Thursday
May102012

Foxy Knoxy Rockefeller

Sutherland Douglass




"Clark? Is it very cold in there, Clark, underneath your wrap? … … Listen to my voice … Listen to my voice … the sooner the better make easy to enter … entrance into—Clark? It is time for you to stop spinning our wheels and get on with this. I have been asking amico for hours now with no real movements on your end. So why don't you enter already you—Clark! Go!—In!—Entrare!—ENTER THE CLARK ROCKEFELLER YOU—

 

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Italia'd always been hard for you, hadn't it Clark? Had always, for your conman grift and graft, been a tough "what" to crack.

What with its bad-dubbed cinema and every art avenue shellacked. Or its urban-renewed E.U.R. architecture a brutalist morass—whole entire neighborhoods ground down with a pestle made from Mussolini's boot, pulverized to become sprawling piazza, hard-edged facciata, embedded chunks of Bauhaus white … each next day (even after Il Duce's death) the neighborhoods presenting themselves for inspection, others' histories hard-coded into their concrete, such impacted fascism not even past …

So, then, to find yourself summoned here in 2008. Summoned to Perugia under some fake cover, "consulting work" for your Uncle David R.—"ah, grazie, si … Council on Foreign Relations … I'm naturally happy to be here on Uncle's behalf …"—well how did you expect it to end?

Here to meet with a reclusive sleep specialist employed at the University for Foreigners, he who hoped you might secure him a molto mucho grant?

(You the human reader Rockefeller—could you not guess?)

And then, cut to what you claim to remember next: You waking up days later, transplanted back to the folds of your condo's high-threadcount sheets? Waking up without any short-term memory, any understanding of how or where you'd been—even how you'd made it back to the States … You say you slopped groggily out of bed to find your TV screen already lit, already splashed across in pixels making her face:

Ms. Accused Amanda Knox.

(You must be beginning to remember now, yes?)

You sat in front of the screen as if impelled. You watched Amanda being ushered into Italian court by female police, tried to "read" her head while it rode its way in: Some wry and Mona Lisa'd sphinx. Some unrepentant unflappable float, wheeling in this grazie-day parade—taxiing higher and higher above the streets each week. Impelled by the swell of her smirk (cum grin, cum disembodied and bigger thing)—it radiated out of her an avatar, one built to populate the world's vidscreens.

Every day she would arrive refreshed, in her lah-dee-dah fashion so inappropriate for the courts, soft-but-block rompers and cheeky screen-printed tees ("All You Need Is Love" indeed) … her tapered, almond-shell sockets expanding and contracting as she "made eyes" at her codefendant boyfriend in his seat (one Raffaele Sollecito, may it please the court) … them sniggering back and forth like rotten, unindemnifiable kids …

Sitting there in New York before your wide wide screen, you couldn't help but feel her returning yes? Even from the insides your gut? Reactivated memories amounting to her, her plus you—you and Perugia? All that had occurred in Italy still stored in your very muscles as mass … you felt it, feel it now taking hold, thickening your bloodstream with its drug now reactivated awake, breaking you down parts per million anew … you feel increasingly out of body, light in the head but also all the more densely, stuck, in … in … in … such a state, what could you do but give yourself over to memory, half-reverie, that ménage of hours and days spent standing in her wake: that Foxy Foxy—your missed A-M-A-N-D-A—si?     

 

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Closing the ornamental gate sets the elevator in clanking motion, up in fits and starts to meet with Assistant Distinguished Dr. Bullmer, he who over the phone had explained his office's work—"new and unheard-of sleep studies, sleep plus the brain … what your Uncle's philanthropic arms might, please mightn't they, be interested in giving a hand?"

When you arrive at his floor the lift gate opens on a corridor almost dizzying in length. Wood-paneled, it's decorated along top trim in an ornate, various frieze (erotico in nature you would guess). The only door, what must be the doctor's suite of offices, stands shrunk, almost telescoped, at the hall's low-lit end.

(It takes no time to arrive there, though does it Clark?)

On its frosted glass are stenciled an address (Cassia no11) and, in much-larger block letters, what you first take as a mistake (or maybe clever Italian cognate, the local dialect's pun you haven't yet the faculties to "get"):

W E L L
C O M E

Before you can think much about it, you hear the door disengaging on its locks, dull thunks up and down its length till, voila, it is parting open on an enormous single hinge. Inside—there is no clearly designated reception area—you help yourself through a series of apparent waiting and anterooms, none of them the least bit manned. (Somehow they remain strangely undetermined to you, no matter how hard you look.) Two, three, four of them next—until the passageway seems to be narrowing, winnowing, righting you into just one path.

(Till, like the old TV show, Clark: You, Are, There.)

Standing in front of a second door.

Handle-less, possibly ebony, heavily lacquered black on black. (And equipped with what looks like a peephole, though far too high to reach.)

You press your ear against it instead; wait several beats.

Then, sound-dampened and from the other side, comes an apparent response:

"Entrare! Pronto! Pronto!"

You shift your weight into the door and, to your surprise, it glides open like cushioned, like pneumatic on air. As it does its black mass is replaced by light, melts in a wipe a wall of it, equally blunt and in blue-white bursts. Electric, ir'descent, it's a hologram arriving by the second, blipped against you in ever-approaching sine-waved shapes. (You rock back and forth on your feet, some stupid buoy, stuck as anchor you can't help it in the open door.) When your eyes manage to adjust, you see the source of this dimensional light: banks and banks of different-sized TVs. They constitute nearly all the room's interior, itself already claustrophobically square. The screens have been fitted into each other via shared black trim, are staggered and stacked like modular furniture, prototyped one-offs repurposed here piecemeal and through the years.

Seated in the towering midst of them (their strobed, motion-trailing light makes it seem as if his chair is hovering just above the floor) is what must be the distinguished Dr. Bullmer you presume.

(You feel carsick for a minute; feel a cold whoosh as the door shuts noiselessly behind.)

When Bullmer rotates to face you, though, you have to stifle a laugh—he looks like a ridiculous, a brother, a missing Barry Gibbs.

Slightly fatter, sure older—blown badly up in the face by age and eat, but still essentially a dead ringer for that famous family ("Bee Gee"). Emigrated maybe long ago to Italy under the confusion of post-wartime life (you find yourself already making up a story in your head), taking root in picaresque Perugia to prosper, doctor, sure and breed. Traveling through all these years in order to arrive here this grinning Bullmer you now see: His close-cropped mustache and beard, not to mention hold-over '70s wisps, appear maybe daily sprayed-on, gold-tipped.

"Well? Mr. Rockefeller?"

"I'm sorry, you were saying?"

"I asked you in considerable English—you are here we hope to sign papers, make certain assurances of your Uncle's money in my thankful hand? Yes? … But perhaps you are afraid to offend—not sure how to address me? As you should know already my name is Bullmer. Though some people prefer 'Bulero.' And still others: the smiley 'Leo.' "

"Bullmer?"

"Come si desidera … Well, as you can perhaps see, my experiment happening up there on the screens. Both it and I are, just this moment, at a delicate measure so to speak. Perhaps you can content yourself, then, to stand quietly while I wrap it up?"

All the video monitors show some version of a woman, she whom the press will later re-introduce to you as the murder-suspected Ms. Knox. Monitors from large to small cycle through overlapping video, feeds apparently plotting her through time/space:

You see Amanda leaning against the bare walls of a room, looking faraway and bemused, repeatedly flashing teeth as the flat of her hand smushes lip into chin.

Another of her, sitting on an examination table, updoing her hair while apparently waiting for the physician to come in.

Amanda checking her phone, bobby-pins parting against tongue, teeth, collected in one sweep. 

Then, a collarbone-up shot of her lying on bare bed. An institutional mattress (white, on white, on cream), the additional spatial qualities in the room fail to cohere, not enough fidelity in this like-analog feed. (Once this image pops up it begins to reproduce, to overtake in block swaths more and more of the screens.)

The angle of the shot—looking down from slightly, forever, overhead—is two-thirds dominated by her face. Her face but set on "vibrate," induced "sleep," damped-down and "hum." (This sense of background radiation, of things powered down and behind the scenes, takes further shape in what's mounted above her in bed: another black-rimmed TV. Snow filling its smallish screen.)

Below to bared shoulders, the cropped shot's implication is that she's not clothed exactly but wrapped, contained in milky transparent plastic (you can only guess: industrial or medical grade). Arrayed around her like finery—cowled and spots and pipery—it's a ruched, louvered bouquet. (Diodes and suctioned sensors emanate out and vineward, tracing unreadable recesses between the two skins.)

This image, as it multiplies, begins to cycle on some pre-set timer—long shots, medium shots, close—each flashing for a certain duration, constellation, hit rate. Staring at your canvased feet, you realize Bullmer's speaking again:

"… originary conditions being paramount, yes? The special alloy fabric that we use, the mesh, it provides a kind of acute conductivity. A kind of—for lack of better words (and meant not in the least bit occult)—medium for her steeped, her sleeping thoughts and brain. That is, we stumbled upon this—ah again scusimagic, fabric. It amplifies the 'read' of whatever subject it comes contact with … previously unheard-of frequencies, not detectable, decipherable …"

"But she seems to be—I mean, may I be so bold to say that it appears to a layperson such as myself, that the plastic is gradually unwrapping? The plastic that is being worn, ah, in lieu of  (I'm assuming) actual clothes? I mean, surely less-modest eyes will be able to soon see …"

"Tut tut. You've known from the start what she wasn't wearing underneath."

"—hadn't really thought to look except—"

"Except? Yes?"

"Except aren't you sometimes, conducting these experiments in this room here …? I assume you are always alone … Don't you ever find yourself the least bit, ah, mortified? Embarrassed? Harassed even, by what you see?"

Bullmer, instead of answering, presents himself the back of his hands. Well-kempt nails, right good quick, he seems to consider your question for a moment before flicking off all but the most micro of screens. Without asking, his paw of a hand latches around your elbow, pulling you down, over, until your ear is held awkwardly at the level of his mouth. You feel his breath (his lips?) as flat, palpable things, unpleasant and trim:

"I would not have believed, Mr. World-Weary Rockefeller, that you could be so naïve … These foreign American students and their work. Their exchange. They're either nude-modeling for the art department or in the sciences such as this. They come in brazen. Wearing no self-consciousness. No shame. They come in completely oblivious of what they emit—physical liberty, sexual trickery, a free-floating and anxious flesh … Stuff that needs only the adequate antennae to receive. So receive them I do. Plus"—switches to a more moist register in your ear—"the more you money these projects, the more you will find: It is the man in the white coat—us in the Mockingbird Rooms—who get to say 'when.' "   

He pivots his paw on your elbow so as to shove you back up. Continues talking, but in a decidedly sunnier tone (though he does not, you notice, restore the blanked-out video feeds; at this point, if you want to watch Amanda's progress, you must mightily squint):

"But it would be good to get better acquainted while I finish, yes? Being from America you must be a great fan of the American film? The first American film my father showed me was named here L'infernale Quinlan—in your country I believe it is known as Evil Touch?"

"Touch of Evil?"

"As I said. For many years after viewing this chestnut I could recall, almost exclusively in dreams, only one scene in the way of all others. In fact I used to lecture on it … have it around here … a recording of my—ah yes"—flicks a red switch and you recognize his voice from several years out of the past—"See how it is implied by Mr. Orson Welles' camera what the outlaw gang is about to do to Janet Leigh? Janet Leigh who has been abandoned, cornered in the cardboard walls of this Mexican dump? Can you tell without having seen the movie that she is moments away from being laid on of hands and forcibly injected with drugs?... See how the Grande Gang—that is their ridiculous name—how they are about to make this crime 'go down'? And yes, here—don't miss—do you see the mannish, mustachioed woman standing in the doorway of Janet's room? Do you see, the Grande Gang trying to get her to leave so they can get on with their crime? And—watch watch—as the Grandes try to force her out of the room what does she say? 'No. Not yet. I want to watch.' … Just beautiful … Joint in hand and butch biker jacket, here Americana all the way. She knows how ah, depravato, it is about to get, and still, truly touched she is, she wants to join in … What you kids may not know or believe is that that androgynous character actor was indeed my m—"

*click*

Bullmer looks up at you, eyebrows bouncing as if controlled by string.

"Thus Mr. Rockefeller was I born," indicating the room around him, "into all this."

"Your sleep studies. Which require more funds."

"Ah. You are just as I had heard beforehand, always only interested in the business end … well, if we must: What I've shown you so far is only the benchmarking. Three weeks of regular recording and storing of all biometrics, related data—just sets and sets and sets. Stats to be overlaid, cross-tabulated, multiply-checked … of course outliers identified and dismissed … then on to the real study, the second phase."

"Go on, yes."

"Certain pharmacological paths. What you would probably call, in your own tongue, an ordeal drug. From shamanic societies and the like. Forced ritual instances. Your Native Americans in sweat lodges I am sure would recognize what I mean … and you would like to hold it?"

"Hold what?"

"Of course the uncombusted drug."

He pulls what looks like an old-time tonic envelope from his upper front, squeezes its mouth until crisp lips flap open so he can tap it into your hand, the smallest amount: a blue-white powder. Between your fingers it feels like crystallized chunks, strangely arrayed, hard-packed.

"Be sure not to lose this, even if you are picking up my tab."

It is perhaps psychosomatic, but you feel your fingers starting to numb.

"You asked me before about that perfectly proportioned monitor sitting atop dear Ms. Knox's crown. That ideal object. The one showing snow falling perpetually into her brain."

"—ask uh, I didn't, but I wanted—"

"Only natural. Well, right now it appears to you, I'm sure, as not a signal. Scrambled. Just noise. But I would call it instead unamplified. Not organized. Unarmed."

"What could that possibly—"

"—mean to suggest that, in these most recent months of research, I have discovered something else in addition to my magic voodoo plastic. Discovered—better to say synthesized—a certain sense-expanding drug. A drug that, once its fumes are bathed in for about three or so moments, vents the five given senses. Makes it possible to, ah, affix them, hook them up to other media, phenomena, what has been stacking up around us for millenniums without anyone the wiser to know …"

"Wait—what?"

"In short, once exposed to this drug the receiver—in this case me—focusing dutifully on the 'ground object'—in this case the six-by-six TV—will see not snow but indeed nothing short of Ms. Knox's broadcast dreams."

More eyebrows, more "Eh? Eh?"

"That patented black box of mine operating like an amp. A veritable emissions machine … If you were allowed to be present for that phase, bathe in the fumes likewise, you too would see what I have: The hard bend of glass screen beginning to unravel off itself as molecules … her caught dreams—her sleeping brain's activities, proclivities, ah bleed … Opening and closing circuits, just between the two heads. And in fact"—swivels around to fix your gaze—"with your monies we hope to evolve, alter these states even better. So it won't be just two people, how passé, but multiples of peoples at once. As many as we can fit into a room. Can you picture, Mr. Rockefeller, what that could mean? To live not only this girl's dreams, palpably play them, but with also all your best friends? To be 'group translated' they will say. To collectively stream such space … both the outer and the in …"

"I've read about this before."

"Yes. Indeed the very foundation for my work. The science of the fiction (though, in truth, I had to wait decades for it to be translated) …"

The look on your face must be what makes him concede it.

"Yes. Again I say 'yes.' It can sometimes appear to be badly handled, a decidedly immoral violation of things. Deans outside this room seem so desirous to misconstrue. To raise the, what is the word?, boh-gee-man. They psst psst psst. Talk about subliminal—it is such a distasteful word for me to even say—subliminal programming. As if I could program"—knocking his temple the rap of his hand—"program any, such, thing … It is in the sensational media anyways. Wild theories. Satan cases. Ritual killings in the countryside please to explain. To try to make the un-rational reasonable again. The Horror in Perugia, they will say. The Monster of Florence, Venice, even Vatican way. Even in your country you must have these stories I think. The Sirhan Sirhan?"

Without warning he dials back up all the screens, the cycling shots of Amanda deeply asleep now whipsawing through refresh rates, ragged transitions, dropped and time-lapsed frames. You have to look away repeatedly, the images switching so fast they whiff up that carsick feeling again (or probably a form of hypnosis you suddenly think).

Somewhere, far outside the room, a muted klaxon begins to sound.

 The plastic around Amanda goes liminal in fits—you feel twinges, jabs, synapses snapping wads of gum—until her completing image overflows your field of view. The industrial plastic melts further down her shoulders, aggressively more of her skin becoming manifest and with you in the room (for a moment a phrase you can't remember having heard goes incandescent, either on the screen or in your brain):

F L I C K E R
F I L M

Her head dilates, gains flesh, increasingly overwrites this examination room with its swell and heft. Slowly falling. Forward through the screen like a toppling ponderous thing. Violating multiple axis and plane; pushing and pushing its way, through, in.

You try for the door but Bullmer's managed himself behind you—his belt buckle pressing square into your rump, arms hooked through yours and holding, pushing you out, erect, ready to receive. You feel the speckle of his beard rubbing against your now-flush cheeks, your right shoulder hooked by his chin:

"This is our science, Mr. Clark. The same white coat we must be willing to, must learn not to mind to: shed and shed and shed." 

 

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"Clark?"

"…"

"Signore Rockefeller? You are still in there, yes?"

"…"

"You are, I trust now, up to speed on all you've seen—that thicket of ah, things. I can trust that you remember and have had revealed to you all that happened while in Perugia? I can now sleep soundly on this? That you've seen it, processed it, are totally 'okay' with it no breaks? … Yes? Yes to your special memory of events?"

"… ..."

"Like for instance, for argument's sake, how you were next invited that very night to go and sup with—"

"—sup with doctor—"

"—please to not interrupt with—"

"—it wasn't a meal at all but—"

"—to sup with that thing you call Bullmer. At the special Halloween party featuring a performance from Ms. Knox? At the club she waited tables for Le Chic?"

"—something something something, then—"

"—ah but I see, grazie si, you are there—here already, entering the club from the night outside what a relief—"

 

"Clark? Hello—Clark?"

Bullmer is looking at you all grin, his pushed-out and masonic teeth making happy fists of his chimp-hair cheeks. You two are standing in what looks like a service elevator; right outside, dark hallway, are floor-to-ceiling curtains a velvet red. Bullmer extends one flattened hand between them, stands half-bent and as if he's about to usher you through, on, in.

"I asked you, as we have established you the movie buff: Have you watched much of ours?"

"Your?"

"Yes—Italia's. Ms. Knox has freely adapted a scene from one of our more internationally known hits, for her dress-up performance tonight. You would do well to know it before entering if you could—so much more of the evening will make immediate sense. It's what we called here growing up our 'yellow' genre. Our sleazy mystery thrillers started in the seventies. You know them I bet …"

"I'm sorry no. You have me—what did you call it?—have me at a disadvantage. I'm afraid."

"Ah well. No matter. All will probably be revealed anyway you can only hope."

He parts the thicket of curtains by inserting the rest of his crooked stiff arm, urging you, at the same time, to entrare with the other. Inside, the room you find is low-ceilinged, long-slung, low-lit. Arranged in its center is a circle of padded, high-backed chairs—in their center an ornate black desk. Directly behind the desk stands another pair of closed curtains, these hung from free-standing pillars that seem brought in just for the event. On the left edge of the table, laid like a paperweight, sits an equally black, implacable triangle (pointing at the sky; maybe glass).

The half of the circle closest to you is seated with men, three or four plus Bullmer. The other half, behind and even with the desk, are adorned not with people but more of those familiar-looking TVs.

Bullmer pulls you down into the seat next to him, speaking:

"… a real third-degree lass. She lives with those other girls in the most remarkable place, right here in the heart of Perugia, a straggling house. They have four of them living there together; they could have three times as much. Upper and lower and back and front. A student rental, a sunken bungalow near the old bad side of town—it abuts right up against the highway's principal bend … she apparently finds spent syringes in her garden every week …"

He notices that, instead of listening, you're occupied with scanning the other men.

"Ah, yes. Ms. Knox's retinue of guests. Four of them plus us."

It is hard to make them out much at once, but you get what you get in low-lit, variegated glimpse: A very Italian-looking man in glasses, rounded shoulders, indrawn lanky legs and feet (this her boyfriend Sollecito tis true); a migrant worker who appears African (later at trial you and the world will learn: Congolese); plus an older man, another African, barrel-bodied in tight-fitting tracksuit Le Chic. (Why is there no fourth man that you can see?) 

"But where is Ms. Knox? And these men why are they—all men?—Bullmer, what does that mean?"

 "So very inquisitive all of a sudden, Mister."

"Ah, scusi, as my Uncle always says: the devil in the details, that's him …"

"Well too bad then that the time for questions is over, and the show about to start."

You blink and find Bullmer now several feet away, in the middle of the circle, his body fitted between the curtains and desk. He pitches forward like on old animatronics, angular arms and body about to introduce or let someone in:

Instead of speaking though, he merely stands and grins.

Long, undocumented seconds.

Long, undocumented seconds pass.

Before he begins.

"… one such exception is Ms. Helga Ulmann, who is here with us in Italy for a round of conferences, for our shared interested in: pair-uh-sy-cah-low-gee. Ms. Ulmann has extra-ordinary powers of telepathy—transmission and reception—as well as séance-like, summoning acumen. But I will let her speak now for herself. Gentlemen and gentlemen I give you—"

Bullmer sidesteps like before automatic doors and the red curtains open in a likewise hiss. Behind them—head down, hair covering, lost in extraordinarily hard thought—is a person seated behind frosted glass. Carefully posed and framed, she's backlit suddenly by the TVs switching on in unison, their beams further pointillizing, dispersing her image against the glass. (You can't help but think through this glassed image as iconography; piled-on, reproduced—an occult and/or pagan imitation maybe, but iconography still.)

The pane, when next it slides up and into the ceiling, confirms this, revealing a many-robed woman slightly hunched in her seat, wearing the moment and robes in ritual parlance. The black triangle mounted on the table's surface now begins to glow, casting enough light to reveal, in rolling chiaroscuro, the details of her face:

It is both Amanda and not, Amanda's face from the TV monitors this afternoon but also "off." Her shoulder-length brunette hair has been replaced by a bob, a Louise Brooks but dyed blonde. The two sides of it descend down her cheeks like parens, punctuating, encradling, her now nouveau-framed face.

When she speaks, the slit line of her mouth barely breaks:

 "I would like to point out from the start that my particular faculties have nothing whatever to do with magic. The esoteric. Fortune-telling or the stars. Instead I am able to tune things in. The thoughts of others from their very beginning. Or many years after the fact."

Her eyes as they scan back and forth appear already under the influence of some drug, their motor control suffering from a several-second delay. The lids open and close in no clear relation to what she says, what she's looking at, wrong inflection or sync.

"… in point of fact, my friends I must tell you … I feel a presence here with us this very night …"

From the folds of her robes she extracts what looks like a tonic pouch, pops its mouth and proceeds to pour the contents onto the triangle's glowing tip. The doctor's blue-white powder, his translating drug, combusts on contact. (You can't stop picturing the triangle not as a paperweight but the clipped tip of an obelisk—highly ceremonial and writ—whose shaft is unseen and embedded, bad teleported, trapped inside the vertical length of the desk. Where these thoughts come from you can't think.)

The monitors around her switch from emitting light to, not images exactly, but frequencies smashed: preliterate memories, weird word pictures, on their way to you know not what. Within the ring it feels now vibrational, a humming pain in your teeth, some tuning fork being increasingly, repeatedly, struck.

"… the audience seems hazy to me … kept behind a veil through which I cannot … cannot grope or pass … but who … who is this that I …"

Amanda's off face, its tweaked features seem to flatten to where they were this afternoon, except now they're not behind any discernible media, medium, screens. Electrical signals creep across her countenance, go heavy in the air around, the unsealing—the hard-sparking gray of her brain. All her heretofore anatomy, Langer's and topological lines, in real time they are being slowly etched, lasered off this plane. It is what she has become: emitting and receiving beams.

"… yes you are here … contacting my mind with your perverse … unspeakable … thoughts—go away!—go away!"—swatting the air with multitudinal head—"You—have—killed … and you will kill again."

Her lit forehead focuses at either you or Bullmer, Bullmer who has rematerialized sitting real gnomic by your side.

"In the bungalow by the roads. Inside her bedroom walls. I know what you plan to do this very night!"

She rises, half-rises and slips. Robes—voluminous, vesuvius, growing on uprush of air and gas—they bellow volumes of smoke, soot toxic, heavy-metal chaff. Through her robes it comes clear into the room—dream spook screen, fitted three-dimensionally and displacing the same shape and depth and breadth of her body given at birth. ("Fantasma!" Bullmer spits into your ear, "Fantasma!") Second-by-second being iterated in front of your eyes, unbounded video, projected mystico, frames incomprehensibly freed of frames. Amanda operating outside local time and space yet still, via unknown open membranes: HERE.

From the flickering midst of her, her mouth, something erupts—evacuates down her front as (you have no visual description except) ectoplasmic mass. Then also sound bounding out after it, manifest language, piling up in the room like programmer's code:

L'impulso era diventato irresistibile. C'era una sola risposta alla furia che lo ha torturato, lei. E così lei, lui, impegnati loro primo atto di omicidio. 

Con essa hanno rotto i più radicati tabù. Tentativo di calcio contro quelli pungoli così profondamente irritato in loro.

Quando hanno fatto, hanno trovato per un attimo non colpevolezza, non temere dall'altra parte, ma il loro rilascio piegate e free-apparente.

Nuove identità appena teletrasportato in Nimbus, cumulo, nuove nubi di atmosfera per loro di respirare per un po 'in.

Ogni umiliazione che aveva resistito a loro modo potrebbero essere spazzati a pezzi da questo semplice atto di annientamento.

Tranne che? Tranne in fretta questo vertiginoso passato e scomparso, nessuna pace di passare comprensione, ma ha inviato terzino destro dove, così duramente ricco in carne e ossa, avrebbero disperatamente iniziato—

 

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—sitting, shoved uncomfortably in the patent leather seat, in the Fiat, the red rental car Bullmer's office had procured for your use.

(You are sitting, strapped in … somewhere …)

Uncapped binoculars straddle your left leg, your lap … huge gaps in what you can think, lost time, sans any direct access to a now-blank spot on your tape. (Talking ectoplasm and then?) The streetlights around you are clicking on, dusk settling in gathering and gradated colors, end-of-the-world pinks and greens. Bullmer is nowhere to be seen. 

Looking around though (anchored to your seat by an inarticulate dread, a dull unease at what you can't recall; something awful you're sure you've done or said), it doesn't take long to realize where you and the car have landed:

Across the street from Amanda's flat.

Even without binoculars you can make out the people, milling on the concrete steps that lead from street to stoop, stoop to ledge, ledge to front door lacquered as it is in black: Amanda and the men. There's the bespectacled Italian boyfriend; the bar owner in too-tight Le Chic; the antsy, convicted Congolese. They stare at each other's shoes and smoke. Clearly just come from Amanda's act.

And Amanda, wearing still her Helga Ulmann costume and robes, sits on the uppermost ledge, her back to the street; slides rump on and off it some ADD kid. 

This scene lasts you don't know how long until the other car pulls up. When they hear it, all of them stiffen in unison like on extrasensory ping. They watch the car closely as they shoe out their smokes, as it parks: a red compact Fiat that appears identical, a double-take, to your own. The woman who exits the car is unknown to you, dark hair, dark eyes, can't make out the rest; she passes all four on the walkway and enters the bungalow as if it's her own, exchanging neither word nor look.

Amanda watches the door close, slides onto her feet and gives a sign. Sollecito and the Congolese enter the bungalow, both now carrying duffels slung on their backs. Mr. Le Chic though appears to resist. His body balking as it backpedals down the steps—with binoculars you can see the sweat coating his jowls and cheeks. Amanda lowers herself down the concrete ledge and beats him to the walk—tries for a moment to snatch an envelope stiff in his hand. He drops it, all pretense, and breaks into a run that reveals long-bad knees, him loping away in his breathable tracksuit like on uneven cams.

She watches him disappear down the street.

Next she stoops to the sidewalk to recover the dropped envelope. Finding its contents spilled she pauses, dawdles, uses her knuckles to draw something in the dust. When she does straighten back up, her body has rotated to face you in your car. Grinning, she starts across the street.

Indeterminate exhaust rises up and around her robes. Approaching too fast for the binoculars' x-powered lenses she becomes more distorted—appears to be gliding across the pavement stiff and without gait. (Sound rushes out of your car windows as if in equal-and-opposite reaction. Plus also traffic, any activity going absent, sent for the next several minutes to anywhere in Perugia but here.)

As she advances she also does undress: Sheds plush profondo rosso robes, slap gold-leaf bracelets, also rings. (They tink off the pavement like sleet.) Manages also to unzip the turquoise knee-high boots you hadn't been able to see her wearing till now—till now and arrived at your very driver's door.

She doesn't speak but leans in, arms rearing like counterweights in order to pluck the last item, the Louise Brooks, from off her head. Her brunette hair shakes free, spills over what you now see are ears far too big for her face. Then her fingers plunging toward your eyes, brushing glasses brusquely off bridge, thumbs roughing your eyelids shut:

"… you have killed … and you will, even tonight, kill again …"

Her fingers feel coarse as they shove their way into your lips, press against teeth the gritty powder, what stinks of Spic 'n Span.

"… so yes let's hide it—hide everything! … everything in the house must be put back to rest … no crime scene … back the way it was so nothing's happened … so I'm telling you: To forget it … forget it … —FOREVER!" 

—her receding back into the scene, the bungalow, across the street (roll up the window in dumb reflex as you watch why don't you, you—). And maybe your lack of glasses, but her body seems to be stuttering, mugging, more blanks on this badly duped tape. Blink once and she's wrenched back dozens of feet. Again, a triple jump, but in slow motion and backwards leap. The scene compresses against your car window, sheds dimensions, depth and perception until instead of live, lived-in, transpiring events you're seeing the "bounce" of a reflected screen: You're watching this happen on a TV.

(You are, wait—here?)

The plastic wrapped around your body feels chilly and hard-edged. It digs into your softer spots whenever you try to shift. You smell his aftershave, hear the palpable smack of thin lips as he waits for the scene on the TV to find its end:

There, in miniature, Amanda's body continues to recede (… listen to my voice …) till it is beyond the TV's visual fidelity for you to see. Her body's identifying edges shedding themselves R and G and B, becoming increasingly porous of borders, increasingly in this ether dispersed.

"Where is Amanda in all this? That is the documented—documentary—beauty of my work: No one will ever be able to say …"

You hear strained movement from behind—his two hands pressing down on you as leverage, pivot, in this small room rotating himself to mount you a great weight: the temporarily departed Dr. Bullmer, the temporally a miss. His leering head above you ascendant, toothy grin greeting you from a position only possible if he were straddling your lap.

He seems particularly taken with himself as he speaks (perhaps staring at his reflection in your glasses' thick lens):

"The directing of such an experiment, such a story and problem Clark, involves coming out of your individual loneliness for a while. It involves taking a controlling stake in the creation of a small world. Manipulating unnaturally someone else's life and events. Braiding together disparate and diverging ends. Until, voila!, this world you've created reappears as not only yours, but also undeniably, theirs … If you're lucky, a picture is formed. It remains long enough for you to describe it, verify it, cross and tab and check. Remains long enough for you to get what is wanted above all: results repeatable in every lab … But no matter the outcome you must know, even before the experiment begins, that there are limits. That the time will come when you must—no more fret—contain, enclose, board up even what you and your subjects have become … You put a frame around it, Clark, all you've been and done and said. And then."

"… something something—then?"

"Then. You. Move. On."

*click*