“…I write to ask questions. To open minds to what’s really around them. I want to learn the truth behind these events and places.” Plastic tapping loudly, the only company a computer had for itself were a pair of disembodied hands dancing along its keyboard, and a face staring intently back at it. Words took shape on its screen nonstop, and one had to wonder if it exhausted the laptop. It must have, as its screen dimmed while the man opposite too took a brief break to sip on a bubbly gin and tonic. Both reported back to top form when the man began typing again, and the computer’s screen lit back up, one of the few light sources in the studio apartment.
Another source of light stood near a corner of the room, glowing a dim and menacing hue. Rust orange, it seemed that had not the computer illuminated its partner’s face, the light, though on, proved next to useless. It remained fixed to its post above a stove, flickering once in awhile. It was as if it were trying to catch their attention, for it knew something neither the man nor the laptop did.
The man took another reprieve from his trusted colleague to pull open a drawer in his desk. He sighed with satisfaction after another sip, and from the compartment he retrieved a cigarillo, one of many that sat neatly aligned in the drawer. With a heavy clink a Zippo lighter was opened, but just before he could enjoy one more of his indulgences, Isaac Ulrich’s phone lit up and hummed its tune to him. He peered over its screen” to see that his wife was calling. He answered promptly.
“Hello, my dear.”
“How goes the crusade against evil?” Isaac smirked at Ruth’s mock seriousness.
“There is always more work to be done. I think I’m onto something, however.” Isaac began to spin in his desk chair, much like the thoughts in his mind so often did. Between staring at a computer screen all night and the inability to sleep, it was no wonder that dark bags rested beneath his eyes. A man about to reach forty, his cycle of work and writing made him appear about ten years older.
“Oh?” Isaac blinked.
“Yes. B-but I can tell you about it later. How are you feeling?” Still spinning in his chair, Isaac began to twirl the cigarillo between his thumb and index finger, picturing himself as the pencil-sized harbinger of cancer.
“I’m okay. Still blowing my nose a lot though.” The journalist could hear water running in the background on his wife’s end. Was she washing dishes? Running a bath perhaps? He didn’t get to ask before she went on. “Liz was wondering if we could watch the kids over the weekend.”
“Of course.” There was a pause over the phone.
“Will you be here?” There was a moment’s hesitation on Ulrich’s end, his attention shifting from his wife’s tone to his patient laptop then back.
“I...um…” He sighed. “I’ll try, my dear.” Silence hung over the other end of the phone, and it was not knowing how his wife was reacting facially or physically that sent Isaac’s heart racing. He had let her down so many times before, for the sake of his research and writing.
“Okay…it’s okay.” It was Ruth’s turn to sigh. “I know how important your work is to you, Love, but you need to relax and have a life once in awhile. With me, hopefully.” Isaac’s mind flashed to their neighbor’s young twins, both in the midst of teething, and blinked. Right. That would be relaxing.
Both bid goodnight to the other, and as he basked in the glow of his computer screen, Isaac finished his drink with a solid, hearty gulp. He stood tall and walked to his minibar. Any self-respecting writer had a choice selection of liquor on hand, and while he admitted he was no Ernest Hemingway, Isaac enjoyed a drink with his work. He hummed to himself.
Better switch to coffee, he thought as he set his glass down, paying no mind to the towering stack of used coffee cups on his desk. How he hadn’t had a heart attack was beyond him. Slipping into his shoes and jacket, Ulrich finally took note of the light over the stove. Unlike before, where it half-heartedly fought for his attention, the light now flickered wildly. It wanted to scream at him, and demand time and again that he leave the apartment. The faint buzz from its bulb was the closest it could come to a yelp, and even as it changed its tune from commanding angrily to apathetically pleading, Isaac grimaced at its display.
“Stupid light. Give me a migraine already.” He growled while shutting the light off. Now with only the computer screen and the streetlamps outside his window to keep him company, the man returned to his faithful companion, thinking for a moment as he skimmed across the last few lines he had written. He shook himself free, knowing to get ideas down firs before any revision was to take place. Before he turned and headed for another coffee, his attention returned to his cigarillo. Bringing it up to his mouth, he tasted and savored it for a moment before bringing up his Zippo lighter.
As he flicked the starter, he met eyes not with a simple flame, but a fireball that consumed everything in the apartment, including him.
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Name Input: William K.