Stale Coffee

Lights come up on the stage.
Bodies of children almost grown are being thrown onto a pile. Two middle-aged men are unloading them from a cart. In the background, from down the street, comes the call of the plague wagon crew: “Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead.”
Across the stage from the corpse wagon there is a laboratory. Brains are suspended in pineapple Jello and talk among themselves through wireless networks.

"It was the drugs what done them in,” an old woman brain says. “Once you start on that stuff you get hooked, so you don’t want to start.”

“Is nicotine really more addictive than heroin?” a girl brain asks.

“It certainly is,” a man brain asserts. “Most addictive damned thing I ever encountered. She remembers.” There is no body toward which he speaks or motions with a shoulder or movement of eyebrows, but there is a lazy space in the brain where the patterns wind their ways along familiar paths of neuronal stimulation. “I tried to quit over and over again.” He moves at the speed of thought. The pattern goes through, a movie of himself playing games with himself, and he processes these images of the place where he had no will to stop. He had poisoned himself.

“Poison is the weapon of the witch,” a woman brain says. “Men use weapons and destroy from without. Women poison, to avoid confrontation with the killing. The dying we can tolerate.”

The lights shift. A curtain falls and is the sea. The workmen begin to throw the bodies of the young into the sea, where they are taken out by the tide.

Count Bergamo moves into the center, between the two stages, between the two brains, and a bolt of energy comes from his chest. It materializes into a shower of coins and the people grab them from the air and search for them on the ground. “The moment comes,” he says, “when you must decide which evolutionary path you are going to take, and, in which direction.”

Luther woke up in the Ash Fork Motor Inn.

There are some dreams which are real, and if you commit a crime in one of those dreams you will expect to be arrested for it. You deserve to be arrested for it because it was real. But nobody comes and you gradually accept that it was just a dream, not something under local jurisdiction.

The play was like that with Luther, who lay staring up at the motel ceiling, wondering where he was and who he was. It came back slowly. He’d stayed in Ash Fork, and not gone on with the rest of Times Nothing to Sedona, and the vortex. Sedona wasn’t a vortex he could use right now. His vortex was here, in a place where he was possibly the only person who’d ever come to town on purpose without business of some kind, even if it was just stretching his legs before driving on. It was the kind of place people stop in on their way somewhere else. The absence of water was complemented by the high murder rate.

It was almost five and he was fully awake, now. He put the packet of Farmer Brothers coffee in the basket and turned on the coffee maker. He put as much water as the carafe would hold, knowing even then he’d have one cup and then it would be too dark and thick for a second cup. Everything about the room was low budget. The ancient green carpet stank of tobacco smoke and the batteries in the remote were dead. His naked body was chilled so he slipped back under the blanket. A pleasant heaviness came over his limbs and he closed his eyes and felt himself slip into a trance. When he opened his eyes again the light was coming through the slits in the blinds and somebody was talking outside the window.

“I wouldn’t give a fuck if it wasn’t for the money in it.” The voice had tension behind it, like something was kicking at the stall, wanting to bust out. The other voice was relaxed and friendly, like she didn’t have any cares.

“That makes you a whore if I heard you right. You want to try it again? Does he have the money or are we part of a decoy?”

“Do you care?”

“I care eough to ask, so do you care to answer?”

What got Luther’s attention was that the man was all tension and the woman was clever. There seemed to be a relationship between those things. There were parts of the conversation he couldn’t hear clearly, but he could still catch the resonance of the voices. In the trance he had about two hundred times the focus of his ordinary state of consciousness. He picked up that number from somebody with medical credentials writing about deep hypnosis. “Not depth hypnosis,” the professor had advised, “don’t use depth, because it sounds too much like death. Words are easily confused.” He tuned the receiver more finely. They had stopped walking away, now. He isolated and amplified the signal.

The woman said, “I feel like somebody’s listening.”

The man said, “What the fuck do I care if somebody’s listening? You want to get involved in my life mother fucker fasten your fucking seat belt.” The visual came into place. He didn’t know how it worked, sometimes it would be there. He could see things at a distance. He was watching them, now. They were opening the door to their room. She was in front, using the key, and he was behind her, but turning back to speak to the unseen eavesdropper, “Fasten your fucking seat.” And he followed her into the room. The image was gone. The audio was gone. He was awake. He splashed water on his face, rubbing his eyes with his fingers. There was something about him that was ancient, in the way he groomed himself. It was like watching an animal body going about its business while the spirit climbed a ladder toward the hole in the top of the hogan.

He filled a cup with the two hour old coffee. It was too strong to drink. He mixed it half and half with water and ran it through the machine again.

He leaned back against the wall and relaxed the local muscles; the erection retreated back enough he could piss. He felt the pleasurable flow through the fully extended shaft, and listened to it hit expertly into the center of the commode He was in the tao of pissing. There was still enough of the erection left that he had trouble pulling on his Levi’s, having to shift the length of it down along his inside thigh, like a pistol worn on the inside of the pants. In five minutes it would be withdrawn, a wrinkled old man with a wan smile, toting a sack. Then something would happen, maybe just something in the sleep cycle, and the genie would come out of the lamp backed by a forty piece orchestra and a chorus line.

His cell was ringing. They were already calling to see if he’d changed his mind about going with them to the secluded Sedona lodge, where the room would cost ten times what this one cost. “Hi.”

“Change your mind? I can come back and get you before we head over Mingus Mountain.”

“Haven’t changed my mind,” he said. “I’ll call you when I'm ready to leave here."

“You not quitting are you?”

“Not that I know of. If anybody asks, tell them I’ve gone into the desert, like Jesus, on a vision quest.”

“Be careful saying anything about you and Jesus, Luther. You remember how much trouble the Beatles had comparing themselves to Jesus.”

“I thought comparing ourselves to Jesus was what made us Christian?" After a pause he asked, "Are you there?”

“Yea, I’m here. Comparing yourself to Jesus is what makes you a sinner, chief, and if you forget that, you better run for cover, cause your black lottery number is coming up."

“I’ll keep that in mind and I’ll keep in touch. But I’m already into it.”

There was a long pause but they stayed connected until Hawk said, “Next set’s coming through?”

“That’s right,” Luther said. “I have to either go with it or stand against it. I’m just going with it right now, for a run to check out the juniper forest. It’s supposed to be the biggest one in the world, or at least that’s been passed along as a fact. It might be a factoid.” He was walking out into the morning and abruptly lost interest in talking to Hawk. “Gotta go now.” He terminated the connection and paused, thinking. Then he shut the phone off and took it back, left it in the room.

Luther had always been served by imagination, and when he ran he was a horse. Sometimes he walked and sometimes he shifted gait, so sometimes he would go to full gallop. The first thing he did in the morning after he had coffee was to find his gait for the day. He started to walk and then he moved to a run, and he found a nice, easy pace he could keep for an hour or so.

He ran down the rest of the business street and around the curve along highway 89 toward Prescott, into the juniper forest. He had heard the forest was in danger, now, and was beginning to die. He felt his feet contacting the asphalt, and picked up the pace, and he felt like a horse again. His legs were stronger and his breathing eased down.

It was when he was running that his mind could fly free, like a bird, looking down at the lanky man running along the side of the highway. It had been almost ten years, now, since he had formed Times Nothing. They began with just one intention, and that was to begin to be conscious of where evolution wanted to take them. Nothing else was important. They didn't expect to become the center of a movement that was spreading through Europe and Australia, now. They were drawing huge crowds, all of them hungry for a way forward, into some vision of the future that wasn't dominated by fear and regression to violence and greed.

He ran back along the road, back to the motel, and took a shower. It was his first morning here and already he was bored. Maybe he was just having a paranoid fantasy. What would he do here all day? He could walk over and buy food, and he could walk home, but other than that he had no business here. It wasn’t the kind of place to not have any business being. A stranger doesn’t go unnoticed when he goes through town, especially if he’s running like a horse.

The man and woman were sitting at the wooden picnic table beneath the mesquite tree. The rooms all faced inward to a courtyard, with the tree as the centerpiece. Around the tree was a patch of damp ground where broad leafed plants were growing in red clay pots. Among them was a ceramic statue of a madonna and child, standing in a mixture of bermuda grass and weeds. It was the social center of the Motor Inn. The woman didn’t appear to take much notice of him but the man was visibly surprised to see him, even from behind sunglasses. He had to inhibit a startle response. Luther nodded and said good morning as he passed them. Then it occurred to him that he didn’t have a car, which isn’t usual for somebody living in a motor court. They had assumed everybody had already checked out, because all the cars were gone except theirs.

As Luther walked away he looked over the image of the man in his mind. He was heavily muscled, with a shaved head and gold hoop earring on the left side, and a diamond stud on the right side. He was aggressive. Luther had felt that right away, when he heard him speak. He sounded like he was holding back some part of himself that was ready to freak out at any second. He was probably a berserker. He’d have to be careful not to set him off unintentionally. Then he pulled up the image of the woman. The only word he came up with was “yes.”

It wasn’t that she was pretty in a perfect featured, oval faced way. It wasn’t just that, anyway. It was the way she seemed to have just glanced at him, and burned his image into the wall behind him. He could still see her face in that moment. He had it like a photograph. She didn’t have much expression, mostly she was taking him in, and he felt the genie stir in the lamp.

He wondered if they’d recognized him as Luther Wilson, or if they just thought he was somebody who looked like him. They didn’t expect anybody that rich to be in a cheap motel by the Interstate, in the middle of nowhere. Or maybe they were looking for him and didn’t realize they’d found him until he walked out of the room.

Posted: Mon - February 26, 2007 at 07:46 PM