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The Long Nap
He was exhausted. Angry.
Maybe it was nothing. Maybe it was everything. Life. Age. Aching legs. Stiff back. Sore feet. The wife and kids. People. Bills. The weather. The chili he ate for dinner. The dog.
It could even be all the bad news lately. Businesses laying off workers, bankruptcies, the housing market. But that was not it.
Was it the crappy corrupt politicians kissing babies? Maybe it was a simple bit of early stage senile dementia creeping in. Maybe he just needed a drink. Bingo.
No, it was dementia.
Senile Dementia. That had to be it. It was in his blood. His family. Age brought it on.
Occasionally they snapped. Covered the power outlets in our homes with tinfoil. Covered our balding scalps with tinfoil too. To prevent the spying problem. Killed our spouses with steak knives after 50 years of marriage. To shut them up.
He remembered one such grandmother dead in the kitchen just after dinner. Dozens of stab wounds. I can see her there, on the floor, bleeding. He's out front, on porch waiting, still holding the knife. He called the cops on himself. Gruesome stuff.
His family was warped. Some genetic instruction was turned off or maybe there was a short circuit in the main processor.
In the end they either went to prison and kept right on living way past their gray cell warranty date or they drowned to death on their own bile in a halfway house, after too much booze.
Their minds seemed to crack with timed precision, but their bodies kept right on ticking, even after strokes and heart attacks, with the exception of the sink drowning incidents.
A bed. Stains. Now a wall. Leaning against it, a man. His head in the sink. Too far in. Drowned there. Wow. A sick scene. Bad memory. Move on.
What was next he wondered? Paradise. Hell? Rest? Nothing?
He'd just assume settle for the 'big zero.' He dreamed about it...needed it? Depressed or not, zero sounded just fine. It sounded peaceful. Almost sexy.
He thought about how demented he was. Maybe he needed help. Maybe more sleep? Maybe a drink? That sounded nice. A cold one.
The plane was late, as usual. That seemed to be normal these days. It was supposed to arrive at 10:00 P.M.
Red Eye flights don't save you a dime when your are the one with the red eyes, he thought.
The arrivals and departures were scrolling on the big screens, but they were too high to see clearly.
Dumb airport people, he thought, I can't see my flight information. They need to fix that thing. He shuffled away. Tired. So damned tired. I need a power up.
He started to look at those eye-level TV's with the departure information. The ones away from the hoards of morons chattering like happy freaks. Every day is a damned holiday to them, he thought.
God, how he hated airport crowds. Hungry jerks worming around each other. Rubbing by. Disgusting animals, he thought. Exchanging bacteria. How vile. I need a shower now.
Pick a Fight
He stopped at a smaller version of the big boards. A television was scrolling airline flight schedules. It was all out of whack. The departures were listed, but the screen kept going snowy.
Jesus, he thought. What next?
He kept walking. Went through the body scanners. Took off his shoes. Gave the idiot in the perfect uniform with the hand wand, a dirty look. It was a she, he noted. Yeah, he thought, I know what I can do with your wand. She gave him a odd once over.
Then he put his shoes back on. Headed for his gate. Dragging his suitcase with the broken wheel. It kept turning the wrong way. Cheap Chinese crap, he thought. He gave it a good kick. People looked at him. He cursed them. All of them. It made him feel whole somehow.
A bearded guy stood, leaned forward, mad. A young girl pulled him back. His girlfriend. Wanted him to sit back down.
Yeah, right. Sit back down you dummy, he said to himself. Give me a reason. Just give me a reason...
He sat down, but kept watching.
He started thinking about his late flight again. What happened? Did the pilot spill hot chocolate on his stick? There was no excuse. The weather was fine.
Some weird freak sun storm had been reported and everything was grounded for now, but not a cloud in the sky. Go figure. So don't give me crap, he thought.
They are a bunch of liars. Any excuse to make him wait. He wished he could punch someone, but he didn't want to go to jail.
The urge didn't subside. It was building up. Pressurizing.
Okay, he thought to himself...that is enough. Maybe the bearded guy. Just a quick head snap. No. Not now. He squeezed his eyes shut, clenched his fists.
Control it now. Breathe in. Jesus. Breathe out. Okay. That feels a little better. I won't kick anyone's arse tonight. He could taste it though. His own blood as he bit his lip. That calmed him.
He imagined his fist breaking someone's jaw anyway. Maybe that guy over there, reading his cell phone. Maybe that clerk at the magazine rack. It didn't matter. Anyone would do.
Actually, he had seen at least four shrinks. Anger management. They'd been worried about frontal lobe brain damage or some such crap. It was the cause of his anger issues.
Tell me something I did not know, he remembered saying to them. Car wrecks can cause all kinds of issues down the road they told him. Bad dreams. Nightmares. Depression. Drinking. Drug use. Been there. Done it all, but I still here.
Sometimes I just wish, well I can't tell you what I'm thinking, he would say as they recorded the sessions. It's just too nasty. It's about strangulation in slow motion.
Yes – I have issues, he told them. But my imagination runs amok. Doesn't yours? What about? Porn? Littlle boys? They'd kick him out then. Say he wasn't ready.
Medication? Sure I'll take it, he answered them, but he never did. He'd just change doctors. He wanted to control it naturally, without drugs...except vodka. Vodka was calming...deadening. Okay, maybe some drugs too, but the good stuff, not the legal crap.
It seemed that was what the airlines were good for these days. Overcharging and making you wait so you could shop in the Airport Mall.
It was a game, he just knew it. Make you late so you could buy the stupid melon-pepper soap and my wife can say things like, "Oh, honey – this stuff is rancid. Did you shop at the airport mall again?"
No more I tell you! I am done, he thought to himself as he scanned the mall for the hated shop. There was that soap shop. Blue neon lights. What the hell. It smelled go in there.
He was in the soap store now. Those young clerk guys smiling at nothing. Thumbing their smart phones. Not paying attention to the idiot foreign shoppers, who were about to get ripped off because they only estimated the exchange rates.
Dumb clerks, he thought. They can keep their melon soap and their fake smiles and their weird colored haircuts! I'm not buying your soap today. Just stopped by to sniff the weird bars and globs and balls of soap.
He spent $25 dollars.
Christ. I'm ripping myself off, but this one she'll like. The wife shouldn't complain this time. This one smells really good. Mango Surprise. I always hated mango. But she loves it.
"Bag this will you?" he told the young punk of a clerk. He plopped the Mango Surprise soap ball on the counter and it almost rolled off. The clerk froze, but somehow the soap wound up in a bag and he was holding it and walking out of the store.
Bookstores are better. Those stores can stay at the airport, he thought. He passed a bookstore on the way to his gate. Maybe a book for the flight?
He changed his mind. With his luck his flight would come in when he was perusing the books and ogling the blond at the magazine rack.
The other thing were the terrorists, who just liked to blow people up on their way to paradise. Every time one lobbed a bomb or something, flights got delayed.
Screw them. Drop some nukes on them, just make sure my plane is at the gate when I roll in! Dammit man!
Man, my mind is wandering he thought. It always happened when he got mad about something.
He wasn't the waiting type either. It was the worst of both worlds, his wife always said. Impatient and angry.
But I love you dear! Baloney. She loved my money – so she could hire all those pool guys! You think I didn't know? You think I thought they were just cleaning the pool?
Just stay out of my liquor cabinet you pool guys and when I get back maybe you can just have the used up hag! I'll play some dirty pool then. You get it?
He didn't think he was that angry anyway. He thought he just got stuff done. And getting on a plane was not getting stuff done and it rankled him.
There had to be a way, he figured. A way he could make the partners accept his 'buy out' offer.
But then my sister had to get sick, he said to himself. What a royal time to get sick sis! Now I've got to fly out when a bunch of nimrods are about ready to sink my deal. Of all the things.
Life sucks, I tell you – it sucks. What's the use? I wish this thing was just all over sometimes.
The guy at the desk said the planes would take off from Sanford, Florida in the next hour or two.
An hour or two? There was no arrival or departure time on the screen behind him.
What the...are you kidding me?
He thought about grabbing the guy's tie and yanking him over the counter. He was standing there behind his chest high wall, feeling all protected, he was sure. Wouldn't it scare the crud out his chubby fanny if I dragged him over the computer he was pecking at?
Okay he figured he'd just make the guy nervous.
He walked over the the side. There was no wall-desk between us now, he thought. Maybe I just slap that smile off of his face.
The guy didn't even budge. He just scratched at that tiny airline pin on his lapel. What a pud he thought. Watch this, he told myself.
"What's with the weather?!" he yelled at the guy. The guy was startled.
A lady with the big square blue bag jumped out of her sleep, dropped her purse.
He chuckled. A two-fer.
The guy's smug eyes rolled up, took in the lady, gave her that 'I'm sorry' nod, but his face was still angled at his monitor after he ignored me. Bored. A bare smile creased his wide face. Practiced and concise, but a forgery. The guy knew I was standing here.
"Hey!" he repeated. What's this storm nonsense?"
"Solar Storm" the guy replied. "Bad one. All the planes are grounded. Satellites are out too."
The guy's eyes dropped back to his work. He started clicking his keyboard. He was trying to ignore the interruption. His computer wasn't working.
The guy squinted. Tapped his chin with his pen.
"That's a bunch of hooey," he told him. "All that global warming junk. Just get me on my plane man!"
I'll have to admit I was kind of rude, he was thinking. Actually, I didn't know what had gotten into me, but yes I did. Maybe the meanness? Maybe low blood sugar? Maybe genetics?
This time the guy's whole head popped up, like a chicken. But he took it well. The forgery of his smile thinned into a straight line. He saw that I was a first class customer.
"Sir, there are no planes flying. The solar storm is bad, like I was saying. We don't know when of if they will resume flights."
The guy was eyeballing me now. Waiting. His hand was on the phone. Maybe he was ready to call Security.
I just shook my head. "So what am I supposed to do now? Go home? Sit on those lousy airport chairs with all the others?"
There were not very many people in the terminal tonight. The guy at the airline desk looked over his shoulder, then returned his gaze to me.
There were a few other very patient people waiting on those lousy chairs. It was kinda dim. It was hard to make them out, but there were few snoring.
He was about to push his way a little closer to the guy, but the guy held something out. A ticket.
"What is this? One of those cash offers to shut-up – or take a later flight?" he asked the guy.
The guy then handed him a voucher for a 'Napper.' He looked at the cartoon character of a dog, sleeping.
"What's a Napper?" he asked him. "You want me to go take a nap?" He was holding the voucher up. But I had to admit, a nap sounded darned good..
"The airport got a few for a test," the guy said, bored. "They wanted to see if our First Class customers, like yourself, would care to use them. It's on the house, sir; and they come with a full wet bar, free of charge."
He pointed to the large cube-like things sitting in a long row next to the couches.
"They're like mini-motel rooms. Restroom, TV, desk and a small bed. Four hours standard use per person, but that can be extended. On the house. Like I said. It's our pleasure." The guy smiled, then went back to his keyboard, still bored.
"Thanks" he heard himself say. "Maybe I'll check one out. But you are lucky that I'm tired tonight. Just get me on a plane," he said "and soon!"
The guy was on the phone and turned away.
He walked away then, feeling woozy. It was like he had too much to drink or over-did his blood pressure meds. Sometimes he took two pills, instead of one, to take the edge off, like today.
He headed in the direction of the 'Nappers'.
The TV's along the walls were fuzzy. News stories fading in and out. Health posters were hanging everywhere warning people about the possible health reactions to humans, caused by the solar storm.
That was unusual way to put it. Humans? Symptoms included dizziness, disorientation, drowsiness, mood changes. He stopped reading.
He was that tired. Been working too many hours. After 12 hours at the office, cutting deals, he would come home and mow the lawn...to relax. A drink always helped too.
He'd been hearing about the coming solar storms for the past few days, but hadn't paid much attention. They were always on about climate change, fires, floods, freezes, murders, rapes, politics, the economy – and he was just sick of it. He figured if the old man in the sky wanted him dead, well that was it then. Until then, he'd just carry on.
For now, he was not going to tolerate all the mumbo-jumbo tree-huggers and bible thumping zealots always talking about the end of the world. When you were dead – well that was the end of your world.
Unless you believed in the afterlife, but I didn't, he thought to himself. The end was the end. 'Poof' you were gone. Like when you slept – 'poof' you were out of it. And he was really near the 'out-of-it stage.' Checking out time would be soon.
If I could only get some sleep, he thought. Some uninterrupted sleep. No noise. No light. No people. No music. Just some damned sleep. Sleep enough for a lifetime.
The 'Napper' was sounding better and better.
He could not take the wife and kids. Too expensive. They had agreed that he should go alone, just in case.
These days he seemed to spend more time at work or in airplanes and not enough time at home.
The bills kept piling up and he never got ahead and now something else – a sick sister. It never ended, until it did. Maybe it should he thought. Just end. No more problems. No more people. Nothing, just peace. Time to rest. No more rushing around.
He wandered over to the large blue cube. It had yellow letters above the door: "Napper." Kinda cute. A bit too cute for his taste, however. Under that, there was a screen and on it advertising scrolled. It showed a women, reclining in the Napper, sipping a glass of wine. She was sitting in a elongated futuristic looking chair. It looked like a high tech bed or recliner with built in displays and some kind of thing that folded low over the face. There was another screen or viewer directly in front of the women's eyes.
Right, I thought. They could not be that comfortable. The light on the door said occupied, so he moved along the line of the them until he found the last one.
The last one was a different color. All black. It was old looking. A bit more of his style. It looked like someone had been working on it. Wires were hanging from one side, but the light read 'Vacant'.
The Napper had a slot for a credit card, cash and a voucher. That little green light on the cash scanner told him that the Napper was ready for business. Good enough, he thought.
He was getting really tired, but fished out the voucher ticket and the thing activated. There was clicking noise and the light inside came on, but the door remained sealed.
He looked back at the guy at the desk. He was looking the other way, so he yelled. The guy pressed a button on his desk and he heard a soft pop and the door to the Napper slid open.
The lights flickered off then on again inside. He saw that the mini-motel cube had solar panels, with a "Go Green" advertisement splashed in green. Fricking tree-huggers, he thought.
He looked up and saw that the Nappers were all arranged under the large glass ceiling so they could catch the sun. All except this one. It looked like it had been moved or dragged part way beneath a giant metal sculpture of a banana tree. A silver looking beast of a tree. This 'Napper' even had a military look to it.
But it was vacant. Good enough.
He entered the 'Napper'.
Inside was a sci-fi affair. It looked like someone's interpretation of an old Flash Gordon movie, if a bit cramped.
Everything was red and white. Plastic walls. Even prison cells required more room, he remembered reading. This was like America's answer to one of those Japanese Robot Motels, but minus the robots.
The Napper had what the guy said, however. A red rippled foam rubber mattress followed the contours of that space age recliner.
He put his suitcase down in a cubicle under the TV. There was a pull-out desk and a cramped, but private toilet.
He grabbed a vodka from the wet bar and sat back in the comfortable recliner. As always, there were telephone numbers and pornographic graffiti all over the walls near the toilet.
A small sink was wedged into a recess on the side of the toilet. A prison warden would be proud of these dimensions, he thought.
The Napper also had a small oval window with airplane like slide down blind. He pulled the blind, dimmed the lights, called his wife and set the alarm.
The flight times scrolled by on the TV.
It was 11:00 P.M. when he finished the fourth vodka.
He stretched back and looked at the little view screen under the helmet-like head rest. Immediately the screen came to life. The words "Dream Weaver Productions" glowed orange and a scantily grass skirted native girl explained all the wonderful things about the 'Napper' and its new added "Dream Station" app.
He was barely listening, but in his half-alert state he pressed the button on the arm rest to activate the app.
He saw the flashes of light. Fires and screaming people. The sun had ejected its poisonous radiation and the the world was burning.
Finally, he thought. The end! A glorious death!
He awoke years later? To darkness. Complete blackness.
The world was over, but he had lived through it! Everyone was infected, angry. Worse than that. They all wanted him. And they were all...changed.
"No" he screamed. "It's not fair!"
The 'Napper' was moving. Rolling to be more accurate. Down an incline. The recliner was shaking and spinning violently. Smoking. Sparks flying.
Then it struck something and the 'Napper' burst open with a loud crack, tossing him onto the tiled floor, in front of an "All-in-One" teller machine.
Jesus! What was going on?
At least there was some light now, but the lights were from fires burning in all of the mall's stores. The airport was in utter ruins. The soap store was a bubbling mass of liquid perfume threatening to boil him. Animal things were screaming and running and attacking each other.
Bad dream. Oh Christ! A bad one. Wake the hell up!
He pulled himself up. His leg was cut open and he'd lost his shoes.
Blood was streaming from another slice in his arm. He stopped the bleeding with one hand while he looked for something else to wrap the arm in, but by then it was too late.
The things that had rolled his 'Napper' against the wall came around the side of it.
He had been found.
The things made a keening sound then.
"What the hell are you? Jeez, I need to wake up!"
Mouths agape. Dripping fluids. Stench. Jerky movements. Claws. Long sharp grey teeth. These were some kind of diseased human things.
They leaped at him. Began to tear into him, drag him out of his seat. He held up his hands. Screamed.
He never awoke.
"What happened here?" It was the head security guy. He was out of shape and breathing hard from the run over.
The fire investigator had pried open the door to the Napper. Inside, the man was charred to a crisp. "Not sure. It looks lie some sort of short circuit. and..."
"And it looks like he spilled alcohol all over the controls," the investigator said.
"Look at his arms," the security guy said. "It's like he was trying to defend himself. And that head set. It's melted into his skull."
A man with a beard is sitting on a bench at the airport terminal. His laptop computer is out. The connection to the Napper is now gone.
"Can we go now?" his girlfriend asks. ""You done with that game?"
He folds the screen down. "Yep"
Photo compliments of: CSIRO [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
© 2015 Jack Shorebird