DANIEL REACHES THE BASEMENT

“Which is why nothing ever changes” Dan was saying, his neck craned way back in order to ensure whoever was in the living room could hear, for he believed it had been a valid and, indeed, truly WISE statement, correct in a way that defies conventional logic and instead speaks straight to the guts of us. And presently a curl was coming to the corner of his lips and eyes, and even a little rose was being injected into the skin covering his cheek bones he was so pleased with his delivery as he imagined it. It was a reaction of uncomfortable confrontation with the truth that he envisioned going on in the living room, bordering on stunned silence. He was hoping his trip downstairs would provide his audience with the break in noise favorable to earnest reflection; that Dan would go down and come back and there would be new people (or person, depending on who it was he had been speaking to) in the living room, one (or ones) more conducive to change. Dan was adroitly maneuvering his face around the corner, reuniting it with the rest of his body in its natural progression down the steps. As his legs were initiating his highly automated staircase procedure, Dan was consciously skimming the rudiments of all that was said in the living room, and was beginning to pick at the new information he now had, touching even on implications of that information, should it prove reliable. His foot came down just a SKOSH too far on the step so that when he put weight on it the heel slipped over, and from this point on all his previous calculations were void.

If human thought can be accurately represented by the English colloquial dialect of the language from the region in which he lived, Dan’s first thought having received the heartflipping physiological news, and having with his powerful brain immediately deduced the gist of the catastrophe occurring to him would be “oh shit”. That is: “OH”, as in, “oh this is happening to me”; and “SHIT”, as in, “the thing that is happening to me is excrement or its nearby equivalent, and consequently I do not desire to be near it.” Daniel thought “OH SHIT” and his left hand made frantic grip with the banister, and his right hand opened and went searching for the wall on that side although he was too far to reach it. This hand continued slowly outward, a lost helmet in space, his head too bombarded with new data and somatosensory computations–all of them bleak–and mounted on too feeble and unmuscled a swivel to attend to all the present inquisitions of his environment. For the moment he was poised to gaze at the dust clinging to the wall overhanging the staircase, but already unconscious processes were tinkering with the jaw tilt so that his center of attention would be aimed at the greatest immediate threat: the stairs below.

However, this goal is frustrated by the angle of Daniel’s furthest reaching foot–the same that began this mess in the first place–its lean in relation to the ankle and plantar and the angle presented by the surface of the following stair. The meeting is all wrong from the get-go and Dan’s plush white socks bounce clean over this second ledge, preserving his fall and meantime jolting his body so that his head is bobbled back up to an even less useful position; Dan now stares up nearly at the ceiling, exposing his sensitive External Jugular Vein and his precious windpipe to whatever he may encounter next.

He can’t see any of this because of the position of his face, achieved without his consent and due to external circumstantial elements beyond his control. He sensed his legs being split between the determined-to-go-on right side and the more planted but far from sturdy left side. Invisible corporeal feelers informed Daniel that the righthand portion was winning: every femtosecond, more and more of him was enlisting to the front, and already its sum had achieved the majority which meant of course that his body would obey Newtonian law by continuing forward until acted upon by a differing force, the likes of which Dan was almost wholly unable to make. Luckily for him he retained grip on the handrail. Already the involved synapses were delivering the electricity that would constrict his forearm and bicep muscles, forestalling his plummet and affording him time to hopefully re-establish himself. At even this stage of exigency Dan was dimly aware that, should his efforts prove successful at this juncture, the person or persons awaiting his return to the living room would not likely be aware he had suffered any embarrassing happenings at all, which meant his snappy final sentence at the top of the stairs would not be brutally undermined by the thunderous noise of his folly.

War codes were sent first to the Supinator Longus muscle on the radial side of that arm, as well as to the Extensor Carpi Radialises, Longior and Brevior, and to the Communis Digitorum and Carpi Ulnaris, instigating the wrenching grip from the fingers and wrist; as well as to the Deltoid and Bicep muscles and the Pectoralis Major and the ipsilateral Ascending Oblique muscle of the abdomen, as well as to all the muscles of the Posterior Femoral region of Dan’s left leg, and to those of the Anterior Tibio-fibular, instructing all to work in a harmonious and above all instantaneous fashion toward violently about-facing the trend of the day, which was stepped in error and the terminal stage of which Dan already suspected to be death. Dan desired powerfully to live! Sure his life had lost some of the magic it had when he was a kid, and sure you could even say he was experiencing something of a “lull” or even-even a “rut” vis-a-vis his current enjoyment levels vis-a-vis things and stuff and junk– sure to all that but Dan still considered himself a young man on the rise! In his heart he expected more much more of the world and his role in it than for the whole trip to end right now. Of course none of this, not even a whiff was in the nose-mind of Dan, preoccupied as he was with the gem of terror he beheld below.

A lot of major muscle groups were activated at once, expending much blood-oxygen in the effort to keep the torso and hips nearer the wall left of Daniel and therefore, from a gravitational standpoint, “not falling”, or “safe”. His brainstem had already toggled Dan’s heart and breathing rates to the frequencies most facilitative to disaster scenarios, but as feeble as pages in a breeze the handrail peeled from the wall and for the second time tonight Dan was left holding the owner’s manual to a product no longer in existence. Without the support of the handrail he was forced to hug the top detached portion and cling wholebodidly, swivelling a few degrees in that direction because of the small amount of authority still held by the bottom, still-attached portion of the rail. Dan’s right hand finally abandoned its hunt for the other wall, and made hasty retreat across his chest to lend critical assistance to the main grip. At this point it was unclear whether it would arrive in time or if the rail would snap in half, leaving his avoirdupois to the ravages of open space.

The interlocutor or interlocutors waiting for him in the living room have by now detected that something–they or she or he or it cannot even guess at what yet–peculiar has happened on the other side of that wall and they are just as I’m saying it beginning to understand the area in question as the basement staircase. Funnily enough, had someone interviewed Daniel at this precise instant, that person–he or she or whats–would probably learn that Dan did not consider his current condition was accurately represented by the English verb “fall”. He would say more like he had temporarily misplaced control of his physics someplace back there. Also, at this point and other than a rumbled spinal column and some variously shaken fluids, Dan had not sustained injury. Even his pride was if not flawlessly unperturbed then certainly not irreparably damaged; anything that had happened thus far could be explained away if one were a cleverbot. And Dan had always been a cleverbot. Why just yesterday he enjoyed a deal on bagels and a coffee, and he didn’t even give them the coupon when he paid! Things and stuff like that were happening all the time and junk, and nobody saw it. Especially while he was at work actually working, Dan was making the small moves the ones too small and quick to be documented and thus bragged about–this was all according to plan. He forgets himself and the sparse reminders occurring naturally amidst the regular progression of his day served as refreshment and a buffer from self-depreciating thoughts. Yes full months have been redeemed on the count of one or two “slick moves”, as he might put it–the iced puddle he surfs across making him look and feel cool at school all those years ago; the “it” that separates him from the meagre ruck. He harboured the sense that this “it” could leave him at any moment, a result of punishment or old age or the collapse of the universe, in fact he was testing “it”, unaware, even now in these moments of crisis. Yes even this early in the game the tiniest node of him was asking in the most buried of voices: “How will Daniel handle this? How will he score in comparison with all the other humans ever to live?” And since the node was Daniel himself it assumed the jaded, cynical tone of the old critic, long accustomed as he was with the countless failures of DAN. Worse still, since Dan himself was also Dan himself he could hardly argue. The voice forever in a tone that presupposed flaw, stains without thickness but incredible weight and teeth to them, the pounds and edge of which increase faster than Dan’s body is able to manufacture scar tissue. The only way to even pause the cycle is to just keep winning–which explains this his latest and greatest streak stretching back to junior high (fucking junior high, bitches!). So as you can see it was a bad and a good thing this cynical node in the far-reaches of Dan. Good so long as you look at it from the more historical, universal position. In the present instance amid a collision of stairs the node was poison, a trap. Early fear-pains and the initial waves of adrenaline ensured it would be a complete nonfactor until well after the fact or nonfact of his, at the moment, pending craniocerebral trauma.

First Daniel’s right leg had to continue its mad plunge into the oxygen molecules hovering above and around the stairs, hardly accosted by what resistance had been garnered by the flimsy handrail; it was determined to take the rest of Dan’s body with it, and presently there was little he could do to contravene. The foot on the opposing side was instructed to resist in whatever way possible: it lowered its heel into the forthcoming ledge, where its socked surface was able somehow to snag the grooves in the plastic lining of the steps. This resulted in the locked heel jolting the progression of the fall, which had the desired effect of slowing Daniel’s descent, but the price he paid for this was way severe. Due to the angle of the stairs in conjunction with his locked leg and the rest of his body, Daniel was thrown forward, face-first and headlong into the great yawning maw of the stairwell. The only sound he made to commemorate this important transition was “hup”. No one in the living room could have heard it, but in the time it took Dan’s head–his face specifically–to surpass all other parts of himself in nearness to the basement floor, his auditory canals had scooped that pitiful sound byte from the air around him and deposited it back into his own hippocampus. This, after scanning, had deemed the available data ‘comical’, and had instructed the rest of his body to laugh at him, should he recover from whatever injuries he was almost certainly about to sustain.

At this juncture no imagination was necessary for Dan. Before his fully unfolded eyes stretched the longest most painful looking staircase he had ever encountered: the stuff and things of nightmares–although Daniel never remembers those. His own body dreads the determinations of Daniel’s amygdalae: to bypass its wrath the ruling powers have no qualms about cutting the main fuse and flooring Daniel with unconsciousness. It has happened many times before, usually in brightly lit areas populated by scores of persons, the eyes of whom happen to be perfectly trained on him.

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