jimagain

Rants & ramblings of the disaffected

Archive for the tag “surreal”

The Devil in The Top Hat

A stranger steps out of the shadows in the night to accost a gentleman and his lady friend. The flickering glow of a street lamp casts the desperate scene in a surreal light. The intended victim is obviously a man of means and carrying a large bag, tightly grasping its handle. Apparently something valuable is inside. They are alone late at night meandering along a deserted cobble stone street near a shipyard. Not particularly smart of either of them; considering the hour is late, the fog heavy, and this is a crime-ridden area frequented by desperate men. The brute standing before them is brandishing a large caliber black powder pistol. A large knife is tucked in his waist band.

“Give me your money!” The demand, albeit lacking in eloquence, is simple and direct.

The traversing pair interrupted, immediately freeze. The lady in fear cowers behind the gentleman as he studies the menacing figure blocking their way. He grips his satchel a little more tightly. “A predictable request.” And then he adds in a more jocular tone peculiar for a man whose life is about to be cut short, “Are we to assume we are in some sort of peril?”

Not amused, the assailant points the muzzle of his weapon at them in response. “I too am a businessman,” he says. “And I propose to relieve you of that heavy bag you are carrying in exchange for sparing your life.” He points to the leather satchel in his grasp.

“It’s a viable offer but it would seem several assumptions have been made on your part, Sir. You assume because of my attire I am carrying a large sum of cash. And you assume it is we who are in peril and not yourself. Perhaps it would be naive of me to not anticipate that once I hand over my valuables, you nonetheless will kill me, leaving you at liberty to impose yourself on my fair young escort. After all she is a member of the weaker sex and with me out of the way you are at liberty to have your way with her? Is this not so?”

The man of the night grins toothily as he nods his large head, tipping his large top hat in a mocking gesture but in such a way as to not take his eyes off the prey. He is no novice to his trade.

The intended victim continues. “Now that we have established your intent let us dispense then with these assumptions. Since I may have arrived at the last hour of my life, I am curiously beset with an urge to negotiate with the devil in the top hat.” He then grinned and tipped his own top hat to his adversary. “I have a proposition to make you instead. I Sir, am a businessman, a merchant of sorts; not unlike yourself, since we both apparently deal in lost souls. Hence I have a counter offer to make you. What say you entertain my barter for your merriment? Suppose I were to offer you the objects of your desire but with one twist. In the course of this transaction, suppose we were to eliminate one integral part of your equation. I propose to give you my very large sum of cash as well as hand over my fair companion in full consent to the natural conclusion of the gratification of your urges. After all, the money is a goodly sum and she is very fair, a woman to fulfill your manly appetites. And all this is done without the commission of a crime on your part. In exchange, all I ask from you is that you to allow me to retain possession of this one paltry satchel with its …contents. Tonight, Sir, would appear to be your lucky night, would it not?”

The villain hesitates at the audacity of his victim, then counters.”And in the spirit of fair business, I propose a counter-offer; I will take your sum of cash, the girl, and the contents of that bag.” He fidgets, nervously brandishing the weapon. “It seems as if you have nothing left to barter with.”

“But I do, and with one remaining stipulation. If you allow me to retain my satchel then I will allow you to keep your soul. If you are unable, however, to carry out your transaction, then I hold your soul in default as collateral. Do you agree to my terms?”

This time the blood runs cold in the hasty assailant. “My soul?!!” For one brief moment he is seized with apprehension, as if now he is the one now being accosted. Valuable time has been lost and the thug is anxious to claim his bounty, a goodly nights haul by any means for a desperate man. He arms his weapon to broadcast the finality of his offer. “Hand them over, now!”

“Be that as it may,” he concedes. “Then may I present you with your newest acquisitions.” He slowly removes his wallet from his coat pocket and in one motion shoves it down the girl’s bodice. His mouth drops as he hands them both over in one move to the surprised thug. He grabs her, one burly hand grasping her petite wrist. That turns out to be a fatal mistake. She smiles coldly. As he reaches for the wallet, at the opportune moment, she strikes in one efficient lethal motion. A sharp knife she deftly procured from her nether garments quickly applied to his fifth rib, ends the robbery and his life. He collapses silently in a heap at their feet.

“It seems my friend, you made several assumptions tonight, all of which were wrong. It was you who needed protection …from her.” He reaches down to extract something that belongs to him from the would-be assailant. Reaching into the cadaver, he extracts a dark, shadowy object in the form of its previous owner, one that struggles to escape, like sheet in the wind. He placed the writhing entity inside the heavy bag he has been clutching. Reaching into his coat pocket, he retrieves a slip of paper which he presses into the palm of the recently deceased. He then tips his top hat to the fallen in a final gesture. “This, Sir, concludes our bargain. It has been a pleasure doing business with you.” Last seen, the pair step over the fresh corpse to continue their journey, disappearing in the shadows, reappearing at the next lamps’ dim glow.

The next morning…

… a crowd has gathered. The man leaning over the body lets out an audible gasp. “Here now, what’s this?!!

“What is it Inspector?”

“The eyes are gone from this one too! Ah! Another note,” he declares matter-of-factly as he reads out loud, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

The Wee Hours

I suppose I should know better by now. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I should know that the rules of the universe have been temporarily waived. Things that normally can’t happen within the realm of possibility often do in that nether region between those late night to early morning hours. Strange things happen in the wee hours.

Some things are best left untold. As to the state of my mind, you are free to draw your own conclusions. But these are the facts.

The last thing I recall that night was working away at my laptop in my study. It was late, already after twelve. I remember thinking I should be in bed. My friend, Cletus waited impatiently for me to finish. Finally in an expression of impatience he laid his huge head on the desk beside the laptop and looked up at me with those sad eyes, as if he knew what I refused to admit to myself. He does this easily with all four paws on the floor while looking pathetically depressed. Cletus is a Great Dane. He says so much without saying a word. I was groggily trudging along at my project and occasionally dozed at the keyboard. I got a loud sigh from my impatient friend but I pressed on wearily groping for that some particular thing I wanted to say, as if sheer determination may bridge the impasse I found myself at. Finally in exhaustion, I gave up, shut down the laptop, turned out the light, and trudged wearily to bed where my friend has already gone on to occupy the best spot. He took up almost the whole bed as usual and once again I had barely a corner left to curl up in.

Sleep; a deep trance-like state of narcoleptic respite descends upon me as my mind struggles to resist. Overwhelming sleep wafts me away on a journey into nothingness, drifting along on a current of unconscious bliss. And somehow, in my semi-catatonic state, I become aware that something is amiss. The harder I try to ignore the sensation, the more prevailing it became.  The ebb & flow of unconsciousness begins to recede as the tide, once again leaving me somewhere between awake and asleep.

I feel this sense of something amiss, a general state of foreboding yet lacking a specific, discrete cause for it.

I should just roll over and go back to sleep. I should but I don’t. I am awake, I’m not sleep-walking. If this were a dream, maybe I would once again find myself wandering along some nameless interstate in just my boxers to face an endless cavalcade of preposterous incongruities. I feel sure I’m not dreaming.  “What this time,” I groan?

Once again, I drag my weary self from a comfortable bed and stagger off with trepidation to investigate. I grope along the wall toward a room which I had left darkened but instead a sliver of light glimmers beneath the door. It’s coming from under the door to my study. Odd, I remember thinking to myself. I turned off the light in there before I retired to bed.

It’s happening again.

For a moment I pause to brace myself for the unexpected, and  give the reluctant door a shove.

Perhaps I’m too weary to be shocked but this is the wee hours of the morning. I find Cletus in my chair, sitting upright at my desk, typing at my laptop. My wife is sprawled out across the floor. She looks up at me, silent. I stumble in the room, take in the bizarre scene in disbelief, pause, then take another look. When I am satisfied I see what I’m seeing, I step over her to slump into the recliner beside my desk. Silent.
“You look awful,” he says to me. “Go back to bed”
Ok. So my dog is typing at my laptop, why shouldn’t he talk as well? And why should I hesitate to reply?

My mind gropes for an explanation, it must be playing tricks on me., weariness has caused a temporary departure from reality. May as well go along with the joke, “Something seems…odd.” I reply. What are you doing?”

He turns to me and pulls his glasses down at the bridge of his nose. “What’s it look like I’m doing?” “You know,” he pauses looking directly at me, “you know this is all kind of strange, don’t you?”

I yawn. “Yes it is.  I never knew you could type, let alone read.” On the surface I appear nonchalant but beneath the facade my mind desperately tries to reconcile the irreconcilable disparities I’m confronted with.

“No, I was talking about your story. It doesn’t transition well, and the plot seems a little too…contrived.”

“Contrived? I’m having a discussion with a dog while my wife lies on the floor. That is contrived. Besides,” pointing toward the laptop, “it’s a work in progress,” I protest.

“Just offering some constructive criticism.”

Cletus holds a treat over her head. “Sit,” he demands. She sits upright on her haunches for a moment for her treat, then scratches behind her ear with her foot before collapsing back onto the floor. “Good girl,” he praises her with a pat on her head. Then adds, “I think she needs out.”

Without thinking, I put her collar around her neck, lead her to the door and put her outside on a leash. And that’s when I thought I heard the voice from inside the pizza box. “It’s time to get up.” I peek inside the carton to see one lone anchovy on a slice of stale pizza lecturing me in a raspy voice. “Get up!”

“I am up,” I argue.

The next morning I wake up back in my corner of the bed and suspiciously cast an eye toward the reticent canine sprawled across the bed. “You never told me you can talk,” I taunted him. Cletus shifts his eyes toward me in a gesture of presumed innocence.

A twinge of guilt takes me. “I’m sorry if I was a little testy last night, Any time you want to give me your insight, I will listen.”

From the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of my incredulous wife as she walks by, cup of coffee in hand, house shoes scuffing across the carpet. She gives me her patented look of disdain before moving on.

“What got into her,” I wonder? No more pizza with anchovies before bed for me, I tell myself.

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