A Rip in The Fabric of Time

I think someone drove a nail through my shoulder. Maybe they poured some drain cleaner down my throat and glued my eyes shut.

I struggle to sit up, and force my eyes open, expecting to find blood and gore smeared on the pillow. There’s nothing there except a faint outline of my head. When I roll my shoulders, though, pain shoots down my right arm. That’s not a dream.

I maneuver my body sideways and lower my legs to the floor. My toenails are bright green. I stare at them and try to remember how they got in that state, but it’s no good. I don’t remember anything about last night after I walked out of my office into the rain. I’m not even sure what day it is.

I glance at my watch. It reads 7:04. From the pale light streaming through the window, I assume it is morning, and I struggle to my feet. Oh dear, what did I do last night? I wander to the bathroom to perform the necessities than drag myself toward the kitchen. I stop in the living room and stare out into the backyard.

I have lost my mind.

A young woman with auburn curls and dressed in a short purple tunic is brushing a white horse with some kind of horn coming out its head. She sports diaphanous wings. I trip over the low round ottoman and fall on my face.

I hear the door open, but don’t look up.

“Stanley,” a soft voice says. “Are you all right?”

“What has happened to me,” I say into the carpet.

She pats much shoulder as if I were a frightened woodland creature. “Why don’t you sit up? You’ll feel so much better.”

I push myself up, but I do not feel better, even though she smells like jasmine and vanilla and fresh grass after the rain. I try not to gape.

“How do you know me?” I ask.

“You don’t remember,” her voice is a little sad. “Last night just before you left work, you said, ‘Oh please, just let something happen. I need an adventure or I’ll go mad.’ I heard you, Stanley. We had an adventure.”

“But why don’t I remember?”

“You’re coming back to your world. In a few hours you won’t remember anything. I’ll be a dream, if that.”

“A dream?” I shake my head. Oh no, not a dream. That would mean I’d be heading back to the gray world of Williams, Clark and Winston. I’m already running late, but I don’t move. “But I don’t want to forget. I want to remember.”

She smiles. “Oh, Stanley. Don’t you see? You’re not ready. Not yet. When you want to remember, you will.” She leans forward and kisses my forehead, and I get a fleeting impression of eyes the color of jade, rimmed with purple.

The alarm rings.

I sit up, my right shoulder throbbing like a toothache. I’ve been dreaming . . . something, and now I have to rush. No time for breakfast. Just a shower and shave, and I grab a coffee before I board the train.

Weak sunlight filters through the soft gray clouds, and I catch the whiff of something familiar. Vanilla, mixed with some kind of flower. It reminds me of something. It doesn’t matter. I’m late.

I exit the train and hurry topside making my way to the tall, gray glass skyscraper that houses Williams, Clark and Winston, wave my ID and run to the elevator. I’m behind my desk with one minute to spare.

Mrs. Durnham has left a large mug of black coffee on my desk. I breathe in the aroma and think for a moment I smell vanilla. But then it’s gone.

What a strange morning.

Rain begins to fall, running down the sides of the windows like soft tears. I lean back in my chair to take watch before I turn to the pile of folders in my inbox. They smell of ink and paper and urgency. I grab the top folder and begin to read. I need to concentrate.

There is important work to be done.

Reversal of Fortune

I sit on the vast beach, listening to the waves beat against the sand. Above me the sky is empty. Not even a gull calls out. I am alone, the picture of dejection.

The arrogant fools have tossed me ashore and sailed into the wide ocean. The winds are with them, propelling them at good speed. Let them make merry and laugh at my misfortune.

They expect me to die. I do not plan to oblige them.

I shall conserve my strength and await the clipper I spied following in our wake. By my reckoning it will reach me by evening, time enough for me to start a fire. I shall use driftwood and the tinder I secreted along with the flask of rum.

By evening the fools will be feeling the effects of the tincture of nightshade I used to poison their water supply. They will hallucinate. They will writhe in agony. They will perish.

Good riddance.

The Refrigerator

Darkness all around. Freezing air seeps from a small crack near her feet. Not much, but enough to revive her, and Alex stretches out her arms. Her hands touch the smooth surface of a door, the notch where a shelf should be. She tries to shift but realizes that she can’t turn her body in the cramped space. Oh God, it’s a refrigerator.

She’s inside a refrigerator.

Alex doesn’t know how she got here. The last thing she does remember is walking to the library on campus. Now she’s trapped in this box. She knows she’s in her underwear, and she’s freezing.

She tries to access. The refrigerator is dark and lifeless. Her knees are pushed up against her chest, and her body aches. The back of her head feels sticky, and she wonders if whoever put her in this box thought she was already dead or wanted to prolong her agony.

How long has she been here? Her mouth feels dry, and her breath comes in small gasps. She tells herself to get a grip. Take a deep breath and find the air source. When she strains to look between her feet, she sees a tiny shaft of pale light.

Early morning or evening?

Where is she? She’s so cold she wants to curl into a ball and sleep, but she knows she can’t.

She has to escape, but she doesn’t have the strength to push open the door, even when she puts her shoulder into it. Her head throbs, and a round face smiles at her. His eyes are colorless and his thick red lips curve into a cruel smile.

“I follow you home every night, Alex.”

Please, she thinks, someone help me.

She tries to stand, but there isn’t enough room. Still it gives her an idea. She braces herself against the sides and tries to push back and forth. Despite the cold, sweat runs down her back, and she grunts from the pain when she realizes one of her arms is probably broken. It doesn’t matter.

“Help me!” She screams with all the desperation she can muster and throws herself backwards. The refrigerator rocks, then slides, then tumbles down an embankment, the door catching on a piece of steel.

Sunlight floods the interior along with cold air and the putrid smell of rotting garbage. Sea gulls fly overhead. Alex crawls out of her coffin, shivering in the cold. It is early afternoon. Down below garbage trucks are bringing their hauls. She drags herself to her feet, and is about to make her way down the hill when she sees the note taped to the door.

It reads: “Congratulations, Alex. You win Round One.”

To Disappear

I hear them talking all around me. Busy couples. Young professionals. Students. A girl In a purple scarf. I sit in the cafe and watch. I believe I’m safe, but I’ve believed that before. He’s always found me, but I’ve learned some tricks.

Last time he held a knife to my throat and said, “I own you, bitch.” He always beat me where the bruises wouldn’t show.

That’s why I cooperated for a long time, almost two years. I knew I couldn’t run like a frightened deer this time. I had to plan.

He grew careless. Started giving me money again. Money I saved. The more humble I behaved, the more he gave me.

“You are my beautiful star,” he would say. “Soon we will be together always.”

I cooked for him, and treated him like a prince. Then the night came when I made my special dish, a special lamb glazed with a sauce made from lily-of-the-valley among other things. He ate four helpings.

Even then I didn’t run. I went to the hospital to speak to the doctors, to explain we had eaten the same dinner. I even brought a sample of my sauce. It was, I confess, slightly altered. When his wife appeared, I left out respect.

I sip my ice tea and look over the crowd. It will soon be time to get moving again.

After I left the hospital, I walked to the train station and retrieved my bags, then took a train to Boston. I lived three days in a hostel, then paid a thousand dollars to buy a beat up, green Honda.

Now I figure it’s time to get across the border to Canada. I plan to drive west, and and find some place where I’ll be safe. With any luck, I’ll just disappear.