Zac sat in the bank with a vacant expression. As usual, the day genuinely crawled along with total disregard for anyone else’s preference of speed. Just about everyone in the bank had left early today. Zac, the manager Don, and Zac’s fellow teller, a young female grad student named Ronnie, were the only one’s working.
On a whim, last week, Zac had gone to Men’s Warehouse and bought himself a nice, tailored suit, black with gray pinstripes, suspenders, shiny shoes, a slick black tie, and even a snazzy fedora. The moment he brought the ensemble home, he put it on and stared at himself in the mirror, in the bedroom of his one room apartment.
Zac’s life hadn’t gone to plan up to this point. He had genuinely believed that a new suit would inject some sparks into his own drab existence. At present, the only thing the suit had done was give him an opportunity to pretend to be a gangster or a private eye. Serendipitously – and much to Zac’s delight – the suit had garnered a nice compliment from Ronnie.
“Hey Zac,” she said, walking across the teller line to sit two stations away. “Nice suit, dude. You look like a gangster. Pretty sexy.” Then she giggled, an action that sliced straight through Zac’s perpetual murkiness.
“How’s your thesis coming along?” he asked, his cheeks just a feeling a twinge of redness.
“Eh,” she shrugged. Zac stared at her. She wore a tight little blue business skirt of modest length and a poofy white blouse.
“Why eh?” he asked.
“Well, remember when I told you I got three quarters through and then hit a wall? I’ve yet to scale said wall.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. That sucks.”
“Yes it does. I’ve gotten to the point in my argument over whether global warming will…”
Zac’s hearing shut down as he stared at Ronnie’s straight deep red hair. It stretched half way down her back. A couple of blonde streaks peeked in and out of the rest of her fiery locks when she moved; an accent she insisted was natural. Normally when Ronnie started on the topic of her thesis, Zac zoned out. He barely heard anything when he looked into her yellow-hazel eyes. Besides, he had no interest in her thesis.
Truly, Zac would have been grateful to have a girl like Ronnie. Though she was incredibly intelligent, and stunningly beautiful, an example of feminine perfection, she was not Zac’s type. Prone to fits of self-centeredness and highly proficient at prideful condescension, Ronnie quite clearly needed a man of some sort of extravagance; and Zac was not that man. Ronnie was polite, sociable, however, and she did engage Zac in sporadic conversation.
As Ronnie went on and on about her boring thesis, Zac thought back to the date they had gone on a year ago. He had always been pretty proficient in the charm department and it didn’t take him long to endear the girl to him. Unfortunately, Ronnie’s complete lack of interest in him and only in herself turned the date bad early on. Periodically, Zac wondered if it had been his fault. Though his memory did reveal that she had been quite self-absorbed, Zac also knew that he was prone – more than prone – to bouts of negativity at the slightest prodding.
A little later, they both groaned about the pace of the day. Despite going on a date once, they didn’t really know much about each other, so conversation tended to taper off after an hour or so of small talk. Zac could still enjoy looking at her.
Ronnie must have felt Zac’s eyes burning into her because she awkwardly looked around before pointedly leaving her teller window.
She walked around to the front of the teller line, strode across the lobby, and started a conversation with the manager Don.
Zac watched her the full fifteen minutes before she started back toward the teller line. He watched her the entire time, so he saw the hole in the floor from its conception. Instinctively, Zac knew this was not a simple crack in the tile.
This was more. This was an event. This was epic, something mythical.
A void was opening in the floor of the bank. And it was going to suck up anything that fell into it.
And it was opening right under Ronnie’s feet.
This was the moment Zac had been waiting for his whole life. Most people waited for true love or meteoric success. Some waited for that huge book deal or that scout that could make him a superstar athlete. Some waited for God. Some waited for The End.
Zac was different. He waited for that one moment when he could save a damsel in distress. Whether he lived happily ever after with her, received the key to the city, or died in the process, he didn’t care. As long as the damsel was saved, he’d be content. His mother would hate him for thinking a woman could be so helpless.
Despite his mother’s opinion, Zac broke into action. With disregard for the pencil cup and knick-knacks adorning his desk, he leapt over the counter like some acrobat. Papers and coin envelopes went flying as he launched himself off the Formica. He tackled Ronnie, hitting her right in the midsection and wrapping his arms around her. They tumbled to the floor in a heap.
Ronnie was loading some particularly angry oaths into the chamber when the small hole that had been the start of the void expanded in an instant to encompass most of the lobby. A rug, several signs, half of a cubical, and the counter with the deposit tickets plummeted into the darkness. Ronnie had escaped Zac’s grip just in time for the floor to vanish from under her. As she fell into the void, however, Zac, who had grabbed onto the leg of a desk, snatched her flailing arm right out of the air.
Ronnie smacked into the smooth, sheer surface of the hole, and Zac held on for dear life. She looked up at him plaintively, imploring him to hold on. Her tawny yellow eyes teared up as a mighty wind whipped out of the depths of the hole. The supernatural gale lifted Ronnie up high, but Zac held her tight.
While the monstrous wind threatened to tear Ronnie from Zac’s grip, and doubtless swallow her up in the void, Zac looked down. He peered into the blackness. A cacophonous squealing howl began piping up out of the void, filling the bank with horror-sounds.
In that instant, Zac saw something glimmering in the dark. He glared down into the endlessness to see a tiny twinkle of light. What could it be?
It was hope that there might exist something more interesting than what Zac had seen so far. Staring down into nothing, somehow Zac knew that death would not meet him if he let go. Somewhere in his heart, he knew this bottomless hole was his destiny.
And whether this thought was foolhardy or prophetic, Zac did not care. He let go of the desk leg and plunged toward his future.
The colors of the rainbow encircled Zac and Ronnie as they plummeted through the nothingness. Ronnie ceased screaming after the drop proved lengthy. Zac looked up at one point to see the light from the world blink away.
He looked at Ronnie. She almost seemed like a freak of nature. Despite falling wildly through a void, crying her eyes out, with her hair flying crazily in all directions, she still looked beautiful. Her remarkable beauty managed to shine through even at this tumultuous moment.
“You suck,” Ronnie complained.
“What?” Zac snapped. “I held on as long as I could. And I did a pretty damn good job.”
“Ugh,” she grumped. “You suck.”
“No!” he blurted, actually feeling good for himself for once. “You suck! You walk around all entitled, loving yourself, oblivious to how you affect the people around you!”
“Oh god; stop whining. You should be glad you get to ogle me every day.”
Zac shook his head. “Case in point.”
“Give me a break. You sit around all introverted, feeling sorry for yourself. Screw you. Who do you think you are?”
“Whatever. There are plenty of reasons I’ve turned out the way I did.”
“Oh yeah? Me too. So stop judging me.”
“Your upbringing taught you to be self-centered and condescending?”
“Do you know my parents? Do you know my family? I certainly don’t know yours. So I don’t judge you.”
“You might not judge, but you sure as hell dismiss. You dismiss without grounds to dismiss. So how is it not judgment if you dismiss me without knowing me?”
“I know enough,” Ronnie said defensively.
“No you don’t. All you know is I’m not a college graduate. You know I’m not going to be a millionaire. I’m not some Adonis savant.”
“Ugh. Get over yourself, dude. I talk about myself because I enjoy what I’m doing and I’m proud of myself. It has nothing to do with what I think of you.”
Quite abruptly, the fall was over. But they didn’t hit the ground. They simply appeared on a surface, facing each other, standing with confused looks on their faces like Jodie Foster at the end of the movie “Contact.” The space was nearly completely empty. It was darkness, endless black in almost all directions.
But to one side there was a portion of a red brick wall, jagged around the edges, a long, well-lit corridor streaking away to some unknown end. Across from the brick, on the other side of Zac and Ronnie, stood a plain white door with a sign hanging that read “Home.”
“I guess you’ll be going that way,” Zac said, pointing at the door.
“So will you,” Ronnie replied, taken aback.
“No. I’m going down the tunnel.”
“Because it’s better than going back to my boring life.”
“Wha…that’s stupid.” She sighed angrily. “What were you going to ask me before we stopped falling? Were you going to ask what I think of you?”
Zac shrugged. “Maybe,” he replied defiantly.
“Well, do you want to know?” She fixed him with an insanely irresistible hazel gaze.
“You’re a full time bank teller. You’ve lost your ambition long ago. You’re cute, but too sarcastic to take seriously. You have a great sense of humor, but you talk like you hate everything. If you weren’t so negative a person, you’d be worth giving a chance. Our date didn’t end a year ago because I talked about myself. It ended because you hated everything about everything.
“Maybe it’d help you to know something about me. I’m going to have a Master’s Degree in environmental science. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in physics with a minor in anthropology. I’m going to change the world someday. I’ll probably be worth a couple million someday too. And you’re a bank teller. But that doesn’t mean anything. I don’t care about status. I care about substance. You say I’m judgmental, but you dismissed any potential before I did.”
“You’re telling me you’d date a bank teller?” Zac asked incredulously.
“Why not? Didn’t I go on a date with you? I’d date a sewer cleaner if he treated me right. I don’t even know you. I’m not saying let’s go get married. But I hope you’ve realized that I would have accepted you if you hadn’t been so quick to judge yourself.”
Zac narrowed his eyes at her and mulled over this new information. It might be time to change his outlook on life. Maybe the new life he wanted could be gained just with an altered perception.
“Use the door, Zac,” Ronnie said.
He sighed. Then he looked at her. She was pulling her long red hair into a ponytail. A couple crimson locks framed her fair-skinned face.
“Will you go on a date with me?” he asked with expected impulsivity.
Her brow furrowed as she made a disbelieving face. “What happened, you experience a cathartic moment? An epiphany perhaps?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
Ronnie opened the door home. A bright white light glowed beyond the portal.
She held her hand out to Zac. “Where are you taking me? I like Mexican.”
He sighed again. Then he took her hand confidently. “I know a great place in the city called Jose Pistolas. They make awesome tofu tacos.”
A quick, frightening adventure for two very different people.