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Messages - Eater of Clowns

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1
They didn’t turn off the lights at closing. Little tracks of dull yellow bulbs lit our way down, just barely. The air was like stale ocean, wet and dry at once. The rock walls and ceiling glistened with moisture and every few meters a bulbous crystal of white salt peeked out. I reached out and touched one. It crumbled onto my fingers and I rubbed it between them absently, savoring the luxurious feel of it.

The tunnel sloped slowly downward. Our footsteps, rather than echoing, made the slightest of scrapes and scratches along the stone floor. It was cacophonous, here.

We turned sharply left. Roman numerals were carved into the wall, below that the name of the Station of the Cross. The far wall emptied into vast nothingness, a huge rectangular cavern hewn in the guts of the mountain. A stone cross faced us, silhouetted by the empty space. I leaned over the barrier before the precipice and looked down and saw no bottom to that dizzying vastness. My head was heavy past the ledge, as if weighed by the mountain above. I stood still and felt myself tipping.

Lara rested her hand on my back and I started, my fingers desperately gripping the stone. I’d gone nowhere.

I looked at my companion with relief and terror. Her look held only concern. Gently, she took me by the hand and led me further down the corridor.

We passed the rest of the Stations of the Cross, all of them greater or lesser black holes stretching far into the distance. We heard footsteps, coming from all around us, but I trusted this strange woman and followed her in all her unconcern.

Past the stations, a stairwell was carved leading further down. The steps were worn smooth with the footfalls of years of pilgrims and tourists. A lone statue of an angel, white in the pale spotlight that shone on it, shone in the darkness. At the edge of my vision its face contorted, a painful desperate expression. I turned to look at it directly. Its face was serene, turned up to the heavens above and the tons of rock between it and them and I wondered if God had a place down here.

There was worship and power and in any mine of this size there was a history of blood and tragedy. The Christian symbols were a thin whitewash, the salt a corrosive bubble beneath them and could all the faith of all the faithful change the memory of stone.

I stared at the statue for some time. Maybe it would strain again to hold its strength in this foreign place or to hope the strength of its gaze and longing might pierce the mountain for that glimpse of precious clouds. When I turned away again, Lara was no longer in sight.

Panic came upon me sudden and huge. She was found by the footsteps and they were not those of people. I would be next unless I ran and I would run the tunnels to exhaustion and never escape the deep. I breathed again that paradoxical air both damp and dry and descended the stairs.

Lara waited at the bottom. She motioned me forward. We progressed through another short hallway and, beyond it, the largest room of the Catedral. Rows of pews shrank to the far end of it, terminating in an enormous suspended cross.  The wall behind it was covered with a sheet of salt crystals, brilliant white.

A single guard with a headlamp was making his way slowly around the main level. Here was the source of the echoing footsteps, a steady rhythm of them, this lone man dwarfed in the sheer scale of workplace. We walked by him just as we had the one above. We were not here for him, nor for what he protected.

Lara led us to a row of gift shops that marked the end of the tourist area of the Catedral. Locked displays showed off figurines, emeralds, jewelry, and bags of salt mined from the halls. This second religion so seamless against the first.

One of the alcoves down the souvenir tunnel opened into a café. Chairs were stacked up on little tables. Lara stopped us here.

She pointed past the coffee shop, to our destination. To the reflecting pool.

2
I love the pure, distilled weirdness.

That's my favorite thing about this thread. It's all over the spectrum.

3
Very happy to see this rolling again. Good stuff, Roger.

4
Woohoo, Cainaid!

5
We were just another young couple touring the country, a half bottle of aguardiente in hand and a shared room at the hostel in Zipaquira. The stroll in the night was experience a fine Colombian evening, to drink and be under the stars just outside the light polution of the big city. Lara's amble was practiced and easy and mine was natural because, well, because here this night with this beautiful woman I really was enjoying myself. Until the edge of town, at least.

Our carefully careless route led us to the a barred road, iron gate locked shut beneath a terra cotta arch. The road snaked its way up a dark mountain, to ticket booths and parking lots and little souvenier shops. The sign at the top of the arch read Catedral de Sal de Zipaquira.

The Cathedral of Salt.

“You're quiet,” Lara said.

“Sorry. Dread has that effect.”

She could make a living off of that smirk. Actually, she did. “I mean you move quietly. That's good.”

“Why is that good?”

Lara nodded up at the mountain. “We're going in.”

“What, now?!”

She didn't respond, but ducked under the gate and hurried off to the side of the road, out of the ring of the streetlights. I took a drink of the aguardiente and strolled as casually as I could over to her. There was no way I could recreate her stealth, so I might as well not look so obviously sneaky.

We stayed crouched to the side of the path on our way up. Nobody was around to even hide from, it seemed.

“What are we doing here?” I asked.

“Didn't you say you wanted to visit the other day in Bogota?”

“I also said I'd like to see the Museo de Oro. We aren't breaking into that.”

“That's next.”

My family was back in Bogota. They'd left me with Lara at the bar and gone off to a little craft plaza and a fruiteria. Two hours had passed since they hopped into Marisia's Nissan. By my estimation, Lara and I had been traveling for three days. The Necronomicoin in my pocket was starting to wear on me. It has a way of doing that if you don't spend it. At first I thought the veil of the world was slipping away but that night in Zipaquira I started thinking it was me slipping away from it. I had to get rid of these coins. I should have let Lara steal them and in their absence earn myself oblivion.

“What are we going to find here?”

“A reflecting pool.”
“None of those on the surface?”

We climbed a steep set of stairs up. At the top of them were the closed concessions and barred museum entrance. A huge metal statue of a miner stood above us with his pickaxe buried deep in the earth. Down a short ramp was an ampitheater and beyond that, the entrance to the Catedral. A guard waited there.

“How are we going to get past him?”

“He won't even know we're here.”

Purposefully, Lara walked into the light and the center of the wide open ampitheater. She neared the guard and he made no indication of seeing her. I sighed and hurried to catch up.

“We aren't here for what they're guarding. And what we are here for, the guards are much worse.”

We hopped over a set of locked turnstiles and stood before a tunnel. It was black and it descended and it led to a reflecting pool two hundred meters below a mountain, in an old mine converted to a cathedral. The Cathedral of Salt.

6
Thank you. I'm not confident with scope, so please forgive the insecurity.

7
Request for honest feedback:  should I continue with my Colombia/Necronomicoin storyline, or is it losing steam?

8
My father and stepmother disappeared. Lara and I took the table over. I would take a taxi back to the apartment if I needed to. Colombia was green in the lush valleys and the glittering emeralds and in Lara’s gaze. We sipped beer slowly and we talked about her home city of Cali and about what brought us both to Bogota. We joked and she threw back her head to laugh and I forgot about the last six awful months and the overwhelming week and all about Necronomicoin.

I forgot about Necronomicoin. I reached into my pocket and touched the one in my pocket. The hair on the back of my neck stood up.

I finished my pint and excused myself, ducking off for the bathroom.

She’d ordered me another glass while I was gone.

“You like the Roja, right,” she smiled perfectly.

“Si, mi gusto. Delicioso, gracias,” I said reflexively.

She held that smile, looking at me. She glanced at the glass.

“We both know I won’t be drinking this, Lara,” I said.

“Why not?” she asked, her innocence flawless.

“A charming, gorgeous girl like you? A guy like me? You aren’t just flirting with me to practice your English.”

“Like I said, I thought you looked like an interesting person,” she faltered.

“You’re the sort of girl that a guy takes back to the hotel and finds himself waking up the next day in a bathtub full of ice. No memory of the night and a neat little fresh scar on his abdomen. You aren’t after kidneys, of course.”

She shifted in her seat. “I think maybe I should go,” she said.

I reached into my pocket again and pulled out the Necronomicoin. I laid it flat on the table and slid it with my forefinger across the flat surface, pushing it to the center. Lara’s eyes stayed on it, transfixed.

“You know what this is,” I said.

She nodded.

“You know exactly how much this particular one is worth,” I said.

She nodded again.

“I need your help, Lara.”

Befriend The Thief.

9
Days later we were at the Bogota Beer Company. My pre-travel self would have scoffed at visiting the most Americanized cervezaria in Colombia. My pre-travel self was not battered by long roads and bad bacteria and a sense of boiling unreality stressing the veneer of the world.

I sat at a little table on the patio by the public square, sharing it with my father and step-mother. I was quiet with the learned surety that my words were meaningless. It would take most of the pitcher we were splitting before I realized that my companions could actually understand me. Absently I flicked a Necronomicoin around my fingertips, playing at it in the light that wouldn’t touch it.

“They’re English speakers at the next table,” I said. “They’re from Minnesota, Florida, and Georgia, respectively. The girl from Minnesota is self-conscious about displaying a Midwestern accent, but it’s the one from Tallahassee that has the most pronounced accent. They’re going to ask me to take their photo in a few minutes when their last friend arrives. I usually have a +1 policy where if I take a photo of them, they have to take one with me. I can’t tell if this comes off as fun or douche but I think it’s a great time,” I pause. No feedback from either of them.

I take a long pull from the pint of Roja. Then a longer one. “The Georgian guy lives in the shadow of his older brother, an officer with the Air Force. He tried to follow the family military tradition but he’s no warrior. He doesn’t know what he is, or that’s what he says. What he does know is that he’s a happy office worker, the oblivious uncomplicated kind that everyone else resents and tries to rope into their misery sessions but can’t pin down. So he’s friendly with them but he leaves the office behind when he’s out of work and comes on adventurous little getaways with distant friends to South America or Southeast Asia, places his co-workers wouldn’t go near without the magic words All Inclusive Resort before them.”

I continued staring off into the street and the square beyond and drinking. Between the little glass partitions and the tiny sculpted hedges a young woman walks by on the street. She’s wearing a blue hat with a wide brim that just barely conceals her face and loose golden rings of hair tumble out beneath it, bouncing in the sun. We make eye contact and there’s a hint of playful smile before she went on her way.
My mouth was hanging open, so I filled it with more beer.

“Anyway the pilot that’s going to come in when they all leave, the Seahawks fan? He’s an in control kind of guy, happy with his career, happy with his family and the special certification he earned to fly into Bogota. He thinks he’s got marriage all figured out with these 36 hour trips around the globe but that’s going to blow up in his face real soon. It’s too bad, he’s an alright guy, but it’s too much on his wife. Being married to a pilot was sexy when it first started but now it’s really wearing on her. It doesn’t help that he’s a handsome man and she’s a little concerned about her looks fading. Poor thing.” Silence.

I poured myself another glass. My father didn’t look like he’s drinking it and my stepmother won’t touch the stuff. Couldn’t let it go warm.

The girl in the blue hat was back. She floated up the two steps onto the patio and breezed past our table. I’m greedy for that hint of smile again but this time there’s no eye contact as she says hello to our waitress in Spanish, kissing one another on the cheek, and walks into the bar.

“Cheers,” I said, half to myself, and attacked my glass again. I went to refill it with the pitcher. “Dad, need a top off?” Again, no answer.

My father has been frozen still for a half hour. So has my step mother and the table of young Americans next to us. One man across the patio alone with his book appears to be at my own speed, smoking leisurely away and absorbed in his reading. A trio of businessmen at another table are moving in double time.

I excused myself just in case everything readjusted again while I was in the bathroom, rubber band time taught once more before another deliberate pluck sent it awry. The girl in the blue hat was leaned over the bar talking to the bartender. She remained there while I walked back out again.

The pilot was in the spot of the group of four Americans but he was just as stuck as they were, Seahawks hat and pink shirt unmoving. Just as I sat, the girl exited the patio and stood by the stairs. She unfolded a newspaper and began looking across the pages.

“We need to go home. Home to Massachusetts. The air is thinner here but so is everything. I need a thicker reality.”

“Huh?” came the reply. Everything was moving normally again.

“Nevermind. Want to order another pitcher?”

“J.”

“Yeah?”

“J,” he gestured behind me.

The girl in the blue hat was standing at the next table and looking over. She looked at me and asked me something. It was in Spanish. Of course I wouldn’t be able to speak to this beautiful woman.

“No hablo espanol,” I said. That line I had practiced.

“That’s okay. I speak English,” she smiled.

I stood up, “I’m J,” and I held out my hand.

“Lara,” she said, resting her own lightly in mine. “I was trying to get your attention. You seem like an interesting person. Would you like to talk?”

“Of course. Let’s speak outside.”

10
Free screaming - when you discover free bleeding and no longer find it necessary to hold back.

11
I think spanking is neither horrible or neccesary.
Having taken the middle ground i now expect to be attacked by both sides.

Everyone hates a fence sitter.

As an activity though it probably leaves more of a mark than spanking.

12
The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Re: A new currency.
« on: April 21, 2014, 06:41:51 pm »
In the conference room down the hall there's a daily meeting of people none of us recognize. They're dressed in suits cut to precision and shuffle their way around the long table drawn and hungry. The meetings go for an hour before they leave again, ambling lazily around the rest of us, buttons of their shirts undone to allow them to drape around swollen bellies. Their eyes are glazed over and sometimes a sheen of drool or grease glistens but nobody ever brings any food into it and when they leave the room it's spotless.

13
The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Re: A new currency.
« on: April 21, 2014, 06:35:09 pm »
Sometimes new faces appear along the vast rows of us and we moths flutter to their light and the next day the light is gone and we settle to our cold dark spots on the line, things that could fly and know beauty but with natures too panicked and habitual to do more than sit and wait for the next brief perfect flame, the addiction so complete that rarely a thought is paid to how those spaces are emptied in order to be filled.

14
You are, of course, right about that crowd being fodder for the persecution fetishists, Roger, but luckily they've ghettoized themselves to such an obscure corner of the Internet they might as well be having their clandestine meetings deep in the jungle. I resent the special snowflake attitude for it being a variation on rugged individualism - separating onesself from the point of reference for its own sake and thus weakening the strength of any significant effort at real change.

And then I look at them and I love them, in an odd way. Here we had a generation told you can be whatever you want to be and they grew up jaded and cynical for the lie, so we told the next ones you can be whoever you want to be and they said, "Okay, I'm butanoisexual. I am only turned on by the rancid butter smell of male ginkgo biloba berries," and the response is a resounding, "BUUUUUHHHHH..."

These people couldn't be invented by even the most warped of minds. They had to grow together naturally, and in an awful and hilarious way.

15
The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Re: A new currency.
« on: April 21, 2014, 06:15:39 pm »
The radio station piped in just above audibility through the intercom repeats the same songs at the same times every day. It takes a week for us to notice the exactitude and another before we start memorizing them. But even when we can just barely make out the words above the office hum we can't quite get the songs down right. They are familiar, they are the same songs, but if we try to mutter along with the words or tap out the rhythm it changes, just a little. And I'm not sure, I'm not sure but I think the same word in every one of them, spaced throughout the day at even intervals. Bliss...bliss...bliss...bliss

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