by Randy Sean Schulman
…And if the earth can put to rest those toppled buildings with twisted steel and the demolition of faith and admiration. If it can turn a blind eye to the futility of man, then maybe in time we will not be ordained to repeat ourselves, but ascend to a higher purpose from beneath the silence. What of all that, as long as within the ruins there remains the capacity to imagine, love and communicate feeling. But, oh how she wanted to hear the sound of his voice and taste the salt from his flesh.
At 3:47 A.M. Greta Berlin tapped a little hashish from two Microsoft cigarettes and rolled a fresh joint. Traces of post-urban jacklights winked in the shadows of San Francisco. “I wish we were cosmonauts,” she said. Her tone was bleak and cold, with a tinge of painful defiance. “So we can burn out of fuel in the timelessness of space. And let the world crumble into the hands of those who betrayed her.” She blew a skillful exhaust of X51 carbon tobacco and passed the joint to her husband. Switch stood near a solarpane watching bouquets of clouds hover against the footprint of oblivion. A half moon was pinned to the sky and silhouetted his naked body. His cells were soaked in raw metaphine — he slammed one last dose just before their rendezvous, and trembled while coming down. Her reflection in the window, the long messy strands of hair and stillness in her face, made him smile. “God you’re lovely,” he said. Greta was contented, not by the diversion of sex alone, but by the slow unveiling of a secret that would sooner or later bring them to a place of resolution. The feeling was temporary, as in the triumph of pleasure evaporating against the dim portrait of eternity.
For now they were unwatched.
The penthouse apartment was four miles above earth’s surface — bohemian and opulent, a hybrid of dark cherry woods, burnished steel and arched Italian stone. It was unapologetically chic and loamy, like the oil of sandalwood presented inside the splendor of a crystal chalice. Air was piped in through polythermal vents. And the radiant tile floor, inlaid with woven lotus flowers, was a constant seventy-six Fahrenheit. An unauthorized collage of Pink Floyd’s Speak to Me/Breathe in the Air surged from liquid nano wire and painted the south wall like an installation of sweet-sounding fractals.
Hyper City was a vertical annotation that pulsed against the margins of a twenty-first century.
They fell back into silence. Thoughts suspended their emptiness at two points. Even now, after all these years they were as comfortable with silence as they were with conversation. To him this modest detail was notable precisely because it did not abandon them — there was permanence to their silence, as though the value in it somehow seized the clatter of anguish and then later, while immersed in some ordinary thing such as shaving, pouring a wine or looking out the window, revealed it as rhapsody. They smoked the spliff down to a quarter roach, swallowed the last bit of tea strained through the bladder of a marsupial, and then she told Switch to get some sleep.
Pink Floyd washed over them like a lullaby.
You too, Switch thought, but didn’t say it because he knew her too well. She glanced up at him — he was awkwardly handsome and reserved, somewhat older now with wrinkles that began to affirm the passage of time. The lines were more prominent than she last remembered, and Switch’s eyes, in this moment, seemed to have a vacant appreciation for logic and reflection. In times like these most people wore reflection and reason like a badge of honor, as if the years spent on this planet were enough to dignify their calculable lives. A grin emerged on her face. She said, “What are you thinking?”
He leaned forward as if the weight of his body would crush his words, and said: “I’m wondering if the velocity of control and profit messes with our equilibrium.” Greta plugged her ears with spongy amplifiers. The bass was routed by vapor thread into a panel above the nightstand.
“We’re squatting in a safe house four miles high, sneaking in a fuck before our next assignment,” she said. “And Pink Floyd is contraband. What more evidence do you need?” She took a final hit off the blushing joint. “What more evidence do any of us need?” Her voice was sexy, confident, and a little gruff, as if each syllable was lightly sanded down before leaving her mouth. Their accusations placed citizens on the bell jar and on high moral alert. It began as a generation of Frankenstein. The new perception and the new Age of Aquarius a foregone conclusion and at risk were losing the intricacies of man and nature. Emergence of the cultural wars was visible. Fatalists, thieves, dope pimps, corporate hedgehogs, cranks, megalomaniacs, hypochondriacs, psychos, RAM freebasers, religious fanatics and orthodox contemporaries were among the swans of Satan. The doors of the new economy swung wide, mugging credit cards, livelihoods, bank accounts, relationships and ethics right down to the anatomy of a tendril. And a neon aftertaste ebbed somewhere between euphoric mind-fucking and a certain template for subversion. As for the American dream — it was choked off by the architects of pomposity, in a systematic chain of events. “Once we get clear on the absurdity,” she added, “the better we’ll be able to arm ourselves in a world where change is as perpetual as the lies of a first rate politician. Night night.”
She settled into the goose feather pillows, and within seconds was dialed into the DIN — Dream Inducement Network. Her eyes began to flutter. A moth spurred at the window, made a reckless flapping sound. He thought that was strange. What’s a moth doing this high? Beyond the thermopane white hot stars were like flecks of gemstone shimmering across the sky.