Here we are, in this small room with furniture that seems too large. The walls are overwhelmed with framed certificates and generic artwork and photos of the ocean. It makes me wonder how claustrophobics would cope, but before I can ask, she, the short-haired woman who also seems too large for the room, asks me how I am.
Fine, I tell her.
You don’t have to be afraid to tell the truth here, she says. This is a safe place. Everything’s confidential.
Okay, I say.
She asks me how I am again.
They stand in a field where live music is playing on a barren looking stage. It’s a field next to a warfare museum, and amongst the bronzed cannons and tanks and people dancing to salsa, he puts an arm around her waist and she smiles.
“This axe,” says the lumberjack, “used to belong to my grandfather. Sure, I’ve replaced the head three times, and the handle twice, but it’s still his axe.”
Every time I press space, this ant gets jostled around. Every word is another bounce that he can’t comprehend. It’s doubtful he would even question it. This is the way the world is to him. But I like to think that he’ll head back to the nest eventually and go to sleep (I presume ants sleep, even if it’s just a power nap), and while asleep the tiniest sliver of that minuscule brain will try to interpret the day for him, try to reason the bounce of the space bar, and he’ll dream of the ocean. He’ll dream of the break of the waves as he leaves the shore, of the slow metronome roll from the swells of the deep. Maybe he’ll dream of an ocean so still it looks like glass. The ant, with his small size and tiny limbs barely denting the surface tension, would see water as a solid anyway. On such a clear sea he could walk across the whole world.
Luminous globules of memetic counter-culture swirl through cyberspace like snowflakes, each imperceptibly unique, before they settle into an endless field of white noise, waiting to melt away into nothingness. Packets of quasi-information, opinion masquerading as fact, roll down the screen in the same way tumbleweeds do, gaining momentum from an unfelt wind. Website tickers scroll news, flashing mantras as if in electronic meditation. All the world at your fingertips.
Five minutes later and I’ve left the apartment, the tablet left lying on the coffee table, bleating out social media message alerts to no-one in particular. When I arrive back I will have seven new notifications and four unread messages.
Art dies sometime in the night, quietly and peacefully. His body is frozen solid by the morning. A thin layer of frost covers him and the ground, disturbed only by John’s attempts to pry Art off the floor of a boxcar with a branch. Son of a bitch might as well be glued there. Even his thin overcoat is stiffer than sheet metal. John eventually gets the branch wedged under, and with a cracking noise like walking over a frozen lake, Art’s body loosens and topples over.
“Didn’t even seem that cold last night,” says John to himself. He kicks around at the ground near the train tracks. Too hard to dig. No way to bury the poor bastard. Not here, at least. So John instead wheels up the discarded shopping cart they use for their personal possessions, and heaves the body in. He’s in there awkwardly, frozen legs jutting out, like he’s a piece of flat pack furniture that’s slightly too big.
The thing to realize about Art is that he probably deserves this dignity.