I died when I was 14; I just haven’t been buried yet. It was as if my physical body was free to roam the Earth while my spirit vanished through shallow misdirection. Only six extra years later and I already had to reminisce about the “good old days” to remind my self that it wasn’t always like this; living life as the post of something else, always wishing to skip from one moment to another.
I was standing before a mirror in a public bathroom, studying the deception that was my own reflection. I looked like I had survived a cruiseship wreck with my pinstripe shirt wrinkled and soaked. Attempting to flush out the noise in my head by splashing cold water over my face made me seize up and shiver along with my thoughts. I ran my sweaty palms through my unruly hair. Twenty minutes in front of the mirror at home and handfuls after handfuls of gel couldn’t keep my hair tamed, so what did I expect now?
I gave my self another look over in the mirror. I knew my reflection was tired of emulating my nervous mannerisms when I leaned over the counter, while it stayed up right and told me, “Get a hold of your self, man! Nobody hires a jittery wreck!”
I blinked my eyes as hard as I could and waved my hand left and right to see if my movement would be replicated, and fortunately it was. I guess I’d been hallucinating. Probably the result of lost sleep due to late night channel surfing while rehearsing how I would respond during a job interview for hours on end. I let out a sigh of relief, my reflection followed suit…and then it chuckled at me.
“You really need to learn how to relax, Sweaty Pits,” it said pointing at me then motioning to the door, “Now, get the hell out of here or you’ll be late for your interviews.”
I felt like I’d just regurgitated my own heart and choked on it in the attempt to swallow it back down. I leaned in closer to inspect the mirror. I leaned against it and felt around the edges, searching for anything suspicious, possibly traces of an elaborate prank. Maybe someone found my long lost twin brother and got him to spook me out that morning, or maybe I was losing my mind. I preferred the former, because at least then I would have met someone who shared my exact likeliness, except more optimistic and motivating.
My reflection stood with his arms crossed, and although I didn’t see it, I could’ve sworn his foot was tapping in impatience.
I surveyed my surroundings for possible hidden cameras in the hand dryer and the other sinks while my reflection stood in place. I looked everywhere and scratched my head in confusion. “What the hell is going on here? Am I dreaming? That has to be it! I’m still asleep in my apartment and this is my mind’s way of telling me to wake up because I might be late for my interviews!”
“Well you’re right about one thing, Numb Nuts. Don’t you know if you come in late for your first interview it will mess up your timing with the rest of them? So get a move on!” My reflection motioned to the door with both hands this time. “You really have no time to waste, you need this job or you’ve got nothing. No net worth equals no worth at all.”
I heard wheels rolling and foot steps approaching from the other side of the door. The door opened and a whistling janitor wheeled in his mop bucket. “Hey, buddy! What the hell? Is this your way of trying to give me a hand here?”
I looked away from the mirror and turned to him. “Excuse me?” He smirked and looked down at the water over flowing from the sink onto the floor. A puddle surrounded me. The hot water seeping through my loafers added to the moisture of my sweaty socks. My tie! My goddamn tie was stuck in the drain hole. No wonder my throat felt less choked and constricted, I wasn’t wearing the corporate apparel that would restrict the blood to my brain. I turned off the tap and pulled my tie out to twist and dry. I swung it over my shoulder before pulling a cluster of paper towels from the dispenser.
“Shit! I’m terribly sorry!” I said padding all over the counter with paper towels and dropping some on the wet floor.
“No worries, I’ll take it from here,” the janitor said as he approached the flood.
“Hey can you take a really close look at this mirror? There’s something really odd about it.” The janitor stopped mopping the flooded area and looked into the mirror. I started flailing my arms in front of it and making faces. All I saw was my self…flailing my arms and making faces.
“Look, kid, I don’t know what you’re on. But if you’re trying to make me look hard into the mirror just to tell me the odd thing I’m looking for is my face, I think you’d better scram.”
Although he did have the face for radio, his self deprecating remark was completely off base.
“Never mind…” I said frowning at myself. I caught my reflection looking away to the door and smirking slightly while my eyes were still locked on it. I took in a breath intending to speak, but I didn’t want to trouble the janitor any further so I just scurried out of the door.
I walked through the mall hallway knotting my tie as best as I could remember from looking up How to Tie a Tie on Google. I tied it into a Half Knot Windsor or what have you, either way I was just glad I didn’t accidentally tie it into a noose.
I approached McMaster’s Record Store; the minimum wage salvation that would possibly become my crutch as I waded through this world of financial burdens. I entered the store wishing I had brought my headphones with me. The store speakers blasted the same mainstream music that I had heard from my alarm clock that morning. I greeted the cashier and told her I had an interview with Lars Torino, the manager. She walked me to the back of the store where his office was located.
A balding man in a McMaster’s Record Store t-shirt somehow tucked into womanly tight jeans, opened the door and gave me the up and the down. “Parker Davis?” I nodded and he allowed me into his office. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Parker.” He offered his hand for me to shake. His iron grip choked my limp cold fish.
Lars eyed me down for a moment and I couldn’t help but look away to the turned off computer monitor behind him. They say eye contact is vital in communication, and that looking into someone’s eyes is like a gateway into their soul. Hence, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of anyone ever catching a glimpse of my damaged spirit. I saw the mirror image of us in the monitor shaking hands and my reflection gave me an odd look to remind me why I was here and what I needed to accomplish, so I finally decided to return the firm handshake. Unfortunately Lars was just about ready to let go and I heard the crack of his knuckles as I grasped his fingers together. He grimaced and sat down with his legs crossed, motioning for me to sit at the chair in front of his.
Lars took a moment to have a snack of chips in a miniature bag. He pulled a chip out ever so delicately with his thumb and forefinger, placed the chip in his mouth and bit down slowly. He rolled his eyes back and flamboyantly said, “These are amazing!” He presented the open bag for me to take some, but I shook my head in refusal unaware that I was giving him an uncomfortable look. In the black screen, my reflection was laughing hysterically. “Okay let’s get down to business. Tell me about your self, Parker.”
“There’s not much to tell really…” I said in the hope that it would save me from having to accidentally reveal too much. Behind Lars’ balding head, I couldn’t resist looking at my reflection on the screen. Was I fidgeting without feeling it, or was it still in motion different from my own? It twirled its hand to gesture for me to say more. “Well I’m 20 years old, and I live in an apartment with my girlfriend. I’ve been dating her since high school and I feel that our cohabitation is proving that we have what it takes to get married. Even though here and there we’ll get into senseless arguments about ‘why the hell do I wear blank white t-shirts when we go out? It’s like I have no sense of style’ or something. You know how women are right? Or maybe you don’t…?”
After a long pause of Lars tapping his knee and trying to nod politely, he said, “I know that they have great fashion tips for both sexes. So why do you want to work at McMaster’s Record Store?”
“I have a great taste in music and feel that I could help the store branch out to promote some more obscure musicians that most people don’t know about.” I said with the proudest smile.
“Well it’s not up to our employees what we sell. The head office looks into statistics and supplies us with the latest and hottest artist’s CDs. You know? Why sell something that no one has ever heard of, we’d lose a lot of prof—“
I chuckled interrupting him. “But there’s just so much music out there unexposed because of all these mainstream fag bags are stealing all the thunder. Have you ever heard of Morse Code Stutters? They play some badass music, unlike the Jonas Brothers and their prepubescent singing and lack of any original chord progressions.” What the hell was I doing?! It was an interview, not a national debate about music.
“Uh…huh,” Lars said looking at his watch and letting out a high pitched sigh. I had to conceal the urge to laugh this time, lest I offend him any further. “So how would you deal with a troublesome customer who wants to refund something that has already exceeded our policy?”
“I would say that they’re shit out of luck and should’ve read the fine print on the back of their receipt.”
“Are you kidding me?” A voice came from behind Lars and I looked at my reflection giving me a stern frown. It ran its hand through its hair and said, “What about the whole ‘customer is always right’ deal? Why didn’t you stop to think about that for a second?”
“Oh my,” Lars said before I could take my own advice. When he asked me, “Where do you see your self in five years?” it sounded more like a personal question as opposed to a professional one.
“I really haven’t planned that far ahead.” My reflection shook its head with a disdainful smile and told me to say, “maybe manager of McMaster’s Record Store so that I can find a way to get those corporate fat cats to broaden their horizons on what artists to promote.”
I smacked my palm against my forehead as I saw the reflection of my self laughing silently, its shoulders bouncing up and down. I looked at it in curiosity and it replied, “What? You already screwed this interview up. Just try better at the gift store downstairs.”
“I’m not quite sure you’d have what it takes for me to pass the torch to you,” Lars said standing up.
I fought the urge to make some smart ass comment about flaming homosexuality in correlation with his torch metaphor, but he said, “thank you for your time, but I don’t think you even have what it takes to become an employee here.”
I stood up and asked, “That’s it? Sorry and good luck in the future?”
“I don’t recall apologizing or wishing you any goodwill. The interview is over, you may leave now.” Lars held the door open for me and stared off into space to avoid having to deal with me any further.
I exited Lars’ office and McMaster’s Record Store “accidentally” knocking a few CDs off the shelves with the brush of my elbow on the way out. Behind me, I heard plastic cases fall upon the floor one after the other like dominos.
“Hey come back here and clean up your mess!” I heard a salesperson call out to me.
I would…if I worked there. At the bottom floor of the mall I passed by some of the stores I had given a resume to weeks prior to that day to which I also had interviews scheduled for. I couldn’t bear the thought of how much more I could mess up my chances of obtaining any employment if I didn’t know how to shut my big mouth up. Maybe today just wasn’t my day. Maybe I should show up when I was more certain of how to behave.
I exited the mall and took in a deep inhale of the cold stale air. The air was diluted by the smouldering cigarette butts in a butt stop attached to a trash can. I pulled my tie off, crumpled it up and threw it against the trash can, missing the hole. I picked it up and looked at it for a moment wondering if I could turn it into a noose, but I dismissed the thought and tossed into the trash. The few strands of fabric that had comprised my professional integrity were now just an extra scrap of garbage, rotting alongside half eaten sandwiches, apple cores and snot covered tissues.
On my way to the mall bus terminal, the pungent stench of urine emanated from the terminal washrooms, carried by the dense and dusty air of the over powered heater. It was like a bacterial sauna that choked my lungs and nearly made my eyes water. I walked with my hands buried in my pockets and my head sunk between my shoulders like a turtle retreating into its shell.
I passed a group of teenagers harassing a vending machine, shaking it and pounding against the window. A bag of chips appeared to be stuck in transit, and the teenagers probably thought that banging against the machine would cause the bag to fall into the dispensing slot. Undisturbed by the rattle of machinery, a man embraced a woman gently, but firmly against a wall nearby and kissed every inch of her neck. Her arms were wrapped around him, like snakes slithering over their prey before fully devouring the meal. “Get a room!” I would say to them, but everyone else at the bus terminal seemed to have been minding their own embarrassing business.
A baby boy bounced up and down in his stroller crying, with his arms spread and hands reaching upward. His mother told him to, “pipe down and behave!” His little hands lowered attempting to pull his seatbelt off, and missed the unlock button. “Are you hungry? The bus is coming soon ok? You can eat when we get home.” Then she turned the stroller around to face away from her as she ran her finger across a bus route schedule and map posted on the wall. The baby’s cry intensified and it felt like my ears would pop if I took another second of it, so I stepped outside onto the bus platform and anxiously waited for my bus to arrive.
At the line up, a little girl was hopping up, down and around her father’s legs while singing a jumbled nursery rhyme. Her father gripped her hand and said “stay still and be quiet! You’re acting like an idiot,” as he lifted her off the cement ground and carried her in his arms. She attempted to squirm away from his grip, and more demands to be quiet were made.
At that point I was so thankful that I didn’t have kids. If I ever did, I would tend to their cries and let them enjoy the simplicity of being. They have absolutely no idea how the world will soon screw them over once they wake up to the harsh realities of lowered expectations and constant disappointments that get packaged with growth.
The bus arrived; I boarded, paid my fee and sat at the very back. Only a few people filed in, and out of all the free seats available on the bus, a man with a terrible skin disease sat next to me. He was a large man with red blisters swarming over the unconcealed skin of his face, neck and hands. I shuddered in my seat, for the sight gave me goose bumps. I didn’t want to seem disrespectful and completely switch seats, so I merely leaned away, but made the mistake of looking at the window.
My reflection slowly moved its hand closer and closer to the blistered man’s neck. My reflection flinched back into my seat once its hand was a centimetre away from touching one of the blisters. It placed a hand over its mouth, pretending to hold in a surge of vomit. I looked at the blistered man and he simply yawned not noticing the chaos in the window. I looked over to my reflection in the window and shook my head while it just pointed and laughed at me.
I finally arrived at my neighbourhood after 20 uncomfortable minutes on the bus and took the flight of stairs that lead me to my apartment door, placed the key in and unlocked the doorway to my own personal hell.
Removing my shoes onto the welcome mat, I heard water running from the kitchen sink and the clanking of glass on glass. I took my jacket off along with my now unbuttoned pinstripe shirt, and tossed them on the couch by the living room.
I walked into the kitchen to find Tara’s back turned to me while she was washing a pile of dishes. She was still in her standard pyjamas; silky pink short shorts with a white lace blouse. She turned her head briefly and asked, “Parker?” She started placing plates and utensils into the dish bin to dry and turned the tap off. She pulled her yellow rubber gloves off with a snap and laid them at the edge of the sink.
I approached her at an unhurried pace and slid my arms around her waist as she turned around. I planted a juicy kiss on her soft lips and whispered, “Good afternoon, babe,” into her ear.
For a moment, she basked in the warmth of my embrace, but then she abruptly unhinged the gentle grip of my hug and asked me, “What are you doing home so early?”
“I just finished my interview at McMaster’s Record Store,” I struggled to continue. I didn’t realize how long I paused and she cocked her head waiting for me to explain.
“And? How did it go? Please tell me they hired you instantly and want you start tomorrow,” Tara said with a hint of forced hope in her voice.
I averted my eyes away from her Oceanic blue ones. There was no easy way to tell her I screwed up my interview. I put my hand on her shoulder and slowly lowered the strap on her blouse while attempting to smile seductively. “I’m really tired. How about you crawl into bed with me and I’ll tell you all about it afterwards?”
Tara slapped my hand away and affixed the strap back over her shoulder. “No. Control your hormones and let’s get serious here for a second. Tell me how your interview went.”
“I don’t know who pissed in his cereal this morning, but the manager didn’t seem to like me.” I managed. “I don’t know what I did or said, but I think I just aggravated him further. He told me that I had no chance in working there at all. He didn’t give me a reason why, which I’m kind of glad for because—”
“What the hell, Parker?!” Tara shoved me aside and entered the living room. I followed her and she continued. “Is that the only interview you showed up to and you fucked it up? I swear you told me you had other ones lined up for today. Why aren’t you still at the mall trying your luck somewhere else?”
“I just didn’t think today was my day. I didn’t want to ruin any more interviews in this downward momentum. I’ve barely slept; I’ve barely eaten the past few days. I mean there’s never any food in the fridge, you don’t go out for groceries anymore.” I sat down on the couch and ran my hands through my hair.
“How can I when you don’t have any money for me to buy anything with?” Tara walked over to stand in front of me. I looked up at her feeling my eye brows instinctively giving her the sorry puppy dog eyes.
“Ok look I’m sorry.” I stood up and held her hands in mine. “Screw the mall; I’ll look for a job elsewhere. I’ll look for a place that’ll pay even more and a place that I would actually enjoy working at. Nobody wants to earn a living doing what they hate. It’s not really earning a living unless you feel alive! I would have hated pretending to hype up the crappiest musicians just to make a living. Or better yet standing at a counter all day counting change and—”
“You can’t afford to be picky right now!” Tara threw my hands away and pressed her finger against my chest with her pointy nail. “You need to take what you can get.” I don’t know if my heart hurt because of the pressure she left on it or if I was startled for being scolded by my lover for the first time. I slowly brushed her finger off my chest and rubbed it roughly.
“My whole life’s just been settling for taking what I can get and that’s probably how I ended up with you!” I watched Tara’s eyes water and her frown tighten. She grabbed a piece of paper from the coffee table and slammed it against my chest. “What’s this?”
“I’m not enough for you, is that it?” Tara managed to say before her tears gave way and streamed down her face. “Well I hope this is enough for you to realize that sometimes you do have to take what you can get.”
“What are you getting at?” She stormed off down the hallway to our bedroom. I read the crumpled paper she handed to me. “An eviction notice?! This is dated four days ago, why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“I didn’t want you to go into those interviews with added pressure, but it looks like you managed to pressure your self into thinking you can strive for more, and not take every opportunity that you can actually manage at the time.” Tara slammed the door shut and locked it before I could even follow her in.
I knocked on the door. “If I knew about this, I would’ve tried harder. But thanks a lot for keeping this away from me!”
“Oh yeah sure, blame me more for everything you mess up on.” I heard the sound of shuffling cabinets and drawers while her voice was muffled by the closed door.
“What are you doing?” I asked as I pressed my back against the door.
“I’m packing my things.” I wanted to ask her why, but I was afraid that the next thing to come out of my mouth would worsen the situation.
I flailed my arms upward in surrender and headed into the bathroom. I closed the door and looked at the mirror above the sink. “Shit has hit the fan. Shit has hit the fan and splattered all over the walls of my mind! What the hell am I supposed to do now?” I whispered to my reflection. It just stared back at me with tired eyes mimicking my hunched over posture. “No! Come on don’t do this to me now! Stop saying what I’m saying! Stop doing what I’m doing and help me out!”
I banged my palm against the bathroom mirror. The cerulean wall trembled in the reflection buzzing along with the numb feeling I felt in my hand. I looked at the redness of my palm pulsating in a crimson swell. I clenched it into a fist and it felt like I grabbed a bunch of needles. I stared at my self in the mirror relaxing my grip and hunching over the sink for a moment, anticipated when my reflection would reveal its true self. Several moments passed at the gruelling tick of my bathroom clock, like a metronome to the opening and slamming of cabinets Tara orchestrated from our locked bedroom. No response.
“Don’t leave me when I need you the most!” I said nose to nose with my reflection. I panted a series of staccato heaves, leaving the condensation of my grieving sigh of breath on the mirror. I stared directly into my own eyes nearly getting cross eyed, so I pulled away slightly to get a better view of my fury flushed face. A deafening silence followed as I attempted to relax the entangling tension of my facial muscles.
My reflection smirked, stood up right and crossed its arms. It rolled its eyes after taking a condescending glance at the glimmer of hope and desperation in mine, and then turned its back on me. It turned its head slightly, rested its chin on its chest and revealed just the corner of its eye to me. “Are you sure you want me to tell you what to do? Because if you’re that shaken up right now, you won’t have what it takes to do as well as I intend you to. You wouldn’t listen to me earlier, so give me one good reason why I should help you now.”
“What? I don’t have time for your mind games. Just tell me already! What do I have to do or say to make Tara stay with me?” I gripped the sides of the sink as if I were about to lug it out and chuck it at the mirror. “The woman I love is about to leave me and all you can do is taunt me at a time like this by not answering any sooner?”
My reflection turned around, arms still crossed and sighed. “Oh stop crying over spilled milk. You spend more time on your back than she does on top of you. She’s the one going out there everyday taking long lonely bus rides to school while you piss your time away sitting around home all day with your thumb up your ass. What do you have to show for it? The one chance you get to actually contribute to this sordid cohabitation; you walk out on the opportunity.”
“I know I messed up big time,” I said grabbing the sides of my head, ready to pull my hair out, “but if you don’t tell me anything I don’t already know, then you don’t really exist. You’re just a figment of my imagination and I’m on the verge of insanity!”
“I exist because you barely do,” my reflection said. “Where do you find the audacity to demand so much from me and then question my existence?” It pressed its thumb against its chest and shook its head.
“I’m sorry.” I slowly stumbled backward dragging my hands down my face and leaned against the wall. I slid down to have a seat on the navy blue tiles of my bathroom floor with my arms crossed resting on my knees. I looked up at my reflection on the verge of tears. “I don’t want to lose her. I don’t want to lose my apartment. I don’t know what I can do or say that won’t mess me up any further; that’s why I want you to help me.”
“Don’t apologize for what you’ve already said and can’t take back. Grow your self a back bone because I’ve seen more spines in jellyfish.” My reflection took a few steps closer and leaned against the side of the mirror with its arms crossed again. “At this rate you’ll be on the streets before sun down. Now have some composure, or so help me God, you will mess up applying the advice I’m about to give to you.”
I stood up and approached the mirror once more. I quivered like a little child about to fall off the edge of a cliff. I could’ve sworn I heard the rattle of my own bones beckoning to jump out of my skin “Alright, I’m sorry! It’s just so hard to stay calm at a time like this.”
“Stop apologizing so much.” My reflection swung its hand ready to give me a back handed slap to the face, until it realized it couldn’t and relaxed.
“Sorry.” I looked down at my sweaty feet and traced a slippery circle on the floor.
“There you go again!” My reflection scolded me. “God damn it, Park-ass, you’re better off letting me handle this. Time is ticking, and any moment now, Tara will be walking right out your door.”
“You could really do this for me? So, what, I have to convince her to come in here and listen to what my reflection has to say? She’ll think I’m going insane!” I dug my face into my palm and shook my head. I sighed heavily, wishing I could dispel the anxiety infiltrating the pit of my stomach.
“That’s not how, you idiot.” My reflection snapped at its fingers left and right to grab my attention. I looked at it and it placed its palm flat on the mirror. “Press your hand against mine.”
“I don’t understand. What’s supposed to happen after that?” I raised my hand adjacently in front my reflection’s palm.
“We’re going to merge mentalities. The mind that you have in your dimension can’t comprehend the self assured and initiative attitude that I have, so you have to let me take over your body momentarily.” My reflection motioned to its hand with its eyes and nodded smiling at me. “I can make this all go away for you if you just trust me.”
“But who or what are you? Why are you doing this to me…for me?” I pulled my hand further away from his, reluctant to go through with anymore of this self torment unless I fully understood what I was going to participate in.
“I’m The Interloper; an aspect of you that’s trapped in a crack of the Universe. In order to restore the link between your mind and the un-manifested, we must make direct physical contact through a mirror.” He looked at my hand then into my eyes and cocked his head to motion for me to hurry up.
I slowly reached closer, my hand shaking as if an arctic chill had pierced through it. It felt like a magnetic force was going to join our palms together, for my hand moved towards the mirror without my conscious effort. I grabbed my wrist with my other hand to see if I could control it. I indeed put a halt to my hand, but released it quickly remembering salvation was just an inch away. Suddenly I saw my reflection turning away from me. He had pulled his palm away from me, curled his hand into a fist and punched the mirror repeatedly, shattering it into pieces. Mirror shards flew towards me and I cowered away trying to protect my self from any possible lacerations. I stumbled back onto the wall behind me with my arms over my face, and the slam of my body sent a huge thud! through my apartment walls.
“Parker?” I heard Tara call from the bedroom. “What are you doing in there?” I heard the unlocking of the bedroom door followed by her hastened footsteps approaching the bathroom.
I looked at the biggest shard lying on my bathroom tiles. “Why the hell did you do that?!” I asked not controlling my volume any longer.
“You were hesitating, now deal with the consequences,” he laughed as he licked the blood off his knuckles and spat out mirror shards.
“Who are you talking to in there?” Tara’s voice became a sudden shrill causing a headache. She opened the door and became a vague blur in my eyes. I staggered where I stood and tried to look at my own knuckles, but all that I could see was pitch black. Silence and static sound, the fatigue in my light headedness discovered that my body made a shortcut to the floor.
Chapter 2: The Interjection
Gravity took a toll on my helium head as I attempted to lift it from its stupor. I opened my eyes to learn that my fall had been cushioned by my living room sofa. Barely able to look around, all I could see was a blur of my coffee table smothered with mountains of magazines, my Lucid Dreamers DVD collection, and the greatest video game in history Sinless Assassin. Behind the towering media my TV was turned off with its jet black screen, reminding me of my previously unconscious state. My hand rose and reached over to the coffee table to grab the remote that was buried beneath unopened mail, but my arm dropped like a marionette doll that had its string snapped off. The living room had grown darker since I was last conscious.
As my vision began to focus, the reflection on my TV screen became hauntingly clear. There he sat cross legged across from me, his cheek rested on his fist as he shook his head at me; taunting me with his smile. My eyes widened and I gasped nearly choking on my own breath. Gripping the bottom of the couch where my hand fell, it felt like I dug deep into the mattress and grabbed the springs beneath. Then I remembered; this sofa was pure cushion. I lifted my arm once more to discover it was bandaged, with spots of ruby red splattered through it, from my hand to my forearm.
“Rise and shine! The early bird gets the worm, but the late ones get the scraps. Oh, I’m sorry; did I wake you up from a wet dream?” My reflection; The Interloper stared at me from the TV screen and leaned forward resting his chin on his folded hands. It was too dark to get a clear view of his arms, but they appeared unharmed and devoid of any bandages. “What’s with the long face? Oh right, you were born with it.” He chuckled and repeatedly drummed his fingers on the coffee table.
“Why the hell are you still here?” My vocal chords were somehow the only strong and functioning part of my body. “Go away! You already made it clear that you don’t want to help me!”
“What do you mean? I was so worried about you.” Tara plopped herself down for a seat in front of my shins. She placed one hand on my hip to caress it and wiped away tears with the other. The soft look in her eyes spoke to me as if to say that she forgave me for what I had said earlier, but at the expense of my own safety.
“You see, Romeo? I did help you after all. You wanted Tara to stay with you and I accomplished that quite well don’t you think?” The Interloper smirked at Tara crying.
“But I hate being worried about!” My reply was intended for my reflection, but Tara sniffed loudly, hurt by my sudden outburst. “What the hell did you think you were doing?”
“What did you want me to do? Leave you all alone to bleed to death on our bathroom floor?” Tara stood over me and blocked my view of the TV. “I had to drag you here and use the last shot of Crown Royal on your cuts to stop the bleeding.” She kneeled down and stared into my eyes.
“Oh come on, Lover Boy,” The Interloper peered his head over Tara’s shoulder. “You know that women dig scars and I think I just gave you enough to satisfy a whore house.”
“Fuck you…why the hell did you do that?” I muttered upon rueful instinct.
“Parker!” Tara whined. I couldn’t escape her gaze. Her tears seemed like they would literally drown me. “I’m sorry, but I had to! Besides, you’re always complaining how one shot isn’t even enough to get you buzzed anyway. So it wasn’t a waste if that’s what you’re so concerned about. I’m just thankful that you’re alive right now.”
“Yeah, Parker,” The Interloper said imitating Tara. “For someone who just survived massive blood loss, you’re awfully grumpy.”
“Will you shut up already?” I sat up with the ounce of strength I slowly regained. Tara held her arms out to support me just in case I collapsed again. She placed her hands on my shoulders and I shrugged them off. She bowed her head and for a moment I looked away to sigh. That one exaggerated breath exasperated me and my head sunk as if my brain was gaining weight by the second. I looked down at her, kneeling before me. My mind raced with noise as I struggled to think of something to say. We breathed at the exact same pace as our hearts pounded faster against our chests. If our hearts were to beat in the same rhythm, that would be an entirely new level of rapport, but nonetheless, I remained doubtful in our silent share of agony.
Tara mumbled something and it woke me from my trance. I placed her chin between my thumb and forefinger and slowly made her look up at me.
“Why are you so mad at me?” She asked. “I don’t know what you were doing in the bathroom, but when I came in, all I saw were mirror shards floating over a pool of blood that dripped from your arms. I had to pluck the shards out of your knuckles and I was really careful not to hurt you while you were passed out. And you thought those hair tweezers would never come in handy again since you got me that electric shaver.” She managed to let out an uneasy laugh within her weeping. “You should’ve seen how you flinched, like a helpless little baby, so I took my time, careful not to wake you up. I know how much you would have hated bearing the pain from that.”
“It was all worth it,” The Interloper paced back and forth in the TV screen with his hands in his pockets. “God, isn’t she sexy when she gets all worked up about your latest injury? That’s how you know she really cares about you. Don’t you just love how I saved your ass?”
“You didn’t have to do that.” I replied to him. “I think I would’ve been better off on my own.”
“But Parker, what were you thinking hurting yourself like that?” Tara clasped my face between her hands. She pressed her forehead against mine and I could feel the furrowing of her eyebrow muscles wrestling with mine. I couldn’t see beyond her face, let alone her hauntingly worried eyes. “Why did you punch the mirror?”
“Tell her that you hate what you see,” The Interloper called from behind her. There was no longer the image of my own reflection in my range of vision to distract me, so I nullified his voice from my ears. “If you do, she’ll think you’re so messed up that she’ll want to nurse you back to health.” He tried to say as convincingly as he could.
I stroked Tara’s face with my hand, but the roughness of the bandages scratched her and caused her to flinch. Pulling my hand away to prevent hurting her any further, I simply rested my hands on her wrists. I didn’t know what I was supposed to tell her. I can’t tell her I was arguing with my reflection and he wouldn’t let me merge with him. I wondered how that would sound to her. All I could manage to say was, “I hate what I see in the mirror,” as loud and clear as I could for The Interloper to hear. “It bothers me to look at my self. I can’t do anything right no matter how much I tell my self to do better. I couldn’t stand how much I’ve disappointed you so I just snapped.”
Tara got up off the floor and sat next to me. She held my head against her chest and stroked my hair. We sat there again engulfed in deafening silence. The sweet intoxicating aroma of her cherry scented body wash climbed up my nose and it tickled with bliss. A tender weight closed my eyes and I intuitively kissed her chest, licking my lips from the sweet taste of her skin. I basked in the comfort of her embrace and eventually we heard our heater turn on. For a moment it hummed ready to provide us with the warmth we needed, but an unsettling rattle came from the vents and the heater just shut off at the sound of a powering down thump.
“Crap…I’m sorry. Thanks to me we’re going to freeze our asses off tonight.” I said mumbling with my lips barely free from her hug.
“Stop beating yourself up already.” Tara leaned on me to gently lie me back onto the sofa and kissed my forehead. She lifted my wobbly legs onto the sofa for me and picked up the remote. “It might not be that cold tonight, let’s check the weather.” She turned on the TV and before the full image could generate it collapsed into a white line distorted across the middle of the screen. She continued pressing the on/off button, but the black screen just remained reluctant to present any picture or sound, except for the buzzing static and white line until it zapped back into pitch black.
“Can you go fetch me a pot of tea? I’m so cold and thirsty.” Tara nodded and tossed the remote safely onto the pile of magazines on the coffee table. The clanging of her pulling a pot out from beneath the sink rang in my ears causing me to scowl. On second thought…I wanted to say, but she had already done so much for me at this point that I couldn’t bother her with my indecisiveness. I glanced over into the kitchen to see her place a pot in the sink. She turned on the tap, but no water poured from it.
Tara sighed and turned to me. “I think Old Lady Numa turned off all of our utilit—” Tara nearly jumped out of her skin as the doorbell rang and was followed by incessant knocking on our hollow door.
“Parker, you worthless clump of scat, you’re still late on your rent! You have half a second before I kick this door down to make you pay up!” The shrill raspy sound of Ms. Numa’s voice sent shivers down my spine.
I looked at my TV screen to face The Interloper. He was laying down the same way as me, probably just as tired as I was for not being acknowledged. He stared back at me and I remarked, “Yeah like I’m going to ask you how to get out of this one.”
“You’re not going anywhere. Stay there and relax, I’ll handle this,” Tara said as she approached the door.
“You don’t deserve my help.” The Interloper sat up and cocked its head towards the door. “Nor hers, but just watch your saviour in action saving you again. You really are a worthless ‘clump of scat,’ you know that? Unless you want to…you know?” He stood up and walked around the coffee table as Tara unlocked the door. He kneeled down and pressed his palm against the TV screen offering me another chance to merge mentalities with him. With a sudden burst of energy, I sat upright ignoring the exchange of words Tara had with Ms. Numa as I stared at my TV screen. Their conversation just became undecipherable series of blah-blah-blahs like the way adults talk in Charlie Brown cartoons.
Old Lady Numa peeked her head through the door and yelled expletives into our apartment. Parker paid her no mind. He just stared blankly at the TV, probably disappointed that he couldn’t play any of his video games on this dreary Saturday evening. I was surprised that upset him more than Old Lady Numa’s constant scolding of him. He would have usually been screaming excuses at the top of his lungs by the time she questioned his manhood or made some comment about his insignificance in the world.
“You’re a pimple on society’s ass! Pay up, or I’ll pop you till all the puss gushes out of you!” Old Lady Numa shook her fist at Parker. “If I got a dollar for every sorry excuse you gave me, I wouldn’t be riding up your ass like a python right now!” She gave me the impression that she sat in a dark corner every night, thinking of how she can insult him. Her undermining of him seemed too elaborate to be something she thought up of on the spot.
I didn’t have time to slip into my fuzzy white slippers when I gripped Old Lady Numa’s shoulders and gently shoved her into the hallway. “You’re just as useless as a porno film’s plot!” She responded to Parker’s silence as I shut the door behind me. A drizzle of her spit talk sprayed all over my face. Yuk! I wiped it away with my hand and waited for her to stop yelling at the closed door. I released my grip on her and crossed my arms.
“I don’t know what you see in that reprobate,” Old Lady Numa said pointing at the door with her arthritic finger. She banged her fist down to her side and scrunched up her scowl at me.
“I would show you, but it would be embarrassing if you saw how fired up he could get me,” I blushed and giggled. She gave me an odd glare and drew her whiskery face closer to mine. I cowered away from her and leaned against the door. Her breath reeked of day old roast beef and I wondered if there was a way to mentally manipulate my body to prevent my self from puking.
“Oh, my darling Tara,” she tugged at my cheek with her leathery fingers. “How could you waste all your prettiness on a degenerate like Parker?” She started to sound like my father. God her voice was so raspy. How many packs of cigarettes did she smoke a day?
“He is not a degenerate!” I slapped her hand off of my face. “If only his checking account was as impressive as his high score in Sinless Assassin, we wouldn’t have to live in this dump!”
“That’s enough lip out of you!” Old Lady Numa’s shrieking voice reminded me of a typical witch’s voice in a low budget Halloween movie. “Do you know how much it costs to keep this shithole up to code? This place wouldn’t be such a dump if my useless tenants like your man-boy of a boyfriend would pay their rent on time! You need a real man with potential, one that can actually take care of your pretty tush.”
“Parker has potential; he just doesn’t know it yet. He’s just scared of…” I bit my bottom lip and took a deep breath. “Why are we talking about him again?”
“Because there are other fish in the sea, and you’re wasting your time on a minnow. Look, young lady, I’ve been with my own share of men in my life,” That’s hard to believe, ashtray mouth, “and I know a slacker when I see one. They couldn’t bring themselves to do anything right or on time if their lives depended on it. Before you know it, your whole life will pass you by and you’ll realize you barely had a dollar to your name.”
I stared at her for what seemed like forever until I regained my self control. “We’ll get the rent when we can. We’ll think of something. Don’t worry.” I turned around in a huff.
“Not so fast,” she grabbed my wrist before I could even place my hand on the doorknob. “Let me give him a piece of my mind.”
“You already gave me enough of it. Besides, now is not a good time. He got into a little accident, so if you’ll excuse me I have to go take care of him.” I shook my wrist free and pulled away. Jeez! Whatever hand exercises she was doing to cope with her arthritis really paid off she left my wrist red and sore like I just got an Indian Sunburn.
Old Lady Numa eased off and took a step away from me, but I wouldn’t be relieved just yet. “He is the worst combination of all the worst type of men. It’ll be one accident after the other, milking sympathy from you like a toddler who can’t give up his mother’s tit! Stop feeling sorry for him and let him realize how helpless he really is without you.”
“He’s been through a lot; he just needs someone to be there for him. It’s not like he’s prone to accidents. Stuff just happens to people, Old La—Ms. Numa. I can’t stand it when you have the nerve to add insult to injury! Just who do you think you are picking on my Parky like this? Maybe if you would stop pestering him all the time he would feel kind enough to pay you the money, or any respect for that matter!” My voice echoed through the empty hallway and I heard our next door neighbour’s dog barking from the disturbance.
“Respect from a loser is meaningless! He’s better off dead than being a thorn in my side! Maybe then he wouldn’t have the chance to rub off all the misfortune on the rest of us!” I didn’t know how many of our neighbours had dogs until Old Lady Numa set off quite a handful barking back at us, almost as if they wanted a piece of the action.
I took in a deep breath ready to yell back at her, but a loud crash that rumbled through the floor and the sound of shattering glass stopped me in my tracks. What is it this time, Parker? I sighed and opened the door glaring back at Old Lady Numa.
When I entered the apartment, the TV was laying face first on the hardwood floor. Shards of the screen were embedded in the rug and scattered across the living room. The coffee table had been flipped upside down, and pinned beneath its surface were my Vogue magazines, Parker’s video game cases and some unopened mail. Old Lady Numa and I slowly approached the wreck, scanning the area for any sign of Parker who was no longer lying on the sofa.
“Look at this mess! Do you know much it will cost you to—” I threw my hand back in front of Old Lady Numa’s face without turning around. It was enough to shut her up. I lowered my hand as she agreed with a throaty grumble.
I put my slippers on and walked closer to the living room, sweeping away glass shards with my feet every few steps. The noise of electricity flickered from the faced down TV and the cord was ripped right out of its socket. The plug remained in the outlet and fireworks of sparks spat from the torn cable and disappeared when they fell to the floor. Behind me, I could hear Old Lady Numa breathing and grunting as she stepped on broken glass crunching beneath her feet. The sound reminded me of how loudly Parker chews his morning cereal.
“Parker? Where are you?” I called out. The closer I got to the living room, the louder I could hear him hyperventilating from behind the sofa. I walked around the sofa to find him huddled up, hugging his knees and rocking back and forth. He had blanketed his back with his pinstripe shirt and tugged on it for comfort. I dashed towards him, kneeled by his side and stroked the back of his neck. “What’s the matter?”
“And why did you ruin my floor? Do you know how long it took to get it upgraded from carpet?” Old Lady Numa whipped out of a calculator from her pocket and began punching in numbers. “Now I have to add repair fees on top of a possible law suit if you don’t pay up before this eviction—”
“Ms. Numa, please!” I turned to her and shot a concerned glance at her. I rested my chin on Parker’s knee and stared at him. I sighed in his face and my breath caused him to clinch his knees closer. I waited for him to reply or at least look back at me, but he remained sitting there with his eyes wide like he had seen a ghost. “Don’t you think you’re over reacting for not being able to play games on the TV?”
“It’s not that,” he whimpered. I wrapped my arms around him, but he cringed at my touch.
“Then why did you—”
“It wasn’t me. He did it!” Parker turned away and laid on the floor, holding his head tightly between his forearms like a fetus refusing to be birthed. Before he continued speaking, he started rocking back and forth once more. “He wants to escape the crack in the Universe and take over my mind, but I won’t let him! No matter how much he promises to make things better, I don’t trust him!”
“Who are you talking about?” I turned around to look at Old Lady Numa to see if I could gauge a reaction out of her, but she stood there with her hands on her hips and looked away in disgust. “I think it would be better if you left now.”
“Parker, you lunatic, the whole nutcase act isn’t going to work on me!” Old Lady Numa stomped on the floor causing glass shards to jump from their place.
“I kept telling him no, but he wouldn’t listen. He threatened that if I didn’t want us to become one, he would try to co-exist with me, ‘even-if-it-caused-an-imbalance-in-the-Universe-and-space-time-continuum-given-the-implications-of-the-duplication-of-the-same-soul-manifested-into-two-bodies’… so he started ramming his shoulder against the screen until the TV tipped over.” Parker shook where he lay, like a frightened prisoner locked away in a dark and cold solitary holding cell.
I crawled over to his head. “And the table…?”
“…Was my first warning. I couldn’t stop him, I didn’t know how.” A stream of Parker’s tears rolled down to his arm, and dripped to the floor.
“You’re not making any sense,” I said wiping away the tears beneath his eyes with my thumbs.
“Of course he’s not! If he wants to play screwball, then we’ll have to check him in to the nearest asylum to see if this mental break down is for real! Either way, I wouldn’t mind if he just flat out got a lobotomy to clean that messed up head of his.” Old Lady Numa’s yelling caused Parker to seize up.
“Are you saying that you’re not the one who did this?” I gently wrapped my hands around Parker’s wrists in attempt to remove the lock on his own head, but he grabbed mine and pushed me away as he sat back up.
“Do you really expect us to believe that you didn’t do this? If not, then who; The Ghost of Christmas Past?” Old Lady Numa took her slipper off and threw it at his head, but Parker caught it and stood up. He glared at her and threw her slipper away knocking a glass vase off its stand. The vase crashed to the floor and startled Old Lady Numa and me, causing us to flinch back while Parker remained standing there with a threatening scowl.
“Parker, please calm down, you’re scaring us,” I said with more of a quiver in my voice than I had intended. Lightness and emptiness swamped over my body and I became short of breath. I felt like abandoning Old Lady Numa if Parker was building up a murderous rage within him. I feared for my life, I haven’t seen him confront Old Lady Numa this bravely before. He approached her and forcefully brushed against my shoulder as he passed by me. “Parker, don’t do anything stupid…” I grabbed his wrist and he pulled away continuing to advance on the now silent and scared old lady.
“He may be a piss off, but he is right about one thing; I can’t take anymore of your shit!” Parker barked at Old Lady Numa. It had been the first time he was able to maintain long lasting eye contact with her without cowering away for a distant rebuttal. “Maybe he’s the only friend I got.”
“…But what about me? I’ve always been there for you. Why can’t you just be happy that I—”
“What about you?” Parker swiftly turned to me and I stumbled back having to recompose my footing by grabbing onto the sofa. “He’s right about two things actually. To you, I’m just a charity case.”
“That’s not true…I…I-I really love you,” I proclaimed as shamelessly as I could. He remained firm in his fury, looking at me with vicious eyes.
Old Lady Numa wanted to take a quick breath to speak, but Parker reacted quickly turning to her and growled in her face. She fell on her bottom and sat there frozen covering her whiskery maw with her wrinkly paws like a terrified little kitty.
I placed my hand on Parker’s shoulder, but he shrugged it off and gave me a quick glance before heading to the door. He forced his feet into his sneakers and slammed the door open so hard that it swung back and closed as he stormed out of the apartment. I offered my hand to Old Lady Numa and helped her back to her feet.
“I’m placing him under arrest for assault!” She took thumping steps into the kitchen and I followed her in. She pulled the phone off the hook and dialled 911 before putting her ear to the receiver and was reminded that she had shut off our power when she heard nothing but silence. “You see? If he had only paid his bills—”
“—we would be able to use the phone right now, I know. Now please leave me alone, I have to clean this place up.”
“You work too hard for him!” Old Lady Numa slammed the receiver back onto the hook and caused the entire phone to fall off the wall.
I stared as the phone on the floor got dusted over with debris from the wall. I sighed at yet another chore to take care of. “Don’t start with this again. Can you please just go?”
Old Lady Numa began muttering curses to her self as she wobbled her way out of the kitchen and my apartment. The way she walked always looked like she had just pooped her pants, when in actuality she probably had her panties in a bunch. That would explain a lot.
I was left alone to clean up after Parker again. I grabbed the broom from the kitchen corner and looked at the living room one more time. I began sweeping a few screen shards away, but the angry pace I went at made no difference as I just cluttered them around even more. I took a whack at the TV with the broom like it was a fallen piñata, but my only prize was more frustration and sparks flying everywhere. I tossed the broom against the wall and took a seat on the sofa. I pulled my wallet out of my pocket, not really minding how empty it was. There was no cash or coins, just a few expired credit cards, and a debit card with barely any balance on it; a lousy G1 licence and photo strip of Parker and me taken at one of those mall photo booths. I marvelled at the happiness captured in all four photos of us cheek to cheek, holding each other close and making funny faces together…then I crumpled it in my hand as my eyes began to water.
Running faster than I ever have, I staggered through the streets of my neighbourhood. The overcast sky had become dark blue and the streetlights had just powered on. I passed by bus shelters, plaza stores and parked cars avoiding any eye contact with The Interloper in the reflection of the windows. I wanted to find a safe and private place to speak to him, lest I demonstrate anymore of my insanity. Too many thoughts raced through my mind and I wanted nothing more than to numb them before confronting The Interloper once more. All the alcohol I had left was now drying up in my bandaged arms, keeping my wounds from getting infected and bleeding any further.
I continued to run as I began to unwrap the bandages from my left arm. I peeled and bit away at them, trying to unravel my wounded arm as fast I could. Once I removed one entire strand, I saw nothing but more bloody bandages. Was this some kind of cruel joke? Tara had tied them on so rigidly, layer after layer. This was probably her way of getting back at me for packaging her last year’s Christmas present through a series of shrinking box sizes that ultimately lead to one tiny box filled with luxurious bubble bath bars and sweetly scented soaps. We always found subtle ways to annoy each other playfully and for that I already started to miss her.
“But she just couldn’t understand!” I accidentally blurted out as I passed by a man walking his dog. He glanced at me for a moment until he noticed his dog trying to squeeze out an enormous load beside a fire hydrant, so he just shrugged and minded his own business. From the distance I could hear him cheering his dog on as if taking a crap was an Olympic sport.
I finally managed to unwrap the last layer of bandages off my left arm and trashed the bandage into a mail slot. I stopped running and stood in place to inspect my arm, covered in fresh little lacerations. I began licking my arm wishing that I could get a taste of the whiskey Tara had poured over my wounds earlier. I heard somebody clear their throat and I nearly jumped out of my skin. I looked around to see who could have witnessed such a pitiful act, but cars continued driving by the desolate sidewalks of a plaza I had found my self in.
“Either you’re desperate to get your drink on or you’re a horrible monster who can lick their own wounds and laugh when they bleed,” The Interloper mused from the window of a parked car. I wiped my arm down my shirt and turned to him. He motioned for me to turn around and I had just so happened to be standing in front of The Blue Heron Bar. I was glad that my aimless direction had lead me to the bar and grill establishment, so I wasted no time entering the pub.
Upon opening the door, jumbled conversations, excessive laughter and hard rock music flooded outside and I entered. I headed straight for the bar and took a seat on a stool. I ran my left hand threw my head and my hair pricked my wounds so I pulled my sleeve over my scarred arm.
“You look like hell, kid.” The bartender turned to me while towel drying freshly washed shot glasses. “What can I fix you with?”
“C-can I—” My voice was hoarse and I was out of breath. I took a moment to regain my composure and he was patient enough to wait for me to speak. “A shot of Crown please.” As the bartender approached his display of liquor, I surveyed my surroundings to find people at the bar and the dining tables all laughing it up, having a good time. There was a mixed martial arts fight playing on one of the TV’s mounted on the walls, while other screens either had a basketball game or hockey game playing. The bloody sport caught my eyes and I thought for a moment just how much aggression and steam these fighters could unleash in the caged octagon. People who sat together silently would at least occasionally share their excitement any time one of the fighters landed a hard hitting strike on each other, while I sat here alone anticipating the poison that could possibly stop the voices in my head from becoming a crowd.
“Cheers.” The bartender returned and slammed a shot glass in front of me. It was filled with Crown Royal to the brim and it was like a magic trick, none of it spilled.
I grabbed the shot glass with contempt and downed the whiskey, basking in the exhilarating burn that coursed my parched throat. I slammed the shot back down onto the counter and said, “More, please.” I already felt my body getting light as if an army of angels were ready to pull my soul out this mortal flesh.
The bartender wrapped his fingers around the glass and asked, “Already? Don’t you want to—”
“I said…more, please.” He shrugged, unscrewed the cap of the bottle and poured me yet another shot which I grabbed before he could even finish pouring. He lifted the bottle just in a nick of time before splashing that delicious liquor onto the rosewood counter. I recognized the hastiness rushing within me, but I couldn’t stop my self. After the fifth shot, my body felt light as a feather and there was a pulsating ring that infiltrated my ears. All the celebratory noise of The Blue Heron Bar had silenced and my head slumped onto the counter. My eyes grew heavy and for what seemed like an eternity, all that I could hear or feel was my own breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. My heart began to beat like a drummer lacking rhythm.
When I finally managed to sit back up and catch my breath, the bar was silent. I looked around to find everyone sitting quietly staring off into space. I rubbed my throbbing head and the bartender still standing in front of me rubbed his head as well. I grimaced and so did he. I spun in the stool seat and turned around. Everyone else sitting with me at the bar had turned around to face the dining area as well. I raised my trembling hand from my lap and wiggled my fingers. Everyone down the row held out their hands and wiggled their fingers in synchronization. I quickly spun back around to slam my hand on the counter and the pound of all our palms echoed like a beating drum.
“What the hell?” I yelled, having my voice echoed by the patrons of the bar. I slapped my self in the face to see if I was dreaming, and to my right I could hear a chorus of slaps following mine.
Chapter 3: Interception from the Alternativa
My left arm throbbed with excruciating numbness and a sharp pang coursed through it, paralyzing me where I sat. When I finally regained control of my movement, I squeezed my left wrist with my right hand. I turned my head to the right and the three other men who sat alongside me at the bar looked away from me while gripping their own trembling left wrists. I turned to the bartender and stared at him. He also had his right hand tightly wrapped around his left wrist, mirroring my grimace of pain.
“Stop making fun of me!” I pounded my elbow onto the counter. At the sound of the bang, the hard rock music and background chatter faded back into the atmosphere.
“What are you talking about?” The bartender asked defensively. I closed my eyes tightly and shook my head. When I opened my eyes, the bartender was wiping my shot glass with a towel. “I simply suggested that you may have had enough to drink for tonight, but it’s really no biggie if you want more though.”
I surveyed my surroundings and all the activity at The Blue Heron Bar had resumed to normal. A group of men at a table raised their glasses in cheers and chugged down their beers, couples on dates flirted with each other at their respective tables, while other couples danced frantically to the hard rock music pumping through the speakers at the small dance floor. I turned back to the bartender and he had already begun conversing with another man at the other side of the counter. I didn’t want to interrupt their laughter filled conversation so I found it as my chance to take a break.
“Maybe I could take a quick wiz and make room for more,” I mused under my breath. I wobbled off my seat and planted my feet onto the brown tiled floor. I spotted the washroom sign across the bar and walked towards it with my head down. My feet staggered left and right, criss-crossing the straight line between the tiles I attempted to test my own drunkenness with. Success! I’m drunk as a poet on pay day. I figured that if I allowed liquid courage to wipe out my inhibitions, then I sure as hell should be able to allow The Interloper to take over my mind without any hesitation this time.
A pair of leather stilettos entered my range of vision, but I could barely lift my head to gawk at whoever was walking in those boots and fishnet stockings. I closed my eyes for a second and I was knocked back when my head collided with somebody’s cushiony chest. I stumbled backward and a pile of plates crashed to floor one after the other. Silence ensued and I feared that everyone at the bar had stopped to take a look at the commotion. I lifted my anvil head and looked around. Everyone sat at their tables quietly looking elsewhere, the couples at the dance floor stood in front of each other with a blank stare, and all of the TV screens projected static.
“Watch where you’re going,” a woman and I yelled at each other. I looked up at the rosy cheeked waitress and stared at her slender figure for a second. Her hair was parted down the middle and her bangs swooped at both sides of her face. She echoed my every word and emulated my every hand gesture, from putting my hand on my chest and shaking my head when I said, “Sorry, it’s my fault. No really, you don’t have to apologize.” We shared a nervous jitter and both blushed. I let out a sighing chuckle and we shot smiles at each other. I looked away and decided to walk around her, but she stood in my way. We stared at each other blankly and she continued to block my way when I decided to walk to the other side. Every side step I tried to take, she followed suit, convicted to stop me in my path.
The other patrons of The Blue Heron Bar remained motionless as I scratched my noggin roughly and wiped the sweat from my hair on my left arm. I felt something sharp scratch my head and I padded it to see if it caused any bleeding. I sighed with relief when I looked at my right palm. There was no trace of any new blood steins on the bandages. When I turned to the waitress, her hair had become unkempt and frizzy. I stepped over the shattered plates and she approached closer to me. I started smoothing my hands through my own hair and watched her barely smooth her hair due to my mirrored movement.
I sang, “A B C D E F G, how I wonder what you are,” and the waitress sang along with me in the same slurred key as she snapped her fingers in tempo with my adjacent hand. I looked around to find everyone in the bar still staring off into space. I snickered quietly to my self and placed my thumb and forefinger on the second top button of my pinstripe shirt. I fiddled with the button to make sure her hand was aligned on her blouse’s top button. Just when I was about to unbutton the two of us, my hand was raised against my will.
“Looks like you’re having fun with my powers, Pervert.” The Interloper’s voice surrounded me from every direction. I flinched and looked around to find that he was on every TV screen with his hand raised, projected clearly over the static stock footage. “So how does it feel to live in my world?”
“What do you mean your world?”
“Yeah, welcome to the mirror world, also known as The Alternativa. This is where I, like many people’s reflections, live.” He closed his eyes and smiled. “Make your self at home. Seriously make your self at…ah never mind you wouldn’t get the joke.”
“What? Are you speaking…words right now?” I asked in my punch drunk confusion. “If this is where everybody’s reflections live, then how come everyone’s copying me?”
“Everybody’s reflection inhabits their own Alternativa, but they are in no way travelable. Only people with the lack of presence, like you my homely friend, are graced by the offbeat chance that their reflection will one day assist them directly or indirectly. If any further help is needed, then merging through a mirror will allow them to experience the wonderful world of The Alternativa and the freedom it offers.” I tottered where I stood and The Interloper slapped himself to make me slap my self. “Hey! Pay attention!”
“I am! This is just making my head spin. But wait…we didn’t merge through the mirror at home. As I recall, you punched the shit out of it. That’s why I somehow have this problem even though this is your fault.” I presented my lacerated left arm and my bandaged right one to him. “Wouldn’t the merge only work if we touched palms? And if we merged, then how come it took so long for me to get stuck in this…this Assland place?”
“Say it with me, brotha! ‘Alternativa!’” The Interloper laughed hard, amplifying the static of the TVs. “You’re right though, there’s no way we could have merged through our fists.”
“Then why the hell am I here?” I forgot that the waitress was still mimicking me until I raised my voice. The Interloper battered his right wrist with the edge of his left palm repeatedly until blood splattered in my face. Droplets of blood gushed out of one of the tiny cuts swarming over my wrist. My skin peeled away and revealed a mirror shard embedded beneath.
I gagged at the sight of the mirror shard poking out of my wrist. I didn’t feel it before, but now that I was aware the shard was there, I could feel it stabbing through my vein. I took a closer inspection of the shard and readied my right hand to pinch it out with my finger nails.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I mean…wait a minute…” The Interloper said. He muttered under his breath while he pointed at me and then him self. “Just don’t try to pull that out right now.”
“But I need to get out of here!” The waitress and I yelled. She had a pouty look on her face and it made me realize how much pain I was in.
“Granted, but one wrong move and you might push it deeper into your veins. With a shard that small, it’ll flow through your bloodstream and travel straight into your heart. And considering your…” The Interloper cleared his throat and shifted his eyes, “…certain defect, that would cause an instantaneous death.”
“I’m willing to take that risk!” Only staring into the waitress’s eyes revealed the worry in mine. Her hands trembled because mine did, so I took in a deep breath and stilled them. After I exhaled, they continued to shake like nervous sniper hands. “If I die, I’m taking you down with me!”
“I thought you’d be happy here at The Alternativa. You can do anything you want here and play around with other people serving as your reflection. Isn’t this place such a nice break from your unbearable reality? Give it a try.” The Interloper motioned to the dining side where three men sat at a four seat table. “It would be chaotic if everyone in The Alternativa copied you, so only the people in your range of presence are affected. Just have fun with it while you’re still here.”
I turned away from the waitress and entered the dining area of The Blue Heron Bar. I approached the table The Interloper suggested for me, all three men stared blankly at the center of the table where a giant frosty pitcher of beer sat. They were all big guys wearing various football jerseys and baseball caps, each with their own large mug of sweet premium lager in front of them. Free beer for chaser and quiet jocks, how could I refuse? I took a seat in the extra chair, and that’s when they began to return my glances. I leaned away in my chair thinking I had spontaneously been thrown back in to reality again. They all stared at me for a moment then leaned back in their own chairs. I exhaled in relief and pulled the chair closer to the table.
“I know you don’t usually hang out with this kind of crowd, but give it a shot.” The Interloper motioned to the pitcher at the center of the table. “I’m afraid there’s no extra mug for you so…”
As my bandaged hand slowly reached to grab the handle of the pitcher, the other men at the table emotionlessly took hold of their mugs. Even with my eyes fixed upon that golden brew, I could see my mimicked smirk travel across their faces in my peripheral. I pulled the pitcher closer and they pulled their mugs to the edge of the table. I lifted the pitcher and threw my head back as I brought the rim to my lips. The glacier cold beer splashed my whiskey burnt throat as I chugged it down with no restraint. My dreary eyes glanced at the other three men whose mugs have emptied long before me. Those poor saps; I wonder if their pitcher magically turned empty in the real world because of this.
“Actually, I do need to warn you about a few things.” The Interloper cleared his throat a few times, each one sounding more impatient than the last while I was still gulping down the frosty and smooth brew.
When I finally finished and slammed the pitcher down onto the table, the other three men pounded their mugs down along with me. I clapped my hands and chuckled with them. My head drooped to the side and I rubbed my forehead with my left hand and the mirror shard jutting out of my wrist lightly grazed my eyebrow. I wiped the blood with my thumb and the sight of it killed my buzz, allowing the worry to seep back in. I stood up and looked at the static TV screen. The Interloper had his arms crossed waiting for me to give him my attention.
“As I was saying, I need to tell you about the direct and indirect effects of your actions in The Alterna—” He pointed and laughed at me. “Watch out, sucker!”
“Who do you think you are waltzing into our table and stealing our beer?” Again, the noise and activity of the Blue Heron Bar began to recommence. The man to my right gripped my collar and lifted me off the chair. He curled his other hand into a fist and rotated it in the air as if to wind up his punch. His friends remained stood up in their seats, ready to assist him pounding on me. Fortunately I still had the pitcher in my hand, with enough left to fill half a mug. Before I even thought about defending my self, I actually debated whether or not I should ask them if I could finish it first before we stirred up any trouble
“This is all just a big misunderstand—” My insides erupted with displeasure, which caused me throw up onto the man’s arm and eventually projected further onto his jersey. His friends stood there flinching at every chunk of vomit that spewed onto him. When I finished hurling, he thoroughly wiped my puke off his face with one clean swipe. He watched it drip off his palm for a second in disgust then returned his leer on me with renewed rage. With the flick of his wrist, the vomit flew to the floor with a splat! He pushed me forward then pulled me back to give his strike some leverage. With the momentum he gave me, I swung the pitcher to the side of his head. An array of shattered glass and splattered beer crackled off his face like fireworks as he fell to the side.
Chairs shuffled around me as people got off their seats to crowd around the commotion, while some remained where they were, attentive to what would happen next. I backed away slowly with my hands up in surrender while the other two men approached slowly. People began shouting curses and words of encouragement to, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” I picked up my chair and threw it at the man across me, while the other tackled me down to the ground and immediately sat on my torso to hold me in place, I squirmed side to side with my scarred arms blocking my face. I barely blocked most of the punches he reigned down on me, for the impact my arms absorbed transferred through into my skull. He grabbed my hands and pried my arms away from my head. Just as his cinder block for a fist was about to drop square on my nose, I closed my eyes tightly.
Laughter filled the bar in echoes and muted the noisy ambience. “Oh man you should see the look on your face.” I opened my eyes to find my self still seated at the table with the other men. The Interloper was back on the static TV screens and was close to tears from his own hysteria.
“What the hell did you do that for?” I stood up from my seat and shortly after, the jersey sporting men screamed one after the other, each with a much louder voice than the other. “Why didn’t you just tell me whatever happens here will change reality accordingly?”
“I could’ve just told you, but I would rather show you what could happen if you continue to unstably travel between your world and mine. So come on, Pukahontas, let’s merge already. If you travel here correctly, whatever you do here won’t happen in the real world, but it will have drastic effects. Beneficial effects if you so choose.” The Interloper smiled and rubbed his chin.
“Wait, you told me if we merged, I wouldn’t go anywhere. I would still be here, except you would take over my body and mind with your mentality.”
“Please, please. ‘Taking over’ sounds so disempowering, I would prefer the term manipulate.”
“Why didn’t you tell me I would end up The Alterativa in the first place?”
“I didn’t think you would understand the idea or that maybe it would scare you, so I didn’t bother to give you the full details. But hey, at least now you know where you’ll go in the meantime while I’ll be fixing your life. Though, that doesn’t mean you just twiddle your thumbs around in The Alternativa doing nothing. How well you have fun with being mimicked will affect my performance as being you.”
“It’s just one lie after the other! How could I trust that you’re not lying about that either?” I grabbed the edge table and flipped it over. A rhythmic chorus of tables, plates and glasses chimed over the floor as the dining area followed in my example. Everyone in the bar stood abruptly and panted along with me.
“You could learn to trust me if you heed my words right now,” The Interloper stopped smiling and banged his fist against the TV screen. “Get the hell of here and get your ass home before the mirror shard in your wrist starts acting up again. You do not want to know what this just resulted in!”
I stormed out of The Blue Heron Bar, almost slipping on the mini puddles of beer and other beverages surrounding the fallen tables. Noise erupted from the bar, and the music was drowned out by the sound of objects being thrown around or maybe even people being thrown around. I dashed home and never looked back.
When I finally arrived, my apartment door was plastered with copies of my eviction notice. That old bag Numa must have spent the rest of her evening finishing a whole roll of scotch tape to cover my entire door with wasted paper. I opened the door and a folded piece of paper fell from above. I picked it up and peeled it open. The stench of rotten cheese burnt to a crisp floated off the paper. It simply read you have until tomorrow afternoon and it looked like Ms. Numa just spat all over the rest of the letter. I turned around, delicately handling the note by its edge and dropped it on the hallway.
I entered my apartment and the darkness would not be lifted by the flick of the switch. Oh yeah…shit. Moonlight barely poured through my half closed shutters and I looked at my living room to see the TV on the floor and the coffee table still flipped over. It was a horrible mess just like I left it and I wondered why Tara didn’t clean bother to at least sweep up the glass I started stepping on. Crunch, crunch, crunch is all I heard as I stammered through my apartment while hugging the wall for guidance. Good thing I forgot to take my shoes off.
I called out for Tara repeatedly, unable to find her in kitchen where there was a hole in the wall where our phone used to be. I couldn’t find her in the bathroom either where above the sink was just pure wall. I entered our bedroom and she wasn’t sleeping in my bed either. Instead, the blanket was falling off the bed and mountains of clothes and junk scattered the floor. It was like a tornado hit this place, but it was always this messy before the rest of my apartment was ruined.