Not Her, But She’ll Do

Not Her, But She’ll Do

“So, are you saying that the story was of an apocryphal nature?”

“Well, yes, it is.”

“Ah, apologies, yes, the story is still widely heard or told or seen?”

“Heard mostly. I never knew a written account existed for years. Well, I guess it was most of my life, thus far.”

“Understood.”

“People speak of the events as true. That was what drew me to the subject in the first place.”

“Speak to the first part, please.”

“What?”

“How people speak of the events, etc.”

“Well, there are a lot of people who believe that they’ve seen these, I don’t know what to call them except like, maybe disappearances?, but that’s not how those who speak of them talk about the, uh, event.”

“How do the people speak of the event, then?”

“Sort of … magic or some sort of sighting.”

“A sighting of what?”

“Alien beings or people from other dimensions.”

“Do you know what happens during these events?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve seen it?”

“No. I read about them.”

“You believe the written accounts to be true?”

“I’m not sure if I’d say I’m a ‘believer,’ but the situation as a whole fascinates me. You hear the tale or a rumor about a sighting, and then everyone’s interested in what it was exactly. You hear things.”

“And that was what drew you to the subject?”

“Yes, absolutely. I was absolutely fascinated by these accounts of people ‘disappearing’ and the flashes of light and all these different images of color and rainbows, and everything just seemed so, so, intriguing.”

“How is it that you came to read written accounts of these ‘disappearances’?”

“Various books stores.”

“Sorry?”

“Bookstores.”

“Oh, right. Yes. Apologies. And are you fond of this antiq … this form of media?”

“Media? I suppose. Yes, I like books.”

“Do you remember how you got here today?”

“ … ”

“Sorry. Let’s continue with what you read of these accounts.”

“Alright.”

“What was it that you found so fascinating and intriguing?”

“Well, I assume you know of the events; that is why I am here, yes?”

“Of course. The events are known by everyone.”

“So, don’t you find them fascinating?”

“You find them fascinating, and that is what is fascinating. Please, answer the question.”

“Geez, alright. I thought this was a simple sit down to discuss my research on the disappearances, but that’s fine, I’ll just get to my point.”

“Yes, it is important not to have hurt feelings.”

“I’m sorry?”

“When one’s feelings get hurt through a clear lack of revelry, people feel emotionally wounded.”

“Um, no. I don’t feel emotionally wounded.”

“Then why take offense to the directness of this situation?”

“I wasn’t offended.”

“Then why say, ‘Geez’?”

“It just seems rude to have all of this discussion be so one-sided.”

“This is a one-sided situation, however.”

“Is it?”

“Of course.”

“So, I’m being interrogated?”

“More or less. Remember, though, you came here of your own free will.”

“Did I?”

“Of course. How else would you be here?”

“Well, now I’m not sure.”

“Well, if you’re no longer sure about whether or not you want to continue stating answers to the questions asked, you are free to leave.”

“So, you don’t want to know about my research?”

“Do you want to speak to your research or do you want your feelings to feel good?”

“I don’t know what you’re getting at, ma’am, but I’m here because someone called me.”

“And you showed up.”

“Yes. I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Why?”

“Mostly because I need the money, but I also think that these stories aren’t just stories. I think that these disappearances are true. I think that every account is so similar that they cannot simply be brushed off as radical obsession with fill-in-the-blank affiliation.”

“What is the motivation behind the conviction?”

“That the stories are true?”

“Of course.”

“The motivation … I am motivated by the consistency.”

“How often do these disappearances occur?”

“No one can know for sure because there’s a good chance that every event hasn’t been reported.”

“When are you?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What is today’s date?”

“[date/day]”

“Year?”

“[Year]”

“Give a ballpark estimate based on your research.”

“There have been roughly fifty recorded incidents over the past thousand years or so.”

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning, I’d assume that an event happens maybe every ten years, but there’s a low probability that every event would be seen, and then who knows if the witness would be compelled to record the incident in writing. Therefore, I feel as though …”

“Enough with the feelings.”

“Jesus, fuck. I … would … es-ti-mate … that there’s no way of knowing exactly how many times or how many different people have not only seen the event but also, how many different people have disappeared through an event.”

“Ah. Very good.”

“Thank you.”

“No.”

“No, what?”

“No, thank yous. You have no idea where you are.”

“Within the scope of what these disappearances are or mean? I know! That’s why I’m here!”

“No.”

“No, what?”

“Physically. You have no idea where you are currently located.”

“Yes, I do?”

“This doesn’t matter. What matters is what are you researching now?”

“Well, I read about a hundred different books by people who have either documented as a witness or for someone else who has witnessed a disappearance and learned that there is ever only one witness to the event, even when the witness speaks of other people directly within their vicinity.”

“Yes.”

“Yes, what?”

“Please continue.”

“So, usually, the witness undergoes some sort of mental trauma wherein they feel … they think that they are crazy or have seen something they weren’t supposed to see, and then, they begin to fear for their own safety. Everything basically goes downhill fast, as far as mental stability and mental health is concerned.”

“For the witness.”

“Yes.”

“Understood.”

“Then the witness eventually forgets about the event and when people approach them about it later, they fail to understand its significance. So, if a witness doesn’t speak up fast and loud enough, there’s a really good chance that the witness will forget or write it off as ‘crazy,’ which means the only documented, known witnesses are the ones who really believed what they saw, believed it so much, despite being amongst other people who should’ve also seen the disappearance happen, that they raved about it until someone was willing to listen. Or in a few cases, the witness was prominent enough to write about it him/herself, and the written account was read.”

“So, what is it that you research now?”

“Sorry. I get excited and lose my train of thought.”

“Is it a train?”

“Figuratively.”

“Speak in the literal, please, no more ‘magic’ or ‘downhill’ or ‘trains’ that are not trains.”

“Jeez-us. You are one tough nut.”

“One last time, please.”

“You are impenetrable.”

“Yes. Continue.”

“Alright. These days, I suppose …”

“This really is your last warning. There’s no use for you if you cannot find confidence in your own action.”

“What?”

“You suppose?”

“What the fuck, lady? Nobody just talks so perfectly and ardently in conversation.”

“Try.”

“Jesus-fucking-christ.”

“Are you religious?”

“Fuck no.”

“Why is that?”

“Are you crazy?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Are you religious?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Well, if you are religious, you’re crazy. If you’re not religious, then you know why I think you’re crazy.”

“You only think that, though. How does that matter?”

“My thoughts?”

“Yes.”

“Because your thoughts matter.”

“To whom?”

“To you, the world, to everything that you wish and hope to be.”

“How?”

“You can’t be or exist without having the thoughts you have. Your thoughts are what makes you who you are?”

“Typical.”

“I’m sorry?”

“It doesn’t matter. Continue if you please.”

“I don’t remember the question.”

“Then sit there until you do remember.”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“ …”

“Shit.”

“Yes.”

“Oh, something about no one speaks so impeccably in real life.”

“What is real life?”

“Goddammit. Do you want me to answer the question from before?”

“If you can remember it.”

“Shit, my research.”

“Ah, very good.”

“Yes, so my current research revolves around figuring out what exactly happens during these disappearances.”

“How can you, of all people, figure such a thing out?”

“I’m a physicist.”

“Are you?”

“Yes, I thought that was part of the reason why my work meant something to you.”

“Of course. Are you any good?”

“One of the only prize-winning females out there.”

“Prizes mean something to you?”

“Okay, just … you’re … what was it?, impenetrable.”

“Please.”

“Yes, fine, I will continue. It must be a matter of physics or at least something that has to do with the relationship between matter, humans, and space, time, and a transference or anomalous change in or of energy around those humans.”

“Must it?”

“Yes, absolutely.”

“Theories?”

“Of your demanded definitive state? No.”

“What is knowable?”

“Nothing.”

“Yes.”

“The obvious problem, for me personally, is that I have not encountered a witness myself.”

“Never?”

“Correct.”

“Never spoken to a person who was close to a witness?”

“I have spoken to people who have directly heard a witness speak of the event witnessed.”

“What would you ask?”

“Everything.”

“Where would you start?”

“Are you telling me there’s someone here who has recently witnessed a disappearance?”

“No. With what question would you start if you were to encounter someone who believed they saw a disappearance?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You have never given this any thought?”

“You said my thoughts don’t matter.”

“Of course they do.”

“Why?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Fuck, lady. Stop shit … just … just … stop … with the … word dom-i-nance.”

“Ah, very good.”

Ladybug & A New One

Ladybug & A New One

“Mother-fucking fucking-fucking christ,” Ladybug screams while storming about. “I am not screaming, and you did not use an exclamation point,” Ladybug sternly explains with its middle two … arms … rested upon its … hips? “Yes, hips will do for the sake of, what’s the word?, the, oh right, the imagination,” Ladybug nods, this time, with its middle two arms crossed across its … chest? Ladybug rolls its eyes as its middle two arms fall loosely by its … “Sides goddammit! Sides!” Ladybug shouts. “Yes, thank you. I am shouting now,” Ladybug thanks. “You totally suck at this, bee-tee-dubs,” Ladybug enunciates. “You’re allowed to speak,” Ladybug speaks. Curiously, Ladybug brings this to the attention of no one in particular and contemplates the validity of its perception of … reality. “What is it with you and your linguistics?” Ladybug asks, and continues, “Why do you not know anything?” A squirrel appears in the distance. “Yea, you can wiggle away this time,” Ladybug scoffs … “It’s more of a huff. That’s how the other one used to put it; I liked them better,” Ladybug huffs. “No, I’m not huffing now. Ugh, why do you suck so much?” Ladybug asks, this time, as it flutters off toward the apparent squirrel. “I don’t flutter!” Ladybug shouts as its distance grows closer to the squirrel.

“Sup, Lady,” the squirrel greets with a lift of the chin. “What’s with this one?” the squirrel points, with a thumb over its shoulder. “It’s Margaret,” the squirrel … “Margaret,” Margaret introduces, although one would never be able to guess the gender of a squirrel just by looking at them. “She/her is fine,” Margaret admits. Ladybug rolls its eyes and perches itself atop the acorn in Margaret’s … hands? “Yea, hands are fine where universal descriptions are concerned,” Margaret approves while waving the acorn around in one hand as Ladybug flutters to stay on top of it (the acorn). “Where did this one come from?” Margaret asks Ladybug. “The older woman off’d the last guy,” Ladybug shrugs. A lie. “What?” Margaret wonders with great concern as she, too, rolls her eyes. “The main problem with this one is that it won’t speak,” Ladybug gestures with feigned exhaustion. “Oh,” Margaret sighs. “Well, what’s this all about?” Margaret finally asks. The two glance over at nowhere in particular with an … impatient? … look? “Can it just shut up?” Margaret asks. “Unfortunately,” Ladybug begins, “I do not possess such power.” “If I look, I’ll stare,” Margaret admits. “Yea, this one’s a cutie,” Ladybug flirts. The two continue to stare.

More than a few minutes pass. “When were you last?” Margaret wonders, seemingly aloud. “It’s such a long story,” Ladybug laments with another big huff. “Very well, have you seen the Listmaker?” Margaret offers. “Oh. My. God. Yes. This was when everything started to go wrong, but nobody seems to know what’s going on,” Ladybug explains. “That seems about right,” Margaret states while stroking her chin with her left free hand as the right continues to gently toss the acorn up into the air with Ladybug still fluttering to stay atop it. “Okay, I know where you need to go,” Margaret concludes. “Thank Bromide,” Ladybug shouts … “Ugh, you forgot the exclamation point,” Ladybug corrects; “Here, I’ll do it again. Thank Bromide!” Ladybug’s excitement reaches its normal high as all of its flying apparati deploy, and Ladybug does a little happy dance. “Where, Margaret? Tell me, where do we need to go?” Ladybug asks, huffing and puffing for air after exerting itself beyond its normal daily physical movement. “Shut up,” Ladybug scoffs, at no particular one. “No, I’m talking to you,” Ladybug states with an over exaggerated eye roll.

Margaret clears her throat, “You need to find her” Ladybug plops itself down onto its … butt? “Haunches, the other one used to call them my haunches,” Ladybug offers as Ladybug plops itself down onto its haunches. “What’s the problem?” Margaret asks. “Obviously, we know this. Well, not this one, the other one and I, ‘we’ know this,” Ladybug states while leaving out the obvious that everything that needs to be known will be known by those who need to know. “Oh, well, that’s what I know,” Margaret admits. “That’s what everyone knows,” Ladybug explains.

The two sit in silence for a moment, a bit discouraged. “A bit?” Ladybug whisper-asks, greatly discouraged, nearly suicidal. “Alright, watch it,” Ladybug pleases as if in threat. “Yea, I am your greatest threat, Lingerer,” Ladybug threatens, for sure, this time. It becomes increasingly difficult to know exactly what and how it is that ticks off Ladybug in just the right way to make it intolerable to be around. “It’s you,” Ladybug points; “It’s always you.”

As Inquisitor

As Inquisitor

“I do not know why Mox lies so readily, ma’am, but in his defense, at least the lies are part of his overall character or lack thereof.”

“Of course. You do seem to be right about that. Where is he now?”

“I’m not sure, and none of the others have seen him in some time.”

“How much time is some time, dear?”

“I believe the last person who saw him was Uldin during the Bias.”

“How do you know of this?”

“A guarantor requested … ”

“Of course. Who is the most-capable person to find him?”

“Ma’am?”

“Yes.”

“If Mox is hidden, there is no way to find him.”

“There are ways. He has been found in the past, and this will not be the last time he hides, of course.”

“Who would you like for me to send?”

“Do not send anyone. Bring someone to me.”

“Right away, ma’am.”

> . . . <

“Do you know why you are here, Lingerer?”

“To tell the story, I believe.”

“How is it that you know the story?”

“Many years ago, I stumbled upon a different story that seemed to have no end, and so, I began my search to find its end.”

“And that is how you found yourself here?”

“Yes, ma’am. The story is being told as I watch it unfold.”

“Do you not know the end?”

“Yes.”

“I see. Please, proceed.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course.”

They sit in a lofty room, circular, cylindrical actually, and above their heads a large, round stained glass window spreads wide and fills the ceiling completely. Directly centered in the circular room, the older woman sits comfortably upon a rod-iron chair, facing one of the four doors that are equally placed around the circle’s wall, and in front of her sits a small loo table that supports a small, pink, carnival glass plate of crumpets, a stack of old-Earth tea cups and saucers and a glass, self-sieving teapot.

The day seems strange, full of tension as various individuals swarm in and out of the older woman’s office chambers after being called in, one-by-one, to be interrogated about yesterday’s incident. The older woman, of course, understands all and thus knows the cause of said incident, but the repercussions are what concern her, and the only way for her to understand what will be is to figure out the reason the incident happened in the first place. The older woman, feels the intensity in the air, a shift, the clouds no longer sway in a misty formation of carelessness; they know something. “Please, Kira,” the older woman shouts aloud throughout the room despite the fact that Kira stands outside the room. Immediately, the doors to the older woman’s left open as Kira ushers in the next person in question as the current person in question grabs a crumpet as the older woman abruptly dismisses the person with a wave of the hand and a, “Good. Don’t come back.”

For hours, people are summoned from every turn within walking distance to sit and chat with the older woman. Some have a small idea about who the older woman is, but most have no idea who she is or why they are there. Those who know of the older woman easily comply and follow the person who approached them. Those, however, who do not know the older woman, despite the oddity of the situation, do not know whether or not they have the right to decline the offer, if it even is an offer. Thus, all arrive into the office a bit scared, fearful, confused and sometimes quite resistant and demanding. The older woman flexes a certain amount of power and nobody seems to know how it is that she is able to do so. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people within the Orbital do not know the older woman, but for some reason, everyone seems to know of her.

The questions are simple enough, and everyone who arrives usually ends up feeling proud of their own competence. They, of course, have no idea for what the older woman probes, since great pains have been taken to keep the questioning reasonable and plain. Little effort, though, is made to comfort the fearful person in question. The older woman usually begins with a minute or so of pure silence, which ultimately leads to the offering of tea and crumpets to break the silence, “Tea? Crumpets? Sugar and cream are unavailable.” Once the person in question seems to calm down a bit, not to say that all ever calm down, and in fact, there were, on quite a few occasions, those who refused to even acknowledge the older woman’s demand that all be questioned. Eventually, however, they all comply because, “Frankly,” the older woman states as she casually sips some tea, “you must.” Once all of the niceties are established and the person in question realizes that the interrogation revolves around the incident and not around them personally, the older woman decides to make it about them, “Who are you, and where do you live?” Most, of course, begin to feel uncomfortable again as the older woman probes ever deeper into the personal lives of those being questioned. Some, of course, like the attention. Despite the overall consensus that the people in question are answering the older woman’s questions honestly, the older woman feels frustrated at the people’s overwhelming lack of insight and information, since, “For to know anything, one must first know one’s self; it’s no wonder that all of these people have wasted my day.” Angry now, the older woman takes a deep breath, exhales, stretches her neck as she sits up tall in her chair, “Kira, please.”

A moment later, Kira appears before the older woman. “Perhaps,” the older woman states, “since hours have been wasted, turns of a farther distance ought to be searched as well.” “But ma’am, does everyone who potentially understands the incident need to be interrogated?” Kira asks shyly. “Of course not, dear,” the older woman states to obviate further discussion. Kira knows better than to press the matter, thus, with this instruction, the older woman’s staff quickly sets out in an attempt to find out to what extent the incident is known.

“That’s enough,” the older woman commands with a raised hand, and continues, “No, that … Please, that’s enough.” The older woman looks at me. “Stop it!” the older …

“That … Stop it!”

“Ma’am?”

“Must the command be repeated yet again?”

“I’m sorry. I just don’t understand what it is that you want.”

“What is it that you do understand?”

“You want me to stop telling the story?”

“Of course.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Leave us.”

“But ma’am …”

“The daggers that stare hear the words of each whisper that fuels the flame of the conceited.”

A Man … From Earth

A Man … From Earth

“Yea, of course I remember. I remember like it was yesterday. I mean, come on man, it’s not every day that you watch some guy disappear before your eyes.”

“Yes, that’s good, but what do you remember? Exactly?”

“I was just walking down the street, and there was this kid. Well, I guess I’m not sure if he was a kid; it was hard to tell.”

“So, you don’t remember every little detail, now do you?”

“Come on, man. Do you want my help or what? You called me. Remember?”

“Of course. I’m so very sorry. Please continue. Please try to be as detailed as possible.”

“Okay. Thank you. It’s like I was saying. I was just walking down the street, you know, leaving work …”

“Where do you work?”

“At the Q, P&R factory.”

“Where is the factory located?”

“Downtown. The far side of the inlet.”

“Please continue.”

“So, yea. Okay, so, I came out the backdoor of the factory and walked along side the building toward the inlet. I like to walk along the water because, you know, it’s hard to come by and whatnot. So, there I was, and I thought I’d just take a little break and sit or something cause I’m tired and going home didn’t sound all that exciting.”

“Sure.”

“And then, on the Sprouts Bridge, I see this guy just walking along. You know, there’s nothing strange about a guy walking, and it’s not like I’d never seen another guy walking before. So, but then he was looking a little, uh, like concerned, you know?”

“Sure.”

“Like, he was looking all worried and maybe like he was up to no good or like running from someone or something.”

“Yes, okay.”

“So, I started to walk to the bridge to get a better look at him and to see if there was anyone following him.”

“What time of day was this?”

“I mean, I just got off work, so I guess it was like five in the morning or so. I don’t really hang out at work, so it must’ve been like right after five, maybe like five fifteen or so.”

“Was the sun out?”

“Yea, but just barely. I mean, it wasn’t dark, but you know how it is around here. When was the last time you saw a sunny day?”

“Five AM then?”

“Yea, sure.”

“Great. Please, continue.”

“So, I’m walking to the bridge now, and there’s no one around, so I’m just thinking maybe this guy’s just tweakin’ or something. No biggie. But then, when he got to the like the middle of the bridge, he stood and looked over, you know, with that like look, like he’s gonna jump.”

“Sure.”

“So, I’m like, I don’t know what to do, so I just kind of start to walk away. I mean, I don’t really want to get involved with that sort of shit and nonsense.”

“Sure.”

“So, I decide that I’ll just turn around and start walking back home.”

“Sure.”

“But then, everything started to get all bright and like colorful, like I was inside a rainbow or something, you know?”

“No, I don’t know, but please continue.”

“So, I turn around to check on the guy, and he’s like standing there like he’s going to jump and there’s all this swirling rainbow shit nonsense all over the place, and I’m like trying to figure out where all this light and shit’s coming from, but I can’t figure it out.”

“Sure.”

“And then, there’s like this crack, sort of like lightning or something but like louder, and then the guy’s got his arms up to the sky and then everything like turned upside down or something, and then when it all turned right again, I saw the guy. He was looking at me! So, I sort of like waved or something, and then he just vanished. Poof.”

“Have you ever seen anything like this before?”

“What? Are you shitting me, man? Have I ever watched the world like go all crazy and then see a man disappear? No fucking way, man. I mean, have you?”

“What did you do after all of this?”

“Well, I mean, that’s when it gets all foggy. I don’t really remember how I got home, but like later that night, a friend of mine’s all banging on my door cause I’m like late for work and shit.”

“I see.”

“It’s possible, then, that none of this really happened, yes?”

“I mean, it’s possible. I guess. But, man, I know what I saw. Like I saw it all happen with my own two eyes.”

“None of this seems unreasonable to you?”

“What do you mean by unreasonable?”

“You believe what you saw and believe that what you saw is actually possible?”

“Well, I mean, I don’t know about all that and whatnot, but yea, I mean, I know what I saw, and I believe the shit I see. I mean, I saw it all happen.”

“Sure. Perhaps, just imagine for a minute that none of that happened? How are there no other people who saw what you saw that day?”

“I mean, it was early, and the factory’s not exactly in the middle of town. There’s not much else out there, you know?”

“Let’s just say the event did not happen. What would you say then?”

“Uh. I mean. I guess I’d just have to think that I had a crazy-ass dream, you know?”

“You tell other people, many other people, otherwise, however.”

“Yea, I gotta tell everyone who will listen?”

“Why is that?”

“Because it was just so crazy, man!”

“Can you explain the ‘rainbow-effect,’ as you put it, one more time, please?”

“Yea. Like, I was standing there, like watching the guy, and all the sky and world around me looked like all colored but with the wrong colors, like I was looking through a rainbow.”

“Have you ever seen a rainbow?”

“No. No one has, but I know what a rainbow is.”

“Do you know how they form?”

“Yea, it’s like when the sun shines through the rain when it rains, and the light’s all colorful through the water or something, right?”

“Sure.”

“So, yea, it was like that but all over, not just like over there in one stripe like in the pictures, you know?”

“Sure. Then what happened?”

“I told you, man. Everything got all cold and dark again and like the world turned upside down.”

“How is that possible?”

“I don’t know, man. I thought that’s why I’m here. I thought you wanted to hear my story cause you would like explain all this shit to me, you know?”

“Sure.”

“So, like, is that what you’re going to do? Like, I told you what happened, and you’ll tell me what it all means.”

“No one can tell you what anything means.”

“What? What the hell’s that supposed to mean. Why the fuck am I here, then?”

“You’re here because someone heard your story.”

“Yea, everyone, man. I tell everyone.”

“Why?”

“Cause it’s crazy man!”

“It’s unbelievable?”

“No, I believe it.”

“Do other people believe it?”

“Sometimes. But sometimes people just look at me like I’m the crazy one.”

“Are you?”

“No way, man. I’m not crazy. I’m like the opposite of crazy, just all straight-laced, and I go to work, and I pay my bills, and I just don’t do like crazy shit, you know?”

“Sure.”

“So, is there anything else you like need? I feel like I’ve told you everything I know.”

“Yes. You’re doing a great job. Please explain, one more time, the disappearance.”

“Oh, come on man, I’ve told you like ten times already.”

“ … ”

“Ah, fine. He was standing on the bridge, and then there was like this loud crack or something, and then he just disappeared.”

“A loud crack or something? What’s the something?”

“I do not know.”

“Sure.”

“It was like, I don’t know how else to explain it except it was like maybe when something breaks? You know, that sound, like that but really loud.”

“Sure. And then what happened?”

“Goddammit! He. Was. There. And. Then. He. Wasn’t.”

“Yes, but what did it look like? Was it fast or slow or something else?”

“Gah. It was like he was there, and then he was gone. Just, poof!”

“Did the disappearance occur at the same time as the loud ‘crack’?”

“No.”

“Which came first?”

“The loud noise.”

“How does all of this make you feel?”

“Well, right now, it all makes me feel annoyed as shit, cause I’ve like told you this same thing like a hundred times, and you keep asking me the same fucking questions. So, I guess I just don’t know how I feel about all of this. It’s just getting old.”

“No. How did the event make you feel?”

“Oh, I mean; I guess it makes me feel like wow, you know?”

“Sure. Anything else?”

“Well, like, I guess I’m not so sure about whatever it was that happened or something. Like, you’re all making me feel like I’m crazy. But I’m not crazy. I know what I saw!”

“Sure. How does knowing that you saw what you saw make you feel about seeing what it was that you saw?”

“Come on, man. What?”

“If someone else told you this story, what would you think?”

“Oh shit. I mean, yea, I guess I would totally think that person was crazy as shit, you know?”

“Sure.”

“And I don’t know if I’d believe them either, you know?”

“Sure.”

“But I did see it, so I guess now, if someone else said some story to me like this, I’d have to believe them.”

“Great. Come this way.”

Entwained

Entwained

Both standing now, the old man stares into the face of the young man who stares into the face of the clock. “She came to you willingly?” the young man finally asks. “It was an accident,” the old man answers. A small revelation falls upon the young man, “You haven’t come here with a message at all.” The old man smiles the largest smile he has ever smiled, “Yes.” “How much time do we have?” “She searches for Mox.” “Mox?” “Yes.” “Why?” “No one knows for sure.” “Jesus fucking christ, man!” “Yes. More or less,” the old man states, and now that he feels entertained, he sits back down at the table. “How did she find you by accident?” the young man, too, sheds his initial contempt and brings the chair back to the table and sits. “That goddamn boy, what’s his name?, Darby?” the old man answers. “That fucking corridor. Shit. Fucking Darby. Who still sends him?” “It was not that kind of scenario.” “What? She just showed up there, too?” “Yes,” the old man whispers, nearly inaudible. The young man feels another small revelation, “The message. Tell me now.” La salle de manger begins to fill with the sounds of meal preparation. The old man leans back in his chair and assumes his resting position, right arm hugging himself while the left elbow rests upon the arm as the left hand strokes his chin. You will be angry, the old man warns.

Understanding this, the young man stands and exits la salle de manger toward the outdoor courtyard. “Fresh air is good for the crazies,” they say, “It helps them feel normal.” Impeccable, the grass and foliage that surround the outdoor grounds of the facility are the responsibility of four full-time employees. Watered by hand, every dawn the four walk the two-acre property and spray the grass and foliage with water from a water-tank-on-wheels setup. Surrounding the entrance to the facility through the front doors rests a large garden full of blooming, brightly colored annuals. Around the facility, large, lush flowering trees grow and provide shade, branches for wooden swings, and the overall sense that this is a place for relaxation. Just outside the wall of large windows that line the fourth wall of the common area and stretches all the way through la salle de manger, another, larger garden of muted, flowering perennials require constant tending. Beyond the trees that line the facility and the expanse of flowering gardens, a reflective fountain sculpted of a luminous metal settles itself between a rockway and the stretches of velvety green grass that reach all the way down and around to a small stream. Fearing the innate danger of running water near a place where, often times, sufferers come to avoid that self-inflicted permanent rest, the landscape designers opted for a wide, shallow mirror of water. For the stream as well, a wide, shallow trickle makes its way through the outdoor grounds of the facility, where its source begins beyond the fence of the property and pools much farther down, almost a mile away from the facility’s entrance gate. In general, the outdoor area creates the semblance of calm, the serenity against which the profound nature of the sufferer’s suffering becomes obvious. Few sufferers ever venture out into the outdoor area, and most believe this lack of appreciation is mostly due to the overwhelming beauty of the landscape’s design. This, arguably, is the failure of the landscape designer who, sadly, refused to understand what a sufferer may want as opposed to whatever it was that the landscape designer decided a sufferer needs.

Beyond the flowering gardens, upon the rockway, the two men assemble. “Speak your piece,” the young man demands. The old man feels surprised at the hesitancy he feels in hurting this young man. The young man feels the old man’s hesitation. The old man pushes the feelings from his mind for there are greater risks in sparing the young man’s feelings. “Of course my feelings don’t matter,” the young man states. The old man looks at him, and with no feeling finally delivers his message, “She does not remember.” “She doesn’t remember what?” the young man asks a little disappointed, lacking the enormity of the old man’s words. The young man continues, “She wasn’t supposed to remember.” “You fail to understand. She does not remember anything,” the old man clarifies, and reiterates, “If you had seen her, you would’ve known, and I wouldn’t be here.” “But this message was not the motivation behind your visit today,” the young man begins to grasp. “Yes, as you realized a few moments ago,” the old man responds. “I won’t,” the young man asserts. The old man sighs as if knowing that the young man would resist so resolutely, “Then your words mean nothing, and if I see her again, I will keep her hidden no longer and will reveal her to the one you refuse to see on my behalf.” “You motherfucking shithead,” the young man retorts the futility, the disdain rising up yet again. “Yes, but no matter what I may seem to you, the truth still remains. Then, what will become of you?” the old man responds, confident, almost wishing for the defiance of the young man.

The young man thinks for a minute, caring no longer about what the old man might hear. “She will not be difficult to find because she does not know that she needs to remain hidden,” the old man answers. The young man closes his eyes to see if he can see her. The old man answers again, “Yes, but we now know the consequences of you playing savior.” The young man, eyes still closed, rapidly fires through thoughts about the answer he needs, now. The old man listens very carefully as the young man filters through the options. Finally, the young man opens his eyes and looks directly at the old man who, unflinchingly, looks directly, deeply back into the young man’s eyes. The old man decides, in that moment to help, “Yes.” Knowingly, the young man asks the question, “What happened when this happened to you two.” The old man, being who he is, answers with a question as he gestures to his own bodily self, “Have you ever known yourself at this age?” Confused, the young man responds, “Of course not.” “Exactly,” the old man speaks with congratulations, and then continues, “How is it that you think I’ve come to be this old?” The young man mulls over a few options, then finally concludes, “You both wanted to stay.” “Wanted? No.” The young man thinks for another second; he feels a horrible, sick feeling in his gut and whispers, “No. You couldn’t leave? But that’s …” “Fully possible,” the old man interrupts. “But that means you must be …” the young man attempts to guess. “You will lose your mind and your stay here in this facility will be compulsory rather than arbitrary if I tell you the truth,” the old man warns with his left hand, palm toward the young man, raised as if to stop the young man’s wonderings. “So, you’re here to save us?” the young man wisecracks, and then realizes, “You’re here to save yourself.” “The situation could unfold in a beneficial way for both of us,” the old man consoles. “Fuck you,” the young man spits. “Unfortunately,” the old man begins, “your fate sealed itself the moment she showed up at my house. My fate, fortunately, has shifted, and now, I have only opportunity. You have only to experience permanent absence.” Defiant, the young man squints, “Is that a promise?” “It is my guarantee,” the old man states as he leans in toward the young man for emphasis. “Unless I do your bidding,” the young man reasons. The old man smiles, “Yes.” “Fuck.”

The analyst  pokes her head out of the entrance/exit door of la salle de manger, into the outdoor area, “Hey you two. How’s it going? It’s dinner time. Would your visitor like to join you for dinner? It’s been quite the visit, if I may say so myself.” “Thank you kindly for the offer,” the old man begins, “but I should probably be off and leave this poor kid to his own devices. A day spent with an old man can oftentimes be strenuous and unpleasant.” “Well there’s plenty of food and space for you if you change your mind …” the analyst pauses again to allow the old man to interject his name. “It’s fine. Remember? It doesn’t matter,” the old man responds comically patronizing while commenting to the young man, The idiocy that is the Fear of Rudeness. I really do not know how you tolerate this. “You must be hungry. You didn’t eat any of the lunch the chef saved for you,” the analyst suggests at the young man. “Yes, I’ll eat in a minute. Thanks,” the young man responds genially. “Alright then. Please come visit again anytime!” the analyst offers the old man. “Oh, yes. I will be back,” the old man smiles disingenuously. The young man rolls his eyes at the old man and stares him down for a moment while the analyst excuses herself.

“I do not wish to return here,” the old man finally speaks. “I do not wish to visit the older woman,” the young man mocks by imitating the old man’s tone. “Such is the unfairness of life,” the old man explains. “Gah the gaul,” the young man begins, but just before he can spell out his rant the old man separates the young man’s thoughts from his words, “You know nothing.” “Take your leave. I will not do your bidding,” the young man decides. “Do not be an imbecile. I have already sent someone your way. Do not leave this place until you encounter him,” the old man instructs. “It should only be a few days,” the old man continues. “And what should I do until then?” the young man pouts like an infant. “Do what you already do here every day … nothing,” the old man punctuates. Still feeling defiant, the young man touts, “I make no promises.” “Yes, but I do,” the old man whispers, and as he moves to see himself through the doorway into la salle de manger so that he may check out at the registration desk at the entrance to the facility, the old man stops with the door hanging in his hand, turns to the young man and evokes a whirlwind of disaster, and just as the young man waves off the disruption the voice of the old man lingers within the back of the young man’s now burning hot right ear, Wake up! Profusely sweating again, he sits up straight in his bed, curls in agony and vomits on the floor in front of his nightstand.

He reaches out to the control panel to call for clean up. Someone, a male—since there are males, females and the like who clean the facility, specifically of hazardous materials and bodily fluids, males are sent to clean the personal spaces of male sufferers, females are sent to clean the personal spaces of female sufferers, etc.—who goes by the name “Kace,” which he reads off the front of “Kace’s” cleaning smock, comes up to clean his personal space of his bodily fluids. The task seems to him to last forever, but the efficiency of the cleaning staff results in the clean up taking less than two minutes. Nevertheless, he is alone.

Alone, again, appeased, he thinks to himself, but this time, not lonely. Before this day had come to an end, he remembered the lonesome feelings with which he was constantly bombarded simply because of the “lack” of the person upon whom his own existentialism rests. He lies naked on his bed, staring at the celestial design of the wallpaper. The one wish that penetrates his mind revolves around being alone. Being inextricably tied to another definitely has its problems, burdens, sufferings, and so, he wonders, all too often these days, what life must be like when all of the responsibility placed on a being who depends upon another falls away, disintegrates into the nothingness of meaning nothing to everyone and everything to no one. Those are the truly crazy people, he thinks to himself as he recalls the supposedly sad stories of all those unloved women, rejected men, the trite romance of needing a witness to their lives so that their lives hold meaning. No one ever thinks about what it means or what it must be like to be forever tied, forever joined, forever involved with just one other being. Of course, he knows he cannot live without her, and the mere thought of her makes him weep deep down in his soul, so deep in fact, that he usually ends up vomiting or shitting himself senseless, drawn into a deep sleep where he may see her but he cannot see her nor feel her. The endless betrayal of finding that person who, quite literally, fulfills you. Betrayal, he thinks, is not the right word. He longs to see her. He aches to feel her. The forgetting was a known effect. The forgetting was temporary. The forgetting was … was … necessary. He cannot bear to think of her any longer. All he wants is to be alone.

He relives the day that unfolded the day before. In an attempt to catch the minutiae of the old man’s words, movements, tells. The old man knows the secret. The old man holds the answer. Mother. Fucker. A slight, calm, gentle ring interrupts his thoughts as his control board dings to call his attention to a notification. The small screen blinks forth a message: “Breakfast will be served in five minutes.” He rolls over and decides that he will not eat fucking breakfast. Someone shouts up to him from the base of his ladder, “Are you dressed?” “No.” “You cannot skip more than two meals in a row without consequence.” “What is the consequence?” “ … “ “Exactly. Go away please,” he whines. “We’ve received a call for a visitor who has requested to be named on your Approved Visitors list.” He sits up, mildly curious but knowing of whom this someone speaks, “And?” “Don’t you want to know who it is before we approve him?” “I didn’t know last time.” “Very well then.” “Tell the chef that I only want the meats today.” “Tell him yourself,” the someone cajoles as he walks away, toward la salle de manger. Fuck. He looks to his control board and taps out a short message, “Chef, just meats please. Thnx.” With a deep breath, he lies back down on his bed, closes his eyes. Another slight, calm, gentle ring dings from the control panel. His body flails around the bed like a toddler. He reaches the control panel, “Fuck you, man. No more special requests until you show up for ten meals in a row, on time. The Lady Doc’s orders.” Shitfuck. A response of any nature he deems irrelevant and unnecessary. No breakfast it is then.

Where are you? he thinks as he clears his mind of every, single, tiny, little thing. He feels warm. He feels excited. His sleeping quarters turn a violent green. He knows that she, on some level, tries to find him. A stroke of warm sunlight. He blinks as he raises a hand to shield himself from the rays. The world is flat; it is indeed, and everything within it lacks depth.

LA SALLE À MANGER

LA SALLE À MANGER

The three make their way down the short, wide corridor toward the cafeteria or as per the facility’s informational guidelines, la salle à manger. Being built in a time before anyone currently alive inside the facility, no one knows for sure why the dining room is the only room/area named in an Old-Earth language. Upon entering la salle à manger, one quickly notices that the layout feels simple and clean. To the right stretches the same large, floor-to-ceiling windows of the common area, but in la salle à manger, the windows continue around the far corner and stretch down the far wall until the windows meet another entrance/exit door to the outdoor activities courtyard.

The far left wall then houses a full-functioning, restaurant-style kitchen with a countertop and service window that opens out into la salle à manger. No one, since the inception of this current chef has ever entered the kitchen except the chef, of course, his two assistants and the three approved food suppliers. La salle à manger consists of buffet-style food service in the form of one long hot-food-holding apparatus and one long cold-food-holding apparatus. The food-holding apparati are covered at about the waist height of an averaged-sized human of the era, with glass so that one may see the contents of the buffet while reaching beneath the glass to grab the desired food with each food’s prescribed tongs.

Organized carefully within and throughout the middle of the space, not excluding the windowed walls, square four-top and rectangular two-top tables are meticulously arranged in a concise yet spacious order. Upon her arrival as the new facility’s manager or as her name plate states, “In-Line Management Head of Operations,” the analyst quickly sought to change out every wobbly table in the facility. This task seemed simple enough at first, but the analyst soon realized that tables are quite expensive. Despite the expense, the analyst opted for a table design that would prohibit even the future possibility of wobbliness. Thus, the reason why every table so meticulously sits in such meticulous order is because they are bolted into the floors, meaning the tables can never be moved from their designated locations, well, not never, obviously, but the task would prove to be difficult. The tops of the tables are of some heavy, equally expensive stone, but for the analyst this was all in a day’s work.

As for the chairs, the analyst held no unreasonable or specific compulsions as to what makes a great chair. So, the chairs are of some prefab, cushion-less, curve-backed, wooden assortment, which by the way, neither match the tables nor any other chairs, but they move about freely. The oddity of the chairs, as explained by the analyst helps to make la salle à manger feel more like a typical home, since the tables are so strictly positioned. The overall effect is somewhat pleasant in the general lack of rigidity often times found in other facilities for the similarly suffering.

Last thing, the curtains were not originally decided upon by the analyst, however, after the first time they [the curtains] were ordered to be taken down and cleaned, nearly all of the sufferers within the facility had their various, specific forms of a breakdown. Within the hour, the analyst ordered another set of matching curtains. Thus, there are two full sets of curtains for the vast expanse of floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the facility, including the windows of the common area, and when the curtains need to be washed, the employees responsible for such a task replace the dirty curtains with the other set while the dirty set are washed, stored and brought out when the hanging curtains are in need of a washing. As for the look of the curtains, they are of a plain, thick, dark, heavy plum-red velvet.

And so, it is within la salle à manger that the three sit at the four-top table at the far end of the room where the windows turn the corner. The chef, apparently familiar with what he likes to eat, set aside a plate of all the fixings with none of the main dishes. There is also a plate of various breads and butters and a plate of various fruits and vegetables. Taking in the compartmentalized nature of the food upon the table, the old man chuckles a bit with a comment, Interesting, into the mind of his host. Yet another thing about which you will never know anything, he responds back to the old man. The old man nods in agreement. The analyst attempts to mediate what she intuits as a tense situation, “Are you hungry, sir? I’m sorry I failed to get your name earlier.” “Yes, I could eat a little something, and don’t worry about it; it doesn’t matter,” the old man responds while simultaneously inserting, You still prefer the build-your-own method, into the mind of him he visits. He sits silent and still in the desperately futile attempt to not allow the old man to know anything he doesn’t want the old man to know. To him now, the analyst suggests that, “The chef must like you. He never saves food for anyone else, and generally, his policy is: If a meal is missed, the meal is missed.” You were wrong, she is a fool, he comments back to the old man while simultaneously responding to the analyst, “Yes, I am aware of the chef’s policy. I made a deal with him a while back, however.” “Ah,” the analyst goes on, “How fortuitous.”

The three sit in silence as he picks at some bread with his fingers, while the old man pokes at a cherry tomato with a fork. For what seems like an eternity, they sit, fairly motionless for a minute. Finally, the analyst decides that perhaps they need their privacy, “I will leave you two to it, then,” she states as she excuses herself from the table. “It was nice to meet you …” she stops to allow the old man to interject his name. “It doesn’t matter,” the old man responds with a gentle, kind smile. “Well, then. Come find me after your visitor leaves,” the analyst directs, “There is still the issue of yesterday’s incident we need to discuss.” He nods, and with a handful of bread, waves goodbye.

Breaking their silence with a full inhale as he stretches back in his chair, arms overhead, letting out a sigh of relief, the old man leans forward onto his elbows and looks at the young man across from him. “You’re being idiotic,” the old man begins. “You’re being deceptive,” the young man continues. “Very well,” the old man tries again as he pops the tomato into his mouth. “What do you need to know before I tell you what you need to know?” “How did you find me?” the young man asks. A gasp of frustration, “The idiocy,” the old man responds. “Why do you fucking care so much?” the young man reasserts. The old man cannot decide if he wants to tell this kid the truth. “I assume everything you say is a lie, so don’t worry about that,” the young man interjects. Ah, very good, the old man almost laughs out loud. Tell me what you want, the young man demands. I want to give you a message, the old man answers. Why? What do you get out of it? the young man inquires. I cannot tell you without also then revealing the message, the old man explains.

They sit in silence for another while. The young man decides that he will try to guess what the old man might want to divulge. Before the young man, however, can even get the beginnings of a first round of thoughts to condense, the old man laughs quietly, I will tell you what I wish you to know, and then you will know what I know. But first, may I ask you a question? The young man looks hard into the old man’s face, Do I have a choice? Patient and never looking brash, the old man responds, Unfortunately, the probability stands that you will, eventually, undoubtedly hear what I have to say before I leave. 

“Go on with it then,” the young man states aloud. “Ah, okay, I see,” the old man quips as he can feel the young man’s discomfort, and then the old man asks, “Have you seen her?” The young man doesn’t even think he simply responds, a lie, “Yes, of course.” Knowing the lie, the old man wonders to himself so that the young man may hear, It is possible. The young man looks out the window; he feels vulnerable. “And your message?” the young man states flatly while still gazing out into the courtyard. “I cannot help you if you’re going to lie to me,” the old man demands. “Okay then. Thank you for coming all this way to tell me something I already know,” the young man tests. “Fine. If this is how you want it to be, then I cannot force any knowledge upon you,” the old man concedes. “Know this,” the old man seemingly concludes, “by the time you realize you should have heard my message, I will be unable to cooperate, for the answers to the questions will have been discovered.” The old man stands to excuse himself from the young man’s presence.

An ear burns.

The young man mulls a very small inkling of a thought he hopes will be undetected by the old man, She is hidden. Yes, the old man confirms. Shit, the young man curses. That’s right, the old man reinforces. The young man knew of this already and begins to wonder how this knowing did not occur to him sooner, anger, confusion, the only question, You know why. Of course, that is why I am here, you idiot, the old man explains. How … the young man begins. I saw her. She just showed up at my house, the old man interrupts. The young man stands so abruptly that his chair gets knocked off its feet and tumbles about behind him. La salle à manger sits empty; no one looks in his direction.

He & The Old Man

He & The Old Man

The waiting room serves the dual purpose of a holding area for both incoming sufferers and visitors who wish to visit those sufferers already inhabiting the facility. Decorated in what can only be described as gauche and obscene consistency, every surface—couches, tables, countertops, etc.—except the floor is colored a sky blue with painted, fluffy white clouds. Of an unusual rounded shape; there are no corners or creases where typically, corners and creases would exist in a three-dimensional room, which ends up giving the, at first striking but then, soothing sensation of being among the clouds. It is not entirely true that the entire space is colored a sky blue, for the reality is that the floors are colored a sort of evening blue with speck-like stars, and slightly before the floors begin to curve upward, the evening blue gradually lightens into a cobalt through the floor and wall curvature with half the wall being a cerulean, and then, perhaps at the typical head height of an average-sized human, the blue begins to turn a full, light sky onward up and across the ceiling. Even the windows are rounded but not circular. No one knows why or how this particular decorum was decided upon and became the decorum of choice. Some find the peculiarity nice for small talk among strangers who wait. Some find the peculiarity daunting for small talk among strangers who wait. All, nevertheless, talk about it.

The entrance to the facility reveals the large windows of the administrative offices to the left, and the outside wall of the rounded waiting room to the right. Decorated and furnished typically, in that lack-of-color or any oddity of interest, the foyer leads directly toward the registration counter, forces each entrant to veer slightly toward the right. There, the clouds begin to form. If, however, a left turn is made, the administrative offices and other such more technical and pragmatic areas of the facility will be found. On a sharp right, the waiting area in all its cloud-filled glory is easily accessible. If perusing coolly by the registration counter on the left and the waiting room on the right, the comfortable visitation area falls directly in front, and the clouds cease. If perusing fully around the rounded registration counter on the left, the common room, which houses all of the sufferers together in lofted cubbies, sits, and there too, the clouds cease. When entering the facility and that sharp left is taken, there are no clouds to be found within that banality. It is within this cloud-filled waiting room that his visitor sits … and waits.

As he makes his way down the gradient of green tints, he looks at the analyst, “Hello.” “Let’s go,” she responds. They walk together through the common area basically unnoticed. As they reach the double doors on the right side of the fourth wall of large windows, the analyst reaches for the left door handle and holds it open for him. He bows sardonically and is about to make a comment matched in attitude, but just as he begins to make his way through the doorway, he feels … a feeling … the feeling and stops. With the door now shut behind him, the analyst asks, “What now?” He slowly closes his eyes. Silent. He waits. He can just barely make out something, but it can’t be. He looks at the analyst, “What are you doing? Who put you up to this?” “Oh come on. What is this?” the analyst responds with an impatient huff. He believes her. “I really don’t want to do this today. You already agreed to a very quick, probably meaningless chat,” she continues. No, he thinks to himself, but what?

They continue together down the short hallway toward the waiting room. Curving now, the walls begin to brighten from essentially white to a light blue while the floors simultaneously darken from essentially white to a starry evening sky. “The grotesquery,” he spits as he intakes the change in decorum. “I like it,” the analyst admits. Just as they round the rounded corner that hides the inhabitants of the waiting room, he sees but just the tip of a shoe he knows all too well. Immediately upon this recognition he hears the voice of the old man speak, “Don’t.” He sees the old man fully now, seated upon one of the blue chairs painted over in clouds. The old man sees him fully now, standing in the typical clothing of civilian life. The old man slowly comes to a stand. The analyst suggests, “Perhaps we should move this to the visitor’s area?” Ignoring her, each stares the other down for an eternity. But only a second later, the analyst attempts to move them into the visitor’s area. He refuses to give the old man anything and remains blank. The old man concedes with raised arms as if being arrested and speaks again, “I promise.” The old man begins to make a move toward the visitor’s area. “It is the one thing you cannot ever know,” he responds without any movement toward the visitor’s area. “Yes, I suppose,” the old man states with slow steps continued toward the visitor’s area.

He bolts around over his shoulder and makes a run for it back into the common area. Stop, the old man speaks into his mind. You fucker, he thinks back at the old man just as he reaches the double doors of the sufferers’ living space. It’s just a message, the old man attempts. A set of doors between them now, he in the common area of the sufferers’ living space, the old man in the visitor’s area. The sufferers make their way to the dining area for lunch. He stands silent, quiet of mind behind the doors. The sufferers make their way back into the common area and disperse throughout the facility for various, prescribed activities, now that lunch has wrapped up. Who sent you? He finally asks. I am here because I want to be, the old man responds.

He bolts away from the door and runs toward the left doors of the fourth wall of large windows and exits the facility. He runs through the outdoor patio, onto a grassy courtyard. The old man leaves the facility and calmly walks around the building to the back where the sufferers may enjoy some fresh air in the courtyard. Let’s not make a scene, the old man suggests. That analyst seems smarter than average, the old man observes. You would know, he spits.” What … the fuck … do you want!” he screams, face ablaze. The old man reconsiders his decision to visit. He feels the shift within the old man, aloud now, “Don’t you fucking dare.” “Then promise me something,” the old man bribes. Fuck you! “Okay then, tell me something,” the old man counters. He turns his back on the old man wishing desperately he could mull this over. The old man hears his wish and offers, “I promise. I won’t listen.” “Impossible,” he winces. He doesn’t know what to do, and he is frozen within the blankness of his mind. The analyst appears at the door that leads back into the common area, “Is everything alright? You missed lunch, but the cooks saved you a few plates in case your visitor wants to eat with you.” “That sounds like a good idea,” the old man courteously states. “We should share a meal together, don’t you think?” the old man continues in suggestion. He can’t stand this. “I’m not hungry, thank you.” “But your visitor,” she begins. He turns to look at her and interrupts, “I don’t care.” You’re right. You never care, the old man whispers. Goddammit! “Let’s eat,” the old man states flatly with the semblance of as much excitement as is available to him. The three make their way back inside; the analyst holds the door open, while his head hangs low, and the old man follows.