Groggy, that’s what I feel when I awake. I reach for the alarm; I am tempted to toss it across the room. Instead, I turn it off. I want to sleep – just one more hour. I bury my head under my pillow. Lucy hops onto the bed pacing back and forth. “Fuck, she needs to go out,” I grumble to myself. Grumpily, I plod out of bed to the back door. Lucy races quickly ahead. I open the door to let her out. Annoyed, as she just stands there. “Well, do you want out or not?” Lucy barks before wagging her tail and trading out to the yard. I close the door behind her, I turn toward the kitchen. I turn on the light and I am momentarily blinded. I blink a few times before making my way to the stove. I grasp the kettle and I head towards the sink. I quickly fill the kettle at the sink before turning toward the stove. I place the kettle on the burner before I turn on the element. Coffee, the morning savior.
I head back to the back door to let Lucy in. She races in, her wagging tail brushes my leg. She heads toward the kitchen. She knows the routine.
As I wait for the kettle, I get Lucy’s food and put it in her bowl. The kettle begins to whistle as I place her bowl down. I go to the stove to turn it off. I reach for a mug from the cupboard and place it down by the stove. I grab the instant coffee laying it next to the mug. I drink instant coffee. It is quick and easy to make. Although I drink three coffees, I rarely make a pot because the rest goes to waste.
After I prepare my coffee, I walk over to the couch and plop myself down before flicking on the TV and the news. I am a news junky; I can’t get enough.
After two more coffees, I hastily race for the shower before quickly getting ready for the day.
The same old routine.
I step out onto the walkway. I should have walked Lucy; I got a phone call, instead. It was Gale, an old, high school friend of mine, we hadn’t spoken in quite some time. Now, she only calls when she wants something, or she’s in trouble: I never know which it is, until we meet up. She’s strange that way.
We meet up in a coffee shop on Holler and Eighth. She sits in a dimly lit corner. I spot her as I enter. She looks haggard and dishevelled. I head to the counter and order a dark roast coffee, pay the cashier, turn around and head toward Gale who sits edgily in her seat. I mumble greetings as I take a seat.
Gale just sits there fingering her coffee cup. She continues to tap the sides of her cup as I awkwardly bask her how it’s going to which she tersely replies, “Fine.” I nod approvingly. I ask about what she is doing and where she is living. She avoids my questions; she looks down at her cup. She knows that after all these years, I can sense when she is lying. After a pause to where there is an uncomfortable silence, I ask, “What can I do for you?”
Gale opens her mouth as to speak; instead, she quickly shuts it. She paused briefly before continuing, “I need your help.”
“How much do you need,” I interject?
God, why is it you always assume I need money?”
I look at her blankly, “Because, you usually do.”
“Well, I don’t this time,” she snaps in reply. Immediately, I see regret in her face; I can see this is not how she wished to begin our conversation. She takes a deep breath, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap. I haven’t slept in days.” I wait for her to continue… “I found something, and I don’t know what to do.” I can see her frustration.
“This is weird dude, she states, “Really out there.” I wait for more, “I don’t know what it is, or what to do with it.” She looks a bit crazed.
“Well, where is it?”
“It’s too complicated to explain things here; besides, it’s too big for me to bring it with me. I’ll have to show you; I’ll have to take you to it.” With that, she stands up, and faces me, “Well, are you coming, or not?” Reluctantly, I get up.
We walk a few blocks, she is careful to take the side streets, I note. Finally, we come to an underground parking lot. She leads me down, down to the fourth and bottom most lot. We move to the far side of the lot. The lights here are few and far between. We come upon a metal access panel. She slides it upward, “It’s in here.” She sees me hesitate. Damn, I shouldn’t have worn my docker’s. “Are you coming?” She pulls out her cell and turns on the flashlight, then climbs through the entrance. I reluctantly follow her through as the panel slides shut behind us.
I hike behind Gale as we traverse the narrow tunnel, the smell is nauseating with a mixture of urine, rotting compost and mildew. I can feel the grime under my feet. My good shoes sink in its matted ground. I hear the squishing with each step I take. We make numerous turns left and right, until I can no longer keep my bearing. I guess, I am in for it now; there’s no turning back. I continue to trail Gale. Finally, we reach a chamber. The room is empty except for a large, crate size box. Gale immediately covers her ears with her hands.
“Can you hear the hum,” she loudly enquires.
I perk my ears, and shake my head, “No.”
We slowly approach the box. She reaches out with her left hand then suddenly pulls it back as she steps aside. I gaze upon her. If I didn’t know any better, I think she’s afraid.
“You open it.”
I look at her quizzingly, “Sure, move over a bit more.”
She steps rightly as I move forward. I bend over to unclasp latch. I pull the lid upward. It is heavier than I imagine; with a little more effort, I pop it open. I cannot see anything. Its contents are obscured by blackness.
“Here,” Gales says, as she shakenly hands me her phone. I take it from her and then point it into the box. I grimace before I whisper, “What the…”
“I know, right,” Gales murmurs back.
My pupils widen, I peer into the box with disbelief.
“Is this a joke? Are you putting me on?”
The fear in Gale’s face, tells me she is not.
“Well, it sure seems like someone’s idea of a practical joke,” I retort.
“You wouldn’t say that, if you knew what I have been through since I first opened it the other day. I haven’t been able to sleep since.
I look at her quizzingly. “The buzzing, it just won’t stop.” And, “I swear, when I try to sleep, I hear my name being called over and over, until I snap awake again.”
We both stare into the box, there are two buttons: “Reboot,” and “Continue.”