Brian went down the stairs that felt like stairs - good. That means it's still downward down, he thought, the function, and continued, not even worrying about that light that was likely illuminating the carpeted steps that thrust strands of carpet between his toes with every step.
Good, these stairs, so far - all as it should be.
The coffee maker gurgled, ticked off, but he could smell the coffee in the pot long before the smell entered his nose or his eyes picked up the bent light of the dark liquid. Coffee, strange, and here, in the kitchen. Could only be because the kitchen is now observed, thought Brian, and stepped toward the front door after bumping into one of the bar stools and overturning it.
The handle felt like a handle and the door pushed open after a gentle push. Weather's out there, he thought. And sure enough, there was weather against his face, up his nose, scrambling the scent of coffee and jumbling up the sensation of carpet strands between his toes.
Out on the street, the light bent both upwards and down, and he blinked against it. Sharp, biting sunlight screwed his eyes shut, made him feel pinches of cheeks against his sinuses. Again, all to be expected.
Except the noise on the road. It roared up from the country lane. Resounding against the half walls. Shaking the chain link fences across the street. Rippled through the pavement that was at this point only barely clinging to the soles of Brian's bare feet.
What was that pressure on his thigh? Against his groin?
Turning to run away from the sunlight, Brian knocked the bar stool over again, and then spun.
He blinked and blinked, and the smell of coffee returned. It massaged the insides of his nose. It rubbed out the strain of his pinched forehead muscles. He stood up straight, in his office chair. The bells in the distance rang out, and the coffee maker gurgled on. It was sitting on the barstool next to him.
Brian checked his email, disconnected his phone, and hurled his coffee cup across the rows of empty cubicles.
It hit one of the thin white walls thirty yards down, and fell harmlessly to the ground.
The printer next to him began scraping and squeaking, laboring like it had been made in 1985.
Finally it spit out a small ticket with perforated edges:
And then another one:
"Made in 1985."
And then it cut out, along with the coffee maker.
Brian snatched all four tickets, cut his middle finger as he crumpled them, and prepared to hurl them across the room, over the rows of cubicles, under the blinking fluorescent lights, through the haze of coffee and photocopier and reams of paper smell, and toward the hidden coffee cup.
But then they slid away, the tickets did from his hand. The tickets slid away and almost immediately returned in the form of a cold pint glass, curled in his hand. And the machinery, walls, and entire building followed the pieces of paper, slipping into the dark.
Though he hadn't at all stood up from the barstool. He still had his hand on the stranger's leg. Odd, thought Brian, I don't like men. Well, he considered, I suppose I do. Off, right, above the dim pub lights, there was an odd cry. As the stranger rubbed Brian's leg, Brian strained his ears to distill the sound, to capture it.
Who or what was crying?
Again, the stairs, the coffee maker, the street, the office wheeled in front of his eyes, his ears, his heart squeezing straining blood through little cells in the brain tissue to recall these instances, and sharpen their focus. This all had to make some kind of sense. But the images blurred, faded, just as the sound of the cry rose in din.
The man across did not seem to hear it, nor did the bartender who cast Brian a quick searching look. No, instead, it was Brian's alone.
Maybe, cast myself back into childhood, hide there for a while. A scene to possibly grapple for: the swing-set in the old backyard, the smell of summer pool barbeques.
But the stranger in the barstool with his hand on Brian's leg managed to pitch his voice out, stretch it through the darkness, and meet Brian's ears.
It was a whisper at first, but finally it settled into words:
"Function and form, function and form."
And the bar wheeled around, caught on fire, burned for days on end, tipped into the ocean, hissed the steam of violent endings, until the crying ebbed of its own accord.
For my own good, thought Brian at last. For my own good.