Mind Under Matter

Official website of John Amaruso
Writer, Author and Actor


-= The News Is Out There ~ And So Are They =-

Youtube's freshest political comedy show is back for another season of hot topic issues, eccentric characters and hilarious headlines only And Finally The News has the lack of shame to tackle! Subscribe to And Finally The News for unlimited access to the team, and be the first to catch the latest episode every week! ​

Meshing elements of SNL's punchline punches of "Weekend Update" and the insightful satire of "The Daily Show", written and directed by John Amaurso,
 "And Finally The News"
​has brought together dozens of actors and political commentators to skewer the week's top headlines.





"Dead Men"
is the debut feature short film written by John Amaruso and directed by R​ob Martin.

Their partnership under A&M Films continues to produce films for the big, and small screen.

​​



"Tell Me Bartender"
is the debut book published through Amazon by John Amaruso.

A cocktail recipe book infused with short stories is a must add to your collection for the at home or professional bartender. 100% original, these cocktails were crafted with over 1,000 miles worth of bartending experience behind them.

You can purchase the book here on Amazon
in paperbook or Ebook format.


​​


Featured Short Story



Silent Planet
by John Amaruso




“There better be a good god damn reason you aren't here.” Godfrey said gripping the phone, holding his other hand, bloody and swollen over his head.

“I nearly broke my fucking hand because of you.”Godfrey bit down on his palm, wincing.

“You are to be here at 8:15! It is nearly 8:30, and I'm beginning to question myself... Why? Because I'm not sure what in the fuck I pay you for, that's why...” A click noise.

“Message ended.” said an automated voice.

The pain in his palm made him forget he was talking into Wilson's answering machine. It wasn't like him. Wilson never missed a day of work in six years. And of all days. Godfrey's Quarterly Review.

“Jesus Wilson, I'll drive myself.” 

Godfrey Lewis had smashed his right hand atop the tiny Minaret statue on his Tibetan alarm clock. The pain was immediate, and the blood gushed from the open sore.There was only one person to blame for Godfrey's injury. Richard. The one and only vile Richard. The Richard the co-worker, the Richard the neighbor, the Richard the bastard. 

That same Richard purchased the clock as a gag gift in a Nepal Bazaar while on one of their business trips. The pamphlet stated in plain unassuming font if the user dared to sleep past the cacophony of dinging chiming ringing bells to click through to the snooze button, which nestled between pointy knife sharp tops of an exquisitely designed Minaret, would maim the user irrevocably. 

A few lines down as though an afterthought it read that the device was intended, much like a Jack in the Box or a Chinese Finger Trap, to never actually be used in any practical sense. Other than mindless slapstick or pageantry, the clock was at best useless, and at worst harmful, but above all a waste of money.

This reason was good enough for Richard. What could be better than impressing the guys at work than blowing a cool five figures on a useless piece of junk for a cheap laugh? That's how Godfrey saw it. A one up on the ladder of who's got what and who doesn't.
And what Godfrey Lewis had this morning was a throbbing and a palm soaked in blood. 

The gag gift set offanother round of auditory fireworks. Dings and chimes and rings and bells, they laughed in a monstrous cacophony. With a spiteful left hand Godfrey smashed the beast to the ground with a ding and a bing bing. It fell to a low hum of clinks and clanks as its motor re-calibrated itself. And whether the device was purposefully unnecessary or not, the user could not argue he didn't get what he paid for; The gag roared back to life with an encore of auditory mayhem.

Half the forty-second floor was up now. The noise of the gag's relentless onslaught would be enough to let everyone know Godfrey was late for work. A swipe of his ankle and the gift was punted against the bedroom wall. It bells dinged one last cry and then finally, a ringing silence as its torment flipped over to the seemingly impossible to set snooze setting.

He pressed his thumb against his palm and let out a cache of expletives meant for Richard. That Richard. The Fifteen hundred American Richard. That's what it cost. Pocket change in the game of who's got what and who doesn't.

The gold-plated sink faucet ran red with iron and blood. Godfrey ripped from the medicine cabinet above the toilet a cloth bandage and laced it firm around the crux of his thumb. He wiped trickles ofblood from the down slope of his forearm. He poked his head out of the bathroom door and listened for the intercom.

No beeps, no bings, no messages. Odd. Someone was always calling Godfrey. It waswell past eight-thirty and Wilson, his driver, was missing. Today was the first time Godfrey had heard Wilson's answering machine. The second try today would be the last time Godfrey would.

“Consider your Christmas bonus null and void.” he said to the bathroom mirror.

Godfrey slapped through a rack of tailored suits. One after the other they hung off silver rods like slabs of dried meat. Blued, grayed and blackened, he tumbled through with a pointed finger. He ripped the Brioni tonal from its hook. He patted the three-piece down as though he were shoving it awake.

He pulled the blazer from over the dress shirt and unfurled the pleated dress pants. He had bought the three-piece for a pretty sum. Ten grand. It wasn't a bargain, but it was certainly a deal. He reminded the cashier without prompt on three separate occasions he would be paying in cash. And down the hall in 42E, in the apartment with an identical layout and similar closet space there hung the same Brioni Tonal.

This was no coincidence. When Godfrey saw Richard waltz into the conference room on the fourth floor of the Executive Suite in his shiny new kicks and pressed suit, he knew he had to have one. He wanted Richard to know he could have what he had and more. It's why Godfrey accessorized the Brioni Tonal with a custom pocket square of maroon diamonds and flower pattern. It gave the pizzaz Richard's suit sorely lacked. Not to mention, Godfrey would be the man ballsy enough to show up dressed in it, whether or not Richard would do the same.

Then again, it was their quarterly review. Richard was likely to opt for his Kiton Blue and Navy. The one with the checkered handkerchief paired with those stylish Brooks Brother's shoes. It was his best outfit. How could he not? It told everyone in the room who's got what and who doesn't. It also gave Godfrey another piece to add to his never-ending wish list of goods and accessories.

And while Godfrey was sizing himself up in the mirror, buttoning the cuffs of his charcoal gray dress shirt, he noticed something under his eye. A dark, blue and bulgy vain. It shaped itself like a lightning bolt toward his cheek. He twisted and turned his head. He pulled at his eyelid. The blemish was deep. It caught itself purple around the edges and curved obnoxious and pudgy. He caught the mucus in his throat and spit a nervous gaggle into the sink. He pulled a handkerchief from the sink drawer and wiped the corners of his lips.

In thirty-two years Godfrey Lewis always had a perfect complexion. A soft, fleshy tone, smoothed over from the scalp of his hairline down to the cleft of his jaw. And now, on the day of his quarterly review, he imagined himself a leper.

Godfrey ripped toothpaste from the medicine cabinet. He rubbed it in circles under his eye. The fluoride stung. His eyes watered a thick and cold mucus. Godfrey feared for his appearance. He saw a man unconvinced of his own rights. He felt like a fraud working in one of the top financial firms in the Midwest. He dressed himself in the suits and colors and fashions of men like Richard and the colleagues from the office to disguise himself.

A chameleon amongst wolves he purchased the finest, most modern and sheik furniture for the cookie cutter high-rise apartment he called home. The luxury gym equipped to the teeth in the mezzanine he visited five times a week just to maintain not only a physique, but a mental stamina. All of this and he was still Godfrey Lewis. A man late to work, rushing for the door, bleeding from his hand and marked with a lightning bolt under a nervous eye that twitched and shot fireworks from a soul never at rest.

Godfrey passed his penthouse window. It ran floor to ceiling and overlooked the Chicago skyline. From up there the hustle and bustle of the urban city life wasn't as jarring for Godfrey who, as a boy was raised on a dusty farm some thirty miles from the closest joint with gallons of gas or milk for sale. Godfrey had even come to enjoy the white noise of chartered planes and choppers flying to and for above. In between conference calls or late-night trades he would stare off into the deep below and stalk the shapeless figures darting in and out of Chicago's asphalt maze, dancing to the beats of roaring engines and honking horns. 

But on this day, there wasn't a sound. Nothing stirred below and the skies were conspicuously absent of traffic. If it weren't for a muffled, low roaring hum Godfrey would have thought twice about it. So as he did every morning before he rushed off for work, he twisted and turned his tie in the reflection of his window, combed back his dirt brown hair, karate chopped the air with his good palm and fled the scene.

Godfrey locked the front door behind him and sprung for the elevator. Had Godfrey lifted his head and followed the walls instead of rushing over the macaroon printed rug he scraped the soles of his shoesalong he would have noticed the door to 38A, Richard's apartment three rooms down was wide open. He would have seen the note scotch taped to 42A that read Armed and ready, Don't Try It! Lastly, he would have noticed the post-it note on the elevator door that read Don't Open! But Godfrey was in a rush. 

He smashed the elevator button Down. He tapped his foot and groaned to the ceiling. The elevator churned up the tracks. Godfrey cleared his throat. The doors slid open and what came out in trickles and then bumps and ended in a full blown tidal wave was worse than anything that had happened to Godfrey Tuesday morning.

He slammed his hands against his ears. The pain in his palm was gone but in its place was a sensation of serrated knives crawling under his skin from the tips of his fingers to the base of his skull. The feeling could only be described as coming from a sound, but there was less sound and more vibration than anything and it was excruciating.

It burrowed deep into Godfrey's temples and excited every hair on his body into a pin-straight icicle. His eyes watered over with cold salt. Mucus climbed up his esophagus and near choked him to death. He clenched his teeth and fell to his knees. The elevator door slid wide open and now that wave was crashing down on the shores of his temporal lobe and was making landfall over every nerve in his body.

At the foot of the elevator doors he was frozen in place. The cold steel flaps opened flat and menaced his senses like unrelenting vines gripping tight around a prey. Godfrey screamed but there was nothing. The vibration swallowed everything in the room in a vicious shakedown. His teeth chattering, Godfrey gulped a final breath.

An arm shoved Godfrey to the floor. Hands smashed repetitively against the Close Door button. With every inch of the elevator floor departing from view so dissipated the violent noise ravaging Godfrey. The doors completely shut, the hall fell to a deafening silence Godfrey had never experienced before.

Like a gunshot fired in a coffin, there was only a piercing ring of tinnitus. A man stood over Godfrey. He wore an iron welder's helmet. He turned his back against the shut elevator doors and collapsed to the floor. His breaths muffled by his face guard he was panting heavily. Uunderneath a baseball catcher's under Armour, his chest bulged up and down desperate for air. He was holding a rifle in his one hand and gripped the chin of his mask in the other. He kicked his knees to his chin and coughed.

“Don't you read?” the man huffed through the mask. “Don't, open.”

“What, the, fuck.” Godfrey said, forcibly pushing words over the ringing in his head.

“The elevator, it goes straight to the ground floor.” he said as a matter of fact. “You were letting in what's out there.”

A balmy knuckle ripped back the face guard and underneath the mask was a face not all that surprising. It was what Godfrey expected him to look like. A pudgy man with a wrinkled forehead meting two furred brows hanging over a bulbous nose. A symptom of the change in air pressure they both experienced, he was blushed around the cheeks and puffy under the eyes. His hair was gray and dry and bound itself taut by a pair of large ear muffs.

Godfrey thought for a moment he may have knew his name. On a second thought he realized he had never seen the man before. Was he the maintenance guy? Was he a resident on this floor? This building? Even if he had, Godfrey wouldn't have recognized him. He had never bothered to acquaint himself with anyone who wasn't in his immediate circle.

“Howdy do neighbor.” the man coughed. “What a day to be alive, eh?”

“What the fuck was that! What in the fuck!”

Godfrey was shouting. He couldn't hear himself talk. He pushed himself up against the floor, unaware of the pain rushing from his bad hand to his shoulders and to his head.

“What that was was a lesson. Be aware of your surroundings.” 

The man laughed. With a turn of his profile the true girth of the bulge he passed for a nose came into view.

“People amaze me. You know, the sign says 'Stop.' What do people do? They run right through it. The sign says 'Yield' just, look out, ya' know? People put these signs up for a reason. It's simple stuff, really.” 

Testing the strength of his under armour, he punched at his chest in an ape-like fashion. 

“I didn't take you for one who overlooked those sorta things.” He nodded at Godfrey. “Nice suit.”

“Do I know you?” Godfrey said.

“Oh, no way my brother. Never really crossed paths.” he said in an air of why would we have? “Alan. 42A.”

He pointed to the door closest to the elevator, the one with the sign that read 'Armed and ready. Don't Even Try!' Alan stuck out his hand.

“What a day to be alive, eh?” They shook hands. “Say, you hungry?”


-----------------------------------



The first thing Godfrey noticed was the smell of syrup and pancakes. The next thing was the absence of things. There was no furniture anywhere. While right down the hall Godfrey spent most evenings lounging around on a snow white Italian leather love seat under the soft glow of pale moonlight, Alan's living space contained of a rocking chair. A bean bag. A late model projection TV. And the square markings on the walls of dust from where photo frames used to hang.

Even the ceiling to floor window seemed to have vanished from the room. It was shuttered closed with a moth bitten blanket hung bya series of dollar store tension rods running almost thirty feet long. A reddish hue strangled everything.

“I was about to chow down when I heard the alarm go off.” Alan said digging through the drawer under the kitchen sink, clanking forks and knives in one hand, gripping the rifle in the other.

“What are we, six doors down? That damn thing is the real sonic weapon.” On the marble island, Alan stabbed a tower of pancakes left bare and lukewarm. 

“Then I heard you rifling down the halls and that was when you, Captain Oblivious, opened those doors. Should have figured when your alarm went off you didn't know what was going on out there.”

Alan slid half the stack of pancakes onto a plate, poured a glass of water from a pitcher and nudged the dish with the butt of his rifle toward Godfrey.

“It's the government.” Alan said as though it were thesecret ingredient in his recipe. “Their fingerprints are all over this thing. Only a state actor could weaponize that sorta' sonic boom.”

Godfrey held his temples and winced. The tinnitus was getting worse. It felt like an earwig was crawling from the front of his skull to the nape of his neck. Alan narrowed his eyes and lifted his chin.

“You got the full brunt of that though, didn't ya'? You must be hurting.”

Godfrey looked around for a clock.

“I have to get going.”

“Got somewhere to be big shot?”

Alan pulled out a chair from the island and took a seat.

“Sit down. Eat something.”

Godfrey's migraine shot from his temples and to every appendage where a pulse thumped.

“Here.”

Alan pulled a bottle of aspirin from his jacket pocket.

“Popped a few of these when it first hit. They're no Aleve but hey, should subside in a few minutes.”

Godfrey gulped two pills in his good palm and swallowed it down with a chug of tap water.

“Happened about four this morning. I was watching the tube when suddenly, the transmission went out. At first, thought it was the TV getting all scrambled again, but when the picture didn't come back and the EBS sounded off, I knew something was up... I checked the hall and nobody else was around. Went down to the elevator, and when it opened, boom! It hit me like a shit ton of bricks... The Noise.”

Alan chewed with his mouth open.

“I just – shit.” Godfrey said. “God it fuckin' hurts.”

“Catch your breath. Take a seat.”

“I'm gonna' be late...”

“Boy, whatever it is you think you're trying to get to, it ain't there.”

“This is, this, is… impossible.”

“Impossible?” Alan laughed with the rolls of his belly. “It's the year 2019. Nothing's impossible boy.”

“Did they say what it is?”

“Did who?”

“The news. Anybody… Did they say what it was?”

“Whatever it is, they're not going to tell us. Or the very least, tell us what it actually is...”

Alan leaned the rifle upside down against the island, the barrel flat on the tile floor while picking with his fork atthe fluff of pancakes.

“Probably going to blame it on some bullshit, on the Iranians, or the Koreans, or on whoever the it girl is this week.”

Alan plopped a fistful of pancakes on Godfrey's plate.

“Feel free to check out the talking heads though.”

Alan traded the fork for the remote and clicked the power on. A scrolling CNN news ticker with an empty desk flickered into color as the bulb of the late model projection TV warmed up. At first Godfrey thought the anchor stepped out for a moment, forgetting they hadn't cut to commercial break. It wasn't until Godfrey looked into the flat screen TV hanging above the news desk did he notice something.

Reflecting off the TV's black mirror was the stage set. The cameras were all pointed toward the desk. Nobody was manning them. Hanging high above the rafters, spotlights shined bright and glared off the corners of the television. Godfrey stepped closer to the screen.

“See what I'm saying?” Alan drew the remote to change the channel.

“No, wait, stop... What is that?!”

Godfrey leaned in with a pointed finger. In the reflection where the cameras stood pointed tall and warped in a fish-eye, he could make out several figures sprawled outaround them. They were the camera crew. They were dead. Alan pointed his fork at the TV.

“Ho-o-o-oly shit! Well if that isn't some primetime TV right there!”

Alan couldn't contain himself.

“You know, I first thought bringin' you in here was a bad idea. Woulda' never bothered turning that TV on if it weren't for you. I'm startin' to think you're here for a good reason! Best entertainment I've had all morning...”

“Are you finding this funny?” Godfrey said in his best attempt to seem appalled.

“You know, I'm starting to think all you finance guys got thin skins.” Alan said bobbing his head with a curled bottom lip.

“This can't be happening, this can't be happening...”

Godfrey paced the room. He held his hands through his hair, matting the gel and wax into a sticky lather.

“Relax, relax, it's just the end of the world...” Alan said. “Here, give me your jacket, take a seat. Enjoy the pancakes.”

“You have to let me out.” Godfrey pleaded. “I have to go.”

“Oh no you don't.” Alan smirked. “You don't gotta' be anywhere. Besides, nobody's leaving this room until I say they can.”

The swelling in Godfrey's temple settled to a pulsing throb. Godfrey's sight shifted from blurry to focus and then back to fuzzy shapes. His eyes refocused. He noticed the door to Alan's bedroom. It looked like it had been kicked in. It was perched open by a pair of Men's dress shoes.

“The only thing I trust right now is this baby right here.”

Alan tapped the butt of his rifle against the counter. Alan wiped his mouth a paper cloth.

“You going to eat any of that or what?”

“I can't right now.” Godfrey said. He took a seat and rung his face. “The Quarterly...”

Alan dropped his chin.

“The What-er-ly?”

“I've got to go. The Quarterly, I have to be there. I'm going to be late.”

“You've gotta' be out of your gourd!”

 Alan threw his hands up. 

“You saw what I saw! You heard what I heard! There ain't nothing out there except a buncha dead people who got stuck, or boneheads like you who thought their job was a little more important than their common sense...”

A flash of Wilson passed through Godfrey's mind. He was probably on his way to work too, fifteen minutes early like Godfrey had always expected of him. And just like Wilson, he never faltered, never questioned, always put his job before everything. It was his unstoppable work ethic which took Godfrey by surprise this morning when he was a no call no show. It was also what killed him.

“Well, that explains Wilson.”
“Wilson?”
“My driver… He must have been on his way here when it happened...” Alan chuckled.
“Driver? You got a driver? All you schmucks are the same.”

Alan left the table. He tossed the plate with a clank into the sink. He rinsed it under the faucet next to the shiny dishwasher.

“Bet he would have wiped your ass too if you paid him enough, dead or alive.”

“Alright, enough!” Godfrey got up from the table. “I've got to get back to my place. Got to call the office.”

“Jesus, are you serious?” Alan turned his head. “The whole damn world is shuttered indoors, and you're worried about your job?”

Alan leaned his back against the kitchen counter. He puffed out his chest, shook his head and locked eyes with Godfrey. 

“All you stockbrokers are the same.”

Godfrey thought long and hard about how he had come to where he is today. All the people he trampled, the people he used, the person he forced himself to be in order to accomplish those atrocities. The man in the Brioni Tonal, that wasn't Godfrey Lewis, the humble farm boy from Nowheresville, Ohio. He was Godfrey Lewis, the faceless bag of money dressed to the teeth in a ripoff of someone else's suit. In the process of losing himself, he had lost the confidence of the people he loved, and may very well had killed someone in the process.

“You're right.” Godfrey said. “You're right.” He tore the blazer from his back and chucked it across the room. It ruffled the maroon curtains as it landed in a curled up pile of itself.

“I hate this. I hate all of this.” Godfrey paced the living room. He unbuckled his cuffs and rolled his sleeves without thought of how they would wrinkle, or how the unsightly scars across his forearms from years of hard labor on his parent's farm looked to this stranger. He wanted out of this skin he preened for himself. It only took the end of the world to realize it.

“There ya' go boy. Fuck 'em! That's what I say! Fuck 'em all to hell!” Alan threw his chubby arms in the air. Godfrey shook his head so hard it was about to fall off his neck.

“It feels good!” He licked his lips. “Jesus, what have I been doing?!”

“A whole 'lotta nothing if you had asked me. Besides, if it's any consolation the last time I checked, the Dow's closed today, you know, on account of the whole Apocalypse thing...”

“Wait… How did you know, I?”

“Was a stockbroker?” Alan pointed at Godfrey. “Isn't this whole building full of you finance guys? The whole place smells like a Dolce & Gabbana scented urinal cake.”

Godfrey shook his head. He couldn't tell whether Alan was angry or simply being sarcastic, but either way he wasn't concerned. He was alive for the first time since he left Ohio. He had a burning desire to call his mom. They hadn't talked in months. There was no reason other than life. Godfrey, too busy to return her calls or to make the effort, let their relationship whither in time. And now, he wanted nothing more but to sit and talk with her for hours. Tell her everything he had done and everything he didn't want to do and what he was going to do now. How the end of the world wasn't going to stop him from being the person she had raised him to be. Kind-hearted, compassionate, thoughtful. Qualities that have no place in the financial world.

He wanted to know how she was. What life was like back on the farm. How the pigs were. The horses. The hens! The whole lot of 'em. He wanted them back in his life now more than ever. But the dread of the world outside rained down like a mountain of bricks. He wondered… Did the noise get them too?

“You think this is the end?” Godfrey asked, scared for the answer. “The end of the world, that is...”

“Oh, no, not the e0nd of the world brother. It's judgment day.” Alan grabbed the butt of his rifle and lifted it to his chest.

“All the pricks and low lives, they're gonna' get what's coming to 'em. You'll see. Man-made or not, this shit is sent from God.” Alan pointed the butt-end at Godfrey's low hanging face. “Gonna' wipe the place clean I tell you. Nobody leaves their apartment, their building, their job – you're gonna see. Once the food runs out, starvation only takes a few days to start kicking in... Thirst though, that's gonna' be the real killer.”

Alan plucked a glass of tap water from the kitchen counter. Godfrey looked past Alan at the bedroom door. The dress shoes perched before the doorway set off bells in his head. Godfrey could make out the six-piece eyelet stitched over brown cowhide leather straight to the black and gray throat line – it was designer. They were Brooks Brother's. And the toes were caked in dried blood.

“Wouldn't worry your head about it.” Alan chugged the glass of water.

“Probably got a few good weeks left of food on this floor before everyone turns to real monsters, am I right?”

There was a low hanging buzz. It was felt more than it was heard. It sounded like electricity racing through a wire at high velocity. Alan sighed.

“Looks like somebody got off at floor forty-two.”

Godfrey couldn't stop staring at the shoes. He stared long enough until his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the bedroom. He could make out the end of the bed. A pair of men's legs dangled over the mattress. They were wearing Navy Blue dress slacks just like the ones he was wearing. The shoes were missing.

The door shook with the pounding of fists. The knob twisted and turned. A man howled.

“Let me in! Oh for the love of Christ, let me in!”

His knocks dragged from the middle of the door down to the bottom. His fingers slid under the door like earthworms digging through dirt to the surface.

“This is what happens when you get the room closest to the elevator.” Alan said. “Foot traffic.”

He walked to the door and knocked with the knuckle of his ring finger.

“Hey buddy, we're at full capacity! Get outta' here!”

“Please, oh god! Oh god!” the voice screamed.

“Oh, that's right. He can't hear me. It's a nasty thing that noise is.” Alan walked past Godfrey and to the fridge. He popped open a can of diet coke.

“He'll just have to learn like the others...”

Godfrey froze. He twisted his head toward the door then at Alan. He tossed his arms in circles.

“You've gotta' let him in.” said Godfrey. “Put on the mask! Go get him!”

Alan flexed his shoulders. He sighed over a gulp of his soda.

“If we let him in, we let that sound in, we let that sound in, we're gonna get banged up ourselves. Besides, I ain't got enough room for another guest.”

“He could be our neighbor.”

“Could be. Could also not be. Either way, no chance.” Alan slurped.

“The sign on the door says it all. Don't even try. Maybe he should give a go with Janice down the hall, she's a bit less, how you say,c'est la vie.”

The man outside curdled. Godfrey could hear him choking.

“Jesus Alan, what the fuck is wrong with you, let him in!”

“He even knows my name folks!” Alan pointed the can at Godfrey over a smile.

“You're not as up your ass as I thought all you hoitey toitey finance guys were.”

Alan placed the diet coke on top of the fridge and with his back turned to Godfrey, inspected the rifle and cocked the chamber. He passed Godfrey without as much as a glance and took a seat in the rocking chair. The man's breathless screams continued.

“What's that in your room?” Godfrey pointed to the bedroom door. “Who is in there?!”

“You're probably looking at me and wondering – 'How did a schmuck like this guy afford to live in a place like this?'” 

Alan cocked his head around the room. 

“Well, I'll tell ya'. For one, I'm no schmuck. And two, I don't live here. It's my Uncle's.” The pulsing intensified.

The Noise from the elevator doors plunged its victim into a timeless terror.

“Well, did. He died a few years back. He gave this to me. A sort of, parting gift, I suppose. It's funny because, we didn't really talk much. We didn't have that type of relationship, no. We had nothing to talk about it. Not really. I only saw him on Holidays, which was about four, five times a year...”

Godfrey looked to the legs dangling over the bed. He hoped it wasn't who he knew it was but it was just what he feared. The legs were Richard's, and Richard was dead.

“The son of a bitch didn't just give me this place when he died, he gave me everything he had.”

Alan cradled the rifle against his chest like a newborn.

“He gave me three Brugatis. A collection of designer Italian suits worth a combined six figures. Threw in a Persian rug for shits and giggles. For Christ's sake, he gave me his son's trust fund...”

Alan chuckled. “You know why he would do that Godfrey?”

Godfrey was frozen. The pulse of the wall wasn't going away, and neither was the man's blood curling screams and Richard was dead in the room down the hall. The man through the wall begged for his life.

“Please! Please, for the love of God!”

“Alan, whatever is in that room, whatever you did to Richard, you have to stop, stop this right now!”

“Oh for the love of – don't you worry about Richard. What about the man in the hall there? He's still got some life left in him, why don't you worry about him? Who am I kidding, you don't recognize his voice Godfrey? That's not just anyone! That's Wilson! That's your driver!”

Godfrey couldn't fathom why he didn't recognize the voice. Maybe it was the panic, or the scrambling of his brain from The Noise, but he couldn't hear Wilson in his head. Hell, he could hardly recall what Wilson's voice sounded like.

“Jesus, you're just like the rest of them, just like my Uncle. A real prick.”

Alan's face was red and bulbous. He grew more fixed to the chair, as though if the room were to blow sky high he and the seat he was plastered to would go up a thousand feet into the sky with everything else he didn't own.

“I've been watching you Godfrey. I've been watching all of you. You and this entire building. All of you make me sick. A bunch of exploitative Capitalist pigs. You all just want to use, to exploit, to fuck and to fuck. You want to shove it down everyone's throat, don't you?! Just how big and special and important you are! Because you make a six figure income and you spend weekends in the Hamptons!”

Alan's head was nodding so fast he was shaking. It was as though an uncontrollable tremor was to rip his head off at any moment. Godfrey couldn't stand the sight. It made him more nauseous than The Noise had. He locked eyes with the bedroom door.

“Like your buddy Richard out there! You are all fucking scum.”

Godfrey turned and grabbed for the doorknob.

“Nuh-uh. You open that door, I will shoot you. I will shoot you, I will shoot him, and I will not think twice.”

Godfrey put his hands up.

“You know what you are...” Godfrey stepped one foot after the other toward Alan.

“You are a psychotic asshole. You're an opportunist! You blame others for your own bullshit! Wall Street didn't ruin your life, you did! Whatever brought you to where you are right now, what you're doing, you made that choice on your own... Your uncle, he gave you this place, didn't he? He wasn't mocking you, he was trying to help you! Probably trying to pull you up out of whatever shithole you came from!"

“All the gold in the world doesn't mean shit to me Godfrey!”

“I'm not talking about money Alan! I'm talking about family! They gave you a gift and what did you use it for? You used it to stalk people. To hole yourself up like some recluse and avenge some sort of chip on your shoulder you have for those who did better than you...”

Godfrey was a few steps away from Alan when he turned the gun toward him.

“It's Judgment day Godfrey. For with what judgment ye judged, ye shall be judged.”

He shook his head toward the ceiling as if possessed.

“You're a self-righteous prick and you're murdering innocent people to prove a point.”

“And what that point might be Godfrey?”

“That you have what I don't. That you are stronger than me, and all my advantages are superficial. You trying to show me who's got what, and who doesn't. You've proven that Alan. Now please, put the gun down Alan. We can make this right, me and you, it'll be okay...”

Alan's smile crept from the thick of his lips until his gums shined over thumbnail sized teeth. He pointed at Godfrey.

“I always liked you Godfrey. You got that thing in your eye. Sure, you're a schmuck, but you're not a prick. I know you got somethin' in you, you weren't born with that silver spoon in your mouth. For that you still gotta' chance, and I'll let you live for that. Now Richard out there, he was a hardcore prick. And I'm not letting any other prick through that door, you hear me?”

Alan cocked the gun. Godfrey raised his hands high above his head.

“Listen here. I am going to open that door and there is nothing you can do about it. You're going to kill him if you don't let him in.”
“You come one step closer and I swear I'll -”

As though someone flipped a circuit breaker, The Noise stopped with a click. The gurgling ceased to a slow boil. Godfrey turned to the door.

“Ah, would you look at that? Looks like Wilson must have gave out.” Alan shrugged. “Hm, well, now that we're past that...”

A loud chiming bell rang from six doors down. The snooze on Godfrey's alarm sounded off. Alan perched his head, surprised. Godfrey saw a moment. He jumped for the rifle.

Alan and Godfrey wrestled on the ground. The rifle bounced between them. The barrel of the gun pointed to the top of Godfrey's head, he shoved it toward Alan's forehead. Alan cursed and kicked his knees up at Godfrey's crotch. Godfrey grimaced. In a fit of blood boiling rage he grunted. A swift headbutt and Alan was smacked. Godfrey wrestled the gun away. He stood and pointed the rifle at Alan. Shaken, Alan crawled backwards on his hands.

“I am going to open that door, and I am going to let Wilson in, and you are going to shut your fat, fucking, mouth, you hear me?”

Alan shook his head.

“If you let him in, I can't guarantee either of you your safety. You open that door and I swear, you'll regret it.”
“You stay, right there.”

Godfrey walked with his back to the door. He turned the knob and realized it was pad locked. He needed two hands to undo the latch. He twirled his body to undo the latch, trifling with his bad hand on the knob when he heard the cock of a pistol behind him. It was followed by the cold chill of steel on his neck.

“What in God's name did you think Armed and ready means?”

Alan nudged the pistol deep into Godfrey's neck. He dropped the rifle to his side. “Good. Now then, take a seat.” Godfrey crept with Alan leading from behind. He slumped down in the bean bag. Alan took a breather and sat back in his chair, rocking to and fro.

“Now. Me and you, we're gonna' figure out what to do with a schmuck like you.”

They sat quiet and tense. The buzz of The Noise shook the wall to the hallway, never increasing or decreasing, only more present. Wilson's cries and screams drifted away, lost in the vacuous air outside.

Ringing alongside the low rumble, the Tibertan alarm clock buzzed away. Six doors down, the gag gift rang on, clinked and clacked, reminding Godfrey who's got what, and who doesn't.



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