My brobot is here in Japan for a visit this week, so I didn’t have anything to post. There’s proof over there to the right; that’s us at a tea shop in Kyoto.I was afraid to post nothing, and risk Deprava’s passive aggressive resentment. After browsing through my catalog of unpublished works, the best I could find was the ensuing short story. I had never published it before because it makes no sense and is not very good, but here’s to hoping it’s better than nothing…
WARNING: Explicit Content
Sagramore walked home with a quantum of swagger. It certainly wasn’t swagga, without the “r”. His level of cocksurety lay well below a rapper’s braggadocio. It didn’t even approach a college kid’s douchey, undeserved self confidence. However, insofar as a cripplingly unsure low-level office worker can put a swing into his step, that is how much swing Sagramore put into his. His shoulders were not hunched down, buckling under the weight of the briefcase slung across his back. Oh, no, no, no. Today, Sagramore gripped his briefcase firmly in his left hand, and walked forward proudly, his shoulders only hunching down as much as they usually did without any extra weight attached, which was unfortunately still quite a slouch…
Today had been a good day. He had eaten a foot-long Subway Club for lunch; it always cheered him up. He hadn’t ordered the cheese, since it costs extra in Japan, and Subway cheese is always tasteless and not worth the extra fee. The sandwich had been good anyway, though. He had received a text reply from a hot chick he was into, regarding a date later in the week. She had declined, and said she was busy, but still….it was nice to get a response. Most importantly, work finished early! Well, not early…on time. Sadly, in Japan finishing work on time is a rare cause for celebration. However, today he was out of the office at 6pm sharp! And so, now he found himself practically prancing along the sidewalk heading for home, and it wasn’t even 7 yet!
It was dark though. For some reason or other the sun sets early in Japan during the summer. Sagramore supposed it must have something to do with the planet’s axis and rotation and all that, but he wasn’t sure it wasn’t related to some ancient Shinto-demon curse, either. The cicadas were buzzing pretty loudly, as well, and their swaying, metronomic chorus accompanied our hero as he ambulated onward towards home. He crossed the busy intersection, looked up, and noticed a full moon shining golden, up in the sky. It was a pretty evening. Too hot, but still nice. He decided to turn right after crossing the street, and take the back way to his apartment. They (whoever it is that does roadwork) )had been doing some sort of sewage or pipe work along the main road up ahead, and he preferred the relative quiet of the side street. He turned into the little alleyway leading into his neighborhood. It was covered on all sides by large, droopy trees, and the pathway was almost pitch black between the edges of the streetlights’ glow. He strode forward into the black without much thought, as whatever natural unease the darkness would cause was almost totally repressed by the familiarity of the old trail home. As Sagramore neared the halfway point of the little road, he looked to his right, towards the vague outlines of an old, run-down traditional house, barely visible under what little pale moonlight could escape through the overhanging foliage. He wondered how anyone could have ever lived in such a creepy little hut. Granted, it had been abandoned for some time, but…–Ah! Something soft, fleshy hit his lower leg, above the ankle, and let out a low hiss. Sagramore tripped forward as it moved away. He regained his balance, and awkwardly hop-ran forward into the glow of the street lamp. As his heart rate lowered somewhere closer to normal than oh s♥♥t what the f♥♥k!-beats per second, his brain pieced together the recent events and came to the conclusion he had stumbled onto a cat. Those damn strays plagued his neighborhood. The cursed felines were always f♥♥king late at night and keeping him awake with their sexual moanings and hissings.
“Stupid cat!” He yelled.
Sagramore turned around, and saw a group of 3 elementary-aged kids looking at him weird.
“It was a cat. I tripped on it, and…just a cat….”
They giggled at him and walked away. A little gray kitten snuck out into the streetlight’s glow, and looked up at our hero. He regretted having called it stupid; it was sort of cute, actually. He took out an energy bar, and tore off some little pieces of it. He dropped them down on the ground in front of the kitten, which sniffed them, then crinkled its nose up, and then snuck back into the darkness of the road without eating a single crumb. Sagramore sighed, and then slung his briefcase over his shoulder. He shuffled the rest of the way home with his head down.
The 3-story climb up to his apartment took what seemed like hours. After the second flight he stopped to rest, and looked outside the window. All was quiet out there; it could just as easily have been 2am than 7pm. Finally, he reached his door. He slid his keycard into the slot, and heard the heavy click of unlocking. Sagramore opened the door, and was assaulted by a stale heat, like opening an oven without delicious baked goods inside. God damn summer. After stepping into the entryway, he stuck his butt back out so the door wouldn’t close, and the light from the hallway could get into his house. Turning on an actual lamp inside would have been sheer lunacy, and would have ramped up the heat even more. He bent over to untie his shoes, but lost his balance and tipped forward. He steadied himself by grabbing onto the handle of his little shoe closet, and heard the slam of the door cut out all the light in the room. A♥♥ and a half! The entryway was almost totally pitch black, and though some light came in from the kitchen window, his eyes hadn’t adjusted yet. He finished taking off his shoes, and unceremoniously tossed them into the closet. Sagramore didn’t want to turn the light on due to the heat, but the cat incident still had him on edge. He set his bag down on the counter, and took out his cell phone.
He pressed the “home” button to light the screen, and opened the door to his left, leading into the bedroom. Using the light from the phone, he found the A/C remote, and turned on the unit. Thank the heavens. He couldn’t yet feel the cool, but just the noise of the unit was enough to make him feel better, a temperature placebo. Our weary protagonist went back out into the entryway, and set his phone down on the counter there, turning on his bedroom light was he walked out. He ate a banana in the kitchen. He washed his face in the bathroom, and wiped off the day’s sweat and grime. Sagramore went back towards his room, and froze in the doorway. There was someone standing across the room, next to his closet.
It had long black hair, which hung forward covering its face. He’d seen enough Rings and Grudges to put the fear of long, black hair in him. He turned around, to reach for his cell phone, and he heard the sound of someone running. He twisted his head back in time to see the ghost/monster thing run right into the door Sagramore had just slammed shut. He held the handle tight, but he could feel pressure from across the doorway, trying to open it. Sagramore was freaking out. He counted down 3….2….1! He let go of the bedroom door, and ran out the main doorway into the hallway. In about –3 seconds he was outside his building. He stood in the middle of the street. There was no one else in sight. His heart was beating up to speed with a death metal drum set. The warm street pavement felt unusually hard through his socks.
He looked back up to his apartment window. He could see the light on his bedroom, but could discern no shadows or movement. Our good hero walked back towards his building, and slowly bent over to his left, until the entryway and stairway came into view….nothing. It was empty. He stood back up straight, and as the street past his building came into focus, he saw a long-haired person standing under a streetlamp 20 feet ahead.
Oh god damn! Sagramore stumbled backwards, away from the creepy person/possibly Grudge ghost. He screamed out; “Someone! Help me!” The creature took off running towards our protagonist. Sagramore yelped, and turned tail. He ran down into the dark alleyway, towards the main street. The sound of the cicadas drowned out any noise coming from his assailant. As he reached the end of the alleyway, he remembered how horror movie ghosts always chase you in one direction, but then pop out from opposite corners. Not today! Sagramore ground to a halt just as he reached the edge of the alley, and turned around instead. The long-haired creature pulled up right in front of his face. Sagramore dropped back, and fell on his butt. The creature leaned down, and brought its hands up to its face, gripping its hair like the closed edges of a curtain. Sagramore shut his eyes, praying to any and all gods he had ever heard mention. Even the Lovecraft ones like Cthulhu, which were probably more evil technically than whatever apparition was haunting him now. He held his breath, and waited for death’s cruel, yet final embrace…but nothing. He couldn’t hold his breath any longer, so he breathed in. All he could hear through the black of his vision was the cicada’s cry. Finally, he lost the will to resist and opened his eyes.
“Ha ha ha! Oh s♥♥t! We got you good this time.”
David took off the black wig, and kept on laughing like a god damned a♥♥hole hyena that was a huge a♥♥hole. Sagramore relaxed outwardly, but inwardly was raging with the fury of Achilles post-Patroclus.
“You dick a♥♥hole s♥♥t! I hate you!”
“Oh, man. You were scared bigtime, bud.”
“I didn’t even think we should do this, but the payoff….good lord”
“Burn in each of the eight circles of Hell!”
“Woo, did you piss yourself? I bet you did. Ha ha”
“Eat a d♥♥k and choke on it.”
“Aw, come on, Sags. It’s just sport.”
Dave reached down, and Sagramore reluctantly took his hand. This was the last Belgian friend he’d ever make. All they were good for was second-rate chocolate and surrendering to Germans. They had some f♥♥ked up senses of humor. The 2 maybe-still-friends walked back towards Sagramore’s apartment.
“So…are you really that mad? I know you looked scared, bud, but come on.”
“This s♥♥t is not cool. That scared the hell out of me. How did you even pull that off? You were down in the street way too fast.”
“Ha, oh Kurt’s here with me.”
They looked up the street, and a second long-haired creature was exiting Sagramore’s apartment building. It took its wig off as it walked towards them, and our hero recognized his “buddy” Kurt. Add Malaysians to the list of people he would never befriend again. Weren’t they the enemy during Vietnam anyway? Plus, they had all that weird Apocalypse Now Heart of Darkness baggage…wait, that’s Cambodia. Kurt was carrying a plastic bag, and when he reached David and Sagramore, he took out a few beer cans and tossed them over.
“Boo! Ha ha, you looked pretty scared, Saggy. I told you it would work, Dave.”
“Oh, it worked.”
Sagramore sulked. “You guys aren’t friends. You’re god damned James Bond villains. ”
The trio made nest over on the sidewalk next to Sagramore’s building. Kurt sat down, Sagramore leaned up against the railing, and David stood out in the middle of the street. They all drank their beers, and our hero secretly hoped a car would hit David and maybe somehow also ricochet into Kurt.
The K-man looked over to Sagramore, a little guiltily.
“Come on, man. You know if it had been anyone else you’d be the one laughing hardest.”
“You can’t prove that.”
Dave let out a laugh. “Yea, well evolution’s a theory, too, in America right? Plus, we had to wait there in the heat, anyway; it wasn’t easy. This took planning and hard work. I mean, I had to wait out here, and Kurt had to scare you in the right way so you’d run outside. Appreciate the skill involved. And these wigs were expensive, man. Give the credit where it is due.”
“Next time apply all that hard work and money to curing AIDS or some s♥♥t. Or ED or something…”
Kurt chimed in: “Isn’t ED cured. I mean, we have pills and Viagra…”
“Then just cure AIDS!”
“Ok, but after that can we scare you again?”
“No. Just cure AIDS, and then retire and live off your Nobel fame and money.”
The three continued drinking their beers in silence. Sagramore sort of mellowed a bit over time, but he was still angry. Dave gave a start, like there was a light bulb turning on in his head.
“You know what is messed up? You yelled for help, right? Look. No one came out.”
The three looked around, the streets were empty. There wasn’t even a single person looking out a window.
Dave continued: “What if that was really an evil ghost? You’d be dead, man. That is meeeeessed up. You need better neighbors.”
“Like you two? Thanks for following up a horribly sadistic prank with that angel wing of a positive observation….wait, my door was locked, and I have the only key. How did you guys get into my apartment? ”
Kurt shrugged, “The plot required us to.”
Sagramore frowned. “Well…that’s just lazy writing…”
Sagramore and the douche-prank duo made their way back to his apartment, and sat down in the bedroom. Our hero closed the door, so the room would stay cooler, and the three opened up some more beers. Sags turned on some music; he decided on some DJ Okawari, and figured the ambient trip hop would help calm him down. They talked the usual s♥♥t. Discussed girls, life in general etc…well, it was basically just about girls, but something about work or grad school may have been mentioned. Sagramore asked Dave about his girlfriend. She was visiting her parents in Kyoto for the weekend, which is why he had the extra time to plan scaring our hero s♥♥tless.
“What about you, K-Dog. How are things with your better half?”
“Meh, the usual. We had a big fight last week though…think we’re in the clear now.”
Dave took a swig of beer and sneered in disgust. “Another fight? Why don’t you just switch it around, and let us know when you’re not fighting. That’s more newsworthy at this point.”
“I guess…she got mad/jealous because my group for my econ project is all girls…”
Dave and Sagramore looked at each other, and then shook their heads. Then all three opened another beer.
Sagramore laugh-spit beer all over his bed. “A music box? Ha ha, what is this, 1920? Well, after the vaudeville revue papa and I walked passed an olde curiosity shoppe when I saw this music box in the display window…ha ha.”
“Yea, yea. She’s into that kind of cutesy gadgetry stuff. I think it’s broken though, but it’s antiquey, so I don’t think she’d mind.”
Dave furrowed his brow in curiosity. “Broken, how?”
“Well, it doesn’t sound right…Sagramore, turn off the slammin beatz; I’ll show you guys. ”
Our good hero turned off the speakers, and Kurt pulled a large wooden box out of his backpack. The three dudes crowded around the object on the bed. Kurt opened it, and pulled out a smaller, more ornate wooden box, with a little winch handle on the side. He pulled the lid open, revealing a single figurine standing on glass. The figurine was shaped like a human, but completely featureless. Sagramore was a little uneasy. Old s♥♥t freaks him out, as a general rule.
“Umm…you sure she’d like something this creepy? Don’t these usually have pretty ballerina figurines in them?”
Kurt waved off Sagramore’s comments. “OK, now listen up, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s pretty music, but something’s off in the mechanism.”
Kurt grabbed the handle, and started turning it. Unexpectedly deep and ornate music flowed out of the box. As he kept turning the handle, though, Sagramore perceived a high-pitched, squealing. It was barely audible, but the longer Kurt played the music, the higher the noise became. Kurt stopped, and put the music box back down on the bed. Sagramore rubbed his chin with his right hand.
“Yea, dude. I see what you mean. It sounds like the mechanism needs oil or something, like a squeaky wheel. And squeaky wheels get….grease!”
Sagramore jumped up off the bed, and went to the kitchen, where he pulled a jug of vegetable oil out of the pantry. Then, he took out his IKEA toolkit. He looked to his right, and noticed a slight discoloration on the wall. Perplexed, he stepped closer to examine the oddity. It looked like a shadow…almost. He licked his thumb, and wiped the wall, but the “stain” wouldn’t come off. Well, god damn. Guess who’s going to have to pay for that when he moves out? He had been looking forward to getting his renter’s deposit money back…
Zoom! Sagramore was back in his bedroom, with the vegetable oil. Kurt looked wary.
“Umm, why don’t we just leave it alone? You’re not a mechanic.”
The beer answered Kurt’s question through Sagramore. “Mechanic? I’m a human being. Enterprise and discovery is the blood that runs through our veins, my friend. We’re men! Women create problems, and we solve them. Way of the world.”
Dave opened another beer for himself: “Not sure why you had to tag that sexist comment in there, but I say go for it! Pour that grease in there, so we can listen to the pretty music.”
Sagramore took out a small screwdriver, and half-gingerly, half-drunkenly, yanked off the top compartment of the music box. There was nothing inside. Our hero took a sip of beer, and looked inside the box again. He did notice a Japanese kanji symbol scribbled inside in what looked like red ink.
“Umm…there should be gears and stuff in here, right?”
Kurt and Dave leaned over. Dave took the box from Sagramore’s hands and peeked closer inside. Kurt stared at Sagramore in what most would describe as anger, but what our hero chose to describe as intensity.
“The hell, man? Did you break it? Where’s the music mechanism stuff?”
“You saw me. I didn’t do anything, just opened it.”
Sagramore took the top part, and looked all over, but that didn’t have any gears either, just a creepy statuette. Dave stared fixedly on the symbol inside the box.
“Hmm…I’ve been studying for the 1-kyu level Japanese exam, so my kanji’s pretty good right now. I think this one is seal….yea, looks like something-in, which is seal.”
Sagramore grabbed the box from Dave, and looked closer. “No way, I watch tons of Naruto, and that’s all about seals and magic and shit. This doesn’t look familiar. Anyway, time to fix this mess.”
Our impetuous hero poured some vegetable oil into the box, before Kurt could stop him, of course. Sagramore slammed the top back on, and screwed it into place.
“You’re welcome, man. Try it out, new and improved.”
“If this doesn’t work you get to buy my girlfriend a new birthday present.”
“If that doesn’t work, hopefully she’ll leave you and you can date someone who isn’t the Ice-Queen of the Northlands.”
Dave sighed in exasperation. “Guys, shut up. Just try it out. Don’t see how it works without a mechanism though…“
Kurt grabbed the handle again, and turned it. Music flowed out of the box again, and all 3 men sat straight up. The squeaky sound was still there, and it continued to grow more noticeable as Kurt turned the winch. Sagramore and Dave looked at each other, their eyes about as wide open as humanly possible. The noise grew louder and louder. Our hero started freaking out.
“Umm…OK…Kurt. Sorry I couldn’t fix it. It still makes a weird noise. Why don’t we put the scary box away now?”
Kurt shushed him: “Hold on, the noise sounds familiar, I can almost make it out now…”
As he continued turning the handle, the noise changed form a squeal into a louder, almost familiar sound, like a fading memory just out of focus. Dave and Sagramore concentrated, too. It sounded like….like….someone screaming from a distance! Dave jumped up off the bed, and looked around nervously. Kurt kept turning the handle, and suddenly all three heard a crashing noise in the kitchen, and then the sound of running footsteps. Kurt threw the music box down onto the bed. The sounds stopped. All three men looked at the closed door, which led into the entryway and the kitchen.
Sagramore was about ready to cry. “Oh, wow. OK. You guys win. I thought the hair thing was scary, but this is better. I’m really scared now, let’s just stop it.”
Dave took another sip of beer. “Don’t be hysterical. It was probably just some pans or something falling over in the kitchen.”
Sagramore remained unconvinced. “Oh, sure. That’s all it was. I vote you go check.”
Dave didn’t move. Sagramore could tell he was scared, too. Kurt’s hand was vibrating like a lady toy. Our hero shook his head in confusion. Asians were supposed to be good at horror, but Kurt looked crazy freaked out. This really didn’t seem to be another prank…Was it the alcohol? They had only had a few beers, and these were pretty intense horror illusions…did one of them spike the beers with hallucination drugs?
Dave opened a new can of beer, and started drinking more: “OK. Got it. Look, I’ll admit I’m pretty freaked out right now. I now you two are. So here’s the plan. Going out there is out, since you guys are afraid. I’m going to take the music box, and turn the handle like..once. If just has a squeal noise, then we’ll know it was pans or something falling over in the kitchen. If there’s more creepy sounds, we’ll know the box is haunted or something.”
Sagramore did not agree.“ Yea, that’s real scientific, but here’s my counter-proposal: we’re only on the 3rd floor. I’ll open the window, and we all jump out. Then I’ll buy a rocket launcher and come back to sterilize the apartment in fire and destruction. It’s totally cool; it’s a shitty little place. I won’t miss it. Nothing in here is irreplaceable, except my expensive guitar Lord Saxifrage, but I can take him with us. You on my side of the wall, Kurt?”
“Yea, I’m with Sags. Let’s run away from the demon box. I’ll find another present.”
Dave shrugged them off and grabbed the music box from the bed. Sagramore and Kurt jumped back and stood next to the window, ready to bolt. Dave looked to them, and nodded. He gripped the handle, and Kurt and Sagramore held each other’s hands and closed their eyes. Dave turned the handle once, and the little jingle spat forth a couple of notes…and that was it. Only music. The couple by the window opened their eyes, and all 3 buddies smiled together in relief. Dave laughed out loud, and turned the handle some more. The music flowed out normally in a pretty little jingle. Kurt and Sagramore laughed too, and Dave spun the handle faster. As the music picked up speed, a distant screaming noise joined the jingle. Suddenly, the sound of someone running towards the bedroom picked up again. All 3 men screamed, and Dave threw the box down onto the bed. As it landed, something forcefully bumped up against the other side of the bedroom door.
Dave joined his 2 friends by the window. Sagramore spun around, and fumbled for the window latch, but was getting all tangled in the curtains. This was not cool.
“Kurt! Why did you buy your girlfriend a haunted demon music box?! I know she’s a cold b♥♥ch, but even she doesn’t deserve thi–”
“I didn’t know! Why would I summon a music box demon to kill all 3 of us if I knew?! Hurry, open the window!”
Our proud hero was having a rather difficult time with the window latch, and was succeeding only in getting more entangled in the curtains. Then, all 3 heard a light clicking noise, and froze in place. They heard the sound again, and looked down to the bed, where they saw the music box sitting perfectly alone and untouched. The handle was turning by itself. The jingle started playing, and the door handle turned down. Kurt dove at the bed. He grabbed the box as the bedroom door snapped ajar. It had opened just a crack, but pitch-black darkness from beyond flowed in through the narrow slit. Kurt was rolling on the bed, struggling to keep the winch from moving.
“Aahhh! It’s trying to move on its own!”
Sagramore balled up his fist, and punched the hell out of the window latch, which didn’t budge. He stepped back gripping his right hand. It hurt. Dave moved him over and worked the latch; it slid open.
“You’re a retard, Sagramore.”
Dave shoved the window open with a force that almost broke the glass. An intense gust blew in from outside, and pushed the curtains into Sagramore, who stumbled back, tearing the curtains off the window, and fell down onto the bed in a jumble of flesh and value-priced fabric. His tumble caught Kurt’s elbow, and he lost control of the music box. The sounds poured out again in a torrent like water breaking through a damn, and then stopped. Sagramore finally pulled the curtains out of his face and looked up. Dave was frozen, staring back at the doorway. Kurt lay on the bed, visibly struggling against whatever force was trying to turn the music box handle. He seemed to have regained temporary control. Sagramore turned his gaze to the right, and saw the door about halfway open, towards him. He couldn’t see what was on the other side, but a pale hand was gripping the door’s edge. Oh Shit! It was a ghost thing! Sagramore darted up, and ran for the window, knocking Dave out of his way. Lord Saxifrage! He stopped, and ran back to his closet, to pull out his expensive guitar. Axe in hand, he ran back to the window, bumping into Kurt again along the way, who dropped the music box. Sagramore heard the jingle, and the door slamming against the wall. He closed his eyes and jumped out the open window. He heard screams as he tumbled through the sky. His stomach tensed up, like on a roller coaster. He felt like he was an astronaut in free fall. Boy, it’d be nice to be an astronaut…his right knee slammed down onto the top of his neighbor’s car, and Sagramore rolled down and over the hood. Crashing down onto hard pavement this time in a jumble of flesh, value-priced fabric, and thick mahogany with maple veneer.
He wanted to scream out in pain and fear, but the wind had been knocked out of him, so our once-proud hero just awkwardly flailed and rolled around the parking lot. After a few minutes, he was able to somewhat compose himself. He lay flat on his tummy; his right knee hurt a lot. His upper body was still covered in curtain, and he couldn’t see anything. He couldn’t hear any music or screaming anymore. Just the cicadas doing their thing. He lifted the curtain up over his forehead and looked forward, where he saw two pale, bare feet. He froze. No! The demon/ghost is here to kill me too! He shut his eyes again. Sagramore was afraid of 2 things: the supernatural and death. By some cruel clusterf♥♥k of fate it looked like both would be served to him tonight. No! No, he needed to be strong. He could not go quietly into that good night. His atheism preached death was final. It was THE END, a black abyss of unbeing. He was not ready. He must live!
Sagramore gripped Lord Saxifrage tight with both hands, and stood up on his left knee. He used all the force he could muster to swing the axe up in the air. He felt and heard the crack of rosewood finish against flesh and bone. Sagramore jumped up, and swung Lord Saxifrage again and again. After a few swings, his guitar stopped making contact with anything but air, and after a few more minutes of wild flailing, Sagramore stopped.
He opened his eyes, and looked out at an empty parking lot. There was no ghost in sight. A little farther ahead he spotted 3 elementary aged kids staring at a man covered in curtains holding a busted guitar.
“You kids saw it?! Where did it go?”
The children looked at him incomprehensibly. What is wrong with these people? Dave and Kurt! His friends were in danger. Emboldened by his recent victory over the ghost, Sagramore ran back up to his apartment with Lord Saxifrage in hand. He pushed open the door, and stepped into the entryway. To his left, the bedroom door stood wide open, and light flowed into the rest of the apartment from the doorway. He could hear the wind and cicadas through the open window. Sagramore stepped forward, and reached around the wall to the right, turning on the kitchen light. He turned the corner and looked into this kitchen. The far wall was tainted by a deep, dark stain, the silhouette of a man. He might have to fall back to his rocket launcher plan. Our bold hero turned around and rushed back into his room to aid his friends, but the bedroom was empty. There was no one inside. He searched all over, even under the bed, but there was no trace of his companions, save for Kurt’s backpack. At the foot of his bed, he saw the music box. It lay still and silent. Sagramore dropped Lord Saxifrage onto the bed, and picked up the ghost/demon music thing. He lifted the lid, and stared wide-eyed at 3 featureless statuettes. Kettles of Catfish! His friends had become trapped inside the demon music box! He dropped the cursed bauble, and ran back out to the entryway. He picked up his phone from the counter, and leaned back against the main door. He looked through the speed dial options and picked #5. Jaguaro was a shaman from El Salvador, and Sagramore’s spiritual advisor. He’d know how to free his friends from their trap. Jaguaro’s assistant, Juanita, answered the phone, and then promptly put him on hold. He waited patiently, while listening to a muzak dilution of the Titanic song. Sagramore tried to resist, but eventually broke out and kind of whisper-sang along to the easy-listening tune:
Every night in my dreams
I see you, I feel you
That is how I know you go on…
Crazy how he still remembered the words. He didn’t even like the song…hmmm, strange. He could hear a weird sort of unsynchronized bell jingle. Didn’t seem to match the muzak tune at all….
Far across the distance
And spaces between us
You have come to show you go on…
Wow, this was really a bad production. Half the sounds were totally random and offbeat. The bell jingle kept getting louder, and eventually drowned out the muzak almost completely. Sagramore’s eyes shot open, and he hung up the call. My Heart Will Go On had stopped, but the familiar jingle just kept gaining speed, and then a distant screaming noise joined the chorus. The evil box is playing again! Sagramore spun around and fumbled at the door lock, which he had locked upon entering out of habit. Damn, the lock wasn’t opening. He tried punching it, but that method again proved unsuccessful. A loud crash sounded in his bedroom, and Sagramore grabbed the latch, finally able to unlock the door. He heard what sounded like several people running towards him, and swung the door open. He dove out into the hallway, but cold hands gripped our tragic hero, and pulled back into the—-
Sagramore was sitting up at his desk. Halogen lights blinded him. He looked forward, and saw a black computer screen on standby. He looked down, and saw an ocean waybill half-drenched in drool. His boss’ hand gripped his shoulder.
“Were you sleeping?! It’s 3 pm!”
Our hero breathed a sigh of relief, and looked up at his boss with a smile.
“Wait, why are you smiling?”
Sagramore jumped out of his seat, and embraced his boss in a bear hug.
“Because I’m alive, sir! I’m so…happy to see you!”
The boss tenderly moved our ecstatic hero away from him.
“Umm…yes, well. That’s very nice of you to say, but sleeping on the job is not permissible! Do you think acting all nice will get you off without any consequences?”
“Oh, no, sir. Please, punish me! Make me pay. Suffering is proof of existence!”
Sagramore’s boss turned around and ran into his office. Our hero sat back down at his desk. He could hear the whispers and judgments of his colleagues. Whew, it was only a dream, I’m not stuck inside a music box… he shook his mouse around, and the computer screen came on. Firefox was open to a Youtube page. Well, now we know the genesis of the nightmare. Sagramore suddenly frowned: he looked at the stack of files on his desk, and then up at the windows. It was a perfect, beautiful day outside. Inside, the hum of the A/C barely drowned out the noise of keyboard typing. His gaze traced the walls of his office, and then looked at his computer screen. Upon further reflection, he found it hard to convince himself he wasn’t trapped inside a box, after all.