I hear music. Steel drums clanging merrily. The decor is...beach Caribbean, jolly like a movie backlot might be. People, almost certainly actors in costume waiting to go on, somewhere, mill about under palms the green of wet paint. Boy soldiers, without the AK-47s. Convincing refugees. Office workers. Construction workers, in hardhats colourful as gumdrops. Kids. Oldtimers, bent over like question marks. I don't know how I got here.
The sky...is odd, dazzling, like the sun and every star everywhere is shining together. And it's not Caribbean hot. I don't recall putting on the suit I'm standing in. Nor the polished loafers. The sand under these loafers...it's shifting, like a tide's pulling on whatever kind of beach this is. There was a smartphone in my left hand, I'm almost sure. There was a bus...the driver's face. Dammit...
"Shoulda looked both ways, man." His voice is Jamaican music. He is all smile, and familiar, in his lion's mane of dreadlocks. He might be Bob Marley.
I display my empty left hand. "Had a phone. Before. So. I'm dead then."
"Like a bug on the windscreen, man." Bob hangs a chummy arm around my shoulder, walks us into the crowd under the shading palms. "But Dead's only a mo'ment. The door, from before, to your next place. Forget de phone. Only makes it harder to move to the music, when you can't hear the music. Or the bus. Move them hips, man. You got them for more than walking to de day job."
Two coal miners, lamps yellow in their helmets and faces black apart from their enormous grins, sip from coconut shells with paper parasols stuck in top. They, and most everyone else, are cheering on someone's granny in a sun dress. She is laughing, unmistakably doing the limbo under a bamboo pole.
I stop in my tracks. "Shouldn't there be...career...re-orientation? Placement? And I don't limbo."
"Listen to Mister Go'Getter, so quick you want the next posting. That is why you are here, man. Life is the Big Dance. The Big Par'ty. You forgot. Busy busy peo'ple like you forget. So busy you don't dance, don't hear the big music. It's on, all de time. So busy. And you forget some'thing impor'tant, when you had the chance to do it."
The steel band's sunny melody hammers on. I'm aware I have no heartbeat. A shiver rattles over me.
Bob's arm is a comfort, hanging on my shoulder. Or holding me up. He's smiling still. His eyes twinkle. "Can't say what you gotta do, your impor'tant some'thing. Only you will know it. Heh'Heh, look at her go."
The limbo'ing laughing granny, impressively horizontal, wriggles under the pole. She vanishes. To thunderous cheering.
Am also cheering. "I get another chance."
"Who said you don't? Get in there." Bob accompanies me through the merry crowd, toward the leggy blonde and brunette, swaying to the beat in very-short sailor outfits by the limbo pole. "If you fall on your back'side, is only sand. You laugh. Get up. Dance again. Is no tragedy."
Am in position. They're cheering for me now. Middle management me, who never added dancing to the skillset. Am trusting in the prime credo, which hasn't failed me, not since the early days at the company, scrabbling over everyone else for one rung higher up the corporate ladder. Nothing's impossible, when you want it bad enough. I want another chance.