Wow. It's an all new chapter of the groundbreaking WWD serial Acid Fizz. It's not TV, it's World Wide Dirt. If you haven't been keeping up with it, you can check out the first few chapters:
Acid Fizz - 1
Acid Fizz - 2
Acid Fizz - 3
Acid Fizz - 4
Acid Fizz - 1
Acid Fizz - 2
Acid Fizz - 3
Acid Fizz - 4
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THE JAR MAN
I’m sucked up from the village while I inhale a pungent vapor and I realize they are somehow the same thing. I coil in on myself, wind tight, and then there are two hands before me, my hands, wearing thick rubber gloves and wrapping a sheet of tinfoil onto a machine made of metal tubes, covering a jet of leaking air. I gag from the taste of it and I’m thinking: god, that smells like a burnt barf and oh no, chambers is going to fucking kill me. i didn’t touch anything, didn’t do anything, i’m on the other side of the lab watching youtube, i don’t know why the afm/stm machine started leaking, fuck. i’m off the project, no two ways about it, off. all i did was forget to double check the mass spec reading last month and he threatened to kick me off then, screaming, hitting the tabletop so hard the beaker fell off and that blue acid eating into the floor and him looking at me like he wished it was my face that was melting away. i shouldn’t have called him just now, but what else could i do? it’s condensing and dripping from the ceiling. he’ll be here any second. maybe i could just leave.
I feel thoughts all around me. Under the storm of them is a structure like a mountain and I climb it, each foothold a detail of a self that I am now a part of – tyler li/five-foot-eight/24/chinese-american/the reasonable one/chemistry grad student/less than average attractive/wish i had gone for a motocross career/4 months without sex/3 months since i talked to my mother/thirty-one thousand dollars in debt/four-hundred, eleven dollars, sixty-something cents in my checking account/microwaved spaghetti, garlic bread, coffee in my stomach/never been that sad, never been that happy/blame my mother for my being unassertive, my father for chemistry/don’t like eye contact/often dream of China I saw as a boy/can’t get this lil wayne song out of my head for three days/don’t want to get kicked out of chambers’ graduate assistant team.
We rip another piece of tinfoil off on the box’s teeth and layer it over the steaming leak. I can’t focus in this noise of consciousness. Chambers.
Two metal doors rumble down the hall. that’s him, shit, shit, i should have ran, is there someplace i can hide? shit. under the table? behind the door where i can run out as he soon as he walks past it? The jet of gas bursts through the new layer of tinfoil. Two feet drag toward us down the hall. here he is, he’s going to kill me. maybe i could hide in the closet.
A man walks in and regards us with dull, angry eyes that I remember. fuck. this isn’t my fault, isn’t my fault. He’s scrawny but with a gut, flat silver hair, wearing a misbuttoned short-sleeved shirt. who leaves some vague experiment in a bunch of rusty pipes for a decade? Andrew. Andrew? It is him but some other version of him. no one even knows what’s in there. it’s probably burnt out any chemical agent and turned to water by now. you are heating fucking water and i’m gonna get my credits robbed from me for leaking your worthless steam. His breath is loud, deep lines are worn into his face. everyone knows you’ll be booted from the department sooner or later because you don’t do anything. but you expect your students to be perfect. fuck you. don’t look at me like that.
“Get away from that right now!” he says.
We bound backward from the machine as if his command has robbed us of our volition. I have never seen anyone nervous around Andrew like Tyler is right now. Andrew stares into the puddle as if it were deeper than it is, like he’s looking at the bottom of the ocean. It is as if his eyes dull even more. I’ve never seen him look so hopeless. Why do I keep getting sucked back into this world? I do not want to be here.
“Did it touch you?” he asks.
“Just my shoes.”
“Get in the shower now!” He bites on each word.
“I didn’t touch anything,” we say. “I’ve been trying to patch it up with tinfoil. I can put some more on and that might help.”
“Tyler.” He brings his front teeth down on his lip to form the “f” of “fuck,” but stops himself. That I have seen before. “Get in the shower right now or you could die within the next few minutes. Throw away those shoes and don’t touch them with your hands.”
i know the fucking procedure, cocksucker. “I know,” we say and run out the door.
I hate the dullness in his eyes. Give me the sludge, I don’t care if I see the village even, give me eternal blackness, not this. I remember my brother and he’s funny and he loves things and his shirts aren’t misbuttoned and his hair is combed and it makes me sick to see him old and angry and diminished.
I try to push out of Tyler like I did from the millipede. Our body heats as we run down the hallway toward the showerhead. I focus on the warmth, pull at it and then it becomes part of me and I heat and I push toward the surface and sweat out of Tyler’s pores and evaporate and drift out of him as he reaches the showerhead and yanks the pullchain and I slip into the darkness and am so relieved to hear the sound of pouring water fade from me…
I’m tossed side to side and whirl around in the darkness and suddenly I’m gagging on that sharp salty stench and I’m looking through eyes at that puddle on the floor. What am I doing back here?
no. it’s really not a mistake. i had myself fooled there, idiot that i am, telling myself tyler was that dumb that he must have had the wrong afm/stm machine in mind, that it couldn’t really be mine. but he’s only just so stupid and there it is, the scientific american-featured chambers solution, in a god damn puddle on the cracked tiles. of all the experiments in this whole building it had to be that one. it had to be that one. god damn idiot students, they don’t give a fuck about consequences, they does not have a fucking clue what they mean.
is tyler alright? well, i’d know if he wasn’t. i remember how eric screamed. i fucking hear it when i go to sleep at night. i had suspected that the solution had diluted in these years since eric.
i could hear him all the way down the hall. for god’s sake. fuck. i don’t even give a god damn about anything in this lousy fucking lab except one thing, why does it have to be that, god damn it, god damn. the only fucking thing i ever created that was worthwhile, the fucking solution my brother lost his life to and for what? for a fucking puddle on the ground eric is dead, for a fucking puddle on the ground. i am a fucking idiotic waste.
Eric is dead.
We pick up a glass flask and raise it to throw against the wall. We take a hard breath and set it down on the table. The hardness presses on our eyes and squeezes one tear out of each. A couple of drops drip from the ceiling and add to the puddle’s mass. How could this be you, Andrew?
i was never this way when there was a reason not to be, when someone gave a fuck how i acted. i had a wife, i had friends, i had colleagues who respected me, i had a brother. they’re all gone now so what the fuck does it matter how i act? i could walk around with my dick hanging out of my zipper and vomit instead of saying hello and no one would care.
I will us down onto a stool. I unbutton his top button and adjust it to the right buttonhole. I try to slow our breath, slow our thoughts, try to let him hear my thoughts. He seems to sense them, like how a noise from the real world creeps into a dream without being recognized for what it is. Andrew, it’s okay. You’re brilliant. I know that you are brilliant and so do you. That solution of yours, you can make another one or if not you can make something just as brilliant. I remember you, you could do anything.
how could i do anything after i killed eric? no, not just killed, got him eaten alive by acid. Eric is dead, eaten by acid. Am I a part of that puddle, a part of that acid fizzing out of this machine? how the fuck do i do anything after that? what if i killed someone else? i would have dissolved the solution by now if i had the nerve. it’s just it’s the only thing i ever discovered that’s worthwhile. if it goes then what was i even here for? but then why didn’t i ever do anything with it? i’m such a fucking loser. what the fuck was i blaming tyler for? i’ll dissolve it tonight like i should have done nine years ago.
No. Andrew, don’t throw it away. You can keep it safely, you’ve done it for nine years now. There’s no reason to throw your life’s work away. Eric wouldn’t want you to. Not much has leaked out and we can patch up the afm/stm machine tonight to save the rest. In the morning you can start to figure out what you’re going to do with the compound. Everything’s going to be fine.
This is all very familiar, from some past life that seems too old to have happened in recorded history, like a hieroglyph carved into crumbling cave walls. Andrew gets upset and I have to talk him down. I remember doing it a hundred times when he was falling apart over a girl or breaking his head to figure out a formula. It feels like I’m reanimating some muscle that’s gone stagnant and decrepit from eons of neglect.