Entry Eighty-two: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is twelve of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

“How weird,” thought Adam. The ambiguity was not resolved in any way, only compounded by the strangeness of the content. He quickly looked through several more pages and even pulled out random sections where sports or business usually resided but it all read the same and he was soon convinced the entire paper was consistently “boring.”

“Boring. I don’t get it.” He spoke aloud because it was nice to hear another voice besides the one in his head even if they sounded the same. He picked up the remote control for the television and ran through a few stations to verify that the world hadn’t changed back, never doubting the results. All that did was make the existence of the newspaper even more of a mystery. Or was it? It obviously didn’t arrive at his stoop by human hands because there weren’t any humans, he assumed, that existed past his front door. That left only one explanation for the newspaper. He was suddenly confident it was a message from the squatters. It couldn’t have been anyone, or anything, else. For the first time since he received the note, he meticulously walked through all the steps of what had transpired over the last several days. Nothing in the timeline seemed to correspond to the word “boring.” He got up and went to the kitchen where he found the note, still lying on the counter next to the coffee pot. He picked it up and read it again, checking to see if he had missed something the first time through. When he arrived at the “P.S.” and the information about the wager, two things suddenly made sense: the newspaper was from the squatters and the contents of the newspaper were referring to him. That quick realization made him mad.

“I’m boring? You’re saying I’m boring?” He was shouting, looking up toward the ceiling for some reason, assuming the squatters were hovering in space directly above the house because that seemed as logical as anything else that was happening. “What do you expect me to do, for crying out loud? I’ve got no job, no friends, no family, no… nothing! I’ve got nothing. It’s depressing, it really is, and I resent you hassling me with insults.” His anger was building and the fresh emotions were invigorating. “What’s wrong, did none of you bet I’d sleep for four days? Is that the problem?” At first he was proud of the argument he was bringing forward, especially the passion he was displaying as he spoke. Then he realized the squatters had just wiped out a few billion people overnight and just because they let him live this round didn’t mean they wouldn’t get tired of him and snuff him out as well. Perhaps, he reasoned, he should try and be a tad more polite. But the question still remained, what was he supposed to do? What could he do? What were they expecting?

The anger and frustration he had dredged up awoke some very critical, life essential areas within the chasm. His sense of hunger was immediately overwhelming but his sense of smell was even more acute. The initial whiffs of his personal aroma gagged him and he was forced to start breathing through his mouth so he wouldn’t vomit. Even though his foul breath hampered the effects of closing his nose, it was preferable to inhaling the funk rising off his body. Getting a shower became a priority; food would have to wait.

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Eighty-one: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is eleven of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

He ran to the door and looked outside, trying to spot a truck or a car or a kid on a bicycle, hoping, but knowing their existence would make no sense. Then again, neither did the newspaper. “I’ve been inside for four days and haven’t had a paper delivered… I’ve never had the paper delivered!” he said, never doubting why those were the first thoughts on his mind, questioning the “what” instead of the “how.” He stared at the bundle with no intention of picking it up. It was not a disciplined response; the idea of the newspaper basically gave him the creeps. He paced and he smoked, trying to relax, trying to arrive at a calm enough place that he could respond and not just react. In the midst of his fear, confusion and pacing a logical thought finally surfaced. “How did it get here? If there aren’t any people left on earth, who put it there?” The questions did not bring clarity, just an overwhelming sense of not being in control. There was no simple explanation for the newspaper or for anything else, for that matter.

The combination of everything he had been through that week plus the fresh jolts of emotion that morning made Adam nauseous, so he sat down on the sofa and tried to compose himself. He stared at the intruder, lying lifeless on the floor, smoking another cigarette and trying to decide how to proceed. He had almost been to a place of compliance, accepting that he truly was the last person on the face of the earth, and now the newspaper dropped in to shake what little confidence, if it could be called that, he had developed. The thought finally occurred to him that he should pick up the paper and, minimally, check the date. For some reason that made sense and it convinced him to stand up, walk to the door and pick up the plastic bundle on the floor.

He returned to the sofa and shook the newspaper out of it’s plastic sleeve and let it fall to the cushion next to him, being careful not to let any of the newsprint get near his skin just in case it was poisonous or dangerous in any other way. The paper fell open with the top of the fold visible. The headline, in the largest letters possible, all caps and bold, was the single word “BORING!” Perplexed, Adam leaned over the paper, still being careful not to touch it, to see what the article was about under the strange headline. The subhead was “Boring, boring, boring, boring.” The byline was “Boring.” Every word in the article was “boring,” repeated over and over. As he scanned the rest of the text on the top of the front page, he realized that every available space that a word was printed simply read “boring.” He hesitated, looked around and spotted a discarded t-shirt on the floor near his feet. He reached down, picked it up and used it as a crude glove to pick up the paper and flatten it to fully open status so he could examine more articles. To his consternation, every headline, every byline and every article on the entire front page displayed the same thing. “Boring.” He cautiously pulled the top sheet back to reveal the inside pages and it revealed the same results. “Boring, boring, boring.” Even the ads, regardless of size, all blared the same words over and over. “Boring.”

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Eighty: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is ten of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Four

In every way possible, Adam Mahoney was a disaster. Physically he hadn’t bathed in days, his beard untrimmed and growing at wild angles off his face. His breath was offensive, carrying the stale remains of too many cigarettes and open-mouthed sleep. Emotionally he was lost. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t find a feeling to stand on comfortably. Everything he tried to latch on to—scared, confused, overwhelmed, even confident—was greeted warmly for a few minutes but soon wore out their welcome and were asked to leave. The emotionally revolving door left him feeling flat and lifeless, empty, with no desire to do anything but hide under his comforter.

The morning of the fourth day of his reign as last man standing on the face of the earth he rolled toward the wall, away from the brightness of the bedroom window. In his near catatonic condition, somewhere between deep sleep and “maybe it’s time to get up” he heard a thump, like someone or something had kicked the front door. He sat up, fear and hope instantly waging a war in his head resulting in his heart rate tripling and almost making him faint. His mind raced through all of the logical explanations first—wind blowing something onto the door, any number of things breaking loose from the porch and falling—but he didn’t want any of them to be true. He ached for the noise to have come from something alive, preferably human, and, if discovered, would shatter his fear and depression along with the premise he had slowly bought in to. Unfortunately, the only way to get any idea of the source was to quit guessing and go to the front door and look. Adam sat up and shifted to the edge of his bed, swinging his legs around and placing his feet on the floor. He reached for a cigarette off his nightstand and broke two matches before he was able to light it, his hands trembling and barely under control. With a grunt, he stood up and shuffled toward the living room, first peaking around the doorjamb of his bedroom, peering into the room to make sure it was clear. Everything looked unbothered and consistent with how he remembered it the last time he was there which, admittedly, was a bit foggy, but he sensed it was safe. He then moved slowly toward the front door, his heart doing a number on his nerves, everything pounding in crazy arrhythmic cadences, making it difficult to breathe or move, but he forced himself to fight through it and slid toward the door. Once there, facing the back of the front door, he reached out and grabbed the doorknob, resting his hand, afraid, knowing the next step could be everything or nothing, confident it wouldn’t be a wash. He took a deep breath, counted to three and slowly pulled the door open, toward himself, closing his eyes, delaying the visual results for another few seconds. As he sensed the door pass in front of his body, something fell on his foot and he jumped backwards and screamed, kicking whatever it was away from him, defensive, aggressive and scared to his core. When he finally opened his eyes, he was standing in the middle of the living room, his legs pushed up against the sofa, sweat rimming his forehead and upper lip. He looked at the intersection of the open door and the floor and saw what looked like a newspaper. It was fat, like a Sunday edition, rolled up into itself and stuffed in a plastic bag. Very common on a normal day but as unwelcome as a dead body this particular week. A new wave of fear crashed through him and mixed with a foamy wash of confusion. “A newspaper? How did that get here?”

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Seventy-nine: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is nine of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Three

Adam wasn’t sure what time it was but it was dark when he crawled out of bed and walked to the bathroom to pee. When he finished he stopped at the sink, turned the faucet on and let the basin fill with cold water. He stared at his reflection while he waited and it stirred up zero emotion, the empty cavern in his gut unmoved. The face staring back at him was long, the curly hair on top of his head matted in several directions. His eyes were rimmed with dark circles on the bottom and thick, black brows across the top, giving him the appearance of a raccoon. His wide nose held watch over a scratchy, two-day growth of beard. He reached with both hands and slowly pulled at the slack skin on both his cheeks, tugging them out to their limit and releasing, repeating it over and over until his skin turned red from the epidermal taffy pull. It added color to his face but his eyes were still a flat gray, devoid of any sparkle, any indication he was alive. “What now?” he watched himself say. “I guess it’s just you and me.” Then he plunged his face into the cold water and held it there, counting to twenty, slowly, hoping the chilly brace would work some magic and give him some life. He repeated the dunk twelve times before he realized it wasn’t going to do any good.

He was hungry, somewhat, and knew he should eat. He had been surviving on cigarettes and mouthwash but that needed to end. He started toward the kitchen with good intentions, anticipating a bologna sandwich and maybe some pretzels, but he never made it farther than his bed. Sleeping, hiding, seemed the right thing to do. Being conscious and awake carried with it responsibilities and things he didn’t want to consider. If he was asleep he could pretend it was all a dream.

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Seventy-eight: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is eight of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

With each unanswered ring bleating in his ear, the weight of his situation sank deeper into his gut. It started as a heavy lump, uncomfortable and solid, tangible evidence that something was wrong. Slowly it dissipated, leaving a chasm, an empty space inside him he didn’t know how to deal with. He wanted to fill it with positives, but with all the evidence in front of him, he could only drop into the space a thin thread of hope that everything was a bad dream or an unfunny joke. He kept returning to bed, sometimes for a few hours, other times merely minutes, and would alternate between pacing his bedroom floor and smoking with lying with the covers over his head until the light cracked through his blinds signaling another day.

He refused to succumb to the concept of the note. It was too absurd to believe, even as the proof mounted against him. He would lay there, unmoving, occasionally pulling the portable phone under the comforter with him and dialing randomly, hoping, praying to hear a live, human voice. Even though every call failed, he refused to get depressed, believing that staying positive was one of the last weapons he controlled. It took something routine and mindless to yank the cherished final thread of hope out of the space inside and destroy any thoughts he had of being right.

He worked up the energy to go outside and walk to the end of the stone pavers leading from his house to the street. He hesitated and mindlessly looked inside his mailbox. In that instant the veracity of his situation struck him with a force he had not anticipated. He suddenly knew the truth. There wouldn’t be any mail delivered today. There wouldn’t be any mail delivered tomorrow. Not this week. Not this month. Not this year. There was no one out there to send him a letter and there was no one out there to receive one of his. When he looked in his empty mailbox he knew without any doubts, like knowing when you are in love or when to duck; the note from the squatters was true. He was alone, the last man standing on the face of the earth. But not for long. Adam Mahoney turned toward his house, slowly retraced the steps he had just trod, walked through his front door and returned to bed.

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Seventy-seven: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is seven of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Two
Adam Mahoney was in a new and unique place. Not just for him but for anyone, ever, in the history of the world. If what the note said was accurate, and he was still holding out hope that it wasn’t, he was breaking new ground as a human and it was too much to comprehend. He sat on his sofa, staring at the television, mindlessly clicking through every channel and chain-smoking cigarettes. Most of the shows revealed nothing unusual, mocking him with their consistency, showing programs taped long ago and cued up in a big computer, housed in a far-off city, set to run automatically. But the shows that were usually live were anything but. Empty sets, stillness and silence were all they offered. He sat there, selecting channels up and down the spectrum for hours, hoping that somewhere a real person with something current to say would jump into the frame and make it all go away. He yearned for that shock. Instead, channels started disappearing, turning to white and gray digital snow, signaling the end of the pre-set programming as well as the end of the broadcast day. And their broadcast life. As it began turning dark outside, Adam rose from his perch, turned off the TV and crawled back into bed. It was all he could think to do, the only choice that seemed safe.

He slept some, occasionally waking with an idea he thought would verify or debunk his situation. He would then force himself out of bed and follow through with whatever new plan he had hatched, but the results always favored the contents of the note. His best and most comprehensive idea was to use the online phone books, look up phone numbers of random businesses all over the U.S. and call them. No one answered. He also called residential phone numbers, randomly selected from cities big and small, from Hawaii to Maine. Still no one answered. As a last resort, he began calling overseas—Germany, Italy, Spain—dialing randomly, searching for anyone to talk to. There was no one home. Anywhere.

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Seventy-six: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is six of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

He moved through the house and out the front door, deciding to check in with his neighbors. It was now less about the letter and more about seeing a smiling, familiar face. He walked through his front yard and hopped over the two-step landing to the front porch of the Harrison home, his long time neighbors to his right. He knocked on the door and waited. There was no sound coming from inside the house, which was strange for a family with three children under eight, but he pushed down any negative thoughts and rang the doorbell; he would apologize if he woke up one of the babies. After two long minutes and several doorbell rings he decided they weren’t home. “I think they mentioned to me they were going out of town,” he thought. “I just didn’t realize it was this week.” He walked quickly to the neighbor’s house on the other side of his property, knocking politely and waiting. After two more knocks and three doorbell rings he started becoming concerned. “Why didn’t anyone tell me they were leaving town?” he asked out loud, not expecting an answer.

As he jogged across the street to see if the Broughton’s were home, something stopped him, an internal brake that sensed things weren’t right. He stood still and listened for a moment and realized there was nothing to listen to. No dogs barking, no trucks on the interstate, no churning of school busses or delivery vehicles. He had never heard it that quiet before, anywhere. It wasn’t right, the silence, it was too thick and still. Something was wrong but he refused to let his mind drift toward the contents of the letter and sprinted to the front door of Phil and Sue Broughton’s home. He rang the doorbell, pushing it over and over with his thumb, simultaneously banging on the front door with his fist. “There’s no way this can be true, it’s impossible. There has to be a logical explanation.” He kept repeating that thought, trying to convince himself but knowing with each beat on the door it wasn’t working. Then, just as the quiet had stopped him in his sprint, a brilliant thought flashed into his brain and he dropped his hands, turned and looked toward his house. “Television,” he thought. As he ran across the Broughton’s yard and into the street he yelled “Television! Television!” unconcerned about waking any of his displaced neighbors, convinced that seeing live, talking news people would finally poke a hole in the charade.

He bounded through his front door and threw the sofa cushions onto the floor, searching for the remote control. When he found it he wheeled around and aimed it toward his television, hands shaking, ready to be right. The black screen flickered and light grew from the center to reveal a commercial for floor cleaner, its existence proving nothing. He fumbled with the numbered buttons on the remote, trying to push the correct sequence for one of the 24-hour news channels but he was flustered and it took three tries before he was successful. In mere seconds he wished he hadn’t been. On the screen was an empty news desk, no anchors, no people on the phone behind them in the newsroom and obviously no one manning the camera which had tilted to the left, creating a strangely cropped view of the empty studio, cutting off what would have been the tops of the heads of the happy anchors. The only sound was the remote control hitting the hardwood floor as it slipped out of Adam’s hand.

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Seventy-five: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is five of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Adam was initially confused then amused as he read the note. It was handwritten but he didn’t recognize the handwriting, which was beautiful and meticulously rendered. He was convinced it was a joke but he was unaware of anyone in his life clever enough to come up with the idea much less pull it off. He checked the clock over the stove and realized it was too early to call anyone and see if they had been included in the ruse so he decided to take a shower and deal with it after he was clean and dressed. On the way to the bathroom he stopped to turn on his computer, wanting to check email before he had to leave for work.

After his shower, Adam lit a cigarette, walked over to his desk and sat down to see if he had received any emails overnight. He double-clicked his browser icon and was surprised how fast it loaded onto the screen. “It’s not that early,” he thought. “But I won’t complain about the traffic being light. Good for me.” His inbox flashed up on the screen almost before he had finished selecting the link. “They must have upgraded the lines recently,” he reasoned. “It’s never loaded pages this fast before.” He was finished checking his messages in less than five minutes and glanced at his watch to make sure it wasn’t too early to call someone and ask them about the prank letter he received. It was 7:30 so he felt comfortable calling a co-worker considering they all had to be at work at eight, just like himself. He tried Leslie first but she had apparently left for work early because he ended up talking to her answering machine. Blaine didn’t answer either, but he usually went to eat breakfast at the diner before work so there was nothing squirrelly about that. As a last resort he called his mother, sure she would be home because she never went anywhere. His heart rate began accelerating with each unanswered ring and for the first time a small finger of dread reached up and poked his belly. “This is ridiculous,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m feeling like this. Mom’s probably in the bathroom and can’t get to the phone.” He hung up the receiver and lit another cigarette.

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Seventy-four: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is four of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

He finally set down his nearly empty coffee cup and picked up the envelope again. He turned it over and gently pulled at the flap, cringing as the paper lost the battle with the wax, ripping between the seal and the crease. As he lifted the folded sheet of paper out of the envelope he caught a faint whiff of strawberries and assumed the papers were scented. “Must be from a girl,” he thought and that brought a slight smile to his face. He set the envelope down and unfolded the paper that had been inside. The contents were not at all what he was expecting, if he was expecting anything at all.

“Dear Mr. Adam Mahoney,
This letter is to inform you that you are now the last man standing on earth. As of four this morning (E.S.T.) your planet has been wiped clean of all human life by a small group of extraterrestrial beings, aliens if you must, though we prefer the term squatters, who were bored and wanted to see what would happen if they left only one person on a reasonably functional planet such as your own. You can consider it a science experiment except that we aren’t scientists, just bored, super-intelligent beings looking for something to do on a Saturday night. We did you a huge solid by disposing of all of the bodies because to not do so would have been uncivilized and, quite frankly, a bit gross. One other thing, when we referenced “human life” earlier in this note we, unfortunately for you, are including the female of your species as well as all animals. Yes, you really are “it.” You are on your own and we wish you the best of luck as you survive or sleep or whatever else you think to do. Good luck and we’ll be watching.

P.S. In case you were wondering (but why would you?) there is a small wager amongst us on how this whole experiment will turn out but we will try to refrain from influencing the decisions you will obviously have to make. Our sense of fair play will, hopefully, overrule our competitive and individual desires to win. You can only hope…”

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Seventy-three: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is three of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

He picked up the envelope and saw his name on the front in a fancy script, obviously handwritten with care and skill. “Mr. Adam Mahoney. Well, that’s me, but where did this come from?” He rifled through his memory, trying to remember if he had been handed the envelope elsewhere and had absent-mindedly left it on the counter but he knew even as he walked through that exercise he had nothing to do with the letter or card or invitation. That meant someone had snuck into his house and placed it there, which wasn’t that big of a surprise since his hometown was rural and small and locking the house was more of an afterthought than a necessity. He turned the envelope over and chuckled as he saw that it had been sealed with red wax, an obvious imprint of an official seal embedded sloppily in the center. “Fancy,” he said as he turned it to a severe angle in order to manipulate the light to hit it in such a way that he could see it better but there had been too much shift when whoever created it had mashed the seal into the wax. It offered no clues.

He set the envelope down, dropped two spoons of sugar in his cup and poured a cup of coffee. He wasn’t one to rush into a mystery and this definitely qualified, at least in his life. Ever since his divorce he had tried to cut back on his uncharacteristic bouts of spontaneity that, according to his ex-wife, was one of the contributing factors to their breakup. She never could understand that after spending full days in a cubicle, answering phones at the customer service desk at the plant, he occasionally needed to stretch his wings, so to speak, and he could never be certain how or when that might occur. But he was trying to change and this seemed like a great situation to practice some discipline.

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Seventy-two: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is two of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

After grinding the beans then adding the grounds and water into the coffee maker, he flipped the switch to start the brewing process, pulled a chair away from the dining room table and dragged it into the kitchen, setting it in front of the far counter where the coffee was brewing. He sat down, lit a cigarette, leaned forward and rested his chin on the countertop, watching the slowly filling glass canister two feet away. As he continued to stare, the adrenaline from the earlier scare released from his body and he started feeling tired. He drew on the cigarette but its usual medicinal effects weren’t enough to cut through his haze. His eyelids began their flutter toward closing and he gave in, just for a few minutes, until the final growl and gurgle of the coffee maker alerted him that it was time to drink. He stood, ground out his cigarette in the sink and opened the cabinet door directly above the coffee maker, grabbed a large mug and reached for the sugar. He liked to add the sweetener first and let the hot liquid obliterate the crystals when they met at the bottom of the cup. Instead of his fingers hitting the metal of the sugar container they grazed against paper, an envelope resting against the container, white and clean, the size of a greeting card. It startled him not because he rarely received mail, which was true, but more because he hadn’t left the card there.

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Seventy-One: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[The next many entries are the current story I am working on. This is one of who knows how many will be posted. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter One

Adam Mahoney was a tall man, too long for his bed, which reduced sleeping to a necessity and never a joy. He had developed a habit of waking up one minute before his alarm released its peal, a habit so ingrained into his daily routine that he had forgotten what his alarm sounded like. That explained why one particular morning in August the piercing whine that awoke him shocked him so badly he lost control of his senses as well as his functions and wet all over himself. He was so disoriented that he had said “hello” three times into the phone receiver before he realized the racket was coming from his alarm clock. After slapping the night stand aimlessly for another few seconds he finally found the box and mashed every button until the screaming stopped. With the high-pitched screech still lingering in his ears he fell back on his bed, a soggy, frightened mass of frayed nerves and damp cotton sheets.

It took him several minutes to calm down, aided by deep, cleansing breaths and several long draws on a cigarette, at which time the full impact of the wake-up call registered in his mind with clarity and he began the process of cleaning up. He stripped his bed of all linens and was relieved to see there had been minimal soak-through on his mattress. He gathered the large wad of sheets and headed toward the washing machine that was through the kitchen and on the other side of the house. As he crammed the offensive mess into the washer’s opening, he stripped off his clothes and added them to the load. He added soap, closed the lid and moved toward the kitchen, naked and in dire need of coffee and another cigarette.

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle


Entry Seventy

Happy New Year.

All words and images ©2006/J. Colle