0 – In Media Res
My landlords' front door is hanging open, oscillating back and forth in the breeze, and in the distance is the constant sound of sirens, unheeding of the Doppler effect, which means the police cars and ambulances they belong to haven't moved for some time. Sporadically comes shouting, banging, screaming, the kinds of apocalyptic noises we see in the movies, but there is nothing entertaining about them, they would and should terrify me, save that I am too preoccupied to be scared. The world has just now come undone.
I came back for less than practical reasons, but I've since done the human thing and rationalized them away. I head downstairs, letting myself in to the basement apartment I live in as quietly as possible, my engine idling away behind me, like a panting beast. We've come fast, my car and I. The foyer is dark, as always, but upstairs I can hear the TV on full blast, also as always. My land-lady's husband is nearly deaf and has a hard time with captions, and so he needs an almost punitive level of volume to follow along.
There comes a scraping, not right above my head, but close to it. It sounds like something being dragged across the floor, and I imagine it is. My cat greets me as if it were just another day, standing on the table near the door and mewling to be picked up. It would be comforting to indulge that little, familiar gesture, but I haven't the time. I leave the door open, and when no strokes are forthcoming, he jumps down to investigate the new territory cautiously. My apartment is small and stuffy, the casement windows providing little light. I stand there and take a kind of mental inventory, my brain in high gear, trying to thing of anything I might need.
There's a couple of hundred bucks hidden in one of the kitchen cabinets, but money isn't going to be very useful anymore, except as tinder. I take every cigarette lighter I can find, even the almost-empty ones, tossing them in a duffel bag, along with a change in clothes, a heavy sweater, and the half-empty bottle of gin in my freezer. It's flammable, which may come in handy, but I want it for more conventional reasons.
I fill the bag near to bursting with anything that comes into my mind as semi-useful. The last thing I take, which does not fit into the bag, is the reason I came back; an elegant sword, hung on the wall like a display-piece, but wicked sharp anyway. I've always been a fan of bad martial-arts movies, and one of my friends once bought it for me on a lark. I had it sharpened, just because it seemed the thing to do, and have maintained it with rather more care than expected. Considering the general mess around the place, it's probably the nicest thing I own. The remnants of a half-dozen meals are scattered around – ramen and Chef Boyardee ravioli and microwave burritos. Most of the mess is centered about my computer desk, but no surface is exempt. I'm not really dirty, or so I tell myself. It's just that I tend to see only what I'm thinking about, and the detritus of my overactive imagination gets tossed aside and rendered invisible when something new takes my attention.
I feel somewhat irrationally better with a sword in my hand, even though it's a pretty scant weapon, in this day and age.