January 15th, 2010
The ornate wooden door crashes open and hits the doorstop. I march into the entrance hall with determination. I’ve waited so long to be here. This is the most expensive and expansive mansion in the country and I’m finally here.
Three men — petty thugs, really — enter behind me and fan out in a triangle formation. One on the left, one on the right, one in the centre as they follow me through the needlessly-fancy coat room, through the dining area, down a carpeted staircase. I can hear my footsteps and no one else’s as I pass through these beautiful places.
I’ve never been here but it all seems so familiar.
This is the house of one of my oldest enemies. The house is empty except for me and the thugs who move so silently I almost forget they’re here.
We reach the basement and the carpeting abruptly stops as the corridor leads into a sleek, metallic room. This is his storage room, where he keeps what could be the most powerful object on Earth. Money, fame, power. I just have to get through the locked vault door and I’ll have it all. It’s what I’ve always needed.
I walk across the room in long strides. No need to stall.
I’ve been looking for this since that day fifteen years ago…
September 15th, 1995
I’m sitting at my desk in the cramped dorm room. Second year in this godforsaken college and I’m still living on campus. It’s about time for me to go on duty as the floor 5 resident assistant. I work in the cheapest, lowest-class residence at the school. It’s a nightmare.
It’s been ten days since I moved in but there’s already these tottering stacks of paper on my desk. I like to pretend that it’s mostly class notes but I know at least half of these are just the little bits of thoughts I like to write down. At some point class notes transformed into diary and no one ever noticed but it still happened and it just kept happening.
There’s a banging on my door.
The door creaks unpleasantly as Room 511 enters. Matted blonde hair, perpetually bloodshot eyes, the same dirty hoodie every day, never goes to class; guess what her profession is. She opens her mouth before I can mentally check my bile.
“Cameron!” she yells out, oblivious to how much hate I have just seething over here.
I’m trying to write.
“What’s up?” I say, feigning the friendly RA personality that got me this job.
“The toilet’s leaking again,” she says.
“I already put in a work order.”
“Why does it always take forever?”
“I don’t know.”
“This is urgent.”
“I know it is.”
I know it is and I’m just a writer and you’re just a shithead and all of you are getting on my nerves.
I stand up from my desk and walk over to her. Not sure why. I’m not thinking straight anymore. I feel different. She smells like Febreze, like dryer sheets, like her boyfriend’s cologne; she smells like every girl on this floor, really. But this is different. This is different and I don’t know why but I just hate her.
“Wh-what are you doing?” she says.
I’ve been staring at her for too long.
“I’ll ask them to hurry up,” I say.
My voice sounds deeper. I feel taller. There are little electrical arcs in my fingertips.
I feel different.
January 15th, 2010
There’s an Arrow Revolution lock on the vault door between me and the prize. All I have to do is destroy it. I raise my hands in front of me, pressing them together.
The funny thing about fingers is that all the muscles are actually in the palm, tugging little tendons in the finger tissue to control the joints like a marionette. We’re all puppeteers and nobody knows it but me. And I can feel every ounce of my power focusing itself in my opponens pollicis muscle and I smile at the opportunity.
I rub my hands together quickly to heat them up. Within seconds they’re hotter than they should be — hot enough to melt solid metal. At least 400 Celsius on a bad day. There’s a reason this costume stops at my shoulders. I don’t want to look like a wife beater, but it’s necessary.
When I can feel the heat-resistant fibres in my tights start to get hot, I force my hands apart and press them against the lock. The little touchscreen lights up, but is almost immediately glossed over as the monitor goes pure white from my touch.
The finish on the door starts to melt off. There’s my reflection; the smears of blood only serve to further obscure my black-and-purple insignia. It’s so tacky. I never really thought about it before.
One of the thugs falls to the floor. Forgot about convection. I take my hands off the door and look at my handiwork. The lock is too expensive to melt over something like this. It’s made of dolomite or something similar, but all I need to do is deactivate the little electronic bits inside; stop it from setting off a silent alarm.
The thug behind me sputters and gasps, on all fours. I hear one of the others make a move towards him and I snap around.
“One more step,” I whisper.
The man freezes in place for a moment. He glances between me and the man on the floor a few times.
“He can’t breathe, Tyler.”
October 15th, 1995
I’m at the local pretentious indie coffee shop when Room 511 comes in.
“Can I get a veggie chili?” she says to the pretty Jewfro boy behind the counter. Of course she’s a vegetarian. She can never get enough plants.
I was writing here in the corner of the room, just enjoying — or trying to enjoy — the atmosphere. The place is going to close in an hour and this person comes in to buy chili. It’s 9 o’clock. College students really make sense. I was trying to write and now she’s here and my hands won’t move anymore.
I leave my papers at the table and walk to the counter. 511 has gone to sit down with her stupid friends who have already been here for the past forty minutes. Jewfro looks up as I approach. I’m in full bullshit RA mode and he buys it like so much chili.
“Hey, man,” he says.
“Can I get a mango Italian soda?” I say.
Jewfro smiles knowingly. This is all I ever order. It’s the cheapest thing on the menu and I just need to avoid the get-kicked-out-because-I’m-loitering thing.
“Alright,” he laughs. “We’ll call you when it’s ready.”
I go to sit back down and write, but suddenly there are wet marks on my paper. I stare at them for a moment. I feel different. Deeper voice. Taller. Little pools of moisture on my fingertips.
It’s too late for many people to be coming to the counter, so Jewfro leaves his spot and goes to flirt with Room 511. Everyone’s oblivious to the hate that’s just seething over here.
Why am I still wet? I wipe my fingers off on my polo shirt.
Another dead-end job guy who works here bangs my soda on the counter and yells out someone’s name. He probably means for it to be mine but I feel different and I don’t think dead-end job knows what he’s talking about after all. I don’t think someone in his position has the right to define me.
This is the weak preying on the strong and an hour later he’s doing it again.
“Cameron,” he says. “What are you still doing here?”
I’m gathering up my papers and putting them in a bag. Jewfro is leaving the place. Room 511 and the stupid friends have been gone for a while, but he’s got a smile on his face and I know exactly what it means.
Dead-end job stays behind to do whatever when I leave.
It’s late enough that the streets are empty and even though it’s not winter it’s still a bit chilly as I follow Jewfro from a safe distance. Pretty soon he’s going down an alley. I follow him through the darkness. Once we’re entirely out of earshot of the street, I grab him from behind by his little Jewfro curls and I look him in the eye.
I’m towering over him and he’s got those beautiful blue eyes of his and he’s too afraid to say anything but I know he knows.
“I’m sorry,” I say, and I really mean it.
Dead-end job is going to wonder when you don’t come in to work tomorrow, and I’m sorry.
I’m holding Jewfro with one hand and forcing 150 PSI of water down his throat with the other. The idea is to drown the guy and save him from this hellhole — job, school, hairstyle — but even if he doesn’t drown the pressure is sure to rupture his insides somehow. I’ve never drowned someone before but it’s actually pretty fun.
Well, kind of.
January 15th, 2010
Dead-end job is still on the floor, hacking his lungs out. The thug who tried to save him has long since gone back to his position on the wall. Nobody else has made a move. Heat, allergy, asthma, whatever is causing this predator to hack and spread his DNA all over the floor is none of my concern. I don’t need these guys anymore. I’m almost at my goal.
“Cameron…” he gasps out. “Please.”
The other two thugs tighten up and look straight ahead. I crack a smile.
“I never knew your name,” I say. “And you never knew mine.”
Can’t help but laugh a bit when he finally collapses.
I’m Tyler now. Tyler Kennedy. Tyler Winklevoss. Tyler Durden. Look at it however you want. This is my life and I’ll call it as I see fit. No one has the right to define me and I don’t have the right to define anybody else.
Death is a definition.
Thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.
I turn back to the vault door and hold my hands out in front of me. Putting them together again, I rub them fiercely. This time, my hands defy the laws of thermodynamics and get colder the more I rub, until I see condensation on the metal surface of the door.
The remaining thugs can see their breath.
It’s winter now and it’s so chilly.
November 15th, 1995
I’m numb to it all now. I’ve been better than everyone for so long that it doesn’t even feel like a mask when I pretend to like people. I’m at the point where I get invited to parties, have people calling my room at all hours of the night, skipping every class to write but still passing the midterms in the top percentile.
I hate the school system and the school system hates me.
A douchebag starts yelling in my ear.
“Cameron, me and the bros are going to the peace room! You wanna join in?”
The guy’s got his polo shirt, his gel in the hair, and his earring. Of course I say yes.
He leads me down into the basement, then through a plain wooden door that’s been painted the same colour as the wall. Very secret. The peace room is a small square area with an old black-and-white TV in one corner, a beaten-down loveseat across from it, and the floor covered in those foam puzzle pieces you see in daycares. There are easily more than two dozen people in here, most of them sitting on the floor.
My eyes follow douchebag as he goes to sit on the loveseat with Room 511.
She’s looking her best tonight. She might even have washed that hoodie. And here goes douchebag defiling the whole get-up, putting his lips to her sweaty face, sucking on her lip like a parasite. Taking advantage of this poor girl who I hate so much.
I’ve been standing too long. The shitheads are looking at me.
I sit down on a puzzle piece, putting myself in full I’m-a-cool-college-guy mode. The guy next to me is wearing an Ace of Base t-shirt and he turns to me, half-lidded bloodshot eyes scrutinizing.
“You the RA from floor 5?” he asks.
He laughs stupidly. “I didn’t know you got high, dude! You’re fuckin’ awesome!”
He holds out his fist for props, but I hesitate. This is more than getting high, dude. This is enlightenment. I’m different now. I’m taller. My voice is deeper. I’m going to leave you hanging.
Luckily the peace pipe comes around at that moment and Ace of Base doesn’t notice a thing.
He takes two puffs — everyone seems to think they’re being stealthy about not taking only one — then passes the pipe to me. I take it reluctantly, not wanting to look like this guy’s friend. Room 511 pulls her lithe little body away from douchebag for a second to look at me.
Yes, it’s me. I’m the RA from floor 5. Stop staring.
I take a puff. I take another.
Suddenly I feel this overwhelming sensation — this room is too hot. This room is too damn hot. I need to cool it down. I’m better than these people. I’m different now. Little white spots appear on the glass pipe I have in my hand, under my fingertips, spreading across the surface until the glass shatters.
Everyone looks at me. Too cool.
Douchebag jumps to his feet. He’s swearing. He’s accusing.
It’s barely a minute later that all the shitheads are out of the peace room. It’s just me, douchebag, and the little shards of broken glass. Shards of broken glass on the daycare puzzle pieces as the black-and-white TV plays a videotape of the latest Ace of Base concert. What a scene. I almost smile.
“You owe me a new pipe,” douchebag says. He hands me a broom to sweep up the glass.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“That fucking thing cost me twenty dollars,” he says. “And I’m not even high yet.”
“Hey, man, I’m sorry,” I say. “I’ll make you an ice bong and we can get high together.”
“I don’t have any ice cubes.”
“Don’t worry about it. I have some.”
“You brought ice cubes to a party?”
This is obviously a lie, but douchebag falls for it and goes into the peace room closet to fetch a big black-and-purple bong out of his collection. He goes to fill it with water and by the time he comes back I’ve got the shards of glass pipe in my hand.
“You ready?” I ask.
Before he can answer, I press my hands against the chamber, forcing my fingertips into the glass. I see condensation forming along the sides as little chunks of ice start forming in the liquid. Douchebag’s eyes widen.
“How are you–?”
I’ve already grabbed his Zippo and I light up the bowl. With true shithead reflexes he puts his lips to the top of the bong and starts sucking with true homoerotic enthusiasm. I’m impatiently waiting for him to finish his hit. He’s one of those guys who thinks he’s cooler if he sucks it for five straight minutes.
He’s probably crap in bed.
Finally he reaches to pull out the bowl. I intercept his hand and do it myself like the nice guy I am. The downstem slides out gracefully as the little shards of glass slip down the hole from my palm. Whoops.
Douchebag throws the bong away from him when he starts choking, hacking up little bits of blood from the glass he inhaled. His throat must be in ribbons. The bong lands safely on the puzzle pieces, but I grab it and shatter it with more cold. Douchebag goes to move away from me, to get to the door, but he trips and falls on this glass as well.
I roll him over with my foot and press down into his stomach. He breathes heavily, staring up at me with bloodshot eyes. The fucker actually managed to get high. I can’t help but smile. Behind us the Ace of Base concert drones on.
So high no one can reach that high. Not I nor you get satisfied today.
I put my fingertips to his forehead and start squeezing.
January 15th, 2010
The cold doesn’t do anything to the lock. I didn’t really expect it to. Locks like these are built to resist all extreme temperatures. It was more for the rush of it, really. Whatever is behind this vault door is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I need to show it that I’m worthy. I’m different now.
Money, fame, power.
I hear a thud behind me and I turn around. Another thug has collapsed to the floor. He’d been quiet this entire time, never complaining. Taking life as it comes. I kind of liked him. But the thug who had tried to help dead-end job earlier doesn’t make a move to help this guy.
I walk over to him and pick him off the floor to look at him one last time. This is the first time I’ve ever seen him with clear eyes. But I’ve never seen him out of that faded Ace of Base shirt. He must have worn that every day for fifteen years.
Death is a dedication.
Turning back to the Arrow Revolution lock, I decide to take a different tact. I raise my hands in front of me and rub them together. This time I can feel them getting wetter as I continue. Soon little lines of water are running down my arms. My tights are getting soaked, the insignia darkening.
I let loose with 150 PSI of water on the lock.
Nothing happens, but I didn’t really expect it to.
December 15th, 1995
This is my last chance. Christmas break starts in less than a week and I need to do something. I’m the RA of this floor. I know what happens around here. I can sense trouble. I know better than you. I know when you’re in trouble.
I know Room 511’s boyfriend is a bad person. I can see it in his eyes when they come to my room.
“Hey Cameron,” 511 says. “Can we get a bracelet? He’s staying the night.”
Boyfriend looks at me and gives the I’m-getting-laid-tonight smile. I feign one in return as I write 511’s student number on a bracelet and give it to him.
“Have fun,” I say.
They leave, and an hour later they’re having sex in her room. I’m outside the door and I know he’s not right for her. He doesn’t deserve her. He’s too good and she’s too bad. I hate her.
I go back to my room. I pull out my now-it’s-definitely-a-diary stack of papers and start writing. I feel different. I’m taller. My voice is deeper. I write this over and over again until I’ve finished the last ten pages of the diary I’ve been keeping since I started this semester.
There are two little darkened spots on the pencil where I was gripping it too hard. Oh, there’s the heat. This is the final nail in my coffin. I am definitely different now. I’m better than everyone else and I deserve to be treated exactly as I am.
I’m superior and nobody gives a shit.
There’s a banging on my door. I look up from my desk. It’s her. She always knocks like that. Is boyfriend done having sex yet? Is she coming here to apologize?
“The toilet’s leaking again.”
I don’t move at first, so she walks up to my desk and waves her hand in front of my face.
“The toilet’s leaking again.”
I stand up and start to move towards the door. I pause in the frame, looking out into the hallway. Nobody’s around. Something has to be done about this. I slowly turn around and look at 511, letting my RA facade fall away. I take a step forward.
I’m so sorry for you.
Your boyfriend is a bad person. He kills people.
I lock the door behind me. She takes a step backwards.
“Wh-what are you doing?” she says.
I grab her pretty little wrists and pull her against me, bending her back so I can tower over her and look into those beautiful blue eyes of hers. Those disgusting, hateful blue eyes that I just can’t stand to see boring into me every day as I’ve been staring at her for too long and she’s oblivious to just how much loathing I have seething over her.
She’s been letting these strange men touch her and I don’t like it.
I’m better than them.
She tries to struggle away from me, but I hold her firmly. I push her back against the wall behind my desk and force her to look into my eyes. Look into my eyes like I’ve been looking into yours and maybe you’ll understand just how much I hate you. I’m so different and you’re all the same and I’m better than everyone.
Death is a desecration.
It’s just that my fingertips were so hot and she was close and I couldn’t stop thinking about boyfriend touching her and douchebag touching her and Jewfro touching her and how the only people in the world who would understand were the other observers, the other scorned. But I hate them too and I don’t know what to do anymore.
The heat is pooling in my opponens pollicis muscle and the little marionette strings are on fire and I just can’t stop myself. I’m holding 511’s arms over her head and I can smell little scorched fibres in that hoodie she’s always wearing.
“Cameron!” she screams, but I’m pressed too close to her and it comes out more like a moan.
It doesn’t matter anyway because Cameron’s not here. Cameron went away. Cameron’s gone and he’s never coming back and for all you know he never existed because there’s no proof. There’s no way to know what was defined in the past is still defined now and it’s not your place because I’m better than you and I’m different now.
The fire is spreading. I can’t keep my eyes on her. I hate her too much and hate is blind.
She burns to death in my arms.
January 15th, 2010
Fifteen years later and I can still remember fifteen years earlier. I got this costume and I made the connections that have made me who I am today. And now here’s the vault of one of my oldest enemies, holding what could be the most powerful object on Earth. I just have to get through this door.
I put my fingertips to the Arrow Revolution and shoot the little electrical arcs through it. I hear a click and the touchscreen goes dead. I slowly turn the handle and open the vault. Before I can enter, the last remaining thug puts his hand on my shoulder. I whip around, ready to rip this man’s arm off, but he fixes me with the strangest look and he shakes his head.
“I need to warn you,” he says. “My vault will give you what you need, but it can’t perform miracles.”
“I never wanted it to.”
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“You never knew my name before,” he says. “Why ask now?”
I take a step backwards. He keeps looking at me with that look of his. I’m too different. I don’t understand. I just wanted the money, the fame, the power — I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t want to be better than everyone. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen but it just kept happening.
I turn around and enter the vault.
Inside it’s just a great big empty room with a small table in the centre. I walk towards the table, confused. This must be a trick. This must be a trap. Why would the vault give me a table? I freeze halfway across the room when I see that the table has something on it. It’s the unmistakable Febreze-dryer-sheet-cologne smell that tips me off.
I refuse to go any closer to 511’s hoodie. I hate this and everything it represents.
The man who owns the vault is still standing in the doorway, watching me with that look. I turn back to him.
“What do you see?” he asks.
“It’s your girlfriend’s hoodie,” I say.
He’s a murderer. He’s a bad person. He was too good for her and I hate her for doing this to me.
I turn back around and start walking towards the table in long strides. No point stalling. I can’t spend another second looking at this person. This person is not someone I want anywhere near me. I don’t understand what’s happening or why but I know it’s his fault and I’m going to fix it.
I pick up the hoodie.
It’s not this that I really need.
Around me I can see all the people I knew in college. Here’s Jewfro, douchebag, dead-end job, Ace of Base, the people in the coffee shop, the shitheads from the peace room, all my old floormates. All of them except for Room 511. It’s been fifteen years and they’re all dead now but she wouldn’t come. She loves me too much.
Over the past-away, there may be then no resurrection in the minds of men.
I reach into the pocket of the hoodie and find a .9mm handgun.
“Tyler!” the man calls. But I don’t turn around. I don’t need him anymore. I’m different now.
“Goodbye, Cameron,” I say. I can’t see him but I know boyfriend is cringing because I know his name now and he never told it to me.
I hate him and I hate her and I hate everything. But now I’m different. This is what I really need. I knew forever that I was looking for money, fame, power. I always knew. But now I’m different and I understand myself and that’s all I understand.
Death is a destination.
Why does it always take forever?