“I don’t know where to start.”
“Start with whatever you remember. Let it flow back to you. Grasp whatever you can, in whatever disjointed segments you can grasps.”
The light dimmed in the room.
“I’m inside a little shop. Its gourmet food and antipasto and some things. It’s on a hill with a steep road outside. The people behind the counters are old, white and grey hair, save for an unsure and timid little girl. She looks miserable. I’ve walked through the door and immediately to my left is the food bar. There are plates of meat and right at the front; grand place is a white rectangular bowl with what looks like meat balls inside of it. There’s no sign saying what it is, but it sounds delicious.
The room is buzzing with gossip. I know of the people they’re discussing but I don’t know them personally. I float through. They see me and the girl greets me timidly before turning back to conversation. It’s as if they can’t see me, like I’m slipping in and out.
The shop’s closing. The employees are looting the place for food. I’m going on a trip, across a long distance, I strip out their milk container and grab it for my own. I head for the antipasto bar and find one of the male workers at the counter. I ask if he's taking the meatball and he says absolutely, he's got it. I want it as well, but don’t think he’ll take all of it. He seems too cautious to really gorge while thieving. He moves aside and I move in with a metal tine tray. I drop the bottom half of a heavy burger bun into the tray and spoon in the meat ball mix. The man tells me its meatballs, mushroom and another ingredient I can’t remember. It slips away every time he says it. I layer it with strips of what looks like bacon in a cross pattern. More sauce and meatballs, then there's this large hunk of cheese. The man berates me for mixing flavours but I know better. I crush the cheese down so that I can put the lid on the tin. I make sure to put in the top of the bun. As I scrape the meatball dish clean, I use shards of a hard baguette, maybe some Italian bread, which shatters like ice if I push it too hard along the bottom of the clay pan. My tin pan looks like a quiche, is what he says. I agree with him after a few minutes. I turn my attention elsewhere.
It’s earlier. I’ve walked out the door of the tiny shop; close after the small timid girl. There’s a slight breeze. She’s heading down the hill through there subway tunnels, beneath the mountain, all grey concrete and blue metal rising high. She turns back to me, her back against the wall after she gets to the first landing. She stammers out why I’m following her. I move close, breathing slowly, till our lips are nearly touching, I can feel her shiver, so lose to me. My head lowers, my lips drifting along her neck and down to her exposed chest. I hear her ask what I want. The smile lights along my lips before kissing her chest. What I want, I tell her, is you. Her hand comes to mine as I straighten and begin leading her down the stairs. I tell her that I’m going to take her to lunch. We descend the stair case.
Near the end now. There’s an old man with wild bushy white hair, bicycling up the steep road. He has blind eyes and an orange reflector vest. He looks at me through blind eyes and I see his moustache cascade down, drooping as low as his tangle of hair goes.
The beginning’s slipping away. There was a hotel that I was staying at, flashes now. There was talk from my parents of a trip at the end of august, of them booking something and me wondering how that’ll fit with going to the cottage in November. There’s something else.
Earlier, something that I should remember but can't I’m trying to go back, but I keep falling into the water, out of the boat and through the mists, never grasping anything tangible. I dint know what to do. I need to go on. I’ve missed the message, the big art, the first three acts of it. Where’d it go? “
“Breathe deep, calm down, don't panic and keep going.”
I see a hill. The same hill rotating along. I see lines of gossip, as if people were dropping fishing lines, weaved around the hill. I see a room in a hotel/. I’m sitting on the bed and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do or where to go.
I can’t remember what she looks like. How could I have been so close, had such influence on her, when I can’t remember her name, what she did beyond the glimpse. Breath. Breath. Okay.
What time is it? It’s slipping away. The mists around my boat are getting darker. I try to push into them; it’s like sticking my arm through a grey wall. It swirls around my arms, accepting but unyielding. I can’t see anything beyond the boat and the mist. The water is placid and doesn’t move, no matter how I sway in the boat. I can pull back the images I just went through.
Another, I’m going through the gourmet shops kitchen and taking the milk container. I've no idea why it’s needed now. The inside of the milk container has a tiny whisk, as well as another metal contraption. I try to empty them, empty it so I can put another bag of milk in. I do and cut it, then poor it out into a container. I don't understand why. I think I need to cycle through the milk if I’m to take the container, but that doesn’t make sense. There’s a tiny whisk and metal contraption in each container. It doesn't make sense. There’s light coming in through the window as I go through the tile of the floor. I think the stores closing for good, just as I’m leaving. Everything’s folding up, as I go. My departure, while welcomed by the townsfolk, signals the end of their world. They don’t know, or don’t care.
I try to hang on but it's gone. Folded up and wire framed, the hill stripped. I’m back to the memory of the concrete and the young lady. Pushing against her and sliding down. The soft kiss and pulling her away. I can tell she’s overwhelmed through it, that’s why it works. Someone who had more control over themselves, someone who had been on more dates would have pushed me off, would have had more attention would have known would have reacted differently. But I was simple. I said I wanted her. She fluttered and I took her hand and told her I was taking her to lunch. She’s followed numbly. I didn’t look back. She's blushing now that I see it. I’m dressed in dark with a mid flair of jacket. She was still wearing her waitress or attendant uniform. Then it fades away again, folded into the mist.
It folds out again below me. The same scene plays out from a different angle, cutting in close as I kiss her chest, seeing her lips quiver above my head; a small gasp slips past her lips, the flush filling her cheeks. It cuts away to another as I watch us going down the steps. It plays again and again. Again. Again.
And then it peels away, the wireframe eating the concrete steps, dissolving the sun on the blue metal and glass on the high building above where the steps were, folding it into itself. It warps and greys and highlights itself, the panels of materials on each surface peeling up and away, unthreading themselves, and then the racks of wires are left until they too peel away, leaving me back in the boat, no place left to reach out to, only the dying, withering memory of that small timid girl and I.
I’m hunched in the boat. The hull is empty. No rushes. Nothing left. I want to cry. I know I lost something lovely, something that if only I could remember it, would make a world of difference would direct me and tell me the answer, where to go. “
“I’m pullin' you out now. Come back to me slowly; let the boat guide you out of the mist, back into the shop. The boats docking. You feel a soft bump. Your wooden bench seat rises up, shifting silently into the counter around you, the boats planks into the walls and shelves of the shop. You’re standing in your body, at my counter, your hands flat on the counter, my hands palm up, while your rest on top. Breath deep. Open your eyes and look at me.”
My eyes open slowly, gaze focusing on the wool covered women in front of me. Her black skin and shinning bright hair made her look like a sheep had always made her look sheep like; beguiling the wolf form she lived. My feet felt heavy on the floor. My body sagged back as my muscles relaxed. I looked around, tilting my head, hearing my neck crack. My gaze returned to hers, small and black, buried in her face, nearly invisible save for the sharp shine on them.
“I’m back,” I said.
“Yez you ah,” she said, her accent winding around me. “Did you fine whet you ah lookin' for?”
“I don’t think so. Thank you anyway, you’ve always been a help,” I said. She smiles and shakes her head back at me. I put my hands back into my pockets and turn to the shelves, hoping I’ll see what I need, what I’m missing. I sigh as I search in vain. I raise a hand in parting to the old sheep behind the counter and she smiles as I leave a sad look on her face.
It’s raining outside her little shop. The clouds are low over the dark onyx sky, the ceiling of mist resting on the rooftops of the streets tonight. The dark hour is nearing its end and I need to get out of the bazaar. Before it closes. I dart down a side street and brush shoulders with a face I’ve seen before. I resist the urge to double take and move through the shady throng filtering out through the exits. I’ve seen her before at the market, buying food, a rare commodity down here. She’s one of the Awake, like me, yet we’ve never made introductions. Not surprising, given the scope of the City.
She’s tall and gaunt, with a coat wrapped around her. Beneath the brown folds is a tiny body, wiry and taught, with pale skin. I’ve made out a few tattoos of her before. Perhaps we’ll run into each on a more formal occasion soon. Any Awake who live long enough to get into the flow of the city without becoming a part of it are good to know. She probably knows Cassandra’s organization. I’ll have to make inquiries tomorrow. I pull up my hood and blend into the crowd. My eyes shine as I spot a curtain lying on a wall nearby, unobtrusive to the crowd that flows by.
I step close to it and pull it aside long enough to step through the wall into a low ceilinged passage way. These shortcuts should lead me out of the market and back to the corner of the city near the airplane graveyards, assuming it hasn’t moved again. I trudge along the passage go through the door at the end. I’m in a different part of the city, near the tenth district. It’s not where I wanted to go, but it could’ve been far worse. I turn down the cobblestone street, lined with dying grass and make my way back to my where I make my home. It’s been some long nights.
//Rob never talked much outside of his few confidents, at least here he found a therapist, of sort, even if it is dream siphoning and memory regression. another tale set in the Mad City of the Undermaze.