Universe W-2020: The Sideshows 2
December 2nd, 2007
A Shame Indeed
A loud pounding noise echoes throughout the hollow household of Greg and Patty Clarke, the entire foundation seeming to shake with each forceful impact. John, the eldest son, slowly opens his eyes, half expecting a raging gorilla to come barging through his bedroom door. He then realizes said door is open, which can only mean the knocking is coming from the front door. And that he must get up. Spectacular. After wondering who is tryna bother his family so early in the morning, he shakily rises to his feet and rummages around his room for some clothes without beer stains soaked into the threads. In his haste he finds only a long-sleeve thermal shirt and a pair of Neye’ke competitive running shorts; if it was perfect for answering the door for the pizza man last night, it’s perfect for answering the door this morning.
John fully grasps the brutal extent of the hangover he’s harboring as he saunters out of his bedroom and catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror hanging in the hallway. The mere image of his own bloodshot eyes is enough to trigger the all too familiar headache and the gut-wrenching nausea at the same time, causing him to flirt with the great idea of taking a tumble down the stairs. Hangovers have an inconvenient tendency to sneak up on John, but most days our boy buckles down and handles them like a champ. Today is not most days, however, so he retreats to the bathroom to splash cold water on his face before continuing along to the bass drum convention being held downstairs. The pounding only gets louder as he nears the front door, and John notices his headache pulsing in rhythm with the knock. If John wasn’t in such mind-numbing agony, he would probably really appreciate that.
Upon unlocking and opening the door, John finds who else but his neighbor, a kindly old geezer named Louie. Louie has a wife named Roberta who he’s been with, faithfully, for fifty-five years; Louie is the type of old man that John aspires to be one day.
“Goodmorning Louie, how’s it goin’ m’man?” John says as he removes a knuckle-full of crust from his eye. “What can I do for you?”
“Good morning John. I’m doing wonderfully, how are you?”
“I’m doin’ okay. I have a bit of a headache but I’m hangin’ in.”
“A headache, eh?” Louie asks with a chuckle. “Probably from all that loud music you boys were listening to until all hours of the night!”
“Yeahhhh sorry about that, I had a little party last night. Parents are out of town, they’ll be back sometime later today though.”
“Oh it’s okay, John,” Louie says, patting our hungover hero on the shoulder. “You just have to learn to be a bit more considerate is all. You and your brother. Speaking of which, I also brought over this flying disk,” as he reveals a flying disk. “I think he accidentally threw it over my fence the other day. He really must be more careful you know, it almost hit Roberta right in the head when she was outside gardening!”
Louie holds the disk out in his hand but keeps a tight grip on it for a few seconds when John goes to grab it. If John would look up, he’d catch quite a chilling stare coming from Louie’s suddenly beady eyes. However he does not, instead focusing on the disk and assuming his hungover brain is playing tricks on him. In an attempt to appear normal, John keeps his stationary hold on the disk until Louie eventually lets go. After studying the mundane object for a few moments, John casually tosses it onto the floor behind him.
“I’ll make sure I hit him on the head with it when I see him.”
This makes Louie snicker. “All right, well, not too hard I hope! I’ll leave you be now, tell the folks I said hello when they return.”
“I think I can manage that,” John replies with a smile. “See ya later Louie. It was good talkin’ to ya, man.”
John closes the door. Overwhelming feelings of gratitude rush him as the house grows silent once more. All John has left to do is go back upstairs and crawl into his nest, where he can continue sleeping off his fantastic night – and less than fantastic hangover – for the rest of the morning. He slowly climbs up the stairs, the nausea strangely getting worse with each slight increase in altitude. Or, maybe he stopped paying attention to it during the talk with Louie and he’s just now becoming aware of it again. He decides the argument with himself is null and beelines into the bathroom to throw up when he gets to the top of the stairs.
After washing the taste of digested food out his mouth, changing out of his vomit-covered morning attire, and chugging two bottles of water to purify, John puts on the first pair of sleeping pants he finds in his bombsite of a bedroom and crawls into bed. Within minutes he hears the front door open and at least six legs run into the house. This can mean one of two things: the house is being burgled and John is probably going to get murdered by intruders, or, his brother had gotten home from walking the dog. As much as John wishes for the former, he chooses the more realistic viewpoint and uses his pillow to muffle any and all ruckuses in the house from invading his earholes.
The pillow seems to do the trick; John’s out like a dead lightbulb in seconds. He daintily drifts back into his dreams.
Play It Safe
A loud thump erupts from downstairs, stirring John in his sleep. The alarm clock reads 1:30, and judging by the total lack of light coming through his open windows, John deduces that he slept through the day. He fumbles around trying to feel for the light switch next to his bed, taking him far longer to locate it than he will ever admit. Sitting on the side of the bed, feet dangling over the carpet like hanged men from the gallows, John waits in the silence, blocking out the dull ringing in his ears to listen for any more strange noises of the night. A few minutes go by with no audial stimulation, and just as John so much as brushes his fingertip against the light switch, another thump echoes through his house and freezes him still like a wax dummy.
One loud sigh later, this groggiest of twenty-somethings stands up, his feet somewhat sinking into the aged carpet. Slowly walking across his room, John’s heart begins to beat faster and faster as his mind comes closer and closer to piecing together what might be going on. He puts his hand on the door handle and hears a barrage of thumps, this time coming from the hallway right outside his door. Then something makes contact with the door from the other side, scaring John not only out of his wits, but also out of the grip he held on the knob. He quickly steels his nerves and opens the door, fully expecting some kind of mix between a murderer and a thief, only to find his lovable beagle Spike laying at his feet. ‘Aww, poor guy,’ John thinks to himself while reaching down to pet his puppy pal. ‘Must have had a nightmare and ran into the wall again.’
After the impromptu pet therapy session, Spike hauls tail back downstairs, and John takes a stroll over to the bathroom. There he proceeds to ruin everything for hours to come in the matter of a few minutes. After a flush, and then a courtesy flush for good measure and good manners, John leaves the war zone a hero and backtracks to his room so he can finally catch slumber, although he has a funny feeling he’ll be woken up again.
Something seems off to our dear, tired John though; something about the dimly lit hallway is different than it was before he went into the bathroom. He stands there puzzled for what feels like hours, only to realize his brother’s bedroom light has been turned on. ‘What is he still doing up, it’s a Sunday night,’ he thinks to himself before shambling down the hallway like a zombie hungry for the flesh of the light switch. John elects to play the good brother and simply reaches in to turn off the lights without looking in to see whatever Jason is up to. He lets out a “Goodnight, kid,” and gets only silence in reply. When he turns around to go back to his room, he notices that someone has apparently turned on the kitchen light downstairs, too. John lets go of the controls and his mild anxiety takes over – now it really seems like someone is trying to goof him in the worst of ways.
Deciding to play it safe, John opts to head back into his room and lie down on his soft memory foam mattress, pulling the covers up to his head. He figures that dying in his sleep is definitively better than being killed whilst he’s awake, so he sees sleep as his only legitimate option. Right as John is in the middle of questioning the morbidity of his own sense of humor, he hears what he assumes is the bathroom door shutting in the hallway as some light pollution leaks in through the crack under his door before vanishing. Luckily for our young hero, this distraction proves to be enough to end his previous thought process, and he gently drifts off to sleep.
A Cold Monday Afternoon
It’s a cold Monday afternoon in December; the ominous gray clouds above the town had opened up earlier in the morning to relinquish a joyous mix of ice, rain, and snow upon the unsuspecting population. Hours of exposure to the pitter-patter of precipitation was enough to wake Louie up, his old body creaking as loud as the floorboards as he stands, gathering himself. Something succulent catches his nose and he can only hope the mouth-watering aroma he’s smelling is, in fact, Roberta’s famous bacon and eggs as he proceeds to search for his fuzzy slippers. Truthfully, they’re a little too fuzzy and sweaty for Louie’s taste, but he got them from his adorable grandchildren Samuel and Jackson, so he treasures them immensely anyway.
“Good morning, my love!” exclaims Louie as he struts into his kitchen, hugging his wife from behind. It is only then that he looks outside and sees the flashing red and blue lights. “Honey, they’re not at Greg and Patty’s house, are they? What on Earth happened?”
“Go turn on the telly in the other room, it’s all over the news, dear. Greg and Patty… and both of their sweet kids, they’re all… they were all… oh, I can’t even bring myself to say it!” Roberta puts her arm across her forehead as if she is going to faint, but quickly composes herself. “It’s a shame, Louie; it’s a damned shame!”
Louie is already in the living room with the television tuned to the local news channel, and there it is: Family of four found (by the local mailman) dead and buried in their own backyard. The reporter begins going over theories of what may have happened, but not before reading a very clear disclaimer stating that he is sharing the speculative thoughts of the news station and not of the police. Louie reminisces on the news-reported incoming alien invasion incident that swept his town in fear a few years back and chuckles to himself. The reporter goes on to report the most likely scenario in which these heinous acts were committed under would be a triple-murder-suicide, considering the husband’s slit wrists with a matching knife found inside his unfilled grave. Every other family member seemed to have sustained blunt force trauma to the head.
“Oh dear!” Louie exclaims, closing his eyes and shutting off the television immediately after hearing such gruesome, foul language. “Roberta, let me hold you. This is an utter tragedy, even worse than the flooding of old Skunks!”
After eating breakfast together, the couple reluctantly turns the news back on as to update themselves on their neighbor’s situation. As the screen boots up, they catch the tail end of an update stating the now family-less dog has been found safely locked in the upstairs bathroom, with a full bowl of food and water no less. The sad couple then learns the police ruled the case a triple-murder-suicide, just as the reporter predicted, surprisingly enough. They were also made aware of the memorial service being held later in the day, after the storm passes. Louie and Roberta collectively decide to go to the service, as they had a very close relationship with Greg and Patty. It would be the right thing to do.
The Driver’s Seat
The storm overstays its welcome above the town, finally dissipating around half past seven, delaying the memorial service until eight o’clock sharp. As Roberta steadily makes her way out the door and into their car, she calls out to Louie to hurry up, refusing to be even a moment late.
“I’m coming, woman. I just need to find my shoes!” he shouts back, hoping to push his wife’s buttons to lighten the mood a little. After looking through his closet multiple times all to no avail, Louie finally decides to search the hallway closet for his dress shoes. This attempt proves successful, as he locates his trusty pair of shiny black Chaps right next to a pair of damp, muddy boots. Louie grabs the shoes and takes them to the bed to carefully slip ‘em on his sleepy feet, tying only the most graceful of knots with the laces.
“Here I come, honey!” he yells out the bedroom’s open window before shutting it. “You can start the car if you’d like,” to himself.
Locking the front door before he exits his house, Louie proceeds down the walkway and passes by a rain-washed shovel, the blade standing in a runny puddle of mud, the handle leaning up against his garage, before reaching his car. He opens the door and slides into the driver’s seat, which feels very warm to the touch; he smiles at his wife. She smiles back for a moment before the sorrow and grief take back over.
“Oh Louie, I’m just so broken up. They were such angels, what a shame,” she pouts as she wipes a tear streaming down her face.
Louie reaches over and hugs his frail, dismayed wife with one arm, cuddling her. “A shame indeed, my love.” He gives her a kiss on the cheek before returning his full attention to pulling their car out of the driveway. Louie takes Roberta’s hand and off they drive into the bleak night.