Jubal played the flute better than Jethro Tull. People stopped cold when they heard his hypnotic Bouree, this hairy man sitting on a stinking zafu surrounded by garbage bags full of things. After every rendition, he would curse the small crowd and chase them away. Then he sat frozen for a while like a Socrates transfixed.
People tossed him money despite his cursing. He used the money to buy a fresh cold can of Coors. He returned to his zafu and took a long pull. Sidewalks were still sidewalks, and people still walked. When Jubal breathed into his instrument, the sound came out as pixilated trails finding their way inside these virtual humans.
He knew what he was doing. He was real and they were not. His mantric sounds were calling them home. He himself had no home. He wanted none of it. No compromise, no comfort. A John the Baptist, a voice from the wilderness, in a virtual world.
He sat on his zafu and watched an ant crawl into the opening of his can of beer. He drank some more. Poor ant, he mused, carried by the waterfall into his stomach, slowly dissolving in his gastric juices.
That won’t happen to me. I won’t dissolve into this nightmare.
“Jubal, you gotta but the beer in a brown bag to drink on the sidewalk”, said the cop in his smooth blue uniform.
“Officer, you’re disturbing my concentration”.
“Very funny, vagrant, and stop yelling at the people, or I’ll have to take you in.”
Jubal raised his can to salute the officer and drank down the rest of the can.
It’s time Jubal.
The voice was clear when it wanted to be. It disturbed Jubal because he never knew what to expect, but he had to obey it. Even though it giveth and taketh away. And what it gave was plenitude on this desolate earth. At a price.
“Officer, been a pleasure, but the voice tells me I have to go”
“Of course, Jubal”, the officer acknowledged condescendingly.
Later. After sunset.
Jubal went to the clearing by the creek where he bathed. It was an ugly patch of woods ignored by the city park agency and avoided by the population. That is, a perfect place.
One would think that Jubal’s voice would communicate some sage like wisdom that he would impart to his sidewalk listeners in his own idiosyncratic way. But no such thing occurred.
Jubal sat on his zafu under the tree in the light of the moon. In his Socratic catalepsis he saw the following: a bedroom with an opened suitcase on it. A man in the living room watching TV, sipping whiskey. Then he saw her body, in the creek, neck broken.
Jubal stood up. Walked along the creek. Found the woman, water running over her. Neck broken. Warm. Barely dead.
He touched her forehead, and saw the man again, watching TV, rubbing his sore hands, and sipping whiskey. Jubal got on the bus, stopped at a building. Buzzed the apartment. The man was expecting Chinese food, and Jubal announced delivery. Jubal went to the door. The man answered. Jubal grabbed his neck, broke it, strangled him fiercely, and threw him to the ground. The man, thrashing helplessly, looked at Jubal, mouthed the words “forgive me”, and died.
Jubal shut the door behind him, and left the building. He took the bus back to the place he boarded. And returned to the woods.
He sat on his zafu. The colors blended and the harmonies returned. He took his things to a resting place, and slept like a baby.
Several mornings later, Jubal cursed his listeners, as he did each morning, even though they tossed him money. As he did every day, he used the money to buy a fresh cold can of Coors. This morning, as he took a long pull from the can, an officer in a fresh blue uniform approached.
“Jubal, put it in a bag”
“Jubal, did you hear about the woman in the creek?”
“It turns out she was murdered, and her husband was found dead in their apartment. Both their necks were broken, both were strangled.”
Jubal shrugged, took another drink from his can, and said nothing. Evil is triumphant, and it is the reality behind the virtual one. Don’t dig too deep, or it will bite you. Your pleasures won’t satisfy, and your fears will mount with time. Time is an empty skull, mocking you.