Howdy all. Miss candyforbreakfast kindly provided the first one liner. Technically two but close enough 🙂 Her lines at the beginning of the story in bold. I continued on and built the rest of the story from there. Hope you enjoy. Cheers.
Title – 4 O’Clock
The bright sunshine streaming through her bedroom window warmed her face and appeared red through her closed eyelids, forcing her further away from her already half-forgotten dream. The phone, cradled in its dock on the nightstand read 4:00 a.m.….
She looked around the room rubbing sleep out of her eyes. Did someone call me she wondered? No hint from the phone. She stood up, walked to the window and yanked it open. ‘Damn it’s cold in here. Wonder if Ted cranked down the air con again.’ She shivered in her T-shirt and undies, muttering “we are going to have a talk once and for all about that air conditioner. I’m sick and tired of living in a meat locker. This is ridiculous!” Where is he anyway? What was he doing out of bed at 4:00 a.m.? What am I doing out of bed at 4:00 a.m. for that matter?
Dragging the blanket off the bed to snuggle in she headed to the kitchen to make coffee. Softly singing to herself “Sunshine came softly through my a-window today, Could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve a-changed my ways.” Suddenly she stopped dead in in her tracks hard, as if slamming on the brakes. She looked out the kitchen window and shook her head. Rubbing what she saw out of her out of her eyes she looked again. The sunshine was coming softly through the window…at 4:00 a.m. “Uh, what the hell is going on?” she asked the kitchen.
She scurried into the living room and looked out the window again, expecting to somehow see something different, but it was the same. No, not exactly the same, there were patches of snow on the ground. SNOW? She flopped down on the sofa hard as if someone punched the air out of her lungs. Grasping for something that made sense she decided to start over and went back in the bedroom and sat on the bed shivering, but not from the cold.
“Maybe I’m still asleep.” Her voice sounded loud in the empty room and she let out a startled squeak. She pinched herself on the arm. “OWW, dammit that hurt! ….OK, if I felt pain does this mean I’m awake?” Isn’t pinching the proscribed remedy for waking from a bad dream? ‘Eureka, there’s a simple explanation for this. I slept all day and it’s afternoon. That explains it.’ Feeling relieved and a little silly, she scrambled for her phone and pulled it off the stand to check the time. Nope, it is 4:00 a.m. not 4:00 p.m. Well, so much for that theory and what about the snow? And what the hell is that smell?
She wrinkled her nose and looked around the room again. Took a deep breath and started rocking, holding herself as if comforting a frightened child. After a few minutes she jumped up and announced “OK, my weird krap-O-meter is officially in the red.” Not knowing what else to do for the moment she thrashed and slammed around in the closet, whispering profanities under her breath, and finally ended up in a pair of jeans and sweat shirt with the words “Just Do It” on the front. Further hunting yielded a pair of boots and socks.
She walked into the bathroom just to look at her face. Maybe the mirror would have a clue. The smell was stronger in there. She looked around and her eyes landed on a cat litter box. A label on the side proclaimed Clever Cat. She looked in it and thought ‘ah, the usual collection of cat turds.’ No designer litter in the world really covered up that truly unique stench. Nothing so special except…she didn’t have a cat.
Deciding to go for a walk, she shoved her phone in her back pocket. She tromped out the kitchen door and fell off the porch. She landed on her belly with a grunt. Staring into the gravel she briefly wondered if she had died and had gone to some weird limbo place. She stood up and brushed herself off, glaring at the house as if it had deliberately thrown her off the porch.
She shouted “OK, I know my house had a deck off the kitchen yesterday, dammit!” thinking maybe someone was filming her for some ridiculous prank. Pulling her phone out of her pocket she speed dialed Ted. A recorded language that she didn’t understand said something, and then in English said “for English press 2.” She pressed 2. Ted’s recorded voice said. “Hi, you’ve reached Ted Preston, you know what this and you know what to do.” She panicked and hung up without leaving a message. What was she going to say to him anyway? “Hi Honey, it’s broad daylight at 4 O’clock in the morning and oh, by the way, I think I’m losing my mind.”
She walked around to the front of house. Looked OK, except for the patches of snow. It was 85 degrees yesterday. When the hell did it snow anyway? It never snows here. She went back in the house because she was still cold even with her sweatshirt on. Sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee again, her minded churned over possibilities and oddities. She made a mental list of all the weirdness. Daylight at 4:00 .am., cat litter box in the bathroom, no cat in evidence so far, cold with patches of snow on the ground, the back deck gone as if it had never been there, and come to think of it the phone giving her English as a 2nd option. Yet another strangeness.
After her 3rd cup of coffee and enough cigarettes to stink up the house for a week, she decided to call Ted back. It was close to 5:00 a.m. now, but it still should be dark. It didn’t get light until about 6:30 a.m. around here. Around here? ‘Oh my God, am I ….somewhere else? Have I taken complete leave of my senses?’ She wandered around the house with her hair standing on end. This is all just too bizarre. The house looked exactly the same as it did yesterday.
Wait, not exactly. She started running from room to room checking the walls, the desktop, the dresser in the bedroom, even her laptop. There were no pictures of Ted anywhere in the house, no faded spots on the walls where a picture had been removed. ‘OK, I know damn good and well that there were pictures of Ted and me everywhere in this house, and I have one in my purse!’ She grabbed her purse and dumped the contents on the bed. Fumbling in her wallet she took out every scrap of paper and card. The only picture was on her driver’s license.
She flopped back on the bed. Tears leaked out of her eyes and trickled down to her ears. She stared at the ceiling and thought ‘So this is insanity, just a gradual realization that you are not who, what, when, or even where you thought you were.’ Suddenly she sprang up out of bed and shouted “NO!…NO, NO, NO, NO!” The last NO was so loud she choked herself and started laughing and crying at the same time.
With 1 part grim determination, 1 part stubbornness, and 1 part morbid curiosity she decided she was not fruit loops and she was going to figure this out. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? Was this some kind of practical joke? Ted wasn’t the joker type. ‘Whoever is doing this is off my friend list forever and 3 days!’ She pulled her phone out again and called him. This time he answered and said “Where are you?” “At home, where are YOU!” “I’m at home and you are NOT here.” “Yes I am!” “No you’re not.” She sighed “OK, where are you in the house.” “I’m in bed.” “I’m in bed and you’re not.” “Oh yes I am, I’m sitting right here on OUR bed!” There was a pregnant pause as both husband and wife tried to decide what do to with or about a spouse who had obviously gone off the rails at some point.
Ted spoke first. “Did you sleep well last night?” She spat back “Oh now you’re going to make nicey nice idle chat? I want to know where you are and I want to know right fucking now! And I also want you to come home!” He replied in that careful tone of voice used for people on the edge, “Sweet heart, I am home, I don’t know how much more home I can get.”
She shouted “Oh yea? What did you do to the deck and why are all our pictures gone?” “The deck?” “You know the deck, on the patio, you built it last summer.” She heard footsteps through the phone. He said “Honey, the deck is where it is supposed to be. And there are pictures of us all over the house.” He said with a sudden firmness as if he would talk her down. “Where are you really? Tell me now or I’m going to report you as a missing person and you’re scaring me!” “Well fine! You just do that, and I will report YOU as a missing person.” In a fit of frustration she ended the call and threw the phone across the room. It didn’t break and immediately started ringing, probably Ted calling back. She ignored it.
She went back in the kitchen to make another pot of coffee and brood. After another 30 minutes her hand shook when she tried to light a cigarette so she figured she’d had enough coffee. She decided again to take a walk and grabbed a coat off a peg by the front door. At least she wouldn’t fall out of the house going out the front. She knew how the front of the house was configured. She walked down the road in a huff for a while before it occurred to her that the road was gravel and not paved as it was yesterday.
On the corner at the end of the long block, stood a small Mom & Pop store. She walked in, nodded at the Pop behind the counter and picked up a carton of milk and some crackers, just to be doing something. She put her items on the counter and Pop smiled at her and said “god morgon.” She smiled back and thought ‘uh yea, and same to you.’ Then she noticed that the poster on the wall behind him was not in English. She had a brief what the hell moment, turned on her heel, went to the cooler and pulled out a six-pack of beer. Beer is beer in any language. ‘And this is turning into a I seriously need a beer buzz kind of morning.’ She giggled and then stifled herself. ‘Girl, you are starting to sound crazy, better ramp it back a bit.’
She headed back to the house. In the kitchen she opened a beer and drank it down in 2 gulps. ‘College was good for something, I learned how to guzzle beer.’ She opened another beer, went into living room and lay on the sofa. She turned on the TV and by this time was merely vaguely surprised that there were only few channels instead of the usual 257. One seemed to be the news, in what language she had no clue. The newscaster wore an odd suit with huge shoulder pads and a hideous god-awful tie that he should be shot at dawn for wearing. She laughed out loud and wandered if he was having a weird morning too. Maybe all his ties disappeared in the night and that was all he had to wear. Was he going commando as well? She laughed softly, sighed, and pulled the lap blanket down and covered her legs. ‘This must be some strange prolonged dream. I’ll just ride it out.’
Relaxed from the beer she dozed and surfed the few channels on the TV. At some point she fell asleep and woke with a start. She sat up rubbing her face and spied all the beer bottles on the coffee table. ‘Wow, I drank the whole six-pack. That’s going to hurt.’ She stood and stretched, walked over to the window and looked out. The time, afternoon almost 4:00 p.m. The sky – pitch black, no stars.