Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Particle Effect

“Show me a man or a woman alone and I'll show you a saint. Give me two and they’ll fall in love. Give me three and they’ll invent the charming thing we call ‘society’. Give me four and they’ll build a pyramid. Give me five and they’ll make one an outcast. Give me six and they’ll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they’ll reinvent warfare. Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home.”
Stephen King, Insomnia                                                                       

At this very moment my body is getting ready for self-destruction, gathering all its energy in one cluster and as much as a second won’t pass before it bursts, leaving puddles of body liquids and piles of guts steaming on the sidewalk. All thoughts, dreams and expectations of the person who used to inhabit this useless shell are going to evaporate, as those British scientists every newspaper seems to be blabbering about are yet to discover the soul, this ethereal product of metabolism. Not that I read newspapers these days. Or give a shit about science.
For all I know, this kind of energy can make my skull explode and send the  great gray jelly that silently rests inside of it in a million directions all at once. The great jelly becomes the great cloud of particles, which decidedly leaves dirty splashes on the sidewalk as it makes its short journey across the universe. The problem is that my thoughts, which used to be contained in this jelly pie, won’t leave a trace. Not electromagnetic. Not even thermal. A cold fucking explosion. An exploding cold fuckary.
I grinned.
I found myself in this particular set of mind on July 25, 2010, as migraine was attacking my relatively peaceful skull with its vibrating, pulsating blades that seemed to be cutting right through my right temple all the way to the brain core and back, only to resume their delicate work a couple of milliseconds later.
It was three o’ the clock in the afternoon, and my pity fucking excuse of a body has been moving homeward. Or, at least, that was my idea of direction at the time.
There was one thing, however, that I had no idea about: why had this shit been happening to me? Why didn’t I just get into a car crash or something? At least I wouldn’t have to go through this all over again.
Migraines keep attacking me once or twice a year, but, believe me when I say you haven’t experienced anything as powerful as that in your entire lives. It’s a religious fucking experience, and if you think your occasional “tired and sleepy” or “not enough air” headache gives you a hard time, then, well, think again.
Migraine or, rather, my migraine drives you mad, wanting to shoot a bullet through your brain. You become a half-blind, weeping, swaying, puking, bleeding though the nose, sound-phobic, light-phobic excuse of a human being. There is nothing quite like it in the whole world.
I was walking down the street in this semi-undead state of mine, occasionally taking brief throw up brakes in front of trash bins. The image that my brain was getting was blurry in the middle, over-saturated on the edges. My main goal in life at that point was to make my way to the subway station with my eyes tightly shut and not puke on someone important—because, let’s be realistic, it’s not like I could skip the puking-on-someone part in a crowded street.
I was in the middle of one of my delightful trash bin stops, when I noticed a kind of pleasant sensation, like a touch, on my right shoulder. I shivered and raised my head in a painful attempt to look around, then puked into the bin again. By the time I gathered enough courage to make another attempt, the sensation was gone, but there was something new—a dark, blurry (like everything else) human silhouette right in my line of sight. I could probably touch this person if I had been capable of raising my hand. A black shade around the head that was either long hair or hijab made this silhouette look like a woman. And, indeed, it was a she, as I have found out from the voice that was directed to me.
‘Hey, you don’t look so well,’ it said. And sounded genuinely worried doing so.
‘I guess I don’t,’ I murmured.
‘Do you need help?’ the semi-invisible girl demanded. And yes, it was a girl, not much older than me, either, probably 21 or 22.
‘Do I look like I do?’ With this, I attempted to smile, wiping blood from my nose with the sleeve of my shirt.
‘I am going to become a doctor, you know, and you look like you could use a painkiller.’
And a strong one, too, I thought.
‘I could get you some of those, there is a drugstore around the corner—‘
I was beginning to fall in love—there was no doubt about that much. The chick had been my cavalry that came at the very last moment, like in one of those Hollywood movies. Only in movies Bruce Willis would be saved by his partner, and he was never saved from his health issues, and not by a shiny white pill that looked so much like a little sun that, when swallowed, went supernova and made it all seem alright. So much for explosions this afternoon.
‘—anyway, you don’t have to pay me back unless—’ she went on and on, and I decided to puke again. And so I did just that. She didn’t eww or yuh or scream—nothing like that. Instead, she stopped talking and kept silence for another five seconds or so. Then she said:
‘Okay, wait for me here, I’ll be back in a minute.’
My brain didn’t function at its highest capacity as you can imagine, yet it did occur to me that the chick might have just bailed on my sorry ass.
She didn’t.
‘Here’s your Lorcet,’ said she in 73 eardrum pulses.
I took the box from her hand, tore it apart, took five pills out and swallowed them at once.
‘Wait, that’s too much!’ the girl exclaimed, but it was too late, the pills had already started to dissolve in my stomach. 
In a couple of seconds I passed out.

           When I woke up, my migraine was gone, so were all of the other symptoms. I was lying on a soft bed with a real feather pillow under my head. It took roughly a minute for my eyes to adjust to the dim light in the room. The curtains on the window were closed, but I still could see a beam of moonlight in the gap. It was night in the city.
Naturally, the first question that made its way to my thinking cap was that of my current location. I remembered the girl who gave me the painkillers, and the rest is, as they say, a mystery. I tried to sit on the bed, found out that my strength was all gone, fell back and decided to rest for a couple more minutes, but, apparently, was not destined to do so. Not the way I wanted to, anyhow.
The room door opened with a low creak. It was dark out there, so I could not see the one to pull the handle. I could make out a silhouette of a person standing in the doorway. It was big and somehow cold. I felt a sudden urge to say something, which was immediately overruled by a hunch telling me to play sleeping. Or dead, if necessary.
The silhouette took a couple of steps toward the bed. I could not see it, as my eyes were tightly shut, but I heard it, alright. I tried to look at the visitor through my eyelashes, and was able to see his face lit by the moonlight.
It was a middle-aged man, very big and probably quite muscled from the look of his stature. His expression was calm as a lake somewhere in a mountain valley. He had large eyes of indefinite color, a straight nose and big lips, which gave him a cartoonish black look. He was wearing a sweatshirt and a pair of denim blue jeans.
The man was now standing right by the bed. I had closed my eyes again by then, but still could sense his presence. It was obvious that my visitor was not going to offer me a bowl of chicken soup. For a couple of minutes, we remained this way: him standing by the bed, me doing my best trying to pretend I was not there in the first place.
Then, suddenly he spoke. His voice was deliberately loud and clear. He pronounced each word with a kind of sick roughness, making long military style pauses between them:
‘You are responsible for the death of my girl,’ he began, clearly unsmiling. ‘and you are going to pay for this, no matter how much she liked you.’
The sense of this man’s words did not strike me at once. It took me a couple of seconds to process. Luckily, the man was taking his time to make everything perfectly clear to me. When I did finally grasp the meaning of his words, I sighed and opened my eyes.
‘You are not going to speak until I am done speaking. You are going to listen to everything I say very carefully and remember everything I say. When I am done speaking, you will have your word. When you are done with that, I will kill you. Is that clear?’
I nodded. It was perfectly clear.
‘Every one of you fucking maggots,’ he made an especially long stop after the last word, letting it resonate and sink in. ‘every one of you thinks she is meant for him. That she is his property. You have no idea of what it means to be a father, what it means to raise her, to take care of her. And I took good care of my little girl. She was everything to me—’
I noticed that he was holding something in his right hand.
‘—and now she is gone, and it is your entire fault. I—’ his ever steady voice tripped, but it took him not more than a second to regain balance. ‘I had to kill her. I did not want to, and it is your fault. You walk into my house, take advantage of my little girl, and then you, you killed her. It is all your fault. Yes, you are the murderer of my little girl.’
I opened my mouth, wanting to deny his words, but was slapped. His slap was hard and trained, as if he knew exactly how and where to hit to cause the biggest amount of pain and shame.
‘You are going to shut your mouth and listen to me, maggot.
‘My girl is dead now. You took advantage of her kindness, tricked her, raped her, and then killed her. Now, do you have anything to say before you face your punishment?’
I lost my breath. I felt an urge to deny and object, to scream and fight, but the coldness of this man left me in a kind of consternation. I was frozen and could not do anything about it. I waited a couple of seconds, trying to regain my breath, watching the man grow impatient. I opened and closed my mouth several times, but the words just would not come out. Finally, I was able to say:
‘I didn’t kill anyone. It is a terrible…terrible mistake. Please—’ at this point the man raised his right hand. Now I could clearly see the object he was holding in it. It was a Glock semi-automatic 9 mm pistol. Anyone who’d ever seen a Hollywood movie or played a videogame would recognize it. The man held it out, pointed at me.
I covered my face with my hands, as if it would protect me from the bullet. I tried to scream, but the sound came out as a quite, powerless squeak. Suddenly, everything was perfectly clear to me: the girl, this man, the crime he was going to blame on me, the things that had been happening in that house. I wanted to tell someone, but I just would not have a chance to do so.
The father of the girl who saved me from my migraine pulled the slide of the 9 mm with his left hand, still pointing the barrel at me. Then he shot me twice in the head.

Sergey Mohov