Noble X - Episode 16: Hazards

Noble X - Episode 16: Hazards

By Mike Vinopal

BIRDS CHIRP AS THE DARKNESS RECEDES. In John’s cave, the lamps still burn. He is preparing the grand prize mind game for tonight’s festivities. He has taken three wallets, stuffing his driver’s license, his social security card, along with all of his credit and debit cards into one. In the other two, he loads them with old school ID cards, used gift cards, and other useless bits. John has also gathered various gold jewelry that he had. A few bracelets and chains he never wears anymore. He drops them in the bag along with the real wallet. He takes that bag and places it into another bag. And that bag into another bag. Seven times for good luck. Drawing a star on the outside of the bag, he sets it in the corner of the guest room, quite near his clipboard’s hiding spot.

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Repeating this process with a decoy wallets, John sets it in the opposite corner of the guest room. The two packages look nearly identical, hand drawn star and all and he believes this will be clue enough to the seeker to locate the true valuables. Taking the second decoy wallet, he thumbs through the old insurance card and his university ID, then tucks it into the side zipper pocket of a yet another bag.

He loves the idea of lights being the finishing touch. He’s looking forward to meeting up with Thomas at his office later today to get the stage lights. So he adds a finishing touch of his own, grabbing his red clip-on bike light from the table by the door. John kneels and attaches the light to the handle of the red duffle bag allowing it to lay against the pocket, clicking it twice so that it flashes red. He stands to admire the puzzle of misdirection he has laid. The blinking red light is subtle, set against the red canvas duffle. His eyes stare into the pulse and he ponders, “Is the blinking red a warning?” 

Kneeling again, John clicks the light off. In John’s mind, he has laid clues all over his apartment for any person who attends the Noble Experiment tonight to locate and steal his identity, as he no longer has a need for it. He has chosen new names over the course of this seventh night of sleeplessness. Johnny Five, with a Roman numeral. A connection to his past, his childhood, and his continued fixation on technology and numbers. He is feeling more and more like a robot with his ability to absorb vast amounts of information and stimulation. And the flip-side of that coin, the Johnny Appleseed of Weed. He has lost the urge to smoke the weed he has but loves to share it with his friends. He takes a large bud, sets it aside as a party favor for later. The rest, he has a plan for. He takes a big blue sharpie marker and writes on the ziplock bag, “I’m the Johnny Appleseed of Weed and these are my Love Buds," folding the bag and putting it in the inside pocket of his coat hanging on the back of a chair. Pausing for a moment beside the chair, he looks into the mirror, filling up with writing, and decides to put on a tie and his suit coat before heading out of the next mission he has planned for today. 

Dressed in a strange combination of track pants, formal attire on top, and the loudest tie he owned, Johnny stepped out into the early morning sunlight as the day is beginning to thaw the night’s freeze. He walks determined to his car, visualizing the things he needs in his pockets without feeling for them. He senses the folded bills in his right pants pocket, his phone is his left. He pictures the bag of weed in the inside pocket of his coat and feels the weight of the keys in the outer right. Hopping in and starting the car, Johnny puts on his hazards. He intends to use them today as he navigates the city in hopes of letting others he may be a hazard in his current mental state. And off he goes.

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First stop, the gas station to buy lottery tickets. Lots of them. The last thing he needs to conduct his next experiment. John picks an assortment of one and two dollar scratch-off tickets until the bills that were folded in his right pocket are all gone. As he thanks the clerk, before turning to leave, he slides one of the tickets back through the window slot. “Here sir. I want you to have one. Good luck. I hope you win,” and before the shocked clerk could answer, the bell rang as Johnny left and the door fell shut again.

Back in his car, he switched the bag of weed into his outer left coat pocket and the stack of scratch-off lottery tickets rested in his right pants pocket where the folded bills used to be. He headed off towards downtown. State Street. Macy’s. He had a few hours to kill before he met Thomas at his office down there so he decided to head east to Lake Shore Drive. Hazards blinking, cars flew by him as he grinned wildly taking in the view, using cruise control to maintain the exact posted speed limit.

Once parked, Johnny embarked on an experiment he had concocted several hours earlier. His plan: to walk up to unsuspecting individuals on the crowded sidewalks of State Street, engage them by saying hello, and as soon as eye contact is made, decide in that moment if the person would prefer a scratch-off lottery ticket or a Love Bud. He fully understands the risks of his experiment knowing full well that marijuana is illegal. As a precaution he has prepared himself to stagger his encounters with cool-down periods in which he would get lost in the crowds of shoppers pouring through Macy’s.

“Hi!” Johnny connects. In a flash, he decides. “I’m the Johnny Appleseed of Weed and here’s a Love Bud on me,” walking away. Impulsively he shouts as he heads the other way, “World hunger continues to ravage communities worldwide,” for no other reason than the conflict raging within, the darkness overcoming the light. Another connection. “I want you to have a chance to win. And if you do, please do something good with it,” and again while turning to walk away, another voice from deep within, “There are homeless people all around you!” Johnny continues twice more until he feels the heat of paranoia growing, dipping into the perfume department, feigning interest in the shiny displays, he crosses the sales floor to the doors opening onto Randolph. After looking around for a minute or two, he is sure the coast is clear again and resumes another trial of his experiment. 

He is met with looks of disgust, confusion, very rarely a smile, and most of all, distrust. No one knows what to think of this strange young man.

Stay tuned for Episode 17.

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Links to previous episodes:

Noble X — Episode 1: Cowardice & Heartbreak

Noble X — Episode 2: New Month's Eve

Noble X — Episode 3: Racing

Noble X — Episode 4: Redlining

Noble X — Episode 5: Tracks

Noble X — Episode 6: Filters Off 

Noble X — Episode 7: Testing 

Noble X — Episode 8: More Trials

Noble X — Episode 9: Mind Games

Noble X — Episode 10: Captains

Noble X - Episode 11: Internet Famous

Noble X - Episode 12: Evidence Mounts

Noble X — Episode 13: Suits & Supplies

Noble X — Episode 14: Reflections

Noble X — Episode 15: Dress Rehearsal

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