Read Eleven Twenty-Three Online

Authors: Jason Hornsby

Tags: #apocalypse, #plague, #insanity, #madness, #quarantine, #conspiracy theories, #conspiracy theory, #permuted press, #outbreak, #government cover up, #contrails

Eleven Twenty-Three

BOOK: Eleven Twenty-Three
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Eleven Twenty-Three

Jason S. Hornsby

Published by Permuted Press at
Smashwords.

Copyright 2010 Jason S. Hornsby

www.PermutedPress.com

 

Ruminations and Acknowledgements

 

The List seems to have gotten longer this
time around.

First, I would like to thank Jacob Kier, my
publisher that
never
sleeps; and also, my brilliant fellow
undead junkie and editor, Travis Adkins. I’m honored to be a member
of the Permuted family, though if we ever shared a surname it would
probably be Manson.

Again, I’m hugely indebted to those artists
and humanitarians that came before me and who I will now feebly
attempt to properly credit. Charles Bukowski, Bret Ellis, Koushun
Takami, Sion Sono, Shinya Tsukamoto, Eric Steel, Charlie Kaufman,
Chris Carter, Darin Morgan, Marc Etkind, James Shelby Downard,
Charles Fort, Robert Anton Wilson, Sylvester Stallone (I’m being
serious), Yumi Akashima, Akiko Noma, Richard D. James, Richard
McKenna, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi—your contributions to literature,
film, music, and especially the human condition are immeasurable,
and the world owes all of you a happy ending.

From the Academy, I want to thank my fellow
staff for everything they have done, and for playing the role of my
second family for two years. Without your unwavering support,
professionalism, and shoulders to lean on, I may not have been able
to keep up with the gargantuan responsibilities of teaching all day
and writing all night. Nor would I have wanted to. I’d also like to
show appreciation to my partner in academic crime, Jessica Stone.
If not for Jessica, I would never have taken this novel in the
direction I did. I’m not sure if I adore or loathe her for that.
Time will tell. From the same building, I’d like to thank my
co-teacher and expatriate friend Joseph Haley for the surreptitious
hallway chats, slurred late-night conversations, shoptalk, and
Mortal Kombat
tournaments. I hope you found happiness in
Malaysia. Our next rendezvous will be somewhere in the smog.

To my summer China friends, you may not ever
read this, but you certainly helped provoke it. Our short time
together in the Orient was among the most invaluable experiences of
my life, and you have all made a permanent impact on me. Michael,
Tony, Dennis, Andre and Mary, Susan, Frank, Xiaoyue—I dream of
another overnight train and lukewarm Tsing Tao one day with all of
you.

I’m greatly in debt to my always excessive
and often provocative group of Lakeland friends, whose over-the-top
weekend adventures, political commentary, ghost hunts, two a.m.
Moon Tower discussions, brash and decadent senses of humor,
unwavering character and honesty, and total 2012 preparedness will
certainly prove to be the inspiration of much nostalgia while I’m
away. But not to worry: my move is only to expand our franchise.
Shawn Nelson, Brian Corbett, Miles and JD (you’re my honorary
Lakeland friends), Kyle Roman, Damon Devorss, Cindy and John
Windsor, Clint and Stephani Tolbert, you guys from that local metal
band I kind of like, and the rest of you characters—never stop
hiding from the sun. Never.

In Beijing, I’d like to give the following
people a big awkward hug for their support, drinking games,
speeches on the global transition toward socialism, and Mandarin
lessons: Liam Holly, Whitney Rosenberg, Dustin Zagars, Winnie Zou,
and especially my Jinlv. Thanks to all of you, I’m living in one of
my own ridiculous novels.

If not for the occasional monetary support,
Sunday dinners, political arguments, reverse inspiration, and
emotional turbulence of my family, this book would have been ten
pages of notebook paper scribbles hidden away in my hall closet.
Josh and Brandie, Dad and Chris, Grandma and Pops, and especially
my Uncle Jeff…thank you so, so much. I promise that one day I’ll
figure out what I’m doing with myself, and you will too.

Strange and sad as it may be, I also feel
hugely indebted to my extraordinary, supernaturally perceptive cat
Ellis for his support during this difficult project. Too many times
to count, Ellis’s unique and decidedly
un
-catlike ability to
interpret and empathize with my weekly moments of melancholy and
melodrama truly saved my life. He repeatedly put a halt to the
production of this book by hopping into my lap while I was trying
to write it, but I was never too busy for him, even if I was
sometimes too busy for everything else. I could never love another
cat in China, nor will I try.

It would be unfair (not to mention boring) to
leave out the following family, exes, and haunts from my
acknowledgements, as your cynicism, hypocrisy, abandonment,
betrayal, and slight insanity inspired me to burrow into my womb
and abandon your world. To the Jessica franchise, the amoral
friends, the bigots, the Nanluogu Xiang girls, the old unstable
women, the Amazon literature professors, the various other former
protégés that shall remain first-nameless, and anyone else who
scanned the I-hate-you list looking for your anti-prestige—there’s
nothing left to say. You are now…officially…forgotten.

To God…thank you. I’m glad you make
international house calls.

I’d like to dedicate this novel to Natalie
Ballard, a true soul mate and one of the most passionate and
beautiful people I have ever known. She brings me Nyquil when I’m
sick, loans me her collection of suicide notes, attempts to
convince all of her Internet friends that my writing is
interesting, and is much smarter than me to boot. This book only
exists because of you, Natalie. Therefore it’s yours.

Finally, to my hometown of Lakeland, Florida:
I love you, but it’s over. Lake Mirror is pretty, the swans were a
nice touch, and those Oysters Rockefeller at Shucky’s remain truly
transcendent, but I want my key, my security deposit, and my gray
jacket back (you can keep the railroad spike). I think we would
both benefit from a change.

 

Jason S. Hornsby

Chinese New Year, 2009

Beijing, PRC

 

Document One

 

“And in my dream the sky eats the airplane
and the Western moon drains all hope like two unholy carnivorous
ships that pass in the night.”

 

Shanghai, PRC – San Francisco, California –
Orlando, Florida

Combined Populations at 10:05 PM GMT + 08:00
on Thursday, December 6, 2007: 19,862,186

 

“Contemporary man has rationalized the myths,
but he has not been able to destroy them.”

- Octavio Paz,
El Laberinto de la
Soledad

 


一般
来说
,
公司里刚刚从国外回来的年轻游客是最没有教养的
.”

- Jonathan Swift

 

“Beyond this room, beyond this wall, beyond
this man who was not quite the same man seated at the desk that was
not quite the same desk…lay an entire world of streets and people.
What sort of world it was now, there was no telling.”

- Ray Bradbury,
A Sound of Thunder

 

10:2
2:04 PM

 

The dead are all around us, I realize for the
third time since they found my father yesterday, and continue
staring.

In the airport bar where my girlfriend Tara
and I are pounding away overpriced Asian beers before our flight, I
spot a man with a briefcase attached to his wrist by a long metal
coil and thin handcuff about three tables away. He is illuminated
in green-gray smoke-light from his own cigarette and the Yanjing
Beer lamp burning above his head, and he methodically stirs around
whatever the clear concoction is in his glass. Even from where
we’re seated I can hear the ice crinkle and collapse into its own
melted abyss. When he notices me leering at his wrist, at the
silver handcuff wrapped tautly around it, I look back at Tara and
pretend to be engaged in a conversation. When he resumes his
attention on the soccer game playing on mute from above the bar, I
commence gazing at him. I am in awe.

I found out yesterday—of all days, it had to
be yesterday—that because of the limited space in China, the dead
are not usually buried. They are burned, cremated, and their dust
is scattered into the air for the living to eventually inhale.
Except not really. Although family and friends will always
tell
the government that they have cremated the body, this
is often not the case. Those cash-strapped and others reticent to
let loved ones burn will more often than not simply take the
corpses of freshly deceased relatives away from town and dig a
shallow grave somewhere along the way. Throughout China this
happens, someone told Tara and me at the university today as we
were rushing around trying to tie up the loose ends. Across the
country, there are forgotten Asians buried just underneath our
feet.

Here, the dead truly inhere all around
us.

“What are you thinking?” Tara asks me.

“About what?” I say, motioning at the sprite
little waitress for another beer.

“About anything, I guess.”

“I’m thinking about what Nalan Minghui said
at school earlier, about how the dead are buried all over the
country and none of it’s marked.”

“God, I was running around frantically trying
to get our shit together before the flight. I don’t even
remember.”

“Well, Nalan Minghui said it.”

“So why are you thinking about
that
?”
Tara asks.

The man in the gray suit, black tie, and
handcuff notices my gaze yet again, but this time we make eye
contact for several sweat-inducing seconds. Something seems to
occur to him as he looks at me, and whatever it is causes his
facial features to soften and his grip to relax on the empty glass
he’s holding. I cringe but cannot look away until he smiles, tips
his drink at me, and begins to stand up. He doesn’t look any older
than forty, but winces like an old man when he struggles to his
feet.

“I…guess…I was just thinking…” I am lost in
my own terrified barroom reverie, watching as the man saunters over
to the counter to order another clear drink, and smiles politely as
he tosses down a bill for 50 Yuan.

“Were you thinking about your father?” Tara
asks. “Is that what brought the dead Chinese thing up? Because that
makes a lot of sense, actually—”

“Well, I wasn’t thinking about my father—I
was trying to save that awful thought process for the plane ride
back to the States—but I suppose I can think about it now, if you’d
prefer.”

“Don’t be a dick, Layne. I was just asking.
You’ve been really quiet about it since you found out last night. I
was just trying to give you the opportunity to discuss your
thoughts on going home under these circumstances.”

“Take it easy, Sunshine. You can turn the
psychology degree off for now. I’m fine.”

The bartender hands the man another drink,
and he immediately begins heading not back to his own table, but
toward us, toward Tara and I at our little corner underneath the
mirror. I try not to let him know just how aware I am that he is
approaching us, but we match eyes again and I force a welcoming
nod, despite the beads of sweat materializing underneath my arms
and at the bottom of my spine.

“People die,” I say, turning away from my
girlfriend. “Hello there.”

“Good evening,” the man says in a dignified
West Coast accent. “How are you two doing?”

“Just great,” Tara says, casting me a
quizzical glance. “How are, um, you, sir?”

She suppresses a giggle. I am again reminded
that Tara is not entirely used to the adult world yet. She had just
finished college a few months before we left.

“I’m fine, thanks. But listen, I was just
wondering—may I join you two for a few minutes? It’s just that I’ve
been here waiting for this flight for a good while now and haven’t
spoken to any other Americans in days—”

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