He stopped, mid sentence, knowing completely what he had been looking for his whole life. It wasn’t love or companionship, having or not. It wasn’t his sense of being, or knowing, or privacy, or lust. It wasn’t feeling welcome, or home, or having fancy things. It was what he had always taken for granted while it was slowly being drained away. It was plain and simple and absolute; Joy.
After another long day of disgruntled employees and angry customers, Charlie wanted nothing more than to sink into his very old, acquired couch and dive into some nondescript video streaming. Unfortunately, upon arriving in his living room, the couch had somehow vanished. Charlie was more confused than worried at his loss.
A little history on the acquisition of the couch: it had appeared the morning after Charlie moved into his new place, lodged vertically between his bedroom and the living room. After an almost fruitless struggle, he had managed to position it right side up and paralleled to his tv. Figuring no one with sinister intentions would bother smuggling a couch into a strangers apartment, Charlie took full advantage of his antique resting place.
Charlie had become rather found of his old couch. Although not pleasing to the eye, it’s comfort surpassed all expectation. So, like losing a beloved pet, he hit the pavement. Charlie didn’t really know where to start looking for a couch, so he just walked. He also didn’t know if he should call for it, so he didn’t. He did, however, ask all who he passed if they had seen his couch, which made him feel slightly awkward.
Charlie eventually found it at the intersection of Main and 1st. Once a busy intersection, it was rarely used due to a failed attempt at making it more pedestrian friendly. The local municipality decided it was a good idea to extend the cross walk to a cross square, encompassing the entire intersection for a good 5 minutes; it was not. Everyone (especially pedestrians) made this point very clear. Most avoided it at all cost as a silent protest.
As Charlie stood on the corner, waiting for the walking man, he noticed that the traffic lights were green in all directions. A definite problem for even a modestly busy intersection, but due to the silent protest he wasn’t too worried. What happened next seemed to flash before Charlie’s eyes: 4 identical cars driving at a blinding speed drove head first into Charlie’s beloved couch.
All that was left after the fire and smoke was 4 identical men, 7 tires, and a couch sized burn mark on the pavement. The men, appearing to be inexplicably unscathed, began arguing over who was at fault while Charlie tried to comprehend his loss. Figuring the 4 men could witness themselves, and not wanting to get wrapped in another lengthy insurance investigation, he left.
Mr. Johnson sat at his desk eager for someone to open his squeaky door. It had been a rather boring day and the thought of a young intern or, better yet, a valued employee disturbing his taskless day with a meaningless problem was irresistible.
It was Johnson’s job to fix problems, both before and after they happened. He did this quite effectively; which was subsequently reflected in his pay. These problems were fixed by first yelling, then screaming, followed closely behind by unforgivable name calling. Once the initial verbal assault was over, he would get to work and find the best solution.
Johnson figured that by instilling fear on all entering his room, no one would make mistakes in the first place. So, borrowing from Pavlov, he never oiled the door. Every time his underlings heard the squeak they would work like meticulous animals in hopes not to be the next prey. He was, of course, entirely correct with his theory and the door had been an effective tool.
Which is why Johnson sat alone and bored at his desk.
Susan finished pouring herself a cup of coffee when she heard a knock at the door. She opened it to find a smartly dressed police officer standing at attention.
“Susan O’Harrison?” he asked in his most polite yet official voice.
“I’m going to need you to come with me. Your husband has been involved in an accident. We need you to come claim him.”
“He’s dead?” Susan gasped.
“No, he’s fine.”
“Then why do I need to claim him?” She asked. “And why do I need to “claim him”? Why didn’t you just drop him off?”
“That’s kind of the problem. You see, we don’t really know how the accident happened. It’s just… inconceivable. All four cars, or at least we think there were four, have somewhat disintegrated. We only think there were four from the four people who are all claiming to have driven. That and we found seven tires.”
“Are the other drivers ok?
“Yes, like we said he’s fine.”
“I know about my husband,” Susan replied, “I meant the other drivers.”
“Well, that’s what makes this… inconceivable. They were all your husband.”
Susan took a sip of her coffee, wondering how rude it would be to just go back to her paper. She figured this was another one of her husband’s sick jokes.
“I realize you probably don’t believe me. Trust me, I didn’t believe it either. But they are all your husband. Same look, same clothes, same identification. We were just hoping you could come down and see for yourself. Maybe you can find the real one, and if not… just take one off our hands.”
Susan grabbed her purse and her mug and hopped into the front seat of the police cruiser. They drove in relative silence to the crash. It was there Susan was forced to believe the cop. Four men, who looked exactly like her husband, stood around what appeared to be sofa sized burn mark on the road.
Susan realized this was not going to be easy, nor end quickly. She looked over at the officer.
“Do you have any donuts?”
Charlie was woken by his cat, Percy, pawing at his face. “I’m up! I’m up!” he intoned as he blocked the furry blows. Charlie wanted to be annoyed, but found Percy comforting and slightly less annoying than his alarm. He slid into his cool slippers and stumbled to the kitchen for his normal morning routine; make tea, wonder what’s for breakfast, be reminded his companion is hungry, feed his companion, start on his own meal.
On the way to feed his cat, Charlie glanced at a photo stuck to the side of his fridge. It was of him, smiling, with his arm around a woman: his ex-fiance. It had been over two years since they decided to call off the wedding. He had removed all other reminders of his failed relationship but this one, it was the first photo taken of the two of them. Charlie came close to removing it from time to time, but this photo seemed to lack the misery of his loss. He found it oddly comforting.
Charlie opened the fridge and peered inside. While his fiance had lived with him he would often find little treats hidden away, some left overs from a dinner date or sometimes a piece of cake she snagged from work. Today, it’s contents were exactly as they were from the previous morning, which disappointed Charlie to some degree. He grabbed some yogurt and poured himself a cup of tea.
“Let’s keep today simple, ok kitty?” he directed to his feline companion. Percy glanced in his direction before licking his paws and trotting away. After briefly contemplating whether his cat could understand him, Charlie gazed at the sun dancing off the snow covered city. Filled with nostalgia he sipped his tea. She always loved it when it snowed.
Frank stood at the space-time transport door armed with a suit, pen, and a brown leather briefcase. Confident in his ability to again defend his client, he stepped through the open door. Finally justice could be served at any time; though this wasn’t the inventor’s original plan.
Originally the transporter had been developed to deliver mail. The idea was sound. Mailmen could put a package through the open door, or portal if you wish, and it would appear at the desired location at the inputed time. For example, if you wanted to deliver a chocolate bar to yourself last week when you really craved one, you would simply post the chocolate with the date, location, and time. Moments later you’d find the empty wrapper in your trash, while somehow feeling out of breath.
Sadly, this didn’t fix the mail problem. Mail was still always late, if it even arrived at all; usually by no less than 10 years. To the mailmen’s defence, there was simply more places for the mail to be misplaced and more time to lose it in.
Simon, the inventor, was forced to find a new backer for his revolutionary (though poorly used) machines, which lead him to the anthropology department of the local university. He felt this new home was a close second to the post office.
It allowed anthropologists to study ancient civilizations with almost 100% accuracy. A great idea, but one that backfired almost immediately. Simon quickly found that it was these educated, liberal and highly opinionated people getting involved in past disputes, opposed to just viewing them. To this day he believes that major events, such as the French Revolution, was caused by this unruly bunch. He was left with no choice but to retract his regretful invention.
Finally, realizing his machine could bring no good to society, Simon reluctantly sold his machines to lawyers. Once purchased, lawyers saw a chance to right the wrongs of unjust cases, bringing more evidence to the table. More importantly (and what actually happened) they saw an opportunity to make a healthy living fighting the exact same case; thus minimizing the amount of preparation. Although unliked by Simon, this final use seemed to leave the world relatively unchanged. The only noticeable difference was that there were less lawyers from 9-5, which made everyone slightly happier.