Story by Brian Caesar
The shrill he had heard the night prior continued to eat at him, growing inside with each approaching step. It deafened the senses until the crowded streets became nothing more than a serene lull around him. The movements of the pleading beggars he passed on his way down York Street became just a ripple in what seemed a calm stream erasing the bedlam that surrounded. The true madness of the world he has come to know all so well had vanished, except for the brief moments in which he was instinctually forced to blink, when he could faintly hear the white noise of the everyday getting lost in the gentle breeze that blew whispers through thick hairs that draped over the curves of his ears. He fought to think “what could make such a sound?”
Jon Bafrer was the writer of “Self Help for Everyone Else,” a weekly page eight advice column of the, once praised and now deteriorating, Winston Chronicle. His day typically consisted of repeatedly sorting through endless heaps of letters that rolled in from the days passed, each containing the mundane, redundant questions about relationships, financial problems and countless other issues that Bafrer had not one ounce of interest in, and hoping to find one of the bunch to write some ambiguous response to. While he had grown quite accustomed to the ritualistic act of tearing open each saliva bound packet, he still managed, at times, to split his own skin as well, sometimes even convincing himself it was intentional. With every slight nick to the calloused tips of his fingers, he was harshly reminded that he let his dream slip right through them.
He believed he, at one time, had a purpose.. a calling…something that propelled him forward with each and every day. He felt it was his true destiny to have the world he had suffered through for all of these years, one day give him the respect that he so greatly deserved. Now the sunlight of every waking morning was just another burden to his eyes.
He had great aspirations, to conjure the thoughts of his soul on paper… to change everything. He planned to write the one book that gave every person who had ever trickled spite from their horrid mouths behind his frail arching back, or those who were cruel enough to even throw a quick fist in his direction for no reason other than to gain the respect of their peers claiming him as “an unsuitable” to their standards, a new light to glimpse the profound Mr. Bafrer with. He promised himself this reward in time, but this time grew further away as he only became a thrall to the work on his column, torn between the glory of vengeance and the bitterness of remorse on a daily basis, continuously reading each desperate prayer from the same people who tortured him in the years past.
Only when the final drip from his French Press had ever so slowly reached the floor beneath him, Jon had awoken from his reverie not only to find the mess he’d made, but to his editor standing above with the day’s paper in hand. “Jon have you seen this?” ..flicking out the creases of the tightly packed pages to fold to a particular section. ”Says there was a murder by Park Lake last night…only found a trail of blood out of the park and half of a slipper at the scene with the some leftover remains inside” He pulled the pages whole to his thick framed goggles to take another gaze at the black and white snapshot of what from Jon’s limited view appeared to be of shoes on a road. “…. can’t even identify if it’s even a man or a lady!! Alls I know is.. that much blood… there’s no way in hell this person could have survived this. I mean what in god’s name could have happened to the rest of the body? Who could have done something like that? Says right here: neighbors report hearing a terrifying scream and loud cracking sounds at or around the time of death. Sounds pretty gruesome huh buddy.. you’re probably really glad you got it easy around here, always hunting for the next big break in emotional turmoil.” Roy’s refusal to look down while he let lose a slender chuckle brought a slight sadness to Jon, which was quickly masked with an evidently invisible smile in response. “Anyway listen Jon.. I need to up your deadline to 3pm today because of this Park Lake case. I’m gonna have a slew of shit to sort through this afternoon, once more of the facts come in and I’m gonna be all wrapped up …so.. you think that’ll be a problem, Jon?” Still, catching the spreading liquid from the hardwood floor sighed the words “Nah Roy.. no problem at all.” “Good..good.. Then.. just put it on my desk when it’s done.” Roy had managed to slip from the room as Jon pointed his finger and uttered the words “you got it”, speaking only to a silhouette vanishing through the translucent glass that surrounded the office. Jon pulled the harshly worn pocket watch from his vest, and opened it. “11:52” wiping the last of the wetness from the worn wooden floor… ”Plenty of time.”
As he looked closer at the fading piece he noticed a single leaf of tobacco caked into the engraving inside. He remembered the moment he was given the watch by his at one time, fiancé, Eden Thompson. They had spent the night in front of Park Lake, catching lightning bugs and making up ghost stories while sipping red wine from a bottle and sharing cigarettes on the embankment.
With a smile that seemed slightly restrained, she pulled the watch from her bag, laid it in his palm and closed his fist tight around it. “It’s a gift” she stated, squinting her light eyes and pulling her soft straight hair behind her ear… “A gift that I wanted to give to you ..as a reminder of who you are Jon.” He looked down and uncurled his fingers from the circular object that lay in his hand. “And who am I?” Jon asked, with a smirk and an all familiar awareness of what he was about to hear. “Who are you?.. who ARE you!!? You, Jon Bafrer, are my inspiration.. my muse.. or whatever the male version of that is” slipping into her short giggle that had a way of making the surrounding lights just a bit brighter. “You are the most handsome man, the kindest, gentlest and most loving human on Earth, not to mention the most brilliant writer of his time.“ With a slow breathe and a push of her hair behind her ear she slowly knelt on the ground to face him at eye level. “You are the man I am going to marry, the love I will search forever for, and the person I cherish most in this world. Don’t ever forget that.. even while you’re writing for that dumb paper. They’ve no idea what they’ve got, and one day soon they will see the true you. When they come at you with some nonsense like that again, I just want you to reach into that big head of yours and think of this exact moment.. when it’s just the two of us and ask yourself, with no one left around, who are you?”
Jon smiled back as he gazed into her glimmering eyes, finally reaching the moment of calm he’d been waiting for that night. As he stretched himself closer to embrace her ever so subtle lips, a sharp shrill called out from above the hill tops. Jon turned quickly to find the cause of such an unbearable sound only engulfed by the moonlit darkness. “Let’s get the hell out of …” Jon, swiveling forward, found his arms empty only to notice the pocket watch still in his right hand. Another howl escaped the black walls behind him. His heart began its flight before his longing for Eden let him flee. With a growing snarl vastly approaching behind, he found his hand grasping the leg of his office chair and the now opened pocket watch reading 12:01.