Air Conditioned Nightmare

An unfinished story
The noise of my air conditioner going at full blast all evening completely drowned out the sounds of the world falling apart, so I was caught completely unaware this morning.

I suppose I didn’t feel the earth move or the house shake because I had gone to bed piss drunk and just a bit strung out on some Vicodin.

I should explain. I’m not always like that. I just had a bad day. Well, a bad week. My wife left me, my dog ran away, my latest art exhibit sold only one painting and, well, you’ve probably heard stories like mine before. Up until last week, my life was moving along rather smoothly. Monday came and suddenly the world had it in for me. It was a gang killing, I tell you. Tuesday stabbed me, Wednesday shot me, Thursday hog-tied me and made me watch Celine Dion videos.

And now, Friday. The world has gone to hell, it seems. My street is on fire and I think the old Brown house imploded. Trees have sunk into the ground, cars are spinning in mid-air and the children - my GOD, the children - they are like roving gangs of attack dogs, stalking up and down the street, seemingly oblivious to the flames and whatnot. Whatever happened overnight while I was in my pity-me stupor has given the neighborhood children an evil dose of rabies.

My first thought is to turn on the television to see what the hell is going on, but I guess when your town is aflame and the sidewalks have buckled, the cable will go kaput. Same for the internet. Which is a moot point, as my computer has slid off the desk and onto the floor in a heap of plastic shards and wires. Apparently the keyboard has exploded because the alphabet is strewn over the office. An asterisk is embedded in the wall. F5 has been shot straight across the room, into the eye socket of my bendable, poseable Spider-Man and he appears to be winking a hint to “save as” before it all goes to hell. Too late, Spidey. I step on B, curse a little and that’s when I hear the pounding at the front door.

It’s the kids. They look feral and hungry and, well, scary. I’m a grown man. A grown man with a hangover and the dulling effects of Vicodin still lingering in his brain, but a man nonetheless. I will not let some children, rabid or otherwise, make me afraid in my own home. Right. I stamp my foot down for good measure. No one is there to see my indignation except me and the fruit flies that have gathered over my kitchen sink. It’s like a convention over there and I forget the deranged children for a moment as I imagine an fruit fly convention, complete with entertainment and little name tags and a registration desk. What kind of lectures to they have? Will they be dining on my rotten bananas at the lunch lecture? Is babysitting available?

(Now, don’t think I’ve lost my mind. No, I’ve always had thoughts like this. My brain is somewhat...scattered. Easily distracted. And I’m probably still drunk at this point)

The pounding at the door starts up again. The kids are still there and I think one of them is gnawing at the doorhandle. I decide to be brave.

“What? What do you want?”
“Gunh. Ugnhur. Gnnnarrrr!”
“Come again?”

Ok, so they’ve lost their ability to speak. This is wonderful. Grunting, rabid children who appear to be very hungry and not at all unlikely to eat a fellow human. I slide the deadbolt closed, realizing how futile it is. It does give me a brief moment of feeling like I’ve done something to protect myself, though. I take what I can get.

“Mr. Grant! Mr. Grant!” Oh, lord. It’s Mrs. Beasley, that bat who lives next door to the Browns (who, apparently, no longer live anywhere). I hear her voice above the cacophony of grunts and groans and fire and crumbling buildings. Her voice is that shrill, that high all the time, though in this instant it’s tinged with a bit of panic. I look out the small window in my door and I see Mrs. Beasley standing on my walkway, holding this morning’s paper and looking for all the world like the world is not imploding around her.

“Mr. Grant, my Sasha peed on your newspaper!” Sasha being her little fucker of a dog - some small, yapping, obnoxious white piece of fluff that’s supposed to be descended directly from royal dog blood or some shit like that. Mrs. Beasley does not seem to be aware that the Grimwald boy is tearing at her house dress, teeth bared and eyes blazing. This annoys me more than alarms me. I expect that if I’m going to go into full panic mode about a situation that everyone will panic right along with me. It’s like going to the doctor, alarmed that you’ve developed a strange growth on your back and the doctor, instead of looking as alarmed as you did upon discovering the growth, seems to think it’s all a run of the mill annoyance. It’s downright infuriating. Hello? Panic? Alarm? Are you with me or not? Because if you’re not going to settle into my mode of hysteria, then I’m going to label you an immediate enemy.

So now I’m staring at Mrs. Beasley like she’s the spawn of Satan himself.

“Open the door, Grant. I know you’re home!” She’s staggering up the walk - staggering because she’s dragging the Grimwald boy behind her and he’s gnawing on her baggy-stockinged leg, spitting out pieces of hosiery as he tries to get to the meat.

Copyright Michele Catalano 2005

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