The last of the daylight was streaming in the windows at the bar’s corner through an errant corner of the venetian blinds. Harris had started out with a beer and then another few after that trying to keep up with his own rambling internal mental conversation. At one moment he was mad and wanted his former luxury of youth as a soldier of being able to out and shoot someone. And then a little while later remorseful for that trail of broken glass that he had lain down in his wake. It was strange that he never thought about his father he thought to himself as he eyed the room looking at men that despite being near to his own age seemed more in line with being toward what he mentally pictured his father appeared like before he died? He didn’t like to think about such things because it would lead to a certain level of belligerence summoned at the end of the night and on rare occasions, a punch thrown or two. The first whiskey arrived before him neatly upon a coaster. By the time that the street lamps had come into their own he had a puddle of same before him on the top of it’s surface. “Who would stoop so low as to lap up the drink’s overflow like some feline or a dog?“, he wondered. He was feeling good for the first time in the last week. The whole idea that he was being anything more than a chump was a hard proposition to ignore. People’s lives had a way of dying long before they did. It was useless to try to be more that you actually were, even if it was way back when. He didn’t have the energy to keep lying to himself. The words, ‘Honor‘ and ‘Shame‘ were no longer part of his vocabulary with the soothing taste of the whiskey flooding through him. There was no tomorrow only the insistent instant of that never ending ‘right now‘.
“Hey stranger are you following me around?“, a dusky but familiar voice broke into his thoughts. An anonymous hand behind him on his shoulder. Sylvia stood just behind him with her easy Sunday smile. “Mind if I join you?” ,she said as she simultaneously scrapped the four legged chrome bar stool across the linoleum floor. Harris started to the best approximation of sober he could master. “I didn’t know that you were the country and western type.“, Harris managed to get out without slurring ahead of the Merle Haggard, twang of ‘Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down’. “Well, everyone deserves a good swig of something in a pinch.”, she replied affably with a goodhearted smile. Harris was knocked off his pins at having been discovered however and by the fact of his unexpected bed mate of the previous night. The attempt at repartee residing at a low ebb. “Can I buy you something . . . I mean to drink?”, the words forming haphazardly from his mouth, “I want to thank you for picking me up off the sidewalk.” “A bourbon would do nicely . . . and as I said this morning I wouldn’t let a dog die in the street.“, she repeated responding to Harris. His eyebrows lifting spontaneously her repeated characterization. “You must be a rare judge of character . . . I didn’t know my tail was showing?“, he replied. “Hey, don’t let it get you down, we’re all chasing our tails here trying to figure out who we are . . . and what went wrong.” , her eyes looking into his directly. “Well, when I’m sober I realize how much wrong I have done to others and to myself and I figure I deserve anything that’s coming especially if it’s bad . . . but then when I’m not it’s not an issue cause I’m just drunk.“, he volunteered. “And I want to start believing in ‘nice’ people once again . . . but I don’t know if I can?” , she trailed off looking away from him for a moment. “But then that’s why they invented wonderful places like this so we don’t have to . . . right?” “Cheers!”, she said toasting, “Now, let me buy us another.”
The stagger step back to the hotel by the two of them meandered as much for the dead of night as a mutual lack of mental illumination. She seemed to drag upon him slowing down their pace. It must have been 11:30 PM by the time they had stumbled past the honking cars at the intersection and down towards the entrance of the hotel. “C’mon“, she howled playfully as she veered towards the entrance of the Tiki dragging him along. “A nightcap for ‘auld lang sine!” The two in tandum smashed against the bar’s front door so hard that it nearly rebounded them back into the street. Harris’s vision seemed jarred out of kilter and a growing sense of vertigo was unexpectedly sending him spinning to the floor. The impact of his body down on the hard surface consequentially loosing a heavy stream of impact vomit sloshing across the surface of the barroom floor. The bartender looking down at the mess with Harris as its centerpiece and then up with a glare surpassing utter disgust. “He’s had enough, take him the fuck home, now!” Sylvia opened her mouth but her words died before the frothy malevolence across the bartender’s puss. The angry employee ranged around the edge of the bar roughly grabbed one of Harris’ arms lifting him up with almost superhuman strength and all but kicked both of them physically out into the street. Harris skittered forward on his face and then lifted himself up weakly upon all fours. A volcanic tremor shook his torso and he violently retched out another stream towards the street across to the curb. Gasping for air, he shook out the chunky remnants off his mouth with his head panting like and overtaxed hound dog. A black and white patrol car turned the corner shining it’s spot on the scene of Sylvia standing over her canine afflicted charge. Harris unexpectedly electrified by the intensity of the light sprang forth on hands and feet scrambling off towards the Hotel’s entrance gaining his footing into an unaccustomed sprint at a rate of speed not enjoyed since youth. One of the patrolmen running past Sylvia tossing an inaudible question in passing got a step beyond her before slipping on the puke and falling flat on his ass.
Harris regained some sense of himself as he clawed his way through the hotel entrance’s front doors his youthful athletic grace defaulting back to a face paced limp. He was making for the elevator but instinctively took a hard left to disappear behind the service doors wondering if the desk clerk would come out of his cubbyhole to protest his commotion. There were no Asian expletive’s or footfalls pursuing him as he wrestled through the double swinging doors ahead. Exhaustion finally hit him and he had to stop to lean over his knees supporting himself with outreached hands while trying to catch his breath. The hallway back into the hotel’s bowels was dim and he could see that, at least for the moment, he could take a moment to come to his senses to be able to plan his next move. Any back stairwells were out as the climb would be impossible given the condition he currently was in. If the cops followed him into the hotel and rustled the night man, they might just be pissed off enough this time to conduct a search throughout the back of the hotel and its basement. The only smart thing seemed to be to try to slip out the back alley and get to one of those all night missions just a few blocks inside skid row. He could hang out there and return in the morning with no one the wiser get his stuff and book from the place to San Diego . The trick was to elude these beat cops who by now were as angry as hornets and looking for blood.
A distant echoing sound of approaching footsteps interrupted Harris’ mental sojourn. And he limped back as quietly as he could along the path he had taken the previous time the other week past hoping all the way that he wouldn’t run into anyone, or anything. The bend before the small loading dock area seemed dead quiet. There were no strange oversize metal boxes resting on the cart as it was now empty and pushed to one side. He sidled up to the wall and gave it his best expert shot at a peek around. A solitary low wattage bare light bulb was affixed high over the exit door giving scant illumination to the vacant space as best as he could tell. He advanced towards the portal as slowly and noiselessly as he could. The old metal door was locked and he crouched down over the bottom section of the dock’s roll top and was disappointed to see that the padlock keeping it closed was firmly locked. He looked around on each side of the doors for a wall peg or a small desk with a drawer where he might find a key. His mounting haste resulting in him impacting into a small table in the process causing an abrupt scraping noise. His heart stopped for a beat as he heard soft measured footsteps from over his shoulder. One of the Swede’s sister’s sons came swiftly out of the darkness. The misplaced smile congealing on Harris’ face, became the landing pad for a short well-placed knock out punch.
The lights took a while to come on for Harris everything remaining a jello-eyed blur. His attempt to move seemed unexpectedly tangled up with legs canted back to meet his two wrists like a rib roast. He shook his head a couple of times trying to clear the fog and found himself on the wood planks of what appeared to be the inside of a small truck. Muffled voices sounding outside engaged in a relaxed verbal tennis match of, “No, I didn’t see anyone by that description?” and the obligatory, “Well if you do please call this number at the precinct.“, followed be some footsteps and a car door slam. It was a while before the truck had started up and was put into gear the hum of tires upon a roadway signaling the start of what seemed a long and twisting journey. Harris tested his bonds confining him but only succeeded in having them tear a little more painfully into the tender flesh of his wrist an ankles. After a while, the subliminal evening noises of the city transitioned into the unrelenting din of silence accompanied only by the whine of the vehicle’s tires in constant relentless contact with the highway at high speed. It was obvious that he was being taken for a ride somewhere. In time, it wasn’t easy to figure if he had been in and out along the way but the journey was certainly a matter of hours the sensation enjoyed being one of rolling hills to flat lands. And then an incremental rise again by unseen items sliding about around him in what might have been the effect of an ascension up some mountainous terrain. The temperature within the box of the truck decidedly sank to nighttime cold. He felt himself hypnotically drifting into a dark oblivion soon surrendering to total exhaustion. The high-pitched whine of the motor of the back gate of the vehicle being lowered pulled him from his murky dream state flooding him back into the reality of his impossible situation. The bang of footsteps outside climbing up and dragging the truck’s rolling gate upwards charging his aching body with an adrenalin shot of foreboding. Two men in military overalls came up to him, one wielding a small knife leaning over to cut the bindings of his ankles and haul him straight up by his arms. He heard himself let loose a small scream of excruciating pain as his extremities were awkwardly wrenched up into a cramped standing position. The blinding pain of the over extension of his muscle and sinew by action of the one’s up on the truck’s gate lifting him down into the firm grasp of another set of well-muscled arms. Now at rest for the moment, the blinding pain subsided a bit he refocused his gaze around his near vicinity to find himself lost within a vast concrete pillar bound expanse of empty interior space. A third officer type came up to him holding an awkward funny looking gun and jabbing a shot of something into his arm. The effect, though not immediate, left him an state of a drowsiness lost in ‘la la land.‘ The ropes where replaced by handcuffs and he was quickly loaded onto a golf cart type conveyance and swiftly whisked away down a tunnel towards a large adjoining corridor.
The sedative had quickly kicked in and by the time the industrial size elevator reached its subterranean destination he was in a passive state of being. He was transferred to another cart by a set of yellow overhaul types masked by some type of purifying air filter accompanied by large ‘Mickey Mouse‘ sized headphones. The eventual destination being through a high security marked doorway and into a strange form of containment facility. Now deplaned, their combined footfalls signifying a large echoing hollow space extending into near darkness for a great distance. The men handling him remaining conspicuously quiet in their movements. Dragging his feet between his two flight suited gorillas he thought he noticed large air terminal type carts supporting multiple stacked animal cages. A small human face flashed for and instant from within one of them as he looked casually over at it in passing. The full import of the meaning of its contents taking hold Harris suddenly leading him to involuntarily loudly cried out. His outburst was instantly met with an echoing tsunami chorusing from every direction composed of all manner of contorted childish voices each pleading to be let out and set free. Uncountable faces appeared suddenly pushed against the hard retaining grids from within the hundreds of cages all of them mouthing desperate entreaties within the din over and over. His simians stopped and one of them pulled out a hand held device pressing it filling the room with an ear shattering siren blast that drowned out everything leaving it in total silence once again. The guards dragged him roughly forth to one of the cages that was about three feet tall. It being slightly larger than all those others loaded on the carts. Two sets of arms released him. “Take off your pants!”, one of his captors barked angrily as the other worked a key from behind releasing the handcuffs from his wrists. The voice barked again and Harris instantly felt the same hard grip of latex yanking at his shirt and the rest of his clothing expertly tearing bits of them off by shreds and tossing their remnants in a disposal barrel. Their task accomplished they bodily picked him up and ‘heave-ho’d‘ him into the cage, pushing the door closed behind him and locking it. He lay there curled up convinced that he was amidst some insanely terrible dream caused by his relapse. The bottle was no doubt to blame. Time from this point no longer seemed to have any appreciable meaning. Vague recollections of the events of the past weeks blending into maniacally strange visions of carts of humans being moved to and fro with intervals of the sirens sounding. His sense of self as being distinct from this nightmare setting of confused horrors now all jumbled about. After a while he felt that he was now going through a transitional environment of being no longer cramped up in a perpetual fetal position. But held erect by and unseen armature as if strapped to a rigid frame subject to all manner of strange faces poking forth in and out from the violet fog. Strange animal-like sounds replacing human cries for help. The feeling of his own disembodiment increasing as if little pieces of him were being removed, evaluated and then replaced. And the dark bead-like orbs set in a cetacean gray forehead looking something like a porpoise staring at him without any sign of emotion. The whirlwind of these images swirling endlessly around him until he fell into an abyss of total blackness.
Harris opened his eyes. The space around him seemed incredibly wide and equally as long, filled by what appeared to be cartoon-like characters. Some seemed generally human but with exaggerated limbs or extra sets of same mounted in a manner stolen from the imagination of an central Asian deity. Others were tinted in odd shades of green and blue their scaly skin dryly reflective like that of a lizard. Each was encased within a clear enclosure separating one from another. One creature of particular interest were a matched set of blonds that had been vivisected in a manner to give them a centaur-like appearance. The resultant beast provided with the benefit of opposing two heads facing back to back on the end of long flexible necks. All he could think of was how strangely familiar their faces seemed to him as their mouths blethered noiselessly away in the silence of their enclosure. A sudden thought washed over Harris and forced him to abruptly look downward and back and forth in anticpitory fright. What had they down to him? His head was restrained but still able to move just enough to sense that he structurally was still conventionally human. At least as much as he could tell through peripheral vision! The sound of distant footsteps growing closer caught his attention causing him to quickly refocus his attention towards their direction by the echo. The room lighting seemed to automatically increase as a small group entered from behind him and walked into view from the side. He realized from the distortion to either side that he also was encased in some form of transparent tubing looking out at them as if a fish in an air filled tank. The entire party was wearing matching yellow Hazmat suits with transparent helmets that were clear enough to easily identify their features.
He could feel a sickening sense of confused apprehension as it dawned on him that he was viewing the full ensemble of the Swede’s family. What was even more amazing is that Swede was alive on his missing limbs and looking as if he had stepped right out of a photo album of the past into the visage of his former self as a young man. “Crazy, isn’t it?“, Swede’s apparition responded to his Harris’ silent amazement. “Where are you?“, Swede said, “Well I think by the specimens around us you are in an experimental area where we have created a human zoo.” Harris remained dumbstruck. “Why am I still alive?”, he said dully. The eyes of Inga and her two boys glaring malevolently at him just past Swede’s smiling face. “It would be a shame to waste an old buddy . . . and besides we wanted to see if we could reverse you back from your deplorable self-destructive condition of hanging halfway through death’s door.“, Swede replied, “I really need to correct myself because ‘WE’ didn’t come up with all this . . . our little gray friends did . . . you know like the one that you saw in the hotel’s hallway?” “In any case, you are now, or will soon be as young as me or will be in a few day when the regeneration process completes its sequence.” Harris heard a dull muffled impact to his left and refocused to see a pod-like torso with a familiar human head on it. Sylvia’s head stretched around like a turtle’s trying to recede into the absence of a shell. “Swede catching his buddy’s horrific interest then looking over his shoulder at the hybrid life form and then back at Harris. “Oh, her.“, shaking his head dismissively as he motioned over his shoulder towards the thing with his thumb. “The ‘big heads’ think that she is perfect as a human incubator and that’s why they refashioned her with vestigial arms and legs.“, Swede’s face contorted in mock horror. “The say the damn things get in the way when she births some of their creations?” Sylvia’s head jerked around towards Harris in the pathetic expression of a hopelessly trapped animal. “Oh, don’t feel too sorry for her, she so willingly sold you out for some cash from the beginning.“, Swede quipped indifferently.
“The grays don’t like other people fucking with them . . . but they also don’t like wasting good flesh.“, Swede winced mockingly, “And if you are no longer useful they just leave you off down on level 14 where their Andromedian friends are not too particular about eating both flesh and soul alike.” Harris looked downward in the weight of too much emotion far beyond conventional flavor of shame or disgust with himself that he had ever previously summoned. If he could have strangled himself on barbed wire he would have. It would have been more preferable than being here and enduring all of this. It was next to impossible for him to swallow that he was just another experiment in a human factory where some members of his own species were in collusion with other ones from some God knows where other world? The dirty evil bunch of them fucking around with regular people as if they were nothing but common lab rats. And here he was with his so called ‘buddy‘ caught in the thick of it? Why? “You look confused . . . don’t worry, I don’t blame you . . . get some rest and we will take this up when you’re whole.” Swede’s entourage left ad the light decreased seeming to follow them back down the corridor with their declining footfalls leaving only the previous faint dimness. Harris was beyond thought or rational explanation. He looked back over and saw what was left of Sylvia in hunched in the semidarkness. That form within previously lost in frenzy now settling down as its distended torso began undulating with regularity as a result of something deep within. He turned back away and closed his eyes as hard as he could willing himself to lose consciousness and hopefully return to his former state all alone locked away in the safety of his squalid little room safe from the rest of the world. It was odd that he no longer felt the persistent ache that had been slowly building within his cancer ridden body. Those old sensations of weakness and and disease were now replaced by a strange sense of general well-being of a type that he hadn’t known since childhood. How did all these other carnival freaks around him take to their new lives as anomalies of their former selves he wondered? What had happened to that strange beautiful young girl that he had first seen on the elevator with the oranges? “Did she sport some tentacles or insect-like antenna growing out of her pretty head?” He wanted to get mad and as angry as possibly could, but it seemed to run in contradiction to what Swede had said about the eventuality of his own fate. “Swede now had legs for Christ sake!” “How could he look a gift horse in the mouth?” “Or . . . should he just bide his time and wait for the first opportunity to get some payback on behalf of all the horrible things his mind had been introduced to?” The decision to abandon this promise of a newly found resurrection of his lost youth would make for a hard choice ahead.