Shirley was walking down the beach with tears in his eyes.  It was 7:32am and, after walking in on a rather unfortunate event involving a coworker and his girlfriend, had been single for exactly twelve minutes.  He just didn’t know it yet: if you had asked him at the time he would have told you he was just about to turn around and make things OK with Victoria.  He just “needed to cry this one out,” as he told his now ex-girlfriend, and ran out of the house.

Shirley was unremarkable.  Remarkably unremarkable. He worked an eight-to-five job in tech support for the last twelve years, until this morning.  He was laid off for not completing any projects on time.  Shirley wanted to protest that he hadn’t been given a project in two months, but the new GM (his boss’s son) didn’t particularly like him, and seemed to find reasons to write Shirley up.

Shirley is thirty-two years old, he has loads of money in smart investments, he owns a house and has a substantial savings with no next of kin or family to share it with.  Victoria was the closest companion he had, despite her incessant work weekends and late nights at the office or with “the ladies” (of whom he was never introduced to).  Given the morning’s findings, Shirley wondered if she had been doing work all along.

The morning was windy, though not overly windy for Oregon’s standard.  North Bend was a coastal town, so inundated by salt and sea everything seemed to turn to rust overnight.  It’s inhabitants were predominantly white, lived there all their lives and mostly uneducated past the high school level.  His work was actually  a few towns over, but he didn’t mind the commute: it took about 15 minutes for his ’85 Acura to warm up.  And contrary to the name, the town was actually on the south-western side of Oregon.  In fact, it’s actually south of Bend, OR, further calling to question naming it North Bend at all.

For North Bend, it was a normal day on the beach: rainy, cold, windy and for the most part miserable.  These were the type of beaches for raincoats and balaclavas, not Reef sandals and bikinis.

But there was a solitude that Shirley liked about this beach.  He liked to call it his beach proudly in the same way an inmate may call a warden their warden.  Victoria always said he had Stockholm syndrome with this town and its people.  Shirley ’s mother never once visited while she lived, though Shirley thought that was just fine, she wasn’t a rather enjoyable person to be around.  His name seemed proof enough that she wasn’t fond of him.

Shirley liked to come out here on his bad days and look for shark’s teeth, which happened to be roughly every other day.  When he first started, he could find a few dozen teeth before he had to go back inside from the cold.  But as time progressed, the beach became scant: he had pretty much exhausted the supply of shark teeth in the area.

Shirley looked out into the sea, watching the ocean crash down, and imagined being swimming in those frigid waves.  A shiver went up his spine, he stuffed his hands in his pockets.  He walked down the beach, imagining what the sand would feel like squishing between his toes, had he not been wearing boots when he stubbed his right foot on a rather big rock.   Wincing, he grabbed his foot and comically jumped up and down, fresh tears fell over the dried ones on his face.

When he had finished his toddler temper tantrum, he looked for the rock.  He spied it, it was mostly submerged beneath the sand.  Unlike the rocks here, it hadn’t been made completely smooth by the unrelenting ocean: ridges, grooves and bumps popped up from the sand.

He reached down and brushed the rock clean, then pulled it up to regard it at eye level.  It was the size of a football, it should have been heavy, but it felt light as a feather.  Fake, even.  As he rotated it before him, he realized the rock look almost exactly like a heart.  Left ventricle, right ventricle, arteries, and a toned muscular structure to it.

“Neat!” he exclaimed with a childish smile then brought it to his ear, as if expecting to hear a beating.

When it did, he squealed like a school girl and dropped it, arms flapping in the air as if on fire.  He took a moment to compose himself, telling himself he was just hearing things.  After a moment, he crept up to the stone once more and reached out to touch it.

WHO WAKES ME FROM MY SLUMBER?

Words shout and echo in his mind, he’s so taken back by them he leaps up and falls straight on his ass.

ANSWER ME.

He searches for the words, for a moment he thinks he’s lost his voice when the familiar nasal pitchcomes tumbling out of his mouth.

“Sh-Sh-Sh-Shirley … my name is Shirley .”

SHIRLY, HMMM, THAT IS AN ODD NAME FOR SOMEONE WHO SEEMS TO BE MALE.

“People say it seems to fit me.”

I CAN SENSE THAT, YES. MY NAME IS BLAKCHNUUKP

“Bless you, and Gazuntite!”

NO, MORTAL, THAT IS MY NAME

“Oh.  Can I call you Blak for short?”

NO.

“Ok,”

This interaction didn’t strike Shirley that this was odd in the slightest.  A runner passed, eyebrows furrowed, as she could have sworn that that man in the rain boots just blessed a rock.

“What are you?”

I AM THE SOWER OF SOULS, DEMENTOR OF DEMONS AND RAVAGER OF RENT BEINGS.  THOSE THAT SEE ME QUAKE IN FEAR, QUIVERING AT THE SIGHT MY ALMIGHTY POWER. I AM THE FERRY MAN THAT BRINGS LOST WHISPS TO THEIR ETERNAL JUDGEMENT.  I AM THE EXECUTIONER OF THE MEEK, THE SPINELESS AND THE COWARDS.  I WAS BORN IN BATTLE, BATHED IN BLOOD AND MOLDED BY THOSE FALLEN BEFORE ME.  YOU SHALL CALL ME BLACKCHNUUKP AND NOTHING ELSE, FOR I HAVE NO OTHER NAME.

“I’m Shirley with Geek Squad.”

HELLO, SHIRLEY OF GEEK SQUAD.

“Where is the rest of you?

WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

“I mean, I only see your heart here.  Or what I’m assuming is your heart.”

There is some time before Blakchnuukp responds, Shirley things he hears a slight stutter before the voice is heard again.

I SUPPOSE, I LOST IT.

“Where’d you lose it?”

WELL, SHIRLEY OF GEEK SQUAD, IF I KNEW THAT IT WOULDN’T BE LOST, WOULD IT?

Shirley kicked at an imaginary rock and shoved his hands in his pockets, “No, I suppose you’re right…”

Blakchnuukp sighed, had he had fingers and hands, he’d be rubbing the temples of a horned head.

LOOK, I’M SORRY, I’M ALWAYS A LITTLE CRANKY WHEN I WAKE UP.

“It’s fine…”

NO REALLY, I MEAN IT.  I’M SORRY.  I SHOULD BE THANKING YOU, NO MORTAL FLESH HAS TOUCHED ME IN BILLENIA, AND NOW YOU HAVE WOKE ME FROM MY SLUMBER.

“I’m used to it anyway, my girlfriend talks to me like that all the time… she says I have that effect on people.”

WELL, SHE SOUNDS LIKE A TOTAL BITCH, IF YOU ASK ME.

“Hey, Victoria is nice!  Even if she has her issues, I know she loves me.”

YOU’RE RIGHT, SORRY. I… I’M SORRY.  STILL GETTING USED TO CONVERSATION.  IT’S JUST BEEN ME AND MY THOUGHTS FOR THE LAST TWELVE THOUSAND YEARS.

“Sounds lonely.”

RIGHT?!  THANKLESS JOB, TOO.  WHO IS GOING TO REAP ALL OF THESE SOULS IF I DON’T?

“Not me.”

EXACTLY.  LOOK, SHIRLEY YOU SEEM LIKE A NICE GUY, WHAT SAY YOU PICK ME UP AND BRING ME TO SOME HIGHLY POPULATED AREA?  PARTICULARLY ONE AWAY FROM ANY SORT OF CHURCH OR CONGREGATION. 

“Sure!  I know of—“

AND NO CRUCIFIXES.

“—right, I’ll—“

IN FACT, LETS GO WITH A LOWLY POPULATED AREA, NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT.  I NEED TO START SMALL.

“Ok, wanna meet my girlfriend?  I bet by now Erik left.”

WHO’S ERIK?

“He, uhh…” Shirley bashfully looked to the side, embarrassed to say it.

WAIT, IS YOUR GIRLFRIEND SLEEPING WITH THIS BLOWHARD?

“I don’t know what that means, but yeah she is…”

ALRIGHT, DON’T SAY ANOTHER WORD.  I WANT YOU TO PICK ME UP AND TAKE ME TO YOUR HEARTH SO I CAN HAVE WORDS WITH THIS “ER-DICK” AND VECTORIA.

“Victoria.”

THANK YOU.  NO ONE MESSES WITH MY SHIRLEY OF GEEKSQUAD AND GETS AWAY WITH IT, YOU HEAR ME? NO ONE.

Shirley threw up a hand to high five Blakchnuukp, forgetting the thing had no hand to five.  Instead Shirley smiled and slapped his own hand, then picked up the beating stone heart.  He tucked the stone under his arm and raced across the soggy beach of North Bend, rain boots sloshing in the overcast June rain and mist.  For the first time in his life, Shirley had a friend.  A true friend, that would stick up for him and tell him jokes and stay up late with him and talk about girls.

He wordlessly wondered what Blakchnuukp would say to Victoria and Erik, something good, no doubt.  Something to get rid of that pesky bro and leave Victoria all for himself.  She’d see him and his friend and know that Shirley was capable.  Maybe not smart, funny, attractive or athletic, but capable.

For the first time in as long as Shirley could remember, he felt happy and not at all lonely.