22 August 2012

Tiled Haven - Part Two

“D'you ever think that maybe this is just what we are?” asked Sheik, running his hand along the length of the window frame. “d'you ever feel like a shattered window frame?”

“Whaddya' mean by that?” asked Unger, shifting his weight from one side to the other. Sitting in one place on hard concrete in a puddle of one's own blood could get uncomfortable.

“Like, we see out just a little bit, and others see in just a little bit, and we're all pretty broken. You might say shattered.”

Unger didn't answer but just breathed heavily, his eyes closed and dirt creasing the furrows in his forehead.

“We use the window of our life pretty much all the time,” said Sheik, “no matter if it's dirty, or got tears in the screen. Know what I mean?” He waited for a response that didn't come. “And others use our windows when they need to, just like we use somebody else's window. You only look into it when you need to see if someone is there.

“Or if you're a nosy bastard,' said Unger, breathing more evenly.

“Yeah, or if you're a nosy bastard.”

The rain was picking up, and along with the sound of drops hitting the pavement and the side of the building, the smell of fresh rain came to the two. It was, like so much else in this landscape and in this environment, polluted.

“Smells like diesel,” said Unger, through heavy breaths.

“Smells like diesel and gunpowder, I'd say.” Sheik leaned out of the window frame just a bit and for just a second. After a quick back and forth snap of his head, he pulled back inside, eager to deny any Army sharpshooter so juicy a target as his hairy little melon.

“I hate the smell of diesel,” said Unger, closing his eyes even tighter. The breeze had picked up with the rain, and was circulating the scent around them.

Sheik knelt down and half-rolled his upper body across the floor beneath the window frame. On the opposite side he stood up, crouched down, and then leaned up against the wall and peered outside. He used this new perch to gain a view of the approach from the opposite direction. The coast, as they say, was still clear, and he dropped his rifle to the low ready and pulled a cigarette out of the breast pocket of his field jacket.

“You ain't lightin' that up, man,” said Unger, his eyes widening.

“Naah...don't worry. I just want to hold it in my lips for a little while. I don't even have a match, anyway, so don't sweat it.” Sheik put the cigarette in his mouth and breathed through it, imagining the smoke pouring through the filter and down into his lungs. The tobacco tasted dry and flat, but it was better than nothing at all. He stood there for some time, mimicking the smoking of this cigarette. Once, when Unger looked up at him, he pretended to blow a smoke ring, holding his face and mouth in the familiar pose, and then even sticking out his finger and poking in the air, as though he was thrusting it through the middle of a smoke ring. He let out a little laugh, and looked at Unger.

“What?” asked Unger.

“I did that to make you laugh.”

“Did what?”

“I blew a smoke ring.”

“No you didn't. You're not even smoking.”

“Never mind,” said Sheik, turning away and putting the cigarette back in his pocket. “So it's gravity, huh?”

“Yeah,” and his voice trailed off. Unger winced as a wave of pain shot through his abdomen.

The light was starting to fade outside as evening came on, and Sheik saw the first drone just as he turned back to the window. It looked almost like a bird at first, and then as he made out what it was, he thought it looked more like a model airplane, kind of like the kind he had built and flown as a kid. As he watched it even longer, it started to look almost real, like a small version of a full-size military plane – the sort you hardly saw anymore. It was perfectly silent in the distance as it approached, but made a faint hum as it drew closer. Sheik instinctively drew back from the window's edge, into the shadows. Unger took note and tried to sit up.

“What is it?”

“Nothing,” Sheik lied.


“Never mind, man, just stay quiet. Save your energy.”

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