Authors: H. M. Charley Ada
THE ALPHA AND
H. M. CHARLEY ADA
MUD POND PUBLISHING
The Alpha and the Omega
H. M. Charley Ada
Copyright © 2014 by H. M. Charley Ada
All rights reserved
Cover by Dave Groshelle
Published in the United States of America by Mud Pond Publishing
ISBN 13: 9781496033079
For Mom and Dad
With special thanks to:
Jeni Hamilton, Brooks Kohler of Laptiast
(A small, American-based book publisher,
), Rich Kroll, Issac Robledo, and
Randall Zahn of R. Zahn Studios in Boulder, Colorado
for their invaluable opinions, technical
advice, editing, and other help
THE ALPHA AND
N ABSURD PHILOSOPHICAL TALE ABOUT
THE END OF THE WORLD, AND WHAT'S
ON THE OTHER PLANETS
H. M. CHARLEY ADA
he sky was red, the clouds were black, and the moon was a perfect orb of liquid-silver spinning. The landscape was barren and serrated, and wind swept across the face of the deep as the wolves, clothed in black from head to toe, closed in on their quarry. Their eyes were rubies, their teeth were snow, and they grinned widely at the fated one: a small puppy with flesh-colored fur, rounded edges, and a soft pink tongue.
“He’s all alone!” cried one of the wolves.
“No,” said a second, “there was another.”
“Perhaps,” said the leader, “at one time. But now he has not one friend in the world.”
The puppy began to cry softly, and its crystalline tears splashed the red rock below. Zack, who was invisible to the wolves, heard a woman’s voice calling to him from beyond a great shining wall of glass that separated him from another world, or perhaps another life. The voice was musical, timeless, and infinitely sad: “They come like the weight of the world. They come like the tides. They come like the glaciers,
forests, and deserts… they come like the beginning and the end.”
I know I should do something, Zack thought. But his feet were lead, and his voice was a cowering turtle.
“It has already begun,” the woman’s voice declared solemnly, as the leader approached the puppy and slowly drew open his inevitable jaws. “Zack!” She grew desperate. “How could you have let this happen? It is as I have always feared – against they that are the tides…”
“Ugh.” Zack opened his eyes and looked over at the laser-red numbers on his alarm clock, the only visible items in the universe at that moment: 3:59 – his internal clock was well-trained. He rolled toward the alarm and quickly punched it before it could reach 4:00. Then he got up and created light, casting the red numbers out of the universe and simultaneously drawing his apartment back in.
He felt good that morning. After a nightmare, his normal life always seemed so much better. He stretched, shaved, showered, threw on the financial news, and got dressed in his standard business-casual attire. Then he grabbed a cereal bar and headed out into the crisp, dark-blue, 5 a.m. air for the train that would carry him across the river and into the city.
Fortunately, the train car was not very crowded. This was one of the few benefits of having to be in so early. Still, there was only one seat left, and the man sleeping next to it was crowding it heavily. Zack slid in as best he could and made do. The man was a little older than Zack, a little larger, and wore a grey suit and a silver wedding ring. He slept with his head hung and his mouth open, but a few minutes later,
he woke up and started playing with his phone. Zack discreetly glanced down at the screen and saw a little silver ship spraying an array of white and red lightning at a horde of giant green space monsters. It was a classic shoot ‘em up, but Zack did not recognize this particular game – he had given videogames up many years ago because they were far too addicting for him.
Hmmm, Zack thought, is this guy really going to keep hogging all the space? He must see me. Sure, he’s bigger, but that doesn’t mean he has to sit diagonal like that! Another minute passed, and Zack felt a twinge of pain in his lower back from the way that he was contorting it. He thought about saying something to the man, but then decided against it. In life, you have to choose your battles carefully, and this was not the place to make a stand. I bet he thinks he’s a really strong person, Zack thought, and that I’m weak, but he’s wrong: he’s just a jerk.
The train ride was annoying, but very soon, Zack was walking down the city-sidewalk looking forward to his morning coffee, and once again, he was in high spirits. He even gave a homeless guy a buck – though he knew he shouldn’t, because a lot of them only spent it on booze, and Zack could do more good by donating his money to well-known charities – but today, he just couldn’t help it: the sun was on its way, and there was not a single wolf in sight.
In between lights, Zack pulled up pre-market quotes on his phone, and hardly ten stocks later, he was at his favorite newsstand putting his coffee plan into action. Then it was through the familiar glass doors, past the security guard, and up to the fifty-first floor, where Zack then walked along the mahogany-paneled hallway with the white marble floor,
past the space-age conference rooms used for impressing clients, and finally, into the cheerless and cluttered area where his small office lay. On the way, Zack hoped that he would not run into anyone and have to waste time making small-talk. Luckily, he did not.
He grabbed his copy of the Wall Street Journal from his mailbox, walked into his office, and dropped the paper on his desk. Then he started up his computers, set one of them to CNBC, and cracked open the paper. It was going to be a rough morning. There was some over-blown story out of China, and the markets were reacting badly.
Well, he knew what to do about that. When 9:30 came, it was buy, buy, buy. Then the markets went down more, and it was buy, buy, buy again. Then, there was an email from Stan. Beers after work? Sounds good. Send. Then a text from Missy: “Let’s talk about this.” DELETE. Then a call from the boss, prompting another buy. Zack did not completely agree, but the boss was the boss.
Then Zack looked down and noticed a coffee stain on his sleeve. Now it was decision time. Did he waste precious minutes going to the sink to try and wash it out? Or should he just trash the shirt at the end of the day? Hmmm, he thought… relatively nice shirt… haven’t had it for even a year. You know, it’s almost noon anyway, why don’t I go make lunch early?
Zack went into the kitchen and pulled a burrito out of the freezer, put it on a paper plate, and tossed it in the microwave. Then he squirted some dish detergent onto his sleeve and scrubbed. Then, two minutes later, he was back at his desk with his burrito, examining the sleeve from multiple angles. As usual, the stain was only partially gone, leaving
the shirt somewhere in that vague state of limbo between being a non-client shirt and just plain garbage.
In the afternoon, the market went back up for no discernible reason, and it was sell, sell, sell. Zack fired quicker than the silver ship on the morning-train man’s phone, but in the midst of the frenzy, his eyes inadvertently landed in the photo on the corner of his desk and were instantly trapped. The place was Hawaii, the time was twelve years ago, and Zack and his parents were wearing those stupid leis that they hand out at the airport. For the life of him, Zack didn’t know why he kept the picture there; all it did was distract him from his work and bring back the pain.
Sure enough, as Zack looked at the picture that afternoon, his thoughts started with luaus, that surfing lesson that didn’t quite take, and wandering Waikiki’s glittering labyrinth of shopping malls in search of that Chinese restaurant where they had that amazing Peking duck two years ago, but inevitably drifted toward hospital waiting rooms, arguments with insurance reps, funeral parlors, and finally, that sad week when Zack went to his parents’ house to dispose of their possessions. They had died of cancer, that cruel, ironic disease, in which the reproductive machinery of the body’s own cells turns against it. Zack’s father got prostate cancer first. Then, not more than a year later, his mother’s brain cancer revealed itself, just in time to let Zack’s father know that his wife would soon join him in death.
Zack remembered his last look at the house. Of all the memories in his life, this was the most vivid and persistent. No matter where he was or what he was doing, he could always pause and go back to that moment. He was standing in the doorway looking inside. The kitchen, with its white
tiles and light-blue walls, was on the left. The living room, with its white carpet and white walls was on the right. The bathroom and the stairs were down the hall. The house was very lived-in, and the signs were everywhere. The kitchen tiles sported yellow and red stains. The paint in the living room cracked and peeled. The wood along the inside of the doorways was badly chipped, and a large, sky-blue streak ran across the living room wall where a sky-blue couch had once sat. Only one object remained – a box of pots and pans sitting at Zack’s feet, amongst the little pieces of moving-garbage that dotted the floor.
Zack had so many memories. He and his parents ate dinner in that kitchen. They watched TV in that living room. They hugged and kissed in that doorway. But those times were spent, and now the house was ready for a new family to come in, repair the walls and tiles, and live out its memories.
Where was the carcinogen? Zack wondered. Was it in the paint on the walls? The water from the faucet? Perhaps it was in one of those old frying pans. Or maybe there was no carcinogen. Maybe the cancers’ causes were right there in that doorway, inside Zack’s DNA, which was of course his parents’ DNA. For the sake of the next family, Zack hoped it was nothing in the house.