As seen on the internet.., p.1
As Seen On the Internet: A (slightly modified) Compilation, p.1
As Seen On the Internet:
A (slightly modified) Compilation
Written by Jalen Cole
Copyright © 2017 Jalen Cole
All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
Our Own Devices 6
Our Own Devices
“Thanks for coming.” she said to me from across the table, brushing her hair aside as she looked down at clasped hands. I used to think her eyes were vibrant blue. Now they just felt chilling. As distant as her reluctant voice.
“Yeah, you’re welcome.” I coughed my sentence out, avoiding eye contact while attempting not to stare at the flowing bridal gown she had worn so proudly.
“Don’t be like that, Chris.” She looked up, I could see pain swirling with the happiness in her eyes. I knew I wasn’t making the big day any easier but I didn’t care. As long as she could understand the position I had been placed in.
“Why shouldn’t I be?” My eyes darted up, anticipating to lock eyes, “I left the past where it was. I got through this.” She gave to my expectations and looked up into my eyes. I countered, placing a hand on the table, five fingers stretched across the cloth to display my sincerity, “I got over us.” I could see a tear fall from her cheek. I wanted to retract, but I couldn’t sacrifice the footing I had already gained, not again, “We haven’t talked in a year, until you suddenly bring out the news you’re getting married?” Then I actually lowered my voice, as if we were both ashamed, “After…how long? You two started, what, two months ago, three?”
The party went on around us, congratulatory, formal, pompous. Even through it, we were the only two in the room, even through blaring music and chattering guests, our voices were the only sources of noise in the foyer.
“Why are you even here then?” She asked, her voice shallowed as her eyes retreated back to the safety of her hands.
“Because you invited me.” I retaliated, “I came in good faith, but then you treated me like a stranger for two and a half hours, flaunting the man who practically married you on a whim.”
“You know, you’re not the most important one here!” There was a strange comfort in her raised voice. Even though she was talking straight to me, singling me out, our conversation had long since been alienated. Alone in each other’s company. Just like it had always been.
“You’re right.” I stood from my chair, being careful not to cause a scene, “Why should I ruin the festivities?”
I knew she wanted to try and stop me as I walked out, as I walked away. I just knew it. I didn’t look back, but I had to know it.
. . .
It hadn’t been long since I got back to my apartment that I decided to lay down in my bedroom and watch the ceiling above me. A ceiling trembling with the happiness of the couple above, which is when and why I made the executive decision to sleep on the couch for the night. I failed to remove anything from my pocket, which made it especially easy for incoming messages to annoy me. Three independent buzzes, each separated by a minute and change. Three different messages, no doubt from either Amanda or Robby, the happy couple wondering why the guest of honor skipped out early, if it isn’t too vain to think that.
I found myself physically rolling my eyes as that thought crossed through my mind, but by the end of the roll, I had already disregarded the thought, and the two people supplying it. By then, I had collapsed across the three cushions that acted as a makeshift bed, still dressed in a rented tuxedo. Ambivalence had already been stewing since I got through the front door, but only now did it start to surface. Only now was I feeling the conflicting effects. Luckily, I could use sleep to evade it, for however long I wanted…
“Good, keep running.”
That voice was enough to snap me up from the cushions, “Who’s there?” I asked, my voice frantic and dire as I hurriedly scrambled off the couch.
“Just a worried bystander.” The voice replied.
I turned my head to notice someone standing in the doorway to the kitchen, arms crossed, as comfortable as can be. His stature took some of the tension out of the equation, but was still mildly disturbing, “By the way, don’t call the police.” He warned, reaching behind and pulling a pistol from his waist, “They make things more complicated than necessary.”
I stood across from him, still halfway crouched, gun aimed for my chest, confused on which move to make next, “Is this a robbery?” My voice trembled with me, “Take whatever you want, just don’t shoo—.”
“Do what I say and I won’t. Now come over here.” He smiled a bit, putting the sidearm behind him again as he turned to walk into the kitchen.
I hadn’t been eager to follow, but something possessed me to step after him. When I entered in, I could see my mysterious burglar had propped his feet up on my kitchen table as he tilted back in a chair, fingers intertwined against the back of his head.
“Who…are you?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Is that really the most pertinent thing to be wondering right now?” He replied, dropping his legs back to the floor as he let the chair do the same, “Do you mind if I pull this back out?” He asked while pulling the firearm out from his waist and placing it on the table, “It’s really uncomfortable.”
“Are you gonna kill me?” I asked, my voice wavering in uncertainty.
“If I wanted to, I would’ve when I had you at gunpoint.”
“So, I’m just gonna call the police then.” I said, letting my shoulders drop with a sense of relief.
“I can still shoot you!” He discouraged, grabbing the gun and waving it in the air.
“But then I’d need an ambulance…”
“You know what, just…just gimme your phone.” He put his free hand out across the table, bending his fingers back over his palm, signaling me to comply.
I had to walk to the table, getting dangerously close to his weapon before I could hand over my cell. After I had, I took a moment to sit across from him. By then he had seemed much less frightening and even less threatening.
“This is nice, how much did you pay for it?” He asked, briefly intrigued in the smart phone before he placed it on the table and smashed it with the butt of the gun. After doing so, he shot me another glare, “So then. I’m here to help.”
“Listen man, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Take what you came for and just…” I took a moment to look back at his gun, “just leave me alone.”
“Unfortunately, I can’t.” He near whispered, “I didn’t come for anything you own. I came for you, Christopher.” His words echoed through the kitchen as he slowly moved the barrel’s aim from my chest to my head. He could see sweat forming in rivers over my brow as his finger danced around the trigger, a smile stretching across his face while he watched me squirm, “Relax,” He voice shifted to a softer, lower, soothing pitch, “nothing sinister, I promise.”
His hand stayed around the grip while his fingers reached for a mechanism that would release the magazine. The metal thud smacking against the wood of my table was louder than I had anticipated, something was weighing it down. Something had to be, because when it had landed, it landed straight up—never once wobbling.
“I couldn’t have shot you, even if I wanted to.” He said, grabbing the bottom and spinning the magazine upside-down. A small copper orb fell from inside—shining with flecks of gold—rolling around the table before coming to a stop in the center, between the two of us, “For how squeamish you were, I definitely wanted to.” He had placed the gun beside the orb, briefly glancing up at me, seeing my displeased stare, “Okay, bad joke. The gun was just a way for me to transport this, and it made it easier to convince you to come and sit so we could discuss…this.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“The reason both of us are here,” His voice ebbed with sovereignty. As he spoke, I reached across the table, instinctively, to analyze it closer, “No no!” He warned, slapping my hand away. We had both shared a strange moment of bashful silence, “Don’t touch it. Not yet.”
“I don’t even know what this is.” I rolled my eyes, sinking into my chair.
“So give me a chance to explain.” He gave his smile again as he looked the device over, “It’s a highly technical piece of hardware. It was made to solve problems, correct errors. It’s only ever given to those who have an opportunity to change their lives.” His fingers twitched with a reminiscent curl.
His vagueness sparked an annoyance that had been bubbling since I left Amanda’s wedding, “What do I have to do with that? With you or this thing or any of it?!”
His hand moved, hovering over the pistol he set aside, “Because…” he hesitated, lifting the gun up slightly, “I’m supposed to kill you.”
“Y-…you already said you couldn’t shoot me, even if—” I stopped myself before saying anything potentially damning, “Look, I don’t know what you want, just…please.”
He grabbed the gun swiftly, bending it back behind himself and resetting it in his waist, “I’m supposed to kill you three months from now.” His tone shifted, taking a sharp turn. He seemed to tremble as he delivered the words, a mix of frustration and relief that made it impossible to talk back to, “I’m supposed to go out with a friend who had just been promoted. We’re supposed to party and drink and be irresponsible…and I’m supposed to decline a taxi and drive home.” He sighed, running a hand through his hair, briefly, covertly, bringing his forearm against his face to wipe away any forming tears, “I’m supposed to T-bone you at an intersection…and kill you on impact. Then I’m supposed to get arrested and eventually convicted for reckless endangerment, manslaughter, DUI, and…driving with an expired license. That’s the funny one.” He almost smiled, but managed to avoid fully grinning.
“Listen, this is…a lot.” I closed both eyes hard, gripping the space between them.
“I don’t care how much it is I just need you to understand why I’m here.”
“Okay, well what do you expect from me?” I sounded slightly defensive, “You show up threatening me and then you flip it into…into what? Time travel?”
“I expect you to believe me.” He put his hand on the table, five fingers stretch
“If,” I stopped for a moment, “if, any of this is even true…how did you get here?”b
He sank a bit further into his seat, balling his hand into a fist and placing it in his lap, “A woman appeared in my cell and dropped that ball in front of me,” He pointed to the golden orb, “She didn’t have the motivation to explain why, but she told me how the thing worked, how it’s supposed to help, then touched it with two fingers and—” He made a gesture with both hands, “disappeared. I touched it with one finger and I was back in my apartment, two days ago.” His voice became more stern, “It filled my head with every detail I would need, every little bit of info I would need to get here, how to get in, and most importantly, how to convince you.”
A silence hung between us, as if he was prompting me to keep the conversation going, “Your story is—” I took a moment to search for the right word, “extravagant, but I wouldn’t say I’m convinced.”
“Oh, for goodness—” He readjusted in his seat in order to lean forward into a stronger position as he sighed, “Your middle name is Anthony, after your grandfather.”
“Plenty of people know that,” I sneered, my tone inadvertently becoming more petulant.
“Your first dog’s name was Persephone, and she’s your security question for every one of your accounts.”
“That…doesn’t prove a thing,” I spoke through gritted teeth.
“You still sleep on your left side because it reminds you of when you could sleep beside Amanda, when she could trust you.”
“Time travel isn’t real!” I stood out of my chair to stare him down with more power.
“Then why would I have come here, Chris?” he kept his voice low, as if I had moved exactly as he wanted me to, “Of all places, of all times, why would I come to you here and now, knowing that you don’t even have a car yet.” I was at a loss for words, wavering in place with my lips pursed, ready to deliver the response I hadn’t yet concocted, “I know all about that blue sedan you had your eyes on. Used, not bad mileage, only a tiny bit dented on the front fender.” He perked both eyebrows and smiled slightly, “I doubt you’ll keep putting money aside for it now, knowing you’re going to die in it.” He re-established eye contact, “I understand I’ve stricken a very vulnerable cord, mortality and all that, but I just really need you to be persuaded so I can leave, so…convinced?”
His careful blend of nonchalance and contentious debonair completely debased me, removing my ability to retort verbally or physically. My only option was to slowly let my arms fall to my sides and sit down once again, “How does the ball work…?”
His smile filled the room with a new, elated atmosphere, “Touch it with just one finger,” he said solemnly, leaning towards the orb as it wobbled idly at the center of the table, “and you will appear…as far back as it need take you.”
“Appear?” I sighed, gripping the bridge of my nose.
“It’s hard to explain. You don’t really get sent back or anything you just…” He unfurled his fingers as far away from his palm as possible, “poof. Then you’ll be there, at the first incident, the first inkling of things to go wrong, where you can begin correcting things from the very start. Once you arrive, you’ll have all the info you need to do whatever it is you have to. When you’re finished doing whatever you’re doing, touch it with two fingers, and it’ll bring you back to the next instance for you to fix. One at a time, you can spot shine your personal history.”
I nodded slowly, first in disbelief but then in agreement, “Okay, sure. What if I go forward…and I don’t get told what I’m supposed to do?”
“It means you’ve come back.” He smiled and nodded, “Oh, and, by the way.” He stood, “I recommend a plastic baggie for safe transport.” He pulled his gun from behind him again, waving it in the air to display its ineffectiveness. He laughed quickly under his breath, standing and heading for the door.
“Wait!” I turned around in my chair to maintain the stare, “Aren’t you gonna…go to the next instance?” I pointed over my shoulder at the orb, “Don’t you need to fix anything else?”
He smiled slightly and laughed under his breath, “So you believe me?” He took the moment to indulge in my bewilderment, “It’s time for me to go, Chris.”
“Just…! After everything you’ve said, you’re just gonna leave?” He maintained his poise, even through a bittersweet smile, “Say you’ve convinced me. You’ve given me an opportunity to change my life. Do anything, be anyone…I don’t even know your name, and you’re just gonna leave?”
He looked up towards the ceiling, pursing both lips and nodding slightly as if he was considering his options, “Emanuel. My name is Emanuel Tigas.” He looked back down to see me once again. He took a step back towards the exit and began reorienting himself so he could walk out. As he opened the front door, almost walking out, he turned his head to speak to me one last time, “I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me one day.”
. . .
It had been almost an hour since Emanuel had left my home. Almost an hour since I started staring at the copper and gold ball that he left on my table. I had tossed countless ideas around, all trying to come up with something to do with the present my guest had left for me. Each and every thought had the same suggestion running in between them.
“Why not just try it, what’s to lose?” A part of myself asked the others, the weaker part.
I couldn’t help but entertain the thought that everything could be solved with a single touch. I paced through the kitchen spying the ball left on my table’s center out of my peripheral every time I passed it. Eventually, I left into the living room, continuing my pacing, the orb always in the corner of my eye.
Ultimately, I gave in to the urges, entering back into the kitchen only to dig through drawers for the plastic bags I knew I kept around. After collecting one of appropriate size, I went into an old cabinet in the corner of the kitchen. Anything without a home, temporarily or permanent, or anything that didn’t quite fit in the other cabinets went in there.
I was hoping I’d find something that could keep my hands safe in the case my bag ripped. After a few minutes of searching, I had come up empty. The only thing I hadn’t checked was a small lockbox from my college days—with its lock cracked open from my many drunken college nights.
Rummaging through it, I came upon something I briefly considered to be useful. A handful of unused condoms, which would probably stay that way for some time—one for each digit. Luckily, I convinced myself not to throw them out. I almost wished I could’ve convinced myself to not buy them. Maybe I could…
Laying underneath them was a pair of latex gloves. They had gone with an ensemble for a Halloween party, but the rest of the outfit had long since been thrown out. Beer bellies make it hard to fit into old clothing.
The last thing I did before I decided to fully believe in Emanuel was scramble through my kitchen draw to find a long since discarded home phone. I had to plug its receiver back into the wall and let it charge to a long enough battery life for just one call, so I sat. For 15 long minutes, I contemplated to myself what I would tell her, gnawing my fingernails to a stub as I thought just what I was going to tell her to explain the situation I had found myself in. As soon as I saw a faint orange pulse beeped underneath a battery icon on the phone, I snatched it up, punched in Amanda’s number and started pacing. I only managed to get her voicemail. She must’ve still been busy at her reception.
As Seen On the Internet: A (slightly modified) Compilation by Jalen Cole / History & Fiction have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on15 votes