The Man Who Never Sleeps: Part II - Chaz's Manuscript - chapter 4

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neversleep p2 -4 Neversleep illustration 6 A young human with a crewcut and an unshaven chin answered the door. He looked casually at Spaper and said, “Hey, bro'”. Then he went back inside and sat down. He was playing a game on a Sony Playstation. I followed Spaper in. “This is my cousin -- Chaz,” said Spaper. “How are ya. I'm Gamble,” said the human to me. “Gamble?” I said. “Everybody calls him Gamble because he's right into the pokies,” said Spaper. Gamble smiled at that and shook my hand. “What are yers up to?” he asked in a heavy human dialect. “Nothing much,” said Spaper. “Sit down, mate. You want a cone?” said Gamble. “Thanks bro',” said Spaper. “I wouldn't turn one down.” We sat down and it just clicked to me what Gamble meant by “a cone”. Our kind did not smoke marijuana; we considered it a poor man's drug. But there was Spaper, packing a cone for himself in a little pipe. When in Rome, I thought. He took a lighter to it, and sucked it all up. Then he repacked the pipe and handed it to me, blowing a cloud of smoke out of his smiling mouth. I lit it and took it into my lungs. It burned my throat and I went into a fit of coughing. “Still on this stage!” said Spaper to Gamble, referring to the game. “Yeah bro', I gotta get past those three men,” Gamble replied. Then they both went into a conversation that I couldn't follow, about the computer game. Spaper spoke with perfect human slang and accent. I reclined and felt the drug take effect. Soon I began to relax and notice how amusing they sounded, talking the human slangs and pronunciations -- “…Nah, man. I already tried that. It's too full-on!” “But not with full energy. Here, give-it-`ere! I'll show you.” I giggled. They both looked at me for a second then went back to the game. “Bro', this is starting to rev me up! This joy-pad's fucked!” “Give-it-`ere! You're freakin' me out!” “`Frea-kin'-me-out',” I parroted with a smile, and started laughing. They both looked at me in surprise. “What the fuck!” laughed Gamble. “Is this the first time this bloke ever smoked up or what?” “Yeah, man,” said Spaper. “You're freakin' me out, Chaz.” Just then there was a buzz at the door. At that I immediately pulled myself together. Gamble got up and pressed a button on the wall. “Come on up,” he said into the receiver. A moment later, another human came dragging his feet in with a six-pack of beer. He was introduced as Wazza, and he handed everyone a beer. He looked as humans generally do in the afternoon: haggard. This one was big and stunk of sweat. I tried not to meet eyes with him. “You look pretty rooted, Waz',” said Gamble. “Too right, mate. I just worked a forty-hour week,” said Wazza. His voice was rough and squeaky. “Fuck that. So, how's your investing going?” he squeaked. “Aw, you know, still going,” said Gamble. “It's a waiting game. I reckon my shares in IT will go up to about ten dollars eventually. You just wait, bro'. Cone?” “Too right, mate.”  Eyeless In my daze I studied everyone, getting lost in the quirky details. Remember, it was my first time smoking. “So you must be saving shit-loads? Hey bro'?” Gamble said this while handing the ready pipe to Wazza. Wazza's hairy hand took it while his crooked teeth said, “A fair sum, mate, too right. I'm thinking of getting a home loan.” “Don't do it!” snapped Gamble. “You'll regret it. Trust me.” “They're going pretty cheap now, though.” “Nah, bro'. They're cheap now, but the interest rate will suddenly go up later. If you get a place now, you'll have to stay in your job, paying it off for ever!” Gamble's voice was loud now. He had taken the definite tone of a fanatic. He'd obviously just discovered the subject of financial strategy. “Yeah, I don't know,” squeaked Wazza. “You got to get a place sometime though.” Gamble grinned wildly. “Bro', find a good investment! Make your money grow. Work smart, not hard.” “I don't know anything about investing, matey.” “Yeah, man. I'll lend you a book to read. It's fuckin worth your while, ay.” We drank the beer and played computer games for a further half an hour. I was only used to the finest wines and spirits then, but I did my best to stomach the foul drink and keep up. Wazza and Gamble talked about `the footy' throughout. The footy! Bah! I won't even go into that subject. Then Spaper stood up. “Gamble, we gotta get going then, chief,” he said. “Alright, bro',” said Gamble. “Hey, come over tomorrow, alright?” “Yeah, probably.” “I won't be working. We'll play the Sony or something.” I got up and followed Spaper. “Delighted to, ah, make your acquaintance,” I said. “Yeah, take it easy,” said Gamble. “And stay off the drugs, ay!” he laughed. Wazza just nodded at me and sweated. When we were outside the unit, Spaper said, “Well then! How were your first two humans?” I just grinned. “Je suis defonce!” I sure was stoned. Spaper laughed. Life was a novelty to him. “Come on, I want to show you something,” he said. I followed him downstairs. We stepped out of the building and into the world. It was a cool afternoon and a gentle breeze washed over us. With alcohol and drugs pumping through me, I felt just capital. I realised now what Spaper had been saying earlier about danger, and I was excited. Here, there was just enough danger to keep it interesting. At any moment a car could reel off the road and destroy me. A thunderstorm could break out and lightning could strike me down. I could catch pneumonia. A frustrated human could appear from the shadows and smash my head into the footpath. There were cafes after cafes, and restaurants after restaurants, selling hamburgers and noodles and chicken -- most of which contained cholesterol, hormones, preservatives and various other harmful ingredients. Maybe I'd trip and land on broken glass. Maybe a mosquito would bite me, give me a fatal disease! I might be allergic to something in this filthy air! This was living on the edge -- O yes! My imagination ignited and paranoia took control. I drew closer to Spaper. “Hey, what are you doing?” he said. “Take it easy.” “Yes, yes. Quite right,” I said, drawing away. “They can probably smell fear.”  Eyeless The sun was setting. Spaper led me to a beachfront café. Hanging all around were vines and pot plants. Little speakers on the walls spat out jumping bebop tunes that mixed with the roar of conversation. We found a table just outside the door, and once seated I began marvelling at the human-style menu. Every minute or so, laughter erupted from one table or another. “She has her hair up today,” said Spaper, lighting up a cigar. The intense tone in his voice made me look up. I saw that he was staring at one of the waitresses as she weaved her way around tables, across the floor, balancing a tray of food above her head. Spaper gave me a cigar and I lit up. “Who's she, then?” I asked. “She's Celeste!” he said. I was confused and went back to looking at the menu. “Here she comes,” said Spaper. “Hot chips…wedges... salad…” -- I was reading. “Hello Celeste,” said Spaper when she arrived at our table. I saw that she had a nametag. “Oh, hello,” she said cheerfully. “You've been here a lot lately.” “Yes. It's …nice here. How are you?” asked Spaper. “I'm great, thanks. And you?” “All the better for seeing you.” “Oh! Well thank you,” she blushed. “And what would you like?” “A long black, please,” said Spaper. “I should have known. And you?” She looked at me. I was still reciting the menu to myself -- “…Coca Cola…” “One coke,” said Celeste, writing it down on a pad. I could have you killed in a minute's notice, I thought. You little human! “Would you like some water as well?” she asked both of us. This is the only chance you have to get at me, I thought. While I'm right in front of you. “Yes, thanks,” said Spaper. She looked at me. Well, what are you waiting for, woman? Pick up some cutlery and drive it into my head! “Do it!” I exclaimed. “Okay, I'll have your drinks brought out to you shortly,” she said politely and walked away. “What the hell's the matter with you!” said Spaper. “Are you trying to ruin my chances?” “My God!” I exclaimed. It suddenly occurred to me that Spaper had no wife, nor any mistresses -- none that I was aware of, anyway. I looked over to her and back to Spaper. He blushed like someone who'd been caught stealing. “Out of all the fatally dangerous things that could happen to us down here,” I said, “please tell me you haven't gone and fallen for a damned woman?” I said. He avoided my eyes and said, “Of course not, chief. She's just a nice piece of work, that's all.” “And for goodness sake, will you stop talking like a human!” While we had our refreshments, Spaper stared almost constantly at Celeste. I asked him about other places that he'd ventured to in the city but his attention wavered and he only half listened. I fell to watching the ocean outside. Afterwards Spaper took me to a pub that was full of pokie machines. Gamble was there in the clouds of cigarette smoke, peering into the `Mayan Civilisation' machine. His finger rhythmically pressed a button, while his other hand carefully nursed a cigarette that had burned halfway down to the butt without the ash breaking off. “You winning, champ?” asked Spaper. “How are ya, Johno?” said Gamble without looking away. “I won sixty, but I lost it again. I figure I should ride this one out.” “Wait here,” said Spaper to me. “I'll get you a beer.” I kept my back against the pokie machine next to Gamble, just in case a human tried to strike me from behind. I reasoned that the probability of my death would be greatly increased here in a pub, with the added factor of alcohol. I was nervous again. Humans were everywhere --- rowdy blue collared humans at the bar; old and defeated humans at corner tables, peering through eyeglasses at their beers; housewives with worn faces and cups full of dollar coins, sniffing out their lucky pokie machine. I eyed them all. Gamble's credits grew smaller and smaller until he lost all his money. “Mind my spot,” he said and went to get more change. He came back, put a handful of dollar coins in the machine, and resumed his earlier occupation and posture. “There's a big win coming up,” he said. “I can feel it.” Spaper brought back a jug of beer and we both sat together, watching Gamble do his thing. Hell, I think, must be a large room full of pokies. The jackpot is a ticket out. Some hours later, Gamble lost about three hundred dollars. I was intoxicated, and swearing loudly. Spaper later told me that he had to drag me out because I became paranoid and threatened the humans. Because of this, he said, Gamble considered me quite a character and took a liking to me. That's humans for you. I awoke later that night on my teleporter, in my own home. I stumbled off to bed, where Marietta moaned and said I had a strange odour. She got up and slept in another room. to be continued...  Eyeless To be notified when the next chapter of The Man Who Never Sleeps is published on Undergrowth.org sign up for the Neversleep email list here.