When he woke up at 5:45 AM, he removed his left hand from beneath his $500 feather-down pillow in its yellow, flower-print case and swatted his alarm clock into silence as his pinky broke off and landed on the brown oak of his nightstand. In his initial, sleep-fogged horror, he tried to pick up the digit and reattach it, but it crumpled into dust. He left the finger-powder on his table, defeated, and stumbled into his bathroom as best as his half-disintegrated left leg would allow. His dance resembled that of a wind-up baby giraffe toy, but with pain.
He stared at his mangled face in the mirror. A Dick Tracy villain stared back. The left half of his mouth, cheek, chin were gone. Only the bleached-white jawbone remained, and his cracked, dry lips. The remaining flesh was flaked at the edges. Cracks grew across his face like dried mud. His dead left eye was just a white orb, with thin blue cracks running to the center, the vessels, too, long dead. His right eye was a bright green. He ran his hand through his tousled hair and remaining beard. The hair that was able to grow around the right half of his face had become wild and was flecked with the dust he had shed as he slept.
He grabbed his robe from the door and stared into the larger mirror, the bone showing where whole chunks of skin had dissolved along his left leg. Skin was flaking away from his chest, where the once-abundant hair had already fallen away. He reached into the pocket of his robe with his left hand--what remained at least--and more dust fell away from his cracked elbow. He pulled out his pack of Camel Filters and a silver Zippo lighter. He put a cigarette to his dead lips and lit it.
He wanted to take a shower, but there was a dead girl in his tub. He had grabbed her out of the hallway in front of his apartment and pressed a lavender rag soaked in chloroform to her mouth and nose. She went limp instantly. Stiffness has yet to in fact return to her splendid body. Alan misses her stiffness. But what is done is done, all righty? Somewhere deep in his degenerating mind, the thought that he could reverse the ugly deed through self-sacrifice had flared into reality and instantly evaporated when he tested the theory. His left, middle finger had broken away in the struggle. Now he had a dead girl and one less way of insulting the God that seemed to be allowing this to happen. Who was she and where had she come from? He had thrown out her purse without looking to find any answer to these questions. He thought it best if he didn’t know.
The night before this unordinary morning, the lady had introduced Alan to what she referred to as a “Winter Vacation.” But A: It was September, and B: the substance (Winter Vacation) had caused Alan’s skin to fail so he was awfully upset at her.
He looked back at his crumpling face in the mirror, slightly veiled through the haze of smoke.
His name was Alan Collins. He was 27 years old. His favorite color was blue.
Alan left the girl’s apartment at 7 in the morning. This was a week before his left ear had snapped off and he left his house forever. The girl wasn’t his wife. He told his wife he was working late and staying in the city, entertaining clients.
By 7:30 the next morning, he was settling into his office chair, looking over his messages. At 11:30, his boss took him and his colleagues to lunch at Maclaren’s. He ordered a scotch, neat. They drank and smoked and talked over their accounts, said lewd things about their clients. Alan ordered dried cranberries in his salad, which is outrageous because Alan is decisively opposed to the notion! The drug had gotten to him and it had followed him here.
He couldn’t remember their names. Only Carlson. Old Carlson. The crank was bald, save for a half-circle of white, tufted hair that curved around the back of his head. Bushy eyebrows covered leering, hate-filled eyes. Carlson had taken numerous accounts from Alan over the years and ascended through the ranks. Alan could only watch this in despair.
Someone had taken their picture as the lunch ended. Alan assumed it would be framed near the reception desks. They had grabbed their jackets and gone back to work.
A week later, Alan’s ear fell away from his head in the middle of the night and he left his home and never showed up for work again. Alan moved into a small apartment in the middle of the city under a false name, papered the windows and never went back outside.
He chopped the mound of white powder into lines and pulled his last dollar from his wallet, rolled it and snorted the powder through his cracked nostril. The week before, he had pulled a triangular piece of his nose off, like a chip from a ceramic vase. The cocaine struck his system instantly and he felt the blood rushing through his veins. He closed his right eyelid and leaned his head back and sat that way for a long time as his veins tasted his blood and felt their smooth vessels gently stroke their inner walls.
When he looked back up, Collins was standing across the cherry brown coffee table and the empty room, near the window where the light tried to penetrate the year-old, browning newspaper. Collins stared at his identical apparition with flaming red eyes and seemed to speak in echoes.
“Fire isn’t smothered with more fire, Alan. Elephants never forget a good song.”
“You asshole, Collins. If you’re talking about the girl, I don’t want to hear it. There are fifty million people in this apartment building and they all know how to clip their own toe-nails. Now can I please just be alone with my drugs and my scotch? Where is my scotch? Where’s your hand, Collins?” Alan leaned back into the table and snorted another line.
“A bird in the hand is worth 500 in the eyes of a child.” Collins gestured with his stump.
“Even with the drugs, I don’t find you to very interesting. Please fuck off.” Alan got up and staggered across the room. A package beckoned his grasp, but only evaded him, along with his surrounding mail. “How come I can’t pick up my mail?”
“Not even your mail wants you, my son. In another time, that girl was going to a dance. She’s there now. Don’t you want to know where? Nobody liked you, Alan.”
“I never liked you.” Alan took a swing at Collins. Collins disappeared and Alan’s left hand struck the wall and exploded into dust.
The girl he had stayed with that night in the city, instead of going home to his wife; she kept calling him Albert. She called him Albert and Austin. He never corrected her.
His drugs were gone by the end of the day. The kid a few floors up had given him a small tablet and told him it was made of magic. It was 1963. Nothing was magic.
Alan sat in his timeworn, leather easy chair and put the tablet in his mouth. Around him, the walls turned to butterflies. They dispersed and exploded into millions of stars. As their dying sparks sank into emptiness and died, Alan stood up and his chair was gone. And he was in space. Then he was space and there was nothing and that’s how it always was. In 1963 a magician was born and his name was Alan Collins. His favorite color was blue.
Schofield Alan & PJ Hunsicker
Schofield Alan has been published in Indigo Rising as well as Dark Lane (UK). He also has had plays produced nationally. Schofield celebrates a decorated career as a starving writer, actor, and truck stop shower sanitation manager.
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