The air around his head grew warmer than usual as the typical clunk of the AC grew quiet, now just a hum. Stretching his arms and legs out straight, pushed the ball of his feet against the sheet at the foot of the bed. A familiar and distinct sound of ripping cloth broke the silence as the big untrimmed toes pushed through the worn threads of the sheet. Wiggling them looked like Casper the ghost winking at him from the foot of the bed; it was Halloween after all.
His eyes hurt and felt like a pail of sand had fallen in them from last night's party. The more conscious he got, the more the head joined the eyes in the pounding resonance of a hangover. Geez, that was some party last night. He is talking to the lump in the bed next to him. No response. Hey, some party last night, still no response. Pulling the covers back to find the knee pillow in her place, she had gone.
The darkened room had a crescent line of light from the dawning sun. Thinking she must have gotten up earlier than usual. Still, she drank as much as he did, even more walking into the kitchen to put on some coffee, noticing the number of dead soldiers of her favourite airline Bourbon bottles lined on the counter with snack bowl remnants spread about like birdseed.
Following his morning routine, put some coffee on and headed for the shower in hopes it would soften the blow of last night's soiree. The smell of caffeine wormed its way into the bath as the steam built a ghostly fog about him, as the sound of Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love blasted from the iPod. Calling out to the aethers, Hey, Julie, wish you were here, could use a bit of your tenderness right now. Where did she go anyway, maybe for bagels and lox, with cream cheese, he hoped. The salty fish and sweetness of the cheese are a delight in the morning after a party night.
The steam still thick he wiped a towel across the mirror and peered into sunken eyes with dark circles beneath them a distinct remnant of a walking dead character costume. Realizing he just washed that stuff off, oh well, it can wait, coffee is calling, and work needs a check-in on the computer. Pouring the usual sixteen-ounce mug and watching the swirling nectar of alertness fold into itself, black, rich and hopefully, flavourful.
With his nose in the cup, the warmth rose into the nostril, electrifying the amygdala with sensorial satisfaction and alertness — the apparent counterpoint to the rhythmic cadence of the ocean grasping the sand four stories below the condo as he meditated on the warmth of the sun.
But, it grew hotter with every pounding beat. The intense irritating burn of the cheeks seemed to lessen the pronounced pounding of the head. Like in Poe's tell-tale heart, the sound no one else could hear. Add to that; the hard accumulated crust fingers are unable to clear from the corner of the eyes became a nuisance.
Best get dressed and get the morning paper the Condominium can wait for a cleanup. Better yet maybe call a cleaning service to deal with the mess. The closet is empty of clothing, what the hell, did she leave me? Pulling the draws in a panic reveals the same. Empty, empty! Empty! What the hell, sits on the edge of the bed in a stupor of confusion. The throbbing was growing to its earlier crescendo. His face red with heat and anger scans the room for something to wear and sees nothing but the costume he wore last night lying on the floor next to a small puddle of water. Picks it up a look of disgust that it is damp, puts it on anyway and shivers from the coolness of the fabric against the skin.
This situation doesn't make any sense, and everything is here except clothing. Julie is going to pay for this little gag, maybe a moving company to remove everything before she gets back from God knows where will get her Irish temper to flip a beat or two. Good idea, Jack, why not check that out when going for the daily constitutional and the paper. Mumbling and laughing at the context of his scheme, he closes the door behind, rubbing the dampness from his hands in a vigorous fashion reserved for that oh boy moment of exhilarating energy. A perfectly concocted moment in his mind brought a rush of blood and tingling excitement never before experienced; ever. He bounds down the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator.
By the time he nears the first floor the howling wind off the water is pushing the doors open with each gust, the air blasts up the stairs to greet him along with a page of the building newsletter. Reaching for the floating news, he leaps down three steps and trips, sending him into the shoulder of a resident reading his newsletter as he ascends the stairs. He stands upright, grasping the rail surprised by the impact as the resident looks around with a quizzical glance for the cause of the impact. Jack is still in motion and audibly apologizing for the encounter, not realizing his apology is not acknowledged.
Unaware of the commotion down the beach, heads for his local haunt for the morning paper. Geez, it is hot, my body is burning up. He is in a jogging mood and still humming the tune from the condo. Grabbing a paper yells out to the paperboy that he will pay him tomorrow since he couldn't find any change or bills in his pants, which are now dripping water onto his bare feet. With no reaction to his statement heads down the walk, he opens and begins reading the morning rag news. An article catches his eye about a beach incident that occurred in the early hours of Halloween last night. Stumbling from a stone on the boardwalk falls onto the sitting bench and the lap of a woman holding her chow that yelps and as she gasps, seeing a huge wet spot on her lap where Jack sat on her. Oh, sorry about that; he gets up, motions with his hands like he was wiping her off and walks away, apologizing as he did in the stairway. The woman is scolding her dog for apparently peeing on her lap.
Feeling a bit dizzy is sweating profusely as he approaches a crowd of people standing on the beach ahead of him. Folding the paper under his arm, decides to investigate the sudden public gathering. Two women are standing at the outmost edge of the group, talking about the situation. And he hears one say the police have no idea who the man is, set himself on fire dressed like the walking dead. Jack stumbles through the group excusing himself to deaf ears, and confused people looking at each other for the source of disturbance as he bumps his way passed the last man in front of him and falls to his knees. There in front of him is a charred body of a man holding three bottles of airline bourbon. Suddenly a scream comes from behind him and standing there is Julie, held up by her girlfriend. Hey, honey, the bed was empty this morning? As he told her about the trick he was going to play on her. The policeman put a hand on her shoulder in a consoling manner; asked her if the body was her boyfriend. All she could muster was a nodding motion with her head. Surprised by her action, he hugs her, and she jumps back as someone startled by another's touch. She gasps, yelling, she told him not to screw around with that lighter using his mouth like a flamethrower and that she would leave him if he continued this stupidity. Jack falls flat onto the beach, feeling the sun burn through his clothes as he rolls to his back. The sand blurring his vision and the pound of his head deafening, he chokes and loses the ability to speak. He looks over next to him, expecting to see the body of the man set on fire, but there is no one for it is he.