Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UsOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not -iSSuE- ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what TWENTY-ONE tahw ro woh gniwonk to think. You are in 12/29/95 ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
Christmas is over, and the New Year is almost upon it. 1996. Four more years until we enter a new millennium. I'm just waiting to see what kooks are gonna pop up proclaiming this and that. I find loonies extremely entertaining.
But that is still four years away. Next month marks the two year anniversary of this wonderful little publication, and we're celebrating a tad bit early so we can have one big blowout party instead of two. It saves time, and I'm not so sure I'm going to survive this weekend anyway. We here at SoB would like to thank all of our faithful readers, and you can expect a more heartfelt, lovey-duvey editorial next issue.
Now, though, it seems like the holidays have gotten people writing fiction left and right. We've got stories by Griphon, Adidas, and I Wish My Name Were Nathan, plus a poem and an interesting new series proposed by Hagbard that I hope takes off. (On a side note, when I mentioned to a few people that he had written something for this issue, they were amazed it didn't have to do with space migration. Just for the record, Hagbard's head isn't always in the stars. Most of the time, yeah, but not all the time.)
I'm keeping this short and sweet because I wanna get this zine put together before my boss discovers I'm not doing the work he wants me to. And remember, only two more issues away until the great smorgasbord of conspiracy, hollow earth theories and everything kooky under the sun. Send in your submissions as fast as you can say, "Nazi base in the North Pole."
Have a good new year and break all your resolutions. It makes the year a helluva lot better.
From: Brad Walker <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Submision Only a fucked up ass hole like you're self would spend the time and money to put up a page like this. Unless of cource he has great big huge head like the kind you find in TEXAs. I worked with a big head from TEXAS once and his was so big that it exploded when we told him he was gay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[Well, thank you, Brad. We do have big egos down here in Texas. Yee haw. We also ride cows to school (with our robes on, natch) and all chew tobacco. See, when you're born in Texas, you get your very own spitoon. Ain't that dandy? But hey, that's okay. We like being "fucked up ass holes" and spontaneously combusting from time to time. Boy, if we gave out awards, I'm sure you'd get one. What it would be, I don't know. --kt]
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
What is THE SOAPBOX? THE SOAPBOX, hereafter referred to simply as TS will be a featured series of State of unBeing. TS is a forum for providing people a place to rant about their favorite crusade, topic, or pet peeve.
This questionnaire is our solicitation for entries for the new feature. This will be present at the end of every installment to assure future entries. To be considered simply answer these questions and return them to the address below. There is no restriction on topic, but entries will be weighed on several variables by the editors. Not all entries will be considered for a TS installment. Entries that are excepted will be notified of their publication.
The format is simple. You provide a minimum 120-line essay covering your position on a given topic. You will then be asked some questions about your position by our editors. It will be the policy of the editors to attempt to remove as much bias from their questions as possible. Some questions may openly show disagreement -- this will be the editors playing the role of Devil's Advocate; they may or may not be in true disagreement.
Your essay, along with the question and answer session, will be published in State of unBeing. The editors reserve the right to edit material for spelling, grammer, or format but we will not modify for content or meaning. As per the SoB disclaimer, all articles are copyrighted by their respective authors.
Entries may be submitted more than once if topics vary.
Just send the answers to these questions to email@example.com. If you do not have Internet access, GET IT. In the meantime, entries may be mailed to Hagbard #123 on Ringworm's Lair (512-255-6832), or to Hagbard on the Lions' Den (512-259-9546).
This looks like a changing point in my life after all. For the longest time I saw it coming but doubted and dreaded the truth. But now I accept. I am dying. The cold sweats and the bloody coughs are becoming daily routine now. Hallucinations and forgotten memories plague me. I can't function anymore. I'm having a friend transcribe this and I hope he puts two spaces after the periods.
I guess it all started about a month ago. Not the sickness, but the inevitable cause. I was on a Friday-night drive with several friends of mine. On the way, we stopped by at a Hardee's. It's one of our favorite places to eat. I dunno what my friends ordered, but I ordered a bacon cheeseburger dealie. I always order that. I'm a stickler for comfort, you know? It's like, I always get the same thing at every restaurant -- bacon cheeseburger -- because I know it's something I like. I've never deviated from that norm, except at places where they don't have bacon cheeseburgers, whereupon I order something at random. You see, the comfort factor is already gone, so I just get whatever and grumble all the way home.
Anyway, it was a Hardee's, so they had a bacon cheeseburger there. And I ordered it. It was already made. My order was completed very quickly. This should have set off the warning bells. Usually it takes a while and all of us have to stand around like penguins, walking in friendly-looking circles while other people order their food. Well, everyone else's stuff took a little longer, so I picked a place and sat down. I sat down where we always sit whenever we go to any Hardee's. It's the comfort factor again. And it's also that much easier because Hardee'ses all have the same floor plan. It's that seat that's next to the entrance but behind the decorative barrier with the cactus on it. Hardee's is good with the comfort factor. Anyway, if you ever go to a Hardee's around here, look for me. While I'm still alive that is.
I opened up the bacon cheeseburger and started eating it. It tasted damned good. As usual. And the fries were fresh too. This should have tipped me off that something was wrong. The bacon was even sort of resilient and solid rather than squishy and greasy. But I ate, thinking I was having a swell old meal.
My friends came by with their meals and sat down and started eating too. And since no one likes to eat all at once, we started talking. We had a fun conversation. It was one of those "intelligent conversations" that only smart guys in the age range 18-21 have. Like, philosophy and stuff? We were discussing aspects of animal life that mirrored human activities in frighteningly ironic ways. Like raccoons who forage in garbage for food. You see, that's like homeless humans. Only raccoons all have homes, and they don't get arrested for it. Yeah, you see, we're a group of people who have all these liberal beliefs about humans and money, but our age group doesn't permit us any flexibility to do anything about it but talk. And in a few years we'll be out of college taking hard jobs and then our minds will warp and permit us the luxury to yell at homeless people and kick them. "I had to work for five hard months to get my wife that five-pound diamond, and you fuckers want change?!"
Anyway, I was getting so into the conversation that I wasn't watching what I was eating. I only realized what had happened when I felt this weird feeling in my gut, like the reverse of someone pulling from it a piece of stuck string. It was a really frightening way to learn about the nerves that exist in the intestinal canal. It was like a zipper closed. I can't really explain it well because I was panicking at the time. I looked at my burger and saw nothing exciting at all. As a matter of fact, I ate the rest of the burger, and the fries, not wanting to create a disturbance. To this day I link the feeling and its later ramifications to that Hardee's meal though. Don't like avoid the place though. They have good fries.
For the rest of the night, I tried not to think about that odd feeling in my intestine. But the denial started a nervous fear in me, and it sent all the wrong chemicals to work in my abdomen. I started to feel really bad, like there was a solid ball of something forming there. Typical stomach symptoms, but it's really uncomfortable when you're away from home. Of course it's also really uncomfortable when you are at home, but the hominess of home doesn't magically cure you. But I didn't know that would happen. I was holding my stomach all night begging to go home. My friends just told me to throw up, but I didn't want to. I'd had bad experiences with trying to throw up. Mainly that it never worked. I only got as far as getting some bile to go up my throat, and no more, and I'd be tasting it the whole day.
So my friends took me home, mildly pissed that they couldn't stay in Hardee's a few more hours and bitch about economics. Thoughts of heated discussion made me feel nauseated, though usually I enjoyed it. So I went in the house and beelined for the toilet. I sat on it for a few hours twiddling my thumbs. I remembered several times in the past when intestinal pain actually implied a monster dump but it wasn't this time. The feeling in my stomach reminded me of some bad chicken I'd had. Sliced chicken, it was, and it had sat in our fridge for a few weeks before I opened it up and ate some. Hey, it didn't smell bad. It didn't smell like anything at all. More warning signs I miss. I really suck at self-preservation. Anyway with the current stomach bug I had, I couldn't remember anything that would have triggered it, so the Hardee's meal singled itself out as the culprit. I had to blame something. Seriously, though, the Bacon Cheeseburger Combo -- medium -- it's $4.19 and it's great when you're half-hungry at midnight. Oh well.
That night was horrible. I couldn't sleep at all. I tossed and turned for a few hours before my eyes fell closed. Then from pure exhaustion I lost consciousness in a cheap imitation of sleep. After five minutes or so, I woke up and eyed the clock. The surprise at having thought I'd slept longer shocked me awake. It took about thirty-six minutes before I lost consciousness again. I took to beating on my stomach with my fist in hopes of both causing some movement of the painful ball and of creating a rhythm that would lull me into sleepyland. But sleepyland was hell. I eventually did reach a sleep state, but now I was plagued with nightmares. And I'm too old for scary nightmares. These nightmares hit the base of my consciousness and insulted my intelligence. It was the most mundane thing in the world -- a whisk, like used to "whisk eggs" and "whisk melted margarine" -- that I concentrated on all night. It was a theme dream. This one whisk. In the dream the whisk would be floating, as an idea, in front of my eyes, and suggestions would float into my mind about how to make it prettier. Using mathematics. I had taken an abstract algebra final the day before. Over and over again, these suggestions would repeat themselves redundantly and pointlessly. My mind was too numb to change the subject, but my consciousness noticed what was going on. It was strange and hellish. And the absolute worst part was that I would fitfully wake up, eye the clock, and remind myself to dream about something else, but I wouldn't. It would be the same sequence of repeating and inane suggestions over and over again. It was not a very relaxing sleep. Not to mention my stomach ached.
I decided to wake up at 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning just so I could stop having the annoying dream. My stomach felt looser so I headed for the toilet. Again, nothing happened. Sitting there with my elbows on my legs and my chin in my hands I waited and waited. After half an hour, un-nausea struck me. I call it un-nausea because I felt nauseated, but I couldn't throw up. That's what it had been the night before. I pounded my stomach with my fist to inspire some movement. Still none. I was getting a headache from concentrating so hard.
After the un-BM I wandered around the house trying to remember what I had dreamed about. I couldn't place it. The dream had happened four hundred times but I couldn't remember it exactly. I guess it was my mind's way of preserving some sanity. (I remember it now vividly however and feel doomed to dream it again.) I didn't feel like doing anything; not writing, not listening to music, not watching television. Masturbation turned out to be a huge disappointment too. I wandered around the house wishing I were dead. I optimistically took some Tums and noticed immediately afterward that they made me feel worse. The water I drank afterward enhanced the chalk-like taste and didn't reassure me at all.
I went back to bed and lay down and looked at the ceiling. It wasn't interesting. Although as a kid when I was sick I could at least induce some interesting imaginations by looking at the ceiling, this time is was completely mind-numbing. I wished I was into drugs, because they might have helped me become unconscious for a while. I pulled the covers over my eyes and tried to sleep. Maybe I did sleep. I don't remember.
I got up again, still feeling horrible, and thought about calling up some of my friends and seeing if they were sick too. Share the misery, you see. But the thought of lifting the receiver and hearing the dial tone tore me apart. I just knew that it would make me bleed internally. I didn't try it out to see. I also didn't feel like talking to anyone. So I lay back down again.
The sickness stuck with me for the whole day and I wasn't able to convince myself that it would go away. I wished I had achieved my personal goal of utter tranquility so that this incident wouldn't bug me so much. But I had given up the goal long ago because of minor irritations. Now I lay in bed moaning and thinking redundant thoughts that repeated angry messages to my stomach area where the ball of throbbing pain remained. I was successful in convincing myself that the repetition wasn't bad unless it was in a dream. But I still knew it would drive me mad.
Two more days passed in much the same manner. They were easy to forget, anecdotally. If I wanted to torture myself I could remember each minute clearly and relive it again. But I won't. Something worse came along soon.
Upon the eventual quieting of the pain in my stomach I came down with the flu on an outing with my friends. I didn't know it that night, so I had a nice sleep. But the next day I woke up with a sore throat and a fever. And the quieted stomach bug came back in full fury. But I still couldn't throw up. I could only cough and weakly swallow the phlegm. I didn't want to sit up far enough in bed to spit it out. The error of my ways became clear when I could feel the sum total of the coughed-up phlegm collecting in my intestines. I could feel my digestive fluids trying to make sense of it. I knew I had done wrong. But I still couldn't throw up.
I sat on the toilet for hours with my hands in my hair, sweating. Nothing happened. My legs and arms started to shiver. I felt cold. To my miniscule relief, it actually was cold in the house. I didn't want to turn on the heat though because I already had a fever. I took some aspirin, which tasted more awful than they ever should have. I weakly tried to spit them out after swallowing them. It didn't work.
I got back in bed and hid under the covers and shivered. The sheets warmed me up too quickly, so I'd shove them off my head. And then the cold of the house would blow uncomfortably on my face, and I'd pull the covers back on. The design on the covers, big green diamonds, also entered my mind in the form of irritatingly repetitive thoughts. I couldn't think about anything except for the big green diamonds. Sometimes I'd open my eyes and a diamond would be obscuring my entire range of vision and I'd think it was one of the long green stripes that appeared on the other side of the comforter. My mind toyed endlessly with these minor insane amusements. I coughed a lot.
I was sick like this for three more days. I suffered recoveries. I say "suffered" because I was foolishly led to believe that the lapses in coughing fits and fever were the end of the bouts of illness. No, they always came back, and doubletime. And then my nose started running and I had to stuff kleenex in my nostrils to avoid wasting energy blowing them over and over again. The ball of hateful pain in my stomach now seemed to send searing columns of heat up into my throat where it was raw and tasted of coppery blood. My adam's apple became swollen and it was hard to breathe. I still couldn't throw up. It was a cruel state of suspense waiting for my intestines to rebel and let me puke. The nausea simply remained in place, seeming to feed whatever was there.
After those three days I decided to go out with my friends again to at least get some fresh air. The excitement of social interaction and fresh new ideas bolstered me for a few hours of fun. I was even able to forget my stomach for a while. But after those few hours, it all came back. We were sitting in a Taco Bell where I had finished several soft tacos and I suddenly started to sweat profusely. I felt it first in my hair since it's thick. The cool sensation of sweat trickled slowly down my temples and behind my ears and down the back of my neck. My armpits became moist all at once. My crotch became warm and wet. And all over my body the little hairs stood up and all the little nerves near them turned on. My entire body was super-sensitive to touch. Movement made me feel nauseated, but I still couldn't throw up. My entire abdomen ached and throbbed. I tried to be scared but all my resources were pouring into sweat and hurting.
My friends nervously watched my progression into delirium. I tried to explain what was going on, and they got the first part all right, but then my mouth started talking endlessly about green diamonds and heavy bedcovers and the alarm clock next to my bed with the strange-looking seven. I looked down and saw my jeans were soaked through with sweat. I wanted to stand up and walk out but my head simply lolled and my tongue hung out. My legs wouldn't move. My friends carried me out into the car and they drove me home. I remember finding myself looking at my bed and falling down on it, but nothing of the trip home.
For the entire next week, I lay in bed sweating and hurting. My brother brought me water to help me sweat some more. I took a lot of aspirin but it didn't help. I wasn't urinating at all. Everything left me as sweat. The ball of pain in my stomach stopped hurting, but it was still there. It felt like dead weight. As I lay in bed it felt like the ball was resting against my spine. I shifted uncomfortably to reduce the friction. As I moved I noticed the mattress was squishy under my weight. I had sweated through it. The mattress was demolished. But no one would change it until I got better.
But I never got better. Shortly thereafter, I started having hallucinations. They weren't hallucinations of anything I had ever seen before, nor of anything I would have ever seen in the future. They were swirls of colors and sounds and sometimes feelings and they taunted me. I closed my eyes to make them disappear, and when I reopened my eyes they would be gone. Then they would fly back from somewhere and start dancing again. They weren't dancing repetitively, that might sound good, but they were aggravating because they would shift just as my mind became used to them. Complete dream helplessness overtook me. I couldn't control my own hallucinations. I guess you're really not supposed to. But in my state of mind I thought you were. When I would cough, the swirls of senses would jolt in an entertaining way, and I felt impelled to cough just to see something predictable. But I just tore up my throat and coughed up blood. The trashcan next to my bed was full of bloody kleenex and bloody phlegm and hallucinations.
I stopped watching TV a week ago. It is pure shit. We have like sixty channels of cable but every single channel at every single hour of the day is playing irrelevant garbage. Irrelevant trash-TV lowest-common-denominator overfunded special-effects hallucination garbage. The sound quality is bad. And it interferes with my hallucinations.
It is up to this day that I've been in this state. I'm in a talkable mood now, which is how this can all come out and make some sense. But I never regained self-consciousness. I'm pretty sure I'm going to die, and happy. Even if I did get better after this, I'd still have memories of it, and that would be a fate worse than a painful death.
Yes, a painful death. Death itself is okay. It's great, in fact. It's an end to pain. That's what I believe. I don't have any religion, and that makes me dangerous, because I think death will be good. When I was a child, I was still influenced by the Christian view of death, with your having basically a fifty-fifty chance of going to heaven or hell, and it scared me a lot. I know it did scare me into being a straight-edge brownnoser but I was only one of the few. The heaven-hell dichotomy doesn't work for everyone. Some people see death coming and simply run around panicking in chaos. They try last-minute fixups to make themselves look good, like kids around Christmas who act good in hopes of fooling Santa. Really, what difference is there between Santa and God? Just the ages. And adults still believe in God.
My view of death is biological. You just die. No afterlife, no reincarnation, no nothing. Just putrefaction and decomposition. I'm not a soulless man, though. I can find analogues to the soul; namely, a person's personality, his radiance, his gloominess. And reincarnation. There are only a small number of distinct personalities. Sure, some baby born in Argentina after I die may be gloomy and neurotic with outbursts of impossible humor, sure, but it's not me. The baby is just a mix of DNA-induced proteins. Sorry, guys, I ain't coming back.
I remember a time when I was younger and alone at a lake. I had one of those inflatable rafts, and I went out to the water with it and lay on it and looked at the sky. The sun was behind my head and I didn't have to squint. From that raft I couldn't see anything around me, no trees, no people, no buildings, no signs of human interference on the earth. I could only see the wispy white clouds plastered on the sphere of the sky, daubed about in a random but infinitely serene pattern. There was a low breeze brushing over my body and sometimes it brought the sound of lazy summer birds to my ears. I just lay there on that raft watching the clouds for what seemed like hours. No one interrupted my rest. I lay there looking up without a thought of someone calling my name. It was beautiful.
After a long time had passed, my curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to see where I had turned up. I tilted my head up and looked ahead. I was nearly on the edge of an unfamiliar shoreline. I had no idea where I was. I looked behind me and saw the huge lake and the shoreline on the other side. I was sure I had drifted across the lake. I panicked. The water was much deeper on this side, and my best experience was with a raft. I almost started paddling across the lake when I took another look at the near shoreline. I realized I had only drifted fifty feet downshore. Nature hadn't screwed me over. But I, in my panic, almost did so to myself. That's the thing about life. You have to keep your bearings about you; it's easy to be fooled. The world is rational, and it makes sense. When it looks like everything has gone to hell, maybe it's time to look within and straighten yourself out first.
I thought that philosophy would apply to me now, but I can't be so sure. Nothing about the coughing and the visions makes sense. I am swimming in my own sweat, having fallen off the raft of rational beliefs that now floats behind me, capsized. I see my philosophy had holes in it. Some things just don't make sense, I guess. But I can't guess that. I can't let go that easily. In the physical sciences unexplained results often happen. I and the scientists believe that it is simply the result of uncalculable factors, unseen influences, unchecked data. The random happenings that make up life are perhaps simply the human lack of complete understanding over the world. If we knew more, perhaps we'd see how it all clicks together. We'd predict catastrophes, and miracles, and lulls. We'd rest assured in our knowledge that we understand. But maybe that's too much to ask. Maybe the irrational must exist. Maybe it just has to. I cough up some phlegm and see a bullseye appear in the blood. Maybe.
"The poets? They stink. They write badly. They're idiots you see, because the strong people don't write poetry.... They become hitmen for the Mafia. The good people do the serious jobs."
I see the sky bluer than it was yesterday.
It almost makes me forget
twisted metal and people, rusted
at the bottom of the tracks
and under the Fifth Street Bridge
where a homeless woman wept over a dead crow.
And now the lights flicker and hum.
Yellow, nice and yellow
With an urban feel to them.
Safety in the childhood memories
of apartments and drunks yelling at 3am
while Mother washed clothes
and left the monsters in the closets to torture me.
I never thought the noise, the chaos, would be as beautiful
as the rain hitting the windows
in the old house.
But I lie here,
drifting in and out of God knows what.
I dreamt about two children,
one was dying, gaping wounds.
The other was morose and bitter,
pulling the hair out of her doll's head.
The path I came upon is gone.
And the precipice into that void
alone and melancholy
seems much more reassuring
than the Goddamned phone company.
"The only way to cross..."
One of those motherfucking monsters my mother never killed for me.
I tried to cross.
Dammit, I tried to cross.
And now I lie here.
Strapped down into this...
I don't think I'm half so desperate
as that woman
lamenting the crow.
But then again, I have another cigarette.
|NR:||Now, Mister, let's start out with the basics. What's your name?|
|SK:||I'd prefer to do this anonymously.|
|NR:||OK, and you live at a regular house with a family?|
|SK:||You bet. I got a great wife, two kids and a dog named Spot.|
|NR:||So, Mr. Average Joe, what job do you have?|
|SK:||I'm an Official Life Exterminating Machine Manager.|
|NR:||So, what's that a fancy title for?|
|SK:||Well, some people call me a "Serial Killer"|
|NR:||Ahh. That makes much more sense to me.|
|SK:||Yeah. It's a living. It may be kind of sick, but it puts food on the table.|
|NR:||So what type of Serial Killer are you? Assassin?|
|SK:||I prefer Official Life Exterminating Machine Manager, because of my preference of guns over other more primitive exterminating weapons. As for my type, I'm a mere cut-thief. I go in, kill the target, and take the money. No assassination of world leaders, etc.|
|NR:||Ahh. So you go for the more easy type things?|
|SK:||Yes. I'm lazier than those big heavy-hard core Serial Killers. I stick with just plain middle-class citizens.|
|NR:||Makes sense. Most hardly even lock their doors.|
|SK:||Yeah. But sometimes it's harder than that and you have to pick up a rock to smash a window.|
William awoke out of a disconcerting dream to the sound of a crowd yelling. It seemed to come from a distance, he could tell that much, but the flavor of the yell didn't at all ease his mind. He had often awaken to the proud parents' yell of a soccer game, and waking this morning he mistook what he heard for that innocuous contagious American sound. But this wasn't it.
Dreamily shoving his bedsheets aside, he realized he was still dressed, though for what reason he couldn't immediately remember. A quick pass by a mirror reminded him. That out-of-hand get-together the night before. Someone had spiked the liquor with something William's body wasn't used to yet, and Laura found him in the backyard, looking like a lump of carelessly tossed-off clothes. He must have been driven home and put straight to bed.
His grin of guilty realization vanished when the distant yelling started up again. His eyes squinted as he tried to fathom what could be going on. It was a chilly December morning -- who would be making such a ruckus? Who would be standing outside for any length of time? He took a faulty step, almost tripped, and headed outside, picking up his coat lying on the kitchen table.
When he opened the door, he was struck with the lack of winter that greeted him. William quite expected a sharp heavy wind to smother him, since that was what he thought he had heard while waking. Nor was the air particularly cold. Was it winter anymore? He thought to himself that the odd shift in weather might easily account for the crowd, but this didn't reassure him. Instead it caused him to hesitate just outside the door and listen.
He waited for another swell of excited voices. It didn't immediately come. A subdued murmur greeted his ear, and he strained to listen. Suddenly a figure came into view running down the street. The murmur was the shoes. The runner did not look happy. The runner did not look angry. The runner seemed to be mindlessly following his feet down the road. It gave William a clue.
He glanced at the rows of houses along the street and sensed that they were empty. He remembered the phone call. He realized what was going on. He grinned and stepped out into the street. The cold suddenly revealed itself with an impressive display of windpower. He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked toward the crowd.
William could see the crowd of people down at the end of the street. As he approached, he noticed that there were about ten people in the group. They were transfixed, standing in a circle around a figure, who was standing on some sort of pedestal above them. The figure appeared to speak, and the crowd let out a hearty crazed cry. Children stood in yards nearby, but the crowd was composed entirely of adults. There were only two females present; they seemed to cry the loudest. Everyone fidgeted in expectation.
The figure in the center was an eighteen-year-old boy, William realized as he joined the crowd. An atmosphere of musky electricity enveloped him. The people's lips twitched in anticipation of the boy's next words. The boy was standing in a robe, looking confidently down at his admirers. He scanned the crowd benevolently, turning in a tight circle to meet all the faces. The winter sky cast a hazy glow upon the boy's light-brown hair, making him seem all the more affectionate. The people anxiously eyed the robe.
"This is my time," the boy said to his people. "This is my glory." The crowd threw up its hands and cried out in ecstasy. The boy cast aside his robe, revealing his perfect naked body. The crowd fell silent, gazing upon his arms, his chest, his legs, his feet, all dully shined with anxious sweat in the hazy wintry air, all emanating an appealing subdued scent.
He again turned around in a tight circle, smiling kindly at his people, letting them all see his form. A surge of blood engorged his penis. "I am yours," he said with outraised arms. The crowd burst forth with eager greedy shrieks of excitement and tore the boy limb from limb.
William stood back a little distance and watched the bloodbath. This was not his favorite part; he hoped foremost that boy's neck was broken first. No matter how calm the boy had been, William wished him the easiest death, with no pain. The others often forgot about that in their desperate lunge toward the prized genitalia. In the chaos of excited screaming and grunting, the boy's cries, if any, were lost.
Within minutes, the boy's arms and legs had been torn from him and themselves ripped in two. His head had been gingerly removed by a man with a pocketknife. Since there was always a fight about the torso, this time in the interest of proceeding smoothly, it was left in one piece, for later dissection. A man handed out plastic bags and each limb was placed in one of them. Another man came by with a hose and washed the blood off the street.
In time, all the members of the crowd, William included, gathered into a large Suburban. It was a tight squeeze. Each of the eleven people held tight to their claim. There was much laughter and comeraderie on the trip, and no hard feelings, as was the custom. This time, luckily, no one had been seriously injured. A small mouselike man sitting in the back seat was massaging his strained finger against the boy's left thigh, which he caressed in his arms.
The atmosphere of light joking and congratulations turned strictly serious when the Suburban reached the restaurant. The group of people exited the vehicle with a very precise schedule on their minds, and idle chatter was strictly disallowed. The long frying vats were ready and boiling with cooking oil, and an array of warming ovens were waiting. After being carefully waxed of hairs, one of each of the arm and leg sections were taken from their bags and dropped with excited hissing into the vats. The other half were placed in ovens. On a large table in the other half of the kitchen, three chefs carefully removed the boy's organs and washed them out. His breast and abdominal plate were cut out and placed in another vat. A woman ran a surgical saw around the circumference of the boy's head and removed the brain and placed it in a pot. The other woman scraped out the bowl of the skull, in which the boy's penis, testicles, eyes, tongue, nose, fingers, toes, palms, and heels would be presented.
Everyone worked at a feverish pace. William had shower duty, handing out towels and prepicked dining wear to his gracious guests, who cleaned themselves of gore before the feast would begin.
In the dining area of the restaurant, a long table was being decked out with plates, silverware, salt, pepper, and glasses of wine. In some circumstances, the boy's blood would be drunk by the patrons, but only in cases of natural death, when the life juice wouldn't be so heavily overpowered with the bitter taste of adrenalin. Blood-letting was also a much more intricate chore, meant for people willing to wait days for a superb meal.
The dining area was lit with bright, happy yellow lamps, designed exactly for the purpose of counteracting the dulled slate winter sky outside. The wooden floor, wooden table, and curtained windows conveyed an instant sense of comfort and ease. Food preparers who had completed their jobs early relaxed in small groups around small tables in the corners, while, as tradition had it, no one sat at the main table until everyone was done and washed.
In time, the delectable aroma of meat wafted into the dining area, and the patron-cooks became fidgety and anxious to eat. Gradually all but a couple of the cooks were done with their jobs and gathered to sit down at the table. Those two cooks, the proprietors of the restaurant, were not members of the party, so William's job was through. Before witnessing a job well done, the men and women, neighbors and friends, laughed and talked warmly.
"So, who's up for next week?" a loud man named Hughes boomed out with raucous laughter. It was a common quip. A boy never reveals his intentions until the morning or day before his eighteenth birthday, when he proudly tells his parents his wish to give himself to his neighborhood.
The first step, after the excited parents calm down, is the distribution of the boy's property, which could be by a list he provides, or by simply telling his parents to do with it as they please. Then, the boy and his family go door-to-door revealing the news to the neighbors. Only a select few neighbors can come, as each guest must have enough to eat. Finally, the invited guests gather around the boy in the street, and the ceremony begins. The boy's job is to give a speech about his duty to his neighborhood and his parents, and the honor to give himself to them. With the final words, "I am yours", the crowd proceeds to dismember the boy and take him off to be cooked.
This ceremony is only followed for boys just turning eighteen. Females and anyone nineteen or older do not receive such a warm reception. They will usually visit one of the restaurants and ask to be accepted, upon which they will be humanely killed, their pictures run in the paper, and served for general consumption. Only adults can be eaten, since children are required by law to enjoy eighteen full years of life. Also, only adults are allowed to eat them, since there is still a stigma and health concerns with the possibility of eating someone who's eaten someone else.
(Suicide is strictly illegal and a black mark against a neighborhood.)
Riding on the laughter of Hughes' joke, a man named Capris spoke up. "It looks like my son Jeremy is taking up track this spring," he said. William sat bolt upright at the news, thinking about Jeremy, who was already very athletic-looking.
"Let's home he does the honorable thing," he said. The crowd laughed loud and long, only interrupted by the arrival of the feast.
The bell sounded, sending a herd of children out into the grassy wastes of the playground, each one finding a microcosm of fun to have. Randy wandered over to the monkey bars, hoping to find a rousing game of "Lava Monster" to drown his worries of fifth grade math. No such luck. Suzy Bones was sitting on the top of the monkey bars, telling her friends, Kim and Stacy, all about a new ribbon she bought for her hair at the mall last week, and how she went to see the newest mindless comedy in the theatre all by herself.
Randy, somewhat upset by the lack of male presence and chaos, threw a rock at the base of the monkey bars, finding little satisfaction in the loud <<Ting>> it made. He contemplated suicide for a few moments, but was interrupted during the part where his math teacher died a lonely, bankrupt and guilt-ridden man by Suzy's blaring squeal.
"I'm telling on you, Randy Allison!" she screeched, swinging her small body around to stare Randy directly in the face with her white hose-clad knees.
"Huh?" Randy said. Adrenaline rushed immediately to his central nervous system, the fear of the principal and of being ratted out setting off all types of bodily alarms.
"You threw a rock at us and tried to make us fall."
Randy's mind sharpened, the entire realization of what was going on finally congealing like brown gravy in front of him.
"No I didn't. I threw a rock at the pole." His defense was simple, clear, and utterly weak. Suzy had long ruled the girls on the playground, and could tell when faced with a fresh victim of the opposite sex, full of fear.
"Now you're lying," she pressed, her face contorting into, what Randy believed, a hellish representation of God at the Final Judgement. "And besides, you're not supposed to throw rocks at all. I'm going to tell Ms. Krenshaw on you, and I'm going to tell Bobby McDermick."
Randy froze, panic sending his heart into double time. Bobby McDermick was Suzy's boyfriend, the second biggest kid in the class. Richard was the biggest, but he was mentally retarded, and was six years older than all the other fifth graders.
"Don't Suzy. Don't tell. I'm sorry." Randy touched Suzy's leg, hoping to find some compassion before the sentence was carried out.
Suzy screamed, kicking Randy squarely in the face.
"Owwww! Help! Randy Allison is trying to molest me!"
Immediately a crowd formed, each one of the kids staring at Randy intently, hoping to see something naughty. Randy froze for a second time, his eyes watering from the pain of being kicked by Suzy and from the instantaneous humiliation he felt by being put in the middle of everyone's universe.
All of a sudden, the crowd parted, a clear path opening from the monkey bars straight to the gymnasium, the site of next period's class. Randy began to run toward this means of salvation, but stopped dead in his tracks when he realized that the Moses who parted the sea of fifth graders was also the Angel of Death. Bobby.
"Get him Bobby, he tried to sexually me," Suzy cried, her mastery of the English language splintering into a thousand pieces under the weight of her desire to see blood.
Bobby walked slowly toward Randy, his massive 100 pound frame driving the rocks hard into the ground with satisfying <<crunch>> sounds, and his shadow spilling across the ground like an ugly scar.
"Bobby, this is crazy," Randy sputtered, reaching for every pacifistic word and sentiment in his body. "I didn't do anything. This isn't fair."
Bobby snarled, his inertia unencumbered by Randy's pleads.
"Life ain't fair," he growled.
Somewhere Randy pondered where Bobby might have heard such profound wisdom, and wondered what kind of satisfaction it gave him to use, no doubt clearing himself from any wrongdoing that might have caused the exact phrase to be used on him earlier in his life. Perhaps because his mother didn't buy him the newest line of Air <Insert Professional Basketball Player's Name Here>, instead opting for a pair of reasonable, yet totally unremarkable tennis shoes from Crazy Shoe Barn.
Bobby smirked, sizing up what he knew to be an easy kill. All he had to do was probably push him down, maybe wrestle with him for a few seconds before Randy burst into the tears he was on the verge of showing. He did not expect Randy to dive at him, delivering a torpedo of a punch to his testicles before landing at his feet, eyes clenched shut against the terrible fate he knew would befall him should his aim be off.
Bobby gasped for air as his greatest weapon, early puberty, turned to become the deadliest foe he had ever faced in his six years as school bully. The giant toppled backwards. His hands went to soothe his pounding fledgling manhood. Tears welled in his eyes, and Bobby's stomach churned with the feeling every man dreads, the loss of a testes.
Randy got up, amazed at what he had done. Bobby writhed at his feet, and the entire fifth grade had been there to see his victory. Especially Suzy. Randy turned to face the inciter of all this evil. Suzy glared at him, her face a mask of rage and contempt. Stealthily she dropped off the monkey bars, smoothing her skirt down over her tiny legs. She bent down, picked up a large rock, and hurled it at Randy, striking him directly in the forehead and sprawling him out next to his recently-defeated foe.
Kids began to scream, the scene becoming not unlike the first time an early hominid opted for throwing something at his prey, rather than trying to strangle the life out of it with his bare hands. Pure evolutionary genius.
Randy's sight began to dim, the pain in his head began to take focus, and a trickle of blood ran from a small gash in his unblemished skin to get into his eyes and cause him to cry.
"Oh my God," a girl from the crowd yelled. "You made him bleed!"
Suddenly the crowd turned against Suzy -- the one rule of the playground, no blood, was violated. Secretly they all worshipped the earliest of the next generation of Queen Bitches, but they were scared, and had to ostracize before they, too, began to cry.
Suzy ran off, seeking shelter in a restroom that would be the spot where she lost her virginity and overdosed on a bottle of valium two weeks after high school graduation, her illustrious career over. The weaker children, those that bowed in to the oppressiveness of totalitarian grade-school government, summoned a teacher to stop the madness. Ms. Krenshaw came, along with Nurse Rodriguez, and they escorted the two boys to the nurse's office, where some antiseptic and a phone call to the proper authorities (parents and principal) waited. The rest of the children dispersed. Some to seek shelter underneath the slide to talk about the battle they had just witnessed, others to continue playing, as if undisturbed, and little Russell Eisenstein went to the boys' bathroom to masturbate.
The rivalry would continue for several months, but no one would remember the exact details of what happened when the daily game of "Lava Monster" was not played, and when two men were beaten down by the guiles of a fifth grade girl.
"One man comes in the name of justice, one man comes in the name of death. It ends as all have ended. It doesn't end. It comes again. And again. He is here always, even if he has never been here. Legend speaks of them both in every world. They fight a never ending battle. Whose will is it to fight, no one knows, perhaps they control it, perhaps they don't. Who will ever know? We shall see what happens in this game. What about me? Oh, I'm nobody real special. You'll have to figure that one out, for yourself. Just think. Well I'll end this beginning and begin my story. I think you'll like it."
"It's Lithan," he whispered.
"It can't be," argued the other man.
"It is. We're dead. We can't do a thing," said the second man.
His blue eyes grew wider. His nostrils flared. He was nervous, and it showed. He stood 5'11, not extremely tall, but tall nonetheless. He smiled, welcoming Lithan. He knew why Lithan was coming, even though his companion didn't. He looked at his companion; Sima was his name. Sima was the type of man who was always worried about something. He was annoying at some times, but at others he could be helpful suggesting the bad points of situations.
"What makes you think he wants us, I mean, what did we do?", asked Sima.
"He doesn't want you. He wants me," replied the other man quickly.
"You?!?", Sima yelled surprised.
The other man began to draw his sword. He had done this thousands of times, no, millions of times. Drawn his sword to fight Lithan. Sometimes he had won, sometimes he had lost. He motioned his companion away.
Sima got ready to run, but before he left he spoke. "I have known you a month. You've not told me much, but please tell me why he wants you!", Sima said angrily. He had never asked questions about his past before, but this one he demanded.
"I refuse to speak of it," said the other man quickly.
Sima began to get scared. Something was strange, he figured. Best to get out of here, and quickly at that, he thought. Sima turned around and began to run away, but before he could get but 5 steps away from his companion, the other man spun, and shoved his sword into his back. Sima yelled a deathly scream, as his last. Without any regrets or guilt, the man spun back around ready to face the oncoming opponent.
He rode hard, he could see him. He knew he was there. He would never run. This battle had been played out several times, in several worlds, with several different endings. Lithan to attack the other. Sometimes one won, sometimes the other.
"I see you!" Lithan yelled.
"And I you," replied Lithan's opponent.
Lithan rode up and swung out his sword. He spun it around, and as he reached the man, slung it at his face. His opponent ducked, and quickly spun with an attack, but Lithan was expecting this and had already began to jump off the horse onto the opposite side of the other man. The man's sword whistled through the air, he realized he was left vulnerable and as the horse started to run off, Lithan lunged with his sword at the other man. Metal hit flesh, and a scream was let loose.
The dying man smiled, for he knew he wouldn't truly die, as did the man, Lithan, who had just mercilessly slaughtered him, but to them, it was all part of the game.
Both disappeared, which to any man who had seen this battle would have been a surprise to end the surprises. For it seemed like both knew what they were doing when the began to fought, and to any person watching on, it would have seemed like a pointless battle. But it wasn't.
"I hate you, dad..." mumbled a young plowing farmer.
He looked around at the fields and sighed. He had much more work to do. Much, much more work he thought to himself. He hated farming, and he really didn't want to be a farmer. He believed he could be much more. He wasn't really paying attention, but it seemed that somewhere farther down in the fields, that someone had just...appeared. Just out of nowhere. The man was coming his way, he was growing nervous as the man approached, and he soon realized that he was sweating heavily.
"Where am I?!" demanded the man.
The boy looked at him puzzled, what kind of a question was that?
"Kirstine of course," replied the boy with an odd look on his face.
"What planet?!?" yelled the man.
"What planet?!?" repeated the amazed boy, "Ilirii of course, where else could we be?"
Without replying, he began to walk off.
The boy shook his head and sighed. Then to himself he said a word he learned but a few days ago, Lunatic.
"He's here. I know it," spoke a man in the shadows to another who was nearby.
"How do you know he's here?" replied the second man.
"He knows." said a third.
"We'll get him," replied the first.
"Why are we doing this again?" asked one of the men.
"To rid ourselves of that man. He doesn't help us, some hero he has turned out to be. He's hurt our worlds more than he has helped them, always trying to find a man named 'Rath'. He's obsessed with finding him, and since he is so blind, he destroys our villages and towns. And kills us all," said the first.
"He has helped us, rid us of criminals," said another.
The first man didn't respond. He knew this was true, but how could he explain what had happened to his brother, and could happen to any of them? He knew he was good, but he also knew he always was looking for a 'Rath', whoever that is, for what this man thought was his own personal gain.
One of the men broke the silence. "How do we know where he is?" he inquired.
"I know," said the first.
He did know. But it wasn't easy how he found out. He had used a force that was awed by most, but also feared and distrusted by most, Magic.
"I don't like Magic," said one of the men.
"Nor I," added another.
"But it is the only way to rid ourselves of Lithan."
"Finally, I have found where Rath is. Know I must get him off this world before he does harm. I wish I could destroy Rath, but there is no way. I must keep removing him from every world I can", Lithan said with a sigh.
She slept as usual. Her beautiful body lay in a quiet peace. Her long beautiful blonde hair lay under her head and neck in curls. Her lovely blue dress was tied with a golden rope. The dress barely overlapped her long lovely white legs. Her lips were a slight passionate red and her eyes were a deep blue. She had high set cheekbones. She slept. Her curvacious chest moved up and down in a rhythmic motion.
"A lovely sight is she," any onlooker would say honestly.
He walked into the nearest town, and stopped at the Stable.
"I'll take your finest horse," the man stated.
A boy brought up a giant black mare, and with a grin said, "This is our best horse. He's a lotta gold tho'."
"I'll pay," replied the man, as he reached for his sack. He pulled out more than enough money, and set it into the boy's outstretched hand.
The boy looked down at the money with wide eyes, then back up to the man as he cried out, "Who are you?!"
"I'm Lithan," said the man in the shadows as he began to mount his new horse, which hadn't a saddle on yet.
The boy went pale and nearly dropped all the gold he had just received as he ran into the back.
Lithan laughed, and kicked his horse with a slight word to it. The horse began to run out of the stable and Lithan left laughing.
I pride myself on being able to read people. Sometimes I sit around after my U.S. History class on the steps outside the student building and watch people as they enter the building. The professors are easy to read. They've usually just finished a lecture, and their expressions clearly reveal their pleasure or disappointment, their masks of politeness tossed away after the last student leaves the room. Dr. Stanford, for example, nearly always seems pleased; intent eyes and a bemused grin comfortably mold his expression. I hear that as a side order to his full load of advanced mathematics courses, he teaches a painting class; this is probably the one he is returning from when I see him. Dr. Shell is always of a stern countenance. He appears eternally angry, although his real mood is up for grabs. He teaches economics. He never tells jokes or anecdotes in class and speaks in a monotone. All this is from hearsay, of course; I'd never take a class from such a person. Apparently several students do, though, and they're probably the ones trudging up the steps with agitated looks on their faces.
I sometimes think about professors and what they do when they're not teaching. I know Dr. Woods is a skilled surfer and often see her instructing local kids out on the lake when the weather is good. She teaches orchestra. She and Dr. Stanford are the kind of archetype that I hope to see in professors; people who devote their lives to teaching others. I idealistically assume, or hope, that all professors are like them. Dr. Shell belies my assumptions, though. He's probably very boring. I try not to let quandaries like him shake my faith in the human spirit.
Well, now that I think of it, it's easy to ignore Dr. Shell as a spurious oddity in my world view. At any rate, I devote most of my time to the students, seeing as there are more of them, and that I can much easier understand and empathize with them.
There's this one guy Keith who's in some of my classes. He doesn't hide his emotions well, which I guess is sorta fatal for a guy. He moans openly when reading over mistakes he's made on tests, often laughs maniacally at silly jokes, but luckily isn't physically violent, because his short temper combined with his excessive emotions could lead to something ugly. Although he's got a wide variety of unsuppressed human emotions, he always walks the same way, in a speed walk, treating other students as mere obstacles in the way and often walking across the grass to avoid unnecessary delays. I guess I've painted a pretty unflattering portrait of him here, but he's not really a jerk. His expression is usually emotionless when he's walking, staring straight ahead, as if in his mind he were flying in an airplane. Strange case.
Then there's Jarred, who's absolutely emotionless at all times. He's what you'd call extremely mellow. Nothing seems to faze him. The expression I see on his face as scales the steps into the student building is the same one he'd have when taking a difficult exam or holding a conversation or waking up to see his house on fire. I once suspected him of chronic drug abuse, but he's apparently clean, as well as possessing acute mental powers. I don't know about the possibility of a frontal lobotomy yet. Sometimes, though, he can have a mood swing, meaning having an actual mood. The incident that stands out in my mind is when he came across a free pencil in his sack of textbooks from the bookstore. Apparently he didn't know about the store's policy of stashing freebies in every sack, and when he found it, he was euphoric for hours. You see, he'd come to school without any pencil whatsoever and had also forgotten to buy one in the bookstore. Whenever someone reminded him about the incident, the mood swing happened again and he pepped up again; it was good for laughs. He probably considered it some sort of miracle from heaven, although I doubt he'd describe it in those terms.
What really worries me when I'm watching people is when I see someone I can't figure out. I admit that before meeting Jarred and Keith I wouldn't have been able to understand what they were all about, and even now some people escape my grasp. But usually, the next time I see them I can complete the image in my mind, if only a stereotypical one.
The most elusive puzzle I've come up against so far is Ethan. I first saw him on the second day of class this year, when I was walking across campus, not even trying to analyze people. But when I noticed him on the sidewalk heading my direction, he caught my eye, although I'm sure I didn't catch his, because his eyes were blank. They were missing something, that spark that supposedly all live people possess. I turned to watch him pass and he simply walked by, not noticing me. I could tell he wasn't blind; his eyes could see out but I couldn't see in. Disconcerted by this, I wrote it off at first as an artifact of the exhausting impact of the first days of class. Maybe he was a freshman and completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the school and the sudden change in lifestyle. Maybe it was the heat. Two months later, though, I must declare those hypotheses dead.
A week ago I broke my unwritten vow not to get involved with the people I observe. I don't particularly enjoy social interaction. Whenever I watch people while sitting on the stairs, I have on a pair of sunglasses and prop up a heavy calculus book in front of me and pretend to be studying. Like the imaginary electron microscope that can observe a photon without changing its speed, I hope to observe people without affecting them.
Ethan's expression started to get to me. Since I hadn't seen him on the steps for a few weeks, I was beginning to forget about him. But a dream, a nightmare really, awoke me one night. It was simply an image of Ethan walking along an unending sidewalk with that blank expression, never stopping, never flinching. My mind threw all sorts of things in his path to upset him, even free pencils, but nothing moved him at all. I hate nightmares like that. It wasn't even inherently scary, like running away from a pursuing attacker or finding my body covered in parasitic insects or something, but it was still a fearful dream, a fear of the unknown, the kind of fear that really got to me that night and fucked me up for a few hours before I decided to just stay awake.
I started to form some hypotheses about the mysterious Ethan. My first, fleeting idea was that he was simply a mellow type like Jarred. Certainly I hadn't even seen enough of Ethan to get a wider angle on him, right? I dismissed this quickly, though. Looking at Ethan, I don't get the idea of mellowness or muted emotion. I just get depressed. It's a sort of cold blanket that washes over me, making me shiver. But it's hard to look away. The mind attempts over and over to make some sort of human connection but the circuit just doesn't close behind the eyes.
It was hard to look away and I soon found it hard to keep away as well. I decided one day when I was feeling adventurous and a bit sneaky to follow Ethan a little bit, if I saw him going by anywhere. I was perched on the steps, intent on analyzing the occasional passerby so as not to completely waste my time if I didn't see Ethan. I wasn't trying very hard, I guess, because my calculus book was at my side and I was obviously scanning the crowds. After several minutes, I glanced down and that cold-blanket feeling washed over me. Astonished, I looked up and spotted Ethan walking along in the distance. It was a damned ominous thing to happen, but I figured that if I didn't get up and follow him, I'd just be left to sit there and think about it until it completely freaked me out. So I shoved the unopened calculus book in my backpack and headed across the campus.
I tried to head on a trajectory aimed so that I'd meet him at an intersection in the sidewalks. Although I had my sunglasses on, I still felt guilty glancing at him, because I guess I was spying on him. I just had to figure him out, though.
At the intersection, he turned toward the library, so I followed him in. He held the door open for me, which was a good sign, I guess, because it indicated he's somewhat aware of other people. In following him around the library, I noticed that he walked slower than I did, although not in an exhausted, trudging manner, or even in a mellow taking-it-easy manner. Our builds seemed similar, and he wasn't short by any large amount. I decided not to read much into it, noting my lack of training in the physics of walking. I just noticed because I was trying to keep a constant distance from him and constantly found myself having to slow down, usually looking foolish in the process, concentrating too hard on Ethan.
He, on the other hand, appeared to have his walking down pat. He seemed to take the most efficient route around the obstacles in the way, never looking confused about where he was going. His mind was apparently working normally in that respect. I guess the slow walking was just a false sign. I admit I was racking my brain for clues to his character.
He finally sat down in the magazine section of the library. I sat in a chair not too far away so I could watch him. I expected that I'd find out quickly what sort of person he was by the magazines he read. He rifled through the magazines lying on the table and picked out "Current Biographies". If I were Keith, I would've moaned aloud. Each issue contains about ten or twenty biographies of random well-known people. That's all. No social bent, no political statement, no entertainment angle, no nothing. I grabbed a wornout issue of "Rolling Stone" and pretended to read it. I decided to take off my sunglasses so as not to draw attention to myself.
After a few minutes, Ethan placed the magazine on the table and got up and left. I waited a while before following him, knowing he'd be walking slow enough to catch up to. When I left the magazine room, I headed off where he had gone and nearly passed him buying some stuff from the vending machines in the student lounge. I pretended to look at a dictionary while I waited for Ethan to continue on. I read that "mellifluous" means sweetly flowing, as if like honey, and then I promptly forgot. He was walking by.
I tried to eye what he had bought. It looked like a Dr. Pepper and a bag of animal crackers. That would just fill him up. I guess he was hungry. I wondered if he was poor for a second, but then realizing his alternative was the commons, I decided not to jump to conclusions. His blank eyes certainly didn't offer me any clues. I followed him back outside.
The fact that he had racked up a total of three minutes in the library told me that he was fidgety and anxious. He couldn't decide what to do with all his free time. He probably didn't have any friends on campus and hadn't figured out what to do with all his free time. I looked at myself and decided I was probably biased.
Ethan walked all the way around the library to the side facing the street. Then he crossed into the lawn and headed for the bench sitting under a tree, halfway to the street. I had to stop because there was no cover. I stood behind the corner of the library and peeked out from time to time at him. Ethan sat down on the bench. He didn't have any books with him, just his Dr. Pepper and animal crackers. He sat up on the bench and looked forward. There were other trees in his line of sight. I could only assume that he was looking at the trees or at nothing at all.
I found it difficult to figure out just what. My eyesight isn't totally perfect, and from the distance I was watching him, I couldn't see his expression. But somehow I could tell his eyes were still dead.
After a while he popped open his Dr. Pepper and animal crackers and started eating. He ate slowly and methodically, as if not to spill a crumb. Of course I really couldn't tell. It's just that he ate each cracker by nibbling away at it until it was gone. Then, as if on a whim, he'd take a sip of his drink. I know I'd much rather have preferred to shove a few in my mouth and crunch them up and then chug some Dr. Pepper to wash them down. I guess you could say Ethan was acting pretty peaceful.
I watched him eat for about fifteen minutes. After he finally finished his meal of sorts, he folded up the animal cracker bag and put it in his pocket. Then he continued to take conservative sips from his drink, always looking ahead blankly. It unnerved me. I didn't want to watch after a while because I felt like I was intruding on his privacy. But it was just watching. There's no harm in that. Except possibly an acute case of boredom.
I wanted to leave, but my memories of that nightmare wouldn't let me. I had to have closure. I needed to find out what made Ethan tick. What I had seen so far was utterly useless. Maybe if I could get him to talk. Words can paint a thousand pictures. I just needed one.
As I sat deliberating, Ethan stood up and started walking back. He was heading my way. I didn't have a plan. I decided to simply say "hello" as he passed. So I leaned against the corner of the library as if I had been born there and listened to the footsteps approach. They were slow and meticulous. I glanced over to Ethan. His eyes were blank. He wasn't smiling or frowning. He looked dutifully straight ahead.
"Hello," I said.
He only blinked and continued walking. I stayed behind for ten minutes and then went home and wept.
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 1995 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 1995 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: iSiS UNVEiLED 512.TMP.DOWN 14.4 (Home of SoB) CYBERVERSE 512.255.5728 14.4 THE LiONS' DEN 512.259.9546 24oo TEENAGE RiOt 418.833.4213 14.4 NUP: COSMIC_JOKE GOAT BLOWERS ANONYMOUS 215.750.0392 14.4 ftp to ftp.io.com /pub/SoB World Wide Web http://www.io.com/~hagbard/sob.html Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Thank you. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--