Park Avenue

*ENTRY INTO THE REINCARNATION COMPETITION*

Park Avenue tells the story of Mark Selgrove and his life in New York City. This is a fictional work based on similar, real life events including terrorism in the Modern World.

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1. Chapter One

Thick clouds of smoke continued to climb and swirl higher into the sky as the car continued to burn into the evening. The crumpled metal shell lay on its back, exposing its melting tyres to the blackened sky above. The open road was filled with the crackling sound of amber fire and the creaking structure of the car, drowning out the distant sirens that made their way to the wreckage on Park Avenue.

A day that had simply begun with a young man dressing in his finest black suit, making his way to a conference in the centre of New York City, had quickly ended in a collision that would see Mark Selgrove find his last day.

At precisely 8:45 that morning, Mark Selgrove had left his apartment on East 2nd Street and climbed into the taxi awaiting him out front. The taxi driver had accepted his fare to the Global Financial Conference Centre and began to find his position in the bustling, traffic-lined street of the city. What would typically be a fifteen-minute drive, turned into a forty-five-minute attempt of weaving in and out of New York traffic, with other cars trying to do the same.

Mark Selgrove sat impatiently in the back of the taxi, huffing with annoyance every time the taxi stopped behind another car. Mark quickly pulled out his phone from his pant suit pocket and punched in the number of his boss.

“Hi Sarah,” Mark said whilst pinching the bridge of his nose, seeming somewhat stressed. Sarah was his boss’ personal assistant and she often answered his phone when he was in meetings. Mark, himself, was supposed to be in said meeting, however, the congestion he was currently sat in was suggesting he’d not reach his meeting until 9:30, about fifteen minutes after the meeting had started. “I am stuck in traffic. As usual. Perhaps it is time for me to rent a bike.”

Sarah laughed in her high-pitched tone that seemed to ease the frown between Mark’s eyebrows.

“I shall tell Steven that you are running late,” Sarah said. “You know your boss is not a patient man…”

“Ten years of working with that man has taught me that and a lot more, Sarah,” Mark sighed. “Wish me luck.”

Mark disconnected the call and pushed it back into the pocket of his trousers. As he looked up, he caught the discreet movements of the taxi driver in the rear mirror. The taxi driver had moved his jacket slightly, and Mark could have sworn he’d seen the red glint of wires around his chest. He decided to ignore this, feeling he must have imagined it.

However, Mark couldn’t help but feel on edge now, wondering whether or not to leave the taxi, wondering if he had indeed seen the red wires underneath the jacket of the taxi driver. Mark now found himself listening intently, hoping to hear a sound that would confirm his suspicions – that the taxi driver was dressed in a suicide jacket.

Mark’s heart began to thump in his chest as he tapped his knee with his fingers nervously. He continued to stare into the rear mirror, waiting for another sign of a suicide vest, but the taxi driver had moved his jacket to conceal any wires he thought he might have seen.

The taxi driver caught Mark’s gaze and offered a slight smile in return. Mark’s nerves began to ease at this sign of kindness and returned his gaze to the pedestrian-lined streets of central New York. Delilah’s Coffee and Cake Bar came into sight a few shops down. Mark had loved visiting this coffee bar especially after work when he desired something relaxing. He decided then, that it was perhaps a good idea to go there that evening after his day in work with Steven. He knew already, that Steven would be angry at his lateness and would also be stressed from the new projects that would be pitched at the meeting he was currently late for.

Mark thought of this and suddenly felt happy he was late for this meeting. He also felt sorry for the men that were sat in the conference room with Steven, knowing he was a hard man to please. Steven had been a disgruntled, negative and rude man ever since his wife had passed away from cervical cancer eight years ago. Mark, however, had not been in love before, not truly. Even though he was a man of late thirties, he’d yet to find a woman he’d embark on the rest of his life with. Sarah had somewhat taken his fancy, however, he wasn’t too sure yet, whether or not to disclose this information with her.

Distracted by his thoughts of Sarah, Mark had not noticed the movements of the taxi driver as he stopped in the traffic queue in front of Delilah’s Coffee and Cake Bar. The taxi driver revealed the red wired attached the suicide vest strapped to his chest underneath his jacket. Mark’s eyes landed on a small device in the taxi driver’s hand – a trigger with a black button he realised would set off the bomb.

Mark hastily scrambled to unclick his seatbelt, but before he could free himself of the taxi cab, the driver’s finger had landed on the button that triggered the bomb almost immediately.

Mark had thought of death before and often thought of how it would feel and how long it would take for him to fade from this world into the next. The explosion occurred within a second, flipping the car on impact, setting fire to the cars in the queue within a quarter mile perimeter. The shop windows of Mark’s favourite coffee bar also exploded, the fire licking its way up the building, incinerating the people inside and those that walked the street nearby.

Park Avenue was now a chaos with fire leeching its way across the road and growing higher into the sky, smoke filled the air hiding the morning sky. Nearby screams filled the air and several people dialled the emergency services.

Mark however, no longer resembled the form of a human being, at least not in its entirety. His right arm had found its place on the glass-covered street of Park Avenue and the rest of his body still strapped somewhere in the burning vehicle. The spirit, however, the very essence of Mark floated upwards and away from the vehicle. His ethereal-self looked down on the burning car with no real emotion at all.

It took Mark a while to realise he was dead. It took him even longer to comprehend that he was a spirit. In his living days, he’d not been a religious man, and thus had thought nothing would come of him after death. But nonetheless, he was a spirit – a conscious being that overlooked the chaos on the streets below. The screams of men and women, half-burned, running from the fire before them and the nearing sirens of fire engines that pushed their way through the traffic.

Mark landed on the road near the fire, staring wide-eyed at it, alarmed at how quickly it had all happened. How quickly he had died. If he’d only trusted what he’d saw, perhaps he’d have made it out alive.

His body now felt weightless, as if there wasn’t one there at all. He looked down at himself and realised he was almost completely translucent, with only a small shimmering silver to outline the shape of him. Was he a ghost?

As a child, he’d loved ghost stories, but of course, never once believed them to be true. As he entered his adulthood, he grew further and further away from his imagination and soon became disconnected from it altogether. And here he was. A ghost. A spirit. Something completely unimaginable.

Mark Selgrove had just died, and yet the only thought he now possessed was his gratitude that he did not have to attend his meeting.

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