Half a poem, half a flash fiction piece, mostly a fragment (800 words): The Smog

The Smog

On Wednesday she nuzzled me awake, like a puppy might,

Her nose cold as a kitten’s, in the air-conditioned cell,
I had rented for ourselves.
We checked the time too late on our phone,
Thought the tone of orange that sliced off one of her thighs,
Suggested 6 AM.
The haze outside had fooled us.
So we were both late for work,
On the bus I read, rather than looked outisde the window at the too thick orange haze,
I could not see through,
Disappointing; I had only just downloaded new music to try.

I had a headache till lunch.
Someone said: “It might rain soon.”

Someone else said: “No that’s just pollution.”

A VP came out and told us proudly that our stock price had gone up 12% today, I pumped my fist, hissed ‘yesss’ and counted two more years before I might get options.

I stayed later than the rest as usual. Except for a secretary who read me snippets of headlines from her phone, her tone perpetually quizzical, like she was discovering events that came as a suprise and that I ought to answer her perpetually rhetoricals: “Did you know that / Wow so / Apparentlies and According To BBC – a bomb exploded somewhere, killing some people, a billionaire did something, billions of dollars went somewhere, the progress of wars, less predictable than the sports scores- sometimes in the hundreds, when casualties crested thousands, that became interesting, though only if they were Europeans or something, Americans maybe.

It seemed that it took about 10 000 dead westerners to shock me as much as say, two hundred thousand blacks from some African country.

“Apparently there is a genocide going on.”

“Wow. That’s fucked up.” I said, and left out: “But I really need to finish this spreadsheet before tomorrow.”

Before temorrow I got to wake her up, pin her to the bed with two of my crab hands in hers, we made two fists, then love, rushed, forceful, racing midnight till we both came first.

I was at the airport Saturday morning. The haze hadn’t moved but we prayed for a typhoon on the train, to come and blow away the smog, at the cost of a few lingering villagers that had not yet moved into government flats. Across from us two mainlanders spoke, and she translated for me via text, writing messages on her phone, as quickly as she could, whilst I read over he shoulder and she never pressed send. The mainlanders were mules, sent here by unfathomably rich businessmen to purchase purses worth a years rent, the decadent, stupid fucking backwards assholes, even they were saying it was perfectly insane, how much money it cost to buy what they thought of as perfectly ugly shoes.

They wore nails flecked with glitter, painted a cacophony, they butterflied them in their mandarin patter, clicking against each other sometimes, a pool of gentle mellodic err shi’s and bou jyos, till a guttural bout of cantonese POG KAI’s invaded the car from an open station, quickly silenced as they noticed other people, and thus everyone bowed their heads politely, into their smart phones.

It was my first time flying business. There was no line at check in. I should have worn a suit, but I told myself that’s how casual I found going business. I asked for champagne twice, the second time as hesitant as when I volunteered my opinion at the meeting yesterday. The stewardesses, so much hotter than her, they took care of themselves, their make up perfect, skin so pale, tall as swans I watched their asses and tried to ignore the waste of a window seat- the orange haze reaching all the way up to the next nearest, waiting plane, obscuring half it’s tail.

The rush of taking off mixed with the distant joke of shot down planes, mad muslims, bad luck, bad weather, shit I’d have to leave behind in the event of an emergency god please don’t let me have to buy another Ipad I fucking loved that thing.

I put down my kindle when we we leveled out and suddenly, the orange was gone. A sea of blue dressed like infinity, above a plain of rolling ice tinged orange, like the cream that came with my berries for dessert. It just went on and I felt something new, up there, where I couldn’t go online, couldn’t message anybody, couldn’t leave my seat, had to stare at how blue, blue, clear it was, how far I could see, how I was not bored by the repetition of sky. Then below, distant through the smog, I saw the flecks of concrete towers, the ant like container ships, the steel, glass, and concrete fruits of progress, across a smoggy field.

And I wondered what the news will say tomorrow.

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14th post: a longer story- Electric Angels (part 1)

This is going to be longer than the others. It’s late and i’m not sure if I like the first draft but hey it’s 1k a day so i’ll proof read it tomorrow and maybe edit it back into sensicality.

Anyhoo:


Electric Angels (Part 1)

 

I am a forgetful person.

That is why i try very hard to use technology to enhance my memory. I’m not talking about some super advanced science fiction sort of thing, i’m talking about a virtual notepad. A notepad, with a list, is just an externalization of some temporary memory. I keep tonnes of lists. Even right now, i can see on the other side of my monitor a dozen post it notes, painting my wall a checkered yellow. A lot of them are out of date.

I tear another free from the yellow pad i keep by my keyboard, i write “Sort through and remove/organise post-its”.

Something to do later. Alright, so i may not be the most organised person, and sure, i might write down a list of groceries but then forget the list, but i do try. I make an effort. In my own way. I throw up my browser and immediately my homepage starts, it’s yesterdays page, yesterdays theme. I organise my life by themes. Like a movie, or a book, i try to construct my own interests. Right now i’m into something called Futurism. My homepage is a website with a fictional time table, predicting future technology. By 2075 functional immortality should be a possibility. What a downer. I’ll be old by then. I might choose to die.

Is it cruel to be the last generation? The one that knows it’s grandchildren will carry on forever, whilst we stare down at death?

Hey, that sounds like a good thought so i write it down and post it on the high priority section of my wall. Something to think about. I’m just sitting here, staring at my wall. I wonder a little about that. Now I hear noises coming from outside. Loud music, trance, blasting away. Listening carefully i can distinguish between the higher notes that sneak under my door, whilst the bass shakes the walls and floor. Eddy’s awake. No wonder this guy has so much trouble finding a room mate. He’s blissfully unaware of other people’s existences.

Still, i guess it might be better than the silence. A roomate brings noise. Noise is life. I await his coming. He always comes, in the next half an hour since he wakes up. He comes and tries to sneak into my room and scare me. I never lock my door, but i always hear him coming. The guy breathes loudly.

Here is now.

I stare at my door.

The space underneath is covered by the thin slice of a shadow. The door knob begins to move, slowly, so slow downwards. I turn back to my monitor and press some random keys. He’ll hear the noise and think i’m working. A whole minute creeps by slowly whilst Eddy lowers my doorknob. At least it feels like a minute. I wonder what he’ll try this time. I’m tempted to go into my bathroom and turn on the tap. That would embolden him. I can almost taste the rush of adrenaline he might feel at the thought of finally, finally surprising me. Maybe this is what hunting feels like?

The door flies open, suddenly, and Eddy leaps through, like a miniature long jump. He’s wearing a jesters hat (impressive i didn’t hear the bells) and is waving a baguette.

“NYA HA HAAAA!” He yells.

I jump a little, but i’m facing the door, fingers steepled. I feel like the architect from The Matrix. I’m sitting, one legged crossed, wearing a calm mask. “Good morning Eddy. You took a long time to come in.”

His manic eyes look past me at my monitor. In my search bar: “airfjioahfoahfa”.

“You’re good Will. Your really good.” He says, villainously.

“Pleasent weather this morning.” I offer.

“OH IS IT? IS IT?” And he leaves my room, bells jingling, his baguette smacking the door frame on the way out. I follow him with my eyes till he goes around the corner. Then i allow myself a satisfied smile. You know they’re testing cloaking technology at the moment? A way to make a soldier invisible? It’s on the timeline. I guess at close range though we can still hear people. What if they invent auditory enhancers to compensate for the future soldiers invisibility? Like the guy on sonar in a submarine, ‘cept he’s pressing a big earphone to his ear above ground, listening intently.

I spend most of my Sundays like this. Zoning out and pursuing strange ideas through the internet. I’m looking for something, i don’t know what. A secret to the way the world works i guess. Or a good conversation starter for later. It’s hard to say.

Eddy makes salty chicken for dinner (it’s really salty) and we eat over a youtube videos, half choking our way through the meal. Later on that night i spend some time on this chat program where you’re randomly assigned to another curious conversationalist. Maybe i’ll get a senator, a scientist, someone who knows things. After the usual parade of perverts and dullards I start to ask random questions- i become on the idiots, like it’s contagious.

I copy and paste the same thing to every person who signs on: “Tomorrow I could go left or right down the road, and I will approach the first man/woman i see in the first bar/place i walk past, and i will ask one question of your choice.”

If anyone requires an explanation i sign off. If anyone types “GET OUT YO DICK” or something similar i sign off. I’m bored and this is what i do for fun. Anonymity and hyper fast communication becomes my playground. I spend the entire night learning nothing. I fall asleep to the sound of white noise emanating from a webpage called “simplynoise.com”.

The next day I head to work at the telecom company, the same one i’ve been at for six years. It’s boring, repetitive, and oddly comforting. I autopilot through the day, until i feel that tightening in my chest, on the way home. Inexplicable misery clawing it’s way in. It happens.

I feel guilty because i have nothing to complain about. I have a job, a house, food, water, all the basic necessities. Hell i even have friends, or at least Eddy. Still, on the bus i get that cold feeling, and I rub up against the window, knees close together, and feel far colder than the air conditioning should allow. When i get off the bus i walk up to the lift with a heavy head, bent over, hunchbacked. What the hell.

I finally make it to my bed, and i collapse into it, back at last.

I close my eyes.

When i open them, hours later, it’s dark. I can see the city lights through the condensation that’s formed on my window. I’m hungry but i want that feeling to linger, so I let it. My monitor winks at me, the screensaver on, the only light inside my room outlining in white all my useless shit like some artificial moon. I sit in my chair, and i can barely make out of my own hands. I find the chat site, and i go to a new section, some experimental sub area that a user set up called the “compassionator”. I guess i’m trawling for a listener. I look at my virtual list of weird questions:

“If you were a tree what tree would it be?”

” “Tomorrow I could go left or right down the road, and I will approach the first man/woman i see in the first bar/place i walk past, and i will ask one question of your choice.”

“You have to commit suicide, but you have one billion dollars: what do you do with the money?”

I close them all.

The chat window blinks into existence:

System: Connected

System: Searching for a chat partner…

System: A new listener has entered your chat from U.K

Venter: Hello, is there anybody out there?

Listener: Hi :).

Venter: Hi.

Listener: Talk away, i’m here to listen.

Venter: Wow.

Venter: Ok, well, i don’t know.

Listener: What’s on your mind :)?

Venter: Are you really from the UK?

Venter: My parents are from the UK, so i just thought it’s a wierd coincidence.

Venter: Though i don’t feel very English personally. I was born in the city.

Venter: I don’t even like beer. Or potatoes. Or roasts. In fact i’d say English food is pretty terrible.

Venter: But that’s just me.

Suddenly my door flies open and i hastily close the window. It’s Eddy and he’s yelling “WA-HOOO!” He’s still wearing that damn jesters hat.

“What is it Eddy?” I say.

“What kinda porn were you watching?” He asks, wandering into my dark room.

I stay quiet.

“Are you ok?” he asks, and i feel very weird. Inside his strange eyes i can even see something that may be concern. I shrug, and say “I’m ok.”

“Would you like some pot?” Eddy offers, his fingers holding an invisible joint.

“I’m good. Thanks.”

Eddy nods and leaves, but he closes my door gently. Afterwards i look back at my monitor, at my empty desktop. I open up the same website, go back to the compassionator channel.

System: Connected

System: Searching for a chat partner…

System: A new listener has entered your chat from India

Venter: Hello, is there anybody out there?

Listener: Just nod if you can hear me?

Venter: *nods*

Listener: What’s on your mind stranger?

And suddenly i’m telling him/her, exactly what’s on my mind. I rant and rave, and barely come up for breath my fingers tapping furiously. The longer i go on for the less filtered my words are, until suddenly i stop, the whole page taken up by my ranting. I pause and wait, and wonder if whoever it is that is on the other side of the world is actually listening in the first place. For all i know they might be tabbing between windows, watching a video, barely reading anything i write, maybe just preparing some affirmative noise like “yes”, “ok”, “do go on.”.

I wait on the edge of my seat.

Listener: Sorry! I’m just reading everything :).

Listener: What do you mean you feel disconnected?

A deluge of typing. I unload some more. I don’t know what it is. The anonymity, the kind one liners, the mixture of no lighting, a long day, and maybe some shit that’s built up in the back of my head- who knows. There is someone on the other side of the world, also staring at a screen, and maybe, just maybe giving a damn about my story. No attachments, no social contract, no relationship based on inertia and an irrelevant past. Just a stranger. There’s a purity to it that makes me want to continue ranting and I do.

Listener: Can i ask you something, how old are you?

I tell him/her.

Listener: lol i’m the same age.

Woah.

And then we’re comparing each other’s lives and the commonalities are stunning. We’re both alienated in our respective places. Each coincidence stacks, one on top of the other, and now i’m wondering about his or her name. It gets late, and he/she needs to go. I feel oddly sad about this, and i imagine that other person feels relieved.

Listener: Hey. Can i really, really enjoyed talking to you. Maybe, maybe we should do this again? How about tomorrow at the same time.

How will i know it’s you though? These are all anonymous and randomised.

Listener: Lines from another song.

Which?

Listener: How about born to run :)?

Ok.

Then i close the window, close the monitor, and come back to the physical world. I feel strange. Nothing marks what just happened. It’s beyond ephemeral. Still, i think i connected with someone, somewhere, through a screen. I’m not sure though.

That night I slept better than I had in weeks.

(End of Part 1)