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Conversation in the Black Room

by Christopher Frost

They say you can never hide from your sins no matter how deep you may bury them. I have to say - sitting here in the pitch black of an unknown room with its opaque walls, ceiling, and floor, that they - whoever they may be, are right.

“Are you comfortable Mr. Bishop?”

The man addressing me was in the room before I appeared, or perhaps he too materialized at the same moment I entered the black room. Whatever the case was, upon seeing him I was sure of two things. One, the roads were slick from three days rainfall and when my car struck the tree tonight, on Cedar Street, I was in fact dead. Secondly, that I was in Hell, or at least the purgatory waiting room between Hell and Earth.

“I don’t know how to respond to that,” I answered.

“Most don’t.”

The man to who I am speaking is a tall man, athletically built with long straight black hair, which does not move when he crosses back and forth in my line of vision. I use the term, line of vision, loosely. I can seem only to focus on this man, as there is nothing else around us but an endless void. There is no sense of space. I could reach out my arm and strike a wall, or nothing at all. The tall man is dressed in a black suit with a matching black shirt and red tie. His face is pallid and grey, with soft red lips. And his eyes! His eyes are both a frightening and dazzling red that sparkle with the luster of a ruby. He paces from one wall to the next with his hands casually buried in the pockets of his suit.

“Would you like a smoke?” he asks.

“I quit.”

“Well, would you like to indulge in that nasty habit one last time? For old times sake.” The man stops his pacing and is now standing in front of me. A malicious smile crosses his face and he leans down to meet my eyes.

“What the hell.”

“What the hell! Exactly my thoughts.” He laughs and the shrill of his voice sends chills down my back and raises every hair on my body like I was jolted with electricity.

The man pulls out a pack of Parliament Lights, the same cigarettes that I had smoked for eleven years before giving up the habit, and tosses them onto the black surface of the table that I’m sitting at. There is no chair on the other side of the table, just the one that I occupy. And I’ll be damned if it isn’t the most comfortable chair I had ever sat in, in my entire life.

I reach out for the pack and pull it towards me. Like an old friend coming home I lift the top and draw one smoke from the pack. I put it to my lips and there is the man at my side in the blink of an eye. He snaps his fingers and a flame erupts on the nail of his thumb. I’m sure I would have been shocked if this had happened earlier in the day, before the car accident, but now nothing startled me, it was too late.

The first drag of the cigarette felt like I’d never given it up. My lungs filled with the hot smoke and I held it in momentarily relishing in the old friendship I used to have with the coffin nails. The nicotine rushed to my brain and for just the slightest moment I felt dizzy. Leaning back in the chair I threw my head back and exhaled a cloud of smoke towards the ceiling and watched it billow then evaporate to nothing. The black room had swallowed it.

“We have some things to discuss,” the tall man said.

I just looked at him as he turned away from me and walked to the other side of the table. His large frame motioned that he was taking a seat but I was sure there was no chair on the other side of the table. When he lowered himself down, he seemed perfectly comfortable and at ease. He might have been sitting on a cushion of air for all I knew. Then he inched closer to the table and I heard the legs of a chair scratching across the cold black floor.

The tall man was sitting in front of me with his fingers tented on top of the table and he was staring with those red eyes. He said nothing, just let the last of his remarks linger in the air. Perhaps he was waiting for me to say something, but I wasn’t sure what to say. I had no idea where the hell I was.

“It’s a place in between your world and the next.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“You were wondering where the hell you were, I answered,” he said with a faint smile.

“How did you –?”

“Read your thoughts?” He paused allowing that revelation to sink in a bit before he continued, “This place doesn’t work like the one you are from. It works through my knowledge of the way things are and are going to be, it is my place, this room, and I do with it what I will.”

“Have you been reading my mind the whole time?” I took another drag of the cigarette and tried to pretend that I wasn’t bothered by the unfolding events, that my blood hadn’t run cold with fear and if it were possible, though I doubted it now, I would have pissed my pants.

“No, I just momentarily caught a glimpse of that particular question. I prefer not to read the minds of my clients, I like to be surprised.”

“Surprised?” I asked.

“By their answers and reactions. It doesn’t happen often but we have time. We’ll see if you can surprise me, Mr. Bishop.” He wasn’t smiling now.

“I’ll try,” I said.

“Good to hear.” The tall man leaned back in his seat and pushed his hands through his hair leaving them cupped behind his head. “Tell me something, Mr. Bishop. Do you know what a soul is?”


“Good, then I don’t have to get into that lecture. Some people choose not to acknowledge their soul or any higher being such as the dictator upstairs. But you and I see eye to eye on this. That is good.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“You’re welcome.”

“So, how’s this work?” I asked wanting to cut through the bullshit and chit-chat and get right to the point.

“It doesn’t ‘work’ per se. I have a job to do as you had a job to do before you drove too fast around that corner. My job requires me to make a decision.”

“Whether or not I go to Hell?”

He laughed. If I weren’t already dead I was sure that his laughter alone could send a human being to their grave. It filled the room like a force, a fiery force that felt like it seared my skin and made my eyes water. If I’d been standing on the sun, I’m sure I could have felt the radiance of the heat just as strongly.

“I like you, Mr. Bishop,” the tall man said.

“You didn’t answer my question.” I replied mashing the head of the cigarette into the table until it extinguished.

“No…I didn’t.”

I met his eyes and I didn’t let the fear get to me. If I was truly on my way to Hell then there was no point whining about it, there was nothing after all, that I could do at this point. I didn’t foresee any second chances to turn my life around. I knew what I had done. He knew what I had done. I wasn’t sure there was even a second chance for redemption if I had survived the crash.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” he said.

“Did my wife survive?”

“Ah, an honorable question. Took you awhile to get there, didn’t it Mr. Bishop? Let’s see. You’re wife…her name was Alexis was it not?”

I didn’t answer. He knew as well as I did that my wife’s name was Alexandra. He sat for a moment in silence as if coaxing me to correct him but I didn’t.

Alexandra, is in critical condition at Black Harbor General Hospital. She will pull through after enduring thirteen agonizing hours of surgery. You did a bang up job down there. She’ll lose her spleen definitely. There’s…” He rolled his eyes back as if downloading the information through a streaming video that was only permitted for him to use. When his eyes met mine again he continued, “Her left lung was punctured, several ribs broken, her left knee was shattered on the dash board, and she’ll need a cane to walk for the rest of her life, massive internal bleeding, and a fracture to her skull above her right eye that will leave her blind because bone fragments destroyed her retina. Would you like me to continue?”

“No.” I had a lump in my throat and tears were falling freely from my eyes.

“Too bad.” The tall man was leaning on the table now, his hands once again intertwined in front of him. “You didn’t ask about your daughter, I find that…intriguing.”

“Don’t,” I whispered.

“But it’s the best part, so I must continue.” He was smiling again and the heat of the room was almost unbearable. “Dear, sweet, precious, Dianna, named after your mother…correct?”

“Stop it.”

“Born April seventh, two thousand and four, just seven weeks shy of her first birthday.”

“Stop it.”

“She was seven pounds four ounces when born, conceived in Haymarket Hotel on a vacation to Vermont on the last night of your vacation. Had a bit too much to drink that night? That seems to be quite the trend with you, doesn’t it?”

“Stop it, please.”

“Blue eyes, blonde hair – ”


I leapt from my seat causing the chair to crash to the floor, my fists clenching and unclenching. I would have taken a swing at him, if I had thought it would have made a difference.

“But why, Mr. Bishop? I was just getting to the best part. Don’t you want to hear how it all turns out?” The tall man was now standing as well and leaning across the table so our eyes met and in those hideous fiery red eyes I could see the accident repeating itself over, and over, and over, again.

“Why are you doing this to me?” I cried.

“You did it to yourself, Mr. Bishop. You were the one who had too many drinks at the company party. You were the one who said you were ‘okay to drive’. You were the one who wouldn’t let your wife, Alexandra, drive. And you were the one who didn’t fasten the child seat correctly. I have nothing to do with this, Mr. Bishop.”

I watched in his eyes as the car struck the tree again, watched in his eyes as my head collided with the windshield and my body ricocheted back into the seat, watched as I took my last breath. I saw how the child seat had been thrown forward, and was lying on its side between Alexandra and myself. The lifeless body of my sweet Dianna looked up at me with glassy, void eyes that neither blinked nor cried. Seeing how her head was lolled askew on the center console, twisted my stomach and gnawed at what remained of my soul.

“I didn’t mean to,” I said, as I fell to my knees on the floor of the black room. Tears stained my face, snot dripped from my nostrils into my mouth; I was coughing in gasps of air that tasted stale and salty. The tall man came to stand in front of me, then perched on bended knees. I didn’t look at him. I couldn’t see the destruction I’d caused replayed again in his eyes.

“I’m ready to answer your question now, Mr. Bishop.”

This was it. I had committed the ultimate sin: killed my own daughter with selfishness and stupidity. There was no place to go but down.

“This was fun,” the tall man said.

I looked up but the tall man was gone.

The walls of the black room were now white. The ceiling held a rectangle light fixture with three fluorescent bulbs that were beaming too bright in my eyes. My entire body ached with more pain then I had ever experienced in my life. A tube had been maneuvered down my throat, and my veins were strung with more tubes. I could hear an irritating, constant beep…beep…beep, from the machine next to the bed I was lying in.


I recognized the voice, but this couldn’t be. How was this possible?

I turned my head slowly because anything faster then a snail crawl sent stings of pain through my entire body.

Beside the hospital bed, Alexandra was sitting in a wheel chair. Her face was bruised and cut, her right eyes was covered with gauze that was taped around her head. But she was alive; I was alive. It was a miracle. The tall man in the black room had actually spared my life. I smiled at my beautiful wife, the woman who I had loved for seven years and had always stood by me. My heart, my joy, my dear, sweet Alexandra.

“Gavin?” she said again.

I tried to speak but couldn’t. So I smiled as widely as possible. Alexandra was smiling too, but there was a tear running from her exposed eye. I watched as she stood up and limped to be by my side.

“Rot in Hell you sonofabitch!” Alexandra screamed.

I was confined to the hospital bed, I couldn’t move, didn’t have the strength. When Alexandra’s hands wrapped around my throat the only thing I could do was watch the hatred seep across her face as she clenched tighter and tighter. The tears had stopped and I saw strength in her that was fluent throughout our whole marriage. When my wind pipe imploded she was the last thing I saw.

Sitting here in the darkness of the black room, I heard the patter of his shoes on the opaque floor coming closer.

“Welcome back, Mr. Bishop.” the tall man said with callous joy.

I knew my stay would be much longer this time.

Copyright Christopher Frost 2006

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