<<Previously… so the real question is: are we the moth or are we the flame? And who says the flame doesn’t also yearn for the moth? Or that a flame can see anything beyond its own heat? Perhaps it desires to become two for a while, projectile-hallucinates the moth into its blurry version of the world, then recalls it back, back into itself, where all is one again, for a while.>>
this week’s theme: rainbow warriors
New Orleans, some time in the last or next three years.
Running through the streets of this city is never a task to take lightly, especially when you’re chasing someone. Your eyes have to move fast, back and forth between the person running from you and the street full of potholes so large you could curl up and sleep in them.
One wrong step and your foot’s facing the wrong direction and you’re stuck on the couch watching reruns of M*A*S*H, sans paycheck.
The one thing that I really didn’t need was for the person I was chasing to start shedding light into the air behind her, fragmenting the air between us like a broken mirror. She grabbed her face and pulled all the light off of herself at once and tossed it to the side. The her that was light ran one direction and the her that was lightless ran the other
“Scape, follow that one!” I yelled, pointing at the girl made of light. My associate hummed through the air after her, and I followed the dark shape of a running girl, a shape that was cut out of the world – a world currently made of shifting, jagged shards around us. She slipped swiftly in between two of the shards and I followed.
Then I was running through a room full of paintings, a museum of some sort. I followed her out of the gallery and onto a walkway that overlooked the other floors of the museum. She ran into a closing elevator.
“I just need to talk to you!” I said as the door closed. The elevator was going up, and I jumped into a second elevator and took it up to the only floor that was above me, which was the fifth. Inside the elevator I saw the name of the museum – the Ogden. All the galleries on the fifth floor were closed, and I walked out a pair of glass door onto an outside courtyard.
The sky was dim, and it took me a second to see her there, a shadow among the twisted sculptures, leaning against the railing. She was looking out towards the buildings of the Business District and the I-90 as it turned into a metallic spiderweb bridge and stretched itself over the Mississippi, car headlights streaming across it like an endless caravan of fireflies.
“Please don’t run anymore,” I begged her, my throat and lungs burning. I really wasn’t cut out for this whole chasing thing. I kept my distance from her and leaned against the railing. “Don’t suppose you’ve got any water on you?”
She sniffed, and I realized that she was crying.
“That’s not what I meant,” I said.
She wiped the tears away with the silhouette of a hand, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one up. “I suppose you’re going to take me away now,” she said. “But I suddenly realized that I don’t care anymore. Nothing matters now.”
I laughed. “Nothing ever mattered. Oh, wait, how old are you? Fourteen, right? I guess things matter when you’re fourteen.” I turned around and leaned back against the rail. “You know, those cigarettes are the reason I could keep up with you. You really should have outrun me – I’m in terrible shape and more than twice your age.” I pulled a flask from an inside pocket of my jacket. “As long as we’re on the subject of vices… it’s not water, but it’ll do.” I took a swig, letting the herbal flavors of Chartreuse burn their way across my tongue and down my throat.
She looked over at me. Even though she was only a silhouette, I could feel her eyes there somewhere, trying to read into me. Then I saw that she hadn’t totally pulled the light off of herself – there was still color there, dangling from her ears. Two rainbow earrings hung suspended in the dark.
“Those earrings, they’re important to you,” I said. “They were a gift from him, weren’t they?”
“The way people talk about you,” she said, “it’s like you’re a hitman or something. A real tough guy. But you’re just a big dork, aren’t you?”
“Which would you rather me be?” I said, pretending not to be offended. There’s nothing quite like the sting of a fourteen-year-old girl calling you a dork. “And for the record, I did just chase you across fissions in time and space. Well, space at least. Not quite sure about the time part.” I checked my pocket watch, but it didn’t tell me much.
“So will there be a funeral?” she asked.
“I’m not really sure how these things go,” I said.
She looked back out at the freeway in the distance. “None of them realize that the sun’s not moving. None of them know that he’s dead. Someone who didn’t even know him will be picked to crawl inside, take his place and start it moving again. And no one will fucking know.”
“Ah, to be fourteen again and have it all figured out. Those were the days.”
“So where are you taking me once you catch your breath?”
“I told you, I’m just here to talk. I’m not taking you anywhere. Just had to make sure you didn’t do anything stupid.”
“What exactly is it that you do?” she asked me.
I looked out at the statue of General Lee standing high up on his overgrown pedestal, all proud-like among the buildings of the Business District. “Let’s just say I keep things from getting too out of hand in this city.”
“But you don’t actually care about the city. Not really, I can see it in your eyes. You like what you do, even when you pretend that you don’t. You work for someone, and they hired you because deep down, if the whole city vanished or blew up, you’d just walk to the next city. They needed someone like you – someone who’s afraid to really commit to something. Someone who doesn’t get attached to things.”
I grimaced and took another swig from my flask. “You’re a pretty sharp girl. I can see why you were his favorite, and why he picked you.”
“What do you mean he ‘picked’ me?”
I pulled out the keys and dangled them in the air. There was a yellow foam sun dangling from the key chain, as well as a brass fleur de lis. I tossed them to her and she caught them. Next to us the world broke apart into floating shards and the girl that was all light walked out from between the pieces, followed by my mosquito associate. The two half-girls locked eyes, the her that was light and the her that was everything else, and some kind of communication passed between them. Then they merged into one again, and she looked down at the keys in her hand, the rainbow earrings dangling below her mane of hair.
“I know you might not believe me,” I said. “But I am sorry for your loss.”
She nodded and looked out towards the horizon, not saying anything.
“The sun’s parked about fifty miles west of here in Bayou Alcide,” I told her, “out in Assumption Parish. I’d give you a ride, but it seems you’d travel faster on your own. Once you’re out there, it shouldn’t be hard to find. Big, yellow, round. Gives off a lot of light.”
The shards of the world shifted back and forth around us. The girl with the rainbow earrings took a drag of her cigarette and walked up to me. “I won’t tell anyone. About you being a dork.”
“And if you could… maybe throw in some intimidating dialogue that happened between us. Doesn’t have to be too dark, but -”
“Oh, I’ll make you sound really scary. How you held me over the railing, all threatening-like.”
“Holding a young girl over the railing?” I glanced down at the sidewalk far below. “Hell, I’d be scared of me.”
She laughed. “Maybe there’s a raise in it for you.”
“That’ll be the day.”
She looked at Scape, who bobbed his feathered antennae in the air. “And thank you, for what you said back there.” Then the girl passed between the shards of the world and was gone. The world pieced itself back together like it had never been fractured, leaving Scape and I alone on the courtyard.
I took a swig and passed my flask to Scape. “Hey,” I told him, “no one got mad at me that time. I think I’m averaging one in three now.” We both leaned on the railing, looking out at the freeway cutting across the horizon. “You know, from here it kind of reminds me of a river. Cars flowing, people flowing. Kind of nice in a strange way.” We sat there in silence for a while, sipping on Chartreuse and watching the city.
story and photos Copyright 2010 by Andy Reynolds
for more stories and a menu of the episodes, visit my website: AndyReynolds.net