Welcome back everyone,
As you know, on this blog I generally do my darnedest to keep things whimsical. I like to try and make intellectuality fun — at least as fun as someone bereft of said topic can make it — and that’s because I understand all too well that pretension will only get in the way of communicating what ideas I may have and would genuinely enjoy hearing others honest opinions about.
For that, I need you all to be smiling.
I require your guard to be down.
(But not your fly… XYZ, reader)
Now, some may call this peevish, and if you do I have a special place for you, (Just click the “X” on the upper right hand side of your web browser, and I’ve got the whole thing set up to redirect you exactly to where you belong on the internet!) but I believe in everyone’s opinion being valid. As I see it, we all have differing life experiences, which lend themselves to differing insights about the reality of being. Each of us alone is only a piece of the puzzle, only together can we see what is. Thus, you may have noticed, across the four some-odd-years that I’ve run this blog, (Say Thank-Ya!) that I’ve always made pains to refer to you all as one. Never referencing color, race, location or gender (unless that’s the topic in question), while addressing you all in these jaunty little introductions, or, in this blog’s previous incarnation, throughout the entire proof of my theorem.
Today though, as you may have already guessed, I’d like to assume a more sober tone. Today I’d like to discuss something that happened to me personally (don’t worry I’m FINE. It merely led to this week’s inspiration), which helped solidify the mere fragments of thought on the topic I’d had, up until it’s occurrence. At first I was going to obscure the introduction, being that the person who did this may well read this blog, but I quickly realized that I am no coward, and that relenting in such a manner would be tantamount to “Do as I say, but not as I do” — which is decisively Un-Cool. And so, without further ado, here it is…
(Wow, can’t quite find words which won’t elicit a giggle….)
(Well, whatever… You’re a mature audience.)
I got my junk grabbed — like full on, a full handful, for a full second — and this was done by someone I work with. A Woman, no less. Now, as you may or may not know, I once worked as a topless waiter at a strip club. There this type of thing was routine, and I was able to shrug it off as the nature of the beast. However at my current job, working for CBS on a television show, this type of behavior, even with a flirty coworker (whom I certainly reciprocate with, just never to this extreme…), was, frankly, unacceptable. And so, with a heavy heart, and plans to kill the buzz, I approached her in a clandestine manner, asking for things to never again go to where she took them. She then responded vocally, amidst a large group of others — people without any knowledge of the aforementioned affront — saying, and I quote,
“Oh, be a man. You know you liked it.”
Now, it took me some time to process all the emotions — admittedly, mostly negative — that coursed through my mind at this moment in my life. I’m not going to lie… at first I wanted to smack her, but logic quickly argued against that. Then I wanted to wail vocally, explaining to the entire gymnasium full of our film crew that she had, in fact, sexually harassed me… but my days at the club popped in my mind and it all felt like a rather flat argument. The best reason I could find within for feeling so wronged was that, somehow, a power struggle had been breached… and quite unjustly. Finally I found a healthy way to deal with my feelings on the occasion — I’d write about it. And the story today, after three manifestations that I’d scrapped for being far too blunt, is the result of it all.
I’m not going to mince words here: Equality is a blanket term, it has NOTHING to do with entitlements or supremacy. If you truly wish to see yourself as an equal — a just contributor to modernity — than privilege becomes a slight. It’s abhorrent, as it assumes the same role of the oppressor which you, or (more likely) the brave people before you, had once fought so direly to be free from. You may or may not see how, but this piece is my way of confronting the racism I’d been subject to as a child, the class warfare I’ve bore witness to all my life, and the general ways that mankind has tried to keep his brothers and sisters down. It should also serve as warning to movements of equality, Feminism, Racial equality, First, Second, and Third world conflicts amongst each other, and any people who strive for their fair share, that sometimes we can take things too far. Equality, true equality, is blind to Gender, Race, Color, Size, and shape — and perhaps may someday include Species, Race, Planet — and even Galaxy and Universe.
Everybody’s on a journey throughout this life, one unique to them, and so every point of view is valid — and certainly deserved of a listen by the rest of us.
“Ticket, please”, Bade the Conductor, approaching the squatted pile of rags at the far corner of the car.
The woman beneath didn’t stir.
“Hello Ma’am?” He said politely, “Sorry to wake you, but I need to collect your ticket now.”
Still the enshrouded figure remained nonplussed.
The Conductor bent, waving a translucent blue palm before the hooded cave of the woman’s visage, before kneeling and tipping his face in for a better look.
The fact that this man was, in actuality, a hologram — a mere segmented sliver of the conductors waking mind, present here only due to clever camera and speaker placement — was not lost on me. So at this thought, despite myself, I snorted a laugh.
From his hands and knees the man inclined his head in my direction, before craning his neck to peer under his arm’s nook at the wall of passengers which had built up across the car. The Conductor then got up, dusted off his knees, and approached me.
“Ticket Please”, he said, an accusatory lilt staining his custom level tone, seeming to imply some connection between myself and the vagabond across the way.
Casually I removed a balled fist from the pocket of my well pressed Sports Coat, never bothering to take the sole of my fine Italian loafer away from the door on which I leaned, thrusting it out then for the man to see, before hinging each finger out, slowly and in turn, to eventually present him with a bare palm. From the transparent ceiling above, at a point indeterminate due to the setting sun, a green laser light fanned out, sweeping my palm first in one direction and then the other before blinking out extinguished.
“Thank you.” Said the man, eying me suspiciously. Shooting a thumb over his shoulder, he soon added, “How about you help me out? Go wake your little buddy over there so I can scan her ticket too.”
“Little buddy?” I scoffed, failing to stifle a second snort, “I don’t know that person.”
The man dove his face in toward mine, searching my eyes, darting erratically back and forth from left to right, before melodramatically stepping back to indicate the crowd.
“Tell me than, what’s this? Why is it you can stomach this woman’s clearly quite pungent odor, when the rest of my passengers huddle and cower like frightened livestock?”
I regarded the crowd, noting that easily three yards separated me from the next nearest paying customer. A singular huddled mass, the people all breathed as one; through sleeves, scarves, and hats — anything that might help stave off the offensive aura being generated by the woman just across from me.
“She’s harmless.” I asserted. “Besides, my desire to be left alone presently supersedes any musk this individual could possibly produce.”
And it was true. I’d hastily purchased a ‘standing room only’ ticket, knowing full-well the risk, and had accepted this unfortunate condition as mere penitence for my retreat.
The Conductor scrutinized me thoughtfully.
“Well then, friend” He began afresh, clearly changing tactics. “Give a guy without a hand, a hand, eh? This form may have function, but it has no form — if you’re picking up what I’m projecting down. Be a pal and, well… just tap her on the shoulder for me, would ya?”
I unfocused my eyes, looking straight through the shifting veil of blue before me to examine the mysterious figure just across the way. Indeed it seemed that the thing beneath the ratty pile of garments was, in fact, a woman… though without removing her thick and pungent wrappings it would be impossible to tell for sure. Long, dreaded hair flowed out from under the dark recesses of her cavernous hood, which then weighed down the loosely stacked garments cosseting her chest to detail two modest, though distinctly feminine, mounds. Carelessly crouched in the corner as she was — wrists rested on bent knees, back strait, shoulders level, with some indeterminate rigidity protruding diagonally underneath her thick vestments — the woman seemed more pious sentinel, particularly in this shade of divine azure, than penniless freight-hopper.
Malodorous scent or not, queer as it may sound… I soon found myself drawn to her. Something was brave and bold beneath that hood. Something new. Something I’d never encountered in all my worldly travels, and someone who the other people of this train would never dare try comprehend… I stared intently into the void cast by it, that hood. Searched every impregnable inch methodically, earnestly seeking but a single point of light being reflected back by flesh… but only found its darkness to be absolute. Just as I was ready to give up, prepared to simply walk on over as the Conductor had asked, a dual burst of slits flashed alight within the gloom, each punctuated by an iris of burning red. Their appearance, though brief, was married to a nearly imperceptible incline of her head, and the collective gestures combined to culminate as a simple yet strikingly vivid message; ‘Stay Away’.
I faltered. My composure shattered. Fear gripped my heart, and my easy lean slipped from the wall. My palms pressed firm to the doors behind me, unconsciously searching for a place to flee, and I found myself flat against the wall standing on tiptoes. The Conductor regarded my change, glancing over at the woman — who only appeared as she was — before whipping back around again to me, scanning my eyes for any sign of a ruse.
Eventually satisfied, he pressed a heavy weightless hand into my shoulder.
“Forget it,” He began, his voice imbued now with genuine care, “I thought you knew her”. He then added, dimming his speaker volume to a decibel only audible to my nearby ear, “I’ll just let the Staties deal with her once we pass Forrest Squarewood. That’s their jurisdiction, you know? They hate Planet Hoppers. Such a shame, too. Hate to hand over someone who’s fallen on tough times. But… a job’s a job. Word to the wise? Beware that woman, friend. She’s likely strange; wily. The type that can’t be trusted even for a second. You keep your distance, now.”
Abashed, staring absently through the clear floor at a tempestuous river we raced above, I nodded stupidly in response.
Then, I was alone. The conductor walking straight into the adjacent car, unperturbed by silly things of matter, like tangibility or mass.
“Get out-of-the-way, Moron!”, came a voice amidst the crowd.
“Move it, Jerkface!” echoed another, seemingly headed my way.
Then, all at once, the hermetically sealed line of average passengers burst, spewing forth, before the wound quickly healed, two attractive young ladies; one a petite Brunette, and the other a voluptuous Blonde.
“Jesus, Tria, you said she didn’t smell so bad. It smells like a Whorehouse’s Outhouse out here.” Exclaimed the Blonde, quickly masking her face with a jewel encrusted hand.
“No, Lo-Lo, that is not what I said at all.” Proclaimed the Brunette, exposing her pierced navel as she yanked a low neck line up over her nose. “What I said was, and I quote; ‘How bad could it be, that guy’s standing there?’ Answer: really, really, really, freaking bad. Wow. The last time that thing took a shower, John-John was on ‘Mercury House’. Am I right?”
“Hell, yes you are.”
“Am I right?”
“Oh my God, bitch, I already said, ‘Yes’. Can’t we just spark? That thing’s making me sick, already.”
“What am I, your mother, you whore? You need permission? Light it. Danm. Light that shit up already.”
Then, in tandem, they both concluded, “Whatever.”
Flashing each other a vicious pair of smiles somehow seemed to settle the exchange, and soon both were digging through their respective golden handbags, extracting, before long, a pair of Electronic Cigarettes.
The Blonde unscrewed hers at the center, peering inside. “Shit, I’m out. You got any left?”
The Brunette then unscrewed hers, turning about in circles while trying to find an angle for the overhead light. “I can’t tell, I think I need a refill too. You got any more on you?”
“Yeah, I think I do.” Said the one called Lo-Lo, juggling her effects, balancing her bag on a raised knee and struggling to keep her balance. “Somewhere in here…”
“Hang on.” Said Tria, tugging her friend violently by the hand, nearly toppling her over, and then dragging her by me. “Hi there, Mister.” she began, long lashes fluttering, salaciously brushing my arm, “Hold this for me, would you?”
Before I knew what was happening I found myself clutching a clutch, supporting a shoulder bag with my shoulder, and palming hand lotion — amongst other unidentifiable effects of superficiality — in my palm. The two young women, for their part, each held a strap of Lo-Lo’s Bag, and were both digging voraciously through its contents, stopping only to toss out bits of garbage onto the train floor.
Finally Tria produced a small container with a sealed lid.
“Is this it?” She asked, presenting it to Lo-Lo between two raised fingers and a thumb.
Lo-Lo snatched it unceremoniously, raking her friend harshly with manicured nails bearing a collection of tiny circus animals.
“Ah, you bitch”. Shouted Tria.
But Lo-Lo was lost in the vial. She eagerly popped the lid, hurriedly raised the opening to her nose, and huffed the noxious scent therein deeply. The display was for show. Once opened, even from back where I stood, the smell was sufficient to stifle even that of the transient’s across the car. Reaching inside they each pinched off a small amount before plucking their cigarettes from my open palm and stuffing their devices full. Within but a second, the gadget was reassembled, the girls pressed at the ignition, and each was inhaling deeply — leaving me as a forlorn baggage handler at the airport, and without any tip to boot.
From somewhere at the back of the crowd a man’s voice could be heard “Hey, you can’t smoke in here. It’s illegal. Some of us have an allergy.”
“Oh, yeah?” Challenged Tria. “Who’s gonna stop me? Not you. I do what I want.” And to punctuate this apparent fact, she took a long drag, deep down into her lungs, before exhaling a mighty vapor cloud toward the group.
A wheezing, raspy cough was the crowds only retort.
Lo-Lo then took a lungful in all her own, before breathing it out into my face, asking “So… what’s wrong with you? You enjoy smelling like ass or something, Mister?”
“I just want to be left alone.” I insisted, extending the clutch toward Lo-Lo, “I just got back from this long, pointless ‘inter-office relations-trip’ that my boss sent me on, and…”
“That’s not mine.” Lo-Lo interrupted, stepping back from the handbag disgusted.
“Yo. Don’t give that hoe my bag.” Interjected Tria, swiveling her head around like a snake. “She wouldn’t know what to do with one that’s not a fake, anyways.”
“Please, girl.” Pleaded Lo-Lo. “It’s been a long, hard day, and I don’t have the energy left to teach you the difference between a ‘Carl Mongoose’, and whatever it is you’re calling a ‘Petera’ Divine’ over there.”
“Oh, don’t you start with me, Miss ‘I-Don’t-Buy-From-Little-Persia-I-Only-Like-To-Look’.”
But Lo-Lo did start…
And then Tria continued…
And so, as the girls continued to debate the laurels surrounding the question, “Which one of their bags was better suited at holding things?”, I quickly grew weary of acting out the role of impromptu living mannequin. Thus did I proceed to place all of their loose effects into whoever’s shoulder-bag it was I was presently shouldering, to then merely lay the weighty satchel down on the clear floor at my feet, noting, as I did, the first patches of trees springing up on the ground far, far below.
It wouldn’t be long now. Soon I’d find out exactly what type of woman it was buried underneath all that dowdy patchwork.
Lo-Lo seized her bag from the floor with a huff, and shoved me harshly against the wall, saying “What the eff do you think you’re doing?”
“Oh-My-God” Chimed in Tria, slapping my shoulder. “I know that you did not just put her Ten Thousand Dollar, ‘Carl Mongoose’, Winter collection bag on that dirty-ass floor, with that filthy… thing… sitting right there.”
“Girls.” I began, tenderly as I could manage. “Don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what?” Demanded, Lo-Lo, as sprightly green tips began whizzing past her ankles.
“Don’t talk about another human being like that.”
“I will talk about whoever, however I want.” She insisted, the thickening wood growing steadily to overtake her height.
“Look, it’s clear this person has fallen on tough times. You don’t know her story.”
“We don’t care.” Insisted Tria, clapping her hands for emphasis on each word, all while massive shadows painted darting streaks across her form.
“Yeah, well… either way. You shouldn’t add to her problems. Just… leave her be. I’m asking you a favor.”
“Come-on mister. What, you in love? Bitch ain’t even got no clothes.”
“Hoe don’t have no money.”
“Trick smells like ass.”
The tips of the monolithic pines were now beyond the reach of sight, their numbers surging greater by the second still.
“Yeah, well… She’s a person. She get’s to live how she wants. What if this is what makes her happy?”
“What? You serious?”
“No makeup. No friends. No class. Smells like a dirty-ass construction worker that just tipped over in the Pora-a-John. Sitting here, doing nothing but stinking up the train for the rest of us normal, god-fearing, folk. Man, please: that ain’t even a lady.”
Suddenly light inside the car was squelched out entirely, as the encroaching tree line had finally grown bold enough to steal the setting sun.
A mind trembling scream rang out from somewhere amidst the crowd.
As the lights of the cabin pulsed slowly to life, and my vision oscillated between states of pure blindness and mere hazy shadow, I found the crowd was moving toward me, reeling back from some bewitching scene unfolding near its center.
It was then when I caught my first glimpse of the thing. Circumscribed by the ever swelling circumference of screaming and frightened passengers was a beast not quite human, with a wide drawn out squamous face, and a lithe lolling tongue — one which defied jagged rows of impossibly sharp teeth as it danced along their precarious peaks and valleys — actively tasting the air. It held a redundant dagger in each of its two claws, as all of it’s five fingers were adorned with vicious, corkscrewed nails, while it stalked through the crowd of lambs — slaughtering any and all without the sense or wherewithal to run.
Calcified as I was, agog from the massacre unfolding just before my eyes, I nearly didn’t feel the nagging pull of the two wildly wailing women persistently scrabbling at my back. However, when I nearly lost my footing while stepping on a familiar golden bag, the initials ‘CM’ forming a gaudy pattern all along it’s every facet, reality finally came home, drunk and crashing into the garage, and I became instantly aware of the two girls urging me to glance over to my left. There, at the epicenter of the car and just beside where we stood, a luminous pinprick wisp was floating, unaided, and steadily gaining in girth. The wormhole rapidly gained mass and began to pull at me, and, were it not for the frantic women holding firm at my arms, each demanding I, “Be a man and save them!”, and weighing me down, I may have even been engulfed by its mystical allure — cast to frightful plane. Then as the otherworldly draw began to ebb, and just as the brilliant vortex, hollow at its heart, had reached a sizable three yard diameter, another set of scaled and corkscrewed claws braced themselves at the lip of the dimensional rift, to then vault their master whole into our place in space.
The Reptilian beast landed to the floor of the car with a weighty thud, as the wormhole neatly cinched up behind it, sending a splintering shock-wave throughout the reinforced plastic at its wake, compromising integrity engineered to hold a hundred men. It spent but a moment in the throes of nausea before its slitted eyes were trained on us, and the women redoubled in their efforts of shrieking as it slavered and ambled serpentine our way.
Lo-Lo shoved me toward it with one hand, and held firm with the other, bellowing, “Fight it, Mister. Protect us!”
Tria wept, and held firm at my arm, wailing, “Make it go away. Tell it to leave.”
“Girls, let go.” I pleaded. “I can’t move.”
“Do something”, they screamed in unison.
Like lightning the creature was on me, effortlessly shifting its easy gait into a terrifying pounce, clutching then at my coat, arching me overhead, and slamming me down hard onto the floor. The ground groaned and quaked beneath the hammering of my mass, and all the air was stolen from my chest. As the room spun, and the light-show played, my whereabouts grew dubious, and my mind clouded. Sleep beckoned.
Somehow through the hypnagogic haze I felt the light playing on my face dim. Gathering my wits through great focus of effort, I synched my wayward eyes and fought to look out strait from my helpless supine form… only to discover forthcoming doom. The thing was upon me, mighty fist raised high overhead, blotting out the cabin light, and prepared to slam down into my skull. With a greater effort than my body had left to give, I rolled hard to the left, feeling the whipping air thrash my necks nape at the wake of its mammoth fist as it narrowly missed my face. Already undermined, the car yielded to the tremendous power of the things assault, and left me dangling through the floor, hanging precariously by the tips of my weakened fingers.
It seemed the end was near. The creature wasted no time in reeling back for a second strike, this one aimed at my fingertips which clung desperately at the lip of the opening, promising to cast me into an impending free-fall many kilometers long, either to be impaled on a tree, or to shatter my every bone against the distant terra. Resigned to my fate I turned my face toward my attacker, determined, at the very least, to go with my dignity intact. I matched his wild eyes with a level gaze, wholly free from fear, merely patient, and found myself in admiration of the speed in which it’s limb was capable of traveling — that is all before a warm spray misted my cheeks, and the hapless arm cascaded clear beyond me, tumbling freely into the open air beyond my dangling feet. Armless now, the beast hissed in pain, whipping about furiously then to confront its assaulter, only to be diced, just at the hinge of its jaw, by the returning upward swing of a Katana.
And there, flared by the wildly luminous cabin lights, stood a proud silhouette which wielded the brilliant blade — the lowly vagabond from the far corner of the car. Shed now of her outer layer, camouflage from the very start, she shucked her sword free from the serpents blood, highlighting, as she did, bountiful curves of dense musculature beneath an elite black and silken armor. She then kicked at the chest of the thing, still writhing even without a head, shoving it out beyond me and into the open air below, before dashing off, and out of view, presumably toward the panicked crowd at my back.
The drama then unfolded in screams and gasps, while I struggled and flailed, and failed, in extracting myself from my tricky predicament. Before long the cacophony, blind to my eyes, fell to stillness. Not a sound could be heard. Visions of an all-encompassing massacre filled my mind…
Finally then, after a silence of interminable length, where I never ceased in my struggle to re-board the racing car, it was the shallow voice of an elderly man which broke the strange repose.
“Thank You.” He said, voice quavering with emotion. “Thank you so very, very much, young lady.”
Then came another, quick on his heels, a woman this time. “Here, take this. Please, I insist. And… Thank you.”
Before long, another chimed in, a little boy, “That was really cool! Here, strong lady, it’s my favoritest… I want you to have it.”
And then came another, and another…. and another.
And so it continued, as my fingers quaked, from all the voices, of all the people in the car: gratitude. Thanks being showered on one who, only just a few minutes ago, the entire lot had all but condemned.
I felt the dimming of the overhead light once more, and, fingers trembling, strained to look skyward… and there she was, bearing a halo of light — and was she ever beautiful. Long dreadlocks framed an angled face that belonged on the cover of a magazine, were it not for the jagged scars and random battle-won maladies which gave it its fierce character. She had her rags back on now, and from all the errant, random, and poorly sewn pockets, people’s valuables jutted out. Precious necklaces, rings, jewelery and just plain cold hard cash overflowed the paupers clothes, creating a jaunty juxtaposition embodied in the sight of this mighty warrior woman.
She regarded me, as she drew her hood back over her head, sightlessly cleaned her blade on a rag, and sheathed the sword, asking, “You’re the one who defended me in my rags?”
I swallowed hard, saying all I could think to, “Yes…”
“You shouldn’t have done that…” She chided, a bright smile shining out from under the hood. “Look, times are always hard. People will have their opinions. All that really matters is how you react to the ordinary extremities of everyday life.”
I merely nodded, the wisdom of her words failing to presently pierce me in my condition — I was simply praying she’d help me up from my hole.
“Hey!” Came a voice, I knew to be Tria, “Take this. It’s worth alot!”
“Yeah, yeah!” Chimed in Lo-Lo, “And these. They’re yours now.”
“No.” Said the warrior woman, severity back in her tone. “I want you to keep them. After all, they’re all you have.”
She turned back to the hole, regarding me with pity.
“Pull yourself up.” She ordered. “You’ve done it before. I have no doubts that you can do it again.”
And then, without hesitation, she leapt through the hole — never to be seen or heard from again.
~ FIN ~
I sure hope you enjoyed this.
It’s 4 days late, and that’s because I took some more time with it — and it still feels like I could’ve taken another week or so to get it right.
Please leave your thoughts below, on the topic and the story, and I’ll add edits to this as time permits.