Man Falls Down by Eric Arvin



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Marcus wakes up in a surreal state of urgency and foreboding. Something is wrong, yet he can't perceive exactly what. As he makes his way through the morning getting ready for work, little things begin to add up like clues to a horrible truth that awaits him. Will the dream hold up or fall? Will life? A short work of surreal literature from our experimental line The Lab.

Excerpt:

That morning Marcus felt as if he were in a freefall. He had been feeling off-balance all week, what with the break-up, but it was more peculiar today. When he got out of bed he immediately took a dive to the floor. Things just shook, his legs collapsed beneath him, and he fell. He was still falling. And there was nothing to catch hold of because everything around him was grey and formless. It was like despair. It choked him.

“Maybe,” he thought, “I’ve finally cracked. Maybe the strain of the past few months has finally caused me to snap.”

Everything was so loud. Everything was so suffocating.

He had a dream last night, it woke him drenched in sweat, and he was falling in that too. Luke was falling beside him for a bit, but then he disappeared. He had a parachute, you see. Luke was always the thinker. He would bring a parachute to a dream. But the look on his face before he was lifted to higher air, it was like he didn’t really want to leave Marcus’s side. Marcus woke from the dream before he himself hit the ground. But it wasn’t the falling that had shaken him. It was the expression on Luke’s face. That same expression he had worn when last Marcus had seen him as the taxi pulled away with Luke and his suitcase inside.

“I’ll come back for the rest later,” he had said. Those were the only words spoken. That had seemed like a dream too. A moment just as surreal as this morning.

Marcus pulled himself up and sat on the bed again. He felt beside him on Luke’s half of the mattress, as if Luke would suddenly reappear, called by a phantom caress. He sighed and let the cold wood floor of his bedroom be a comfort to the soles of his feet. He sat there for a moment, still rattled a bit by the dream. His head was swimming.

Sounds were muffled. Was he getting a head cold?

The morning didn’t feel right. And the air conditioner was whining something fierce. Luke had asked him to get that clunky thing fixed on numerous occasions, but it hadn’t truly bothered Marcus that much so he kept forgetting about it. But now it was bothering him. It sounded louder than ever before. The whine was like a siren, a small toy siren.

Marcus had a toy fire truck when he was younger. It had a siren and flashed its red lights when you rolled it around. Strange that he would think of that now. He hadn’t thought of that toy in years.

Usually a shower woke him up in the morning, but it did nothing today. He scalded himself with the water on purpose. You are never so alive than in moments of extreme pleasure or pain. And there was certainly no pleasure here. The room was a bath of steam when he got out. He couldn’t see through it. Kind of like now. Kind of like how he couldn’t see through the smoke now.

Smoke?

When he got out of the shower the A/C was whining again. He heard it through the steam, though it was muffled a bit. His mind was elsewhere. There was so much going on. So many confusing things. His mind was a hazy mess, like the steam or the smoke.

The whining reminded him of the fire trucks he could see from his office. He was on one of the top floors and could look down and see the busy streets. There was always something burning in this city. A place this big was bound to have an emergency every minute of the day. Fire trucks and patrol cars passed under his office window routinely, sirens blaring. This day had been no different. In fact, it had been especially busy. They seemed even louder than usual. But he wasn’t yet at work, was he? No. He was home preparing to head to work. So how could he know how busy the streets below his office were? Strange. Maybe he was coming down with something.

He looked at the clock, the one Luke bought that was shaped like a melting Dali watch and was always crooked. Luke informed him he hadn’t hung it right, but he couldn’t seem to correct it no matter how he tried. (“Luke, it’s a Dali. It’s meant to be crooked!”)

He would be late for work. The thought put a little acid in his heart. He hurried to get dressed and grabbed a bagel, but somehow he knew the financial district would survive if he didn’t show up. People don’t show up for work every day, and the city—the whole world—goes on fine without them. There’s a moment of wondering Where’s he at, but then it’s over and things go round and round. That’s how the world gets you. It keeps going round until you’re too dizzy to care or even think. Bad things, good things, they all fade into the same mist. They all become fodder for anecdotes and jokes on late-night TV, no matter how wonderful or wretched.

Marcus opened the door and bent to get the paper. The bagel was in his mouth, between his teeth. The urge was to chomp it right in half. It would relieve some tension. But he resisted.

MAN FALLS DOWN

That was the story on the front cover. Big black letters as tall as buildings. There was something familiar about the photo…something… But his eyes acted up so he couldn’t make out the image. He needed a new prescription. Luke had made him four different appointments with the eye doctor, but he had missed each and every one.

“I see fine,” he said. “I see just fine.”

His head was spinning. Swimming. Falling.

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