yeah,” Dave said “alright.” Then fearing an endless loop of ‘alrights’ added “I mean…What’re you doing here?”
“Just put me’ resume in.” Nigel said “That why you’re here is it?”
Dave nodded before realizing the gravity of Nigel’s statement. “They’ll be room for us both, you think?”
“Oh don’t worry, Dave, I’m sure they’ve got lots of vacancies”
“Yeah but what if they don’t” Dave said.
“Relax, Dave, it’ll be fine” Nigel smiled.
Dave reluctantly did as suggested and allowed himself to slouch back into the sofa. A silence filled the room between them until Nigel caved, still grinning uncontrollably. “You’re looking well” he said, making Dave scoff and turn away, noticing as he did so that the receptionist was once again surreptitiously at the door watching him. Dave stood up immediately, straightening his jacket and shirt.
“We’re ready for you now, Nigel.” The receptionist said and Dave noted that it was said with a smile. The receptionist turned back at Dave and looked at him neutrally “It won’t be long now.” she said.
“It’s already been quite long,” Dave replied “and Nige’s only been here three minutes.” But the defiance, the trickle that was there, was either ignored or not noticed before the receptionist returned to the Sorting room with Nigel.
Time had become so dense now to Dave that it hardly seemed to move at all. He was certain that day had become night and back to day again while he sat on the sofa, still as comfortable as ever despite it all. The laughter he had heard from the room didn’t help matters either, acting like a paper cut to mind’s eye. But that had been hours ago and since then he had heard nothing. Slowly confusion turned to impatience and finally impatience to anger. How dare they keep him waiting for so long? So what if his resume wasn’t as good as other applicant’s? So what if it wasn’t as good as Nigel’s? He was still a good person, still deserved this break offered to him. He certainly didn’t deserve to go anywhere else that’s for sure. “That’s it,” Dave said aloud “I’m going in. I’m going right in there and telling them straight. You can’t keep people waiting for so long. It’s just, well it’s just impolite. Bloody impolite” Dave quickly covered his mouth and cringed. “Extremely impolite” he amended. Nevertheless Dave felt a surge of power behind his one man stance against the powers that be and gallantly he walked to the sorting room door choosing to knock first rather than simply barge it. Dave was angry yes, but not discourteous. Yet when the knock went unanswered, and after he knocked gently a few more times, Dave realized that his indignation was falling on deaf ears and that now was a time for action. Gripping the door handle firmly Dave entered the room and readied his polemic. “Now look.” he said but stopped when he found that the room was empty. Empty except for a small tanned caretaker dressed in slightly soiled white slacks who stared back at him behind a bushy grey beard.
“Where’ve they gone?” Dave said.
“They went a while ago, mister,” was the reply “You been sat there all this time?”
Dave nodded a response. The janitor sighed and scratched his beard in thought.
“Well I guess you didn’t get the place.” he said before continuing to clean the already immaculate floor.
“But I was ready.” Dave said to himself “I…” but the words escaped him as the janitor walked past. “They didn’t even give me a chance.” He muttered finally.
The Janitor looked up at Dave and nodded sympathetically before taking a great breath as if to say something. Attuned to this expectation Dave stood in eager silence for the profound words to come. But whatever message the janitor was about to say, whatever riches the pearls of his wisdom could have provided they failed to pass. Instead a slight gasp of air emitted from the janitor, as if swallowing his sagely declaration had given him gas. A process that seemed to make him chuckle for some reason. “Ah this place ain’t so great,” he finally said as he gently escorted Dave out of the front door, “better luck next time”.
Dave turned to look at the white cube, his reflection still as immaculate as ever for what it was worth. Desperately he looked about him for someone to share his consternation with in the matter. But the space around him was deserted and other than the finely cut grass no other thing except himself seemed to exist. Turning back around Dave saw the escalator ahead, the theme from ‘A Summer Place’ still on a never ending loop. Standing at the top of the escalator he wondered briefly when he would get another interview and was unsure of an answer until his penultimate days travel. Only then, once back in earth’s orbit, back past the clouds and hail, close enough to make out his little patch of gutter on the streets of Birmingham. Only then did it come to him. He looked upon himself there, shivering and comatose drunk next to the stiff body of Nigel and nodded. “They’ll be a vacancy soon enough.” he thought aloud and smiled with anticipation for the winters ahead.