map A Noticeable Lack of Fanfare

by Jason Seba

Published in Issue No. 5 ~ October, 1996

Janzen sat in the plastic-injection molded subway seat pondering the world around him. He was hunched over, bearing the imaginary weight of his quest. Memories of the adolescent summers spent in Timbuktu dissolved behind the cloud of responsibility which had taken over his life. Everybody else on the subway – the commuters, the ruffians, the tourists, the superheroes disguised as mild- mannered reporters – had no idea who walked among them, or why he was clutching a jar of soil in his callused left hand. His right hand was tucked provocatively under the waist of his hand-stitched pants, stroking the scar he recieved after the surgery when he donated his kidney to save a stranger’s life.

“Flight 4179 now arriving at gate 3.1415926535897932384626…” blared a neutered voice on the tinny airport sound system. Gabe picked up his cumbersome duffel bag and walked out the service door onto the runway. He watched the plane as it landed and collided with a terminal walkway, sending a gelatin-like ripple throughout most of the biomass present in a divinely humerous fashion. Sometime shortly thereafter the lone passenger of the airplane disembarked, cooly sipping his even cooler can of Yoo-Hoo Brand Chocolate Beverage as he strolled up to, and right past, Gabe.

“Hey, I got the stuff,” said Gabe testily, as the immaculately dressed, well- groomed Man brushed by him. Of course you do, the Man replied telepathically. Where’s my limo? Gabe sighed and pointed to the limo, driven by Pete the Chauffeur, which had just rolled in beside the fire trucks.

The subway slid to a halt and expelled its load into the concrete cavern. Janzen observed quietly how the crowd moved in predictable, ordered patterns. Even the mugging taking place on the deck before him expressed a sort of artistic beauty. Janzen snapped the mugger’s neck like a pencil and wiped the victim’s blood off his Italian leather shoes in one smooth motion. A ballet, he thought absently, as he stroked the package in his shirt pocket with his free hand.

Outside, the hot dog vendors shouted and displayed their wares to the hungry public. Janzen felt an unfamiliar grumble, deep in his gut, and something drove him towards a nearby vendor. His will, his quest, quickly took over again, however, and he altered his course once more along the narrow sidewalk. It had recently been cleared by a 1985 Saab 900 Turbo, a fine automobile, driven by an uninsured tourist in the midst of an epileptic fit. He strode calmly through the sea of bodies, strewn about like the laundry on the floor of a college student’s room, and noticed a wristwatch, heavily damaged but still ticking, on the arm of a recently deceased lawyer. He bent over quickly, so as not to waste time, and carefully removed the timepiece from the lawyer’s wrist. It fit perfectly, and he went on his way into the granite building at the corner of 42nd and Droom.

The foyer of the Tristan Building was filled to the ceiling with lime jello. Jenzen pushed his way through, wondering, though not too hard, how it was possible to breathe in an atmosphere filled with a tasty gelatin desert. He didn’t know that this was another creation of the modern artist Dubois Laplace, the same man who burned down a Los Angeles suburb in the name of art. Laplace was a billionaire, and unlike Jenzen he knew exactly what he was doing here. At the moment, he sat on the roof of the building, sipping a vodka martini, smoking a Swisher Sweet, and staring at the horizon.

It took Jenzen nearly twenty minutes to push his way through the jello to the elevator. He pressed the button repeatedly and waited for the lift to arrive. In his peripheral vision he noticed a woman, her long blond hair plastered to her head by the green desert, shoving her way toward him. In her left hand she held her right hand, which had been severed earlier in the day, at breakfast, in an unfortunate accident involving an apple from her brother’s garden.

The woman was accompanied by a small black dog, which was having the time of its life navigating through the jello. It dragged behind it a short leash, which was connected to a rhinestone-studded collar. Jenzen surmised, correctly, that it only recently had its first taste of freedom in years, and that it may not be able to handle itself properly. He pulled a Beretta 92F from his shoulder holster and filled the dog with lead. The woman appeared quite startled by this, but Jenzen was too busy reloading his pistol to sympathize. She stopped, lowered herself to the floor, and began to cry.

“Where to?” asked Pete in his usual friendly voice as he held open the limo door. He’d been at this job for almost 2000 years and was very popular among commuters, who always recognized him immediately – sometimes with trepidition, but more often with childlike glee. 42nd and Droom. Step on it… we can’t be late. The Man settled back in his immaculately upholstered seat and hummed along with the music on the stereo. It was Abba, one His favorite bands. Gabe sat across from him, assembling the jet-packs he had recently purchased. I can’t believe Dubois. First the hostile takeover attempt and now this.

Jenzen turned back towards the elevator door just as it slid open. Jello filled the elevator shaft, which was somehow without an elevator. Jenzen sighed to himself and walked through the door. He gripped the bottom rung of the emergency ladder, but paused as he realized that the environment of jello was quivering around him. Undaunted, he pulled himself out of the gelatin and placed the jar of soil on a ledge as he rested on the ladder. The vibration became more pronounced, and it was now accompanied by a loud rumble. Jenzen suddenly noticed an object, an elevator, obeying the law of gravity directly above him. He dropped down quickly, hurled himself through the jello and out of the shaft, just as the elevator car struck the floor. It sent an incredible jolt through the building and almost knocked Janzen off his feet. As he was recovering from the jolt, he tripped over the still warm corpse of the blond woman. She was lying on the floor, dead of jello inhalation. He booted the body out of his way and entered the shaft, carefully not to hurt himself on the exposed elevator innards.

The jar lay broken on the floor of the elevator, the soil mixed in with the broken glass. He scraped up as much of the soil as he could and picked all the glass out of it, cutting his hands quite badly. Once again he began his lugubrious journey up the ladder in the elevator shaft.

We shall skip Jenzen’s climb up the ladder since we’ve all done it before and describing it would be excessively uninteresting. For the moment, let us take a look at the mysterious figure on the roof. Dubois Laplace, the artist-billionaire, was at this point cutting a chunk of flesh out of his right cheek. The syringe that he used to administer a local anesthetic sat next to him glinting in the sunlight. He tightened the tourniquet around his neck – a beatifully antiquated method of blood flow control that Laplace thought was quite superior to most other medical procedures. He cauterized the wound with a lit cigar and then took off his right shoe. This he placed on the table in front of him. He picked up a bottle of vodka and sucked out all the alcohol, leaving behind only water and inert solutes. He took a drag off his cigar and waited for the inevitable.

By this time Janzen had almost halfway completed his ascent up the elevator shaft. As he stopped to give his injured hand a rest, he heard a scream from above, and in the dim light he could just make out a figure falling toward him. The figure flew by him quickly, and all he saw was a colorful blur. But trailing behind the blur was a bungee cord, which slowed the fall of the figure and then pulled it back up. Jenzen could now see that it was nothing more than a slightly overweight clown, his painted-on smile looking strangely sour as he dangled upside-down. The clown looked deep into Janzen’s eyes and spoke to him with a distant voice.

“You… are the one… I can tell. We’ve all been waiting…. to long.” The clown then pulled a knife out of Janzen’s breast pocket. “Far too long for me. I’ve been waiting 969 days for you, sir!” The clown was now shaking with anger. He sawed away at the bungee cord from which he was dangling and dropped like a stone. Janzen shook his head wearily and continued his way up the ladder.

“Hey, listen to dis. I jus’ drove dis one guy Home – he had no idea where he was. I tol’ him my name and he didn’t hardly believe me. Don’t get that type alot, really. Most folks knows what’s what… dey ain’t always happy about it, but you see deir faces when dey see deir new Home,” chirped Pete from the front. “Ya know, usually I just drive around stockholders. I don’t often get to drive around the Big Guy…” Quiet. I’m in no mood for your uplifting chatter. “Uh, sure ding…” And what is with that accent? You’re Hebrew, not Italian, you nimrod.

The limo pulled up outside the Tristan Building, allowing Gabe and his Boss to get out. Gabe strapped a jet- pack on while the Man finished his third Yoo-Hoo, pulled a pair of dice out of his breast pocket, and rolled a fifteen as a plane crashed in Tahiti. Einstien was wrong, you know. Gabe nodded dumbly as he handed the other jet-pack to the Man. He strapped it on and then they launched themselves up the side of the building.

The light at the end of the shaft was nearly blinding Janzen. He surmised, quite correctly, that he was very close to the open emergency hatch at the top. He heard a rush of air, followed by the twin thud of two average-sized men landing on the roof of the building. This puzzled him for a moment, but then he recalled certain events from the past which formed a probable explanation. When he poked his head out of the emergency hatch, he saw that he was correct.

Ah, Janzen, you old traitor, you. I hope you realize that you have done a very bad thing. Go ahead, give your precious soil and seeds to Mr. Laplace. Janzen looked over at Laplace, who lounged comfortably on a black Laz-E-Boy next to a steam vent. He clambered his way onto the roof and strode silently over to Laplace, who handed him his bottle of vodka water and a shoe.

“You know what to do,” said Laplace. He stood up, stretched and whipped his tail about lazily, and walked over to the Man. “Why do you have to stop me?” Because you are trying to do my job. “I do own one-third of your company. The stockholders tend to listen me alot more than they listen you, anyway. They need a… change of leadership. Its inevitable.” No they don’t. I know exactly what they need. With this, the Man caused Laplace’s head to be crushed like a jar of chunky salsa in a washing machine.

Janzen poured the remaining soil into the shoe, noting that Laplace had already placed a lump out fresh meat inside as fertilizer. Stop what you are doing. He depressed his thumb into the soil and ripped open the package of seeds which had been his precious cargo for so long. I command you!! Stop! He placed one of the largish seeds inside the thumb-hole and carefully spread the soil over with the miniature rake he always carried with him.

The Man instantly became extraordinarily livid. He ran towards Janzen, his bunny slippers slipping on the gravel, but arrived too late. Janzen pitched the shoe over the side of the building, and then activated the thermal detonator which was sitting in the middle of a tasteful flower arrangement on Laplace’s coffee table. No!!!!! The detonator went off, completely vaporizing everything within a 30-foot radius.

The shoe landed on the top of a Ryder truck, filled with rudely decorated beach balls, on its way to Mexico. The truck had an unfortunate encounter with a herd of caribou five miles south of Tiajuana, and the force of the impact was sufficient to knock the shoe off the truck and into a shallow ditch by the side of the road. There it sits, undisturbed, in the bright Mexican sunlight, absorbing strength from a life-giving ball of hydrogen and helium which lies 98 million miles away. From the shoe, tender shoots of a new plant reach heavenward, growing more exquisite with each passing day.