Something Went Really Wrong
By Jordan Muncz
Instead of Forward
If you’re afraid of what you might learn, stop reading now – this isn’t for you. Furthermore, I have no proof. It was quick and mostly quiet and by 5AM all that was left was the sound of helicopters leaving the city. Anyone that might have heard anything, gunshots, screams, sirens, wouldn’t have gotten very far into it – internet searches yielded error messages, and there was nothing on TV but the usual: gang shootouts, potheads causing traffic jams on the GWB and Columbia University sprucing up their campus for graduation.
I’m here to tell you, the military dumped sick people into the Hudson River. Call the Pentagon and they’ll reassure you, they’ve heard the rumors, but isn’t it ridiculous? And they’re not in the business of spreading crazy rumors. The newspapers will do the same, exactly the same…
After you read what I’ve written, you…, well you might think I’m crazy, or jealous, trying to take down academia because I’m not Ivy League. I have my opinions, but that’s not what this is about. It’s just where it happened.
What this is about: people disappeared that night. I did what research I could. I called the NYPD but when I told them I had a blog, and it wasn’t the New York Times, they could neither confirm nor deny “the rumors”.
Like I told you, I can’t prove anything, but there are facts. Ollie Kun-He is missing. His father is owner of The Founding Father’s Burger Joint, where the explosion at the center of the mayhem took place. I tried contacting his parents but Ms. Kun-He’s answering machine says she’s travelling in Korea indefinitely.
So, a day that won’t live in history. The few media outlets that heard about what might have been happening didn’t run the story. Then there’s the floating head. „American Beauty” on Instagram and the story is that ISIS is claiming it. Right. They infiltrated NYC to put a hit on one guy, if you want to believe those opportunists…
Of course my book has a hero. He’s a security guard. I know his family, well, I used to know them. After what happened, when I asked for news about „Tony,” his job, his new girlfriend, my friend, his uncle, replied „Tony who.”
Finally, don’t try to find me because I’m in hiding. Anyway, it will be hard to find me because you don’t know my gender, age, not much of anything. At least I hope, because there are people looking for me who know how to look.
In my book you’ll meet an assassin. I’ve called him John Rambo, nice name, no? Doesn’t matter, what does matter is that he’s real and at large. General Pistone has a clear interest in him, as does Congresswoman Calder. This should be enough for you to understand what’s at stake for me or my future family, if I live long enough to have one.
So, how does that sound to you? A crazy person with no evidence telling you the world you live in is worse than you thought. Still, I’m writing so I have to imagine there are readers curious enough. But if that’s you, please consider this a coming of age book. Your own coming of age.
In the back of a well-equipped college-like gymnasium, a shower was on. Dr. Ana Vodă put her beeper back in her jeans and started washing gym sweat from her naked body. Her pixie cut auburn hair was getting wet. She tried to relax and delay the moment she would have to get ready for her nightly report to Pistone.
“Ana!” she heard the only voice around that gave her pleasure. Her stance softened. She pulled the curtain without hesitation making herself visible to the voice owner.
Discernibly uncomfortable, a muscular, tall man in his late 30s stood staring at a point well-chosen above Ana by the shower head. With a short military cut, his blue icy eyes were piercing. He was wearing a pair of well-tailored jeans and a Tee with a presidential campaign logoVote 4 Donald Rumsfeld 4 President and Mathew Pistone 4 Vice President. He pushed the headphones around his strong neck, in a visible effort to bring the mundane in.
“John!” Ana sounded provocative when she was weary. She had trained him to control moments like this, when he could easily flip his feelings if challenged, but there was no guaranteed success.
Ana searched his face. She noticed his blue vein pulsating in his left temple. Ana was playing with fire. Her own heart beat increased. She rushed to cover her body with a towel.
But she was not able to distract herself from her own desire for John’s body. Conversation would have to wait.
John swallowed and instinctively turned his head down a bit. He noticed her small white foot making it out of the shower and stepping on something squishy and slimy like a good sized frog. Ana recoiled at the unexpected tactile experience. They bent to take a closer look. It was a recently gnawed, once pink, tiny little foot.
“How did they have access to this human waste? No one listens to me? My patients are not cannibals.” Ana was pulling down a dark T shirt to cover up the unbridled anger growing inside her.
“It’s hard to tell.”
“John, my reports are censored by idiots who don’t understand anything. I tell them to stop sending discarded body parts because my patients will be rattled and I cannot use them when they are under distress.” This much speech calmed her down. Anger felt sweet but it drained her. “And who is the patient who chewed on this?”
“I cannot tell one for the other. Thankfully they wear their name tags. How do you choose their names?”
“Poor soul,” Ana ignored John’s question, rinsing off her foot. Then she quickly slipped into her tight, dark blue jeans, buckled her belt and glided into a pair of black flats.
They both noticed the fallen body, a dehumanized small smelly bump lying by the lockers.
Ana frowned momentarily when she noted the recessed red wall lights started blinking. The clock on the wall showed 12:38 PM. She approached the body. His name tag said “Bobby.” He had opened his blurry eyes and moaned. He looked lost; all expression having died away from his face as if swept clean by an unseen hand. In its place a lifeless mask had formed.
John put on a pair of gloves from the nearby dispenser and threw the tiny foot into a disposal. From there, it would be recycled into compost and delivered to the local organic farms. Looking around and satisfied with what he saw, John was ready to leave, when Ana’s odor finally reached his nostrils. Emanating from her body, it reinvented perfume. Within moments, his vein stopped pulsating. His heart reached a level of containment and he patiently awaited her guidance.
The change in the lights signaled that alarms started sounding in high frequency. John covered his ears with the headphones he constantly carried around, and adjusted their feedback so he could hear Ana. It was clean up time. Everything was going to be tightly closed and a water pool of Clorox would wash it all spotless. They needed to hurry. Ana pondered for a moment unsure whether she heard something or not. It would have been a first.
John grabbed Bobby, quietly moaning but otherwise unresponsive. Bobby could not hear the alarms indicating his transition was not complete. Taking three steps, John reached the nearby golf cart Ana used to get around the compound. He sat down behind the wheel, dropped Bobby on his knees, and looked at Ana to join him. As soon as she jumped on the seat next to his, and threw her wet towel in the back of the cart, John pressed the accelerator and took off.
“Do you still work for Rumsfeld,” she continued a conversation which did not need to have been started.
John’s feet alternated between the accelerator and the brakes. His hands were busy with the wheel.
“You know I work for Pistone.”
Ana nodded. She knew Pistone was John’s “godfather” having baptized him when they both crossed the Atlantic back to America after Pistone’s successful stay as a NATO commander in Bosnia. She was ready to add something when, feeling a slight vertigo, she froze. The lights had stopped blinking on the walls and had changed their colors to red, white, and blue. Could it be that her ear drum registered the high frequency vibrations accompanying the color change? More somatic changes she had tried to ignore.
“We have thirty seconds before Clorox is the last word of the day,” she managed to say. Her eardrum was responding to the high vibrations she had been able so easily to ignore. Her balance was being affected.
The cart stopped: Out of gas. The entrance to safety, marked by the large words “The Farm,” laid yards ahead. However, its door started to close. John got out, taking Bobby.
“John, I need the cart. It has to come with us.”
John threw Bobby over Ana’s shoulder. Effortlessly, she ran to the doorway, and she blocked the door from closing with her body. The alarms’ sound became louder. John pushed the golf cart inside and the door closed tight behind.
Everything became quiet and still. Ana recovered her poise. From the corner of her eye she saw John’s perfect body. She would have to control her hunger for him, and restrain their intimacy if she wanted to avoid other unwelcomed transformations.
The disinfectant-laden water was filling the tunnel on the far side of the entry for a moment and then, unbeknownst to them, it unexpectedly stopped. It soon started to retreat. In time to avoid draining through the door which had cracked open.
Inside Tony’s booth, things were heating up. The fight between the two brothers, Vlad the Impaler and Radu Bey was ready to start.
Pacing his Lady’s chambers back and forth, Vlad resembled a caged untamed lion when a quick, sharp sound made him alert. An arrow burst in through the hole in the window. Vlad’s hand reached instinctively, grabbing the arrow as it flew in the room. Unfazed, the Lady, strangely determined, stood up. His hand, still crushing the arrow, was shaking.
The attack started when Vlad and Lady Anastasia were crossing the secret bridge connecting their cliff to the outside world. Under the cannon fire, the bridge was shaking and rubble started to fall all around. Vlad rushed ahead of her and, jumping on solid ground, turned to help her out.
Lady Anastasia had stopped standing right in the middle of the bridge, looking down, at the cascade below.
“Pray for us, my Lord,” she murmured touching her pregnant belly, as she flung herself into the stormy water.
“To hell with you God!” he screamed. Torch in hand, he found his way to a dark passage. Soon creatures appeared and flocked to him. In the light their faces looked bloated or eaten by decay. Their marching and moaning soon changed direction, for they were attracted by the noise and the outside lights. Vlad grabbed one as it passed by and whispered into his rotten ear,
“Be my impaler!”
He received an inattentive groan, and a stare into the night instead of a commitment. Still that was enough. He watched them disappearing among the enemy, dressed deceptively in the enemy Turkish outfits, and soon they were feasting violently and urgently on the thighs and arms of healthy looking Janissaries, the infantry made of young Christians abducted and forcefully converted to Islam.
Within moments after having been attacked, a previously healthy soldier started to shake. At first he had a small tremor which then became rather large convulsions, only to finish in a standstill. His new but lesser self suddenly pulled his half-eaten limb out of his attacker’s mouth and, spontaneously, joined his attacker. Then, they moved on to satisfy their newly insatiable appetites out of a motionless but even younger and juicier Janissary, who stopped in mid scream when he realized the change in his Muslim convert brothers.
Appraising the situation, Vlad came out from his hideout. Radu was readying himself to bludgeon skulls when Vlad stopped him. The distraction was over. The brotherly fight would engulf the battlefield. Time would stay still. Life and death would be interchangeable.
He did it! An impish smile fought Tony’s motionless lips, bloody from so much biting. Vlad’s secret was out: “Impalers”! Vlad had successfully transformed the contagiously sick into devoted soldiers. Nothing could stop Tony from re-writing history and becoming famous. Instinctively, his hands curled up into fists of determination.
“That’s it my boy. Show me your Rocky fist,” his dad liked to call his tiny baby fists when he would refuse to repeat words beyond his years. Not now, dad, not now, Tony pleaded with his memories of his father, Reilly Gallant, still dominating him. Confined to Staten Island, Reilly Gallant had lived a heroic fire fighter’s life, and when he died, he died a hero. He was rescuing a kitty cat which had refused to get off a tree branch. Staten Island kept whispering for a week:
“Did you hear how Reilly died? No, he was not drunk. I saw him leaving his brother’s tavern to take the call for the kitty rescue, and he walked fine. He fell all the way to the rocky ground filled with tall and thin sharp-ended tombstones.”
That half-truth produced more half-truths:
“Yes, the Irish luck had avoided him all his life. Hastily, he had ignored fastening his security harness, and some new-age non-denominational African tomb stone impaled him. Poor Giovanna, now by herself with that affected mute boy of theirs.”
Everybody showed up at his dad’s funeral. And for a whole year Staten Island graveyards were filled with tomb stones lying on the ground rather than sticking out into the thin air. It was the least the Borough President could do for his dear departed friend, a moratorium from death by impaling.
Tony pushed away his memories and opened his fists letting his blood warm up his fingers. His thoughts finally shaped up into words which he hurried to type on the screen, when a small screen suddenly popped up on top of his word document, the same screen he was supposed to use to monitor the quad.
What an unfortunate event, Tony frowned, irritated. It was the image of the young Kun-Hee, Ollie, the son of the co-owner of the Founding Father’s Burger Joint. Ollie was sitting in his red Fiat 500 parked catty corner from his father’s restaurant. Tony zoomed in. Ollie stopped reading. How long had he been reading there? Tony wondered and noticed the time stamp of 11 o’clock. Something was amiss with the campus cameras. But seeing Ollie exit the car his gaze followed Ollie’s moves.
A group of gesticulating students approached Ollie as he was coming out of the car. They were returning from a clandestine tour in the underground heating tunnels. They were upset because one of them got hurt in the section under La Maison Française which was very narrow and tough to go through.
“Who cares about you, Gemma. We lost Eric under the Earl Hall section a few days ago. It is by far the creepiest.”
“It has no light and the vestigial wall separates the tunnel from something no one dares to explore.”
“It is foreboding.”
“The water drippings resemble heavy breathing.”
“There, where there is no light we lost our fellow spelunker. I think he jumped over.
“You don’t know? Over the vestigial wall.”
“Nonsense. There is nothing there, just an unfinished wall.”
They did not stop to talk to Ollie. They entered his father’s restaurant.
Ollie’s phone rang.
“Yes, mother. I am practicing. No. I am not. I am waiting for dad. No, I do not need money. I’ll be home soon. I love you mom.”
Tony fast forwarded forcing Ollie to hurry back into the car. Surprisingly, it was not a live feed. Tony pressed play again when a rosso corsa Ferrari ff stopped in front of the restaurant. Tony followed Ollie’s moves: he opened the door to his Fiat. The camera mike caught the tune. It was Carly Rae Jepsen “I Really Like You.” It came from Ollie’s iPhone. He had been watching Tom Hanks in her clip. The phrase “…really really really like you” could be heard so loud, the volume emptied it of any positive meaning. “I really really really really really really really like you” sounded like a bark or even a bite.
Ollie stretched his legs and then pulled them back in and closed the door. Inside his Fiat, he was leaning over the wheel, looking more and more strange. A smile or a smirk was hanging painfully on his face. Tony zoomed in and followed Ollie’s finger guns pointing somewhere. Following their direction, Tony noticed senior Kun-Hee kissing someone in the front seat of the Ferrari. Tony zoomed in further. Kun-Hee senior was kissing Arnold Jones, the masculine director of the Columbia University History Library, the one with his own show about leather and medieval artifacts; Tony remembered all too well his favorite midnight TV show.
“Aha,” Tony murmured. “Young Kun-Hee suspected only his father’s indiscretion. Now he witnessed it.”
Tony felt a sudden acute pain in his stomach reminding him he was still hungry. Again in vain. Eating was so overrated for young Tony. He ignored it and fast forwarded the recording in an attempt to reach present time. He noticed the couple in the back seat, a woman wearing a festive dress holding the arm of a man who looked familiar. Both followed Kun-Hee and Jones into the restaurant. Then, the man who looked familiar returned outside to talk on the phone. His stylish suede jacket looked “Made in Italia” to Tony, and that detail startled Tony so much he forgot to press forward.
“Samantha, listen to me. Sam. I understand Brian is not at home, but I’m not coming to your apartment. Sam, I know your apartment is a block away. I am not coming. Never. Okay?” Then after a brief moment, he added, “Okay. We could go to our regular place.” Another short silence followed. “Yes, right now I am with Lena, my fiancée, as you know very well.” Another moment of silence was broken by a taxi zipping by down Broadway. “Of course, I am addicted to your oral talents. No. Not tonight Samantha. No, don’t come. Good night Sam.”
Tony was stunned. He had a feeling he finally put a face on the man whose back he watched for months going into the tunnels every Wednesday at midnight accompanied by a very tall and boyish looking blond. Could it be him? Through the window Tony observed his video acquaintance taking a little box out of his pocket, and tenderly placing in on the underdressed young woman’s hand, whose eyes bulged out of their sockets in disbelief.
“What?” Tony mumbled, and for a moment he looked puzzled not knowing what to think.
He zoomed in more to see her profile. Erect she radiated confidence. When she turned and looked outside the window for a moment, Tony froze the image to study her face.
“Marylyn,” he mumbled. She did resemble Andy Warhol’s Marilyn. Her wondrous smile, plump mouth, and moon-like face minimized the impact of the chestnut hair. Mesmerized, Tony missed her gaze at Ollie.
Tony’s heart beat faster, and faster. She was being engaged to the campus womanizer. His boss, Campbell, alerted him to the professor’s weekly tryst with that Sam. Tony saw them on tape entering the heating tunnel so many times.
He felt terribly hot and uncomfortable. He stood up, pushed down his headphones, undid his tie and took off his jacket throwing it on the stool. He opened the door and stepped into the fresh night as the camera continued rolling. He missed Ollie taking off, perhaps afraid of having been recognized.
A door hidden behind the pedestal of Columbia’s Alma Mater slightly opened; its security lock had been disengaged. The lack of noise indicated its hinge had been recently oiled. A wiry unstable figure came out and waited for something unclear to guide his steps.
His shoes squished as if full of water. Neither that discomfort, nor the bad visibility deterred his slow descent towards the quad below. The air was dark and in places looked condensed into a mournful gloom. Brooding would have been a one-word description of the pervasive feeling on campus.
Like a drunk using that muscle memory all drunks use to reach home, undeterred, the creature made it down the stairs to the lawn. There, he collapsed exhausted and anonymous in the sea of fog. His foot came out of his shoe, a size too large.
The smooth skin perfectly covering his facial bone structure made it impossible to tell his age. Only his hands, limp by his side, said it had been long enough. Their elongated fingers and dirty uncut nails were covered in tidbits of old goo, which could have been anything, perhaps even human or animal flesh dried out.
Not long afterwards a young woman, a fancy blond, in a golden leather dress, stumbled out of the same door. But she fought the fog and lost. She mumbled something, perhaps that she could not see where to go, when her high heels failed and pulled her down the stairs faster than expected. She rested quietly, and there was a good chance that she would not be disturbed for a while.
The wiry unstable figure covered in long hair and haute hippie clothes eventually managed to stand up. Perhaps he wobbled in circles for a while until musical harmony organized his moves in the midst of the sirens’ cacophony. Guided by his acute hearing he followed the harmony and thus aimed for the co-ed dormitory.
When he tripped over the tent and the fornicating couple inside, it happened fast and unexpectedly for everybody involved. The intruder’s eyes looked impenetrable; his smell and attire that of the homeless. In that moment most likely, the couple thought about the perfectly manicured lawn for the upcoming graduation spectacle which had attracted them to the outdoors. How vacuous of them. Maybe they tried to blame the mild wilderness of the quadrangle. Or maybe the misty air incited the future Wall Street analysts to set their tent outside. Unburdened yet by financial success, they loved simple excitement under the moon, especially when the air was cool and the shadows plenty. The lack of stars worked as a bond holding their young hopes together. It had the effect of making the imminent MBA graduates tolerant of each other’s yarns, emptied as they were of any convictions.
Then, the unthinkable occurred. What had been meant as a memorable end of innocence became the end of it all.
The sudden apparition did not mumble any excuse. It entered the tent right when the couple had finally finished embracing, and intrigued by the daring intruder, momentarily stopped to take in the view. The worldly one must have attempted to engage the stranger hospitably. Wine glasses would soon be found broken as well as some white powder terribly wasted around.
Perhaps the unsophisticated younger fellow got tired of being the last to matter and stood up brashly. He might have touched the stranger unpleasantly. While he did manage to flee, he did not scream for help. His elegant escape proved thoughtless. Moreover, a splinter or just bad luck got into his naked smooth foot. Inadvisably, but graciously, he stopped and squatted to take it out.
Focused on the task at hand, his eyes looked down. He would not record the tall figure catching up with him and finally bringing his transitory life into eternity. The fog added a je ne sais quoi of mystery.