The Absurdly Curious Story of Michael Staats
Chapter One: Michael's house burns down and he seeks solace from an alligator, but is unable to figure out why the alligator can speak.
Sarasota, Florida is known to be a place of perpetual relaxation and happy feelings. Unfortunately, its population becomes less relaxed and happy when Michael Staats is standing nearby. At the crisp age of 47, Michael has devoted his life to the art of investment banking, and truly takes pleasure in confining himself to the world of finance. He was not the kind of person who stops to smell the roses, and he was certainly not the kind of person who took pleasure in the slow pace of the town surrounding him.
On this particular November evening, he was attempting to deduce why it was November, but he still could not enjoy a cup of tea on his back patio without feeling as though he may die from the heat and humidity. He also couldn’t help but wonder what kind of inconsiderate neighbor deemed it appropriate to cut their grass at this hour. In another hour, the sun would set, meaning any and all noise from neighbors should have ceased at least thirty minutes ago. Both a blessing and a curse, Michael did not actually know any of his neighbors. He had not taken the time to introduce himself, and he couldn’t have been bothered to learn their faces; therefore he had no idea who was making noise past the time which he deemed appropriate.
He walked inside to peacefully finish his tea in the cool air conditioning of his home. It was a more-than-modest living space, which he happily shared with nobody except a quiet fern in the corner of his dining room. He lived in a two-story yellow house, with the interior decorated with tastes similar to that of what his grandfather would have enjoyed if he were still alive. Unfortunately, his grandfather had actually died at the same age Michael was at the moment.
He shuddered just thinking about it. While Michael made little effort to improve his life, he could at least accept the fact that if he were to drop dead, he would be remembered as a truly miserable workaholic with no family and no legacy to leave to anybody. While he wished this would change, he simply could not find the will to change. As a man of routine, there was nothing in his day he could afford to disrupt without his entire day coming to a standstill.
“I’m tired,” he grumbled to himself. All day today, Michael had felt a bit more drained than he had previously. For some reason, his body seemed to choose to be lethargic today, as if any energy he had once possessed had decided to flee to a home where it was more likely to be properly used. On that note, he cleaned up the mess from his tea and slunked upstairs into his bedchambers.
He could have chosen to go to bed at a later hour, but he had made it long enough to the point where the sun was going down. He would look over his case notes to prepare him for the next day, read a generic horror novel to help ease him into the unconscious, and go completely to sleep within the next hour or two.
Unfortunately, a few hours after he had completely gone to sleep, he had awoken to the smell of smoke and alarms blaring from inside his house. He must have left the stove on from when he was heating his tea kettle from earlier in the night because his house was ablaze and quickly burning down around him.
Panicking, Michael sprung from his bed, hoping it was not too late to remain alive. At this point, it was apparent that his house was not going to be salvageable, but perhaps he could escape. He tried to find his cell phone, so he could call the fire department for help, but could not find it anywhere. Generally, he kept it on his night table, directly beside his bed. Since it was not there, it was most likely engulfed in flames somewhere down in the lower part of his house. Had Michael been slightly more observant, he would have also noticed that there were no clocks to be found anywhere in his house. It would have been almost as if time had ceased to exist around him.
Michael soon found out that his staircase was not a viable option for escape, so he resigned himself to jump out of his bedroom window, and hope he would not break any important parts of his body.
As he opened the window and climbed out onto the roof, he truly felt the heat like never before. While Florida alone was quite warm, Florida on fire was simply too much to handle. It was this heat which drove his adrenaline to kick in and made him completely jump into a pit of darkness.
He assumed it was the adrenaline which made it feel like his fall took double the amount of time a normal plunge would have taken. It was likely also the adrenaline which made it feel like he had landed in a pile of feathers. Being as observant and distracted by the demolition of his home as he was, he had not taken the time to realize that he did, in fact, land in feathers instead of grass. He would later be quite shocked when he noticed a chicken growing grass on its body while frolicking in a meadow of feathers.
The street was oddly quiet at that time. The sky was dark, even darker than usual given that it wasn’t lit by street lights. Also, nobody on Michael’s entire street seemed to realize that his house was burning to the ground. At this time, he could not help but wonder if it was time to make acquaintance with one of his neighbors.
Pulling himself up, Michael didn’t notice at all that he had feathers sticking to the back of his flannel pajamas. Rather, he was more focused on getting next-door as quickly as possible in order to find a phone. Hurriedly, he knocked on his neighbor’s door, which under normal circumstances would have been difficult to find, but luckily his house was emitting light from the ever-expanding fire consuming it.
Upon his neighbor answering the door, Michael finally began to notice that something in this world was not quite as it should be.
“Yes?” asked the neighbor upon answering.
“Hello! My name is Michael Staats, I am your next-door neighbor. I realize we have never really-”
At that point, Michael was cut short because he looked up and saw his neighbor’s face. It was not the expected or presumed face Michael thought he would see. He knew he did not pay close attention to his neighbors, but surely he would have noticed previously if one of his neighbors were an alligator walking on two legs.
“Yes, Mr. Staats, I know who you are,” replied the alligator. “How may I help you?”
Michael stood in silence as he had contemplated what was happening around him. In the silence, one could hear a pack of wild hamsters distantly rustling through the streets at night, but yet again, Michael was too observant to notice. This time he was too distracted by the talking alligator standing in front of him.
After another few seconds of silence, the annoyed and slightly confused alligator piped up again, as casually as any human. “Is this in regards to your house and the fact that it is currently on fire?” he asked.
Michael again stood in silence, but this time was able to muster up a weak nod. This had to be a dream, there was no way this had actually begun to occur since he had fallen asleep a few hours ago. The surreality was too much to allow this strange set of circumstances to be anything but a dream.
“We all knew this would happen any day now,” the alligator continued with an eye roll and a sigh. “Why don’t you come in and we can discuss this. My name is Conrad Robinson, by the way, not that you’ve ever bothered asking.
As if his feet had a mind of their own, Michael allowed himself to be ushered into the home of Conrad Robinson, his alligator neighbor.
Could this dream become any stranger? Michael thought to himself, hoping he would soon wake up.