Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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Cutters and Crazies

by Jason Wisecup



Preface

wish I could explain this. can't. doesn't work like that. i can show you how if felt maybe. i can try. - Jillian.


Prologue - The Hotel

You laugh as you slowly cut the middle finger from his hand. Not necessary. You laugh as you cut the hand from the arm. Necessary to fit it in the briefcase. Looking in the bathroom mirror. You smile. You laugh. You cry. Crying. Crying. Crying. Uncontrollable. Put the finger and the arm in the briefcase. Snap. Put it on the floor.

Pick it up from next to the sink. Feeling the cold metal in hand. Cool, cold, smooth metal. The handle grip fits so well. There is a knock at the door to the hotel room. Composure reclaimed. Laughing again. Knock knock. Not the maid. Not now. Put the gun in mouth. Knock knock. Cool metal against tongue. Knock knock.

Boom. Splatter of red against the wall.

Slam against the hotel door. Slam against the hotel door. Slam. Slam. Door breaks open. They look around the apartment. They look in the bathroom. They look at the blood on the wall. They look at the body on the floor. They lost you. They lost you again.


Chapter 1 - Walter The Magnificent

Walter Mazrim runs from them. He has been running from them for his whole life. He has been running from them for everyone’s life. For all of time. Everywhere. In all towns. In all cities. In all countries. In all worlds.


***

Cut to New Orleans. 4am. Devil's Night.

Jillian. She cuts through bourbon street. The costumes are amazing. Amazing. An axe-murderer. A shocker. Inspired. All the bars are obscenely crowded. People scream. There are those, strange, pina colada mix drinking machines. Everywhere. Laughing. Raucous laughing. Joyousness. Debauchery.

She finishes her flask off. She tilts it high and for a long time. Pulls it away above her face into the air. The last drops fall into her mouth. She throws the flask against a side of a building.

She leaves Bourbon street and wanders into the darkness of the quarter. Not a place to be. Robbers looking for the swaying fratboy. Rapists looking for..., well, her. She looks for a backdoor into it. She finds... something.... She wanders through a long, dark hallway into a vampiresque building.

The doorperson checks her id. Was there a doorperson? The memory is lost in the haze of the wine.

She moves through the bar quickly. Narrow pathways. Strange visions. A library? Seriously? She is moving so quickly. And it's gone. What the hell would be in a library in a place like this? She regrets not sticking around to browse. But she can't. She can't. She moves down the conveyer belt.

Into the area where she should never have gone.

The "bar" is hidden in the quarter just outside the reach of the stumbling souls of Bourbon Street. The remnants of Devil’s Night stalk this main chamber. Miller High Life bottles: $3.00. Skulls line the walls. The "haze" makes the bar feel like a dream.


***

Walter notices that Jillian has entered the bar. His forehead itches because of his black wig. Death metal blares. People sleep in cages. People dance alone in circles. Costumes are appropriate here. Jillian wears no costume, her normal clothes are costume enough. Walter and Jillian lean against the bar and stare out at the crowd.

Jillian: Well, that was an interesting trip.

Walter: Is it really so different from usual? On planes, you just kinda appear at the new place. We just cut out the boring illusion, the part where you sit in a big metal tube with rocket fuel tied to back and shoot through the air.

Jillian: Who is this "We" you refer to?

Walter: Next time I’ll put in a fun transition. We gotta keep you tethered. But, not too tethered.

He doesn’t look at her. He never looks at her.

Jillian leaves the bar, dances with a nearby death-head. He melts into her. Her frail body glamours him. He pursues her for the rest of the night. She buys him a Mill Hi. He is too drunk and leaves her alone eventually. There is a girl, a black girl, dressed as "Dorothy." She is having sex on the bar with Mr. Peanut. A couple feet away from her. They are absorbed, notice nothing else. No one.

Jillian returns to the bar next to Walter. They stare into the crowd of dancers. Don’t look at each other.

J: I wish you'd just look at me once. Just look at me. If you want me to cut my wrists, I’d cut my wrists. Really cut 'em. I'd know exactly what I was doing. Know where to hit.

She stares into the crowd. Does not look at him. He does not look at her.

W: Then what?

She walks away from the bar. Dances alone. In ecstasy. There is clarity. Colors mix and there is no form.

Walter wonders


***

In this dimension they were friends. Mentor and protégé. In another they were enemies. In another, they did not know the other existed. In the next

Walter couldn't really remember the first time he did it. His memory worsened by the day. He wondered if his mind was erasing parts of it to protect him. Surge protecting. His memories were mixing with Jillian's. For weeks, weeks, he had thought Jillian was the stage magician. He only remembered when he saw his business card.

Perhaps The Consensus was starting to change his mind. He did remember, when he first started to do it, that he would be close to it.... so very close. Then he couldn't do it . . . because he had forgotten what he was doing. Perhaps Synapse had created something to obstruct it. Or someone was suppressing it directly. The Jester perhaps.

One time her Dad had passed out by the washer, and she had put a blanket over him. She put herself to bed. She was 8 years old.

Again. Not his memory. It was common now. He was becoming untethered. He had to finish with Jillian before he moved on.

He wasn't sure if The Jester would kill her. He could. He could kill Walter too. Walter was surprised The Jester hadn't killed him. After the incident with Spider.

Walter sat in fron


***

The Artisan.

Walter sat alone in the Artisan hotel. Alone at the table. Alone in the restaurant. Alone in the world. Fulfilled. He had found what he sought. This world bored him. All worlds bored him. After what, in his mind, in all minds, had been a millenia, of trying everything, failing, succeeding, being a hero, a villain, being everything, and nothing. It was time to move on.


Chapter 2 - Awakening

"The first sign of understanding is the wish to die." - Franz Kafka

Jillian's parents walk her through the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Vegas. In its heyday, this hotel was a true marvel.

Now it sucked. Loser acrobats swung around or whatever the fuck it is they do under the indoor big top. Clowns made balloons for small children, who laughed at their stupid, big red noses and sweat-stained suits.

The blood on her arms was starting to soak through her sweatshirt sleeves. Sweatshirt sleeves she was wearing in July in Vegas.

The Circus Circus was a jaded, dark version of its former self. The clown mosaics in the hall had changed from bright, vivid colors to washed out, dark visions. Clown nightmares any self-respecting kid has experienced. She was starting to feel weak. Almost there, like five more minutes of winding through this casino maze before she could sit. Passing out would make them suspicious.

Jillian breaks the tab off her Pepsi can. She rubs the corner of it repeatedly against the side hole in the can. It makes a subtle screeching noise. Jillian's mother shoots her an annoyed look.

Her parents. Robots. She was amazed at the strange complexity for what they knew though. They were insurance salesmen. Or teachers. Or business owners. It really didn't matter. They were good at whatever it was they did. They were servants and they pleased their masters.


***

You see her walk by. Almost time for a break anyway. You love all this goddamn makeup. Love it! And, your balloon animal making skills are really coming along. Scaring the fuck out of little kids is also a bonus.


***

"Finally," said her father. And before them was a sign for the show they were attending:

THE MAGNIFICENT WALTER

Hypnotist, Mentalist, Magician, Entertainer

Shows: 8pm, 10:30pm.

Dark on Wednesdays

"No fucking way," Jillian said. "Seriously?" They ignored her and went inside. Oh well. At least she would get to sit down.

She rubs the pop tab against the can again. The edge of the tab starts to sharpen.

They sit down awkwardly, as the show has already begun. "Ladies and gentlemen... we present The Magnificent Walter," says a dark, rail thin show girl. They must have just missed some quasi-adult opening act. No wonder her parents spent so much time at the Egyptian slots.

This... Walter, enters the stage slowly from the side. He seems distracted. Jillian is stunned by how ridiculous he looks. He is wearing a white suit with white pleated shirt with a white bow tie and a white top hat. He is maybe 40. Maybe 50. Can't really tell. She couldn't believe there were still normal people doing fucking magic. Get a real fucking job.

"The Magnificent Walter will now perform" blah blah blah. The colors of the room interested her more than his tricks. The people. A hundred people of different auras and backgrounds. She sighed and fondled in her bag. Looking for her razors. She couldn't find them.

All of a sudden she is alone in the room with the magician. Is she asleep? Fuck, had she passed out?. He is staring at her. His deck of cards circle him in a shield-like motion.

And she snaps out of that. Walter is breaking out the Rabbit, the hat, the whole fucking deal. Her parents clap and stare forward. She must have dozed. Sleep would be better than this. She jostled her bag, looking for the razors again. Nothing. Plan B.

Her Dad orders two Vodka clubs. Two. Why two? Ahh. What if the waitress doesn't come back for a while? What if, god forbid, he doesn't have a drink for 5 mins.

The waitress seriously fucks up. Brings him a double.

"No, I said I wanted two. I'll keep this one, but bring me another... and, actually, make that one a double too," He says. He glances out the corner of his eye at Jillian. Not at her Mom. Her Mom is entranced by the show, or pretends to watch the show.

Jillian looks in her bag again.

"I need to use the restroom," says Jillian. And her mother responds with a nod but no look.

She navigates the casino floor, looking for the bathroom. She continues sharpening the tab on her pop can. The slot-machines play a melody of comfort. They almost make her feel like she is riding on a carpet. A thousand, a million, cigarettes couldn't change that. The only interruption is the grinding sound of the tab on her pop can.

In the bathroom, she rinses her face, and is very careful to not smudge her makeup. To never smudge her makeup.

She enters the stall.

Fuck him. Stupid fuck. Fuck.

She rolls up her sleeves. Some of the Band-Aids comes off as she does. It's been a busy week. She doesn't think her mom knows. Ha! Is she that stealthy? Ninja Jill.

Most of the wounds are fresh. Very small. She is methodical. She picks a fresh area. She considers herself an artist. Or a scientist, and this is her canvas.

I'm no Dali.

She examines the tab. And then she begins.

It's like cutting a piece of super tender meat. So, very slowly.

Hide the tries. Hide the tries from prying eyes.

Euphoria replaces all. She can do anything. She is one with it. Clarity.

She closes her eyes.

It drips. She starts to reach for the Band-Aids, but chooses to float a little longer. There is nothing else.

She doesn't know how long she floats. At times, when she does it, it seems like seconds, and other times, days. But, it doesn't make sense, it has no connection to reality. Often, it seems like 30 seconds has passed, but it is actually two hours later.

Something is wrong.

She didn't stop soon enough, kept pulling it down. Squirting. On the stall door. Red.... dark, dark red. Hello floor.

The Magician is standing over her. Looking down at her. He is smiling. WHY THE FUCK IS HE SMILING? Fuck.

Grasping for cell.

End memory.


***

She is at the hospital or something and she is in a hall of some type on a gurney, her arm is bandaged.

FUCK! What the hell happened?

There is another guy, in a gurney across from her. His head is all bloody. There are like pieces of his hair, or brain or something on the gurney next to his head. Looks fake.

"Hello," says a doctor or male nurse that came up to her.

Jillian: What happened?

D or Mnurse: Looks like you had a little accident. You were bleeding quite a bit. You hit an artery. There will be a social worker by to talk to you about it soon. Just know that you are okay.

Ahhh! She hit an artery. Fucking stupid move. Way to go Tesla.

Oh no.

J: Are my parents here?

D or Mnurse: Yes. They are outside. I've told them you are okay. You can go out and see them soon.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

The Doctor or man nurse or whatever he was leaves. So, bad night. What the hell am I gonna tell them? That I'm emotionally damaged? I'm a teenager. They will buy that.

"Looks like you could use some assistance?"

Jillian looks over at a row of chairs near the brain-all-over-the-gurney guy and the Magician loser is there.

J: What?

Magician-loser: You are in quite the pickle.

J: Pickle?

ML: It's a baseball term. A jam, I guess you could say.

J: Yeah. Hey, did you find me? What the hell were you doing in the ladies room?

ML: I wasn't. No problem. Hey, I'm gonna do you a favor and talk to your parents so they don't get upset out about this.

J: Ummm.... I think I can do that.

She was hazy, tired. Too much.

ML: Just rest. When you are part of this world again, we will talk.

End Memory.


***

"No darling. No. The magician was always on the stage. He didn't leave. You called 911 from your cell. I came to the bathroom after the show, looking for you, and the paramedics were just arriving," said her mom.

Jillian was confused. She was being discharged and felt much better.

"Was he here at the hospital?" asked Jillian.

"No dear. That pain medicine obviously made you hallucinate," Her mom replied.

She doubted that. In her bag, when she got dressed, she found a plain, white business card:

Walter Mazrim

The Odyssen Group

The Artisan Hotel

Las Vegas, Nevada

And, on the back:

6:40pm, July 20, 2008

"Are you upset with me?" said Jillian.

"Why would we be upset with you darling?" said her Mom.

"Why are we here again?" asked her Dad.

"Just need to stay more hydrated. You should know better", said her Mom.

Her Mom never looked at her arms. Her ridiculously bandaged arm. It's like she tried not to, like she couldn't.

Chapter 3 – Jillian

"The nature of reality dances on the tips of our tongues, but we rarely taste it."

15 years old. Brilliant. Scary. Scared. A cutter. I'll say that again, A cutter. Her white hair is a froish beehive. Pale skin. Slight figure. Doll-like. Fishnet stockings. Black and gray clothing. A stocking cap with Jack Skellington on it. Handle-bar nose ring. Her thoughts are jumbled and brilliant. Dyslexic? Autistic? Amazing!

A glance:

Razor blade cost has recently gone up. Like ten bucks for ten blades. Ridic. Can't believe this crap. Ten bucks every five days. Should get a job. No jobs these days. I could hand out those porn adverts on the strip. Def get hasseled myself. ... could make a ton that way. Ha!

Jillian stands in the super market. EVERYONE notices her. A white girl in a ghetto area of North Vegas. Her beauty and presence makes some instantly love her, and some instantly hate her. They ogle her. In some ways she doesn't notice. But, she always does. She can't hear anyway as her headphones are in. They are always in. She settles on the Gillete blades. Whatevs.

AP Calc test tomorrow. Need more blades for that. One before one afta. Teach is a perv. Maybe don't need any. Fuck him. I'll use three and maybe correct the sloppy questions.

She appears disheveled yet not. Her uber pale skin somehow glows.

She stares ahead with a furious glare. She doesn't understand what she is seeing, this world. She glances at her satchel pack, a Nietzsche Reader protrudes from it. She pushes it back in. It's for quick reference. She can't get it in. Her satchel pack is loaded down with books people don't read, just write theses on: Kierkegaard, Sartre, Foucault, Crowley. Her pack is also loaded with fiction, by authors that hide in the middle of the crowd: Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk. And those that hide everywhere, like Malaclypse The Younger. Ugh. The bag is heavy, the books are outweighed by the hairspray and dark lipstick she has in it.

She hums to herself and kinda dances through the aisles. Alone. Unaware of the world. Knocks over a paper towel display. Glances towards it. Crooked smile. Keeps dancing.

"Hey," says a young man that happens into the aisle. He is obv more than interested. Not bad. Not time though. Too much to do. Rearrange room. Message to answer. Must move on that.

She smiles. But walks away. Says nothing.

No more school. They hate her. They love her. She can just hang out in the bathroom tomorrow. No - a test. Gotta go. Can't avoid anymore. Can still get a C on Calc test and get an A for semest, but def need go. Tired. Sleepy. Cut fore bed? No. Low on cash this week.

Is the cashier suspicious? Buying blades weekly. There was the day all her longsleeves were in the wash. Nahh. She is spanic. Prolly has 8 kids. Too tired to think about anything else.

She leaves the store and puts the blades in her bag. Also, she buys 30 packs of Orbitz for good measure. Something to do. She waits for the bus on W Craig. A man waits with her. Uber tan. No shirt. Prolly a strip construction worker. He stands, but his eyes say he is asleep. He sees nothing. He doesn't care. A car could run him over. It would all be in the line of duty.

She is home - she reads - she reads - she reads. Remedios The Beauty vanishes. She surfs the net. She sleeps. She reads. Time for school.


***

Her dad is dying. He's an alcoholic. He says that's not why he's dying. She thinks the last time he said it was, "getting old" or perhaps "the environment" or that thing he was exposed to in the Navy. He would be right, if he really believed that. She stopped listening long ago. She is in his room in the hospital.

She texts:

"They don't have Diet Coke in the vending machine. Just Diet Pepsi. WTF?"

She tweets:

"I'm missing Wayward Ways cause my Dad is dying. How apropos."

That one actually makes her laugh to herself.

Her Dad is asleep. ish. Every once in a while he moves his arm, messing up the IV. The alarm goes off. The nurse comes in. Fixes it. Tells him not to move his arm. He can't understand cause he's basically unconscious. Repeat ad infinitum.

Her Mom left hours ago. Did she? She doesn't really remember.

She sobs silently.

Places to go. Things to do.

She packs up her book. Walks to the door. Her dad awakens. How? He says, "I love you."

She pauses.

"I love you too."

She doesn't look back. She leaves.

He dies soon after that.


***

She didn't always have to do it. She didn't always have to cut. She could, ya know, do the stuff without that. But, eventually,... there were side effects. Plus it makes doing the stuff so much easier.

The first time she did it:


***

She turns on her mac. The glow lights her face in her dark room. She clicks on her junk mail folder.

J: Let's see, Tanzanian business deal, extenze, extenze, extenze.... ahhh here we go.

She opens a message, the subject line reads:

GGREEEEATTTDEEEEALLLLSONPHOOOTOOOONLINNNEEEE

she reads the body of the message:

"intrinsically unworthy, we prefer from the depths and grace of the sower, and order are largely created by the Right Reverend M. Kussell, in a work to have been head in the newly acquired Louisiana."

And there is a link. Jillian clicks it, it leads to a pop up porn site.

She closes the pop up.

She reads the body of the message again:

"intrinsically unworthy, we prefer from the depths and grace of the sower, and order are largely created by the Right Reverend M. Kussell, in a work to have been head in the newly acquired Louisiana."

She reads the body of the message again:

"intrinsically unworthy, we prefer from the depths and grace of the sower, and order are largely created by the Right Reverend M. Kussell, in a work to have been head in the newly acquired Louisiana."

She opens a word document on her computer called "sign posts". She scrolls to page 2207, the document has 4085 pages.

She cuts and pastes the following in it:

"intrinsically unworthy, we prefer from the depths and grace of the sower, and order are largely created by the Right Reverend M. Kussell, in a work to have been head in the newly acquired Louisiana." - June 17, 1985, superhot outside, I'm moody, 2 cuts in last day.

And the static began. She couldn't hold it all in. The piercing noise came. Like an icepick between her eyes. God! The ringing! Again and again. Her eyes bulged. And she turned, vomited into her trash can. She grasped for the razorblades, missed, knocking them behind the desk. And darkness washed over her.


Chapter 4 - The First Time

Synapse Contracting

To: [Redacted]

From: [Redacted]

RE: Jillian's Diary Statement Regarding First [Redacted]

Mr. [Redacted]

Please find attached Jillian's account of the first time she was able to [Redacted]. Less descriptive than would have been optimal, but useful nonetheless.

Yours Very Truly,

[Redacted]

***

April 19

Not what you would think it was like. It was more intuitive and needed [Redacted rest of paragraph].

It was a normal day, like all days, it was just so... [redacted rest of sentence]. When you looked at everything you could see [redacted] things. A [redacted:]. But, less a [redacted], and more of a lack of [redacted].

At that point, I saw it all. I could do anything. I knew [redacted] and I almost [redacted] but didn't want to. I had the ability to [redacted] things. Did I?


Chapter 7 - Training

"Before you can do anything, you need to lose everything."

-Chuck Palahniuk

She gets off the bus at the corner and pops out her ear buds. Most people have a limit on how much Def Leppard they can listen to. Not her. Some spaz prep from school was on the same bus. Obv hot for her. Asked what she was listening to:

"The Pretty Reckless, but of course." Fuckhead.

Love Bites...

It's a hotel off the strip, strip club row-ish. The Artisan, she believes it's called.

She enters the main lobby, and she was wrong. It's not a hotel, it's an office building. A receptionist sits at a mammoth desk in front of a giant symbol. A circle. No. A snake eating its own tail.

There are also literally thousands of mirrors on the walls and the ceilings. And art. And fountains in the middle of the room. And paintings. And sculptures. And it has a dark comfortableness to it.

Receptionist: Can eyyyeee help ya?

J: I'm here to see Walter??

R: Of course yeee ar. One moment...

J: . . . .

R: . . . .

J: Should I sit . . .

R: Aeet. He see ya now.

And she nodded to a side door.

The door opened up into a small office. Walter sat behind a desk, empty save a chess board, and his head was turned towards another door leading out of the office. A door just closing.

W: Have a seat.

Walter did not look at her. She sat at the loan chair in front of the desk. The back of Walter's chair was probably ten feet tall. It looked something stolen out of a freemason church. It was adorned with gargoyles and other cool shit.

W: Welcome. You did well at the show.

J: Well?

W: Yeah. You didn't like, screw up or anything.

J: ...

W: ....

J: ...

W: Okay. So, I'm looking for an employee.

J: To do what? I'm not into that weird sex shit. Hire someone down the block.

W: Right. Not exactly what I'm getting at, but thanks.

J: Well, you're like 40 right? By the time you're 40, you gotta be into some sick stuff.

W: Stop pretending to be 15 for a few minutes so we can actually accomplish something.

J: I am 15.

W: That's not what I said. Do you want to start or not?

J: . . .

W: . . .

J: Okay.

W: I want to hire you to find something. A former associate of mine stole it.

J: Lost your cred with metro? Lemme guess - on a registry somewhere?

W: Funny. Metro can't help me with this.

J: What is it?

W: A book.

J: Why do you need me to get this? I mean, thanks for the help at the hospital, but I don't really understand what's going on.

W: If ... you find the book. You will be . . . generously rewarded.

J: How is that?

W: What do you want?

J: What are you offering?

W: What do you want?

J: You know.

W: Is that all?

J: What's on the table?

W: Everything.

J: What?!

W: Everything. Anything you've ever wanted. A million dollars. A billion dollars. True love. World peace. Bliss. Etc.

J: Are you Satan or something?

W: Be more specific.

J: You be more specific.

W: I know what you want. Actually, what you think other people want. I can give that to you. But, really, what's in the book is so much more than that. And, if you find the book, you can have it.

J: Then why do you want the book? Can't you get it?

W: I have things to do. Plus, I don't want the book. I've read the book... which is actually kinda poorly written. Jumbled. I want you to have the book. More specifically, I want you to read the book.

J: What's in the book?

W: It would be impossible for me to explain. You need to see it.

J: Okay. I hope you're not crazy. What is going on?

W: It was taken by me from someone who I don't want to have it. I want you to have it.

J: Why?!

W: Don't play dumb. You have talents. That is why you can get the book. Why you need the book. If you don't want the book after you find it, that's fine. I'll give you the parting prize you want.

J: How the fuck would you give that to me? Are you Doctor Phil or something?

W: Well, the medical profession is rather lacking in the valley.

J: Ha. Ha. Ha.

W: Okay. To show you that I'm not dangerous and that I'm serious, here is some seed money for you. Should keep you in blades for a few days.

Walter put a briefcase on his desk. Jillian's first thought was: how the fuck do I reach that? Your desk is like 20 yards across. Then, she looked at the desk again and it was . . . smaller. Much smaller. He must have hypnotized her! She realized it was stupid for her to have come here. Stupid. Stupid.

She did not leave.

She opened the briefcase and looked inside. Money.

J: How much is in here?

W: No idea. You're the genius.

J: 10k?

W: I have no idea. So, what do you think? Better than working at fast food place? That's yours. If you quit at any time you can keep it. Consider it an interview fee. One requirement: NO TALKING ABOUT ME! Not that anyone would believe you anyway.

J: Ha! I knew you were some type of perv. I mean, you haven't even looked at me once since I've been in here. That hasn't happened with a dude since I've been like twelve. Is this some type of BJ fee? Is the money laced with roofies?

Walter laughed raucously but still didn't look at her.

W: I knew you would be entertaining.

The smile left his lips.

W: Jillian - I know everything about you. I know the path you are on. I know how lonely you feel. I know what you are trying to accomplish. I know what you're looking for even though you've never verbalized it or even truly comprehended it. And trust me, you won't find it in those books, or out in that city, or in your house, or at school, or with a lover, or with money, or with... wherever you think you will find it. I can help you. I'll ask once more. Once more. If you don't say yes, you'll forget me and you'll go on living your life and become a coked up model or an author or a Wal-Mart clerk or whatever. Honestly, you can do whatever the hell you want to do in this world. But, if you want to take the road less traveled, the road blocked by a thousand years of rigid rules, a road that doesn't even exist yet, please let me know, because, seriously, I have things to do.

Jillian sat and quietly considered these words. She had never, ever spoken with someone she considered her intellectual equal. She still assumed that Walter was a complete crazie, and likely a pedo, but....

J: Where is it?

W: I don't know. That's why you get paid the big money.

J: Who took it?

W: Goes by "The Jester." Last I heard, works at a place on strip club row. Treasures. Like a block away, I think.

J: "Jester"? Is he like, a super villain or something? That's all you got? Seriously? Jester?

W: That's all you need to know. Need a car?

J: Okay. So, I'm supposed to go to this strip club to find a person that goes by The Jester? Can you give me some meth or something so this makes more sense?

W: Do you want a car or not?

J: Uhhh no. I think I can walk a couple blocks.

W: Wise move. Very covert.

J: How am I supposed to get into a strip club? I'm fifteen!

W: Be creative. Use your imagination. I hate to usher you out, but I have another appointment. I'll be around if you need anything.

Walter points towards the side door. She takes the case. She leaves.


***

W: Think of it as if you're playing Monopoly. When you play monopoly, there are rules specific to the game. But, there are, obviously, things outside the game. Us, for instance. But, if you lived inside the game, if you were The Thimble, you couldn't understand that. It would be impossible to explain playing monopoly to The Thimble. But, think about if you could ... somewhat ... explain it. Or, more importantly, if you had a strange feeling, a fleeting thought, that you were The Thimble and people were playing monopoly. Think about how much fun you could have as The Thimble. Think about how much more power you would have over The Top Hat. It's like being in a dream, but knowing it. Knowing you can do anything there.

But, you have to remember that you are The Thimble. You can't, for example, be a Hungry Hungry Hippo on a Monopoly Board. It wouldn't make sense to the other pieces, or the players. There are boundaries. This is a way to understand The Agreement.


***

The Test

"You must not only fail, you must get an F-," Walter had said. "You must know what it's like to have your feet in the gutter, you must wallow in that delicious misery in the pain of that moment. "

She hadn't ever failed a test. She got a B a couple of times. Not the best of her days. Calc was one of her easier classes. So she chose it. She chose it.

Ms. Darragans passed out the exams. Jillian wore


***

W: Do you want to do it?

J: Do... I ... want... to ... do ... what?

W: Cut.

J: No! That's why I'm here.

W: That's not why you're here?

J: Then why am I here.

W: Not sure. Maybe because other people don't want you to cut.

J: Nah. My parents would be thrilled to learn that I cut. Actually, I bet my Mom would help me out. She's very precise. She could help me shop for the best blades. Maybe gimme more allowance to help me buy them.

W: I'm just saying that if you want to stop cutting, then stop cutting. But don't stop cutting because your parents don't want you to cut. If you want to keep cutting, keep cutting. If that is the path you want to be on.


***

Jillian and Walter walked down the streets of Lodo. In Denver. Amongst the half awake, late night revelers.

They saw someone. Someone who would be more at home on Colfax. Lodo used to be her haunt. That was years ago. She had no home then. Had no home now.

W: I love it when I see the homeless. Some are old protégés. Failed protégés. But, failed in only a sense. Failed is the wrong word. Took a different path. I can't really tell anymore. Can't remember. They have seen it and lost their tether. Yet, they still have a foot in this place for some reason. Society mocks them. But, they've experienced more life than a typical human would over a thousand lifetimes.


Chapter 9 – At The Fringe

W: I need you to go to DC and meet with someone named Spider. She is an old friend of The Jester.

J: Seriously? Do you know anyone with a real name?

W: It's easy to remain hidden if you never give your real name. Easy to change from one day to the next. To be no one. To be everyone. But, Spider might be her real name. She comes from a long line of steam punk types. Her family. Anyway, she runs a Cacophony group out there. Back then.

J: She doesn't run it anymore?

W: I don't know. I think she is dead now.

J: What?

W: She spins... spun at a place called Dark. Be careful, pretty little white girls are the preferred diet of the locals. Also, it's not exactly metro accessible.

J: Can I take a private jet?

W: No, take the fast way.


***

Jillian is sick. Too fast. She hadn't gone that far before. Ugh.

She crawls into a cab. Everything is still in black and white. The cabby asks for her destination. The cab thrusts forward.

Cabby doesn't want to let her out here. She gets out anyway. Pukes. Pays Cabby. Pukes. Pukes. Pukes. Leans against building. Slumps down. Her fishnets rip some on the brick wall. Colors begin to return.

It's a rowhouse. Just a rowhouse. A few goths stand outside. The building rumbles. Darkwave escapes when the peeps come and go.


***

You are working the door at Dark. Great job. The people watching is worth how little they pay you. You see Jillian, leaning against the wall in an alley, throwing up. You head her way.


***

The doorman walks towards Jillian. Grabs her by the hair. Seriously? By the hair!?

She is dragged into the rowhouse and left on the ground. Fucker! Err, is it a rowhouse? It's empty except for another woman. Over 6 feet tall. Her hair is short, red, and spiked into a strange style that looks like spider legs. She spins for an empty room.


***

Backstage:

"How much do you want it?" says Spider. "I'll tell you where he's at. But, you have to do whatever I say. No backing out."

Spider was not talking. She was communicating.

Jillian was silent.

"Oh come on. It won't be so bad. I promise you'll thank me for it eventually."

Her "pets" writhe around her on the giant couch. Varying versions of emo boys. Aged 15 to ?. Ten of them? 20? They worship Spider. The couch seems to defy notions of space. Of time. It makes Jillian dizzy.

"K," Jillian replies. She takes off her belt.

"Alec, you first," says Spider. One of the pets gets off the couch.


***

The pain. Her tears smear onto the dirty glass of the coffee table as her face is rubbed against it. The tears and dirt obscure a newspaper on the floor, under the table. But, she can still make out the main headline:

MUCH OF CONTRACT WITH AMERICA PASSES HOUSE


***

She leaves the house behind. Walter is outside waiting in a limo.

She gets in. Her smeared mascara makes her look like a dark clown.

She feels like she has been run over by a car. Many times.

J: I'm done with this.

W: But you've come so far. You didn't have to do that.

J: I did.

W: No, you chose to do it. You took a short cut. Be responsible for your actions.

J: . . .

W: Where to?

J: Back to Vegas.


Chapter 12 - Dark Red

Downtown Vegas.

She found him. She found him. She found him.

Him?

Dark corner in a dark bar in a dark city in a dark corner of that city in a dark world.

The Cocktail Room is dark. Indescribably dark.

K. I'll try.

The light, the only light here, is red. The people close to the bar, the lightest part of the bar, are red, or at least illuminated red. A beautiful woman. Alone. Holds an unlit cigarette. Stares into nothing. Into the red nothing.

There is a one way mirror that doubles as an entrance and looks out at a street adjacent to downtown Vegas. The rub is: there is a very small part of the mirror that is enterable. That is actually a door. The only door. The rest is just a window.

This results in people. People who have never before been to the Cocktail Room. Pushing against the glass looking for the door. Some people. Some poor, poor souls. Push against the window. Push against the window. Never find the door. They try as hard as anyone. Never find the . . .

To those on the inside, the people trying to get in look like mimes. Foolish. Some inside mock them. Some feel sorry for them. No one helps them get in. Few know how to do that.

There is a sole candle at Jillian's table. Red. But of course. The candle illuminates nothing really but the candle and the candle holder. It. Somewhat. Illuminates the drinks next to the candle. Jillian's vodka club. And The Jester's... what did he order?

Besides the candle, it's as if she is sitting in the dark, with a ton of people, and a bad dj.

She notices the ghostly apparition that is The Jester hand grasp his drink. The whiskey, or water, or vodka, or apple juice, or whatever it is.

Jester: Have you ever seen it? The pinnacle? Everything you ever wanted. In a cereal box for you to open and chow down.

Jillian: No.

Jester: Not a good thing to see.

Jillian: Why?

Jester: Because... that's it. There ain't nothing else. All your dreams. Anything you've ever wanted. It's like being at a buffet with Victoria's Secret models. There is danger of becoming... desensitized. Desensitized to desire. What you seek.

Jillian: Maybe you're' just old. No passion. Forgot what you want.

Jester lights a match. To light a cigarette? It illuminates nothing. Swallowed by the darking. She loves the darkness, although being unable to see stuff is starting to annoy her.

Jester: I don't have The Book anymore.

Jillian: What?

Jester: Lost it. Before I got to read it. It was taken from me.

Jillian: BULLSHIT! You had The Book and didn't read it?

Red smoke blows from The Jester's area into the area illuminated by the candle.

Jester: I was afraid to read it. What if...

Jillian: What if it is blank?

Jester: Right. What if he fucked us? What if he's crazy? What the hell are we doing with our lives?

Jillian: I would actually prefer if he were crazy. If we were all crazy.

Jester: ...

Jillian: I could go back to things.

Jester: You could go back to things now.

Jillian: Funny.

His non-attached hand again grasped his drink. She could see some things now. But, it was hard. The static was coming. The headache was coming.

Jester: If The Book is blank. It doesn't really matter. What the hell else are we going to do?

Smoke emanates from the Jester and illuminates the table and spreads a read cloud towards the dj. The room is no longer dark. It is red, and she understood The Jester. She saw The Jester.


***

Jester: You can't help her. Patrice is a construction. A confluence of forces. She has no power over her life. None of us really do. Everything she does is dictated in a script written a million years ago when the universe went boom. She is already dead. We all are. At least some of us realize it.

Walter is using you. Always using you. You are his play thing. We are his play things. He is not who you think he is. You won't teach her how to change her life.

Jillian: You're wrong.

Jester: Think about it. The next time you brush your teeth. Do you remember ever consciously choosing to brush your teeth. Even more interesting is how you brush your teeth. Why do you brush vertically as opposed to horizontally? Why do you use Colgate?

Jillian: So why bother? Why not lay down, curl into a ball...

Jester: Because, for whatever reason, we have the knowledge. The cursed knowledge. Just because one is in a play does not mean you can't enjoy it.

Jillian: You may keep me from being happy...

Jester: ... But you won't stop me from having fun.

Jillian: Right.

Jester: Every moment of every day is Miller Time.

Jillian: Aren't you changing if you enjoy something you're not supposed to enjoy?

Jester: Don't over rely on logic. Didn't he teach you that. The things we are talking about are not black and white. Think guidelines. Unless you don't like guidelines. Then don't think about them.

Jillian: ... Why do you look ... different... sometimes?

Jester: We are all different. You wake up a different person every morning. At any second. We just pretend to be the same person. I'm just more honest about it.

Jillian saw a shadow move in the corner of the bar. An out of the ordinary shadow. A change in the room.

Jester: You should be going soon. It is well past your curfew.

They were here. They couldn't catch The Jester with a whaling net. Her, though...

Her bag was already on her shoulder and she was moving towards the windowish door.

Jester: Let me know how the Patrice thing goes. Good luck.

Jillian made it outside and onto Fremont street. The regimented thoughts of the casino-goers would conceal her own, and she could hide here.

She reached into her bag, in it was a file. A file she had not put in it. The Jester.

The Synapse logo was emblazoned across the front of it. On the first page of the file, it said the following:

WALTER MAZRIM,

SYNAPSE AGENT 27,

BACKGROUND AND SKILL PORTFOLIO

The rest of the file was redacted.


Chapter 13 - The Desert

They drove in Walter's Lincoln Town Car. Yeah. His fucking Lincoln Town Car. Deep into the desert. Okay, not really deep. Like an hour outside Vegas. Walter had a fundraiser. Jillian had to study. Not for school.

It was when time still "concerned" them. Or at least it concerned Jillian. Walter, at times, was impervious to the world. A Superman. At others, he was bogged down in it. Like The Prince of Denmark, in a community theatre version of Macbeth.

They passed an old casino. An abandoned casino. It was structured like a giant 15 story riverboat. But this was not the cool, wet, humid banks of the Mississippi. This was the dark, dusty, dead desert. As they drove by, Jillian stared at it for as long as she possibly could, straining her neck and looking at it out the back window. Wishing the moment would last for eternity. Not really dreading what they were about to do. Simply lost in the meditation of the moment. There was beauty in the silence of it. How something once so big, so vibrant, could be abandoned to the darkness and the scorpions and snakes.

It was now a fucking snake house. A fucking snake hotel.

They passed a biker bar in a dying town. Desert rats sat on the porch. Drinking Coors Light. She could hear them. Even though Walter did not slow. And she did not roll down the window. They were talking about the latest winner of the Pickle Jar Bucks. Jeremy had correctly guessed 74 pickles and won the hundred bucks. They thought he was going to buy a new air filter. They thought that was a waste, won money should be spent on fun. They kept talking. About nothing. They kept talking. Talking about whatever people talk about in bars at the end of the world.

Walter pulled down a dirt road and drove another ten or fifteen minutes. A valley surrounded by small mountains. The mountains of dirt that only seemed to exist in the Nevada desert. Nevada. Not Nevaaaaaada.

He pulled off the road. They took two shovels out of the trunk. Jillian slammed her shovel into the ground, and it reverberated like a metal rod hitting a metal drum. Walter explained it to her, and her second hit in the ground brought up some dirt. And more. And Walter joined in. And more. And they were done.

Walter went back to the trunk, he and Jillian took the large white bag out of the trunk. A body bag. They carried it to the hole.

"I have a poem for ya," said Jillian.

"Nice," replied Walter.

"Not mine, but I saw it somewhere, so I'm stealing the fuck out of it."

"Good writers borrow, the best steal the hell out of everything."

They were winded, the bag was heavy.

"Okay," said Jillian.

"Roses are red

Violets are Blue

I Have a Gun

Get in The Van"

Walter dropped his end of the bag. Laughing.

"I don't think I've heard that one," said Walter.

"I'm fucking hilarious," replied Jillian.

Walter picked up his end of the bag again. They finished the job. Telling jokes. When the last shovel of dirt hit the grave, Jillian blew a kiss towards the grave. Walter smiled.

Walter dropped Jillian off at the bus stop. She rode home. Studied for a few hours. And then slept like the dead, dreaming vividly of the fantastic world of her mind, a world both outside and within.


Chapter 16 - Moving On

"The great epochs of our life are when we gain the courage to rebaptise our evil qualities as our best qualities." - Nietzsche

She walked towards the Artisan at dusk. She entered and put Garcia's 100 Years Of Solitude on a random table. She didn't need it anymore. The dust of the summer flowed through the fake, planted palm trees. Valets in short sleeved white collared shirts guarded the ornate doors.


***

She sits across from him. Her razor blades are on his desk.

Silence.

J: Did you ever work for them? Synapse?

W: I don't remember. Probably. Does it matter?

J: No.

W: So, what will it be then?

Jillian looks at her arms.

J: . . . .

W: Parting prize?

Walter leans back in his chair and looks at the ceiling.

W: I've been waiting for you to decide for quite a while.

He finally looks at her. He expects her to leave. She does. She stops and turns around. Walks back towards his desk. Smiles. Takes the razor blades. Leaves. For another dimension. Another Time. Never returns.

She walks out on the street. She won't need to cut for another hour or so. She feels good. She will feel even better when she cuts.

Walter is sad. And he smiles.


Chapter 17 – The Jester

"Pretty pointless if you think about it. Don't bother. Just focus on the shiny stuff."

-October 7, 830pm, Circus Circus - Saw The Jester tonight. Wearing clown makeup. Clown clothes. He is a clown in the stupid acrobat show. Lame.

-October 10, 1am, south strip - Saw The Jester tonight. 20-25 years old. Woman. She was wearing impossible heels. Leaving a club. Sad face.

-October 14, 430am, north vegas grocery store. Saw The Jester tonight. 50-55 years old. grocery stocker. Woman. Fat. Wise, knowing eyes.

-October 15, 1100pm, Bally's showroom. Saw The Jester tonight. 25sh years old. Man. Slick, styled, hot. Sings covers for an awesome cover band.

-October 24, 230am, downtown. Saw The Jester tonight. 40sh years old. Man. Foreign. Cab driver. Bad driver. Dangerous driver.


Chapter 19 - Treasures

Jillian walks through the quasi-deserted parking lot of Treasures. A strip club about a half a mile from the Vegas strip. It's next to a ghetto motel that has a giant rainbow flag hanging from its canopy. The Treasures building is mockery of roman culture. Ginormorous! Columns everywhere. Strange lights illuminate. The desert sunlight fades into night.

The doorman sees her. A giant man. Alone. He smiles at her.


***

She is inside. There is, perhaps, the most disgusting buffet she has ever seen.

Fried chicken. Fried fries. Fried other stuff. Fried. A couple pieces of lettuce. Brown. Ranch dressing.

Free drinks too! Vodka clubs all around. So... she is on her 2nd. And she drinks sometimes. Not a lot though. So, wasted.

So. dark. in. here. Can barely see the dancers. But, they eye her. Some come by to say hello. Ask her if she wants, "a dance". Ummm no.


***

"Why are you looking for this person?"

"Cause I am. Why do you care?"

Jillian is drunk! Maybe more so than ever before. There is a haze. She stares forward vacantly. The lights mix, meld, enter her head. All things are one.

This girl is from Jersey. Her accent is distinctive. She has a swimsuit type thing on. Her body. Her body! Might be the pinnacle of human civilization. It scares her. She worships it and thinks she shouldn't be sitting next to this person. Her body is chiseled out of dreams. Men walk by. They would give anything for a glance from Jillian or the stripper. Anything. And they do.

Mostly, though, Jillian admires the strippers' skin-exposing ability. To really care less about having it all out there.

Jillian wonders what it would be like to be there. At the pinnacle. It would probably suck.

"Have you ever heard the story of Troy?" said the stripper.

"Uhh yah. I'm like, a genius."

"Obviously. Bet you haven't heard this part of it."

"Hmm?"

"So," the stripper said:


***

"Zeus was hosting a large wedding. But he didn't invite Eris, the god of Chaos. For, ya know, obvious reasons. Eris is pissed. So, she sneaks into the wedding, takes a golden apple, the Apple of Discord, and throws it into the wedding. On the floor. And she hides in the corner. There is a lot of dancing and wine. And the women, Aphrodite and Athena and all those bitches, notice this Golden Apple and start to fight over it. Because they can't agree who gets the apple, Zeus leaves the decision to Paris of Troy. Aphrodite bribes Paris, promising him Helen of Troy, which of course leads to the Trojan War.

Another version of this, 'Original Snub' has Eris as not trying to cause trouble, but that Eris simply brought the apple as a wedding present for Thetis. This version sees Eris as innocent and the chaos as a by-product of the other wedding guests' reactions when they saw she had showed up at the wedding."

"I'm so drunk," says Jillian. "Plus, I've heard this story. You've left a lot out," Jillian starts to swerve in her chair. "And the other versions."

The stripper is getting tired. "Saw the Jester a few months ago when she was working. She told me this story about Eris."

"Months ago? What does she look like?"

"I'm up. Let's keep talking when I get down," And she slowly moved towards the stage. And gyrated to Poker Face.


Chapter 24 - A Black Cat

The Doctor might know, Walter had said.

She is, at least, an interesting person to meet.

So, Jillian was off, yet again. To Denver.

She floated through time and space. They meant nothing to her. She was a wizard. She could shoot fire from her hands. Stop time. Control the minds of others. She sculpted reality. The world was her playground.

She was a god.

Gods attract attention.

Synapse had been watching her for quite a while. The reality police. They knew about her. Knew what she was doing. They watched as she got out of the Lincoln Town Car in downtown Denver.

Her white hair glimmered amongst the downtown lights. She passed through "frat club row". It was 133am. The drunks spilled into the streets. There was an argument between two dudes named Scott. Over a girl named Jennifer. Jennifer, was, admittedly, hot.

Jillian attracted attention. A lot of attention.

One of the Scotts came over to talk to her.

Jillian took a blade out. She rended in a graceful motion.

Scott's existence in this dimension was over.

Jennifer screamed.

Jillian sat cross-legged. She juggled.

Jennifer was no more.

Jillian ended everyone's existence in this dimension who happened to be at the Market Street/ 16th St. Corridor at 1:34am.

Two large, intricate double doors drew Jillian's curiosity.

She walked up to them. Above them was a picture with two beckoning Siamese twins. She pushed the doors open. Entered the bar.

Darkness. She was in a Tim Burton movie. A black tree with Christmas lights was to her left. The tree writhed and had eyes and looked at her. It asked a question. She could not remember the question. Red liquid flowed through the bar like a river. She walked on it like Jesus.

Everyone was dead. Drowned by the red liquid. Killed by the tree.

Not everyone.

The bartender stared at her... He gestured towards a stool at the bar.


***

Pullman Mechanics was on the top floor of a skyscraper. She stared out of the glass elevator, and watched as the Colorado sun, alone in a fading blue sky, dived behind the mountains. A movie sunset. A surreal sunset.

Cam traveled with her. He was always with her. He purred and rubbed against her feet. His black fur soft and silky against her ankle.

She got off the elevator and entered the Doctor's lab, a domed penthouse with glass walls and ceiling.

A woman stood in the middle of the room, staring at Jillian. She was dressed like Lady Gaga.

"Are you ... Lady Gaga?" asked Jillian.

"Not here." replied the doctor.

Behind this woman, there was a digital projection dancing against the glass window on one side of the room. At the top of the picture, it said: The Agreement. The rest of the picture was an amorphous blob, varying in color. In the middle the blob was very light-colored, immobile. Away from the center, the blob changed to darker colors, and seemed to writhe like a fire.

"What do you want to know?" asked the doctor.

"How do I do it?" Jillian replied.

"Your will. That is how you do it. You commune with your ... guardian angel, I guess you could call it. If that is what you prefer to call it. You bring it into existence. You bring everything into existence. This world. Your world. You want to find The Jester. Then find The Jester"


***

They would be waiting for her at the bottom of the elevator. They wouldn't come up into the The Doctor's office. That was far from neutral ground. That was The Doctor's house. They wouldn't even understand what rules of physics applied there. So, she could jump to a nearby building. Like awesome, matrix style. Nah. Better to kill them directly. Fight them straight on.

She waited in the elevator. It skimmed downward, hundreds of levels. She watched a brilliant sunrise. A perfect sunrise.

They were waiting for her when she got to the lobby. Attempting to describe them physically would be pointless. They were .. invisible. Undefined. At least to the observer. Even to Jillian.

Jillian ended their existence in this dimension.

She returned to Vegas. Jillian flew through the clouds. Distance did not exist to her.

She landed in front of The Artisan, and walked up the steps.

A goddamn homeless person blocked her way.

Seriously, a homeless person.

Here, in her world!

Seriously!?

He wanted money. She pulled ten one hundred dollar bills out of her stocking cap. Threw them straight up in the air.

"There ya go. Remember the odds in roulette favor the house."

She walked towards the door.

There was a loud bang. Her head exploded.

Her last thought: Fuck.

Jillian died.


Chapter 24 - A White Cat

The Doctor might know, Walter had said.

He is, at least, an interesting person to meet.

So, she was off, yet again. To Denver.

She killed time at the Vegas airport. Played slots. Lost. Played again. Lost. Played again. Lost.

Etc.

They were watching her and she wanted to give them a show. Following people who don't do anything must be so boring. Like, if she were reading, per usual. Being a spy must be so boring.

Not that playing slots is a super interesting thing to watch.

Maybe she would get a free drink. Awesome!

She eventually won twenty bucks. Baller!

She thought about flagging down a waitress and ordering a drink. She did not flag down a waitress and order a drink.

She got on the plane. Coach. Seriously, that prick couldn't spring for at least a bulkhead. She slept throughout the flight. Mostly. She watched a movie. The headphones were shit. She heard about three of five words. Sandra Bullock movies required little more.

They were still watching.


***

Pullman Mechanics was in a small office building in the Tech Center in southern Denver. She left the cab and grabbed Cam, who was in a cat carrier at her feet. She pulled some of his shed white fur off her black tights.

The reception area was empty. The doctor sat in an office adjacent to it. An office devoid of pictures, of desk accessories, accoutrements. The walls were some type of beige. The office had a computer, a pen, and a blackboard with a mess of indecipherable formulas. Indecipherable, except for two words, at the top of the blackboard:

THE CONSENSUS

The blackboard contained a circular picture, an amorphous blob, solid in the middle, with flame-like edges.

She made her presence clear to the doctor. He told her he would be with her in a minute. She sat in the waiting room and read. Did not glance at. Read. A Highlights magazine from the late 90s.

The doctor gestured her into the room. He was middle-aged, bald. Wore glasses from 1982, pleated khakis, and an orange polo. After speaking with him for a few minutes, she also discovered that he was beyond brilliant.

D: They've been following you?

J: Yeah. At the airport. In the cab.

D: They won't come here.

J: Yep. That I know.

D: How can I help you?

J: Advice. I'm looking for someone.

D: I can help with that. Who do you seek?

J: His name is... uhhh.... The Jester [she whispered the last part]

The Doctor nodded.

D: No success at all.

J: Not really. No. He is like a jellyfish.... I don't know why I said that. I've never seen one. I assume they are slippery though. I mean. You would need to be slippery to move between dimensions...

D:....

J: Sorry. HP Lovecraft reference. A little obscure. Sorry.

The Doctor smiled.

D: Your experience with quantum physics?

J: Ummm. What do you mean?

D: What is your grasp of quantum theory?

J: Only what I've read in books. I'm in high school, fyi.

D: So, you've read books about quantum theory?

J: Yeah.

D: Not really assigned high school reading material.

J: I'm kinda a freelancer.

D: So, you know the basics.

J: You could say that. I mean. I guess. It is more intuitive for me.

D: Great. Let's start with your cat.

J: Cam? I don't like where this is going.

D: No worries. He will be okay. Or he won't.

The doctor smiled.


***

She headed out to the parking lot. Apparently, there was a bus nearby that would take her to the airport. She walked through the tech center. Commuters headed towards their cars. They stared at her white, beehive hair. Adjusted their ties. Admired her beauty. Remembered their youth. Headed home to their spouses and children.

Many of them didn't want to go. Wanted to get on the interstate and drive until they ran out of gas, then walked until they died. But they still went home. It was the dance they knew. They had forgotten.

Jillian headed to the nearby bus stop. They were still on her trail, but starting to lose her. She explored the depths of her purse looking for bus fare. They were confused by this place. She got on the bus, put a dollar bill in the in the "dollar bill acceptor thingy." Her bill was old, crinkly. It was rejected. She tried again. SUCCESS!

They had lost her.

She got to the airport. She read OK! Magazine as she waited for the plane. She slept though the flight.

Jillian lived.


Chapter 25 - The Push

"You are a god, act like one." - Timothy Leary

Walter: Okay. Your ticket to DC is at the airport. When you get there, I want you to take the Metro to Chinatown.

Jillian: I am not doing this.

W: You choose. There will be no lack of candidates. Spend some time researching. Chinatown is a good spot because you will look like one of the kids that just hangs out in the station. Well, you'll be a little less noticeable than usual, at least. Plus, the downstairs platform is narrow.

Jillian said nothing. She stared to her right, at the cheap ripoff of Dali's Persistence of Memory on the wall in his office. One eye teared and makeup ran down her cheek.

W: You should probably get going. You'll hit traffic and it's Thursday, so the airport will be a madhouse.


***

Jillian sat in the honeycombed tube that is the Washington, DC Metro. The city's subway system. The Chinatown station was strangely both dark and wide-open. The ceilings in the main tube were enormously high.

It didn't take long to find her.

"Hide the tries. Hide the tries from prying eyes," Jillian said to herself.


***

Patrice Batrol was a filing clerk at a government agency. At this job, she really did no work at all. Her job description was comprehensive: filing, reception, drafting letters, etc. In practice, her only duty was opening the door to the fileroom when people rang the buzzer. She was so obese that her knees hurt whenever she was required to do this. And she was so lazy that she complained to her co-workers about how often this occurred.

"I am worth more than this. I should have been more. My boss doesn't appreciate how bright I am," she told herself.

She spent most of her day on dating websites.

At the beginning of the day, she would come in late. At the end, she would leave early. At night, when she got home, she would watch television. She would think of her sister, her niece. She would not call them.

She would sleep fitfully. She hated it all.

She would start again. Take a bus to the metro station...


***

Jillian had been watching her for weeks. Her satchel contained a comprehensive file on Patrice. Jillian was meticulous, as usual.

Walter nearly whispered: No, no, no. You are not waking her up so she can go become a doctor, or something. Let's just say you are showing her what she is missing. Your literalness is your cancer.

Jillian would wait for her at the Chinatown station exit in the morning, follow her to work. Follow her into work. Into her office. To lunch. Home. To bed. Jillian would watch Patrice sleep. Patrice never saw Jillian. Patrice never really saw anything at all.


***

Hide the tries. Hide the tries from prying eyes.

Patrice stood on the platform, where she usually stood, waiting for the metro train to take her home. To her coffin.

The logistics of the platform, including a nearby escalator, and a small area to stand, made Patricia a feasible target. However, Patricia's girth, nearly 300 pounds, would make such a maneuver impossible for Jillian, who topped out at 110 on pizza days. But, Jillian had a great imagination.

Jillian sat at a bench near Patrice. Jillian's mascara ran as it always ran, not with good form, but down her cheeks. She kept the sobs to a minimum though. There would be time for that later.

Can't believe this. Can't believe I'm doing this. This is the only way. Or there is nothing.

Jillian looked at the train prompt:

Branch Ave - 2 Mins.

Jillian couldn't really control the sobbing now. Others were looking at her. But, not Patrice.

Branch Ave - 1 Mins

Patrice was staring straight ahead when it happened. At the wall, opposite the platform. She thought about dinner. Her freezer was really the only area of her life she thought she could control. Besides that, her head was empty. She was neither awake nor asleep.

Flash. It was quick. So very quick. Something hit Patrice from behind. And she broke her fall with her right arm. And there was pain. Her glasses were off. Gone. And she realized what was happening. She was on the track.

W: I don't care if she makes it out. I am not a fucking humanitarian here to build houses for losers. If she gets out, she gets out. And then she might see it. Regardless, this is an exercise for you. Any collateral damage, or positive side effects, I could care less about.

Fucking Prick.

Chaos. Someone screamed. The horn of the train blew. Patrice realized what was happening, tried to compose herself, got up, and ambled back towards the platform. Someone told her to roll, or something. There was a screeching noise as the train operator hit the brakes.

Jillian heard the Jester in her head: You can't help her . . . A confluence of forces. . . Everything she does is dictated in a script written a million years ago when the universe went boom.

Jillian watched all this from the second floor mezzanine. Hoping. Hoping.


Epilogue

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started... and know the place for the first time.” - T.S. Eliot

You enter the Artisan Hotel just off the strip. You are scared, and enthralled, by its interior. You see a painting YOU ARE SURE you painted in an 8th grade art class. Maybe you had copied it, seen it before. No, it was yours. An original.

The receptionist nods you, forcefully, into a room off the main foyer.

The door opens up into a small office. Walter sits behind a desk, empty save a chess board, and his head is turned towards another door leading out of the office. A door just closing.

W: Have a seat.

Walter does not look at you. You sit at the lone chair in front of the desk. The back of Walter's chair is probably ten feet tall. It looks like something from an estate auction.

W: So, I'm not sure what to call you. I feel a little uncomfortable calling you The Jester. But, whatever, it's your call.



THE END


© 2013 Jason Wisecup

Bio: Mr. Wisecup is a 34-year-old attorney who practices immigration law.  He lives in Washington, DC where he writes the column Hipster Disneyland at his webwite www.odyssen.com under the pen name Gabriel Hamilton.

E-mail: Jason Wisecup

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