The Adventures of George Holland
THE ADVENTURES OF GEORGE HOLLAND
DONALD HARRY ROBERTS
"I hate to tell you this George because you really weren't ready to be here. Nonetheless you are here and the only way backward is to go forward and if you deviate to the left or right off the path you will inevitably end up in Oblivia, Obliviatropolis which as you may or may not be aware is one of the infinite realms of Erf, to be precise, which is a place you can never, ever find your way out of except to find another doorway into another chamber of Oblivia. And no one knows what they will find there until they arrive. It could be very bad, but then again it could turn out to be a great place and perfect for you."
"OK. So I stay on the path that goes straight forward. Where does that take me?"
"It depends on you actually. Everything is taken into account, what kind of person you were before coming here and what kind of person you are while on your journey forward. This includes your thoughts, good ones, bad ones and grey ones."
"Great. You don't know where the road goes but do you have any ideas?"
"I know only that at the end of your road there is a fork. One goes to one place and the other goes to another. That is all I can tell you because no one has ever returned from either to talk about where they landed."
"So what is stopping me from going back? Like you said I wasn't ready to come here so that seems to me like I shouldn't be here and should be allowed to return to my life."
"Well, that's the key George. There is no life to go back to. You have been away to long. I suspect your body has completely or nearly completely decomposed."
"You are telling me I am dead, but I wasn't ready and so I died before my time."
"That is one way to put it. Most people have a time and place to die. Destiny, it can be called, but there is this thing that no one controls called the Random Factor. It's like a storm and when it strikes destiny gets disrupted."
"That does not seem fair."
"Who the hell told you there is anything fair in the universe? That's like saying your life is going to go on perfectly without the slightest deviance from your first breath to your last. That is like saying all humans think exactly alike and they are all out there rooting for each other. You can't be that naive...dumb."
"My life was going along just like that. It was perfect until I stepped out in front of that train. That was dumb. Why would I do that?"
"You really are a naive idiot. Your life wasn't perfect, but it wasn't chaotic either. Your biggest problem is you had a bad habit of not paying attention and that is why you stepped in front of the train."
"Yes. You are quite correct. I was often distracted, thinking about the effects of the ozone layer on world food crops. I am, I mean I was an Agricultural research scientist. Mainly I worked on genetically enhancing food plants."
"George. I don't really care what you did. What I care about right now is that you need to get going, down the road forward. A huge lineup is building behind you and I am getting behind registering them. Now get a move on and I hope where ever you end up it is good."
"Who exactly are you anyway?"
"I am just one gate attendant among many all doing the same job, registering 156,000 recipients of a death certificate every day. Now move on."
George moved on. The road forward was wide, at least a hundred yards and paved in red cinder stone that dug into his bare feet. He was wearing a nice black suit, white shirt and his favourite blue tie but he had no sock or shoes on his feet and that made walking really, really miserable.
But what could he do? Just walk and hope his feet toughened up, but as the thought passed through his mind he looked to the roadside and there, sitting quite unattended and asking to be taken was a pair of socks and shoes. It occurred to George that he had wished he had just those things.
So he picked them up, sat down and put them on his feet, delighted they fit perfectly and appeared already broken in so they would not blister his ankles and heels.
Feeling better now George continued on his way until a few hours on he started feeling hungry and wished he had something to eat. In a blink, a restaurant appeared on the roadside. It was one of those Ma and Pa places with good home-cooked meals.
George went inside, found a table by the big picture window looking out at the road forward and sat down. When the waitress came he ordered steak and eggs with rye toast, home fries and coffee and orange juice.
When he finished eating he went to pay his bill but there was no cash counter. An old man explained that food for those travelling the road forward was free and further up the road there would be a bed and breakfast or something when he got tired of the walking.
"That may not be very far down the road. I have not walked this far in many years." George explained.
"Well, a place will come when you are ready." assured the old man.
George nodded then exited the restaurant and continued on his journey.
He came to a fork in the road before he got tired. At the end of each fork was a door. One was white, one was black. George started rambling about distractedly, trying to decide on what door to take. He had decided to go through the white door but when he looked up there were no doors. He had wandered off the road forward, to the right. Ahead was a city bathed in night and the glitter of neon lights.
"Now this is interesting. I must have wandered into Oblivia.