A man wakes to find a 3-foot diameter stone sphere in the middle of his living room. But its what's in the sphere that will change his life.
Jake fumbled through his pocket for his apartment key, forehead pressed against the front door. It had been a long night. He had gone out to the bar with his friends for his birthday and after the fifth round, he knew it was going to end badly. Even now, the night was turning into a bright, soggy blur. All he needed to do now was get inside and go to bed. Tomorrow he could deal with the laughter and the stories, peppered with awkward apologies, but right now he needed sleep. Jake swore as he dropped his keys. The light bulb next to his door flickered.
His stomach turned restlessly as he bent over. Jake looked at the silver jumble strewn in his hand. One after another he tried them until finally the lock turned and the door swung open. The anemic light from the hallway stumbled into Jake’s dark apartment and collapsed just inside. Jake sighed and then followed. He felt along the wall, kicking the door closed after him. Not caring, he dropped his keys next to the table beside the door and stumbled blindly towards the bathroom. Until, quite suddenly, Jake rammed his knee into something hard and fell face first into his carpet.
Jake sat up uneasily, propping himself up on his arm, and peered into the darkened living room. He reached out for the table he expected to be there. Before his fingers could make contact, his stomach decided it had had enough and chose to mutiny.
With surprising grace, he shot up and ran to the bathroom. When he was done, and his painful fall forgotten, Jake went to bed.
The coffeemaker bubbled away as Jake showered. Stepping out, he grabbed the towel off the sink and began drying himself. Jake wiped his hand across the foggy mirror and met his own bloodshot eyes. Opening the medicine cabinet, he grabbed the small bottle of pain relievers and dry swallowed three. He wrapped the towel around his waist and went to get coffee.
He didn’t notice anything when he went and grabbed his chipped college coffee mug down from the cupboard and made his morning cup. Nor did he notice it when he went into his bedroom to get dressed for the day, taking his clothes off the hangers in his closet and carefully tying a double Windsor knot like a cherry on top of his Sunday attire. Jake threw himself an awkward wink in the full length mirror he had hung on the back of his door. He checked his watch. When Jake left his bedroom, sipping idly on his coffee, he was surprised to see his living room occupied by a large stone ball.
He stood there, coffee cooling in his hand, and stared. Tortured neurons struggling to fire, all he could think to himself was well, that’s not right. He approached it cautiously, putting his coffee down on the table beside the ball. No sooner than he had put it down, the table fell over sending his cup sliding into the base of the ball. There was a perfect semi-circle missing from his coffee table, where the ball was.
He circled the strange ball, his eyes examining the strange pockmarked surface of the orb. It looked almost like stone. Not marble or slate or any of the high end stuff you’d get on your countertops. This looked old. Jake thought of the statues in the park outside work, covered in bird shit and eaten by acid rain. There was none of that here. Aside from the shadows that fell on its surface, it did not look marred in any way. Completing his circuit, Jake noticed that the ball had also eaten part of his sofa.
He pulled out his cell phone and dialed.
“Yo!” Said the voice on the line.
“Dude. Not funny” Jake said.
“I know I haven’t come out in a while, Steve. But what I want to know is, how’d you do it? Did you guys call someone to break into my house while we were out? I mean, how did you even get it through the door?
“Dude. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Steve said, laughing.
“Seriously! You fucking destroyed my living room with this thing.”
“Yeah, hold on!” Steve yelled away from the phone, “I’m at work, man, so make it quick. What the hell are you going on about?”
“There is a stone ball in my living room.” Jake said, running his hand nervously through his hair.
“I’m coming over.” Steve hung up.
Jake sighed. He called all his friends from last night but no one knew, or would say anything. Great, Jake thought, I have a ball. With nothing else to do, Jake phoned the landlord.
“You have a what in your what?” the landlord said.
“A big, stone… ball. In my living room.” Jake said, trying to sound as serious as possible saying something this ridiculous. There was silence on the other end.
“This is not some joke, yes? Why you joke with Pavel? I am busy with working on Ms. Patel’s sink, so if this is joke you tell me. Yes?” The irritation was clear in his voice.
“No. I’m not kidding. I have a giant stone ball… thingy in my living room. It ate my table! I need you to come get rid of it.”
“How it get there?”
“I don’t know, I just woke up this morning and it was there! Just come over as soon as you can.”
Jake hung up the phone and sat on the other side of the couch, head in his hands. He leered grudgingly at the thing that had hijacked his living room during the night. The alarm on his phone went off, telling him he had to go to work, but he didn’t move. He just sat there with it, as if one of them would have to leave and it wouldn’t be him.
The doorbell rang.
“Dude! Open up. I gotta see this thing.” Steve pounded on the door. Jake got up. As soon as Jake opened the door, Steve was clapping him on the shoulder and yelling. Neither of these things were helping with Jake’s hangover.
“Whoa!” Steve stepped into the living room, eyes wide. “That’s one hell of a wrecking ball you’ve got there!”
“Is that what this thing is?”
“I don’t know, but it’s a ball and its fucking wrecked your living room. Dude, is that in the floor?”
“What?!” Jake ran over to where Steve was standing and yes, the it was. The bottom of the ball was not sitting in the thick shag of his carpet, but through it, at least six inches into the floor itself.
“Shit. Are you gonna have to pay for that?” Steve rapped his knuckles on the side of the ball. A dull, slightly hollow noise came in response. “Is this metal or stone?”
“I don’t know. But seriously, Steve, you guys didn’t do this?”
“Hell no! But when I find out who did I’m gonna buy them a drink. This is one beautiful piece of prankery. I mean, this is beyond taking someone’s car apart and putting it back together inside their house, this is eerie shit. I mean, look at your coffee table. Somebody didn’t just cut that table with a saw. If they did, they spent half the night sanding what’s left. Feel this. This is like baby’s bottom smooth.”
“I’m glad you’re entertained.”
“Impressed is more like it. Was this here when you got home?”
“Maybe? I tripped over something. I thought it was my table, but it could have been this.”
“When did you say you left last night?”
“I don’t know, around 9 I think.”
“Uh huh, and we were out until 2…”
“3 am. Yeah.”
“That means somebody did all this in six hours. This did not fit through the door, so they must have poured some kind of quick set concrete or something…” Steve rambled on, examining the carpet the way a detective would explore a crime scene, soaking in every detail. Jake walked into the kitchen and poured himself a drink. Whiskey sounded good, but coffee was probably better. He split the difference and took his coffee Irish.
There was a pounding at the door.
“Shit. That’s Pavel.”
“I hope you’re not counting on your security deposit back.”
Jake answered the door. Pavel wiped his dirty boots on the carpet outside and came in. His toolbox was full to bursting, the drain snake thrown over his shoulder.
“Where is this thing you called Pavel for?” Pavel’s walrus mustache twitched angrily.
“Over there. Believe me, you’ll see it.”
“This… is beautiful” Steve was kneeling beside it. Pavel dropped his toolbox and swore in Polish. All Jake could do was shake his head.
“What you do? Why you put this here in Pavel’s building? You can’t get painting like normal boy? No, must be avandy gaurds.”
“I didn’t put this here. I just woke up and it was there. Listen,” Jake kneaded the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “can we just move it and not talk about the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’?”
“Look what do to floor! Ai!” Pavel slapped his forehead with his palm.
“I know, I know. Let’s just try and move it.” Jake loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. Pavel and Steve joined each other by Jake and the three of them put their shoulders into the giant stone orb.
“On three, ready?”
“Wait. One, two, three, go; or one, two, and then go on three?”
“Yes, we go on three?” Pavel said, his moustache bristling with his labored breathing.
“One, two, three, and then go.”
“Ok” The others said.
The three of them counted and when it came time they pushed as hard as they could but the ball did not budge. They tried again and again, but all they managed to do was tear up some of the carpet near the base of the strange orb.
“It’s no use. It’s not moving.”
“I make it move!” Pavel said, grabbing a hammer from his toolbox. Before the others could think to shield their eyes, Pavel brought his hammer crashing down. To everyone’s surprise, they found themselves dodging shrapnel as broken fragments of hammer went screaming all over Jake’s apartment, breaking a window and a vase.
“Dude!” Steve’s smile was frighteningly broad.
Pavel stood motionless, his right eyelid twitching; his moustache blowing slightly in the breeze from the broken window. Jake got up from the floor. He felt along his scalp and picked out a twisted, slightly smoking shard of hammer.
“I get blowtorch.” Pavel was gone before Jake could say anything.
“Dude, this is awesome. I’m totally calling out of work.”
“How are you hear anyway, weren’t you at work before?”
“Yeah, but I told them my Aunt was sick or something.”
“Wait. Didn’t your aunt die last year?”
“Oh shit. I think that was the Super bowl. Man, I gotta switch relatives.” Steve pulled out his phone. As he dialed, Jake’s phone rang.
“I’m not sure how they do things where you’re from Mr. Lasko, but it’s generally considered polite to show up to work when you’re scheduled. It keeps unpleasant things like this from happening. It’s the foundation of society really.”
“Shit… ah… I mean. I’m sorry, Beth. I just had an emergency at home, and I’ve been dealing with it for the past hour.”
“Emergency? What kind of emergency?” Jake contorted his brain, trying to find an explanation that did not end with either his termination or his commitment.
“You had a flood?” Beth inquired, incredulously “In your apartment?”
“Your second floor apartment.”
“Uh…yes?” Jake crossed his fingers. There was silence on the other end.
“Very well.” She said, “Does that mean you won’t be coming into work today then?”
“No. I’ll be there. I just need…” Jake looked back at the ball “… another hour or so.”
“See you then, I suppose.” Jake hung up. This time, he would choose the whiskey.
Before he could uncork the bottle of Maker’s mark, He heard more banging at the door. He put the bottle down and went to the door.
“Pavel?” he said?
“I bring more tools.” Pavel strode into Jake’s apartment with a blowtorch in one hand and a 30 pound sledgehammer in the other.
“You, funny man, be moving back please.” Pavel dropped the blowtorch next to the ball and put on his safety goggles. Spitting on his hands, he rubbed them together enthusiastically before hoisting the sledgehammer high over his shoulder.
“Be looking out please!”
“Shit!” Jake dove behind the sofa. Steve stood next to him gleefully observing the action.
“Get down!” Jake yelled, but too late. He heard a horrific clanging, as if a tank had exploded in a bell factory. He covered his ears to escape the din. After the room had quieted down, with the exception of Pavel’s inveterate swearing, Jake got up slowly to survey the aftermath.
There were slightly charred holes in his wall where the pieces of the sledgehammer had come to rest. Pavel was grasping the shaft of the sledgehammer in one hand, the end where the hammer should be was burnt and twisted. Jake could smell burning hair. As he walked around to the other side of the couch, he could see Pavel’s mustache was singed at the ends.
Steve appeared to be unharmed.
“So… cool.” Steve was on the verge of giggling.
“Ok, Now we try blowtorch.”
“NO, no no! I don’t think so. I don’t want my apartment blowing up today, and besides… I have to get to work. I’m late.”
“You cannot be serious. There is a strange orb in your living room, that seems impenetrable, and you’re not intrigued by that?!”
“Intrigued? It destroyed my coffee table and my sofa, and if I stay here any longer, I’m going to lose my job because of it. No, I’m not intrigued. Perturbed. Angered. Incensed. These are the words I’d use to describe my feelings right now.
“Well I’m staying.” Steve took off his hat and jacket and threw them on the broken sofa.
“Me too.” Pavel added with determination.
“No, you’re not. Neither of you are staying. I’m going to get my jacket and you two are both coming with me.
“Aww come on, man. Look at this thing!” Steve pointed.
Jake observed the alien thing that had crash landed in his life with contempt, its smooth stone skin mocking him with its flawlessness. Looking up, he met the eager eyes of Pavel and Steve.
“No.” he said.
“Ugh… fine. But I’m coming over tonight after work.”