“Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that can happen to a man.”
Mitch rolled out of bed and meandered into the kitchen.
“Ah, shit.” He grimaced while taking his first step onto the cold kitchen tile from the relative warmth of the plush carpeting. In the midwest during winter 6:30 am is as dark as midnight. Mitch opened the refrigerator, and the yellow light spilled out into the room. He reached for a half empty gallon of milk on the top shelf. He studied the plastic container with squinted eyes.
SELL BY 2/7/2017. That was only two days away. Mitch congratulated himself for thinking to use the remainder of the milk before it spoiled.
He poured the milk over the cereal and listened to the crackling of the wheat. He yawned before dipping his spoon in the bowl. He pulled out a heaping portion of the soggy cereal and let the overflow of milk spill back into the bowl.
He put the spoon in his mouth and gagged. He spat the contents back into the bowl and stuck out his tongue in disgust. His nose was struck by a rancid vapor rising from his breakfast. The milk was a discolored mush composed of curdling dairy matter and murky water.
“What the fuck?” Mitch groaned. He grabbed the container and looked at the date again.
“It should still be good,” Mitch growled
His phone vibrating phone lurched across the surface of the table. Mitch picked it up there was a text alert and the date on the home screen read 4/19/2017.
“How the hell did that happen?” Mitch sighed. He started tapping through the settings menu. He was focused so intently on his screen he hadn’t even noticed the early afternoon sunlight flooding in from the kitchen window. It wasn’t until he finally got frustrated and decided to restart the device that he could hear children playing, dogs barking, and sound systems blaring. He raced to the window.
The cold dark winter morning had transformed into a warm summer afternoon. The compacted layer of murky slush had vanished, people leisurely strolled along the street in shorts and thin cotton tops, a light gray haze infused with the scent of beef wafted up to the window screen. He looked at the cat themed calendar hanging from his fridge and saw two orange tabbies watching a sunset on a beach; the month said June.
Mitch’s phone vibrated and played the commercially patented jingle it always plays when it’s powering on. Mitch picked up the phone, and the screen went blank. The backlight must have been powering the world because when it flickered out so did the sun and Mitch once again found himself in cold dark silence. He looked out the window. The neighboring houses were adorned with Christmas lights and a fresh powdery snow was blanketing the quiet street.The two tabbies basking in the twilight on the beach had been replaced by a grumpy Maine Coon kitten wearing a Santa hat that was noticeably too small for his head.The month was DECEMBER
Mitches guts tied into a knot and imploded. His shaking body couldn’t support itself, and he collapsed onto the floor and buried his face in his hands while he mumbled and whimpered.
A thundering boom shook the kitchen window and pumped a sudden shot of adrenaline into mitch’s veins. He panted like a frightened dog. He looked out the window and saw multicolored bursts filling the sky.
The snow was gone, and once again the street was crowded with people dressed in breezy summer clothes admiring the pyrotechnic display. The calendar on the fridge now had a shot of a pug on a surfboard.
He covered his ears to muffled the booms of the fireworks and the oh and ahs of the spectators. He tried to take a deep breath, but his heart felt like it was trying to burst out of his chest. He clenched his eyes shut and gritted his teeth and silence returned.
He cautiously took his hands from his ears and opened his eyes. The kitchen was dimly lit by cloud smothered light. He looked outside and saw a tapestry and red and yellow leaves covering the ground. A low wind picked the ones that weren't pressed into the air and carried them off down the street. The calendar said October 2020, this time featuring a hamster dressed like a pirate.
Everytime time Mitch blinked the calendar changed, and so did the composition of the world outside. Every time he opened his eyes he found himself in a new month, in a new year, and a new animal in a themed costume.
“What the fuck’s going on?” he wailed. The tempo was increasing. The years were lurching forward with greater and greater rapidity. Dog, cat, dog, cat, October, July, December, August. He pulled the calendar off the fridge and started tearing it into a shredded glossy pile.
He saw his hands were starting to wrinkle up like dried fruit. Pale green spots appeared on his flesh.
“Oh God no,” he said in a low, frightened tone.
He dropped the calendar and tried to bolt for the bathroom. His knees buckled and his feet ached. He could only muster the strength to achieve a slow shuffle. He couldn’t straighten his back, and he could feel a prominent hunch between his shoulders. He was wheezing now, and pain comparable to a thousand hot needles pressing into his flesh bolted up and down his left side.
He managed to hold himself up in the bathroom doorway. He struggled to catch his breath for a second before reaching for the switch. Even with the light, everything looked distant and hazy. He felt his knees shaking again and he fell forward but managed to catch himself on the sink.
He composed himself and squinted into the mirror. He was face to face with a frail old man, with pruney spotted skin with nothing but a simple poof of snow white hair on the crown of his head. Mitch blinked. This time his eyes did not reopen and the incessantly shifting world settled into static darkness.