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Steel, Girder, and Glass

 

            On the twenty sixth floor, the buildings were looking at Jacob again. Bible Jacob. Old Jacob. Birthright Jacob. He was here now, shuffling papers. Things happen sometimes. Blink of an eye and you’re gone. Brown desert shrubs grew to stainless steel skyscrapers. Slaves became serfs became nine-to-five commuters. The mysteries of god replaced by the mysteries of science. Fur fell out of fashion slightly. People sailed across the seas and killed and then flew back across the seas and killed more and then stood still to kill again from many miles away. Blink once again and you’re back. Things happen sometimes.

            He was eating an apple, his nose inches from the ceiling-to-floor window. The sun reflected off the glass of the buildings that surrounded his office tower, the light quivering and shining onto Jacob like eternally squinting eyes filled with blurring tears. Down below cars were speeding up and slowing down with the stoplights in broken rhythms in ragged breaths in clipped heartbeats. People milled up and down the streets like beetles, clinging onto purses, cell phones and bags like they were dung. A paper shredding truck on the other side of the spurts to life nosily. When Jacob first asked about these vehicles, he was told they kept secrets safe. He then asked if secrets had to be kept safe so loudly.

            It’s never quiet any more, they said. A city thing, he was been told. Out to the country, down the four line divided highways to the two lane highways to the dirt roads to the walking paths. You want quiet? There it was. Quiet never truly goes away if you want it bad enough.

            Jacob wasn’t there yet. His needs crashed into his wants and every step forward was anxious one. But step forward he must. You get on with it. Adapt or die, and he fell into the former. Ascot Brokerage House. He could buy and sell. A knack for closing the deal. Yesterday or today, people still want things they don’t need. They didn’t get any smarter over the centuries, can still be talked into anything really. 

 

‘sorry, I’m just not interested in buying-’

‘Do you know who I am?’

‘you said you were Jake-something…’

‘I am Jacob, son of Isaac! I have been face to face with god and fought his servants in the moonlight! I come to you with seeds that will bear the ripest fruit.’

‘Yeah? Well, I guess you can send some pamphlets to my house, or something…’

 

            Jacob watched a woman with an umbrella rush across a street with a yellow light. It was not raining. Someone told him the sun is now giving people cancer. Things have gotten crazier, faster, unpredictable, more dangerous, they told him. The world is finished, we’ve gone too far. Then he told them of his brother almost dying in the desert of thirst. Of having to raise an army and then flee your home with whatever you could carry into the endless hills of sand.

            Then they became quiet. The water cooler crowd stared into their empty cones for a moment. The talk lurches forward again, slowly, rickety, but soon it made its way back to pleasantries. Weekends. Children. The times before this moment. The good old days.

            It's always the good old days, Jacob thought now. His brain thought. Whatever was inside him thought. A disconnect ran though Jacob that he had a difficult time explaining. Perhaps it was just the new buzz word he learned recently: culture shock. But even that didn’t seem good enough. It wasn’t a change of time and space that gnawed at him. His soul felt unremarkable. An itch he didn’t have the right fingers to scratch. And though he wanted to call it the grace of god, it left an unsettling feeling that he didn't want to attribute to the hands of the almighty.

            He glanced at the clock on the wall. His co-workers would be finishing their cigarettes soon, shuffling back into the elevator reeking of tobacco and gossip. If they caught him here at the window away from his desk, he would be sucked into the talk. Not a problem. You learn fast when you immerse yourself in something, and Jacob had a knack for picking up, holding on to and exploiting the finer points of a person’s foibles. Although the center of attention when first hired, Jacob made a point of seeming much more interested in everyone else’s lives than discussing his own. They asked him of course. All the celebrity questions, all pleasantly brushed off. But none of them asked him what he would have asked himself.

            What happened? I don’t know. What did you see? I didn’t see anything. I just closed my eyes heard a voice and opened my eyes and I was here, surrounded by steel, girder and glass. A voice? What did the voice say?

            Jacob took a final bite from the apple. He could see the seeds poking through from the core, meaning it was done. He swallowed and muttered the phrase that he didn’t understand and still lived in fear of. A phrase that was so void of meaning he didn’t know if it was prophecy or a threat, if it had already come true or was still far down the horizon, if it was god or the devil or just his own soul, exploding into the future at one million miles per second.

            A mild ding from down the hall. The elevator was here, full of his co-workers. Jacob snuck back into his five by five by five foot cubicle and punched in the next number on his call list.

-see me, the cool distant voice had said with a small trace of excitement, see me coming to get you.

 

 

with The Wire no longer on television, there is no longer a need for the medium