By Johnny Apocalypse
I sat on the floor of my apartment staring at the couch. A teal couch on four wooden legs, the cushions in pristine condition. If I looked for one, I might just find a sales tag still attached.
As my cigarette reached the filter I ground it out and let another. The front door was still locked. I had seen old spy movies where they unhooked a chain lock with a bent coat hanger, but would the movers have taken the time to latch it on their way out, and relock the deadbolt and the doorknob? Why would they deliver it in the middle of the night anyway? The window was way too small for the couch to fit through, and it was locked too. Where had my old couch gone? I guess that it must have gone through the same opening that the new one came in through, but where was that?
As strange as this all was, I didn’t remember ordering a new couch. Maybe when I ordered those books online I qualified to win a free couch. But I would have been notified if I had won, right?
I went over my steps from the night before. I had come home from work, microwaved a TV dinner. Had a beer, just one. Watched the hockey game. Called my girlfriend. Then I went to bed.
Looking at my watch, I saw that it was a quarter past seven. I should have left for work fifteen minutes ago. I should probably call them and tell my boss that I would be late. Maybe I should call the police and make a report. What would I say? “Hey officer, some crazy guy broke into my place, stole my old, tattered couch and left a brand new one in its place.”
My fingers got burnt as the cigarette came to its end. I lit a new one, and kept staring at the couch.
Jim Sheffield woke up when Rascal licked him on the nose. The dog probably didn’t need water or to go to the bathroom. He just liked to decide when it was time for everyone to get out of bed.
As Jim climbed out of bed, Rascal hopped across his pillow and started waking up Della. Jim pulled on a t-shirt, adjusted his boxer shorts and walked down the short hallway towards his kitchen.
While he busied himself making coffee he heard his wife assure Rascal that she was, in fact, awake. Della hauled herself out of the bed, stuffed her feet into a pair of well worn slippers and stepped out of the bedroom.
“Jim,” she called from the living room, “What’s this ugly couch doing here?”
Once the coffee machine was happily burbling away, he stepped through the kitchen doorway and stood next to Della. Exactly where their three-seat leather couch used to rest was a new, plush, reclining loveseat. It was purple.
“It’s purple,” he said, the only words coming to mind without his morning caffeine.
“It’s mauve,” Della answered.
“Whatever.” Jim turned back to the kitchen to wait for the coffee to finish brewing.
“You’re not the least bit curious about where this came from?”
“Yeah, but I’ll probably remember something important once I get some coffee.”
“Like forgetting to tell me that you ordered a new couch, that it was being delivered in the middle of the night and that it would be absolutely hideous on top of all that?”
“Something like that. Except I didn’t order it. That much I know.”
The coffee finally finished brewing and James poured himself a cup. He stepped back into the living room and took a large sip.
“Well?” Della asked.
He shook his head. “Nope. No clue.”
She marched into the kitchen to get her own coffee. “One of your friends must be behind this.”
“Why does it have to be them? None of my friends could afford this.”
“What about Hank?”
“Hank? Hank’s in Kuwait right now. I’m sure he has more important things to worry about then our living room furniture. How about your parents? They have more money then all of my friends combined.”
Della returned from the kitchen, “My parents would have taken me with them to pick out a couch. And I know it wasn’t any of my friends, they would have had better sense then to get my anything mauve.”
The stood together for a minute, staring at the loveseat and sipping coffee. Rascal made a show of sniffing the loveseat from one end to the other. He eventually decided that it was okay, hopped onto one of the cushions, turned in a circle and laid down.
Della was the one to break the silence. “Well, this just has to go.”
Jim shrugged. “I don’t know. I kind of like it.”
“What? Are you nuts? It’s disgusting. We can’t keep it, it throws off my whole color scheme. I‘d have to redecorate the whole house.”
“Couldn’t you just redecorate the room?”
She looked at her husband like he was stupid, “Um, no.”
He shrugged again. “Okay.”
While Della dug the phone book out from the cluttered pantry, Jim checked the front door. Locked. He opened it and looked the jamb over. No marks. He walked through the kitchen to the back door. It was also locked, no scratches or dings.
“The movers did a good job, didn’t mark anything. But why did they bring it when we were sleeping?” he asked.
“Don’t know, don’t care,” Della answered in full business mode.
“You’re not the least bit concerned that at least two people unlocked our doors, dropped off a couch, took the old one and relocked everything when they left?”
“Nope,” she started dialing the phone.
Jim left the kitchen, walked quickly to the bedroom and pulled his revolver from the bedstand. An old .38 short barrel, six hollow-point bullets in the cylinder. On the way back down the hallway he checked the bathroom and guest bedroom. Nobody hiding in them.
“Well if you didn’t deliver the couch would you know who did?” he heard Della talking as he looked over the living room. “No? Okay, thanks.”
Jim walked through the kitchen towards the steps to the basement next to the backdoor.
“Jim, honey,” Della said, eyeballing the pistol, “if you shoot the couch then they can’t take it back.”
He stopped in his tracks, “I’m not going to shoot the couch. This is for the people who broke into the house.”
She shook her head in lack of understanding. He started walking down the stairs.
The basement was one large room used for storage, with a little bit of room left over for Jim and Della if a tornado came by. Filled with boxes, old trunks and an ancient stereo that they kept forgetting to donate to the thrift store. He wasn’t looking forward to crawling over everything to make sure that no one was hiding down here.
As he reached the bottom step, Jim realized that his search time would be cut well down. Where there used to be a pile of TV boxes filled with clothes, there stood a large futon with lime green cushions.
Fellipe Aguirre cannot tell his story right now. He’s busy taking an axe to a sofa that he found in his kitchen.
Major General Robert Q. Turner walked into the large conference room. One of the walls was lined with television monitors, most of which were linked to the closed-circuit security camera system of the complex. The table was surrounded by high-ranking officers and their aides. General Turner was the acting Commander-in-Charge until the four-star he answered to sent instructions.
As he approached the table his aide, a young Major named Canolla, stood from her seat.
“Sir,” she said, “NORAD is on full lockdown. Nobody can leave their current position, except for the security squads who are patrolling the compound, inside and out.”
“How many men?”
“One hundred and twenty.”
He nodded, “Have the 10th Mountain Special Forces ready to respond if needed.”
She scribbled this down on a notepad jammed with writing. “All available soldiers with the proper training and security clearances are reviewing the security tapes, no findings yet. Explosive ordinance disposal units claim that there is nothing flammable or explosive to worry about, aside from the couch’s natural properties. No chemical or biological weapons, no radiation.”
“Okay,” Turner said, “What does this tell us?”
“Nothing more then we already know. It’s just a couch. Neither the guards posted at the entrance roads saw a delivery truck or anything large enough to conceal the couch. It didn’t come from a different break room or an office, because all of the couches on site are identical.”
“And none of them are yellow. So what are we thinking? It came from thin air? A ghost brought it in? Christ. What’s Washington saying?”
“For now, just follow the standard operating procedures for security issues and pass on any information we receive.”
“Hell, I could have come up with that. What’s the standard procedure for a couch from nowhere?” The General began pacing the floor, running a hand through his thinning hair. “This had better not be someone’s idea of a joke.”
“There hasn’t been a joke played inside NORAD since 1976, sir.”
He nodded. “The cheddar cheese coffee incident”.
The phone in the center of the conference table rang. One of the soldiers put it on speaker.
“General Turner here.”
“Sir, this is Captain Robberson in the surveillance center.”
“What do you have, Captain?”
“It’s damn strange, sir. The camera in the break room flicked off for about three seconds and when it came back on the new couch was there.”
“Three seconds? That’s not nearly enough time to bring a new couch in and take the old one out.”
“That’s not all, sir. All of the cameras outside of the break room never stopped recording, and they don’t show anybody near that break room for four minutes before the switch and two minutes after.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Turner gave the signal to end the call. “What about the vents? Did their alarms go off at all?”
“No sir,” Canolla said, “The couch wouldn’t fit through the vent even if it were taken apart. Plus those alarms haven’t caught anything since 1981.”
“The bumble bee in the vents fiasco,” Turner remembered. “I want the alarms covering the whole ventilation system manually checked and recalibrated.”
“Sir, that’s going to take days!”
“I know, but it needs to be done. There is no way that the couch could have gotten in the room that we haven’t covered, so we need to go over every inch of the security system to find any gaps, no matter how small. If a thread of that couch could have gotten through, we need it closed.”
Everyone in the room was silent. They knew what it meant. It meant telling Washington that they had no answers, no possibilities, and no scapegoats. A major investigation would be conducted, security clearances checked and checked twice more, a large change in personnel. General Turner had done everything he could, and by the book at that. If he didn’t come up with answers soon, he would probably be convinced to take retirement.
“So what do we do about the couch, sir?” Canolla asked.
“The couch? Well, I think I’ll go test it out with a quick nap.”
Hundreds of miles away from the Earth, hiding behind Venus, a large, black spaceship hovered. Shaped like a triangle, about two stories tall, all of the lights visible from the outside were turned off.
Inside the ship, two thin, gray-skinned beings stood before a massive bank of controls and flashing monitors.
“I hate watching the damn planet,” one of the beings said. “These earthlings are so damn stupid. Has our transfer order come in yet?”
“Another thirty years. The only willing observers are being trained at the academy. Everyone else knows better then to accept this duty station.”
“I wish I had been that smart when I graduated.”
“Do you believe this nonsense with the couches?” the second alien changed the topic, “they’ll probably start a war over this.”
“I wouldn’t doubt it. Those crazy bastards on the internet are going to blame us.”
“Well, they were right about us killing JFK. I’m glad they’ll never prove it.”
“Yeah, but still. That was a mistake.”
“Not as big a mistake as Ingbokk. They should never have let him off of Zachartev 14. ‘Hey guys, look! I can shove stuff up the earthling’s ass and they think it’s for science!”
“Ugh. He single-handedly blew our cover with that perverse crap. Now everyone thinks we’re up here.”
The stood in silence for a moment, watching the monitors. On one, a young lady was pulling her hair out by the roots at the sight of an avocado green couch. Another displayed an old man blasting a pink loveseat with a shotgun. A third had a homeless man sleeping on a magenta three-seater in an alley.
“Four hundred years of this shit. I guess another thirty won’t be so bad.”
“Want to hide behind Mercury for a while?”
They turned around to walk towards the flight controls.
“Hey, where did this couch come from?”
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