Charged with attempted murder, I am convicted of a felony, which draws me twenty-five to life.
Timeline A: My first week inside, I am taken in by a tattoo artist. My role consists primarily of sitting jiggers: keeping a lookout while my boss uses a rudimentary device made from a walkman, car battery, and ballpoint pen, to illustrate naked women or phrases like “Born to wreak havoc.” He tutors me and gives me Nietzche’s The Will to Power to read. I get a tattoo on my chest of a rabbit smoking a pipe. However, I’m also introduced to heroin, which I soon discover is the panacea capable of turning Hell into wonderland. Due to his strict anti-drug policy, it is not long before I’m sold off for two and a quarter boxes of smokes. I’m shanked in the shower room before I can succumb to the Hepatitis C I’ve contracted during my brief stint as an intravenous user of controlled substances.
Timeline B: I am remanded to the department of corrections in Louisiana. Clearing the bayous near the prison, I’m lorded over by a Cajun trustee named Luc Nicol. He’s a leathery man who speaks in a patois and is missing the top row of his teeth, as well as three fingers on his left hand. Without any prompting, he offers insight as to the reptiles I might encounter, rambling about a famed creature of lore known as Big Bob, who he refers to as Bubba. Similar to Gustav in Burundi, a crocodile of mythic proportions, responsible for the death of hundreds of people, Bubba has reigned terror over these parts for years. While wading into waist-deep water, Nicol suggests to me “You’re in some hot oil,” which he pronounces “earl” from the safety of the shore, then raises his gnarled stump of a hand as air whistles through the xylophone of his fractured smile. As I continue to amble further into potential doom, the murky and brackish water rises to my neck. Big Bob’s presence is everywhere and nowhere. I feel my central nervous system radiate like the core of a nuclear plant during a meltdown. Kierkegaard claimed anxiety is a byproduct of man being unable to process the concept of free will. Of course, he never had to worry about being devoured whole by a beast from the Paleolithic era.
Timeline C: My lawyer suggests there might be an alternative to prison. The ability to open wormholes and bridge the gap between alternate universes has been invented. After some mishaps, where prisoners are used as guinea pigs, the procedure is perfected. In the natural progression of events, gladiatorial combat between “Selves” springs up like boxing and MMA before it. Sometimes twenty or more selves are placed in a ring and commence to battle. Some selves are drastically different in both appearance and mental capacity; others have developed superpowers and abilities unheard of in this particular solar system. In a move straight out of Harrison Bergeron, each contestant is fitted with some kind of handicap to allow for equal betting on someone with diminished supratentorial functions vs. someone who can bench-press a Buick with his mind. To avoid any prison time, I enter the contest and meet with selves from different timelines. Like Conan the Barbarian, I continue to live, round after round, destroying doppelgängers. I’m challenged by a mirror image wearing alligator skin boots. He takes a swing, which I parry, and then hit him with a liver shot. He falls and vomits out of his central nervous system. I come face to face with “The Bunny,” and grab him by his shirt. My breath is hot and odious on his face. The maelstrom around us continues as I wrestle with and attempt to kill my selves. He touches my chest with his hand. It’s an intimate gesture leaving it there for a moment; then he retracts it like Jesus healing Lazarus. He does it again this time like a hard slap, then another, and another. Warmth spreads from my chest, and I bring my fingers up soaked in crimson. The end of a sharpened toothbrush sticks from my sternum bristle side out.
Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant. In June of 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His other work can be found in links on his website: asdavie.wordpress.com