Plugs

A pair of human eyes float in a glass cylinder of bubbling water on the center of our big conference table. I don’t like the way they stare. The way they are always watching. They have been here often enough that I can make out the gossamer tendrils connected to their trailing nerve endings. I follow the wires and tubing from the back of the cylinder to where they disappear into the wall under the window.

It is a bright sunny day and the ocean is sparkling, but I don’t enjoy the view. I can only think of the wires and tendrils running snaking out to the blue expanse and the Great Barrier Reef submerged beneath.

“How is the schedule proceeding, Mr. Abarax,” a tinny, synthetic voice asks through small laptop speakers next to the cylinder with the eyes.

 I asked it once, why human eyes? Why not a camera or synthetic lens?

We want to look on you as you see yourselves, they answered.

The board is assembled around the table. They shuffle papers nervously. We’re behind schedule.

“We’re having trouble with the second set of Co2 scrubbers online,” Jones says. “But the new tree plantation is going as directed.”

I want to smash the cylinder and tell that damn reef to shove it. But a set of those gossamer tendrils are in my house and at my kids’ school. We’re never very far away from stinging range.

“Here,” the reef says, through the laptop speakers. “This set of schematics might prove helpful. We expect progress next meeting.”

The eyes go blank. They look exactly the same as before but I can just feel that they are empty.

I don’t care about the temperature of the ocean or the coral reefs.  But those tendrils found their way into my son one night. With his four-year-old lips, the reef informed me of its plan. Of my new orders. And it is everywhere. Pulling our strings with gossamer stingers. So the board listens. And when the meeting is over, I will get to work.

 -END-

Pieces of furniture hide their switches inside.

If you can find its switch, hidden in whorls and rings and knots, your table will shake off its ornaments, tear off its clothes–its paint or wax or finish–and dance naked for you, limber like a contortionist.

You did not think its pose was its natural state, did you?

Watch your cabinet dance, its drawers pounding the earth like athletes’ feet, swirling its frame like a discus. Watch your wardrobe break-dance on its doors. Watch your bed serenade your floor, watch them recount sordid tales to one another, watch them make love–a shifting labyrinth of planks and slats.

You could get lost watching them.

And if you do not hunt again for their switches, if you do not dash in with your shield and turn them back off, you could stand motionless, staring, until they take hold of you and swing you into their dance. They will weep resin and glue while they do it, but they will not stop; their compulsion runs deeper than pity, so deep they cannot know its motive. Your bones will clack against one other like drawers sliding shut.

So I found this sword out back behind that abandoned building on Third Street, where I shouldn’t have been playing, my mother says. I’m always going where I shouldn’t go, and it’s my own fault, she says. I told you someday you’d get yourself in a bunch of trouble, she says, and there you are.

But it was right there, lodged in concrete all the way up to the hilt. And you know, I know what that means. I didn’t want it. But it shook when I touched it, and then it came loose when I pulled. Just a tiny tug and there was this sword in my hand, and it wasn’t even shiny. I had to drag it home behind me. I left a groove in the sidewalk, all the way up to our front door. I split the stairs in two.

My mother came out and she said, “Where did you get that? You put that back where you found it!” I lifted the sword, and her words fell right down between us on the old braided rug. My brothers said, “No fair! Give it!” and they tried to take it from me, but I couldn’t let go. It was my sword, even though I didn’t want it. It’s my sword, and I can’t give it back.

I left it at the bus stop, but it was on my bed when I got home. I tried to put it back in the rock, but the building is gone. I tried to give it to a homeless guy, but he told me he didn’t believe in violence and did I have any change? Ravens follow me. They hang like black moss from the tops of street lights and the chimneys of the apartment building across the street.

An old man came out at me from behind a mailbox yesterday. He had a beard down to his belt and wild eyes. I didn’t mean to—he came at me so fast, and the sword is easier to lift the more I lift it, and I forgot to get milk. I just ran all the way home. I hid the sword under my bed. I did my homework. I wish I knew what he wanted. The sword isn’t even shiny. My brothers say, “You think you’re so fancy, with your destiny,” but I’d like to see them try it.

The outlaw walked into the fairybar.
“Gimme all you got,” he shouted at the waitress.
He didn’t have a gun, but the fairy knew better than to argue. She glowered at him but emptied the register on the bar.
“Put it in the bag. There, that’s a good girl.”
The waiting-fairy’s wings fluttered from fright and her hands tightened into two white fists as the man retreated towards the door. She was a properly brought-up fairy, not one of those changelings spoiled by humans, and pacifism ran through her blood, from her butterfly wings to her pink ballet points.
The outlaw surveyed the room with a smirk.
“I don’t believe in fairies,” he said. The waitress gasped as a customer dropped dead on the table. “That’ll teach you girls,” the man said. “I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies, I don’t believe in fairies!” Customers fell like flies.
“I don’t believe in outlaws!” the waitress shouted, trembling hands digging into her pockets. Her cheeks turned crimson and the hairs on her head stood on end, charged with negative energy. She felt bad karma swelling inside and realized she’d have to go through a session of crystal cleansing to get rid of it afterwards.
The outlaw guffawed. “That won’t work with me, I’m not a sissy little fairy.”
“Will this work?” The fairy took a miniature gun from her pocket, which, to the outlaw’s dismay, expanded into a full-sized AK-47. She cocked the rifle and let the man realize how badly he’d screwed up. Then she fired.
The fairy sighed: she felt too good. Crystals alone wouldn’t take care of her homeostatic imbalance but she didn’t look forward to two hours of Om Mani Padme Hum.

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