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The best thing about writing is molding life to characters you find interesting. The worst about it is having these characters crowd your head, unable to get out because you haven't written down the pages for them. Continue writing? Hell, yes. This blog is a way of letting these characters out for a gulp of air. I love creating them. They remind me that there's a nutjob in all of us. Some are in for a brief appearance via short stories. Others are in for the long haul, peppering a novel I have written. Enjoy these stories. After all, life is more fantastic than we imagine it to be.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Travel Agent

I’ve changed jobs without conscience before. I’m staying with my current one for a variety of reasons, though I was told I lacked passion for it. I wonder if there are other-wordly careers open for career-challenged people like me. This story may be one of them. I wanted to imagine that even the dreariest jobs can be fun. Cheers to all of us, servants of our cubicle kingdoms.


A big fat drop of rain splat on Diego's immaculately chic Marc Jacob wool jacket. "Why can't these weather people ever get anything right? One week of rainy forecast and I ended up lugging around my Burberry umbrella under the scorching sun. Now, the first day of sunny guesstimate and what do I get? This jacket is supposed to be dry clean only, you idiots!"

He darted to the nearest shop with a canopy long enough to shield him, more specifically his 'fresh from a designer paper bag' jacket. He couldn't run to the nearest Starbucks. Two blocks away meant too many raindrops would ruin his current prized possession. "It's the Day One curse, but of course," Diego shook his head in amazement. "It never misses. It never forgets. Like my boss." He was not particularly superstitious. His line of work made it difficult to believe otherwise. But for some strange reason, a persistent fate befell his new stuff. Like when he wore his strappy Gucci shoes for the first time. In the midst of pursuing a client, he ran aground a Japanese rock garden, leaving an ugly gash across the left toe. On another occasion, his crisp Hugo Boss white shirt suffered a horrendous stain after a barista failed to seal his 'to go' latte cup correctly. His boss had to calm him down after he threatened to slug the barista.

And today, the rain taunted him. He cooled his heels beneath the canopy, tapping his Ferragamo to a beat inside his head. Thoughts about his next assignment preoccupied him, but apparently not enough for him not to notice a platinum blonde built like Barbie circa 1960s, complete with fake mink coat. She eyed him like a lioness would check out a tasty gazelle. Her female companion of slightly more modest measurements gave him a flirty smile as well.

Diego mused that a slight draft would tip them over. Alas, his grin on this joke was mistaken for interest. To his horror, they were both coming towards him. "Not another cougar encounter, please!" The blonde huntress was about to say her drawling 'Hello' when a taxi stopped by the curb, honking its horn twice.

"Thank God for my taxi angel." Diego leapt from under the canopy to the yellow door in one fluid movement, even before the annoyed Barbarella could open her mouth for a second try at contact. He gave a quick examination over his jacket. "Great, just a few drops. Hello, Vincent. I don't know how the hell you manage to pick me up when I most desperately need a ride. We're going uptown."

The driver let out a deep laugh. "Those two looked ready to pounce on you. Dangerous streets in this city."

"Peroxide blondes and hideous platform shoes should be outlawed. Style has never been a strong suit for newbies in this city. I can spot a tourist from a mile away. By God, you're a rock star compared to most people I meet," Diego chatted up his driver. And true enough, the driver had the rock star vibe. From the full crown of blinding white hair worn like Billy Idol, the fur-lined black leather jacket he wore even during the height of summer sizzle that made him look like he had his own weather around him, to the black boots with the sharpest toe Diego had ever seen. The tiniest of lines were hardly visible on his square-jawed face. He looked around forty. He was two hundred forty nine.

"I try to add flair to whatever I do. For vampires like me, we need to be interested always. Otherwise, it will be one boring fucked up hell of a time to spend your ad infinitum."

Diego met Vincent a few years ago, when he rode his cab for a long trip up the state to meet with a client. Friendship was easily forged. Diego was surprised that Vincent easily opened up to being a vampire.

"How's Miranda, by the way?" She was Vincent's wife, also a vampire. From Diego's recollection of their conversations, they had been together right after Vincent became one.

"Oh, off to save lions or something. She joined this group of conservationists who are out to save a bunch of nocturnal animal.”

"Have you ever wanted to join her?"

"It's not my thing. Look, it can get really lonely for us. So why should I hang out in the wilderness by myself, waiting for some animal to sniff out my tracking device? No, I'm a city boy. Humans are funny enough to humor me, while away my time," Vincent smoothly maneuvered the night traffic, almost as if gliding in between vehicles, in between checking his hair in the rearview mirror.

"True. You're not exactly like the brooding vampires in movies."

"Please, they don't have half as much of my coolness," grinned Vincent.

"You're right, my friend. And definitely none of your style. I'll get off in front of that building with the green doorman."

"Swanky neighborhood."

"Swanky client. New rich. See you around, my friend." After paying and getting off, Diego watched his friend roar off in the taxi that he drove like a sports car.

"Now, back to my business." He went up the elevator to the 11th floor. "Nice place. I bet a lot of snooty neighbors." He got off and looked for Unit 1104.

He had to ring the bell thrice to get a response. The lock clicked before he could press the fourth time.

"Who are you?" A tall, teenaged Asian-looking girl looked down at him from the open door. She stood a good 4 inches above him.

"I have been sent by your father."

"Really? You know I'm dead, do you?"

"Of course, dearie. You already know you're dead? Great. That is half the battle won."

"Alright then. Come in. Are you sure Dad sent you? For what?" She walked him through a tastefully-designed living room to what may be her room.

"To help you in the transition. By the way, I’m Diego." She was not quite like his other clients. Obviously more aware of her current state, she had a confident, settled air about her, which surprised him a bit considering her youth.

Upon reaching her room, she turned around and shook his hand. She squeezed hard. Not content with this, she pointed a finger and poked his arm. "I can feel you. Are you also dead?"

Diego almost let out a guffaw. The child in her came out. "Technically, no."

"So, you're alive?"

"Not in the strictest sense."

"Are you human?"

"Oh no, thank God, no."

"Can humans see you?"

"Yes. If I want them to."

"That's interesting. They can't see me. Mom can't see or hear me either." She looked at him curiously. She was about to poke him again but he managed to dodge her by walking around the room."

"Hhmmm...This room is...Are you a nerd?"

"I like to read. Some girls collect bags, I collect books." She sat down on the bed. "You know Dad? Did he really ask you to come help me? For what?"

Diego grinned and wagged his finger, “For someone who likes books, you lack a wide vocabulary. You used almost the same words a while ago. Yes, I know your Dad. He was a former client. I'm the business of making travel arrangements from this life to the next."

"Is he in a good place?"

"I would think so. My part of work is to help in the transfer from this life to the waiting room for the next life, which is referred to as the Airport. From there, a counterpart of mine will take care of you. We assist you every step of the way."

"Is Dad still at the Airport? To where? How about me?"

"For what? To where? Again, you like to ask the same questions, do you?" he smiled. "Your Dad left the Airport already. I heard he's happy.. As for you, we don't know where you're bound to go. Nobody knows until you leave for your destination."

"Do I need to pay you or something?"

"No, we do this pro bono."

"You seem to earn a lot." Nancy eyed his clothes as if examining a book's cover.

"For a nerd, you have the capacity to recognize style. Though you don't have the capacity to practice it." He examined her get-up in return. She laughed. "My boss gives us all the support we need to help us live with humans."

"You have a good boss then."

"Demanding at times but not the boss from hell others have. Now dearie, back to you. What have you been doing all this time? Aren't you bored? Don't you miss your friends?"

"I don't have that many friends. I prefer to be alone, reading, surfing the net, stuff like that. It may sound weird, but I sort of like being....being dead."

"Dear god, you didn't kill yourself, did you?"

"No, no. I was hit by a bus who tried to beat a red light. Didn't you get a brief about me before coming here?

Diego brushed his hand through the air. "We do get those briefings but I'm not into details. I like to go with the flow."

Nancy sighed. "Silly way to go, isn't it? But what can I do?"
"True, it's not the most glamorous exit but better than being poisoned or hanging yourself. That's grotesque, believe me. So, are you ready to go to the Airport?"

"I want to go to Paris before I go."

"Paris? Sweetie, just surf the net. Google Paris and you will feel like you're there already."

"I'm serious."

"Alright, alright. I'll ask my boss how we can arrange that. I don't have the authority for those things yet. For the meantime, what are you going to do?"

"I shuffle between this house and my Mom's home. We used to live here when my Dad was alive. When he died when I was nine, we stayed here until my Mom remarried. She never sold this house saying I'll get this someday."

"Do you want anything else to do? Unfinished business? Revenge? Stuff like the Grudge, you know?"

She laughed. "You're funny. No, I'm not that kind of client. I'm kind of...boring. There's this book I'm trying to finish but I can't seem to get past the page I was reading before I died." She showed him the book. "Do you know the ending?

He patted her hand. "Heavy stuff. I'm not the reading type. I'm more visual. Maybe my counterpart at the Airport can help you with that."

"Alright then. Maybe you can help me with something. I'm trying to pick up a picture that's stuck in a hole on the floor. I looked for years for that. I just found out it's there a few days ago."

Diego walked to the portion of the floor where Nancy pointed the hole to be. He took off his Marc Jacob jacket first before crouching to stick his hand inside. He successfully pulled out an old picture. It was a little Nancy with her parents.

"You looked like a cute Asian doll," he mused.

"I thought I lost this. Just place it on my study table. Thanks Diego." She paused. "I'm getting kind of tired. Can we meet again tomorrow? At my Mom's house?"


"You know where that is?"


She laughed. "Aren't you supposed to have powers of something?"

"Don't believe too much in propaganda, dearie. Write down the address and see you there tomorrow."

The address was in a rich suburban village. The following day, Nancy opened the door for him. "Hi Diego."

"Hi sweetie. Is anyboody home?"

"Apart from me?"

"Yeah, smartass. I was referring to humans."

"Mom's home. She's cooking for her birthday tomorrow. She's making my favorite stuffed chicken with her special sauce. My stepdad is out doing the groceries with my half brothers."

They walked upstairs to her bedroom. Diego could hear sounds from the kitchen. "Can you hear them all the time?"

"Not always. Today, I seem to be able to hear them more clearly. Even their conversations. But they still can't sense me."

"Why don't you hang out with your mother? At least you can be with her today."

Nancy gave him a timid smile. "She'll be okay."

They entered her room, looking much like her old room at the previous house. "You really are a very consistent person." He looked around the room. "Books...again."

"My stepdad and Mom encouraged my hobby."

"Hobbies? Oh, books." He peered at the titles lining up the walls.

"Diego, can you move that gold picture frame to the right?"

"What an OC spirit. You're dead now, you know. You can relax." The golden frame featured Nancy and her father, playing with a golden retriever puppy on the floor.

"What a fashion victim you are, undead man. You're not even human, you know. You can skip the designer labels." She grinned mischievously.

"I'll forgive you for your ignorance about fashion. This.." he motioned to his flamboyant trench coat. "is a statement. I should teach you a thing or two before letting you off to the Airport."

"Has your boss decided on my Paris trip yet?"

"Not yet, dearie. He can be full of red tape sometimes. Let us wait on our asses for the meantime."

They whiled away the time talking about themselves. The hours turned to days, spent at the suburban house or at the city residence.

One day, while they were discussing Nancy's lack of love life at her bedroom in the city, Diego heard the front door open.

"Are you expecting someone?"

Nancy shrugged her shoulders. "I can hear the person."

The door to the room opened. It was Nancy's Mom. She looked like she was scanning the room, expecting something. But she could not sense the man in a red coat and her daughter seated on the bed. She walked around, touching Nancy's stuff.

"I miss you, Nancy," she whispered. Then she stopped as if hit by a spell, her hand lay motionless upon touching an object on her daughter's table. "Oh, why? How did this get here?" She picked up the picture that Diego fished out of the hole. Then came the uncontrollable sobbing. "I know it's you, Nancy. You moved that picture in your room to tell me to come here. I love you. We all miss you so much. I just hope you are okay, darling."

Diego held Nancy's hand while she watched her mother kneel to the floor, clutching the picture to her breasts. "Have I worried you? I'm sorry if I have missed you so much. You worry about me. I know it was painful for you to see me go through depression after your Dad died. Have I caused you to be restless? I'm sorry, Nancy. Your mother is just silly not to let you go completely. I love you. Wherever you are, I hope you're happy. I hope you're with your Dad." She kissed the picture. "Don't worry about me. I'll be strong. I love you, my daughter."

Diego could feel Nancy's hand tighten its hold of his hand. They silently witnessed Nancy's mother spend time in her daughter's room. When she left, Diego announced. "I have a piece of good news for you. Your Paris trip has been approved. You may go anytime."

"Really? How?"

"Just follow that white light...not yet there…where the hell is that?..that will appear in a few...yes... that one by the window. Just step into that and you'll get your wish."

"Will you accompany me?"

"I'm afraid not, sweetie. My part of the work is here. I wish you luck," he gave her a tight hug. Nancy walked towards the light.

Before stepping into it, she turned, "Diego, Paris won't be on the other side, right?"

Diego smiled sheepishly. "No, sweetie. But it will be much more vibrant than Paris."

Nancy grinned. "You trickster. Thank you, Diego." Then she disappeared into the light.

With the smug satisfaction of accomplishing his latest job, Diego felt he could ask for a few days off from his boss. He hailed the first taxi he saw. Voila, his taxi angel, stopped and offered him a ride.

"Nice to see you, Vincent." He greeted as he seated himself.

"Was passing by the neighborhood. Your checkered jacket was hard to miss," the vampire teased. "How's work?

"I feel good. My latest client crossed over."

"Can you do something for me?"

"Sure, what's up?" Diego's interest picked up.

"Can you ask your boss if creatures like me can commission your services?" It sounded like Vincent was undead serious.

"Wha-. You mean to go to the Airport and all the works?" Diego could not believe what he was hearing.

"The works." Came the vampire's terse but certain reply.

Diego mulled over his answer. "You know you people have no souls, right?"

"So they say."

"What makes you think you can cross over?"

"There's no harm in exploring. If it doesn't work, I'll be one pile of ash."
"Does Miranda know this?"

"Yes. We talked. We've been talking for a couple hundred years. She understands."

"I'll see what my boss says. No promises, Vincent. This may be the one of the toughest projects we've had."

"See what you can do. You guys are good. I would like a different kind of travel of this point."

"Cheers to you, old friend. Let's see how we can get a vampire to cross over."