THERE OUGHT TO BE CLOWNS
a short drama story written by mary fewko
This is a story of fiction. All events are written from the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to living or dead persons is entirely coincidental.
Though composed after an actual triple homicide in the city of Rochester, New York, no names or traits of the deceased have been used.
Copyright © 2013, 2014
First Shakespir EDITION © 2016
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ®
“You didn’t have to be here…”
The sunshine is leaving, and with it, the will to live. It is the first night of spring. Many are not ready for even the briefest of blackouts, chiefly after many months of uninterrupted hypothermia. The young man is walking past a derelict playground, listening to a voicemail from his doctor. He wonders, what’ll happen when the sun doesn’t rise one morning? Looking around for the appropriate drug dealer to his most ill-starred dependency. He resolves to himself, I’ll probably start snorting nebulas….
“…Yeah, hello? Um… I’m sorry about the timing here, but the prescription will have to be voided. I’m currently under investigation, my other client, you know, Nelson, busted with cocaine…” the young man stops the message at the same instant each listen, prior to the overdose of Hippocratic oath violations. He wonders what the doctor tells others about him.
The night is now, the moon scowls, and the young man needs to score. He sees, by the rusty slide, Kōdeia, the dealer he goes to most nights, though in recent light has been getting an attitude from. Kōdeia waves two fingers and begins to walk down the street to his house. The young man follows, an addict disciple, following the orthodox pusher.
The young man enters Kōdeia’s house slowly. He has a grip on his convulsions for the first time in weeks, but for how long, he does not know.
In the living room, the young man sees two young girls gridlocked with their cellphones. Neither of them look away from the screens, as if they don’t care who enters.
“Are you looking for Percocet again, guy?”
The young man thinks about stabbing the next person who calls him ‘guy.’
“No. My liver can’t take it anymore.” He shifts; looks restless. A sweat appears on his head as if the dark was twice as hot as day.
“Well, I got plenty of weed dropped off.” He opens up a fireproof safe sitting on his coffee table. “This is Northern Cali, it’s christened ‘Nia-sin,’ probably cause of the wheat color. This is ‘southern petrol,’ right, smell it, high in demand right now and right here is ‘raspberry,’ …I’m not sure why but it’s christened ‘raspberry.’”
Young man is still wearing his sunglasses. He notices for the first time a psychedelic cross above Kōdeia, with four equal divisions reaching out.
“This shit is christened ‘soul-beater,’ this is christened…”
“Weed won’t work,” the young man is getting fidgety. “Pharmacies.” The young man takes out a Newport cigarette.
“Hey, man,” Kōdeia considers asking him to not smoke in the house, and then decides to let it be. “Fuck it. Alright.”
Kōdeia looks at the young man warily. He leaves the room for a moment to grab the pills. The girls have not yet noticed the young man’s presence, just furious text messaging. Kōdeia returns and sets the products on the table.
“You should try mushrooms if you ever wanna quit, brother.”
“Huh?” He scraps at his knees.
“I had a hard time quitting, that nicotine fix, I was a slave to it. Mushrooms though, really helped me kick it. I told a lot of friends about it, most reported back that shit worked for them.”
“Oxycodone…” the young man is crying behind his sunglasses. He doesn’t care about anyone’s habit bar his own.
“Are you sure you can afford this?” Kōdeia asks. “Last time you, I mean fuck, it’s not my place to meddle, but last time you narrowly scraped by, and I ain’t takin’ fuckin’ nickels when I sell shit. I made that exception then. I won’t now. I can’t. Shit’s embarrassing.”
The young man is wheezing dramatically. His mouth hangs open, like a furnace awaiting coal, a devotee awaiting junk, “that… that fuckin’ car crash. I was high.” He’s wheezing big time, “I was high off your motherfuckin’ weed… they never listened, the doctors, I told them how I… how I wanted to deal with it all…” He pulls a gun from behind his belt and shoots both of the girls multiple times, the whole time staring at Kōdeia as he backs up, puts both hands in the air, a face full of terror at the sight of rough oozing blood, a smell of piss and shit, a comprehensive sight of human decay in the living room.
“Listen!” Kōdeia starts, shaking worse than the young man ever did, “There’s other kinds… they’ll, shit man, they’ll help ya wean off it all. Did you just fuckin’ kill them!? Jesus…” Young man shoots Kōdeia in the navel, and as Kōdeia covers the area, leaning forward, crying like an infant, he is popped in the head. He grabs all the pill containers and escapes out from the back. The young man’s dropped Newport is spreading a fire.
A few blocks over, Moses Johnson is driving his girlfriend, Audrey, out to their favorite hookah lounge: The Infinity Bong-Hit. A new bar is opened next door; both are planning on a night of massive cerebral editing, for Moses lost his job earlier.
“Are you still going to stop and get cigarettes? The lounge doesn’t sell them anymore. Just salvia and cigars and all that.” Audrey asks.
“Yeah. Thank god those are still legal. Fuck off, New York senators. Stay out of my lungs.”
“All you had to do was pay for data,” Audrey says, texting away or posting on AirTome, or both.
“I don’t want to pay for data. The idea of surfing the web while I’m away from a computer seems gross.” Moses is crestfallen with the current flood in technology. It is ubiquitous, and Moses cannot evade it. “Besides, I’m still curious if me dying my hair blond had anything to do with it…”
“It can help with your business! You can finish more work just about anywhere.” Audrey replies, still texting furiously. “The hair? Well, the hair… I don’t know. It’s possible. Most companies don’t freak out about it like they did years ago.”
“I have a cell for calling and texting, and even the texting feels like an emotional compromise. I can’t say things with meaning when I text. So what’s the fucking point of saying anything if there’s no meaning behind it? And the business aspect? A Trojan horse to make employees stay on the clock twenty-four hours a day. Total slave-labor.”
“I bought you a smartphone, honey. I want you to just try using it.”
“Are you serious, Audrey?”
Audrey looks away from her screen, tries to transfer as much significance allowable at a red-light pause; she takes out the gift. “You don’t have to use it any differently, but, if at some point you’re waiting for the nurse to come in, or, I don’t know, trapped in the DMV, you have it. It’s there. Something to fill up those quiet moments.” Audrey smiles honestly.
But I love those quiet moments, Moses thinks to himself. “Thanks, honey.” Moses is cheerful. “Feel free to send nudie pics, if you want, you know.”
Audrey begins to text Moses; it is a middle finger emoticon.
They stop by the gas station. Moses enters and walks up to the counter. “Camel blues, please.”
He hands the cashier his I.D., swiftly he recalls he doesn’t have cash on him. He lost his job before earning any tips for the night. Reluctantly, he hands the cashier his credit card. He is distracted suddenly by the track marks on the clerk’s arm. A user? Moses wonders. Fuck, just what I need. Some fuckhead getting my credit card number… Any cashier can get anybody’s info when you think about it. He can slowly take out minor funds to feed his ‘H’ craving; a stamp is only five dollars these days. This is why you must pay in cash.
Amid the rupture of paranoia and purchasing of cigarettes, Moses is looking the young worker in the eyes. Moses smells something strange, and sees beside him a tray with tuna and salmon rolls.
“You sell sushi here?”
“Use to, that’s imitation, uh, something, not sure exactly what. No place really sells sushi now; too many fish come up dead in the water. Some rivers are full of blood even, I’ve been keepin’ up to date with it on my phone’s news app.”
“Alright, I’ll catch ya later.”
“You live downtown? Shit, my homie mentioned a triple-homi there, shit happened earlier tonight.”
Moses stares with utter apprehension, “are you fucking kidding me?”
“Yeah he just told me, young people, too, had their whole lives,”
“How the fuck do you know my address?” Moses interrupts the cashier.
“I saw your address, man, your I.D., shit, heh.”
“How about you focus on the age part,” Moses says under his breath and leaves, almost lighting his cigarette before exiting the gas station, never considering the news that his neighborhood is yet again a crime scene.
“Your receipt, boss?”
“I won’t be returning them.”
Detective Ennis exhales from his electronic-cigarette. He exits his car, enduring the brisk winter air soon to be dead, switching the spotlight to spring. He is standing outside Kōdeia’s house, among a swarm of firefighters, paramedics, police officers, medical examiners, crime scene investigators, and a street enclosed with desensitized neighbors. Ennis begins to wonder, should he start planting roses when he gets home?
“Special Agent Ennis, I assume? I’m Officer Karny. Sorry to interrupt your night.”
Detective Ennis can’t stop looking around. He sees a playground in the distance, and begins to hang his head down. “You know, every springtime something like this happens. A few years ago it was further into April, and then with each year, one week was removed. Last year it was just one day after spring, and this year… it’s not even midnight yet. Not even fuckin’ midnight. Well, is Dunamis here yet?”
“The other detective?” Officer Karny wants to laugh at Ennis’s monologue, “not yet. The D.A. will be here shortly.”
“Is the perpetrator inside?”
Officer Karny is text messaging, “Huh? I don’t know.”
“You fuckin’ shithead.” Detective Ennis shoves Karny and enters the crime scene. He respectfully moves past an investigator scrutinizing a windowpane for fingerprints. There is an entire unit with smartphones taking pictures of the living room, hallways, bedrooms, and the front porch. There are samples taken of marijuana, of hairs, of pharmaceuticals, of the dropped cigarette and various other items including drug paraphernalia, billing information, et cetera.
Detective Ennis is mesmerized by three dead bodies, each one as young as the season. They were young, he thinks. “What… in the fuck happened…”
“Our job to establish?” Detective Dunamis says from behind him slowly moving forward, giving in to the sight, not as dismayed. “I was told the fire didn’t spread too far, though, that young lady seemed to absorb the worst?” Dunamis is pointing his chin towards one of the girls, whom was murdered, the one nearest to the front door, adjacent to the living room. “Shit…” The entire body, violently burnt, “scorched flesh… that smell ain’t natural… you think this girl was burned intentionally?”
Ennis sees the cellphone seared into her hands. “Maybe she didn’t notice the fire; seems like a lot of people aren’t noticing the flames of hell, burning around them, everywhere in this country…they could even phone for help, if they’d,” Together, the detectives shift their attention to Kōdeia’s body covered up, due to the severity and location of the gunshots, “if they’d only look away for a moment…”
Detective Dunamis leans forward at the damaged fireproof safe seeing weed, magic mushrooms, and a variety of designer drugs. “So. The buyer shoots the dealer and these two ladies, and then, bolts without taking anything?”
“He might have taken the products he was interested in, leaving everything else to burn,” Detective Ennis takes out his E-cig. “Let’s head to the office.”
The two detectives are leaving the crime scene, suddenly the distract attorney appears. “I’d call you gentlemen, but ain’t nothing gentle about you two. At least there better not be this fuckin’ round,” what signaled as a joke now is imploring gravitas, “this will not be a year of trendsetting. Dunamis. Ennis. I’m obtaining search warrants from the N.S.A. for you. You’re going to check this pusher’s phone messages. And the ladies, and just about everyone within a fucking thirty mile radius. Don’t stop with phones. AirTome accounts. Debit card transactions.”
Ennis feels unwilling to protest, he feels it might be the best route for progress. “Alright. It’s not our usual M.O. but,”
“But you’ll make it your M.O., no?” The D.A. criticizes the street, and then shudders as if a hidden chill sidled up his spine, exclusively. “I don’t want any goddamn middle school pests getting inspired by this. I don’t care if you have to hire hackers, find this fucking killer.”
“So it’s definitive?” Dunamis asks astutely. “Homicide?”
“Triple homicide.” The D.A. says heatedly. “This will not be a year of trendsetting,” the D.A.’s eyes are alight; behind him the fire department is leaving. “Let’s save the slayings for the video games.” The two detectives are walking to their respective cars. Ennis is considering planting roses, in his line of work, he sees too many grieving people, and often feels he never has anything positive to offer. He thinks it would look silly, ridiculous, but he wants to so bad for even a brief second have something nice to give, before speaking news that is downright dreadful. The news is always so dreadful…
Moses and Audrey are walking up to The Infinity Bong-Hit lounge, which works much as a speakeasy: showing up when the right employees are there, allows for access to about any kind of drug. Pill-mills are increasing dishonor, even in the hookah lounges, mostly by hookah regulars. Moses enters beneath a massive LED outline of the comic book character Thanos, stoned and grinning. Inside Moses perceives a dichotomy of analgesic abuse: For every hookah table, there is an employee bumming hits off vaporizing instruments, meanwhile all customers surrounding the mechanism are passed out from excess Xanax prior to even purchasing an hour session, or from being snorted on tablets used to check out the customers when all was said and done. All the passed out patrons have their cells in hands. It is a strange scene, even among drug abusers.
“Moses, Audrey, what brings you two to this piss poor establishment?” The worker Maggie asks them, inhaling flavored tobacco nicknamed ‘Dragon-sperm.’
“Hey Maggie, I’m gonna go smoke in the back. Make me some of your native Indonesian food, will ya? I’m super depressed…”
“Oh right, you Americans have such a liberal diet, I forgot.” Maggie says merrily. “I bet you’d eat liberals if y’all right-winger men knew how to cook.”
“I’m not rightwing; I’m left, as in I’ve left all interest in politics behind.” Moses smiles and enters the back porch.
“I’m trying to cheer up this sad one. He lost his job earlier,” Audrey says quietly to Maggie. “Anything sweet we can put in this waterpipe?”
Maggie smiles, revealing a bronze grill in her mouth, or lots of cavities; Audrey really isn’t sure anymore.
Moses is on the back patio, thinking passé existential thoughts like he always does. He takes out a Camel Blue cigarette. Look at all those telephone wires above us, he wonders, does anybody even use their home phone anymore? How long before those become relics in the sky? I’m sure somebody on AirTome is posting his or her project about it. Fuck. I’m shocked Audrey can even put her phone away for a minute. She thinks I’m paranoid, but the facts are there. Privacy was swapped for convenience. He sees, in alleyways in the middle of brick structures, young women skipping, taking selfies, and giggling the whole time. “I hope they get hit by a bus,” Moses says out loud.
Moses walks back into the shop, and is greeted by the two girls. Audrey is to his left, Maggie is to his right, both with arms locked around his, smiling madly.
“When you lose,” Audrey says placing the nozzle into his mouth.
“Turn to drugs and booze.” Maggie then says while staring at the waterpipe filled with whisky stolen from the manager’s office.
Moses grabs Audrey by the shoulder. “Honey,” an impervious sigh, “I lost my bartending job. I don’t have much cash now, and if worse comes to worst, I might not find another job for some time. The economy is dying. Blonds aren’t be hired as normally as brunettes!””
“Then we’ll make tonight our last night.”
“Last night of what? Going out to first get tipsy, and end up buying all kinds of drugs within the hour? Blowing everything we’ve earned in so long in such short time? I love those nights, but, fuck, you got to admit, it’s an overused phrase now, ‘our last night.’”
“Well, we won’t have much choice now. Our last night.” Audrey is beaming with the anticipation of myriads of highs. “A night to end all nights…”
“Heh,” Moses doesn’t want to say no. “…and only give us afternoons. Those buoyant hours after wretched mornings, with alfresco lunches, quixotic and boundless.”
“Yes! When any nighttime plan is thrown on the table!” Both lock arms.
“With on-the-house bills and endless cigarettes…” Moses puffs from the hookah, “I want to retire in the afternoon.” Vapor waltzes out of his nose. He smiles deceptively, thinking all his problems will soon be gone.
Hours glide through, and the three are snickering.
“I just, I just, you know, I just,” Audrey tries to say.
“You just can’t fucking talk, right?” Maggie spits out, bursting into laughter.
“No! Hah! I just don’t get why you won’t use your phone! Moses you could take a pic of us all, tag all your friends, post an AirTome status, uh, uh, update! Fuck, I mean, don’t you want to the world to know yer living yer life?”
“Fuck that, I don’t want, uh, you know, that shit is so sketchy, posting your life online. The world is so unsafe, I can’t stand the shit, they spy on us and shit, if I say anything they’ll record it and recite it at some huge fucking tribunal one day, you wait, missy!” Moses is plummeting to the floor.
Audrey takes out her phone, posting a status about her boyfriend’s paranoia about the N.S.A., and the F.B.I. “Fuck, what’s my logon password again? Carolina something…”
“Are you asking us?” Maggie says, eyelids falling like rain.
“You know,” Audrey is rubbing her bellybutton, and checking out Maggie’s tits, “Moses, you really ought to consider making an AirTome account. I mean I’ve eavesdropped employers who want to see the activity of probable employees. It, hah, it use to be like, they checked only for incriminating posts, but, now, it’s more like they want to make sure your tech savvy… so shit.”
“Well,” Moses feels sprightly, “How’d uh, how’d you get this gig, Maggie?”
“Fuck!” Maggie is mirthful, “look around! People who work at smoke shops and hookah lounges are for-lifers. There’s no turnin’ back for us.” Moses is diagraming the lounge. He sees a multitude of clients; nonetheless, the inertia from stupefacients could make them chameleons, if they dress fittingly. Each one is drowning the internal, the psychological, or the spiritual; they are obscuring things intangible and vague yet too heavy to carry, the exceedingly hard to deal with. The things we can’t physically burn: feelings… Mindsets of guilt, or sorrow, disgrace, infidelity, angst, perversion, all these feelings people are burning somewhere, almost all the time. His eyes finish the pan at Maggie’s sore face, “well, at least I can afford to feed my child. Oreos aren’t expensive. Fuck. I want Oreos now…”
Moses stands up; cheated into thinking a real fog was present. No fog is here among the neglected arcade games and shitty hip-hop playing. He spins around slowly, hands near his face guardedly. He sees so many passed out, including workers, though the ones awake are texting furiously. The stoned consumers are glowering at Moses from their related tables, or the floor, each one noiseless, though the texters are unmindful, completely lost in cyberspace. Moses is considering pickpocketing the text-messaging mob, just to prove a point. He marvels, will they remember their night? If you are so lost in that screen, well, I mean, isn’t reality’s resolution better? Is this the new remedy for escape? When did I become such a Luddite? I don’t want to be so bitter… this is my generation after all…
In this moment, Moses sees everyone take out a cellphone, he begins to spin like earlier, it’s everywhere, and he can’t flee. Each face looks caged by the device.
“How big,” Moses speaks out loud, “can a problem be when even drugs can’t help you escape? Are they… are they talking about me? Is… is what they’re doing even talking?”
There is an undeniable, underhanded hour that is analytically detached from all clocks. It is the hour of woe, and of societal complaints, when all that appears therapeutic, can critically stimulate numerous to uprising, using divided cities, physically, as proxies for communiqué, be it by samizdat or satellite feed.
There are many homeless trudging by; a few threatening to murder politicians that allowed them to lose their jobs, or allowed the city to turns its back on all the loyal Americans. There are occasional cars running red lights, rattles of gunshots, never a bang, more like popping sounds, mistaken for damaged vehicles, or secluded construction sites. The latter is a subconscious lie: everybody knows buildings and roads aren’t repaired anymore. There are only new hotels for cities nobody wants to visit. Somebody in some corridor whispers of a triple homicide, and they, strangely, know exactly who did it already… why won’t they inform the proper investigators? Is it out of spite that they allow the killers to remain on the lam?
The young man is pacing the same street. He is hopeful of bumping into that one dealer. It is possible that special dealer has moved, and has yet to bring the sketchy crowd with him. It is likely they will soon learn where he moved, and show up, never for small talk, always with small cash, convinced it’s a small habit that they have under control. It is possible the dealer is just ducking the roughest of the crooked groups. The dealer looks behind his drape, at a pacing drug addict. He sees small groups of youngsters walk past him, ignoring his request for any amount of spare change. He is shouting now. He is very angry, blood pressure is at menacing level. He leaves the street, and the dealer hopes to sleep soundly for the first time in several weeks. From pompous hardcore guitarists, to molested teenage girls, he has come to comprehend that dealing Fentanyl or Adderall, Prozac, or any kind of prescription drug, attracts too many conflicting clients hoping their past complications might be worthy of payment. This young university dealer is learning the hard way: when you have a product much demanded, you can end up in the trade for life. Wherever you move in the city, they will follow, throughout the night, dope-sucking vampires evading copper badges like crosses…
The young man is in tears, though his sunglasses don’t show it, and nobody ever makes eye contact to begin with. He is approaching a popular bar, closed since last call two hours ago. He takes out a red spray can. There is already graffiti shouting ‘EAT THE RICH’ or ‘REVOLUTION’ as well as elaborate art from artists so in debt from college. There are also more shocking writings advocating pogroms on the immigrants, from despairing minds so assured America’s problems are a result of this group, or that group, et cetera, et –dismal- cetera. Be it graffiti posts, or AirTome posts; stupidity and intelligence are swaying abreast. The young man sprays a message:
SOME OF YOU ARE GAINING WEIGHT
MY SISTER HAS 3 WEEKS LEFT TO LIVE
The young man has no AirTome account, thus, he uses society. He uses the city’s walls for his status updates. This American has enough walls, murals to fill countless memoirs. It is always the city’s walls, revealing buried uncertainties, ditched affluence, medieval status quos, the lack of love, or the desertion of any search for estranged family…
The young man leaves, still weeping from earlier. There are at least two people in this American city off the massive social networking scene AirTome. Still society’s wall’s remain: a chalkboard for problems and persecutions, soon to be washed away, and then reproduced again in due time.
Hours before sunrise, Moses is driving Audrey back to his apartment. He will ordinarily take a shortcut through the rougher neighborhoods. The way he sees it: drive in safe places and spend more, or drive in slums and save on gasoline?
Moses is worried about uploading pictures, what others might do to them. He recalls a woman condemning a misogyny fan page, only to log back on and see her image battered and vilified. He feels distress at the precise notion of people searching your image, just for laughs, to incite bullying, to troll all the friends and things you love. He begins to speak softly, “What of the public’s involvement and the net’s anarchical naughtiness? Does this elusive arena belong to the vox populi? How long before certain groups takeover all of cyberspace? God forbid those lousy neo-fucking-Nazis should have leverage. Is it possible to takeover the entire Internet? And what about AirTome? I mean the whole concept of writing on someone’s wall; you make plans with one individual, allowing all others to see those plans while knowing they’re not included to join, just to witness the proposal’s origin, that’s the way to treat your friends…remind them who you’re hanging with when they’re not around.”
Moses feels his smartphone vibrate. He takes it out and sees that Maggie is calling him. He answers, “Hello, foreign friend of mine.” Grinning.
“Hey, you bum. Make it home safely?”
“Well, we are trying, but this pesky fiend is talking to me, and making me run the risk of a ticket for driving and talking. You know only the police can get away with doing that.”
“Ah, damn, I guess I should confess: I’m only concerned if Audrey made it home safely. You? You can feel free to die anytime now, teman.”
“Ha! Well, she’s passed out right now. Did your clients ever wakeup?”
“Yeah, they gave me a lot of attitude, as most usually do. Blaming me for allowing them to pass out? I didn’t tell them to raid their parent’s private medicine drawers! I don’t even feel bad I pickpocketed a few. It was more to prove a point, and make them withdrawal money from the ATM.”
“My oh my, you can take the girl out of the third world, but can’t take the third world out of the girl. When we get home, Audrey will be awake, want her to call you then?”
“First of all, it’s a developing country. Second, you’re a bastard.”
“You know I’m playing around, Maggie.”
“Yeah, anyways, don’t disturb her; I’ll just catch you two later.”
Moses is pulling in to his neighborhood. He sees a multitude of anxious individuals preparing a vigil at the end of his street, not far from the four pharmacies. There is a chanting of some sort filling the airwaves, and almost every house has its lights turned on.
Up late are Detective Ennis and Detective Dunamis. They’re at the Orion Diner, and a waitress is pouring them coffee. Ennis is exhaling from his e-cig.
“Are you for real about that shit?” Dunamis asks with a mean-spirit.
“Are you asking about the e-cig?” Ennis is not in the mood.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s cool if you wanna look like some adolescent, vaping everywhere he goes, or some hipster author who wants to smoke indoors, or,”
“Or maybe I’m fuckin’ tiresome, and fraught to quit fuckin’ smoking?”
Detective Dunamis takes out an electronic tablet, opens up a folder containing significant material concerning the current triple homicide.
“What we currently know is the drug dealer was one Rodney Valavanis, went under the pseudonym ‘Kōdeia’ and is a fellow Greek if I may add,” Dunamis smiles.
“How lovely,” Ennis says blowing vapor into Dunamis’ face, “together in paradise you can stage your homoerotic wrestling dramas together.”
Dunamis chuckles, “That we will. Moving on, the names of the two girls: Laura Wormwood, and Doris Shutt, both age twenty. Among Rodney, Laura, and Doris, we have folders containing every text message, email, AirTome posts, GPS usage, debit and credit transactions, active posts on drug forums, or comments left for music videos, we also have incoming evidence regarding anyone whose has bought drugs from Rodney, or ‘poppy-head,’ shit, the irony with his demise, within the last six months, and should the investigation extend, we’ll have warrants to go back even further. Of course, with computational algorithms, keyword searches will soon be our best friends.”
“So,” Ennis feels frustrated, “why are we riding this whole Nixonian method? Can’t the N.S.A. do it?”
“They’re slowly implicating classes to police forces in cities with high murder rates. This looks like the future of crime solving.”
“Who are we going to start with?”
“Mostly people in the neighborhood, and the district, regardless of their drug interest. We’ll look into their overall activity online, and then expand out from the street into the big ol’ rustbelt region. There are a few names that have come up as persons of interest: Wei Chou, Chelsea Armhair-Miller, Chris Colden, D’Sandra Maple, Moses Johnson…”
“Moses, Moses, smell the roses, spread their words to the herds, but avoid cops with hoses,” Audrey is singing while she shaves her legs in the bathtub. It is late, but neither two want to sleep after hearing the news of a triple homicide in the neighborhood.
“Can you believe this? It’s only a few hours into spring, and there’s already murder. Three murders!” Moses is shouting to Audrey.
Moses feels his phone vibrate. It’s from Audrey. He checks his text message: “What You say?”
Moses brings a hand to his eyes, he begins to think, are you serious? You can’t even just reply in person? Texting to someone who’s not even one bedroom away? That just seems pathological.
Moses stands up and walks over to his window, he stares out at swirling police lights, candles being blown out from changes in air pressure.
“Even the wind doesn’t care about young people getting killed,” Moses says out loud. He sees for every blown out candle, someone in the group walks up and lights it again, as if instinctively, they refuse to let the vigil go unattended …they refuse to give up hope in a better future… It is a sight of the agitated, the older ones usually, but still younger people who have acquired wisdom early enough in life to see what life is really about, where it scarily can lead, and what it unfortunately can encourage. Maybe this is why they flee to the phone, Moses wonders. The world gets drearier, and the laws get bewildering, and the more beaten down they are, the less they care about life overall.
“Where are the demystifying theorists?” Moses is speaking to nobody, “What about the Timothy Leary’s of the twenty-first century? Are they still on their acid trips to enlightenment? Or how about the American Siddhartha? Are there any Kerouac’s typing somewhere about what’ll redeem us, or how we should all deal with this growing mess? These… devices, they are an escape that can go everyplace. The problem is the dependence, or the tracking. Maybe I should just give in. It can’t be that bad. But, will it cure the loneliness? A universe so vast, and the human mind, so impenetrable, I just, I can’t bear to be lonely, I… I try to escape these devices, which would make someone like me always texting, always bothering others… I don’t want to do that. I know my personality.” Moses takes out a cigarette, “I gotta discipline myself. No choice. One day, the loneliness will really hit, and these abstract tools for communicating, they won’t heal that wound, at least for me they won’t.”
“You got wounds that need healin’ baby?” Audrey is standing in the doorway, wearing only her peacock pattern scarf and green satin panties. Moses ignores that he is gabbing to himself, and senses an urgent erection. He wonders if loneliness has made him prone to speaking out loud.
“Why didn’tcha text me this lovely image?”
“My battery died.” Audrey begins a brief striptease by removing her scarf.
Detective Ennis, in a flash of sleep absence, awakes at the Orion Diner booth, sometime before sunrise, encountering a conversation between Detective Dunamis and the nightshift waitress. It is all out of context, much like his line of work.
“Hah, I’m aware, quite fondly, she was evening filmin’ them! Hah, you see the thing about bulimia is, oh? Oh! Ennis! You’re awake finally!”
“The fuck? Are we still at the diner?”
“Yeah, you dozed off, I didn’t want to disturb you. Or stop hearing the silly things you said in your sleep.” The waitress beside Dunamis is covering her teeth, giggling.
“How long was I out?” Ennis brings his hands to his shut eyes, “actually, don’t tell me. Fuck, the case, how are the keyword searches going?”
The waitress wanders off to speak with newly arriving customers. “We finished up with D’Sandra Maple. Her main Internet searches were concerning strange sex positions. And her frequent cash deposits of large sums indicated quite nicely what her nighttime business is. We can send a squad over in the future to book her for that, however her I.P. address has her pardoned in terms of when the triple homicide took place. Sidenote: Do you know what a Philadelphia Sidecar is? Let alone the price!?” Dunamis is smirking.
“What about that next name? Uh, Johnson?”
“Moses Johnson… it’s funny,” Dunamis twirls his fingers, “he’s, well, he’s got nothing! He might as well be Amish.”
“Amish? You think he’s not connected?”
“Well, hold your Mick horses,” Dunamis sips his coffee, “his girlfriend, this Audrey Boccacini, posted some status shortly after the murders, something about her paranoid boyfriend, afraid to be involved with social media out of anxiety over people like us reading what he posts.”
“I guess it isn’t paranoia at this point,” Ennis pulls out his e-cig. “What do you make of that status at that particular time?”
“I was going to ask the same to you. She talks about him to her friends a lot. He’s very disenchanted with society, almost ‘fed-up’ you might conclude. He has these outlandish visions of persecution, the idea that everyone is always talking about him; he even thinks employers discriminate against him because he dyed his hair blond. We can’t prove he was involved, however, we can’t prove he wasn’t. In an age rampant with virtual footprints, being a Luddite could suit the perfect alibi…”
Moses is drawing a single nail along Audrey’s thigh evaluating her recent shave. Is this how a person gets their rocks off? He wonders. Erasing of natural hair? A modification? I wonder why does pleasure come with modification? Do we modify our pain receptors with added chemicals? Modify our flesh with removal of insulation? Modify our moods with benzodiazepines? Modify sex lives with fetishes? We modify houses with decorations, our faces with piercings, uniforms with chevrons…
Moses begins to rub Audrey’s genitals. He speaks delicately, “I can fetch some lub, honey. Sit still.”
Audrey disrupts his lubricate retrieval, “No. C’mon.” Classy fingers direct his mouth to her private parts. Moses follows the thin extremities’ orders. She speaks even more delicately, “I want you to spit on it.” Moses feels a blush, the kind he always fears in public, though now he’s buried in the pubic, not one person to judge his characteristic shyness. “Spit on it, baby.” An alluring crevasse between Audrey’s hips is opening. Moses brings his inaugural tongue, painting her like a canvas board, secreting hormones, trickling saliva, and distinguishing subjective sighs like the chirps of birds.
She awaits his kiss, the bodily inspection. She feels the throbbing veins breach her most prized territory. On the walls, police lights fade away. A mood is set; outside in the distance gospel chanting takes place. Moses loses himself in the lovemaking. On the cabinet to Audrey’s left is Moses’ smartphone, fully charged. She grabs it, sightlessly navigating through the features until she finds the camera. While intermittently gasping, she holds the phone above the two, revealing she’s on the bottom, and records the sexual act. Her moans crescendo, the climax is imminent, and in a moment of vehemence, she stares dead-on, eyes just nigh of being shut, in to the lens of her boyfriend’s cellphone. An unintentional shake of the bed wiggles the cellphone to capture the outside vigil, picking up the audio of the hymns then bringing it back to her face. After a few immensely deep breaths, she winks at the camera, pupils burning through her sweaty bangs.
Moses steps outside, post-fuck. He smokes his cigarette. He has his smartphone, but only to check the time. He is thinking greatly about the impact of murder, the fear it imparts and the shame of so many that joke about it, as if anesthetized to crime in general. “It’s not a laughing matter,” he says out loud.
“You referring to the vigil? If so I agree, they’re not supposed to be humorous. That’s the point, Johnson.” Detective Dunamis says to Moses as he and Ennis approach him on his front porch.
“What are you guys doing on my property?” Moses is alarmed.
“Are you alarmed, Moses?” Ennis utters, eyes full of malignant impatience. “I’m Detective Ennis, and this is Detective Dunamis. We’re investigating the triple homicide that took place last night on your street, right up the road there.”
“Why are you talking to me about this?”
Detective Dunamis scratches his chin, “Well, we’ve been going through the usual suspects, attaching and detaching the typical or the unpredicted motives, but you stand out. You’re something of an anachronism. No AirTome account, no lavish tablets or laptops, rarely using your credit cards, an email collecting dust…”
“First off, why the hell do you know all this? Or even how the hell!”
“In a patriot act refinement, occasionally you step around the law to rein in the terror.” Dunamis says, “not that it was our idea, shit, but that’s besides the point, the point is we’d like to speak with you concerning your whereabouts last night and this morning up until now.”
Moses takes out another Camel Blue, lights it, “Well, yesterday I lost my job.”
“Why?” Ennis asks.
“I… don’t know. I was a loyal worker! I think maybe dying my hair did it.”
“Why did you decide to suddenly ‘change your look’ Mr. Johnson? Planning your trip in Cognito?” Dunamis asks, feeling fresh as roses.
“I just wanted to. I feel like I’m losing my hair. I mean, fuck, it was a real hit to my self-esteem, so I decided, I’d do it, since I never had the chance and might not ever again. But why should the color of my hair determine my eligibility for work? Who cares if it’s blond or jet-black or bright green, or any color! Why not focus on my customer service or punctuality. Focus on my work ethic, not my appearance. The minute you judge my hair color, you might as well judge my skin color.”
“Skip to after you left your former work, Mr. Johnson.” Ennis voices.
“I was on my way to a hookah lounge. With my girlfriend Audrey Boccacini.”
“What’s the lounge’s name?”
“It’s called The Infinity Bong-Hit. We are friends with one of the workers there, Maggie; she’s from Indonesia. Audrey met her in college.”
“An Indonesian named ‘Maggie,’ Moses? Fuck, what are you feeding us?” Dunamis says, hands in pocket.
“It’s true, damnit. Lots of foreigners have western names. ‘Cause of all the soiled trends westerners are always setting in the world.”
Ennis was reminded of the D.A.’s words about zero tolerance for trendsetting. “Do you have any evidence that you were there Moses? You see believe it or not, the smartphone movement has made acquitting innocent convicts a whole hell of a lot easier. Because nearly all these phones can be traced and tracked and monitored, we can really see where someone might have been when they claim they’ve been there. Alas, you’re off the grid. How are we to believe you?”
Moses is panicking, “I… I don’t have any receipts; our friend Maggie let us use the hookahs for free. But you can call her. There might be cameras there to show I was present.”
“Moses, can I see your cellphone please?” Dunamis asks.
“Go right ahead, sir. This is my first smartphone, my girlfriend bought it for me yesterday even.” Moses hands his phone to detective Dunamis; the request feels anxiolytic. Dunamis browses through the cell. “I haven’t even used it.”
“Listen,” Ennis begins, “three people have just died. I’m seeing drifts get shoved from yesteryears, and it’s exponential. It once was only summer whilst the terror stretched out into the roads. It came sooner and sooner every,” Ennis is interrupted by Dunamis.
“Sir, take a look at this.”
Ennis stares at the cellphone screen, “Son of a bitch…” he says in a low voice. “A recording of you fucking some girl and with the GODDAMN vigil right outside your steamy fuckin’ window.” Ennis points the screen at Moses’ face; he sees the image of Audrey winking, perky tits and all, while hearing the recorded chanting, overlapping with the real-time chanting.
Moses feels a nervous breakdown coming on.
“We will be returning. Don’t even try anything fishy.” Dunamis says, spitting on the lawn. “You’re not as off the grid as you may very well think. At this point, nobody is. The magnetic lattice will devour anyone we tell it to. You won’t escape, needless to say, don’t try to. You’ve got a dirty mind, Moses. Maybe you ought to let someone wash it up for ya.”
The two detectives drive off. Moses returns indoors to find Audrey sleeping. He is too exhausted to talk about anything at the moment. Cops with hoses, he thinks…
Hours pass and with them, signs of hope: the hope for a year without senseless murder. Even greater is the hope for proper awareness to crime and what causes it and how to treat it. Many notice the United States currently on the verge of war with countless countries that dare differ from western ideals, and all the while, the economy nosedives further in to hell itself. It is all deteriorating. Is it the hunger that is holding people at gunpoint? Is some legitimized, respected administration getting away with domestic crippling?
Audrey is in the bathroom. It is morning, and the weather outside is tolerable. She has just finished showering, and is thinking about how it is the longest she has ever gone without her cellphone.
“To my knowledge, at least eighteen people were serving time on death row when they were exonerated via DNA testing. I mean, it’s one thing to be absolved, but, while on death row? And how the fuck does a state become so powerful it has a right to kill?” Audrey speaks out from in the bathroom.
“Well, I mean, what about the people we definitely know are evil, the ones who are prideful of their chaos, shouldn’t we just get rid of them? We don’t got time for those types, committing murders in the streets, raping women on subways, touching children, all those terrible people who confess, I mean, why rehabilitate them?” Moses replies.
“What about the ones who don’t confess? The wrongly convicted, Moses? The innocent then steered to legislative murder?”
“Well, at least it’s not too many.”
The blow dryer briefly stops. “One is too many, Moses…” Audrey’s eyes are wide, as if clamped open. “One murder is too many.”
“Well, I don’t know if we have time for a capital punishment debate.”
“Before you know it, they revoke trials, and procedures: it’ll be one judge deciding if your guilty or innocent, and then sentenced to death or surveillance. Suddenly all kinds of people, those who deviate from the country’s overall objectives, will be tried, people like me will become targets.”
Moses is almost finished preparing breakfast for himself and Audrey. He is glancing out his window, trying not to get too distracted, he doesn’t exceed normally with the culinary arts. The image of telephone poles has him captive. He is thinking about what Audrey was saying, about capital punishment nowadays; he is imagining a prevailing state using antiquated penalties. He sees Audrey as a dissident; thus, she would be crucified, perhaps to the telephone poles? He imagines Audrey nailed to a telephone pole, in bra and panties, with one hand attempting to wirelessly blow-dry her hair. Is this out of her rebellion? A voluptuous ancient Rome fantasy? What purpose do those poles serve us now? Moses wonders.
“Isn’t is strange,” Audrey continues, shouting over the blow-drying of her hair, “how seamless a knife slithers into the human body?” Moses is focused on the topic, overlooking the Roman aura, the primordial role-playing, “it’s as if the human body required such a tool to exist, natural selection perhaps? Artificial? Christ, I mean, there are numerous scholars who conclude we are a self-destructive race, that our own intelligence will be our undoing. Even Hawking talks about how intelligence has no long-term life expectancy or something like that, maybe. The weapons keep arriving, each one more honed in killing its creator. That’s just what intelligence leads to, a subconscious worldwide suicide. Nobody wants to accept where reality is surely headed…”
“Do you want coffee?”
“Yuppers!” Audrey like a teenage girl in love, “Awe, I wove my man, always making me breakfast.”
Moses approaches Audrey, charismatically smiling, “speaking of things that slither into the human body…” The two are kissing with coffee mugs in hand, in lingerie and boxers, even though it’s twenty-nine degrees out. The promise of spring is all it takes. Those not at war, or under its wicked persuasion, continue making love, and coffee, and scandalous discussions. But, coffee, as it should be, is made first.
Moses is driving around the city, hoping to spot a ‘now hiring’ banner anyplace. He begins to talk out loud. “Audrey… she was so fun to speak with this morning. She’d never advance with any exchange when that pesky phone is always on her. Some update or message would kill the full momentum, the passion of the debate.
Moses parallel parks outside a videogame store; his plan is to shop around, and on the way out ask for an application. Moses knows enough about the classics and modern games; he’d fit right in here.
He enters the store, “Hey, man.”
“Evening.” The worker asks, “Any title you’re looking to purchase?”
“Oh, just browsing for now, hah.” A light smile, nothing over-the-top.
“Mmm, what if I charged you for browsing?” He issues a crafty smile beyond comprehension.
“Fuck you,” Moses says and walks out angrily, as he decides after just one endeavor, that today would not be a day for work pursuing.
He is stumbling up a sidewalk past restaurants, and bars. He feels lightheaded, especially since him and Audrey didn’t sleep much. The encounter with the detectives has him startled. He approaches a Puerto Rican bistro, stumbling behind by the side entrance for employees. That word, painted above the door, sends Moses into a strange posture, an almost debilitating thought-process. He is concerned now, almost to the degree of tremors. He has never been jobless, let alone fired; each tweaking of careers he experiences is smooth, it’s never been like it is now. He pants, looks up at the newborn spring, but before him, he sees a faucet coming from the building. The water is running and for some implausible reason… it’s on fire. Burning water, Moses thinks to himself. The sound is maddening, as if it’s trying to communicate. Moses thinks, the phones, the cyberspace accounts, all this collapse of the genuine world, now it is shouting at us! Is it a voice of god? Regardless, I can’t give in, I can’t convert to such a mindless culture!
Moses returns to his car, and decides to drive to his cellphone provider. Moments later, a short, slightly stoned worker exits the bistro, and gasps at the fiery water. He runs to the faucet in an effort to turn it off.
He shouts, “Goddamn Hydro-fracking!”
Moses is driving, he in an obscure condition, murky thoughts flooding to the surface of his perception. But he is committed that he must now end his contract, that he must have zero connection to the cellular viewpoint. Abruptly he sees a call coming from a private number.
“Hello, this is Moses Johnson?”
“Hey Ron Jeremy, hope I’m not interrupting more of your homemade porn. This is detective Dunamis.”
“Detective!” Moses is on the verge of turmoil, “What’s happening? Did you look into the camera surveillance at the hookah lounge?”
“No, actually, we discovered a transaction made with your credit card minutes before the crime took place. It was at a gas station miles away. The type of cigarettes you bought doesn’t link to the type found, too. We checked reports indicating Rodney Valavanis had quit smoking due to some shamanic exercise bullshit. We called to inform you about this update; however, we will still be in contact with you for some time as a precaution.” Moses feels relieved. “Now about that eye-talian girl. We are quite interested in her story; we may need you to send that sex video to us in the event,” Moses hangs up, driving madly across the city to his phone’s provider. No more, he reasons, no more of this cyber hook in my organic gills! Moses drives past graffiti print concerning someone’s dying sister…
A colossal building, surpassing, if one dared to guess, the troposphere; Moses beholds it as he pulls his car in to the parking lot with dimensions like a soccer field. After some time walking, he enters the building, and circumnavigates to the customer service. In a sea of blue-tooth yammering, Moses finally finds the line he belongs to, though he is becoming more and more convinced not a thing, or a line, or a culture exists that he belongs to. But… Audrey. Oh, sweet Audrey! He thinks to himself.
He takes out his phone, wondering about her. He wants to see a picture of her, though one he can view in public. He decides to open an AirTome app. He wonders, would it be wrong for me to log in under her account? I know her email. The password… Moses thinks back to the hookah lounge; he tries, ‘Carolina’ and is told: incorrect password. He tries, ‘Car0lina’ and is told: incorrect password. He tries a few more variations, ultimate, he tries, ‘[email protected]’ and is told: login successful!
Moses glances at Maggie’s AirTome profile wall, he sees a unique status: I love the freaks coming to my work!!!! None take the pot-cake like Moses Johnson, what with all his xenophobic jokes!!! I might have to spike his salvia if he dares mentions building a massive wall around the country!!!!
“My god! I never said anything of the sort! I’m not pro-panopticon!”
Moses is checking the profile wall of his former boss, Yuta Geldder: Good riddance you no good sex offender! #RIPMosesJohnson #Blond_Nonsense
“Sex offender!?” Moses is gasping, jostling off a panic attack, “How? Literally, how can you lie like that? You can’t just make false claims like that! It’s slander, Abraham damnit! Yuta, oh Yuta, we had so many good times together,” Moses squints his eyes as he sulks throughout the busy store. “Is this what it comes to? You fire me? And try to set my reputation on fire as well? I gotta call him. Try to reconcile!”
Moses checks Audrey’s wall: If you’re so paranoid about crime and big brother, why don’t you move out of the ghetto? #NotGetingIt #InnerCityBlues #MakeHimWannaHoller
“None,” the gasping ceases, “none of these people talk like this to my face… what would happen if I confront them? Would they admit to their hypocritical gossip? Are they so confident to badmouth someone who is off the grid? So positive I’ll never see it? They plainly speak to my face with friendship; afterwards they stab me in the digital back, first chance. There’s no point, no point at all in confronting them. Nobody admits to making mistakes anymore. I could just picture Audrey saying someone hacked her account and said those things, or Maggie saying it’s all a mistake, someone altered the screen or the screenshot or my very fucking cornea!” he covers his face, “generations of people hell-bent on believing the lies they spread… Those fuckin’ yentas!”
“Jesus Christmas!” A young mother beside Moses is covering her mouth, “Watch your tongue! I’m here to buy my seven-year-old his first smartphone. Don’t you want to set a good example?”
Moses reflects, I’m setting a bad example? “Sure. Listen up.” He bends down, looks the kid in the eyes, “when you mature, start socializing, don’t be a scandalmonger like everyone else in this city, this country, actually. Tell the truth; worship the truth like a scientist would, and when you mess up, cause you will, just be honest. We may live in a phase where a slip of the tongue gets you a lifetime sentence, but you’ll have your integrity, knowing you didn’t lie! You were honest. You can carry that quality anywhere. You can’t lose it, as you might a material toy, as, say… a cellphone!”
“I’m so excited to get my cellphone,” the young boy puts his hands on his hips, “ah gosh, what’ll I do once the battery dies!?”
Moses derisively leers, grasping it all, “How the fuck will you survive?”
“I’ve had it! You’re corrupting him! Be gone!” The mother hits Moses with her Michael Kors handbag, loaded with USB chargers she is planning to shoplift.
Moses runs over to the tablet section, he holds up one tablet containing all the rules, the directives of the modern technological revolution. He holds the tablet up in the air, shouting, “This is the work of Satan! You’re all becoming slaves to the wireless!” He throws it to the ground, and runs out of the building. Many are worried; several are too busy texting furiously to notice.
Moses is outside the building, albeit from an improper exit. He sees a manager disavowing an employee. “What did I tell you about the warranty plan? You always pitch the warranty plan! At least four times, you don’t even go near a register until you’ve pitched it four times, you pisshead!”
“Sir,” the employee is cowering, “I, I, just, I knew their financial situation, they barely had enough money for the phone. They just, they wanted something for their daughter to carry, when she walks home, it’s a dangerous neighborhood they live in. There was a triple homicide there recently!”
“There could be a genocide for all I care! Just pitch them a phone good enough to film it all with a fucking warranty! How else will I get my bonus!?” And in a moment of sightless wrath, Moses from behind smashes his smartphone in the back of the manager’s head.
“My god…” the young worker is shocked, he bends down and checks the pulse, “He’s… he’s dead. You murdered him! You… set me free. I felt like a slave, to all these masters, or, I mean, managers. I was their slave, they, they treated me so badly, so inhumanly!” Moses has saved the wage-slave’s life and integrity, but at the expense of another’s life. Moses runs to his car, perplexed, wordless, he drives, thinking about the blood on his smartphone. This is real. This happened moments ago. Somebody, some father’s son, some kid’s father, somebody’s neighbor, killed… Moses thinks, I myself just lost a neighbor, three actually. This, this can’t be real. I just, I couldn’t believe what he was saying, so numb to violence, and he even joked of genocide! My phone, there is blood on it…
There is blood on Moses’ smartphone.
Detective Ennis sits in his office. The cyber clock on his wall ticks away, but with a scraping metal sound, the kind dentists get hard over. Detective Dunamis enters the office.
“The tits on that eye-talian, huh?”
“Mmm,” Ennis is finding trouble in merely replying.
“Fuck, man, well; we should get back to rifling within those keyword searches. Moses Johnson is looking to be absolved from this one. He’s likely innocent. Had nothing to do with those murders.”
“I guess not,” Ennis wants to cry, but the seasonal change has left him with dry eyes, “but somebody did… somebody killed three people. I mean, they could have been scumbags for all we know, and we know a lot, but we never met them, asked them about their dreams; asked them if they even had dreams. Maybe they did… Dreams of leaving such a rotten part of the city? …Maybe…”
“Dreams of scheming addicts out of their money?” Dunamis says cynically.
“Proba-fucking-ly, but in the end, they were fuckin’ slaughtered, Dunamis! They’re still people. Don’t you know about empathy?”
Dunamis whistles for a second, “yeah, it’s that rehabilitation clinic, right?” he smiles like a bastard, “awe, c’mon, that was clever, that joke, right?”
“Everybody jokes,” Ennis says, until the guns are pointed in their stomach, he thinks to himself, and looks down at his lap.
Moses is driving down the street when he finally pulls over and abandons his car. There is too much on his mind, and none of it can be sorted. Moses gazes down the strip, to his left several thrift stores, and to his right, oddly enough, fast food chains and clothing retail. Outside the shops there is a sea of cellphone users. There could be fires and they’d never know, each one is so engulfed by that portable screen. Moses cannot take it anymore: the cellphones, the tablets, the fancy laptops, the cyber-watches, cyber-glasses, the wireless transmissions, the radiation, it’s everywhere! Moses reaches both hands out, and he parts the technological waves. All electronic devices up in the air crammed to the left and right, and in that suspension, Moses walks forward, down the middle of his path, between two waves of electronic products, enough to fill up the Indian ocean, but just then a car nearly kills him. The noise of the car’s horn knocks Moses out of his purifying trance, sprawling daftly to the floor. He looks to the left and to the right; nothing has changed, they are all still consumed, and most of them filmed his very stumbling. Nobody seemed eager to say ‘watch out!’ they just filmed on…
Moses darts away to a dark, discreet alley.
The sunlight leaves, and with it, belief in god. It is nighttime in early spring in a dark alley where junkies dwell.
“I’m…” Moses begins, tightening the greasy baseball cap he found; “I’m a fugitive.” He walks among the alley’s intricate maze. It is an architectural matrix, where outcasts roam with loads of paperback novels, magazines, stale donuts, small bonfires, and all types of ad hoc assignments. He wishes for a blackout. A blackout so substantial, he thinks, the city’s hundreds of thousands of natives would wander around, with no GPS to lead them, no cellphone to film clumsy blonds, just wandering around for years, for decades even! …No more showing off the blond hair, Moses raises his jacket as close to his chin as reliable. Hours are passing by, like the fancy cars, like the clockwork sun…
“And so, there I was, pitted against this cruel, no good monster of salaries, a man who knows very well,” Moses points his finger in the air, high and mighty, “that the majority of humans are so dependent on living paycheck to paycheck, they’re practically slaves! Slaves I say! This manager was belittling his slave to such a degree, I wanted to knock some sense into him!” Moses doesn’t want to belabor his story over the sounds of the crackling bon fire, “I hit him with the smartphone Audrey had bought me.” The homeless are sitting around the insufficient blaze; each one looks amused at the tale.
“I once taught about ancient cultures, like Mesopotamia, and it’s hard to theorize, but if a slave ever disavowed his master, he risked the removal of his ear. Ugh, man, they didn’t even consider prison worthy for slaves, if the rulers picked up excessive disobedience, they’d just execute the son of a bitch. It happens everywhere in civilization, the ones considered ‘civilized’ treat their property so heartlessly, even if we remove the insanity of ‘owning’ another human, how unwise to think they’ll be productive when you test the boundaries of their integrity…”
“Integrity…” Moses echoes, exhaling deeply. “You know so much! I’m impressed.”
“I used to be a history teacher.” The vagrant says, looking at the floor with an indiscernible brand of discredit. “But the slaves, the slaves were everywhere, and they never had power. You could dismember the word ‘democracy,’ to mean ‘people power,’ or the ‘people’s rule,’ in Greek but women barely had a say in the early archetypes of it, and slaves never had a pennyworth, that’s surefire. The wage-slaves never have a say in how a business could run. The servile-class, it never finished… I can recall for some older civilizations, the courts could rule the debtor be the creditor’s slave, the courts, because a man couldn’t pay off his debt! That’s America now! Aristotles, judging some to be even born slaves, run the world! How could one judge a baby so hastily? Let’s not forgot how far the Romans took it…”
Moses thinks of Audrey nailed to a telephone pole for treason of love. She is in her undies, wetting herself, texting in one hand. Moses fights off his erection. He wonders if maybe Yuta was right afterall…
“Bhat Bappened bext?” A toothless hobo asks Moses.
“Well… the retail ruler died. I couldn’t believe it! I never wanted that, I just! I… lost it. For a man to know the wage-slavery, to even participate in it, seems to me a greater sin than murder. But… the blow to the head was too hard.”
“But he was a felonious man! A tyrant abusing the lower class! You slayed a monster, Moses! It was good that you murdered him. One less evil man around!” Some of the hobos are smiling through their missing teeth.
“One murder…” Moses looks around the dark alley, inspecting the area for any food he can salvage. He looks up at the cancer-tinted moon, in disbelief of his own existence. “…One murder is too many… And yet, all over the world, it happens. Doesn’t matter if you work for the government, the police, if you’re a criminal, an artist, a priest; nobody has the right to kill.” Moses senses the holiest of sorrows discharge throughout his dispossessed body. “When will we learn?” Moses says faintly to himself. He stands up and walks to the edge of his alley, staring at people hopping from bar to bar down the grubby sidewalk; laughing rowdily, taking selfies of each other with their phones. They seem blissful, and the image, temporarily, makes Moses smile. They’re happy, he realizes, that’s all that matters.
Moses roams around some dumpster until he finds a man crawling on the floor. He adjusts his blanket wrapped around his back, in the style of a cape.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
The young man on the floor is in agony, the kind of pain some are afraid to even envision. “I… I’m dope sick. And it’s hittin’ me… real fuckin’ hard, man.” Moses removes his sunglasses, to see eyes covered in strange liquid membranes, “I can’t… go on. Life is too much. I’ve made… too many mistakes…”
“Don’t say that,” Moses speaks, “you can change things around. You can go to rehab, you can start over!”
“My sister… I was jonesing so bad; I pushed… her down the stairs. I knew that, I knew the doc would give her painkillers… That’s how my habit formed! I was injured in car wreck… Doctors forced… painkillers on me. I heard from… friends, it happened, AH! …Happened to them, too. The habit was too much. So each day, I took a… few more from her container… in the end… she never recovered. She’s going to die soon… it’s my fault. FUCK! My addiction’s fault! Where… where are the… doctors… writing prescriptions… for willpower? Why… they pushin’ on… the vulnerable?” Speaking is painful for the young man.
The young man is going into a seizure. In his trembling voice he says, “don’t… phone…for…help.” His unsteady hands toss his cellphone, along with pill containers out of his sweatshirt’s pouch. “I… I… wanna… die.” The young man whispers.
Moses inquiries, seconds before the young man’s death: could this alley fit a vigil?
Moses appraises the scene. Someone so young, already giving in to death, he thinks. Meanwhile, those three were slain the other night, and the killer is still at large! “What am I doing in this era? More like an error! I don’t belong here… A lot of us don’t. I’m just an outdated model, looking for a junkyard. Well, I’ve found a junky-alley, does that suffice?” Moses speaks out loud to nobody expecting no responses. “Maybe this is the place for me to call it quits,” he thinks for a moment, after working up the suicidal nerve, accepting once it’s through, he won’t feel a thing, the natural exodus we all unstoppably face, “…but one last thing…”
Moses grabs the young man’s smartphone. He finds an application that’ll record him, and immediately upload it to the Internet. He takes the container the young man tossed to the side. There is no label; it is a mix, all classes of pharmaceuticals. He decides to swallow all the pills simultaneously, certain the dosage and fusion would lead to forthcoming doom. He begins recording, quickly broadcasting his story, candidly, and ending it with a wink.
THUS WINDUPS THE ODD & TRAGIC MYTH OF MOSES JOHNSON~
Mary Fewko, Thursday, March 27, 2014
THE ODD & TRAGIC MYTH OF MOSES JOHNSON.