Swallowing hard, his Adam's apple danced in his throat. Addison took a moment to inventory his situation. He is alone in his cabin in the woods, nine miles from the nearest town, about twelve miles from the nearest sheriff's station. He is at least an hour from his loft in the city.
The cabin had two locked doors, one in the back, just off the kitchen, and the one near the window occupied by the shapes. There were seven large windows. About seven hundred square feet, the cabin was all logs, mortar, stone floors and a fireplace. Just one bedroom, one bathroom, a living room, a kitchen and a small root cellar.
He thought of making a break for the root cellar. But what good would that do? He would be trapped. All that was in there was a few boxes of dry cereal, cans of soup and bored spiders. This cabin was a simple escape from his daily life in the city, not a fortress. There was no safe room. The cabin was solitude, a refuge from interaction with people.
Addison didn't much like people. It probably started when he was a kid. His Dad had died in a car accident the night before Halloween-drunk driver plowed into him. He never knew what hit him. Then his mother married a guy who believed kids were to be seen, not heard. Or really to rarely even be seen. In his aversion to setting off his stepfather, Addison developed a nearly arresting aversion to people in general. He preferred his people in the pages of books.
To most, Addison seemed an affable sort. A top earner at the P.R. firm, he skillfully created the impression of a man who thrived on contact with others.
Actually, inside him revulsion roiled. It was as if he had a limit to the amount of bearable contact with other people. Once he reached that limit, it was almost physically and certainly psychically painful to be in the presence of others. He could tolerate just so much chitchat and small talk; and after a while it all seemed like small talk. The cabin allowed no small talk.
A certain Mr. Balaban at the firm brought out the revulsion regularly. Balaban was a senior vice president of the firm, a man very full of himself. A favorite pastime included rewriting Addison's ad copy, press releases or speeches. As a senior vice president that was his prerogative, but it was Balaban's peculiar mania about reading each change aloud--as if he were a tutor and Addison his student-- that was most odd and unbearable.
Balaban wore a pencil-thin mustache and suits-no matter what color-with matching shoes. An aqua-colored suit meant aqua-colored shoes, burgundy suit: burgundy shoes. Addison had time to focus on these details as Balaban proudly read his "corrected" passages in Addison's work, as if he sought not Addison's understanding about why the changes were made, but a tacit recognition of Balaban's "superiority."
Once Balaban was reassured of his station above Addison, the sessions usually devolved into chitchat about others in the office; the sex life of the lesbian in marketing, the guy from graphics banging an intern in the mailroom; a named partner's secret drinking; all things Addison could not have cared less about.
Balaban's eyes would gleam as he dished the dirt. Addison's gaze would fall on the mustache, his replies to Balaban's remarks just as thin. Like a sniper waiting to take his shot, Addison would wait for a gap in Balaban's queer speechifying and gossip to make an excuse and get the hell out of the office. He would even fake stomach cramps to escape the loud suits, matching shoes, creepy mustache and lurid, banal conversation.
Addison felt palpable relief just getting away from the man. He would often leave the office building to sit on a park bench and breathe deeply for an hour, as if that would empty his overflowing supply of small talk. Agonizingly, Balaban was just one of many who triggered this response in Addison.
L'enfer, c'est les autres. Hell is other people, Sartre said.
Ironic, Addison thought: Sartre said that in No Exit.
Addison's refuge now his prison; he remained where he stood, a sweating statue by the cold fireplace.
I have no phone, only a cellular that gets no reception here. I have no weapons beyond my kitchen knives. Not a fan of guns, he was more of a hiker than a hunter.