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In Medias Res

June 4, 2012

 – the subway with a glance behind, but ignored the first rule of the underground – mind the gap, a rule as applicable in the States as the Isles – and in doing so sprawled his way into the car, catching himself just before connecting face with floor. Kenton shook his head and pushed himself upright, taking a hand from none other than –


– cigarettes just so he could step outside for some air. “We shut ourselves off from nature, you know,” he said, inhaling papered smoke from between stained fingers, exhaling like a locomotive, said more, “… in little mind-prisons. It really is Wonderland, and we really are all quite insane.” He paused a moment, eyeing –


– horses on the plains of Mongolia, racing against the wind, hair whipping like their manes. Our eyes met in periodic briefs as we laughed, feeling as all youth does: that age is a lie. We were wrong, of course, but I’ve held onto that moment, even here as I lay dying. And, oh! how suddenly my vision changes before me. The walls of the yurt ripple in the wind and then fade away gently and she is there again. It was so unlike the storm –

– that founted from my pen is like phallic psychobabble. I threw my TV out the window with my sanity and raged off into the Red Light District so it could never find me. The next week was, as Zhuangzi might have liked, not unlike a dream, for it was full of phantasms and trips and now I cannot recall it. My memory is such that I am not even sure if anything I just said is true, except –

– trees in the garden. My garden, I should say, now that… that my… Oh, God. I can’t even bring myself to say… I’m looking out now, at all the springtime saplings just beginning to green, losing all their blossoms. Nature is the most beautiful art, I think, but beauty requires pain and art demands detachment. It is easy to stare down Death from afar, but –

– flames licked the Humvee in front of ours as screaming shouts sounded off. I was trained to move quickly, but I never thought it would be my convoy. Robbie, Paul, Henry, Savannah – they were all in there. I swallowed my stomach and was shoved by Pvt. Whatshisname who just arrived this morning. He yelled in my ear to get ahold of myself cause who knows if they’re lying in wait in one of those windows to shoot us all. I ran after him towards the wreckage as those there before us pulled a body like melted plastic from the wreckage. I turned away, an arm over my mouth, just as some civis emerged from the surrounding doors. ‘Irregulars’ was the next thought that came to mind and I instinctively raised my rifle, swiveling –

– around the Earth is the Sun, said the teacher, and the moon goes around the Earth, and there are other planets that are all dead and the nearest other star is impossible to reach. I asked what a star was and she said a bunch of hot air, which I later found out wasn’t exactly right, but anyways I asked what hot air was and she said molecules and I asked what molecules were and she said particles, and I asked what particles were and she didn’t know, so she asked another teacher and he said it was complicated but that particles were kind of like energy pockets, so I asked what energy was and he shrugged and I said that was stupid because –

– the dirt was bare and the land parched and the mountains cleaved. The desert was encroaching and the forests were shrinking and the animals were vanishing. Ah, but humanity was progressing! The cities were taller, broader, more culturally diverse. Wars were impossible after a point, as we were all too big to fail. Instead, outsiders and renegades were ostracized from the community of nations like an unwanted tribesman and their people starved. The wheel of time turned and before long we were savages again, but the planet had –

– already waited for a long time, but I was patient. I sketched out maps of the territory from impressions left on my brain and waited some more. I strategized and listened to the world, watched its denizens, and waited. I gathered allies and brought people to the cause, and waited. When my opponents moved, I moved, when they advanced, I retreated, when they bellowed, I yielded. I waited. Then, one day when dark clouds lofted above us, I called my banners and –

– waited impatiently for the taxi to arrive. The driver was Arab or Indian or something and smelled bad and asked where I wanted to go. “That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” I said. He shrugged. I said, like they do in the movies, “Just drive.” He sighed, like he’d heard that too many times, and did so. I noticed after awhile that he was driving towards the outskirts and when I asked why, he didn’t answer. I suddenly realized I recognized him and my skin went cold. He looked back and smiled –

 

– furious with pride as Kate walked down the aisle in her mother’s gown. The barnyard was, strangely enough, the most fitting place she might have chosen. I glanced around at all the attendees and saw that while some seemed either ignorant or accepting of the setting, a choice few had upturned noses they tried to hold down. I chuckled to myself as I remembered the cows. Kate had let the kid tie balloons to all of them and so they were trailed by bright orbs as they grazed. Considering first the banners and the laurels and the lace, then the scented manure and the cowboy boots on the groom and the barrel-chested pastor, the absurdity of the cows really augmented the surreality of the whole affair. From the front, Kate tore her eyes from her partner and looked back at me for a moment, and I knew –

– there were diamonds in the suitcase?” I stared at my employer over the gun barrel. “How… the fuck… was I supposed to know that?”

“You weren’t.” She waited for me to protest and said, “You were supposed to deliver the case and you didn’t – ” She closed my mouth with her gun as soon as it started to unhinge. ” – not only did you not deliver the case on time, but you return empty-handed four hours later claiming you were mugged.”

“I was mugged.”

“Oh? Frank has a different story.” The man in question stepped forward.

“Frank? What does… I don’t understand.” I wasn’t lying.

She gestured, “Frank. Tell him what you told me.”

His eyes seemed almost sympathetic as he did so. “He pulled over in Westborough at an apartment, took the case inside with him. Came back out without it. He drove about ten minutes outside of town and… roughed himself up on a barbed-wire fence.” He paused, as if the next part was too much. I winced as he finished, “He drove to Waffle House and ate.” My cheeks flushed.
She had me and we both knew it. What had I been thinking? I tried in vain to weasel my way out of my predicament. “Look, I can get you the diamonds. Just – “

“We can get them ourselves.” She cocked the 9mm. “I do have one question.”

I leapt at the chance for favor. “Anything.”

“Why Waffle House? I mean, if you thought you were rich, why would you go to Waffle House?”

I laughed in nervous relief. “I didn’t wanna forget where I came from.”

“Everyone’s going to forget where you came from.” She pulled the trigger, there was a loud noise, and I fell to the ground. From my side, as my hands grew wet over my stomach, as my eyes watered and dimmed, I watched two pairs of feet leave the room and close the door. Hoarsely, –

 

– she begged me to stop, sobbing on the hood of the car. I hit her and went on –

 

– coasting down the hillside on his bike, teasing the brakes and slaloming between the reflectors. He crested the bottom and felt a gear slip and glanced down, then back up just as a minivan backed out of a driveway. Daniel panicked and swerved violently, overcorrected but evaded the van, found himself brushing a passing car and wrenched the handlebars back the other way, overcorrected a second time, and then a third. This time it was too far and the bike went out from under him and Dan slammed into the ground – hard.

He lay for a minute, stunned, and looked up at the sky. Breathing out the adrenaline, he patted himself down and decided he was okay. He decided to lay there another few moments and make sure. The clouds looked like continents. Dan noticed there was shouting and turned his head, lifting it slightly. The first thing that struck him was that there were three bikes. The first lay next to a body behind a blood-printed back of the minivan. The second was just past the passing car, next to a side-mirror and another body. The third was his own and it was just in front of him. There were cloned bystanders over both of the others, calling 911 and crying for help and guilt. Then, they all faded rapidly and Dan realized they were all standing over him similarly. He looked from one to the other to the other.

“What’s going on?” Dan sat up – the whole world lurched. Suddenly, he was floating, up, up, and away from where he lay, unmoving, as the others walked about below, pulling out their –

– hair from my face as the air caught it. I needed a haircut. I waved goodbye to Mom and consulted the list. I was glad to be almost finished. The next item was ‘pamphlet from the Museum of Science and Industry’. I sighed. It was going to be quite a trek. Still, anything for the cash prize. I followed someone through the revolving doors and waited in line. I slid the ticket into the receptacle. The metal turnstile, which suddenly reminded me of a barstool, gave way and I adjusted the satchel over my shoulder and stepped through and went down the stairs, then down the hallways adorned with urban murals. I smiled at the trumpeteer as I passed, and his tune sang alongside me as I walked.
As I stepped out onto the platform, I was pleased to rediscover the strange winds that moved under the city. I loitered about in the tunnels with the businessmen as we waited for –

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From → Short Stories

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