The Others

Her cat Fisheyes had nine lives across which to stretch his napping and fur-tonguing and chasing of flies. How was it then fair that she, Melinda (who burbled with a thousand ideas for loftier accomplishments) had only one solitary life to contain all activity? Indignation at the thought, coupled with anxiety over a looming birthday, formed in her a zygotic resolve. This cleaved into a plan: she would multiply the time given to her by nature. She would create Others.

In her high-ceilinged, heavily-curtained loft, Melinda spent weeks, then months, then years crafting them – her clones, doppelgängers, alter egos. The technical parts were easy enough. She was an intricate collagist. From lace and string, discarded ticket stubs and bubblewrap, saliva and cat fur, feathers and clay, Melinda pieced them together. As each one evolved, she breathed into its aortic valves her diverse dreams and wishes. When a particular Other was finished, she’d set it aside so that her desires could marinate in the body. The first Other would be a coastal fisherwoman, catching monkeyface eels and Dungeness crabs, tracking closely the yearly herring spawn. The second Other would be a neurolinguist mapping broken speech areas of the brain… the third, a corset seamstress… the fourth, a mother of many brilliant little babies… She fantasized about completing the set, about the moment she could send them all out into the world, and live ninefold.

Day after day Melinda worked in the dust-moted twilight of her increasingly unkempt apartment. She hardly ate and barely slept. She conversed with Fisheyes when he prowled near, his pupils black and fattened on the sempiternal dusk.

“Each day is the same, darling Fish. I’m weary. I wonder if I postpone too much – if the future, as I glimpse it through their button eyes, has too unreal a sheen.”

“Mmrrrrr?” he would respond, whacking the air with his tail.

“I should have been born feline,” she’d mutter miserably, stabbing her needle through another bead of hair. Completion of the project consumed her. Roaches started to trickle slowly in through the wall cracks, but she didn’t notice.

Melinda finally arrived at the ninth Other. She was afloat on detritus. Fisheyes had fallen prey to the roaches earlier that year. The loft buzzed with myriad small movements. In her furious race to finish, she had lost all ability to perceive or exist in the present.

A heavy knock at the entrance brought her suddenly back to her immediate surroundings. There had been no visitors for a long while. She walked dazedly over the sea of filth and unlatched the door. Before her stood a large man, astronautish in his head-to-toe white jumpsuit.

“May… I help you…?” Melinda asked with confusion.

“The whole building is infested,” he said through his mask. “We’ve identified your unit as the source. I can’t believe you’re still here. You must evacuate. Now.”

From her entryway vantage, Melinda looked at the room, seeing for the first time what a kingdom the prehistoric insects had made of her place.

“…incredibly hazardous,” she heard the man saying. He had already stridden past her into the flat. But she couldn’t leave without the Others.

“Wait!” she shrieked, and ran forward.

The Others were hanging gingerly from the rafters on padded hangers.

“You need to leave, lady. I’m going to spray.” He pushed her out the door, closing it forcefully against her exhortations and flailing arms, and locked it. Melinda glued her eyes to the door’s little four-paned window as the man inside switched on his machine. She saw him aim his hose at the far wall and begin to cover everything with frothy grey foam. He was systematic; he went clockwise around the loft, devoting special attention to the cracks and corners and moldings. The last wall to receive its blanket of poison was the one before which the Others dangled. Within seconds they were dissolving under the foam’s toxicity. Melinda watched, now motionless with horror. As the last of her creations, the barely-initiated ninth, fizzled into nonexistence, she fell away from the window.

The exterminator gathered his materials. Upon exiting, he had to sidestep the saltwater taffy mess of woman stuck to the floor.

“You okay? Ma’am?” He shook what was perhaps a shoulder. Murmurs issued from the sobbing ball, and he leaned closer.

“…can’t live, with only the now…”

The man didn’t understand, but she was clearly crazy. So he hauled her up and brought her out of the finally-fumigated building.

~ by kingzoko on August 2, 2013.

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