Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo day 12


The vision of a shapeshifter didn't just symbolize the ever-changing nature of reality, the constantly shifting, growing, dying, birthing static messiness of existence, it also meant that the fox woman and Crow, Deborah, Jamie, and yes, even The Colonel, were all part of the dramatic tableaux and were interconnected. When Crow grabbed the wrist of the fox woman it wasn't to apprehend, but to become. And when he blurred out to awakening, it was to becoming.

 

This was the source of Crow's weed-induced joy on a blissful fall day, unburdened by the expectations of the future nor the recriminations of the past, but blissfully zipped out here and in the now.

 

Crow may have been Here and Now, but not necessarily aware of his surroundings. Before he had a chance to lower his gaze from the sky, the bike slammed into the rear of a parked car. Crow flipped over the handlebars of his bike, rolled his shoulder off the trunk. His head missed slamming through the back window by less than an inch and he landed on the ground in a tooth-jarring thud.

 

Crow looked around, confused, a dazed look on his face in his new-found surroundings. And then he leaned his head back, breathed deep, and let loose, laughing, deep, sincere, snorting, goofy bellowing guffaws.

 

Chapter Five

 

Most people drove to BIMCO to drop off their cans. Eco-warrior yuppies in their Subarus and Lexus, a little hesitant at first to enter into the deep recesses of the can drop off facility and face the dragon crusher, a loud hydraulic press airbrush painted to look like the mythical creature. Or country folk in rusted out station wagons bringing in their twice a month collection, the backs of their vehicles crammed to the gills with bulging bags of stinking, drippy cans. Others brought aluminum siding, old lawnmowers, and any other sundry array. Even the tattooed, burned out toothless skinny as hell crack and meth heads found some way to get a vehicle to bring in the copper coiling and wire they most likely stole from a construction site or an air conditioning unit.

 

One professor appeared in a Volvo periodically with neat arrays of various metals stripped from wire he collected methodically sifting through junkyards and attending auctions. The man was one of few who knew that BIMCO paid an extra premium for pure metals, and the man took pride in the quality of his work.

 

Nay, the only person who showed up without a vehicle was Crow, who came around so frequently and earned so much in aluminum sales that the office manager reminded Crow to keep his daily haul under $30, otherwise he'd have to be paid by check and thus declare the income on his taxes.

 

So the man who showed up walking with two bags of mostly Busch beer cans slung over his shoulder left an impression on Gustavio Mariceles. But if the man's ambulatory appearance wasn't enough, Gustavio noted the man's shirttail and the entire backside of his pants was soaked with beer that had dripped through the bags. The last, and most haunting thing that stuck out in Gustavio's memory, and one he told years later, as the legend grew, was the look on this man's face. He spoke not a word. His head was tilted sideways, eyes vacant and staring straight ahead, the corner of his mouth open in a teardrop, lips chapped and caked with a white layer of dried spittle. And a string of drool dripped out, hanging until too heavy, dripping and replenishing again.

 

Gustavio's face scrunched up in surprise and disgust as he handed the print out claim ticket to the man. He couldn't look at him again as he pointed to the main office and said, "Turn that in there to get paid."

 

The man turned and walked away. Gustavio breathed out a sigh of relief, suddenly aware of how uncomfortable the man had made him feel.

 

"It's like I knew, or something," he said years later. "Nut jobs are one thing. Uh uh, but no. Not this one." Gustavio shook his head. "Mira. Mira esta El Diablo."

 

Chapter Six

 

Mackey wasn't crazy. And he sure as hell wasn't romantic. He knew that the vision he saw each night at about the same time, 11:08 p.m.,  or 10:08, the spector not a respecter of daylight savings time, was something that was "other," totally alien and not a figment of his own imagination.

 

She appeared to him, floating above his bed, seeming to look at him, to look through him, on only his second night living in the attic at the Augusta Inn. Mackey thought it was a dream that first time, and rolled over, closing his eyes, oblivious to the continued sight of her. Due to Mackey's work schedule, first shift,  building pallets over at the industrial park just east of Greek Row, he didn't see the floating vision of the woman again until a rare Saturday night two months later, when he wasn't passed out drunk already. She appeared in the same place again, about three feet above the foot of Mackey's bed, almost in the dead center of the room, when he was playing a newly-bought video game on a couch nearby.

 

Mackey vaguely remembered the first time he'd seen her and this second time rose up on his feet.

 

"What the...?" He said, incredulous, rising to his feet, dropping his game controller so hard it bounced off the coffee table and landed on the floor.

 

He walked over to her, checking around her for some source of light. And while he could see through her, she was more opaque than clear, like a darkening cloud passing over the sun. And just as he stood on his bed to get a closer look, she disappeared.

 

The next night Mackey stayed up for an hour, wide awake, in his bed, and when she appeared he stood and did take a close look at her. She didn't seem to acknowledge him. It was as if she was a broadcast from the past, but without any pixellation or wavery nature like a broadcast.

 

The first thing Mackey said to her was, "Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope." The woman was like the robot droid image of Princess Leia, or at least on first impression.

 

The third night he brought up a housemate at the time, Brennan Arnold. He prefaced her appearance, saying, "Look, man. Don't call me crazy until you've seen her." Mackey promised it was no trick and pointed to the place in the room where she was going to appear. He also invited Brennan to look around the room, to check and verify that there were no devices, no state-of-the-art hologram projectors hidden in the corner somewhere.

 

"When you see it," Mackey said. "You'll know it's real. You'll know I'm not faking."

 

The men grew more nervous as the time grew near. They sat in the dark, shades pulled down on all the windows. Mackey checked the time by the green glow of his wristwatch. And they continued to sit. And wait.

 

Mackey checked his watch again at 11:10, and then again at 11:12. Brennan grew impatient, "What the fuck?" he said. "Let's either shit or go bowling."

 

She never appeared.

 

Until the next night. When Mackey was alone. "Oh, so you're my dancing frog," he said,  referencing the cartoon frog that only danced for its owner and made him appear like a madman when the owner tried to market the frog's talent. This was the first time he talked directly to her.

 

Or, worse yet. She WAS a figment of Mackey's imagination. Mackey began to question his own sanity. Brennan thought nothing of it, disappointed, but entertained by the novelty of possibly seeing a ghost. But her appearance only to Mackey confused him. She didn't appear to either Brennan or me, he thought, when we were together. If she truly was a product of his mind, wouldn't Mackey see it at the time, but Brennan be unaware? But neither of them saw it.

 

Mackey decided to try another experiment. He wrapped up a tennis ball in duct tape and taped string to it, hanging the ball from the ceiling in the approximate location where the woman appeared. He opened the shade on all his windows and stepped outside, walking around the building to find the best vantage point to see the tennis ball. He discovered that the southeast corner of the gravel lot shared by Country Acres and the Augusta Inn offered the best vantage point.

 

Later that day, Mackey bought a pair of binoculars and a digital camera, nearly depleting his supplies. It was nearly 9 p.m. before he had his first beer. Usually, by that time, he was nearly through his daily 12-pack, and he had only three beers when he saw the vision of the lady again.

 

The next day he remained sober after work for the first time in years. Mackey wanted to keep all of the variables pure. He was testing a hypothesis, and the endeavor excited him. He hadn't done anything creative in years. Somehow, the presence of the ghost had enlivened him, awakened a creative fire in him he'd forgotten he'd even had. And she had sobered him. At least temporarily.

 

At 11, he looked out his east window and gave the thumbs up to a man in a car, a co-worker who knew nothing of the ghost. Mackey had asked the man if he wanted to make $10 for 10 minutes of work. He asked his co-worker to look through the binoculars for five minutes, from 11:05 to 11:10. The men even synchronized their watches. The man was curious.

 

"What should I look for?" the man asked.

 

"I can't tell you yet," Mackey said. "It would mess up the results. Don't worry. I'll tell you when I come down to find out what you saw."

 

The ghost didn't appear.

 

And when Mackey came down to talk to his co-worker, he made up a story about how some crazy neighbor has been flashing laser lights into his room, and he needed the man's help to find the source and bust out the pranksters. He dared not talk about a ghost. No need to have his co-workers, most of them immigrant or temporary workers. Like his residency at the rooming house, Mackey was a rare person at his job because he stuck around long past the average.

 

After this latest experience, Mackey had a theory about the ghost. He concluded that, in spite of all the supernatural underpinnings of this ghost's appearance, the fact that she only appeared to Mackey, and only when it was assured, consciously or no, that Mackey was the only one able to observe her, confirmed that she acted under some set of rules. Mackey thought about an entry level physics course he'd taken during his ill-fated two semesters of community college. How, on a molecular level, any experiment is influenced by being observed because, as Mackey noted, "some kind of photon or some shit goes into your eye, and that wouldn't happen unless there was someone there to see it." This ghost seemed to operate under those laws.

 

But everything else about her was a mystery. Who was she? Why did she appear at the same time every day, and at the same place? So far, she hadn't talked, or even seemed to move, at least not perceptibly to Mackey. Why not? And why did her appearance only seem to last two minutes? And why couldn't Mackey take a picture of her? Every attempt he made came out dark. There weren't even orbs, as Mackey had seen in other popular ghostly images.

 

As her appearances became more regular, and less of a novelty in Mackey's life, he focused on finding out new details each time she appeared. He noted that she didn't fade in or out, but came on and off like a light switch. And while it seemed that she didn't move, Mackey noticed that her facial expression, sad, pensive, gazing off into the distance, seemed to look ever hopeful with each day. Little details, like the shadow of a ripple in her long dress, changed from day to day. Strangely, when Mackey tried to look under her skirt, the details, beyond the surface of the fabric of her many underlayerings, were opaque. He could see no skin down there. Her legs and feet were bound in some thin fabric-like covering.

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