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The Invisible Man in His Latter Days(story play)


      The Invisible Man sat in his darkened living room on the chair that had been his mother's, strumming a Neil Young song and drinking vodka with Rose's lime juice, so anybody coming around would have seen only a small ovoid of shimmering liquid a foot above the couch and a floating guitar picking itself.
     He fingered his belly button and found lint, flicked it out. Hygiene had always been difficult. Perhaps he had 'roids now, he felt things, but there was no way to go to a doctor and get help.
     It wasn't easy, being the Invisible Man.

     Ten years before he had developed some sort of benign tumor on his big toe. He had had to saw the toe off. He had plenty of opiates, of course, all he had to do was walk into any pharmacy and steal drugs, but it had harmed him permanently. He had fallen into a serious depression which massive anti-depressants and other drugs and the world's best liquor couldn't make better.
     All those nights secretly calibrating the molecule-light-reflector, trying out different settings—then—success! At first, after the Switchover, such games! Invisible! He could do anything!
     He had done everything. He quickly identified his needs—sex, excitement, travel—and proceeded to satisfy his longings a thousand times over.
     The main problem was keeping his stomach empty. Until the food was dissolved by stomach acids—a number of people got pretty frightened at the sight of his undigested food. At airports, he didn't need anything for the luxury jet flights he joined; deodorant, very important, toothpaste, clothes no problem. It wasn't quite good enough to be invisible; one still had a smell, and he could be touched and held, caught like a fish, and it had almost happened once or twice.
     He had to be careful about scents, and not letting himself be touched, but that was nothing. He mainly just couldn't eat on those flights, unless he could find a way to hide the floating stomach contents. He went everywhere on Air Force One for a few years. He found himself developing a crush on Condoleeza Rice—he sat next to her on many flights and covered her tenderly with a blanket when she went to sleep. But she was so insensitive— she never noticed him.
     He stayed in every fantastic hotel, swam in every amazing ocean and pool, ate and drank the most incredible food, for many years. He became the incubus to the stars; a bad dream, but it was all over in the morning for the starlets. He slept with everyone, slipping into the beds.
     For years.

     He became interested in the suffering of the world. He sat in on the plots of generals. He wrote emails and became a human rights activist. For a long time he thought he could free Tibet. No luck, though.
     Time went on.
     He outed himself to a girl he had a crush on. Sandra was her name, an African-American beauty who sang in her church choir. He was looking for purity.
     She went to an exorcist.
     For the first time he wondered about his condition, whether it was a gift. Sandra thought his words were hallucinations, his touch the Devil.
     He began noticing a very odd thing— something piggybacking on him when he'd approach a woman.
     It was a demon, or maybe Sandra had been right, maybe it was the devil. He had come too close to beings he was frightened of. He stopped his sexual forays.
     He got serious about the ills of the world. If not him, who? He learned how to re-allocate capital. But he was no expert. Wall Street went bankrupt and the country went into a recession. He tried again to do something good—he bought a fleet of planes and made many airdrops over Haiti after its earthquake. He took care of the problem.
     He mobilized the United States Army and sent it to Burma, where they overturned the generals in compliance with his orders. Aung Song Suu Kyi became the leader, his proudest accomplishment, but no one would ever know it. He still had a palpable body—he could still be locked up—he had to be careful.
     He found an apartment in Buffalo, New York, and furnished it in the most exquisite Bauhaus and art work, all stolen. He found the world's most incredible Martin guitar, in South Africa, and walked off with it.

     A sadness began to settle itself on him. He began to withdraw from a world he was barely part of.
     His condition was bizarre and discoverable; it was best not to attract any attention. For ten years he stayed in his apartment, mostly on the net.
     A woman finally drew him out of his apathy. A young woman, his next door neighbor.

****

     Shanti became aware that the neighbor was watching her come and go from her apartment. The rainy season, in full roar, meant she had to stand outside her door in the hall divesting herself of mufflers, gloves, and boots.
     His door would often be ajar, and she had a sensation. Anyone who thinks people can't see from the backs of their heads hasn't tried looking yet. She knew.
     She'd go inside and lock her door, but she wasn't afraid of him. He was some kind of invalid or recluse, ill no doubt, probably much too weak to harm her. It would be interesting to get a good look at him though.
     Sometimes she'd hear Dylan or the Byrds or Fleetwood Mac coming from his side of the wall. That pretty much explained him: an old hippie, probably.
     Delivery people and cleaning people came and went from his place. Sometimes she'd see him slipping out, his collar high and wearing a ski hat. He seemed to limp slightly, as though he had hurt his foot.
     Shanti worked full-time at the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce. Her parents were still in India. They were New Agers from St. Louis who had moved to Kolkata years before to do good. They had sent Shanti to upstate New York to get an education, and she had stayed. Just making a living took most of her energy, though she also liked to drag out her easel by the big window and paint with her oils on her days off.

     Louise came to see her on Sunday, in the middle of a tearing rainstorm. "I hate spring," she announced.
     "I made a fire," Shanti said. The two women settled down on Shanti's couch with a bottle of Jack Daniels. Through the walls came the pounding beat of Neil Young and Crazy Horse doing "Out of the Blue Into the Black."
     Halfway into the bottle, the discussion about the neighbor turned action-oriented. "I'm going to go knock on his door."
     "He never answers, except for the delivery guy and the housekeeper," Shanti said. Then she laughed and said, "Yes, let's do it right now."
     They didn't bother to put their shoes on, just migrated out into the hall. The music was louder, so they pounded. "It's your neighbor!" Shanti hollered.
     No answer. "Look!" she whispered to Louise. "He didn't lock the door!" She was already turning the handle.
     They crept into a small foyer with a huge painting of a landscape, the brushwork a lot like Van Gogh's, in an ornate gilt frame. Peeking around the wall, they saw shelves and shelves full of art objects. In the corner, at the window, sat a small shabby armchair by a firestove, which was sending out such waves of heat that Shanti felt dizzy.
     Something seemed to brush by her. She could have sworn she got a whiff of whiskey. She was pretty wasted on the Jack Daniels, so she didn't think anything of it. "Hello," she called toward the archway that led to the kitchen.
     The door to the hall closed gently, as if it were on hydraulics or something. Louise put her hand on Shanti's arm, and she jumped. "Hello?" she called again.
     The window suddenly opened all the way, letting in the wind and rain. "What th'!" Louise said. She ran to it and took hold of the sash as if to lower it. What happened next, Shanti could only watch in terror. While Shanti cried, "No! No!" Louise rose up writhing about two feet into the air, her mouth open, her arms wrapped in a peculiar circle, then flung apart.
     As Shanti ran toward her, Louise hurled herself out the window, screaming all the way to the street seven floors below.

****

By the time the police arrived, the neighbor was gone. Shanti didn't see his departure — she was in her bedroom crying by then, listening to the sounds of the forensics team; the frank conversation, the bumps. Her friend was dead, that was all she knew or could explain to the cops. Yes, Louise went up in the air with her eyes wide in fear and then — yes, her eyes were afraid! I can't explain it!
     Shanti learned the next day that her neighbor had moved to the biggest hotel in Buffalo and retained a lawyer, and wasn't talking to anybody. She stayed in bed again that day. She had some Vicodin from a root canal and took a few. She kept seeing Louise rising like an angel and suddenly impelling herself through the window. Her fingers had been spread as if in a plea for help, her eyes wild.
     The next day Shanti received an email from the neighbor.

Hello. I apologize, I don't know your name. But I know Louise Dunphy was your friend. I am so terribly sorry. I left the apartment before the police came because I suffer from social anxiety and I was panicked regarding the notoriety that would follow from this awful accident. I only wanted to tell you how bad I feel about it, that I was in the bedroom when you came in, listening to music with headphones on, and never even heard you.

     May arrived, and Shanti changed jobs. One day she looked at the old email from this person named Jas. She had ignored it, but now she was over Louise's death enough to see that none of it was his fault. She wrote back on impulse.
     Shanti kept corresponding with Jas. She began to look for his messages, which got warmer and warmer. He told her he thought about her all the time. He emailed:

You're a painter, aren't you? I'll have a special request to make of you someday, maybe. I'm lonely, Shanti. I don't like where I'm staying now.

     Shanti responded to this:

You don't have to be lonely, I'm sure you can find someone to love you. Jas? Please please email me a photo
of you.


     She received two dozen yellow roses and a card the next day from Jas, saying, see you on Friday night at your place around 8? But there was no return address. And no photo.
     Friday arrived, moonless, mild and clear. Shanti had sent an email, but no answer. Intrigued, she decided to relax and see what happened. She blow-dried her hair and put on her Brigitte Bardot cardigan over her jeans.
     Her cell phone rang. "I'm just outside," he said.
     "Come on, then," she said, a smile in her voice.
     "I need a little favor. Could we meet - just this first time - in the dark? It would help me with my shyness."
     "Well, I — I could turn the lights off, sure."
     "Thanks, Shanti. And one other thing. Do you have any cans of spray paint?"
    "Yes, I use them for my big canvases. But why do you ask?"
     "Just have it on hand. Just for a little game I thought of."
     "Look, okay, but are you really coming? You're not playing a joke on me?"
     "No. I'll see you in five minutes."
     "All right, then."

****

     A short knock on the door. Jas's request for her to turn out her lights had made her wonder whether her judgment was off. She smoothed her sweater and unlatched the chain and peered out.
     "Hello, Shanti," Jas said.
     "What happened to the lights in the hall?" Shanti said. She took off the chain, but left the door open only a foot or so wide.
     "I don't know, I guess they're out. You know, I haven't been back here since—it's nice to meet you. May I come in?" He was a bulk in the dimness. He put out a gloved hand and she shook it. He had a strong grip. Still she hesitated.
     "I'm sorry," Jas said. "About the dark. It's just for a few minutes, until I get used to things. Here. Brought you a present." It was a wrapped gift with a big bow. Shanti took it. "Well, come in, I guess," she said. She opened her door and let the tall man in.
     Jas went straight to her kitchen table and sat down. She followed him, not knowing what else to do. He wore a ski cap and a pea coat. She could see an outline of his features, Anglo, thin lips, a smallish nose. He wasn't as good-looking as she had dreamed. Her nervousness was growing. She didn't like this dark thing. The only light in the apartment came from the streetlight outside.
     "Would you like a glass of wine?" she said. "Pinot Grigio?" She put the present carefully on the counter.
     "Of course." She poured it at the counter, feeling his eyes on her.
     "You're prettier than I remembered," he said. "Not as tall."
     "Cheers," she said, and took a sip.
     "I was hoping for a hug. A kiss. After some of the things we've been saying to each other. Come on over here." Reluctantly, she moved closer to him. He smelled good, like citrus, and she relaxed a little. He took her in his arms and held her lightly, and his lack of aggressiveness made her turn her head just a little so her lips could catch his.
     They began kissing. She tried to pull away a few times, but he murmured things to her, and now it was just like her fantasies, everything was all right, he did like her and she didn't mind the soft kissing, the longing she felt behind it. He began rubbing her back and pressing her closer, and she finally did break away, a little breathless. Smiling, she said, "Maybe we should slow down a little."
     Releasing her, Jas said, "Sure. You know, all I could think about on the way here was that I wanted so much to kiss you, to have you want to kiss me." He touched his fingers to his mouth and said as if to himself, "Yes, I wanted that again."
     "Do you miss your old place next door?" Shanti said. "Now that you've seen it?"
     "Oh yes, I do, I miss it quite a lot, I lived there for almost ten years, long before you came, Shanti. I hated having to leave my refuge, especially in such a hurry."
     "You didn't have to."
     "Oh, but with my little problems, I really couldn't face the police."
     "I don't understand," Shanti said, "but that's all right."
     "Yes, you're entirely unaware of what the events of that day did to me. I had to literally flee. It was very upsetting. You shouldn't have broken into my home, you know that, don't you?"
     "I—I thought you forgave me for that. We were a little drunk, drunk and silly, and I just wanted to say hello, that's all. Are you still mad at me about it then, Jas?" Guilt hit her again. If only she and Louise had never done that! Poor Louise! And she had caused Jas a lot of trouble too, she was just beginning to realize how much.
     "No, I'm not angry, but I have a sense of poetic justice," Jas said. "I wanted to come back, meet you. And I do have a favor to ask."
     "I have the spray can of paint like you asked. But what—"
     "Will you do me that favor now?"
     "If it will make up for what happened, you losing the apartment and all, I guess I'll do anything reasonable."
     "Close your eyes, then. Keep them tightly closed. Don't peek." She heard him removing his clothes, laying them on the floor. Now she was becoming more than nervous, she was becoming frightened. She was just about to open her eyes and to ask him to leave when he said, "Okay."
     But he wasn't there anymore. His jacket lay on the floor, his pants, spread out neatly in a square. There was something else on the floor. She squinted. A mask of some sort. "Jas?" she called, jumping up.
     "Spray the paint in the air," he said, his voice seeming to come from nowhere. "I want you to see me. To know me. I'm so tired of everything, Shanti. Please, spray the paint."
     "Where are you?"
     "Please. Don't turn on the light. Just spray." Her finger was on the button. Half-automatically, she pressed down, and a cloud of red paint went toward the air above the clothing on the floor.
     There was a shape in the air, like - like a pair of legs. "Higher," Jas's voice commanded. Now she saw a small object that seemed to be floating in the air about six feet up. She strained her eyes, but couldn't identify it. "Yes, spray there, go on, don't be afraid," Jas's voice said. Shanti squeezed her eyes closed and sprayed hard, up and down and around the clothes.
     When she opened them again, Jas stood in the center of the clothes, decked entirely in the paint. He was dripping with it, covered, his hair, his naked body. Shanti cried, "What are you doing?" He raised the thing in his hand, held it to his head. He smiled, but to her horror, she couldn't see teeth, just blackness.
     "I wanted company," Jas said. "A witness to my lonely life. And you're the one who cost me my home. You and that woman, prying. Curiosity killed the rat. And now for the cat." As Shanti watched, her mouth gaping in terror, a deafening shot blew through his head. A small explosion of red paint flew toward the wall. Half his head was gone, and in its place...blackness...the wet red figure fell to the floor.
     Shanti was still standing there, transfixed, when the police arrived.

****

       Shanti went to stay with her brother for several weeks. She took a lot of walks, thinking the same thoughts over and over. Sleep was impossible.
     One day a City of Buffalo Police patrolman stopped by and said, "This was opened by the Bomb Squad. It's nothing dangerous, and we're through with it. It's the package he gave you." It was no longer wrapped in its bow, just something in a plastic bag. Shanti and her brother took it into the living room and Shanti pulled out a small framed photograph.
     The photo was of a young man with red hair and blue eyes, a strong nose, a nice smile. "To my witness," was written at the bottom. "You wanted to see."

'
'
'

      



    



    

     

     

     

     

     
     
    

Last edited by pjouissance, Jan/23/2010, 5:19 pm
Jan/18/2010, 7:56 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: The Invisible Man in His Latter Days


Fun stuff. I am liking this new game. Fun and kind of poignant too. I am guessing you have Claude Raine's Invisible Man in mind and not Ralph Ellison's? There too is a possible future, yes?

Air Force One you say?

Tere
Jan/19/2010, 12:44 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: The Invisible Man in His Latter Days


Hi, I don't know, Claude Rains?

Feels nice to just thow out something for fun.

Thanks,

Auto

Jan/19/2010, 3:15 am Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
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Re: The Invisible Man in His Latter Days


Hi Auto,

I got caught up in reading this story, half guessing what might happen and then feeling compelled to find out what would. This piece is part sci-fi, part romance, part thriller. I'm not sure if you want to expand the story, but if you did, I'd be interested in knowing a bit more about their email exchange. Just a few hints as to what they revealed and what they hid, how they fed each other's fantasies and seduced each other into meeting. (But that just might be my guilty pleasure in "You've Got Mail" revealing itself emoticon). This was a fun read. Glad you enjoyed writing it. Thanks for posting.
Jan/22/2010, 3:22 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: The Invisible Man in His Latter Days(story play)


Auto's starting post shows that I have edited it. What I did was to add in the subject area "(story play)."

Tere
Jan/22/2010, 6:16 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: The Invisible Man in His Latter Days(story play)


Okay. Piece read in its entirety. And I am perfectly, not just a little, blown away. From time to time I read a story teller who is a natural and whose instinct for story telling comes across clearly and immediately. I don't know how much time you spent thinking about the narrative before sitting down to it, but Auto your story comes through as something coming out of your head full blown. And it is all there. How be became the Invisible Man, his life, his picaresque adventures, how he finally grew tired of his condition, maybe realizing the impossibility of it all. Shanti and Louise, especially Shanti, is the perfect touch. It makes for the conditions of the denouement nicely. I confess I could almost love Shanti. I notice how you never actually describe her and yet I feel I can see her. That is the mark of a good writer. And I don't know how you feel about the Invisible Man but I end up deciding he was a cruel man, and selfish, never bothering to think about the consequences of his actions. What he does to Shanti and Louise is unforgivable, no matter his suffering. Yep. I take the story personally, which is another mark of a gifted story teller.

Thank you Auto. You just gave the board a special gift. There is no way I can match this, not spontaneously. I may have to cheat a little and go more for reporting, less for something fictional. I'll try something. Your above comment about being able to write for fun comes across poignantly.

Tere
Jan/23/2010, 3:24 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: The Invisible Man in His Latter Days(story play)


Thank you, Katlin and Tere, for reading and offering such generous comments. Katlin, if I were going to expand, you're right, it would be with the emails. Tere, we're just doing whatever is fun for us, right? And for me fun is to write a conventional little potboiler! For you, it'll be something else!

Take care,

Auto
Jan/23/2010, 5:28 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
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Re: The Invisible Man in His Latter Days(story play)


Auto it just occurred to me why I find the Invisible Man so cruel. His last two acts were acts of revenge. Damn good story, my friend. You know, James M. Cain wrote potboilers too. In his day it was called hard boiled fiction. But his Postman novel would inspire Camus to make his Stranger novel. Something to be said for potboiling, eh?

Tere
Jan/23/2010, 6:47 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: The Invisible Man in His Latter Days(story play)


Yes, Tere, I didn't want to make him go insane like the old movie I vaguely remember, but he seems to become divorced from humanity as time goes on. He seems to me pretty normal in his reaction to becoming invisible—he satisfies his desires, he throws his power around, he takes a stab at fixing the world, then he becomes a hermit and inhuman in a way. He's completely self-absorbed by the calamity that has befallen him—Louise is just a mad moment of anger, and Shanti is to me not really revenge, she's the one he chooses to witness him at his end.

Anyway.

Thanks for stopping in again,

Auto
Jan/23/2010, 7:13 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 


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