Greg opened his eyes slowly as he came back to consciousness. The feeling of the grand index faded from his mind as he looked around the room at all the furnishings. Pictures of his cat, Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury, lines the walls of the living room. Greg recognized the place quickly and sat up. He was back in the confines of his own home. Someone, or something, had dropped him here in his favorite easy chair and left here without a word.
Or did they? Thought Greg suspiciously as he stood up and grabbed the fire poker from off the mantel place. There was no stopping it now; he was in a frenzied mental state. Never before had Greg felt so paranoid of the real world and the people that occupied it with him. From here on out nothing and no one could be trusted. Greg moved slowly threw the hallway to the little kitchen at the back of the house. His home was just the way he liked it, basic and simple. Greg knew every inch of the place where a nightshade could hid. He would have the whole home under locked down before nightfall. No one gets in and no one gets out, until he figured out what to do.
“I must warn you,” said Greg as loud as he could. He put on a deeper voice thinking that it would somehow scare the perceived intruder. In every action novel he had done the audio book for, the hero, had a deeper voice. In Greg’s mind he had mastered the art of intimidation years ago. He was sweating nervously as he gripped the fire poker with both hands, “I am armed and dangerous! Leave now Dark Lord Gavin and nobody gets hurt!” Greg cringed as the words left his mouth. His checks flushed with blood as he realized he had used the name of the villain in the book he was narrating downstairs.
How is anyone going to take me seriously?
Greg almost had a heart attack as a rustling noise came from the kitchen in response to his threat. It sounded like someone was walking around looking for something. A Knife? A Chair? Possibly even a gun they had set down? His imagination was working overtime now. He rounded the corner and swung the fire poker wildly through the air. The end of the thing smashed into the wall next to him and lodged into a 2x4 with a thud. Greg screamed as his griped on the poker slipped out of his hands. He stubble sideways, trying to keep his balance, and hit the back door. His eyes were tightly closed as he wrestled with the drapes, “Get out of here you bloody bleachers!”
After a second of panic the room grew silent and the only thing that could be herd was the purring of a cat. Greg would know that purr from anywhere. He opened his eyes and was relieved to see Gregory the 3rd sitting on the kitchen table. His big yellow eyes studying him carefully. They seemed to say: I have only left you for a day or two and you have already fallen apart.
Greg suddenly felt very foolish with himself. He smiled and waved to the black cat. Greg brushed himself off and walked up causally to the far wall and grabbed the fire poker with both hands. He heaved it from the drywall with a good tug and set the thing under his arm. He straightened his argyle sweater he was wearing and cleared his throat, “Don’t judge me like that Gregory the 3rd. I could tell a few reprehensible story myself about you.”
The cat whipped its tail back and forth. Its eyes seemed bored with the topic already. Greg could see his cat had collected a few strange letters from the neighbors again, “Have you been prowling around the neighbor’s yard Gregory. Is that where you have been all this time? Making new friends while the whole world falls apart?” Greg leaned the fire poker against the lower cabinets, “I’ll have you know I have had a very rough day and…”
Greg paused as a light green icon slowly appeared over Gregory the 3rds head. The thing looked like a small floating diamond. It twirled gradually as words formed beside it in parentheses. Greg’s mouth moved slowly as he read the words to himself.
¨(Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury. Bombay breed of Black Cat. 8lb 3oz. Life span 16 years. Male. Currently Healthy. Extremely Edible.)
Greg walked up to the floating green text and ran his hand though it. It wasn’t really there at all; just a clever illusion. It was liked some hologram.
“Are you seeing this Gregory?” Asked Greg as he looked down at Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury. The cat was unamused and licked at its paw. Greg continued regardless of the feline’s interest, “It’s like a computer icon above your head with ‘Garamond’ text in it? This has got to me my favorite font!” He bent in closer and examined the resolution. It was flawless, “But how is it here?”
From the corner of Greg’s eye different colored diamond icons started popping up around the kitchen. He turned to them as brief descriptions began expanding outward into parentheticals. His whole kitchen was being cataloged rapidly by these strange icons. It was interesting, and at the same time annoying. The text was obscuring the view of everything in the kitchen.
One major part of the descriptors was whether the thing being cataloged was edible or not. Greg found this fact about the icons weird most of all. Did all the nightshade in their society see that as well? Thought Greg. Where there some things that were poisonous to the nightshades that he didn’t know about? If not, then why the designation between edible and nonedible?
The icons began disappearing as soon as they were catalogued.
Greg held up his hand and touched the back of his neck very softly. The data disc was doing all this. Somehow it was relaying information into his brain at a billion pulses a second. He pulled out the chair next to the kitchen table and sat down in it. He patted Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury on the head has he took in the view of the kitchen.
“I am the bionic man now Gregory,” said Greg with a sign. He was intrigued by all this new technology and at the same time hated that he was the one going through it. There would be no way to remove the device without killing himself; of that he was sure. Greg explored that option briefly and shivered at the thought of death. He definitely was not ready to kill himself, “All this is going to be the new normal.”
A small door appeared on the Kitchen table next to Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury. The cat didn’t react to it because the cat couldn’t see it. He watched in awe as the portal opened up and a little woman in a business suit stepped out into the open. Her brown curly hair bounced around as she walked. Greg recognized her from the index inside his own head. He couldn’t quite recall her name for some reason… as a matter-of-fact, Greg couldn’t remember much of what happened in the index. All he knew was that it existed and that it was a personification of his mind.
The woman looked around the kitchen and smiled when she spotted Greg. She waved to the albino man sitting at the kitchen table. Greg, not knowing what else to do with himself, waved back at her sheepishly. He watched as she placed her hands one her hips and a speech bubble formed over her head. The sound of someone writing on a type writer filled Greg’s ears. It wasn’t a loud and annoying sound, but a gentle tapping; much like how the rain hits the roof in spring time.
¨(Hello, Greg! My name is Evelyne Prewitt. I will be your virtual assistant from here on out.)
Greg nodded his head at this. He was beginning to remember aspects of their encounter in the index. She was important in a way that he just couldn’t explain. It felt like they had known each other for a while. He cleared his throat, “Hi Evelyne! I hope you are doing well today.” Greg indicated to his lazy cat on the table. “This is Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury. He’s my best friend in the whole world.”
Greg was speaking to the little woman on his kitchen counter as if it were the most natural thing to do in the whole world. Evelyne turned to Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury. She ran up to the feline and placed her hands on her cheeks as if in surprise at the size of the thing. She pretended to pet the cat on the side and talk to it. Her mannerisms might have been a little over the top for Greg’s liking, but they were entertaining still. She eventually looked over to Greg and smiled at him. A speech bubble formed over her head at that moment. The sound of typing fluttered through his mind as the words appeared in bold lettering.
¨(What a beautiful cat you have Greg! You should be so proud of him!)
For the first time in what felt like forever; Greg smiled both on the inside and outside. It was nice to have a friend that cared about him for a change. He nodded to the tiny woman and smiled, “He is a magnificent creature isn’t he? He’s lazy but magnificent in so many ways. You should see him play the piano at Christmas time.”
Evelyne laughed at this. Her speech bubble filled with “HA, HA’s”.
“Now you’re just humoring me,” said Greg. Evelyne’s gestures were so over the top he didn’t know if they were sarcastic or not, “Because that was a dumb joke.”
Evelyne stopped laughing at this self-deprecation. She looked over to Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury and studied him for a minute. She rubbed the bottom of her chin as she rounded the black cat. Two devils horns sprouted from her head as her skin suddenly turned dark red. A devils tail sprouted out of the back of her business suit. She turned and looked at Greg with a mischievous look on her face:
¨(When do you plan to eat him and wear his skin as your own?)
Greg was appalled by this, and at the same time…wasn’t. He couldn’t explain the two dichotomous feelings. It felt like his mind was having a tug-a-war with his heart. He knew he loved Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury and at the same time wondered what he would taste like on his tongue. He was sure the cat was full of interesting juices he hadn’t experienced before… lovely juices. He was going to imagine himself as a cat when he stopped abruptly.
What am I doing? Thought Greg.
He stood up quickly and pushed the terrible thoughts from his mind. He back away from the kitchen table. The cat was startled by this sudden move and ran into the other room hissing its disapproval. Greg yelled at the tiny woman on the table, “I am not like one of those things! I am a human being. I eat human food!”
The tiny woman walked over to the edge of the table and sat down. Her devilish appearance disappeared as she increased in size. Greg watched her grow to the full height of a human; it was the weirdest thing to experience. She looked so real and at the same time wasn’t. A text bubble formed next to her head as her mouth moved without sound. She snatched the bubble out of the air and held it in front of her like a homeless woman. Her face was sincere.
¨(How do you explain this?!)
Evelyne Pointed to Greg’s skin color.
“I was born an albino,” protested Greg. His free hand ran over his white hairless arm. It did kind of look like the color of the monster back at the government office. His voice faltered a bit as he considered the premises Evelyne was trying to make. Was this her saying he was guilty by association? The nightshades were the same color but that didn’t mean that he was a nightshade, “My skin color doesn’t make me a monster. Just because I share a few similarities doesn’t make me that thing…”
Evelyne raised her eyebrows incredulously.
¨(It doesn’t sound like you believe that.)
“It true!” Said Greg. “What evidence do you have?”
Evelyne held out her hands in front of her and caused two DNA strands to appear. They turned slowly as the nucleotide pairs became highlighted in pink. Above the structures flashed the words allele match. Evelyne had a smug look on her face. The sound of typing filled the air.
¨(It sounds like you’re in denial Greg. You should know about the stages of denial by now… I mean, the file in your head said you are going to Alcoholics Anonymous. There is nothing wrong with being a nightshade.)
“Yes there is!” Said Greg. “They kill things!”
Evelyne rolled her eyes at this logic.
¨(So do humans!)
Greg shook his head. “Those are two different things and you know it!”
¨(Humans hunt and kill things to survive; this is a fact of nature. Humans have been eating everything they can get their hands on sense the dawn of Homo-sapiens. What you are really trying to say is that, as a human, you don’t like being at the bottom of the food chain now. Suddenly you are not the dominant species in society and it’s brining out your primal “fragility” on the subject. The more you fight it the more it proves the point of how sheltered you have lived your life.)
Greg paused at this line of reasoning and bit his bottom lip. He knew it was wrong in so many way but he didn’t know quite what to say it. He felt frustrated, “Eating people is just wrong! You can’t just eat people and get away with it!”
¨(Humans eating other humans is wrong! It causes disease among other thing! I think we can both agree on that Greg, but nightshades are not humans. They are the dominate species and you have got to learn to accept your place in the world.)
“And what’s my place in the world then Evelyne?” Asked Greg, “To lather myself up in mayonnaise and let them just eat me!”
¨(The humans will eventually become as cattle, or better yet, as pets to the nightshade race. There is always extinction or banishment… but for you, its will be different. You will be given and option to integrate or die.)
“I hate all those options?” Asked Greg.
¨(You have been given a choice by the “Giver of Knowledge”. You can either be a gazelle… or you can be a lion. I don’t know about you, but the Gazelle look like they live in fear their whole lives.)
Greg didn’t know why but his body felt like it was tingling all over. What Evelyne was telling him was out of this world crazy. Did he really have a choice between the two options or was this really a false dilemma? Greg stared down at the bright white linoleum for a minute. He was having a slight identity crisis. If push came to shove would he chose to be one of these monsters and leave the human race behind to perish alone? Images of a smug little kid defecating on his lawn popped into his head. There had been several times when he had been more then marginalized by his community because of his unusual appearance. He hated it when people on the bus asked him about his chemotherapy. He didn’t have cancer!
The sound of typing seemed to break the silence in the room.
¨ (I suggest you accept what you are Greg. The humans have never been your friends.)
Greg felt depressed as he looked at his virtual assistant. Even she felt like an imaginary friend he had made up somehow. Greg tried to think of one friend he had presently that didn’t have fir all over their body.
Evelyne tried to lighten the mood.
¨(You can’t tell me you haven’t at least once thought about what your cat might taste like? Or how cool it would be to prowl around for an afternoon and be just like him?)
Greg’s gaze shifted from Evelyne and looked back down the hallway where Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury had just gone moments ago. He hadn’t thought about it before, but he was entertain the thought now, “I can’t say that I have, but it would be cool to be a cat.”
He looked back over to Evelyne and was surprised to see that she had changed into something else. It felt like Halloween around this crazy woman. The virtual assistant had grown cat ears on the top of her head. Her broad nose had taken on a new shape and grown whiskers. Her tail was whipping back and forth over the kitchen table.
¨(Maybe we can come back to this idea when we are ready to face it head-on?)
“Yeah,” said Greg as he studied Evelyne closely. She was doing something to his head that he just couldn’t explain. He liked it, and at the same time, he didn’t like it, “But we won’t eat Gregory the 3rd of Canterbury. It will have to be another cat in the neighborhood…” Greg paused as he said this and corrected himself. He needed to stay consistent, “I mean, no cats at all will be eaten in this house. We have to establish boundaries’ if this is going to be the way things are. We can’t just willy-nilly be eating things!”
Evelyne seemed to be ignoring him now. She was holding a brown paper bag full of miniature cats of all colors. She picked up a handful and started tossing them into her mouth like popcorn. She closed her eyes and seemed to be savoring the flavor of cat. Greg watched as a whole stream of red and pink hearts appeared over her head.
¨(Oh my gosh Greg! You have got to try this! The orange ones taste just like cat!)
“Evelyne, could you please stop that,” said Greg as he put his hands on his hips. “I am still trying to except all this crap, and you eating a virtual bag of cats isn’t helping.”
Evelyne lifted the brown paper bag up and poured the cats onto her face like a crazy person. They meowed and purred as they scattered in all directions. She swallowed the cats in her mouth and tossed the paper bag to the side. It vanished into ones and zeroes.
Greg laughed. He didn’t know why but he laughed.
Evelyne’s frame began to shrink. A text bubbled appeared over her head.
¨(If you need me. Don’t hesitate to ask.)
Greg watched as she shrank into oblivion before his eyes. Pretty soon the kitchen was empty again; the sound of water dripping in the sink occupied the air. Evelyne had left behind all the small cats she had generated from the brown paper bag. Greg stepped around them gingerly as he made his way to the living room. He was about halfway down the hall when a knock came at the door. Greg jumped at the loud sound. He could hear people talking now and chanting outside like wild animals. It sounded like a crowed was gathering around his house.
Their voice were muffled but still audible, (Hey, hey, Ho, Ho, the bleacher boy has got to go! HEY, HEY, HO, HO, THE BLEACHER BOY HAS GOT TO GO!!)
Greg was sure this was all just a big misunderstanding. He opened the door and walked out onto the front porch. He nearly slipped on the pile of river rocks gathering at the base of his threshold. He dodged another rock from the crowed as he held his hands up to calm the mob. It looked like the whole town had gathered around to see him; but why?
“What is this about?” Yelled Greg, “Why have you come here?”
The crowed grew silent as they gazed upon his whiteness. There was a mixture of fear and hatred in their eyes. Some of them where holding tiki torches and pitch forks. Greg was wishing now that he had not purchased his house so close to the Amish.
“He’s hideous!” said a small boy. “Look at his side-part!”
From somewhere in the back a baby started crying again. Greg was going to petition them gain when he saw the man with the sledgehammer pounding a sign into his front lawn. When he was finished he turned to Greg and back away.
“See Mama!” said a familiar voice from the crowed. It sounded like nails on a chalkboard, “I told you that librarian was a bloody bleacher in disguise! Big Daddy J won’t let you take our country from us! It belongs to us!”
Greg watched as the red headed child from the waiting room emerged from the crowed. She pressed herself up against the fence and pointed at him. There was a fire in her eyes that would have scared the devil himself, “You monster!”
“I am not a monster!” yelled Greg as came down from his steps. “I am just like you. I am human!”
“Tell that to the sign!” yelled Cindy Lockhart Jr.
Greg turned to the sign in his yard. A small rock hit him in the back of the head as he read the words out loud. He couldn’t believe it.
-Dead Man Act Recipient-
“The American People Welcome You”
“There has to be some mistake!” said Greg. “This isn’t my sign!”
“The government doesn’t lie!” said Cindy as she chucked a rock at him. “You failed your test you bloody bleacher! We all know who you really are now!”
The crowed started the terrible chant again. It drowned out Greg’s voice. There was nothing he could do or say, (HEY, HEY, HO, HO, THE BLEACHER BOY HAS GOT TO GO. HEY, HEY, HO, HO, THE BLEACHER BOY HAS GOT TO GO!)
Greg turned to retreat from them but was stopped by the mob. They had flanked him from behind and where now standing on his front porch. They were holding ropes and pitchforks. There was no way he could get inside; he would die this way. Greg panicked as the sound of a loud siren pierced the air. The mob in the street began to disperse as two large black vans pulled up and flashed their lights. A bull horn sounded at the crowed.
It was an angry woman’s voice, “Stand down, Stand down!”
Officers in black suits poured from the vehicles and into the yard. They forced the crowed back as they made their way to Greg and grabbed him. A woman’s voice sounded again from the bull horn, “The only crime this man is guilty of is wearing argyle!”
Before Greg could even react he was swept away into the vans. His world was spinning as they drove out of sight.