Squinting from the flavour that blinds the room, Stephen cuts slits in the wood of his vision rather than suffer the vitamins headache and it allows him to take in the sudden actions of his landscape.
The floor, made from dissolving gypsum and limestone rock, is craggy and breathing with so many pores. The orbital sunshine of the orange rolls in along the many dimple sized holes and it wobbles near Stephen’s foot, trying to get a handle of being round. On being a ball. On not having any sides and rather slipping into the craters of your foot’s fall.
Once it stabilizes, Stephen takes in the background vision. The bars that make the invisible wall that is his cell, the broken away at limestone karst walls, the lack of sunlight dripping in from any windows.
The artificial light inset in all the imperfect scones.
The footsteps dropping away behind closed doors where police might scheme of criminal code.
Realising he may be all alone, Stephen makes a bird of his very own. “Hey!” He whimpers with a hard front beneath his teeth. “What’s going on?” As if to say he demands even though his spine is rolling out behind him.
No one returns his call.
Beside his shaking, heavy, crownless head is a stainless steel bench hung from chains on the wall. Placing his hand on the cool metal and the other hand on the cool floor, he lifts himself from hobbled into a more confident position in his room, his cell, his justice for all.
Stephen pulls in a stuttered breath that fills his tiny chest with the stale air, it’s cavern drafts not fresh but recirculated stone. He holds it. The cave of his cell in his tissues, making stagnant folds of the reticulated tides that are his fleshy lung organ. It attracts bats and moths, and they eat away at his lacking confidence, his all alone.
“Shit!” He mutters to himself as he buries his eyes and sagging cheeks into the mud of his palms.
Low sobbing in the cold of handcuffs not worn.
“Hey! Relax Stephen!”
Slash white through the trembling heart as the words take Stephen’s shoulders like predatory claws and he whips his head from hiding to the direction of the words that came from the dark. Heart like thin black balls at the top of the music sheet, pupils in and out of focus as the beads of sweat dart around the cell. Stephen checks every inch of his ten foot apartment twice and finds he’s all alone.
“Hello?” He calls with the suspicion of a ghost, half standing to see if there was someone down the hall from his cell, assuming it was a hall and not hell.
“Hi!” Said the voice with chipper in its octave swell.
Falling back into his seat, Stephen’s eyes match the declination and he looks to the ground. Shock. Strips of white in his hair.
But just the orange there.
Turning on its smooth porous skin, opening its eyes, forming words with a pulpy mouth. “Hello Stephen, I’ve been waiting for you.” It says.
“Oh good.” Says Stephen. Surprised that his throat let anything be said at all.
Then nothing happened. Seemingly forever nothing happened. Just the orange and Stephen staring at each other as if the other one might dry and crack and fall into pieces… the dust of it settled in the cracks of Stephen’s brain and it made him want to sneeze and smoke at the same time. If only he had a cigarette, if only he had smoked ever before.
The orange made a faint smile, lifting one side of its white lined mouth closer to the bright slice of its left eye. Awkward, even though it was the orange and Stephen was not. “Were the boys gentle with you?” Asked the orange, its juicy mouth flopping around the way a puppets might, if the hand was drunk and the stage was set in the light.
Stephen nodded, not sure if he remembered coming in at all at this point.
“That’s good.” Said the orange as it produced a cigarette from the back of its mouth. Without hands, the act was autonomous and reminded Stephen of an assembly line as the cigarette rolled out long-wise and careful–despite its being lit already and it suckered up to the flat lips of the orange’s bright skin. The cherry lit for a moment and then smoke rolled out of the orange’s eyes. “Would you like a smoke, Stephen?”
He nodded again and the orange reared its lack of neck into a Pez dispenser and another cigarette stood straight up in the flattened out surface of its mouth. The other cigarette lay half flat on the floor, angled from the fruit’s maw.
Stephen reached out and grabbed the tobacco roll and the orange turned back to its normal stance, smoking fish eyes and cool nineties Japanese aesthetic all at once.
Inspecting the smoke up close, Stephen found the paper to be damp with citrus. The spark already fired, he placed the cigarette on his lips and pulled the scurvy from his gums as his lungs went black and calm. He didn’t cough. He breathed out. His head was already rushing, but not from the nicotine, not at all.
“Sorry, they always come out a little wet.” Said the orange.
“Not at all.” Replied Stephen. Still polite.
“So we have some work to do tonight and it’s a lot. It certainly won’t get done on its own.” Said the orange.
“Yea.” He chuckled, not sure if he should do anything at all. “Don’t… don’t I know it.” Forced smile.
“So, we should probably get started.”
Stephen sucked on the smoke again, letting the fluoride and dry leaf tickle the itch at the back of his throat as he held the puff of char somewhere between his chest and his uvula. “Are you uh, are you related to the fauna spirit’s that ummm, you know… “
The orange stared at Stephen with one orange eyebrow tilted high up into the seed of its thoughts.
Stephen continued, now too nervous to leave the room silent. “When I practise herbalism, sometimes the plants and their spirits would give me a little guidance but… they were only voices.” He exhaled the smoke that had been lingering in his nose and it made the room fuzzy. “Not… ” he gestured with his tar stained hand at the orange in circles. “Full grown… fruit. You’re not related to them, are you?”
The orange pursed its lips, lifting the half burnt cigarette into a vertical question mark and then spoke. “You know how crazy that sounds, right?”