This is the photograph you know:

The room is small and dark. The walls are industrial concrete, with no windows. It’s someplace underground. A basement, maybe. A subbasement. A sewer. There’s a road flare burning on the far side of the room, a spark of violet-red light barely cutting through the darkness. It illuminates the water-stained walls but doesn’t touch anything else.

A half dozen flashlight beams converge on a body in the middle of the floor.

It is a man dressed in military fatigues. He is stretched out on his back. His flashlight has tumbled from his hand, resting just beyond his flexed fingertips. The flashlight’s narrow beam reveals a mop and pail set in the corner of the room.

The soldier’s shirt has been torn open. There are bloodred trenches scoured across his flesh—gouge marks, the work of his own fingernails. And there, right in the middle of his chest, is an arm sprouting up from his breastbone. It’s a thin white arm—sickly pale, like something that’s never seen the sun—reaching up through a puckered, jellied wound, protruding all the way up to the bicep. It looks like the whole arm has been punched up through the man’s body, slammed through from the floor at his back. But the wound is small—too small for such violence.

The arm is bent slightly at the elbow—a crooked tree sprouting up from the dead man’s chest. The wrist does not hang limp. Instead, it is cocked back, the gore-streaked fingers splayed with tension. Teardrops of blood hang from sharpened fingernails.

The soldier’s head is tilted back as far as it will go, the tendons in his neck as taut as a hangman’s rope. His expression is pure agony. His eyes are open, staring at the wall behind him.

The floor is solid concrete. The parts we can see are smooth and unblemished. And there is nothing—save that one horrifying limb—to suggest that there is anything beneath the room, anything except more concrete, earth, and rock.

It is insanity, printed and framed. Pure insanity.

This image was originally posted to a website, a community forum dedicated to Spokane. It got a lot of attention, and after two days of intense traffic, it was picked up by the AP. They ran a story on it. And from there the photograph spread like a virus, appearing in newspapers and magazines, popping up on television news broadcasts. It was used in TIME magazine, alongside other perplexing photos from the city. Newsweek ran an entire sidebar explaining how it had been faked, how it could not possibly be real.

Unfortunately, the photograph is real.

I should know. I took the damn thing.

And I’ve got more. Countless inexplicable images, locked up on my hard drive—the dark heart of the city, encoded in 32-bit RGB color. Compared with some of those, this image looks downright tame.

And they’re all real.

Everything you’ve heard about the city, all the rumors, all the stories … it’s all true. And you’re not even getting the worst of it.

I shouldn’t have come here.

Photograph. October 17, 01:53 P.M. Entering the city:

A road. There’s an overgrown field at its side, littered with autumn leaves. The quality of the light suggests midafternoon, with dark, threatening clouds visible in the distance.

There’s a standard street sign in the background, set in the top quarter of the vertical frame. It’s a simple green-and-white sign, similar to countless others dotting the streets of America: ENTERING SPOKANE. Except now the city’s name has been painted over with black enamel. Rivulets of spray paint have dripped down, drawing lines across the reflective green surface. The city’s name is gone. Spokane—the word, the place—no longer exists.

In the foreground—frame left—stands a soldier in camouflage fatigues. The greens and browns of his shirt and helmet are muted by dust and road grime. There’s a pack of cigarettes tucked away in his breast pocket. He’s holding his right hand out toward the camera, blocking the view of his face. Instead of eyes and nose and mouth, we see only the clean white flesh of his palm.

An assault rifle is strapped across the soldier’s chest.

There’s a pink bunny sticker visible on the gun’s butt.

Getting into the city was easy. Surprisingly easy.

Ostensibly, the whole perimeter is under military lockdown. There are huge, well-manned checkpoints on I- 90, blocking entrance to the east and west, right at the Spokane County border. There, I-90 becomes a forty-mile stretch of dead highway, a severed artery in the heart of America, blocking traffic on the Washington State side of the Washington—Idaho border.

I first tried the direct approach, driving east from Seattle.

There was very little to catch my eye between Seattle and Spokane: Snoqualmie Pass, still dressed in autumnal browns; the Columbia River, seated in its vast, water-etched gorge. But most of eastern Washington was pure boredom. Nothing but dead grass and industrialized agriculture, stretching on for miles and miles and miles.

Traffic began to thin as I hit the middle of the state. Most of the remaining vehicles were military vehicles. I watched long convoys of Jeeps, transports, and drab-green tractor-trailers shooting west, back toward Seattle. They had I-90 pretty much to themselves and didn’t seem too concerned about the posted speed limits. Once, about fifty miles shy of the city, an open-backed transport passed, heading in my direction. It swerved around my car, easily hitting 110 mph in the far left lane, and suddenly I found a dozen helmeted soldiers staring back at me over the waist-high tailgate. They all had bored, empty expressions on their faces. What did they know about their destination, I wondered, about the place looming up ahead? Were they privy to government secrets, to the things we mere civilians couldn’t possibly know? Or were they, too, wandering around in the dark? I guessed the latter.

As I watched, one of the soldiers sparked a match and lit a cigarette. He protected the flame with his cupped hands and nodded the cigarette forward with his mouth, like a bird grabbing for a worm. I briefly considered trying

Вы читаете Bad Glass
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату