FEN ACROSS THE RUBICON
by Matthew Sanborn Smith
Walking out into the sunlight of the warm afternoon, he felt alive. There are worlds to be won, Fen thought, suddenly overwhelmed by the taste of summer, a prodigal memory. The Hasco Distribution Center was right where it was supposed to be -- behind him. It's time was past and even though Levinger and the others expected him back after lunch, he'd never so much as utter their names or the name of that place again.
Across the hot pavement he approached his 79 Thunderbird like a tiger: huge and powerful and self-assured. His hands spread over the air, mere millimeters from its surface and caressed its dusty green paint job remotely. At once, when he knew it wouldn't get away, he embraced the old beast passionately, kissed the hot metal; His steed was here awaiting its master's commands. His left hand slid like a controlling lover down her grimy side until he felt the chrome handle at hip's height. Delicately working their way beneath the handle's smooth exterior, his fingers popped the door open as if it was a brassiere and he dove in just as greedily.
The smell of old plastic, the too warm interior and the savaged dust motes scrambling for their lazy order in the sunlight: these were all too pleasurable. He breathed deeply and knew his life had changed forever. The car started immediately. Fen took off down the highway, feeling each bump and crevice of the asphalt in his mid-section as if he were the car. He merged with the Thunderbird and rode it up hills like spurring a charger to take his enemies by the throats.
Fen went home and had a sandwich and the feeling passed. He sat in his chair in the quiet apartment and enjoyed a carbonated beverage. A Tab.
Without thinking, his eyes fell upon the clock above the kitchen sink. He meant to pull away, but never did. The scarlet second hand jerked around its bleached paper track. Fen stared, as frozen as Prince Prospero's dancers at the bell's toll. 12:41 PM was highlighted in his imagination as the ultimate annihilation. It was Doomsday. It was the Apocalypse. It was through the black hole. One second past 12:41 PM and it would be impossible to return to his job on time. The die would be cast. Lunch had seemed to settle his head but he'd be damned if he wasn't approaching the same conclusion in this slower, calmer manner: There was more to life, much more to life than that place.
The tick that took him from 12:41:00 PM to 12:41:01 PM was a thunderclap that shook his chest. Fen leapt to his feet and cried:
"What the hell has my life become?"