The Challenge, from Nancy:
Have your favorite BSB be at the pearly gates (Heaven) and there's some problem with letting him in, they're not sure he should be up there. Now have an 'N Sync member (yes that's right) (laughs) have to write a letter of recommendation so that this BSB can be allowed into heaven. Happy Writing!
“I’m what?” The handsome blonde man was, for once in his recent life, speechless. He stood stock still, mist swirling around his feet and hugging his ankles, looking up at the old, wizened man seated at the tall, tall desk in front of him.
“I can’t be dead,” he argued, albeit politely.
The old man with the flowing long white looks smiled patiently. “Yes, well, that’s what they ALL say, I’m afraid.” He chuckled at the young man’s sigh of defeat and peered over his wire-rimmed glasses. “What’s your name, son?”
“Carter. Umm, Nick Carter, sir.” He scuffed his sneaker-clad toes in the mist and found it quite disconcerting that he used to do this a dozen times a day back home, but up here he couldn’t feel the ground beneath his feet. He shuddered, and then grew even more concerned at the frown on the old man’s face.
“’Carter’ you say?”
“Yessir. What’s wrong?”
“Well, young man, I don’t seem to see your name in here.”
“Oh, wait! Nickolas! Try that. Nick’s just a …” he giggled, “ a nickname. Get it? A NICKname?”
“Hmmm, amusing, son,” the old man said, not looking in the least like he was enjoying the young man’s pathetic attempt at humor. Looking through the huge volume on the desk once more, he cleared his throat and slammed the book closed. “No, nothing here. I’m afraid you’ll have to go.”
“GO?” Nick squeaked. “Go *where*?”
“Well son, I hate to be blunt, but if you aren’t supposed to be in heaven, then there’s only one other place TO go.”
Nick blanched as the meaning behind the old man’s words began to sink in. “But-“ he stammered. But I’ve been good!”
“That’s what they all say,” the old man chuckled.
“I can prove it! You gotta let me prove it!” Anxious sweat was pouring off his face now, and he had a horrible feeling that if he couldn’t prove his case it’d be a lot hotter than this where he was going.
“Hmmm. Well, I suppose I could make an exception in your case. Just this once.” The kindly old gentleman stroked his beard thoughtfully. “You’re one of those Back Alley Boys, aren’t you?”
“Backstreet,” Nick chuckled. Damn, even the man upstairs couldn’t get it right.
“Whatever. You need a letter to get past me, son.”
“A letter? What kinda letter?”
“A letter of recommendation. Proof that you really did all of these good deeds you’re so proud of.”
“You mean I get to go back?” Nick laughed.
“Don’t get too sure of yourself there, boy. You have six hours. Six EARTH hours. And don’t think you can just float back up here with some fan testimonial about how you loved your younger brother and your dogs. You want to be in Heaven? Work for it.”
From out of nowhere (this *was* Heaven after all) a small envelope appeared and was handed to Nick. He opened it up, read the note, and gasped. “HEY!” he protested, but suddenly found himself all alone. “Never. I’ll NEVER be able to do this one. I’m screwed.”
As Nick dissolved into the mist, the forms of two wise gentlemen appeared. One from before, and yet another – older, kinder, even more wise than the first, if that was even possible.
“So do you think he can do it?” Saint Peter asked.
God chuckled, patting him on the back. “Of course he can do it. But I have to admit, I haven’t had this much fun since all those locusts and things a few years back.”
* * * * * *
Nick looked around, muttering to himself. “I can’t believe this. I can’t frickin’ believe this.”
Downtown Orlando was not known for it’s particularly comfortable weather in mid-summer, but then Nick just chalked it up to the gallows humor of the entire situation. Looking at the address on the building in front of him he grudgingly admitted that even though it was a seemingly impossible challenge, the old guy had made it as easy as possible on him by sending him right back where he needed to be. Looking at the names on the call buttons, he searched for the one he needed.
“Smith, Johnson, Collins.. there it is. Fatone. Cool, I’m in.” He smirked, ringing the buzzer confidently. The he rang again. And again. “Crud.”
“You lookin’ for Joey?”
Nick looked over his shoulder at the older woman opening the main door to the building and flashed her his brightest smile. “Yes, I am! Can you help me?”
“Certainly,” she replied, and Nick’s heart skipped a beat in anticipation. “I can tell you that Joey’s not here, He’s off in Lala land.”
“L.A. Los Angeles. Haven’t you ever heard it called Lala land before?”
Nick sighed. “Not recently. Look, I really needed to talk to him.”
“Sorry, son, but you’re outta luck.” She turned away, but then quickly turned back just as Nick was leaving. “You might try the big brick building two blocks down. One of his other musician friends lives there.”
“Thanks!” Nick’s face lit up and he sprinted down the street. Looking at his watch, he saw that three hours had already passed. “What the-?” Shaking his head, he decided he’d better not waste any more time. As before, he glanced over the list of tenants and laughed aloud. “Bingo! Two for the price of one!” Using his thumb and his forefinger, he pressed the two buttons simultaneously. “Come on you guys, answer me!” he mumbled. From behind a voice spoke up.
“They ain’t here.”
Nick spun about, coming face to face with an old man who looked eerily like the woman in Joey’s building. Nah, it couldn’t be. “Do you know where they are?”
“Not right sure, young man. Sumthin’ about a get-together out in Cali-fornee …”
“Great. Just GREAT.” Nick slammed his hand against the wall, looked down and saw that only one hour remained. No Joey, no Chris or Lance. That left –
“Whoa!” Nick looked around him as he suddenly stood beside the ocean, on a rocky beach. The chilly water lapped around his ankles and he shivered. “California. I’m in California!” A movement caught his eye, and as he turned to look he saw a handsome young man tossing something to the waves. He approached quietly, but when he saw the tears that fell from the man’s eyes he stopped. “Josh?” he whispered. “Josh, what’s-“ But JC couldn’t hear him. He was too caught up in what he was doing to even notice the younger man. As Nick would have touched his shoulder, a stray piece of newspaper blew up and against his leg. Peeling it off, he read the headline.
“Memorial Service for ‘N Sync Singer To Be Held Oceanside Today”
‘N Sync singer? That could only mean –
In the flash of an eye he found himself in a dark, dank, rock-lined room. The steamy heat was oppressive, and it left no doubt as to where he was.
“Damn, I didn’t make it,” he sighed.
“Sucks to be you, huh Carter?”
Nick would know that voice anywhere. “Timberlake, what the-“
“Hell?” he chuckled. “ What the ‘hell’ am I doing down here?”
“Well, yeah, I guess…”
“Eternity, dude. At least that’s what they tell me.”
“Damn,” Nick breathed.
“Yeah, I guess I am. Damned, that is.” Justin laughed. “Get it?”
“You’re sick, man,” Nick said, shaking his head.
“So what brings you down here, blondie?” he asked, reclining against a large outcropping of rock.
“I need a letter,” Nick said through clenched teeth.
Once Justin had finished laughing, he showed Nick around, and then with a snap of his fingers, Nick was gone.
* * * * *
“So, I see you’re back.”
“Wow,” Nick said, looking around into the bright sunshine. “I guess so.”
“And just in time, too. Well, let me see it.”
“I … umm … I didn’t get it.” Nick ducked his head in shame.
“Nonsense boy, no time for games. Give that letter you have in your hand.”
“The-“ Nick looked down, and son of a gun, he DID have a letter in his hand. But from Justin Timberlake? This couldn’t be good. Slowly he handed it up to the kindly old man and took a step back to stand and await his fate.
There was silence for a very long time as the old man read.
“Well, young Nicklolas, I see you’ve done very well for yourself. Very well indeed. Although, I could have lived another eternity without having to hear more about your brother or your dogs.” He chuckled and looked over the letter once more. “You know, for an arch-rival, this Timberlake fellow has some very nice things to say about you. Mostly about how gracious you were during that awful ‘whose cd is the best’ competition that those money-changers foisted on the public. Scandalous, that was. Yet it says here you never once ‘dissed’ him. Peculiar word, ‘dissed’. I’m supposing that means you turned the other cheek more than a few times, eh?”
Nick smiled and shrugged.
“Humble, too. I like that. Well young man, job well done. Step right through these gates over here and pick up your assignment. Newest clouds are out over that way so don’t get lost, you hear?” He signed his name beneath Nick’s in the giant golden book, and looked at the young man once more. “Oh, and Nick?”
“Welcome to Heaven.”
Nick beamed as he passed through the gates, as far down below there came a wry chuckle.
“Don’t get too cocky, Carter. If I HADN’T written the damn letter, I’d have your ass down here with ME for the next millennium. Millennium,” he chuckled. “I get it.”
Harps began to play, birds sang, and all was right with the world.