I think…

I think they just said on TV that there is a zombie invasion. What do you call one of these? A zombie apocalypse.

Nah, that’s too crazy, I’m sure it’s not true. I don’t think they really said that. That would be insane. Wouldn’t it?

No, I think my girl broke up with me. I can’t remember her name. What was it? Do I really have a girlfriend?

So I stepped out and it was raining. People in the suburbs don’t do rain, so they were all inside, I had the street to myself. I walked down a bit, it was kinda spooky, nobody around. I tried to remember if they actually said it was a zombie invasion. I think they did.

Then I saw Dexter standing under a tree, his hood on, tiny dog on a leash.

“Hey Dex,” I said, “Whatcha doin’, dawg?”

“Nuthin’,” he said, “I be walkin’ my mah’s dog.”

“Foe real, foe real” I said, “You got any of that good stuff, you-know’am’sayin’? That real good stuff?”

“Dawg,” he said, “I just gave you the good stuff. You went home to do it. Mike, are you okay?”

“Foe show, foe show,” I said, trying to think. I think they said on TV my girl broke up with me. Or was it something about zombies?

Special Lizard

There is a special lizard living on the outside wall of the lighthouse, although it does not consider itself special. What is so special about it? Well, lizards do not really live in cold climates, so there are no other lizards around. But this one is okay with the cold, walking leisurely up and down the wall.

You see, this lizard really is special, because it has a special heart which is like a bright ember in a black metal cage. Lizards are usually cold-blooded but this one is always warm because of the ember heard. Although, it does not really have the brain to contemplate being special.

Another thing that is special about this lizard is it does not have to eat. Somehow, the ember heart is a source of vitality for the lizard, so it just keeps on living. It has been alive since long before humans appeared on this earth. It is still here now when humanity is gone. Other lizards would probably consider that special, if they had any sense of mortality, but they do not.

This special lizard is not big, smaller than my hand. It does not do much except climb up and down the outside wall of the lighthouse. It does not ponder, does not think, does not enjoy the breeze and the sea. None of those are lizard terms.

But I think it is pretty special.

Giving Himself Up

“Explain it to me again,” said the policeman, “Like I’m seven years old.”

They were speaking across a high counter, so the policeman was looking down on Hubert.

“I have been using stories to influence people,” said Hubert, “And I finally made John Endebauer rob the bank. So I am an accessory.”

“What exactly did you give him? The guards’ schedule, the codes, keys to the back door?”

“No, I just gave him the role of the robber. Through the contracts, and the slips, and the letters, and the invoices we have been sending him. You see, I placed a single word which was out of place in each document. I would, for example, write ‘Please find attached once the monthly breakdown.’ Or in another thing ‘the balance of your upon checking account has been resolved,’ and so on. Until I spelled out ‘once upon a time’ and then the rest of the story. It took years and years, but the story lodged itself inside Mr. Endebauer’s brain.”

“Okay,” said the policeman hesitantly, “And how did that make him rob the bank?”

“Well, the story is centered around a prince who is the good guy, but he is also a timid and bland character, like a lot of princes are. The most interesting character is the villain who is a local highwayman. You see, through the trope of badassery, I paint the villain as the one worthy of emulating. People who read the story want to be like him.”

“So you think you caused him to rob the bank, huh?” mused the policeman, “Well, it’s a little hard to believe, but let’s say it’s the truth. Why turn yourself in?”

“I’ve been telling this story to many, many people over the years,” said Hubert, “But I was also telling another one. In the other one, the author becomes one of the characters when he turns out to be causing all the pain and suffering in the world. In this version of the story, the badass brigand rises up and kills the author. I think Edna Shaw who’s been reading this story will come after me soon. I need your protection. I need to be in prison before she can reach me.”

“Yeah?” the policeman smiled ironically, “And what happens in the story when the author gets whacked?” Hubert seemed really small down below, scrawny and weak, large glasses, messy hair, clothes too big. He looked like the incarnation of lack of power.

“The whole universe ceases to exist.”

Going Up

The old man climbed the rusty ladder and I followed, around us the night was windy and rainy. The ladder lead up a pylon that used to be yellow with black stripes or black with yellow stripes. It lead up to a clumpy structure that I could not really see in the dark. Above that was a black, black shaft shooting up into the sky.

We reached a ramp and he turned his flashlight on. The ramp led to a causeway of metal net with metal railings. There were more sets of stairs and ladders leading higher and higher. The man shone the light at me, then at himself, smiling tired from under his rain hat.

“The auxiliary elevator is busted,” he said, “So it’s a bit of a climb,” he pointed the light at the causeway, “But you can make it. The code is in the book that’s by the control panel. Good luck.” He gave me the light, “Leave that outside the door, there’s light inside. Good luck,” he repeated.

The climb took me almost half-an-hour and I slipped on the wet metal a few times, but I finally reached the launch platform. The elevator car was parked there. It looked like a bunker on vertical rails. The outside walls were painted black and yellow and I could barely make out the three-feet-tall letters that said Daedalus 13.

“Good thing I’m not superstitious,” I said and snickered.

I punched in the code and the elevator came to life with a whir or servo motors and the orange glare of emergency lights. The sturdy door opened and I went inside.

The interior smelled like mold and rust, it was really old, had not been used in decades. I turned off the flashlight and put it in my pocket, then I found the book and checked all the things in order: the pressure, oil levels, energy throughput, motor condition, and so on. It all looked good. I remember wondering how they built it so well that it lasted this many years without maintenance.

I finally sat down in front of the control panel and strapped myself in. I punched in the initiation code and the computer came to life. I tapped “START” and the whole bunker lifted off, up and up along its rails.

“Father, I am coming. Receive me,” I offered a short prayer.

Then I remembered I was supposed to leave the flashlight outside. Well, it was too late now.

Anyone There?

“Hello,” I said into the house, “Anyone there?” Particles of dust were floating in the hot air.

“In here,” a man growled.

“Hi, I’m looking for Elizabeth,” I said. I walked in slowly, without confidence, and for some reason I was trying not to make the floor creek.

“No Elizabeth here,” said the man, “You must have the wrong address.” He was lying on the couch, a scruffy looking man with an unkempt beard, wearing a dirty old lumberjack shirt and jeans. He was staring into a huge plasma TV that was showing a football game, no sound.

“Could I have a glass of water?”

“Oh, shiiit,” he said, as if saying “Now you make me get up and I gotta do it because I am a good host, a proper one, old school.” But in actuality he said, “Yep, I’ll get that for you.” And he swaggered slowly into the filthy kitchen area. “You really looking for Elizabeth?”

“I just,” I said, “I was in the neighborhood and I though she might be here. She does this sometimes. I found here in this place before. The house is very old-looking. Like from the sixties. I like the feel.”

“Yeah? I ain’t got no money to make it modern, so I just stuck with the way my daddy made it,” he said, handing me a tumbler glass of tap water. “I appreciate you noticing.” He wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

I gulped the water down quick, half the glass in a few seconds. “Thanks, I needed that.”

“You wanna sit down and watch the game a little? The audio is busted and I ain’t got the money to get it fixed, but football is football and you can make out what’s happening.”

“No, thanks, I gotta get going,” I said. I put the glass on the counter and turned around.

“Wait,” he said, “Elizabeth. She’s here. In the… upstairs.”

“Huh,” I nodded, “I knew it.”

“I’m sorry I lied to you,” he said, “I thought you were one of them bad folks, but you ain’t got that… Confidence?”

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” I said, nodding. “So, where is she?”

“Upstairs, second door on the right. She was sleeping about… about an hour ago.”

I climbed the stairs slowly, again trying to make no sound, and at the same time I wondered what made me be so quiet. Finally, I reached the room. The door was ajar. She was in bed, among dirty sheets, wearing just a top and panties. She was sleeping on her back with her mouth wide open, her hair all over the pillow in sweaty clumps. She looked like she had suffocated in the hot air and I hoped she had, so I did not have to go through this again.

“Elizabeth, baby,” I said, “It’s time to come back home again.”

She woke up with a grunt.