Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine
Posted on February 29th, 2004 by Jack Leirone
Footfalls faced untimely demise as their sound was siphoned away from them on the still and stifling silence of the USS Atlantis. One thousand horses could gallop down the hallway and trample everyone in their path and there would be no sound at all. Mute. Hallway travellers would open their smiling mouths and utter pleasant greetings to one another in a constant meteor shower from two different directions, like two star-crossed trains taking their lives on the same track…only there wasn’t one decimal of a decible to be discerned. Absolute dead air.
Occasionally, Jack Leirone required a reprise of his past. What was it to be called? His past? His future? Whatever it was, it was his end. No, no, not Jack’s. His. His. The man with teeth like God’s shoeshine. Ever since that incident…no, it wasn’t his place anymore to dwell on it, to pick the scab and let it bleed. No, surely not. It was his place to use this and a reminder. As conditioning. This was his way of preparing for the future: learning from the past. Listening and feeling and tasting and smelling and seeing everything again and again. Again. Was it worth it? Was it worth taking himself to the brink of his own death time and time again? Yes.
“Computer,” he let slip past his gated lips. “Run custom program number three-five-seven. Leirone.”
Running simulation of the cement courtyard, Boulder, Colorado, date…
“Nevermind the details.”
You may enter when ready. Safety program…deactivated.
Immediately after the doors hissed open, he was back. There was a large cement square, one hundred meters for each side, and on each of the four edges stood buildings, also grey and lifeless in the four o’clock daylight, the rolling peaks and snow-capped summits of the mountains in the background. Sky above was bright and blue, only clouds residually clinging to every point on the parabola of the horizon. The storm the night before…had left a deep wound…and healed it…all in one deft move. The stone floor was white, almost. It was almost like stepping into eternity.
Leirone was alone. The cement ground underneath his feet was made up of four squares, actually, their intersection in the perfect middle. He made his way there. That was where he was. Exactly at the crux of four tiny perfect canyons. Man made this place and he must have forgotten its purpose. It seemed brand new but stood erected with no use. This place was Jack Leirone’s monument circa ten years before. Alive with no niche.
Holodecks were astounding. The exact weather was portrayed and by now, Leirone was timing down each microscopic gust of wind to the last nanosecond. Leirone felt as if he was part of the program itself for with every gust of wind he relived, the same hairs on his head would shift.
“And another one from the left…” and it happened. “And a caw from a crow…” and it happened. “And here he comes.”
And it happened. Like a black ship slipping through the clouds, pearl white in the sky, he came striding with such confidence, with such determination. With that grin. In his overall darkness, there was, laid in like pearls in a lunar eclipse, were teeth like God’s shoeshine, bright and beaming, visible from afar, while he himself was still a narrow stripe of black. What did he have to be so happy about? All he did, all he knew, was murder. He slays therefore he is. Leirone at least had morals. At least he had hobbies. Friends. Real friends out of which he did not secretly want something.
THE NEXT THIRTY MINUTES WERE LIKE NOTHING.
Bleeding and broken, Jack Leirone lay nearly dead on the pavement, his cheek feeling the tiny rocks pressing into his bone through his skin. Blood had been spat onto the grey plane sideways in his vision, now going vertical. Before he let himself die in the holodeck, he cancelled the program.
Never before in all of his experiences, killing people and fighting, had he ever come so close to the eternal sleep, forced upon him like a guillotine. That grin was like a flashlight on him that fading day. And it was time to stop. Leirone could barely keep himself contained.
THE PAST FEW YEARS WERE LIKE NOTHING.