Várathro – Pt.7

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6


“It’s difficult, yes?” the voice was saying. It seemed too close by half.

Still, he couldn’t pull his eyes from the darkness that swam and plummeted before him. His vision was locked like the tide to some vacuous moon; his body felt stuck at an unnatural forward angle – that permanent feeling of taking a step and not feeling the stairs soon enough.

“So much had to be given, but that’s faith, isn’t it? The belief that sometimes you have to give and never really know if it’ll matter. Walking with your eyes closed into the darkness and telling yourself that if you open them you won’t be worthy to see the light…maybe you never were.”

William opened his mouth in some weak attempt to talk – to ask a question. But what? What the fuck would he even ask?

Life felt like some crazy, drug-fueled dream. Like he was running a temperature of a hundred and six with a belly full of mushrooms and LSD and everything that was happening – and everything that had – was just some fucked up manifestation of a mind that couldn’t parse reality.

“But look now,” the voice was saying. “Just look at it now…”

The tone of the voice struck him like when you see a face in a movie and your mind is trying to place who it is and where you saw them and then, later, while you’re in the shower you suddenly realize who and what and where.

Words replayed in his head as the owner of the voice offered him a card for someplace where the stay is out of this world.

William found himself feeling far too much like a pinball – the drop having begun with a briefcase and everything that happened after being little more than plastic paddles and rubber knobs moving him this way and that. Every movement met with an obstruction to shift him over and up and then down. Each one trying to catapult his trajectory into the gaping mouth that now stared back at him.

“Of course, no one ever wants to believe that the blood is going to be their own. Maybe that just makes it easier to tell the other people bleeding that it’s for the best. But then, one day, it was my sister. You get that feeling. That fear. The doubt. You see the cost and you think that perhaps you were wrong, yes? You think that, now that the cost is yours, perhaps it is a price paid in folly.”

William heard a sound in the darkness before him – though less a sound than it was a distinct lack of sound. As though before him was some empty place that was now swallowing the world around it – light and sound and time and who knew what else.

“Now Dira,” the voice said, “that was a believer. Came before you did. Went through without so much as a stutter in her step. Not a word. No tears. Nothing.”

The absence of all grew somehow larger, darker. It seemed to William as though it was rising now, spinning up and out and around. He felt his heart beating, so hard that it hurt, but so slow that each pulse seemed to send his body shaking for several seconds before the next one struck.

“But none of it would have mattered if not for you,” Kayro said. “You can slip all the bread you want under the prisoner’s door, sneak in as much water as you can find, but none of it matters if you can’t open the lock.”

William’s mind swam. His vision shifted to waves of black and blacker still. He felt the world around him reverberating like he was suddenly living inside of a painfully overactive subwoofer that played nothing but one heavy note over and over again. Each one sent his senses fluttering. He felt his skin rippling like water from a concussive blast.

He saw lights blinking in and out. In and out.

For a moment, the thrumming ceased and it felt like a fuzzy picture slowly coming into focus. As it cleared up, he saw what looked to be strangely colored lines and hazy mounds. Those sharpened into what looked like rivers or canals perhaps, but they seemed somehow displaced by the now crisp lines that were set in contrast.

A haze of melting colors gave way to a cityscape of parked cars that sat with flashing lights. Horns screaming where heads were now set to rest. Bodies set like broken mannequins littered the streets that were so obscured that he only knew they were black from his experience of driving on them in some other life.

Fires rose and fell from broken windows where the remains of random bodies were set like Christmas ornaments in a terrifying tree of metal and concrete.

Here and there a figure moved with lengths of purple dangling from open abdominal wounds while they shambled on in some state where they either didn’t know they were in pain or else were in so much pain they could no longer articulate it.

Regardless of the given state, each face wore eyes that were wide and wild. Mouths open like people who, with their dying breath, were still trying to scream.

“Do you see it now?” Kayro asked as William’s mind reeled and tried to process the nightmare that was playing out in his mind. “Can you see the way it looks at you?”

 

 

Honestly

I care so very little
If you’re strong of if you’re brittle
If you’re stoic and you’re brave
Or you’re a coward and a knave
Or if you’re proud of anything you’ve said or done

Of times where you’re the winner
Or the ones where you’re the sinner
Any moment that you caved
Or any life you may have saved
And if to any other life you seem a sun

I couldn’t care the slightest
If you’re dim or you’re the brightest
If you only mean the best
Or mean the worst, or you’re obsessed
Or if you’re certain that you’re second best to none

What matters are your actions
Your affiliated factions
If you mean the things you say
Or if they’re words that you betray
And if they are, then, honestly, the fucks I have to give for you are less than one

Várathro – Pt.6

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5


The sound of wheels on the road rolled along like soft static while the false idea of air conditioning hummed a lukewarm song of broken promises. Dira sat stoically in the driver’s seat with the sound of life playing like the world’s saddest music station.

Part of him wanted to break the silence and attempt small talk, but everything about the situation, and the woman for that matter, made him feel like he was a small child in the principal’s office.

He cleared his throat and – in that instance – he felt like he’d somehow broken some kind of sacred pact. He was that guy in the library talking on his cellphone. He was the guy in the movie theatre kicking the chair in front of him. Even though – at a glance – he didn’t see Dira glaring at him, in his mind she was.

The days at The Saturn Inn had been an amalgam of uneventful boredom riding atop a horse of anxiety. Settled between the two was a saddle of worry and wonder.

William had a grand total of fuck all planned out.

Money. Check.

Not where Mike could kill him. Check.

Beyond that, the plan fell apart.

Every noise at night made him look out the window. Cicadas. Beetles batting at his door. Every time a car drove near. Every time a new visitor parked their car.

He heard death on the horizon – it wore the sun as an eye in the day and the moon at night and it watched him always.

It was with hesitance that he’d finally wandered into the lobby to ask Dira about how far away the nearest laundromat was – his poorly planned escape now being held hostage to the terrorist of basic hygiene.

“You remember how long the drive was coming in?” she’d replied. “About half that again.”

He’d nodded at that and then said, “Wait. You mean that plus half or just half of that?”

She’d looked at him like he’d just spit out his gum in the church collection plate so he’d decided that the answer must have been obvious enough that he didn’t need it.

He’d been prepared for something old-timey on the radio. In his mind, she was going to hop in her old white sedan and click the station over to something where they were quoting the bible or maybe some AM frequency that played country that only people born in the fifties would be familiar with.

Now, he found himself in a state of longing – looking back at that past moment and wishing, more than anything, that she’d just turn the fucking thing on to anything. Even the erratic noise of an unturned station would have felt less ominous than the sound of silence mingled with the cyclic hum of the car driving and the wind slipping over the windows.

“So,” he finally said, feeling like a kid interrupting a funeral, “is it much farther?”

Dira looked at him like a disappointed grandmother who just found out that he’d been caught smoking cancer sticks in the bathroom with the other hooligans.

“I mean…” he said as she looked back at the road.

His words just hung there like a fly whose life had just been relegated to windshield decoration.

In the odd atmosphere of ambient noise, awkward silence, and inner turmoil, he found himself with blinks that came slower and slower. It reminded him of when he was younger, in one of those old classrooms with the big heaters that ran the length of the wall and the summer heat sank into the room like dense fog and the teacher would drone on and on about The Red Badge of Courage and his eyelids would flutter and his pulse would drop and…

tick-tick

tick-tick

tick-tick

William opened eyes that felt newborn. The world was cast in flickers that strobed with flashes of yellow. Soft taps came erratically amongst the sharper clicking sounds that reminded him of some dreadfully old grandfather clock.

He blinked several times and looked around. The world was dark and little fireflies blinked here and there. Tiny brown beetles bounced against the windshield. Hazard lights clicked in a sonorous cadence and he realized that he was alone inside the car, his neck aching from whatever odd angle he’d settled in as he’d drifted off on his journey to a land filled with clothes that didn’t smell like he’d stolen them from a professional panhandler.

Looking over, he saw the driver’s side door was closed.

Nothing in the back seat.

He sat there and thought. He tried to convince himself that Dira had…something…something…and she would definitely be back. All the while, the rational part of his brain reminded him that nothing about this situation was conducive to the outcome where Dira opened the door and said something about how her friend is just too chatty for her own good.

Eventually, William opened his door and let in the sound of midnight – that odd sound composed of what was missing rather than what was there. Part of him wanted to say something, to call out a name, to send out that verbal assertion like a flare to alert someone to his presence.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he whispered to himself, “no one can hear you…”

He stepped without and looked at the flashing lights of the car on what he imagined must have been a road. Instead, he saw only trees around him.

None of it made sense.

The car was positioned like it had been thrown in a most haphazard fashion. Trees all around. No sign of a trail. Nothing that said, “A person was here and she went that way.”

The sound of something rustling set his nerves even more on edge than they already were.

He had that horror movie moment. Part of him thought he should get in the car…the other part said to run. But what would he do in the car? The protection was meaningless when windows could be broken. And what could he do in the fucking forest when he had all the survival instinct of a fly in a mason jar?

Another rustle sounded. A noise came with it that he swore sounded like something being dragged across loose gravel.

Maybe he heard a noise.

Maybe he just thought he did.

Maybe he was just scared and his mind was a ball of stripped wires that were short-circuiting. Maybe yetis were real and they were the divine rulers of the earth.

Maybe injected itself into his brain like a high dose shot of adrenaline and logic fled.

He moved and stumbled.

He hurried with his arm out as if fending off zombies – every branch a would-be attacker, the dark ground making him perpetually afraid that at any point a hand would reach up, grab his ankle and send him tumbling.

A noise like the ocean filtered through the terror.

It ebbed and flowed. It moved like a rake through sand in a zen garden made for gods.

Like a man who believes that, if he can find a river he can find civilization, he followed the noise. His mind trying to move one direction, his feet another, his stomach another still.

A sound rose up to meet him as his toes met a precipice, like an echo in reverse or life speaking backward. The strange dissonant tone of life in a slow deliberate drip back up and through the hourglass.

It hummed in his head.

It pulsed in his veins.

He looked down and saw darkness that swallowed midnight and balked at its intended intensity while it sang a song made of slow reverberating waves in his ears.

He could see a face. He could hear a voice.

“The message is powerful, and so the messenger is made powerful by the extension of the message that he represents.”

There was a vacuum in the world around him. Sound ceased.

There were no fireflies. No beetles. No mosquitos.

Life paused.

“Nowadays, truth is set on dead pedestals like a fucking championship ring. Everyone thinks it’s some kind of Indiana Jones situation – people out there looking for ancient artifacts to secret them away for safekeeping. In truth, it’s assholes named Chad and Claude and Victor with the shield and spear of Aries set like a fucking hunting trophy on their mantle. Bragging to their friends about the shit they found at whatever the billionaire version of a yard sale is.

“Metaphorically…” he heard himself say.

“Yeah,” the voice said with a chuckle, “metaphorically.”

And then…

“You even know what’s in it?”

The haze settled a bit and William saw a bar, but it wasn’t. He saw a face staring at him, but it wasn’t.

It was the lobby of some too-expensive hotel, but the colors were warped like someone had taken the color palette of life and put it on its head and then punched it in the face.

“Above my paygrade…” he saw himself saying.

The face smiled at him.

“You want me to tell you?”

Sound ceased. The volume of the hotel evaporated. All he could see were those eyes staring at him with all the vivacity of the Cheshire cat.

“Where do you think they go?” it asked.

William looked around like a man who knows nothing about cars when looking under the hood of a smoking Camaro.

“They?”

“They…” a voice said.

William, his toes still hanging from the ledge like a man who had just found out that his job was forfeit on the same day that his wife had left and his dog had died, looked to his right and saw a face that seemed too familiar to not be familiar.

William couldn’t articulate words. It was like someone telling you happy birthday on some random day or that your shoes are nice when you’re barefoot.

“He could have been a set of sandals on some asshole’s fireplace. Just a placeholder for what once was. For what might have been…”

William heard the sound of darkness. It sounded like dust and sunset.

“He wanted to meet you personally. To say thank you…in his own way…”


Part 7

Várathro – Pt.5

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


There are many words that William might have used to describe his time at The Saturn Inn, but “out of this world” was not one of them. Unless “out of this world” was some kind of new slang that meant quiet and uneventful.

The two other cars that were there became one car.

One car became no cars.

His time was mostly spent lying in his bed, watching TV, and looking out the window whenever that voice in the back of his head told him that he should probably look outside…just in case.

That voice was strangely active.

It told him frequently that there was a tap at his door, a strange sound on the other side of the wall next to his bed, a strange whining noise from outside that might have belonged to a cat being strangled if it were, perhaps, part bat and maybe one-third extraterrestrial…or maybe that’s just what the paranoia wanted him to think.

So far, he’d seen nothing to give any weight to his underlying fears and, as much as he told himself that that was something that should work to settle his nerves, it did mostly the opposite. Like a man who was afraid of rain seeing day after day of cloudless skies – he feared the worst and feared it more because it felt calm. Too calm. Unnaturally calm.

It was a feeling he’d had plenty of times before. Those awkward meetings where the people he met seemed too at ease. So much so that it seemed off-putting. If he were to explain it, it wouldn’t even sound rational, and he knew it, but it was there – this strange ‘out of place’ feeling like the people in the room with him were slightly off tilt.

Sure, they took what he gave them, did…whatever the fuck they did…gave him something else and he’d leave, but it was always a bit off tilt.

It was like being in a room with someone that makes you feel uncomfortable but you can’t put your finger on why. It’s not the way that they look at you, but it is. And it’s not the way they talk or that they don’t talk…but it is. This strange sensation like tension under a thin layer of water.

Unironically – or perhaps more ironically – it seemed all the worse during his last job – the one that had led him here.

It felt normal enough – go here, get thing, go there, deliver thing – get other thing, call Mike so he could come and get it. Basic. Fucking basic.

He’d done it dozens of times.

Get a number and make contact. After that, it was on him to keep things organized. Sometimes there were snags and reschedules, sometimes things not.

Send a text or make a call. Set up locations. Go to the place. Do your fucking job.

Simple.

Basic.

Fucking basic.

But he went to the place – hotel on Eastland Drive. Third floor. Room 317. He knocked. No answer.

He sent a text – no answer.

He called – no answer.

Shit like that had happened before. People got flighty or things went awry. Eventually, he always heard something from someone. Things always panned out, but it was moments like those that reminded him that he wasn’t in the employ of someone selling high-end, designer soap made with goat milk. He didn’t know what Mr. Arnold did, and he had a feeling that his life was better for the not knowing.

He went down to the lobby of the hotel – one of those nice places that had a full bar and half the people were dressed like they had the words “return on investment” and “risk assessment” tattooed on their tongue. The kind of people who know what all the funny letters mean when stock market information scrolls by.

He sat at the bar and ordered a drink – rum and coke – he knew better.

“This seat taken?” a voice had said.

William just shook his head and said, “Will be if you sit there.”

“Jesus,” the man said, “world’s gettin’ crazier every day.”

William offered him a half-hearted “yup” and thought little of it. He glanced up for a second to see the last bit of the frame on the TV behind the bar before it changed. He didn’t catch what it said. Probably something adequately dark and tragic because that’s what news tends to be.

“Mavros,” the man said.

William looked at the screen, half expecting to see something related to what the man had just said, but, seeing a commercial about laundry detergent, he tilted his head a bit, looked at the stranger and gave him a look that clearly said, “come again?”

“My name,” the man said, “Mavros. Kory Mavros. With a K.”

“William,” William offered, with all the alacrity of a man dealing with a stranger infringing on his personal bubble in a bar. “With a W.”

The man smiled as the bartender brought him a drink. “Business or pleasure, William with a W?”

“Business, Kory with K. You?”

Kory let out a big sigh. “Bit of both, I suppose. Family in the area or,” he did that thin with his hand like someone saying “eh…I mean…the thin is…” without actually saying the words. “well, they were in the area. It’s complicated.”

“Here’s to complications,” William said, holding his rum and coke up ever so slightly.

“May they forever vex us while we pretend otherwise,” Kory said, as he held his drink in a similar fashion before taking a drink. “So, what line of work? Looks like a nice briefcase. Real leather. Can’t be too bad.”

“There a fancy name for errand boy?”

“Hermes.”

“I…uh…Hermes?”

“Hermes,” Kory said again. “Messenger of the gods. Mercury in Roman mythology.”

“Yeah. I mean…I know that…just…sorry, I don’t follow.”

Kory put his drink down and turned to William, his face was more serious than it seemed it had any right to be.

“Hermes was the messenger of the gods, but he was also the god of trade, wealth, luck, and several other things. He was clever. He was quick. He was also important. You know why?”

“Uh…knowledge is power?”

“No,” Kory said shaking his head, “I mean, yeah, it is, but that’s not the point.” He took another drink. “Communication is also power. Being the go-between is power. The message is powerful, and so the messenger is made powerful by the extension of the message that he represents.”

“Uh-huh…”

“Hey,” Kory said, his demeanor suddenly relaxing, “not my words, just telling you what history says.”

“You mean mythology.”

“That too.”

William took his phone out and checked to see if he’d received a message, or rather, if he’d received one and his phone had decided not to vibrate to alert him.

“You wanna see a trick?” Kory said suddenly.

No new messages. William let out a sigh and said, “Fuck it. Sure. Why not.”

He was in a cab driving in a part of town he couldn’t place if a gun had been pointed at his head. “I’m tellin’ ya,” the driver was saying, “I’m pretty sure that ain’t a real address. I think you got your numbers mixed up or somethin’.”

After a small back and forth of William trying to pretend that he knew what the fuck was going on and the driver giving him several iterations of, “Hey, I just go where I’m told,” they found their way back to William’s home address where a bill that was north of two hundred dollars awaited him for what must have been one impressive excursion through the city.

He checked the cab and felt his pulse racing while the driver rambled.

He went inside his apartment and looked in all the places that he kept the things he was given to deliver.

He ran through the events over and over and over again trying to piece things together and kept coming up short like a man shopping on a tight budget with a failing sense of how taxes work.

In the end, he sent Mike a text that said, “Meeting got delayed. Will have resolved by Friday.”

Rain began to fall at The Saturn Inn. Something about it sounded strange…like the world was raining locusts.

Várathro – Pt.4

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


Some part of William assumed that the distance between the airport and The Saturn Inn was more an exaggeration than anything – words from a man whose shift was almost up and who was looking forward to a banquet of something that came in microwaveable cardboard and a plastic film that you have to puncture to let the steam escape.

In truth, the drive moved from the neon landscape near the airport and then past the dimming lights of scattered houses, clustered apartments, and rows of identical townhouses. Soon, it was a lonely gas station and a street lamp standing like some ill-begotten traveler who just didn’t have the heart to head on down the road or turn back and stumble home.

Eventually, lights were fewer and farther between. Little mile markers grinned at him with moonlit smiles while one random sign let him know that someplace called Roland Hill was eighty-seven miles away.

As the time stretched in equal measure with the road, he thought to break the silence – say something – strike up a conversation with the driver. Ask about the weather or how that one team that plays that one sport did at the thing at the place and who would’ve thought that they’d pull that out like they did…

Instead, he held his tongue while the night seemed to seep into the car and wrap around it like a fog. Along the road, he could see the almost vacuous darkness as the road slipped away and the shoulder became a knife’s edge of grass that bloomed into a tangled wall of trunk and limb and leaf that made the road feel like it was somehow closing in. Some long, empty tunnel with nothing but white dashes beneath them like scars that had sealed old wounds, now cursed to remain the wrong color – an echo of shit that went wrong and never healed quite right.

The driver never seemed to make a sound. He didn’t clear his throat. He didn’t ask any questions. He didn’t even turn on the fucking radio.

The world became flickers of white on black and the rushing sound of wind merging with the labor of wheels on pavement.

Finally, the silence, or the darkness, or just the continuous fear and trepidation in the back of his mind got to him and he cleared his throat and said, “Shit, you weren’t kidding…”

In his mind, he already knew the conversation, but he didn’t care. He just needed to get out of where his head was. The driver would say, “Told, buddy, there were closer places,” and then he’d reply, “Shoulda listened, for sure. Any idea how much farther it is?” and the driver would say something like, “Hell, probably another twenty minutes. Turn off is right past this little mom and pop gas station a ways out. Hard to believe those things even exist anymore, ya know?”

But the driver didn’t say that.

He didn’t say anything.

William nodded like he was going through the conversation that wasn’t happening and then like a man who was trying to figure out where it was heading instead. “About how much farther is it?” he asked.

But the driver didn’t say anything.

The sound is what William noticed first. The sound of wheels picking up speed. The sound of the wind at the side of the car rushing by faster and faster.

Soon, the dashes on the road looked like one continuous line with only the slightest breaks between them. The engine was screaming.

William clenched his teeth. He felt his heart racing, his stomach sinking, and his chest holding the pressure of an elephant that he couldn’t tell was trying to push its way in or out.

“Hey,” William said as though he had something resembling control of the situation, or that he wasn’t on the verge of a heart attack, “little fast, yeah?”

The driver said nothing and the sound became worse.

It became this long, slow whine like where the wind is pushing into a small pinhole. It was a screaming sound like someone plummeting to their death but the volume was low, or else all the lows and mids were cut out so only the highest frequency poured in like a mosquito with a megaphone by his eardrum.

“Hey,” William said again. “Hey!”

“We’re here,” a voice answered back. A voice that seemed too familiar.

William looked to his left and saw the side of a face. The skin seemed too pale, the features somehow off like he was a caricature that was drawn and given life like a fucked up Frosty the snowman.

William swore he could feel his heart stop.

Mike looked over him. His skin seemed to sag. His eyes seemed too large, the sockets looked limp like they were made of clay that was too wet. His mouth was slack and the cheeks drooped. “One fucking job, Willy,” he said with a sick, dead expression, “but we’re here now.”

William wanted to scream but his voice wouldn’t obey.

He couldn’t hear the car anymore. All he could hear now was the blood rushing past his ears and the sound of his heart pounding like it was made of nothing but angry fists.

Mike leaned over, his motion odd like his body was being moved around by strings and pulleys. His face twisted as he smiled. The lips moved and warped like some invisible set of fingers was pushing and pulling to make his face work like some infantile recreation of what a human face would do when trying to smile.

“We’re here, Willy,” he said as the smile grew wider and his body leaned more and leaned closer. “We’re here.”

“Hey!” the voice said, “We’re here.”

William looked around and saw the lights of The Saturn Inn before him and the face of the driver looking back at him. “Don’t get me wrong,” he said, “much as I’d like to keep the meter running to let you sleep, I’d rather get home.”

“Right,” William said trying to calm his nerves and slow his heart from the seven or eight thousand beats-per-minute it was running at, down where it was just near cardiac arrest. “Yeah, shit, I musta dozed off.”

“No shit you did,” the driver said. “Not that I mind. Easy money.”

William opened his eyes wide and blinked a few more times to reorient himself and then got out of the car. He paid the driver in cash and watched him drive away.

The parking lot was mostly empty. Two other cars, each was parked in front of a door along a line of identical doors. The lobby had bright light pouring from a small window that showed him almost nothing of the interior.

Beyond that, there was little else to see. Past the road where the inn was situated were dense trees and it was far too dark for him to see how far they went in any direction.

Inside was a small, but bright room with one of those long desks that’s attached directly to the wall, shaped like an L. Behind it was a chair and a computer monitor that the 1980s meant to come collect.

Behind the desk was a closed door.

He decided to pace around the small interior for a second, his journey ending quickly enough when he turned to the wall across from the desk and saw a painting of what looked like a mostly empty field at dusk. In the distance, it looked like a small house, or maybe a barn. The features seemed strange like the perspective was off. Like the person who drew it couldn’t figure out how close they were when they were putting it on the canvas. The shadows were inconsistent. It looked like there was something by the side of the building and he squinted like people do when they think that squinting will help make sense of what they’re seeing.

“Now I thought I heard someone come in,” a woman said, pulling William from his thoughts.

“Yeah,” he said. “Just a second ago. Was just admiring the art.” He turned to look at her. She was an older woman. Older than he was, anyway. She had that look like you’d expect from someone who could tell you about ten years ago down at the ranch when the horses got out during the storm or about how to make a great pitcher of sweet tea. “You paint this?”

“That?” she said, her face crinkled up. “Been there since before me. Friend of my grandpa painted it forever and a day ago.”

“Huh,” William shrugged.

“So how long you lookin’ to stay?”

“Not sure, really. Kinda playing it by ear at the moment.”

“Well, it’s fifty-two dollars for the night. If you want to go for a whole week, it’s three twenty-five.”

“Let’s say a week, and we can go from there.”

“Alright,” she said as she sat down at her computer that William suspected might just be a typewriter with a fancy case around it, “let’s get you into the system. If I can get a name from ya.”

“William Rowe,” he said, spelling out his last name.

As she sat down, he was able to see the room behind her which had previously been blocked – first by the door and then by her standing in front of it.

He saw another painting, a rather large one. In it, it looked like some strange figure drawn like the artist was in a hurry, like a brush being moved by fear and a very questionable understanding of how the human body should look. It was a man, tall and lanky. His arms seemed too long for his body and he was wearing nothing but seemed discolored by random smudges. His eyes were wide like they were made with blank thumbprints that were twisted back and forth.  There was no nudity, however, as he was hunched over slightly, his distended hands clutching a body and from his mouth hung splatters and lines of red and black from where he had bitten the head off of the form he was holding and between the torso and the missing head were ropes of what once connected the two.

William just stared at it.

“Now that’s, oh,” the woman said, “bit strange that one. Some people find it unsettling, so I don’t keep it on display.”

“The fuck is it?”

He could feel her purse her lips at him for using profanity. “That’s Cronus. Father of the gods or some such nonsense. Ate his kids or something. You know how Greeks were – gay sex and bathhouses and apparently eating babies.”

“Uh-huh…” William muttered.

“My brother painted it back when he was young and in college. Said that Romans called that same guy Saturn, so, you know, Saturn – Saturn Inn. I dunno. My brother was like that. Didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t want it when he was alive, and now, well, just seems wrong to get rid of it.”

“Uh-huh…” William said again, finally pulling his eyes from the painting.

“Anyway,” she said, “that’s gonna be three twenty-five, and oh,” she shook her head, “where are my manners? Name is Dira Root.” She put a key on the desk, not one of those card keys you see at most places nowadays, but an actual, metal key. “I don’t keep a big staff, so if you have any problems, you’ll have to wait till I’m in the office. Normally get here at about six though.”

“Thanks,” William said giving one more awkward glance at the painting in the room beyond.

“Room 106. Out the door and just follow it down, you can’t miss it.”


Part 5

Undone

Just wonder why today, a little longer
I’ll promise you the apathy
Beyond tomorrow doesn’t seem as cold
If you can trace a set of eyes
Beneath the veins that half-agree
With all the reasons why we to ourselves are never told

If we can learn to scrape the absolution
Beneath the bleeding callouses
And keep them under fingernails of wrath
Or swallowing the lost goodbyes
Like gasoline in chalices
Our leper souls don’t hurt as much when pain is half the reason that we laugh

So pause, forevermore, a little while
I swear the growing emptiness
That settles like the sun is warmer still
If you can hold it softly by
The throat as if a lover less
And merely what was meant to thus succumb and gently kill

With looks of dead affection growing feral
The creases of affinity
A coffin made for shadows of the sun
That’s sealed below the straining ties
And shackled like an enemy
We whisper in its ear, “It’s only meaningful if it can be undone…”

Effigy

How was it I drown beneath the waves of your delight
And held upon my shoulders Saturn when you held the moon at night?
Where were all the meanings that were laced between your fingers
Like the glow of fading fireflies that danced upon the edges of our sight?

How was it I failed wherein the fault was neither I
Or even you in these precarious delusions we deny
Where we wore our hands as if a mask afraid of seeing
In a land of pale tomorrows and a yesterday where emptiness is nigh?

Tell me why my fingers are still slipping on the ridge
Of your illusory, imperfect implications like a bridge
Tell me why I hold them like a funeral procession
And I still proceed to keep the dying parts of me for you within a fridge

Tell me when forever doesn’t mean what I believed
When I and you and we together weren’t merely souls deceived
Tell me the remembrance wasn’t just a dead illusion
Like an effigy we built upon a pyre of derision with a fire made of flaws that we perceived