A stuffy basement office. A man in a misshapen brown suit and loose tie stares at his keyboard, intermittently pulling out crumbs which he holds up to examine in the flickering light. Some moments pass until it occurs to him that he has yet to complain about the smell today, the one permeating from the office next to his which he is convinced stores rotting cow carcusses to be later shipped somewhere by nefarious voodoo suppliers. He hasn’t met them or seen anyone there at all, but he’s on to them. He knows of their sort, knows that there are all kinds of freaks out there up to all sorts of vile nonsense, that there are people who will do anything for a bit of cash. No smell like that could come from anything proper or good, certainly nothing organic. His eyes rest briefly on the receiver to the right of his monitor, he raises his hand to hover over it for a moment until he hears a gentle tap on the door, which makes him jump out of his chair. He wiggles his hips and pushes his specs up his nose though they promptly slide down again.
“Who’s there?” he says, which isn’t really office protocol. He’s supposed to welcome in all sorts with no questions asked even if they wind up being some ax murder with a fetish for men like him cooped up alone in a basement like this one slowly stewing in some kind of all contaminating voodoo magic that he’s very sure has contributed to a tightness of chest that makes it extremely challenging for him to move with any haste and as such makes him the perfect target for a gruesome and humiliating killing of the kind that plays out in his head most days like a video game he can never complete but compulsively restarts. The voice on the other side of the door, which has not been left agar, despite office commandment, has a lilt to it. “I was told you do walk-ins,” it lisps barely loud enough for the sound to carry. “Yes,” he says. “But who are you and what do you want?” He is definitely not adhering to anything approaching company standard today, not even trying. But the fact is that his mind is filled with worries of contamination from next door. He once braved making an inspection of it, was careful to disinfect himself fully afterwards and felt sick the whole way through examining its surface with a magnifying glass he’d picked up from Woolthworth’s which work is refusing to reimburse. He covered his nose and mouth with a dishcloth, limited his breath to the odd gulp here and there which he still regrets somewhat as he’s sure something attached itself to the back of his throat that is lodged there still. He couldn’t find anything incriminating unfortunately, some traces of fingerprints, bad paintwork, and what looks like a dampness seeping through a crack near the lower hinge that he was sure had something of a silver shimmer. He contemplated taking a sample of but thought better of it, regrets that now as who knows what evidence he could have gleaned from it that something really was not right with the place. There’s a silence on the other side of his door, now, as if his heavy thinking has suspended them both in a separate time dimension of oozing silver substance where no one speaks. And then time reinstates itself as the lilting voice returns, this time at a pitiable high pitch. “It says here your business hours are 9 to 18 hundred. My name is moth and I’d like a consultation.” He leans back on his chair, enough that a creek emanates from underneath him to briefly drown out the whooshing sound of the fan overhead. “Well come on in I haven’t got all day.” The door is slowly pushed open and a shadow appears on the other side. Moth steps into the room and examines its contents. So many cubby holes stuffed to their brim with scrunched up bits of paper riddled with scribbles and crosses. Some of the files have been stashed upside down and there’s a row of model buses on one of the shelves to brown suit man’s right. His immediate space is a halo of gleaming order, a desk behind which he looks rather small and which plays host to no object other than the absolute essentials; a ballpoint pen and a packet of kleenex. He rests his hands on the edge of a desk, and watches a dark shape step into the room and out of it the shadows. It blinks. That is, she blinks, a waif-like shoeless creature barely five feet tall wearing an eggshell coloured dress chinked at the waist with a string of paper clips. At her hip dangles a dainty bag woven with a straw-like material. Silver tresses flow with relative freedom from her scalp, some of their strands entwined with what looks like toothpick-sized twigs that volumize the situation. Her cheeks have almost l grayish sheen to them, large eyes like a cow stare into his. She delicately closes the door and takes one hand in the other, rubbing the dry skin of her knuckles with her fingers. Time suspends itself again, even the fan overhead seems to have silenced itself. He reaches for his ballpoint pen and breaks eye contact to stare at his blank computer screen, wondering whether it is likely she had any close contact with the goings-on going on next door. By his feet lies a bottle of disinfectant he considers spraying in her direction just to be safe but assumes doing so might lead to the initiation of a complaint procedure. He briefly ponders with some regret contemporary society’s lack of basic liberties. “So what brings you here,” he says eventually. She takes her little bag in her fingers and pulls out a folded piece of paper, stepping towards the desk and placing it next to the kleenex. “I would like to make a career change and understand you are my only hope.” He sighs, reaches for the piece of paper, unfolding and raising it towards the light. What appears in front of his eyes is a page of nonsensical text written almost entirely in the wingding font, except for the small signature in the bottom corner, which reads, in rainbow-coloured comic sans “very truly yours, Moth”. He squints and scans the page once more, before looking up to meet the gaze of his most peculiar visitor. “Is this some kind of joke?” he asks, waving the page in front of her expressionless face as she blinks. “Yes, a cosmic one,” she replies. A spark of light flashes from the egress window to brown suit man`s left, followed by a boom of thunder and an obnoxious patter of rainfall crashing down outside. “More funny business then,” he thinks to himself, wondering if this Moth person has anything to do with next door’s goings-on. He scans her up and down, notices a tiny badge to the left of her collarbone with the sketch of a packet of fries on it. A ha, he thinks. Now there’s a sign. What is it one is most likely to eat with fries? A burger. And what meat is a burger most likely to be made out of? Beef. You see what I am saying? In any case, whether or not she really is connected to nefarious voodoo cow dealers consciously or unconsciously, authentically or inauthentically, following her own truth or following pungent infesting rotting meat truth, if he is at risk here then the wisest course of action is to feign ignorance and play this wiley moth girl at her own game. He blinks right back at her, and gently places the sheet on the table, pointing at the first line of windings. “So tell me, is this really the truest assessment of the situation, or can you express it in a more cogent and authentic manner?” She takes a deep breath, and places her index finger on the edge of her lip, looks to her left and says: “Hum. Let me see. Scissors. Glasses. Bell. Bell Bell. Thin arrow pointing up. Skull. Microsoft logo. Scissors. Clock reading 6. Clock reading 6. Um. Telephone. Tick. Tick. Telephone. Er--” he waves her aside. “Speaking plainly, Ms. Moth, you appear to have some trouble in communicating your beliefs and values in a way that truly resonates with the requisite audience, would that assessment be correct, Ms. Moth, I apologize if I speak quite candidly here but in my considerable experience I’ve found that honesty really is the best policy and I’m truly as honest as they come.” He scans her up and down, trying to glean whatever else it is he can about this strange little babbling creature in the off chance that he might in fact be in considerable danger and as such must make an inventory of the possible weaknesses available to exploit should there be some kind of need to, should she, for instance feel inspired by the voodoo beef magic to enact a seditious gesture of some kind, capsizing him from his chair so he winds up on the floor with the his arms outstretched, twitching like a bug, perhaps she would then wrap him in the sellotape stolen from his top draw (obviously she’d know where it was as she would have scouted out his space days ago in preparation for such a humiliating heist), she’d immobilize his limbs, stand over him and laugh villainously as he squealed into the wind. Still, he is not entirely helpless, as he takes in her meatless frame and impish dishevelment, his eyes rest briefly on a series of red lines etched chaotically across her ankles. He breathes out slowly and with some relief. Moth shrugs and looks down at her toes, whose blackened, outgrown nails are ambivalently charming in their own way, he reasons, feeling slightly more charmed than he was before by this strange happening that is happening as it happens. Perhaps Moth is in fact a helpless, wondrous and lovable creature afterall, vulnerable enough that it might make sense to actually help her, though of course not enough that she could ever achieve the stature of the fearsome capsizing creature that stalks his nighttime visions alongside those maggot festering dead cows. “Clock. Clock. Bold tick. Star of David. Book. Postbox with the dial turned up. Postbox with dial turned down--” she speaks slowly and contemplatively, and he cuts her off. “Well, quite. We all feel misunderstood and misrepresented sometimes, Ms. Moth, the point is not to let it get you down or hold you back in realizing your very unique vision. You see we are all possessed with unique visions and anyone who articulares otherwise is only allowing themselves access to an aura that is not theirs to take however it might very well be theirs to co opt should that be their particularity in any case as in your case I wonder if the point we’re both trying to make is that while you most obviously have this bright and shining aura that beams outwards, a ray of white light that is so resplendent as to be blinding, it also clear to see that what you truly lack is trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in others. And trust in me. Can I level with you here? I won’t be able to help you just one jot if I don’t have your complete trust and your complete honesty, if you can’t truly let me in, if you can’t truly allow me access into the inner workings of that fantastic mothy mind of yours, then our time here, together, at this unique point, in this special moment, is meaningless and will remain lost in the auspices of auspices of all time. Let me in, Moth,” he says. “Let me in.” Moth pauses for a moment, slowly raising her gaze to meet his. “Indiscernible-sideways-squiggle-that-kind-of-looks-like-flower?”
“Yes, Moth, yes,” he replies, beaming, holding out his hand to take hers. He quickly checks the top drawer of his cabinet. The heavy-duty stapler’s still there. He reckons if any funny business starts here with Moth and her voodoo cow people, then he could use it to knock her out cold.
From the beginning, Lukacs’ interpretation of Marxist theory was free-wheeling, speculative
He reads those words over and over, but they can’t really sink in, it feels like watching clouds or something and not being able to figure out their shape. Clouds that might easily darken, get heavy and dense, start spewing splashes of a silver something over his head, iron filings or whatever, they’d get stuck all over him, they’d sink into his ears, come in through his nostrils and his mouth, get stuck in his brain, make everything even more confusing than it already was. Make everything too heavy and dark. He’d once tried to explain this feeling to his sister, she said he still had to read more if he wanted to understand anything and if he wanted to learn how to express himself properly like he said he wanted to. He hadn’t seen her in weeks, and she was the only one who he could talk to about some of the deep and scary stuff that wandered across his mind sometimes like those hungry, unhealthy clouds. He likes to sit on her bed since she’s been away, scan the room, she has these dark pink curtains, what’s the material, linen, and thin, so some of the sunlight comes in even when they’re drawn, making the room more orange than it normally would be, leaving barely golden shapes on the walls that he thought sometimes resemble aliens trying to dance. There’s a flowerless plant on the nightstand by her bed, when she was here it looked alright but now she’s been gone all these weeks it’s begun to wilt and turn yellow and its earth is so dry it almost looks like sand. The bed is made, lilac sheets are a bit creased from him sitting on them, sometimes he takes her pillow and puts it on his lap, doesn’t really know why he does that. There’s a pile of books by the nightstand, many more on the shelf opposite him, where she’s left behind a black jewelry box that plays music when you open it, just a nice little melody that goes around in circles the kind that a toy ballerina would slowly spin to, you’d open and close that box and get the music and get her dancing again. He liked the idea of that, the power it would give him, to make that little thing dance at will. Power and relief. He’d like to have something like that. It wouldn’t leave him alone like this with his own thoughts, his own quiet confusion about everything.
The book he has in his hands looks really old, she probably got it secondhand, the cover is a beige that’s turning brown, there are what look like traces of fingerprints on them and the corners curl outwards, the font on the cover has a groovy vibe, orange and navy blue, the words printed sideways across the page. Against Interpretation. Looks like the whole book is interpreting stuff though, which is weird. He doesn’t like that, feels like a joke he doesn’t get. He flicks through it, someone’s underlined parts, maybe his sister, maybe its previous owner, on the back cover there’s a picture of a woman, black and white. The woman’s hair is neat and short and dark, she looks sideways. He can’t figure out what to make of that, how he feels about her and the fact that her gaze is somewhere else. She has a nice smile, just a slight one, the corners of her mouth curled, she has big lips, not like a porn star or anything, just natural, actually the more he looks at her face, the more it occurs to him that there is nothing at all wrong with it, everything seemed perfectly in the right place, the eyes are a nice size and a nice shape, the eyebrows look like half moons, don’t have that arch to them that some girls have, he’d once watched his sister draw on her eyebrows to give them that arch, did it very carefully, her fingers not even shaking a little bit, didn’t understand why she did it though, drew them in so angular and dark. He liked eyebrows like these a lot better, like there were two very small hills sitting above her eyes, hills that would be quite fun to walk over, like a pleasant stroll. Imagine that as a pick up line, the look he’d get, the way the girl he’d have approached would turn away and roll her eyes at her friend. No, talking never did him any good. A woman like this would definitely roll her eyes. This serious woman with her eyes looking elsewhere. He still couldn't figure out how he felt about her. Guess it depends on what she would say when she opened that big (but-not-porn-star-big) mouth of hers. He closes his eyes now, and, as a thought experiment, tries to imagine her talking to him. He kind of knew how she’d speak because of all the words in the book, many of which he didn’t understand. Would she use those words with him? What if she didn’t? What if she was a whole different person with him? What if she took off that elegant scarf, what if she takes off that tailored jacket with the collar turned inwards, looking at him and tossing her hair back - a delicate movement - knowing that he was watching her, and then she’d say something that wasn’t like something she’d written in this book, something just for him. They’d share their own, secret language together, a way of communicating that no one else understood, there’d be this intense feeling between them that was only theirs. She’d understand him perfectly, he wouldn’t have to say anything, he wouldn’t have this feeling he has now, staring at this book trying to figure out his thoughts on things, she could figure them out for him, and maybe he’d have his way of helping her out too, tell her she didn’t have to always look so serious like that, serious and distant. Sometimes she could relax a bit, let that neat hair get a bit messy. He wonders about that distant look she has, like she’s with you but not really. Could he figure out his feelings about that? Part of it made him like her even more, because she was cool. She didn’t care what anyone else thought of her. Except him. She’d have to care what he thought of her. That was the whole point. That’s what made her look so special. It showed that she didn’t like many people, that there were a lot of people she just couldn’t be bothered to look at. But that she’d look at him, obviously. Because what he thought about her mattered. He had that power over her, she could be his toy ballerina. But instead of a music box he opens and closes her book.
He feels a buzz in the pocket of the jeans, pulls his phone out holding his breath. Nope, still no response from his sister. Just the pizza delivery guy.