Decaying fragments of marrow-chain lay everywhere down the middle aisle and under seats adding to the putrescent suffocating aura of what I am coming to see as my mobile mausoleum. I nudge a digit with the toe of my shoe. It breaks apart into something like cremation ash. The hooks, like large talons degrade down to rusty flakes and drift around like dried butterfly wings, rust motes dancing on streams of silted grey light.
What a twisted place this is. I always knew that the city had its filth and dark corners, but I am starting to realize that maybe I’m not in my city anymore. Don’t worry, I won’t use the clichéd phrase. Man, I hate those, especially when they are really over done. I know, I know, too late for that. Sometimes there just isn’t any other way to say it though. A cliché is a cliché for a reason. Alas, life is a cliché anyway. Here I am sitting discussing death and decay as if that is something new. The rot of everything good is really what this story is about isn’t it. Every life starts out innocent and progresses until the choices that are made become a corruption, and everything devolves spiralling out of control. No one is perfect and that is the crux of it. Isn’t it? We all end up here, punished for our sins in some way. The Devil made me do it!
Tears began to flow. Of course they did, I was always sensitive. That was always my best quality, the thing that attracted him in the first place, and the biggest part of the problem. Here I was stuck on this damn bus in the heat and the mire for who knows how long, who knows how far I’d gone. I was sure I was going to miss the party and never see him again. All that occupied my mind was Jacob and the now tainted memory that I tried to hide from him. The jade man.
I flip the knife over and over again in my palm as my tears smack the handle and roll down over the edges seeping into the cracks and the seams of the old bone and the sigils. I study the way the water marks it, but also doesn’t. Magnified by one of the tears is a small etching I hadn’t noticed before; a heart. As the tear soaks in and dissipates, the heart breaks leaving in its wake a fissure that splits the handle from blade to bottom. I get a good grip on it. When I squeeze the handle it bites my palm puncturing the flesh and drinks the ooze that leaks out. Unwrapping my fingers from the handle to have a look at the wound; there is a thin line of perforation across my palm but no blood. The handle has a light, brown discolouration which slowly fades into it. I squeeze it again and feel its bite. I liked it. Somehow it helped with the guilt and the sick feelings inside. It makes the memories of Jacob and the jade man a little more palatable. Now I understood cutters; I mean those young people who cut themselves to feel anything more positive than the emptiness inside. I had no clear thoughts or feeling for a long time and the storm that is raging inside is null, a negative. This pain brings it back to even. It gives me focus.
Receded into the far off background, lost to shadow and distance, the figure and their companion were long gone, lost. Squeezing tighter on the handle of the bone knife, relishing in the sting, it becomes easier to cut away at the memory of Jacob, to slice it into more manageable ribbons that can be folded and set aside. I try hard to focus on the jade man, no, him. I didn’t want dwell on the painful thoughts. I wanted think of happier memories and times.
Still dark out and the green street lights still on highlighting the emaciated, melting city; how long... See what I mean, I bet you forgot about the time too. The space of our thoughts, of distance warps what time means. How it feels and how it flows. It is a river but it is always changed by what contains it, the space around it. Now, you should be up to speed, succumbed to the same problems as me. The unchanging dusk does make it difficult to concentrate. It eats at you with its drab discoloured molars, grinding down on a piece of lettuce. I bet you, like I, forgot about the party for a while. Fuck. I knew I was late. I knew by now, that I wasn’t going to make it at all.
We passed a figure with a companion. Somehow they had managed to avoid the chaos of the preceding blocks. The figure was only a little bigger than their companion and the companion only a little smaller than the figure. You could tell they were close, lovers maybe. At least at one time, they must have been. The smaller figure nudges the larger one playfully. The larger one grabs him by the arm and pulls him in close, but the smaller one pulls back. They jostle with each other around lamp posts and what I think might be a mailbox, however it has drooped so badly that it looks more like slag full of grass green glowing embers. They split, tip toeing around a tree that was more Jenga tower; the next move will cause the fall. My face slams painfully into the back of the seat in front of me with a dull thack, as warp speed is instantly reduced to a crawl. The road underneath slips by but the bus is no longer pushing forward. We aren’t stopped but we aren’t moving either. The figures turn toward the bus. Man, was this deja vu. It felt like my skull was cracked in two. Each hemisphere throbbing arrhythmically. The smaller figure’s face looks way too familiar. His hand shoots out in a groping, pleading gesture making him look even smaller, weaker than the other figure. Features begin to fill in and I realize that I know him. His unblemished skin is radiant until the veins running up his neck stick out strained and darken. They darken all the way into his face up into his hairline. An onyx spiderweb pulsing through his skin. Some sort of visible poison is coursing through them. They radiate a greenish hue into the rest of his skin. The jade man. The larger figure grabs him by the shoulders and shakes him. Smacks him across the face. The jade man tries to fight back but is clearly enfeebled. The larger man turns them both so that the jade man’s back is to the bus then pulls something out of his pocket. My reflection is a palimpsest on his face. I can’t see it, but I know instinctively what it is.
“Stop him, RUNNNNN!” I yell again and again and again trying to get the jade man’s attention. “RUNNNNNNNNNN!” I screech this time as the python of fright and anxiety constricts my throat and vocal cords. It’s all no use. The larger man takes the knife and overpowering the jade man, stabs him in the chest forcing him to the ground. When he pulls the knife out spurts and thin jets of blood geyser out of the wound. This incenses him and in his own excitement, my reflected face over his, he thrashes stabbing and slicing and cutting with a flurry of arm movements seemingly unable to stop himself. Finally he grows tired and lifts himself up off the body of the jade man, who is nothing but a tattered, ragged corpse that is nearly unrecognizable. A brown livid pile flesh and bone heaped on the side walk and the white handle of the blade sticking out of his chest. The worlds tiniest, most powerful symbol of surrender. My mind wanders to the melting city scape and connects the jade man to it. I see him as another melting landmark to be passed and only partially remembered.
A cold greasy feeling rises up inside of me again. Man, I’ll tell you I can be so callous sometimes. But it isn’t my fault. I told you already that I haven’t really felt much of anything but a negative storm, TV static inside for a long time now. I grab the knife and squeeze it, enjoying the painful bite of the bone in my palm and do a little cutting of my own...
“You knew.” I said to him incredulously.
“Of course I knew. Do you think I’m stupid, you asshole?” He said, his face red with anger and humiliation. “I’ve seen the way you look at each other, how he snickers flirtatiously at your stupid jokes.”
“Oh come on, you’re being ridiculous. It doesn’t mean anything.” I replied, my own guilt fuelled anger rising.
“How often does he call here? How many times have you been late from work with little to know explanation? You’ve told me yourself that it’s been slow there. And every time we talk about anything, it's always Jacob this and Jacob that. How THE FUCK COULD I NOT KNOW! YOU COME HOME SMELLING LIKE HIM!”
“HOW THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW WHAT HE SMELLS LIKE?”
“I know how you smell, you don’t wear cologne, suddenly it's on your clothes.”
“Oh my god, you’re so fuckin crazy!”
“Oh ya, I’m the crazy one. I’m the one sitting around here waiting for you when you don’t come home. Looking for fun things for us to do on the weekends, cooking your favourite dinners. TRYING TO GET YOU TO REMEMBER ME!”
“You know what, fuck you. You always do this, you start losing a fight and so you try to manipulate and guilt trip me. Well it isn’t gonna work this time.”
I slammed the door when I left. I remembered him alright, but I fought it and ignored him. It was a few days before I went back. If I had of known it was the last time I was ever going to see him, I wouldn’t have left...