Much like a dapper gentleman of a rustic setting who enjoys a postprandial walk though his beautiful estate, I have always enjoyed a pleasant stroll through a more urban setting after the consumption of a mild, mind-altering substance. Even with the ominous thunder lapping at my heels, my smoke-heightened mood was bolstered by the rushing endorphins from my workout with Octavio, and for a short while, I was able to roll back the hands of time and feel slightly invincible once again. After living amongst the constant sights and sounds of such an area, one has the tendency to develop a certain callous that numbs the sensations from such a constant stream of stimuli. However, with some slight “assistance” that alters the perception of passing time, one can regain the ability to notice the once ignored and to appreciate the subtle notes of benevolence that surround us. Depending on the person, it can even lead to bold reflection, and you may even arrive on your own doorstep to ask, “Did I let the world get to me…and allow me to forget how much there is to enjoy? Am I so lost?”
Or maybe it’s just because you’re hhhhiiiiiggghhhh, motherfuckaaaa.
I told my mature yet patronizing voice of reason to crawl beneath the rocks and to stay there for a little while longer…long enough to enjoy the rest of my journey back home through my quaint neighborhood. People might make jokes about this town…but it’s a gem in the rough. And when the ice caps melt and the island of Manhattan is under fathoms of water, the Palisades will be the new metropolitan stretch that everyone will covet. Yep…and then we’ll see who’ll be laughing… Of course, I wasn’t just high for my own sake. I was participating in a study; I was being the first-hand witness to science, observing the effects both cannabis and a runner’s high have on the endocannabinoid system of the brain. Those scientists didn’t need to study that. Shit, I could have told them that for free. However, my peaceful saunter and experiment wasn’t long before it was interrupted once more, by something other than my subconscious. Pulling out the vibrating phone from my pocket, I could see that the incoming call was from Steelkilt. Which meant only one thing…that it was something about the condo building.
Hmmm…should I relinquish this fleeting moment of joy? Because there’s no fucking way that I can enjoy the rest of this goddamn high if I… Too late, I was already pissed off now at merely thinking about it. My brief romantic fling with the universe had been terminated due to the Heisenberg effect of evaluating my own happiness. Goddamn it…this better be important…
Discarding the immediate thought of throwing the phone into a sewer grate on the corner, I took a deep breath and reluctantly answered my phone. “Hello?”
Brian sounded more exasperated than ever (which was saying something). “Peter? I checked your place, and Rhonda said that you had gone out. Listen, we’ve got some real problems now. When are you going to be back in the building?”
As if the overhead storm had been listening and waiting for such a cue, the first spatters of rain began to fall as I rounded the corner that led to my block. I quickened the pace in order to beat the heavier reinforcements, likely bearing down towards me at terminal velocity. “I’m only a few steps away from the front door. What’s up?”
“It’s too much to say over the phone,” blustered Brian. “We’ll give you all the details once you get here. Just meet me and Babbu in front of Mike’s door.” And with that cryptic note, he promptly hung up the phone.
After being on the condo board for only a few months, I had ascertained the essence of such a role: it was a thankless shit job that paid shit. (Actually, it paid nothing, which I suppose is better than actual shit.) Uncertain if it was simply a trait of all generations born after the Great Depression, I could bear witness to the general disposition of my spatial siblings that lived alongside me: they nearly all had the expectation that problems would be fixed without their participance or involvement. Between addressing impatient whining and putting out the small fires of neighborly squabbles, my duties resembled more of a kindergarten teacher than anything council. However, I had conscripted myself into this sisyphean endeavor, and unfortunately, I wasn’t about to abandon my post. If only I had the lack of any conscience. I need to look into purging such a parasitical nuisance. Maybe Octavio’s grandmother knows some kind of voodoo ritual involving a sacrificed chicken…
After walking into the lobby, I quickly ascended up the stairwell to the floor of Mike and Lisa, and after turning the corner, I found myself in the company of a flustered Babbu and a flushed Brian. Brian’s normal shade of angry pink was slowly darkening to a raging autumn. In our previous meetings over the past few months, I had served as the voice of reason against the howling mob that was my combustible compatriots. It looked as if I would need to repeat such a performance even now. Taking a deep breath, I composed myself for the conflagration that was about to consume me.
“Sooo,” I began, “What seems to be the problem?”
Babbu was the first to ignite. “These motherfuckers!”
Placing one of the massive mitts which were his hands on my shoulder, Brian looked at me gravely. “Well, do you want the bad news…or the really bad news?”
“Being in a good mood, let’s put me down gently. Give me the bad news,” I stated flatly.
With my answer to a choice of two evils now given, Brian stepped towards Mike’s door, and without even knocking, he turned the knob and opened the door. When I looked at Brian for some kind of guidance, he said nothing; instead, much like the last ghost that visited Ebenezer, he simply and silently pointed a finger in the direction of my looming fate. Following his direction, I stepped across the threshold of the doorway, and I looked upon the inside quarters of our community’s rotund rapscallion.
My mouth dropped open. “Holy shit…” I muttered.
Not only was the apartment now devoid of Mike and Lisa, it was now devoid of nearly anything. Upon immediate entry, I found myself in their bare living room and kitchen. Though all furniture had been removed, the kitchen cabinets were obviously stocked with plates, and the living room closet was full of odd items, like tools and an old laptop. From this particular vantage point in the living room, I could see into their bedroom, and it was oddly similar to the situation in the living room: no furniture but a stocked closet full of women’s clothing and shoes. More shocking, though, was the physical state of the entire space. Even though I had heard the violence of their past transgressions while eavesdropping, I had never actually seen the evidence of it. Several windows had been broken, and painful gouges that traversed for feet had been torn into the walls. The wooden floors, which displayed a beautiful glossy sheen when first installed, now looked as if shamans had carved deep elaborate runes onto its surface, in the hopes of summoning natural forces that slumbered in the Palisades’ rocks. Shards of broken glasses and dishes crunched beneath our collective feet, mixing with some sort of dark viscous fluid that clung to our shoes. Noticing more than several crimson streaks along the wall, I suddenly hoped that I was standing in dehydrated ketchup rather than congealed blood.
“So,” I managed to mutter, “Is the really bad news that you’re not sure where to put the dead bodies? Because if you’re asking me, I nominate the basement.”
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.