Posted in Books & Stories

The Distant Factory — Chapter Nine

It’s a long and lonely road when you know you have to walk alone. Where are you Jeff? Where did you go? Does your soul even still exist? Is heaven for real? All that stuff Byron tells me about eternal paradise and being repaid according to what you’ve done. Justice will be served here in the physical because I am here and I exist. I exist and my own existence is a mystery even to me. I don’t think the same way others do. They take life at face value but I don’t. I look beyond, I seek the meaning, the soul. Why can’t they be more like me? Why can’t they understand that the struggle alone is just too much?

I look up at the stars at night, they are like satellites watching over me. All my thoughts come out of their den when the shadows fade. Maybe if I could fall asleep somewhere and see you again Jeff, maybe we could meet somewhere in my dreams. You’d be here and I’d be there and together we could go somewhere. I feel like I’m lost out here, like the stars in the sky at night just floating around in the atmosphere. Oh God, how I wish you could be my satellite. Come here and be the light that will guide me through the darkness. The guilt just shames me more. All the things that I try to hide are so much more obvious when it’s not my own life. People are jealous because they see in me what they couldn’t achieve. I will not be backing down this time. There is no forgiveness, or letting go, or letting God. If you’re somewhere out there, I am calling out to you. Can you hear me now? They will hear me after this.

I remember that day that everything changed. I’m losing sight of reality and I’m losing the fight to still walk in a straight line. But what the fuck is straight in life anyway? I remember when something died inside of me. My heart? My conscience? And the world thinks that I have a problem now? They’ve got another thing coming! I don’t walk around in blind obedience to life at face value. I walk around these streets with no hope with my eyes open just to remind myself that I can never let the memory fade away. Memories are trivial as they fade away and they can never be immortalized as the even the conscience will fade away along with whatever we preserved of our dear memories. And soon again we will all die and in a century there won’t even be a memory of us. The stories will not have been passed down through the ages. If it’s true what they say about the afterlife, it better be a nice freaking place.

If I die tomorrow, will there be anyone here to remember me? Do memories really go on until the end? Where does time begin and where does it end? I am so done with these endeavors. Meaningless. It’s over. No longer. I will live to fight another day until I too fade away. But that’s not enough. It never ends. Time is an endless waiting and in it it’s so easy to fall apart completely. A concrete pillow, a man with no home. And I’m just supposed to get down on my knees and pretend that all the invisible people in the sky can mean something to me? There ain’t no God on these streets! We’ve become desolate and hopeless, not that there was ever anything for us here in the first place. What is a battle without a cause? A bullet without a gun? Without you I can’t bear to face the truth.

All I have is one last chance. I will not turn my back on you Jeffrey. Maybe I can’t preserve what’s left of you but there’s nothing left to lose. I will do this for you. You left me but I will never leave you. An endless waiting passes me by but I’ve never left your side. In another place in another time I will see you again. My days begin and end with you. I wish I could forget and I wish I could forgive but it won’t change the bottom line. I am here. With you. The end.

It rained for days on end and there was no seeing the sunshine since I can’t remember when. The people in the streets went about pretending like it was a day like any other. Their same faces looking like plaster, if they cracked a smile the whole face would fall apart. I wished I had my incredibly expensive stolen stray cat to cuddle with but it had probably been sold off to some Chinese restaurant to be cooked as expensive stew. At times my thoughts raced back to Eddie or even Jeff, but I didn’t bother thinking too much about them since it wasn’t healthy for me. It didn’t feed my hatred. Thinking about them just made me want them back, yet it was for that very reason that I had set out on my mission. I was going to take back what was rightfully mine. The question was just how I was going to accomplish that. The days were long and the nights were cold. My stomach grumbled hungrily as I went on walking for days on end without a single bite to eat. I just wasn’t hungry. I was weak but that didn’t matter because I was a soldier. No matter where I seemed to walk all the buildings seemed to be the same. Only the faces in them changed.

I don’t know where I’m going, but I know where I want to go. God help me, I’ve come undone. The road is only long where you’re missing home. Wherever I go, I arrive with nothing to show. I see all of these mindless people with smiles plastered across their faces like nothing else but the present moment matters. It’s apparent who has never had to face a hard day in their life. We hold our hands up to blind the sun because only the light is to blame for what we’ve done. This isn’t the world I know. These thoughts are not mine, but belonging to someone I don’t know. When I’m in my human form knowing too well what I’m about to do, everything has a glint of triviality to it. There are no glimmers of hope that shine in these eyes. Just what I think and what I know. But then again what’s the truth in anything when all you know is said to be a lie?

If I could turn back the hands of time, I would change the entire course of history tonight. If only I could be granted a second chance, whatever it is that was done wrong would be made right. There would be no more tears, no more pain, no more nightmares and no more shattered dreams. Life would not be the absolute zero it is. Is there really such a thing as anything? Or only what we perceive it to be? Only what others tell us it is? So many people have told me to walk away, but what I never told them is that I’ve been walking my whole life. I’m in this world all alone and I realize that it’s always been that way, and it’s always going to be that way. I wish Jeff could still hold my hand through the storm but I know better than to think that way. Now it’s a little too late.

Byron says that there is a time for everything. A time to laugh and a time to cry. A time for joy and a time for tears. A time to live and a time to die. A time to stay in the shadows and a time to step out. A time to walk in a straight line and a time to take a calculated risk. He says that God’s hand is at work in everything in its due time. Well it looks like I haven’t only been walking my whole life. If what Byron says is true, I’m going to burn for eternity in the lit coals of hell; the same place I am going to send Dwayne Jackson for what he did to my brother.

The roads twisted and the roads turned, they went downhill and uphill. They wrapped around bodies of water and then there were some with fences right in the middle of them. I always managed to crawl underneath the fences of the gated neighborhoods to go do my creeping business. Nothing in life was foolproof or homlessbumproof for that matter. The fancy Mercedes and the Jaguars sped right passed me and didn’t give me a second look. The cars and their paint jobs changed but the road seemed so eternal and without end. Finally I arrived to a place where the water met the land. I went around searching to see if I could find Jeff’s footprints in the sand but his soul hadn’t washed up on shore. I was never going to see him again. That very same day, whichever day that was, my hunger became unbearable. How long had it really been? To me, time meant nothing more than counting down to the day Jeffrey was murdered. And even I couldn’t see straight as to when that was exactly.

I must have been still in Yonkers because there were plenty of beautifully preserved parks. The suburbs were quiet and the buildings awfully reminded me of Eddie’s shack. For a moment I wondered where he was staying at. I shook the thought out of my head as I looked up and saw the sun peaking through the puffy white clouds. Oddly enough the rays of bright yellow sunlight illuminated only me and where I was standing, everything else was still dark. I wanted to break down crying but I put my hand in my pocket and touched my gun. The bullet in the chamber was still in there patiently waiting for something that I didn’t know would even be coming. So I kept walking. A neighborhood filled with nothing but government housing was up ahead. It brutally reminded me of Florida and my mom. We lived in one almost exactly like that. The light brown brick was exactly the same. The only difference was that we had lived in a duplex, the ones up ahead were all glued together like a puzzle gone bad.

I decided that it was time for a bite to eat, and one of the low-income housing apartments was going to be my restaurant. I walked quietly, minding my own business, down the mostly quiet street with only a couple of young kids playing around all the way to a lonely field behind the houses. A small body of water was the only thing back there. I couldn’t see the bottom of the pond but I figured that it wasn’t all that deep. I contemplated taking a bath for a while but I was too hungry and the place was probably not going to stay quiet for very long. And so I walked back to the other side of the field up to the backyard fences of the cheap government houses. They were quite tall, all made of the same dark wood, but they weren’t tall enough to keep me out of the yards.

I climbed the fence of one of the houses, not knowing what I was going to find on the other side, and came crashing down in the green overgrown grass in the backyard. There didn’t seem to be anyone home, but I could hear some people conversing and children playing in nearby yards. I couldn’t see because the fence was too high but I could tell that they were close by. Underneath the kitchen window of the house there was a big plastic garbage bin, giving me access to the window which was quite high as well. I did my best to quietly mount the trashcan without falling off or causing some sort of distraction that would make the neighbors notice me. From up there I could see two yards away, there was a young couple outside with a child playing in the yard. On the other side there was only a dog lazily sleeping outside in the sunlight. I was safe and undetected for the moment.

The window didn’t appear to be locked so I put both hands on it and began sliding slowly. The window gently glided along with my hands until there was a crack big enough for me to enter the premises. I put one foot inside and then pulled the rest of my body through the window and successfully onto the kitchen counter inside. The place was almost exactly like ours on the inside. The same old off-white paint so darn old that it was beginning to peel off the walls. The beige doors were just like the ones I used to have, only the living room was arranged differently. Instead of being merged with the kitchen, it was crammed in the corner of the place in front of the staircase to go upstairs. Our place didn’t have a second floor, only an ugly unfinished basement. When I was little I was always afraid that the monsters who lived in it would one day come up to get me. They never did, because I was the monster.

I opened up the door of a big stainless steel fridge and immediately saw some cheese so I took the slab of cheddar and devoured it whole right then and there. I sat in front of the fridge with the door resting against my shoulder and pigged out in whatever I could find that was to my liking. There was some spicy Italian lunch meat, some chocolate milk, ice cream in the freezer, as well as a half-eaten chocolate bar on the coffee table in the living room. For a while I laid down on the couch to let my food digest before continuing my journey and eventually fell asleep entirely. It was much more comfortable than sleeping under bridges or under patios and other odd places that were shielded from the frigid nightly winds, that was indisputable. I only awoke when I heard somebody inserting keys into the lock of the front door. I got up in a jiffy and tarted back out through the open kitchen windows.

Jumping out I underestimated how high the window really was from the ground and I landed on my face again basically. I quickly recovered and kept running like a mad person all the way to the end of the yard that was quite big for the kind of house it was and jumped back over the fence, only to land on my face again. At that point I had no idea if anyone had seen or heard anything so I ran towards the little pond and jumped in it once and for all. It was only about four feet deep or so, shallow enough for me to walk in it with my head sticking out well above the surface of the water. For a short moment I regretted not taking a shower or a bath in the house and maybe getting a new pair of clothing if I could find something that fit me nicely. Since it didn’t seem like anyone was coming for me, I kept walking.

Dreams come slow and they go so fast. I still see him in my dreams sometimes, maybe one day I’ll come to understand why. Never to touch and never to reach. Whoever said this pain would ever go away obviously didn’t know what it meant to be here without you. Somewhere far beyond this world, I will feel nothing anymore. I will come again to join you, and nothing will ever be able to separate us from the eternal bliss that we deserve. We all make ourselves believe that we’re going far. But in reality, are we even going anywhere? Progress is nothing but an illusion and in the end it doesn’t even matter. Things aren’t the way they were before. Once upon a time there seemed to be something called hope going around in the lives of people. What happened? It’s like I woke up from a century-long sleep one day and this is all I came to find in life. There’s honestly gotta be something more to life than this! There’s gotta be something more to everything that we know exists! What about the unknown? Things unseen? There’s no telling what those could be, and that’s probably makes them so damn scary.

Somewhere along the beaten path there was a lonely industrial railroad leading to somewhere different than where I was at. I figured that I must have gotten myself all the way back to Cobalt by then, like I had only kept on going round and round in circles the whole time, not looking for anything in particular, just telling myself that I was a soldier on a mission to keep myself from going completely crazy. As I walked by myself through a wooded area surrounding the railroad I couldn’t help but wish that a wild animal would find me have a good lunch. But then again I would probably only have ended up pulling out my gun and shooting it, making a lunch for myself and whatever else lurked out there in between the trees where I couldn’t see.

I walked all the way up to a clearing, and past it, the site of some new construction project. There wasn’t anybody on site working, there wasn’t anybody around whatsoever. I began feeling lethargic at that point in time. It’s not like I hadn’t been weak, famished and sleep-deprived before that point, but somehow it was different. I hadn’t seen familiar civilization or even actual people in what seemed to be the longest time. I had only seen zombies programmed to do what they were told walking around in the streets with emotionless faces. I felt a complete separation from my own existence. Only my unspoken thoughts and bittersweet fantasies accompanied me on my journey. The voices in my head they didn’t even talk to me. They didn’t even tell me to lay down on the railroad and wait for the train to come rolling around the bend, I did that all on my own.

Maybe, just maybe that bullet in the gun is meant for me. Maybe I am not supposed to be here either. Maybe this is nothing but a sick and twisted fantasy. There is nothing more to lose, and nothing more to be gained. All has already been said and done. There is nothing here left for me to do. You don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it all over again. I will find the enemy within and I will end right where I began. I hate feeling this way, all my days feel the same. Yesterday was proof that tomorrow will too. How long had I really been gone? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? A lifetime maybe? My clothes are dirty, the water is cold, the clouds loom over me, and the train still hasn’t arrived. So what am I waiting for? And then I woke up to the truth one day. And I went walking away to some place where nobody is ever going to find me.

I came to realize that the train wouldn’t be coming because there wasn’t a train at all. The railroad hadn’t been finished. The place wasn’t a construction site in development, it was one that had been shut down years ago. By Dwayne Jackson. I was completely alone in my desolation. The half-finished buildings didn’t even dare to loom over me. They stood their distance and didn’t approach. I didn’t look at them as I passed by because I was afraid to catch a glimpse of a choice that I had made long ago. I knew at that point that I had no choice other than to kill the motherfucker because the memories would simply never fade away.

My focus shall not fail. My soul will prevail and I shall not despair. The memory is here to remind me. I remember that day that everything changed. It never fades away. I never want it to fall away from me. I don’t know how I got this way. I know that I’ll never be alright. Not until this over. If it ever ends. Pain is limitless. You cannot measure it or contain it. You can only choose how you’re going to deal with whatever results of it. What goes up must come down. I wish that someone could be here to save me when I hit the ground. I never pictured life like this, with no shooting stars to grant my wishes. This is not the way life is supposed to be, somewhere along the way I must have gotten caught up somewhere in between. Sometimes I just take things way too far. I am going to do this. I am going to overcome this. But there are moments that I find myself not feeling so strong. The struggle alone is just too much. When I’m dead they’ll know just who I am.

The railway was a road to nowhere. But I kept on walking where the trees had been cut down for the train to pass through. I could hear water flowing somewhere nearby but I couldn’t see it. I sure could have used a drink. I could barely see the sky through the overgrown trees as I stepped off the path and went looking for the source of flowing, delicious, cold water. I thought I could see a clearing up ahead but I couldn’t be sure. The Cobalt Conservation Area? I had never been there, but I knew it was out there somewhere. It hadn’t just disappeared in the three years since Jeff had died. Maybe the fountain of life was flowing there, or maybe it was just sewage water, but whatever it was, I wanted to drink some. No matter how much I walked, the clearing seemed to be just as far as it was before. It was almost like the horizon over the Atlantic, you swim towards it and you’re almost there but you look up ahead and the horizon is just as far away. Where time is an endless waiting, you never get to where you’re going.

With my luck I fell face first into an empty ditch. There was no water, not even some mud for me to land in. Thankfully the ditch wasn’t very deep, I got out easily and climbed up onto the other side. There were only a few leafy trees and when I got to the other side I didn’t find the Cobalt Conservation Area. Instead I found the Cobalt Cemetery, that’s where my brother was buried. I had never dared to venture there. I didn’t even know where his grave was! The graveyard wasn’t very big so I figured that it wouldn’t be too hard to find but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there. I wasn’t sure if I was ready, or able at all, to face my inner demons and pay my respects to my brother who had given his life to save mine. I owed it to him to get down on my knees and mourn for a few minutes. It was enough as it was with the fact that I had never even gone to see his grave once after he was buried. I had had enough of the funeral. It would have been too much for me to see him be buried in a cardboard box. He had gotten the burial of a dog.


Liberal Muslim, social justice and human rights activist, cat lover, author and fellow human.

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