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First Chapterss


Aaron Bone

Dark sky. Purple clouds that are full pregnant with rain but just no labour pains. No externalisation of anything anywhere. The air like filthy drapes of wet linen fingering my face. Stale puffs of smoke fixed to the ends of thin chimneys hiding themselves behind my eyelashes.
I’m walking.
"Absolutely no dogs allowed until further notice."
Why don’t they ever write something funny on these signs? I’m on my way into the Gloverstone Municipal Park. Not exactly the best place to set one foot in front of the other. But it’s all right. Every mud has its green blade of grass. I’m not the only one walking through the later then Late Victorian Garden. Concrete grass embroideries. They had to save somewhere. Or am I the only one walking? Can’t really see anybody else. There’s five or so people with their Mitshubishi van, working, of course. But they don’t really count. They’ve got some crazy dress on. Orange security clothing. High visibility stripes all over their bodies. Things in front of their mouths. Why does everything modern always look so morbid? Why does everybody look so modern? Who is everybody? How many more stupid questions will it take until I smash my fist into my brain to help it make sense? Okay. One more.

What is sense?
"If this bench here were a couch, then you would be my television." At least that was what this guy says to me. He’s sitting on his "couch" like a fat oyster out of water. His skin dried up and hiding itself in its own creases. His limbs folded like a squatting ant. His head like some phallic fungus, his hair the pileus ready to explode into a single nauseating mass of sperm. He isn’t really the kind to invite anybody to do anything except to gross out and keep their distance.
I sit down beside him. Kind of liking the way he demonstrates his total disgust of the world and disgust the world has for him. He doesn’t only look thrown up, he looks redigested and discarded. Like everybody had wanted his turn to decline him. Like he wanted to hear it from every single soul that he was a dismay, appalling, disillusioning, stripping. Not that he was ever asking for anything. He is just giving all the answers.

"You like rats?" We are talking. Making the start of it. I think rats are ugly little naked no-goods and tell him so. And there’s him saying something positive about the vermins, he’s complaining about people like me, catapulting them poor creatures into some devilish unhygienic realm. After a moment we aren’t really talking about just rats anymore, although we were both supposing. Talking about rodents. It does make it easier to take words like extermination and extirpation into my mouth. It’s so wonderfully simplistic.

Then he has this piece of cheese in his hand. Holds it right up to my nose. His hand stinks, his fingernails all yellow, brittle, soiled. I’ve seen cheese before. Thank you. Don’t really have to look at it like that. That’s what I think to myself. No matter what the guy does, I’m not going to eat it. No, I’m not. Not even for money. Not if he promises me something. Not even if he tells me his name. He doesn’t even offer the piece of cheese to me.

He has a little flask in his hand. Puts a few drops of something on the cheese. The merging smile on his face revealing a whole museum of dental pathologies. A whole bouquet of decay. He puts the piece of cheese on his one knee, like it’s something valuable. Carefully balanced. Then he tinkers the lid back on the tiny brown glass flask. Stores it in some invisible part of his coat. Turns his dark smile to me and suddenly jerks with his knees. The cheese falls some two feet in front of his left foot. About three feet from my right.

"You just look." Then he’s silent and seems to find anything else more interesting. So I wait. Look at the piece of cheese. It’s very quiet. Birds rustling in the shrubs. Bits of trash making their paper or plastic noises with the wind. Something pushing itself through the corner of my left eye. Nothing there, as I turn my head to look. It’s still. Seems like all the birds have gone away and know what's coming. Like the trees hold their breath and try hard not to cause a scene. Another shadow in my eye’s corner to the right.

A rat. Advancing like it’s moving itself on Hilton’s red carpet. Like it’s stealing it’s way back out again after spending a night under the kitchen table there and drinking all the drops of alcoholic food. It’s coming from my side. I’m not sure whether rats know humans as such or just the big moving creatures. I’m not moving. I’m just looking and hoping that it doesn’t... it does. I don’t scream, I don’t move. It puts it’s nose at my shoe. Runs over it to the next one. I can feel the breath of wind between the end of my sock and my pant. Keeps itself in the shadow of the foot to the right of mine. And dives for the cheese, grabs it, runs a yard, stops and takes a gulp.

It’s only seconds. Something starts moving inside of the rat’s body. Convulsing. Like something from inside wants to put itself over the rat’s outside. Like there’s a small ball rolling inside its stomach, back and forth, from the teeth to tail. Then the breathing comes up. I can actually hear the small lungs trying to force something in and out. In and out. It seems to get harder and harder for the rat to lift it’s rib cage. Like a musical clock playing it’s last tune and fading away. Then seizures grab the legs, the neck. The back forms arcs and tufts. Knotting itself into a single sheet to cover itself. The birds don’t cry. The trees are still. Like everything around is simply watching silently in awe.

How sick can a guy get? I try to spare my eyes from looking at him again. I get up from the bench, slowly. I don’t want to challenge the maniac next to me. Not with anything. I move like I’m an old ship, cutting the ropes. Like I don’t want to see the loved one I’m leaving behind. The dead something that used to be a rat like the beacon I can look at instead. Fixing my attention until I’m away far enough to have it all blended into one immaculate horizon.

I pass the orange men again. Their green gloves shine in the moist air. Their masks gives them something official. They wave at me as I pass. I wave back. They seem so far away. Maybe ten yards. What a haze has put itself up around me. The grey furry ball which is dead now still as close as the water I’m sailing over. The cut ropes still holding me back, cause they are heavy, soaked through and hanging into the waves behind me.

I sleep with the rat running through my dreamy mind. On one of those bogie wheels. Running to my feet and nose. A leaden anchor tied to my left lung and my right one helping out to pull the left one free. My legs throwing themselves around me. The nice new red jacket I get as a present, and me standing before the mirror admiring until everything gets sharp and then I see the coat is stitched out of the insides of my gut. Admiring myself. Can’t help feeling big. Can’t help that something beautiful is happening to me.

Next day I’m in the park again. Like something pulled me there. Maybe the heavy ropes I should have heaved on board? The sign with the dogs not allowed to go in is still there. It’s still not really funny. But then who wants to laugh? The orange plastic men with their masks and goggles and gloves still working and waving. I wave back.

I don’t want to see him. He wouldn’t come back to the place a second time after what he did? Would he? I even sent a letter to the local security department to look out for the guy. I think the public has to be informed. I think it’s everybody’s right to know what’s going on.
The clouds are shifting from blue to grey again today. It gets really dark all of the sudden, and then light comes to shine once more. Still just the solitude of a couple of trees handing their leaves around. Still it’s just the absence of the birds that remind me that there is any living creature of such kind. Still it’s just the mud below my feet that make me hope for some green. Clouds like an unbreakable net hovering above. I remember the yellow of the sun. But what do I care? The sun might as well be purple just as long as it shines. The sun isn’t shining so it might as well be black.
I don’t see him. Not on the bench, not on the grass, not in the shrubs. Just the orange working men waving. I wave back. Friendly ones, they are.

First it’s one. Then two. The rats again. Coming out on the walk. Jerking their tiny bellies in their tummy dance. Shaking their legs in choreographed baldness. Their lungs hopping to their own wheezy march. Heels together, click, click, click. Hearts beat faster, tick, tick, tick. Chasing themselves, tock, tock, tock. Can you guess who, knock, knock, knock?

There’s hundreds of them. Coming from the shrubs, the trees, the benches. Like they all want to be part of the crowd. Like they are in it just for this. Colliding bodies. Dying stumble over dead ones. Dying ones are pushed by the dancing. The dancing squashed by the running. The running traced by the feasting. The feasting haunted by their feasted ones.

I don’t believe that any one could do something like this. It’s thousands. Ever more bodies forming a brighter shade of grey as they become the soft velvet foil seaming my feet. I can’t believe that anyone could do this. Bones cracking under my feet. Mounding themselves. Better to shove them out of the way then to loose my step in their mass. Two waves form before my skating feet. Two waves of grey little bodies. Two waves loosing themselves somewhere behind me. Like I’m a ship and there are two ropes I forgot to pull in. I’ve got to pull them in. And then there are the friendly orange men waving behind me. Waving furiously. Until they become part of the one immaculate horizon.

© Aaron Bone, April 2001

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