There are days when everything’s going exactly as I want it to. Days I don’t even have to do anything and everything just somehow falls into place. No effort, no stress, no nothing. Just pure, unadulterated bliss. And then there are the bloody days when even your fucking front gate hates your fucking guts. Days like today, I mean.
The bloody thing would just not respond to anything. I could shout at it, pound at it, kick it – nothing. The touch panel was broken. Must’ve been Trish or Susie that did it when they came back from that bloody party yesterday night. Why the fuck do we even have teens?
“Cat!” I shouted at the living room window. “Do you have the keys to this bloody gate? The digital lock’s busted!” Sadly, no answer came. I figured she was just having one of her moods again. After dealing the hellish contraption one final kick, I let out a sigh and threw my briefcase over it. Then I tried to throw my body over it. With much sweat and heaving, I finally managed to wrestle my belly over the gate and found myself on the pavement. I straightened my tie and wiped the sweat off my forehead. Well done, Jimbo. You’ve made it to the other side even though the world hates you today. You’ve earned a bloody medal.
The grey sky reflected off of my car’s freshly waxed surface. With a pleasant bwoop, the vehicle unlocked when I pressed the button on my keycard. I was glad that at least the car was being nice to me. Up until a certain point, at least.
The screen to my left showed me the same screen that greets me every morning. I tapped the same icons as usual, setting the course for my workplace. I put my hands on my face, trying to cleanse myself off all the remaining frustration, awaiting the car to take me away somewhere. That moment took longer than usual. I opened my eyes.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” The screen flashed red with a big “system error” message. As if the day hadn’t been bad enough, I had to drive the car manually to work. Don’t panic. You can do this. It’s just a 20-minute drive.
It was a 20-minute drive when I used the autopilot. Turned out to be quite a bit longer when I had to do the driving myself. I always found the steering wheel to be a clunky device and I was pretty confident that whenever I took control of the car it would end in an accident. On top of that fear, I was growing more and more angry and frustrated over the fact that I was going to be late. Needless to say, my hands were shaking like a bloody Chihuahua.
Almost 30 minutes late, I’d finally arrived at my work’s car park. A glance at the mirror showed me my balding scalp had turned beet red and dripping with sweat. As I parked, the backside of the car gently brushed the wall. Don’t let it be scratched, please. Don’t let it be scratched. I quickly got out of the car and took a look. It did get scratched. I kicked the car’s tire, injuring my big toe in the process.
But then it was all okay. I’d straightened my tie again and was taking the lift up to my office. Through its glass walls I saw the magnificent cityscape. Despite the lousy weather, the jagged, glass horizon formed by all the new buildings never ceased to amaze me. Bent into striking shapes and illuminated by faint white lights even in the daytime, the structures were a sight that was for some reason soothing. I took a deep breath, feeling the frustration leave my body, when I heard a soft ding announcing that I had reached my destination.
Without making a sound, the door opened. As I entered, my heart sank. The whole room was empty. All the desks were vacant. The computers were mostly on, however, with several holoscreens flickering. It all seemed as if everyone just left the room to-
“Fuck!” I swore in a whisper that was much too loud. As if the day could not get worse, I remembered there was an important meeting scheduled for that day. The door to the boss’ office flew wide open and a crowd of smartly dressed people came filing out of the room, confirming my fears. I tried to force my way through the stampede and finally found myself face-to-face with Garry Ferguson, my boss. I was heaving and sweating yet again, clutching my knees as I leaned down to catch my breath.
“Nice of you to finally arrive, James,” he said with a grin showcasing his sparkling, perfectly even teeth. Despite their impeccable evenness, Garry had a lisp. That’s why I would always cringe whenever I heard him say my full name.
“I’m really sorry, Garry,” I said as I straightened my tie for what was probably the millionth fucking time that day. “It’s just… Everything’s just… Do you ever have one of those days-“
“You know what, James?” he said with that blasted lisp again. His grin, however, had faded. “I don’t really think this is working out.”
“What do you mean?”
“The meeting we had today was very important. That new Japanese doll system we mentioned some time ago, remember that? Well, that’s what the meeting was about.”
“Okay.” I wasn’t exactly sure if I remembered or not.
“And we’re implementing it next week. What that means is that we need to become even more efficient, more aggressive, more sleek.” I cringed at that last word. I know he did his best at it, but it came out as thleek. “We need to cut corners, is all I mean.”
“Well, that’s one thing I can be sure I’m good at,” I joked. He didn’t seem to get it. “Just ask my wife.”
“Boone,” he said with a stern face. My heart sank. If he addressed you with your last name, you could be sure that was no good. “This isn’t the first time that you’ve proved inadequate and we can no longer afford to sustain people who lag behind. I want you to pack your things.”
“No, Garry, wait-“
“I want you out by 12.”
Before I knew it, I was out of his office and the wooden door slammed in front of my face. For a moment I was sure all I could hear was faint static at the back of my head. Next thing I knew I was in the lift again. The tall structures grew larger and more imposing the lower I went. I felt as if I was being crushed.
Still faint from all that had happened, I got in the car. Instinctively, my hand reached for the side panel. A red light came up once again. Guess I need to take the wheel again.
The drive home went surprisingly smoothly. Before I knew it, I was parked in front of my house. Maybe it’s all just some crazy dream? I mean, I’m not even angry. It’s all so surreal. The gate was still broken, so I leapt over it once more. This time I forgot to take my briefcase from the car with me, so I had to go over the gate two more times. I then stood in front of the door for a while. I felt so detached from everything, as if the body wasn’t even mine and I couldn’t feel anything. I giggled. The numbness felt funny. I grabbed the doorknob and opened the door, wondering what other interesting things might happen today.
I dropped my briefcase by the entrance and went straight ahead upstairs. At that time, I didn’t even hear anything or notice anything strange. I think I still felt that static. But the instant I opened the bedroom door, I noticed what was wrong.
The two bodies in my bed began to spin around in a panic.
“Why the fuck are you here?” my wife Catherine asked as she emerged from under the sheets, her auburn hair tangled and falling on her gaunt face. Her lips were trembling, her face pale as she fixed her gaze on me. And I must have had the dumbest expression on my face.
“Well, you know, I used to sleep in that bed with you. Is it really so surprising that I’m here now? And who’s the lad with you?” As soon as he showed his shaggy head from under the sheets, I recognized him. “Matt,” I gasped. Now that I did not see coming. Matt was a longtime friend of ours, along with his wife, Melissa. My eye twitched. “Now you’ll tell me Melissa’s there with you as well.”
He sent me a nervous grin as he got up from under the sheets and put on some trousers. He was tall and much more fit than I was, despite being roughly the same age. As he turned to me, I noticed the nervousness disappear from his grin. He now stood there in front of me. I think he was trying to intimidate me. I think it worked. The next thing I knew I had him pinned to the floor, my fist prepared to strike his dumb face.
“You can hit me all you want, mate,” he grinned. “But dear Cat here’s made her choices. It’s not my fault she’d rather fuck me than you.”
“Oh yeah? Are you suggesting it’s mine, then!” I shouted, spitting all over his face.
“Stop that, right now!” I could hear Cat shout from the bed. “I will not tolerate this!”
“And what if I am, huh? You’ll hit me? I’d like to see you try,” Matt’s grin became crooked. “You and I both know you won’t do it. You’re too weak.”
“Don’t provoke him!” Cat shouted. “Just let it go.”
Let it go, she says. I felt detached from everything once again. Despite my rage boiling somewhere deep inside, somewhere deeper I somehow did not give a fuck. Everything was messed up anyway. So I got up and turned around. I noticed Cat’s expression change.
“So you’re just going to leave this all like that?”
“You said yourself that you won’t tolerate it. I don’t think I give a fuck anymore at this point.”
“You don’t give a fuck…” I could tell she was fighting back tears. “So this marriage means nothing to you? You won’t fight for anything?”
“Why bother?” as I said this, I left the room. I could hear Cat shout something in the distance, but I didn’t care enough to even try to understand the specific words. On my way downstairs I bumped into Trish as she snuck into the house from the back entrance. “And why the fuck are you not at school?”
“Dad!” she gasped. She was clearly shaken, had deep shadows under her eyes and looked positively exhausted. “I thought you were at work.”
“Well, as you can see, I’m not. Let me guess, neither of you came back from the party for the night.” Her response consisted of looking down at her feet. A part of me was furious, but then it was replaced by something wonderful. I really didn’t have to do anything anymore. I could just leave it all behind and let someone else do the cleaning up. The world hated me as it was anyway. “Well, it’s none of my business anymore anyway, so bye!”
She said nothing as I left. The last time I saw her face, she was absolutely stunned by what I had told her. I hoped Susan was okay. Disregarding that, I approached the car, whose front window was now adorned with a lovely spot of bird shit.
“How lovely!” I shouted with a big grin on my face. My hands shook as I opened the door and entered the car. I didn’t even bother with the autopilot this time around, I just turned the keycard and just rode straight ahead of me. I was sure I was speeding, but that was the point. I wanted to go as far away as I could, as fast as I could.
Then I reached the roundabout.
Roundabouts are safe, they said. Unless some fucking twat decides to enter it when they shouldn’t. Needless to say, my car was hit. Badly. I lost consciousness. I was pretty sure I was dead. But then I found myself in a place that was completely white, almost blindingly so. I was standing in a circle that I formed with ten human-shaped shadows. In the middle of the circle, a naked woman was hovering in midair. The Contact, a featureless voice in my head said. She was quite stunning. She must have been in her late twenties. Her cropped brown hair gave her a bit of an edgy look, but that was evened out by the big brown eyes that seemed to shine with innocence in all this. To top it all off, she had an amazing body. It didn’t seem appropriate to gawk at that, however, so I turned my gaze away.
And then the light appeared. A red ray of light burst out of the girl’s forehead, piercing the sky above us, dispersing the milk-white substance that now looked a bit like clouds. Something descended from there. I couldn’t see it clearly from where I stood, but I believe it had wings made out of fire and a giant, rainbow-colored eye. The sight was pretty shocking, and yet I just stood there, unable to move, trying not to die out of the sheer terror I was feeling. I think it said something to us.
And then I opened my eyes. I was lying on the ground, my eyes gazing into the sky above me, at the numerous spots of light that were visible even despite the thick clouds. That’s them. I sat up on the grass. For some reason, I was in the middle of the roundabout, my car lay mangled next to me, reeking of smoke and oil. And yet there was no scratch on me. The people around me had left their cars, and gazed into the sky, a nervous murmur in the air. Even the police and the medics and the dumbass that crashed his car into mine were looking up with their mouths agape. I reached for my phone in my pocket. Thankfully, it was in perfect condition too. For some reason, I knew exactly what I needed to do now. So I booked a flight.