11. Pandemia

pandemia, n. Med. rare.

Pandemic n.

In the mansion of Mr Philip Adams, all was quiet.

Only the rain and thunder outside could be heard, and inside, the electric hum of the muted wall of TV-screens.

Philip stood in front of his three guests. Their bodies lay dormant and reclined on the sleek, S-shaped couches. The Panaceas were strapped smoothly around their foreheads, the antelope-like horns protruding. Ever since Philip had understood the dangerous nature of Pandemia, those horns had gained a menacing quality, where before he had only appreciated the beautiful, simple design that mimicked nature, was nature.

But Philip's eyes were not on the Panaceas. He stared up at the screens displaying his guests' brain activity. He had to monitor them closely, constantly, ready to pull one of them out if he saw that he or she was losing the battle.

In fact, Philip's attention was so firmly locked onto this task that he did not hear the bare feet lowering themselves onto the linoleum floor behind him.

Rosette was getting up.

Awake, but silent, the beautiful woman removed the Panacea from her head and placed it on the couch. She stood. Her long, brown hair tumbled down about her face. She stared, bemused, at her husband and his three guests.

She walked up the steps to the kitchen area, silently. Her brown, silky suit made not the slightest rustling sound around her thin limbs.

She stopped in front of the counter, staring at a magnetic strip of knives.

A tear rolled from her eye, glistening.

She grabbed the largest knife and turned, starting to scream.

Philip spun around, gasping, just in time to see his wife running towards him, just in time to see the knife coming down, through the palm of his raised hand, into his chest, out, up, and down, in again, something purplish spurting somewhere, Rosette screaming, Philip's head throbbing; he had the most terrible headache

And he dropped down, twitching spasmodically. The blood pumped onto the white floor.

Rosette continued to scream. She plunged the knife into her own throat. Her voice died down to a gurgle. She fell onto the corpse of her departed love, like some hysterical, second-rate Juliet.

Above the corpses, the brain monitors were displaying extremely rapid and violent activity on all three screens.

The TV screens showed newsreporters from a multitude of different countries, all speaking rapidly and almost hysterically, all of them muted, as if to mock their breathless words; as if to say that it is all useless anyway. But the newsfeed at the bottom could still be read: '… LATEST STATISTICS SAY 10.000 NEW VICTIMS EVERY 30 SECONDS …' '… CEO OF PANDEMIA MAGAZINE, MR KENJI NAKATA, KILLED ONE EMPLOYEE BEFORE JUMPING OUT THE WINDOW …' '… THIS BE THE END OF THE WORLD? PANTHEISTS SAY …' '… CAUSE HAS YET TO …'

On several screens, the newsreporters themselves were starting to scream, running off, chaos breaking out in the background, a thin stripe of blood splattering onto one camera lens in a South Korean studio.

And outside, it was still raining, the wind still blowing through the palm trees.

Shin is coming home

They're dead

Shin is coming home from school and

They're dead why did they

Shin is stepping through the door and seeing them, through the open door to the kitchen

They're dead why did they do

Shin is stepping through the door and seeing them, through the open door to the kitchen; they've hung themselves; they are in their finest clothes, his father in a tailored suit from Shinjuku, his mother in a white summer dress

My parents are dead

They're dead why did they do that

Oh I'm sorry

Shin is stepping through the door and seeing them, through the open door to the kitchen; they've hung themselves; they are in their finest clothes, his father in a tailored suit from Shinjuku, his mother in a white summer dress; and his father has taped a white piece of paper to his chest; there is hiragana writing on it; but Shin doesn't read hiragana

It's okay it was a car accident when I was like seven I grew up in some foster families it's no big deal

They're dead why did they do that to me

but Shin doesn't read hiragana; he doesn't even speak Japanese; he never wanted to learn it; just wanted to live here in the States; just wanted to live here; just wanted to live

I don't remember much about my parents so there's not much about them to miss

Yeah I guess that makes sense What did your parents do Like did they come here from Japan

He lied why did he lie to her

to keep things simple

but he likes her; she's like him; she's tough; she guards herself; she doesn't need saving; she can save herself; and he admires her; he

is stepping through the door and seeing them

loves her

Yeah In search of a better life and all that jazz

loves her

So did they open up a sushi restaurant or something

No nothing as exotic as that A bakery

Oh Cool

loves her

It wasn't a big succes Actually I think they were kind of well not persecuted but like harassed For being Japanese Lot of racists in that neighbourhood At least that's what I heard later on in my life And what I can kind of remember I remember one evening someone threw a brick through our window Stuff like that

loves Julia

he just wanted to live

Shin is stepping through the door and seeing them, through the open door to the kitchen; they've hung themselves; and he runs into the kitchen and jumps into the note on his father's chest, into the paper, through it, into the hiragana letters, through the elegant black twirls and strokes, through the whiteness –

here

- and things are emerging from the letters all around him, hands, claws, mouths, Pandemia is onto him; Pandemia is coming after him; he can't do this; he's not fast enough; he can't think

- and he thinks Jeffrey take me to Jeffrey no wait I mean Maldoror take me to Maldoror –

Jeffrey is having a fight with her again

the bitch

Jeffrey is having a fight with her again and she is crying

the bitch

Jeffrey is having a fight with her again and she is crying and telling him that she can't do this; she can't be his wife anymore; she can't breathe; she can't have sex with him, but it's not just that; it's in everything he does; he's sick; he wants to hurt her; he wants to hurt people; he's sick –

the bitch

and it slips out

"shut up you BITCH"

and now she closes and locks the bathroom door, and he can hear nothing but her sobs; and that's worse than anything else; that's worse than words; because now she has given up on him completely; she is scared of him; he is scared of himself; he wants to vomit –

He runs downstairs to the other bathroom -

I can't do this I can't be in this memory anymore I can't breathe

through the door, down on his knees -

and he vomits, vomits himself inside out; literally; he comes out of his own mouth and flies down into the toilet, into the sewers, down, down, into darkness, into an ocean, yes; the ocean; the sea monsters; Gaia; when he scared that silly girl; that was good

- but now something is coming after him as he swims; a tremendous creature; an abomination, a Leviathan, disgusting, and out of his control; this is Pandemia; this is Pandemia coming to swallow him up; this is Pandemia catching up with him with its huge sucking lips –

- and he screams and wants to wake up –

- and he wakes up

Jeffrey woke up.

He was back in Philip's mansion, back in that spacious, white living room, Julia and Shin lying to his right, still immersed in Pandemia.

He rose, gasping, into a sitting position on the couch, tearing off his Panacea. "I couldn't do it," he stammered. "I – I couldn't do it. It was too hard. I got spooked. I couldn't do it."

"It's okay," said Philip, standing before him. Behind him, his wife, the beautiful woman, Rosette, still lay dormant on her couch. Philip gave a soothing smile and reached out to pat his guest on the shoulder. "It's okay, Jeffrey. Shin and Julia will take care of it. You just rest here in reality."

"They … They can do it without me? You sure?"

"Absolutely," Philip said, his smile widening.

Jeffrey breathed heavily, staring out the window for a moment. It was raining.

It was raining upward

"I'm still in it," Jeffrey breathes –

- and Philip's smile widens, his mouth dislocating, jaws splitting apart like the flesh of a ripe fruit, and he lunges; swallowing Jeffrey up, and Jeffrey surrenders; he cannot escape; Pandemia will take him; and he probably deserves it –

- and that is his last thought as Philip's body grows, arches overhead and slides down around him like a condom onto a cock, like an anaconda swallowing its prey, tightening, crushing every bone in his body, pulverizing him, and he is

gone

take me to Jeffrey or Maldoror or whatever he is right now take me to him

and Shin is back in Philip's mansion, back in the living room –

"what the fuck"

standing on the amphitheatre steps leading down to the couches where his own body and Julia's and Rosette's are lying reclined, melting onto the floor like Dalí's clocks, the illusions no longer upheld by lazy lumbering Pandemia –

- and there is Jeffrey, being swallowed up by Philip's grotesquely elongated, serpentine body –

- and Shin understands; Jeffrey has been fooled; Pandemia fooled him into thinking that he was back in reality; and then it attacked –

"NO! Jeffrey -"

With a terrible, crunching noise, the serpentine body tightens and pulverizes the body within, and Jeffrey is dead.

Shin gasps.

Periods.

- Philip's unrecognizable body tightens and twirls around itself until it is a bizarre candy cane of bone and flesh; then it dissolves, into a thousand red and white butterflies, fluttering by, darting toward Shin, now a thousand knives, butterfly knives, now little biting fish, piranhas –

- and Shin runs back up the steps as they widen and become interminably long under his feet, becoming a downward-running escalator, becoming a spiralling paradoxical Escher-labyrinth –

"enough of this"

- and he jumps and spins through the air, becoming a first-rate acrobat, landing safely in the mansion's kitchen area, jumping again, down into the sink, down the drain, down, down, down, into the core of Pandemia, because he can go there now; he's done it now; he's gone through his worst memories; and he's not going to die tonight, and Julia is not going to die tonight; no more people are going to die tonight; the world is not going to end tonight; because soon the loneliness will be over –

- and Pandemia groans; it groooans, because it has been infiltrated; it feels threatened; it knows that it is fucked now, and Shin laughs –

- laughs and lands and runs down a wide marble staircase, and Julia is coming from the other side to meet him –

- and he shouts –

JULIA

I KNOW

HOW TO DO IT

I KNOW HOW TO STOP PANDEMIA

and she shouts –

WHERE'S JEFFREY

HE DIDN'T MAKE IT

OH

there is a clear sadness in her face for a moment; it moves him; because he thought that she loathed him; and she did; but Jeffrey was still a human being; and this was still a loss; but there are losses in any war –

and Shin reaches the center and stops.

the center and stops.

the center.

center.

He is in the center of a control room, a control panel, a funnel-shaped, metallic hall; everything whirls around this pedestal on which he stands; clouds, storms of dust and lightning, of ghosts and echoes, of cries and sobs, of screams and roars, as though he is in the (epi)center of the great sadness, the great loneliness, which shakes this fragile world, the constant and quiet earthquake that causes so many constructions to collapse –

Futile – the winds –

"this is where we have to send the signal from"

he realizes

To a Heart in port –

This is a lighthouse; this is a place from which to emit a beacon; to prevent all those ships from wrecking, to lead them to a safe harbour; to save all those victims; oh God, so many victims –

Done with the Compass –

"Julia hurry I can't take this much longer"

"I'm coming"

Done with the Chart!

And he sees her, more beautiful than ever, running down the steps, down the sloping wall of the funnel-room toward him, sprinting as though (because) the world depends on it –

"do you know what we have to do"

"yes"

"then you've realized that"

"yes"

"I love"

I want to be"

Rowing

"with

in

and she reaches him

you

They kiss.

in Eden –

The signal is sent.

Ah, the sea!

They kiss, and there are shafts of light, emitted from them, entering through them; four shafts of light; like the shafts in the sides of pyramids, letting the souls of pharaohs fly out to the stars; the multitudes of stars; like the multitudes of people in the network of Pandemia; in the network of loneliness, which is hacked now, which is destroyed by the signal –

Let me but moor –

They kiss, and he becomes a woman, and she becomes a man, and then they are both men, and then they are both women –

Tonight –

He is in her; she is in him; they are both inside each other; an infinity, like Ouroboros –

Let me but moor – Tonight –

They kiss –

- and the winds and the electrical currents, the undercurrents of the furious sea, the bolts of lightning; everything whirls around them, faster and faster; (Futile - ); they are in the eye of the tornado, of the hurricane –

Let me but moor – Tonight –

Pandemia groans; Pandemia screams; it is dying –

- and at the same time, there is a great gasping, as of a million swimmers surfacing from the water at once, as of a million sleepers waking up from nightmares at once –

Shin and Julia kiss –

Let me but moor – Tonight –

In Thee!

and wake up.