Sunday, November 17, 2013

Trick or Treat like Semtex

(image source)

Fol Chen - 200 Words

     A few years ago, more or less, during a hospital stay owing to a few broken ribs, fractured ankle, and acute stress disorder, you came across a heartwarming article while surfing the web. At the time, such pursuits seemed an ideal manner by which to whittle the hours away because television was overrated and family, however well-intentioned, could endure only so many hours a day of seemingly disjointed ruminations pertaining to a topic they may have grasped -on some level, at least- but nevertheless allowed to slip through their cerebral fingers. In hindsight, the misgivings exhibited were entirely defensible.

     Oddly enough, you stumbled upon the article in question during a foray into, of all places, the trough better known as Buzzfeed, a gutter better recognized for quirky cat pictures and Robert Pattinson's dating disasters than inspirational tidbits but sometimes a girl takes whatever she can get, and Buzzfeed notwithstanding, it was a pretty good find. The story had been about the birth of two cheetah cubs, sort of, insomuch that technically there were four but only two survived, so it was obviously more complicated than that particular summation. The point being, such a touching tale would have been forgotten entirely had it not been for a rap, rap, rapping at your door about an hour ago on this, a chilly Halloween in an area where few children went trick-or-treating. This is Kirkwood Heights, after all, and community college housing isn't known for its kid-friendly atmosphere, but there was a knock so you answered, Tupperware bowl full of fun-sized Butterfinger bars in hand.

     She took a handful of treats, of course, but the woman who had shown up at your door is neither a child by any gratuitous stretch of the imagination nor someone you would have anticipated seeing again, as in, ever, on either account. But there she was, duffel bag in one hand, Butterfingers in another, this vestige of a stilted reality long since miscarried, though not one wholly unrecognizable. She offered a greeting of sorts, to which you had none prepared, though she didn't seem to mind.

     A few years ago, more or less, the woman proposed, in so many words, that a sealed maw becomes either a womb or a tomb for all things enclosed; that fate was serendipity passing itself off as a beast in god's clothing; and that the time had come to knock a few teeth out. Shortly thereafter, you found yourself splayed out upon warm concrete, coughing up blood and wondering just who, what, when, where, why and how an athlete on the cusp of seventeen could manage to be outrun by a man bearing sockets instead of eyes. You had been advised to resist the siren song of hubris prior to the beginning of the end, but you've always been a bit thickheaded, honestly. Then again, in terms of a heads-up, something clearer than an inscrutable reference to Mr. Brightside WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE.

     The woman steps out of the shower, body glistening amidst the steam and utterly unfazed by your presence in the doorway. As she goes about drying herself with your favorite towel, you can't help but notice a myriad of minute, delicately jagged, almost phosphorescent orange lines chaotically etched upon and spread across her slender frame, though curiously, the woman's face remains unspoiled. Now, the tally marks carved into her forearms, they come as no surprise, but these saffron fissures are something new. Trepidation notwithstanding, you make the obligatory inquiry.

     "Oh, Jenny, Jenny, Jenny!" she quips, running her fingers through a sopping mane of hair dyed black as a crow's feathers. "All the god's hunger and all the god's woe mangled little Ms. Megan before letting her go. Everybody knows that."

     What made the story about the birth of two cheetah cubs so uplifting was, to an extent, the unlikelihood of its occurrence. The firstborn cub came into this world well before the second, third and fourth emerged; unlike their predecessor, the unfortunate trio had to be removed, stillborn, via cesarean section and the staff labored for nearly three hours, attempting to resuscitate the cubs through CPR, medication, and heating techniques. Then, something unexpected transpired, something best described verbatim, though you remain uncertain as to why it's suddenly so readily remembered:
“Given how rare this procedure is, we thought it’d be unlikely for any of the cubs to survive,” said Adrienne Crosier, SCBI cheetah biologist. “But that little female is a fighter. Once we got her breathing, she just kept going. It was a very intense, stressful experience, but among the most inspiring of my career.”
     The woman whose name, you now believe, is Megan has slipped into a matte-black catsuit; atop that, a flimsy, flowing gown of similar hue. Seemingly satisfied with what she sees in the mirror, the woman currently identified as Megan begins applying paint to her face, neck, and ears, ostensibly oblivious to the inherent peculiarity of the situation.

     Upon warm concrete at the onset of the end, owing to a few broken ribs, fractured ankle, and a slew of hysteria, you struggled to inch away from the man bestowed with sight sans eyeballs; a man devoid of humanity, per se, wielding a raised machete that glimmered in the simmering shades of twilight. You vaguely recall screaming up blood, arms held up so as to shield yourself from the inevitable, but also, in the briefest moment of dissociative clarity available, pondering, Does a blade shine in the dying light? 

     The brilliant shade of yellow, as it has been applied to the woman's face, contrasts with the preponderance of ebony so drastically that even here, beneath the soft, white glare generated by compact fluorescent tubes, the sight of it reminds you of staring into a space heater as a child; a mild sensation of nausea coupled with unyielding fascination abounds.

     Does a blade shine in the dying light? is what had been asked right before the end, but the crazy thing about questions is that sometimes the answers arrive in the most unexpected of forms. You remember the blade's descent slowing as the flickering light reflected in it increased, and that the man's face tilted ever so slightly as though he were mulling over a quandary of sorts, albeit one related to your own. The thing is, the woman now known as Megan had offered up an additional, almost conciliatory piece of information before the end began.

     Structurally sound analogies, much like poetry and bean burritos, have always been foreign concepts, sure, but as you stand in the doorway watching Megan fiddle with the black sclera lens placed upon her left eye, you can't help but wonder, accuracy be damned, if she isn't more than a bit like that second, female cheetah cub. Had nature been allowed to take its habitual course, neither would have survived their respective ordeals; and sometimes, nature can go fuck itself because what she also told you, after you had volunteered, somewhat foolishly, for the role of slipshod harbinger is that, come what may, the man with no eyes was at the very top of her list.

     Facing you, she requests an evaluation and truth be told, beyond an awkward shrug and chuckle you aren't sure what to say but in light of what could have been, things don't look all that bad.

(so keep your bankroll lottery eat your salad day deathbed motorcade)

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