If you’re interested in what the story of my Ouroboros webisode series is going to be like I made the first season (or Cycle One) into novel form. There will be four Cycles and each Cycle is the same time period, just from the point of view of a different character. Cycle One revolves around Ava Fields. Let me know what you think.
– Cycle One –
The apartment door opened sending a rush of fresh air down the hallway and into the kitchen where he was sitting; staring forward.
The door creaked lazily closed and Ava Fields entered the kitchen.
“What’s the matter sweetie?” He called to her from the table.
Ava walked over to the kitchen sink and began washing her hands.
Ava sighed. The bright bubbles sparkled in the dim light. The warm water coaxed the soap from her hands, landing loudly in the metal sink. The sparkling, red foam circled the drain and finally disappeared beyond the metal grate. Ava poured more soap into her hands and resumed lathering.
“Is that,” he paused, “blood?”
The thunderous sound of the water landing hard against the metal lulled Ava’s racing thoughts, until she remembered her husband had asked her a question.
“I hit a dog,” she almost couldn’t get the words past her quivering lips.
“When?” He asked, staring forward.
“On the way home.”
“Did you kill it?”
“What do you mean?”
She watched the waves of soap circle and blend with the pink water in the sink before it slipped down the drain, into darkness.
“It was still alive when I got out to check on it, but it was bad,” she paused to lather up her hands again, “Really bad.”
She stood in silence for a few moments, watching the light pink, now nearly all white, bubbles as they swirled around the sink, waiting to be devoured by the drain.
“I’d run over its stomach,” she began, “and its insides were spilling out the hole in his skin. There wasn’t anything I could do. I had to kill it!”
“So what’d you do?”
Ava stopped the water and watched the last of the now completely white soap slide down into the drain. There was still the sparkle of a few bubbles at the edge of the drain and Ava started the water again to make sure they didn’t escape.
“I hit it a couple times with the tire iron in our trunk.”
“Steven!” Ava whipped around to stare at her husband. “That’s awful.”
She noticed her breathing was coming in ragged gasps. She ripped open her purse and pulled a small pill bottle from the centre compartment. She downed two pills and chased them with a glass of water.
“I didn’t want to hurt it, but it was already dying and I . . .”
“Did it have any tags on it? Do you know whose dog it was?”
Ava turns back to face the back of Steven’s head.
“No,” she swallowed. “There were no tags. He was quite large though. It was probably an outside dog. It took me a long time to drag it down to the River.
“You dumped it in the river?”
“What else was I supposed to do? Leave it there?”
“And you’re sure it didn’t have any tags.”
“Steven, I’m sure,” she tried to calm her rapid breathing and took a few more sips of water. “But I’ll ask around to see if anyone in the building is missing a dog.”
Their dog, Charlie, looked up from his place on the couch. That was his favourite place; lying on top of the seat cushion with his head dangling slightly over the side. His big eyes were what did it to Ava. She began sobbing.
“Hey. I’m sorry,” Steven consoled from his seat at the kitchen table, still staring forward. “It must’ve been an awful feeling to have to kill that dog.”
“I just kept thinking about Charlie and how I would feel if he were missing and I didn’t know what had happened to him. Someone’s missing their dog tonight and it’s all my fault.”
“No, it’s not,” his voice was soft and reassuring. “What was the dog doing without tags or a leash and where were the owners? It sounds like you hit a stray and if they’re caught by the humane society; a lot of them are euthanized anyway. It’s not your fault.”
Muffled music began to thud its way through the thin walls of the apartment. She could feel anger welling up inside her chest. The dissonant thudding happened quite frequently, and Ava hated it.
“They’re playing that awful music again.”
She wasn’t aware of it, but she was gritting her teeth together so tightly as to be audible.
“Come on, Sweetie. It’s not that bad.”
“And I can smell their incense through the wall. I bet they only burn those to cover the smell of the pot.” She walked over to the kitchen wall and gave it two firm raps with bed of her palm. “You’re not fooling anybody!”
“Relax, Ava. Let’s just go into the other room and watch Leno.”
She exhaled and her body slumped, resting against the kitchen counter. “Yah, okay.”
“I’ll be in right away.”
“Come ‘ere, Charlie. We’re going to watch Headlines on Leno. Do you like Headlines? Yes you do.”
Charlie raised his head in a curious manner, only to lay it back down again, letting it dangle over the edge of the couch.
The sound of the thudding dubstep surrounded Seth more completely than the crowd of people sandwiched in around him. Strobe lights flickered and their bodies seemed to move in dislocated, jerky ways along to the poly-rhythms.
Seth closed his eyes, and then realized, he was so stoned that he was closing his eyes in his head.
His eyes shot open and Seth Brock was standing against the wall in Alex Sunderland’s apartment. They were listening to music while Alex’s roommate Nathan played Dynasty Warriors 4.
Seth closed his eyes again, and he was transported back to the rave. All the people were dancing, and he felt an odd sense of community in that moment. Of belonging.
Do I belong in my dreams? The electricity in his brain wondered.
The dancers suddenly stopped and turned to stare at Seth, who was now sitting on a couch in the middle of the dance floor.
They all turned their heads at the same time to a space on the couch, just beside him. He shifted to see what they were looking at.
It was a dog.
There was a dog sitting on the couch beside him.
The dog opened its mouth but the sound that escaped was not a bark as much as it was a searing pain on the inside of his ears; as though someone were digging their nails into his brain while simultaneously shaking his head from side to side.
“What are you?”
Beneath the dog’s white collar a sentence appeared in white text; and in Helvetica no less.
<<I am nothing, I am everything>>
“What do you want?”
<<Video Games = Porn>>
The dog moved closer to him, and Seth tensed.
<<You are a tiny insignificant nothing>>
The pain returned inside his head.
<<You should kill yourself>>
<<You’re not going to listen to a dog are you?>>
The white text dissolved away and another sentence blurred itself into existence.
<<Cause that would be crazy>>
Alex’s voice jolted him out of his meandering thoughts. He was back in the apartment.
“What if our existence . . . or . . . wait . . . what if our perception of our existence isn’t the same as everyone else?” Alex Sunderland sat in his bed, his head leaning up against the large poster of the Pink Floyd back catalogue.
Out of all the girls in the poster, Alex most wanted to bone the woman with ‘the Wall’ body paint. Though one couldn’t see the women’s faces, he was sure that ‘the Wall’ was someone exotic looking, maybe from the Mediterranean. He imagined her to have large, almond shaped, dark brown eyes with an angular nose and sharp cheekbones. Really, Alex would’ve fucked any of the back catalogue girls. It had been so long since he’d last been with a women that he wasn’t going to be choosy. He laughed at the absurdity of his random thoughts.
“It isn’t.” Seth Brock paced back and forth in the small portion of the room that wasn’t taken up by Alex’s bed. The space was made even smaller by Nathan Levy’s chair placed squarely in front of the old Panasonic television in the corner of Alex’s bedroom; still playing Dynasty Warriors 4.
“The way you see the world and the way I see the world is completely different,” Seth continued. “In fact, no two people can ever really see the world in the same way because they’ve had different experiences then one another.”
Not taking his eyes off the action on the television screen, Nathan said: “But a tree is still a tree.”
Seth passed the pipe to Alex, who gave a puzzled look before taking a long drag, and exhaling the dark, satiny smoke. The pungently, skunky smoke rose into the air and blended with the trails of incense smoke floating up from the stick on the censer.
Nathan began to explain: “If I see a tree you can’t see the tree as being anything but a tree.”
Seth stopped pacing long enough to pass the pipe from Alex to Nathan who was still staring intently at the television screen.
“Well that’s just not true at all,” Seth said. “Mental patients can have hallucinations where things become other things. Hell, you don’t even have to be nuts to have those kinds of hallucinations. LSD comes to mind.”
“Can’t say I’ve ever tried Acid,” Nathan took a pull off the pipe and handed it back to Seth.
Alex shook his head in agreement.
“No? Well, you should. But I remember, I did a couple hits of Acid before watching the old Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston.”
Nathan unleashed Guan Yu’s mushu attack, sending members of the opposing force flying off in all directions.
“Holy shit. That would’ve been fucked up.” Alex’s eyes grew wide as he thought about it.
“Oh, It was,” Seth assured. “The whole time I was Charlton Heston and I was trapped on a weird planet where Apes were the dominant life form.”
Nathan’s avatar, Guan Yu, approached the enemy stronghold and immediately began battling with the enemy ruler: Cao Cao. “Fuck, man. That’s intense.”
“I know. I was tripping balls. But then things got really weird . . . Everything was stained glass.”
Nathan gave a jerky expression, mostly because he wasn’t sure he’d heard Seth properly. Most of his attention was on the game. “What?”
“Charlton Heston, Nova, Dr. Zaius . . . Everyone . . . they were all stained glass. But it was stained glass in motion and then when I finally detached myself from the movie my own world was stained glass as well.”
Seth looked off into the ether.
“The whole room and everyone in it was one massive world of stained glass.” Seth stood there, rocking uneasily back and forth; a small kiss of wind would be enough to knock him to his knees. He realized he’d zoned out and kind of snapped to attention.
“So in a long, roundabout way, a tree doesn’t have to be a tree.”
Alex laughed, closing his eyes. “Fuck, that’s ridiculous.” He was smiling broadly, imagining what that experience would feel like.
“Yah, man. You need to try it sometime. It’s amazing. I could get you a good deal.”
“I bet you could.” Alex laughed, his eyes still closed. “Speaking of which, what do I owe you?”
“Oh, nothing. This is a friendly visit. We can push business off until next time. But I should really get going.”
“Things to see, people to do, eh?” Nathan laughed.
Guan Yu delivered the final blow to Cao Cao and the defending army immediately scattered. Theme music began to play and the word ‘victory’ appeared at the centre of the screen. Guan Yu twirled around his massive weapon, the Green Dragon Crescent Blade, before jamming the base into the ground and looking off in a proud manner.
“Well, someone’s gotta get all you fuckers high.”
Seth stood up and collected the drugs and paraphernalia into his backpack.
“This is good shit, Seth.” Alex commented.
“Would you expect any less?” Seth raised an eyebrow.
“Where do you get it?”
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” he smiled. “May you have a good time and your minds be thoroughly blown.”
Seth let himself out of the room and they could hear him opening and then shutting the apartment door through the thin bedroom walls.
Nathan saved his game and shut off the Playstation 2.
“So . . . Teletoon Retro or Discovery Channel?”
Ava stepped briskly past the people who were walking too slowly down Lakeview Avenue. Wearing a sleek, smart summer outfit, Ava tried to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. She rarely went for walks but she needed to get out of the house. It had only been a few days but there were still no flyers for a missing dog, and no one she had talked to in the apartment building had mentioned the absence of a pet.
She remembered the look on its face, staring up at her; questioning, pleading.
It was becoming hard to breathe and the second she recognized it she had two pills in her hand and went in search of a water fountain. She ended up walking down to the convenience store and purchasing some bottled water and downed the pills.
She sat down on the seat by the bus stop to try and catch her breath. On the back of the seat was a local realtor’s face. Someone had defaced the seat, giving the realtor’s image bushy eyebrows, devil horns, and blacked out teeth.
“Stupid shits,” she mumbled under her breath.
It only helps to make the city that much uglier.
When she’d calmed herself enough to continue walking, she decided on heading back to the apartment, and not going any further.
The bright spring sun shone down on the budding leaves in the trees far off in the west, reflecting twinkling light from the moisture of the rain from the previous night. The city had its beauty, but it was always out of reach; above her. The sidewalks were mostly dry, save for a few puddles in the shade, and the caked mud and soggy leaves clung to them like a film of neglect. The leaves in the trees overhead, the sky, the clouds, they were all so beautiful and inviting but she was trapped on the ground, among the dirt and dried leaves. The sidewalk dusters hadn’t been down this way yet, but even after they were the city still remained dirty. Reminders of the city’s title, slurpee capital of the world, lay strewn about the streets; some crushed under foot, or under the wheels of passing vehicles. One of the panes of glass on the bus shelter was tagged with the symbol of some punk; the excess spray paint leaving long lines of acrid black sludge to streak downward toward the mess of discarded bus transfers and empty pop cans at the base of the shelter.
This is why I left the country? She laughed, shaking her head. A better life? She scoffed. More opportunities?
As she stepped up to the apartment building, a little girl was rocking back and forth uneasily, biting her lower lip.
She was mumbling something, Ava couldn’t make out until she was standing beside her on the steps.
“Seven will die, only one will survive. Seven will die, only one will survive. Seven will die, only one will survive.”
Ava stepped past the girl and pulled out her keys to unlock the door into the lobby. She closed the door behind her and the girl’s voice disappeared. She stepped over to the elevators.
Pushing the button for the fifth floor, she waited patiently for the elevator to arrive.
She could still see the glistening insides of the animal and the wet sheen reflecting the light from the street lamp overhead.
A young man with straight, chin-length, dyed red hair smiled weakly at her as he stepped up behind her to join her in her wait for the elevator.
She remembered the animal’s eyes. Those big dark eyes.
She shook the image from her head and the elevator doors opened. The superintendant of the building, Jake Phillips, stepped out. His body language always made clear that he wasn’t about to engage in small-talk, which was just as good since Ava despised needless, random chatter. Phillips stepped past them and walked off down the hallway.
The young man turned to smile at Ava again and she smiled awkwardly back. The man motioned for her to enter the elevator and she nodded.
“Do you have friends on 5?” the man asked.
She sighed, exasperated. “No,” she shook her head. “I live on 5.”
“You do?” He smiled again.
He is far too perky. She began grating her teeth together.
“Me too!” He said, just a little too excitedly.
She just smiled, as genuine a smile as she could manage. There was silence again.
The doors opened and they both got out.
Ava began to move left down the hallway and found that the man was close behind her. They passed 514 and then 506, and finally she arrived at her apartment: 502.
She saw the man move up to his door and pull out his keys.
“You live in 501?” She said, disdainfully.
“Yah,” said the man with an overly zealous musical quality. “You’re in 502?”
She rolled her eyes and unlocked her apartment.
“Say, what is it you do for a livin-“
The door closed behind her, finishing their conversation.
She dropped her purse at the door and moved slowly down the hallway toward the kitchen were Steven was sitting.
“Okay,” she began to pour herself a glass of water. “It’s been a few days and there aren’t any flyers or anything.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Steven said. “That means it wasn’t someone’s dog.”
“But I want some sense of closure; of . . . I don’t know.”
“Ava, it wasn’t your fault. There was a dog in the middle of the road and –“
The abruptness with which Steven stopped caught Ava mid drink. She put the glass on the counter and turn to her husband. He was turned away, staring into the darkness of the apartment. His left shoulder twitched slightly.
“Steven? Steven are you okay?”
His body continued to spasm in brief flailing movements, which were so fast that Ava could see trails of afterimages. Ava stepped cautiously nearer.
He was still twitching when his head began to move wildly from side to side in a preternaturally fast, jerky way. She moved closer and placed a worried, unsteady hand on his shoulder. Steven turned to face her. His eyes were missing and in their place were black buttons with a dark liquid oozing out from them, running down his face. She screamed and collapsed on the floor. She snaked her limbs around awkwardly on the ground, trying feebly to put distance between her and whatever had become of her husband. She could feel her chest erupting in bright, hot, anxious pain as she sucked in wheezing gasps of air. Steven rose from the chair and began moving steadily nearer. She pressed herself against the fridge in a frightened, and ultimately useless, attempt to retreat
She screamed again, but this time the sound was trapped inside her throat. Tears were raging down her cheeks, escaping the horrified expression in her eyes.
“Sweetie are you okay?”
He was sitting back in his chair in the dark kitchen. The cold tile of the kitchen floor stung her bare legs. He looked perfectly normal. He was once again seated and staring away from her.
She rose from the ground and smoothed out the wrinkles in her dress; thoughts in her confused mind were ripping around like anxious electrons.
“Yah, I’m just,” she started to say but didn’t know how to finish. She stared at the back of Steven’s head and tried to control her frantic breathing.
“I need to lay down. I think I’m just tired.”
“I’ll be in in a bit,” Steve reassured.
Ava slowly slunk out the room leaving Steven sitting at his place at the table.
There was a spark, accompanied close after by a flash of light from the match as Alex lit a stick of incense and placed it in the censer. Nathan was rocking out to imaginary music in his head while playing Silent Hill 2. An energy drink sat within arm’s reach while his avatar sprayed Pyramid Head with a barrage of handgun bullets. Alex sat beside the small table, loading a bowl from a baggy hidden inside an ornate wooden Chinese box. Alex had purchased the box during his short-lived stint as an English teacher overseas. Alex went back to sit on his bed before lighting up. He held in the smoke and let the choking feeling fill his head; he enjoyed that sensation. He hardly ever coughed.
He passed the pipe to Nathan.
Alex pulled his favourite book, Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, off from his bookshelf and began paging through it. The high overtook him almost immediately.
This is great shit. He laughed, or rather his mind laughed. He was sure that he looked dopey and lethargic, but inside he was happy.
“Are we whole beings?” He asked, closing the book.
“What do you mean?”
Nathan was trying to be accommodating. He knew the routine, Alex needed to work out something that he was thinking verbally. Nathan’s participation wasn’t necessarily required.
Nathan’s avatar, James, having defeated Pyramid Head, began his decent down the rusty stairwell following where the monster had disappeared.
“Are we whole beings? Or is it our brains that make us who we are? And it just controls the appendages from a command centre behind our eyes.”
Neither spoke for a few moments.
Nathan was still rocking out to the imaginary music in his head.
“Do we have a soul, or do we just think we do because we possess the ability to reason abstractly?”
“I’m not sure,” Nathan admitted.
“Maybe, in some long ago point in history, all humans collectively thought: ‘you know, we should probably believe in some higher power, because otherwise this is all we have, and that’s kind of depressing’. Maybe the idea of a soul came about as an evolutionary side effect of our developing complex brains that could conceptualize abstract things and we just created this warm and fuzzy idea of something more when really,” the pipe had made its way back to Alex and he took another drag. “Really, we’re just animals like all other creatures on Earth. Maybe in another 5 million years birds will evolve brains that can conceptualize and they’ll have their own bird deity and go to war with other birds who don’t believe in the same bird God.”
Alex takes a drag from the pipe and passes it to Nathan.
Nathan was obviously not paying attention. He was far too absorbed in the video game.
“Yesterday I started reading this book on the Eternal Return,” Alex said, pulling the book off its perch on the bookcase.
“The Eternal Return, as I understand it, is the theory that matter and time is finite and, in a universe, there are finite configurations of matter’s changes in state. So eventually, some changes will recur and using that logic, earlier philosophers like the Egyptians, the Mayans, the Aztecs, and the Greeks thought of reality in a cyclical framework. Oh, check this out.”
Alex went to pull another book off his shelf.
“Sir Thomas Browne said: The world was before the Creation, and at an end before it had a beginning; and thus was I dead before I was alive, though my grave be England, my dying place was Paradise, and Eve miscarried of me before she conceived of Cain.”
“Woah! Trippy,” Nathan nodded.
James picked up two sets of handgun bullets and headed off to Rosewater Park to meet up with Maria, and a long cinema scene.
“I know, right?” The pipe found its way back into Alex’s hands. “Although, I often wondered why matter would come back in the same configuration? Why couldn’t the next time around I be a fish? Or rather than humans, maybe cows become the more evolved life form. And I mean, that could very well be one of the state changes too, I guess. ‘Cause maybe if given a long enough space of time, we would always come back to the atoms and molecules were are at this moment.”
James, with Maria in tow, were heading west to the next portion of the game. Nathan knew the story all too well. He’d played the game more than twenty times. Next they’d head to the Texxon Gas Station to pick up the steel pipe, and then they’d be off to the Bowl-O-Rama, where they’d meet up with that crazy Eddie guy and that weird little girl, Laura.
Alex put the book away.
“What did you do today?”
“Nothing,” He laughed. “I polished off a bag of Doritos.”
There was a faint, muffled sound of knocking somewhere in the apartment.
Suddenly anxious, Alex whispered: “Do you hear something?
Nathan shook his head. There was the unmistakable sound of the Doctor’s TARDIS starting up. Nathan reached over to pick up Alex’s cellphone off the floor to see who was texting him.
“Seth’s outside,” he said, and went back to playing Silent Hill 2.
Alex rose to leave the room and answer the door.
James had reached the Brookhaven Hospital. The Hospital was Nathan’s favourite level in the game. He was glad that they revisited the location in Silent Hill 3. He hadn’t yet played Silent Hill 5: Homecoming, but that was only because he hadn’t been able to afford a Playstation 3.
The bedroom door opened and Alex and Seth both entered. Seth smiled meagrely at Nathan before sitting down on the bed beneath the Pink Floyd poster.
Opening his backpack, Seth began pulling out his product.
Alex drank in how terrible Seth looked. His eyes were puffy and red, granted that was not unusual, but it was the meaning expressed from behind those eyes that told Alex that Seth was freaking out. He was jittery and anxious and glared suspiciously around the room.
Nathan hadn’t yet turned to look at Seth, “About time! How long does it take to climb two flights of stairs?”
Nathan laughed, but Seth replied sedately: “You want what you usually get?”
James examined the typewriter on the table in the dark room and picked up the Purple Bull Key.
“Are you okay?” Alex asked as he watched Seth awkwardly and distractedly load the pipe.
Seth stopped and sighed. Alex noted that Seth’s body looked like it was collapsing in on itself. There was a sense of pity that began to gurgle up inside Alex.
“I’ve been better,” Seth smiled,
James exited the room and entered the grimy hallway, making his way towards the stairwell, to floor 2F.
“The regular, guys?” Seth was already portioning the pot into baggies for them.
Cautious and slightly unnerved by Seth’s mood, Alex asked again: “Are you okay? What’s going on? Is it serious?”
“No it’s . . .” he trailed off, peering off into nothingness. “It’s nothing.”
Nathan paused his game and turns to face Seth.
“Dude, I’m detecting some major negative energy. Just chill for a bit. We have some pizza coming-“
“And we were just about to start Troll 2,” Alex interjected.
“I haven’t seen it.”
“Nathan hasn’t seen it. And look . . . you’ve loaded this wonderful bowl.”
Seth sighed again.
Reservedly, he gave in. “Okay, yah. Yah. Let’s chill.”
Seth’s large plastic bag of pot lay at the base of the bed. Next to it, his backpack was wide open. Alex looked at the backpack and realized that the upper and lower zipper teeth looked like a large gaping maw of some otherworldly creature. He raised his feet up from over the side of the bed and sat in the half lotus position, afraid that the bag might try and bite his exposed feet. He stared into the mouth of the bag and saw the familiar black scale. It kind of looked like a tongue.
There was something else inside, which Alex imagined was the bag monster’s tonsils. He giggled again and then the identity of the object became clear and it made him cough up the smoke he’d been holding in his lungs.
Seth closed the bag and handed the pipe to Alex.
What would he need with-
He calmed, but only slightly, as he realized that it must just be a precaution. After all, drug dealing wasn’t the kind of job you wear a suit and tie to.
They passed around the pipe, each taking a hit before trying to pass it to Seth but every time he would refuse.
Seth, turning down pot?
The anxious feeling was shivering underneath his skin, and he needed to do something to alleviate the horrid sensation.
“You know, I realized something at work today.”
James entered the room labelled “Women’s Locker Room” to pick up the shotgun and the bent needle.
“Speech is really trippy.”
Nathan just snorted, which Alex took to mean: of course you’d think about something like that.
Alex didn’t know whether to be offended or not.
“Why is that?” Nathan asked.
“Because,” Alex sat up excitedly, forgetting all about the bag monster and the tonsil gun. “Speech is just sounds that we group together and a certain amount of people agree as to what the meanings of those sounds are, which is: language.”
“Woah! I never thought of that before,” Nathan said as James headed back down to the first floor where he’d go to the “Men’s Locker Room” and examine the bloody jacket to discover the Examination Room Key.
It was quiet, but Alex could hear Seth talking to himself.
“No, I won’t do it. I can’t do it.”
Alex looked over at Seth in a slightly worried, more confused, manner.
“And that’s why I’ve never understood censorship. That annoying beep that “apparently” masks the meaning of the fucks or the cunts. How is fuck fundamentally different then saying fog. You shape your mouth a little differently. That’s so horrible. And, if language is just the communication of meaning, then that beep is obscene as well since we know that it must be a naughty word or else why would they censor it? The N-word being a phenomenal example of this. News anchors say it all the time on the television. They say N-word and immediately you think it. So they’ve placed that word in your head without having to say it. How is that any different than saying N-Word. You can’t say the N-Word, so you say N-Word which has the exact same meaning as N-Word. People shouldn’t be offended by words. Words are sounds people! You choose to let those words have power. If someone says something with the intent to hurt or maliciously offend you, then that guy is a fucking asshole and isn’t worth your time anyway, ‘cause if you get upset and fly off the handle, he wins.”
“Huh,” Nathan continued playing, “interesting. What do you think, Seth?”
Seth didn’t answer. He was staring forward with a look that greatly unnerved Alex.
“Seth?” Alex asked, leaning forward. “Dude, are you like on some heavy shit or something. You didn’t do a bunch of LSD did you?”
“Huh, what?” Seth shook his head. “No, nothing like that.
“We should probably start the movie, huh?” Alex said.
“Good idea. I’m almost at a save point.”
“Fuck man, I can’t believe you haven’t seen this movie. It’s trippy as hell. This movie really changed my mind about a great many things.”
A worried look erupted on Alex face; an expression equally of profound insight and terrible realization.
“Actually wait,” He could feel his heartbeat racing inside his chest. “Before we start I need to talk to you guys about something. I’ve never told this to anyone, cause I don’t think anyone would believe me. But, I can see the future.”
“Fuck off,” Nathan laughed.
James reached the save point, an ominous red square.
“No, I’m serious. I mean, I don’t think I’m clairvoyant or psychic or whatever, I think it can be explained, I just . . . I can’t. I have these dreams that are incredibly vivid but very mundane, like everyday kind of shit happens. I’ll go to work. I have discussions with customers, my boss will flip out. And then a week later, sometimes only a couple days later, exactly what I dreamed will happen. And I mean down to the same words in a conversation. I mean verbatim. I’ll see customers in my dreams who I know I’ve never met before and then they’ll be in line, I mean right there, in the flesh, in the exact same order in the line that they were in my dream.”
“You do too many drugs buddy,”
“Come on, Nathan. I’m pouring my heart out here,” He looked over to Seth to back him up, but he was still staring blankly into space. “This is really fucking with my head. At first I think it’s Déjà vu, but that’s remembering something that already happened. I know that there’s no way this could’ve happened before. Yet, I remember it. But how am I aware of remembering that I already experienced these events before? It’s like some kinda circle. I remember something that hasn’t happened but when it does happen I’m aware that I can feel myself dreaming. Does that mean I’m a character in an earlier self’s dream? Or, I’ve considered this too, what if there are numerous realities that are all parallel to each other but are disjointed at slightly different spaces in time. Like tons of lanes on a freeway and the cars are going at different speeds. Maybe I’m picking up information while I’m sleeping from a different lane on the highway. But that means that we never really make any choices because everything is predetermined.”
“Well, do you remember this particular conversation?”
Alex sighed; a look of defeat at the sudden realization.
Suddenly, Seth spoke: “What would you do if there were no consequences?
Alex’s eyes began to shake back and forth in his head, and then his whole began to shudder. There was a crescendo of harsh, grating noise and as quickly as the episode had begun, it vanished.
“What?” Neither Seth, nor Nathan had seemed to notice what had happened.
“What do you mean no consequences?” Nathan asked.
“I mean no consequences, or if there were consequences they wouldn’t apply to you.”
Alex though hard about it. “Hmm. Probably drop kick my boss. Throw coffee on some of the customers in Drive-Thru.”
“Would you kill someone?”
“Um, I don’t know,” Nathan laughed. “Probably not. Even if I could get away with it I don’t think I could ever kill someone.”
“Yah, me neither.” Alex agreed.
Seth turned to face them and there was something in his eyes, a deadness, that caused a lump to grow in Alex’s throat.
“No? You’re not at all curious about what it would feel like to snuff out a life. To touch something alive and breathing one moment and cold and lifeless the next?”
“I can’t say that I have.” Nathan laughed. “You’re kidding right?”
In the slight pause that followed, Seth shuddered slightly. His face turned from a serious scowl to a faint, unnerved grin, and then the anxiousness returned. He stood up and began his jittery pacing back and forth from Nathan’s chair to the closet.
He stopped pacing to say: “Yah, I’m just fucking with you.”
He resumed pacing.
“Um . . . let’s watch the movie.”
The warm water flowed around her hair and the down the nape of her neck, sliding down her shoulder blades and rushing down toward the grimy drain at her feet.
She turned off the water and grabbed the towel hanging over the top of the shower.
On her way to the bedroom she passed Steven, sitting at the kitchen table.
“Good morning! Shouldn’t you be at work?” She asked, shaking her wet hair from side to side before putting it up in another towel.
Steven didn’t answer.
Steven didn’t answer.
“Here, Charlie. Where are you sweetie?” She saw him. “How’d you get up there, honey?”
Charlie was laying lethargically on top of the television set.
* * *
Ava Fields couldn’t sense the person following her, nor did she know how closely he’d been tracking her. Ava had met up with her longtime friend, Elizabeth Parkes, at a local restaurant patio on Lakeview Avenue.
“So there haven’t been any signs or anything? No one coming around asking about a missing dog?” Ms. Parkes sipped from her daiquiri.
“No. No one.” Ava’s third beer was empty and was waiting for the waitress to come around and bring her another.
“You know I could ask my husband if he’s heard anything down at the station. Maybe someone there will know something. But from the sounds of it, I think you may have just hit a stray dog.”
“Yah, that’s what Steven said too. But it was still a living thing and I feel awful.”
“You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t,” she gripped Ava’s hand reassuringly. “How’s work going?”
“Eh, it’s pretty standard. Quite busy and only twenty-four hours in a day. But the new campaign is going rather nicely. We have perspective buyers interested from as far away as Japan.”
“Well . . . that’s good,” she feigned a smile. “I’m happy for you.” Ms. Parkes leaned in closer. “You’ve been taking your medication?”
“Elizabeth!” Ava craned her neck around to see if anyone had overheard.
It appeared no one had.
“I’m just concerned, is all.” Ms. Parkes raised her hands in defeat.
“Well, you don’t need to be. I’m taking them.”
“Well, that’s good. How are Steven and Charlie?”
“They’re good. Steven’s getting a promotion and I took Charlie to the groomers last week. He didn’t like that very much.”
* * *
Between the patio and the apartment, it had begun to rain. Ava had grabbed a free copy of the Metro from the kiosk on the sidewalk, and used to as an umbrella as she raced back to the apartment building.
The little girl was no longer on the steps.
She fumbled with her keys to fish out her keys and unlock the lobby doors with only one hand. She finally gave up and dropped the soggy paper to use both hands. But just as she was about to insert the key, the front door opened.
A woman she didn’t recognize stepped past her walked out into the rain.
Ava entered the building and saw that the elevator doors were open, but they were beginning to close.
“Hold the elevator,” she called, and immediately the doors stopped closing and pulled back to reveal the gentleman from 501 staring at her. This time he wasn’t nearly as bubbly and positive. In fact, he looked rather frightened.
“Hi,” he said as the doors closed.
She just nodded.
She could feel his eyes on her, surveying her. There was a thick awkward silence, which caused Ava to cough nervously. She’d never remembered the elevator to move so slowly before. She adjusted her clothes anxiously, still feeling the man’s eyes on her. She looked at her watch.
The elevator doors opened and Ava hurried out toward her apartment. The man from 501’s stare followed closely behind her.
She had her key ready for when she reached the door and was quickly inside. Before she could even take her shoes off, there was a knock at the door.
Reluctantly, she opened the door, making sure that the chain was still safely secured.
Sure enough, it was the man from 501.
“Um,” he looked intensely confused. “Okay,this may sound weird, but . . . are you okay?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”
“Yah, yah, I mean, of course,” he nodded his head as though he agreed that whatever he was thinking was a crazy, even though Ava had no idea what he was going on about.
“See, the thing is,” he paused to suck in a breath of air. “There’s was a cop asking about you. He showed me a picture and . . .”
“And what?” She was beyond exasperated. She was seriously contemplating slamming the door on his nose.
“Well, he said you were dead?”
“Well, I’m obviously not.”
“Yah, I know!”
“Are you stoned?”
The man from 501 looked at her like he was really thinking hard about it.
Ava closed the door on him and locked the deadbolt. She finished taking off her wet shoes and went to find a towel to dry her hair.
“Steven, I’m home.”
Steven didn’t answer.
The whole apartment was dark except for a few rays of dusty light streaming in from the gap between the blinds and the window pane.
“Charlie? Here Charlie! Where are you, sweetie?”
As she moved into the kitchen she saw Steven. He was sitting motionless at the table.
“Steven? Is something wrong?” As she moved closer Steven continued to stare forward, blankly.
A gloved hand reached out to cover her mouth with a piece of white cloth. She flailed around in the intruder’s grasp, attempting to scream, but the hand over her mouth muffled most of the noise.
She cried out for her husband but and reached out her slender fingers desperately for him but he sat still, motionless, staring forward.
Her vision becomes blurred and her throat became tight. Her mind exploded in anxious hysteria as she found herself feeling weaker and the darkness growing at the corners of her eyes began to overtake her vision.