He sat in the toilet stall, the third from the deep wall. Always the third stall, wherever he went.
He sat there, when he should have been at his cubicle, pounding away at the keys, pretending to care about the frivolous issues of first-world strangers, crying foul about abstract afflictions that should have no room in a practical man’s world. But they did.
He sat and used his excretory excuse as a scapegoat for dodging responsibility.
He thought over and over about running from it all. Quitting the job, leaving his children – products of a failed marriage – and making for the strangest place he could think of.
The stupid timed lights in the bathroom turned off. If nobody moves outside the stalls for three minutes, the lights go off. It made wiping properly a veritable feat. He was not worried, though, as he didn’t intend to move from the stall for a few minutes yet. The darkness was reassuring, comforting.
For some reason, though, the darkness was different that night. If felt pregnant with presence. A tingle of fear – a sliver, really – ran up his spine and up to his nape.
He thought himself silly. What could possibly be there? Nothing, of course, but then, he was sure there was something odd. Not logically, though. No.
“Hello”, a voice soft as silk yet deep like ocean depths.
He sat there, startled into motionless apprehension.
“No need to fear me at this junction, Nick”, the voice went on.
Nick had not heard anyone come in after he walked into the bathroom. He also did not hear any flushing from the neighboring stalls or any of the sounds that accompany the labor that habitually transpires therein.
“I believe you will intuitively glean my identity soon enough”, it continued in mellifluous, grandfatherly manner. “But that, as well, is of little import here.”
The voice was coming from the other side of his stall’s door. Nick thought it might be someone playing a prank oh him, though he really couldn’t place its owner. He decided to open the door quickly and found that he could not. The door appeared glued to its frame.
“No need for that, Nick,” the voice went on. “Strike any silly notions from your mind. They will not benefit either one of us, I assure you.”
Nick sat there. Puzzled and trying to come to grips with the surreal situation.
After a moment, the voice spoke again.
“My purpose here is to make you an offer. Listening to the proposal will cost you nothing. You may very well decline at no cost, as well. However, understand that, should you agree to a contract, the seriousness and finality thereof will be iron-bound and unalterable in any form.”
After a moment, the voice went on.
“I see that you are now ready to listen”
“Brothers and Sisters, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of our beloved brother Nick De Bar.” A catholic priest spoke to a large crowd of mourners gathered around a large, opulently decorated wooden casket and the rectangular, 6-feet-deep hole where it would soon be deposited.
“He spent his life fulfilling his many dreams and helping others in fulfilling theirs.” The priest continued. “Although he left us under unclear circumstances, his true whereabouts unknown, it is in keeping with the grand design that he is no longer among the living. May his soul find its way to your merciful embrace, oh Lord.”
As the empty casket was lowered into the ground, its intended occupant missing, his whereabouts unknown, a light drizzle of rain began to fall. The mourners began to quickly make their way to the shelter of their automobiles, having paid their respects by their mere presence.
A fitting end to the somewhat informal funeral service the missing-and-presumed-departed had wished to have.
Nick’s epitaph on his tombstone read, as he had instructed in his will:
I would choose the same path gladly if given the choice anew.