Rapid Cycling By Russ Bickerstaff

I am holding a vaguely reassuring gun at some pasty, grizzled mess of a guy I have never seen before. I ask him what time the time is. Numbers tumble out of his mouth in a curious order.

If he’s right, I have only been out for five minutes.

There is a fire spreading through my body from whatever was inside the needle.

(A hypodermic sticking out of my chest at an unhealthy angle.)

Everything is swimming in the heat of those flames. The moment is boiling over. There is the smell of rancid sweat crawling all over everything.

Formless invisible shadows are sliding around in the room.

*

… and then back in again. Now the guy with the tattoos on his face is pointing the gun at me. Quaint. At least the needle is not in my chest anymore. Still feel the heat, though. And everything is still tumbling around.

Here I am in this hotel room with a guy with tattoos on his face who is pointing my gun at me. His voice is a wheezy question mark. He is asking me to answer a question. I didn’t hear it because it was part of the darkness.

So I ask him to repeat the question and he smacks me across the face with the pistol.

Not very nice.

It hurts, but not in a bad way.

I figure there has got to be some way around this.

And then I notice the clock on the end table. And there is something strange about it.

My head begins to spin into the shadows again…

*

… Back again. I’m pushing a bin of laundry through the hotel’s hallways. I’m wearing a hotel uniform. The smell of sweat is gone and so is the gun. Wait—the pistol is its holster tucked in the pants of my uniform.

There is the staggering emptiness of a moment to breathe.

I notice it is actually kind of a nice hotel. There is no mildew on the walls. No smell of blood, urine, feces or stale tobacco. No screaming. No shouting. No doors slamming.

You could raise a goddamn family in this place.

*

I am hauling a heavy canvas bin. The kind you would find in the laundry room of a hotel. I’m guessing there is a lot more (I mean one hell of a lot more) in there than just dirty bed linens. I can just imagine there is something in there incapacitated with inky scratches scrawled across its face.

I notice a big clock on the desk next to the elevators.

And then it all goes dark again …

*

… Ouch. There is a major pain in my chest right now. The pain feels new but I don’t know why and I don’t seem to care. Does not make me forget about the heat, I might add.

I am still in the uniform.

I am still rolling this big canvas cart across what looks like the hotel lobby right now.

Where the hell am I going with this?

Cart feels heavy as ever.

*

There is definitely something amiss with the way things are rolling around in my head.

There is a big grandfather clock in the main hotel lobby. Everyone has their own time now. Everybody carries it around in their phones. Do not know why they insist on hanging on to those big wooden monsters, but there they are.

And there is something strange about the angle at which the hour hand and the minute hand seem to be positioned, but I am not sure why.

I begin to feel weak with hunger as my vision becomes misty.

Then, everything goes black …

*

… Lots of pain.

All kinds of pain.

I am bleeding. Standing on the rooftop now covered in blood. The uniform is ruined. Some of this blood is could be mine.

There is a guy. The guy with the tattoos on his face. He is down there. Over the edge and in the dumpster.

Something went wrong.

Cannot remember what.

And I am standing in the cold. It is washing away the heat. Fever seems to have broken.

There are a few flakes of snow here and there.

I smell winter coming.

*

Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife and two daughters.

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