Every child is born with an animal narcissism that parents spend the first half of their children's lives trying to rote out of them with such guilty phrases as, "Say you're sorry," and, "Look what you have done." Many achieve a healthy balance between the self-centered primitive world and a self-destructive and vulnerable state of altruism that picture books and early morning public television seem to strive for. Liam could never settle in one place on this scale. Constantly swinging from total benevolence and complete egocentric arrogance, he found himself briefly numb to Fae and plucking the petals from the daisies in his hand. Liam clenched the flowers in a chokehold, consumed with frustration at the closed door and the woman who hid behind it. He had just suffered through another nap, and another dream of the future that, deep down, he knew would never come. Somewhere inside, somewhere dark and down a few flights of cobwebbed stairs, one always knows the truth.
Liam drew his feet beneath him and dropped the dying flowers to the ground, then stood before the door. Pausing, enjoying angry lucidity for a moment before pounding his fists into the hollow pine. Wild with passion, he swung knuckles into the uneven surface, his voice catching in his throat as he plowed through all the words he had already spoken. Fists fell to his sides, and his forehead pressed against the unscathed wood as Liam realized the futility of his outburst. A young Asian couple in a nearby apartment peeked their almond-shaped eyes from around the corner of their doorway, spoke condescendingly in their native tongue, and closed the door. It was dawn. Liam had been there for twelve hours. And he believed that he may have just broken a finger.
A person's internal clock thinks that it has its very own, very hilarious, sense of humor. Especially when you are sleeping. When you've forgotten to set your alarm it will wake you with just enough time to be where you must, but not nearly enough time to refrain from panicking. This happened to Liam quite frequently, with the aide of nightmares. The moment where death was looming, and the gun was cocked, the knife was raised, and the bomb-timer had reached one-point-five seconds left until total and complete destruction. This was the moment he woke up. Always a fraction of the time that he needed to complete whatever it was he needed to do.
The train lurched underground, and Liam's body shifted accordingly, the way a New Yorker's does. The easiest way to pick out a tourist was to watch someone stumble with any jerk short of a sonic boom. One memorizes the twists of familiar tunnels, develops a sixth sense about subway turbulence, and so becomes entirely unaware of it. Just as with pushing through the crowds of Times Square and on narrow staircases. Just as with passing the street-corner brothels. Just as when ignoring the homeless. It is only when this numb callousness settles in that you are a certified New York resident, and they will allow you to vote.
There is no set timeline one can follow to predict when this status will kick in. Fae had only been around a few months, and she was already certifiable. It took Liam over a year to get used to this predictive, apathetic lifestyle. He was from Queens, right next door. But it was particularly hard for Liam to make the jump from suburbia to Bohemia, though he felt he always had corduroy in his blood. It was painted over though, by a thick layer of imposition. His parents had raised him well. He was polite, considerate, and totally unprepared for the real world: every Jewish mother's ideal. However, he didn't lean on her long after he became fully responsible for any crime he would commit, and any contract he would sign. “Well…besides a car rental,” he griped.
Liam left his parents' home at the stroke of midnight entering the eighteenth day of becoming eighteen. This was intentional. He thought this, at the time, to be both poetic and dramatic. Now, remembering while sitting on the empty train, Liam thought both that this date would have been better set if it were purely accidental, and also that this train must be empty because of the horrific smell. His sense of smell would also fade. It would all eventually be sandblasted away.
Watching the inside of the tunnel fly by, panel by panel, became hypnotic. It was late, and he had at least six stops to go. Liam drifted into sleep uncomfortably, arms folded against his chest and legs jutted out blocking the aisle.
He became aware that he was running. It was a desperate run, towards something rather than away. His shoes pounded into the pavement and it gave way beneath him, crumbling. Liam checked his watch, and it read a time that screamed in his mind that it was Too Late. The sidewalk was in shambles, and he stubbed his toe, falling to the ground. His palms were scraped and bleeding. Running again even before he was totally upright, he wiped the blood on his stained jeans, leaving dragged handprints. Liam found himself at the base of what resembled a Mayan temple, more than a couple stories high, and cascading staircases to the summit. Only a moment's hesitation and then he took flight up the steps, feeling them give way behind him, leaving him no chance for retreat. The avalanche crawled upwards, chasing him, crumbling just a hair behind where his shoes clapped on marble.
He came to a large red double door, and Liam knew that it was locked. He took a few steps back to the ledge where the staircase once began, and rammed the door with his shoulder. It exploded into splinters and glass shards around him as he burst into the room. It was dark. His hand crept across the cold marble wall searching for a switch, but he found none. Something in the dark caught Liam's eye, and he walked to the center of the dark room. A glass orb seemed to float there, and he wrapped his fingers around it. He pulled downwards, and the room was filled with light.
The walls and floors were a white marble. He could not see the ceiling due to the bright lights. Scrawled on every inch of the slabs were words that he could not read. Liam could never read in dreams. But, he knew what they said. There were names scrawled in blood. Men's names. Joseph, Carl, Mark, Thomas. Thousands of names written in a fluid script. A woman's handwriting. He turned slowly, counting the different names, and finally noticed Fae.
Her back was hunched, her legs broken and twisted beneath her. Her hands were limp and helpless, hair matted, face pale and bruised. Liam ran to her, but stopped a few paces short. She was dead; this was her blood on the walls. Her writing. Jason, Roger, Fredrick, Miles, Tyler, Carl. He ran his hands over the names and they smudged. The blood was thick, and sticky. Harry, Peter, Derrick, Vince. He couldn't find his name. Liam's name was nowhere on these walls, these floors. He could feel Fae's broken smile.
He woke with a start, and the first thing he saw was a young couple staring at him. Liam wondered if he had cried out in his sleep. The train was stopped, and the doors were opening. He shortly realized that this was his stop, and he sprinted from his seat. Shuddering, and trying to shrug off the haunting images, Liam shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans. He studied the advertisements in their cases on the wall, the tiles and turnstiles. Then, looking up, he noticed the concrete stairs to the street level.
Read Chapter Four