Chapter 23

THE EXPLODED SHELL of my burned-out condo is outer space black and devastated in the night above the little lights of the city. With the windows gone, a yellow ribbon of police crime scene tape twists and swings at the edge of the fifteen-story drop.
I wake up on the concrete subfloor. There was maple flooring once. There was art on the walls before the explosion. There was Swedish furniture. Before Tyler.
I'm dressed. I put my hand in my pocket and feel.
I'm whole.
Scared but intact.
Go to the edge of the floor, fifteen stories above the parking lot, and look at the city lights and the stars, and you're gone.
It's all so beyond us.

Up here, in the miles of night between the stars and the Earth, I feel just like one of those space animals.
You just do your little job. Pull a lever. Push a button. You don't really understand any of it.
The world is going crazy. My boss is dead. My home is gone. My job is gone. And I'm responsible for it all.
There's nothing left.
I'm overdrawn at the bank.
Step over the edge.
The police tape flutters between me and oblivion.
Step over the edge.
What else is there?
Step over the edge.
There's Marla.
Jump over the edge.
There's Marla, and she's in the middle of everything and doesn't know it.
And she loves you.
She loves Tyler.
She doesn't know the difference.
Somebody has to tell her. Get out. Get out. Get out.
Save yourself. You ride the elevator down to the lobby, and the doorman who never liked you, now he smiles at you with three teeth knocked out of his mouth and says, "Good evening, Mr. Durden. Can I get you a cab? Are you feeling alright? Do you want to use the phone?"
You call Marla at the Regent Hotel.
The clerk at the Regent says, "Right away, Mr. Durden."
Then Marla comes on the line.
The doorman is listening over your shoulder. The clerk at the Regent is probably listening. You say, Marla, we have to talk.
Marla says, "You can suck shit."
She might be in danger, you say. She deserves to know what's going on. She has to meet you. You have to talk.
She should go to the first place we ever met. Remember. Think back.
The white healing ball of light. The palace of seven doors.
"Got it," she says. "I can be there in twenty minutes."
Be there.
You hang up, and the doorman says, "I can get you a cab, Mr. burden. Free of charge to anywhere you want."
The fight club boys are tracking you. No, you say, it's such a nice night, 1 think I'll walk.
It's Saturday night, bowel cancer night in the basement of First Methodist, and Marla is there when you arrive.
Marla Singer smoking her cigarette. Marla Singer rolling her eyes. Marla Singer with a black eye.
You sit on the shag carpet at opposite sides of the meditation circle and try to summon up your power animal while Marla glares at you with her black eye. You close your eyes and meditate to the palace of the seven doors, and you can still feel Marla's glare. You cradle your inner child.
Marla glares.
Then it's time to hug.
Open your eyes.
We should all choose a partner.
Marla crosses the room in three quick steps and slaps me hard across the face.
Share yourself completely.
"You fucking suck-ass piece of shit," Marla says.
Around us, everyone stands staring.
Then both of Marla's fists are beating me from every direction. "You killed someone," she's screaming. "I called the police and they should be here any minute."
I grab her wrists and say, maybe the police will come, but probably they won't.
Marla twists and says the police are speeding over here to hook me up to the electric chair and bake my eyes out or at least give me a lethal injection.
This will feel just like a bee sting.
An overdose shot of sodium phenobarbital, and then the big sleep. Valley of the Dogs style.
Marla says she saw me kill somebody today.
If she means my boss, I say, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, the police know, everyone's looking for me to lethally inject me, already, but it was Tyler who killed my boss.
Tyler and I just happen to have the same fingerprints, but no one understands.
"You can suck shit," Marla says and pushes her punched-out black eye at me. "Just because you and your little disciples like getting beat up, you touch me ever again, and you're dead."
"I saw you shoot a man tonight," Marla says.
No, it was a bomb, I say, and it happened this morning. Tyler drilled a computer monitor and filled it with gasoline or black powder.
All the people with real bowel cancers are standing around watching this.
"No," Marla says. "I followed you to the Pressman Hotel, and you were a waiter at one of those murder mystery parties."
The murder mystery parties, rich people would come to the hotel for a big dinner party, and act out a sort of Agatha Christie story. Sometime between the Boudin of Gravlax arid the Saddle of Venison, the lights would go out for a minute and someone would fake getting killed. It's supposed to be a fun let's-pretend sort of death.
The rest of the meal, the guests would get drunk and eat their Madeira Consomme and try to find clues to who among them was a psychotic killer.
Marla yells, "You shot the mayor's special envoy on recycling!"
Tyler shot the mayor's special envoy on whatever.
Marla says, "And you don't even have cancer!"
It happens that fast.
Snap your fingers.
Everyone's looking.
I yell, you don't have cancer either!
"He's been coming here for two years," Marla shouts, "and he doesn't have anything!"
I'm trying to save your life!
"What? Why does my life need saving?"
Because you've been following me. Because you followed me tonight, because you saw Tyler Durden kill someone, and Tyler will kill anybody who threatens Project Mayhem.
Everybody in the room looks snapped out of their little tragedies. Their little cancer thing. Even the people on pain meds look wide-eyed and alert.
I say to the crowd, I'm sorry. I never meant any harm. We should go. We should talk about this outside.
Everybody goes, "No! Stay! What else?"
I didn't kill anybody, I say. I'm not Tyler Durden. He's the other side of my split personality. I say, has anybody here seen the movie Sybil?
Marla says, "So who's going to kill me?"

Tyler, I say, but I can take care of Tyler. You just have to watch out for the members of Project Mayhem. Tyler might've given them orders to follow you or kidnap you or something.
"Why should I believe any of this?"
It happens that fast.
I say, because I think I like you.
Marla says, "Not love?"
This is a cheesy enough moment, I say. Don't push it.
Everybody watching smiles.
I have to go. I have to get out of here. I say, watch out for guys with shaved heads or guys who look beat up. Black eyes. Missing teeth. That sort of thing.
And Marla says, "So where are you going?"
I have to take care of Tyler Durden.

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