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  • C.W. Bigelow

Escalator To Where?

Updated: Apr 19



The call woke Peter at 4 AM. At that time of the morning, it meant either a death in the family or his boss alerting him to an earth-shattering event on which he wanted him to report. The latter comes with a decent amount of trust and high regard for his work, and he knew it should be something to be proud of, but he’d just gotten in at 2 AM and the vodka martinis were still swirling in his stomach, driving his head into un-chartered, carnival scenarios which given the choice, he would have rather continued exploring, but…

“Peter,” Jack, his boss barked.

“Yes.” 

Peter couldn’t recall him sounding so excited.

“Do you believe in God?”

“Don’t know.”  

“Good. I know that.” There was a deep breath. “Know why I know that?”

“No.”

“God told me.”

Peter sat up in bed. “Jack? What the hell is going on?” 

“No details. Can’t even say more than this, but you are going to talk with him.”

“With whom…God?”

“The fucking interview of all time!”

“Do ya think?” He fell back into his pillow. 

“Holy shit!”

“Scam?” was all Peter could say, despite Jack’s over-the-top enthusiasm, who was a non-practicing Catholic. Peter could understand how this verified so much of what he was exposed to as a child – or then maybe it didn’t – but it sure lit him on fire! Was Jack being swindled, or was Jack swindling him?

The owner-editor of the most successful weekly magazine in the world wasn’t often bamboozled. “No scam. At least not that I’m aware of…”

Peter rubbed his eyes. Quite a ruse, if that’s what it was, but why pull it off at this hour in the morning? Ungodly hour, he thought.

“He doesn’t call himself God, though.”

He sighed aloud and lifted a suspicious eyebrow. “What then?”

“George, he says his name is George. And you are going to be talking to him and…wait for this…”

As preposterous as the first declaration was, he couldn’t help but shrug in suspense. It was cold in his bedroom, and he pulled his sheets up to his chin. 

“Lucifer.”

“Come on!”

“Swear to God. Or swear to George. He told me to call him that. I know it’s fantastic. I know it’s unbelievable, but…”

“Why now? And why me? And where is this taking place? Heaven? Earth? Downtown? Uptown. At the beach? Where?”

“Hell, if I know. He asked for you by name. He told me he’d take you to wherever it’s going to happen. And think about it - who am I to say no to George God? And what do we have to lose? Some time? Hell, no one else knows about it. Just fly with it.” 


        A shiny black carriage, with no doors, no windows, appeared on the street outside Peter’s apartment building. He knew – just knew, this was the vehicle in which he was to enter to get to the interview. It happened within fifteen minutes of Jack hanging up. Horses – also black, three of them were hitched in front, but there was no driver. As he approached, Peter was grasped by a force, almost magnetic and in a flash was inside a single cushioned, black leather seat. He sat in a bubble because there were no distinct windows or any structure. Then the sound of horses galloping, hollow clopping of hooves on the street for a moment before taking off into the sky.

        On the wall in front of him a screen lit up, white and blank, for a brief period until it began humming – the unmistakable whirling of film in a projector and he sat back and watched episodes of his life, up until the long night in the bar tonight. There seemed to be many episodes of drinking. It was titled Episodes of Peter Discipline. As the film showed him paying the bill at the bar just hours before, the horses pulled to a stop and the screen turned white and he found himself standing in a lengthy line of people. The line stretched farther than he could see but it kept moving steadily ahead. On either side of the line – just a bleak emptiness. The only thing distinguishing the atmosphere from a total void was warmth. It was warm – comfortably warm, not overly warm.

        “Hello,” he said to a tall woman in front of him. Dressed in a cherry red pant suit that was pressed perfectly. Her purse was one of those massive bags chocked full of various junk that she protected maniacally.

        She ignored him. Or she didn’t hear him.

        He turned around to the person behind, a young man who looked no older than twenty – great shape, well coifed, dressed in a well-tailored tan suit - and smiled. He looked directly through Peter.

        He followed the lady onto an escalator. Riding up he felt a chill but still could see nothing around and both the man and woman continued ignoring him. He was aware of others in front of her, and behind him, but couldn’t distinguish specific features. 

       They stepped onto a gleaming black marble floor, joining a stream of bodies – steadfastly moving along to the left and when he finally had a chance to look around it was apparent, they were in a shopping mall. The store ahead was Marshall Field and Co. and next to it was Radio Shack.

        Was this Heaven? Was this what eternity held – hour after hour of shopping?

        The tension tweaked each muscle from his shoulders to his loins, tightening under a vice-like pressure and he could only hope he wouldn’t shit himself. So many questions. First – why him? Second - Why now? And thirdly – Why at all? And now, is Heaven a shopping mall? And suddenly a new one, who were all these people in line? Was he now dead and just another of all the dead who happened to die that day? Or was this all just a big joke?

        He kept moving in line with the crowd past Sam Goody’s. 

        The silence was eerie – so many bodies – so many colors – but it was an absolute vacuum. He watched curiously as people fell out of line and disappeared into nondescript stores he didn’t recognize, sometimes alone, other times in groups. They marched in a purposeful trance. 

        His journey went on, though he couldn’t be sure of the amount of time that passed, because his cell phone was dead – no cell service in Heaven and that was his only method of keeping time. He should never have discarded his watch.

        The line suddenly marched past another escalator that emptied into another line of folks marching in the opposite direction.

        Suddenly he was in front of a Gimbels and then he walked to a sign of neon letters “Unloading Area.”  He was alone and paused a moment – gazing back at the mass of humanity marching by and couldn’t help but chuckle. Most men were going to be pissed. He knew women who weren’t fans of shopping, but more were. Payback’s a bitch.

        He came upon a door marked Employees Only, pushed it open and found himself in a warehouse full of furniture. Wandering down the first aisle past sofas of varying sizes, materials, and colors, each familiar because they were the same sofas he had owned and discarded throughout his life. A neon EXIT light beckoned him.

        Through the door, he walked onto an empty parking lot, the blacktop cracked, and each parking space line faded. A brilliant sun baked him. The lot was empty and stretched as far as he could see. Behind was the mall – its metal siding gleaming – showering him in an uncomfortable heat. Each parking spot became occupied and visible as he walked by, but only if he stood in front and looked directly into it. An elderly man, wrinkled skin hanging off his concave chest, breasts drooping – so disconcerting he wanted to ask him why he didn’t put on a shirt. He looked right through Peter as though he wasn’t there.

        Parking spots on both sides and he turned left in time to see Aunt Georgy – his father’s older sister who died of cirrhosis. There was no gesture from her as she filled a glass from a half gallon bottle of gin. Since he hadn’t seen her since the seventh grade, he wasn’t surprised she didn’t seem to recognize him, but it was as if she didn’t notice him.

        So, if Georgy was living in her little parking space so must his father and maybe his mother. He gazed out at the endless parking lot, nothing but empty spaces bordered with fading yellow lines. Was it reserved for all his family – dating back, from, what, the beginning? He might meet the first elder, but then wondered if his spot might be somewhere down this aisle.

        Was he here to fill that vacant spot and the whole interview with George just a sham, or was this just a verification of what Heaven was – research as it were? How come Jack sent him there? The fact the wrinkled man and Georgy hadn’t seen him gave him relief. Maybe they couldn’t see living people. 

        “Peter! Peter Principle.”

        The voice came from behind. He turned to the right and gazed into another tent. The emaciated body of his father – in the exact same shape he’d been in when he died of cancer. “Come with me. Peter. You are just in time for your interview with George.” There was no warm greeting. No good to see you. But death obviously didn’t change personalities.

        He asked his father. “How come you and I can converse? No one else could hear me, even see me, it seemed. Then you know George?”

        Waving him on, his father laughed. “Of course. And Lucifer too. Upon arrival we are led by our father to our creators. We all must be interviewed by both to determine where we end up. Once your final resting spot is determined, you’ll be able to converse with all family members. But first your final destination must be decided. You stay here or you don’t.”




🙟 About C.W. Bigelow 🙜

After receiving his B.A. in English from Colorado State University, C.W. Bigelow lived in nine U.S. northern states, before moving to the Charlotte NC area. His fiction and poetry have most recently appeared in The Blue Mountain Review, Midway Journal, The Write Launch, Drunk Monkeys, Ponder Review, The Saturday Evening Post, Hole in the Head Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Glassworks, Blue Lake Review, Remington Review, Last Leaves, and Hare’s Paw, Red Weather and New Note Poetry, Backchannels, Thimble Literary Magazine and has poems forthcoming in Frost Meadow Review and Koru Magazine.

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