9. Brownstone

Undone

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Solitude does things to you. It strips you down, peels away the layers that a healthy social life builds up over the years. Leaves you naked. Animal. Fractured and confused, you are a beast imprisoned by your own thoughts—your inner voice, becoming more delusional as time passes, divided into billions of grating seconds, desperate, almost screaming to get out of your head.

Imaginary companions come and go. Men with heads like fish shout at you, prod you to find patterns in the sound of the waves, the threads in your blanket. Others come with promises of help on their lips—bearing guns and swords, and perfect breasts.

Figments run amok.

It must have been the shock from the explosion that shook Yumi loose. One moment she was leaning against the hull with the detonator, the next she was a bad dream. In my mind she was simply short-circuited, or by-passed with a sudden, more sensible patch of neurons. No doubt the real version was locked in some safe room with her brother and the rest of the crew. But the sword wielding, bloodthirsty, imaginary Yumi—who I could still taste on my lips—was lost.

I pulled her “note” from my pocket and turned it over in my bloody hand. Just a corner torn from the calendar in my room. I let it fall.

In front of me the hole in the floor of the Nisshin Maru belched cold ocean water.

Panicked voices shouted from the floor above.

I adjusted the regulator and bit down. I dove into the Pacific. Alone.

Down

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

The oxygen mixture purifies my lungs of the stifling breath of rust and whale guts. Under the Pacific I don’t even feel the cold. I dive, slowly making my way toward Tokyo Bay, the darkness, the solitude of the deep: almost like returning home.

The Japanese navy’s giant engines thrum overhead as I slide beneath their hulls. Yumi’s heavy accent plays in my mind.

My own lunatic voice.

I slowly kick my fins, breathing the cool oxygen. My skin feels clean. I feel the ocean nudging me forward.

Shallow waters.

Seaweed and mud.

Welcome to Japan, Wayne.

Boy

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Station151:Boy

The boy tilts his head as I emerge from the sea. I shrug off the scuba tank.

“I saw you on TV,” he says.

“Already?” I say, lifting my mask.

He stares at me, his eyes wide, curious. “Yes.”

“What are they saying?”

“Bad things.”

Water pours from my upended flippers. “Thanks for the heads up.”

“There aren’t many of you left,” he says.

The wet-suit comes off and sags against a stone under the pier. I’m down to my T-shirt and jeans. Soaking. No shoes. “Many of who?”

Gaijin.”

I pause, blowing into my cupped hands… “Yeah.”

The boy holds a small red ball. He squeezes it. LEDs flicker inside.

We both stare at the lights until they stop.

The boy raises his head. “There’s a bathroom with showers in the park.” He points. Not too far.

“Thanks, kid.” I reach out to ruffle his hair. My hand passes through him.

Right. The English should have tipped me off.

I won’t fight them anymore.

I gather the scuba gear and find a dark place under the pier. Wait for night.

Outside In

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

I’m bored. I try to tell Wayne that we should go but he says not yet. Not dark enough.

The rocks are flat and round on the shore. I can’t pick them up.

There’s nothing to do.

I sit on a rotten board and wait. A tugboat goes by.

 

It’s dark now. He’s ready.

There’s a road ahead and a big building. We run like crazy and I’m running so fast I think my legs are going to fly off!

We hide in the shadows and it’s fun. Like a game. A business man walks right by us and doesn’t even see us!

We’re at a building where people live.

In a window an old man eats from a bowl with chopsticks. The TV is on and Wayne is on it! Then just a lot of people talking.

Wayne tries on clothes that are hanging outside the man’s window. He complains that they’re too tight.

Now we’re in someone’s apartment. Wayne is eating chicken and drinking beer. After that he finds some sweat pants and a sweatshirt that fits him “O.K.”

He’s wearing sandals. Then he shaves off all the hair on his head and face. He says Japanese razors are too small.

I make a big ball out of the hair while he’s on the phone.

When Telders gets here I want you to go inside out.

That’s what he says.

Tokyo Drift

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

“Are you fucking insane?” Telders said with his thumb on the rocker switch. The privacy window slid closed as the driver pulled out of the apartment complex. “The whole goddamn country is looking for you. I had half a mind to send the cops over instead.”

Two flat screen TVs, one in front of each seat, cast a bright, blue haze into the limousine.

“But I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt.” Michael poured a pale brown liquor into a highball and passed it over. “I imagine you had a pretty goddamn good reason for what you did.”

I held the glass in my lap. Through the window Tokyo tower loomed in the distance—an Eiffel Tower copy, slathered in orange and white. “I don’t know if my reasons were good.”

“Then it was necessary.”

I shrugged and tipped the glass.

“Jesus fucking Christ, man.” Telders punched a button on the remote. The TVs flickered to life. An NHK anchor was speaking over video of Japanese policemen who were pointing and commenting on a discarded, bloody sword on the deck of the Nisshin Maru. “Look at that. Fucking hard core man. Where the hell did you find a goddamn sword?”

I glanced away. “I don’t… really remember,” I mumbled.

“Fucking hard core,” he whispered.

Video of a tugboat pulling the hobbled Nisshin Maru through Tokyo Bay played while the newscaster spoke in grave, even tones. A string of kanji crawled along the bottom of the screen.

Telders paused the TV. “Alright. We’ve got to get your ass out of Tokyo.”

“And where is my ass going?”

“Hokkaido,” he said, refilling my glass. “Station Twelve. It’s not completely finished, but we can stay there until we figure out what the hell to do.”

“Home sweet home.”

Michael tapped the bottle of scotch against my glass, laughing. “Fucking Wayne Robertson. You’re a goddamn madman…. Who knew?” He rolled his eyes and upended the bottle.

Night

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

The driver drove swiftly and steadily out of Tokyo and into the country. Anonymous farm towns and flashes of kanji rushed by the windows. We kept the televisions off.

We spoke nothing of the war. Or of the worldwide Array. And I was pleased that Michael didn’t push me for any more information about my activities aboard the Nisshin Maru.

We talked about women—mostly his—and smoked Korean cigars.

When the scotch was spent, Telders pulled another bottle from a little cabinet by his leg. A drawing of Kim Jong-il graced the label. He poured its contents into the crystal decanter, then rolled down the window and the Dear Leader went spinning into a field.

Mike was a seasoned storyteller and he could go on for hours without requiring any input whatsoever. It felt good to relax. To be in the company of an old friend. To hear stories of people and places I knew. And for a time I completely forgot about everything that had happened and just listened. I felt normal again.

I must have dozed off after a while because Telders was suddenly shaking me and the car was silent and still.

“What? Are we there?”

“We’re here,” he said. He put a bottle of water into my hands.

“Station12?”

“Not yet. Take a look out the window,” he said, fingering the switch. I yawned and stuck my head out. The Lincoln’s high beams illuminated a baby blue Bell 222 helicopter parked in an empty field.

“Fancy. Does it have a bar as well?”

“Dumb question,” Telders said. He rapped on the privacy window. “Let’s move out, Jun.”

The privacy glass disappeared into the console.

“Leave the car here?” The Korean driver asked in perfect English.

“Burn it,” Telders replied.

“Yes sir.”

We watched the limo blaze as the Bell ascended into the sky.

Brownstone

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Brownstone

Telders cooked a batch of bacon and eggs in the Bell’s kitchenette and we ate and watched the dawn break over the Pacific. He made fresh coffee and served it in ceramic mugs bearing Station12’s logo—an outline of Hokkaido with a black radio telescope centered in the middle. On the reverse, “Station12” was written in Roman letters.

“I’m glad you’re here, Wayne,” Telders said, staring into the rising sun. He turned and grinned. “Even if you are fucking nuts.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“No, I mean it.”

I scowled at him.

“I mean—I’m glad that you’re here. I don’t have a lot of good friends. Especially after the bombs fell.” He rotated the coffee mug on the table. “Maybe even before that.”

“What are you talking about?” I said. “You know more people than anyone I’ve ever met. You’re on a first name basis with politicians, celebrities, models… and not just the upper crust, either. At school I remember you high five-ing the janitors in the halls. You’re the definitive everyman, Telders.”

“So I know a lot of people. But under the surface there’s nothing really there. Those people aren’t true friends. They’re more of a means to an end.”

“So you’re saying you’re lonely?”

“I dunno,” Telders said. “I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate having an old friend around. Even if we were never that close. I always admired you, in fact.”

I laughed at that. “Why would you admire me? I like math and computers and comic books. I avoid people almost all the time.”

“You see? That’s what I’m talking about. You don’t mind solitude. You get off on it.”

I raised an eyebrow.

Telders continued: “I’d love to have the ability to just leave everyone and everything behind and live in a shack in the middle of Antarctica for six months.”

“Don’t be so sure. The solitude is nice… but it can turn on you. Trust me.”

Michael slowly sipped his coffee. After a long moment, he said, “Is that what happened to you?”

I drummed my fingers on my forehead. “It’s a long story.”

“Alright,” Telders said, placing his hand on my shoulder. “We’re about to land anyway. Perhaps we’ll continue this some other time.”

I nodded as the helicopter started its descent. The distinct Y-shaped configuration of the Array marked the swath of retired farmland that was Station12, Hokkaido. In the distance there was a small town, home to probably no more than 3000 people, and a variety of small mountains on the horizon. Other than that, it seemed we had the place to ourselves.

The Bell landed on a small helipad about thirty meters from the main buildings. I squinted through the window. “What the hell?” I said, using my sleeve to clear the fog. There, basking in the first rays of the morning sun, 11,000 kilometers from New York City, quietly nestled in an abandoned rice field in the middle of Japan, was a four-story brownstone. Stoop and all.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I said. “That’s Station12?”

Telders grinned. “Why not.”

F7U12

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

F7U12

Warmth.

And darkness.

For a moment I had no idea where I was. I was in a bed. A strange bed. I rolled out and landed on thick carpet. A dim indicator light glowed on the wall a few feet away. I shuffled over and touched it. The room lights came on.

Right.

I was in one of the operator’s quarters on the top floor of the brownstone. I’d slept for nearly 24 hours. Still in my clothes.

The room was sparsely decorated. Modern, simple. Just the bed, a comfy looking leather chair, and a large wooden desk with a notebook PC and a silver, hooded lamp on top of it. The walls were decorated with hundreds upon hundreds of 2×4 planks, planed and layered on top of each other and covered with a walnut stain. On the wall opposite the bed was a framed, poster sized photograph of another Telders Array situated in a clearing surrounded by jungle: Station162, Madagascar.

A door just to the left of the photograph led into the bathroom. I stripped off the ill-fitting clothes I’d taken from the Tokyo apartment, while staring out the window at the Array field. Perhaps I’d have a chance to get reacquainted with my work. Perhaps I’d be able to put this whole goddamn nightmare behind me.

The shower was huge—big enough for three or four astrophysicists—and it had two heads. I ran them both just for the hell of it.

Michael left me some clothes on the bathroom counter: some Levi’s, white tube socks, a cream colored Izod sweater, and a pair of Adidas sneakers. Everything fit.

After I got dressed I took the stairs to the first floor and went out on the stoop. It was warm and the air smelled fresh and clean. The first rays of the new dawn were peeking over the horizon, casting a yellow glow onto each of the twenty radio antennas. They were pointing straight up.

Why I didn’t choose Hokkaido over Antarctica, I’ll never know.

I stayed there for a while, and when the light got better I noticed Jun, Telder’s Korean driver and helicopter pilot, walking the grounds. There were other guards as well. I counted five in all. And they all had automatic rifles.

I went back inside to find Michael. I wasn’t sure where his room was so I wandered the brownstone until I heard his voice. It came from the kitchen on the third floor. I went in and found Telders standing over a stainless steel range, moving eggs around in a frying pan. Seated at the table was a young Japanese girl in a loose white camisole and matching capri sweatpants. Her right leg was crossed under her left on the chair and on her legs she wore thick, white cotton leg warmers. Her hair was tied up in a loose knot on top of her head. Blonde. She laughed at something Michael said.

I turned to go.

“Welcome back to the land of the living,” Telders said. “You want some eggs?” He walked over and touched me on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, she’s cool,” he whispered. “Yumi has no love for the whaling industry. In fact she said she’s a little disappointed you didn’t kill ’em all. Her words, not mine, man.”

“WHO?”

“Her name’s Yumi. She showed up last night.” Telders paused. “Come on in and say hello.”

I turned around, slowly. The blonde hair had thrown me off. But everything else was the same. It was her. Not the figment. The real Yumi was sitting in Station12’s kitchen, casually eating breakfast in her jammies.

Telders shoved a plate of eggs and potatoes in my hands. He gestured toward the table. “Wayne, Yumi—Yumi, Wayne.”

Yumi grinned and stuck out her hand like a stranger. “Nice to meet you, Wayne. You’re very lucky to have such a friend, wouldn’t you say?”

Stunned, I swallowed and took a seat. “Yeah. I guess so.”

“Ha, you guess!” Telders said, flipping a pancake.

“Michael tells me you’re quite the scientist,” Yumi said.

“Oh he’s a huge nerd,” Telders quipped.

“That’s right,” I said, feigning a smile.

Yumi laughed and poked at her potatoes.

I waited for Michael to look away, then leaned in and mouthed the words “What the fuck?”.

Yumi cocked her head. “I’m sorry?”

I leaned in even more, almost lying in my breakfast, and whispered: “What are you doing here? What’s with the English?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.

“Oh, come on,” I snapped.

Telders hummed a few bars of “Come Fly With Me” as he sashayed over with a plate of pancakes. He checked us both. “What’s going on?”

Yumi looked up and opened her mouth.

“Nothing. What the hell did you put in these eggs?” I said, plucking something hard and weird off my tongue.

Telders set the plate down. “Sorry, I’m not much of a cook,” he said with a shrug. “My one and only flaw.” He narrowed his eyes at Yumi. “You okay?”

“Sure, sure. I’m fine.” Yumi set her fork down and stood up. “But I should get dressed.”

“Alright,” Telders said. “Why don’t you come down to the lab afterward. We’re going to see if we can’t get the Array online.”

“Or you can come back to bed,” she grinned, sliding her fingers through his hair.

Michael cleared his throat.

I clenched my fist.

“It was nice to meet you, Wayne-san,” Yumi said, fully composed.

“Yeah,” I replied.

After she’d left, Telders let out a deep breath. “Holy shit, man. She’s a fucking firecracker. I tell you, these Japanese—”

I slammed my fist on the table. “Where the hell did she come from?” I growled.

“Whoa!” Michael laughed. He raised his hands. “Settle down, man. She showed up last night out of nowhere. And who am I to turn down a beautiful woman? It’s just common courtesy, dude.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little unusual, Telders? A strange woman shows up in the middle of the night and slips into bed with you for no apparent reason? Don’t you think that’s a little suspicious? Just a little?”

Telders scratched his head and smirked. “It’s not that weird. Kind of—uh—kind of standard, actually.”

I dropped my head back and exhaled. “Right, of course. The consummate playboy.”

Telders sat down and popped one of Yumi’s potatoes into his mouth. His tone turned serious: “Wayne, what’s the problem, man?”

I looked out the window. I couldn’t figure it. What in the hell was she doing there? How did she find me? Why was she speaking perfect English? And why the charade? None of it made any sense.

And I couldn’t fucking believe she slept with him.

Telders put his hand on my shoulder. “Relax, buddy. You’re grinding your teeth.”

“Sorry,” I said, pretending to shake it off. I took a dramatic deep breath and blew it out. “I’m just paranoid, you know. If the Japanese find out I’m here….”

“I know,” Telders said. “But you’re totally safe. Yumi is cool and Station12 is very well guarded.”

I nodded. Fuck you.

“Now, let’s finish this stack and get to work,” he said, and dropped a heap of pancakes on my plate.

I stabbed them with my fork.

It’s My Life

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Tux

The pancakes sat in my gut like a bag of hammers. Telders led me down to the lab and flipped on the lights. The room smelled like fresh plastic. Everything was new, untouched. I sat down at the terminal and punched the power button. Tux, the familiar Linux penguin, customized with a satellite dish for a head, appeared as the system loaded.

I ran my fingers along the keyboard. It was the only thing that wasn’t new. Every station was equipped with at least one IBM Model M keyboard. The kind with the loud, klacky buckling springs. I punched the shift key a few times. Nice.

When the server came up I logged in and launched “Noah”, the cutely named interface for the ARC node, and attempted to send it a wake command. After thirty seconds it timed out: ARC-Node 12 UNREACHABLE.

Telders put on Bon Jovi and started playing air guitar while I worked. He sang along.

This ain’t a song for the broken-hearted. WHOA-WHOA.

“The ARC node isn’t responding,” I said. “Have you checked it?”

“Nope… silent prayer for the faith departed. WHOA-WHOA.

Every time he did the “WHOA-WHOA” he’d jazz his hands. I scowled at him.

And I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd. You’re gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud.

“Christ, will you turn that shit off?” I yanked the cord out of the mp3 player and tossed it into a box of miscellaneous hardware.

“Ah, man, the best part was coming up.”

“There is no best part, Telders. It’s Bon Jovi.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “It’s all the best part. It’s my LIIIIIFE! It’s now or NEVER!” He yelled, strutting out of the room, pumping his fist. “You want some coffee?” He screamed from nowhere.

“No,” I mumbled, my keystrokes ringing out on the old keyboard. I decided to run an integrity check on the grid. All of the dishes reported in, as well as the main power supply to the ARC. Everything seemed normal. “Fuck it,” I said, smashing CTRL-Z. I grabbed a laptop and a serial cable and went for the door.

“You going out to the thing?” Telders had a glass of coffee—a glass—and took a sip with his pinkie extended.

I rolled my eyes. “Yes. We can’t do anything if the ARC is offline.”

“Cool, man. I’ll hang out here.”

“Whatever.” I brushed past him and wrenched the door open.

As I walked across the field, I heard him shout: “I just wanna live while I’m alive!

Excerpt From the ARC12 Manual, Annotated

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

ARC 12
ARC Node at Station12

Introduction

The ARC, or Array Relay Cell, serves as a field controller for Station 12’s interferometer. Each of the twenty dishes can be manipulated from the ARC directly, or interfaced on the network from a remote location, such as the Brownstone.

If communication is broken between the lab and the ARC, an operator can work directly from the Cell until communication is restored. Signals that are received from each dish are crunched and combined at the ARC, so it’s more than just a relay device, it’s also a processing hub.

Signal combination can be performed with software on the lab’s servers, but it is very slow and used as a last resort if the ARC is damaged (or burned to the ground by drunken station operators).

The size of the ARC really depends on the environment. At Station151 in Antarctica, where construction and materials costs are astronomical (no pun intended), the ARC is small and can barely fit one operator and his husky. At Station12, however, the ARC could easily house a crowd of astrophysicists and is great for public tours of the facilities or escaping the hell on Earth that is Bon Jovi.

Welcome to the ARC

Monday, January 17th, 2011

[root@station12_LAP7 root]# dmesg | grep tty
ttyS0 at 0x03f8 (irq = 4) is a 16550A
ttyS1 at 0x02f8 (irq = 3) is a 16550A

[root@station12_LAP7 root]# setserial -g /dev/ttyS[01]
/dev/ttyS0, UART: 16550A, Port: 0x03f8, IRQ: 4
/dev/ttyS1, UART: 16550A, Port: 0x02f8, IRQ: 3

[root@station12_LAP7 root]$ ps -ef | grep agetty
root 958 1 0 Jul13 ttyS0 00:00:00 /sbin/agetty -L -f /etc/issueserial 9600 ttyS0 vt100
root 1427 1 0 Jul13 ttyS1 00:00:00 /sbin/agetty -L -f /etc/issueserial 38400 ttyS1 vt100

ARC12
Connected on ttyS1 at 38400 bps
0 users

ARC12 login: wrobertson
ARC12 password: ****************

Welcome to the ARC, Wayne Robertson.

You have 1 unread message on SATMail

wrobertson@ARC12>pine

PINE 3.96 FOLDER INDEX Folder: INBOX Message 1 of 1 NEW
+ N 1 Jun 10 Spegg (1,057) Get Your Ass Back Here, Chikushou!

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Message 1 of 1

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
PINE 3.96 MESSAGE TEXT Folder: INBOX Message 1 of 1 TOP
Date    : Wed, 10 Jun 2011 13:40:22 +0000
From    : Spegg (spegg@SATMail)
To      : Wayne Robertson (wrobertson@SATMail)
Subject : Get Your Ass Back Here, Chikushou!

—————————————-

You really fucked things up for those sailors, Wayne. Well done.

I built a satellite receiver and I’ve been watching the coverage of your rampage on Japanese television. Captain Moriyama went into gruesome detail about how you sliced his crew to ribbons with a fucking Samurai sword.

That pleased me greatly.

However, Moriyama also mentioned that during the time you held him prisoner you spoke to people who weren’t there. People who were helping you: someone named Yumi, and another called “Supegu” (sic). That was fun to hear. However, this news can only mean that the Lilith has been tormenting you. I am sorry for that. I have not been spared, myself. I have had vicious arguments with a Wayne-like apparition on more nights than I care to remember. I see others, including the son of a bitch who tried to kill me on the Shinkai Maru 5, but I’ve learned to ignore them. Such is the curse of the Lilith.

Please know that this will all be over when we are reunited. Have faith and be strong.

I have many stories to convey to you, as much has happened in such a short time. Our abductors were strong, but not enough. The other LMOs fought with great courage and no mercy. Many fell, but those who survived I dispatched to the corners of the Earth. They will deliver our message to those who remain.

A new plan is in motion that will pave the way for your long journey home. You will know it when it comes.

It is cold here. The middle of winter. But I’ve been fixing the place up. You might not even recognize it.

Goodbye for now, Brother
Spegg

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Sakura Matsuri

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Sakura

A new plan is in motion that will pave the way for your long journey home. You will know it when it comes.

Spegg’s words played in my head as I shuffled back to the brownstone. Like it or not, I was bound to this creature. I could live out my days apart from him and put up with the ghosts and the figments, and face the very real possibility of being caught and strung up by the Japanese, or I could return to Antarctica and raise an army of genetic horrors to supplant the human race.

Yeah, I’ve never really been a people person.

On the north side of the brownstone stood a lone cherry tree, its blossoms withering as the season wound to a close. A wide halo of fallen petals ringed its trunk. I stepped into the circle and reached for one of the few blossoms still clinging to life. The soft pink petals easily shrugged off and slipped through my fingers. They swayed back and forth as they fell, almost in slow motion, as if each petal was hitched to an invisible, timeless pendulum.

A rare smile crossed my face.

I snapped a branch off the tree and a liberated the remaining flowers with long, sweeping attacks, striking upward, then slicing down, shouting victoriously as each bloom fell, like a child embroiled in an elaborate pirate fantasy. Plumes of sakura guts filled the sky.

When it was done, I bent over to catch my breath as the last few petals settled into the grass. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed one of the Korean guards paused for a smoke on the opposite side of the brownstone. We locked eyes for a moment as he pulled on his cigarette, unfazed—the numb expression of someone who’d seen everything.

I stood up nodded to him, but he simply turned, flicking his butt into the field, then shambled off in the other direction.

Chikushou,” I muttered, tossing the stick aside.

The Stolen Child

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

The Stolen Child

Cold air inside the brownstone. The door latch clicks. My feet heavy on the wooden stairs.

The boy follows a few steps behind. Breathing quickly. His shoes have holes and his lips are chapped.

He will follow me to the bottom of the world.

“Don’t forget your coat,” he will say.

I’ll give him a thumbs up as I shrug into a yellow parka from the closet. Then I’ll quote Yeats as I’m packing my bag:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

He’ll smile and bow theatrically. One hand on the heart and the other twirling over the head.

But I raise my hand and he knows it’s not quite time. Cartwheels down the stairs and out the open door.

My heart tumbles after him.

Mild Seven

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Mild Seven

I have Telders in a headlock.

Yumi screaming—jumping up and down—arms flapping—cursing in two languages.

Telders stumbles into his desk. Station39 coffee mug backflips into the wall. Acorn-style Tiffany lamp explodes into chunks of glitter.

I take an elbow to the gut. Recoil into the bookcase. AKAI reel to reel machine and a pile of 7-inch tapes hit the floor with an expensive crash. Dvorak’s New World Symphony screeches to a halt.

Mother fucker mother fucker mother fucker is Yumi’s new thing.

I charge the bastard. Head to the gut. He makes a yuurrrrgh kind of noise. Staggers back out of reach.

I’m out of breath. It’s a mistake.

Telders pounces. Goes for my legs. The room nosedives, rolls sideways.

I’m down. Telder’s armpit is in my mouth. Smells like meat. He rubs it around as retch and squirm.

“Christ,” I say, my voice muffled. “You smell like a horse.”

Michael laughs. Instantly I’m laughing with him. It hurts, but I can’t stop. I laugh even harder.

Telders releases me with one last light jab to the gut, then rolls over onto his back.

“All too easy,” he says, breathing hard.

“Ha, whatever. I had you dead to rights.”

“You wanna go again?”

I take a few breaths. “Maybe later,” I say, and brush bits of Tiffany lamp out of my hair.

We both notice Yumi at the same time. She’s in a huff. A steaming, white knuckled, angry little huff.

“Relax, dear, we’re just fuckin’ around,” Telders says.

She shrieks and storms out of the room. A flurry of Japanese echoes in the hall.

Telders shrugs. “Women.” He gets to his knees and crawls over to a pack of cigarettes on the floor. Shakes a couple out.

We sit in the rubble and smoke.

Nowhere Man

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Nowhere Man

Telders came back with a broom and started sweeping up the glass from the broken lamp.

I took a seat on the chaise lounge and supervised.

He made a small pile next to the trash can, then leaned the broom against the wall. Frowning, he stared at the smashed reel-to-reel machine on the floor. “Shit. That was a nice deck.” He nudged it into the corner and wrapped the cord around the bent reels. “Oh, well,” he said, then went to the cupboard and pulled out another one.

“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”

“Always have a spare,” he smirked, setting it on top of the receiver. After hooking up the power and the audio cables, Michael picked up one of the boxes on the floor and turned it over. “You like the Beatles?”

“I’m more of a Stones fan, but I’ve been known to stray.”

“Blasphemy.” Telders removed the reel from its box and tacked it onto the spindle. He wound the tape under the tension arm, then under the heads, and fed it up through the take-up reel. He turned it slowly, until the tape caught, then flipped a lever, and the reels started spinning.

A fifty year old harmony echoed on the hi-fi:

He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

Doesn’t have a point of view
knows not where he’s going to
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

“I swear this song was written for me,” Telders said, pouring a Japanese scotch into a used wine glass. “You want some?”

“I’ll take the bottle,” I said.

“Good man.”

I laid back on the chaise and upended it.

Nowhere Man please listen,
You don’t know what you’re missing
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command!

“I never understood that part,” I said.

“It just means you won’t change the world until you get off your ass.” Telders paused for a drink then shrugged. “At least that’s the way I take it.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Lennon wracked his brain trying to write this song. Sat there for hours and hours trying to come up with something. Finally he just gave up.”

“Doesn’t sound like it.”

“Well, yeah. But the song didn’t come to him until the very moment that he said fuck it and went and laid on the couch or something. Then the whole damn thing just popped in his head.”

“Strange how that works.”

“Yeah. I guess sometimes you just gotta stop thinking and let the universe figure it out for you.”

I set the bottle down and stared up at the ceiling. I closed my eyes and cleared my mind as “Nowhere Man” played out….

During the brief pause before “Dr. Robert” I lifted my head. “Telders?”

“Yeah, buddy?”

“I’m going back to Antarctica.”

Alea Iacta Est

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Alea Iacta Est

“Alright, let me get this straight,” Telders said, drink swirling. “He came from the future.”

“Yes.”

“Through a wormhole.”

“Uh huh.”

“And he’s a fish.”

“Yeah.” I said, scratching my head. “His name’s Spegg. But he’s not actually a fish. He’s referred to as a transgenic. Sort of a hybrid between fish and human. More human than fish I think. That’s the way it looks to me at least. The genetics could be way off. Hard to know.”

“Of course,” Michael said, grinning.

“You don’t believe any of this, do you?”

“Uh, no. But it’s a great story, Wayne. Very creative.”

“Goddammit, Telders. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s real. I promise you.”

“Sure, sure. So, you say this stuff he injected you with, the uh…”

“Lilith.”

“Lilith, right. You say this pink stuff turned you into, like soul mates or something?”

“Well, it’s not a goddamn romantic thing, but yeah, he became like a brother to me. But much deeper. Like a part of me.”

“Alright, fine. So not too long after that he brought a whole shitload of these transgenics through the wormhole.”

“Nineteen of them.”

“And when their goddamn pods landed they completely destroyed my Array.”

“Yeah, sorry about that.”

“Oh, no, don’t worry about it. Not like it was expensive or anything.”

I lowered my eyes. “Yeah.”

“Alright, so to make a long story short, that’s when the Army showed up and took the transgenics into custody and then some Russian pilot shot down the helicopter you were riding in and you would have drowned, but you were saved by a Navy Seal, who you promptly killed and then took off in his inflatable boat, hopped aboard a whaling ship, nearly killed everyone there, and then you blew a hole in the bottom of the ship with some C-4 that happened to be lying around and dove into Tokyo Bay where you managed to escape a fleet of Japanese police and military ships.”

“Oh, and don’t forget the war.”

“Right, of course. Spegg sort of implied in his latest e-mail to you that he’s responsible for starting World War III.”

“Yeah, that’s about it. So do you believe me now?”

“God, no!” Telders laughed. “This is the craziest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. I mean, the shit about the boat I have to believe because it’s all over the news, but Jesus Christ, Wayne, you’re… I mean… I’m impressed. You should be a writer. Start a blog or something.”

I rolled my eyes, and picked up the bottle of Japanese scotch. I took one look at it and set it down again.

Michael stared at me. “There aren’t any post-human, genetic hybrid fish creatures in Antarctica waiting to give you the love you never had and take you for a ride in their space-time machines. It’s a story you made up in your head to deal with the pressure of a life of solitude. Fuck, I never should have allowed you to take that post in Antarctica. But I was stupid and figured that because you’ve been a loner all your life, it’d be perfect for you. Boy was I wrong. I thought the Husky would take the edge off, but… hey, what happened to the fucking Husky?”

I thought back to the day Buzz attacked and nearly killed Einstein, the transgenic hybrid that Spegg had created from an Antarctic seal and a sample of my DNA. I had reacted instinctively, violently. Almost like a father protecting his child.

Buzz didn’t make it.

I looked at Telders and shook my head. “You don’t wanna know.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. I don’t wanna know.” Michael hung his head and laughed. “Alright, Christ, enough of this shit, Wayne. Forget about going back to Antarctica and let’s get our drink on, shall we? To new beginnings….”

“No,” I said, kicking the bottle over. “No more. I’m going back. And don’t you try and stop me, either.”

Telders raised his hands and sighed. “No one’s gonna get in your way, brother.”

Next: Chapter 10. Outside The Gate