Knock at the Door
The movie stayed paused until the police kicked down the door of his apartment three weeks later.
Showing his annoyance, Brian opened the front door.
The man stood there. He wore a suit, but there was no tie and the top buttons of his dress shirt were unbuttoned. His hands were jammed into his pants pockets, and if he could lean against nothing, this man was. The suit jacket was unbuttoned, so Brian could see the guy was unarmed. Spiffy dress shoes, neither shined nor scuffed. He was just a guy, nothing special.
“Can I help you with something?”
“No no no. I can help you.” The guy didn’t stop smiling or take his hands from his pockets. He just stood there.
Brian eyed the golf club leaning against the door frame, a fat one wood with a carbon fiber handle. A solid swing would dissuade anyone from causing further trouble, and Brian glimpsed he might need it. “How can you help me? I don’t see you holding a free pizza.”
“Ha. Funny.” The guy stood there, hands in his pockets, and smiled. “I can help you, because you’ve just been erased.”
“Erased. You don’t exist.”
Brian clapped the front of his chest with the flat of his hand. “Seems to me I exist. Besides, I think.”
Now the man made a vague motion with his hand. “You have your wallet?”
There on the table right next to his car keys. “Why?”
He didn’t know why he did as the guy told him, but he did. The driver’s license still fixed behind the plastic window in the flap, but identifying information was blank, except for the imprint of the state. No photo. No address. No number. Brian glanced and the guy still stood there, smiling. Brian rifled through his wallet’s contents. Social security card, all the frames and borders, but no name and number. All his bank cards had no name on them, no signature on the back, and Brian watched the numbers sink into the plastic until the card was flat. Even his business cards had the company logo, but no name, no phone number. Brian’s cell phone had no service.
Brian kept tapping the phone. No email account. Errors. “What the...?”
“I told you. You’ve been erased.”
“What? By the government?”
The man blew air through his teeth. “Please. The government can’t even pave potholes. Reality erased you. Reality has many layers, and those redundant layers blur into each other, and things go wrong. Hence, you’ve been erased.”
“So what? People can’t see me any more? I’m a ghost?”
The man’s smile grew wearisome, but it was clear he had to be patient and friendly. “Nothing metaphysical. You still have fingerprints. Your breath still stinks from eating whatever garlicky horrorshow you had for dinner. There is just no physical record of you. No hospital, no government, no banking, no employment, nothing. I’m here to help take you home.”
“I am home.”
The man’s smile cracked slightly, strained at the corners. “Brian, stop thinking. Listen. This is not your home; the landlord has no record of you being here. Get in the car and I’ll take you to the others.”
Brian shrugged, followed the smiling man. The man piloted the car through residential, into industrial. Brian could barrage the smiling man with questions, but Brian knew his questions would be answered.
The man turned the car along a stretch of dirt backing a line of warehouses. He stopped at one, blipped a remote clipped to his sun visor and the warehouse door slid away, opening to a throat of darkened descending tunnel. The man drove down the tunnel, letting the darkness absorb everything but the dashboard lights. The remote on the visor blipped again, and another set of doors slipped open. He drove into the dead center of an cavernous space, clicked the headlights, got out of the car. Brian paused for a moment, frozen by weird curiosity, then joined him.
Another man, a woman, and a third man stood a few yards within the headlights of the car. The smiling man said, “This is Moria, Shelia and Bari. They are in charge of the three factions.”
Brian paused the barrage of questions.
“You’ve heard the stories of the guy that pays the grocery bill of the woman with five kids on Christmas and disappears without recognition? Moria is in charge of the good faction.” The other man within the headlights gave a slight nod. “You’ve heard of the guy starting the bar fight, then gets out before the furniture starts getting thrown? Shelia is in charge of the bad faction.” The woman gave him a half-assed salute, her studded leather jacket tapping and creaking. “And Bari, well... some actions are neither good or bad, but just as equally chaotic. You know, medications in a hospital getting mixed and a few people go on a magic carpet ride.” Bari stretched his hands in front of him, bending his fingers backward, cracking his knuckles.
“Just remember. Erased doesn’t mean immortal. Just untraceable.” The smiling man included the three with a sweep of his arm. “You don’t have to stick with one faction. Or maybe you do. It’s up to you.” The smiling man clapped Brian on the back. “Now go have some fun.”