The Halloween Project Day 11: Magnetic Personality
Not really science fiction, not really science at all, this little piece is just a metaphor for all the quirky things that exist in the world. Things that are real but we can’t see. Things like radiation, magnetism, electricity, gamma rays, DNA, electrons and neutrinos, black holes, radio waves, ultraviolet light, gravity, and how about good old emotions and air.
It began quietly and simply enough. Simon, walking the dog on a brisk and colorful October afternoon, sun throwing amber streaks through the sky, passed by a car and the lights flashed the alarm, horn shouting one brief, staccato report. Maxie, his young and frisky terrier jumped and Simon stopped. He looked at the car with an amused suspicion. No one occupied the vehicle. It was nondescript, a gunmetal blue Volkswagen Jetta, parked calm and appropriately outside a cute colonial a few blocks from his house. He waited and nothing else happened. At the corner, when he made the turn onto Juniper Lane the car barked and flashed once again.
Over the next few days, the electricity in his small bungalow, perfectly adequate for his needs, took on new meaning, along with its own mind. Upon entering the house and turning on any light, within 30 seconds a slight surge would occur with the light glowing just that much more and then dimming a bit and staying a notch duller than he remembered. By the end of the week the television turned itself on, whenever it felt the need to be seen. Often at 2:15, or 3:41 or 4:27 A.M. He would be awakened in his bedroom by the sound of infomercials selling the 11 Blade Miracle Knife Set or how to earn $10,000 a month flipping mobile homes. Maxie would jump from the bed, park herself in front of the television and watch, transfixed.
Tuesday morning the microwave would simply not go on. He checked the plug, the socket, even the circuit breaker. “Damn,” Simon said to Maxie, “Guess we’ll have to get a new one.”
The following Thursday when he was out for a jog, Simon had long ago stopped calling his jaunts around the neighborhood anything near a “run”, his Fitbit dropped off the map and died. On this particular day, three car alarms went off, blaring, discordant and disturbing. He started to wonder what exactly the hell was going on. A week later as he plodded down the various lefts and rights of his neighborhood each streetlight beamed on for his passing, and darkened once he had moved beyond. Some days absolutely nothing occurred, electronic or otherwise. Working at home as a remote computer tech, allowed him to ply his trade at all hours, but his computers starting acting wonky, coming and going at will. Simon would swear under his breath.
A few days later, he drove downtown, car still working fine, for the usual array of errands, dinner and a couple hours at his favorite pub to watch a baseball playoff game. The day proved to be a watershed, of difficulty, and partial disaster.
He first went to his bank to make a few deposits and walked directly into the automatic doors which did not open. Smacking his face against the glass, he doubled over holding his nose with the fervent hope that it wasn’t bleeding. A kindly woman, 20 years his senior, came quickly over and asked, “Are you alright, sir?”
The door opened on a cushion of silent, seamless air. Simon squeezed his nose at the peak and looked, hard and determined at the door.
“I’m fine, thank you,” he replied, sounding a bit submerged while holding his nose. He waited until the woman had moved off, sometimes glancing back, and waited for the door to shut. Then he stepped forward. It failed to open. He tried again. It opened halfway then abruptly shut almost catching Simon again. He retreated further. A young lady with a child in tow walked briskly past him, doors parting like a biblical scene and marched into the bank. Simon waited again then tried. He got within an inch, the door partially parted and he leaped into the bank. Several customers and at least two tellers were eyeing him with a look caught between interest and suspicion. He waited in line, trying inconspicuously to hold his nose until he was sure that there would be no nosebleed.
“How may I help you today, sir?” a bright young teller asked.
“I’d liked to cash a few checks…Maddie,” as he read her nametag.
Her face brightened, “Please run your card,” she asked, even more politely than before.
He did. Nothing happened.
“Is it a chip, sir?”
Simon glanced at it, “Yes, of course it is.”
“Then just insert it, please.”
Simon did exactly as asked, immediately.
The scanner burped in an electronic way and burst into smoldering fingerlets of fire. Maddie launched a quick subdued scream and within seconds another teller was spraying the small machine with copious amounts of foam, obviously enjoying his task.
Simon left abruptly, leaving his melted and singed bank card. The sliding door had opened.
“Holy crap, I need a drink!” he announced to himself, resolutely striding across the street and down a half block to Bluestone, a local watering hole, always crammed with friendly faces, committed fans, and enough televisions hung high so nearly every seat had a good sight line.
He entered and waved hello to the bartender, Sam, and another couple of guys at the far end of the bar. He took a seat, ordered a gin and tonic, “Bombay Sapphire,” he reminded Sam. He looked up and was happy to notice that the Cubs were winning 3-2 in the fifth inning. Then the first television sputtered an electronic pulse and flattened to gray. “Damn!” an elderly man sitting to his left exclaimed. Everyone at that end of the bar turned to look at the television centered in the middle over the old school cash register that Sam loved just in time to see that picture fade away and die.
“What the hell!” came from more than one mouth.
“Must be the satellite feed,” Sam declared, “All the other lights are fine,” and with that statement every television and light in the joint, blinked cheerily, and went dark.
Sam turned, first left then right, “Son of a bitch!” he yelled, but no one was sure whether he was complaining about the lights or the pain in his chest as he grasped his left arm, grunting and falling to his knees.
“Holy Christ! Somebody call 911! Sam’s got a pacemaker!”
Erick spit a mouthful of gin and tonic across the bar where he sat. Bluestone closed in around him and he thought he might experience a first, actually passing out on a bar top. Moving quickly, he stepped to the door, out onto the street and turned toward the parking lot.
His car would not start.
He walked briskly back to his house, passing through a large park with children playing. He passed neighborhoods where parents raked leaves so youngsters could jump into them, exploding the piles, so parents could rake them once again. His mind raced and found no direction. “Clearly,” he muttered aloud, “It’s me. Something is wrong with me. I gotta go to a doctor. Or maybe the hospital. What is wrong with me? I feel O.K. I don’t feel sick. I don’t feel any different at all. But it’s got to be me. There are just too many weird things going on here. Sam! Oh man, what did I do to Sam!?”
He got home and in quick succession had three gin and tonics, wrapped around some cheese and crackers. When he reached into the silverware drawer to retrieve a knife all the utensils; forks, knives and spoons, rattled a crazy dance in the drawer. The butcher block knives resembling some sharpened calliope, rose an inch, and dropped, rose an inch and dropped, almost waving to him as he made his drinks.
He went to his bedroom and collapsed vowing to go to the doctor, or even the hospital, in the morning. Maxie came into the room but did not jump on the bed as usual.
In the morning, with the first light just creasing through his bedroom window, Erick awoke foggy and groggy with a nice tight headache right above his left eye.
He quickly noticed he was not in bed. He was floating, pinned against the ceiling of his bedroom.