Chapter Fourteen: Morphine’s Euphoria
“What shall we use to fill the empty
Spaces where we used to talk
How shall I fill the final places
How shall I complete the wall”
Pink Floyd . Empty Spaces
He knew it would happen, and he knew it the moment he regained full control of his mind after his drowning incident. He knew because in the dream he had had, his grandmother was nowhere around, and she’d have usually been sitting at the dining room table, on the end, reading the paper, or watching TNN. She was gone, and it had happened in the small hours of the morning, where one wouldn’t know if they should be saying ‘good evening’ or ‘good morning’. It was an altogether confusing time; for everyone but her. The nurse had left to fill her glass of water, and when she returned, the lights had gone off in his grandmother’s eyes. She sat there, in her wheelchair, watching the news on mute, with her wool blanket lying carefully over her legs. Josh received the message when he arrived at the apartment and checked the voice mail. His mother had called and was a bit choked up; which for some reason surprised him. It wasn’t her mother, and her and his dad had separated a few months before. It just struck him as odd, but then again, she had called her ‘mom’ for twenty-five years, so it was understandable, he guessed.
Sitting in the car, outside of the funeral home, staring out the windshield, great floods of rain rolling down; he closed his eyes and let the painfully beautiful words of Roger Waters float through his head, lulling him into a cold calm. A distant clarity. He knew what he had to do. He had to go in there, and he had to be with his family. Beth at his side. Looking over he smiled a painful wreck of a smile, and placed a shaking hand on her shoulder.
I don’t need no arms around me . I don’t need no drugs to calm me
Removing his hand, he dipped down into the inside breast pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a tiny plastic envelope. Tapping out a heroic bump of coke, he brought his closed fist to his face, and took it straight into the left nostril. The process continued into the right nostril. His sinuses lit like a roman candle, his head swam in a turbulent ocean, and his pupils were pinpricks in his skull.
“I should be in Nowhere right now. Getting ready to go on and record the show.”
“I know Josh. They’re going to show a repeat of last weeks show. It kind of makes sense, I guess. But none the less, she was your grandmother. You should be here. Now, c’mon, let’s go. We’ve been sitting here for an hour, I’m surprised they’re not calling you to see where the hell you are.”
“My phone’s off.” He said coldly, his voice as distant as Orion.
“Oh. Well then, let’s just go. Everyone’s here already. I even think I saw your mom.”
“Alright. Quit with the pep talk, this is a funeral, not a wedding.” He sniffed hard and swiped at his nose before lighting a cigarette and popping the door open. With the key now off, the car was silent with only the beating of the rain rattling their ears.
I’ve got nicotine stains on my fingers
× X ×
Through row and row of seats they stepped, moving closer to the cherry lacquered box that held the earthly remains of his grandmother. Josh had stopped for a second, Beth lingering behind him, and talked with his father for a short spell, the small groups eyes plastered to the television screen in front of them, revolving pictures of the family in happier times. In the distance, out of the corner of his ear, he heard the occasional comment of “We only see each other at funerals, anymore…” or some such rubbish that he felt to be a sever disrespect to the situation.
With each step he took, he felt his stomach clench and heart quiver. His hand gripped Beth’s harder as they grew nearer, the coif of dark hair visible from the casket. Each breath grew tighter and as he peered down onto the silent face with eyes closed, and a rubber expression he would never forget. She, in no way, resembled the woman he once knew, the one who he spent sick days with and the occasional day through the summer months. No, this wasn’t her. This was a rubber composite. Something fake and inhuman, something that had never breathed or lived or loved.
Speaking his final words, he turned and left, past the row upon row of seats and into the foyer, where he sat on a painful wood bench with Beth at his side, her hand resting softly atop his. She didn’t know his pain, but she sensed it, through every pore of his body. It oozed from him, thick as motor oil and it stung as sharply and deeply as battery acid. He didn’t know, but he was burning her deeper than she had ever felt. Their shared pain was a surreal testament to their undying love. Despite all that was going on, with the distance growing between them, they would never truly leave one another. Never
× X ×
His mind was still, but rolling like flame down a mountain side, full of energy and life. His body felt empty, like a shell craving something to fill it, his mouth was dry and full of cotton, and his eyes burned with the television screen flashing images of destruction for him to focus on. In the bed of the hotel, Beth twitched beside him, fast asleep and dreaming sweetly of opium fields and an unquenchable thirst for love.
The bottle beside him was empty, and the cigarette burning down between his fingers began to singe his flesh. Inside his skull, ricocheting like a BB in a steel house, ringing true and clear, he heard a soprano singing the sweet operatic song that only he could hear. Further he drifted from reality, detaching himself from the mortal coil that he was a part of; a coil spiraling downward, revolving instead of evolving. He grew sick, his stomach churning at the thoughts that now overcame him. He wanted nothing to do with the people, the humanity around him.
The taste of decay filled his mouth.
He knew what he had to do.
Images flashed before his eyes, imposed over the television monitor. Leather. Blood. Pain. Torture. Hatred. Contempt. Red, welted flesh. He knew what he had to do. He couldn’t live like this. He had to help them, help the helpless masses. Inside, it filled him, like a great glowing ball of light. He had to help them… evolve. Move forward, and leave their two eyes behind, opening up the third and realizing that their perception of life and duty and everything they had grown to trust and believe were lies. All lies. Everything they had been force fed and raped into believing were lies. He knew it, and he had to teach them. He had to teach them to think for themselves and form their own opinions. He knew what he had to do.
With a jump, he stared down at his hand, covered in ash and a bright scorch mark on his finger, pulsing with each beat of his heart. The only thing that gave him the impression that he was still alive and breathing, a member of the species he could not identify with.