By ANDREW FLYNN, Storyteller
Dale peered over at his alarm clock. The large, luminescent digital readout stated that it was no time to get up. The brightness of the numbers seemed to mock him and his inability to enter into a slumber of any sort. It was three forty-two in the morning, but he knew exactly why he couldn’t get to sleep.
It had been less than four hours since he had put his head to his pillow. His 600-thread count department-store pillow with excess down feathering. Just like he preferred it. A man like him needed to have added comfort when he plopped at the end of the day.
Dale’s Blackberry suddenly vibrated on his nearby nightstand. The plastic of the phone made a harsh buzzing noise against the glass-top of sunken table. At the moment, now both the alarm clock and the Blackberry called to Dave’s weary attention. He flopped his body over closer to the phone, and put the handset to his ear. No need to look at the device, his exhaustion kept him from caring who was actually on the line.
“Errrrg, this is Dale Kravitz.”
“You need to get to my office,” said the gravelly voice on the other side.
“For what? Everything’s done.”
“There is a contingency that we didn’t get to, and you need to get your fucking ass here.”
Dale sat up in his bed, realizing that this phone call meant a world of problems for him. There would be no other reason for this kind of wake-up.
“Give me an hour. I’ll get a shower and be there.”
“You will get in your car in whatever you’re wearing and get the hell down here. In twenty minutes.”
The line went dead, and Dale’s Blackberry flashed the fact that the call had been ended.
He thought to himself the things he would have to admit to if put in a corner. The corner that he appeared to already be in. Billions of words collided together in his head, much like a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica raging a holy war with the Oxford English Dictionary.
Springing out of bed and into a halfway decent set of work clothes, Dale made a quick stop to the bathroom nearest his garage. He glanced at himself after splashing a healthy amount of ice-cold water on his face. Yep, a stubbly yet impressive four-day beard among patches of graying hair all out of place.
Pressed for time, he accepted the mirror and left the bathroom. He gathered his sportcoat that was draped over a kitchen chair and shot into the driver’s side of his Lexus. Ignition on, he passed on checking the rear-view and side mirrors. Nobody sane would be out in the neighborhood this early. With a good amount of haste and a few light tire marks to the concrete, he zipped onto the nearby freeway and into traffic.
Dale pulled into a vacant parking spot 17 minutes later. Well, two spots to be more accurate. He was in a hurry after all. He’d exited his car like this a few times before in his life. In one motion, he scooped his attaché case, his coat, and his briefcase all from the passenger’s seat and propelled himself away from his luxury car. Fumbling on his keychain for a button, his muscle memory served him well and the successful “bleep-bloop-bleep” emitted from his car.
Inside the generous office complex, Dale reached the third floor. Nobody at the reception desk this early, that would save him a minute, he thought to himself. Down a hallway was a single corner-office lit up like a neon motel sign in the darkness of night. He slowed his pace, and saw that the office door was ajar.
A tall, slender man sat at a huge mahogany desk inside. Dressed very well in a tailored suit, the boldness of his striped, red tie demanded interest from anyone within eyeshot. Scribbling a few sentences on a yellow legal pad, he caught Dale peering in from the opened door. The man’s hands didn’t wander and still jotted words onto paper.
“Timely, Dale. Now get the fuck in here,” the man said sternly.
“I’m here, Ted. You can drop the…” Dale began.
The man wouldn’t have any of it. Control was the game, and the stakes were high.
“I’ll drop nothing! Sit down here now, dammit!” he interrupted.
Shocked, Dale froze for a few seconds, but then coalesced with the things he was carrying and planted himself in one of the two chairs facing the breathtaking woodwork.
“You’re here for a reason, Dale,” Ted explained. “And it’s not a good reason.”
Next Saturday, on Afterwards: Another revelation from a power that is.