Prose Header


by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Chapter 1
'Error' synopsis

One day, Jonas, who has recently migrated to the city, discovers that all his records — including his assets — have been erased somehow. No longer able to get work, buy anything on credit or sell his now legally non-existent car, his life becomes a unique adventure.

Jonas lay in his bed, half asleep. He knew he had to wake up soon. It would be his first day at work. Showing up late is no way to make a first impression. He slowly opened his eyes and peered at his clock radio. It took his eyes a while to focus, but in a short time the clock became visible. The numbers on its bright red screen made Jonas’ heart jump: it was already 9:00 pm.

He was supposed to show up at work in... right now!

He jumped out of bed, pulled up his pants, grabbed his shirt and ran out of the bedroom. It seemed that his body had not completely woken up yet. He could barely feel his limbs as he ambled to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat.

Cheerios. Actually Jonas preferred oatmeal, but he didn’t have the time for it. Oatmeal had to boil for five minutes. That would mean he would be five more minutes late. The milk was on the table for some reason, but Jonas was too tired to think anything of it. He just poured the cereal into a bowl, put some milk on it, got a spoon and just started eating. The stuff tasted like cardboard. It is supposed to taste like that. Food that tastes like cardboard is the reason why sugar was invented.

Jonas tried to read the cereal box while chewing. It was all blurry at first, but as it cleared up, Jonas found that he couldn’t read it. He figured that some part of his brain must still have been asleep, keeping him from reading. Jonas didn’t even wonder how he would drive to work, but he was feeling somewhat better having started eating. He thought that perhaps he should have skipped breakfast, but dismissed the idea as down right stupid.

As Jonas sat at the table and was speedily munching on his cereal, he noticed a slight, yet steadily increasing draught in the kitchen. At first it didn’t bother him, but as it kept increasing, he got colder and it started to annoy him.

Where could this draught be coming from? Jonas looked at the window in front of him. It looked closed, but in his half-sleeping condition he could not be sure. He was phasing in and out, and he could not quite make out the shape of the window, whether it even could be opened or not. Frustrated, he decided to ignore it and check it out later, when he was both awake and had the time, when he came back home after work.

Yeah, why screw up your first day at work because of a draught? It was probably just the window anyway. It wouldn’t matter. It wasn’t like it would rain into his apartment or anything.

Jonas continued eating his cereal. But the draught continued still, and gained force at an ever increasing rate. Jonas first became really annoyed when the cereal box toppled over from the now steady gust of wind blowing over the kitchen table. Circular bits of food rolled around, many ending up on the floor. Jonas was too tired to be pissed off, but it was annoying.

He figured he’d just clean it up when he got back. As far as he knew, mice were not a problem in the apartment building. Not even present there, he imagined.

The draught continued.

Jonas was starting to get a nasty feeling about this. There was simply too much wind coming from nowhere. And his skin was starting to crawl; he was expecting an evil presence to be lurking behind his back. He had had this feeling before, when people would sneak behind his back with possibly devious purposes in mind. Sometimes they would poke him in the back. Sometimes they would yell.

Jonas couldn’t help himself longer, he felt oddly compelled to look at what was behind him. So he slowly turned in his chair, twisted his back, turned his head, all at the same time...

Jonas’ eyes grew wider as he beheld what was happening behind him: a vortex had formed in the air, sucking in all visible surroundings and the air. Reality itself seemed to be twisting into it as it grew ever larger behind him. It tugged at him and everything around him at an increasing force, like a small black hole. The cereal box blew past his head, spreading cereal around the vortex’ edges and was lost inside.

Stark fear grabbed Jonas as he beheld this phenomenon in his own kitchen. This was what caused the draught, then? Jonas did not wonder anymore, he just knew. He tried to stand up and run away from the vortex, but the tugging force had grown while he was staring at it. As he stood up, his chair was pulled into it, and Jonas could see it twist all out of shape, spiral away and be lost in the blackness now visible inside it as the vortex grew ever wider, ever blacker.

Soon everything cleared off the table and was sucked in. Jonas held on to the table for dear life. Why was the table not being sucked in? Jonas was only now wondering about this. It was his first week in the apartment. He had not yet fully explored all the amenities that came with it. Perhaps the table was bolted down?

It had better be bolted down. The vortex was now a gaping black hole into the endless nothing, and it was sucking him in feet first, the force still increasing. Jonas’ fingers were starting to sweat, making it increasingly difficult to hang on. All he could do now was despair. Why was this happening to him? Why did he get sucked into a vortex, but not someone who deserved it? Someone bad: someone who stole; someone who raped; someone who killed? Was this divine punishment? For what? Had he not been punished enough?

Jonas lost his grip on the table and disappeared into the void.

He saw his kitchen grow smaller has he fell back into the darkness. In a little time it was just a small dot of light in the distance. Everything around was black, empty. The wind calmed down as Jonas moved further into the darkness. Soon it was all calm. He no longer heard the sound of wind rushing at an infernal pace, no longer the sound of furniture being twisted into impossible shapes.

Jonas felt lucky to have been sucked in so late, he might have been crushed and twisted all out of shape; his guts could have mingled with his furniture and his TV. After a while it seemed to Jonas that perhaps he was not so lucky. Had he been crushed to death, he would not be floating around in this vast empty space, just waiting to starve. Madness would come first; it would creep in due to the loneliness of the free-floating in silence, the hopelessness of not being able to move within the space, and the realization that there was probably nowhere to move. It would be followed by hunger. It would dissipate after a day or two.

Jonas felt nothing. Not even the taste of cereal still stuck on his teeth. Now he would be late for work for sure. How would the boss feel? He would surely be fired, and that on the first day. There were many more applicants for the job.

Jonas started to laugh.

Here he was, swallowed up by an evil vortex, never to return, and he was lamenting the loss of income. By now the whole apartment had probably been sucked in. All the neighbours, their pets, children, cars, microwave ovens... in the end, the whole country, all would disappear into the void.

Or maybe it was just him. How about that? How unlucky could one man be? To be sucked into some space anomaly, hitherto unknown, and most likely forever in the future. Or maybe he was not alone. Maybe this is how all these people went missing every other year or so. They just got sucked into the void while alone. Just strolling about in the park, and then suddenly: suck! And you are stuck in a vortex, floating about in the endless nothing until you starve to death.

How come this never happened to people when they had company? Or did it? Jonas recalled the legend of the Marie Celeste. Had not everybody on board that ship disappeared under mysterious circumstances?

Jonas dismissed the thought. Someone would have witnessed something at some time. Maybe he was alone in here after all. Not that it mattered. But what would he eat? How would he propel himself toward food if he ever found any just floating around? Not that he expected a Big Mac to come floating toward him any time soon.

Agony: Jonas felt bad. He would have screamed, but somehow nothing came out. It was as if his ability to speak had been taken away from him. He had never been inside a black hole before, maybe it was normal. He did not know. If Steven Hawking happened to drift by, he could... just stare, now couldn’t he? How in bloody hell would he ask the guy who probably had all the theories when he couldn’t speak?

And what good would theories do? Knowing everything there is to know of electricity does not make a man impervious to electric shock, does it?

Trying to think logically again, Jonas closed his eyes. He might as well get some sleep while he was there. No reason to be awake for the whole trip, now? No. Sleep: somewhere to escape to. And perhaps dream. To dream he was doing something he would never do.

Jonas felt a new sense of peace and tranquillity steal upon him as he slowly fell asleep again. He felt warm again.

In sleep, time loses all meaning. Jonas did not know for how long he had been out, but that sudden noise was bothering him.

Tweet-tweet! Tweet-tweet! Tweet-tweet!

It cut his ears, this most annoying sound. Was this how he was to spend eternity? In a dark void full of high-pitched tweeting sounds?

Jonas slowly opened his eyes. A red glare before him informed him that the time was 7:30; time to get up.

The relief! It had only been a dream! And he would not be late for work either.

Jonas crept out of bed and put his pants on. He got some clean socks from a drawer, and put them on while he heated his porridge. He checked the kitchen window. It was locked. No cool draught could be perceived.

He poured some porridge in a bowl and started his meal. Every now and again, he would leer back to see if there was a vortex forming behind him. In a minute, he gave up on it and took a seat at the other end of the table. Now he would more easily see it if it formed.

Jonas tested the table. It wasn’t stuck to the floor like in his dream. It could in fact be moved about quite freely.

Just a dream...

Jonas stood up from the table after finishing his porridge, put the bowl in the sink and got his shirt on. He got on his shoes, his jacket, and before he went out, made sure his car-keys were in the pocket. There they were, on the same chain as the keys to the apartment.

Jonas opened the door, turned off the lights, and went out.

Proceed to Chapter 2...

Copyright © 2010 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

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