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The Hamburger Cart That Fell From the Sky

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It was morning. I sat on a stone bench with a hot cup of coffee in my hand. The bench was just beginning to warm up, and the sky was already blindingly blue. I always thought the sky was brighter in the fall, but no one else seemed to notice. I sipped my coffee. It burnt the top of my mouth and did nothing to help how cold it was outside.

It was November, and I had been majoring in philosophy for two months now. And I had to go today. S***. I hated that class. I’ll be honest; everyone there had piercings on their lips or tattoos on their arms or smelled like B.O. because they wanted to get back to God and the Earth, man! In there, it was almost a curse that I got adequate grades and was the quarterback on the high school football team. All of them seemed to think I would shove them into lockers. I fit that stereotype, more or less. I laughed. Really thinking about it, I did fit the jock stereotype. Jocks don’t think, right? Why the hell did I choose philosophy as my major then, where all we did was sit around and think about people thinking about life, the vaguest thing ever? I should’ve gone to trade school and learned how to fix cars. Good, clean-cut ending to my life, working in a shop. Within the bounds of everyone else’s expectations. Within the box of what I could handle. I helped my cousin fix a car once; I caught on pretty quick…

Suddenly, a sharp wind flew downward and I heard the pavement crumble. I looked next to me. Lodged into the pavement was a hamburger cart.

I got up and stood away from it. I walked around it. A dusty, red-and-yellow, striped umbrella trying way too hard to look like it was from a circus sat on a metal pole. A small grill, about as wide as two microwaves side by side, smoldered next to what I thought was a metal freezer and two drawers. A small whiteboard lay facedown on the ground. I picked it up. Hamburger: $2.50. Hot Dog: $2.50. I looked at the wheels it stood on. It wasn’t damaged severely, so it couldn’t have fallen from a great distance. I looked around. Did some machine throw it over here? No machine in sight. There weren’t any tall buildings around to throw a hamburger cart from, all of them were single-story buildings. Feeling ridiculous, I looked up. Did it come from the sky? No, it was a clear day and there were no airplanes in sight. Nothing that could’ve dropped the cart would’ve escaped my vision unless it was cloudy.

Nevertheless, this thing had to get out of the ground. I pulled it out of the pavement by its wheels. I was still strong from high school, and it was only loosely lodged into the pavement. Tiny fragments of the pavement fell into the hole. I put the cart on flat ground and tried rolling it around. It still seemed to roll around fine. I looked in the drawers and freezer, which still worked. Hot dogs, hamburgers, buns, ketchup, mustard, mayo, chopped-up lettuce, onions, tomatoes, bacon, a spatula, a brush and solution to clean the grill, a dry erase marker, napkins, tin foil, and a few bottles of water. I tried turning on the grill and put my hand over it. The heat rose. Yup, it still worked. I looked underneath the grill and saw a gas tank. Thank God it was in the interior of the cart, who knows what would happen if it landed on the pavement?

I turned the grill on and off. I wanted to make a burger. Really badly. Like my entire life was rushing to this single point in time when I made a hamburger from this cart, and it would be the most pivotal point in my life. I laughed. See? You’re a regular philosopher, just for hamburger carts that fell out of the sky instead of life. I decided to. College was time for experimentation, right? But instead of experimenting with drugs and alcohol, I’m turning on a grill that fell from the sky. Mom and Dad would be proud.

I cleaned the grill off and turned it on again. I put a burger on the grill and began to cook it. Some people were staring at me, others deciding this was just some elaborate joke and [just]walked away. While the burger was cooking, I put the whiteboard on top of one of the drawers next to my coffee. More people were starting to wake up now.

I finished making the hamburger and put it in a bun with mayo, ketchup, onions, lettuce, and wrapped it up in tin foil just so it would look nice. I had to admit; making that burger did feel pretty good. Almost peaceful. After waiting a minute, I unwrapped half of the tin foil and took a bite. It was refreshingly fatty after that weak coffee, and I had to limit the amount of fatty food I had because of football, so it tasted even better. I felt the grease coat my lips and I wiped my mouth with a starchy white napkin. This was good. Finished it, licked my fingers, and crumpled up the tin foil.

I began to grill more burgers and hot dogs. While they sizzled, I took out the condiments and toppings and lined them upon the counter. There. Pretty perfect looking, wasn’t it? The whiteboard looking neat and the condiments looking street-food worthy. They umbrella was still depressingly dusty, but whatever. Still looked good.

“Still looked good,” someone said. I looked around. People were coming and going, but none of them paid attention to me. I shrugged. This whole experience was sort of dreamlike anyway, who cared if voices spoke to me? I would probably wake up sooner or later.

The minute I thought this, I shuddered. Just sitting here, making hamburgers and hot dogs was so peaceful, so simple, I hoped it wasn’t a dream. Just savor it as long as you can, just in case.

When the sun was completely out, a woman and child ordered two hot dogs.

“Comin’ right up,” I said. The words flowed naturally. I wasn’t even surprised when they approached me; I was a street vendor after all.

I gave them two hot dogs and they put two toppings on them; $5. They paid me and I put the money in a drawer.

I kept flipping the burgers and hot dogs, and more and more people came. I savored the smell of the grease and the pocket change the customers gave me. Soon, it was time to go to class.

I looked at my phone. Should I skip class? Really thinking now, wasn’t I going to college so I wouldn’t have to spend my life flipping burgers? I shook my head. I don’t know why people said it was such a crappy job. Sure, the pay isn’t too good, I earned $25 dollars today, but it’s a pretty stress-free job. Oh, what the hell. I called my professor and told him I couldn’t make it.

I woke up the next day in my dorm. I didn’t have classes until that afternoon. I decided to go back to sleep, but I shot up when I remembered yesterday. The hamburger cart! I used a bike lock and attached it to a bike rack yesterday. At least, I thought it did. I couldn’t remember if it was a dream or not. I pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and went outside.

Yep, it was still there, attached to the bike rack. So it wasn’t a dream. I felt relieved. I could use it.

I pushed it towards the spot where I was yesterday. The hole in the pavement where the cart fell had yellow tape around it. I began to start up operations.

When I opened the freezer, I saw that it got turned off and all the meat was bad. I threw it out in a tin garbage can and walked away. Yuck. I opened up the freezer and looked inside. It appeared o be powered by the gas tank. Looks like I needed to take the extra meat out after I closed.

I locked up the cart and went to a grocery store. I bought hamburgers, hot dogs, buns, and condiments. As I handed the money over to the cashier, I felt like the cart was mine now, for better or for worse. Oh well. No regrets.

I put everything into the cart and started up the grill. I began to make more hamburgers.
****

You watch him make the hamburgers. Not really, not really yet. You don’t have eyes yet. But you’re there, and you’re his. Everyone has one of them, the devil on their back, what they want to be or will be, the under person. You see that fat teenage girl? See the one behind her, with the blurred edges. You probably can’t even see that no one else can see her because she’s so strong, but she’s there. Blurred edges outlining the visible ribs, the low crop top, skinny calves and thighs barely being covered by a tiny black skirt. Of course, the real girl probably doesn’t want this. She thinks she’s fine the way she is. But you know, you know, in her mind’s mind, that’s what’s she’s heading towards. And you know, you’re his. You know, and you’ll make sure that that’s what he will be.

You take on his outline. You look like a silhouette, but it will be okay. You made the cart fall, and you’ll soon be where you belong, on top, in the zenith.
****

After my classes, I went back to my dorm. All the extra burgers and hot dogs were in the fridge and freezer, and everything was okay. I went into my room and turned on the desk light. I opened my textbook and began to highlight everything in bold. That counted as studying, right? Yes, it did.

My phone rang. Unknown number. I picked up.

“Hello?”

“Hi, this is Rick. I’m the owner of the hamburger cart.”

Uh oh.

“Uh, why are you calling?” I asked.

“Well, I hear you have it.”

“Yeah…?”

“So you want to keep it, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. What was I doing?

“Okay. It’ll be $3,000. And I want it tomorrow.”

S***.

“Will you pay it?” He asked.

“Okay,” I said. No!

“By tomorrow. Meet me where the cart fell.”

“…Okay. I’ll get the money,” I said. I said bye then hung up.

Why was I doing so much to keep the cart? It was just a hamburger cart. I can buy a little grill and make hamburgers whenever I want! Or just go to a fast food place. I was oddly repulsed by that idea.

I looked in my wallet. $52 from today’s and yesterday’s profit. Hardly anything. I knew I had next to nothing in the bank, and my tuition has put me up to my ears in debt.

I looked in one of my desk drawers, even though I knew I wouldn’t find anything. Underneath all the crumpled up paper and spare change, I saw a small, neat rectangular block of white paper inside. I picked it up. On the back was a small crease where the paper overlapped. I slipped my finger under the neat paper and inside was a wad of $50 bills. I counted the money. $6,000.

I put $3,000 in my wallet and wrapped up the rest inside the paper. I didn’t know what to think. So I didn’t. I accepted the fact that hamburger carts fell from the sky and voices spoke to me and money appeared neatly wrapped up in my desk drawer.

I crawled into my bed and fell asleep.
****

You watched him sleep. You know him now; he just goes with whatever happens, doesn’t he? He’s a puppet. No, that isn’t the right word for it; he’s a tool. He does whatever the hell anyone wants him to do, no strings needed.

This sort of pisses you off. You were strong, he was weak. His consciousness, anyway. His subconscious was strong, though. You sprung from it.

You sat down in his desk chair. You feel his color going into your cheeks, his muscles bulging on you. You feel a hairnet begin to form on your head, and a spatula in your hand. You looked down on yourself. Yep, you looked like him.

You tried to touch his forehead. Your hand goes through. You’re frustrated, but this is going quickly enough. Be patient. You know, you know you’ll win.

Hopefully, he won’t see the change inside him.
****

I watched Rick handle the money. His fingers reminded me of moist hot dogs. He smelled like pocket change, and his zipper bulged outward from his pants. Needless to say, I didn’t like this guy. But what I hated most about him was that right before we shook hands, I saw him scratching the inside of his ear and made no attempt to hide it.

“$3,000,” he said. His lips reminded me of greased-up eels. “How’d a college kid get this kind of money in cash?”

I shrugged. “Uh… my parents,” I said. Whatever. I guessed I’d have to lie a lot now considering what’s been happening to me sounds like a lie. Fate’s fault.

“Also, if you wanna keep the cart, you gotta go to the town hall and get some permits, which’ll cost some hundred dollars. Alright?” He put the money in his jeans pocket and kept his hand in the pocket, like he was trying to protect it.

I nodded and said,
“By the way, how did the cart fall from the sky?”

“I dunno,” Rick said. “For years, I’d been praying for an opportunity to get rid of it. Then one morning, it was gone, and I found out you had it.” He fingered the money. “Now I can start doin’ something with my life.”

Something about what he said bothered me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Later, when I was working the hamburger cart, I saw one of my classmates.

“I didn’t know you did this,” he said. He had tattoo sleeves, but he seemed okay because he didn’t glare at me during class. He loved quoting Aristotle though, once to the point where he had an entire conversation just using his quotes. It was as impressive as it was annoying.

“Yeah,” I said. I handed him his burger. “The burger cart just fell from the sky, and I decided to take it.”

Not an eyebrow raised. “Yeah, I heard about that. Haven’t seen you in class since that, by the way. Anyway, wasn’t that some sort of elaborate prank?”

“I don’t know. I bought it from the owner, but he didn’t seem to know anything about it,” I said. I did feel bad about my classes, but I’ve sort of been avoiding thinking about them.

He snorted. “So a hamburger cart fell next to you and you just decided to start it up, no questions asked?” He didn’t look into my eyes. He looked right over my shoulder.

It did sound pretty ridiculous, now that he put it in words. “Yup.”

“All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, and desire. Aristotle. Which one’s yours?”

I thought for a minute. Chance or desire seemed the best answers, but it didn’t really seem all this happened by chance. I mean, what were the chances of a hamburger cart falling from the sky? I wouldn’t really call it a desire either, because it wasn’t a desire. It just felt right, like showering every day or eating when you’re hungry.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Doesn’t really fit any of them.”

He put ketchup on his burger. “That’s why we’re spending thousands a year though, right? So then we can find out why we do things.”

He walked away. All that thinking got me nowhere. At least when I made burgers I made money. I flipped the burgers and watched them sizzle.
****

Aristotle saw you. You know this. He looked right into your eyes. Damn. And he didn’t even have an under person! Stupid kid. You seem to be becoming more and more apparent to people, the ultrasensitive seeing you. You stand next to him and watch him grill the burgers. You were succeeding. He didn’t even notice the change in himself. You touch his arm and he looks into your eyes. You know he can’t see you, but you affected him. You are becoming stronger, and he weaker. His will is easy to break.
****

I went to the town hall with the rest of the money in my wallet. I could spare a few hundred now. Lucky me. I decided to keep away from thinking about how the money got there. For a while, I was nervous, I mean, how could money just appear? After about ten minutes of thinking, I just ignored how impossible it was. It was there, might as well use it.

I blew the cold air out of my mouth. I wondered when it would snow. The weather has been below freezing for a week now, and it made the skin on my nose peel. And with the cold air came a clear, eerie silence. Soon, I saw Aristotle walking towards the town hall. I ran towards him.

“Hey,” I touched his shoulder. “What’s up?”

Aristotle looked at me. His eyes were dark and big, like plums.

“Are you okay?”

Aristotle nodded. “Yeah, uh, I just have to go see my lawyer to sort a few thingsType equation here. out. His office is near here.” His voice was quiet and his skin was pale and slightly transparent, I felt like he was disappearing before my eyes. His breath didn’t fog the air he was so quiet.

“What?”

“I have to go,” he said. He walked away, and I think I heard someone laughing.
****

You watch him sort through the papers and hand over money. You watch him hand the papers over the desk and smile and murmur thank yous. You didn’t have to force him at all. He was leading himself to destruction, going out of the way to do so. You laughed. This will be easy.
“I will break you,” you whisper. He looks around. He heard you, but he can’t see where the noise comes from. “I am strong. I am what you will inevitably be.” He shakes his head. You laugh with his lungs and smile with his face.

“I will break you.”
****

I didn’t sleep that night. I heard a voice telling me it would break me. Creepy. It was too real, and the more I tried not to think about it, the more I did. I felt something touch my arm and tell me that again. I sat on my bed. I turned on my lights. What was wrong with me? Am I crazy? No, the things that happened to me were all too real.

I stared at the door. I wanted to get up and go get something from the fridge, but I was too tired. I was too tired to look at something else, so I just kept staring at the door.
And then, out of nowhere, I saw it. Or, him. He was me, but with a hairnet on and a spatula in his hand. I jumped up. His eyes were cold and he stared at me.

“What is this?” I asked. I reached out and touched him. My finger made an impression on his shirt, a tiny black hole. He was as real as I was, not some sort of refection or hallucination. “What are you?” My heart beat. I’d never felt more scared in my life, and I knew that those eyes would haunt me forever.

He looked at me one minute and punched me and I fell. He pulled me up by me shirt and bared his teeth. He smelled like hamburger grease.

“Aren’t you going to fight?” he said. He let go of my shirt and I fell on the floor again. “I guess it’s for the best. You’ll never win, anyway. Never.”

“Win?” I said. “Win?”

He looked at me as though my ignorance disgusted him. I shuddered.

“Just go to sleep,” he spat. “Go to sleep. Crawl into your bed and go to sleep.” He said these words as though he were holding a knife to my neck.

I crawled into bed and fell asleep, just as he told me to.
****

You watched him sleep. He found you out. But you would still win. You know you would.

You sat there and watched him. You were more determined than ever to break him. There was still part of him that wanted to go to his classes, there was still part of him that wanted to be successful, that wanted to graduate and do something with his life.

You won’t let that happen. Never.
****

I woke up and he was still there, staring at me with cold eyes. I pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt over my boxers and pretended not to see him. Everything was normal, right?

He followed me outside. I set up the hamburger cart and he stared at me. I focused on the burgers.

“I’m here, I’m real,” he said. He punched my arm. “See?”

“I know,” I said. I didn’t look at him.

He grabbed my chin and forced me to look at him. I winced. He grabbed me right where he punched me.

“Who are you?” I asked. “Do I need an exorcism?”

He laughed. “No,” he said. “I’m what you will be. I’m here to make sure you never stray from the path laid out for you.” He gripped my chin harder. “Listen closely. Here’s what will happen. You will flunk out of college, run the hamburger cart for the rest of your life, become bitter, and die. And that will be that.”

“Why? Why are you here to make sure of that?” My heart pounded wildly. This was true, this is probably what would happen to me. “Why me? Why is this happening to me?”

“What the hell’s so special about you that you think you get special treatment?” He turned my head and he pointed at a woman. “Look at her, and you will see.”

The woman was dressed in sweatpants, a t-shirt, and had a cloth bag in the crook of her elbow. Her hair was thin and greasy. Suddenly, I saw another woman behind her with a blurry outline. She wore a pair of jeans and a pink blouse. Her hair was done soccer-mom style, and she carried a huge cold pack full of Capri Sun pouches and popsicles.

I looked at other people. They all had them, these blurry people behind them. Some of them looked exactly like the person they followed, some worse, some better.

“Every person has at least one of these people following them in their lifetime, the under people. The under person is either what the person settles for or wishes they could be. The former, in your case,” he said. “And in your case, I will never go away until you become me.

“And there’s another catch,” he said. “The under person is as strong as the person’s subconscious. Yours in unusually strong, so naturally, I will have a stronger influence over you.” He laughed and let go of my chin.

“How did something like this happen?” I said.

He chuckled again. “Your entire life, I was a bomb waiting to explode. All it took was for you to slip up once, to do something totally out of character once, then I would perform miracles. I would make hamburger carts fall from the sky and money appear out of nowhere so then I could destroy you.”

The philosophy class. Signing up for philosophy killed me, didn’t it?

I stared at all these people. Each one of them had someone they wanted to be or would settle to become right behind them, but they didn’t notice. For the first time, I felt jealous. I’d felt this over petty things, like girls or something, but to really wish you were in someone else’s shoes is poison. I felt anger build up inside me.


“Jesus, aren’t you going to say something? Aren’t you going to do something?” he taunted me. “You’re like a sheep. You can get led anywhere, made to do anything. But don’t worry, when I take over, you won’t be so stupid.”

I continued to flip the burgers, ignoring him. I could still feel him staring at me, the slave under the slave driver.
****

You followed him to philosophy class. He ignored you. While you were in philosophy class with him, you kicked him and punched him, but he pretended not to notice. You watched as tears formed in his eyes and you saw him clench his fists; you could feel anger build up inside him. He looked at the guy with the tattoo sleeves who quoted Aristotle. He had no under person. He was perfectly at peace.

You watched him endure all the beatings, even as his arm started to bleed he covered it up. You laughed and laughed, and you saw Aristotle look at you. His eyes took you in, saw your core. You hated him. He pointed his index and middle finger at his eyes, then at yours. He saw you; he was watching you. You hate him, and you know that you, through this sheep, would kill him.
****

When I got back into my dorm, I beat the s*** out of my under person. He laughed while I punched him, even when I saw blood come out of him. When I stopped, I screamed,

“Why are you laughing?”

He wiped a tear off his face. “Well, tell me now, what are you feeling?”

“I hate you!” I screamed. I pushed a chair over.

“Feeling bitter now? You are becoming more and more like me.”

I paused. I was. I felt bitter, I went to the hamburger cart everyday, skipped more and more classes.

I punched a wall and went to my room. I forced myself to calm down and go to sleep. My hand bled from punching the wall.

I was starting up the hamburger cart the next morning. While I was working the hamburger cart, the under person wouldn’t hit me. I shook my head. Everything about that sentence was wrong, but I needed a break from all this abuse. I sighed and shook my head. It won’t stop until I become the under person. I didn’t want to become that tyrannical bastard, but I could feel myself becoming him. I wanted to fight and hurt people. But I kept myself under control. If I just made it through the year and completed all my classes, I would be a step closer to not becoming him.

Meanwhile, I looked at other people’s under people. For some people, the under people looked exactly like them, but with money or a better suit or camera flashes shining off their faces. Some people looked exactly the same as their under person. But there were a few people for whom it was an older version of themselves with a cane in one hand and a picture of their grandchild in the other. I was always jealous of these people; they were the types to have peaceful, happy lives. Occasionally though, I saw a few people with an under person who was haggard and disgusting following them, people you’d never expect. Scholarship winners, straight-A students.
But for a few people, I couldn’t tell if the under person was what they were going to be or what they wanted to be. Hopefully both.

Sometimes, I saw people with no under person. I wasn’t jealous of these people. It meant they had no future, or no idea of what they wanted to be. They seemed to drift wherever they wanted. Another group of people I saw were people with two or three under people, and I pitied them more than anyone. I had no idea what would happen to them, and they didn’t either.

But no one seemed aware of their under person like I was.

I shook my head and kept flipping patties. I wrapped some up in tin foil and put them to the side. As I put the condiments out, I saw the guy who quoted Aristotle walk towards me. He had an under person now; an old man with a bald head and a long beard. He was taller than anyone, blurry or not, that I’d ever seen, at least 6’4’’. He wore a pair of jeans and a green t-shirt and dirty sneakers. He was lean and muscular and he had a big, callused fists.

“One burger,” Aristotle said. He put down $2.50. I watched his under person look at mine.

“Comin’ up,” I said. So natural. I flipped the patty, put it in a bun, and gave it to him. I couldn’t help but stare at his under person. He looked at me and I looked away.

Aristotle put on some ketchup and said, “What are you going to do about your friend?” He nodded towards my under person. His under person pointed at mine.

Someone else knew! I wasn’t alone! “What am I supposed to do?”

“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others. Be brave, take action, and other good things will follow,” Aristotle said. He walked away, and his under person waved at me. I waved back. So I wasn’t crazy.
****

You saw that tall guy following Aristotle. You knew he was too tall to be a real under person, and too perfect. You watched him. Who was Aristotle, truly? You hated him now more than ever. You wished he were the sheep so then you’d be able to hit him, but you can’t. You can’t even touch his under person. You could touch other under people, but why not his? You clenched your fists. You would take over the sheep and when you do, you will kill Aristotle.

And you were close. Look at the sheep. He thinks that when he works the hamburger cart it is some sort of relief, thanks to you. He is wasting away in more ways than he knows.
****

I had to be brave and go to class, just like Aristotle told me to. My under person screamed and kicked me, but I had to be brave and endure it, or else I’d never get rid of that monster.

I sat in calculus, listened to the lecture, and took notes. My under person kept kicking and punching me, but it got repetitive and soon I didn’t even feel the pain. My entire body just tingled with numbness, as if my nerves couldn’t handle all the stimuli.

When class was over, I found I could hardly move my body hurt so much. No, I had to, I had to. I got up and felt a wave of pain wash away the tingling numbness. For a minute, I thought I was going to faint I hurt so much. And still, my under person kept hitting me. I fell down. I got up and began to walk. I could hear the blood flowing through my head in loud thumps. One step, two steps, three steps. Be brave, take action, and other good things will follow, Aristotle said. Four steps, five steps, six steps. Easy to say, Aristotle, but this hurts. My under person kicked me, being careful not to hit me on the head. If he did that, he would die too, because he came from my head. Blasting my brains out almost seemed glamorous now. Seven steps, eight steps, nine steps. No more torture, no more under people, no more, no more. Ten steps, eleven steps, twelve steps. I was outside now. The sun was setting. The light was blinding, and I felt like I was going to throw up. I saw an area filled with grass and decorative trees. I walked to the grass and lay under a tree. This is it. This is the end of me. I let the sun set and the under person kept screaming at me. But somehow, part of me still wanted to fight.
****

You saw the moon rise. You decided to let the sheep sleep under the tree. You saw Aristotle walk towards you. He still had that blurry old man.

“Hello, Aristotle,” you said. You smiled. “By the time he wakes up, he’ll be mine. I’ve broken him. He’ll be bitter, he’ll work the hamburger cart for the rest of his life, and he’ll die.”

Aristotle’s under person grabbed you. “I don’t know what you’ll do if I don’t detain you,” Aristotle said. “You made a hamburger cart appear out of nowhere, and money appear in a drawer.” Aristotle went towards the sheep and kicked him in the back of the head. Instantly, you felt weak. Aristotle’s under person let go of you and you fell onto the grass.

“What are you doing, you idiot? You’ll kill him! Then we’ll both be screwed! You’ll go to jail once someone catches you, and I’ll die!” Your voice caught.

“Relax,” Aristotle said. “It isn’t enough for him to die, but it’s enough to finish you off.”

“I’m not gone yet!” You screamed. You lay on the soft grass.

“No, you aren’t,” Aristotle said. “But he will finish you off.”

You couldn’t speak. Your eyes closed and lying next to him, you and the sheep looked exactly alike, and you launched into his subconscious.
****

You and I stood inside a beautiful house. There were pictures hanging on the walls, but neither of us could discern the faces. I didn’t recognize you, but you seemed familiar somehow. You stood on the polished floor and stared at me.

“What are you doing here?” you said. “You don’t belong here. This is a happy man’s home. You are a hamburger cart worker. Hurry, he will be home soon, he doesn’t want to see you in his home.”

You said this urgently. You grabbed the crook of my elbow.

“Hurry,” you said, “We have to go.”

With every word he said, everything turned blurrier. If there were no color, I wouldn’t be able to discern anything. You began to drag me out, but something seemed nice about this place. It had something the hamburger cart didn’t.

“No,” I said. “I want to stay here. This place is my house.” I said this without thought. But it was true, it was my home. It was my home. Not my parents’, mine. I looked at one of the pictures and it became clear. Me and my wife and my two kids on the beach one day…

“No!” you said. “We have to leave! Listen! Do you hear? The owner of the house is knocking on the door, he’s asking for his wife.”

I listened. I heard someone knocking at the door, and he was asking for his wife.

“See?” you said. “The happy, successful man is here to see his wife and kids. We have to leave now. Now!” You grabbed my elbow, and the man began to knock more urgently. “Here, take your spatula,” you said.

And instantly, I remembered you. I tried punching you, but you moved out of the way.

“Get out!” I said. “Get out of my house!” my voice shivered and altered.

“Listen! Don’t you hear him knocking? He’s back! This obviously isn’t your home.”

“Now you listen to me,” I said. My voice sounded completely different now. “I have been in this house for years now, don’t you think I’d be able to tell which one’s mine? Now get out!” I thrust my wooden cane at your chest and almost lost my balance. I didn’t know how I depended on it.

You looked me up and down. “Fine. I see I’ve lost you now. But you will never be happy, I know it…!”

“Get out!” I banged my cane on the ground, and you disappeared. Everything became clear, and I saw my hands. They were wrinkled and veiny. Oh well. With you gone now, I decided to open the door.

No one was there.
****

I woke up, and my head was killing me. But my under person was gone. He was gone!

“Thank God!” I kept lying on my back, and I saw it was morning and Aristotle and his under person were there looking down at me.

“Hey,” Aristotle said. He pulled me up. “How you feeling?”

“Great,” I said. “Thank God he’s gone. Thank God,” I said. I shook my head.

“Yeah,” Aristotle said. “But, you should rest a little more. By now, your entire body is probably black and blue, and I gave you a major concussion.”

“Why?” Don’t tell me Aristotle became possessed with my under person or something like that.

“In order for you to get rid of your under person completely, I had to kick you in the head. Don’t worry though, no brain damage; just no running or sports for some time.’

“Okay,” I said. I didn’t really do running or anything. Just went to the gym a few times a week. I could stop for a while.

I sat down at the foot of the tree and Aristotle sat down next to me.

“Thanks for helping me,” I said. “But I have to ask you something. If you damaged my brain so much, why can I still see your under person?”

Aristotle sighed and looked at me. “That ability will be with you forever, as it will be with me. It happens to people with a supersensitive subconscious, and all of them are cursed the same way you were. All of them had to deal with an under person like yours, and it all began with an extraordinary event.”

“But one time when I saw you, you didn’t have an under person,” I said.

Aristotle looked at the sunlight passing through the leaves on the tree. “I was seriously suicidal then. For years I had been seeing people’s futures, great people who I knew would be led to ruination eventually. And when I saw what your under person was doing to you, I just thought, why the hell should I live in a world where people are tortured for something they can’t control?

“But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I meditated for hours and hours, and I created an under person of who I wanted to be, and I found ways to get him to move, to communicate, to do things. It took me a long time, but I did. After, I was determined to stop watching people’s futures get ruined. I wanted to help you, and I did.

“It’ll be hard now. You’ll see people who want to be terrible things, or will be terrible things, and you will see the worst humanity has to offer. It’ll wear down on your soul. But, as Aristotle says, Happiness depends upon ourselves. If you choose to be happy, you will be.”

I looked at the leaves. Through them, the sunlight cast a green-tinted light on us, and a tall old man with a cane in one hand and a picture of his grandchild sat next to me.



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