It was the time in between that the man hated the most. The waiting was when he worried about everything: why was he doing this? Was he running late? What would it be like when he got there?
These were the questions the man couldn’t answer as he waited at the bus stop. If only he could just get on the bus, he thought, everything would be fine. He could leave his questions behind. He decided to ride the bus for longer than he ever had before.
As the bus completed its loop, passing by his house yet again, the thought of sleeping in his bed crossed his mind. He pulled the yellow cord and the red “stop requested” light flashed at the front of the bus. He stood to walk through the open bus door but found that he couldn’t. Something held him in place. An older man angrily pushed past him.
The door closed and the bus continued on its route. The man walked back to his seat and as the next stop neared, again he pulled the yellow cord. Again the door was impossible to walk through. He wasn’t confused or upset; he sat down with a feeling of acceptance. At least he was going somewhere. He rode the bus well into the night.
“It’s the end of the line, you have to get off the bus,” the driver eventually said.
“I can’t,” replied the man.
The driver nodded. He understood as well as anyone how a person could become stuck on a bus. He left the man alone and walked off into the evening to find the car that would take him back to his family.
The next day would become the same as many others for the man. Each day he awoke to the bus starting the same route over again and each day he grew more used to it. Living on the bus had its perks. He found that hunger was easy to forget when he lived so much of his life inside his own head. During the day he met plenty of people, though every conversation was cut short when it couldn’t continue past the bus door. During the night he was stuck with only himself.
No so long ago the man couldn’t wait for bus rides to be over. Particularly when he was going to see her. He thought he’d never forget the first time he travelled to that strange new place and saw her through the glass in the waiting area. He wondered why the bus trips between them had grown so long.
By: Nolan Matthews
“Does this look good here?”
“It’s an acrylic painting of a naked woman wearing a dead boar on her back. It won’t really look good anywhere.”
“Funny. I like it. It’s going on the mantel.”
“Whatever. Put your little deranged painting up. My couch is going in this room. ”
“Seriously? You know my couch is way nicer.”
“You mean the “I’m too poor to afford a couch so I ransacked my neighbour at his wake?” couch.”
“God. Why did we even agree to move in together?”
“A) Rent was up for both of us. B) We didn’t have the income to live on our own. C) I think you’re really cute. ”
“All very valid reasons; specifically the last one.”
“Especially the last one.”
“Oh shucks, you flatter me. But, what is up with the music coming from the apartment above us? That guy is always playing the weirdest stuff.”
“I know. I hope we don’t have to deal with this forever. This morning he was playing Meatloaf...and I didn’t get it...I don’t want to get it.”
“I actually like Meatloaf.”
“I’m kidding. Now kiss me.”
“This is probably the dumbest thing you’ve ever done, Lidja.”
“It’s not that bad.”
“You’ve known this guy for three months. THREE MONTHS. And now you’re living together in an apartment that only has one bathroom. ONE BATHROOM.”
“Look, it sounds reckless, but he’s actually great. He doesn’t have a criminal record. He’s holding down a job and he’s finishing a double major. Plus, he makes me breakfast and lets me put up my art.”
“Wow! What a catch? Where can I get me a boyfriend like that? Ebay, Craigslist, Kijiji?”
“Shut up, we met at the shoe museum and we’re not even dating.”
“The shoe museum? That’s rich. I just can’t comprehend how you let this happen. Lidja meets Boy at shoe museum and after three months becomes roommates with Boy. Lidja also kisses Boy and cuddles with Boy and...”
“Thanks for being understanding.”
“Lidja, you’re my best friend and I want you to be safe. Just please... if he’s ever unexplainably hunched over your bed at night with like an eye-patch on...”
“Don’t worry Kimmie-Cakes. I’ll be fine. I’m a big girl. This is a transition period. We’re just trying to start over.”
“I’m sorry! I just can’t believe that “Rational Ravi” is bunking with a girl he just met.”
“You make it sound like we’re committing a crime Lewis. We’re sharing a space together, while trying to advance ourselves during a tough time. That’s not a terrible idea. It’s actually quite ratio-”
“Do you know what her favourite movie is?”
“A tie between the Kill Bill trilogy and The Whale Rider...I think.”
“How about her favourite song?”
“Umm...something by Aerosmith?”
“Okay. What’s her family like? Her friends? Who does she follow on Twitter?”
“This interrogation is unnecessary.”
“No it’s not. If you can’t tell me simple things like what her favourite song is, then how the hell do you know if she’s not like, the ghost whisperer or something? Do you want to be living in that kind of environment—with ghosts and shit?”
“You just got to side with me on this one. When have I ever been wrong?”
“How about now...I can hear you shamelessly blasting Air Supply.”
“Oh that. That’s the dude who lives a unit above us. He plays ridiculously loud music all day. Last night, we went through the full ABBA repertoire.”
“That’s rough. Maybe it’s a sign from the Gods telling you to get out now, before he starts playing Insane Clown Posse.”
“I love this window. It gives us the most amazing view of the city.”
“It’s a real selling point. If we have to survive with one bathroom, the view better be killer. That’s how I rationalized moving into this place, anyway.”
“See right there Lidja? I used to work at that building during first year.”
“Wow, that building is so big and corporate looking. Is that glass panelling?”
“Well, it was very corporate, and yeah that’s glass panelling. You notice the weirdest things.”
“You look...sad. What’s wrong?”
“There’s you, noticing things again.”
“It’s just...from this height, the city looks so small and yet that building, it still looks... I don’t know. It was just an amazing opportunity. I want to work there one day, like, really work there one day.”
“The future is pretty ominous from our view. But hey, it can only go up from here.”
“We live on the eleventh floor Lidja.”
“And, there are eleven more floors below us.”
“Is he playing Coolio?”
“Yep, that’s Coolio.”
“So, you got braces in second grade?”
“Yep! Who makes their six year old kid get braces? I still had my baby teeth.”
“That’s bad, but not as awful as what Lewis’ parents made him go through in middle school.”
“Yeah, Lewis...my best friend.”
“Right! Lewis. Best friend since third grade? The guy you talk to on the phone for hours? That Lewis?”
“Yeah. I thought you knew who Lewis was.”
“I do know! I just had a little brain fail for a second. He’s the guy who comforted you when your dog died, and pretended to be your brother, so that you’d get the family discount at that falafel place...”
“Yep, that Lewis. You guys should really meet. You can bring Jill along. We can have tacos...Lewis loves tacos...and then watch whatever’s on Netflix.”
“Sounds like a ball, but who the hell is Jill?”
“The only Jill that I know is my orthodontist’s secretary. Let’s just say we don’t roam in the same social circles, so no, I don’t know Jill .”
“Okay, you fully know who I’m talking about—the girl who’s in all of your fridge photos. The one you call Kimmie-cakes, which I don’t understand, because her name is Jill.”
“Nope, it’s Kim. And wow at your awful attempt at covering up the fact that you clearly have no idea who my best friend is.”
“Fridge photos—the girl in the fridge photos.”
“I don’t know what you really want me to say.”
“What about me and Kim? I know a lot more about Lewis. I could give you a semi-detailed description about your friendship with him.”
“Right. Two seconds ago, you didn’t even know who Lewis was.”
“At least I didn’t call him Renaldo or something.”
“Kay, I messed up her name, I didn’t run over her cat.”
“Kim doesn’t even have a cat.”
“Okay, now you’re picking a fight with me for no damn reason. It’s not like I’m the third best friend here.”
“Really Ravi, then what are you? If you’re not a best friend and you’re not a boyfriend. What are you?”
“I...I...I don’t know. I’m your roommate.”
“Stop. You are not my roommate. Roommates fight over who’s going to take out the trash; they don’t kiss and cuddle like we do. Even though you thought my painting was ugly, it’s still on the mantel—it’s the first thing you see when you walk into the apartment.”
“I don’t know what you’re saying Lidja.”
“I’m saying. If you’re not my best friend or my boyfriend or my roommate, then what are you?”
“Do you want me to tell you the truth?”
“Yeah, that’s what I was kind of hoping for.”
“I-I’m a stranger... and you are too.”
“I don’t think you mean that.”
“You just...don’t try to turn this on me. You know I don’t say things I don’t mean.”
“No, I didn’t know that. Should I just start asking you all of these questions?
“Fine. What’s your mom’s name?”
“What is your favourite item of clothing? Please don’t say that crusty denim jacket.”
“Actually, that “crusty” denim jacket.”
“Fine. Do you own an eye-patch?”
“What? No. Why is that even a question?”
“Because it is. I’m a big girl and I can ask any damn question I want.”
“If you’re a big girl...then why are you crying?”
“Those are tears. Please don’t cry.”
“He’s just...he’s just playing a beautiful song.”
“The guy upstairs?”
“Yeah, do you hear that?”
“Faintly. It sounds like a dying goat.”
“No, that’s Steven Tyler...”
“...Of Aerosmith. And the guy upstairs is playing I don’t want to miss a thing, your favourite song.”
“You knew that?”
“Of course. That was the song to your first slow dance.”
“Yeah. No guy had ever asked me to dance before and then this song came on, and all of sudden...I was dancing and it was awkward, but it was beautiful.”
“Can you please stop crying Lidja?”
“No, you knew my favourite song Ravi. I’m mad at you, but you knew my favourite song.”
“That’s important, isn’t it?”
“Yes Ravi, it is.”
“For what’s it worth I kind of like this song too.”
“Can you just hold me now?”
“Thank you roommate.”
“I’m not your roommate.”
“I know that.”
By: Yara Farran
Like a ghost unveiled in some dark corridor, white mist hung over the lake. A blue-back tinge coloured each droplet as it rustled northwards, beneath that swirling, visible breath that floats from a mouth on an early autumn morning. A sliver of moonlight slipped through the night air, surrounded in each direction by distant stars. These barely illuminated a tall, white watchtower, sitting on the shore like a strict chaperone.
Squeezing through a crack halfway up the watchtower, one would see the feet of a watchman creaking over each stone step, holding a dim yellow candle to guide his footpaths. Stumbling to his knees, he realizes he has reached the top step, and he clambers over to take his post. Squinting, he beholds the mists over the waters, and in the distance, the vague outlines of distant islands, with rows and rows of dark green forests. The forests cover the islands like moss at the base of some gigantic tree trunk.
He yawns and stretches his arms above his head, and then sits, ruffling his grey stubble with the back of his palms. The man is on duty for the king. He can hear the soft calls of birds, the trickling of water, waves lapping up on the rocks, and the wind whisking tree leaves as if trying to make them into a battery dessert. The fresh smell of pine wafts to his nose. As the hours pass, he blinks every now and then, his head tilting back in his seat. Once or twice, in some state between sleep and wakefulness, his head suddenly jerks upright at some small sound, and, out of habit, he calls his wife’s name and says, “I agree,” before remembering his surroundings again. Then, he begins to nod off once more.
A tingling nose sounds through the night, and he leaps up. His candle clatters to the grey stone floor. He bends down to pick it up again, and then casts his eyes at the water.
And then he sees it.
An ancient brown wooden ship, one of the tallest boats in the king’s fleet, drifts silently over the waters.
He hesitates. There’s something about its movements that troubles him, but he’s not sure what. As the boat glides closer, he studies it more intently.
The back of his neck begins to cool. The boat is moving so slowly, and in an awkward, involuntary sort of way, like a three-legged squirrel struggling to climb a tree.
Feeling a sudden shuddering sensation in his heart, he realizes why.
There’s no one on board.
Perhaps it was the wind that nudged the boat’s bells, as a cat rubs against its owner’s legs. But another realization soon follows.
If there’s no one on board, there’s no one to steer it.
A loud crash snaps the night out of its reverie, as if a shard of ice is cracked by a heavy fall, or the first footsteps pierce freshly fallen snow.
The ship has hit the rock.
A few hours later, in the forest behind the watchtower, a young boy walked in the darkness. His face was pointed down, and he kicked up piles of soil as he moved. Brushing low-lying leaves out of his way, he reached a clearing and shivered. His fingers shook in the cold and his teeth gnashed together.
All at once, someone hurtled through the darkness and knocked the boy on his back, and loud cries resounded. His assailant looked down.
Shorter than the boy, and dressed in a similar hooded robe, was a nine-year-old girl named Aqueeta. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m so sorry. But could you not be so loud? I’m trying to attack the palace.”
Despite the fact he had fallen down, her explanation piqued the boy’s curiosity even more than his desire for fawning sympathy.
“Attack the palace?” he said.
Dropping her hood, Aqueeta bit her lip. “Yes. But my parents don’t know I’m out.”
“Neither do mine,” said the prince. He paused. “But why attack?”
“Because they’ve got more than they need, and my family has little. It’s not fair.”
“The king has many soldiers.”
“I can run under their legs.”
“They have spears.”
“I have teeth.”
“So do they.”
“Mine are sharper.”
The prince made a sober pause. “Then I don’t see how you could fail,” he said.
She turned away from him.
“But it’s not that good,” he said.
She spun back to him. “What?”
“The palace. It’s not that good.”
“What part of it?”
“Everything. The fancy food, getting bossed around, all these historical things you’re not supposed to touch. They’d be so much fun to smash. But there’s nothing anyone would want.”
“Nothing?” said Aqueeta. “How do you know?”
“Because I’m the prince.”
She laughed. “You? You can’t be. Princes are taller.”
“I can almost reach the garden gate.”
“I know lots of dates things happened, and can pretend they still mean something.”
“I … I am handsome,” said the prince. He pounded his left hand with the fist of his right, as if this was evidence of his handsomeness.
Aqueeta shrugged. “Why are you here?”
“I don’t want to be a prince anymore. I’m running away because I want to be free to do whatever I want.”
“But out here, you don’t just get things,” said Aqueeta. “You have to work for them.”
“Princes don’t always get what they want either.”
“They get food and drink.”
“They’re all really uncomfortable. You have to wear tight collars! Then they do things with your hair, to ‘make it look nice,’ as they call it.” Abruptly, Prince Salus said, “Maybe I don’t want to be a prince or live out here. I want to be an adventurer. A man used to tell me all these stories about exciting heroes. I want to be one; exploring distant islands, and fighting off all kinds of dangers.”
“You just go places, and things happen to you.”
“Where adventures happen!”
The prince gazed into the distance. “I’m not sure. They’re places with gigantic grey mountains that wear the clouds like a necklace. Where—”
“Well, I’m not sure I want to take over the palace if it’s as bad as you say.”
“You’re not missing anything.”
“I want to be an adventurer too,” said Aqueeta.
“Girls don’t do that. They just get in trouble and have to get saved. I don’t want to do that part.”
“I WANT TO BE AN ADVENTURER!”
In spite of the previous temperance she had demanded of the prince, Aqueeta’s voice thundered through the clearing.
“Well … you have to promise I won’t have to save you from any bandits.”
The prince sighed. “Fine. Let’s go.”
The two children ran off into the night. The prince said, “I know where to start. I heard a boat crashed and lost all its crew. We’re going to find out what happened.”
Passing through the forest, they found the watchtower and the place the boat had crashed. The prince pointed to a wooden lifeboat on board. Unlike the rest of the boat, the lifeboat was fresh and new, and painted in a shade of bright red that was full of life. In a whisper, he said, “We’ll row away on that.”
“What if someone sees us?” said Aqueeta. Her eyes peered up at the watchtower. “Is anyone up there?”
She did not see anyone in the watchtower, but she had an uneasy feeling in her stomach. “I thought I saw someone before,” she said.
“Come on!” said the prince.
The two of them pushed the lifeboat off the deck of the empty boat and into the water, where the lifeboat made a loud splash.
The watchman’s voice sounded through the darkness. “Who’s there?”
The two children froze. The watchman had left his post, and he now he cast about his candle in the night.
“Who are you?” said the watchman. He was walking closer.
Through the darkness, the prince put on a booming voice. “I’m the ghost of your first wife,” he said.
The watchman gasped, his hands shook, and he receded a step. Then he recovered himself and said, “Wait! I’ve only had one wife! And she’s still livin’!”
“I’m the ghost of one of her relatives,” the voice corrected. “That one who used to come visit and talk about myself for a long time, laughing at my own unfunny jokes, and stealing the conversation from anyone else’s interests.”
The watchman paused.
In that moment, Aqueeta and the prince leapt off the deck and into the lifeboat. They began to paddle away.
It took the watchman a moment to realize what had happened, but by the time he did, the boat was a safe distance away, and a pink morning sunrise shimmered over the horizon. In fact, he was soon snoring.
“That was an adventure!” said the prince. “Now let’s find some more!”
By: Robert Crispin Revington
On the last day of Earth, Earl Milosc overslept his alarm. He was a veteran and a bachelor – a forgotten patriot with bones too rickety, eyes too weak, and hands too unsteady to do any useful work. He was 46, and as he slept, he flashed a yellow-toothed smile that had seen everything, from war, peace, heartache, love, vice, virtue, meaning, and absurdity. He was currently stuck in the last phase, though he didn’t quite know it yet. Even if he did, it wouldn’t matter much. For Earl, it was problem enough to remember where he put his socks in the morning. A better man could be sculpted from a lollipop, he often said about himself.
As the world was ending around him, he tossed from side to side with the likeness of a family pet. Awake, he was a man who laughed too much and argued too little. The world made little sense to him and he made little sense to it. His physical appearance was his proof. On a good day, he was packaged in black and white polka dot underwear stained with ketchup and mustard. On a bad day, he looked like the aftermath of a circus: his hair was tousled age-old, graying cotton candy and his voice was baritone, scratchy, and ruined by volatile coughs fueled by the cancer of handheld chimneys. Often, the smoke from his cigarettes floated around his sentences like punctuation marks.
It’d be funny. The world was burning to the ground bit by bit by bit, and Earl Milosc, an average man with knees deteriorated by mediocre work for mediocre pay and whose apartment was a vestige of a bygone era littered in old newspapers and Eruption cassettes, would be its first savior.
Or at very least, he would be until the commercials ended.
He awoke to a bang.
With no windows to peer out of in the closet he called a home, he couldn’t see that the sudden noise was in fact gunshots being ricocheted from house to house, civilian to civilian. Earlier that day, NASA announced that a meteorite would collide with the Earth and obliterate all its inhabitants. They said the news in a despondent voice reserved for the helplessness felt during the heat of a calamity. “After the cosmic rocket has banged through with us,” they said, “the planet will look like the remains of an apple core.” They added that if anything were to survive, it’d be the insects. They loved pulverized apples.
Basic anarchy soon tore throughout the world, though its beginnings were anything but extraordinary. Many initially took their frustration out on the prehistoric creatures crawling underneath their mattresses and couches. But after hours of trying to squish the armoured tanks of the bug world, they decided that the attempt was misguided at the very least, futile at best. Evolution had chosen its next dominate species and it had six legs instead of two.
When people came to their senses, they did exactly what they always do when in situations they cannot change: they kill. Many chose to off themselves while some chose to murder others. As Earl knew and would find out again, this is how the span of history has always read. It was their legacy, one born from apes who were savage killers, not painters, who roared ferociously, not sang beautifully. During the Apocalypse, this did not change. Those still alive bathed in the crumbling, red-stained world they created and just as quickly destroyed.
Earl was different, however. He had fought his wars and lost his battles already. He was tired of people thinking they were big enough to change an even bigger world. More often than not, it was enough for him to find happiness in the small miracle of being able to get one leg in his pants before the other.
He wasn’t lazy, just indifferent. Even now as the banging resonated throughout his cramped apartment, this was true. Earl grumbled, hoping that his moan would bring an end to the noise. It didn’t, and Earl would have to check what the hoopla was all about. The day was starting off bad already, Earl thought.
Little did he know how right he was.
As Earl stretched out of his gray bed into pink, worn fuzzy slippers, the high-ho of the outside world reached his door. It quieted suddenly, as if sensing Earl’s slow yet stirring presence inside. Knock. Knock. Earl groaned again. “Coming, coming.” He managed to muster the words through an eruption of coughing and morning grogginess.
Much of Earl’s apartment remained dark as he tried to orient himself to the door. Covered in a thin veil of dust, every step left a wispy imprint on the floorboard. It didn’t help that fresh air hadn’t drafted into the single-room for months. For Earl, the uncleanliness was a prized novelty: with each movement, he felt like he was landing on the moon, and in the illusion of darkness, Earl looked like a mismatched astronaut donning discoloured pajamas and ragged slippers instead of a spacesuit. He moonwalked to the door.
“Hello? Who is it?” Earl harrumphed.
“It’s Dr. Shimasu, the Chief Commissioner of NASA – or whatever’s left of it. Hurry up and open the door. There’s no time. The world is falling to pieces.”
Funny. Earl didn’t think his day could get infinitely worse.
Once inside, Dr. Shimasu introduced himself formally. “My sincerest apologies for the somewhat forcible entry into your lovely abode, Mr…”
“Earl. Call me Earl.”
“Mr. Earl.” Earl left Dr. Shimasu uncorrected. “…But you must understand that this is a matter of national security. Scratch that, it concerns the whole of humankind.”
“Okay, Mr. Shi…”
“Mr. Shimasu, but I really have to get to work.” Earl pointed to watch on his hand, though in reality, he didn’t mind that he was late. Quite the opposite: he enjoyed it. He was never on time. And besides, no one came to the restaurant where he worked as a cook. Maybe it had something to do with his insipid meals… Earl’s mind trailed.
“Sorry. Was just thinking.”
“You saw the news didn’t you?”
“Must’ve missed it.”
“You’re telling me you didn’t hear about the meteorite that will hit the Earth?”
“And what about the bombs going off here in New York?”
“I might’ve – would certainly explain the loud banging that woke me up – but it definitely doesn’t concern me. I got enough to worry about.” Earl spread his arms around the room as if to show Dr. Shimasu the infinite amount of worries that could occupy a man in a dusty apartment. The scientist simply nodded as if he understood how someone could weigh the sum of Earthly existence against two-week old pizza slices and Maxim magazines scattered on the floor.
“Well, Mr. Earl, to put it simply: the shit has hit the fan, if you allow me the colloquialism. All this doesn’t matter anymore. It is the Apocalypse with a capital A.”
“But that means…” Earl’s voice veered off. Almost immediately he realized that he wouldn’t have to go to work anymore. His second thought was that he’d be able to sleep longer. For Earl, it was a win on both accounts. He joked to himself that the world should’ve ended sooner, maybe last week.
The scientist continued, “Right now, people are rioting in the streets. Any semblance of government has long since been disbanded. Looting, killing, and raping are all rampant now.”
“I see.” Earl digested everything he heard. He lit a cigarette. “How long do I have?” The smoke curled around the final “e.”
“Assuming others don’t get to us first, I’m afraid we all have around ten hours before the meteorite gives us the biggest knuckle sandwich we have ever seen.” The scientist, strong up until then, began to cry.
Earl barely noticed. He was elated, “Great. That means I still have time to watch some of my shows. Now, most likely I won’t finish Fres…”
The scientist couldn’t believe Earl. During the end of times, the gluttonous, unsightly blob wanted to continue his life just as he was living it before, if it could even be called that. In a brief yet vehement display of passion, the scientist yelled. “Mr. Earl, or whatever the fuck your name is, everything is going to go back to how it was in the beginning without humans. We’re kaput. Dead. Gone. Can you understand that through that pony-penis, fat fucking head of yours?”
“Yes.” The swearing didn’t offend Earl, though he wasn’t sure what a pony-penis looked like exactly.
“And despite it all, despite the end of the world, you want to watch TV?” Dr. Shimasu spoke in bitter resignation.
“You can join me, if you want.” Earl said it honestly with just a hint of cordiality.
“No.” The scientist was shouting fully now, “Of course I don’t fucking want to watch television. I spent my entire life doing that. I want to start over. I want to tell Jubilee I love her. I want to study art back in college. I want to fly to Paris. I want to live, god dammit. Is that too much to ask?” The scientist’s crying had now turned into a barely coherent gurgle of sobs outlining what he would do if only he could go back and change things.
In an apartment swamped by an avalanche of regrets and indolence, wearing unwashed clothing and donning a three week old beard, Earl thought about the weight of the scientist’s words. The world was ending, and with it went the rules, the institutions, and the systems that Earl felt had limited him. As the scientist said everything was as it would be in the beginning, and in the beginning, there was nothing.
That’s when it hit Earl: in the absence of anything is the opportunity for everything. Earl could be whatever he wanted, whatever he chose. Social, political, and economic statuses didn’t matter anymore. They didn’t exist. Earl was only restricted by his imagination and physical capabilities, and in terms of the latter, the first thing he would want to renew would be his workout routine. It took the beginning of the end to make him realize he was fat.
Next, he’d shave. He’d shower. He’d iron his clothes. He’d read. He’d write that book he’d always wanted to start. He’d clean up his apartment. He’d find a girl. He’d tell her he loved her. He’d give her flowers. He’d make her feel important and she’d do the same to him. He’d call his mother. He’d try his hand at painting. And, he’d try to be happy because if his life wasn’t worth that, then what was?
Caught in the torrent of his revelation where he was doing anything and everything at the same time but for different reasons, Earl didn’t notice that the scientist had stopped crying. Instead, a twisted smile had replaced his previous dejection. Earl was still reveling in his brief moment of pure bliss, “You’re right, Dr. Shimasu. I want to be resurrected, and don’t want to have to die to do it.”
Dr. Shimasu consternation suddenly turned serious. “Mr. Earl, I told you I came with an issue that concerned the whole of humanity. Right?”
“Yes – something along those lines.”
The wry smile returned. “Well, there is one thing I can do now that I’ve always wanted, always felt I needed to do. You can me help with it.” Dr. Shimasu’s face became entirely contorted, “Do you know what it is, Mr. Earl?”
“No I don’t.”
“To be a killer.” And with that, he lunged at Earl with a knife as long as an elephant’s tusk.
Fat as Earl may have been and lazy as he often was, he was surprisingly nimble. Shifting through the makeshift moon dust like a ballerina, he dodged most of the scientist’s fatal jab. Some of the serrated edge caught Earl’s forearm, tearing a hole that immediately oozed blood. But the scientist was largely uncoordinated, sharing his balance with a hamster rather than a lion. He staggered past Earl and continued to slide through the gray grime of the apartment. His knees wobbled as he skated.
Earl quickly dove towards the nearest defense object, an IKEA lamp, and wagged it as though it were as deadly as a nuclear bomb. Dr. Shimasu regained his composure. “That’s it, Mr. Earl. That’s the spirit.” The scientist turned murderer planned his second attack. Then with the wildness unique to humankind, he pounced once again.
Earl was ready this time. Sauntering to the side, he swung the lamp with full force against the scientist’s head. Dr. Shimasu crumpled like a leaf in fall, and as Earl panted overtop the limp body, blood circled the scientist’s head like a halo.
Earl shook. Despite killing before, he had never found enjoyment in it. But here he was in a new world, an ending world, smiling over a dead body. He had survived. Dr. Shimasu was dead. For the first time in a long time, Earl had won.
But it didn’t feel that way. In an apartment haunted by mediocrity, the black and white and red mixed into the gray. Colour seeped into the floorboards and with the door propped ajar, no longer was the room as dark as it seemed to be. Light allowed Earl to view himself fully. He was a man lost trying to find himself in the cosmos of his apartment and in a Universe that was just as much as an accident as he was. Around him, it wasn’t change; it was consistency, and that brought him comfort.
Beeping interrupted his thinking. Beep. Beep. Searching everywhere, Earl realized it was coming from the corpse below him. Sifting through the various pockets in the scientist’s pants, Earl found a cell phone. On the monitor in big red writing, it read, “You’re going to kill me, Dr. S, but the meteorite just passed the Earth. False alarm.”
Earl starred at the phone for an eternity and back. He felt like laughing but couldn’t. Somewhere, as the blood mazed its way into the dank hallway, he heard a television humming a familiar, welcoming tune.
By: Kacper Niburski
Jeremy was not one to receive letters, so when a drab brown envelope was delivered to the house, it came as quite a shock. Delicately slitting through the top, he emptied its contents onto his armchair, revealing a glossy sheet of paper with a backdrop of daintily printed clouds. As he instantly recognized the flowing writing covering most of the page, Jeremy let out a heavy sigh.
Perplexed but more than a little curious, Jeremy fell slowly into his armchair, nearly crushing the letter before he placed it onto his lap. As he turned the folded paper over and over in his hands, a wary expression descended over his face. Finally gathering the courage, he unfolded the paper, flattened it with a brisk sweep of his hand, and began to read. It read:
I am sure that you thought this day would never come, but I have sent this letter to inform you that it has. I have been released from St. Jones. I understand that you may not view this decision in the good favor that I have, but I can assure you that everything has been taken care of, and I have received the attention I needed. I realize this may be difficult for you, it is not an easy situation for myself either, but I would like to meet with you to discuss things. Hopefully you will be able to see in me what I know inside myself, which is that I am ready and very willing to restart our life together. Please contact me; my cell phone number has not changed.
Jeremy could not help but expel a long sigh as he let the letter fall to the carpet. Allowing his head to sink into his hands, he stayed in place for a long while as he worked to control the quivers reverberating through his body.
When he finally rose from his chair and composed himself, he walked up the stairs into the small storage area by the master bedroom. Impatiently skimming through the collection of antiques and labeled boxes, he finally found the one he was searching for. Cracking open the sealed top, he looked inside and, relieved, pulled out an old mahogany picture frame. He quickly wiped the dust from the faded frame and abjectly stared at the picture. “Jeremy and Andrea, 1989”, it read. Exhaling slowly, Jeremy did something that betrayed his normal personality. Pulling his phone from his pocket, he called her.
The call was brief, and in short time Jeremy was showering, changing his clothes, and shaving his face. As he made coffee, doubts began to repopulate his mind. Taking in deep breaths, he focused on steadying his shaking hands and taking out two brown mugs from the cupboard. Setting them on the table, he turned quickly to grab the coffee, and placed it on the table as well. It was at this moment that the doorbell rang. Almost wincing, Jeremy straightened up, and proceeded towards the doorway.
He opened the door to a middle-aged woman with brown hair, blue eyes, and of taller than average height. She was carrying only a small yellow bag, as well as an air of brazen but welcoming confidence.
Jeremy paused and stared at her for a long while. Snapping out of his trance, Jeremy apologized abashedly, realizing he had not yet allowed her into the house. He stepped aside and she walked into the foyer. Staring up at him, she paused, and then wrapped her arms around him. Taken aback, Jeremy slowly reciprocated. It was not until she motioned away that he realized he had been holding her for a very long time.
So they sat. And they talked. And Jeremy realized he had missed this woman. She explained calmly that her mother was holding most of her belongings, and that, if he consented of course, she could return them to their home in due time.
“It’s nice to see you, really,” she said with the heartwarming touch he had missed.
“You too,” he admitted, “I was afraid you would be like…before. And you know I couldn’t do that, it was too painful. But that’s irrelevant now, the point is you’re back.”
She gestured to the yellow bag, saying, “I bought something for you on the way here, as a way to say I’m sorry about before, and to hopefully instill some faith in me.”
Jeremy reacted playfully, and with excitement he opened the bag. It contained a 16-hole chromatic harmonica, beautifully polished and gleaming.
Although his eyes said everything, he explained, “You didn’t have to Andrea. I know you didn’t mean to break the other. But thank you.”
Looking pleased, she got up to leave, but Jeremy swept her back into a quick hug. They agreed to meet the following weekend, which would allow both of them adequate time to reflect on the recent events, and ensure that they were both ready for what was to come ahead.
Pacing the hallway, Jeremy felt strangely fulfilled. Of all the possible outcomes the evening could’ve turned to, this was the most satisfying he could have imagined. He went upstairs and filed away the harmonica. It was little consolation to know he had been returned only one of the things Andrea had taken away from him during her episodes, but it was all he needed. Returning downstairs, he went to place a record on the record player, and then resumed his position in his armchair as the voice of Van Morrison came lofting through the room singing Someone Like You, their wedding song.
The following weekend, the two met at a café close to Jeremy’s house and once again shared a coffee. Their conversation was light, but the mood hinted at something deeper being communicated. At the end Jeremy knew Andrea was waiting for a definitive answer, so he gave her one.
It was a bright early Sunday morning when Andrea arrived with her mother’s car containing all of her belongings. It took a decent amount of time to carry all of the necessities into the house and distribute them to the best of their memory, but the task was made enjoyable by their communal interest in the past year of each other’s lives. Jeremy felt unusually chatty during this time, until he realized this was his actual personality, and not the introverted man he had become in Andrea’s absence. Putting the last of her clothes into the closet, Jeremy exclaimed in accomplishment,
“I’m glad that’s done, we make a good team don’t you think?”
She nodded vigorously in approval, saying, “I was thinking we could see a movie tonight. You know, try and redevelop our old romance?”
“Of course. It sounds like a great first evening.”
“And I’ve also booked us some art classes! I knew you wouldn’t like it, but I’ve always wanted to learn.”
Jeremy rolled his eyes, but digressed. They walked downstairs, and Andrea put some coffee on as she stared out the back window.
“We really should repaint the porch when we get a chance.”
“I know. It’s something that’s seemed to escape my attention recently. But don’t worry, we’ll get to it this summer,” Jeremy finished as he joined her.
Once the coffee was ready, Jeremy poured each of them one mug full, and they proceeded to sit outside on the deck patio chairs, observing the neatly trimmed lawn in the cool autumn air. Andrea initiated the conversation, bringing up a friend she had met at her hospital. Jeremy smiled, engaged by her humorous storytelling. When it was his turn, he told her that not much had changed in the last year, aside from her absence.
“Well that’s good news to hear. Oh and I almost forgot, we’re going to see the ballet in two weeks, there’s a performance down at Charlestown.”
Surprised, he asked, “When did you plan all this?”
“Last night, I thought it would be nice to get a move on with our lives, that’s all.”
Jeremy nodded. This was what starting over was all about. And he was ready to begin.
By: Spencer Nestico Semianiw