Mundanity is the oft-underestimated force that has the power to fling newborns into dumpsters, heroes of war into gutters, and the great gurus into mental asylums. The law of supply and demand is not a natural law, but rather a perversion of man that led to great power. Not fifty years ago, moving images on a screen or a pocket sized two-way radio were miraculous inventions. Such marvels as televisions and cell phones are now consigned to the smashing hands of adolescents, armed with baseball bats and cinder blocks. What was once sacrilege to our elders, through the power of mundanity, becomes commonplace and unremarkable. It is important to remember, however mundane, that these profanities are capable of hitting a kind of critical mass. Pregnant like an underground cavern full of natural gas, all it takes is unsuspecting spark from an exploratory lantern to destroy everything a people once took for granted.
Berry's thin, soft arms failed to react to the coaxings of Caroline's shrill alarm clock. Unlike Berry, however, Caroline's body was well attuned to Father time as its taskmaster. Caroline woke up wrapped in Berry's entangling limbs acting as an awkward fleshy straight jacket. Almost stubbornly, Berry refused to awaken and cooperate with Caroline's self-extrication. Finally freeing an arm, she turned off her alarm clock and peeled Berry off of her with the slow deliberation of a snake shedding its skin.
Groggy, but filled with a zombie-like motivation, Caroline's frumpy naked body trundled the short walk from the bedroom to the bathroom. Mechanically she showered, this time not interrupted by her houseguest during morning ablutions.
She returned to her room with her damp towel resting lackadaisically over her shoulder to find Berry still fiercely asleep despite the fact that the bubble of warmth they had shared the night before was long since broken. Caroline turned her back and dressed for work, dismayed to find her emotionally unresponsive in the last few precious minutes before Monday's call of labor.
The clock crept towards Caroline's departure time, and Berry remained soundly asleep. Caroline didn't have the heart or the time to wake her and eject her in the gray morning sun. Instead she wrote a note and locked the door behind her as she'd done a thousand times before and stumped her sleepy legs down the stairs towards her car. She ignored Raz's car parked nearby in the background as she pulled away towards Jaleesa and the Gulag.
Caroline unlocked the heavy oak door to Pugh's Flowers and turned on the fluorescent lights. Without losing a step, she walked into the tiny break-room and made a pot of the black amphetamines that passed for coffee. She returned to what was once called a front desk, clocked in and laid her head down for a brief respite until Jaleesa got in with breakfast from some scandalous relative's restaurant. As an afterthought, and without raising her head, she clocked Jaleesa in as well.
It was a full thirty minutes later when Jaleesa dragged herself into work. As a part of their now ancient pact, she brought steaming hot sausage biscuits and hash browns cooked in home-rendered bacon fat as propitiation for Caroline's time-clock manipulations.
Caroline, however, was blissfully asleep, and totally unaware of it being Monday.
Jaleesa plunked her crinkly plastic bag down roughly mere inches from Caroline's nose. She waited for the scent to do its sordid work and helped herself to the coffee Caroline had brewed. Silently she thanked God for its mud-like consistency and crack-like potency. She returned to find Caroline robotically eating the seared and macerated flesh of the world's most profane animal, her head still resting uncomfortably against the wooden desk.
Caroline's head slowly rose from her desk as her jaw acted like a jack to raise her neck above her shoulders by degrees. When her head finally reached an intellectual human posture, Caroline filled Jaleesa in on the day's work orders.
"We have three heartbreak specials, a small wedding with just lapels, corsages, and a bridal bouquet, and um..." She stuttered sleepily "a... uh... yeah, a centerpiece for some fancy dinner." In common language, this translated to "six hours of real work between us, and goofing off for the rest of the day."
"How many lapels and corsages?" Jaleesa asked as she tried to figure out her share of the workload.
"Three lapels, six corsages," Caroline replied, not even bothering to speak in complete sentences.
"I call wedding then," Jaleesa inserted, taking advantage of Caroline's groggy state to grab the easiest work, leaving her with the complex problem of the centerpiece arrangement.
Caroline rose in defeat to get herself her first cup of liquid motivation, trying to wash down the dry, flaky biscuit. Now fully awake, she even remembered a plastic fork and knife for her hash browns. She came back to find Jaleesa still standing and munching another sausage biscuit.
Caroline sat down and squirted bright red ketchup on her hash brown from its foil packet. She then methodically cut up the hash brown patty with her fork and knife.
"Using a fork and knife for your hash browns? What is this, dinner at the Ritz?" Jaleesa commented as she lifted her own hash brown in its wax paper wrapping to her mouth just as Caroline usually did. Caroline shrugged, not wasting the energy to think of a decent explanation for such a trivial thing. The spirit of Monday descended in earnest as they finished in silence. Jaleesa retreated to her worktable in the back to watch soap operas on a tiny television.
Plastic knife. Styrofoam cup. Sausage. Wax paper. On Mondays, even demons are just phoning it in.
"heartbreak-special" is a jargon term for the most common order in a floral shop: a dozen roses. The reason for its name is based upon the most common circumstances in which it is ordered. Any spousal offence committed by a man, whether it be infidelity or merely missing a family function can be properly absolved through the traditional gift of flowers. The number twelve in particular is significant, each flower representing one of the twelve apostles. The missing thirteenth flower, representing Jesus, is implied to be the recipient. This grants the recipient the power to forgive sins ceremonially.
What then, does this imply towards the florist? This common, yet still holy rite is enabled by a paid professional. A paid professional that engages in and facilitates holy sacrifices is by definition a priest, or in this case, a priestess. A florist is today considered a mundane profession; the ancient days of intricate cutting gardens has been replaced by greenhouse flower farms, days of searching for rare plants replaced by order forms and refrigerated shipments. Wrapped up in the technicalities, society has forgotten the true power that drives the industry.
Caroline was blissfully unaware of this as she placed the sprigs of Angel's Breath into the heartbreak specials, carefully inscribing the destination and message onto the cardboard card on each one and placing it near the door for the twelve o'clock courier. A single hour of the day standing for each apostle, the thirteenth Father God Himself, the maker of all time.
On the day of the moon, Caroline completed the three common ceremonies and then began the commissioned fifty-dollar centerpiece. This arrangement had the power to unite a family into a single cohesive social and cultural unit, not that Caroline noticed. She was too busy choosing a wide, expensive base to reduce the number of carnations and sunflowers she'd have to add to justify the fifty-dollar cap Mrs. Markie had set on the commission.
Caroline finished her work quickly, using a haphazard style to imply intimacy by informality. Finished with her duties she logged on to her favorite forum and interpreted the slew of linguistic symbols as she looked for an interesting thread. She didn't find one, however, so she decided to make one of her own.
The denizens of the Internet are strange creatures indeed, and Caroline was no exception to this rule. In common life, anal sex is considered reasonably perverse. On the Internet, such acts of sexuality are referred to as a matter of course. There the lurid and disturbing tales that Caroline has lived over the past few weeks are merely light reading. This may perhaps explain to the uninitiate the perverse and inherent joy she felt at explaining her escapades with Berry.
Title: Me and Berry's V: a love story
Body: I just got back from a friend's house. And by house I mean pants. And by friend I mean vagina, or "the V" as her friends call her.
Berry's V is my BFF. We were frolicking through the cottony field of Hanes when we tripped and fell into each other and my nose gently bumped into V's clitoris. It is then that I realized I loved Berry's V. I whispered those words as Berry slapped me across the back of the head because I had her pubic hair stuck between my teeth, and when I talked I yanked some of it out.
That's when I raped her.
The first three replies were the standard "Pics or it didn't happen" and "TLDR" posts. With nothing funny to reply to, Caroline let the thread slip deservingly into the abyss of other worthless topics. She stared listlessly at the screen until she finally dozed off with her head propped up by her left hand.
Plastic knife. Meat. Coffee cup. Computer screen. Eye, hand, foot.
The Glass peered gently into Caroline's undefended mind, pleased by her lack of urgency in following Mrs. Black's advice. Determining whether or not that was a result of its own intervention was of no consequence. The rough edges of this hole into the world were beginning to wear smooth with use, like an oft-tugged earring, and this opened certain new opportunities.
Caroline found herself sitting in a comfortable wooden rocking chair next to a card table covered with a purple silk embroidered cloth edged with beaded tassels. On top of the table was a shallow ebony bowl with straight sides, as if carved from a single round section of tree-trunk. Around this peculiar shallow bowl were eight impressions of the same symbol, equally spaced and symmetrical. The figure was made of three intersecting circles that formed a round-sided equilateral triangle in their center.
The space itself was small, with the walls either made of or covered with garish red silk curtains with large gold tassels. The curtains also, like the tablecloth, were embroidered with stylized birds made of straight lines and perfectly rounded curves. These curtains rustled and under an ornate tasseled edge the empty eyed face of the Glass appeared wearing a comfortable Asian cut suit and carrying a padded purple velvet string bag.
"Hello Caroline," said the Glass in greeting, seeing instant recognition on her face. Caroline stammered as she began to realize the importance of Glass's reappearance. How could this happen? She was at work! She was safe at work, right? Work is a normal place, where normal things happen. Nightmares were for her once lonely bed, or strange couches, not office chairs and scratched desktops.
"Hello," Caroline said in reply, still trying to collect herself.
"I brought you gift. Do you want to see?" the Glass offered smoothly in his now all too familiar sounding voice.
"Yes, thank you," Caroline lied. Politeness had served Thug well, and Mrs. Black seemed to be its queen. 'When in Rome,' after all. The Glass opened the bag to reveal a perfect crystal ball, large and heavy. The ball was completely perfect and flawless, like a bubble of empty space from a universe much denser than our own.
The Glass held the ball lightly, a gossamer soap bubble in his hands, but when he set it down it made a heavy knock against the ebony base that belied the Glass's adept handling. He carefully wiped off an imaginary smudge with a white cotton cloth from the string bag.
"This," he said, sitting in a chair that had not been there before he sat down, "is merely a tool. A device for analyzing reflections of one's self, nothing more. However, for a beginner it is a training wheel to keep the mind balanced and focused on the task at hand."
"What task? I don't even know why I'm here," Caroline replied, as she grew more nervous. Her ears pricked for the sound of buzzing wings.
"Why, it's the same task every person is faced with: living a gratifying and fulfilling lifestyle, and that is best facilitated by knowing the right decisions to make."
The Glass eased his eyeless face close into Caroline's
"Wisdom, Caroline. Wisdom comes from within. Thus, a device to reflect that wisdom back into itself so that it can be better viewed. A ball with a single focal point, forcing its reflections into the center where they can be properly rendered and interpreted. In the end, though, this ball is merely a reflective surface," The Glass rationalized.
"How can wisdom come from within?" Caroline asked dubiously. "I though wisdom was learned from life experience, or at least from the elderly."
The Glass tsked to himself, "Of course that's what they taught you. If you became too wise, you'd no longer be subservient to your teachers now, would you? That's why no one outside of yourself can be trusted to teach you."
"How can I teach myself what I don't already know?" Caroline asked again, confused.
"That, my dear, is what this crystal ball is for." The Glass answered, showing all of his perfect white teeth.
The Glass raised a hand gloved in white leather expansively. "The trick is to empty your mind of mundanity, of useless processes, of technicalities. Open your mind to the primary inspiration of your existence."
Caroline was beginning to get irritated with the Glass's word games. "And just how do you propose I do that, Mr. Glass?"
"Patience. First we must start with the obvious processes. Breathing, for example."
The Glass stood, and the lesson began.
"The trick is to empty yourself of breathing, to empty your lungs as a symbol of an empty mind. Merely exhale all the breath you have inside you, and stay empty until your body breathes in on its own, with no instruction from your mind," the Glass instructed.
Obediently curious, Caroline cooperated and looked at Glass for more instructions. The Glass waited for Caroline to begin the cycle of ever-deeper breathing before continuing.
"Now, open your eyes as you have already opened your lungs and try to look at the ball in all places equally with no particular focus. This technique is designed to tune your mind to its ultimate level of receptiveness."
For Caroline, the silence expanded to fill the tiny room when The Glass finished speaking. Her own breathing ceased to register in her ears as the baser elements of her mind relegated themselves back to running the engine of her body, freeing her entire mind to focus on the ball in front of her. Her eyes pinpointed on a single highlight on the upper left side of the sphere, causing all aspects of her view to dim in comparison. Over time she was finally receptive enough to see the static of her own nerve endings supercede the transient peculiarities of her surroundings.
Though her eyes were wide open, Caroline's internal panorama became a series of shifting and vibrant pinpoint colors. It was the ultimate expression of chaos, actively defying all patterns. It was at this point The Glass spoke again.
"This, Caroline, is the background noise. It's always been with you, ever since you first developed sight receptors in you mother's womb. These seemingly random colors are a complicated pattern encoded with every law of physics, the position, history, and future of every molecule in existence and all compressed into a space small enough for a human mind to comprehend."
Caroline struggled to balance her focus between The Glass's voice and maintaining the mental abstraction that allowed her to perceive the universal static. The room began to fade back into view, but Caroline steeled herself and focused on her breathing. The Glass paused while she struggled, neither helping nor distracting her. When her eyes ceased blinking and regained their focus on the chaos pattern, The Glass continued.
"Remember that your sense of the pattern can give you all the input you need. Sense my words through the pattern, not your ears. Your natural senses will only distract you."
Caroline struggled again to maintain focus, however, she noticed thin branching streams of green to her left but somehow behind her. At the end of every word, the streaks would disappear. As he spoke, she realized the lines bore a striking resemblance to an oscilloscope she saw as a kid on the Mr. Wizard show. Her own words came to her, not as sound, but as pink lines. Her lips didn't move as her voice answered.
"Wait, like this?"
"Very good." The Glass answered; just a bit shy of the way a master might speak when rewarding a dog with a treat.
It was then, that even through the pattern Caroline clearly saw a black bee enter the room. The lines of the curtain wrapped room became visible again as she turned to focus on it, and the bee faded ominously from view. She began her breathing once more and the bee reappeared and settled unnoticed on The Glass's right shoulder.
More bees followed, starkly recognizable only in the pattern and invisible to the naked eye. The bees, apparently invisible to The Glass, covered the demon. Then black bold-faced text appeared concretely over the pattern, unmistakably foreign yet somewhat familiar, like a porcelain teapot.
"You were supposed to open the bag." The words stated flatly, like text on the back of a traffic ticket. Caroline tried forming her own text and failed as she lost all focus on the pattern. She looked around and saw she was still in the curtained room. The Glass nodded encouragingly, apparently oblivious to what Caroline was experiencing.
Caroline recaptured the pattern more easily this time and broadcast her pink lines.
The Glass apparently heard her this time.
"Stay focused!" he said with a note of irritation, oblivious to the other side of the conversation. The black text appeared again. "Housecleaning..." it read.
The black bees Caroline had perceived surrounded The Glass as he noticed them for the first time, immediately fighting back violently. They overwhelmed him quickly with practiced ease and carried him back through the curtain from which he came.
Caroline was shocked, and lost focus instantly only to see Mrs. Black standing in an empty concrete room, like some sort of third world prison. The gypsy-like furnishings had disappeared, and Mrs. Black pursed her lips reproachfully.
"The plastic bag. With the envelope. That was where I put the instructions on how to use the oil. Now it's too late, and there's nothing I can do. Up to now there was still a chance. Poor Thug will be heartbroken." Mrs. Black started sternly, but ended wistfully.
"Heartbroken over what?" Caroline asked.
"It doesn't matter." Mrs. Black replied bluntly, "Jaleesa's coming to wake you up soon. Make sure and remember to read the letter when you get home."
Jaleesa jerked forward on Caroline's left hand and snorted gleefully as Caroline's still sleeping face made rough contact with the clacking keyboard in front of her. Caroline sputtered in shock, spurring Jaleesa to gales of laughter.
"You slept through lunch!" Jaleesa explained after her laughter subsided. Caroline looked groggily at the computer clock and was surprised to see it read 5:00 PM so soon.
"C'mon slow-ass!" Jaleesa continued as she punched out on Caroline's computer, "They're not going to pay you overtime to sleep!"
Raz's car was still in the parking lot unmoved as Caroline pulled in, meaning Berry was still at the house. Caroline climbed the stairs, happy to know Berry was there, but concerned that she would still be there as if she had no place to go. As she opened the door, Berry rose from the computer to meet her with a cheap bottle of Boone's Farm fruit flavored malt liquor in hand. Berry spread her arms high and wide with her elbows slightly inverting to hug Caroline.
"Hey Carl," she said, drunkenly stroking Caroline's back.
"I'm surprised you're still here. I figured you would have gotten Raz's car back and locked up while I was at work." Caroline said frumpily.
"Fuck him." Berry replied shortly as she pulled back.
Berry and Caroline separated and Caroline immediately began looking for the brown bag Mrs. Black had given her. Shockingly it sat in the garbage of all places.
"Berry," Caroline asked as she tried to hide her pique. "Why did you throw away this bag? It was from Mrs. Black."
"I tried that oil," Berry explained haughtily. "It smelled like kitchen grease, no scent at all. So I threw that knock-off crap out."
"Berry!" Caroline shouted, no longer capable of hiding her irritation. "That was supposed to be an anointing for the house!"
"You don't have to talk to me like that..." Berry drawled, seemingly hurt by Caroline's outburst.
Caroline saw other bottles laying around and realized Berry was completely wasted. Raz and Berry had been fighting, hadn't they? Maybe Berry had come for a place to escape, and here she was yelling at her.
"I'm sorry." Caroline said softly, but it was too late.
"No, I understand." Berry slurred, "'I've got some things I need to care of anyway..."
Berry kissed Caroline gently on the cheek and left to drunkenly drive Raz's car to God-knows-where.
Caroline pulled the bottle of oil and plastic-wrapped letter out of the brown paper bag, and then threw the ketchup and garbage stained thing away. She opened the plastic bag encapsulating the letter pleasantly surprised by Mrs. Black's forethought.
Hopefully if you're reading this you've opened this letter promptly. However, should you be reading this on a Monday afternoon, please know that Thug has always been an obedient grandson, and he has always known the line between the guilty and the innocent. Hope, however, can do strange and evil things to a man's heart."
"Now for the practical instructions. Use this oil on all entry and exit points to your home AND work, and any other place you may be for an extended period. Anoint all doors, windows, and air vents three times with this oil, making sure to leave a small amount of salt at each site. This is designed to prevent demons from entering the sanctity of you home, which is considered your altar. The three applications represent the trinity and is a number of unshakable strength. "
"Also, continue to avoid eating meat, or being exposed to naked television or computer screens. Your sensitivity to these objects grows with every exposure, so it will take fewer and fewer sacraments to induce scrying. If you're not careful, it may begin to happen with none at all."
Mrs. Lillith Black"
The first paragraph merely confused her, but the last was disturbing. Caroline had never considered the option that her mind was somehow being broken in by The Glass, like some sort of old shoe with the heel beaten down like a slipper. How much damage had already been done to her mind? Was she slowly going insane?
Caroline spent the next three hours anointing every door, window, air vent, faucet, and drain, hoping to somehow undo the damage by making up for her past apathy with last minute industry.
Now tired and frazzled, she ate a garlic-laden vegetarian meal ravenously from having slept through lunch. She was now no longer able to use the computer or even watch television without paranoia. She found herself lying in bed and staring at the ceiling trying to fall asleep, dreading what she would find once she finally did.