output (some fiction)

He spits a tangled mess of cords onto my living room floor.

“Jesus,” I say. “You get some twist ties you could keep those organized.”

No, he shakes his head and grunts around the black, yellow, gray wires snaking their way past his teeth. He gropes for the plugs at their end and jams them into my VCR. Three minutes ago: My door slams open and I hear him shout, “Dude, you won’t believe what I saw on the way to work this morning.”

I’m trying to finish my thesis. 100,000 words on the futility of HD vision in a high-altitude environment. “Can it wait?”

“No way, get in here.”

Now: He sits cross-legged in front of the TV. Drool trickles out the corner of his mouth and his fingers and toes twitch in time to flashes on the screen. Still rewinding. I drop onto the couch, impatient, already losing my train of thought. Everyday Tanner shows up with something oh my god you just have to see holy shit you won’t believe it. Sometimes it’s a confidence man spinning snuff clips against the brick walls of a warehouse. Maybe a dog with ‘plants chasing a taxi up the side of the Shanghai piston. It’s like he thinks I don’t watch the news.

He makes a noise like a seal barking, snapping his fingers and pointing at the screen. We’re looking out of the windows of a bus somewhere on… Greenburgh. His morning commute. A few seconds in, Tanner’s head turns and we see a man in bike shorts swallow a woman whole. The bus doesn’t stop, but in a few frames we can clearly see his jaw unhinge; the neck twists out and up and he just drops down over her. I don’t think anyone else noticed.

“What the fuck?”

He holds up a finger. Wait. Fast-forwarding.

“You’ve really gotta upgrade to external outputs. This no-talking thing is a pain in the ass.”

Tanner rubs two fingers together. It’s true, they’re expensive. More wear and tear on the outside.

The next scene we’re standing behind the counter at the video store where he works. Some guy’s buying the second season of Seinfield. We keep looking at the zit on his chin. Over his shoulder we see another man–a different one, in a suit this time–eat another woman. This time we get a good look at the way his skin tone flickers into transparency, and when he turns to look through the window, right at us, his eyes are just a snow of static.

At this point, Tanner yanks his cords out of the VCR and lets them zip along into the back of his throat. “Weird, right?” he says.

“The eating of the women, yes. I’ve seen the static eye before, just happens if your outputs get crossed by another signal.”

“Shit, I got outputs.”

I shake my head. “Nah, I mean the only way they can get crossed is if you got inputs too, so you’ve got nothin’ to worry about.”

“Actually…” He peels the skin off his palm and points to the ports there. The edges of the panel are still raw, red from recent surgery.

Not sure where this one’s going, if anywhere.


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