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Chapter 2
me and friends
robot_things

*The Thing That Happened With The Cockpit*

 

 

            “I’m trying to remember, man, hard,” Clifford was saying to Leonard Odjick before he stopped himself. A second or so went by, “But, shit… I’m not remembering in order.”

 

It was morning and they were the only two people left in the loft where last night’s party had happened to the world. As Clifford understood it, the place was now his. The nameless guy from last night had mentioned something about the place. It had a good history, odd but mainly good, and he could use it as his home from now on. But that man had said a lot of things last night. Something about Deetos?

 

There was a cold draft coming from outside, refreshing, the kind you only get seventy-six floors above everybody else. It surfaced the floor and the walls and the furniture without disturbing anything, just quietly replacing old air that needed replacing. The very same air which for several hours the night before had been mercilessly beaten by the stomping, the jumping, the dancing of a thousand fantastic people. The draft also caressed Clifford, nowhere in particular, just Clifford as a whole, which felt good. It came in through the hole in the east wall where just a few hours ago the cockpit still held tightly. It was too bad about the cockpit.

 

Clifford was trying to tell Leonard everything he had learned during the party, what the nameless guy had told him. Deetos? But his memories, he was pretty sure, came to him all skewed or distorted or at least in the wrong order. Not much of it made sense, anyway.

The fate of the universe. Something to do with that.

 

They had woken up, him on a sofa, Leonard on the floor, and had since been talking, maybe for an hour. Leonard had had a party thrown for him too, six days prior, and was now living where that had taken place. The nameless guy throwing away awesome apartments left and right, apparently.

“I think they do it on purpose”, Leonard was now saying, “they get you to have a really good time, get you in a positive mindset with the music and the really fantastic people and everything, so they can tell you all this shit and you won’t panic.” Pause. “And the next day you get up, all of a sudden you got an amazing view plastered across your walls because they’re like 80% windows now, and you’re living in a place you’d imagine only actors or drug kingpins get to live in. No way you want to leave this.” Leonard thinking out loud now, “and it takes a few days before you even question somebody’s motives, somebody with the financial backing to afford just giving away the deeds to a place like this. You realize, eventually, that there’s a phone call that’s going to happen to you, there’s a guy that’s going to ask you for something in return. Eventually you realize that that’s coming up…”

Clifford took over that train of thought, still working on his recap of everything he’d been told the night before: “So then, we have ten guys, though we’ve only met one so far, that say they need our help in a pressing matter regarding the universe. Who’s missing again? There’s you, me and, -who they looking for?”

“Eda Lilly”

“Right, Eda Lilly”, Clifford said, pocking at his arm with a toothpick for no reason. “Eda Lilly”, thinking out loud now, liking the sound of that name. “And they can’t find her?”

“She never showed at her party, the second one they threw (mine being the first, yours the last). They know – this is from what I remember - they’re pretty sure she got the flyer, but she just vanished, they can’t “locate her whereabouts”, like the man said”.

“How about that nameless guy, hey?”

“How about you tell me what the hell happened in the cockpit, man, everyone thought you guys where dead”.

 

Oh yes, the cockpit. Good question.

 

Clifford thought back, digging deep in his mind, and came up with something. A specific moment from the previous night. A good place to start. The nameless fellow and him were sitting in the cockpit, looking out toward the city, engulfed in a silence that Clifford hoped would never end. It was the silence from after the talk, from after he had been told about the tragic approaching fate of mankind, the existence of an alien race (Ah! The Deetos!), the damage those creatures were doing to the planet, and the repercussions their actions would have on the universe as we know it. Oh yes, Clifford remembered now. The look of terror in the man’s eyes. Eyes that wore a warning. Eyes carrying news that would make any man crumble. They looked so damn tired. And the man had taken Clifford’s shoulder in the cup of his wide hand, and he had squeezed it very hard, and with a voice that seemed to bury every other sound in the world, he had said: “The universe will end, Clifford, unless we make a miracle.”

 

“Clifford? The cockpit?” Leonard said, trying unsuccessfully to fish an empty sugar envelope from his coffee, but paying attention.

“Yeah, it’s coming back”, Clifford said, trying to gather his thoughts in order, “I think it was the bass from all that music inside. We’d just finished talking. A few minutes went by, I was taking a liking to the scene, you know, the view from the cockpit, the entire city spread out in front of me, all tiny and vast, all blinking lights and shadows. The music, somewhere behind me, felt faraway at that moment. I guess I was just trying to make sense of everything the man had said. What a mess… Anyway, we didn’t say anything for a while and then all of a sudden, bang! The tip of the plane drops and for a second I think it’s all over.”

“The cockpit fell?”

“No, the metal structure that held up the top of the cockpit to the wall of the building just broke so we still held there but just barely, by the bottom of the cockpit. Next thing I know it’s pointing at the street below, and I’m looking at cars, small down there with tiny people walking, being dots with tiny moving shadows, going from one street light to the next, not knowing this is going on. And I’m sitting there, looking at these people, and I can’t believe they don’t know. A cockpit is hanging from a hole in a high-rise with extremely loud music pumping out of it. But we’re so up, soooo up, nobody even sees us, they just continue on with the business of being moving dots. Then I hear metal bent against it’s will, slowly giving under the weight of more metal, and I start paying attention again. I turn to our nameless guy, I’m looking at him and he’s looking at me, we look like co-pilots but we’re not, and then –I don’t know why- my attention is drawn to the music again. It fades back in. I turn to look at where the music is coming from, behind me somewhere, and I honestly think I let out a sound.”

“A sound?”

“Like a gasp”, Clifford explained. “It was the strangest thing I ever saw, so out of place. You see something like this and you know immediately you’re the only one who has. There was the back of the cockpit, this big hole from which we’d entered, but now it didn’t lead to the party anymore, it led to the sky. First thing beyond the cockpit hole was this: a long floor of mirrors that led to more stars than I can fucking count. I know I was staring at the building’s surface, but because the cockpit was hanging by its bottom hinges, because we were pointing at the ground now, the building’s windows just kind of looked like a floor. And there was the hole in that floor, just beyond the cockpit, from which music and light and colours rose into the night.

 

“The situation, however, was more sucky. It slowly dawned upon me that we were hanging from what was left of some structure attached to the bottom end of the cockpit which, just as I was looking up in awe at the night sky, gave in. Then I heard the cry of metal contorted, a high-pitched snap, and the hole in the wall left. The music left. The sound of people having a good time, the hope for another free drink, the stars, everything left. And all of a sudden the ground was coming. I turned back to face it and saw the street coming, the wall of the building flashing by under us, like we’re driving on it, and wondered what a pilot would do. I couldn’t try a manoeuvre, too much of the plane was missing. Also I am not a pilot. I turned to the nameless guy next to me, and saw the old man petrified. His face was frozen, his eyes refusing to close, staring right in front of him, waiting for the street to come crashing through the window. His body seemed locked in its position, his right hand clutching a lever to the side of his seat. An ejection lever. Sometimes the brain takes time to process information, and sometimes it doesn’t. I felt to the side of my seat and found the same lever, which I wasted no time pulling, screaming at him to do the same.”

“Did it work?”, Leonard asked. Leonard was a good listener.

“Sort of” Clifford said, remembering as he went along, grinning a little. “We weren’t ejected, the plane’s broken, what are you gonna do? But I felt a release go off under me, something mechanical somewhere in my seat, and doors opened from the other side of my back rest. I know this because I saw it happen on the nameless guy’s seat. It opened at the back and a parachute appeared from nowhere like it was shot out from a cannon.  Both parachutes blew out from the hole of the cockpit and caught the wind. Then the street’s still coming at us, but I’m not thinking about it as a threat so much,  we’re crashing, but slowly. And I get a kick out of seeing, not so far away anymore, the dots starting to notice us.”


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