Black Box

       There is an old expression which goes something like this: wherever one travels, something about the place is always the same. It was a riddle Jeanette Volker did not understand upon first hearing, but when she did, it resonated in her. Her first exposure to the saying was at friend Louise’s Seattle studio apartment during her short stay, and today on Miami Beach in a pastel art deco hotel room on a Sunday morning as she, herself, incanted it, hoping to extract its meaning.

       A smooth silica-shiny crater from a dirty bomb is what she dreamt about last night. It decimates Miami just as a dirty atom bomb fulfilled her dream in the far extreme Pacific Northwest, with 18,000 dead and counting, the environment a clicking nightmare as the genetic code was chicken-scratched to illegibility. This one here hasn’t happened yet, but it puts her on edge. She had missed the cataclysm by a single day’s close call.

       Ignorance is bliss, the saying goes. Jeanette thought about this aphorism and had to agree, in self-debate, it wasn’t true. Louise had said it often enough but she was at the hot spot where she vaporized. If only she had known beforehand.

“Hey, Jeanette, it’s Philip. Can I come over? Not right now. I understand. We ended on a sour note the other day, and I would like to make it up to you. Yes, that’s what I am saying; I behaved badly, sorry. I have a pair of Lady Gaga tickets at the American Airlines Arena on Tuesday and…” Of course, Jeanette agreed. Who wouldn’t? It wasn’t like she had to fuck him, though she knew she probably would. But something kept getting in the way of her clear thinking like a contact lens smeared with Vaseline, a vision of incredible destruction after a blinding flash of light, sirens following the total silence such as a low pressure’s lull imposes preceding a tornado’s shrieking strike.

       The spectacle of Gaga would help her forget her worries, that and a few stiff drinks and dick inside her. Bang. Jeanette had another disturbing vision soon after the call, biblical Lot’s wife looking behind her at the city of Sodom across the burning plain and turning into a pillar of salt. It was the same cryptic thought which imposed itself on her shortly before she left Seattle behind her. Wrestling with the meaning of it several thousand years ago and the reason for its reappearance here and now provided no answers to her unspoken questions. It brought Author Gary’s assertion to mind, his belief that déjà vu was nothing more than the fulfillment of forgotten precognition, not a situation re-experienced. Whatever it was, it didn’t allay her anxiety, and provided no answers to her.

       It was late in the afternoon, and Jeanette was still hungover from one- too-many tropical drinks zapped with syrup and that pill the guy gave her. She was glad to find him gone when she woke. She didn’t remember much. She was starved and needed something fast, shrimp or stone crab claws from the place down the street from the old hotel. She looked dreadful, her hair a rat’s nest, her mascara smeared. She felt down there, uneasy about what might have happened with the sinister guy with the black holes and slick hair, the moustache that looked like a plastic comb. He hadn’t fucked her. She could put that worry to bed. Readying herself to leave, Jeanette examined her face more closely in the mirror. Her pale-blue eyes had his penetrating stare superimposed upon hers the way Dracula’s hypnotic glare swooped over his swooning feminine victims. The haunting image left her with the willies.

       Jeanette was lolling on the rumpled hotel bed, the pleasure of an all-nighter and pounding music from the concert stage leaving her spent and wanting more. She was fingering herself when the replica antique landline rang atop the pearlized nightstand. It was a voice she had heard before. She visualized the dark eye holes inside her own glazed eyes within her mind’s eye. “Yes, Master. I will, Master.”

       As the jumbo jet headed towards Toronto and Jeanette uneasily turned back towards Miami, a snippet from an early poem by Author Gary seeped into her psyche, one of her favorites until this very moment,

The world reduced from cobalt blue to bone,
From an achievement of pyramids
To purpose of its own.

And she knew.