April 12th, 2049
Violet could almost feel the flapping of fins on her lips as she purposely stomped through the puddles of rain through Redcliffe Gardens. The water flattened her long black hair, making her gaunt appearance even more eery. She thought her oversized brown suit was a good idea in the mirror earlier, that it made her look sophisticated and serious. A serious artist. Now she rolled her eyes at herself, for she was merely blending in with the dreariness around her. Everything seemed brown. The day above her was grey again, and it had been like that for months now. Where she was heading would not be grey, but that didn’t make it any more pleasant. Violet turned a corner and a soaked tabby cat rubbed against her legs, and she knelt down to pet him before he ran away into a nearby alley ahead of her. The air smelled of metal and gasoline, and the high-rises loomed above her like sinister robots waiting to attack. Her beloved city, for god’s sakes. It was a fucking joke.
Violet stopped just short of Earl’s Court, wriggling her hands out of her dingy yellow gloves she found rummaging through a sales bin in Shoreditch. She shoved them in her coat pocket and grabbed the door to No. 17, the newest Well a mile from her flat. An elderly gentleman hobbled past her as she held the door, grinning wide enough to show all of his three and a half teeth. An employee was watching him as he walked out the door, and it was apparent the old man was being shooed out. Violet felt her heart sink with pity as he nodded at her and mumbled something about having to take the salt with the sweet. A misguided attempt at connection, Violet thought as he walked out the door and shivered before dragging his feet across the street. She watched him go for a moment, then ducked her head and went inside.
Inside No. 17 was bustling in a way that felt like being hit in the face with a swarm full of butterflies…almost too beautiful and overwhelming at once. Violet combed her wet hair out with her fingers as she took in the surroundings. Groups of people projected writing on the walls in front of them, everyone motioning to each other with emphatic and boisterous gestures. One man wearing a kilt and a silver crop-top had an easel in the corner and was painting his self portrait in a mirror hanging to the left of his face. The walls were a sky-blue color with tiny pink meadowlarks painted like polka dots, and tiny happy faces pulsated out of the crown molding in diagonal movements. ‘God, all these happy faces,’ Violet thought as she moved her way through the room. Circular tables were all around, with fish bowls placed ever-so-delicately in the middle of them, exotic purple plants and giant bamboo sticking out from the top.
Violet walked up to the counter to the barista. A sign above her read: Welcome to our Well, where we offer The Newest Innovation in coffee. Here we hold goldfish that feed on a blue-green algae that is densely filled with Lycozeemestra, a nutrient that goes straight to the brain that not only enhances serotonin in a natural way, but boosts the neurons that extrapolate creativity at high speeds for up to 7 hours. You will not only feel a boost of serotonin, you will also be consumed with an intense desires to create, whether it be in writing, art, music or all things entertainment. FDA approved. She sighed handed the barista her IQ card. He had a yellow afro and a pink nose ring, smiled at her after studying it and handed it back to her. Violet ordered the Translucent, the strongest brew available. As she waited she spotted Mark, and he looked up from his laptop and waved her over.
“Remember, they’re just a bunch of monkeys throwing shit against a wall. It doesn’t mean anything.” Mark said as she sat down in front of him. He knew about her anxiousness at the cafe but didn’t understand it. Colin had been dead for months now, and Mark was her only friend…and she didn’t even know if she could call him that anymore. She missed her students. But they didn’t really know or understand her either, not really. Violet took a couple sips of her coffee and spun her mug around and around as she stared at Mark typing away on his computer screen. Typing away like it was nothing at all, just another day in paradise.
Her phone rings on the table. The screen reads ‘Dad’. She ignores it.
“Violet, you can’t be like this. You can’t do this. You can’t let go of your teaching just because you want to shut out the world. This is the way it is now. You have to accept it. That’s your tactic, isn’t it? Just to shut down everything.” Violet could still hear Colin’s voice in her head and she wanted it to be gone…would do just about anything to get rid of it. But at night it was a comfort, a sort of knowing that he was the only one who ever really knew her and now he was dead, so she could be anyone she wanted to be and no one would ever see her as she felt inside. She never really told him how much he meant to her, not really. Late at night he would play the guitar and they would laugh, because he wasn’t very good and he only knew a couple chords and he would strum those same ones, over and over again. Sometimes they would go out late at night to fancy hotels and pretend to be a couple and drink at the bar and talk about the people around them. The ones who had it all. She would put her hand on his leg as they drank martinis and he would whisper in her ear “We’re the only ones who really get it.”
Colin was always putting the two of them in random situations. Or maybe she was doing it to him. Maybe they brought out the madness in each other that would have otherwise stayed dormant.
“Otherwise there will be nothing left, you know.”
“Violet, you’re a right one aren’t you. You look like bloody hell, ya gotta come off it already, alright?” Mark rubbed his hands onto his jeans and tried to meet her gaze but she couldn’t look at him. Some kind of funky blues tune was blaring through the speakers and she wanted to scream and run but she sat there, with her stupid fish, hiding her truth and remembering the dread. She remembered all of it. They’re all just a bunch of monkeys throwing shit on walls. But maybe they were happy.
“Come off it? Come off it? What do you want me to do? Pretend that I could fathom being even a little capable…” Violet stopped, for the lump in her throat was too big to get anything else out. Her fish flapped around as her crystal mug started to pulsate yellow, signaling she would need to transport soon. Her eyes welled up as she fixated on the feeding bowl in the middle of the table, the iridescent green and purple goldfish with fangs sticking out of their gils, feeding on the algae.
“Everyone has an angel and devil inside of them, Vi. Everyone.” Mark continued. “You can allow the one you think is ugly to consume you with guilt and shame or you can face the fact that every beauty and beast inside of you is exactly what makes you human. What makes us all human. You can accept that or you can let it eat you alive. What are you going to do?”
Violet shook her head and recalled the last time she saw Colin.
She remembered sitting on the floor beside him as he hung his head, and then looked up at her with his emerald eyes. She wanted to touch his face in this moment, to soothe his relentless pain she wished he could somehow release, but she didn’t, and he started to cry.
“Art and commerce.” he whispered, a blank stare as he played with a piece of frayed carpet from the dingy oriental rug. “Violet, we have to make it right.” Violet nodded, looking down at her hands in her lap. Her hands that had made nothing but the bed and numbers and hasty, pathetic meals before work. Her fingers, fingers that welded into a palm to make hands, had made nothing.
No one knew but him. No one knew that there were times she considered ending it all, because all she wanted to do was write, write some words on a page. Violet rose, standing in front of Colin, the daze of a zombie, walked into the kitchen and poured the last of her coffee from this morning out from the porcelain white kettle into a glass tumbler. It was cold and bitter on her tongue, but she drank it anyway, drank it like she deserved it. She poured out the remainder in the sink, watched the brown swirl and splatter before going down the drain. All that brown. All that everything kind of brown. When Violet walked back into the living room Colin would be dead, using his silent gun he bought himself in Berlin and never told anyone about.
“For 18 million dollars you can repave this road and go to Mars!” The commercial on the television in No.17 boomed, and Violet blinked herself back to her crowded experience. She shuddered and looked around, hopeful that today would be different, that today would work. Maybe today it wouldn’t all be for nothing anymore.
“I have to go to work. Please take care of yourself, Vi. And for fucks sake eat bloody something.”
Mark kissed her on the cheek and Violet smiled softly at him as he walked out the door.
She watched her fish swimming in her half-filled cup, oscillating its tiny body contently, seeming to understand its purpose in the confined space. There was a couple to her left, holding a small Yorkie, the guy projecting his movie in front of them. They look so happy. Violet felt her eyes well up and pushed her laptop aside, thinking of Colin, thinking of what could have been had they been born in another time, a simpler place, where creativity didn’t matter and they could just exist together in any form, with any personality…a place where they could be themselves without any kind of restraint. They could live off the land or travel or question the significance of time, anything that wouldn’t require writing or performing or any of that.
Violet stood up with one knee propped against the edge of her table. She took her cup in her hand, sipping slowly, savoring every last drop, wishing she were back at her place when Colin was still alive, and she was drinking that stale coffee in her kitchen, before she realized what was happening in the other room. Her eyes darted back and forth from the door to the barista, then to the couple with the dog, the expanding world around her that seemed to pale in comparison to anything normal, but perhaps…this was normal now. Did she know who she was? She thought she did. But now it seemed like she was nothing. She couldn’t discover the self that she was told she needed to be. She couldn’t even control her own mind. She knew what needed to be done…so she concentrated, and her desire to let go compelled her to complete her task.
She finished every drop, feeling the silky smooth fins on her lips. feeling her heart break for the oblivious creature.
I’m sorry, little one. I am so sorry.
Staring at the feeding bowl Violet’s eyes shifted overhead as she read the turquiose holograph sign above it ‘Immediately upon drinking, dispose of fish into the feeding bowl. Those who do not comply will be arrested and detained for an unforeseen amount of time. If cups leave the facility, an alarm will sound. Thank you for visiting No. 17.’ She kept the cup to her lips, felt the flapping get harder and harder, knowing she didn’t have much time before the cameras would sense the fish’s distress. She held her hands over the clear cup to keep it hidden, feeling her heart race faster and faster as each second went by.
Finally the flapping stopped, her cup started to glow, and she set it down. The alarm started through the loudspeaker, and the spotlight produced a bright orange light overhead. Violet began to feel the wide, inquisitive eyes on her. Holding her stance with her fists clutched white by her side, she waited as the commotion started happening all around her, people screaming and grabbing her arm. She stood there, for Colin, for whatever chance she had in creating a movement, because that was all she could muster up to create.
The coffee had no effect on her, the same way it didn’t with Colin. Instead of telling anyone or seeking help, this seemed to be the only answer. As The Force came to take her away, there was no struggle…she only allowed the one tear that had been lingering in her eye socket to release down her cheek, warm and comforting in a way that she had never felt before. Violet hummed under her breathe the song that Colin always played on the guitar, those same desperately slow notes, the ones that made her love him. Feeling the bewildered eyes of the Well on her, she knew she didn’t have long and she didn’t care. She knew she would be better.
She knew she would be free.