by Marc D. Ruvolo
“I think they’re in the trees,” Candice says, dropping the heavy brown velvet curtain back over the mullioned window.
Seven cats lie in a knot next to my wheels. It’s evening, and they all stare hungrily at the lone, quivering rabbit hunched in a wire cage near the bone-dry fifty-gallon Uniquarium. Behind the foggy, scratched glass, a plastic treasure chest overflowing with fake riches sits half submerged in aquamarine gravel. The rubber tubes of a lime-frosted filter unit dangle above it like the arms of a lifeless kraken.
The rabbit’s name is Neko.
“We should call the township,” Candice says.
The Satellite chimes softly, offering up an enticing stream of reality fare: My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé. Who Wants to Marry My Dad? I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. The Littlest Groom. I click on Extreme Celebrity Detox.
Something is making a skittering noise on the roof. Candice frowns. “Did you charge that thing up like I told you?” she says, nodding at my Hoveround Personal Mobility Vehicle.
“They won’t come all the way out here for nothing,” I say, dismissing her question. “It’s just squirrels, anyway.”
Candice once more raises the curtain and squints into the yard. “Squirrels, my ass.”
* * *
All the cats have vanished. Their self-cleaning litter boxes emit a beach-fresh scent as they manicure the tumbling silica gel with a steady mechanical hum.
“They’re building something,” Candice says. “It’s like a tower, I think.”
The Satellite purrs: Toluca vs. DC United. Pohang Steelers vs. Umm Salal. CSKA Moscow vs. Manchester United. I click on Al Ittihad Jettah vs. Nagoya Grampus Eight.
The skittering on the roof has gotten more frantic.
“I’m going out there,” Candice says, looking up at the ceiling. She’s wearing green gardening overalls and is carrying a Techzilla XP model youth aluminum baseball bat.
Something is howling in the yard, hissing and spitting and screaming. The thumping of what sound like massive tympani drums reverberates through the foundation of the house. Sirens approach, wailing forlornly, and then recede into the distance.
“Don’t be long,” I say. “Dinner at six.”
* * *
Candice has not returned. Dinner — chicken carbonara bread bowls and free chocolate lava cake — sits cooling on the coffee table. The delivery boy ran away before I could give him a tip. The noise from the roof has become thunderous. I’ve closed the chimney damper to minimize the racket.
I roll slowly across the den and take Neko out of his cage, setting him on my lap. The uncharged Hoveround barely responds and then creeps to a halt. The rabbit shivers in the hollow of my worn chinos. He looks at me as though he wishes to speak, but doesn’t. His eyes are moist and shiny, like ripe, freshly washed blackcurrants. Those eyes reflect a familiar weariness that weighs on me like a wooden yoke. This endless, pointless loop we’ve locked ourselves into.
World after world. Millennia after millennia.
The Satellite pulses in the heavy dark of the den, drawing my attention: Mahavir Hanuman. Love Monkey. Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp. BJ and the Bear. Mighty Joe Young. I know what it’s trying to tell me. I click on Twelve Monkeys.
The noise on the roof has stopped. I hear the doorbell chime in the front hall and a faint breeze invades the room. A dozen silent, yellow spider monkeys — his ever-present entourage — precede my guest’s entrance. They take up positions at various points around the room, scratching on the furniture, their eyes reflected white in the gloom.
“Is that all you can muster, Ravana?” the figure says as it stoops through the doorway, silk robes rustling. “A few cats and a woman?” The room is hung with deep shadows, but even from my seated position I can make out his ape-like features above the stiff cowl he wears. He sits with a sigh on the couch. “I think you’re going soft, friend. Or perhaps you’re getting tired of our little game?”
“No, it’s you that’s lost this time, Hanuman,” I say, feeling a sneer creep across my face, the remote slick and sweaty in my shaking hand. “This world is different from the others. The rules have changed.”
Neko growls a low, ominous rasp from my lap. Then, in a blur of claws, he launches himself at my enemy. The spider monkeys respond with lightning speed, leaping to their beleaguered master’s defense. In the ensuing screeching chaos, I turn my attention back to the screen on the wall.
The Satellite begins to fill the room with a white-hot glow. The light is hard, angular, and chases the shadows from even the deepest corners of the room. I squint: The Day After Tomorrow. Deep Impact. Supernova. 2012. Planet of the Apes.
I click on Armageddon.
Copyright © 2009 by Marc D. Ruvolo