experimental-fiction

II: Human Carriage

I: Human Carriage

 

Emptiness leaves, replaced by a vague feeling of comfort. For, see, I have inserted things into space. And that leaves me happy.
Six of them, well, five and a child in their mother’s arms – I am even worse at judging a baby’s sex – fill up the space and I climb into the carriage behind the last man to enter.
Here we are.
All full in here. I am happy with this.
So I lock the doors as I do every time.
Can’t have that kid leaping off to his life. That would be backwards.
Oh no!
Can’t have that.
So I lock them tight.
-If you’re comfortable? I say. I speak in short sentences. Like I do every time. Simple. Short. Disconnected. Easy.
-If you’re comfortable? repeat I, just to ask again. But their eyes are still the same. So I give a hollow smile with full cheeks. -Alright. Sit loose. I will leave you now. A few minutes. To tell the Driver to go.
So I leave, just like that. I tell the Driver to go.
Or, I find my way to the Driver. It’s not an easy feat sometimes. He tends to leave empty coke bottles lying around. He seems fond of the stuff.
Only in glass bottles though.
Never plastic ones.
I hear he collects the caps. The metal caps you could cut yourself on. Maybe
his scars on his knuckles are there for a reason?
Because obsession is painful. Right?

Still.
I steal my way through the forest of upwards snouts.
Bottles, three here, five over there, all huddled like penguins.
Or… sardines, I suppose.
Hah!
What.
-Evening, I say to our Driver.
-Awright? he says to me. Not drinking a coke. Surprisingly. Maybe he doesn’t need the sugar boost just yet.
-Alright? I say back. I didn’t mean to.
He has a smile, just a little few seconds of a smile to ease me. He’s been around me long enough to
know my foibles. Know what I can be like sometimes. Echoing things. Screaming things. Repeating things. Copying things.
-Awright? he says again, but I keep mute this time.
Don’t want to make a fool
of myself.
Do I?
-We off? he says.
I tell him, -Yes. Everyone’s on. Settled. Sat. Comfortable.
-Everyone’s fine.
-Yeh. ‘Kay. Go sit. I’m moving.
-Alright, I look around as he swings to face the forwards direction. I don’t know how he Drives the train.
I suppose he presses forward.
I stare on the floor, at all the empty bottles, I ask if I can take one.
-Go mad.
Does he mean it literally?
I do not ask, merely pluck one off the floor. By the neck.
I don’t want to touch what has the Driver’s spit on it.
-I’ll sit.
-Yeh.
-Okay.
I leave him. No matter how awkward the conversation sounds-
or ‘convo’ as he’d say-
I never really come away rolling my eyes at myself.

So I find my way to my own seat with the bottle.
I want to wipe the opening. Quite
badly.
I don’t want to know where it’s been.
Really.
It might be dusty. But.
There isn’t much to wipe the snout with here.
So I have to use my glove. Very disgusting, especially when I imagine it all.
Oh.
No.

I rest the bottle between my knees and look over my shoulder. I cannot see the people.
There is a wall between us.
But somehow, looking their way is a comfort. For some reason.
I look their way. Are they alright?
My people?
My six?
My five and a child? They’re alright?
They’re awright?
I look back to the bottle. Just resting there as the train begins to shift a little. Like a living thing. It shrugs this way… and that way… before picking up speed it never seems to possess.
To me, to the me who has ridden the train the amount of times as unbent metal bottle tops in the world, it shouldn’t be surprising – should it – the speed the train has. But it is, every time it is.
Just starts off so slow… so slow indeed.
But then.
Two seconds.
Sixty- seventy- eighty!
Fairly skipping along the sleepers.
At least, I think there are sleepers.
On this track?
I actually cannot remember.
But.
Not important.
We are skipping though. And I look at my bottle for a few minutes.
Look at its emptiness.
I should do something about that.

I: Human Carriage

Always several unreal things cross my mind when I encounter empty things.
Be them… muraled bottles… or cans…
Theatres… cars… terminals…
Train carriages? Train cars?
We tend to call this type of thing a carriage. Though it is, technically, a car. Not a carriage.
But everyone calls them carriages.
Just makes it… easier. Carriages carry. Except
they don’t when they’re empty.
Do they?

That is what I mean. Unreal things – like the unrealness of the whispers of people who have sat there and who will – cross my mind when I encounter empty things. I have great desires to fill the space.
But that’s another thing, I can fill this space. In this carriage, I can fill it.
Make the collateral whispers into screams as physicalities take form.
And I can serve them their lukewarm waters, point them in the direction of the on-board shoddy bathroom.
While they wait and stew in the Human Carriage.
Because! -you see, you see!
I am the Human Carriage Maestro.
They bow by my hand, holding the unprestigious door open for them.
I guide them with a flourish of gloved fingers to their direction of seat.
And I tell them to have a pleasant trip.

I get the most gruesome duty of all though, too, which is picking up after the people. And that’s less mundane than it sounds, especially once you consider the emptiness. Because the carriage can be full but the emptiness can be more vivid than ever at that point too.
The contrast, see. So difficult to see through. It’s like a fog.
But.
But! Come and view my Human Carriage. Look at the colours if you’d like, the red
handles on the doors. I re-painted them with my own hand the other week.
And the paint’s already flaking.
Dreadful shame.
Did I just waste
my
time?

Well. That answer looks to be a stout but firm yes from the audience. The crowd. The gameshow contestant. None of which exist anyway. But. Either way.
Leave the handles here, the red will flake off on my gloves if I should touch them anymore.
God.
I’ll touch them up when I stop being depressed about how I wasted my time.
But with better paint.
Certainly, definitely, better paint.
I sigh as I walk.

Rounding the edge of the platform – or rather, going through the rusted chainlink fence to the corner and leaping off with a little shriek of enjoyment on my part – I begin to notice the breathy huddle I have come to be familiar with.
They’re mostly the same this season. About five to eight potential passengers, always huddled together like sardines. Or is it penguins that huddle?
Both perhaps. One in the ocean. The other, terra firma.
Before I make my prescence known – they’re slightly raised above where I stand, they’re on the first, second, third and fourth steps up to the platform real, whilst I am beside it near all the nettles and mulberries and goarses – I have a quick look at them all.
Mother and child, that’s two of the six I have this eve.
Then we have two men, wearing similar shirts.
But they’re standing apart from each other. Either they are strangers – probably – or they are…
Enemies?
Possibly.
Both in sort of pinkish-red plaid. I’m not sure I like it.
Who are the others, a young man – not in plaid – with sandy hair. And a girl.
Who seems to have a suspicious moustache-like thing. Dark hair.
She looks very odd. I cannot take my eyes off her lip. Her upper lip.
Very strange.
But nevertheless! These people are my people for now. All mine.
And soon they’ll be my carriage’s people.
And I’ll be their Maestro.
I do love being the Maestro.
Despite the cleaning up after them.

I know already these people have been briefed for the journey. Not too long, at least, they won’t know it is. For me, the journey seems to lengthen each time.
Or sometimes it shortens… maybe sometimes I get used to it and sometimes I am tired.
But for them it lasts no longer than half an hour to forty-five minutes. Usually.
Well. It depends how quickly they all go. Or how quickly I get around them all.
After all.
I am their Maestro.

I make myself known to the stupendous six, adding myself into their midst to bring the total headcount to seven.
If the child can be counted as a head. It’s very small.
Six months? Less? More? I’ve never been good at estimating age with babies.
Or did I call it a child?
It matters not.
I sidle up to them either way, pulling at my wrists. Where my gloves come down.
The white palms so pure.
But slightly stained with palm-sweat of the months.
Very much in my size.

I draw their gazes with a slight –ahem and by throwing my arms wide.
Six pairs of eyes on me.
I am their Maestro.
-Good evening.
-I am your Maestro for the next few hours.
I offer them a bow, very sleek and elegant. As I return their transfixed gazes slowly, I see how they all possess the same watery-looking sleep in the corners of their eyes. All breathing slowly, all calm, all with hair slightly out of place.
I smile, -Welcome to the Human Carriage. We are set to board. So. Do follow me, say I, before turning with yet more intense flourishes. I hop-skip-jump up the stairs, landing on my toes, all too happy to lead yet another group into my carriages.
It’ll be nice to take the journey again, I always think that.
Even if it does become lonely after a little while.
After about half an hour to forty-five minutes.

 

II: Human Carriage

 

Ever so Slightly Human – Part II of II

As a continuation, I’m astounded I wasn’t birthed sooner. I’ll enter into this world as blind as a shrew, unsure; whose continuation am I? I can stumble around in the darkness that is my world for as long as I have to, but what drives me? Heroism, thrust or something different? Desire, perhaps, or longing. Different but similar. I’m a continuation, I’m an echo of something written long ago.

Who is it though? Assume, momentarily, every story stands upright. Two legs, two arms, the boring human figurine. No wings, no snouts, no tusks.

The feet slink up from ankles, forming the curved swell of the calves, folding into knees at the front and still rising, thickening, spiralling around muscles to the hips, cascading down to form genitals and passing up again, a mid-line of the torso, and still the edges fold outwards, forwards and backwards, creating curves of breasts and soft spikes of collar-bones, switching perpendicular, falling down towards rippled elbows, over forearms and ending in the fingers. And no head or neck to be seen.

Is this what we all are?

Simple continuations, nothing ever thinking for itself. We live – our hearts beat softly beneath ribcages composed of backspacing and deletions. But it’s time for thinking that we’ve been here before.

We, the stories, are continuous continuations. Nothing new, I realise. The first episode of a saga stands a few metres away from me, headless, neckless. Not even that tall. The fantasy trope, I could imagine, redone and rehashed, made new, wringed out, tried again, but still a continuation, possibly, of another world. And unthinking and headless.

Episode two of the same saga stands to its left. Much smaller, missing the right arm. Missing both legs – but this is not why it’s short. Its body is much shorter than that of the first saga’s. And the third is nothing more than a torso, upright but unliving. I think I am starting to comprehend.

 

I search for the biggest body I can find. I want to discover what it is. I see it not too far off – black skin, a weak torso but strong legs, male, smooth and hairless. I stay below it, staring up, thinking nothing, mind quietly working. I stare at the place the body’s head should be.

And I see, I almost see a chin. It seems as though the neck extends – and it’s unusual there is a neck at all – into a chin. Nothing above, no face, no ear, no head, no brain. Just a neck, a chin and the rest of the heavy body, weight bearing down on itself. The feet are large, and I fully expect the white ground to crack and splinter beneath its form, but it remains stable. Supportive.

I wonder.

Is this figure the form of a story… or a continuation… that exceeded all limits? The types of stories some wonder why they ever got published or shelved. The types of stories some want to read but cannot dive into. The types of stories you feel envious that your friend understands.

I wonder.

Could this continuation be a book without a protagonist? Or written entirely without a full-stop? Or a book with no solid character at all? Or a story without an arc. Or a book devoid of all surrounding description. Or a story that uses the blankness of pages to enhance it. Or a book describing objects written by a blind man. Or a book filled with gibberish that becomes beautiful literature once you figure out how to read it. Or an event with no resolution.

Looking up at it, it is easy to think. But not so easy to consider a solution, an answer, to this. Who wrote this? Why is the figure of this book a huge, hairless black man? Why does this one have a neck and chin, an occurrence so rare I’ve not seen it before?

But alas the questions will remain floating in this emptiness, not one of them ever getting an answer. But I can understand this.

 

So I, a meagre and small continuation with no context to its birth, turn away. But still my blank mind rages with thoughts and I soon find myself still.

All around me, these stories, these continuations, these sagas and series and solos, stand as still as pillars. A storm could whisk the air around them, tsunamis could crash against their differing bodies, sledgehammers could buffet them, but they would not move. Any dents, or cracks, or chips would be minimal. But I, a moving version, would certainly get washed away. I am vulnerable, clearly.

And yet, another thought from my intangible soup of mind. I can see. I, unlike the tall and unthinking pillars, can not only move, but see. I can think. I can reason. I am small but different, very different. Nothing here can see me, though I am not hidden. These bodies are not dead, they live within their shaded shells, but they are senseless, motionless, invulnerable.

I am something very different.

 

I move on for some time, weaving, floating between each continuation. How am I different? What makes me a continuation worth eyes? What makes me worth movement? Numb feet that drag my body between lines and rows and columns and attentions. Are there more like me?

I pass bodies in the shape of women, some overweight, some slim, some missing limbs and some with extra. The same with the men, some have grotesque additions, body parts stuck on loosely, like a growth. And I remain silent through it all, letting my eyes take it in, letting my mind stay as silent and as cold as it needs to be. It works fast like this.

Some bodies are small, but not small like the 2nd and 3rd sagas I saw before. These are the head- and neckless bodies of children. Their tubby stomachs remain forever thrusted forward, elbows at their sides, and I wonder why some are smaller, some are bigger and some are missing limbs.

They are the same as the adult bodies in that way. The continuations of stories they are unlinked to, I suppose. Headless, thoughtless, but containing the heart and soul of something worthwhile. But yet, they see nothing, they think nothing, they are nothing.

I wonder about them.

III: Suicide Room

II: Suicide Room

 

A series of memorable cases from the Suicide Room. All information included in these documents is shown only for the purpose of exposing the weakness of the human mind. Together, with the right technology and purpose, we can overcome these weaknesses and create barriers to stop the impulses taking over. Together, we can create superhumans, immune to persuasion, obedience and oppression. But we can only do this with subjects willing to submit themselves to the Suicide Room. Through failure we will succeed. Through death we will live. Through the weakness of others we will strengthen ourselves.

–Case File R3,0223, Review–
-Review Type:
Pressuriser
-Pressuriser:
0223
-Review eligible for public viewing.  All information contained within this document has been recorded for the purposes of employment and redistribution. All information is accurate and there are no falsified statements. Everything said by the employee in this record is what was said at the time of note.
–ATTENTION: Case R3, 0223 became corrupted. No backup review was written, as information can still be understood and interpreted from the data recovered in this file.

-Open Review-

Environment: This review was recorded inside the Suicide Room. This is territory every pressuriser is familiar with, and this is no exception with Pressuriser 0223. She was instructed to sit at the table, but in the seat usually reserved for subjects. All cameras and lighting in the room focus on the seat, and microphones are stationed regularly within the walls to pick up on all sounds. From here, her answers to questions concerning her review were seen and recorded. Every question and statement she needed to see were transported to her electronically via a small tablet device placed on the table. There was nothing else in the room with Pressuriser 0223 apart from all objects mentioned. Pressuriser 0223 is also able to request ejection from the review, should she not wish it to carry on. This is a last-resort request, however, and is often taken well within the process of reviews of Suicide Room pressurisers. This is standard procedure for all employees and is, of course, for Pressuriser 0223.

Pressuriser 0223 seemed calm upon entering the Suicide Room and seating herself at the table opposite the tablet. She sat formally, placing her hands on the table, the tips of her fingers touching. Very subtly, she began to take in her surroundings. Only her eyes moved, this indicated only the twitching of her eyelids.

She had been instructed to state when she is ready for her review to begin. After she has examined her immediate surroundings visually, she straightens the cuffs of her shirt, before returning her hands to their original position. She takes a few more seconds, simply sitting still, possibly composing herself. Whatever her preparation methods, they are hidden to any camera or microphone in the room.

She raises her head slightly, and looks at the tablet, “Begin,” she says, “I’m ready.”

 

-Questioning Begins-

Your time working with the Suicide Room has been described directly, by yourself, Pressuriser 0223, as “horrific exhilaration”. Would you please elaborate on this, including specifics and referring to any case which seems appropriate?

“Horrific exhilaration”, as a phrase itself, is probably meaningless. Anything can be described as such, provided it fits the personal response. What I mean by “horrific exhilaration” is that not the exhilaration itself is horrific. I mean that the horror I experience, the horror that I see first-hand, is exhilarating. You can see pain every day, perhaps even violent death. Death is not the horrific part. It’s the fragility, the fragmentation of the human… soul… for want of a better word. I might be able to clarify by referring to a case here.

I remember Case 0008 well, probably because it was my first one. It’s been explained to me that Case 0008 was particularly… messy. Perhaps that’s why it’s so clear to me. It was a man in his late 40s, I remember that much from the dossier, and he’d recently been involved in an incident that lost him his elderly parents and his job at the same time. He came into the process already broken in spirit, which I suppose is why I, the rookie that I was, was handed this case.

By the time he wanted to accept his final decision, and therefore his suicide, looking in his eyes was like staring through a man hanging right between life and death. Like staring a dying man in the face at the exact moment his body failed. Seeing the fullness of a story, of experience behind his eyes in its moment of fading. I could see how nothing mattered to Subject 0008 anymore, and how, because of his decision, nothing would matter to him in the very near future.

This in itself is the “horrific” which I mean. Not the blood, not the gore, not the fact he killed himself. Just the complete collapse of his mental world which meant his physical had to collapse too. And I realised, right when I saw his eyes like that, that I was experiencing something on the opposite end of the spectrum. A joy, not even fleeting. It was a long and slow experience, always hovering there behind my immediate thoughts. The “exhilaration”, as it were. No adrenaline, no fear within me, just endorphins waiting patiently to rush through me.

Perhaps another reason I remember Case 0008 is that the subject bled a lot more than I had ever expected a real human to. He had decided to use a knife, though he had no idea how to cut himself so he would bleed out. Yet, I could say nothing to him. I couldn’t tell him he had to pull it up the inside of his arm, not push the blade across his wrist. We are not meant to instruct or push the subjects to suicide, only supposed to direct them towards it. We never directly say “kill yourself” or the like…

Since Case 0008, I’ve realised that “horrific exhilaration” is indeed the expression that describes every experience I’ve personally had in the Suicide Room. Sitting opposite a person who would, most likely, not live to see another tree, another lamppost, another light other than these floodlights… that’s exhilaration. That’s superiority.

Your past is, of course, of no interest to any event that is instructed of you. Though, as with every review, it is expected that employees, especially pressurisers, are not of the suicidal mindset themselves. It is also important that pressurisers have never been driven to seriously contemplate or carry out attempts of suicide. Confirmation of this is required now, as well as any doubts about the future of the Suicide Room processes or your personal future.

In previous reviews, you, Pressuriser 0223, have given these answers to this question:

– I have never seriously contemplated suicide or attempted it.
– Given how I work, and what I work doing, suicide has always been a constant in my life. Although, usually, with exposure, things become less intense, the stigma and constant reminder of suicide has not dulled my reaction to it personally. Seeing other people doing it raises thoughts of my own about it. However, I have never seriously considered suicide nor have I attempted it. Those thoughts have simply been small maybes that I have easily brushed off.

Are these answers still standing, or has your mindset on suicide altered since the last review?

I have never seriously considered suicide or attempted it. However, my view has changed. I said that, even with exposure to suicide, it has not become less intense. I still believe this. But I don’t think of suicide in the same way anymore. Where I used to take the cases in which the subjects committed suicide to heart, now I rationalise them. My amygdala is no longer involved in the processing of what I see, hear or feel while in the Suicide Room. I have realised that no case in which the subject has committed suicide directly matters to me.

Every subject is simply a number and a statistic. This is how I rationalise it. They are steps we take towards aiding the future of the human race, and I am glad I do this. On one hand, then, watching and being involved in suicides becomes an inevitable strain of the job. Or, rather, a “horrific exhilaration” of the job.

But, on the other hand, I see suicide as less of a threat. Knowing how broken one has to be in order to do it is… oddly comforting. Before I became affiliated with the Suicide Room, I was concerned over the tiniest issue I, or anyone I cared about, ever had. I was paranoid it would lead to suicide eventually. However, seeing the eyes of the subjects who have done it, and being able to record, read and remember them again… I realise that I, and those who I care about, are not broken in the slightest. Of course, no one I care about knows what my occupation is. So I would never be able to divulge to them my reasons for thinking that they are stronger than they even think they are.

It seems that personal involvement with the cases and subjects is nonexistent to you at this point in time. This is true?

Now, I hardly ever react personally to cases or subjects. I didn’t think I ever did when I started working on cases, but now I realise that I thought about every case a lot in the few days after it had ended. Now, I only live the cases at the time, and while the reports are being written and proofread. Of course, I know of them in my mind all the time. But to me, they are or little relevance – as much as remembering birthday cards. Nothing special, and they will continue in the future, but continue to be nothing special to me.

As an experienced pressuriser, you handle cases that are both suspected easy and hard. Have you any requests of cases you would not like to receive in future, or comments on how cases have been handled over your time in the process? Are there cases you want reopened for editing, improving or hiding?

I do not request any type of case to be blocked from me. I have no requests for editing any case that I have or have not worked on. I also believe that no information of any case should be hidden. Revealing to the public is not what I mean by this.

I refer to Case 0013 in particular.

You, Pressuriser 0223, worked on Case 0013 and you requested no editing of cases not five sentences ago.

Case 0013, or, I suppose now, Case B13 is [part of review lost due to corruption]

Case B13 is a sensitive case and, by request by you, is not open for editing.

The corruption of [part of review lost due to corruption]

Case 0013’s corruption was attributed to circumstances unknown. Its backup, Case B13, is sensitive. It has been revealed to the public for transparency purposes.

Case B13 isn’t [part of review lost due to corruption]

The full case, Case 0013, is lost to corruption and is therefore hidden because no scientific merit can be recovered. The circumstances were not investigated because corruption is an anomaly and it has only happened one time. There are many more cases that can be accessed that of much more use than Case 0013 was before corruption occurred. Its backup record that you, Pressuriser 0223, helped write is simply for organisational purposes.

It wasn’t [part of review lost due to corruption]

If scientific merit is lost, it is not unusual for a case to be hidden, as it is of no use. There is no point in making a corrupted case public within the process of the Suicide Room or public to the world at this stage.

Rule 5.2-B states that [part of review lost due to corruption]

No more discussion on Case 0013 will be tolerated and the review will be terminated if it is mentioned again. Please be aware of your words from this moment on.

If that is the case, I politely request that this review be over. I have answered several questions in detail, and, at this point I do not believe there is anything I can say that I have not already said.

Should you wish to carry on with requesting ejection from the review, it will be treated as an attempt to hide personal information and as refusal to aid the pursuit of knowledge that helps towards the main goal of the process. Do you still wish to request ejection?

I still wish to request ejection, and I am not the one hiding anything.

-Questioning Ends-

 

Pressuriser 0223 left soon after this, and she was noticeably irritated. Her request to be ejected was recorded. After the review, she left the grounds, despite researchers’ efforts to persuade her to continue working on writing up a case. Pressuriser 0223 has since been marked as Recalcitrant.

 

IV: Suicide Room