The Man Who Could Fly But Probably Shouldn’t’ve
By HLH Pattison
Available now to finer readers everywhere!
The Man Who Could Fly But Probably Shouldn’t’ve - Chapter One
Here’s the first chapter from my novel.
Throughout the course of human history, only three people have ever managed to achieve flight through sheer focused concentration. Everybody else simply pooped their own pants.
One of those three people was Ernie Hudson.
Ernie Hudson was a quiet young man who bore no resemblance nor relation to the actor from the Ghostbusters movies. His full name was Ernie Reginald Hudson. He had pale white skin and beady little green eyes. He stood five foot nine inches, weighing one hundred and fifty-five pounds, and he was thirty-five years old. His hair was frizzy and brown, with an awkward cowlick right up at the front, so when he combed his hair neatly and smiled politely, he looked like he was about twelve years-old.
When Ernie first flew, it hadn’t been on purpose. He’d actually just been trying to not fall to his death, and the flying had happened entirely by accident. Ironically however, just before taking flight, falling to his death had been exactly what Ernie had been thinking about doing.
Previous to flying, Ernie had been thinking about ending his own life. He’d picked a bridge that he thought would be high enough up over the water, walked across town to it, and by sunset he’d found himself looking over the railing of the Burrard Street Bridge, the second biggest bridge in Terminal City. However, once he’d actually taken a look down, into the deep black waters so far below the bridge, he’d lost his nerve. Ernie decided that he was, in fact, too cowardly to take what was commonly referred to as the coward’s way out.
A moment after he’d had decided that maybe he didn’t want to die, a large grocery-delivery truck swerved out of control, right behind Ernie. The driver had been daydreaming (a delicious fantasy about his neighbour’s wife, wherein he saved the day and set her up to be made more sexually fulfilled than she’d ever been), when the postal-truck ahead of him had lost one of its packages.
The postal-truck had lost one of its packages, because hadn’t it been closed properly, and the truck hadn’t been closed properly because its driver was drunk. The postal-truck-driver was drunk because he’d been fighting with his wife and the drink numbed his frustration. He’d been fighting with his wife because she’d kept talking to him while he’d been trying to watch a football game, which he would admit later (when it was time for them to make-up), was a pretty stupid reason to have a fight. “Next time, I’ll just turn the TV up,” he’d promised himself, certain that would help him to avoid further relationship mishaps.
And so, the postal-truck dropped a package, and the grocery-truck swerved to miss the postal-truck’s package, but as the driver tried to avoid the package, which contained a hastily-packed box of snow-globes from Michigan, the grocery-truck hopped the curb of the bridge’s sidewalk. Then, the grocery-delivery truck was moving up, through the air, as the driver pulled hard on the steering-wheel in an attempt to keep the whole thing from barrelling off the side of the Burrard Street Bridge.
There She Went
And then, she was up, and she was out, and she was gone, and he was just standing there, trying to think of a way to respond. Of a way to react to her ghost, as it was; the spirit of her still in the room, the memory of her last moment in his apartment burning itself into his mind like a red hot coal, sinking deeper and deeper into a bank of snow.
This idea of going against nature is just something we invented, to describe a feeling. In truth, nothing we do is against nature. We are nature; we define it. Our cruelties, our kindnesses, these are all the things that make up what our nature is. We show ourselves, our true natures, through our actions. Even if our true nature is one of repression and denial.
Store Shelves; Lost Paragraphs Going Nowhere
He worked in a grocery store; a great big place with pink florescent lighting and black-and-white checkerboard floors. It was one of those high-end grocery stores, where rich people shopped. You could tell not just by the prices, but by the types of products they sold. Extra-Fancy potato chips. Intensely-Decadent chocolate chip cookies.
With ice cream, the more expensive it was, the smaller the container was. You could get four gallons of plain chocolate for six bucks, or you could get 250-millilitres of Chocolate Marshmallow Mountain VolcanoTM for eight-ninety-nine.
For a minute and a half, Ernie stood there on the street, staring at the front page of Thurday’s Globe, displayed in the street-side newspaper-box, unable to take his eyes from the large, close-up photograph of his perfectly limp penis.
Ernie Floats Around
Ernie spent the next day just floating around, sometimes literally.
He knew he couldn’t go back to his apartment. He didn’t know what he’d say to the reporters, and he was uncomfortable with having his photo taken. Ernie also knew that he didn’t want to see anybody he knew; no family, or old friends. He didn’t feel like he could put his current experience into words, and even making eye-contact with strangers was making him feel like an alien freak.
Instead, he just wandered around. He walked around suburban areas for a few hours, just keeping his head down. He knew he should be thinking about his situation, but in fact, he was trying not to, and instead focused on lists of girls he wished he’d kissed when he was younger, and bullies he wished he’d hit back. By the time the sun was setting, he was breaking the nose of Josh Wiebe, all the way back in the third grade. Then it night became to come on, dark and cold, and when the wind came up sharp, Ernie couldn’t help but remember what it was like to be a few hundred feet up in the air; weightless and free.
And just like that, he began to float.
It wasn’t like before, when he’d soared up into the sky like a rocket. Instead, it was more like walking on air now. Like he’d become less solid, and the wind had grown more so. He was stepping up on the breeze like it was an invisible path only his shoes could find.
And then the walking became something else, a sort of effortless gliding. Ernie thought of butter on a hot pancake, the way the bottom of the butter melts, and then the whole thing slides across the pancake’s surface. He was like that, like melted butter just sliding down the side of something smooth. But he was sliding up. Up and on, into the night.
Though not too high. About two hundred feet up, it wasn’t just cold, it was fucking cold, and Ernie though he could see frost starting to form on his clothes, which may or may not have been true. Proper cruising height was between sixty and a hundred feet; high enough up to not be spotted, but low enough to be physically comfortable.
After about an hour of floating around that way, he landed in an alley, and then went and purchased a large cup of hot chocolate. Then he back to the alley, and, holding the cup carefully with both hands, he ascended into the sky once more.
Once he was in the sky though, kinetic motion was working against Ernie. His passage through the sky was so smooth and effortless, he could almost forget he was moving at all, but the beverage never forgot, and every time he tried a to bring the cup to his lips for a sip, about twice as much as made it into his mouth would wind up on the street below. One nice old lady had a new hat ruined, and a homeless man spent a week trying to convince his friends that’d been attacked by a duck with diarrhoea.
“Instinctively, almost in adherence to some subconscious human protocol, Ernie dismissed the memories as a dream.”
Anonymous Cubed: Lydia Smokes Up
Lydia lights her joint. Her lighter is an aqua-marine colour; an off-shade of blue caught somewhere between the sea and the sky. The grass she’s sitting cross-legged on is a light, bright green, like a sea of limes. Lydia draws off her joint heavily, and holds it. Holds it. Holds it.
Lydia looks up and over at me, and she smiles.
Lydia exhales a mouthful of bubbles, of bright shiny white bubbles in a heavenly emerald mist. Lydia exhales tangible bubbles that float up into the air, and on beyond. The bubbles aren’t prefect spheres; they breathe and bend, wiggle and warp, as they transcend us and our novel little day in the park. The bubbles stretch and expand, like they’re going to breathe up the whole sky, and they disappear off into the clouds. Lydia smokes, and breathes out bubbles in a fine fog.
Anonymous Cubed: Chapter 30
I spend a little more time with my preoccupation while she’s away. My feeling like something went wrong today that I just haven’t noticed yet. There’s an unhealthy rattle somewhere in my karma, I just have to turn down the radio and listen for it. The preoccupation sits with me like a nervous stranger drumming their fingers in an endless rhythm of tension. The preoccupation burns into me, like somebody’s staring down the back of my neck. I squirm a little in my seat, glance around, and realize that there is a somebody, staring down the back of my neck.
Turning in my seat, I notice that Lydia’s suitor has his eyes on me, and isn’t digging on me at all. But he’s not scared either. In fact, when I catch him looking at me, I have to notice that he’s looking at me like he’s looking for an excuse. Then, I accidentally make eye contact, and wholly shit, it’s on.
This big preppy, wannabe punk, he’s up out of his seat, and on over to me. He’s not that drunk, but he’s got some adrenaline going. He looks a little larger than me, and at least a little younger. His teeth glow slightly green in the black light, and his skin has the deep orange-olive tone of a man who likes to tan. He’s got the posture of a male model, and the eyes of a mean little dog. He’s got rings, I notice, on his pinkie fingers, and his thumbs.
“Having a good night,” he says, once he’s standing over me, and then, just when I think we’re all cool, he finishes it off with “faggot?”
Now, where I come from, which is some nebulous place off in the real world, those are what we consider to be terms which instigate physical confrontations. Not that the term “faggot” is necessarily a pejorative term, nor to imply that are some negative characteristics extended towards homosexuality. However, when used in a certain tone of voice, in certain specific social settings, the term is nothing less than a direct call to arms for intended recipient.
It also means that this isn’t a conversation any more. It’s become a combat scenario. All that’s left to do is to pick you role from the few being offered.
I stand up. I’m actually a tiny bit taller than he is, though he’s clearly heavier, all thick with muscle and frustration.
I feel my pulse go up, and my hands start to shake a little bit. I hate confrontations. Really, I do. But this is what it is, and I know that. Does he? The beer in my belly is a large, nervous goldfish, about the size of your fist, swimming in anxious circles.
You gotta throw off the moment. Disjoint things a little. Disrupt the continuum of the situation. “You have to ask yourself,” I say, staring deep into my new friend’s eyes, “why is this scene here? What’s it supposed to prove?”
“What’re you-” he starts to say, but I keep talking.
“This is a conflict, not just of individuals, but of ideologies,” I explain, talking as quickly as I can while still being understood. “I wanted to be left alone. You wanted to interact. I was trying to leave things be, while you were looking to disturb the status quo. Neither vantage point is more specifically moral than the other, but that’s not really the point.” I pause, take a breath, continue. “The point is, we’re both trying to communicate something about who we are, and what we represent. We are trying to explain the inherent metaphor of our characters, so that way our conflict isn’t just a squabble between unaligned identities, but the clash of epic, and highly personal, mythologies.”
I stare into the eyes of my muscular new friend. The abyss stares back.
“Fuck you, man,” my friend says, and he shoves me. He uses one hand, and puts it in the centre of my chest, gives me a little jab with his fingertips, and he snarls. He says, “I’ll tell you what your fucking problem is, you and that fuckin’ freak girl with the big mouth?”
My friend raises his hand to make a point.
I’m so nervous. That beer is hanging in my belly like a hammer ready to strike, and when it does, I don’t know what happens. Maybe I lose my evening up through my mouth in a startled fountain of displaced booze and anxiety. That’s how nervous I feel; my hands are shaking, and my skin is sweaty. I’m shaking and I’m sweaty. Tired too. It’s been a long day.
My friend, he snarls. And he raises his hand to make a point.
I bring my forehead down on the centre of his face, putting my hairline just a little above the bridge of his nose. I hear the cartilage on his face snap, and feel something like a chicken-wing cracking against my skull. My friend, he doesn’t really say anything. He just stutters blood out his nose, as he takes two little steps backwards.
I’m dazed from my assault, from the beer, from this day, my preoccupation with foreboding feelings, this weird girl I seem to have accidentally hired for the job I don’t really do. I’m dazed all over, like I’ve forgotten who I am, and where I live. My head feels weird; improperly sized. My soul feels all angular and sharp-edged, like an origami box with nothing in it.
I look up and out and forward, and let my eyes focus on my friend. He’s gripping his face with both hands, and there’s a lot of blood coming through his fingers and rolling down his arms. He’s looking at me with his eyes all wide-open and freaked-out.
I turn. Lydia, seeing enough of the scene, has abandoned our drinks, and is reaching out take me by my shirtsleeve again. It’s like we’re dancing, or married. She drags me out of the place, though I’m willing enough to go; I’m just a little confused, a little rattled. I probably could’ve found the exit on my own, eventually, but it’s nice to have her pull me out of my mess, and thrust me back out into the outside world, where I feel a bit more like I belong.
And once we’re outside, she starts laughing. Laughing like there’s a gas leak. Laughing like she’s on her way to her own execution. Laughing like she’s all lit up from the inside, and living off pure shots of adrenaline, straight to the giggle-centre of the brain. Laughing like a pure expression of jubilant emotional release. A few people give us dirty looks. I shrug my shoulders nervously, unable to respond, my forehead still feeling stiff, the beer in my stomach finally starting to transform into murky clouds of forgotten choices.
“You’re a fucking detective,” she says, and she punches me in my arm. “Anonymous Cubed! Private fucking Eye!” Lydia giggles at me like it’s a challenge. “A girl-finding, bar-fighting, car-stealing, fuckin’ detective,” she says, and hits me in the arm again, really hard. As I wince, she looks away, and spits on whatever’s next to her. “Lets go get some fucking pizza,” Lydia says with a grin that threatens to devour the world, and so that’s what we do.
Anonymous Cubed: Chapter 23
I open the door slowly; the doorknob is old and heavy, and must be turned a good hundred and eighty degrees to pull the tumblr out. I like old buildings, especially when it seems like they’ve got more character than common-sense. Everything from the distant past seems to weigh so much, like it was all built out of super-dense materials that weren’t meant for the modern age. Everything today is so thin and flimsy, manufactured for as cheaply as possible, to be shipped around the world. I’m not saying one is better than the other, yesterday or today, just that I notice the difference. It’s not bad, it’s not just always the same.
Inside, the room is dark and the air is heavy. Along the far wall, thick maroon blinds keep out both types of light, day and night, and the imposed darkness makes me feel like one of those budgies that goes to sleep when you put a blanket over its cage; tell me it’s night, and I’ll go to bed. Tell me its day, and if I can, I’ll stay in bed a little longer. Of course by ‘bed’, I mean the office chair I sleep in.
The decor of the room is lush to the point of oppressive, though there isn’t really much to look at. Thick carpets, thick drapes, dark wallpaper and a big bed. A little table with a TV on it, and the TV looks broken; a lengthy line of smoky grey runs up the centre of the blackness of the screen. At the far end of the room there’s a doorway leading to a what must be an even darker bathroom, and a couple of ancient lamps in the corners of the room. The lamps are made of that grooved, golden-brown metal, and their thick shades are dripping with little dingle-balls. In the midst of the room, is a king-sized bed topped with enormous pillows, all covered in a dark ruby-red blanket. I leave footprint divots in the thickness of the carpeting as I enter the room.
Sitting on the bed is an attractive young creature with long, platinum-blond hair, and disarmingly ambiguous features. Physically, Miss Dick is somewhere between a slim Caucasian girl and an angular Korean boy, but she isn’t trapped within the roles – she fluctuates amidst them. She reminds me a bit of a shifting hologram, an image that seems to change form depending on what angle you perceive it from. She’s wearing a puffy, blue and white dress which empathizes girlishness over sensuality; a sort of sky-coloured Lolita of indiscriminate gender, ethnicity, and age.
“So,” says Miss Dick asks, glancing casually from me to Lydia and back again, “what brings you here, gentle travellers?” She’s sitting on the bed with her legs crossed, and her hands folded in her lap. Her voice has a strangely lyrical tone, as though everything said is just one beat away from breaking into a musical.
“Ah,” I say. “I’m Anonymous Cubed, and I’m a private investigator.”
Anonymous Cubed: Chapter 13
I’m editing my novel “Anonymous Cubed”, with plans to self-publish it on Amazon when I’m done. Here’s an exert. An exertion? A bit.
Showdown At The Allday Market
The store clearly used to be an apartment, but the former living-space has been hollowed out and filled with shelves, transforming it into makeshift retail area. The shelves hold an oddly mix-matched assortment of household items, scattered in loose clumps of product; boxes of cereal, cans of microwaveable pasta, toilet paper, little ceramic frogs, pink notepads, computer speakers, lighter fluid, potato chips, chocolate bars, shark repellant, three blocks of melted rocky road ice cream, and a bunch of big packs of multi-coloured markers.
Behind a chipped white counter sits the corpse of a Korean woman; I put her time of death at about 1500AD. She looks like a mummified body somebody unearthed from deep within an ancient tomb, and dressed in a purple-red smock. Her lips are peeled back in a strange facsimile of a smile that may also be a challenge.
“You want anything to eat?” I ask Lydia.
“I’m good,” she tells me. “Ask me again in another twelve hours.”
I grab a chocolate bar and a bottle of water. The corpse behind the counter glares pure horrible death at me from across the distant ages of time. I smiled politely, and hand over a hundred dollar bill.
The corpse comes to life with a sputter of invisible animatoronics. She puts two dry, dusty fingers onto the hundred dollar bill, and pushes it back across the counter at me. She shakes her head, almost sadly, but sternly.
“It’s all I’ve got,” I tell her. Polite, with a hint of desperation.
The lips of the little head just barely move, but they clearly say “No”.
I run my tongue across my teeth. This is way too big of a block for so soon into the case, or adventure or whatever it’s going to turn out to be. I’m just trying to make a simple phone call.
On the other hand, maybe it’s a sign. A sign that I should just walk away now. Maybe this strangely intense register-jockey is my spirit animal, or a sign from the forces that run the universe from deep within; imagine galaxies spinning about like clockwork cogs in great machinations that affect all life down to the smallest molecule – all telling me that I should probably just go back to my office, and forget this morning ever happened.
“Hey!” Lydia barks, slapping her palm down on the counter. “Come on, lady. He’s just trying to make a purchase. You want the business or not?”
I swear I can hear the buzz of the broken little gears that operate the artificial muscles in the corpse’s neck and face, as it refuses us again.
“A chocolate bar,” Lydia says, sliding my bill back across the counter, “a bottle of water,” Lydia says, setting her jaw, “and a pack of cigarettes,” Lydia says, gazing straight into the deep black eyes of the strange and ancient creature behind the counter.
The corpse blinks.
“Orange Oranges,” Lydia adds. A brand name and a type.
The old woman’s hand hits the counter like a hammer driving down a fistful of nails. The nails are the pack of cigarettes that sit on the counter, still vibrating from the force of the impact as the old woman goes to work on the register. Orange Oranges.
Lydia hands over my hundred-dollar bill, and the cash register makes a sound like a handful of bells being eaten by a trash compactor. A mountain of change appears on the counter, next to the cigarettes. Crumpled bills, dented coins. I scoop it all up into my hands, and folding up the bills and pouring the mess of metal into my pockets. I grab the water, and tear open the chocolate bar. Lydia has the smokes.
Lydia smokes Orange Oranges. The second ‘Orange’ was the brand, and the first was the type. You can get Grey Oranges, Teal Oranges, Green Oranges, Semi-Opaque Oranges, and Black Oranges. Orange Oranges are light-purple cigarettes with orange filters, and claim to have a more robust taste with less of an afterburn, whatever that meant. Only very coolest of the cool young people smoked Orange Oranges, or so the advertising was meant to suggest.
Lydia sticks a cigarette between her pale little lips, and lights the stick with a clunky old zippo lighter. There’s something written on the lighter, but I can’t make it out, nor can I intrude by asking. It’s much cooler to just walk alongside her, and move towards the phone, imaging us being previously filmed and now watched in slow-motion. My even steps. Her trail of smoke. Perfect. Dead on.
A car blares its horn at me as I nearly stumble out in front of it. Lydia snags me with one hand, the other hand still on her smoke, and yanks me backwards, so I fall ass-first onto the sidewalk. “Yeah, just walk into traffic,” she says sarcastically, as I wince and looked away. Bad things happen to me when I start thinking about how cool I look; that’s how it’s always felt, anyway. It’s just a superstition, really.
I make the phone call.
Doctor Destroyo: The Weapon @ Hand
Doctor Destroyo come back out from wherever he’d run off to. Bright orange gun in hand.
“Hey, fuck-head,” Doctor Destroyo cries out, because he can’t think of anything really clever to say. “I almost forgot about my Super Atomic Death Ray Pistol.”
The gun is the colour of a cheap plastic tangerine. It practically glows in the hands of Doctor Destroyo. The gun is a splash of colour amongst the world of grey; the grey pavement, the grey building the grey clouds in the sky, the grey suits on the grey little lives that run up and down the grey cement of the city streets.
Doctor Destroyo: Meditations And Edits
Sometimes I would imagine removing the mask of the world, and revealing a new world on the other side. A better, more purposeful world, full of incredible individuals who would all work to make their world a better place. Things could improve all the time. Lies stopped being told, and stairways to the stars were constructed. Everybody could wear a jet-pack. Strange new alien worlds are discovered every day. Magic was everywhere.
Other times I would imagine peeling of one of my lower masks, the mask of the physical body, revealing my energy form within. What was it, a strange insect monster with fuzzy antennae and great vicious mandibles? A wailing beast with a million mouths and a billion arms, all railing senseless against the universe? A beautified, angelic version of myself, in perfect physical shape and mentally flawless in every way?
I tried to imagine what my soul might look like, if I was to believe I had one.
I let my mind drift.