Friday, June 27, 2008

Belly: Chapter Two

After a much longer than expected delay, here's chapter two of my short story "Belly" (read Chapter One if you missed it). It's still very much a work in progress, so I appreciate all feed back.

Further back, and forward
By Francis Scudellari

"Where does a circle begin and end?"

"Wherever we choose to slice it ..."

"What if I place the blade randomly … here?"

"Go ahead … you'll see. We'll capture something important."

The train leaves the station and Jonah's stomach knots. A trailing memory of suggestive whispers causes Jonah to shift uneasily on the vinyl-covered cushion. Their words were spoken abruptly. The full conversation floated by in the short time it took him to find his accustomed seat.

Needing distraction, Jonah thumbs through the indexed list of songs displayed on the sleek, white device with a recall more agile than his own. A small pointer travels the recollected streams of sappy ballads and bouncy anthems. The blunt arrow settles on a track he hopes will mask the lingering echoes of those voices that slipped in uninvited on his morning train.

Jonah presses play and this time the expected words are piped through his inserted ear phones: "I was born in a cross-fire hurricane …"

Jonah drums his fingers to the catchy beat. The dull thud of his flesh against the briefcase's faux leather shell is strangely soothing. The rhythmic vibrations carry up his arm and down his leg. Before, so lulled, his once obedient thoughts would have steered him on a meandering but sure course toward slumber. Now, recently turned mutinous, these same thoughts scatter to unruly corners. Unmanned and tempest-tossed, their containing vessel is set adrift over uncharted, black depths.

After a few short verses, the calming fog of music is pushed aside, and the hallucinatory dialogue's dark-tinged drone looms again on a shortening horizon. Elusive shadows, impossible to grasp, flit across his mind's eye. Words stacked on top of words swirl in a gathering swarm that Jonah can only glimpse as a blur of rapid movement.

The hiss of stale heat pours from a vent below the seat. A drop of sweat trickles down from Jonah's left temple. It drips a crooked path across his cheek and soaks into his well-starched collar.

Jonah, cramped and ill-at-ease, loosens his red silk neck tie. Beige, geometric shapes spin hypnotically from its center. Still restless, he cracks the window. The gush of icy air gives him a moment's relief, but it can't chase away one lingering question: "What will I see and hear today?"

Jonah is certain that his brain is being hacked.
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