The apartment has one room and a bathroom. The door is to my left, the bathroom to my right. Alexís bed is opposite mine. The passage passes between our beds. The room is dingy yellow or orange with white trim. There doesnít seem to be a window. Iím lying on my bed, apparently reading. Alex is doing the same on his side of the room. There is a brown paper bag in front of me from which I occasionally have pulled pieces of candy. The door opens and a very large black man comes in with all of his belongings in a duffel bag and a gym bag. We arenít surprised. Roommates are chosen by lottery here, but we seem to know this man, and we seem to have somehow conspired to get him assigned to this room. He is like us, so we want him here. He passes between the beds and sets his bags down in the little area to the right of my bed. He walks into the bathroom, seems satisfied with it and returns. Alex is still reading. Iím watching him. He asks no-one in particular how bedrooms are assigned. I say heíll either have to sleep with one of us or take the bedroom. We all seem to think thatís uproariously funny. He turns and throws his bags onto the bed that is beside mine (itís always been there (but not really)) He flops down on his bed and asks when the rentís due. Alex looks up and drops his book, he starts having a mild anxiety attack because he canít remember whether he paid his rent this month. Iím not particularly worried because we all know Alex is so over-organized he couldnít possibly miss a month, but as we laugh at and re-assure him, I start to feel uneasy. I can remember paying the rent. I remember writing out the cheque. I even remember handing it to someone. By this time both of my roommates are staring at me in horror. They know my memory, and both of them are expecting that Iíve forgotten. I, however, did pay the rent. I just paid it to Mrs. Asworth, and now I wonít have enough money to pay the slum-lord-corporation.
They donít even bother to yell at me, they just sit in shock. I ask if maybe we could get someone else in who could pay the rent. They remind me that itís lottery system and thereís no-way we could get someone else assigned to this room, and even if we could, thereís no-one we could get. I decide that I have to go to the Asworthís and ask for my rent back since Iíve actually been living in the slum.
Iím immediately on the stairs to the subway. I get to the concourse and start walking toward the trains. Near a pillar a small girl is standing, shivering. In front of her is a large snake-like lizard which is coiled as if to strike her. She carries a beaten up paper bag in her hand. I watch as she trembles in front of the creature. I canít seem to do anything. The crowd keeps moving toward the trains. Their feet pass all around the creature, but it doesnít notice them. It is totally concentrated on the girl. Suddenly she shrieks and stamps on the snake. It seems to shrink as she attacks it until she is able to kill it. She stands staring at the destroyed animal. I approach her. A prophet-like old man in burlap appears. He picks up the creature, examines it and points an accusing gaze at us. He tells us that although there are some relatives of this creature that are dangerous, this one was obviously not, had we just bothered to look closely enough to see that there were no venom sacks.
I follow the girl who is now more woman-like into the "subway". I know that this subway goes through the brain coral. It is shaped very much like a roller-coaster, and we sit in the same seat facing forward. There is no seat belt. I try to ask her questions, but she doesnít begin to talk until we actually enter the brain coral. I know there is something urgent in my questions to her, but before she answers the scene dissolves. The car stops, I feel myself rising through dry water, then the car is floating on the surface of the lagoon. The lagoon is calm where the car is, but it is heading toward the shore, where "people" are climbing out the water onto land. Most of the "people" are ghast/ghoul types. I reach the edge of the lagoon and climb out of the subway car. The "people" are all shambling towards a stone ramp winding around a rock spire or mountain. We join their line without speaking or looking at anyone around us. It is a long climb, during which we stare at the backs of those in front of us. Towards the top I can see a platform. There is someone standing there near what appears to be a large mall clock. The line ends at the clock, but I canít see where the "people" are going, and I donít see anyone disappearing. The line, which has been moving quite quickly is no longer moving, but we didnít stop. The girl is gone, having faded away as I approached this place. I examine the "people" around me. They are all big strong ghouls etc., all of them seem familiar, like cartoon Frankenstiens. I start to hum as low as I can. They all turn to me, as if annoyed by the noise, but eventually they seem to let go and hum along with me. As the humming begins to crescendo I disappear.
I arrive on the second floor of the Asworthís house where the kitchen has moved to the position of Chrisís room. Sally and Jan are sitting at a bench with their backs to me, going through a bag full of legal papers. I stand in the door watching them as they pull out a cheque from Sallyís father. It is for $4000, in a non-standard format. Jan suggests that maybe this is why "he hasnít been helping her, he thinks heís been sending these (she pulls out more) every couple of months" As Mrs. Asworth is looking for her phone book to call him, something crashes through the door downstairs. I follow them down. A huge moving van is parked through the main door of the house (which is now in the center of the house, rather than on the left. The van appears both to have destroyed the house and to have shrunk to fit perfectly in the door. It is, however, too close to the back wall of the foyer to allow easy unloading. Aaron (similar to the real Aaron, but with black hair) squeezes in past the truck. He says hello to Mrs. Asworth, she says hello back and asks him how he is. He says heís fine and asks if itís okay for him to move in now. She says "Oh, sure." Aaron begins unloading. It only takes him a few moments despite the awkwardness of the entry. He squeezes back out and drives the truck out of the doorway and down the porch. As the truck leaves, the foyer becomes perfectly intact again. Jan and Sally are about to return to their work when they realize that their car is parked crosswise on the neighborís driveway and lawn. Sally goes out to move it. I see her start the car and shift it into gear. I step closer to Mrs. Asworth to ask about the rent cheque. We both disappear and rematerialize on the top of the spiral mount next to the clock master.
The scene is as before, except that now, to our right is a grassy knoll with what looks like an apple tree. Beneath the tree is a bench on which Sally is sitting, munching contentedly from a large paper bag. Mrs. Asworth is also carrying a large paper bag. I look at Mrs. Asworth and start to say something that seems stupidly obvious about Sally dying in a car crash. I stop myself and just look at Mrs. Asworth. She and the clock master say something to each other. Mrs. Asworth looks over at Sally, then turns to me and offers me a piece of candy from the bag. I accept it and hold it numbly. Aaron appears beside me, and is immediately presented with another piece from the bag. Mrs. Asworth takes one from the bag herself and unwraps it. Dumbly Aaron and I follow suit. We all place the candy in out mouths and disappear.
We reappear in a deserted square in New-York. I am on top of a large statue, laughing at the wind and the power. Aaron is below me, staring into a pool of water. I hear my laughter bouncing off the surrounding buildings. Mrs. Asworth is standing watching us. She is now wearing her long rain/traveling coat. She seems resigned. I realize that I now have the bag. I reach in and pull out a candy. I call to her and toss it. She catches it. I throw another to Aaron then jump from the statue.
The street suddenly shifts from deserted to half full of cars, bicycles, streetcars and crowds of pedestrians. A woman starts to jaywalk from the other side of the street but turns around at the last minute. Mrs. Asworth, Aaron and I stand on the curb, waiting for something. The clock appears and we start running for it. I can feel the wind pulling at my coat and the bag in my hand as I jump for the clock.
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This work is Copyright (c) Mike Fletcher 1995