After actions reporting –
When the dogs came. I was still sleep so still. Under the leaves, covered. That paw stood on me, and that nose sniffed me, smelled me long. They had dis-covered me without knowing. They were: Right there, on top of me, but no bark or bite. I waited and nothing.
I could feel them all. A whole forest of them searching. Looking for me, but I was covered and safe under a leaf. When I was younger, I wrapped a blanket around my neck to stop the vampires. I didn’t believe in them, but I did it still. Doing something felt safe, like astrology. An excuse to exercise a little fear.
Fear is exciting, it can engage full and sustain. I knew I would have to move. As the body I was to be dead, but I’m no method actor. And I was starving, because I hadn’t been eating.
“But why a body at all? were you necessary? surely the scheme worked without.”
Commitment. The ruse was more than the visage of a hunt, we, or I, wanted to create the real thing. The idea, the stuff that floats in the air. The news that travels like a cloud and fills up a place with itself so that everyone is enveloped. A magician has to perform the trick, to be there, as both the actor and the witness. I saw myself dead in that tree. I may have truly died there.
“And your collaborators?”
In it for the money, I think. But everyone was there, all had a role. We all play.
“And what is next for you. Do you have new projects?”
Yes. Possibly. First it is counting the money and dividing. Crime is a lot of work, and dangerous as well. I don’t think law followers realize that, but it’s part of the job. For new… more body work, playing dead, it is more difficult than it may seem. Being still, so still that nothing affects you. Animals use it, an extreme response to extreme fear. A defense of no defense. Convince your attacker that you are already dead and take their motivation away in a single move. Negating life to live free.
“Will you take it further? push the boundaries. Haven’t possums been at this for some time?”
Do you mean for real die? No, that’s not for me. I could study with the possum. Maybe. But theirs is a bluff, a life or death gamble. Are you hungry or just a murderer? I don’t want to undercut the legitimacy of their work by breaking the illusion, standing there awwwing at them, they couldn’t like that.
“Does a true actor perform in an alley for a cardboard box.”
Not even the box. If I were to succeed, you wouldn’t even know, you wouldn’t be able to see it anyway. No, death is noticeable. It smells, you can’t fake that smell. The project, the goal, would be to become so extremely un-noticeable, so boring, that I could simply walk into some place, like a bank, take some money and leave. Like being invisible. But more than that, to create spite, so much, so strong that everyone aggressively ignores my being.
“This may be alright for you, the criminal. But is this not dangerous? what you’re saying is something that already occurs don’t you think? I mean in the common worker, the face in the crowd. Are they the un-noticeable?”
Yes, but they are not active, they don’t use their disappearance. For them the role is complete, they believe it so hard that it’s not any act. In real terms, it is more dangerous for me. I may forget to be, to continue being a criminal.
“A Thanatosis, the term for playing dead, convincing an attacker or in fact potential prey, that you are dead as a survival move.”
Yes, and either to attack the fooled or to evade the aggressor. We already convinced the prey. And you are here.
“Wait… are they coming?”
I believe that near anyone could do what we do, the simple fact is that they don’t. Nothing special. The near death state is of no use to someone unaware of their own un-life. A possum survives just to survive. It is a mindless biological living machine. A truly human act is to create one’s own death.
– A door creaks open and then slams closed, creaking slowly open a moment later. –
Of course, no one wants to be dumb enough to actually die to prove how alive they are.
“Did you know a man tried to prove life after death. He hired a psychic and killed himself. She was supposed to hear him from the beyond. But she couldn’t hear and so never got paid. And we still believe in death.”
Left long enough a bird in a cage will self harm.
“Just so something happens.”
Probably. I have to go now. I’m leaving these muffins. Have some.
There was a flash and a bang. The recorder jumped on the table a little. The reporter took a bite of muffin and leaned back. He had made sure not to look which way she left, but no one even ever asked. He felt close to her somehow, not to say he could claim to know her, they weren’t friends, but he had the proof on tape. The muffin was soft and melted. The recorder jumped again, he was looking at it but not seeing. It wasn’t until some black boots stopped next to his chair that he thought to grab it before it fell or before it was taken. The reporter slipped the recorder into his pocket and pushed the crumbs off his shirt at the same time, like one movement covered the other. It felt necessary to be sneaky with such value in his pocket. Someone could surly want this bad enough to do something. The boots circled, occasionally bumping into the legs of the table or chair, they didn’t stay long and then shuffled out the way they came in.
Report reporter’s vision focused. The warehouse was wood and glass, most of it broken. The sun was high, reflecting off various bits and shards of glass scattered across the floors. When an industry dies it leaves its bones behind in the giant metal machines, and who knows what they used to do. The crime group didn’t stay long, passed through with their work, like the others. Reporter felt the shape of the old tape recorder in his pocket. He felt the nostalgia for another time, a technology from just far enough behind to be different and interesting. It was a nostalgia he didn’t personally know, he stood up and looked through the broken windows, admitting to himself that even the tape recording was a dislocation. What he felt didn’t actually make sense, but he felt it still, and that was real. He wanted something from a past he hadn’t lived, and to grasp it he would project the visage of some version of an event into a media machine that fed him dollar pizza on Thursdays. It was an event in all honesty he had missed, only heard about it after, but he did get to interview someone directly involved, and even in the act of running from the law. It had to be a scoop.
Reporter strolled through the giant old building. The lighting was poor but beautiful, seeping in through windows and holes, passing through broken glasses never cleaned. The place still projected energy, the size and scale, the extra spaces, the little random rooms, all a product of a construction work unbound; the workers could have, and probably wanted to make it bigger still, to keep going and going, to construct an endless stream of wood and steel and glass, stairs that let to nowhere yet because soon something would be there. Sometimes a beam of light would land and Reporter would be drawn to it, like a museum display, he floated from one to the next without care for where he was in the whole mess. Besides it would have been impossible to know what these things were. Bits of twisted metal, ornately fashioned for some past purpose now forgotten. The creators now, probably, all gone, even dead. Here was nearly alien.
Reporter ducked under fallen pieces, dangerously balanced in some unknowable way. He kicked a giant screw, but it didn’t move. He wandered in dark small corridors full of un-seeable things to run into, he walked slow, expecting to crash. Step by step the light from behind helped less until he felt underground, inside the intestine of this old beast. Forward was the only way, into the darkness. The inevitable barrier felt and smelled like a wall made of the heaviest thickest dust. Reporter lifted the collar of his shirt over his nose and breathed consciously while he waved his hands in the air, expecting sharp and rusty he waved very slow. It felt like Tai Chi, extreme. Then there was a door knob, and first pulling and then pushing, it needed legs and arms and a yowl. Dust flowed out and light rushed back in, faster it seemed for both had been trapped by the door for so long.
As the dust cloud and the pupils adjusted to the change Reporter saw a vast space unfold below and above and beyond. Unlike the earlier spaces this was at another scale, the largest open indoor construction he ever imagined, a giant network of stairs and wires, ropes, open faced rooms lined the sides floor after floor, this was a skyscraper blown open, without walls. A space designed by the work that had been done in it, everything where it was because that’s where it had been left by the path of construction. The whole space was an in progress but strangely unmanned project, a giant secret left off somewhere in the middle. Nothing was packed up, barred off or closed. This place was not abandoned, inactive but poised, still. Ready. Reporter walked down the metal stairs that hugged the sides, leaving the central space to be open. The creaking metal was at once disturbing and too quiet. If this place was to have any sound it wanted it all. Some kind of explosion would have fit well within.
At the floor, ten stories down, Reporter looked up, all the way, straight from the center, standing on a wooden box and a tire. The ceiling, if it even was a ceiling, was open and the sky was nearly pure white light miles above. Looking back around the surrounding walls he saw tiny rooms stacked on each other, designed to house separate and unique things, hundreds of them. In one corner was a black door, the only other way than the stairs. Even with no one here, seemingly for a long time, this felt like an accidental invasion. Up until now Reporter was in awe, compelled forward, exploring because he had to know, what was there, and why. Only now did he ask whether he should. Even if it was empty and no one was coming home, this was like a grave site, a place with presence. The thought lodged in his mind, it was possible, very possible to offend even the missing. Even in its current state it was easy to imagine all the voices, from every little room, having something to say. Reporter felt as though on a stage that he was not ready for, all his lines were not written.
The black door didn’t say exit, but it looked faster than the stairs again. Behind the door was a hallway, Reporter hesitated because it was lit, brightly by a string of bulbs. Somewhere the power was on, unlike everywhere else, and someone had to be beyond the lights. He resisted the urge to look back. Of course he should leave. He felt for his recorder and ran his finger over the play button. It was a habit, the button being the link between what he saw as his work and the projection of it; it was a powerful little button. He often thought it should be re-named the re-play button. The original play was always on, no button needed. This was another scoop, it had to be. Probably wasn’t a secret government manufacturing site, but at least something and someone was here. He wondered sometimes, if just the phrase ‘reporters without borders’ was enough of an excuse to just go wherever you wanted and claim it as part of your professional duty.
Reporter slipped a fresh tape into the recorder. 120min, sixty on each side. He pushed record and moved further in. The wires and pipes, the real guts of a giant building, but the lights gave it a festive glow, like someone was trying to have a party in a dark musty basement. The corridor seemed to simply continue, the end was not visible and nothing changed, another light and another, a wire between them. The reporter guessed the distance in terms of city blocks and after 6, at least half a mile, there was nothing to notice, more the same. He finally looked back and realized he was in a middle of nowhere, with each direction looking nearly identical. Reporter placed his finger on one of the bulbs, just to check, it was hot and his finger burned just enough to make him feel that he hadn’t just lost his mind somewhere and he was really simply in some imagination. There was a pause, he looked down at his feet and slowly turned them 180 degrees. He wasn’t sure which direction was best, or worst now, but losing which way was forward and which was back, felt like a disaster he couldn’t handle. Reporter kept pushing forward, it was the one clear task, the thing that very recently was a certainty. Ever forward, reporter without border.
Without ever being here, or anywhere like it, the walls of exposed wires and pipes, the hard stone floor, clear but still very dirty; it all looked the same and felt as an everywhere-anywhere empty place, just a hallway from one room to another that everyone passed through without noticing, routinely in their lives. A little fear crept in. He thought of the bird in the cage, pecking its feet. At least the bird knows it’s in the cage. Reporter decided to run. Just get it over with. The recorder, the magnetic tape was taking each impression down and storing it, if anything were to happen, it would be there. Running footfalls were much louder, the tunnel bounced as he ran. One light was out and his head turned to look as he went by. It was something but not enough to need stopping, he couldn’t interview a broken light no longer living in this dreadful space. His first question, not that he would ask, but it would have been: Did you self terminate?
It was getting warm, close to hot. Reporter didn’t want to be sweaty on top of everything else and slowly came to a stop, putting his hands on his knees and bending over to catch up on breathing. The air down here wasn’t much. Reporter looked back, just to see, he wanted to know how far. It had to have been a mile he thought, but in his report he would guess two; that was just good story telling. Thinking of this as a story took him away, back to his desk and computer, listening and mixing, crafting his story, adding bits that made it all better. Everyone did it, all the time, no one told the truth, the truth was something humans weren’t even half good at noticing. This was the beginning of the argument he rehearsed. The story, after a breakup, after a lost job, a lost parent. It was more than just entertaining to lie. News personalities were always getting caught, every year or so, some celebrity story teller was forced to agree that they weren’t really ‘there’ or didn’t actually ‘know’, that saying something didn’t make it real. This was a fun adventure, and it would be a great story. Reporter felt the little recorder vibrating so slightly, rearranging its bits of magnetic tape around capturing the truth.
As soon as his breathing calmed he heard a sound. It could have been from anywhere, but in the tunnel it was either forward or back. Reporter stood up and listened hard, standing still, making no noise, expecting another. It could have been anything, he hadn’t been listening because he didn’t expect anything moved in this place. Maybe that one light that quit was the only rip in space. If it was someone, they could help him out, or trap him further; he didn’t know and after a minute of waiting to hear, he realized it didn’t matter and started walking forward once again. Either way, it was something. Back there was still real light, but this place had to be under the building and streets that made the city. Somewhere above him someone was surely eating a hoagie. Thinking about food he walked right by it, and only noticed at a delay, stopping and walking backwards three steps. It was another tunnel, more of the same but without any light, a crossroads.
Our reporter looked into the dark tunnel trying to discern what was there, and beyond. He heard the sound again. Reporter didn’t blink. If there was something to see he wanted to be sure he saw it. There seemed to be a little movement in there. And a trickle of some far off sounds. Everything was muffled or hidden, he couldn’t be sure. The fear and caution had given way to anger and annoyance for now and he wanted some answers, from anyone. Being stuck down here was an injustice and someone had to be responsible. Someone turned these lights on. The sounds were definitively louder, getting closer and definitely human like. It was hard to never blink. Reporter adjusted his footing, right foot in front, left slightly behind, ready. And he blinked fast, hoping to get them out of the way for a while, maybe for the crucial moment. The darkness was still just dark, unmoving. The sounds were coming, slowly. Still. There was a grunt, a human sound, probably human, most likely. Reporter adjusted again, relaxed this time, being ready was hard work. He made a quick objective assessment. This person must have information, valuable information. And he stepped out of the situation, remembering that this was a story, his story, and it would mean less inventive work if he could get real actual story information out of this human.
Our reporter stood up and put on a relaxed feel, it wasn’t totally phony, he was genuinely tired now. He took a few steps back, just behind the corner and listened. The sounds were close and he walked forward slowly, timing his passing the crossroads. He walked by as if strolling through a park. He was just exploring when. He casually glanced over to the dark tunnel. Oh hello, I didn’t know. But no one was there. He stopped leaned his head forward, gestured to no one with his hands turned palm up and then quickly got back into position behind the corner. Shaking his head, it was a struggle to push the frustration down and act relaxed and friendly. But this was the job.
This time he waited until the sounds were nearly on him before he walked out, casually, absentmindedly and caught the old hunched man in the corner of his eye. Both men stopped. The old man was in faded blue overhauls, with a variety of tools sticking out from each pocket. He was bent over and over weight, Reporter’s first impression was that he was carrying something else, like his gut was a special package being delivered. On top of the old man’s head was a flashlight, strapped on with some tape to the side of his hardhat. He reached up with a shaky hand and flicked it off, so he could look at our reporter. He didn’t look long, only a second and said, “Who’re you?” Reporter was stunned, somehow he had forgotten to prepare for this question. The old man didn’t wait, as he pushed his way past and started down the lit tunnel teetering side to side.
Reporter slid his feet back to let him past and just stayed, he was frozen, a bad habit for a reporter but at least the tape was running. He was in awe again, a state he found himself in often, it was what led him to reporting to begin with. Of course he knew, a good reporter can’t be standing still, mouth gaping; you had to register the hurricane just enough to be able to describe it with a few choice adjectives later, but now, you had to interview the terrified people, get some quotes, sample some audio of the roof blowing off into the dark sky. Of course he knew that wasn’t him, that wasn’t his game, lots of people did that, the right way. An older lady at the bus stop once told him which seat was hers at the opera house, what days of the month she went and when her husband had died. He remembered all of it, for any reason he wasn’t sure, he didn’t have the heart to question it much. Reporters secret super power was his capacity for awe, he felt interested in everything, like there was no division between the house fire on one side of the street and the empty garbage can gently rolling back and forth on the other side. What you never saw in the news was someone genuinely reacting, being a part of the scene, staying with it, being amazed.
The old man didn’t turn around, he just said, “You don’t wanna go down that way there.” Reporter reacted, mumbled something and caught up, his tape was rolling now.
“How long have you been down here?”
“Hrummphh… gotta being bout seven.. seventeen, with ya..”
“Do you keep the lights on?”
“Hmm surey yea I keep some ’em on.” The old man looked back. “Only some the ways.” He made a hand gesture, seemingly pointing in various directions.
Reporter watched as the tools in the man’s pockets clinked together with each step. The pace was slow and the questions came to his mind in a flurry. The obvious questions revealed the expected. How was your day and what’s your name. After the foreclosure, were you angry or sad, more sad than angry? please say angry sad. More than many asked the questions they knew or nearly knew the answers to already, that way they got to write the story as they gathered it. Saves time later.
“Do you have a favorite way?”
“Hrummph.” The old man paused slightly at the question but kept moving. “Hmmm…” The old man was thinking, a reporter could tell, and he kept the silence. The end of this tunnel was visible now, with another black door at the end. The old man stopped and pulled a screwdriver, part of the light fixture was loose.
“There’s one way, darks now. After time goes, the short ways, easier you see.” He stopped talking and twisted the screw tight. There was too much silence to be comfortable but reporter wanted more and he kept quiet, hoping the old man would have to fill in the blank. The old man took a few more steps, mostly out of habit than purpose.
“It’s got too darks now, but it goes by the water. And the drips, I listen to them, so many leaks. I never fixed that.”
“Can we go there?” The reporter had to ask.
“Yessum, you go. It is deep down, many stair steps.” The old man looked at the reporter square now. “Down is easy, back up, you don’t know bout that.”
The reporter wondered how many steps he was already down, how long it would take to get back, if he could go back, if there was a way out in front or only in backtrack. He wanted to say take me to the dripping water, and just go, but his hesitation was already visible. The old man opened the door and the reporter could see another giant room open up. This one didn’t have an overhead skylight naturally filling it with a sense of massive space, but instead was dimly lit with large bulbs, like the ones in the tunnel. There were other people here, reporter sensed them without being able to exactly see them in the dimness. In the distance he could hear but not make out their talking. The low lights and whispers made the place feel sacred, and like a church it felt mysteriously powerful.
Reporter already loved this story. By now he should have had a name and a motivation, that would have made the old man a relatable character to drive the narrative. Maybe he came down here in search of a lost love and instead found a community to sooth his loss. But reporter can help him reconnect, love is still there, with dramatic near tragedy at the end narrowly averted in favor of happy ending. That story wrote itself, and already had. Years ago, after the flood, on the news all the reporters stood in front of soggy wreckage making somber remarks. The interviews were crying and questioning the forces of fate. The drama captured our reporter completely. This was at a time when he still turned to his parents for explanations and when he looked at his dad he had said, “Everyone cries when their house is destroyed.” It was a blunt, objective, statement. And young reporter was unprepared. So many years later he still thought about that line, and how accurate it was. No one had to ask for that answer. The next time reporter saw video of people after a hurricane, from his notebook of questions, he picked, “What did you have for breakfast?”
“Having a seats over here.” The old man was gesturing toward a squat table with a few chairs. All of it looked broken, but he slowly lowered himself into one chair without collapse and our reporter followed.
“So’s you tell me how you gotten down.” The old man was adjusting his tool belts, switching parts and pieces from one to another. Reporter sat and watched, politely waiting to give his answer, wondering what his answer was.
“SO,” he repeated, removing a small hammer from a tiny holster, clearly sewn on.
Realizing this was as much attention he was going to get reporter started. “When I was a kid I wanted to interview a shark. I had a plan. To get a wetsuit and a boat and a big microphone. I remember imagining that if the interview went bad I needed that big microphone to defend myself.”
Reporter sat back slowly, half expecting his chair to fall. He was paused, expecting something from the old man, a question a ‘hrummph’.
“YEP.” The old man didn’t look up from his tools.
“I made it down here following the story.”
The old man looked up and squinted at our reporter now. “Do you’s tell the true story?”
Reporter thought a moment and settled on, “Yes, true.”
The old man shook his head, “None of these got truth story here.”
“Not even you?”
The old man stood up straight and looked squarely at the reporter. His tool belts sagging on either side of his belly, his arms dangling. He was posing for the reporters gaze. And the reporter took a slight uncertain step back but returned the stare. They stayed, looking at each other in the dim light for some time. Neither man knew. The truth of their stores directly questioned was not as common. A side plot, a minor anecdote, perhaps someone notices the embellishments and maybe even says so. But some stories are their own owners identity. The slow constant hum of inquiry coming from inside was normal and that’s where they were now, concerned more with defending against their own mind’s questioning eye, than the other. Their eyes drifted out of focus. The old man couldn’t stand like this for long. He slumped and moved to the end of the nearby table.
“Here, looks.” The old man shuffled his feet to the edge and slightly moved his arm in the direction.
“What is is?” the reporter asked before he moved at all. He was still winning the standoff for truth.
“Truths are inside.” The old man pointed at the center of his chest before nodding down to the table again.
The reporter walked over and said, “Ok,” and nodded as well. The old man made another “hurrmmph” and walked away. On the edge of the table, hanging off dangerously, close to a fall into darkness was a book. It was a Tan Book. It was thin, but hard cover, standard size, it felt like a diary. Inside were drawings and some words. The reporter carried it towards one of the light bulbs and began looking and reading through the pages.
At a distance away the old man stopped and looked back. He saw the book in the light and wondered why he didn’t tell his story. The role he took on, the costume and character; he could only remember because of this new guy, but he was only a visitor, no doubts about that. Had it really been so many years. By now this place was certainly off the table, fallen and lost in the darkness. No one was coming back to fix and restart the lines. The thought of a train stopping here, streams of people moving from place to place, it was absurd now. Only the homeless and mindless could stop and stay here. Did any of them know where they were? Here was simply inside, for sleeping, eating and staying warm. Getting the lights up and keeping the bulbs warm felt right and this became a place to be, for those that didn’t have somewhere. Not abandoned, not by all, only forgotten by those up stairs. The old man was gripping his tools, hands clenched tight. He stepped back into the light, still looking at the reporter and the Tan Book.
Some of the pages were blanks. Sometimes nothing did happen. Reporter turned the pages slowly, running his hands across each one, flattening, or that’s how he thought of it. There was an unconscious desire to preserve this book, so out of place here, no other books, no book shelf, doubtful of any readers. The pages were flat, and could not be flatter, but the touch and feel of them, irrational as it was, it felt like doing something. There was no author, or rather, no name, in fact there was no identification printed or written anywhere on it. A book that seemed to have simply appeared, without help, from nowhere. The story in the book wasn’t clear, reporter had already flipped to the end hoping to uncover the clue that would make sense out of the rest but it wasn’t there. Without chapters and numbers, flipping through gave no direction. Reporter closed the book, looked at the cover, and then the spine, he realized he could start anywhere and it all made as much sense as he wished. It also finally dawned on him, partly from the smell, that this had to be the abandoned subway, and those tunnels probably lead to parts of the sewer.
Both men started walking toward each other. They made eye contact, even in the dim light. They spoke at the same time.
“This is the old unfinished subway.”
“I wants you to tell mine story.”
“Yes it is.”
“I don’t care if it’s true anymore, no one does.”
The old man turned his head slightly and paused. “But I was going to say the truth to you. Mines story, what it is here, no one knows it, I’m the only one.”
The reporter listened, remembering his training, but he didn’t really care.
“Where did you get this book.”
The old man didn’t say, and there was a silence.
“If it not truth why is you writing it out?”
“Maybe the truth is a novelty… like when the rain stops as soon as you open your front door and the rainbow ends on top of your car and..”
The old man was adjusting his tool belts again.
“I mean, tell me your story , and, I’ll make it better.”
The old man thought for a while. “There was a holes in the floor, in the stone. I put some board over on it so’s I wouldn’t fall in. Over the hole the board would sink when I walk on it. I was scared. Later I find a metal sheet and both over the hole. I made it better.”
Reporter was nodding vigorously. “Yes, I can cover the holes in your story.”
The old man was looking away, away in his thoughts. The reporter waited.
“It was after…” The old man started but stopped again.
“Go on.. just talk, tell me anything.”
“I never likes the hole, when I can’t see it I am happy. I start to cover other things. I use this sticky stuff, very hard to get off the hand. When I find something I like to see I think to use it over the other I don’t.” He stopped again, surprised at his own words, he had never expressed these ideas to anyone, or even thought through how to say why.
“Will you show me?”
The old man pulled a flashlight out of one of his many pockets and strapped it to his head with practiced speed. He found another light and handed it to the reporter before walking into the darkness. He moved carefully, not trusting the ground to be the steady supporter he needed. Reporter followed behind, shining light on the ground and watching his steps. They entered one of the tunnels without bulbs. Reporter moved with small cautious steps, only shining the light directly in front of himself and just behind the old man. They made turns and zigzagged down metal stairs. Our reporter knew he was hopelessly lost now, if not an hour ago. It looked and felt the same to him now, his experience wasn’t new. Reporter’s attention wandered. At least knowing he was lost was better than not he thought. He wasn’t watching the ground as he was thinking, asking himself questions, creating a future report on himself, posthumously filing a list of mistakes he had made today. Everything that led him to this dark place.
It wasn’t until the wood under his feet bowed downward that he noticed the change. The hard dark and wet sewer had been covered. Reporter stopped walking and aimed his light around in all directions looking for something to see. Even the ceiling was covered some. The old man noticed his follower had stopped and he turned around and looked up as well. This area opened up, big, compared to the tunnels. The old man said, “Not there yet.” But the reporter kept looking, as in an art gallery he stood back and then moved close to inspect the details, lost in his experience.
The old man waited. Then he said, “I find the coverings, they come from the top garbage, they are gifts from above.”
Our reporter said, “Uh huh, ” without really listening. All was covered with sheets of plywood and plastic and metal, some were painted, some with numbers referencing a lost place in a line long gone. It was the written messages that stood out. A large plastic lid that said ‘kitchen’ on it. A piece of plastic siding that had ‘Tuesday 9 AM’ spray painted on. A patch of dark green canvas hung between two large pipes. A white window frame with all broken panes replaced with cardboard painted purple. It was easily the brightest place he had been since the interview. It looked like it could be a young boys hideout, but the materials were rugged, discarded and broken. A boy probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared to display the messages. It was still the sewer but the covers, carefully placed had a transformative effect. One whole section said “Free” over and over again.
“How far does this go?” Reporter was still staring in awe but he was thinking rapidly now about the telling.
“I just keep it, start over in there and go to into this ways,” the old man pointed towards another tunnel connected to the room. The reporter started into the tunnel and stopped, he turned to the old man and said, “If I tell this story, your story, people will come here, maybe a lot of people..”
“But why, no one wants to come here, we have people here now that don’t want to be in here.”
“This is a spectacle, and so are you… I can make people want to see you, and anyone else down here.”
The old man thought about this. He had been afraid of being found before. And then sometimes pissed off that no one came to rescue them.
“What’s happens when they come?” he asked.
“Questions.” That’s all the reporter could think of.
The old man opened the door to the next room. The sound of water slowly dripping echoed quietly from inside. A small amount of natural light shone down from somewhere too high to see clearly. The reporter stepped inside and looked up. The air was different here, fresh. There was only enough space for the two of them to stand before the pool. The coverings were all off white of various shades. They stood and listened. It was his holy place.