Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.
After today, I need a break from this one. Almost 12,000 words of thinking out loud. I’m an outpatient at Asylum and Crematoria, so thankfully, I’ve got a room there when I need it.
. – . – . – .
Harry wiped Sled’s sticky saliva off of Mary’s images and onto his slacks. There were permanent water stains on Mary’s dress and face. Harry put on his jacket and straitened his tie. He brushed off a few stray cat hairs. “Static,” he said. “I need static.”
Harry tried to leave, but he couldn’t move. His feet wouldn’t work, so he sat back down, this time in a different little chair. Sometimes things sorted themselves out when viewed from a different perspective. Harry looked around. Sometimes they didn’t.
The more Harry tried to clear his mind, the less clear it became. Sled’s words echoed. She doesn’t have much time. Find that girl. Find Mary.
He heard himself tell Sled that he’ll do what he can. What a lame response to an urgent plea. An insane serial killer begging him to do something good for someone in need. “I expect more from myself too, Sled.”
Watch yourself. Genuine concern from someone Harry would have wasted if it wouldn’t get him in even deeper trouble with The Powers. “When bridges are burning, sometimes it’s best to just blow them up.” Harry heard himself say the words, but it seemed to be something Sled would have said.
And what did Sled mean about this being worse than human trafficking? What could be worse? Harry fought back another anxiety attack. “Static. I need static.” Yet he could not make his feet move. More echoes came.
Not dead. Wishes she were dead. Dead inside.
Has she been? “Of course she has been,” Harry said to his feet. “Now start walking. Mary doesn’t have much time.”
How many people? How many times? You don’t want to know. “You’re right, Sled, but you know. You know because you’ve seen it. Flashes of everything. You always have seen, and felt.”
Until today, Harry had assumed that Sled’s visions were from the perspective of a spectator, as if watching it happen on a screen, or maybe even from the view of the one committing the act.
For years, Sled had been made to help, simply for the agreement to be kept alive, if you could call that being alive. Harry thought about all the cases that Sled had helped solve, the thousands of images and hundreds of videos Sled had been made to watch, to live and re-live, and recount to The Powers. What if all for all of them, Sled wasn’t an observer? What if he’s seeing it all from the perspective of the victim.
“He doesn’t say those sick things to disgust me. It’s his coping mechanism. It’s called survival. He acts insane to avoid going there. And you know what’s worst of all?” Several of the inmates had gathered at the cafeteria door, their head’s tilted sideways, like the way his cats look at him when they almost understand, but not quite.
“And what’s worse,” Harry said, “is that we’re responsible for his condition. He’s absolutely right. I look at him and see a monster. What I don’t see, or haven’t seen, is that, if he’s the monster, then I’m Dr. Frankenstein.”
The sad thing is, Harry thought, Sled would have already left to rescue Mary by now. Me, I’m stuck because the damage is done. I’m already too late. I was too late before I even came here. I was too late the minute she was taken.
Dead inside. Chained. Like me. “Death would be better than life now.”
Dead inside. Wishes she were dead. Like me, Sled said. And like me, Harry thought.
Has she been? “Duh. I couldn’t have said it better, Sled.”
How many? Don’t want to know. “I don’t want to know. I don’t. But Sled does, and he knows from Mary’s perspective. And I forced him to live all of it, compressed into minutes.”
Retire. Get a hobby. “I’d love to, Sled.”
Mary doesn’t have much time.
Wishes she were dead.
Doesn’t have time.
Wishes. Not dead.
But not dead.
“Thank you, Sled. I’m sorry about everything. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Harry ran so fast out of the cafeteria that he knocked over chairs of all colors. He didn’t look back.
On the way out of Absentia Asylum and Crematoria, Harry ran past an inmate hunched over a water fountain next to a row of lockers, some opened, some closed. Harry slid to a stop, slick soles on worn tile. He spun around to see what he thought he saw. The inmate was holding a tight roll of money under water.
“Almost washed clean.” It talked to the water. “Almost washed clean. Just a little more, then no more saliva, no more vomit, no more blood. At least no feces this time.”
It smelled the money. “Still a little urine smell. No biggie.”
Then it had a quick self-exchange in two distinct voices.
“Did you say urine?”
“I did. It’s urine.”
“No, it’s definitely not mine. Must be urine.”
“No, it’s not mine. It’s urine.”
Then it laughed in both voices at the same time.
But Mary, Harry thought. But Sled, Harry countered.
And … what’s this?” It dug into the middle of the roll and raked out something tiny and sort of oval. It dropped the money in the fountain drain and held up the found object to the flickering fluorescent light overhead.
“Sled’s tooth,” Harry said.
“My tooth now,” it said. “Finders, weepers.”
It grabbed the money roll, slung off the excess water, and scurried down the hall and into the Principal’s Office without knocking. Harry followed and listened through the smoked glass.
“Give me that. You didn’t even dry it off.”
“It’s slung dry.”
“How much did you steal?“
“None of it. It’s all there. All of it. See! The rubber band. Still on. I’m keeping the tooth.”
The voice asking the question sounded like Hatu or Cabo.
“Static,” Harry said. “I need static, now. I need static and I need Mary!” Harry hurried down the hall imagining himself turning on his radio and absorbing the healing hiss. He was in full sprint as he exited the Asylum.
“Happy Tuesday,” Bulldog said to the running visitor. Tuesday. Harry didn’t want to look back and risk seeing smoke rising from the old school chimney. Someday, he would look back to see, but not today. He needed a working radio and directions to Bone Dust Road.
As Harry drove away to static blaring from his car speakers, he missed the announcement that Tuesday’s lunch consisted of mystery meat and green jello, and that they were all out of green jello. Bulldog stood at the entrance, hungry for lunch, and wondering why, when Harry ran past him, he was making the sound of a bumble bee in a glass jar.
– . – . – . –
Don’t worry about Mary. I’m not leaving her hanging. I just inserted a temporary bookmark. Besides, there are no hands on the clocks in Absentia.
That’s another weird thing about the town. Time does weird things to people. Sometimes when we remember the past, we do weird things to time.
Speaking of time, I think it’s time to work on a few short-short stories based on found old photographs. Maybe I can do some weird things with the time I have. I hope you’re enjoying your September. I think I am.