The Eight Ball
No one replies. No one cares. John finally decides that he is alone in the universe. After all, is there a difference between not responding and not existing? No one exists but him, this moment is his entire life, not much to live for, getting on the subway for a short trip to the next stop. He glances at his inert phone, wondering if the internet has suddenly stopped.
He doesn’t know if it’s him or the world, so John smiles at the faces confronting him as he exits the car at his stop. Hundreds of other people join him and the dozens waiting for the next train, creating a maelstrom of humanity. John hated the subway because it was so confusing, suddenly standing on a concrete platform, surrounded by strangers, blinded by the shadows, unable to see the dimly lit exit signs. It is always the same.
Finally getting onto the brightly lit street, he reorients himself. His destination isn’t easy to find. Google didn’t know about it. John stumbles through the crowd, his iridescent, hazel eyes focused on the dim screen of his cellphone. He follows his phone’s directions, eventually finding himself standing in front of a pool hall…
Puzzled, he walks in. Was this shabby pool hall really the destination? John stopped,confused, glaring at the cell phone as its screen blinked into a new text message.
WELCOME, he read, TO YOUR FRESH HELL.
Before he could muster the towering outrage such a message deserves, John felt a sudden rush, a rude shove at his back and he plunged headlong, face first, into the pool table.
No, not into the table.
John had plunged into the 8 ball.
All of him.
John was one with the 8 ball now.
John felt the quick jab of the stick, then felt himself roll helplessly, haplessly, whirling and tumbling, his thoughts a mad jumble when with a sharp Clack! he felt himself bump and scatter the other balls on the table. He heard screams from two of the balls as they rolled into pockets on the table, and laughter, giddy relief, bubbling from the remaining four balls.
With horror, John realized that each of the balls held trapped souls like himself.
8 Ball in the side pocket, rolling and slamming into the other balls, waiting in line in a darkened table. The clack of the cue ball slamming another ball above him drove his senses into overdrive. He could smell the beer-stale air from underneath the Pennsylvania slate table-top. The larcenous, unfeeling laughter of men, as John, expecting to be rear-ended by another unfortunate soul in ball form, cringed.
The next thing he knew, John smelled cold, open air.
A massive wall, like that of a church, rose at his feet. His eyes adjusted to the winking light and sounds of traffic, the vibrations of cars and trains. In Manhattan, his memory said, back in human form. He wheeled around looking for a clue, his body tensing for an altercation to come. He was alone, nearby, the farrago of the darkened river, by the tower of the Brooklyn Bridge
Standing on the wall, he remembered what had happened, at least what had happened before the hallucination had begun. He’d been unable to reach anyone during his recent depression attack and had come out to the roof of his run-down apartment building to jump in the river.
How had he not fallen after what he’d just experienced? Had his subconscious been aware of his every movement, leading him along the edge?
After his vision, he wasn’t sure he wanted to end it like this, drowned in the East River. He was climbing down from the wall when Sandra appeared from the door. “I just got your message, John. Are you okay?”
John sheepishly smiled and said, “Sure, but I got a great idea for that short film we’ve been talking about.”