Frank's clip-on striped necktie laid flat like a giant pointer as it bobbed on the water's surface from where it attached to his neck. He yanked it free and tossed it away as he gain found himself in the middle of an enormous black pool, surrounded on all sides by sheer granite walls rising straight up from where the water lapped at its hard edges. He whipped his arms around, and spun his head looking for an anomaly somewhere in the rock face. There was none. The black water hid his body below the chest. The bottom could be six inches below or six miles beneath him. How many other things were lurking down there that he couldn't see? It scared him.
He swam the 25 yards from the middle in order to examine the rock wall more closely. The water had no temperature, but Frank knew he should have felt something against his body. He reached the wall, and surveyed the rock face. There was nothing to grab onto, not even the smallest ledge or crag. Edges precisely cut in the rock ran vertically, cog-like the entire circumference of the cylindrical chasm. He continued to tread water and leaned his head back to peer at the walls, which rode upward toward a cloudless blue sky above. The bright yellow sunball shined down into the hole and sparkled on the water's surface. Frank winced, as the reflected light stung his eyes. His foot skated along the slick wall looking for traction below the surface, but his feet slipped away against the algae coated surface. The jagged verticle edges encircled and imprisoned him with no horizontal irregularities anywhere along the surface.
He was tiring quickly as he pushed his arms through the water to stay afloat. He swam out into the middle, but squeezed his eyes shut to avoid looking into the black hole of water that surrounded him.
A wave surged through his heart as something brushed by his feet. It was a current, steadily swirling beneath him gaining strength. He compensated his treading as the spinning increased, but in this gigantic dark lake, he was a lost drop meaningless inside the huge mass of liquid.
With Frank at the center, concentric rings of water spun around him as the entire body of water gained speed. Though his body remained above the surface, he was sucked down into the middle of the giant whirlpool, his speed increasing as the water level dropped. He calculated the energy required to propel such a mass and logged the answer away. As a soft spinning blur along with the cone of moving water, now 30 feet deep, Frank felt himself growing lighter, sensed his mass decreasing. He was pulled deeper into the vortex, his speed increasing exponentially, but at the same time, the force of gravity had less effect on him to the point where he felt nearly weightless. Time stretched and then contracted to a single point as the massive forces controlling his body became too great. His mind surrendered to the black out and swallowed him whole.
Frank landed hard on the wooden floor, dazed and out of breath, his gray suit a mass of rumpled folds, twisted and misshapen around his torso. The sweat-soaked white shirt clung in wet patches uncomfortably to his skin. He planted his hands open-palmed as he tried to ground himself against the world still racing around in his head. He slowly opened his eyes and tried to focus on a fixed object in the room, but it just sped by. He shut his eyes and reached for the stuffed chair where he'd fallen asleep. He pulled himself into it, sank into the worn cushions, and buried his head into in his hands, waiting for everything to pull together. His mind still swirled with the feelings from the dream, but mixed in with the sensations were equations with long solutions to problems, which had plagued him for months. Finally, he opened his eyes and cautiously looked upwards. The world had slowed enough for him to reenter.
Heavy curtains were drawn over the windows keeping the living room dark. A sharp sliver of light cut through the split where the two halves met.
The box holding Mother was still there.
Frank rose from the chair, walked to the casket and raised the lid.
Emily lay there, still, her arms folded across the chest of her favorite dress. It was the one she always wore when they went out for special dinners. Frank used to love how the soft airy fabric gained a life of it's own when she walked. Now, the material was inert. The air no longer lifted it and no restaurant would ever see it enter their door again.
Emily always said, she wasn't sure for whom it was worse. The cancer pain, which had traveled through her body for so long, was not as bad as the pain of having to watch her little boy endure her suffering. Frank never saw the real anguish she felt when she watched him leave her bedside. That pain was always more unbearable. Still, she refused to let the disease control her, and continued to go to work everyday, forcing the pain down.
Frank returned to his chair and sat alone in the middle of the living room where he had spent most of his life. The same wood floor that Emily used to pace up and back during his colicky babyhood, now supported the box holding her body.
He looked at his watch. The funeral parlor would be here soon to pick her up.
Zeta snaked figure eight's around his legs, her tail gently brushed under the crook of his knee. He reached down and picked her up, mindlessly stroking the long gray fur, and relaxing him with her soft purrs. "I think we have the answer now, girl."
Emily's death had been a certainty in their lives for the last year. But even though she had done her best to prepare Frank in every way she could, it wasn't enough. He hadn't known a single day in his twenty-six years without her. His mind tried to quantify her existence as it related to time, space and mass. He couldn't seem to grasp the fact that she occupied a space on this planet for so many years and now she didn't, her presence in this time had vanished, as unimportant as a single star in the night sky.
The yellowed walls of the old Craftsman home had witnessed the lives of Frank and Emily. They held stories of Emily teaching young Frank complicated theorems in advanced mathematics. They secreted tales of arguments and fights over astrophysics and unified field theory. They witnessed her strict discipline when it came to his schoolwork and the tedious formation and devotion to the plan. They cried tears as Frank and Emily watched the world terrorize itself into a frenzied panic. They moaned for Emily with the finality of a terminal disease.
The doorbell rang, its gong vibrated off the walls startling Frank from his fixation on the casket. "Must be them," he thought.
He straightened his glasses, and tried to smooth the wrinkles from his suit as he walked toward the door.
The bell rang again, just as loud and annoying, but his speed remained steady, calculated. He only saw a short figure outlined through the leaden door glass trimmed with lace curtain. It didn't make sense. Emily's paranoid tone whispered through his head. "Trust no one, Frank, especially the government."
"You from the government?" He yelled through the door.
"Me?" The silhouetted figure shouted back in a high voice.
Frank pulled open the heavy door and squinted into the hazy sunlight.
Ravi Bannerjee stood holding her briefcase, looking up and down the walls, as if she were assessing the house for its value. The tangle of red hair, which just touched the shoulders of her grey suit, grated in contrast to the deep chocolate tone of her skin. The clothes were almost wearing her, as the sharply cut suit advertised the curves of her body. Large dark sunglasses hid her eyes like some 1970's promotion.
Frank disliked her immediately. She reminded him of those smarmy Sitcom lawyers. Over her shoulder, he could see there was no hearse parked on the curb, only a silver Mercedes.
"You here to take Mother?" he asked.
Ravi slid the sunglasses down her nose. "Excuse me? Take your Mother? I don't understand?" Her smile was tinged with arrogance and the tone was condescending as if addressing a snail before pouring salt on it. The hint of an Indian accent slightly tainted her voice, it's original inflection trained away by years of education.
It was strange to Frank's ear.
"I'm sorry. I'm assuming that Mrs. Emily Cardon has ... passed on." She pushed the glasses back up. "Otherwise, I wouldn't be here. You are Frank Cardon, I'm going to assume, her only son and relative," she said it a little too clearly, so he would understand.
"Yes. Who are you?"
"Ravi Bannerjee, attorney. I was notified by the funeral home when your Mother died."
"Well, I don't think I need a lawyer Ms. Bannerjee. Mother and I didn't have anything that we would need a lawyer to take any part of. Good day." Frank started to close the door. She put her foot in the jam, blocking it.
"Excuse me, Mister Cardon, Frank. You don't understand. I don't want any money from you. I have your mother's last will and testament. She made it years ago."
Caught off-guard, Frank opened the door. "Mother never said anything."
Retracting her foot from the door jam, she peered over her glasses again, incredulous. "You didn't know your mother had a will? That's awfully strange."
"What are you saying Ms. Bannerjee?
Ravi was caught off guard. "I ... I'm not saying anything. What did you think would happen to all this after she passed?" She gestured to the house.
"Mother didn't like to talk about that stuff. She was in pain ... And my concern wasn't about money."
"I wasn't suggesting ... may I come in, so we can talk? Mr. Cardon?"
"If you must." He opened the door all the way, forcing himself to be gracious.
.... There is more of this story ...
Science Fiction /