PART III: Information Age and Constellations

In Excerpts of Prose, WHAT HAPPENED WHEN REILLY WOKE UP on November 5, 2009 at 11:36 PM

Photo 103








The Sigh of the New Chapter

The time was 6:42 PM, according to the round clock on the wall.

Tick, tick, tick of the third hand.

The woman sat, smoking a cigarette, flicking her heal up and down, stamping in 16 Beat Rhythm. She was about 25 years old but aged 10 more than she should be. Another 5 were added by the glowering scowl, a steel gaze she held across the table. She was thinking.

I’m thinking definitely drugs. Definitely drink. That damn Cheese Steak with extra mayo.

The empty room with the electric lights, shiny clean linoleum floor, metal chairs around a metal table, all in a conversion to welcome the enclosing concrete white walls….

The design sucks the mind into a desperate void. Her eyes see nothing, searched the depths of some unknown inside. Silence as the moment grows fierce. I don’t even have coffee to sip.

The rhythm of agitated tapping stops from her heal. The signal brings it all back with a sudden jolt. Wave of consciousness crashing into sudden twitch. The rapid shudder, clenching teeth. A fire-filled sigh through the nose.

For some dumb reason, I remember that horse snorting through its nostrils as it sidestepped before the start of a dressage routine.

She snaps her head to the side and pulls at her hair. Recomposing herself, sucking the last of that cigarette, I notice a mess on the table. An empty ashtray.

That horse and its giant teeth grinding at the bit. No foam…yet.

She stamps the cigarette out, “Dammit.” This time the fire of air came from her mouth, “Heh.” Her head snaps to the opposite side.

I watch hypnotized, disconnected, bored.

Knowing they cannot see you makes it easy to pretend; play the scientist in a lab experiment with a white coat. Record each observation like a robot, forgetting whatever makes you human. Its just another lab rat in a routine response and procedure.

Time can be like a slap in the face. I have to go in.


The jarring of the heavy door rips sound open and into the room. My first day, it startled this nauseating fear, regurgitating nails on a chalkboard. I felt weak, inexperienced and the loser before the game could even begin. A bad day I would never let happen.

Of course, now, I don’t give a shit. I just get down to business.

“Hello, hello, hello,” my voice fills the room as I cross it, sit at the table. Out of habit, snap the clipboard down and slap the file open, adjust my glasses. My eyes have not left her and as we face, I sear them forward, smile, “Helloooooo…”

She snorts and rolls her eyes, matching the heat of her stare, using that to fire forward.

Secretly, these looks tickle and amuse, both of us rising up. I have a secret chuckle. The first strikes of the enemy. I breathe her in, sizing this up with a patronizing grin.

Violate with an audacity sacred to a professor on a helpless student.

“Seems you might be in a bit of a pickle…darlin’,” I say, lowering my gaze.

We acknowledge the fire behind her eyes burning brighter. The heal starts hitting harder and faster. My smile gets bigger.

Her voice comes out of gravel, deep and from the belly, “Got another cigarette?”

“Why not? We’re just getting started.”

I pull them from my jacket pocket and throw them out, the lighter sliding with a hiss across the table, past the box of precious tobacco sticks. She snatches at it and then the pack.

For a moment, the only thing that exists for her is the cigarette and the purpose to light it. I lose her eyes for that moment.

“You know,” she says, methodically returning the gaze again, “this stick is my only friend.”

The eyes have changed into a confidence, the steady glare sinking into me. My gut aches like old bones knowing the storm is coming. The surge of power when there is nothing to lose, the force of nature. Something I remember. It makes me nauseous, feel my smile turn to a sneer.

With a flick of the wrist, she makes the lighter hiss back across the table to me. I cup it with my hand. My eyes do not leave hers.

She takes a long drag, the pupils sucking me in. I don’t realize my gaze swallows soft focus until its too late. Her profile looks contemplating over the cigarette, a drawing of forces, “Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers…”

Exhaling steadily from her nostrils, the look back is like a punch in the face.

“Shit,” I think, “I lost the moment,” and realized I was scrambling. The return of those eyes, the rally immediate and increasing, sharper. She’s good.

“And the pickle involves the littlest pecker,” a return with academic arrogance, now looking down at her, raising my head expectantly.

“No,” she iced across under the electric lights, “the pickle picked the last pecker.”

There was a beat. I trip.

“Now its another empty pack,” she nailed her topspin.

I half-assed routine a tough nuts silence, glazed with an apathetic stare. A volley. Fuck me.

She steadied in it, feeling her strike as it came down slowly. Waiting for the perfect moment, we held this frozen exchange for longer than 30 seconds.

“Why don’t you just ask,” the guttural tone of crunching gravel from the pits of her stomach, the bitterness already swallowed. Crashing down, the youth slams back and that’s a point. I was burned.

I feel it in my gut with contempt. Hopefully, no one was watching. I pictured them sitting around eating Cheese Steaks and drinking coffee, not wanting to get the night underway. We are used to slow nights. Makes a person lazy.

I sighed at some point and actually looked at the file, the one tossed on my desk as soon as I walked in at 6:21. I was the asshole who wanted to drop his coat off, thinking I could then run across for the Cheese Steak (extra mayo I imagined on this one. The craving for grease, undeniable.) and then, BAM–

I steadied my gaze on her. The detail of wrinkles around her eyes and forehead, deepened and darkened. I was hungry, wanted that food. No, not up for bullshit.

“Fine,” I said.

This was still my match. This was still my game, regardless if I’m old and fat. According to the file, we had a gulf of time to hold her. This could go on, Deuce, for as long as we decided it was worth watching her bounce towards sudden death.

“Why don’t you just tell us where he is?”

“I don’t know where he is.”

“Why did you do it?”

“Why did it happen?”

“Who was it?”

“What’s the point in it?”

“Why don’t you just come out with it?”

“How do you fucking people expect me to explain this?”

“Weren’t you part of it?”

“Why should I give a shit? Why should I bother with it?”

“Wait a minute—“ I called a time out and looked at the file again. I looked closer and read more of the bullets and fine print.

It began to come together. I felt old and fat. Remembering the scientist in the white lab coat, I saw the image scream in terror at the experiment going horribly wrong. This was not another procedure, no precedent to anticipate responses. I hate this existence. My gut really feels twisted and sick. I was either gonna lose it or be severely beaten.

“Amazing how I still don’t seem to give a shit,” I think I half-said that to myself. “Cut the monkey business.”

I toss the lighter back, hissing in the reflection of electric light. She cups her hand over it. No thought about reaching for the next friend in the pack. She snatched at it. In those moments, her only purpose was to get that smoke lit.

Then nothing. I glance at the clock. Its now, 7:13. I transfix for several seconds on the ticking hand as it drowned the silence. Her turn for tough nuts silence. I look back. The glare is now transforming into a monster, swelling and pouring into something much larger.

“Oooooo-Oooo-Ahhh-Ahhh,” she bursts with bitter cynicism. A monkey. She’s crazy and the eyes whirlpool insane.

So what, it shocks me. I’m startled for a moment. There was something fierce to the color of this fire. Not like usual. I began to focus and grew sharp to what was about to happen. I could get this out. She had the story and wanted to tell it. The problem is she thinks I’m dumb, that we’re all dumb. And we are. But I’m the Asshole.

“I know all of it. I actually took the fuckin’ time to listen to it,” and I don’t feel old and fat anymore. My vision clears. I take my glasses off.

“And if I’m not mistaken, we estimate that you are responsible for the following list of profiled degenerate documents,” and I begin reading off the list.

“No.” The voice coming out of her. She starts saying it over and over again.

I just keep going, getting louder with my list and going to poke where it really would probably hurt. Her cry rises in crescendo with mine as I rally the hell out her. I’m hearing Wagner. We explode as I slam the corner, screaming, “I’ve heard all the bullshit. I want to know. I want to know. Why? Whatever happened?? Whatever happened to Reilly?—“

She howls over me with her whole body. In a rage her right hand flies like a wing or a talon. The ashtray hisses on fire, a missile that hits the white concrete of a force field with a distant thunder in the siren. The plastic echoes on the linoleum. My match.

I feel young and jubilant. Like some of the first days before it got slow and I pictured myself in a lab coat. Then I look over at the creature before me and what then happens throws me completely off.

She stays like a statue screaming silently. She draws me in completely.

Something begins to change. In what I see, I become old and fat, tired and hungry, and wonder why I ever got myself into this in the first place, day after day…

She crumbles without making a sound. Slowly, steadily, the rage became a seizure, leaving her completely paralyzed as she fell. The metamorphosis was exquisite and she ended limp, her head and arms on the cold table.

I really hate my job. Seriously realize how much I hate my job.

What Was The Point Of All This?

I hate him.

I really fuckin hate him.

That’s all I can think. Looking at the screen and in total darkness. I can’t win. Swimming in oil. I don’t want to wake up again.

I hate him. I hate all of them.

It’s coming. Its gonna hurt.

I crash back into it. Hard to describe it when it hits. First thing I remember is the table, cold metal on my skin. Then, the ache creeps in and weighs down.

I remember something called a Tar Baby.

And for some reason, that’s when my lungs give in.

“Where do you want me to start?”

“Where does it begin?”

That Asshole.

I’ve stayed stock-still. Eyes shut. Wait for the time to tell him how it happened. I wait for the moment to come back to life and look him in the eye. It’s the only way to begin the end of this. Tell the story. The way it happened. Painting an illusion towards truth.

I know what this means in the end. But at this point, I really don’t give a shit.

I fucking hate him. I keep repeating this over and over again. The room is cold. I hear a buzz from the electric light above, then I don’t hear it. Heavy and heady under the weight of purpose.

Goddammit. I hate waking up to this.

Information Age and Constellations

I see an angel fall from grace. She comes back to life slowly. Then she lifts her head and I see the eyes.

“Make a record of the statement,” she says, “I will not repeat this ever again.”

She’s not kidding. Or she’s a complete lunatic. This at least had to be good. Something to laugh about over beers later. I press record. The clock was almost at 8 PM.

Things get really fucking weird.

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