The morning siren erupted in an annual cataclysm of metallic shrieks. It was an identical morning, the exact replica of a morning repeated since the Setting of the Board. It was a Thursday.
One member of the ill-informed orchestra did not feel like participating in this particular Thursday, however. When the siren reverberated across the town, and into the ear canals of its residents, Eugene Milton just rolled over and stuffed his face into a pillow. He also faintly said something, which so happened to be the 33rd wisest thing he would ever say:
“Rmpgh gthppt haittrph.”
The reason why this statement was so particularly wise for Eugene was that it could be misinterpreted as reasonably good advice in a variety of languages, two of which being long dead. A funeral was never held for these dead languages, because they were simply the means by which one human being could tell another, “get out of the way” or “I would like to buy this loaf of garlic bread” or “by golly, I forgot to dress for cold weather” and such and so on. So, as the process of conveying thoughts by using mouth noises and merely the design of man, it was never alive to begin with. Plus, human beings were too busy loathing other human beings to hold a little service for their creations. But the languages did not care. They were too busy being inanimate concepts to notice. They didn’t even notice that they were no longer in use. Imagine that! Not noticing that you’re dead!
The sound of screeching metal sounded a second time. The siren knew that somebody was still in bed, and it intended to continue blaring in transitory bursts until that individual woke up to the daily struggle of Thursday.
Eugene didn’t stir.
The siren howled again.
Still no movement from Eugene.
The siren howled a fourth time, this time with far more gusto than before.
He lifted his head and blinked numerous times, staring at a stretch of pale blue wall opposite the foot of the bed. Nothing was going through his head except a deep feeling of emptiness and dread. The bed provided no special comfort to Eugene, he just was not motivated to move anywhere else. “What is the point,” he mumbled incoherently. He rested his head back onto his pillow.
The tiny one-room apartment of the newly morose inhabitant showed to be a habitat of an organized human being. An empty black bookshelf stood against the window to the left of the bed. Next to it was a nightstand, and on it an empty grey picture frame and a circular coaster. If Eugene were not drowning in misery, he might have reflected on the oddity of his ownership of a coaster, since he didn’t own cups of any sort.
The door smashed open and slammed against the wall with a quipff-fwshh. In came three men, armed with clubs and dressed in light pink uniforms with grey motorbike helmets. Their march was brought to an almost immediate halt due to the size of the room. They shuffled around the bed. The dazed Eugene looked up at them. Silent looks were returned through the empty blackness of their helmeted faces.
Eugene was not sure how long their indirect staring contest had lasted before a new man entered the room: a tall, thin man with an identical uniform as the other men, yet lacking a motorbike helmet. He had a tastelessly shaped grey mustache sprouting from his long face.
He shuffled his legs through the tiny room, past the helmeted men, and crouched next to Eugene, inspecting his face. Eugene didn’t bother to glance over.
As the thin man looked into Eugene’s face, a pragmatic form pooled in his eyes. Without looking away from his figure, he spoke a language that Eugene’s poor brain didn’t even have the energy to translate. It all sounded like clicking and low howling.
“Whoo-tsk-hooop-schsk-abttoohooh?” asked the mustached man.
“Grift-pluplpp-froo. Foo drosk-crisk-crangle-doobrispecked blaggrgg-off oofft-broohlck” answered the nearest helmeted man.
“Mm. Pickle brookoski.”
☁ ☁ ☁ ☁ ☁ ☁
A fast-moving glob of air whapped Eugene out of a trance. He would almost immediately have asked a series of questions, if he only could; such as, “What am I doing here?” “How did I get here?” “How much time has passed since I went from my bed to wherever I am right now?” But poor Eugene thought none of these things. Just as his body was paralyzed by his abrupt rush of apprehension, so was his mind as he lay on the floor of one of the Sovereign Pessimism Interception Police’s trademark circular vehicles. The sides of it were covered in baby blue decals of tatty frowning faces.
A pulse growing in a swelling clish-clash of cymbals drowned out Eugene Milton’s senses and had him sitting expressionless on the SPIP vehicle’s floor. There was no sound to mishear, no light to construe. To the hapless Eugene, there was nothing, just as there never was. He was less than a fetus in a mother’s womb, less than a germ that springs out of another. No pain; no space to fall in, no figure to fall. Soundlessly subtracted from the equation.
But here there was a pair of feet being dragged across the linoleum floor. Florescent lights dangled at safe heights from the ceiling, and lit the long room to a faultless degree. A spotless room and no sign of any custodial workers anywhere.
The tastelessly mustachio’d man swiped a silver card through a slot, and a wall opened, showing the officers and Eugene the SPIP soothing facility. Many stalls furnished the room, each with baby blue curtains, most all of them closed. The officers marched through the hall in between the soothing stalls, dragging with them Eugene.
☁ ☁ ☁ ☁ ☁ ☁
Curtains closed, leaving Mr. Milton alone in a small stall of the soothing facility. His body sprawled out on a chair, mimicking a corpse or someone who forgot how to sit. He stared at the left wall of the stall, never blinking, never acknowledging its presence or his own. Music played from speakers built into the ceiling, the same six piano notes scaling upward, starting from a low tone, ending on a higher, and starting over again.
The curtain opened, revealing a young nurse in her twenties. Her uniform was pink and rubbery, like the officers’.
“Good morning!” She said cheerfully, making a slight curtsey.
She stepped forward and filled out a form on a clipboard, not waiting for Eugene to acknowledge her. Her face was bright and warm, yet no one in her line of work could ever appreciate it. Not that this was any different outside of the soothing facility. Yet she kept on smiling, for her own reasons.
She gracefully put down the clipboard and exited the stall. She soon returned, scooting along with her a tall, oddly shaped instrument on wheels. A thick black tube coiled around a large metal sphere at its top. As she unraveled the black tube off the silver instrument, she hummed along with the repeating six notes. Despite the tiresome repetition of the same six notes, the tune had a pleasant sheen when she hummed along.
The woman lifted Eugene so that he was sitting upright and fluidly strapped him into the chair, as if she had done procedures like this many times before. Eugene’s chair began to lean back slowly until he was looking beyond the ceiling with his blank stare. The nurse attached the end of the tube into his wrist, flipped several switches on the machine and pushed a small button.
The ceiling, which was once colorless, now squirmed. The loopy cymbal player hiding in his skull was replaced with a whole orchestra of confused and angry cymbal players. He was saying everything he had ever wanted to say, every phrase he longed to hear, all at once; but interrupting himself so that he can’t hear any of it. Eugene smiled widely, wider than he had ever smiled before; yet he wasn’t the one with a grin. He was somewhere else.
All the satisfaction he had longed for paraded past him, glancing at him with cheery faces, and continued on into the distance, until they where no longer shapes but colors. Colors that danced as he clapped to the rhythm. Everything was together while being separate, colliding but never quite blending. Red and silver did the tango, combined yet still distinguishable. Off in the distance yellow and green swayed. But orange and blue! They moved like nothing Eugene had ever seen before. They darted and bubbled, swirled and twirled, and, for a finale, they melted into each other; but still, they weren’t connected, each where independent while they gradually faded out of sight.
He blinked as he awoke, and he was humming the tune.