Laika (underground) Pt. II

Laika (underground) Pt. II

The next step in a surreal journey through the unknown.
6
views


(Read Part One)


She remained silent for a moment, jerking her head around to face the door. It stood alone, no house or support structure, just a wooden door jutting upright out of the sandy wastes. The door seemed incredibly confident in its existence, as if it had always been there, as if it was meant to be there. A lonely statue erected in the name of nothing but spite to logic.

“Holy shit,” she stood in utter astonishment, “I… I must have hit my head in the house. Oh god, I’m unconscious in the middle of the woods!” This seemed to make the most sense to her, although everything felt so real that there was already a well-embedded seed of doubt.

Despite actively convincing herself that this was all a dream, that none of this existed in any tangible, physical sense, she called out. Her voice echoing a fragile “Hello?” across the curves and bulges of the unfurling wastelands. The sky had a greenish tint to it, the clouds appearing more as a nuclear haze than the fluffy greys and whites she was used to. It was all deeply unsettling, dreamlike in its worrisome reality.

Laika turned back around to try the door, yanking and jiggling the loose handle as best she could. Nothing. The damned thing that had dumped her out in the middle of this extreme nothingness remained quite stubbornly closed. That fucking figures. Her shoulders slouched, defeated by the sheer absurdity of it all. “Is it so hard to have a nice coma dream?” She asked the open air around her, glancing at the off-putting sickly colours up above her head.

With no other options at her disposal she huffed, shifting to trudge through the sand to see if she could find something. If this was a coma dream she might as well explore it before she either woke up or died out in the real world. The worn leather of her shoes sank into the unstable ground as she precariously shuffled further from the door. She knew that the tiny grains would be inundated in her socks and the the crannies of her footwear before long, but it wasn’t like she had a choice. The last thing on her mind was to wander barefoot in a place like this.

The air was surprisingly cool, an odd reprieve from the pulsating humidity back in the woods. Might as well enjoy something I guess. She mused, almost smirking to herself as she surveyed the wide expanse before her.

Laika wandered for what felt like an eternity, or two at this rate, who knew how the time difference between dream and reality worked, before noticing something new. Off in the distance, past a small clump of desert scrubland that likely hadn’t seen a drop of water in ages, was a depression in the sand. As she approached the image of this strange formation grew clearer. It was a massive circle, seemingly perfect in its rotundity and curvature, that sank below the rest of the desert landscape. From the floor of this odd pit to the edge of the sand above looked to be about the height from Laika’s feet to her boyish chest.

From her vantage point Laika could see a dark brown rectangle at the centre of the depression, with a small pop of blue flapping at the top. Is somebody else actually out here?! She hopped down over the edge, bending her knees slightly as she hit the ground below. It felt different here, as if something solid stretched into the abyss below and the sand simply acted as a light carpeting.

Undaunted she moved on, the object revealing itself to be an old wooden stall standing lonely amongst the eternal browns and decaying greens of this unearthly place. Above the stall’s counter a blue cloth banner rippled in the the soft, inconsistent breezes that would randomly quell the stagnation. The lettering across the banner was an uncomfortably bright red, a red that stung the eyes the longer you looked at it. As far as Laika could tell it was gibberish, a madman’s spasm of angular jolts and curving strokes that seemed to go nowhere. It was certainly no language she had ever seen.

Behind the wooden counter, a jagged looking thing that would probably give you the worst splinter of your life then laugh gleefully at the nuisance, stood a ridged old man. He looked unreal, like a wax figure, in his trancelike immobility. The man’s face was gaunt, sunken in at the cheeks and ever so slightly off tone from a healthy person’s colour palette. Grizzly five o’clock shadow peppered the unnatural flesh, adding texture to what otherwise looked like a poorly made mask wrapped tight over bone.

Laika sauntered up to the counter, eyes shifting across the barren shelves of the stall. “If you try to cheat me,” the zombie of a man began, “I’ve got that.” He jerked a thumb mechanically backwards, pointing out an old double barrel shotgun, hanging lonely on a wall rack. It looked almost comical to Laika, so prominent in old films and cartoons that it almost didn’t seem real.

“Uh… well…” she looked back to the solitary shopkeeper, “What are you even selling?” And who the hell are you selling it to? She thought to herself.

“Husks.” He retorted plainly, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

Laika paused, for a moment, a look of concern knit across her face, “Husks?”

“Yep. How many coins ya got?” He asked, still unsettlingly expressionless.

“Coins?” Her head pulled back slightly, confused by the question. In her head she imagined gold coins from fantasy games or pirate movies, but somehow knew that that wasn’t quite right.

He sighed, the most human action he had taken thus far, and looked blankly at her jacket pocket. “Coins. Money. Change. You look old enough to not be asking stupid questions, girl.”

Laika rifled through her pockets, not sure why she was listening to a creepy old guy in the middle of a nuclear holocaust desert. I’m a real god forsaken genius. She mentally sighed and continued her search, fumbling with her lighter, cigarettes, and assorted pocket lint until she produced two dimes and a nickel. She looked hard into the palm of her hand, scrutinising the money and deciding whether or not playing along would be a good idea, before holding out her meagre offerings.

“That’s good for one of these,” both hands raised up from behind the wooden countertop, each one holding a small ragged photograph pinched between his index finger and thumb, small enough to slide snugly into a wallet. The picture in his left hand was of a desiccated rabbit, the small creature’s body browned and seemingly crumpling in on itself. Hollowed eyes a deeper black than anything Laika had ever seen stared glumly from the two-dimensional image. In his right hand the stall keeper held the picture of a human corpse, stood upright, and in much the same condition as the rabbit. One photograph made her feel queasy and sad, like a child first being introduced to the concept of death, while the other frightened her to her very core.

“Are these… supposed to mean something?” She asked, gesturing to the strange photos, husks captured before disintegrating into the sand of the desert around them.


“If they mean something to you then they mean something to you. None of my business.” The man gruffly retorted, brows lowering with what looked like disgust. “You gonna pick one?”

Laika shifted in place, her stomach turning sour as her eyes drifted from one unpleasant picture to the other. She didn’t really know why she was getting so worked up over this, as far as she knew it was an arbitrary decision with no consequence and she was still stuck in some drug-addled dreamland anyway. She placed the coins down in front of the otherworldly shopkeep and went to lift her hand, noticing that it quivered ever so slightly. Just pick one dammit. Her inner monologue goaded impatiently. Laika’s right hand lifted and pointed at the rabbit. As creepy as it was it seemed a great deal better than carrying around a picture of a human corpse in her pocket.

“I see.” the man spoke sadly. His breath splashed against Laika’s face and brought back the sticky weight of the air back in the woods. She shuddered and watched as he slowly placed the rabbit on the counter and slid the coins towards himself. His skin dragged against the edges and shards of the counter until the change fell off the edge, clattering to the floorboards below. The man reacted to none of this, simply lowering his now empty hand.

The right hand stayed in place, arm crooked as he held the picture. The picture then crumbled in on itself, seeming to burn from the inside out with no flame to provoke such a result. It shattered into particles of ash, coating his decrepit hand in greys and blacks.

“I, uh… I have to get going…” Laika quickly said, snatching up the picture and shoving it into her pocket. The queasiness had only grown as she watched the photograph ignite of its own accord and she wanted nothing more than to be far far away from this strange pit.

“So does everybody else.” He said, more like an old man berating someone for trying to cut in line than the lone occupant of a vast nothingness. The shopkeep was entirely unfazed by both the picture’s destruction and the girl’s anxious escape. “The next door is in the rocks,” his expression remained unchanged though the volume of his voice had grown enough to reach Laika as she stumbled towards the edge of the sunken platform.


End Part II

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr Photograph (Wadi Rum - Jordan by Eric Montfort)

Popular Right Now

37 Drake Lyrics From 'Scorpion' That Will Make Your Next Instagram Caption Go Double Platinum

Side A makes you want to be single, Side B make you want to be boo'd up.

130929
views

We all knew Scorpion was going to be the summer banger we wanted. However, Drake surprised us with two sides of an album and two sides of himself. Mixing rap and R&B; was genius on his part, so why not dedicate 37 of his lyrics to our Instagram captions?

1. "Don't tell me how knew it would be like this all along" — Emotionless

Definitely a "I'm too good" for you vibe.

2. "My mentions are jokes, but they never give me the facts" — Talk Up

This one's for my haters.

3. "I wanna thank God for workin' way harder than Satan" — Elevate

For when you're feeling blessed.

4. "I promise if I'm not dead then I'm dedicated" — March 14

In Drake's story about his son the world knows about now, we get a lyric of true love and dedication

5. "My Mount Rushmore is me with four different expressions" — Survival

6. "Pinky ring 'til I get a wedding ring" — Nonstop

7. "I gotta breathe in real deep when I catch an attitude" — 8 Out of 10

This first line of the song is about to be spread on the gram like a wildfire

8. "Heard all of the talkin', now it's quiet, now it's shush" — Mob Ties

9. "California girls sweeter than pieces of candy" — Sandra's Rose

This is gonna have every girl who has ever stayed in Cali all hot and heavy, watch it.

10. "I think you're changing your mind, starting to see it in your eyes" — Summer Games

Y'all know how these summer games go

11. "Look the new me is really still the real me" — In My Feelings

When you've got to profess that you've changed 200%

12. "Only beggin' that I do is me beggin' your pardon" — Is There More

13. "Shifted your focus, lens lookin' jaded" — Jaded

14. "Back and forth to Italy, my comment section killin' me" — Can't Take a Joke

Necessary for when you've got people hyping you up already

15. "People are only as tough as they phone allows them to be" — Peak

Y'all can't have this one, I'm stealing it

16. "Work all winter, shine all summer" — That's How You Feel

Put in the work so you can flex on 'em, summer 18

17. "Blue faces, I got blue diamonds, blue tint, yeah" — Blue Tint


18. "I stay busy workin' on me" — Elevate

19. "Ten of us, we movin' as one" — Talk Up

The perfect reason to get the largest group picture you've had on your gram

20. "October baby for irony sake, of course" — March 14

This statistically applies to 1/12 of y'all reading this, so take that as you will (we October babies are the best)

21. "She had an attitude in the summer but now she nice again" — Blue Tint

22. "I know you special girl 'cause I know too many" — In My Feelings


23. "Gotta hit the club like you hit them, hit them, hit them angles" — Nice for What

24. "She said 'Do you love me?' I tell her, 'Only partly,' I only love my ____ and my ____ I'm sorry" — God's Plan

If you haven't used this one yet, get to it

25. "But I'm blessed I just checked, hate me never met me in the flesh" — I'm Upset

26. "It's only good in my city because I said so" — 8 Out of 10

Follow this up with a location and shoutout your hometown

27. "My haters either on they way to work or they arrived" — Can't Take a Joke

28. "I always need a glass of wine by sundown" — Final Fantasy

Has Drake ever been more relatable?

29. "It's your f***in' birthday. Happy birthday" — Ratchet Happy Birthday

Let's go get kicked out of an Applebee's

30. "I move through London with the Eurostep" — Nonstop


31. "I stopped askin' myself and I started feelin' myself" — Survival

Mood all summer 18

32. "They keep tryna' get me for my soul" — I'm Upset

33. "I'm tryna see who's there on the other end of the shade" — Emotionless

34. "Only obligation is to tell it straight" — Elevate

35. "It don't matter to me what you say" — Don't Matter to Me


This line from the King of Pop (MJ) will give you chills. R.I.P.

36. "I'm the chosen one, flowers never pick themselves" — Sandra's Rose

37. "Say you'll never ever leave from beside me" — In My Feelings

Couple goals, amirite?

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi / Instagram

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

It Is Pointless To Pity The Homeless

Guilt is the silent killer of political action.

51
views

Two summers ago, when I was an intern at The Father McKenna Center in Washington DC, I met Jason, who was homeless. I had just finished closing the shelter's computer lab for the evening, and the attendees of the AA meeting in the shelter's cafeteria had started to say their goodbyes and disperse until next week. As I was leaving to take the subway home, and as he was leaving to walk back to his encampment, wherever it may have been, Jason and I converged with each other at the front door of the shelter, and we introduced ourselves to each other.

Jason had two children, aged four and six, both of whom were protected from him under custody by his former wife. She had made the decision to divorce him because of his drug use, which posed a danger to the couple's children. (Jason did not hesitate to admit to this.) Shortly after the separation from his family, he became homeless. He had a high school degree and some former experience doing construction work. Aged into his mid 30's with minimal employment, Jason had been struggling to find a job for years.

As we walked, he told me about his kids, and how sometimes he hears about them during occasional phone calls with his wife. For a moment, he turned his head to look at me in my eyes, and he quietly told me about how proud he was of his daughters for completing the first and third grades of elementary school.

If you are homeless, it takes an immense amount of courage to make the commitment to go to a homeless shelter. I believe that the one thing that most people struggle with, homeless or not, is the challenge of confronting one's own demons. Jason had demons, luggage, regrets, and so on - I had those too. Jason had first stepped at The Father McKenna Center shortly before I began my internship. As I performed the duties of my internship, Jason and I, together, experienced a great turbulence in our individual missions to confront our demons; and with that turbulence came sobriety. Not relief or improvement, but sobriety. True self-improvement is a year-long commitment, but self-awareness is a skill which can be utilized at any time.

Jason and I spoke several times throughout my internship. One of the last interactions I had with his before I completed my term happened again at the front entrance of the shelter. He told me that after years of searching, he had found the initiative to apply for a job. "Even though she and I needed to go our own ways," he said, "I still want to show my wife that I care about her. We're not married, but I still want to provide for her and the kids. I don't know how they feel about me, but I want to show my daughters that I am still their father, and that I love them."

When I started my internship at the shelter, I genuinely believed that I would come out of it depressed and disillusioned. But I learned to look beyond the misfortune and suffering, and with that perspective, I started to find more and more inspiration in the facets of life by which I had previously felt discouraged and depressed. I have not seen Jason in two summers, but I think about him every day, for strength.

Say, for instance, that you start to feel as though the daily grind of your summer job is starting to become too monotonous. Us undergrads are tirelessly told by our advisors that the best possible use of our time during the summer, outside of college and other than working for pay, is time spent volunteering and building up our resumes. After some online research and phone calls, you break down your volunteering options to three different nonprofit organizations in your area: Your first option is to spend 3-5 hours once a week helping a local community center care for its flower garden, fresh herb greenhouse, and wildlife sanctuary. Your second option is to spend Tuesday and Thursday evenings bathing, petting, and reading storybooks to all the dogs and cats at a nonprofit rescue shelter. Your third option is to spend 5 hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at an inner-city homeless shelter and rehabilitation center for men who have been recently released from prison.

This where the conflict begins. Deep inside, you know that volunteering at the men's shelter is, in your opinion, the most valuable kind of work you can do. Human beings require more attention than plants and pets. Humans beings need to be kind to each other, and so, you may want to volunteer at the shelter.

The problem is certainly not that nobody wants to volunteer at homeless shelters. I consider myself an optimist, and I still think that the majority of people living in the United States wish to care for and support each other. The true problem is that even when a good-minded, empathetic, caring person wants to offer their kindness to the homeless, there are layers upon layers of illusions, false impressions, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and (most importantly), miscommunications which prevent them from doing so. What must truly be addressed is not how much attention is being paid to homelessness, but how attention is paid. There are many kinds of layers of illusion; the majority of them are certainly racial illusion. A vast number are economic. Others, however, are emotional. A lot are just flat-out moral as well.

The growing epidemic of homelessness, as an affliction, is the product of political injustice, racist systems, and greed. But the homeless lifestyle itself, however, is not political in nature. Homeless people are not statistics in a study, neither are they variables in a social equation. Homelessness is a daily struggle for a human life, and those who are homeless suffer. They are as emotional and as sentient as the well-off office workers who pelt them with quarters as though they're fountains.

Understanding homelessness is especially hard for people on the polar opposite side of the social/economic spectrum from the homeless. It is somehow harder for a wealthy and educated person to understand homelessness than it is for someone from lower-class origins to do so. As I said before, I genuinely believe that the vast majority of people on this Earth have the moral initiative to help those less fortunate - but this initiative is excessively overridden by the reflexive tendency most people have to compare and juxtapose themselves. This act of reflexive juxtaposition is what scares most people away from homeless shelters.

Call it what you want - "juxtaposition" is not the only word one can use to describe this feeling. Some people might call themselves "overqualified." From a political perspective, some have referred to it as "white guilt." Regardless of what you call it, it is reflexive. Homeless people, just upon sight, are registered with labels and false truths. The visceral, instinctive reaction to a homeless person is "Look forward, walk firm, and don't make eye contact." This is what needs to change.

In western society, people who grow up privileged - with parents, shelter, an education, and relationships - are subconsciously taught, unintentionally encouraged, and silently conditioned by the people around them to treat the homeless with, above all else, pity. The etiquette of reacting to a homeless person suggests something of a "passive melancholy." Like I mentioned before, under this mannerism of avoidant sorrow, homelessness is not a condition of life. It is a political symbol. The stumbling beggar in the subway and the raggedy busker on the street corner are effectively dehumanized by default; as long as they are evidently homeless, their role in the social dynamic of these public places is automatically different from yours and mine. The status of homelessness completely nullifies - no, prevents - a person's worthiness and rightful entitlement to human attribution, and without mercy, they are turned into something which is not human: a figure which is nothing but a representation of itself.

After years of riding the bus and subway, I have become aware of several different categories in which the people around me fit; I see the day laborers, who are categorized by being older men, clad in paint-stained construction pants, functioning in close-knit groups of six or seven. I see the government employees, who are categorized by the loudness of their gazes of exhaustion, directionless and unfixed, garbed in outdated albeit notably well-fitted suits, bland floral blouses, sky-blue button downs, the incredible pant suits, and khakis, and khakis, and khakis. I see the college-aged summertime interns running coffee for politicians who never remember their names, and they, too, are categorized; specifically by their calculated movements, blatantly artificial exteriors, and the endearing aura of simultaneous youthful naivety and capitalistic millennial-themed ambition (they also act like they know where they're going, when really, they don't, but they never stop to ask for directions). I see the mothers, the trust-fund white kids from Gonzaga, the beatniks from Howard, the Reagan-bound luggage-bearing vagabonds, the punks, the academics, the racists, the anarchists, the activists, the drunks, the wandering, the sleeping, and of course, the emblematic tourists in their MAGA hats, graphic tees, and jorts.

What kind of a response is demanded of those who choose to protect the weak? How are the wounded addressed by the healers? How should I talk to someone who suffers? The photographers, the journalists, and the volunteers cannot hope to rile a revolution alone. Neither can the teachers hope to raise a generation freed from toxicity alone, nor can the young politicians on the Hill hope to deliver their country to safety and stability alone. The problem of homelessness can be addressed, as can it be confronted, observed, studied, and journalized. Don't get me wrong, though - this type of action is deeply important: The awareness of a problem creates an opportunity for its solution. But the raising of awareness is not enough. The confrontation of our reality is not enough. To take the first step beyond awareness is to give attention to those who are in need of it; to attend to the weak and the wounded, and to act for their protection and their healing. In the words of the French revolutionary Simone Weil: "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."


Song suggestion: LCD Soundsystem - American Dream

Cover Image Credit:

Paul J. RIchards/Getty Images

Related Content

Facebook Comments