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See America by I. Fontana


     The teenage boy is wearing dirty tattered jeans. You can see tender pearl-white skin here and there. Mulberry scab on one bare knee. He has on a black leather jacket. There is an illegible violet-red emblem on the back.
     He goes directly to the hiding place and extracts the briefcase. Look at his slender ass. Stepping over puddles of water contaminated with machine-oil, glinting rainbows in the cold white morning sun. The walls are made of cardboard, black and red graffiti scrawled on them in arabesques.
     Play detective.
     Industry has ceased. This section of the city is condemned, filled with shut-down factories and abandoned warehouses. Inside, boxes cave into each other, mixing together obsolete parts for dead machines. Undersized coffins, broken down by moisture and stress. All of the metal bodies lie together, in disorder, buried en masse.
     You motherfucker, he says. What do you think youíre doing?
     Slap him. Shut up. His wrists are handcuffed behind his back. The black leather jacketís emblem says nothing, nothing at all. It could be hieroglyphics from some ancient pharoahís empty tomb.
     The boy has an overbite and typical hollow cheeks of the urban vampire type you see all the time.
     You asshole, he says. Who do you work for?
     Liar. Who programmed you?
     I program myself.
     Sure you do. What next?
     Across broken glass into another wing of the complex. Battered stock-rooms, offices, and empty vaults. Rows and then piles of expressionless mannequins, some battered, missing parts of their heads or arms.
     Over here.
     What do you want me to say?
     What do I want you to say?
     No answer.
     Iím only ten years older plus software enhancements but he seems so young he could be my kid, if people still had kids. He has this trashy punk sneer on plum-colored lips he canít help, hair falling down over his left eye. Iím smitten in some insubordinate way, somebody elseís irrational memory fusing random neurons in a way I cannot control.
     There are people waiting for me, you know, he says. Theyíll come after me. Theyíll find you.
     No they wonít..
     What do you want me to say?
     I donít know. The right answer for a change.
     You can fuck me, he says.
     Whatís your name?
     Mmm, I think youíre lying.
     Ow, he says. Okay, itís Jason.
     Through a dirty window comes a ray of white, wasted sunlight. Dust motes. No flies... The ray of sunlight is wriggling, alive.
     After some initial resistance he is perfectly willing to tell everything, everything he can think of that he knows. He understands me. Iím not so complicated. No one ever is. Sometimes you just think you are, because it seems more interesting and youíre dumb.
     Jasonís beginning to like me a little. Maybe he just wants to ally himself with an energetic force. See America. Go for a ride.
     Black leather jacket. Soiled white t-shirt that says Címon.
     Ow, he says, but nothing hurts. Ow.
     Itís in his jeans.
      Okay. Letís go.
     It takes a long time to drive out of the urban wilderness. Hours and hours of slow motion, repetitive scenery. Stock footage and silent panoramas of black wires and pale cement. The light decays.
     We stop among strangers and buy hamburgers. Or: they resemble hamburgers. Jason looks ugly when he eats.
     After a long spell of racing silence, Jason starts talking about all the bad things that happen to those fuckers who get caught.
     Like this one guy, he says, they kept pouring gasoline on him and lighting him up, then putting him out and starting all over again. After a while, man, he started getting pretty fucking sick of those blue flames.
     Jason laughs.
     Just shut up, okay?
     In a minute (or an hour) Jason starts to cry. He feels bad. He likes to feel bad. It makes him happy to be so fucked-up.
     Big dark holes in the ground. Buzzing vistas of nowhereville. The car does not make a sound. Itís just a shadow on cement.
     In New St. Louis, a hotel room. While Jason is in the bathroom, doing his golden shower bit, the bullets are removed from the gun and hidden under the bed.
     And then itís showtime. Put this in there. Do that. Lick that. Everyone has an asshole, an ass.
     Appendages, tentacles, mouths.
     Later, much later, Jason pretends to be asleep. He listens and listens and listens.
     Then, finally, oh so cautiously, taking pains, he creeps out of the bed. He walks, in slow motion, like a cat sneaking up on a bird in a cartoon, going after the gun.
     He picks it up.
     Nothing. Silence.
     Darkness. Decay.
     Do it. Go ahead.
     What? Jason says, as if awakened from a trance, one of his fangs glistening in the light from a cold dead moon.
     The gun is taken away from him. He is hit. He expects to be hit.
     Jason falls to his knees like a nine-year-old robot girl, reset.
     Everything is relative.
      Down South.
     Insects are frozen in straight lines, captured by the excess magnetism in the air. Abandoned houses, empty roads. Cars left upside-down in ditches. Drones hover above everything sending data who knows where or why.
     There are very few flesh and blood people walking around unbandaged. Itís impossible to tell for sure who is a zombie and who is not. Some are pretending to be when not yet fully transformed; others pretend not to be when they already are.
     Cardboard walls, wet, slowly burn.
     Half-finished empty malls. Like museums.
     Letís rob this place, Jason says, when the car stops at some place out of yesterday to be refueled.
     What for? Why?
     Letís do it. I donít like the way that redneck motherfucker looked at me. Letís send this faggot to burning hell.
     You do it.
     No, you.
     Why should I?
     Cause youíre the one who took the bullets out of the gun, Jason says, laughing like crazy.
     See America. There are long flat plains and buildings and black rivers and then sometimes thereís nothing at all. Itís not there. You can step off the edge.
     The sky is a colorless soft fizz.
     But there are so many shadows. Itís hard to make out what some of those shapes are supposed to mean. The shadows move when you blink. There are signs, but no one can read them.
     Itís painful to open your eyelids in Alabama. You need to get some special sunglasses, and still it needlejabs your eyes. There are dead dogs in the sun. Children play impossible games feet off the ground. The light here is pulsating, mathematics invented and trashed.
     In Birmingham, Jason buys some research pharmaceuticals to put new feelings in his blood. The pharmacist moves in slow motion, stop-motion, hard to be sure.
     There are gaps.
      There are all these bad habits that have to be broken. Bad habits picked up being losers. If the habits are broken, we wonít be losers anymore.
     Fuck you, Jason says. Whyíre you so fucking ambitious all of a sudden? Donít be a jerk.
     Nothingness. Boredom.
     There is a drum solo in a basement by some child grown in a vat with four arms.
     A hundred years go by, a thousand years in one night, and then Jason puts one too many new emotions into himself. Oh, he freezes up.
     I just watch. I donít have a hard-on anymore.
     The car backs up into an alley. Jason falls out. He just lies there on the pavement, next to a garbage can. Oh, maybe heís resting. Heís gotten really lazy, he never wants to do anything anymore. Heís waiting for the right moment to remember how to breathe.
     Or else Jason knelt down, in a grove of trees, and was shot in the head. A beautiful, tragic death, the way he wanted to go. It was in ancient trembly black & white, good night.
     Minutes flicker by without taste on a dry tongue.
     I canít think.
     In a little bungalow in Florida, theyíre waiting for me, sharpening their knives. Iím full of poison. To kill me, theyíll have to cut off my head. Even then Iíll wiggle and squirm, coiling and hissing in the dirt.
      Letís go to the beach.
     The ocean out there is stormy and dark. When thereís no light from the sun or the moon, some other kind of light comes on.
     Look at all those sharks in sunglasses and tight suits.
     They donít know me, or maybe theyíd say hello.. On dry land, my head floats on the waves. Iím going out.
     Baby, Iím coming in.

I. Fontana has lived in Avignon, Guadalajara, NYC and now Portland, Oregon. Other work has appeared in BOMB, Bikini Girl, Pindeldyboz, PANK, Gigantic Magazine and previously on Spork Press.

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