Upon the gentle water, sat a single beautiful woman, the moonlight shining off of her bright blonde hair. In front of this statuesque woman sat an ancient-looking loom. As she worked it, shifting heddles so that the warp ends could pass through, a gentle circular wave was sent through the water. As she continued, each motion, bringing the pick through and battening the weft against the reed, pushed out another smooth wave.
As each one hit Steven, he bobbed up and down, as though he was just floating in the water. It felt right, it felt like home. The cloudless night let the stars shine through as though they were trying to show they too, like the moon, were brilliant in their own way.
Steven didn’t remember how he got here but that seemed trivial at the moment. All that seemed to matter was his slow heartbeat, the small waves, and the sound of the woman working the loom. It soothed his soul.
Steven didn’t know how long he was floating there, it seemed like a wonderful eternity, but he was brought out of the reverie by the sudden silence of the loom. Steven surprised, opened his eyes to find himself immediately in front of the woman. She was looking quite solemnly at the cloth in her hands now.
Steven felt suddenly fearful. He didn’t quite understand what brought this feeling upon him, but he knew he needed to leave. He pushed himself away from the woman, his tail now thrashing behind him. He felt his lungs moving in his chest. Both of these sensations a new experience for Steven. He kept thrashing about, now hearing a hiss come from his mouth. No matter how much he pushed though, he found himself getting closer and closer to the woman.
She looked away from the cloth to Steven, a forlorn look on her face. She seemed familiar, but that just frightened him even more. She kneeled down upon the water's surface and held Steven. Her whisper was the last thing he heard before screaming and the world vanishing before him.
“I'm so sorry.”
Steven yawned as his alarm broke through his dream. He was glad for waking because even though he couldn’t remember it, the lasting feeling of fear still gripped him. It didn’t take long however to go from gratitude to annoyance. With sudden vigor he lashed out, trying to find the clock. He found it after blindly grasping for it and slammed the snooze button. It just continued.
He just hit the button harder.
He started blindly pressing every button on the damn thing.
The frustration was finally enough that he opened his eyes and looked at the damn clock. It was when he saw the crack in the top of the alarm clock that he woke up enough to remember the bottle he used one morning to quiet the thing. It’s never worked right since then.
Steven grabbed the cord in the back and pulled, but on this angle, he couldn’t get the right amount of leverage. He pulled harder.
Finally, Steven finally got up from the bed, walked to the bedside table, reached behind it, and pulled the cord out from the wall. Swearing he grabbed the clock and tossed it into the corner of the small bedroom.
Steven got himself a well-deserved stretch and tip-toed his way between his bed and the wall. As he squeezed out of that tight spot to the end of his bed, he had a nice foot of room from his bed to the wall here. His damn room felt like a closet. He grabbed yesterday's clothes that were strewn across the end of his bed before leaving the bedroom. As he made his way toward the bathroom near the end of the hall, he clumsily tossed his socks and shirt on. When he finally made it to the bathroom he tossed his underwear and pants on the bathroom sink.
He would’ve put it elsewhere but the bathroom had enough room for a stand-in shower, a toilet, and a sink, he could touch all the side walls from the middle of the room. He leaned against the wall as he took a piss and imagined he was pissing into the gold toilets he had heard about. They were just as good as a regular toilet but it somehow made him feel a little better.
With his bladder now empty, he finished getting dressed, rinsed his face off in the sink, and went back into the hall. He made it to the end and got into his kitchen. Well more like a living room, with a kitchen against the far wall. It had a sink, one set of cupboards, a microwave, a small fridge, a really old stove, and a single counter. On that single counter was the most important thing in Steven's life.
He walked over to the counter, grabbed a glass, put it under the nozzle, and turned on that precious object: his coffee maker. He went to the small fridge as the aroma of caffeine and mocha filled the room and dug into the small freezer compartment on the top of his fridge and pulled out a small frozen breakfast wrap. He tossed it on a plate and into the microwave. For a moment, as the stains from splashed food greeted him, he thought of giving the thing a clean. When he looked at the clock on the microwave though he decided to get it done another time. He tossed it in and grabbed his cup of coffee.
He sipped it as he slowly grabbed his vest, then his jacket, his helmet, his keys, his gloves, and then finally his wrap. He scarfed it down and made his way out of his apartment. The beige-stained walls of the hallway met him as he locked up his small lot in life. The mustiness of old wallpaper and dingy lighting of cheap lightbulbs affronted his sense. But even more, affronting than those things was Debbie.
“Hey there Steve.” she simply said. Steven sighed to himself. He thought he beat her out the door.
“Hi Deb,” he said and offered a weak wave and smile. Trying to cut the interaction short he turned and made his way toward the elevators.
“Haven’t seen you in a while, Steve, late nights on your runs?” Debbie asked from beside him. He started, not hearing her sneak up on him. “Sorry, didn’t mean to give you a jump.” she smiled at him. She was almost pretty when she smiled at him. Plain brown hair, cut shoulder length, with bangs framing her angular face, she was homely. She wore her usual beige long coat, jeans, and new flats.
“Yeah, Jenny’s been sick so I’ve been picking up her routes.” Steven lied.
“Aww that's sweet. I hope she’s ok. You know Harriet, she’s off sick too. Maybe something going around, it is that time of the year.” Debbie said. Steven just grunted and they walked in silence to the elevator. She called the elevator and they stood there, the space between them uncomfortably small.
As soon as the doors opened, Steven moved first, making sure to stay on the far side of the small space. Debbie walked in after him and was about to say something when Steven pressed the ground floor. She awkwardly stood there instead. Steven knew what she wanted to talk about but he was in no mood, so he pulled out his phone and started scrolling through his social feed.
“So you didn’t lose your phone!” he heard. He looked up at Debbie and realized what he had done.
“No, I did but it turns out I had left it in the bathroom at work, Jim found it and brought it to his supervisor, the new one. But Jamie noticed it and got it back to me.” Steven made up on the spot.
“Then why didn’t you at least text me?” Deb asked, not taking the bait. Steven looked down as the image of his ex-Samantha flashed through his head. The full tits, sleek figure, and beautiful blonde hair. He looked back up to plain Deb and could not believe he had sunk so low.
“Because Deb, I’ve been so busy with work, with Veronica off sick I’ve been,”
“You mean Jenny,” Deb cut him off in a flat voice, now crossing her arms.
“Yeah Jenny, see I’m so exhausted I can't function,” Steven said with a sigh. Deb didn’t say anything. A silence fell upon them and Steven nervously looked at the panel to see what floor they were at. They were only halfway down?
“You know I am an adult right? Just wanted to talk, If you just wanted a fuck, that’s fine with me but be an adult about it. I’m a big girl Steven. I thought with how the night went you might’ve wanted something more, but you know what? Seems I dodged a bullet.” Deb’s declaration was accentuated by the elevator doors opening.
Steve looked to see they were indeed on the ground floor. Feeling a tight feeling in his chest, he ignored the strangeness and ran after Debbie.
“What do you mean, ‘you dodged a bullet?’” Steve said, his voice a little edgier than he would’ve liked. Debbie stopped in the middle of the building's foyer as other tenants and visitors walked by them.
“I mean, that's how a child acts Steve. I know you’ve had a rough time, especially with Samantha, but that’s no reason to treat others like garbage. If you want someone to help, you can find some other woman to mother you if you want to act like a kid who got caught with his fingers in the cookie jar.” Deb spoke reasonably, with none of the anger in her voice, that Steve felt.
“You have no idea who I am, We spent one night together, and all of a sudden you know all about me? That’s sad Deb. It’s too bad, we could’ve worked on this, you’re really missing out.” Steven said sadly, not letting his anger show.
“Are you done?” was all Deb said. Feeling the direction this was going, Steven pushed past her, and out into the streets.
As the city air greeted him, replacing the musty drywall, for pollution and sweat, he took a deep breath. That alone seemed to calm his beating heart, at least a little. Trying not to think of Samantha or Deb, he thought of the one thing in this world that could calm him down.
He started towards his pride and joy, pushing past the random strangers in the street who stood between him and Julie. Within moments, she came into view. A slick black body, with large chrome mufflers, and slick curves riding up and down her. The beautifully shined mirrors, the high handlebars, and the decals of her name riding down her sides. His motorcycle, Julie.
Not for the first time he thought of the fact that he spent more on her housing than his own. He walked over to the thick clear plastic cube that housed Julie and put his hands on the scanner. As the light scanned his palm, he spoke his name aloud and a woman's voice spoke out.
“Hello, Steven.” in an almost seductive voice. The plastic ceiling split and the four walls slid down into the small crevices on all sides of the bike. After they were submerged, small pieces of steel covered the holes in the asphalt. He walked over to Julie and did the final parts of his morning routine. He made sure there were no marks on her, that she was nice and clean, and that all her parts were in working order. After he finished this inspection he gave her a good morning kiss and hopped on.
He threw his helmet on and took a quick look around to find Deb, but she was nowhere in sight. Quickly putting Deb out of his mind he turned Julie on and felt her hum in response. Just like any woman, touch Julie the right way and she will roar for you. As a spot opened up in traffic, he merged onto Ferrara street.
The drive to work was the best part of his day. Steven could just turn on his music and just ride as he felt the wind rushing by him. As always, he put on his old-school playlist, and just zoned out.
He barely noticed the traffic nowadays, after biking for five years and driving for fifteen he no longer consciously noticed other drivers, he just knew what to do. He could drive these streets blindfolded if he needed to.
As always though the drive was too short and he had arrived at his destination; the postal hub. His job. As he approached the gate, he stopped Julie beside the old security outpost. After their upgrade to electronic entry, they had to let Jeremy and Walsh go, but because the government hates giving out funding for their programs, they just kept the building to house the scanner. So Steven had to get off his bike and walk into the empty outpost, walk over to the lone scanner in the middle of the room, and put his hand on it. As the light scanned he said his name and swiped his card. He heard the gate creaking open and made his way back to Julie. They made their way into the depot together.
The lot was almost full, as most of his coworkers had gotten there a bit earlier, but Steven was there to work, not sit around, he never showed up before his shift began. He pulled around past the general parking to the VIP lot on the side of the building. He pulled in parallel to the building into an empty parking spot. He got off Julie and walked over to a small machine on the side of the building. He swiped his card and the ground under Julie started sinking. It lowered down ten feet slowly, then with the sound of some gears, disappeared into the blackness. Soon, the sounds stopped and a new paved empty spot was raised until it was level with the rest of the lot.
They won’t fund us for a new terminal but will happily set up a VIP garage for visiting politicians. Not to mention the spots cost an arm and a leg, especially to someone in Steven’s position. Sighing at the prospect of the rest of the work day, Steven made his way toward the front doors.
“Hi Mr. Perry,” Rosanne said in an obligatory manner she usually welcomed Steven. As per usual, Steven didn’t bother replying. If she couldn’t put in the effort, why should he? He walked past the front desk to the employees-only section. He walked past a bunch of people getting their loads ready to put on their trucks for the day as he made his way toward the lunch room. Steven’s day didn’t start until his second cup of coffee.
As he made his way to the stairwell that led up to the lunchroom, he noticed more people than usual making their way there as well. A few people offered a hello, Steven managed weak waves in response and some mechanical hellos. Steve was feeling in an especially decent mood this morning after his ride with Julie.
As usual, the concrete stairwell made him feel like he was in a prison being led to his cell, at least this cell had caffeine he figured.
He followed a group of coworkers up the stairs who were chatting among themselves. They were chattering excitedly about someone special showing up today. Something about a strange message and being afraid. For the first set of stairs, Steven was too in his own head to catch up. Then the e-mail he received last week dawned on him. A new employee, one in a strange way.
Turning around to leave as the doors to the lunchroom appeared at the top of the stairs, Steven found himself trapped. He would have to shove his way down to leave. Sighing and resigning himself to his fate, he followed the crowd.
The lights as always were blinding in the small room, compared to the grey walls in the warehouse seemed to eat the light, the white walls of the lunchroom illuminated it. Usually, there were three tables set up in the back left of the room, and on the right side was the kitchen area, with a door to the offices immediately in front of the door they came in.
Now, however, the tables were pushed to the walls and the chairs were stacked on top of them to allow everyone to congregate near the door to the offices. Steven allowed himself to be herded to the small grouping of people as they waited. Steven really didn’t understand the need for this grand entrance and actually felt bad for the guy, he was being paraded around. It was another example of a diversity hire he figured, but Steven also found them to be a fifty-fifty prospect. Just because they were hired to look good, didn’t mean they weren’t good workers.
Everyone was chatting amongst themselves, either talking about who this could be, how good they looked how much we didn’t need another worker and needed more pay, or something entirely different., The door slowly opened up and their supervisor Jamie came walking out with the executive of this branch, Terrance. That seemed to quiet everyone right away and even shocked Steven. He had met the man a single time with Samantha. He was a strange fellow, who seemed to have aspirations far from the postal service or even government in general. That always made Steven wonder, why would you be an executive here unless you were on track to higher positions or god forbid you actually enjoyed running a postal depot.
“Ok, everyone. I would like to start with a good morning.” Jamie started. “We appreciate you starting your runs a little later than usual, I know most of you just want to finish up and head home as soon as possible, so I just wanted to say we do appreciate you staying a bit longer for this.” Jamie continued. He pointed to Terrance beside him. “This fellow here some of you may know, but for those who don’t, this is the executive of this depot, Mr.Lawrence,” Jamie explained.
“Please Terrance will be fine,” Terrance said perking up and patting Jamie on the shoulder. Jamie smiled and stepped back. “As your super has expressed we are grateful for the attendance. This is a very important moment, not only for us but for humans as a whole. Now, I am here to personally welcome our new employee. It is important he is welcomed into our family with open arms, thus I will be present to make sure his transition goes smoothly and to smooth out any wrinkles. Now, without further adieu, I would like to welcome Perry.” Terrance finished with a smile.
The room went silent and waited, looking towards the door in front of them. Steven heard some odd-sounding footsteps but didn’t see anyone. He heard some chattering from the front row but still didn't see anything.
“Hello everyone.” a slightly hissy voice spoke from the door. It sounded like it was coming from the floor. “I understand this is not normal, but I am very happy that you are willing to give me a shot. As a peace offering, I have bought everyone a full bistro lunch, it will be running until the night shift, so everyone can get a chance to enjoy it.” the voice finished.
With that pronouncement, the crowd started clapping and welcoming Perry. Steven still didn’t notice Perry. As people slowly went forward, greeted Perry, and turned to leave, he finally got to the front of the crowd and stopped short.
“It’s a fucking lizard!” Steven shouted. The room went silent, and Jamie made a cutting motion. “Talk,” Steven told the four-legged creature in front of him.
“Not exactly, I’m part of the cro-co-dil-ian family. An alligator to be exact.” the talking alligator spoke to Steven. The damn thing was looking at Steven’s waist, it couldn’t even look him in the eyes. Steven looked towards Terrance to see judgment in the man's eyes.
“Are you fucking kidding me Terrance.” was all Steven said. Terrance shook his head.
“There is nothing funny about this situation. Perry here just wanted to work and here you are demeaning such a simple want.” Terrance said. Steven just stared open-mouthed at the executive. When the man’s face didn’t change he turned towards Jamie to find his supervisor shaking his head. He looked back towards the crowd to see people pointing and whispering amongst themselves.
“I did not mean to offend Steven. To be honest I’d be pissed off if someone came into my territory and announced they were staying. I just want to work, I’m not here to take anything from you.” the deep, voice said with a slight hiss. Steven looked down to see the alligator had his head looking down now. For some reason, this just upset Steven even more.
“Well, whatever. Won’t have to deal with you anyways.” Steven said more to himself.
“Well actually,” Jaime sputtered. Terrance again put his hand on the supervisor's shoulder, who deflated at the touch.
“You will be working together,” Terrance finished the thought. Steven just stared at the man, the words making sense by themselves but did not fit together in Steven’s mind.
“Are you crazy?” Steven said, disbelief accentuating every word.
“HR and the higher-ups have deduced that the best way to integrate Perry into the workforce would be to have him shadow someone and you fit the bill. You work long hours, but still, finish two days' workload in one, and simply put, have some extra time to help Perry ingratiate himself into our community.” Terrance said.
“How is this even going to work, it’s unable to do the job.” Steven tried another angle.
“Don’t worry about me Steven, I shall not slow you down.” Perry offered. Steven looked at the alligator and noticed for the first time he was wearing a postal vest, fitted for his body. It was even padded on the bottom. Had the world gone crazy?
“You’re serious Terrance?” Steven said, making one last appeal to reason. Terrance did not budge.
Steven sat in the driving seat of his mail van, waiting for Perry to finish loading the back. If he was stuck with the damn thing, he might as well make use of him. He was playing this new phone game he downloaded, where you played as a farmer. You had to plan your sleep schedule around zombie attacks. You set up traps, like rakes laying on the ground. He had already sunk over a hundred dollars on it today, buying power-ups to reduce your need for sleep as well as jet-powered rakes, which let them be reset faster.
He saw the door open and looked over from his game. A small step ladder unfolded from the passenger seat to the ground outside. Perry slowly made his way up them using them as steps. When he finally made it to the seat, he reached over to the modified dashboard to press a button. With that, the ladder retracted back into the bottom of the seat and the door slowly closed by itself. The passenger seat had it's back down so the alligator could use it like a bed.
This was the first time Steven actually looked at the thing. He looked almost exactly like what he thought an alligator should look like. The exception was some weird thumb-like appendages sticking out of the sides of its feet.
“So how does this all, like work?” Steven asked, waving his hands around the alligator.
“I don’t honestly know. It’s been a hell of an experience. I got some thumb-like things, not as good as your’s but they do the job.” its voice was even more booming in the cab of the vehicle. The thing that caught Steven’s attention was the tongue.
“I didn’t know you things had tongues!” Steven exclaimed. The eye on the left side of the alligator's head looked Steven in the eye.
“I have a name.” it rumbled.
“I know,” Steven said just as flat.
“I could eat you in seconds.”
“Good, then they would have no reason to keep you on the force and I wouldn’t have to work today,” Steven said in good spirits. The alligator grunted.
“Not usually.” the alligator said.
“Alligators don’t usually have a free tongue, it stays on the top of the mouths, so they can block their airways when they swim. But I was changed so I could mimic human speech.” the alligator said, sounding somewhat emotional. Sad?
“So you can't swim? Doesn’t that define a crocodile?”
“Does running define a person?” it asked back.
“I suppose not,” Steven answered a tad uncomfortable at the turn of the conversation.
“We should start, we're late.” the alligator said. Steven just grunted as he turned on the vehicle. As he did, he noticed the alligator’s seat rose until he was level with the windows. Steven started the day's drive.
“So, we can’t update our kitchen but we can afford mechanical upgrades for the reptile?” Steven asked incredulously.
“It’s out of my pocket.” the alligator said. For a second Steven sat still before bursting out laughing.
“What wallet, even if you had a pocket your legs are too stumpy to reach. And where did you get this money, working fast food? I'm surprised they didn’t mistake you for food and toss you in the deep fryer.”Steven laughed.
“I actually won the lottery.” the lizard replied flatly. Steven quieted down.
“I mean I would’ve heard of that for sure.”
“They actually wouldn’t let me claim it, they told me an alligator is not considered a ‘person’. Some bullshit if you ask me. Anyways, Terrance claimed it for me.”
“How the hell do you know the bossman?”
“We’ve known each other since I can remember. I guess as close to a friend as I have.” the lizard replied. Steven almost felt a little pity at the loneliness of that thought. Hit a little too close to home.
“Can you do any tricks?” Steven asked changing the subject.
“Tricks, like card tricks?”
“No like, you know seals, they can like jump through hoops and play keep up with beachballs. Like animal tricks.” Steven clarified. The alligator just grunted.
“Well, what do you even do besides waste money then?” Steven asked.
“I’m trying to help.” the deep hiss-like voice replied quietly.
“By what, making my route slower?”
“We haven’t even started the route yet,” it replied.
“Took you almost twice as much time as me to pack up the truck, and I’ve seen your slow ass walk. Today’s already flushed down the drain.” After that, the alligator stayed silent for the rest of the drive.
As they approached the parking spot for the extra route they were given, Steven hopped out of the truck. He went to the back and started packing up his half of the mail, as he heard the mechanical whirring of the alligator's step stool. Steven just shook his head.
“There’s a map back here, that shows you the route, I’m taking the left side,” Steven instructed with a shout and made his way to his work.
Steven made it to day fifty-six on the farmers' zombie horde before he heard the sound of the back open. Soon followed by the door opening and the makeshift stairs coming out. Then, very very slowly, the alligator made its way up. After what seemed like a minute the alligator finally made its way to the seat. It pressed the door close button then it pressed another button on the door. Glass walls rose on all side of the alligator's seat and then enclosed it at the top, similar to Julies, parking spot. After it was sealed, water started pumping in from the seat until the alligator was completely submerged. It all took about thirty seconds. Steven whistled.
“I better have one of those,” Steven said looking for the same button on his side, but was disappointed not to find one on his side. The alligator seemed to be sleeping so Steven just went to their last route for the day. It proceeded the same as the last, with the notable difference that Steven spent another fifty dollars on Farmer’s Zombie Horde while waiting for the alligator to finish.
Again the alligator was in his tank on the drive back to the depot, so they drove in silence. This time though, Steven turned on his oldies playlist. He honestly didn’t care if the alligator hated it or not, he was sleeping on the job. To his surprise though, when he looked over, the alligator was slightly moving its snout to the beat. Well, at least it has good taste in music.
They pulled into the depot, Steven of course needing to do the credential check, and he parked in the empty spot in the garage. They were of course the last ones back. The tank started draining as Steven got out of the vehicle. He didn’t bother waiting for the lizard, his bed was too inviting.
He made his way toward the locker room and made a quick change. He grabbed Julie’s keys, and returned the vehicle's keys, then made his way to the exit. As he was passing through the foyer though, he noticed a small group of coworkers standing around. One of them noticed Steven and made a disappointed face. Yeah, fuck you too.
Another one said something to them and walked over. He was a nice-looking guy, with caramel skin, a biking jacket, short scruffy hair, and dark brown eyes.
“Hey.” he started with a wave.” The lot of us were gonna go to the bar, the boss gave us the day off tomorrow and we thought it would be fun to get out,” he said with a smile. Steven felt his heart go a little faster. He looked longingly at the group the man had come from and shook his head.
“It’s okay, the bed’s calling me tonight.” Steven lied.
“Alright, well we're going to the Fox and the Ford if you change your mind. Have a good night Steven,” he said with another wave. Steven quickly racked his brain for the man’s name.
“You too buddy,” he said, failing to remember. He started towards the exit.
“Oh, quick Steven,” the man called after him. Steven turned. “Have you seen Perry? Figured you would know where he is.” Steven felt a spike of jealousy and contempt.
“No idea where that croc is,” Steven said plainly before leaving, not looking back.
“What did he say Steven?” was the last thing Steven heard as the doors closed behind him.
The morning routine starts again with the alarm. Since he broke it, Steven can no longer turn it off, so even on his days off, it challenges him. He continues his morning routine with the piss and getting dressed process. Proceeded to get his coffee and breakfast wrap. Finally, he grabbed his biking equipment and grabbed his keys. He took one last look at his apartment and the thought of spending his free day in this cramped shithole made him depressed.
He opened the door and closed it. As he closed the door behind him he noticed something heavy making some sounds. He looked down to see an alligator sporting a half-unbuttoned dress shirt. It was moving fast too.
“I’ll see you tonight.” a voice called from beside him. He looked over to see Deb hanging off the doorframe in a nightgown, waving. Steven did a double take, and he fumbled his keys. He quickly recovered, grabbed his keys, and made his way over to Deb.
“You know, that spending a night with a lizard isn’t gonna make me jealous right?” Steven said. Deb looked away from the retreating alligator to Steven and her face went from a smile to a scowl.
“Not everything in life concerns you,” she said exacerbated.
“I can’t think of another reason you would be with a crocodile.” he snorted. Debbie crossed her arms and stared him right in the eyes,
“Perry’s an alligator and from what I heard you know that, don’t be an asshole,” she said. Steven’s mouth dropped. The world’s truly lost its shit.
“How the fuck do you even know it?” he asked, still coming to terms with the situation.
“Not that it’s any of your business but we met at the Fox and the Ford. At first, he was a little scary but he was having a great time with some of his coworkers and he invited me to join. One thing led to another and yeah, we have a date tonight.” she finished a little smugly.
“But like how does it even work? He doesn't even have a dick, does he? Do you have to go into a fish tank to do it?” Steven was inquiring as he gestured with his hands illustrating his point.
“For your information, he does have a cock and he knows how to use it better than you asshole!” she screamed before slamming the door in his face. Steven just stayed there staring at the closed door still now even coming to terms with the situation.
First, he comes in, threatening Steven’s job. Then he takes his coworkers, and now he’s sleeping with his Debbie. All in one night. Fuck that. Steven ran down the hallway and was happy to see the Alligator. He was pushing himself up the wall as he reached for the elevator call.
“Hey, fuckhead!” Steven yelled. The alligator finished pressing the button before flopping back to the ground. He then turned his head so one of its eyes was looking at Steven.
“Hey, Steven. Oh, you're a biker too? I miss… I mean I can’t wait to get a bike outfitted for me.” the alligator mused. Julie flashed through his head and he felt even angrier.
“You’re a fucking animal!” he yelled. His breathing came hard. Last night sparked through his head and some stupid internet article came back to him as he decided his plan of attack.
“I mean humans are as well.” the lizard said calmly.
“We’ve risen above the rest of the kingdom though. We’ve dominated the world and ben nature to our whims. You're just a lizard who crawls on his belly and learned a few neat tricks.” Steven ran forward as the alligator was about to retort. Steven got around the lizard's snout before it could react. Then using all of his weight and strength he wrestled as the lizard bucked underneath him. The lizard was strong but Steven knew what he had to do.
He got enough leverage to flip the both of them onto their backs. Steven quickly rolled over, a small crack sounded as as he did so and got back onto the lizard's snout. It fought back weakly, slowly becoming weaker and weaker. After about half a minute the lizard stopped moving. After waiting a few more moments to make sure it was actually unconscious he rolled off it and stood up.
With his heart pounding and disbelief at the fact that it actually worked, he stood above the conquered animal. He found the need to scream, to release all the adrenaline. So he closed his eyes and yelled victoriously in the hallway.
After he felt himself calm down and open his eyes he found a small gathering of people around the two of them. For a moment he felt powerful but soon saw the fear, distress, and disgust on their faces. The feeling of power slowly faded as he realized they weren’t worried about him but the lizard.
“What the hell did you do Steven?” he heard Deb yell from behind him. He went to turn but she raced past him to the alligator. She got down on the dirty floor with her pretty work clothes on and went to push. She couldn’t manage to get it turned over but she kept trying. Two other guys came from the crowd and helped her. Soon they had the alligator back on his feet.
“What are you doing? I stopped it.” Steven protested as they managed to get it upright. Ced looked up at him with disgust on her face.
“Stopped him from what? Going home?” she asked, anger laced every word. At that, the elevator dinged open, with dramatic timing. Steven looked around to find confusion, and fear in faces. Fear of him. Not being able to deal with it he entered the elevator, alone. He pressed the button for the ground floor and the doors started closing. The last thing he saw as the doors closed was the alligator's eyes opening.
His day off was ruined. He had gone on that ride with Julie but found his mind plastered with images of familiar strangers. He had pictures of Deb hanging off of the alligator in an oddly but vague sexual position running through his head. He couldn’t be the bad guy. He definitely was not the guy that was reflected in the eyes of those strangers. In the eyes of Deb.
He thought of going to a friend but realized he didn’t actually have any of those. He thought of going to his brothers but remembered his brother had told him to never visit them again. His sister had moved out of the country after their parents died. He didn’t have any flames, as they were almost all flings. Steven hadn't thought about these hard truths in so long he had almost forgotten these facts.
Well, that left a single person he could turn to and the thought sickened him. If he had trouble facing that look in Deb, it was so much worse coming from Samantha. The only woman in his life who had ever filled that need for love and status.
After mindlessly wandering, trying to take his mind off this morning's events, he resigned himself to going to his ex-wife's house. He knew he wasn’t perfect, and he knew that she left him, but she was also the only one who knew the good in his heart. Right?
Steven stared at her nice glitzy house. The neighborhood was all glitzy, never to Steven’s taste. Mind you he would accept the chance to have one. Including the beautiful Mercedez that was parked in her driveway.
He continued to sit there examining the beautiful cars for another hour, trying to ignore the odd nervous energy building in his chest. Each car was wonderful and beautiful in its own monotonous way. The neighbor's Mercedez was purple, the neighbor on the other side had a white one. Sam’s house had the same look and layout as her neighbors, a slightly different facade.
She was probably cooking lunch right now, while her probable boyfriend was on his way home. Living a wonderful life, probably two children running around. A little Destiny and a little Richard. Richard didn’t like the crusts on his sandwiches so Sam cut them off. Destiny was allergic to peanuts, so the sandwiches were tuna sandwiches. Steven also loved tuna so he could have some too. Best of all, they don’t understand why an alligator was walking around talking, being more accepted than he was.
Steven shook his head and sighed. He started towards her door. The gray-bricked driveway was slick and felt like it was waxed which gave it a nice shiny look but threatened to make you slip with every step. It took a whole fifteen seconds to finally reach the nice terrace. As he made his way up the three steps, he saw that the porch wrapped around to the yard on his right. Lots of planters with flourishing plants littered the terrace, planters sitting, hanging, and swinging in the wind. Steven begrudgingly acknowledged the beauty of the whole arrangement.
Steven finally made it to the double doors, each with ornate frosted glass in the center of each door. Steven had always dreamed of having that grandiose entranceway to his future household. Something about them made him feel good. He looked for the doorbell, not wanting to knock on such nice doors. Of course, it was an ornate plate bordering the doorbell. Gathering his courage he took a few moments before pressing the button.
Of course, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata played. The only classical music he knew and that of course was because of Samantha. It was her favorite song.
“One minute,” an angelic voice echoed from inside. Steven put his hands into his jacket pocket while he waited. He started humming, trying to hide his racing heartbeat from himself. The door opened suddenly, spooking Steven. The sight of Samantha calmed him right away though.
“Oh,” she said cooly, her small arms folded over her chest. “What do you want?” She was a small woman, with an elegant-looking dress that hugged her figure but wasn’t tight enough to be too uncomfortable. Her wavy blonde hair framed her smooth face all the way to her shoulders. Even though she was five foot six, Steven always felt like he was looking up to her.
“I was in the neighborhood,” Steven said, looking uninterested.
“Bullshit,” she said.
“Well, I was around and thought maybe I should see how Sam’s doing,” Steven elaborated. Sam put her hands out like she was presenting.
“And here you go,” she said.
“Well, I can see you are doing well. Do you mind if I come in?” Steven said as he went around her and into the foyer. He heard Samantha huff from behind him and then the doors closing.
“Would you like some tea,” she said when she walked to his front. A beautiful woman surrounded by a beautiful home. A grand staircase leads to the second and third floors, with beautiful white walls and rose wallpaper on the tops and bottoms of each section of the wall.
Samantha didn’t even bother waiting for an answer and led the way. Steven followed, admiring the tall ceilings. They made their way through a labyrinth of hallways before finally coming into an open kitchen. On the right were the brilliant marble countertops, smart stainless steel appliances, and maple cupboards. On the left was a long maple table, with enough room and chairs to sit eight people. Three on both sides and two at the ends. Steven took the chair closest to the kitchen counters.
Samantha got right to work, so Steven started fiddling with a marble coaster. Honestly, the damn thing was so heavy, it seemed more of a burden. Rather have a nice light set of wooden ones. Not light to break a toe if you dropped it. For a moment he thought about his situation but quickly turned his attention to Samantha.
“It’s a beautiful house, Sam,” he said. She didn’t even turn and just offered thanks. She was just finishing mixing in the cream and she brought over two teacups. She set him on the coaster he had been fiddling with then made her way to the other side of the table to sit right across from Steven.
She set her tea down then crossed her right leg over the left and folded her arms over her chest. She just stared at Steven. Uncomfortable, he turned his attention away from her.
“I see you’ve treated yourself well,” he said conversationally.
“You’re not here for small talk, look if you’re here to try and spark us up again, that time past Steven,” she said softly. He looked back at her to find a kind of pity on her face.
“I’m not here for that Samantha, I’ve moved on, a pretty young thing actually, lives next door,” he said without registering the words.
“That’s good Steven, I hope she’s able to reign you in, you can be kind of a lot,” she said kindly. For some reason that bothered him more.
“Yeah, she is,” he said absently.
“Then why are you here Steven,” she asked again.
“I just wanted to see you, Samantha,” he said earnestly.
“There have been two years to do such and you’ve moved on, I really don’t think that’s it,” she said. Steven hesitated.
“You’re right,” he said after a few moments. “Honestly I don’t have anyone to talk to and something came up yesterday that’s kind of turned my world upside down,” he said.
“Why not talk to this woman, it would be healthy for you to communicate your life to her, not to an old extinguished flame,” Samantha said, rationally as ever. He was about to blurt out because the problem fucked her last night, but caught himself.
“She doesn’t understand, no one does really,” he said instead. She huffed, took a deep breath, and settled into her chair.
“What’s the problem then?” she asked.
“Bluntly, your old buddy Terrance brought on an alligator as an employee. I don’t understand how or why but ever since he has come into my life, I feel like I’m spiraling out of control, and no one else notices how fucked up the whole situation is.” he gauged Samantha after blurting it out but found her face to be, odd.
She could not hold the emotions off of her face and now was a stone-cold, expression.
“Do you. Do you know anything about this Sam?” he asked suddenly suspicious. She shifted her gaze away from him.
“What’s his name?” she whispered. He eyed her and felt anger rising.
“Perry,” Steven said after scouring his brain for a moment.
“Fuck,” she uncharacteristically shouted. “Fucking Terrance,” she said, now panic overtaking her.
“Fucking Terrance what Sam?” Steven asked in a too-calm voice. She looked at him and started biting her nail. He just stared at her waiting.
“Terrance and I had a hypothesis years ago. A hypothesis about whether beauty and circumstances could change a person. We needed a test subject, and we decided we needed someone who was good-looking, and kind of an asshole.” she said watching his face carefully.
“Go on,” he said, his stomach sinking at the thought of where this was going.
“Well, when you were asleep one night I thought you would be perfect, so I scanned your brain. I brought it back to Terrance’s lab and we were going to put it to the test, but the problem became, we couldn’t take another person's life, or body from them. We didn’t want to make a new one either, lots of problems there, ethically and biologically. So we shelved the idea and the data. By the time we had broken up and I broke ties with Terrance I had completely forgotten about it. And the data,” she finished and silence fell upon the two of them. Steven just stared at her, the information slowly sinking in.
“So you needed a bad guy and you thought yeah Steven he’s an awful human being,” he finally said. Sam burst out laughing.
“Are you fucking serious Steven?” she said between giggles. He felt his face heat up. She managed to get herself under control. “I tell you we were going to put a clone of your brain into someone or something else and you fixate on the one thing solely about you,” she said in disbelief.
“I’m not a shitty person!” he screamed, his anger finally seeping out. He slammed his fists on the table and looked right at her. “Please Sam,” he almost begged in a whisper. “Please tell me I’m not a bad person,” he half pleaded with her and he felt the fire peter out. Tears came out of his eyes unbidden. She took a serious look at him and stared into his eyes. She looked at him for a whole minute in silence. Then she turned away.
“I can’t Steven,” she said quietly. Something inside snapped. He grabbed the chair beside him and tossed it across the room with a yell. He grabbed the teacup in front of him and threw it against the wall, it shattering and pieces falling to the floor, splashing in the spilled tea. He turned back to her.
“So, Terrance is behind all of this shit?” he yelled at her, even as she remained calm. She grabbed her tea and took a long sip before answering. Her serene response just fueled his anger, it made him feel like a petulant child.
“I don’t know Steven. Most likely though, this alligator is you, Well, the Steven from five years ago. I had dealt with some of my own DNA tamperings when I was under Terrance, and there were modified creatures I had made for fun, to help them along. It wasn’t supposed to be used though. If I had to guess, Terrance used one of my frameworks, made the creature, made your brain, and put it into the alligator.”
“Fucking what? Did you just say that thing, that creature has my brain?” he asked, anger turning to panic.
“Think for a second Steven. If you wanted to retain yourself but couldn’t use your name anymore what would you choose?” she asked before taking another sip of her tea.
Steven thought about it seriously for a moment. Most likely he would’ve used his last name, Perry. Steven's blood ran cold. No, this fucking Cronenberg situation couldn’t be a reality.
“I refuse to believe this,” he said a tad hysterically. “No, that’s a coincidence. He was with me all day yesterday, I would’ve known if I was talking to myself,” he said. Sam put her tea down and uncrossed her legs.
“You’ve talked to Perry?” she asked suddenly interested.
“Yeah, Terrance had him work with me yesterday,” Steven said before his voice trailed off into silence. If I had a reptile version of someone and was a creepy fucking scientist, having him work with himself is exactly what he would do. “But I would’ve known,” he said trying to convince himself, barely feeling the chair as he fell back into it, slouched and defeated.
“You know Steven, there really is an easy way to find out, you could just ask him,” she said simply, as though it were that easy. Steven found himself laughing now.
“He’s a fucking reptile, he would lie regardless, it’s in his nature,” he said absently as he started drumming his fingers on the beautiful table.
“Do you hear yourself?” Sam asked, suddenly stone in her voice. He looked at her dumbfounded and stunned.
“Not you too Sam,” he said. She stared at him with her eyebrows raised and a disbelieving smile on her face.
“Fine, if you won’t believe him then go to Terrance, the Terrance I knew wouldn’t have it in him to lie to your face,” she said shaking her head. Steven thought about it for a moment. Terrance wasn’t a bad guy per se, if he confronted him about this, he could use this to his advantage. He couldn’t have it get out he’s cloning people and putting them in animals. He could get the alligator out of his life, Terrance wouldn’t be able to keep them working together, then maybe even squeeze himself a promotion in there.
“You’re onto something there Sam,” he said shaking his index finger at nothing in particular. “I think me and Mr. Lawrence should have a heart to heart, it's been years since we have,” he said finding his conviction returning. He quickly stood up, ran around the table, and brought Sam into a hug. “You’re always there when I need you, Sam,” he said before returning her to her seat.
“Next time you better bring one thousand dollars or William will be showing you out,” she said looking at her ruined kitchen. He looked too and felt a red come to his cheeks.
“I’ll get you next time Sam, I have to,” he paused mid-sentence. “One thousand?” he asked.
“The tea cup one hundred. The chair is three hundred. The paint I’ll price at fifty. Then the rest for you ruining my mood.” she said.
“Umm, how about a hundred and a coffee?” he asked in a high voice.
“William,” she called. Steven didn’t know what to expect, he hadn’t seen her new boyfriend. He heard a sound and the wall separated where he had thrown the teacup moments ago. From inside it was a huge humanoid-shaped robot. Its five eyes were glowing red, but the rest of it was vaguely man-shaped; vaguely good-looking somehow. It grabbed the nearest marble coaster with its long fingers and then in one squeeze of the hand reduced it to dust. Then it looked at Steven.
“Next time, one thousand dollars for the madame,” Steven said with a bow and then left as fast as he could from the residence. Before pulling onto the street with Julie, he saw the two of them waving him off. He made a nervous wave before leaving to find Terrance.
For the first time since Steven bought Julie, Steven’s mind was not on the beautiful ride. He was preoccupied with the turmoil inside. This felt like something out of a schlock sci-fi novel. He had a clone of himself and it was a reptile.
Terrance should be at the office. He may technically have the day off, but guys in Terrance’s position don’t get that luxury. Steven started imagining the confrontation. He saw himself tossing Terrance around his damn office, across the desk, into the filing cabinet. Then he will tell him the crocodile can’t work there, or he will bring up this little indiscretion to the proper authorities. Hell, maybe he will even get a little money out of the situation as compensation for his emotional trouble.
The reptile though caused a little hesitation. He wasn’t quite sure how he thought of the thing now. The best course of action would be to get it out of his life. It would be easier if he just didn’t have to think about that part of the problem. The part of the problem that may be himself.
Steven pulled into the entrance to his work and was stunned to find the gate was already open. He stopped for a second reconsidering his plan of attack. The gate was never open. On edge now, he pushed Julie into action and as he passed the gate it closed behind him. He tentatively drove towards his parking spot beside the building but he stopped instead as he passed the front doors. Terrance was standing there in front of the glass doors leading to the reception.
The man was dressed in his usual plain black suit, with short black hair close to the scalp and hawk-like features. The way his hazel eyes followed you made it feel like he was watching his prey.
Steven stopped at the bottom of the steps and idled. Terrance slowly made his way down the steps towards Steven in a calm manner, as though he was enjoying a day off. Which of course he was not.
“Why hello Steven, how goes your day my man?” Terrance said with a smile as he stopped at the bottom step. Steven removed his helmet and hung it on Julie’s handlebars.
“You know god damn well how my days going. Obviously, Sam’s sent a word ahead so let's skip the pleasantries,” Steven said as he slowly removed his gloves and jacket. He got off of Julie and laid them on the now empty seat. As he did so, Julie turned off.
“I’m thirty years your senior Steven,” Terrance said reproachfully.
“Age makes you slow not better at fighting,” Steven said as he squared up. Terrance gave him an odd look, as though he was trying to figure out a puzzle. After a moment a condescending smile broke out on his face. A small chuckle escaped his lips.
“Indeed age does make you slower that’s precisely what I was saying,” Terrance said.
“Enough talk,” Steven said about to approach when he heard the gate open again.
“Perfect, the rest of the guests are here,” Terrance said with a single clap then walked past Steven, seemingly ignoring his presence now. A luxury car had pulled in and was now parking behind Julie. It was a gorgeous crimson sedan and worth five years of Steven’s salary.
Steven dropped his fists, just too confused to decide what to do. Instead, he just stared at the vehicle. It had an extended cab to it, almost like a small limousine. The door opened and Terrance said something softly offering his hand. On the other side of the vehicle, a door opened and a man slowly got out and stretched. He didn’t recognize him.
When Steven turned his attention back to Terrance, he was holding the hand of Steven’s next-door neighbor and past muse, Deborah. He looked back at the other passenger who had come out of the other side of the vehicle and his face finally came back to Steven. It was the man who asked him out to drink with the others. Bud. Bard. Buddy, yeah Buddy.
Terrance came back towards Steven, the others in tow. As they walked by him Steven couldn’t help himself.
“Deb,” Steven said as a greeting.
“Fucking asshole,” she said without glancing in his direction. The sheer hostility caught Steven off guard.
“Someone’s having their time of the month,” Steven said to Buddy as he walked past Steven. The man grunted but otherwise did not acknowledge Steven. What the hell? Yesterday, he was all buddy-buddy and wanted to have drinks, but now he wouldn’t even look at him. Spurred on by the rejection, Steven found the motivation to follow. He ran to catch up with Buddy.
“What’s your problem, Buddy?” Steven asked now in step with Buddy. Buddy stopped and looked at Steven. Steven stopped and looked right back. They stared like that for at least ten seconds.
“My god, you really think that’s my name,” he said incredulously. Steven’s stomach sank. He thought back to yesterday and remembered yeah, he called him Buddy.
“That is your name,” Steven said unable to stay quiet.
“No you asshole. It’s Vincent, we’ve worked together since you started here and you don’t have the courtesy to remember a simple name. Fuck you,” Vincent was yelling by the end of it. He looked like he was gonna stop there but then seemed to think better of himself. “And fuck you for what you did to Perry, he was just waiting for the elevator man,” Vincent shoved Steven, who just caught himself before falling.
“Ha! Just waiting for the elevator, the stupid reptile was hanging out with my friends, sleeping with my girl, taking my job, and then had the gall to rub it in my face in my own home,” Steven came back and shoved Vincent back.
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” Deb said, dousing the growing fire in Steven’s head. He looked over to see her and Terrance on the stairs looking down on them, Deb’s face contorted in disgust.
“You know what I mean,” he waved at her turning back to Vincent.
“No, I god damn don’t. What do you mean Steven?” Deb asked spitting venom with every word. Steven looked up at her and sheepishly looked away from her look.
“Like, I was interested in you and so he was kind of, you know,” he said, hearing how pathetic it sounded as it came out of his mouth and hating himself for it. He heard her coming down the stairs towards him.
“No. I. Don’t. Know.” she said, each word slowly annunciated. Steven pulled himself together, stood straight, and looked down at the small woman, who stared defiantly back up at him.
“You were mine,” he said putting all the energy he could into it.
“Ohhh,” Deb said swinging her arms into the air. She looked around wildly and settled her gaze on Vincent. “I’m his, did you hear? He called dibs on me like we were in fucking high school. Like a five-year-old boy who had his toy taken away. Is that what I am to you Steven, a fucking toy?” she said staring back at him. His back bent a little.
“A man fights for who he loves. Alls fair in love and war,” he said back with complete confidence.
“Excuse me? We literally talked about it yesterday and yesterday you were all I’m not good enough for the great and mighty Steven. Then another comes along whom I like and you break his fucking leg. Yeah real manly, Tells the girl he says he likes that he doesn’t then throws a temper tantrum. You’re a child in a man’s body Steven. That just makes you more pathetic.” Steven opened his mouth to retort but for once he heard the words before he spoke them and shut up.
“Ha, now that he’s been called out for his bullshit, he doesn’t have anything real to say.” She turned to Terrance. “Can we do it here?” Terrance looked at Steven.
“Tempers are flared, which will contaminate the data, but it is only a preliminary interview and may be good to have if only to contrast against later interviews. Yeah sure, let me just make a call.” Terrance clicked a button on an earpiece Steven didn’t notice until now. He started speaking quickly and quietly.
“What do you mean interview?” Steven asked the confusion and uncertainty returning.
“Our interview,” Vincent spoke up. He was staring daggers at Steven. "After your explosion at the apartment, Terrance said it would be good for you to see the preliminary results,” Vincent said, the words coming unnaturally from his mouth.
“Of the reptile. He’s just me in a different skin, what the hell is there to say,” Steven said, anger returning.
“If he’s you then I’m the Queen of Russia,” Deb said.
“Russia has presidents and Prime ministers dear, but I do believe the message was relayed,” Terrance interrupted. As if on cue, people started rushing out of the main building with strange objects. A large camera, a weird metallic circle, a stool, a pulldown screen.
“You can ignore them,” Terrance said bringing Steven’s attention back to the three others.
“Does no one else think this is nuts?” Steven asked.
“Stop trying to change the subject,” Deb said poking him in the chest.
“For the sake of the experiment I must relate to the two of you that indeed Perry is, in the neurological sense, Steven here,” Terrance said. The two others did look at Terrance like he was crazy.
“Thank you!” Steven screamed, finally someone else saw this circus for what it was.
“That’s interesting. So he is Steven but he acts so differently.” Vincent pondered.
“The reptile isn’t me,” Steven said looking at Vincent.
“Ahhhh. Now that you say it, it’s like those comic books. Like where the hero has an evil version from another world,” Deb started. “So, Perry is the good one and Steven is bizarro Steven,” she said.
“No we are not the same person and if anything he is an evil version of me,” Steven said, panic rising in his voice.
“I don’t know Steven, I know more about Perry than I do you. From my perspective, I could see that theory. Is that the case Terrance?” Vincent asked the old man.
“All I am at liberty to say is they share the same origin neurological make-up,” Terrance explained.
“I’m the original!” Steven shouted. He couldn’t believe they were even having this conversation. Who the fuck would put a crocodile brain into a person and how would he even be able to speak.
“To be fair, you could have learned language in the time before you entered your new life,” Vincent mused.
“I suppose that would explain some of the bad behavior. I wouldn’t be too happy to be inside an alligator's body, so I can only imagine the alligator would feel the same way,” Deb mused right alongside him. Steven just screamed primally. A mammal’s scream, a scream of a human being at the end of his rope. He turned towards Terrance when the scream faded, leaving him feeling empty.
“What’s your game, Terrance, if you wanted to fuck with me, well congratulations. Did you pay them off, Did you pay off the workers to make them play along? Well good, you proved money can buy another man’s insanity, now let’s end this charade,” Steven said, failing to keep the plea out of his demand.
“Not at all, we just met Perry yesterday for the first time and you know what, it was the best night I’ve had in ten years,” Deb said. Steven looked at her and sadly thought he could see sincerity there. *
“We're all set up sir,” Roseanne the receptionist said. Steven looked over to see a stool in front of a backdrop that showed an overhead shot of the city at night. The buildings were stagnant but the small, barely visible cars were streaming through the roads. It made them look like an anthill putting on a light show. There was a camera crew across from the stool, complete with sound guys, lighting people, and a director chair.
Terrance walked over to the directors chair and took his spot, like a king among his men.
“Vincent, if you could take your spot, we will proceed,” Terrance ordered and Vincent followed. Vincent took a seat on the stool as the crew swarmed him. Steven couldn’t see past the small crowd, but after they dispersed there appeared to be a different man there.
Vincent's flat hair was now swept back like a model. His face glowed and his eyes seem to look into your soul. His casual dress was replaced with a leather jacket and blue jeans that hinted at the strong muscles underneath.
“That’s the best we could do on short notice,” Steven heard Roseanne say to Terrance.
“No, you did an amazing job, make sure to let props and makeup know that too,” Terrance said softly back.
“He really is a professional,” Deb whispered to herself. Steven was not pleased with the look she gave Vincent. Another vehicle pulled up suddenly, surprising Steven. He must have too entranced to notice the gate open. A short man in a blue suit came out of the back. He had a newscaster’s aura to him. His hair was done just right, and an affable demeanor to him. He walked up to Terrance, said some pleasantries, then went over to the cameraman. The man seemed to adjust the angle of the camera before the man walked in front of the backdrop.
Another woman dropped another stool behind him before running off. The short man sat down and started doing only what Steven could describe as a frog dying. After about a minute of that, he gave the thumbs up to Terrance. Steven was reeling and felt like the world had just tilted and gone mad.
“Today I am here with Vincent Gregory. He is an employee here at the post office. He has been employed at office number 3042 for sixteen years. He has known subject one for fifteen years. He was introduced to subject two, a day ago. Now if you could please recant you’re experience and thoughts about subject two from the time Steven left the office,” the newscaster's melodic voice asked of Vincent.
“Well um,” Vincent paused for a second.
“Jason,” the newscaster offered.
“Well, Jason. The other day, some coworkers and I decided we wanted to get drinks after work. We figured we would invite the new guy out to kind of get to know him. I decided to ask Steven, even against the wishes of the others to join us. Thankfully he refused.
“We found Perry getting changed. It was a long day for him and he was new so we thought what the hell? He agreed and we went to the nearby bar, the Dishonest Newsman. When there and a few drinks in, we managed to get him to do a song on karaoke. At first he was stiff but by the end of the song he was having a hoot.
“When he came off stage we all congratulated him and bought him another round. Soon he was talking about his dreams and aspirations. He actually wanted to learn guitar but obviously, that wasn’t in the cards. We talked about a hypothetical instrument, making it up as the night went on. Soon he was talking about wanting to be a country music star as he was growing up and I told him about wanting to be a mechanic. Soon, Deborah came in and I could tell he was smitten. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. He was shy and very self-conscious about his whole alligator situation. I told him hell with that, just ask her for a drink and show her how good he was. He took another drink and made his way over. I don’t exactly know what he said to her, but she came over to the table with her friend following Perry.
“He introduced them, the group happily welcomed them and soon Deb was talking with Perry and me about her work. She was a veterinarian and a dog they were looking after had passed away. She was down in the dumps about it, but her friend Sherry wasn’t gonna let that happen. Right away, Perry was sympathetic. He related a story about his own dog as a young one. Not quite sure how that worked, on account of him being an alligator, but you could tell he was eaten up about the whole ordeal.
“I let them be, seeing them hit it off, and went to hang out with the rest of the group. I soon found myself talking to Sherry and she was saying that Deb had also just broken it off with another guy who she had been seeing off and on. I suppose that guy was Steven. Anyways, Perry and Deb came over to let us know they were heading back to her place. Sherry was a little worried but Deb talked to her and she seemed happy.
“The rest of the night me and Sherry drank, ate, and joked. We ended up back at my place and had a good night. I won’t go into details but we were together until Terrance called and asked me for the interview.” Vincent finished. Jason glanced towards Terrance who gave him a thumbs up.
“And that was Vincent Gregory. Thank you, Vincent,” Jason said as Vincent got off the makeshift set and walked towards Steven and Deborah. He smiled at Deb who gave him a small hug. Almost as suddenly as the hug stopped, Deb was ushered off by the same group of artists who redid Vincent.
“Next up is Deborah Jacowski,” Jason said into the camera. “She is currently working as a veterinarian and was close with both subjects. As such, the interview will focus more on her relationship with both in order to contrast the two of them in a more direct way.”
Steven was so swarmed with emotions that he didn’t know what he was truly feeling. Vincent's face had been one of a happy reminiscence. He had never seen that in the man for the years and years, they had known each other. But a single night and he was already playing wingman to the reptile.
“Steven, there you are,” Samantha’s voice echoed in his head. That’s it he was having a breakdown. “Steven, how are you?” Sam asked, this time coming from behind him. He looked back and found her walking up to him and Vincent.
“Sam?” he asked dumbly, just standing there staring.
“In the flesh. I wanted to see the first process in person, I just had to make a stop. Hopefully, I didn’t miss your new girlfriend, I’m excited to meet her.” Sam said with a smile. It took Steven almost half a minute to finally catch his brain up to what that meant.
“Oh, no it’s fine Sam, you can meet her later.” Steven was gonna try and usher her away but she just brushed him off and walked by him towards Terrance. Steven just resigned himself to the current situation, there was nothing he could do now to stop this. It was out of his hands.
Steven just fell back onto his ass and relaxed. Inwardly he was panicking. The thought of Sam hearing about his actions and life scared him more than anything else today. Instead of freaking out like he wanted to, he just sat there staring at the sky. Watching the individual clouds, changing shapes before his very eyes.
“And here she is,” Jason’s voice rang out from above the heads of those around him. He wasn’t going to watch this farce, but the sudden awe that spread through the crowd caught Steven’s attention. Fighting back his anxiety he managed to stand up and look towards the makeshift set. He lost his breath. Deb was, different. Her short hair was now wavy and framed her face. The makeup seemed to add fullness to her face and the clothes fitted her figure. She was only wearing blue jeans, a white t-shirt with a small jean jacket that stopped above her midsection. For some reason, this mixed with her usual easy confidence just awoke a feeling he hadn’t felt since he first met Sam.
“This here is Deborah Jacowski,” Jason said. “So Deborah, if you could just relate your night with subject two. Then a quick recap on your previous relationship with subject one,” Jason ordered. Deborah shook herself for a moment getting herself together before gathering her thoughts and starting.
“As Vincent said, I had been watching a dog at work for some time now. I had become attached which is something I tend to avoid in my line of work. But Phillip: the golden retriever: had been fighting so hard to survive. He was in late-stage cancer but he seemed to have a sense of humor about the whole situation. The owner spared no expense so he ended up putting Philip on chemotherapy.
Philip seemed less playful but that’s to be expected. Surprisingly though cancer seemed to be dying off. So of course I had to be there fighting along with him. Months passed and he was on the verge of recovery. But the other day, Philip went into remission and passed the same day,” Deb choked up on the last word and started a quiet sob. A young girl with a headset and clipboard in hand brought her some tissues. Deb thanked her, gathered herself, and wiped as gently as she could the tears, but her masquera still smeared slightly. She continued.
“We think the trauma of the whole experience finally caught up with him. The one solace is that he would’ve gone without the pain, almost like he had beat cancer and as a victory let himself finally rest. That’s what I want to think anyways. So I took the rest of the day off. My plan was to stay home, eat ice cream and watch all the Die Hards. But at five on the dot, Sherry showed up. In her usual motherly way, she got me out of my pj’s and into a nice dress. We headed out, against my better judgment to the bar. *
“As Vincent stated, we got into the bar, got a drink, and were approached by Perry. We were very weary at first, and to be fair he was an alligator. But he was polite and well-spoken. He introduced himself and asked us our names. We introduced ourselves. He asked us if they were here to meet someone because he and his coworkers had a large table at the back and had plenty of room for the company of some pretty women. We took a look back there and saw a normal group of people having some fun so. I was planning on declining, still feeling off from earlier. Sherry was probably sensitive to this as she always was accepted on our behalf.
“We had a lot of fun against my will. Perry and I hit it off right away. When I brought up the tragedy of earlier he was sympathetic and told me about his dog’s death when he was a child. He bought us some more drinks and we started talking about our childhoods. It wasn’t the most fun and barlike conversation but I felt like we were connecting. He was charming and seemed to care. So, when I surprised myself by asking him back to my place he accepted. Sherry was hesitant, bringing a strange alligator back to my place alone but I already felt safe with him so reassured her. I know now that was a dumb decision, and I was lucky that he was genuine but I was in a bad place.
“I drove us back to my apartment, and we jammed to some nineties rock. When we got back to the room we talked more into the night. During that time, he confessed his beginnings. He had been ‘made’ in a laboratory. He wasn’t at liberty to talk about where or who did it but did say he used to be a man. But someone had placed his brain into the body of a modified alligator. He even told me his human name was Steven. At that time I didn’t put two and two together but I just felt so bad.
“That was when I did the crazy. I started touching him. One thing led to another and until the sun rose we had some fun. I won’t detail any of that except that it started a little weird but ended very happily. He said he had to go back to the lab, so I saw him out the door. We made plans to see each other on the weekend and he left.
“That was when Steven came over and started immediately mocking me and Perry. I told him to fuck off and closed the door. I went to make a coffee and as soon as my cup was poured I heard Perry growling. I ran out into the hallway and followed the noises to the elevator to see Steven standing over an unconscious Perry.
“I confronted Steven and he ran like the coward he is. Others helped me flip Perry back onto his feet and we brought him to my work. We had a reptilian expert who took a look at him. He had broken a foot when Steven must’ve flipped him over but ultimately would be fine. He patched him up and that’s when a woman named Samantha showed up. She told me a little bit more about the experiment and asked if I would like to be interviewed. I was hesitant at first until she said I would get to gush about Steven. I jumped at that especially since she sounded like she had the wrong idea about the two of us. Now I’m here,” Deb finally finished, the sadness from earlier replaced with a fury.
“I suppose that’s the perfect segway to Steven. Of course, we know this is a personal matter so feel free to give as much or as little information as you feel comfortable giving,” Jason said in a tone that sounded genuine.
“Gladly. We met oddly enough at the same bar I met Perry. I wasn’t there with Sherry this time I just wanted to have a drink and be around people. A girl at the office had pissed me off that day and I needed to unwind. Steven was there as I would find out later as he was almost every day. He was playing pool and to his credit wiping the floor with the other guy. After he was done that game he came up to the bar to get a drink. That’s when I think he noticed me.
“He was confident and bought me a drink. I don’t usually let guys do that but he was a welcome distraction from the rest of my day. We ended up talking about movies and music. We both liked the same music and oddly enough ended up jamming to nineties rock on the way back to his apartment. We were both surprised to find we were neighbors. We ended up drinking some more, dancing into the night, and ending up in bed.
“I ended up inviting him over for breakfast in the morning since he just had frozen pizza pockets in his fridge. I’m not sure if it was the lack of alcohol in my system but our conversations became much duller, mostly just him complaining about work, people there, or getting wet over his bike. Anytime I brought anything up he would somehow veer it back to himself.
“We left for work afterward and I thought about calling him but that morning irked me. But a week later he came over and we again had some drinks a fun night and a shitty morning. This went on a few times in the next few months. I tried to see him outside of midnight booty calls but he always had some excuse. So one morning I told myself I would settle this once and for all. That was yesterday morning. I confronted him on our way out, caught him in two lies, and got another dismissal after that. I know I’m worth more than that so I told him the truth and here we are. By the way, he didn’t take the truth very well and essentially had a hissy fit.
“I should also add a footnote. Right before this interview, he declared me his property, again pulling a hissy fit when I declared myself a human being. Although according to Steven, that was a reason among many why he assaulted Perry,” Deb seemed to finish until she found Steven among the crowd. “And I will be pushing him to file an assault charge, we had plenty of witnesses,” she said with finality. Steven panicked at that. As Jason let the pause extend in case she had more to say Steven pushed his way through the crowd. He got through it just as Jason started speaking.
“Thank you Deborah,” Jason just started.
“That’s bullshit he came at me!” Steven said as he got within ten feet of her. Steven heard a small commotion from his right but he was still panicking.
“We have camera’s in the building he dumbass,” Deborah said standing up.
“Yeah but there’s no sound on them. You should’ve heard the obscenities coming out of his mouth about you Deb,” Steven said with conviction.
“That’s bullshit Steven, and there are no witnesses for that, but all the witnesses for the jumping of Perry,” Deb said staring him dead in the eyes.
“He’s a fucking animal, what is wrong with the world, with everyone. He. Is. A. Lizard.”
“Somehow still a better person and lover than you. From where I’m standing Steven, you’re the animal,” Deb said now losing the fire in her eyes and instead having nothing but contempt in them before turning her back on him. That single action was too much for Steven and he went to move forward. Then the heavy growl from below him stopped him.
He looked down to find Perry with his teeth bared.
“You move an inch towards her and I’ll take the hand,” Perry said in a low growl. Steven backed up.
“See, he’s fucking dangerous,” Steven said turning to the crowd. He was surprised to see the same look of contempt in the entire crowd. “Why are you giving me that look?” he asked incredulously. There was a sudden movement in the crowd, people were moving to the side. A few moments later a petite, gorgeous woman stepped out from the crowd, with a look of anger and pity in her eyes.
“Looks like I was right to leave you. Steven, I think it would be better for everyone here if you left,” Sam said with coldness in her tone. Something broke inside of him at this proclamation.
“No Sam, we can still make it work, he’s me don’t you see? That’s what I could be. Everyone loves him and he’s me. We could make it work, I could still be loved by someone, by everyone. They all love the lizard and the lizard has my brain, were the same,” Steven could hear the panic and plea in his voice but he couldn’t stop the tumble of words coming out of his mouth.
“I’ve talked with Perry, I made his body if you remember. I can tell from Deborah's and my experience with you and Perry. You are no more Perry than you are I. If anything, the experiment was a success. Even though Perry was born in an alligator's body, through his hard work, struggles, self-pity, and overcoming it, he found love and acceptance. You, on the other hand, skated your entire life on your looks, superficial charisma, and easy demeanor. But once people got passed your shell they all left,” Sam finished and the whole situation finally settled into Steven. She was right.
“Wait, THE Samantha?” Deborah seemed to ask in awe. “The woman you talked about every time you came over?” Deb asked.
“Presumably the same,” Sam said with a look of strange amusement on his face.
“We should get a drink,” Deb smiled at her.
“We can go right after we're done here,” Sam offered.
“It would be an honor. I’m kind of excited now to meet the woman behind the goddess Steven thought you were.”
“Thank you, I think,” Sam smirked. “I think we will have a lot to talk about. Perry, would you like to come along, I know the foots hurt but we’ll get you a proper seat,” Sam asked looking down at the alligator. That was enough. Steven ran. He ran through the crowd, pushing people to the ground if they were in his way. Soon though people made way for him and he made his way to Julie. He threw the jacket and helmet off the bike as it started and made a quick u-turn.
To his dismay though the gate was closed so he had to stop Julie short. He looked back to the entire crowd looking at him. He quickly got off of Julie and sprinted toward the terminal. His dread compounded when he realized he didn’t have his card. He thought quickly and remembered the gate was opened for him on his way in. He remembered he didn’t grab his card since it was his day off.
He walked back to Julie and looked back towards the crowd. In his mind, all he saw was a mass of judging eyes. Eyes full of contempt, full of pity. The thought of asking for the gate to open was the scariest thought he had had in his entire life. So in a pathetic display, he started climbing the gate. He fell onto his ass at least three times, as his feet lost friction or his hands slipped. He didn’t look back once. When he finally did get over, he awkwardly pulled his body to the top of the gate. He threw one leg over to the other side and put his weight on the gate to rest. This, however, crushed his crotch and in his pain, he lost his balance and fell off the gate to the other side. He landed on his side.
Pain washed over him. After laying there for what felt like an hour he managed to pull himself to his feet keeping the weight off the left side of his body. He didn’t think he seriously hurt anything. After a moment though he noticed he was facing the mass of judging eyes and quickly turned around. The looks hurt him more than his bruised side.
With his head down, and the thought of human interaction frightening him he resigned himself. It was gonna be a long limp walk home.
Steven opened his eyes. He had trouble sleeping in the last few months. He used to have nightmares but could escape them when he woke up. Now his fear came from the waking world.
Steven was already up so he pulled the cord from the wall. He did his usual routine, moving his way expertly through the cramped apartment. If he was honest with himself, this apartment, his last bastion of sanity, was the only reason he hadn’t left the post office. No other job he could get would pay enough for him to keep it. But at the same time, it was the reason for the rest of his day being shit. He had tried to bring sanity back to his work but it only had gotten worse. He still couldn’t believe how delusional people could be. He was a fucking lizard.
He opened the door to the hallway just as he heard Deb’s door open.
“Have a good day at work hun,” he heard her say.
“I love you, Debbie,” he heard a slithery voice say with a small growl as Steven locked his door.
“Hey Steven,” Deb said.
“Hey Deb,” he said as politely as he could before making his way to the elevator. He heard the plopping footsteps of his coworker behind him. The elevator opened just as they got there, letting another tenant off on this floor.
The thought of his new vehicle hurt him in his soul, as the opening elevator always reminded him of Julie. It used to show promise of another trip together, but after the assault charges and lawsuits, he had to sell her off to pay for the charges and lawyer feeds. The only reason he even had a vehicle now was that Terrance had bought him a small luxury vehicle with the stipulation that he would give Perry rides if he ever needed to go somewhere. He became a chauffeur for the thing that ruined his life. Apparently, he was working on a vehicle that Perry would be able to safely operate but Terrance told him it was still about a year off.
He waited for Perry to get on, but to Steven’s annoyance, he had been stopped by the tenant who got off.
“Oh yeah, the kids loved the gift. Mary said she’s gonna make you that apple crisp you love so much. I can drop it off at Deb’s later if you want.” Steven could see the literal drool coming out of Perry’s mouth.
“That just made my day Eddie,” Perry said. Eddie started laughing as Perry started drooling. “Um, if you see Hilda, tell her I’m sorry again,” he said looking away seemingly embarrassed. It was hard to tell, you know. Because he’s not a human being.
“Don’t worry about it, after you covered for her when her husband got hurt, she loves you. She just laughs to herself when she sees the little spots,” Eddie said with a smile.
“Still,” Perry said.
“Will do. Anyways, I got to get going. Have a good day at work there man,” Eddie said bending down and offering a hand. Perry through his gator paws into Eddie's hand who shook and let the reptile go.
“Thanks, Eddie,” Perry said as the man started down the hallways. He just threw his hand up in a small wave as he continued walking. Perry plopped his way into the elevator beside Steven.
“Good morning Steven,” Perry said, as per their morning routine. Also following the routine, Steven stayed quiet and pressed the lobby button. The day's events seemed to close in on Steven, he was stuck doing this day in and out. As the elevator doors closed he sighed, as per the morning routine.