By JENNY BARDWELL
Jason slouched into his front door, feeling relieved as he finally forced it open. The familiar smell of his house embraced him as he staggered over the threshold. His brain felt as if it had been ground into a worthless pulp, and his knees quaked as he tumbled forward. His ragged breath was heated with frustration as he filled his lungs with the relaxing air. His job had transformed him into someone detestable, and the anger he unleashed at work was still circulating through his blood, gradually becoming diluted.
Mark sprang quickly into his own bedroom, the thin pads of his sneakers bending effortlessly with his muscles. He skated softly over the carpet to a set of drawers and eased the top one open. He shuffled his blunt fingers lightly over the many objects inside before opening the next compartment. Where was it? He could not find anything. As he shifted silently through the room he could not help but feel slightly ashamed. The task he was failing to complete was not a difficult one. The callous master in his head began to recite a list of people who were better suited for the job than he. Mark winced as Jason’s name reverberated through his mind. “Did the man possess even a morsel of kindness?” Mark wondered as he tried to shudder the name out of his mind, “Has he ever performed a noble action?” His search’s noise began to grow with his frustration. “Jason is cold and cruel,” he tried to convince himself, “You are above such characteristics.”
Jason pushed himself into the kitchen and began to wearily make himself dinner. His movements were slow and unproductive. With great effort, he pulled a large knife from the kitchen drawer and began to chop. His eyelids began to quiver as the melody of the thin blade thudding into the thick wood dulled his mind. His thoughts swayed back to his job as he tried to justify the day’s mishaps. He earned a healthy salary. He had received many promotions and had the right to display his superiority over others. He could not let his employment be jeopardized by the mistakes of others. He had acted correctly. The noise of the knife grating the cutting board was increasing, rebounding off the walls and piercing his swollen ears. Jason lay the knife down impatiently and let his hands drift instinctively upward to support his head. The headache was consuming him. The relentless noise continued to bludgeon his mind even after he had dropped the knife. Why did the noise always persist?
Mark’s body shook as he flung a book mercilessly to the ground. The rage was getting harder to control. It overcame him as he slammed the lid of a box closed. “Calm down,” he recited instinctively, “You need to be silent.”
“Jason would be silent.” The voice called to him. His control collapsed again, and he banged his head into the wall several times. Shut up. Shut up. Shu–FOCUS! You need to find…something. Something important. Then you can finish the job and leave, but until then, you have to be quiet.
The steady drumming gradually began to fade from the room. Jason pushed his gaze to the ceiling before his eyes rolled reluctantly back to his unfinished work. He did not have the energy to cook. He feebly positioned his feet toward the garage door and began to walk. Maybe he could retrieve something microwaveable from the musty room.
Mark’s head turned as he heard a door slam from the lower section of the house, his attention devoured by the noise. He began to prance down the stairs, excitement flickering through his insides. He would find it downstairs. He reached the kitchen and hungrily surveyed his new territory. A slight glimmer of metal attracted his eyes. He eagerly scooped up the knife, which lay casually on the kitchen counter. He heard Jason’s footsteps approaching and shrank toward the nearest wall. He muttered the voice’s orders aloud, “Focus! Finish the job quietly, and then run.”