Many readers have asked me to share my original story, Through Fire and Water. A tale of Torah, Kabbalah, and the Power of Love.
Morning had now arrived and all was calm.
Mike was lying on the ground, fast asleep, clutching onto the photo of his father and himself. Beside him was “Marty”.
The stopwatch alarm sounded off slightly, waking up Michael. The moment he opened his eyes the alarm stopped. But Michael was too mentally and emotionally exhausted to remain awake. Quickly he fell asleep. For the next several minutes this sequence of actions occurred – the alarm ringing, Mike waking up, the alarm stopping, and then him returning to sleep. Michael had forgotten about his mission.Then without any warning every alarm clock in the city sounded off, causing Mike to jump to his feet. He was dazed and confused.
Looking down at his left wrist he noticed the stopwatch.
29 DAYS. 9 HOURS. 14 SECONDS REMAINING.
The sight of the watch triggered his memory.
“Time is of the essence…that’s what Mr. Benjamin said. What to do? I need to talk to Charlie.”
With Marty in hand he began running towards the Lower East Side, where his old college friend, Charlie Gates, was shooting a movie. Mike and Charlie had been the top NYU film students. Creative, intelligent, and hard-working, they were viewed as the new wave of up and coming filmmakers. Especially, Mike. He was regarded as the new Orson Welles — extremely innovative, profoundly intelligent and extraordinarily talented. “A true genius” as Charlie called him.
Twenty years had passed since those days. Charlie had become the world famous auteur, producing masterpieces and breaking box office records as Mike slowly regressed, becoming the mad genius of the Bowery. Respectfully and always in awe of his friend’s talent, and heartbroken at Michael’s breakdown, Charlie made sure that Michael always had access to him and his sets.
Arriving at the location, he ran into the closed-off city block, bringing the in-progress shoot to a halt. It was an occurrence the crew had become accustomed.
The production assistants pointed towards video village, the area where the director and his immediate crew sat behind the video assist watching the scene as it was filmed.
With a slight smile Charlie turned to his old friend.
“I got to talk to you now. Now … In the trailer!”
Mike turning to the assistant director Charlie quietly said, “Everybody, take five.”
Now in the trailer Charlie noticed Mike’s clothes dripping wet.
“Never mind that! Just listen. You’re not going to believe this. What do you know about the Corridor of Judgment?”
“Did you call your mom, yet? It’s almost been a week now since I told you about your father.”
Mike was shamefaced to tell him he did not call.
“She needs you, especially now. Come on, Mike.”
“Anyhow, what about the Corridor of Judgment?” Charlie asked.
“You heard of it?”
“How does it work?”
“Don’t ask me.” Answered Charlie. “You created it. It’s your script. Corridor of Judgment. NYU, student film twenty years ago? Remember?”
“Yeah. Then how do you explain this?” Mike pointed to the stopwatch. “It is gone. Where is the watch? I lost the watch. I need the watch.”
“Relax Mike.” said Charlie. “Take it easy. Take mine.” Slowly Mike realized that he was hallucinating.
“Corridor of Judgment … Charlie … where guilt and failure emerge into nightmare … What was I thinking, long ago and far away? Dreams of an aspiring filmmaker? Hey Charlie?”
“Don’t worry about it, Mike. Your are very grief-stricken about your father. Let’s go shoot a scene.”
Back on set and in the video village Michael was in his milieu, ordering the crew and actors. Though everyone felt they were in the presence of cinematic greatness, they were apprehensive to listen.
“You heard the genius.” Charlie commanded the director of photography. “Do it.”
Just then the nearby pay phones started ringing, one after the other, in quick succession.
“Where the hell are the production assistants? Can someone please get the phones?” yelled Mike.
A blaring siren sounded off; it was emanating from Mike’s left wrist. The stopwatch had reappeared.
“This isn’t real.”
Desperately trying to ignore this hallucination, he struggled to direct the scene.
“Go tight and then pan. But do it in a waltz rhythm … ok … Lets shoot this …”
He began speaking to himself trying to reinforce his sense of self. “I am not mad … I can do this … Just focus, Mike. Focus.”
When he refused to heed the alarm, the stopwatch sent him an electric current, jolting Mike.
“What the hell is going on here?”
Shocked from the jolt he turned to look at the stopwatch.
“ANSWER THE PHONE!” read the screen.
“That’s it.” Yelled Michael. “I am out of here.”
Leaving the set and the crew confused, Michael took Marty and ran towards the phone, answering it.
“The tests begin, Mr. Winston”, said the eerie voice of Simon. “Now. Turn around. What do you see?”
“A bus”, answered Michael.
“Look down the avenue. What do you see?”
“A gas station.”
“Good. In one minute, two of its tires are going to blow out and the bus is going to crash into the gas pumps resulting in death and destruction.”
“This isn’t happening.” Mike told himself.
“Oh. It is. You have less than a minute to stop the unfortunate accident and save their lives.”
“I am going nuts here.”
“Stop the bus, Mr. Winston! Their lives and your father’s life depend on it.”
“Marty. You hear this. I’m losing it … Mind over matter … I … Close your eyes Michael.” he said to himself.
He closed his eyes only to quickly reopen them, hearing the bus’ tires blow out. His sight was transfixed on the out of control bus heading right into the gas pumps, exploding on impact.
Responding to the fiery explosion, pedestrians and the film crew tried to help.
“I told you, Mr. Winston. Why didn’t you listen?” forcefully said Simon.
“What did I do?”
Overwhelmed Michael fell to the ground.
“Get up, Mr. Winston … Get up. So many lives … And you could have saved them. Too bad for them and your father. As Mr. Joseph said, ‘time is of the essence’ … Next test … Twenty-Third Street and Canal.”
“What about it?” a distraught Mike asked.
“Five minutes. That’s all you got. Hopefully, you’ll do better this time.”
“What’s going to happen? Hello! Hello!”
Simon had hung the phone up.
“Oh no. Oh no. Twenty-third Street and Canal … Come on Marty.”
Pushing Marty he ran down the streets, weaving in and out of crossing pedestrians and vehicles.
Out of breath he slowed down for a minute, but the stopwatch immediately reacted with powerful deep bass beeps in one-second intervals and a computer-generated voice announcing the countdown.
With only fifty-nine seconds remaining Michael took a large grasp of air and continued running.
Arriving at 23rd Street and Canal, Michael scanned the area. All he saw was a kid’s baseball game in progress and the regular movement of a busy New York street.
“Fifteen seconds and counting.”, announced the stopwatch.
The boy at bat hit a long fly ball sending it past the outfield and towards the street. Chasing after the ball, the left outfielder ran through a makeshift opening in the surrounding fence and headed into the street.
As he bent to pick up the ball, a large delivery truck was making a turn just out of sight. Bending to pick up the ball a large unseen delivery truck was making a turn. The driver was too occupied with flipping the radio channels to notice the boy in the street.
“Watch out!” yelled Michael. “Watch out for the truck!”
“Three seconds and counting …” announced the watch. “Two seconds and counting … One second and counting …”
Michael sprinted towards the boy.
“Watch ouuuuuuuuut!”, frantically yelled Michael.
“J.J!” his friends screamed. “There is a truck. A truck.”
The driver noticed the boy and braked with all his power and skill. But it was too late. The truck hit the boy. Screeching to a halt, the driver jumped out.
“No. No.” cried Michael.
Everyone seemed to move in slow motion, completely in shock.
A nearby phone rang. Reeling with shock, Mike somehow found the strength to turn towards the phone and answer it. “You shouldn’t have slowed down before.”, said Simon.
“Why the kid? He was just a kid”, a guilt-ridden Michael cried. “What did he ever do wrong?” Simon hung up, leaving Michael alone to sink into soul-searching remorse.
CHAPTER 3 – Stay Tuned For the Next Installment