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[12 | 1970 (12/23/20)] Download or Read PDF
An unbroken seal twists and cracks.
“Father, it’s been 12-weeks since my last confession.”
Ice cubes clink as they are dropped into a ceramic coffee cup. Liquid then surrounds them, shifting the miniature bergs into equilibrium.
A fresh bottle of seltzer is opened then poured atop the liquor. Tiny bubbles fly every which way as the soda mixes in.
“It has been too long, my love. The mere scent of you gives me goosebumps. Come. Sit with me. Let’s pray together.”
James sits down in his rocking chair and sips his cocktail. He uses his top lip to filter the cold liquid through the ice cubes. While swaying back-and-forth, he gets a glimpse of himself in the mirror on the wall across from his chair. Before taking another sip, he raises the cup to himself to say cheers without words.
A few drinks later
Yet again, J.F. finds himself sitting in his rocking chair next to the only window, wondering what has happened to the past months. Everything seemed normal before sipping the alcohol, but now, as the ethanol is absorbed, thoughts come tumbling in. For most, memory is tied to sobriety; for him, it is wrapped up in states of lucid of inebriation.
(That hallway. What is it about that hallway? Am I cursed? How did I end up back in this place? Wasn’t I free? How long have I been here, anyway?)
(Now who could that be? Could it be for me? ‘Must be, you see. You are the only one here, my dear.’ ‘Must be the neighbors. Couldn’t be for me.’)
“I thought I glued that cursed little door-knocker to the wood.” “You did.” “Goddammit.” “Go. Go and get the door. Maybe it is your lucky night.”
The door seems a mile away, even though it is within a 10-foot walk. The desire to get the door is overwhelming, but he struggles to lift himself from the chair. He feels too relaxed to want to move since the alcohol took over.
“Is that fucking skeleton faced bitch again coming after me?” “I don’t think so, friend. How do you know about her anyhow?” “I saw her slip in the snow last week. The snow remover ground her face to pieces. Quite a gruesome sight.” “Ah, yes. The blood sprinkled snow.” “When was the last time you left this building?” “Just earlier, today, right? To get the drink for the night?” “Is that so? Do you remember where it was that you did go?” “To the- the- store down the street. The one I always go to. Riley’s.” “How do you feel?” “I am feeling better. It has been too long since my last confession.” “Shall we find ourselves searching the halls this evening?” “I suppose so. It is about to snow. Do you remember what happens when it snows?” “I do. We can leave.” “Yes. We can leave.” “Where should we go?” “I don’t know. I don’t think we need to go anywhere. Dr. Tripper should be arriving soon. He will be in the lobby around noon.” You mean midnight?” “I do.” “He has taken the key for the ballroom. He intends on using Watson.” “His ax?” “Indeed.” “The ballroom massacre takes place tonight.” “I thought that happened in the 70s?” “What year do you think it is?” “2020” “Ha! My dear lad, you must have been had for I am old enough to be your dad. Go take a look in the mirror you just had.”
“Don’t you think it’s time to answer the door? Don’t you want it to be her?” “She’d never come here on her own. She has been twisted up into a show. The city has changed her. She used to be such a beauty – an innocent, wholesome country girl. Remember her – the first day? No cares about fashion or physique. Just a natural woman in her prime.” “Why don’t you think it would be her? Or could it be her?” “She moved, you see.” “I know, but do you know what year it is?” “2020” “Son. Look in the mirror and see.”
“Godammit. I thought I glued that stupid knocker to the door.” “You did.” “Then why do I hear it?” “It is Dr. Tripper. He is coming to see if you are still here. He has just arrived.” “Why doesn’t he just walk in?” “You are expecting him.” “He works in stealth. A sly one he is. Lies guide him day-to-day. Don’t trust him with a word you say.” “Alright. What does he want?” “Why don’t you go see. He will be surprised to find you here.”
James goes to the door and looks through the peephole. All he can see in the hallway is an ax resting up against the wall in front of the door.
“He isn’t there. I only see the ax.” “He must have gone to the storage units.” “Should I find him?” “There is no point. He is on his way to the party. He just wanted to invite you—a pawn of sorts. The man only has intentions of using you for his own personal gain. He wouldn’t hesitate to let you take the rap for a crime he committed. Be wary of his true intentions, my Dear boy.” “I am quite cautious of these human animals.” “This one is different. He uses male bonding to seduce his prey. Manipulation tactics you have never seen.”
Pound-POUND – Pound-POUND – Pound-POUND
“He must be growing impatient.” “He needs to use your condo to escape.” “What do you mean?” “You don’t recall yet?” “Recall what?” “The experiment. Look around you. Where are you?” “At home.” “No. Look at the walls.” “They are just walls.” “Go and tap on the walls.” “Why?” “You will learn about what is behind them.” “Do you think these walls are solid or insulated?” “Should be.” “They are not. They are thin sheets covering a cuboidal cage, a cage constructed to contain electrical energies.”
J.F. reaches his hand over to the wall and gives it a little tap. Just as he does this, the knocker on the door beats in sync with his knuckle hitting the drywall.
tap-tap – tap-tap
Tap-Tap – Tap-Tap
He continues to sip his Gin, using his forearm to wipe droplets of liquid from his wet lip.
(What do they want from me? Could it really be her? Could she actually want to see me?)
He goes back to the door and looks through the peephole. The ax still rests against the wall. He turns to go back to his rocking chair. POUND – POUND – POUND
“CHRIST! Scared the shite out of me, mon!”
This time he runs to the door, twists the doorknob, and swings the door open.
“You OK, man?” “Uh. Yea. Just having some drinks. Sorry, kept hearing that damn pounding again. Fucking neighbors won’t stop moving or something.” “Can I come in?” “Sure. Can I get you a drink?” “What are you having?” “Gin with soda.” “I suppose I could do with a drink. Thanks.” “What brings you by?” “Oh, just out and about. Almost Christmas. You have any plans?” “Just me and my Xmas tree here?” “What tree?” “The Gin, friend.” “Oh. I see.” “Here.” “Thanks.”
Dr. Tripper sits in J.F.’s rocking chair, the only chair in the place. He leaves James to stand using the kitchen counter to brace his semi-intoxicated body.
“Party downstairs. You gonna go?” “Party?” “Yes. The Christmas party. Did you forget?” “Party?” “Yea. It’s Christmas Eve—Eve. They always have to throw a party. Well, that is until next year. You were the one that invited me.” “I did?” “Well, who are we talking to today? Are you Dr. Quasar, James or J.F. or who?” “What do you mean?” “Uhhhh. J.F., I guess. How do you do, friend. It has been awhile. Must be your first drink of the night?” “I suppose.” “Alright. Good. Well, you’ll be gone soon, so drink up.” “Okay.” “How long have you been J.F. for now? What day is it?”
J.F. does not entirely understand what is happening. He doesn’t know the man sitting in his rocking chair, yet at the same time, he does. He doesn’t want to be rude since the man clearly knows him, so he brushes it off as a friend he made during a drunken encounter he cannot recall. Still, the situation feels relatively familiar, so he does not hesitate to answer.
“It is December 23rd, 2020.” “Wow. That’s pretty far out there. You must have been sober for a while.” “I was. Tonight is my first time drinking since-since-since the blonde monster.” “Oh, yea, the little petite girl that drags her foot when she walks? What; she have a stroke—right?” “Yea.” “Nice butt she has. I have seen her here.” “Here?” “Yea. She moves in at some point. She was older. A lot older. Still limping and dragging her leg. Seems like she does it on purpose for attention. I caught her running down the hall, and then someone turned the corner, and she quickly fell to the wall, dragging herself along—might have been someone else actually, not sure. Funny woman. So, do you want to go to the party or not? Seems to me you are already getting festive. Come on, it will be fun. When was the last time you got to party in 1970?” “1970?” “Yea, man. Here, take a couple shots. We gotta wash your brain—get you back on track.” “Alright. You gonna take some with me?” “If it gets your ass back in line. Sure.”
The two of them stand at the kitchen counter, which doubles as an island, and each takes three shots of gin consecutively.
“You hear that?” “Yea. Someone’s at the door. Want me to get it?” “Okay.”
Dr. Tripper walks to the door, opens it, shuts it, and then goes back into the kitchen.
“Here, take another shot.” “Who was at the door.” “No one was there.” “What the hell was that tapping then?” “I don’t know. Maybe somebody hanging a picture on their wall.” “I’ve been hearing that shit all night.” “Here- take another shot.”
Before J.F. pops another ounce of gin into his mouth, he walks around the counter to the living room and opens a window letting cold crisp gusts of wind flush in.
“Pretty chilly to have your windows open.” “I like the cold.” “I know.” “Should we go to the party now?” “Will I know anyone?” “Dude. It’s 1970. How many people do you know in 1970?” “I suppose none.” “Right. Come on, you’ll feel better after you get some more drinks in you down there. Come on, man. You promised me a good time if I helped you with the sound problem.” “What sound problem?” “Don’t worry about it. Let’s go.”
J.F. follows Dr. Tripper out into the halls without much debate since the alcohol ignites a desire to mingle with strangers.
“Alright. Let’s rock and roll, Tripper.” “Sounds like you are getting back to your normal self.” “Let’s go, man. Is there going to be some good-looking girls down there?” “I wouldn’t get my hopes up.” “Why do you have an ax?” “Watson? Just to take care of some business.” “What. You going to hack the party to bits and pieces?” “Yeah. Something like that.” “Cute.”
The two of them make their way to the elevator. On their way, two young girls walk out of the unit a few doors down and across the hall.
“Hey, Jim!” They both say in sync, then one asks, “Who’s your friend?” “This guy? This is Tripper.” “Hey, Tripper. You heading to the party?” “We are.” “Looks like a good time down there. You all wanna go on a sley ride with us before heading down there?”
J.F. and Tripper look at each other, and neither of them needed anything more than that single look to know they both want to join the girls.
“Sure.” “Yeah. Sounds great.” “Cool. So cool. Come on with us then.”
The two of them follow the girls a few feet down the hall to their place. One of the girls unlocks the door she had just locked, and they follow them in.
“Looks like Santa’s workshop in here.” “Oh, yea. That’s what Cindy’s doing. She loves Christmas decorations. I said, go to town, and I’ll bring the snow. It just flew in from Columbia.” “Really?” “See, James, you remember why you came here now?” “I can see why I’d want to.” “Hey, we can totally give you guys blow jobs too if you want.” “Yea. Here, take a hit.”
Cindy puts an antique silver ashtray with a lid that flips open by the thumb to J.F.’s nose. He observes the trinket as she pops the top exposing a tiny mound of cocaine. “Isn’t that cool. I can’t believe someone just left it downstairs for the taking. It hasn’t ever been used, and it’s real silver too.” “Pretty neat.” “It is. Try it but be careful; it’s heavy shit. A toot is all you need. We can come back up and have more intermittent as well. Gonna be a white Christmas if you know what I mean.”
J.F. sticks a rolled-up dollar bill in his nose and snorts a small bit of the white powder up it. While he feels the effects kick in, he also feels Cindy’s hands press onto and slide up against his inner thighs. She begins to unzip his fly and presses her breasts against his stomach. “Good shit isn’t it.” “Yea. Fuck. Excellent. Thank you so much. That’s just what I needed.” “You want me deep throat you? I’ll swallow too. Awe, don’t you want it, sweety?”
J.F. looks over into the kitchen to see the other girl on her knees with Tripper halfway down her throat. Tripper smiles and winks at J.F. while he sips on a drink with one hand and uses the other to motion the girl’s head back-and-forth.
“Maybe later, honey. I am a little intoxicated right now.” “Ok, Hun. I really wanna. Just tell me when you are ready, and we can sneak back up. I can’t have sex, though; my boyfriend wouldn’t like that.” “That’s fine. Here sit next to me.” “Okay! How long have you lived here? I don’t remember seeing you before. Did you just move in? Katy and I have been here since August. Our parents bought this place for us to stay in while we go to college. She is older than me. Do you like blondes? She is blonde, but not naturally. My hair is red and natural. Most people think I dye it, and hers is natural, but it’s the opposite.” “Uh, yea. ““I guess it’s the abnormally red tone of the hair. It isn’t your normal Irish red hair, more like a red rose. The hair color, I was told. Do you like it?” “Uh” “My boyfriend doesn’t like it much. He says he would rather it be blonde or brunette color. Then I ask him why he dates me in the first place. He doesn’t usually respond when I ask. I heard his friend ask him if the carpets match the drapes. I didn’t get it at first, but later I did. You wanna see?”
Without giving J.F. a chance to respond, the girl unzips her pants and pulls her panties down, showing James a patch of hair slightly less red than the hair on her head.
“See. It does match. A slightly different shade but still matches. Do you like hair down there? I hear some guys like it shaven. I don’t know if I want to do all that. Seems like a lot of work. Maybe cleaner, though.”
He has to stop her in her tracks from talking to ask for another drink.
“Can I get another drink?” “Sure, sweety! What are you drinking?” “Do you have any Tanqueray?” “Gin?” “Sure. My boyfriend keeps just about every alcohol there is in the liquor cabinet. How do you like it?” “Straight is fine.” “Straight? Like just warm and in a glass?” “Yea.” “Wow. You are a brave own. I don’t think I could get one sip down that way.” “Takes practice.” “I bet.”
She gets up, fixes him a drink, and finally calms down enough to listen to him talk for a change.
“Sorry. I can talk nonstop when I am on blow. When did you say you moved in? Seems like no one has lived in that unit since we have been here.” “I don’t really know.” “That’s weird.” “Hey Cindy, you ready to go?” “Yeah. Come on, Jimmy. You are going to dance with me!”
Dr. Tripper stands almost a foot taller than James. He hovers over him with a satisfied grin on his face and says, “Jim, huh. I don’t know if I have met a Jim yet.” He then puts his arm around James’s shoulder, escorting him to the door behind the two girls while saying, “This is going to be a very interesting night.”
“Well, Jim. You do not disappoint. Wish I had met you sooner. How old are you anyway? You look about ten years older than the last time I saw you.” “I’m 47 Tripper.” “No, shit. I wouldn’t have guessed higher than 37. Man, you age well. Must be all that gin you drink.” “Stress is the number one cause of aging. I like to live an easy life. That’s why I stick around here in the’ 70s—excellent era to be in. Everyone is nonjudgmental. Look at that, a lady smoking a cigarette inside next to her child. I love it, no worries – no stress. Just be free. I can get as drunk as I want, and no one thinks twice about it. Too bad HIV had to ruin it for everyone.” “I suppose. Do you know why I am here then?” “Of course. The building will transfer you at 10:36 pm. Or somewhere within that time. Just be in the center of the dance floor at that time. You’ll be fine. I see you brought Watson.” “Yes. I have been waiting for this for many years, my friend.” “I can’t say I don’t feel bad for these people, but a deals a deal and, well, let’s be honest, they aren’t going anywhere anyway. Do you recognize these girls?” “Should I?” “Add 50 years to their lives and think about it.” “Wait, you don’t mean. Are they Cynthia and Kathryn?” “Yep! Pretty freaking sexy, aren’t they.” “Jesus H. Christ, man. I don’t know if I could have gone through with it had I known that. Jesus.” “It gets even better. Wait until you see them in their decayed-phase state.” “What’s that?” “You’ll see Jack.”
Jim and Jack follow the girls into the elevator. They try to follow what the girls are saying to each other, but they have a hard time understanding their words because they are gossiping so fast while simultaneously sniffing up more cocaine.
The elevator says in its usual seductive voice, “Sixth floor. Going down.”
“Wow, same voice this far back?” “Yea. I think I was the one responsible for that. I think it is the voice of my late wife. Well, not late. I just don’t know where the hell she is.” “Wife? You are not the person I was expecting at all.” “No, Jack, and you don’t know what you are getting yourself into either.” “I don’t.” “Nope, and I would try and talk you out of it, but you are incapable of taking advice unless it is your own.” “You know that I have been in this building for a long time, right?” “Exactly.”
“You boys want another toot?” “Yes, please.”
Christmas music fills their ears as they exit the elevator into the lobby.
“This is really different from the future.” “I know, right. Too bad, you have to ruin it.” “It would have been ruined anyway. The ’70s was America’s playground, and it got dirty.”
“I suppose that’s true.” “I am going to duck out for a bit.” “Awe, you are supposed to dance with me, sweety.” “I’ll be back. I just need to go for a walk and cool down.” “Ok, sweety, I’d go with you, but I am not equipped for the snow.” “It’s ok. Go have fun. I’ll be back in a bit.”
Jim walks to the vestibule to exit the building while the girls and Jack make their way into the party.