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THE JAR MAN
The glass door turns and we step together into the dark station. Music hums from speakers and between every object in the room. The blood rushing through our veins conjures a palpitating fortress around our senses, keeps the room dark and the music an indecipherable wall.
Only a little further, Andrew, almost there.
Andrew lets the exhaustion overtake us. We could run the rest of the way, but he’s scared of what’s in the studio at the back of the station. I glance on an unread part of his mind and there the studio is the center of a knotted and brambly labyrinth caging a poison-fanged beast.
Nothing will harm us, Andrew. It’s just one more room in your university.
In truth, that may not be the case. I don’t know what that black mass is made out of nor what its defenses might be nor why it rode a bird to its death in the side of this building. I only know that I saw it in the village and then I saw it again here on Earth after I was sucked back through that tiny fissure Andrew overlooked in patching his machine.
I only know that I have lost the village and that I am lost without it. Going back there is the only way forward for me, any place else I go is a result of useless motion. I ready myself to leap from this body and follow the black mass if it departs from the world of matter, perhaps all the way back to the village.
We near the studio and I am weary of the Earth, weary of sore feet and carpeting, of shelves and things set on shelves, scotch tape and fliers and aspirations and talk and Tums and Diet Coke and impatience. We bump into a shelf and a pile of something spills to the ground. I need to get out of here.
Just a few more steps, Andrew.
We open the door to the studio and our mind stops. The exhaustion erupts through our body and we come loose and thump on the ground. The girl is still as a photograph, a perfectly lit and focused picture of death and horror, painted with blood.
Andrew’s shock attaches to another picture, eric screaming for help while his leg drizzles away from him in orange broth, he loses balance and topples into the puddle face first and the daisy in his hand falls and lands just outside of the puddle and the scream is gargled and his face turns to steam and the daisy is perfect just next to him and i don’t sleep for five days and melinda gives all she can talking me out of pulling the trigger of the rifle at my head and then we’re both so empty for so long.
We look at the girl now as Andrew looked on me then and we look away as he did then. Her departure, like mine, is so violent it leaves the matter around it warped and grotesque like earth torn around an uprooted tree. If it’s like it was for me then she will be alone in the dark sludge now, losing time and matter, her mind tearing apart. How long was it before the shreds I was left with began to heal? It seemed, without time or space, to be infinite. Infinite agony. She will scream for anyone out there in the sludge to help her and no one will answer and when some sanity materializes so will the conclusion that she is all alone. That will be the most painful part of all, to be certain that somehow it has become only her.
I could help her. There is still a faint trail stretching from her body and out of the world of matter. I seep out of Andrew’s skin and slide after her and let the world shed off of me.