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By Jerry J. Davis iPublish.com
Copyright © 2001 Jerry J. Davis
All right reserved.
THE PHONE HAD BEEN RINGING FOR QUITE A WHILE.
Dodd noticed the ringing. Then he noticed it more. It was like he was coming back from somewhere down a long hallway to find a phone ringing at the very end. Then it took him a moment to realize that he should answer it, since-after all-it was his phone.
He tore his eyes away from the large 3-D screen and looked around his living room. His girlfriend was there along with some other friends, all of them staring at the screen. The phone rang on. No one was noticing but him.
I should answer it, he thought.
Dodd struggled to his feet and walked across the living room to the adjacent kitchen. He groaned; the time display on the telephone's screen read seven past midnight. What was he doing still awake? It was a work night. This was probably Toby's wife calling to get him to come home.
He picked up the handset and touched the button to accept video. Instead of Toby's wife, a bearded face with unkempt hair appeared. "Dodd!" the face said.
"Danny?" Dodd said back to it. He was alarmed-like dark clouds at sea, the appearance of Danny Marauder usually foretold trouble.
"Sorry I woke you up. You know I wouldn't be bothering you if it wasn't important." "I.... you didn't wake me."
"Me and acouple of friends are kinda caught out in the open, if you know what I mean. We need a place to crash."
Dodd fidgeted. Anarchists in my apartment? If it were just Marauder, it would be okay-but his friends? "Well, I ... I have company over here, Danny."
"We'll stay in your garage if you want us to, man. I mean, we have to get under a roof. You understand?" "You mean the ..." Dodd cut himself off. He didn't want to know.
"I really need this favor, Dodd," Danny told him. "If you do this for me, we'll be all even. Hell-I'll be owing you." Dodd hesitated.
"Come on, man." Danny was pleading.
"You just want to stay in my garage?"
"That's all I'm asking."
"Okay. Okay, I can do that. But"-he gave Danny a warning look-"don't bring any ... you know. Just don't." Dodd could imagine a half dozen anarchists getting drunk and shooting up his garage with high-powered energy weapons. What a nightmare!
"I love you, man," Danny was saying. "We'll be around in a little while, very quiet. No problems."
Dodd nodded, said good-bye, and hung up. He immediately wanted to call Danny back and cancel the whole thing, but of course he had no idea where Danny had been calling from.
The time display now read 12:10 A.M. He had to get up for work at 5:30. I've got to get these people out of here, he thought, and walked back into the living room. "Okay, it's time to call it a night. It's way past my bedtime."
No one looked away from the television. No one made a move. His girlfriend, Sheila, was only a meter away, and she hadn't heard a word he'd said. She stared at the screen with glazed eyes, breathing slowly through her slack mouth. Colors from the giant screen reflected from her white face.
He reached over and shook her shoulder. "Are you asleep?" he asked.
"Huh?" She blinked, then turned and looked at him. "What?" "I said, are you asleep?"
"Oh." She held out her empty wineglass. "Can I have a refill?" "A refill?"
"Yes, please." "Sheila, I ..."
She was smiling sweetly at him. "Please?" she said. Dodd took the glass and headed back toward the kitchen. This is getting out of hand, he thought. I'm just going to go to bed with them here.
In the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator and knelt, holding Sheila's glass under the tiny silicon spigot. A pale red liquid dribbled out, Vinny's Uncommon '41, "The best hydroponic wine money can buy." Haunting, racing music drifted in from the television- the endless sound track of the Travels station. It seemed to spin around him in the air, the holographic sound bouncing through the kitchen. As he listened, he forgot what he was doing, his head beginning to sway back and forth to the gentle rhythm. He finished filling Sheila's glass, then got another for himself and began filling that as well. The Travels music was so relaxing. He felt light. He took the two glasses of wine back into the living room and eased himself down on the couch next to Sheila.
"Here," he said.
Sheila took the glass wordlessly and ducked as he put his free arm around her. Dodd sipped the wine, and the image of the rolling ball on the screen pulled at his eyes like a magnet. For a moment he resisted, looking over at his friend and coworker Bob Recent. He was cuddling with his wife, Denise, at the opposite end of the couch. Both held empty wineglasses in their slack hands, and Dodd felt guilty that he hadn't given them refills. His other friend, Toby Whitehouse, was beside the Recents in an overstuffed chair. He, too, was holding an empty glass.
Didn't I have something to tell them? Dodd asked himself. He couldn't remember. The screen reclaimed his attention. The surreal, multicolored sphere had made its way down to a virgin beach; early-morning sunlight streamed through large, mist-shrouded waves as they crashed ashore, and gulls whirled and soared in the lazy glowing sky ... The music surged and ebbed with the scenery, never stopping and never repeating itself. Dodd raised his wineglass to his mouth but nothing came out; it was already gone. He let his hand drop, forgetting the glass, watching as the sphere bounced higher up on the beach, rebounding off rocks and driftwood, hitting patches of sand and sending up clouds of slow-mo drifting particles.
Suddenly he couldn't see the screen. His eyes struggled to focus on a dark silhouette centimeters from his face. "Hey," a voice said.
"Yeah, you noticed. Been ringing for a while, man. Had to finally let myself in."
Dodd glanced over at the time display. It was close to 2:00 A.M.
"Jesus!" he exclaimed.
"You're frying your brain watching that stuff."
Dodd nodded. That was true. He stood and turned around to say something to Sheila, but she was still staring at the screen. Bob and Denise were oblivious, and so was Toby. They just stared at the screen. It seemed unreal.
"Hello," he said to his guests. "Hello?"
"Want me to get their attention?" Danny asked.
"No." God no! "Let's go out to the garage."
They went out the front door, then around to the side of the small apartment complex. There was a row of garage doors with brightly lit numbers above them. Dodd led Danny over to one of them and unlocked the door with his voice. It opened with an electric whine, revealing an empty space with a few boxes in one corner.
"No car?" Danny asked. "Haven't had one for years." "Damn. I was going to ask if I could borrow it." Dodd laughed, short and sharp.
Two men and a woman Dodd had never met emerged from the bushes and hurried into the garage. Danny Marauder gave Dodd a hug, and said, "Good night, and thank you." He followed his companions in and closed the garage door with the inside button, leaving Dodd alone outside. He looked up involuntarily and searched the sky for police drones, but without a pair of spotters he would never be able to see one-at least not at night.
He reentered his apartment and stood looking at his friends. For a moment he considered just going to bed and leaving them to themselves, but then he remembered that Bob and Toby had to work just like he did. Maybe all he had to do was remind them of the fact. Dodd leaned over his stack of video components and hit the main power button. "Hey," he said in a loud voice, "it's after two in the morning!"
His friends' expressions would have been funny had Dodd been in a better mood. They looked like they were in shock. Sheila looked angry.
"Come on, guys," Dodd pleaded, "let's ambulate. The theater's closed."
"I didn't realize it was so late," Bob Recent said. He yawned, and the yawn spread to his wife.
Toby was the first one to stand up. He looked sheepish. "I had no intention of staying this late," he said. He was a naturalized Jamaican-American from when his country had become an American state, and his accent was still very prominent. "I am going to catch hell from my wife."
Dodd shrugged. "I tried to get you guys outta here two hours ago."
"You did?" Bob said.
"Yeah, you were all on another planet." Dodd looked over at Sheila. She glared back at him. Uh-oh, he thought.
Toby, Bob, and Denise said their good-byes and exited gracefully, leaving Sheila behind in the apartment. As soon as Dodd shut the door, Sheila said, "Are you throwing me out, too?"
"You can stay if you want to go to sleep." Dodd pushed a button on the computer panel beside the door, starting the routine that would shut off the lights and silently take phone messages. There was a solid, loud clunk as the front door locked itself.
"I want to watch Travels a little longer," Sheila said.
"It's two in the morning."
Sheila's expression softened. Now she was pouting. "Can't I watch it for just a little bit?"
"Sheila, look! Even if I go to sleep right now, I'll only get three and a half hours in before I have to get up and go to work!"
"I don't function well with only three and a half hours sleep! Can't you understand that?"
"Oh, come on-please?" She made a big pout.
Dodd tromped angrily over to the video components and turned them back on. He adjusted the volume, and said, "Please don't turn this up." He walked out of the room and down the hall to his bedroom, closing the door behind him and falling into bed.
Within minutes she had turned the volume up.
Dodd was angry for a while, but then he relaxed as the music worked on him. It was nice, really. It was also haunting, seeming to spin through time from eternity, passing through him and on ... it was sparkling, pure. It brought images to mind of the rolling Travels sphere, flashing its colors as it bounced along a misty beach, bouncing on and on, never slowing, never stopping, taking him into his dreams, becoming his dreams, displacing his dreams.
Excerpted from Travels by Jerry J. Davis Copyright © 2001 by Jerry J. Davis. Excerpted by permission.
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