Archive for February, 2010
Mario fell in love with the goddess of war. Of course, he knew her as Alice Lois, the green-eyed woman trapped at Lake View Sanatorium since the courts deemed her insane at aged seventeen. He had been sticking pills on her tongue for a decade. Two months ago, she had looked at him for the first time. It shook him to his core.
He snuck into her records, finding a yellowed spiral notebook with crude drawings and symbols etched in the cover. He stuffed it into the waistband of his scrubs and took it home, violating all the laws of his personal ethics. He had to drink three Lagers before he could bring himself to open it.
When he finally did, her words made him want to take up a sword and protect her, fight whatever demon was harassing her:
‘My fears are winter wolves charging through the snow, tongues wagging, murderous eyes locked onto me. I don’t know why she has chosen me to destroy but I am the damned. Bitten by a darkness so black, it has seeped into my soul like an oil spill.’
He flipped forward, sinking deeper into her story, his heart being kneaded like dough:
‘I can feel her possession of me. My body is now just a furnace with an angry goddess burning within. She wants revenge, freedom from the chains of anonymity, to not be lost, forgotten or laughed off as a myth. She is hungry for bloodshed.’
He read until stars replaced dusk, until his eyes tired and his heart softened.
Morning found him standing over her, eyeing the pale curve of her cheek, a colorless mouth, the impossibly thin frame, the wide straps holding down this ghost of a woman.
She did not belong here. As if she could read his mind, her eyes opened. The brilliant life within her almost blinded him.
“My name is Enyo.” The only words she would ever speak to him.
He carefully released her, lifted her, placed her waiflike body folded into a laundry carrier, stripped her sheets and lay them atop her, being mindful to leave an air pocket for breathing.
The basement door was not monitored.
It took twenty four hours for the Asenapine to wear off. He fed her oxtail soup, bathed her without removing her underwear, washed her hair on the couch from a bowl and wrapped her in his grandmother’s blanket. He played her an awkward song he was writing on a second hand guitar. He wondered what their kids would look like. Would they have her blinding green eyes?
Two days later, he awoke from his post on the living room floor and she was gone. He scoured the streets for hours then days then weeks. He forgot to shave and change his clothes. Sometimes he remembered to eat. Mostly he wept and tried to hold her image in his mind. It was slipping with his weight, his hygiene and his sanity.
“Breaking news from Washington. The President of the United States is dead.”
Mario froze in front of the portable radio, the centerpiece of people gathered on the apartment stairs. They shushed him when he approached. Shock twisted their mouths and eyes.
“Treaties have broken down in the past few weeks between the President’s special Peace for Progress Council and the terrorists who held four major US cities hostage just twelve months ago. Details are still coming in…” the voice paused. “We also have reports of coordinated attacks in Atlanta, Chicago and Austin. Thousands are believed perished.” More dead air and then an ear piercing siren.
“This is an emergency message from Homeland Security. Please stay calm and walk to nearest terrorist shelter for further instructions.”
As the message repeated itself–echoing from car radios, shops and bars—Mario sat down on the sidewalk curb and watched the scampering, the screaming, the panic. He began to chuckle, to laugh in loud, manic bursts until he was holding his stomach. What else was there to do but watch and listen?
It was a symphony. And his beautiful goddess was the conductor.
Alice Windsor noticed her hands shaking as she held them under the automatic sanitizer at the hostess station.
“I suppose so.” She glanced around the candle lit dining room.
“You’ve arrived before your guest,” the hostess winked. “Follow me.”
Great, Alice thought. Even the hostess can tell I’m a nervous wreck. Get it together.
And then a thought struck her. What if he didn’t show up? She would kill Valerie. Setting her up with some dead beat. She slid into the seat, eyeing the embedded menu. “Glass of Chablis, please.”
Order received. Estimated time of arrival: 4 minutes.
She used the time to situate her silk skirt, smoothing it out along the curve of a hip; breathing slowly as she watched the other couples from beneath dark lashes. They all seemed so at ease with each other; talking, smiling like no one else existed. She had that once. With Larson. A lifetime ago. Stop it. She shook her head, trying to clear it of his name, his memory. Every year Valentine’s Day was a day for her to dread, to wait for like a plague. Not this one. She stiffened her resolve as her glass of wine arrived. And right behind it…her blind date.
“Have you been waiting long?” He leaned over her and they air-kissed.
“No, no,” she whispered, stunned by his sincerity, his large brown eyes, the charm that oozed from him like a physical presence, his mild, oaky scent. “Just about four minutes,” she said, absentmindedly sipping her wine.
He ordered a drink and then the warning chimes startled Alice. It had been awhile since she had spent time in public and she’d forgotten how loud those bells could be. They reached for the paper masks beside their silverware, placed them over their mouth and nose and held eye contact as the sanitizing ions sprayed from the ceiling to zap and collide with any viruses floating around. Alice found herself smiling beneath the mask. A new predicament for her. Could she actually be happy with a man again?
The secondary bells rang indicating they could remove their masks.
“So, Alice,” he pressed his fingers together in front of him and she had the sudden urge to slip her hand between them. She leaned back in her chair, grabbing her hands in her lap to keep them from acting without her consent. “Valerie tells me you’ve been by yourself for a while. Bad divorce was it?”
Alice pushed her hair off her neck. It stuck a bit, damp and clinging. Was it hot in there? “Yes,” she bit her lip. “Mostly though, I just don’t trust myself not to pick another crazy person.”
His laughter came easy and often through dinner. Alice bloomed beneath it, letting herself relax and open up, all the while fighting the urge to touch him. Which was insane. The violation would land her in Solitary Confinement for thirty days. By the time dessert arrived, she was feeling so out of control, she was beginning to think it would be worth it.
“Are you feeling all right? Your face is very flushed.” That sincerity again. It was killing Alice.
“I’m actually feeling…amazing.” She laughed, licking cream from between the fork tongs. Euphoric was the word she would have used, except she still had enough sense not to scare the object of her desire. That sense was quickly fading, though. She lifted the porcelain plate and ran her tongue over it, lapping up every crumb of lemon cake and cream.
“Alice? Maybe we should…” She suddenly lunged across the table and ran her tongue across his throat, tracing a line up his chin, over his lips, cheek and into his ear. People began to shout and two waiters raced over, grabbing her arms, trying to pry her off of the stunned man.
Pink foam began to ooze from her mouth and run down his neck, into his starched collar. Her tongue swelled into a fat strawberry; her eyes rolled back into her head. A powerful seizure struck and she fell to the floor.
Alice awoke beneath a plastic tent, straps holding down her wrists, machines and white walls beyond the plastic. Wincing, she tried to call out. Her mouth was swollen and on fire. A shadow emerged, stood in the doorway and then approached the plastic.
“Welcome back, Miss Windsor.”
A small croak was all she could manage.
“It’s okay. I know you can’t speak. I’m CDC Senior Investigator, Robert Glenn. You have been in quarantine here at Valley Hospital for ten days, along with the man you…licked.” He paused and Alice wanted to crawl inside her skin and disappear as the memory of the Valentines dinner hit her full force. “It seems your ex husband, Dr. Larson Windsor, has created and infected you with a virus that was activated by a specific hormone cocktail…phenyl ethylamine, serotonin, dopamine, among others. In other words, it was meant to activate when you became attracted to someone as a potential mate. It apparently acts fast, spreads through saliva. I’m afraid…”
Alice squeezed back the tears. No cure, of course. She was now a contagion. Quarantine would be her permanent home. And then her eyes slowly opened, warmth spreading up into her face as she recalled the large brown eyes of the man who was also quarantined indefinitely. He would forgive her eventually, wouldn’t he?
Her swollen tongue brightened from within a deformed smile.
(Pablo Picasso’s “Nude Woman in a Red Armchair”)
Lou is a girl. She paints angular ladies with red bee-stung lips, wild chocolate hair in the shape of Z’s with cherry or lemon highlights. They dry on metal racks in the pantry and then they are carefully wrapped and stored in the coat closet. They haunt her dream world, swaying their hips and laughing wildly. These things are Lou under the spell of starlight and anonymity.
In the sunlight Lou is pressed and varnished, placed at a sharp right angle in a square office.
Gene is a boy. A dreamer. He smokes peyote and gets visits from dead poets and painters. Only they are not dead. Somehow their space-time overlaps his. Sometimes he has to help someone off the refrigerator or out of the bath tub. Mostly Cummings and Picasso. Apparently when two dimensions of space-time merge, there is no accuracy involved.
In the sunlight Gene wears tight shoes and stares out of a sky rise window, pretending to crunch the buildings between his teeth like popcorn.
The space between Lou and Gene consists of a hallway and two doors. This space is breached when Gene collapses with an open, foamy mouth and a thump that pulls Lou from her dream world and then her warm bed.
Lou stares at Gene lying there like a chalk outline, seeing him for the first time. She pulls her oversized bathrobe closed and leans down, two strong fingers searching pale skin for a pulse.
Dead. Dead. Dead.
She wipes his mouth with a corner of her robe, touches his lips with a finger first and then her own lips. She presses softly against his flesh.
At another point in time, one that has obviously passed, this might have been pleasant.
She vaguely tries to remember if she’s supposed to blow or press first. Then she shrugs, stands and pushes on his door instead.
There are two men sitting there looking vaguely familiar and yet utterly alien in the paper-and-book-strewn apartment.
“He’s dead,” she informs them.
“I see,” they nod to each other.
“I’m alive, right?”
“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”
“Huh,” she pokes at her cheek with her tongue. “E. E. Cummings, is it?”
“Okay then.” She unleashes the knot on her robe and lets it slide to the floor. “Show me how to live forever.”
“Come, sit,” Picasso pats the red armchair beside him.