Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Death of Virtue: Part IV

‘Well’ Daniel looked up at the ceiling in a symbolic gesture ‘You do work in mysterious ways, eh?’

John-Michael shot out of the oversized, underused black leather chair. He was breathing hard. Too hard. He had to rip air out of the atmosphere, just to get it into his lungs. He felt encased in a frigid sweat, with a pool near the small of his back. As his vision began to clear, and static was leaving his hearing, he remembered what woke him up.

It was just supposed to be a short nap. In fact, he wasn’t even intending to fall asleep. His apartment was dark. The wood floor echoed the dull and faded light. Combine that with the soft roar of the city beneath him, the warm tea within his arm’s length, and only mild interest in the magazine article, and he was destined to nod off. And nod off he did. John-Michael was fast asleep in that chair for nearly forty-five minutes.

That’s when he shot out of his slumber.

He was gasping and clutching at oxygen. His eyes darted around the room. “Where is that damn thing?” He was near panic, and had no idea why.

He got up out of the chair, every joint aching. Maybe that pain was from sleeping in a lounger, maybe it was the extreme amounts of adrenaline, endorphins, and testosterone squeezing through his bloodstream. He did nothing but stare at the floor, but in his head he was meticulously sifting through every object in the three-room apartment. 

‘The briefcase? No, I never put it in there. Pants?’ He threw his hands into his pockets. Nothing but car keys and loose change. ‘The counter?’ Finally, his body moved with the reality in his head. His dark-tile, bar-style countertop was barren, minus the typical pile of bills, junk mail, and old subscriptions. ‘Where the hell did I-‘

As he neared the apex of frustration, he actually recognized what his eyes were staring at. The jacket. His feet flew to the wrought-iron coat rack hung in the entryway. His dark, pinstriped jacket ruffled as he rifled through the two outside pockets. He let out an audible sigh of relief as he pulled his much-sought-after cell phone from the inside breast pocket of the coat.

Unknowingly, he hung the jacket back on the peg, and turned back towards the leather chair. His fingers were already swimming across the buttons on the phone. Before he had reached the chair, before he even took more than five steps, he had opened the address book, found her name, and selected send message. John-Michael spun around and sat on the stretched out leather leg-rest. The digital glow of his phone glared off his face. The blank message was staring him down. He shook with a chill, gazing at the plastic and glass. All it read was:

New Message
To: Annie S.

The blank message was too much. His fingers said so much by not being able to type at all. He was paralyzed with fear.

Finally, his thumb broke its silence. But instead of typing what he wanted to say, it rebelliously clicked the Call button. Her normally comforting picture flashed. He cheeks filled with blood, his head with even for fear than before, and his entire being screamed “NO!”

She picked up too fast for him to run.

“J-M?” The words bounced around his hollow apartment. He couldn’t hear the sorrow in them.

“Hi… Hi Annie. How… How are you?” He tried to hide the uncertainty in his voice. ‘Why did I call her? This is too much. This is so stupid. This is-‘ His mind was speaking so fast, and so strongly, but his mouth refused to listen.

“I’m alright. It’s… It’s been a long day J-M. What’s going on, why did you call?”

“Annie. I’m sorry to bother you. Everything’s fine I just… I… Well, this is going to sound weird but is everything OK? I just woke up from a nap with the feeling that something terrible happened to you. I don’t know. Just please tell me I’m crazy and that you are just fine and this is a stupid feeling.”

Annie could not muster a single word. ‘No. No, no, no, no. I will not bear this news twice. This is not my place. This is not my role. NO!’

The utter lack of words from the phone made John-Michael’s hurt drop miles, deep into his stomach. Time simply halted, and while she was only searching for words for six seconds, he had been waiting for minutes.

“Oh God Annie. What happened?”

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