Detour: Bear Left
Detour: Bear Left
“Don’t really know why I came,” Jane said.
“For a glass of lemonade?” Clark asked. He sat across a table from her on the front terrace of a little cafe.
The afternoon breeze smelled like cut-grass and caramel. The caramel was probably from baked goods or fancy coffee, but the cut-grass was odd. The cafe was surrounded by tall buildings. The nearest park was blocks away. Maybe a roof-top garden, Jane thought. She noticed Clark staring at her.
His hair was dark, like red hair dyed black, maybe, but it looked soft. It was parted to the side like a comb-over, unattractive. But his face was nice enough. He had soft features but a square jaw. His green eyes were still staring at her.
“This was my mom’s idea,” Jane said.
Clark chuckled, his cheeks dimpling. “I got that impression,” he said. He glanced down at her right hand and at the stump where she didn’t have an index finger.
“I think she thinks I need to get out of the house,” Jane said, and Clark nodded. “But fuck her. It’s not like she did much for me except squeeze me out.”
“I was talking to Roddy…. It’s not that we were gossiping about you-”
“But you were,” she said. Roddy was her mom’s boyfriend, and he seemed like the type to gossip.
“It’s more that Roddy was trying to sell me on you, and he let more slip than he’d meant to?”
“He tell you I’m pregnant?” Jane asked.
The waiter drifted up to their table. He put a lemonade in front of Jane and a tiny coffee with a submarine-shaped cookie in front of Clark.
“Thanks,” Clark said. He smiled quietly at Jane as the waiter drifted away again. “No. Roddy didn’t tell me that.”
“Well…. If you’re in the same boat as me, maybe we can just finish our drinks and tell our respective busy-bodies we had a nice time.”
“That’s fine,” Clark said. “But, maybe, being in the same boat, we might actually have a nice time. It’s a very nice day, don’t you think?”
“Yeah,” Jane said. She’d been nocturnal for years. The sunlight stung her eyes, and her lemonade was both slightly odd and very sweet.
“So, Roddy told me you recently dumped your boyfriend.”
“He dumped me,” Jane said. “You like, one of Roddy’s students?”
“Yeah,” Clark said. He smiled again. No dimples this time. She wondered if he was thinking about Roddy.
Roddy could be kind of an annoying prick. Jane hated him a little, possibly because thinking about Roddy made her think about a paunchy middle-aged man fucking her wrinkled middle-aged mother. But something about Clark’s smile and body language made her think he might hate Roddy a lot. It could have been, simply, that Roddy had hooked him up with her.
“I was his TA last semester,” Clark said.
“Was that fun?” Jane asked. TA sounded, in conjunction with semester, like some kind of college thing; she hoped he wouldn’t explain the acronym.
“I learned a lot,” Clark said. He took a sip of his very black coffee and a nibble of his cookie and dabbed at his lip with a cloth napkin. His index finger started to drift toward her, pointing at her belly. “Your boyfriend’s?”
“He’s probably- It’s probably not even a he or she yet, like a little dot of jelly- Yeah it’s my ex-boyfriend’s.”
“Not really,” Jane said. It didn’t feel hard anyway. “I ended a couple, years back. One with a pill, and the other they sucked out of me.”
“…But you’re keeping this one?”
“Yeah,” Jane said. She felt her tone slipping. She’d been trying her best to be civil, but his questions were starting to grate and she could feel the murder creeping into her finger tips.
“Why?” Clark asked.
“Cuz I feel like it.”
“I guess that’s reason enough…. Roddy told me, he says your boyfriend doesn’t have a name…. How does that work?”
“Your ex, sorry.”
“I’d just call him hey you.”
“That sounds difficult.”
“Yeah…. I gotta piss.”
Clark gave her the smile with dimples again, and Jane stood up. Maybe too quickly. The patio started to spin.
She clenched her teeth and took measured steps. She figured it was some kind of preggo-nausea, and whatever it was couldn’t compare to the hit of PCP and rat-poison she’d once been sold as fine china.
She’d killed the fuck who’d tried to poison her. She wondered who she could blame for her present state.
Jane stumbled into the cafe and nearly slammed headlong into their waiter. He gave her a nervous smile that seemed to say please don’t vomit on the tile.
The caramel smell seemed to be coming from a sheet-pan covered in cup-cakes.
The bathroom was unoccupied. The door swung in and slammed shut behind her.
When Jane went out, which didn’t happen often, it was usually to a bar. The Alphonse, a dive near the docks, had a brown hole in the floor rather than a toilet. The cafe didn’t skimp. The rust colored tile was mirror-shiny, and the sink and toilet shimmered like baby-teeth.
She really did need to piss, but it didn’t help with the dizziness. The tile seemed to have a magnetic pull on her forehead, and it felt like there was something burning under her skin.
“Is the van ready,” someone said.
“Occupied,” she said. It had been a voice coming through the door, but it was only after she’d spoken that she understood what she’d heard.
“Wasn’t she supposed to pass-out?” It was a new voice, whispering now.
“She might have been on something. Something interfering with the angel dust.” It was the first voice. It sounded like Clark. And it sounded like he’d slipped her what must have been a baby-dose of PCP.
Jane wiped herself, and pulled back up her jeans. Knowing she was high steadied her out.
She’d thought she was going on a blind date, and it hadn’t seemed good form to bring a weapon.
“I need this job, man,” the second voice said. It was their waiter.
Jane stared at herself in the mirror. She was different than she remembered. It might have been the little ball of goop growing inside her, making her skin glow and pumping her full of weird maternal feelings.
She pulled off her black T-shirt. She wished she’d worn a bra. She wrapped her hand in the shirt and threw a straight right at the mirror.
The broken glass clattered in the baby-tooth sink, and she heard nervous footsteps outside the door. She picked up a chef’s-knife-shaped shard of mirror in her T-shirt-wrapped hand, and let the door swing in.
The waiter stood outside. He stared at her breasts as she launched forward. The freshly broken glass plunged deep into his neck, but Jane felt an odd kind of empathic response. As she watched the blood gush from the waiter’s throat, she felt a sting in her own neck, like the sting of a wasp. The pain traveled up to her teeth.
She heard a tak-tak-tak like a stick hitting the steel rim of a snare, or the sound of thirty-thousand volts arcing between two steel fangs.
The waiter dropped to the floor and she followed him.
“Lugal ud mehlem-bi nirgal.”
Night in the Arctic, or wandering on the surface of the Moon. Jane saw pale white hills and planes. A fiery corona filled the black sky. Between two snow drifts there was a dark forest of strange trees. Something was waiting for her there.
“Ninurta sa’kal usu mah tuku kur aggana lah,” she heard someone say. It was dark. She seemed to be floating somewhere dark and painful, and the words weren’t making any sense.
“Amaru mirduh nukush-uh ki’bal gaga.”
She opened her eyes again. She was back on the Moon, but that wasn’t right, because she was breathing, and how she would have gotten up there wasn’t clear. PCP. She remembered a boring date with a guy who was the antithesis of her type and killing a waiter at a yuppy cafe.
She opened her eyes and they seemed to actually open this time. It was dark, but not black. She seemed to be in a warehouse, or a basement. Wood support struts over head, held up by wooden pillars. A basement. And what had seemed like a solar corona was in fact a few hundred candles in the hands of a crowd wrapped head to toe in black cloth.
Jane was naked on her back. Her wrists hurt. They were cuffed to the steel bed-frame. Her ankles were tied with stiff rope.
“The Aeon Whore has awakened,” Clark said. He stood beside her bed. His green eyes shone orange in the candle light like the eyes of stray dogs she’d seen in a hundred dark alleys.
“Is that me you’re talkin’ about?” Jane asked.
“Ursag mesheh tinna gubbu,” the crowd said, their breath making the candles flicker.
“…Yes,” Clark said.
She noticed the knife in his hand, more like a sword. It was like a crescent-moon, or half of Saturn’s ring. Rusty, and welded to the end of a rusty staff. It wasn’t rust. The sword was bronze.
“En shu silig-ga gishmi tum she gal.”
“What’s that shit their babbling?” she asked, testing the cuffs. They were clamped tight on her wrists. The chain clattered as she yanked it against the blue-enamel headboard.
“It is a song of praise to our Lord Prince-”
“So, this some kind of black mass sorta deal?”
“Hardly. And by Aeon Whore, please know I meant no insult.”
“Yeah… I’ve been called worse.”
“When Roderick told me he’d met a pair of perfect stars, I expected it to be his usual ramblings, but all it took was looking in your eyes-”
“So, Roddy’s behind this shit?”
“No…. He and I share a belief. The stars aren’t fading. They aren’t dead. The glimmers we see in the night sky aren’t like photos of dead movie stars. The stars are reforming.”
“Gu nushega shegin gur su’ubbu.”
“The stars are reforming, and the Pleroma is waxing-”
“I tend to get ingrown hairs, so I just tweeze around the outside.”
“Ha,” Clark said. His cheeks dimpled. “Ninurta and his clan live in the wetlands. When the stars reform and Pleroma comes, the tide will wash away all that is born of the meeting of land and ocean…. This cannot come to be.”
“Ninurta lugal dumu ahani kalagga-nishe hulla.”
“It sounds like you’ve got somekinda religion,” Jane said, “but, you know, I’ve always preferred organic opiates. Angel dust doesn’t set well, and I’ve got a headache, so if you’re planning to split me cunt to gullet, why don’t we just get to it.”
“The stars are almost right. What time do you have?” Clark asked. One of the people in black robes stepped forward. A big man who had pistols in shoulder-holsters slung over his robes. He checked his watch.
“One twenty-six,” the man said. That meant she must have been out for eight hours.
“Soon, then,” Clark said.
“So, you say I’m some kinda perfect star, and you think you’ll bind me with dime-store cuffs?”
“Steel and titanium I assure you,” Clark said, nodding in the direction of the pistol-toting time-keeper.
“Police issue,” Clark said. The time-keeper smiled.
“There’s nothing perfect about me,” Jane said. “…My boyfriend wanted me to be empty. A clear blue ocean for my soul to swim in. And I wanted to be what he wanted me to be.”
“Ursag ni ulu’gin kurrah dullu.”
“But that’s not it anymore. I’m exactly what I’ve made myself,” she said.
Clark’s smile turned cold as the time-keeper tapped his watch. “Does she even know what she says.”
He slowly raised the bronze sword over his head as Jane stretched out. She felt the bed frame with her finger tips. Steel, hollow pot-metal pipe, not titanium. He swung down as Jane grasped the bar they’d cuffed her to.
Clark swung down as Jane strained every muscle from her fingers down to her toes. She sat up, ripping the steel pipe free as the bronze blade cut into the soiled mattress.
Clark’s green eyes stared into hers as any trace of a smile left his lips. He paused just long enough for her to stab the pipe into his right eye.
He dropped to his knees screaming as Jane kicked out the pipe that held one of her legs and tore free the other.
Clark’s sword clattered on the concrete floor. He yowled as he pulled at the blue enameled pipe stuck in his eye socket. The crowd of black-clad cultists stopped their annoying chant and started to pile up at the exit.
She stood up with Clark kneeling at her feet. As she stared down into his green eye, everything seemed to come clear.
She’d never strayed from her path. She’d just had her eyes shut tight for a while.
Jane stabbed the second pipe into his other eye. “Can you see me clearer now?” she asked. He only screamed.
She hit the pipe with the palm of her hand, driving it deeper. His screaming quieted.
“Let me have those,” she said, turning to the man with the watch. He’d been fiddling with the pistols in his shoulder-holsters. He’d had them snapped in. Amateur.
She strolled up to him, and he took a step back. “Key,” she said.
He stopped fiddling with the snaps as tears filled his eyes. He opened his black robe and pulled a small key from the pocket of his bluejeans.
She held out her hands as he unlocked her cuffs.
Jane grabbed one of his pistols, a Glock that felt like it was fresh out of the box.
“You can keep the other,” she said, “but you’d better run. Cuz I’m gonna chase you.”