Chris couldn’t sleep. He lay for hours next to Rachel, listening to her breathe and snort and snore while he just lay there staring at the ceiling praying that sleep would come, but it didn’t. He listened to rain pound on the roof and windows, listened to the ticking of the clock and wondered how much longer he would have to suffer through the night, but he just couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t wait any longer.
Chris peeled off the sheet and slipped out of the bed so he wouldn’t wake his girlfriend and then he crept into the living room, shutting the door behind him. He stood there for a moment in the dark, waiting, listening for Rachel stirring in the bed, but everything was silent so Chris moved across the room and into the kitchen where he turned on a light and then went straight for his backpack.
He grabbed the pack, it was still soaked from when he was out in the rain earlier, and lifted it from the kitchen chair. Immediately Chris felt something strange in his hand, a feeling, more like a sensation of a low vibration. It was what was in his pack that was doing it, Chris knew. He had to open the bag anyway.
His kitchen table was a mess, not to mention a window into the life of a man who was himself a thorough mess. He brushed away cigarettes that had fallen out of the ashtray and relocated a stack of CDs and his collection of pills to the counter behind him before placing the backpack on the table. He sat in front of it, watching it, readying himself to open it. There was a bottle of bourbon on the table and Chris took a long gulp and then slammed the bottle down. He ripped open the zipper like it was tape over his mouth, quick and violent and with courage.
The tesseract bounced out of the bag, and Chris’s hand shot out and grabbed it from the air. He balked at himself. His hand felt like it had moved on its own accord. Certainly he didn’t want to be touching this thing, Chris thought to himself, yet he clutched it in his bare hands and stared into its depths, the brilliant cube that expanded infinitely inward inside itself, glowing.
Now that he was home, now that he wasn’t running for his life, Chris could get a good look - and feel - of the thing. Its size was deceptive: it fit into Chris’s palm, it was maybe three inches square on each side, but he guessed that the thing weighed almost two pounds.
The tesseract thrummed in his hand. Again, he was hesitant to think of it as a vibration. He remembered last week, having sex with Rachel while they were hiding in someone’s bedroom at a party they went to. He had put his hand over Rachel’s mouth to dampen her groans, and that’s what the tesseract’s vibration reminded him of - a humming. But it wasn’t just that either, was it? Because it felt warm, too, and alive. It felt very nearly like it was breathing.
Chris held it up and squinted at the cube. It was dirty, the revolving colored glow was muted and not nearly as brilliant. He grabbed a box of tissues that was buried on the table and gently wiped the cube, turning it in his hand and noticing for the first time that the tesseract wasn’t completely clear. Where the vertices of the cubes met, there were what looked like minuscule, practically microscopic blue stones.
Sapphire? he thought. What the hell is this thing?
Chris didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know whether he should tell anyone about this or just keep it to himself. But how could he keep it to himself? Of course no one believed him when he told people that he’d seen lights in the sky the other day. They all thought he was drunk, which he was, of course, but that didn’t matter. He wasn’t drunk when he had seen them again tonight, and he thought he had seen what was making them, too.
He had run so fast into the woods when he first saw the flashing in the sky. He wanted to prove it to himself that he wasn’t crazy, that something was really going on out there. The rain had been pouring, there were flashes of lightening and claps of thunder, and then he had seen it, this tiny glowing thing dropping out of thin air - the tesseract.
He had run to it, and when he reached the spot where it had landed he could have sworn that when he looked up through the tree canopy he wasn’t seeing a clouded sky, he was seeing something big and metal, and blocking out the clouds and stars and whole wide rest of the world.
So he had run back the way he’d come, cutting a serpentine path through the woods, dodging rocks and branches and the deadfalls, he’d run home with the thing strapped to his back, and now, what?
What was he going to do with it?
The tesseract hummed and glowed, and Chris was so very afraid.
Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Anna N. Mouse gave me this prompt: Use these words in your story: A box of tissues, cigarettes, bourbon, a stack of CDs, serpentine, sapphire, pills.. (You can find the words bolded in my response.)
I gave Barb Black this prompt: Start your piece with this line: 'It was bad enough just being in the basement, but then of course there were rats."
I want to thank Anna for the most challenging and one of the most fun writing challenges I've ever done. Her prompt, to add a bunch of random words, was HARD. Good thing I find the hard challenges to be the most rewarding in the end. This was really fun to write.
This piece is also an immediate follow up to a scene I wrote for Write on Edge last week. If you are interested in reading more about Chris you can read The Tesseract, short and sweet at around 500 words.