Pandemia

pan-, comb. form - Brit. /pan/, U.S. /pæn/

Forming terms relating to the whole of the universe or mankind, or denoting that the second element exists or operates at a universal level.

Wild Nights - Wild Nights!

Were I with thee

Wild Nights should be

Our Luxury!

-Emily Dickinson

Prologue: Run

Shinya Nakamura wanted to go for a run.

He was tired from work, but he wanted to go for a run. He was thinking about it as he locked himself into his apartment and sauntered into the messy, dark living room.

A tall grimy mirror stood leaned against the wall. Shinya stared at his reflection in the bluish-green light from the aquarium and the city outside. He was 21, skinny and pale. His stringy black hair hung into his listless eyes. People called him Shin. His features were Japanese, but his voice was coarse and American as he stubbed his toe on a table leg and muttered "Fuck."

Shin hobbled up to his desk and grabbed the device sitting on it. It was a thin, metallic headband, unassuming, save for the six-inch antennae that curved upward from the temples, resembling antelope horns.

Shin held the device in front of him for a few seconds, as he stared out the window. Night was falling over New Los Angeles. Something big was burning somewhere.

Shin breathed a sigh and lay down on the couch. He put the device on. The Panacea. He started falling into Pandemia.

He thought, I want to go for a run.

He thought, I can be anyone.

He thought, I can do anything.

thought, I can do anything

I can do anything

can do anything

do anything

anything

rooftop.

a rooftop.

on a rooftop.

is on a rooftop.

He is on a rooftop about fifty floors up; distant noises from traffic below; warm breezes rustling through his hair. The sky is lovely shades of violet and red; a summer evening.

He is still wearing his clothes from reality, but he makes a Change, and suddenly he is in tight-fitting black. He makes a Change, and suddenly he has a stripe of red paint sprayed across his eyes. 'Suddenly' is a good word; 'suddenly' leads to good things.

Suddenly he starts running.

He starts running, sprinting, arms and legs pumping, toward the edge, reaching the edge, going over the edge, running down the side of the building, running vertically toward the street, feet hitting the blank series of windowpanes, down, down, down; he can't go fast enough; he has to go faster -

- and when there are only a few yards left between him and the sidewalk, he kicks off from the building and flies through the air in an arc, landing on the roof of a moving car, falling through as if through water, landing in the driver's seat, landing in the driver, becoming the driver –

- and he speeds down the road between glittering neon signs, weaving and zooming forward between the sports cars, the vintage ones, the motorcycle gangs, the elephants –

- and he swerves off road, across a skating rink and up a steep ramp, sending his vehicle flying through the air toward a skyscraper, which it hits, hits and continues driving across, upward, toward the sky, off the top, into the sky –

- and he opens the door before the car starts falling down again; he jumps out, falling down toward a glass dome and through it, again, a watery surface, like a magic looking glass, and he is falling, falling from a Pantheon-dome into a vast neo-classical hall, some kind of high-class restaurant, white-clothed tables spread out below like a flurry of lilies –

- and he lands in a chair at one of these tables, opposite a beautiful woman; the woman looks like Grace Kelly; blonde, white silk dress, smoking a cigarette, contemplating him arrogantly –

"Good evening, stranger -"

and Shin knows that she is a he; something about her mannerisms, as though overjoyed to be a woman, to have this avatar –

"You're a man in reality, aren't you?" he says –

- and the woman nods slowly, dragging on her cigarette: "I only want women."

- "Fine; let's go," Shin says, making a Change and becoming a Brigitte Bardot-type, busty and blonde, black eyeliner -

- and they're going to the restroom, the men's room of course;

- there are people here, but Shin and the Grace Kelly-guy both make Changes, duplicating the restroom in an empty version, making it private –

- and Shin slams Grace Kelly up against the wall, kissing her with a certain Hollywood-passion, turning her around and slipping into her effortlessly, making her moan –

- and Shin makes a Change, becoming himself again –

- and Grace Kelly looks over her shoulder and sees that she is being fucked by a guy; she screams in rage, her face melting away instantly, becoming a fat, bearded guy who storms out, yelling "UGH! FUCK you! FUCK you!"

- and Shin follows him, laughing, back into the restaurant, where the guy complains to a waiter: "Garçon! Punish this man! He tricked me!"

- "Of course, Johnny, anything for you," says the waiter, a muscular, bald guy, and Shin starts running for the exit, while a meat cleaver whizzes past his ear and lodges itself in an innocent patron's forehead –

- and he bursts out onto the street, laughing, jumping onto a tethered black horse, making a Change to remove its ropes, riding down the sidewalk, faster, faster, away, diagonally up the side of a building, across vast neon signs, halfway up the skyscraper, up to the level of a monorail track –

- and a train is whizzing by, and Shin jumps onto it, landing with one foot on either carriage, the carriages drifting farther apart –

- and Shin makes Changes so that his legs become longer, like Buster Keaton on acid; he stretches out between the carriages, legs 2 yards long, then 4, then 6 –

- and he settles onto one of the carriages, shortening his legs, bursting through the door into an antique western-style coach, Victorian ladies and gentlemen gasping at the sight of the intruder –

- "This is a stickup!" he shouts, really just as a joke, not even bothering to make a Change to form pistols in his hands –

- but then the window to his left is smashed as a young black woman in a clown suit leaps in, kicking him out of the opposite window in the process, screaming: "No, THIS is a stickup!"

- and he falls down toward the street, laughing as he goes, falling, falling, faster and faster –

- but then he closes his eyes because he wants to wake up.

Shin woke up.

He sat up slowly, staring ahead of him out the window. Something was still burning somewhere in the city. A kind of yellowish-brown northern lights played in the sky, created by the pollution. A police helicopter flew by and filled the apartment with white light for a moment. The helicopter descended, and soon, somewhere else in the building, a window was smashed, and an apartment raided for whatever.

Shin took the Panacea off and placed it gently on the cracked glass table. He pulled his knees up to his chest and buried his face in his hands. Slowly and quietly, he began to sob.