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King's Crossing

but he still sat on the red park bench in the center of the town finishing a thought he could now not quite remember (something about a box?  the military?), nor would he have been able to remember had he tried, but now his mind had moved on to something different.  It was the town.  King’s Crossing, it was called, although he couldn’t quite tell you how he knew.  He was in the center of King’s Crossing, sitting on a bench with his arms crossed as if waiting for a bus.  His position was one of a stern man lost in thought.  The bench sunk back on the edge of a small park but faced the street, which was only five-or-six feet in front of him.  The street held the park in a neat little town square, and surrounding the park across the street on every side were shops and restaurants and other buildings.  They all had their doors propped wide open on this cool fall day, allowing some dry leaves to amble into some of them.  One could easily think that this was a popular place in the town, and that one was always apt to run into someone that they knew had they visited.  The man on the red park bench in the center of King’s Crossing, in the center of all these things, payed attention to none of it, his mind had moved on to something different.

At first the whole town looked like a mirage, a dream, because there was something terribly off with it.  For maybe a whole minute he stared around stupidly, wondering what this terrible “something” was.  Then, as he was staring through the window of one of the shops--a yellow one across the street, which contrasted pleasantly with the pink building beside it--he noticed that no one was at the cash register, or in the store at all.  The OPEN sign was brightly illuminated in neon-blue, and, like the rest of the stores, it had its door propped wide open.  One could easily just walk in and grab everything the place had to offer.  Where had the shop owner gone?  As his mind came to a strange realization about the town around him, he incoherently thought: well he must just be out for coffee.  There was no one else in the square.  Not a single person driving a car, not a single person walking across the street, and not a single person in any of the shops.  No one in sight in every which way.

He stood up (how long had i been sitting?) with his brow furrowed in confusion and walked directly across the street to the yellow building.  Where had everyone gone to on a beautiful day like this?  And why had they left their places of business so susceptible to thieves?  He passed along the front of a red car (no one was in it, of course) parked by the curb and then walked up the steps to peek inside the store.  In the doorway was a sign advertising deals on toothpaste and shaving cream, and along the walls were shelves of toiletries and over-the-counter medicine.  Aisles of the same thing passed up and down the length of the store.  A countertop strutted out from the wall to his right at the front, and behind it were the cigarettes and prescription medicine.  After quickly observing the door ajar in the back of the room, he stepped inside.  He would’ve called out to see if anyone were there, but he restrained; he would’ve felt silly doing so, as if someone would’ve popped out from behind the door and given him a funny look.  He almost felt as if everyone else knew something that he didn’t, but who was everyone else?  And where were they?

He did ring the bell on the countertop, though.  Calling out for someone not only would’ve sounded silly, it also would have sounded like he were scared (to his own ears, at least), but ringing the bell, all that meant was that he just wanted help, help to get something behind the counter, help to get some cigarettes, just some cigarettes was all he needed…  But all the bell did was sound lonely against the soft fall breeze edging against the front windows, as if it were all alone in this world…

It didn’t receive a response of any sort, so he rang it again, but still nothing at all.  Now he was scared.  Not that he wasn’t scared before, but now he was scared enough that he could admit it to himself.  The bell was his sure-fire plan to figure out where in the world everyone had gone off to, and it had failed, and now it seemed that, empty as the town may be, there wasn’t anywhere else to go.  “Hello?” he called out ringing the bell again (ding!-ding!-ding!).  Perhaps it was the brutal, unflinching silence around him, but his voice seemed completely alien, having only the slightest familiarity to him.  This only made things worse.

“Hello?  Is anyone there?” he asked, trying to sound more confident for his own sake.  He glanced at the wall behind the counter.  “Hey, I’d like to buy some cigarettes.”  At this point he almost knew that this call would go unanswered, but he didn’t want to have that thought in his mind, so he had tried again, but he had been right, and no other voice came to put his worries to rest.

And so his worries grew stronger; was it possible that the whole town was deserted?  Perhaps it was a ghost town, deserted a long time ago and never visited again, the place did look a bit more sixties than--than what?  When was he, exactly?  In an attempt to keep his hold on sanity, he pushed the question out of his mind, not even considering it for later pondering.

But if this was a ghost town, then what were all these modern-day, clean looking products doing neatly set up on the shelves of this store?  And who had decided to leave their cars out just parked on the street?  Was the possibility of the town being deserted more possible than everyone just picking up and leaving?  What was this town anyway?  King’s Crossing, yes, of course, but where exactly was King’s Crossing?  Virginia?  Texas?  Colorado?  Was it even in America?  Was it even on Earth?

This idea frightened him and sent a shudder through his bones, but it seemed like chocolate cake compared to what his mind thought next.

What was his name?  Who was he?  He looked down at his hands, searching for some sort of detail to spark his memory, but to him they seemed no more familiar than the concept of time-travel.  But then what was familiar to him?  If these weren’t his hands, then what were?  Now that his mind had come to it, he simply could not produce a single figure, form, or likeness of himself in his brain.  And suddenly he needed to find a mirror, to see what the blank image in his mind that was his face actually looked like.

But instead he stayed still in his spot in front of the counter, wondering instead if he was simply going crazy.  How could all of these things be so vague to him?  He had absolutely no memory of anything at all, Jesus, he couldn’t even remember how he had gotten along to sitting on that red park bench.  Was it amnesia?  Did he hit his head and wake up without a single thought to hold on to?  With this his hand unconsciously moved itself up to his temple, touching it, making sure if all was right (which it seemed to be).  As easy of an explanation amnesia seemed to be, it was just as far-fetched.  What, had he really hit his head, passed out mid-thought sitting upright on a bench, and then woken to find that everybody around him had left with their shops and houses wide open but without their vehicles?  All this and no memory of anything about it?  Of anything at all?  unlikely, he thought.

Perhaps in an attempt to get his mind far away from the subject of when, where, why, and who he was, he hopped over the counter (a little more bravely than he felt) and grabbed a pack of cigarettes from the stock (do i smoke?).  But before he had time to realize that he didn’t have anything to light one with, he heard a ring.  Not one from the bell on the countertop, which was the first thing his eyes were drawn to, but from something above him.  A loud, high-pitched, obnoxious ring, and not so much a ring, but more of a ringing.  He stared at the ceiling, feeling both relief and horror inside him.  Up there could be the answer to all of his problems, a person maybe, a person who could explain all of this to him.  But it could just as equally add more pieces to this awful puzzle.  Nevertheless, he sprinted towards the door in the back of the room.

“Hello!” he called out to the noise, “Hello!  Is anyone there?  Hello?  Hello?”  He burst through the door to find a stairwell rising off to his left, the ringing was louder now, and that meant he was closer.  He took the stairs two-by-two, up and up and up and then he came to a door pushed partway open.  He stopped at this and thought quickly to himself that if there were someone actually in here, he would be their intruder.  Breathing heavily, he knocked, being uselessly careful not to accidently push the door open.  “Anybody in there?  Hello?”  He no longer cared how stupid he sounded against the sound of that discordant ringing.  When no response came, he looked through the part in the door.  From what he could see, it looked like a bedroom.  The short edge of a bed was pushed against the wall, and the covers on it were disheveled and peeled down to one corner, as if someone had gotten out of it.  Right next to the bed was a night stand, and on it was a brass alarm clock rattling wildly, its hammer ramming itself furiously back and forth between the two bells that sat on top of the whole contraption.

He pushed the door open, keeping his eyes glued to this lonely bit of motion and sound.  But then he looked around at the rest.  Various clothes were sprawled out across the dark dull wood floor, and a dresser had some of its drawers unevenly pulled out on the side of the room opposite the bed.  To the right of the dresser was another door, slightly open--probably a bathroom.  Across the room from him was a small balcony, with the doors swung open and the white satin curtains floating dreamily in the breeze that rolled through.  But there was no person.  There was a bed, a nightstand, an alarm clock, some clothes, a dresser, a bathroom, and a balcony, but there was no person.  He was still, in every meaning of the word, alone. 

That continued shrill and ear-splitting ringing made him snap a tiny bit.  He stamped over to the clock, clutched it in one hand, and threw it against the wall.  The ringing, quite satisfyingly, ceased with the rest of the cog work’s complete destruction.  He stood there for a moment, feeling hot sweat slowly fill his pores, but then he calmed himself and walked to the bathroom, feeling almost defeated.  When he pushed the door open he saw something that made his heart jump.

There was no mirror, something in this cruel town had denied him that.  A razor with shaving cream smeared along its edge sat on top of a towel which sat on the edge of the sink basin, as if somebody had just set it down there in the middle of their shave, set it down for him to find…  And the sink.  It was running.  Water was spilling out of the faucet like sweet summer rain.  He stared at this in horror, but then got a grip on himself, his sanity was being held together by only twine.

Where was this town?  What was this town?  How did he know it was called King’s Crossing?  Where were its residents?  Who the hell was that alarm clock supposed to wake up?  Answers to questions around here weren’t even few and far between, they simply didn’t exist.  They were dangled in front of him but then swiftly whisked away before he could grasp them.

He quickly turned the faucet off and then ripped his gaze away from it, he had enough to think about as it was, who left the sink on wasn’t that important to him.  Turning it off, he felt, was a way of making this true to himself.  He kicked the door frame in frustration and then passed through it, walking to the balcony with the curtains fluttering in the breeze.  He held a forearm in front of him to keep the drapes from disturbing his face and then stepped outside onto the small little ledge.  But there was hardly enough room to stand there as he had to share the space with a telescope, whose eye was trained on the red park bench across the street.

---

His mind had failed to put together what few pieces there were and had simply shut down.  He had passed out staggering backwards, and the fact that he had landed on the bed was pure luck.

When he had awoken, he had thought it was all just a dream, which was a fair assumption, but it was also a wrong one.  As he looked around him, he realized that he was still stuck here, stuck here in this nightmare without any memory or name or anyone else.  That telescope had scared him out of his mind, but he had eventually come to the conclusion that it was simply someone’s astronomy project, and it had gradually just tilted downwards on its own in its owner’s absence.  The fact that it was pointed at the bench was nothing but a mere coincidence.  This was a thin cover for the fact that he honestly didn’t know why it had been tilted towards the place he had sat at for (how long?).  Truth be told, he didn’t want to know why.  Part of it being because he felt almost as if he would never find out, and he knew his imagination would run away with him in its clutch if he had allowed himself to think about it any further.  And so he had shoved the thought deep down inside him and didn’t think of it again.  But it had seemed that this telescope had uncovered something buried in his mind, something that was there before but that he had merely paid not paid any attention to.  That telescope had made him realize that this whole time, before and after stepping onto that balcony, he had felt as if he was being watched.  As if someone, or a group of people, were staring at him from behind some invisible window somewhere, observing his breakdown into insanity.  Perhaps they were the ones who put him here.  But who were "they"?  Like with the telescope, he didn’t want to know.

The coffee machine did absolutely nothing to help him forget any of this.

After he had awoken (the sun was still high in the sky on this beautiful fall day) and turned some thoughts over in his mind, he had gone downstairs, grabbed his cigarettes (but later discarded them, as he had no means of lighting one and they were out of matches in the pharmacy), went through the front door, and walked to the park (doing his best to ignore the astronomy project on the second floor behind him), whose trees were beautiful red and yellow pom-poms on stakes.  He had stood around for awhile, wondering anxiously what to do.  Then his stomach grumbled.

He had spotted a restaurant called King’s Diner right next to a movie theatre, and had gone in without hesitation.  When he had entered, the smell of coffee and eggs and burgers and fries had delightfully forced themselves upon his senses.  A countertop had run parallel along a long line of booths, which were flanked by a long line of windows that faced the park.  The seats on the booths had been red, and the ground was tiled black and white.  The whole place had, as all diners seem to have, had a shiny chrome accent to its design.  He had sat down at the counter on one of the stools, half-expecting someone to pop out from the kitchen to serve him (“Slow day today, isn’t it, ma’am?” “Oh yes, but what can you expect when there’s no one around?”).  He had waited uselessly, tapping his fingers on the counter-top trying (and only succeeding in the slightest) not to feel scared.  But then his stomach had let out another whiny grumble, and he strode around the counter to the kitchen.  He had pushed through the door and started to search a stainless steel shelf, which had stood guard by two grilles at the far end of the wide hallway that was the kitchen.  A long narrow window from which the cooks would pass on the customer’s food to the waitresses had run along the wall to his right.  Most of what he had found on the shelf were things like sacks of potatoes (to be made into fries) and large plastic bags of hamburger buns.  None of this had seemed appetizing to him, so he had gone over to look through the refrigerator, which had looked like a big steel cabinet and felt freezing to the touch.  He had found a giant tub of ice-cream under several bags of ice and had taken it out and set it on the cold flat grille-top, then he started looking through some cabinets and on top of some shelves for a bowl.  He had eventually found a paper one in a cabinet by the door.  He had walked back over and set it down next to the tub of ice-cream, and then he started looking for a scoop, which he had quickly found in the same cabinet that he found the bowl in.  He had popped the giant lid off of the giant tub and plunged the scoop deep down into it, getting as much vanilla ice-cream as the scoop would hold.  He had plopped it into the bowl and then went for another scoop, and then another, and another…  He could’ve piled the thing higher than a tent pole and his grumbling stomach still wouldn’t have thought it sufficient.  All this focusing on the food had given his mind rest from King’s Crossing, which, perhaps, was his intention, whether he knew it or not.  Perhaps it had simply been something to distract him from his problems.  His grumbling stomach had given him something to do, it had given him a problem he could solve.

After he had finished serving, he had begun eating, using the scoop as a spoon and not even bothering to put the giant tub of ice-cream back in the freezer.  He had heard a beep.  A long, electronic, high-pitched buzz that had split the silence (which he had been able to ignore up to this point) straight down its seam.  After it was over, he had stood still looking out the long narrow window in the wall that looked into the restaurant, listening for more, but there was nothing else.  The silence was back again, and its presence was strongly felt.  He had swallowed the lump of ice-cream in his mouth and had put the scoop down, and then he had walked slowly to the door that led out of the kitchen, still straining to hear something and placing his footsteps carefully down in front of him with each step.  They were here, he could feel their wet black eyes silently staring at him from their chamber in thin air.

He had pushed the door open a crack and peeked out into the restaurant, but no one had been there and everything had been still.  So he had stepped out. 

And then something…  Coffee.  The smell of coffee had filled the air, more so now than it did when he had come in.  The flavor had risen above that of the burgers and fries (fresh coffee… he thought, nothing better than fresh coffee…).  He had walked along the inside of the counter and came to a coffee machine settled on a chrome shelf at eye level, its pot had been cradled comfortably in the mouth of the instrument.  He had picked it up by its handle, feeling the weight of the liquid inside beg his arm to drop it.

He had done exactly that.  When it had hit the floor, it did not shatter, as the body was metal, but the lid had snapped off the top and the liquid came spewing out, as if it were vomiting uncontrollably.  He had dropped it in shock.  If it had just finished brewing now, then who had made it?  And where were they?  The thought had hit him like a freight train, and he had almost passed out again, but he held on to consciousness tightly, but the bit that slipped through his grasp had allowed him to drop the pot.  where did they go, he had thought.

He had looked around at the diner, almost furious.  The silence was deafening to his ears.  Nothing moved.  Whoever had made the coffee was staring at him now, he knew it.  They were the same one who had been staring at him through that telescope.  They were one of them.  They were playing these dirty tricks on him as a joke, because they liked to see him suffer.  They liked to see him bleed with confusion.  They thought it was joke.  A big funny joke.

He had stomped over to the front door at the end of the long line of booths filled with rage.  When he was past the door, he slammed it shut making the glass in the frame of the door rattle fiercely.  “ALRIGHT YOU SICK SONS OF MAGGOTS.  GET THE HELL OUT HERE RIGHT NOW OR I’LL--”

You’ll what, they had said calmly, as if taunting him.

In an attempt to not sound weak (weak to who? a small insignificant voice in his head whose name was sanity had said), he continued, saying: “--OR I’LL BEAT YOU HALF TO DEATH YOU CHEAP LOWLIFE IDIOTS!!”  This had only made him sound more stupid than he would’ve had he stopped when he should’ve, and it had made them laugh.  It had made them laugh hysterically.  He could hear them in the blank dark silence, howling like wolves at a full moon.  And he could see their cold grins from behind the glass window right in front of him.

No.  He hadn’t been alone in this town, after all.  There was someone else here, but he couldn’t see them.  They were just out of reach.  Perhaps they lied just beyond the sane state of mind.  He would have to commit himself to the deep pit of insanity if he ever wanted to meet them.  The question that followed was: did he want to meet them?

---

Now he was back on the red park bench in the center of King’s Crossing, simply thinking.  His common sense had somehow miraculously taken him back to reality.  Of course he knew that there was no such thing as them, the idea was ridiculous.  Had he really thought that there was some group of people who watched his every move as he went around the town?  Maybe he had then, but that was then.  He was scared and he’d seen some things that didn’t make sense, he was sure they would make almost anyone lose their mind.  Temporarily lose their mind, that is.  He had seen things that he couldn’t explain, but that didn’t mean that they were unexplainable.  No, the explanations were obviously just not clear to him at the moment, but they did exist.  They had to.  There’s an explanation to everything.  But his mind right now was not on explanations, it was right where it should be, on the subject of how to get out of this town.

He had looked around some for a visitor’s center to see if he could find a map, but there hadn’t been one.  After that, he had walked down an alleyway between King’s Diner and the movie theater to look for a road or someway out, but all that the alley had led to was a vast, flat, cracked, and dry desert that stretched as far as he could see.  He had walked around the outside of the town in a circle and had come right back to where he had started (he had seen a telephone booth in one of the alleys, but it did not work he tried to dial 9-1-1).  There was not a single road, railway, waterway, or airstrip in every direction that he had looked, only more desert.  Everything that the town had to offer was nothing more than what he could see from the bench now.  King’s Crossing was nothing more than a little green island in a sea of sand.

The thought had occurred to him that this could be a nuclear bomb testing facility, but thought this unlikely, as he wondered why the whole place would be filled with food and products if it were true.

Had the weather been on his mind when he had made his discovery, he might have wondered how it could ever be fall in the desert.  But the answers will come soon enough.  He may not be entirely around to understand them, but the answers will come.  He will just have to wait until they were ready for him.

---

The night sky was now spilling over the horizon, and although he didn’t know quite how long it was that he sat on the bench that morning, this time around he knew it was upwards of four hours.  And nothing funny or out of the ordinary had happened the whole time, proving his point there was nothing funny happening at all in King’s Crossing.  And that was the truth.

For the four hours after discovering the desert he had sat on this bench and pondered what to do next.  He had thought largely about attempting to find more out about himself--for example maybe searching for a mirror--but he deemed this as a frivolous task; what exactly would it do to help him get out of here?  But after four whole hours of blank thinking, it seemed like it was the only thing he could do.  No other option came to mind.

He was still a little frightened by everything that had happened, but he was honestly (or very close to honestly, at least) convinced that there was nothing strange happening.  Frightened isn’t the right word maybe, shocked would be more accurate in describing his mindset.  He was still a little in shock, which was completely understandable.

But nevertheless, he stood up.  He looked around, trying to think of what the best place to find a mirror would be.  He glanced upwards at the apartment with the telescope briefly, but passed it through his mind quickly, remembering there was no mirror in that man or woman’s (would a woman use that much shaving cream for any reason?) apartment.  So he continued looking around.  Then his search stopped at the diner.  The windows, he felt, had a pretty great chance of providing a reflection.  He walked in long strides over to it and stood in one front of the windows, but the moon (which was now the predominant figure in the sky), as bright as it was, did not allow enough light to reflect off the glass.  He couldn’t see a damn thing.

He muttered a curse and turned around, trying to think again.  He looked at each of the buildings one by one, giving each careful consideration.  The moon was bright.  Bright indeed.  Bright enough to light the entire town in a pale white glow so that he could see everything from where he stood.  This was a good thing, since none of the shops had their lights on or anything, making the town much darker than he would’ve liked it.  There were lamp posts that lined the street and park, however these were all off as well. 

His mind drew a blank.  Out of all the thirty or so buildings, he could not pick one out as more likely to have a mirror in it than any of the others.  Frustration drew a deep sigh from his lungs and stepped back out into the street.  He looked up into the night sky and fixed his gaze at the moon.  “You…” he said thoughtfully.

Something sparkled inside of him.  Something sparkled brightly.  He couldn’t tell you what it was exactly, but whatever it was, it told him to look down at his clothes.  He was wearing a military (military…) green jumpsuit and black combat boots.  He craned his neck over his shoulder to see his back and was able to read UNITED STATES AIR FORCE.  The Air Force!  He was in the United States Air Force!  How could he have forgotten this the whole time?

He turned to the first place that was the most likely to have a lot of people, the movie theatre, and ran to it.  He sprinted straight past the box office through the open doors crying hysterically, “AIR FORCE!  AIR FORCE!  EVERYBODY!  I’M IN THE AIR FORCE!!”  He ran through the lobby to the single theatre in the back.  The carpeted floor whispered his heavy footsteps back to him.  “AIR FORCE!  AIR FORCE EVERYBODY!  HEY I’M IN THE AIR FORCE!”  He burst into the theatre, “AIR FORCE! AIR--”  The lights were on in here, as if somebody had expected him to come.

But no one was there.  The theatre was empty.

As if shocked to find this, which he knew he shouldn’t have been, he sunk down into one of many open seats.  What did he think he was going to do with this information anyway?  How did it help him out of this town?  Did he really just burst in here screaming this information because he had no one else to share it with?

Feeling stupid and defeated and hopeless, he sunk his head in his hands and started to cry.  He was never going to get out of this place.  That was a fact.

In between his sobs, he heard a light-but-loud clicking, surrounded by what sounded like a mechanical whirring of something turning, a roll of film perhaps.  He took his hands away from his face and turned to look at the small square window high above him on the wall opposite the movie screen.  Coming out of it was a flash of light.  He looked back towards the movie screen as image started to surface.  It was of army men.  It was a film that showed army men getting in their planes.  It was a film about the air force.  Someone had turned the on the projector.

He snapped his head back up to the projector box and stood up as the lights started to dim.  “Hey!  Who’s up there?” he called out, squinting his eyes in the bright beam of light that shot out from the projector’s lens.  “Hey!  Who is that!  Who’s running the pictures?”

As he should have expected, there was no response.  He sprinted through the open door that lead to the lobby and spotted a stairwell to his right.  He went up two-by-two, thrusting all of his weight forward.  Had he tripped and fallen, he wouldn’t have noticed.  He was too set on finding out who was in that room.  Perhaps someone was messing with him all along.  Perhaps he had just told himself otherwise so that he would be able to keep his mind set on getting out of this place.

But there was no denying that there was someone in the projector box now,  someone had to have turned on the projector and turned off the lights, and there was no way they could’ve gotten past him in time, he was already halfway up the stairwell and he would’ve seen them if they had tried to escape.  He had them cornered.  He would find the cause of all his suffering in mere seconds.

He came to the door at the top of the stairs, a wooden one with no window peeking inside.  He tried the knob but it was locked from the other side.  The little maggot had locked him out.  He pounded his fist on the door, “OPEN UP!  OPEN UP AND I MIGHT NOT HURT YOU TOO BAD YOU WORM YOU TWEAK!  JUST SEE WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU KEEP UP THIS CHARADE YOU DAMN CROOK!”  The silence infuriated him.  His mind filled with a sort of red haze that blinded his vision with hate and violence.  Had his own mother been before him now, there’s just no telling what he would’ve done to her.  He rammed the door down in a single swift yet barbaric heave of his shoulder.  He stepped in. 

He could’ve sworn he felt his heart hit the floor when it sank. 

Silence.  Silence only disrupted by the slight tick-tick-tick of the projector’s film roll go round and round, however, in a way, this sound only seemed to make the silence louder.  It was that special silence with a special gravity to it.  That special silence in which they hid.  And they were here all right.  They were here, but they weren’t in front of him.  They weren’t behind him, either.  He couldn’t see them, but they were here.  Oh yes, they were here all right.

But he was the only one that stood in the projection box.  Oh, but they had their wet eyes all over him.  They were sitting there behind their glass window staring at him.  And they were laughing.  Laughing at his pain and suffering.  Laughing at their own cruel manipulation.  They stared at him with their cold black eyes, and they were laughing, cackling like witches because he couldn’t stare back.

The light from the film projector stayed on as its reel stopped rolling, it cast the shadows in which they hid.  But there was no other movement in the room.

No other movement, save for one thing.  One thing tucked in the corner opposite him.  He walked to it.  In the white light that cast black shadows all over the room, he could see something rising, something twirling something drifting.  It was smoke.  It was a line of smoke that drifted lazily from a single cigarette that sat on an ashtray.  Oh, they were here all right, and here was their cigarette, their lit cigarette whose butt was still wet from their saliva.

Here it is, what are you going to do about it? they asked.

He stared at it stupidly.  He didn’t know what to do.  He felt as if his mind was being picked apart piece-by-piece by some sick sadistic inhuman animal.

And then, creeeeeeeeeeek…

Anything was possible.  What was next?

He turned around slowly.  He was horrified.  Stunned.  So deathly afraid that he closed his eyes before he could see what it was.  And then he heard the door click shut, and he lazily fluttered open.  The door locked.  Its knob was gone.

But still no one stood in front of him.  It was only the silence that stood there, smiling at him, surrounding him, becoming him.  Taking him into its infinite abyss of nothingness, and there wasn’t a thing he could do about it.  Any second now, and off he would go, where he would be when he went, he did not know; he only knew that wherever it was, the only thing that would be there with him would be silence. 

And then it snatched him up and he was gone.  His body was still in the projection room, but the person that he was and everything he had ever stood for, whether he remembered any of it or not, was gone.  Insanity had consumed him only sparing his fear, confusion, and anger.  And these three things could tell him to do was jump.

And then he was falling.  Falling fifteen-feet from the projector box window to the theatre floor below, and as the ground approached him, he saw his world being torn apart around him.  He hit the ground and their voices beat like jungle drums all around him, but he could not understand what they were saying, because all that he could actually hear was silence.  He knew they were watching him, but all he could do was run, but the only thing that he could actually see what was in front of him.  But wherever he went, he knew that they were watching. 

He screamed hysterically as he ran into the lobby.  The lights were on.  He ran outside and the lights were on.  All the buildings had their lights on, all the lamps were on, but they were flickering, as if someone was playing with the light switches, it was them.  Watching and whispering as loud as they were, he still could not hear them or see them.

A phone rang.  No.  It was an intercom.  It was an audible voice, the first one he had heard since his own in he didn’t know how long.  It started to speak.  It was a machine, a robotic and fake voice of a woman.  She was saying repetitively, mechanically, “Hello, this is King’s Crossing.  We’d like for you to come back now.  Hello, this is King’s Crossing.  We’d like for you to come back now.  Hello…”

There was no more moon.  The sun was gone too.  There was only him and nothing else now (hello, this is king’s crossing…).  Even they were now gone, but that only made him feel more alone.  And then he came to a mirror.  A mirror at the end of a long alleyway.  Instead of a desert, there was a mirror (we’d like for you to come back nowwwwwww…).  In the mirror he saw reflected nothing else except for him, because everything else was simply gone.  However where there should be a head on his shoulders, there simply wasn’t.  Everything else he could see, jumpsuit, hands, boots, but there was no face.  And he let out a final scream, a final scream for the sake of his own pity, a final scream for the sake his own fear, a final scream to be heard by anyone who was listening so that he could at least hope that he wouldn’t be forgotten.  And then,

poof!

Whatever there was to begin with of Mike Ferris at the start of this tale, was now completely gone, lost in the infinite incoherent abyss of his own insanity, never to be found again.

---

They saw him scream and then pass unconscious through the glass window.  “Get him out of there!” General Gregory bellowed.  Four men rushed across the aircraft hangar to Ferris’ box.  They frantically shoved the keys into the keyhole and quickly opened the door.  Opened the door for the first time in 3 months.  Two of the men stepped into the box to grab his arms, the other two took his legs.  Inside the metal box were food, water, a (destroyed) brass alarm clock, and a square piece of opaque glass.  The glass was only opaque to his side, however.  On the outside of the box it was transparent, so that they--the scientists, psychologists, and army officials--could observe him.  In bold red ink on the wall (on Ferris’ side) were the words KING’S CROSSING.

The four men carried Ferris out carefully, making sure not to hit his head on anything.  Two more men rushed over to them carrying stretcher.  They set it on the ground and then the men carrying Ferris set him carefully down on top of it.  The two men got to work on securing him so that they could carry him away so that they could check up on him.  He had started to produce faint babbles and moans.  That was a good sign.

Meanwhile, the press had rushed to General Gregory get a quote.  Someone had tipped them that a “controversial experiment involving the moon” had been under way and that there was a good chance that it would be ending in a couple of days, and so the past couple of nights they had shown up expecting to see front-page worthy material.  The air-force did not object, as the General believed that the people had a “right to know” (a belief instilled by his father, who had been a reporter).

“General Gregory!” one female reporter called eagerly, holding her microphone up to his face, “What can you tell us about the experiment at King’s Crossing Air Force Base?”

“Well, what do you want to know?” he replied in his cigar-laden voice.  He had expected a question much more specific.

“What were you experimenting for?” the same reporter asked.  The rest of the crowd listened intently.

“We intend to send a man to the moon,” he said, “And this experiment was to test if man had the capability of surviving in the loneliness of space all by himself for the amount of time required to get to the moon and back.  Evidently, he does not.”

The group of 9-or-10 reporters scribbled some things down, but then quickly started babbling, trying to get the General’s attention again.  He nodded to a man with a fedora, who asked: “What can you tell us about Ferris’ breakdown right before you pulled him out?”

The General took a second to think, but didn’t look away from the reporter.  “Well,” he said after a moment, “What happened is that he cracked.”

Some scribbling, then more babbling.  He nodded to the same man again.  “Can you clarify, sir?”

The General took a harsh sigh in through his nostrils (even though a part of him knew this question would come if he had called on the same man again), but then said, “Put it this way: if you were stuffed in a five-by-ten foot box for three months straight, I would bet that your imagination would run off you, too.  You see, we can give the stomach all its due nutrients, provide books and microfilm for reading and recreation, we can pump oxygen in and waste material out, but there’s one thing we simply can’t replicate that is a very basic need: man’s hunger for companionship.  And in that box is a very dangerous and destructive enemy known as isolation, and it can do to you what any weapon or instrument of torture can’t…”  He paused.

“And what’s that?” the reporter asked, intrigued.

“It can make you insane,” he said gravely.  “Given the fact that Mike Ferris has not even seen his own face for the duration of his stay in the box, and has not heard any other voice apart from his own, it is easy to see how has… er… lost his way.”

More scribbles.  More babbles.  The General nodded.

“What you speculate about what he was screaming about right before he went unconscious?”

“Well, from what we have observed over the past few hours, it seems as if he thought he had been in a town of sorts.  And it seemed he was aware that we were watching him, but he had forgotten who we were and why we were doing so.  Eventually, it became apparent that he saw us as a threat, most probably because he was unable to communicate with us, but could feel us watching him.”  General Gregory’s eyes trailed off towards the ground, where he stared for a couple of moments, as if he was in deep thought.  “Yes…” he said, as if to himself.

After a moment or two the reporters started to babble again, which pulled The General out of his reflection abruptly.  After staring around at them as if overwhelmed, he waved his hand, said, “That is all,” and then walked away.

As he sat on the plane in the aircraft hangar in King’s Crossing Air Force Base waiting to go home, General Gregory wondered what would become of Mike Ferris, having gone through this traumatic event.  He remembered once Mike telling him personally that going to the moon had been his life-long dream for as long as he could remember.  He winced with guilt, and then his plane took off and disappeared over the desert.

---

Mike Ferris, being checked up on by the medics, was now conscious.  Not necessarily all together, but conscious.  He looked up at the moon.  “Hey you,” he said gleefully, “Don’t go away up there.  Once I’m all better, we’re finally going to meet in person, just like I always promised we would.  I don’t think I’ll be able to make many friends down here anymore, but I know I’ll always have you.  You’ll always be my friend.  So don’t you go away up there, we have so much to talk about once I’m all better…”  The moon, shining brightly at him from its spot in the night sky, smiled warmly.




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