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Objects. There are a finite amount of them in this world. An object’s placement can determine its general vibe. If something is placed one way, it feels one way. If something is placed another way, it feels another way altogether. Intent is the key here. Was the intent of this object malicious? Altruistic? And why me, why not somebody else? Why out of all the things here on this Earth did this one come to me? I mull these things over in my mind whenever I get a delivery. Helps me process the fact that there are people out there who care enough my sorry ass to reward me with physical goods.

The last few days, I’ve felt observed. I wouldn’t know exactly how else to put it. Eyes on me, all the time. This may only be my nerves, but I walk out the door and feel exposed, left to the elements. I shut the door and feel violated. Eyes on me. What sort of eyes they are, I don’t know, whether they’re the eyes of some sultry vixen or some greasy security guard, I couldn’t say. All I know is that aside from the windowless rooms of my home I am not alone.

Another thing I’ve noticed. Nobody out on the street. This would be unusual if it happened for one day, but it’s been a week straight and the streets are always empty whenever I’m out. People are still there, they keep to themselves in their homes, and if I go out for a sandwich or something, the guy will be in there, but I’m the only one outside. Not bad weather, no rain or snow, but it is- well, overcast. The skies are always gray, haven’t seen a blue sky in a while, never mind a completely blue sky as the Marley song recounts. No rain, just clouds. They drift overhead, you can sometimes even see their shadows, but they never get close enough to become fog, and never burst forth with a torrent. It’s dry, hot, and humid, and maybe that’s why people are sticking inside.

I don’t know, but I don’t like it. Every day when I step out I expect something to follow behind me, walk in front of me, peek out from behind a doorway or a curtain- eerie is what it is, and the fact that nobody is walking only increases my likelihood of being caught out.

This is another thing. Most of you have probably had something like this happen to you at some time or another, where you put something one place and then it either shows up somewhere else or disappears altogether. I rule out thieves because the population here is miniscule at best and nobody would bother to steal, everyone is loaded. I’m not loaded so much, but still, this isn’t exactly a slum. The other option is of course my own mental state- that I move things around without knowing it, that time passes slower or faster than it does for everyone else, that I have false memories and true but forgotten ones. I’m not prepared to admit that yet. Yes, it does happen, it happens to everyone. But I know where I put my keys, I know where the pictures are and where all the furniture is. And when one picture moves even an inch, I notice it. I’m remarkably perceptive. This is what I mean when I say the placement of an object shows its intent. This is why, every time the table downstairs moves upstairs without me noticing, I become catatonic and move away from it, my face pale, scared out of my head.

It’s so hot. Sweltering heat, the kind you might expect from a region like this, but those clouds extend on to the horizon. I remember in school we studied cloud types. The sort which are gathering overhead would usually precipitate a torrent, or at the very least a drizzle. The only clouds that don’t pour are the fluffy little ones you see in the midst of an open azure. The air is still and stagnant, and the town hides inside. I bet they have air conditioners, the lucky dogs. All I have is a fan, and it makes too much noise.

That’s just the thing. If I am being watched, this hot spell is awfully coincidental, isn’t it? Lull me into a druggish state of stupor, then attack. Easy enough. Last night The Untouchables was on, Eliot Ness going around and arresting Ma Barker. He didn’t do that, the FBI did that. What a load of bullshit, I said. But what am I going to do about it, at the end of the day? The TV is my only company. I fell asleep last night without turning it off, I didn’t turn the lights off either. I need something to do.

Okay, so today I went down to the mini-mart, it’s an old building, one floor, like a gas station but without the gas, shelves stockpiled with snacks. All the way there, I felt the same old feeling up and down my spine- something out there just beyond my line of sight, just beyond my comprehension. If I sat down, made a Venn diagram, maybe all the pieces would fall into place. I don’t know.

Anyway, I got a Ramune soda and some nut rolls. Need the protein, and I may as well intake the protein alongside a ton of sugar. A Ramune, I figured, would be nice to quench my thirst in these parched times, and the Mini-mart is the only place for miles around that stocks them. But I reached in and grabbed one, and it was lukewarm. I asked the guy why it was like this, and he said the freezers were all broken down. They wouldn’t be fixed, he told me, until next week. Again, a coincidence piled on top of all these other coincidences. I figured, though, that once I got home I would be able to chill it in my freezer. I paid for the stuff and left. The guy looked out the window after I left.

On the way home, I realize that a business like that would have a backup generator, or at the very least leaving a ton of sodas unchilled, not to mention all the ice cream and frozen foods, must violate some FDA safety regulations. Maybe once the power’s fixed he’ll restock. Personally, I couldn’t blame him for being too eager to jump at those freezers and clean them out. Nobody except me has walked there, he has to work every day and nobody comes in, so most of his time likely consists of him sitting behind the desk and reading the paper.

I got home, unlocked the door, which has triple locks on it, yet another reason I don’t think there’s thieves anywhere around, and then I notice all the lights are off. Not only are all the lights off, but the freezer doesn’t work, and neither does the fan. All of them are out. I go down to the fuse box and check it out, but by all measures it should be up and running. Energy failure, power outage. The same one that hit the mini-mart. I’m left alone in the dark, a few sounds outside, one or two cars per day, wind in the trees, but nothing else. Silence. No TV, no fan.

I emptied out the whole freezer, had to or it would all melt. Also the fridge. Had to eat it all there in the dark. Unpleasant. Only thing that wouldn’t rot were a few fruits and the potato chips. The rest I had to down, milk, yogurt, everything. By the end I felt bloated. This was worsened by the fact that the microwave was out along with every other appliance, so I had to pull out my camping stove and cook all the frozen stuff on that. It didn’t taste right, but I’d rather it got eaten than got wasted. These days they’re shedding light on food waste, and it’s ugly stuff when you get right down to it. The Ramunes I had lukewarm. I’d never have them that way otherwise, a warm soda is about as good as a flat soda, but they weren’t awful. After stuffing myself for an hour or so, I bagged up everything that would keep and shoved in into the pantry closet along with all the spices and boxes of stuff. As I’m writing this, I feel unhealthy and bloated. I need to space out my meals, but I can’t do what when the electricity is on the fritz. I lit a few candles and put them out- they last an hour or so each, and I have a whole box stashed away in the basement, so I should be fine as far as visibility goes. There’s something unsettling about sitting in a house with no lights on. You feel desolate, as if you don’t belong there. It’s my home, but every facet and corner is alien to me.

Woke up this morning. Everything is gray, looks like an old noir movie but without the plot. In this stifling atmosphere melancholy is inevitable. Plumbing still works, at least, in this godawful world at least I have fresh water. Took a cold shower- water heater’s on the fritz, who would’ve guessed? Though in this heat the tap’s got to run at least 5 minutes before you get some cold water. I wonder how much lead is in this water. I’ve had at ten glasses today, just to cool down. Trace amounts of lead, or buckets of the stuff? Who knows, at the end of the day? Pretty disturbing notion.

Everywhere I feel claustrophobic. Small spaces, in bed, in the shower, I even stepped out on the porch and I felt squeezed in. Whatever is watching me is slick, I gotta hand it to them. They know how to crowd me, heh heh. They know how to bear down on your mind until you give up.

Eyes everywhere, you know how it feels. It’s getting dark now, I look out the curtains and the gray sky is becoming a dull blue, kinda grayish-blue if that makes sense, and there are lights up there, they crackle with electricity. The last time I saw anything like this was back- well, you know, crazy meteorological phenomena are more common that you might think. Ball lightning, for instance. There’s one layer of the atmosphere we know virtually nothing about. It lies below what we can explore in space and above what we can explore from the ground.

Just imagine that. Air that exists, right above or heads, and yet an astronaut on their way up only spends about 30 seconds there. They con only spend 30 seconds there. Too high for airplanes, too low for spacecraft. What’re those clouds hiding? Imagine an astronaut up there, he takes his glove off, and skin freezes through, burns and puffs up, the blood unable to process itself. The cosmos are infinitely cold and bitter, hostile and deadly.

Huddled behind the curtains, got a candle with me, reading a book. Sat on my shelf for a long time, only now getting around to reading it after all this time. Hard to think, difficult to concentrate. What happened that I remember? Something to do with clouds. Clouds that behaved in an unnatural way, a way that indicated there was more going on than met the eye.

Darkness surrounds me, the eyes have come inside, haven’t they? They know where I’m at, some network of collective consciousness. Need to break the connection somehow, can’t bother reading while I’m being seen, need privacy, need to be able to keep some secrets to myself without some daifs prying inside my skull, don’t I? It’s my basic human right, to be able to relax in my home without worrying about some indescribable surmott dismembering me.

Need to sleep, went down to the bathroom cabinet, plucked out a full jug of sleeping solution, poured it into a cap, glugged it down. Tasted awful but it’ll get me through the night, I’ve tried this stuff before, puts you out like a light. No worrying about them, they can’t do anything to me while I’m asleep, at least while I’m asleep I won’t feel anything. I hope they can’t wake me up. Crept back upstairs, door opened and closed of its own volition. Outside there’s lots of wind, newspapers swooshing around in the gutters, still no rain. Of course no rain, just wind, a few crackles of lightning. Everyone stays inside. Why didn’t I stay inside? What’s outside for me? Am I screwed no matter where I am?

Walking around, streets blow hard and winds blow harder, clouds rumble a little but nothing falls from them. Up above there are great oaks and junipers swaying to and fro like demented children on a swing, and the anticipation of moisture is Chinese water torture on my furrowed brow. I pass by lights, how are there lights when an outage is going on? Backup generators, that must be it, they have backup generators. Of course. They think of everything, don’t they? They really do. Every element inspected rigorously, everything ready to go, one objective is this: No matter what alley you sequester your forces in, regardless of where you spy on him, keep him in the dark, don’t let him know you’re out there, and if he does, always keep him guessing. Simple enough mantra, they repeat and chant it in a room with chairs arranged in rows. Distant, chanting.

Skies still gray. Down at the diner they do have some light chatter inside, maybe they weren’t affected by the outage but I doubt it, more likely they’re meeting up there, maybe downing some cold French fries in sickly pale regret. This is when the drowsiness kicks in. Odd thing is, people still don’t walk places. People don’t move the way we know they’re supposed to move, do they? No, they fade in and out, they’re here one second and there the next, everything is a blur. Mind’s a mess. If you’ve ever accidentally bumped your head on a pole or a wall or something, you probably know how I feel right about now, throbbing headache and the knowledge that my brain is a soggy little lump of flesh, ineffective and weak in the long run, can’t even defend itself from a mildly hard object.

Trembling, all nerves, just nerves, that’s all it is. I know what time it is. Time for a good stiff shot. I’ve put it off, but I don’t plan on driving anytime soon. Go down to the liquor cabinet, four roses, there we go, old stuff but hard stuff, pour it out, lay it bare, let that ambrosia trickle down into the intricate design of my fancy little shot glass that I keep up there for just such an occasion. Sit down in the big comfy chair, it’s OK, it’s still light out, they can’t get you when it’s light out, you know that.

Knock on the door. Catches me by surprise, whole bottle crashes to the floor and dribbles down the counter. All nerves. Walk down downstairs trembling. Every little thing is something, isn’t it? If it’s not one thing it’s another. Door’s downstairs, walk down the steps one by one, every cloud has a silver lining- unless, that is, they’re all silver. Wouldn’t that be a joke? Ha ha

Money, fiver lying out there. Five dollar bill, crisp, and though the trees echo with wind it stays there, doesn’t move, only ripples a little. One corner is folded, something looks off about it. Outdated design. Thing is rumpled, but placed there gingerly. Thing is old. Ripples a little on my front porch steps, and beyond this the street is empty. No people, no nothing, even the blurry nature of the world has ceased. This is the real world I feel now, wind and clouds and all. Nothing phony about it.

Money blows off, can’t see it for more than two seconds as it whips away over the hedge, it’ll be in Texas in a hour with these gusts. Shut the door, my face is freezing from the wind but it’s as hot as ever. Wind cools you down, why is it still so hot? So humid, I’m dripping with sweat and my knees are ready to give way. I shouldn’t have opened the door.

Counter, hands darting swiftly to and fro. These hands are nimble, they can place objects in the exact same location they were taken from, no trouble, they can service a hundred orders a night. Think back, Man. Left handed? Yes, he was left-handed. Held the glasses in his right hand, poured with his left. Fiver’s crumpled like that, left handed, made for someone with their wallet in their left pocket. Only so many left handed people in the world. Same fiver. Same money. Object, gone. I didn’t catch the serial number, but I’m no dummy, I know it when I see it. Craig sits there, his eyes are distant and vacant, bartend turns towards me.

“Everything is free.”

Same money, folded, exchanged in hands thousands of times, it’s been many places but it found its way back to me. They always do, don’t they? Some way or another, everything is happening today. Something to do with those clouds, something to do with the wind, something to do with everything and everything in its place. Everything fits in somewhere, you know what the hands were like that held that bottle, surely you can figure it all out in time. Intent.

Look down at the bottle, you made a mess, didn’t you? I sure did. Go down to the linen drawer, pull one out, soak it all up. And pick up those glass shards- they’re razor sharp and they could easily cut someone. Whiskey, the shot glass is still up on the counter, you know right where it is, it didn’t break, it didn’t drop. Clean up the mess you’ve made, then swallow it, then go lie down. You’ve earned some rest.