“The reason modern people can’t find God is that they aren’t looking low enough.”
Professor Jordan B. Peterson on Carl Gustav Jung
The devil is in the details. That’s what they always say, isn’t it? There’s also something about idle hands and whatnot, but that doesn’t seem to stem from the same branch of adage wisdom as the former saying, thought Eve. Devil. Details. Fuck it.
She had spent the better part of her day picking away at the trash behind St. Jude’s cathedral and the adjoining youth center. She did just that every other day around various trash containers in the city that she had, through extensive trial and error, identified as being the best for salvaging useful junk to repurpose. It was never fun, but it was entertaining. Or rather, it was busywork, the kind of menial task that nevertheless required great attention and presence of mind; garbage salvage could be dangerous for the unwary. Bottom line for her: it was the part of what she did the she least cared for.
What she really would rather be doing is be back at the workshop, tinkering with the different parts and useful junk she managed to procure. Affixing one seemingly incongruous part to another until some contraption came to be, like a musician improvising a complete symphony from just a few disjointed notes. Well, perhaps not a symphony, Eve considered, but a catchy song the likes of which one hears on the radio. A summer hit; nothing too complex or high-brow, but pleasant and easy to whistle or hum along to. She was still looking to make her own symphony of contraptions, her magnum opus.
Cutting her reverie short, Eve shut the lid on the large, blue metal trash container and dropped down from atop it. She hit the ground with a soft thud, swore under her breath as the familiar painful jolt hit her knees, then walked a few steps with an odd gait that was less a limp and more a sustained motion of falling forward before resuming a somewhat normal cadence. Her green and khaki oversized jacket, which she had made herself, was a study in pockets and practicality. Buttons, zippers, and Velcro accounted for a good thirty per cent of its confection, with the remaining being water-proof materials she had scavenged from an old army-surplus store’s garbage bin.
She mapped the layout of the city in her head and made mental notes about what bins – outliers mainly – she might still consider picking through. These were always a gamble, but sometimes they paid off big time. She considered for a minute before deciding on one; she would hit the bin on 3rd and Oak, where the old video arcade had been until a few weeks back. The city had cleaned out much of what had been put outside the arcade after the owners had disappeared – skipped this dying town, most likely –, but she figured there was a good chance something worthwhile might still be there, waiting for her discerning eyes.
Ten city blocks and a half hour later, at a leisurely pace, Eve was standing on the corner of 3rd and Oak, taking in the dilapidated beauty of what had once been a mecca for the very young, the tweeners and the teens, the soon-to-be adults, and the odd man-child and even rarer woman-child – so often recluses unwilling to show themselves for who they are in public. Not a decade had gone by since Eve herself had been a happy-go-lucky thirteen-year-old who frequented the very arcade she was now planning on pillaging, spending her allowance in the form of quarters and tokens, finding joy and personal triumphs in the myriad screens of the arcade cabinets where fantasy and science fiction adventure lay bare for her. In the days before she discovered her true passion and calling in life, video games had been king.
Memories flooded her mind as she recalled being the butt-end of jokes and jabs by other girls her age. They were mostly interested in the older boys, and spent what Eve considered an inordinate amount of time on finding ways to be noticed by those who they fancied. She never much cared for any boy, or any girl for that matter. No, all Eve ever really wanted was to draw out more and more satisfaction from playing, from exploring. Once the hobby shop opened next to the arcade, tinkering and mechanical endeavors became her world, the source from which she derived meaning and happiness.
She dispelled these wistful memories and walked along the sidewalk, bituminous and dirty with the grime of countless years of traffic. She couldn’t help but draw comparisons in her mind between what had once been and what now was, the concrete and steel carcasses of juggernauts, where thousands upon thousands had gathered to worship at the altars of technology and consumerism. Yet, there was something nagging at her, an itch in the back of her head, beneath her skull, unreachable, un-scratchable… There was something off about the place, as much as that can be said about an abandoned building without touching upon the obvious.
She came upon the double doors of the abandoned arcade, their neon pink and blue designs, all sharp lines with stylized thunder in neon yellow dating what had already been a relic of a different era when Eve had been one of the place’s patrons. It struck her as humorous, that she would now break into and enter a place that had welcomed her with open doors, where she had willingly given all her scant earthly riches but was now about to take with unabashed abandon.
She stopped, frozen solid as she put her hand on one of the doors, and darted a look to her right. She thought she had seen movement out of the corner of her eye. Nothing. It had been nothing. She set back to the task ahead and took out a pair of lock-picking tools with which to undo the pesky padlock the city had slapped on the doors. Vandals and scoundrels would be kept out, but not the resourceful urchin, no sir. She needed no more than a minute and the lock clicked open. She removed the chains, pushed the double doors open and walked into the arcade.
For a second, Eve considered putting the chains back on to make it look like the place was still locked up, but thought better of it. It was already late in the afternoon and the area was mostly deserted. It was highly unlikely that anyone would pass by, much less notice anything out of place. People were good at obviating and not noticing the things around them, their surroundings and the subtle changes in them.
The air was dusty, and there was a strong hint of humidity building up that would surely mean the building would be condemned not too far in the future unless some serious conditioning and work were put into it. She expected it would be the former and that the city would tear it all down.
Movement again, this time a little more solid, easier to focus on, Eve thought. But she was inside. Before it had been outside, on the street. Likely rats, she thought, wanting to believe it in a way she realized bordered on irrational. She wondered what was wrong with her. Why the sudden eerie feeling? Why the fear?
She opted to move on, to boldly ignore her own childish fears and frank disgust for rodents – though she had to admit she held no ill-will toward the species; she thought highly of it conceptually, rat kind; she just didn’t like the smell of them –, and made a bee-line for where she remembered the employees-only areas and storage room had been.
Better yet, no one had bothered to lock any of the doors within the arcade. The city officials had likely thought it unnecessary to do so. Who would bother breaking in? Right.
As she walked into what appeared to be the employee break room, she noticed movement again and this time couldn’t help but jump, startled. Whatever that thing had been, it had been far bigger than any rat she had ever seen. Also, she didn’t recall ever hearing about rats running horizontally across a sheer wall.
She fished for her flashlight from out of her jacket – never leave home to scavenge without it! – and set about finding whatever that thing had been and where it had gotten off to. Her search led her down a hallway that, after a few too many steps, led Eve to wonder if it was geometrically possible for it to be as long as it appeared to be, given the building’s dimensions. By her calculations, which were generally accurate, the hallway was at least two times too long to fit within the arcade.
The hallway continued, whatever she thought about it, so she doggedly stayed on the path until she came upon a door with a painted sign that read The Pit. Funny, she thought, sarcastically. This door was also unlocked, so she entered the comically-named room to find what appeared to be a hydroponic plantation set-up. It wasn’t large, and it wasn’t for Cannabis – she could spot those in a second – but the PVC pipe structure before her was unmistakably a hydroponic garden.
This was decidedly weird. This kind of installation, clearly up-and-running, in the bowels of a seemingly abandoned building. Eve would have thought one of the city officials was running some kind of drug operation if it wasn’t for the fact that the plants – and what odd plants they appeared to be! – were not of the Sativa or Indica variety. Certainly not Ruderalis! Ostensibly, she considered, they might be some other kind of drug-related plant, but she thought it unlikely.
She inspected the plants closely and found them familiar, yet she couldn’t place where she might remember them from. There happened to be one plant, a yellow-purple flowering bush with small, yellow cherry-like fruits that appeared to have red spots, that caught her eye and commanded her attention. As she drew near it she noticed a label on the PVC casing that housed it. It read: ANGVIS.
She looked at the fruit it bore. It looked plump and moist, almost as if it would burst if it wasn’t picked off from the burdened branches soon. She felt her mouth water, flooding with saliva as if at the prospect of a fine meal.
Before she could check herself, Eve picked the one fruit that looked the plumpest. She drew in breath as if she had startled herself, and looked at the tiny blood-spotted cherry in her hand. What the hell! She thought, and bit into the tiny morsel.
Her taste buds were immediately overwhelmed, as if assaulted with such taste as no human had ever been treated to. Colors flooded her mind as strange musical notes drowned out all external sound. She recognized, with a small portion of conscious thought, that this was a synesthetic experience, and that something profound was taking place at a nervous and, somehow, neurological level within her.
After a few minutes, the waves of stimulation that washed over her senses diminished and finally abated, and she felt oddly revitalized, full of energy like she hadn’t felt since she had been a little girl.
Slowly, a growing realization began to dawn within her. She could see. She could see, but not like before. She could see.
And she could hear. She heard it when it spoke to her. It called to her by name, Eve. It told her things, it reminded her of things, it recalled things for her. Eve. It greeted her warmly, like an old acquaintance. The oldest of friends.
It found it curious, that she had come alone. Oh, she had not known? It wondered, aloud. Had she known beforehand, she might have brought along a male. Adam? Yes, like the little men like to think, to tell that old yarn. No, he would have died. Indeed. That is because there never had been an Adam to begin with. No. There was only ever Eve.