I did it. I managed to participate in this year’s A-to-Z Challenge and managed to keep my sanity somewhat intact. I think I messed-up by writing each post the same day they were due so the quality wasn’t always great, especially towards the end.
The one I’m probably most proud of is Astronomy Domine; a story about a middle-aged man about to end his life via rocket ship; it was vaguely inspired by the Pink Floyd song. Distant Shore, M.E. and People Are Strange also turned out alright, probably because they seemed like cohesive stories. And they had somewhat interesting takes on the song titles/lyrics.
Towards the end, my sanity slipped a bit; I decided to have the great idea of writing a multi-part story and it turned out pretty meh. The start was promising so maybe I may rewrite it and expand it out. So I guess it wasn’t a complete dud.
Overall, glad I participated. I also came across some good stuff during the course of this challenge, such as the stories posted at Doesn’t Speak Klingon.
And ehhhh, there’s probably more I could say, but don’t really feel like it. Ok, bye.
Also, here’s a playlist of all the songs I used as inspirations for my posts.
As the sun lowered itself to the horizon, little droplets of water started to moisten the air. A gust sifted through the leaves and rolled along the bodies of passed-out drunkards throughout the resort. Maybe it was just his head, but Burt felt that something was wrong.
He followed the older man who was walking now at a brisk pace a few feet ahead of him. The man muttered to himself. It wasn’t too long ago that Burt thought that the man was some sort of authority on the island, making sure that its patrons bent to the will of the island. But it was clearer now that he was just a strange old man and a prisoner like Burt. He wondered how long had he been here, and where he was taking him if he even knew.
“It’s around here somewhere…somewhere…always moving it…I remember things…everyone seems to forget things around here…but I remember things…”
Burt could only speculate what he meant by this. Perhaps, the occupants of this island experience amnesia and forget that they are prisoners. Then what does that mean for Burt? Was he able to somehow “remember”? And what about that long, long period of aloneness. He was alone on this island for quite a while before everyone just started to appear. None of this made sense. He was also getting tired of walking.
“What are you looking for,” Burt asked. “And what do you mean by ‘remember things’?” But the older man just grunted.
“They try to trick me. They make me think I’m the security of this island. Try to give me this power. But it’s not power,” he said. But this didn’t seem like a reply to Burt, but more mutterings to no one but himself. Burt was tempted to ditch him, but he was afraid of aggravating him. And he was still curious as to where he was leading him, if anywhere.
However, the rain started coming down harder, and the sky darkened. Pretty soon they will be cold and wet and unable to see. But his guide did not seem deterred by this, his mutterings getting louder and louder.
Meanwhile, Rachel, with the corner of her eye, watched the rain gather on the window. She thought about Cathy, her sister, he was probably all alone in bed, writhing in pain. Then she looked back at Gerald who was asleep. He looked so peaceful like a child. There were certain things she was liked about him, even admired, but she knew she never loved him. But he was there and was, for the most part, a positive part in her life. That was until her sister started getting sick again. Then it became a tug-of-war. Part of her knew it was silly, that she could just abandon both of them and live her own life. But she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do that. Cathy needed her, and she was still married to Gerald who she still liked somewhat.
All these things were interrupted though by something. She didn’t know what it was, but her mind caught it, if only for a brief moment. A snatch of something ineffable. She stood-up and walked to the window slowly. She didn’t know what it was. She tried to focus on it, but her mind would blur. It was as if her comprehension was unable to fill-in the details that were there. All she could say was that it seemed like a shadow. But even that was inaccurate. But whatever it was, it shook on the ground, writhing in the light just before disappearing. That’s when she started remembering.
In the distance, the older man yelled out, “Yes! Here it is! I knew it! I remembered!” He ran over to what appeared to be a metal door angled from the ground. His hands clasped for the latch and pulled. “Come! Help, you bastard!” Without thinking, Burt ran over and tried to help. The two pulled the latch, but it barely budged. The rain was now coming down hard. The wind was fierce. After a moment of struggle, Burt backed-off and watched as the older man continued.
“Gah!” Then he started banging on it. “I know you’re in there! I’ve been here before! Open up, you bastards!” The man pulled and punched at the door. But the door did not open. No one responded. Burt was tired and wet, and he couldn’t watch this any longer. Soon, the old man was all by himself, yelling and cursing at a door in the jungle.
Rachel sat by Gerald on the bed, watching him. Even in the dark glow of the night she was able to see his contented face. She knew he was dreaming of something, something he never had.
Rachel was starting to remember this island and everyone’s roles on it. And she remembered when Tom had, once or twice, explained that none of them were real. It was hard to believe, of course, but there was no escaping it. Rachel and Gerald and everyone else were merely parts of a program, designed with the memories of others. They were there to make this place seem more real for any “actual” human that visited. But this program was in the early stages and required constant reboots and updates. And with every reboot, she would forget everything Tom told her. Or almost everything. A memory, a word, may come here and there, which was strange since she was simply lines of code with a set pattern and behavior.
But she wasn’t angry about it. She remembered when she once was. How Gerald was angry. But then he laughed. She couldn’t believe that he would laugh. Now it made more sense. She looked-down at Gerald again, watched as his eyes moved underneath their lids, running to and fro through memories that weren’t his. She hoped Cathy, whoever she truly was or if she was even real, was okay.
Suddenly, the sun was back up and the resort was empty and clean. The rooms were empty except for one. Burt turned in his bed and noticed a platter of fruit on the table. He rolled out and grabbed the card. “Welcome,” the card said. He sighed and slowly shoved the platter off the table.
He wandered the resort. It was empty once again. Burt tried to find a new theory for all this, but his mind couldn’t grasp on anything. He felt like an animal, tired and confused, meandering in its large cage. Soon, he found himself at the service desk. He pressed his hand against the bell. Suddenly, a man entered. Burt was surprised by this.
“‘Sup,” Tom greeted.
Burt didn’t know how to respond. But, finally, he said, “I want to go home.”
Tom rubbed his nose. “But you’re already home.”
Burt’s eyes widened. His heart nearly stopped.
“Well, at least for a while longer,” he said. “It’s not finished yet.”
“…Is this an experiment?”
Tom shrugged. “I guess you could call it that. You may not remember this, but you participated and you can’t exit prematurely. Things will go awry.”
Burt rested his head on the counter. “I want to go home…”
“Sorry dude,” Tom said.
Meanwhile, in Burt’s room, the entity came, placed the platter back on the table, generated some fruit and slid off to another part of the island that needed tending to. For it had no other choice.
The final installment for the A-Z Challenge. Inspired by the song “Zoo Eyes” by Aldous Harding.
The man, whose name was Tom, led Rachel into the backroom. It was small, windowless. A computer. A desk. A couple of servers with blinking lights. “Okay,” Rachel said. “I would like my phone, please.”
Tom sat down and turned his chair towards her, and leaned back. “There are no phones.”
Rachel gave him a nasty look. “Stop wasting my time.”
Tom shrugged. “I don’t know. Doesn’t really matter, I guess. Because, either way, you’re no longer going to exist.”
Rachel shook her head. She had no time for this. “Where the hell is your manager?”
“You said that last time.”
“And I’ll keep saying it until–”
“No, I mean you said that the last time before this place was rebooted again.”
Rachel now knew he was officially talking to a crazy person and stomped out of there. The sky was starting to dim. People were still stumbling around, drunk off their asses. She marched back to her room. Inside, she saw that Gerald was awake, sucking on a strawberry in bed.
“Gerald,” she said, “I don’t like this place anymore. We’re leaving.”
But Gerald didn’t respond, still savoring the strawberry. Then his eyes lazily rolled towards her. “Honey,” he said. “I love how smart you are. You’re always angry. Your mind always going. That’s what I like about you…”
“Okay. That’s nice, Gerald, but we’ve got to go.”
“Go where,” he asked in a content monotone. “We’re already here…”
Meanwhile, when Burt’s mind started coming to, he was being dragged through some dirt. “Gosh, you are heavy,” the older man observed as he struggled to drag Burt’s body.
“Wha…” Burt replied.
The older man dropped Burt and bent over him. “Hey! You awake? Ready for that walk?”
But Burt was still delirious. His head throbbed. The sky above was orange with some thick, grey clouds starting to form. It was oddly beautiful. He could lay there forever.
“Come on you. Get up. You’re going to help me get off this damn island. See, I’ve been watching you. You’re not like the others. You ask questions. You think outside the box. Which makes us pretty much the same. Now, get up.”
Burt, without thinking, slowly rose to his feet, his legs quivering.
“You’re not like them. Neither of us are. They’re something going on with this island, I ain’t a fan of it.”
Burt’s mind swayed. “Um, okay,” was all he could muster.
“None of these motherfuckers are going to control me.”
“Okay.” And the two continued walking through the jungle. Funny, Burt couldn’t remember a jungle being on this island.
Written for the A-Z Challenge. This part was inspired by the lyrics of “You Look Like Rain” by Morphine.
The older man stumbled up the hill. Looking up, he saw Burt. It was finally time to tell him the truth about this place. “Burt! Burt!” Burt’s head turned downward. “Don’t move! I’m coming! I’m your friend!” But, of course, Burt ran-off. “Damn it, how come no one listens to me!” He then noticed the entity trembling near the treetops before disappearing.
After some effort, the older man finally reached the top of the hill. After catching his breath, he continued after Burt. However, just a few meters away, he found him on the ground, his head bleeding next to a rock. “Great. Just great…”
Meanwhile, Rachel stepped into a small building and rang the bell at the front desk. When no one immediately arrived, she rang it again and again. She was a little peeved. Not just about the phone, but the number of people she had to step-over just to get here. The other visitors were getting massively drunk. Many were sleeping or passed-out or crawling on top of each other. Embarrassing.
In the corner of her eye, she noticed a rack filled with brochures. One of them read on the front: “XANADU: Endless Paradise for the Busy Life.” “Is that what this place is called,” she thought. Didn’t matter. She slammed on the bell. “Hello? Hello!” Finally, an average-looking fellow wearing glasses emerged from the backroom and calmly approached. Before he could ask what she needed, she diplomatically explained her situation. “Where the hell is my phone?”
The man simply nodded. “You must be Rachel.”
“It’s an emergency. I’m not in the mood for pleasantries.”
Rachel right away didn’t like this fool. He was far too mellow and really didn’t seem to care about her issue which was at utmost significance. “So? Are you going to get my phone, or not? Like I said, it’s an emergency.”
“I’m sorry Rachel, we have a strict no phone–”
“Don’t care. Don’t care. Don’t care. I’m paying…a lot to be here. You serve me, got it?”
The man nodded. His nodding was getting irritating. “Sure. Of course,” he replied in a way that was quite disingenuous, at least that’s how Rachel interpreted it. The man turned around and went back into the back room, closing the door behind him.
“Um…so are you getting my phone,” she called-out. After a couple of moments and no response, she started ringing the bell once again. The man returned. “So, what gives?”
The man shrugged.
“Okay. I’m going to need to speak with your manager. Or whoever runs this place.”
“Alright,” the man responded.
“So…are you…,” she let out an exasperated sigh. “Why is everyone so useless?”
The man rubbed his nose. “Your sister is going to be fine,” he said.
Rachel blinked. “I’m sorry? How do you know about my sister.”
The man shrugged and started heading back into the back room. “Oh no you don’t!” She ran in front of him, blocking his path. “You’re going to tell me what the hell is going on with this place.”
Written for the A-Z Challenge. This is a continuation of some of the previous posts. This segment inspired (a bit, kind-of) by “Xanadu” a song by Rush.
There was a knock at the door, but no one answered. Rachel was too busy with her search, and Gerald was laying in bed, his mind lost on the past and present. He thought about how great the bed was along with the air softly rolling through their room. He was also thinking about the time he met Rachel. In college, she was a couple years her junior, but more mature. It was as if she filled the gap in his silly existence. When he first met her, he immediately thought how much more often she wanted to see her. And to be with her. It felt so good feeling that way about someone. As if the whole world was rubbed away and he was allowed to float along in contentment. Before, he was committed to the bachelor lifestyle, but when he met Rachel, he wanted to be married and live with her wherever. His eyes were closed, but he gazed at her on a darkened hill, the night air combing across the stars. Rachel was still looking for her phone.
“It’s got to be…are you going to…ah, forget it!” Then there was the knock again. She sighed. “Can you?” She saw Gerald, lying peacefully on the bed. Suddenly, she felt (somewhat) bad for yelling at him. She marched over to the door and opened it.
“Greetings,” the older man said. “I hope everything is up-to-par.”
“Well,” she said. “Not really.”
“I take it you work for the resort.”
“In a way. In a way. Do you mind if I–” but as he was about to enter, Rachel stopped him.
“Well, if you work for the resort, maybe you can answer this: my dumbass husband believes that our cellphones were confiscated when we arrived; this can’t possibly be true, right? Or else I’m going to start knocking some heads.”
The older man chuckled. “Ah, I see the ‘no phone policy’ has been met with some controversy. But, I assure it, it’s all for your benefit. And comfort.”
“Comfort? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
“Honey, relax…” Gerald said from the bed, his eyes still shut.
“Your husband makes a good point.”
“No he doesn’t. He never makes a good point. Now, give me my phone back!”
The older man looked at Rachel for a moment. “Sure,” he said. “But I’m going to need you to help us out with something…”
“No,” Rachel replied and slammed the door on him. “What a prick.”
Meanwhile, Burt surveyed the island from on top of the hill. It was strange, he couldn’t remember a hill being here. Then again, he had the feeling that it had always been here. Burt scanned the small world below. The island was nearly covered with small rooms, a couple of restaurants and bars. Surrounded by empty horizon. He now wasn’t sure if this place was hell. It still could have been a hallucination, or a simulation. Perhaps he was in a coma. He could hear the music rising from the stage below. This time Jimmy Buffett’s brother was doing a rendition of a Beach Boys song. Fortunately, it wasn’t Kokomo. But the song played thrust him back home, just for a moment, when he used to be driven by his dad to school and he would play the oldies station.
He had to get off this island somehow. He needed to formulate a plan, fast. There was nothing on the hill except for some trees. No sign of that entity that seemed to evade him. He was certain that it was trying to lead him somehow. But it was probably closer to desperation. However, he did notice something. For the first time in a long while, he saw that the sun was starting to come down.
Written for the A-Z Challenge. This is a continuation of an ongoing story I started from my “Q” post. This portion was inspired by the song, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”
“Now, come on. It’s nothing. Just a little walk. Maybe we can grab a couple of drinks,” the older man said.
Burt looked around. “I…who are you?”
“Come…” The older man placed his hand on the side of Burt’s shoulder, but Burt shuddered. Now Burt was getting angry.
“I asked you a question. Who are you? And what is this fucking place!”
But the older man continued grinning. “This is…paradise.” The old man quickly placed his arm around Burt and the two started walking as the audience listened to Jimmy Buffett’s failed brother play a Rolling Stones classic. As the two walked, Burt’s brain was going at 100 miles an hour. What is going to do now? Does he want to see where this guy is leading him? Maybe he will finally get some answers…but then what comes after that? That’s when a strong sense of dread washed through his stomach. Burt had to think of something.
“Isn’t this nice, Burt? It’s certainly better than spending most of your days working a job that you don’t like, sleeping in a musty, old room. You know, Burt. I–oof!” The two men toppled over. All because Burt strategically placed his foot in front of the man’s gait, tripping him and bringing Burt down to the ground in the process. Burt quickly scrambled back to his feet and bolted in the opposite direction. Running past the smiling, drunken faces. Past the fruity, alcoholic drinks, past the hawaiian shirts and sunglasses. Running. Running.
“Where is it? Where…?” Rachel searched her room. Lifting the pillows and cushions. Checking underneath the bed. Rummaging through the drawers.
“What are you doing?”
She didn’t even notice Gerald come-in. She was tempted to cover herself, pretend that she wasn’t searching for her phone to call her sister, but she had to find it. And she was tired of hiding everything from her husband. Finally, she asked, “have you seen it?”
“What? Your phone? Jesus, Rachel. Look at you. Can’t you just relax? She’s going to be fine.”
But Rachel ignored him. If she wanted to talk to her sister she had every right to. Gerald sighed. “Don’t you remember?”
“Remember what,” she asked sharply, still searching the room.
“They took our phones. At least I think…Yeah, their whole thing is that we’re isolated,” but then Gerald thought about this. That sounded right, but he couldn’t remember exactly.
“Stop playing games, Gerald.”
“I’m not. That’s the deal with this place.”
That’s when Rachel stopped and glared at him. Is that why they were there? So Gerald could isolate her? But, she didn’t say anything. Gerald felt the waves of disdain permeate through the air. But he just shrugged and threw himself on the bed. He was finally starting to relax.
Meanwhile, Burt, while hiding behind a surfboard that was standing upward in the sand, was trying to formulate his next step. But his brain was spinning around different questions and theories. A part of him was starting to miss the time when he was all alone.
But as his brain rattled in his skull, he noticed something. That “thing,” almost like a shadow, off in the distance. He squinted and saw it, or thought he saw it, along the side of the only hill which stood near the center of the island, above the trees and rooms.
Written for the A-Z Challenge. The stories continues. This portion inspired (somewhat) by “View From a Hill” by The Chameleons.
Burt watched as people dove and splashed into the pool. The bars were now occupied, and others were pouring out of rooms with smiling faces. Burt was confused.
He had retreated into his room, trying to figure out what was going on and why. But it was hard to concentrate with the noise outside. Then, in a moment of clarity, he chucked a strawberry at one of the walls. He went into the bathroom, waited then returned. The trail was still there with the remains of the strawberry sitting forlorn at the bottom of the wall.
Burt wandered around the resort. Everyone seemed to be walking around, drinking, chatting as if they were on a vacation. Burt was dumbfounded. A part of him wanted to call out to all of them, ask them if they even remembered arriving there, but another part was also questioning his own sanity. Maybe this was just a normal resort, and everything he had experienced previously was merely some sort of fever dream. But, he didn’t remember arriving. He had gone to bed and then woke-up here.
Meanwhile, Gerald and Rachel were in their room. Gerald stood before the window as he observed hordes of people sweep across the beach. “Where did all of these people come from?” Gerlad shrugged and looked over at his wife who was sitting upright in bed reading a book. He watched her. She didn’t seem too enthralled in what she was reading, her eyes pensive as if her mind was reeling elsewhere.
“Still thinking about Cathy,” he asked. She didn’t answer right away.
“I thought you were going out,” she replied, her eyes fixed to the pages.
“I didn’t mean to sound dismissive. But you know how she is… you can’t let her control–” but before Gerald could finish he caught himself. He didn’t want to step into that black hole of an argument again. After all, he was on vacation. Though it didn’t really feel like it.
Gerald left the room and pushed through the throngs of people to reach one of the outdoor bars. He couldn’t find an empty seat so he walked around with his drink (coconut; colorful umbrella.) He tried to pull his mind away from his wife and her manipulative sister, and from his work. “It would be nice,” he thought, “if we were just allowed to relax, for once. Just to escape from the world for a few scenes and come back. But even when we’re on some island, far from civilization, thoughts of work, thoughts of life just have to come flooding in. We’re not allowed to merely exist. Is anyone happy with this life that we made ourselves?”
As he was thinking these deep and profound thoughts, people started pushing past him, causing him to drop his drink. “Excuse me,” he said.
“Oh, sorry man,” a man said.
“What’s going on anyway? Why is everyone moving this way?”
“I dunno. Figured it must be good though.” Gerald couldn’t fight this logic and joined them. Gerald soon found himself at the back of a mob surrounding an outdoor stage. Gerald squinted and saw a man with a white beard, hawaiian shirt, and sandals (replete with socks) standing before them, ukulele in hand.
“Howdy everyone,” the man said. “Wow, what a turnout. What a turnout. Well, I’m glad y’all could make it. My name is Jacob. Jacob Buffett. And I hope y’all are having a good day. Man, just what a beautiful day. Anyway, I’m going to sing a little number to help put everyone in the mood, it’s called–”
“Are you Jimmy Buffett,” someone from the crowd called out.
“Um, no,” Jacob grinned. “Nope that is my brother. I am Jacob. Now, the song is called ‘Under my Thumb’ by the Rolling Stones. You know, I once met Ronnie Wood at–”
“Um, heh. Sorry, but I’m actually legally barred from playing–”
“Do ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’! CHEESEBURGER!” Another voice cried out followed by cheers.
Jacob stammered, wiped the sweat from his brow. “Okay guys and gals…okay…Let’s just get into the song…” but as he was about to start playing Burt appeared on stage and took the microphone.
“Um, sorry Jim,” he turned to the audience. “Er, hello everyone…”
Gerald immediately recognized him. “This should be good…”
“Um, before we, um, continue…does anyone remember how they got here, or what they were doing last? Actually, does anyone even know where they’re even at?”
Everyone looked at each other. One of them answered. “I came by bus, I think…”
“I’m pretty sure I took 1st class. I don’t do anything less. Have you ever been on coach? Might as well stuff me in a crisper drawer.”
“I think I was born here.”
Burt stared at them. “Okay…and where is here? What is here?”
Everyone looked at each other again.
“Dude, I don’t know. I’m just here to have a good time.”
“Yeah, now bring back the cheeseburger!” The audience proceeded to chant, except for Gerald who now started to actually think about Burt’s queries.
Burt quickly left the stage. As he stepped-off he was met with the older man from before. “Hello, I see you like causing a ruckus.”
“Let’s go for a walk, shall we?”
Written for the A-Z Challenge. This is a continuation of my previous posts starting with Question! This segment was inspired by “Under My Thumb” by Jacob Buffett I mean the Rolling Stones.
Some time had passed since he had tried burning everything down. Now Burt resorted to flushing the toilet in his room over and over. There was a time when he wondered about how the plumbing worked and was maintained in this place. And how there was power. But he no longer wondered. Instead he was something watching the water swirl over and over again in the toilet bowl. But as he was about to flush the toilet once again he heard them. He froze and turned towards the front door to his room. They were voices.
Burt quickly went over to the door, but before opening listened-in. There were two voices, but he couldn’t hear what they were saying. One was male and the other female. Both seemed calm. As he stood by the door he was suddenly overcome with a sense of excitement and nausea. He kept listening-in, but then, suddenly, they were gone. Burt waited. Were they voices merely in his head? He slowly opened the door and peeked. He didn’t see anyone around. He stepped out of his room, but as he turned his head he noticed two people by the pool. He froze.
Burt remained near the entrance to his room and observed the two. They hadn’t noticed him yet. He watched as the man sat down on one of the chairs, his back facing Burt. And the woman walked alongside of the pool, her gaze dragging across the water. The two seemed to be chatting. Burt shuffled away from his door and crouched behind a trash can. He was closer now. And was able to pick up a piece of their conversation.
“How’s the water,” the man asked.
“Not sure,” the woman said. “I haven’t felt it yet. So far this place has been…disappointing.”
“Really,” the man responded. “It’s quaint. I quite like it.”
“Aren’t you a bit concerned though?”
“There’s no staff. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a soul here in ages, if not ever.”
The man shrugged. “I don’t know. I consider that to be a positive to be honest. That means I can have you all to myself.”
The woman’s gaze returned to her reflection in the pool. “Right…right…how much longer are we staying here?”
“What do you mean? We’ve only been here…a day? Maybe two?”
“You don’t know?”
The woman didn’t answer. “This pool doesn’t seem too clean.”
The man sighed. “Relax!”
“I am relaxing.”
“No you’re not. Look at me,” he said. But the woman didn’t look. “This is what relaxing looks like. You’re not looking.”
“No it’s not.”
“You’re not even looking.”
Finally, the woman looked at the man.
“Don’t tell…” the man said, “are you still worried–”
“She’s going to be fine, right?”
The man shook his head. “It’s nothing. She’s just overreacting. That’s what she does.”
The woman shot him a look and returned her attention to the pool. “I want to go back to the room.”
“Oh come on! I’m not having you cooped up in our room like last time,” the man stood-up and started walking towards her. “You need to relax. Enjoy the sun. All that fun, vacationy-bullshit.”
“No, it’s just…there’s a man…”
Burt’s eyes widened. “Oh…”
The man pointed at him. “Hey!” But then he smiled. “What the hell is he doing? Are you okay, sir?”
“Why are you talking to him?”
“Come on. It might be fun.”
“But I thought you liked that there was no one around.”
“Ah, but I have a feeling this may not be some ordinary fellow.”
Burt stood and inched towards them. The man smiled at him while the woman eyed him cautiously. Burt wasn’t sure to trust them either. Were they prisoners like him? Were they sent here to torture him? Were they even real?
“How is it going, sir? My name is Gerald, this is Rachel. We were starting to think we were the only ones here.”
Rachel winced when he mentioned her name. She then spoke into his ear.
“Aw, don’t worry. I reckon he’s harmless. Maybe a little weird. Remember what I said? You need to relax.” He looked at Burt. “So, what’s your name?”
“…Burt,” it felt weird saying his own name. He hadn’t done that in a while.
“So, Burt. What were you doing over there? You weren’t spying on us, were you?”
Burt was still trying to process the situation, deciding how much information to divulge. “Um…” he finally said, “how long have you been here?”
“Ah. No. We asked you a question first,” Gerald smiled. Burt didn’t know what to make of him. Meanwhile, Rachel tugged at his shirt sleeve. But Gerald didn’t react.
“Um…” Burt sighed. “Yes, I guess I was spying on you.”
“Ah! He admits it! I’m getting better at this whole interrogation business. Now, would you like a drink, Burt?”
Finally, Rachel walked away in the opposite direction. “Rachel?” He went after her and she stopped. “What is it?”
“I don’t think we should talk to him. He creeps me out.”
Gerald grinned. “Are you scared?”
“Yes,” she said seriously. “I want to go back to our room.”
“OK. You go on ahead. I will be there shortly.” They kissed and she continued walking away. “Now,” he approached Burt. “I think it’s only fair that you pay for the drinks. And I–”
“How long have you been here?” Burt asked sharply.
“Well, we just–”
“Where did you come from? I’m the only one here. And I have been for a long time.”
Gerald was taken back by all these questions. It was clear that he was trying to reevaluate his initial perception of Burt. “Um…are you…fine?”
Burt had to calm himself down. “Sorry. Well, um, you know how you were just talking about how there’s no people here. Well, I’ve been the only person here for awhile. Forever. I’m not sure how long. And I’ve been stuck here. And it’s a small island. It’s not connected to anything. There are no ports. Just these buildings. There aren’t even any birds.”
“No birds eh? I’m starting to like this place more.”
Burt was starting to get frustrated. “I’m sorry, Gerald? This isn’t an ordinary place. You’re not here on vacation.”
“Um…OK, buddy. I think maybe you’ve been out in the sun for too long. Or maybe you’ve had one too many, but–”
“Is everything alright here? Is this man bothering you?” An older man stood in front of them. Both Burt and Gerald were surprised to see him.
“Um…no, it’s alright. I’ve just got to go…” Gerlad walked away. Burt stood there. Now there was this other guy. Who the hell was he?
“So, how are you, friend?” The older man asked in a not-so benevolent tone. “I hope you’re not here to upset everyone, are you?”
The older man shook his head. “I better not be hearing any more trouble from you. This is a nice, orderly establishment, got it?” And the man left Burt.
“Wait…what?” Burt said, looking around.
Written for the A-Z Challenge. The story continues. This part inspired (somewhat) by “This Must be the Place” by The Talking Heads.
It didn’t take long for Burt to feel tired. But, he continued pushing through the water, through the shove of each wave. Burt was no longer himself. His mind was elsewhere, a voice panicking far in the distance, a gaze that has no use but to watch as the body battled against the sea.
But soon, the water seemed to get bigger, more overwhelming. Each hand seemed to smother him more. Burt was hardly able to swim, but to simply bob as water splashed over his face and into his throat. The sky was distant. And his body was on the verge of collapse, disintegrating into the cold belly of the ocean.
There was no memory, no in-between. One moment he was far into the sea, and the next he was on the beach, eyes grasping for the dark fingers of palm leaves. “Well,” he thought to himself, “that escape plan didn’t work.”
This helped support his theory that if he died, the island would bring him back. Then again, did he actually die out there? Maybe something had “rescued” him. Later on, Burt recuperated by sitting in his room, mindlessly chewing on some berries while eyes moved every so often to the waves in his window.
Once Burt had adequate enough strength, he went back to the bar. Afterwards, he smashed as many windows as he could, breaking into each room, but they were like his: nothing useful but shoes and fruit. He tossed as much furniture he could into the pool. As silly as it was, it felt good. He was never able to exact this kind of mindless, petty destruction in his life. He lived a silent, (mostly) polite existence so this was a nice change. But, of course, when he returned from the beach, all of the windows were reformed and the pool empty.
After a while, Burt tried to get used to this life. He even tried to make the best of it, but getting creative. He managed to find some paper and pens and proceeded to write. First it was just simple stuff: his thoughts and theories about this place. Then he started to get more complicated and abstract. It didn’t take long for him to dive into writing stories and poems. He tried to recreate old television shows he used to watch just to entertain himself. However, when he woke-up, his work was no longer there. He searched around and found that the papers were now completely blank.
Burt sat at the bar, pouring himself drink after drink. Then he stumbled towards the pool, vomited, fell in, and vomited some more. When he woke-up he was back in his bed. One of the benefits of this place: no hangover. Burt continued his binge.
“Excuuuuse me, bartender,” he said.
“Yes,” he said.
“I want 1 to 3 Manhattans please,” he said. “None of this island daiquiri bullshit. Coconut with a straw…”
“No problem,” he said.
“And put it on my tab…do you even know how to make a Manhattan,” he asked.
“Nope,” he said.
Burt woke-up in his bed. He shambled over to the fruit platter. “Welcome”. He took a bite out of a strawberry and tossed it against the wall, watched the mush slowly travel downward, leaving a red trail. “Maybe,” he said, “I should quit.”
That’s when he started writing again. This time he wrote about his family. About his old life. And as he wrote he recreated his hometown and imagined himself walking around, having an ordinary day. Nothing special. Just talking. Or listening to people talk. He even wrote about the banal shit he loathed. And he was able to imagine it all as if it were actually happening. But then something would bring him back to his room. But he wouldn’t feel bad, but strangely content. As if he actually had lived his life and could die in peace.
But this feeling wouldn’t last for long. One time, there was no feeling at all. He walked, empty, towards the bar and found some matches. And in the next moment, walked back to the beach and smelled the smoke spread through the air. As the island resort burned behind him, he watched the calmness of the waves. Suddenly, the smoke and the sounds of fire were gone. He sighed and headed back, the buildings intact once again.
Written for the A-Z Challenge and also a continuation of my last twoposts. This part was inspired by “Savage Sea” by The Pop Group.
It didn’t take long for Burt to realize that there is was no wildlife here. No seagulls, no crabs. Not even a fly. He wondered how such an ecosystem could exist. This further cemented his theory that this was some sort of hell constructed just for him.
He also noticed that the sun never came down. This world lived in perpetual daylight. This was unfortunate for Burt because he still got tired. He would close the blinds and nestle himself in the shadows, trying to bury himself in sleep, but he would still know that the sun was still there, overseeing everything. Not knowing that it was supposed to go away. Burt managed to get sleep once in a while, but he wasn’t always confident that it was enough. As well, the dreams and bouts of panic also prevented adequate rest.
Every once in a while, Burt would conduct experiments. One time, he broke a stool by one of the outdoor bars. And from a distance, watched until either something came along to repair it, or until the stool decided to mend itself. He watched and watched until he nodded-off for a minute. When he quickly opened his eyes, the stool was no longer shattered, but standing upright and intact as it had before.
Burt never went hungry. There was always a platter of fruit. The bar was always restocked. And his room’s closet was always filled with clean clothing. White “beach wear” replete with sandals. He contemplated hanging himself just to see if he too would be repaired, but he didn’t want to take his chances.
Burt watched the waves, buried his hands in the warmth of the beach. He didn’t have much of a life. He was in his early 30s, but still delivered pizza for the family business. The business his sister, Jane ran. She was always the smarter, more responsible one. She had her life together and was soon to be married. Meanwhile, Burt had lived in a lousy room inside a hoarder’s house. And even then he barely had enough for rent. He didn’t have a girlfriend; he didn’t have any ambitions; he was merely existing. He figured this “hell” wasn’t much different than his previous life. And in some ways, it was better. Especially since no one was able to see him. At least, he thought no one saw him.
That’s when he started thinking about that shadow he saw some time before. He assumed that it was a hallucination. But now he wasn’t so sure. After all, there must be something cleaning the messes he made. Perhaps it was a servant here. Or a prisoner like him. Maybe they were two beings stuck here, but existing on different planes, passing through each other but never able to interact with or comprehend the other. Or it was something more malicious.
But if there was one thing that was “normal” about this place, it was the fact that he still reddened beneath the sun. This was another thing he hated about the beach. He was fair-skinned, yet lived in California. Why? Why did his family ever think living in California was a good idea? Did they want skin cancer? That’s when he thought about his dad. He had died a couple of years prior in his sleep. His sister inherited the business from him. He started off with nothing, but was able to build a successful restaurant. However, had Burt never had the family business to fall-on, he probably would have been homeless, living in a trash can somewhere.
The sunlight captured itself on the edges of the waves. And Burt sat there, his gaze settling on the horizon. He had no idea how long he had been sitting there. His sense of time was completely warped here. And his mind was lost with the waves, coming in and out. That’s when he stood-up and walked towards the water.
Written for the A-Z Challenge. This was inspired by the song “The Restless Waves” by Dirty Three. This is also a continuation of this previous segment.