Friday, July 23, 2010


She didn’t remember Todd the broker saying anything about the place being radioactive. In fairness, he probably didn’t know.

But the fact was that the windowless single-story cinderblock building which had sat unmolested for nearly a century at the back of the muddy lot upon which “the Nines” now stood had, in 1907, been the laboratory of a fearless and visionary amateur scientist with fantastically greasy hair, large goggles and elbow-length rubber gloves, as reckless as he was entrepreneurial, who, under the patronage of a consortium of Lithuanian financial pioneers anxious for a toe in the patent game, had dispersed a grain of un-named radioisotope into an ionic quantum field bisecting space and time in an ill-advised attempt to fuse the lesser developed theories of Nikola Tesla with the work of the Curies.

The initial explosion blew the roof off the lab and transported the scientist, his pinhead assistant, his talking cockney test rat Milo and the occupants of the Catholic orphanage next door into a strange and frightening future continuum along a twisted, distant ribbon of the multiverse.

Todd was a nice guy. An actor. She hoped he made it.

For one hundred and three years the lot remained hidden from view of the sidewalk by a corrugated metal fence, later plywood, later hurricane fence threaded with PVC and topped with a wild coil of litter-strewn razor wire.

It had passed through eight owners, scores of leases and countless escrows before being snatched up in ‘03 by the first in a series of twelve smallish legal entities. In the subsequent years it bankrupted six General Contractors, confounded thirty-seven bankers and eighteen lawyers, and provided shelter for dozens of crusty punks from the Pacific Northwest until finally, after nineteen months of more or less contiguous bouts of construction, it was deemed complete enough to hit the market in October of ‘08.

“999” sat between “664” and “668” on the grid. The limited liability entity now stuck with it, a cautious and optimistic bunch, were determined to break the cycle of ruinous whammies that had befallen each of their predecessors and paid the borough thirty-nine thousand dollars to get “999.”

It was worth a try. Like all bad numbers, those sixes had kept coming up, year after year, never twice alike in manner, ever inexplicable in circumstance, all financially devastating, occasionally lethal. Even after the re-numeration, anyone who knew the history prayed to their faith each time they passed it by.

They moved into their unit in February ’09. But they didn’t buy. They were renting the Nines! as the bus-stop posters said. She guessed it was cheap in relation to what people were paying, but it was hard for her to call it cheap. Bertie still brought home a trickle of ad money through the S-Corp he made with his college clique but lately they seemed to be spending most of their time interviewing interns. His contacts gave her some coding projects she could do at home with the baby, whose nap patterns synched comfortably with her intervals of JAVA and yoga. There was some money left from selling the condo in Minneapolis, but month-to-month more was going out than coming in.

The first floor stayed empty: flexible retail. The second, intended for commercial use, was now being converted. The third and fourth were occupied, but it was unclear who had purchased them and difficult to get an answer as to from whom: there were zombies living on the third floor, the fourth hosted a succession of discreet European partiers whose wee-hour subsonic resonances sometimes awoke her. The fifth floor had been sold but was as yet unoccupied.

Theirs was one of three occupied units on the sixth floor, which was being sub-leased from the scion of a once-eminent family of arms dealers who was tied up off the grid in the marijuana trade. Their rent checks went to a management company with a Bayside address.

They had the southwest corner. They could see the water and the bridge. The windows were big but they didn’t open. At night the skyline bared its electric teeth at her.

The air conditioner filter clogged easily. The timer of the exhaust fans on the roof had been incorrectly set and produced a draw only once a day through ducts hazy with gypsum from the unfinished floors above.

The quantum field had a different effect on everyone. On the third floor it had atomized mold growing between the wallboards, hence the zombies, who were usually polite but occasionally let slip on the elevator that they wanted to eat her brain. They were slow and weak and she wasn’t afraid of them.

There was no mold in her apartment: their side of the building had already been clad in Tyvek, windward on the night last autumn when the spores were in the air.

But Bertie was having a tough time of it. The peculiar charge of the bosons in the field penetrated one’s being, permeated the connective tissue of the mind. It disrupted the bonds of molecular synaptic transactions, it curdled electro-chemical cognition and warped the exchanges over which interstitial perspective was defined. His rigid struggle against it kept his perception locked in trembling, narrowly split double, closely separated perfectly dissonant stereo channels of everything, all the time, immobilized and torn apart, feeling compelled to make virtue of waste and loathing himself for it, losing healthy weight and wearing skinny jeans. She’d tried to explain to him what was happening, but couldn’t guess what he’d heard. He spent little time at home and she didn’t mind.

She was getting stronger every day. Her yoga practice evolved to bring her chakras into a ringing diminished harmonic interval with the energy of the field. She didn’t need him anymore. She vibrated. A coil of gray hair grew in from above her left temple. She wouldn’t dream of touching it.

Lauren Ann was a beautiful and amazing baby. She could bake a potato in less than a minute with her bare hands. Such beautiful, tiny hands, lifting the fist-sized organic Yukon Gold from the shopping bag and holding it out to her like an offering, her downy crown a halo in the polarized afternoon window light, hazel eyes aglow. Her daughter’s psychic voice was clear and calm, strange but wise:

Mommy. Potato.

It was hot to the touch. She passed it between her fingertips and put it on a plate. Wisps of steam rose from the fork’s rupture in the skin. The inside was perfectly flaky, light and delicious. She consumed it reverently under Lauren Ann’s patient and encouraging smile.

Today, the howling wind called her to the roof.
She carried Lauren Ann with her.
The storm came on fast from the east, an inverted ocean overtaking the city.
The last of the sunset burnished the steel, glass and brick-face around her in gold against churning billows of blue-black and gray cloud.
A cataract of newspaper and deli bags spiraled skyward down the block.
Her hair rose along her scalp.
Lauren Ann levitated and hovered above her left shoulder, aloft in shimmering aurorae, squealing with joy.
Lightning spread across the sky from a point beyond the needle of the Empire State Building.

Her scream bent light.

Not a scream of terror, but of beautiful and wrathful Becoming.

© 2010 Andy Biscontini

Andy Biscontini's film EVERY DOG'S DAY available here.