host

My hands won’t stop shaking.

Gordon’s pacing—although honestly, I don’t think it’s fair to call it that, at this point—like he’s trying to formulate a new methodology for setting the carpet on fire with nothing but intricate choreography. His living room is immaculately clean, to the point of sterility. I’m not wearing shoes.

It’s that clean in here.

I drove a hundred and ten miles an hour through the city all the way here.

And my hands won’t stop shaking.

For the last twenty minutes, Gordon has been pacing back and forth in front of the sofa where he kindly insisted I sit, muttering the same two or three words over and over.

“I’m fucked. I. Am. Fucked. I’m fucked!

“Listen, I know it sounds crazy, but—”

“Crazy?” I think he’s trying to smile at me, but honestly, it just looks like showing teeth. “Crazy would be if we walked up to Dr. Soliman’s office, pulled out a gun and said, ‘Good morning, Dr. Soliman, I’m having trouble killing myself today. Would you mind to help me out? Oh, and while you’re at it, I’d like to use your office.'”

He’s right. That would be pretty crazy.

“What you’re talking about doing is completely and totally FUCKED!”

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was going to break out in tears.

Gordon rocks back and forth as he walks, his body hinged at the waist like a stiff doll; the nightmare Christmas Toy creation of an autistic-savant-designer-turned-terminal-crackhead.

“I’ll tell you,” he says, completing his seventy-fourth lap around the coffee table, “but you have to swear to me you won’t try anything stupid. Just get the video from the archive and get out.”

My plan flashes behind my eyes:

  1. Connect remotely to the Praxem SecureBridge packet and download the server keys.
  2. Create a query in the system to allow access to the building after hours, coded to my employee ID.
  3. Tell the security guard I left my wallet in my office the day before, and
  4. Use my security credentials to bypass monitoring in the archive room. That’s where they keep encrypted copies of the video footage from the cameras in the observation rooms.
  5. Use Gordon’s access code (which he is very close to giving me) to get into the observation deck.
  6. Blastoff…

 

“Gordon, I promise. Listen, man….”

 

 

I’ll see you soon, baby.

I love you.

ring, ring

My eyelashes taste sunlight, and I’m awake like night never happened. Check the sheets. Damp from sweat. Empty. All my dreams vanished with the closing of yet another door. Left to reckon the morning with only the faintest traces of your presence:

Lipstick on the ebony nightstand.

White lace garment hanging from the bathroom doorknob.

A picture of us in front of the Praxem building. Taken that morning, the last day I saw your face.

Wedding band. Engagement Ring.

 

 

My head is fucked. The inside of my body feels like cake batter stirred with a chainsaw. The chamber scooped out all my vitals and viscera, threw it in a churn and set the speed to insubstantial.

I’m stuck in a loop, one moment on repeat, forever and ever. That moment.

Doubt that I’ll see you again
Not in this world
Not in this life

But maybe—

Maybe the chamber is my only hope. I just haven’t found the right combination. Gotta find the one you used, the exact same one. Like chasing you across galaxies with no coordinates. Random jumps at light speed. Hoping

 

Hoping this time

I’ll find you

bring you back

w   a   k   e          u     p

 

 

 

My cell goes off. 

That ringtone.

I can't breathe. 

This isn't real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re calling me.