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CHAPTER SEVEN: ROM IT UP
“Where have you been?” Rom said. His tone was that of a substitute teacher questioning why you were missing your number two pencil and school book after being late for class which was a lucrative idea to begin with since a substitute should never change the rules while sitting in for another teacher. Tyranny’s example of the worst form possible.
“Hmft. Really, Rom? Trapped in a room with Dom for like eight hours waiting for him to wake up. Matter of fact,” he paused with dread, “I meant to ask you the same thing.”
“Where is everyone?” Rom said, deflecting the interrogation with another question.
A feeling of unease came over LJ when he noticed metal pieces making up the inside of Rom’s mouth, jaws being actuated with little mini-hydraulics counteracting the bumps in the dirt road the Lancer crunched down through.
“Rom. Vic is dead.”
The cue to tell Rom all about what had just happened with Dom in the octagon shaped room when he turned into a 50 cent play toy, through the rubbish and by the pool when Vic died, these notions passed through LJ’s mind like a spinning neutrino traveling through the whole Earth, undetected in an instant. In one side and out the other, faster than light. Bringing up the topic would only make him seem like a puny dweeb if he talked about it, at least that’s how most of LJ felt about the subject.
Rom dropped his tight-fit sunglasses from the top of his head back over his eyes and pumped the brakes. The Lancer’s tires slid and rolled over the top of dusty dirt road gravel, grinding to a halt. It left Rom staring at LJ in between a concern for LJ’s condition based on what he just heard and if he even wanted to hear anymore about Vic’s death at all. Listening to someone say something always has the negative effect of the words potentially being relayed to someone else and the process repeated. Even worse, once told, over and over, the message would get tainted and ill translated, twisted and contorted with only the most embarrassing details left. The most embarrassing detail being the fact that LJ could do absolutely nothing to save Vic, not even counting the way she died a horrible death.
Best to keep quiet, LJ thought.
Based on what LJ looked like, Rom decided he heard enough. Attempting to look or even act like a personal Jesus wasn’t a solid answer for Rom. Someone offering off-the-wall suggestions to help fix the situation and not even knowing all the details? Nope. Not a chance to benefit anything at all.
LJ failed to notice that he could see himself in the reflection of light from Rom’s sunglasses. Maybe he blocked it out of his mind. Maybe thoughts of winning the last official race flashed through the mind and how the fan girls had screamed at every race’s finish. A deep repeating, regretful feeling. A feeling that maybe his racing career had been enough or should have been enough to satiate his needs for his own life and that he would have been better just being content, living what he thought of as a semi-mediocre life racing rally cars. This wasn’t much different in the fact that he felt like he could never really settle. Always a force tugging him this direction or that direction. But this regret was only being brought by the current state of affairs and that regret must be turned into something better, hopefully into motivation to move forward. Something that would help them obtain the goal and bring Dom back home.
Rom groaned up some words, “Yeah, my Dad died a couple of years ago. It was more tough on Mom than me. Now, she just sleeps most the time,” Rom paused. “Sometimes she doesn’t get out of bed for days, not eating or drinking anything until she gets up, maybe not even then . . . my girlfriend never died, though. I have no idea what that’s like.”
Rom looked back through the Lancer’s rear view mirror, into the distant light blue shroud surrounding the landscape, noticing how he could also see ahead while looking in the rear view mirror, being that his sunglasses were reflective like mirrors just like the rear view mirror in the Lancer. He pressed the accelerator pedal beneath the steering wheel. A feeling similar to riding out before the butt-crack of dawn with no sleep after the best party in the world, where things somehow went horribly wrong along the way and got things bloody. Something that was originally intended to be fun, turned up-side-down into a demon splattered nightmare. But, what topped off that very feeling, made the feeling whole and complete, was managing to skate through, whole body still intact and mostly unscathed despite the intentions of this thing, this container, this trap, this hell-hole of unintended consequence. Just being here ripped apart one’s soul from the dead center inside all the way to the outside. It changed the desires of the inner soul-workings itself, bleeding those needs down into a path where the initial intentions could be potentially lost and imploded by intertwangled memories of a dimensional construct such as this.
Rom wondered how much a soul weighed.
We don’t know these answers. But, we will.
Did Marlon lead them to the wrong house to find Dom? The irony here was too heavy. So many questions, but they all proved to be futile yet again. But, Dom was there and they had found him in the dream recorder, in the octagon shaped room. That is the key, or at least part of the key – the ticket to the reality of the whole situation: it wasn’t if the answers would come it was when and when the answers did finally come LJ thought to blow the whole operation wide open. Call the newspaper and release the proverbial dogs on their asses, to take a big chunk of fabric out of at least several different pairs of pants that belonged to exactly who was responsible for this. Hell, maybe even snag the back pocket straight off the pants and return it to where it belongs – back into God’s green Earth. To turn those once bumpy, hemmed seams into smooth booty jeans to then one day grow into another piece of cotton. Make the circle complete.
Grimace wasn’t even a word anymore after that train of thought grinded the new tracks that formed in LJ’s mind. Synapses in the brain are interesting concepts. A little known fact was: sometimes when people laughed, the thought, the connection between unrelated things formed a new link in the brain between two synapses. That new connection tickled the brain when they weren’t connected previously. That new synapse connection is why people laugh at something more when it’s new. Then, it becomes a troublesome thing when that once funny thought, no longer funny at all but now boring because the path that connects the two or more synapsis is like a worn out pair of underwear, rode on one too many times.
“She’s dead,” LJ wheezed. “We brought her with us to help and SHE DIED!”
“Why? Why are you yelling? It’s not our fault. Huh, Is that . . . air you’re breathing?” Rom recited. “What about Dom? Where is he?” Rom had no response, no acknowledgement for LJ’s grief, just a solid path forward. No nothing. In this case, nothing was enough. Nothing sufficed just fine. Nothing strung out on a bead of wires, suspended in red water, twisted into more near-black nothingness.
Now, spirited confetti popped and whistled from the back seat. The feeling of Dom’s dynamic presence reached through from the back of the Lancer’s cabin as an aura before a body. A computational party vibration through the audio speakers buzzed and hissed. Ah, hah! That was it. The original mission was to save Dom and heavy metal, in-turn to prevent a worst of its kind, chain reaction from taking place as a result of utter defeat, to keep the machine gun like guitar riffs and double bass drums hammering into the mainstream media listener’s ear drums. Drum-to-drum, heart to heart, and maybe even artist to artist. All they needed now, was to not lose Dom for good.
How could I forget what we are actually trying to accomplish here? Everything matters now, LJ’s musings transformed into words.
“I was really thinking that I probably didn’t like this place. Now that you said that, I really know I don’t like it. Not one bit,” LJ said.
“Yeah . . . but I didn’t say anything.”
Dom faded in. It wasn’t quite like the fade that some young pop stars wore as a haircut when they first got famous, it was the type of staticy fade that reverberated so fast you wouldn’t be able to see it or tell anyone about unless you were narrating a story exactly like this one. The fast-backwards-fade produced a multi-layered thump that rang all through from the coushy seats to the Lancer’s chassis. That made it possible for Dom to appear in the back seat along with the ride forward.
“Yeah, you did. You said, ‘This car is rigged!’ Well, hey, hey, hey, hey, LJ and Rom,” Dom boistered an abrupt greeting. LJ and Rom glanced back to see that Dom was in fact returned.
. . .
Above, the sky stood with nothing to say, solid and stubborn, shallow and bounded. Among the picturesque landscape of fresh cut grass, flat ground and singing birds another deep, groaning noise mowed past somewhere below the ground. Exiting the vehicle, LJ followed along behind Rom, this time proud to be on real feet and so Dom did also follow, simply grateful for walking and no longer in a small plastic shell resembling a 50 cent play toy.
The house they entered some-odd hours ago held it’s spot in the landscape, along with the Lancer WRC and an array of trees in a cluster outside the outer edges of the house’s finely landscaped yard. They heard birds, but saw none; strange waves crept through the ether, along with the complete absence of wind that bore no hole through the air. Here and now, this time the trees kept track of the time like an unsaid rule of the environment.
That damned little train. That damned train that ran around in LJ’s head. It wasn’t a fast train at all, but moved slow, sometimes collecting things about yesterday and piecing them back together, but that, that wasn’t like this when he finally realized he was moving through some type of constructed dream slices, again like theatrical play sets where the rules seemed to be different every time. So frustrating. How could anyone get anywhere of any use? A further fallen reality than the one he was used to. The one where he used to race rally cars. And that fact made things just damn hard to make any progress that amounts to more than a comparison to a couple molecules of cinnamon at a time. So unkind to produce cinnamon out of forced misery.
Grrr, one of those drifting thoughts again, LJ echoed, internally realizing the drifting thoughts were a product of this place and not his fault.
Pass the blame. Pass the blame for my needs. My wants, my desires.
“What . . . is that noise? It sounds like something big moving through the ground,” LJ said.
“Something wrong with your ears? Probably excavating with advanced machinery. I could explain it, but it would be boring,” Dom said.
No one laughed. LJ and Rom continued to look at Dom until he spoke again.
“Where are we? Lighten up, dudes. Let’s get back to the car and get the flack out of here,” Dom commanded, but his change in tone while speaking indicated it might have been a question instead of a command.
“You know there was someone trying to kill you right, Dom? Ugh. I’m done,” LJ said. He first intended to continue talking but lost it.
“Wha-ddya mean you’re done, LJ?” Dom blasted back as LJ lowered himself to the ground.
“Uh, I’m not sure. I don’t feel like doing anything else,” LJ said, slouched over and desolation filled his face. “I’m a turd cake.”
“Well maybe so, but a turd cake? Why that? You mean to say you feel like a turd cake?” Rom said.
“That’s what I am. If you want to know what a turd cake is, just look at me. I am the turd cake, and the turd cake is I.”
“Dude. GET up!” Rom said. He wanted to smack LJ over being so frail even after receiving Dom by God’s sweet graces. “If, if you don’t get up, I’m going to leave you here.” Rom adjusted his mirrored sunglasses a bit further up on his nose. “Wait. You hear that?”
“Hear what?” Dom said.
“Shhh!” Rom interrupted before Dom could finish. Inclinations hit him that LJ was immediately being preyed upon, not subtly, not in the grand scheme of things, but right now, something was making LJ want to sit on his fanny and do nothing, something more than the circumstances and the horrid death of Vic.
Perhaps we should start back from the beginning?
“Help me . . . I’m the underdog,” LJ belched. He closed his eyes and raised his fist. “Hail to the underdog.” Those executed words escaped and gave a whole new meaning to Shakespearean.
Something’s not quite right, Rom thought. And, it’s not just LJ’s silly attention seeking behavior or whatever he is on about now. Rom looked back over to the trees with determination. His top lip quivered and he wondered what could be causing LJ’s current depravement, besides the obvious. He stomped toward the tree line, intent on investigating what the ruckus was about. A boxy device hanging from the tree emitted wildlife noises as Rom passed by looking for other answers.
A dark figure appeared in the grass; the silhouette stammered and stood underneath a Victorian styled camera hood. It snapped a picture of slouched LJ, then vanished. Remnants of residual sparkles the figure’s presence left in the air swooshed through and it appeared in a different spot, similar to the way Dom had faded in. Rom took no attention to the dark figure. The aperture of the camera opened and closed again, sending a shockwave of broken sound and reverberating echoes all around.
The only thing left in the cosm of LJ’s mind was a microgram of faith attempting to put the pieces of this puzzle together. His consciousness played a fiddle and a drum, searching for just one cosmic fanatic to hear the song that he was orchestrating silently in the back of his mind, out of an act of desperation.
Was anyone listening?
“Is that air you’re breathing?” Rom said again to himself in a hostile whisper.
In a scuffle with the unknown, Rom fought in the trees – the branches were waving along with mayhemic popping, cracking and leaves rustling asunder. Dom could see blurs popping out of the thickness of branches and leafy tree extraments. Then, Rom moved to a different spot rapidly over and over.
The tree trunk spasmed from bottom all the way to the top, snapped, then toppled.
As the tree fell, a loud, thundering rush came from atop of the seven mile high sky.
LJ looked up to the sky with what little motivation he still had and grabbed one of Dom’s ankles, only clenching onto the small need to stay alive to see if whatever happened next might change his state of affairs and give him some reason to go on.
Any reason would work, not to simply lay in his current spot on the grass and die.
The Seventh Heaven of maundering peace offerings sent down a huge pledge of unwarranted madness falling from the sky in the form of a tree. Darkness entrapped the short pledged landscape, covering the offer of blessings that came from a Sun that once shed peace and tranquility throughout this fake-ish thing. Trumpets rang through remote souls, reverberating negative thoughts and long-hidden morals of lost, dead dreams magnified by these three humans’ presence inside of it. Any kind of thought now left a foreboding sense of impending death squiggling through broken seams of stalking energy to find and meander it’s way to purpose, thus shedding bleakness of a defined sarcasm, only ever once deemed appropriate by the hierarchical Gods themselves.
The trumpeting bellow of the now enormous falling tree matched a cheerful droning only identified by an entity named Rom. The tree fell from the top of the sky and so did the whole thing. When it hit, the whole thing: the ground, the sky, along with a single lonely cloud in the distance and whatever else was here, rocked back and forth like a tightly woven spring. Dead, sunken weight settled into its spot. Dust billowed and spiraled out into the air along with LJ and Dom’s puckering fear of being crushed during the manic events unfolding before them.
LJ now felt an improvement in his motivation than when he had first sat in the grass. Will power returned, what little that was left, even after Vic’s death. Now, what he saw Rom just do . . . was that Rom’s actions alone or was it another product of this thing? A hallucination? Rom almost seemed too comfortable here, empowered even. Like he knew exactly what to do in this abomination of a thing, even about things that were foreign like whatever was in the trees.
I’ll ask him myself to see if he knows where we are and what this thing is, LJ conjured the best thought he could think of.
Rom grunted and brushed himself off. He stood on the grass holding a celestial device he messed with and examined for some time.
© 2020-2021, S.D. McKinley
Guys and gals, until next time – may you find all the happiness that your life can fit in it’s happy spot – S.D. McKinley.