After a bit of an unscheduled hiatus, I jump back into the Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenges. This one required I pick a random sentence to use in a story. Glutton for punishment that I am, (or maybe I just like threading together gibberish) I went ahead and used them all. Of course, that put me about 100 words over my goal but you can’t break a few omelets without making some eggs. Or something like that.
BZZZZZZZAAAAAANK! The shrill noise made Conner cringe uncontrollably. It wasn’t enough that this place was filled with the noises of metal doors clanging and the wailing of the insane, they had to make you jump out of your skin occasionally with alarms that jabbed at the primal part of your brain.
The part that screamed at you to run from places like this.
He took a deep breath and stepped into the lock-down unit.
The undecorated hallway was wide and rather mundane. Or it would have been, had Conner been able to keep from imagining what sorts of deranged and unhinged minds these walls had harbored. The feeling of being a lone, sane pilgrim in the land of madness made him feel a little light-headed. He wondered what it would take to push his own sanity over the edge and land him in a place like this. Then again, what would anyone say if he told them the real reason he was visiting? How could he explain the strange path of events that had led him here?
Hell, maybe he should make a reservation.
He reached the metal door marked with double sixes, hesitated for a moment, then knocked lightly.
“The bakery is closed!” a baritone voice rumbled inside the room. Or was it considered a cell?
“Hey, Christian…” Conner started, “it’s me.”
“Damnit man! I said the bakery is closed! Seek carbohydrates elsewhere!”
Conner gently cracked the door open.
“Christian? It’s your friend, Conner Oshiro…?”
There was a flurry of activity behind the door then a gaunt, wiry bearded face appeared in the slight opening.
“Oshiro? The musician?”
“Musician?… Oh god. You mean that dorky band in college? That was ages ago.”
“Rock music approaches at high velocity.”
“Close. The band was Rock=mc2.”
“Yes… I deployed the lower frequency harmonics.”
“Bass. We call it bass guitar.”
The wild ice blue eyes of the thin face seemed to find recognition.
“We… kicked ass. Come in Oshiro!”
The door flung open and with it came the smell of long unwashed body. The towering, stick built man beckoned Conner into the small empty room.
“Welcome to my sanctuary! I do apologize for the baked goods misunderstanding. Sixty-Four comes asking for bread. Terrible misunderstanding involving a discussion of bagel shops in the greater Manhattan area. He’s quite pedantic in his views.”
Conner shuffled about, trying to figure out the best place to stand a room void of furniture.
“A rather obsessive fellow, I admit. Lost in the minutiae of grains and ovens. Poor counsel in the debates regarding the fabric of the tapestry we consider our universe. It’s our pride, Man’s, that says this is our universe. Hardly. An unwelcome guest playing host. The stranger officiates the meal. Such self-appointed Maitre d’.”
Christian was getting very animated and it made Conner nervous. The psychiatrist had allowed the visit only if Christian didn’t get ‘too excited’ by the event. Conner did not want to test how excited was “too excited”.
“Okay, Christian. How bout we talk about the, uh, tapestry. Especially the strings. You were working on String Theory, remember?”
Christian regarded him dubiously.
“Of course I remember. Of all my short comings, this is not one of them.” he stated, tapping the side of his head. “The old apple revels in its authority. Woe is the body undergoing a slow death, but the crown of knowledge rules on.”
“That’s great, Christian. If I could just…umm… beseech that crown of… uh… knowledge.”
The tall man raised a bushy eyebrow.
“Confound it, man. Spit it out.”
Conner let out a flustered hiss.
“Fine. You were working with the particle collider before the accident. What were the parameters you were using?”
The tall, older man frowned deeply.
“It wasn’t strings. Strings are too linear. Pulling and tugging. They propose connections immaterial, when reality is far more permeating. But I won’t try to delude the concept to your level. Abstraction is often one floor above you.”
“Gee, Thanks.” Conner lifted his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Humor me, Christian. I have an idea of what you were trying, but I need-”
“A glittering gem is not enough! You would need a treasure trove of ideas pulled from my mind. An epiphany cannot be imbued upon another! A river of knowledge cannot be swallowed in one gulp! Especially this. Never this! The river… the river stole the gods! Divinity is cast from heaven!”
Christian’s voice was now booming in the small room. If this kept up, Conner knew his visit would be cut short. Very short.
“Jeez, man. You always assume, like an ass, that I won’t get it. Even crazy didn’t change that.” Conner paced the few steps he could in the confined space.
“I am not crazy!” Christian bellowed, spittle flecking his beard.
“Yeah, right. Gonna win my vote for sane with that!”
“You’re singular existence cannot fathom my experience! We are comrades no longer! We barely share the same plane of consciousness! The memory we used to share is no longer coherent!”
“You said it! No longer coherent. Nailed it! I don’t even know why I bothered to come.”
Conner made for the door.
“I was stupid for believing your diary.” Conner muttered.
“…I wrote nothing. What is this mysterious diary?”
Conner paused, hand on the doorknob.
“You’re right. You didn’t write jack. It was very helpful. The ‘mysterious diary’ records the voice. But then, turns out its no mystery, just pure psychosis masked as genius. Who was I kidding?”
Christian was no longer listening. He stared off and barely seemed to be aware of another presence in the room.
And to think, this man had been so close to the answer.
Conner began to step out of the room, but Christian grasped his wrist suddenly.
“The answer you seek invites danger, Oshiro. Inevitably. Every choice on that path leads to a finite branch. The shooter says goodbye to his love.”
Conner wrenched his wrist free, but Christian’s intense face closed in until their noses nearly touched.
“I have seen, I see and I will see. I succeeded, but at the cost of success. I broke through the tapestry and wove myself into the fabric. I have not traveled the river, but it has flowed through me. It has carried me away.”
Conner opened his mouth to respond, but could not find any words. Christian whispered something in his ear, then shut the door.
Sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Arlington Behavioral Health Center, Conner couldn’t shake the feeling that Christian wasn’t actually crazy. Unhinged, definitely. Crazy? Well, if Christian’s experiment had come anywhere close to success, then maybe crazy was inevitable.
Still, he couldn’t forget those strange, whispered words.
“I am a man in and out of time.”