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Vesper Heliotropic Novel Sample

22. Dara’s House

RD AUTO Message: CCCC, CCC 26, Octobre 2089 - Washington D.C.Main-Line USC-CAMBIAN City Territory: ‘CAMBIAN CITY’ |

The morning was still a bit nauseated and Camille’s eyes
were trying to stay open.

Her body had collapsed on the dark wood booth seat, her
head lay slapped a top folded arms.

“You okay girl?” This was the soft, deep voice of Dave, the
head cook at Coswa’s.
“Huh?”
“I said, are ya aight?”
“Who?”
Her face sprouted up for the briefest of moments through her
eyes that looked punched shut.
David said nothing but looked over her with a fond smirk. At
least he did at first, then seemed to be inspecting her with his
eyes as his body gradually lunged over her back and head, as if
he were about to pounce her. He quickly retreated when he
heard a loud noise and figured the rest of the wait staff was
probably at the door.

“Okay, yeah, I’m fine,” Camille said, finally.

Dave now sat upright, stately, reading the paper. The silty
ink and newsprint was a consistency David always made into
curling edges, caressing the texture with his thumbs.

Adam, the Manager, clopped into the office, flicked
something on and headed back toward the door to let the servers
in.
A loud clank of the bolt in the bottom of the door came loose
and Camille’s mouth seemed to barely move. She let out a tiny
murmur as if to call for Una, but stopped in realizing the oddity
of having to actually go to a door in such a public place. Actually
have to use your hands to open it...

“You are a beautiful girl.” David whispered to her in a very
round, nice deep bass. She could feel his breath, which was not
as bad as she’d expected, but loved the deepness of his voice.
She then turned her head over in Dave’s direction, rising
from the depths...

“You really are,” he said as her eyes met his.
Pause.
“Thank you,” Camille said sincerely back to him sort of
astonished, but not. She finally straightened her body out and
shivered, releasing energy into her limbs.

Finally her head rested back on the softness of the fabric
from the huge derrière of the booth.

Then she saw rows. The visions again. Many rows. They
were stomping in unison.
No. They’re marching. She was the only one at the front,
coming up the immense staircase to the colossal podium. The red
and white of the banners were far above her head. She knew of
the world she’d made.

Coming up from under the hood, Camille decided to get
more dressed and ready when she spotted a familiar set of digits. On the front page of the paper Dave had been reading read
the morning’s top headlines:

“Ant Day!” “Cruelty to Ants, and the 'Have a Heart for Ants and
Maggots Society”

“Student Without Hands or Arms, Awarded for Writing”

“Chimpanzee Has Art Show”

“Pentagon to issue Directive 25655 to Indonesia and Papa New
Guinea”

25655. Where do I know that number from?

Running her fingers across the typography of the newspaper,
she noticed it felt especially raised today. She touched one of the
articles. Nothing happened. “Raised Type should fuckin’ work!”
She’d read it every morning shift so far.
“Oh” She said, lifting from under it, an old, old issue of
Finally Fourteen. “Woah, wha!?”
She’d brought it in her saddlebag, with her, one of the few
items she’d happened to run away with when she left home. The
old issue she’d kept from nearly two years ago. She looked at the
date. It was indeed that November issue she was trying to recall.
Good old Janus then came to mind...She couldn’t then figure
out why...
“Goldstein!” she recalled, from somewhere specific, a night
she remembered, from out of nowhere.
“I remember now, the night of course, the night I met the
Real Una!”
“But where’s the Goldstein shitz?”
She looked everywhere, all over its back and front covers.
The name, nor its advertisement was nowhere to be read or
found on either of its front or back covers--where she’d
remembered seeing it that night...

Then, in that moment of a vague and slight floating anxiety,
she began sort of instinctively rooting through her bag for her
Switch Light and stumbled on Beatriz’ profile.
She then saw her number hovering above a pic of her face:
‘2565533328-9546’
“Wait a fuckin second, 25655!” she muttered to herself.

“Camille, come on, let’s get this place ready for morning
guests!”
“Wait, just wait, I have an emergency call from overseas!”
Camille’s lies fell out her mouth so naturally sometimes it
made her proud.
She rushed to the bathroom.
“Okay, this is not a coincidence, Una is talking to me, but
how this time??”

I mean this is Beatriz’ fuckin’ phone number for Christ’s sake, it
matches the first five digits! No, it isn't, wait yes it is, but where else do I
remember this number from?!
Faintly something was coming together...
She remembered the other night with Beatriz. She
remembered running out of there. Hadn’t called her since. And
that was about it, she tried her damnedest but couldn’t
remember anything else. She didn’t even remember why she had
run from Beatriz that morning, and almost thought she might
have dreamt it, and really had been at home from before the sun
came up that day.
“Anyway, there’s something crazy here. Maybe Una knows
about Beatriz, following her, or something...I don’t know!”
“The article, the Article!”
She’d brought it with her and started to read the article on
this Pentagon thing.

“The Pentagon issued a statement today outlining
progress made on a directive to further bombard the
Indonesian and New Guinean governments occupying both
those territories. Terror Cell operations have been linked
between China, and these two countries. Strikes have
started as of Monday, the 21st. Massive U.S. aid is passing
through the UN to the civilians of both governments.”

Camille knew for a fact that there had been strikes against
New Guinea for a long time, “And wait!” She was beginning to
remember something. “...little girls, why am I remembering little
girls? And glass, some kind of glass. Talking through glass. No
at glass. At glass! Fuck! Portals again!”

She’d lost it, the memory had slipped and faded.

***

After work she found herself getting undressed and fondling
her 45 calibre weapon, naked.
She was getting ready for her nightly bath. Mike had even
helped her scrub out the bathtub surface to sand it down to its
original color. It was now a sparkling off-white, but still a bit
yellow at its edges. A few of some unknown squatters in the next
room, had used it already. It was a hallway bathroom after all
and she had had to scrub out some pubic hair and tear out the
drain for longer hair-off-the head kind of hair, but she did it with
gloves and as long as she had a cheap ass apartment here; she
didn’t care, this was paradise as far as she was concerned.
She was in her room however, getting ready with a towel by
her side, sitting on her bed. She’d moved a room over now, Dennis had taken her old room right next to this one.
This was a far bigger apartment, nearly the size of an art studio with light able to shine in from large bay windows. Her bed was right in front of
the windows and lots of posters, art and maps of European cities
were plastered all over her walls. Her old cardboard fish hung
from the ceilings. It felt like home. That was a long time ago now,
since she left. Told no one.
Trust no one.

A frenzy of hard rain drops beat on the tin rooftop.
It had been raining for hours.
Her apartment door was cracked slightly and the bathroom down the hall was in her direct line of sight, its door left a bit open.
“Wait, why is the door ajar?”
She hadn’t really remembered whether she’d shut it completely, and being the only inhabitant on the third floor aside from Dennis, this was a might strange. It didn’t really have a tendency to fall open, though many of the old doors in the building, like her own often did.

But not this one.
Throwing a towel around her body, she slid down hall toward the
bathroom passing her old room. Through the crack she could see Dennis in there, doing something active, tinkering little sounds.

What’s he building in there?
“Ouch! What the fuck!”
Something had caught her toe.
“Splinter, a goddamned splinter of all things!”
She crouched down on the hallway floor to amend the cut toe, but wound up retreating back to her bed in pain.

She was slumped over, putting pressure on her bleeding toe,
and couldn’t for the moment see up, but she knew something was there. The rain stopped and that buzzing ring of silence took over.

She wouldn’t raise her head. Someone was there.
Standing there.

She would not raise her head. She had a big splinter,
she was going to tend to it now.
I am going to repair my toe. I’m going to mend my toe now...

“Una?! Are you there!?”
She looked up to no one.
Hands trembling, she shot toward the edge of the bed where her gun was and snatched it up immediately.
With a jolting force, she threw on a pair of slacks and a T-shirt
then pounded her feet into black combat boots she’d bought not
a day or two ago.
Talking to herself. “Where the fuck did she go?”
Camille knew she’d been real. She knew someone had been
standing there. It was a while ago, but she remembered the visits
from Una before…

No music could be heard, not a peep from downstairs either.
Dennis’ room kept clinking though, with that endless empty
tinkering. She went back over to the hallway.
Her feet inched furtively on the creaking wood through
the thin dirty carpet in the hallway facing Dennis’ door.

The light was on in the bathroom, the door was nearly closed now.

Makes sense about the light, I left it on, right?

Right in front of the bathroom, she reached her hand to grasp the rusty door knob. Breathing heavy, she tried to hold her breath to alleviate it but could only take deeper and deeper gasps.

Camille kicked the door open, lunged her weapon in the direction
of whoever was there. No one. Moaning wind blew in
through the blank white sheets clinging to the top of the huge open window in front of the bath and shower stall, the toilet in between.

Wait, that sheet was tacked down a week ago.
Her heart got heavier and was sweating now, but in a
moment of great nerve and blankness, she held the sheet open
and pointed her 45 in several systematic directions, outside.
Nothing out there. She looked down Monkey-Grinders could be seen down at the Liqueur store, prostitutes on the curb hailing drivers...nothing
new.
Stepping out a few paces, she sat down on one of the ever-present wooden egg crates facing back toward the window. They seemed to keep reappearing. Every time people came over, some of her ‘Server buddies’ from Coswas, hung out there, getting high or drunk on several or more weeknights in recent weeks.

The breeze changed directions and sucked the tattered white sheet back into the bathroom. There was a piece missing from it, she now noticed being on the other side of it. The light was suddenly off. Hollow beating like a drum came from inside.

Something was in the bathtub.

Inside the misty, textured glass of the shower stall, a dark form seemed to move.
There’s something there.

Shaking now, her whole body.

“The Smile is coming!”
Camille could feel her face beginning to change. The force of
the transformation and the knowledge of what was happening to
her seemed to be one thing. Somehow there was a
memory, she knew somewhere what was happening and that her
face would just keep smiling.

“Don’t fucking smile Cam! Don’t fucking give in to it!” she nearly yelled.

But it was too late, her body shook and her face contorted
itself beyond control. An invisible man sculpted her
face like it was made out of clay. The smile kept coming. And
coming.
And was then in a second, gone.
Nothing like this had yet occurred, but she had somehow
known it was to happen. Somewhere.

Her ass was already stained with the fossil imprint the toilet seat made when she found herself finally taking a piss. It made her a little calmer. No one in the tub.

She reached for the toilet paper. There wasn’t any.
She was always so lazy about that, despite the liqueur &
convenience store right next to her building. She was still
shaking and hadn’t put the mental cap on panic quite yet.
Camille pulled her slacks up over her bare skin and redid its
belt, closed the lid of the toilet and sat down. Rested her chin on her two palms and gazed upward. Wind again hitting hard on the outdoor rooftop space.

Then, fractal shadows danced on the ceiling, movement coming from the stall again. Camille rose from the seat and turned toward the half open sliding doors.

A gaping mouth had been there.
Right there in her peripheral, the whole time.

The mouth was long and narrow.
She looked right at it.
Thin legs and pale skin. A narrow face with splotchy threads of hair coming off a balding scalp, the color of dark meat.
The little girl was wrapped in white sheet.
No eyes, and diamond shaped glasses over dark musty sockets. The mouth, black, was getting longer. It stretched to the floor with an echo like screaming dolphins or whales in the deep waters of an ocean.

Crackling of breaking bones. It withdrew and the long mouthed little girl took one step out of the shower and stared right at Camille, her frail
body looking wet but somehow untarnished, as if buried yesterday. The deformity of her mouth, which shrank as she left the tub, then expanded to the floor again.

“What do you want? Who are you? Do you know Una?”
The face morphed into a pretty blonde girl with vibrant skin. Then faded back again.

“I am not Una. Una does not know me.”
“How is it that Una doesn’t know you? I have no idea myself
what is happening to me, what has been happening to me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said the girl, gurgling throat mucus like a failing microphone.

“Then who are you and why are you here?”
“I am Dara, daughter to the great King in the Tower. But I
am in this world now, so it doesn’t matter.”
“Where exactly is that?”
“Away. A long ways. Over the fields, you know them, the
poppy fields,” she said with a dead look and frenzied smile that made a sound just by moving.
Camille put a shaking hand out toward her and touched her. She was no ghost, her hand met cold packed flesh. It certainly had a distinctly different consistency to it though...rubbery. Remotely, she couldn’t exactly
see how, but in some way it felt like stone.

“I’m real. Aren’t I?”
“You wish you were here to stay though.”
“Oh don’t worry, I’m quite definitely lost here.”
“What do you want? Wha-what is it?”
“Revenge.”
“For what?”
“You’ll see, soon enough...”
“You have to have something to do with a lady named Una,
haven’t you heard of her?”
“Nope. Never.”
“But I know I am to tell you something. Now if I could only
remember what it is...Another shooting. And a man. You must
meet with him. 845 Ferndale Ave, NorthEast DC, the tall man.
You must meet his washing women. Mr. Darbosol, you must
meet him.”
“And what, stop him? From what? That’s an old name, who
is that...?”
“I have no idea, don’t ask me, this knowledge has been
passed by the dark Form near the wall. Facing the wall.”

She then remembered, Lord Darbosol and who he was. A
cereal killer from way back, who’d remained at large despite all
efforts to find him and the women and men he stole from the
Earth.

“This way.”
Dara’s frail corpsey body sort of wilted when it walked.

“Don’t worry, no one can see us.”

She lead the numb yet willing Camille right outside into the
stillness of the busy, yet frozen city street outside the Rhode
Island Ave. apartments. Everyone still. Like a chessboard. Or a
snow-globe. Cars didn’t have streaks like she thought they might
have, they were like parked cars, but she could tell had
been moving and were not settled. The people in them, deer in
the headlights, everyone one of them. And the same for everyone
on the street. Sluts, Monkeys, Whores, all frozen in time.

“What? We’re at a Laundry Mat? You took me to a frickin’
Laundry Machine place?” They were suddenly standing inside of a local
laundry mat. No one there.
“I don’t have many clothes Una, or Dara or whoever the
fuck you say you are...”
Dara smiled and you could smell a waft of death through her rotten
teeth, some of them falling out to the floor with little clinks.
She pointed and the crowd appeared outside.
Then, just then, nestled a bit below the crowd of Spics, Hicks and City
People, was a...
...Yes it was, a little girl in a plaid red and white checkered
overall-skirt that ended at the top of her knees.

She rose up from examining the white little girl outside the place.
Inside, there appeared rows, actual rows of little girls thrown like wet towels over the benches that faced the machines.
Each right in front of each washer, facing the circular window. Twenty or so of them. They were blue, industrial washing machines. Then
she saw their items. Particular items, as if…

Left behind.
One closest to her had a notebook

Then it all disappeared, and there were people there, wading through each other to do their laundry. No Dara, no girls.

“Oh God, Carl, I’m so glad you’re here!”

“What the fuck was that!?” Camille squealed, panting again.

“That was Elise,” he said.

“Who the fuck is that?”