The Blue Ones

The Blue Ones

A Story by Akroma

The Blue Ones

Lauren Stegg


I smell the undeniable odor of a goat. The foreign stench assaults my nostrils. Combined with the constant buzz of inescapable noise from all the people in here, and out there, the thump, thump above us, and the yells and fights below, I can no longer fend it off. My dam is breaking; the tears gather and beg for release. Pride keeps me from giving in. I force them away, splash tap water on my face, and straighten my spine. While it may be true that these are the end of days, there's still such a thing as dignity.

Sandy, a two year old who's real name is undetermined, tugs at the bottom of my jeans. “Up, up,” she chants. “Up!”
I step over her, out of the bathroom, and into the kitchen. Patrick, our Prophet, rests on the table, cross-legged, and staring silently at a yellowing goat. He and it seem to have a connection forming, and I think better than to break it.

Still, he senses me. “You're troubled today. What worries you? What can I do to help you, my dear?”

I reply honestly. “I'm overwhelmed, sir. It's a zoo in here. Too many bodies. At what point is the cut off? How long will it take before-”

Patrick interrupts me by bringing a hand to his lips and shutting his eyelids. “We can't move Katherine just yet. Matthew is still in the process of grief and acceptance. He needs to pass this phase of the journey. The removal of Katharine will ruin everything.”

“It's been a week!” I protest.
Patrick opens his eyes and returns his attention to the goat. Interrupting the Prophet never has the intended effect. 

Dejected, I turn to leave the kitchen. “I don't enjoy seeing you downtrodden, my dear. Come, open you hand.”

I do so, and he drops six blue pills into my palm.
“That's so gracious of you,” I say, pleasantly surprised. I'm running low and earlier was considering bribing someone to venture out into the streets for me. Normally, the Prophet gives me only 3 or four yellow ones, the weak tea version.
“Don't forget to clip some more newspapers,” he reminds me.

I'm the journalist here, a sort pseudo-prophet. Everyone has to have a job of some kind. I collect magazines, newspapers, and cut the most important parts of them out. I ran out of cardboard to stick them too, so I started covering the walls.

According to Patrick, my job is amongst the most significant.
Most of the others are on food duty of some kind. Resources are so low these days it takes a team to find enough to support everyone.
 
“Thank you, Prophet.” I bow slightly, and leave. Perhaps it was not the solution I had been craving but still, a blue will put you in any mindset except for the one you're currently in.


On my way out I bump into Chris. He looks hurried and elsewhere. “Oh hi. How are you today?”

Chris also has an important job. He belongs to the exclusive 3 man group of security. No badge, or otherwise identifying conformity ties the men together. But Chris is known for keeping people in line. If the resource gatherers start to hoard food, he deals with it. He divvies up the extras, and punishes them by giving out work suspensions or temporarily cutting off their food supply. If someone breaks something of someone else's, they are responsible, bad "s**t" or no.

We all agree his job is necessary, as before things were getting out hand and the drama was inescapable. Still, it's no surprise Chris, Sam, and Fi'had are not the most popular ones around. Some rumor we have a fourth as well, a sort of secret infiltrator. One even accused me, which I announced the “most hilarious thing I've ever heard”. It stemmed from the fact I spend an unusual amount of time with Patrick. Each day, excepting the weekends, he wants to know all the major headlines. We speak generally for around an hour before I'm excused. During this time, people still float in and out of his non-too-private office, and attempt desperately to overhear our words. Unintentionally, it's been said me and he naturally fall into impenetrable code.

Another one accused me of an illicit affair, said I was banging the Prophet to get into his good graces. To that I said, “Maybe. After all, it explain why you're stuck shifting the streets like a rat and I'm inside, warm, breathing clean air, learning about the world without ever having to set foot in it. I would be jealous too.”

 I do not have the best reputation. In fact, I have told I'm rather repugnant to hang around, my face rests in an unbecoming scowl, and I need to exercise more.  I'm the only one here who has some meat on my bones, but it's not much.

Along my route to my bedroom, the only f*****g place I have a shred of modesty  here, I get stopped by two more dumb f***s. The first, Tiffany, a girl who is exactly how her name suggests. She hugs me before I can get two words out. I do manage one; a sharp “get”, which after the too-lengthy hug ended, an “away” followed.

“Why are you so cranky these days? Has the prophet got you working too hard these days?' She joins her sassy question with one raised a eyebrow and a slight smirk.

“That's not the main reason, no.”
“Well, they do rumor he is a man of many indulgences.”
“He doesn't teach indulgence is wrong.” I say simply.
Tiffany meets my eyes, her smirk evolving into a sharp, mean grin. “Exactly. Why do you think that is? What kind of so-called 'prophet' doesn't enforce a moral code of some sort?”

“One suited for here, I would imagine,” I reply, my face froze in a stoic position. “He says we know in our hearts when something was done with bad intentions, we sense it. And we've never had an issue yet. People might steal for extra food, and someone might start snowballing downhill, and have to be rescued, and confined for a short while, but that's about it. All expected responses from time to time. We all know when something is wrong, Tiffany. A moral code confuses people, place absolutes, refuses to consider alternative explanations.”

“You're quoting him?” she asks.
“Word for word. You should know this as well.”
Tiffany rolls her eyes and starts to speak, but I cut off her. “Opinions are what they are, and now I'm done quoting, because this is my opinion, not his. He says we should all speak whatever is on our mind, to spill our conscious thought onto the table at every given opportunity. Here where's he and I may disagree. I think a lowly, peon b***h should watch her mouth before she speaks blasphemy about the person who's the one f*****g reason she's not lying in some gutter.”

Tiffany's eyes darken to black. She steps forward, and I'm fully aware of what's coming next.
She tries to shove me up against the wall.

I am about a head taller than this diminutive, blonde girl. I push her out of the way like one might swat an annoying mosquito, or reset the path of  a fumbling toddler, and continue onward.


Truth be told, I wanted to grab her skull and knee her face in one quick, bone crunching moment. Enforced moral code or no, I knew how the Prophet would feel about my violent outburst. I've had only one before, when I first arrived here 5 months ago and some guy stole my sandwich. I kicked out his legs, and watched him fall face flat on the hard concrete. Despite the hard thud and the horrified gasps of our gathered audience, I jumped on the black of his neck.

He didn't die, but he spent days in the little makeshift “infirmary”. The infirmary reminds me of playing doctor as a kid. The other two important jobs belong to the doctor and the nurse. They dress in white lab coat attire. Neither are trained professionals deserving of a white lab coat. But unfortunately, our group of 26 contains more slackers and “creatives” than doctors with 4+ years experience. To my knowledge, no one has asked why they are qualified. Did the doctor, the guy, used to be a lifeguard four summer in sequence? Did the girl, the nurse, used to baby-sit and became savvy with the first aid kit?

I don't know what they did to him up there, but he came down with an oddly shaped pillow around his neck and a bottle of hydrocodene, and he never said anything else to me. But none of that is important.

This event represents the first time I met the Prophet. 


I discovered this place on a particularity dreary day. It had rained all day and all night before, and the chill set in the core of the bones, making you stiff and numb, slow and never comfortable. I hadn't eaten in too long, and I was shaking and itching from getting hit with a bad batch. Still , it was the only stuff I had so I couldn't help dipping and re-dipping, especially on that day, with wind howling at my rain-soaked exposed flesh, my belly empty, and my pockets light after the unfortunate purchase. I caught sight of some around  ages 12 to 15 hovering near the trash, and gnawing on food of some kind. Under ordinary circumstances I'd be hard-pressed to be civil, much less polite, but I was outnumbered and far too weak for the game. I approached them and asked if they had anything they'd be willing to share. No one spoke to me, but one handed over a thrown out bowl of rice with wilted vegetables resting on the bottom. I ate it with my hands quickly, and followed them into a tall building, all the way to the fourth floor, to their door. I just walked in after them, and although they looked at me, no one said anything. It was a nice apartment complex, at least by current standards, and the fourth floor had apartments with 4-6 bedrooms. In the family room lay piles of mattresses, one of which I immediately collapsed. I was tapped awake by a tall, black man with kind eyes. He handed me a sandwich. Like an animal, a wild boy caked with grime hopped from mattress to mattress and swiped it from me. He made it out of mattresses, into the hallway, and then the previously mentioned events took place, ending with his face smeared on the concrete floor of a hallway. 

They carried him away, and a small girl, probably, eleven, whispered to me
that the Prophet wanted to see me. She led me into what she called “his office”. A tall, but shrunken down Indian man, with shining, black hair to his waist, and dressed in reserved colors, sat on the table. I placed his age around 35, but it was hard to tell. His face was hairless with no wrinkles, yet it was so aged, so experienced. He was the most beautiful man I'd even seen.

I immediately asked, “Why are sitting there?”

He seemed confused. “This is my office.”

“The kitchen?” I asked, bewildered.
“The table.” He patted it gently. “I want an explanation from those who have sprawling offices where they do nothing but sit in the exact same spot. All the space is inconsequential and ineffective. All I require is the span of a table.”

I nodded my agreement. No one viewed the suits, with their sky light offices and exotic plant decorations as being a particularly favorable lot.

Another thought which occurred; they probably had good s**t here. Probably for free, a benefit of joining their little family. I scratched my chin.

“I know I just got here,” I said slowly, “But I would like to stay.”

He nodded. “Yes. We need you here. And you need to be here. I know what happened to you.” He turned suddenly to me, grabbed my hands, and pulled me somewhat close, his wide, strange green eyes digging a hole into mine.


“I know your father Maverick left home early, and your mother, Annette after. It's a terrible shame, the things kids go through these days. I know you watched your little sister die. You have that pain, but also that promise.”

“How do you know these things?” I whispered, not daring to look at away. As mystified as I was, flares of anger burned the back of my neck.
“I am the business of knowing things. That's what this is all about. And you. You have a special task to do. But first you must be tested.”
I took a step back. “Wait a second, now.”
“Yes?”
“I...it's been a minute. I need to brush up on certain things before-”

The Prophet chuckled. 'You will do fabulously on this test, even calling it a test is somewhat dishonest, and I apologize for that. I am curious as to your perceived self assessment. In general, I'm curious today. So killing a flock with one stone is a good way to go. Do you agree?”

“I suppose...” I state slowly. I was still stunned from his shocking knowledge about me, and unsure as to whether or not I should be offended. His research must have taken a minute, and I stood equal parts creeped out and flattered by the attention. 

“Fantastic. Ok, so in the living, just over there, yes, on the coffee table rests a plethora of written materials. Cut out and bring to me 5 sentences you feel are the most important.”

“How long does this typically take?” I couldn't help asking. What criteria on earth was I supposed to use was another question I had, but I dared not speak that one.

“About 30 minutes,” he replied simply. “But, however long it takes is fine.”
Just like that, he closed his eyes and folded up smaller, humming below his breath. I got to work shuffling through piles of random literature. One, a newspaper from two days ago. One, a magazine from last year. Another, a poetry book, and so forth.
I clipped out from the recent newspaper article a headline that caught my attention; “Discontent grows after latest Assassination Attempt”. From a magazine from the 70s, the line “Nothing says I love you like a cup of coffee.” Removed out of a coffee-table book; “They danced until their feet were raw, and then they danced some more.” From the advertisement section: “Sick and Tired of Life?”

 

I wanted the last one to be glorious and impressive. I felt a sort of ease at it, a natural estimation free from self-doubt. I breezed through a poetry book until I came upon “Blushing, she told him a lie, screaming he stabbed her in the eye, and away he went with her car, he drove until he had gone from away to far.”

After I brought forth my selections, the Prophet glanced at them for less than two seconds before clapping loudly. “You are perfect,” he announced. He told me I could sleep wherever I wanted, wherever there happened to be spare room. With the then current count of 19 bodies, and 5 bedrooms, space was limited. One of the three bathrooms was inhabited by someone. He slept in the tub, and said he didn't mind bathroom usage, guaranteeing he was a deep sleeper. Strangely, one of the bedrooms, was empty. It's a bit of a dishonesty to refer to it as a bedroom, as it missed a closet, but it was more space than certainly anyone here experienced. When I asked everyone said that room was cursed. So I became the only person in the house to have their own space.

I could imagine the Prophet resenting me for my pick, considering his views on space management, but he never brought that up. Instead, during the past months he's been kind to me, teaching me. He only gives us stuff that's pure and clean, and of our food is as fresh as I've ever had, though still scarce. We even have TV here, which the Prophet occasionally removes and hides away when he feels we've been abusing it too much.

Most of us trust the Prophet rather intensely, but there's always that few, rebellious bunch. Patrick pays no mind to this. Even the haters join us all every night for our group meditation and of course, everyone participates in the game playing, even stupid Tiffany.

Mere breaths away from my door, Matthew pops in behind me. "I hear you got six!"

I slam the door shut, and crawl to the dead center, the eye of storm, surrounded by my materials.  

While I'm in the middle of slicing out story about a woman claiming to be possessed, Matthew enters without knocking.
“I heard you got six," he repeats.
“Yes. What of it?” Try as you might, one is never able to conceal the amount you have, at least not of a prime batch.

“I only have one left,” he says quietly.
Matthew is a small, red-haired kid, the one so bent out of shape about Katharine. He's frail and prone to over indulgence. He works here as an artist, each day making us a painting of a dream he had the night before. Inside his mind was a terrible place, filled with demons and death and decay, but his pictures depicted the sick scenes in such a magnificent way most people commented on their beauty before they realized exactly what it was they were staring at.

He shifts uncomfortably, no doubt ill at ease due to my awkward silence. “I was wondering if you wouldn't mind, loaning me, just one, it's been so long since I had a blue one.”

“What is the one you have left?” I ask, expecting maybe a green. Greens were known for creating some bizarre behavior, and said to heighten your natural personality, which for most people spells disaster.

“A red one. Just a measly red one,” he adds with obvious disgust.

“Ah.” I go back to slicing.

“Please, I'm begging you. We both know I need it.”

I glare at him, weighing my options. “All right. I'll tell you what. I'll give you two blue ones if you give me your red and you let them take Katharine away.”
Mathew's face pales and his dry, pasty lips quizzer. “Where would they take her?” he asks suspiciously.

“Ya know. Away. Where she belongs, man.”

He anxiously paces back and forth, shaking his head, his hands, then his whole body. “I don't...I don't like that. I need to be with her.”

“No, what you need is two blues and some f*****g sleep. Just tell her goodbye. She's starting to stink. Do you want people to get sick?” I ask, none too gently. Patrick tends to think we should cradle the heartbroken. He teaches we should not fear insanity. It's true I have nothing to fear here, but other emotions are certainly at play.


Matthew stares up at the ceiling; his pupils dilate absent-mindedly. “I can wash her. If we trade a blue and a red, will you help me wash her?”

I groan out loud. “Why would I do that? That's a stupid deal, it only benefits you.”

“No, it benefits both, cause you don't like the smell. And you get a red!” He adds with glee, confident in his selling point.

“I don't actually want your f*****g red. I just think you should lie off; they're making you act weird man. Where do get em'?”

He suddenly looks embarrassed.
“Sometimes the Prophet gives me some, but this type I got from the street. I sold a painting and a bought a month's supply.” He shakes his head with shame.
“I know it was dumb, I could have waited just an hour more and gotten the same amount of the real stuff.” He shakes his head. “I shared some with Katharine, and she didn't like it, so she took her own. She wanted to rainbow dive to get herself out of the funk.”


My heart sinks, feeling his guilt. He really shouldn't be hard in the heart about this one. No one in their right mind rainbow dives. Katharine was a weird girl; I doubt a single red pushed her in that direction.

 

“You know what? Forget about the wash and the removal and all that. Come here.” I wave him over and pat on the pillow beside me. After he takes a seat I offer him my cup of water. In my hand, I drop two blues. One I tell him to swallow, the other I down. 

After a few minutes, the hose goes off in the back of Matthew's skull, and his eyes fill and fill until they overflow. Wordlessly, he stands. I know what he's headed to do. The outcome is certainly worth a blue. In fact, I'm convinced the Patrick intentionally gave me so many for this reason. One blue will set in deep and nice for days at a time. On the street, they're worth a week's groceries.
Patrick always knows how to work out problems, even when you think he's ignoring you. Relieved and rejuvenated, I return to my work, my mind somewhat at ease.

Moments later, Matthew does what we call “space destruction”, a term he himself, ironically enough, coined. The phenomena occurs when you are deep in what you're doing, and someone pulls you out of it unwillingly, thus destroying your head space without proper creation of a new, also appealing one. Symptoms include feeling disorientated and angry. 

My furious expression melts at the sight of his decaying one.

“Please, help me. I thought I could do it by myself. I was wrong.”

"One moment is all I require." I finish slicing out my sentence for the day; "good stories have definitive stages". 

I pop another blue in my mouth and follow him to the bedroom he shares with Katharine and four others.

One of his roommates is Alice, the young girl who first led to me the Prophet. Her job is exactly that. She is the messenger.

For the past few days, she's been crumpled in a ball, in the corner, staring at what remains of Katharine. Undoubtedly, she's part of the issue here. Whenever Matthew spoke up about removing Katharine, Alice would start to shriek that if we touch her, she would wake up a zombie.

Today, I was never in the mood, not before, when my head pounded with the constant cluster of sound and smell, or now, when my head is filled with blue bubbles and the only sound I hear is the crisp, clean auditory perception of neurons pop, pop, popping.

“Alice, honey, we have to take Katharine away now. She needs to rest.” It may appear I have the sing-song tone of a naive counselor-in-training, but actually this is the only effective way to deal with Alice.

Alice stares up at me with such intense hatred I almost step backward, shielding myself. “You f*****g c**t, you're the one who killed her.” Her words drip with venom.

“That's not true.” I direct the comment at Matthew, not her. Alice only tells the truth when she's delivering messages. Everything else she says a mixture of fallacy and delusion. 

“We need your help, though,” I say. “We need you to help us get her ready.”
Alice stops sniffling for a moment. “I don't want to live in a cursed room like you. That's what happens when you anger the ghosts.”

I sigh, realizing what this is going to take. God damn it. I hand out another blue to Alice.

“Just take it, ok? God, I gotta get everyone on my level, right now.”
After she swallows it only takes moments before it falls into effect.

“We need strength,” she says slowly, still glaring at me. “We're all too weak...Matthew won't help,” she adds, after correctly assuming the next words out of my mouth would begin with, “between the three of us.”

I wish for Patrick's presence. Each of us stares at the other, momentarily at a loss. We can't leave the room for different reasons; Alice because she's bound here by her pill-fueled superstition, myself because my brain might melt if I leave here without completing the task at hand, and Matthew, because his weak will usually leaves him attaching and following the nearest, breathing entity.

 

Patrick flashes open the door, flanked by Chris and Tiffany. “Hired help,” he says. To me, “support her head.”

As we circle her, the stench grows in intensity. In life, Katharine was a capricious young woman, who had the most glorious chocolate curls cascading from her head, and the softest, most translucent of flesh tones. In death, she appears the consistency of rotting wood, her skin grayed and dark at the edges, like a burned piece of newspaper. She had left us in her sleep, nude, but Matthew in his grief re-dressed her in her fanciest dress, and even braided her hair into two chunks.

 

As we lift her hard, board body I cradle her head in my hands. Her skull feels strange, plastic or wooden, synthetic. Her eyes, a pale blue, have frozen over to ice and have rolled back in her skull. Rancid smells emit from her hanging open mouth, which I try unsuccessfully to shut by way of three persistent and brave fingers.

 I do my part until we reach we reach the living room. The security, with their ambiguous job description, wraps her in sheets and takes her outside. Matthew trails behind crying. About an hour later they came back empty-handed, Matthew's face pink and normal again. We all breathe a collective sigh of relief.

I now see why the Prophet handed me so many blues. As he always says, “If our goals are creating peace and equilibrium and feeding the hungry human spirit, then will all win even if the darkest of times.”

Later in the evening, during dinner, I bury another blue one in the heart of my potato and feed it to the goat.

 

 

 




© 2011 Akroma


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Akroma
An odd experiment. What do you think?

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Added on October 7, 2011
Last Updated on October 10, 2011

Author

Akroma
Akroma

The Yellow Brick Road



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Welcome aboard, Travelers! I go in and out of this reality, as does my writing. All feedback and critique is met with gratitude. more..

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