Halfway (or maybe only some tiny fraction of the way) to delivering the new Mythos trailer to the place in Dodge City where it’s slated to reside, a malfunction occurs. According to the convict in charge of our delegation (“the head guy”), we’ve had a breakdown. A good way to try out having a broken nose or some smashed molars might be to ask, “What do you mean ‘breakdown?’ We’re not a car, we’re just dragging this thing. Why can’t we keep dragging it?”

So I don’t ask. I sit and scowl and spit in the grass like the others and curse our luck at having a breakdown so close to our destination. Someone asks if I have a copy of Suttree and I say yes, but then don’t give him anything, and he goes away.

The heat strokes us almost tenderly as the afternoon moves at its usual crawl, and we take turns walking to the edge of one another’s sight to urinate in the dust or just look out at whatever we see, and then come back so someone else can take a turn. When we’ve all gone a few times, the head guy decides it’s time for a change of activity.

“Whatever’s in that trailer, it sounds none too happy. I don’t imagine it’s any cooler in there than out here.” He pounds the metal edge with his fist and recoils like he’s just touched an iron that someone bright left plugged in for him to touch.

“Let’s draw straws for who gets to go in there and see what’s up with whatever’s in there, and maybe give it some water or somehow cool it down or console it or whatever it needs. Agreed?”

The others grunt in the affirmative.

The straw-drawing consists of the head guy looking at me, clearing his throat, and saying, “You. In.”

And opening the back door of the Mythos.

I tongue my molars and scratch my nose, decide against mounting any opposition.

“Don’t worry,” he shouts as I’m climbing in, “we’ll all be right outside here, making sure nothing goes wrong. We’ve got your peripheries.”

Then the door shuts and I’m inside.

They weren’t kidding when they called it a Mythos — judging by the street I’m now walking down and the foreign smells in the air and the can of root beer that has a logo I’ve never seen before that I pick like a fruit out of a bush it’s been jammed into, this is a whole new town. Squat, stunted trees leer into the street as I walk, passing mailboxes whose numbers are all smudged out, like chalk erased with the heel of a palm.

I hear some dogs barking from way off somewhere and very few streetlights are on. A cart wheels by a moment later, wheeled by two guys with their heads down who keep them down as they pass. There’s a blue tarp secured with bungee cords in the back, stretched over a shape.

A few streets later, I see a light on up ahead. The night feels at once cool in the normal night way, and blazingly hot, maybe an influence from the outside Dodge City dust field where, I believe, I came from not long ago.

Now I’m right up near the light, and can see it’s coming from a New Orleans style shotgun shack. It’s a little front porch area with a single bulb on over it. I wonder whom this light is on for, like, “Is whoever’s in there expecting me?”

I use the light of the light to watch my hand knocking on the splintery door, and then to watch the door opening — opened not in any polite response to my knocking but just by my having knocked it open.

Inside, once I start to take it in, I see a giant bulbous and veiny eye floating in a bathtub with a stepladder next to it. A very put-upon, exhausted looking little man is busy preparing an oversized syringe, its needle the size of a small spire.

I take a moment. If there were a pitcher of iced tea with fresh lemon wedges and sponge cake all set out on a particolored and freshly laundered cloth on the table, I would treat myself to a glass and a slice right now, before thinking of the next thing.

Next thing, this beleaguered fellow is holding out a towel to the eye (or Eye, should I say?), and waiting for it to slop out of the tub, which looks to be full of an amber brine rather than water. The Eye wriggles into the towel and then wiggles around in it, drying off I suppose however much eyes are supposed to dry off, which I’d guess is not all the way.

Then the fellow brings the syringe over and positions it in what’s clearly a very practiced manner at the bottom of the stepladder, as the Eye heaves up the steps and into position.

Another moment of pause — it’s starting to seem like I can take a Time Out whenever I want.

But I must’ve missed something because the Eye has already jumped and is now stuck straight and true on the needle, impaled straight through the pupil, quivering with the impact, then going still.

The fellow — Bruce, let’s say — is busily wheeling a bed over, and turning down the creamy sheets. Then he helps the Eye off the needle and into the bed, and, muttering fretfully, stands back to see if the Eye needs anything else.

The Eye’s jellied material begins to throb and fills with images like an unclouding crystal ball. The more I watch, the further in it takes me. I can hear Bruce somewhere off in the distance, and then I’m inside.

In the center of the place that the Eye has taken me to is a sporting arena. I’m neither in it nor watching it, but am, rather, the whole stadium containing it.

In this arena certain things begin to happen, none very describable, but all with a sense about them that they’ve been planned and are, in a sense, the right things to be happening here, per some program that I obviously, being a stadium, didn’t get a chance to read.

Behind me, I start to feel disturbances; other energies are trying to force their way in. A ring forms around this central arena to hold them back. Some Lost Race in a backwater of my mind is aware that the convict work crew from Dodge City is protecting the arena, keeping the others — the “supernumeraries in a dream,” as the Old Man’s phrase goes — from breaching my peripheries.

“Hold the line, boys!” I want to shout. “Don’t let ’em through!”

It’s like a championship wrestling match where legions of uninvited freaks are trying to hurl themselves into the ring.

It feels inevitable that they’ll break their way in sooner or later. A part of me is already looking forward to the melee. It’s as if I’m already watching it.

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