The Evanescing Man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: July 21, 2016

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Submitted: July 21, 2016

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The Evanescing Man

By

Matthew Beccaria

 

Chapter 1

The shadow of Mount Rainier covered the vague outline of a familiar figure. Gordon could hear her muffled call from across the expanse, but her syllables disseminated in the wild wind roaring across an ineffable landscape of fir trees where all audibility became diluted in a shroud of thick cool mist outstretched before him. Egressing from the corners of her mouth, her meaning lost all clarity and definition, leaving only the faint vibrations of her speech to impress upon Gordon’s ears. To adjust for this impediment, she pointed to her feet and mouthed the words to convey her meaning, hoping he could read her intended speech. Only EARTH transcended the space between them, while the remaining words escaped with the fleeing fall foliage.

Gordon glanced downward at his own feet to comply with her request, and with one hand, gathered enough dirt so as to allow for it to slip between his fingers. Its contents were moist and black with speckled green from the uprooted weeds he had just lifted out of the tar colored soil. Returning his gaze to where the girl had stood, massing gray clouds concealed and devoured the picturesque scenery, including the mountain and its domain of fir trees lining the backdrop. The dirt in his hand turned hard and cold, coalescing into a gray clump of dense cement, while glass towers sprung out of metal flooring, building upon themselves and entrapping Gordon within their magnetic obstruction, slowly closing in and creating walls around him.

“Ellen, Ellen, where are you?!”

Gordon screamed and then sat up abruptly in his bed. If the recent dreams were not cause enough, Gordon’s recent pains would often wake him up, indiscriminate about time. This morning was no different, the increasing throbbing in his right arm pulsated through his bones and tendons causing him to cringe momentarily before regaining his composure and rising out of bed. Assuming his arm to be asleep from poor circulation due to his positioning on a chunky ill-stuffed mattress, he casted suspicion and pain aside to awkwardly dress with one arm till the feeling returned in his left. At 8:30am, he departed from the discomfort of his bedroom and made his way to work in his white 4-door sedan. The traffic on route 10 was, of course, a monstrosity - endless lanes of tail lights snaking themselves between vast corporate kingdoms and their melancholic vibrations. One could only ever escape the habitual humming of horns and mechanical groans by deafening oneself with music, at least it past the time. An hour later, after completing the daily commuter marathon, he arrived at his stop, parked his car and entered the elevator shaft before making his way to the 14th floor where he proceeded to attend his station. Gordon sat behind his brown desk, opened his computer’s calendar, checked appointments and organized papers to complete his daily routine. Duties as a consultant had him shackled to rigid schedules, today’s being no less obtrusive.

Gordon shuffled his business cards, it had become a daily ritual. His inconsiderate clients scuffed them regularly without apology or regard. As usual, he lined the edges so that all corners met evenly, and set them carefully in the black conspicuous card holder that lay at the edge of an otherwise immaculate desk. The shared office was stuffy, small, yet largely unadorned; the walls pale and sickly, with the stench of yesterday’s sesame chicken and stale cigarettes trapped within. His superior loved his cancer sticks, and rarely went an hour without refueling. Although Chen never dared smoke inside, the odor from his frequent work breaks to light one up followed him inside upon returning. Gordon’s nose swelled with protest.

Beyond the foul odor, the disorganization of records, receipts and clientele files laid scattered in mismatched piles, unidentifiable and forgotten on his superior’s desk. The rest of the office atmosphere was nothing to lament about on days off, nor was the work particularly gratifying or boast worthy. But worst of all, among the office’s mismatched decorations and discolored furniture pieces, Chen’s unscrupulous nature lingered. His supervisor was inevitably the source of all his branch’s failings, a corrupt and despicable little man, who held no regard for ethical or moral considerations.

Despite these slovenly and unsavory distractions, Gordon’s attention remained more enamored by his plan to escape than any recourse of reviving the current predicament he found himself in, and with each passing minute, found himself closer to today’s imminent departure. Within the asylum of his mind, he desperately gripped to the comfort of this truth. His elusive dreams of his sister and the vague impression of the Pacific Northwest fueled his dreams of reaching more promising pastures - the promise Canada had to offer him.

 

Chapter 2

The job had simply been a means of fulfilling responsibilities, addressing an over encumbered collection of loans and scraping by on a meager living. His plan to flee the corporate bedlam where he found himself berated and entangled by insanity was his saving vision, apart from his sister living in a small nearby town just across the border. Aside from adhering to a more primal lifestyle, he held no other aspirations to anchor himself. Day after day, his cubicle toils added to fatigue, and fatigue to some form of eccentric madness. Today was no different. He toiled under the weight of burdensome people. They were spoiled and unbecoming, their ambitions crooked and backed by distorted truths.

Without warning, he felt it again - the sparking twinge, emanating from his fingers and then seeping up his forearm. His hand clenched tightly, fingers folding into his pulsating palm. He waited for it to pass before turning his attention to a folder labeled Appointments. Like many of the company’s clientele, they were mostly irresponsible teenagers who lacked family education and took advantage of their parents’ excessive funneling of spending money from offshore accounts. He had no patience for this behavior, nor had he the ability to satisfy their educational delusions. They only desired status not education. Unfortunately, the firm’s corporate officers accepted this and overlooked, even at times encouraged, the many plagiarized application papers counselors and editors were asked to write; otherwise, parents would not hand over the small fortunes the company’s CEO so desired to pocket.

The unethical practices had left Gordon in anguish and because of this, he had decided to act. He stood with conviction from his desk and marched toward Chen, the pit in his stomach adding to the beginnings of nausea. “I’m giving my notice. I’m afraid I can no longer work here, Mr. Chen.”

His sputtered response meant very little to Chen, who peered at him from his frowzy desk with a smug smile creeping across his face. “Okay, but can you stay a little longer?”

Gordon felt the guilt building, like a dam overwhelmed by rain. “Perhaps a day or so,” Gordon said, immediately regretting it, “but no longer.”

Recognizing his victory over Gordon’s failed audacity, Chen turned his attention back to his duties and without making direct eye contact, began to reassure him. “You are important to this company Gordon, I really wish you’d stay. Besides, you will need a new job, what about money?” Chen had his eyes locked to his computer screen. He always presented money as his first solution, so his advice did not seem surprising. It was always green advice with Chen.

“I can’t stay. It’s for personal reasons.” Gordon replied obstinately.

“Do you want more money? Maybe I can speak with HR about raising your salary, how would that make you feel?” Chen leaned back in his chair, arms folded across his chest like a bouncer blocking his escape. He always reasoned with emotion as a last resort.

Chen was now staring at Gordon, expecting an answer. The pressured offer only made Gordon more irate. “But I don’t care about money,” Gordon blurted with frustration.

“Well you should, money is important,” Chen contested. “You think successful people are easy going? That they sit and daydream about adventure? Or have the mildest interest in that?” His comments and a slight head nod directed Gordon to the National Parks calendar hanging on the wall behind Gordon’s desk; the month of July depicting a glamorous Crater Lake poised in an afternoon glow of purples and reds. “People are opportunity Gordy, you take them into your wallet or they’ll take you into theirs. Anyways, consider my offer to talk with HR, and if not, at least consider staying for a few more days, okay?” The conversation ended with abrupt silence, leaving a wake of misery to wallow behind the pale mini office blinds.

Gordon sat back down at his desk, defeated by the recent discourse. Remembering he needed to edit one last prompt, he slowly reached for the vanilla folder opposite to his chair, but to his sudden disbelief found himself unable to attain it. The peculiarity of his predicament caused him to panic, yet any attempt to adjust his position ended dismally. There was no blood trail, or evidence of a missing appendage appearing in the room, yet he remembered using his pen earlier to sign in at reception when he entered the building. Glancing over at Chen, he saw him examining paperwork, completely unaware of Gordon’s exertions. Even more vexing, the right sleeve of his tailored suit had also disappeared, and in its wake a wedge-shaped fold adorned the space where the missing sleeve would have hung. Gordon sat back in his chair, sweat seeping from his pores in interminable profusion. Thinking the sweat a symptom of his frantic and sudden efforts, he quickly realized it was the result of an implacable nausea that had overcome him. Ignoring the churning feeling in his stomach and with added effort, Gordon pushed himself forward in his chair to leverage his body's weight, and flung his other arm at the vanilla folder like an arcade claw reaching for a cheaply stitched stuffed animal. After a successful cast, his left hand made contact with the folder allowing him to retract his body in order to recover the folder’s contents. After signing the document left-handed, the pain began to disperse, leaving only the lingering nausea.

 

Chapter 3

With no sick leave entitled to his position, Gordon was forced to continue his following appointments. Everything had become more physically encumbering and although the pain had waned, the nausea was tenacious, increasingly distorting Gordon’s cognition. To his surprise, his appointment, Joanna Cohen, had arrived early, evidenced by her parked car visible from Gordon’s office window. Not fully collected, Gordon retreated to the bathroom where he one-handedly splashed his perspiring face with water and stared petrified at his newly shaped body attempting to regain composure. The increasing nausea forced Gordon into one of the stalls behind him where he vomited profusely in the toilet.

“Gordon are you in there? Joanna Cohen is here. Please don’t keep her waiting. You know how important her business is to this company. A few more days Gordon, just a few more days.” Chen’s voice was shrill and scrutinizing.

“Yes I realize that. I am just having a stomach issue, ask her to wait a moment, would you?”

“Hurry it up.” Chen’s footsteps indicated he had gone toward their office to entertain Joanna. Holding fast to his impending departure, Gordon exited the stall and made his way down the hall. He was determined to leave today.

Gordon entered the office where Chen and Cohen sat immersed in loquacious banter regarding her consultation. “Sorry for that. Now, let's look at your current academic profile to see where you stand.” Gordon was slightly embarrassed, but hid it well enough.

“Gordon, had some stomach issues, but would like to help you now.” Chen interrupted, his smile construed to reassure Joanna, and reaffirm customer loyalty. Cohen sat legs crossed with her purse in her lap.

“It’s fine, no need for details, I have another appointment after this so let's make it quick.” She said hastily.

With added embarrassment, Gordon proceeded to take out the contents from her vanilla folder left handed, noticing that his newly handicapped predicament captured no attention from Chen, who sat adjacent to his desk, nor Cohen, a familiar face. It was as if, he had always had one arm, and no one knew the difference.

“Last time we met, your firm stated that you could help my child get accepted to University Private High, but we just received the rejection letter,” she stammered, eyebrows raised.

“I’m sorry, who promised you that?” Gordon clarified the question, suspicious that Chen had superseded him.

“Oh, Gordon will have it finished very soon, but we need more time to process the paperwork.” Chen retorted with alacrity. “It is a long process you know, takes a long time.” Chen forced a smile, nodding his head agreeably like a circus clown.

“Obviously not! If that were the case then explain this!” She slammed down the rejection notice on Gordon’s desk looking expectantly at Chen, who then looked at Gordon for an answer.

Not knowing what Chen had promised, Gordon began to explain, “although University Private High may have rejected you, you did sign up for five schools, and we are still waiting for four other responses” -

“This is ridiculous, you give me assurance that our family’s first choice can be attained and then we find out that we were rejected by the top school in the country and you still charge us for the service!?” Cohen’s voice reached a fervent pitch.

In response, Chen sat back in his chair, a look of diplomacy stretching across his face, yet behind it a palpable worry began to stir, this Gordon knew. “Mrs. Cohen, we can offer you additional services free of charge, but this is normal for applications, especially competitive high schools.” said Chen who was now losing face.

Gordon was upset to be caught in the middle of the blame, especially when he had not promised anyone anything. He sat forward in his chair, attempting to reason with Cohen, whose face was now clearly turning red. “I’m sorry but I was unaware that Mr. Chen had spoken to you about this matter. I apologize, but I...”

Cohen turned to Chen lividly, “forget it! You coerced and blatantly lied about what you could do for my family.” Joanna then stood and exited the office.

Chen turned to Gordon, his face dark with a scowl. “The customer is always right Mr. Gordon, always.”

Gordon, numb to his condescending intonation, took solace in a vision of lofty snow-capped mountains to escape the fact that Chen had just tossed him an unpinned grenade.

 

Chapter 4

By late afternoon, Gordon’s condition had not improved. In fact, his predicament had only worsened. His left ear, pinky and ring finger on his remaining left hand and two of the toes on his left foot had vanished without a trace. Sitting behind his desk he felt stable, but moving around the office had become quite the laborious ordeal. Although his condition seemed to have slowed after Joanne’s departure, it was nevertheless persisting in its wrath against Gordon’s body.

Why am I still here? he pondered, sitting behind his desk. The thought had often crossed his mind, but with today’s unusual persistence of unwelcoming business and this strange matter about pieces of his body vanishing, the idea of actually quitting had become something of a deliverance. The degradation he experienced stretching the last 2 years had eroded his psyche, and now it seemed his body was paying a price of its own. Graduating from university, he had imagined himself to pursue some altruistic purpose, but instead found himself incapacitated by the petty reality of having become a modern day indentured servant. He was now abased by ambitious superiors like Chen, whose avaricious dogma lambasted him on a daily basis. Gordon concluded that the only viable solution would be to leave today and to never return, this way, he at least stood a chance in recovering what had been taken from him, both sanity and body parts included.

His morale sufficiently bolstered, Gordon attempted to stand up from his desk. Aside from the arduousness of balancing with fewer toes, he felt somewhat spry and optimistic regarding his plan to flee.

“Gordon, excuse me, I have something for you.” Chen blocked him mid-way between the door and his desk in an awkward balance; Gordon responded by leaning to one side as to alleviate the pressure on his disfigured foot. “Dr. Ulbricht is on his way here to ask you some questions regarding his son’s college applications. I overheard that he is worth quite a lot of money Gordon.” Chen’s fingers rubbed together with expectancy. “Think Green Gordon, think green!”

Chen was always fervid about green things, his potted plants, the color of his wife’s nail polish, even the office door was green. He firmly believed a green door had the power to align the company with a more permanent cash flow, but profitability rarely followed. His superstitions only pampered his entitlement, prompting belligerent curses when he had lost prospective clients or money gambling at the Gentleman’s Casino. Although quite the strategist, Chen was hardly the wise mentor Gordon had hoped for.

Gordon turned to Chen pensively, reached into his pocket, and with a look of defiance, firmly placed the office key with a slap on the cluttered desk where Chen worked.

“What are you doing? Gordy? The Dr. is already coming up the stairs!”

Gordon spun gracefully on his now toeless left foot and hobbled triumphantly out the door. He could hear Chen’s voice rising steadily, a string of irate curses turned inaudible with the satisfying ‘click’ of the door. Gordon was almost free.

Not bothering to grab his briefcase - for what purpose does a manbag have in the cold north - Gordon rushed down the chilled hall toward the elevator shaft. As he reached the metallic doors and extended the remnants of his arm to press upon the lift’s button, he observed the remaining left stub of his index finger brusquely dematerialize in front of him. The vague outline of skin around his knuckles appeared translucent, like a phantasmal bag of skin and bones, yet his finger still seemed somewhat buoyant in reality. Gordon’s mind raced as Chen’s voice became audible once again, the labored angry footsteps closing the gap between them. Gordon again prodded the button, but his finger had little effect on the metal material, half his finger penetrating behind the wall itself to no avail. It was a most curious sensation. With extra force he withdrew and again seeped his finger inside until his knuckles, still having some tangibility, finally triggered the button inward, signaling the elevator to begin rising from the 3rd floor. Chen was halfway to him now and the lift mid hoist.

“Gordy - Gordy - come back. The Dr. is on his way up!”

The elevator shaft hit the 12th floor and with only 2 more stories to ascend, Gordon decidedly hobbled toward the stairs, afraid that Dr. Ulbricht might be inside that particular lift. Gordon then trekked down the cement stairwell, impeded by his growing decomposition. They will surely notice me now. But to his disbelief no one came for him. No doors opened, no footsteps traced his own, nor could the voices of Chen or Dr. Ulbricht be heard through the acoustics of the hollow stairwell hall. It was not until the 2nd floor when Gordon came face to face with another employee slowly ascending the same steps from where he had made his descent. Oddly, the woman walked past oblivious to his presence, not even a smile or hello.

Approaching the end of the stairs, the door was propped open, allowing Gordon to quietly escape to the parking lot where his car awaited him. It was not until this moment that Gordon saw how much of his body had been afflicted. Only his heels, legs, head, torso, and left arm remained, his fingers had completely vanished, along with the remainder of his other body parts. He was an evanescing man.

 

Chapter 5

His new challenge was now set before him: Driving. With the little grip he could muster from his fingerless palm, he managed to back out of the parking lot and enter the nearby on-ramp going northbound. It was a day's drive and at his current rate of decomposition, he held little faith of ever arriving. He blamed his new body on the years of work that had taxed him. The fixation, stress, the comparison of wealth among colleagues, even the promotions and lavish promises had contributed to his mutilation. Yet he had pursued and had allowed himself to be exposed to its toxicity in order to survive. Perhaps ‘he’ was a part of the problem? He had once been an adventurer, but was coaxed by ideas of stability and security, society’s failing promise. After all this time, he only longed for the great unknown. To explore the unimaginable. Now he was invisible and lost to erosion.

If he had had the opportunity to act sooner and change his predicament, he might have, but with no alternative solutions, he had been forced to continue. As the hours drained on, Gordon’s thoughts returned to his missing appendages. It was not until after 10 hours on the road that he noticed his right leg had completely vanished, not only that, but he could retract what felt to be his right arm, into, and completely through his own chest cavity. Fortunately, the earlier nausea had subsided, whether due to his body's adaptation or further deterioration, it was nevertheless being replaced with strange new sensations that he could not explain. Each time his newly formed body parts shared the same space, interacting like a shapeless fluid form, a bristling explosion would shake the translucent halls and crystalline catacombs he now called his flesh and blood. He was far from being organic.

When his pain first began, these momentary experiences would cause him to gasp with astriction, more from the sheer shock of vicissitude than any real metaphysical reaction; but over time, they became familiar, even comfortable to a degree. But driving north on that day was far from comfortable. Each mile was a struggle, as his body had not yet fully accepted its own changes. To add to discomfort, Gordon was beginning to pass through the material of his own car, sinking below his seat and nearing the metal frame that sat several inches below the asphalt. His only solution to combat sinking was the support of his left stub leg, a particularly tricky predicament considering that that was his only source for pressing the gas pedal. This sudden realization made him feel increasingly anxious, so he began to take stock how much of his old self remained: Only the stubby left leg, half his torso and a rough patch of hair atop a mildly transparent head, which he could see from the rear view mirror positioned top center of the windshield. I must look like a walking wig, if only people could see me. The pressing urgency of his disappearance advanced his efforts to continue, which he did successfully until reaching the Canadian border.

By the time Gordon reached southern Canada, he was unable to drive at all, in fact, sitting inside any synthetic construction was now an impossibility, his body would simply not allow for it. The earth, however, reacted altogether differently. The dirt beneath his feet supported his new disembodied self and although he was forced to journey by foot, he felt welcomed among the open spaces and vast landscapes that stretched out before him in grand immensity. At the border crossing, he immediately noticed the line of cars huddled bumper to bumper, waiting to display their passports to immigration with their pedantic questions about the ‘purpose for visitation.’ It was trivial and often superfluous, yet they maintained the strictest order and formalities in the name of security and peace. Luckily for Gordon, waiting in a car was useless. He doubted any of them would even be aware of his comings or goings. What was of far more interest to him was a truck hauling soil and tree shrubs near the front of the checkpoint. Realizing he could catch a ride for the remaining journey - as it was only 70 miles north from the border - he approached the truck’s bed, passed through its metal siding and grasped a sturdy tree branch to brace himself as he clambered onto the pile’s crest. Pitched against a bumpy brown pyramid of protruding sticks and soil mixed with leaves, Gordon fell asleep, callous to the visible world that maintained so much tactility.

 

Chapter 6

By the time the truck’s sudden halt jolted Gordon’s body awake, it seemed his transformation was complete. Erecting himself from the pooled puddle he embodied, he morphed into a firmer more familiar shape. Looking around he saw that the truck had stopped outside a diner, in the town of Squamish just south of Brackendale, his sister’s town. It was close enough, he thought, the remaining journey he could walk. Acquiring a sense for his surroundings, he quickly found himself staring into a pair of large beady raven eyes. The black bird, nearly 20 feet in height, was perched wings extended over the adjacent outdoor sporting goods store, Raven Outlets. 40% off sale signs printed in bold neon letters on tacky star shaped poster boards were taped to the inside glass. Though garish, the cheap marketing stunt drew crowds by the dozens. Passing near to where Gordon sat (if one could call it by that action) customers were rushing to satiate their gluttonous appetites for patio tables and other garden assortments. Although he was invisible, Gordon felt himself a monster. His body contorted and his existence inescapable. He was unsure of how he would ever truly recover or present his new self to his sister. At least the bystanders were unable to perceive him.

Turning his back on the crow, he meandered north up the two-lane highway, the mechanical wings fluttering behind him in rusty rhythm. The cars were fewer past the border and he liked it that way. The freedom from noise gave him a sense of relief. As the minutes passed and he neared Brackendale his sister became more vivid in his mind. He had tried desperately to resolve the bitterness of his past so he might avoid burdening her, but forgiveness had been a distant acquaintance. Gradually, like a summer snow, his dissonance would dissolve, it was just a matter of time. For the present he took solace in the unwonted aroma abounding from the blossoming plum trees. The sweetness of the air along the open road had lifted his spirits and allowed him to forget the tenacious grip Chen once held over him.

Approaching a small neighborhood, he could smell supper cooking behind the steaming windows, each home identified by its own aroma. By the time he reached the third to last house on Charleston Avenue he caught a whiff of his grandmother’s pork sauce brewing from the kitchen. His body was now impalpable - an intangible sack of liquid like gel, yet still he retained the ability to smell. How curious, he thought. He took a moment to gaze at the sky, the trees, the distant peaks of solidarity. They seemed to stretch interminably behind the once familiar home where he had been raised. But before lifting his weary body up the porch steps, Gordon reached for the ground, cupped his intangible appendages, and scooping the soil beneath him, allowed the dirt to flow between his fingers once again. The feeling of its weight reminded him of his grandfather and the old farm he had never known, but had heard so much about. He briefly pondered whether he could actually be nostalgic for imagined memories and wished he somehow could.


© Copyright 2017 Mathius Davidson. All rights reserved.

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