Magnetic Typo Vol. 1: The Case of the Stolen Face

The Hive Ann Arbor Logo

Unless you invent a time machine, tomorrow is always a day that’s never happened yet. So there’s no record of it, no actual way to predict it, and the thought of it makes people uneasy. And so, from that point on, The Person–who became my arch-nemesis the following moment–came to be known as People Uneasy. I was going to call him “Tomorrow”, but I was worried he’d always be ahead of me. And then, put simply, he stole my face (although it wasn’t as simple as I just put it).

The Person, aka People Uneasy, had established a location to set up a carnival act. The banner asked the question: “Mirror or Mask?” to which I scratched my head in wonder.

He transformed into a different person entirely, right before my eyes. It took me until the next day to realize that he stole my face, and that’s why he looked like somebody else. Someone different, yet familiar. But before that ‘next day’ arrived, I made sure I had a good night sleep. My mind has a way of telling me when such things are necessary.

I may be weak of character, weak of strength, and weak of fist, but if there’s one thing I’m strong of it’s seeing (Once, while playing darts, I got a perfect score by”seeing” the target successively, but, with poor throwing ability–weak of throw–I lost 300 to nothing in cricket). So I had”seeing” ability over People Uneasy. I scrolled through my visual rolodex from the day before to do a play-by-play recounting of the events.

Let’s see, I spent an uncomfortable thirty minutes in a taxi, unknowingly headed towards a city much farther away than I had realized. I tried striking up a conversation to pass the time, but the driver refused to answer any of my questions. I never found out whether he approved of my “Jumping Car” idea. I explained to him that my car is a vegetable, in the patient sense, as in patient at a hospital, like a patient who’s a vegetable (like paralyzed or coma), not a vegetable patiently awaiting to be in a soup. He didn’t care. So I told him how the middle finger on my good hand (my tasting finger) reminds me of a carrot, and that my friend’s rabbit had the same problem, but that was the least of Human Paws’s concern. He didn’t get it. So I explained in detail about how if a rabbit’s middle finger reminded him of a carrot, then the rabbit wouldn’t have a middle finger,because rabbits like carrots. He just sighed at that one. So I explained that the reason my friend’s rabbit was named Human Paws was because he had a human finger that resembled the carrot-like finger I had previously spoken of (I even showed him my finger as a visual aid). This generated a cough and a vibrating sound of faux-interest from the noble driver. By the time I got to my “jumping car”idea, he had no onomatopoeia left to utter.

I should probably explain what I was doing on the front page of the Detroit Free-Press (bottom right). But first, I will explain how I got out of the taxi. The driver was so bothered by me that he tried to pretend he wasn’t there, ducking below the backseat sight-line. Playing along, I asked if the cab was driving itself because I couldn’t “see” anyone (if he knew about my seeing powers, he’d be rolling on the floorboard–I didn’t tell him because I didn’t think it wise to cause him to roll around on the ground when he should be driving, that’s why my car’s a vegetable). The “invisible” driver dropped me off about two blocks before the Ann Arbor City Limits sign, then sped off after I paid him with “conversation” (his words). I was considering diving out of the cab in mid-drive, so getting dropped off felt anti-climactic. I rolled on the ground anyway, just to satisfy my dramatic impulses.

I got up next to the Ann Arbor City Limits sign. Below the sign I found a rope tied in a noose. It ended near the road, and had a hundred dollar bill in the center. Sensing a trap, I moved the rope and pocketed the bill. Despite the abundance of oxygen, I already liked this city. I followed the source of the rope and it led me to a pickpocket with a head like Gabbo (from “The Simpsons”). The transaction with the pickpocket went as follows:

The Hero (holding rope): You got ahead like Gabbo. (from “The Simpsons”)

Gabbo (the pickpocket): Gimme your money! (he wore a hat) Or I’ll give you rope burn! (he clutched the rope)

The Hero: I got one end. What if I burn you first? (rhetorical question)

Gabbo (the pickpocket): You’re not holding rope. (he clapped his hands)

I looked down and saw I was holding my shoelaces–they had been removed from my shoes and enlarged to resemble rope instead of lace. I heard him question his sanity in the form of a statement. And he replaced “Am I” with”You’re”. A weird way to put it, I thought. He displayed a bare palm, then suddenly all my money (a hundred and three dollars and seventeen cents) appeared in that palm (a few coins fell to the ground, so it was more like a hundred and three dollars and thirteen cents). Then he laughed, threw down a smoke bomb, and disappeared. I shook my fist at nobody and put one foot in front of the other,tripping over the over-sized shoelace I held like a boa constrictor. I landed in Detective Serious’s office somehow.

Detective Serious (slamming the table): Quiet your smiley face!

The Hero (smiling politely): I’ll stop when you give me something to not be all smiley about with my mouth!(Unfortunately, I was so bothered by my lack of wit that I immediately stopped smiling and instead donned a face best described with words like “pursed”, “stern”, “in-thought”and “crotchety”. It immediately made him respect me.)

Detective Serious: (he paused) Hey, I didn’t mean to yell at you. (he said after holding that pause for an awkward amount of time. I didn’t accept the apology.)

The Hero: I accept your apology. (I winked internally)

I grabbed a book of matches, striking one, and then remembering that I no longer smoke, so I just let the fire burn until I said “uh…” to the point of sounding slow.

The Hero: I don’t want to burn my cape. (my justification)

Detective Serious (very serious):That’s what they all say.

The Hero: Do they all say this…(I removed my hat, getting very dramatic) I have these bumps on my head, so what if I go bald and find that these mounds have an extra stash of hair beneath them, and it continues as a process like a snake shedding its skin. Everytime I go bald, one of these bumps opens up and releases more hair. But one time, instead of growing out like normal hair, it sticks straight up like pine needles and I have to cut them off after like two years or else  they’d start stabbing my brain, but I would need this special pair of scissors to cut them that only exists somewhere like Argentina and I would try to fly there but because of my crazy new look, I no longer match my driver’s license picture and so they wouldn’t let me fly and I’d have to wait two more years to get my license renewed, but by that time I have blood coming out of my ears and eyes from my hair stabbing my brain and the whole time on the plane I’m fading in and out of consciousness because of the loss of blood, but I finally get there and the scissors are at this generic store, like a Staples or something, but they stopped carrying them because they haven’t sold a pair in over two years, and then I’d explain how I would’ve bought them two years ago, but I couldn’t get out of the country, and they’d look on their computers and see if they could order new ones, but they can’t because it turns out they took them off the market because they found out that only people who were bleeding from the eyes and ears were buying them, so they got suspicious and stopped making them, so I’m just left bleeding all over the place in a foreign country. I’m just saying, who knows? I don’t know what they are.

Detective Serious let me go after that tirade of mine. He explained it was due to “emotional confusion” and he needed a “rest”. I was expected to give him a call in the morning. Little did he know that I wouldn’t be alive in the morning.

My whole morning felt like a fever dream. I awoke in my hotel with a sense of otherworldliness, brought on by the fact that I had died. Why I died was a mystery, until I self-examined my lungs and found that I had breathed myself into oblivion. It doesn’t sound plausible, but I assure you it is. Very plausible. I’m living proof that it causes death.

Someone spoke to me in the distance, it was the ghost of George Carlin!

The (transparent) Hero: George!

George Carlin: Wow you’re transparent. Reminds me of a joke: what do they call an invisible queer? A trans-sexual! (pause for laugh) Sorry, the writers in the after-life aren’t very good.

The (transparent) Hero: You’d think it’d be top-notch, given the people who have died over the years.

George Carlin: You’d think so, but when the concept of death no longer applies, the writing becomes less inspired. Listen, you’re not supposed to be dead. It was a miscalculation. I saw that you were headed up here and I sent the manuscript to the head of the eternal household…

The (transparent) Hero: God?

George Carlin: No, he died years ago. It’s his successor, the Big Electron. He didn’t have much to say on the issue, just made a vibration. We then sent it to the BigCouncil.  They diagnosed that you died in the dumbest way imaginable, and we want to send you back so you can add a little dignity, a little class to your death.

The (transparent) Hero: How did you get this job?

George Carlin: Jimmy Stewart retired. I got a promotion. It’s sort of like the mail room.

And then I appeared back in real-life. I tried telling the mailman that I met George Carlin, and that he might be able to takeover for him when he dies, but the mailman just punched me in the waist (he’s very short). That’s when I picked up the paper to find my mug on the front page (bottom right). I hadn’t told the guy at the front desk that a tree-hugging mugger stole all my cash, so I kept the paper in hand and fled (my cape blowing in the wind, making it look very dramatic. I even tried doing it in slow-motion for a minute.)

I tried using my morning death as an excuse for missing my appointment with Detective Serious, but it really had to do with not having access to a phone. He would probably understand, though; he’s not very contemporary. The lights of the world, both natural and artificial, treated him as though he was photographed in black and white. Maybe he was, my memory sure placed him as such, but my mind’s eye is color-blind, so who knows?(his relatives, no doubt)

While contemplating what I was to do about fending off Detective Serious, I noticed the sidewalk vendor with the sign reading: Mirror or Mask? It was run by…you guessed it! Mr. What’s-his-name, from the first part of the story. You know…the guy who stole my face. Give me a second, I’ll remember…

People Uneasy! That’s who it was! By the time I remembered, he already had my face in hand and took off down the road. My duplicate hat fell off somewhere along the trail,so I swooped in and picked it up, avoiding the extra stop at the hat store I planned for later on. To the laymen, it would seem that People Uneasy has magical powers, but in fact he just made a replica of my face with the mirror he held up, and somehow (not magically)extracted the reflection in physical form, allowing him to obtain my reflection like some sort of…trick-performing wizard-type (not a magician). The fact that I found a rabbit sitting next to my duplicate hat is beside the point. He doesn’t have magical powers. Quit thinking that. Jeez. Come on, already.

He lost me about a quarter mile away,running down the Nickels Arcade and throwing a smoke bomb behind him. At least I thought it was a smoke bomb, but in fact there was a smoke shop in the Arcade that exuded smoke to the point of suffocation. I coughed, fell to the ground, and had visions of the type of death I was requested to have from a Mr. George Carlin(shameless name-drop) during my “ill-health” stint (I had died for a moment). I almost breathed myself into oblivion again,but I talked my lungs into exhaling more air than they wanted to. It was a difficult fight, but I won in the end by not dying for a second time in 24 hours.

I awoke with an inspired understanding of my intentions: punch People Uneasy until he felt the need to give me back my face, and if that didn’t work, just confiscate his powers so I could steal a new face of my own. It was fool-proof and bound to work.

It was humiliating to hear the bus horn laughing at me as it honked. It was even more humiliating when a streetwise passerby made me realize that he was the one who was laughing, not the bus horn. I later sent the bus an apology letter. To this day, I’ve yet to receive a letter in return. I’d make a sad face if I was still able to control my cheeks, but alas…

Alas, indeed. So alas, in fact, that it’s barely comprehensible to the uninitiated. I said these things aloud (believe it or not), and if I hadn’t been standing with my mouth agape, in mid-thought and drooling, there may have been somebody around to hear my afterthought. But alas…the search for a patient ear goes on!

I said that last bit out loud as well,but it was against my control. The next words I said also came out involuntarily. Somebody was controlling my mouth and talking for me. My first guess was Jesus (he said ‘alas’ a lot, right?), then I thought maybe I just didn’t realize what I was saying. After being wrong thirteen straight times, I finally realized it was because People Uneasy stole my face. I screamed this fact to myself because my uncontrollable mouth got tired of my stupid guesses (and told me so, very rudely).

I was in a state of panic, on State street, in a state foreign to me, trying to reinstate my authority over my own statements. It was a sad state of affairs. I suffered a punch in the stomach from a passerby who told me to think of a new word to “overuse”. I assumed his last name was State, and that he was in a state of denial. My stomach hurt just thinking the word; giving him the victory he so desired. For a moment I thought he cursed me with his fist, but I soon realized I was probably bleeding internally. I have sensitive guts (weak of organ).

It took about four hours for me to realize that I still had a sensual, nerve-based contact with my face. It took the next two hours for me to realize I could use this revelation as a location device. I spent the next three minutes breathing heavily and triumphantly hoisting my victorious finger in the air, mimicking a statue that would never be erected. Shame. I spent the next minute shaking my head in societal disappointment. Then I napped.

I awoke with a vibration that felt like a miniature seizure, signaling the location of People Uneasy. I realized how much time I lost sleeping, and how behind on the case I had become as a result. I vowed never to sleep again as long as my face was in the wrong hands. Seriously, the raggedy thing that was left in place of my actual face felt like a fleshy, hangnail glove slovenly placed atop my throbbing skull. Think about it; it’s unsettling. If you can sleep soundly after thinking about it, you haven’t thought about it properly. So think again. Seriously, it adds potency to the story.

Walking in repetitious circles, I came across an interesting piece of graffiti art-slash-philosophy, it read: “Existential Chef pondered whether he should cook the chicken or the egg. He settled on chicken egg noodle soup with a side of cremated God.” It went over my head; literally, chunks of brick rumbled into segments and grew wings, ascending over my head and flying into oblivion. I found the whole thing time-consuming and futile. I don’t usually say “futile”, but apparently People Uneasy does, since he controls half the thoughts I have now.

My face faced the direction to locate my face. I experienced another punch in “anticipation” of my newly discovered word-obsession (from a man named Face, no doubt). I cringed, grumbled, and muttered obscenities to the local toddlers as I slowly stepped forward with my pain shifting with the momentum swivel. It was a symphony of “ohs” and “ahs”,feeling the pain and the awe that comes from having a bleeding stomach and a tracking scent; like a dog that’s swallowed a bag of blades, fists, and clues. I was led against my will (I followed my nose) to a building on the outskirts of town. It resembled an apartment you get when you leave home before you can drive; it was dirty, dingy, rusty, and cracked in several places at once (and possibly filled with minors).

I pried the door open and there was a smell of orange peels and my face. I entered the restroom, taking a leak while staring at myself in the mirror. Clearly an egocentric designed this bathroom, but I checked my hair, washed out the droplets of urine I accidentally (very accidentally) added to my hair gel while rinsing and styling my hair. Then the ceiling broke above me. I turned suddenly, expecting a human body wrapped in tape and other hostage-y apparel, but it wasn’t. It was a urinal, wrapped in tape and other hostage-y apparel. My brow bounced up and down and I made sigh noises as I thought, touching my face, but it felt odd,foreign, and numbing. Like a sleeping foot that itches, and when you go to scratch it, you realize you’re caressing the foot of a stranger with gooey skin and prickly hair. Now I had another mystery to solve: why did a tape-covered urinal fall from the ceiling, and,furthermore, why did it seem so threatening?

Yeah. Turns out the ceiling was weak due to condensation, gravity, and cheap building material. Another mystery solved by allowing my brain to digest the evidence for longer than two minutes before resorting to inquisitive (and nonsensical)screams to nobody.

I (finally) made it to the upper level of the building. There was a fellow up there, maniacally running around wrapping tape around as many inanimate objects he could find. It was not People Uneasy, for I figured this after not recognizing his face (although it was hard to tell, since he had fashioned a maska nd suit out of tape, otherwise he was completely naked and his torso was very non-me). The light reflecting against the plastic skin made him look a bit like he was wet (and naked), but the room was abnormally dry. He had a face that implied a smile, but couldn’t follow through on the promise. Same with his penis.

The Hero: What are you doing?

Tape-Man: Protecting things.

The Hero: Against what?

Tape-Man: Against fingerprints, sweat,and dandruff (he laughed a high-pitched shrill).

The Hero (cringing at the sound he made): Your sound is cringe-worthy (I said tactfully, giving myself the advantage).

Tape-Man: No it isn’t. (he said,striking back with equal gusto)

The Hero: You still haven’t answered my question (I was prideful over my ability to bring the conversation back to its origins).

Tape-Man: It’s because you’re wearing a cape.

The Hero (squinting): Touche, comrade.(I shook his hand; it felt exactly like a taped hand should feel)

We then went out for drinks at the bar. To answer any questions in advance: he paid (I made him). To answer the other questions: he put on pants and a jacket before we headed out. Granted, they were transparent (they were made of tape), but it made him look like a frosted glass with limbs (he had sort of a milky coating). He had words of wisdom, though.

Tape-Man (two drinks in): I have a problem with this wood. (he suspiciously caressed the bar)

The Hero (two drinks in): That sounds a little knee-jerk.

Tape-Man (ordering his third drink):No, no, no. A knee jerk is when you knee a jerk in the groin until he cums on your knee. (he downed his third drink) It’s fun until the end.

The Hero (I couldn’t argue with that):I can’t argue with that, but it does come off a tad unprovoked?(don’t know why the question mark was there) Order another round. (I concluded that getting him drunk would coax him into answering the questions I had for him). What were you doing in the house my nose led me to? (I tried lifting my eyebrows, but I still struggled to control my new non-face, so it ended up looking like I didn’t realize I was talking).

Tape-Man (four drinks in, working on the fifth): Did you say something?

The Hero (three drinks in, working on the fourth): What house were you at?

Tape-Man (magically eliminating two of the drinks, re-working on the fourth): I’m house-sitting. (he nervously shifted his eyes, but I trusted him regardless.)

The Hero: Your eyes are bouncy, but I can’t bring myself to distrust what you’re saying. (It took me awhile to realize People Uneasy was still controlling my thoughts, hence,the lack of distrust)

Tape-Man: You shouldn’t trust me. (dramatic pause) I know your real name.

I gargled a gasp to the point of unintelligibility, and then proceeded to cough up fluids even I–a self-proclaimed fluid connoisseur–didn’t recognize.

He knew not my real name, but the real name of the non-face I involuntarily wore. So I guess it was useful in a long-winded, indirect, useless-in-the-here-and-now sense of the word “useful”. He told me it was Arthur Feldman, and I pretended that the name meant anything to me. He bought it, though,immediately resorting to pleading, in fear that I would beat him for whatever reason. He convinced me to hit him, but I guess my punch was so weak that he thought I did that intimidation fake-punch (where you pull away in the last second). I didn’t, but he didn’t need to know that. He was scared enough as it is. I hypothesized that my punch was so fierce that it muscled itself to the other side, causing it to come out weak, when in fact it was just so powerful that he couldn’t feel it. I would have to test this hypothesis at a later date, even though I was confident I was correct.

I walked around with the awareness that I was actually Arthur Feldman. It was something to get used to, for sure, even though nobody really knew my real name. I liked it that way. No longer would I allow the local heckling to get to me; they were, after all, directed towards Arthur, not me. I would forgive them, very Jesus-like on my part, and later I would write about that in my memoirs, but for now I would accept the semi-creative insults that came my way. Insults like “melt-face”, “sweat skin”, “scrotum nose”, and “colostomy cranium”,I accepted them all; they were misdirected (and misinformed).

I headed towards the address Tape-Man gave me (I forgot to explain that scene, but you can probably figure that out on your own; it involved a lot of questions and non-sequiturs). It was highly probable that my designated location was merely a “panicked vomit”, so to speak, but I tracked it like a bullet. Little did I know how accurate that metaphor would be; I went right through the place I was looking for. Not that I developed spectre-like “abilities”, but the building no longer existed; it had been destroyed fairly recently. Hm. Another piece of the puzzle (I said as I picked up a piece of rubble that strangely resembled a giant puzzle piece…).

I also found, amongst the rubble, a clarinet. Very peculiar. I’ve taken a lesson or two in my day, but who knows how these foreign lips will treat a nostalgic rod (I’d love to blame People Uneasy for that thought, but alas…my father will have to take the blame). I put the clarinet to my lips, but no music came out. I did, however, successfully capture a clari (a “clari”is a talent-blocker that resembles the air; my closet, pockets, and nostrils are often filled with them…sneaky little invisible bastards they are). I angrily threw the “clari”net to the ground, screaming about its lack of intelligence, and when it shattered against the scattered bricks, dozens of tiny pieces of paper sprinkled around like an umbilical cord tossed in a woodchipper (that’s really the best way to describe it). It may sound crude, but the paper was flesh colored and blood-stained. I picked up a piece of the paper, and it felt wet and womb-ish. There was writing on the paper, but after I fingered it for a moment (not sexually), I accidentally rubbed away the writing (with my flesh hand), and sat there for an uncomfortable amount of time, staring dumbfoundedly and drooling a little bit.

I noticed that the rubble I presently stood over spontaneously caught on fire. It was spontaneously combustible material, and both my wooden arm and leg ignited, causing my fake face to sweat pieces of skin on top of the usual jelly-like secretion. I addressed the issue astutely; only screaming a little bit and using the ground I rolled on to muffle the sound(occasionally). Occasionally until I left some of that face on the ground. Yeah, that wasn’t a typo, you read it perfectly clear: some of my face got stuck on the ground, like an overcooked meat patty that’s since turned to mush on the hot frying pan…a frying pan made of rubble, defeat, and a hint of paprika. By the time I put the fire out, I looked half-cooked and vertically (and minstrelly) bi-racial.

You’re probably wondering how I lost my arm and leg in the first place, and the exciting story that removed them, followed by the more exciting, complicated story of how beavers sculpted with their teeth a very special, very particular hand and leg for me to use (with the provision that I use these limbs for good and not to bludgeon beavers as was my hobby before this heroic,tense, and emotionally conflicting turning point in my life). But I’m not going to tell you that. What, I got to tell you everything?

I dusted my pants off, trying to figure out why I was where I was (my short-term memory kept failing on me),and then Palamedes walked up to me, carrying a briefcase that resembled mine (that I stupidly left at the hotel).

The Hero: Aren’t you fictional? (one of my strangest ice-breakers)

Palamedes: Mr. Feldman? (he inquired sternly…too sternly for a joker, as his reputation claimed)

The Hero (after a long pause): I saw your statue.

I faced a dilemma: do I admit to being a guy I know nothing about or do I claim that my face isn’t my own? Which would result in the more insufferable scenario? I decided just to keep quiet, and keep shifting my eyes until he left.

Palamedes: I’m from the past. I’m here to tell you–as a representative of the “joke”–that you need a punchline for this meandering story. (his terminology was suspiciously modern)

The Hero: Oh yeah? You’re not as funny as I expected you to be.

Palamedes: I’m serious. Readers are getting lost, uninterested, and somewhat confused. You need a wrapping point, just like a good joke.

The Hero: Who do you work for? (I expected the post office, but I didn’t know why…some new advertising shtick?)

Palamedes: I work for the readers;they’re the ones who hired me to more or less function as a story editor.

I tried responding to his statements,but weirdly enough, he disappeared. And even weirder-ly enough; as soon as he did, I suddenly knew where to find People Uneasy (for real this time)!

I followed some inexplicable footprints that led the way (but they were the strange, retro kind of footprints, in that they arose after I stepped there as opposed to prior to…very weird). I eventually discovered that I had mud and ink on the bottom of my shoe (so embarrassing I would have cried if my sweat and drool didn’t fulfill that obligation for me, or I would have turned red if my facial blood vessels were still attached to my humiliation synapses). But more importantly, I continued on my voyage to somewhere so specific it was beyond my comprehension (or my control).

My feet walked on their own to an abandoned car in the middle of a junkyard (for new cars). I jimmied open the lock (something I hadn’t known how to do before), and hot-wired the car, driving off with a yelling man behind me who threw down his hat and jumped on it without consideration for his stereo-typing of angry men with throwable hats.

The car practically drove itself (with my body), and directed me to an unknown location. I parked in an alley, letting the police pass me by with their sirens blaring. People Uneasy was clearly controlling my body at this point, but the mugger that stood in my way had no idea that was going on. He put a knife to my neck, threatening me in a very conventional manner, but I just repeatedly bumped into him, trying to get by him without being able to say much other than “must get inside” over and over again like a repetitious robot. He acted as an alley troll, presenting riddles for me to answer in order to pass.

Mugger Troll: You wanna get in? Well,answer me these questions three!

The Hero (roboticized paralysis): Must get inside.

Mugger Troll (pushing me back and feigning offense): I’m offended! Question one: (he rolled his eyes around, struggling to come up with something) How many fingers am I holding up?

The Hero: Three. (strong of sight; unless it’s “fore” or “hind”)

Mugger Troll: Dammit. Okay. Question two: How many hairs on my head?

The Hero (he was bald, so this was easy): Zero.

Mugger Troll: Ahh…I would have accepted “none” or “glossy-nil”. Question three:If I have a dog in my pants, and a treat in my pocket, how do I get rid of the dog?

The Hero (a head scratcher this one):Uh…I don’t know…

Mugger Troll: Give up?!? I throw the dog a bone!

(long pause)

The Hero: That wasn’t even funny.

Mugger Troll: It wasn’t supposed to be.

We stared at each other for a long time until I punched him with two fists at once (well, one fist, the other’s more of a hoof) and he passed out. I straightened my tie,but there was no tie to straighten. I headed into the building thinking I could’ve easily avoided that last plot detour.  And that I should get some ties.

And then my thoughts began to echo. I heard “a mugger just riddled about shagging his dog” triplified very loudly, bouncing off the walls of three interiors (my head, the building, my ears–in that order). A psychological labyrinth, that’s what it is. A hedge maze of neurons and synapses. Cranial origami. Mental charades. Mind over matter, and vice versa(in this case). Spatial thought…idea rattle…mastering the toothpicks…tickling the ivories…slinky telephone cords…

After sleeping for a little while, I awoke in an unfamiliar room somewhere inside the same building. That pesky People Uneasy, hypnotizing me with droning, rambling thoughts. I laughed it off and then tried to move, but couldn’t. Somebody had stolen my wooden arm and leg! I didn’t even know they were removable! But alas…

I’d like to fast-forward past this part of the story, but it would require revisiting the moment when I found the thief, sprayed him with glue, and told him “Insult me now and see what happens!”, only to find that he never insulted me. He held up a quote bubble, which explained how he was about to tell me what the hell is going on and where People Uneasy fled, but that I ruined it by gluing his mouth shut. Well, sorrrry!

Apparently he was forcefully hired against his will by People Uneasy to nab my legs and render me (even more) useless, so that PU (his new nickname) could make a worry-free getaway and continue his diabolical plan without my half-assed hounding. The Thief colorfully explained this, trying to knock me down another peg, since, as he put it, my “dignity” is also made of “wood”. Whatever the hell that means. He put “peg” in quotations in the quote bubble. He hadblack-smeared hands and carpal-tunnel by the time I stopped asking questions. I suggested he get a portable blackboard in the future,and he suggested I get non-toxic glue, and then he wandered around in three imperfect circles before passing out next to me.

The next move I made is so disgusting that if it didn’t happen in real life it would be considered “jumping the shark”. I somehow (chewing and pulling) removed the Thief’s leg and arm and somehow (with glue) fastened them as replacements of my wooden limbs. Yep. I really did. Hey, I don’t like it either, alright?

Back to what’s relevant; I was on the road to People Uneasy, for real this time (is what my mind kept telling me, foolishly ignoring the many story distractions that have occurred). The next one happened just as soon as I ignored the warnings: I wasn’t even on a road, but a sidewalk. I cursed my mind for being so disloyal to its readers. It forgave me and the story continued unfettered.

Since time has a way of trapping a moment, I tried my best to use that to capture the exact location of People Uneasy’s hideout. Unfortunately, in order to do that, I had to attempt to capture time. Screw that. Time is intangible, and it’s a quick bugger. I learned my lesson trying to grab the electromagnetic spectrum once; I buzzed for twenty minutes.

I envisioned People Uneasy’s hideout perfectly. So perfect and vivid, in fact, that I was able to step right into it. As soon as I did the “story police” came and tried to arrest me, but I explained the surreal nature of the piece and they let me go. So, to continue, I stepped into my visualization of my destination, and it didn’t even feel weird.

I finally came across People Uneasy. He stood in the way. My attempt to move him only proved fatal as I ended up flat on my back somehow. I screamed towards him from below, exclaiming my vigilante decision to seek that which stole my limited extremities (but it came out cluttered and stupidish, as opposed to the brilliantly structured thought I just had).

Here’s the big answer, the big explanation of all that happened before, so extravagant, so stupendous…Ready? Here’s what he said: “What are you talkingabout?”

I read right through him. Seeing letters and words on the wall behind him. Putting too much thought into it. Interpreting it all weird. Making a fool of myself. Laughing it off. Feeling self-conscious as a result. That’s what happened, beat for beat. And then I beat it.

As I fled, People Uneasy explained the rest of the plot to me, knowing I was strong enough to take it, just not strong enough to stand there while he said it. I think I heard this, but I probably heard something similar: “Your whole life is on the wrong track, you clearly have constructed an existence based on a lie that’s destroying you. Your face is real, you’re just in denial about the way you look. You should come to terms with your real self and ignore the many, clearly hyperbolic, manifestations your variation of yourself has developed. In so many words, your existence is a typo: you’ve obviously made a mistake somewhere down the line, and have failed to retreat. Nothing you have said is possible, much less plausible. I just met you, I certainly did not steal your face. Your face is clearly experiencing aging, and you are rejecting it. You’ve created a delusional alternative to deal with your problems.”

“Huh. A typo started all this? Let me retrace my steps…It said he while there stand to enough strong not just, it take to enough strong was I knowing, me to plot the of rest the explained Uneasy People, fled I as. It beat I then and. Beat for beat, happened what that’s. Result a as conscious-self feeling. Okay, this is getting ridiculous, I’ll just take your word for it. Case closed.” I said all that out loud, in a half-whisper, while running, to nobody. The whole story, not that last bit of dialogue.


Jared Stroup

Studied Film at Eastern Michigan University, the movie store and movie theater he used to work at, on his own, and with friends. Jared is also a playwright, screenwriter, director, and short story writer. You can read more of his work at two other websites: The Man in the Movie Hat and Film Monthly. He lives, works, and walks his dog in the Detroit area, where he's willing to obsessively discuss The Simpsons or the films of Paul Thomas Anderson at a moment's notice.

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