Ace – Monday – 4:29 am

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series Equanimity

Ace paced back and forth in his stuffy apartment, the thought of his death overtaking his mind.

How would it happen? He wasn’t sure.

Where would it happen? He didn’t know.

When?  Ace shivered.  He knew precisely when it would happen.

Sunday evening.

The retired soldier’s training suddenly kicked in, and he quickly ran around the apartment ensuring each window was bolted shut.  When he got to the kitchen window, he paused for a moment and felt the sudden urge to look outside.

Without exposing himself too much, he peered through the dirty glass of his third story apartment and studied the dark, wet streets below.  At first he saw nothing out of the ordinary, but his eyes soon fixed on a ghostly white man, bald and very fat. The man stood motionless at the corner of the busy intersection below, ignoring the to and fro of early morning traffic, instead looking up in Ace’s direction.

“Where do I know you from?” Ace asked under his breath, fogging up a small oval section of the window that separated him from the dark, wet night outside.

The man’s eyes seemed sunken and his head misshapen, as though someone had taken a shovel to it on one too many occasions.  Entranced, Ace squinted his eyes and tried to get a closer look.  He saw scarring along the side of the man’s head, something that resembled burn scars.  The scaring went down the man’s neck and disappeared under his wet coat, where it seemed to continue down his arms and to his exposed hands.

The rain outside had drenched the man from head to toe, and his bald head glowed like a beacon as it reflected the surrounding street light. Although the man stood still, he seemed to be crying, his hands wiping the tears that poured from his tired dark eyes.

Suddenly, the man lifted his right arm into the air, pointing it straight up to the foggy window where Ace stood. Ace’s knees let go of him and he fell to the ground with a thud.  He didn’t know who this man was, but he felt as though he’d just been spotted by the enemy.  A tiny voice in the back of his head urged him to run.  Another voice, this one somewhat louder and with the ring of his old sergeant’s voice, tried to reason with him.

Get a hold of yourself soldier!  It’s not yet oh-five hundred hours, the sun ain’t up yet, so the target definitely can’t see you in the darkness of your apartment…

Ace pushed himself back up, forcing his legs to carry his weight once more.  He then looked out the window, staring down at the fat, bald man in the street.  The man was still there, still wet from the rain, and still pointing his right arm up at Ace.  Then, as though to demonstrate that he could in fact see Ace, the fat man pulled his arm back and slid his index finger from left to right along the inner part of his neck.

Oh my God, he knows! The tiny voice said.

The retired soldier jumped back and shut the window’s curtains.  He ran to the front door, ensured it was bolted closed, and put a chair up against the door knob.  Finally, he hurried into his bathroom and sat in the safest place he could possibly think of: his rusty bathtub.  There he sat, staring up at a spider whose web had been half destroyed when he’d jumped into the tub.

As the spider crawled up the stained shower curtain – away from the large intruder that had just woken it up and destroyed its home – Ace allowed his mind to clear.  This was an exercise he often did, and it had saved his life many times in the past.  It was a kind of fast-meditation that allowed him to analyze the situation in very little time.  All he needed was something to focus on while he emptied his mind, and at this moment he was glad he’d seen the spider.

How can the fat man possibly know?  No, he doesn’t know (or does he?), he’s just a crazy (fat, bald, burnt) man on the (raining) streets pointing at shadows up at (darkened) apartments.  Or is he?  He knew where I was and looked (threateningly) at me.  How could he have known? (was it a guess?) What the hell is going on here? (is he playing games?)…

He calmed his thinking again; he needed to focus on the now.

For now I’m safe.  He has no access to the building (unless he lives in it).  So I need to keep an eye on him.

About three seconds had passed, and Ace saw the spider was now all the way up the shower curtain.  It had turned and seemed to look at him defiantly, and he realized that this bathtub had probably been its home for quite a while now.

He bounced back out of the tub, leaving his arachnid friend behind.  He then smashed the mirror in the bathroom, grabbed a piece of it, and crawled back to the window where he had been not a few seconds earlier.  He held the mirror piece up to the window and looked down at the street with it.

The sliver of reflected light showed an empty street corner, with but the odd car passing by.  Ace slowly stood up and confirmed with his eyes that, sure enough, the fat man had disappeared.

Exhausted, he sat back to the ground and threw the mirror piece to the side.  His career had put him in many tight spots, but none of them had made him feel so confused and vulnerable.  The fat man wasn’t a threat to him, at least not physically, but he was connected to Ace’s death, of that he was certain.  How or why he was connected, Ace had no idea.  In fact, he wasn’t even sure why he felt – why he knew – that there was a connection.

The situation was what it was and, Ace being who he was, wasn’t about to go down without a fight.  He had seven days to get ready.  For what, he wasn’t sure, but if his training had served him well, he would need body armour, camouflage, guns, and ammunition.

Lots of ammunition.

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