Maxwell Abernathy sat at his breakfast table, fork in hand, staring at his eggs. The eggs, having nothing else to do, stared back with their two round, yellow yolks.
"Somewhere, eggs," said Maxwell, "somewhere I missed an important crossroad in my life's journey."
The eggs said nothing, but kept staring back. Maxwell looked away from the eggs to the only window of his small, one-bedroom apartment. The morning sunlight cut in between Maxwell's building and the building across the alley, illuminating the other building's reddish-brown brick wall. Maxwell stared out the window at the wall for a few moments, and then leaned the plate, on which the eggs sat, towards the window, so they could see.
"Nice view isn't it," remarked Maxwell dryly, continuing to stare out the window at the wall.
Maxwell looked down at the eggs. The eggs slid off the plate onto the table. Maxwell set the plate and fork down and rose from his seat at the table. He crossed the linoleum floor of the combination kitchen-breakfast room to the wall where the phone hung, next to the paper towel dispenser. The eggs stared upwards at the dirty-white ceiling, and dropped a few degrees in temperature.
Maxwell picked up the phone's receiver and began dialing numbers on the phone. 4-7-0 ...pause... 5-5-4-2.
"Good morning, Offices of Blake and Hamberstein, Attorneys at Law, A Professional Corpo-"
"Janice-" began Maxwell.
"Oh. Hi Max," said Janice flatly.
"I'm feeling a little under the weather and I'm not going to be able to make it in today, ok?"
"Ok, I'll tell Mr. Blake."
Maxwell placed the receiver in its cradle, and walked out of the kitchen and into the living room, loosening his tie as he went. He removed his tie, and set it down on the couch, and continued walking, into his bedroom. Once in his bedroom, he undressed, tossing his clothes on a nearby chair, and climbed into bed. Maxwell fell asleep quickly.
At approximately 3:15 p.m. the same day, the phone in Maxwell's bedroom began to ring. On the tenth ring, Maxwell's arm slithered like a half-dead snake out from underneath the light blue blanket covering Maxwell's body. Maxwell's hand then picked up the phone and slowly brought it towards his head.
"Hello..." mumbled Maxwell.
"Maxwell?" asked a female voice with a very heavy French accent.
"Oh... Hi Antoinette," said Maxwell with a very heavy American accent.
"Comment ca va, mon cherie?"
"Comment ca va!?!?" repeated Antoinette, stressing each syllable.
"Huh?" repeated Maxwell, stressing the syllable.
"Merde!" exclaimed Antoinette, rolling her eyes.
"Watch it," cautioned Maxwell, "I know the dirty ones."
"Pourquoi est-ce que tu ne peux pas parler francais?" asked Antoinette rhetorically.
"I can't understand a word you're saying," answered Maxwell indignantly.
"Shit, " said Antoinette, at a pay phone one block away from Maxwell's apartment. She violently slammed the receiver down on the phone, and walked away.
Maxwell opened his eyes in surprise, closed them again, hung up the phone, and went back to sleep.
Seventeen hours and sixteen minutes later, Maxwell was walking to work through the University campus. The air was crisp and cool, and the light-blue sky was streaked with white as if a child had used watercolors to paint the clouds. As he walked, Maxwell chanted in synch with his stride, "I hate work. I hate work. I hate work..."
Maxwell noticed an open gate in the wall he was dragging his fingers along, and stopped to look in. There was an enormous man, wearing a dark-green shirt and pants, holding a sledgehammer over his head, ready to strike a bright-red object about the size of a tomato on a stump below him. The man swung the hammer forward and down, his arms and shoulders following its path. The hammer hit the red tomato-like object, and red juice and pulp flew everywhere.
Maxwell peered further into the area inside the gate and saw about a dozen crates of what looked to be tomatoes, piled nearby the stump. The big man in green turned towards Maxwell, and Maxwell noticed there was a white patch on the left breast of his shirt embroidered with the words, "University Menial Labor."
"Hi!" said the man.
"Hi," replied Maxwell cautiously.
"My name's Alburt," Alburt said, open hand extended, walking towards Maxwell.
"I'm Maxwell." Maxwell said as he shook Alburt's hand.
"Can I call you Max?"
"Sure," Maxwell said with a wide grin, "You can call me anything you like - just don't call me late for supper!"
Alburt laughed, tossing his head back. It rolled of his shoulders, landing on the ground next to his feet.
[ Just kidding! typed the author. ]
Alburt tossed his head back, laughing loudly, his mouth open wide like the entrance to the tunnel of horrors.
He finished laughing, raised his hand and felt his neck carefully.
"Whew, that was a close one."
Ignoring Alburt's last sentence, Maxwell pointed at the crates and said, "Are those things tomatoes?"
"No, those are strawberries."
"These must be four or five times as large as the biggest strawberry I've ever seen," said Maxwell, as he moved towards the stack of crates.
"Uh, you better stay away from those," warned Alburt.
"They could be dangerous. You see, there was this scientist here doing unauthorized genetic experiments on strawberries and those are what he grew. As soon as someone found out though, the University gathered them up and told me to destroy them all."
"Well how dangerous could they be, really? I mean, if someone ate one would they grow 40 feet tall or something?"
"I dunno. I'm sure that they'd have to keep an eye on the person for a while even if they seemed ok."
Maxwell turned his head towards the crates and looked at them. Alburt moved over to the crates, opened one, took out a tomato-sized strawberry, and set it upon the stump. Maxwell moved closer to the stump as Alburt raised the sledgehammer over his head, and as the hammer fell, Maxwell suddenly grabbed the strawberry off the stump. The stump made a dull thud as the sledgehammer hit it squarely. Maxwell took a large bite of the strawberry. He grinned as red juice spilled out of his mouth.
"This tastes great!" Maxwell blurted out.
Alburt looked at Maxwell disapprovingly and said, "You're in a lotta trouble."
Maxwell, clothed in a white backless smock of the hospital-patient design, sat in a hospital bed. The room had no windows, and the room's flourescent lights bathed sickly light upon Max and several other people who were also wearing backless, white smocks, sitting in beds as Max was. A man in a long white coat holding a clipboard walked into the room, and strode over to Maxwell's bed. Maxwell raised his finger to his mouth and began strumming his lips up and down, while he produce a constant tone from his mouth. The result was something like:
"Can't you say anything else?" yelled the man at Maxwell.
Maxwell stopped making the noise, smiled at the man, and brought his hand up quickly, striking his forehead with his open palm. There was a "Smack!" and Maxwell fell backwards into his bed, eyes closed. The man in the white coat shook his head and moved down to the next bed, and eventually through all the beds with similar results.
As soon as the man in the white jacket left, Maxwell hopped out of bed and ran over to the bed across the room from him.
"Shit, this is great Randy! How long did you say you've been here?"
"Two or three days. Me and that guy over there - his name's Ralph - we were walking in the Biology building after seeing our prof. All the sudden this siren goes off and some guys came rushing out of no where and said, 'We're sorry but you'll have to come with us.'"
"Weird. I told you how I got here, right?"
"Yeah, that was ingenious Max, let's just hope you don't mutate or something."
"Let's just hope YOU don't mutate!" replied Maxwell.
Maxwell heard the squeaky wheels of a cart outside in the hall, raced back across the room and jumped into his bed. A rather large woman, dressed from head to toe in white polyester pushed a cart into the room through the door. The aroma of food began to float about the room. The woman distributed the food to the half-dozen people in the room and left. Immediately after she left, everyone started talking. They ate their meal and talked, while outside, the sun sank into the western horizon.
After he had finished his meal, Maxwell walked back over to Randy's bed. Randy was almost done with his dinner.
"So what do you think will happen to us?" asked Maxwell.
"I dunno," said Randy chewing on a mouthful of bread. "I think they'll just keep us here and watch us for a week or two and then let us go."
"This is pretty great. No work, no responsibilities... nothin'."
"Yeah, and it gives me a chance to catch up on my reading," Randy said, patting a pile of books stacked on the floor next to his bed.
"Can I have the rest of your orange juice?"
"Aren't you afraid you might catch something?"
"Ha!" exclaimed Maxwell, as he drank the last of Randy's orange juice.
Suddenly, the lights went off.
"I better get back in bed, Dr. Fritzner should come by for last rounds in a second. Talk to you later," Maxwell said, as he began to move off in the direction of his bed.
"Ok, see ya."
Maxwell got into his bed, stared into the darkness for a few minutes, and dozed off.
The next morning when Maxwell awoke, everyone else was gone. Maxwell looked around carefully. He alternated between fidgeting and morosely staring off into space all day long. When one of the doctors came in, he just stared at the floor. As soon as the doctor left, he got up to try the door. Maxwell pulled hard several times, but he couldn't budge the door, it seemed locked. Maxwell wiped some sweat off his brow with his right hand, while he stood trying to recover his breath. He looked at his hand in surprise, and the quickly felt his heart. He began to move back towards his bed, but collapsed on the floor after only a few steps, breathing heavily.
Maxwell awoke in a thick blackness, which felt as if it was a sheet, wrapped tightly around his body. Then there was a voice inside of Maxwell's head and everywhere else:
"You are now dead. There is no reincarnation, no afterlife. There is nothing. You're consciousness has been extend past your biological termination only to inform you of these facts. Thank you for your cooperation."
"Wait a second," Maxwell struggled to say, "Who are you?"
"I suppose you would call me 'God'"
"Am I going to hell then?"
"No," said the voice with a sigh, "There is no hell, there is no heaven, it's all just a bunch of nonsense someone invented to control your behavior."
"Oh." said Maxwell.