There were buttons aligned in a row that he was scrutinizing.
The buttons were of various colors that protruded slightly from a flat surface. When he placed his finger upon one, it depressed itself and a dull light shone out from behind its translucent face. The colors of the buttons intensified by a factor of some small number. He thought about riding a bicycle.
He was in a long hallway fourteen stories up. The floors were fabricated out of tiles. The walls were lifeless. The ceiling was just over his head. He looked down the hallway at no one coming towards him.
He depressed another button. It was pastel blue. It reminded him of a baby not yet born.
That morning he had spent one, two, one and a half hours on his knees scraping gunk from the corners of his floor in his apartment. Some kind of matter had been accumulating, he had noticed. He had looked at it and scanned it with the camera attached to his laptop. The computer searched the internet to identify what it was. He watched the pictures flicker across the screen of the monitor. His hand was upon the mouse and he tapped his finger when he saw an image that looked like what he had been scraping from his corner. The picture was of his apartment, specifically the northwest corner. He zoomed in and saw the stuff in his corner. He clicked on it and the computer told him what it was. It was gunk. And so he scraped it off and put it in a plastic bag. He tied the handles of the plastic bag together and carried it downstairs to the dumpster. He threw the bag in and brushed his hands against each other, wiping them off.
The hallway turned at a right angle to itself with a curved mirror at its corner, up towards the ceiling. There was a large window that looked outwards and outside there was a parking lot. A cloud hovered over a telephone pole in the middle of the lot. It reminded him of the opposite of a palm tree.
He skirted out onto the window ledge from whence there ran a thin lip all around the building. His feet barely stayed upon the ledge. He walked with his back to the building, edging sideways like a crab. Although he’d never seen a crab walking around the outside of a building before. He inched himself closer to a flag pole. At the end of the flag pole where one would expect perhaps a flag to be flying, instead there was a suit on a hanger. The suit comprised a jacket, a vest, a shirt, a tie, a pair of pants and a belt. A pair of shoes was tied by their laces and stuffed into the mouth of one of the shoes was a pair of socks.
He made it to the flag pole and tried to maneuver himself in such a way that he could grasp the suit without plummeting to his death. If he did fall, he wondered if he’d be able to put the suit on before he landed. Probably not.
He could see everything there was to see from his flag pole perch. The recession of the building, the flat expanse of the parking lot, a winding road unraveling out into the distance where the horizon met it.
Inside, he took off his clothes until he was naked and put on the suit. He hung his old clothes on the hanger which he hooked over the lip of the window ledge. His clothes bustled in the breeze. He wished he had a mirror to look at although he knew the suit would be a perfect fit.
The jacket was double-breasted, black with chalk stripes as were the vest and pants. The shirt was a shiny grey made from 80% creosote. The tie, socks and belt were pure black. The belt buckle was silver although it may have been only in color, not material. The shoes were black leather with red interior lining. They were size 10½.
He walked out in his new clothes, pausing at intersections to let the cameras installed there to photograph him. The photographs remained encapsulated in shiny black boxes attached to the back of the cameras on the poles at intersections. He couldn’t get at them as there was no lid or hinge or lock or way for the photographs to be extracted.
He walked on down the wide boulevards until he stopped walking.
There was a series of balustrades. He placed one foot upon the first serial.
“What is my skin made of?” he wondered. His arm was completely hairless.
He took his foot off the balustrade. It was grey and green as if drawn by chalk.
There needed to be an airplane. He wanted to go very far away. To see things from above so he would know where he was. He was down there, a transection of lines on a grid. He was glowing some kind of color, pulsating with it so he could be seen.
He lay down on the concrete and wanted to fall asleep but his suit got dirty. He stood up and brushed the suit with his hands.
In his apartment he fell asleep with the candles lit. Their soft amber light making his shadow dance on the floor. He woke up at midnight with a jolt. His bed was an obtrusion of the wall, the shape and size of it at odds with everything.
He looked out his window but there was nothing to look at. The sky was red in the moonlight. He yawned and the sound of it made a round of echoes. He was still wearing his suit. It was wrinkled. He could see rain falling in the distance. He pushed a button that deployed the rain shield. He could hear the sound of the gears turning, pushing out the shield over his concrete yard. There was a lawn chair angled at 36°. He hadn’t sat out there since… He’d never sat out there.
He folded and unfolded a piece of paper. The paper was white, almost white, faded from having been handled. One side of the paper was blank and when he turned it over in his hands, he revealed that the other side was blank as well. He folded the paper back up and placed it in his left back pocket. He was seated at the kitchen table with one bare light bulb hanging above his head like an idea. He leaned over and pulled the paper out of his pocket and unfolded it on the table, smoothing it out with the flats of his hands. He looked at the paper, turned it over, thought maybe he saw something, a word written, but it was just an errand of dust, folded the paper back up and put it back in his pocket.
At 2 a.m. he went outside. He slid the gate open and it made a clanging sound.
All along his street the signs had lost their letters. They had been washed off over the course of years. The letters were all congregated in a heap at the base of the signs. The images, too, had been worn away so that all that was left of the signs were smears of color. He walked past old advertisements. He couldn’t remember what they had once been, but now they were beautiful.
The signs became more and more plentiful until whole buildings were made of billboards devoid of messages.
He took a shovel and began scooping letters into a garbage bag. He picked up an E and a G and a few O’s and some letters that were half formed and clinging to each other. He stuffed them all in the bag. He carried the bag home and hung the letters up on the clothesline that stretched between the study and the den. He stood back and looked at the message he had written. It didn’t say anything. It was just a string of letters.
Brian Warfield lives in Philadelphia and publishes chapbooks through Turtleneck Press (http://turtleneckpress.com.) “Sfhogose Obsdk Od” was previously published in decomP.