by Rick McQuiston
Drake rotated the vertical blinds to see
the sunrise. It was part of his morning ritual; a part that he looked forward to more and more with each passing day.
He turned the long white rod and watched
as the slotted, plastic strips unanimously opened to reveal the brilliant yellow orb slowly rising in the far horizon.
A smile formed on his face.
Behind him on the stove, the teapot was
starting to whistle. A thin plume of steam was spewing out of the lid, as the whistle steadily grew louder. Drake quickly
retreated to the stove and twisted the gas knob to the off position. He removed the lid, being ever so careful not to touch
the pot as he had done so so many painful times before.
The water beneath the lid furiously roiled
about almost as if it were alive. The noise it made was as clear as the rattle of a rattlesnake. It stated loudly for anyone
near it to exercise caution.
Drake picked up the pot and poured the bubbling
liquid into his brown, oversize coffee mug. The faded happy face with the words ‘have a nice day’ positioned beneath
it stared back at him. He loved that cup. He’d had it since he first moved here. Its previous owner obviously had used
it many times before, hence its worn condition, and Drake planned on using it for quite awhile or at least until he moved
He sipped the tea lightly and contemplated
the day. What would he do? He had no job to attend, no obligations to fulfill, no friends or family to visit. He was free
as an eagle, soaring high above the collective, chaotic beast of civilization.
He took another drink of tea. The steaming
fluid rushed down his throat producing a warm feeling in his gut that extended down through his legs.
But the feeling in his legs was much too
He leaned forward and confirmed the worse;
an enormous hole in his abdomen stared back at him. A sickening concoction of green tea and rotten visceral dripped sloppily
from the opening.
The tea must have been too hot he thought
Several layers of duct tape sealed the hole
satisfactorily and stopped, although only temporarily, the escape of entrails and other internal substances. He concluded
that the skin must have become weak due to decomposition. How he let this happen he couldn’t explain. He had always
been so thorough before. But that never was any guarantee against these types of problems.
He felt like taking a drive. A smooth, calm
drive in an automobile always had a relaxing effect on him. He fished the keys to the car out of a cluttered basket by the
front door and tossed a baseball cap on his head. He contemplated taking a few music cartridges but decided it would be too
As he strolled out the door he noticed the
large safety pin imbedded in his thumb. He pulled it out quickly and wiped the greenish ooze off his hand.
Outside, it was a beautiful day. The sun
warmed the ground as the trees danced gently with the wind. Drake began to walk towards the light blue and slightly rusted
Toyota only to be addressed by a frail, elderly woman who apparently lived next door to him.
“Drake,” she mumbled while fiddling
with the gardening tools she held in her hands. “You don’t look so well.” The clothes she wore hung so loosely
on her tiny frame that she nearly lost her balance from the wind catching them. “Do you feel alright my dear?”
Drake looked into her aged eyes. The sincerity
in those eyes truly touched him…but only to a small degree.
“Do I know you?” he inquired,
not particularly caring what the response would be.
“Why yes. Yes you do. We’ve
lived next door to each other for years. Do you feel okay dear?”
Drake brushed her aside and strolled casually
to the Toyota. He considered her for moment but quickly decided she was far too old for his tastes.
Once inside the car he made some minor adjustments
to the seat and mirrors. He smashed the radio with his fist when he could not get a station to tune in clearly and then cursed
when he had trouble shifting the car into reverse.
The old lady was standing on her lawn with
a puzzled expression on her face. She could not understand why her neighbor did not recognize her. Drake paused to look at
her. Too old, he mused to himself. Much too old.
Every house resembled the one on either
side of it. Each sported somewhat neglected lawns and faded or chipped paint. Drake dangled his left arm out the window as
the warm breeze filtered through his hair. He attempted to relax, to fully embrace and enjoy the ride but he was troubled.
The hole in his gut was not going away. Foul green liquid seeped through the tape, soaking his lap and the seat. He had to
do something about it. He knew it would get only worse.
He began to search. He noticed a large,
dark complected woman jogging along the sidewalk. She had on a bright pink sweat suit which contrasted strongly with her jet-black
hair. He eyed an attractive blonde woman pushing a frilly baby stroller. She appeared rather young, almost too young to be
a mother, and Drake found himself wondering if she even knew whom the father was. He glimpsed a teenage boy walking a large
dog, his face full of confidence in his canine bodyguard’s size.
He had to something quickly, the injury
to his stomach was becoming worse. In addition to that he had another problem that was beginning to manifest itself. A problem
he was not accustomed to experiencing. A problem which despite its unfamiliar nature was demanding recognition…guilt.
He was actually feeling remorse for what he had done and it gnawed at him like a rat on a bone.
Was he responsible for his deeds or merely
a victim? Certainly he had no choice in the matter but he couldn’t lie to himself about not enjoying what he did…at
And then he did something that surprised
himself more than it would have surprised anyone who had ever come in contact with him. Something that he even thought he
was physically and emotionally incapable of doing…he wept.
He cried loud and hard. A true heartfelt
sobbing for all the lives he had affected in any way.
The bright red convertible Corvette caught
him completely off guard. The twenty-two year old driver, the son of a successful movie producer, blindsided him viciously
causing the Toyota to roll over twice. When it finally came to a stop, Drake was pinned inside with both his legs crushed.
The interior of the car was coated in a sickly green, contrasting grotesquely with the beige seats.
Drake looked up and saw a sea of faces descending
on him. The woman jogger in pink, the pretty blonde woman with the baby stroller, the teenage boy with his dog, they were
all there along with others; all wearing masks of worry, fear and pity.
A large, dark-skinned man shouted to the
others around him to help him pull Drake free of the wreckage. Two other men immediately joined him and began to pry open
the twisted remnants of the car’s doors. They did not seem to notice or care about the strange green substance in the
Drake felt no pain as he drifted in and
out of consciousness. He was a limp mannequin subject to the manipulations of his rescuers. He knew death was approaching
quickly and he contemplated staying where he was and letting it finally overtake him. In a way, he was eager to receive it;
to drift into its quiet embrace. The peace it offered in its cold grip would be most welcome. But the instinct to survive
was also strong and he felt the two feelings do battle in his mind.
And then darkness overtook the light.
The woman jogger in pink resumed her exercise,
her morbid curiosity satisfied and content in the fact that she could do nothing to help.
The pretty blonde woman continued on her
way, pushing the stroller along while humming softly to the baby inside of it. She did her best to calm the infant’s
tiny mind and to soothe its little ears from the destruction all around it.
And the teenage boy with his oversize dog
moved on as well. He needed to get home and feed the dog as well as do his homework.
The dog growled and gnashed its teeth, throwing
its head from side to side violently. It was angry. It had stepped on a jagged stone which had been concealed under a small
pile of leaves causing a nasty cut on its front paw.
The teenage boy was shocked and worried
at his dog’s behavior. The dog had never acted like that before. He knelt down and tried to console his pet. The dog
seemed okay but was still very aggressive and agitated as if it didn’t recognize its owner.
The teenage boy looked at the dog’s
paw. The wound was a serious one, approximately two inches long and somewhat deep. The teenage boy was very worried; he did
not know what the strange green substance coming out of the cut was.
Rick McQuiston 2005