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Writer's are always redefining words. Now I'm going to have to think twice about that little bit of something swirling around in my drink...





Gary J Beharry


     Same cane, same shades, same build. He looked up at the sun and then I knew I was wrong but right at the same time.


     "Do you know what they are?" I asked as I approached. Each step closer formed a clearer image of his new destination in my mind. I matched his vibrations, trying to make his mind calmer and his focus clearer.


     "I think so, but how?" A pigeon flew between us, cooing a response.


     "Are you ready?" I asked and sensed his destination fading.


     "I'm afraid."


     "Of?" I compensated the fading by clearing the path, like a custodian brushing debris from a hallway. The circle returned, larger and more defined.


     "Staying here . . . going there."


     "In the end, it's your choice. It has always been your choice. Do you have any loose ends?"


     He removed his shades and looked at me. His eyes turned to steel and his face tightened.


"No one knows I exist here." Anger may not be the best emotion, but it is certainly the strongest. 


     He was ready.


     "Relax, let yourself -- feel. Leave everything behind."


     He continued staring at me. "You're not coming with me." It was not a question. "I've heard a lot about you since -- since I changed. I feel like I know you but at the same time I don't -- you know?" He sighed. "Isn't that always how it is? I have to tell you, you're not what I expected." Everyone says that of me.


     His eyes focused on it and he uttered his last words here, "I hope you find who you're looking for." I turned my back, for I did not want to draw attention. I heard no sound, no aperture opening, no whooshing -- just finality.


     How many times had I been back here? Enough to be recognized by those who could see. It was not my desire to become some kind of beacon, teacher, or dare I say hero, but I gladly took on the role after my awakening. Deep down, I knew I was doing good, that this had to be done. Yet, I still had not found him: the one who freed me, the one I owed everything to . . .



     "Drew, didn't you hear me? How many hours do we have left on the project?"




     I looked up. My boss was staring at me, make that frowning at me. My coworkers seated at the conference table had their heads lowered, busy shuffling papers, feigning writing notes, anything to avoid eye contact with me.


     "Thirty-two hours, Mr. Bell," I lied.


     "Everyone, I'd like a minute alone with Drew," Mr. Bell said in his Don't-End-Up-Like-Him fatherly voice. As one, my coworkers leapt out of their seats and bolted from the room.


     I knew what was coming and frankly I didn't care. Nine years with the damned company. I started out as an administrative assistant and graduated to office manager. Whoop-de-doo. But I had no one to blame but myself, for I had become a creature of habit.


     As I was cleaning out my desk the sun broke free from the clouds; light filtered through the grimy windows and hit my computer screen. There they were again: the reason behind me losing my job, the reason behind my sleepless nights, and worst of all, the reason behind the break in my comfortable routine. I had built my whole life knowing exactly what was going to happen day in and day out. Now, these things put a kibosh on --everything I had attached myself to in this life.


     My online search gave me their name: spots, specks, floaters -- bits of cellular debris suspended in the eye. Supposedly, they cast shadows over the retina and when you gaze upon a white background, or the sun, you can see them clearly.     


     It started with just one. I was watching Three's Company (reruns are always safer than new shows because you can predict what will happen; it's like you're controlling it) when I saw the first one. It traveled down John Ritter's body as he banged his head against a door.  However, one turned into two, then three and pretty soon John Ritter started to look like Wile E. Coyote (Super Genius!) after the Acme anvil bonk, bonked, bonked him on the head.


     At first I tried to ignore them and forced myself to continue with my habits. Losing my job didn't mean losing my whole routine for instead of answering surly vendors at work, I answered the telemarketers at home; instead of project budgeting at work, I tried to figure out how much I could stretch my unemployment check at home. But the spots kept getting worse, now taking on colors: greens, browns, whites and blues flickered before my eyes like a sixties acid-tripping movie scene.  


     Finally, my hypochondria got the better of me and a Google search revealed the spots could be the first symptom of a detached retina. I was surprised to find the ophthalmologist referenced on the website in my limited HMO approved doctors list. I had nothing to lose (I soon realized how correct this statement was).




    "Were you vaccinated as a child?" Dr. Schiavo asked as he dropped the Cyclopentolate hydrochloride, a.k.a. dilating solution, in my eyes. (We're led to believe the dilating solution is a muscle relaxant so the doctor can see further into your eye. Now I know better. Do not let them use this or any chemical you have no knowledge of. It is mixed with a suppresser, just like most drugs.) Dr. Schiavo stretched my upper eyelid with his thumb, and then bent down with an odd looking monocular. Immediately he stiffened; sweat began to settle in the creases of his forehead.


     He told me exactly what I had read online but said he could help me. He used a key to open up a wall medicine cabinet and pulled out a small bottle. "These vitamins will help flush the cellular debris out. Soon you won't even notice the spots," he said, forcing a thin lipped grin. His entire body trembled as he dropped the bottle in my hands, but I just figured it was because he was old. (Mistake number two.) "Take two of these as soon as you get home and then two each day thereafter," he said eyeing me up and down. 


     I immediately went home and when I opened my apartment door, Centauri, my Calico, rubbed against my feet, as always. I dropped the pills and they scattered across the ceramic tile. Centauri dove for them thinking it was a game. She flicked one around the hall with her paws and I turned just as she scooped one into her mouth. I gathered up the rest as best I could and put them back in the bottle. I left two in my hand and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water.


     The pitcher crashed to the ground; ice and water flowed toward the sound that forced me to drop it: Centauri was hacking uncontrollably, white foam sprayed from her nose and she keeled over. Her body twitched once . . . twice . . .


     "Centauri!" I screamed as I ran toward her.


     Her body lay still.


     I ran to the phone to call the vet when I heard my doorknob turning. Sunlight beamed through the window and I could see the spots against the wall. They were shaking something terrible, like they were scared for me.


     My stomach knotted.


     I dove into the closet and shimmied into the empty "Thursday" clothes space just as my front door opened all the way. Through the doorframe crack I saw Dr. Schiavo, wearing latex gloves, enter my apartment. He stooped down, touched Centauri's mouth, and then brought the tip of his finger to his own nose. He sniffed, and then winced.


     The doctor wheezed as he stood up, and steadied his pear-shaped body by leaning against the doorframe. Sweat dripped down and over his chubby cheeks. His eyes scanned the apartment and he took a step forward. The floorboards groaned with each step. My heart, already racing like a thoroughbred on the last furlong, almost sprang out of my chest when, suddenly, the doctor began to ring. Dr. Schiavo reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellular.


     "Hello. I dunno. The cat ate one, that's for sure." The words were rushed, his voice -- hushed.


     More back and forth banter, but I couldn't hear anything specific, like grownups talking on the Peanuts cartoons -- which I religiously watched every Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.


     "I was just about to. Listen, it's not my fault he wasn't inoculated," Dr. Schiavo said.


     More Charlie Brown talk on the other end, but much louder, much angrier.


     "I'm a doctor for Christ's sake! Yes, I was trained. Yes, I know the repercussions. All right," Dr. Schiavo stammered.


     He flipped the phone closed, put it back in his jacket and replaced it with -- a gun. No, not a "kill you" gun; it was a tranquilizer gun: "Get Info and Kill You Later Gun."    


     I clutched and massaged my chest, trying to calm my heart. I shut my eyes and they were there. The spots had gathered toward the left. Some had changed color, like glass marbles with green and brown filler. I opened my eyes and focused to the left: the bathroom window.


     As I gathered my courage to run, the floor cried out right next to me. I risked a look through the crack and saw Dr. Schiavo, inches away, staring right at me. "Hey, what are you doing?" a croney voice called from the hallway. Good old Mrs. Epstein. For once I was glad for nosy neighbors. As Dr. Schiavo turned toward her I bolted from the closet to the bathroom and shoved the screen up. I dove out the window, thanking God I opted for the convenience of not taking an elevator over having a great view; the second floor never seemed as sweet as I landed on the slick grass below.


     Without looking back I ran all the way to the train station, a good mile away. The sun was setting on a partly cloudy night and a gentle breeze cooled my sweaty skin as I reached the entrance to the F train. I concentrated on the setting sun as the spots coalesced at the bottom of my eye.


     This was crazy. What were these things? How could they be directing me? Do I trust them?


     A police siren blasted away my thoughts. Around my hood, that wasn't unusual, but I didn't want to take any chances. Okay, uptown or downtown, I thought as I zipped through the subway turnstile. I concentrated on the fluorescent lights above and my friendly neighborhood spots had formed an outline of a down arrow.


     I hopped on the downtown train and grabbed a seat -- next to a drunken old man but a seat nonetheless. What was happening to me? What were these spots dancing around in my field of vision -- like they were jonesing for crack -- giving me directions to where? I checked my watch -- habit; I should be at home, sitting in front of the television -- Must See TV -- with a bag of chips in my lap.


     The train stopped at 42nd Street and an overworked, overweight, and underpaid train operator waved his flashlight back and forth along the supersaturated platform. Grand Central: I lived in New York City for fifteen years and my routine never allowed me to get off here. One of the operator's flashlight swipes caught my field of vision and the spots danced like crazy. It was like I had 3D glasses on and they were pointing away from me. I jumped out of the train right before the doors closed.


     I walked out of the train station and cursed the sleeping sun. I wanted to keep moving but became bottlenecked at a gathering crowd huddled outside one of those electronic stores with no real name -- anyone from New York knows what I'm talking about; they dot every corner around midtown. All the televisions displayed in the window were tuned to the same channel. I tried to get closer when a stabbing head pain stopped me dead. I caressed my temples, and though the pain remained, my head throbbed less. I tried to push through the crowd but in the end I just jumped up and down, managing to catch the gist of the "breaking news."


     "To repeat, if you have seen this man, do not approach him. He is a wanted criminal, armed and dangerous. If you have any information, please call . . ."


       I'd seen enough. "Fair and Balanced Reporting" my behind. They had gotten hold of my tenth grade class picture: acne and all. I donned my hood and before I turned away, the spots "told" me to go left. I began walking, running actually, and the headache subsided.


     If things hadn't gotten weird before, they were certainly number eleven on the weirdometer scale now. Wanted criminal? Who were they kidding? I even overpaid my taxes every year.


     Police sirens woo-wooed closer and closer. Had the whole NYPD taken up the manhunt? I got off Lexington Avenue and walked down a side street. I stood underneath a lamppost to see what my "friends" had to say. They were all I had right now.


     They led me left, then right, then a little further downtown. Suddenly, they disappeared as my eyes focused on a building across the street. It was smaller than the surrounding buildings: a dilapidated once white structure held together by the pressing of the buildings on either side rather than any foundation or cracking mortar between the bricks.


      Red and blue lights flashed on the street and I turned as a cop car sped by. Well, it wasn't like I had a choice. I ran across the street, up the steps, and scanned the directory of nine apartments. Which one? A car crawled by with its high beams on and for a moment my friends were there again. That's all I needed. I buzzed number two, no name.


      Sirens, though a few streets away, screamed in my ears, then dissipated -- only to be replaced by a slow yet deliberate squealing . . . much, much closer. An old woman pushing an uneven cart up the sidewalk stopped in front of the building. The migraines punished me again, the pain shoving its way to the side of my head, like a tumor looking for a place to set down for the night.


     I squinted at the old woman. She dipped her head into her matted coat and spittle bubbled on her collar as she spoke in hushed tones.


     "Eh?" the intercom asked.

     My attention diverted back to the building and I said, "Um, Sir. You don't know me, but --" 


     "You can see," is all he said. Before I could answer, the intercom buzzed and I opened the door. I took one last look behind and shuddered; the old woman and her "magical listening coat" had gone.


     The second floor hallway was dimly lit so my friends couldn't help me at the moment. Strangely, I didn't feel scared. Pulsing amber light escaped into the hallway from an open door. The light bathed the otherwise dingy passageway; and every pulse warmed my body and aroused my senses.


    I entered the light.


    My first impression: Feng Shui mixed with minimalism. A futon lay in the corner of the room, a chair next to it, and a bookcase, brimming with old tomes (thick and hardcover with tiny bumps on the binders) set against the wall.


     However, I only glanced at these "possessions"; it was the light that entranced me. The illumination emanated from behind the bookcase, seeping out the sides and top, enveloping the entire room. With each bright pulse the spots throbbed, as if they were nearing a climax. They vibrated and danced, preparing to do something -- extraordinary.


     One of the spots in my field of vision expanded, like a balloon filling with helium. The outer edges vibrated and with each throb, the other spots moved, or were pushed away, out of my sight. I reached out into my field of vision and felt resistance. I focused and saw . . . him.


     "Ah!" I screamed.


     "Sorry for scaring you, young man. I had to be sure," he solemnly said. Dark Ray Charles shades covered his eyes, but through his rough skin, I sensed a kindness marred by a difficult and tragic life. Bald, skinny, and haggard, he was propped up on a silver cane, his entire being focused on me.


     "It's been some time. It does my heart good to see this world isn't closed," he said.


     I found myself mouthing words, but I honestly don't remember what I said. The only thing I remember was him breaking down, shivering and crying. He fell against me.


      I pulled myself together and held him. "Take it easy there," I said as I patted his back.


      The old man recovered and said, "I take it those sirens are for you?" I nodded as he caned his way to his seat. I helped him sit down in his chair and did the same on the floor in front of the bookcase. I passed my fingers down the binder of a thick book, and then once again gazed at the stranger's obsidian glasses. I was the deer and the headlights were coming towards me. The spot now circled in a furious frenzy.


      He said, "The light. Nothing spectacular, just a test they left for me. It makes it easier for the transition. I knew you were coming. It had been dark for so long and then the pulsing returned. The light breathed once again. They say there may come a time when the test won't be needed; there will be someone to help with the transition, someone to go to them instead of them coming here." His head turned to the bookcase. "Have you figured it out yet?" His voice trailed off.


     I shook my head.


     The spots spiraled with a fierce passion. The old man slammed his cane into the ground and said, "We haven't much time. They are getting closer, and they will like nothing better than to stop us."


     "Stop what?"


     "Just listen, Drew."


     "How do you know my name?"


     "Knowledge is timeless. That is the first thing you must learn. If you've made it this far, then they believe in you. They trust you and that's good enough for me. I am getting old." As if on queue, he coughed, one of those death rattles. Instinctively, I got up to get some water but he waved me down with his cane.


     "Don't make the same mistake I did. I never got to see it for myself. I feared the unknown. I had my life, had my job, my Lydia and Danny. And even when they were taken from me, I wanted to stay." He paused. "They called me and I wanted to stay. They gave me another chance and, still, I chose to stay." Another pause, perhaps waiting for the words to sink in, like I was drowning in quicksand and could grab the rope -- life, or stasis, do nothing, go limp . . . "Don't you see? Habit has become our prison. How many of us go out of our way to do something different each day? Once we get into a habit, that is where we remain. But there is more, much more. Where we are, who we are. The void." His voice cracked.


     The lights grew dimmer and the spots diminished, as if they were feeling his pain.


     "They called upon me one last time and I refused. Whether I was punishing myself or still a slave I don't know. Fear, it could have been fear." He slowly nodded. "But I devoted what life I had left to helping others find the way. It has been so long since someone has come. They have succeeded in suppressing the knowledge, our natural born abilities. But I feel something in you. You're stronger than the others."


     I was hearing his words but my eyes were drooping, the pulsing hypnotized me.


     Knowledge is timeless. Habit. The Void. Spots.




     I opened my eyes to red, like someone had sliced open the amber light spilling its blood across every inch of the room. Red, then blue, then more sirens. Footsteps -- a million of them from the sound of it -- pounded outside. I rose up, the migraines now worse.


     Explosion! The door burst open, smoke and splinters poured into the room. I coughed and tried to see through tear-stained eyes. "Schiavo," the old man said turning up his nose.


"I thought that was your stench I smelled."


     "Ah, Nicholas. I should have known," Dr. Schiavo said, advancing through the smoke while reaching into his pocket.


     "Damn you, Schiavo. You took my wife and son from me. You should not have come here."


     There they were again; the spots grew and began to change color. They turned a feint bluish-green and solidified. At first it interfered with my sight, but when I saw movement from Dr. Schiavo's pocket, they all coalesced into one: a three dimensional circle with brown, green, and blue -- a deep, ocean blue . . . and then I knew.


     I grabbed the old man but he pulled away. "No, Drew," he said roughly. "I must finish this," and he took off his glasses. The shock of seeing hollow eye sockets forced bile up my throat. The spot disappeared momentarily.


     Dr. Schiavo made a tsking noise and said, "Nicholas, you know it was for the best. Those who see can't be allowed to see."


     "What is it that this world is afraid of? There is so much more to see, to do," Nicholas said.


     "Come, Nicholas, we both know if people were given a choice, this world would be empty. There is too much at stake." Schiavo sighed. His body slumped and his face sagged, as if his words weighed him down. "The powers that be will not let that happen. They cannot, will not lose what they have attained. It is a delicate balance, and they will not give it up."


     "You speak of 'they'!" Nicholas spat. "Aren't you included in that group? Who are you fooling Markus? What have you gotten out of it?" Nicholas stood on his own now, as if his words balanced him, uplifted him.


     "I'll admit I was seduced. My family. My status. I can't give up what I have. It is who I am." Schiavo's words confirmed his mission and he raised the tranquilizer gun.


     Nicholas screamed as he dove towards Schiavo's voice. I tried to grab hold of the old man but he had found some inner strength; maybe it was held in check from the death of his wife and son and now facing the cause of that death forced a hidden power to erupt. His body slammed into Schiavo and the tranquilizer gun fell from the doctor's hands. The cops heard the commotion outside and rushed in.


     I hesitated and then motioned toward Nicholas. He stared at me with his hollow eyes and said, "Nay, Drew. Go, learn all you can. Tell them there are still others here. Too long this world has been suffering. Too long have we waited for someone like you. Don't make the same mistake I did. Take my place and free this world."


     Something in me snapped and I wanted to help Nicholas but the throng of police officers formed a barrier between us. The spot slammed into my field of vision and focused on me.


     "No, he's going to go!" Schiavo screamed. "Stop him!"


     I let myself go limp and allowed the spot to take over. I heard gunshots and reached out to the white, then blue, past the green; I smelled pine, wet leaves, and welcomed the cool breeze as I entered the unknown and left my old habits behind, yet knowing I would return to free others, to break them from their habits if they were willing to experience the splendor of the universe.


     I was now a Floater.