I sit and breathe and think about the sunset floating over waters. Dipping into the abyss, the sun melts and drips to the bottom of the planet, where it reforms and ignites and floats along the planet again. Sometimes I’m indoors when this happens, sometimes I’m outdoors, but the plunge in temperature never ceases to astound me. And when the bowl overhead darkens, and when the air in front of me freezes, and when the goal of the night is to survive in a dreamless state, I know I’ve made it another day. Another day. Where the wind shatters the frozen air and life reboots and I realize I’m a different person—similar in appearance, perhaps, and sharing certain idiosyncrasies—from the person I was yesterday. And whenever the new day forms, and the old me transmogrifies into the new me, I slip into the habit of living in the past and seldom realize the new me is different, and in some cases distinct, from the old me.
The waters ripple, spreading and scattering particles and waves. The bowl overhead signifies nothingness: a void, a vacuum, an entry into a state where our kind perishes. And by “our kind,” I mean “my kind”; and my “my kind,” I mean “bacteria.”
At core, we’re all bacteria, scurrying around and growing and evolving advantages over our competitors. That’s evolution in a nutshell: a competition to dominates the environment. Dominating an environment means controlling resources, making it easier to survive long enough to propagate genes.
On a macro scale, our collective behavior illustrates evolution in action. We’re organisms fighting to dominate the environment to secure resources. We think we’re special and unique, we think we’re emboldened by free will, but we’re meat machines evolved to protect and propagate our genes. We’re organic robots, mutant baby chimps, and we’ve somehow evolved self-awareness.
This self-aware meat machine occasionally marvels at the other meat machines, the ones out of touch with their own existences. They reside in a realm where magic exists and things are what they seem. Auguries make sense to them. The world is how it is despite the chunk of meat in their skulls, which rarely receive recognition when they take what they perceive for granted.
But then sometimes even I take what I perceive for granted. Earlier in the day, I had witnessed a man harass a woman while a scorpion writhed on a sheet of glass. The building behind them groaned and transformed into an amorphous blob. It drooped and sunk and collapsed into a shape similar to an iguana resting on a football helmet. Yet none of it drew my self out of my experience of the moment. Everything changed, everything always changed—so none of it mattered.
At least not to me.
At least not in that moment.
The ground rocks. Vibrations telegraph the movement to my flesh. I stand and brush the sand from my pants and glance around. People dance and laugh, swim and play. If they notice the tremors, then they either don’t care or choose to ignore it. Strange. All of them.
Or am I the strange one?
What makes them alive while I’m alert? What ignorance, or lack of fear of introspection blinds and imprisons them?
The phenomenology of the moment disconnects me from them while it motivates and inspires them.
Walking hurts, so I float: over the beach, sidewalk, parking lot, and into my car. I tap the rearview mirror with a ball peen hammer, shattering it. Then I shatter the driver’s side window, door window, and chuck the hammer, spiderwebbing the windshield on the car next to me.
I start the car and drive over the parking tie, grass, and sidewalk and ease onto the street. Stupid meat machines cross at the sidewalk, smiling and encouraging their jerk off meat bag kids who amble to the zoo across the street. Meat machines living in concrete hell—an artificial paradise—paying to see other meat machines we’ve dominated and captured and imprisoned. We exchange paper we receive from selling exertions to gawk at meat machines that share the bulk of their genes with us.
The thought of plowing my car into the lot of them crosses my mind, but I don’t fancy whittling away my days in a panopticon. At least an enclosed one.
Granted, the world itself is a panopticon, but at least out here we can, on occasion, delude ourselves into thinking we’re free. Even I can. I fully admit it: I’m a fool.
Most of these meat machines are too enamored by the models constructed by their brains to realize they’re in shackles. They’re too stupid to comprehend the stupidity and foolishness of their grasp of experience.
I drive. Down the street and over the bridge, glancing at empty lots and decayed buildings. Then into the slums. If you want to locate the worst part of any American city, then you should locate the pre-Reagan industrial areas.
I had arrived in town two days earlier, looking for work. After a disastrous month in Chicago, I thought I’d head east. Now I’m in a hellhole in Indiana trying to scrape up enough scratch to get to Ohio. But this town, like most towns, offer few jobs.
I’d searched for twelve straight hours, filling out applications, swinging by garages, looking for something, anything.
Now, as I drive across town, I wonder what the fuck I’m going to do. My mind is blank.
I’d just stay up until morning and drive around again, bullshit old timers who still run gas stations or something equally anachronistic.
Just pay me. In cash. By the end of the day or the end of the week. Whatever. No, I won’t give you my social security number or driver’s license. Let me earn enough to get the fuck out of here. Okay? Jesus.
I’ve circled this town numerous times. I still don’t know where the hell I’m g
oing. A fractal enthusiast apparently designed the layout of this town.
One street veers and morphs into an entirely different street, changing names somewhere along the way. Then it forks. The prong I choose doesn’t have streetlights. Now I’m cruising into a vacuum. The high beams on my car don’t work. The low beams flicker and stutter. This situation reminds me of life for the empower I shed in America, for some reason. I try and fail to unpack that intuition.
Something ahead catches my attention and I hit the brakes. A railroad tie sitting atop two posts with a dead end sign attached to it bifurcates the road.
Daulton Dickey is a novelist, poet, and content creator currently living in Indiana with his wife and kids. He’s the author of A Peculiar Arrangement of Atoms: Stories, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things, and other stories, Elegiac Machinations: an experimental novella, and Bastard Virtues, a novel. Rooster Republic Press will publish his latest novel, Flesh Made World, later this year. Contact him at daultondickey[at]yahoo[dot]com.