Hello, WWD readers. Happy Fourth of July. Maybe between the brats and fireworks and ferris wheel rides you will find a minute to enjoy the all new edition of the World Wide Dirt serial Acid Fizz that I made just for you. If you haven't been reading, catch up on our previous chapters here:
Acid Fizz - 1
Acid Fizz - 2
Acid Fizz - 3
Acid Fizz - 4
Acid Fizz - 5
Acid Fizz - 6
Acid Fizz - 1
Acid Fizz - 2
Acid Fizz - 3
Acid Fizz - 4
Acid Fizz - 5
Acid Fizz - 6
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Come on, come on, you busted ass aging box of shit, come on. This machine. Brand new mass specs are scissor lifted up to Spinozza and Wang on the eighth floor while a 1995 Dell blinks DOS at me. I just want one thing from it you, you one foot in the grave obsolete motherfucker. Give me the god damn read out, give it to me.
I smack it once. I close my eyes and scoot my chair backward so I don’t do it again.
The computer screeches, vibrates, sways the whole desk left and right and then the readout blinks onto the screen: no change in the compound’s chemical structure. How could there be no change? It ate the magnolia I gave it just like it ate Eric, it should change, should absorb the magnolia’s chemical properties just like it did with Eric. But it hasn’t done a fucking thing. Why am I wasting my fucking time? I knew it wasn’t going to work, it hasn’t once since Eric. I could try to make more of the compound, but where the fuck would I keep it? They’re not giving me money to buy a new afm/stm. And I’m not going to dump out the only batch that ever worked. I don’t know. Why did I go so long without letting myself think about this? Because it sucks to think about. Motherfuck.
I’m liable to sock the monitor. I stand and stretch and walk into the hallway, where it’s quiet and the lights buzz. I angle some linty change from my pocket into the vending machine’s coin slot and hit the Diet Mug button.
I shouldn’t even be here. What is it, eleven? eleven thirty? Jesus Christ, get out. It’s a quarter after two? How? I haven’t done anything, how could I have been here for six hours already? Well, what else am I going to do, go home? I’m not tired and I don’t want to watch DVRed TMC in my junk-piled living room right now. Ever since last week and that leak, something lit a fire under my ass. It’s like I give a shit again. How could that be? I don’t know but I might as well ride it out while it lasts.
I crack the can open and suck the foam in and I look out the window at the end of the hall and I see a bird, but see it deeper than I see everything else around it like there’s a hole cut in my vision and the bird is in that hole, in the layer underneath it. The bird flies right to left. It’s white, a dove. It goes behind the wall at the end of the hall and as it does, it clicks against something deep in me and I see it again, but now it’s not a dove, it’s a shadow of a man, a solid black figure flying through the night. Deep in my mind the figure drags vague notions behind it: a village made of white smoke that I have lost in my travels, I have seen the black figure that hovers around the bird in that village, and I see it here now, if I can catch it, it could tell me how to get back to the village. Whoozy ideas like ones when I start to fall asleep, but they’re thicker. I don’t understand them but they stay true as I think on them.
I run down the hall toward the skyway. I need to follow the dove because I need to find the village and I don’t know what that means so I will put it again like this: I need to follow it, I just need to. Something about this is bright in me. It has both dread and wonder, it reminds me of being a child and discovering a dark cave or a secret attic and believing that somehow I was stepping into the world I always wished I lived in with magical forests and hybrid beasts and superpowers.
My legs burn with every step. I want to stop. I don’t. Through the windows of the skyway, the campus looks neat as a model railroad with flat shiny grass, trimmed pyramid shrubs, don’t even see cigarette butts on the gray sidewalk. Too bad no one’s here to see it during the summer.
In the Biology Building a custodian hums a buffer along the floor. I know most of the campus shortcuts. The dove is flying east and this is the only way to move that way without losing more ground doubling back to a stairway. I swing the glass door of the greenhouse open and step into the solid air, the yellow light casting between green leaves.
There are plants here, surprisingly, hundreds of plants and all I’d have had to do was ask for one of them instead of driving all the way over that florist in Shorewood to pick up that magnolia. But I don’t like going into greenhouses, they remind me of Eric. I can almost see him tending them in his nursery, talking to them, misting them, staying up all night tying them to braces and feeding them. Just their fucking cartoon strips and notes pinned up all over is too much to look at, evidence that they’re at home in bed tonight and coming back to tend these plants in the morning because they don’t have a motherfucker of a chemist brother to kill them with negligence.
I punch a pot sitting on the shelf and it falls off, fuck, explodes on the floor, god damn, soil spilling as I trip over my own legs turning around, but I have to keep going forward. Fuck. Shhhhh, I tell myself with unexpected calm, keep going. I do. I’ll have to come back tomorrow and explain it to the asshole botanists. How do I explain that?
I push out the door into the night, let my feet drum down the cement stairway. I burst onto the campus mall and my huffs and puffs fumigate the air around me. I flip my head to look up, shaking sweat drops off my forehead, and the dove is tiny up there, just over the union and flying right toward Stadler Hall. My legs don’t hurt anymore, they’re buzzing, moving like oiled pistons. The buzzing is everywhere in me, from my muscles all the way out to the sweat on my skin. This feels good. The bird is very close to Stadler like it’s going to perch on a windowsill. I am going to catch it. That’s crazy, it’s not really possible, but I can feel that I am going to fucking do it.
I look up again. The dove crunches beak-first into the wall. What? Not even into a window, right into the brick. I realize that I’ve stopped running and my momentum takes me a few trods extra. The black figure flickers around the dove’s body and seeps through the wall as the bird flops downward. All at once my breath is brawling to get in or out of me, I can’t even tell. I stoop and clutch my gut. My breath is greasy fiery smoke and I feel sick exhaling it. The dove’s corpse claps onto the grass.
I wheeze as I lumber toward it. I am afraid to look at it but I will anyway. The sound around me turns up, the sprinkler clicking its arch, the water fountain just behind the Music Building, the lamps all brighten and everything looks clear as the sweat steams off of my skin and I walk toward the dead bird on the ground.
I think of Eric but the pain is on the outside of some wall and I see it for what it is. It’s where it should be, behind that wall, not corrupting my work. I need to make more of that compound, one way or another I need more of it to go any further in the research. I’ve known it for a long time, haven’t I, but I had to work through this fucking maze in my head before I could get there and really see it. I don’t know what to do with the batch that ate Eric, but I need more. Anything else I do is just thumb twiddling.
I stand over the bird, its head is a few strings of flesh, bits of its beak cracked like pieces of an egg shell in bloody yoke. Up at the sixth floor is a dark spot that’s trickling down the wall. Something is in this building that I need to get to. I could stop now and go back to the lab or go home or do a million other things, but they wouldn’t be the right thing. I know when something is left undone, hollow and waiting to be fulfilled, and something is in that building, something with the shape of a solid black figure that I need to get to. I pick up my legs and lug them toward Stadler’s front door.