Story and Illustration by: Chris Thompson
The saga continues to unfold…..
Chapter 3 – Lake Michigan
Captain Grant had been back in San Francisco only a few months when he began noticing he was losing track of time. With increasing frequently he encountered huge gaps in his memory and he often did not know what day it was. He had taken to standing in his kitchen, staring at a calendar he had hung on a wall next to the stove. It was a richly illustrated piece of propaganda from the Emigration Department entitled: A New Life Awaits. Each month captured the maniacal delight of life on the Off-world colonies in vivid energetic hues. Captain Grant would stare at that calendar for hours, scrutinizing the purposeful march of dates across the page with a distrustful eye, until the numbers blurred together and he had to look away in frustration.
It wasn’t only the lapses in his memory that unsettled him. Something had fundamentally changed in Captain Grant at an elemental level. Everything was the same but it felt different. The cool air of the city blowing up from the Bay tasted odd. Like water that had sat too long in a galvanized pail and acquired a metallic taste. That essence lodged itself in the back of Captain Grants throat and was a constant reminder of his uneasiness with the world.
Maybe it was because he had been in that damn Bacta-tank all those months Captain Grant thought one night while out for a stroll. He had heard rumors among the men in his unit about those curative tanks. How they restored you, rebuilt your broken pieces and put you back together again like a human version of Humpty-Dumpty. But also how the person you were when you came out was altered. Like taking the clay from an old pot and re-throwing it into a new one. Same clay but a different pot. That’s how Captain Grant felt in those first few months back in San Francisco. When he could endure it no longer he decided to pack up some supplies, lock his apartment and strike out East on his electric Harley-Davidson Rune.
Captain Grant’s travels across the Midwest were leisurely. He took his time and poked about the endless abandoned communities that doted the vast infertile lands of Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa. Here and there he stopped along the way, allowing the solar skin of his bike fully recharge its batteries and occasionally photographing the discarded ephemera of the people who had once lived there while he waited. As he passed through Wisconsin he looked in on some relatives of his mothers who had decided not to emigrate Off-world once the mid-West went to shit.
Captain Grant found the company of his relations quite agreeable and admired their stubbornness as they eked out an existence on the harsh, spoiled land. Of particular pleasure was the friendship he found in his cousin Nathaniel Doubleday. Sharing Captain Grant’s interest in tinkering, Nathaniel or DD as his friends called him was an accomplished electronics repairman specializing in autonomous farming equipment and a veteran of Operation Strangle Hold, a successful but costly American endeavor to control both the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormutz. The two spent many an evening deep in conversation, waxing nostalgia for their warrior days over stiff drinks and smoke.
“Have you visited any of the brothels since you’ve been back stateside Spontaneous?” asked Doubleday one evening as the barmaid sloshed down two more carafes of the hazy, local liquor.
“Can’t say that I have DD.” Captain Grant slurred as he brought his carafe to his dry, cracked lips. The air here was thin and dried one out quickly but it tasted better. Like the ozone that always hung heavy in the air around electric bumper cars from those old-time amusement parks.
“You don’t know what you’re missing cousin.” DD said, eyes wide with enthusiasm. “We got us one a few years back. Opened up right here on the shores of Lake Michigan. The VA got it made up to look like an old timey Victorian house with a long, wide front porch and a warm inviting parlor. Of course the lake water’s all gone bad now so you can’t do no fishin’ but there’s one helluva view when the sun goes down and the ladies ain’t so bad either.” DD laughed, slapping the enormous meaty palm of his hand across Captain Grants back.
The handful of Veilflex’s Captain Grant had taken earlier hadn’t kicked in yet but he was still feeling deadened enough that the blow from DD didn’t register. He attributed that numbness to the swill currently in front of him, which the locals were distilling from a genetically modified potato crop that was able to tolerate the poisoned mid-Western soil. He was noticing some strange side effects to its intake that didn’t seem to affect the locals. In particular he found that the hearing in his left ear would suddenly drop out while the hearing in his right was simultaneously amplified. It oftentimes made conversation impossible and routinely left Captain Grant with a sensation similar to vertigo.
Hoping that the sweet numbness of the Veilflex’s would kick in before another bout of unsteadiness struck him, Captain Grant leaned in as Doubleday described in exquisite detail the quality of the services he often received from a Ms. Chloroquine Jones at the nearby Lake Michigan brothel.
Chloroquine, or Chloe to the VA nurses at the brothel where she worked, was nineteen when she first met Captain Grant. By that time she had been employed as a “sexual counselor” for nearly two years and had unknowingly been exposed to a new type of pseudo-Syphilis by one of the faceless soldiers who had spent some time in her cunt. This affliction was defined by alternating fits of lunacy and clarity and a profound desire to be near water. Captain Grant’s encounter with Chloe found her existing in a state of lucidness that could only be described as precognitive and she was besieged several times by strange visions of the future as they soaked together in her tub.
Chapter 4 – Voyages
This is how we come to find Captain Grant in his current state of dementia many years later, wild-eyed and hovering animatedly over the Lazy Brown Dog. Having been given this pseudo-Syphilis by the young Ms. Jones and in combination with the ravaging of his temporal lobe by his Veilflex addiction, he was no longer a rational individual with absolute control over his awareness. What Captain Grant thought was a machine to unscramble the world’s problems was actually an instrument to bring about a profound change in Henry just one floor above.
For when Captain Grant powered up his Lazy Brown Dog and dialed in the controls that his distorted mind had calculated could achieve his goal, he instead ripped open a window into a parallel world.
Unfortunately for Henry that window materialized immediately below his vintage 1956 Eames lounge chair. A chair that Henry often spoke of as his finest possession, having the warm, inviting look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt. A chair that Henry had collapsed into after his break-up with Sheila and in which he was now sitting, lost in thought, pleasantly buzzed and surrounded by music.
Henry was listening to Radiohead, a pantheon of modern rock that had been popular during his grandfather’s youth as Captain Grant powered up his invention below.
It’s always best when the light is off. It’s always better on the outside. Fifteen blows to the back of the head. Fifteen blows to your mind…
These lyrics perpetually took Henry’s thoughts to far off places. Climbing Up the Walls was a masterwork of unorthodox songwriting and Thom Yorke’s ghostly scream at the end of the song always ran chills down Henry’s spine. What was he thinking when he wrote that song? Henry mused. Was it about the struggles of mental health? Insane asylums and mental wards were wild untamed places these days having visited a friend at one and experienced it first hand. Were those 15 punches real or imaginary? Either way they were powerful and not finding a satisfactory answer he moved on to other waiting contemplations.
As the song’s tempo increased Henry merged with the softness of the familiar groove he had worn into his Eames chair, his consciousness voyaging along multiple lines, considering countless intangibles and returning to him with some new insight. He loved to listen to these old records. They were his friends, his mentors, his Dylan Thomas and Shakespeare and Galileo. Musicians were poets who put their words to melody and gave them life, launching them to the sky and letting them soar.
As the song climaxed the pace of Henry’s thoughts intensified. He was in it now, adrift on the seas of his consciousness and basking in the warm sun of his minds eye. The ghostly scream signifying the songs end was reverberating through his very being when the floor suddenly fell out from under him, engulfing him in a sphere of energy and propelling him into an abyss of hysterical nothingness.
To be continued…..