Victim of the Avenues
by Zane Coker
Now they’re walking much easier while the sky is turning a richer green. Their draw off the avenue widens and the girth of the towers just as wide. Restchambers are much bigger here and the toys and trash, dogs and cats, no longer impede every step. Dead bodies are stacked in the alleyways so that the rats have a sort of reef to flounder.
Nearer the sight of some bigger buildings and on their rooftops, Particle towers flash intermittently whereas satiety makes the red flashes disappear. It becomes an impossible process for Thirty-Eight, so he drops his eyes to the avenue and starts counting his steps, her steps; he wipes the sweat from his forehead, sniffs his arm thus the fragrance of storefronts, blasting ducts, leaking pipes, cords climbing, plastic tubes all over the place, all look like pumping veins.
And the city is humble and works its plastic gears, its hydrogen and oxygen as magical, the two peons now entering into its workings with their sweet heads bobbing along in directions of pure blunder and nowhere; better here they think than not over there; and when these dwarfs amid the churnings of this most humble city start thinking themselves as interesting, in that their jolly ways are supposedly as conscious as the two simple heads chalking along the squelch of another world the same, they have to look the other way.
Rays of pure light plaster here the side of a building where the shop tenders sell the cyanide inhalers; where atop the awnings the monkeys scamper happy-cute and skimpy-slim. Below on the bank stands an empty rack; plastic hooks squeaking, and so very inviting, which Thirty-Eight can hardly resist. Viola’s line-stepping a stream of marbles and her fear is much because they make difficult her piano playing-like observations.
And the windows reek with plastic hats and plastic toys; dusty shelves harbor piles of better dirt. Over there in another window is the workable Talon, a glove-like device with plastic claws — for Nay A Nub. Then another rack, this one whereupon hang two absorption suits with better sucking powers — for Your Satiation.
And the kick on the bucket is but the bellow from plastic apples, the stardom in the streets but the grid-racing shrew of humming hydro-engines, their expensive vapor, the dripping walls, the almost god-like summits of the huge towers upon an impossible earth; then portholes so green with the seedy eyes therein; and the children spring the streets to capture the curse...
He holds her like no other, tighter.
“Take me away,” she cries, “far away.”
He lugs her to a halt, her head swinging like a pauper doll. “You have to stop this,” he begs. “You have to let go and hear me! Please! I beg you!”
But she hears him not while her eyes spin like a dragon licking its next flame; she brings forth the humans of the lower world.
Halfway around in a spin, listless and almost forgotten, Thirty-Eight can’t see the Metrogate. For whatever reason, he insists upon lowering himself to the inevitable curse of crunchy steps.
Quickly, he piles Viola over into a basin full of plastic hybrids. “It’s wrong,” he warns but she sustains, crushing the hybrids. “It’s not pleasure. Look at me! I’m fouling up everything and now everyone is going to think something and here I am with you and they’ll bill me for sure. Should’ve gone to my Pit, then everything wouldn’t be happening this way. Lift yourself, for I haven’t the strength to carry you. Because of the dirt I’m a blundering fool — that cat over there, yes, that one in red syrup, it should’ve been me!”
“But I am what you wanted. Have you forgotten?”
“Yes, I’ve forgotten alright, forgot to mention to my Pit manager that I took the day off and now I’m worthless and my Lifepulse is due a hundred times over and you will, I hope, speak to him, won’t you?”
She bends up to his hunger, his eager needs, “Aren’t you happy for me?”
Up his spine like crawling bugs, many, many feet are coming in so close that he can taste the very breath of a chosen lot. How lurid and captivating in that he hears and sees them as a funeral in procession: heads bent downward, remarkable as it is, toes bent inward to the thought of lunch, heads at a tilt, the shallow dips of the coffin, the crunch, the loose marbles...
Oh, he can feel it now, the hate, the sordid upset of these dirty avenues, faces as queer as a grandma’s last breath, eyes bulging to get a better look. From a distance comes the sight of a small child picking up the remains of that gooey cat, cuddling death in his young arms, feeling the red syrup of it trickling down his young, tender sides...
And Thirty-Eight wishes them all away and says aloud many words of riddance but the advancing mob hears not a single word.
“What a day to sing,” Viola suddenly says, throwing back her wetter hair. “What a day to live!
“But the perception,” drones Thirty-Eight. “How can you!”
She keeps on prancing, singing.
“Wait,” he begs. “Stop!” he pleads. “Look here, this box.”
Viola, halfway around, drops her damp sparkle upon his Painmiser. For some reason the box looks cleaner.
“So that you can better your years, here’s the only thing that rights my soul. Here’s the only thing that sells out the days, puts trillions to snot, stops wars, hate, crime, encourages suicide. Pain is my only love and you cry for us, for me. Your perfume leads me into this city and now I’m going to die without a prayer.”
“Watch me show them,” she says with a pivot, “watch me lead you to your prayer so that you can watch me show them; then you can you put me back into my ocean.”
Suddenly turns a new kind of life, seemingly on every balcony turns outward a cascade of waxy-white and moon-like heads, sooner peering downwards, thousands of them! Milk-white hands tossing marbles: thousands of them! Pains pouring everywhere; Pleasures pouring everywhere. Echoes everywhere, feathers everywhere, marbles everywhere, everything, every single thing hacking and racking and tapping the giant brain.
And she says, “I want to be there, up there on my very own.”
“Impossible!” he cries.
“Up there with free breaths and beats.”
“Stop!” he pleads.
“Where do we go from here? Back to the bridge so that you can hold my ribs, my drunken skin? Where do we go from here?”
Then the sudden order of the flesh draws, the law of the stars so upon the law of the spirit, the strip miners of this endless age; and to see around them the wallows of countless Pains is to feel around them the glow of countless Pleasures. As the glow of the stars so lie, in that to see them is to not see them, so goes the glow of the dirt.
“And that’s all you do is dig?” Her features freeze. “The meaning of life?”
“That you came to me is fine, I thank you. But you can’t understand this world without... without living it. You live it wrongly. You live it like a...like an impossible phantom.”
Thus he yanks her completely off the avenue and shoves her into the shallows of a plastic cavern. Near her head a plastic panel, watery prisms, her face become a rainbow sparkle. More water trickles, incessantly it fizzes and spits and stains the cracks, crannies, gathering generously over the prismatic circuitry. So as to keep her hidden, he outstretches his log-like arms thus smothering her fragility.
Deeper into her fractured eyes he’s peering.
“You make me dizzy and inside I feel my lungs burning, my brain frying. You make me hear and see this world another way. Don’t you know that every breath I inhale, right this moment, and every beat of my heart, right this moment, is costing me Lifepulse, is costing me, forever dooming me to the dirt?”
She answers in silence while behind a marble dribbles, rolls a faster spin, and then drops into a plastic grate. When he shakes his head as to rid these sounds and sights, he feels the passion of loneliness blare outward towards the grate. He wonders if the day is over or just beginning; he wonders if he mightn’t take a swim in an acid pool, just to rid these sounds and sights, then sink to the warm ground, under the warm sun, the humming of the world patting him warmly to sleep.
“But they’re your own,” she whimpers, “your very own. Can’t you just be what you want instead of what you are, as I am myself?”
He looks to her shoulderwise and sees her trance-like state. She’s back amongst the bitter reeds and she knows him, his breaths and beats, as she knows her own — but at no COST to her.
“See,” she says, pinching her pink cheeks, “I’m nothing. Every Lifepulse is nothing and, with all this nothingness, I’ve all the somethingness in the whole universe to be as I please.”
“Stop, I say, you’re starting them up again and I can’t move you to any other spot. Please, these sounds of yours, this digging, coughing and grunting, this hurting and digging and black sleep — STOP IT!”
For a long moment Thirty-Eight can’t take his eyes off the approaching crowd of Pains. Little girls and boys race ahead of slower moving elders. Never before has he looked upon his own as he is so looking upon them this very moment. What he tries to see is a vale of hope but what he knows he’s seeing is nothing more than a plastic lie.
“Feel it! Feel it! Feel it as I feel it every night, bouncing off my dingy walls; my dirty rotten snarl of stiff burlap, then to pull that itchy crap over my itchy skin...”
In a space so close wherein breaths are coming on as raw steam, side-by-side, and wherein this steam sooner blends with fetid vapors, face-to-face, are the complex eyes of pain looking upon the simple eyes of pleasure. Nowhere does he see hope but only from his hands does he expect destiny.
Already on her throbbing neck, his hands, sensing now the warmth of her rushing arteries, her neck, they wring as tightly they can.
Her body goes limp like a forgotten rag doll, those hands of his cast iron, his eyes molten spheres: only one feeling, here and alive!
Other hands reach inward to caress his body; dirty fingers begin probing his wrought iron claws, rubbing, they are, across his straining tendons, his willing arms and quivering torso, his clinching teeth and over, they are, his bulging eyes...
Then from within the encroaching crowd a single finger takes a dip of Thirty-Eight’s tears, loops over and back, into its rightful mouth it goes. More hands reach inward and begin caressing his Painmiser, the cords of which disappear into the ingestive fibers of his quivering absorption suit; a gentle pull at one of these cords relaxes his grip, another more harsher tug straitens his back.
And when he sees the peace before him and his own, all of which are now probing the lifeless Viola, he watches as their hands trace her daisy death, going nowhere but to the ground; he watches them embellish her sin. Then he wants to swim that same clear air, strokes in a bluer ocean, clear and liquid, he wants to dive in like he can only imagine...
* * *
Where did she go? If he only knew. Where is she now? And he touches the mirrors trying to feel her skin, her tears. “Where is she?” he weeps. “Why does she leave me? Come back, come back!” Nothing of it is fine and he knows he’s truly alone; yet he has to look twice at the Doctor, right next to him or all around him, eyeing him all this time like some sneaky cat. Thirty-Eight feels to cover himself.
But is this small man of miracles really here? Thirty-Eight sees his gray, wiry hair, smells the same smut-less absorption suit. This smell is fresh and new. Round his nostrils this same smell encourages his dirty heart to beat even faster.
Then the Doctor starts rubbing his clean skin and his other hand upon his absorption suit looks so tawny.
“Forgive me, sir,” Thirty-Eight lowers his eyes to the magazine on his lap, then looks back up for something else to impose upon but quickly glances back down again at the busy image in front of him. “Please, I’m sick and need to get out of here... I... I promise to pay...”
“But the perception,” resounds the Doctor.
“It’s not my fault,” assures Thirty-Eight. “I didn’t know. She led me. She was a Pain one moment and it was good and then a Pleasure in another moment and it was good, and I swear she was a Pain when I, when I — blame those fools! They’re the insects! Because of them I-”
“Took the day off,” finishes the Doctor, shaking his head.
“I was trying to right her, you hear! She was mad with pleasure, you see, yet happy with pain...”
In a wide circle the Doctor traces an imaginary line. “Isn’t it wonderful,” the Doctor finally says, slowing his trace, “for man to have such machines, such accomplishments to ease the horror of life?”
Thirty-Eight says nothing.
“It’s history, you know, that teaches the wise how to fight the downpour of this galactic monster... Don’t you know that you’re a Pleasure, in your own way, that is, being a Pain?”
Looking twice at the Doctor, Thirty-Eight has an urge to wring his whimsy neck but, just now, he’s thinking about what he did to another neck.
“And you we’re splendid, “The Doctor starts clapping his hands, “fine job and well worth the price... Don’t you know that everything about you is unnatural, that everything about you is simply one big mistake, that everything goes on while you sit around waiting for everything to eat you completely up? Look for yourself — go on — see for yourself what everything is doing to you.”
He wants to look at himself, maybe on the lines of the general command, Thirty-Eight wants to focus his teary eyes upon his mangy mesh. Instead his teeth clench, his jaw tightening, the Doctor still clapping,
“You’re just someone who needs to cry more often!”
Then Thirty-Eight doesn’t quite know what hits him but stiffens his neck as much as his lungs and practically lunges,
“I cry because you and this world cry every night! I feel it in my veins. My heart pumps it through every single cell of my wretched body. So I decide, yes, decide to quit; but to live and quit is better than to die and quit. There’s noting more beautiful, nothing, than having a day off, feeling sleepy under a steady sun, cozy, and knowing of tomorrow’s promise. So she comes to me and makes me love something, so what? I have as much space in this infinite universe as everything else, space everywhere I have, to have just what I want. I hate my Pit. I hate the dirt, its endless grains. I hate the acid pools on sunny days with little mouths as wide as a scream can allow — I hate the acid bites! I hate pain and I know of this world. You think you formatted me right for this world but you didn’t. You forgot me! You left me with life, a life that has to live this crazy world, a life that feels along with everyone else a balmy destiny. So simple you think it is, so damn simple: just take control of the only thing that makes living worthwhile, just put your efforts into its recesses and come up with a price — be your own god! Who is IT!”
He trembles, this Thirty-Eight; and in his heart he knows goodness, badness — but knows more the goodness and keeps swinging himself to the right, eyeing the Doctor therein or thereof, he cannot tell.
The Doctor is pure cognition, for he just bit his own lip and the blood there is gathering, “It’s difficult, I know, the touch of death. You feel in your nasal area an unexpected sensation of heat, yes, as if a bubbly brew were about, fizzing around in your sinus area and finally onto your eyeballs whereat a watery warmness fills and confuses...”
But Thirty-Eight forgets easily the Doctor’s vocals; he only feels warm and his lips are dry. He feels peace, clear and liquid he floats; he feels soft and fuzzy. Yet he does have sight, an inner sort of vision which shows darker clouds, way off in some distance with their upper tails as white as ivory, where now he can watch them advance...
Darker the sky becomes and near Thirty-Eight’s face are tiny flakes of mica on which are dancing his tinnier reflections. Then the pain ends and he feels fine. Maybe it’s his nature but he does have time here, time to think about everything and correct everything that use to blacken his nights.
He sees her walking along a pier, his sweet Viola, in an instant, and amid an empty Telechamber — the Doctor thinks he sees long hair, long auburn flowing everywhere — and in this same instance Thirty-Eight feels himself walking along some far reaching pier, yes, walking along its shell-white boards with the salty winds and the peace of the blue knuckles of the sea.
Copyright © 2008 by Zane Coker