Requiem for an I (NYC Midnight FFC 2016 Round 3)

Hitler had a terrible nose picking habit.  The moustache was unsuccessful at curtailing it.  He also sang opera.  Beautifully.  As though every good thing in him were condensed and transformed  into song. “O dieses Licht, wie lang verlosch es nicht!” was his favorite line to sing as the hairless skeletons were dying.  When I was Hitler, I sang that line more times than I can remember.  I also heard those words as the gas vacuumed my lungs.  As everyone I knew was shot in the head in front of me. I killed the nose picker while he was in a bathtub.   I killed them all.  I was every SS guard praying quietly at night for forgiveness.  I was all of the bodies dropping into the holes before being set on fire. I couldn’t keep any of it from happening.  So I stopped trying and shot myself in the head.

“Welcome to Hallory’s.  First time?”

“Yes.  I never noticed this shop until now”.

“What suits your fancy?  Chocolate, sour, sweet, pick your poison”.

I glance at the shelves of multicolored sugar forms and see my reflection in every surface. The nausea of returning is already sliding down my throat so the candy looks like schools of dead fish artfully arranged in various bowls.

“Whatever you’d recommend is fine for me please”.

His eyes flash.

“Nobody has ever asked me that before.  If you trust me, I’ll put together something just dandy”.  He closes his eyes and hums.

“Ahh yes”, he whispers and bends down below the counter.  When he rises, he looks at me.  Through me.  In a way that very few people can do without getting arrested.  He lifts up a bowl of misshapen candy coated blobs.

His hand hovers, playing a piano of air molecules, stopping only to pluck a random fish corpse and drop it into a plastic Faberge egg before returning to his symphony.  His eyes leave mine and briefly dart to my bandaged wrists.

“Rough times?”

24, I thought.  Maybe 26.  In the last loop.

“Just an in between day sir.  Tomorrow  is a new start”.

“Indeed it is.  Always waiting like an old friend,” he nods as his fingers fish out one last candy bit that he hands to me.

It sticks in my teeth as I look down at his curated selection. The egg is filled with a rainbow of squished stars that look like the remains of some ancient deity stomping out its creation once and for all.  The image of a god tantrum curls the corners of my mouth.

“You have a lovely smile.  Don’t change a thing.” He winks and shoos me out the door.

Martin Luther King Jr talked in his sleep.  Mostly limericks about things he would order at restaurants once he was allowed in them.  He could make just about anything rhyme with lobster.  I marched with him.  I heard his sermons.  I saw his “I Have a Dream” speech.  I was him.  I wrote that speech.  I was every ‘amen’ murmuring body in the crowd.  On April 4, 1968, I killed him.  I couldn’t stop him being killed.  I was never James Earl Ray.  I was everyone who cried or laughed at the news.  I stopped trying and hung my own self for a change.

“Welcome to Hallory’s.  First time?”

Every goddamned time.  I’ve tried to figure out a pattern based on the color or shape of the squished star blob stuck in my teeth.  None discernible.  Loop after loop.

I was JFK and all of Dallas, but I was never Lee Harvey Oswald.  I couldn’t stop anything so I jumped in front of a train.  I was Gandhi and I was Godse and everyone who loved and reviled them.  I exploded in the Challenger and I was every child that watched it live.  I jumped from the highest floors of the World Trade Center.  I flew the planes.

I know all of the things nobody is saying.  I know everything that has ever been redacted or erased.  If there were anyone to tell, they wouldn’t believe me anyways.

It hasn’t been all bad though. Drive-in movies in 1958 are just about the most perfect moments to be alive.  I tried to stay, but the microchip was invented.  I knew where that would eventually lead so, grudgingly, I stopped trying and ran a razor up both arms.  Not across the wrist.  That’s fixable.

“What suits your fancy?  Chocolate, sour, sweet, pick your poison”.

Son of a b*&$!.  Blobs.  Air piano.  Don’t change a thing.

In 2027 the culling begins.  A handful of cars missing here and there from the commute each day.  No lines at the bank.  The produce is a little more ripe with fewer finger indentations.  Texts, Facebook likes, and Tweets come faster than ever.  Nobody notices that people are disappearing and the replies and likes and responses are algorithmically generated.  Eventually, all of the “smart” machines take control.  Cars drive off of the road or into each other.  Refrigerators and security systems spontaneously explode without a sound.  Phones and computers emit a frequency that scrambles and deactivates any brain within reach.  Until there are no humans left.  I know this because I’ve been all of them. The machines and the people. There wasn’t any difference.

I don’t remember when this started and I don’t know who I am anymore.  Only that I couldn’t change any of it and that one day it stopped when I’d finally run out of ways to kill myself.

“Welcome to Hallory’s.  First time?” I say.

When they leave, I pass time tap dancing on the stars and picking candy bits out of my teeth.  Someday, someone will miss their bus and run in randomly to escape the rain like I once did and ask me to choose.  I’ll bend down and scoop up a special galaxy of squished stars and I’ll tell them not to change a thing.  Maybe I can spare them the heartache that comes with trying.


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