Sunday, July 5, 2009

Midnight Ride, Chapter 10

Chapter 10 Midnight Ride
At midnight two shadows crept down the stair way of apartment complex 77th. One was tall and wiry with a small pack on his back. The other was shorter, fatter, and lugging several suitcases. The taller one was obviously the leader because he led the way, pausing at each corner to cautiously peer around before proceeding. And every time he stopped the shorter shadow bumped into him with an “oof” and had to back up several paces. Eventually they left the building entirely and slunk through the streets.

Frank had really wanted to take his car. But Art absolutely refused; it was unthinkable to manage un-detection in a bright orange sports car. They would walk to the nearest bus. Reluctantly Frank agreed.

The other problem had been luggage. Art thought one light backpack was more than sufficient for all their travelling needs. But here Frank put his foot down firmly. He wasn’t going to South America without several changes of underwear, toothpaste, refill deodorants, his new portable 3-dVD player, a couple pillows, sleeping bags, four brands of bug repellent, enough sleeping pills to kill an army, and a good supply of salted peanuts. The only thing he didn’t have in good supply was cash; he couldn’t risk a bank visit in the middle of the night, so he stuffed what he did have in his wallet and hoped it would be enough. In the end Art just shrugged and said “you’re carrying it.”

Together they inched through the streets. Frank wasn’t exactly sure where Art expected the bus to take them, but he was fairly confident in his friends mapping skills. Somehow or they they would get to South America.

The night was a cold one. High above their heads Frank thought he could see stars, but he wasn’t quite sure. City lights drowned out the prickly little points of light men and woman have gazed at since the world was born. Frank had never seen the big dipper, only the brilliant North Star was strong enough to pierce the red smog which hung like a veil over the city skyline. And even the North Star looked like an airplane cockpit, or a dying radio tower. Sometimes Frank wasn’t even sure it was really there. Tonight he saw it glimmering like a beacon above them. He wondered if it would be brighter in the jungles where they were travelling.

“Pssst, keep up!” Art hissed a few feet in front of him. They had reached the bus stop.

A couple minutes later an old bus creaked to a stop letting them climb in. The bus driver looked like the bus, badly in need of a fresh coat of paint. Art picked seats n the very back and gestured for Frank to follow him. Frank stumbled forward over an old Chinese ladies oversized purse and plopped into his seat. Art was already seated. The bus lazily lurched away from the curb and neither one noticed the small, thick set, man who had boarded almost unseen behind them. He sat on the opposite row.

Art pulled out a map and glanced about nervously. Noticing the stranger across from them he ducked his head and spoke under his breath.

“Once we get to South America we’ll start looking for clues. Until then we’ll take it easy and you can get some sleep.”

“The bus is taking us all the way to SA?” Frank asked dubiously.

“No, we’re going to stop at my cousin Kera’s, the greenie remember?”

“Oh yeah, she lives in Texas. How are we going to get across the border?”
Art wrinkled his brow in thought. Frank saw him narrow his eyes and grimace. A few moments passed in silence.

“Well?” Frank repeated getting worried.

“Hush, I’m trying to think.” Art remonstrated.

“You mean you’re making this up as you go!” Frank splurted. Art was being unsettlingly vague.

In the Twenty Third century no one could travel outside the bounds of his province of habitation without written documents of approval from the magistrate. The bus they were on would only carry them 50 miles or so, an easy twenty minute stretch. After that they would be on foot.
Passing borders was another problem. Luckily there were very few borders to cross. The world was governed by a universal parliament with the exception of one or two uncooperative republics. Of which Texas was one. Crossing into Texas on foot was going to be next to impossible, Frank wondered if they should turn back now before it was too late.

“When we get closer to Texas, on foot I’d say it would take us a week or so, I will call Kera. She’s used to my crazy schemes and should fall for a sugar coated lie. I’ll tell her I want to measure the growth rate of seaweed in the Atlantic, compared to the Pacific. It ought to appeal to her sensibilities.” Art finally said.

“How is that going to help us?” Frank asked impatiently, “We still don’t have papers to get across the border so unless your cousin is a magistrate or something…”

“WELL, I happen to know that Kera is currently dating a border guard.” Art winked.

“Oh, you didn’t say that a minute ago” Frank replied in surprise. That shed new light on things.

“I guess there’s nothing we can do about it until we get there. After Texas it should be smooth sailing, as long as we keep low profiles.”

Outside the bus windows the world was flying by. Frank could barely make out distinguishable shapes. Once he was certain they were passing the old main street mall – an abandoned shopping center which had seen its day before the advent of virtual e-stores. Now it was used as a rallying area for teenage gangsters who ruled the night world. He shuddered and looked upwards. Street lights cast fuzzy illumination on dumpsters and newer garbage disposal units painted bright bright blue. The scenery was getting pretty boring. Slowly he leaned his head against the cool black window pane and began to doze.

The man in front of them was wearing a bright red ball cap. He sat perfectly erect in his seat, engrossed with a small device he was holding. The device was about the size of a paper dollar bill and nearly as thin. Despite its fragile appearance it was really very strong, resisting the man’s firm thumb strokes. The man was pushing up and down on the device with his thumb, and every time he touched the metallic like screen it flashed a differently colored streak. First purple, then green, red, orange, and hot salmon pink. He held the device low, carefully sheltered from the view of the bus’s other inhabitants, between him and the seat.

The thin gadget was a TraitorCon, a recent development in job identifying technology. Marketers offered it as another wonderful way to help parents determine their child’s future profession, but it worked on more than infants. At the moment the stranger in the ball cap was using it to read Art and Frank’s personality types. The bright colors which flashed as he touched the screen told him not only what weaknesses the two men might have, but also the emotions they were experiencing at the moment. He chuckled as he detected strong signs of hunger in Frank; they showed up chestnut brown on the reading scale. A small click alerted the man that the graph was finished. He softly tapped the shiny back of the TraitorCon. With silent precision it ejected a small slip of paper as wide and long as itself into his palm. He stared at the tiny numbers on the page. Then he frowned.

Franks analysis was straightforward, even humorous. The fatter one loves to eat, sleep, and watch TV; he rarely exerts himself beyond what is strictly necessary, and has a weak will, let alone mental perception the stranger thought. One stubby finger reached up to scratch his head under the ball cap. His TraitorCon flashed, alternating between stop sign red and banana yellow. But that fellow Art Scew now, he’s way too high wired the man noted. He purposely shifted in his seat while watching the machines murky screen. It flashed again. The one called Art is feeling edgy; every movement seems to catch his eye.

Art was indeed edgy. He darted glances at every person in the bus, nothing escaped his attention. Why doesn’t that guy turn around he thought desperately wishing the man in the ball cap would let him see what he was doing. Or else go to sleep. The fact that he was awake boarding busses at midnight was suspicious. The bright red ball cap remained where it was.

The man had finished analyzing Art. Again the tiny slip of paper inserted itself noiselessly into his open palm. The man could feel Arts eyes boring into the back of his neck. He leaned forward and peered at the emoticons results. They were confusing. On one side the intelligence level soared, few people would ever land on those levels. (Mr. Wildrow perhaps, but Teaser knew of no one else) Then, on the other side, the reading plummeted dangerously low. Apparently Art struggled with producing emotions such as love and joy. He had no problem with guilt and depression; the black streaks were unusually strong. But happy emotions were definitely lacking. The stranger once again scratched his head. This was unexpected.

How am I going to deal with this guy, guilt him into giving me the map? Find his weak spot and threaten it? The map is his weak spot as far as I can tell. He wished he could just pummel the fellows, it would be so easy. Why does Live always have to make things so difficult? If he wanted the map then Teaser could get it. He could stop the bus here and now and shoot the idiots down. He made himself focus on trickier tactics, like Mr. Wildrow wanted. The one named Frank would be easy, offer him a few trinkets and promises of rest after a few days in the jungles where he assumed they were heading and the man would cave in. But Art, who was obviously the leader, would be a tough nut to crack.

The bus stopped abruptly. A few sleepers snorted noisily and went back to sleep. They ha already handed in their papers earlier.

“Everybody without a license to leave California County, get off now” the bus driver surly announced. Art got up with a sigh and poked the sleeping Frank.

“Come on, we have to get off ” Art explained. Frank groaned and began gathering his suitcases. The man across from them hopped up quickly and moved down the aisle. Art eyed him curiously.

“Stop staring at strangers Art and help me with this back pack” Frank whispered hoarsely.

“Oh, sorry buddy, I didn’t see you needed help. It’s just so strange you know, a guy riding around CA at night. Most unusual.” He absent mindedly lifted Franks pack to his own shoulder, “I suppose the fellow has a permit” he continued as he saw Teaser shove some papers under the bus drivers nose and, what was odd, gesture their way. The man moved back to his seat and sat down.

“Lucky” Art murmured shaking the cobwebs out of his brain. They had a long cold walk ahead of them. Together he and Frank walked to the front and were about to step off when the bus driver held out a hand.

"No need to leave. You may go back to your seats. I’ll take you as far as the Texas borders if you like” the driver said. Arts eyes nearly bugged out.
“But we don’t have a permit sir” he said before he could stop himself. Frank elbowed him in the ribs.

“Shut up Art, don’t you know a piece of good luck when you see it?” He demanded in a low voice.

“Wait a second, why is he doing this for us?” Art asked back, also in a low voice.

“Who cares, maybe you look like his second-cousin. Let’s go get some sleep.” Frank replied turning around and shuffling away. Art had no choice but to follow against his better judgment.

Back in their seats the bus took off. Once more the windows resumed a blurry aspect. Frank dropped his stuff and began snoring immediately. Art fidgeted around for awhile. Something was definitely wrong; he just couldn’t put a finger on it. There’s no such thing as happy coincidence or good luck, his mind reasoned. There had to be something else going on. The man across the aisle still bothered him; he wished he would take his hat off. Soon however even Art could not ward off the sleep we all require. His eyes demanded to be shut though his brain continued to process unseen images. Late into the morning he dreamed fitfully, waking now and then to stare at the red baseball cap which never moved.

Teaser was chuckling softly. He had worked everything quite nicely. Now they could reach their destination much faster and at less expense to him. And the idiots didn’t even put up a fuss he gloated. Of course Arts reading were going off the scales. The TraiterCon was beginning to overheat just trying to keep up with Arts wildly fluctuating emotions. After awhile Teasers course paws began to burn as he grasped the device and he had to put it away. He wondered why Art had decided to stay on the bus under such conflicting circumstances and realized that if it hadn’t been for Frank the brainy man would have walked. Thank god for the fat one was his last thought as he drifted into a steady doze.

Frank steps out

Chapter 9 Frank Steps out

The sun was making a rapid descent into the earth’s rim when Frank got back to his apartment. The precious map was folded carefully in his hand; he clenched it tight as the wind blew. Then he opened the apartment door.

“Oh Frank is that you? Have you got the map? Thank God you’re alright.” Art cried in one breath springing upon him as he entered.

“Settle down Art, yes I’ve got the map, and yes I’m okay.” Frank remonstrated pushing Art off like an overly excited child and handing him the map. Art eagerly grabbed it and poured over its contents.
The map was freshly printed on a very ordinary piece of printer paper. The back was completely blank accept for the little office logo which inevitably got scooted to the opposite side. Frank had not even taken the time to properly look at the map side. He sighed and came all the way in.
Dinner and bed were starting to sound really good at the moment so Frank hurried to his freezer. A large pre-packaged pizza greeted him there and he pulled it out quickly. The oven heated immediately with a great burst of flame. He opened the door and popped the pizza in.

“What kind of pizza is that?” Art asked behind his back. Frank jumped a little; he had half forgotten that Art was still in the house.

“Its pineapple and ham” he answered.

“Drat, I hate pizza in general but pineapple is the worst. “ Art complained.

“Who said you were invited to dinner” Frank retorted shortly. It was bad enough that Art always assumed things, but to complain was really too much.

“Well I don’t know Frank. I guess I just naturally assumed that we were in this together – at least right now. What are you going to do, kick me starving and friendless to the curb?”

“Of course not. Just don’t give me a hard time about the pizza. If you weren’t here I’d be ordering in. As it is I have to do the work myself. Do you think I enjoy putting pizza in the oven?” Frank demanded.

The timer buzzed and Frank pulled out his pizza. Its heavy cardboard pan sagged under the heavy weight of melted cheese. The aroma lifted Frank’s spirits considerably as he carefully slid the pizza onto the counter. Its crust left a faint trail of crispy garlic powder.

“I guess it’s better than nothing” Art said pulling up a stool. He and Frank exchanged testy glances. Frank unceremoniously stuffed a lopsided piece in his mouth and wished with all his might he had a TV to watch. A little TV distraction would clear everything up. Art gingerly picked up a slice between thumb and forefinger. A pineapple fell off and hit the counter with a messy smack. Art looked askance.

“Its rather hot to be gulping down so rapidly frank” he warned, “I say, you don’t have any ranch do you?”

Frank wiped the back of his hand across his mouth smearing his goatee with red sauce.

“Why on earth would you want to spoil perfectly good pizza with ranch?” he huffed getting up and finding the ranch in the back of the refrigerator.

“I’m sorry to cause you so much trouble Frank, I just happen to like ranch on my pizza. Do you have any of those little chili pepper flakes?”

“No” Frank answered shortly. He was having problems not thinking, and soon Art would be gone. This could be their last meal together. His pizza lost its flavor.

“Could I see your map?” he asked on sudden impulse.

Art dug into his back pocket and brought out the crisp square of folded paper. Frank opened it and stared at a strange crossword puzzle of blank blocks and diagonal markings. It was intertwisted with pictures and figures; and each side was bordered with fat little men in shaggy diapers apparently holding wands. Frank told Art what he saw.

“Heavens Frank! Those are Aztec hieroglyphs of unusual design and antiquity, diapers and wands indeed. The men are wearing their full tribal regalia and brandishing spears!”

“Oh, I see” Frank said feeling awfully dumb. “You say their holding spears?” He looked at the little men more respectfully. When he was a boy he had loved playing with sticks. Sometimes he imagined he was an ancient warrior from the forgotten past – until his Father caught him playing George Washington one day. His parents were appalled. If he closed his eyes he could still see their shocked faces and reproving gestures. How could you play such things Franky? Spears are dangerous and derogatory, so are muskets. Now days we know there never were such things as ‘savages’ or ‘indians’. Men never hunted each other with primitive spears, and the cave men were vegetarians. See. It says so in you text book. Spears are the invention of modern mans invention – a violent urge which should be squelched. We know how to behave ourselves better now days. Since then Frank had never touched a stick. They were silly. His eyes flew open.

“Art, I think I’ve nearly decided to come with you” he spluttered.

Art had been watching him closely and smiled satisfactorily. He had seen the wonder-lust fill Frank’s blank eyes for a mere second, and had seen the unhappy set of his mouth as he recalled some distasteful memory. He stretched out his hand to grasp Franks. The smaller man trembled and his pudgy face looked pale. Art held the hand tighter and said “Welcome aboard Frank, I’m overjoyed to have you with me. We’ll leave later under the cover of darkness.”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Live Wildrow

Chapter 8 Live Wildrow
It was late at night and the moths were coming out to hover around the street lamps. There was a moon, luminous and full. Its silvery outline stood against the velvety darkness like a window into other worlds. Men have lost their souls contemplating Luna’s eerie light, and shunning the rosy fingers of day.
In this darkness a single form moved down the street. He was unnaturally tall and walked with a slight hunch; two whitish eyes made beacons in the darkness. Mr. Live Wildrow was a shrewd calculating type of man. Nothing escaped his greedy gaze as he raked he streets with his eyes. He paused to watch the shadow of a woman laughing in her lighted bedroom – it was reflected clearly against the shade. Twinkling sounds of wine glasses touching broke the silence. Licentiously he chuckled. His thin lips pursed as he continued walking, rubbing his hands together. The burgundy robe swept the pavement unmercifully, driving midnight insects and filthy cockroaches before its wake. He was nearing his destination.
Set against the stunning backdrop of city lights a ramshackle house squatted. Its frame leaned inwards like a giant had once sat on it. The door was a patched dark green which contrasted oddly with its grand gold knob. If nothing else that door had been kept in good repair for when Mr. Wildrow lifted his hand to tap, it swung open without a squeak. Stooping the man went in and the door shut with a muffled click.
Inside was no better than outside. A few dusty shelves hanging on rusty nails clung precariously to the walls. They were overloaded with papers and file boxes; here and there one had tipped sideways and spilled its contents on the floor. Mr. Wildrow wrinkled his nose distastefully and accepted a chair offered him by the bungalows sole inhabitant.
“You really should clean up a bit Teaser, it’s no wonder you never get visitors” he commented.
“I’d like to see a man, women, or child, try to come within twenty feet of my front porch. I’d shoot ‘em on the spot.” Teaser replied amicably.
The man Teaser was as different from Mr. Wildrow as two creatures can be and still expect to be called human. Teaser was short and almost anthropoid in appearance. His arms were too long for his short torso, hanging past the knees, and the hands were gigantically gnarled like tree roots. It seemed all his appendages were destined to be oversized because his shoes would never fit in the shoe boxes you and I buy. He’d never been able to find shoes that fit him comfortably so he made his own, and a raggedy affair they were.
Teasers face was startlingly enchanting compared to his hideous body shape. It was not exactly a pretty face, nor was it one to be trusted. But the teeth were very white and straight and the eyes had long brown lashes, hiding the malevolent beams underneath. When Teaser talked his cheeks lit up with a ruddy brilliance and he smiled bewitchingly.
Mr. Wildrow shifted in his seat.
“I’ve come on business Teaser.”
“Ah but of course, of course!” the short man said pulling a heavy leather up with ease and sitting beside his master.
For such was the relationship between the two. It was strange because while neither considered the other inferior, Teaser acknowledged the higher intellect of Mr. Wildrow. And Mr. Wildrow in his turn saw the great potential Teaser was developing and valued the effusive energy of his younger pedogue. Teaser was the cogs that made his schemes go round, through Teaser wishes became reality. The tall lean man brushed a few dank locks of hair out of his eyes.
“Today the Atlantians have met their fate. Doom stares them in the face, its eager footsteps will not be dodged this time. I knew this opportunity would come someday – a civilization in rebellion like there’s cannot be hidden or completely erased from the minds of men.
Teaser seemed to know what his master was talking about taking it all in good stride and grunting his agreement.
“No doubt the time has come Mr. Wildrow, tell me what to do and I’ll stick to my post like a leopard its prey.”
“I have complete faith in you Teaser, thought leopard-like is hardly how I would describe you.” Mr. Wildrow smiled briefly.
Teaser let out a course laugh and flexed his massive arm muscles. They bunched up like prize melons.
“That’s right; I’m more bulldog I am.” He agreed.
“To get back to the point, a man named Art Skew has discovered something we could not – the map to the hidden city. He and his office partner, a guy named Frank, have set out to find and join the rebels.” Mr. Wildrow seemed to know a good deal of information.
“Would you like me to catch them sir? I understand one of them is wanted for reading blogs illegally. I could take care of the whole thing nice and quiet, it would be a cinch.” Teaser wore a delightful smile as he contemplated his methods of capture, and later, perhaps, torture.
“No Teaser, I don’t want you to apprehend them. That would ruin the hopes of many years” his pale eyes glistened as he reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a plain silk hankie. He dabbed his brow and closed his eyes.
“Art Skew and Frank are completely worthless as individuals. Right now I couldn’t care less what their personal motives may be. (Whatever the government may say) Atlantis is all that matters and these stupid society wrongers are going to lead me straight to it!” Live was mopping his brow vigorously no. His cool demeanor and chilly reserve had melted into a puddle of fire. Beneath his shaggy eyebrows Live’s eyes had become focused, they lost their pale listless gaze and stared intently into space. Some unseen vision made his cheeks flush hectically pink and his throat constricted. Teaser twitched his fingers nervously. Mr. Wildrow was in a world of thought where the ape like man could not follow. His beastly appetites and common sense struck inspiration to the ground like flies beneath a rolled magazine. Teaser began to shift in his seat.
Wildrow returned to awareness as the clock struck midnight.
“You are going to follow the miscreants wherever they go and – if it is possible – join them on their quest. We cannot risk losing the map in a scuffle, and there may be tests along the way which we may as well let the idiots attempt. Better them than us. Also this Art fellow, he has studied the city for years, it’s a family thing I think. Sooner or later they will either find what they are looking for or give up. I am inclined to believe they will find the city. In any case, when the time comes you may deal with them as harshly as you like, but for now they must live.”
Teaser sighed and said “Well sir, I’d rather deal with them properly right off – my way you know. But while you need them I’ll stick to them like a burr. No sir, they won’t escape me.”
“See they don’t. If you lose them my years of waiting will have been wasted. My life depends on this Teaser, do you know what will happen to this old mans heart if you fail? It will lose its grip on reality – such as we see it to be – and fade away like smoke in a strong wind.” The mans face twisted up in strange agony.
“Don’t worry sir” Teaser said, getting up and putting on a bright red baseball cap, “I’m on my way.” He glanced around the rickety house and, almost as an afterthought, stuck a rusty screwdriver in his back pocket.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Art Steps In


Day dawned bright and miserable for Frank. Beep, beep, beep...An alarm clock too small to be seen with the naked eye signaled it was time to get up. Frank rolled over and stuffed his head deep into the pillow. Thanks to the automatic blinds light had not yet penetrated the inner sanctum of the room in the sleep apnea clinic. Still, the alarm clock could not be ignored. With each passing second it grew more insistent. Frank scratched behind his ear where the little device was perched.

"Getting the latest and greatest in alarm clocks was brilliant" he muttered sarcastically. One day he had bought it and put it on, and now he couldn't find it again to take it off. Some people were demanding a recall. Saturday mornings had never been the same.

Slowly he pulled himself upright in the clinic bed and flicked the blinds switch to "open". Silently they reversed there slides and a flood of sunlight poured in. Frank blinked.

"How long did I manage to ignore the bugger this time? he wondered aloud rubbing his head and realizing he had a splitting headache.

The gooey disks were beginning to itch dreadfully. Frank was tempted to peel them off - but the thought of messing up the test results and having to stay another night deterred him. Instead he got up and walked around the room a few times, dragging the wires and equipment cart behind him. Still no one came. He was just about to give up and start calling for assistance when the doctor and his entourage of nurses came in.

"Well sonny, you do not have sleep apnea" the doctor announced. Frank groaned as the nurses stripped the disks off him.

"If I don't have sleep apnea what do I have? Whats wrong with me!" Frank wailed already knowing the answer.

the doctor shrugged. "I only diagnose people with sleep apnea. You'll have to go elsewhere if you want to find out what is wrong." he answered.

Later that day a very frustrated Frank mentally dialed Arts number. His brain-cell rang for a few minutes and finally Art himself picked up the phone.

"Hello"

"Listen Art, you've totally ruined my life! I never want to speak to you again, I thought you were my friend."

"Umm, I understand how you are feeling and all Frank, withdrawal can be pretty tough. If it makes you feel better you can hang up on me."

Frank hung up without a click.

Silence.

The day stretched on and on. It was no good going to work, he was already to late to make excuses. Besides, everybody there would ask how it had gone and Frank was in no mood for questions. He was the one who wanted answers. Finally Frank broke down and called his only "friend", Art.

"Hello."

Hi Art, this is Frank."

"I thought you were never going to speak to me again."

"Don't be moronic Art."

"So, why are you calling if I may politely inquire?"

"I need to do something. All this quiet is killing me. What are you doing?"

"Well Frank, I'm at work."

"Oh."

"Where did you expect me to be at this hour of the day?"

"I don't know, I just can't imagine you acting like a normal human being . Every time your name comes up I envision a bright eyed, bushy tailed, beaver choking on corkwood."

"That's nice Frank."

Silence.

"Frank? Are you still there?"

"Yeah, I think my last statement was the best I've ever come up with. It just flowed out of me like it was rehearsed."

"Ah ha! Do you see what is happening Frank?" Art exclaimed wildly.

"No."

"Your brain is beginning to wake up and exercise natural sentiment the way it was intended to before pre-packaged, pre-approved, soap opera dialogue became your magnum opus!"

"Are you saying your excited I now think of you as a maniacal choking beaver?"

"Yes! What did you think I was before TV deprivation may I ask?"

"A very nerdy co-worker."

"Ah yes, the classic and unoriginal theme from oodles of comics and television re-runs. I can see your mental juices beginning to flow! Take care Frank, next you'll be eating carrots!"

"Uh, huh. Art, I'm beginning to regret my lack of determination. I shouldn't have broke down and called you - you are just a little too weird."

"Yes. so you've said. But remember I'm your only friend."

"Yeah that's my problem." Frank sighed.

There was a violent crash on Arts end. The connection grew fuzzy and distant. Frank thought he could hear Art yelling.

"Art! Art! Are you still there Art? What's happening?" he shrieked. There was no reply. The blood rushed to his head as he pondered what to do. Art could be in trouble, though heaven knows what it was this time, Art was so unstable.

I could go help Art, or I can stay here and continue to do nothing Frank thought. It was an agonizing choice. He wasn't really sure he was ready to see Art again. Whenever Art was in the vicinity awful and abnormal things happened. Franks headache was getting worse by the second. make a decision his body screamed at him, living in indecision was worse than not living at all.

No, I'm not going he decided, and he put on his shoes and found his car keys. Then he sat on the couch and popped a few Tylenol. His sneaker laces looked crooked so he fixed them. Absent minded he played with the keys he was holding, they jingled as he hung them now on his thumb, and now dangling precariously between his forefingers.

Suddenly the front door of his apartment flew open and shut almost as quickly with a loud slam. Frank dropped his keys. Art had stepped in.

"Oh my gosh Art, whats going on?" Frank gasped taking in a glance of Arts pale face and dilated pupils.

"The jig is officially up Frank, I'm running for my life!"

"What!" Frank yelled.

"They caught me at last. I was looking through the blogs I told you about, reading them Frank."

"That's what you were doing when I called you!" Frank yelled again in utter disbelief.

"Quiet down Frank, someone will hear you." Art warned coming all the way in and throwing himself out on the couch. He spied an opened half eaten bag of salted peanuts Frank had left out and started munching them.

"That you can eat at a time like this is completely stupid" Frank exclaimed beginning to pace. "If the world had needed further proof of your imbecilic tendency's they now have it."

"The mind is a strange thing Frank, before I was eaten up with anxiety because I knew I had everything to lose. Now that I've lost everything I find myself becoming more and more composed. A couple more peanuts and I shall be myself again."

"Heaven forbid" Frank said wryly.

"Of all the detestably overused terms that is the one I most despise. It really shows a certain level of vulgarity Frank." Art said closing the peanut bag carefully and rolling his eyes. He sat up and dusted salt off his chin.

"It's came to this sir. I've made a choice to maintain family tradition by becoming a low-life, against-mainstream, society madmen, and go adventuring in the jungles of South America."

"South America! Why on earth do you need to go to South America?" Frank demanded.

"Art bent his head slightly and hissed "I've found a map of clues connected to the one on my vintage cell-phone. They all point to South America."

Frank blinked. "And what about me? Are you going to just run off and leave me to deal with the FBI and the agencies, and the government, and what am I going to tell the boss? That I was oblivious to the actions of a guy I sat three feet across from in a tiny office nine hours out of twenty-four, five days a week, for at least two years?"

"Your imagination is growing Frank, and I'm sure if the situation you suggest were going to come about you would find a way out of it. But as the case stands, I don't think you need to worry about the boss's reactions in the least."

"How come? I don't understand." Frank objected wrinkling his forehead.

"Because you won't be here to see it. I'm taking you to South America with me."

"No" Frank gasped sitting down in shock. Whenever Art voiced something it came to pass.

"Yes, did you suppose I would be so ungenerous a friend as to leave you with all 'my mess', as you'd like to put it, and waltz away to glorious freedom?" Art was obviously hurt.

"That is not what I 'supposed' buddy. I am neither going to clean up 'your' mess or go to South America" Frank said when he found his voice.

"Why Frank, whatever will you do?" Art asked in real surprise.

"I'm going to stay right here in my little apartment and try to patch up whats left of my former life."

"But Frank! You'll get some new boring office partner and the effects of my TV addiction treatment will wear off, and your life will go on in the same way forever! Won't you ever get lonely and bored?" Art was in quite a pickle. Frank was actually moved by his concern.

"No Art. I am going to be a solid, valued, perfectly happy individual of our modern age. Its you who will wake up some morning in the mosquito infested swamps of South America and wonder what you are are doing with your life. Then you will realise that life is not worth living when you must live up to the hopes of a deceased great-great-great Grandfather named Arthur." The die was cast. Frank felt a surge of sadness mixed with relief. Now things could get back to normal.

"Gee Frank, I'm going to miss you. I may be the only friend you have - but you are also the only friend I have. Its going to be so lonely in South America without someone to talk to." Art was pleading now and Frank felt his resolve waver. Loyalty to his friend and habit made him want to give in.

Art turned and walked out the door. Frank felt an urge to follow him. It wavered and died. He stood their twiddling his thumbs.

Then the door burst back open and Art came in wild eyed. It was like a replay.

"Frank, my map! Its gone!"

"What do you mean its gone? I didn't even know you had it on you."

"I printed it at the office right before my escape from the boss. I meant to grab it and stuff it in my back pocket, but I must have left it on the printer in all the confusion" he groaned, "Someone is sure to find it and then the secrets out. Not to mention that I can't even start without it."

"What do you expect me to do about it?" Frank asked. Then he realised with a horrible lurch what Art wanted.

"I can't go back to the office Frank! They'd nab me for sure. I need you to go get it!"

Monday, June 1, 2009

In which Frank goes undercover for awhile

After due deliberation I have decided to make my "Frank" blog private. Why? Because I've been writing a book called "The Blogeologist". It is several chapters ahead of where Frank is left off at right now, and is in more of a book format. Since I'm writing it as a book I don't want to give it all away to the general public, just in case I ever get it published.(And for copyright protection etc...)

If you would like to continue reading it I will add you to the "allowed readers" list, leave a comment or email me letting me know. This way it will not show up in google searches and I will be able to focus on the book aspect of it - not so much of a "blog episode" format. And this way when the story gets more bizarre I won't have as big of a censor group, just a couple of disbelieving critics :) Ahem, think here, ATLANTIS. My family are already shaking their heads....But I can't help myself, Frank and Art have sort of taken things into their own incapable hands and headed off who knows where. I wouldn't be surprised if they; end up in South America on a Super Network Grid resembling Mayan architecture but really being much more modern in date, finding the nodes, traversing the edges, and disappearing into a hidden city called Atlantis - but since its not an island dear readers don't confuse it with the actual lost city - finding a colony of "under the basket" Christians who need new vision for victorious dominion, and evading flitter mice at the same time; one of these days. Phew! Can you tell I've been doing geometry? And studying the Explorers of South America, and reading church history books roughly 30 sq. inches in total volume. I think the title for the second book is going to be "The Atlantian".

SO, after giving away the key points of my plot, I just wanted to let everyone know what was going on when Frank became "restricted access" to the public. He and Art are still very much alive and kicking, just going undercover for now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Polysomnogram: Sleep Apnea Two


...At eight O'clock sharp Frank found himself standing before the sleep apnea clinic. He had a large tote bag on his shoulder, and a pillow in his hand. (Thus disregarding the Doctors "bring nothing" order) His socks were pulled up to the knees, regardless of the current fashions, and a wide brimmed hat - no doubt a relic from the unknown past - was pulled low over his brow. He rang the doorbell.

...The door opened immediately and Frank came face to face with a portly nurse. Evidently she was only being paid to open the front door because once inside another nurse took Frank by the elbow and steered him to the front desk. That nurse's sole profession was to direct people to the obvious plaque "CHECK IN HERE" after which she returned to her lookout post. Frank greeted a third nurse behind the desk with a weak smile.

..."This is where I check in right?"
..."Name please!" she barked.
..."Frank" said Frank.
... "Can you spell that please?"
..."F-R-A-N-K, rather unusual spelling I know, but my parents were determined, and well, I don't see how they could have chopped any more off of it and the name still be Frank" he apologized needlessly.

...The nurse was obviously not interested in his parents naming mistakes. She handed him a sticky name tag and pushed a button on her computer screen.

..."Ummm, is this all the registration required? I mean, don't I get a wrist band or something?" Frank inquired against his better judgement.

...The nurse levelled a stony eye at him and snapped " OF COURSE there's more registration! Do you want us to be responsible if you die? Here, sign these papers and sit over there." She shoved a stack of papers two inches thick with red font at Frank and gestured toward a corner with two recliners. Frank tried to pick up the loose stack while keeping his pillow off the floor. When that failed he tried the other hand - the one with the tote bag - and ended up dumping the papers all over the clinic floor.

..."I'll be right back" Frank muttered hurrying over to the seats and putting his stuff down. The nurse glared from across the room. Frank returned, got down on his hands and knees, and retrieved all the papers. The nurse was still glaring as he retreated to his corner, only to find that his chair had been occupied.

..."Uh sir - that is my seat - as you can see I put my stuff right next to it." He said politely.

...The man looked up and Frank noticed he had a dirty gold tooth.

..."What room are you staying in tonight?" he growled. Frank gulped.

..."Oh, uh, I see I've made a mistake. This is your seat, I'm going to take my stuff and go - somewhere else - staying? Oh, no, I'm not sure I will be..." Frank rattled as he nervously moved to a window sill.

...The cold window against his back made him shiver as he remembered his cousins warnings. He pulled a pen out of his pocket and filled in all 240 pages. Some of the questions were confusing. It was worse than New Years resolutions.

1. Have you ever had a heart transplant?
"Nope"
2. Have you ever had a liver failure?
"Nope"
16. Has your Grandpa ever had a liver failure?
"I don't really know..."
20. Do you eat three times a day?
"At least"
56. When was the last time you went to the bathroom?
"Uh, five minutes ago? Does this have anything to do with sleep apnea?"
100. How often do you exercise?
"Ummm, I climb the stairs to my apartment. Does that count?"
118. Have you ever had plastic surgery done?
"Once - my nose."
230. Do you have problems with dandruff?
"Is this really necessary?"

... Just when Frank was getting worried he might not have any personal secrets left he reached the last page. Scooping everything up he walked back to the desk and handed the papers in.

..."Good" the nurse said coldly "Go with her" she pointed at a fourth nurse.

...Are there no guys at this establishment? Frank wondered as he followed Nurse four.

..."Room 66" she announced briskly and left him to open the door and go in.

... Frank went in and saw a single bed with a single sheet and no pillow. "Good thing I brought my own" he muttered and laid that article on the bed. There was nothing left to do but crawl under the sheet and try to sleep; he wasn't about to change clothes in a strange environment.

...He was just going to sleep when the door burst open and the bright overhead lights flicked on. Two doctors with a whole passel of nurses pushing equipment trays bustled in.

..."We need to hook you up sir" a nurse said advancing with a handful of wires and gooey circular things. Frank pulled the sheet higher about his chin and shook his head.

..."Now, now, young man. The whole point of this visit is observation and most of it is observing patterns the naked eye cannot detect. " A doctor reassured him. "We will just plug you in, no needles involved, and leave you to your happy slumber."

...Frank's sheet was ripped off and the nurses began sticking the gooey wire attached disks wherever they saw skin. A few minutes later they drew off and observed their handiwork. The patient had wires coming off his forehead, chest, arms, hands, legs, and even one on each big toe! The second doctor snapped the elastic wrist of his poly skin gloves and grunted.

..."You missed a spot nurse" he said. The nurse blushed at her mistake . "Of course, how could I have forgotten?" She put a gooey disk on the tip of Frank's nose.

..."How am I supposed to sleep in all this?" Frank demanded. "I thought the point was to watch me sleep, if I can't do that how will you find the problem?"

...He didn't get an answer and the mob of medical professionals left him as rapidly as they had come. Frank laid back down and stared at the ceiling . His nose twitched violently and he began to sneeze.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sleep Apnea


...No TV. Deprived of Visual entertainment Frank turned to food for comfort and diversity. Popcorn, hot dogs, chocolate dipped ice cream bars; repeat.

...Another problem presented itself to Frank the very night of his return from Arts house, he was no longer able to sleep. Every time the Z's were coaxed into finally making an appearance, Frank would wake with a violent start - dizzying colors and horrible impressions filled his brain.

..."No Art - help!" he would cry, sitting up and peering around as if he expected that unmerciful friend to pop out at him.

...This went on for a week. By the end of it Frank was reduced to a mere shell of his former vitality, in short, life was unbearable. Other co-workers, besides the crazy one who shared his office, were beginning to notice Frank's sagging eyes and weary steps. Fished from among the overwhelming flood of well meaning advice they gave, Frank made out three suggestions. One, you should get a thorough massage. This from the nerdy looking Mac. Two, you should watch more TV, it will help you relax; Miss Barb's advice; if only she knew the half of it.Three, go downtown and check out the new sleep apnea clinic! This last pearl was from Franks boss. Frank decided to honor his boss's opinion first, for obvious reasons, and scheduled an appointment the next day.

...Lest any reader be skeptical of the following experience Frank has, in this episode and the next - let me assure you it is all based on true facts. I personally know and have spoken with a person who went through this very experience. Even in our own day and age medical concern has begun to border on the absurd. If there is any polishing it is in the telling, not in the solid basis of truth.

...The next morning found Frank preparing for his appointment. He slicked down his hair, fluffing it out in the back. Afterword's he tried to put on his favorite pair of pants. The orange pair with purple stitching. They fell off considerably. This in itself wasn't a problem, pants were supposed to fall off the rear and hang comfortably around the hips - thus exposing ones sporty drawers. The problem was that they didn't stay on the hips. Frank measured himself and panicked.

..."I've lost two inches, holy beejeebers!" He moaned.

...With a little extra effort Frank waddled to his car, trying not to look at the empty wall where all his TV's once had been.

...The appointment went well until the end. Then the doctor steepled his hands and peered at Frank over his fingers.

..."Well young man, we'll see you tonight." he intoned nasally.

..."I don't understand, I must have missed something." Frank answered in surprise.

..."Obviously. Let me repeat; We will observe you tonight as you sleep and determine whether or not you have sleep apnea. Don't bring anything and make sure you eat before you come."

...Frank walked away miserable. He had expected a more, professional way of doing things. And the thought of sleeping in a strange place was horrible - how would he be able to go to sleep? This last thought was even worse, what if he bungled the whole thing and couldn't go to sleep? Everyone would laugh and he would never be able to go to work again. Let alone finding out what was wrong with him.

...He decided to give his cousin Lynn a call. Maybe she would have some advice for him. Accordingly he punched in her phone number. A few seconds later her voice come on the line.

..."Hi, this is your cousin Frank, do you have a minute?" Frank asked nervously.

..."You can have five minutes and then you're off the line - okay buddy?" she said.

..."Okay, I'll make it quick" Frank explained his dilemma to her, wondering the whole while who she was expecting a call from.

..."Well Frank, if I were you I would relax. Social medicine procedure is the norm these days. You will need to know a couple things though, so pay attention!"

...Frank unconsciously straightened and grabbed a pen.

..."Number One; bring your own pillow!" Lynn barked.

..."Why?" Frank wondered innocently.

..."Use some common sense Frank. You never know if the hospital has lice" she explained.

..."Number Two; pack your own toothbrush, or, better yet, brush your teeth before leaving. Communism is great in many respects, but community toothbrushes are just gross - take it from me!"

...Frank shivered as he imagined himself using a community toothbrush. He would brush his teeth at home.

..."Number Three; don't trust the hospital observers to get you up in time for work, take your own alarm clock." Lynn's voice become serious, she lowered it to a mere whisper. Frank strained to catch her next words.

..."There is no number four Frank, just listen carefully. The sleep apnea clinic is sure to have all kinds of people sleeping there under the staff's observance. There's no saying what kind of people they might be - imagine - what kind of people would have problems sleeping at night?"

...Frank thought really hard, hard enough to bring little goosebumps to the surface of his skin.

..."Guilty consciences, ex convicts, psychos; the list goes on and on cousin!" Lynn was shrieking in a subdued whisper.

..."What should I do?" Frank pleaded. Nightmare horrors beginning with the word "lice" and ending with the thought "psycho" had invaded the already shaky state of his mind. Things had been so peaceful before Art came along!

..."Try to go to sleep, that will be the hard part. If you can't go to sleep they may want to repeat the experiment - I mean, experience. And that means you'll have to do it all over again" Lynn said. "Oh, your five minutes is up cuz. I've got to go." She hung up.

...Frank stood contemplating the phone he held in his hand, Something so simple, a device created to bring the voices of loved ones, friends, and family, closer; why could one lose their mind contemplating it and the evils it could bring?