In a little while, Tom will be getting a phone call. He applied for a lucrative position at a reputable company and had all the right requirements. The interview had gone exceptionally well, and it seemed the manager liked him. Tom had talked to others working there, and most of them impressed him as being reasonably happy with their status.
He searched for a long time for just the right opportunity, one which could give him the security and stability he not only desired, but also deserved.
All the schooling he had gone through had been exceedingly difficult. The internships he endured were near torture, and mentors used him to their full extent to further their own careers. Even his so-called friends had surpassed him, using his willingness to cover for them as a stepping stone to gain advances of their own.
He harbored no ill will, though; instead was grateful for the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and experience. He found that in doing all the other facets of the process, he developed a better understanding of his part.
There had been one particular experience he wished he could forget, or at least redo. A friend, or so he thought, asked him to finish a certain project. That guy had gotten almost half the information gathered and all the contacts made, but an emergency would prevent him from making the closure. Tom agreed and went to the meeting. It turned out that his “friend” made the wrong contacts, and the deal was going down the drain, threatening to take Tom with it. The opposition did not know that the mistake had not been Tom’s, they just knew he was there, and therefore responsible. Tom had been really fortunate to have come out of that in one piece, and secured the merchandise in the process, but only after having done some mighty fine foot work.
The friend took the credit, saying all the work had been his and that Tom had only followed specific directions. Tom watched in disgust as the man took the promotion offered and not even offer any compensation for assistance.
There had been several other people who had used Tom close to the same way, but it had been that deal which decided him it was time to get his own advancement. Enough people had stepped over and on him for one lifetime. There came a time for a man to use what he spent his life learning, and that time was upon him.
They offered him the chance to set up and close a deal of his own, just to see how he handled himself. With the contacts made and the meeting set, everything proceeded as planned. The merchandise came through, but turned out inferior. Tom, fortunately, found this out before reporting success and managed to return to the contact and rectify the situation. He closed a day late, but with extra merchandise. This pleased the manager. However, another “friend” let the details of the situation be known to the manager, and they reprimanded him.
Tom decided to apply for a higher position, one which would afford him the chance to prove his mettle. Now, all he waited for was the phone call telling him he either had it, or needed to keep looking.
The phone is ringing now. Tom breaks out in a cold sweat, suddenly worried he forgot something somewhere; a line not filled out here, a word omitted there. Something sits ill in his stomach as he reaches for the receiver. Holding it to his ear, he hears his voice crack as he says, “Hello?”
Silence. Tom clears his throat and uses more confidence. “Hello.”
Slight static over the line, he hears, “Tom Jackson?”
“Yes, this is he.”
“You are seeking a promotion?”
“Yes. Who is this?” Tom knows the voice of the manager, and this is not it. He feels he has heard the voice before, just cannot think of from where, and it sounds so far away.
“Tom, it’s Michael. Michael Banister.”
Michael. He’s the one who set up that bad deal.
“What do you want? Why are you calling me?”
“I wanted to tell you what happens for the promotion.” There is something changed in Michael’s voice, his demeanor. Tom is having trouble placing it. Longing? Regret?
“Everything changes when they promote you, Tom. It’s not all for the better.”
“Come on, Michael, what are you talking about?” Suddenly, Tom does not want to find out. He just wants Michael to hang up so he can get the call he’s waiting for.
“They killed me, Tom.”
He couldn’t have heard that correctly. If they killed him, how is it Michael is on the line?
“…killed me. Yes. Took me into the executive office and put a bullet in the back of my head.”
A memory strikes. As he left the head office that day, disgusted with not having been recognized, he had almost wished that upon Michael. Now, he even remembered having heard, in the background, muffled, what sounded like a gunshot. “…killed you?”
“Yes, Tom. That is the promotion. Death.”
Another memory. A face he recognized, or thought he did, eyes wide open and turned white. At the bottom of the river on a calm, clear day. Looked like chains around the body. The face was Michael’s. Written off as a dream, and forgotten just as easily.
“If you don’t believe me, just go to the bridge, I’ll come out and greet you.”
Tom decides it is time to call the bluff. “Fine. I’ll be there in 30 minutes.” He hangs up.
He pulls on his coat and the phone rings again.
“Tom, it’s your manager. We have an opening. It means a promotion for you. Come on in and we’ll talk about it.”
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. A promotion. The same kind they gave Michael?
“Fine,” Tom tells the voice. “Give me an hour.”
He hangs up, walks out the door.
On the bridge, he looks down into the water. He sees nothing. “I knew he was full of crap!” Tom thinks.
There is a rustling at the bank, water sloshing, weeds being broken. Tom walks to the end of the bridge and descends the embankment. He sees something, and walks toward it. He stops short, staring in disbelief as Michael’s partially decomposed corpse rises from the long grass.
“No! It is not possible!” Tom backs away, but he slips on the wet bank, landing on his backside and trying to slide away from the mess ambling towards him.
“Here’s your promotion, Tom.”