About The Author
D. R. Prescott has written a novel, a collection of short stories, a nonfiction book, a collection of essays, planetarium show/display scripts, two family histories, technical articles and business plans as well as written for and edited several newsletters.
Awards and published work include Writers' Journal, Long Story Short, Taj Mahal Review literary journal, The Orange County Register, Writer's Digest, and Writing.com and four books among other challenges.
As a former aerospace executive and planetarium program director, Prescott currently writes and explores life in Orange, California.
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"Sentience can be annoying."-DRP Abt. 1990
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Since 2008, Prescott has been a regular contributor of
essays and short stories to
The Taj Mahal Review Literary Journal
Get your copies now at: http://tajmahalreview.com/
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O R D E R   T O D A Y !
What now?
by D. R. Prescott

Rodney Trumball strolled along "his" well-worn path. The oak and maple leaves had that fiery autumn tinge and fluttered in the biting breeze. It was a crisp, beautiful day. Too beautiful! He loved days like this. It was a shame that there would never be another.

Normally, walking the Institute's grounds freed his mind of mental obstacles and accumulated debris. It was not working. His world had become richer but his mind was bankrupt. He had already passed through the elation, even the ecstasy, of discovery. Then, realization of what it meant twisted his initial excitement into an awful knot. The net effect was resignation. It was inevitable. Strange. You can’t fight it. He should have felt guilty, not indifferent.

A chirp from a sparrow perched in Rodney's favorite old oak tree made him stop. He shivered. Something was wrong. Wrong with the bird? Or, wrong with him? Or both? The bird fluttered its wings as Rodney approached. It suddenly launched itself erratically across the path, head first into a red brick retaining wall. On the ground flapping, obviously injured, it skittered off into the underbrush.

"It's gotten to you already, huh bird?" Rodney whispered, shrugged his shoulders and continued his practiced hike, accompanied by the knowledge that, no matter what he did, he could not undo what he had done.

"Rod!" A grating, feminine voice interrupted his reverie. "I've been looking all over for you!"

He stopped and turned. Cindy Parker charged toward him in her clipped, work-to-be-done strut. She was young, aggressive and had the disposition of a testy Doberman; loyal to only one master; lethal to anyone else. Actually, she was rather attractive but underneath that slim, buxom exterior was a cunning, alert mind of a seasoned power broker. She was the big boy's hatchet lady. You did not cross Cindy because she could make your life miserable by remote control. Cindy, oh Cindy!

She caught up with him and stopped with her hands on her hips. "Rod, Mr. Emerson wants to see you now! And, he's in a tizzy! Boy, you’ve done it this time." Cindy deftly transferred power. She irritated Rodney the first day they met, and things had spiraled downhill from there. Yet, now, he felt indifferent. She didn’t matter. In fact, neither did Emerson.

"Lead the way, Madam." He said evenly. She was poised for one of their exasperating exchanges and seemed disappointed that Rodney agreed so readily. Rodney smiled and she stiffened. He smiled wider; his indifference took on a new flavor.

"Aren't we obliging today!"

"Anything to please. I’m at your command."

Cindy clenched and unclenched her fists several times. Rodney was not playing the game. Lack of his rebellious servant act to her I'm-the-boss's-assistant routine seemed to really irritate her. Good! A tingle of satisfaction cleaved a tiny niche in his apathy.

She turned quickly and started back toward the Institute. Rodney followed several steps behind. He was still following her as they crossed the transom into the Institute of Special Advanced Studies main building. The guard nodded curtly as Cindy passed and, in turn, raised his eyebrows at Rodney. The elderly guard had obviously been a former victim of Cindy's wrath. Apparently, being inconspicuous was his best offense.

Cindy stood as far away as the elevator would permit while they were lifted to the third floor office. Neither spoke. Yet, they communicated effectively. Her eyes projected her I’ll-get-you-gawk. She looked confused. She nervously adjusted her blazer. Rodney smiled. She winced. Rodney’s smile widened.

The elevator door slid open to the posh, hushed environment of the executive suite. Cindy led the way to Director Emerson's door, knocked lightly and waited for protocol to grind through its inevitable ritual. Barely a second passed before the door opened abruptly. So much for protocol!

"Get your ass in here, Trumball!" Harrison Emerson growled. His bulbous face was redder than usual. Small veins about his nose looked like a street map. His paunchy frame was emphasized by lack of a suit coat that normally hid his robust waistline. Rodney looked at Cindy. Her lips were pursed into a told-you-so smirk. Rodney winked and smiled again at her as he passed by the old man into the cavernous, opulent office. Emerson’s office was a harsh contrast to Rodney's ten-by-ten partitioned, littered playpen on the second floor.

Emerson slammed the door leaving poor Cindy outside. Rodney was undecided about sitting or standing. Indecision left him standing. Emerson darted from the door to the coffee table scooping up a manila folder as he hurried behind his ornate desk to the leather throne from which he ruled the Institute.

"Christ, Trumball! What in the hell made you think that this piece of crap should be sent to anyone without my authorization, much less, to the Under Secretary?" Emerson thundered. He thrust a sheet of paper toward Rodney.

It was a copy of an Email that Rodney had sent to all hands warning them of the end. It was the right thing to do. He had no regrets about sending it. They ought to thank him. Everyone was a part of the coming collapse. Everyone ought to know. Yet, what was the point? In another few hours, who would care? Nobody.

"Harry, it's true. It's all coming apart. None of us can be sure we're thinking clearly right now."

"You're out of your mind! You've always been a royal pain-in-the-ass. Now! Now, you've gone way over the edge! How do I explain why I've let you stay on as long as I have? You're through, Trumball, really through!" Emerson shrieked.

"We’re all through, Harry. Done. Finished. The cycle's complete." Rod countered calmly. Emerson could not terrorize him, especially now. All the dreams were coming to an end. The real world was not real after all. Emerson's power was of that world and had little to do with the one Rodney unleashed a few hours ago.

"My God, man! Have you no sense? This is rubbish! You've proven that you are brilliantly stupid! The world is ending! Rubbish! The Under Secretary must think I'm running a loony bin out here!"

"Harry, if you'll calm down..." Rodney said.

"Calm down! Calm down! Shit! You go and send this out and you want me to calm down?" Emerson's face reddened further and appeared to be about to burst.

"It has already started. The changes are happening right now. They may be subtle, but they're here and increasing, becoming more visible. I've seen them."


"Whatever you say boss, but I've checked it over and over again. The rules have changed. Chaos is taking over. It's a force. Once the code is broken, everything gets broken. Didn't realize it until it was done. Consciousness really is linked to reality. It is all there is. This physical universe is ending. Neither of us can do anything to stop it."

Emerson slammed his pudgy fist on his desk. "Trumball, you've lost your mind!"

"No, Harry. I have stumbled upon the trip mechanism. Somebody was going to do it sooner or later. It's been there all the time, waiting, lurking in an obscure mathematical corner. Einstein, Dirac, Lorentz, Mandelbrot, Feynman, Tipler, Abraham, all of them skirted around it but never quite grasped it. I found it!"

"Get out!"

"Theoretical physics has made its best and final offer. Is the cat dead or alive? It is more correct to ask whether the cat exists or not. It does and it doesn't. If it does exist, has it figured it out yet? If it has, it doesn't exist."

"Get out, you imbecile! I've wasted enough time on you! These equations are convoluted dribble." Emerson took Rodney's paper from the folder and threw it across the desk. "I told you not to continue this crap! No! You went ahead! Then, you have the audacity to send this… this stupid warning to everyone in creation! You’re deranged! And, you're fired! Clear out your office and get out of mine! Now!"

"Firing me won't fix it. All it took was for someone to figure it out. That did it. Where we go from here is the only great question left to be answered."

"Ridiculous! I said, 'get out!' Do I have to throw you out! I swear I...” As Emerson reached a crescendo, his eyes dilated. He grimaced. His right hand clutched his chest. His voice trailed off to a groan. His breathing was visibly labored. He reached out toward Rodney and collapsed on the desk with a shudder.

Rodney ran behind the desk and pulled Emerson into the desk chair. Emerson's head fell to one side. His eyes were glazed. Rodney felt for a pulse. None.

"Cindy!" Rodney yelled as he clumsily put the huge man on the floor and tried to revive him. After a few minutes, Rodney was sweating from his futile efforts. Emerson was dead, beyond help.

The door opened. Cindy froze momentarily in the doorway. "My God, what have you done?" She screeched.

Rodney could not help himself; he almost laughed. The old man looked like a beached walrus. Cindy looked stunned. The desk disappeared with a loud pop as air rushed in to fill the void. Rodney shivered.

"Jesus! Oh my god! Oh my god!" Cindy yelped, her cutting demeanor supplanted with terror. She stood rigidly in the doorway choking back sobs.

"That wasn't very subtle, was it?" Rodney said as he walked toward the doorway across the matted carpet that once held Emerson's desk. Cindy looked like a statue, sculpted at a bad moment. "Cindy, it's all over. What's say we take a little walk around the grounds before it's all gone too?"

"Ah..." Cindy’s tears began tumbling down her cheeks and her teeth were gnawing at her knuckles.

"Never mind. I wouldn't be very good company either." Rodney said. He patted her on the shoulder as he walked from Emerson's office. He took the stairs down, avoiding the elevator. The building structure appeared canted. Maybe it was just his imagination but nothing seemed quite square. It left him slightly nauseated. He reached the lobby and found the guard frantically searching for something. The guard looked bewildered.

"I know it was here, Mr. Trumball! It was!" The guard said pleadingly as he pointed at the empty spot where the guard's desk had been.

"Of course, it was." Rod said matter-of-factly.

"You... don't understand..."

"Oh, I understand. I am the only one who does. Unfortunately, the only one."
Rodney left the guard fumbling for words and headed toward the main exit. One of the glass doors was crazed. The glass gave way, playing a chaotic melody as it fell to the floor. At least, gravity was still operating correctly. The glass tumbled downward, not up or sideways. Rodney opened the door and walked out into the sunshine over the pile of crystalline debris that crunched comfortingly under his feet. It should sound like that.

Outside, the day was beautifully strange. It was the kind of strangeness that alerts the hair on your neck and sends a shiver up your spine. It tingled. Strange. It all was familiar but different. The path. His path.

He shrugged, pulling his collar up against the biting breeze. There was nothing more for him to do except to walk. He headed down the path. Well into his walk, he passed that familiar old oak and the brick wall. He wondered about that sparrow. Poor thing. Was it still fluttering around helplessly? Had some cat eaten it not knowing that the bird was its last supper?

His thoughts flitted from one thing to another almost randomly. Cindy, Oh, Cindy. Perry Como? Where did that come from? The final derivative? He focused on the old oak tree. He wondered how long it had stood its ground against wind, rain and pollution. No more. He had a thought. It eluded him. What now?

"I'll be damned!" He suddenly knew. It was there all the time.

And, the world changed again.

© Copyright 2010 D. R. Prescott (donprescott at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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' Copyright 2008 D. R. Prescott (UN: donprescott at Writing.Com). All rights reserved. D. R. Prescott has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work. Questions or Comments? E-mail to prescottdc@sbcglobal.net
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