JAMES BOND-THE ESCAPEHATCH (JEG)(ELRUADEBOOK)
Author: Elruade

Chapter 6
SET MY FEET AFLAME

6.SET MY FEET AFLAME

 

It made no sense anymore to stay in my seat, as the airplane was empty from the inside. Outside it was crowded with people. They were screaming and throwing cans into the air. The little window was still fogged up; outside it was hotter than inside. It may be the other way round. It may be a breath of exhalation that comes from deep inside my lungs. There may be a coin stuck in my pipe.

        I had a strange vision in which I could put my nails in between the window and the ledge and take it out. Even when the plane is on the ground and stationary the world moves past. The scenery moves before my eyes; the people walk towards the left. Their arms drag over the ground. A fine mist again covers the windowsheet. I replace and make a prayer.

        I grabbed my suitcase and exited through the entrance. The silence at the airport was deafening. I stood in front of larger windows as tall as myself and eyed the crowds off in the distance. I wasn’t sure where they were headed. If it was planned correctly they have a guide with them. One guide per 50 people; I think that is what he said.

        The floors had just been cleaned and soaped with green liquid. In the corners there was soapscum. I entered a lavatory and washed my face. When I came out the manager was there. He smiled but seemed lost in thought. I think he thought about the evacuation plan.

        -What is the status then?

        -Yes, it went well. At least 5 million people have been reported missing in the capital registrar. We need 3 million more to get out of there by the afternoon; we’ll give them plenty of time to pack. It’s not like a trip for them. They won’t need to bring anything along, except for some underwear and socks.

        -Are you sure?

        I was having some doubts about it.

        -Listen, do you have the script?

        -What? No, it’s in the other plane.

        -Oh with the equipment?

        -Of course. You ought to know, eh!

        -Sure. Let’s have a rest here.

        It was a little café in the lobby. Above were huge glass panes that were of a deep blue color. Or it may have been the deep blue sky above. I like to keep possibilities open; if I am wrong there is no way back. If I am in a guessing mood I ‘spill the paint over Mona Lisa’, as they say.

        The manager snapped his fingers in an effort to call on a waiter or barman. No such luck; had he forgotten there was no-one left? Or were there still people around? Judging by the silence there was either no-one left or the people who were left behind were hiding in silence. It sent a chill right down my inner core. I doubted everything.

        -Ah that’s right, no-one will come?

        -Just self-serve yourself you self-serving dumbag.

        This made the manager laugh aloud. He slapped me on the shoulder and seemed in a better mood. He was behind the bar for some time, fixing I-don’t-know what sort of concoction. He returned with two shot glasses with a green liquid.

        -I may have been a barman in my former life; check it out. I call it ‘Cinnamon in the Green’. I have used about 10 bottles of scotch; I hope they don’t mind.

        -Ten bottles? This high concentration?

        -It should be an alcohol concentration of above 80%.

        -Are you trying to do me in right here?

        -Hahaha, quite right. It’ll slacken your jaw, just sip slowly.

        I took my little sip and at once I believed he was a barman in his former life. I believe in reincarnation anyway, so the idea didn’t appear strange to me at all.

        There was a rich cinnamon flavor with hints of lemon, lime, apple, and there was a long aftertaste that curled and drifted as a feather on a lake. It made me think; it alerted my senses instead of dulling them, and the prospect of filming in a deserted city suddenly seemed supremely exciting to me.

        I crossed my legs and took another sip.

        -This is remarkable; what a deep flavor. Such depth.

        -Don’t mention it. I’m glad no-one is here; otherwise we’d have gotten some lifeless vodka or whatnot.

        The sun shone straight down and produced sharp shadows down from the waist. I looked at the outline of my head on the table and the reflections in the little glass. It all seemed miraculous to me. The lethargy I had felt throughout the trip faded away, and I counted the manager now as a friend, more than a colleague.

        -We can’t stay too long. They have to unload the plane themselves. They are distributing the luggage right now. The other plane will land in an hour. For the rest, we’ll drive into town and find a hotel.

        -We really have only one day to do it?

        -No no, we have plenty more time than that.

        -What do you mean then?

        -It wasn’t just an alarm they sounded, or a siren.

        -You said it was!

        -Uhuhm. No, it was an actual incident.

        -How can you call it an incident? Surely it was intentional then, with timing like this?

        -Keep your voice down, I don’t like loud airports. It gives me creeps anyway, being here. Drink up drink up.

        -Won’t you answer me now?

        -Yeah, hey it’s more complicated than I planned it to be. They blew something up but it was done by the people themselves, as in a riot of rebellion. That is, of course, what the people call it. In truth, the Mayor knew about it beforehand, and he had arranged for us to be here exactly at the time of this unrest. Instead of the police trying to quiet the rebellion they scared everyone away.

        -All for this movie; you can’t be serious.

        -No I am. Let’s go. You know a rebellion can’t be called rebellion in this time. The idea of complaining is absurd enough.

        -Now I get it. It was all play.

        -It was something different from play, but it’s close enough. It’s more tongue-in-cheek.

        -But you can’t expect everyone to disappear just like that.

       -You’re wrong in that. They’ll all disappear all too happily, I guarantee it. We won’t compromise. We will have the city all to ourselves; this will be the best Bond flick yet.

        It made me shudder all of a sudden. The manager shrinked into the distance and was followed by a colony of ants. Should he look over his shoulder and decide anything, there is rubble and debris scattered about. Enough places to hide. So I thought about it. I decided unconsciously to think about it in this way.

        We waited on a bench in the sun. I had taken off my coat and unbuttoned my shirt half-way. I looked besides me and the manager was a mirror-image of myself, sunbathing.

The colors were identical. The shoes were very similar.

        I got sick of waiting and walked around. Cars were parked in the middle of the street. There were no signs of any riot and nothing was broken or whatever. I took a seat in a taxi with the doors all wide open. The meter read ‘300 feet to go’. It counts down? It must be a brand-new system specially made for the taxi industry. I’m sure it would make the trip more bearable tenfold. As you sit in the back and count down with the meter. You slap your knee in succession. The bumps in the road mean the right middle finger moves to the left each time. You smirk all the way.

        It was so hot in the taxi I couldn’t stay there for too long. There was a little garden at the entrance. I plucked a flower out of the ground. I sat with my back against cool cement and studied the shape of the flower with care.

        Finally the crew appeared around the corner with so much luggage you wouldn’t believe. They could not have moved much more than an inch an hour like that; they were bent over and almost crawling along the ground. The manager shot up and ran towards them across the road. I couldn’t hear what he said.

        We found two trucks and put it all in the back, and then we drove down the road towards the city.

 

 

        In a referral to Nanking, the brochure always talks in the past-tense, and the scenic shots are ones without people in them. They are focused on the tall and the distant, but every picture is perfectly sharp and clear. Overhead birds fly past. There are words next to and underneath the photographs; the words are short and clever and in one sentence it has made of Nanking a big deal.

        Living seven-stories up above ground I have to walk all the way down; after all there is no elevator in this complex. Just a few other people live on this floor. It is my deduction in any case; I can never hear what they are doing. Sometimes I knock on their doors, and my heartbeat is pounding. It expresses my fear that someone should actually live there, in utter silence.

        The heart beats dryly as rain on cement. It is a rhythm I can recognize when it is quiet. I pull at the cotton covering the heart, and the buttons on my shirt reveal their undersides. I’ve tried to assume a posture that is suitable to an occasion; so many times now. If it were clear at all what it demands of me!

        I don’t know why but I stood in front of the door, either waiting for a reply or just waiting. I tried turning the knob. It was dry and cleaned, no grease. It should be obvious no-one lives here. I feel quite alone. My bed is up to the wall; my clothes are half on the floor. When I leave the room I look back and see it lying there.

        Stairs lead downward and only downwards; there are no more than seven floors to the building. I grab the railing and move softly.

        I force myself to get out of the room. Despite all the time that has gone I’m still not free from the network. Outside it is hot and inviting, it is inviting. I am not in control of my senses, anyway. Should it fail to pick up a breeze it goes into a semi-conscious state. I need to turn the lights down. A small orange light at the end of the room.

        I feel this is something you fail to understand. I think you don’t because I haven’t met anyone who showed any sympathy at all. I would like to count it among the diseases, but it may not be that serious. It is that serious but I am afraid that it is something one can control; and I have failed to control myself. But I refuse to believe I am a rare case.

        No; I am not a rare case at all. I bet this entire floor consists of no-bodies who live in the network all day and night. Just the other day I was out and I sat on a terrace in the city. The size of the buildings was immense, and I ordered a drink with a voice full of shame. I wonder if she picked it up. She returned with a glass that was almost filled up to the rim. This was a blessing.

        I couldn’t say if the people there were avoiding me or not. The terrace was a square and I was located around the center point. In the corner to the right was a couple sharing a piece of bread. To the left was a man in suit, drinking a coffee. It was too hot for coffee, I thought. My drink was a soda and ice.

        I try to convince myself there are plenty of things to do, and yet I always go back to the same routines. And I must make it clear; one can work from a computer also. I make enough money to sustain myself on a daily basis. I eat well enough; two meals a day on average. That said I don’t have much left for luxury. The rent I pay is substantial. What I have left over each month goes to food for the most part. These days the use of the network is free.

        My work is non-productive; I relay information. Sometimes I take it from the source, but usually I get contacted by someone saying he wants this information sent to some address. The network is so large (no-one knows the size, but it is said to be expanding much as the universe itself is) and information is going around freely. Now the inefficiency of this is apparent. Everyone uses the network for a clear purpose; to find a piece of information. But even today, it is terribly hard to find what you are looking for. I know my way around better than anyone, owing to my years spending in the network. I will find what you are looking for in less than an hour.

        The worst thing about the network is that you can get lost in it. I should know; it happened to me years ago. I lived inside the network, and I cannot describe this in another way. Of course, only theoretically do people log in to look at a specific article of information. I should say; that was how it used to be. Or how it may have been, in any case. The point is that the network is so large that looking around is what really attracts people to it. Over the last few years they have done a lot also to make it more attractive. One can speak of actually walking around in it, as in a shopping district.

        But it isn’t a thing of beauty and I doubt it will ever be. More than 85% of information pertains to illegal activities. It has made of the common citizen the common crook. It is no wonder that people like me should exist. I count myself among those people who have fallen of the map and relegate themselves to a totally reclusive life, in the network. People talk of ‘social networking’ but that is a terrible abuse of words. There is nothing social about it. It would be absurd for anyone to say that I am social in any regards whatsoever.

        By logging into the network (there are terminals around the city, and nearly every residential space has one) you essentially become the peeping tom. It is still very much unregulated. Pedophilia is so common, as is every fetish you can imagine, illegal or not. Anyway it has shifted completely law itself. Police have admitted openly that they can’t keep it in check, and essentially they have stopped bothering altogether.

        That isn’t to say that all morality is out the door. Would you believe that people are becoming more polite and gentle in actual social interaction. Since the network is very much a safe haven where anyone can do whatever he wants. But, that also means that the average person is an enormous fetishistic pervert. You may see very kind people in the street, but their backbone amounts to little more than a spongy mass.

        The network is still very much in an early stage, and where it will lead no-one can tell. My story is a point-in-case.

 

 

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