Jason Mondy’s world is unraveling.
His seemingly secure job as a fire fighter is suddenly thrown into chaos. The bright spot in his week is that he rescued two children from a house fire, but he returns home that night to find all his furniture is missing. His girlfriend has left him without warning and his nightmares keep him from sleeping.
Even just a simple trip home to find some rest leads his adoptive mother to sit him down and tell him that maybe his troubles aren’t quite as innocuous as they seem. Then she divulges a secret she’s kept for over twenty-six years . . .
Jason has a brother he doesn’t remember existed.
He doesn’t remember his life before he was adopted at age seven. He only knows that he was rescued from the fire that took his birth mother’s life. But the story is deeper than that, and the foundation on which he built his world is now cracking. The brother he doesn’t remember it out there somewhere, left behind.
Armed with only this stunning new piece of information, Jason embarks on a quest to find the truths buried deep in his past. As he searches, one by one the pieces of his life fall like dominoes. And the more he uncovers, the more everything he thought he knew about himself and his past begins to turn to ash.
His truth isn’t true at all . . .
The sound of the phone ringing pulled him from the fire.
With a grunt, Jason rolled off the mattress, his feet hitting the floor with too much force and bringing him further awake. He hadn’t expected the floor to be so high. Or maybe it was that the mattress was unusually low.
His eyelids tried to remain stuck together as he fumbled his way into the living room, bashing his toe on the coffee table, now situated smack in the middle of the floor. He cursed fluently and grabbed the phone without looking.
“uh-lo.” His mouth couldn’t even form the full word, and whoever was on the line had better have a good reason for calling him now. If it was Kelly he would either kill her or hang up. He hadn’t decided.
“Hello. This is Clark Jernigan with the Birmingham News.”
The straightforward tone and standard English told him what he didn’t want to hear.
“Hmm.” It was really more of a grunt, just a sound to stop the guy from talking.
Jason hung up.
Why he still had a home phone was beyond him. He didn’t have much of anything else. The coffee table had to be a joke. The mattress was the only decency in a mire of meanness. The phone had appeared to be a decency, too, until this. But there was no way Kelly could have predicted this onslaught of phone calls.
The phone rang again.
Half-asleep and whole-stupid he had automatically answered the phone, not even looking at the number on the screen. He sighed the greeting, “Heh-lo.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Mondy. I’m afraid we were cut off.” The man began speaking before Jason could insert a ‘hm’ or a ‘no thanks’ and hang up. “I’d like to do an interview with you regarding the Thurlow house fire and the rescue.”
This time Jason managed actual English words. “No thank you.” And he hit the off button again.
Then he pulled the cord from the back of the phone and left it hanging over the counter to remind him it was unplugged. That was funny. Like he needed a reminder – there were only about fifteen things left in his whole house, if he counted the two blankets as separate items.
Jason stumbled back to bed, once more stubbing his toe on the stupid Ikea coffee table, then fell forward onto the mattress on the floor and dreamed again of the fires he had seen.
^ ^ ^ ^ ^
He didn’t wake up until the early hours of Thursday morning.
At four a.m. his problems seemed amplified. No one could have predicted Tuesday.
But even with the lights blazing inside, the darkness beyond the windows formed a blanket around his empty cocoon. He stood in his apartment living area and surveyed the damage in the quiet of the near dawn.
The dining table was pushed into the far corner of the eat-in space in the kitchen. Made from an old butcher block, it was a sturdy, quality piece of furniture – the only one he had left. The four chairs that sat around it until Tuesday morning had vacated the premises sometime that day – along with the majority of his other household items.
The bed frame had disappeared, only the mattress had been left on the floor. Which was interesting, because it had been stripped bare and there wasn’t a single sheet in the place.
The dresser – something he had picked up at Goodwill years ago – still stood. The empty drawers on the right had been left slightly open, for effect he guessed. The end tables had gone with the bed frame and he now had his wallet and two books on the floor by the blanket-strewn mattress. When he’d left the other morning there had been a mix of close to a dozen paperbacks and hardbacks stacked there. That most of them were gone really pissed him off.
His desk and computer were all that remained in the second bedroom/office –in a rude gesture, his chair was missing. The main room had been entirely cleared around the lone coffee table. Of course the TV was gone: it was nice fifty-five inch Sony. Now the only thing left was the cable hanging from the wall. The DVDs were missing, too – except for three of them. Though he had no way to watch them, he was glad to still have Grindhouse and the director’s cut of HellBoy. But Backdraft was a small ‘fuck you’ propped against the wall.
Tired of looking at the pillaged space around him and starving after his eighteen-hour nap, Jason hit the fridge to find that it, too, had been nearly cleaned out. He had hot sauce, mustard, three hard boiled eggs and a lone wine cooler. Again, the wine cooler was a little ‘screw you’ left just for him. A clear note that all the beer had been taken.
He found a single take-out pepper pack and two tiny salts and pulled one of the remaining two chipped plates from the cabinet. The eggs yielded their shells quite easily and he dumped the trash into the bag he’d set out when he discovered the trash bin gone yesterday. He’d paid for that stupid, seventy dollar, step-lid trash can she had insisted they needed. He should sue the hell out of her. If he could find her.
With his plate of two eggs rolling in the salt and pepper mix he went to sit at the table. But there were no chairs, not even a couch. The Bitch had taken that too. So, with only his boxers to keep him from bare-assing it, he jumped up on the counter and ate there.
He wouldn’t sit on his butcher block table. He liked it. And if Kelly had known that, the table probably wouldn’t still be here. Three minutes later and still hungry, he rinsed the plate and left it in the sink. Then he took a moment to be grateful the sink was bolted down.
Jason checked out the bathroom before he showered. Had to be sure he had soap and a clean towel before he climbed in. He would have to get out of here and eat some actual food and make a rational decision about Kelly while he wasn’t looking directly at evidence of her evil side . . . and his stupid one.
About the Author
It’s A.J.’s world. A strange place where patterns jump out and catch the eye, little is missed, and most of it can be recalled with a deep breath; it’s different from the world the rest of us inhabit. But the rest of us can experience it—when we read. In this world, the smell of Florida takes three weeks to fully leave the senses and the air in Dallas is so thick that the planes “sink” to the runways rather than actually landing.
For A.J., texture reigns supreme. Whether it’s air or blood or virus, it can be felt and smelled. Reality is always a little bit off from the norm and something usually lurks right under the surface. As a storyteller, A.J. loves irony, the unexpected, and a puzzle where all the pieces fit and make sense. Originally a scientist and a teacher, the writer says research is always a key player in the stories. AJ’s motto is “It could happen. It wouldn’t. But it could.”
A.J. has lived in Florida and Los Angeles among a handful of other places. Recent whims have brought the dark writer to Tennessee, where home is a deceptively normal-looking neighborhood just outside Nashville.
For more on AJ, visit http://www.ajscudiere.com/
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