Grave Awakening

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Karma

There is a saying: There are three deaths. The first is one truly dying, the second is being laid to rest, and the third is when one’s name is uttered its final time. The rule of three holds true in so many ways in this world. From how one structures their days (morning, noon, night), to the amount of true meals they eat (breakfast, lunch, dinner), and, in the case of karma, how one is rewarded... or punished; most of life, and death, comes in threes.

Nick Graves made it home around midnight, allowing himself the luxury to stay up well passed his normal time. He was more than ready to pass out, though, but didn’t have to worry about an alarm come morning. He didn’t need one; his body was well attuned to the rest of the week. It punished him, though, for staying up three hours longer, as it did every Friday, but was soothed by not one but two cups of coffee. He passed on the breakfast bowl in favor of the breakfast burritos. They took a bit more work, needing their own plate, some shredded cheese, and sauce, but he had to live it up sometime.

It was the weekend, but, more importantly, Monday was the Big Day. He would be promoted to senior advisor of that branch, he would have full say of it all, and there were certain siblings he was more than ready to get rid of. They had the gall to keep blowing up his phone, even after he gave his dismissals. Curse HR for not approving his bill to budget work phones for everyone in that wing, and damn them further for having it mandatory that all members must have each others contact information. At least he got some say when it came to social media, but that didn’t stop the onslaught of card pictures and drunken shenanigans that assailed his poor device. Even after he went to bed.

He sat at his table, cutting into the bacon, egg, and cheese-wrapped saucy little bits of heaven as he glared at the Hell that was still loading on his phone. To his surprise, at least, it seemed it wasn’t a pig party. In fact, aside a male that looked of Asian descent, there weren’t any other guys to be seen in the slew of pictures that now clogged his data. The starting pictures were innocent enough: sitting in a wide entry room, three long, red couches, all centered around a coffee table that could be reached by all three, layered with so many bottles of (cheap) alcohol that it looked like they had raided the backroom of a gas station –which they more than likely did. He was almost fooled, too. They almost looked intelligent, civilized... but, not even two hours later, the shots became erratic. Dresses were starting to loosen. The true nature of anyone going to college anymore was in full detail by hour four, but at least he could tell Chad that he never saw his sister naked and she could hold her drink. She kept it together the entire time, with only her face becoming redder. The final shot, sent at four in the morning, had only her still awake, if barely. The others were passed out around her, and her face was as red as a tomato. Somewhere along the way, the Asian disappeared, as well.

He closed his messages and opened his bank account again, reminding himself of why he went through this torment, while still enjoying his burritos and contemplating what else he was going to do today. A running joke; he knew exactly what he was going to do. The same thing he did every weekend: Strip to his underwear, lay in bed, and do nothing but watch trashy movies on one of the several streaming accounts he had access to. It was more a matter of what was he in the mood for.

After this week, I don’t want anything to do with comedy... or horror, he thought... and was dumbfounded when his messenger chimed. From Courtney. How is she even able to function?

Just wanted to say sry for blowing up ur fone. ^_^′ Didn’t realize I went that nuts. Lol Should’ve been here, though, but it’s understandable. Ur such a good son.

He scoffed, and swiped away the notification. There was no time to deal with the dead, after all. He washed his plate then retired to his room, only coming out four times to eat for the rest of the weekend until Sunday night. As before, he grabbed the bus out to the dry-cleaners, picked up his suits, then returned, too excited for the next day to truly care if they were hung up proper in the closet –or so he wanted to believe, but he still did it. He made sure that each jacket was square, uniform to all the others beside them on their hangers, and only when the final pair of pants was smoothed out thus was he able to lay his head on the pillow.

Mission Statement rang from his phone, ushering in the dawn and day that would be one of his greatest leaps... and the fall of others. He didn’t even wait for the bass line to kick in when he swiped it, already sitting up, standing, and hurrying to the bathroom. In fact, it was a special day; why not treat himself? He took his phone with him into the tiny little space and put on Jambi.

He drummed along to it as he brushed his teeth, sang along as he washed away the sins of the weekend, his slothful, erroneous ways whisking into the drain. Though he was long done before the song was, he let it continue to play as he prepared his coffee and breakfast, despising it more and and more with each passing tick. His feelings for the song were more bitter than the coffee he slurped down, but he had respect for it and the band that made it. Rather, it wasn’t the song, itself, but the memories attached to it, the promises broken, the emotions shattered around it. At one point, he felt the same as the song. It was a part of him, but then he realized that no one, not a single living soul, was worth giving everything up. Not her, not his brother, nor his other brother; they can all go rot in Hell. Micheal was already there, but he wasn’t sure about Danny. He was only seven when-

And the song finally finished.

Nick turned off the music player before it could continue into the next, hand shaking. His cheeks were wet enough from that small dive; he didn’t need to continue down that abyss any further. Not today. Memento Mori. He slurped down the last of his coffee, washed it down with the last bite of his breakfast bowl, and finished getting dressed before aiming his arrow true.

He started the day earlier than normal, entering well before 8:30, and had his report printed up, as well as the entire building spic und span and up and running, by the time his “boss” arrived. Nick wavered on the outer edge, looking busy, but watched him, waited for the timing to seem convenient but not too w-

“Nick,” his boss called out, making his heart leap. “May I see you in my office?”

This was unexpected, but not unwelcome. Normally he would have to be the one to make the move, but it seemed this was important enough for him to truly initiate. Nick didn’t want to seem too anxious, though, and lock-stepped, kept a slow, even pace, to the office. It was always too gauche for his liking, too showy. The four diplomas on the left wall was nice, but three of them were associates for degrees he didn’t even want to consider. The right wall was plastered with photos of his children and wife, which must have made it incredibly uncomfortable when he brought in the secretary, the desk, itself, mostly clear for such activities. The entire room had the scent of wood cleaner and a faint, bitter tang, and the chair before the desk was the cheapest you could find, contrasting the lush, black, high-arch desk chair across from it.

His boss took that seat, leaving him the flimsy ply-board abomination, but he didn’t need to sit. He stood before it, resting his hands on its thin top. It bit into his palms, threatening to crack even from that bit of force.

“Please,” his boss said, gesturing to the chair.

“I’d rather not, sir,” Nick said. “I sit enough during the day.”

“Understandable, but at least be prepared to. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Why would that be, sir?”

“As you know, Charlotte has been expecting... Her water broke a few minutes ago. She is heading to the hospital, and I will be accompanying in a moment. Aside that, a lot of personal issues have been culminating, so I will be stepping down as the head of this establishment. Before that, though, I wanted to announce to you that Chad will be taking over my position.”

“Pardon?”

“Yes. From hence forth, he is the new head. I have a packet here for him to read through, but somebody from the mother ship will be here to guide him a-”

“Chad? Chad! Are you serious!”

“Yes. Chad... This is what I was expec-”

“I deserve the role! Me! How much work have I done for this place? How much have I sacrificed!”

“It is quite true that you are our hardest worker, arguably our best worker-”

“I AM your best worker. There’s no contest! If it wasn’t for me, this place would have sank a long time ago. You have petulant, impertinent children running around in here, talking up a storm instead of doing their actual work. How many have I reported in that time? How many had to be let go because they were a hindrance? What about the old housekeeper, whatever his name was; I picked up his slack and keep this place spotless! And you decide to give the position to CHAD. Chad, of all people!”

“Nick, you really need to calm down. Please, sit. You look like you’re about t-”

“Shut up! You listen to me! You have ANY idea how much information I have on you, on this establishment and the company it answers to? I can drag you all through the mud for miles, to the point none of you will ever be clean again. You’ll be lucky to make a cent after I’m through with you unless you appoint me as the new head! I’m a damn good worker; you know I can do it.”

“It’s not a matter of if you can or can’t do it, Nick!”

“Then what is it, then! Nepotism? Are you and Chad related? It’s the only reason I can think of you hiring that bimbo of a sister he has! Granted, she is smarter than her brother, but-”

“Nick. Please. Calm down.”

“Stop telling me to calm down, dammit!” The wood of the chair finally splintered, his hands crushing the parts of the chair that his nails dug through and tore off. His fire was finally unleashed, roaring in all its glory, rumbling, echoing through the building... A building no longer inhabited by only the two of them. His vision had narrowed, his focus solely on the sorry excuse of a human before him, still so stoic, so numb to his onslaught. “I will make sure this company and everyone involved will never see a profit again unless you give me the position I so deserve.”

They both stared at each other, the world throbbing before Nick’s eyes, still staring at that emotionless, pasty, olive-hued face. The clock behind him ticked away, dulling the sobs out in the lobby, the grumblings and mumbling in between indistinguishable to that thunder in his ears, hammering from the aching muscle in his chest. At last, his boss sighed, creased his hands on his desk, and leaned back.

“I’m afraid to say that you are actually being let go.” He stated.

“W...what?” Nick said, repeated four times, getting louder with each one. “Didn’t you hear what I just said?”

“Every last bit... You were a good worker, Nick, but your people skills... Well, you have... none. In a job like this- rather, in society as a whole, you have to work with and alongside others. You can’t do everything yourself; you can try, but it’ll kill you in the end. That’s far too much for one person to shoulder... and I had a feeling you would let the power go to your head... Everybody loves Chad. He does his best to get along with them all, and has been acting as a mediator for all the drama that has been happening. He never knew it was you who was putting up those complaints online, but, after this scene, he more than likely does now.”

“But Chad barely meets the quota each week! He has to go to others to understand what he needs to do!”

“And that is fine. Nobody knows everything.”

“I have no problem!”

“And that’s you, but you are lacking in reading a room and especially people.”

“Who cares about that! I’m here to do my job and move on, just like everyone else.”

“But that’s not like everyone else.”

“Oh, don’t give me that, ‘workers are like family; we’re a team’ bullshit. At the end of the day, there’s always three that piss around and do fuck-all and one that actually gets shit done. In my opinion, the other three should be removed and the one given the credit.”

“You say they do ‘fuck-all’, but isn’t it more the fact you are focusing on what you do rather than what they do? Rather, you focus on what they aren’t doing, and that is working as hard as you... Not everyone is as driven, Nick, and that’s why I have to let you go. For your own health... Please. Go and seek help. When you finally calm down, there will always be a place for you here a-”

“You can take your offer, your advice, and go fuck yourself where you fuck that secretary slut and your whore wife!” He threw the pieces of wood pulp onto the desk, shattering and spraying him and his boss, and kicked the chair aside, leaning on the desk. “I will sue you. I will sue this entire company into the ground. No one fucks with me... Do you understand?”

He simply sighed, stood, and brushed himself off as he continued to stare at him. Still no emotion to be seen in that visage; however, the tears wavering in his piggy little brown eyes betrayed him.

“You can try, Nick. You go ahead and try... Meanwhile, I’ve got to get moving. I take it you know the way out of the building.”

He didn’t say another word. He simply left, leaving Nick standing there in all his righteous fury. Made impotent. His hands quaked on the table, blood pattering from his palms onto it. He closed them, clenched them, feeling the splinters dig further as blood squelched out... and couldn’t help but sob. All that work, and for what? To be passed up for a literal Chad. Typical... He sniffed, wiped his eyes, having seen too much waterworks for the day as it was, and turned around.

Chad and Courtney were both in the doorway.

Chad’s face was deadpan, a mask of pure rage etched onto it, while his sister couldn’t be as stoic. Tears and snot ran down her face, racing down paths already carved out, her lip trembling, matching the shaking in her own hands as she clung to her brother’s arm. He never paid it much mind, but Nick couldn’t help but notice now that Chad had at least five inches on him, and at least fifty pounds more. Not in fat, either.

“C-Cha-” Nick started.

“No. I don’t want to hear it,” Chad cut him off, his voice quaking, sending a very real chill down Nick’s spine. “All this time, I thought you were just wanting to stay out of the drama, just wanting to get your work done, but it’s been you stirring the pot. You’ve been the one making everyone’s lives miserable. This whole time, I was telling my sister about how cool you were for doing that; she looked up to you. I looked up to you!”

“Nobody asked you t-”

“Just shut the fuck up! I don’t want to hear another fucking word out of your mouth... I kept inviting you out, thinking that we could be buds. Neither of us gave a fuck about everything going on; we were just chilling, letting time go by as we went about our business... Then you said what you did about my sister... W...what did she ever do to you, Nick! She was nothing but nice to you and you have the BALLS to call her and treat her and throw her under the bus like that... I never want to see you again. I don’t ever want to even see you near this office. Do you understand? I want you GONE. I want you to take your drama and all the stress you cause and shove it squarely up your fucking ass! No one gives a shit about you, and nobody ever will.”

“Now listen here!” Nick snapped. He truly snapped; he practically leaped at Chad, who stepped back, his bloodshot eyes tinged with fear. “I never asked for anyone to give a shit! I never asked to be looked up to! That’s all on your fucking heads! When have I ever shown I wanted to be any of you fuck’s fucking friend! I just wanted to come in, do my job, get the accolades I deserved for doing it, and move on with my fucking life! It’s you dumb hicks, you inbred swine in this fly-over boony state that always assume everyone wants to be friends. News flash: Nobody wants to be regarded with trash! You are all fucking trash, this whole place is trash, and none of it will matter a single bit when I move to an area that actually fucking matters! So go ahead! Treat me like a pariah! See me as something disgusting; I already do so whenever I look out on this fucking place and at all your ignorant f... fa...”

The world spun. His breathing raced, yet it felt like he wasn’t getting enough air. His heart, once so heavy in his chest, keeping a solid, hard beat... missed one. Then four more. It tried to follow its own only to fail, now dead in his chest. His vision, once monotone, faded to a haze, sounds dulling, shadows racing as it all came tumbling into itself into a finite, white point. He felt his body slump backwards, running into the desk. He felt his hands find its lip, and his legs succumb as he descended to the ground, releasing one last gasp before darkness took him.

But karma is a fickle mistress. This was but the beginning of Nick’s tale. The darkness, after a bit of time, gave way to light again. It grew and pulled him into its embrace, humming softly before fading away, leaving him in a grassy field under a pale blue sky and a with destiny to fulfill.

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