DEVTOME.COM HOSTING COSTS HAVE BEGUN TO EXCEED 115$ MONTHLY. THE ADMINISTRATION IS NO LONGER ABLE TO HANDLE THE COST WITHOUT ASSISTANCE DUE TO THE RISING COST. THIS HAS BEEN OCCURRING FOR ALMOST A YEAR, BUT WE HAVE BEEN HANDLING IT FROM OUR OWN POCKETS. HOWEVER, WITH LITERALLY NO DONATIONS FOR THE PAST 2+ YEARS IT HAS DEPLETED THE BUDGET IN SHORT ORDER WITH THE INCREASE IN ACTIVITY ON THE SITE IN THE PAST 6 MONTHS. OUR CPU USAGE HAS BECOME TOO HIGH TO REMAIN ON A REASONABLE COSTING PLAN THAT WE COULD MAINTAIN. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUPPORT THE DEVTOME PROJECT AND KEEP THE SITE UP/ALIVE PLEASE DONATE (EVEN IF ITS A SATOSHI) TO OUR DEVCOIN 1M4PCuMXvpWX6LHPkBEf3LJ2z1boZv4EQa OR OUR BTC WALLET 16eqEcqfw4zHUh2znvMcmRzGVwCn7CJLxR TO ALLOW US TO AFFORD THE HOSTING.

THE DEVCOIN AND DEVTOME PROJECTS ARE BOTH VERY IMPORTANT TO THE COMMUNITY. PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO ITS FURTHER SUCCESS FOR ANOTHER 5 OR MORE YEARS!

Table of Contents

Chapter Twenty

Electro-House music erupts from the speakers. People pour out into the aisles, some dancing, some rushing to the stage.

Sage moves toward a dozen kids who have pitched themselves in a horseshoe of adulation around the golden stake of Kodiac’s charisma, still planted behind the podium. Someone hands him a huge red handkerchief and in a stout flourish he mops his neck and face with it, wielding the cloth like a matador’s cape.

I plunge and push through what seems to be an acre of chairs in front of me, then I’m there, a few feet away from her, close enough to touch, staring at her back. The jacket’s etched with the softened and smeared creases you’d find on a dollar bill that’s been cycled through a washing machine. I stop when I enter her atmosphere, where the satellite of peach-scent left by conditioner orbits her hair. “Sage.”

She turns and without bothering to look at me drapes her arms around my shoulders. “I know,” she says, “ it’s amazing how this whole thing makes you aware of how important it is to connect with everyone, friends, strangers … ”

I try to fathom these words. I realize we’re embracing and it’s like a shoe that almost, but not quite, fits. Stepping back, holding her at arms’ length, I look into her eyes and see something is wrong. “Sage?”

She smiles, tilting her head to the left quizzically. “Yes?”

“Who are you?”

The smile leaves her face like a ledge I’m standing on that slowly crumbles. “Do I know you?”

I grab her by the shoulders and pull her to the side. “You’re not Sage. I don’t know who you are, but you’re going to tell me. I’ll start first. You have no idea who I am, do you?”

Her eyebrows, boomerang-shaped and in that way similar to Sage’s, seem hurled by puzzlement, hovering above her eyes, duplicating that frozen interval before a boomerang turns, when it flutters to suggest both flight and falling, and her eyes have falling and flight in them too, and so does her voice. “I don’t know, you’re … new, I haven’t seen you before, you’re in the Federrakt, right? I’m not a part of it, I’m just here with a friend.”

In the fear that erodes her face I see that Sage’s features are a cunning carbon copy, a cosmetically crafted replication.

“I’m sorry, should I know who you are?” A thumbnail taps triplets of apology on the drum of a front tooth. “Do I like owe you money or something?”

I don’t mean to but my fingers on her shoulders tighten. “Yeah, you owe me something. An explanation. I’m Sage’s husband and you’re not her. You’re not my wife. Who are you, why do you look like Sage?”

I had seen what I wanted to see, what I needed to see. My mind had played the part of an incompetent switchboard operator, plugging the threadbare cord of my longing into the socket behind my eyes. Now I see what I don’t want to see, notice what I’ve missed. The color that was too pale to have ever been Sage’s drains from this one’s face. For the imposter, two inches of Sage’s five foot five frame is height borrowed from platform heels. If I’d been paying attention, I would have noticed when we embraced that the crown of her head did not slot itself perfectly under my chin when I bent forward. This girl wears a leather jacket, but not the one I bought for Sage.

She looks behind me, eyes darting, shuffles back behind a writhing knot of kids, pulling me with her. “Listen, I’m sorry, I can’t talk here. My boyfriend Kyle’s real jealous, a real control freak …”

“My wife’s been kidnapped. The woman you look like, Sage, has been kidnapped. If the cops find out you’re involved in this – ”

“Kidnapped?” Her hands flutter up, pull back reins on a horse that’s galloping out of control, whoa. “All I know is I’m supposed to be someone named Sage, but I don’t know her, I’ve never seen her in person or anything.” Her eyes widen as though, over my shoulder, fear elevated on stilts is approaching. “Oh god. Fuck. Look, don’t ruin this for me, okay? I’m getting paid a lot of money for this.” She digs into the jacket’s pocket and shoves a card into my hand. “Take it. Call me, I promise I’ll tell you what I know.”

A voice behind me growls with menace. “Everything cool over here?”

I turn. It’s the guy with the stun gun. He’s standing close and he’s taut, like a rubber band of tae kwon do. A scar below his left eye bears the faded imprint of voodoo doll stitches, 3:00 a.m. emergency room services administered with black-magic needle and thread.

A kindergarten representation of a bright happy smile fingerpaints itself across the girl’s Sage-like face. “Oh, hey Kyle, we were just talking about Kodiac, about how he was really deep tonight, you know? Deep.” Her eyes go down on their knees, pleading with me to play along.

But I won’t play along. This may be my only chance. In my desperation, a catalog of TV martial arts moves I could possibly execute blurs through my head like a matchbook-sized flick-book: swift front-snap kicks to the groin, back of skull caboosed into the opponent’s derailing face, a judo chop to the Adam’s apple, my knee in his chest, the stun gun victoriously mine.

The last time I fought was in third grade, with a kid named Billy Drew over a Batman 3-ring binder. I had fought with tigerish ferocity and lost.

“Listen,” I begin, and that’s as far as I get, my words trampled by an elephant herd of screams.

The screams come from the hall outside the room. A carotid spurt of ravers sprays through the curtains hung over the entryway. Churning over each other, they stumble, sprawling into the folding chairs, arms outflung evangelistically so that they seem to be saying, Be thee healed, though I myself may descend upon collapsing folding chairs most ignominiously. Balloons on the floor whirlpool sluggishly awake, dodging the stampede of feet.

Kyle grabs the Sage look-alike by the wrist and elbows his way through the scattering crowd toward the stage. When he encounters a bottleneck of bodies, he gesticulates, jabs with the stun gun to clear the way, the ravers stiffening before they sizzle to the floor with the limpness of bacon.

A kid carrying an open umbrella plastered with bumper stickers that read All The Way With LBJ crashes into me like 20 drumsticks on a Zeldijan cymbal and I grab him by the arm.

I shout into the gargoyle of alarm perched on his face. “What’s happening?”

“Fuck, dude, it’s a raid …” He twists his arm, jerking away.

On the stage the bouncer-medic and Kyle grab Kodiac’s arms, draping them over their shoulders, Mod Squad style. With the podium knocked aside, I see Kodiac being hoisted so that his legs dangle off the floor, pedaling weakly in the air as he’s hustle off through an open door behind the stage.

A handful of police cocooned in the sleek Teflon of riot paraphernalia come through the curtain as though rappelling down from a SWAT chopper. They confer among themselves casually, like democratically inclined teenaged boys discussing who’s up first in a gangbang. Flipping up the plastic faceguard on his helmet, one of the cops raises a small device that’s a modern day version of a bullhorn to his mouth.

“CEASE AND DESIST RUNNING. CEASE AND DESIST RUNNING BY ORDER OF THE MILWAUKEE METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT. DO NOT …”

A folding chair sails through the air and the cops scatter, immediately regroup, pigeons when a car drives through them.

The floodlights blink out and the room shudders into darkness.

Hunched inchoate forms dart past me, half-seen shapes, prehistoric cave art lifted from dank walls and set in motion. Profiles, silhouettes, windmilling arms streak by, released from a slingshot of shadows. There are the earnest stabbing grunts and burlap panting that accompany darker varieties of running. The woman’s voice on the track howls in listless counterpoint to the pandemonium.

The cops split into flanks, right and left, leaving the entrance unobstructed. Because they’re intent on driving people to the back, eyes tuned like televisions to the running channel, the cops don’t register me as I walk down the middle of the room and exit, unchallenged, through the entrance.

I keep walking.

I walk down hallways with kids and cops running toward me, kids and cops flowing around me and past as though I’m invisible.

I walk down narrow staircases, stepping aside politely as terrorized ravers run up, taking the stairs four at a time, cops right behind, swinging their batons.

I walk down passageways, through rooms where kids are pasted to the walls, geckos of fear with limbs outstretched, while cops frisk for IDs, contraband.

I walk beneath swaying ceiling fixtures and raining plaster where bodies thump, thud and careen on the floors above.

I walk past one cop standing outside a bathroom door, barking into a walkie-talkie, and as I pass him I wave to see if I can break through the bubble of invisibility that apparently surrounds me. He ignores.

I walk up the staircase with scaffolding and across the metal platform to stand in the cage’s doorway when I see the Prodigy inside sitting on the floor in the corner with Nova, the dummy Larry in Nova’s lap. Without a word, Nova and the Prodigy stand, the dummy reduced to rag doll status as it dangles by the ankle from her hand, and they follow me. The only thing I say to them is, “Just walk.”

The music is even louder now than before, wraps its hands around the neck of everything not-music, trying to choke down the sound of cops bellowing through loudspeakers, ravers yelling and shrieking, staircases and walls and floors turned into architectural Claymores, booming as bodies percuss.

We walk in single file and I lead the way, the Pied Piper in Kodiac’s fallen kingdom.

We walk past the kid on the tricycle pedaling down the length of the bar top, an overweight cop waddling behind him. Reaching the end of the bar, the kid dives off the tricycle and it cartwheels with compact violence backward, spooling in the cop’s uncoiling waddle. The kid hits the floor, executes his patented aikedo roll off the shoulders and springs to his feet running, while the cop struggles to free himself like he’s in a bad tricycle marriage, plunges forward and slides off the edge, is granted a painful divorce by irreconcilable momentum and floor.

In the parking lot, unoccupied squad cars with radios wailing static and doors flung open wait like mourners disarrayed by grief in a cemetery, asphalt blackened by tires that have dug gravesites of skid.

As we’re pulling away in the Prodigy’s car, Larry’s car, Sophiala’s car, I watch kids spilling out the front door, diving bonelessly under squad cars to roll under and out on the other side, or vaulting off the ground to slide across hoods. They burst in all directions across the lot in buckshot of escape, the cops in futile paraphernalia-jangling pursuit.

I can see the headlines now in The Milwaukee Journal: COPS RAID RAVE, HUNDREDS PURSUED, NONE CAUGHT. NEW FITNESS REGIME IMPLEMENTED, WINCHELL’S DECLARED OFF-LIMITS.

Nova is driving. It seems highly likely that this may be her first time behind the wheel. I sit rigid as a crash-test dummy with a resigned brick-wall smile on my face as she clips a dumpster and swerves into the street, the bumper ripping off with a tremendous rusty shredding sound. She’s amused by the sight of the bumper plunging ruefully past the windshield like a paratrooper with a chute that won’t be opening anytime soon. “Geronimo,” she exclaims.

I’m sitting in the back. Larry is on the seat next to me. He’s smiling, loving the chaos.

The Prodigy is looking out the passenger window as though entranced. Winding the window down, he leans half his body out, looking at everything, arms spread wide with welcome.

“Sigh, be careful,” Nova warns maternally. “You can like see stuff just as good if you sit back.” Craning her head to find me, she giggles. “First time on E’s always the best.”

“It’s just, the purity of it all is so sheer.”

The voice startles me. It’s low and smooth and full of harmonics, a string being plucked on an instrument woven by a silkworm. In my confusion I look at Larry next to me on the seat.

Nova’s watching me in the rearview mirror. “Oh, Sigh doesn’t need Larry anymore. At least not right now. Maybe never. Right, Sigh?”

Sigh turns and looks at me, smiling so that the gold tooth reflects a doubloon stolen from a streetlight. “I feel like talking. Like there’s enough words for me to say everything I need to say,” he marvels.

The Prodigy, almost nonchalantly, has cast off the blanket of silence that warmed him in his subzero world. It drifts back on the wind streaming through the window and I’m tangled in it a moment before it drifts away: speech eludes me and I feel the Prodigy’s cold years prowling the blanket’s edge. Speech eludes me and all I can do is look at my hand, clenched around the card the Sage look-alike gave me, as though I’m clenching the Prodigy’s decade of silence.

Next Chapter


QR Code
QR Code chapter_twenty (generated for current page)
 

Advertise with Anonymous Ads