The Void by Derek Vaive

Gered awoke from his alcohol-induced coma stiff as a board, stench of stale cigarettes surrounding him from the night before. Not unlike any other morning, he stumbled across the sticky filth ridden kitchen floor to battle the coffee machine. “Damn, piece a’ crap! I’ll throw you across this damn room! Work... you bastard!”

Believing the coffee maker taunted him, he felt forced to threaten it with profanities until it submitted.

“Finally!... Thank you!... For Christ’s Sake!” Condescending praise inevitably followed in fear that it would be his last triumph.

That first cup of black existence is exactly what Gered needed as he pondered the events of the eve prior, but the hops that filled his head were stubborn today. Typical for a man invested in the friendships of self-destruction and a bottle ordaining the names of dead moonshiners. As he sat in the mouth of the pit that was his front porch, sipping graciously from the chiseled Care Bear thermos he had found in the alley behind work, he could not help but stare into the vast nothingness of his noble slum. Noticing the fretted buildings that surrounded him, their crumbling foundations resembling the depravity of Dresden after a World War II bomb raid, he let out a lethargic sigh and simultaneously drank to warm his insides.

After the pot was bare and Gered had his wits about him again, he quickly realized it was time to put on that all too familiar uniform. He had been consistently late to work for the past month and feared he was treading on thin ice with his boss, who he appropriately referred to as “No Neck Fatty.” How can one justify the deathless ambition of passing time with menial tasks, he thought. Was he late on purpose, a disregard for the authority that dictated his lack of direction? He could not drive these thoughts from his mind as he continued his familiar ritual of neglect.

As the last shoelace pulled tight, finalizing the morning digestion of mundane events Gered regurgitated ever so often, a thought struck him like an arrow from the bow of Chiron. Reaching for the journal that housed his inner self, he caught a glimpse of the alarm clock adjacent to his bed. The digital face inked in red burned into his eyes, 8:46am. “Damn! Ahh, screw it.” Often, in the mornings when the haze of malted barley washed from his mind, Gered would have what he would like to call “moments of clarity.” This particular morning he realized that may have been the sole reason for his tardy behavior at work. Alas, he did not care otherwise, to him these moments were worth more than the minimum wage that kept his belly full, senses dulled, and his life defined. He proceeded to swiftly pour the abstraction from his mind to the milky page.

A disobedient man looked upon as a leper of social contracts, takes part willingly in the unraveling of moral structures and value systems. He does this out of pure conviction and without retribution. Treading lost worlds where societies no longer dwell. Conventional society will never accept those who choose to walk their own path, regardless of the consequences, however morally debated. Those of us, who do not live in fear of our surroundings, do not fear to swim through the dark waters of freethinking, regardless of the abyss beneath.

He was beside himself, nothing so prophetic had ever entered Gereds mind. The digital face grinning at him did not agree, however, and launched the time at his ocular cavities, 9:01am! Gered realized the back ally was his only hope of escaping the clutches of No Neck Fatty. Keeping his fingers crossed he hustled out the door.

As Gered snuck through the alley and into the back office, he hoped no one would realize he was 20 minutes late. Approaching from the wake of his bountiful stride, he felt a tap at his shoulder, zapping him to the sky in his meager anticipation. He turned with ease and felt relief that he had not fallen victim to his Gestapo manager.

“Hey Donny, what’s the happs.” Gered did not really care for Donny that much because he was a quintessential brown nose and lingerer, a constant irritation not unlike that of a mosquito, buzzing at the ears of anyone who would listen to his gossip and meanderings. Even still, Gered would humor him. The entertainment in learning the dirt under every employee’s fingernails within the company was, at the very least, good for a chuckle or two. Not to mention a serene way for Gered to realize he was not the only heathenistic bastard of the bunch.

Nevertheless, Gered would hang out after work with a few other employees, Donny included. When you do not have many friends in the world, you take what you can get. As Donny proceeded to give the play by play of last night’s after party, Gered fell into a trance trying to piece together his own version of the narrative. Suddenly, a comment pulled his head out of the clouds.

“I did what?!”

“I’m tellin’ ya’ Gered, you stripped naked, climbed the roof through the attic window, and started howlin’ at the moon.”

“Oh, and you were throwin’ empties in the street…what got into you?”

“That wasn’t me,” Gered did not have any recollection of this and suddenly felt embarrassed to show his face out on the sales floor, knowing he would face the many looks of disgusted scrutiny from the other heathens.

“Sure as hell was man, the twins said they don’t want you to party there anymore”

“Just tell them it wasn’t me, it was…” Trailing off he knew it was the drinkin’ buddy that haunted his inner boredom, Mr. Hyde. He only comes out at night, sometimes gentle as a dove but every so often, the shadows push this demon out.

“Donny, you know I don’t do…”

“Bullshit man, last week you were throwing the vacuum cleaner through all the windows. You got problems bro”

With a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face, Gered just shrugged and shuffled out to the sales floor of the department. That’s the life of the professional lush, eyes as big as bottle caps and the stench of fermented hops is never far behind, he echoed this quietly to himself. Secretly, Gered admired his debauchery. Taking pride in keeping the Dionysian way of life alive in a time when everything revolved around traditions built for social control.

The entire rest of the morning was filled with eyes peering at the back of his head, the subtle chirping of co-workers like flocks of geese at every corner, reveling in his moment of insanity. It was clear to Gered that he was the day’s paparazzi star, the reason behind the proverbial water cooler gathering. In any case it was easy to act as it never had happened, blacking out always comes with certain advantages.

“Gered, can you help these people find what they’re looking for, I gotta’ run to maintenance,” Donny was never good at dealing with customers, only spreading rumors.

“Sure thing.”

“What are you folks looking f…”

“Mr. Yuk!” The click of two heels went off like a gunshot.

For the second time this morning, Gered shot through the air, startled from his rear. The customers’ faces seemed frosted with frustration. Gered turned to witness his boss peering in his eyes with the look of a rabid boar.

“Mr. Yuk, I need to see you in my office immediately!” spraying his words through the air, No Neck stomped his foot and sternly walked to his office.

“What about the custom…”

“They can wait!” Gered could see steam now fuming from the folks’ ears, he gave them a smile, turned and followed after his boss.

Being summoned to No Neck’s office was never a day at the amusement park. The walls were the color of puke, and it always smelled of burned bacon and eggs. Upon entering the dreaded room, No Neck slammed the door behind Gered, who quickly took a seat in the pleather chair that overlooked a sea of little No Neck Fatties in frames. His legs began to wrestle with his feet as he waited for his judgment; it seemed his tardy nature had finally caught up to him.

“What do you think you’re doing, Mr. Yuk!?” No Neck failed to breathe in this tempered rage, his face now resembling the surface of Mars.

“Is this about…?”

“Shut up!”

Gered now bent like a horseshoe in order to avoid No Neck Fatties interrogation mist held his breathe.

“I want to show you something Mr. Yuk. A little video I made that you might want to see.”

Gereds pupils got wider, he had no knowledge of the company installing cameras in employee only areas. The thought of all those tardy mornings shrunk to pea size, in fact they no longer mattered as he braced himself for what he was about to witness. Sweat dripped from his forehead and his clammy hands became numb as No Neck pressed play on the VCR.

“So? Do you have anything to say? What is going on here!?”

“Well, if you must know, I’m stealing from petty cash.”

“I can see that, why... Wait a sec…are you drunk!?”

No Neck leaned in closer butting Gered from the chair and back into the corner of the office. Gered apparently still smelled like a Russian ambassador from last night’s festivities. Right then Mr. Yuk’s wick had burned passed the midnight lanterns oil.

“Of course I am! Do you think I could continuously look at your fat no neck face without some sort of buzz? Your very existence blackens what little soul I have left, and I aim to hold on to my soul, sir!”

Oh, the estranged humility grabbed him, laughing all the tonal fortunes of horror. He could not help himself, for the first time the demon had been summoned in his sobriety. No Neck Fatties face became filled with fright at this outburst as Gered charged him to the floor.

“Get out of here, you’re fired. I’m calling the police you nutcase,” trembling, No Neck pointed to the door, his articulation fading beneath a shrill voice.

“You are the wretched dismemberment of all that is unholy! Stench of beauracratic bullcrap, oozing, and invading my senses! I hope you wake up one gray morning and realize your life was a waste, you heartless yuppie bastard!” Gered smiled ear to ear, and never guessed a grown man urinating on himself could be so satisfying.

Turning, Gered swung the door open and kicked over the water cooler in the hallway. Walking back out on the sales floor and heading for the entrance, he began to howl as loud as he possibly could, mocking all his co-workers with bulging eyeballs. He felt the warm satisfaction of making everyone extremely uncomfortable, customers running for the door, mouths agape. Now he knows not to waste precious time, never to go home in fear of what that may mean for his reality.

The Chaos escalated, people screamed and ran as Gered kicked over every water cooler on the way out. Faintly behind his ear, he heard a voice call out.

“Hey!... Nut-bag!”

Smiling with reverence in his recent moral victory Gered peered over his shoulder. Catching a glimpse of No Neck and a strange hint of black in the corner of his eye, time began to slow as he saw a flash as bright as the sun. He blinked when a clasp of thunder froze him in deafness, and hit the floor.