Layla Noir: Chapter 4
That WAS me, on the two side prongs of The Device’s needle. I know you know that. I know you know how it works, but I’m getting the distinct impression that you are recording this. That’s what we would do, anyway, if we captured some being that had blundered like an idiot into our reality. You are, right…?
God damn it. One of these days you’re gonna answer me. You made me begin this story, so I know you are capable of communicating with me. Asshole.
My point was that I’m being extra detailed in case someone with less knowledge than you ever hears this. I would ask if you mind but I don’t really give a fuck how you feel. I just want to be free. But hey, I’m not trying to get all my pain receptors activated at the same time again, that’s for sure, so shall I continue?
OK anyway so I’m in the motel, I’m seeing my own face on this tiny portion of The Device as I stare closely at it, and I’m tripping fucking balls. That’s a human term for being very confused, afraid, or amazed by something unusual… what could be less usual than that?
Well, this. But I hadn’t experienced this yet so I thought that a mighty morphing mind manipulation machine with the ability to display tiny sculptures of my face was the weirdest thing that I would ever experience. Silly me. As one might expect, as soon as that reality sank in, I tossed The Device on the bed and just sat there for a while. I’m not sure how long it took me to pull myself together, but I slowly managed to get a bit of a grip on the current situation. I do tend to talk to myself, especially when I’m stressed, so in this case my inner dialogue went something like this,
“Look, Mick, we’ve done a lot of crazy shit in our life. Especially since… well, since we became a lone wolf. All kinds of drugs have affected us and we have made it through all that shit. We saw demons on Angel Dust and kept our cool. We met God on zooms and told him to go fuck himself. We almost had a heart attack on X and we pulled through that. We went from being an “I” to being a “We” during a series of A trips and we have never been better, you and I, brain and ego, mind and soul. So what makes this different? OK, we don’t understand what that Thing did to us, fair enough, but we can see the results. The world is sort of the same but also very different. So what? All we have to do is keep our mouth shut as much as possible so we don’t look dumb or make anyone suspicious and then keep out eyes and ears open to learn what’s different. Then we can either look forward to slowly returning to normal or we can build a new life “here”, wherever “here” is. No reason to give up, right? We never gave up before, so get out there and…!”
Wow. I’m really losing it, aren’t I? I’m describing my thoughts in two persons to a silent, malevolent alien. How confusing. No wonder I’m losing my shit. As I said, that’s how I talk to myself sometimes, now you know. It’s fun, right? Getting to know each other…?
Anyway, back in the motel, my train of thought was interrupted by The Device because it had started to glow. Not the weird mixture of pink and blue from before, but some sort of yellow/green/purple hybrid that, again, was a colour I swear no other human had laid eyes on before. It was pulsing slowly as well, tiny bursts of semi-brilliance that almost immediately faded back to nearly nothing for another 30 seconds or so. This could only be trouble, or so I thought. I guess I was right.
Almost as if my thoughts were being broadcast and someone wanted to immediately confirm them, there was a knock at the door. I was pretty sure I hadn’t made a noise in a few moments, so I silently crept up to the peephole to see who it was. As soon as I got a good look at him, I was so shocked that I almost fell over! I recognized him. I saw this guy at the gym about once a week, sometimes less, and although I didn’t know him, even before this adventure began he was someone I wouldn’t ever forget. The first time I noticed him at the gym was a couple months before all of this. I had been working out, probably bench press or whatever, doesn’t matter, when I heard someone muttering. Looking around, I noticed this guy, about my height, younger than me but definitely an adult, probably mid-20s, African American, and angry. He was walking around with his hands clasped behind his back, muttering to himself. Now, I would have written him off as just another crazy denizen of this fucked up city if I hadn’t been able to make out one specific thing amongst all the garbled syllables quietly tumbling out of his mouth, which was, “Monkeys, you’re all monkeys. We made you. Monkeys”. That definitely fucked me up a bit because it didn’t sound like the average schizophrenic madman to me. That sounded alien. He seemed disappointed in us as we worked out, staring at ourselves in mirrors, admiring our own musculature and physical progress. It’s pretty egotistical, I have to admit. I love it, but I have to admit that. Ever since then, whenever I noticed him at the gym I would pay particular attention to him while trying not to have him notice me but I always felt like he knew, kind of? Like I would be staring at him through two reflections, a mirror showing a mirror, and he would turn slightly and look at the mirror I was using just as I would look away… call me crazy but I think he knew. I never overheard anything else but that was enough for me to wonder what the fuck was going on with him. One day I was there with my friend and I pointed out this weird guy and told the story and my friend said that he had seen him working out there before with a piece of paper taped to his chest that said, “I’m fine, thank you” in big, messy letters. Now, if that isn’t some weird shit, am I right? I know that thinking he was an alien was a bit of a stretch at the time… OK, a big stretch, but still, if I was an alien that still didn’t really have a handle on the culture I was trying to blend in to, I might think that I could save time and awkward encounters by just instructing everyone to leave me alone with a sign letting them know ahead of time that I was fine and didn’t need assistance, free samples, or whatever else.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw this guy knocking on my door. We’re over an hour of driving away from my neighbourhood and my gym, all that crazy shit has been happening to me, for all I know I’m in some parallel, Bing and Tesla loving reality, and that weird guy from the gym that seems like an alien is knocking on my motel room door, right as The Device began to pulsate? I decided that it couldn’t be a coincidence, so I slowly and silently backed away. After a few moments, I heard him walk off, but The Device continued to flash intermittently and I figured this was going to be a problem for me, even if I didn’t understand it. I considered my next move, but I didn’t feel like I had all that many. I couldn’t be sure, but the glowing of The Device and the apparition of the potentially alien, potentially crazy person from the gym were almost definitely related. It didn’t take a genius to connect a pulsating light to the concept of looking for something that one has lost. Like calling your phone or pressing the horn button on your car keys, it seemed pretty clear that this guy was looking for The Device. I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t have connections with The Straight and Narrow, for obvious reasons, which can only mean that they stole it from him. Or, I guess, that it was of extreme value and he knew this and had something to help him find it somehow? No matter what I seemed to be screwed, basically. I wanted to leave the motel, now that he was obviously pretty sure that I was here, but I was limited by my disfiguration. In my haste, it hadn’t occurred to me to pack or purchase any more first aid supplies, and my current bandages were pretty nasty. Fluids had seeped through a little bit, colouring the core section of the material a rusty, yellowish-red brown, and wearing a bandanna fully over one’s face is barely less sketchy and weird. Somewhat more importantly, it was beginning to really hurt again as my adrenaline and various highs had almost fully faded away. I also hadn’t packed any drugs. Jesus. I fucked myself again! So, I really did have to go out and get supplies, but I didn’t want this guy to see me. This wasn’t going to be easy, so maybe it was better that these thoughts ended up being pointless anyway. As I was trying to work out a plan to go out and get a few things, I heard the same knock once again. Once again, I began an attempt to hide. A failed attempt, mind you, because the door began to shimmer and waver like water and he just waltzed right through it like a spoon pushing through jello. He seemed about as surprised to see me as I was to see that display.
“Oh… Hello. I guess, as you might say, I am now fucked, yes? You saw me move through the door. There isn’t much point in lying… unless you are on drugs?” He asked, suddenly excited.
“…No… I mean I think I am… might be… but either way I know what I just saw” I managed to blurt out.
“Oh”, he muttered, with visible disappointment, “I was hoping I wouldn’t have to end anyone else’s narrative. That is very unfortunate. Still, you have something that belongs to me, something that was stolen from me. I am in the right to punish you, even by your customs. It is a shame that the punishment must be final, but I see no other path that leads to my desired conclusion.”
This was not exactly hope inspiring, as far as conversations go. While he had been talking, I had been slowly reaching for the trench knife, but I guess he noticed. As I drew it and sprang forward to end his fucking “narrative”, I was imbolized. I was left floating a half inch off the ground in a rather violent pose, only able to move my eyes. I hadn’t even seen him move.
“Hmm. Surprising, yet predictable. You are of no threat to me. Maybe, if my property is not damaged, I will end you quickly. Excuse me for a moment”, he said, walking around me to the bed where I had left The Device. I couldn’t see him but I can only assume that he picked it up and checked it out somehow because seconds later he made a very loud, aggressive noise. I would describe it as the sound a tiger would make if it was mixed with a spider, or maybe the sound that a shark would make if it hunted on land. That was followed by what I can only assume is an alien language, probably curses, judging from context. Then, in English, to me, “You used it?!? You stuck your dirty appendage in the abscess and gave it your essence?”
I felt my mouth relax slightly, and with a bit of effort I found that my face worked again. “Uhm… yes? I was in a rush and just trying to move it with one hand, but yeah, it poked me, took some blood, and then I got all fucked up. My life has been a mess ever since I touched that damn thing! Well, more of a mess than usual…”
“It appears that we are now in a mess together. Already, I lost my main travel device. That was my backup, and I had yet to use it. Now I cannot, for it permanently belongs to you. Yet, you do not understand it. Already you have traveled, but you do not know how or to where. If I end your narrative, my property disappears, and I will be as stuck here as you. Allow me to try out one of your curses once more: fuck you. Fuck monkey. Monkey fuck! You have fucked me! I am lost! My story ends here. I never leave.”
“I’m sorry duke”, I began, “I definitely didn’t mean to fuck you over. I didn’t even know that it was yours! I got captured by… details aren’t important, bad people who didn’t like me tried to “end” me, so I ended them. They had this, it looked beautiful, so I took it. I accidentally used it and I don’t even know what it does. I’m sorry. What do we do now?”
“Bthzzz…” he said, thinking, I guess, “bthz… maybe we can help each other. I do not enjoy the thought of requiring the aid of a monkey but I see no other path. Before we work together, I must analyze you. I must know who you are before I can take the risk. I must be in control of this situation. Open your mind… open your mind… open your mind…”
As he repeated those words, I felt myself losing my sense of self control. My vision became a dark tunnel, ever narrowing…
Swimming through the sea. Swimming through the darkness of the deep, deep sea. Swimming… choking… drowning. Watching Her die, watching Her die again. Flame under the spoon. Liquid in the needle. Blood shooting back up into it, just a bit, just a tiny hit, just a little bit more, dear, let me have my fun, She says, She just wanted to have fun, I was always ruining her fun… until She enjoyed herself a little too much. Until I watched Her die in my arms. I watch it now, I always see it, always see it in my dreams…
THIS IS A DREAM.
I DON’T HAVE TO RELIVE THIS…
THIS IS NOT REAL…!
But somehow, I can’t take control. I’m forced to watch, forced to watch Her waste away, the years flying by like a slideshow, forced to watch the final moments again, and again… then the water rises once more, the darkness encroaches again… what nightmare is this, where I know I am dreaming but I cannot take control? I can’t wake up, I can’t kill myself, I can’t even move… I’m stuck, stuck in the nightmare. The waters part and… no. Please no.
Don’t do this.
My young one… my baby girl… It was one mistake, one moment when I flew too close to The Sun and picked with the wrong gang. One mistake that I will live with forever. I can’t… please don’t make me watch.
I was forced to watch.
The waters rise up, once again I fall away. Lost, ever lost in the darkness, until a familiar face begins to shine through. Steeltoe. The one person that held me together, who gave me a goal, the one who put me on the path of revenge and kept me from losing myself in it while we slowly went about making it happen. I see his face… I see the gun. This one, much like the others, is always the same. I always run, moving as quickly as I can, but it’s never fast enough. The gun is raised. The muzzle flashes. A red eruption from his chest, a shift in his facial expression, a gurgling sound somehow amplified to be heard above the rest of the noise. I slowly sink into the pained look in his eyes, falling, falling, falling… and they close, forever. Once again, I am left in darkness.
Once again, I am alone.
I awoke, who knows how much later, still frozen in my violent pose, with the alien now in front of me, staring deep into my eyes.
“You are fascinating”, he almost whispered, “so violent. So full of pain. You have lost much in your life. I am surprised, for I find myself actually admiring you in some small way. To watch your love waste away to addiction, to watch your child murdered by a gang, to lose the last pillar of strength to that same gang violence, to watch him die in front of you… to have all of this placed on top of the childhood trauma, the beatings and the bullies, the emotional abuse… your violent nature makes sense to me, now. I understand you. I am impressed that you continue to fight for your place in The Grand Narrative. I apologize for my earlier comments, for if I must work with one of you, I think I am fortunate to have you over others. You will not quit… I have hope again.”
“That’s fucked up, man” I snarled, wishing I could just stab and stab and stab… “No one knows that shit about me. No one needs to. So what my childhood was traumatic? Everyone’s childhood is traumatic. Show me a healthy, happy human being and I will show you a mask and a bundle of positive mental bullshit that they support themselves with. No one is happy. They just claim to be. I don’t appreciate you going through my memories like that. In our culture, that’s fucking rude. I don’t even want to think about… about my…”
I broke down at this point. No matter what else happened between us after that, fuck him for bringing up… them… I’m sorry, girls, I miss you. I know you wouldn’t be proud of who I have become. I would say I’m working on that but… well… fuck, why am I telling you this?
In any case, he didn’t care about offending me.
“I did what was necessary to work with you”, he continued, “Your fire is admirable but not appreciated, as you say, when directed at me. If we are to be a team, we must trust each other. In working towards that goal, allow me to tell you some of my story so far…”
Author’s Note: Confused? Find Chapter 3 of this sci-fi noir novel that I am writing and releasing live, at least one chapter every two weeks, right here. Enjoy! Just wait til you see where this goes next…
Also, if you have been enjoying the art that accompanies each chapter’s release, check out my Instagram account, @AMerkTheTrippyOne, which is where I am sourcing all of these from! I really am excited for people to read upcoming chapters and I hope to hear back from people soon :) Leave a comment if you have anything to say about this story so far, where you think it is going, where you want it to go… whatever. Thank you for reading!