59) CUCKOO COCOON
Ratso enjoyed a restful sleep during the night. He lay naked on the mattress pondering about today’s activities. His first order of business would be to punch a view hole in the external door. He needed to spy on the outside of his hiding place.
Next to him sat a heap of his dirty clothes. He touched them and found them still slightly damp; and boy did they stink. There wasn’t much he could do about cleaning up now, because these were the only clothes he possessed. And the bin offered no washing facilities.
He got up and clicked on the light of his flashlight. The light sprung forth to illuminate his surroundings. Beside his mattress sat the remains of his Panini sandwich and a can of flat Coca-Cola. He choked both down to stave off the hunger rising from his belly. He found the awl he absconded yesterday and approached the large overhead door of the bin.
I want nothing more than a peep-hole, his mind rattled.
He pushed on the interior of the door, attempting to find a weak spot. When he decided on the perfect location, he put the point of the awl against the door. Pulling back, he slammed the handle with the palm of his hand. The awl tip, being honed to sharpness, penetrated the door easily. He pulled the tool out of the door and placed his eye behind the hole. He couldn’t see a wide angle of sight, but enough for what he wanted.
That takes care of that little project, he said. Now I need to go shopping for clothes.
On his last visit to Times Square, he found a little boutique selling jeans and t-shirts. A change of clothes would be beneficial since he never knew what he would get into. He hadn’t figured out how to clean his clothes. He’d worry about finding a laundry later. He pulled his crusty clothes on, getting ready to make another trip into the city.
He stole a quick glimpse outside through the new peep-hole, to make certain nobody was in sight. Lifting the door slightly, he slid out into the cool air. He put the padlock on the outside, pocketed the key and left to hit the streets. The minute he arrived in the Times Square area, the wind kicked up and the sky darkened.
What is with this wind? He thought. It’s the same as this yesterday and the day before.
He pushed along the busy city street, fighting blustery breezes all the way. Is this his imagination, or did the intensity of the wind increase in the last block? He likened himself to Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz story. As he shot a glance behind him, he got a shock seeing a huge mass of dust, almost like a giant wall; forming and following him as he walked.
Other New Yorkers existed along the fringes of the wall, but they seemed oblivious to any danger. They carried on as if nothing strange went on. Today’s mission was still at the center of his thoughts however. He wanted to find the clothing boutique, grab some new duds and get the hell home.
He picked up his pace, moving forward towards Columbus Circle. Each time he dared to turn around and check, the moving wall of wind seemed to have gained another block. Now, the swirling dust became more solid as it stuck to his pants and jacket.
He struggled with the intensity of this crazy storm, but each step seemed to take an eternity. As much as he tried to fight off the swirl of this restrictive wind, the storm fought back. Dust blew so hard now, his vision became obscured. Finally, he closed his eyes to keep the dust out. Periodically he tried to peek through his eyelids, but he couldn’t identify whether things were real, or just an illusion.
Ratso looked down at the front of him. He could see that no less than a full inch of solid dust stuck to every external surface of his body. He became stuck in his tracks. Even though he exerted all his strength, he could make no progress .
The dust solidified and formed a crust or a cocoon, covering him and keeping him from going forward or backward. In front of him the swirling dust formed a vortex, swallowing up everything in its path. Upon second glance, he recognized everything inside the vortex appeared as a faint image; almost like a blurry photograph.
Panic struck him now and he experienced true fear. He helplessly stood on the city street, trapped in this ‘cuckoo cocoon’ and watching the vortex approach him. He likened the experience to that of a hovering fly; waiting for the windshield on the freeway. He tried to run back in the direction he came, but with the wind so strong, he couldn’t even turn around. He was in reality, what you might call a sitting duck.
The vortex caught up with him and he is engulfed in a pale dimness. Images form in his mind, of strange people and places; almost like he is in some weird movie made up of unknown characters.
The real world of New York City disappeared and Ratso stands in the stasis of what he believes to be a nightmare. The vortex kept increasing to the point of drawing the last remnants of oxygen out of his lungs. He can feel himself fighting to breathe, but to no avail.
He finally passes out.