Experiment time — I wrote this as a start to a off-the-cuff, keep-it-moving, stop-thinking-and-write sort of story. I’ve got a few more installments ready and am half-tempted to dedicate my lunch breaks to pumping out this light piece of stream-of-consciousness. Would you read more? If so, tell me! I’ll keep it going then.
It was an interesting night.
I was rummaging through my old comic collection because…well, because I was bored and I was peeking in the nooks and crannies of my room and found the long white box buried in the back of my closet. So I lugged it out and starting flipping through 90s-style Spiderman and X-Men. You remember when Cyclops and Jean Grey got married and started hopping through time, filling in the blanks of their strange time-paradox family tree? I didn’t really either, so I thought I’d read through issue 1 when some old guy walked into my room, saw the comics, and said, “Oh good, you’ll understand.”
I stared at him. I didn’t know the man and I’d locked the door, but there he was, admiring my comics.
“Here.” He handed me what I looked like an iPad. I thought maybe he was the meter reader or one of those guys who offers to waterproof your basement. I tried to sign the screen, but it was blank.
“What am I–?”
“Inquisitive. Good. That’ll help. Ask questions. Don’t expect a lot of answers, though. But that’s okay. It really is. I’m just getting too old for this kind of thing.”
“What kind of–?”
“You don’t have a girlfriend or wife or something, do you? You’ll have to say bye to the girlfriend, but I can rig up something for the wife, if that’s what you’ve got.” He looked again at the box of comics. “No one, then?”
“I take offence at–”
“Yeah, yeah. Learn to laugh at yourself. It’ll save you a lot of heartache.” He patted his shirt and pant pockets. “Well, that’s it, I guess.” He paused, wistful. “Oh, to be young again. But, no, I’m happy now, to have seen what I have. Enjoy it, young man, no matter what happens. It’s a gift, all of it. Thank Him, every day, even if you’re starving, even if you’re lost, even if you’re dying. Thank Him. Yep. All right. I’m out. Bon voyage!”
He disappeared into the hall. I rose to follow him, but he was gone. To be sure, I grabbed the lightsaber replica from above my dresser and stalked through the house, looking behind couches and under tables. I checked the locks on all the windows and doors and spent a tense five minutes in the basement lit by the blue glow of the lightsaber.
I wasn’t crazy. I’d seen the man. He was most likely crazy. That didn’t comfort me. I lugged the comics to the living room and read them halfheartedly, my eyes rising continually for some shape I didn’t see, my ears hearing every car and pedestrian and stray cat outside. It was nearly midnight when I convinced myself, after placing chairs strategically at the doors to help bar any intruders, that I should sleep.
Teeth brushed, pajamas on, tucked in, I prayed as the clock reached the new day.
That’s when the beeping began.