The black is oppressive once Brooks cuts the power for the night. No more fans whirring gently in the background or the grind of generators with worn-out carburetors to block out the moans that might be in your head…or might not be. Everyone get so frakking quiet that it makes you sick, and all you can do is huddle in the dark or scurry like rats to the fire pits in the rusty barrel drums that start-up like fireflies back when you could actually spend time outdoors without fear of being eaten.
You can hide in the dark, or talk in the light where things can see you.
I always choose the lights.
I don’t really understand what the people say — they just talk to make noise. I just listen and watch.
“No one was lost today…that’s a good day in my book.” She is pale and skinny but has a mustache that makes her ugly. I don’t like it — like a bug I want to crush into a green pulp with the palm of my hand.
The others nod in agreement…like they comprehend. Bobbleheads…remember them?
Those were funny.
“I hear that Salina is mostly clear nowadays…CC’s can even walk around without Crosshair having to crack off one of his ‘thunderbolts’ at them.” He makes “air quotes” with his hands, and the others chuckle.
“Chhhh…This is Olympus, Zeus speaking….chhh” This one makes a funny pantomime radio with his left hand. He doesn’t have a right hand, just a hook. He reminds me of a mime…and Captain Hook. A Captain Hook mime.
That is not funny.
The banalities continue until everyone “calls it a night.” What would they call it otherwise? I go to bed early because I don’t feel well.
I wake up with a fever. They pull me off labor after I puke on Clipboard’s feet. He says “gettothedocforfraksake,” and I get help from Captain Hook mime…I keep my eye on him, but not literally.
Doc shoves needles into me, and makes me talk to someone when I say I can’t feel it. They ask me about my life, and why I don’t like to talk to people much. She writes a lot on a clipboard. At least she doesn’t have a mustache. They make me shave and shower. Doc gets me a good coat.
Three weeks later I feel great, except for the black hole inside me. All’s well that ends…ill or well. The first day back I work labor again — the rocks are as heavy as I remember, but I don’t complain. Is this what Zac feels like? Oh well…more brains to eat…flesh to tear…blood to smear…screams to stagger to.
That night I can’t find my stuff. It’s gone. I’m not really angry, but disappointed — I liked my stuff as much as I could like anything. I have to stop looking when the lights go out and the generators die again like Prometheus…but they will be born again tomorrow to suffer.
I find my way to a glowbug fire pit. The same people stand around the same barrel having the same conversations. I hardly listen tonight. The fire eats pieces of wood and belches smoke that stings my eyes.
I don’t know why, but I decide to talk. The lady in the med center said I should “communicate” more — she even used “air quotes.” I open my mouth and dazzle.
“Miss me?” My own voice sounds like an empty tin can — Darth Wimpy in his Campbell’s helmet.
Captain Hookmime and Mustache look at me, “Sorry?” she says.
“Miss me?” I repeat it, and it sounds the same.
Hookmime smiles at the others and offers his left hand awkwardly, “Never seen you before, man. Hey…my names Chuck. How Long have you been in the BZ?” I mirror his fake smile, and shake his hand.
The black hole inside me widens, and I fall in.
“Not long,” I say.
“Five years,” I think.
Well…there is a lot going on in the world today. I suppose it easy to miss someone right in front of you…even if they aren’t a whole person.
I “call it a night,” find a corner, and let the black cover me up from all the lonely forgetful world.