A serialised novel
I thought I’d share some of the music that has, in some form, inspired the story so far, or, at least, has resonances with it. My suggestion is that you listen to the music either while reading or after reading this week’s episode. I hope it will add a little to the experience!
.... So, another room, right? Sheesh… And that’s kinda weird… I can’t put my finger on it -ha, nothing new there, right? – but something’s missing… So I get out of the capsule … Can you even begin to imagine what it would be like if you could connect with hundreds, even thousands of other people’s brains? … I can tell you exactly what she was smelling and the impact of her toes against her shoes as she stepped out onto the floor…. I’m cold, I’m too hot, I’m hearing the crunch of gravel, the slide of silk, a breath from someone near me, the sparkle of green in a forest somewhere, the running river, I’m in a shower, in a noisy street, the dark, the lights turn on, off … This scream was like a deep, deep, wailing. It came from somewhere down in my guts and slowly strangled out every other sound and sensation. It tore at my head like… I remember gasping for my breath and hitting the floor and that’s it …. So what do I do? I just sit and wait for it all to happen, like the dumb schmuck I am.
I’m sitting on the big white sofa when the door opens. No click. No sound. But I know that someone is there. You’d have thought that I’d jump or something but no. Something about being in this room has made me come over all calm and peaceful, y’know? Like I said, I don’t even try and look out the window. Why should I look? Everything will be fine, right? There’s nothing out there I need to see. Let’s just sit here and be still. Jeez, what a shmuck.
The young girl can only be about 12 or thirteen years old. She’s quite tall but is pretty gangly with it. Like she hasn’t filled out properly yet, y’know? She’s in that in-between part when she’s half girl and half woman. Don’t ask me how I know about that shit. Like I’d know what I’m talking about, right? She’s carrying a tray – yeah, you guessed it – white for sure. But I’m picking up some good smells from whatever it is she’s carrying.
It’s weird like, y’know, people usually take a look at someone when they enter a room right? Or at least check out what’s there before walking in. This girl just comes right on over to me like she’s on some kind of track or rail or some shit like that. Doesn’t look up, doesn’t look around, just watches her own feet walking across the floor. I’m such a dumb schmuck she gets me looking at the floor too, thinking there’s something I’m missing out on here.
“Hello.” I say, all friendly like. Nada, nothing. A big zero response. Jeez. She puts the tray down on the table in front of me and for a moment I think she’s going to stay there, bowing in front of me. Her hair is falling over her face. I can just about see her lips. What d’ya know, she ain’t smiling. “Hello, ” I say again, trying to sound all cheerful like. “Is this for me?”
Then at least she looks up. She’s got a nice face. At least, it would be if she’d paint a smile on it. Big blue eyes. Still got that kid look about it.
“Yes.” Hey, talk about having a meaningful conversation! Man. Still, it’s a start.
“What is it?” I ask, real gentle like, y’know? I don’t want to scare her, right? She said ‘Yes’ like she was about to touch something dangerous. Again nothing. No reply. I wait and smile at her although she’s just staring down at the cover again.
“Food.” She says and pulls the top from the plate slowly. I look down. Food it is. Some sort of stew I’m guessing, with a thick gravy and a pile of green and red vegetables on the side. I pick up the knife and fork and she takes a quick step back, like I’m about to carve her up too. She stands with her head down again. Waiting I guess.
“Mmm, smells good,” I say, more to myself than her but I look up at her as I take my first mouthful and smile. There’s just a flicker. A little look from under her blonde hair. Y’know? Not even a smile but just the slightest movement around her eyes that might just turn into a big grin if we had another twenty years to sit here and work on it. Jeez.
I’m eating my way through the meal, which is tasting so good. It’s been…well it feels like a long time since I last sat down with Harry and ate. So I’m playing it up to her, right? Making all these ‘Mmm’s’ and ‘Aaah’s’ like this is the best food I’ve ever tasted. I’m going the whole mile y’know? Smacking my lips and shaking my head saying “Man, this is just the best!” And it’s starting to work. Each time I look up at her I get that feeling that she’s making to say something or to improve on the beginning of a smile.
Then the door opens again and in walks O’Donnel.
Like, how do you tell these things? It’s all so subtle right? I mean, it’s not like she and me have been having a ball right? But there’s a change in her so clear she might as well have just reached over and slapped my big gooney face. She goes all stiff and pulls herself into deeper into the floor, if that’s possible. As O’Donnel walks over to me she just…retreats. Just walks back the way she came in, not looking up. It’s like the door sucks her out.
And O’Donnel? Nothing. He doesn’t even seem to see her. Just walks over to me. Doesn’t turn, doesn’t give even a flicker that he acknowledges her at all. A little stone drops somewhere into my guts at this. What a schmuck. Like, I don’t expect him to give her a hug right, but a little look wouldn’t have hurt him y’know? With that stone my estimation of O’Donnel drops a little too right?
“So Shem. How are you feeling?” Here he is, all Mr. Smiles, sat next to me. Man, I’m such a lightweight. Last time I spoke to O’Donnel I’d have followed him anywhere, I felt sure I could trust him whatever. Now? What? Just because he didn’t say ‘hi’ to the girl who brought me my lunch I’m sat there thinking he’s some kind of evil genius. Boy, what a schmuck I am. But I can’t help it. I feel like being difficult right?
“I’m o.k.” That’s it. That’s all I’m gonna give him.
“Good, good.” Huh, doesn’t fluster him at all. So much for rattling his cage, right? “I understand from Felicity that you had a bit of a shock when you arrived. That was…unfortunate Shem, I’m sorry.” Huh, well, he’s trying hard right? But I’m not gonna let him turn me over that easily. So I sit and say nothing. Make like I’m cleaning off every last piece of the meal from the plate. “So, you’ve had something to eat I see, that’s good. You look as though you were hungry.” He’s smiling at me, all paternal like.
“Who was the girl?” I ask, not looking up from the plate.
“Yeah, y’know, the one you walked straight past as you came in. Remember her?”
“Ah, yes, Shem. That’s so like you to notice these things, of course. I’m sorry. I shall find her later and apologise. I was just so keen to find out how you were feeling. Now, I’d like to talk to you about…”
“But who was she? What’s her name?” Yeah, that’s it, that stopped him. Now, I can smell someone trying to put one over on me right? Don’t ask me how I know but I do. And O’Donnel was skipping on a bit too brightly for my liking. When I ask him for her name he looks genuinely stumped.
“Um, her name? Why does it…well, I’m not actually sure of the girls’ name Shem. I can find out for you if you like?” Ha, he doesn’t quite get it. For me?
“No, it’s alright. But maybe you should make sure you know who it is that’s walking in and out of this place, O’Donnel. Like, it may not be safe.”
“Did she say anything to you? Threaten you?” Now I’m getting a reaction. But I don’t want the kid getting into any trouble right?
“No, she was sweet as pie. I’m just thinking, y’know, if you don’t know the person who brings you food…”
“Well, that’s very thoughtful of you Shem. Yes, you’re right, of course you’re right. I will…look into it. Now, let’s talk about you.”
“I mean it’s not a big deal right? But I’m not sure you’re getting me Mr. O’Donnel. I mean I’m not sure I like the fact that there are people around here who are afraid to smile, you get me?” Now he’s looking genuinely flustered. You know how it gets. He’s fidgeting with his tie, not looking at me straight, kind of stalling for time.
“Well Shem, I uh, I understand you’re concern, of course, but I really don’t feel that the…er…girls’ failure to smile is anything to do with me, is it? Certainly I shall look into it and er, follow it up if you would like me to …” I’ve heard all this before – just don’t ask me when, o.k? But that tone is the one you’d take with someone making a big deal over something really small, y’know? Like, ‘I’ll sort his out for you, but you’re a real schmuck for thinking about it even.’ Sheesh. “…see if I can find out if anything was the matter with…her. How would that be?” I take this little patronising speech as a strike to me though. It feels kinda good to have found some way to fluster the calm and cool Mr. O’Donnel. Perhaps if he’d just shut-the-fuck-up for a few moments I’d be able to think why the whole thing bugs me but he doesn’t. “Now that you are recovered and have had some food…yes, now that you are feeling … human again, I thought we might need to have a little chat. I know you have some questions for me. Last time we were together didn’t seem the time or the place to discuss things, but now that you are here I’m happy to answer. Anything you want to know.”
Yeah, except for the girl right? Anyways, I move on and think of what I should ask him first. Last time my brain was so fried I couldn’t think of anything. Now, here, in this calm place I suddenly find the questions bubbling to the surface of my tiny brain.
“So, well, y’see I know your name Mr. O’Donnel but what I don’t know is, actually… who-the-fuck-you-are?” Sheesh. There’s me trying to be all formal and polite, right? And I blow it. What a shmuck. O’Donnel doesn’t seem to notice.
“A good question Shem, straight to the heart of the matter as always. Well, I will introduce myself properly. Or, re-introduce myself. My name is O’Donnel and I work for the Gene Agency, here in Government.”
“Ah yes, well the Gene Agency is part of the Government. You could say I’m a civil servant really. My department is responsible for the monitoring and, how should one put it, managing, of any issues arising from the goverment’s genetic programs.” I must have just been staring at him with my mouth open or something because he had to explain a little more. “You see Shem, the Government, as I’m sure you know, have been involved in a wide range of genetic policies for the benefit of the whole of society. My job is to oversee those projects and ensure that nothing interferes or hinders them in any way.”
“O.k, o.k. So, uh, excuse me for being a dumb-ass but, like, how does all this have anything to do with me, right?” Yeah and I want to go on and say something like, ‘yeah, and me being stuck in a room with no food, and Harry, and the capsule and being able to feel other people’s skin and Felicity and all that shit.’
“Well Shem, you are, how shall I put it? Involved in one of our projects and, unfortunately things were not really working out for you so I was called in to see if I could help.” That warm, firm smile again.
“Harry, you know? Is he ‘involved’ in this project too?” I’m making him sweat a little again. Man, I’m getting good at punching O’Donnel’s buttons.
“Ah, no, Shem. Mr. Parks is not part of the project.” You got that right, O Donnel, I’m thinking. Poor Harry ain’t a part of anyone’s project anymore, or I’m a big fat dumb-ass schmuck. But seeing as Mr. O’Donnel is being so talkative and helpful I decide to come back to Harry another time. I slide that little ace up my sleeve for later.
“So anyways, Mr. O’Donnel. Can you tell me what this project is that I’m somehow involved in? You know, if it’s something to do with me, I oughta know right?” He smiles back at me, stands and holds out his palm.
“I can do better than that Shem. I can show you. Come with me.”
Dear reader – do you have a suggestion for the next chapter? Perhaps a plot idea? Or maybe you just want to tell me to stop! Whatever, drop me a comment! You may find it used in the next chapter!
‘Til next time,
- The Room (rattledrum.wordpress.com)
- The Room #8 (rattledrum.wordpress.com)
- The Room #9 (rattledrum.wordpress.com)
- The Room #10 (rattledrum.wordpress.com)
- The Room #11 (rattledrum.wordpress.com)