Srdjan Kuzmanovic

A Death in the Land of the Two-Minute Clock

1
 
His face was in the middle of everywhere. The crowd was cheering except for one man. He knew this man too well, but now it was only the gleaming in his eyes, telling him to go on, to walk on without looking for the sweet disease; but he could not resist. Resist the golden threads, not even the hooks. The hooks that lay buried under his flesh. This soft surface - this rotten pillow. He stood there . . . still - waiting. Then the denial faded gently into holy spit. The old man grabbed a stone. The crowd, becoming one being, raised its hand. He fell on his knees, waiting for the rain to come. As he looked up, the drops fell. Heavy, blind and red - breaking his skin, breaking his will. When it was all over and everyone had left, he opened his eyes and realized that he was still there - bleeding.
 
2

 
“Father?” a voice cried as they ceded the fallen angel to the dark - or did he jump? No one listened to what he had to say. They were all just looking. Looking at his trembling hands, looking at his petrified face, looking at his wounds - looking at themselves. Their vicious embrace shot through the cold and hit him unexpectedly, releasing the deepest loathing for all their values. “No more words," he thought. “No more lies," he said. He counted . . . pulling out his gun. Big eyes turned red as he cleaned up the room.
 There he was: one man, one act, one truth - crying.
 
3

 
The four eyes fixed one spot, melting together in the distance. Their course resembled a serpentine path, itching and jerking towards an insane throbbing. But time after time the luxury of silence crept in - and out again, as fast as it appeared. Slowly his fingers slid into the warm substance the others used to call flesh. To him it was just “material” that surrounded him, gave him a shape. The beautiful shape of a monster, the shape of a king. He listened to the beat; he actually listened to the music. One - two - three. It was just like that - for the other ear. To him it was a symphony. It was easy, like one - two - three. Yes, the music was playing louder now, louder than ever before. He was a happy king, the happiest monster alive, though his blood-covered crown should have told him something else. It was his red wing that blurred the imagination. “Are you a happy man now?" he asked the one beside him. The servant, still fixing the distance, was lying on his back, trying to smile but his mouth was frozen. A creature full of pity. a tank like being filled with boiling tears. The moon was gleaming and shaking, erasing everything around; but maybe their heads did. Their eyelids were sewn to their brows and nothing could stop them now. Nothing will ever stop them from looking at her; not even the end of the music.



4
“It always comes back to you. Even if you think you're safe.” They were buzzing in his head, since the day his color changed. He seemed to be free and able to do whatever and whenever he wanted to. Except for just one thing. But he felt no need doing it. The smell of burnt flesh was still in his nostrils. As he fell, he must have landed very hard. The impact had no effect on him, but the friction has left no shore he could swim to. no wing he could cling to. Even if he ran as fast as he could, tne horizon would still be there, not willing to disappear. But that was the price everyone had to pay here. The whole era ended here.
 
Down here at the bottom. He had no choice but to live the life of the broken one: and that slowly fed the hole in his head. Being that damaged with all his bones, hopes and fears thrown on a pile of shit, he stopped feeling sorry: sorry for his own little massacre, sorry for his father, sorry for his empire and sorry for his ambitions. He was the one who the tear. The one who cut all the strings, the one who created the music, the one who jumped. So why did he feel guilty? No. No more Mr. Holyman. Even further step had to be the right one or else the crown would melt. Considering the whole situation he was in now, he had only one thing on his mind; to find the gleaming spot. But where could he start? Walking a few miles through the horrified masses he realized that he had forgotten what this gleaming spot actually was –
He tried to remember...

5
The telephone rings . . . “Hello?"
„ . . . Your God is dead."
  
6

Finally she was alone. He had left the apartment after telling her all the beautiful things a young man is expected to say - nothing that really mattered; nothing of any importance at all. It was only a question of time, she thought, when her deepest feelings held inside this soft cocoon, would face the outside world and destroy everything that once seemed to be so honest and pure. This is where all evil begins. The raping of the heart. But now, being so weary and weak, she let herself sink into the warm liquid and closed her eyes. Her senses transformed all the chaotic input into one fragile show. The desert melted into the horizon. The rebelling sun, starting her conspiracy, shone through a gigantic funnel onto her skin. The sand tickled her sole. The wind, singing aloud from piano to forte, delivered grains of sand from all directions into her. It was the cry of the carrots that woke her up.
 
For how long has she been here, staring at this wall? A few minutes? Or even hours? Impossible! It must have appeared right after she had closed her eyes, protecting them from a myriad of little needles that were picking and stabbing; kicking and hitting the layer. The wall, about twenty yards high, seemed to have no beginning and no end. I must find out what's on the other side, she thought. But how? Taking a closer look she saw that all over the wall wooden sticks peered out. Using these gifts she descended. The higher she got, the bigger the pain in her hands and feet. Ignoring this physical reminder, she reached the top, climbed onto it and looked into the abyss. “This must be the threshold they used to talk about . . . so many stories . . . so much absurdity.” But was it really the other world she was facing? Black was all she could see, so everything that lay behind her - all the pain, all the deceit - vanished in this darkness. The unknown lay outspread in front of her, waiting for her; beckoning. She could not think of any reason to resist or didn't remember any and touched what she once feared. It was strange, of course. This divine embrace carried her all the way down. She spread her arms and floated into this absoluteness. It felt like jumping out of a plane with the eyes shut, not knowing when the duplicity would interfere. But it seemed to her that there was no bottom at all; no top, no left, no right. Only her heartbeat and breathing told her that she was still alive. Trying to touch herself, she realized that she couldn't move her arms anymore. And, come to that, did she have arms at all? She started to laugh although she felt like crying, like a baby that was pushed out of the soft cocoon. It seemed that she was sucked backwards into this cocoon with no chance effacing reality again. She didn't want to stop now, because in the far distance - it must have been there all the time - a strange sound was getting nearer and growing bigger every second. She listened . . .
 
7

 
He knew that something was wrong. He knew it from the moment he faced his twin-brother this morning. There was a certain helplessness in his eyes he instantly adopted. They talked for hours, forgetting that the one on the other side wasn't able to read his lips. They remembered the old days, the glorious era, the time when running away belonged solely to the weak. The present, this uneasy bitterness, crept up and down their spines. So they looked into the future, of course, planning how to reconcile the family and how to give a new meaning to the word: empire. They kissed each other goodbye, knowing that they'd meet again, probably the next day, no matter where or when. He went upstairs. On the landing, the corridor in front of him seemed to transform. The floor became a hostile landscape with hills, valleys and ravines bearing nightmares waiting to unfold. The walls vibrated, sending out all different colors like flashes. “This is when God interferes," he thought. “This is when grace lays her wings upon the isolated soul." He loved this sight. It reminded him of the time when dreaming was still the only possible means to recapture the past. Nowadays dreams were just dreams and they had other ways - more efficient ones - to get in touch. After some minutes, the scenario vanished, leaving but a strange felling in the head, that always reminded him of floating along the shores of sanity. He headed for the first door. As he opened it, the smell of dead flesh shot up his nostrils. “0h my God!" For a few seconds he couldn't see anything but this big old body - hanging there in the middle of the room. He didn't want to believe this. All those years she strengthened his will, gave him the power to look up, no matter how hard the situation might have been. Tears burst out of his eyes. Trembling all over his body, he stumbled to the bed and sat down, still fixing the blurred image of the host, that was inhabited by the soul from the beginning on to this brutal and selfish? end. Right next door the loved one went ! screamin g and yelling the unspoken. And yet, looking down on the floor, he saw an envelope. He opened this box carefully, knowing that the content - this immortal bastard - could be everything and nothing at the same time. It read: My sweet darling. Please forgive me for what I have done. It was too much for me. He is back in this world.
 

 

 
8


 
He took a deep breath, inhaling the horror that thickened the air and stepped towards the center. The old man was trembling, jerking like a fish on dry land. ”Sir?" he asked in a nearly ashamed tone. The body didn't seem to care. The heart did, but it was only a question of time when it would stop. “I know you can hear me, so come on, say something, please." “Go away," the old man seemed to say, although his lips no longer moved; a spasm now and then. “I do not want you to see me like this." There was dark red liquid coming out of his every pore, like a new skin - on its way to form something completely exotic, something tempting. He wanted to become part of it, breath and feel the same - enjoy the becoming.
 
“I can't leave you now. There are still so many questions. And I think that this is our last chance to talk." He knelt down, trying to look him in the eye, but his face was disfigured.
 
“They cut it out in their rage before the stones fell. They didn't want me to see them coming. They're not stupid, you know. They've learned from the past." He was breathing harder now, the blood not willing to keep its usual course. “There are surely things I haven't told you yet, but I wanted to wait until you've entirely become one of us. And now I think, it doesn't matter that much anymore. I don't have the strength . . . but one thing you have to keep in mind: you must take care of yourself and your wife."
 
“My wife? . . . But I'm not . . ."
 
“Sh . . ." The old man tried to smile and took one last breath. Still on his knees, he took off his jacket and lay it over his friend's face, covering the hole in the middle of his forehead.
 

 

 

 
9

 
She opened the little notebook. ‘I know that I'm immortal; well, actually my soul is ... anyhow, the procedure is always the same: I am bom, I live, I die, I’m bom again ... then I remember. But for how long will it go on like this? Until the end of time? Until the moon silently floats away? Yes, the moon. She's on her way. The course is fixed and this planet will go down. Drowning in a lake of spit. My spit that is. Yes. There's no escaping this. And if it takes three or even five more lives, I will eliminate the whole clan ... that's why I am here among the living, that's what they are made for. The good old play of good versus evil, the strong versus the weak. I do not know on which side I'm standing, but either way, I'm the one with a smile upon my face, the one with the cross upon my back and I was the one with the arms and legs cut off. So? I remember everything and this time I will cut off their nicking wings to see them fall  and smash . . .' She tried hard to understand it but it didn't make any sense to her. What clan was he writing about? And what about the moon? As she reached the end of the paragraph, something puzzled her. It has been written in 1923. “That’s impossible!" she nearly cried out. “He's no older than 30!" Skipping a few pages she read: 'All in all, I'm quite amused about the tragedy that lies ahead. I've been waiting for so long and finally, at the end of my journey, the blood of those bastards will vanish forever. I'm not sure if this means that I will fall into pieces, too. Because after that it seems that there is no need for me to be the predator anymore.' And farther down: ' . . . the day I crept into her was the day of my glorious victory. The parasite lay deep inside other, anticipating my onslaught . . . I am the fear that grows, the anger that shows. I am the end of it all . . .' She began thinking about those last few lines. “What does it mean? The end of everything. The end of the world? The end of all hopes?" There was a quotation at the bottom of this last page - u! nderline d and in big letters: death is the mother of beauty.
 
His diary was fall of quite disturbing passages, like the one about her father: 'Francis was here last night. We've been talking for hours about the unpleasant situation that surrounded our existence. He's an intelligent old man but too straight forward, considering those - in his eyes - hidden verbal attacks. I know that he is aware of my power, but I cannot figure out why he's so fucking honest. Of course he might think that he's got all the others on his side but that would be naive. I've met some of them who are willing to get rid of their master and leave the ruins where they ought to be. Francis is one of those conformists. He thinks that tradition still is the only plausible foundation in the world of chaos. He is, together with a handful of his kind, the leader of the forgotten souls. In some points I can fully agree with him, but as long as I feed the night with bitter dreams, I will do everything I can to stop him.' This was too much for her. She threw this piece of crap, really old crap indeed, away and got herself a drink. Swallowing the cold, she closed her eyes. The stroking melody escaping the living-room gently put her to sleep. This time the old dream did not come back. Instead, she found herself in the middle of an ocean, her eye meeting nothing but the horizon. No land. Huge dark clouds covering the sky and the wind blowing hostile fragments of red rays. Trying to escape this, she sank into the unknown, filling her lungs with water. Or was it milk?
 

 
10
 
“0h come on. You know that it's not true. Since the day mother died, you've been crawling back into your own little world, leaving everyone else outside, absorbing the cold. I just can't stand it anymore. You've become a lonely dust-sheet in this house, in the comer, not able to get rid of the bitterness you've collected. And now, it's time for me to leave this place. I have nothing to do here anymore. I've done all I can do. I have to get outside; meet the others. Do you understand?"
 
“How dare you talk like that, Robert! I'm your father and not one of those sick bastards trying to kill you."
 
“No one has ever tried to kill me. It's just your imagination, dad. You're so obsessed with this spiritual bullshit that everyone around you would like to see you in a straight-jacket. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and wake up. Mom is dead and no matter how long and hard you suffer, she's not going to show up in the middle of the night. She's dead and buried and there ain't no blood-hungry creature from the 'other side'.” He stood up. “You can't leave me now. There's so much going on in the lower regions. He's back and he won't go away until he has finished his job!"
 
“Stop it, dad! Go and tell your butler those stories. He believes everything you just let pass your lips. I'm sick of them all." He went upstairs into his room and took the luggage that was already waiting for his departure; some clothes, a few photographs and his notebooks; that was all he needed for the journey. Down to the bottom, where everything started: the woods.
 
Passing the living-room he saw his father crying; for the first time in six years, since the day his mother was found in this state of absolute nothingness. For a moment he stood still, thinking it over again. No! He had no reason to stay here any longer. “Good-bye father, I'll give you a call as soon as I've found the right place." “Just one thing you have to remember, Bobby: it always comes back to you, even if you think you're safe. Remember that my son."
 
“I will.” - The car left the property and headed to the west, the uncertain territory calling him and singing the song of his dream ... of his life.
 

11
 
He took the baby carefully into his arms. The little boy instantly stopped weeping as if he was offered mother's milk. “0h my sweetheart. Mommy's gonna come back in a couple of minutes. She just went to town to get us something to eat, you know." He tickled his grandson with his big clumsy fingers, what must have felt like sausages running all over the body. “You'll grow a strong and healthy young man," he whispered. “In a few years I'll teach you how to live in this world without the fears that we used to have - in the beginning. You will leam the principles of our race quickly." The boy smiled the most.beautinil smile. “You know, my little one, your mommy is the most beautiful woman in the whole universe. And you got her big brown eyes." He heard the car approaching the estate and opened the front door to meet his beloved one. “Hey dad, look what I've got here. Today's issue of the New York Times." She unfolded the newspaper with such harshness that the first pages simply obeyed gravity. Not able to hide her emotions anymore, she jumped up several times like a rubber-ball, spinning around and finally pointing at a picture in the middle of the page, that showed her standing in front of a gallery, smiling at everyone who might catch a glimpse of this frozen moment. And in big letters underneath: Young Striving Artist Conquers City by Storm. “Wow, Ruby . . . that's awesome."
 
“Yeah. And you know what? I may have a purchaser for a painting. The one you don't really like that much."
 
“Ah . . . ‘The Ugly’; all those lost souls. I was always wondering what the Hell you had on mind while creating such a nightmare."
 
“0h no dad, not now." Suddenly her looks changed. “Well, I think that we have to drink something to your breakthrough, right? Come on inside."
 
She put her baby to sleep and returned into the living room, her father already filling the glasses with vine.
“You're probably the happiest man on this planet," she thought. He looked at the portrait of his daughter. So fragile, she looks like a little mermaid that's squeezed inside the teeth of a shark, staring at you; begging for mercy. This peace of art, was a present from the Hollmans - Lydia actually initiated. “So ... what about your plans? Anything you want to talk about? ... Robert?"
 
“Please dad, this has gotten out of hand so long ago ... maybe right now I should just leam to focus on more important things than trying to recapture and restore. Whatever's on my mind, it has nothing to do with him anymore. My imagination has grown bigger and stronger since the "feeding-days' - I'm definitely positive. And that's the most important thing. My world - our world - is permanently expanding . . . the timing is perfectly all right."
 
“This is so good to hear. Ruby" He poured in another glass of vine and focused on the music that's been filling the room with such warmth, that he felt his sun approaching.
 
“You know, I think that . . . all our energy is finally here - in our bodies. Our parasites, these organic instruments, will no longer suffer. At this point we're standing way above the laws of the flesh."
 
”But what about mental suffering, dad? It cannot be simply ignored, don't you think?"
 
“0f course . . . when you're strong enough, you're able to face psychic problems with much more efficiency, thinking of the distance. And at the time of your . . . let's just say . . . disorder, the whole suffering split . . . broke apart and sank into the skins of the caring ones . . . oh, this was so disturbing . . . my dear. It's hard to see your own blood in Hell. Back then, I was by your side and . . . dying inside. God was watching and I think that the time has come . . . to . . ." he closes his eyes. “reap."
 
12


 
There was not a cloud to speak of, so the orange sun hung lonely in the sky. Beautiful shadows spread wide open and the river slowly passed the deserted banks. Birds were singing their everlasting odes to the air. His eyes wandered with fascination through the unfolding secrets of his little empire. The grass, dancing in the wind, seemed to be confederates. “This is it," he thought. “This is what everything is about. He was right when he said that death is the mother of beauty. Every time a creature dies it gives way to a new being. That's the circle that unites the living and the dead, the good and the bad." He stood up and took a look in the running mirror. “Is this the beginning or the end?" he asked his liquid opponent. “This must be the point where everything is possible . . . everything," the wet face replied. “You have to act now - or else . . . silence." It was not the first time he would obey the words of the forgotten one. The one that vanished long ago, returning every now and then, in a period that fitted perfectly in - what he used to call - the "two-minute clockwork'. Reading his lips, he began feeding his lust. The hunger was growing every time they met, anticipating the forthcoming truth. The only truth he knew; the only truth he was willing to accept. So he decided to act - immediately. As he was about to take on his clothes, a voice whispered from behind: “Hey ... hey ... come here, quickly!" He turned around but couldn't see anything but the old trees. Then again: “Hey you ..." “Who is this?" he shouted. “Come on, step outside!" . . . silence . . . “It's yours . . . come and take what you deserve. Come." It wasn't fear that slowly filled his mind; it was more like an uncomfortable feeling of being observed. Somebody must have followed him all the way down to the valley, watching every step he made. Passing the bushes, he entered the woods. Suddenly the friendly whisper changed its tone. “Why the Hell you think I've come your way? Do you think you can just sit out here and let time pass! by? The re's business waiting, don't you think?" “Where are you?" he yelled at the invisible. “I am the funny little voice inside your fucking head, stupid. Remember?"
 
“No! You're hiding somewhere."
 
“Exactly, Pete! I live in hiding ... and guess where that might be?"
 
“No! No! Stop that nonsense and step outside."
 
“I wish I could, but I might need some help." He couldn't believe this. Why him? Why was he always in some kind of trouble? Sometimes he thought that he might be the modem day Trickster. This was surely not one of his glorious days. First he had to take care of that Jennings fellow . . . and then Heaven smashed his face. He needed some time to think things over and now this freak followed him as he ran through the forest, not able to get rid of him.
 
“You can't hide, because I'm everywhere you are. I'm your guardian . . . I'm your savior." He ran faster. Not paying attention to the changing surroundings. After some minutes he was out of breath. He fell on his knees and closed his eyes. There was only one word that constantly buzzed through his head: Jacob.
 

 
13
“Wake . . . up!"


 

 
14
Dear Dad.
 
We haven't seen each other for quite a while, but I hope you're doing well. As you said on the phone last month, you must be working pretty hard right now.
 
This is probably the best means to get outside . . . speaking of the spiral . . . you were trapped inside this room - letting the brutal sight enter the eternal box of your memories. You became an addict with no possibility to look away. And then came the rebirth! You gave a new meaning to life and started making plans. Plans for yourself, plans for your grandson. But this was happening at a time I already slipped away. It was too much for me. When I left, I should have known better. You might think that it was a mistake - the coward rising. But I had to move or else I would have ended like J.J- Together, we could have fought against the machinery . . . it's all such a waste of energy. My mind is suffering from the same disease they used to have and I don't know if it's good or bad; if it's a gift or not. Is it right to feel the same hatred when all your love dies in the end? J.J. could have told me, but time was against us. Perhaps we could meet the following weeks, or so, and talk things over. I hope that the two of us will be able to behave and act like we're supposed to. The faces change, of course, but in the end it's up to you and me to start re-establishing the old order. It nearly makes me laugh - imagining you reading these lines, thinking, your son must have gone crazy in this land of sunshine. But hey! I don't care. I think you're words that were . . . some time ago. It might be that I've changed my mind or maybe I was thinking that way from the very beginning. Either way, I am getting stronger now and I am ready to face my fears . . . perhaps we should help each other.
 
Yours,
 
Robert.
 

 

 

 

 
15

 
As I cross the street, my shadow gently moves over the grey platform - touching the cement . . . no need to hurry; I'll get there in time ... People seem to be going right through my body - not even noticing me. Every now and then our eyes would meet, only to make sure that ourselves were being . . . (observed)................ There! He's looking at me . . . that's the point: look at me and I will show you you're alive . . . no need to hurry . . . we've got all the time on our side, because it is simply an illusion . . .  no need to hurry. If I just let things happen, I will hit the target with an immense impact. No big deal: just me and my will: . . . that’s all.
 

 
16

Waking up the beast while it’s traumatized could be very dangerous. She knew that. And yet, she kept looking for this tiny little something called “fear” inside of her. It was the wrong place to start, though. Somehow, she must have known that  too. But then: where to begin, when you’re absolutely lost? She could have gone for a walk. She could have called some old friend. No! She didn’t have any good friend around here. All the people around her seemed to be just playing along; playing their unsignificant roles in this big deal called friendship. She never really fit into this role, she never really obeyed the rules nor wanted to suck up to the man. No one told her that she was wrong. No one ever mentioned a single word about failure; except Robert, of course. They were all too busy with themselves and too afraid they might loose some skin. Deep thoughts, she thought. Sometimes, but not very often, she took a pen and started drawing. Ink, maybe. And when she finished a few scetches, she felt far more exhausted than she used to be a decade ago. Every line was feeding on her blood. It ejected invisible tentacles and smashed them directly into her blood-circuit. A vampire – a slave . . . both of them willing to suffer in order to maximize pleasure. Some might have called her a sadistical whore; but no one of her companions along the way ever tried to even think that way. This was all so scary. And getting deeper could mean that they would have lost themselves. They played by the rules. And she was content with this lack of compassion. If they didn’t have any, then why would they ask her to be this way. This is so sad, she thought. Robert was the only person in her entire life who could overpower her; on the other hand, she was quite a lady with a great spirit – wit, one could say - and such a remarkable imagination. He used to play games with her, telling her things that would destroy a weak personality. Sometimes he was quite impressed by the way she really “understood” his relationship to Jacob and his l! ate moth er. There was something in the way he used to look at her . . . she never really thought about it until now. What was it she was keeping away from herself? Love is a blurry old word, misused by most, manipulated by many. On one occasion, they were in her room, at home, he left to use the bathroom. They were lying on the bed, listening to some random music and talking about some unimportant things. He was away for just a few minutes. As he entered the room, her heart started to beat faster. His face was disfigured and all covered in blackness. She saw evil entities circling round his eyes. This image soon disappeared, but things were never the same afterwards. “I think you have something really, really bad inside of you.” she said. No word could ever erase this sight. She was doomed to believe this. She was doomed to fail.

 

All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Srdjan Kuzmanovic.
Published on e-Stories.org on 08.03.2006.

 

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