26 _ The Substance of Longing
The door in the big room was never locked. He tried the latch on a few occasions, ran up and down the corridor so many times, he lost count. Its not search, not patrol to check for dangers. He won’t go too far, too fearful of becoming disconnected or lost from the room where he seeks shelter. On a rare day (or night) he tried to follow the tall thin man, but the Thin Man can skip and go ahead. The Thin Man doesn’t wait.
Foods are left in the big room, and a few edible things get moved to the windowsill. He shouldn’t leave until those are gone. It’s dangerous to go far. When the Thin Man was gone, he was out there somewhere waiting. When he was better and could run, the Thin Man would chase once more. He would keep the big door shut and wait. He didn’t want to leave. Not yet. Would get caught same as before, no flee. Not ready.
Time was nonexistent, he couldn’t get a firm grasp on what hour it was or how long he waited. He slept. He ate. In the long winding time between doing something he wouldn’t… couldn’t recall how long he was in this hazy stupor. The hours blurred, the sky was always in twilight or dawn, but never truly day. Night as well a mystery. Clouds bundled and pressed against the sky, forming a dense canopy that erased everything but the city below.
If the sky was in a genuine vengeful state, a storm abused the roads and building walls. Lightening crackled against the howling air, rain drilled against the fractured window, threatening to tear out the last plane of glass which shielded the room from the world outside.
Mono didn’t like the fearsome storms, so hid in the corridor away from the onslaught of weather. The room with the desk and chair was usually shut, but he could huddle in the corner bundled tightly in his coat. Corners were not safe, they were the place you go to get caught; in long terrible dead ends. Though, it was easy to prop his body up and keep straight, in case he needed to bolt up. He stayed there, far from the ruthless storm, braced on two sides and dry for now. Soon, he would not remember what it was to be dry. He would go back to the streets, the narrow passages, the deep forgotten crevices; be damp but never fully dry. It would be okay, though. Next time would be different.
When the Thin Man was gone, Mono checked the rooms. It was important. Check all the rooms, search for dangers that might sneak in. It’s hard to focus on this task, he is not always very in touch with his surroundings. The hours bled away, but he is wary of eat too much because the foods won’t last. He is very hurt and wanted to be more aware of when (if) the Thin Man returned. If instead danger surprised him, the best way out would be the one window he could reach in the dresser room. He was not ready for flee.
If the room with the desk and chair is shut, then the Thin Man is not leave. He comes back, or wasn’t really gone. It confused Mono. He didn’t know which it would be anymore. The man in the hat was to leave, but didn’t. The Thin Man waited for something and quiet watched.
Much of the unraveling spool of time is spent seated in the corridor watching the door. If he could, he would jump through the panel. Like the Thin Man did. Surprise him. Remind him, Mono is wait. But the last time, it thrashed him so bad. He was hurt. Not ready for such things. When he awoke after, however long it had been, the Thin Man was gone.
That didn’t upset him. He was disappointed, and didn’t do much of anything but drowsed on the chair, too laggard and exhausted to do anything but rest. Not until the gnawing pain in his gut insisted, he do something more, such as go to the dresser room and get foods. Something was better than nothing.
Was it hours or could it be days? The way light in the window flittered and changed, he was never certain. The thought occurred to him, as it often did before, that it was time for escape. Depart this drab room and the sad place, take his chances with flee and hide.
But if left, the Thin Man would catch. Or not. Mono didn’t know anymore. The Thin Man is lie, and doesn’t do things to help. When the Thin Man does something, it is usually to see what will happen. Like follow and ask questions. The Thin Man didn’t need anybody, but always knew where Mono was. So played a game, but the Thin Man cheated, and toyed with him. The man in the hat wouldn’t… hurt him, he was a careful adult. All the same, he would make sure Mono felt other things. Like lost, and empty, and baffled. Mono wouldn’t stand for it, but if the man in the hat leaves forever and ever, Mono will have nothing else. So, he will play the game, since the Thin Man is the only one that will seek Mono. Everyone else is gone.
The Thin Man didn’t tolerate him, but gave foods to keep Mono, so he will get better. He wondered if it was fun to chase, to catch. If doesn’t flee, does the Thin Man keep? Mono isn’t certain, he is afraid the man in the hat won’t be happy if not do flee. Then disappears. The man in the hat was… bored but curious, so did things to get new answers. The Thin Man wants something, but doesn’t know how to get.
Mono wanted something, too. He wasn’t sure what. He’d forgotten.
It would be nice to stay and skip the flee… but he is very hurt and very-very tired. The man in the hat seemed very annoyed and bored. Irritated. Mono is certain he has done something wrong that the man in the hat didn’t want, but the Thin Man didn’t really speek to Mono much, aside from ask question. Always ask questions. Hard questions. Some things, Mono didn’t understand. The speek Mono so carefully crafted wallowed in his recollections, littered with dust and rot. Some words he knew more readily than others, but it was easier to think and not try his voice. He kept ‘Hey’, or, ‘Oi.’ Important speek. He could never lose that speek.
At some unknown point, the Thin Man did come back.
A vibrant and familiar weave of static tinged the air, spurring Mono to race recklessly for the big room with the main door. He waited in the gloom and furniture, for whatever might blunder through. He couldn’t be sure. The Thin Man was leave because Mono was not really hurt. A Viewer could hurtle in, outraged that its television drank too deeply of floodwater; any other manner of horrid thing might tear into the room searching for something to snatch. If he was cautious and clever, he could get away without it realizing he was there at all. The window would challenge him, he was not ready for flee.
But the handle clicked and the Thin Man entered, with a deep bow as he was sentenced to. Mono peered out from beneath the decrepit furniture, as the Thin Man left some foods with the growing collection on the long end table. In a crackling surge he was gone, headed down the corridor. To the desk room.
The Thin Man always knew where Mono was, but preferred to ignore him. Sometimes he felt better when hid and was not addressed, but not always
While the desk room is shut, Mono sat in the dresser room and drank up the view from the window. He would gnaw on the bandage at his arm and map out all the places he should go, the unyielding roads, the windows of distant buildings. Maybe he’ll dunk some foods into the water and eat, or he’ll creep down into a corner of the room and prop himself up to watch the doorway. He thinks in some way, the Thin Man is more annoyed than usual with him.
The Thin Man retuned, but Mono doesn’t understand. Why came back if Mono isn’t really hurt? Is because Mono was supposed to flee, but didn’t? That is might why the Thin Man is annoyed. The man in the hat doesn’t make a lot of sense, but Mono is not ready for flee. What does the Thin Man do if bored? Mono doesn’t know, or care. It didn’t matter since he couldn’t go anywhere. He struggled to grasp the coursing static permeating the air, but that is hard if he is not in the corridor near the desk room.
The leave makes sense to Mono, but not the coming back. Sort of, the rooms and dresser place reminded him of the familiar place. He stays because there is foods, and he rests when his feet can’t carry him. He’s careful not to eats too much, in case the one time the Thin Man doesn’t do return, he needed more time to rest. When the desk room is open, always check the other rooms and kitchen, and big room. It is important to know the rooms are unbothered. He couldn’t stop and rest otherwise.
It becomes harder and harder still for Mono to recognize when the Thin Man is gone. The man in the hat doesn’t always stay in the desk room, but he doesn’t tolerate Mono either and disappeared. Mono doesn’t know where, not the desk room. It becomes confusing, and he had a think if this was a new game. Mono would try and prop himself beside the door to the desk room and wait him out, but time escaped him in the unyielding wait. More often nodded off, for however long he can’t decide. The light in the corridor warped into new textures, the air felt stale and tasted off.
And the desk room is open, for him to see. To understand. There are no more questions for Mono, barely a glance his way when (if) he caught the Thin Man upon return. Foods are left in the big room, or on occasion at the windowsill. Mono is very lost in the place he stays.
In some indistinguishable length of the day, while Mono sat contemplating a corner, the Thin Man came into the dresser room. He didn’t realize he returned, but perhaps Mono was caught amid wake and sleep. Maybe he was dreaming all this, but he didn’t think so. The hissing particles in the room felt real, bearing down as they did when the man in the hat crept.
When the figure came too near, Mono tugged the side of his coat closer around his shoulders and tightened up a little in his protective coil. Always leave, going to disappear; Mono wanted leave too, but hurt. Not fair.
The Thin Man set something on the floor beside him. Mono glared at it, then shifted an eye to the man in the hat. He sniffled.
It was a toy animal, fitted onto a wheel with a flat base. When the toy was pushed across the floor, its legs spun around. He touched it once, then gawked at it for a few minutes. The Thin Man was gone, and he left a toy. The toy was fun and interesting, but now Mono had to go check the big room and the other rooms all over. The Thin Man locked the desk room, so he stopped there for the time and waited.
He gnawed on the bandage on his arm. It could come off, but he didn’t want to remove it.
In times like this when he only had scrambled thoughts, he wondered what She might think of him. Left too because he couldn’t keep up. Fell behind, struggled when it mattered. It wasn’t his fault, he was hurt. Didn’t take care of himself, like she insisted. Should’ve done better. Stupid. He thought was do right, the good. He didn’t understand. Maybe she was afraid, when the Thin Man followed. She knew the man in the hat always found him, and didn’t want a thing to do with him. That was possible.
The door of the desk room opened, and the Thin Man swept out. He didn’t regard Mono with much but a glance, as Mono scooted aside. Mono wanted to follow. He would follow this time. The man in the hat didn’t move quickly, but he shifted and leapt. It was hard for Mono to do that. He could do that. But he was hurt.
He rubbed some of the blurriness from his eyes as he lagged. When the Thin Man reached the main door, he flashed and evaporated. So effortless.
For Mono, he had to snag the small stool from off the side of the other big furniture – he used it to each the long end table – he dragged it to the door. The latch was never locked; it taunted him. He was to escape. Leave. When ready, flee.
By the time he gets the knob hauled down and tumbled into the hallway, the Thin Man is nearly to the end of the shadowy depths. The corridor was a dilapidated muggy disaster, in worse condition than the place the Thin Man left him, but it was unchanged from the dozens of other times he hiked through it.
Mono sprinted to his limit, but it was apparent before he began he wouldn’t reach the Thin Man before he flittered out of sight completely.
“Hey.” The call was so chalky and hoarse, he didn’t think the man in the hat heard. Not at this distance. But the dark cutout slowed in his steps and wound back, head tilted.
Mono wheezed on the air, already spent. Some days he could trek back and forth a few times, though he never ventured further than this corridor. He was afraid of getting lost, becoming stranded from the familiar place. Being forgotten.
Without meaning to, he dragged to a halt. He wondered if the Thin Man would come back or respond. Something. He was hurt. He didn’t mean to let himself get this bad. For a little added emphasis, he stood a bit straighter, and bided time until he could throw some more vigor into his sprint. He could still catch up. He could keep up. He would.
But without a word, the Thin Man returned to his prior path and resumed walking.
Long after the gloomy shape evaporated into the murk, Mono stood chewing at the bandage, face blistering. He returned to the big room, a little stumble in his step. It takes the last of his energy to heave the big door shut and for the latch to click, but he managed. Once that was concluded, he huddled beneath the stool trying to draw on something that was clearly not there. He had to check the other rooms. The door was open, something might have gotten in. He had to make certain. Nothing was left in him to do such an ambition, but he made it to the dresser room. He must have.
He awoke in the bottom drawer, swaddled in clothing. He knows he didn’t touch the odd animal toy since the Thin Man left it, but it is in the drawer with him. The Thin Man so liked his games.