~ During work today I checked back on the Rasmus building. Nothing has changed. Maybe no one knows it’s empty. Maybe everyone assumes it's just another forbidden lobby of some ritzy group of lawyers. Why is it empty? Where would I go to find that out? The bench was still there, but no old Indian woman. So I sat on the bench.
Was I still at work?
“You're probably wondering why I've called you all here tonight,” I said to the empty room. “It's because, frankly, I am sick and tired of these fucking rainbow-colored flowers everywhere. What is this, kindergarten? Seriously. Grow up people.”
When I stood up to leave I beheld two gargoyles over the front doors that I had never noticed before. They could have always been there, I'd just never looked up.
The Committee broke my sock drawer this morning. I still managed to make the bus, but only at great embarrassment. I huffed and puffed and had to look in every jacket pocket before finding my wallet with my bus pass. I only made it because the bus was late. Someone from The Committee probably got reprimanded for this oversight.
I had it timed perfectly. Finished my coffee, all my work stuff was by the door and ready to be picked up, just had to put my shoes and socks on. I pulled out my drawer and . . . as if pushed from behind, the entire thing fell on my foot, which immediately started bleeding. Motherfuckers!
What's more, they knocked a sandwich out of Verena's hand today. Now it's personal. She was walking to wherever she usually eats lunch (I'm not THAT much of a stalker) and one of them was hiding behind the copy machine because he reached out and snagged the edge of her sleeve on the printer tray which yanked her hand from underneath her plate and all her food fell into the carpet. Probably got a promotion for that one. However that works.
The gargoyles were on either side of the doors and each one was too high to get to. But I simply had to get closer. Outside, were benches chained around the caged trees. I peeked out the glass doors like a suspicious neighbor and my gaze zeroed in on two Jehovah's Witnesses. Or maybe they were Morman missionaries, I can't tell the difference. Two guys in suits who clearly aren't businessmen.
“Excuse me, fellas,” I jumped out of the door right as they were passing by. Unfazed. Impressive. “I stopped by to do some work right above the inside of those doors right there and I was wondering if you could maybe help me move this bench to just inside the lobby.”
“Isn't this bench city property?” one of them asked.
“Probably but I don’t think they're attached and anyway we'd be moving it a grand total of seven feet. I could do it myself, but it'd be so nice to have a bit of help. Just hold the door or something and then you can be on your way. I'll get it back outside.”
The first one looked to the other, obviously the leader and the leader shrugged. An affirmative response. The bench was indeed chained to the tree, but only decoratively it turned out. We slipped the chain over the foot and slid the bench across the sidewalk. Follower-Mormon-Witness held the door open for me and I pulled the bench in. For some reason, I wanted confirmation that what I was doing was . . . normal. So I asked.
“Does that look normal to you?” I pointed at the gargoyles. Follower-Mormon-Witness stepped inside with me. As soon as the door closed behind him he became visibly nervous without his partner. I stood, pointing until his gaze followed my finger.
I whispered in his ear, “Listen, I know that your people were dosed with copious amounts of radiation during the nuclear testing by the US government, and I understand how that would make anyone want to live in space, but I've got a better offer. You like to laugh at all?”
He lowered his gaze to me. “Actually, I'm a Ceremonial Speech Instructor.”
I flinched. “Lose the dignifier, dude. No one needs to know your religion.”
“Well, it's . . . who I am,” he said, and pointed at the gargoyles.
“Bullshit, you're more than that,” I explained. “Sorry for my language.”
“What were you going to do with those?” he asked.
Leader was staring through the door as if he couldn't see us.
“Those?” I said, “are for seeing. Here, I'll go first.” I stood on the bench and was face to face with the gargoyle. It was a bit awkward, but by squishing my cheek against its mouth, I could get both of my eyes into the eyeholes. I was looking into an empty club. Not one that I'd seen before, although maybe I have. All the lights were on, but all the seats were empty. There was no microphone on stage, nor any sort of backdrop. Not a menu or drink adorned any table. An empty house.
“Are we in a lobby or something?” I heard him ask to no one.
“Woah,” I said. “Heavy. Hey dude,” I called down to him. “Maybe you can relate to this.”
“I want to look through mine,” he said and pointed to the other gargoyle.
“All right,” I said, “but we gotta slide this bench.”
Follower-Morman-Witness seemed thoroughly uninterested in the fact that his Leader was banging on the doors and pulling at them, trying to get in. Not a sound was heard from our end. Leader cupped his hands against the glass and pressed his face to it. He became increasingly frantic with his pounding and glanced behind him more and more often. I noticed the crowd on the sidewalk all seemed to be running from something and the sky had taken on an eerie sick yellow color.
Sometimes, right after a rainfall, and directly preceding sunset, the whole world turns a pumpkin shade.
Leader's face grew slack and pale, then sweaty. As he sweat, rashes spread over him. Members of the rushing crowd started collapsing and scratching themselves bloody. The sickness from the sky spread to the ground in a gaseous haze. The only sound I heard was the sound of Follower-Mormon-Witness screaming as he looked into the eyes of the gargoyle.
I grabbed his pant leg. “Goddammit man calm down and let me see,” He didn't get down off the bench but stepped to the side and faced the interior wall of the building. The vision through the gargoyle was the sightline of Leader. Standing right outside the building. He checked his watch, glanced at a pretty girl, then glanced at his feet quickly. I turned back to Follower who had taken a seat on the bench and was rubbing his eyes. Glancing back outside, the day went on like any other.
“Tough truth,” I said, “but it's over now. The only question is: what are you going to do next?”
He looked up at me, almost in tears. “But I really believe in my religion,” he sputtered.
“According to that,” I said, pointing to the gargoyle, “you've been wrong about quite a few vital things in your life.”
He was on the verge of total collapse so I grabbed his shoulders and knelt in front of him.
“Look, that's no reason to just abandon everything,” I said, “you ever been to court?”
He shook his head.
“Of course not,” I answered, “stupid question. I had to go to court as a teenager for . . . I don't even remember now,” which was absolutely true, “but I stood in that courtroom and saw other kids my age stand before the judge and answer questions. He caught one of them in a lie, then moved on. But every time this kid would protest his innocence, or the severity of his punishment, the judge responded with 'I already caught you lying earlier, so now I don't have to believe anything you say.'
“Now I'm sure that being a judge is hard, especially to teenagers who hate your guts, but I still thought that was unfair. Does that sound unfair to you?” I asked.
“In the same way, just because you were wrong about a major life choice,” I said, pointing up to the gargoyle, “is no reason to believe that you'll always be wrong about everything. All I'm asking is for you to live with me . . . for just a few moments if you can . . . in 'What-If?'.
He seemed to calm down and then looked out the window at his Leader.
“I'm not gonna stop you, you wanna finish your day with him,” I said. “In fact, I gotta get back to work myself.”
Follower stood up and opened the door.
Leader looked back at us. “What're you guys doin' in there? Everything working out?”
“I just want you to look at something if that's alright,” said Follower.
“Oh yeah?” Leader took a step inside the door and rounded the bench. “Gruesome, what're these for, a theater?”
Follower motioned him onto the bench and said, “Just look inside that one.”
Leader stuck his face to the gargoyle and after a few moments said, “Yeah? What'm I looking for?”
“What do you see?” asked Follower.
“Just the darkness, which I'm assuming is the wall,” said Leader. He stepped back. “You want me to check the other one?”
“Yeah, would you?” I asked. He stepped down and we moved the bench. He got a similar sight from my own gargoyle.
“Just the wall, is that what I'm supposed to see?” he asked.
Follower and I looked at each other and shrugged. “I guess it is,” I said.
“You're exactly where you're supposed to be in life,” said Follower.
“Yeah I know,” said Leader.