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Oct 9, 2011

inspired by but legally distinct from CATS (2019)



Oct 9, 2011

inspired by but legally distinct from CATS (2019)

Oct 9, 2011

inspired by but legally distinct from CATS (2019)
Nihilism is My Kink
(1970 words)

Jacob Johnson lived in the city and worked at the corner bank. He put in his nine-to-five every day and saved where he could, living beneath his means. He went to church every Sunday, but didn’t preach to his neighbors or co-workers. He always returned the things he borrowed, on time and in pristine condition. Jacob Johnson thought he was a virtuous person, and worked to make that virtue apparent in his word and deed. He helped his friends move and made sure to give the best presents that he could afford.

He believed that the world would return the favor, sooner or later. He knew, with all of his conviction, that good people would have good things done unto them, and bad people would have bad things done unto them. The world had to make sense. There had to be an order and a just reckoning to life. Certainly, he read the news and saw the senseless pain done unto the innocent. But he figured these victims were flawed in some way, that the evils done unto them were a natural response to their own hidden wickedness.

On one morning, with the sky clear and cloudless and spring in full bloom, Jacob Johnson walked to work. In his mind, the ability to do so was one advantage of living in the city. He rejoiced in the pure air and the pollen on the breeze and the chirping of sweet little birds, and he walked with a song on his lips. When he arrived, his co-workers greeted him warmly. Pauline, whose office was next to his, met him for coffee in the break room. He had considered asking her out sometime, but the opportunity never arrived. Just being friends, though, offered contentment enough.

Pauline waved with a smile that verged on the flirtatious, and he responded in kind. “How’s the savings going?” she said.

“Oh, just fine and dandy,” he said. “I should be able to move out in about a year. Been looking at some branches out in the burbs, so I have less of a commute.”

“I really don’t know why you want to move away,” she said. “Anything worth doing happens in the city.”

“It’s nice and all,” he said. “But there’s just something more free about living out there, away from all the smog and pollution.”

Jacob returned then to his office and went about his work. He helped folks with their leases and their loans, set up savings plans and portfolios. He guided people through retirement funds and never lost a smile as he made sure everyone got the plan that served them best. But eventually his day came to an end and the sun had begun to set. As he finished putting together his papers, shouts rang through the building. He emerged into the lobby to see a young man pointing a pistol at one of the tellers and shouting for money. Jacob gathered up his courage and strode in towards the would-be robber.

“Young man, whatever is going on with your life, I’m sure there’re other ways of getting money,” Jacob said.

Whatever else might have been said was lost when the robber pointed the pistol at Jacob and pulled the trigger. Screams echoed with the gun-shot as the bullet launched behind him, then ricocheted off of the wall. It angled around and cut into his back, sending him sprawling to the ground. Sirens screamed to life outside and more voices joined into a common choir as Jacob slipped from consciousness.

Jacob awoke in a hospital bed, hooked up to all kinds of monitors. A haze settled over him, the pleasant warmth of morphine dripping in his veins. White sterility surrounded him, infused into every surface and every fabric. It shone faint in the feeble morning light streaming in from the windows. He allowed himself to settle deeper into that numbness, wrapping it around himself like a blanket. He barely noticed the door creaking open and the doctor stepping on inside. “Good to see you awake, Mister Johnson,” she said.

“Good to be awake, ma’am,” he said. A smile spread over his lips. Of course he had survived. He was a good man, no way that he would die like that.

“I’ve been looking over your charts,” the doctor said. “And I do have some bad news for you.”

Jacob blinked a couple times and tried to sit further up, but found no strength in his legs to help him. “The bullet severed your spinal chord between the L2 and L3 vertebrae. You’re going to be paralyzed from the waist down…”

The rest of her words faded into a deafening drone that ringed in his ears.

Jacob refused to give up. He had been injured doing what was right. Surely things would be made right. Surely things would work out in the end. So he threw himself into physical training, building back the strength of his arms and trying to get his legs to move. For weeks, he toiled every waking hour to get his body to work the way it used to. The way he thought it was supposed to. He sweated and he struggled, until finally his labors came to an end.

Jacob’s insurance ran out. If he wanted further medical assistance, it would be coming directly out of his pocket. After a discussion with the finance people of the hospital, he realized that if he did continue physical therapy, it would cost him any hope of getting his dream house. And there had been no sign of improvement. He could navigate well enough in his chair now, but he would never walk or stand again.

That night, Jacob arranged for a van to pick him up and take him home, which he had pay for out of pocket, but at least he was able to push himself up the ramp into the back of the van. Being back in his apartment only reminded Jacob of how much he wanted to get out of the city. It smelled of unwashed dishes and laundry and there was no room to maneuver around his furniture. He called up his friends, the ones he had helped move, but they were all too busy to help him that night, and made vague assurances of future assistance. Assurances that would never come to life. So he crawled onto his couch, the only place he could reach, and slept there. Sleep came unsteadily - his back hurt, and the morphine withdrawals sent aches throughout his body. He hadn’t had a chance to eat yet.

The next morning, he tried to reach for the coffee and cereal, but they were on shelves too high to reach. He crawled into his bathroom and lay on the floor of his tub, attempting to get himself clean, though he had trouble reaching his feet. He forced himself to get dressed, deciding to skip socks and just put on slippers. He then made his way down to a local cafe for breakfast. They lacked a ramp to get inside, but he was able to get a seat in the open air. He watched the people as they walked by on the streets, and he resolved himself not to give into despair. He could still do his job, he could still save money, and he could still make his dream of life in the suburbs a reality.

He made his way to the bank then for the first time since his hospital stay, smiling to all of his co-workers as he made his entry. He greeted and waved, though he could tell that their eyes were only on his chair. Then at once, everyone rose from their seats and begin to applaud for him. He shrank into himself and hurried into the break room.

Pauline was there and offered him a cup of coffee. “How are you feeling?”

“Oh, not too bad, not too bad,” Jacob said. “Getting used to everything is all.”

“That’s good.” Pauline’s words had a distant air to them, concern etched into her features.

“Hey,” he said. “Why don’t we go out for coffee sometime?”

Any potential response was cut off when their boss stepped into the break room. He asked for Jacob to see him in his office and Jacob reluctantly followed. His boss did not mince words. Jacob was let go.

The official reason was some filing discrepancies that had somehow appeared in his backlog, but Jacob knew the real reason. Even though his chair in no way prevented him from doing his job, his boss no longer saw him as a viable employee. In the eyes of his now former boss, and the rest of society, he had become lesser. He had become Other. Still, he refused to make a scene and boxed up his things before leaving in silence.

Jacob returned to his home to find a message waiting for him on his answering machine. “Mr Johnson,” the message began, “we’d like for you to come down to the courthouse tomorrow. We’re preparing a case to nail the man who shot you, and we’d like for you to testify.”

The next morning, Jacob struggled with his slacks and socks, but managed with a lot of sweat, before coming to speak to the prosecutors. The shooter hadn’t been masked, and several people already identified him. But Jacob’s testimony could help win over the jury.

And soon the day for his testimony came. Medicaid had kicked in by that point, and so he had the help of a nurse to get dressed and make breakfast, and to navigate the space up to the witness stand. There, he told the jury how much he just wanted to help. How he had offered a hand in comfort to the shooter, only to receive violence in return for the rest of his life in response. At the prosecutor’s insistence, and against Jacob’s wishes, he then went into detail about the trials and rigors of his day to day, about how he now required a catheter and help bathing. How he couldn’t even get out of bed anymore without help. The prosecutor assured Jacob that his story would engender pity in the jury and swing things.

The jury soon sequestered themselves, and Jacob waited tensely for the moment of the sentencing. Clearly, the shooter deserved to be punished for wickedness, and surely the jury would see the need for that. That certainty sustained him, even as his health began to decay further from the complications of surgery.

Then the verdict returned innocent. The prosecutor would later explain that the shooter’s father was a prominent politician, and had pulled some strings to get his son off of the hook. With that, the case was closed and the shooter was free to go.

After the trial, Jacob’s pain levels continued to worsen, to the point where he soon needed constant medication, and nurses to help him with activities that the medication prevented him from handling. Fortunately, his Medicaid covered those expenses. Unfortunately, his nursing requirements and the state’s policy forced him to move into a nursing home. But at least it was a nice nursing home, out in the suburbs, where he could rest assured that he’d be taken care of until the day he died. He saw now that nothing truly mattered, that justice was a human concept, not an universal one. And there, his concerns disappeared into the haze of medication, into the steadiness of the days. Time slipped from his fingers. All the while, none of old friends or co-workers came to visit. Pauline called once, but even that was strained and awkward

He would be forgotten, just another face, just another duty for his caretakers. Surely, he had achieved his reward for all of his good deeds.

Oct 9, 2011

inspired by but legally distinct from CATS (2019)

Oct 9, 2011

inspired by but legally distinct from CATS (2019)
In with flash story


Oct 9, 2011

inspired by but legally distinct from CATS (2019)
(642 words

Insomnia charred to adrenaline in my veins.

I slumped in a diner booth, plastic slick and smooth beneath me, the cream walls iridescent. The lights buzzed in a droning pitch that sang to the droning keen of whalesong in the depths of the back of my skull. The wait-server took my order but I didn’t hear their words or see their face. I just mumbled something about coffee and eggs.

Time flickered across my eyes, moments transforming and stretching across the higher dimensions, forming tesseracts of the worlds around me. Angles of momentum of blurred forms sharpened into relief, leaving their motion as the only explicable image burned into my brain.

The coffee appeared before me and I gazed into the depths of the cup like an oracle. The steam stung at my eyes. The scent flared in my nostrils. The taste burned my tongue. The rich darkness, acidic and thick, flooded all of my senses. A moment flashed and the cup sat empty before me. The electric sting of the coffee flared in my synapses.




in my skin.

My consciousness slipped into the back of my skull. I looked through my eyes like through a computer monitor watching the signal from a camera hovering right in front of my face. The world bobbed and swayed and seemed forever away,

I blinked and the diner all but emptied. I caught a look from my server, and in the space between my eyes and my mind, I broke it apart. I disintegrated the substance of that look into component parts and reconstructed them in the foundry of the part of my mind that still functioned rationally. And then I laughed at the frustration and consternation that I realized laid within it.

The eggs were cold but my hands and mouth went about the mechanical task of devouring the substance. My mind busied itself with the knowledge of the macronutrient composition and the lifecycle of the chicken and the current livestock raising practices in the country and the growing complexity of the interconnected relations of Americans and the morality of their consumption.

I didn’t taste the eggs.

My friend appeared before me, hazy in the halo of fluorescents behind him. His mouth moved but I stared at where his eyes should be, and they were lost in that haze of light. The words bounced off of my ears and I stared longer, the droning background radiation building to a squealing alarm.

Then his hand pushed on my shoulder and a silence fell that settled around my head like a numbing icy mist. The haze fell from his face and I shrugged. My coffee had been refilled and I drank slowly from the cup, feeling the acrid burn of the piss poor coffee sliding down my throat. “What wassat?” I said.

“You better give me your keys,” he said. I didn’t disagree.

I leaned against the cold window of the Kia, staring at the great dark void without, punctured by pinpricks of lights cast by the street lights and the stars above. My friend tried to talk to me, but his voice belonged to another world.

He knew about about sleep, he knew what it was like to turn off and turn away as a natural process. He didn’t see the lines that formed as the lights streaked across the void, smearing across space.

Maybe one day.

A burning light ahead drew my attention. The sun rose before us, cresting over the horizon and spreading its orange-red rays like a forest fire over the surroundings. I stared into that infinite light and my eyes opened to the reality of another day unfolding.

We drove forward into that light.

The rays entwined the car

and my friend

and I,

and I rose into the luminous mass

and disappeared into dark.

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