Bernie’s Encounter

He stood, transfixed, heart pounding, staring up at where the man-creature disappeared as four of the men in dark suits split up and ran to surround the building.  Two others approached him.

man_in_black-114061“’Scuse me son, we need to talk to you about what just happened here.” said the big one.

“Talk … me?” Their arrival had barely registered on his conscious mind before.  Now, distracted from his wonder and terror he looked them over and his heart sank.  Before him stood two men; early middle age, muscular, clean shaven, short hair.  Each was wearing a well tailored suit; black, white shirt, black tie.  And sunglasses; why always the sun glasses?  One held out a wallet displaying a badge and government-issue ID.

“We’re …”

“I know who you are.  You’re the government.  You’re here to convince me that I didn’t see anything, or to threaten me into keeping quiet about it.”

The big one’s eyebrows arched, the other just smirked.  The big one flipped his ID wallet closed and slipped it back inside his suit jacket, “Well, now; it is true we’re from the government, son … ah … what’s your name?”

“You know my name, don’t pretend you don’t.  How long have you been following me?”

“Following you?” His eyes narrowed, “Should we be following you?”

“Well, no!  I ain’t done nothing, but isn’t that what you do?”

“Son, we just got here, found you standing here staring up at that building and thought we’d ask if you’re all right.”

“Uh-huh.  And I suppose you didn’t see that guy jump …” he wasn’t sure what to say, or if he should say anything.  Nothing seemed to make sense.

“Suppose you just tell us what happened. Ok Bernie?”

“Yeah …” he said absently, thinking back, then snapped to bright focus, “Wait!  Bernie? You know my name is Bernie?  I didn’t tell you my name!  You have been following me!  You probably have a whole file on me!  Why?  Why would you need to do that?”

The smaller one shoved a fist against his lips to keep from laughing, the bigger one held his hands up, palms toward Bernie, “Alright, Bernie, alright.  I know your name.  And I know you work at McDonalds, and I know you have a cat …”

Bernie cut him off, pumping a fist in the air, “I knew it!  I knew you were following me around.  Why? What’s this all about?”

“Well, now Bernie, maybe I know these things because we’ve investigated you, or maybe I know your name is Bernie because it’s on your name tag, see … right there under where it says ‘McDonalds’.  And that grocery bag you’re carrying is thin plastic, I can see the label on bag of cat chow quite plainly.”

Now Bernie’s eyes narrowed, “You’re messing with me …”

“Yeah, I’m messing with you.  But you’re acting really weird, Bernie, and when people act this weird it’s usually because they’re hiding something.  Are you hiding something from me Bernie?”

“No.”  He was petulant now, feeling foolish “It’s just that fella who was following me …”

“So, someone else was following you?”

“I don’t know that he was following me, he may have just been going the same way, but he kept gaining on me, and somehow I got a bad feeling from it.  So I stopped and turned around, to get a good look at him and sort of confront him.  To see if there was anything to it.”

“That’s not always a good idea you know.”

“Yeah, I suppose.  But I needed to do something.”

“So, what happened?”

“I turned around, and looked him straight in the eye, see.  And he was right back there,” pointing down the sidewalk, “just out from that doorway.”

“Go on …”

“Yeah, well, his eyes … one minute they were normal, the next they were bright yellow and cat-like, with vertical black slits.  He grinned at me in a way that made me feel like I was lunch.  And … he sort of growled at me.   I thought I was a gonner for sure, I couldn’t move!  But just then, he turned toward the building and sort of crouched down … except … when he crouched; he …” Bernie waved an arm feebly, lost for words.

“Go on kid, what happened?”

“He … his knees … they bent backwards!”

The two ‘suits’ exchanged a knowing look and waited for Bernie to continue.

“Then he jumped.  But he jumped way up there!”  Bernie pointed to the roof of the building.  “He jumped way up there … on top of a three story building!  How can anyone jump a three story building?”

Bernie looked weak in the knees, as though he would fold any moment.  The big one put a hand on Bernie’s shoulder and gripped it firmly, giving it a little shake. “It’s alright Bernie.  It’s over now.  You’re safe, Mr. High Jumper is gone and you can go home to feed your cat.”

“Yeah, safe.  Feed my cat …”

“There’s just one more thing.”

Bernie stiffened and pulled away from the big one’s grasp, “Here it comes! I knew it.”

“Here what comes, Bernie?”

“This is where you tell me not to tell anyone else.  Threaten me.  Make me sign papers promising to keep it secret.”

“The big one rolled his eyes and sighed, “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, you’ve been watching too much television, boy.  We may work for the government, but that doesn’t put us above the law.  And in the United States of America we have a law that says you can tell anyone anything you want to.  But, I’d suggest you think about it before you do.”

“Yeah?  Or what will happen if I do?  My family gonna start disappearing?”

The smaller one’s eyes became steely.  The big one closed his eyes and shook his head a little as he said, “Bernie,” drawing the name out, “You can tell all your friends and family, you can tell the newspapers if that’s what you want.  We can’t and won’t do anything to your or anyone around you.  But they will probably think you’re nuts.”

“What?  But I saw it …”

“You saw what?” Raising his voice. “A man with animal eyes and backward knees who can jump over 30 feet straight up into the air?”

“But he was after me!”

“Why?  And if he were, why stop and jump over a building?  You’re not exactly Arnold Schwarzenegger, kid!”

“The van …” he paused, reviewing his memory, “Your van.  It arrived just after he jumped.  He saw your van coming, he’s scared of you, and he jumped to get away from you.  That had nothing to do with me.”  He stared at first one, then the other.  “You’re following him, not me.  Why?  Who was … what was that?”

“Bernie, you’ve had a hard day haven’t you?  Long day at work?”

“Yeah … how do you know?”

“I can see it in your face Bernie.  You’re tired.  You’re frustrated with something.  You just wanted to get home, feed your cat and relax for a bit.  Am I right?’

“Yeah …”

“Maybe things didn’t happen quite the way you thought you saw them.”

“Then what did happen?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t see it.  I just know it sounds pretty fantastic to me.”

“Suppose it does …”

“Why don’t you go on home.”

“Yeah … wait” he stiffened back up, “you said you wanted to tell me something.  What was that?”

“I just wanted to ask you why you were walking around in this part of town.”

“It’s a short-cut home from work.”

“I see.  Take my advice son; don’t walk around these streets alone; it isn’t safe here.  All kinds of weirdoes hang out in these back-streets.”

“Boy!  You’re telling me!”

Bernie turned and shuffled away from the two men.  They watched him go until he was a half-block away.  Then the smaller one turned to the big one and asked, “Arthropod?”

“Definitely.  And we probably just saved young Bernie’s life.”

“Yep, if we hadn’t arrived just then that Artie would have peeled him like a banana to get a new disguise.”

“Call in another couple of teams; we’re going to need help containing this one.”

“Right boss.”


The Discipline of God