25 - student - NYC That's all for now.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Short Story - In Progress

The following is the beginning of a short story that I just began writing.

Lucifer wasn’t always evil. In fact, he started out Jewish. It wasn’t a Jesuitical Jewish, but rather a relaxed reformed religiousity – that sort of limited high holiday awareness common to much of the gentile sect. Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and occasionally Sukkot brought him to the synagogue for a bit of prayer, occasionally yeast-less bread or as often no food at all. A childhood of sub-urbanity had inured him to this cyclical annual pattern of attendance and though his mind and spirit were never in it, his circadian rhythm demanded it.

Growing up in the suburbs, he experienced the standard difficulties of an upper-middle class upbringing. He never seemed to have enough allowance, he had to wait until 16 and a half before being allowed to drive the BMW alone, and he got cut from the varsity basketball team. All in all, it was a typical adolescence, rife with typical teenage troubles – nothing particularly heroic.

He went to college – as all devils do – a pristine little Ivy in beauteous bucolic environs. The campus cris-crossed gorges shorn into the landscape by the gradual working of time and water. In fact, it turns out that the main exports of this college town were green t-shirts pithily inscribed with the words I____ is Gorges!, (and to a slightly lesser degree) insomniac, chronically-smoking, miserable architects. It was to this latter category that our hero – if that’s the word – belongs.

The University had recently installed a five year architectural degree program. Five years of hell and guaranteed intimacy with an eraser, as it was billed. Months of toiling in a dingy studio with barely the incessant grey clouds spilling through the skylight. All of this culminating in the annual masochistic celebration known as Dragon Day. Architecture students would devote months of effort to designing and erecting a large papier-mâché dragon to parade about the Arts Quad as the engineering students attempted to destroy it. Really, it was a rather pitiful spectacle – as like watching an elephant attacked by an army of tigers. The elephant occasionally lays waste to a paper tiger or two, but the bespectacled beasts eventually wear down his defenses – and the papier-mâché hide disintegrates under a barrage of water balloons.

But, of course, our Lucifer was no Dragon Day devotee. His architectural experience was more in the manner of the occult. Whipping up devilish designs quietly became more than a passing fancy for the protagonist, his bizarre pregnant blueprints reflected a growing inner turmoil – one that was not apparent from his resplendent façades. But perhaps we get ahead of ourselves. It was his first year.

Lucifer drank no more than customary for his rank and file. Neither was he too involved in recreational pleasures, narcotic or otherwise. He was sociable enough though he often felt the presence of his classmates rather oppressive – years of churning under the grindstone of parental expectation had left them a soiled sort. Lucifer’s own sense of self involved a remarkable cognizance of the impact the same had had upon him. Yet, for better or worse, he remained stoic in his solipsism – not ever really reflecting upon his impressions of others.

This attitude would serve him well in the opening days of his first spring at the University. The unrelenting March gusts were quite enough alone, but singing their accompaniment were icy breaths of jagged snow. He pulled his mantle closer, shielding his face with an upturned hand. Uris Hall was just ahead, offering hopes of a brief respite and also the second largest brain in captivity prominently displayed on the fourth floor. The former owner, one Edward Ruloff, had been a local serial killer. A “learned ruffian,” Mr. Ruloff pioneered the path for middle-class murder, a crime which had been previously thought to be the exclusive domain of the less fortunate. He also featured prominently in legal innovation, as his was the first trial in which photographs were accepted into evidence. Lucifer stared at Ruloff.

Our devil made this pilgrimage often. Mr. Ruloff was only one of many brains kept in the display cases peppered liberally along the corridors. The others belonged to famous and ordinary alike, to people more than happy to donate their minds to the advancement of science. Or perhaps more likely, happy to have their names emblazoned on a plaque beside a withered grey organ in perpetuity.

On this particular morning though, Lucifer had not come for Ruloff. Instead, the promise of $50 for a thirty minute experiment brought him to the psychology department. A clutch of students formed along one side of the hallway, many deeply involved in fatuous conversations. Staccatic bursts interrupted Lucifer’s brainy reverie.

“… and Brian left just like that, I couldn’t believe it. I just wanted to…”
“… and we could totally use this to buy like 300 beers…”
“ … he grades on a curve, but the average is an A minus…”
“… freezing my nuts off out there…”

Students seemed to pour out of the elevators and stairwells, all gripping grubby handbills promising fifty dollar rewards. The air became close and heady. Lucifer’s eyes were swimming. Staggering slightly he closed his eyes to reclaim equilibrium. Feeling his way to the side stairwell, he pushed the door open only to run into a gaggle of girls swarming the threshold in their North Face puffiness. Swallowing a gag reflex, Lucifer plunged through the gore-tex horde and stumbled down the stairs.

The sun shone brilliantly, casting a panoply of star-brights off the large nude figure of Hercules in the courtyard. Lucifer leaned against the statute’s base recovering breath and composure. The lawn was deserted.

The devil considered the recent anxiety attack. It was not the first, but it was the second. Its predecessor had arrived equally unanticipated not two days earlier. Eating lunch at the Green Dragon, the walls approached. Slowly at first, but with increasing alacrity, they converged at the edges and thronged to the center. What he determined was a peripheral figment impressed itself as a certain reality. However, he discovered a thorough blindness offered some reprieve. Eyes furiously shut, Lucifer squeezed between the walls toward the exit, upsetting several customers in his path. Once outside he had knelt to the ground and gagged – as he now did beside Hercules.


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