Drainmen Ch.2

by RW Spryszak

That was how we ended our last day together and I shall never forget it. We drew our pictures in earnest, and then made swarms of little crosses in the sky, flying in formation. Our childlike and simple attack planes shooting down at the people we'd drawn in such detail. Lines of dashes representing missiles and rockets descending on the unwitting believers below. When one of the dash missiles hit we scribbled wildly over the target and made noises with our mouths like children. And it was over.

We didn't know it was going to be our last day together. Or, at least, I didn't. Had I known I would have insisted we walked to the foreigner's inn for baked pears and walnuts. The place near the elephant statue we always laughed at in the winter when it was so incongruously covered in snow. No one could remember why it was erected or what it meant or who the artist was. The snow always made it look like a circus animal before circuses were illegal.

I suppose it was normal for us, or for me, to have no thought that this would be the last time we ever saw each other. No one can predict the future like superstitious clouds or damp leaves in a saucer. I know such things aren't real. And yet many times since that day I've sat and wondered if there were signs that, if I'd been more attentive, I could have gleaned. Codes I could have deciphered.

We didn't make any special good-byes before you came to resemble a hundred other people I used to know.

So, as I moved through the tunnel, long and damp as it always was, painful to my hands and knees, I never bothered to reflect on our closeness as something I needed to willfully remember. There was always the feeling that I would see you again, just like any other day.

Also in later days I would come to wonder how you may have reflected on our separation, if ever you did. And if your memories of me were worth the investment of your time and trance. No one has yet been able to understand or explain the mechanics of affinity between two people. How it comes about. Whether it is mere chance or some fated outcome waiting only for the meeting. We are thrown into our lives from the cosmic expanse, I suppose, born in the stars or something. Funneled through a snaking curve of spacetime and pushed and smashed into a body we must thereafter clean and manage the temperature of. But all around us are these dice of chance. No one can explain the basis of acquaintance any more than they can explain why two people immediately hate one another on the simple act of first sight. A stamp on our hearts and minds via the influence of genetics. A pool for which we have no concept of the depth.

But this, specifically, was not on my mind as I made my way through the standing rat water that always coated the floor of the tunnel. How could I have known, thinking everything that day was the same as the day before? I crawled on, listening for the usual sirens. I regret whatever it was I've done to you, if that was the reason for your disappearance. I regret not considering your feelings, if that was my mistake.

Not hearing the sirens was unusual. I relied on them, as did many others. They always helped people focus out of fear. Like the comfort of lightning and thunder rolling in on a death march, and you hope the power grid is damaged just for the sake of Neanderthals. Like the rain in the morning. Things a person counts on. The sirens help me. That was their intent, after all.

Without the sirens as I made my way through the muck my mind goes to questions I have no right to ask. When they leave the world too silent the mind comes alive and this is dangerous. So it was a great relief when I sensed - sensed more than saw or heard - that I was coming to the end of my passage, knees sloshing through the rancid puddles. There was only a mere puff of the outside world breaking the stale water air. A momentary inhalation of a sweeter variety of food for my struggling lungs. A few yards more, one slow left curve, and I could see the end of it. The entire point of this daily routine. The gray portcullis with its rusted rivets at the crosspoints, and the rich blue world beyond. And in that haze, the slightly moving figures of my workmates. A morning fire slightly beyond. Red and yellow in the dew. Warm and inviting like sweet cakes. The world I knew so well. The universe of we folk. Happy in our workday lot.