Something Fundamental

His head was down against the silvery sunshine heat. Walking along, he looked up to orient his course and spotted Doctor Frank further up the white cement sidewalk.

He literally froze where he was. His heart beat – he felt it – but a shocked stupor held him stiff. Doctor Frank had died two months before. This had to be a doppelganger. He’d heard or read that everyone has an exact replica of themselves elsewhere on the world. This was the most perfect one he’d ever seen. The man was just like Doctor Frank, the biologist, in every aspect from his impish, good-natured expression, gray and white beard, and slender-as-a-broom frame to the outdoor pants, boots, and vest that were Doctor Frank’s regular attire, including the forest green bush hat.

He snapped out of it. The result put him up the sidewalk past where he’d spotted Doctor Frank, as if he’d never stopped. His head swooned. Pausing to regain control of his senses, he saw Q across the street, waiting to cross.

Now that was fucking impossible. Q’d died four years ago. Like Doctor Frank, doppelganger Q was an eerie ghost of his deceased friend. As he wondered what the what, he saw his mother-in-law, Jean, dead for the last two years, off to the left, with her husband, Carl, who’d been dead since 1992. 

“Holy shit,” reverberated through his mind and came out his mouth. “What’s going on?”

In a blink, he realized all the color had deserted the world, as though he was watching a movie on an old black-and-white television. Closing his eyes to recover, he gasped; with his eyes closed, he could see everything taking place in color, except the dead folk that he saw weren’t there.

Slowly, he cracked his eyes open and took in the monochrome world. The sound differed from before. Swiveling his head, he saw more dead friends and relatives. It wasn’t his beloved hometown any longer, until he closed his eyes. With eyes closed, color was restored, and he was in the town where he’d been living and walking.

Keeping them closed, he resumed his walk. That seemed to work, but it was a temporary solution. Something fundamental had changed in his world.

He was going to have to open his eyes again sometime. And then…

He shook his head. He was going to keep his eyes closed until he was home. And then —

Well, he’d see.

Advertisements

The Flaw

Going through the morning’s triple S activities – shit, shower, shave – he was thinking about his parents and their health. They’d divorced when he was a little boy. Each had contributed to that mess, he decided while conducting his retrospective. Mom forced issues and seemed to thrive on confrontation. Dad shunned conflict. Throwing himself into work, he’d held several jobs simultaneously. He did each well, and they paid well.

After their divorce, Mom had remarried six or seven times – he wasn’t sure – and Dad had several live-in girlfriends besides two other marriages. He thought it was remarkable that he’d married and managed to keep it together for over forty years.

Of course, he’d never been close to his parents. Splitting time between Mom and Dad’s households, he’d struck out on his own after graduating high school when he was seventeen, and then married at eighteen. Neither parent had made an effort to stay very close outside of birthday and holiday cards. Mom visited him and his wife one time, after he’d bought the round-trip airline ticket for her, after they’d been married thirty years. Dad had visited once, dropping by their first apartment for a grinning, goofy fifteen minute visit. Two visits between the two parents in more than forty years.

He sighed. Both parents, in their eighties, were in declining health. He knew he’d miss them once they passed away – everyone told him so – but it was hard for him to generate compassion for their situation.

He hated that he had that flaw and couldn’t seem to do anything about it.

Escape

“Escape”, said big, gold letters on the window. 

Don had never seen the place. The turnover in this town… Yes, he needed an escape. The heat was over a hundred. How far over a hundred? Did it matter? It felt like his shoes on melted onto his feet. Sweat dropped from his face and dizziness spun his head. He needed immediate escape from this heat, He could get some by browsing through this place.

Blissful cool air gushed over him as soon as he stepped inside. The business was laundry room small and almost empty. One round, white table was to the left. On it was a display of brochures.

He wandered to them. “Hi, Don,” a woman said.

Don nearly jumped out of his skin. Finding her sitting in the corner across the room, he shook his head. “Were you there when I came in?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. I didn’t see you. Sorry.”

“That’s okay.”

“And…how did you know my name?”

She smiled. “That’s not important.”

“It is to me.”

“What’s important is that you realized that you need to escape and came in here.”

“Yeah.” Don flicked his gaze from the left to the right. “Right. Actually, I came in here because I needed to escape the heat.”

“Would you like water?” Unfolding from her chair, she gestured to her right where a round white table was home to a crystal pitcher of water and several glasses. Cucumber slices floated among ice cubes.

“I would, thank you.” While saying that, Don took the two steps to reach the table. She was there first.

A glass was being offered as he arrived. “Thanks. You’re quick. You never answered my question.” Drinking, Don watched her reaction. A dark green satin-looking top hung to mid-thigh, giving him the impression of a praying mantis. Young with skin like smoky honey, long black hair and a narrow face, she was an inch taller than him. She probably weighed ninety pounds. After a second glance, he changed that to eighty pounds. He could probably enclose her waist with his two hands.

“You didn’t ask, but I’ll answer. We’re an escape from anything and anywhere.”

Don lowered his glass. “I’m not certain what that means.”

“Yes, you do. Accept it. You know.”

Enough, Don decided. “Well, I’ve taken up enough of your time.” He put the glass down on the table. “Thanks for the water. I’ll be on my way.”

She nodded. “This way.” She slipped past him toward an archway that he hadn’t noticed. Strands of green beads hung over the doorway. She parted the beads with a long hand with glossy white fingernails. “Your train awaits.”

“My train. You’re saying that there’s a train in there?” Don stepped forward to see as she answered, “Yes.”

Don poked his head through the beaded divide. There was a train. It wasn’t a toy, but a full-sized train. “Holy smokes. There is a train in here.” Entranced, he approached the train. Modern looking, it was silver with blue and red stripes. “I love trains. I’ve never been on one, though. I mean, a real one, like this.”

He stepped closer to it. He was on a platform. The train went for hundreds of yards in either distance. Beyond it, a pristine countryside greeted his tired vision.

“So, what’s going on?” He looked back for the woman. Didn’t see her, nor the green beads.

A uniformed conductor approached. “Hi, Don. I’m Geoffrey.” He put a hand out. “You okay? You look confused.”

Don shook Geoffrey’s hand. “I guess I am. I don’t know how I got here. I mean, I know what I did, but what I did doesn’t fit the context of what I see.”

“I see.” Geoffrey laughed. “Sorry. That was unintentional.”

Don tilted his head to one side. “So. Let me be straightforward. Have I died?”

“No. You wanted an escape. We’re offering it to you.”

“This is real.”

“Absolutely.”

“What’ll happen if I get on that train?”

“You’ll escape, which is what you want. You’ll escape this life and this world.”

“Where will I go?”

“That’s completely up to you.”

Don smiled. “That’s not really an answer. Yes, those are words, but they’re not an answer to what I’m asking.”

“It is. You know it is. Let yourself think about it.”

Don shook his head. “I don’t like airy-fairy new age stuff. I fight wildfires. I like solid information.”

Geoffrey shrugged. “You need to get onboard now, if you’re going.”

“What if I don’t? Can I just go back?”

“Of course.”

“Is this a one-way ticket? Can I ever come back if I get on that train?”

“Of course. That’s completely up to you.”

Don had more questions but decided, take the train ride. See where it goes and what happens. He’d never been on a train. He giggled. “Okay, what the hell. Sold.”

Following Geoffrey’s gesture, he approached an open door and climbed aboard the train. Empty, comfy looking tan leather seats awaited him. A whistle blew as he settled into a seat. Looking down, he realized that he was a young man again.

“Well, what the hell.” The train pulled forward. Body sighing as he settled back, he watched the passing countryside through the window and wondered where he’d go, and what would happen to the people and places that he’d left behind.

Then he closed his eyes and let the train lull him to sleep.

 

 

Raspberry Woman

She didn’t wear a raspberry beret. Her capris were black, and her chill shirt was raspberry, with matching raspberry shoes and sunglasses, and short, raspberry and silver.

Seeing her, he gasped. Raspberry woman. He wondered what her secret powers were.

For Her

The house was always silent except for his quiet and her cats. He was aware of how much he sighed, and the cats…the cats were always darting underfoot, jumping up onto the furniture, counters, and tables, and peering around corners.

Flowers and plants were everywhere. He’d told everyone to send money to her causes in lieu of flowers and that shit, but…well, here they were. Here he was.

She was always trying to get him to eat healthy. The ‘frig was lousy with salmon and salad ingredients. Sighing (but what else?), he prepared the salmon per the instructions, sharing some with the cats, who were enthusiastic in their enjoyment, and made a salmon Caesar salad and poured a glass of wine for himself. Eating, he told himself, for her, chewing and swallowing the despised flavors, washing it down with wine.

For her.

Double Think

Seven triple four began doubting his mission. The Kazmo believed he had a special insight into where the other versions of him resided. The Kazmo were correct, although it wasn’t as easy as they perceived. The silver machines didn’t know or understand that many of his other versions were fakes. Usually existing for about fourteen minutes, triple four suspected these other versions existed to distract the Kazmo and their resources.

That fact scared triple four. If he was right, his other selves knew about the Kazmo and their project.

They probably also knew about him, too, then. But if they knew about him, it could be that the fake others might only exist in his perceptions.

What he needed was a way to figure this out. If he couldn’t, he didn’t have a reason to exist.

Beneath the Surface

Heat, humidity, and the long day induced weariness. Sitting on a bench in city hall’s shadow, he looked across the plaza. The crowds were thinning. Most of the holiday action was drifting into the restaurants or up into the park proper.

A middle-aged blonde woman danced with a child on the plaza stones. Each was dressed in purple and white clothes, and laughed, twirling their clothes as they spun around.

Deeply inhaling to swallow sad memories, he smiled. Sean’s passing had ripped his marriage apart. After the divorce, he’d remarried, but he’d never had another child. There’d been two, but both were gone. Sean was the end. He missed the laughter and movement that a child brought to a scene.

###

“Dance, mommy, dance,” Laurel shouted. Laughing, Melany recalled her childhood dance lessons and pretended to be a ballerina. After applauding, Laurel mimicked her movements.

Melany caught a glimpse of the man on the edge of her vision. Sitting on a bench, he looked like he might be drunk. She didn’t like the way he stared at them, like a predator. 

Pretending she was out of breath, she collected Laurel. “Come on, honey. We’d better go find the others and get something to eat. Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?”

“Yes, I am hungry.” Laurel took her hand and began marching away with giant steps.  “Come on, walk like this.”

Giving the man one final dirty look over her shoulder, Melany followed her daughter to safety as the man finally looked away.

The Course of Love

He was pleased to be going out with her. He’d met her at the coffee shop. She was a barista, and he was a regular. Three years older than her, it turned out. She was a student in her final year. He’d just graduated and was taking some time off in the area. Her eyes, gleaming jade and almond-shaped, felt like a laser cutting through him when she looked at him. She is it, he thought, with a wildly hammering heart. It turned out she was very funny and intelligent, studying English Literature, with plans, she said, “To be a CEO.”

They went to Louie’s for dinner, a safe place, none too romantic, with plans to zip over to Aqua to hear LEFT and dance after dinner — “We’ll see,” they told one another” — but then, sitting opposite him, laughing as she brushed a strand back off her face with a thumb — isn’t that endearing? — and her nails lack polish or gel, interesting! — he looked down at the table. She put her hands down, palms first, on the table, moments later.

She was speaking, but it was like light and sound left the room. Her hands on the table looked like giant spiders with long, slender legs. Thereafter, he couldn’t look at her without seeing her hands and noticing their resemblance to spiders. He didn’t understand at all, but it made him physically ill. It was easy to tell her, “I’m sorry, but I think we might need to call it a night. I’m not feeling well.” Then, as if his body felt that his declaration needed validated, he slapped a hand over his mouth, raced to the bathroom, and violently puked.

Looking at himself in the mirror as he washed up, he wondered, why? Perhaps he’d been drugged.

The next day, he went in for his usual coffee. She served him, concerned about the previous evening. He couldn’t look at her. All he saw were her spider hands. When he saw them, he immediately felt like he was going to be sick. Sighing, he left without drinking his coffee. He’d need to find another coffee shop.

It all saddened him. He’d liked that coffee shop, and he thought he loved that woman. A few days later, at The Roasting Company, he met another young woman. He felt madly in love with her, which shocked him – what kind of fool was he, falling in love so quickly and easily? – and he was leery of dating after spider hands, but she asked him out, telling him with a smile that he thought as intriguing as Mona Lisa’s, “Don’t worry. You’re in my hands now. I’ll take care of you.”

Her words startled him. He wondered if there was connection, but then dismissed it as silly, and accepted with pleasure.

Not the Same

“I don’t believe in the Holocaust,” he said with a challenging, simpering smile. 

“What’s that mean?”

“I wasn’t there, so I don’t know that it happened.”

“It’s a well-documented historic fact. Millions of people died.”

He waved that away. “Papers. Photographs. That can all be faked.”

“And bodies in graves?”

“They can be faked, too. I wasn’t there, so I can’t confirm that it happened, and I don’t believe it did. Just like slavery. I don’t think it happened, either.”

My mouth fell open. “So you need to be there to know if something happened.” As he nodded, I said, “Are you a sports fan?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“How do you know that a game took place if you weren’t there? You can’t watch every game on television. Even if you could, that can be faked.”

He laughed. “Oh, that’s different, because I’m alive now. I’m experiencing it.”

“You were born, when, the early seventies?”

“Exactly nineteen seventy.”

I set my cup to focus on him. “The Moon landings began the year before, nineteen sixty-nine. Do you believe in those?”

“No, I don’t. There’s a lot of evidence that the entire space program was faked.”

“Then World War II was probably faked, too, right?”

“No, because my grandfather fought in World War II in the Pacific. He confirmed it was real.”

“But only in the Pacific, right? He didn’t serve in Europe.”

“But he had friends and other relatives that fought in Europe.”

“But not you.”

“Of course not. I’m too young.”

“Then you must not believe in Jesus Christ. You weren’t there when he was alive, were you? Or the first SuperBowl or any of the other football championships? You must not believe in Babe Ruth, either, or Columbus coming to America, right?”

He was shaking his head. “No, no, you’re wrong. Fake news to control the people is a modern pracitice that the United States government developed. Things that happened hundreds of years ago are true because people told the truth in that time. See, it’s just not the same.”

 

 

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: