The Listmaker

The Listmaker

The Listmaker feels the pull of the list urging him to take a look. Unwilling to reveal his list to the stranger, he ignores the pull. Picking up on some new discomfort within the Listmaker, “Something wrong?” Cinoa asks. “Oh, no, I’m fine,” the Listmaker lies. “So, say, where did you used to live before?” Cinoa cordially prods for the sake of consistency. The Listmaker no longer enjoys the small talk with the stranger and attempts to shrug off the stranger’s cordiality, “Oh, you know, here and there.” “I see,” Cinoa responds as he takes a sip of his coffee while maintaining fixed eyes on the Listmaker. Unwilling to look rude in front of the stranger, the Listmaker feigns a trip to the pantry in order to get a feel for his wristwatch, “Would you like something to eat?” Cinoa keeps sharp tabs on the Listmaker, “No, I’m fine.” “Sure? I’m famished,” the Listmaker pretends and continues to the pantry whereupon opening, he steals a quick feel of his wristwatch. Of the analog variety, the watch lacks a glass covering so that the Listmaker may feel the hands of the face without looking at the thing, thereby allowing the Listmaker the option to know the time, when necessary, without having to remove his eyes from his list. The attentive person, however, can witness this action and deduce that the Listmaker wishes to know the time, which ultimately, in the Listmaker’s mind, makes him seem impatient, rude, otherwise engaged. Thus, with both arms in the pantry now, the Listmaker gets a good feel of his wristwatch while his head remains visible, beyond the pantry door, as he looks to the stranger and offers, “I have crackers or cookies, if you’d like.” Almost vertical, relatively speaking, while the other peers down and a little to the left, the long and short hands of the watch, respectively, reveal that the time is very near 1900.

Knowing that the clock in his study will soon chime out, giving him an excuse to check on something, the Listmaker returns to the eating counter where the stranger sits, “Do you enjoy being a stranger to so many people?” “What do you mean?” Cinoa asks, entertained, chuckling. “Your line of work seems to force you into the lives of strangers,” the Listmaker extrapolates. “Oh yea, I see what you mean,” Cinoa admits; “It’s not so bad. I actually like getting to know new people.” “What is it that you do exactly?” the Listmaker asks. Cinoa glances away from the Listmaker as he responds, “Oh, yea, so I make sure that people know that they are entitled to a new roof whenever something happens to a roof that damages it. The tricky part is that most people have to file a claim with their insurance within a certain amount of time after the damage happens or else they lose out.” Familiar with this particular set of circumstances, the Listmaker nods, “Sure, I see. People can be really stupid.” Cinoa begins to look uncomfortable. The Listmaker watches the stranger fidget within himself a bit until Cinoa eventually breaks and reaches for the sheets of paper within the back pocket of his jeans. Looking even more concerned, Cinoa strokes his hair with his right hand. “Everything alright?” the Listmaker inquires. “Oh yea, I’m …” Cinoa begins to respond when the clock in the study chimes out. “Sorry, excuse me for one minute,” the Listmaker apologizes as he walks by the still-standing stranger through the living room, into his study adjacent to the living room.

The Listmaker furiously scrolls through the receipt roll to find what’s listed there within the day’s list, accounting for 1900 on through to at least 1930.

1900 – 1901 Don’t let the stranger see the list

1901 – 1906 Evade the stranger

1906 – ____ Run

Heart pounding now, the Listmaker feels trapped, and just as he turns over his shoulder to shout out another lie to the stranger about how he needs to check on something outside, Cinoa grabs the Listmaker’s shoulder. “Say,” Cinoa impedes; “Are you alright? You look tense. I was having a nice time, but you look awful. Why don’t we just sit back down and relax?” “Were we sitting? Oh sure. No it’s nothing,” the Listmaker almost shouts aloud in an attempt to seem calm, and then he continues, “But actually, you know, it’s getting late, and really, I should get back to my work.” With a hand still on the Listmaker’s shoulder, Cinoa feigns complicity, “Yes, yes, right. I’ve overstayed my welcome, haven’t I?” Feeling bullied, the Listmaker remains calm, revealing as little emotion as possible. Stepping away from the Listmaker a bit, giving him some space, the Listmaker takes a slow, steady breath. “Say, what is it that you do? I’m sorry I never asked before. That seems so rude now,” Cinoa jovially states, ignoring the tension. “Oh, you know, a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” the Listmaker evades. Cinoa, feeling frustrated and understands the evasive tactics of the Listmaker, changes his tone, “Now look here, kid. I can see through these little games you play.” Kid? the Listmaker thinks to himself, and then aloud asks, “Who you calling a kid?” Lost in the confusion of being called a kid, the Listmaker forgets to evade the stranger, or did I? But it was more of an emotional evasion as opposed to the physical that now seems more relevant, although the distinction was not detailed on his list. Stern and angry, Cinoa becomes impatient and quickly lurches and grabs the Listmaker by the throat, “Give me your list!”

The tiniest of tiny little buzzes buzz by. 

Gasping for air with only toes left on the ground, the Listmaker wriggles and grabs at the stranger’s hands that wring his neck. Unable to speak, the Listmaker has no choice but to focus on staying alive, somehow. Cinoa, however, outsizes the Listmaker in height and weight. With no hope in sight, the Listmaker does his best to make a gesture of some sort that he desperately hopes the stranger reads as a concession. “What?” Cinoa mocks; “What? I can’t hear you.” the Listmaker blinks hard, moves his mouth as if trying to speak. “Say, are you trying to tell me something?” Cinoa continues on in his mockery. Batting at the stranger’s hand now, the Listmaker attempts to nod. “Oh, very well,” Cinoa feigns as he drops the Listmaker from the grip. Something moves beyond one of the windows that catches Cinoa’s eye.

“Careful!” Ladybug whisper-shouts upon its return to the Lingerer waiting outside.

Coughing and writhing on the ground, the Listmaker feels lost, but then suddenly remembers his list. Knowingly, the Listmaker rolls over so that his body hides his list from the stranger. He clutches his side as if in agony and wraps a hand over the list in an attempt to either fling the thing or conceal it in a pocket. “Say, you were trying to tell me something, kid!” Cinoa yells through the Listmaker’s wheezing and violent coughs. Fuzzy, dry, the Listmaker chokes out a raspy, “Khi ont no-owe hat khour kalking ah-bhowe-hut.” Frustrated, Cinoa begins to pace the floor back and forth in front of the incapacitated Listmaker. At this moment, the Listmaker feels a bit of strength return and decides that the time has come, according to his list, for him to run. Nimbleness is essential, and so, the Listmaker gathers himself in his mind and in one dynamic action, he clambers to his feet in an attempt to take off for the front door. Unknown to the Listmaker a small unrolled portion of his list sticks out from beyond his grip of the receipt roll. Cinoa catches the smallest glimpse of what must be part of the Listmaker’s list. And so, being bigger and faster, the stranger lurches forward and reaches for the slip of paper sticking out from the Listmaker’s hand. As the Listmaker plants a strong foot on the ground, ready to take off into a full sprint, the stranger grabs the slip of paper, forcing the top edge of it to tear from the rest of itself.

The Listmaker, aware of the lost portion of list, immediately wonders at what time does his now-torn day’s to-do list end; how much time does he have left? With that thought, the Listmaker’s world grows cold and damp, and with the remainder of his consciousness, the reality of the situation weighs heavy upon him, since, having been distracted earlier in the day, the Listmaker knows that he will not wake, as per the usual, already written, command of the next day’s list remains unwritten. All he can do, his consciousness consoles, is stay calm and rest within the lost, dark hinterlands until, as he remembers, per the next day’s list, she arrives. And as the Listmaker cools to a chill, a small buzz buzzes by, “She’s coming. Hang on. She’s coming.” A soft, wet nose gently nibbles on the underside of his face at the soft flesh where the jaw becomes earlobe. 

Lists of Lists

Lists of Lists

He writes a list for the day. Adamant, every single task that must be accomplished he outlines within a doable amount of time and writes each item on a roll of receipt paper. To transpose a day’s list here would be impractical and purposeless. Nevertheless, an example of the day’s first hour:

0630 – 0635 Wake

0637 – 0638 Get out of bed

0638 – 0639 Walk to bathroom

0639 – 0645 Relieve the pee

0645 – 0646 Wash hands, rinse mouth with water

0646 – 0647 Dry hands on brown and blue towel

0647 – 0649 Exit bathroom, return to bedroom

0649 – 0650 Put on robe

0650 – 0651 Walk to kitchen, turn on coffee maker

0651 – 0652 Pick a bowl from the cupboard and a spoon from the drawer, set both on eating counter

0652 – 0653 Grab coffee mug from drying rack and turn upright onto the counter in front of coffee maker

0653 – 0654 Choose an oatmeal from fridge and grab almond milk, place on eating counter next to bowl and spoon and counter in front of coffee maker, respectively

0654 – 0655 Pour oatmeal into bowl and almond milk into mug, return both to fridge

0655 – 0656 Stir oatmeal with spoon and wait to reach room temperature

0656 – 0659 Sit at eating counter, wait for coffee to finish

0659 – 0702 Open blinds

0702 – 0705 Pour coffee into mug, sit at eating counter, sip coffee as oatmeal warms

0705 – 0710 Eat oatmeal, drink coffee

0710 – 0713 Wash bowl and spoon, set in drying rack

0713 – 0714 Refill coffee mug with almond milk and coffee, turn off coffee maker

0714 – 0716 Grab newspaper from front porch, breathe in thirty-seconds of fresh air

0716 – 0717 Walk to desk, set coffee on desk, sit with newspaper

0717 – 0730 Read newspaper

At some point during the day, “Write tomorrow’s to-do list” is the next thing on the day’s to-do list to do. The circumstance of listing the task of writing the next day’s to-do list creates an irregular sensation to write another list listing what ought to be listed in the next day’s to-do list, and so, a new list forms, which ultimately returns him to the day’s list that needs to be finished, but the completion of the day’s list rests upon the listing of the next day’s listed listings. 

Eventually, night falls, and the room grows dark. He consults the day’s list but soon realizes he does not know the time, and just as the thought hits his conscious mind, the clock begins to chime. Eighteen hundred, he thinks to himself. He consults the day’s list once more and reads:

1800 – 1801 Consult the day’s list

He consults the day’s list for one minute, and then he reads:

1801 – 1810 Complete tomorrow’s to-do list

He begins to complete the next day’s to-do list, always in reverse order by writing what must be done last first, when the doorbell rings and interrupts him with the first hour of his day left bare. Unsure again of the time, he looks at the clock, the time reads 1810. He consults the day’s list.

1810 – 1811 Answer the door to see who knocks

Obedient, he walks to the front door and opens the door—a stranger. Cautious, he keeps his foot behind the door. “Good evening, sir. I hope I’m not interrupting,” the stranger begins; “My name is Cinoa. How are you today?” “One moment please,” he responds as he shuts the door. He consults the day’s list.

1811 – 1814 Find out what the stranger at the door wants

Noting the three-minute allotment for this particular interaction, he decides to consult the next few line items.

1814   – ____ Do as you’re told

____ – ____ Return home

He agrees and walks back to the front door. As he opens the door, the stranger, Cinoa, speaks up before he can get a word out, “Please, sir, I just need one moment of your time.” “Okay, yea, sure. How can I help you?” he responds.

Cinoa, stuttering, nervous, “Jus, just, uh, one, uh, moment.” Wringing a few sheets of paper between his hands, Cinoa looks down at the sheets and mumbles slightly as he reads. “Right, yes, oh right, yes,” Cinoa whispers to himself. “Are you the owner of this house?” Cinoa finally asks. “Yes,” the homeowner states. “Great. Then please, sir, come out here with me, if you don’t mind. I’d like to show you something,” Cinoa reads from his sheets of paper. “Very well,” the homeowner obliges. The two walk around to the side of the home, an aged, cumbersome house of natural wood. Cinoa points to a corner of roofing, “See that there?” “Sure, yes,” the homeowner acknowledges. “That’s a good sign that you’re in need of a new roof,” Cinoa explains as he consults his sheets of paper again, and then he continues, “Do you mind if I get on the roof to check for any other problem areas?” “Sure, that’s no problem,” the homeowner again obliges. Cinoa looks at the homeowner, then back at the sheet one more time, “No.” “No, what?” the homeowner asks. “You were supposed to say, ‘No,’” Cinoa clarifies. “Oh,” the homeowner states. Feeling a little shocked, the homeowner apologizes, “I’m sorry, just one moment, please.” Cinoa nods and stands, “I’ll just wait here.” The homeowner walks sideways for a bit as he dismisses himself from Cinoa’s presence and returns to his house to consult the day’s to-do list.

1823 – 1825 Walk back inside house to consult the day’s to-do list

1825 – 1828 Return to stranger and refuse the offer and be adamant that it’s all a sham

1828 – 1830 Argue with the stranger and escort him off the property

1830 – 1831 Return home

Running now, the homeowner rushes around the house to speak with Cinoa, “I’m sorry, you were right. No, I’m not interested in whatever you’re trying to do here. It’s all a sham of some sort or something, I’m sure.” “Okay, sir. There’s no need to get angry. I was simply trying to provide you a necessary service,” Cinoa responds. “Aren’t you supposed to insist?” the homeowner asks. “No, I’m to respond politely and respect your wishes,” Cinoa states. “I think you’re supposed to try to convince me that you really ought to look at my roof. I mean, look at the thing; it’s nearly falling apart!” the homeowner insists. “It’s not up to me to convince you,” Cinoa explains. “Then what are we to argue about?” the homeowner states at the same time he realizes that they are indeed already arguing now. “Ah, yes,” the two respond simultaneously, satisfied. “Great,” the homeowner smiles as he motions with an arm to lead Cinoa off his property. “Perfect,” Cinoa states while collecting himself and acknowledging the homeowner’s gesture to remove him from the property.

They two walk together amicably along the side of the house and across the front yard to a small dirt driveway. “Have you lived here long?” Cinoa chats. The homeowner simply looks at Cinoa. “I get it,” Cinoa responds; “No small talk, eh?” “Not today, apparently,” the homeowner concedes. “Sure, sure,” Cinoa mutters to fill the silence. Once Cinoa reaches the dirt drive, the homeowner turns on his heels and heads back to his house. “Alright, bye! Thanks again,” Cinoa shouts out. The homeowner ignores the farewell, does not wave a hand and quickly hops up the steps to the front porch, never looking back.

1831 – 1833 Through the front door window, verify that the stranger left.

He walks back to the front door and stares out over the front porch and front yard, through the window. Cinoa still stands on the dirt drive; he waves at the homeowner whom he can see through the front door. The two stare at each other over the distance that separates them. He stands for the allotted two minutes, but Cinoa does not leave. Anxious, he consults the day’s list.

1833 – 1834 Invite the stranger in for coffee

He walks back to the front door, opens it and stands upon the front porch. Waving at Cinoa now, he shouts loudly, “Do you want to come in for some coffee?” “Sure,” Cinoa gladly accepts; “I thought you’d never ask.” Cinoa makes his way to the house while the homeowner leaves the front door open, makes his way back to his desk, and consults his list.

1834 – 1835 Make coffee, take list with you, keep in pocket

1835 – 1836 Ask the stranger how he likes his coffee

1836 – 1837 Prepare two mugs

1837 – 1900 Make small talk

Hearing Cinoa’s feet hit the wood floors of the foyer, the homeowner shouts, “I’m back here, in the kitchen. Keep walking straight past the stairs and down the hall. How do you take your coffee?” “Black’s fine or with one sugar cube, if you have sugar cubes,” Cinoa admits as he reaches the kitchen. The kitchen opens out to the left after the hallway. Cinoa appears in the doorway between the fridge and a full-length, cupboard-type pantry. “Come on in,” the homeowner invites as he busies himself preparing the two mugs; “You can sit at the eating counter over there.” Comfortable, Cinoa makes his way through the kitchen, past the kitchen’s middling island countertop area, behind the eating counter to the stools that face back into the kitchen. “I’ll stand,” Cinoa decides. “If you must,” the homeowner jovially comments.

Cinoa has a look around. The kitchen opens into a living-room area that’s carpeted, unlike the hardwood of the foyer and hallway, also unlike the kitchen which is floored in some sort of blue tile. One large, blue couch sits on the farthest wall from the kitchen, an even larger window sits behind it. The wall that extends out from the left side of the couch, back toward the kitchen is littered with small windows all of various shapes and sizes. Each window has accompanying blinds that fit exactly within each respective window’s shape and size. “I like those windows,” Cinoa admits. “Yes, they are nice,” the homeowner agrees. “How long have you lived here?” Cinoa asks. The homeowner looks at him, as if studying Cinoa’s intent. “Not long,” the homeowner lies. “Really?” Cinoa questions; “That seems odd.” “How so?” the homeowner humors. “Well, it’s just that the clean, modern interior of this house definitely doesn’t match the almost rotting exterior of the thing,” Cinoa explains. “What does that have to do with how long I’ve lived here?” the homeowner asks, confused. “Oh, nothing, I suppose,” Cinoa mutters.

The coffee maker gurgles and puffs a short spout of steam to signify its completion of its task. “I don’t have any sugar cubes, but I do have sugar,” the homeowner offers. “Oh, no sugar then,” Cinoa responds; “Black’s fine.” “Sure,” the homeowner obliges as he pours the coffee from its pot. “Say, you have any family?” Cinoa, feeling nosey, asks. “Yes,” the homeowner lies again. He places the strangers coffee in front of him on the eating counter while he remains standing within the bounds of the kitchen, “Please, have a seat.” “I’ll stand,” Cinoa states, almost defiantly and then prods, “And?” “And what?” requests the homeowner. “Your family,” Cinoa clarifies. “Yes, I have family,” the homeowner reiterates. “Of what sort?” Cinoa prys. “Of all sorts,” the homeowner retorts. “Very well,” Cinoa concedes with a small chuckle; “I just thought we were gonna get to know each other a little. I mean, you’re the one who invited me in.” The two sip coffee for a moment, quietly slurping, silently standing. 

‘Be a good little girl.’

‘Be a good little girl.’

Patiently waiting, Attila stands by the only door in the room while the students slowly make their way toward her so that they may all walk together to the banquet. As the last set joins the group, Attila easily reaches down for her duffel bag with her right hand as she pushes down upon the door handle to push the door open. In an unnoticeable instant to the students who follow behind, Attila gasps as she attempts to grasp the door handle, under the realization that the door needed to be pulled open. A wave of grief, suspense, the cold chill of horror washes over her and presses deep into the top of her right shoulder creating a trigger point that shoots electric pain through the upper right trapezius of her back and down through her right arm. She drops the duffel.

In slow motion now, the room begins to tear into thin strips as if the reality around her were made of paper. As each strip releases itself from the larger whole, the strip itself pops into confetti-sized shards that wisp away like ash from a campfire. With body tied to the pace of the disintegrating room, Attila’s eyes are free to roam about at full speed. The students tear in half and away they float. Once time catches up to the setting, Attila finds herself walking through a threshold, into a large, open, airy, dark, sparkling space. Looking behind her now, subtly, over her left shoulder, she notices the revolving door through which she must have just arrived.  A sharp, beautiful, tall couple swirl around the door and into the space. Dressed in the fanfare of fanciful festivities, Attila feels as though she must be underdressed. To her surprise but not really, she looks down to see that she is indeed dressed appropriately. In a perfectly floor-length, emerald gown, adorned over in black lace, she pokes a toe out from under the thing to see the rounded toe-box of a simple, black patent-leather, stiletto. Of a white with a metallic sheen, the sort of raw metallicity of platinum, she also wears gloves. Unknown to her at the moment for without a mirror, how could she know, Attila wears platinum earrings that are shaped like small wings with the inside of the wing portion that lines the outer edge of her face encrusted in spinels of black and a green that matches her gown that slowly disperse into the naked metal. Conscientiously, she touches her hair, some sort of waved, curled, loose updo.

Slightly perplexed but no longer surprised, Attila takes in the room as she continues to stand in, what could essentially be considered, the middle of the space, although, since the space acts as more of a foyer than a room in and of itself, the space in which she currently stands sort of lacks a center. No matter, she stands and looks about the place. Curved, the wall with the revolving door continues around behind her for a bit and then reaches around the left side of her, and then, it seems as if the wall comes to a point with the right wall that reaches away from the revolving door to the right, only to curve as well around the right of her, meeting up with the left side of the wall somewhere far away, down a hallway, the hallway that also curves slightly to the right and disappears, the hallway through which she would eventually walk if she walked exactly straight for fifty meters or so. Before she would reach that hallway, however, a wide staircase would tempt her to ascend toward the upper floors. The stairs, as they rise upward through the space narrow. The half-way landing serves as a small balcony that looks out through that left wall, made solely of glass that extends back into that hallway and up to the ceiling of the fourth or fifth floor. Turning on itself, the stairs continue to climb until reaching the second floor. She counts. Four balconies lookout and down into the foyer area in which she currently still stands, causing the airy atmosphere. In her immediate space, a tall, silvery tree stands, decorating that left wall. From the outside, the place must glow wildly in the night. Perched atop the silver tree, a red bell twinkles ever so often.

Attila decides to examine the tree more closely, since, as the awkwardness of her standing there dawns on her, she realizes that she must look quite awkward. Slowly, she gracefully glides over to the tree. As she gets closer, she realizes that the tree is not a tree at all. Instead, individually potted, white poinsettias sit inside a frame to make the shape of a tree. Dusted in a silvery glitter, the whole thing ignites into a blaze of light as the glitter on the leaves reflects and refracts the strands of white light wrapped around the metal frame that holds each potted plant. Curious, Attila reaches out a hand to touch a leaf. Just as she does so, the arms of a small child reach out toward her. She screams and drops the glass of champagne. The champagne spills all over her dress before it shatters all over the floor. When did I get that glass? she wonders, quickly. The giggles of small children emanate from within the tree. “Why you fucking little. Get out here right now!” Attila whisper-shouts. More giggles and laughter. Embarrassed, she looks around to see if anyone has noticed. Of course, everyone on the first and second floors notices and every eye in the place looks directly at her. A server makes his way to her with napkins while another server fetches something with which to clean up the mess. “So sorry,” Attila sings with a nervous giggle. The people return to their own business. As the server with the napkins approaches her, Attila looks down at her gown to assess the damage. Looking up to the server who rushed to her aide, she notices that the server does not have a napkin, but instead, he stands there with a tray of champagne glasses filled with champagne.

“Ma’am,” a server begins, “would you like a glass of champagne this evening?” Attila looks around the room, and at its center, she still stands. “Uh,” she stammers; “Yes, thank you.” The server gives her a courteous nod and excuses himself from her presence. Then, Attila sees a shadow of herself walking toward the tree. Once seen, the shadow disappears. Remembering the faint recollection of the earlier happenings, Attila walks, determined, toward the silver tree. Knowing what she knows, she stands just far enough to hinder the trigger of the mischievous children hidden within. Looking around the room as if unaware of the tree, Attila quickly approaches the tree, grabs for the poinsettia from which the arms emerged, removes it from the frame creating the shape of a tree, and throws the champagne into the unsuspecting face of the child sitting within. A child screams out in disgust. The sound of maybe two other children laughing satisfies her greatly. “Crazy bitch,” the champagne-covered child spits and mutters barely audible. “That’s it,” Attila remarks as she begins to tear potted poinsettia after potted poinsettia from the tree-shaped frame, revealing the hidden children inside. Gasps of horror and sheer societal disbelief roars throughout the festive space. A few of the servers and staff rush over to help quell the disaster. “Get out here right now!” Attila yells; “Where the fuck are your parents!” A distinguished-looking gentleman runs, well, walks quickly, as a gentleman in the presence of his societal peers never runs, toward Attila and subdues her by grabbing her by the waist with his right hand and by the left arm with his left hand. “Attila,” the distinguished gentleman whispers as he continues to hold her tightly and walk her away from judging eyes; “Darling, please don’t embarrass me and your mother like this.”

Walking down that hallway now, Attila thrashes herself free from the distinguished gentleman. She looks at his face and a name rises into her mind, Nigel … dad … fuck. “What the fucking shit, Nigel? Those fucking little brats need to be punished,” Attila fits in a storm of rage. “What kids? Those kids under the tree? Oh, shit, Attila. Don’t tell me you’re forgetting again,” Nigel responds. Forgetting? Again? The rage subsides as a new emotion takes control. Fuck. Orphans … the party is for the fucking orphans. “And I just fucking … goddammit,” Attila speaks aloud after the remembrance catches up with her. “I swear to god, Attila,” Nigel fumes; “Your mother knew this would not be a good idea. So, for jesus-fucking-christ’s sake, get your shit together or get the fuck out of here, now!” Nigel backs away from her a bit and drops his head, looking defeated, “I have to go deal with this shit storm now.” “I’m sorry,” Attila says, emotionless with eyes that dare her father to say more. “Just … just leave,” Nigel states as he begins to walk away. “Wait, Dad,” Attila attempts with a voice of childlike innocence. Nigel stops walking for a moment but does not turn to face her. He sighs, “What?” “What day is it? Like the date. What’s today’s date?” Attila asks. Nigel turns and faces her now with a look of utter disgust, “Attila, I cannot do this with you again.” “But,” Attila tries again. “No!” Nigel yells with the slice of his right hand; “Shut up! Just shut the fuck up and get the hell out of here! Now!” Stepping back a step from the sheer force of her father’s violence, Attila feels a small twinge of trigger-point pain shooting through the back of her right shoulder and down her right arm. Nigel breathes out a deep breath and continues to walk away, toward the festive festivities. Alone in the swooping corridor where the two walls, through which the revolving door allows entrance into this god-forsaken place, seemingly come to a point, Attila turns her back on her father as well and begins to walk deeper into the curving hallway.

Double doors approach on the right as Attila walks. Of the sort that signify a kitchen must reside beyond them, each door swings from outer hinges, never fully making contact at the center. Two large, circular windows allow a viewer, either looking in or peering out, a view. Attila stands on the perceived outside, and therefore, looks into the room, a large, industrial-like space, unlike the kitchen in which she taught her cooking class earlier … today? Attila suddenly wonders. Clinks of pots and roars of fans vibrate through the doors into Attila’s ears. Maybe not, she decides and continues to walk on, down the curving hall. One of the doors opens behind her, and a voice speaks out, “Attila!” Attila turns to see the person who yells. A name surfaces, Wen. Wen continues, “There you are. Your mother asked about you, but I didn’t know where you were.” Attila looks at Wen blankly and then looks down at the floor again. The carpet has an interesting pattern of wreaths or something, Attila notices as she cocks her head to make sense of the design. Where have I …? Concerned, Wen interrupts the thought and asks, “Are you alright? You don’t look so good.” Attila looks up at Wen’s face once again and cants forward a bit to get a better sense of Who is this person? “Attila?” Wen asks not for confirmation but rather, to focus Attila’s attention. “Yes,” Attila responds. “Why don’t you come in the kitchen, and I’ll get you something to eat,” Wen offers, again very concerned. Attila searches for an answer, Goddammit. “Are you hungry?” Wen asks. No. “Sure,” Attila responds and walks toward the double doors that swing. “Alright,” Wen states, satisfied, and then continues with what seems to be a bit of personal knowledge, “You can hang out in here for a while. I know how much you love these things.” Do I? Attila wonders to herself, and then forces out a small chuckle to normalize the situation.

And then, as Attila approaches Wen, Wen grabs Attila’s left arm and forcibly pulls Attila through the one open door of the double doors and shuts it behind her. Thrown, Attila lands on her knees and elbows on a warm rug atop a hard, wooden floor. Quickly, she scrambles around to see the door through which Wen threw her. A single wood door swings in at a small, rapid pace the way that doors of this kind do just before they come to a stop, centered within their frames. Motherfucker. Seated upon the floor, she gets a good look at the place. Nothing stands out as knowable. The room is a sort of sitting area that she assumes connects to a living or dining room through the swinging wooden door. Behind her and to the right, the room has a large, open archway that leads to some foyer-type passageway. Directly behind her, large windows open outward, bay window comes to mind. She’s always sort of liked windows in which a person can sit. Behind and to the left, an over-sized plant that’s beginning to be scrunched by the ceiling, forced to bend forward, climbing the ceiling now. On her left, a soft, white sofa. Ugh. She can see, what looks to be, the front door, also wooden, with a stained-glass window embellishing the upper-half of the door. With a deep sigh, she lies down on the rug and stares. Clouds, painted in a realism unmatched by anything she’s seen before, the clouds begin to move, in a natural pattern of an actual skyscape. Interesting, but nice, floats through her mind as she relaxes ever so slightly.

A searing tension strikes her through the trigger point in the back of her right shoulder before she even hears the words of the people not yet in the room with her, she feels them. A young man and young woman appear behind her. The woman holds a pair of massive, all-metal, silver bladed, solid-silver scissors. “Why are you sitting on the floor?” the woman asks. Attila takes in the two. The man holds a duffel bag, Is that? “Yes,” the man answers. “What are you doing here?” the woman prods further. “I,” Attila starts; “You wanted me to drop by sometime, so here I am.” Of course, Attila just shoots in the dark, until she realizes a small, perhaps significant realization. Slowly, she peels herself off the floor and takes a knowingly unwelcome seat upon the white couch. “Please don’t sit on the couch,” the woman sighs. Attila quickly stands up, “Oh, sorry.” The three stand, the man and woman stare at Attila while she stares back, splitting her attention between them. For an unknowable amount of time, they stare, and eventually recognize the impasse.

Finally, the woman speaks aloud, “Tell us what you know.” “There’s nothing to tell,” Attila admits, knowing full well that there must be something she can say, but what that thing is remains lost on her. “It’s been a strange day,” the woman consoles; “Let’s just keep it civil.” “Sorry?” Attila asks; “What do you mean by ‘civil’?” The woman looks down at the scissors, adroit, then turns them within her hand. “May I at least have my bag?” Attila gently pleads. “This is not yours,” the man explains. “Of course it is. I lost it at some point,” today?, Attila states with a little defiance. The young man and young woman laugh aloud, albeit softly. “Oh my, oh my,” the woman mocks, and then continues, “I guess this will have to be done another way.” The woman begins to walk toward Attila. Attila evades the young woman, but the man blocks the front door. The man gestures as if compliant and steps out of the way. A straight shot to the stained-glass door. Attila makes a move to exit, and the woman throws a glass vase onto the exposed wooden floor where the rug on which they currently stand comes to an end. The distance to the long, narrow rug that assumedly runs the length of a hallway unseen from this perspective is too vast for Attila to jump safely. Why am I barefoot? “You’re almost naked,” the woman clarifies. Attila looks down, she is indeed almost naked, dressed in nothing but some underwear and a t-shirt. What the fuck? 

She decides to make a run for it and jumps only to land on a few shards of glass. Sharp, the pain from the glass stuck in her right foot makes her hurriedly step down upon her left foot only to pierce her left foot with more glass. She launches herself to the rug in front of the front door. Gently, she reaches down to examine her feet closely. The young man and young woman look amused, and then they look at each other. Precisely, slowly, determined, the woman walks toward Attila and merely walks over the shards of glass as the pieces crinkle and crunch under foot. Attila, almost crying now, crawls toward the front door. Lifting the enormous scissors on high, the woman means to stab Attila through the back. Just as Attila grabs for the door to pull it open, the door falls away from her, and just as she falls through the doorway the scissors make contact with her flesh.

She screams out in pain as she collapses on the floor while a heaping mound of coats, shoes, umbrellas and the like pour out from the closet behind her. “Attila!” yells a voice. Mom? “What did I tell you about playing in that closet?” her mother continues. Weeping, heaving on the ground in unbelievable pain, Attila shouts out, “Mom! I’m going to die!” “What the hell are you talking about? Get up!” her mother berates. “Mom! My feet, my back, I’ve been tortured and stabbed!” Attila continues, convinced. “What? There’s not a thing wrong with you. Get up, now!” her mother shouts even angrier this time as she grabs Attila’s arm to bring her to a stand. What the? Attila gets a look at her feet. Nothing. She pauses for a moment, no pain. She grapples at her back, nothing. And then something even stranger reveals itself to her; she looks at her hands. Why are my hands so small? Why is my mother so … tall? What the fucking hell is … “Go to your room right now! I do not have the time for these games yet again, today, Attila. March!” her mother yells while pointing up a set of stairs. Lost, confused, Attila looks at her mother in disbelief. Her mother’s face softens, “Attila, darling, today’s not a good day. Please, just do as we talked about and play quietly in your room. There are very important people coming over tonight. I need you to be a good little girl, alright?” As her mother spoke, her mother slowly bent down to make eye-to-eye contact as she gently placed one hand on each of Attila’s shoulders, and then almost begs, “Can you please do that for me?” A sharp pain sears through Attila’s mind. She flinches. Her mother watches, “We can talk about whatever’s going on with you tomorrow, okay?” Silent, Attila turns and walks up the stairs. She has no idea where to go, but continues to walk in whatever direction feels right.

A door is cracked open. She walks toward it to find what looks to be a room for a small female child. A sigh. I don’t know. Sitting in the far corner of the room, a full-length mirror looks all too appealing. Attila approaches the mirror, and as she gets a full look at the situation she glimpsed downstairs, a new reality befalls her. She grabs her face, the face of a small child, dressed in a small dress, shod in small, black, patent-leather shoes.

>…<

continued on weekends, until The End^^

…also, on Medium @amateurtattletale

Cookies, Cake and Pie

Cookies, Cake and Pie

The screams of delighted children fill the air. She sits up with the thought, Why am I sleeping in here? Seated upon a bed, to her right, a wall, the bed tucks away into a corner as she faces the one door in the room, and oddly enough, the door is made of glass with no curtain shielding her with privacy while she sleeps. The room, a mess, cluttered, clothes strewn about along with creepy little knick knacks she does not recognize, feels too large to be a bedroom. Wild sounds of many children playing, somewhere, penetrate her mind. Conscious now, she turns in the bed to search through the only window in the space. She’s not sure if “window” is the right word, since the “window” seems to be more like a glass portion of wall, from floor to ceiling, only slightly wider than the width of the bed. There, through the window, as she’ll remain to consider it for the time being, children play but not outside. Housed within a room with which her room presumably shares the wall that supports the window through which she looks into the adjacent room is filled with children, running, screaming, playing a sort of chase and freeze game. Kneeling now upon the bed, hands clutching the top of the headboard as she peers, confused, through the window at the playing children, one child spots her and runs toward the window. She sees and hears an adult’s muffled yell for the child. Rebellious, the child continues toward the window. Just as the child reaches a distance close enough to reach out and touch the glass, the child kicks the glass instead, laughs as she jumps a bit, and then bolts away toward the adult who called for the child only a moment earlier. She watches the children for an unknowable amount of time.

A person enters the room and breaks her transfixed state. The voice of the person registers immediately within her mind. No. She almost refuses to turn but to no avail, her mother moves to stand beside the bed, within her peripheral vision, she cannot refuse to see her mother standing there. “Attila,” the mother repeats; “Darling, you must return to your classes today. No one wants to cover your duties any longer. You’re putting undue tension upon the situation here.” Attila sits and faces her mother, head tilted down so as not to make eye contact. Confused still, Attila looks back toward the window that reveals the small children at play. The glass is but solid wall now. No longer feeling the feelings of confusion, Attila looks at her mother and states calmly, “Yes, mother.” The mother silently leaves. Immediately aware of this fold in reality that she’s experiencing, Attila rushes to get her bags packed.

Unsure of what items truly belong to her, she simply piles in a few of the things she believes she will need. As she stuffs piece after piece of clothing into a large duffel-type bag, another woman appears at the door. Friend or foe? The woman knocks on the door while glancing directly at Attila through the glass. She does not wish to open the door and so continues to gather some things. Helping herself into the room, the woman at the door cracks the door open, “Hey, Attila. I’m Ney Teacher. I was told to summon you for your cooking class with the attendant adults.” Attila bolts over her right shoulder to get a look at Ney. “What?” Ney begins to repeat herself, “You teach a cooking class that begins in a few minutes. I was told to fetch you.” “By whom?” “I’m sorry?” Ney asks, confused. “Who told you to get me?” Attila clarifies. “Manager Teacher,” Ney decidedly responds in truth. “Dammit,” Attila spits under her breath, and then speaks, “I’ll be right there.” “Okay, great. Thanks,” Ney confirms as the door closes. I cannot stay here, she thinks to herself, but she cannot imagine a way out. How did I even get here in the first place? One cannot travel without the other, and the probability that She ended up here is too small. How did this even happen? She decides that there’s nothing much else that she can do for the moment except to go along with however this goddamn day unfolds. But then she feels a sickening pain in the pit of her stomach. She begins to understand much about something she cannot quite understand. Uneasy, she grabs the bag she packed and resolves to go to the cooking classroom located somewhere she does not know. Fuck it, she thinks as she pushes the door to the room.

Her right hand crosses her body as she reaches for the handle of the door with that same right hand. As she opens the door, the door swings wide sweeping outwards and away from her through space as it creates a semi-circular motion allowing her to enter the new space. Immediately, she realizes that the door itself opens into some sort of industrial-type kitchen, large, rectangular, with three solid walls, the longest of which houses the door into the space through which Attila just walked, and its, the longest wall’s, parallel showcases a pattern of tall, slender windows broken by solid pillars that stretch the entire length of the wall. The wall of windows looks almost like the keys of a piano. Ah, this again, she perceives. She takes a deep breath, drops the bag to the left of the door as she enters so that it, the bag, may be easily grabbed upon her exit. Hands free now, she assesses the room filled with people she does not know, or maybe she does. The knowing eludes her at the moment. With only one thing pressing hard upon her mind, she knows that this time must pass quickly, as quickly as possible. She scans the faces for a superficial analysis, three women, who look like they’re related, tall, slender, blonde, and three ordinary-looking men, of various heights and widths. Couples? she wonders to herself.

Thus, she skips any sort of introductions, and begins, “What are we all learning today? Do any of you know, or was this class sold to you as a surprise?” The shortest of the three males is pale but attractive enough. He raises his hand but begins speaking before Attila acknowledges him, “We’re all under the impression that this is a class about how to make chocolate cake or some kind of dessert.” What the hell is this? she considers once more and not for the last time within only a moment.

“Very good,” Attila pretends while she searches for a clue. She manages to notice that she stands behind, what seems to be, an instructor’s setup and concludes that she must be standing in the right place. “Shall we begin?” she musters, and continues to scan the countertop, “Ah, yes, here are copies of the recipe we will be executing today.” Walking around the kitchen/classroom now, she hands each “student” a sheet with the recipe for, Who the hell knows, she mulls in her mind. One of the women raises her hand, “Ma’am. Aren’t you going to introduce yourself?” “It doesn’t matter,” Attila responds and then adds, “Call me whatever you’d like.” At this command, the widest of the three men pipes in, “This recipe’s called ‘Attila’s Fudge Fountain.’ Are you Attila?” “Like I said, it doesn’t matter, but if it makes you feel better to know who I am, then sure, consider me Attila,” Attila sighs as she makes her way back to the front of the kitchen-classroom. “Alright,” Attila begins; “let’s get started. Go ahead and read the ingredients aloud and make sure you recognize everything.” “Ma’am?” a different woman this time meekly asks. “Yes?” Attila attends. “Our recipe is not for cake. It’s some sort of pie?” “Oh,” Attila recognizes a twinge of some remembrance; “Yes, you are all making some different sort of dessert. So, go ahead and read the ingredients list, and then, if you know what everything is, go ahead and collect all of your necessary ingredients. Everything should be here within the kitchen. If you can’t find something, let me know. Ask a fellow classmate first, however. Begin.” The students, paired off into sets each including one male and one female, meander throughout the kitchen collecting everything they need to make whatever it is that’s named at the top of their recipe sheet.

Attila, uncertain and anxious, sits for a moment on the stool provided behind her instructor’s workstation. She feels the pull of herself against the air of time within the room. Slowly, the room begins to shift from its rectangular shape into a spherical dome. The students continue their task. Unknowing, Attila can hear the murmurs of the older woman but cannot hear what she says. Thus, she focuses her mind to see if she can read the older woman instead. Nothing. She is angry, Attila confesses. There’s someone else there now, too, but Attila cannot recognize the person. Harder now, Attila concentrates on the other presence, It couldn’t be. That would be impossible. And then the reality of her situation hits her again cold, Yes, of course, but then again, here I am. So then, what does the old man want now? Attila focuses in with all her might. Within the normalcy of the kitchen-classroom, Attila attends to the whims of the students.

After all of the students have their respective desserts in the oven for the allotted amount of time, they mingle amongst themselves, some even leave the room for a break. Eventually, Attila returns to the instructor’s counter and sits herself down upon the stool. After a short to medium amount of time ranging from a few minutes to more than a few minutes, Attila falls off the stool onto the ground. The two taller males rush toward her and try to wake her. Finally, Attila hears the words, The three have travelled together, but the one who remains arrived of his own volition. The old man, Attila immediately realizes, but then immediately remembers that this must be a fabrication for, I cannot know what she knows while she knows it. She wakes. Rectangular again, the room stretches itself back into its known state. Two males stand over her. “Are you alright, ma’am?” the taller of the two, although, really, they are basically the same height. “Yes,” Attila responds as she sits up; “I’m fine, thank you.” Refusing the help of the two males, she stands, repositions the stool, sits down upon the stool and returns her attention to the trite task at hand. “So, have you all gathered and collected your ingredients?” she asks as if nothing happened. “Are you sure you’re alright?” one of the women asks. “Yes,” Attila responds with a feigned smile; “I’m fine.” “Well, ma’am,” the same woman explains, “We’re all finished with making our desserts. Don’t you remember helping us? We’re just waiting for them to bake.” Attila takes this revelation in for a minute. “Ah, yes. Sorry,” Attila admits; “I must’ve bumped my head a little. Of course I remember. How much longer do your delicacies have left to bake?” The one woman who hasn’t spoken yet states, “Ours had the longest bake time, and we have about twenty minutes left.” “Great,” Attila states with an air that matches that of eye rolling. Once she hears the word leave her mouth, Attila clears her throat and attempts to mask her distractedness with a joyful tone, “Where are these delightful concoctions headed once they’re finished?” The students look at each other as if this lady’s crazy. Then, the woman who speaks the most answers, “Ma’am, we’re taking them all to the student banquet right after this class. Remember?” Frustrated and a little pissed, Attila rolls her lips into her mouth and gently bites down, “Yes, right, silly me.”

The first of the egg timers rings loudly and almost bounces off the respective students’ countertop. Attila feels the pull of her duties as the instructor and walks over to the oven belonging to the first set of students. “Ah, those look great,” Attila musters through a cheerful voice; “Gently remove them from the pan with a spatula and let them cool on the baking rack.” A few minutes later, the next egg timer rings loudly and almost bounces off the respective students’ countertop. The pang of repetition nauseates Attila. Nauseated, she takes a subtle, deep breath, walks toward the next oven. “Go ahead, open the oven. Grab a toothpick,” Attila instructs. The female of the couple grabs a toothpick. “Now,” Attila advises; “stick the toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done.” The female nods and enacts the instruction, “Clean,” the female states, excitedly and shows the toothpick to both Attila and the male. “Looks good, indeed. Grab the pan then and place it on the cooling rack,” Attila continues. “Once it’s cooled, you can pop it out of its pan and then place the cake itself on the cooling rack and glaze it with the ganache. You made the ganache, right?” Attila asks while looking around their countertop area for the proof. “Yes, it’s right here,” the male points out. “Excellent. You’ll probably have to wait another twenty minutes or so for everything to cool,” turning now to address all of the students, “You will all have to wait for everything to cool.” Attila points at the first couple, “You should be about ready now to frost those cookies,” and then she turns back to the cake couple, “You can set another timer or just wait.” Everyone nods in acknowledgement.

The third and final egg timer rings out. Attila’s stomach turns over. She almost hurls all over the second couple’s finished product. “Ma’am? Are you alright,” the same woman asks yet again. Attila waves a hand to abate the woman. Waiting patiently, the last couple stands, waits for Attila to instruct them. “Wait one more minute,” Attila instructs; “It’s an old baker’s secret. Do you have the melted butter ready?” The male and female who made the dessert both nod in unison, “Yes, ma’am.” A minute later, “Okay. Pull it out now, gently. Golden brown?” “I’d say so,” the male of the set confirms. “Perfect. Set the pan on the counter and then place just the pie pan on the cooling rack,” Attila instructs. The couple complies. “Excellent,” Attila congratulates; “Now, with the pastry brush, while it’s still hot, brush some melted butter on the edge of the crust.” Again, the couple follows the instructions enthusiastically. Once the couple finishes slathering their dessert in even more butter, all of the students wait and impatiently look at their delicacies for the final instruction. “Okay, now you all need to find an appropriate serving dish or platter for your respective desserts, and then I guess we’ll all just walk to wherever the banquet’s happening together,” Attila states aloud to the entire class. The students murmur back and to each other as they figure out the best way to transport their goods.

Him & Them

Him & Them

Day after day he continues the slow, dark climb out of obscurity. Exposure, the never-ending chase for … for … he runs; he examines; he punches himself in the face until … until the person around whom his entire world revolves takes notice and delivers … delivers … the semblance … a semblance of … resolution. He wants to go to there; there is where he will … will … the will to dare to dare to … want … the wanton … he stops; he paces; he wrings his hair between the unscrupulous grasp of his fists to force the mind to … give … to reveal … to tell all its secrets. The lies he tells himself satisfy him no longer, and when reality meets expectation, he runs with the perception … a perspective on … the perceptive nature where … when the behavior reflects the person behind the reinforcement.

She came to him in but only the vaguest sense. He felt her, the warmth, the love, the heat of longing between their sexual intercourse, and just as she was willing and able to give him everything he desired from her, only her, she vanished. Hidden, he remembered to tuck her behind his ear. Forgotten, that is when he lost her behind his ear. Every so often, when in the clutches of the luckiest of situations, she whispers to him in the cold, dark nights of forgotten dreams and remembered nightmares. Vastly unknown to the typical passerby, he sits, anxious, astutely aware of everything and yet, nothing makes any sense to him at all. He wanders, not as a not-lost wanderer. He feels, quite lost, most often times. The obscurity defines him in exactly the way that he would like to be defined. He moves within the world largely unnoticed. The people do not see him unless they know to look for him, but what kind of person looks for something about which they know nothing? He wonders, not as a self-seeking victim.

And there in the distance, a speck of light lighted and now lit by the flare of nostrils, an eyebrow lifted. He walks toward it; the lit light that was lighted grows. Closer now, he attempts to sneak up on it; the lit, lighted light retreats. He reaches a hand out towards it and easily takes hold of it. He ignites the light with a smooth, even blow of his breath. The light springs to lively life and scatters like confetti. One more deep breath in, Find her, he exhales. Consumed. The back of his right ear begins to burn. A gentle whisper, I am hidden; he remembers. You are lost, the gentle whisper continues. I am sleeping, he echoes within himself.

His eyes blink open; upon his back, the soothing, warm rays expanding above him suggest morning. Warm. He rolls over and feels the silken skin of a woman. No, he does not believe. Running his hand up the side of a naked, female body, the flesh is warm as his hands melt into the woman beside him. His hand reaches the shoulder of the female body, and just as he presses to roll the woman over to look upon her face, the gentle whisper of the voice he knows to belong to the woman he so desperately hopes is the woman lying besides him now envelopes him, I am hidden. Wake up. The droplets that release themselves from his face collect, and as the air meets them, a cold chill resonates from around the creases of his nostrils and that border where his face becomes scalp. His eyes open wide, wide awake. On his side, facing a wallpapered wall, he feels cold. Tears … the tears that burn … the burn of emotion … a stream of forgotten dreams that dry … the dried tears that salt the waters that brings life to all life. As he sits up the loneliness … the emptiness … no … he remembers. The feelings represent something more akin to despair, although, despair is not quite the word either. He’s been alone and lonely for so long now that the feeling feels normal. Honestly, he is sure, he does not know if he would like to depart from his feelings of loneliness; it sounds so … so … exposed.

“This is how the crazies live,” they say, “ They like to perch.” Perched, he slides on his butt down to the foot of his bed so that he may look over the balcony, into the common area. The common area is a large, vaulted open room with two dozen sets of stairs lining three of the four outer walls. The fourth wall, if standing directly in the middle of it, looking toward it, to the right, houses the doorway into and out of the common area, which leads to the waiting room, a comfortable room where visitors may visit, and where other sorts of administrative necessities are found. The fourth wall, to the left, houses one large doorway into and out of the common area, which leads directly to an outdoor, lushly lawned, activities-conducive space and leads down a short corridor through which the dining area is accessed. In between these two doors, the wall consists almost solely of large, floor-to-ceiling windows.

“The crazies like it this way,” they say, “They like to hear the goings on of other people.” The ladders lead to the semi-private sleeping areas of the sufferers. Each ladder boasts colored steps of all different variants, but they [the steps] are of all the same size, about a foot deep and a foot apart, vertically. Upon assignment of each sleeping cubby, the staff offers each incoming, new registrant the option to choose among a variety of colors for their ladder. These options, however, are not endless. What is available, nevertheless, ranges from a monochromatic scheme in a tint or shade, coordinating complementary colors, a rainbow-ordered set, or a random assortment. All must choose a color package, or a color package will be chosen for them. To look around the common area, at the ladders today, three ladders are missing the steps entirely, which means the sleeping cubby above is unoccupied. Some sufferers have opted for a random assortment, but most, oddly enough, have chosen the rainbow set. One sufferer has a monochromatic scheme of green tints, while one other has a monochromatic scheme of purple shades, “The closest,” they say, “to black without being black, which, of course, is not an option.”

At the top of each ladder, a cubby—the width and depth of which is large enough to house a bed large enough to sleep a large man comfortably, enough space for that same large man to lay on the floor next to the bed with arms and legs almost fully outstretched, a small dresser drawer that doubles as a bedside table, and as for the height, the ceiling of the cubby would force this same large man to bend nearly at the hips—reaches up and back, away from the common area’s walls. The three walls of the cubby are windowless and outfitted with wallpaper of various nature scenes, which may also be chosen. Lined with a balcony half the height of the cubby, the fourth wall serves as the cubby’s entrance and exit point. The banisters of the balcony must also be colorful, but usually, the installers simply match the colors of the banisters to the colors of the steps. Only once has a different color arrangement for the steps and banister ever been requested, but most believe this is due mostly to the fact that the sufferers simply do not know that they may request an alternate color arrangement. Lest not forget that the cubbies themselves are meant, first and foremost, for sleeping. Rest and leisure time, despite this, may be spent within, no matter. Each sufferer, however, must also clothe themselves within this space so as to not be in the nude when descending the ladder into the common area, but when the clothing is simple and slightly uniform, wriggling into each day’s outfit is no chore. The sufferers may also opt to don a simple robe and clothe themselves in their bathrooms.

As a point of concern for the safety of each cubby’s resident, the ladder also serves the purpose of … safety. Pressure sensitive, the steps of the ladder turn on the one light inside the cubby. That light, of course, may then be switched off via the touch-sensitive pad that controls the cubby’s light and temperature. Thus, when an intruder attempts to enter a cubby in which that intruder does not belong, the lights of the cubby turn on with hopes that the inhabitant, if at night, is awoken to the intruder’s presence. The steps also light up a small notification in the security room. No incident has ever come to fruition due to the seemingly unsafe nature of the ladders. That’s not to say, however, that none will occur, but since none has yet to occur, the ladders remain as a seemingly fair resolution.

To the right of the foot of each ladder is a small door that leads to a private bathroom beneath each sleeping cubby. The bathrooms are fairly typical in that the entire space is molded of some sort of rust- and mold-resistant material that is easily wiped down. This, of course, is for each sufferer’s safety. There are no bits and pieces that can be removed from other pieces. Sizable, there’s floor space where a large man may lay down upon the floor between the sink, toilet and bathing areas, but who would want to do such a thing?; no matter, the option has been made available. The bathtub, also of a size that may fit a large man comfortably, has only a faucet, which prohibits the act of showering and removes the need for a shower curtain along with its accoutrements. Small areas around the bathroom light up to reveal where to press to flush, per se, command hot or cold water to flow, soap to dispense, etc., etc.

An analyst makes her way through the common area, which at this time is being used for group games and artistic projects, toward the bottom of the monochromatic ladder of green tints. He sits, perched upon the edge of his bed, arms resting upon the banister, chin upon the arms, looking out with little interest at the activities below. The analyst looks up at him, “You have a visitor.” “There are no approved visitors on my ‘Approved Visitors’ list,” he responds. “Yes, but this is a matter of … clinical interest. Your visitor has requested to visit you, despite whether or not you will benefit from the visit.” “I do not wish to visit with my visitor.” “Unfortunately, you do not have a choice.” “If my visitor is, in fact, here to visit me, then of course I have the choice to refuse. If my, quote, visitor is not, in fact, a visitor, then label him or her accordingly.” The analyst sighs, “It’s such a battle with you. You’re the one who wants to be here. So, comply.” He’s always had a soft spot for this particular analyst, the no-bullshit type, and he’s always kind of thought it odd that she was the only one, after who knows how many tried, who understood him. “I see,” he supposedly concedes. “As if,” the analyst retorts, “I’ll give you five minutes. He’s in the waiting room.”

The Island of Isla

The Island of Isla

Where the temporary thrives,

all else ought hide.

For where the temporal achieves,

there much is bereaved,

and then all is lost

but at just what cost?

To a bridge lit ablaze,

from deep shouts on a chaise,

the chandelier turns each bauble,

as cries ring, sing and squabble,

to speak of the secret transitory,

overwhelmed by the lies of their story.

He remembers a time, so faint yet so lit, in the distance just beyond his grasp like smoke that flees in every direction away from whatever birthed it, which really means that a thing made of itself, unto itself finds itself repulsive, like the snake who sheds a paper replica when it grows beyond the means once known to it, to no longer be unlike the rock, unmoved unless moved by an outer force over which the rock itself has no control, for as a rock, to be shaped demands the infliction of something other than itself, to no avail, and without the purpose of knowing anything within itself, the small fragment of an imagination lost in the glow of a thing that does not exist unless something looks upon it, and even then, a malleable piece of fruit erases anything unwanted, every antipathy, but hate equates love with the unnecessary toil to be seen against only something that contradicts the wanton existence, like black and its nemesis, white, for to tell a tale about time is to tell a tale about nothing at all, since, according to him, all things only exist against the telling of time, therefore, without it—time—there nothing can nor may be anything but nothing.

Nevertheless, beyond that he sees only the dark, silken stream running slowly down her back from the crown of her head. Immobile, if only temporarily, he forgets to breathe. A twitch, the small itch on the outside of his left ankle saves him as he almost loses sight of her. He runs, but not to catch her. He follows, but only to know her.

For weeks, he cannot recall, perhaps even months, he watched every move to which he was privy. For endless distances, unknown to him, he traveled the depth and breadth of numerous orbitals to step in every step of her movements, to witness every action of her being, to know every moment of her waking. What he did not know could not be known. At that time, however, what he knew meant everything. Obsession, he tells himself, no, something else entirely. Isla, he overheard one time, “Like -iss as in hiss with a ‘la’ like to sing,” put a name on the being he so frequently sought.

Isla’s silken hair, nevertheless, proved difficult to catch. At every moment, at every turn, her hair was on the move. Every day filled with activity and experience all in the name of living life to the fullest, to smell those roses. But stop!, he would sometimes shout at no one, You’ve got to stop to smell those fucking roses! Isla being the traveler who supposedly traveled to see the world, but then an odd little thing happened where she ended up traveling the world for the world to see her. Like a tourist who never actually builds a life in the place where she lands, but rather, who stops only long enough to take a picture of all the people who live each day for her entertainment.

Soon (or maybe it was years) he realized what Isla had, and sadly, it was not much: a series of photographs to mark the passage through each new place, “a collection of memories” (as per her bio) to share with strangers she’d futilely meet along the way. The ego of the go-getter, the wanderer, the perpetually lost, albeit, according to them, on purpose, must be a powerful thing to behold. No longer intrigued by the lone Isla, he finally approached her to ask only one, simple question.

Perched alone at a rooftop restaurant that overlooked the rhythm of a halcyon sea, with the strung light markings of platitude, as servers preserve table-top candles that blink in that way that makes people feel as though they ought to be entranced, Isla sits in a pair of red heels that present her as adventurous, a backless dress to reveal her female confidence, that silken hair in just-off-the-beach waves. Slowly, he cogently walks toward her and sits across from her in the one remaining open chair of the two-top bistro setup. Taken aback and slightly on guard, Isla states while attempting to ooze her sexuality, “May I help you?” “Yes.” “Well, get on with it then,” Isla prompts through an ever-rising anxious air as her right hand rests on her lap as the tips of her middle and thumb fingers press the anxiety from her mind, while her left hand gently spins the chalice of wine around its base. “You will die tomorrow,” he begins, “Did you find what you’re looking for?” The faint movements of Isla’s hands stop altogether as her eyes begin to focus on him more closely, in a voice half filled with humor, half filled with confusion, “Excuse me? If, I die …” she attempts to clarify only to be cut off. “You will die tomorrow.” “Please leave me alone, sir. I would like for you to please leave,” Isla states with finality, on the cusp of standing so that she may leave if he does not. “Just think about it,” he says while rising and excusing himself from the table.

A server walks by to hand her a check. Isla stops the server to pay him immediately. “It’s already been taken care of, ma’am. This is your receipt.” Isla grabs at the elbow of the server as he begins to walk away, “Have you ever seen that man before?” “What man?” “The man who was sitting across from me just here. I assume he is the one who took care of my check?” “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I don’t know who you’re talking about.” “There was a man just here. Sitting across from me.” “Was there? I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t see him.” “Who paid for my check, then?” “You did. This is your receipt.” Isla scrambles for the receipt to read a vague line item list of her meal. As she places the receipt on the table the receipt pops into a puff of small smoke. “Of course,” Isla sighs in frustration. “Is everything alright?” the server sincerely asks. “May I have another copy of my receipt?” “I’m sorry, ma’am. We only give the one copy. You’ll have to wait until you get home to print off the memory.” “Yes, I understand. Okay, thank you,” she states dismissing the server. Of course I suppose I’ll have to print off more than the mere receipt, she thinks to herself, and yet, she makes no attempt to make her way home. Suddenly overwhelmed by a memory of an exchange that she knows for certain transpired, a flash bursts through her eyes as everything she had experienced over the past day or so furiously rewinds itself before her.

“Isla,” the voice whispers. “Isla, wake up,” the voice continues as the sound diffuses throughout her mind. Barefoot, Isla feels the cold hard ground beneath her feet. Eyes open, she catches her own reflection in a mirror. After a moment soaking in her surroundings, she concludes that she stands within a bathroom filled with the signifiers of luxury. To her right a wall of glass with golden accessories shimmer in the filtered light of the skylight above. To her left a wall painted with a scene of women bathing in a lush garden, and a dark, wooden door cracked open to reveal a golden toilet. In front of her, a countertop of pink marble, inlaid with sinks and faucets of gold, stretches the length of the absurdly enormous space. Three small pink chandeliers of equal size hang equidistant from each other and each wall as they twinkle light and sound. Isla turns slowly to look over her shoulder, large dark double doors. Turning fully around now, she reaches for both gold door handles at once, one in each hand, pulls down simultaneously and swings the doors open wide. A blast of pure light hits her square across her entire body. She raises both arms to shield her face from the blow. Her hair throws her back a few steps.

Eyes, they adjust. The bathroom in all its luxury, Isla realizes, pales in comparison to the palatial space she finds herself in now. A gentle rustling like that of a person stirring in a bed full of large linens. A bed. Slowly, Isla tiptoes toward the bed where a person obviously sleeps. Just as she reaches the bed, the sleeping form turns to face her. She approaches with curiosity rather than caution. The crown of the person’s head reveals, assumedly, a female. Dark, long hair streams upwards on the pillow. Isla moves closer. A small gasp releases itself from Isla. Her own sleeping face stares back at her. But how?, she thinks to herself. What is happening? How is this even possible?

The form of herself begins waking movements. A sigh. A yawn. Outstretched arms reach high above her head. Isla steps away from the bed and moves toward its foot. The form of her blinks her eyes open but continues to lay within the soft covers. Isla breathes the shallowest possible breaths. For what seems like an eternity, Isla stands, eyes fixed upon the form laying in the bed. A small toss and a turn. The form of her sits upright as the form of her pushes back the covers. Isla jumps back slightly frightened, but to Isla’s amazement, the form of her seems to have not noticed Isla standing there. The form of her swings her legs over the side of the bed, expertly stretches her neck, rolls each ankle five times inward and then out, looks over her right shoulder to glimpse the beautiful day just beyond the four enormous floor to ceiling windows. Isla and the form of herself stare at each other, but as Isla stares at her own form, the form of her stares right through Isla. With wide eyes, Isla pitches forward to see if she can catch the form of her’s attention. Nothing. The form of her makes her way to the double doors of the bathroom and closes both doors behind her.

The room fills with mist as Isla appears upon a sandy beach, waves foam where the salty waters of tears long spilled meet Earth. Slowly turning about herself, Isla recognizes the scene. Adamantly, she begins to walk toward a knowing place, and as she approaches, she slows almost to a standstill through the recognition of her own voice, which filters throughout the air. Just beyond a collection of oversized beach umbrellas, Isla remains directly behind the ferrule of the closest one as she slowly pokes her head around its canopy. There, again, Isla spots herself standing and chatting comfortably with some local man. Isla begins to recall this exact moment of conversation with, with, what’s his name again? Inching ever forward, Isla can hear exactly what they’re talking about.

The form of her smiles, and with a giggle says, “Oh, yea. I’m staying in a palatial suite at that hotel. It’s quite marvelous.” Isla hears this but knows that she did not, in fact, stay at that palatial suite while she was visiting this place. Why am I lying?, Isla whispers to herself. Feeling testy, Isla stands to make herself known to the form of her, but the form of her seems oblivious, yet again, to Isla’s presence. The form of her and the local man continue their conversation. “So, how long will you be here?” the local man asks. “Oh, I’m not sure. I’m sort of free to go here and there however I please. So, forever, I guess,” the form of her responds. Isla gasps, No.

A cold, misty wind billows across the beach as Isla appears just outside a shabby hut. Terrified, Isla pushes open the door to the hut. There, sitting upon a makeshift cot made of branches and dried grass lays an old, dying woman. The dying woman looks vaguely familiar and again, does not see Isla standing within the tiny space. A moment later, a young girl comes trotting into the hut with a bottle of water. “Isla! I’m here!” the young girl shouts despite the need for shouting in a room no larger than a modest bathroom. What? No,  Isla thinks to herself. The dying woman nods and motions for the young girl to bring the water to her. “Still no words today?” the young girl chants while she pats the dying woman on the forehead. The dying woman motions with her hands some sort of thankful gesture. “It’s no problem,” the young girl sings as she helps the dying woman up into a seated position and feeds the dying woman some water.

A warm mist disperses throughout the hut as Isla appears upon a dance floor in a thumping night club. Oh, god, no, Isla mumbles to herself as she recalls a moment in this place that would fulfill the dying woman’s inability to speak. No, Isla mutters, Why is this happening? Again, knowingly, Isla makes her way to a private table in the balcony area of the club. There, again, she sees herself flirting shamelessly with a short man. Apparently, the short man is trying to make a move on the form of her, but the form of her keeps writing down something on a napkin and pointing to it. Isla shakes her head, aware. Wanting to be sure, however, Isla makes her way behind the couch where the form of her and the short man sit. Yes, Isla confirms, Dammit! Upon the napkin, Isla sees the form of her writing down something about how the form of her has no voice and how she’s sorry that she cannot speak. Fuck, Isla speaks aloud. A moment later, a girl friend comes along to collect the form of her. The girl friend says, “Let’s go Is, there are some serious hotties over here,” as the form of her makes big eyes as if to say, “The act is on right now.” Picking up the cue, the girl friend nods her head as she meets the eyes of the short man, “Oh, hey. Yea, sorry. She doesn’t know how to speak. So, please, can you leave her alone?” The short man excuses himself, “Oh, yea, sure. Well, it was nice to meet you.” “Yea, sure,” the girl friend waves as she sits down next to the form of her. The two begin to chat as quietly as possible while still being able to hear each other. Isla rests her hands on the back of the couch as she bends over in a nauseated state.

Mist.

Not The Listmaker (according to Attila)

Not The Listmaker (according to Attila)

“I don’t know who she is, and I don’t know what she is, and I don’t know where she’s from, and I don’t know anything about the why. I am here to inform you of my knowledge of her existence, but the truth of the matter is that I do not know who she is, at all. She never came up on my list before the disappearance, and nobody seems to really know who she is, and yet, everyone knows her, now. It was the perfect scheme, perhaps, or the perfect plan, I guess. Again, something I do not know, for which I traveled to your front door in search of answers.” The person to whom I am speaking sits back and mulls over the words. She is looking at me, and I don’t really know what to make of her look.

And then, he sees us off in the distance. Well, us is loosely defined at this point. She has made green. He sees me, and just as I realize that he has indeed seen me, I decide to leave, but as I’m leaving, Attila rounds the corner. Luckily, she sees me seeing her and immediately looks for him and then, quickly sees him too. He sees us seeing him now and freezes, mid-step, on some plushy grass just north of the fountain around which he must still walk in order to reach us. Calmly, Attila reaches me as I curl at her feet under a table. “Don’t order anything, please,” I plead. “He will not make his way over here. We’re in public. Relax,” she coos. “I will do the cooing, thank you very much, and now is not exactly the time for such relaxation, lady!” I whisper-scorn. She uncrosses and re-crosses her legs, inconveniencing me greatly so that I must reposition myself.

“At least order the eggs benedict,” I suggest as I curl down into my best surveillance loaf and keep watch for him. Attila’s foot begins to tap. “Please,” I paw at her. “My god,” she responds, exasperated. I see him just as a motor vehicle of some sort passes by on the street a few short meters from the table we’re seated at now. “Attil,” I mutter as I stand and slowly walk back, away. “It’s alright. I think it’s alright,” she attempts. “She isn’t here anymore,” I inform. “Thank you, I do know this,” Attila informs. He definitely means to make his way toward us, but I do not know what he hopes to do. Of course he has to be absolutely gorgeous, dressed in a frothy summer gown, hair flowing, almost floating on the air with the lightheartedness of a lover as opposed to my Listmaker. “That is not the Listmaker,” Attila whispers. “Oh,” I squeak and then wonder, “Are you going to let him come over here?” “Of course, that is what he intends.” But then what happens? I wonder again but to myself. “Nothing will happen if he does nothing,” Attila answers. “That was private,” I scold.

Slowly, he crosses the threshold of the restaurant’s outdoor patio space. Gliding on air, he holds out an arm burdened with a small silk purse adorned in sequins, hand sewn, no doubt. He sits. His toes need some work, but his heels look good, and overall, he smells fresh. “Darling,” he begins. “She’s not here,” Attila answers. “Of course I know this,” he states. He pauses as if taking a beat for a hit of a cigarette, but he is not smoking. “Where is she? Tell me this, and I will be gone in a flash. Nice suit, by the way. Who made you that one?” Another airy beat. “She is supposed to be here,” Attila answers, truthfully, amazingly enough.

They both simultaneously switch their top legs and bottom legs in a cross-legged switcharoo. “You are so fascinating, you, Attila, darling,” he swoons. “And you bore me, Sir,” Attila smirks. “The older woman would be disappointed, but, of course, you already know this,” he smiles with a smug air of one-upmanship. “But she is no man,” he spits. Attila sits back and crosses her arms in front of her chest. “What the hell do you want?” “But you already know, dear.” “Fine, take the cat.” What? Me? “Yes, you,” Attila states as she reaches down and picks me up and sets me on the top of the table. “Her name is Tuna, and she’s a novice, but she’s done well so far,” Attila explains. But I thought that I was yours, I mew to myself, confused. “I’m sure she’s wonderful, but I want HER,” he shouts with a slap on the table and a quick, chair-squeaking rise. “You cannot avoid my messages, Attila. Everyone knows you did it,” he offers in finality. Gracefully, he turns and walks away. Once in the street again, he disappears.

She & The [Old] Man

She & The [Old] Man

Landfill. Yes, she thinks to herself as she climbs over a large pile of, what seems to be, garbage toward the archway of the front door through which she needs to enter; landfill seems like the right word. The heap never lets up. “Excuse me?” she calls through an outstretched neck while still atop the trash mound. Rustling. A man pokes his head around a corner just far enough to catch a blurry glimpse of red hair. “Excuse me, sir?” The man cannot see her very well at this distance, but she does not know that. He can, however, tell that she is a she, by her voice, of course. “Yes? What is it? I think that you are quite late, my dear,” the man shouts from behind the wall, unseen. She begins to clamber down the heap. “It’s not ready anyway,” the man continues on, “A message was sent to you days ago regarding this exact delay. Why are you here?” She stands silently. More rustling. The man emerges from beyond the wall around which he was hidden and slides into the less cluttered room in which she stands. “Oh,” the man states in surprise after now having a look at her. He takes a step back and examines her from a safe albeit oddly close distance. “Hmmmm,” he murmurs. She feels the urge to take off her shoes. “Not yet,” the man instructs. “How long have you been here?” “I only just arrived,” she answers. “No, when did you arrive here here,” the man urges. “Yesterday,” she responds after understanding what the man was initially asking. “Oh, yes,” the man sighs, “Your arrival does make some sense to me now.” The man stops pacing, makes his way to a dusty, darkened window sill, sits and crosses his left arm over his torso as if hugging himself while simultaneously propping his right elbow on the arm so that the fingers of his right hand may stroke his face.

The sounds of another person ring through the corridor beyond the garbage heap. She turns to see who approaches. “Ah,” says the shining face of someone she does not know although she does feel as though she must know him, “I’m so sorry that I don’t have any work for you this session,” the shining face laments. “May I, at the very least, take you out to dinner. I really do wish I could’ve given you the work. I love to send my money into the hands of people I love,” the shining face exclaims a little too loudly. Confusion. “I,” she begins, but the man cuts her off. “She doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter,” the man shouts with a dismissive flick of his wrist. “Well, just come on by for dinner whenever you have a chance,” the shining face blurts out over the heap as the face continues its ascent up the stairs. The man, still perched on the dusty sill, wonders aloud, “Is she supposed to be here now?” “As opposed to when?” she whispers. “Where were you just before you arrived here?” the man asks, and then finally corrects, “the old man.” “I was walking through a dark corridor with …“ she starts, but the old man cuts her off again. “So you did receive my message!” “I received a message. Then I went to go pick up the package, but when I got there …” “That goddamn corridor!” the old man shouts. She knows that this old man has the answer to the only question for which she needs an answer, but she does not know the question. “Yes,” quietly now, the old man speaks gently, “I do have the answer, but I cannot help you until you know the question.” “Do …” she begins. “No,” the old man replies.

They share the space of the cluttered room, the old man still at the sill, she standing on one of the only bare squares of floor. Through the dusty window she can see the glittery sunlight force its significance between the tiny cracks where the dust has not infected. She looks down at her shoes; they are of the dirty sort with which she is less comfortable. She watches the old man think. The realization that she will, unfortunately, have to wait in this … filthy place for an unknowable amount of time dawns on her. “Yes,” the old man states. “There is a room over there that is less, as you put it, filthy. Come.” She carefully follows the old man into a much nicer room that’s filled with ancient technology and plant-based materials. The only pieces of furniture are a bright purple velvet wingback chair, a piano stool unaccompanied by a piano, a large dining table unaccompanied by chairs, and a small table barely large enough to house one large lamp. “No, there is no bed in this place,” the old man answers, “but there is food. Are you hungry?” “Yes,” she responds with curiosity.

She thinks about what it is that she even wants to eat. “It’s difficult to know such a thing at this point,” the old man interjects between her thoughts. “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘food’?” Sandwich, she thinks softly in her mind. “A …” she begins. “Ah yes,” the old man concludes, “Good choice.” The old man leaves her in the velvet chair with knowing eyes. She feels … she feels …

It’s warm. Mox’s tree stands alone, distant in a grassy field lit by the sun’s evening glow. Air rushes by, caresses her face in a swirl of comfort. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath of the fresh air. Exhale. Clouds form. With the flash of cracking thunder, a storm billows instantaneously over her. The sun, darkened, retreats. Her eyes burn. The stream of a familiar voice reverberates throughout the field. Muted, faded, the green of the grass turns pale. She runs toward the tree as it, too, loses its vibrant saturation. Colorless, the grey-scale off of which everything now no longer bounces the sun’s magnificent light strikes her with a vomitous ache. She stops and keels over. “You cannot know that which cannot be known,” the wind whispers as it blows through her hair. She blinks a single tear from her searing, watering eyes.

Cold and stale air hits her face. She opens her eyes to see the old man standing before her with a plate and cup in hand. “How,” she mutters. “It’s only been a few minutes,” the old man answers, “Relax.” “I …” she begins again. “Mox cannot remain hidden for much longer,” the old man responds. She feels something. With a little understanding that her words mean nothing to this man (old man), she begins a thought, Why am I here? “I cannot know that which cannot be known,” the old man replies. “Focus on what you do know, without doubt,” the old man instructs as he hands her the plate with a rudimentary sandwich made of flat bread, an orange sauce and something else she prefers not to know, “And eat this.” But what is it?, runs cooly through her mind. “Bread and cheese,” the man states flatly. Oh, thank you, she thanks in thought.

“Now, tell me about this tree,” the old man demands ever so benevolently while making a seat out of a stack of books and other plant-based materials. It’s not a tree. “What does it represent then?” I’m not to tell details to strangers. “I am not a stranger.” I have doubts. “Very well, then. Does it have a physical location?” Mind clear, she sits silently and eats her sandwich. Then she wonders how she can keep her mind so free of thought, but wait, this is a thought she is having now. The old man chuckles amicably. “Interesting,” the old man speaks aloud. Silence. “I’ll tell you if you really want to know,” the old man offers. Tell me what? “How it is that you can keep your mind so clear.” Does it matter? “Of course not.” Silence.

“If not the tree, then tell me about the boy who brought you here.” What? “The boy you followed into the dark corridor.” But … “It’s okay, I’m very familiar with him. He is why you’re here, in my presence.” Then tell me his name. “Why should I? You don’t even know his name. It was a faulty test of my trustworthiness.” I followed my feet and ended up at his door. “He was upset.” Yes. “You were expected much earlier.” Yes. “What was the delay?” I have doubts. “Where were you before your feet brought you to him?” My home. “And before that?” But you know. “Her presence haunts all, not just you. Could you decipher the contents of the capsule?” Yes. “But I am a stranger.” But you already know. 

The room begins to expand as if it were a balloon filling with helium. The old man’s thoughts make wind and disrupt every particle of settled dust. Calm, she sits. Noisy, every plant-based material rips violently throughout the space. And then, silence. When the mind works at its optimum level, time stands still while every tangible object floats in the limbo between being known and unknown. Through the window now free of dust she can see the glistening sun through the outer glass of the orbital. This place the (old) man lives in, she thinks, rests at the edge; there’s nothing but a cold, dark vacuum beyond these walls.

The room again as it was before the old man’s mindscape, “Interesting.” I feel like I’ve never been here before. “And.” And yet, I do not feel lost. “Do you know who you are?” Yes. “Who are you?”

The Circle’s Corner

The Circle’s Corner

“You said that last time, but what you fail to understand is that we’re in a large sphere.” Ladybug looks at the lorikeet, “What did you just say to me?” “Do you want me to repeat what I just said?” the lorikeet asks, filling with concern. “Yes,” Ladybug demands. The lorikeet looks about itself a bit, “Well, I said that you said that last time, but we’re in a sphere.” “No, the other stuff,” Ladybug groans with a get-on-with-it gesture. The lorikeet lowers its beak and sighs, “I said that you fail to understand …” “Yep, that’s it.” “I didn’t mean to …” “But you did,” Ladybug smirks. Content, the two continue fluttering around.

“Yea, there it is. That corner right there,” Ladybug points. Around again they swoop by as the corner disappears. “What in all hell?” Ladybug whispers. “I think you’re right there, Birdie.” Knowing better, the lorikeet remains silent. “So, you know what to do in this instance?” Ladybug asks. The lorikeet perks up a bit at the thought of being needed, “Yea, but you’re not going to like it.” “Just. C’mon,” Ladybug groans. “Well, the light’s off,” the lorikeet explains. “What? Now? How?” Ladybug shouts. They come to a rest on a small tile ledge floating a little lower than their flying altitude. “The Monitors,” the lorikeet states solemnly. “Only maybe. Shit,” Ladybug sighs.

Preening, the lorikeet quietly calms itself. Ladybug, mulling over the situation finally asks, “When?” “At Midnight.” “No, not when, Birdie, when?” Ladybug retorts. Somber, the lorikeet lowers its head and sighs, “Just after the Listmaker finished the list about which you flew to him.” Ladybug falls back onto its haunches, “How do you know this?” “You summoned me. Remember?” “Right,” Ladybug remembers; “Right after I left, and now we’re here.” Ladybug moves itself to the top of the lorikeet’s head, “Sit.”

“Perhaps, I ought to have shouted this news at you at the beginning?” the lorikeet realizes. “You’re just realizing this now?” Ladybug laughs. “There’s nothing you could have done, and there’s nothing we can do now except wait.” Silently, the lorikeet twiddles the feathers on its wingtips as Ladybug rolls around on its back, each leg grasping every other. The Listmaker. “So where is the Listmaker?” the lorikeet asks aloud. “He is wherever he is that he goes when the Monitors turn off the light.”

“Where is that?”

“No one knows.”

“So he’s there now?”

“I hope so.”

“This has never happened before?”

“Not that I’ve known about?”

“And what’s going to happen to us?”

“Not sure about that either.”

“What are the potential outcomes?”

“I’ve never been here.”

“Oh.”

Suddenly, the slow zipper crunch of celery being cut through the grain, specks of purple light begin to fall through the zipper-shaped crack in the side of the sphere directly behind them. “What do we do now?” the lorikeet asks. “She sees us,” Ladybug explains. “Who?” “Not who, when,” Ladybug corrects. “When has come to see us?” “Yes.” “So what do we do now?” the lorikeet reiterates. “We jump!” Ladybug shouts as it jumps with all of its might off the head of the lorikeet, sails through the time of the sphere and clumsily lands on a purple droplet of light. Afraid, the lorikeet shifts its weight from one foot to the other and then again and again, “I don’t know.” “Fly, Birdie! Just fly!” And with this, the lorikeet closes its eyes, jumps up off the tile ledge and flaps straight for another purple droplet of light.

Just as the droplet of purple light catches the lorikeet, the two are thrown as if off a large sheet into the air. At the height of their ascent, the Swinging Leaves giggle and gently pluck both the lorikeet and Ladybug out of the Circle’s Corner and onto the roof of a small thatched, bamboo hut. “Thanks,” Ladybug waves. The Singing Leaves sway and sing a simple song. Exhausted, the lorikeet passes out to the tune. “Psht, figures,” Ladybug scoffs as the lorikeet hunkers down into sleep. Taking a look around, Ladybug whispers to itself, “The middlemost peak where the three peaks meet.”

“And you must be Ladybug, The Listmaker’s prized messenger,” a husky but cheerful voice calls out. Ladybug whips around so fast that its wings deploy and send it clear across to the other side of the roof. A short time later, Ladybug arrives back at the other side of the roof, takes a look over the edge into the radiant face of Fate. “Hello, Miss,” Ladybug bows with the flourish of its right arm and hand while tucking its left behind it. “Hi, Ladybug. I’ve missed you,” Fate smiles. “I’ve missed you so much, So Jeong,” Ladybug admits as it flutters down onto the uplifted hand So Jeong offers with delight.

“You’ve a message?” So Jeong asks, well knowing the urgent nature of Ladybug’s travels. “Unfortunately, I do not,” Ladybug admits. It clears its throat and then immediately puts on a face, “The Listmaker knows of your predicament, and The Listmaker wrote you a list.” “That sounds like a message to me,” So Jeong challenges with a wink. “I suppose you’re right. I mean, of course you are always right. I just mean that that was not what I needed to say,” Ladybug stammers. “Well am I made to wait in suspense for your enjoyment?” So Jeong asks, still delighted by her friend. Ladybug takes a deep breath, “Right after I delivered your message and I secured The Listmaker’s list, I left. I had other things to do. Apparently, however, sometime shortly after I left, the light went out.” So Jeong let out a tiny gasp, “At that time?” Sighing deeper now, Ladybug responds and continues, “Yes. I had summoned the lorikeet to help me with my next message for some squirrels who continue to, never mind, that’s not important. What’s important is that the light is out at The Listmaker’s Ranch. We suspect the Monitors, of course, but who would do this?”

Taking in all that Ladybug has said, So Jeong sits upon a purple silk pillow. Ladybug flutters to a petal of the flower rooted just in front of the pillow upon which So Jeong sits. “I don’t know what to do,” Ladybug laments. “You’re not supposed to know,” So Jeong answers as she leans down to fetch Ladybug from the petal. A sigh of relief relaxes Ladybug into a stupor, “Tell me what to do So Jeong, and I will do it.” Gently, So Jeong stands and fetches the lorikeet from the roof. Carefully, she asks the Singing Leaves for a nest. Softly, she lowers the two creatures into the nest, “Rest, Ladybug. Just rest. This is no longer your problem.” And ever so quietly Ladybug drifts off into peaceful sleep as it whispers, “It’s not on the list.” To which So Jeong replies, “It’s always on the list. Sleep.”

And then So Jeong turns toward me, “Lingerer.” “Yes,” I respond. “Come with me,” So Jeong instructs.