The shape of the man was curious until it became apparent that he wasn’t. He walked past our position without so much as a nod or glance and came to rest at the opposite wall. There would be opportunities to determine the nature of his shape later, but despite our best efforts we were currently somewhat more concerned with our own. His looking at everyone but us drew attention to the fact that he had likely seen us entering unaware and had made some arbitrary spiteful decision to pay no mind. It was not that concerning other than his shape, which was expanding due to his repeated mechanical withdrawing of food from a plastic bag in his hand. There were rules about such things. He may have had a hat, but it was getting dark so it was hard to tell. Everyone else seemed fine.
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Laura and Sigmund are so in love and everything’s just great; long walks, hiking, dinners in the evening air. They often expressed the sentiment to one another that they were the luckiest people in the world. On a fairly standard evening they decided to try a new bar in their area. Upon arriving they found that it was far louder, darker, and crowded than they could have possibly imagined. Laura screams to Sigmund that she needs to use the restroom and gestures for him to stay put. She comes back from the restroom and embraces Sigmund, they make out while leaning on the bar; blissfully neglectful of the scowls they are receiving from those surrounding them. More drinking and revelry in the dark fade into a an impressionist haze of evening.
Sigmund wakes the next morning to find that the girl he came home with wasn’t Laura at all, and in fact bared very little resemblance to his purported soul mate. Laura stands in the doorway to their bedroom crying and asks why he has done this to them. The other girl wakes up and asks who Laura is and why is is she standing in she and Sigmund’s bedroom. Sigmund asks the same thing and tells the Laura he was sleeping beside to call the police. The crying Laura in the door asks what’s going on, but Laura of the bed simply gropes Sigmund and tells her she needs to leave. Laura screams that she has no place else to go, but Sigmund simply says, “How?” and then she notices three wolves pacing the living room that was once hers. Without any notice the wolves smash through the bedroom wall and consume Sigmund and Laura of the bed. Laura of tears runs out the front door only to find a monolithic traffic barrel in her front yard that reaches infinitely into the sky.
Sigmund’s car pulls up in the driveway and he gets out and frantically tells her that he’s been searching for her all night and he’s been so worried. The back of his car is pulsating with cats, making her doubt that he is who he says he is. He tells her that they’re in someone else’s yard and they need to go home.
-Do you ever get the feeling people are looking at you?
-Well I think people look at me a lot.
-I mean, that’s possible I guess. Whenever that happens to me I just assume they’re having trouble determining my gender.
-I don’t think there’s any question you’re a guy. Do you think that’s why people look at me?
-No, you’re certainly not a guy. I didn’t mean it like that.
-How did you mean it then?
-That’s just my perspective.
-Oh. So you really think people think you’re a girl.
-Yeah, most of the time anyway. Maybe I’m projecting though and I want them to think I’m a girl.
-Why would you want that?
-I assume the alternative would be that they’re looking at me because I’m grotesque or have some deformity that is imperceivable to me. Why do you think people look at you?
-I guess I think they can read my thoughts.
-Does that concern you?
-What? That I think people can read my thoughts or that my thoughts are being read?
-Umm… either I guess.
-Well it obviously concerns me or I wouldn’t have brought it up. At least I know you can’t read my thoughts or you wouldn’t have asked that question, or maybe you can and you’re just humoring me.
-Is this like a phobia?
-I think it’s closer to paranoid schizophrenia actually, but my thoughts are usually pretty well-ordered, so I’m not so concerned that I’m going to have a panic attack or anything.
-How can thoughts be well-ordered?
-Just like you’d clean and organize a room, you can clean and organize your thoughts. Everything in their right place. Thoughts at the fore should be present and concise, thoughts behind calculated and clear,and so on down the line. Wow. I’m sorry, I sound like my mother.
-Does your mother think people can read her thoughts too?
-No, but she’s very religious and believes thinking something is as bad as doing it, so by keeping thoughts in order it’s easier to prevent undesirable ones.
-Very Orwellian, and no, I can’t read your thoughts. If I could what would I be seeing?
-A brightly lit tea room; white china, wicker chairs, green grass visible through a screened in porch.
-Is that where you grew up?
-No, I lived in a beat up rancher near a rural suburb. I’ve never been someplace like the tea room, but it’s easy to focus on. You do know of course that you’re a pretty big guy right? I mean I can’t imagine anyone thinking you’re female.
-So what’s in the rooms connected to the tea room?
-Just crucifixes and bibles stacked floor to ceiling. Are you avoiding your gender doubt?
-No. Are you avoiding telling me what’s going on a few thought layers down?
-No. Why don’t you just look yourself.
-I just see the normal stuff; you know medieval torture devices, then a strip of sand bordering a sea of lava with magma spouts funneling into low jet black clouds; a hooded figure dumping cauldrons full of dolphin pups into the lava. Are you the hooded figure?
-No, that’s an intern. I’m supervising from the lighthouse at the end of the beach.
-The one with the red light?
-Did you notice any others?
Are these star-crossed lovers organ thieves or grinders. Robbers of banks or people. Escaping some destiny laid before one of them who only finds shelter from his or her fate in the arms of the other. A road trip, an odyssey of Ulyssiad proportions. Lost in a forest, in a cabin, near a lake, on a mountain or burial mound as it may happen to be. A cave, an abyss or maybe just a cat, a date, a follower of sorts through rain-slicked nightscapes, down alleys and sewers alike to escape the unknown who may or may not be herding them to some destination of malcontent on the edge of a pier with no escape other than the cold dark sea. More to the one for the other to understand; the decision of course is which would be which and why. Scars in one cerebral in the other. Scars to the cerebral as the cerebral tends to madness and scars, generally anyway, seek quietude. A quest of sorts or not, perhaps some meandering, but that probably won’t be the case as some fantastic has already been introduced. So fantastic quest into a perilous nightscape with one to the other, eventually better, or not, maybe dead, eventually, but with illumination.
He did not do well outdoors. It wasn’t that elements or allergens had some negative effect on his biology; moreso it was the sound, or lack thereof. Most of the time all he really wanted to hear was the low hum of central air or the high-pitched drone of a computer monitor. He took some solace in the rumble of nearby highways, but on the occasions when there was nothing for him to find, he more often than not ended up bumping into walls and passersby as a way to assert his existence. It was during a particularly unpleasant episode that he stumbled down a somewhat concealed stairwell and into the mouth of a waiting giant squid.
Baltimore Maryland’s hospitality industry generates over 5 billion dollars in annual revenue; about the same as the city’s drug trade. Aggressive gentrification has transformed the landscape into an ever changing kaleidoscope of narcotics and death that outsources those valuable commodities throughout the eastern seaboard, but that’s not what this story is about. This story is about a girl named Jane and a girl named Kelly and how I successfully failed to murder either of them; it also happens to take place in Baltimore.
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I would describe this as surreal noir. It is mechanical in nature and operates like a paradoxical clock, but it’s also entertaining and I hope at least occasionally amusing
It wasn’t until much later that he realized where he was going. The building in front of him might as well be completely featureless for its lack of personality. A moderately well dressed man sat on the planter near the entrance and surveyed him suspiciously as he approached. No words needed exchanging, just the mutual nods generally resulting from extended eye contact. She was small and wore pastels to cheer herself up, but was somewhat bashful by nature so doubly aware of the attention her clothes drew. He sat in the waiting room and attempted to relax so that she might relax, because increased tension in these situations can compromise outcomes. Once he entered the inner office the receptionist’s nervousness seemed more warranted than he had given her credit. Following the not altogether difficult procedure he left the building the way he came, passing the moderately dressed man, who upon being passed, turned and re-entered the building.
He saw a bar across the street, and lacking many more appointments for the week, walked over and ordered a drink. The bartender regarded him warmly and made conversation about the weather and unremarkable current events. After a few drinks, the bartender put a pack of matches beside the drink and gestured to the back of the room. He picked up the matches, read the instructions on the cover and then walked to the bathroom in the corner. It took a few more minutes than he had anticipated, but he eventually returned to his stool and struck up a conversation with the receptionist from across the street. She had apparently only been in the city for a month and didn’t really know anyone, but for some reason had no problem explaining in detail all the events in her life that had led up to this point.