World of Xetrov

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Smith finds John

Smith finds John

John sits at his desk staring at the computer screen. It has been a quiet morning; the neighboring stalwart is docile and the boss has been vacant not saying two words since his arrival.

John enters a verbal provocation, “So tell me,” he begins, “why is everybody so quiet?”

“It’s a busy morning, I guess we’re buried in work.”

“I haven’t received one phone call from the boss and she has not come over here this week. Something is up.”

“Seems normal to me.”

John disbelieves him wondering his motivation is for being oblivious. What kind of life is it to live in ignorant bliss? He forges ahead. “This is what it’s like before someone gets fired,” says John awaiting a response. None is forthcoming. “You know, they say silence raises doubt. I disagree, what do you think?”

“Did you screw some shippers up last Friday?”

“No, they were screwed up weeks ago. It only became obvious last Friday.”

Finally, the man turns to face him, “Well, they were hooting and hollering about it yesterday morning.”

“That’s strange,” began John. “No one said anything to me.”

“Well, the boss asked me how you order your shippers. I wasn’t sure how to answer her.”
Baffled, “Let me understand you. She asked you how I work? Wouldn’t it be easier if she asked me how I work? That makes sense, right? Ask subject A about A, not B.”

Shrugging his shoulders in capitulation and whispering, “I’m just saying be careful, don’t rock the boat.”

Staring back, “How much time do I have?”

The answer is stored somewhere in the black, soulless pit of his colleague’s skull. The opaque vale of indiscriminateness fails to hide his complicit behavior. John is not fooled.

Suddenly, John’s phone rings, ending the impasse. Thinking his boss’s is on the other line he reluctantly answers, “Hello, this is John.”

“John?” A man’s voice responds.

“Yeah.”

“This is Officer Smith.”

A sinking feeling grips him. “Yeah.”

“Yeah?” Surprised, “I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“Is anybody hurt?”

“No.”

“Is this work-related?”

Silence before Smith murmurs, “John, I know what you do at night.”

Fear handcuffs him harboring the inability to remain calm. All the one-liners he could come up with to save himself evaporated into nervous air. Smith must have heard every possible comeback. His eyes shift back as he does the only logical thing; hangs up the phone.

His brain whirls with consternation trying to find answers and solutions. He abruptly stands up and walks out of his cubicle and down the hall. It seems like days but it is only seconds before he arrives at his boss’s office.

She looks up to find him distraught.

“Hi” begins John, “I just received an emergency phone call from home, and I’ve got to leave.”

Surprisingly pleasant, she sends him on his way. As usual, John surveys her office finding several odd items and a colorful arrangement of pills line up on her desk. He thinks does she must lay out her clothes the previous night and carefully choose which outfit works? Visualizing her staring at a bottle of booze and sleeping pills by her bed, “Oh, thank you.” He darts away from her office towards the exit.

He squints at the warm sun in the open doorway. Nothing seems out of place and he proceeds cautiously to his vehicle, acutely aware of a suspicious Smith lurking readying to pounce.

The drive to his apartment is filled with the unknown. Has Jessica driven to the office yet? Or is she at home? All the questions pepper him as his uncertain journey asks more than answers. He hopes Jessica hasn’t gone to the office yet.

John steps inside the apartment relieved to find Jessica working.

“What are you doing here?” She asks.

“I got a call today from Officer Smith. They are on to us.”

“Who is Smith?” She stands up and watches him enter the bedroom.

“Because of Smith I’m packing my things and heading up north. I have to expedite the plan.”

“What plan?” asks Jessica shifting here eyes from room to room watching John fill backpacks with provisions.

John ignores her inquisition as he rifles through items and clothes. “The apartment and utilities are paid up. I’ll call work and tell them I won’t be back.”

Jessica demands, “Where are you going?”

Condescendingly looking at her knowing he has answered her questions before. “You know to how to find me.” Overwrought and annoyed he exits the apartment.

Four years later.

Mike finds himself in the same predicament. One single clue acknowledged by the cops can dismantle his group.

Sitting by himself at a table in a room in the undercroft of the church that was once a prominent meetinghouse but has been updated turned into to a homeless shelter. He though it would be a safe haven for his group, he now knows otherwise. The temperament is murky and gray at best.

There is a slight creaking sound from the back as a member strolls in, “Hey, Mike.”

“Good evening, how are you?”
“Good, I guess. No police outside, at least no one that I could see.”

Mike only smirks.

“What?” The man asks chuckling.

Shaking his head, “Nothing, I had a déjà vu moment.”

“How so?” The man rests next to Mike.

“You know, it has been almost four years to the day.” He stares where a cross formerly hung. Its dust now outlines an empty wall. “It was an election that year too, but a big one. They were getting a lot of heat about the content of television and stage. People were being censored left and right.”

People walk into the meeting filling the room quickly.

“Some performers were being fired for comical and candid remarks. Their careers were over.” He looks down and away, “The media and politicians would arrange it in such a way that the fallen celebrity would cease to exist, as if they never were around to begin with. People would just forget about them.”

A man chimes from the back, “I was watching TV last night and a doctor was actively pushing a weight loss drug. That was not strange, but he advised the drug over exercise. How is a pill better than exercising? It doesn’t make sense.”

“Not to me, either” another man says.

“How many people are left from before?” Someone asks from the back.

“Other than me, no one” says Mike, “I haven’t seen anybody from the old group, I have heard some stories but nothing concrete.”

“What happened to everybody?”

“I believe they’re all dead.”

Before anybody can speak, a voice yells from the back, “Not all.”

All heads turn to see Jen standing at the double doors. Beside her is William, who says, “This one got away.”

Approaching him a man asks quietly, “You got away. Did you know John?”

William gives a similar smirk to Mike’s previous one, “You could say that.”

Mike’s eyes lock onto William with wonderment. They are mum.

Some curious members pipe in, “So what about it? Is John alive?”

“John,” he pausing for effect, “He’s gone.” Says William then whispers to Mike, “Can I speak with you in private?”

“Yeah,” Mike turns and leads him to the vestry.

The door closes, “They are on to you. You need to shut it down or leave” Says William immediately.

“You think I don’t know that!” Says Mike folding his arms in frustration.

“Mike, you are leading these guys down a path of destruction-“

“-How did you get away?”

There is silence.

“You know they executed every one of us. Only you and I are here.”

“I know they did, I drove by the graves. They buried them near the airport. Mike, keeping this up is a death warrant.”

“Then why are you here?”
“I’m already dead. At least I might be able to save a few lives.”

Mike continues folding arms in disbelief.

“So now that you know what I’ve done, are you scared?” Asks William as Tanya settles down across from him.

Giggling, “Why would I be scared?”

“I’m a criminal.”

“You’re not a criminal.”

“Your husband thinks so.”

Previously she would shield her husband from heated altercations.

William notices her tranquility, “No?”

Conceding, she only shakes her head.

“Listen Tanya, I-

“Stop it,” she looks up, “Why do you look at me like that?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Arnie and I have been together for three years and I don’t feel this way when we’re together.”

“What way?”

Voice snapping with passionate infliction, “The way I feel when you’re around me.” Her eyes flicker. Ungoverned affection riots her heart rippling her core, “Who are you?”

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