Archive for October, 2017

The Genius Next Door (fiction)

Posted in About me on October 14, 2017 by Tyrienne

The bells on the cafe door jangled quietly about fifteen minutes before closing as Leon was wiping down the condiments the last time for the night- caught embarrassingly, humming the tune to “Peter and the Wolf” and small parts of Wagner operas which he only vaguely recalled in mumbled phrases. Looking up, from the ketchup bottle he was presently de-crusting- he was about to explain the kitchen was closed but was beat to the punch:

“I was in town, I heard this was your newest haunt,” Diana looked the same as she did years before when he last saw her- her yellow-blonde hair shoulder length with a single band of braided hair like a headband, the same white and blue gingham shirt and jeans and friendly expression and smiling blue eyes. Her black boots matched the leather choker necklace. the only change being around her wrist she wore a tattoo of fernlike leaves and round clusters of tiny white flowers- it suited her well.”Hey there stranger, it’s been a while. I honestly cannot recall where we lost touch.”

“Yeah, I was on tour- a little bit of everywhere, I kinda lost touch with everyone.”

“No worries, I was pretty low and on so much shit I couldn’t remember my own name for a while… I got this to show for it” replied Leon wryly, raising his pant leg to reveal an ankle tracker. “I have been stuck in this shit town since I got out of prison- I was so fucked up I don’t even remember what the fuck I did.”
“No worries, bro- I was always the last person to follow up on gossip, I don’t really care. ”
“Still no cell phone, eh?”
“Not one that anyone has the number to, buddy.” she smiled “Hey, listen- I came by because I was wondering if you might want to come with me to New Berlin tomorrow morning. A sculpture I designed got installed and I want a good Heathen with me to see if they did it right- On the equinox, it’s supposed to cast just the right shadow if it was set up right, but it doesn’t mean a thing if no one is there to see it at sunrise.” Leon sighed and thumped his left leg on the table- pointing again at the ankle tracker
“I would… but… I am unable to leave Lakeside for a long time yet”
Diana reached into a rucksack she had over her shoulder and brought out what appeared to be a smoke alarm.
“Is anyone else closing with you?”
“Nope, just me.”
“Fantastic” and with that, she held the round, white device to the ankle bracelet and pressed a button on the front- the locking mechanism released and she was careful to keep the device held tightly to it as she moved it to around the leg of the table, “This thing prevents the circuit from being broken and transmitting that it was removed.” She carefully reconnected the bracelet around the table leg before removing the smoke-alarm looking device and placing it back into her bag.
“Tamper-resistant is not Diana-resistant, apparently. I thought you hated all technology.”
“Oh, I still do. I hate it enough to thwart it every opportunity.”
“They are going to look for me, you know- I really fucked up my life.”
“Everyone fucks up, Leon- do you want to get out of this shit town or not?”
“Fuck yes.”
“Are you willing to do anything?”
“Well, I let you break my probation in the first fifteen minutes of seeing you again- I guess I must trust you.”
“We were neighbors for ten years, man- that sort of frith is hard to shake- and I hate owing anyone like I owe you.”
“You don’t owe me anything, Diana-”
Reaching again into her rucksack, she brought out a pair of flip-flops and tossed them- he struggled but caught them.
“I do owe you, friendship is enough: Keep your socks on Japanese style, it’s fucking cold… you said people will look for you, the last thing we need is a trail. Leave your shoes here.”
“Where are we going?”
“New Berlin.”
“How? Won’t people see us leave? Where did you park?”
“The other side of the lake and they won’t see a thing- let’s go.” Leon carefully left his shoes in the backroom behind several stacks of boxes and carefully locked up the cafe, Diana looked at the sky wistfully, “Leon- it’s a woods adventure just like when we were kids. Even the sky looks the same. The only thing missing is the fireflies.”
“And weed…but I snuck a few hits at work from one of the servers. The tracker doesn’t detect cannabis, thank Gods”
“…I can’t help you there, but I got better- I brought my flask, it’s good. Homemade mead, aged at least eight years. I literally buried it at the old place just so I would have it for later.”
“Three rounds?”
“Whatever you like, it’s all yours. You’ll need it: We are going for a swim.”
“You’re insane- the lake is frozen!”
“Correction, half frozen… it’s more slushy than anything. I still keep everything I own in the car, However, you do not seem like a practiced polar bear so I suggest tossing your clothes so they don’t weigh you down.”
“I’ll freeze my balls off.”
“Funny, I never had that issue.”
The lake was located behind the cafe past the dumpster, Leon stripped down to his boxers and kept his socks and flip-flops tossing his remaining clothes in with the assurance that Diana was roughly his size and the clothes in her car would still fit him well enough, while Diana also stripped down to her underwear but put her clothes into her rucksack. It might have been awkward if they hadn’t known each other since childhood, or at least, it Diana showed no signs of discomfort despite the cold or lack of dress.
“How are we going to do this? Aren’t you concerned about hypothermia?”
“Just hold in your breath, until you come back up in full on the other side. After the initial shock of the cold, you will feel fine. Follow me.”
Diana dove gracefully into the thick water and disappeared, it was not a large lake- perhaps more like a glorified pond with a couple of docks. The moonlight on the rough half-frozen surface made it appear mushy and porridge-like and not particularly welcoming. Leon was more cautious and waded halfway into the thick water tentatively a few steps before taking a deep breath and plunging fully into the water; which was the last thing he recalled as his head went beneath the ice

Next thing he knew, he was wearing fresh clothes and riding in the passenger side of Diana’s aging Mustang- already in the city.
“Hey buddy- you okay? I didn’t expect you to get hypothermia so quickly. I guess I forget what it’s like when you aren’t used to washing up in the cold like I am.”
“I’m not even shivering, I feel fine- what happened?”
“Doesn’t matter, you made it out okay, and you aren’t naked. Good thing we stayed about the same size over the years you skinny bastard- isn’t New Berlin beautiful?”
It was beautiful- despite the early morning darkness, handsome people of all ages in business attire were walking briskly on the city sidewalks with purpose in all directions. The white marble buildings reflected the street lamps and traffic lights as if the structures were clothed in the colors they reflected. He had not seen the city in years, and when he did- it was under a different name and dilapidated seemingly beyond repair: Gone was the graffiti and boarded of buildings of the past he recalled. No more windows covered in iron grating or sad businesses locked up with chains and metal doors. The tacky scrolling marquis was replaced by glorious carved architecture and the windows of the skyscrapers above shined like stars.
“The roads seem a lot wider than I remember,” Leon noted.
” I think it is so people have ample opportunity to turn around.” she replied. It was an odd statement, but he didn’t know quite how to respond. “Ah, here we are!” she exclaimed as she pulled in front of the forgettable facade of one of the many tall buildings in center city. “This building has the absolute best view- and we still have about 20 minutes to get to the thirteenth floor.”
Unlike the other buildings in which lights flickered in the myriad of windows- this one was still black and seemingly asleep of human activity. They were not stopped as they entered, the security guard post was presently absent and Leon assumed he must have stepped out only for a moment- for there was only a very well trained black Alsatian dog wearing a red vest who approached him and gave a quick sniff.
“Hello puppy, are you the security guard on duty?” asked Leon in that stupidly high pitched voice people only use to greet dogs and infants. Diana rolled her eyes and the dog simple sat politely for scritches and made a sort of sound that sounded like a ‘borf’ in response.
“Do you want to keep petting the security or do you want to see something life-changing?” The dog snorted at Diana as if he understood her and wandered back behind the reception desk. Leon sighed and walked towards the elevators as Diana pressed the button for the elevator in the nondescript lobby and the door promptly opened the rode the elevator in silence until the door opened into a large hallway with floor to ceiling windows. The floor was of marble parquet mostly in white except for a large pattern in front of the one window which looked either to be a stylized sundial or a compass rose in a variety of colors. Diana walked excitedly to the center of it and motioned Leon to look outside the window.

Where there once was a statue of an old man with a scroll, there was now a figure with wings.
“…An angel?” he asked.
“Angels are technically depicted male or genderless- look again!” she exclaimed…And so he did, which was when he noticed in the dawning light the statue was holding a spear in one hand and a drinking horn in the other- the statue was indeed female depicted in a long gown beneath ornate armor, her skin was platinum white and her hair shined of golden metals. Those wings! Each feather was an individual slender pane of glass that caught sunlight and glowed brilliantly.
“A Valkyrie! Diana- she’s brilliant! When you said you created art I had no idea that it was of this magnitude- the entire city can see this forever. She is beautiful; I can’t think of anything more magnificent I have seen in all my life. It sure beats the statue of the old man pissing on the city before.”
“It gets better, look behind you.” So Leon turned and he saw Diana in the middle of the compass pattern and behind her, the dawning light reflected through the glass of the Valkyrie’s wings recreated the grand wingspan of light on the wall behind Diana- making the wings to appear as her own. “Four times a year, any woman who stands in one of the four buildings around city hall can feel like a Disir, even for only a moment- and the spear and horn create secret shadows as well. Look up.”
Sure enough, the shadows of the spear and horn created rough, angular symbols that were vaguely runic in appearance.
“They don’t look like any runes that I have ever seen- what are they?”
“Numbers. It’s the pentimal system- I learned it just after I saw you last.”
“That is genius, what does it mean?”
“What numbers to push in the elevator.” The sun was rising high in the sky and the patterns on the wall from the Valkyrie statue were diffusing. Diana walked with purpose to the elevator with Leon following- she pressed a few numbers in what appeared to be a specific order and the elevator lurched and hummed oddly before descending much more quickly than it rose before.
The door opened and mist flowed around them- before them, a bridge and the sound of fastly rushing water far below.
“…Shit.” muttered Leon, and Diana simply raised an eyebrow and smiled.
“I owe you, mostly, simply that you were honest regarding my memory. You did not canonize me nor did you destroy yourself over me. When it was time to get you, it was my honor to retrieve you myself. I just made your journey slightly easier than it would have been on your own. Go on, over the bridge- it’s a good place. I’ll see you there when I can. But, I still have a lot to work to do because of my own impatience.” she said, pointing at the leather strap around her neck, ” I took your debt and crossed you myself so you wouldn’t have the same obligations I do. Go on… shoo. Next time you see Garm you might not want to talk to him like a poodle, though.”

In Lakeside, police tape was being strung around the frozen lake- the film crews with their sleepy reporters were finding their places to report the drowning of a man who would be promptly forgotten as the garbagemen made their rounds emptying the dumpsters none the wiser. For a few days, people exchanged meaningless atheistic sympathies- as Leon’s death was quickly and intentionally forgotten except for the placement of a small sign that warned against swimming in the lake.

*Inspired by the song “The Genius Next Door” by Regina Spektor*

This post is unedited except for cursory spell checking. The story idea has been in my head forever- I always kind of figured people who intentionally commit suicide would be put to work by Hel herself to guide other people to the afterlife, but that is just my own UPG and I hold no claim to the veracity of it. I have lost many friends to early death over the years…especially in Autumn.