Long Day, Long Night
I originally wrote this for a writing class with Ed Davis.
I’m not crazy. The snake was huge. I answered a knock on my door at 10:13 am, and the snake stood there with a malicious grin on its scaly face. It had a laptop belted around its midsection, and it held a club upright in the end of its tail. I answered the creature’s questions of debt solvency and promised to make further payments. It claimed it needed a blood sample, and before I could protest, it bit me on the arm. The beast slithered off, and I crawled back into bed.
I couldn’t sleep. I watched the picture of friendly wildflowers on the wall as it seemed to flow in and out with the wind. The colors sparkled in the bright rays of the sun. The wildflowers appeared to grow and bloom and then wither. Slowly, in tiny little clicks, it hit me there was no picture of wildflowers on the wall. Centurian is at it again, slipping hallucinogens into the water. I pushed myself out of bed and started to pace the halls. I thought I killed Centurian last time, but my nemesis must have escaped.
The hallways seemed infinite, but in truth they simply turned right over and over until I reached the door to my room again. A few open spaces with chairs and TVs, but mostly the hallways were lined with doors. Doors that were either locked or led to private rooms like mine.
I started watching the news for any clue to what might be happening. Nothing. My eyes started to lose focus as I viewed the television, and I had to avert my gaze. The floor shifted under my weight to the left and right as if I was on a small boat or raft. I tried to ignore the unsafe conditions while making my way through the passageways again, hoping some exit door would be unlocked.
A spider easily an inch big, crawling up the wall, grabbed my attention. Slowly, as I watched, it began to grow bigger and bigger until it was nearly a foot across. Then it popped like a balloon, and the shattered shell of a corpse dropped to the ground. I went to the phone and placed my palm on the reader. A sign above the phone read, “Federal Asylum #12, ext. 205.” A voice chirped, “Good morning, George.”
“Speed dial one,” I said.
The phone dialed, and soon enough my diligent sister appeared in the video.
“Centurian is at it again!”
My sister, Bethany, nodded. “Mmmmhmmm.”
“Boot my computer and feed a water sample into the analyzer.”
“Sure, George, sure.”
A man caught up in a swirl of twisting tobacco smoke looked at me and smiled. “Centurian?”
The man, drifting in and out of his cloud of noxious fumes, laughed.
“Do you want a sub or pizza this Sunday when we visit?” Bethany said on the video phone.
“Damn it! Are you going to turn the computer on and feed the sample into the analyzer, so that the machine will start crunching on an antidote?”
“Yes, George, I will. Pizza or sub?”
I stopped to think. I had a sub last time. “Pizza.”
The lunch bell sounded, and I hung up the phone. I went to the eating area and palmed the dispenser. A tray of food ejected out of a slot. The food was as bland and tasteless as any food could be, but I had a hard time stomaching it as I kept seeing tiny motions out of the corner of my eye when there was nothing there. The fruit punch dripped with sweetness and sugar, and I had to wonder how healthy such a concoction was. A ferret, easily four feet tall with frazzled, wild hair, approached my table. The ferret wore a tight-fitting white lab coat and high heels. It held out a cupful of pills.
I sighed. “Centurian is loose.”
The ferret smiled. “You know the doors are locked.”
The ferret pushed the cup of pills under my nose. “Take your medicine.”
I took the offered pills and began pacing the halls plotting my next move. In truth, the doors in this place were locked all the time. Still, there had to be a way out. Something I had forgotten. I paced and paced.
I noticed a sea turtle, and I knew enough to know he was in charge.
The sea turtle had a name tag, “Dr. Naples.” The beast waved at me with one appendage.
I shouted, “Centurian is loose!”
The sea turtle smiled. “Let’s sit down, George.”
The turtle’s reptilian shell shifted under the fluorescent lighting. The individual pieces of his carapace seemed to move and slide along its back as if it were sorting out some puzzle. I sat on a bench. He pointed at me with what I thought was his arm. “You’ve been coming along very well over these last few months.”
I howled, “I never should have retired!”
The turtle nodded.
“You need to release me,” I said with my right fist clenched.
“Oh, not until your treatment is finished, dear boy. As long as you suffer from delusions, your place is here.”
“They aren’t delusions! Centurian is putting hallucinogens in the water supply. I’ve stopped him before.”
The turtle pulled his head partway back into his shell. “Centurian is a myth.”
I snarled. “He’s as real as you or me.”
“Some philosophers would say only one of us is real, young man.”
“I need to get out of this place.”
“In time. I expect over the next few months, if you continue to progress, you’ll be a free man.”
“We don’t have a few months!”
The turtle stood up and took a few steps away. “I have other patients and piles of paperwork I must see to. Has talking with me helped?”
My lips curled into a frown. “No.”
I began pacing the halls once again.
William stood in one corner of the room flipping the channels on the television. He lit up a cigarette and smiled at me. He wore red sweatshirt and navy-blue sweatpants. The end of the cigarette seemed to singe the very air with an unholy glow of burning metals.
“Centurian?” William asked.
“Bad news always travels fastest.”
“Is your remote working?”
A streak of brilliance like a wicked thought crossed through my mind, and I spoke aloud in error, “Yes, my remote. I forgot about it altogether.”
I ran for my room. Typing a keycode into my locker, I withdrew my precious remote. I pointed the device at the closed door in my room and pushed play. Nothing happened. I locked the remote back up and lay down drifting off into a rigidly vivid dreamscape plagued by unkillable foes and assassins.
The dinner bell woke me, and I ate with the patience of a man plotting his escape path. I paced the halls trying every door leading to a new level or outside. All remained perfectly secured. I lay down for a while, sliding in and out of a sleep riddled with tales of viruses and chemical agents.
I went for yet another walk. This fine-looking young woman who easily resembled a walrus sat at a table reading a book.
Sitting down across from her, I tried to get her attention. She picked at one of her tusks with her fingernail.
I shivered the words out slowly, “Centurian is back at it.”
The walrus woman nodded her head.
“My remote is broken!”
The walrus shook her head and put her book down.
“You’re one man,” the walrus whispered.
My eyes turned into a steely cold glare, and I whispered, “I’m the best.”
The walrus reached in her pocket and withdrew two AA batteries. Rolling them across the table at me, she grinned wide. Snatching up the batteries, I took off in a run towards my room.
I made sure the door was closed behind me and punched the keycode into my locker. I pulled the battery cover off my remote and tossed the old batteries into the trash can. Feeding the remote the new batteries, I twitched a little bit. Pushing the play button on the remote resulted in the most beautiful metallic click sound one would ever hear. I locked the remote back up. The door opened.
Stepping gingerly into the closet, I climbed onto the rungs in the back wall. The floor in there wasn’t to be trusted. I typed another keycode into a keypad on the wall, and the floor dropped out. I climbed down, and cool air came from below. I reached a landing and touched around for a light switch. The hallway was narrow and poorly lit, yet I made my best possible time.
I pushed one final door open, and the outside air hit me in the face. I took off in a run towards my base. My legs pushed against the ground, and my pulse thumped. I reached a large, multi-story house surrounded by a well-groomed lawn complete with shrubs dotted with tiny red berries. The door was locked, and my hand found its way to the buzzer.
My sister answered, and I stepped inside.
She held out a bottle of aspirin. “George! Your computer said take two aspirin to counter the effects of the hallucinogen in the water supply. It’s been all over the news, too.”
I nodded, walking past her towards the stairs.
She reached out and grabbed my arm. “Take the aspirin.”
I popped two aspirin in my mouth and pounded up the stairs to the top floor. I reached a simple door and opened it. Linen closet. I started grabbing shelves and removing them, discarding their contents into the hallway. Once the closet was empty, I stepped inside and closed the door. Tiny green lights illuminated the space.
Speaking quietly, I said, “My name is George.”
White light filled the closet, and the floor started pushing me upwards to my base. I started noticing the distinct lack of hallucinations. Praying a silent thank you, I stepped through the doorway into my lair. I went to the computer and started tapping into the imagery satellites. I looked at every access point for the water supply. Each one looked untouched. I started to wonder. A quick analysis of the operating system onboard the satellite showed a Trojan process. I tried to clean it, but it was quite malignant. I uploaded a newer version of the satellite operating system and waited.
I had imagery. The computer beeped a warning. Apparently, the Trojan reported activity across the network. My mind snarled as I realized I didn’t have much time. I sorted through the imagery until I found Centurian. He had three cronies with him, and they were dumping drums into the water pipeline at a water tower.
After I donned my fiber armor, my hands instinctively reached for my clubs. The oaken clubs attached at a belt loop and possessed a magnet in the end to keep them steadily attached to my thigh, so I could move freely. I sported four of the 16-inch-long, 42 oz clubs, and my eyes wandered to the stairs leading to my transport. I shook my head and whispered, “I am the one.”
Climbing upwards, I reached the transport on the roof. I twisted the throttle all the way up and turned the wheel in the direction of Centurian. The satellite imagery showed on my console. The cronies waited at the base of the water tower, and Centurian was doing something on top of the tower. I pulled to a stop and jumped out.
I howled, “Arrroooo!” A club materialized in my hand as if by a will of its own. I charged the first of the cronies. My club worked its magic, and the man went down. The second man pulled a gun, but my armor casually deflected the projectile. I clubbed the shooter good.
The third man fell to his knees and shed tears. “Please, mister, don’t hurt me!”
The club flashed three times in the night air, and the man crumpled into a ball on the ground.
Centurian, dressed in royal purple robes and black shoes, smiled at me. “George! I’m ready for you this time!”
Counting how many steps away he stood, my eyes narrowed.
He reached in his robes and withdrew a Mark IV Death Ray. “This weapon will cut through your armor and–
I knew that thing took four seconds to charge, and I whipped my club at the device. The death ray went flying. Centurian’s face bent all out of shape. “You win, George, again. I’ll go along quietly. Call the authorities.”
I advanced on him and beat him some. Not enough for him to suffer any permanent damage, but enough that he was out cold.
I pressed the call button in my armor. Within moments, police transports and hospital evac units arrived.
A Doberman and a German Shepherd approached me from one of the police transports. The Doberman said, “Time to go back, George.”
“No!” I shouted.
The German Shepherd sighed. “You must go back. You have an extremely violent personality, and society must be protected from you.”
“I do not have a violent personality!”
“You just beat four men half to death,” the Doberman said.
“They deserved it! I barely injured them.”
A typical housecat with yellow stripes and a white lab coat approached from one of the medical units.
The Doberman looked at the housecat. “He doesn’t want to go back.”
My grip tightened on my club.
The cat smiled and shook her head. “But, you know, George, they’re having biscuits and gravy for breakfast this morning.”
“Biscuits and gravy!” I chirped.
The Doberman smiled. “With fresh pineapple!”
I tossed my club to the side and jumped into one of the medical transports. “Come on, let’s go, let’s go!”
The cats and dogs smiled. The transport took off, and soon enough we were back at the medical compound. They led me through hallways until we reached the secure double door into my ward. I stepped through the first door, and the walrus, who gave me batteries, stood there smiling. “We’re really having biscuits and gravy?”
The walrus smiled. “Oh, yes, and fresh pineapple.”
I jumped up and clapped my hands. The first security door locked, and the second security door went click. I ran for the kitchen. I put my hand on the tray dispenser. My eyes narrowed as I cataloged the items on my tray. Oatmeal. An orange that had bruises from being kept in a freezer. A plain bagel with no sign of butter or cream cheese. I stuck my finger in the oatmeal: lumpy and lukewarm. I let out a little whimper.
William approached, and he laughed. “What did they promise you this time? French toast with thick cut, hickory bacon?”
“What then?” He asked.
“Biscuits and gravy with fresh pineapple.”
William grabbed up his tray. “You know we only have that on Christmas.”
I sat down to eat my food.
William sat with me. He spoke between bites, “What about your remote?”
My food fell to my tray as I raced to my room. My locker opened easily enough. I pulled out the remote and tried it. Nothing happened. I opened the remote to look at the batteries. They were gone. I closed my eyes.