The plain cake square sits before me on the desk and speaks.
“Ryan,” it says. “Eat me.”
And what if I don’t, I ponder.
Refracting my thoughts, the plain cake square says, “Consider the alternative. Flat, expansive, empty, yawning vacuum.”
Absent, what, I wonder mutely.
“You know. You’ve always been aware, even though your senses are tuned to a lower frequency than you may believe, like a bat with a haywire radar. You can still feel the hum, even if you can’t hear it,” the cake says. “I know. I know. I know I know I KNOW!!! I saw Queenie in the hall outside of the women’s restroom taking an ungodly amount of gumballs from the vending machine and she knew that I know. Her large, shark-like teeth gnawed the wad in time with some vague Electric Light Orchestra song that you heard in your head in that gray borderland between wake and sleep, with lightning crackling like an electronic Muppet in the middle distance.
A gumball drops. “Tink!”
“The busy, buzzy drones at the front desk know. They know too! They only seem as if they are animated shells operating within the vacuous vacuum of the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy laden with alive but dead carrion. The bureaucracy a great tomb of damned souls crying over the eternity of lost thought and action in the expanse of time, their waling chorus like a dirge to the fallen and bleeding parents in war-torn countries in Europe that will never know a safe space.
A gumball drops. “Kla-tink!”
“So much time! So little time! Time to consider. Time to plan. Time to try to sleep, only to lightly doze with the shadow of looming nightmares over the snow-covered horizon. Nightmares that lumber and clumber like a coming juggernaut. Nightmares of an arpeggio of cries…sobs…laments of the unsaid. A night flight of echoing refrains.
“Time enough at last! Isn’t that what Burgess Meredith once said before he was The Penguin? Before he was Rocky’s doomed coach? Time enough at last! I whisper to you. I implore you. I beseech you! I shriek at you like your psycho neighbor who doesn’t believe that black lives matter. I howl like the werewolf in the closet of the house in Cypress Canyon. TIME ENOUGH AT LAST!!! Time enough to make sense of the hum. Of the dirge. Of the cacophony of Kafka. Truths whirl and flail in truly arabesque fashion when they are truly truths.
“I tried to warn you! When you stole the Fisher Price plastic apple from Shane’s office, I tried to warn you. I jingled and tingled and sing-songled at you behind a thousand warnings and you shunned them like a classist clam shuns an oyster…”
You mean, shucks…
“DO NOT PRESUME TO TELL ME WHAT I MEAN!!! I tried to warn you, but you left the musical apple somewhere in the catacombs of Denver. The yawning, gnawing maw of Denver. That is your oversight. That was your failure!
Be cool, Cal. I know.”
“There’s a gumball on the floor. You wanna pick it up. Queenie not here to direct your hand.”
My throat feels as if it is coated with caramelized sugar. I…I…can’t accept it.
“Well then… There’s always frosting.”
The plain cake square flicks its tail, shakes its ears and slinks from the room in search of more springy, sinewy prey, leaving nary a tell-tale crumb in its wake.