Coat, hat, degree on the wall, professionally installed carpet. Couch is not a couch per se, more a sterile and pillowless recliner, designed to give one the best experience possible. Lights, walls, bookshelf in the back full of empty pamphlets, stuffed folders, to the brim with index cards and postcards and info on my past clients. Mahogany, not real mahogany, of course, the desk is made out of wood pulp covered by a layer of plywood designed to look like mahogany. Very dry, yet distinguished, and from a distance you could almost call me a professional. I am a professional, I have a degree in all sorts of mental gymnastics, but you wouldn’t know that.

I dress casually at all times, feeling that one can feel more at ease with slacks and a t-shirt, baseball cap flipped to the side. I am nearing middle age, 42, my eyes squint in dusty conditions and my hair is receding like Grunge. I pace from the bookshelf to the chair in the corner , sometimes. Still don’t know why that chair is there, for a wife or parent or something to sit down while their associate is sorted through, though to date I haven’t had any patients accompanied by anyone. Above this chair, which is plastic with comfy padded armrests, next to this is a potted plant, fake of course, about seven inches to the left is a portrait by some famous artist, of what I suppose one would call the impressionist period, Monet and that sort, only this one is a cheap replica I got for $100 at the local auction, the guy even stated that it was a replica, but who cares, it’s a nice painting and some good décor, more suggestive than a Rorschach test, though I still keep a deck of those stashed in the drawer, just in case.

The painting has ample strokes and pleasant overtones, but something about it makes the mind do acrobatics. I’ve had three of my quota mention that they’ve seen it somewhere before, in a TV show or something, that it was in the background, that it’s always been there. In their heads, they can’t seem to get it out. It’s not San Giorgio Maggiore, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was painted in the same year. This one is simpler, no cathedral in the background, but like Giorgio, it’s set on the water, small fishing dock, maybe a port, and the shapes are just as obscured and vague in the evening haze. In the middle is a ship. Big thing, massive, calls to mind the steamers of old, and there are people on it, too, if you look very closely, faint, almost indiscernible silhouettes. Manning the rigging, wheel, etc. It’s pretty, but I often wonder who painted this and who these people are supposed to be. I also wonder what it would be like to exist in such an Impressionistic world. Get sucked in, feel this synthetic carpet move back under my feet as the noises of freshwater Venetian waves and murmuring ship hands grow closer and closer. I wonder sometimes, and my clientele give me the answers.

The man who came in last week should know, he walked through and sat on the couch, he was worried, I could tell by the wrinkles in his forehead, so I told him to lie down on there so he could spill all his worries out like a torrential flood right there in the middle of all this psychiatric foliage. I turned off the lights, they’re usually too bright for anyone to think, I only have them so I can work, then I went over to the wall and opened up the windows, let soft natural light and fresh air fill the room. There on the couch, legs periodically crossed, eyes looking at that replica of mine, he filled me in. The guy, I would say, was not by any means looking shabby. He had good hair, he was in his thirties, early thirties. Sandy hair, maybe from the Southwest, Caucasian, with certain features that indicates a decrepit and empty aura if not a decrepit look. I muted my phone- push button landline, have yet to switch over to those cellular things, but it does have fax- walked over to him. I pulled out my sketchpad. I guess I didn’t pull it out of anywhere, it was lying on the desk, I’m sloppy with those things, shouldn’t leave notepads lying on the desk where anyone can read them, I should put it in the drawer.

Flip through it, get to today, the guy moans a bit and turns over. I know this guy scheduled himself, didn’t just come in here, and I wonder if my receptionist saw what I’m seeing now or if this is just a hangover of some kind. The guy’s clothes are a bit wrinkled, wearing tennis shoes, classic sign of immaturity, or at least Freud would have me believe, but I try and keep an open mind. He points at my personal computer, asks if I could switch the monitor off, a request which I oblige. The darkness in the room now is stifling, almost irrepressible, synthetic materials turned to jungle and organic thriving something off in the corners of this large expanse. The man has seen something, done something, something which draws him into shadows. Even the midday sun coming through the halfway down blinds cannot repress the feeling of missed opportunity which surrounds this man, a missed opportunity or a blemish on his past. I scribble these things and more down as he opens his lips, and what comes out is not a grunt, or a moan, but a monotone, stale voice. I think about how I am older than this man and yet have so much less than he does, he has experience. He’s seen things, been around things, knows where his head is at and what inning it is. A professional, I assume, looking good and maybe with a wife but no children, maybe she’s unable to have children.

Once more, the painting calls to him, the ship so long ago with its rigging and anchor, and ant people scuttling around. Though the ship and the sky itself is obscured in a twilight haze obscured by a real midday haze, atmospheric discombobulation, his eyes are nonetheless enchanted by the world this picture paints. It is because as I have said he is a man of questions and darkness and twilight, and some twilight long ago in Venice or perhaps even Malta the sun is going down and people in near-empty streets are sharing obscure European food in corner cafes, a precursor to that one with the three men alone in a corner café on a dark New York City at night. The ships make ambient noises as their prows cut through the water, and above birds fly open and opaque in the orange hue. His eyes are drawn to this world, and I listen in the darkness as his corneas are sucked across the room.

I know you won’t believe me, he says. Nobody will believe this, you hack, you fraud, this is something for me and me alone. Water, please? His arm gestures, I walk out the door, down the hallway, make a right, to the water cooler, which gurgles softly, pours cool sweet sugar free liquid into a sterile and generic paper cup with swirling brown lines on the sides. Receptionist is at the desk, browsing through something, She’s a good lady. My wife gives me strange looks, she probably thinks I’m cheating on the side with this ditzy 22 year old, yeah right. Anyway. Back in the room, around the corner, shut the door with a soft and svelte click. Give the guy his water. He raises himself with his left elbow, left may have some subtext, must mean something, everything means something unless it doesn’t. Sips it long and hard, glugs that right down his throat until the cup is devoid of even the smallest drop. Still sweating profusely. Eyes like a scared rabbit.

Outside, one minute, the light was so scathing. In here it’s cool and dark and night in Venice, and masked figures race along stone pathways, bridges stretch over dark rippling canals over which the lone gondola carries a night passenger to some unknown bistro. Lamps over the canals, too, they reflect sharply on those depthless waves. And at the same time it’s a blue day outside, postcard blue, traffic can be heard and the buildings resound a sharp grey against the monotone sky. 42 stories down, it’s the lunch hour, revolving doors and cheap trinkets, street cart food and newsstands with all the usual tabloids. Why am I so nervous? I swivel my seat around, get out from behind the desk, right next to him. That’s it. Keep my eyes away from the painting. Whatever you do, don’t look at that painting. You don’t want to know.

Picture if you would a typical day in Seattle. I can’t, I’ve never been there, wouldn’t know the first thing about the place, especially 15 years ago, but picture it anyway. Space Needle, whatever. Pike Place Market, is that in Seattle? I can see it, rows of shops stretching on towards the horizon. We have a mall here, but not a full-on market, just a mall. Cheap shops, people walking and talking on their doodads, parking lot that goes on and on. Miles of labyrinthine corridors lined by the outlets of commerce. He says something along these lines. Mental image, not of Venice this time but of a city of contrasts, woods, mountains, also beaches and city blocks. Confusing place, confusing times, confusing everything, an aesthetic that would lend a hand towards the downright obscene or the unabashedly lovely. I can tell as he recounts this that he’s being awfully genuine, and as he paints this idyllic past I hesitate to use the notepad as this all seems so irrelevant. Gradually, my arm falls, and the pencil drops to the floor. Five minutes later, the notepad joins it.

I stare out the window as his voice loses its monotone qualities and picks right up to speed. I hear about places and people I’ve never heard about, either this guy is a very convincing storyteller or he really was there. Dates line up. He tells me about a school, the girls he went out with, friends he had. I don’t tell him to cut to the chase but I don’t want to rush him and my appointments are empty today. Always slow on Tuesdays. These anecdotes are words, phrases, congealing into an apt picture of the times. He tells me about a concert he went to, the aura of the era, the signs of the times. I’m nostalgic, but not as much as he is, because I’m older than him and he really appreciated these times while they happened. His adolescence doesn’t sound too bad, I think, decent enough, both his parents were supportive, he had lots of friends, even went to dances, where apparently he was popular. Showed up at most of the parties he was invited to, didn’t do drugs but did drink, though not in excess, not in levels that would damage one’s liver or mind. He seems to tell these fuzzy memories as if they happened to someone else, as if they couldn’t have happened to him. He doesn’t warrant these stories, he wasn’t this good, he didn’t have this much fun, so on.

There’s something he’s hiding from me. I offer him a candy, bribe, whole bowl of them right there on my table. Sure it’s cliché? But whatcha gonna do to get someone to open up other than to offer them a treat? I got the idea after seeing the Michelle Pfeiffer movie earlier this year, fireballs, what a great idea, I thought, because it is, right? Except when I went to the store, they didn’t stock fireballs, because of course they didn’t, but they did have Lemonheads, and I figure either way an extreme taste is an extreme taste, right? Gets the juices flowing, gets the tongue moving. Take this, I say, drop the candy in his hand. He unwraps it slowly and thoughtfully, all the while his tongue still going, wrapper crinkling, and he gives it to me and I stuff the wrapper in my pocket, figure to get up and toss it would be too much of a distraction. I’m also scared, though of what I don’t know. This pining and waxing gets on my nerves, the present is enough already without dwelling on the past. I keep in mind, however, that repression is a factor at play here, and between the smacking and rolling that crunchy citrus ball of sugar around from tooth to jaw and back again I get the idea that something is going on in his mind more than something is going on in his mouth, that his mind is a question and I want to answer it, probe it, feel it the way he handled that wrapper, mull over it. Beautiful mind. Dark room, quizzical shadows fall over the furniture. Scene, Action. Piece of cake.

Woods, open and clear day, and across these woods, behind me, is one of those mountains which appears mind-bogglingly high because we’re at sea level. I, however, am stuck between the two. In my hand is a portable cassette player, expensive. My father bought this trinket for me when I was 13, told me it was the wave of the future and he had been nurtured by vinyl as a child. Loud noises fill my mind through thick wires which lead to a strange outfit on my head, one which covers both my ears through the use of a connection on top, a headband of sorts. I turn this device off, store it away, sling the wires over my shoulder, stash the thing in my pocket. Compact, light, easy. Forest noises, wooded glade, in a sense I wish the entire state was like this, a vast expanse of trees producing oxygen, oxygen which fills my lungs. It is midday and the sun is hot but not overly so, and I am dressed for the occasion. Mountains surround these shadowed glades, massive and overpowering and near-Canadian, although they lack the intensity of Canadian slopes. Sun plays tricks on the needles, leaves are sparse but they shimmy and shake in the rosy glow.

Everywhere you can see the green, the overpowering and steady green, the always-present and nearly-not-natural green. Green are the bushes, the herbs, the small trees and the big trees. Green, too, are the mosses and lichens. I do not fear these effervescent structures, in fact they call to me. I am propelled over root and rot to ancient structures time forgot, a crumbling bridge here, an old aqueduct there, left abandoned and in misery out where nobody will find them and man maintains them seldom to none. I do not find them, they find me nonetheless, because decay is very powerful here, green is very powerful here. Green is everywhere. Green can take a structure which took hours and years to build, filed away by some bureaucratic office, and reduce it all to a pile of rubble. What is green? Green is chaos, green is the longing and the wanting of privacy and the acquisition of said solidarity, and once this is acquired one doesn’t want to leave, you’ve caught a bug, the green bug, one could say. Ferns here, too, old dinosaur things, slippery and wet, and you wonder how they haven’t decayed.

You wonder how this all hasn’t decayed yet, it’s so wet and rainy, you’d think it would encrust and grow mold, become a massive soup of rot and fungus, with mountains to hold it all in, swamps and puddles and torrential moistness held in deep dark foaming puddles under the moon while the wind whistles through the dead branches, dead of course because all the leaves have fallen off and gone to the filth reserves. You wonder this, because in the old days, world war one when they had a supply of fresh boots, trenchfoot would seep up through the toes and ligaments. Shortage of boots, and though the foot was living tissue, it rotted away all the same. Rotted in the dirty crevasses, those muddy foxholes, it rotted all the same. You saw this condition referenced on a medical drama some years ago, and it has stuck with you ever since. Me ever since. I turn up and see a flight of birds, as they hop from one forest to another, up north or down south, or maybe they’re just feeling uncomfortable. The sun has gone behind clouds, hiding itself, and the heat gives way to a slight shiver, a trickling and irreversible breeze, nature pushing energy onto you. You stop, I stop, we all stop for this forest, a forest which defies all expectations.

Acres and acres away from life where the laws of physics do not apply. Sequestered men and women who long for loneliness under the cold rock faces of the Cascades. This is ancient land, sacred land, land with channels of icy thirst dripping from every orifice. It is shrouded in mist, held in the grip of something which lends it a mystique, a silence between the cliffs. These hills are here, these mountains are there, in just such a way as to boggle the mind, to make one lost and afraid in the dark on a night when the mist is down and there is no moon, and one is left struggling down slopes, between the trees, into yet another valley and yet another steep slope which defies all logic, and the night does not end. One sits beneath a pine and grows weary, the organs begin to self cannibalize, the bones grow weak, the muscles grow inactive, and by morning what is found is more rotting soup than human.

Such is the power of water. Cascades, water, rushing, pouring down every cliff onto other cliffs into a broad and deep mountain lake which bubbles and hisses and then lies still. You see this lake for a moment, a shimmer, a twinkle behind a swath of trees, but the lake just as easily vanishes, gone, and when I run toward it it is no longer there. More trees, no lake. Mirages do not happen where there is plentiful water, this is a well known scientific fact. You pull out a candy bar for comfort, you have several of them stowed away in your day pack, but the chocolate has no taste, no flavor. It melts into nothing and is swallowed just as easily. I turn towards the sun, which now has returned but is less potent than previously, and aim for the direction of a mountain I have seen before on these walks, a mountain I don’t know the name of but which has a recognizable shape and could serve as a landmark.

I know this mountain. It is distant and ethereal, and on it lies the small town of Illusion, from which wafts a haunting flute tune. I know not if I hear this flute, this macabre recorder, in my ears or in my brain, but the effect is gone soon after, and it matters not from whence the flute originated, for the mountain leaves me alone on an empty plateau, a plateau of infinity and ideas, and the mountain is swallowed by the trees, which obscure it as they did the lake. Sky is now gathering, real rain, torrential downpour, get your jacket out, it’s going to be a doozy, and no tree on earth will save me from it. Crack, boom, gray water vapor congeals into a massive and black maw, a mouth from which pours the bucket, the flood upon my head. Rain is slick, ground is dripping and soggy, dirt slides right under my feet as if I were at the Olympics. Roots trip me up, as do small rocks in my path, mix of pine and broad leaf here. River somewhere nearby. Rushing, pouring, barely able to contain itself within its shores, breaking on impact, trees are swallowed whole by pools which form around my feet, puddles which could drown a rat.

Hidden in one gulch lies a carcass of some kind, I see it but do not want to know it closely, it remains sheathed under branches and innumerable foliage, and emits a potent odor. The wind is screaming and howling, the cosmos themselves are fighting up in those bleak and dismal clouds, and I am more soup than person now, liquid in its basic form, the skin a weak and wholly terrestrial defense against the pelting precipitation hurled at me from the heavens. I am scared of what I do not know. Never before have I seen a man such as this, standing still in the midst of what would turn any grown person’s skin to ice or a hole-pocked dread, this man stands firm. His face is up against the air, he breathes in the liquid, shivers as it courses through his veins with a kind of giddy delight. In one hand he holds a briefcase, his other he holds firm to his lapel.

And though my eyes are bleary and my vision cannot be called sufficient, and I cannot see through this unnatural foaming liquid for more than twenty feet in any direction, I do know one thing about this man: That he stands with two other men, each identical replicas of him, as seen through a kaleidoscope or a filter. This man is not alone, but he has no company. He is singular but he is divided. These forms on either side of him are weaker but substantial. They, too, face the rain, they too clutch at the lapel as the sky screams fury and the world bubbles, his eyes shine in the darkness, they glow in that storm, they turn a fiery red, then a low muted green. Finally, they twinkle in the softest starlight, and then return to their blank state, unseen and unnoticed in this most secluded of all places, this endless downpour. He stands tall, though he is old, he has seen many things, many more things than this, this is but a meme setback to him, the weather means nothing. The rain continues, the world goes grey and lifeless, and the mist mixes with the rain in an acidic hiss, and the clouds themselves are waging a war upon the ground beneath my feet.

I hesitate near a log and observe the man from behind a worn tree, its bark picked off methodically. Sitting, seat is drenched, every corner is bathed in layers of caked sweat, permanent grease, and furthermore an inch on every side of a new ocean which drops instantly over me. The man cares not though he lives in the same land-based oceanic environment, he is a creature of depths, not necessarily wet ones, but depths and souls and areas which boggle the mind. His face cannot be seen, he wears no hat, for this would shield him from the elements he craves, the raw and open lashing of the deluge, the skies in rage. His briefcase is medium sized, cannot be seen well for the confounding visual impact of the rain, though it contains something, as he carries it with a weight, it weighs him to the ground while the wind whips and sucks and pulls him nearer to the battle and crack above.

Trees bend like modeling clay in such winds, these winds pull the leaves off things, the rain aids in the job. Things die in weather like this. Water giveth life, water taketh away, the universal solvent is a catalyst of life but also an instrument of decay and neglect. I know this now, a rotting soup, an infinite void where organic matter lies in a fluidic dense mass, writing with vines and death. Death being the word called to mind when one spots this ethereal figure in the midst of a paradoxical and wholly impossible event, one whose presence indicates multiplicity, for he is three people unto one. He is one man with two duplicates, and with a squint one can even make out five whole bodies, all performing the same actions at the same time, though the two on the edges are spectral and faint, distant as the town of illusion on the blank mountainside, unimportant as that drowsy and lulling flute, which wafted over trees and into valleys where it could be heard by farmers and tailors alike.

I am in a room and the room is hot, you guide me here. Suitcase, chloroform, various implements and instruments of degrading practices, held in those woods, but that’s all behind me as the world glides to a halt and the windows shine bright light, wafting of dust and corn. Carpet, not old carpet, the shaggy and unpredictable sort but a hard and frizzy variety made of nylon. I sit on a seat where ropes bind me, hold me, hard to breathe but easy to see. That’s the dickens of it, everything is visible here. Eerily visible. The rain was a dream but this is a harsh reality, this room and everything in it is corporeal, here, physical presence. Desk in the back, lit by one lamp, plugged into a socket on the left side, nothing on it save a microwave oven. Fridge.

A fridge, has stickers on it, drawings, some look like they’re by kids but it’s too dark to tell for sure. The world is gray and moving is impossible. I wonder what’s in that fridge, a severed head or a can of soda pop. Makes a relaxing humming noise. Soothing, comforting, this is the relaxed and laid-back environment you’d take your child to, play around on the floor with some blocks. Against the wall, another sight- rows of folding chairs, the aluminum kind. All the lights are turned off but these things are visible through the windows at the top- basement, that’s what it is, you’re subterranean, below what we might call the crust. This room is claustrophobic, stifling, the ceiling looks like it could fall on you. Cramped, yet the ventilation seems fine, in fact one of these windows is open. Beam comes from it, sharp, almost glaring, though not directly in your eyes. You try and shimmy in one direction or the other but you tip and after that you don’t want to rock back and forth anymore because this isn’t a home.

This area is not lived in, it is decidedly artificial. Hokey, made for something besides life. Everything is synthetic, plastic, the lights are off but the glare is on, everywhere the shimmer and shine, the sleek smoothness to be found at a Costco warehouse, sure those places are nice but you wouldn’t want to live in one, would you? But a Costco is big and this room, though wide from front to back, is nothing if not unsettlingly small. Low on the top. This basement is not damp or dim, it is not accessed by wooden stairs and it will likely never be flooded out, this room is permanent and tangible, one of many cellars across the nation but one which unlike those other cellars rather than feeling like a moldy or cozy nook instead is a nameless plastic box. And those folding chairs, rested against yet another row, this one of cabinets the contents of which you’ll never know, I’ll never know.

This is because and I quote the chairs are made for some unholy or otherwise indecent gathering, you can see them being hauled out of this storage and given new life upstairs. The ceiling is worn tile, not as artificial as the rest but still with a sense of inauthenticity. These are not old world goods carved in some village shoppe, these are new things for mass consumption, surfaces without any dips or nicks to be seen. Your mouth is not held or bound, but there would be no sense in screaming as your screams would reach nobody. There are no sounds outside, birds sing but aside from that it’s eerily quiet. Upstairs, one other sound is added to the drone of the fridge- a vacuum. Some hobbled custodian keeping the premises clean. You’ll never see him or know him, but his presence is felt.

Though artificial, this facility reeks of- well, it has a sense of belonging. Of being old and known. People have been in here, to be sure, they have sat at that desk, made themselves a lunch there, maybe. The fridge is on, people have eaten from it, opened its door, taken out some food, and walked out again. Those chairs have been sat on, they are not without purpose, and though they now reside in storage, eventually someone will haul them out and eventually someone will haul out the contents of the cabinets behind them, too, the ones with the straight down handles and the double doors. This room is not lived in but it is used frequently, shadow men and weary parents lug their young through these doors and out again, casual talk made after some distinctly American ceremony. If the human soul cannot sustain itself here, it can at least show up time and again though the room would not will it.

The vacuum upstairs removes dust so as to keep the rooms looking neat. This is a gathering place, a spot where people come together- but the floor is blank, nothing but that desk, some cabinets above that, presumably with forks and other implements- a community center of some kind, yes, a recreational facility, built for recreation. Union offices, maybe a swimming pool, pool tables and basketball court, here. Or a church, it could be a church, too, couldn’t it? The thought crosses my mind, your mind, we know something. Can see. Can feel. The chair you’re on isn’t one of the folding ones, this one has plush armrests and is made of wooden materials. Whoever tied me up has an intent, a direct motive, they didn’t just tie me to the folding kind, no, they got another breed of seat from another room entirely. Sit in the illuminated darkness and wait, time passes, time flies, you don’t even know how long you’ve been here, really, do you?

You can’t say you do, and what’s more disturbing still is the fact that you can’t seem to grasp when it was you woke, whether it was in the trunk of an SUV or in an empty cornfield. Ropes were applied, you felt them as hands wound them up and kept them taut, force was used, besides that you know nothing. Footsteps, murmurs. These murmurs come from a door behind you, the only entrance into the whole place, a locked closet on one distant wall and the windows giving these surroundings fresh and natural sunlight and air, but the door which lies three feet from your sweat drenched neck is the only way in and the only way out. Of this fact, you have no doubts. Perceptive eyes, yours.

From behind this door can be heard furtive voices in corridors where conversation would be futile because all aspects are known, halls with plaques, buttons to elevators that stopped operation in 1923. The point being that these voices are seldom heard in this long and timeless period when your hands are held and your throat is parched. The voices grow more distant, and you lose hope of a feeding. Then, however, one voice barely audible to the human ear makes its way to the entrance, stops. The voice in all honesty quit about fifty feet away, but those hidden footsteps bring the promise of answers and of revelations.

These are resumed and the door is opened, light and sound fill your weary body and you know there is another presence, certainly human, without a doubt male, a man who enters this place and then leaves quite often, and only now is entering this room with full knowledge and acceptance of what he’s done. The man steps behind you, I’m too tired to twist my neck and get a good look at his face. I know who he is, this is a silly game and I’m sick of playing it. He’s holding something, too. The sunlight is reverted to dusk and crimson, and outside are the faraway noises of cars lifting from slumber and departing. Departing because they get softer and less audible, and the man stands near one wall, drowned in scarlet. He moves closer to the closet, next to it is a panel with more than three switches, of these he flips one.

The room is revealed to be as massive as you thought it was and with the exact arrangement you recall, stark whites and a flat carpet that to an ant would be a plain of unimaginably lonely proportions. The man is old, seventies, white hair and jowls, dressed plain enough to be seen at a coffee shop but formally enough to be seen in a town hall meeting, he has walked roads and traveled miles, he’s been to gas stations but he is a man of habit, not a drifter. Make no mistake between the two, he has rituals, he has routines, he follows these routines to the best of his ability and in the whir of the flat and lifeless lights connected to unseen wires in the low ceiling, he is absolutely stark and rigid, a depiction of protocol. Lifeless, humorless, a man who knows things you can’t begin to guess.

Lapel, a pin of some kind there. Decoration, he belongs to an association of like minded individuals, a mutual admiration society if you would. Meetings held, records kept in dusty and worn ledgers, records for his and his kind’s eyes only. His shoes are beaten, they have trodden many grounds, fields and areas. They are well kept, though, he is well kept. His face is wrinkled and suggests to me the color gray, he lives in exciting monotony. Sterile hubbub. I see him plain against the walls, the walls are merely a backdrop for this man of ages and wisdom. He carries nothing. He walks with a decided step, a mannerism beaten into him through sheer habit. The room is built for men like him, men who in their golden years forget to walk, seven stages of man, last one’s a return to the first, know that. I know, too, that this visage does not come in a blur when subjected to harsh light, when exposed and thoroughly studied this specimen is less cryptic than at first glance. He fears my vision, knows that I know him and what he does, he treads softly on the synthetic carpet towards the chair where I sit incapacitated and blank, staring through him, behind him, through the walls and out the windows, to a blue and pleasant summer day. It is indeed the dust and corn, land of flat.

In parks lovers can be seen huddled on benches, farms go on, cows huddle in fields, sun rises and sets and rises again, circle of life. This area is one of stagnation. It does not change, it keeps on as it has been. This is his power, the power of dust and if not complete rot then of static. Static setting, monotony, emptiness. He lives this way, he cannot be expected to live any other way. He projects vibrations of whimsy, excitement and a bold rainstorm, lightning crucifying him. He thrives on blur, on spin, on deliberate deception and on people believing he is multiple people when in fact he is the same man all the way through. His duplicates are present but faint, and if my eyes are opened entirely they vanish. The lights are too good here, his tricks don’t operate as they would otherwise. He nears me, pauses, looks into my face, at my features, tries to remember them, but fails. He doesn’t know me how he thought he did, he was hoping for something else. Disappointment.

He now walks directly over to the fridge, which calls his prostate and gives him a yearning for some month-old beverage. He rummages through its contents, small and spectral in the yellow light of the freezing chemicals, finally settles on a can of sparkling water. I remember it was a brand which no longer exists, like him a relic of a bygone era, a ghost which nonetheless leaves a tangible and recognizable impact on the present world. I sit and watch as this torture is conducted, the carbonated fluid singing his dry and wrinkled throat, and he looks at me, shakes the can around, tells me with his eyes that I am young and do not know what he has to give. He has something which I do not, this is clear, he is the superior figure in whatever deal we are about to make. He crosses once over to the switch, returns the room to its darkened condition, though without the sunlight it is a crypt, a plastic coffin submerged in dirt and gravel. In this light his duplicates can be seen, silhouetted. They are no longer moist, now they are solid, I could touch one if my hands weren’t bound. He nears.

Eyes red, gleaming, fiery, they burn in a frenzy of carnivorous lust, he sees something. He knows something. The eyes are what can be seen of him, the rest is obscured in the night, the night from which noises of crickets emanate through the window, noises of chirping insects not unlike that flute, noises which when presented alongside burning eyes create nothing more than the deepest paralysis of the human heart. My nerves are sent into convulsions, I open my mouth but nothing can burst from my pale form, I am being dissected and blurred as he was, turned into many multiples, endless reproductions of one essence. The room grows useless, a tangible place to which the following experience is irrelevant, which cannot hold what came next, as the burning orbs neared and took on an olive tone, dark, nude, forest, the color of natural beauty warped and twisted into dying and decaying rot. These two points meld into one in the darkness, hide behind murk and whispers and carry me, roughly, pain surging through every inch of my flesh as I am whirled back to the ground, dirt, left there to die. Above, birds sing. The sun rises on dewdrops and an empty patch of soil.

I raise the shades, help the guy up to his feet and see him off. The cup remains on the couch, and I promptly discard it, it holds no significance for me. Outside, he can be seen pressing the button for the elevator. I watch him until he leaves, know that he’s gone, then I sit at my desk and pull out an aspirin. Back to the water cooler, get the pill, swallow. I think, I have the faintest idea, that I might have that painting replaced soon. Might trade it out to a buddy of mine who’s also in the industry. Receptionist doesn’t know what happened in this room and I’m not telling her. The couch is sweaty and imprinted, it’s seen worse things than some but this has to be the worst yet, a man who though his brain functions as usual has been filled to the utmost capacity and can barely hold it all in. I don’t know if I would be able to, if I was given similar circumstances.

I sit back on the cushions, sort through my files and make a detailed entry. Takes about an hour. At the end I lean back and light up, it’ll be over soon, I can drive back to the house, maybe I can convince her to go out to the new restaurant, everyone gives it rave reviews. I need to eat something, my stomach might reject it however. I have something to do, something which I know must be done. I pick up the set and punch in the numbers.

Kansas prefix.

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