First Person Perpendicular, Part 1

The morning before Daddy-o Compton died was simply spectacular; there’s no other word for it. Brilliant sunlight reflected off of everything it touched. Even the weathered grey siding of the abandoned First Baptist Church, carrying a hundred years of dirt and grit and abject neglect, shone like a brand new car under theatrical lights. I’m not one to exaggerate. I tell you, the gleam of that morning was beyond measure. It was like the air had been scrubbed clean, cleaner than pure Rocky Mountain air after a cleansing rain. There was no dust, no pollen, nothing to block the sunlight. And it was like the sun was ten times brighter than it had ever been. But not so bright that it hurt your eyes. Just good bright. Happy bright. The kind of bright that lifts your spirits and makes you glad to be alive.

I wasn’t the only one to notice the day was different. I mean, you just couldn’t help it. People came out their houses and just stared at everything around them, as if they were seeing the world for the first time. Everything was clearer, like a grey film you didn’t know you’d been living with your whole life had suddenly been lifted from your eyes. Oh my god, that was a day I’ll never forget.

Daddy-o Compton recited some poems from the gazebo on the town square later that morning. I don’t remember any of them word-for-word, but I recall the theme and the title of one: “A New Perspective.” Some folks sat on the lawn and listened to him, but most of ’em just shook their heads as they walked by, ’cause most people don’t get poetry, you know?

Some people were scared. They thought something was wrong, that dazzling light just wasn’t natural. I guess you’d have to admit they were right.

You know why I wasn’t scared? All the dogs seemed cool. They didn’t bark, didn’t growl. Nothing. I mean, they seemed curious about the differences around them, but they weren’t scared. And when a dog’s not scared, there’s no reason for me to be afraid, you know?

But, the next morning, when the dogs began to snarl, that’s when I got uptight. And then, when Daddy-o Compton was found hanged in the gazebo, things got ugly. Not just for me. For everybody. It was like the spectacular morning the day before had brought with it some really bad shit. That morning, a couple of hours after they found Daddy-o, was the first time I’d ever got drunk before noon. I finished off a half-bottle of Scotch, pouring it in milk to cut the sharpness. It wasn’t bad at all. But, man, was I drunk by the time it was gone. That was the very first time. Did I already tell you that?

Mindy woke me up around four that afternoon. She said she knocked on the door for five minutes before she made a hole in the window with a screwdriver, forcing the lock open just enough to clear the catch. From there, she was able to slide the window up, crawl across the desk, and walk the few steps to my bed. Any other day, she would have climbed under the covers and played around with my privates until I woke up. But that day, she shook me by the shoulders until I emerged from that Scotch-and-milk-induced stupor.

“Damn it, wake up! There’s something going on! Get up!”

Once I come out of it, I’m pretty damn sharp. So I was absolutely coherent by the time I got up and out of bed. “What’s wrong, Mindy?”

“The brightness. It’s gone.”

“Yeah, Daddy-o getting hanged ruined the day; made the brightness disappear.”

“Uh huh, but it’s worse now than it was before. I mean before the brightness. Look outside.”

I pulled back the curtains and looked outside. Sure enough, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, everything looked dull. The sky wasn’t bright blue the way it is after a rain cleanses the air. It was more white with a blue tint, like a white computer screen. I mean, it didn’t look horrible; more like the way the air looks when there’s a haze in the air. But there wasn’t a haze; you could see things way off in the distance the way you can’t when it’s hazy.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking there was some kind of science fiction thing going on. Or that it was weather. Or maybe some kind of mass hysteria. I don’t think it was any of those things. But maybe it was. I guess you’ll just have to figure it out for yourself. I would have asked Daddy-o Compton, but he’s dead.

What you might not know is that I’m Daddy-o Compton. That’s what makes this story so damn hard to tell.  Because I know how he came to be hanged in the gazebo. The thing I can’t explain is how I, Daddy-o Compton, was able to hear about my own death and, at the same time, experience all the stuff that’s happened since. I guess it could all be in my head, but if that’s true, how is it that all those other people were spellbound by that incredibly bright and uplifting day?

I was twenty-eight years old then. Now, I’m twice that and then some. But I remember it like it was yesterday.

[Subject to radical revision or outright rejection before Part 2, which may come about before the end of time.]

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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