His face was as buttery and oily as freshly gutted ambergris, and his hair was as wiry as a curry comb. He was one of the first Americans to ever be seen by the natives of the island. He shoved his ferry ticket deep into his waistcoat and entered the village. The natives stopped as they watched him pass their rough homes built primarily of soft clay. He had heard that the natives of the island were highly superstitious and had went there to sell his many perfumes, narcotics, and miracle elixirs to them.
“Fresh, untainted minds.” he whispered as he noticed their simple ways of life. There were wrinkly old women tying leaves together as children played obscure games of tag and hop-scotch. He had arrived from the big city. Everybody there was too busy to stop and shop his wares. But these people had never seen the likes of him, and would surely be willing to buy anything.
He unfolded his briefcase into a small stand. He had it specially designed for ease of use. Metal arms sprung forth at the push of a button, and with the flick of a wrist, the entire arm bent to hold the case aloft. This action had already attracted some strange patrons. The people sat and stared as he placed a small wooden sign on the edge that read Thomas Toomley's Tantalizing Tinctures and Things. Most of the natives knew the English tongue already, although most of them could not read the sign. The missionaries from the neighboring islands had been visiting the islands for decades.
A young boy approached the stand. He wore a coarse-knitted shirt and had no pants. His tan skin browned in the tropic sun. He put his lips together and whispered a strange word.
“Idenk?” he said strangely.
“What? I speak English, kid.” he waved his hands dismissing the lad.
“Candy?” he held out his dirty hands and repeated the word.
“I have candy...” he fiddled around in the briefcase and pulled out a small bag of gumballs, “10 cents.” the boy's eyes widened.
“Candy?” he reached for the bag.
“Money.” he repeated. The boy scratched his head and pulled out a strange orange flower. “What the hell is this?” he turned the flower over in his cracking thumbs, “A flower?”
“Money.” the boy chirped.
“Fine, money,” he stuffed the flower in his pocket, “Candy.” Thomas gave the boy one shiny red gumball. The boy popped it into his mouth and scuttled off to his grandmother, who was not far away.
“Oat idenk aloa!” he grinned at the woman. She hit the side of his head and pointed at the house.
Thomas hadn't thought of that. The people here didn't have American money. They didn't have real money. “It's not all bad, I suppose.” he placed the orange flower in his briefcase, “If anything, I'll just sell the useless junk these people give me to the saps back home.” he smiled and his yellowing grin caught the sunlight above.
A small crowd had formed around the traveler. He traded them strange bottles of dark liquid in exchange for hats, painted stones, and jewelry. One by one, they traded him their sweat-stained handicrafts for his frivolous wares. Most of the people treated him like a God-given medicine man. They asked him for cures, prayers, and blessings. Luckily for the villagers, he had enough divinity to spare.
“Sir Toomley, sir?” A small man approached with a young boy in his arms.
“Yes, my dear man? What can I do ya for?” He lifted his ‘miracle elixir’ to sun and polished its curvaceous vessel.
“It is my son. He has had the shiver past two moons. Can you help him, sir Toomley?” He felt the child's head. It was sticky with sweat. He hadn't dealt with a serious situation like this yet. He scrambled through his things and found a tiny pill.
“Here sir, this will cure the boy of what ails him.” The man stuffed a hand down his pants and returned with a bone tooth bracelet. “Oh sir, this magical rock is free!” the man nodded and smiled at him. “But-” he handed the man a bottle, “This will be extra.” he winked. The man's smile faded and he gave him the bracelet. “Swallow the rock, and your boy will be better by tomorrow.” The man nodded and walked off.
“Coca-cola...” The man squinted as he read the bottle and walked off. The sun was beginning to set and the traveling man found a shady tree to sleep under for the night. He had been told stories about insects the size of house cats here in the tropics, so he knew he would sleep uneasily that night. It wasn't that he was afraid of bugs, it was that he was afraid of death. He chuckled and wondered if he might have some miracle cola for his own infected insect bites. The moon descended as he drifted off to sleep.
Midnight dew moistened his dirty brow and sunk into his eyes. He woke up and wiped his face.
“Who would ever want to live in this hell hole?” he rustled around and found a less comfortable position. He closed his eyes once more when he heard a strange sound coming over the village. It sounded like the ground beneath him was popping and sizzling, yet nothing had changed. He felt the dirt and noticed that there were tiny black insects digging their way to the surface, he threw the dirt on the ground and walked himself to the center of the village. The was a torch still on inside of the one of the homes and he went to it. He was going to knock on the door when he realized that there was a woman staring back at him through a window.
“Excuse me, ma'am? What are these little bugs?” he was nearly shouting over their incessant crackling. She tilted her head to the side and twisted her mouth into a look of disdain. She went to open the door and invited him in. He accepted her offer and she gave him a blanket of fur and a stuffed animal hide. He laid down on the ground near a hearth and she brought him a bowl of brown water and he accepted it, but didn't drink it. She smiled and left him alone.
It was curious to him, that a complete stranger who didn't even speak his language could be so hospitable to a creature of his gaudy caliber. The popping noises outside continued into the night, but they didn't fill him with terror, they gently lulled him to sleep.
The sun flitted warmly around on his face. He opened one eye first, just so that he could get a little more sleep. Then he opened the other after falling back to sleep a few more times. The sounds of outside had been replaced with the murmuring of voices and he would occasionally hear merchants yelling. He fixed his thick black hair with greasy fingertips and made his way to the kitchen. He wanted to thank the kind woman who had let him stay there, but she was nowhere to be found. He grabbed his portmanteau and opened the front door. There was a crowd hovering outside of the small home and they had all let out a loud burst of excitement once he entered the sunlight.
He had never been welcomed with such praise and was speechless. He had done nothing to win their admiration, yet there were signs everywhere with his name and strange symbols. He waved at them and they waved back. They were enthralled with him and he had to understand why. He pulled a gentleman aside.
“Excuse me, sir, but what do these signs mean?” he gestured at the crowd
“Thomas kangasalam.” he beamed.
“Yes, but that's not my name.” he frowned. The man didn't understand and a woman came over.
“Thomas Kangasalam!” she screamed and embraced him.
“What does that mean?” he struggled to speak through her thick braids.
“You are the magic Thomas.” she gave him a flower and brought her friends over.
“Magic? I'm not magic!” the mass enveloped him and disagreed.
“You stopped the shivers, sir Thomas, sir!” They cheered.
“The shivers?” he whispered. “Of course, the little boy! They think I'm magic?”
“Please Thomas Kangasalam! Bring us your magic pebbles!” rang out a voice from the crowd.
“And the elixir of magic! Coca-cola!” The people who had the soft drink the day before raised their bottles into the air. The other members fell to their knees in admiration and chanted the magical words endlessly.
Thomas obliged and the people bought everything he had. They gave him fancy jewelry and shiny gems. One woman tried to trade her youngest daughter for some coca-cola. He declined graciously and continued the charade. He sold his last magic pebble as the sun was setting behind a large tropic tree on the horizon. He sighed and fiddled through his loot. He would be able to make quite the profit when he arrived back home, and smiled greedily at his rewards.
“Sir Toomley?” a soft voice quivered through the thick air. He wheeled around to see a pretty woman standing there.
“Yes? I am the fantastic and powerful Thomas kangrasalami!” He paused thinking that something didn't sound quite right, “What can I do ya for?” he smiled.
“There is something that I must ask of you.” she inspected the dirt and adjusted her linen shirt. He was surprised by her English and wondered what she could need. He couldn't possibly sell her anything; he hadn't anything to sell! (Though he thought of selling his own clothes and shoes).
“Yes, my dear?” his interest was genuine, although his intentions were rather wicked.
“I need some courage.” her hands turned into a fist. “I need some courage.” she looked him in the eye and quickly shifted her gaze once more.
“Courage?” he muttered absently. He hardly knew the word. He had never had any courage himself, and had never really wanted any of it. But the question was interesting. “For what?” he shook his head back and forth subconsciously.
“For the Watsche.” her face wrinkled and she looked as though she were in pain.
“The Watsche?” Thomas had never heard of such a thing.
“He comes to me in the night and-” her eyes leaked with brine, “I'm afraid of him, sir Toomley.” Her eyes flickered to his and then back to the dirt.
“Who is he? What is he?” He put a hand on her cheek. (A motion which he was rather proud of.)
“It is a very complicated story and I-”
“I have all the time in the world.” He checked his watch. She smiled and nodded gently.
“When I was a very young girl, my father was attacked by the Watsche. I was sleeping in my room when I heard the sound. It was the sound of something stepping on tongues. It was coming from my father's room and I went to see what it could be. I brought my flame from my room and illuminated his. My father's arm was in the air and it was bleeding. I went closer to him when I saw it. Its eyes were like muddy water. It dripped down the face and into nothingness. I tried not to look at it, but I couldn't help it. It was slowing skinning my father alive. It moved its long sharp fingers along his skin; they were like knitting needles and they pulled his flesh from his bone. I tried not to yell but I couldn't help it. The creature stopped and looked at me. It stared into my soul. My father awoke and the beast crawled through the window. It was like a spider. It had no mouth or nose. It was just a face with eyes.” Her eyes had glazed over with emotion and she breathed heavily.
“Did it ever come back?” Thomas tried not to smile. The idea of something so gruesome had to be some silly native myth.
“The Watsche never returned to the village. The people of the town regard my father and I as protectors. We scared them away. But I don't feel like a hero.”
“Then why do you fear them?” he questioned quite honestly. She ignored his statement and continued.
“The Watsche never harmed my father again, but he lives with his mutilation as a reminder of darker times.”
“Well, I'm afraid to say that I have no elixirs for courage. But, if it makes you feel better, I could stay with you tonight...” He leaned close to her and fixed his hair.
“Oh! Really Sir Toomley?! I would love that!” She swung her arms around him.
“Please! Please! Call me Thomas!” he grinned and walked her home.
She showed him the guest bedroom and he put his suitcase down in it. It was a modest commode. There were thatch pillows and thin blankets. He made himself at home for a few minutes and stared into the ceiling. His thoughts were focused intently on the young girl in the living room and he walked out to where the girl had been. She was on her knees and rubbing dirt into her hair.
“What are you doing?” he blurted without thought.
“Umi Umaata” she whispered. She continued the process. He watched in silence as she did this. It was so primitive- it was so primal. She didn't notice him. “The mother speaks to us. She keeps us forever; she keeps us in the mud.” She got up and opened all of the windows.
“The breeze is nice,” he attempted to make casual conversation, as he sat next to her on the floor.
“The air is nice.” she looked at him lazily and closed her eyes. Thomas restrained himself from staring at her skin. It had been ages since he had been with a woman. Her shirt was lifting on her hips and he saw a discoloration.
“What's that?” he motioned at that mark.
“Oh.” she murmured. “That's my fear.” she blinked and twisted her face.
“What do you mean?” he didn't try to understand. She lifted her shirt. She blushed and his eyes widened. Her skin was a crude quilt of flesh and bone. There were patches of skin missing and her bones could be seen through the thin film of her fresh skin. He pursed his lips and lost his nightly ambitions.
“The Watsche never returned to the villagers, but he returns to me. I'm afraid that he grows impatient with me; I'm afraid that he will mark me.” Her breath grew shallow and her eyes watered. The ground began to hiss and crackle outside.
“That noise! What is it?” Thomas went to the window and saw the ground shift and pulse.
“That's the noise of our ancestors. When someone passes on, the mother gives them the test of the dirt. Every night, our ancestors press through the soil to the surface above. Broken fragments of their once thriving bodies. Once they writhe through the rocks and sand, they will ascend to the Moon Kingdom; the kingdom of our creators.”
Thomas knew the answer couldn't be a serious one, but he didn't want to offend her.
“What's in the Moon Kingdom?” he tried to feign interest in her strange beliefs.
“We don't know. But to be with our great mother would be reason enough; reason enough to push through the soil for eternity.” She gazed out the window with him and admired the pulsating earth.
“I'll make a fire.” she touched his back and it made him tingle.
The night pressed on and she asked him about the place he came from. He told her about skyscrapers, democracy, and money. She was fascinated by his tales and he told her that he was a very important man back home. The moving muck outside gently rocked the two to sleep and she fell asleep on his chest. Her name was Oneika. His name was Tom.
A wail pierced through Thomas' head and jolted him out of his sleep. He jumped to his feet and stumbled across the floor. “What is it?” he looked for Oneika and rubbed his forehead. His head was pounding and he allowed his eyes to adjust before continuing. He tripped through her bedroom door and saw her standing there, shaking.
“The mark.” she cried out once more and fell to the floor.
“What mark?” he inquired just as he realized that she had no hair. Her skin was a paler and her eyes were hazy.
“He's marked me, Thomas,” she spoke something low in her native tongue.
“What are you talking about?”
She looked deep into his eyes.
Since the times of ash and rain, there had been creatures which served the great Mother of creation. They were messengers of her highness and would prepare her people for ascension. The creatures were without name, but the people of the village called them the Rippers. The Rippers would come to the chosen in the middle of the night and strip them of all impurities. They would awake; pale and hairless forms of themselves. In the times before the darkness, this was considered a gift of the mother. After the moon would pass three times, the great Rippers would return to skin the chosen ones. The skinless sacrifices would usually die in their sleep and be buried in the grounds beyond time. But when the darkness came across the village, the Rippers became insatiable, marking many people in the same night and harvesting them before morning. The people pleaded with the Mother, but their pleas were unheeded and the harvest continued. Those who were marked were ignored and many were tied up and thrown deep into the woods for the mother to finish them off before sunset. That was until Oneika had stopped it.
“I have three days, Thomas. By that time, the Watsche will return for me.”
“Why do you call it the Watsche?”
“That's his name. He told me that the night I stopped him from taking my father. I cannot forget.”
Thomas realized that Oneika was not just a strong believer in her peoples' beliefs- she was a victim. He placed his arms around her and reassured her that no harm would come to her. He knew there was nothing that a poor salesman could do for her, but he would wait the three days and see if the Watsche was real.
“When the Ripper is meant to return, I will stay awake all night. I will protect you.” He lifted his pant leg and revealed a pistol that he kept there.
“Thank you Thomas. You are a good friend.” she kissed him on the brow and went to find some clothes to cover her hairless condition. She found a strange hat made of an animal fur and a scarf of banana leaves.
For three nights, he sleeps by her side. The popping of souls outside seems to grow louder with each passing night, and on the third night, she takes him to a hill on the horizon.
“This place is where I grew up. My father and I used to play here.” she squeezes his hand. “Long ago, when this place thrived with life and existence.” She points towards the dead trees and greying brush. “The Mother lit this place aflame. She was angry at us. She wanted to teach us a lesson.” She looked at him and kissed him on the lips. “I have never been with a man. Would you be with me on my last night in this world?” Thomas realized that this is what he had been waiting for.
“I would love to.” He laid her down on the dirt and they made love on the hill. The two slept naked and Thomas tried not to fall asleep there. His eyes grew heavy and he carried her back to her home. He made a fire and covered her with a blanket. He gazed at her patchwork skin and sighed. His feelings were strange. For the first time in his life, he had someone he actually cared for. He pulled his pants back on and admired her on the floor. The ground began to sing once more and he waited for the Watsche to return.
He leaned against the wall and looked deep into the ceiling. His eyes drifted and he grew tired. The night was comforting. He closed his eyes for a few minutes and then opened them to check on Oneika. She was fine. He closed his eyes and folded his hands in front of him once more.
Gurgle. Squish. He picked his head up and looked around. That was the noise she had said; the noise of stepping on tongues. He didn't notice anything and stood up. He went to the window and thought that it must have been the ground, but then the noise came again. He spun around and saw a shadow with dripping orange eyes. Long spikes sprung from its many arms and it rubbed them gently across her back.
Thomas bent down to get his gun and realized that he hadn't loaded it. He couldn't believe that she was telling the truth. There it was, with its knitting-needle-fingers, and its murky eyes that drip like water. He pulled the shells out of his pocket and kept his eyes on the creature. It moved its fingers slowly and quietly. Slowly it lifted her skin from her back as if it hadn't been attached at all. He put the shells in the chamber.
Click. The Watsche turned to him. “You have no business here Traveler. Return to whence you came.” It had no mouth to speak, but its words echoed through the room. It went back to skinning his beloved. He pulled the hammer and aimed at the thing. He couldn't tell where he should aim, but he aimed for the dripping eyes. The shot rang out and went through monster. It wailed and Oneika awoke. She turned on to her back and looked deep into the eyes of her nightmare.
“Thomas!” she exclaimed as she felt her back, staining the floor with blood.
“Oneika!” He tried to run over to her but the Watsche blocked him. Orange ooze dripped through the wound and it laughed.
“Pathetic creatures. Always fighting. Always struggling.” It pushed Thomas back with one of its many tendrils. He could now see the full expanse of the thing. It hurt his eyes to look at it and he grew afraid. At the end of every leg were sharp needles. More legs grew out of the nothingness and lifted Oneika high into the air. It carried her out the window and didn't remove its hold on Thomas until it was out of sight.
He fell to the floorboards and gasped for air. It was real! It was all real. He trembled with horror and knew that he had to go after her. He had made a promise to protect her. He jumped through the window and felt the ground pushing up against him as he went. He had no idea where he was going, but he went to the summit of the burning hill and saw a glimpse of the creature crawling silently through the dead forest.
He tumbled down the hill and jumped back to his feet. He dodged the branches and ran for what seemed hours. Oneika had already stopped screaming and a dense fog rose from the earth. He pressed on until he noticed that the trees grew sparse. Eventually the ground was just a grey mass of nothingness. He kept running and could now see the black thing in a sea of grey. The moon above shifted uneasily and he tried not to be afraid. But he was afraid. And the creatures knew it. He turned to see if he could still see the forest behind him, but it had vanished. All around him was a blank world. He could still hear the writhing earth, but it was very far away.
He spun around a saw a wave of darkness coming from the horizon. It came silently and he could see it growing larger and larger. He tried to retreat but it was inevitable. The black wave was a torrent of black beetles and other insects. The darkness swallowed him and he was swept away with it. He choked on their shiny black hulls and tried not to breathe. They chewed and bit at him until he was fully infested. He went in and out of consciousness. Slowly, the insects retreated and left him on the blank canvas of grey.
“Hello Thomas.” A tepid voice washed over him. He looked up and saw the ivory skin of a massive creature. “I'm thoroughly impressed, traveler.” he sat up and his eyes adjusted to the strange amber light. The creature before him was a large faceless spider-like creature. Her arms were infinite and each of them ending in spikes. She had long trails of skin hanging all around her. Blood, fingernails, hair and bones adorned her body and she kept herself aloft with her many tendrils.
“Do you know who I am, Thomas?” she lowered her faceless face to his. He shook his head. “I am the great mother of creation- I am the seamstress of everything you see.” she paused and scratched his chin with her nails. “Do you know why I have allowed you here?” He shook his head once more. “You drown in ignorance and folly. Every orifice is dripping with anticipation.” She lifted Oneika and threw her down next to him. “This girl is nothing. She will join the earth and be renewed.”
“Oneika!” he struggled to yell her name.
“What a pretty name for such a pretty thing.” She peeled away Oneika's face and placed it over her facelessness. “Yes? My dear?” She roared with laughter and sighed. Thomas' eyes filled with tears as he saw the bloody mass lying next to him. “Oh don't worry, Thomas, her skin will be put to good use. After all, that's what I do...” She raised a nail in the air and spawned a horde of dark creatures from the dirt. “In your world, your people die from old age, but the people of this tribe don't die so easily. They are immortal and without coaxing will live forever. But they must be harvested. Your people slowly kill themselves with things of your own design. It really makes my job easier. That's why I brought you to the island. I knew that you would try to sell them your deadly poisons. Now that they enjoy the taste of your elixirs, they have been tainted and will perish with age. They have been a thorn in my side for so long. Oneika would have be immortal if we didn't kill her ourselves. Your people drown and drip with plague. My crawlers steal your guts and skin whilst you rot in the grave.” She whispered her words into his face.
“No!” he spit up blood as he spoke.
“Hush creature. You have done well.” She pet him gently with a needle-like hand. Thomas gritted his teeth and made his way for his gun once more. He fingered the triggered and with his last bit of strength lifted it to her head and shot it. She retracted and lifted herself far off the ground.
“You ungrateful swine!” a dagger shot through the ground and lifted him high into the air to her level. “I created you from the flesh of others! It is the great circle of existence, and with or without you it shall continue. You have performed your purpose.” He slipped down the spire and it dug itself deeper inside him. “You are now useless to me; you are now useless to the human race.” He vomited blood on her and sputtered as he tried to scream. She slowly peeled away his skin as he twisted.
“Please.” his lungs filled with fluid. “This isn't fair!” He exclaimed to the nothingness.
“Fair?!” she dropped him from the sky and he collapsed on the ground.
“Isn't there anything I can do?” he grasped at his chest.
“Sure. I'll give you a fighting chance. But only because it's oh so amusing to watch the helpless squirm. If you survive the Rippers, I'll let you go.” He fought to his feet and held his gun at his side. He nodded and she released the creatures down upon him.
They fell down upon him, their spikes and shards pushing deep into his flesh and bone. He shot one in the head and kicked another back away. But it was a useless battle. The Rippers dug him into the ground and stripped away his skin. He gazed helplessly as his skin came off in sheets and chunks and were draped around the neck of the great Seamstress.
“Nothing can give creation to nothing. When something loses its purpose it is meant to be disposed of; meant to be harvested and reused. Now you will return to the soil.” her body was cloaked in shadows once more.
With his last breath of air, he let out a wail, “But what about the Moon Kingdom?” She turned her head.
“There is no such thing. You will die here. You will be returned to the dirt from whence you were born.” His blood soaked the ground and he went in and out of consciousness. “Like lost creatures of the depths, all flesh must rot. Come now, my children, devour the tainted; devour the corrupt! For this abhorrent corpse shall now join your cause. He will now be one with your crusade of the mire!”
The black beetles crawled over his wet flesh and bore deep into him.
He opened his eyes. There was blackness. He felt the coarse gravel around his face and struggled back and forth against the grains. He followed the other black creatures that knew the way to the surface. Night after night they went forth, crackling and shifting as they went. His effort to reach the sky from his deep abyss a useless and meaningless endeavor.
This is entropy.
That thing which yields the end of worlds-
That force which subjects haphazard snowflakes
lest the whim of Yggdrasil intervene.
Inside my mind, I created the best me I could. I garnished it with all of those things which I wished I had and I hung it up neatly upon the wall next to all of the accolades which I wish that I had as well. Then I took a step back, to see this new found thing that I had created.
It was disgusting.
This thing was not me, but the things I wanted to be- In one hand it had a filthy cigarette, and in the other it held a wilting rose. A hopeless romantic, with no regard for his own life. While I loved the idea of the creature splayed across the walls, I noticed that it was not happy. Even with all of the things that I had provided it could not satiate its deepest fetishes. It wanted nothing but flesh, flesh by the pound. Its teeth were stale, and its eyes were fiery.
The beast I had created was not happy.
What does one do with unhappy things? I decided to put it out of its misery. I grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen drawer, albeit ironic for myself, and placed its serrated edge against its rugged flesh. It raised a cigarette to its lips and then, with a puff, dropped it to the floor.
Sanguinity painted the walls, and the shadow of its body could be seen within the dust which it had accumulated after decades of hanging there- waiting to be cut loose; waiting to wait no more. When I had slain the beast which once laid so nicely upon the wall, I picked my own feet up from off the floor and placed them below my knees.
To those who believe that the most exciting things in life come through those things which we can control, I can attest to quite the opposite. Relive the moments of speeding down the highway, listening to a song with a message and a rhythm. You're not the driver, but a passenger with no say. You roll down the window, even though frost has already begun its siege upon your tepid bones. The wind blows through your hair, as you spin across wild landscapes which three-piece-suits have gagged and built into submissive sex slaves. Pavement covering their wild streaks, and much-too-tall buildings where their own dreams should have been.
This feeling is electric- and to feel anything but electricity, is to feel nothing at all.
And after all, shouldn't we be grateful for the pain of icy breath? We should be happy that we have the ability to feel pain at all- in all of its forms. So never dread the rain for fear of wetness, or the storm for fear of destruction. Just be glad that you are able to feel despair at all.
#diary #self-reflection #angsty
I feel full
Last night I dreamt I ate a woman whole. Not just the meat, but the hair and the teeth and everything. Why would I dream such an awful thing? Why would I think these things? Is it something wrong with me? These thoughts- these intrusive thoughts almost seem to be like distant memories. Wasn’t it Plato that said that true knowledge is just the immortal soul remembering what it forgot in the trauma of birth? I think that was Plato. Could it truly have been I that dreamt such a wicked dream? Perhaps it is just my imagination. She tasted absolutely vile- but, I can’t stop thinking about it.
I can’t stop thinking about her face. Who was she? She didn’t seem afraid- she almost seemed to want it? Almost as if she had asked me to- no, that’s not right. Who is she? I can almost feel her black hair still caught in my teeth, even though I know it was just a dream.
A dream? Why do I keep calling it that? It must have been a nightmare- but no. Nightmares make you wake up in a cold sweat, make you shiver and be thankful that you awoke. This dream left me feeling… full?
That’s wrong right? The thought of it now makes me want to throw up, but I’m almost afraid to. As though I may lose that phantom woman if I do. But what if I lose her? I don’t know that face. What’s the use of losing someone I have never seen?
It’s like going into a small town and feeling that pang in your chest; the pang of nostalgia and homesickness- but you’ve never been there before. Nostalgia for a time and place that never existed. That’s her. I yearn to know her name; I yearn to devour her again; I yearn for her to beg me. Is that sadistic? Am I a freak? I must be.
But I’m full. She’s within me- somewhere. Is this what a pregnant mother feels like? To feel the heartbeat of another within me? Have I suffered the trauma of birth? Why did she taste so bitter? Almost like instant coffee. Her nails were dark like soot and her forehead caked with sweat.
But yet I still see her beauty. Such a beautiful expression in her repose- like Ophelia in the water. Is that what she wanted from me? Did my fair Ophelia want me to swallow her whole to escape her evil fate? But what fate would be less evil than that? No, there’s another reason. There must be another.
You must think me some kind of fetishest- some kind of freak. I don’t blame you. What kind of man writes his thoughts about such morbidities? About such curiosities? Did he really swallow a woman whole? His teeth catching her hair as a sink drain does? Did he choke on her as she went down or did he wash her down with something after?
My dear reader, it is much more sinister than that. Or- at least that’s what I think I would think if I could remember. You see, I have these thoughts- these memories of someone else’s. They frighten me. I forget them though if I don’t write them down. If I don’t write them down they fade like those dreamt in a mid-morning nap. Such ephemeral spirits. But her- I can’t shake that face. I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten her once before and that I’ll do it once again if I don’t.
But- whose thoughts are these? I swear I know I’m not losing it. She makes me full. So full and warm- such warmth. The warmth from a bottle of liquor that makes your face feel flush with fire- that’s her inside me. Pulsing. I feel her move and I’m comforted to know I’m no longer alone. But of course I know i’m actually alone- it was just a dream. But what if there is some truth to the dream?
I remember swimming in the lake back in the backwoods of Minnesota. I would hide under the docks and listen to people’s conversations. The underside of the dock covered in algae and I would stay completely still as to make sure that they wouldn’t know I was there. What fantastic stories they had.
Oh. What a nasty thought I’ve just had? What if I had swallowed them as well? To taste their bitter flavor? What then? Would they have stayed with me? I could have crawled out from under the dock- no pulled them under and swallowed them whole. I could have those memories forever- no! What a nasty thought.
But if it’s so nasty- why does it make me feel giddy inside? Like I’ve just received news that a meeting has been cancelled when I was dreading it so?
I’m afraid dear reader that I may have made a grave error. These thoughts are completely mine and mine alone. I’m afraid I’m the wicked one here. I cannot blame someone else for these perverted actions.
I feel warm and full.
What a pity.
The Son of Man
His head pounded. He shut his eyes in an attempt to block out the noise and the sound of the people around- it didn’t work. A glass landed in front of him and jolted him out of his stupor. His eyes met the beady eyes of the bartender. It blinked its eyes and continued to stare at him, waiting for something to happen.
“What? What do you want?” the man on the stool held his head again.
“Tip?” the little bartender bot flickered its fluorescent eyes.
“Oh piss off- what the hell do you need money for?” grunted the man through shut eyes. He hoped the bot would leave him alone and when he opened his eyes it had gone to the next patron seated at the bar. The man drank down the entire milky brew and pushed the large blue button that sat in front of him. A hand landed upon his shoulder.
“Should’ve known I’d see you here,” came a distinctly familiar voice, “This is where I find the Son of Man? He sat down next to him.
“I’m nobody’s son,” he winced as he finished another round. He was right. He glanced into the mirror behind the bar and noticed his gaunt expression. He was handsome- always had been by definition, but on this particular occasion he was looking a little worn-out. His brown hair was caked in sweat and he couldn’t maintain eye contact with himself for long. Instead of looking to the man on his left, he gazed at him through the mirror. He laughed to himself. Good old Santos- he thought, what did he want?
“Whaddya want you goddamned bastard?” was the only reply that seemed fitting for such a good friend. Santos smiled.
“We’ve been worried about you, Maggie and I, we-“
“You and Maggie are still going around, eh?”
“More than that Adam, we’ve been married for two years already, I sent you an invitation but I never…” his voice faded out while the man called Adam tried to recall getting an invitation to anything. Nope. He thought for a moment about her; about Margaret. Santos was always half the man she was. She was rough and intimidating. He never understood what she saw in Santos. “…have you heard from Zoe?” his voiced faded back into Adam’s head.
“No,” he paused to puff on a disc that was chained to the bar to prevent theft, “hadn’t heard from her for a while.”
“She called me last night Adam; said she needs to talk to you,” he grumbled and ordered himself a drink, “said she misses you.” Adam exhaled through his nose and made a stifled chortling sound. “Seriously Adam, I think you should go see her.”
Why? So she can tell him how much of a squandered investment he was? So she can berate him and remind him that he was given the world on a silver platter and he took that platter and he shit on it? No. He wouldn’t go back to her, he wouldn’t go back to them. “…she had mentioned something about a stipend or an allowance or…”
“Fine, I’ll go see the old hag”. He drank down the last bit of his glass and buttoned up his coat. He left Santos at the bar. The air outside was bitter. He stumbled down into the street to hail a taxi. A man in a brown hat pulled up and Adam got into the backseat. He mumbled, “The old Vitus Headquarters please,” and the taxi driver obliged.
The lights of the buildings illuminated the cab every so often as they passed, like a soft strobe. He hadn’t been to Vitus for a good decade. He caught the blood shot eyes of the brown-hatted taxi driver. “What’s your problem?”
“Nothing sir, you just look awfully familiar, I meant no harm-“ he focused back on the road. Everybody said they recognized him. Probably because they did recognize him. It was funny how life worked that way. “Have you ever been on television?” asked the driver again.
“Yeah, when I was younger.” The man nodded and must have thought that was enough to sate his curiosity. “Why do you drive the cab when a bot could do it just as well?” asked Adam. The man laughed at that suggestion but didn’t answer him. His stomach did a few flips. He couldn’t tell if it was from the man’s poor driving or his drinking.
The gate for Vitus Corp. appeared on the right. He paid the driver and shuffled into the lobby of the large building. The corporate building was ornate and luxurious. The man at the front desk waved to him.
“Good Evening sir, can I take your coat?- say don’t I know you?” the man looked him up and down suspiciously. I swear I’ve seen you before.” Adam ignored him and went to the hall on the right and entered the elevator. In the elevator was a picture of baby boy getting a bath- hardly the usual décor for an office building. He stepped out at his floor and the bellbot stopped before closing the doors. Adam wheeled around to see why it had stopped.
“Tip?” the bot held out its hands.
He could see a vague specter of himself in the reflection of the marble hallway. There was another holograph of that same boy, just a little bit older. He was playing with a large shaggy dog. Another holograph appeared of him acting in a school play. Adam’s heart sunk as he continued. The holographs lined the hallway until he reached a large metallic door. He knocked upon it, hesitant of what lies beyond it.
“Adam!” the woman within embraced him and squared his shoulders, “It’s so good to see you. Come in! We have so much to talk about,” she lead him into the grand office overlooking the city. “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in so long, I missed you Adam- we missed you.”
“I’ve been diversifying my portfolio... you know, business stuff.” Her face made a frown at the point.
“What kind of business Adam?” she crossed her arms. Her greying hair blowing slightly from some unseen force. She turned around and sighed, “come on Zoe, you promised yourself,” she turned around again. “Did Santos tell you I was looking for you?” her frown became a disingenuous smile.
“Yeah, but you didn’t really need him to tell me that did you?” It was true. Vitus Corp. always knew where he was, what he was doing, where he was going. They didn’t need Santos to locate him, they knew where he was all along. “He said you were going to give me some more money?”
“Why Adam? So you can continue to piss your life away drinking in the damned gutter?” Her eyes become sharpened daggers, “so you can sleep with whores and sexbots and squander our good name?”
“Our name?” scoffed Adam, “You act like you did me a favor, you act like you gave me life but you didn’t give me life, It was me that gave you something to live for!” Adam was shouting at this point.
“We gave you everything Adam- you were supposed to be the one. You were the market’s answer to what everybody needed, you were our greatest creation, why don’t you understand that?”
“I do understand that. I know what I am dammit, but what I think scares you most is that you don’t know who you’ve become Zoe,” Adam felt like he was beginning to sober up a bit, “what did you want me to become? The posterboy of Vitus? I’m already plastered all over the damn walls. What more do you want from me?”
She was facing the window at this point and Adam had realized she hadn’t moved at all. He felt sorry but didn’t really understand why. His feelings were valid- he wasn’t crazy.
“When we designed you, we made you perfect. I know because I was there. We made you the perfect child. Disease resistant, flawless complexion, genetic perfection Adam- that’s what you are, that’s what we gave to you.” She fell silent.
He knew that. He didn’t know why he was so self-destructive. All his life, people had told him how perfect he was. Even though he was perfect, he always felt like something was missing. He tried everything he could to fill that void in himself. He thought of ways that he could apologize to her, somehow try to get passed what they had done to him; what he had done to them. The words never came.
Zoe spoke, “you broke my heart when you left. When you decided to run off into the squalor of the city. I know you are frustrated with me. But together we are stronger, Adam. You are ungrateful for what I gave you and-”
“That’s exactly what I am. I don’t need your money. I’m nobody’s savior, I’m nobody’s son.” He was gone.
Zoe turned around and poured herself another drink. She sighed deeply and sat down in her chair overlooking the city. She asked somebody to play a file and a screen came down in front of the window and a film began to play.
It showed her, much younger, giving a press release to the city. She and her team at Vitus Corp. had just created the first ‘designer baby’ as they were called at the time. The footage changed to a baby being kept in an incubator. There was no sound to the video so we couldn’t hear what was being said. Then there was a toddler, learning how to walk in a simulation chamber, being fed by a nursebot and being read to sleep by a disembodied voice. Her eyes swelled as she watched the video.
The footage changed to him being taught how to ride a bicycle, to him giving his first school presentation, to him making his first friend, to him going to his first school dance. She asked for the video to be paused and she had to look away.
“The future of humanity rested on your shoulders- and you squandered it.” Her hands covered her mouth. After the Adam project, the government put an end to genetically modified humans.
“I love you.”