At 10:37 AM, I’m joined by other
people on the crowded city
sidewalk as we stop in our tracks. We put down our suitcases, bags, and
anything else we might be carrying, kneel down and lie prostrate on the ground.
All the cars on the street stop and pull over; their drivers exit their
vehicles and lie in the road.
Bernard commands it.
I’m fortunate to find myself on a relatively clean section
of the concrete
walkway on which to lie. Last week, The Calling came while I was cutting
through a grassless field. Afterwards, my clothes were filthy and I was
spitting out dirt that I accidentally ingested.
It is what it
There’s no pattern, rhyme or reason for the times Bernard
respect. It’s best not to complain out loud, lest you incur Bernard’s wrath:
searing migraines, convulsions—or worse. You do not disrespect Bernard. He is
all-knowing and all-seeing. At least, that’s what many think.
This is my second meeting with the others.
A good friend of mine told me
about them. They (we?) jokingly call ourselves the “Friends of Bernie.” But we
are anything but his acolytes. We are secretly plotting against him.
We are careful to take precautions. We meet in a basement
room lined with
lead shielding. Our small cell is like an AA meeting in which only first names
are used. In the real world if we happen to pass by another Friend of Bernie,
we show no sign of recognition.
Precious little is known of our malevolent master who telepathically
communicates with his subjects. We pool our knowledge of Bernard, comparing
little scraps of intel we’ve acquired over time. Like, for example, Bernard
doesn’t always read our thoughts—except during The Calling. At other times,
there are gaps in Bernard’s omniscience. Still, we try not to think about The
Friends and our activities outside of the lead-lined meeting room.
At tonight’s meeting, the room is abuzz with the news
from one of our
senior members, Carla. Two days ago, after becoming disgusted from having to
lie down on the ground covered in goose shit, Carla jumped to her feet and
remained standing. Others warned her to get down and to remain down but Carla
was having none of it. To everyone’s amazement, she walked away, free from any
“I ignored another Call later that night, too. Nothing.
No headaches. No
searing pain or tremors. And then I realized.”
“Realized what?!” we ask with excitement. “What
did you realize?”
I’ve had an earworm now for several days running. I
think it’s blocking
out Bernie. The song is ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by The Beatles.”
“Is is a particular passage in the song? Or just the
song lyrics in
Carla says that she’s fixated on the portion of the
lyrics that includes
the words, “tangerine trees and marmalade skies” and “a girl with kaleidoscope
The idea seems plausible. Perhaps those words trigger some
psychological defense against Bernard’s power. Or perhaps it is the music
itself: that catchy riff generated by Paul McCartney’s Lowrey
DSO Heritage Deluxe electronic organ,
programmed for a combination of harpsichord, vibraharp, and guitar.
We all agree to try it during the next Calling. Some will
focus on the
song and play it in their minds while disobeying The Calling; others will serve
as a control group and ignore The Calling while not thinking about the song.
Those people will suffer, of course. I’m glad that I didn’t draw one of the
short sticks. I don’t relish pain.
Later that night, I am playing the song
on my audio device. I repeat it
almost twenty times until it is thoroughly implanted in my brain. It is too
easy—I, too, am prone to earworms.
The next morning, The Calling comes. It’s time to try
the experiment. I’m
in my kitchen making a pot of coffee while unconsciously humming the song. With
much trepidation, I ignore The Calling. I remain upright and continue my task
of brewing the pot. It’s easy to focus on the words sung by John Lennon and the
melodious tune. I even mutter, “Screw you, Bernard!” under my breath to see if
Five minutes later, I am still free of pain. It’s a
At the next Calling, I intend to experiment with other songs
from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. A
good song to start with might be, “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
With a little help from Bernie’s Friends and The Beatles
remain free of Bernard, Giver of Pain.
Phillip Temples is a product of the
Midwest but has lived in the greater Boston area for many decades. He's
published a number mystery-thriller novels, a novella, and two story
anthologies in addition to over 190 short stories. Phil likes to dabble in
mobile photography. He is a member of GrubStreet and the Bagel Bards. You can
learn more about Phil by visiting his website at https://temples.com.