I looked around the bus. I stretched my arms and legs out and felt almost weightless. The bus was still moving and outside there were far less creatures than before. I wondered what had happened to them. The armed squads were gone also. Perhaps they had made their quotas or something.
Moving in my seat trying to sit up with a little better posture I noticed my pants and shirt were damp and sharp pains were pulsing all over my arms, legs, and sides. I had bled at some point, was still bleeding a little in places. I began to search myself and realized I was holding on to something. Gripping it for dear life, my knuckles were ghost white. Releasing my clenched fist to see what the thing was I ended up dropping it. It was like my body wasn't quite working properly. Damaged goods. I bent over to grab the object, picked it up and looked at it. It looked like a bone but it was contoured like knife. The handle and blade were all one piece, smooth and old. It had little notches in it and some shapes like sigils. I turned it over studying it when a voice rose up and said, "hide it. Put it away. Contraband isn't permitted here." I looked around to see who had said it. There was no one else on the bus. The voice was so familiar but my memory was betraying me. I put the knife in my waist band and covered it with my shirt. I'd have to be careful because it didn't have a hilt. If I wasn't it would slide right down my leg.
Outside the landscape turned around us. The bus moved only on a straight line from point A, wherever that was to point B, wherever that would be. It didn't even seem odd to me that I took that as normal. A bus just traversing spatial landscapes without any destination in sight. I leaned over the seat in front of me and hurled. I was a real sight for sore eyes. Blood and vomit pooled on the floor around me and stained my shirt. I tried to get comfortable and not look out the window anymore. It was too much. I let my head hang limp on my neck and stared at the pool of swirling fluids on the floor sloshing this way and that with the movement of the bus. They weren't the right colours. Something was off about it. A strange tapioca and maroon that was bordering a sick brown. Both were far too thick. It wasn't helping my stomach so I closed my eyes and tried desperately to remember how I got the knife and all the wounds. I inhaled deeply trying to get cool air down my throat for some surcease for my scorched esophagus and trachea, but there was none to be found. That is when the guilt surfaced. It was the scary kind that you get when you head out on vacation and feel like you forgot to turn the stove off, or when you wake up really hung over after a big night of drinking and can't remember what happened during the previous night. Only it was worse. It felt like I had done something I shouldn't have done and someone else was going to be devastatingly hurt by it. So deeply hurt.
Out on the street the asphalt and sidewalk fold over and the bus makes another leap. We end up in a place full of strip malls only their signs are in a language I cannot understand and most of the words have been scratched out. The few I can almost make some sense of look as though they might have been lingerie and sex shops...
"Who'd you buy that for?"
"Uh, you silly?"
"You did not, you know I don't like the ball gag or leather look. Quite frankly I didn't think you did either. So, who'd you buy it for?"
"I just, I just thought maybe we'd could try something different. Spice things up a little."
"I didn't realize that we needed to do that. Don't you think you should have said something before you spent the money on all that crap?"
"Don't you wanna just give it a try?"
"No. I'm not interested. You left me out of this. Either you aren't enjoying me, us anymore, or you've already been after something different. In either case I am very uncomfortable."
"Come on, don't be like that."
"No, I don't want to talk about this anymore. Get this stuff out of our room. I don't want to see it again."
The bus slows to a crawl as we pass another sex shop. The glass is strange and there is a name on the sign that is familiar. The neon still works on this one, although it flickers in spots. D_ _ _ _ _ : } I know that name. I can remember thinking that name is why I feel guilty, but I had no idea what it meant or why I felt it. Who was it? Was it him? And, why would be on a sign in this part of the city? A sex shop no less, he wasn't prudent but he wasn't that liberated.
The bus was still crawling but it felt like it was stopped. The glass was wrong. It was convex but came to a point like the corner of a pyramid and it was jade. Not clear. There was a face writhing in pain and terror in the glass. It was part of the glass like those others were part of the buildings and trees. His jaw was clenching and grinding from side to side teeth bared. The arms and legs were flat and straight down at his sides. I knew this person. I didn't know how, but I knew I knew him. He was in so much pain, you could see it in his face so clearly. Guilt seared my intestines like I'd been skewered through with a hot branding iron. I stood and squeezed the releases for the window and slit it down. To my surprise it opened easily. The heat blasted in mingling with the humidity on the bus followed by the smell. Shit and decay. It hit me so hard I retched again. I spat a few wads of stringy saliva into the mess on the floor and stood back up to face the heat and smell again. I needed to see, to get a closer look. I wanted to remember. I desperately wanted to remember. If I could remember, I could deal with my guilt. I could figure it out and master it. You can never remember something you are trying so hard to get at. The more you probe and poke at a thing in your mind the further into the recesses you push it.
The jade figure was beautiful though, at least I could tell at another time when he wasn't imprisoned painfully in glass he would have been. Just my type. I stuck my ear to the open space that the window glass once filled and tried to listen, to hear anything coming from him.
I caught it, after a momentary lapse he bellowed,
"My face! The itch, oh it itches... HELP ME! It hurts so goddamn bad!"
His face shifted in the glass and a hairline fracture formed. He screamed. I couldn't handle it anymore. I had to sit back down. I couldn't imagine what it must be like for him. A different noise rose up from behind his screaming. I turned and pressed my face against the lower window to try and get a look behind the bus. At first I saw nothing and then I caught boots stomping in unison four pairs wide. Goose stepping almost. It was the SWAT squad. Tall and lean, armed to the teeth. They marched right up to the jade glass of the sex shop, stopped and began talking among themselves. Then they were pointing and what I think was laughing at him. He was still screaming, the crack in the glass across his face had spread and split a little wider. His pain was torrential and I felt some of it, almost like we were connected, like twins or something.
One of the officers went into the shop and came out a few minutes later carrying some paraphernalia. I stretched a strap with a ball in the middle of it and shoved it into the jade man's mouth gagging him. He gagged and flopped, which was an extremely mind bending thing to watch because the whole pain of glass ripped with his movements. He and it had become one. It is jarring to see something defy the laws of physics as you know them. The officer tightened the strap on the ball gag and the rest laughed harder as the jade man squirmed. Then he stripped out of his fatigues and donned a leather bdsm suit. The jade man was frantic. The whole window shuddered with his squirming. The officer in leather grabbed something that looked like a whip handle without the thong. He smacked the jade man in the face with it, hard. The glass shuddered again. Tiny shards fell from the jade man's face as if he were crying. The shards made tiny musical tinkling sounds on the sidewalk. It was pretty and heartbreaking. The officer pulled back the handle and swung again, the jade man's squinted and braced for the impact as much as he could inside his barely three dimensional prison. The glass shattered along with the jade man's screams...