So, after a bit of a break, I’m back at it. This one is just a little bit of fun, a bout of low-science fiction. For some reason, I find telephone conversations a great place to set foolishness.
“Hello, Guelph Animal Control, how can I be of assistance?” he heard, barely, over the sound of his pulse in his ears. He was acutely aware of his jugular, twitching under his skin.
“Well, yes. I’m calling because my dog has disappeared,” Michael said, trying to calm the quiver in his voice. He thought about the time he went on a date with Jeannie from the radio and took beta blockers to stop his anxiety. Where did he leave those pills?
The operator on the line took his information and asked him about his dog: She wanted to know where he had seen the dog last.
“His name is Nero, and he was in my living room.”
“Okay Mr. Harris-Walker, does he have his tags on?” Her voice was sweet and clinical.
“Ah, yes, but they disappeared too.”
There was a pause. “Of course, sir. Is there a possibility Nero hurt himself on the way out of the house.”
There was another pause while Michael frowned. “I don’t think he got out of the house. He just disappeared.”
The operator, accustomed to dealing with distraught pet-owners, said as comfortingly as possible that she understood. She asked for a description of Nero.
“Well, I don’t see the point. he’s now invisible; you can’t see him.”
Michael clarified by way of mere reiteration. The quiet on the line hissed, like a faraway roar. He then explained that Nero started to become blinky, like the picture on an old TV set, that afternoon. Then around 3:00, Nero’s tenuous purchase on reality now unfastened, the picture went blank. The operator sniffed and cleared her throat.
“He may not be invisible. Is it possible that he may have slipped into another dimension?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Michael said, though not knowing what that might look like.
“All right, do you think Nero may have been a time traveler who somehow negated his own existence?” The operator was sticking to the script on her screen.
Michael told her that the last thing Nero did before he started to fade was to destroy one pair of boat-shoes and then poop in a different pair of boat-shoes. They weren’t particularly significant shoes, neither pair, so he doubted that was the issue.
“I believe you’re correct,” the operator added. “Might you, yourself, be experiencing a break with reality? Perhaps a sudden-onset, psychotic episode? Could you be hallucinating your pet-ownership?”
“I’ve got a clean bill of health,” Michael answered, annoyed. He toed a bulge in the rug.
“Might you or Nero be ghosts? And is it possible that you’ve now accepted your own or your dog’s death? Causing you to fade peacefully into the afterlife, or the apparition of Nero to diminish as you allow closure into your soul?”
Impatient, Michael said that the operator would have to also be a ghost for half of that scenario and that many other people could verify Nero’s existence. After arguing whether or not a telephone could be a conduit between the quick and the dead, the operator decided to move on.
“I have to stick to the options offered by our system, sir,” the operator offered meekly. She accepted Michael’s apology –he was under a lot of stress currently. She went on, “It seems like Nero has undergone an episode of quantum tunnelling. “
“A quantum leap? That sounds serious,” Michael said, and he sat down heavily. The chair leather groaned. “Is it possible he’s now in the body of a different dog, trying to find his way home though time and space?”
“That’s not so likely. But it’s more possible that Nero will return to reality at any moment,” the operator sounded hopeful, “though, he may turn up somewhere else.”
“In the house?”
“In the universe,” the operator worried she answered too quickly. “But entanglement makes it’s more likely that Nero will blip into reality somewhere he has been before or with someone he has been around.”
Michael pinched the bridge of his nose. “You’ve been very helpful.” Michael opened and closed drawers of the dark, wooden end table. He found the orange bottle of his anxiety medication. He shook it like a rattle.
“Well, thank you, Mr. Harris-Walker. Good luck with Nero.”
Michael placed the phone on the end table and opened the bottle of pills. He took one. Then another. He snapped the child-proof lid back on the bottle and the phone rang. It hummed against the tabletop.
“Mr. Harris-Walker? This is the Guelph Community centre.”
“Yes?” Michael worked his way into a slouch.
“Your dog just appeared in our swimming pool. Could you please come down here and pick up Nero?”