Face Value

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Chapter 3: Photographs and Memories

I called Christine and she had managed to arrange a party of my co-workers to come help me out of my rut who got me home about one thirty AM. Christine ran outdoors and caught me in a tremendous bear hug as soon as I limped out of our Cougar.

“Don’t scare me like that!” she scolded tearfully, pounding my shoulder blades, “I thought this time, you missed your brother so much you decided to jump off after him!”

“I’m okay, dear. This was the last time. I’ll find some other way to remember Fred next year.” I flashed her one of my award-winning smiles and she melted into my chest suppressing deep sobs.

After a few moments, her crying ceased and she began to breathe normally. Slowly, I loosened my grip and she looked up.

“I guess I should explain. While I was there, I saw something shiny near the spot where he feel. You know how I am with shiny stuff. I let my treasure hunting instinct get the best of me.” I reached into my pocket and produced the locket. “Take a look at this!”

As the beam of the front porch light caught the locket, Christine’s hands flew to her mouth.

“Honey, what’s the matter?” I asked holding her shoulders.

She gingerly shook her head and regained her composure. “Oh, nothing. Just nothing. I was just startled, that’s all. It’s lovely.”

I didn’t believe for a second that she was telling me everything, but, seeing her state of mind, I let her get away with it.

“Well, honey, would you like something to eat? I could warm something up.” She spoke quickly and fidgeted with her hands.

“No, that’s okay. You go upstairs and lie down. You’ve had a long day, and so have I. I’ll join you in a moment.”

She drew in one last deep breath. “Okay, don’t be too long. I missed you.”

The corners of my mouth turned up in a grin and slid my arm around her waist, “I missed you too.”

I pecked her playfully on the cheek as we entered the house. She proceeded upstairs and I took a right into our study right off the entryway. Without looking, I reached my hand inside the darkened entryway and flicked on the light switch, which lit a lamp that rested on the top of my large oak desk. I settled into a blue swivel chair, and slid open a drawer on near the base of the desk. Carefully, I rummaged through the memorabilia inside until I located what I was looking for.

The old, leather cover still bore the title in shiny, gold lettering: Steele County Scorpions Class of 1989.

I opened the book and flipped through the pages, pausing to reminisce on a few pages that brought back especially poignant memories: the talent show where Fred and I had sung a duet, the school’s production of “Camelot” where my brother played Lancelot and I played as King Arthur. I lingered for a few moments on the junior personalities page, and chuckled to see my brother’s name listed under both “best looking” and “most likely to succeed”.

If I were ever to win an award, it would probably be “the most likely to be cold in someone’s shadow”.

I stopped longer on a particularly special page. It displayed, in full color, the senior prom court outfitted in their fancy attire. In the center of the page, Christine and I sat on matching thrones, arrayed in a crown, cape and scepter. Looking back, it was all a bit corny, but that didn’t bother me so much.

I had worn the tuxedo that my brother had purchased when he had been invited to a prom the previous year. A shiny, white limousine had arrived to pick us up from the ritzy, Italian restaurant where we dined before we continued on to the dance. We had waited hand in hand for the announcement of the prom court and afterwards had danced all night in other’s arms. So captivated were we, that people flippantly asked me later why they hadn’t seen us at prom.

At the bottom she had signed a lengthy message in her delicate penmanship that ended with “to the Face that captivated my heart, love always”. I chuckled at her bit of word play. My full name is Franklin Allen Christopher Edison. My friends called me Face.

Moving on from the page, I moved on to my real purpose in referring to the yearbook. It was a long shot, but I had to see if any of the girls that Fred had dated had worn a matching locket. The first one had seemed to be only part of a familiar phrase, and so it stood to reason that the girl who had given it to him that day might have the other half.

The search took much longer than I had expected. I had forgotten Fred had had so many girlfriends. At last, I stopped trying when I realized that the number of possible candidates exceed my fingers and toes.

Quickly, I turned off the desk light and slipped out of the room and up the stairs in a few bounds and got ready for bed.

However, before settling down, I remembered to retrieve the locket from my pants pocket, and deposit it in my sock drawer for safekeeping.

Sleep took no prisoners that night. My head had scarcely grazed the pillow than I found myself deep in the sea of my subconscious having the strangest dreams about endless bumper cars with Annie. For a few hours I slept soundly, not even tossing and turning as I usually do.

However, sometime during the night, the happy-go-lucky dreams turned into nightmares. I found myself riding my motorcycle again, racing around corners and making jumps at breakneck speed. Once again, I raced down that familiar canyon, but this time, my opponents were not my brother and our high school chums, but a legion of blue creatures, like the one I won from the ring toss booth. They swarmed all around me coming dangerously close, weaving in and out of my path. I screamed at them, “What are you doing? What do you want from me?”

There screams mixed with crazy laughter. “To be or not to be! To be or not to be!”

The corners of my vision blurred and the landscape contorted in front of me. I tried to yell out for help, but as I did I found myself soaring out over the edge of the cliff and then plunging to the depths below. I lost grip of my bike, and the spiraled all the way down, drowned in a dark sea of confusion. My body braced for impact on the jagged stones.

Breathless and sweaty, I bolted upright in bed to profound silence. Amazingly, I didn’t wake my sleeping wife. I rubbed my eyes and stared into the darkened room as I let my eyes adjust. Something felt wrong- out of place. I cast my eyes about the room until they locked on to my sock drawer. A strange glow emitted from it and when I looked at it directly, a strange tingling feeling emanated throughout my body. It started in my chest and spread down my spine until its touch reached the tips of my fingers and toes.

Not sure if I was still dreaming, I crept out of bed and tiptoed over to the sock drawer. As I did, the tingling sensation heightened its grip on my body, and I snapped into full alertness. With trembling hands, I reached towards the drawer and slid it open.

A great shaft of purple light erupted from the top of my drawer and sent out soft, glowing sparks. The sparks flew up to the ceiling and then floated to the floor, where they disappeared. The ones that landed on me left a warm fuzzy sensation where they landed. “Wow, I wonder what kind of detergent she used on those.”

Searching for the source of the sparks, I peeked over the edge, like a young child peering down the banister on Christmas morning. As my head rounded the top, I immediately felt the tingling overcome my senses so that I could feel nothing else.

I reached into the drawer, and immediately felt my hands close around the chain of the locket that I had placed there. Suddenly, an incredible force yanked my body towards the light and into the drawer. A sensation of incredible speed overtook me and my body hurtled down a beam of pure energy.

I gazed in awe as stars and planets exploded into view across the horizon and then sailed off far behind me. Entire galaxies passed in front of me, assaulting my senses with massive amounts of visual information. My mind reeling, I felt that my simple brain might explode at the sheer magnitude of the journey on this cosmic roller coaster.

However, just as quickly as the journey began, it halted. Darkness once again became my companion, and I lay prostrate on a cold, damp surface. My eyes stared out into the darkness and, a ghostly writing faded into view. The letters refused to hold their form at first, but after a few moments, I was able to focus enough to grasp their meaning.

To be or not to be?

My breath caught in my throat.

What kind of question is that? Why is my subconscious quoting Hamlet?

I tried to blink a few times and make it go away, but the words still appeared when I closed my eyes. The words shifted as in an unseen breeze and then materialized again.

Well, which on will it be?

What’s with all the questions? What the heck, being sounds much better than not being…

Feebly, I rose to my knees and drew in a long, steady breath for an answer, “To be!” I yelled with all the strength I could muster.

Immediately, an unseen force knocked me again to my face.

Is this death? Do we get a chance to choose whether to exist or not? Is this heaven or hell?

The questions tormented me for what seemed like hours, but when I finally came to, a jovial voice called to my from out of the darkness. I didn’t comprehend the babbling at first, and I still didn’t as I lifted my head to find the source. To my complete astonishment, my eyes met the face from out of my nightmares: one of the little, blue men fluttering over me on his tiny wings, his mouth wide open in a toothy grin.

Groggily, I stared into his face and the words slowly took on meaning.

“Welcome to Trezzlepeg’s Bazaar of Wonders. How can I help you?”

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