Everything Happens

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

A strange little story about how the world works.

"Hey, hon', I'm gonna be stuck here in Chicago another day. They're still going over the proposal. I'll give you another call and let you know what time my new flight is. 'Kay, love you, bye."
Kevin Johnston slid his Blackberry back into its little belt holster. This delay was going to throw off his whole week. Why these people couldn't just make up their minds was beyond him. He figured there would be another meeting later where hopefully he could get a firm agreement to design new machines for the manufacture of treadmills. All the little things in life had to be made by something, and he loved designing the things that made those things. He told them that they weren't going to find another company with Johnston Engineering's record of precision and reliability. When he was done, the machine would run predictably forever. But now he was stuck waiting. He headed downstairs to the hotel bar.
"Heineken, please." He took a drink and looked up at the TV in the corner. A hockey game was almost over.
"Looks like Khabibulin might get the shutout," Kevin said to the bartender.
"Shhhhh. You'll jinx him."
"Uh-huh." The bartender had managed to find one of Kevin's pet peeves right off the bat. "You realize it doesn't actually work that way, right?"
"Says you, buddy. I ain't taking any chances."
A few seconds later, a Blackhawk coughed up the puck and sent Gaborik in all alone. He shot up the left side of the ice and buried the puck high glove side. The bartender gave Kevin a good-natured dirty look.
"Hey, don't look at me. That was the defenseman's fault."
Another customer sat down a couple stools over from Kevin. "Don't be so sure about that."
"Oh yeah?" Kevin turned towards the new interlocutor. He was expecting to see another guy like him, dressed in a suit that had jettisoned the jacket and tie. Instead, he saw a motley scarecrow. The man was tall, he guessed about 6' 4''. Skinny too. He looked like the usual Chicago breeze would send him flying out over the lake. He had a furry Russian hat on his already oversized head and a blousy pirate shirt overwhelming the cuffs and waist of his Ike jacket. Dark green riding pants and white cowboy boots rounded out his ensemble. "Oh my ..." was all he could get out.
The man smiled broadly, showing a mouthful of crooked, but impossibly white teeth. "You like it? It's my best Sunday garb."
"It's Wednesday."
"For you maybe."
"Bartender! Can you get me another one, and whatever the Soviet, ... pirate doughboy is having?" He pointed to his strange new friend, who nodded in thanks. "That is, if you're OK to drink on your meds," he added under his breath.
"I'll have a White Russian. It goes with the hat."
The bartender set the drinks in front of them and Kevin motioned for him to start a tab. "Do you always drink to match your outfit?"
"Did you drink Heineken before you had that Blackberry?"
The freak had him there. Kevin used to drink Budweiser but had changed beers when he started to feel like a professional. The horn sounded on a 3-1 Blackhawks win, reminding him of the beginning of the conversation. He turned to the furry hat. "So anyway, it doesn't matter how many people say 'shutout', it's still up to the players. I don't know why people still hang on to those superstitions."
"Because they're right. It's one of the rules." He sipped his White Russian.
"The rules?"
"Of the universe."
"Like physics? And math? I'm an engineer. I know what governs the universe."
"You mean Hank? Nice guy, but not all there, if you know what I mean." He made circles by his temple with his finger.
"You are, without exception, the oddest person I've ever met." Kevin raised his bottle towards the man to toast his accomplishment. He decided that the oddball was goofy, but harmless, and he didn't have anything else to do besides watch TV in his room. He ordered another round, figuring anybody dressed like that couldn't possibly have any money. "So let's see, then. Do toads cause warts? Are black cats unlucky?"
"Come on, now. Don't be ridiculous. Everyone knows carrying an odd amount of change in your pocket causes warts. As for black cats, I don't know about their luck. I've never gambled with any."
Kevin laughed. "I might just be getting a little drunk, but you're starting to sound reasonable."
The man knocked back the last of his drink and started to get up. "Reasonable, eh? Sorry, friend, reason is being canceled due to low ratings." He slapped Kevin on the shoulder and walked out.
"What a character that guy was," Kevin said as the bartender walked by.
"What guy was that?" the bartender said.
"The tall crazy guy with the dead sables on his head. Don't tell me I'm the only one who saw him."
The bartender couldn't keep a straight face any longer. "Yeah, that guy was pretty out there. Takes all kinds, though."
Kevin paid his tab and headed back upstairs. As he fumbled with his keycard, he sensed someone coming up behind him. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the strange man from the bar. "Oh, it's you again. You on this floor, too?" The man slowed down, then stopped, staring at him. Kevin started to have an idea. "Whoa, hey, I'm not, er, I'm not interested ..."
The man smiled. "You flatter yourself, friend." He leaned in, glancing to both sides. Kevin reflexively mimicked him. "Do yourself a favor. Stay in tomorrow." With that, he walked down the hallway and disappeared around the corner.
Kevin went into his room, formulating a "weirdo I met in the big city" story for his wife and friends when he got back to Des Moines.
Kevin woke up to sirens. This wasn't too unusual for him when he stayed in Chicago. He was used to the nice, quiet suburbs. He tried to go back to sleep, but the sirens kept going. Finally, at about 5:30, he got up. He scratched himself absent-mindedly as he wandered over to the window and pulled back the drapes to try to see what all the commotion was. Once his sleepy brain registered what it was seeing, he fell backwards, taking part of the drapes with him. There, blocking the whole view of what should have been the lake, was a box turtle the size of a football stadium. "OK, that can't be there," he said as he fumbled with the remote control.
"... and a state of emergency has been declared for Cook County. We'll repeat what we're being told: Stay inside and away from downtown until authorities can determine what is happening." While the anchor was reading this in a small inset box in the corner, the rest of the screen showed an aerial view of what Kevin saw outside his window.
"So I'm not crazy. Or I'm crazy and they're crazy too." He started making a mental checklist of all the reasons why he couldn't be seeing what he was seeing. Nothing could grow that big. Where would it hide? What would it eat? Hell, the thing shouldn't even be able to breathe. It should be getting crushed by its own weight. He grabbed his cell phone.
"Hello?" his wife answered groggily.
"Hey. It's me. Turn on WGN. Something weird is going on."
"Are you OK?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Did you find it?"
"Um, the Bulls lost to Cleveland they said. You woke me up for that?"
He turned back to the television. Sure enough, they were playing basketball highlights. He rushed back over to the window. The lake was right where it should be, unobstructed. "Wait, there was just ..."
"Are you sure you're OK? Are you coming back today?"
"What? Oh, yeah, that's what I was trying to say. They were just talking about all the cancellations at the airport. I'm not sure about my flight yet. I'll give you a call later when I have the details."
"Fine, whatever. You know I don't wake up for another hour. Now I won't be able to get back to sleep." She left a loaded silence.
"Sorry, hon', I just didn't realize the time. I'll talk to you later then." They hung up. Kevin hurried to the sink in the room, and splashed cold water on his face. He slapped himself once, then harder a second time. "Ouch." He pulled up his eyelids and stuck out his tongue. Nothing seemed out of place. "I was sleepwalking. That's the only rational explanation."
Kevin started to get ready for his day. He emailed his admin to check the afternoon flights and emailed the client's admin to see about a meeting. Then he went back to the sink to brush his teeth. His mind wandered back to the dream and how real it had seemed. He refocused on himself in the mirror and spit violently into the sink.
"Coffee grounds?! What the ...?" He squeezed the toothpaste tube some more. More black, wet grounds oozed out. French vanilla if he wasn't mistaken. He rinsed out his mouth and stomped over to his suitcase. He pulled out his grooming kit and got the small pocketknife. Someone shoved coffee grounds into it while I was asleep, he thought. He cut open the tube looking for toothpaste in the corners, but it was all grounds, like it had been manufactured that way, but he had been using this tube for weeks. "I don't know how, but it was that weird guy. I know it!" He went over to the door. The swing bar lock was still in place. He walked back over to the windows, peering straight down. No way someone could get in that way. The windows didn't even open. He cautiously moved back towards the sink, half-expecting the flayed tube to be full of toothpaste again. He was oddly relieved that the sink was still full of coffee.
Regardless, Kevin was beginning to feel decidedly unwelcome. He threw his things into his suitcase, put on his shoes, and rushed out of the room. He almost toppled a bellhop as he fled the elevator and moved towards the front desk.
"Did you enjoy your stay, Mr. ... Johnston?" the young man behind the counter asked as he scanned the key card.
"Oh, sure, sure. Nothing wrong with me! With my stay, I mean." His eyes widened as the starving artist painting of a lighthouse behind the desk began to cast light across the lobby. "Ignoring that ...," he said quietly.
"I'm sorry, sir?" When no response came, he asked, "Do you need a cab?"
"Yes! That'd be great."
The man motioned to the doorman, who flipped on the cab light above the door. Within a few seconds, one pulled up.
"Thanks for staying with us. Come again!"
He tossed his bag into the back seat and said, "O'Hare, please. United." He saw a white, furry, clawed paw click on the meter.
"Well, sure ... global warming ... the ice sheet is melting so they've had to find other jobs ...," Kevin mumbled. He sat and examined the back of the head that pressed against the top of the cab until they stopped and the polar bear said, "Thirty-two fifty." He tossed forty dollars over the seat and hurried out.
Making his way to the counter, he was relieved to see that he had just made it in time for a flight. He'd be home in two hours. He just needed to hold it together a little while longer. Kevin got his boarding pass and jogged up the moving sidewalk to get to his gate. He broke his stride only when he saw an airplane scurrying up the runway on its eight spindly legs. The hard-shelled, light brown appendages originated from the underside of the fuselage, two pair in front, and two behind the wings. As it built up speed, its legs began moving in unison, until it had enough speed to leap into the sky. Further in the distance, he could see another larger plane preparing to land, with thick, black, hairy legs dangling below the craft, reaching out for the ground.
A very sweaty Mr. Johnston approached the woman scanning the boarding passes. "Will we be on a spider today?"
She paused, still smiling. "I believe it's a 727, sir."
"Right, right." Whatever, he thought. I just need to get home.
The bartender stood behind the empty bar, whistling contentedly. The news chattered in the corner. The tall man walked in and pulled up a stool.
"A hi-ball please."
"Why, your pants on too tight?"
He was thinking of a response to that when the newscaster caught their attention. "Breaking news now about a flight from O'Hare. A passenger was beaten and subdued by other passengers after he tried to open an air-lock. Kevin Johnston was arrested when the plane landed at Des Moines International Airport and faces federal charges including Interference with a Flight Crew and Aircraft Sabotage. Passengers say he seemed disoriented and stated he needed to get off the plane before the 'squids figured out what he had done'. We'll have more details as they become available."
The bartender turned back to the glass he was drying after setting the drink down. "Funny, he seemed so together yesterday."
"I tried to tell him to just stay put today. Was there a reason for that, Hank?"
"Nah. You know there's no reason for any of it. I just hate a boring universe."

Submitted: May 28, 2010

© Copyright 2021 JMessick. All rights reserved.

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