Tyler Gates exists barely in small town rural Midwest. His life is dotted with violent encounters with hillbillies, night jobs, alcohol binges, gas station explosions, and the occasional cult abduction. Besides pretending to be a writer he occupies his time with illegal underground home-made hot air balloon races.
Getting By Like Wingless Birds in a Stale Wind
It’s seven AM and he’s already drunk on cheap wine and NyQuil. He’s sweating bullets and nervously pacing around his dark house. He hasn’t slept in days; at least it feels like days to him, it could be more but definitely not less. His cats have slowly began speaking to him, articulating words most humans can’t pronounce. It’s not that they have anything in particular to say but they must sense the loneliness slowly dripping off him. The conversation feels good to him. He hasn’t payed his utility bill in months; the darkness he can handle, it’s everything else he isn’t sure about. For water; he has a long duct taped garden hose running from his neighbors spicket through his cracked bathroom window into the tub. He uses the freezing cold water to not only occasionally bath but wash his piss down the drain as well. He solves the rare issue of shitting by doing so in plastic bags and throwing them into his neighbors garbage cans late at night.
By noon he is passing the time how he often does; by digging his own grave in the large field behind his house. Their must be dozens of shallow unused graves back there by now. The thought of this worries him. What on earth are they going to fill all these with? Eventually he stops caring and continues to dig. One of these days he’ll finally die on the the spot like he’s supposed to. He imagines himself falling poetically into one of these graves before it collapses in on itself, burying any evidence he ever existed. This calms his nerves somewhat, even better the manual labor keeps him in shape. For what? He doesn’t know, maybe someday they’ll let him in on the secret.
Like everything in life the day somehow escapes him and as the sun sets he finds himself mixing boxed wine with ethyl ether in his kitchen sink as he rubs aloe on the self inflicted scratches covering his plastic face. His horde of cats continue to remind him in unison of the inevitability of whats to come. Just as the voices scratching at his skull begin to settle the door bell screams pulling him back to his painful reality. He freezes for a moment before grabbing the large revolver resting innocently inside his unplugged refrigerator. He walks slowly to the front door, expecting the worst he pulls the hammer back on his .357 magnum before slowly unlatching the many locks he’s installed over the years. The door creeks open and before him stands a young blonde girl in a girl scout uniform. He mother stands confidently behind her, resting her small hand on the girls even smaller shoulder. He makes eye contact with the both of them; the girl is oblivious to the condition of the person before her. The mother on the other hand is clearly unsettled by his appearance. Before they notice the lump of iron in his hand he tosses the piece aside. It bounces once before resting quietly on his ragged leather couch.
“I’m selling girl scout cookies. We’re raising money for a trip at the end of summer. Do you think you’d like to buy some?” The girl says with a smile plastered across her face.
“Um…sure wait just a minute. I’ll go get some money.” He says excited by the fact that these are the first humans he’s spoken to in weeks. At this point he’d give them anything.
Before he can grab the cash the mother interjects and says “It’s OK; you look busy. We can always come back another time.”
“Oh no just hold on a second please.” He responds. The mother appears nervous.
He comes back excited with a handful of blood stained money and asks “How many boxes will this get me?”
The mother reluctantly counts the soiled ball of cash then says “Well like five boxes, what do you want?”
“Oh I’m not picky. You can give me whatever.”
The mother stops the girl and hands five boxes of thin mints over to him herself. He grabs them with a smile as she grabs the girl by the hand and immediately begins pulling her away from the house. He locks the thick oak door behind them and again finds himself alone. The words they shared felt good and even better he will eat tonight. After mixing another sink full of wine he sits on his kitchen floor and tears into the overpriced cookies as he drinks his concoction from a ceramic bowl. The sugar rush hits his gut and he feels the closest thing to full he’s felt in months.
An eery silence wafts through his giant house and overwhelms him. It’s the silence he finds most unbearable. But it’s only until sometime after ten that he has to endure it. Every night like clockwork someone he has never seen continues production on several high potency bombs in his locked basement. He’s seen shadows of their shapes through the few basement windows. The smell of burnt plastic and chemicals seeps through his air ducts and every time he tries to force himself down there he is stopped by a barricaded door and profane threats. He doesn’t want to stop this man; he just wants to talk. He’d even be willing to help, if it meant someone to talk to. So like always he is kept barred from his own cellar. So whats left to do before the day ends? Nothing he figures so he forces sleep upon himself by huffing paint thinner until he nauseously passes out. His final thoughts, his final hope is that tomorrow may be different. His final worry is that deep down he knows it won’t be. It’s somewhere in this moment that somehow and in someway he realizes that being forgotten can be a state, an existence, and worst of all, a feeling.