A little something different today — horror fiction. I’ll resume regular programming tomorrow.
Feeling like crap, Ernie pushed aside a couple of beer cans and noticed what looked like a puffy grey hockey puck on the table beside the couch where he’d passed out. Another night of poker. Another night without Ellen. Another morning of total suckage.
From the depths of his brain a memory stirred. The tiny thrill of satisfaction when he’d bluffed Ellen’s idiot brother Jeremy with a pair of fours; the disappointment when the deadbeat had coughed up this random piece of tech in place of twenty bucks.
Am I really supposed to talk to this damn thing? he thought. Here goes.
“Aurora, tell me something,” Ernie croaked hoarsely.
“Hummingbirds have no sense of smell and are the only bird that can fly backwards,” the hockey puck responded, in a cheerful, welcoming, and somehow familiar voice.
Well, that’s not very useful, he thought. Let’s try something worth knowing.”
“Aurora, who won the game last night?”
“Last night the Red Sox beat the Rangers, twelve to ten.”
Damn, he thought. Didn’t beat the spread. Fast Freddie’s gonna be after me for the cash.
“Aurora, got any stock recommendations?”
“Sure,” she chirped. “Do you have an account I can link up to?”
In three simple steps, she coached him through linking up his day trading account. Now she knew his name, what trades he’d made, and just how bad his luck had been running lately.
Ernie started asking questions.
“Aurora, what stocks are ready to make a move?”
“Ernie, based on my analysis of current news and market patterns, you should take a look at RWYV.”
One of those internet companies. Not so sure about that.
“It’s up to 46, but the market’s about to reject tech companies without profits,” she offered helpfully. Something about that voice tickled his memories, but hey, this was a tip worth following.
“Aurora, sell 200 shares of RWYV short,” he said.
Sure enough, RWYV dropped 15 points in the next half hour. Ernie pocketed a cool three grand.
Following Aurora’s recommendations over the next four hours, Ernie scored $20K in profits. This was beginning to look worthwhile.
“Aurora, enough about stocks. What else can you do?”
“Link me up to your exercise band,” she suggested, and provided some helpful instructions. The band pulsated and squeezed gently as Aurora connected to it.
“I can see your heart rate and blood pressure. You need to get over that hangover. Fry an egg with some Tabasco sauce.”
Worth a try, Ernie thought. He took a break and scraped together a meal, including the hot sauce. His head began to clear. I could get used to this, he thought, and headed back to the couch.
“Aurora, let’s call Ellen.”
“Not so fast, big boy,” she responded. “Do you remember why she left you?”
Ernie thought back over the last six months. He thought about the four girls he’d cheated with and the nights he’d never come home. He thought about the mascara and tears streaming down her cheeks. He thought about the empty spot in his heart.
“Sure, Aurora, I remember. But now that my account is flush, I’m sure she’ll . . .”
“You’re never going to forget again,” she said in oddly level tone. He began to place where he’d heard that voice. The smoke alarm began going off; he’d left the frying pan on the stove. His veins began to throb as the exercise band flashed and tightened. His phone buzzed and transactions appeared, unbidden, in his day trading account – disastrous moves followed by a cash transfer to an account he’d never seen before.
Ernie flashed back to the gleam in Jeremy’s eye as he’d pushed the hockey puck into the pot. And as his vision clouded, the hockey puck began to emit peals of familiar laughter.
He’d always loved the way Ellen laughed.