Saturday, January 23, 2016

Trident Square, 8:00 PM.

Graham Hoover enjoyed a good sandwich. Every evening after arriving home from his boring insurance job, he'd stack a random assortment of meats, cheeses and condiments between two slices of bread. Sometimes it would be ham and provolone with a dash of horseradish. Other times, a tasty bacon, lettuce and tomato with mayonnaise.

Tonight, it would be a double-decker fried bologna and cheddar sandwich... with a side of suspense.

Just as Graham was about to take his second bite, a white piece of folded paper miraculously slid beneath his front door and into the living room. The note was completely mundane in its outward appearance. Slightly perplexed, he set the sandwich down, rose from his couch, and went to retrieve the plain-looking note.

"Trident Square, 8:00 PM. Come alone."

Alarmed at the directness of the note, Graham quickly morphed from calm to neurotic. Who had slipped the note beneath the door? Flinging his front door open, Graham gazed into the sixth floor hallway of his apartment building. No one was there. The culprit quickly vanished without so much as explaining the message.

Graham sat down with the note clenched in one hand and the greasy sandwich in the other. Munching and mentally fuming at the same time, numerous outrageous and horrible scenarios zipped through his mind. Am I being blackmailed? Did I do something wrong at work? Is the government out to get me? Am I being targeted by an ex-girlfriend? Graham was drowning in hysteria. At one point, he even debated calling the police, but decided against the idea. What if his phone had been bugged? They'd surely kill him if they knew he was involving the authorities.

Over the next few hours, Graham plowed through the contact list on his phone. He asked every aunt, cousin and sibling who would take his call about the note. Not a single one claimed responsibility for it. The hours steadily ticked by. 5:00, 6:00, 7:00...

At fifteen minutes until 8:00, Graham readied himself for the worst. Leaving his apartment building, he walked the quarter mile to Trident Square, a trendy area brimming with restaurants, nightlife and hipster shopping establishments. In the center of Trident Square was a beautiful gazebo surrounded by a rainbow of rose bushes. Along the edge of the bushes were these small carved monuments devoted to various creatures of the sea -- crabs, whales, stingrays and so forth. It was all quite serene. Though, given the circumstances Graham faced, the atmosphere was anything but soothing. He sat in the gazebo, trembling with terror until the top of the hour.

And then... nothing happened. 8:00 came and went without any event. Twenty minutes later, Graham still sat awaiting his doom. Forty-five minutes later, the tension in Graham's neck started to relax. By the time it was 9:00, he decided to get up and go home. Surely, he'd convinced himself this was all a big prank. Probably some kid in the building wanted to play a practical joke on any buffoon willing to follow the note's instructions. Haha, punk. Ha... ha...

As Graham slid his key into the lock on the front door, he noticed a faint scuffing sound inside his apartment. He called out to any potential assailant waiting to accost him, but no such answer was broadcast. Pushing the door open slowly, he peered through the gap to see only darkness. Finally emerging in the living room, Graham flipped the lights on.


Vibrantly clapping and jumping in the apartment were numerous members of Graham's family, along with countless friends. Apparently, they'd all come in while he was in Trident Square. The note was a ruse to draw him away from home. Such a sly plan!

Graham's mother winked at her son, thanking him for the spare key in case of an emergency. Everyone laughed and giggled, circling Graham in absolute joy. His mother approached quickly with a handkerchief. Confused as to what the surprise party was for, Graham inquired as to why all the commotion and secrecy. His mother, clamoring for words, stated that the party wasn't for any particular reason. They simply loved him and wanted to show their appreciation. She beckoned for him to sit down and asked if she could blindfold him. Anticipating a wonderful surprise, he agreed.

Mother placed the handkerchief over Graham's eyes with grace, taking care not to tie the blindfold too tight. As the room went dark behind the cloth, the room also fell to absolute quiet. A minute or an eternity, there was little difference; the wait seemed like forever.

And then... a sudden flash of light. The blindfold was removed! Soon enough, Graham would wish it were back on.

Before him stood the party attendees, each with a blunt or sharp weapon in hand. Even his mother, a saintly woman who'd never hurt a flea, held an iron poker. In unison, the mob shouted "Surprise!" one final time. Swinging and slicing furiously, they bashed poor Graham into a sweaty lump of sausage.

As Graham lost consciousness from the bloodbath, he soon stirred to a chunk of fried bologna trapped in the back of his throat. Coughing profusely, it seemed he had nearly choked on a bite of the sandwich. Awaking on his couch, he sat up and spat the morsel onto the floor. That blasted sandwich, it had nearly taken his life!

Rising to his feet, Graham entered the kitchen and splashed water on his face. Rubbing the crust from the corners of his eyes, he tried to revive his senses. What a horrible nightmare he'd experienced! It must have been the fried meat. Perhaps his mother was right; he might consider cutting back on the fried foods.

Suddenly... a faint whooshing noise. A pink flyer skated from below the front door and came to rest against the living room coffee table. Experiencing a major case of déjà vu, Graham timidly flipped it over to read the message.

"Come one, come all! Party in the park! Crafts and live music from local polka-ska band 'Czechs and Balances'. Trident Square, the swankiest place in the city!"

Laughing deliriously, Graham ripped the flyer to shreds.

"Trident Square, with its fancy statues, over-priced coffeeshops and damn rose bushes... Kiss my ass!"

A series of beeps erupted from Graham's mobile phone, signifying that he had received a text message. He promptly read them, hoping for some sort of good news.

"Hi son, I'm coming over. Be there around 8:00."

A primal scream erupted from Graham's mouth, rivaling any other scream ever released in human existence. Running without restraint, he promptly blasted through the sliding door leading to his balcony and vaulted off, plummeting to his doom.

As the last fraction of life-force escaped from Graham's battered, contorted corpse, the sounds of a terrible band played in the distance.

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