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[14 | Xanadu] Download or Read PDF
“Good morning, my darling.”
James wakes up – and to his disbelief – he doesn’t feel any effects from the night before. A soft light seeps in through his eyelids, and everything comes into focus. He then sees a girl sitting at his side, on the bed. She is gently filtering his hair through her slender fingers while gazing into his eyes. She has a look a teenager has when falling in love for the first time. He can immediately sense the passion she has for him, but he isn’t quite alert as of yet. As his brain renders consciousness, he realizes he recognizes her. (It’s Ella. Oh, my sweet Ella.)
Her soft and sweet voice drifts through the air and into his ears, saying, “Happy Birthday, James. How does it feel to be an old man?” with a slightly sarcastic tone. James pushes himself up and rests his back against the headboard. “Old man?” He then, without thinking, instinctively looks into a vanity mirror positioned across from the bed and notices that he looks younger. “Yea, silly. The big two-five. You are twenty-five today! I fixed you some breakfast in bed. Lookie here: Italian Espresso, Cream Cheese Danish, and some freshly picked cherries from the tree out front. They just turned red and ripened overnight. I suppose you’ll be spending the afternoon harvesting them, won’t ya.” James replies with an agreeable smile, reacting again without hesitation.
“You know me and foraging. We have the fresh butter we just churned in the icebox, right? It needs to be cold to make the pie crust best.” “Of course, sweety. You know I have your back when it comes to cooking. Been waiting for your cherry pie all year!” She then leans forward and presses her lips against his.
The moment their lips touched, nothing in the world seemed to matter anymore. Wherever or whenever James had been the night before faded from his mind as if it never happened. He begins to feel something he thought he would never feel again. A sensation of purpose and belonging flows through him like an electrical current.
He embraces Ella, firmly positioning his left arm around her shoulders, and maneuvers his right hand to cusp her bottom. He lifts her up and swings her around, laying her back on the middle of the bed.
She is wearing nothing but a thin nightgown that loosely covers her body. James can feel her moisture on him. His heart beats as if time is frozen.
He pulls the strap of her nightgown down off her shoulder and then the other, exposing the swell of her breasts. He then pushes the gown down so that it scrunches up around her stomach. He gently grips the garment and moves it up her torso. She intuitively arches her back so he can pull it out from under her. She then puts her arms up in the air so he can completely remove it and expose her naked body.
The two of them spend the morning making endless love. Eventually, neither of them can conjure up any more bodily fluids, so they kiss one peck at a time until they fall back asleep.
About an hour after napping, James wakes up and gets out of bed. He moves slowly to not disturb Ella. He then takes a moment to appreciate her body. She is lying on her side with white sheets draped partially over her legs and halfway up her chest. He observes the flawless curvature of her back and impeccably formed physique. He thinks to himself that he must have won an interstellar lottery ticket to find himself with her.
James looks around the room he is in and inspects it. It is a cellar of a small house. There are a few storm windows with step ladders under them. The bed Ella is laying on is an old feather stuffed mattress with buttons sown into it. The buttons make indents every square foot or so, and the bed it rests on is made with a metal frame. The headboard looks like an arch cutout of a jail cell. On the nightstand are a nonelectric phonograph and a notebook. The other nightstand holds Ella’s jewelry box and a small book titled A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism by James Clerk Maxwell.
While he stands at the edge of the bed, he tries to make sense of where he is and how he knew the girl’s name, but he cannot quite recollect anything. The overpowering bliss of true love clouds his intellect.
Ella wakes up and turns around to look at James. She is smiling, and the look of satisfaction highlights her. She says to him, with a warm smile as she puts her hand on her belly, “I think we are gonna have a little one knocking at our door soon.” “You think?” “I think you may have knocked me up five times this week. Remember, I don’t have the nanobot birth control in me anymore. Or at least they cannot function here.” (Nanobots?)
James sits at the edge of the bed and puts his hand to her head.
“That is great. I cannot wait to start our family. I love you so much.” “I love you too, James.”
Ella leans off to her side of the bed and puts the needle from the phonograph down to play one of her favorite records, Sunshine and Shadows by Al Bowlly
(music) Sunshine and shadows. I’m happy and blue. Honey, when you are near me. When you are away. Loving you sincerely more and more each day. Forever and ever …
James sits on the bed, looking at Ella while they listen to the record.
(music) forever and forever. To you, dear, I’ll be true. Through sunshine and shadows, I’ll always always …
James holds Ella’s hand until the song ends, and they hear “click – scraping – click – scraping – click scraping …”
“Guess we should maybe accomplish something today.” Said James as he pulls the needle back to stop the phonograph. Ella looks up at him, pats her belly, and says, “I’m pretty sure we did.”
James gets up off the bed and puts his pants on, and says, “You can stay and nap. I am gonna go pick the cherries and get dinner ready.” “I cannot wait for dinner. I am starved!” Says Ella as she nestles back up under the blankets, smelling what remains of James on the pillows.
James walks to the end of the cellar studio to a wooden staircase and heads up them. He exits out the storm doors entering a blue-sky sunny day. He feels grass tickle up around his feet as he stretches his arms out and yawns while looking out into meadows. The meadows stretch all the way to the lake just near the campus.
Growing confident in the center of the plot of land surrounding the small cabin is a matured cherry tree. It has deep forest green leaves with a waxy gloss. They glimmer in the sun and are surrounded by what looks like shiny red marbles. James sees a metal pot under the tree clearly meant for the cherries to be put in, and at waist height, he sees a yellow ribbon tied around it. The ribbon gives him a feeling of déjà vu he cannot quite put his finger on.
He spends a few hours picking enough cherries to fill the pot to the brim. He then sits on the deck of the cabin in a rocking chair and pits them. After an hour or so, Ella comes out with a glass of iced tea for James. She sets it on a little table next to a growing bowl of cherry pits and kisses him on the cheek. She then takes a seat in another rocking chair aside him. She had put on The Very Thought of You (with the Ray Noble Orchestra) on the phonograph. Neither of them says a word; they just enjoy the minutes until the song ends.
Ella smiles at James and says, “It is such a beautiful day. I wish we could be locked on this timewave forever.” “Timewave?” James smiles back and watches her pop one of the cherries into her mouth. She had snuck one from him when she was kissing him on the cheek. She knows it bugs him whenever she nibbles on any food before dinner. She gives him a sly look and then leans back with the book that was sitting on her nightstand.
James knows the book. He had studied it extensively over the years. It triggered a flash of memory about the equation he had been working on. He stops for a moment feeling a strange sense he cannot quite recall and then goes back to pitting the cherries.
After some more time passes, one bucket empties and the other fills with mushy pit-less cherries.
He pours the seeds out onto a towel and lays them in the sun to dry. He plans to plant them around the city during his walks.
Now that the cherries are pitted, he retreats to the kitchen and spends the rest of the afternoon preparing dinner.
The first thing he does is make the pie so that it will be cooled down by the time the two of them finish eating. He then collects a chicken from the yard. They roam freely, eating bugs and worms from the soil. Ella hates knowing that they have to kill a chicken, so she leaves and goes for a walk while James takes care of it and cleans it.
Before James takes the chicken’s life, he caresses it and holds it in his arms, letting it know that he deeply cares for it and that everything is going to be alright. He says softly to the chicken, “It is the only way we can survive. I will make sure your bloodline lives on through your chicks’ lives.” He then pets the chicken gently on its head and closes his eyes. His hand slides down the back of the neck; he grips it firmly and quickly snaps the neck to a 90-degree angle separating the vertebra. When he hears the crack, his eyes well up. He keeps his hand over the chicken’s head so he doesn’t have to see its lifeless eyes. He picks up a hatchet and brings it down, severing the head from the neck. He then places the head in a bag while he looks off to the side.
After James cleaned the chicken up, he separated it into 9 pieces. Two wings, two legs, two thighs, two breasts, and a carcass. He puts the carcass in a pot with onions, celery, carrots, parsley, thyme, garlic, black pepper, bay leaves, and a leak. He covers it with water and lets it simmer while he prepares the rest of the meal.
Ella returns from her walk and enters into the kitchen, asking, “What is on your birthday menu tonight, hun?” James responds with a sort of southern accent, “Well ah, we gotts heer suammm fried chickens, cahllud greens, cawnbread, and yer favorite: mac ah row knee and cheese.”
She walks up to him and presses her body against his hugging him from behind. Her hands find their way down his stomach and into his pants. She grips him and feels his girth. He stops what he is doing and sets down the bunch of greens he was about to chop. He turns around and sees Ella wearing a sundress with nothing under it.
James grabs her by her thin waist, swings her around, and props her up on the counter, putting her bare bottom on the pile of greens. She pushes herself up slightly and pulls them out from under her, and James says, “They will taste better now.”
They kiss passionately, and he maneuvers in-between her legs. She puts her hands back in his pants, pulls him out, and slips him inside her. He feels himself plunge deep into her. Juices flow out and pool on the butcher’s block countertop as they make love. It only lasts about thirty seconds before they both climax. They then embrace each other while panting heavily.
James stands at the counter with Ella’s arms wrapped around him until he calms down. He slowly pulls out of her feeling a tickle, and she moans.
Ella grabs a towel from the cupboard above her head and uses it to wipe herself off. James picks her up off the counter and sets her feet first on the ground, watching her dress flail about her thighs as it falls down.
Ella goes over and sits at the kitchen table, and continues reading. At the same time, James finishes preparing dinner for the two of them.
By the time dinner was ready, Ella had set the table, decanted some wine, and lit candles. The sun is setting and shining light through the windows of their small shack. The only thing they can hear is birds chirping and wind rasping through the trees.
James sets down a plate for her filled with greens and macaroni and cheese. She grabs a cornbread slice and butters it up, and sets it on the table next to her plate. “Don’t you think I should have cooked since it is your birthday?” “What, and take away all the fun?” “I can’t believe you love to cook so much that you would spend half your birthday in the kitchen.” “The best part of my birthday is cooking for you.” “You are such a sweetheart. I love you.” “How is the mac N cheese?” “Delicious! These greens are amazing too. What did you put in them?” “Ah, my secret recipe: Green apples, dates, hickory nuts, bacon, red wine vinegar, and shaved Grana Padano. I also used a three-cheese blend for the mac. A little different than usual.” “Everything is so good. I am so lucky to have you as my husband.”
When James heard her say husband, he got kicked back in his head, distorted, thinking, (Husband. We are married?)
“I have a present for you.” “You do?” “Yep! Remember when we went on the trip up north to Prairie Du Sac and had that Petite Syrah? You know, the one you said would be the perfect complement to our sour cherry tree?” James tries to recall but cannot. Ella continues, “Well, I had them sell me a bottle when you weren’t paying attention. I snuck it home with me to have when the cherry tree came to.”
Ella sets a small ramekin filled with little red cherries next to his plate and pours him a glass of the thick red wine from an oblong-shaped decanter. James takes a cherry and muddles it in his mouth, then spits the seed out back into the dish. He takes a sip of the wine, swishing it and mixing it up with the cherry in his mouth. He feels bliss amidst the sensations it delivers to his brain. “Oh my. This is fantastic. The peppery tones blend so well with the tartness of the cherry. You must try it.” Ella follows him and tastes the mixture in her mouth. Her eyes roll back a little while she moans with pleasure.
They eat up their food and polish off the wine and then retire to the deck to sit on a swinging bench together and watch the sunset.
Ella brought with her, to the deck, two pieces of cherry pie and a bottle of aged rum. While they rock back-and-forth eating the pie, Ella pours James a few ounces of rum into a tin mug and hands it to him, and says, “Happy birthday Hun.” She takes the last bite of her pie, sets the plate down on the ground, and falls asleep a few minutes later with her head resting on James’s shoulder.
James watches the sunset while he sips his rum. He ponders how he got here and why he would be so lucky to have Ella in his life.
By the time the sun settled, he had polished off over half the bottle of rum.
James decides to pick Ella up and carry her down the cellar and put her in bed.
After he gets her in bed, he goes back upstairs to continue drinking. He sits in a rocking chair sipping on the rum until about two in the morning while day-dreaming about Ella.
After he poured the last bit of rum into the tin mug. He sets it on the arm of the rocking chair, leans his head back, and falls asleep.
[14.1 | Rude Awakening]
“Gun. Gun. I need the Gun.
Please, God, get me the Gun.
I need it—I need the Gun, for if I have the Gun, it will be fun.
I will take the Gun, put it next to my head, pull the trigger, and I’ll be dead.
Yes—that is what I said.
I require the Gun.
Perhaps a pistol will do, but only if the bullets come with two.
A Gun, my son, oh please, God, can I have the Gun?
I need it. I need the gun.
This is no longer fun.
Please, Jesus, give me the gun.”
James opens his eyes to find himself in a pitch-black room – wrapped in sheets – sweating profusely. His brain chants endlessly about a gun.
“Where am I?” He wonders. He feels so sick he cannot move or get up. He just keeps fantasizing about putting a gun to his head, pulling the trigger, and making himself dead.
He falls back asleep and then wakes back up in the club chair in the lobby staring across the room at JIM.
J.F. jumps out of the chair and says, “What the fuck is going on? Who are you?” JIM replies to J.F. in a calm voice, “James, my dear boy. You never left the tornado room before the plows came, did you?” “Huh? What?” “The Tornado Room?” JIM stands up and walks towards J.F. leaving his dogs sitting by the chair. “Here, you left this at the bar. I picked it up for you.” He hands James a blank notebook.
James holds it in his hand, and everything that has transpired fades from his mind as if it never happened. Lina comes out of her office, walks over to James, and says, “Here are your keys and the paperwork. We also got your mattress, bed, and chair put up there for you. “Welcome to the building, Dr. Quasar. Did you want me to give you a tour of the building?” “No.” Said James abruptly. “Sorry. I mean, no, thank you. I just wanna get upstairs and take a nap.” Lina hands the keys off to James and says, “let me know if you need anything. I am here nine to five Monday through Friday.”
The eeriest sense of déjà vu came over James, but he brushes it off and heads to the elevators as if nothing had happened. He doesn’t know why; he feels saddened like he has lost something or someone special but cannot quite put his finger on it. He pulls out his phone and sees that the date is May 14th, 2018.
He examines a photo tucked in the news slot on his elevator ride up. It is an image of a raccoon popping its head out of a sewer. “Cute.” He thinks. He then looks above the picture into the mirror and says to himself, with a professional and stern-sounding voice, “Well, Dr. Q., are you up for what’s due? The time has cometh, and the days are through, the next thing they are after is you.” And then says, “So true, and how do you do?” DING “6th Floor”. The elevator opens, and he heads down the hall to his new home – instinctively – as if he has been there before.