Thursday, October 22, 2009
She watched him cough and smiled meekly. His beard negligent, inactively bread. His clothes mismatched and unsized, afterthoughts. She had known him only for a few months, but now couldn't remember how she lived before his presence. He made a lot of sense.
"Yeah...i can get what you're saying. But I would feel weird about anything that would so expand my spectrum that my past experience with pleasure would be regulated to small blips...on you know...like my emotional radar."
It couldn't be called a house really, more of a cabin. Not something long term. The room in which they sat screamed for temporary residence, small problems that would only fuck with a persons head if they had more then a week to put up with them. The couch spread out, artificially converting the open plan into a living room and a kitchen. Upstairs was cold and uninhabitable due to a shitty roof with shitty insolation. A half bath and a bedroom were found through a door to the left of the couch. She hadn't left in days.
"yeah, thats the problem. It can separate your life into very definite before and after. But you keep your memories... I mean yes, you will know its out there, for you to feel this way, but like...(cough) its going to be just as warm and fuzzy when you think back at a great snowman you built when you were twelve...Cigarette?"
He grabbed two out of his pack and fallowed with a lighter. How long had she been here? A few days maybe. She counted the pizza boxes as she dragged on her cigarette. At least two days, four maybe, he didn't eat. She had met him at a sports bar near here. They had done coke in a bathroom and came back to his place after the bar closed. She hadn't done this before. He interested her. Not attractive, they had kissed in a platonic sort of way but nothing else. It wasn't like that. She had heard junkies weren't after it anyway. Now months later, she came by almost every day. Talked shit, smoked weed, watched the track marks on his arms grow like a rash. He hid them at first, but now they were worn like badges of honer.
"If you ever want to try it, just make sure you do it safe, cause if you get even the smallest bit of air in there it can seriously fuck up your heart. But anyway, your probably tired of me talking about it."
He smiled and she glowed. In some kind of love, they made each other happy. It was easy, no effort just smooth and natural. Nothing to fight about, kung fu movies at night, then he would stick a fix in his arm, she would nuzzle up to his chest and fall asleep to the slowing beat of his heart. She wanted to know what he was talking about.
He smiled briefly as he summoned a child hood memory of summer. Outside the same store he was approaching now, with a girl whom he had convinced himself he loved. He could feel the ache in his heart and the sun on his skin for a few moments but then nothing. The feeling gone like smoke rings into the cold winter air. His heavy coat and insulated work jeans moved around his skinny body, letting small glances of cold air through badly designed cracks and holes as they shifted as he walked. He moved in a style he learned to minimize this. Down the street, past the church, past the school, his path an exact replica of the past months. Since he had got the job.
He squinted through the distance, the air stinging his eyes with an abrasive ache. He made out a small figure on down the street, distorted by the heat waves radiating from the hood of an idling car, waiting patiently for its owner. By in by it turned into a outline of human, then a girl, then a woman, then a woman that he knew. Eva, known since childhood, histories intertwined. Circles of friends, once inseparable through there cohesion at different points, now separate never to be rejoined.
They both spent small moments pretending to just barely being able to make each other out, from there marks of maturation and adulthood. She was still pretty and he was still tired.
"Hows things? What are you doing now?"
He smiled, constructing easy lies, that he knew he wouldn't have the guts to tell.
"Construction, what have you been up to?"
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
"This is your Captain speaking uh....we have just arrived in Acton, the temperature outside is -34 degrees so bundle up....the time is four o clock in the afternoon uh.......thank you for choosing....the only plane available.....have a nice stay."
Nathan looked around to see if anyone else found this announcement as funny as he did. The plane counted him and only four others, who looked to be reporters and photographers as its passengers. They smiled politely at him as he made eye contact, there tired eyes, half grown beards and in one woman's case Adam ant Esq running mascara speaking verses to the current of there emotion and mental conditions. Simply and plainly "who the fuck saw this coming?"
Half and hour later Nathan stumbled bleary eyed into the lobby of a hotel. The clerk at the front desk made eye contact with him and gave him a slow sympathetic nod. He had well groomed hair, deep crows feat and a posture that seemed to proclaim him both the mother and the father of the hotel. The last warmth and comfort in a world that seemed to be growing stranger, more hostile and more alien by the second.
As Nathan hobbled to stand infront of him, placing his bag down between them with a proud grunt the clerk stood to attention.
"I'm very sorry sir, we are all booked up." The clerk proclaimed shortly, his words dripping with apology and ready for an onslaught of abuse.
"I have a room booked. My name is Doctor Nathan Andrews."
The clerks eyes lit up in recognition, he had been waiting. He thrust is dry hairless hand forward.
"So pleased to meet you sir, every ones been waiting. I am under strict instructions to show you to your room at once, and once having done so, have you call this number." Nathan took his hand and shook it with two even pumps.
"who is it?"
"who is what sir?"
"who's the number?"
"I'm sorry sir?"
"well....when I call this number, who will pick up on the other end?"
"well.... someone in charge I assume...that's who gave it to me."
Nathan stopped for a second, considering the answer.
"who is in charge around here anyway? I mean... i was sent by the world health organization, but as far as i know i am the only representative from that organization here, I was just hoping that someone could tell me who i was answering to? Did the person tell you who they were with? FBI? CIA? FICAA?"
The clerk looked puzzled to the brink of tears, Nathan realized then that what the had just asked was the question of the moment, and now he had assured this poor man that he was in fact just as clueless as everyone else.
"Never mind, we will have everything sorted out shortly." Nathan quipped before the clerk had a chance to answer or for that matter break into hearty Sobs of confusion. He smiled and nodded.
"Thank god sir, its been a bit of a madhouse around here...Let me show you to your room."
A few hours later Nathan woke from a short nap. The room was nice enough, small but not cramped, a well stocked mini bar, a chair, cable television and a bed. The walls were a inoffensive light brown to match the pillow case and the blankets. His telephone rang twice before he bothered to roll over and pick it up.
"hello...?" He mumbled into the receiver.
"Doctor Andrews? Doctor Nathan Andrews?"
"Good to speak to you sir, we are sending a car around to the hotel to pick you up, it should be there momentarily."
The voice on the other end of the line paused for a moment. The sound of a cigarette being dragged upon burned slowly through the wire.
"how do you mean?"
"who is sending the car for me? You said 'WE' are sending a car for you. Who is 'we'?"
"Me...and everyone else in this room sir."
"Everyone in the room?"
"let me check........Yes sir. Everyone in the room is sending One car to pick you up. Is that all-right?"
"yeah....just out of curiosity...how many people are in that room?"
"around thirty five"
"thirty five people are sending one car to pick me up?"
"we really don't have time for this sir, by the time we finish this conversation the car will already be there"
"okay, I will be waiting."
"word to the wise, don't wait outside. Its cold. Really cold." The phone clicked and the line went dead. Nathan collected his brief case and drank the contents of a small bottle of whiskey he had procured from the minibar.
A few moments later Nathan found himself in matte black crown Victoria being driven silently through the town. Snow crunched under the tires and frost crept up dark tinted windows like the fingers of beggars scratching desperately for spare change. The driver of the car wore a dark blue suit and mid priced leather shoes, He wore dark sunglasses despite the overcast and remained silent and still, his hands and feat controlling the car more out of a basic urge rather then actual effort. The town passed slowly as Nathan rested his head on the window pain, the cold from outside stinging his sweat drenched head.
"I wish you boys had given me a chance to shower before picking me up, i must stink like shit."
The driver showed no signs of response. His hands moving deftly across the wheel as they made a gradual turn into a parking lot.
"Actually sir you smell quite pleasant. Here we are."
The car slowed to a gradual stop in front of what looked to be a hockey rink. The driver exited, ran around the car briskly and opened Nathan's door. They walked through large double doors into the building. Nathan was immediately struck with a sense of awe as he gazed into what appeared to be a black suit and sunglasses convention. A few lab coats dotted the room as well as a few blue suited policemen, but for the most part the crowed looked like it belonged in a conspiosy theorists wettest of dreams. Nathan looked to his driver, who stood almost indistinguishable from the rest of the suits.
"there are more then thirty five people here."
"Good counting sir. There are a few hundred. The room that you were called from was the inner core. That's where I would like to take you now, if you don't mind. "
"What is the inner core?"
"Its where everything is really happening sir"
Nathan looked around the room for a second, first a few suits in heated argument and then at a few lab coats discussing something to do with numbers and symbols that one of them had just written on a dry erase board.
" If everything is really happening in the "inner core" then who are all these guys?"
"I'm not so sure sir. I assume they are here to provide cover, or comfort. It doesn't hurt to have a bunch of people who look like they know what they are doing and what's going on in a situation like this.... Or so we assume, to be quite frank this is the first situation like this we have ever had to deal with."
Nathan took another look around, attempting to process the idea that all of these official looking people were not in-fact actually working on anything. He wondered briefly if they would eventually tire of pretending to work and just break into a game of beach volley ball.
"If you would fallow me sir"
Nathan fallowed his driver down a confusing series of hallways and doors, a few tents that appeared to be connected to the building only with ram-shackled pieces of particle board and back into the main room and then through another larger, mettle door. He walked into the inner core to smell of old cigarette smoke and stale coffee.
"Welcome to the inner core sir."
Nathan looked around. No lab coats, no suits, just tired looking people and ashtrays.
"what now?" Nathan asked apprehensively, grabbing a spare cigarette from a pack that sat unguarded on a table near by.
"I'll go find Ted and you must be debriefed."
Nathan sat down in a chair and smoked his cigarette, letting his eyes slowly make the rounds of room. The sweat stains and the piles and piles of old Chinese food. The coffee cups and doughnut boxes. Groups of men and women puzzling of graphs and documents. A sudden tap on his shoulder grabbed his attention.
"Nathan Andrews?" Asked a balding man of forty. His sleeves rolled up and his tie undone and dangling precariously from his neck. Nathan recognized his voice from the phone call.
"Yes sir...and you are"
"its not important, but you can call me ted if you like."
"is that your name?"
"uh....yeah, sure, so what do you know?"
"nothing yet...I just got here."
Ted began to walk, and Nathan fallowed close behind, making sure not to lose sight of the back of Ted's head.
"well we've brought you here to run some quick medical exams on a cretin subject. We simply want to know if this person is in generally good health. Do you think you can do that mister Andrews?"
Nathan looked down at Ted's smiling face, dripping with sweat and excitement.
"Yeah no problem. But whats happening here? I mean....what person? why all the.....everything?"
Ted's smile grew.
"well sir, I'll tell yeah. This government is ready for just about anything. Plane crashes, terrorist attacks, bird flu, killer bees shit....even thermo nuclear war...but something happened that we just couldn't see coming."
Ted stopped walking and turned around to face Nathan face to face.
"are you hungry at all?"
"What? Listen, I'm a bit confused, I would realy appreciate knowing just what the fuck is going on here"
Ted removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes smiling.
"I'm trying to explain the best i can. Are you hungry?"
"yeah, I'm fucking starving. Cut the shit and tell me what's happening."
"alright...uh.... how long have you been a smoker mister Andrews?"
Nathan looked down at his left hand. The cigarette burning slowly, sending a cascade of smoke up his sleeve.
"You're a doctor, so I thought it was a bit strange that you picked up that cigarette just then."
Nathan looked down in surprise at the cigarette. He was not smoker, he hadn't had one since he was thirteen. But grabbing one and lighting had seemed the most natural thing in the world. He looked around the room briefly, noticing that everyone without exception was smoking, lighting one off the other in feverish consumption. Smoking while eating, smoking while speaking, some with two cigarettes at once.
"What the fuck is this?" demanded Nathan as he threw his cigarette to the hardwood floor.
Ted smiled and laughed in self congratulation. He looked around the room like a proud father watching his kids.
"Check this guy out...." he said nodding to the far corner of the room. Through the haze of blue smoke Nathan made out the shape of a man eating. Eating and crying. Two different types of fried noodles being shoveled into his mouth, a fork in each hand. His sobs slow and desperate, muffled through the Chinese as he looked around the room ashamed.
"been eating like that since he came in....smoking too. All of us. I quit a couple of years ago but as soon as i walked into this room i found myself sucking them back like i was sixteen again. Didn't even notice i was doing it till my second pack."
"Either you tell me what's going on here or I'm fucking leaving this freak show."
Ted took a step back and rubbed his head, attempting to put the words together. He began to speak, but stopped himself before the words had a chance to escape his unshaven face. Instead he simply turned around and motioned calmly for Nathan to fallow.
Nathan fallowed a few steps behind Ted, through a small pair of doors on the other side of the inner core, through a plastic corridor and eventually through a pair of large mettle doors. Ted turned as they walked through the doors a past a pair of heavily armed guards wearing what looked to be tinfoil wigs under thick beekeeper masks.
"They insist that wearing those things help, but I've seen them sneaking cigarettes when they think no else is around, speaking of which...."
Ted reached into his pocket and grabbed a pack, passing one to Nathan and taking one for himself.
"Its just easier to walk in here with one, at first it can be a bit..... jarring."
He lit them both up and made a gesture to fallow. Nathan prepared himself for anything. His mind listed of probable reasons- chemical weapons, mind control, hypnosis, mass histaria.
"this, is a man we call Dave" Proclaimed theatrically as he pointed to a conference table. On the table sat an sleeping man strapped to a wooden office chair. He wore a button up Hawaiian shirt and khaki Bermuda shorts, his legs white and nobly, his longish hair moved around his head of its own volition as if he were caught in a slowly intensifying wind tunnel.
Nathan quickly took a drag as the word burned through his scull and down his back. His hair standing up on end. He felt raped, invaded. His mind reeled back against the Alien intrusion and collapsed defeated when it found nothing to lash out against.
"what the fuck?! TED?!"
Ted stood next to him laughing and smoking.
"Really something huh? First time it happened to me I almost collapsed....but it gets easier. When your this close to him it sounds like he's yelling at you, but the further you get away the more like a suggestion it becomes. In that big room in the front, everyone thinks that picking up smoking and main lining chow main was there own god damn idea...."
Nathan smiled uncomfortably at the idea. He stared at Dave. Letting his mind wander around the possibility's of what was happening here.
"how long has he been sleeping for?"
"since we found him. He tried to wake up a couple of times but we decided that might not be a great idea. If he can get everyone in the tri-state area on a pack a day habit while counting sugar plums who knows what he could do with his wits about him."
"where did you find him?"
"middle of a fucking cornfield. Haven't been able to figure out why just yet....its....not out main priority."
"well let me put it this way.... I'm thinking of a number."
Ted held his hand by his head and dawned a look of manic concentration.
37 37 37 37 37!!!!
Nathan looked around the room.. '"thirty seven?"
Ted smiled like a kid at Christmas.
"pretty cool huh?"
"cool....how long has that been going on?"
"off and on since we brought him in. But more so in the last couple of days. Its getting weird, nobody can really claim ownership of any ideas anymore. Five different guys claim it was there idea to call you."
"yeah.... so, I'm hear to check this guy out? make sure he's...healthy, right?"
"yeah pretty much, its mostly just paper work for the next week."
"what do you mean?"
"well he is do for execution on wens-day and we need to prove he was healthy before we stick the spike in him. I think its sort of bureaucratic....or some one thinks that anyway...."
"fuck man, what's the point chad?"
One inquired to an other as terry sat in the ambulance as it struggled to squeeze itself between a potato truck and an ever expanding sea of yellow cabs that strung itself out across his sight line.
"at this point in our lives it just seems a little sad, you know?" the straggler asked as he ran his fingers through his greasy black mop. His words stained with a kind of sadness terry half remembered experiencing at some point. He tuned out the other paramedic, Tim, who had begun bellowing obscenities at the cab drivers as he flicked the siren off and on again while pumping the gas and the break simultaneously.
"these fucking cabs man" he hissed through his chapped lips and nicotine stained teeth. " we're trying to save some fucking lives here and just cause these assholes drive for a living they think they own the fucking road?!"
He turned to look to terry, smiling an unsettling all teeth visible type of smile for a few seconds before sticking his head out the window screaming "you fucking animals! You don't own the road! fuck that! I'M TRYING TO SAVE LIVES HERE! GET OUT OF MY WAY!" Saliva strings falling out of his mouth he yanked his head back into the vehicle. The cabs began to make a slow movement to make a path. Tim turned to smile at terry once more.
"there you go. You just got to show them who's boss. Yeah..."
He hit the gas softly and the ambulance floated softly through the path they had created for it. Terry listened to tim speak to himself softly as he drove through.
"yeah that's right, you don't own the road...you don't own shit. Its my fucking road. You don't own shiiiittttt. You don't even own your own cab. Yeah... You know that terry?"
Terry jerked to attention, feeling slightly embarrassed that he had heard him. Feeling that he had been observing a very personal moment in Tim's life, he decided to pretend he hadn't.
"do you know that?"
Tim scoffed dismissively.
"never mind what?"
"Dude, if you don't want to talk that's cool, but you don't have to be a prick."
"I'm not trying to be a prick, I just want to know what you said."
"They don't own there own cabs."
"they don't like, take them home at night or anything. There company owns them."
"I couldn't imagine I would want to do a lot of driving if i drove a cab all day."
Tim sat back, readjusting his weight in the bucket seat. He rolled down his window and grabbed a pack of cigarettes from behind the drivers side vanity. The city's drunken street dwellers thinning out as they flew into a newly built residential district on the edge of town, the newly laid tarmac providing smooth relief from the well worked and cracked paths of the city as it disappeared behind the rear bumper.
"just not the point."
Since they had met, terry felt he had never really understood any of Tim's points. He had spent the first three shifts they had worked together just nodding and smiling. Tim lit his cigarette and grabbed the radio from the dash.
"delta delta, this is unit three, can I get a re-confirm on that address please dispatch?" The radio crackled and sparked to attention as the husky voiced woman on the other end blew a cloud of smoke through the wires to echo throughout the cab of the ambulance.
"certainly delta three..... that was the possible heroin overdoes on Parker and Albert. Albert street Parker road. A as in Amazing for Albert, And P as in post coital for Parker. Drive safe boys." The radio sparked, the final and satisfying static crack robbing Tim and Terry of the beautiful, gravely growl of the stranger they had been listening to for the past two weeks. Never has a new employee done so much for the team moral as this woman had.
The pleasant residential neighborhood gave way quickly to the fringe of the city. The outskirts lined neatly against the wilderness beyond home made baseball diamonds and the shaky remains of burned out trailer Meth labs, standing in sullen contrast with the sunset around six and nearly invisible by nightfall. Terry and Tim pulled the ambulance over in-front of the address they had been given. Terry stepped out of the cab, his toes cracked under the weight now resting upon his feet. The house he found in front of him stood shakily against the wilderness behind it. Small trees and shrubs grew freely from the untended lawn, as if the forest behind were trying to reclaim the neglected property from its owners. Tim exited the cab to stand next to Terry.
"fucking dump huh?"
"we should get in there..."
"Stars out here are beautiful. Can't see them in the city cause of the street lights. Light pollution, bad as nuclear waste in my opinion"
They locked eyes for a second and moved quickly across the lawn into the house, stepping lightly on the porch to stand before the door. TIm knocked on the door three times. He smiled to Terry for a second, the white dry highlights on his lips cracking slightly to expose series of deep red gashes.
The door opened quickly. A person trapped between the stages of boy and man stood shaky and wild eyed, his arm fully extended still holding the door knob. Terry looked him up and down quickly. Junky skinny. Sinew and stress.
"you gotta fucking help me man!
Terry entered the room as the scared bearded boy rushed to the side of young woman who sat slumped at an awkward angle in a worn out arm chair. She was blond and had she not been turning a pronounced shade of bluish green, terry would have considered her pretty. She wore a faded black Slayer tour shirt a few sizes to big for her, hiding her figure. Her arms splayed out from her body, a fresh stream of blood slowly trickling out from the one.
" fucking Do Something! Can you help her?!"
Tim leaned close into the girl.
"no dude....she is dead."
He grabbed her wrist and placed two fingers across it. Tim turned from the girl to face the crying boy.
Tim walked through the friday night crowd. The four beer conversations flying past his ears, loud over the music loaded with spit and enthusiasm. He made a mental note "pay for the next round". This was important, this mattered. He had to ritualistically remind himself of this, not that he was battling a cheapness inherent in his character, but an innocent carelessness that, he had been made aware, was often confused with a less then forthright method of thrift. Four beers, easy enough. Payday had been friday, his rent already paid, his bank account remained comfortably occupied.
He pushed the door to the bathroom open. A man of forty or so politely made his way out of the room as he held the door. The room was empty thank god. No loud conversations or red eyed twenty somethings doing coke in one of the stalls. Unzipping his jeans he approached the urinal. Cock in hand he stood and waited. He could feel the flow begin somewhere anatomically ambiguous he could not assign a name to.
The door creaked open and a wave of noise entered the room, hot a quick. Foot steps clicked a hallow toneless melody against the bathroom floor. He froze.
Something inside him suddenly tightened, clicked off, shut down completely. The stranger saddled up next to him, he could hear the distinct melody of urine on porcelain within seconds. He looked down. Nothing. Not a god damn drop. He mentally cursed his then useless cock and quickly began to summon urine conducive thoughts. Water falls, rivers, rain storms, the ocean lapping against the shore, memories of himself pissing. What could help?
He looked down, still nothing, squat, nada, no flow no go. He quickly formed a plan of action while a melange of beer based urine and axe body spray floated over from man next to him and invaded his seances. He zipped up and made his way to the nearest stall. He closed the door and sat. He sat and he waited. Listening and waiting for sound of a zipper and then the sound of the door.
But something was wrong. He heard a zip, but the foot steps were moving the wrong direction. Those beat up D.C. skate shoes were supposed to be moving towards the door, they were supposed to be LEAVING! But sure enough, they were not. In fact they were pointing right at him from under the stalls door. He froze, his plan was fucked. He contemplated getting up, turning around and pissing into the bowl....perhaps even pissing sitting down.
"Hey!" Came an aggressive cry from right outside the stall.
Shit, he hadn't expected this. Who talks to strangers in bathrooms? He stayed quite and sat, his bladder ready to over-through his minds rule of his body in a biological Cue.
"What?" Tim answered back.
"Come out here!"
"No....I don't want to."
"Get the fuck out here!"
"No, I'm not going to. Im staying in here, I'm....I'm shitting."
He could here the board shorts guy breathing heavy with anger on the other side of the door now.
"Dude, get the fuck out here NOW, or I'm kicking the door in."
Sweat ran down his face as he hugged his knees and cursed his bladder.
"Leave me alone!"
The door began to rattle, he watched white knuckled fingers reaching down towards the stalls latch above.
"Fine, I'm coming out." Tim yelled. The hands retreated back over the door. Tim stood up and opened the door. The boy standing on the other side appeared pale regardless of his Fabutan. His hands shook and he sucked in the bathroom air desperately through his flaring nostrils.
"You think I'm some kind of Fag or something? Huh?!" He demanded through clenched teeth. His hand flue up and Tim suddenly felt the cold bathroom wall embrace the his back. Surprised, He stammered "I don't know what you mean!."
"The second I stood next to you you put your dick back in your pants and hid in that stall. I'm not a fag! Fuck you!"
Genuinely confused now, Tim took a step forward and gathered his thoughts.
"dude, I don't know who you are and I certainly don't think...."
"Who said I was a queer?! That ass hole Mark?! He's the fag!
"I Knew it!" The boy screamed. His eyes bulging in time with a vein in his forehead. "You listen to Me! He's the one that kissed me! Alright? He's the fag!"
"You.... kissed a guy?"
The boys eyes opened ever wider, blood shot and accusatory. Tim regretted his last statement.
His mouth opened for a second but closed again without a sound. Teeth clenched his arm pulled back swiftly before delivering one fierce blow to the side of Tim's head. His body crumpling as the fist made its brutal contact, he watched the room fall beneath him and found his cheek resting on the cold floor. Spit landed somewhere on the back of his head.
"I am NOT a fag!"
The boy brushed his hands together and opened the door to leave the room. Barely conscious, Tim realized to his horror that he had Finally begun to piss.