In the Nose Cone of a Missile, dos

In the Nose Cone of a Missile, dos

A Chapter by Gaston Villanueva
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Autonomy Vs. Shame & Doubt

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I follow Carbon-14a like a shadow through the second floor of the library. Excluding the one nailed to the back wall, the bookshelves look like tipped-over dominoes and thick books have been piled on top of each other to create two dozen paper snowmen with library cards for eyes. The book spines stick out unevenly which causes some of the figures to look like overweight statues. The tables are missing chairs and the clock is the loudest voice in the room.

From a zipped up pocket on a vest a butterfly catcher might wear, Carbon-14a’s cellphone tries to get her attention. As she struggles to unzip the source of the noise, her ringtone continues to repeat the phrase, “Germ warfare in the 1700’s,” accompanied by lingering flute notes in E minor. One could assume that the vest weighs fifty pounds judging by the amount of trinkets she finds in the zippers. A few moments later, the cellphone gives up but the clock on the back wall continues to blab about nothing in particular. She bites at the air twice and then looks at me.

“I know, real original on my side, right? They think I’m a fitness guru,” she says while pushing in the spines of books around the belly of a snowman. “I can tell, Desmond, I can tell. You didn’t watch your word consumption over the holidays, huh, Desmond.”

She sneezes with excessive force and slimy words flutter out from her nasal cavity like a butterfly leaving the cocoon of a smoking revolver. The left wing is the word, Autonomy, the body is the term, Vs., and the right wing is comprised of the words, Shame and Doubt. We chase the swirl of blue and green colored literature all the way to the back wall, maneuvering past the paper snowmen with care. Carbon-14a reaches into one of the zippers on her vest and reveals a small canister of insect repellant. The wings of the text cease to flap when it succumbs to the foul smelling spray and it drops into the outstretched fingers of the sun-burnt woman.

“We’ll get there. Don’t spoil it,” she says as she places the words in a test tube full of acidic cactus juice.

With her palm facing up, she lifts the clock until it makes a clicking sound. Like something out of Scooby-Doo, the bookshelf spins on its axis and reveals a narrow pathway to a narrow elevator with rusty hatch doors. She opens the top box of pizza the same way a pirate opens a treasure chest and slips a packet of legal documents underneath the crust. She stabs the button that leads to the basement three times and bites at the air again when we start to descend.

“Ah, the famous elevator speech,” she begins. “Yes, where I have ten seconds to explain who I am, what I do, and what you’ll get out of it, no? Ha, where do I start? Ha? I sound like Montgomery. Anyway, due to some poor financial decisions the previous owner of hell decided to eat the costs and run. A French business tycoon named Boogey bought the place and revamped it with modern developments but now faces charges of tax evasion. Be a darling and deliver this box of pizza to him. Buy a souvenir from the gift shop while you’re at it, too.”

My stomach rises when the elevator hits the ground and the doors screech open as if pleading for WD-40. The green waters of the underworld occasionally bubble with a consistency similar to congealing blood of men and buffalo. Underwater panthers slither through the ooze in a constant stop and start pace like frustrated Formula One drivers in dense Los Angeles traffic. With horns like a gazelle, sharp teeth like a predatory mammal, fishy fins and a long snake-like tail, they’re a nightmare and a half to even look at. Interspersed in the knee-high ooze are buildings with expiration dates that are blissfully unaware of their imminent collapses. The unconventional building designs are made of limestone and painted in shades of orange reminiscent of a sunrise. The sound of glass breaking echoes from somewhere out of visual range.

“I admit that this place is more dangerous than stepping on a live wire, but it’s open to interpretation,” she says and then coughs up a laugh. “Notice how there’s no fire, though. Boogey extinguished all of it and added a fire alarm during the renovation period. Toodles, Mr. Pizzaman.”

When the elevator closes and Carbon-14a ascends to who knows where, I worry that I stick out like a bird in a plane. I navigate through the chaotic traffic of hell with my head down and elbows still tucked in until an underwater panther stops in front of me. He’s dressed to the nines in gold and eyes my boxes of pizza with scorn and misery.

“You’s interested in buying a submarine, kid?” he says in a voice I’m leery of trusting. “I know a guy if you’s willing to disburse top dollar.”

The encounter holds up traffic and other underwater panthers honk vindictive tongue lashes our way. I decline the proposal and he pulls out an over-used knife that glistens in the light how all knives tend to do

“I suggest you’s think twice about my offer, lest you’s wanna experience a loss of knowledge and continuity.”

I’m a lab rat in a psychological experiment with no solution. Even if I change my mind and say that I want to buy a submarine, I won’t have the top dollar for a purchase of this magnitude. I commend him for being well versed in the art of persuasion and insist to sign the paperwork by a building not too far away. He nods and then smirks while I wade through the ooze toward the expiring architecture.

I fear the worst when the building’s expiration date isn’t until later. I had hoped it would’ve crumbled on top of the villain while I jumped out of the way but the chances of this working were fifty-fifty. It happened to be the wrong fifty this time. Aware that I’m trying to stall now, he yells out words I’ve never heard and locates a stabbing area on my body. I dodge his first attempt and a blonde woman with eyes on every joint of her body steps between us.

“You’re not going to kill him with that knife, are you?” she asks the underwater panther. “It’s bent out of shape and looks like it’s been to hell and back.”

“I’ve always used this knife, though,” he replies somewhat distracted by her voluptuous figure.

“Just give me an opportunity to voice a concern,” she says while pouting her lips. “See, an underwater panther like you would drink liquid gold to quench your thirst for wealth. But that dull knife probably makes your victims think, ‘this guy’s a fake, a phony, a fraud.’ You don’t want them to think that, do you?”

The villain with poor grammar looks at his knife and shakes his head. His desire to kill me seems to be less of a concern now that he believes his weapon is subpar. His red fur frizzes up in the most senile of ways and contemplates being right or being happy.

“Imagine a knife that makes your victims think, ‘wow, this guy is wealthy. I’m glad he’s stabbing me with a knife fit for royalty.’ That’s the kind of knife I envision someone like you using, right?”

“Do knives like that even exist, though? You’s making stuff up now.”

The confident woman sticks one finger into the air. She reaches into her leather purse and reveals a knife with a golden blade and handle made of bone. It glistens in the light how all knives tend to do as the underwater panther’s jaw drops like an atomic bomb with graffiti on it.

“New and improved, my friend. Clovis Danilec, the renowned butcher of names, gave this knife five stars and victims practically stab themselves when they see the Italic Glider (diagonal chopping motion). Only twenty of these bad boys were engineered and they’re worth every penny, I’d say.”

Very much enticed, he admires the craftsmanship as if it were the Mona Lisa of knives. His old knife splashes me when he drops it into the green ooze without a care in the world. The look on his face is that of someone staring at food in the microwave. He knows it’s bad for his eyes but he can’t look away.

“Where I can get one?” he asks.

 “You’re in luck, my friend. If you act now, the Italic Glider (diagonal chopping motion) can be yours for just five easy payments of $99.99, plus shipping and handling! You don’t want to miss out on this great investment,” she says with excitement in her voice. “Show others just how wealthy you are! And that’s not all. The next customer to purchase the Italic Glider (diagonal chopping motion) will receive a complimentary Italic Glider Mini (mini diagonal chopping motion)! Perfect for those hard to reach places or when you’re on the go!”

The bells of hell ring like a leaky faucet, composed yet unsure whether the next sound will come. She blinks to the rhythm they create and halve of her eyes spin toward me. Dark pupils fenced in by somber shades of red seem to relay orders from her brain while also trying to remember the past.

“You’re in luck, too, my friend. If you act now, the Italic Glider (diagonal chopping motion) can be yours for just five easy payments of $99.99, plus shipping and handling! You don’t want to miss out on this great investment,” she says with an excitement in her voice that’s all too familiar. “You can cut your pizzas and defend yourself from knife attacks! And that’s not all. The next customer to purchase the Italic Glider (diagonal chopping motion) will receive a complimentary Italic Glider Mini (mini diagonal chopping motion)! Perfect for those hard to reach places or when you’re on the go!”

As if allergic to the notion of waiting, a small fact with floppy hair opens the door and demands that I deliver Boogey’s pizza sooner than later. Without questioning, the conniving entrepreneurs look at the stars to see what type of year it will be and then go their separate ways. The pigeon-sized fact swims in an oversized shirt and his sniffles give him a congested accent.

“Tell me, Mr. Pizzaman. Have you ever tried to think of your life outside of a memory?” he asks and then sneezes when I hesitate to answer. “The head honcho is hungry. Forget that I asked.”

He kills the lights and I miss the boat on describing the building’s interior. Wooden shoes make the sound of his footsteps imitate the ticks of a clock. The nauseating smell of vices ripping apart virtues wraps around my nose. Wherever I don’t look gives me the delusional idea that an out-of-order soda machine is following us. The small fact stops and time freezes. His eyes squint with a squeaking sound and his skepticism widens as if he witnessed a cop pulling over another cop.

“Why am I under the impression that you brought more than just pizza?” he demands.

I hesitate to answer but this time he waits. His sneezes mirror the ticks of a clock and represent the interests of hell, each one more piercing than the former. He continues to wait. I worry. He glares. I panic. He sneezes. My body feels like a dumpster fire and my thoughts are that of a soda machine who’s unsure whether the human pressed Coke or Pepsi or that of a writer that can’t control the length of a sentence.

“I don’t know what new math you’re doing but Boogey ordered one pizza, not seven,” he says. “Set them on the ground for me.”

I imagine him sticking a crowbar into the boxes of pizza, breaking them open, and exposing the unwelcomed legal documents while scratching beneath the superficial surface of a nightmarish place and forcing me to acclimatize to conspicuous displays of destruction as I scrape off the paint of my body and sneeze my way to the lowest pits of hell.

“Your paranoiac behavior troubles me,” says a deep voice with European intonation. “Can’t you see that he’s made of words, FACT 66? Quit scaring Mr. Pizzaman.”

The lights resurrect and the boat returns. Crowds of vision animals made of breath and microbes stage famous photographs from human history. Their tongues fall out, regrow, and then fall out again. They wriggle like energetic worms with too much freedom on a rainy night. Some choose to burrow into the ground while others make a break for the front door. Their broken eyes are glued shut with coincidence and tremble explanations of the big picture while trying to remember the present.

Monumental wood sculptures of bears hardwired to avoid pain hug the four corners of the building, each one carved with complex and subtle thoughts for smiles. The buzz of organic communication slaps me in the face and a tall, slender figure starts a calm walk towards us. He whistles a four note tune and the allergy-prone assistant decomposes into a pile of sand that blows away faster than the flame of a candle on a birthday cake.

The figure stands just outside of my personal space, his dark eyes dancing behind three layers of clear eye lids, and motions for me to check the bottom of my shoe. I lift my leg like I’m inspecting for gum. A string of words look at me and read, The challenge that occurs when the child is a toddler. The young child is learning to be independent and must do so without feeling too ashamed or uncertain about his or her actions. The words are the color of fortune cookies and behave like possums when I peel them away. I lose my balance and almost drop the boxes of pizza in the process.

“It bothers me when facts obscure the original meaning of things. Will you be eating those words?” he asks.

I say that I’ll eat them later as I bury the words in my pocket like a compulsive liar without a shovel. He doesn’t seem to mind and the vision animals photograph the signing of the Declaration of Independence behind him. The camera flashes seem to appear from the middle of nowhere as the figure mumbles something in French.

“I am the Boogey for whom this pizza belongs to and I am the Boogey that will take you to my office on the second floor. I am the Boogey that prefers things written down rather than ad hoc and I am the Boogey that eats multiple times like a bird. This way, Mr. Pizzaman.”

We walk through the crowd and stop in front of the bear totem pole near the far right edge. He waves at it with both hands and pinches the corner of the floor. The bear and I watch as Boogey pulls the ground up and starts to roll it back like the page of a book. He drags the corner of the floor to the middle of the building with short, back-pedaling steps as the sound of stitches ripping add extra decibels of noise to the already loud flashes of photography.

The second floor glistens like a mirror and reflects the detailed ceiling which my mind forgot to describe or may have omitted from the past. Uninhabited business cubicles that look like the honeycombs of a beehive defy gravity. Staplers and pencil sharpeners fight computer keyboards and paper shredders while thumbtacked index cards justify their acts of aggression by observing. A calendar from a sugar shop in Jamaica stands out like a misplaced Viking in a classroom taught by a Freudian.

Boogey and I walk on the surface of the mirror and our reflections display us inside a cubicle with an ugly door. If I wasn’t holding the boxes of pizzas, I wouldn’t have even recognized myself. He knocks twice and the door opens into a different frame of reference. A temporary viewpoint where the word narrator is orphaned of its meaning blooms from a cosmic case of sibling rivalry.

I’ve come to terms with the abandonment of two of my family members by the one they call Mr. Pizzaman. Same with my head being ripped open and filled with legal documents. I’ve come to terms with an underwater panther holding me at knifepoint and eying me with scorn and misery, along with the accusation of being more than just boxes of pizza and the possibility of being eaten by the new CEO of hell. However, I don’t understand why I doubt the intellectual independence I have to interpret events as a way to explain who I am.


An identical figure to that of the one they call Boogey sits behind an expensive mahogany desk with one knee up to his chest. He spins around in a chair that makes things move quickly and explains to Mr. Pizzaman that he’s the authentic Boogey. That the other Boogey is a doppelganger with different circumstances born from the result of splitting an infinitive. His stomach growls in a thicker French accent and says to call the faux figure Lafayette for consumer accessibility.


From outside the window, buildings continue to crumble into the green ooze like pieces of confetti made of broken egg shells. Seven underwater panthers in uniforms commonly associated with the Third Reich detain the perpetrator of my knife attack who’s mouthing the words, “You’s got the wrong miscreant.” They surround him like the rings of Saturn and flash knives that glisten in the light how all knives tend to do. He yells a phrase of disorganized grammatical jargon and reveals the Italic Glider, flipping it back and forth between his paws. He adjusts his weight like a catapult spring being tightened back and locates a stabbing area on the body of one of the Grammar Nazis. The unveracious Lafayette closes the blinds of the window which blinds my vision of the ensuing event.


“We always bring a part of ourselves to whatever we observe,” he says. “How do you make it seem like my problem is there problem? Believe me, I try to understand people’s motives at every level but sometimes it’s not enough. It’s as if there’s an intangible gap between thoughts and actions that I can’t quite figure out.”


Through the reflection of Boogey’s eyes, I notice that he’s scrolling down his emails like someone who can’t entertain the idea of killing the king. His stomach gives a sigh of discontent and complains that God needs to stop sending email blasts. Listen to this one, he begins.


Edison and his friends found a dead bird by the side of the road on a warm summer’s night. From that moment onward, they were convinced he had murdered it with his car and called him the Birderer as a joke. Edison knew that he wasn’t to blame and continued to live a virtuous life. He even joined a bird watcher’s group that same summer. But the more time he spent watching those birds, the greater his doubt grew on whether or not he really did murder the bird that fateful night. Distraught, he persuaded himself to believe that the reason he joined the bird watcher’s group was to scope out new targets. Befuddled by this thought for years, Edison transformed into a bird serial killer on a genocidal quest of manifest destiny. Like a star that went supernova, the Birderer tallied up more deaths than I have fingers to count on and lived in a carbon birdcage for the remainder of his life. His death reminds me there’s always a distortion that creeps into nature when humans are involved. Anyway, Edison’s final judgment will be held the following Tuesday and I would like your input on deciding if he should take the high road or the low road. Signed, God.


Boogey looks up from the laptop and makes eye contact with me. Isn’t it odd, he ponders, that when we talk to God it’s alright but when God talks back we’re sent to insane asylums? A confused Mr. Pizzaman asks Boogey where the gift shop is and he replies with equal confusion saying that hell doesn’t have a gift shop. The one they call Carbon-14a is probably laughing right now.


“What tradition do you function under, Mr. Pizzaman?” yawns Lafayette. “I spend most of my time reading standard crime catalogs. Pages and pages of them. So many pages that I sometimes question how reliable it is to explain past events.”


With nervous arm movements, Mr. Pizzaman hands Boogey the box of pizza laced with legal documents. I shed a tear and bid au revoir to another family member in a collective voice. Just as the new CEO is about to rip open the cardboard box like a Christmas present, the laptop bubbles a Skype call and delays his gratification. He groans and then puts on a fake smile. Hey God, he says. How are you, old pal?


God holds the phone like an old timer who leaves technology for the young folk and has descriptions vague enough to apply to almost anyone. Dogs bark in the background with a whole lot of verbiage and I can almost feel the heat coming from the other line.


“Hi Boogey, it’s me. I sent you an email not too long ago and wanted to make sure you got it.”  


Boogey nods twice and gives a sugar-coated answer back to God who chuckles like someone living on the sun.


“You’re exactly right, Boogey. When something is wrong we can’t sweep it under the rug. For example, I’m dealing with a group of humans who’ve created a dichotomy between material and moral incentives. It’s an artificial separation that’s not supposed to be illustrative, more conceptual than anything. They live like walking billboards and promote promotions. Sell excitement. They see it as one story, Boogey. Not how it’s building up. Anyway, I have an appointment with my psyGodlogist in a bit so we’ll chat later. Au revoir.”


On Mr. Pizzaman’s seventh step towards the door, Lafayette laughs with one too many ha’s as if realizing it was all a setup. Boogey spins in his chair with one hand holding a slice of pizza and the other clutching the tax evasion paperwork. He has an expression on his face similar to that of a lion eating a gazelle with kitchen utensils. Mr. Pizzaman, he says. Are you aware that these words are arbitrary if I don’t assign meaning to them? You know what, go on. Go on and deliver your pizzas. Let the thought of a perilous subplot brew in the back of your mind and follow you around like an out-of-order soda machine. If you know anything about history, it’s the good businessman that gets the credit and not the one in the trenches.


Mr. Pizzaman continues his participatory observer way of behaving and exits through the door. Like passing through a security laser or stepping on a live wire, my intellectual freedom fades to the background while I try to remember the future.


My elbows remain tucked in as I carry the six boxes of pizza past the vision animals who look at me the same way I look at questions with unusual answers. They’re dressed like Holocaust survivors holding outlandish newspaper clippings with red ink. Their tongues continue to fall out and regrow while the flashes from the camera sound like insects associated with the wet season. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the invisible photographer was giving me signs in Morse code.

The building’s biological clock calls it quits when I step outside and confetti limestone falls to the ground like someone praying for a questioning attitude toward assumptions. Tongues wriggle in the debris like worms finding their way out of the ashes of an urn. I imagine one of them asking, “They want me here, but what’s here for me?” More buildings jump ship and the green ooze seems less anxious and more attuned. Underwater panthers outlined in red marker watch the dark clouds in the sky leak raindrops of acidic cactus juice from second story windows.

The sound of the fire alarm sparking due to faulty wiring is the loudest voice in the vicinity. The sparks behave like children learning the idea of cause-and-effect and the first thing to catch on fire is the ooze. A network of flames drive through the roads much like a brain sending neurotransmitters to do its dirty work. The buildings that decide not to collapse act like savages with their hair on fire. Two dozen Grammar Nazis packed together like sardines guard the elevator and my mind witnesses the unexpected influx of tourists disguised as fire continue to communicate in a none-spoken form.

The ooze starts to boil at a faster pace. With extreme reluctance, words evaporate from the bubbling liquid and float to the heavens (I think) in an ominous cloud of smoke. Their movements remind me of Houdini trying to escape from a straight-jacket and I recognize the phrases ‘psychotic martyr’ and ‘rhetoric displacement’. As if word evaporation changes the ooze’s chemistry, the boiling retires but the murmur of flames persist. Looking around, this is the hell I’d expect to see on a postcard.

The tongues adapt to change faster than I do and start to dig into the ooze which now jiggles like lime-flavored gelatin. The archaic smiles of the Grammar Nazis fixate on the worm-like tongues with cold expressions in their eyes. I hear one of them whisper, “New ideas are immediately incorrect.” I’m light-headed from the heat and peak into one of the wormholes. The narrow tunnel is lined with what looks like a labyrinth of thought or the color red. There’s a fifty-fifty chance this conduit doesn’t translate into my regular state of perception but the flames have fenced me in like the raising of college tuition by two hundred percent since 1998.

I hold the boxes of pizza over my head like a soldier in Vietnam wading through the jungles of chaos. A mispronounced phrase of abnormal grammar leaves my mouth and I stick my tongue out at the Grammar Nazis. With my eyes closed, I dive feet first into the wormhole and hope for the best. It happened to be the right fifty this time.



© 2017 Gaston Villanueva


Author's Note

Gaston Villanueva
Lecture 2 of 8 on Erik Erikson's eight psychological stages of development

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Featured Review

THIS IS IMAGINATION BEYOND IMAGINATION! A reader's delight to find themself in such bizarre planes, as that push the horizon, making the brain dance in glee as it gets richer the way a traveler’s eyes gain wealth as he travels, do you realize how amazing you are Gaston. The elements, the burning end of a rocket and the falling buildings at expiry, intersect at a version of hell the way analogies are played with inside of a sleeping head. The part where he kills the lights so that it actually is like going blind in the mindscape where you picture things as you read and using other senses to keep aware of what’s happening in the dark, stands out, as does the pizza narration part. And how the ending is open to infinite possibilities.
“...lest you’s wanna experience a loss of knowledge and continuity.”
“The second floor glistens like a mirror...”
“...locates a stabbing area on the body of one of the Grammar Nazis.”
“...but when God talks back we’re sent to insane asylums?”
“…descriptions vague enough to apply to almost anyone.”

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Gaston Villanueva

3 Years Ago

You're amazing, Rana!
Without a doubt you've helped me grow as a writer so thank you very muc.. read more
Rana

3 Years Ago

=) .



Reviews

THIS IS IMAGINATION BEYOND IMAGINATION! A reader's delight to find themself in such bizarre planes, as that push the horizon, making the brain dance in glee as it gets richer the way a traveler’s eyes gain wealth as he travels, do you realize how amazing you are Gaston. The elements, the burning end of a rocket and the falling buildings at expiry, intersect at a version of hell the way analogies are played with inside of a sleeping head. The part where he kills the lights so that it actually is like going blind in the mindscape where you picture things as you read and using other senses to keep aware of what’s happening in the dark, stands out, as does the pizza narration part. And how the ending is open to infinite possibilities.
“...lest you’s wanna experience a loss of knowledge and continuity.”
“The second floor glistens like a mirror...”
“...locates a stabbing area on the body of one of the Grammar Nazis.”
“...but when God talks back we’re sent to insane asylums?”
“…descriptions vague enough to apply to almost anyone.”

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Gaston Villanueva

3 Years Ago

You're amazing, Rana!
Without a doubt you've helped me grow as a writer so thank you very muc.. read more
Rana

3 Years Ago

=) .

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Added on February 28, 2017
Last Updated on March 5, 2017
Tags: psychology, erikson, autonomy, birds