The fluid echoes of voices lingered within the stadium. The sounds of last month’s celebration of violence ascended through the Dome Portal.
Light down, dark up.
Joe Mark, the brazen Master of Ceremonies of the Once-a-Month Configuration
Night, would stand alone at the stroke of midnight; gathering the stance of all the hesitancy, fear and wide-eyed attention of the audience. This night would be special, because people expected more, and because Joe himself knew that on the last day of the New Year, something different would happen.
Configuration night would be made of two races of people. This year the Brionites would be split up into two sub-races. The Quadites, which in the Median earth time were light skinned, and the Sumites, which at the time before the extinguishments, were Dark skinned. The group of performers, both dark and light would come together, in ritualistic fashion to perform a human configuration, only known to them as dictated hours earlier by Joe Mark. In the darkness, on the pre-fabricated stage, the Sumites and
Quadrites would arrange their physical bodies in such a way that fights, breakouts of stabbings, violence and general mayhem for the approximate 22 minutes would occur.
Then the bodies would settle into another more familiar formation that the audience would recognize. Upon the recognition, some would cheer, yell and shout in brutal announcement of a symbol; perhaps one of historical importance, perhaps one not known to the mind in this life. Joe Mark would teach the bodies these symbols to configure each week, although not known to him in waking life, but in a psychic implant imbedded in his brain when he was once another Joe.
If hell broke loose, the fatter Joe’s pockets were lined in the early morning light as he gracefully glided home behind wailing ambulances, police vehicles and hysterical women. Word upon word of bleeding mouth, more would come next month to witness, tickets in hand for hopeful cataclysmic fulfillment of their very own personal anger.
Joe enjoyed the life. He did not care much for humanity. Until a particular prototype human being came into his like—female. Near year-end he happened to meet a woman at the Configurations that approached him with some questions. She came to him gently, after a typical night of blood and mayhem; she came to him with a smile. No one’s face smiles on Configuration night. Joe was leaving from the back door of the Stadium, helmet on, tubing up his hydrogen-powered Cruison RG-32, waiting for the inner channels to fire in succession before initializing levitation. The waiting took two minutes. Joe was pulling on his gloves then she approached him. She carried yellow roses in a burlap sleeve, an apple, and was wearing Canary yellow high heel shoes. They were not dirty in the muck. Most recognizable, what Joe still dreams about, even after many Green moons, is the afterimage of her bright yellow lips. Her teeth were glowing invisible against her mouth. Like a flashing warning signal, to an outsider perhaps accustomed to a trivial life, she was not unusual to Joe. But she certainly was appealing,
unlike remnants of the paler skinned Median Earth Triloits. She had the look of an Outer galactic female; high bones near the eyes, light hair, and remarkable eyes the color of moss on Redwood.
Joe read archaic Pulp Romance texts, and in a whirl of brain activity he saw the words
“Classic”, “beauty”, “va va voom” and others too quick to see; flashing as they were like a ticker tape on speed. Then, yes, the old desires again…if only Joe could get his hands on the torque-y x-Axis transport, used only by high level religious leaders; he would go to the mental past and interlude with citizens in dark cotton pants…he would take this young female Triloit there for a crossing…she interrupted his brain spurt.
“You are Joe Marks, and I would like to give you these.” Her voice was vibrating slightly in her throat, imitating the sound of a suffocating canary in her gullet. His hands were primed with mink oil from the inside of his Sniperhand gloves, but he took them off and took the apple, and the flowers and placed them with a swipe in his Cruison container…he was moving in the habitual fashion of violence avoidance, low movement with eyes at your victim, he never took his eyes off her.
There was still a few many that believed this form of Entertainment to be “archaic” and “excessive”. He waited for something next, a meek request for an autograph, usually the women wanted him because he was darkly sensual and emotionally unavailable. The women called him the “Cougar”, dark-eyed, silent, black head of hair, sinewy in the black latex amphisuit. One great pleasure was donning smart and chic gear for the night. Joe never spoke this, but he wanted to die looking cool.
“I am Saraland, “she continued between his awareness of self, “and I want you to know that what you are doing is not honorable. People should be around to share nice Configurations, not the symbols of evil and anarchy you are breeding in your Dome. My father fell here last month by the stampede formed when the Weenites lit fire to the clothing of the Gregorites. I want to speak to you, perhaps in a safer place, over Green tea then, at the Downtime?”
Joe was completely mesmerized and dumbfounded; he put his gloves back on.
He had planned on going to his home, read, play his instrument and go to sleep. He strictly never took the company of women, not sure of this, but because he never dreamt of the duty to do so. Joe swallowed hard. Then could not swallow. Sad, horror, humor, all at the now mental place. He complied, he accepted the invitation to sit at the Downtime and drink tea.
She sat on his Cruison, wore a helmet, black mask around
yellow lips, and they rode to the Inn located near Route 35 on the south side
of the Ravine, a place built around 500 mental years ago with Mortar left from
Sitting down on soft green velvet pillows, close to each other, enough to smell faint ambergris from her light hair. The light of the place dim, with a few loners coughing over their smoke pipes; the tunes of harp music floating above. Light up, dark down.
Day would come soon, the curfew hour. She took off the headgear, he his gloves, and placed them near. Her grief overpowered her, at the fallen image of her father, it stung her nostrils and she did not speak. Joe took the space of her words, “I know deaths do occur in my arena, but that is understood when one decides to observe Configuration night.”
She breathed deeply, the server brought some teas, and she sipped like a delicate structure of sadness. “I want you to know, that I have been watching you with my father for several years,” she vibrated, looking hard into black eyes, “and when I went with my father, he would always make me leave before the final Configuration was complete, so that I would be safe. Last month, when he asked me to leave, I said no, that I was old enough now to see what all the symbols were about and what people did. Mr. Marks, or should I call you Cougar, I was horrified.” Joe did not flinch, he avoided such comments by disappearing into the air after shows, kept the news out of his head; but now, he could stand to listen. She smelled good, his heart was beating faster. She continued to talk but she was just a murmur; Joe’s eyes on her necklace: a platinum chain, a protector symbol from poor health. Without hesitation Joe held her hand, beyond his understanding and like duty, he did so. She searched for the safe input answer to being horrified, to being sad, to being humiliated on the mortar bench by a local feared celebrity, for speaking with the one that indirectly orchestrated the death of your father. They pulled apart shaken, because Joe knew loss and desire. Shaken, they sat heads down, without a word they were gone from the Downtime.
Joe put her on the Cruison, literally carrying her to the machine, placed the helmet on her heavy-lidded face. He removed his wallet and Carries-All from his holster and attached it to the Back flaps of the Cruison so she could have more of him to hold on to, if needed he would five-point harness him to her. This was a new fixation. This desire to take…care of something, other than the garden, the armadillo, the trumpet.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
After so long, loneliness dreams passed. Perhaps it was the apple and the lips. The taste of a woman came more like an afterimage, visual, her leaning in, not so much the taste but the warmth; sunshine on a sill. They rode high to his Tree Bungalow; positioned as it was on the southwest side of the lay lowing hills, and was a place of heat and calm.
Joe had a thought, dawning like new Configuration symbols, as in sleep as determined by the Ancestors, that this female Saraland was the bravest person he knew. None other had approached him questioning the “honor” of the Configurations as Entertainment. When Joe’s psychic implant was working itself out, Joe worked for local gangs and only knew bravery to be the removal of limbs and sniping easy targets. Joe had dreams like in the waking early morning hours of his duty as leader of Configurations and became who he was today…but her face was now the new dream.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Their nightly sojourns were similar in ritual. She cooked meals of dried whitefish, Alligator pear salad, buttered loafs of cheese onion bread and the other fine foods for sharing under candlelight. Joe Marks was meditating on his next symbol, when Saraland came to sit near him, patted his head and left the bungalow to shop for some pink high heels. He stirred out of his trance for a moment, irritated but warm. No one had ever disturbed him mid-med trance before, and new images flooded into him again.
Configuration was looming now. Joe had come to know the new symbol
and needed to get to the Dome early to talk to his members. They were sent in from Western Colonies, dropped off in long yellow busses with the intention of living the most important moment of their lives.
If they were to fail, they would have to leave alive, go home in shame. Joe spoke to his members as they sat in quiet absorption to their task, to the description of the symbol. It was an unknown symbol, unrecognizable to all. The hush after the complete Analyzation, with visual Overhead representations were easy to explain, just simply foreign. Nothing too complicated this time. It would take a few hours to dress the members in their all white or all black rubber; depending on their race. Their faces would be painted to match their suits and all eyes would be the only unique marks on their forms. Members would not be able to tell who their neighbor was. Men were painting one another, in quiet careful matching of the shades, where one face became another and all were opposite.
The sky became red, the suns went down, and at time for the Show, it would be pitch black, the finality of the last day of the year, the new moon and the crisp balance of cold air in the heated stadium. Joe was positioned, ready, without the future in mind.
Today seemed better than yesterday and the whole day seemed already to be behind him, how the admittance of the loneliness of his solitude brought a woman into his life, brought passion, and the possession of something out of his power, beyond understanding. He had known he was powerful, in that he was a channel for violence, that it needed to be done in order for today. And regret, once prevalent in his heart for the last 15 years, and vanished and only in front the Show was to begin.
The audience started their parade of solemnity through the main gates, excited, subdued. Tickets in tight fists, ambiance of pure adrenaline, electricity flowing in the seats rising to the Portal. Ropes holding up the canvas ceiling all waves of tension for impressions of heat…People especially on edge, ready for this night to welcome danger, ready to take the danger and suck it up into their vacuous memories to store away in the attic mind. They would one day reach into their attic for years to come, dust off this night and inhale the energy once again, repeated like a song. Saraland was in the highest bleacher, reading a novel that was bound in black, tiny and worthy of new binding, her lips moving to the words. She stayed there the entire show. She let the Cougar be alone.
Her father was not alone; he lived in mental time with her.
Lights went down and the New moon did not enable a spotlight on Joe. A beam of artificial light hit him instead, bouncing off the black rubber and latex. Hush. Respectful hush. One musician played a wind instrument, signally the members behind stage to assemble in order.
“I bring you New Year’s Night!” Shouted to his crowd through remote speakers drilled into stadium seats, into their spinal columns, feeding into their neurons. “I bring what you need, or what you have needed, wanted and what your Universe can give you. Although you don’t know it yet, the struggle you face, good Ites of the New Last Earth, can only see what is in front of you!!! You can only know the opposite of what you are feeling because you have stopped feeling!!! You have been numbed. I feel for your sorry despair!! I give you now what will be the last Nightly Configuration!!!
Sighs, gasps, cries, shouts, Saraland standing up, book tumbling out of her lap, worried faces, fear rising through the Portal, end of the world, shifting, anger, anger.
“Stop, stop,” Joe calmly through the wires. “This is the beginning, and the choice is yours, to see the reality of your days. Because when you are sick and tired of this all, and want to start over, I will give you this starting over.
With a flourish, Cougar steps across the stage, latex gripping is taught upper body, the light bouncing off the black, arms out and moving. The audience on its feet, the crowd in trancelike loyalty, one gaping mouth. Black and white members filing into position, lights dimmed candles lit around the perimeter as Nightly formation began for the end. No fights or discussions, men lining up like perfect ants on a single mission.
There was no confusion, no dissension. In exactly 22 minutes the symbol was revealed in it perfect mirror image. The one side was shaped much like a tadpole in white and the other another tadpole upside down in black. The position was held and for all who knew the old religion, a sweet relief was inhaled, for there would be no violence tonight.
Light up, dark down.