Notorious Homophobes and Christian Values expounders Chick-fil-A were an unknown quantity to me when I first visited Virginia in 1999. I had never seen their “Eet mor Chikin” signs nor even ventured inside one of them; and I may never ever if things continue on path. I’ll remember Virginia for it’s temperate November, it’s hard to find liquor store and sinking me back into the morass of comics that I had abandoned not 2 years earlier.
It turn the book over and over in my hands, having stopped reading on page 35 and just remembering the rest of the book as it unfolded.
The pages are yellowed and stained; the cover is soft and yields. It is not the crisp, bright paperback it once was when it lived in my knapsack and traveled around with me on the bus and in my trunk. I smells like a library now, not like calvin kleins ‘Eternity’ and its two partners are in no better shape when I pass them on the shelves. They look out at me as I move around the room and place this volume down on my desk.
In the early 90s a friend of a friend who had read these books once related them to us (the nerds that we were playing ‘Shadowrun’ in the private playpen,loft that head been built in the backyard of Andrews house) as an “adventure”. We weren’t the characters in the book; so when faced with the same choices and the same scenarios, we didn’t sublimate the authors intent. We couldn’t absorb the flow of it via osmosis, so we couldn’t follow the story of a mad artificial intelligence and the girl who could surf the net with her mind. We just wanted to kill bad guys and make money so our characters could be cooler and more wealthy than we could ever be. So we didn’t really meet Bobby or his Voodoo girlfriend. Slamhounds came, went and were disposed of.
So here I am; staring into the pages again, the first volume back on the shelf. Waiting for me to come around again once the Matrix becomes self aware and I can consign it all to memory again.
The building shaddered in time with the sounds that woke the sleeping people huddled throughout the Feldex building. Thumping and bass-rich blows pounded the whole structure. When the people in the shaken offices looked outside, they could see buildings collapsing around them. Skyscrapers that had dominated the skyline were falling all around the Feldex building, scorched buildings gave up their skeletons and fell upon the streets. Dust and debris flowed through the streets now like angry crowds, blanketing them in brown, choking demise.
Janice had found Frank overnight; he was curled up in an empty office and had slept through the horrifying night. The corpses on the balcony had given up slamming themselves into the windows and doors and simply dived off of the edge of the building into the waiting streets.
The office was quiet now save for the noise of the Office buildings of Saint Paul dying as surely has the people that had occupied them had.
Security Chief Mike Pendegras came on to the PA:
“Ladies and Gentlemen; this is the security Chief. Our building is in no danger of falling. We have not suffered the damage that the fallen buildings have. We are intact and remain secure. We caution you again to remain in your offices and to report any activity that seems threatening or dangerous.”
After he clicked off the PA, Mike Pendegrass exhaled and tried to slump into his chair. His teams had swepth the building for any more “Zombies” and locked the main staircase tight. Nothing from the 25th floor or above was going to come down that way again; no one would be going up again either.
Chief Pendegras had received a call from his dead father overnight; he had thought it was a dream at first; but some of his team had received calls from their relatives too. Chief Pendegras wasn’t one to accept the supernatural; but his faith in the solidity of his convictions had been sorely tempted.
“Chief!, Chief! There is an APC outside of the building!” it was one of the new kids up on 13. “Chief, do you get me?”
“I get ya kid, where is it? Over”
“Chief, it’s right outside the front entrance, it’s got a scoop up front like a bulldozer, it pushed through like a snow plow! Chief, there is a sign painted on the top: 555-573-7878”
The Chief recognized a cell-phone number when he heard one; “OKay kid. Keep an eye on it. Chief out”
Chief Pendegrass picked up his cell phone and dialed the number:
“Hello, Disaster recovery. Were are you calling from?”
“This is Security Chief Mike Pendegras. Before I tell you where I am; tell me who you are.”
“Sir, I am a coordinator from a former Fema Unit stationed in Saint Paul. I am tasked with coordinating the APCs we have on hand to retrieve survivors and send them back through to Earth”
“So, the scientist on the phones was real?”
“Yes sir. Where are you?”
“I’m not sure about all of this; some strange shit is going down here Ma’am. Can you have the APC’s around the city flash some kind of friendly si..”
Outside the building, Mike Pendegras heard the thunder of a belt-fed machine gun firing.
“Chief! The soldiers in the APC, they are shooting at people in the street! Holy Shit! The people, they are getting back up and running at the APC! FUCK! The soldier on the tank blew their heads off.”
“OKay Kid, I got you. Over”
“Listen Fema Lady. What is going on here?”
“I thought that the communication last night was clear. We are on an extrasolar planet and we are sending people home as fast as we can.”
“My phone was OFF when that call came in”
“Sir, If I may be frank. If you don’t think we have the technology to turn phones on remotely, you haven’t been watching enough movies. Let me be clear, a scientist teleported a massive section of Saint Paul to another planet, turning on cell phones remotely is within our scope”
“Fair enough Ma’am. How, precisely do we decide who goes back in that APC outside?”
“You have an APC nearby? Excellent! What number is it”
“Kid, 13. What number is on that APC?”
“Ma’am, the APC outside is labelled NG-101”
“Thank-you Mr. Pendegrass, please send out 10 people to meet the APC and be transported to our holding facility. We will send a bus out for the rest as soon as we have up-armored enough of them for the trip. Send only the people who could defend themselves in a fight sir, they may need to leave the APC and proceed on foot.”
“I’ll send some people out in 30 minutes”
“Thank-you Mr. Pendegrass. Wil you be joining them?”
“No Ma’am, I’ll ride security until we have this building empty.”
“Alright Sir, please keep in mind that we are not sure how long we can keep sending people home”
Mike Pendegrass thought about this for a while before responding.
“You keep the door open; we’ll get people home and I’ll get home in time to complain to your superior about your flippant attitude during a crisis”
Chief Pendegras could feel the woman on the end of the line smile.
“It’s a date sir”
Chief Pendegrass flipped his phone closed and turned on the PA.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I need 10 volunteers who have either combat experience or combat training. Make your presence known to the security team on your floor and we will escort your to the main lobby. Thank-you for your cooperation”
Almost instantaneously, his radio lit up “Chief, what the fuck? Are we recruiting deputies?”
“Guys, this is the chief. We are recruiting some people to run Pony Express, escort people to the main lobby and then return to your posts. We’re going to round up ten people to make a run to the Fema center and head for home; if they make it, we’ll send more. The rest WILL be deputized.”
A chorus of, ‘okay chief, got it’ sounded back. Chief Pendegrass was left to think about the voice on his phone and the prospect of leaving on the APC outside.
The office shuddered with the impacts of sodden arms and bodies. Fleshy demons slammed against the glassy doors and windows that led to the balcony. Men and women franticly piled as much office furniture and cube building material against as they could, attempting to blockade the office against the bloody fiends outside. Panic and fear cemented into determination and bravery.
“Folks; as long as we keep watch and fortify the windows and doors, those things aren’t getting in!” in the gloom, no one knew for sure who was speaking. “We keep them out there until morning and then, when we can see, we figure out how to deal with them, alright?”
Mutters of agreement came from the people near the window. Deeper in the gloom of the office people were milling around each other, unsure what to do next.
All through the night, the thudding continued, slowly becoming more urgent and frightening as the ghouls wore away the flesh from their bones, slamming themselves into goo on the windows, smearing their humanity into nothing. For hours they fell upon the glassy facade of the office, never ceasing, never taking a break.
The people in the office alternated between hugging each other for comfort and steely resolve against the unknown terrors outside.
In offices around the building, fires had broken out and more of the monsters that were thrashing themselves upon the Fledex building could be seen roaming the offices and streets in the smoky gloom below. The people who now huddled in the Feldex building looked out into an alien world with a small chunk of Minnesota slammed into it waiting for an alien sky to light the dawn.
At approximately 3 am some of the phones in the building began to light up and ring; as if by magic.
Janice’s phone rang with the familiar tone for her mother; “Janice! Janice! My God! I can’t believe that you are alright! Where have you been? I’ve been calling for hours!”
“Mom? Oh my God. Mom, Don’t hang up!”
The celebrations inside of the office whipped the ghouls on the balcony into a frenzy, they surged as one at the window bone slamming glass and metal as one mass, a crack began to form in the glass of one of the doors. The hideous tattoo of bone on glass was finally moving the glass.
“Mom, please. Just tell me what is going on in Saint. Paul?”
“Janice, they are saying that there was some kind of explosion or something, it turned some of Saint Paul into dirt and sand! Janice, where are you?”
“Mom, I’m at work. All of us are. We’re not in Saint Paul anymore. We don’t know where we are. It’s night and we’re scared. The phones stopped working hours ago and now they are working again. If I get cut off again, I want to tell you that I love you mom, tell Dad that I love him too, okay?” Janice sniffed, she could hear the same sort of affirmations going on all around her, people whispering and yelling their love to people at the other end of what was an infinite gulf. “Mom, I love you.”
“IF YOU CAN HEAR ME, SAY YES” a voice boomed from every cell phone in the office. “PLEASE, IF YOU CAN HEAR ME, SAY YES“
A scattered few yelled yes into their phones.
“I HEARD YOUR REPLY, THANK YOU. I AM BROADCASTING USING THIS CELL TOWER THAT I HAVE HOOKED UP AND POWERED UP. MY NAME IS NOT IMPORTANT. PLEASE DON’T TRY TO SPEAK OVER ME, IT MAKES IT DIFFICULT FOR ME TO TELL YOU THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION. WE ARE NOT ON EARTH, WE ARE ON A PLANET SOMEWHERE REMOVED FROM EARTH. OUR BEST UNDERSTANDING OF THE STARS THAT ARE VISIBLE PUTS US SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE MILKY WAY AS WE CAN OBSERVE THE MILKY WAY IN ITS ENTIRETY THE SOUTHERN SKY. WE HAVE OPENED LINES OF COMMUNICATION WITH THE EARTH VIA THE SAME TECHNOLOGY THAT HAS TAKEN A PORTION OF SAINT PAUL TO THIS PLANET. AS LONG AS WE HAVE THE MEANS TO POWER IT, WE CAN SPEAK WITH PEOPLE ON EARTH. THE GATE REMAINS OPEN. WE WILL BE SENDING PEOPLE IN SMALL GROUPS BACK THROUGH THE GATE FOR AS LONG AS WE CAN ALONG WITH AN UPLOAD OF ALL OUR NOTES AND RESEARCH SUCH THAT PERSONS ON EARTH COULD ATTEMPT TO REPRODUCE OUR EXPERIMENT AND RETURN SAINT PAUL. PLEASE DON’T INTERRUPT! I AM NOT FINISHED. NO WE CANNOT RETRIEVE ITEMS FROM EARTH, WE CANNOT DETERMINE WHY ENERGY IS ABLE TO CROSS IN BOTH DIRECTIONS BUT NOT MATTER. ATTEMPTS TO CROSS THE GATE FROM EARTH HAVE BEEN MET WITH FAILURE AND NO FURTHER ATTEMPTS WILL BE MADE. PLEASE APPOINT A SPOKESPERSON FROM EACH GROUP AND COMMUNICATE THEIR NAME AND CELL NUMBER VIA TEXT MESSAGE TO THIS NUMBER 444-231-8899. WE HAVE AN ARMORED VEHICLE AS WELL AS SECURITY PERSONNEL WAITING TO RETRIEVE YOU. DO NOT LEAVE ANY SECURED AREA AS THE REVENANTS OUTSIDE WILL ATTEMPT TO DEVOUR OR KILL YOU. THERE ALSO APPEAR TO BE NATIVES MASSING AT THE EDGE OF THE TRANSPORT ZONE WE DO NOT KNOW THEIR INTENT AND WOULD RECOMMEND THAT ANY CONTACT BE AVOIDED. WE WILL AWAIT COMMUNICATION FROM YOU. THAT IS ALL”
“Janice… Janice, are you there?” Janice’s mother was there again.
“Mom, I think we were caught in some sort of experiment gone wrong, from the sounds of things it was a military thing.”
“Janice, what are you talking about?”
“Mom, there was a voice, it told us to sit tight and that we would be picked up by an armored vehicle”
“Janice, you’re in Hell”
“Hell Janice. You’re being punished for your wicked ways. You lost your virginity and now God wants you dead Janice.”
“Mom, what are you saying?” Janice sobbed, “why are you doing this?”
“Wake up and smell the roses Janice. You’re damned for all eternity!”
The phone went dead again and Janie slumped against a wall and slid down, crying into the crook of her arm. People all over the office were wailing and screaming at the phones.
All of the phones in the office leapt to life at once, ringing with the same tone. People tossed them away as if they were on fire.
The pounding and cracking noises from the balcony filled the darkness as the phones died again.
“What just happened?” someone asked into the dark, “did everyone just have the same phone call? Did your boyfriends just tell you that you were going to hell?”
“Yeah, my Dad just called me a slut and told me that I was gonna burn forever” a voice near the door replied.
“Fuck me, my Grandma just called me a sinner and told me that the devil was going to eat my eyes, I’ve just realized, she’s been dead for 15 years!”
Janice stood up and turned her phone back on. It had been off the whole time.
It was 6AM.
When the suns finally fell beyond the horizon, Saint Paul was dark except for the emergency lights of the buildings and the lights of cars gridlocked on the streets. In the Feldex Building, Janice McMurray and Frank James stared down into the deepening gloom below the building, trying to ignore the fights and recriminations that were happening behind them in the office.
“It’s looking crazy down there, did you see the crash along there?” Frank rubbed his head against the warm glass and stared down the streets. The dull glow that would normally accompany an evening was an inky blackness punctuated by the twinkling lights of he emergency lights and cars; it was chaos in the streets though. He could see fires and panic below.
Janice stood up and walked out of the offices, past the scuffles in the common area and walked out onto the balcony area looking down into the city. Standing in the winds; she could smell the smoke and fires out in the city, she could hear the honking and crashing and sonic violence of a city in panic. There were sirens and bullhorns bleating all around her; but over it all, there were screams and moans.
In the streets below, in the lights of the cars; Janice could see what looked like a battle; the writhing and scattering bodies of people clashing and flashing into each other in between the cars. There were, what looked like, wolf packs of figures cutting through the cars, hauling people from them and killing them on the roofs of the idling vehicles. She turned away from it and ran back inside to Frank.
“Frank, there are people being killed down there! It’s like the whole city has gone crazy at street level”
The office was in chaos, people had split into factions. Some were gearing up to leave, intending to take the stairs down and leave via the emergency exits and most were trying to convince them to stay. Janice screamed at the top of her lungs: “SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LOOK DOWN AT THE GOD DAMNED STREET; IT’S FUCKING CHAOS DOWN THERE! GET A GRIP AND LOOK DOWN!” She pointed down at the streets as flowers of fire bloomed from below the lines of the windows. It was clear that cars were blowing up in the crowded avenues below.
The Pa chirped loudly and the murmuring, yelling and crying halted in the office.
“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! THIS IS THE CHIEF OF BUILDING SECURITY! THIS IS AN IMPORTANT NOTICE, PLEASE STOP WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING AND LISTEN! We are sealing the ground level and first 4 floors of the building. There are a number of events going on outside and in order to ensure your security we are locking the building down. Close and lock all office doors; do not open them until you receive an all clear over the PA system or when a security officer appears in person to lead you out of the building. Under no circumstances is the 25th floor to be visited. There is an ongoing police presence on that floor along with building security personnel. Building residents on the 25th floor are asked to make their presence known via a call to the security desk. We thank you for your patience.”
The PA chirped again and the announcement was repeated, the PA then hissed and went silent.
Jance fell back into her chair next to Frank and tried to get her cell phone to work. Frank watched her; waiting for her to talk again.
“It’s a mess down there Frank, it’s like a war is going on in the street”
“I can see cars blowing up down there, Janice. It’s so dark out but there is so much light down there now from the fires. Do you want to hole up in one of the exec offices with a couch and try to get some sleep?”
“No, I’m going to stay here and watch the street. If one of the buildings around us catches on fire, I want to be ready to go it it gets to us.”
“This building is like a fortress, the fire would have to start inside the building to get us and the way the fire-prevention system is set up, it would be confined to one floor. It’d take one of these buildings collapsing into us to make a real impact. I’m gonna go and try and sleep somewhere.”
Frank got up and wandered into the gloomy areas of the office, over to the executive offices. Janice kicked off her shoes and curled into her chair, staring out into the dark and fire lit streets, unsure what to do.
The office had fallen to silence, with people barricading the doors into the halls and recriminations turning into sorrow and fellow-feeling; former adversaries turning to each other for comfort against an increasingly frightening unknown.
“OH GOD JESUS, FUUUCK SAVE ME CHIEF…SQUARKSSSSsssssss” the PA had burst to life for a moment then hissed into silence again. The effect was electric, with wails and yells going up around the office. No one in the office knew the voice, but the fear and confusion was obvious. “OH GOD, CHIEF! THEY ARE EVERYWHERE ON 25, LOCK DOWN THE FLOOR, LOCK IT D…” a warm wet squelch cut off the last word and the PA went silent again.
Janice ran to the doors and began to help with the barricading; certain now that whatever was going on was so much worse than she had even considered.
Security Chief Mike Pendegrass spent his younger days working as a beat cop in Saint Paul; turfing drunks from bars and keeping the peace when local kids got out of hand. He never made it beyond Sergeant and didn’t aspire to anything except an easy retirement. When his Captain had decided to “clean up” his department, Mike Pendegrass had been caught up in an Internal Affairs shakedown that took out 30 police, all marked as “Dirty” and summarily dismissed from the force. 5 Years later, Mike Pendegrass was exonerated on all charges but left out of work and without his pension. Mike Pendegrass took his 20 years of beat cop and turned it into 15 more years of Security Guard at Melberton and Furlinger building Security Limited.
At 56, Mike was not a spring chicken anymore, but he was the Boss, and had a cushy desk job that paid better than any beat copy could have aspired to. Most days he came into the office, sat at his desk and confirmed and signed reports from the day before, sometimes checking security footage to confirm the the accounts of his officers. The rest of the day he could watch some TV, surf on the Internet and chat on the phone, a cushy well-paid job for the increasingly paunchy Top Security Guard at the Feldex building.
The odd crises that cropped up around large buildings tended towards power outs, fires and the odd bomb threat. Mike’s job was to coordinate the response of the Security Team with building Relations and make sure that while secure, the building’s tenants were not overly inconvenienced by any of the actions of the Security Team. This morning, there was a report of an alarm from the roof, someone had opened one of the roof access doors near the elevator engine room and left it unlocked.
“Boss, there’s a problem up on twenty-five” the radio bleated the voice of Ralph Furlinger, nephew to one of the Execs at M and F. “There’s blood all over the stairs going to the roof, man”
“Say again, roof” Mike sat up straight and tabbed through the cameras on 25 looking for the stairs. Sure enough, in technicolor there was a bloody mess all over the stairs. “Ralph, back away from the scene and close off the area. Don’t let anyone near the stairs. I’ll call the Police and get someone up ASAP.”
“Roger that” Mike watch Ralph cordon off the area with Caution signs and take up watch while Mike called the police.
“Hey, this is Security Chief M. Pendegrass over at the Feldex Building on East 7th, yeah, near the Wells Building. We’ve had some sort of incident on the 25th, there’s blood all over the place. We need someone to come check this out. We’ve secured the area, but it’s visible to the tenants. Thanks, I’ll meet your guys at the front Entrance”
Five Minutes later, two police in street uniforms arrived to accompany Mike to the 25th floor. They rode in the elevator, not speaking beyond introductions and getting basic information. They were barely beyond rookies and Mike knew that they were just there to make sure that it wasn’t some sort of prank.
When they got to the 25th Ralph stood aside while Mike and the Two officers walked over to the Roof Access stairs and got a look at the Situation. The Police asked for the lights to be dimmed, Mike radioed to the Security desk to ask for the lights in that section to be halved, in the gloom the police sprayed a small patch of the red fluid with what Mike guessed to be Luminol and passed a small black light over it, confirming that they had bodily fluids when it lit up.
Mike Radioed for the lights to come back up.
Then everything went Dark, then Blue. The Emergency lights had come on.
“What the hell is going on?” Mike asked sternly into his radio, “did you kill the lights”
“No Chief, the whole building just went red”
“Okay, Patch me into the PA and I’ll make sure that we cover ourselves…Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Security Chief Mike Pendegrass, please remain in your offices and keep the stairs clear at this time. I repeat please keep the stairs clear at this time.” He clicked off his radio and turned to the Police.
“Fellas, it looks like we have to problems on our Hands. I’ll leave Ralph here to help you guys out, I’ll meet anyone else you call in at the front, just have Ralph Page me. If you’ll excuse me” The police turned and began to scan the area with small hand-held maglites they pulled from their belts. The younger of the two began to talk into his radio, which suddenly burst to life with screams and wails.
“…SSQQQUEEEEEE… Holy Shit! Holy Shit… Do you see that in the Sky?….SSSHhhhhSSSSSSQUAAAAAaA Officer Down at 7th and Marquette, Officer Down at Aaarrrrrrgh!….SSSShhhhhh Numer 242 requesting Backup…..” The Two young officers stiffened and looked to Mike for his leave.
“I’ll call up some of my guys to lock this area down, but it sounds like there is a real crisis going on out there. Tell you what, set up shop downstairs in my Security Office and call in from there”
Mike summoned some guards from the outdoor patrol and called for all but the emergency Exits to be locked down securely. “Now Here this, this building is to be locked down, no one goes anywhere, all exits are to be monitored, all entrances are to be locked and guarded. I don’t want anyone getting in or out without our knowledge.” Mike clipped his radio to his belt as a chorus of affirmations came through the speaker.
The two beat cops beat it down the stairs leaving Mike and Ralph to look at the bloody mess; Mike found a chair in an empty office and sat down. He pulled out his cell phone and tried to call his wife, no signal. Ralph made a noise behind him.
“Chief, you gotta look out there” He pointed into the office that Mike had pulled the chair out of, “there’s something wrong with the sky”
Mike Pendegrass, Security Chief of the Feldex building stared out of a window on the 25th floor and straight into the twin setting suns in the yellow sky outside. Suddenly, not getting a signal on his cell phone was the least of his worries.
Frank James spent all of his day at work navigating Facebook looking for his ex-girlfriends. He only had three to look for, but they never seemed to pop up. Today he was looking for variations on Trudy or Trudelle or Trish, his first serious Girlfriend in High School. They had dated right until Graduation, when she dumped him the day after Graduation, Frank had been crushed. He had expected to Marry her during College and have kids before he turned 25.
Now Trudy and Frank were both in their 30s and unknown to Frank, Trudy was single and pining for him after years of failed relationships. She didn’t use Facebook and rarely used a computer except when demanded by work and even then she left it to an assistant if possible. Miles away, Frank toiled away at his keyboard, oblivious to the world, save Facebook.
The Lights went out and Frank’s laptop dimmed, he tapped on, but when people started to move towards the exists, he started to get ready to leave. The PA crackled and hissed then a voice came out:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Security Chief Mike Pendegrass, please remain in your offices and keep the stairs clear at this time. I repeat please keep the stairs clear at this time.” The PA hissed a bit then everything was quiet.
““Aww, what the hell!?” Frank coughed in exasperation. He plopped down in his chair and began to unplug his laptop from the wall, planning to pack up his crap except for his Laptop and leave as soon as the all clear came down. The “official” downtime would give him a chance to catch up on his real work and since the power was down, so was the ‘net. No reason to search.
Frank looked up when Janice from the next cube had rolled her chair down the aisle to the window and then got back to filling out spreadsheets and poking tracking information into different databases inside the building. In about 20 minutes, he had finished his real work for the day when the light in the office came back on. No, it hadn’t, it was brighter though.
“Oh My GOD!” someone yelled from the other side of the Office, “Holy Shit, Look outside!”
Frank looked out of the window and squinted, there, on the horizon above the buildings were two massive lights, two suns. The Sky was yellow and there were two suns! Frank snatched his camera from his carrier bag and snapped some pictures through the glass. The lights dimmed and went orange as the suns began to sink towards the horizon.
Down in the street, people were panicking and running between the cars. Frank could just make them out in the dimming lights.
Janice joined him at the window.
“Hey, did you know we were bombed” she drank from a coffee cup, “like, today?”
Frank stepped back and looked at her, “what? What?”
“Yeah, I got a call a little while back from a friend in Moorehead, he told me that Saint Paul was bombed, most of it is gone”
“You seem healthy for a bombing victim Janice. You have to tell me your secret” Frank jibed, nervous.
“It’s this double sun, you know? It does wonders for the wounds. Fuck. This is fucked up. What the hell is going on?” suddenly serious, Janice flopped back into her chair and looked around the office, people were gathering in groups and talking on their cell phones.
Frank took his cell phone from his pocket and called his mother, no answer. He called one of his friends in another office, no answer. Then, no service.
All around the office people started getting angry, yelling about service. Somewhere an argument had blossomed into a fight which was getting louder.
Frank grabbed his chair and wheeled it over next to Janice, they sat in silence and watched the suns set in the distance, noting for the first time that they were setting in the north.
Life in a high rise office is alright; at least most of the time. You sometimes have to deal with recycled air or “sick building” syndrome, but you get great views from the windows and the feeling that you are above it all, down there on the ground. Some buildings even have mezzanine levels that extend from the building with gardens or cafe’s that let you get outside and look right down on the city below. The only time a high rise is a real pain is when the power goes out.
Which happens now.
Shit! Janice thought, mid sentence in an email to her never-far-enough-away college buddy Burgess, a boy who never grew up and a townie from Moorehead. Burgess was having some kind of family crisis out there in Moorehead and had wanted Janice to come out and help him deal. Janice was mid “No fucking way…” when the lights had dimmed then flashed off, along with her monitor.
She stood up and watched the Prairie-Dog city that was the cube farm stand up together and look around, the murmers that never seemed to cease had paused and everyone looked at each other for some kind of idea what happened. The emergency lights clicked on and some people started to walk for the stairs. Janice started to pack up her stuff and join them when a voice came over the PA
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Security Chief Mike Pendegrass, please remain in your offices and keep the stairs clear at this time. I repeat please keep the stairs clear at this time” the PA hissed, beeped and went silent.
“Aww, what the hell!?” Frank James on Janice’s Left collapsed back into his chair, his dangerous weight nearly collapsing it. He unplugged his laptop and fired it up, intent on continuing his work.
Janice sat back down. but finished packing up her stuff and then rolled her chair over to the window, where there was enough light to read by. She took out a collection of short stories she had been carting around with her and began to read, waiting for the power to come back on or for the all-clear to leave.
Around the office, people either returned to what work they could or began to mill around in groups, gossiping or making guesses about what was going on. Janice tried to concentrate on her book, the story she was reading was about a bunch of guys in an office dealing with some sort of miniature priest outbreak, but she couldn’t get into it. She leaned her head against the floor to cieling window and looked down into the streets. Her phone lit up and vibrated at her hip.
“Janice, are you okay?” it was Burgess.
“What do you mean Burg’? Yeah, I’m cool” Janice noticed alot of people getting calls, all of them some variation of “I’m Okay” or “What? What do you mean Bombing?”
Janice stood up and pushed her chair to her desk and walked out to the cafe at the end of the office, to get a better view of the streets.
“Janice, Jan. A bomb went off in Saint Paul, it’s gone, blown up!” Burgess was frantic.
“Burg’ I’m in the office right now looking down at the street, there’s nothing going on down there, all the lights are out, but I can see cars and some lights out there. It’s just some sort of power out or some…”
Janice looked out at the sky, it had twin Suns set in a sickly green-blue.
“Burgess, I’m gonna have to call you back”
That night, I finished up the final touches on my part of the Website revamps at home and sent merged my work to the CVS on my own branch. I’d let the source control teams check it in and make sure it was to spec. Mitzi called me about an hour later and told me that he appreciated my work. I kicked back and watched some History TV that I’d recorded earlier, “The Lives of the Popes”.
Billy called around 9 o’clock. “Hey man, I got one of those Pope things cornered in my bathtub, can you come over here and take it out of my place?” He sounded frantic. Billy wasn’t stable on his best days, he wouldn’t sleep if a Pope was in his house.
“Sure Bill, I’ll be over there in a bit. I’ll catch a cab and be there as soon as possible” I hung up and grabbed some clothes and my Laptop; if Billy was too worked up I’d have to sit with him for a few hours and probably end up on his couch for the night. Being prepared was best.
About 20 minutes later I knocked on Billy’s Door; it had a huge inverted cross with a barbie hung on it. Easy to find.
Billy yanked the door open on the second knock and pointed, shaking and eyes closed at his bathroom door. Crouched in the dirty tub was a foot tall John Paul II, peering down the drain and saying “Hello, my child? Are you there? Do you want the blessings of God?” He proceeded to turn and lift his cassock, bareing his tiny bum to the drain hole and dropping his “blessing” down the pipe. I turned on the hot water to wash away his leavings and snatched the smelly pontiff from the floor of the bathtub.
“No, No! I must bless the filthy beasts!” the tiny pope protested, beating at my hands. The Pope squirmed and protested, but It was for nothing. I snatched his head and wrenched it around, killing the tiny Priest as quickly and quietly as possible. It never got easier, but the big ones were trouble, a benedict had gotten into the trash a month ago and set off a roach infestation that was still going on at Billy’s.
Billy peered from around the bathroom door, “hey man, is it done?”
“Billy, you gotta start taking care of these guys, you’re gonna live in fear of them until you stand up for yourself” I sighed and stuffed the miniature pope into a green garbage bag. “They don’t seem to attack you or anything, they just show up and start blessing the plants and bugs. Do they talk about anything else?”
“Man, I’m telling you, when they catch me alone they tell me they are gonna take John’s soul and kill me!”
Billy began to tear up, his eye already wet. He bubbled and shook then collapsed into a wailing heap. I got him to his room and closed the door. The living room was a mess of blankets and bongs. Billy’s tastes ran from Grateful Dead to Nine Inch Nails, and his walls suffered from the clash of Inudstrial Nihilsm and ‘Shroom-fed Hippy Optimism. I picked up a bit and settled onto the couch to surf a bit. I listened for Billy to stop crying and when he had finally given up, he stalked into the bathroom and wiped himself up.
Billy sat next to me on the couch and harumphed. I leaned back and waited for him to talk.
“You know what? The next one of those fuckers that appears? I’m gonna strap it down and make it tell you what it is here for! Yeah!”
“Sure man, It’s getting late. You mind if I couch surf here until morning and head to work in the morning?”
“Sure man, you can watch for the Popes!”
Billy brightened a bit and watched some TV; he smoked a bit of really rank weed and went back to bed.
When I was sure he was in bed I IM’d Mitzi and told him what had went on.
“Does he know what’s up?” Mitzi asked.
“No way, I just let him go on and on, but he doesn’t have any idea” I tapped out.
“Alright, we’ll see how he is in the morning then, Thanks for the update” Mitzi signed off and I closed the laptop.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a 3 inch tall, naked man stroll accross the floor, whistling as he went. Too tired to care what ancient religious figure it might have been, I obliterated him with a shoe and went to sleep.
When you lick an ice cream cone, a really really god ice cream cone, you get that inital soft scoop of it on your tongue and you pull it into your mouth. Curled there on top of your tonge, it melts and squishes around your mouth and teeth, you sometimes let it slide down your throat, half-melted. Other times you give it the once over in your mouth, seeking chunks of stuff in it, just in case. Then down it goes and you go for that next lick. Never quite as good as the first one, but always great. You catch the drips down the side and in the end you dispose of the cone last and then it’s all gone. Melted away down your throat and sometimes on your shirt or shorts. The last of the ice cream gone.
In the summer time, all the Ice Cream stands are open for business. They have big signs that implore you to come try their amazing flabors. Some sell Gelato or Sherbert, soft-serve or sundaes. They all want your money for their wares. Bored teenagers and flamboyant foreign men all vie for your dollars as the summer marches on.
In Scotland you can get a 99, which is a cone (usually soft-serve) with two chocolate bars stuck in it (Flakies) that give the eater a chance to choose betwen keeping the ice cream from melting and eating around the chocolate bars, or eating the chocolate first and running the risk having ice cream down your shirt. The choice was yours.
In Ontario (and other places I assume) we had no ice cream trucks, ratehr the Dickie Dee cart, which was a bike-cart deal that a surly teenage boy or a jubilant girl would push around the streets, ringing a series of bells. The reaction was the same as that to the Ice Cream truck, balls and toys would drop, aliens would go unfought, cobra commander’s final blow never landed and children would stream to the street with whatver cash they could get from their parents to buy some seriously overpriced frozen treats.
Then Summer would come to an end, and the Ice Cream stands would close, one by one. The last holdout left with a big tub of pralenes and cream and heavenly hash to sell. Hard. Icy. Bricklike. It was the last of the summer Ice Cream and it was still better than anything else, because it was the last of Summer.