Chapter Thirteen: Thirty One Strains of Confusion
“Most organized religions make
A mockery of humanity
Our government’s dangerous
And out of control
The garden of eden is just another graveyard
Said if they had someone to buy it
Said I’m sure they’d sell my soul…”
Guns N Roses . Garden of Eden
Curled up in a fetal position on the rickety wooden dock, Josh watched as the fog slowly rolled in, as it moved closer to consume him. Inch by inch by fleeting inch, he watched it and wondered; just what was he doing? Did he want the fog to consume him? Was he waiting for his own demise? Was that all? Or was he wanting more. The situation with Kathryn and Beth was very similar; did he want to give up an eternity of relationship for a fling? Was this whole debacle standing in the way of his goal? Yes and no on both counts. He couldn’t make up his mind as to what was the lesser of the two evils.
Laying there with the cold Gulf breeze against his face, his eyes grew glassy and his mind became muddled with fog. Fog. How ironic, he thought, closing his eyes and rolling onto his back, feeling a few small splinters pierce the delicate skin of his upper arm. Tiny, searing penetrations, stinging like a decrepit, rusty bee. He felt the venom enter his blood stream, the disease. He felt it work its way through and to his heart. He knew what would happen next. The white blood cells would be contacted, and soon the SWAT team would be moving into position to annihilate this decrepit, rusty venom. The decay of the wood, the random chromosomes from dirty feet, the spray of the ocean, all of it – entering his body without his consent. It was rape, in the most obscure sense of the word. He focused on this, the path of the dirt and grime from the splinter, and tried to forget the Josh-Kathryn-Beth-David debacle.
He tried to forget, but deep down, it was shredding his insides apart. Turning him into ground beef beneath the surface. Below the skin, he was nothing more than hamburger.
Reaching up to his face, he wiped away the few tears he had allowed, and drifted off into a very shallow sleep. Above the surface of the water, he could see a face peering down at him. Not his own, none of his friends, not even his Ebony Love.
Him. The gray man. Him. The man from the park. Him. The man who spoke without speaking. Him. The man who said… he was the one. Him. Him. Himhimhim… who?
His eyes closed, he felt the energy surge and pulse around him. He knew what was coming, and he smiled. This was something normal, something natural, something familiar. Something he always enjoyed. Yes. It came over him. Washing over him like a burning wave. The lightening flash seen through closed eyes. A wave of flame swallowing him whole. His skin felt the cool sting of spring rain, the thunderstorm rolling fiercely overhead. This was his moment, his element, his home. Over and over the flames engulfed him, vivid, vibrant blue shocks of lightening flickering overhead.
× X ×
Fresh leather; squeaking, fresh leather. God, how he loved it; the feel, the scent – nothing could ever compare. Looking over, he felt a smile creep across his lips. There was his grandfather, in the driver’s seat, observing the sparse traffic on the street. Pulling into the arching driveway, he parked the car in front of the garage, and Josh saw a small group of kids, in their late-teens, early-twenties hanging out. A girl approached with a shock of neon-pink hair, smiling with a silver ring at the corner of her mouth. Jim shook his head and looked about for Josh’s cousin, who didn’t look to be around, must have been. These kids looked like his kind of friends, or Josh’s for that matter, but Josh never brought his acquaintances around his grandfather.
Leaving the car and heading up to the house, Josh noticed a cat milling around the front door. A cat? His grandparents never owned a cat. What the hell? He asked himself, eyes half-closed in severe confusion and thought. Taking a deep breath and shrugging, he continued up the pathway to the door, and as he neared the cat, he noticed a great, gaping hole on the front shoulder. Concerned, he quickened his step and lifted the feline into his arms, examining the wound. Inside was what looked to be a yellow jacket, but the front legs were more like those of a lobster. In place of the pinches, though, were two baby bees, growing forth in a fetal stage.
Shocked, he shouted at his grandfather to help, to put the cat out of its obvious misery, and the old man returned from the house with a rolled up newspaper, swatting the head of the cat with enough force to shatter its neck. With a sigh, he went to the dog’s pen and lay the cat down to take care of later. His mind was too stressed now to dig a proper plot. Inside the house, Jim was starting dinner and Josh took a seat at the dining room table, trying to process everything he had just seen. Unfamiliar people, unfamiliar cat, a totally mythological insect – his mind was shrieking in his ear: DOES NOT COMPUTE! DOES NOT COMPUTE! TILT! TILT! EHHHHH!
“Josh, do you know if Kevin is around?”
“I didn’t see him earlier, no, but that doesn’t mean anything. You know that.”
“Yes, well, I’m going to do something about those damned kids. They don’t need to be around if he isn’t.” his grandfather said, with a bit of spark in his voice, setting the fork down and heading towards the door. Josh followed him, glancing out past the house for a second, watching the sun’s slow descent. Drawing his vision back from the expanse of the universe, he felt the cat nuzzling his legs in a figure eight motion. He had removed the insect, so now there was only a cavernous hole, seeping blood out onto the wood deck. Realizing the blow his grandfather had dealt had not been a fatal one, he picked the cat up again, and began to slowly stroke its head as he moved back down the pathway towards the driveway, where he could here his grandfather shouting quietly at the kids.
Turning the corner around the garage, he saw the pink-haired girl barking back at his grandfather pause, taking a long, smiling glance in his direction. He nodded in acknowledgement and continued to stroke the cats head, looking down at his bare arms, stippled with tattoos; things he had thought about getting but never having the finances to do so. Even more confused, he shook his head and looked back at the girl, who was still staring intently at him, motioning for him to join her and his grandfathers conversation. To hell with it, he thought. Nothing else is making any bit of sense right now, maybe this is what I’m supposed to do. Crossing the driveway, facing the small barn, he stood between Jim and the girl, incessantly fondling the cats head.
“What?” he asked, trying to sound like he had some idea of what was going on.
“Tell him that we’re your friends. Christ, Josh – you’re so damned neglectful sometimes.”
“Oh, sorry. Grandpa, is it okay if they hang out here for a bit? I totally spaced asking you earlier. Stress, I guess. I don’t know.”
“Yeah, it’s alright. I’ll see you in, in a little bit. Dinner’ll be up in about twenty minutes.”
“Thanks, grandpa.” He called as Jim returned to the house, shaking his head.
“Cute cat, Josh.” The girl said, finally noticing the wound on the shoulder, “What the fuck is that?!” she shrieked.
“Oh, I don’t know. Some foreign bug was gnawing away at it when I found it. Hold on.” He sighed painfully, the cold words barely escaping his lips as he shifted his arms around, gave the cat one final look in the eyes and snapped its neck. Letting the lifeless body drop onto the blacktop, all in one fluid motion.
× X ×
His eyes and mouth shot open to scream, only being filled with water, he felt himself sinking, seeping down into the
Curled up on the filthy beach, he felt the tide lapping at his feet as he coughed explosions of water out of his lungs. His brain swam with the repercussions of oxygen deprivation and he tried to figure out what the hell that dream was about. He hadn’t even remembered falling asleep. Rolling onto his back, he stared up at the sky so thick with clouds it was gray instead of black, and tried to find the hint of a star. There was nothing up there tonight, not even his dear friend, the man in the moon. They were all taking a break from existing tonight. Just as, sometimes, he wished he was able to do.