Late For His Shift
By Peter G. Reynolds
Bang. Bang. Bang
Ron woke to the sound of construction; he didn't know what they were building, but it seemed to require a lot of nails. He kept his eyes tightly shut. Hoping they'd stop.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Bang. Bang. Bang
No such luck, he thought, opening his eyes.
Argh! The light burned, and the hammering got louder. Ron realized whatever was being built was probably located in a cozy cul-de-sac inside his own skull.
Sitting up, Ron saw he was lying on a bare mattress; the bed it belonged to snapped in half beside it. The room looked like a tornado had hit it. There was broken glass everywhere. In one corner, an old dresser had spilled its contents on the floor; a collection of small delicate clothes Ron felt slightly embarrassed to look at.
He pulled off the thin cotton sheet covering him and noticed two things:
First, his knuckles were stained red.
And second, he was only wearing underwear.
Panic gripped Ron as he wrapped the sheet around him and tumbled off the mattress before getting awkwardly to his feet. The bedroom had floor-to-ceiling windows and intricate crown molding on the ceiling. Ron could also see giant red handprints on the walls leading to a long hallway. He followed them slowly, cautiously, avoiding the glass on the floor.
The hallway led to a large living space that, thankfully, hadn't suffered the fate of the bedroom. There was an oversized leather sofa and a huge flat screen tv, both of which would typically have gotten Ron's attention first. Instead, his eyes went straight to the dining room table, or more importantly, the two identical girls sitting at it, both staring intently at a large, ornate glass goblet.
"Can you hear anything, Kay?" May said. Her voice sounding a little desperate.
"笨蛋! If I could hear it, you would hear it too." Kay replied, clearly irritated. "Now, be quiet. I have to concentrate."
Ron steadied himself against the wall, his head still pounding. He desperately wanted to storm in and demand to know what the Hell was going on, but he stopped himself. Whatever these two were up to, the answers had something to do with that weird glass cup. He was sure of it.
"再试一次," Kay said.
"Fine!" May answered, lifting her index finger to her lips. She touched her tongue lightly and then reached for the glass, her finger making slow circles on the rim.
Ron listened intently. It was quiet at first, a low hum - in the key of G if he wasn't mistaken. It gathered in strength as May moved her finger around the round the rim. She then uncorked a small vial and poured the contents into the cup. When she brought her finger back to the rim, the key had changed to A.
The glass is singing, Ron said to himself. It was pleasant if a little melancholy. But why are they doing it?
May continued to make the glass sing, adding drops of liquid or removing them with a silver ladle. The whole process was ritualistic and reminded Ron of a Japanese tea ceremony.
Suddenly, the liquid in the glass began to glow. May lifted her finger from the glass - yet the singing remained, the notes now changing on their own, the pattern repeating.
Ron recognized the tune, a children's lullaby, though he couldn't think of the name. It was baffling. Based on last night, he'd have sworn May and Kay weren't into baby songs. They struck him as more hip-hop than hippity-hop.
Last night. The words swirled in Ron's head, his panic returning. What happened? He remembered entering the club with a girl on each arm. The incredible feeling of power, like he could do anything, and no one could stop him. He remembered the rooftop patio, the dancing, the beer and then…. nothing.
No, not nothing. Ron could remember anger. No, not anger, rage, blind rage, a feeling so primal it blotted out everything else.
What did I do?
"What did you do?" Kay asked.
"Nothing." Answered May. The glass had suddenly stopped singing, and the glow inside it had faded.
"Clearly," Kay said, her tone dismissive. She stood up from the table shuffled her way to the living room, plopping down on the couch. Ron noticed she was wearing pajamas with pink polka dots and matching oversized slippers. A stark contrast from last night's outfit.
"你认为你可以做得更好吗? May barked. Ron didn't understand what she was saying, but from Mary’s tone figured it couldn't be complimentary.
"Maybe I could," Kay responded from the couch. She put her feet up on the coffee table one at a time, punctuating her sentence.
May stood up as well. She was wearing an oversized white shirt that looked familiar and pink pajama bottoms. "It's never not worked before. What are we going to do?"
"Maybe you should ask him?" Kay said, jamming her thumb in Ron's direction. May turned to look at Ron, who was frozen in the hallway like a deer in headlight.
"Ron!" May said, her face transforming from panic to delight. "You're awake." She walked over to Ron, who took a step back.
"You must have a thousand questions. Please, sit down, and we'll try to answer them."
"Emphasis on the try," Kay snorted, her nose buried in her phone.