Saturday, July 21, 2007

Outsider



Here's a minor short story I started on Saturday. Well, it's actually not a story. Just an idea I've been playing around with. I hope it will eventually blossom into something good. Tell me what you all think. And do me a favor; be honest. Don't forget to ask me for some stickers, too. Help a brother out. ;)

Harold walked into the brightly lit room. The walls were whitewashed, gleaming and immaculate, and his purple-tinged skin stuck out. The goosebumps were forming from the combination of cold air and the quick shower he had just had. He was wearing a long, white gown and, had he been just slightly bloated, he would have passed for a walking corpse freshly escaped from the morgue. There was a lone mirror on the opposite wall that drew his attention, and his eyes hovered over this rather large, rectangular singularity. It was sunken into the wall with a bland matching white wainscoting. Other than the mirror, the bright florescent lights and the solid white steel door there was nothing else in the room.

There was a loud, piercing screech from overhead immediately followed by the operator's voice. The operator, Harold reckoned, must have been seated on the opposite side of the glass, watching him while he was watching the mirror. His voice was almost indecipherable and Harold had to strain to follow the over-driven instructions.

"Turn around."

Harold turned his body until he was facing the opposite wall. The walls were immaculate and he saw no evidence of bad carpentry anywhere. The joint between the floors and the walls were seamless and he found no trace of bubbles in the drywall, evidence of nails. The voice tore through the silence again.

"Face forward. Thank you."

This room and rooms like it were all that Harold could remember. He had never seen a house, or a car, had never felt love or compassion, and had never known anything that people from the outside called "parents". As far as he was concerned they were constructs of the outsiders imaginations. From the little contact with outsiders he had he had ascertained his age to be about nine years, whatever "years" were. He had never seen a school, knew only enough words for basic communication, and he didn't even know his name was Harold. The only name he'd ever really known was "Doctor" and he used it to address the men in the white coats that hurried him everywhere. Again, the voice derailed his thoughts.

"You may return to your quarters. Thank you."

Harold turned to his right and there, standing with the door already open, was a talk dark man with a brooding demeanor. He stood at the entrance with his hands clasped behind his back and his long white coat radiating. He grunted and Harold complied. He was beckoning without beckoning. Harold had heard those grunts so often over the years from this brood that he acted out of instinct. He didn't need the grunts, but they always seemed to give him a feeling of recognition as if he truly existed. The men in the long white radiating coats never hurt him, but they always made it seem like they could.

The man in the coat led Harold down the long white hallway, spiraling and turning as it did, to a big white door and into a small and greatly soiled not-so-white room. These were his quarters. The floors were disheveled, it reeked of urine and feces, and the rats came in droves. But this was where Harold found his solace and he enjoyed his quiet time, even in the horrid squalor that he was forced to endure. He would sit on his small dirty bed and read from the large black book that he was given as a younger child. His large black book was the only means of escape that Harold had. The story never became dull and Harold read a little bit every night after he was served his supper. It was a truly wonderful story. It was about a puppy that was being held by a very nice owner. The owner would, without fail, feed the puppy and clean up after it, never with a snide word, but the puppy was always held in his cage. From what Harold could gather from the pictures (being that there were no words and he couldn't read them if they were there) the puppy was always happy and never barked at or bit the owner. The later pictures in the book show a happy puppy finally being let out from his cage and leaving with another very nice owner to, presumably, be taken in and loved by a nice family. This story made Harold happy. He wanted to be that puppy. He wanted to sleep in a bed that didn't stink. He wanted to know what it was like to be happy, and loved.

But today Harold was not to read from his book. It wasn't sitting on his small white bed as it always had and he looked up with a puzzled face to the man in the white jacket. The man looked down on him and grunted. This was, as always, a typical response so it did not bother Harold to receive it. "Where is my book?" asked Harold. But the man quickly turned and closed the door behind himself. Harold was sure that he heard another grunt before the heavy steel door slammed.

Harold turned back to his bed and then the voice, for the first time in his memory, exploded through his room in that high-pitched shriek that he was so accustomed to. He had almost jumped out of his gown.

"Good news, Harold."

Harold had never been called by his name before and this caused him a little confusion. "Are you talking to me?" he asked after a moment of reflection.

"Yes, Harold. That's your name."

The boy paused for a moment and absorbed this fact. He then started again. "What do you want?" he asked.

"Your parents want to meet you."

"I didn't think I had any parents", the boy said.

"You do have parents and they're here for you. Get dressed, please, Harold. There are clothes for you in the bag in the corner."

Harold had not noticed the bag when he walked in. The stained bag was a near-perfect match with the stained drywall and it sat in an inconspicuous position on the floor. Harold walked over to he bag, opened it and saw a pair of oddly colored trousers and an even more oddly colored shirt. "At least the socks and the shoes aren't weird", he thought. In all actuality, the clothes weren't of any strange hue at all. It was simply the fact that Harold had never seen such colors before. The shirt looked, to him, something like the way the sun would look, had he actually seen it. He'd only heard rumors from the other insiders about such absurdities. The trousers, too, were of another color that he'd never experienced. For these he also thought that maybe the night sky would look something like this. Again, this was purely based on rumors from the insiders. He honestly had no clue what these colors were. The only colors he'd ever seen were the several different shades of gray in his room, the blacks, and, being overly ubiquitous outside of his quarters, the whites.

Harold got dressed and sat on his bed. He looked at his forearm and observed the stark contrast between his purple-tinged skin and the retina-burning shirt. "These are an ugly match", he thought. Harold didn't know how to match colors but, logically, he thought, these two colors can't go together. Both the colors were assembling the ramparts and one would have to give. The shoes and socks were much more to Harold's liking and he lifted his leg onto the other just so he could look at the seems of the shoes. "These shoes couldn't have been made here", he ascertained. "The seems are visible." This thought stuck with him for a moment and the door swung open with a BANG! There was a man in a long white jacket standing outside the door and he beckoned with the usual grunt. Harold walked out of the room and the man slammed the door. This time he couldn't be sure, but it seemed like the man's grunt forced the door to close without him touching it at all.

The man escorted Harold down the hall, the whole time staying four to five steps behind him and telling him to turn at all the appropriate turns. They ended up at another large white steel door and Harold waited for the man to open it. The man was jostling around the loop of keys on his belt as he passed Harold by and was, as far as Harold could tell, having a bit of a quandary locating the correct one. After a small game of Choose The Right Key, the door slid open without a whimper and a world that Harold had never seen before unfolded in front of him. It was like a painting that had been sitting undisturbed in a corner for decades and, being discovered years later by one lucky person, it turned out to be the long lost Caravaggio.

The colors that Harold had seen on his new shirt and trousers were very drab indeed compared with the spectra that he was now experiencing. He wandered around the office and gazed at objects of every size, shape and, for what he could make out, color. There were staplers of red, hole-punchers of brown, computer screens glowing with hues that he couldn't even describe, papers of so many various tints, and, of notable interest, one strange object that was resting on top of some papers on a desk. He could actually see through this strange article of matter and it gave off not one, but a whole array of spectra. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. To the average onlooker, however, the room itself was nothing more than a standard office space, complete with desk, computers, windows, shades and an exquisite glass paper weight. Harold was so overcome by the paper weight that he was utterly fixated on it. He didn't even realize that there were other people in the room with him.

"So, as you can see Mrs. Deitz, Harold here is a fully functional, fully capable, and, hehehe, if I do say so myself, a fully fun-filled little boy." The salesman sat at his desk, opposite Mrs. Deitz, with a grand smile filling his squattish head. His stomach was rumbling from the grossly over-stated chuckle. He was being mildly facetious. In the legal business of people milling, you had to have a sense of humor. It was a mode of euphemizing the situation. The salesman was treading on morally sensitive ground with many people and many would be inclined to take offense if the words came out wrong or if the salesman happened even to even look the wrong way. He looked on, admiringly, to Harold and sent off another light-hearted chuckle.

"Never given us a problem of any kind since his artificial fertilization, never gone and done any wrong. I think you'll like him. I think you may even just love him."

Mrs. Deitz sat humbly in the chair across from him and admired the young progeny. The gorgeous purple hue of his skin gave him an almost ethereal quality like he were other-wordly. "Will the boys make fun of him in school?" she asked.

"Ma'am, we've been drafting new breeds and new pigments for over thirty five years. These children have been available for public consumption to just under that time. You see children, full grown adults now of all different shades. I'm quite sure that children in todays day and age are very used to children of Harold's, how could I say this, 'aesthetically pleasing' breed." The salesman scratched his gin blossom-riddled nose, straightened his glasses and brought his fat fingers down into his very black moustache. Mrs. Deitz noticed that he had a habit of fidgeting. For a salesman, this wasn't necessarily esteemed quality and it began to worry her. "Public consumption," she thought. She realized that endorsing a multinational corporation such as this one may not have been a good choice and she became squeamish herself. She looked towards the front of the mahogany desk and noticed the card holder. It was made of marble and it read as follows:

Don Fernando
VP of Sales
PMTec Inc.

"Well, what exactly are the terms of the warranty, Mr. Fernando. "I'm not sure I feel so good about this."

"Mrs. Deitz, allow me to put you at ease. You have yourself the best warranty in the whole of the artificial progeny business. Not only does your dissatisfaction demand a full and undisputed refund, it also allows you the refund and an additional twenty five percent over cost. Now, are you gonna tell me that that's deal is bad? I didn't think so." He was at ease now and his grin got bigger. The Cheshire Cat couldn't have outdone him.

There was a light SMACK on the floor that disrupted Mr. Fernando and Mrs. Deitz. Harold had found his own red stapler and was jamming it down onto the floor. Mrs. Deitz's gaze found its way to the boy and her eyes were tearing. This was what she wanted, but wasn't this going too far? Her heart was racing. "So", she said wiping the tears from her eyes, "what does he like to do? What does he like to eat? You know, the basic stuff."

"Well, Mrs. Deitz", he said, pulling himself back up to the desk again, "I don't rightly have Harold's file right in front of me, but, if you give me a minute I can go and fetch it for you." This time his smile came from the right side of his face. It seemed that the smile on the left side had melted away and dispersed its way onto his ugly, plaid jacket. Mr. Fernando made his way to and out of the door on the opposite side of the room that Harold had come through.

Mrs. Deitz, relieved that she had a moment alone with Harold, looked down at the boy, whose attention was still diverted to the red stapler. She was choked almost to the point of an asthmatic attack. After a moment, she managed to squeak out a light "Hello". Harold looked up at her almost blankly. His expression was on of an almost apathetic nature. He was strangely and coldly indifferent.

"I'm Mrs. Deitz, but from now on, you can call me 'mommy', okay?"

Harold just stared at her. His green eyes didn't contract and it were as if she wasn't even registering on his photoreceptors. She looked at the stapler and got down on the floor with Harold.

"Do you like this?" she asked. "Do you play this game often?"

Harold looked back down towards the stapler and continued hitting it on the floor. Mrs. Deitz could smell the cheap deodorant that whoever had washed him had used to mask his smell. It worried her greatly.

"Are you my mother?" he asked. His eyes were glued to the floor.

"I will be. When I finish up this paper work, honey. I can't wait for your father to see you. He'll be..."

The door opened and Mr. Fernando came back into the room holding a Manilla folder thick with papers. He was much less nervous than he had been before and the sweat had dissipated from his brow line.

"Here we are, Mrs. Deitz." He sat down at his desk and began filing through the papers.

"Mr. Fernando", she interjected, "how was his treatment here, if you don't mind me asking?" She took her seat back across from the husky salesman.

"Absolutely top rate, ma'am. You couldn't have gotten a four-star hotel to treat him better", he said. Confidence was on his side, as every good salesman needed in this business.

"Does he have any illnesses? I mean, is he sick in any way?" she asked.

"Absolutely not. Of course", he state with that sickeningly positive glow, "if he were then that is completely covered under our warranty. I can personally guarantee the health of this vivacious young man. On my mothers honor. Ya know, maybe "vivacious" isn't quite the word. I think I may even tend to prefer effervescent."

The salesman's inarticulate verbosity was beginning to irritate Mrs. Deitz, and she thought it best to make an attempt to wrap up this transaction in any way possible. Harold was still pounding away at the floor with the stapler. He seemed happy and, from what she could gather, extremely easy to please. Mr. Fernando was thumbing through the folder, using his finger as a guide as he perused through the information.

"Let's see", he said. He began spouting out the child's statistics and information like calculator paper.

"Model Number: 5.5-931; For your information, that determines the skin pigments." He stated this very nonchalantly, keeping his eyes to the paper. "Occupant Number: 07222007; First Name: Harold; Of course, you can change that if you so desired." He looked up momentarily with that freakish smile that Mrs. Deitz had come to dislike. He continued. "Born: August 24th, 2050 in our Grand Rapids, Michigan facility. Transfered here in mid-2055. All physicals have brought back nothing but sparkling health reviews. No signs of diarrhea, dehydration, fungal infections in the lungs, nothing. Ma'am, I would say that you're adopting the healthiest pure-bred progeny I have ever seen. Everything is right here." He laid the heavy Manilla folder on his desk and put his right hand down on it. This was enough force to make Harold to look up.

"That's everything?" she asked.

"Everything you'll ever want to know, Mrs. Deitz. His whole life history. All of our holding quarters have twenty four hour surveillance, so there isn't anything that he's done that we haven't been privy to."

"Well, I'd heard that these places can be a little cramped. Do all of the children here have separate quarters?"

"Mrs. Deitz, we created and cultivated the art of artificial progeny. We learned a long time ago that children, whether or not they be artificial or natural, are in need of their own personal space. Now, you can't raise children in an over-crowded, dirty environment. They have to be coddled as if they were your own. The infamous puppy mills of the twentieth century taught us that lesson." He was speaking with his hands with a disgusted look on his face. Mrs. Deitz was taking it all in.

They flailing of Mr. Fernando's fat hands distracted Harold's attention. He was listening now. He stood up, scratched his nose and walked over to Mr. Fernando. He cocked his head to the side as if he were contemplating his slimy countenance. Then he looked over to Mrs. Deitz and spoke. "Where's my father?" he said. Mrs. Deitz began to water at the eyes.

"Well, how do ya' like that?" said Mr. Fernando. "Here at PMTec, we pride ourselves on creating children that will love unconditionally and without inhibitions to love. The natural way of having children has gone out of style because, well, to be perfectly frank, children that are naturally born will always have at least one hereditary trait that the parents simply just won't approve of. So, when you filled out our questionnaire, we simply matched up what you personally needed in a child with our current inventory. Hell, we'd even cook you up a sibling if you like."

Mrs. Deitz was sobbing. Her emotions were running high, and all because of this perfect, purple child in font of her. She hadn't been listening at all to what Mr. Fernando had just said; she was too busy contemplating the life that she'd wanted for so long and was within a signature and a credit check of achieving. Harold was now running his fingers through her raven-esque hair. He wiped the driveling make-up from her check and she looked up at him. Her eye liner had began to stain her white blouse, but she didn't seem to have any notion of this at all. She was gazing on a son, but she was also gazing at a sun. The pigmentation gave him an almost preternatural look and, combined with his seemingly unconditional compassion, she may as well have been talking to God itself.

"I'll take him," she blurted out. She looked over to Mr. Fernando, his grin extending to the far corners of his bulbous head, and smiled in her own meek way in an attempt to regain composure. "I'll take him home today."

"Excellent!" he said. "You know, this is, honestly, my favorite part of the job. I just love making families. Is Mr. Deitz coming by soon?"

"He should be by in a few."

Harold, still stroking her hair, spoke in a way almost to mimic his future mother. "Can we go home now?" he said.

"Soon, honey. We have to wait for your father."

"I have a father, too?" he said. A smile crept across his face.

"You absolutely do, son," Mr. Fernando said. Mrs. Deitz looked back over to Mr. Fernando. The look she shot to him may have frozen ice had it had the chance. She didn't like people answering for her, let alone some round, pederastic slave dealer. Her independence of mind was something she attempted to cultivate in herself. Things like this always reminded her of stories her grandmother used to tell her as a child; about how men used to treat women. Apparently, equality wasn't practiced in the twentieth century. Either way, Mr. Fernando wasn't paying any notice to her anyways. He was a beady-eyed twit of a salesman, and the moral implications of his business were something that had been debated in Congress over plenty of blood, sweat, and loads of untraceable credits. In other words, there were no debates, just lobbyists paying out of pocket.

Harold seemed very satisfied with his current position, though, and Mrs. Deitz wasn't going to argue ethics right now. She wasn't emotionally stable enough to delve into any dialectic of any kind with this man. She was happy now that Harold was happy. He was standing in front of her now, a happy curiosity floating through his irises, and his purple-tinged skin flushed slightly giving him a slightly more red hue. The moment was cut short when Mr. Deitz walked through the door.

"Sorry I'm late," he said with his Londonish accent. "Is that the little bugger?" His eyes brightened and he knelt down in front of Harold. This didn't seem to sit well with Harold and he quickly bolted behind Mrs. Deitz's chair.

"Oh ho ho, honey!" she said, attempting to console Harold. "Don't be afraid, dear. This is your father."

Harold stood unflinchingly behind her and leered at the new stranger through suspicious slits that, just seconds before, had been eyes. Mr. Deitz looked towards Mr. Fernando quizzically. "What's wrong? Am I really that scary?"

"Mr. Deitz, please understand, young Harold here has had some time to acquaint himself with your lovely wife. I'm sure that, given a few minutes, he'll warm right up to you." Mr. Fernando chuckled lightly. Mr. Fernando was twitching uncomfortably in his seat, a pantomime of sorts. Both the Deitz's didn't trust him now. Mr. Deitz looked up to his wife whose eyes were locked on young Harold who was still behind her. She was turned in her seat and rubbing his small, shaven head. The bristling sound that came off sent a wave of calm around the room. Mr. Deitz looked back to Mr. Fernando. "Can I have a moment with my wife?"

"Of course, sir. I'll leave you two alone for a few." With that, Mr. Fernando walked out of his office.

"What do you think? I don't trust this man. He's fidgety," he said, "Not a very trust-worthy trait of you ask me." Mrs. Deitz was still trying to calm young Harold, who seemed only slightly better than he had been. She hadn't really been paying attention to him and he hadn't really been paying attention to her tears. "Hon?" Mr. Deitz said, trying to look at her over her shoulder.

"I'm sorry," she said, turning her head back to Mr. Deitz. Her eyes were wet and her eye liner had become a black tributary down her cheeks. "He's so gorgeous, isn't he?"

"He's great, dear, but I need to know. Are we gonna do this? I don't really trust this wanka. Ya know what I mean?"

"Yeah. I don't think I can leave him here with that horrible man. You should have seen the guy that brought him into the room." She was turning back and forth between him and Harold. Mr. Deitz realized that it may be harder to talk her out of this business agreement than he thought. She was set and her head was concrete. She was in love with this boy. "Harold, say hello to your father, honey." She stated this very gingerly. Harold responded very slowly. It were as if Mr. Deitz were a mass of solid fear and pure lethargy all in one that exuded himself through to the nearest person. Harold was brave, but his emotions were shifting. He removed himself from behind Mrs. Deitz's chair and worked his way to the man that he would eventually call father. Mr. Deitz's cautious face molted revealing a clean underneath of exuberance with a touch of waterfalls in the eyes. Harold, his emotionless face set, stepped, one foot at a time, in small denominations of length that eventually would add up to the small distance between him and Mr. Deitz. He stopped in front of him and held his hand out to Mr. Deitz. The hand sat there for a few seconds before Mr. Deitz knew what he was trying to imply.

"You want to shake my hand?" he asked.

"I think that's what it's called," said Harold.

Mr. Deitz clasped his small hand in his, the flesh melted together, and Mr. Deitz had a son. It wasn't just a "son", though. It was a sun.

There was a knock at the office door and Mr. Fernando's voice came through in a low belching sound. He sounded, Harold thought, like a great animal that the insiders talked about, but he couldn't seem to remember the name.

"You folks all set?" he asked.

"Yes," said Mr. Deitz. "You can come in."

"Well," he said, entering and then taking his seat, "have you come to a decision? Your wife had already given me her opinion." Another deceitful chuckle.

"Yes, umm, I think we'll take him." he said, in a mildly coy manner. He had to cough to regain is machismo. Mr. Deitz was on the verge of emotional breakdown himself. "We'll take him," he asserted more forcefully. "What do I have to sign?"

An hour later, after all the legal mumbo jumbo had been sorted, signed, and legally sealed, Harold walked out of his world, the only one he'd ever known, and into a whole new one. He stopped outside the main exit, aghast at what lay before him like a highly ornamented quilt, sprawling to the foot of his bed, only this one had the three dimensional quality of reality. Harold was used to flat things and square things; walls, ceilings, floors, doors, his cot, his big black book, nothing of any exciting shapes or colors. But this-this was a geometric and color coated banquet, and for the first time in his life he felt like the puppy in his big black book that he had loved so much. And for once, he knew what that puppy had felt like. For the first time, Harold was an outsider.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not why you consider this a "work in process." This is an excellent piece of writing which is cohesive and keeps the reader interested so much to quickly advance to the next sentence. In the beginning the subject matter is still not known, and as the story unwinds, it becomes a bit clearer but still captures the readers interest by it's interesting twists and turns in the various vignettes. Your knack for vividly describing even the most trite or mundane of objects or people allows one to visualize the story. The preface to the ending is well done because it does not rush the ending or a quick wrap up. Finally, your use of metaphor and subliminal references mirrors the story being told. It is essentially a verification of the story itself.
Awesome. Interesting to see another facet of your writing ability.