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Suggested by fellow author, G. William Huber, I've decided to include a few free short stories on my site, starting with "The Man in the Striped Suit." Enjoy! 

The Man in the Striped Suit
Isaiyan Morrison

Carl handed a rumpled fifty dollar bill to the caretaker. The caretaker grasped the bill between both hands, stretched it, and he lifted it in the dim moonlight. He flipped the bill once, then twice as his eyes squinted.
Carl’s eyes reverted to the arched gated entry way. He nervously shifted his eyes, scanning the headstones and the graves around him.
The caretaker continued examining the bill and this process went on for half a minute. Carl started to believe that he wasn’t going to make it past the front door. The caretaker seemed unsure of his presence and his money.
His thoughts resonated of her but they were quickly squashed by a stagnant odor of decaying flesh.
 “Right this way.” The caretaker opened the wooden door and it moaned. He waved for Carl to follow him into the murky entrance. Carl peeked through the entryway, barely making out the darkened path. He reluctantly stepped in and eyed the caretaker’s short corpulent body disappear in the darkness.
Carl rubbed his sweaty palms in breakneck speed. What am I doing here? He doubts weighed heavily on his already tired brain. Did the guy just leave me here? But he heard a loud bang and he jumped, startled. His entire environment went black and it was then that he realized the wooden door slammed shut behind him.
He looked to his right and then to his left. The antechamber was carefully rounded in a perfect arch. It and the surrounding walls were made of bricks, coated with a thick green layer of algae.
He reached out his hands and he let his fingers stroke the miry texture. It collected on his tips and he pulled his hand up to his face to take a closer look. The slimy substance dripped in oblong globs and thick wobbly strings. It was attached between his fingers like unruly cobwebs.
Afraid, Carl shook his hand uncontrollably and the slime flew in all directions, slapping against the wall, the floor, and the ceiling. He rubbed the remaining residue on his crisp blue jeans and he readjusted his thick rimmed glasses, noticing that a chunk of the substance slowly trickled down his right lens. He took off his glasses and wiped it on his shirt.
He moved to his brown and white checkered tie, readjusting that as well. When he was satisfied with his newfound cleanliness, he placed his glasses on, finding the walls all around him encased with this filthy substance. He looked ahead at the vague outline of the caretaker who stood watching him.
The caretaker lifted a small kerosene lamp slightly above his head. The flickering flame illuminated the brick ceiling above and it bounced off the stringy trails of algae on the ceiling. Again the globs dripped intermittingly from the cobwebbed contraption and onto the shoulder of the caretaker who didn’t seem to notice. Instead his eyes showed signs of a man irritated and he rolled them not once but twice.
He then waved at Carl to hurry. “Are ya comin or what?” His speech bounced off the bricks and at Carl.
“Yeah, yeah . . . I’ll be there. J-just a minute.”
Carl was carefully to not let his crisp polo shirt touch the walls while he approached the caretaker in the dim light. He took his time. He walked slowly and made sure that with every step he took, he was balanced enough to take the next. His black inexpensive tennis shoes, knock offs of Adidas, hit the ground with heel then toe, instead of his heel and toe together. He had been practicing how to walk the appropriate way since Jean told him how unbalanced he looked. 
She didn’t like the way he walked. He was too wobbly and he always found himself tripping over his own feet. She, on the other hand, had perfect balance. As a ballet dancer Jean knew everything there was to know about balance and stance. The first time Carl saw her she was onstage at the Miramar Playhouse dressed in pink leg warmers and a long sleek dress with thick shoulder straps. She twirled as if the air had carried her. She stood on the tips of her toes, taking small baby steps in a semi circle. As Beethoven’s Fur Elise played from the speakers above the stage, she tilted forward with her back leg sticking out straight behind her. Her arms formed a circle over her head and she closed her eyes. She didn’t miss a beat. She was perfect.
She told him if he relearned how to walk with a straight and erect posture, his balance would fall in line. And he listened. As the years passed he found his posture erect and his balance perfected.
The caretaker lowered his kerosene lamp. “Stay close,” he grumbled as he continued to walk. “You can get lost down here.”
But Carl didn’t want to stay close.
An odor of fish and aged sweat seeped from the caretaker’s pours. His short hair was greasy and his bald spot was slightly covered by thin scraggly hairs in a cheap attempt of a comb over. The collar of his white shirt was darkened black and his underarms were soiled yellow with crusted perspiration. His blue jean shorts, cut and frayed, were covered in filth and dirt. He scratched the side of his head and Carl felt the small pins of dead hair and other sordid nothings float into his face.
The caretaker looked over his shoulder and smiled briefly, revealing yellow worn teeth.
“We’re here.” He pointed forward at another door. It wasn’t made of wood like the previous door. Instead it was made of thin and dull steel. In place of a door knob was a small hole, big enough for a finger to stick through.
            Carl questioned the hole but he decided to keep those thoughts to himself. The caretaker stopped Carl just feet from the door. He knocked twice, placed his pudgy finger through the hole, and he opened the door.
The hallway filled with luminous light and Carl briefly shielded his eyes from it. The caretaker pushed the door open and the light increased its glowing attack on the murky hallway.
The light seeped through his fingers. Even as his eyes were closed tight, Carl was still able to feel the heat pricking his skin. The blasting light suddenly decreased its luminous glow and Carl blinked to refocus his sight.
He laid eyes on a small white room. It was nothing like the hallway he’d walked through. The white plaster walls were bare and voided of any detail. The floor was entirely made of glass. But there was no light source in this room or nothing that could point to a light source of any kind. In the middle of this room were two men sitting on black chairs directly across from one another. The taller and lengthy male with short brown hair wore a red and black striped business suit with a black tie. He was the first one to gaze up at Carl and the caretaker. He flashed them a smile and he placed his hands on his legs to raise himself to his feet.
The other man was older and dressed in a long white shirt, black slacks, and he wore a Minnesota Twins baseball cap one size too big for his head. He slowly turned to look at them with teary bloodshot eyes. His cheeks were red and the size of candy apples.  
 “We were just finishing up.” The man in the striped suit spoke. He grabbed the hand of the distressed man across from him and he shook it in a frenzy. “It was a wild ride Mr. Peterson. I can’t wait to do it again!”
Mr. Peterson shot him a befuddled look.
 “He’ll show you out.”  The man in the striped suit pointed to the caretaker.
Mr. Peterson hesitantly stood up and he looked back at Carl then back at the man in the striped suit. “But we weren’t finished.”
“Ahh, but we were.” The man in the striped suit wrapped his arm around Mr. Peterson’s shoulders and he slowly led him to the door. “Don’t worry. A couple more sessions and it’ll come in no time.”
Carl moved aside as Mr. Peterson walked past him and the caretaker. Mr. Peterson took a couple more steps and without warning he turned back to face them. “Tomorrow . . . same time?” His eyes billowed and his lips curled into a desperate smile.
The man in the striped suit clapped his hands. “Sure!” He replied joyfully.
Carl watched as the caretaker and Mr. Peterson disappeared into the hallway’s eerie darkness.
Now alone with the man in the striped suit, Carl stood up straight with his shoulders down and his chest forward. He nodded to him and made his approach. “I’m Carl.”
“Of course you are!” He shook Carl’s hand with the same velocity as he shook Mr. Peterson’s. Their handshake shook Carl off balance. Carl quickly recovered by standing straight and erect.
 “Come Carl. Have a seat.”
Carl approached the chair, all the while awing at the room’s quaint silence. The air was stark of any noise. There wasn’t any sound of a ventilating system, lights buzzing-nothing. There was only the sound of his breathing, which he found to be erratic. Who was he fooling? He was nervous as any man would be when entering an unknown environment.
            He lowered himself in the chair. The seat was hot and warm and it had the impression that many people had sat there. He crossed his legs, still maintaining his upright posture, and he folded his fingers, setting them on his knees.
            “Oh I’m going to need those.” The man in the striped suit smiled, revealing bright square teeth.
            “Need what?”
            “Those.” He pointed to Carl’s fingers. “I’m going to need to hold onto them.” His green eyes danced while he pointed.
            Carl quickly uncrossed his fingers and his legs. He found the man’s comment to be weird and unsettling. Dubious he held out his hands and he watched the odd man examine each and every finger. He squeezed Carl’s thumbs, looked under the fingernails of his index and middle finger, and he counted the deep grooves on his pinky.
            “I gave the money to the caretaker guy.” Carl felt his voice thud in his chest. “I was told that it was . . .” From the corner of his eye he saw the door slowly closing. “. . . Fifty dollars but I wasn’t sure.”
 “Shhh, nonsense.” The man looked up and stared at Carl with his green eyes. “Some people don’t bring anything.” He clutched Carl’s hands and his grip tightened.
Carl felt his body tense.
 “Relax. It’ll only take a minute or two . . .” The man in the striped suit closed his eyes.
“. . . or three.”
Carl eyed him closely; still unaware of what was going on. He watched the man’s lips twitch and his eyelids flutter. But the man’s appearance failed in comparison to the room. He goggled over it, still marveling how such a quiet, empty, yet solemn room could be at the end of a slimy slithering tunnel and how coming here would help in dealing with his loss.
Jean was never a distant thought in his mind. She was always there; a picture frozen in time. Her hair braided in pigtails, her comforting smile. She was his girl, his woman, his soul mate, his wife. Carl didn’t want to disappoint her. He wanted her to know and see how he had improved and how much he missed her.
While in the middle of his thoughts the man in the striped suit opened his eyes. They were no longer the color green but brown. Carl noticed they were now different yet in a weird context that he couldn’t explain they were extremely familiar.
The man increased his grip and Carl tried to pull away. He watched the stranger open his mouth to speak.
“Carl?” His voice was now soft and high pitched. Carl quickly recognized the voice as Jean’s. “Carl, is that you?”
Carl wiped his eyes. His mind was playing tricks. It had to be. There was no explanation, no excuse for what he had just heard.
His wife had called out to him.
He found his voice silent and frozen.
The man in the striped suit smiled, the corner of his lips curling up. It was eerily similar to Carl’s wife. His face slowly morphed; his cheekbones shifted in a higher position, his nose narrowed out, his lips increased in lushness, and his eyebrows thinned.
His short, black hair grew long and it turned a lighter shade of brown. When the transformation was done, Carl sat stunned, staring into the eyes of his dead wife.
“Jeanne, oh my God.” Carl managed to slip his hand away from her grasp and he covered his mouth. He felt his body tremble slightly and his stomach drop. He still couldn’t believe what he was seeing, even though he wanted to.
Jean rubbed her hand on Carl’s thigh. “Oh Carl.” Her face filled with an eerily delight.
Carl shook his head, still in thought.
“Carl, it’s me.” Jean placed her hand on his cheek.
Carl immediately swiped it away.
“I know, I know.” Jean lowered her hand. “Carl, I came back for you.”
“Jeannie, I . . .” Carl’s lips trembled. Think of something, think idiot!  His thoughts streamed faster than he could speak. “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
“Shh, it’s not your fault.” Jean whispered.
“I should’ve done something. I should’ve seen the truck coming. I-”
“Carl, it was my time.” Jean spoke.
Carl whimpered. “Jeannie, I miss you so much.”
            Jean rubbed Carl’s leg again. “I miss you too Carl.”
Carl gently placed his hand on top of hers. He found it smooth and soft.
“Please, please Jeannie.” Carl pleaded. “Come back to me.”
The door opened and Carl immediately turned his head. The caretaker and a woman Carl had never seen before stood in the doorway.
“No wait.” Carl spoke out. “I’m not done yet.” He turned back to his wife, finding himself staring back into the dancing green eyes of the man in the striped suit.
“Jeannie?” Carl snatched his hand back. “Where’s my wife?”
“Mr. Suthers, I’m afraid this ends our appointment.” The man in the striped suit stood up.
“No, it wasn’t enough time. I didn’t have enough time!” Frantic, Carl jumped up from his seat.
“Well we can’t have everything we want, now can we?” He shook Carl’s hand and he led him to the door.
“But I paid!” Carl’s voice filled with concern. “We’re not finished!”
“These types of appointments are never finished.” The man in the striped suit replied. He led Carl to the doorway.
The distraught woman walked past him and into the room. She lowered herself in the same chair. The man in the striped suit retook his seat. He held out his hands and turned to Carl, flashing him a wide grin.
“Tomorrow?” Carl’s voice shook. “Can I come back tomorrow?”
“Suuuure, no problem.” The man in the striped suit replied.
The door began to close slowly, reducing Carl’s view to a sliver and deluging him into total darkness.

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