The DickensbyCalpurnius Erex©
I looked at the computer screen. The words I saw there did not make sense to me. But then again, nothing with this new marketing project seemed to make sense. It had been thrust upon me at the last moment, brought to me in the last two weeks of December with an implementation date of January first. I have thrived on such challenges before, and my boss would not have sent this one to me if I hadn't been successful. Yet, this had been someone else's baby. Though they had done badly, they had started in a direction the client liked. That, I had found, was not making things easy. I had to take a poor vision, make it my own, and build upon it. I had to wade through eighteen months of trash and make it workable within two weeks.
To say that I had been putting in late nights was an understatement.
Though I did not like to admit it to myself, it was beginning to wear on me.
I found myself drifting over the computer monitor. I found myself drifting over the growing reams of paper spread out across my desk. I found myself drifting.
My computer speaker dinged – email. I clicked to my Inbox and found "An Important Message from Marley.com" waiting for me there. I glanced at it briefly in the preview pane, saw what looked like an ordinary marketing layout, and clicked delete after skimming the second line. I shook my head to clear it and returned to my copy writing. It hadn't become any easier in the moment I was gone. In fact, now it seemed that every letter I typed became something else as it hit the screen. I found myself backspacing more than moving forward. The tension in my neck and jaw tightened.
"A VERY Important Message from Marley.com"
That was different, I thought. I smiled in admiration of its persistence. As I clicked the second email open, I made a mental note to retrieve the first; I wanted to see the code that told their list server when I had deleted and when to send a second pitch. We could use that ourselves in our emailing campaigns.
The rich text message opened. In the upper right hand corner there was an embedded JPEG of a dred-locked black man standing under a palm tree on a beach I immediately associated with the Caribbean. Marley – Bob Marley? Nothing in the caption suggested it, but it's who came to mind. The message body read:
It's Christmas Eve and you're sitting behind a desk when you should be home enjoying your life. If you don't enjoy life yourself, no one will for you and nothing you gain as a result will matter anyway.
Don't believe me?
Follow the links…
Do it now, before it's too late.
Like I have time to click to someone's bullshit attempt to get me to their ordering screen? My cursor hovered over the delete icon. If you don't enjoy life yourself, no one will for you… No, they wouldn't. I admit it; I needed something to jog my mind. Curiosity would do that sort of thing. I clicked the Christmas Past link. My hard drive whirred and I saw my VeryRealPlayer launch itself. It expanded to full screen and an old-fashioned movie frame counter began winding itself down from four. 3…2…1.
My point of view approached a older sedan parked in a near-deserted rest area parking lot. Snow gathered on the roof and trunk. From inside I could hear the muffled voices of a man and a woman. The scene cut to the car's interior and to my shock I saw myself holding Carol in my arms.
I hit the pause button. I examined the scene. I recognized it. It was from a Christmas about ten years ago. Carol and I hadn't been married long. We were still renting then. I was working through my internship with my first firm. She was finishing her MBA.
Carol had developed a strong case of homesickness on Christmas Eve, one of her first to be so far from home. Without so much as thinking about it, we packed a bag and got in the car to drive five hundred miles. Without mortgages, without obligations to professional associations, without anything really but ourselves, we did things like that then. I remember how much we enjoyed them.
But how had this been recorded? Who?
I looked around me. The office was quiet and dark. If someone had set up a prank, they were doing it well; and I was intrigued enough to see just how well they would do it. I clicked play.
I saw myself cuddling Carol in my arms.
She smiled up at me. "Thank you," she said.
"For taking me home for the holidays." She stroked my arm.
"I'm sorry we can't afford a room."
"It's okay. It's just a few hours to daylight. I like this, anyway." She nestled into me and grinned at me. "And you're warm."
"If I'm warm, you're hot." I kissed her.
"Wanna get hotter?"
She turned to face me, her skirt riding up her thighs as she straddled my legs. She kissed me as she unzipped her jacket. I undid the buttons of her blouse. Her satiny bra glowed under the light from the lot lamp. I cupped her breasts in my hands. They felt warm and inviting. Her nipples stood erect from my touch and the faint chill permeating the car. I thumbed them and fingered them and bent to take them in my mouth. She held my head to her while I sucked upon her nipples, her hands playing in my hair. She laughed so playfully as I nipped her with my teeth. We were young and had no thoughts except for each other. That is as intoxicating as it is arousing.
I felt her fingers at my belt. She worked the buckle, then the button, then the zipper. Her hand slipped inside my fly, cupping my growing erection in her palm.
"Unwrapping a gift early?"
She giggled in my ear. "Sometimes it's better to be naughty than nice."
She stroked my cock gently and I breathed my appreciation in her ear, then kissed her throat, her lips. My hand slid down her belly and played over her panties. As I pressed against her mound I found that she had begun to soak through the wispy material. At the pressure, she groaned in my ear. I slipped my fingers inside the waistband and traced along her slit. She squirmed against me. I touched her clit. She cried out.
"I want you in me," she groaned.
"In here?" I slid a finger inside her.
Her head dropped back. "Yes--you--tease."
I laughed upon her throat, kissing her, while I withdrew my hand only long enough to switch from the waistband of her panties to the legband. I pulled it aside, feeling the wet heat of her pussy rise against my hand. I then guided the tip of my hard cock to her entrance and let her lower herself upon it with a contented moan as each inch slide deeper inside her. I cupped her bottom in my hands and began to rock against her. She ground down upon me. I looked into her eyes as we moved together. How I wanted her. How I wanted her body next to mine. How I wanted to be with her forever. It was a moment that expanded toward infinity. I wasn't aware of anything beyond her, beyond our bodies moving together in a physical expression of the souls we shared. Truckers could be just outside window watching her breasts bounce up and down as we tangled in each other's lap. I didn't care. She was with me. Mine. And they couldn't take her from me if they had the Chinese Army with them. The snow could fall feet deep and I would not have cared because I had her there to keep me warm.
She panted as her body began to tense in anticipation. Her eyelids fluttered, and I knew it would be soon. For me, too. I could feel it swelling within me. God, how I loved coming inside her.
She ground against me. I reached between us and found her clit with my fingers. She cried my name and I felt her pussy clutching my cock. It sent me over the edge. I groaned as I erupted into her. My orgasm triggered a second in her, her pussy milking me.
There was no sound but our heavy breathing within the car. I felt her heartbeat wherever her skin touched mine. She lay against me. Not sleeping. Just enjoying being together in the glow. I nuzzled my face against her hair.
It was good.
The VeryRealPlayer closed on its own.
I sat back in my desk chair. Of course it was good. We were young then, and everything is better when you're young. Fresher. Brighter. You appreciate having less simply because you do not know what it is like to have more.
Then again, you're not aware of the trap you fall into seeking the bait of more.
I looked at the papers scattered about my desk. I looked at the date circled in red on the calendar, so close to today's date. I felt my stomach churn from coffee and vendor food.
I grunted to myself. I didn't need to see that because I was living it. And yet, given the privacy, the very intimacy of the past Marley.com had been able to share with me, I wondered what it might know about now.
I clicked the link. My computer whirred as it had before and I found myself looking at another countdown.
My point of view opened upon the outside of our townhouse. Carol's SUV was parked in front, glistening with the frost of a freezing fog. My BMW was nowhere to be seen. The scene passed through our front door with the cheery wreath Carol had made. Inside the entry, I saw Christmas cards ringing the mirror. How many dinner and party invitations had I turned down in the last week? Brochures for Kingston, Jamaica lay in the mail tray. That's where we would have been the day after Christmas if this project had not come up. There was a light in the den. I moved to the doorway.
Carol lay on the floor in front of the Christmas tree. She was wearing her kimono and nothing else. She had just finished wrapping a present and I saw her write my name on the tag in her clean, delicate script. She pushed the present under the tree, then seemed to ponder it in a way that suggested she was thinking of me. She sighed. There was just a bit too much disappointment in it for it to have been a wistful sigh.
How many nights had I left her alone like this, I wondered.
She rolled onto her back and her hand slid absently inside the kimono. She touched her breast. She traced circles around the nipple until it was hard. She cupped her breast. She kneaded it. Her hand slid down and over her belly. It was just a little more round than it had been ten years ago, but round in a most pleasant fashion. Carol had filled out in all sorts of wonderful ways. As a lover. As a wife. As a homemaker. As a businesswoman. I felt so very proud of her. I felt happy to be with her. I missed her when I was away, as I so often seemed to be these days.
Her fingers found the brown curls between her legs. She touched the outer folds, then the inner. I could see her fingers begin to glisten with her arousal. Her body itself began to flush. She began to work circles around her swollen clit. Her fingers worked tightly, strongly. There was urgency in her action. Need. I knew my wife masturbated. I had caught her accidentally several times; I had been invited for a few. But I had always thought it was from desire, not from need.
I didn't like to think of Carol needing anything.
I tried to reach out to her but found my fingers held back by the computer screen.
She shuddered after a moment, calling no one's name, making no noise, merely tightening, then releasing in what seemed to me a sad and most perfunctory expression.
The mantel clock chimed; she looked at it. She reached around her for the TV remote and clicked on a rerun of ER. She hugged the kimono tightly about her, growing pale in the light from the television.
The VeryRealPlayer turned itself off.
I get it. I understand what you're trying to say, Marley.com. I'm here working while my wife grows lonely. Well, Marley-dot-fucking-com, it's this goddamn job that put her in that townhouse and put that SUV of hers in front of it. We couldn't have thought of that Jamaica trip without it. You don't go to Jamaica on minimum wage, not from Sunset Hills, you don't.
You know what else, Marley.com? I can change. I can make things different. Once I have this project done, I'll take Carol on that Jamaica trip.
I knew that was exactly what it would show me in Christmas Future. Confidence is my strong point. Wisdom, well...
I clicked the link. Whir. Countdown.
I saw my office in the night, a night very much like this one. The calendar told me that it was Christmas Eve seven years from now. I saw me sitting at my desk. I looked out at the city's glow in a heavy snow. Papers were scattered about my desk. They weren't the same papers there now, though they could have been. It was another holiday and I had another deadline looming ahead of me. I looked tired. I looked hungover or a little drunk or somewhere between the two.
It frightened me to see myself like that. I wanted to look away. But like the deleted message that had sent me here, I could not help but think that this image would haunt me until I allowed it closure.
I watched myself open the desk drawer and take a red sports pouch from within. I unzipped the pouch and caught the glint of a stainless steel revolver in the computer monitor light.
My heart froze. I felt my hand tighten round the computer mouse.
I watched me lift the gun. I watched me look at it. I watched me weigh it in my hand. I watched me square it against my temple.
Clicking that little x in the upper right hand corner would stop this, I knew. Keep it from happening. From knowing. From watching.
The boom startled me. My head snapped back. Awake suddenly. Heart pounding. Feeling chill and clammy. I blinked trying to figure out where and when I was.
"Sorry, Mr Dickens," the night janitor called from the hall. He had knocked over a metal trashcan and stirred me from what must have been a dream.
Dream. Yes. Dream. I found my breathing coming a little easier now. I felt a bit more solid in my surroundings.
"No problem, Tim."
I woke my computer from its screensaver. The project files were there as they had been. I clicked to my email program. Nothing from Marley.com. Of course. There never had been. I laughed to myself, then turned back to the copy writing on my screen with comfortable reluctance.
Tim stood in the doorway to my office. He held something out in his hand. "Mr. Dickens, do you know who this might belong to?"
A red sports pouch.
After a moment, I stammered, "No, Tim."
"I'll put it in the Lost Box."
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Dickens."
"Merry Christmas, Tim."
I leaned back in my chair and realized that I was shaking. Being rational I could have told myself that I had noticed the red pouch sometime during my workday, that it had wandered into my subconscious and stuck there with its bright color. I could have told myself that easily and started to work on the copy once more. Instead, I found myself looking at the picture of Carol on my desk.
Was she dozing on the floor, wondering if I would ever come home?
I grabbed the phone. She picked up on the third ring.
"I'm coming home," I said.
"Is Copperfield done?"
"No. But it will wait for the holiday."
"I'm thinking we need to enjoy the holiday."
"Oh?" she said. "I like that kind of thinking."
"I thought you might. How quickly can you pack a bag?"
"I've been a little out of practice, but I think I can put one together fast."
The desk clock chimed midnight and my computer calendar rolled over to the 25th.
"Merry Christmas, my love."