The Journey Continues
Staring out the window I couldn’t help but gag roughly on the smell and the weird feelings of sea sickness. With each hitch the arid heat of the bus seared my esophagus. I was incredibly uncomfortable sitting with my tongue constantly stuck to the back of my throat and feeling like the plastic wrap on a cheese slice being peeled off. I hated the quiet. Why did everything have to be so damn quiet here. Pressing my ear to the glass I strained to catch any snippet of conversation between the drivers.With so much chaos exploding all around me, maybe I’ve gone deaf. I was wrong earlier… I’ve never felt so alone - The strangest thing occurred then. I was losing his face. The image of him in my mind, blurred, stretched unrecognizable. A void was growing inside pulling memory into it. I was lonely before, but I couldn’t recall…It was here and now, watching them talk beneath all the columns of oily black smoke, in the smell and the tumult that the loneliness found a way to burrow deeper inside a growing emptiness.
Part of me, wanted the rest of me to retreat inside. To hide from whatever was happening to me. I could feel my mind slipping, fracturing. The worst part of it was being aware. Seeing the different shards and reflections in each one inside your own mind.It reminded me of a poem I read on a blog once,
“The voices crawl across across my brain
like spiders on a thread.
Pinching nerves that spread their pain
like prophets of the dead.”
I hadn’t broken. Not really. Some small part of me knew I had to keep it together. But, why? That I didn’t know. Just the same, I could feel all the twist ties loosening. I mean, I was listening to that song, you know the one from earlier? That is what started all of this. “And tell me, did Venus blow your mind?” And now, I’m stuck on a bus that’s hotter than hell, with some sort of riot going on, everything is burning and broken. “Was it everything you wanted to find?”Rather than retreat, in fact, the thought of retreating into myself,letting it all go became a motivating force. Fuck that, I wasn’t not going to give up that easily. No way.
I hauled myself to my feet and walked to the front of the bus. I touched one of the hand rails and heard the familiar hissing of heat and had to yank my hand back. A blister formed just below my pinky finger. It hurt like a real old bastard. Bending to see out the window at what the drivers were doing and trying not to let them see me. Who knows what they would do. Then again, I didn’t even know what I was looking for exactly. There was a jacket hanging neatly over the back of the driver’s chair with that same logo of the silhouette of the gondola and the gondolier on it. There was a name tag that read Charon S. Strange spelling, I thought. The bus rocked a little with the rolling roads, which were still rippling with small but powerful waves. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen asphalt or concrete heave, it has some weight to throw around. The bus groaned a little with each impact. None of this was helping with my disorientation and nausea. I caught my breath and managed to swallow the pennies, spitting what wouldn’t go down onto the floor and breathing deeply until it was gone. It was bizarrely empty where the driver sat. Hardly any buttons or toggles, no shifter. Not even a radio. There was nothing of any real interest at all. Nothing offering up any answers. Not even a single route map.
Feeling a little braver now that I had gotten this far, my heaving stomach quieted a little.I made for the bus door. It was still open. My foot lowered onto the first step down and they quickly and forcefully shut, nearly taking my fingers off at the middle knuckles andknocking me back on my ass. “And are you lonely looking for yourself out there?” I got up and tried to push on it. It wouldn’t budge. Not in the slightest. As unmoving as a granite wall. I threw my shoulder into it and still nothing but a bruise to show for my effort. I stood there staring at it thinking there was something I wanted to do that night. This wasn’t it.He was going to be there. My angel. My love. Where? Sure he was there with some other friends, but he had to know I was coming. Where was I going? We hadn’t seen each other in a few days. I missed him terribly and I know he felt the same. “Drops of Jupiter in her hair.” Whatever, wherever, it was going to be a great night!
That damn song is still haunting me! The drivers were gone. The platform was completely empty, just me on an otherwise empty bus idling under the tarnished shine of a gargantuan silver wall. I stood there for a few more minutes, but the heat started worming its way back into my skull and down my airways where a new conflagration ignited in my lungs. It was seriously like a forest fire inside there. I swooned and ended up blistering my palms on the support bars. I took one last crack at the door and bruised my other shoulder. Desperation was tilling the soil of my heart. Defeat was in the wagon behind it. I was losing. I was losing myself too. Slinking back to my seat I could see through the rear doors that the riot was beginning to move away to the west of us. I sat on the edge of the seat to watch the retreat that rescinded like a tide receding. The fires began to die down as it did, quickly becoming embers alight like fireflies awaiting the next stoke. The sky lightened a couple of shades from pulverized flesh to a thickly sallow hue.I continued to sit. The sky changed again. Still I sat. Nothing moved. All the fires had all relaxed to near stillness, them embers like maddened demonic eyes surveilled the city. Now that those things had mostly disappeared and the inferno was done the destruction was visible. Nothing was left untouched except the white bone building in the distance. Weird eh? There I sat and thought for a bit, trying to imagine what it was they were after. What they were doing. There were no signs, no words. Just complete and total anarchy. I couldn’t remember having ever seen anything like it. The longer I sat there and tried to piece it together the more the space grew in immensity while the walls continued to inch a little closer together. The fracturing felt more acute. There was an unravelling all around me. Or from within. Some great revelation was just out of reach, like the clockwork of the cosmos is laid bare, but I, trapped on the face of it cannot recognize the cogs and the wheels, and so am missing it. Something fundamental was happening but the only question I could ask was how long had I been waiting?
Thunderbolts welded the sky and split the darkness at the same time. Aurora blazed morein leprous splotches on the skin of the sky. Reality quivered under the disdain of the heavens sending salient lines of electricity to lick the tips of The Terminal’s five horns. Dissolution of the body. A great rending all around me as if The Terminal and the whole city were a picture in an ex-lover’s hand. Huge fissures formed and split everything apart. Folded and torn again. All of the pieces scattered to the winds. Nothing existed any longer. The roads, buildings, signs, embers; reality itself was all gone. It was me on a bus, floating in speckled darkness. Nothing but abyss. Green and red gas formed faintly in the distance, swirled and coalesced into nebula, then spread until it was no longer visible. This happened again and again with purples, blues, reds and greens. Entropy. The erosion of the soul. It erased the heat. I pressed my hands to the window and thanked the void. But it didn’t stop, the chill cracked my skull like winter asphalt and worked its way in glazing over everything, crippling me. My body contorted into a painful rictus. Somewhere far a way a ball of gas ignited sending a brilliant ice-blue shockwave knocking me over…
Headlights approached faster and faster, he yelled and grabbed my arm. I started and smacked his hand away swinging the wheel around and sending the car swerving maniacally, fishtailing back onto the right side of the yellow line. “What the fuck was that?” He scolded. “I told you, you’ve had too much to drink.”
A section of the Terminal opened in a liquid spurt and out walked the driver. Shambling really. She was dragging something behind her that looked oddly human. It was kicking and flailing weakly in a pathetic attempt to get away. Charon S. Dragged him within a few feet of the bus. I draped myself over the seats in front of me like a wet towel to get a better look. I wondered weirdly who it was. As if I could ever know, but I was mesmerized. It is really hard to look away from crap like this. Another piece to toss on the pile of strange. Why was she dragging a person? What the heck was she going to do with them? Standing, she straddled the supine person. Then she knelt down and seemed to sniff at them. Flaring nostrils punching thick blasts of air against their pallid flesh. Blindfolded they turned away in disgust, teeth clenched and bared in a horrible rictus from the fetid breath of the driver. Charon grabbed the person by the side of the head and pressing it onto the ground. Kneeling on their arms she hooked her feet over their thighs and squeezed. I saw them flinch and gasp. Pressing down on their forehead with one hand, Charon pinched the dirty cloth covering their eyes. Their eyelids glinted. Something else was covering them. Something round. Charon dug under the chromium glint of the person’s right eye with her nails andpinched it between her thumb and forefinger stared pulling on it. Charon’s nails were like talons - I hadn’t noticed that before - prying and pulling at the covering. Her hand reminded me of a thin corvid pecking at carrion. The head twisted, wallowing, and let out a frail wail. Were those coins on their eyes? Yes, a circle of silver with a roman head visible covered each eye. They must have been super glued because it looked like tough work to get them off. She was really working for it. Charon scratched, plucked and pulled in near desperation; her fingers squelched in blood and tissue. Thin layers of viscera splatted the pavement like a bloody corona. Yellowish pus oozed out of the wounds around Charon’s nails as the coin loosened in the socket. She pulled at the coin and the flesh around the socket gave a little, its elasticity finally breaking. Fibrous tissue attached to the coin stretched with it up out of the recess of the socket. The optic nerve or whatever that thick cord was did not let go easily. Charon had to put her full weight into each pull, which she did with fervour. Her victim howling in fits subdued by the bodily pressure of her captor. Finally it snapped like a tendon sending Charon reeling back a little before she caught and held her balance, then going to work on the other one. I expected to hear ear-piercing, glass shattering screams but the person must have gone into shock, or maybe they were dead now. Charon straightened up, looked at the coins, breathed on them and wiped them on her sleeve. She put them, one in each pocket, then went back to work on the body. Both knees firmly planted on the ground she lowered her head close to the person’s face, sniffing at it again. Seeming to savour the sour smells emanating from the puss filled wounds mingling with the acrid stink of burning metal and plastic. Charon’s lips sealed around an empty eye socket and her body heaved inward with a huge inhale. The cadaver - it must have been a corpse at this point - twitched and convulsed. They stayed this way for another minute and then she released her lips, exhaled tiny wisps of smoke that snaked out of her nose and mouth coiling like an ouroboros as they floated into the sky. She sealed her lips around the other eye socket. After a couple more moments she stood up, her chest inflated to exertion. Rocking back on her heels against the bus she tilted her head back and appeared to luxuriate in the expanse of her full lungs like a smoker who’s been kept from her pack for too long. Exhaling a huge squall of billowing television-ghost blue smoke from her nostrils and mouth. An emanation that curdled into thick ethereal anacondasthat roiled and curled slowly upwards in search light to constrict. I told myself to sit down and shut up. Jesus Christ, can you believe it? She just sucked on the face of that dead person as if it was a cigarette… and exhaled smoke… Or, something. Believe me when I tell you scared doesn’t cover it. I was shaking and pissin in my pants as she walked to the doors of the bus. They swung open with the usual hiss and she stepped back on, gave me a slight knowing nod, got back into her seat and fired up the engine.