The young lady was adamant. She’d known this neighborhood since childhood. Classic brick row houses, a block over from the old part of town.
“Ma’am, nothing there but an empty door frame. The building’s been gone for a long time.”
She stared at the empty lot through the door frame, dumfounded. Then she studied the old man talking to her. He seemed honest enough. But she wasn’t so sure.
“Okay, come on now, jokes on me, very funny!” She feigned laughter.
“Ma’am, I’ve never seen ya before. God’s truth I’m not lying. Ain’t no one lived there since Nixon was president.”
It didn’t make any sense. She’d spent all day with him, right there, just yesterday. She’d been seeing him there for several months. He’d become the focus of her world. Inseparable. And just like that, he was gone, and she was all alone.
She knew he said odd things. But he always had that grin, which she took to mean he wasn’t serious.
“Oh dear lord he wasn‘t joking,” she muttered under her breath.
He’d told her he was only there for a short time. That he was on a mission. From God. Visions of “Blues Brothers” always ran through her head and drowned him out whenever he’d go into his mission-from-God stuff. Besides, he was gorgeous. She never much listened to what he said. She just enjoyed the sound of his voice. And staring him up and down. She KNEW there had to be a catch, but she never imagined it would be a supernatural one.
She kissed him once. And then again, the other day. Some of the only times he’d let her touch him. A brief peck on the lips, but each time a bolt of energy surged through her that sent her flying. She assumed he was just being a gentleman, but she wondered if maybe he was afraid to touch her. Afraid he might hurt her.
She kicked at the debris strewn about the lot, each stone another memory, another moment with him.
“I’m from the fifth dimension,” he would tell her.
She’d asked him how he got around, because he never had a car or any transportation. “I just walk through a portal. Or fly, if I feel like it.”
She yelled his name several times. Maybe the “fifth dimension” was within shouting distance.
“Fifth dimension,” she mumbled. “I’ve lost my mind.” Her thoughts were racing through the possibilities. Had she entered his dimension all those times they spent together? The “house” was immaculate inside, colors so vibrant they made her high.
“Maybe I traveled in time,” she thought. Where exactly was the fifth dimension, anyway? She wished she’d paid more attention to what he told her. She had so many questions.
Reluctantly, she walked out into street. Nothing made sense anymore.
“Say, miss, I don’t suppose you could help me out? Miss?” Jolted from her thoughts, she noticed the old man talking to her.
“I’m sorry. I sorta zoned out there. What’ya…” She stopped mid sentence. He had been beaten. Severely. She pulled out her phone. “Who do I need to call? Do you have any family nearby?”
He did not. He lived alone.
“Mission from God,” she mumbled while dialing 911. “I got this.”
Arm-in-arm, they slowly made their way along the tree-lined avenue.
“By the way, I’m Susan.”
“My wife’s name was Susan.” He managed a broad grin. They hobbled along together, disappearing into the distance — street lights flickering, moon waxing — beneath an autumn sky.
“I will stop them.”
“All by yourself?? You’re just a boy, and there are many!”
“When will you learn not to believe with your eyes??” The Master stared through the darkness, eyes narrowed and severe. They knew his power, witnessed feats they failed to explain. But this seemed different.
“I am not a boy. You know what I am.”
The group exchanged glances among themselves. Over two dozen of them had followed the dark-skinned boy, who appeared no older than ten, for several days. He was dressed in white robes, a hood draped over his head. His eyes were lit with a divine passion. He spoke with resonance and force, and with wisdom at times beyond comprehension.
A path opened and he marched towards the evil mob of skinheads and murderers. Bloodied bodies, some barely breathing, littered the street. Blacks, Jews, Orientals. It had been a vicious hate-fueled assault.
The attackers laughed and jeered as the Master approached.
“Go home, boy! Go on! Get out before we rip you in two!”
The Master never wavered.
“It is you who better leave. The evil in your hearts will be removed. Surrender your hate, or I will rip it from you one after another.”
The killers mocked and chided the Master as he came within striking distance of their spiked chains.
“Last chance, BOY!!!”
The Master walked resolutely into the dark mob and grabbed one by the jacket and threw him across street like a stick. Another retaliated by striking the boy repeatedly with chains and fists. The Master never even moved, completely unaffected.
With lightning speed, The Master punched through the man’s chest and ripped out his beating heart.
“I warned you. Remove the evil from your hearts, or I will remove it for you!”
The warning went unheeded. They attacked him with fists and knives and chains to no avail. One by one they fell, their blackened hearts removed and tossed aside for the buzzards.
In the end, thirty-two corpses covered the pavement, remains adorned with swastikas and emblems of white power now picked apart by buzzards and rats.
The Master, his robes drenched in blood, stepped quietly through the streets and into the night; his followers watched in stunned silence, never moving.
The vibration of noise and music rattled the walls and knocked his glass off the nightstand, crashing onto the floor. He reached for the largest shard of glass and flung it across the room.
“I hate this damn town.” He collapsed onto the bed, inebriated and maudlin.
His mind was a sloppy mess of irrationality. He felt himself slipping, slipping.
He drifted above his comatose form and weightlessly circled the room. He was free again.
The door burst open and several men entered his room. He zipped right though them as he set himself to soar through the clouds and into the stratosphere. The freedom was exhilarating.
Once he’d ascended above the blue haze of the atmosphere, he noticed the moon off to his right and set his soul in motion, faster than the speed of thought. He dipped beneath the lunar ridges and floated above the surface for two, three, four orbits.
He then turned his attention toward Venus, the bright green jewel of his eye. But just as he set course, he felt himself ratcheted back into his body.
“Welcome back! You gave us quite a scare!”
Hooked up to monitors and drips, he squinted and stared straight into the eyes of a burly paramedic. He couldn’t move his mouth to speak, and his muscles all felt numb. He drifted back off to sleep.
He opened his eyes and saw a radiant blur standing over him. “How long was I out?”
He tried to sit up, but her hand held him in place.
“You’re too groggy right now. Give it a moment.”
He could feel the IV strapped to his wrist, and could vaguely make out the sights and sounds of a hospital room.
“You’re still in recovery.”
He clamped his free hand over his eyes. “Christ. Recovery from what?”
“Well, for starters, you downed a bottle of alprazolam with a bottle of tonic.”
The words festered in his mind for a moment before they began to register. He’d wanted to die. Or get so high he’d leave his body forever. “It was the only way.”
“Only way for what?”
“To leave this town.”
The lady moved in closer to his face and looked him dead in the eyes. “So, how bad do you really want to leave?”
He groaned. “Anything. I don’t ever want to wake again.”
The nurse quietly and deliberately closed the door, locked it shut, and began drawing up a syringe. “Are you sure, Barry? Do you really want to leave forever?”
With all his strength, he let out a resounding, “YESSSS!!!”
She softly drifted over to his side, injected the syringe into his IV line, and held his hand. “Shhhh. It’s going to hurt for one brief moment, and then it will all be over.”
His body began to buck wildly and seize up, and then flopped down, lifelessly.
The code alarm blared and blasted throughout the halls as his soul lifted up and out of the room.
This time, he was definitely going to Venus!
To be American is a frightful awful thing. It is the opposite of meaning.
Meaning, the direction of unified factors, a square, a trapezoid, shadows of the fifth dimension. A life devoid of panache, the eagle above the cloud. Lateral pressures in a raging stream, debts in torrents, drowning men.
Kids. Children. Young men. The procession of ages stops and staggers and races past.
The last day of summer. Pick-up games at the Pony League. Afternoons of clouds and eagles and my dad’s ‘62 Chevy.
“You ever think about the future?” I asked aloud.
“Nah,” they answered. And I agreed.
The light of the world was polarized.
How could we see the world at forty-five degrees? We knew nothing but the days in the sun, dauntless days of chasing geese on the lake and shagging flies in the dirt, days in quarter arcades, sweet taffy, grilled burgers, and eight millimeter film; days in the clouds and nights in the stars; days of stolen centerfolds and copping feels; days without end, dying embers and dreams of youth.
We piled into cars and raced the block. The block, the square, a flat plain in planar space. Locality intertwined. Leaves fell, clouds burst, we huddled behind bleachers, trading cards for ancillary light.
The grounded state. The end of everything and the beginning of nothing. Days of summer into Fall. What would we do, when the square became the cube? Where would we be? Who would we love? Would we still play ball? Would we still race cars? Would diffusion of perspectives correlate our distances and time?
In the end, there was nothing. We were sucked into the cube, its entanglements paradoxical and dark. The eagle skimmed the clouds. The books became our games, and flies changed into ladders.
“I want to play here when we’re fifty,” I said, teasing my words with fingertips as they slipped beyond the light.
“I sure hope so,” they replied, words drifting into night, the upper slit of continuity where dreams of children dissociate and die.
I reversed my baseball cap, stretched out my arms at ninety degrees, and closed my eyes. Particles and waves surrounded my senses, backwards moving and incoherent, adrift in seas of light, discontinuous and irreversible, intuitive and non-distinct. Unbound, I disappeared, a distinct memory through time, where time and distance were the same.