by Francis Scudellari
Its cilia-like appendages rippling up and down in unison, the bug glided across the ceiling. A small self-contained, thousand-legged wave, the millipede undulated back and forth through Jacob's fuzzy field of vision. It seemed a thin tan scar that magically had lifted itself from the white-painted, dry-wall's skin and scampered at full gallop in no particular direction and for no real purpose -- simply reveling in the joy of first-time movement.
Jacob watched it quickly crawl in an unimpeded, militant march toward the ceiling fan's base. It circled the fixture confused by the chrome reflection, then darted suddenly at the window, as if in sounded retreat. The insect was Jacob’s sole entertainment as he lay stretched out on the couch.
His head pounded violently suffering the affect of the prior night's binge. The shades were drawn against the penetrating, now-orange sunlight. The stereo had been muted all day. Jacob wanted to do something productive, but he didn’t have the strength to stand up. He had a good excuse for not writing today.
A train rumbled by yet again and the screech of its wheels pierced Jacob’s skull. He clenched his jaws and waited for the agony to pass. As the noise and pain slowly subsided, he swore a mild oath to give up drinking -- at least for a little while.
The sound of familiar footsteps rose up the staircase, and the door shortly afterward swung open to reveal Edom's vibrant silhouette, as expected. Jacob's friend's face was lighted by a brilliant smile. His auburn locks hung freely about his shoulders and his green eyes glistened with excitement.
In a seeming moment's blur of movement, Edom entered the room and pulled a chair up next to the couch. “You should have been there, Jake. It was completely intense! Man, guys were going fucking nuts … slamming into each other … jumping on the stage … diving into the crowd. It was a riot. The band was so wasted that they started tossing full beers out into the audience. All hell broke loose.”
“Calm down, Ed. Check the voice -- can’t you see I’m hurting here? It’s bad enough these damn trains roar by every ten minutes, now I gotta listen to you screaming in my ear.”
“I guess you had a pretty eventful night, too.”
“No, just the opposite.”
“Well, you should have been hanging out with me, Jake. It was awesome. I wish I could describe it to you … the sensation of total recklessness, of letting yourself get swept away by something much bigger than you. It’s like your mind’s not there anymore, just your body. You don’t think; you feel. You feel the sweat dripping down your face. You feel your neck snap at the jolt of banging into some guy who’s drunk off his ass. You feel your chest vibrate, and your heart beat to the pulse of the music. It possesses you. It takes you over.”
“Look, Ed, it may be cool for you, but that’s not my scene.” Jacob rolled on his side and pulled a cushion over his head.
“What is your scene, Jake? Sitting in this apartment all day getting pickled? Your mind’s gonna rot if you don’t get out and live a little. How are you gonna be a writer after you kill off all those brain cells … and no real pleasure to compensate for it”
“My brain’s fine. I get out plenty. I spend half my time at the damn bar. If you’re so concerned about my health, why don’t you be a bud and get me some aspirin out of the medicine cabinet. Watch your step … Gregors might be snooping around in the bathroom.”
Edom dutifully got up and tramped into the hall. Jacob could hear him carelessly rummaging through the odd bits randomly stacked on the warped particle board shelves. After a few minutes, his large shadow was back looming over the couch.
“Hey I saw your neighbors today. They just came back from the store. I must have scared the shit out of them -- maybe I surprised them. They saw me and each let out a little squeal before running into their apartment. They slammed the door in my face just as I was gonna say hello. I gotta a pretty good look at them before they disappeared. They were all bundled up like it was winter -- jackets, gloves, hoods pulled over their heads. Their faces were snow white and they had those dark circles around their eyes like raccoons.”
Edom handed Jacob the plastic bottle uncapped but still stuffed with cotton. “I think you should invite them up for a pot luck dinner sometime. I’d love to see what they eat.”