The Red Sea

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7 years 1 month ago #1 by Vacant NJ
The Red Sea was created by Vacant NJ
Despite the sun having set hours ago, scorching heat waves continued to radiate out from within the blacktop and concrete built environment. The stars in the night sky above appeared blurred, trapped behind an opaque layer of thick muggy air acting like a giant piece of plastic wrap strewn overtop the city. The atmosphere beneath was so thick and stagnant it encapsulated the city within an impenetrable heat bubble, inflated with pollutants which cast a filter tinted by strange chemically inducted colors before the sky. Distant city lights outlining the horizon illuminated the edges of the sky various orange hues, indicative of smog, which seemed to bring life in the city to a lethargic crawl.

The people of the streets sat motionless, reclined out on building stoops. Some perched on chairs others just on the steps, but all congregating in groups, keeping company within the heat bubble which enveloped us all. Walking past I could see their mouths move in conversation, however any audible words murmured were censored by the incessant rattling and vibration echoed by the hundreds of air conditioning units poorly affixed within loose window frames of the surrounding ragged apartments and clustered row homes.

Only a fence stood between us and the imposing brick theater, guarding an overgrown alleyway full with torn garbage bags bleeding contents consisting of primarily glass bottles and plastic debris into the tall weeds ahead. Slipping under the perimeter of the fence proved to be a spectacle for those walking along the sidewalk, as many no doubt took a second and third glance over their shoulders as they strolled past. But that's the beauty of the city, people watch and accept all sorts of strange sights, for everyone is always going about their own way and a group of dopy white folk laid out beneath a back alley fence is just another city sight.

Once under the fence line, a strategically placed but yet still bouncy mattress served as a path through the weeds and grasses and over the trail of broken glass beneath. Walking across, the springs inside the mattress poked through the weak water logged fabric, grabbing onto my shoe laces and pulling the knots untied with much ease. As the alley grew narrower the aroma of cat piss infiltrated the humid air, the smell danced about the interior of my nostrils. So pungent the odor was that it seemed to punch at my nose hairs, as if attempting to trick me into opening my mouth the breathe. The stench soon became a compound odor; a loathsome perfume, as the mixture of rotting trash blended in with the ammonia significant of the feline urine, creating a truly fetid fragrance enhanced and aged by the sweltering temperature. I noticed my loose shoelaces while dragging through the brush absorbed this new found perfume, so untied they remained as we squeezed in through an available entrance and into the dark movie palace.

The unforgiving sun from the afternoon past had turned the interior of the brick lined, flat roof theater into an oven, where a sea of empty red velvet upholstered chairs roasted like spiced rotisserie chickens underneath artificial light. The temperature inside the building was unbearable, inhumane, deadly; but the sight of the decaying theater was magnificent enough so as to dissuade our attention temporarily off from the intense scolding heat. This contrast of amazement to insufferableness created for a surreal environment, reminiscent of a desert hell. I began to ponder that perhaps I was just seeing a mirage. Maybe I had never made it under the fence at all? My mind instead just casting an oasis of velvet red decay before my eyes? Walking up a darkened side stairwell leading to the mezzanine I stumbled over my dangling shoelaces and managed to bash my knee against the plaster along the adjacent wall. A small cut opened, it bled red, red like the color of everything else around. And so it occurred to me that a figment of my overheating imagination this was not, not a mirage nor hallucination, just a remarkable theater rotting away in the city, home only to vacant seats and feral cats. No stage shows tonight, just an oven of architectural wonder to explore. I sweat on.

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