He looks over and sees the sleek and flawless body next to him. The sheets partially covering the perfect ass and legs. He looks at the blond hair lose along the pillows covering delicate shoulders obscuring the gorgeous face. He smiles. What did he do to deserve such a wonderful woman? The light shimmers along her perfect skin as she shifts and mumbles slightly in her sleep. He hears her breathing and he feels a huge shudder of love.
John Isphus gets out of bed and steps quietly around the room trying not to wake his girlfriend Shannon up. She works hard and today is her day off he thinks. She is such a wonderful girl who gives so much to friends and family. The least he can do is let her sleep in.
In the bathroom he performs his morning rituals. He brushes his teeth, gagging in the mirror. Washes his face, goes to the bathroom, and applies deodorant. He’s ready for another day of high adventure at Goodman & Eblis Law partners.
He smells the smell of freshly brewed coffee. The pricetag on this coffeemaker was more then most people make a week, but damn did it make a perfect cup of joe.
One thing John doesn’t skimp on is quality. His condo’s the best in the upper class neighborhood of Brentwood. His m60 BMW coupe doesn’t just get him to work, he gets to work in serious style. His girlfriend is not only beautiful but practically an angel. His friends are gregarious but close, and they’ll stand next to him no matter what. His bank account is in the 6 digits. His parents are happy and healthy living in San Jose.
No matter which way you slice it, life is perfect for John. The best of all possible worlds.
As he drinks his coffee John hears the clicks on the floor from his dog’s paws. If a dog is man’s best friend, Shuck the black retriever is his.
“Good morning fuzz butt.” John says as he scratches under Shuck’s chin. Shucks tail could hammer nails with the intensity of it’s wagging.
“Good morning to you too.” He hears from the doorway to the kitchen. Standing in the morning’s golden rays is Shannon, wearing only one of his button up shirts. She’s stifling a yawn as she runs a hand through her blond hair.
“Good morning to you too hun.” he says as he smiles. Damn she’s hot, he thinks. Even freshly awake without primping. “I thought you were going to wake me up? Today’s the big day after all.” she says as she walks over to him and sits on his lap. She kisses him.
John is up for his review at the firm today. All indications have been that it’s going to be stellar. He’s primed for big things he’s told by everyone in the know.
“I didn’t want to wake you. I was just going to slip out and call you a little later.” he says as he looks straight into her blue eyes. “You need you beauty sleep after all...” He smiles. She returns the smile. “Dick.” She says and kisses him again.
- - - -
Nick is waiting for John as he pulls up outside of his house. Nick is Johns friend from way back when, before Goodman & Eblis, before USC, before Loyola. Half of the fun every morning is the ball busting that results in the car ride, listening to Howard and generally goofing off. The 405 freeway can be a parking lot for most of the daily transit, but the time still seems to fly by with Nick.
John pulls his gleaming red Beemer into his personalized parking spot and kills the engine. “Man, aren’t you nervous?” Nick asks. “Not at all. I have it on good authority that my review is golden. Soon you may even be calling me boss.” John replies.
“Yeah, that’ll be the day.” Nick says and smiles. They walk towards towards the courtyard as professionals zip back and forth. As John and Nick walk, John looks up and sees the large corporate sculpture that adjourns the reflecting pool in the middle of the courtyard. It’s a large copper looking ball suspended over a dark marble triangle that’s about 15 feet tall. It’s one of those things he takes for granted.
Yet today he notices something that makes him stop. Mid laugh Nick asks “What’s wrong?” John murmurs “Hmmm... nothing.” as he steps a couple of steps closer. He looks at the marble base of the sculpture. There’s a chip in the otherwise perfect surface. A chip he’s never seen before. Now that’s he’s looking closer he can now see the spider leg like cracks emanating from the damage. The world starts to grey out as his attention is firmly held in place on the crack. He can’t hear the birds or the bustling crowd and his line of vision is slowly being sucked into the crack. He feels an almost physical pull from it as the sound of his breathing is all he hears. Is this recent? He thinks, perplexed. Funny how you never see the little blemishes in life. They should fix it. They should...
“John? Hey John? Earth to John? You OK there buddy?” Nick asks.
“Yeah, yeah...strange.” John says blinking back into reality. “Sorry, I just kinda tripped out there.”
- - - -
The meeting room for his 3:00 that John walked into was adjourned with photos of the owners of the company and a large window that curved around showing the courtyard outside. John took his chair and pulled it out and sat. Across the table sat two men, one is Old Man Goodman and the other is Old Man Ellis, the heads of the firm. They have folders in their hands and smile. This is gonna be a massacre, John thinks as he smiles back.
“So John, let’s get down to business... the purpose here this afternoon is to go over your job performance for the last 6 months. We’re really proud of your abilities and your leadership as of late. You’ve come in to your own and made the job yours.” Old Man Goodman starts of...
John nods his head, appearing to be humble but not too humble. That’s when he looks past the two men, past the window behind them and into the courtyard. The Corporate sculpture he noticed today. Time seems to slow down as his eyes focus on the piece with hungry eyes, taking in every nuance of the object. After what seems like an eternity he notices it again. The crack. The blemish, the imperfection. It was like he wasn’t in the meeting room anymore. He felt right next to the thing. He feels like he could reach out and touch it.
He hears his name called off in the distance. What is that? He doesn't care. The only thing that really matters in the world right now is this crack. He doesn't know why. It’s an abhorrent thing. He feels tendrils of revulsion reach from inside the crack and draw him in. He looks closer and closer... his mind drifting...
John’s eyes snap open. The two men are now standing and looking at him, jaws slack with barely stifled anger. “What the hell’s wrong with you?” Old Man Ellis coughs out redfaced.
“I... I... dunno.” John replies. He’s looking around now. He notices the time. It’s 3:16! Sixteen minutes!?! It felt like a second or two!
“How... dare... you!” Old Man Ellis barely sputters out. “Who do you think you’re talking to, you little prick?”
“What did I say!?!” John says as he struggles to find mental footing.
Old Man Goodman adjusts his glasses shakily. “You seemed to go into some trance. You then said things... things...” He shook his head, pained.
“You’re done here.” Ellis says point blank. The words cut through John like bullets. “Get your stuff and leave.”
- - - -
“I don’t know what happened.” John says as he drives.
“What? Did you psyche-out or something? You had it in the bag!” Nick replies incredulous. “I’m really sorry man... that’s really weird. At least it’s an early day for me today.” The joke doesn’t lighten the situation any.
What should he tell Nick? John thinks. That he was thinking about the crack on some useless Corporate sculpture? That time seemed to draw out and he has no memory of what he said. They wouldn’t even tell him. But it must have been reprehensible... downright evil. Why did he trip out again on the stupid crack?
In his minds eye he sees it again. The crack. Only about two inches tall. Did someone bump into it? Was it vandalism? He imagines himself standing next to the object in the water but he’s not wet he notices. He feels as slight shudder and hears distance thunder but he doesn’t care. He realizes that he’s holding a roundish ceramic bowl in his hands. What should he do with this bowl? He dips the bowl in the water and lifts it up and splashes his face and takes a drink.
Even though he’s looking at the bowl, he blinks his eyes. Durning the time of the blink he sees smoke and his hearing kicks in. The air is filled with sirens. He opens his eyes again and he sees the sculpture. The sirens are quiet now. Blink. Blink. Blink.
John sits in his now totaled car. The sounds of complete chaos hill the air as he now smells rubber and engine fluids. He hears police radios and through the smoke he sees colored lights strobing. He looks to his right.
A blue Mazda is up-ended over the passenger side of the car. He’s looking up at the headlights that point up to heaven. He’s glad Nick isn’t in the seat. It’s too small of an area for him to fit into.
Then he sees the arm. He follows it up to a twisted pile of flesh and fabric that’s wringing wet with blood. He feels a stickiness on his face and tastes copper. His mouth is still full from the water. He spits out a gout of gory thick blood down the front of his shirt and lap. He looks down and as sees about a fourth of Nicks head looking back at him in his hands. One unblinking eye and the upper left part of Nicks head is all he can make out. He feels his fingers dig into the tattered biological material behind the mask that was once his friend and he vomits.
- - - -
“Honey? Are you all right?” John hears as his mind reels back in like a fishing line. He’s sitting on his bed and he remembers what happened. The doctors gave him a clean bill of health and he had left the hospital post haste. He had given his statement and cleaned up. He hadn’t mentioned the daydream to the doctors. He left that little part out. He still felt sticky and the taste in his mouth... best not to think about it otherwise he’d throw up again.
He looked at the door drunkenly. Shannon had come home immediately from her parents house to keep an eye on him. She was strong and maternal. That was exactly what he needed right now.
“Hey hun... sorry... I was a million miles away.” He said with a dry chuckle. She walked across the room and sat down next to him and put her hand on his and held it.
“When you want to talk I’ll be here.” She said looking deep into his eyes. As she said it she squeezed his hand firmly when she said “talk”, “I’ll”, and “here”. She looked away. That’s when he realized that she was not telling him something.
“What is it? I’m fine...” He started.
“Honey... I...” she started. She dropped his hand and started wringing hers. “I think you may be in trouble. Some witnesses say that you swerved into oncoming traffic right before the accident. A policeman told me that you shouldn’t go too far away for a while. I think they’re putting together a case against you.” She said flatly and to the point. He was dumbstruck.
“It was an accident! I didn’t... I mean I...” What could he say? That he had some weird spell and came too a couple of seconds after a horrific accident that he had caused? He felt his stomach drop out as an overwhelming dread seemed to creep up his spine.
First he lost his job, then his best friend being horribly killed, and now this? he put his head in his hands. Everything had been so great. And in the course of a couple of days it had been blown to hell.
He felt the sounds in the room start to fade into the back of his head. Oh no, not again he thought. He didn’t want to look, didn’t want to see the world change again around his consciousness. Every time it did it ended with the destruction of another part of his life. Off in the distance he could hear the sound of ethereal music. Quiet at first but growing...
He hazarded a look up between his fingers. The room was gone and a thin white mist filled the air. As he focused in the distance he could sense a spot of some kind of origin, where reality met and converged. All at once the feeling like a reversal of gravity occurred where instead of pulling him down it was pulling him forward. His feet left the ground as he rocketed forward, beyond terminal velocity, faster then he’s ever gone.
And there it was. The crack. It seemed like it wasn’t just a physical crack, it felt like a crack in the world. A crack to another world where only bad, cancerous things existed on the other side shrouded in wet darkness. But the crack was more... it was also desire and the forbidden. Ashamedly he felt his body react to that thought. Anger flooded him as he reached for it, and started to claw like a wild animal, tearing into it with insane abandon. Anger, terror and passion fueled him into a frenzy of violence. He had to destroy it. He fought like a man possessed.
As he flailed madly he could feel a presence of... something... watching him. It felt like someone was right behind him about three feet away over his right shoulder. He whirled around and saw nothing. He was now positive that he was alone.
There was a loud boom and the world was falling. The mist started to sweep around his feet as everything got swallowed in a deep blackness. He plummeted...
- - - -
Slowly he came to. His first conscious thought was how his head hurt and his arms were sore. It was like waking up with a hangover after a fight. He slowly focused on his arms.
Cuts crisscrossed his forearms and hands. Really deep cuts it turns out. The blood still slowly leaked out when he moved them and the skin shifted. Horror seized him. “Oh my God! Shannon!” he thought and looked around the room.
The room was chaos incarnate. A wild animal had torn through here. The furniture was overturned and there was blood and other liquids everywhere. The walls had impact marks from flying debris. The mirrors, cracked. “Where was Shannon?” he thought. He stood up and walked to the doorway, legs weak and arms hurting. He prepared himself for the worse.
He saw her in the hallway, laying there belly down. She didn’t look real. She looked like a mannequin that had been destroyed in a storm. Her limbs were twisted in impossible angles with broken bones jutting out like bloody spears. Her neck was craned around so she was looking up into the air. One of her eyes was a hollowed socked. Her mouth, frozen in a silent scream, a mouth which was missing most of its teeth. When he looked closer he could find a couple of teeth in her bloody matted hair. She wasn’t just dead. She was trampled. In her right hand she held a bloodied butcher knife.
His arms, he realized... the wounds on them from where she had tried to fight him off.
Now in his dim memory he could see her screaming as he hit her with clawed hands. He held his head trying to force the memories off. Why was he remembering this now? Every gory wound that he delivered as his anger reached a climax. Now he was kicking her prone body, feeling bone and tissue give way to fury.
He threw up again soiling himself and stumbled backwards. He fell against the wall and slid down slowly. A stifled sob escaping his mouth. He put his head in his hands and started crying, first quietly then hard and loud.
There was a loud and rapid series of knocks on the door. “Police! Open up!” came booming from behind the door with authority. “Open up now!”
John looked down the hallway past his ruined life towards the front door. His red eyes ached. He sensed a dark shape coming around a corner. It was Shuck. The dog was walking towards him in the gloom of the hallway. The sounds of the police trying to get in was lost to the click clack of the dogs nails on the floor. Shuck had something in his mouth.
It was John’s Smith and Wesson .357 revolver.
Shuck dropped the gun into Johns lap and sat there and licked his chops. He looked at John, the gun and then John again. John grabbed the gun and held it shakily. Shuck’s brown eyes were locked on Johns. John instead looked down the barrel.
The door exploded with a kick followed by careful footsteps. Shuck looked down the hallway and then back to John.
“Hell’s in the details...” Shuck said to John.
John’s mind now snapped. He giggled girlishly as he put the gun in his mouth.
“WAIT! STOP!” One of the officers yelled.
He pulled the trigger. It felt like a mule kicked him in the mouth. Blood exploded from his nose and mouth as the contents of his head emptied upwards all over the wall behind him. His eyes went dull as he fell over, gore draining from his mouth. The smoking blasted flower of his head fell limply sideways, smacking the floor with a slap.
- - - -
The grogginess this morning was like a sheen of milk in his eyes. His head feels like it’s filled with wet cotton. Tylenol PM last night? That stuff ALWAYS puts him under too deep, a deep sleep that’s always almost impossible to climb up out of. But sometimes you need to get a good nights sleep.
He looked over and saw his beautiful girlfriend in the bed next to him. She slept quietly and looked like a beautiful blond angel. John smiled and looked over and saw his furry pal Shuck, who was looking at John from the hallway, tail wagging with contentment.
No matter which way you slice it, life is perfect for John. The best of all possible worlds.