EVER AGAIN

Novel - Reading Sample

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     "Where is this space?" you wonder. Glued to the screen, you examine what you are seeing here.

     Okay, it does look as if this warehouse space has seen better days. Clean though.

Not a scrap anywhere. You wonder if there could be rats. Four identical metal doors are evenly spaced to each other on the far wall. Strong fluorescents hang from the ceiling, pushing long shadows that express indifference.

     The more you concentrate on the imagery, the more the electrical humming becomes more insistent. It seems there are two sources for that humming. Those horrible lights and probably the ventilation system.

     Oddly, on one side of the warehouse space, a sleeping man lies on a hospital bed. He’s under the covers and snores like a wild hog. As the covers do not completely cover him, he at least wears some clothes: a yellow T-shirt, blue jeans and white socks.

     "What is this?" you wonder. The scene is somewhat benign, but then it isn’t too. "Why is a man sleeping in this kind of space?"

     Suddenly, the man wakes up. He slowly gets out of bed as if he is stiff from a long sleep. He eliminates the sleep particles from the corners of his eyes and then rubs his face trying to wake up. Looks like his hair has been spun in a tornado.

     The man looks to his left and then straight forward trying to orientate himself to the circumstances.

     You can hear the man whisper: "You`ve got to be…".

     Not finishing his sentence, the man spies a pair of tennis shoes placed close to the bed on the floor.

     "Really?" says the man in seemingly somewhat disbelief. Then he rubs both of his ears slowly, bends over and picks up one shoe and puts it on. He coughs, then searches for his fuller voice as he ties the shoe into a perfect knot.

     The man, now a bit louder, "This isn’t funny - I mean, what the…? And why the - I mean…"

     The shoe fits. He reaches for the other shoe and puts it on his other foot.

     "Now this," the man says.

     The man ties the second shoe, then reaches for the wall to steady himself as he stands up. He then turns back to the bed, folds the blanket neatly, and before he places the blanket at the foot of the bed, he smooths down the sheet.

     These acts seem a bit like a routine to you, which makes the entire scene even more out of place for your assessment.

     The man begins to walk slowly along the same wall as to where the bed is placed. He then turns into the center of the warehouse away from the wall. He walks slowly at first and then his pace accelerates as he heads towards the far wall of the warehouse.

     Suddenly, the man screams, "Hey! What the fuck!"

     You cringe over the man’s absolute anger.

     The man begins to mumble to himself, completely inaudible. He holds both of his hands above his head in the police arrested position and walks in parallel with the far wall.

     Continuing to mumble to himself, yet louder, the man stutters, "This can’t be serious. Come on, I mean, really? This is bullshit, plus not being real, or what and…".

     The man walks towards door number one and quickly turns the door handle. The door is locked.

     "Of course,” the man says unsurprised.

     He walks quickly to the next door and tries the door handle. Door number two is also locked.

     A bit louder, still to himself, "Uh-huh. Yeah. Right. Of course.”

     Walking faster now, the man approaches door number three, tries the handle, and even pushes the door, but no luck. Door number three is locked too.

     Now very unhappy, the man says, "No shit! Yeah. Bring it on, bitch!"

     Without even trying door number four, the man walks quickly back to his bed. He speaks slowly to himself, "U-huh, Uhm, really?! I mean, Uhm. Really?" He begins to giggle a bit, sarcastically. Then he becomes angrier.

     "Not in a million years, I mean, not in a million fucking some years, you gonna believe this shit.”

     The moment he gets to the bed, the man lifts both of his arms towards the ceiling.

     "Anybody seeing this shit?" the man screams angrily.

     Then he lets his arms fall again. He stands in front of the bed, then turns around with his back towards the wall and sits down slowly on the bed.

     The man, calmly, mumbles to himself, "I had tea with Kendra at nine.”

     He thinks to himself.

     "Then I went back home. I ate an apple. And then…”

     He ponders again.

     "I brushed my teeth, took my clothes off, checked messages, laid down, fell asleep.”

     You see him scratch his head.

     "Yeah. That’s how it was. And now this.” Instantly, the man begins to laugh. He laughs so much that his face gets stuck and then he collapses from the sheer terror of the moment.

     You are stunned and have millions of thoughts traveling at light speed through your mind. At the same time, you have no way to compute what is happening here. Jeff wants you to memorize what is happening, but what is really happening?

     Under normal circumstances for this scene, no one would ever give this a split second. Okay, not really. No one sleeps in a bed in a warehouse. Whatever.

     You watch the man as he looks up and then he quickly untangles his legs, gets off the bed, and walks as fast as he can towards door number one. While walking, the man mumbles, "Four doors, uh-huh, and did I try the Uhm, it just can’t be.”

     He arrives at door number one and again tries to open it, but it’s still locked.

     Self-assured, he shouts, " This one! Yeah, locked!"

     He quickly walks past door number two and says, "And this one? Yeah, not that stupid!"

     After walking to door number three, the man stops and tries to open the door, but it’s also locked.

     Dejected, he screams, " Yeah, no shit. But this…” The man walks slowly to door number four. He stops and hesitantly touches that door handle. He gently turns the handle and this door, for some reason, opens normally.

     The man says baffled, “I’ll be damned.”

     He pushes the door open, stands still for a moment as if completely petrified, and stares into what opens beyond the door.

     You become anxious.

     Finally, something is happening, but you have no blatant idea of how to follow the action. If the man walks through this door, that may be the end of it, which makes you mad.

     Without hesitation, you push down switch oh-nine, which is again the empty hallway with the office space. Then you push the oh-eight to see the man walk through door number four.

     "But wait!" you stop yourself.

     "At the oh-nine, just now, wasn`t there a person in that small office space?" and you push oh-nine again.

      And indeed, there it is.

      Oh-nine shows the empty hallway with a small office space behind a sliding window. A short-haired man wearing an all grey uniform sits in the office area at a desk that looks through the windows towards the drab, ill-lit hallway. You notice that one of the windows is a slider that opens to the hallway.

     You can see the man at the desk only from behind, but you can tell, he looks like an officer or of some kind.

     You then hear the muffled sound of a door slamming shut in the background.                   Surprised, you watch the man from the warehouse walk slowly towards the

     sliding window.

     "So, switches oh-nine and oh-eight are connected," you establish.

     The man from the warehouse walks down the hall looking through the windows of the reception office. He stops at the slider window but has difficulty seeing inside. He finally spies the Officer sitting at the desk.

     The man shouts, "Hello!" You can barely hear him even though it seems he’s shouting. His voice appears to be muffled due to the extreme thickness of the window.

     No visible reaction that you can see from the Officer either.

     The man wraps his knuckles loudly on the slider window. Loudly impatient, bending the word “Hello! Can you hear me?" The guy knocks harder, and then yells even more angrily, "Hey!"

     Again, it seems, no reaction from the Officer who continues to sit working at his desk. Is he working or what? He appears to be unaffected by the apparent crisis that the man from the warehouse is having. What is going on?

     You notice finally that the officer looks up from his desk, directly at the man. He says calmly, yet dryly, "I am on a technical break at the moment. Please come back at three o’clock.”

     You begin to laugh because now that the Officer has spoken, the man in the hallway can’t hear him. He becomes incensed and violently bangs his fist against the window, yelling, "Can’t hear you! Any chance you open this fucking win -"

     The Officer suddenly stands up and quickly walks to the window. He opens the window as if he has done it a million times before.

     The Officer, calm, friendly, and helpful, "I am on a technical break at the moment. Please come back at three o’clock."

     The Officer closes the window immediately. Then he turns, walks back to his desk and sits down. He ruffles a few papers in a file.

    What is this scene? What is going on here? You shake your head and grab a sandwich from the frig. You almost fall out of your chair, trying to do two things at once.

     The man in the hallway balls up his fists and puts them on the window along with his forehead. It sounds muffled, even though it’s obvious that he’s yelling, "What freaking’ three o’clock? I don’t even know what time it is now!"

     You take a bite out of your sandwich as the man waits silently, fuming.

     The Officer continues his technical break.

     The man then explodes, banging his fists on the slider window. He yells aggressively, "Really?! You’ve got to be...Open up!"

     The Officer quickly stands up again from this desk and steps forward towards the window.

     The man steps back a bit timidly.

     The Officer slides the window open a smidge then speaks calmly and helpful, "Please come back at three o’clock, okay?"

The man nods YES silently.

The Officer shuts the window again. Instead of sitting down though, he moves to the opposite door and leaves the room completely. The man shakes his head, NO WAY while watching the Officer intensely. The man moves closer to the window and cups his hands around his eyes, resting them onto the glass while looking into the office.

     You then can hear a heavy metal door opening and shutting with a bang.

     You are as bewildered as is the man in the hallway.

     The man hovers at the window a moment. Then he steps back and looks at the actual counter. He finds and grabs a pen and paper from the counter but is flummoxed on what to do with them. He sets them back on the counter. He looks into the office again and then makes a slow 360-degree turn before he strides slowly back to the door he originally came through.

     Suddenly, the sound of the heavy metal door opening and closing with a bang is audible again. The Officer enters the small office and walks to the window.

     At the sound of the door, the man in the hallway walks quickly back to the slider window.

     You see the Officer sliding the window open and he notices the errant piece of paper and pen. He takes them both into the small office and walks back to his desk. He sits down and then places the paper and pen on his desk.

     "So, it’s three, I guess," the man comments harshly.

     The Officer asks emotionless, "It is? Let me check." He looks at his wristwatch, "Uhm, actually only two-fifty-seven."

     The man replies sarcastically loud, "Two-fifty-seven. No shit! Opening up early today, or what?"

     The Officer looks at the man straight in his eye.

     "That is indeed correct. Early. Sometimes, I do make exceptions," the Officer responds calmly.

     The man shakes his head in disbelief, less agitated, he mumbles, "Exceptions, uh-huh. Uhm…" Now belligerent, "What the fuck is this here?"

     "I have no idea what this is you are talking about," the Officer responds calmly and helpfully.

     Now calmer, the man says rather condescendingly, "You sit at this desk here - - like some kind of job writing some shit down. You quote me “three o’clock.” You leave. Then you come back; at two-fifty-seven."

     Now, more agitated, he nearly shouts at the Officer, "No shit! Apparently making exceptions, as you point out, which leads me to believe there must be some sort of routine and shit." Now, he speaks more calmly, "And you’re telling me, you have no idea about what the fuck I’m..."

     "What is your name?" the Officer cuts into the man`s rant.

     The man replies stunned, "My name? Really?"

     "What is your name?" the Officer asks friendly again.

     The man responds dryly, "John Weld."

     The Officer writes John’s name on a piece of paper that presumably the officer has in front of him.

     "How do you spell that?" the Officer asks gently.

     John rolls his eyes and swallows hard.

     "Jay-Oh-Age…"

     The Officer interrupts John, "Last name spelling only, of course."

     John, confused, says slowly, "Uhm. Double-you, Ee, El, Dee."

     "Nice rhythm," the Officer says pointedly.

     John now annoyed, "Rhythm, what?"

     The Officer says dryly, "The rhythm of the spelling: Double-you, Ee, El, Dee. Kind of sounds like an abbreviation of a hip hop…"

     John cuts in aggressively, "What the -"

"How old are you?" the Officer interrupts very friendly and leveled. John rolls his eyes, calming down, "Thirty-one."

     The Officer jots it down. "Thirty-one,” he breathes, then in an upbeat voice, "Alright!" Finished, the Officer bends to the left and opens a drawer. He finds a file and pulls a piece of paper out. He stands up and leans forward towards the window and holds up the new piece of paper towards John.

     "Okay. This form—you need to fill in your current address, social security number, place of birth, education, etcetera; and underneath, as you can see below - and, Uhm.” The officer turns the paper around and says informatively, "Here on the back, explain in writing, what is the nature of your problem. Make sure to keep this part five-hundred words max, okay? Alright. You good!"

     Bewildered, John lets his head fall forward abruptly with his chin touching his chest. Containing his rage, he speaks slowly, "Listen carefully. I have no idea where I am, nor do I have any idea what all of this is here, so I don’t even know what the problem is that I am having - you get that?"

     Leaning forward through the window, the Officer places the form on the hallway counter in front of John.

     John picks up the form with both hands.

     The Officer smiles, "I do understand that you seem to have a problem. However, I have no idea what this is you are talking about." Upon finishing, the Officer steps back and places his hand on the window handle.

     John screams, "I’ve had enough of this fucking bullshit!"

     The Officer begins to close the window.

     John drops the paper and lunges toward the window, thrusting his right hand through the small opening of the window. His left arm holds onto the back of the sliding window to forcibly keep the window open.

     The Officer is faster though and bangs the windows onto John’s fingers until John lets go.

     You are shocked, staring at the screen. You are fully immersed in the drama of this action.

     Suddenly, you hear clicking sounds from the cabinet wall adjacent to your right. You feel like you have been caught in an act of being caught. You instantly push one of the unnumbered switches.

     The screen is white, and you can hear Jeff opening the cabinet door.

     Jeff comes in and asks, "How was it?"

     "You scared the heck out of me," you respond to Jeff.

     Jeff taps on your right shoulder, "Come on. Lunchtime. Or did you have a sandwich?"

     Looking into Jeff´s big eyes, you stand up and get out of the chair without any hesitation.

     Jeff inspects you and asks, "And? Saw some action?"