Skid Style part 3

Stumbling over a generator cable, he caught his balance, then was in the clear once again, until a few docks later when the process repeated. Four minutes and a good deal of dodging later, Charlie came to the north end of the dockyard. This was where the burglaries had happened. Skid slowed to a stop. The docks here were thinner than the south end, and older. The wooden planking was grey from weathering. The planks had cement poured next to them, building the dock area outwards to hold the larger loading equipment. The warehouses abutted the edge of the docks. Their wood and red brick walls and single story construction seemed to Skid like huge turtles that came ashore and died in place.

The break-in happened on the dock side of the northernmost building. The yellow police tape on the front door and huge loading dock next to it was a big clue. Charlie took a long look at the building as the sun baked the asphalt and concrete. And the air carried the smell of salt water and decaying fish to his nostrils. He looked towards the docks, which was no help. The last two piers had no ships, and no workers around to talk to. He turned to look back south. The nearest potential witness was about a hundred yards away, and there were a couple hundred servicing a pair of freighters. He could see the cranes on the pier moving large pallets of crates. The grey, blue, and yellow forklifts picked up smaller pallets off the large pallet, and like ants in a line, rolled back towards the warehouses to drop off their cargo.

He turned back towards the south. The sunlight glinting off the forklifts scuttling back and forth was mesmerizing. He blinked, then sighed, “What do I do now?”

Night settled down over the dockyard. While the sounds of traffic had slowly dissipated, the cacophony of the cranes and workers was still at full roar, and carried faintly to Skid, who had moved to the end of the old, weather-worn pier to watch for thieves coming back to break into the warehouse. They gotta return to the scene of the crime. This place is too easy not to pick over. Skid crossed his fingers, hoping he was right. All those comics and mysteries he loved so much said that bad guys always came back for more. I just have to wait, and I’ll catch them red-handed. He settled in for a night of watching, only to find out the rule every other cop has been on a stakeout figured out. The crooks will never appear when you’re awake or ready, if they show at all. This was Skid’s new experience. He kept himself awake by running down to the first active dock, then back again to the end of the old pier, with the predictable results of letting people know he was around.

It was eleven thirty at night when a heavyset figure drove up in a dark car. The vehivles lights were out as it purred to a stop next to the warehouse. This has got to be it! Skid thought excitedly. It was just like the comics. The crooks came back for more! He didn’t wait, but dashed up to the car, shouting “Freeze! You’re under arrest!” The car’s floodlight mounted on the right side of the car came on immediately and spun to illuminate him.

Skid blinked in the light as a voice said, “Jesus Christ! What the hell are you doing, kid! Trying ta give me a heart attack?!” The voice was familiar somehow. He decided to ignore it and confront them like the hero he was supposed to be. He ran quickly to the driver-side door, and gave it a hard yank. The interior light came on to illuminate the gate guard, sitting in the driver seat. Her face was pale in the glare of the harsh mercury lighting from the parking lot lamps. Skid felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment.

“>Uh, sorry. I didn’t think…I just didn’t think.” The stammered apology seemed to calm the guard, who managed a thin smile. She shifted in her seat. The door clicked as she pulled the inner lever and opened it, shifting her heavyset bulk out the door and into the muggy night air.

“I understand. It’s no big deal. I scared myself on my first evening doing guard work.” She paused a moment, then took a breath as she seemed to gather her thoughts. “It was six years ago I got hired. I’d just gotten out of college with a degree in Biology, only to find no one wanted a biologist without a masters, or a doctorate. I jumped on the job. The lead out here gave me the route to drive, what to check, and where to stamp the clock to prove I covered my route.”

Her eyes lit up with the remembered first night. “One thing that they forgot to tell me was that pier eight was a twenty-four hour pickup for priority loads. I drove past the gate, and found it open. At night, all the gates are supposed to be locked. This one was wide open and a pickup was sitting just inside. People were scurrying around flashing lights at the crates, then loading them onto the pickup. There were seven of them and just me with a mag lite and walkie talkie.”

“I called it in quietly, and you know what my lead said?” She chuckled. “He said ‘go check it out, rookie. Oh, and don’t get shot’, which didn’t help my paranoia at all. I walked in and announced myself, at which point there were a couple of screams. The guys dropped the small crate they were moving and seven flashlight swiveled onto me. ‘Jesus ma’am! What the hell are you giving us a heart attack for!? We called it in and I’ve got the papers for the pick up right here.”

I could hear frigging laughing coming over the walkie. I’d been so tense I’d held the transmit button on. My lead had set me up.” She chuckled again, then turned what was supposed to be a stern face at Skid, but her smile ruined the whole stern thing. He found himself grinning at the story. “So, did you get him back?”, he asked her. The guard, whose name was ‘Menendez’ according to her name badge just above her left chest pocket, smiled, and shook her head. “No, it doesn’t work that way. Though, I do seem to remember someone replace his sugar packets with salt once.” Skid chuckled, then looked around the parking lot again. “Is this you trying to tell me that I’m wasting my time?”

Prologues

Prologues are often used to create a scene ahead of the main story, or to impart information that the author sees as relevant to the story.  I’ve not used prologues in any stories so far, but that just means I haven’t set up a story that needed one.  I personally like prologues.  The information gets me ready for the story and gives me an insight I didn’t have prior to reading.  Here’s an example of a Prologue.  It is from the upcoming novel, “No Fury”, by R. Goodrum and L. Thorndyke.

The Solar Road of Spinset is a marvel of engineering unparalleled in history. This artificial structure links the polar regions of all three worlds (Lambent, Recondite, and Shadow) to an artificial structure which is always one standard hour away from each planet. This transportation system stretches and shrinks as the planets move. The central hub is always precisely in the center of the position of the worlds. Objects which are outside the road have no effect upon the road.

Meteoroids, asteroids, and comets have all made their way through the path of the road without affect. Even slow moving artificial objects pass through. Nothing outside the road has any ability to change what happens inside the road. This is even true of the sun. At times, the hub or spokes of the Solar Road pass through the sun: nothing happens to what is inside or outside the spokes and hub.

The three worlds travel about the sun at different intervals. Lambent is the innermost of the three having 304 cycles of light and dark, day, with a leap day every tenth orbit about the sun, year. Recondite has a longer orbit: 459 days with a leap day every 6 years. Shadow has the longest year at 560 days with two leap days every five years. The Solar Tribunal has established the tribunal year as 453 days with two leap days every ninth year. Even though each planet rotates at a different rate, the Tribunal has established a 20 hour local day for each world. Each hour is further divided into 100 minutes which are divided into 100 seconds.

Travel to or from the central hub takes one hour regardless of the planet from which one starts or ends their trip. Hence “uninterrupted travel between two planets is always exactly two hours. Most citizens who travel between planets choose to use Tribunal Standard Time rather than local time for their timepieces.

The central hub, also known as Triune, was designed to house and support one million individuals. The birth and death rates of Triune are rather low: births are in the range of 10,000 per year while deaths are below 5,000. This has resulted in a mandate that all persons born in Triune most choose a planet on which to reside after the age of 18. This is a permanent commitment. Thereafter, these individuals are allowed to return to Triune only one week per decade unless they can obtain permanent Triune citizenship.

Permanent citizenship is so valued that powerful people from the three planets vie for it. They are willing to become janitors, wait staff, garbage collectors, street sweepers, etc., for the right of permanent Triune citizenship. The bodies of every individual who has every spent at least one year in Triune has regenerated to the point of modest age: seeming to be between 30 and 40 tribunal years of age. There is no sickness or illness, disease or deformity among any individual who has lived in Triune for at least a year. Individuals who have had artificial body parts implanted much undergo surgery within nine month of arrival to have them removed lest the regeneration process force them out violently.

The Tribunal Ancients, also known as the Triumvirate, are the system authority. They are housed at the hub of the Solar Road. These leaders are chosen from the populace of each planet. Their appointment is permanent. The Ancients do not age even though they were once mortal like the rest of their kind. Now, immortal, they can only die through accident, murder or suicide. There has never been an ‘official’ suicide among the Ancients. Accidents which can kill an Ancient are very rare. In the history of Spinset, only two Ancients have died of accidental causes. Murder, on the other hand, has been far more common. Typically, one Ancient is assassinated each century.
On the occasion that a vacancy occurs, any individual may present themselves to one of the temporarily erected testing facilities which are under the direction of the lower officers of the Tribunal. The testing may result in one of three conditions being set: reject, tentative acceptance, or immediate acceptance. Immediate acceptance has only occurred once in history when it was granted to the ten year old, Jason Ardan Milson. Naturally, most individuals who present themselves, over 99.99999%, are rejected by the testing system. The remainder receive tentative acceptance. With time, those who were tentatively accepted are either rejected because a more acceptable candidate was identified or acknowledged as the best candidate. The longest time to confirm a replacement has been one hundred eighty days.

The transit time between worlds is linked to the number of living Ancients. As stated earlier, with all three of the Ancients imbued with the power of their office, the transit time is one hour to the hub and another hour to the destination. At times when one of the posts was vacant, the travel time grew about a minute per day during the vacancy. The longest vacancy resulted in four hours transit time between planets.

-from the Codex Trimvir – Passage 7836.

 

As you see, this spells out the location, some details of its unusual setting, and some background on what the story may focus on.  It primes you for the story, which is the purpose of a prologue.

The Jiminy part 30

‘I don’t make the rules, I just abide by them’ floated down the wall from the ceiling in block white letters.

“Ya don’t mind screwin’ around either, do ya?” Travis grumbled.

‘Perish the thought,’ came the dark blue letters from right to left. ‘I may be a little mischievous, but I am the soul of the work ethic. Everything for a reason and everything in it’s proper time and place.’

“Okay, so what got her here? I saw the botched burglary. What made her do it?” Travis felt this was important.

‘Oh it is important, and it is history, so sit down and I’ll lay the word upon your ears, Jiminy.’ The letters had that mocking attitude again, and the bright neon orange letters bursting on the wall screen made Travis eyes ache to look at.

‘Once upon a time,’ scrolled the letters in powder blue, ‘a little girl was born to a whore mother and a drug-addled gang-banger father. This little girl grew up in a house where neither parent looked after her, and only her drunken grandmother ever paid her attention beyond the occasional snarl and backhand from the girl’s parents. It was so, so, sad. The little girl went to school, with the other hard luck children from the desperately poor section of town, and found that the ‘normal’ kids had more everything than she did. Her juvenile delinquent friends showed her how easy it was to get ‘normal’ kids money from them, but she didn’t like beating people up. She found she liked learning things. This made her stay after school and ask questions about classes to her teachers. One day, the girl’s parents moved out, leaving her behind. She was a teenager, and didn’t have any way to support herself. She was all alone, the poor, poor thing. So, she found out that stealing was the only way to get food. She took from the supermarket, stuffing snacks in her pants, and waddling out of the store. Stealing money was easier, and her friends showed her how to sneak into a house *** and take valuable things to sell to fences or pawn shops. Oh, she was careful to case a place first, just like the big kids taught her. That way she could pick the best time to burgle a residence. It was easy. A little bit here, a little bit there was good enough for her, but not her new friends, who wanted more. So our larcenous little heroine took larger and larger risks to satisfy her ‘friends’ (the friends word was in dark red block letters) and they quit taking her money. Some time later, the friends decided that burgling a house wasn’t good enough. They felt ready for something…more. To keep her friends happy, she joined in. Her friend, Casey, drove to the liquor store they’d cased. Our heroine was the ‘new kid’, so she was chosen to be the first in through the door. She had picked up a cement block from a work site a few days ago for just such a opportunity. She threw the block hard at the window, and smashed it. A second throw carried away enough glass for her to wiggle in and start to search for anything valuable. She rolled over the counter, and started throwing cigarette cartons back outside for her friends to pick up. The cash register was locked, and she couldn’t pry it open. About this time she heard the car rev. It’s tires squealed and she was left in the store, frozen by their sudden disappearance. About this time a cop flashed a light into the dark store. Before he could call out she threw a metal can at the officer, catching him in the side of the head. He dropped to the ground. As she looked for an escape, the second officer spotted her in the store, and fired a taser gun. She was sent here to serve a year in juvenile detention for assaulting an officer. Oh the poor poor little poor bitch from gang-bangers. Who would have thought she’d sink so low to steal from a convenience store. Is there no shame in the world anymore? Why it’s hard to believe that any upright men and women actually exist.’

The Jiminy Part 29

Letters in green, yellow, and blue popped onto the screen in haphazard order. ‘Ask away, but I will warn you that the only real answer is one you find. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ An honest-to-Smiley Face formed on the screen. Travis thought it was the creepiest thing he’d ever seen. It made him think of a serial killer toying with his chosen target.

‘Melodramatic much?’ it mocked with orange letters popping up and disappearing.

“That was just creepy, and you know it” Travis snarled at the screen, which was still dark.

‘Oh my, actual banter rather than screaming fits and angry shouts? What are we coming to, detente?’

“De-what? Never mind. I have a question. You can answer questions, right?”

The letters took a coy, fuzzy pink texture as they appeared on the screen. ‘I can, within limits of course.’

We’re getting somewhere. “So what are the limits?”

‘The information can’t force you to change your actions. I am not allowed to lie or influence you in any way.’

“So if I asked for history about this girl, you can give it?”

‘Point for you, yes I can, and will give any relevant history when asked.’ The black letters outlined in orange had extra space between them, almost like they were saying something themselves, but Travis couldn’t figure if it meant anything or not.

“What about asking things like, uh, about the other guy?” Anything I can learn might help figuring out what his angle is, and how I could catch trouble before it got started.

‘Uh uh. No no noooo … no can do kemosabe. Information like that influences decisions. Influence is a no no. Same thing for the other guy.’

“So the other guy can’t use you to, uh,” Travis stopped talking and thought hard about what he’d heard so far. “Wait a sec. You can tell me about the girl’s history, but won’t that influence me?”

‘Point for you’, showed up in thin gold letters that reminded Travis of an ‘attaboy’ sticker his first grade teacher gave out to students that got a perfect score on their tests. ‘Since it’s history, it’s not something that can be influenced. It can be learned from. That’s your job, at least part of it. To learn. If it happens to influence your decision, then you’ve learned from the past, not from me.’

It made Travis head hurt a little. That it could, and would talk about the past, and yet not talk about now and other possible things going on. That seems a weird place to draw a line about what’s proper and what ain’t.

The Jiminy part 15

“ARRRGH! This has to be hell! No one tells me nothing! I’m sick of it!” He glared at the screen. “Cough up some answers or nothing’s going to happen!”

The screen flashed in a multitude of colors that played over the wall, splashes of red dotted with neon blue and white squares half covered by dingy yellow splotches. The sheer three-hundred-and-sixty degrees of riotous colors washing over each other in a psychedelic display gave Travis vertigo. He dropped to his hands and knees and struggling to stay there. The colors seemed to roll through him, churning him up like an old washing machine, until he couldn’t tell up from down. His vision began to darken as the churning sped up for a moment, then vanished so suddenly he dropped prone on the grey floor. What was that?!

‘That’, the letters spelled out in tall thin white against a mauve background, ‘was a full opening of you. What you were was laid bare. I have to say, I’m very surprised you don’t know the reference.’ The pressure rolled over him in a more speculative manner, and not nearly as invasive. It receded, then a square of white appeared. A grainy ‘5’ in a circle counted down to ‘4’, and then to ‘3’, at which point there was a blip of light.

The square went black, then faded in again as a little boy, looking like he was dressed in goofy shorts with suspenders and a weird little yellow shirt with a huge collar and blue bow-tie, instead of a T-shirt, was watching this little thing in a tuxedo and top hat, look up at him. The two appeared to talk, then it seemed that some kind of tune was playing. The little thing in the tuxedo hopped like a grasshopper, and started strutting along, hand on hat. What’s he saying, I wonder. Are they trying to whistle? He remembered the conversation earlier, ‘You have to ask for it’.

“Hey, does that come with sound?”

‘Point for you, yes it does.’

Suddenly the singing was coming across, and he heard the little thing say “give a little whistle”, and then a moment later, “Not just a little squeak, pucker up and blow!” Which the boy tried to do, then another line, “and if you’re whistle’s weak, yell!” to which the boy answered, “Jiminy Cricket!”

Jiminy Cricket?! He’s calling me a cricket?! Travis started a slow burn once more, then he heard the last part of the refrain, “and always let your conscience be your guide.” Everything fell together. Jiminy, the view he was getting, the ‘boss’ reference, the smarmy lettering. I’m a conscience?!

‘You can learn when you put your mind to it’ the letters scrolled with what seemed a relieved-yet-irritated manner.

“Okay so what can I ask for, I mean besides clothes and sound? You said I had to learn to choose, so I’m saying tell me what choices I get to make.”

The wall faded to black, darkening the entire room, then brightened once more. Travis was looking at the large black girl staring down at the ‘boss’. “So you got the J?”

The Jiminy part 11

Dead. I’m dead. No more work. No more beer nights. No waking up with Kimm….“Kimmy!” He looked at the wall from the floor, his face an agonized mask of loss. “Kimmy’s okay, right?” ‘She will be. Right now she is dealing with your death, and all the paperwork that you left for her,’ the wall printed in tall, light grey letters. “Can I see her?” Please, just let me see her so I know she’s okay. She stood by me when I needed it, and I just took it for granted. I am so sorry Kimmy. ‘You may not. You’re dead. She’s alive. She has a life to build over. You have a job to get to, Jiminy,’ the wall replied in soft, fuzzy looking blue letters.

Travis started to protest, but the feeling of the grey started to ripple along his skin, or whatever he thought of as his skin. The clammy sensation had him bolting to his feet, choking back a terrified scream.’I think you’ve wasted enough time, Jiminy. Get up on the platform and I will run you through the basics of your job for the boss.’ The mysterious printer, (Not sign. Travis he finally decided it was some guy on a computer controlling the screens, like that old movie with the man behind the curtain.)

In truth, he was kind of shocked that he was so calm after finding out he was dead and Kimmy was in pain from his dying. I still feel things, but it’s like it doesn’t feel real. Kimmy’s there, not here, I’m dead, and it’s like another day at the job. Am I losing it? It doesn’t make sense. Why am I not crying more over Kimmy. She needs me and I’d be frantic to see her. But now all I feel is regret, and a little sadness, but it’s fuzzy, like it ain’t real. And now I gotta go see a new boss, a girl boss? I’d be pitching a screaming fit I think if I was still alive. This all seems so distant.

Travis gave a resigned shrug and looked at the raised center of the room. “I go there, right. Fine.” he stepped onto the platform and put his hands around the ski-pole things and braced himself. Nothing happened. “Do I gotta turn it on?” ‘Wait for it,’ came the answer in a mischievous sky-blue lettering with a pink background. Okay, now that just sounded weird. Is this a practical joke or something? ‘Or something’ came the written reply slowly across the grey wall in tall green letters.

The Jiminy part 9

Once he got some overflow into the red-black gunk, he flipped the switch again, unplugged the body, and pushed it to a corner of the room, then trundled Travis’s body to the machine. Travis started feeling sick as he watched his nude body treated like so much dead meat. The embalmer picked up the X-acto knife and pushed Travis’ legs open. He seemed to mumble something and laughed, then cut deep into both femoral arteries in the upper thigh. Travis felt a twinge of sympathetic pain in his legs as the man sneered down at his lifeless body and stabbed the de-sanguinators deep into the open wounds. The man finally turned to face Travis, and he stared back at the familiar sneer. Harry Deeney. Travis had known Harry since primary school, and neither of them liked each other at all. Harry and Travis were the two biggest kids in primary, and Harry started pushing Travis around and in general bullying him. Harry had the advantage in mass, so he invariably won the fights when Travis tried to fight back.

Travis had a growth spurt in middle school and Harry went from being the bully to the bullied. Travis wasted no opportunity. He’d gotten sick of being bullied and it felt so good to put it to Harry. He’d pushed Harry the same way he’d been pushed. It felt so good, being on top that he’d started pushing others around too. It was fun, and big as he was, it was easy. Then, when he felt he had the world by the short hairs, he blew out his knee in the last game of the season. The college scouts that had come to see him play left without a word, and he was left, another casualty of fortune. He’d gotten to asking for the pain pills after the surgery to repair it, and started washing down the pills with beer, and later, hard liquor when the pain got really bad.

He’d gone through the next year in a haze of alcohol and pain medication. He felt drained, and surrounded by a soft fuzz that dulled every sense. Kimmy found him then. She was tending bar at the ‘Lazy Horse’ bar across from the truck stop out west. He was a frequent customer, and they’d started talking. Talk in the bar led to talk outside the bar, and to talk at home, and to other, ‘adult’ things. It was Kim that told him to quit the pills. She didn’t mind if he drank, but the drugs were out if he wanted her to stick around. She was three months pregnant when they married, and a month later, she lost the baby, they both started drinking hard.

Travis hit the bottle so hard it scared Kimmy. He passed out one night and she called the Goldsboro Rescue Squad. Her instincts were correct, and Travis barely pulled through alcohol poisoning. That seemed to give him a wake up call, as he got off the bottle and was sober until he started working for Hillaney Air Conditioning. The company built air conditioners, and Travis was desperate to get back on his feet and take care of Kimmy. The first six months were okay, but then a new manager, Mr. Robert Zillis, was hired.

The Jiminy part 6

That was me? Travis tried to deny it, to convince himself that it was just a dream, but something in him remembered the slip, and the fall catching his head full force as he lunged forward drunkenly to avoid a fall. The stumble turned into a full dive and his head hit so hard he saw flashes. He remembered standing up, and seeing Kimmy’s face as her eyes opened wide and her hands covered her mouth just before it all went dark again. He dimly remembered falling a second time. “That…was me?” He didn’t want to believe it. ‘Sadly, yes, that is you. That’s your last memory.’ The sign seemed brusque, impatient. ‘Now, are you convinced? If not, you can still jump out the window.’ Travis shivered, and stayed on the floor, looking down at his rotund figure in red, satin pants. “What is this place?” ‘This is, for you, your new place, Jiminy,’ the sign spelled impatiently. ‘This will be your home for a long while.’ “What?” The words didn’t make sense to Travis.

I’m stuck here? In this big bedroom where a word would conjure clothes out of thin air like a dream, and a stupid sign that disses me every chance it gets. ‘I heard that,’ the sign scrolled irritably. ‘You’re not stuck in the room. Your office is right through the doors below me.’ the sing spelled out helpfully, then added a downward pointing arrow to emphasize the doors with the odd silver scroll work on them. “I have an office?” ‘Yes, an office. Why don’t you go see where you’re going to work from now on.’ The writing had that ‘I know something you don’t ‘ vibe again. If it’s another thing like … me in that ambulance, maybe I don’t want to go look. It might be one of those creepy haunted house surprise things that scared the crap out of Kimmy when we went back in high school.

Travis stayed put, still naked on the blue-green marble floor. ‘It’s not a jump out and scare you thing’, the sign printed slowly. It actually seemed to be trying to act sympathetic. Yeah right, be my buddy until you can push me into the scare. Nuh-uh. Not this old boy. I’ve seen that, well, done that a few times and I know how it works. ‘Sure you do. I promise, it is not a jump out and scare thing.’ The sign displayed in soft lettering. Really, promise huh? “I got to have clothes first. How about givin’ me my work clothes?” There was a swirl of air, and he felt just like always.

The pants fit like he remembered. The coarse threads scratched a little, and the shirt was a little loose since he’d lost some weight, but they were HIS clothes, and he took a moment in the small triumph of his dream control. ‘It’s not a dr…oh why bother, you won’t believe anything until you face it head on.’ The sign was back to the irritable, exasperated printing as the sentences flashed in sharp lettering across its face. Travis patted the clothes to make certain they were his, then did it again just to be certain. He’d had a few days when he’d been so hung over that it took a half-hour just to make sense of which way to put the clothes on and get to work. I wonder if this is the DT’s and I’m hallucinating drunk. That could be why I ain’t in control. The sign printed ‘……………..’ as if giving up trying to explain or convince Travis of the error of his ways.

The Jiminy part 5

‘How about jumping out the window?’ the sign spelled out in green letters. The way the letters appeared had Travis wondering what the sign was up to now. “You jump out the window first, then I’ll try it, ya darn idjit.” Hah, now if it’s a dream it’ll go sailing though those curtains. ‘I can’t, I’m just a sign.’ it spelled out in white once more. “Oh come on, it’s my dream, you’re supposed to do what I wantcha to.” He pointed at the window, a stern look on his face. “Go on, jump.” The sign flickered an annoying set of colors, then scrolled amongst them, ‘I already told you I can’t. For one, I’m a sign, and for two, this isn’t a dream.’ “The hell it isn’t. I ain’t at home, I ain’t in my reg’lar clothes, and I ain’t had a beer. Ain’t no way this isn’t a dream! I am gonna wake up, get a shower and get dressed for work. I gotta shift to pull. I ain’t wastin’ no more time with a stupid dream!” He crossed his arms stubbornly and dared the sign to do something.

It did, but not what he expected. It started scrolling images. They started blurry, but as Travis concentrated, then became clearer. There was a light, but it seemed distant. There were three men in dark blue jumpsuits, a white and red patch on the left bicep. It was a green cross inside a gold circle with the letters ‘Goldsboro’ over the top of the cross, and ‘Rescue Squad’ on the bottom. Two men were kneeling in his kitchen next to him. There was vomit on the tan linoleum floor near his head, and a puddle of bloo under it. He could see his wife, Kimmy, talking to a police officer and pointing at a chunk of the white formica counter lying next to his head. Travis winced internally as he felt the impact when he’d slipped after throwing up. Wait, slipped? What the hell? His mind ran away on him as he watched the Rescue Squad members wrap his head with gauze, then slide a flat, yellow board with holes for handles on the sides under him. Three officers moved next to the three medical techs, then bent over, slowly lifting him up.

Then they shuffled out of his kitchen, and into the cold December night. The WHite van with the red stripe had it’s lights flashing next to the boxy white ambulance. Headlights illuminated the blue striping on the sides, and the tan police cruisers just beyond it. He watched as one Med Tech unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it open. He grabbed the stethoscope from around his neck, then stuck the disc to his chest. The tech was a young kid with a thin face, and leaned body. His wisp of a beard made him look like one of those skateboarding punks that were over at the park on the weekends. The tech raised his hand and shouted at the others, while making made a circling motion. The team jumped into action, pushing him in the back with his shirt still open. The ambulance spun it’s rear wheel in the dirt then dug in and the ambulance rolled away, red lights flashing. He saw it go down Drumhill Street, and turn west onto 119th avenue, and out of sight.

The Jiminy – part 4

“OW! Miserable, moth**8&%@& **&^)()(**!!.” He was cut off in pained mid-rant when the room shifted again throwing him away from the wall and rolling him back across the floor and halfway to the bed. What is going on?! Did that freaking sign have something to do with all this?! He looked over to the sign, the bottom edge lit up and the bluish light moved up and down looking like two hills growing then receding. It reminded Travis of a shrug somehow. ‘I had nothing to do with it, Jiminy.’ “Jiminy?” Was this some kind of insult or put down? The only Jiminy that came to mind was the little cricket in that animated movie about some wooden puppet. ‘Got it in one’, the sign scrolled. Travis swore that somehow it had a smug edge to the letters.

A slight breeze reminded him he was still butt-naked. “How the heck do I get some clothes around here?!”

‘I told you, ask for them’, the sign replied with a smug flourish of letters. “Okay genius, how do I ask for them?” Travis thought the sign suddenly looked, well, impatient. ‘You ask by saying what you want.’ The sign scrolled the letters very, very slow, and big, covering the whole height of it top to bottom. It felt like it was trying to yell louder and slower, which made Travis more frustrated. ‘Remember the thong bikini.’

That shut Travis up, and he shifted to sit cross legged in the middle of the bright blue-green marble floor. “What I want, huh?” Travis stared at the sign, daring it to print something. The sign obliged, with ‘Exactly’ scrolling across it’s face with what Travis felt was smug satisfaction. He hated smug satisfaction in people, they were always so stuck on themselves. “Okay, I want a set of silk pants and a Hugh Hefner smoking jacket.” His naked rear suddenly felt a sinfully smooth cloth against it, as a comfortable, baby-soft coat settled around him out of thin air. He looked at his now-covered arms. “Burgundy.” ‘Yes, a satin burgundy smoking jacket just like Hugh Hefner’, the sign scrolled with a bored flourish of letters.

Travis glowered and took off the jacket. It his dream, obviously, how else could you explain Hugh Hefner’s smoking jacket? ‘It’s not a dream’, the sign scrolled with a series of contemptuous dots at the end of the letters. Travis started doing a slow burn. If it was his dream, he darn well could get what he wanted, and what he wanted was his regular pair of Dickies slacks, and his blue button-down shirt, his black belt with the Budweiser logo on it, and his Red Wing steel-toed boots. What he really wanted, was to wake up. He’d heard you could wake yourself out of dream by forcing yourself awake. Well, supposedly you could by hurting yourself, but he’d already bit his fingers and didn’t wake up, so what to try next?