I know all about Jacob Callback. I know him inside and out, backwards and forwards, body and soul. I know his deepest desires and his dirtiest, shallowest thoughts. I've seen him search high and low for a place in life, like anyone, and I was there for the highest moment in his life, and as for the lowest
Well, okay, I suppose there's some things I don't know, but then again there's some things that Jacob doesn't remember.
There are also quite a few things poor Jacob doesn't know, on top of the things he has forgotten. Like, who I am, for instance. He doesn't know that my name is Alrik Jaekerson. And even if he did, he has long forgotten that it's a Swedish name. And I were to sit down with Jacob, and tell him about my family in Czech Republic and Slovakia, he would no doubt be surprised at the terms, unable to recall that Czechoslovakia hasn't existed in nearly ten years.
He knew these things, but forgot. What he does know and remember is largely concerned with electric currents and the likes. He can recite every pedantic of Ohm's Law, as well as every deadly fallacy behind the phrase, "it's not the volts, it's the amps". And as for volts, Jacob knows how to ground thousands of them in such a way that doesn't melt his guts and boil his blood the moment his tools make contact with the current. Jacob was an expert, as far as that dangerous process of electrons was concerned, and he regarded it with a fearless, but healthy respect, knowing that there were aspects of electricity outside of his control.
Jacob used to make a moderate living off of gallivanting around high voltage power lines, dangling hundreds of feet from the ground on pulleys. It was an extremely dangerous job, and he'd worked up from the bottom-up to get it, from a simple rural power line repairmen to every natural gas company in the southern state's go-to man for high voltage maintenance and repair. It wasn't a job to take lightly. On a regular basis, Jacob was either flown up in a modified helicopter or hoisted skyward in a perfectly grounded lift up to the lines, where electricity swam harrowingly through the air. Merely on the ground beneath the cables Jacob could feel the hum of energy around him. And he knew, farther up, the electricity would constantly being trying to grab him with its invisible arms. It was a living thing so powerful that it wasn't bound to the wires it traveled on.
The only way around this is to hold a conduction rod, straight towards the lines, to create a connection to the current so that it can pass through a fire retardant work suit lined with steel thread. Jacob had done it no less than hundreds of times, and he knew exactly what to watch and feel for every time he became part of a current. He was constantly wary of that sudden BUZZ and taste of metal in the back of the throat that would tell him something was about to go very, very wrong. He'd grown comfortable with vague feel of electricity humming around him as he connected with the current in the only 'safe' way. Years of training went into this. Time. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Yet, even step of the way it had been his passion and his thrill, and he'd loved it.
This is the gap where the things I don't know about Jacob lay. Something happened. He now works five days a week at a shitty downtown bar that catered mainly to migrant workers, most illegal, and their white bosses and trailer trash hires in a dusty west Texas farm town. He's a bus boy, of all things, cleaning up the spilled beers and broken glass from the floor, mopping up vomit and dropped plates of cheap hot dogs and fries. He toils in an almost sniveling manner, apologizing profusely for any bump or intrusion to people he can barely understand. Lo siento, lo siento. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. He's filled with a sad and untraceable guilt every time he sees them, somehow knowing that their lives somehow mean less on paper.
He doesn't understand why he feels this way. He also doesn't know why he had suddenly become this haggard, sullen man who had fallen out of his profession to become something perhaps just below an average dishwasher, when he knows that his electric engineer's license and his contacts rest somewhere within the confines of a red, cedar desk with soft wood.
However, I know why. It's because he doesn't remember, but what it is that he's forgotten, I do not know. It's this gap that we both share. The only thing I both know is that it has something to do with puddles of water. When it rained, rarely in that nothing-town, a deep and solemn despair filled him from top to bottom. It became a live, sucking weight deep inside that drove him lower and lower into the ground. Yet, at the same time, these weren't his lowest poinst. It was, however, from the dirt ridden pools of water inside Jacob's mind and the sand blasted roads he walked home on that I was born.
That I'm an alternate personality is not the plot twist, at least not to me. I looked up one day and realized, hey, this isn't Gothenburg. And the cool Swedish fall had been replaced with an utterly thick, baking summer heat that melted through the humidity of recent rain, only to turn into the dry scorch of Texas heat. My clean and well kept apartment room became a rotting motel room with lighter sized roaches that crawled on the walls at night.
The realization that I didn't exist came quickly. At first, I tried to argue to myself that maybe I was the one out of body, or that Jacob's reality was a creation of my own, but it didn't take me long to realize that gaps in my own memory far surpassed his. And the more I thought about my life, the more it became apparent that every one of my memories had been merely disseminated through Jacob's. I was, in my reality, a first year psychology student at uni, but it had only been through Jacob, who had merely meddled with a few psych courses at his trade college.
And there were things that I didn't know about myself. I grew up in Gothenburg, yet at the same time I couldn't tell exactly what the streets looked like, or how the people are, or what primary school I attended and what my first car was. And it even occurs to me that I only know the vaguest of the Swedish language, bits and ends from a small class taken before a business trip across the Atlantic to work.
I had, for a short time, lived out the sad life of Jacob Callback in the ways that he did. I couldn't do it. Unlike him, I didn't feel that untraceable possession to work in such a place, in such a manner. Jacob's urge was nearly
penance like, in the way he lived. He was punishing himself. He had torn away everything he had loved and replaced it with this pathetic fake of a life.
Why? Jacob's gap mirrored mine, and I only knew what he did. It didn't take long for that gap, and the fact that I had somehow been created from it and the pools of water, to begin to drive me crazy in my own laughable way. Jacob's life was pathetic, and I'd be a liar if I said that I wanted anything to do with it. Yet at the same time, I couldn't bring myself to take the easy way out. Jacob's body was not my own, and I could, with no ill will, throw it under a passing truck at the earliest convenience. But for an alternate personality, I suppose, I had empathy. Jacob had life in him, but it had been buried.
It hit me the morning after I'd quit Jacob's job at that disgusting bar. He was better off without it, anyways. But somewhere in the midst of waking up and dressing, I realized that the key to my
removal must lay in my creation. I had to find out what had happened. It was no longer a nagging question I couldn't ignore. And in a way, it would be a journey of self destructionbut then again maybe not. Jacob had a reason for leaving, creating me in his place, whether he knew it or not. Would he be willing to take his place back and return me to my own place of reality within his mind? How far gone was Jacob?
I was no sleuth, but I could flip a mattress and scour through the piles of trash and dirty clothes lying around. I found nothing. No receipts or phone numbers or even a business card. The numbers in his phone were wiped, and the service bars refused to show up anyways. On top of that, Jacob's wallet was missing. He'd become a nobody living there.
I thought harder. This could not have been his permanent home. Just like the job, he'd given up a place in Oklahoma to live here. But for how long? And why here? Dates were missing, and all I needed was anything that pointed to another location. After a few moment's thought, I hesitantly went to the front desk of the place to confront the clerk about nearly every question I had. The woman, a mousy looking younger lady in her twenties, eyed me carefully as I greeted her and asked for a record of my stay.
"You sound different, Mr. Callback."
Perhaps the accent coming through. I coughed and ignored the question. "Can I please just have my records."
She raised an eyebrow and reached behind the desk, flipping through an indexed container slid under the worn and battered counter. The place was not five star. Cracks lined every dirt crusted tile in the lobby.
"Here. I can't let you have it, but you can look."
I nodded, silent as I checked the registry page. His name topped the page, and immediately following was an address, 1328 Mayfield Road, Muskogee, Oklahoma. His home address, and something that felt
untouched, since the gap. I knew I didn't need to go there. I went to the next detail. Room paid with a credit card that I'd yet to see a bill for, nothing of use. Next detail, which turned out to be the most interesting bit. Reason of stay. The first entry had read 'business trip', but had been scribbled out and replaced with 'residing'. Jacob had first come to this town for work, and then chose to stay.
Interesting. Outside of that, however, the rest of the paper was just a slew of billing information over the course of three months. Only three. I handed the report back to the woman and thanked her quietly. She nodded, but as I stepped out the door, she shouted at me. I almost didn't turn back, fearful that suddenly, maybe, the ruse had found out, and that she knew. But I weighed the odds. It was an off the wall assumption. I was getting paranoid.
She reached down and pulled up a set of keys from behind the counter.
"The taxi driver dropped these off two Saturdays ago, when they brought you in drunk. Did you want to finally take them back? We can't hang onto them forever. How have you been locking your room?"
I inwardly winced. If Jacob had been in denial about being an alcoholic, then maybe that was something else I had missed too. Embarrassed and confused, I grabbed the keys and left, not bothering to tell her that I'd never locked the place because I'd never found a key. IT might have seemed rude to her, but I was suddenly in a hurry. It was merely from hurry though. The truck key had the broad Chevy cross emblazoned on it, so I was looking for a truck, more than likely. Furthermore, if the keys had been there for two weeks, then that was nearly the same time I had materialized. That meant something.
I suddenly felt rushed. Invigorated. And somewhat scared. What would happen to me? Would we merge in a strange, abstract way. Would I be locked away back home or in darkness? Or would I simply cease to exist?
I plodded on nonetheless, making the mile long walk to the bar where I had quit from that day. I kept outside though, not wanting to draw attention. I scanned the parking lot quickly, looking for anything familiar. The keychain had no car alarm button, only the truck key, a master lock key, and a large, perfectly rounded silver key. It was not a great loss, however. It was midday, and the parking lot had only four vehicles. The first was a maroon sedan, its owner sitting on the hood with a map spread out in front of him, cigarette in his lips. The other three were unoccupied, and only one was a Chevy. A rusty brown with a large tool rack in the back.
In hindsight it was blaringly obvious. The key opened the door perfectly, and I almost immediately began to search around, but didn't find anything on first scan. The tool boxes in the back were locked down as well, with none of Jacob's key fitting it. When I got back in the truck, however, on a whim I flipped down the visor. A map fell from its grip against the roof, almost impatiently saying "Well, it took you long enough". I unfolded what turned out to be a County Road map of the area, with a stretch of country road two-twenty being circled and marked with a star. "Mile marker thirty-three" was written next to it in blue ink. Off to the side, the number twenty-seven was scratched in red next to a penciled in dot on an intersection on the opposite side of town.
Another clue in less than a day's time with nearly minimal effort. I began to wonder more of the obvious that I'd been missing, or if these things weren't as apparent as they seemed, and that I was merely following links of memory on subconscious whim. Maybe both. I thought back and recalled Jacob's engineer license. It rested in a red cedar desk drawer, of which the motel room hadn't contained. I also got the distinct feeling that this place wasn't too far, yet not too close at the moment.
A then unimportant detail. I bookmarked it for later, however, as I started the truck. It turned over with ease as I thought through Jacob's memory about the local roadways. Intuitively, I headed west out of town on the highway, first towards the county road, driving the pickup with an easy and comfort I knew to be Jacob's. The sun was bearing down and the cab was stifling. I fumbled with the AC, testing the controls before I found a combination that cooled. I suppose, that's the funny thing about being an alternate personalitywe can forget things just like real people. And my abilities through Jacob were crisscrossed.
I turned off of two Farm-to-Market roads, eventually pulling onto a wide, hard backed dirt road with a red layer of red caliche dirt. A bent sign read CR 220. A ghostly feeling immediately passed over me as the hum and click-clack of dirt and rock kicking up behind the truck in a full rooster tail of wind whipped dust thumped through the cab. The first mile marker read forty, and the next one thirty-nine. Counting down. My hands tightened against the wheel, despite the AC, as the land flattened out into eternally plowed rows, currently empty and barren.
They grew cantaloupes here. The realization hit me with no origin. Another nonsensical thought. I brushed it off and tried to calm myself. I was nearing something horrible, I felt. But how? There was nothing in sight. No fence, only flat crop land. I checked the next mile marker. Thirty-seven.
About three miles ahead was the peak of a gradual hill that I had been climbing. The sun was in my eyes, and it made it difficult to see the large, vague spanning structures that were appearing over the hill's apex until I'd reached nearly the very top. As I began to coast down, my mind locked in an inconceivable fear. I slammed the brakes of the truck, too hard, and began to slide and fishtail horrendously to the left. The back end of the truck slid into the small ditch on the side, the uneven terrain sending jerks through the truck before it slid to a stop, nearly sideways on the road.
Massive, skeletal power lines moved north to south over the road way several miles down the road. I knew that that far away, thin spot of road where I could see the towers cross over would be mile marker thirty-three, exactly. I could almost hear that deadly hum in my head, just as Jacob remembered it. Unlike him, the sight of them sent jolts of terror through me. It had no reason. The fear was just there.
I took a few breaths. This was what I was there for. Calm down. I pulled the truck back onto the road and drove towards on, keeping a slow speed. Mile marker thirty-five passed. What had happened here? I could piece together, at least, that Jacob had come here to do work. And for all intents and purposes, he'd finished the job three months ago. Thirty-four. I began to feel more ill as I neared, and I could almost taste metal in the back of my mouth.
I parked right beneath the cables and stepped out onto the road. As I shut the door, static electricity jumped from the door handle to my finger tips with a small crack. The engery was in the air. I hissed and shook my hand, jamming it into my pockets to prevent any more inadvertent contact with the truck. The cables strung between the immense towers thrummed and buzzed.
The smell in the air worked against my stomach. A bittersweet, rotted smell that was faint, but obvious. I walked towards the other side of the road I had parked, staring down the stretch of field beneath the tower. The dirt was off-color, to an extent, fading away as it moved from the road. It was darker, over-plowed. The texture was uneven and broken up by dried and dead plant leaves churned in with the dirt. I crossed over the ditch and a set of dormant irrigation pipes and into the field, my shoes sinking into the soil. I kneeled down and picked up a black and hardened piece of cantaloupe rind stinking up, twisted and dried in the sun, and it clicked. This section hadn't been harvested. The entire crop was ground and mulched back up into the earth, fruit, leaves, roots and all.
I walked down the edge of the field aimlessly before noticing something white stuck up in the dirt towards the tower. I changed direction and slowly made my way over, hopeful that maybe it was some sort of lead. Mild chagrin filled me as I came up to it, discovering it to just be the toe of a worn shoe sticking barely up through the ground. I let out a dry chuckle and idly kicked it, the abandoned piece of footwear easily moving around in the dirt mold around it. I nearly turned away, but noticed something strange, The edges of the rubber on the shoe were charred, rippled and bubble-marked from heat. But it couldn't have been that hot in the sun.
I reached down and picked it up, chunks of the red dirt I yanked it from flaking away as I gave it a good shake. It was heavy, full of dirt, and the soles of the shoe were entirely burned out. My curiosity peaked, and my mind became engrossed. It was a Nike, or used to be. The laces were coated in some anonymous, thick crust. I picked open the strings for a bit, widening it so I could pour out the dirt.
The dirt wouldn't pour. I flipped the shoe upright again, grabbing hold of the knot of dirt that was jammed inside. It crumbled away, however, revealing a yellowed, blackened mass speckled with small insect husks. There was bone. They were dead maggots.
It was a foot.
I made a gagging sound and dropped it once it hit me, shaking out my hands in revulsion. That was a foot. That was a human fucking foot and I'd been groping and messing with it. But even then, whose foot was it? Why and what happened? I jerked back and looked around. No one was there. No one had seen. And I'd only found the foot. I'd only found the foot. I wasn't to blame.
Only, it hadn't been me, had it? It'd been Jacob.
Numb, I made my way back to the truck, tripping over my own feet amidst the rows of dirt as my head began to spin. It was one thing to know that something wrong had happened, but another thing entirely to know that it had something to do with a charred and amputated foot in a field of plowed up cantaloupes.
And there was still one more place to visit. As I stepped back into the truck, terrifying implications arose. What would I find at the other location on the map? Twenty-seven, scratched in red. It could be nothing, but then I'd be fooling myself. I had to face the realization that Jacob, my creator, was hiding something terrible.
The drive to the final location was long and dazing, and wind was picking up and throwing dust into the sky, clouding everything over in a red and smoky haze. In between powerful gusts that shoved across the roads, dust swirled and whipped around the front of the truck in mesmerizing patterns. It reminded me vaguely of driving through a snowstorm, and I wished for nothing more at that moment than to be back home, somewhere else. Of course, it was immediately followed up by the reiteration that I had no home. I had no life. And as far as strict reality was concerned, Jacob's sins were my own. Uncovering that could just as well uncover the consequences. A part of me was screaming, TURN BACK. I was no more responsible for Jacob's life as he was mine, and the fact that we shared a body was a nonpoint. He'd hidden whatever had happened in the field for three months, a fair enough time, and there was nothing I could do to change it. The only thing I could do was reveal it. I could walk away, ignore it. Plow over it, so to speak.
I nearly did. As I pulled up to an unmarked building, a simple garage and office building off the road nestled between condemned and barren grain silos, I stopped the truck but didn't turn it off. Keep driving. Why not? Was I absolutely certain that I could fix my situation by digging up old graves? It was already done and over.
Thoughtful for a few seconds, I reflected deeper and was suddenly struck by a thought that made my stomach fall through. This had been exactly what he'd thought to himself, hadn't it? Only Jacob had just run with it, driving his life into a guilt ridden pit in the process. I could hate him for that much. It was cowardly. And to do the same
well, I would hate myself just as much as I was beginning to hate Jacob.
There really was no other choice. And perhaps, this was why I was here.
Naturally, Jacob's silver key fit the lock on the grey, steel from door that swung open on heavy hinges that squealed and grated from the dust. Wind whipped around and I quickly stepped in and shut the door behind me. It was a garage, but not a public one. Another tool box laden truck, not unlike Jacob's, rested atop a fully extended hydraulic lift, the skeletal underbelly vulnerable to anyone who walked beneath it. Just past it was a single door, locked with a cheap security hasp that had been hastily screwed on and bent around the edge of the door frame so that it could properly lock. A stack of empty cardboard boxes sat next to it.
I suppose it could be said that a vague sense of morality was what made me walk across that shop and take the final key and unlock the door, but the truth was I was no longer actively thinking. I didn't reflect. I just moved forward. As I pulled the lock away and flipped open the hasp, I paused only to put the lock in my pocket before opening the door.
How was it that the sight of a red cedar desk, polished and smoothed, barely tainted by a thin layer of dust, struck more fear in me than the sight of the power lines? The room was dark and uncluttered, things put away perhaps in the wide, chest high tool box on one side, and the row of lockers in the other. The only light seeped in from the window, clouded over by the rising dust outside. It was a field office. A small place set aside for electric workers to grab whatever tools and equipment they needed to their job, or to park work trucks for later maintenance.
I shouldn't have been shaking as I neared the desk, my eyes drawn to the top right drawer, the same I could remember that Jacob's credentials rested. But that was how I knew I was closer than I'd ever been. I was afraid of the truth, as it reflected on Jacob, who reflected me. As I began to open the drawer, the sound of dripping water tickled my ear, so faint that it aggravated. I shook my head and it disappeared, replaced with the soft sliding wood of a well crafted desk.
A pink, carbon paper half sized form rested where Jacob's license once sat. The top page, a generic red, was missing, already sent off and filed where it needed to be. I lifted it up and read aloud in a small voice, "Isolated line incident on mile 78, on CR 220. Line hit with debris. Removed without farther trouble. No injuries or significant damage. Line temporarily shut down for twenty minutes. Restarted with no incident."
It was signed off by Jacob Callback, and that was it. I slowly set it down on the table and leaned forward, confused and disparaged by the dead end. That was the lie I knew not to be true. There had to be more, somewhere, perhaps.
I opened the next drawer down. Red spilled blaringly from its interior, and my disheartened confusion turned to blurring puzzlement. It was filled with incident reports, complete with the top page intact. Each and every single one was filled out, some meticulously and carefully, filling each line with almost indecipherable small lettering. Others had simple, large blaring statements scratched in depraved handwriting.
The one on top read, I SAID THEY WOULD BE FINE. JUST SIMPLE MANTINENCE. I lifted it, and underneath another billboard like report read, NO WITNESSES.
I pulled open the bottom drawer on the desk, the big double sized meant to filled with file folders, instead heavy and crammed entirely full with red reports. I grabbed an armful of them and threw them onto the desk. A few fell onto the ground, the conjoined pages fluttering madly for a split second before they landed. I grabbed two of the larger lettered reports.
THEY SAID IT COULD BE TAKEN CARE OF. NOTHING ON PAPER.
TWENTY-SEVEN. TWENTY SEVEN OF THEM. ALREADY TOO LATE. NOTHING I CAN DO.
Throwing them aside, I looked closer and tried to read through the smaller scratchings of Jacob Callback. Some pages seemed identical, hundreds upon hundreds of handwritten copes. Each one started normally, but the devolved into a mass of manic, reiterated points. I arrived on time at seven in the morning. The irrigation had been running all night on a malfunction. It had rained. Water filled the rows. Puddles of water. Water and mud plastered to the ankles. It would be fine, just maintenance. Nothing to worry about, except the water. Except the water. But I was a hundred feet up, but the water. The water.
I threw it away. Another one.
They were working, twenty seven migrant workers. Their truck kept getting stuck. Too much water. Muddy. The wagon was full, too full. Too far into the field. The mud was getting too deep. The pipes started running again. Puddles of water. Bring the tractor. No, not the John Deere. The Minneapolis. The smaller one. Just don't get it stuck. Get the longer cable. The thick steel one. Don't get it too wet. I said it would be fine. It was perfectly safe underneath, nearly a hundred feet down.
I began to hear the dripping water again, but it wasn't just dripping, was it? It was rushing, pouring in a torrent in an invisible flow somewhere. I turned and stared at the door, where water was beginning to seep from underneath it, slowly moving across the floor. I could see drops of water beginning to form on the lockers, seeping from the edges of the tool box. Stupefied, I reached over to the locker and lifted open the clasp, the door of the locker flying open under the pressure of the paper inside of it poured out in a deluge. I opened the second, third and fourth, tripping desperately as I discovered the depths of Jacob's insanity. Not hundreds upon hundreds, but thousands of the reports littered the floor, soaking and swimming in with the water that was pooling around me.
I ran to the tool box and flipped open its top. No tools. Only red. I slid open the thin drawers, one by one. Red. Red. Red. More and more reports.
I grabbed another report. It was entirely nonsensical.
watch that tractor dammit, don't get too close to the pipes. be careful or you'll dig the tires into a rut. no you're sliding around, dammit, shut that goddamned thing off. IT ISN'T WORKING. IT'S STUCK. IT'S STUCK, SENOR, IT WON'T STOP MOVING. watch it, watch it dammit don't hit the irrigation line! DON'T HIT IT. DON'T FLIP THE TRACTOR. WHOA. WHOA. DON'T LET IT HIT THE TOWER. GET OFF, GET OFF THE GODDAMNED TRACTOR. GET AWAY FROM THE TOWER. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GET AWAY.
I threw it and grabbed another, standing in the middle of the room to catch the failing light from the window. I could feel water leaking from the ceiling and falling on my head.
Two hundred and forty-three repaired lines and I thought I'd had it down. It was just a minor check up on a minor line in the middle of nowhere. I wasn't even going all the way up, just to the secondary's down below. Everything should have been grounded just fine. But then I could feel it, the electricity buzzing in just that wrong, dangerous kind of way.
I grabbed another one of the briefer pages again written in red after somewhere along the line Jacob had run out of black pens.
THE TOW CABLE SNAPPED.
I looked down. I could feel the wash of the pages around my ankles as water had begun to fill the room. I knew it wasn't real, but it was the truth nonetheless. The truth breaking down the lies and the lie that was me. That electric buzz filled the back of my throat, I looked up, and I was in the field again, underneath those high tension lines. The orange and small tractor, near the end of the road, near a grassy road that went over a section of irrigation pipe. The back tires turn and churn through the mud, the lighter tractor sliding slightly left, then right, too light to pull the truck and trailer caught in the throes of mud deeper in the field.
Nearly thirty Mexican workers are either stomping around rows of mud trampled vines, tossing fruit into the boarded flatbed, or next to the connected truck with shovels trying to dig it out as the older Mexican behind the wheel spins all four tires of the old long bed to pull itself out of the mud. The cable, splattered with filth from dragging it through the field. All at once, the convoy jerks forward with some amount of progress, but stops just as suddenly. The small sized tractor isn't prepared, and the front wheels hop into the air, slamming back down as the driver lets of the throttle handle, but spurred on by the progress pushes it all the way up.
The movement had been superficial. The truck and trailer were just as stuck as they'd been before, but progress had been made. He pushed the tractor twice as hard than before, the bulbous tires in the back lazily kicking up mud as it began to really dig in, far too close to the irrigation pipes. It began to swag back and forth on the taught cable, creating a muddy curved line in the ground. The farm owner on the side of the road began hollering, just as the truck gave was another few feet before settling in the mud again.
The driver of the tractor slid dangerously towards the tower, and the farmer began to scream at him to get away. The driver did, but over corrected and slammed into the irrigation pipe, the back tires of the tractor suddenly catching on the solid edge of the pump housing amidst a burst of irrigation water and steam as it splashed against the overheated engine. Instead of giving it more ground to pull, it finally ruined the cable, snapping it as the tractor crashed onto its side, backwards into the field.
Jacob had been watching from up into the tower, and he could almost see that invisible cord swinging towards the tower. No, please god no he's thinking. I just need to adjust this one safety cord, disconnect, and destroy the deadly circuit humming through the tower. Just miss, miss by at least by a country mile. No arcs god please no. They'd be charred in an instant. The strongest electric chair never exceeded two thousand volts.
The time from when the cable whipped against the tower leg, fingers of white blinding light racing to through its tip, to when it finally dropped away was less than a half second. A half second in which everyone in the field froze, some dropping to their knees, backs and sides, clenched, heaving with electric convulsions, boiling from the inside, eyes popping, the muddy water boiling and filling with body fluid and blood. A few remained standing, clutching either the sides of the truck or the trailer, lips pulled back and burning, as smoke began to pour from their eyes and mouths. Even the driver of the truck was frozen, the window down and his bare arm and hand plastered to the side of the truck through the open window, the skin melting onto the metal surface.
The cable finally drops away, and the few left standing fall over, still frozen in whatever position they'd been killed it. Rigor mortis, in electrocution cases, sets in immediately.
With a jerk I'm brought back to the field office, jolted with the ghost imagined feeling of what it must have felt like, suffering a hundred thousand volt death. The room is no longer wetor never was. I rest amidst piles of incident reports. Numbly, I grabbed one last sheet.
he said of course it was a shame, a damn shame, but it was an accident, though, it was technically my fault for saying it was safe. but he'd be in hot water too, since every single one of the workers were illegal. business is bad. he didn't need this kind of trouble
i certainly don't need this kind of trouble. so he said, fill out the report as i wish. their lives would be on me, in the end. but he could help me, he said. nothing happened here. nothing at all
i wish i could be somewhere else right now. somewhere far far away. THIS IS A NIGHTMARE.
Somewhere far away
Oh Jacob. Poor, poor coward of a man. Overwhelmed and confused. He'd taken his way out like Faust. And he knew it was wrong, horribly wrong, and it tore into him so much that he made himself forget everything. But it'd still been there. Every time it rained and the water formed, the question came back, and eventually I'd came about.
I dryly realized that I really couldn't blame him for passing this life over to me. I no longer wanted to be part of Jacob either. After that realization came to me, the phone in my pocket began to vibrate. At first I ignored it, but then I rememberedJacob's phone had no service. Curiously, I pulled the simple black box from my pocket and stared at the screen. Zero bars. No service. Unknown caller nonetheless.
I answered it, and his voice, naturally, came onto the line.
"Hello? Who is this? Do I know you?"
I chuckled and ignored the question.
"Jacob, my friend
you've done something very, very wrong."