Slow Bullets

An adapted excerpt from the full-length novel 11-11-11, released June 2011

By John Rachel

 

Noah never watched TV. But he was addicted to videos on the internet.  Documentaries.  An occasional music video, if it was a band he really liked.  But mostly just random stuff.  Crazy, interesting stuff.  Anything to take him out of this town, away from the sameness, the boredom, the ennui, the numbness, the sleepwalking of life in Pulnick, Missouri.

 

It wasn’t difficult to find them. There were so many phenomenal sources of strange, wonderful, haunting, grotesque, thought-provoking, inspiring, exalting, hideous, chilling, bizarre, perverse, thrilling, frightening, informative, random, funny, and heartbreaking videos, mini-movies and even epic independent film productions posted online.  In one sitting you could end up with emotional whiplash riding the roller coaster of human tragedy and comedy. YouTube.com had just about everything, wimp.com an eclectic mix, comegetyousome.com cool fights and marshall arts, videovat.com the strange and paranormal, and liquidice.co.uk delivered weird advertisements.  But www.engr.colostate.edu/~dga/high_speed_video/ and its vast selection of slow motion videos was Noah’s favorite site.

 

He spent one full evening watching a water droplet bouncing on a superhydrophobic carbon nanotube array.  Another watching rain collect on a spider web.  There appeared to be no limit to the fascination of scientists with the balletic grace of hydrodynamic phenomena.  Drops of water into oil.  Drops of oil into water.  Red paint into a pool of yellow paint.  Yellow paint into a pool of black.  Rainbows spreading over thin shimmering films of soapy water.

 

He explored the object obliteration and ballistics collection.

 

There was something almost meditative ___ Noah hesitated to use the term ‘spiritual’ ___ about watching the seemingly endless selection of things shattering, splitting, disintegrating, and exploding. Things splattering, bouncing, bounding, ricocheting. Objects smashed, shot, hammered, quartered, obliterated, annihilated, powdered, zapped, nuked, melted, vaporized.

 

There was a series just on bullets. Bullets going through glass. Bullets going through cans. Through butter and cheese, fruits and vegetables, Jell-O and ice. Through books and pressboard. Aluminum siding, sheet rock, ceramic tiles. A submarine sandwich, carton of milk, bottle of ketchup, bread dough. A card table, rocking chair, bookcase, mattress, pillow, television screen. A deck of cards, Ballerina Barbie, a Gundam Titan action figure, Mr. Potato Head, an Easter egg.  A small tree trunk, a beach ball, thermos bottle, artillery shell casing, a fish tank full of tropical fish, a preserved pig’s brain. Even bullets in head-on collisions with other bullets.

 

Slow bullets. Well, actually very fast bullets slowed down through high-speed filming, so that every nuance of their devastating effect could be seen and savored. Noah was mesmerized.

 

Late one Friday evening ___ actually it was Saturday morning only an hour before sunrise ___ he had one of those epiphanies that only come late at night after hours of imposed solitude.

 

It occurred to Noah that there were no slow bullets in his life. There was no object, person, force, or emotion which could be fired into the core of his being and reach the center.

 

And by the way, what was at the center? Was it his soul, his essence, a point of zero gravity suspended in the interlocking sinew of his corporeal self, that somehow delineated and defined him? Was it a unique bit of mathematics which didn’t subscribe to any formula or formulation that we mere human beings could comprehend?

 

Was it infinity? Was it zero?

 

By the time the sun came up, the very idea had exhausted him. He could no longer think.

 

He fell into a deep chasm of unconsciousness, a sleep which to his body felt like death.

 

To his mind, it was the perpetuation of a profound, fateful and ultimately necessary journey.

 

Huge pillars of hypnagogic stone thrust upwards out of the chaos of the earth beneath him. Artifices of dignified and profound structures soon surrounded him in every direction, giant temples honoring the great and eternal concepts and constructs of the human mind.

 

At the end of a long plaza stood the greatest temple of them all. Columns soared grandly upwards as if to support the base of the sky itself. Across the architrave were grandly written: Truth, Beauty, Good, Knowledge, Divinity, Perfection.

 

He walked with purpose through the portico of this, the most profound and magnificent temple of all time. Directly in front of him in the very center of the grand atrium sat a single crystalline lens mounted on a simple gold pedestal.

 

From any and all angles and points of view, the lens beckoned him. He could not resist. Nor did he want to resist. This was precisely what he had been looking for…

 

A portal to the center of the human soul. His human soul.

 

Noah stepped up and leaned forward, his right eye almost touching the cold surface of the beckoning optical object, which seemed hard like a diamond but still shimmered on the surface, with the continuous melting and rippling fractals of an internal light.

 

He could see it now. He now knew with certainty, what he already knew and had always known ___ what everyone knows but spends their whole lives trying to deny.

 

At the center of every human being is an impregnable core of loneliness.

 

A black hole of perfect impenetrable solitude.

 

That . . . is the human soul.

 

A few hours later, Noah woke up at his computer with the reddened cheek of his limp face in a puddle of his own drool.

 

He got up and poured a bowl of breakfast cereal but then remembered he had no milk.

 

He sat back down at his computer and made a simple banner.

 

He saved it as his new desktop image.

 

Home is where you park your loneliness.


_____________

John Rachel has a B. A. in Philosophy, has traveled extensively, is a songwriter and music producer, and a left-of-left liberal.  Prompted by the trauma of graduating high school and having to leave his beloved city of Detroit to attend university, the development his social skills and world view were arrested at about age 18.  This affliction figures prominently in all of his creative work.  He is author of three full-length novels, From Thailand With Love, The Man Who Loved Too Much, and now 11-11-11.  He considers his home to be Japan but is currently living in Vietnam while he writes his next novel, 12-12-12.


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