The Man Who Never Sleeps: Part II - Chaz's Manuscript - chapter 5

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eyeless p2 7 Visiting the human world became a regular pastime. I ventured there approximately once every two months. It was a danger sport to me, like rock climbing or bunji jumping to you humans; and I was getting a taste for it. At first I went only with Spaper, but eventually I ventured there alone. I explored the city, or I would dally with our group of human friends. Spaper and I constantly sought out new experiences worthy of our enthusiasm. We went to concerts of many kinds --- orchestras, folk concerts, punk rock, hip-hop, disc jockeys, opera and ballet. We went to see movies, football matches, boxing matches and races of all sorts…until we needed to be involved in the action. Then we took up sports, the first being boxing. I was against it but Spaper came in shadowboxing one morning, shouting, “I'm young, I'm pretty…” etc., and he managed, as usual, to persuade me. So I lost my fear of humans as I became accustomed to being in the ring, out-boxing them at least as often as they did me. My body tightened up and I felt powerful. It was at the end of a training session that I felt complete and satisfied. My arms too tired to lift and my legs shaking from being used to their limit -- like when you take a sports car to its maximum speed. Boxing whet our appetites for all combat sports. Next came kung fu, kickboxing, shoot-fighting and wrestling. We even took dancing lessons. Spaper was particularly good at the tango. There was a tradition at the building where we `lived' whilst among the humans. The tenants often sat on the front steps of an afternoon or weekend, and smoked cigarettes or drank tea together, watching the world go by. I enjoyed that very much. I became acquainted with myriad personalities there. There was Gamble, of course. All he ever talked about was striking it rich. He had taken loans out from the banks and bought thousands of dollars worth of shares in various companies. He did not, however, have any idea of where to put his money --- he only knew that he wanted to strike it rich. He was constantly on marijuana, and was always losing money on the pokies. When he wasn't working or gambling, he was at home playing his Sony Playstation. There was Wazza the football fanatic. He would watch the game religiously and in the off-season he could not contain his boredom. There was another gentleman named “Shady” Dave, who was everyone's drug dealer. He didn't say much but was always playing Gamble's Sony. There was Wazza's girlfriend Cindy, who wore make-up abundantly no matter what the day or occasion. And also living in the building was old Abraham, the South American immigrant whose guitar we heard almost daily around the building as he crooned out his heavy-hearted Argentinean tangos. He had a three-piece band that played regularly at Spaper's and my favourite café/bar, where Celeste the waitress worked. The piece that stuck in my memory is the popular folk song, “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas.” There were others who visited intermittently, but they were not as close in the circle. These were the types of humans that Spaper and I consorted with in those days. Sometimes Celeste walked by the building and blushed when Spaper said hello. Everyone would take on the tone of an expert and give Spaper advice --- “You better make a move soon, Johno, or she'll find another bloke. That's what women are like, Johno. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about.” One aspect that I couldn't help notice about the humans was the surprising number of drug addicts. I think I can say that eighty percent of working-class males were addicted to marijuana. But none of them considered themselves addicts, because marijuana was accepted as a drug in the same family as, say, tea or coffee. The question “do you smoke up?” was like asking “do you like anchovies?” I sometimes wondered about the psychological implications of such widespread use.  Eyeless One afternoon, as I was exploring the streets, I walked past the gate of a suburban yard. I heard the growling of a dog and I turned to look. A large dog was scrambling towards me from within the yard, its beady eyes concentrated on me. First I froze with fear thinking, “This is it! My death! I should never have crossed the line!” But I suddenly regained control, spun on my heels and ran. I bolted as quickly as I was able but the dog was on my heels, snapping its jaw, and would inevitably overtake me. I glanced back as the beast snapped at me. Then I looked forward again -- and gasped as I saw that I was about to run into a light pole. All of a sudden the pole was gone and I heard a `Bang!' Looking around, I saw that the pole was behind me and that the dog was sprawled out behind it --- unconscious. The noise was that of the dog colliding with the pole. I had, seemingly, run right through the pole! After touching and pushing the pole as a test, I stood baffled. Realising that the owner of the dog might appear at any second, I fled the scene. Neversleep illustration 7 At my first opportunity, I took the matter up with Spaper. “I have no idea, chief. No idea at all,” he said looking concerned. We were at his city home on the top floor of a high-rise building. He was packing a bong. “But you do believe me?” I asked. “Yes I do,” he said. “You see, a similar thing happened to me. When I first went down there.” I began pacing. “Gamble, Wazza and I went out one night to a concert,” Spaper started. “We were all dreadfully drunk, and we'd also taken drugs. Ecstasy or Speed --- one of those drugs the humans are always taking --- I can't remember names. Anyway, we moshed in the crowd and sweated like pigs. Eventually it was too hot and I was exhausted. So I pushed my way out of the crowd and bought a beer. “Well, chief, I went to a table, drank my beer and watched the humans. I put the beer down and had been standing there a while, and then, when I went to pick the bottle up again, it seemed as though my hand went straight through it. I tried again and again with the same result! Of course I was confused and I went to sit down, but I fell through the stool!” My nervous habit must have rubbed off on Spaper because he got up and paced as well. We kept passing each other in the middle. “What happened?” I asked. “I became frantic! But when I got up, everything went back to normal. I unintentionally knocked the bottle off the table and I fell over the stool! After that I assumed that it was just the drugs. But now it's happened to you.” “Damnedest thing!” “Damnedest thing.” eyeless p2 8 I did not venture amongst the working class again for six months. Consequently, I did not see John Spaper either. Instead, I spent my time attending to business matters. Business had changed drastically in a short time, and I had a lot of work to do to keep up with what was going on in the financial world. Nate Rutter was a great help in that area and he helped me all he could. The problem was that because of things like the IT revolution among humans, there were millionaire and billionaire humans popping up all over the place. Our people, La Peu, began worrying that we'd soon have to deal with everyone on equal terms, and eventually we'd lose our silent hold on the world. Think of the largest companies in the world. Can you name the owners? In our day you couldn't --- not for the vast majority. Some anonymous fellow owned Coke. Another anonymous fellow owned Nike. Buggered if anybody knew who owned Toyota. Forget about oil companies, too, it's all anonymous. This is the mark of La Peu: anonymity. But times began to change and our empire was shrinking. Names were popping up here and there for the public's cold eye to view. Any company you can put an owner's name to, you see, is human owned. Then came a very worrisome problem: various people amongst La Peu would suddenly go missing. Some of us went to visit the homes of associates only to find that what was once their home was now a cluster of office blocks, used and owned by humans. Then we'd find out that some human tycoon now owned everything that our acquaintance previously owned -- companies and capital. There was no take-over, no selling and buying -- the human would just suddenly own it as if he always had. Our missing acquaintance would be gone with everything they ever owned and it would be as if they never existed in the first place. This happened to more and more of us, and drastic action was called for. We considered warfare against the humans. We figured that we certainly had the technology to prevail. What we weren't sure of any more was whether or not we were still unknown to the humans, considering that they were apparently invading us. Neversleep illustration 8 As before, people began to contact me and ask where John Spaper was. Nobody had seen him and there was fear that he might have disappeared off the face of the Earth like the others. So I sought after him at his place. He was absent but his home was all in order, so I knew he had not followed the fate of the others. He was most probably down amongst the humans. That annoyed me. How could he be there at a time like this! I was at Nate Rutters' place one night having a drink and talking strategy, when it happened to him in front of my eyes. I glanced out the window for a moment, and when I looked back the whole room seemed to be full of ghosts. They were wearing suits and sitting at ghost-desks, typing on ghost-computers. I looked through them and at Nate who stood on the opposite side of the room. He was as dumbfounded as I was. We both made for his teleporter and escaped to my place. Once there, we blocked off access from his home. His skin went yellow with worry. I sat him down and told him he was safe. But even as I spoke, he faded and became transparent, like the ghosts. Then he disappeared. We had owned many companies together, and I found out that I was now partners' with some human stranger. As Nate Rutter faded into nothing, the “ghosts” we saw became as real as rock! This was too much. A group of people gathered at my home shouting over each other's voices about war and fighting back and even releasing an incurable disease amongst the humans. I could no longer take all that commotion so I left on my own to Spaper's place via teleporter. I was sure he'd know something about all this. Why hasn't he shown his face? I thought. Spaper wasn't there. The place was a pigsty. Knowing where he'd be, I went straight for the teleporter. I appeared in the dark, then I realised that I was under the white sheet that we always put over the receiving teleporter, in the flat. I threw it off and looked around. Spaper wasn't there so I went to Gamble's unit. “How are ya, Chazza! Johno hasn't been round for a while,” he said. Where could he be? I thought. After checking the local pub, I began walking the streets helplessly. I was at a loss. Then I kicked myself upon realising that if he were among the humans, he'd be at the café on the waterfront -- staring at that waitress. I found him there with his head on a table, a coffee in front of him and a cigar in his fingers. The café was almost empty. The bartender and waitress (Celeste) on duty were leaning against the counter in conversation. “Spaper?” I said. He picked his head up and looked at me. He had a week's growth on his chin, and half open marijuana-eyes. “Chaz! You're still…” he stopped himself. “Still what?” I prodded him. “Still…here, chief.” “So you do know what's going on?” “Everything's vanishing, my friend.” He sounded distant. “You've got to come back home! They're going to attack the humans. We're not safe down here!” His red eyes widened a little. “What are you talking about?” he said. “They are taking action.” “What `they'? Are you delirious, Chaz?” “Pull yourself together, man! You've got to come back with me. Everybody is looking for you!” “We're the only ones, Chaz. There's nobody else. It's us against the world.” I stood up. “I'm going back now. Come on!” I said. “Don't go, Chaz. It'll happen to you too and then I'll be alone. We're safe down here.” But I left him. When I teleported back to my own home, I got the fright of my life. My home was gone too. There were humans in suits all over the room, sitting at desks and walking around. The only difference from Nate's place was that here, they weren't ghosts; they were already as solid as I was. I didn't understand why, but the teleporter was still there so I hopped back onto it. A human came and stood in front of me. “What are you doing?” he asked. I quickly pressed the button that would take me away to safety. But it didn't work! I pressed it again and again. “What are you doing you stupid idiot!” snapped the human. Two more humans came and soon the whole room stopped what they were doing to stare at me. I kept frantically pressing the button but nothing happened; for some reason the teleporter was only making queer noises and spitting paper out of its side. “Get off! Get off of it!” the humans kept yelling. “Not bloody likely!” said I. An older human entered the room and approached. He must have been important because everyone in the room followed him with their eyes. “What the bloody hell is going on?” he demanded. “This bloke keeps photocopying his arse!” answered the first human. The important man picked up a piece of paper from the teleporter. It certainly did seem to have the impression of my buttocks on it. He narrowed his eyes and turned them on me. “Get the hell off of the photocopier,” he said. “What's your name?” For a second I considered my options…then I charged through the group and ran for the lift. I noticed that there was a staircase next to the lift now, so I went for that. I flew down four steps at a time, and after I'd charged down three floors I stopped to catch my breath. I noticed that nobody had followed me so I went to a lift and rode down the rest of the way. In the lift I realised that there would most likely be security waiting downstairs. I'll just have to dodge them, I thought. What else can I do? I positioned myself with my foot against the back wall of the lift, so that I could launch myself with power the second the door opened. Just as I'd thought, two large security guards came at me as soon as I stepped out. I fled as fast as I could, but a third guard manoeuvred himself to cut me off. He threw himself at me with his outstretched ape arms before I could turn or dodge --- And he went right through me and crashed into a pot plant. Because I expected to be tackled, I too lost my balance and toppled over. We all hesitated, looking at each other for a second, and then I got up and passed through the closed glass doors. “I'm going to disappear like Nate Rutter!” I cried to myself, sprinting down the street. “This is the end! Damn the human race!” Then I collided with a light pole. By the time I made it back to Spaper the sun was on its way down. He was slumped over his table in a cloud of cigar smoke -- the exact same spot as when I left him. “You've got a lump on your head,” he said, looking up. I sat down feeling rather dizzy from the collision. “It's all gone,” I said. “Told you.” “Do shut up.” Spaper was drinking scotch. There were three other empty glasses on the table. Celeste came over to serve me and I ordered myself a double scotch with ice. Spaper did not even look up and all the while she shot worried glances at him. Does he not like me anymore? she must have been thinking. We remained silent. When Celeste returned with drinks she said, “Are you alright?” to Spaper. “I'm fine,” he said, still without looking at her. She went away wounded and we continued to sit in silence. Finally, after finishing our drinks, Spaper stood on shaky legs and said, “Come on.” We leaned on each other and sauntered back to our unit. Old Abraham and Gamble were sitting on the steps when we arrived. Gamble was drinking coffee as Abraham plucked and strummed his guitar. We sat with them and listened in silence, while Abraham's defiant notes floated on into the grey, soulless city. to be continued...  Eyeless To be notified when the next chapter of The Man Who Never Sleeps is published on sign up for the Neversleep email list here.