I failed NaNoWriMo again this year. I still have 13 hours, but I won't tell you how many thousands of words I would have to write per hour to get caught up. It's more than one. It's about three. I'm not telling you out of pride, it's that I can't do the math.
Anyway. Here's the start of it. It's about a guy who daydreams about being a superhero all day long. I think I'll probably still work on it, though I can't tell you how many times I've said that. And again, because of the math involved. Anyway, here's the first third of my second failed novel, "Hello."
It's posted in the spirt of NaNoWriMo, so it's not really edited at all, don't nag about that.
(Edit: Also, about half of the text below is supposed to show up in italics, but doesnt, the italics makes it clear when he's shifting in and out of his head. It doesnt want to work on here and I'm not going through thirty pages of text and re-italicizing things. So if it gets confusing and you want a copy let me know, I'll email you one. I can't imagine this ever happening. Salud.)
I’m Superman. I’m Spiderman. I’m Ben. I’m Clark Kent. I’m Peter Parker. I’m lonely.
The only good thing about my apartment is the roof. I hate just about everything else about it. It’s noisy, full of people and the plumbing is criminal. But I stay here because I have pretty good access to the roof. They don’t know that I have access to the roof, but I have access to the roof. I stole someone’s freight elevator key. Specifically, I stole Ramon’s key ring. He left it in the elevator door on his way to someplace that needed cleaning or fixing, dredging or scrubbing. I haven’t seen him since, but I’ve got complete control over the building now. Nobody has changed any of the locks yet. That was probably Ramon’s job.
I needed to get access to the roof, I’d asked for a key before but everyone thought it was so that I could jump off. Even if that were the case I’d fly away. I’d go someplace warm and respectable, fight crime and fall in love with one of my many secrets. Capes and lassos and villiany and I wouldn’t want to leave someone with the mess. I wanted rooftop access so that nobody would have to deal with me and I wouldn’t have to deal with anyone else. I don’t want to hear the noise anymore. Too many unexpected visitors wondering about everything in the world but me. Can I believe the plumbing, is my heater working, did I leave the bathtub on and the drain plugged and oh yeah, then why is it raining in my apartment asshole and what about the rent and have you heard from Ramon what the hell is that look for and why cant you open the door like a regular person unlatch the chain so we can talk and and and and and the city needs me. To the rooftop!
The city needs me. It calls to me in the night, the horrible glitter of shattered glass, the swirling black mask of night aiding the ruthless in their quest for no good. One foot on the ledge I peer out over it all. Life gridded, orderly confusion terrible nightmares and the thumping of the freight elevator. I have to hide! My cloak conceals me in the shaddows of a nearby smoke stack. I must conceal myself properly lest the who is that? Who the hell is that? New Ramon? It must be a new Ramon. Just stay down, they’ll go away. Don’t let the keys jingle.
Whoever it was left before I got a good look. They left a long time ago. I couldn’t move for an hour or more. Silently crouched behind a broken condenser for the broken air conditioning system. What if they were listening downstairs, what if they had microphones or listening devices or night vision googles, I’d be found out and caught and arrested and evicted and maybe I’ll just lay here for a little while longer. It’s safe up here, safe, open, nobody can see me, millions of people all around and nobody has any idea that I’m here. There are millions of people all around and noone has any idea that I’m here. No one.
I take walks sometimes. Just to get out, to get out of my apartment, away from my neighbors and their bratty kids. The kids who tease me and poke at my jacket just to see if I’ll scream at them, to see if I’ll chase them, to see if I’m as crazy as they’ve heard from their friends. And I don’t scream, I don’t say anything, I wind up fueling all of that, remain some weird hallway mystery for my miserable apartment building. The guy in five. Who’s the guy in five? I hear he’s crazy. I hear he’s got people stacked up in that apartment. It’s probably a bunch of hookers, prostitutes, sluts, then it goes the other way too, maybe nuns, maybe kids, did you see the girl scouts this year, I haven’t seen them come by, why do you think that is? Why would they not come by? That whole apartment is empty except for a big freezer and one of those, whatta-ya-call-its, with all the tubes? A lab? Like a lab, but with more, I don’t know, glass and smoke. Like a chemistry set. Yeah, but evil.
This is the conversation I hear from time to time. My fire escape is tucked away behind a bunch of trees, Estelle and RuthAnne don’t know that I hear them when they sit out front and gossip. Gossip about all the twisted things I have in my house, how I eat cats and kids and priests and that bus driver Rudy that used to drive the seven bus. I’m the fall guy for all their missing bits and boring days, a one stop shop of dilemas and mystery and dramatic finishes for the little mundane things that happen in our shitty brown apartment building: the guy in room five. I think his name is Ben.
I grew up near here. While I was growing up, I would walk by this place and I think I knew I’d wind up living here. It’s an old building, gothic looking, through the windows you could see the wall sconces in the halls, if you got snoopier, you could see them in the rooms of the houses, the bedrooms and tv spaces, the walls in the living rooms had bookshelves built into the walls. Bookshelves and wall sconces are the perfect places to hide the secret switches that open secret doors to secret stair cases or fire polls or laboratories – pronounced Lah Boor Oh Toor Ees – where all the people went to be themselves. There had to be more, there had to be secrets and costumes and power and magic. A building like this one was the most likely to house these things. The things that assuredly were a part of everyones lives, the things you read about in comic books, and regular books and saw in the movies and dreamt about flying I dream about flying still and it’s all there, just pull that first edition slightly and our adventure begins.
It couldn’t all be like growing up. Someone had to be in charge of saving the day. Didn’t they? It couldn’t all be lockers and toilets and stairways and gravity, tortured days flowed into the next; bruises healed so that others could breathe. Ambitious, blonde hatred from every corner of the halls. I was the one they all hated. Every school had to have someone like me, I figure. It’s too sad to think otherwise.
Eric was the worst. Eric Fanning. There were too many individual instances to remember, but this once he approached me in the halls for no reason. I was walking to class, reading, and he shoved me into the lockers and as I fell I grabbed his jacket and pulled him with me, spinning us, slamming him to the floor, kicking out my right foot I swept the legs of his friends fell on top of me they grabbed my limbs, one man to each arm, each leg and using all of my strength I shook them OFF! I yelled, but nobody came and there I am bleeding all over me, I pressed the secret button on my belt that called the doctors and wound up missing the next week of classes. I graduated in the hospital. I think I preferred it there.
I was there for six weeks and then left. These things happen to me. These things have happened to me.
There’s a park by my house. Tall buildings and a park. It’s good for swinging from, bouncing and running and lifting and throwing and sitting and reading. I like to sit there and read and think of bouncing and running and lifting and throwing and lunging and swimming. It’s lonely there too. I’m a fixture there, like the hotdog stands and the pigeons and the other lonesomes sitting and wondering if it’ll ever be possible to run and jump and lift and throw and blast and kill and mostly they get swept up into the chess games. They get beaten, and the little money they have is taken from them, sometimes violently. I don’t know why I find that so surprising. Chess, by nature, is a violent game about killing as many people you can until you force the king to surrender. There’s only ever mercy for the king. The people in the highest reaches of the tallest buildings that overlook my beautiful park with the tinier things that I overlook, things with feathers and disease. It’s cold. I don’t ever stay long. Never until night time. People like me get justice at night time. It’s best not to think about.
The walk home is quick and the doorknob is the only way to enter the ugly brown building I used to admire as a kid. It looks like a fortress. Lots of stone protection; you could put archers on the roof, cauldrons of oil, old bearded warriors and safety.
The boards creak and I wonder why they continue to let the walpaper remove itself, let the lights die slow, faded yellow deaths over the sticky casino carpet. The carpet has dice on it. Dice. It’s only a short walk to the hall, and then a quick three story climb in the elevator and I’m at my front door. It’s locked many times. Lots of locks. I have too many keys. A ring of key rings, collected from everywhere. The door always speaks and whines and creaks and draws unwanted attention from my paranoid neighbors, someone is breaking in, they think, they’re happy, maybe it’ll chase me out. Maybe I’ll leave town and quit scaring the kids. The door talks more than I do. I always debate if it’s better to open the door quick, but loudly, or slowly, dragging the creak out over a minute but, with a more quiet and controlled creak. I usually opt for the former, it lets me in the house faster, away from the peephole eyes of the hallway, the scents of cooked dinners and dying, the misery of being here. Being here.
Sleep comes quickly, thankfully, though the building sweats. It feels like thunder is coming, the air is balmy and hot and maybe they fixed the heating and it’s cold outside and is it possible to have a thunderstorm in a room a thunderstorm a thunderstorm a thunderstorm!
Sleep speaks for me and I’m off and washed and warm. Thank god. One more gone. Thank god.
An airplane has been hijacked but the mayors son has been kidnapped and the Crobra Gang is pouring acid on the city Dam! I don’t know if I can stop them all in time. If I get to Dr. Chronos in time, perhaps his time pills would help me. What about the pills? Why don’t you take the pills anymore, Ben. Ben take the pills and how could it be that bad what could it? What about the pills, Ben, are you listening I’ll never let you get away with this!
In the morning it’s bright enough to wake me. I’ve blacked out the windows, covered them with thick black blankets, but it doesn’t do any good. I have a hard time sleeping, but I always wake at first light. It’s a nuisance and it makes it hard to be alive. Too many dreams, not enough sleeping. I don’t have anywhere to go anyway, it’s Sunday. Bright sunny Sunday. Days like this it’s best to stay in bed and dream. The Cobra Gang has been stopped for now, the city dam is safe. They weren’t counting on my Ice Powers, frozen water is almost as powerful as concrete and steel. Most of the villians have escaped but I’ve encased one in ice, the weight crushing him slowly, the cold unbearable, he thinks I’ll leave him to die unless he talks.
“The Cobra Gang would kill me if I talked.”
“I’ll kill you if you don’t” I’d never kill the man, but he doesn’t know that. He doesn’t know any different, his miserable life is swaddled in death, threats from masked men are a part of his life.
“But The King –“ I push him closer to the edge of the dam, his ice block prison keeping him seated and sliding towards the waters below, towards oblivion. His face is cowled, but the fear reads through his scaly mask. “No, you can’t I don’t know anything” he screams, the weakling. The pathetic small man, afraid of death, of fear itself.
“The King will not mourn you” confidently pushing him ever closer towards the precipice of his demise. The ice is slowly grating on the cement, slowly grating, slowly grating, slowly grating slowly grating. What is that sound? Grating. The neighbors upstairs. Newlyweds. There is no escape. I should live in a cave. Vaulted ceilings swirling with the most fearsome creatures, protecting me, circling above me like demons feeding on the bones of when will it end? Please stop.
Pillows should block out more sound. The headphones are usually the only way. The headphones are a pair of Sonix3, they cost a lot of money. Money I’d saved for other things, but the man at the store insisted they would block out the sound of anything, even a powerful locomotive! It’s mostly true, I bought them in a hurry, stereo stores are loud, busy places. I wasn’t breathing as well as I usually do. The man behind the counter was young and had metal peices everywhere like armor and it was impossible to not slip into thinking he was A metalman! One of the many subterranian races, metalmen, thankfully, are a peaceful bunch. I met them first during an adventure to the hardware store. It’s difficult to be anywhere but mostly beneath the earth, the heat would kill a normal man. Too many people and buying headphones means that I’m going to be surrounded by people, by noise and people. The young man had metal bits in his face, and hair that I’d thought was assigned to a different race of mankind. He spoke slowly and smelled bad. My heart was racing and I left without even considering the cheaper models. The headphones suffice, they block the noises I hate most.
Jazz isn’t always the best music to listen to during times like these, when the people upstairs are being people upstairs. I have to make careful selections in my collection. Some Jazz is condusive to that sort of noise. I have louder selections, noisier, but it’s my noise, Jazz is for just for me. There are no Jazz stations on the radio anymore and the day they removed Wjzz from the dial, I was so happy I cried. It was finally all mine.
The brown chair in the living room is one half the length of the headphone cord. It’s perfectly distanced from almost everything in the room. It’s a hand me down from the house I grew up in. My mom tells me it was my fathers favorite chair. I understand why. It’s leather, but it’s old leather, it’s got the sort of cracks in it that make a leather chair comfortable if you know how to sit in it. A stranger sitting in this chair would wind up scratching their arms and legs on the parts that jut out, the thin, firm switches of leather that will rake a person if they don’t sit properly. It still takes me a minute to get ajusted. It’s beautiful and perfect. I estimate that the chair is worth roughly fifty dollars due to all the errant change that has slipped from my pockets and down into the rips and tears and ravines and canyons of leather, eaten by the tufts of white stuffing. Fifty dollars worth of change and it’s too heavy to move. I couldn’t possibly want to move it, but if I did, I couldn’t possibly move it. It might, at some point, fall through the old floor. I hope it doesn’t, but it might. But now, music.
My vehicle has an extensive music library, the radio is tuned to my biorhythems. After a brilliant fight, it might play a soothing mix, or before a fight, when my heart flutters and I’m anxious for justice, it might play Flight of the Valkeries or maybe something with a lot of drums. Something with a lot of pop, a lot of heart beat mimicry. This car was my masters, the man who valliently wore this mantle of Hero before I did. He taught me everything and still I have much to learn. Horrendously captured and tortured by the nefarious King. The King Cobra, King of Evil, King of Despair. He goes by many names, but he will be brought to justice for the wrongs he has wrought on this city and it’s Hero. The drive is nightmarish in anticipation, I must run this new data through the SuperComputer at The Cave.
A left turn brings me through my city and into the utility section of the city, the fallen area. The area undone by financial failings, the docks and the workers all long gone. It’s spires cast longer shadows through the hearts of the families undone by the strain. Industrial parks dusty with disuse and abandon make the perfect hideout for The Hero, I enter the secret code into my vehicles computer and don’t jingle the keys. The secret gate swings open and my car enters the secret lift that brings me upstairs below the city. It is here that I can do the most good at the moment, I should be out catching burglars but the city needs me to breathe. Sometimes the headphones aren’t enough. I noticed that the lights were swaying and I had to get out. I needed to get air. Air.
I’m secreted now. Alone in the dark of the cave and now must enter all the data that my “friend” supplied me. What a fool. He was convinced that I’d push him over the edge. An ice-block villian would make a tremendous splash, but, this is no time for levity, now we must work. The computer is massive and occupies much of the room, the hidden room, the cave, beneath Leviathan Falls, connected by pneumatic tubing to hundreds of shadowed locations in the city. It took years, dedicated, albeit hypnotized servants but, it needed to be done. Justice, like wind.
It’s windy. My eyes are watering. Everything is far away, tiny and speckled. It’s noisy here, but mostly it’s just the wind. It’s calming scenery, the computer shows me my city in reds and blues and greys and shadows. It’s all color coded. The computer scans the police band and alerts me to trouble that needs my attention. The city is large and needy windy and slick. It’s getting cold. It’s far below. So far. Don’t look down. Don’t put your head just past the — CLANG.
The door slammed behind me the alarms are ringing – intruder. Hide. Run Hide Run Hide. Run. Run. What’s happening why the noise, my roof mine, my cave. Cave. Run. The condenser. Always. My place. Mine. Too soon, I can’t let this be taken from me, not yet too soon, not fair, not fair. Interlopers. Must be the cobramen after my secrets, I can’t let them have the computer, it’s taken too long, it’s full of all my information, my contacts, information about my loved ones, if they take the computer they take everything. It’s too soon goddamn it, it’s not fair, mine. Maybe it’s just the wind and just a peek and they couldn’t see me I’m camoflauged, they don’t know the secrets of the cave, the impliments in place to hide everything, the self-destruct mechanism, as a final, horrible solution. They’re around me now, the police band is singing, the wind is blowing and they couldn’t have heard me over the wind, they couldn’t have heard me but I can hear them and there are five of them now, surrounding me and who the fuck is she to be here, who is that, why is she smoking in the fifth quadrant, they seek to smoke me out of my home, my computer is becoming hazy, they’re secreted in the darkness, but they don’t know my secret place and it’s taken too long to build the cave is to know the cave, the pneumatic tubes, the transport tubes, hidden above them, they’re approaching the computer, but I have the activator switch on my belt buckle and oh lord here she comes, hide the keys, hiden above them is the airpump, and, hazier still, mustnt cough, so much smoke, and now, the smoke is cleared and the villians are visible and weak, their plot foiled and –
“Hello?” She knows I’m here and who is it and what if there’s trouble there’s always trouble and why now why now why now why now “Hello?”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed to be here, I’m sorry, I was just going, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t know, I’m sorry.”
“No, no, no, it’s ok, I –“
“No, no, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m going, I’m gone and I’m sorry and I have to go, I have to go and I’m sorry.” I can’t hear the wind over my heart and its there and it’s there and she’s looking and her eyes are big and she’s mad and she’s going to tell them and they’re going to take my key my key, they’re going to take it away from me my key to the cave. This had to happen, it had to happen, “Of course it happened, of course” and thank god, it’s dark and I’m gone and I’m safe for now, the Cobramen have been tied. I’ve locked them away, and sent them above, to the holding cell, my private holding cell, my room again, back in my room and I need to sit and think and who was that person. Manic, manic, manic, manic. I can’t breathe in here. Little blonde thing, tiny blonde venomess. Spinning the lights are sweeping, left and right and grinding and nightmare now a nightmare this afternoon, it’s loud and violent and I’m shaking and shaking and the door is pounding and my heart is screaming when does it end and why cant I have it and little terror tiny venomess. Please just sit down, just go sit down it’s too much and listen to me, listen to us, go sit down and breathe and let it happen don’t let it crush you, but it’s huge and it’s heavy blotchy and sweaty just sit down I can’t see what happens and just let it quiet the door keeps pounding and “Hello? It’s ok” and it’s not and I’m screaming and please let it go, it’s fine and “please leave me alone” the door isn’t chained and I cant get there in time the spot by the stove between the counter and icebox and cower and hide and breathe let it beat let it beat and let her scream let it go and there’s clawing and screaming and boiling the walls are on fire the room is shrinking she’s going to kill you, and the apartment shaking the dishes are shattering the table overturned and splintered wood shatters the floor and it’s dark underneath more than you thought let it take you and you’re gone again far away and it’s The Dam. The Dam. The Dam. We can’t let them get to the dam.
Sometimes you wake up in the kitchen, bleeding. I do. Most people do, I think. The door was still shut when I woke up, I was surprised. I thought she was going to break it down, I was worried she’d break it down anyway. I cut myself on the countertop. I had to hide fast, it wasn’t up to me, she was pounding on the door and there was too much to deal with, I don’t want to see her ever again. I hope that I don’t. I won’t.
There’s no way to know what tme it is, it’s dark and it’s quiet and the apartment is clean, it didn’t vibrate to peices, I thought that it might’ve. There’s no glass on the floor, nothing but red splotches, near the counter. Brave. So brave. Such a hero. The shower is calling. Then sleep. Sleep. I’m drained, sleep will help. In the morning I should probably put the couch in front of the door, maybe the tv too. I should get a cat, a big cat and a gun. The cobramen are closing in. They know where I live, the fortress must be fortified, the cave secured. For now, I must plan and must rebuild, small parts of the cave have been damaged, the doors need resecuring, it’s possible they came in through the hidden entrance the vehicle enters through, there might also be a hidden entrance somewhere, a snakehole. Hidden. One of the cobramen, got a lucky shot shot in above my eye, it is bleeding and I am damaged, I must rest. My medi-chamber must be charged. My essence draining, shades towards the edges, I stumble towards the chamber, the fangs were poisoned, my mind is fadnig sleep.
I have the running dream again. There’s something behind me, far behind me, but it smells me, and I know it. I can see for me and I can see for him. I cant see anything in front of me, just blackness, the wind is brushing my face, faster still. Keep running. I can see for him. He cannot see me, but he knows where I am, and he is coming for me. He sees red. I can hear his breathing. I can see myself now, just a smal redl man, a small speck running, through grey trees, getting larger. I’m running through grey trees and I can feel him behind me and I need to run faster, I crouch down and run with my hands on all fours and run faster and faster until I see red and we’re running and it’s red and there’s something on the horizon and –
I don’t sleep much. I might have mentioned that already. When I do I have nightmares, when I wake I’m sweating and gasping. And the lights are on in my room. Sometimes I wake up and the lights are on in my room. I sleepwalk, turn on all the lights, and go back to bed. I think I go back to bed, I don’t have any way of knowing.
There’s an hour or so left before my alarm goes off. My water bill is tremendous. When this happens I spend as much time in the shower as I can. It lets me wander before work, while the medi-tank has repaired me completely. I have to thank the Quandto waterfall people again for their wonderful miricle contraption. Our meeting was accidental but fortuitous, I had tracked the cobramen to their secret lands. You see, the Quandto waterfall people are a secret nation of mermen – they don’t enjoy the term mermen, they’re hybrids, more like a fish-people. I chased a pack of cobramen through South America, into the jungle, over the course of nine days. It was exhausting, but their schemes to poison the waters. Their plan was nebulous, I’m still not sure if they knew the portal was there, if it was a plan to interact with the Quandto people, or if it was an accident.
Deep in the jungles, I finally caught up to them. We met, violently, in a lake at the foot of a grand waterfall. There were about nine of them, I was able to defeat several of them in the first few minutes of interaction. As I was facing the waterfall, making a grab for the a strange silver canister filled with mysterious contents, I was tackled from behind, the both of us spilled into the waterfall and emerged on the other end, at the top of another waterfall, confused and spilling downwards over the side. The fall proved too much for my foe, the fall too high, the waters too strong, he shattered. I survived, but only barely. I lost conciousness.
When I woke I was comfortable, warm and breathing. Just warm. Warm. My eyes haven’t opened and I’ve never been so happy. Life and crime is far away. When I open my eyes, I’m floating in a yellow liquid, in a glass cylinder, and I’m breathing, without air. I’m surrounded by fish-ish people. They have spears, and they look confused and unhappy. A fatter fish man approaches and taps the glass. Life is funny. I’m in an underwater tank, and a fish, on the other side of the glass, is tapping on it. I’m afraid.
It turned out, the one tapping was the king.
I was brought to the throne room and –
I’m out of hot water.
It’s time for work. I have to go to work. I can’t even begin to relate how horrible of a feeling this can be. Every single day. It’s unbearable. So much of everything is unbearable. I didn’t think my life would wind up like this. I thought it’d wind up a little better. Not much, but a little better, maybe a lot better. It’s not been like that. The wall sconces are just wall sconces no they aren’t.
My “office” isn’t far from here. I lift things and move them and send them and rip them and shred them. It’s very awful. I don’t enjoy any aspect of it. The pay is marginal and it simply allows me to continue existing in my small apartment. I can’t afford a cat. It keeps me in my small life. Surrounded by my small things and just barely affords me the luxury of the bus.
I hate the bus more than most people hate anything. I hate the bus more than people hate terrorism, or hitler, or war. It’s a crowded, noisy tube full of smelly, awful people. They’re angry at you because you’re in the way, but of course you’re in the way, there’s no way to not be in the way, it’s a tiny, wheeled contraption and I don’t want you to be touching me either, but that’s the way it is please stop breathing on me sit down fat man. Its nearly an hour, but if I take the first bus of the morning, I can sometimes get a seat in the back where nobody sits. The ride is calmer then, spacious and dark.
But that never happens. I never get out of the shower in time.
I will not describe any staff member in my office. I work below them, in a small, caged room. They come by infrequently and when they do, they appear affraid of me, like I live there year round. Like I’m the gaurdian of the basement, the keeper of the lair. I hate each of them differently. They’re all very young and condescending. They’re all about my age actually, just younger. They’re different, alert. None of them know my name, how busy I am, or how disinterested I am in their conversation. It’s forced and the sooner they leave the sooner I can get back to my job. It just seems to take forever and go on and on, and they never leave.
“Hey, could you pull up a jay five nine five.”
“A jay five nine five”
“.....how’s your day going?”
“How about –“
“You been workin down here a long time”
“Yes. A long time.”
“About how long there?”
“Doesn’t matter. Hang on.”
“.....How about that –“
”Jay five nine five. Here.”
Most of the time, that’s how it goes anyway. There is one guy who comes and talks. He’s maybe the only person I can think of that’s more out of touch than I am. Or, I should say, he’s not purposefully out of touch. I made the choice. I did. His name is Robert. He doesn’t have much cause to be in the parts division, but he comes down sporadically and will talk continuously regardless of my involvement in the conversation. He is unkempt and, I think, slightly crazy. I feel bad about not speaking to him when he comes down, but I don’t really know what to say, and when I do try to talk, he almost seems agrivated. I think he thinks that I’m the only person he could possibly talk to. The social ladder has just one more rung below him, and I’m it. Usually it’s a storm of words and names that don’t make a lot of sense. He’s a tank of information that needs to be purged every so often, he has noone else to speak to, and so, I get the wonderful responsibility to pretend to listen, fade in and out, nod and just let him pour.
“Dave from upstairs is some kind of jerk, isn’t he? I mean, he just doesn’t stop. It’s like this every day” He doesn’t ever say hello, or address me in any way, he marches back and forth in his plaid button down shirt and his greasy, tussled hair, he is panicked. It’s how people look when they’re panicked. “And another thing, is he my boss? Because I don’t think that he is my boss, he’s never been my boss. I’ve got seniority. I’ve told you that right, that they told me that I have seniority over them about it.” I don’t who or what they, them and it are. It should be any moment that he realizes where he is and that he needs a part for the line upstairs. I’m caged and trapped and cannot get away. “But Dave! Oh no, that’s not good enough for Dave. He’s like all the rest of them. He couldn’t possibly leave well enough alone. Sometimes things get spilled, that’s all. I didn’t want anything to spill, but sometimes the parts fall, that’s alllllll there is to it. I’ve seen the almighty Dave spill a box of parts before. Oh – one box of L-730's.”
He’s pacing back and forth and I decide that I like him and I don’t like Dave. I don’t know either of them, but I like this guy. He’s afraid and angry and I understand that. It’s difficult to be. “Al fell down on one of the parts, but you know what, fuck Al. That’s right. I said it, fuck Al. I know, I know what you’re thinking ‘oh but he’s the boss’ I know, I know he’s the boss. He should watch where the fuck he’s going. And – “ It’s about all I can take. The cave is clear and I know now that I’m running out of time. They have discovered my lair and I don’t know how much longer I have. This plan of theirs is larger than I originally thought. It’s impossible to tell how long they’ve known about me, about my cave, about my network of tubes, perhaps my network of spies and confidants. I must alert the others. They may be in harms way. The weary affects of the medi-tank are wearing off. It’s dangerous to do much after the healing charms of the medi-tank. “And he just walks around like he’s king shit of fuck mountain, you know what I mean? You know what I mean right?” There is much to be done. To the computer!
I usually just switch on the little television set in my box. It helps to drown him out when he gets out of control like he is now, he’s on fire, on a pulpit, a soapbox, a roll. “There’s no reason for them to talk to me like that. And that’s all it is, he just keeps going. And going, for no reason. And it’s all the time. He never shuts up, he just won’t.” This is the irony portion of the day. He never realizes what he’s saying. But he’s entertaining and I feel for him and despite the fact that he’s loud, he’s not really here and neither am I, we’re both off in other places and our being in the space of the other is largely incidental and so we’re friends. I think. I think that we’re friends. I like him and he likes me and as much as we are involved with each other, as much as we could be friends, we are. The screaming man from the line upstairs is my only friend and I think that maybe I’m his only friend and it doesn’t matter and we’re happy sharing the space for a few minutes a week.
It’s a big decision, to be friends with someone. It’s not an easy choice for anyone involved, even if, in this case, the person isn’t involved in the decision making process. He’s probably fine with it. And on cue he shouts, “And I’m fine with that, I’m fine with that asshole being an asshole, you know? But just give it a break now and again.” It’s good to eat during these sessions, this way it’s like we’re eating lunch together. I have someone to share a meal with. I don’t have that often. I don’t even have much food here. Eating is dangerous. But it’s good to share with someone even if they don’t even know that you’re there. It’s close enough to company.
He’s wrapping up now. “You know, I mean, c’mon. What a – ahh forget it, what’s the point? Are these the parts?”
“Great. All right man, I’ll talk to you later then. You have a good day.”
What a nice guy. I will have a good day. I’m going to really try to have a good day. As soon as I leave anyway. It’s hard to have a good day in here. It’s dark and small and I’m in a cage. Like Louie DePalma in Taxi. That kind of cage. It’s eight hours a day in a small wire cage handing small parts to small people, waiting for the whole thing to end so I can go home and go to sleep and wake up and come to work and the computer is online despite last night’s attack. I have been lax for too long, it is time to go on the offensive and take the fight to the cobramen. The compters functions are simple in these times. The computer flickers at hundreds of thousands of frames per second, the pertinant information is streamed, sub-conciously into my brain. At the appropriate time, the trigger is fired, a single bell, in the depths of the cave, post-hypnotically releasing this information into my brain. The information is coming soong. A moment longer.
Ring! The alarm. It’s still set from when I needed the alarm to alarm me to perform a set of behaviors that I’ve since outlawed. It was time for a little orange bottle full of little blue ovals and a glass of water. I no longer need them. I’ve overcome the need for them. I have rid them of my life, but I keep the alarm on my watch as a reminder. The pills are still in the drawer below the cogs and widgets in the shelves above. It’s a symbol that way. I think. It’s important to have these things nearby as a reminder of the person I used to be and the person I need to be. I’m almost there. The flickers are faster and faster the information is streaming and the colors are running into the crevices and corners of my brain, awaiting the appropriate moment. It draws nearer. There will be justice soon. My hands will find the neck of the King Cobra. He threatens my city. I will threaten his life. If he takes my city. I will take his life. This night will end with justice. He is mine and I will have him soon. There is a hunger there. My need outweighs my reason, a part of me fears for him. It will be swift, it will be brutal and it will end. This night will be his undoing. Attend to your minions, villain. I come for you now.
The end of the day is near. I have a thermos. It’s mostly gone. It usually isn’t, but my visitor encouraged me to have more soup. Not directly, but his being here was comforting and so is soup. Soup is warm and velvety and salty. It reminds me of days when I was smaller, younger. I don’t like saying smaller, I think that my younger self was bigger in a lot of ways. It’s hard to look back then, things weren’t as clear as they are now, my mission is clear. There’s not a lot to remember, but there’s enough to look back on. With or without fondness doesn’t much matter. It’s just hazy. There was a lot of yelling and empty chairs and then it shatters. It doesn’t matter. But when I was young there was soup. Soup and ginger ale. It was for when I was sick. I was sick a lot. But still, even with all that, there was a lot of my life spent being proud of myself. I still feel that way. I was sick. Ginger ale and noodle soup. But I had my moments when I was young. Big valiant shining moments. In the back yard. In the afternoon. After things were shattered and the grass was stained and the chairs were emptied. But enough. Stop. It doesn’t matter. It’s time to leave. It’s time to go back to my home and stare at the walls. The wall sconces. It’ll be better soon. I hope it gets to be better soon.
Close the cage and lock it.
The walk home isn’t long. I usually take the bus, but I don’t feel like dealing with it. I have a lot on my mind. Specifically, that little blonde creature who is following me. She’s terrifying. How is she accessing the roof? I think she said something about it after spotting me on the roof, but I couldn’t hear. I was escaping. How did she get up there, what does she want, why is she after me? Who is she, does she live in the building? Why is she after me? There are too many questions. There are so many answers now. I know where they are, it was in front of me all the time. My only hope is that I can shut down their labs before they make it to the dam. What if they make it to the dam before I get to their hideout? The terror is too enormous to conceive of. Thousands of lives will be lost. The damage will be irreparable. Billions of dollars of property damage, thousands of lives. Thousands.
I’m coming up on the lake soon. There’s a big lake right in the middle of my city it’s a beautiful spot. I mentioned the ducks. It’s enough to make the walk. It’s chilly and awful, but it’ll always be better than the bus. Always. I think I might never take the bus ever again. That yelling man told me to have a good day, and I think that I will. I think I will make this day a good day by never taking the bus ever again. It doesn’t matter how cold it gets, if it rains, or any of that. I will walk. The walk will be good for me. I think. I don’t need the hassle anymore. I didn’t need it ever. It’s important to stay healthy and exercise. I think it’ll be a good thing for me. Deep breaths. Quiet. Survey the city on the ground level.
They’re just north of here, by the Jay Nineteen pneumatic exit. I will be there in moments. I must make final preparations. The tomb must be attended to. My master must be honored. The doors must be opened. It requires much. The back wall of the cave contains a smaller secret. It is here where my master sleeps, his eternal resting place. The wounds he incurred while fighting King Cobra were too great. He was placed here, in helio stasis, here even beyond the healing reaches of the medi-chamber. The wall opens. And my Master remains. Sleeping. Resting until the day I can return the King Cobra’s venom to this site. The blood of the King Cobra the only cure for the king cobra bite. Its roots are mythic and mysterious, magical in nature. Tonight the Cobramen will be defeated, their king unseated and the city reclaimed by justice. Our paths will cross one final time, intersecting for the good of the nation. The wall will now be sealed. The cave must be sealed. I am prepared. All is in readiness. My belt activates the pneumatic lines. I’m off. Moments from now I will achieve my destiny.
The trees are rustling and alive and the walk is pleasant. The lake is aproaching. It’s quiet, it’s getting dark. The fall has arrived, the winter approaching, the nights are longer, its creeping on the horizon. It’ll be dark soon.
The arrival. They’re beneath my feet the snakes. A simple mile from the dam, their hidden nest below me. My plans are inacted. The seeds have been planted, they do not know that they are trapped. The information gathered from my attackers alerted me to the location of several key vents. The smoke billowing from them now, a small portion of the poisons enveloping the monsters below. They will sleep for days. They will live, but just barely. Walking will be painful but their nerves will learn to breathe again, but not quite soon. I almost feel guilty not facing my arch nemesis directly. His face should have met mine when I removed the blood from his body, the vicious antidote stolen from your corpse.
The ducks are gone. The weather gets too cold too soon. They leave too quickly and honk above. Alone again. There’s a small outcropping where I like to stand and leave them go by, let them see me, and let them know. It’s silly and I’m strange and people see me and think the same. It’s difficult but it’s beautiful. The joggers float by, some tight and taught some loose and breathing. Machinery clanking purposeless motion. It’s difficult to watch, but there they go. And there she is.
The blonde thing. Jogging. Of course she is. She’s underdressed and cold. I can see that she’s cold. She’s motionless, but flying. She doesn’t see me, but she must’ve, she’s looking away, not where she’s jogging, not at the ground, to the left, away from me, on my rocky outcropping in the lake. A monolithic weirdness of the guy down the hall. The one who screamed when she knocked on his door and cut his head when he hid from the sound. The terror of the rooftops, the scourge of the third floor, the terrible Ben. Please, let me look, but please, don’t look at me. And there she goes. I hope she’s happy, she ruined it for me. The keys are useless now, there’s nothing I can do with them It’s better I don’t have them, if I keep them I’d be too tempted to use them and then she’d find me and I’d have to hide again, run down again, cower and faint again.
I look at the lake and then there are ripples and then they are gone. My hideaway is gone. My secret place is dead. It’s gone for me now. It’s been ruined, sullied, spoiled the little tiny blonde creature. She has ruined my only happy place. I hate her.
I hate him. He will die. He has escaped me. The hide out is full of quivering cobramen. There are only a few missing, by my calculations. The lab is a smoky nightmare and is clearly missing at least one of the acid canisters. Just one. Even one. It could all be done with just one canister. I must kill him now. I wasn’t sure that I could, but now I must. He’s entirely too determined to destroy this city. I will destroy him. He will be lifted over my head and I will remove him from the earth. The dam will destroy him, my hands will be washed and clean, the dam will kill him. The innocents saved will hail my vengeance, my innocence. It is time. This must be the end.
It’s time to leave. I was half tempted to jump in the water for the key, (retcon) but it’s over. My lair has been destroyed, she’s destroyed it. It’s time to leave. I have to go back to my hovel and read. Think about other things.
The dam is close. There is gunfire. There are flashing lights, they are not prepared for me, they are distracted. This will be the end. I am jumping, fifty and sixty feet at a time. I am over and through trees, rocks are crumbling beneath my feet, the wilderness around me is giving way, the trees are bending, I push off the ground, fly to a tree, plant my feet on the trunk and I am through the air and I can see above the treetops, the dam is near, and he sees me. He knows I am near. He is affraid.
It’s too dark. I spent more time than I thought at the lake. She may have passed me twice. It’s difficult to know how long I was there, I lose track easily. I go away sometimes. Better places. It’s a strange walk, I don’t live in the best neighborhood. It’s always noisy and sometimes the sounds are violent. It’s like that now, I should hurry. It might be easier to cut through the edge of the woods. I might as well. I’m nearly home now and I want to get home, sit, read, battle is near. He’s surrounded by cops, they’re doomed. They don’t know who he is, he’s enormous, the bullets are deflecting, hitting other cops, they shouldn’t be on the bridge, this is hero territory. I am high above now, they don’t see me, it will take a few seconds to fall from this height. He knows, he can hear me, he is smiling. For now.
I shouldn’t walk through the park, but it’s late and I should be home. It’s more dangerous to walk on the sidewalk at this hour, people are looking for people like me on the streets, weak, small people, the park is empty. But, then, now, there is screaming. I can hear it. Keep your head down, keep moving it’s got nothing to do with you. Get home faster. There are distractions at home. I’ll immerse myself in the battle.
The cops are dead. They shouldnt’ve involved themselves. Most of them are open, and melting. There is acid for the dam, they died horribly. It is time for this to end. We are squared now. The battle is now.
The screaming is blonde. I can hear her and I know it’s her and it must be a trap. And it’s her. She’s thrashing, and there’s a black mass of cloak above her, she’s wounded and bleeding. I can’t see her villian but she’s screaming. I can’t breathe. I’m frozen and terrible and he’s winning. I’m bleeding and crushed, the dam is dissolving. The people will die, and I can’t stand. He’s unscathed and laughing. His hand is coming towards me again, I try to leap out of the way, but his left hand catches me, slams me and his left punches me. My body is breaking the dam, I’m helping and I must kill him before it’s done. It’s gone horribly. He’s eight feet tall and above me, laughing, preaching, I can’t hear him, I think my ears are bleeding, I’m spinning. Who am I to do this, this is none of my business and she’s my enemy and I can’t get home and my keys are at the bottom of the lake will be released and hundreds will die if I don’t help and I don’t know what to do and she sees me and she’s reaching and he’s laughing. His foot is over my face.
Before I know what’s happening, I’m on top of him, and she’s still screaming. She’s now more afraid of me, I think. I don’t know what’s he’s doing, he’s wriggled away from me, and he punched me. It’s terrifying, but I’m holding his legs and I don’t know why. She’s gathering herslef and her arm is broken, it’s dangling and my face is swelling, my glasses are shattered. But he’s off now and he’s limping away, I think I hurt him somehow. I don’t know how, he’s enormous, and it’s over the dam has ruptured. She’s collecting herself and he’s not leaving. He has to know he could beat me and get her in the same moment. I’m a small, weak man. It must’ve occurred to him too, he’s coming back and she’s shrieking as she runs off towards the street. The dam is liquefying, it’s slashed open and running, it’s opening further and it’s coming towards us quickly. His hand is raised and he’s got something, gleaming, high over his head, and he pushes it down into my chest there’s fire and lightning and the dam is broken, he’s left and I’m falling. The water is accepting, cold and encouraging. It’s getting dark and we let go.
Two. Two. Two. Two. Two.
I woke up in the hospital. I’m told I was stabbed with something jagged and I’m lucky to be alive. The blonde thing, Teresa, her name turned out to be, called the cops after she ran off. She ran up to someone, her arm dangling, and pulled their cell phone from their ear and called the police. She passed out immediately after calling, the shock got to her. The cops arrived and strangers were taking care of her, someone was trying to make her a splint out of some sticks they found, but it wasn’t working, eventually she was on a bus stop bench while five people stood off to the side and argued about the splint’s design. People are horrible. When the paramedics arrived, they, took her to the hospital, revived her there. All of that happened over the course of thirty minutes or so, she was being royally treated while I was bleeding on the sidewalk in the cold.
When the police found me, I’d lost a significant amount of blood and I was partially frozen to the sidewalk. I remember the following things after blacking out:
Someone mumbling blood, a few distant sounds.
I told someone that I was awake during the trip to the hospital and they told me that I was crazy, hallucinating. The road was bumpy and awful, I couldn’t breathe. I was sleepy and affraid, I went out again.
I’m in the hospital, on a stretcher, the long florecent lights moving by faster and faster, blending into a single stream of brilliance, the walls pushing back away and I’m gone again.
Then I woke up here and a blurry nurse was explaining the incident to me before a blurry police officer came in and asked me exactly what happened. I was very loopy. I was loaded on pain killers and I don’t know exactly what I said. The nurse had to explain the situation to me again later. I didn’t remember anything after dropping my keys in the lake. The blood loss affected my memory. The ‘trauma’ they said. I’d blocked it out. A nurse told me again later, she’s a stout black woman and read from a clipboard like she was reading the minutes from a board meeting: “You were walking in the park, and you saw a woman being attacked. You intervened. The man attacking her stabbed you before running off. She made her way to Stern Ave. And contacted the authorities. When they arrived, she’d passed out on a park bench, her arm was dislocated and broken in two places. Probably from being pushed to the ground. The paramedics arrived and brought her here where she was revived. She informed us that you were still in the park. When we found you, you had bled out. You almost died, Mr. Haas. You were stabbed once in the chest, the police said that you were partially frozen to the pavement upon their arrival. You were carried into a police car, the police had arrived on the scene before the ambulance, they risked taking you themselves. When you arrived – I was there, Mr. Haas – you were revived. Luckily. You’ve been unconscious for four days. I was there when you arrived, good to see you up and around Mr. Haas. We didn’t have a whole lot of hope for you. You rest up, if you need anything, you just call. I’m Denise. You rest up now. We’ll talk later if you need it, your neighbor was in a fire. I have to get over to him, now, that lady will want to be in to see you.”
There was more afterwards, and it was more of a conversation, but that’s the gist of it. She was a nice woman and didn’t seem to mind that I said “I’d rather not see her, if that’s ok.” it came out weakly, I don’t have a lot of breath, but more than that, I felt smaller than her, she’s maternal and beautiful, I wanted it to be ok. But I didn’t want to see her. And she’d be horrible and there. The nurse spoke softly and didn’t seem to care that I was there or not. She was on a schedule, and at nine fifteen on Thursday she comes and sits in a chair by a bedside and reads a police report to a victim in a soothing, melodic voice. “You were frozen to the sidewalk –“ came across as a flowery touch on an otherwise boring story about something that happened to someone else. I was listening, rapt, completely interested in this storybook reading by my lovely new friend.
After she left, everything started to sink in. I was becoming more sore, I couldn’t move, I had tubes in my nose, one from my chest, I couldnt move and there was a bed pan. It’s bright and it’s quiet and on the otherside of this wall there is a man who has been caught in a fire. Shouldn’t they separate him, he should be farther away from me. Idon’t really know what to think about that. Could he catch something from me? How do I turn off the lights from here? How long until I get to leave? When will someone tell me to use the bedpan without hurting myself. I don’t really know what’s happening. I really need to get out of here.
But it wouldn’t be for days.
Apparently, I got the “hero-suite”. I’m the only person in this room, it’s giant. I don’t know why they thought I’d need the giant room, I can’t move. I won’t be walking for a little while. But they’re fawning over me. It’s strange and I don’t trust it. They’re like most a lot of the women I’ve known in my life, frightening and impossible. They don’t seem to underestand that I want to be left alone. That I’d rather not have the morphine if it means I can be alone. I’d rather my chest feel like it were on fire, like it was being devoured, like acid was being poured on it, than see another human being in this giant, bright room. This giant room that a different nurse enters every hour to see me, to see the guy from the television who saved his neighbor in the park. It’s a big hospital and there are hundreds of nurses, each one comes in to ask if I want water, if I want ice, if I want new bandages or bed pans. To tap the tubes and ask me questions and fix the blinds and isn’t dark in here, you should get some magazines, would you like a crossword puzzle? No one has asked me if I need my glasses, they’re still in peices in the park. Each blurry nurse enters and asks questions they don’t really want the answers to, they want to stop by and gawk and hurry out to tell their friends that the hero from the park is a scrawny misery with tiny grey eyes.
It hasn’t been fun. They mean well but they’re terrifying and the hands that change the bandages are different each day but they ask the same questions about the girl, always about the girl. If she’s my girlfriend, if we’ve been friends for long, how long have we known each other, did we always go jogging together. I answer no to every question in the hopes of it going faster and they will feel that I don’t want to talk to them. But they never do, I’m not really essential to the conversation. They’ve plugged in all the answers already. They know the story they want to hear, and so they hear that story. I can’t really judge them for that, but it hurts me and I don’t like it. The whole building is devoted to healing, at least half of it is devoted to gossip. Some of the wonmen think that due to my injnuries, I lack the ability to speak, so I hear very large, horrible stories about people I don’t know and events that I don’t care about. I tink that I understand that syndrom a lot better now. Wsomen just want to talk to someone, they don’t seem to care if you’re listening or not. I cant even see them, everything is blurry, my chest is blazing and they’re telling me stories like this:
“And Julie” I don’t’ know who Julie is “was in the bathroom with Jake!” I don’t know who Jake is, either “Again! But Jake is married and he’s got kids and they’re so cute, the kids, not Jake and Julie, they’re five and seven. Once, oh my god this is so funny, little Jake, Jakes son” of course “he was on the swing set, they have this little fisher price swing set thing, it’s like pink, and it’s like he realizes this at once, that he’s a boy and he has a pink swing set, right?” Right. “And he just pushes the whole thing over. The whole thing, it’s so enormous and he’s this cute little boy, and he pushed it over and told his dad that he didnt want a pink swing set anymore, isn’t that just the best.” The blurry gossip nurse seems upset that Jake picked Julie over her, because blurry gossip nurse clearly loves Jakes children.
It goes on like this forever. I continue to not talk, and they continuously, selfishly, tell me horrible stories while I try to deal with the fact that four days ago I almost died when a large stranger stabbed me in the chest with a “Jagged Object.”
“Couldve been anything” said the police officer who came in to reiterate what Erica the nurse has already told me, but he does it more abruptly and as if we were in a sports bar. “You were in the park, you tried to help some broad, we cant disclose her name, you got stabbed, we found you on the sidewalk. Kinda frozen, did anyone tell you that, that you were kinda frozen. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen. I mean, I’ve seen frozen people before, usually homeless guys or something like that, but nobody that was still alvie, and only kinda frozen. You were blue, like blue - blue. You know?” It continued like this, it was very awkward and I thought about fainting at three or four different points when he got graphic. At one point, his friend nosed into the room and he said “Hey larry, it’s the blue guy from the other night, come say hi. What? Nah, I don’t know, he can’t talk or something, fuckin guy is deaf I guess. I know, right? Good for him, deaf guy saves the fuckin day. Hey” talking to me again “you leave the heavy lifting to us, from here on out, ok, you take it easy, you feel better.” He was genuine at least, a nice man, saved my life, and I’m thankful for that but I’d love very much to never see him ever again.
Same thing with the blonde woman, Teresa. I’m continuously needled to let her come and see me. To accept the flowers that she’s left, but I’m tired. And I’m hurt and I’m affraid. I don’t want anyone in the room with me at all. It’s too bright in here. I don’t like people and I don’t like the bright lights and the noise. Erica the nurse has only come by once or twice since I’ve been awake. She tells me that I’ll be here for at least a week. I don’t want to be here at least a week. I want to leave here as soon as I can. But I don’t think that I can walk, so that will hold me up a bit. I can’t shift in bed. The tv is on but they don’t have the channels I like. It’s going to take time. I need to remember that I’ve been stabbed in the chest. It will take time. But I don’t want it to. I want to be healed now and then I want to leave.
Sleeping is impossible. I had no idea until these last few days that I am a chronic side sleeper. Not even just a general side sleeper, I sleep on my right side, always. Roughly four times a night I wake up in searing pain as my right side folds into my wound, into the cavity in my lung, into all the awfulness that’s keeping me in this bright white box. I reflexively jump and I have to then reajust all the stupid wires and contraptions that I’m hooked up to. Invariably, this sets off one of the alarms and a sleepy, blurry nurse comes in to fix all of the wires and shut off the alarm above my bed that can only be deactivated with a three number code, in this case, four five six. I was angry when I saw the code, I thought it should be more complex, and more difficult to press by accident. If I have a traumatic event and the alarm goes off and during the traumatic event, my body finds itself in a fit of flailing, it’s possible that my hand will glance across the keypad and depress the four then the five then the six. It’s not impossible, they’re all right in a row there. If that happens, then where am I? I’m in the nightmare that I have every night just before I wake up in spasms. Thta’s the dream, every night the first dream I have, is that I’ve fallen asleep and have hurt myself, then accidentally shut down the alarm. A shaddow filters in under the doorway, it’s tall, near the door, and then, as my hand hits the buttons, the shaddow turns and recedes back to watch late night television and wait for deaths.
On the odd occasions when I fall asleep on my back, the nurses wake me up with their shuffling, or someone elses alarm goes off, usually the burn victim, and then I’m awake all over again. If it’s not that, it’s the nightmare of seeing a very large man over top of me with a glimmering something in his hand in the instant before he plunges it into my chest.
It’s a wonderful dream. One of the most vivid I’ve ever had. Each night it comes to me I wake up sweating and wishing that he’d killed me.
I dream like the movies. They’re vivid and well cast. The cameraman is a genius and he knows all the angles, every possible way to makie my nightmares as beautiful as possible. At the end of that one, the camera is above my body, bleeding and frozen, blue as a robin egg and gagging, it pulls back slowly and up through the snowflakes and past the clouds. It’s a beautiful scene. Slightly embellished, as it wasnt snowing that night, but snow is photogenic and it makes murder more tragically beautiful. That’s how the movie ends though, each nightmare the same. The camera pulls back for miles and there’s not another soul except for the poor blue and red man in the middle of the park, completely alone, a vast, heartbreaking expanse of nobody, very quietly dying.
My dreams used to be more fast paced, I don’t think my brain has caught up to itself just yet. I think it’s still short on blood. Mostly I’d dream in fractions of fragments, quick bursts of images and weirdness, ocassionally of flying. From the rooftop over the neighborhood, surveying, searching for something. Quickly cut though, still, like the frames of the film were missing, the editor a junkie. Quick flashes of images that my waking mind had stored to scare me later. Even the flying dreams were more like falling if Im honest. But, I’ll take that for me, I’ll confuse myself into flying now and again. It’s worth it to have that.
Most of the day is spent watchin ght eoor and praying that it wont fly open and loose some candystriper into my little room. Noone has really asked me what I wanted, nobody has asked me if I watned to get out of hrere, the more they don’t ask, the longer I think it’ll be. No one has asked me in a week, I might never be getting out of here. Over the last few days I’ve convinced myself that the days are longer, the nurses meaner and that I have a very problematic infection spreading over my chest and is going to kill me at any moment. I think this because noone will say when I’m leaving. I think they might just be waiting to deliver the final blow, wait until it’s too late to sue them and then let me die in this room, this room that they clear out for dead heros.
I spoke to one of the nurses today, I thought she was going to jump through th eceling when I did. She thought I was mute, psychosomatically unable to talk after the trauma. She ran to get someone. It turned out to be Erica the wonderful. She laughed when she found out I hadn’t talked to the vast majority of people who came in to check on me. She thought it was cute, romanitc, that I was a stoic, not a crazy. I think that I’m a crazy.
“She tells me you want to see a doctor” I’ve been in here a while now, I’m not awake often, but when I am, I only see nurses. “Thats how these places work, kiddo. The doctors try to check up on you while you’re sleeping, they’re busy. We do most of the actual work. The good stuff.” Oh, I said. I didn’t know. “Most people don’t.” I aked when I was going to be able to leave, but she said she didnt know, that it was up to the doctors. The ones I’ve never seen, I ask. “The very same,” she said and she alked out the door, extinguishing the lights as she went.
The days here sort of blend together. I do nothing but sit here and supposedly heal while fresh hands come in and change my bandages and leave occasional bits of gossip. Evenutally I got Julie’s side of the Jake story. “Bethany” I assume Bethany is the orginal blurry nurse who told me her part of the Jake and Julie saga. “Just keeps sticking her nose in it. She has no idea what’s going on. But she just keeps talking to me about jakes kids, and how wonderful they are, and that stupid story about the pink swingset over and over. Yes it’s cute. Yes he has kids. Yes the kids are cute. Yes Jake is cute. I get it, I get it. Shut up already though, right?” Right. Please shut up. “She has no idea what’s going on between us, she keeps winking at me evvery time I get up to go to the bathroom. Like she knows something. Sometimes I just have to go to the bathroom — oh, how is the, ok good” She pats my stomach while she checks on the bedpan. “But she makes it seem like we’re constantly off in the bathroom going at it or something. I’m a professional.Jake is a doctor here. A resident here. He’s respected, we’re not up to anything. Not here anyways. You wont’t tell anyone. Right, you can’t, I guess. But still, you see where I’m coming from.” She sounds exactly like Bethany, and tells her stories in the same jaunty, disjointed way that Bethany does. It’s irritating, but it’s better than the television. I love the television, but why not have the sci-fi channel? I’m surrounded by beeping and alarms and electronics all day long, it’d be a fun thing to watch here. Easy to get away, I wouldn’t be in a hospital, I’d be in a spaceship with a chattering alien that made no sense to me and told jaunty, disjointed stories.
“And she’s just always going on and on about it. She’s always talking about her ‘seniority’ we graduated the same year, she got her about three days before I did. I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about most of the time, but still, right?” Right. I don’t know what you’re talking about. “Oh, and that swingset? He didn’t push it over because it was pink, she’s got the story all wrong. It fell over. He’s seven, he’s getting big like his daddy and he’s too big for the thing, it fell over, almost hit his little sister. Then, when his dad asked him what happened he told him it fell, and Jake went over to fix it and then, oh man he’s sooo cute, he said ‘It’s ok, I’m too old for that and it’s pink anyway. Pink is for girls.” She laughed loudly and expresively, her arms went away from her and up in the air in a “what is this world coming to” sort of gesture. Then she expounded on the cuteness of little Jake, checked the bedpan once more, very brutally changed my bandages and left the room, turning off the lights as she went. I spent the rest of the afternoon in darkness and silence until about six, when Erica came in to feed me.
They’ve been feeding me more and more substantial meals. I think that’s a good sign, or they’re lacing my food with meds and need the heavier foods to carry them and mask them. It’s a terrifying sort of thought. I want to eat the food because I’m always so goddamned hungry, but I don’t know if they’re putting pain killers in there. I’ve been refusing them lately. I don’t really trust pills and I don’t really like being here and feeling good. It makes staying here bearable and I want them to see how much I hate it. I want them to see that they should hurry up the treatments so I can get out of this place. Erica says I’ll be on my feet soon. That a doctor will talk with me soon. But not a physician she warns. She warns me as she goes back out before turning off the lights.
The rest of that night is sleepless. I don’t want to have the dreams again, and now they’d be peppered with Erica’s little frightened warning about the non-physician. I’m assuming they’re sending in a councilor to see “what’s all this about the no-talking then” It makes for a long, dark night, but I wouldn’t have slept much anyway. The burned man next door must have died during the night, and there’s a huge commotion and crying. I hate the hospital and I want to leave very badly now. It’s getting longer and longer and the food is thicker and thicker and they’re drugging me and I know it and the people around me are dying and I don’t want to talk to a psychiatrist ever again. They can’t make me, I don’t think. What if the physician is Jake? I don’t think I could take a third side of that story. Who could possibly have three separate stories about a swing set. This place is awful.
The psychiatrist is terrifying. Uselessly so. I’ve had experiences with psychiatrists in the past, it’s not pleasant situation. It was around the time when that’s all you heard about on television, everyone was going to councilors, people were tlaking about it on talkshows, mentioning their “shrinks” like they were mentioning an aunt or uncle, someone close enough to them to be refered to by a demeaning name without causing any harm. Someone who was able to be playfully jabbed in the ribs, elbowed affectionately. Everyone was going to see a psychiatrist to talk out their problems, to work things out, to communicate, to clear the air, and a million other polite euphimisms for letting someone into their brain and tinkering. Letting another mans hands creep up behind you and work his way in through your ears with convincing and oddly phrased questions and compliments. Memorizing your every movement, judging every word, every sound, any move towards the complimentary water, a ballet of subjectivity, dancing swriling around your precious mind while you chit-chat unawares. Just a casual conversation with a nice man in an ugly vest, a disarmingly ugly vest. Every little bit of the situation a controlled, thoughtful movement so at the end of a two hundred dollar hour, he can reach into his little drawer, the one he keeps spare pictures of his family in to switch out as each patient might have different needs. The patient with daddy issues has to face the picture of the doctor with his father that is sitting on his desk facing the couch, a giant fish between them, others get other pictures, maybe a shot with his mother, his kids, his wife, a pink swingset. Who knows. It’s dizzying to think about, you have to at least admire the machination of it all. All the world’s a stage.
Then, at the end of it, he reaches for that little white pad of his and fills out a paper for a gigantic white man, white even set against the ceiling tiles and fake lighting of the pharmacy, a man you look into more than up to, a gleaming spectre of a man, so that he might hand you a bottle full of secret potions. Little plastic capsules of magical nightmares, spiders eyes, eel perfumes, squid ink, dried and encapsulated, and a bony hand reaches over the counter and closes the distance, an impossible distance, his arm continuously stretching, his hands become more and more bony as he pats the bottle in your top pocket before you know it’s there. His eyes glow yellow, his white hair whispy and immeterial and says “good luck, son.” You are not his son, and he calls you this anyway. He looks like death and you can make out the wall behind him through his torso, the world shrinks down, far, far beneath you both, and your left floating and staring into each other. A little label on a little orange bottle told him all about you, he knows you through and through, and he reaches to pat the bottle again, but goes right past and gently holds your heart in his skeleton hand, his face shrunken away, just bones now, his giant, skinless smile tickled on the edges by his mop of underwater hair, he squeezes it gently and it stops just enough. Just to kill you a little bit, the pills are in there now, he’s done it and you’re gone and far away and ripped back into the pharmacy on Lee Street, an elderly pharmacist is staring at you oddly, the line is angry and everyone is staring at you, “may I help you son?” But he can’t. He’s already killed you, the doctor and his ghostly companion, they’re done with you now.
That’s the last time I went to the pharmacy. I went directly outside and poured the contents of the bottle into the sewer. Hopefully the fish aren’t having anymore night mares, day dreams or visions. Or any combination of those. Oh to be a fish. It’s an easier life, more straight forward, the bigger fish don ‘t wear ugly sweaters.
Erica comes in a little before noon, after the Price is Right but before Hogan’s Heros. I would’ve won a car if I’d been on that day, I usually wouldve won the car most days. Most people are ridiculous and stupid. Don’t listen to the audience that much, but don’t completely ignore them either, it’s a tightrope walk, nobody seems to realize that the audience is the crux of that whole show, find your corner and focus. It’s almost always the one just above higher than the middle, but not yet the highest. Example: If you’re given four options for a soap and the numbers are a dollar, a dollar thirty seven, two dollars and two dollars and ninety nine cents, the answer is almost always two dollars. Almost always, Bob will throw you a curve ball now and again, but for the most part, it’s two dollars. Life is rarely that simple and when it is, jesus it’s about the most beautiful thing in the world.
Anyway, Erica tells me about the doctor coming to see me, that he’s a nice man and wants to help me. More importantly, that it’s hospital protocol and I won’t be released until I see this Doctor Who Ever The Hell He Is. I heard his name but didn’t want to hear it, I don’t remember what it is now, but it was a new name, no one from the past. They must’ve transferred my files from Dr. Moray.
With this new information, I realized that it was time to make my escape. I haven’t been on my feet in a week or more, since I foolishly helped that Teresa person who won’t leave me alone. It shouldn’t be that difficult, I just have to disconnect myself from all the wires and tubing without setting off the four five six alarm. Then, I just have to sneak out the door and out of the hospital. I don’t know exactly what floor I’m on, but the elevators are usually towards the middle of the building, unless it’s a very old building, then it’s off to the outer wall, but, I think Chester is a newer hospital. So it should be towards the middle of the building. Get in the elevator, go downstairs, hail a cab and go home. I can go home, be with my books and I’ll be done with all of this. I can get back to my little life. All of this attention is nausiating and that doctor will try to kill me. I can’t have that happen.
He’s scheduled to be by in a few hours, I’ve got all the time in the world to plan and I’m just about done planning. The only real issue is getting into my apartment. I didn’t really think everything through that night by the lake. I threw my key ring into the lake instead of removing the key to the elevator, to my lair that that harpie stole from me. But Ms. Jackson should still have my extra key, and someone will buzz me in. I hope. So I can get out of here, and I can get in my apartment, but I don’t have my clothes and I don’t have any money. Think. Think. Think.
Ah! The paper. I’m on the front page of that stupid newspaper. Erica left it here for me to bask in my wonderfulness, but it’s stupid and I hate it, but a cab driver would have to give me a free lift, I’m feeble, weak and small and I saved a horrible blonde woman from the evil clutches of a rapist. I think that’s worth a cab ride home away from this villainy. He’d have to, and then he’d call me ‘mac’ and whisk me away from all of this. Clothes aren’t really all that important, I’ve got the hospital frock, and I’ll just grab some sheets from the bed, and I’ll walk out like Ceasar, but after he’d been stabbed, I suppose. I think this is going to work fine. I’ve got one more nurse coming in a few moments, and then I’ll just walk out of here. Four five six the alarm and then walk right out. I can’t even think of an easier thing.
“Morning!” Morning. “How are we feeling” Anticipatory. “Still not talking huh, does it hurt to talk?” Yes. Yes it hurts to talk. “Poor thing, we’ll up the drip for you, would you like that?” I wouldn’t. Doesn’t matter. I’ll be free soon. They cannot keep me here if I don’t want to be here. “Let me see these bandages, we have to change these every day, you know.” I know, you always say this, red haired, southern accented nurse, I know you have to do it every day. I know about gangrene and “gangrene, my grandfather had that” during the war the “poor thing. He was in” World war two “and he was” out on a mission with his platoon, “guys he was friends with” till the day he died “he used to talk about them at” Dinner time, holidays “mostly. That’s when he missed them most, you know. They were good” men. “Johnny and Rico” were the only ones that you “ever met. But good men.” Anyway “he got shot in the leg by one of those German fellers” and he just fell right down in the “muck. But the boys they went back” picked “him” up “and” carried “him” to “safety.” Safety in numbers dear, you shouldn’t be walking through that park all by yourself. “If nobody found you, you wouldve died, you know. You should be more careful, little thing like you.” This was the first time she brought me into the story, usually she starts talking about the importance of clean socks. It’s refreshing in a way, but, it just makes me more eager to walk out the door, get on the elevator, get in a cab and walk right home. All by my lonesome. “There, all done, doesn’t that feel nice?” It doesn’t, it’s a stab wound. “I thought so, well I’ll leave the lights like you like them, but you really should get some sun in here, it’d be good for you to have some sun. Some sort of light anyhow. You feel better now.” She turned the lights off as she went.
After her big speech about how a little person like me shouldnt ever be alone, not ever, I decided that it was time to leave. I reached up to the alarm, the one that was going to sound directly after I removed the heart monitor patches from my chest. Three two one four five six. Barely a peep. I lay still for a moment, waiting to see if they would react to the beep. No one did, southern nurse mustve been deep in her clean sock world.
The tubes come out easily, if a little painfully. I never thought I’d do something like this, it’s just that it’s less painful than being here and hearing about swingsets and socks and bandages and how lucky I am to be alive. How lucky? The nostril tubes go farther in than they feel, it’s very uncomfortable and my brain eats the feeling for nightmare fuel. Doesn’t matter now, the shrink will be here soon. (RetconShrink: hateful term when he uses it) There’s goo and pus and awfulness leaving me where the tubes had been. My body is crying with relief. Crying from each arm, my nose and eyes. I’m untangled and free to stand up and walk out of this place.
I swung my feet over the edge of the bed, then sat up, then, my chest ripped open, and I fell forwards onto the floor in an explosion of pain, the wound reopened and bleeding onto the tile and everything is flooding out around me. Four five six. Four five six. Four five six. I find myself hoping that the shrink comes early just before I pass out. I figure it’s the end and I sigh as much as I’m able to. This is becoming a familiar feeling, this floating, swimming in blackness and when it comes I welcome it as the end and an escape from the shrink, the one who was going to come and play with my brain, my insides and then leave me to rot here with the swing sets and socks and bedpans. Roughly handled every day by strangers, and their conversations with themselves. Each one more depressing than the next and there’s copper on my tongue now and then I’m completely gone, vanished and away.
I hear beeping. It’s reassuring and terrifying at the same time. I’m alive. I don’t really know how to feel about this anymore.