Lieu stakes out his position very quickly, running away to the swamps before nightfall. he plops down on an acreage that no doubt hasn't seen human feet in years, for nobody goes out anymore.
Lieu: can you hear that, buddy?
Hartwin: wish i couldn't, (on the phone) silence is always preferable.
Lieu: the bog is calm and full of itself. not a peep. the trees have fallen asleep, their willowy arms folding faster than Superman on laundry day. just the slight murmur of a wayward glowbug. assignment? sure, as long as i can sleep on the job.
Hartwin: give em hell, boy. i got my hands full over here. the princess has returned.
Hartwin: Bump. he's brung reinforcements. the cheap kind.
Harfi returns to the base amid a shouting match of racial, ethnic, religious, and even some personality-based slurs directed at her from the mob squeezing through the cordon as they always seem to do. hate is superhuman. Harfi dusts off her dusty helmet and enters like a stoned celebrity.
Harfi: hey you think i'd blow up my own home? that was a new kitchen, just recently renovated by Ramsay himself. we finally went digital. refurbished oven. i was gonna have my first ramen.
Hartwin: good news, you'll enjoy ramen in your later years. strange, my skin is darker than yours.
Harfi: i have a vagina.
Lieu (eavesdropping): need me? i can come back after my nap. but only an emergency, this scenery is instaworthy.
Hartwin: we good. we clear. inside. yeah i love to set my insta to foreign chants. i deliberately follow all the feeds labeled Enemy Music and blast them all night from my barracks. have to pay an extra fee but it's worth it. Aunt Sam foots the bill anyway. just to rile the outside world. it's quite good music actually, i've picked up a stray word here or there. they were never the real enemy. obviously. the world is magic. as in, full of distractions.
Lieu: hey man, how do you handle all the followers and the immense amount of pics and quotes? there are only so many hours.
Hartwin: scroll like a motherfucker and scan. unfortunately there's no time to read captions. i'm sure i'm missing some inspiring quotes and heartwrenching confessions but i get the gist from the quick look. they added the translate so now i'm missing some inspiring quotes in their exact native tongue. i'm fluent in fluid. eh, also means i skip the native advertising. only have time for a peek so if the babe ain't showing her jugs at that precise moment i can only imagine..............i'm a sucker for moonshine recipes.
Lieu: feel ya, bro. mead for me. love that abandoned architecture page but then the guy started DMing me selling watches with John the Baptist for hands. John the Baptist was salty and i don't blame him, he was supposed to be the Chosen One, he was Jesus before Jesus. not a fan of the bible quotes, i mean that book is ancient! peaks peek. classic. how?
Hartwin: there are many bibles. which is the problem. the eternal eight. eight flicks of my pointer finger swiping on the side of the screen, middle finger if i really need to save time, but then the damn thing can't go lower anymore and you get the dreaded dharma wheel that flickers as much as my mind. this gives excruciatingly ample time for the fucking thing to crash, go to black, and you have to start all over. never mind about videos, it can't play videos, i cringe when there's a video to play, it will freeze and lose all your progress. instead, i imagine what the video would look and sound like. i haven't had the experience of a crushed screen cos i've never had a phone long enough, they all get chucked out to river.
Lieu: it's so beautiful out here. with a serenity that comes only before a storm. i want to take a quick snap and post it...
Hartwin: please don't, that'll ruin it. place your phone on the malted surface and let it sink. then swim to the deepest point of the marsh, feeling each uncomfortable wave on your blackened skin. good night, bro.
Lieu:....................i'm still on the line...........
an interesting vid lands in the middle of Hartwin's feed and plays unto itself. a woman with a withered Australian accent takes out her red-raincoated arm to feel the start of spitting droplets: it's a video:
oh the rain. wash away the pain. smell that? better than vinegar. my cats love the rain. can you hear them mewing? no that's me mewing, my arthritis always acts up when the sky is soup. where are they? nowhere to be found. i am so lonely up here on my little hill. it's so peaceful. i won't give away my address even if you're handsome. been there, done that, bought it. DM me, whatever that is. i'll give you a reading. for free. i'm so damn bored. should have never given away my tv. thought it would be spiritually cleansing. but it only made me crazier. goodbye, dearies. that's one minute, right?...
Madchen: oh hi dear. signals crossed. technology. no, let's you and i talk, i'm sick of my son. hey the GPS says i'm right near you! thats why. yeah i'm just off your swamp in a sidebog. the purple cave amongst the pink. see me waving? oh yeah it's night. i've been down here all day recording. my client better like this. the customer's always right? that can't be right. my blouse is soaked but don't worry, i remembered to wear an extra undershirt. as i emerged from the river into the underground tiding pool my goggles were stuck with all sort of undiscovered sea life. fascinating. makes you want to continue. we have a map of Cleveland but not one of the ocean floor.
Lieu: is this gonna be a monologue? i'm pushing RECORD and taking a nap, ma'am.
Madchen: i was scanning in a circle when i uponed a poor spider struggling to breathe under the painted rock. i immediately shut my camera off, felt good to do that, and i helped the little guy. he was so disoriented he went into the water rather than up the cave to light but that's neither here nor there. i'm proud that there's no footage of this. don't show 'em the good, leave them guessing, the public doesn't need to know about your private life. the air down here is so musk and particle it's hard to breathe. the water is so viscous i nearly broke my leg coming up. i must have been down there swimming around for hours. you lose your sense of direction. and i thought we descended from fish. i feel a permanent glaze of sweet oil becoming my second skin and defying any shampoo. count your stars you're up and outside, i envy you. they don't know about that perimeter yet, do they? you sneaky devil. no stars down here.
Lieu: hello? ma'am? how are you? fine evening we're having. let me transfer you to your son.
Madchen: no, don't bother, a man can't have his mom circling around him like a vulture. always.
Matthew Chris: folks, i was treated this weekend to the strangest event i have ever seen. you know grass? you mow it, you smoke it, i smoke it to take a stand, but apparently you play a kind of volleyball on it, too. with a net so low it's worse than limbo. how low can they go? and a green ball that blends into the green playing area, camouflaging itself, disappearing into the court. and metal sticks. but like for only two weeks. cos lawns are hard to maintain. i tried to machete my lawn once and instead cut my neighbor's fence in two. the top half. elevenis it's called. it's a tradition that dates back to China. first time i heard of it. strawberries were a bit rancid, gonna yelp that later. anyway this guy Roger won his 18th crown of england and they gave him a large golden pint of ale. which he dropped. cos he's old. and to the surprise of everyone, the crowd standing in the cathedral and those standing at home, everyone except his box, Roger proceeds to do a Crip walk on centre court...................everybody's choosing sides.........
Bump stands feet from the forum gleefully putting out his cigar on a reporter's mic. the mic's fuzzy ball catches fire. Bump has amassed a large army in a short of time, which is worrying. mostly recruits from his favorite site, Fight Night. these soldiers are all too happy to throw down. not for money, not for glory, not for hits, but for the hits. hey have lost their soul in this crazy world and just don't care anymore. they strap on their vests and hit all the soft targets they can, in the quickest and deadliest way they can, like an internet machine which must constantly be fed updates. havoc disrupts the streets nightly and no one knows where these foreign fighters are coming from, which broadens the coalition and leaves the public to fill in the blanks with their own guesses. each blast loosens a nut from the brain.
Bump: see this, folks? it's crazy. all crazy. utter chaos. we must fight crazy with crazy. it's the only way. these people are just that, these people. they don't listen to us. until we make them. we must take a globalization time-out to look into this to find out what the hell is going on. but not too deeply cos you don't want to get infected by them. this is why i don't play online games, you could run into one of their ads. disguised as sponsored content. besides i want to go outside and play. it's more fun to feel a plastic ball than a plastic stick. tennis? never heard of it. is it like golf? golf i know about, i swindled my first million from golf. online gambling is the best. great sport. golf i mean. don't play myself, seems like a waste of time and resources. i mean why destroy whole forests lengthening courses to compete with the increasing technology of longer clubs when you can build virtual courses in my office? same experience, right? leave nature alone. tech is the future.
the terrorists create a pathway for Bump to get to the arena where the next debate is taking place, a quiet library out of the way that will be forever changed and Google-mapped. Bump walks casually getting blasted with bomb debris from both sides.
Penyelamat: Google Maps is creepy. they have a 360-degree view of my hobbit hole. who exactly is filming this? and now...
Wolf: welcome to the first debate, Murica. we're gonna get our first dictator. Bump is late. Hilary, what the fuck is going on with you?
Hilary: i emailed my running mate all night last night. *crowd whoos* she prepared me. it's quite simple. do you want this idiot to have the button? you want this mental midget in charge of your son's death? and your daughter's pageant? you want this moron to funnel your tax money into his casinos? he is too stupid to lead and stupider to get follows. Putin will become his golf buddy. they'll play on a North Korean course during the snowy season. The Mickey will have so much blood on his hands he'll have to join a reservation. imagine that conversation. his orange hair will turn ginger! and we all know about gingers. FUCK YOU!!!
and the Secretary, wearing her letterman jacket from high school, varsity volleyball with the huge hawk emblazoned on the back, gives a patriotic double-barreled salute to the man just entering the arena to a track of mistimed WWE music that's caught in a loop. the crowd laughs but cringey.
Bump: (wearily) no, FUCK YOU!!!
and he does his best Johnny Cash impression but he is clearly tired.
Wolf: *speaking directly into the mic* THANK YOU!!! ratings gold. i'm getting paid this month.
but then Bump falls silent. which is very unusual. the crowd doesn't know how to react so they sit on their hands to feel something. Bump spends the rest of the hour typing on his phone, brainstorming his twitter responses for later that night.
Bump: an involved process. each tweet has to be to the boss's liking. takes hours to craft a tweet that looks like it's off-the-cuff. each word must be placed just right. that's why i'm always late.
Lysander: (on the phone) (as always): okay sir, let's make a deal. that's what all doctors do. PK? KP. you get the anchovies and the dough and we'll cook it in my office microwave. yeah get those Boboli crusts, remember those? those beautiful bread blank canvases. they were all the rage back in the day. discontinued? from Mexico? no, it's clearly italian. you're thinking Taco Bell, they discontinued their tacos to only sell mexican pizzas. you're worried when your cat suntans in the morning? just be glad there's still a sun. you know i hadn't thought of that. no, not ruining the dark leather of your couch. shame on you for owning a leather couch. i hope it does get lightened. i see the happy smiles on my cats' faces when they stretch themselves into a snake and take in all that natural Vitamin D, not thinking twice about the cancer stuff. you see it in their golden cateyes, which are closed. sunburn on a cat, perish the thought! don't want to imagine it so it doesn't be. cancer, what a cancer. as always it's a matter of enjoyment now versus payment later. yes i suppose, slather your pets with loads of suntan lotion like you would humans. SPF? they all work the same. for cats are smarter than humans so deserve to survive more. first in the frontal lobe. species pecking order. do i have some with me? sure, there're loads of unopened boxes of discontinued medicine in my backroom. you know medicine, it gets recalled before it can ever work. i'd charge you but the banks have failed. everything's for sale now. huh? samples, yeah, take as many samples as you want. see you in five. watch your head for flying bullets.
eventually the phone goes dead and Lieu forgets when exactly his eyes closed. a figure approaches from the night, gliding on the tips of liquid, her flippers not making a sound. she looks rather silly bumbling around in her heavy gear trying to walk straight. she doesn't need a diving helmet her hair is so thick. she gently moves Lieu to the outlying brush and wraps him in a blanket, only his face showing. she then takes some of the surrounding black and white muck and reapplies his face paint camouflage.
Madchen: there, dear. no one can spot you. safe and sound. woman used to live in the bush. got a clean sheet. no deaths on my watch.
Lieu must have really needed to sleep cos none of this stirs him one bit. he is lost in an expansive slumber, but before drifting to the point of no return, thinking of the day and the racial divide, he is
LULLABIED BY THIS IN HIS MIND'S INTERIOR, CLICK HERE, RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK
Harfi: everything okay?
Hartwin: (over deafening clicking of tapped keys) yeah. Lieu's got our 6. get those whey-butter-and-Jelly-Belly sandwiches ready, i've almost cracked the code.
Harfi: i ain't your bitch.
Hartwin: such a difference working on my home computer. well, room computer. room-temperature computer............i got it! i know where they are. and they are that stupid. or arrogant. same thing. they're at the zoo. you thought there were no more zoos. but there are. Google Maps notwithstanding. and that is also the hidden location of a cemetery, for that is also their grave. the animals will win. for once. payday's come early.
Harfi: please, not now. what a day. i need a snuggle.
Hartwin: sure. fuck their struggle.
the phone is way on the other side in the bathroom. for security reasons. Hartwin fumbles to don his undershorts and glides otherwise naked to try to pick it up. the rings die out before he can answer.
Hartwin: well there's a lesson. if i wasn't so conscious and ran out there nude i would have answered in time. could have been mom. probably was mom. but she could have won the lottery. or used her next wacky faith to bring dad back from the dead.
Harfi: (smiling from the side) next time. get naked. let it all hang out. don't blush on my account, i'm just one of the guys. equality bathrooms i say!
the two crouch down and crash on the corner.
Hartwin: enter the bog of my body.
Harfi: what? you are spent.
Hartwin: cuddle in my arms. and i in yours. yours are bigger than mine. we'll always be safe here. together. forever. cos we are one. in purpose. in life. we have direction. that is so important. that is everything. we can rest easy though we have no pillows. but the other side feels the same. we fight the good fight not cos it's good nor right but cos it's ours. because it's the cause. no war will prevent us from going gently. no war will ever change us. we are.........us. *side smile* snuddle. aimless no more.
the two exhausted fighters blend into the dark.