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For your reading pleasure...

Excerpts from "Today's Man"

A collection of illustrated short stories by Francis Kruckvich.

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Today's Man

I watched this pathetic wretch lay in the hospital bed, terrified, remorseful. I listened to his sad and shocking tale. I recorded everything he said with my handheld. He had been the victim of a wish come true. When I was at the University, my Psych 201 professor sent everyone in my class to the hospital. We each had to study a patient and write a paper. I was assigned to this guy that, alledgedly, had not slept for like a year. He was difficult to understand, at times, but I was still amazed by his story.

"It all started when I was working on this side project." He began. " 'I've got to get this done!' I remember saying that, repeatedly, out loud. I remember thinking that I would finish this project at any cost. One night I worked an extra hour, and I only lost an hour of sleep. The next night it became two, then three, and it went on from there.

'I've got to get this done! I've got to get this done! I've got to get this done!'

This was the thought running through my head as I looked at the clock. It was 2:00am and I had to go to work the next day. I am a systems administrator for Intergalactic Systems during the day, but I've been doing web sites for small businesses at night. I was working on a side-project, and the woman I was working for was pressuring me to finish. I had been working on this cosmetics site called Moon Glow for weeks and it was really starting to wear me down. I thought to myself that I would finish this site tonight, email the woman and tell her that it's done. Then, I would have an easy day at work tomorrow. Then it will be the weekend, and I can catch up on sleep and maybe even go out! I closed my eyes, just for a second, and thought about what I was going to do on Saturday night. When I opened my eyes, the Solar Lamp was shining in my window. I was still sitting in front of my computer. I looked at the clock and it was 9:30am!

A long, weary grunt was the first thing that came out of my mouth that day. I had missed the 8:00am Green Cheese Express (my train) and I was late for work...again! I called my boss. She was an easy-going woman. She had been a manager with the Lunar Government for almost ten years. I had worked with her for almost as long as Intergalactic Systems had a contract on the moon. She was divorced and loved to party. She was always trying to get people from the office to go to the Lunar Lounge with her. This made it easy for me, because all I had to do with flirt with her, just a little, and she would go easy on me for being late.
I rushed out the door of my apartment. I didn't eat anything. I ran down the hallway unit and took the elevator to the first floor. I ran through the Main Hall, passed the Food Court and Neil Armstrong Memorial Park, and finally to the Train Station. The air in the building always smelled funny after I had been running to catch the train. The Green Cheese Express only ran every two hours after 8:00am so I had to wait for the 10:00am train. It finally slid into the station. Just the whine of the engine made me feel stressed out because I had been associating that sound with the train that would take me to my office.

Once on the train, I sank down into a seat. I tried to relax as the train accelerated. I leaned back and looked out the window. I could see tourists bouncing on the moon walk tours. The tour guides would let them leap and bounce at certain points during the walk. They were all chained together so nobody would accidentally float off. I always thought about how fun it would be to go on one of those tours. I promised myself I would do it after I had finished my free-lance project and I caught up on my sleep. But that never happened. That turned out to be a typical day on the moon for me. I dozed off in my cube, as usual, but I always managed to catch the last Green Cheese Express train home.

The next night, after I got home from work, I began working on Moon Glow again. It seemed as if I was home for only a few minutes. I looked over at the clock.

'Crap....2:00am...again! I can't be doing this!' I knew I was losing sleep, but I was intent on finishing this project. I just get so busy, you see, I lose track of time. Since the day I signed up for the Lunar Project, I never got used to Moon Time. I'd forget to eat, shower, sleep. When you sleep, you might miss something important.

Then, one night, I was at a party. I was looking out the window and watching the Earth. White clouds were floating around the little blue ball. It seemed as if the clouds were taking their timeā€¦as if they had a lifetime to clear. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata was going through my head. I had a recording of that music on my MPZParticle Player when I was a teenager. It only held a trillion songs, but I thought it was the coolest thing back then. I played it over and over. I just thought it sounded cool. I always thought the moon was fascinating. That seems so long ago! Once I got to the moon, it just seemed like one long day. I never really got used to designated sleep times. I wished that I never had to sleep, or eat, so that I could work continuously. Then I could go to all the parties during the recreation hours. I would never miss the Green Cheese Express again! I had heard rumors of moon fairies that could grant wishes. I didn't believe it myself until I actually met one at that party. People think the moon is just a rock, but it's really a mysterious place."

"And so you have been awake since that party?" I asked the miserable fellow as he lay in the hospital bed. "You know the reason you are back on Earth is because your heart stopped. Medication has no effect on you. Your brain just refuses to go unconscious."

(End of this Excerpt)

Hole in the Ceiling image

Hole in the Ceiling

I was sitting, and listening, peacefully. I didn't want to move. I was floating as I enjoyed the most heavenly music human ears could hear. It sounded like Puccini, but I couldn't be sure. I just remember that the music was beautiful. I felt cool and peaceful as I sat in that comfortable seat, listening. A concert hall seat had never felt so comfortable as it did during that concert...and what a wonderful concert it was! The music was flowing and it was as near to perfect as music can get! I kept thinking that I knew the piece, but it somehow sounded a little different than I had remembered. I sat there, listening, enjoying, and trying to remember.

All too soon I began to feel the cold hands of reality, tugging me back to consciousness, and I realized that I was indeed dreaming. I was caught in a battle between dream and reality. I thought to myself that I didn't want to awaken just yet. I didn't want harsh reality to disturb this pleasant dream! I wanted to go on listening to that sweet music. I found myself still struggling to remember what it was that I was hearing. I wanted so very badly to be able to recall every note while I was awake. Oh, if only I could have written it down, or even recorded it, it would have been be most spectacular! I was losing the battle. I began to awaken...slowly. In my hypnagogic state, I could still hear the music. It seemed so real!

I lay still. I was flat on my back. The only muscles of my body that moved were those of my eyes. Was I dreaming, or was I awake? After a few minutes of adjusting to the sight of walls in a dark room, I soon deducted that I was awake. Sometimes my dreams are so vivid that, even minutes after awakening, it takes me a few more minutes to distinguish between dream and consciousness.

After I had assured myself that I was indeed awake, I remembered that I was sleeping in a room at my aunt's house. I hated my aunt's house. Everything was so old, just like everything else in the Twenty-third Country. There was not much in the way of modern convenience there. It was a large house, even by most modern standards. She was well off. Her husband, my uncle, had been deceased for about a year. He was a scientist. He won an award for his work in sound research. He wrote many papers on the effects of ultrasound and infrasound on plants and animals. A few of his papers were published in science journals and considered highly controversial.

They had made much money in the First Country, and they had decided to retire in the Twenty-third Country so that they could have a luxury home and live like royalty, since the cost of living in the Twenty-third Country was much less than in the First Country. At least that is what my aunt tells people.

I had agreed to stay there over Christmas break from the conservatory since I was not getting along with my nuclear family. They had always criticized me for pursuing my studies of music. They told me that I would always be poor so they sent me to stay with my aunt in the Twenty-third Country since it was not quite as developed as the First Country.

The First Country is more advanced than the other countries and a person can do anything there. I guess they figured that I would realize how spoiled I was and come home a changed man. I listened to every word they said. After all, they were intelligent and very successful people. But music still seemed more "real" to me. Changed or not, I couldn't wait to get on a transport back to my dorm at the conservatory in the First Country.

I liked my uncle. I was fascinated by his sound research. I wished that he could have been there while I was visiting during that Christmas holiday. I kept wishing, and thinking.

While I was thinking, I sustained my position in the bed. I was on my back. I could faintly see the ceiling in my room. The room was still dark as the sun had not yet risen. I still heard the music! I let my eyes wander across the dimly lit ceiling.

Dimly lit ceiling?

I got out of bed. I carefully walked from my room into the hallway. I could see a faint beam of light stretching along the ceiling, over the hallway, and into the living room. I followed the light, as if I was walking down a path into the forbidden forest. I began to feel silly as I suspected it was the lights on the Christmas tree in the living room. When I arrived in the living room, I remembered that the decorative lights on the Christmas tree were supposed to be off for the night! I then realized that there was some sort of light shining inside a hole in corner of the ceiling. I walked over to the dining room table. There were several chairs resting beneath it. I quietly pulled one. I carried the chair to the corner of the room and placed it on the floor under the glowing hole. I carefully placed my right foot upon the seat of the chair. Still not fully awake, I leaned forward and threw my arms above my head and towards the ceiling as I stepped up. I struggled, for a moment, to catch my balance. As I stood on the chair, in the corner of the room, my head was just about level with the ceiling. I peeked into the hole. I had to stand on tips of my toes to see.

I could not believe what I saw! Even now, as I tell this story to you, I am concerned that you may think that I am crazy. Even if I am committed to a mental institution, I cannot deny what I saw that night. As clearly as I can recall the account, fantastic as it seems, here is what I saw....

(End of this Excerpt)

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Reunited With Friends and Family

I woke up a little late. It was probably close to noon. As soon as I had finished brushing and flossing my teeth, I signed on to the Social Network. I was still trying to cope with losing my job. These are crazy times. When I was in college, I never dreamed that I would ever be unemployed. The Social Network was keeping me going. The thrill of receiving an email or a friend request helped me to feel like my life still had some significance. Some days there would be nothing. Some days there would be multiple messages. It seemed to come and go like the tide. What would I find today?

I had a couple of emails from Social Network regulars. These people seem to have nothing better to do but send messages, but then I had nothing better to do than to read them. I also had a friend request. I opened the friend request first. It was from Frederick Kirkland. I stared at that name for a moment. Somehow, it held my interest. Then it occurred to me that that was my father's name. I had not read his name in over twenty years. It was especially odd to read his name on a computer screen, in a friend request received over the Internet. There were no computers in our household while my father was alive, and the Internet craze had not yet taken place at the time of his passing.

At first, I figured it was someone that happened to share my last name, by coincidence, and decided to connect with me. Or perhaps this person was simply trying to expand his friend list. Nonetheless I accepted it, and visited his profile. There were no photos. I noticed that his profile was private. He had a few names in his friend list. After a moment of thinking, I remembered that these, very few, people were friends of his. I met some of them when I was a child. I visited their profiles. The profiles contained photos of my father with his friends. This was blowing my mind! How was this possible?

I figured it had to be my mother, but then again that would probably not be likely. She had just recently discovered computers. She was a total novice. There was no way she could have posted these pics without my help. I signed off and went jogging.

Later that day, I called my mother. She still didn't know that I had lost my job. I was afraid to tell her. I tried to think of a way to ask her if she had been on the Social Network so that it would seem to be a casual question. Luck was with me. She made it easy. She asked me how my day was. I told her that I had a friend request on the Social Network. Her reaction indicated that she had no idea what I was talking about. If she was playing dumb, then I would have to say that I do not know my own mother! I was confident that she had never been on the Social Network, much less create a fake profile of my deceased father and post photos of him that were taken before I was born.

The rest of my conversation with my mother was routine. After hanging up the phone, I was still perplexed by this strange friend request and the photos of my deceased father in the other profiles. Who could be doing this? I was tempted to send an email to this person, but I had no idea what I should say....

(End of this Excerpt)

Bobby's Tale (The Field) image

Bobby's Tale (The Field)

"I'm going joggin' now Mom!" Bobby called to his mother. He knew she was his foster mother, but he still called her "Mom".

"OK. Be careful." She called backed to him as he was opening the storm door in the front of the house. He turned and looked back. He saw his mom in the kitchen, making cookies. The sight made him even more excited about jogging. Getting the blood pumping and working up an appetite before munching on fresh-baked cookies was always a great feeling. He held the handle of the storm door to make sure that it closed slowly and securely. Once it was closed, he took off running down the sidewalk as if he was never coming back home again. Bobby was an active lad. He loved to run. He ran full force until he got to his favourite field and then slowed down to a walk so that he could enjoy the look and smell of the grass and the trees. As he stood smelling, another familiar smell crossed his nose - cookies! It was so faint that he thought he may have been imagining it. Still, the thought of his mother's cookies suddenly entered his brain. He began to run back to his house. He now realized that he was a mile away from home. The thought of the cookies gave him enough enthusiasm to run the entire way back.

As he reached his house, he pulled open the storm door and entered the living room. The aroma of cookies filled his head and lungs. He stood still and took a deep breath. The warm, dry, air in the house made his head tingle. Soon the inviting colors of the walls and carpet faded, and everything in the room turned into a pale yellow. The next thing Bobby could remember was his father (foster father) standing over him.

"Can you hear me son?" He kept saying this over and over....

(End of this Excerpt)

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