by Francis Scudellari
Cryptically back-lit, the jumbled numbers hovered in the blackness before him. Like glowing glyphs in an endless void, the haloed digits refused Jacob's every attempt at translation. The blurred amalgam of twos, threes, and fives bled into each other; sometimes multiplying, sometimes dividing when Jacob's tired eyes tried to focus in on it.
Unable to decipher the clockwork green figures, Jacob finally turned his head toward the shadowed doorway. His body lay angled on the mattress: his arms spread toward the far top corner, and his legs sprawled over its near bottom edge.
Turning on the faint light of a side lamp, Jacob saw the ceiling, the walls, the floor -- the whole room -- spin wildly. When he closed his eyes, it was Jacob himself who spun, seemingly picking up speed with each passing moment.
Taking a quick peek again, he glimpsed a small, fuzzy shadow move across the vertiginous facing wall. It was probably just Gregor. Then, Jacob pulled shut his bloodshot lids once more, squeezing the surrounding muscles with a force of will to fight the dizziness and slow the uncontrolled spiraling.
The Miles Davis record playing on the phonograph did its part to calm the storm. The throbbing bass, up-bounced down, down-careened up, out-ebbed in, and finally in-faded out of his revolving head. The fluttering piano nestled in one corner of his mind, accompanied by the saxophone's slinky swing and by the drum’s steady pulse.
Over top of it all, the sleek, plaintive trumpet snaked in from the living room and through the hall, before it slipped into the bedroom. It undulated over Jacob and wrapped itself around him. Its cool, soothing scales, coiled tightly about him and up-lifted his frame securely below the rotating ceiling.
One by one the instruments trailed away. Their final notes lapsing into silence, each released its grip on Jacob. Last to go, the trumpet unwound itself and let Jacob drop heavily back onto the bed with a thud -- the record needle rubbing roughly against the label’s edge.
The speakers emitted a circular crackle and hiss, and Jacob had to get up. His stomach howled angrily -- the vengeful rumbling of a wounded beast. It churned violently, rolling the rest of his body off the edge and onto the floor.
Clambering over various strewn shoes and bouncing off half-unpacked boxes, Jacob crawled out from the bedroom on his hands and knees. Reaching the bathroom, he blindly felt for the toilet. With both hands, he gripped the cold porcelain bowl and thrust his mouth into its larger one. His poisoned belly heaved. All of the day’s frustration, bitterness, pizza and gin poured forth, corrupting the clear blue water.
Jacob sat back against the wall. Things were going to get better … they had to. They couldn’t get any worse. Soon, he would find his muse. Soon, he would seduce her to his side. Soon, he would be a writer. “Soon. Soon. Soon.” He repeated the mantra in a slow whisper until he lost consciousness.