06 Sep The Last Will and Testament of Charles T. Bowman
“The Last Will and Testament of Charles T. Bowman”Written by Kyle Harrison Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 11 minutes
I never met Charlie Bowman. Not that I expected to, in a company the size of this one; the chances of ever rubbing shoulders with the CEO are probably astronomical.
Still, he was the one who always signed my checks every payday, so when the news spread that he had a heart attack, you can bet I was worried.
Stocks plummeted, clients bailed, and employees were the ones left holding the bag. It felt like we were reliving the market crash of ‛08 in slow motion. Those of us that did make it through those few tumultuous weeks were only doing so because of some vain hope that Bowman’s living will would sell the company shares evenly, and we could be done with this whole mess.
Instead, on Monday morning, we were greeted with the most peculiar of emails, and since it is here that this tale begins, I have taken the liberty of copying it directly from the original transcript, save for the names of those involved.
Subject: Last Will and Testament of CEO, Mister Bowman
To whom it may concern,
If you are receiving this message, please keep it to yourself and do not share it with any of your coworkers. As many of you are well aware, Mister Bowman was a private person, and we are hoping to honor his legacy this Thursday night with a small event. It is invitation only and will be held in conference room 14 on the 5th floor at exactly 19:13. Do not arrive a minute late, for the doors will be closed, and admittance will be refused. The event is expected to last no longer than an hour, and we request that you follow company policy 014 and deposit all cell phones at the security front desk before taking the elevators to the aforementioned conference room.
Should you not be able to attend and you would like to provide your invite to another coworker, please simply forward this back to the Human Resources department, and we will handle everything. It is imperative that you respond quickly, however, as there are only twelve available slots. Mister Bowman has left very specific instructions regarding the future of this company, and they must be followed to the letter. We trust you understand the seriousness of this matter and look forward to hearing from you,
Sincerely, the Board of Directors
I was immediately left speechless and found myself glancing about the cubicles nearby to see if anyone else on my part of the floor was sharing my stunned expression. No one did. Out of the sixty-something people in my department, I was starting to feel like the recipient of a golden ticket from Willy Wonka himself.
I did as I was told and spoke to no one about the email, not even the pretty blonde from accounting who would usually flirt with me in our shared break room. I figured that whoever had sent it likely had eyes and ears throughout the company, and I didn’t want to mess up anything by a mere slip of the tongue.
Instead, in the meantime, I decided to start looking into the life of our CEO, although I am not quite sure why. I guess I figured that if I could figure out how a man of his caliber thought and acted in order to make decisions, maybe it would help me predict what his plans were for the company he built and was betrayed by.
I started with Google, as silly as it sounds. Despite having been here for three years, I knew that most of the staff really knew next to nothing about the upper crust. Google immediately told me why on Bowman’s Wikipedia page.
“Shy philanthropist or secluded psychopath? For the owner and founder of the legal firm Hatchett & Bur, Charles Theodore Bowman is both and so much more,” it said.
Born in August 1976 to two immigrants from San Pedro, Bowman was raised under the name Enrique Besiluez and did not obtain American Citizenship until 1994 due to processing issues and the divorce of his parents, Samael and Merida. A child of two worlds, he constantly found himself handling the affairs of his sickly mother along with the messy history of his criminal father. He had three siblings, or at least that was all that the internet could find, but none of them ever moved stateside. Interestingly he made his first million illegally and did time in Cuba from ‛84 to ‛93, running scams and drug money up to the Florida Coast.
Then, according to the articles, he had his “come to Jesus” moment around ‛94. Like, literally. Some missionaries from Puerto Rico were allowed to come into the detainment block and preach the gospel to prisoners. The plan was that those who were receptive and agreed to work visas would come to America in hopes of a better life. “A clean slate” is what one interviewer proclaimed it was meant to be.
For Enrique, that was precisely it. He took up classes and college courses using the program and quickly made his first business venture helping a Florida entrepreneurial company capitalize on recent Cuban trading and travel. By the end of that decade, he was considered a successful candidate for Fortune 500.
The next years after Y2K were harder for me to track down. It seemed as though after coming to the states and having a nasty relationship of his own that Mister Bowman became something of a recluse. Now that I had seen the results of his life and all the pain he had gone through, it wasn’t a stretch of the imagination to see this happening. Once grabbing a doctorate in law and signing contracts for this company, Bowman has only been seen twice during live interviews. I watched one of them on YouTube.
He seemed a solemn and contrite man, filled with remorse and regret over wasted youth.
“Here I am, hardly meeting my prime, and the years will be gone before I know it. All this time, I have squandered,” he admitted.
It was actually somewhat difficult for me to watch and made me think of my own father. He was well past Bowman’s age, yet recently was undergoing medical issues of his own. Arthritis, back pain, tonsillitis, just to name a few.
I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for his family. Yet so far I hadn’t seen anyone. Was this because of how he had spent his life? Focusing on the future of an investment, we became his family in every sense. And we treated him like a stepfather, only going to him for favors.
I was just about to finish my web search when another headline caught my eye. This one was a prison obituary.
Enrique Besiluez, age 18 – blood poisoning.
I clicked on it and soon found myself on a secured site for conspiracy theorists. A few bizarre gory images came up of disembodied corpses, and I shut it down. Hopefully, I didn’t tip off any of our company servers by checking the link.
That night, however, the brief snippet of information I had seen on the dark web bothered me. Dead in prison back in 1994? How could such a thing be? I decided to take a closer look.
At home using my TOR router, I logged in and found dozens of articles related to occultism, regeneration, the fountain of youth. I still didn’t understand, though, what any of these had to do with Mister Bowman. Then I saw a link to what I guessed was meant to be a religious site. “The Order of the Phoenix invites you to rebirth yourself. Become a member today.”
The idea of a cult advertising online was a bit silly to me, but since I had already gone down this rabbit hole pretty far, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to dig a bit deeper.
Clicking on it led me to my own company’s server. It was a job application.
In fact, I was almost positive it was the same application I had filled out when I applied three years ago. Was this implying our company was being run by Satanists? It seemed far-fetched.
I decided to stop my search altogether. It was a bit too strange for me to read up on powerful demons and forces beyond my understanding. If this was the sort of thing Mister Bowman did with his free time, it was no wonder he was a quiet man.
It also worried me about the upcoming meeting. Everything was shrouded in secrecy. What if it was some sort of cult practice? A going away ritual for Bowman? I didn’t believe in such nonsense, and I didn’t want to risk actually incurring the wrath of any real demons.
Still…I convinced myself I had to attend. It felt important to learn the truth.
Thursday arrived before I had definitely made up my mind, and another email made the decision for me.
RE: Subject: Last Will and Testament of CEO, Mister Bowman
All employees invited to the special reading of Mister Bowman’s will shall clock out today at exactly 3:30 and return no less than fifteen minutes early of the aforementioned time. All other employees will be sent home with a full day’s wage.
That final sentence intrigued me more than anything else. This was a law firm. We never took days off. We never could afford to.
But like clockwork, that was exactly what happened. 3:30 rolled around, and everyone was heading for the time clock. A few of my coworkers were grumbling about the unexpected short day, wondering if it meant that the company was about to tank.
But amongst the crowd, I picked out one or two that were like me, stoic and silent—most likely other recipients of the mysterious invitation to Bowman’s will.
Once at the parking garage, I sat in my car for a minute or two, wondering where I would go with my free time. As sad as it is to say, I have devoted a lot of my past three years to this company so that I could make a name for myself in the future.
Social life and relaxation always came secondary.
Instead, I found myself just sitting there, watching as all the other cars left until at last, I was alone. Behind me, I saw even the security guards were leaving and locking up the doors, and I wondered how in the world were we supposed to get in later?
An hour passed. Then two. I just kept watching the doors to see if anyone else would show.
Finally, the crucial fifteen-minute mark came, and I saw someone inside push the door open.
Immediately I popped out and moved toward the entrance, stepping inside the dimly lit hall to see one of the HR managers checking his watch.
A few others came in shortly afterward, and the HR dude told us all to stand over by the east wall. Then just like any normal workday, we were reminded to drop our cell phones and pagers into a security deposit box.
The flirty accountant was there too, and she gave me a knowing smile as she dropped her tech in.
“We really must stop meeting like this,” she teased.
I gave her a half-hearted grin and followed the crowd to the elevator. The HR guy pressed for the fifth floor, and the dozen of us chosen were packed in like sardines. I found myself elbow to elbow with the accountant and muttered, “What do you think this is all about?”
“My guess? The company is going under, and the shares are being divided amongst us,” she whispered back.
“I heard we were sold to some Vietnam hedge fund,” a man in front of us commented. The elevator shook for a second, and the doors opened to the fifth floor. There wasn’t a light on anywhere except for a door about twenty yards away. Conference room 14.
We marched to it like good obedient soldiers. The HR guy opened it and ushered us all inside.
If the hall was dark, then this room was like walking into a black hole. I couldn’t even see the hand in front of my face. We were told to find a seat. My hands fumbled and found the table, and I slowly followed its outline until reaching one of the rolling chairs and sitting down. Then in the front of the room, the manager lit a candle and began to give some instructions.
“Each of you will find a candle in front of your own position around the table. Please take a moment and bring it to your face.
My eyes were starting to adjust to the pitch black, and I immediately saw what he was referring to.
But where were the matches? What was supposed to happen now?
The manager answered my silent inquiry. “Tonight, we are celebrating Mister Bowman’s legacy with a ritual passed down through the ages. We will be attempting to call upon his restless spirit and communicate his wishes to you from the afterlife.”
A few in the darkness muttered surprise. I think I swallowed a gulp of air.
I had worried something like this might happen, yet despite my sensibilities, I still came.
“If any of you are not comfortable participating, you have the chance to leave,” the manager added. “But be aware that it is quite likely whatever reward Mister Bowman has in store for you will likely be forfeit.”
None of us moved a muscle. Maybe it was fear that kept us there. Maybe it was greed. Either way, the manager explained what would happen next.
“I will attempt to channel the spirit of Mister Bowman here now using the traditional means of his culture,” he said, letting the light flicker toward a strange-looking board in front of him. It resembled something akin to ouija, but instead, I recognized that it was far, far older.
“Spirit of Charles Theodore Bowman…we loyal call to you. We chant to your name and demand your presence here at this gathering of willing souls. Help us, spirit, to guide you toward happiness and longevity.”
All of us looked at each other in the dim light, wondering what we were to expect.
Suddenly the board in front of the man began to write out a message. And amid the shades of the candle, I swore I saw dark apparitions moving and guiding the letters.
My life and my death, both are meaningless, the message said.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Death is as much a part of life as breathing is,” the manager said in a peculiar voice. He sounded possessed.
Instinctively I asked, “Charles…is that you?”
“He is here with us. I am an entity far older and far more powerful than he,” the man answered. The shadows continued to linger and dance behind him. The room suddenly felt very cold and very claustrophobic.
“This is a load of bupkis,” one man said, rising to leave. But some unseen force slammed him back down to his chair.
“You came seeking a fortune that didn’t belong to you. And yet you call us the frauds,” the man snapped back. Suddenly my coworker began to shake, and I saw the manager’s eyes glow. If I wasn’t already convinced this was real, seeing this man suffer in pain from demonic forces clinched it. I was sweating and wanted to vomit.
Why had I ever thought this was a good idea?
“Stop! Please!” I said bravely.
The seizures halted, and the HR guy looked toward me.
“What is it that you want from us?” I meekly asked.
His eyes returned to their normal color, and he smiled softly.
“There is no need for fear. All of you were chosen for a reason. Your fortitude and devotion to the company are unmatched. And one of you will obtain the gift that I received years ago.”
I held my breath. My mind raced back to the articles that I had read about Enrique. The strange feeling I got when I discovered that the young man had died in prison. What if that hadn’t been a mistake?
“You are on the verge of discovering the truth about the human spirit,” the manager intoned, but I could tell he was no longer in charge of his body. Something old and evil was now speaking to us.
“Charles Bowman is but the latest in a string of others who have followed my call. And you will as well.”
I felt the accountant touch my hand and squeeze as we sat there waiting for the inevitable. I felt like a fool. Then a strange bolt of white light burst from her chest.
I felt her body begin to seize and saw her eyes rolled back into her head.
The others next to me suffered a worse fate. Blood streaked down from their pupils, and they collapsed onto the table. In a matter of seconds, their skin started to melt. She let go of my hand and started babbling nonsense. Her whole body was writhing as the rest of the staff became puddles of goo save for the manager.
Then the candles ignited, and I saw some ethereal force leaving all of their bodies.
The HR guy opened his mouth abnormally wide and sucked in the air. The spirits came to him the way a waft of smoke would, and he swallowed them all in one gulp. Then whatever evil force was still within him burst out of his body and ripped through the roof.
What was left of the manager was just another disemboweled body, the same kind I had seen in those dark pages of the web. This was prophecy fulfilled, I realized.
I turned to see the accountant’s body stop moving, and she opened her eyes again, her soft green eyes now a shade of magenta.
“Don’t be afraid,” she cooed.
Instantly I fell out of my chair. This wasn’t the woman I had spent years with flirting. This was something inhuman.
“Why am I still alive?” I asked weakly.
She smiled but didn’t respond at first. She took my hand and we left the conference room.
“I…I won’t say a word of this to anyone. I swear. I’ll keep my mouth shut,” I told her.
Neither of us said a word as we left the building, and I’ve contemplated what to do since. I could leave. Lose my comfy office and my 401k. I could blow the whistle. Warn the world of this evil. I doubt anyone would believe me. And what benefit would there be? These thoughts ran through my head all weekend long. Most of all, I considered the life of Mister Bowman, how he rose from poverty and made a deal with a literal devil to survive and gain wealth. It was frightening to consider how many people did that on a regular basis, even without supernatural aid.
By the time Monday rolled around, I knew that I would be going back. I kept my head down and went straight for my office, knowing that soon the other shoe would drop.
When it did, I was invited to the presidential suite. It was crafted as a letter of promotion for my good service toward the company.
But I knew the truth. It was time for me to start making deals with this devil myself.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableKyle Harrison Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A