Nov/Dec 1999  •   Fiction

Limping into the Rich, Rich Black

by Christopher Watkins

I strode into this complex that was full of shops, and lights, and looming black shapes that once in a while would become suddenly and startlingly clear, like a car that appears in front of you out of the fog. It was growing dark, and all the lights took on this hallucinatory glow, within what should have been mist, but was really mood. I walked into an enormous store, and it continued to grow and grow and grow the longer I stayed there. I developed a kind of mania about what I was doing there, as if someone had told me that something very bad was going to happen if I didn't do whatever I was doing there properly.

I bought a heavy canvas jumpsuit, the kind auto mechanics wear, in dark green. I bought an army issue thermal crew neck pull-over, also green, and a sweatshirt with a hood. I put them on in the dressing room, and told this blinking pimple of a girl that I'd just wear it all out. The legs of the jumpsuit didn't reach much past my calves, so I bought a pair of big, black boots to cover the fishy white of my skin. I plunged out the door into a night that had become a dark I didn't think was possible, full of orbs of light that undulated as if they were lost in the depths of a coal sea, and there were hulking, leering, swaying black shapes everywhere.

I realized that wherever I had come from to get to that store was a place that I had no idea how to find again, that I couldn't remember who had been there, or why I'd been there, and that there was no way to call. I felt this immense urge to affect a limp, which I did. In fact, I pounded into that limp with such an awkward fierceness that I could feel my thigh bones scraping against my shin bones. There were no solid lines anywhere, just these neon rays and stripes that dissolved when stood down by the relentless obsidian. All these trite domestic images kept appearing and dissolving around me, reading glasses, baby strollers, a kitchen knife, a "hello kitty" make-up bag, and they all went a reverse black-and white right before they disappeared, like a negative. Like someone in Seattle had sold a shopping mall to Lucifer.

There was some sort of restaurant in front of me. I think it must of been a fast-food type of place, because there were lots of shapes stopping at its side, then moving on. I decided to consider it a mirage, because it bent around me as I tried to walk towards it, until I'd found that I'd already passed by. I continued across the endless tar of space until I reached a cobbled lane covered by a copper archway that was swiftly going green. I turned left onto the lane, and I swear I could hear Christmas carols. I swear I could hear Christmas carols.

I looked right and saw a man on a stool. It took forever to isolate his voice amidst all the other swirling sounds. Then, I realized I knew it, but I couldn't believe it was him. How could he be here like this, like that, and why him? I'd hurt him terribly once, and then avoided him ever since, and there he was, and suddenly, I realized he was asking someone for money, and apologizing to them when they said they couldn't help. Great. I limped harder, my right leg bent nearly 45 degrees below me.

I knew I would see her as soon as I turned left, his wife, and there she was, at the end of the lane, like a footballer waiting for the approach of a potential scoring threat. She grew larger as I neared her, until there was almost no way past, but I pulled my hood as tight as I could across my face, and limped to her left. The first thing she said, without realizing she had said it, was what sounded like the first three quarters of my name, and I thought I was done for. My hood must of hid my entire face however, because she didn't recognize me after all. All she said, as I skulked successfully past, was "You've never seen a picture of yourself, have you?"

And I limped back into the rich, rich black.