the short story project


Fred Rohleder

Deja Vue 9/11

Day 1

            How long had the alarm been going off? I struggled to semi-wakefulness as I reached over and slammed my hand down on the snooze button so hard it hurt. I rubbed my hand and turned over falling back asleep almost instantly.  I could let it go three times before having to rejoin the world and still make it downtown to work on time. Was that the first snooze or the last one I wondered? Slipping back into dreamland, I really didn’t much care at the moment.  

            “Jesus Christ on a fucking crutch! Jack” I shouted out loud.”What the fuck is wrong with you! It’s 8:30! FUCKING eight fucking thirty!” Sitting straight up in bed, with my head still throbbing from last night. Drinks with clients had progressed from a few drinks at one of the many wall street pubs. Then on to tequila shots and beers at the strip club. This particular client was visiting from Pig Knuckles, Arkansas or Turkey Neck, Illinois. or who the fuck cares?  What mattered was that they had nowhere to be this morning, while I was supposed to be at my desk at 9 am sharp. That was never going to happen, but I was going to give it the old college try anyway. Jumping into last night’s clothes, I hit the door of my apartment running, taking the stairs two at a time.

                Of course there,, wasn’t a free fucking cab anywhere. Not a single fucking one! “Great Jack, just fucking great”, I said again, looking up and down the street searching for that cab that was going to save me. Big surprise, it never came.  How can there possibly be 2 million fucking cabs in the city and not a single one when I need it? This was going to be an award-winning, ass reaming kind of fucking day. I had no one to blame but myself but that didn’t stop me from assigning some to a few mental scapegoats anyway. First and foremost I blamed that fucking bitch of an ex-wife. She took the condo, in the divorce, that was 5 minutes from work for me and instead sticking me with about 40 minutes from work. The truly shitty thing was it was further away from her job, but she just wanted to stick it to me when she could. It looked like I was going to have to hoof it over to the subway and pray there weren’t any delays.

            On the subway platform, I was getting dirty looks from everyone around me. Fuck Me Again! Fuck’em anyway, I’ve been stuck next to enough stink on this fucking tin can that they could deal with it from me for once. I still had stripper glitter in my hair and on my face, probably on my dick too. I was pretty sure I smelled just like the stripper I had fucked after closing time in the alley next to the club. Sweat and Sex, not just everyday sweat, but all day at work, then lots of drinks and finally stripper sex sweat.

It was already 9:15 and the train weren’t even halfway there when suddenly it came to a lurching halt, throwing me into my fellow passengers and them into me. We all gave each other the New York City salute, a quiet fuck you, under our breaths. I couldn’t see what was going on because we were still underground. Fuck Me yet again! This day just keeps getting better and better! Not for the first time this morning I wished I had stayed in bed. I reached for my phone to see if I could get a handle on the slow down, not that it mattered, I was still stuck in this metal tube 50 feet below street level. Unless I wanted to smash out a window and walk the rails to the next station, I was stuck.

            After searching every pocket twice I realized I had left my phone at home. Fuck Me again! Just to make sure, I did the obligatory pat down for the third time to try and find the fucker. It was like it was intentionally hiding from me. Front pockets, back pockets, suit jacket pockets. I tried to remember where I had seen it last. It was all just a blur of tits and ass and drinks and drugs then suddenly I had a vivid image of putting it in my briefcase last night. It was a go-to rule for me once I reach the too fucked up point to keep track of it. It was in my motherfucking briefcase on my motherfucking couch at my motherfucking apartment! Keeping my phone company was also my passkey to get in and out of my office.

            Might as well call this day a wash and head back home now. It would take the better part of the day to get new ID issued so that kills it. Absolutely no reason to go into the office today. The thought of going home and getting back in bed made my hangover very happy, and the kettle drums in my skull retreated a little bit. The possibility that we, me and my brain, wouldn’t have to do much of anything today was just awesome. As the hangover gave way a little bit, the images of me doing coke off that strippers ass came to me again. Fuck! I had really made a mess of things last night, and now I was paying for it! If I could just get out of this fucking train! I was starting to feel that nauseous feeling that only those who have enjoyed drinking their own weight in alcohol, snorting coke, and fucking strippers would know about. If I spent too much more time with these idiots I would start blowing chunks so I hoped this fucking thing would pull into the station so I could get a cab back home.

            Standing butt to gut with the unclean and unwashed I started to notice something strange. Normally subways are pretty noisy places. Even though most people tended to speak moderately, it was still pretty loud, hundreds of voices even at a moderate level talking above the sound of the cars got loud. As more people got on the number of voices increased so did everyone’s volume as they tried to be heard over everybody else.. It was a vicious circle, more voices equal more noise, more noise equals more volume. Today, however, something else was going on. The train was dead silent for a moment and then in unison people began shouting, crying and showing each other their phones. Moments later all hell broke loose as office drones, businessmen and college students started looking for a way off the train. They were pushing and shoving. Several fights broke out as I watched completely nonplused. In a daze, I managed to pick up a dropped phone and what I saw on that small screen made my soul go cold. It took a moment for my brain, already overtaxed at this point, to make sense of it. I looked up from the small screen as people were pushing and shoving. Bodies went down in the melee, and no one was helping them up!  Why weren’t they helping them up? Why wasn’t I helping them up?

            The phone had revealed that someone had flown a commercial jet into the World Trade Center! Thousands of gallons of jet fuel was burning. No sprinkler system in the world could put that blaze out! I thought of all my coworkers and office staff stuck in that hell. The truth of all this shocked me to the core, if I hadn’t overslept, then I would be burning like a human size roman candle with the4 rest of them. Fuck! I had been cursing my luck to be late and hung over, but now it seemed like a boon from GOD! I was trying to tell myself it was an error or equipment failure or something like that when the phone showed another plane coming in and smashing into the other tower! Shit! Fuck! Hell! I needed to get off this train! We all needed to get off this train! Once those buildings burned for a bit they would start to collapse. The subway rails ran right under there! Had I survived the burning to only be suffocated by the smoke and crushed by the debris rushing down the tunnels?

            I started looking for something to break the windows out of the subway car. It was slow going due to my hangover and what must have been shocked. I broke out in a fresh flop sweat fearing I would die in this metal fucking tube. I spied a skateboard on the floor, abandoned by some kid, and grabbed it. Turning it wheels out I swung as hard as I could at the nearest window. It bounced right off and sent a numbing jolt up my arms. Of course, it never shattered like in the fucking movies, had this been a movie the damn thing would have shattered like candy glass, the glass of the entire car would have shattered in a moment of cinematic glory, and I would be free. Life ain’t no movie! I switched to swing left-handed and did my best to hit the same spot again. This time the glass shattered! First good news I had had all day. Unless of course you consider not dying in a flaming inferno death trap good news, in that case, it was the second good news all day! Using the board to clear the remaining glass I flung myself at the opening and landed in the dirt between the tracks, just inches from the infamous third rail. Staring at the rail, it seemed I had yet another thing to be thankful for today. I’d just avoided electrocution!

            I’d like to say I was heroic and stopped to help the women and children out of the car, but that’s not the way it happened. I was one of the first out of the car and I used this advantage to head towards the lights of the station up ahead before the crowd caught up to me. I had to get up to ground level soon, or I might as well have stayed in the fucking train. I kept hold of the skateboard which had proved so handy and started to make my way to the station.

            It’s funny a bunch of voices in a train car is super loud. A bunch of voices in an empty train tunnel not so much. There was, however, a squealing noise coming from up ahead. I was trying to place it but  I didn’t think I had heard it before. I was surprised by the lights of the station were still on. I could make it, I kept saying in my head, just keep moving. Isn’t that what the UN peacekeepers always say when describing war-torn horrors they had just lived through. “Movement is Life” it went, “stand still and die, move and live.” There was that noise again? It almost sounded mechanical with its regularity. Was it another train? How could another train be moving when the one I had just broken out of had stalled.  But hey, this was New Fucking York!  Anything could happen here and usually did. That’s when all the lights went out, all of them. The overhead station lights ahead went dark. Even the signal lights went out which I had never seen go out, not in my entire life here in the city.

            The squealing got louder and I was pretty sure it wasn’t another train now, but what could it be? I searched my hung-over brain for the answer and when I came upon it, it was too horrible to believe. Oh my fucking God! It was the sound of rats! I hadn’t been able to figure it because it was too loud for rats, I had seen and heard rats all my life but never in large groups. It must be a tidal wave of the bastards! They say never corner a rat, and for good reason, the fuckers will eat right through you to avoid being trapped. The dirty brown tidal wave was racing up the tunnel towards me, trying to get away from fires and smoke behind them. I noticed that they were acting just like the humans, trying to get up the tunnel, and they weren’t stopping to help each other either! They were fleeing for their worthless little lives, just like we had on the train, and woe is the person/thing that got in their way. In true horror story fashion, they weren’t just fleeing, they were flooding the tunnels by the millions, filling in every open space top to bottom and side to side. On the floor, on the walls and even on the fucking ceilings! They were crawling up people still standing and swarming over those who had fallen. I was swinging the skateboard fast and furious not wanting to die from the fire and smoke caused by the burning buildings. I also didn’t want to die with rats crawling on me, shitting, pissing, and biting me. I stayed close to the wall as I inched closer to where I remembered the station to be up ahead. I am not a religious man, but I prayed with all my heart, that I would get to breathe fresh air at least one more time. My prayers weren’t answered, the huge mass of rats was suffocating me and after I got knocked down, I wasn’t able to get back up. ‘What a fucking way to go! Fucking RATS!’ was the last thought that went through my mind.

Day 2

            How long had the alarm been going off? I wasn’t sure so I sat straight up, reached over and slammed my hand on the snooze button. My dream had been so vivid like it was real. Like it had all really happened. Airplanes slamming into buildings and being stuck in the subway tunnels. On top of that, my head was still throbbing from last night’s “drinks with clients”. I almost never remembered my dreams and they were never so sharp, never so in focus.

            Looking at the clock I saw I was going to be late, very late. I had promised to place some trades first thing this morning for my clients, the very same ones I had ripped it up with last night. I had been very excited to secure their account last night, but it didn’t seem very urgent this morning what with being haunted by catastrophe and I couldn’t get the smell of rat piss out of my nose.

            I went in to start the shower and came out to start the coffee while it warmed up. Doing a self-assessment it looked like I would need massive amounts of coffee and was already regretting having none of that cocaine left. It was probably for the best, if I started on the blow this early, I would have to ride it all day. Walking back to the shower I glanced down at my briefcase. My phone was in there, better not forget it on the way to the office, I thought with a little deja vu feeling. Stepping into the shower a wave of nausea swept over me and I almost landed on my ass in the tub. I was overcome not only with the urge to vomit but with a vision of broken down subway cars and people screaming and shoving. There was something coming down the tunnel it was squeaking and crying sounding very much like a herd of babies! Of course, that was dumb. Babies don’t flood a subway tunnel in herds! Next came an image of a plane, no wait two planes each flying into the twin towers where I worked! What the fuck? I must be overtired. My mind was just playing tricks on me. I had been working 18 hour days recently, I needed to hire an assistant broker soon before I went off the deep end. Well, maybe that was too late, at least farther off the deep end then. This was no way to start a day having visions. I wondered if there had been more than coke in that coke last night? Of course, there was always something more in it, it’s not like there’s an FDA label on that fucking shit.

            When I could stand, I got out of the shower carefully and sat on the toilet lid and tried to settle myself down. I prayed the visions and dreams would cease. Eventually, they did some and I was able to get up and turn off the shower. I grabbed some coffee and sat my happy ass on the couch. I sent my admin assistant an email telling her I was feeling under the weather.  Code for hung-over.

            Flipping thru the channels I tried to calm down, those visions had been so disturbing, not because of their content but because they had seemed so real, so lifelike. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but all the boob tube showed me was a normal day. 13 channels of shit on the TV to choose from! But this wasn’t the 80s when that Pink Floyd song came out. Now we had 300+ channels of shit on the TV to choose from! Local Channels, nothing. Cable channels, nothing. Not a god damn thing about waves of rats or planes flying into buildings. I got up to piss, standing there listening to my waterfall in the bowl, I heard the emergency alert tone on the TV. It was harsh, abrasive and demanding attention. Kind of like my ex-wife! LOL 15 years divorced and I still enjoyed bashing that bitch! I had a reason, she took everything and left me in a one bedroom apt.

            Coming out of the bathroom, intending to turn the volume down instead I sat frozen on the couch and watched two planes slam into the world trade center over and over. My coffee cup slipped from my hand and splashed down my legs and all over the rug. Not much of a loss, there had been worse spilled on that tattered rug. I watched the same World Trade Center I was supposed to be in, supposed to be at work in by now, burn and collapse. I was glued to the TV watching the dreams from the night before made real on the TV. Some terrorist had hijacked four commercial airliners and flown two into the Trade Center buildings. Another had impacted at the Pentagon and there was a fourth somewhere over Pennsylvania with some fighter jet escorts. Fuck me! I could have been in those building! I should be dead right now! As the reality settled in nausea came back, and I ran to the can throwing up everything I had eaten since the 5th grade.

            I spent the whole day flipping from channel to channel even though they all played the same thing. The towers had caught like a wicker man in one of those hippy parties. They collapsed in on themselves, but not before people started throwing themselves out of windows. Bodies tumbling a hundred floors to smash into the concrete below. A huge hot cloud of toxic gasses from the fires blew up and down wall street a hundred feet high. Sometime during the marathon of carnage, I was watching, I had switched from coffee to scotch. I think I even threw up a few more times. Thinking about Janet my AA. Dead. Ricky the kid in the mail room who wanted to be a trader some day. Dead. Even Mr. Jones my boss, who everyone hated with a passion. Dead! All Dead, Dead, Dead!

            Sometime after 3:00 PM when they shot down the plane in PA, I slipped into unconsciousness. I didn’t notice as the now empty scotch bottle slipped to the floor as I slipped into my very troubled dreams. I was running in my dreams, trying to escape but every time I looked behind me the man-made pyroclastic flow was gaining on me. I thought to hide in the subway but when I started down the stairs a flood of rats came up at me. I turned to run when the burning cloud caught me and turned my flesh to cinders.

Day 3

            I was awake when the alarm went off. I kept going over yesterday which was turning out to being today all over again. I remembered working 10 hours the day before or was it two days ago? Then heading out for drinks with a choice client. I also remembered waking up late, which I hadn’t obviously as I had just turned off the alarm first try. In the dream, I had been trying to rush to the office. I was sitting here now and would make it work no problem if I wanted to. I knew somehow that there would be no taxi’s available that morning rush hour. If I grabbed the subway instead, then there would be waves upon waves of rats to deal with and finally, planes crashing into the very same buildings I was trying desperately to get to. Something very wrong was going on here, how could I know these things? How could I remember things that hadn’t happened yet?

            I pulled the blinds open and looked down in the street. Nothing going on there, as usual. I scratched my crotch and went to make coffee thinking I might take a sick day today. Clicking the TV on over my shoulder, I fixed my coffee and headed back to the couch. Flipping through the channels there was nothing going on besides the normal corruption, crime, and bullshit. What the fuck had been in that coke last night? Had my drug dealer slipped me a mickey?  Maybe that stripper/whore had ruffied me? I thought while rubbing the back of my neck. For the millionth time, I swore off the drugs. Of course, I would be jonesing and making calls by noon, trying to hook up! Man, these visions were too much to handle. Fucking waves of rats, toxic clouds and planes crashing into buildings like guided missiles! Too fucking weird!

            The Emergency Broadcast Tone went off on the TV! It froze me in the hallway. I remembered it going off before, recently, but I just couldn’t remember when.  When had that tone gone off recently? Shit! It was like an itch you just can’t scratch. Wait…it was just like in the dream! But when did it happen? Yesterday? The day before? It seemed like I had multiple days all overlaid each other. I had blamed it on the coke, but this was for real! I not only felt that I had been here before, but I knew it! I fucking knew IT! I had stood right here and heard and saw all this shit before. The picture on the cable TV was exactly as I remembered it. First the one plane and then the other. Huge fires in both buildings and now people were jumping out of windows on the 80th floor! I slipped to the ground right where I was! What the fuck was going on?

            Shit doesn’t happen like this in the real world. This wasn’t some kind of Bill Murray movie gone wrong or a fucking Stephen King book. People didn’t relive the same day over and over. I sat on the floor for hours trying to get a handle on this. Alternately crying and laughing like a maniac. People always think they want to live in perpetual deja vu. Keep doing it till they get it right. Well, I certainly didn’t, I would rather die in the burning offices than do this one more time. But what did I need to do to stop repeating? I had no idea how long this had been happening to me, I could only remember a few days but what if last night had been years ago and I was just swirling around the drain, never going down, just going round and round. Any records I may have tried to make were gone when the clock reset each day. I remember falling asleep a few times. Was that the reset? Fall asleep and restart the day with that fucking alarm going off? I wished I had found a more gentle alarm clock before this all started. But the truth of it was I only woke up, especially after a night of partying, to a harsh, acerbic electronic harpy sound! It reminded me of my ex-wife! I guess that was why it worked. I would do anything to get away from that fucking bitch! That may seem harsh but she was a drunken whore, the real problem has she always had a cock in one hand and a bottle of liquor in the other, the issue was that the cock wasn’t mine but the bottle was.

            I decided I needed to stay up and see if that reset was stalled by being awake. I kept glancing at the scotch atop the TV where I had left it. No, that wouldn’t be a good idea, I needed to stay up! I sat expectantly watching the disaster footage which seemed to be the only news anymore. I started at the clock and drank more and more instant enema and waited. I knew it couldn’t be this easy, but maybe a clue would emerge. The fact was, I believed that I was damned to hell. What else could be going on? I didn’t really know. As the clock approached midnight with no changes I was divided. I wanted to see the reset happen, but I also wanted this to be over. No more re-runs for me! Even death was more welcome than this. At 11:59 I waited with bated breath. What was going to happen at 12:00?

            12:00 struck just like every other day. Had staying up made it different? I felt a weird shifting in my brain, kind of like when you have a high fever. As Pink Floyd said, My hands felt just like two balloons. When the fever feeling settled out the day reset. The alarm went off like always and the TV was free of carnage, at least for now. I had time! I needed to contact the police! I needed to stop this, not just for me but for everyone! I could save Janet and Ricky and Mr. Jones! Most of all I could save myself.

            I picked up the landline phone. I kept it more out of nostalgia than any other reason. I dialed 911, it was a complete waste of time. The 911 operator thought I was either insane or a prankster. The very idea of planes crashing into the WTC was laughable at best, and a very sick joke at the worst. She told me if I called again she would send a patrol car to collect me and then I would see how fucking funny I was then.

Day 4

            The alarm went off and I opened my eyes but stayed where I was. I let it go off for a few minutes then reached over and grabbed it, pulling the cord loose from the wall and throwing it as hard as I could against the other wall, smashing it to bits of plastic and electronic circuit boards. It didn’t matter after the day reset the alarm clock will be back in working order without a scratch on it.  Since it seemed I was trapped in this fucked up repeating day. I might as well have a good time of it. I would spend all my money and it would back in the bank when I woke up.  I could literality do anything I wanted and it would be erased at the stroke of midnight. Alright then, let’s get this party started!

            I called my coke dealer right away and told him I wanted as much as he could get for me on such short notice and there was a bonus for him if he could do it sooner than later. He said he would see me right away. Next, I called the escort service and asked that they send me three or four of their top supermodel escorts for a party. Next, I ran across the street and bought all the tequila they had on the shelves. Over the next few hours, I snorted, fucked and drank myself as close to death as I could get. I even took a handful of Viagra. It was a fitting end note to my shitty life, a huge dick dies with a huge dick!


Day 5

            I was up before the alarm.  Looking around my apartment it appeared the same as it always did, no signs of the debauchery that had occurred there over the last few nights. The glass coffee table I had fallen through around 4:00 AM was whole again. A quick look at my bank account and none of the thousands I had spent yesterday were missing.  It looked like I could literally do anything I wanted to with no repercussions.

             Dressing quickly I took the .357 magnum from where I kept it in the desk, I flipped it open to make sure it was loaded and put the gun in my waistband and pulled my shirt down over it. I headed uptown to see how my ex-wife was doing with all the calamity going on. Standing at her front door, which used to be my front door too, I knocked after having already looked to see if there was a spare key in the flower pot. There was not, so I knocked and waited. She opened the front door with a shitty look came on her face. 

            “Jack, what the fuck do you want?” she asked with a sneer.

            “I just wanted to give you something,” I said quietly.

            “What could you possibly have that I would want?” she asked sarcasm dripping from her voice.

            “Just this,” I said pulling the gun from my belt. I shot her in the face 6 times, her head looked like a fucking pepperoni pizza that had been thrown against the wall.  I reloaded just one bullet and stuck the barrel in my mouth pulling the trigger.

Day 15

            I had spent the last 10 days exhausting every hedonistic desire there was. I killed my ex-wife 5 days in a row. Mostly by shooting her in the face, but I had also hacked her to pieces with a machete, strangled her with a rope and held her head under water in the tub while fucking her in the ass! That one was  my personal favorite! I had even hired some street bums to rape her then beat her to death while I watched. She begged for me to help her, obviously, I didn’t. I had done drugs till my heart and mind exploded.  I had even walked into a police station and unloaded the .357 on all the cops there. No matter what I had done, no matter how hideous and deplorable my acts were I kept coming back. Day after motherfucking day! I didn’t learn the piano or help out old ladies with flat tires. I enacted every mean, evil and demented fantasy one could possibly have. Maybe that’s the real story here.  Maybe I was in hell. I had to figure out how to get out of this fucking loop.

Day 16

            I had been up since midnight, since the day reset yet again. This day was going to be different, however. This was the day shit was going to change for me, no more repeats, no more do over’s, no more bullshit. I arrived at the office and raced upstairs just in time to stand in front of the floor to ceiling windows and watch the airliner loom closer and closer. I could even see the terrorist pilot, for a moment we locked eyes. There was an understanding there that this life was about to end. I sincerely hoped this was going to be the real end. The only thing I could figure out was that I was supposed to die here, now, in this place, with these people. My oversleeping had thrown all of the reality out of whack. What a sight I must have been, calmly waiting for the impact as my co-workers ran around, trying to escape their fate.  They wouldn’t. I had seen the footage and no one above floor 20 made it out. We all have our time to die and apparently I had missed mine. As the plane crashed thru the windows I had one last thought before my body was incinerated.


At least it’s not fucking rats!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *