Chapter 2: Misery’s Best Friend
It was the puddle forming between his head and the pillow that brought John back to consciousness. His clothes were so soaked through with sweat that there was a human imprint on the sheets he would surely have to change again in the morning. For now, all he could think to do was throw his wet clothes in the corner with the others, put a couple of towels down, and hope for at least a half-a-blinks worth of sleep before the sun forced its way into his room like an interrogator inquiring as to why he wasn’t up yet. If John weren’t used to this nightly protocol he might be a bit more stressed about it. However, consistency is the friend of those searching for comfort (we’re creatures of habit after all) so all that was left for him to do was counting stars while sinking back into his vaguely damp bedding.
John had always feared the night. Not because of the darkness (“Don’t fear the things that you can’t see” was his no-nonsense approach he’d had since a youngster) but more so the misery it always entailed. Making it through his daytime routine was easy! He loved putting on his apple red work vest in anticipation of heading to the laborious occupation he’d grown so fond of because it meant he had something to occupy his worst enemy; his thoughts. It also meant he had survived another nightfall. John had a mind that whirred at a thousand crazy miles per hour but because of his schedule and habit it was kept at bay like a dog with a steak chained to a tree. Once the day was done however… that meant his “dog” was done with its “steak” and was looking for the next thing to chew on, which just so happened to be EVERYTHING.
As he absorbed the obnoxious luminescence coming off the digitized numbers of his alarm clock John couldn’t help but do the mental math of how much time he had before getting out of bed became top priority. 45 minutes… 45 godforsaken minutes. Just under matching how much cumulative sleep he’d gotten to that point. “If you can’t beat them, join them” John thought. In this case “them” being the thoughts scattering through his head like Godzilla-sized cockroaches scurrying everywhere at the sudden shine from football stadium floodlights.
“You’ve got to get your oil changed. I know you haven’t forgotten, but it needs to be reiterated”
“You didn’t e-mail Jennesis back… Should you do it now or would it be weird when she sees the timestamp and realizes you’re some kind of red cloaked vampire…?”
“Did you know ET’s alien race is in the stands for the pod races for Star Wars: Episode 1 and that when ET sees a kid dressed as Yoda for Halloween he says “Home! Home!” meaning that ET and Star Wars exist in the same universe?”
“Do you think George Lucas is happy to have sold off Star Wars and the pressure is off him now?”
“Have you ever cooked with a pressure cooker?”
“Is Top Chef on tonight?”
“Did you text your mom back?”
“You didn’t do the laundry… now you don’t have the clothes you need for the meeting with the VP of the Demolitionist’s Union. Better come up with a ‘plan B’ so as not to come off as a Rock Republic Reject!”
“What ever happened to ‘The All-American Rejects’?”
“What if you blow the meeting with the VP… you could lose your job… you don’t know how to do anything else but work the quarry…”
“How are you going to go to sleep if your hearts racing like that?”
“You were a little out of breathe 5 days ago when you climbed that extra flight of stairs at the office. We should be worried about that.”
“Could Jurassic Park really happen?”
That’s when “I Got You Babe” blasted from his alarm clock like it was projectile vomiting after a long night of drinking all the thoughts that had kept him up in the first place. John chose to let the song play rather than turn it off so as to give himself something else to listen to for a while instead of the circus clown routine under the big top that was his cranium. Through the clutter, his first morning task was to sort out which of those urgent screams of wondering that occupied his rest were TRULY important and which could be ignored until the following evening when they’d rear their devious heads again.
With a groan John rolled himself out of bed and made his way to the kitchen. As he wiped the sleep from his eyes he felt his foot smash against flesh as he rounded out of his door and in to the hallway. “Oh, sorry man…” John muttered groggily as his pet rat Trinks, who had been sleeping in the hallway, got up out of his rudely awakened slumber and accompanied John on his trek to get his morning pick-me-up started.
As John packed the coffee filter with the strongest roast “Stateway Grocery” had to offer he felt the frame of his house give a gentle shudder that slowly steeped to an ominous rumble. As if straight out of a scene in a movie John heard the trembling of dishes inside the cupboards and in that moment realized his body was doing the same thing.
“Here boy, COME!” John called to Trinks who had taken refuge on the counter as he stormed towards the door to get outside and away from the dangers of what HAD to be an earthquake. Trinks hopped off the counter and scampered at John’s heels with his tail between his legs as his rodent brain wrestled with the uncertainty of what exactly was going on.
Moving swift with unease, John flung open the door to a burst of… shadow. The sunlight that had pried its way through his blinds moments ago was nowhere to be found as he stared directly into the face of pure chaos. His gut wrenched as John immediately got the feeling in the pit of his stomach that he only got when he knew it was going to be a particularly anxiety and stress riddled evening. Before him was what he could only describe as the visual representation of all the things that kept him up at night. With an ache in his heart, John wrapped his arms around Trinks as he stared into the unknown coming his way with the ferocity of a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the hunt.
“I’ll hold on to you, you hold on to me…” he whispered to Trinks as they braced themselves for the moment of impact…