The first chapter of an unfinished short story. Full length will be posted.
|Gordon lies in a den of reeking filth. The frayed, timeworn couch that Gordon is recklessly splayed upon was clearly at one time, a bright, brilliant work of meticulous craftsmanship, ornately decorated with oriental (or are they African? Possibly even Latin?) designs and brilliantly accented with splashes of deep, silken, crimson against a lively, ocean blue trimming. Years ago, the couch was truly a spectacle in Gordon's lonely mansion. Amidst the thriving, frantic parties long forgotten, Gordon's spacious home was a living, breathing oasis, filled with distinguished guests, drowning into a frenzied blur of flesh-tones and rainbow colors, all encircling the shimmering couch, still and silent: the eye of a hurricane. Years ago, beautiful, young women would gasp and marvel at the splendor of Gordon's couch, trailing the golden characters and blue trimmings with their soft, pink fingers. Gordon enjoyed watching their affections, even if they were directed at his furniture rather than himself. Now, several years of crusty, green and yellow food stains, white, salty sweat rings, cigarette burns and ash have reduced the majestic commodity to an indistinguishable, repulsive growth amidst the dark, dank lair of Gordon Bennett.
Gordon lies naked on his couch in an inanimate mountain of sticky, pink flesh, grossly contrasting the now grayish-green fabric. Gordon's fat cheeks are caked with orange, dried mustard, sickly entangling the hair of his disheveled beard together into a grotesque protuberance. His grey tongue hangs lazily from his open, drooling mouth. An occasional gurgle or snore escapes from the empty cavern, challenged only by the humming armies of flies, feasting on the remains of greasy, molding hamburgers and half eaten slices of stale pizza, still wrapped in plastic or in disfigured boxes and strewn carelessly across the wasteland. A bottle of Wild Turkey lies overturned on the cracked, glass coffee table. Its' golden-brown contents steadily leak onto a thick, dusty reference text, defaced with coffee rings and labeled "Residents", forming a miniature river that proceeds to weave through an obstacle course of hardened bagels, newspapers, candy wrappers and legal documents, eventually greeting the edge of the table and cascading into a trickling waterfall that empties onto an offensively rank stack of soiled clothes. Roaches had invaded and conquered the marble and gold kitchen long ago, and only cease to occupy the brown, brittle interior of the microwave oven, the only cooking appliance ever used by Gordon. The windows are carelessly painted over in black and green, obscuring all but the most meager bands of light from entering the apartment, still providing for enough visibility to sicken a visitor at the mere shadowed hints of the hideous spectacle they behold.
Every object in Gordon's ownership lies as if it has remained unused for years, abandoned and condemned in their absolute failure to complete their sole responsibility of injecting even the most insignificant traces of contentment into Fat Gordon's apathetic life. Exorbitantly expensive watercolor and oil paintings, presenting numerous scenes of tranquil evergreen forests surrounding gentle pools of crystal water, jovial explosions of flowers and bleeding sunsets, sit, forgotten and faded, in dark closets. Books of all shapes, sizes and subject serve as mottled drink coasters. The larger and sturdier volumes are stacked on top of each other to form various tables, which are caked with a thick crust of unidentifiable matter. A diamond necklace is strewn upon the black fireplace mantel, creating the illusion of tiny, sparkling stars against a sticky, tar sky.
Gordon lies motionless in his kingdom of discontent.
"The central water main is broken again." Vehemently mutters a clearly discouraged James Goodnight over an amorous breakfast of warm coffee, French toast and the daily newspaper.
"Everything is in hell." Goodnight's brow wrinkles in obvious distress.
"Pretty soon we will have to eat each other for survival."
Jennifer Goodnight glances up from her novel, tilts her head forward slightly, staring skeptically across the dinner table at James over her wire frame reading glasses and unconsciously permits a wry grin.
"Eat each other? Why don't we just eat Henry and Jezebel? (who are the Goodnight's dear friends and neighbors, located directly behind the blank northern wall of the Goodnight apartment) Besides, all my good cannibal recipes are still at my mothers' complex."
James yields a gentle chuckle, but does not glance up from the newspaper.
Jennifer removes her glasses, brings them gently to the table surface but does not release them from her hand and turns her head to the eastern window, directly to her left, vividly displaying a newborn August sunrise, blossoming over the hideous horizon of black, angular apartment complexes.
Hues of crimson and violet fill the bare, single room cell (as the smaller apartments are called), softly reflecting from the spotless, off-white countertop and table surfaces in a pastel pink glow. Jennifer slowly closes her eyes, still facing the window and smiles as the warmth of the glorious morning sunrise gently caresses her face, replenishing her soul with a sparkling energy that she would more than need.
James slowly shakes his head and tosses the paper onto the center of the table. He takes a long, indulgent sip from his steaming mug, smacks his lips noisily and sets the coffee on the featureless, plasitc surface directly in front of him. James then begins to address his beautiful wife, but stops in wonder when he notices that her thin, delicate lips are drawn up in a tranquil smile, and her vibrant brown eyes hidden by frail, pink eyelids. James stares at Jennifer's radiant face, illuminated even further by brilliant, yellow sunbeams, in perplexed admiration.
"After all this, after all she has been through and after all she is sure to go through, she is still content.", James thinks to himself, "I thank God I am married to such a truly remarkable woman."
James continues to stare affectionately at Jen, until she suddenly opens her eyes and abandons her smile with a start, as if she had been acting inappropriately without thinking, or as if she had just said something unacceptable in front of an audience and was now scorned by a crowd of twisted, sour frowns.
Jennifer abruptly returned her glasses to her nose and casually picked up her novel. James has smoothly retreated back into his newspaper and coffee. Though both of them are wrapped in thoughts far removed from the morning news or the story of a dying mother of three, they both sit and silently pretend to read until the time comes to depart.
Avernus Street is claustrophobically trapped by two towering, parallel rows of austere, black apartment complexes. When standing in the center of the street facing northward, the featureless, twin walls seems to continue on in an infinite and shrinking ebony line, never quite meeting each other before vanishing in a thick brown cloud, pouring from the perpetual fires of The Furnace and the emissions of various factories scattered throughout the dying city. A thin film of ash covers everything, giving the unevenly constructed red, brick street surface a ghoulish, grey tint.
Even on a relatively clear, mid-summer day, scarcely a solitary sliver of light is able to creep over the apex of the steel complexes and illuminate the street. Only at high noon does a warm, golden beam vanquish the darkness of Avernus Street, exposing unidentifiable piles of reeking garbage and excretions, stacked in the center of the streets, left to bake in the brief, noon heat. No birds adorn the broken streetlamps, slumping wearily and forlorn over the cracked and crumbling sidewalks like an endless row of gallows. No children play in the streets. Only the solemn footsteps of a lowly vagabond, or the sound of shifting garbage interrupts the post-mortem silence. Occasionally, a sickening, tortured shriek arising from the forsaken cavern of the long abandoned subway stations causes the hairs on the neck of a shivering vagabond to stand on end in a momentary pause, until the moment has passed, and he continues to shake, nosily rattling the shredded newspaper draped around his bare shoulders.
These lowly men and women do not beg for money, because there is no money. They do not beg for food since food is strictly rationed and given only to those in the dreadful, black apartments. They endlessly shift through the mighty piles of garbage until I find it necessary to venture out of the subway stations and render them immobile and painfully disfigured on the steaming sidewalk. They are then thrown into the sewers by the city prisoners, clad in neon yellow bodysuits. There, my victims remain in colossal, underground mounds of stiff, rotting corpses, left to die in utter solitude.
At twelve thirty seven, James and Jen reluctantly open the squeaking, iron gate of complex C85303 and cautiously step onto the greasy, damp sidewalk of Avernus Street. James pulls the collar of his torn leather jacket close to his face, grimacing in repulsion to the humid blast of fetid afternoon air heavily laced with the odor of feces, rotting flesh and burning plastic. Jennifer stifles a gag and lifts her twisted face towards the brownish grey clouds that she had watched roll in after breakfast, preferring the gloomy, elevated view to that of the vile garbage mound, directly in the middle of the street and at the foot of the complex.
James shoves a white-knuckled left fist into his front jacket pocket and seizes Jen's gloved hand with his right as they bow their heads against the cold northern wind and walk quickly away from the hot, steaming pile of reeking garbage, towards the invisible point vanishing point between the twin iron walls.