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The Contest - Part 5

· 13 min read

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Want some cool music that vibes with these parts of the story? Who knows, you may find some clues in the lyrics ; )

Chapter 8 - 3 a.m. - Eminem

Epilogue - Nevermind - Foster the People

Chapter 8

James pulled up to the intersection and stopped. As he waited a car pulled up next to him. He casually glanced over and saw it was none other than Joseph.

Joseph quickly let his window down and honked his horn, eliciting a startled response from Joseph who flinched upon seeing James.

“Hey! Joseph! Put your window down!” James blared, leaning out of his car.

Joseph let down the window after a moment.

“What is it?”

“What do you mean ‘What is it?’, where have you been man? Hey, come with me to my place!”

“No, I’m going my own way!” Joseph called back.

“Alright, then just pull over up here and—” James began, before being cut off by honking cars behind him. The light had turned green.

They both pulled over a ways up the road. Joseph got out but stayed close to his car. James walked up to him.

“Dude, what happened to the car? This thing’s a mess; you used to be crazy about keeping it clean… Where have you been?”

“What do you mean?”

“I tried calling you so many times, you gotta return your calls man! I was at Warcoitalia the other day and they told me you went bonkers and got fired. What happened?”

“I don’t have time to get into all this crap; I’m busy.”

“What’re you talking about? Did you get another job?”

“No I just had to get something for Analia and now I’m gonna go home.”

“Dude, what’s going on? You got fired, they told me, like a while ago… you still don’t have a job?”

“I didn’t get fired I quit because Rip was such a jerk, that’s what happened, and I’m still looking for a job,” Joseph snapped.

“Dude, you’ve never been good with money but this is really ridiculous. You gotta get it together, you must be up to your eyes in debt by now and—”

“And so what if I am!? That’s the point of debt – sometimes you have more than usual but you just pay it off later, there’s nothing wrong with that!” he shouted, “It’s not your business and I was doing good, I almost saved enough for Scotland there at the beginning, now it’s just harder again but I’ll get the money together, you think I forgot about that stuff but I can still remember it, it’s just hard times now and I can’t afford to put money aside for that stuff.”

“What are you talking about? Dude, Scotland’s over.”

Joseph looked perplexed.

“Joseph,” James began firmly, “That’s been over for like three months... I mean I figured you’d have gotten the message when nobody called you or that you’d have seen it on my Facebook page or something—”

“But what… Scotland… the ruins, the four of us,” Joseph muttered out, visibly confused, “Three months?”

“Dude, nobody likes you! Gabriel and Michael refuse to see you; they think you’ve lost it. I’m the only one that’s still willing to talk to you at all. We all got sick of you early on, but we tried to hang around as long as we could but then, that night in your apartment, man, you gotta get away from this Analia person. I mean I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish but she’s wrecking you, don’t you realize how long it’s been since all this started?”

Joseph said nothing momentarily, still attempting to process what he’d just heard. The facts seemed like a foreign language to him and he didn’t know how to understand them; he reacted angrily and defensively.

“I’m sick of you guys!” he exploded, “I never criticize you guys or who you like or anything like that, but you guys always just made fun of me, shows what kinds of friends you were,” he said, his voice starting to quiver.

“We’re the bad friends? I don’t ask you to go out and get me things when you’re out of work and I never did. And I don’t know what you expect to accomplish—it’s obvious she doesn’t like you romantically at all, dude!”

“I’m just taking it one step at a time, and even if she doesn’t she’s my friend!”

“Is she? Because it seems like she just uses you like a servant that does her bidding, and sometimes she’s nice—no, civil— to you and you think that means she’s in love with you!” James countered.

“I’m playing it by ear—“ Joseph began, before getting interrupted.

“Don’t you realize that these things don’t mean anything!?” James shouted, moving closer to Joseph. “You’re not getting anywhere and she’s just ruining you, you lost your job and your friends and your apartment is ugly and creepy and you look worse each time I see you, isn’t that so fucking obvious!? How can you not realize this!?”

Joseph exploded forward, hitting James hard in the face with his forearm in an uncoordinated attempt to push him away, before starting to shout at him loudly, his arms fluttering up and down in vain attempts to gesticulate his emotions.

“Fuck you, James! I’m sick of you and Gabriel and Michael and Rip and all you guys who just try to tear me down! None of you respect me! You guys just want somebody to make yourselves feel better, somebody you can point to and say ‘ha ha look at him, he’s such a loser and we’re so great,’ somebody to be your dummy. I’m sick of you all. Go away and leave me alone and go find somebody else to be your patsy!” he screamed. James, still in complete shock from the forearm blow, looked down at little red dots that began accumulating over the front of his white T-shirt.

Joseph, as he finished his tirade, had already started running back toward the drivers seat of his car and, after jumping in, screeched away. James stood there for several minutes, the dots now starting to diffuse into thick blotches that connect and form patterns, before getting in his car and making a U-turn.

Joseph, meanwhile, had already nearly gotten home and was busy that day preparing to take Analia out. He had told her that he wanted to have her over at the apartment for dinner, an opportunity he had planned to use to take the relationship “a step further,” as he used to say to his friends. Before getting home, however, he saw a text on his phone from Analia:

bananalisa: cant come 2night, sry, helping a friend w an emergency

J_Holzer: but I got food already and a movie

bananalisa: sry, it was last minute n I cant say no

J_Holzer: ok but pls come next time

To say that he was disappointed would have been an immense understatement. The sting lasted for only moments, however; as he internalized the scene he felt that it was actually really great of her to let him know, instead of just not coming at all. The fact that she forewarned him made him feel included in her plans and he took that as a sign that things were moving along smoothly, if slowly. He was about to come home when he saw on the floorboard of his car a small bottle of liquor roll out and remembered that it was among the things he was supposed to have brought to Analia that day. He turned his car around for the 35 minute drive back.

He got there and saw that the house was occupied. He waited for a few minutes out front and watched the silhouettes against the living room drapes that faced the street. It was already dark by that time so he could make out the figures very well; it was the usual sight, the group of long wiry guys. He thought it would be best to just leave the liquor by the front porch so as not to disturb them, knowing that they would pass it along to Analia when she returned.

However when he got to the door, it was Analia’s voice he heard among the many male voices in the room. He couldn’t see her silhouette from the street, but he had no doubt that the voice was hers. The adrenaline that surged through his heart gave him a feeling so uncomfortable and painful that he felt like he’d been run through with a spear. He heard the voices slowly die down and began to hear soft clicking sounds, then shuffling sounds, then fluttering sounds, and then slow and long groans that sounded only vaguely human. Then he opened the door.


There is a vast uneven surface that stretches endlessly, and on this surface there are square blocks of foundations separated only by a foot on the sides from each other, and on those blocks are built large wooden tower-structures that reach straight up and, miles above the surface, connect in intricate meaningful patterns. In the middle of this vast network on the ground level stands Joseph with a limitless supply of wood in an open area just big enough for a slab of foundation. But there is no foundation in his space and so there exists only the raw uneven land. Joseph walks through this network for many years at the ground level, but he cannot climb any of the towers or add to them any of his limitless supply of wood. He decides he must build his own tower in order to get up to the network above.

He does not have much space so he must build straight up. He also cannot use many pieces of wood at once because of his limited space. His area is a ten by ten foot square, the side of which has a hole that produces woods of desired lengths limitlessly. Under these conditions he decides he must reach the top.

But each time he begins, his tower is unstable and he is afraid to climb up it because the ground is uneven. He decides he must cut the wood to be level to the unlevel ground. When he does this, however, he finds that his structure keeps sinking into the ground on one side or another, causing it to again be unstable.

Joseph spends many years attempting a combination of these techniques and with each major effort there is a major catastrophe and he is forced to disassemble his tower. Each time he disassembles a tower he must carry the used wood away as far as possible to afford him space before starting a new tower.

Finally one day Joseph decides he will try to build his tower on the foundations of the towers around him. Because they are square shaped there are eight towers around him that he can utilize, three on either side and one in the front and one in the back. But because they each have towers built on them, he can only use the corner of each foundation which has a bit of space on it. When he uses the corners of the foundations of these other towers his tower is stable and he is able to build it very high— deep into the meaningful network above where the other towers all connect with one another.

When Joseph reaches this level he does not build laterally, however, like the other towers have been built, but rather continues to build up, eventually building out of the network altogether. This causes his tower to begin to sway. He surpasses the tallest tower and continues building, revealing beneath him what eventually appears like a sphere of intricate wood towers spreading out indefinitely far.

Joseph never stops building. His tower becomes the largest and because it is not in the network of all the other towers it also becomes the heaviest. Its entire weight is concentrated straight down into the corners of the other eight towers it was built on. The weight from Joseph’s tower causes the eight foundation pieces to sink inward, and Joseph’s tower begins to sway even more.

But it cannot be disassembled, like his original failed towers, because it has surpassed the network and now has ample space around it. Instead, Joseph’s tower sways further and further and finally breaks at the base and falls sideways, landing across the top of the network and destroying the intricate patterns that had existed before. With these networks broken, the other networks cannot function the same way. Joseph, who leapt from the tower as it first began to break, perishes from the fall.

Then Joseph woke up. He was on the couch of his apartment and he felt weak. He saw on the floor around him empty potato chip and other snack food wrappers and by his side lay an empty bottle of whiskey and carton of cigarettes. He couldn’t make out much of his apartment because his vision was blurry from just waking up and he had an awful taste in his mouth. He tried to speak but his throat was sore and dry and he didn’t feel like he had enough power in his legs to stand up.

He turned his head over to the bedroom, which was closed but from which he heard faint sounds. The door swung open and he saw Bananalisa standing. Behind her he could see on the bed the man whose name he could never remember. Bananalisa looked amazing. She walked toward to him and sat down next to him on the couch.

“Hello Joseph, I see you’re feeling better.”

“You look so strong and young. You’re so beautiful.”

“Thank you Joseph. Thank you for everything, you’ve been a big help for us.”

“I’m always happy to help,” he said, still drowsy and weak. He was barely able to hold his head up, “Analia, there’s something on your lip, there, it’s white,” he continued, trying to point but too weak to lift his arm.

Bananalisa smiled. She turned her body toward him and, moving her head over and above his face, whispered to him.

“It’s time for supper, Joseph.”

Joseph, as if by instinct, arched his back so that his face faced the ceiling and Bananalisa, who’s neck seemed to elongate, arched her body forward so that her face hovered above his. She moved her hands, which had been folded neatly in her lap, over her stomach where she applied a firm and sustained pressure. They both opened their mouths as wide as they could.

And then, up her long and wiry throat, muscles started contracting and relaxing in a rhythmic and undulating pattern. This lasted several seconds until a thick white liquid came out, dropping in sticky clumps neatly into Joseph’s mouth, who swallowed it eagerly. He felt the warm liquid go down his throat and fill up his stomach. It sustained him.