13 seconds later . . .
I look at the words, starting from the bottom right of the page as a few random bits and dashes complete the text. And the words . . . there’s something familiar about them.
Line after line I read, there’s this kind of Deja vu welling up in the front of my mind, as if I’ve seen all this before. The whole right-to-left thing only bugs me for the first few sentences, then my brain makes the necessary adjustments and I’m rocking and rolling.
I get this gut feeling, as I near the top of the page; that somebody’s staring at me. You know that feeling that eyes are focused on only you? And so slowly as to not be perceptible, I raise my eyes. I’m not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
The clock on the wall is melted and bloated. My lamp is stretched and bent. My wooden chairs are all warped and thin. My refrigerator, it looks so twisted that I’ll never get the pizzas out of it.
While I had been zoning out on the book, the world I live in had again been morphed into this other place. This land of grey and blue. Between dogs and wolves and shark-blue waters.
Oh yeah, and there was something else that had me two breaths away from curling up into the fetal position and crapping my pants: The spooks!
So many I can’t even count them all. They’re everywhere, staring silently at me and the book. And this time, they really are looking at me. They look like cavemen gazing at fire for the first time. They’re on the floor, in my kitchen, on my counter, on my dresser, and on my bed. It’s a crowd. A dark audience of monsters. Everywhere.
Right . . .
next . . .
to . . .
. . . me!
These spooks are rocking slowly back and forth like entranced mental patients. The same way I’ll be if I ever mention so much as a whisper of this to my caseworker.
I don’t want to make them mad, but I don’t like them being here. Even though they are just shadows, there’s probably enough of them to kick my ass. But I’m fresh out of ideas, here. Clueless.
I decide to close the book before my chest starts hurting and I fall out of myself. Otherworldly concerns, I’m so well traveled, now. Me, the conquistador . . . the explorer of the netherworld.
I carefully lift the cover of the book and toss it closed, and everything in the room starts to shift and shake violently. Every piece of furniture gets blurry and slowly reforms to its original shape. And the warm colors of my world, they return as if the program that is my reality just switched from black-n-white to color.
The spooks, they all shuffle slowly to the shadows in corners and under tables like drunks being led out of the bar at closing time.
I’m holding my breath the whole time, but they go. Sure enough, they leave.
I throw one of my pillows on top of the book, just so it doesn’t accidentally fall open. At this point, even the laws of physics are suspect. I wouldn’t be surprised if fish suddenly started swimming by my window.
I crawl to the side of the bed, careful not to step on any lingering spooks as I step down. Two things are rebounding off the insides of my skull. The words I read, and how bad I want some of that pizza.
Are these the proper responses for an event of this magnitude? Probably not, but I’m learning all this as I go. I’ll be honest, I’m in kind of a daze, right now. The apogee of my neurosis.
I look for my cordless phone as I head to the fridge. I have to call Ricky and tell him to come back to my apartment. I’m multi-tasking, now. As I open the refrigerator door I find both the pizza, and the cordless phone . . . right next to the milk.
The thought briefly crosses my mind that the spooks are fucking with me.
Little undead pranksters.
Don’t have any idea how my head could be stuck that far up my ass, but there you are. I pull out the pizza and hit redial on the chilly cordless phone.
“Did you leave something in my truck?” Ricky answers, and I can hear traffic being narrowly dodged in the background.
“No,” I tell him. “I read the first chapter.”
“. . . of the . . .”
“Holy shit!” he exploded.
“Funny you should mention that,” I say. “Because that’s the feeling I got.”
“Yeah, well, this is a big breakthrough! This is—”
“Not just that, though. The words . . . they sound familiar.”
“Familiar how?” he says with squealing tires and angrily honking horns in the background.
I shrug as I pull the pizza out of its red box and read the instructions. “Grand,” I say. “Grand.”
“Look, don’t do anything,” Ricky instructs me like he was the operator of a suicide hotline I had just called. “I’ll . . . be . . . right . . . over!”
Hurry, I told him . . . before the world melts, again.