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The Message Behind the Words is the Voice of the Heart

Fortune found inside Gil Knowland's cookie at the end of the combination special for which he stopped on the way home from his wife's funeral:
A loved one from the past will affect you in the near future.
Soon they will all know what you've done.
Graffiti spray-painted on the pavement near the trash can in which Gil tossed his unsettling fortune after crumpling it into his palm, then flattening it back out again to stare at for several long uncomfortable heartbeats:
Love me until my heart stops.
Ah, it does seem as if I've struck a nerve.
Advertising placard mounted on the roof of a taxi which almost ran Gil over as he rushed across the street to calm down in his car.
Feeling hungry? Call Momma's Pizza, We Never Close
Feeling guilty, are we, Gil?
Citation found tucked beneath the driver's side windshield wiper of Gil's car:
Overtime parking: $64.00
Violations not paid within 14 days will be sent to a collection agency.
Yes, Gil, I'm talking to you, Gil, don't act so shocked, Gil. Of course, I'm talking to you! Who else did you think I meant?
Sign on the front door of the liquor store into which Gil stumbled as soon as he was able to stop hyperventilating:
No alcohol will be sold to persons under 21. Valid ID required.
If I were you, Gil, and had done what you did, I'd need alcohol, too. Our son would have been 21 someday, could have taken a legal drink. If only you hadn't betrayed us both. You remember our son, don't you? He was only a baby.
Not even.
Plaque on the park bench where Gil dropped to take his first swig of whiskey with shaking hands:
Dedicated to the memory of our parents Malcolm and Eudora Finch
Together for 74 years--now together forever
That could have been us, Gil.
That could still be us.
That will be us.
Advice column printed on a single runaway newspaper page blown by the wind and flattened against Gil's chest:
Dear Miss Romance:
Ever since I became pregnant, my husband hasn't been paying the same attention to me as he once did. What can I do so he will love me again the way he did when we first married?
Dear Gil:
You should stop asking the people walking by whether they can see my messages. Really. It's not a good look for you. My words are meant for you and you alone. Only you can see through to the hidden truth of things. So stop bringing other people into this. Do you want them to think you're crazy? Are you crazy, Gil?
Love, Julie
P.S. At least I thought it was love.
Skywriting high above the park where Gil continued to drink:
No, Gil. I won't stop. Stop asking me.
Message rolled up in a bottle found bobbing in the park's lake which Gil stumbled by on the way back to his car:
My name is Astrid. I am eleven years old, and I am doing a school science experiment. I want to learn how far my note will float. If you find this, please contact me.
How many times do I have to tell you, Gil? No. You started this, and there's only one way this stops. It's not up to me. Take my word for it.
Text printed in tiny type on the side of a cereal box out of which Gil began scooping and eating handfuls of Sugar Stars as soon as he got home, believing it would absorb some of the alcohol and counteract the pounding in his head:
Ingredients: Whole Grain Corn, Sugar, Corn Meal, Corn Syrup, Canola Oil, Salt, Trisodium Phosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6, Citric Acid.
Would having a child have been so terrible? That's what people who love each other are supposed to do. That's the whole point of love. We could have sat around this table laughing as we spooned cereal into our mouths, you and me and the baby you should have allowed to be born. I thought you loved me, Gil. I thought you loved us. Didn't you love us?
Spam phone call received immediately after Gil hurled that cereal box against the wall, and then settled on the couch to polish off the bottle of whiskey:
"Mr. Knowland, this is Jerry from Customer Service. I understand you're having a problem with your operating system. Mr. Knowland... are you there?"
Stop muttering that it was a mistake, that you only meant to dose me strong enough to kill our baby, that you weren't ready to be a father, that you only wanted a life with me and me alone. Do you really think that makes what happened better? Do you really think that will make this end?
A note unspooled from a capsule attached to a homing pigeon which landed near Gil after he ran to the roof for some fresh air he hoped would clear his head:
If lost, please contact Queens Pigeon Society for pickup.
No, Gil. I won't shut up. There's only one way to make this stop.
Backlit slogan scrolling across a blimp passing by Gil's apartment as he falls to his knees and begins screaming his wife's name.
You know what you have to do, Gil. Do it.
Seen by Gil in a cluster of stars above as he stumbled in ever more frantic circles around his rooftop, alternating between pleas and apologies:
The Big Dipper--composed of Dubhe, Merak, Phecda, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar, and Alkaid--which in 50,000 years will not exist as those of our time know it, but will have flipped to face the other way.
Obituary in a newspaper sold at the newsstand around the corner from Gil's apartment, a newspaper he would not live to see during his lifetime:
Gil Knowland, 37, died yesterday due to injuries following a fall from the roof of his apartment. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that earlier the same day, he buried his wife of six years, Julie Knowland, who after her death was discovered to have been pregnant with what would have been their first child.
Mr. Knowland's death is believed to have been accidental, as his blood alcohol level was .32, which would have resulted in serious cognitive impairment.
There are no survivors.
You are mine now, Gil.
You are...
Scratch that. I've said enough.
Because actually... now you are ours.
Gil... it's time for you to say hello to your son.
And I do believe he's angry.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, December 9th, 2022
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