This is not a Dawson’s Creek reunion, I told them as we walked. The former tracks looped into a particularly severe crevice that climbed towards the sky like a tear in the mountain. Small sounds echoed and amplified within like a pyroclastic blast. We exited into more grayness and the acrid stench of vinegar and formaldehyde and sulfur. The wind didn’t purge the smell only intensified it. The ash began to fall shortly after.
The grey haze of morning uncovered an unsurprising and impotent landscape. As the day progressed, the scenery changed little. People were scant. We saw maybe six spectors who ghosted like wolves into the background amongst the threadbare abandoned buildings and the rotting homes. They were the derelicts left behind that hid in the shadows of a broken civilization—scavengers sifting thru the remnants, invisible likely hiding from those that would do them damage once discerning the acute differences within; their faces muddy, the fading raggedy t-shirts the only thing about them that attracted our eyes—eighties white pop culture patriarchal saviors and distorted reflections of our generational tethers we couldn’t quite escape doubtlessly slaughtered in the fray. So many of the casualties avoided liberating themselves from those ancestral fetters; yet, these assimilated contradictory fragments remained. Were there others? Soldiers? Resistance? Clones? All in the same? Dualities of living deceptions combined from those young and old that fought and fight still for the freedom to just be? Were they us? And the busy brainchild of the producer of this shitshow? I reveled in her theme of manipulation and counted that upon her brilliance; so, it wouldn’t surprise me if they indeed turned out to be soldier-clones in her vast helter-skelter production.
Trevor held out his hand as bits of dandruff floated from the sky: Is this ash, he asked. Yes, I replied and stopped. Sitting down on the closest large rock, I pulled out a black decagonal water generator and took a big drink staring at them as they stood around me like sullen statues.
Their unawareness remained. As was their urge to defy. The impulse abated slowly, like the creeping crawl of evolution. Then it would be a whole lot slower, I told myself.
Reese asked from where. I told them: From the prisons. Where do you think, I responded rhetorically. They glanced uncertainly at one another. I don’t understand, Ben claimed looking for something bigger than what sat in front of him—inconvenient truths long ignored.
A rerun, I repeated my lines: They incarcerated those left after…and put them in prisons. Those that don’t re-educate… or assimilate… that don’t meet certain…standards, they torch. I flattened my hand to catch a few flakes. This… this is what’s left of them. This is…this is… people, asked Ben, a disgusted curl twisted his lip and face. A brief moment of clarity and possibly memories flashed across his face then disappeared in a green flush. What’d you think they were building all those federal prisons for, I laughed sarcastically tired of this same ole song and dance.
Cody started to say something then stopped. He glanced at Reese who had the same question. Yes, I answered standing and moving past them, bumping hard into Cody’s shoulder as I passed: Fucking asshole racists.
I experienced their questions like they were my own, far away, across time, like a distant voice. I heard and felt everything they thought and experienced. It was fucking painful. Every pungent thought filtered through me like a disease. Like the fifty-some times prior—was it only fifty?—their attitudes had not changed. I dunno why Niko kept on with this goddamn experiment. What I felt and experienced, they needed to feel; each and every iteration. It wasn’t exactly rocket science. I stopped and took a breath. I coughed away some flakes. The grossness of that gripped me. I pushed it away. This wasn’t about me. This was about…those people lost. Those people through time that died painfully, their stories denied. This was about a quest to serve a greater truth; one not sanitized; one incorporated towards the many with an insight towards a self-awareness they’ve yet to find; one where innocents still await us along with said truths; this truth, like this land, meant for many, but only a few truly perceive. That was the quest we were all on. Over and over and over again.
There’s a bigger picture here. One I knew then, that I know now, that I’ve always known. Had I always known? Probably not. I needed to listen to her, Niko, as crazy and fucked up as she was. She knew what she was doing. Hopefully. My purpose in life was to meander; never to lead. Regardless, Niko was my captain, oh captain and her work endured. I had to trust her and I rarely trusted.
I stopped and looked behind me. They stood loitering. You know what, I told them, we’re gonna try something different. I’m tired of this continuous warped mind bullshit. Their faces coiled into a confusion. What, Nat asked. I reached for my armband. We’re going on a little trip. Come here, I ordered them. They looked at each other then came hesitantly towards me.
I recalled the first trip so many trips ago. Climbing out of that nasty creek water, they were immediately on me; an openly hostile confrontation; a blinding mindfuck; the distrust so acute, it felt like a million needles puncturing my brain and body. I dragged myself to the crate, pulled out a gun, and shot them in the head to stop the pain it was so horrific. My shots were awkward and I missed a few times—not accustomed to the weight of the gun—before I eventually hit all of them, emptying all fifteen rounds into Niko’s experimental aberrations. I knew I was just as aberrant as they were. I didn’t feel any different, but who said I was normal? I had never felt normal, especially around them.
Niko and her crew—indifferent to many of those acts—took detailed notes. Afterward: Do you have anything to add, she asked. Pissed off, I screamed no! at them.
You will go again, and I did. I lost count how many times after fifty. The same results; the variations as elusive as the progress, if any. It would be pointless to explain any of these. That insanity quote came to mind, repeatedly. There was also a metaphor here. Niko knew it. I was just too tired to see it, till now. Maybe I didn’t wanna. It was the same ole, same ole. History repeating. What was that Max Weber quote about politics being the strong and slow boring of hard boards? Count science in that same medley of pain. Hell, count relationships with family in that same realm.
I tapped on my wristband. The gate opened. In broad daylight, it was a tall flat black circle the size of a door that looked like a black hole to nowhere. The event horizon rippled slightly with the wind.
A hitch in breath behind me: What is that, Cody asked. I turned to them full: This is a gate…or portal, if you will. It connects to a spaceship in geosynchronous orbit with three crew: two synthetics named Bian and Tinta and a commander and scientist, Niko, who’s a bit of a stoner, but brilliant. The spaceship, called Truth—after the very remarkable and heroic Sojourner Truth—and its crew are from the Saturn colonies…and the future—obviously. They created these mutated clones… I gestured towards our bodies, …and merged our twentieth and twenty-first century consciousness and memories as an experiment in…I guess you could say sociology—dimensional sociology to be exact. I think that’s what Niko called it in one of her stoned states. I dunno if she was serious because she was so wasted, but it’s a spiritual kind of wasted, like on mushrooms. My voice dropped as I looked off and pondered the ‘what ifs’ of stoned Saturnians. I looked to them for connection and agreement for something shared, but then recalled with whom I was talking to—puritanical rubes sheltered and oblivious and dismissive of me and mine. They would never do psychedelics. Anyways, this is the fiftieth-something-plus iteration of said experiment and every freakin’ time y’all manage to fuck it up ‘cause you’re racist as fuck.
The holes in their heads had gotten larger over the course of my speech till the end when they snapped shut like a Venus flytrap in obvious anger. I mulled briefly over how being called a racist was more offensive than the actual racism; same ole, same ole mundane mediocre white racists where nuance was lost and bluntness was praised. All of them riled, except Trevor. He laughed; a kind of yeah, so what laugh. You’re not serious, he laughed again. I shook my head, rolled my eyes. Imagine being told that aliens resurrected you, gave you new and somewhat improved mutated bodies, and that you kept fucking it up by being a racist douche and the only thing you pulled from the conversation was the outrage that someone called you racist. Well, except Trevor, who apparently embraced his bigotry.
I sent Bian and Tinta a message: I’m coming through; I’m bringing them, and before they could object: Follow me if you wanna know the truth, I walked through.
© 2018-2019 Pamela Gay Mullins