Chapter 1: The Usual
Rays of sunlight bounce across small ocean waves that rush towards the beach. Each wave shedding beads of white water as they rise up and fold over themselves, losing most of their height as they approach the sandy shores. Some, bursting against large rocks that emerge from somewhere below the deep waters. Trevor takes in a slow but filling breath of fresh air, letting the breeze push his hair back as seagulls pass overhead. As he lets his lungs deflate, he peers out at the orange and yellow sun, sinking beneath the horizon. A soft smile spreads across his lips as he closes his eyes and lets the saltwater lap at his feet. Just as his eyelids block out the setting sun, a new, unrelenting sound emerges.
Beep, beep, beep, beep! Beep, beep, beep, beep! Beep, beep, beep, beep!
His eyes spring open to see a dark ceiling with a bright white square in the center directly above his head, as a single pane window pours in an unfamiliar light. He turns to face the frame and spots a mirror across the street sitting atop a mound of trash in a large bin. Still only partially awake, he looks above the bin to find the obvious source; a streetlight. Annoyed, he grunts, slaps the top of the digital alarm on his bedstand and hops up, throwing his sheets aside. The bedroom was as sweltering as usual this morning, so he kept low enough that his boxers couldn’t be seen by anybody who might pass by on this outskirt city street and whipped the curtains shut. Feeling partially accomplished, he turns away and proceeds towards the bathroom. With a quick shower and a fresh change of clothes, heat in the apartment was a little more bearable. Checking his watch and seeing that he still has an hour before work, Trevor trudges off towards the front door of his unit, never turning any of the lights on whilst he goes about his morning, as there is nobody else there to greet. With the door locked and everybody else in the building likely still sleeping, he creeps through the corridors and out onto the street. He figures this is the best time to finish what he started and walks across the empty roadway, pulls the mirror out of the bin, and drops it on the sidewalk. With a sharp breath that is followed by an equally harsh exhale, he nods, smiles at the damage, and continues on his way.
Living only a few city blocks from his mother’s he arrives fairly quickly and knocks at the door.
“Coming, coming!” Trevor waits patiently as the middle-aged woman lightly waddles towards him from the other side. He can hear boards creak beneath her feet, but nothing more until the deadbolt and knob lock are both undone. “Trevor, my boy!” His mother snatches him up and hugs him tightly before pulling away. “Come on in, come on in!” He does so and slips out of his shoes immediately. “Oh, my! How long has it been?”
“Less than a day, mom. I was here yesterday, remember?”
“Oh, you can’t sneak one by on me like that. Of course I’d remember you coming by!”
“So,” she begins, walking towards the kitchen, “how are things at home?”
“The same as usual.”
“Still no er- special guests?”
“No, mom.” The smell of bacon grease and toasting bread fill his nostrils as he sits at the dining table to his mother’s right. The apartment is only suitable for one to two people, three if one were to use the fold-out couch, but Trevor doubted it even worked anymore as it was not aging well. He didn’t mind this though. His own apartment and belongings weren’t the best, but he was happy with them.
“Why might that be?”
“Nobody special has come around yet, that’s all.”
“Well,” his mother chuckles as she jabs at a pan of sizzling eggs, “good women don’t just fall from the sky, dear. You need to look for her yourself.”
“What, in this neighborhood?”
“Good point. Maybe look elsewhere.” As she finishes her suggestion, she slides a lump of scrambled eggs onto a plate with a blue painted ring around the outside of it, then throws on a couple pieces of bacon with some tongs, a small cup of butter, toast, and some silverware. With the meal prepped, she waddles over to Trevor and lets the plate clink against the scuffed table in front of him. “Eat up! You should never go to work hungry.”
“That’s another thing.” His mother makes up her own plate and sits across from him, her short, curled hair bouncing as she does so. “If you’re going to find a girl, you need more friends than just your mother.”
“I have friends, mom.”
“Luke. He’ll be stopping by my place tomorrow at some point.”
“Isn’t he married, with a child?”
“Engaged, and yes.” Trevor bites the end of his fork and pulls it out of his mouth, removing the buttery egg bits from it as he does so. “They usually bring over board games and the like.”
“Don’t you think that would cause unnecessary pressure on whoever you might be with?”
“Oh, you know, giving her the idea that that’s what you want?”
“But... that is what I want.” Trevor swallows hard, wishing he knew any way to get off the subject. Needing little thought, he realizes it has been his mother’s go to topic for as long as they have been living in the city.
“Perhaps. Wait, you don’t bring this up on first dates do you?”
“Of course not.” "I should really stop doing that.” He thought to himself. With his plate partially scraped clean he looks towards his mother, who is scooping up bites twice the size of those he takes and shoveling them into her mouth. Tossing her own eyes in the direction of a window that is centered with the table, she starts chewing another bite and squints curiously.
“You feel that?”
“Feel wh-” Trevor grips both sides of the table, hoping the roof would not collapse on top of them as the ground begins to shake. He listens as the walls creak for a few moments before everything returns to normal. The entire time, his mother continues to eat calmly and look through the window. As the earthquake passes, Trevor loosens his grip and stares in her direction.
“Eh, nevermind. It passed.” His mother shrugs and he gulps, expressing sincere disbelief across his face. She looks back at him and pauses with the last of her meal on her fork. “What?”
“That was another earthquake. How many is that this week?”
“I’m not sure. Stopped keeping track.” She chuckles and brushes crumbs from her fingertips onto her plate.
“Okay, well I need to start heading out. I’ll be back again tomorrow. I love you.” Trevor gets up, pecks her on the cheek, and rushes towards the door to get outside safely.
“I’ll be here, sweety. I love you, too!” As she shouts this across the apartment, Trevor shuts the door behind himself, still stuffing one foot in a shoe.
Being on his way he checks his watch to ensure he can still make it to work without being late. Unable to read the small hands at his quickened pace, he lifts the device closer to his face.
“Look out, son!” Trevor stops in place and jerks the watch away just in time to see an older man with a palm raised towards him.
“Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.”
“No harm done.” The man tips a black baseball cap and looks to where Trevor can hear another voice. He follows the man’s gaze, only just noticing the growing crowd of people ahead of him.
“What’s this all about?”
“Hmm? Oh!” The man points towards another who is standing on a small pedestal near the center of the crowd. “A new theory on all of this.”
“All of... what?”
“You know, the earthquakes? The riots? Fires, even?” The man turns back towards Trevor, briefly exposing a scruffy, silver beard and shiny blue eyes. Trevor nods at him with clarity and looks towards the man on the pedestal.
The man speaks loudly, occasionally ringing a bell that’s held up high in his right hand. Trevor follows the arm downward and tries reading a sign around the man’s neck. As the crowd shifts about, he pieces together the message “The Devil has fled. We should too!” Rolling his eyes, he once again speaks with the older man next to him.
“Do you believe anything this guy is saying?”
“Not sure.” The man shrugs without taking his eyes off the speaker. “Whatever’s going on, I’d say we don’t have much time to figure it out.” He then points towards the bell ringer. “Especially if this fella here is right about any of it.” Trevor raises a brow and listens in.
“He may walk among us! He may be one of us! He may be none of us! He may be nowhere and never return!” Having almost enough of it, Trevor shakes his head and starts off again, still listening to the man speak as he goes on his way. “But, know this! If the Devil doesn’t return to that retched throne, balance will be lost and we will become undeserving of redemption, peace, and salvation! Without him, there is no purpose in judgment, thus, no Pearly Gates!” Trevor scoffs and walks even faster than before, partially to get away from the crazy preacher, partially because he is now five minutes behind.
Hours into his shift, sitting at his cubical and listening to constant complaints from customers, Trevor takes note of each time the lights flicker in the building and each time a call gets dropped. He dreads work on a daily basis and can’t help but listen to the ticking of a nearby clock through his one-piece headset while another person chews the other ear off. This day is different, however. Not in a good way, but rather an off-putting one, to him. For reasons even he cannot explain, the preacher’s words continue to run through his head for hours on end.
It was as if they meant something to him, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
“Hello? What do you mean ‘37 flickers’? What’s that?”
“S-sorry, sir. Let’s continue with your issue so I can do my best to resolve it.” “38.” The voice in his head follows up with.
Looking about the office, he spots five other coworkers gathered around a wall-mounted television. On the screen, he sees the same news reporter he has seen every day prior, but it was only rounding 2:00 pm and the news report wasn’t for another hour. He turns the volume down on his headset and listens in.
“-no other scientific theories aside from tectonic shifting have been released, but one man has his own. Let’s go over to our field expert for the day, Jordan.” The screen now shows two separate images. One of the same reporter in her red button-up jacket, and another of the afternoon reporter, standing on the same street Trevor had walked to get to work. Next to Jordan was the preacher, now separated from his followers for an interview. Trevor’s eyes go wide and briefly roll into the back of his head as he listens to the man retell his beliefs to the reporter before Trevor zones back in with his customer.
“I’m still here, sir. Continue with your-” The other end of the call goes out before Trevor can finish his sentence. He sighs and grabs his pen. “15 dropped calls.” He tosses the utensil back down once another tally is added to his sticky note tracker and stares at the blinking lights on his call box. “I’m going to need a drink when this is over.”