The Edited Man ~ Rene Adams
It won’t move an inch from Jobe’s stomach as he squirms beneath it, paralysed.
It’s pressing down on him hard, close, like it’s trying to hear something from inside his guts, so it can join whatever’s there.
Jobe’s been between the realms of sleep and waking for hours now, and the head from the shadow pressing into him enjoys his struggle to awaken fully.
It finds Jobe’s attempts to move away from it playful; playful as it itself feels.
Jobe knows he’s getting closer to complete awakening however. His throat begins to emit a high pitched whine, like a radio searching for its correct frequency.
His arms begin to free themselves from self-imposed limbo. Sweat and muscle spasms grow into fuller motions of gropes and panic as he squeezes the sheets between his knuckles.
Jobe grabs the head sliming over his belly and pushes it away from him. But as he pushes it away, it simply slips back through his arms and back to him; the thin lining of hair on its scalp making it hard to grasp, functioning as a lubricant against his grip. The creature enjoys it, thinking that it’s a game; moving with laughter as it plays with Jobe in his bed.
Jobe finds more of his conscious self. He begins to shout directly at the stranger in his room. It just rolls its cheeks over Jobe’s gut in reply, like a small ape enjoying the comfort of its mother. It titters whilst Jobe panics, not realising how easily it overwhelms him. Jobe turns his head away from the creature as he feels its face slowly lifting over his.
He doesn’t want to see its face.
Jobe finds the humour in being blind, as he has been since he was young. Laughter climbs into his fight as he forgets the worry of seeing the face of what’s climbing on him.
The weight shifts off his chest as quickly as it came. In a soft thump it places itself elsewhere in the room.
It’s agile, fast; able to shift its weight with quick ease.
In one movement it’s placed itself ten paces away from Jobe against the far wall of the room, where it now stares at him.
Fear is outweighed by inquisition. What’s able to move like this?
It’s a lot smaller than me – like a child – but so fucking strong…
Jobe rises from his bed to meet his guest. He stands on the floor. Adrenaline sobers doubt; anger making Jobe’s hands turn into fists as he crouches into a defensive stance: arms up, chin tucked in.
Jobe could feel the creature’s heat in the room looking back at him. He feels the thing’s steps as they begin to circle each other.
“Come on then!” he screams.
“Mr Richards,” a soft voice says as the door to his room creaks open. “Are you okay?”
The nurse knows not to enter whilst he’s like this.
“Keep back,” Jobe says, moving in towards the figure. He knows exactly where its neck should be in the dark. In close quarters everything is the same – sight or no sight. His forefinger and thumb lunge forward and manage to connect, but the thing moves back in the same moment, landing metres away with an easy skip.
“It’s okay, easy…” the nurse says, flicking on the light.
Jobe moves his stance to face the direction of the unwelcome heat in the room.
He felt the rhythm of the more unnatural movements in the room as he tried to focus on it, but also felt that nothing suggested ‘attack’.
“It’s okay; we’re going to settle down now…” he heard the nurse say more clearly. He walked backwards towards the door without lowering his hands and listened to his heart.
Then his breaths.
Then his ears pricked for the angles in the room, making sure he’s between the nurse and the direction of the heat.
Jane was really fucking weary, but felt glad that it wasn’t as bad as the last time. Nevertheless her hand drew back from Jobe’s shoulder as she felt how much force he’d built up.
“It’s okay… steady… we’re going to relax now Mr Richards, and in the morning we can talk about whatever’s going on.”
“Two sets of steps coming”
“Hansen and Craig”
“But why do I still feel the heat that that things giving off? Man, this is beautiful, this is fucking gorgeous – you’ve finally decided to leave – haven’t you mate?” Jobe said to his mind. “Christian Dior Impulse, mmm… you smell good.”
“There’s definitely- something.”
“Hey Jobe, what’s up?” the larger of the two orderlies says as he walks up behind the nurse. “How about no teeth tonight, Jobey? I wouldn’t mind a li’l cuddle but my wife’s the jealous kind,” he said, stepping into Jobe’s room with his sidekick just behind him.
The only heat Jobe thought about was the one sitting in the far corner of his room, waiting for him.
“Needle or hammer, Jobey?” Hansen asked, squeezing his baton.
Jobe liked Hansen. His old boxing coach used to call him Jobey, too. And he could never sleep peacefully in the autumn anyway, he always found it too cold to lie naked as he liked; the only option being to cocoon himself like a paranoid insect until the morning. But when he woke, he’d be itchy from the cheap stuff the blankets were made from and the itch would follow him for the whole day.
When the needle started to slip into his shoulder, he made a bet with the darkness of the night and the heat in the corner.
He said: “Come for me when I’m asleep and I’ll find you in hell, or come for me when I’m awake and we’ll find a way to dance a little nicer.”
Jobe grinned with that thought as they carried him limply over to his bed and strapped him in.
The straps sucked the tension away from the cold as they wrapped him up in his blanket.
All heat dying easily and flying away.
The light switch made a soft clicking sound. It reminded him of a time forever ago – when he was eighteen; tired in the tenth round, and his coach said it was okay not to get back up for the next one.
As the lights flicked off, Jobe saw the small shadow, except that its flesh was illuminated revealing details of itself to him; increasing in size, then lowering back down again, throbbing.
It stood and waited near the wall, at the bottom of his bed.
The shock of seeing something – anything – snatched the last part of Jobe away from him; his body obediently breathed and beat for him whilst his mind gave up.
It was short, and stood in the middle of two other similar creatures.
Their genitalia marked them as two males and a female lit in the soft glow surrounding them.
The shortest of the creatures – the one that’d been so fascinated by the sound of Jobe’s guts – looked like a top heavy gymnast painted in a strange dull light.
They reminded him of apes.
The kind he saw in charts when he was at school.
But here, their faces constantly changed from the early form of ape to a fully evolved human, like evolution was a type of hallucination that moved to and fro as you watch, because of the way you watch: drugged and blurry.
The short one flashed its teeth every few seconds like a young child showing you his favourite toy, but again – no malice.
They stood watching. Time separated itself from anything outside the room.
The female looked beautiful whilst she smoked. And she had no interest in doing anything to anyone whilst she did it.
Jobe could tell this by the way she stood with a hand relaxing on her hip; like a parody of a 1950’s showgirl after her performance. Nothing interesting her less than your own personal opinion of the show.
The trinity were lit in the middle of the darkness, inviting you to gaze at every part of them. Jobe could see they were covered head to toe in a thin lining of flesh-coloured hair. The skin was pulled so tightly over their physiques; you felt that you’d be able to see the inner workings of their bodies if they weren’t so well protected by thick layers of muscle and sinew. But she was humoured at least, unlike the taller male at the far side.
The heat they gave off was immense.
It made the itching of Jobe’s sheets unbearable. A worm squirming in hot soil – but just as this thought entered Jobe’s mind, the female moved her hand near Jobe’s toes and grabbed the edge of the sheets, pulling them away from his body.
The clear sight of Jobe in restraints made the tall male grimace. His eyes moved further back in his sockets as disgust and shock spread on his face. His mouth pulled back to bear his teeth; but not in a welcoming sentiment, or playfulness, like the short companion beside him did.
Another flash of teeth, accompanied by a heavy grunt. It sounded like it was inflicting pain as his trachea released it. And Jobe could feel the males teeth grinding even when he wasn’t exposing them.
The male raises a fist to Jobe, gesturing it to him like it was a gift. It looked like a planet of skin and bone hovering above the edge of his bed. The fingers of the fist exploded outwards, exposing each of his long fingers, expanding to the ceiling like an upturned bowl. They tried to grip something unseen in the air, a crispness built in the heat, made by the three of them. It was ready to break if Jobe didn’t respond somehow – something the creature was telling him to accept without choice.
Water pours from Jobe’s eyes; he closes them to take shade.
The grunt from all three of them is so rapid that it turns into a chorus of heavy looping croaks.
Jobe twists against the grip of his leather straps as the figures demand an answer for their hunger. Jobe’s eyes shoot open and feel like they’re staring at the sun. He screams, cursing for release; a back arching in a bed, as if enduring the burden of the earth’s weight, ready to snap.
Finally, Jobe shoots up from his restraints and sees that they’ve all been untied. Jobe looks directly into the creatures’ eyes and rubs the soreness away from his freed wrists.
Their strange prayer begins to settle down into a low vibrato of croaks, showing the end of their anticipation; satisfied with Jobe’s act of life.
The male who’d had his hand stretched out to him retracts it again, and places it down at his side. A smile places across his mouth.
All noise subsides. The lighting in the room dimmed.
Walking out in a line, the trio moved from the end of Jobe’s bed to his side, sitting down at his feet whilst looking up at him.
The heat they gave off adjusted the atmosphere of the room to a perfect sleeping temperature for them all. Their eyes stay fixed on each other as each of their moods become the same.
Between them, they feel an ancient peace which reaches back to the time before humans could feel anything else.
The female stubs out her cigarette on the warmed black tiles of the cell, and lays her head in the lap of the male, who in turn lays his head in the lap of the child.
Jobe sits on the edge of his bed watching them. The female makes a low ‘uhmm’ vibrating sound from the middle of her throat that synchronises with the gentle tapping she makes on Jobe’s foot.
Jobe yawns and stretches out his arms as he lays back.
And although he’d never heard such sounds before, he knew that it was a signal to calm, and to rest with them for the night.
“Please, let’s go back, to the first one again-”
Jobe didn’t mind sharing his dream, and was accustomed to the therapy sessions that ran from the early morning and into the afternoon. The sessions are part of the dream itself; a way to experience it again. The mixture of Haloperidol and sweetened coffee bring a gentle flow to the ambience in the office, and his cheeks; allowing him to feel its colour through his blindness.
Autumn is the wetness of skin and the warmth radiating from the doctor’s books across his book shelf, after an early rise. The doctor’s questions continued to pour.
“And tell me Jobe – how did it feel to see them?”
The questions cut Jobe off when he drifts away in his medicated descriptions of the dreams. They open new parts of him, allowing new limbs to be weaned and grown out into rational sense.
The doctor salivated as new directions formed in Jobe’s dream.
The animals which Jobe describes move between them, enabling them to be felt and examined by the doctor one by one, before they’re placed down on his desk to move freely, as they quietly begin to crawl up his walls in their own time.
“No more fighting then Jobe?”
“No sir!” he replies, smiling. “I know they’re not here to hurt me; it’s good, things feel better.”
“That’s excellent to hear Jobe. Jobe, do you know who they are?”
“The woman, she seems… I don’t know; I know her, I know them all… Maybe they’re real. I know I’m sounding crazy, but it’s like I’m waking up after a long sleep.”
The doctor removes his spectacles and ends his enquiry.
He looks down at Jobe and searches through his hands.
The orderlies snap awake from the overspill of the men’s dialogue; a hypnotizing effect that can blanket anyone into its trance. They watch the doctor move back behind his desk. “Jobe, do you remember why you’re here yet?” he asks.
It’s inside Jobe’s stomach. It grows there. A burning sensation shoots up to his chest and back down again, touching his ribs and lungs. Autumn is rough. Moving branches everywhere.
“They’re…” Jobe begins as his eyes reach up, like something is being handed down to them from the sky. “…My family – I – I’d do anything for them. I’m the tall one at the end of the bed, looking down – back at myself – saying: ‘get the fuck up, get the fuck up and dance! Start living again!’” Jobe laughs and closes his bleached eyes so he can see them better, placing a hand in the air to explain the returning images of his family. “The small one is the boy, feisty li’l guy, I knew me and Lo would make a strong kid. And Lo, she’s my girl, she’s what stops it all spinning around… feels like, Jesus, feels like I’ve just stepped off a long ride, Doc.”
“Well, that’s what we need to talk about Jobe, the ride that is; it’s taken a while to bring you back. And we need to talk about what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Jobe trusted the doctor’s ideas about where his dreams were from.
And talking about the animals in his soul was helping him to grow.
The hours in the doctor’s office spread sideways and outwards; into the patient’s garden terrace and sky.
Jobe comes downstairs and eases into his seat beside Lo, after promising his son that there was nothing hiding under his bed that he doesn’t want to be there.
The blanket stopped the winter touching their skin in their small home. A wildlife programme on the TV had transported them to Alaska. The advertisements came on. They promoted a new drama serial called ‘Revenge’; about the ways in which a private act of infidelity can tear apart a whole nation. “Fuck that,” Jobe says, switching the channel to catch the weather.
“Hey, you’ll miss it,’ Lo replies.
The programme resumes after the break. It shows a pack of wolves running across an open expanse of snow under a narration about how their lives play out in the wilderness:
“The young wolf is unwelcome here. By stepping into the alpha male’s territory he has sealed his fate. The alpha male ends the circling by biting through his opponent’s skull. This one deadly bite is all he requires; however his deceased opponent has done well by already impregnating the alpha female.”
“Jesus,” Lo says as the camera zooms in on the younger wolf’s head being bitten as the rest of his body kicks.
“Yeah, well you can’t blame him can you? I’d do the same – hey – what’s this?” Jobe asks the small feet appearing in front of them. They’d made their way from behind the living room door.
“It’s thundering …” the boy says.
“Yeah, and I’ll pop you in it if you don’t sleep.”
The blanket turns into wings and scoops the young boy up, lifting him into Jobe’s arms as he spins him in the middle of the living room. Lo taps a gentle rhythm on the boy’s head as they settle back down to watch the TV. The storm outside joins the sound of wolf howls from the programme, as each member of the pack turn to look at Jobe and his family through the screen. The blanket turns into Lo’s animal skin as she pretends to bite her son’s ankles, making him laugh in the thunder.
The pack continues to howl with their three new members.
Each member of the public takes their place on wooden pews opposite a large viewing screen. Behind the screen sits a single empty wooden chair, with straps on its arm rests.
Jobe mimes a howl in his son’s room as he carries his son to bed.
The boy takes it upon himself to howl too, before Jobe places a finger on his lips: “Save it for tomorrow, bud.”
The TV screen dies.
A priest places a Bible beside a man as he eats his favourite meal.
Lo squeezes Jobe from behind as he watches the lightning from the living room window.
The small boy replies to the thunder by howling and laughing back in his bedroom.
A man stares straight into a mirror as hands appear behind him to shave his head clean.
Jobe turns around to Lo and kisses her hard. The TV in their living room flicks from static to a clear picture of grim anticipation in the faces of an audience.
Jobe watches the lightning move across the neighbouring houses through the storm.
The electricity disperses from its thick white trunk and into the night sky; a spectrum of slender hands, then fingers, touching the roofs of unknown homes in the distance.
“Let’s go up,” Jobe says, touching Lo’s arm.
“Sure,” Lo says, facing him and gently tightening the straps on his wrists.
The lightning continues to strike down. It touches different parts of the landscape and fits into manmade levers in the wall, awaiting action.
Jobe pushes Lo’s arse up and out of the hatch as they creep onto the roof of their home. Lo looks at Jobe with a smile whilst taking out a cigarette.
“You should quit, you know,” he tells her.
“Ready one,” a voice says.
Jobe grips the edges of the roof. His arse feels the groove where he always sits.
“It’s okay, lover…” Lo says as the rain places her dark hair across her face.
“What’s that!?” Jobe says into the night.
“Nothing honey, just the storm – it’s going to end soon,” Lo replies. “Maybe we need to tuck you up with Jacky, huh?” She adds with a smirk, blowing a plume into Jobe’s face.
Two of Jobe’s fingers break in his grip on the wooden arm rest, as a line of electrified dribble flows down from his jaw.
“What is it honey?” Lo asks him.
“The house it’s… moving up…me…the tiles are moving, they’re…they’re hot!”
“No, it’s just the storm lover, calm down.”
“It’s going to kill me; this fucking lightning is going to kill me! I can feel it! I’m not fucking ready!”
“No, Jobe. We are the lightning. Relax, baby. Just let it come. Look.”
Lo sends out two fingers in the direction of the lightning. It notices, and begins to crawl towards them, obedient to her signal.
“You see?” Lo says as their weight is elevated, lifting up. “It was coming anyway, because of us,” she says as she cups his trembling face.
They dance upwards together, and let the storm fuel their bodies.
The doctor checks the pulse. Checks again. Shakes his head.
Jobe and Lo entwine with each other, like a double helix made of flesh.
“You see, it’s okay…” Lo says.
The lightning reaches down and sparks their joining bodies again as they twist within each other inside the centre of the storm.
“See, not so bad is it?” Lo’s lips whisper into his ear.
Blood trickles down through Jobe’s slow smile.
The wind moves them gently into the apex.
The storm guides their faces into each other, melting away their skin through embrace.
The lightning bears witness to their surrendering dance in the sky, and toasts to them with a solid crack; spreading the particles of their flesh out across the landscape, taking them completely away.