Shuffling Upstairs (Echo Chamber excerpt)

There are no doors street level. Three story hovels and miscellaneous hostels spew derelicts into the streets at the base at a minimum safe distance of 200 meters.

Polly narrows her eyes at a stack of coffee shaded conapts.

Her legs lift over the soggy bottom of the threshold. Splintered and rat eaten cardboard splatters the tile floor of the apartment building’s entryway. Thirty pairs of shoes are scattered in clumps, brown, black, sneakers, guest slippers, dress shoes, loafers, house shoes, geta, crocs, and the wires of long rotted disposable footwear. Each discarded foot covering emanates a sorrowful aura the climbs through the dead roaches, stained moulding, and attempts to breach the antiseptic barrier of Polly’s Death’s Head boots. Her neon shadow falls through the door and darkens the tile. Flashing sprays of green, red, and cathode blue pour in the space between the woman and the door frame from the Pollo Campero across the street as the chicken struts along the marvellous marquee.

Green Fleur de lis wallpaper crawls in wrinkly ribbons down the back wall as Polly shuffles in. The process of unbuckling the deaths head boots reminds her to pop another stick of gum into her mouth to help cover the greasy smell of this apartment building. She also thinks about her sister, the last shower she had, the note she left, the men, women, and erotic others that who’s hearts she’s left bleeding and twisted in the crossfaded days of her younger self. The woman five years her elder, with the experimental music hobby, the range of middle-aged men, the boys, each of her firsts, and, as the left boot is removed, her days rooting in the garbage for stale loaves and ketchup packages, the extra clothes, her first encounter with Old Merve. This last flashback threatens to swamp her brain and she summons her tranquil place. “The beach. The beach. Think of the beach.”

The sky is a simulated blue. No birds foul the air. Waves and the subtle wind are the sounds that help drive the dirty memory from recall.

She lifts her boots and begins heading up the squealing stairs. As she pins the boots under her armpit she fiddles with a piece of gum. She squints while peeling the foil wrapping from the wilting green stick. Her feet on the stairs wobble without her eyes to keep balance.

The gum really likes the foil. It does not want to be separated and fairly communicates this nonverbally to Polly by adhering staunchly to the uncoated foil underside. She tries but is unsuccessful. Several stripes of foil cling yet to the gum before she loses patience and pops the piece into her mouth.

San Pedro

Polly shakes her head at the taxis occasionally slowing by to entice. Frustrated honks glide off into the rain. She strides past derelicts, street heavies, and closes her eyes tight against the wall of graffiti that hems in San Pedro.

Fibrous cylinders fountain like fast forward spaghetti from a prehistoric non-vascular aquatic life form that resembles a toilet paper roll. The cylinders collide mid hologram with a trophy touting lion’s head sewn to the prehensile breasts of a mother kangaroo in whose pouch a tangled mess of electric wires squirm and sizzle. Their googly eyes flying out over the street in clumps of four. Behind the Kangaroo a long vanishing point type rainbow stretches back to the primordial past where giant sloths feed Jesus goldfish crackers. A sagebrush jack rabbit, cartoonish and cute, supports a pack of boner pills that dance along the animal’s tongue. Balloon letters bleed from the rabbit’s asshole, “Best of Luck!” As the sea spaghetti wriggles ever up the walls of San Pedro they encounter the level wherein no birds dwell. Figures of aged folk, in an early Raphaelite style swoon over benches their outstretched dying palms filled with dripping bird seed. Crows knacker silently and gurgle down the seed which wriggles in their distended bellies. Though the horizon of the San Pedro walls imposes a creative restraint on the gang of artists responsible for the duelling graffiti, each has interpreted that final moment uniquely.

From the East, the wire joeys braid together as nautical vessels of war, gliding through a mine rigged dark up towards the surface. Torpedoes launch from tubes and spring forth hyperbolic flower arrangements of surveillance clouding chaff clusters. Their broad hulls brush spiralling crustaceans and squid aside as they move upwards towards the white-capped limit of this space.

From the West, a bounty of grotesque deformities, long-limbed torsos astride abominable sets of twelve legs with each ending in a cracked yolk wherein curdled foetuses blow bubbles in the first and last breaths. Test tubes crack open upon smoking wounds in disembodied arms. Ink spills from a sodden cloud at the upper limit. It rains down from above and as the drops fall they transform into a series of political caricatures of the hated politicians of the day. The multi-limbed beings spread out in the rain, some bask and others shelter under one another with the occasional hands wriggling digits at the submarines rising above.