Chapter 1: Close Encounters

Jon Arbuckle lived alone in a normal house in the throes of mundane suburbia. He was still quite young, but he looked on the cusp of middle age. Jon was clearly not a man who frequently exercised. His arms were flabby and he had a small belly. He was also quite pale, since he almost never left the house except for his work: a monotonous desk job that left him plenty of time for reflection on his failures.

Jon lived alone. He liked it that way. He had never seen much use for friends, and his attempts at romantic love failed miserably. But he supposed, in the dark corners of his mind, that he was lonely. His only companion was a small, enthusiastic dog named Odie. Jon liked that Odie was earnest, and fanatically devoted to him. Odie liked that Jon brought him food.

It was a cold, dreary Monday. A crisp, November breeze penetrated the cover of Jon's blankets, an unwelcome intruder that woke him suddenly, from a dark and disturbing dream. Jon's fingers clawed clumsily at the lamp on the bedside table beside him. There was a click, and the room flooded with light. Breathing softly, Jon closed his eyes and lay for a little while longer, immobile. Finally, when he could not persuade his body to go back to sleep, he tore at the sheets and got to his feet, too quickly. Blood rushed to his head, and he was temporarily blind. When his eyes began functioning properly again, Jon began pulling on a moth-eaten old suit with ruffles that could've been considered cool a very long time ago. He began hopping on one foot, the other, stuck in his pant leg. Still hopping, he engaged in a furious disagreement with his zipper, swearing under his breath all the while.

"I HATE Mondays!" he roared, as the pants he was forcing himself into split a seam at the waist.

"Me too." said a voice.

Jon whirled around so fast he tore straight through the left pant leg. Comical and sweating, despite the cold now permeating his small bedroom, he looked deranged. His expression was one of mingled fear and rage, still fierce from the struggle with his zipper. His hair, mediocre at the best of times, stood up on end as though he had been electrified.

Jon didn't see anyone in the room. He opened his bedroom door and peered out into the darkened hallway. Silence greeted him like an old friend.

"Hello?" He questioned the air, his voice high and bright, like a child's.

Nothing answered him. Nothing was dependable that way.

Suddenly Jon felt vulnerable and embarrassed to be staring into the darkness, undressed. Shaking a little, he shut the door, and tugged himself out of his ruined pants and into a looser pair.

The voice was on his mind all the way to work.