by Bill Bowler
|Chapter 12: The Warning|
Young Walter Wobble quits school to go out into the world and find the People. With no money or prospects, he works as a busboy while writing poetry and dreaming of success. Through his tenement window, he watches from afar a young woman who lives across the street until, one day, they meet. Unfortunately there is already another man in Cynthia’s life, a man Wobble knows: he is Josef Mrak, and he has some very bad karma.
I had been in my apartment, lost in thought, gazing at Mrak’s picture on the cover of Time magazine. Across the street, Cynthia’s apartment was dark. I had expected her hours ago.
I put a record on the turntable, turned the speakers off, and put on the headphones. I kept glancing out at Cynthia’s window, beginning to feel uneasy as it got later and later. Then, I thought I heard a noise through the headphone music, a noise from the outside world. I slid the phones off my ears and listened. Nothing but street sounds.
I put the phones back on but, a moment later, again, I thought I heard a noise. I slid the phones off again and listened, this time more intently. Still no unusual sounds. I opened the door and looked out into the hallway. Nothing.
I turned the album over and slid the phones back on. I sat in my chair by the window, keeping one eye on Cynthia’s apartment and the other on the clock, which was now ticking away my chances of seeing her that evening. I thought I heard some scraping sound again, but I paid no attention this time, reprimanding myself for my overactive imagination.
The play of shadows on the wall and the rhythm of the music were having a hypnotic effect. My thoughts began to drift and sway. I was losing contact with the world. Cynthia’s spirit and mine were joined, even as our bodies missed a date.
In my reverie, I failed to notice the one shadow which was out of place on my wall, the shadow which grew as its source approached. Perception of this alien shadow penetrated my consciousness, and I jumped up in alarm and spun to face Professor Mrak!
“Jesus Christ! What the hell are you doing in here?” I ripped off the headphones.
“Please excuse me for letting myself in. I knocked several times quite loudly and disturbed your neighbors. I was about to leave but I tried your door. It was unlocked. I glanced in and saw you were here.”
“You startled me.”
“I’m very sorry.”
“Well, it’s okay this time. Have a seat. You wanna beer?”
“No thank you.”
“Hey! Congratulations on your appointment!”
“You’re very kind.” Mrak paused. “I have come to see you about a very delicate situation. I am relying on your discretion. I hesitate even to bring it up, but it seems I have no choice. You understand.”
“It concerns a mutual acquaintance of ours.”
“Get to the point, Professor.”
“The point is, you must not see Cynthia again, for any reason. Any further contact or communication between you and her can only result, and I emphasize this, in serious and entirely avoidable problems with which neither of you is in any way prepared to deal.”
“Are you trying to threaten me?”
“Forget about her. Do not see her again. Responsibility for her welfare, and your own, lies entirely in your hands. Just walk away and no trouble will come of it.”
“Listen, Professor, maybe if you could just explain a couple of the details, I might have a better idea of what you’re talking about. Things can’t be as bad as you think. As for me and Cynthia, frankly, that’s none of your business.”
Mrak glared at me in disbelief. His face went blank, like a mask. He smiled a fake smile, turned and left.
I was totally depressed by his visit. I had a premonition of imminent disaster.
Copyright © 2009 by Bill Bowler