Shattered Halo


Fishing at Collier's Lake this morning with Lisa had been good. What better way was there to unwind after another nightmare week of making steel rolls at Turner's Metal Factory? Working in that place was like stoking the very furnaces of Hell. And man, it sure felt like you were on the Devil's payroll when you saw the amount of crap that place pumped into the Heavens. Still, he had to do something to loosen that noose around his neck more commonly known as the mortgage. Whoever coined the phrase that money is the root of all evil, just might have a point.

This morning had been nice though. Jack recalled how still and clear that water had been, giving it the appearance of sheet glass. Just about the only thing to thwart that illusion had been a handful of faint steam tendrils wavering off the surface in clusters here and there. It had relaxed him somewhat, but as midnight approached, Jack found sleep elusive; there were just too many things running through his head. Strange things. Disjointed things. And reluctantly, he came to understand that searching for the Land of Sleep was going to be a hopeless escapade. Again.

Come on now, boy! If you drifted off just like that, you wouldn't be able to continue with your work in the shed, would you?

Yes, that was true. The work in the shed was important.

Jack got out of bed and pulled on the jeans he'd worn yesterday. He didn't bother with anything else seeing as he'd be working up a nice sweat soon enough. A quick glance back at Lisa confirmed his suspicions that she was sound asleep, and he couldn't help but notice how far the hem of her satin nightie had slid up her smooth legs. It had crept up far enough to make what she was wearing scandalously sexy. Jack sighed and stepped out of the room wondering what she would think of his most important work.

Not bothering with the lights, he crept downstairs in the dark. Everything was still and there was that old feeling of magic in the air when you knew that you were the only person awake while all others slept. There was no doubting that it was cooler than it had been during the day, but not by much. A light sheen of moisture formed on his brow as he wandered through the darkness which invaded his house. Stepping into the kitchen, he winced at the contrast of feeling in his right foot as he moved from soft carpet onto cold and unforgiving tile. The back door was just a few steps away now.

Important work to be done out there, boy. Damn important.

Certain things stood out in his mind more than others now. Certain things repeated round more consistently, holding a higher level of conviction. Two things in particular: one was the work waiting for him in the shed, the other was of Lisa and how she'd looked in that tiny mini-skirt she'd been wearing today. It seemed odd for these two thoughts to be most prominent. For one thing, they seemed totally unrelated – at least from a conscious point of view. Somehow though, and for reasons he couldn't fathom, his subconscious mind had connected the two streams together. Why? Who knew.

More to the point, boy, who cares?

That was his old man talking. He'd passed away some six years ago now. Jack remembered the memorial service well: when those curtains had come together to close off the sight of his father's coffin forever, Jack's eyes had been as dry as the desert. There was no summoning of tears for that bastard.

Before even realising it, Jack had unlocked the door to the garden and was now enduring even less forgiving cold, hard concrete. This was the forth time in a row for him to be standing out here like this at stupid o' clock in the morning, but there was work to be done.

Once again the sky had an enchanting greenish tint to it, and his usual precursory scan told him that there was no moon out tonight either. That struck home as being a little weird, even if there was an explanation for it. Floodlights seemed like a reasonable enough assumption, but at this time of night? The premise just didn't stack up. In fact, the whole idea crumbled when put under any kind of intelligent scrutiny. Anyway, this didn't change anything, did it? He wasn't out here to ogle at the empty sky and scratch his head. He was out here for more pressing matters than that.

Jack marched purposefully towards the garden shed. It was locked with a large rusty padlock on the outside. He remembered clasping that lock in place yesterday after he'd stowed away the many gadgets which made up his fishing gear. He remembered putting the key to that lock away in the top drawer of the kitchen unit next to the door. This dissolving memory was why he was surprised to find that very same key in the back pocket of his jeans.

That's how it goes when there's work to be done, boy!

Slotting the key into place, he unlocked the padlock with a quick flick of the wrist. For a wonder it came open easily enough. Usually, he would have to struggle with the damn thing before either it gave up the ghost, or he lost his temper. Thinking about it though, it always came open willingly at this time of night. Something wasn't quite right here. He felt that. And as if to exacerbate this feeling, his eye caught sight of a falling star as it streaked across the green-tinted sky. A ruby-red slit opened up in its wake, making it look as though the falling piece of debris was ripping a tear clean through the very fabric of space itself. It truly looked both beautiful and terrible at the same time.

Jack smiled, then opened the door to the shed.

Even though there was no source of light in here, he could see perfectly. To his left, a large telephone book sat neatly on top of a fast ageing workbench. All of the book's angles had been perfectly lined up square, ready for cutting. A hacksaw lay to the right as he loomed over his work. Jack picked it up.

Sawing up these phone books will have you good and ready for the real thing in no time, boy! You'll see. When the time is right, you'll see.

Jack began sawing. He started off slowly at first. Just finding the rhythm. Just finding that sweet spot. He grimaced as the saw's old rusty teeth caught a few times, but it didn't take long to find that rhythm. That sweet spot. And soon, he was sawing away like a seasoned pro, picturing Lisa wearing that belt of cloth she called a skirt. Picturing her flaunting the delights that should be for his eyes only. God, it made him sick!

His grimace manifested into an outright snarl as he drove the rusty saw back and forth through the book. Ferocious was a word which fell well short of describing his actions now. And as the rip from that falling star coloured the sky red, tiny shards of paper floated around his head like the remains of a shattered halo.