Story One – A Day of Your Time
To further complicate things, Aaron has decided to undertake the challenge from Storyaday.org and will be writing an entire short story each day for the month of May. These stories will be unedited and completely random.
It brought the burning sickness up to his throat. In his advanced age, he couldn’t do much more than exist. His strength had left him years ago. His sharpness was dull. His brightness dimmed. The green jeweled ring on his finger still shimmered. It remained unchanged, mocking him with his own reflection in its faceted sides.
He’d been a specimen. He’d been perfect in most accounts. He was athletic and handsome. At the age of nineteen, he developed an invention. It was simple enough, just a pair of glasses with transparent screens in them. He’d worked to develop it with a few friends at a local college.
They spent countless hours adding features to the seemingly simple device. In a year’s time, he had investors. He’d made his first million before he could celebrate at a bar.
It doesn’t stop here.
That was his mantra. He was right, it didn’t. The ‘Reality Interface’, a clever name he came up with in a dream, continued to change. It evolved like a life. It turned into a way to interact with any electronic device simply by moving.
The glasses were fitted with motion senses that would engage when the user would move their hands, or walk around a room. The screens were clear, allowing someone to go about their daily life without distraction. They’d simply lift their finger and click on areas they’d see overlaid on their day.
He was called a genius. He agreed but not because he had created the device, not because he’d pitched it perfectly every single time. He knew he was a genius because he refused to market it without retaining all rights.
He was called a great man. Not by his wife. He agreed with her.
He’d met her at a symposium. She fell in love with his ambition. He fell in love with all of her. They married quickly.
They were passionate. They were young. Those two factors resulted in a couple children.
He did love them. So much so that he worked night and day to ensure their security and happiness. He’d never taken a class or read a book about being a father. His dad hadn’t been around at all, leaving his single mother to work and take care of their six boys. He knew he was better than that.
But it didn’t stop there.
It wasn’t enough to simply remain. It wasn’t enough to simply provide. Helen made that perfectly clear when she’d left. His kids were taken away.
The sad truth was that nothing really changed. He still worked. He saw them just as regularly. His money was still providing them with gifts and necessities.
His wife was just screwing another guy.
She had a few more kids with a few more bigshots before she found out she had cancer. Gerald meant to see her. He meant to come to her side and apologize. He was just so busy.
That was why he was waiting. His doctor had only given him a few more months three years ago.
It had taken that long to track down his reclusive Cheryl.
Daniel had died long ago. He lived hard. Gerald had once talked to his son over the phone, asking why. Daniel said he didn’t know. He enjoyed the drugs more than life. He enjoyed the cars and the women. Gerald cried harder when he’d heard how it happened. A mugging gone wrong. Daniel had been flashing around the cash his father had given him. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong amount.
But it didn’t stop there.
Cheryl was more like her father. She was ambitious. She had finished her doctorate. She looked up to her dad. She also hated him. It was a strange thing to behold, her mirror-imaged devotion to her goals conflicting against her constant detestation of him.
You were a horrible father. No. You’re a horrible human being.
Her last words to him were edged for murder. She wanted to cut him. She’d done it.
He was in the hospital back then, given the same diagnosis as Helen. Cheryl walked in, threw the unopened letter he’d sent to her the week before at his face, spat those words and walked out.
His grandchildren were there. They hadn’t even hugged him.
He let his head fall back against the pillow. He’d begun to spin the ring around his finger like he’d done for the last seventy years. She was coming today.
It was going to be alright. She was coming today.
The phone beside his bed buzzed.
His shaking hands reached out. The weight of the device was ridiculous. It was almost paper-thin but it felt as heavy as his life. He clicked the accept button and brought it to his ear. He never used his own invention.
He hated to hear his own voice reflected back through older phones. It was trembling. It was weak. The caller must have been on a land-line. An old one.
“Mr. Rabberdash. Are you wearing the ring?”
Gerald couldn’t breathe. It was him.
“Yes. I haven’t heard from you. I thought you’d forgotten.”
There was a small laugh. The man’s voice hadn’t changed. After seventy years it was still the same middle-aged rasp.
“I never forget about my clients, Mr. Rabberdash. You’d think I would, I have so many.”
There was an immutable silence, then he continued.
“I’m calling to collect, Mr. Rabberdash.”
Gerald’s mind searched.
The jovial voice became slightly impateint.
“Sir, telephones have made this far quicker for me but I am still on a schedule. We made a deal, those years ago. You wanted one of my trinkets, the ring. The ring has worked, correct?”
The ring. A good luck charm. It seemed so innocuous at first until the salesmen put it on his own finger. He’d explained that when it was working, when it was granting greater probabilities in favor of the user, the jewel would glow.
Gerald didn’t give it much thought. He was a habitual shopper. He wanted the ring for his mother. She adored the things in that color. But when the salesman rolled a pair of dice and called out a number, Gerald saw the glow. He saw the dice fall naturally and normally into the combination that had been shouted.
Naturally, he made the man roll over and over again. Gerald even tried his hand at it, without the ring of course. He would lose, the salesman would win. It was as simple as that.
Later, as he walked away, thinking of the deal he’d made, he felt like an idiot for not bringing his own set of dice. What if they’d been tricks? For a long time, Gerald left the ring in a drawer. He was ashamed of it. He didn’t even give it to his mother.
The day he made his pitch, he’d reached out for every bit of luck he could get. The ring found it’s place on his finger. The glow found it’s way into the world. Gerald found himself the executor of a small fortune with which he could create and market his device. He’d worn it continuously since then. Even then.
“Yes. It’s worked. But I don’t understand. I can’t come to see you today, I’m meeting with my daughter.”
Another pause. This one was shorter.
“Mr. Rabberdash, it’s unfortunate that my collecting should come now, but you must understand that it is ironclad. You signed a contract. I am entitled to a day of your time.”
Gerald sighed. It wasn’t out of exasperation. It was just how he needed to breathe. He’d been waiting for this man to collect for years. He’d imagined a day of labor. It sounded like a nice exchange.
“I cannot come to you. Besides, I don’t know how much use I’m going to be. I’m old, sick.”
The salesman smiled. Gerald didn’t know how but he could hear it.
“That’s the beauty of it. You don’t need to do anything. In fact, this call is just a courtesy. I wanted to be sure your affairs were in order. By my records, you only have a day left. That’s why I waited this long. I think it’s easier to lose a day at the end rather than in the middle. It’s also simpler from a technical standpoint. I’m sure you understand, from one inventor to another.”
Cheryl was let in by the butler. She suppressed the immediate urge to gawk at the house. In her opinion, this fortress was an eyesore from the outside. It’s grey stone towers gave it the aura of a disturbed Disneyland. But from the inside. Oh. It was beautiful. She hadn’t ever seen such beautiful dark word working.
“This way, Ms. Rabberdash.”
She defended the attack on her self-respect.
She didn’t mean to sound so biting but iciness was inherent in this situation. She’d taken her mother’s maiden name long ago. Daniel was the Rabberdash. She just couldn’t bring herself to be linked to her father by name.
“Pardon the mistake.”
The man was good. There wasn’t a hint of impatience. She knew it was there. Butlers hid their emotions well.
She followed him up the steps and down the main hallway in the east wing. She’d never allow herself to live in such extravagence. Her house, a mansion by some standards, didn’t have wings.
The man stopped and motioned deftly towards large double-doors at the end of the corridor.
“He’s asked for you to be alone.”
Her footsteps echoed on the walls too far apart for her to touch with both arms extended. A vibrant mural of an angel with two cherubs smiled down from the ceiling. She had to stop for a second when she recognized their faces. All this beauty, all this devotion to material. Her mother, brother, and her own face were staring at her in that brushed homage to excess. She thought it was a sort of blaspheming.
She turned around and with heavy steps, proceeded to leave.
The butler stepped in her way before she could reach the stairs. He was younger than she was, by a good twenty years, but she thought she could take him if she needed to.
“Let me pass.”
He shook his head, his demure expression never leaving.
“Madam, please. He’s waited for you. You’ve come this far. No matter what he hasn’t done. He is your father.”
She looked into the simple face before her. This younger man seemed to be hiding something strong. Some powerful need for her to continue through the door. He cared for her father, more than the simple exchange of service for money. His temperment may have been different but his eyes were like Daniel’s. He would have done anything for their father, except give up the needle.
What’s with men?
What’s with women?
What the hell was with her?
She nodded and went back to the door. The coldness of the handle embodied everything she’d felt for the old man she knew she’d see lying on the bed in a moment. It was a void on her hand. She had always wanted to like him. She knew she loved him. It was part of the mystery that was childhood, the immediate love. But to dislike your father when he’d done so much without knowing how to do anything else, it felt like she was the neglectful one.
She turned the handle.
Before she saw the phone, or the pen, or the piece of paper that had fallen on the floor, she thought he was asleep. She walked to his bedside and gently kissed his cheek.
It was cold. Colder than the handle. Colder than the knot slowly rising in her stomach.
She nothing where his pulse should have been. There was no breath, no heartbeat. No response when she tried, through her tears, to wake him.
She held his hand on the side of the bed, unable to stop the sadness that had been collecting in what she thought was a void. It wasn’t an emptiness. It was full of the love she was never able to share.
She could see herself in the mirror of his dresser, a strong business woman in her sixties, laying her head on her dead father’s shoulder, sending a steady stream across the sleeve of his shirt.
In that reflection she could see the paper. It must have fallen from his hand and slid partways under the bed.
She stooped down. It was a thin, ripped sheet from some piece of scrap.
She had to go to the window to read the thin, weak scrawl carved into it with the drying tip of the pen still in Gerald’s hand.
She smiled. For the first time, like a child. There was a faint green glow from somewhere behind her but her attention was on the words she had needed so long ago.
I love you, Cheryl. It doesn’t stop here.
Posted on 05/01/2011, in Freewriting, Personal, Short Stories and tagged a, aaron, concept, day, death, errant, errant studios, fantasy, literature, sci fi, shively, story, Story a day, studios, updates, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.