Shafts of crud-colored light come through the ceiling and walls at irregular intervals where varying holes sequentially connect all the way to the outside. Even the daylight seems diseased. At times the Infected One’s feet brush against hard objects that might be the desiccating body parts of dead bugs but there is no certainty given the feeble ambient light. There must be a question he can ask without giving the game away.
– Remind me, will you, with my metamorphosis-mushed brain where is it we are going again?
– Zzzzurely juh are joohking, komreyd. Work. All day, every day, work. Hope juh’re hungrey, eh?
That does make sense to the Infected One: in an imaginary ordeal where else would one go to when not to work, occupation of the living dead? Even phantasmagorical vermin has an interest in everyday surplus production now that the logic of the free, the liberated market, it seems, has installed itself in all realms. The Infected One scratches his head, he is not convinced. He wishes he were less filtered by pirate ideology. But there is no one else to be consulted other than his speculative faculties that so often have run amok and got him absolutely nowhere, other than in more, multiplied and deeper-watered trouble. If he can shut up just long enough, a spark of inspiration might come down to lighten up his darkness, won’t it? That’s how things work out in nice stories. The character neurosis, again already.
The corridor ends in a vertical drop into which his cockroach company appears to disappear into thin air. But does not: it just continues down the vent vertically, head first, somehow plugging its six legs to the wall. The carrion redolence wafting up is emesis inducing. The Infected One stops and stares down into the twilight, pretending to himself that he can come up with another option than a leap of faith.
If there is one thing the Infected One surely does not see himself as then it is a “person of faith”. Thus he needs to rephrase his predicament, form a mental image that he can agree to, which takes him two beats of his quickened heart: a “plunge into the unknown”. Sounds alright, this he can live or die with. He takes two steps back- and three steps forwards, pushing off plyometrically on the last. Not such a big jump at all, unfortunately.
Mid-flight it occurs to the Infected One that he should try to jam his feet and at least one of his hands into the partially mushy walls in case he makes it there. However, the physical reality of impact is incompatible with any such schemes and after crunching against the far wall The Infected One tumbles backwards into a swallowing void of air. The sudden surge of terror makes it clear that he is not as calmly dispassionate about death as he had always fancied himself, sitting on the Corbusier couch in the living room, leisurely paging through Igeshuke’s Code of the Samurai.
Free fall. Gravity grasping. Down, down, down.
Falls past his surprised buddy the bug who twitches his antenna as if to say “goodbye&goodluck”. Arms and legs flailing in vain, still accelerating towards what is known as “terminal velocity” [which depending on species can or cannot be lethal], light growing brighter. The Infected One ultimately crushes into a damp pile of debris: bits and shreds of cardboard, polyurethane tatters, ….’the….helll….is…moldering toastbread!, sawdust, crumpled newspapers, pieces of plywood and indeterminate, softish guck. Wiping the mess of his skinny thorax and ugly skivvies takes the exultant edge of having survived the drop. The Infected One sighs.
– Yuuuuuhrkzzzz, whazzz a shizzzy exozzype, komrade!
Once outside, he looks up. The Infected One finds himself at the bottom of a deep canyon. No, incorrect, these are building or at least they have the shape of buildings: high risers, apartment blocks, a bridge in the distance but there is an at first unnamable difference. He turns around to inspect the structure he just exited, which happens to be flushly adjacent to the next edifice. One is undoubtedly cardboard and the other is a softer material, mostly white but in certain places framed in a thin dark brown outline.
The Infected One stares up to consider the structure in its entirety: it has no discernible windows or floors, instead it seems stacked of hundreds of non-aligned layers that show a white inside and the brown outline. It calls for close empirical scrutiny. He walks all the way over until he is two hands’ lengths from the wall, his eyes pointed upwards at the auburn sky and the discoordinate exterior. It brings to the mind of The Infected One the idea of an inconceivably high sandwich. And when he reaches out his left he can indeed force it into the doughy wall and tear out a morsel, which he then holds up to his reluctant nose. Despite the maddening stink he can discern the faint scent of toast bread: a giant building made from bread. But by no means the Land of Cockaigne, he points out to himself.
Now where did that insectoid, piss-voiced comrade of his go? He looks about. What would be the street or Avenue is plastered over by huge, uninterrupted slabs of rock, three to five times his own height. There is a little path through the debris leading from the cardboard edifice’s opening down to a crevice that leads under one of the boulders. This is the kind of revolting world he would expect talking, walking creepy-crawlies to live in.
Muttering imprecations, the Infected One slowly makes his way down into the cockroach hole, limping a little on his sore foot, making sure not to fall over and wondering how bad it will all get.