7 December 2012
Wishing Hole by Elliot Seidel
Wishing Hole by Elliot Seidel (16)
It’s when you see the collision coming up that you’re apparently meant to stop. Slow down. Fasten the seatbelt. Prepare an emergency brace position. Reduce pain and impact when the vehicle’s hit. Glass shatters like rain. And floats effortlessly across the steering wheel, your seat jars you in the back like a spear, a beast has swallowed you up and it’s going to chew you alive. The whole ordeal feels like it lasts centuries, when you crawl out you’ve aged. Your skin’s tattered, your mind wiser and you’re in need of a walking cane. I long for pain, and I can’t get enough of it. I can’t seem to get older quick enough.
My father wasn’t aware I was a masochist until I was in my teens. After that medication was meant to begin, but he died and priorities regarding health quickly hanged. The company was quickly handed over to me 2 years later, as soon as I left high school. I told Miller it was an accident. The crash I mean. Generally that works, but this time he just shook his head and placed a hand on my shoulder. Take a break. Go somewhere for a change. Leave the company to us. It was an hour later that very night, I found myself at an airport with a briefcase packed staring at the departure board. I’ve never been on a holiday, if you want the truth. I’m not too hot with the details, but I remember Kennedy on the television when I was at the airport, banging on about the missiles. People were heading out of major cities. I booked a flight straight to New York, and fell asleep on a five star bed three hours later.
People will often look at you strangely when you book yourself a room like that when you’re only twenty-two. I like to think that I’m older sometimes. I order some drinks with room service or something like that. I wasn’t in the mood though you see, I was meant to be on bloody holiday. I was feeling a little angst though. To tell you the truth, I’d left my pills back at my penthouse in Chicago. So I took a walk around town to get some fresh air. Smoke a cigarette maybe. It was getting late though, and I was just down near Harlem went it happened. I’m old enough to know better.
If you asked me now what kind of clothes the guy was wearing, or what he looked like, or what he sounded like I wouldn’t be able to tell you. One, it was just too damn dark; and two, I was just too damn tired to care. But I started chucking all these insults at him to provoke him, and soon enough he ran at me with a baseball and swung it like it was all some sort of sport for him. I went down pretty hard after that, and he managed to get right up on top of me and socked me a few times in the stomach real hard. It was all like a dance, where the rhythms of the knocking, and the sounds of the beat, all merged into one piece of loud music. Seconds later, he pulled out a knife from underneath his jacket and brought it up close to my neck.
‘Slit it! Slit it! Slit it ya bastard!’ I yelled at him. He gripped the knife tighter. Lifted it above his head. He hesitated for a moment, and that was long enough for a police car to come down the driveway and he ran off. Lying there on the pavement, blood splattered all over my suit, coughing red liquid all over the ground, a small smile of satisfaction spread across my face.
I woke the next morning by the water. Several burnt-out cigarettes sat on the ground beside me with a half-finished bottle of whiskey. The hotel maid walked right up to me with the phone on the end of the chord saying it was some Mr Miller from Chicago. Reluctantly, and half asleep, I yanked it off of her.
I heard the ship was beginning to sink. The water was getting higher and higher. They were attempting to get the crew off rapidly, but weren’t entirely sure if they could. It was one of our tankers down near Alaska that we own that he was telling me about. The ones that carry the fuel, only a couple days ago one of ours got shipwrecked on some coral. Oil was spilling out the side of it. And the boat was going down with it. Miller was practically in a panic. But I told him not to worry, and I’d be there to deal with it as soon as I got back from my holiday. I gave the phone back to my maid, finished off my cigarette and watched images of nuclear bombs on the television. The hotel pool was quiet.
Looking back on it, it’s probably safe to say I wasn’t really there for a holiday. In some ways I was there for the ‘twenty-forty-sixty’. And that was only confirmed when I exited the front of the hotel and stood out on the porch. I lit up another cigarette, watched the smoke accumulate around my face, sniffed some fresh air and watched as pedestrians stopped dead in their tracks and looked over at Central Park across the street. Some stopped their motorcars, and got out to take a look for themselves. I stood motionless on the sidewalk and ditched my cigarette. The ‘twenty-forty-sixty’ was something I found out about a couple months back. They stand for coordinates. And their coordinates that directly correlate with Central Park. This is between you and me, but there’s oil under there. If you dig deep enough with the right equipment, you can find it. There’s always something beneath.
That morning, when I first heard the sound of the bulldozers and the drilling equipment was the day that the deconstruction commenced. The government were pre-occupied at the time, but that didn’t stop police cars from turning up and trying to hold up my workers. The ‘twenty forty sixty’ itself is actually a rather small area, but it’s not the width or length that matters, it’s the depth. By 9 am, my people had already deconstructed a good portion of it. I pulled out a deck chair and sat by the tree, lit up another cigarette and watched the chaos unfold. People were beginning to turn up with protest banners. They were shouting and carrying on. Using megaphones to voice their opinions. I sat and watched the smoke.
When I got back to my hotel room, my phone was ringing constantly. Nonetheless it was Miller on the other end of the line again. Yelling at me. Wondering what the heck I was doing. It was a fair enough question, I didn’t have an answer either. But I was going to get that oil out, and I was going to get it down today. It’s all over the news. Those were his words. You’ve ditched the company. Burned your father’s legacy. Spending dough left right and centre. I hung up on Miller early and threw the phone at the wall. I have no time for such white collar snuff bag pieces of diplomatic crap.
The next phone call came through. I had to go down to receptionist to answer it. People were already beginning to move out of all the hotel rooms because all the dust from across the street was accumulating from the dig site. The guy on the phone, I don’t remember his name, I think it may have been Marshall or something, was this forty-something from the police department.
I told him that until he had proper warrant and jurisdiction to warn me off, we’d keep on drilling. In other words, I’d bribed his boss not to do anything about it. Then I called him a name that I do not wish to recount and hung up. Over 20 other people from varying sections of the government called that hotel within that very hour. There was something peaceful about stepping back out onto the sidewalk and seeing that scene. The dust drifting past in waves, curling around the roof of the hotel. The people lined up along the park’s edge, waving protest signs and megaphones, yelling out phrases repeatedly. Then the policeman just shaking their heads, leaning against their patrol cars.
‘Surely the bastards can’t do this…’ One of them muttered before taking a sip from his coffee. I just smiled and took a trip down to the local bar. As soon as I walked in I was assaulted with the smell of alcohol, more cigarettes, and drunk people swaying to and fro. Bloody Kennedy was on the TV again.
‘Those damn Ruskies are going to nuke us to shite. Should have left this town last week…’ Someone sitting on a bar stool beside me muttered beneath his breath.
I took a seat beside him and let out a sigh of relief. It was so incredibly smoky in there; I swear the world was burning. ‘What can I get you?’ asked the woman behind the counter. She was in her early thirties, wearing one of those dark hazy black shirts. I told her I wanted two whiskeys on the rocks. She made the comment that I already looked like I was in bad shape, and that perhaps I should take it easy. I replied with: ‘I’m on holiday.’ She didn’t comment after that.
The two Whiskeys I dunked down fairly quickly. People got more and more intoxicated as the night went on, but I stopped at two, and simply buried my head in my hands. I struck up a conversation with the bar tender. Name was Alice. She may have said more then that, but I couldn’t properly hear her from all the noise in the bar. She offered to drive me home, and that she did. She had a small little cramped flat. The apartment building itself was on the edge of chaos, someone up the back was snorting cocaine. Finally we got to her door, which she opened rather quickly and we stepped inside.
It was like a bomb had hit it. Numerous photos of people I would never meet were stuck to the fridge. The air, like the bar beforehand, was a thick impasto of smoke, grime, and factory gas from down the road. She offered me a cigarette. I accepted, and we went out to stand on the small balcony she had. There the air was slightly cooler, but still stunk like the apartment.
‘The News Bulletin said they’ll launch the first nukes in an hour.’ She says to me, exhaling the cigarette. I sat down on one of the chairs and leaned back in it.
‘It is what it is.’ I replied. ‘I couldn’t care less. I’m on my bloody holiday…’ I murmur beneath my cold frosty breath.
I nodded at Central Park. ‘They’ll be done in the morning.’
‘What are they searching for?’ She shot back immediately.
I shrugged. ‘Anything. Just something.’ Drilling that hole there, I was giving them something to at least fight for. But I was also drilling a grave. We sat there for quite some time on the porch over looking Central Park. They’d erected barriers around themselves so people couldn’t get through. I thanked her for the smoke and the ride back, and was getting up off my chair when someone busted through the back door in a frenzy. She was probably around the same age as Alice, but she looked twice as stressed. Run down and on her last breaths. Aged.
She was carrying all these shopping bags in her left hand, and in her right helping to cradle a small child. She mentioned something about who the heck I was, to which Alice replied: ‘Just a wanderer’ before her friend put all the shopping down on the table, and then handed the baby over to her. It was crying violently. Alice’s friend continued to talk non-stop about her ventures, clearly stressed.
‘The department store was completely trashed. Everyone was just taking what they could Alice. Those darn white collar Snuff’s had their little servants go and grab all the cans first. I just got what I could…’
Alice started hugging the baby to help it calm down. It wasn’t working. Her friend just gave up and went into one of the rooms out the back and collapsed on a bed. After some silence, I tried to retain some calm. I hadn’t expected to be out this long into the night. I wanted to get back to my hotel room as quickly as possible, somewhere safer than this.
‘Where’s the father?’ I ask Alice, indicating the child.
‘Dead.’ She said it with no subtlety what so ever, it was a cold fact to her, just another part of her life, another catalyst. The baby just wouldn’t shut up. That was when The Siren went off. It was the sound of thousands of people yelling and running into their apartments, getting ready to shelter themselves from the nuclear chaos about to ensure.
I took the baby off of Alice and said to her: ‘I want you to go crouch underneath the table. Close your eyes. Hang tight. I want you to get in a brace position.’ She nodded, she didn’t bother trying to reply. The Siren was still sounding at full volume in the apartments. She did as I asked, and I cradled the baby, as the alarm continued to sound I sang it a lullaby: ‘Don’t worry young one, one day you’ll have your fun. Someone will nurture you, through and through. There’s some much in the world for you to do. Hush. Hush.’ Slowly it began to calm down, at least it’s breathing did, it was still crying like a madman though.
Alice was still crouching underneath the table, in the position I’d taught her. As for her friend, I had no idea where she was. People would go anywhere they could when The Siren went off. Into bars, into apartments, some of the people that had been protesting around that particular section of Grand Central Park, were already fleeing and seeking shelter, dropping their megaphones and protest signs. Some drug addict was yelling down the hall, yelling for everyone to shut up. I got down on the floor with baby and closed my eyes shut. It was the first time I wasn’t joyful to feel pain.
It all ended rather suddenly. Perhaps it was in a blink. Perhaps an century. It all depended on where you were sitting. But those down on the ground for one reason or another, were the first to go. They were the first ones to look up, you see. Maybe you would’ve too, I’m not so sure. But as soon as The Siren finally switched off, people began emerging from their apartments again. They started opening up their windows, unlocking their doors, and emerged from underneath the tables, the chairs, the park benches, stood up from behind the rubbish bins, and crawled out from underneath the vehicles that they’d used for cover. It was a false alarm.
I slept at the apartment that night, and it wasn’t until 11 am the next morning that I managed to stagger back to my hotel room. I collapsed on the bed, turned on the television, and ordered up room service. Some holiday I was having. The place had been next to trashed though, there were holes in the wall, and the mirror had been shattered by a baseball bat. I asked the door man who did it. He just shook his head and dismissed me. A phone call came from one of my drillers down at Central Park.
‘There’s nothing down here. We’re going to give up our work I think, the police are arresting some of our workers sir. They’re taking down the barriers.’ I wiped the sweat off my forehead with the back of my hand, still lying sideways on the hotel bed.
‘You’re sure there’s nothing down there?’ I asked him, my voice sturdy. I just heard a
very long sigh on the other end of the line.
I answered: ‘Keep digging, until there’s nothing left.’
‘But they’re going to start—’ I hung up after that, and it was just me and the distant glow of the cracked television. That was when a thought came to me, and I picked up the phone again, and dialled a number.
The nurse maid put me on hold for a moment. ‘Hello?’ It was an old crinkled voice. ‘Hi, Mum, it’s me, Allie.’
There was silence for a moment as I let that sink in. ‘Is that you Johnny? You sound like my Johnny.’
‘Dad’s dead Ma. It’s Allie. Your son.’
She was in a mental health home. ‘Allie? Is that really you?’
‘Yes Ma. It’s Allie. Did you get my flowers that I sent you?’
‘What, um, flowers?’
‘Yeah, I left them there you on the windowsill. Remember? The little red ones?’
‘Who is this? I don’t remember any flowers.’
‘It’s your son. Allie. I told you. Remember?’
‘Whatever you say young man. But I didn’t get any flowers. The nurse just keeps telling me about these missiles. I’m telling Johnny.’
‘Johnny’s dead Ma. He died in a car accident. I just wanted to call, because I don’t think we’ll be seeing each other for a while. You and I.’
‘For how long?’
‘I’m not sure. I think I’m going to go on a holiday.’
‘A holiday? Where to? You can’t just go on a holiday.’
‘I’m sorry ma.’ I hung up.