the man in crimea

February 21, 2016

there’s a distinct possibility that the simulation is real. and that it is, horrifyingly, built to serve one person and one person alone: the man in crimea.

and if that was true, then what choice did i have? go on, knowing the sick charade i’m taking part in? remove myself from the equation so that the rest of the world could go on, realizing like i did?

no, no. if my life was going to be purposeless, i had no problem buying a ticket to crimea and doing the impossible: strapping this guy down and telling him what he’s a part of.

i had to wake him up.

i had to tell him the truth.

Blockbuster movie producer Todd Best, my former boss, used to own the top three floors of a five story building in soho. he lived on the top floor, his wife lived on the second, and we, his assistants, worked on the third. the top two stories were connected by a stairwell. the third you could only reach by elevator.

in essence, he and Catherine, his second wife, lived in a two-story penthouse — a single room, with a private chamber past the kitchen, with a stairwell down to quieter rooms, efficiently styled with white furniture, hardwood floors and lots and lots of flowers and dog toys. we, the assistants, me and John and Alyssa, worked in the offices below, which was a brightly colored, heavily converted apartment that stretched the length of the building. as Todd’s assistants, we were always on call. he rarely, if ever, reached out to us after working hours, but if he did, we had no choice but to react and depending on the nature of the comment, engage.

Todd kept his coolest artifacts on the third floor, with us. all the awards, all the notes from the rich and famous, all his photos of him and Jeremy Irons. all the best stuff, all the stuff that made you believe in the yummiest version of Todd, those were kept with us, in a room we rarely used, so it was usually plunged in darkness by the time we arrived and also when we left.

the receiving room, or the play room, or the nursery, as it had finally become by the time i was dismissed, or quit, or whatever you want to call what happened at Gold’s cabin. that’s where I first met Todd.

I remember that moment clearer than anything. I remember feeling cautiously optimistic the day leading up to it, feeling proud of myself for getting here, at least. i was dressed in a white and mustard skirt and blouse combo that my mom bought for me. i had bought myself new prescription glasses from a place on the lower easy side. i felt comfortable in my own skin, capable of taking on anything that was thrown at me: especially Todd Best, who I felt like I knew before i even knew him. i’d studied his work for play, growing up, saw Thrill Kids maybe four hundred times. i’d read books written about him. two biographies: Best in Show is great, though not as good as the movie about the dog show, and Picture Lock: the Harrowing Tale of Todd Best and Nightrail, is also quite illuminating. Yes, I knew Todd. And when he stepped out the elevator, looked right at me, and walked the entire length of the room to shake my hand, I felt like, That is a very Todd Best thing to do. It only confirmed by Best expertise. And Todd was on point for the whole meeting, the whole afternoon, where we went over some pitches he had for Universal. He was gregarious, accommodating, and inquisitive. He wanted to know everything there was to know about my family. We spent the last twenty minutes both seated on the floor of his penthouse living room, talking about TV we both liked. I didn’t have a single bad moment with him, no flashes of what I suspected him to be. Only good feelings. If I had said no to the job, if I had gone home to Los Angeles then, I would have only the most Todd-affirming feelings.

But I didn’t say no. I said yes. I said I’d sign the papers on Monday. And I did.

time with my lawyer

July 18, 2015

the morning i was arrested, i asked my lawyer to fashion our defense around my deep love for Ringo. she politely told me that she’d seen it done before, and she’d seen it fail. imagine that! you think you’re doing something novel, shooting into a pack of wolves!

“no, no” she says, waggling a dismissive finger. “think about people out on the edges of civilization. they run into this stuff all the time, encounters with wildlife that may or may not be protected, for this or that reason. they see something coming for their cattle, their dogs, they shoot first and figure out what it is later. gets a lot of people into trouble.”

it seems wrong to me, i think. in florida you can legally murder a human being who is coming after you, but you can’t shoot a wolf if it’s attacking a dog.

“But the dog wasn’t there, Sarah,“ she says. “Your words.”

“I don’t know if the dog was there, it was dark. It looked like they were chasing something.”

“I know your case, sweetheart. I really do. And I’m trying very hard. Please believe that.”

“Yes,” I say. “I believe that. About you.”

shoot the pack intro

July 18, 2015

first off, thank you for taking the time to read this, Juror. if you can’t tell by the exasperated sounds i’ve been making in these past three days, i’m not entirely on board with how well this trial is going. and as you know, i have a substantial amount to lose if this thing doesn’t get tossed out.

i’m desperate, obviously. and i want you to think about that for a second: why would she be defending herself so fiercely, going so far as to slip a twelve page handwritten manuscript into my bag while the bailiff wasn’t looking?

it seems as if the main question of this trial, so far, has been:

did sarah teefertiller fire a winchester rifle into a pack of wolves, killing two and maiming one, despite the fact that these wolves were not threatening her in any way?

the thing is, i’m not contesting that. the answer to that is, YES. I DID. i did do that. but here’s the big BUT at the end of that admission, that the prosecution is doing everything in their power to dust under the sofa: the person that did that, that killed those animals? that wasn’t me. and while i understand that an act like that could make you think a person deserves to suffer, i’m writing this to tell you that i was 1) suffering when i committed the act, 2) have suffered deep shame and anxiety over whether or not I did the right thing, and 3) have learned my lesson, and i would like the suffering to end now, please.

say it aloud, daily, into them mirror: my name is sarah and two years ago i killed two endangered wolves in cold blood. i fired right into the pack, goddammit. but — (here’s that but again!) — there are two crucial details that are being, yet again, swept under the sofa: 1) i did not intend to actual shoot one of the wolves. I had never shot a weapon before, except once, when i was little kid. And 2) most importantly, i was doing it because i thought that i was somehow saving Ringo, or at least making it more likely that Ringo was going to come back to us alive.

I wanted to scare the wolves off to save Todd’s dog. that’s all. it didn’t work. the wolves died. it didn’t save Ringo.

and I am deeply sorry for that.

masturbation

July 16, 2015

I was going through a period of needing to masturbate a lot. It’s happened twice in my life. This was the first. I was doing it three or four times a day, a lot for me. Public places. Why? I’d credit it to the fact that I’d eaten hiawaska with my best friend’s father the week before, and I had realized that all those memories of having sex with all those girls wasn’t behind a locked door, but an open one, and all I had to do was walk through it. I was fantasizing all day. Every strange woman I laid eyes upon reminded me of someone else. The memories spiraled into scenarios. I was horny 24-7.

This will be important, I assure you.

hannah

July 15, 2015

This all happened while my younger sister was visiting me. She took half the spring break off to be there. Courtney and Kelly and I found a schedule that we could all play by; one that allowed at least one of us, at any point, to be giving her our undivided attention. That was important to us. She slept on an air mattress in the living room, surrounded by the weirdest of the weird shit. Her computer light cast a sinister blue shadow on the giant Catan pieces that hang in the windows. She fell asleep to Frasier.

limbo

July 15, 2015

I was now in limbo. Todd was considering his next move. He knew that I wouldn’t quit. He’d have to fire me. But he didn’t want to fire me. He needed me for this trip. So I did what any sensible person would do in this situation. I skipped work.

PULLING A ROME 2.

July 15, 2015

It was at this point that Todd decided yes, we would go out to Gold’s cabin and we’d break the story down there. We wouldn’t leave until it was in good enough shape for his shitbag agent.

“This is how they wrote Franklin,” John says, his life force drained. He’s staring at his screensaver, a barrage of eighties movie posters. “Maybe we’ll get points on the back end.” He laughs.

“Maybe.” I’m suddenly irked. I look out the doorway, down the hallway, where Alyssa is tearing down boxes in the kitchen. She’s so beautiful. “It’s weird how he did this now, huh?”

John shoots me a look. “No. Not really.”

“Did you tell him my little sister was visiting?”

“No,” he says and leans into his desk. He taps his clicker. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if you did. A month or so ago. Back when those plans were made. I told you he was spiteful.”

“I can’t go.”

“You have to go. And you can’t try to move it ahead, either. Things are already going to really fucking suck out there for us. For everyone.”

I run my hand through my hair. It’s greasy, even though I showered that morning. I’m struck with the thought that I need to buy shampoo. No concern.

Joe fills the silence: “Just go, get fired or — or quit or whatever you’re going to do.”

I stare at Joe for a second, raise my eyebrows. “You honestly don’t think that he will be a million times happier and more productive without me there?”

Joe turns towards me. Dead on, with a fatherly look in his eye: “If you don’t show up tomorrow, he will drive us all out to Gold’s cabin and he will either murder us”— a finger to a finger here — “or he will spend four days to a week complaining about you.” He leans back. “I’m not sure which I’d prefer.” A glance to the window, towards the shadowy space between the buildings. “Listen, I want to be friends after this. I think that’s one of the best things to come out of this job, honestly. But I will not be your fucking friend if you start a Rome on me and don’t see it through. Okay?”

Of course, I think. When it’s put that way, a little familial discord felt like nothing. I told John as much, then and there. I would go. “I’ll do it.”I would have to tell Courtney that thousands of dollars were at stake. That was hard to argue with. “It’s my only way out of this,” I’d say.

That was the plan: I would go, I would get fired as quickly as humanly possible, I would be back in time to hang. And I’d be free as a bird, flush with cash. The only problem was that I had to piss him off so that he didn’t think I was manipulating the situation. I had to be cast away, a pathetic failure. He had to be setting me free, in a way.

I didn’t have time to devise any grand plan — though I spent a night smoking weed and writing out various scenarios on a yellow legal pad. It was to no avail, and of no matter. It only took about two hours into the trip when the shit hit the fan, and I was fully prepared to take fault.

Alyssa had been in charge of getting Todd and Ringo to the cabin. Catherine would find her own way.

Alyssa did her job. She made sure the car was prepared, and had charted a good course. She printed out the instructions, along with a map, and handed it to me to give to Todd when he left the curb at 6am. The instructions she handed me as a single page. I know this because I rolled it up like a scroll as I took the elevator down with Todd, and then spent a good deal of time at the curb trying to de-curl it.

The instructions that Alyssa meant to print out was double-sided. The map was intact, thank you Google, but the instructions cut off after step four. Todd probably could have figured it out, if he wasn’t so incensed by the indignity of it, and trying to calculate who exactly was at fault. (All of us.) He took a wrong turn, or rather he didn’t exit the road he was on early enough, and ended up at a gas station. The dog freaked out because it saw another dog in another car, and soon the dogs were having some kind of bark fight or possibly a flirtation between them – the point is, it was loud. So Todd pulls the car a bit off the road, ahead of the gas station by a good length, and gets out. While he’s doing so, the dog slips past him. The thing is, the dog doesn’t run back to the other dog. It runs the other way, across traffic. Nearly gets slammed by a semi, but scrambles away unharmed. Disappears into the woods.

So by the time Todd gets to the cabin, gets enough reception to call us, he’s in a kind of weird anger zen. So angry, so frustrated, that a good half of his face loses function. Only the eyes light up. I’m hearing what he’s saying through the phone in the car. John’s in the back seat, photoshopping something, and Alyssa is driving. John leans up, closes his laptop quickly. Something’s wrong.

“That’s very unlike Ringo,” is all John can muster. “I will…” He pauses. He looks at me. He’s in shock, but I see the edge of a smirk. Holy shit. The dog is gone. The dog has run away. The dog is going to be eaten by wolves. And then Todd is going to murder us.

connection to rebecca

July 12, 2015

if grammar was to be believed, then by my math, there were two people living in the williamsburg area who could possibly be at risk — of what, i couldn’t quite tell you. maybe i was going crazy. the way grammar spoke, it was hard to think of what he was saying as particularly insane. though the content, looking back, stunk of a bad trip. a man who has lost his mind but hasn’t yet been convinced of it yet. he was holding on to an idea so strongly, based on something in his past that he couldn’t deal with yet, that was causing him to warp reality around him. he was justifying something by conjuring monsters from the deep. a mysterious web of strangers working at will against him. he was paranoid, possibly schizophrenic, though i consider myself quite bad at mental health diagnoses.

i felt compelled to reach out to these two women, surprise surprise.  i went to blue bottle the minute i left grammar’s apartment. it was on the way back, after all — and if rebecca was there, why couldn’t i have a quick sidebar with her about her co-worker? just test the waters?

rebecca had been working at Baloobi since the berry street location opened. she was the original manager, but stepped down after two months. i was told the story once of what happened, while on my shift, and missed out on some crucial details — but the crux of it was missing money. since then, she’d run the busiest shift, the weekday morning shift Tuesdays through Fridays – at an imperative time in the cafe’s growth. some would say she curated the cafe in its earliest days, and is therefore responsible for its east coast success. rebecca would never say that. she carries a weight with her, a guilty ring as thick as a tire hanging around her neck. she knows this about herself and compensates. when she spots me coming in, she makes a sound like a foghorn. “beeeeyuuuuuu chris is here.”

I order a coffee, then pull her aside and tell her i just had a long talk with grammar.

“that’s cool. i’ve never really said more than two things to him. why? did he say something about me? is he crushing?”

“no,” i tell her. “he’s saying he has a condition of some kind.”

“he can take the time off. why is he telling you this? you’re a customer.” she looks lightward — towards the window, gestures to no one in particular. she’s got busy, dagger sharp brows. “he shouldn’t be even talking to you about this stuff.”

“i kind of forced him into an interrogation,” i say, realizing it as I say it.

she laughs. “just two guys talking about their medical history.”

“he’s been putting up signs. he put a sign up at the starbucks that i took down. the point is, he thinks he has some kind of communicable disease and he thinks—“ my brain flickers for a moment, then— “it’s a psychic disease.”

“he’s crushing. that’s what this is.” She pushes her hornbill glasses up her nose and smiles. She has the most perfect teeth I’ve ever seen. Does she drink the coffee through a straw?

“no, he thinks you’re in danger.”

“i’m in danger?” a flash of something. her eyes widen, coffee colored. “because he has a crush on me? I knew this guy was a creep. i guess i was hoping that he wasn’t — he’s so nice.”

“he’s still nice. he’s just a little messed up, i think.”

“sounds like he let all the crazy out, then. he just seems so—“ she puffs up her chest. “bottled up. i was curious what was in there. i guess i shouldn’t’ be surprised.”

“i don’t think you’re in danger.”

“i appreciate that,” she says, looking down. “but you told me. you came here to tell me.”

“right,” i say. i did. i honestly at this point thought that perhaps grammar was right: maybe he’d affected her in some way. should she know?

“i don’t actually think you’re in danger. but i want to run something he said by you — just to see if anything that he said held any water.”

“shoot.”

“he said a lot of stuff. but yeah, he essentially thinks he has a sickness. in his body. that can’t be traced. can’t be detected. because the thing that it has infected, we don’t even know it exists.”

“a part of our body that we don’t know exists? i know every part of my body. i have very closely studied every part of my body.”

“yeah, i know. it’s madness. but it’s kind-of logical madness, which is why i’m tempted to humor him. but he said that the way that he knew he had it was that he suddenly felt like he was living at a different speed than everyone else.”

“i drink a lot of coffee. i feel that way all the time.”

“right, and he said that it allowed him to see things. the things behind things.”

“sounds like he’s mentally ill, chris. or he was fucking with you.”

“okay,” i say, hands lifted. “i just thought maybe… i’m glad to be wrong!”

“the thing behind things?” she asks.

“the things behind things. he said that he noticed it particularly when he rode the subway. between bedford and 1st ave. bunch of weird shit. psychedelic shit.”

she’s studying the grain of the table.

i go on: “you’re right. it was a super trippy tale, and I have to admit he and i shared a cigarette.”

“It’s just weird.”

“what is?”

“what you said about the subway,” she says, looking enchanted. “that exact line. i mean, i know it’s the only line in and out of Williamsburg. so of course, but. that’s so weird.” she catches me staring at her, transfixed. “a couple of days ago — last week — i smoked a shit ton of weed at my friend’s house and had this super weird trip on the L. like, i was seeing things.”

“what were you seeing?”

“the train had stopped. we’d be stopped for ten minutes, right around the middle point — when the L goes from bedford to first ave. and i’m not even really looking out the window, but i see something super far away. and it’s only then that i even realize that the train connects with another tunnel.

i nod, not sure what she’s talking about. i feel like if the L really passed by an entrance to a second tunnel, i would have noticed that. as if reading my mind, she says:

“it’s a blink and you miss it moment. it just goes in and out. but i’m in it. i’m in the part that you can see this other tunnel.”

“when was this?”

“two days ago,” she says, a little annoyed. “what does it matter?”

The Packet, intro

July 9, 2015

A: That’s what drove her off the edge. The Reddit thing. “The Packet.”

C: I must have missed that one.

A: it was front page for an hour before it got taken down. This guy said that he had a secret about someone that he hated, and he was going to release the crime and the perpetrator’s address — how do i explain this?

C: He knew something bad about someone.

A: Right.

C: But he wouldn’t say what.

A: So he was going to make the internet his judge and jury. Cool guy, right?

C: Super cool.

A: But of course there were a thousand guys all about it. Mostly because of the way this guy was releasing this information. For a millisecond. You had to refresh the page a million times, and just hope you were watching it when it went up.

C: Interesting. See, I thought these things could be cached.

A: This guy found a way around that. Or so we assume.

C: So Linda was able to download it? Or she was driven crazy by the attempt?

A: Both, I think. She showed it to me. What this guy had sent out. An address, and a photo, on photo paper, of a guy, probably in his forties, doing something awful to… ah… someone younger than him.

C: And an address.

A: Yeah. The guy’s address.

C: What did Linda do?

A: She went there, and she talked to the guy. She warned him.

C: Holy shit!

A: Yeah. I mean, she told him what had happened — best she could. And to watch his back.

C: Did you hear about anything else happening to this guy?

A: I didn’t, personally. I didn’t really investigate.

I did.