Stitches and Static
A man finds himself the subject of a radical experiment.
“Do that. Good.” The entrepreneur, twenty-six-year-old Pushkin Trembley, instructed the subject. He was elderberry black and the subject, Dirkin Howers, thirty, was a few shades darker than maple.
“Keep the stitches intact. Don’t scratch. Just keep doing that with your fingertips in the air. Ensure that you’re breathing as the system is in constant contact with your upper respiratory and cardiovascular systems,” Trembley instructed.
“I think I can handle the breathing part. When will it stop working?”
“When you stop breathing. It’s one of one. Your unique DNA signature is completely tied to the mechanism.”
“Okay.” Howers scrolled through thousands of hours of classical music and podcasts. He searched for news stations. Everything came in with clarity. The clarion nature of the experiment proved to be good.
“Thank you, Mr. Trembley. I’ll be able to listen to millions of hours of content all controlled by my body.”
“Thank you, and you will be compensated for being the very first man in not just Delaware or America to receive this device, but the world.”
“Again, I appreciate it,” he turned his thumb down and the sounds in his ears began to diminish. He pointed up and a concerto engulfed him in crisp notes.
Howers received $100,000 from the Pushkin Trembley Institute. He used it to invest in cryptocurrency which netted him $49,000 because of the wild fluctuations of the market. He pressed forward. The car automatically connected with the audio system in his head. In amazement, he skipped through every station and received the best content all commercial free. He didn’t even have to pay a subscription. He scratched his ear. “Damn,” Howers said aloud. Mustn’t scratch, he thought and kept moving. He walked into his home and the Bluetooth system synched with his equipment in his head. He saw his wife, twenty-two-year-old, Berona. She was sunkissed and looked the color of a 80% cacao chocolate bar. She stretched her arms around her husband.
“Did it work? Let me see!” She just observed the stitches.
“Yes, my dear, it works. When I come in contact with other people, the volume on one even lowers by itself.”
“That’s wonderful. You’ll finally be able to hear me when I call you.”
“That’s right, babe. I’ve got to fill out some digital paperwork but It would be a wondrous thing if we could go out to dinner later tonight.”
“I’d like that. It’s been quite a long while since we last dated.”
Her jaw dropped.
She punched his arm which made the sound scratch in his ear. He winced in pain at the spike in sound.
“Ooh, did I hurt you? What happened?”
“It’s nothing. I just have to get used to the controls from my fingertips to my arms.”
“Oh, okay.” A look of puzzlement and then cheeriness painted Berona’s face.
“I’ve got to see how these things work in the real world and then I’ll get back in time for our big night,” Howers planted a kiss on his wife’s neck.
He left his house and waved at neighbors. When he came across a person of the Caucasian persuasion, heavy static screeched in his ears and he stopped the car in the middle of the street. Horns blared and a few choice words emitted from the mouths of the motorists behind him.
He started to scratch at the stitches but disciplined himself. He waved for the other drivers to go around him.
“What’s the deal, buddy? What the hell’s your damage?” A white male neighbor from another part of the development that he didn’t know lobbed the question like an insult grenade. In his mind, in the implanted earbuds, he heard “When are you going to die, buddy? Do more than just damage to yourself!” Extreme static entered into his consciousness. When the cars passed, he regained a semblance of balance.
Howers continued driving until he got to town in Wilmington. He wanted to walk down the streets with the implants and see the difference between his Newark suburban enclave and the gritty city streets. He walked by in bliss. He shook hands with black people all over the place, in corner stores and in barbershops and hair salons. Crystalline audio pumped through the system. As his heart beat, so did the hip hop instrumentation and vocals vibrate into his mind. He floated.
When it came time to come back to his household he stopped in traffic and saw a good buddy named Chris Simmons who happened to lack a significant amount of melanin.
“Hey, Dirk. What’s up man?”
Screeching static assaulted his brain. He didn’t hear it, though. Howers heard, “You’re going to die Dirk. It’s the end of you, man.” Simmons threw his hands up and shook his head at the red light. When the light turned green, he just shook his head and sped off into the distance. Howers powered through the pain. He drove back to his house with a bit more speed than he had intended but avoided being stopped by the cops.
He burst through his door and grabbed his wife by the shoulders.
“What?! What?!” Berona asked in frantic mode.
“White people are trying to kill me!”
“You’ve been listening to those woke radio stations. They’re not reverse racists. They’re just racists,” she asserted.
“No, you don’t understand. I’m hearing things through these implants and I want to rip them out of my skull, but I can’t even touch them because the stitches must be removed first and I can’t scratch them.”
“Okay, hon’. We’re going to go out on the town. I’m sure that if you have this problem there will be no white people there.”
“I thought you wanted to go to the hotel restaurant. We have reservations at the Mercier….” he countered.
“I do, but as a sacrifice for you….”
The screeching increased as she said the words.
“I don’t know what it is. It’s both white folks and any claims towards self-sacrifice and altruism that sets these things off, now. The ringing is still in my ears.”
“Alright. We’ll get dressed and go.”
“I just came back from Wilmington. It was a beautiful experience with people of my own color. Then, I even saw Chris in traffic. It was like he was threatening me without totally posing as a threat.”
“That’s weird. You and Chris have been friends for years.”
“That’s what I’m saying. It’s white people and selflessness that trigger persistent static.” He then breathed which corresponded with the implants.
“Okay. We’ll go to the hotel and eat a meal. I’m sure they’ll be white people there. We don’t have to eat Caribbean food tonight. I’ll be selfless and….” The shrieking was like a banshee set loose in the wild.
The implants then changed to a podcast about baking. Howers smiled.
“It went away, I mean for a minute there it was pure hell, but it completely subsided.”
“Good. Let’s get dressed.”
The summertime saw the sun still wheeling in the sky at eight o'clock. Berona wore a little navy blue dress and Howers donned a black sport coat and white trousers. He wore sunglasses and averted his look at white people. Their neighbor, Sandra, came over and commented. She had skin the color of chantilly cream.
“Hot date tonight? Looking spiffy, you two!” She waved. The static returned and all that Howers could hear was “You’re going to die tonight. You’ll look spiffy in a casket, too!” He pushed the glasses further on his face and allowed the audio to play throughout the car.
“I’m telling you. Sandra just issued a death threat to me.”
“Maybe we don’t have to go out to eat,” Berona said.
“No, no, no. There’s nothing in this for me, I’m doing this as a favor to––AARRGH!” Near-deafening static echoed back and forth in Howers’ consciousness.
“Alright. If we must,” Berona folded her arms.
They arrived at the hotel. Most of the staff featured black young men. Howers breathed. “Did you want to get a room, too?”
“If it will make you feel better. Remember, this isn’t about me it’s––”
“Don’t say it. Just don’t say it. We’ll get a room.”
They journeyed to where the maitre’ d stood. It was a black girl with long hair named Jasmina. Her petite frame and fair skinned complexion still told the tale that she identified as black.
“Name please,” Jasmina mentioned.
“Howers,” Berona responded.
“Right this way,” Jasmina answered.
The waitstaff was black. A symphony played at a low volume in Howers’ audio system in his brain. A finger went up to scratch at the stitches and then he stopped. A member of the waitstaff came over to their table. He was blue black.
“For the lady?”
“I’ll have the pike-perch and flower crisp.”
“And for you, sir?”
‘I’ll have the roe and horseradish sauce.”
‘Very well. I’ll take those menus from you.”
“There’s white people here. I can feel the slight static bouncing around in my ears.” It gnawed at his mind even though no white person spoke with him. The symphony was in its penultimate movement. He looked at his wife.
“I just wanted the system to work. I mean it did. It does. But when white people address me, it’s like all death and destruction.”
“It’s just the circuitry. Once you go in to get those stitches removed, everything will be okay.”
They ate their meals and relatively no disturbance occurred to Howers and they even savored their dessert orange Bavarian cream.
The couple went up to the fifteenth floor of the hotel and found each other’s arms and legs tangled up in love. A knock at the door startled them. They didn’t know who or what waited on the other side. They just knew that the knocking had to stop. The symphony continued to play in his ears and it soothed Howers. He had a notion to get up and go to the door.
“I forgot to put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ placard on the door. I should go get it,” Berona suggested. She put on her shirt and pants.
“No, I’ve got this.” Howers dressed and then went to the door. He looked at the keyhole to see a black man. He was relieved. He opened the door as the last movement to the symphony played in his head. Then a white man came by with towels. He looked friendly and accommodating. There should have been no reason for Howers to be averse to the young man.
“Here’s a few warmed towels for you, sir,” the white man said. A grin stretched across his face.
The symphony was drowned out by severe static. Through the immense pain, Howers still managed to tip them both. The two young men smiled at their profits.
What Howers heard, though, was “Throw yourself out there, now.”
As the music began to commence the final movement, Howers ran to the window and removed the safety glass and placed it on the bed. He opened it. I got out on the ledge and then felt the blast of the summer evening’s air.
“What the hell! No, don’t do it! Dirkin what are you doing?!”Berona shrieked. SHe leapt up to try to stop him when he put the safety glass on the bed to no avail. He overpowered her in every respect.
Another knock at the door. “Is everything alright?”
Howers looked down at the street, right on the ledge.
Berona rushed to the door.
It was the black bellhop who ran to the open window.
“Go back! This has nothing to do with you!” Howers screamed.
“I understand you’re upset, sir. This is not the way!”
The symphony reached a crescendo and the bellboy grabbed Howers before he could slip from the ledge.
“You saved me. How selfless–” More static poured in and his foot almost slipped.
“That was the most selfish thing I’ve ever done in my life,” the young man said and guided Howers back into the hotel room.
Howers tried to tip him again, but the young man was just satisfied with saving another human being. Happiness enveloped Howers and Berona.
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