Monday, August 2, 2010

Day One

Day 1: 02 Aug 2010

My morning fortune cookie said "Today is a great day to be alive," but I have to disagree. (Yes, I eat fortune cookies with breakfast. There's a reason -- I'll get to it later.)

You see, today isn't anything special. It's a perfectly average day to be alive. No one handed me a box of money on the way out of my apartment this morning. No hot strippers showed up at my door saying "I have to have you right now." It's just a day like any other day, really. And a Monday, to boot.

At least, that's what I thought this morning. Now, I'm not so sure, at least about the "average" part.

I got to work at the usual time -- fifteen minutes before anyone else. Can't help it -- I wake up with the sun. Always have. Marie, the company receptionist, was the next to show up, five minutes to nine -- again, average.

"G'morning, Travis," she said.

"Hiya," I said back.

"Any bets on if the old man will show up today?"

"My money's on 'no.'"

The old man is our boss. In the year I've been here, I've seen him exactly once, when CBP had the whole port shut down for some reason -- never found out why.

Here, by the way, is Keplinger International Freight. The company name really doesn't leave much question as to what we do, eh? I work as an Inventory Specialist -- that's what it says on my deskplate, just under "Travis Sykes." Sounds important, I guess. What it means is I spend my days in a small cage made entirely of Excel spreadsheets, SQL databases, and the dreaded *.CSV files. I keep an eye on a bunch of numbers corresponding to cargo freighters, shipping containers, invoices. . . really, it's pretty boring.

Keplinger works entirely out of the port of Wilmington, North Carolina. My apartment's about ten minutes away from the office. We deal primarily with companies in the former Eastern Bloc. I really don't know what we're shipping in from Russia and Georgia. Something tells me that's probably for the best.

Work went by pretty quickly. One boat in, from Poland. All the numbers lined up. I was just closing up shop around 6:30 -- Marie had gone home about an hour before. I saved all my open files and went to shut down. Just before I was about to click "turn off computer," an Instant Messaging window popped up. It wasn't a screen name I recognized.

The message, from someone who called himself "maninblack422," read: "I know where you can find Jared."

I tried to reply. No luck -- maninblack422 went offline immediately after sending the message. I stayed on for another hour, hoping he'd pop back up. He didn't, and I guess it's accurate to say I was freaking out by the end of the hour.

Jared, you see, was my older brother. I say "was," because six years ago, he was declared dead by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

I tried rationalizing it, as if maninblack422 had just gotten the IM equivalent of a wrong number, realized his mistake, and bailed. There were a lot of people named Jared in the world, after all -- just coincidence that his wrong number had a brother by that name.

It all sounded perfectly logical in my head, and logic is my touchstone. I can usually logic my way out of most of my problems.

This time, logic was no comfort, and I was still wondering who this guy was, and how he knew about Jared, when I fell asleep.

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