By Michael Watson
Only three sounds prevailed in the lab. The sound of his incessant breathing, the slow murmur of the computers, and the ticking of the mouse-wheel as Argo pushed his way toward some unreachable and far away land. No matter. It wasn’t the sound that bothered him, of course, but the lack of discernable smell. Not even a faint illusion of flavor lingered in the air. It was dark, dry, and always motionless to the music of the three sounds beating within it. Yet there persisted a comfort in it—a warmth even. It might have been the completely sterilized environment or the conformity and organized neatness of the testing room, but Conrad enjoyed the lighting. It wasn’t too bright just as it wasn’t too dark. The lab remained an always appropriate temperature and the chairs had to be the finest of any building downtown. If only he could bring in an air freshener, something, anything. He would even welcome the noisome smell of his uncle’s sheep farm. Smells let you know you’re awake and the Earth is turning.
Conrad didn’t think much about it anymore after four months of the night shift. He just took another sip from the milk carton and flipped the page of Science Magazine. It’s not that he wanted to read it, but he felt obligated. Mostly, he just read bits and pieces of the articles and never really chewed the meat of any particular column; he detested it in a way. The smug of science. The quest for answers. Arrogant, he thought. He tilted the milk carton again. Each night he sat, studied the charts from the afternoon, filled Argo’s water, and then sat to drink another carton of milk from Jet’s Seven-Eleven. Maybe I’ll get chocolate milk tomorrow night. He wouldn’t. From time to time, this notion of chocolate and strawberry attempted to creep into the impulsiveness of his nature, but he had no spontaneity.
What does it befit a man to be spontaneous? To be unpredictable? And if a man does unpredictable things often enough, do not his impulsive actions become just as predictable? Questions. Always questions and more questions. He flopped out of the chair, milk in hand, and squandered over to Argo, his I.D. badge knocking against his left breast. He hunched over to speak toward the “cage.” Rather, an air-tight plastic cell. Conrad thought it more befitting to an insane person like Old Man Walsh who sat on a slab of cardboard outside of his apartment building ranting about a Japanese robot invasion.
“And what do you think, my immunodeficient friend? Perhaps you have all the answers. I’ll tell you what. How does one profit from doing that which is unpredictable, hm?” He paused and actually waited for a response, but Argo stayed on his wheel turning toward that imaginary destination, the wheel tinkling and squeaking, though no soul could hear it. Conrad, the lab technician of the night, finished off the rest of his milk, chucked the carton in the orange-papered trash bag, and dropped back in his seat. He picked up the magazine again, but just as quickly allowed it to fall to his lap. He sported a pensive look. “Of course, Argo. Suppose someone were to live his whole life doing the same thing every single day. He has a wife. Has kids. Goes to his job every day; he even has a library card, you understand. And then one day, for no reason that any chap can explain, he blows his head off right in front of the family cat. Now—that would be spontaneous,” he pointed toward the mouse, who was still fitting in his nightly cardio. Conrad exhaled and waited again for a response, but when none came he returned to the computer screen to ready himself for the night’s data entry. The ceiling lights flickered, but the hum of the computers endured without pause.
Argo was a transgenic mouse predisposed to the natural development of cancerous tumors due to the introduction of oncogene. However, this is not what made him special to the Warren Research Group. He was the only fully white mouse of his litter, he showed aptitude in problem-solving trials, and he excelled as an expert nest-builder; he demonstrated proficiency in selecting the best materials and placed them with strategic, architectural accuracy. His nest-building days were cut short, however, when he developed a tumor before the others. He was a mouse of particular but unknown tastes. He liked his water cold, preferred wood chips instead of sawdust, and spent more time than perhaps necessary on his mouse-wheel. Mice are known to stand on their hind legs when eating or participating in territorial fights, but Argo stood on two legs regularly, possibly due to his familiarity with humans.
He did not view humans as anything other than food and water providers. They were a source for him, and he harbored no strong sentiment toward them one way or another. His only grudge had developed a month ago when they removed him from the environment he shared with his brothers and sisters and isolated him into a deceptively translucent box. He stood alone and there were no tubes for him to nestle within; the only saving grace of the new nest was the exercise-wheel. But even though he used it excessively, there was nothing vivacious in his execution, and he found no true enjoyment in it. He slept more now and preferred, like most mice, the night time. Though he possessed a propensity for nocturnal hours, there was less hullabaloo after dark. Increasingly, he felt examined, and though he didn’t know why exactly, his sharp mind realized that no good could come of it.
As he finished off the last bite of a granola bar, Conrad checked the scanners again. The cage was remarkably sophisticated to him. Oddly, he felt unusually impressed by it. He watched movies, read books, and had even seen a live symphony, but he never revealed anything that would suggest he found satisfaction in these experiences.
He logged Argo’s vitals, marking everything normal. Since the maturation of his tumor, Argo was moved to his new, high-tech home and given a dose of Asclepium, the company’s radical drug. The drug showed the most promise among prototypes for reducing the size of tumors, so the Warren Group now wanted to see if it produced any unwanted or deadly side-effects. Incredibly, after only a month of treatment, Argo’s tumor had nearly vanished. The best part is that he showed no adverse side-effects. Of course, Conrad was not as impressed. Doctor Miles, the head of the research team, was specifically excited. The project went so swimmingly that he had begun to talk to his wife of fame and television interviews. He had even stayed late one night just to finish off a bottle of champagne with Conrad. When he entered that night, Dr. Miles held up his glass, “Cheers, Conrad! We’ve done it, my boy.”
“The tumor has completely subsided?” Conrad asked, puzzled. He couldn’t imagine this. At this time, it had only been two weeks.
“Well, it will be gone soon, and we’ll be famous for curing Cancer!”
For all your degrees and knowledge, you’re still nothing but a fool, he had thought, “Forgive me, sir. But don’t you think it a bit early to be celebrating?”
He didn’t even respond to the question; he just thrust a glass into the lowly technician’s hand and poured the fizzy champagne. He tasted it. Horrible. Again, he looked at Dr. Miles, who glowed and laughed through his round face and awkward mustache. That was when Conrad accepted what he had known all along; he hated the good doctor. He hated him because he was supposed to be smart. In his mind, there were enough imbeciles walking around. They were everywhere. In the grocery store, at the mall, and they were especially prevalent on the road, which is why he never drove. Idiots weren’t supposed to be in state-of-the-art labs testing revolutionary drugs with millions of dollars worth of financing. Conrad thought of all of this and more as the lights flickered for a moment, festering. Then, with a slight fidget, he lost his train-of-thought, so he busied himself with data-entry, and Dr. Miles faded into the trophy-cases of his mind, kept tightly locked for later ridicule.
The next night, Conrad entered the lab with his milk in hand and listened for the familiar sounds. The ticking, the running computers were there. Hm, he thought. He held his breath; he realized it and inhaled, but couldn’t remember why he stopped breathing in the first place—he didn’t realize it then or ever in his life that he was a chronic “sigher.” He shrugged it off and walked over to Argo’s asylum.
“Have you any answers for me tonight, Argo?” He spoke to the mouse frequently. He supposed he spoke to him more than any of the other lab workers. Why would they when they could talk to each other? Damn it all. Forgot my granola bar. “Welp, we’re in for a long night, my friend.” He started to look over the data charts from the afternoon shift, but quickly he found himself in deep space.
From the helm, he could see out across the icy recess of space. He was well into it now, but how far exactly? He never knew. It didn’t matter where he found himself, though, because he had no reason to be back on Earth. Above his head lay various instrumentations, and he found himself operating them without knowing precisely how he knew. His hair was different. Darker. He felt a chill and decided to leave the bridge; maybe he could find something warm to eat. Hunger gripped him. This time a strange and unlikely hunger he gripped him. Starvation? He suggested to himself, I’m not sure I could recognize it. In America, who has ever starved to death? Again, he dismissed his questions without answering them. Besides, Argo wasn’t there to tell him.
He proceeded from the bridge, down the cool corridor, and made his way to the storage station. It wasn’t far, of course; it was a small vessel. It didn’t need to be exceptionally large considering he was the only passenger ever on it. Mostly, the ship consisted of nothing but fuel cells and power generators. And cables. That’s what bugged the hell out of him. There seemed to be cables running everywhere, and going nowhere. He would find himself hoping that nothing went wrong with them since he had no clue where to start should they need repair.
This same contradiction vexed him. Conrad seemed to know some things about the ship but not others, and even the skills he seemed to possess he didn’t have to think about. There was no way to tell out here as it appeared something locked him outside of his own mind and able only to control his physical movement.
He turned the corner, unsealed the lock on the storage room door, and entered. The air was thin. Warmer in here, he thought, but still quite cool. The light danced and buzzed as he waved his hand over the sensor. He couldn’t shake the feeling that the room had changed from what he remembered; he wandered for a few steps as if he saw the room for the first time and studied it like some sort of marvelous architectural feat.
He spotted the food cabinets. As he opened the first one, a jolt blundered through his stomach like a gallon of tequila trying to kick its way through. He ignored it and looked around. Granola and more granola. Perhaps this is the “granola cabinet.” He amused himself. He had to since not much else did. He opened the cabinet below it, but it only contained more granola. With more fervor he systematically but not so gracefully slid each cabinet open. What sort of fool stocked this room? There was nothing but boxes on top of boxes of granola bars. As he stood surveying this disagreeable selection, a sound began to peregrinate into his left ear. This sound is familiar. He knew he had heard it nearly thirty times before. The soft, clicking sound was unmistakable. He started to turn slowly, but his impatience forced him to wheel around rapidly. And there he was. Argo, the tumor-infected white blob rikki-tikki-taving his way toward some imaginary destination known only to the god of the mouse-wheel.
Conrad awoke so violently he nearly fell from his chair. He looked up and saw instruments. The ship? No…the laboratory. Upon this revelation, he spun his chair and looked toward the furry specimen. He felt heat seep into his blood as his spine seemed to turn gelatinous. The mouse stared straight at him. At first, he knew only to stare back, but he despised staring. He leapt from his chair and ran toward the cage as if in a desperate effort to frighten the creature. But Argo did not budge. He very simply and elegantly stood upon his hind legs and pressed his sniffing nose repeatedly against the diaphanous barrier. For a moment, Conrad didn’t move. He felt only the lonely touch of fear, and he moved his hand forward thinking he would tap the glass. He rethought this action, and retracted his hand. He tried to speak but the words came slowly for him.
“Why are you in my dreams, Argo? That’s my dream.”
This innocent inquiry soon turned vicious as he continued, “You. You, stay out of my dreams! I don’t wander into yours, my friend! Haha, no! You keep your cacophonous mouse-wheel and your smug exercise routine out of my head!”
He held a strong, dictating pace back to the chair. When he had returned to his realm of the lab, he tried to study the data from the afternoon again. He looked at the time: 2:08 A. M. Oh, that wasn’t just some cat-nap. He had fallen asleep several times before, but never for two hours. He couldn’t shake the fire in his blood. He had to look again. Moving his eyes first, Conrad allowed his head to swivel next and look upon the mouse.
The snowy white Argo was watching him again.
Argo didn’t know what to do exactly. This had not happened before. The silver tube that dripped water into his chamber stopped dripping. Whenever he touched his whiskers to it, nothing came of it. Initially, this had thrown him into a panic, but he had been able to calm himself. The sight of the food provider nearing his cage had given him hope, but still no water came. Since looking at the human brought him over once, perhaps it could do it again. He decided to repeat this action until the water began dripping once more.
It was all so clear to him now. The medication did have a side-effect. Of course, he let his thoughts run free, Asclepium may not have adverse side-effects. He spoke aloud now, “But what about positive side-effects? Clearly, the mouse is telepathic now. It’s unmistakable.” In a second fury, he leapt from his chair, “Get out of my mind, you quadrupedal freak! I didn’t give you the right to read my thoughts!” Suddenly, he recoiled his hands. His eyes were wide but controlled. Why am I shouting?
He put his pallid hand to his forehead. His mind moved with no direction, and he could feel the brain pushing from the stem. Juices closed in and clogged it — like his most prized organ sat in some sort of thick gravy.
“Stop this, Argo. Stop this or you will force my hand,” he warned. Force his hand into what exactly? He wasn’t sure at the moment. His shirt was wet, and his thoughts shifted to Old Man Walsh.
“I’m telling you! You’ll all see, damnit! Those Japs are building a robot army while we’re sippin’ lattes and watching reality T. V.! They’re gonna rip our arms off! Don’t you see we’re nothing but fleshy play-doh to them?!”
Did I say that? Conrad asked himself. Blood shot toward his heart, and he felt weightless like he was on the ship again. He tried to produce thoughts but nothing made its way through. “Concentrate,” he said. Milk! The first successful thought was that of his most often consumed beverage. “Yes, milk.” He ran to his saving grace and began chugging away at it. Something felt wrong. A jerk, then a spasm. Before he knew what happened, he was hunched over the orange trash can expelling his last hope into the wasteland. He coughed and gargled until the snot bubbles cleared and tears began falling from his eyes. Realizing he now leaned against the very desk on which the mind-invader was perched, he looked upward.
Urgency surged through his claws and into his brain as Argo peered downward toward the man. The lab mouse wasn’t sure how long he could go without water; he had never wanted for it like he did now. This new sensation grasped his throat which was like thirst but more potent and frightening. The forgotten wrinkles on his memory portrayed an image to him of an insatiable thirst from long ago before his adolescence. It was a difficult memory to conjure since it was from his blind years, and he could not attain a firm grasp upon it. Argo was almost able to recall the past, but it was quickly swept away by the sound of the man’s indecipherable shouting.
Argo had lost count of how many times he had done this, but he again pressed his front feet upon the glass and touched it with an increasingly dry nose. What else could he do? Clever ideas eluded him; the mouse knew that he was once a skilled builder but this strategic side of him seemed dead along with his social surrounding and his lost will.
Conrad shouted nonsensically and his voice lifted higher with each careless utterance. He wagged his finger, stomped his feet, and threw his arms in the air as if he were delivering a powerful speech about the need for some great reform or social change. What stirred his spinning blood even more was that Argo still gazed defiantly into his eyes—perhaps attempting a mental takeover.
Then, it couldn’t be contained any longer. This feeling that all of his blood would suddenly and sadistically leak from all of his pores had to end. Conrad thought that his brain was leaning against his forehead and that it believed this was acceptable, normal brain behavior. He started beating his head with the palm of his hand.
“Stop it, Argo!”
No, no. Something’s amiss. Very amiss. Suddenly, a voice within telling him to, “Use force.” He could only remember one time in his life in which he had sweat so generously. He was nine and sitting in the back pew of the First Baptist Revivalist Church, and Brother Cunningham delivered another vigorous hellfire sermon. During these “special events,” as Cunningham called them, he would insist that the heat be turned up to at least eighty degrees to ensure mass sweating followed by mass repentance.
But that was over, and this new sweating differed somehow. The thoughts kept battering into his brain, but he didn’t even need them to break through in order to know what had to be done.
As he labored toward the cage, no more thoughts were hooking through his mind. Conrad seized the cage on each end and attempted to hurl it. He was a man of somewhat stark intelligence, and if a thought had been able to enter his brain, he may have remembered that the cage was, in fact, attached by several daunting cables to the table and the dark maroon wall.
The investor-funded cage didn’t fly so much as it flopped. The attached cabling caused it to buckle just as the forces of physics navigated it downward toward the crushing floor; however, it never made it quite that far and ended up, instead, colliding into the side of the lab table. As it dangled from the precipice of the table, it squeaked slightly with each rock and hung in a manner more resembling a frozen cow carcass hanging in a meat locker.
The sounds were still there. The breathing, the computers, but the ticking stopped just as he thought of it. Approaching the glass case, he eyed Argo’s body pressed against the front glass panel. From that angle, the mouse almost looked like he was inside of the glass. Fervently, Conrad lifted the glass box and placed it onto the table. He studied it now like he might a dinosaur egg or some sort of ancient artifact.
Near the middle of the glass appeared a small red stain, as if a woman had lightly pressed her lipstick against it. Argo lay there, wedged against the crevice of the front panel and the flooring.
Conrad stood there for longer than necessary, his blood still feeling the same and sweat pouring just as abundantly. He sprinted to the monitor thinking about the heart-rate gauge. It was blank. Blank? Odd. Shouldn’t it say zero? He paced over toward the cage again, but this time with an arrogant gait.
“Well, my dear Argo. It appears as though Asclepium doesn’t protect against blunt-force trauma.” He chuckled at this but not much. Even though he had thrown it up not minutes before, he craved milk again.
Though he had no clear plan when he tossed the damnable cage, he believed the driving influence behind the rash action was to return his brain to its normal place and keep his blood within his body. However, he felt exactly the same. I have to do something else. Placing his hands on his knees, he bent down to look into Argo’s habitat again.
There’s only one sensible thing to be done, he decided calmly despite the ravenous carnival of various sensations assaulting every nerve ending of his body. Conrad broke the seal on top of the cage. Of course there were procedures for this; after all, this was a laboratory and a well-funded one. That mouse was an expensive and integral part of the on-going study and every lab technician knows, above all else, what to do with a specimen whose heart has ceased beating. The body would have to be preserved for testing, toxicology, and autopsy for these were some of the nuclear weapons of experimentation. Conrad may have rejected parts of his scientific nature but even he became giddy over test results. Yet as he surveyed the remains, he knew he must eat Argo’s lifeless body; because deep within his heart he couldn’t shake the notion that this was foolhardy, and his primal instincts told him the preservation of the mouse would only bring despair and not knowledge.
He had just about made up his mind when he encouraged a misgiving. Surely, he would have to explain what happened? The problem subsisted, though, that even if he preserved the body the tests would not reveal anything of significance in reference to the tumor or the drug since neither had killed Argo. A flow of repercussions came now; mostly, they settled on Dr. Miles dismissing Conrad from the project.
Almost as if he had never considered the grotesque, he shut the cage and turned away. Instinct again brought him back as a bead of sweat plummeted from his strong chin. Hunger again. That constant beast who stalks in the shadows but for naught as it always shows up whether it has the element of surprise or not. I did forget my granola bar.
He was well into it now as Argo’s skinned carcass turned over the Bunsen burner. He acknowledged feeling better already—his spirit lifted by the smell of the searing meat; interestingly, it was the first fragrance he ever remembered detecting while in the lab. It hadn’t been difficult to skin the test animal and strip his insides. Conrad thought any junior high student could certainly do it and perhaps with no supervision. He poked and prodded the meat until he was satisfied it cooked enough. I don’t want to lose the entire flavor, but one must not be careless. Naturally, he had to consume the head, as well. The first bite, he would later describe as, “less than pleasant.” Tough and grainy. Very grainy. Good God, is there gravel in this? Comparatively, he had definitely eaten worse. If only I had some milk left. With each successive swallow, the pressure against his skull abated.
The last two bites were difficult. He urged himself to finish and crunched Argo as much with his teeth as he did with his willpower. When he finished, he gently wiped his mouth and placed the plastic fork and knife he had used in the waste basket. That same orange-colored bag contained the uneaten parts of Argo as well, and he knew he’d have to take that along home. The bag jerked and hissed as he tossed in the napkin and the plate. “Thank you for a lovely meal.”
He scanned the blue and black vastness of it. That’s what’s awed him—and he supposed everyone interested in deep space—was the unimaginable size. No gravity this time as he spun himself around the window. No space suit or specialized jump suit either; he was naked. That’s quite different, he observed. He turned to look into the ship—mostly the same with minute differences; he could tell he was on the bridge because of the familiar maroon-colored chair squatted in front of the control panel. There were extra helmets, empty containers, boxes, a pocket knife, and a couple of test tubes floating in the air. He pushed himself toward the chair, but on his way a shiny glint caught his eye. It was a lone granola bar floating next to an empty cardboard box.
Unlike the previous visit to deep space, he didn’t feel hunger. That aside, he made up his mind to go after it anyway. Impatience swelled in him as his hands slowly clasped around the wrapper. He pulled it closer to read the name. Argo Bars? Initially, the name had no affect on him other than he believed it to be a name devised only by the highest caliber of idiot. Strangely, the association took time, but it was made all the more real when he heard the low ticking. It was unmistakable. With each hit, he could hear the claw tink against the metal wheel.
Conrad shoved the bar away and floated toward the chair again since he had discerned it to be the location of the sound, though he knew not how. When he rounded the chair, he was surprised, but not as much as the first time. The cage sat atop the navigation screen, and Argo churned along on his mouse-wheel with real ambition for the first time in months. “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
A quick jolt and enough inhalation of air to make him feel like his lungs would crack and Conrad was awake. He investigated and a good deal of sweating had occurred. Wiping his face, he detected traces of dried tears. Were you crying?
Though he dismissed it all now, he lingered in anger. The solitude of space no longer provided solace. I need milk. The time was 8:37 AM, and he gave himself a nice long yawn and a good stretch. Then he journeyed toward the kitchen.
He rattled items about in the refrigerator and even knocked some of them out looking for that lactose nectar, but there was none. He ran out. I’ll have to run to Jet’s, he thought. Conrad decided he would at least brush his teeth, but the shower would have to come later. Before exiting the kitchen, he noticed his answering machine blinking. Three messages. A press of the button and he wasn’t stunned to hear the voice of Dr. Miles.
“Hey, Conrad. Dr. Miles. We’re down here at the lab and well,” he laughed nervously, “Argo’s cage is empty. Uh…where the hell is he? Surely you have preserved the remains?”At this, Conrad shot a glance toward the corner next to his front door. The orange garbage bag was perched against the wall, and he realized for the first time that he didn’t remember walking home. “Look, call me as soon as you get this. We must run tests on those remains. Otherwise, as I’m sure you know, heh. These last few months will have been a complete waste. Now, call me,” he said, this last part with authority.
He could picture Dr. Miles sweating over the phone, pushing up his glasses as he spoke, and occasionally wiping the top of his balding head. Disgusting creature, he mused as he hit the delete key. He didn’t even bother listening to the rest of the messages, he just deleted them. Conrad had no intention of returning to the lab. Things had changed. Why advance medicine and technology if even deep space excursions are ruined by tiny, annoying mice. Nothing mattered now except milk.
Conrad’s sensations of strange blood flow and dangerous brain migration had completely subsided. Before he monitored during the night-shift, but while still engaging in deep space missions of unknown destination and purpose, Conrad enjoyed sitting outside of The Black Cat Café. The establishment included a lovely and quite frankly, irresistible outdoor dining experience perfect for a calm, sunny afternoon of light food and people-watching. Time to reinstitute an old custom, he thought as he had decided to attain his milk from the café and he could pick up a carton from Jet’s on the way home.
His wish of an outside seat came true and he followed the bizarrely short hostess to his table. That look she had given when he said, “Table for one,” was what set him against her. The Black Cat was a trendy place with average lighting inside and mostly opaque colors and green décor. It was quaint and seemed to attract college students or, at least, people from that age group.
I don’t suppose they offer roast mouse, he snickered to himself as he studied the menu. He toyed with the idea of saying it to the waitress but decided against it. He engrossed himself in the menu so much that he jerked a bit when she spoke, “Hi, I’m Miranda, and I’ll be taking care of you today,” she said through—what he saw—ivory white teeth, “What can I get you to drink, hon?”
Hun? What the fuck? He shrugged it off. “I’m not sure if this is a strange request, but do you have milk? I cannot locate it on the menu.”
“Sure, I can get you a glass o’ that,” she giggled just a little, “I love your hair. It’s real unique.”
His back stiffened. There was nothing unique about his hair. It was brown; lots of assholes had brown hair. Yet he didn’t want to betray anything or give in too much to conversation so he went with a simple thank you and she bounced away. He had to admit to an attraction to her—thin with a good hip-to-shoulder ratio which was a measurement for him.
Conrad ran his hands through his hair. All he could think was to try and remain stoic and work his way toward the bathroom. To him, a men’s public restroom was basically Hell, but his curiosity was too peaked. His patience failed again, and he didn’t open the door, he knocked it open. He couldn’t think what to say, and even if he did have something to say, there was no one to tell it to. The mirror revealed the “unique” quality of his hair. It shined as white as a pearl, like he had poured coat after coat of foot powder all over his hair. He continually ran his hands through it as he stared at this hoping it to be an illusion. A thought in his head suggested this could be a faulty mirror, but he knew this to be untrue. It validated Miranda’s compliment, if you could call it that. Alright, keep it together. Walk out of the restroom, sit down, eat your meal and leave. We can solve this problem later. He convinced himself at least for now to pretend he had dyed it himself.
At his table, he gnashed and ground his teeth. He saw an old woman in a blue dress with a spring wicker hat sitting with a young boy on a faraway park bench. She dug in hear purse for something. The boy held some paper and flapping around. When the woman looked up, she handed the boy a pen, and he began to fiercely scribble on the page. Conrad couldn’t tell for sure, but he was confident that the boy was writing and not drawing. The old woman just watched him and occasionally pointed at the paper and made an inaudible comment.
“Would you like anything to eat with that milk?” Miranda’s red curls seemed to bounce even when she stood still, “Are you alright?”
“Oh, what? Yes, yes. I’m fine. Uh, why do you ask?” He inquired as he took a sip of the milk. Not bad.
“Well, I’m sorry but you look a bit flushed,” her smile had retreated and was replaced with a concerned and pensive look.
“What? Like I’ve been…down the toilet or something,” he suggested. To his surprise, she laughed at this.
“Some people just tell me that I have a sixth sense,” she took a seat while she said this, “like I can tell when things are wrong with someone.” She set her order booklet down and began twirling her hair.
“A sixth sense, you say? That’s a powerful gift,” and before he could stop it, his thoughts shifted to Argo. I have questions, Argo. Questions about this girl and that old woman and the boy. Truly there was some sense of nostalgia, but not even in the most righteous part of his being did he know or recognize any sense of remorse.
“Yeah! I always heard my mother had it, too. It’s a kind of intuition.”
“Don’t they say that all mothers have intuition?” He listened but he looked all about the restaurant and the street—his eyes darting rapidly.
“Ha! Yeah, I guess they do. I can tell you’re a thinking man,” she said and as she continued her face became more serious, “You like to really think about things, and not just simple, everyday things either.”
With each word, he grew more nervous. His brain was rebelling again, and he could sense its movement. His blood traveled at light speed through his veins, and he could feel a sweat coming on. Unfortunately, the cold milk in his stomach began to make him ill, and he couldn’t rid himself of the feeling he had been found out; any minute she would reveal the destruction of Argo. Miranda pushed the chair back so she could stand without exposing too much. “You sure you don’t want anything to eat?” she asked and tilted her head slightly. It wasn’t as long of a pause as he thought it was, but he couldn’t coerce an answer until what he believed was too late. “No, but thanks,” he said and he let out a strong, painful sigh. Miranda either didn’t notice it or disregarded it. Either way she turned and headed toward the indoor section.
As she walked away, he was sure his brain smashed into the frontal part of the skull. Blood might shoot out of his eyes if he didn’t do something. Then what would happen to this hippy restaurant? He jittered in his seat and tried to regain a sense of things, but the pounding of his mind was too mighty. All at once the Earth was airtight and he felt like he did when he was in space except for the fire in is blood and the discombobulating actions of his brain.
Deep space. His only consolation, but he knew what waited for him behind the maroon chair. We can’t go back there, his brain told him as it wailed mercilessly against his forehead. He rocked his knees back and forth when he spotted Miranda handing silverware to a newly seated couple. How could she do this to him with all of the morons walking around in this place? Spontaneously, he was weightless in spirit and he remembered pricked fingers on rose bushes and Reverend Cunningham and robot invasions. In the distance, he thought he heard a ticking sound. He glared at Miranda as she spoke to the couple. You know what you have to do, he thought.
Issue #5 CONTENTS
Keeping it Necroreal
David Van Gough
The Quick and the Dead
The Potters' Field
Shed Shed Shed
Rachel Ann Girty
The Shivering Girls
The Monarch of the Sill Shenoa Carroll-Bradd
The Puzzle Box
Pink Afternoon, Reconstruction
Reflections of a Pissed Off Killown