Here at Cassley Travel, we are committed to giving you the best experience possible.
We are your one stop destination to plan and book your vacation.
We have a dedicated team of travel agents who work tirelessly, so you don’t have to.
Cassley Travel, destinations to die for.
I wonder how many times that ad has played on the radio. Twenty? No, twenty-three. Ah fuck it, who cares. How long have I been here?
“41, right this way please.” A woman directed monotonously.
I stood up and followed her through the hallway. The woman remained silent during our stroll, her eyes only facing forward, never a glance at me nor the slightest bit of attention.
“Here we are. Please do enjoy.” She said as she headed back to her station.
I knocked on the door. A large man donning a majestic black beard with whisks of white greeted me.
“Good day to you, my name is Arnold. Please do come in, Mister…?”
“Montague.” I replied.
“Hrm nice to meet you Mister er… Montague. What a peculiar name! Now then, what can I do for you today my peculiar friend?” Arnold smiled.
“I was told to come here to plan my vacation because apparently you guys are the best in the business.”
“Well you’ve come to the right place! Shall we begin?” Arnold asked in exuberance.
“Sure thing. It’s freezing in here though don’t you think? I thought we’ve just hit the peak of Summer.” I said as my teeth chattered.
Arnold began typing swiftly, the laptop’s screen was so bright I could see its reflection on his horn rimmed glasses. This guy literally gets straight to the point, he completely ignored me, he didn’t even bother offering to turn the heater on.
“Alright Mister Montague, where would you like to go?”
“I’d like to go some place nice and sunny. Some place I can just relax and not worry about a thing. I just need to escape for a little while you know. Some place like Hawaii or Bali would be awesome. Any deals on those places?”
Arnold began cleaning his glasses before looking back at me.
“Mister Montague, do you know how you got here?” He asked ominously.
“Yeah of course, I was playing… no, I was on my way home from… wait.”
“Mister Montague, do you know why you’re here?”
“Yeah, someone… a friend actually, told me to come here to plan my trip.” I said nervously.
“And who is that friend of yours, Mister Montague?”
There was an uncomfortable silence that followed. The atmosphere felt heavy. For the life of me, I didn’t know. I pinched myself again and again, as hard as I could believing this was all a dream.
“Similar to a dream don’t you agree, my peculiar friend?” Arnold asked, peering at my actions as if I was some lab experiment.
“So, am I in some sort of comatose dream or something?” I asked.
“Hm? Oh no, no, no, no, that’s preposterous! No, no no, this is no dream my friend!” Arnold chuckled at the absurdity.
“Then what is this place?”
Arnold spoke however to me, he wasn’t emitting any sound. The words he was crafting and releasing from the crevices of his lips simply came out in blurs and blanks.
“I… I… I’m sorry, but could you repeat that last part?”
“You’ve… died, Mister Montague. Dead. Passed away. Cease to exist. Finito. Ejecto seato.”
“Okay okay, that’s enough you fucking thesaurus. I… I… died? That… no, no, that can’t be right. How did I die? What is this place then? Who the fuck are you?”
“Here at Cassley Travel, we are committed to giving you the best experience possible. We are your one stop destin-”
“I don’t want to hear your radio ad, I want a fucking explanation!”
“Here at Cassley Travel, we are-”
“Jesus Christ. Arnold goddammit, I told you that I don’t want to hear-”
“… the space between life and death.” He said calmly.
“Wait, wait… what do you mean by that?” I asked fearfully.
“We are your one stop destination, to plan out where you will spend your days in the afterlife.”
I remained silent, still trying to process the fact that I had died.
“Your number was called out earlier, number… 41 correct?” Arnold continued. “You are the 41st person to come here today, which means as of this moment, exactly 41 people have-”
Ding! The sound of a bell ringing, coming from where I was before.
“My apologies. Exactly 42 people have died today.” He chuckled.
An uncomfortable silence filled the room once again.
“Oh, my deepest apologies, too soon?” Arnold asked innocently.
A chilling silence followed. I regained my composure after a while. A few deep breaths. One two, one two, one two. Okay, I’m back.
“So… how did I die? Do you know? Am I allowed to ask that?” I asked calmly.
Arnold scrunched his forehead with his thumb and index finger and fixed his glasses in the right position.
“Ah what a bother! Why is it nobody ever knows how they died? These Guides nowadays are such pranksters.” Arnold complained.
“Guide? What guide? Can you just answer my questions please? Please Arnold.”
“A Guide is exactly what it sounds like, Mister Montague. They are meant to guide you from the place of the living to this plane at the moment of your death. Like a GPS.”
“So before I got here, a guide-”
“However! We are so very unfortunate! So unfortunate indeed…”
“Oh okay, so you’re just going to ignore me then…”
“A Guide’s duty plays a vital role in our industry. They are required to inform you of what has happened, and what is to come, all of which whilst keeping our valued clients happy and calm. That is to keep our said clients from becoming distraught during the appointment as you have done just moments ago… er, valued client.”
“I get it, so it’s kind’ve like a guy coaching you before a-”
“However! Some of these Guides enjoy playing tricks on our clients…”
“This fucking guy… seriously? Stop ignoring me, Jesus Christ.”
“They’ll engage in all sorts of tricks. The Guide rostered on today in particular, Albin is his name. He enjoys wearing frightening masks claiming to be the grim reaper or such and such, which, about eighty-five percent of the time results in our clients passing out. That, and he’s freakishly huge in terms of physique. Even the other guides are terrified of him.”
Arnold cleared his throat.
“Back to business, shall we, sir?” He said in a rather professional tone.
“Sure I guess, it’s not like it’s been all fun and games up to this point.” I sighed.
“Now first and foremost, we must plan your itinerary. This itinerary must be iron clad, no errors. I shall ask you a series of questions and you must answer truthfully. Do you understand?” Arnold asked.
“Yeah man, I get it.”
“Okay sir. First question. Have you ever committed any crimes, if yes, what were they?”
“What does this have to do with anything? I can’t even…”
“In this plane between life and death, the concept of money holds no value. The currency here, is based upon your humanity as well as other variables. That is why, I must ask you these kinds of questions. Would you like me to repeat the question?”
“I didn’t commit any crimes. I’ve lived my life to be a good person always. I wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
“That’s interesting for you to say, Mister Montague, and I do not doubt you. That is, if you can explain what happened on the 2nd of June in the year… 2015?
“How… how do you know that date?”
“Answer truthfully Mister Montague, your performance and behaviour during this meeting places a critical part in the final judging process on your final destination.”
“I… I let Claire die. My girlfriend back then… her name was Claire…”
Something got caught in my throat. I couldn’t breathe, tears ran down my face all so suddenly.
“I-I-I’m sorry… this is still really fresh. I’m still finding a way to deal with this.”
“Ah yes of course. Six months, and er… three days to be exact. Claire…”
Arnold’s eyes circled around the monitor screen.
“… Turner. Claire Turner, 24 years of age, correct?” Arnold asked, awaiting confirmation.
“How… wh-wh-what is happening? How do you know all of this? Who the hell are you?”
“Mister Montague, isn’t it obvious? My deepest apologies if I come across as cold, however I’ve been doing this for a fairly long time, give or take, twenty years now.”
“She…she came through here? Where is she? Where did you send her? I… I have to go to where she is. I need to say I’m sorry! I need to see her! Tell me! Tell me now!”
Arnold proceeded to flick through his records, and rapidly jabbed at an assortment of keyboard keys. He cleared his throat once more.
“According to our records, sir, I’ve found a package deal that you are eligible for. It is called the Redemption Package. Would you like to hear more?”
“Like I even have a choice.” I said bluntly.
“For those that come through here with a history of committing a crime, we provide them a choice of the Redemption Package. It is exactly how it sounds, we allow these applicants a chance to redeem themselves, absolve themselves of their past actions. It is part of our core values here that we do not, under any circumstances, allow our customers to enter the afterlife whilst still having ties to their previous life.”
“What do I have to do?”
“You must cut those ties from your previous world. You will meet your greatest adversary, your greatest shame of your past life and you must overcome it. Otherwise, you will stay in limbo for the rest of your afterlife. No destination, no itinerary. Only nothingness.”
“Let’s do it. I’m ready.” I said confidently.
Suddenly the room began to shake, and my stomach began to churn violently. My insides felt like a pinball machine.
A familiar voice. A warm, comforting voice. It couldn’t be. I looked around, and I was no longer in Arnold’s office. Everything was white, like a canvas. Nothing else existed in this plane. This must be the package Arnold was talking about. The obstacle that I must overcome.
“Is… is it really you?” I asked timidly.
“Of course silly. Who else would it be? It’s so good to see you.” She said.
“It… it really is you. Claire. I’ve missed you. I’ve missed you so much.”
“Why’re you crying Monty? Aren’t you glad to see me?”
“I’m so sorry Claire. I’m so fucking sorry. I couldn’t protect you. You’re here now, because of me. Because I couldn’t… I couldn’t… I just…” I was blubbering, I couldn’t even form words.
“There there… that’s all in the past. And plus, I don’t blame you. I was afraid you hated me… for my selfishness. For what I did.”
“Claire… it is my fault. The sooner you accept that, the better it’ll all be. You killed yourself because you were unhappy, you were depressed. You needed an escape from your life, because I made your life hell. I… I… I just couldn’t stop listening to the rumours about you and… him.”
“Him huh? Forget about him. And everything else for that matter. We’re both stuck here now because we’re both so stubborn. It’s the perfect place for us.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Didn’t your Guide tell you, Monty? This is the Redemption Plane. A white canvas of nothing. Our crime isn’t what you think it is. We’re guilty of not accepting the truth in our hearts. You refuse to believe that my passing wasn’t your fault. And I… I’m stuck here for something too. Therefore unwelcome to enjoy the pleasures of afterlife travel.”
“My Guide didn’t tell me shit. He just tried to scare me to death at every chance he got. But, you’re saying if we just accept our truths, we can get out of here… together?”
Claire smiled with tears running down her face. Her rosy cheeks reddened and glanced at me.
“I’m not getting out of here. I’m asking you, for your sake, to not be stubborn and accept your truth so you can live in peace.”
“What about you though? What’s your truth Claire, tell me!”
“There’s no point anymore. It’s all done. It’s not too late for you though.”
“Claire, we’re dead. I literally have all the time in the world.”
She burst into laughter. Her classic strange laugh came out once again, it felt like an eternity since I heard her laugh.
“There you go again. Even in the most dull moments, you find a way to make me laugh.” Claire smiled.
“If you won’t tell me why you’re stuck here, and I won’t accept my own truth, then what’s stopping us from just staying here?” I asked.
“Monty don’t do this. You… you don’t know why-”
“I don’t need to know why! As long as you’re here, that’s good enough for-”
“I’m here because I cheated on you!” Claire screamed.
Suddenly the white canvas atmosphere felt heavy, and my breathing became an arduous task. I heard her clear as day, and yet I refused to believe it.
“You… you… you’re saying that-”
“The rumours were true Monty! I cheated on you. And I hated myself. I hated myself so much. Especially on that day. The day I hated myself just enough to end it all. The day that you stormed out. The day our relationship was over. You stormed out of our home in a fit of rage and I began reminiscing, and that’s when I found it.
“You found what exactly?”
“Underneath your watch collection.”
“You… you saw it? Why… why didn’t you say anything? Claire…”
Silence had conquered this plane, we were literally the only two people in this world and we couldn’t even face each other. Claire looked away in shame. I began to walk away, after what I had just learnt from who I thought was the love of my life. I began to accept my own truth, assuring myself at every step that her death wasn’t my fault.
It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault.
“I’m leaving this place, Claire. I hope you’ll be happy here. Goodbye.” My last words to Claire resonated deeply in my heart.
“How can I ever be happy… how could I have gone on living…” Claire began.
The room began to shake once more, an indication that I had accepted my fate. I welcomed the approaching game of pinball in my body, my stomach churning. It was a wonderful feeling, because I was finally free. Free from the clutches of this torture. The room began to shake even more violently, until I was back, however never the same again. Because Claire’s last words rung through my ears as I returned back to Arnold’s office.
“… knowing that the love of my life was planning to marry a cheating wretch like me?”