The sequel ... Reptilian Eyes
Stone bright sun squeezed pebbles of heat from the steel and glass constructed streetlights. The concrete road seemed to simmer and appear bleaching white hot. Trees sighed, exhausted, their leaves hanging, limping with a lifetime of afternoon regrets. The cicadas’ chattered a choir seething.
It was 3-PM, and occasionally the early drinkers stationed at the tavern’s barstools stared out from their seats towards the widow to the right of the long mahogany colored bar. Each drunk or soon to be drunk would occasionally look outside. Although bathed in the comfort of Jay’s air conditioned tavern, they knew that they would have to, sooner or later, confront the sweat-filled discomfort of walking and waiting for public transportation that would lead them back to the snuggled security of their homes. Finally, finishing the day, with the programmed delusions played out on televisions.
Then he came in, long, cool , and clean, looking un-phased by the heat. Astonishing, considering the new arrival wore a wool suit – buttoned, collared, tie and all … Jay took note, coming out of the back room, stating underneath his breath, “Awe fuck. How did he find me?” He decided to tuck back into the enclave of his office.
The man sat on one of the bar stools, and ordered a gin and tonic. He sat emotionless before the rectangle mirror posted behind the bar. Debbie poured the man’s drink with no words spoken, or confirmation that she even recognized him as another customer. She had never met him before, and yet, knew exactly what drink she should serve him, and it did not occur to her how unusual this was.
A man wearing an orange trucking cap looked at the man sideway. “New in town?” The question floated on the air. There was a pause. The man in the wool suit turned, barely recognizing the would-be-trucker. “There’s nothing new,” came the short response.
“The heat don’t bother you?” The man in the orange cap offered.
“Doesn't.” The man drinking the gin and tonic winced. “No. It doesn't bother me. Space is a vacuum. There is no heat or cold, until acted upon matter. (pause) Nothing matters. Be nothing.”
The man in the orange trucking cap smirked. “Be nothing? What you've been smoking? Ask a simple question …”
The man in the wool suit didn't respond. He drank his gin and tonic and seemed to smile coolly at his reflection in the rectangle mirror.
“Tell you what,” the man in the orange appeared not able to let it go. “I wish I could be nothing in front of my boss. ‘Sorry boss, can’t do the work for you today. I’m practicin’ being nothing.’” The man snorted. No one else laughed. The heat continued to drip patiently outside. There was a tacit sigh in the air. The man in the wool suit smiled wryly.
“Oh man,” the orange cap trucker continued. He shouted past the wool suited man, at a man sitting at the bar with ponytailed gray hair. “Can you believe this guy? A real mystery this one.” The ponytailed man simply shrugged and stared at his reflection in the rectangle mirror.
The man in the wool suit finished his drink. He looked at Debbie. “Is my friend Jay in the house.” Debbie calmly pointed to the back door. “Good. Been a long time to catch up. Wonder how Jimmy’s doing?”
“Jimmy don’t come around here much,” Debbie offered.
“Hhmm, no one speaks proper English anymore. The Decline of Western Civilization, I suppose.” The man pondered. “Too bad Jimmy’s not here. I would like to share a drink with my pet project.” The man winked at Debbie.
Debbie grunted. “He’s turned on by AA. I miss the drinking Jimmy, as insane as that sounds.”
“Everyone voices their true feelings to me. It’s a gift that I have.”
“Hey,” the orange capped man shouted, obviously appearing quite drunk now. “Don’t you blink?”
The man in the wool suit laughed. “I don’t have a need for any such compulsions.” He then proceeded to the backroom. Before he entered Jay’s office space, he turned and gazed at the man wearing the orange cap. He smiled once again. “Does the heat bother you?”
“You bother me.”
“Why?” The man in the wool suit didn't wait for an answer, but turned to open the office door where Jay sat contemplating behind a small desk.
Jay peered at the man suddenly appearing in the doorway. Jay was blunt: “Jimmy doesn't need you any longer. Let him heal.”
“We've much to discuss, Jay.”
“Leave my son alone. He no longer belongs to you.”
“You both made a pact. Not one so easily forgiven or forgotten.”
“I made a pact.” Jay affirmed. “Not Jimmy.”
“You did fight in our wars … police actions … whatever. It’s the least you can do.”
Jay puffed on a cigar. “Jimmy doesn't have to work again. Right now he’s down at the Social Security Department. I think he’s about to become a persona non grata. He’s not going to like that … with his ego and all … he thinks he’s the Second Coming … thanks to you.”
“When it’s time we’ll manufacture the Second Coming. Jimmy is very important to us.” The man in the wool suit then took Jay’s cigar from his hand and puffed on it, “And just who us this Jewish bitch that he is currently infatuated with?”
Jay snatched the cigar from the man in the wool suit. “He met her at Narcotics Anonymous. They’re doing their best to kick drugs. What’s wrong with that?”
“My greatest pleasure was making Jimmy a drug fiend.” The man in the wool suit laughed. “Why doesn't Jimmy just assume the mantra of a narcotic?
“He’s done with you,” Jay softly reminded.
“No. He’s not.” The man paused, turned away, and then slashed forward at Jay. “You’re never done with us. We read you intuitively. We realize you even as you forget yourselves when you fall asleep.”
“You’re mad,” Jay stated with a glare in his eyes. “And you made my son insane.”
“You still owe us. How did you think you came out of all those battles for God, country, and honor … unscathed?”
“I no longer care.” Jay puffed the cigar slow, and stared upon nothing in particular.
“Don’t attempt to be so confident,” the man said. “You just might find yourself face to face with a nine foot tall Draco. Your head will be squeezed off by its jaws.”
“It,” Jay puffed long and cool.
“Call it what you will,” the man in the wool suit said. “Your fate is the same.”
“And these Draco’s have wings?” Jay pronounced unimpressed.
“Both angels and demons have wings. What is your point?”
“Nothing,” Jay smirked. “It just seems that they both have an easy way out.”
“Humans dissolve. We, however, move on.”
Jay turned with a disgusted look. “And yet,” he said. “We keep our feet on the ground and deal with reality. That’s the phase Jimmy’s life has now taken. Time runs out for everything and everyone, including you.”
“We live much longer than you.”
“Are you even real?”
The man in the wool suit was direct. “I want to see Jimmy.”
Jay paused and looked down at the floor. He stretched his neck, before turning his glare at the man. “My God,” he almost whispered. “You placed wires on his head and submitted my son to electric shock treatments. When you told me that my son was unique, I never dreamt that you would use him as a guinea pig.”
“Dreamt,” the man smiled. “What does that mean? No connection to reality?”
“Leave Jimmy alone,” Jay puffed a series of cigar smoke.
“Jay,” the man stated with indifference. “It’s the closed systems we’re talking about. Jimmy is nothing more than a conduit … an extremely important one … but, only a conduit.”
“He’s my son,’ Jay stated, letting the cigar smoke linger and relax in the air.
‘We need to finish the project.”
“Thalonius,” Jay shouted. “Leave him alone.”
“Leave it alone? No. Let it play out.”
“For what? It seems like a lifetime ago when I turned my son over to you. My son. Don’t you think I’m capable of feeling some remorse for what I allowed you to do to my son, even if unwittingly?”
“Jay, don’t feign ignorance. You must know that we kept an eye on Jimmy during his stay at the psychiatric ward. Jimmy will surely prefer the challenging stimulation we will apply to him, as opposed to the puerile rehabilitation they attempted at the ward. ”
Jay stared at the vacuous walls, “It’s always beyond us.”
“Always,” the man in the wool suit repeated.
“Tomorrow had to come,” Jay said softly.
“Today is that tomorrow.”
Jay contemplated between puffs.
“It never ends,” Thalonius continued. “We’ve given your son a life time of access to books in the libraries of major universities, and drugs and drink at his beckoning. Don’t pretend it was all torturous for him.”
“Yeah. You made sure Jimmy read all the right books … your books”
“The secret knowledge and the road to the esoteric. It’s an exclusive club, and we don’t let just anyone share the knowledge within.”
“Even if it steals his soul.”
The man in the wool suit said nothing and turned to go.
“Where are you going?” Jay inquired, not looking upon the man.
“Just wonder what your customers will say when my eyes nictitate, or should I show them my third eye, translucent and all?” Thalonius laughed.
“Thalonious,” Jay stated quietly. “He’s my son. We both know he’s special, but not in the same way. Leave him be. I will protect him this time.”
“You’re alive, Jay. If your son had achieved the goal we intended, you should not still sit there breathing and smoking contently.”
“Goddamn, you found me after all these years.”
“We always knew where you were. Don’t give yourself over to self-importance.” The man paused at the doorway and looked out at the customers. “They will never realize or acknowledge that we live amongst all of you. We’re the unseen hand. We stare down at this creation, even from the moon. We’re an all seeing eye.”
“You know,” Jay began, seething through squinted steel cold blue eyes. “Jimmy might outsmart you. Your experimentation may smack back at you. He’s quite the cool one, now.”
Thalonius’ hands dropped to his side, and he shook his head. “We’ve been around for a billion years … a long, long time. There’s an experimentation we must finish here. Surely, as a marine and a man transformed for the battlefield, you can comprehend this.”
Jay was direct, and dropped the cigar to his side. “Jimmy has explored many demons, and yet, there are you, the man behind the curtain, and no one knows your true character, but where is the real power when a little dog pulls back that curtain and everyone, including Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin man, and the cowardly Lion, just sees a simple old man trying to pretend to be a Wizard … a Magi. Jimmy just might be that little trained dog – which you once thought was under your absolute obedience.
<sigh> A short breath from Thalonious dissipated upon the air almost as soon as it was delivered. “Seriously? Jimmy could be all of these, or any of those, but the overall storyline would be the same. However, if you insist upon me being the Wizard, I would take heed of the formers advice, and learn to make the distinction between having courage as opposed to having wisdom.”
“You play every angle don’t you?”
“Because I’ve played every angle.”
A pause ensued, but it was a pause that seemed to have an avalanche of galloping horse hooves behind it. Jay glanced around the room, appearing to avoid any definite object. “And what of Jimmy,” he spoke slowly.
“I will reveal to him more secrets, more unknown knowledge, because he’s paid the price and he deserves that.”
Jay winced, as if from a sudden pain. “More drugs? More shock treatments? How much more can he stand? Fuck, I’ve witnessed my son massaging his chest, as if his heart was about to explode inside ... I was waiting for the shotgun recoil. All that was brought about when he first attempted cold turkey.”
“Nonsense. Jimmy loves the drama, but the chance of a full heart attack has passed that boy. Now, he merely suffers from irregular heartbeats … he’s simply out of time.” Thalonious then looked out across the hall at the bar, where he had sliced up the orange capped lid wearing wannabe truck man into metaphorical candy slices. Then Thalonious dropped his air of superiority, and began earnestly: “He knows. Yeah, Jimmy knows, thanks to me. He can anticipate the drugs, the shock treatments, but he knows that ultimately I will reveal everything. How we came to live amongst you, and what fate is in store for the final outcome.” Thalonious then directed cold uncaring eyes at Jay. “But for you, I will reveal nothing. Not a thing.”
Jay seemed silently flabbergasted. “Why do you reject me? I served in your wars.”
“I’m cold as a reptile stares. I hate no one, but you have now served your purpose. I’m like the snake that glitters before you, merely licking its tongue.”
Jay stared perplexed. “Why?”
Thalonious cocked his head and looked about. “Because Jimmy is special,” he snarled. “He came close to defying me with this last drama, but now he is shitting his pants in realizing the reality. Confounded by fear, I have him right where I want him.”
The last statement from Thalonious sent Jay into fits of laughter. “No you don’t, but you do hope. Let me tell you what a father knows of his son, and that is my son despises anything that is not compulsive or spontaneous. He can never trust anyone’s intimacy, because he is always reading between the lines. He lives and strives for adversity. It is that which makes him most at ease and comfortable – even though he appears apprehensive, he too is always plotting.”
Thalonious leaned into the doorway of Jay’s office. “Fuck it. What do I care? I will reveal something to Jimmy, but first I will make him sweat and shit his pants.” There was a swallowing silence. Thalonious seemed to sniff the air with contemplation, and then spoke uncaringly. “He does not know how to love, so he lets others lead the way. He does not know himself, so he invents angels and demons that could be one and the same. He cannot confront, so he never invites courage, and yet, he presents me with a conundrum.”
Jay spoke softly, “What is it about him that confuses you?”
“Yes,” Thalonious almost whispered, appearing bewildered. “What is it? It is as if he must confront an unholy alliance beyond us, enduring both its euphoria and turmoil. Just what game is he playing, or is he only fodder for the gods … or is some other entity watching over him?”
Jay stated with one eyebrow raised. “Ah, so there are those that pursue you, as well.”
“Yes. They live outside this plain of existence. They know of us, and vice versa. It’s just sometimes their plans seem more hidden than ours. I will reveal more to Jimmy, but I will only state to you that these entities view us as their creation, just as we view your kind as our creation. However, lately these other entities have taken the view that your species are also their creation. There’s a battle raging beyond your simple reality that would blow your mind. You’re not prepared for the details.”
Jay nodded and contemplated. “You’re preparing Jimmy for the details?’
Only the sound of conversations from the tavern was heard. Thalonius quickly cocked his head to the left and then the right. His tongue swished against his upper lip. He appeared off guard. “He will know fear. We will teach Jimmy through fear. He will be so filled with fear he will not eat, or sleep, and barely shit and piss within a week. He will be consumed with his own demise. Confronted with a relentless set of scenarios, he will never guess the final outcome, and that will trigger an onslaught of OCD paranoia within him. We must wait and see how he will react at what he perceives the crisis point … when the final denouement arrives.”
“You can’t get him to the crisis point, if he succeeds in facing his fears.”
“Nah,” Thalonius once again assumed an air of importance. “Jimmy lusts for knowledge … forbidden knowledge. He would avoid the climax of sex if we chose to give him a new revelation into the unrevealed. Once he knows or suspects the depth of information hidden from him, do not be surprised if he walks into the institution and places the electrodes onto himself, and pleads for our shock treatments. Like I said, he’s an addict. We made him that way.”
“Thalonius, is it merely Jimmy’s overactive imagination that has you pursuing him with such vigor?”
“No. Not at all.” Thalonius’ response was swift, and echoed a feeling of repugnance. “Jimmy’s addiction was always books, but when he learned there were books available to him that only a few and even just the elite had read, he was enticed, hooked, looking for a vein to bang and shoot the next high.”
Jay exclaimed, “It was you that placed all those hallucinations in his head.”
“No. I only provided the trigger for what was already there. I made him see his potential to question. I had to become his adversary to entice him to realize his potential for understanding. It is always the opposite of what we think. I seem to represent the darkness, only for him to see the light. He embraced the evil, only to realize his capacity not to distinguish between good and evil.”
“Real people died for this cause, Jay stated bluntly.”
“People die all the time. Jimmy thought his time had come, and once thought he would welcome the end. Now, he is not so sure he wants to die this very moment, and … he goes to AA and NA meetings in the hope of rekindling the illusion called the spark of life.”
Jay pondered with confidence. “You really don’t know, do you?”
“What he’s going to do? How he’s going to react? That’s why you came to see me first. I’m nothing to you, but you still need me to gauge the reaction of my son. It’s the first time I’ve witnessed in you a sense of being unsure.”
“Look,” Thalonius redirected. “Just keep peace of mind that he’ll now want to kill me instead of you.”
‘I think he’ll want to kill both of us, if he knew the real truth.”
Thalonius said nothing. In the ensuing moments, the hot breeze seemed to kick open the door of the tavern, and Thalonius appeared to transport out of the room and travel up the mahogany bar without moving his legs. He suddenly stopped at the foot of the orange cap lid wannabe trucker, and deliberately blinked, and with each swash of eyelid there was heard a loud clicking sound. “Be as it is,” he said. “Be as it may. Be it something you’ve not prepared for. Be it never the same.”
With that a dry sullen heat wave of dust blew out the door of the tavern, and the man in the wool suit seemed to dissipate within it.
“Holy shit,” was all that was heard from the choir of people sitting at their barstools, and again, the chorus, “Holy shit.” The heat of the day hardly took notice. It dripped indefatigably.