Here's the second piece of the new adventure serial, Acid Fizz. The first can be found just below it.
click picture & open link in a new window for a song while you read
THE JAR MAN
The black sludge sucks over my body, fills the cavities left by my vaporized senses. All I taste and feel is the sludge and it’s just me again.
I can’t hope that I’ll see the village again. I won’t even look. But I do look and it is there, little lights like pinholes poked through the sludge all the way to the outside. I focus on the holes and they expand, fleck the darkness into colored blemishes, then they take shape.
I could stop. There’s no proof that going further will help. They might throw me out or even know some way to hurt me. I could just drift away. Let the ghosts in the village swirl in their mysterious patterns and I could recline back into the numb sludge. It might one day consume me completely and then my suffering would be over.
No. I promised myself. After I turned away from the last village, the last light I’ve seen in this darkness for years, I promised myself I would visit the next one. More vast years agonizing over the same neglected path are unthinkable. I let the shapes grow and they are frightening just like before. They bloat and then they’re so big they might grow right over me and crush me.
Before me a pale road like a stream of white smoke widens and on either side of it pale houses inflate. The road ends at another house both greater and more vague than all the others. The village feels as immense as a planet, but it is only a block and it looks as if it is constructed of dirty paper scraps pasted together.
I could turn around right now. I walk forward. A grayish-blue man to my left wearing shabby clothes and a brimmed hat stares through me. He opens his palm to the ground as if he’s waving to it. Something black leaks from his hand and falls. The road absorbs it and for a moment I can see through the ground, see the man’s black ooze drip from under the road down to whatever is beneath it.
Another gray man puffs out of the house across the street. He glances at me and then starts toward the end of the road, to the big house. He has the long beard of a hermit and a sack rides under his shoulder. I approach him. Two black shapes kick out in front of me in time with every step I take.
Legs. I have a body. I thought I was only a few floating ideas bundled together with a rubber band. But I just couldn’t see myself all those years in the lumenless sludge. I have a body, solid black and glossy, without dimensions or shades as if I were a silhouette. Am I a silhouette?
I walk quickly beside the gray man. Ahead of us a bubble rises from the ground. It is so richly black it might be the darkest hue of another color. The gray man grumbles as he regards it. The bubble twitches, slides along the gravel, then deflates back into the road.
I pick up my speed, pass the gray man, then turn and stop. He stops a few strides short of me. I open some valve in me and free the words I’ve circled over five thousand times since the last village I passed. “I am a spirit. I have floated through darkness for years. I do not know what I am supposed to do. Will you please tell me?”
The gray man opens his mouth and I scramble to understand what he says but the words tumble away from me. “What?” I say. “What did you say?” He repeats the same phrase. It spills out like water. I can’t catch it.
He steps around me and makes his way to the big house. “Please,” I say, but I don’t. Nothing comes out. “Please,” I try to force out of my mind and into this world, but there’s no sound. Did I speak to him? Have I said anything at all or have I only been exhausting air?
“WAIT!” is the word squealing in my mind, but on the outside it’s transparent, a glass bullet shot against nothingness. The gray man walks away. I don’t belong here where my soul is phoned in as a shadow and an empty voice. Or is that all that’s left of me after all this time alone in the sludge?
The gray man stops. In front of him the ground bubbles black again. He stares at it, reaches into his sack. The bubble flattens and vanishes. The gray man locks his eyes on the spot it submerged into, as if waiting for it to reappear.
It does. It leaps from the ground, arced like a trout above a stream. It stretches its arms and legs in the air then dips back into the road, but not all the way, leaving just a bump like the back of its heel maybe. The black bump jerks down the road. The gray man follows it and draws a dagger from his sack. He dives to the ground and lunges at the bubble with his dagger’s point, but just misses it. The bubble jukes up the road the way I came.
The gray man looks up through the dust cloud he’s unsettled and spits a sound. It might be a curse word. The bubble is about to slide right past me. I don’t know what to do. I kneel and grab it with both hands. It has the feel of slick skin fuzzed with static electricity. I tug it halfway out of the ground, holding it by the arms. I feel its pulse. It struggles in my grip, so heavy and strong I won’t keep it in my fingers more than a few moments.
I look to the gray man for help. He scurries through the fog of pale particles, the dagger in his hand leading his way. The black mass in my arm twists and I lose one of its arm. It sinks into the ground and I grip one wrist in both my hands. The gray man sprints up to help me hold it and just before his chalky hands reach mine the black mass squirms out from between my fingers. It roots into the ground and disappears beneath it.
The gray man looks at me and speaks. More curses. He gibbers and motions his hand, first at me, then at the end of the road I came from. He wants me to go. I wish I could speak. He stomps down the road to the big cloudy house.
I stand at the side of the road. The man with the hat still waves to the ground. I don’t think he’s noticed any of what has happened. He sways a little as if drunk. I stare up at the hollow white sky and hope no one else tells me to leave.