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Book Excerpt from "Fly on the Wall"
excerpt from "Fly on the Wall" by Robin Coe
Jaylin did his best to make sure the boy and old man guru did not see him follow them down the strange hallway. He wondered why Dorian never mentioned the hallway. But there was a lot that Dorian didn't mention.
The young boy turned to the older man.
"Let's start here," he said.
They opened a doorway marked "Dreams".
Jaylin slipped down the hallway past the door. He read the other doors as he passed them, "Random Thoughts", "Revelations". Jaylin slipped into the last one when he heard voices at the end of the hall. He practically jumped out of his skin when a woman behind a desk addressed him.
"Welcome to Creative Out-pours," she chirped. "Is there a form you would like to submit?"
Jaylin's face turned white. He wasn't expecting anyone to be in the room. He looked around confusedly. Old reel-to-reel players were spinning behind the woman at the desk. Tape decks were blaring out random pieces of chatter. A man in the background was spinning records on a DJ table. He heard bits of poetry floating in the air. "This is my body... A shadow whispers in the darkness... This is my blood... She said she loved me... This is my body... With her beautiful red lips... This is my blood... Painted on white flesh..."
"Screech," screamed the reel-to-reel player.
Jaylin fell backwards as he tried to scramble back out the door.
"Sir, sir?" the woman at the desk called after him.
Jaylin ran down the hall, and could only think of dashing into another room when he saw a group of monks walking towards him.
He turned and realized he was behind the older man and the twelve-year-old boy.
"It's very important," the boy said to the clerk, "that these dreams appear in the exact same sequence as we give them to you. Do you understand?"
Behind the clerk was a large theater screen. On the screen, a girl was sitting on the bank of a river, when a snake emerged from the water and bit her.
"I'll have to tell the authorities," the girl says to the snake.
"I know," the snake replies.
"Have you been in trouble before?" she asks.
The snake nods its head 'yes'.
"This might get you killed," she says. "Because a kid is involved."
The snake on the screen seems sorry that it bit the girl. The girl doesn't tell the authorities.
"It's also very important," the twelve-year-old boy said to the clerk, "that his dreams coincide in sequence with mine. Do you understand?"
The clerk began to get lippy, "What? Do you think I was born yesterday?" the clerk snapped. "I get it." She then looked at Jaylin.
"Can I help you?" she said to Jaylin.
The two gurus turned and looked at him. Jaylin stammered backwards out of the room, and continued to run down the hall. When he finally stopped and looked around his surroundings, he realized that he wasn't alone. There was a woman sitting at the far end of the hall. It was difficult to make out her figure. He moved closer – and then realized it was Kaylee, the woman who had entered the Astral Realm the same moment he had.
Kaylee's eyes were closed, and she had her head relaxed into the corner folds of the wall.
"Kaylee," Jaylin whispered. "Kaylee."
Kaylee's eyes popped open, and she jumped to her feet. She was standing in a defensive stance and gritting her teeth at him.
"Who the fuck are you?" Kaylee growled.
"Jaylin? Jaylin who?"
"Ah... we met... well, not really met, but died at the same time. You popped in here when I did."
Kaylee relaxed her arms, and looked down the hall past him.
"So... why should I care?"
"Forget it," Kaylee said. "Do you know where we are?"
"No. Not exactly. But I think if we follow some of these monks, we could figure it out."
Kaylee sighed heavily. Her eyes flitted down the hallway.
"Are you okay?" Jaylin asked.
"No! I'm not okay," she said. "I've been trying to find a way out of here. I've even tried killing myself a few times. I just end up in the same place. And that freak Dorian keeps greeting me again, and again," she said.
"Oh, yeah... I can see how that would be a bit freaky," Jaylin replied. "You know, it's not so bad to be reborn. I was a rabbit... a dolphin... even a butterfly."
"I have no wish to be any of those things," she said. "I don't want to be anything at all."
"Yeah. I understand. You know, I was about to kill myself. But then this girl called and she was actually pretty cool. But, it doesn't matter because I ended up dying, anyway."
"Bummer," Kaylee sighed. For a single moment, it seemed like she smiled.
"It's no laughing matter," Jaylin said, half-jokingly.
Kaylee then began to laugh hysterically. "You have to admit that's it's pretty funny that you find a reason for living – only to die, anyway," she said.
"Yeah... not funny," Jaylin said in a more serious tone.
Kaylee put her hand on Jaylin's shoulder. "I'm sorry. I'm not the model of human empathy these days."
"Why did you kill yourself, anyway?" Jaylin asked.
Kaylee paused for a moment, and then looked off into the distance.
"I guess I was just depressed," she said.
"So, as you were saying," she said, changing the subject, "you had in mind that we follow some monks? I'm bored... so I'm game. Let's do it." Kaylee brushed her dark brown locks out of her eyes. Jaylin just then noticed that she had the brightest green eyes he had ever seen.
Jaylin gave Kaylee a hand to help her off the floor. Her skin was soft and warm. He thought it was a shame that she had been so depressed in life. He was relieved to have someone else there with him. He could hardly call Dorian a partner, or even a friend. Jaylin realized he had been feeling lonely for quite a while in this strange new world.
"Look," Kaylee said. "There's a whole group of them."
A group of men wrapped in robes were huddled together in the halls. They seemed as confused as he did when he first emerged into the strange hallway. He wondered if these were the students of some guru... who had perhaps cajoled out a bit of useful information from their teacher. It seemed that this was a secret hall, but the clerics didn't seem to care whether he was there or not.
Jaylin and Kaylee slipped behind a monk who seemed to know what he was doing. They followed the monk into the office labeled "Random Thoughts".
"Welcome to Random Thoughts," the woman behind the desk chirped.
A post-it note floated past Kaylee's eyes, while a napkin with scrawls on it tried to slip up Jaylin's nose. Kaylee let out a small chuckle, and then put her hand over her mouth to quiet herself.
"Ah, yes... thank you," the monk replied. "I have a stack of submissions to present you for my next life."
"Certainly," the woman said. She picked up the stack of papers and glanced over them quickly.
"And would you like these to appear on napkins, post-it notes or random pieces of paper," she said.
"Irrelevant," the monk replied.
"On the contrary," the woman said. "It's very important. A napkin may end up wiping a mess off a child's mouth, a stack of post-it notes could end up in the trash – in each instance you lose the thought forever. Thoughts are very fleeting – they seem to enjoy disappearing."
Kaylee began to chuckle out loud again. The monk looked at her with a stern eye, which seemed to make her want to laugh more. Jaylin put his hand on her shoulder, and pinched her. She stopped laughing. Around them they heard the soft mutters of random thoughts, "Perhaps one of the most frustrating feats... controlling my mind... dark corners... child looking up, hunched... sitting... a dragon with a demon riding on its back..."
"Fine, then," the monk quipped. "Paper will do just fine. Preferably, bound journals."
Kaylee was beginning to lose her restraint on her laughter, when the monk walked out the door. The woman at the desk glanced up at her.
"Can I help you?" the woman said. "Do you have a submittal?
Kaylee bit back the laughter.
"Can I borrow some paper?" she asked.
"Certainly." The woman frowned and handed a stack of paper to her.
"Come on," Kaylee whispered to Jaylin.
They walked out into the hall. Kaylee started laughing hysterically. Jaylin was happy to see her laughing for a change. She looked even more beautiful with a smile on her face.
"Wow," she said. "This could be more fun than I thought."
"I think I'm beginning to understand," Jaylin said. He explained his life as a bunny rabbit, and told her about the discussion between the monks.
"So, you're saying that they found a way to remember the Astral Realm and their past lives," Kaylee said.
"Yes, and I think they are planting dreams, random thoughts and creative out-pours into their lives to help them do it."
"Genius!" Kaylee said excitedly. "Do you know what this means?"
Jaylin paused for a moment, "No."
Kaylee jumped up and kissed him on the lips, "Imagine what we could do. If we plan it right. If we plant the right thoughts and dreams?"
Jaylin spied Dorian further down the hall. He hadn't spotted him and Kaylee, yet. But he was getting closer. Jaylin grabbed Kaylee's wrist. "Dammit, in here."
Jaylin opened a door behind him, and they stepped inside. They were inside a broom closet. Jaylin looked around at the three walls and the cleaning tools.
"Hm... figures... I've been looking for a closet all night," he said.
Kaylee smiled, "If you want to go somewhere private, all you had to do was ask."
"Dorian," Jaylin replied. "He's out there."
"Oh... I hate that bastard!" she said. "Is he gone?"
"I doubt he would think of looking in a broom closet," Jaylin said.
"You never know with that creep," Kaylee replied. She lifted the pile of blank paper up to Jaylin. "We have a lot of work to do. We may as well stay here to plan it all out."
"Plan what out?"
"Well, if we plan it out right," she said. "We could be born as humans, and do whatever the fuck we want."
"Why would I want to be born as a human, again?" Jaylin asked. "All that pain, sorrow – I don't want to do that, again. Besides, humans have long lives. I'm not ready for that type of commitment."
"Yes," Kaylee said. "But imagine that you remembered this world, and all your past lives. Do you think you would be scared of death or pain, then?"
Jaylin considered her words. "We could do anything. We wouldn't be afraid – and we could just kill ourselves when we were ready to die. In fact, we could plan out our next three lives right now and decide we'll die by the age of sixteen in each one. That way, we can come back here and converse again. And if we get separated – we can just think of the next life on the list."
Kaylee jumped into Jaylin's arms and planted another kiss on his lips, only this time she kissed him deeper. Jaylin didn't say anything – the kiss had decided everything.
Robin Coe is a journalist and author. She wrote the fantasy novel "Fly on the Wall" and graphic novel "Illustrated Book of Wrath".