As final straws went, the Christmas tree on fire would certainly have been a prime contender. Only, Julie Duxberry's hair had now gone up in flames, wisps of smoke wafting from her head as she manically darted around the office in circles. Had Alex not been urinating on the tree in a genuine effort to quench the flames, he might have pointed out that only last week Julie had accused him of being the hot headed one. He decided though in view of his current antics, not to mention he was completely and utterly naked, that now was simply not the time.
How had it come to this? One minute an average performing salesman, now the sole curator of this display of complete and utter madness. Granted, Alex Morgan was not the most stable of men to begin with. There had been a string of incidents and occurrences over the last few years that together formed an alliance to wear him down. Their agenda was simple. Bring Alex Morgan to his knees, push him over the edge, and definitely have him naked and impersonating a fire hose at the office Christmas party. He was indeed his own worst enemy.
Julie's scalp had suffered only minor burns, though the already thin and graying hair had taken an aesthetic hit in the proceedings. Alex had of course been fired. The tree never made it.
In a need to explain the insanity they had witnessed, Alex's co-workers found it necessary to label his disorders quickly and in confident sounding tones. Thus it was agreed that his actions were no doubt the result of a mid-life crisis with a dollop of good old stress on top. At thirty eight years old he might have considered himself at the mid-life stage. But in all honesty he hadn't given it a great deal of thought. Instead the last few years he had found himself spiraling deeper and deeper into a twisted reality like a coin tossed in a dark, manky well. A well that had eventually swallowed him whole and granted not his wish.
It had started as a reprieve from the monotony of his existence, an ability to forget and ignore who he saw himself as, and instead carve out an image in his mind of how he really wanted to be perceived. Only, he hadn't the mind to concede one major flaw in his otherwise delightfully devious plan. Not everyone else was seeing what he was seeing. Maybe deep down he did know, but he tucked it safely away in a dark, deep place where no part of his reason or commonsense could get to it.
The source of his self loathed existence had many facets. First and most consistently, he had been stuck in a cycle of work that simultaneously paid him money while sucking out his courage and ambition to find anything better. At least that was how he reasoned it. Then there were the less than admirable ventures into the world of the opposite sex, resulting in a few nervous nights of accidental hair pulling and apologies, and a six month relationship that had ended in the loss of a toe, a restraining order, and a fear of dogs.
Soul destroying day job and failed sexual conquests aside, what exactly was the deal with Alex Morgan? Sure, he had cast out the image of himself and replaced it with a better one, at least in his opinion. Maybe it began as a genuine effort to be a better person, to improve on his flaws and try to make sense of his inability to quit his job and find something that made him happier. But how on earth had that led to him being fired from work for literally burning down the office party?
Alex didn't drink. He didn't use drugs. He paid his rent on time, was never late for work, watered his thirty seven bamboo plants once a week every week, watched the news, ate healthily, subscribed to Boating Monthly, and even had taken up painting model miniatures of Second World War aircraft, (his favorite was by far the 1942 British Spitfire). Some might suggest that here was a man that was, save for a few strange quirks and odd habits, more or less well grounded. Hogwash that he was a minefield of complexity inside that brain of his. On the outside he was as normal as the next man. At least at the start.
It's just that Alex had had no guidance. There was no manual that said "This is how you need to start thinking and acting for everything to fall in place." He was just winging it from day one. To start with things had gone well. He found he was able to ignore the shiver that sometimes ran down his spine like icy fingers caressing him. He could set aside that biting feeling in the back of his mind that not all was well with life. Instead he called in substitutions in the form of fantasy and role play. Why be Alex Morgan when he could be anyone he could conjure?
Thus the journey had begun. He had begun to replace the facts of daily living with ever increasing scenarios and explanations. These in turn manifested into towering beasts that threatened to crush him dare he not heed their bidding. Like the bamboo plants scattered around his apartment, he watered his fantasies and watched them spiral upwards into the sky of another world completely. Soon enough he had cut down those hulking bamboo giants and formed their lengths into a vessel. Upon this he then set sail, drifting off down river with the current that promptly sent him out into a sea of madness. Strong was the current, and there seemed no way of turning back.
As time passed, Alex's fantasies had taken over. Like some evil host it had acquired his body and used it to carry out its own strange wants and desires. His co-workers had tolerated it at first; the mood swings, the strange behavior and on one occasion a very poor French accent. But his nature grew more volatile. He snapped at them when they seemingly did not play his game. His mind dressed them up as villains in some crazed pantomime, the office having become the stage of this foul show.
The Christmas party had of course been the climax, the final nail on the coffin and the last performance of Alex Morgan, at least for these people. Now he sat calmly on a seat on a train. He wasn't sure exactly where it was heading to. In fact, he hadn't recalled even boarding the train or buying a ticket. Such details were fleeting as he succumbed to his current situation without a struggle. There was one thing that irked him though. The man across from him was staring. He didn't like it. He saw the gaze as an invasion of privacy, as if the eyes of that man had the power to see inside and unravel all that he had created.
Still he stared. Whatever was his deal? Alex decided there was but one way to find out.