Sunday, February 24, 2013

We gotta get outta here, y'see?

"Most of them simply do not see what sort of risky game they are playing with reality - reality as something independent of what is experimentally established."
~ Erwin Schrödinger

I am a detective. Of this I was absolutely sure.

I started out like most detectives, as a beat cop on the mean streets of this city. I saw it's criminal underbelly first hand. I had been fortunate to make it this long, I might even get to see retirement. Other policemen aren't so lucky, this is why I chose to work alone. I don't want to see another partner die.

O'brien's, my home away from home, was a bar on the second floor of a old brick building on 5th, a cop bar where the guys could find a comfortable chair away from work and their wives. I sat, like I usually do, at the bar, and ordered a scotch. I looked at my watch, 7 o'clock.

"How are you doing today Herman?" Mike, the bartender who works thursdays asked as he cleaned a mug.

"Slow day, Mike. Too slow" I said, hitting the whiskey.

"How's the wife and kids?" He said, pulling a glass of pabst and handing it to the man three stools down from me. He didn't look up as he received it.

I looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "I'm not married, and I don't have any kids" I said, more then a little confused. He knows that, at least he should. I've come here every day since I got devorced.

"Sorry chief" Mike said pulling out another mug, wiping it and pulling some Pabst. The man three stools down from me did not look up as he received it.

My ears began to ring as I saw him walk away, down towards patrons at the far end of the bar and I stared at a shot of whiskey looking brand new and shiny in my hands. I thought about Susan, my beautiful bitch of an ex-wife. Her mother told her to never marry a cop. She and I learned that the hard way. I really missed her. The ringing in my ears made my skull hurt, like a vacuum in another room sucking up pennies.

I finished my scotch and looked at my wristwatch. 12:30 it said. "I better get home" I mumbled to myself.

"Not so fast, Rockwell" a chilly voice told me from behind. No, I thought, it couldn't be him. But surely enough, the voice belonged to no other then John Mulloni, the infamous Kazakh. I just couldn't believe, couldn't comprehend what I was seeing. The man I've been hunting doggedly for the last six years, the man responsible for killing my last six partners, all in more grotesque fashion then the last. John fucking mulloni just walks up to me in a bar? after all of the hell he put me through? The reason I will forever work alone, the reason I couldn't sleep unless I was drunk.

"look, I know this is crazy, but I need to tell you something" John whispered to me, but I could only understand half of it, I felt so sick I couldn't help but look away. My eyes glazing over as he looked at the empty beer in front of me.

Beer? Why is this beer in front of me?

"I was drinking scotch" I whispered, bewildered

"What?" John said, grabbing my arm, making sure he heard me right.

"I was drinking scotch, not beer" I said as I looked at him, all of a sudden more drunk then I had any right to be. "Look, Herman, we gotta get outta here, y'see? It's happening quicker this time!"

"What's happening?" I asked, my eyes rolling uneasily in my head, I felt like I was going to fall asleep. Then thats when I realized that something was very, very wrong. The bar was completely empty save for me and John, Mike was gone, so was the man three stools down from me, the patrons on the far end of the bar, the boys playing darts, the ones around the pool table. all gone. so was the pool table and the dart board. the frames on the walls didn't hold pictures anymore, just coregated cardboard. The sight of the cardboard in those frames put my teeth on edge and my stomach in my throat. Those were pictures where of good men who died in the line of duty. Men I buried. Gone.

I could hear a vacuum cleaner calling me. all I could see before my eyes closing was an empty bar, where did everyone go?

When I finally came too all I saw was John but I could still hear the vacuum. As the sound of the vacuum and the empty feeling it gave me faded away, reality faded in.

John was whispering my name. Or was he? He looked like he was screaming at the top of his lungs.

He gave me a hard open handed slap, not to knock me out, but to wake me up. Only then did I realize the seriousness of the situation we were in. The walls, the walls, oh my Christ, the walls were shrinking! The fixtures, too, the doors, the windows, they all began to contort into ugly, asymmetrical shapes before they all got smaller, John grabbed me by the collar and basically threw me out of the ever shrinking front door, looking more like a dog door now, his face was red, and all he could say was "Go!" "Out!" and "NOW!" or maybe he told me more, I couldn't hear. All I saw him do was kick out the window, and jump out.

Drunkenly I began to walk down, down, down,
                                  down the stairs.

when I went to that bar tonight were simple steel steps up the side of the building, but as I ran away from the bar I couldn't seem to merely walk down them. I had to crawl down them, some because they wouldn't stop getting steeper and some because they wouldn't stop squirming and giggling underneath me. And as my vision honed onto the ground and faded to black, so to did the infernal noise of the vacuum.

When I came to my entire body hurt. The first thing I did was suck in as much air as possible, but I couldn't catch my breath. The air was thin and tinny, it didn't feel real. My vision was blurry and all I could smell was burnt rubber belts. The noise in my ears was the thudding of my heart like a hammer knocking against my skull. On my back I looked at the sky, thunder and lightning struck and it began to rain ice cold water onto the streets. I just laid there for a moment, trying, and failing to process what had just happened to me.

Then I heard John groan, he had jumped out of a window to roll onto the floor like a cat, he was sore for sure, but he could probably run away without a moments hesitation into the night. He could always do that. The bastard.

"Are you alright, Herman?" John said, his sincere tone disconcerted me. He gutted my third partner like a fish. His mission in life seemed to be to torture me, and the fact that he was concerned for my safety all of a sudden enraged me. I sat up, more sober then I've been in years and walked over to him. Grabbing him by the the throat I socked him in the nose. He took it lying down, there was no fight left in him. So I kicked him, he just sat there and took it. I was overflowing with rage as I continued to wail on him, but as he continued to just take my abuse I was beginning to feel a chasming sense of dispair well up. I knew he felt the pain, he just didn't care anymore.

I ran out of breath before I could beat John to death. and when I relented, placing my bloodied hands on my knees hunched over to catch my breath I could hear John spitting out teeth, cool and calm. He said "We're wasting time. We need to leave right now".

"Damn fucking straight, we're going to the station" I said, pulling out my handcuffs. This is when I expected to see John make a run for it, even though he just let me beat the piss out of him, almost as a sign of good will. Rather he just held out his wrists and rolled his eyes behind his swolen lids. as I put John in the back of my cruiser I looked up at O'brians. The windows were bricked up. nothing there but the shadow of a neon sign long gone from the wall.

The drive to the police station was quiet, too quiet. the only noise the city was making was the rain now falling like a faucet on the street and the noise of my cruiser speeding to our destination. There where no other cars, no pedestrians. and when we got to 12th, there werent even any cars parked on the sides of the street. on 16th, there werent any parking meteres, no news stands, no phone booths. The police station on 18 from the outside looked long abandoned and I parked infront of it with a screeching halt. and ran inside, leaving john in the back seat with the car running. I made the mistake of leaving him alone in the backseat before, He got free with a peice of hanging interior trim and made it into a shiv which he cut my 5th partners head off with infront of me. I was sure he didn't feel compelled to escape today.

What I saw when I entered made my heart sink. I couldn't help but run through where all the walls and offices and cells and desks used to be to get to my desk. My desk was the only thing remaining in the now vast empty room that used to be a police station. The lamp was on, but it wasn't hooked into anything and my notes were in the desk but there was nothing written on them. A bottle of scotch with a label as ornate as it was blank, a gun with no trigger. My lord, what is going on?

I shouldn't have been shocked when I got outside to see John outside of my handcuffs and my police cruiser. He was smoking a cigarette and he flashed me a perfect grin which he had recovered miraclously from the severe beating I had just administered. I was angry all over again but I did not see any use in beating him again.

"What the fuck is going on?" I shouted over the cruiser. John just shrugged

"All I know is we gotta get outta here." he flicked his smoke "I'll drive"

I pressed my hand against his chest and pushed him away from the front door. "I'll drive" I said, he put up his hands and turned away to the passenger side. "I have to go somewhere"

"If it's anywhere but outside of the city, it's a waste of time" John offered, I wasnt having any of it.

"Why don't you tell me what you know, huh? Where is everybody?" I said, driving like a maniac to the other side of town.

"I'm not sure, It started a couple of days ago. the boys started acting really strange. They'd forget things, keep repeating themselves. I knew something was up for sure when they didn't remember I have a daughter. I told shep, I told him to get some roses for my daughter. He says you don't have a daughter, Boss. Like fucking shit I said. Then I started hearing that fucking Vaccuum cleaner."

Vacuum cleaner? I thought, "You heard that to?" I asked

"I thought I was going crazy, I've been hearing it on and off for days now." John, lit another smoke, now visibly shaking. "My boys, I haven't seem them for days now, everyone I know is gone, even my daughter..." he began to cry.

I was taken aback. "You through my first partner off of the peir with barbed wire wrapped around his neck, what about his daughter?"

He looked at me and smiled behind those tears, I almost clocked him again but he asked me a question that knocked me flat on my ass.

"You don't even remember your first partner's name, do you?" John had me. I didn't. I couldn't, no matter how hard I strained, remember any of the names of the six men who served by my side and had their lives cruelly cut short by the man smoking a cigarette in my passanger seat. "I don't remember my daughters name either. I couldn't even tell you what she looked like."

A wave of panic flowed over me like a two tonne blanket as I saw her home. A townhouse at the ending of a T intersection between two brick buildings twice its size on either side. Her home, our home, seemed so serene, even under all the rain now flooding most of the streets. I breathed deep as I put my hand on the door handle. John put his hand on my arm and shook his head as he watched me leave. "Don't do this." he said, a look of genuine concern on his face. I pulled away and left the cruiser, making the excruciating walk up to her door.

I knocked on the front door and it opened just a crack.

"Susan? Susan are you there? It's Herman"

I opened the door to her home and saw nothing but wet dirt and rubble on the other side. The home I bought us after we were married was now nothing more then a false front of a house. I fell to my knees and burst into tears. I didn't even notice the deafening roar of the vacuum cleaner as John ran up to me and drug me away, balling like a child into my own police cruiser. I kept crying as he sped off, the roar of the vacuum fallowing us we went to one bridge then another, all exits from the city now for some reason or another unpassable. The Mathew bridge was drawn up at the center at a perfect right angle. The Errickson was desolved at the center. The 8th street bridge, most bizarrely of all, was tied into a tidy little bow.

I have always been afraid of water. Deep water that is. but when I saw that there was no escape from this city, John and I got desperate and ran out into the early morning tide. we ran and ran, the further we got away from the city, the less we could hear of the vacuum cleaner. The further we ran, the more we noticed the water wasn't getting any deeper. The further we ran, the more we realized the shore on the other side of the bay wasn't dozens of miles away, but more like a mile and a half away from the shore we just left.

The place we saw on the other side wasn't more then a collection of things that mostly werent there any more. A roof would float 20 feet above the ground as if it were being held up by a house. An engine and an exhaust manifold sat there idling as if there was a key in the ignition of a car that wasn't there. Half of a tree, half of trash can, half of a street leading away to a featureless horizion. John and I kept running, the sound of the vacuum fading into the distance.

John and I. We've been running for what seems like days. We never get tired here, never get hungry, and the sun never rises past the little sliver on the dawn. There's nothing here. nothing but distance and a faint noise of the vacuum cleaner.

It's so cold here. I couldnt guess how long we've been running. John is beginning to lag behind.

John died today. He told me to hold up, the sound of the vacuum has been getting steadily louder the last few days? Weeks? We talked, tried to speculate about what's been going on.  We know, I know now. Johns last words before his head shattered into a million pieces were Thank you for making my life worth it.

He was my worst enemy. He was my only friend.

I made it, John. I made it to the edge. It's so cold here. the edge is razor sharp and there are words now, written on the ground. They told me your daughters name. They told me her name, John. Her name was Susan. I know if I walk off the edge now, I would just float away into the nothing I'm staring at. Just a step. There we go.

I am a detective. Of this I am absolutly sure.

Big Mike.