“He’s been a statue the whole year, the entire year, three hundred and sixty five days.”
Mabel didn’t know what to do with her husband, Abel, who’d been plopped in a green-felt chair for three hundred and sixty five days, not inching a millimeter or speaking a whisper, and he was probably in a great internal fit over not being able to do so. The chair became a tangled fright of polyurethane tubing leading in through Abel’s nose and mouth, and a nest for gnats inhabiting the underside of the chair’s bottom cushion.
The Manhattan apartment itself was sectioned off into warzone-like quadrants of improperly organized space, thanks to Mabel’s hectic (but low paying and under appreciated) occupation as a software engineer with BELBIC, or the Brain Emotional Learning Based Intelligent Controller. Her specific job was to program algorithms that mimicked the brain’s identification process of quality, as in the innate quality in works of literature and film and visual art. She moved to New York at nineteen from suburban Arizona, to become an actress as many young and pretty red-haired girls do, only to find she was too talented at mathematics and too smart to recite words she didn’t write herself, so she traded the phony lines of two-bit writers for lines of code in programming languages foreign to the rest of the human world.
For the first week of Abel’s sudden paralysis, Mabel convinced herself it was another of his great practical jokes, like the one he’d been pulling on his MIT-educated friend Donny Hitterman for fifteen years. Abel wore two discolored contact lenses, each with a different sized pupil, (big blue on the right and little green on the left) leaving Donny with the harmless impression that Abel suffered from chronic anisocoria and heterochroma, neither of which actually afflicted him. At least, he didn’t know if they afflicted him, since he had been so determined to carry out the joke flawlessly he never went anywhere without them, constantly in fear of running into Donny serendipitously in the street (although the excuse, “I have some contact lenses in which make my eyes appear normal” had come to Abel on many occasions). Instead of just tricking Donny Hitterman, the majority of the people close to Abel believed his eyes were screwed, and for all anybody knew, including Abel himself, they might have been. Mabel often remarked,
“The joke seems to be on you when you’re doing this much work.”
Mabel installed an automatic feeding system during the third week of Abel’s ailment, and the at-home-physician Dr. Krauze helped with the installation. Krauze diagnosed Abel with encephalitis lethargica, a largely unknown and unlikely form of encephalitis, or acute inflammation of the brain. There was an epidemic of it in the nineteen twenties and doctors worldwide simultaneously went insane attempting to figure out the cause or the meaning behind the event, although no cause or meaning was ever found.
The feeding system included three individual timers going off at ten A.M., one P.M. and five P.M., each of which propelled doses of flavorless nutrients into Abel’s gullet, allowing a more-than-likely suffering man a time of prolonged suffering. Mabel and the doctor considered themselves very moral for this.
“He’s been a statue the whole year, the entire year, three hundred and sixty five days.”
Mabel repeated this to Dr. Krauze, who was well aware of, and consistently monitored, Abel’s condition. It was the three hundred and sixty sixth day of Abel’s three hundred and sixty five day sickness, Krauze and Mabel across from him cross-legged and compressed into cushy green-felt-gnat-infested chairs of their own, autumnal sunlight reaching in through the partially opened single window. Streaks of the shine landed on Abel’s immovable forearms, purple palms anchored on the tops of his knees.
“I think he may begin moving very soon,” said Dr. Krauze.
“When? You’ve been saying that for months.”
“With a condition like his, weeks or months means very soon. His vitals are good. His eyes have been twitching, which means even though he’s got an obviously bad case of akinetic mutism, his frontal lobe is starting to react to some stimuli, although what stimuli I’ve got no idea.”
“Maybe he knows it’s me,” said Mabel. She waved her hand in front of him (as she did every day) and wiggled her five fingers relentlessly, only for a twitching big blue eye. Mabel changed his contacts every day, just in case Donny Hitterman ever came over to visit his old pal. She saw it as a duty to her husband, as he would have wanted it this way. She saw it as faith and love and the lack of betrayal. She saw it as doing his will.
“Oh, he may be awake in there,” said Krauze. “It’s just that he’s lost all expression. At this point your job may have more relevance in a cure than mine.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you’re developing a brain, for heavens sake. I can only give you guesswork as to how one brain operates. You’re creating a process for how every brain must operate.”
“Not every brain,” Mabel said. “And not must. It’s a long way from being completed, and even then, I don’t have diagnostic practice of any kind. Your being here gives me some ease.”
“I’m still curious,” said Krauze.
“It’s a tough subject to explain to the layman.”
“I’m a neurologist, I hardly think that’s laymanlike.”
“I work in machine translation. It’s difficult to express. Not every brain is the same, but every brain is the same, if you understand what I mean. All the parts are usually there, and the parts all react the same way, but they don’t, because that’s what makes us uniquely human. So we have the same framework, and we have the same workings in that framework, and yet we still all end up with something different. It’s why my job is so damn hard.”
“Yeah, that sounds difficult.” Krauze stroked his dry and stubbled chin.
“It is. I’m sorry, I should be focusing on my husband. Would you like a coffee?”
“I don’t particularly want one either, and I don’t particularly want to make some, so I feel stupid for asking.”
“You could have gone without saying that,” said Krauze.
“Yes, I know,” said Mabel. “Doctor, do you really think all we’re doing here is guesswork? Are we doing no good?”
“All diagnostic medicine is guesswork. One percent of the time do we actually care enough to reach a proper diagnosis, and even then it’s only because we’re grilled so hard so often that we crumble under the weight of the sufferer’s tenacity. I much prefer a case like your husband, who doesn’t give a damn whether or not he’s rotting.”
“But you’ve still got to deal with me.”
“You’re easy, though.”
“That’s insulting, doctor.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. But okay, Mabel, it’s about time I leave. Too many misunderstandings for one night.”
“If you insist. I’m partial to having you stay the night.”
“Clean the place up and I’ll consider it.”
Krauze grappled his suitcase and left, quietly closing the door although it wouldn’t have mattered if he slammed it. Mabel sighed and Abel wheezed, as they always did.
The apartment stirred at night during sleep, like some sort of preserved and flourishing wildlife exhibit. As if someone was looking down and gathering data on this one apartment alone, and researching what new forms of life were manifesting and where and when and how, by what bacteria and what force. In what corner were they growing? In what nook did it come alive? In what cranny did the laws of physics break themselves? Gnats batted around their home-thrones and Abel sat and slept all at once with his arched back and gathered spine, and Mabel choked on her own snores, alone and restlessly kicking in bouts of sleepy and sleepless depression. That is to say: even when she slept she thought of her husband, and of when he was just a practical joker, and was around and alive and speaking, and youthful as they are still in their youth. She dreamt of her twenties and her wedding and her husband who was a sprite of energy, exuberant and joyful. In her dream, they kissed and he was dancing.
When she woke up, it was to morning half-light and the ghostly blue fluttering of a muted television. High-pitched wheezes from the other room. Her blanket half on the floor, but Mabel stuck and sweat-drenched to the bed sheets. The wet formed a sort of police-chalk-outline around the curvature of her shape.
Mabel’s routine included whining to herself about feeling like shit in the mornings, as if she had been Giles Corey’d the night before, and kicking her two pretty little feet like an entitled child until the motion gave her enough energy to get out of bed. Lately she’d been masturbating with an old silver vibrator called Boltzmann. On normal days, she’d make a cup of coffee and drink it black and look over her new studies on the Integration Theory for Consciousness, and papers full of formulas normal people would laugh at, ones that look like this:
On the three hundred and sixty seventh day of her husband’s illness, however, there was no routine. There was Mabel standing alert and focused, a rare sight for the mornings, in a ragged, holed shirt and frilled pink underwear under the door frame with gaping eyes and an even wider mouth. In front of her husband bobbed the disembodied clothing (and accessories) of a jester, the particolor tunic of blue and white, and the fool’s hood, an aumuce, and a square-cut cape with bells at the shoulder, and a floating, pointed marotte, also known as an idiot’s bauble or the harlequin’s scepter. It danced just as Abel danced in her dreams. No arms, or legs, or a head, just the shapes of extremities in arches of fabric.
Under the hood – a brain, a drifting and sailing and freewheeled brain.
Mabel threw Boltzmann at the brain-jester and did not emit a stereotypical scream, content on driving the entity out without losing her voice or dignity, but the recently-used silicone cock smacked her husband in the face and he sagged down into his chair a little more, his first change in posture in over a year. The brain-jester turned to face Mabel and giggled and slapped its non-knees.
“Oh!” said Mabel, who put both of her hands over her mouth with a sort of, “I didn’t mean it, paralyzed husband of mine, I didn’t mean it” look.
“Nice throw,” said the brain-jester.
“Oh fuck off,” said Mabel. “You don’t even have lips. You’re a hallucination.”
“Am I?” said the brain-jester.
It wasn’t a hallucination. Mabel found this out when it began dancing a solid and raging tango with her, forcing her pajama’d (or lack of pajama’d) body to move with it. They stopped in the middle of the living room, Mabel shaking with rattling knees and chills up and down her arms in the form of raised, circular bumps. They were pronounced on her legs, too.
“So you’re some sort of a…” started Mabel.
“No, no, don’t be ridiculous. I couldn’t be.”
“You didn’t know what I was going to say.”
“You were going to say random fluctuation,” said the brain-jester. “It’s just an insult. I’ve been around longer than this damned building.”
“That’s exactly what a random fluctuation would say.”
“Really? And how many random fluctuations have you known?”
“That’s not fair,” said Mabel. “If you’re a random fluctuation, it’s an allowed assumption that you’d also have a repertoire of randomly generated thoughts. You just think you’ve existed before.”
“Well that’s hardly accurate,” said the brain-jester. “And how do you know you’re not just a sack of meat with self-awareness that manifested seconds ago?”
“Because I remember yesterday,” said Mabel. “I remember this whole horrible year.”
“And that’s precisely what a random fluctuation would say, correct?”
“What the fuck are you?” asked Mabel. “Please, just, is this some sort of weird stochastic or, I don’t know, entropic, principle happening because of my husbands lack of movement?”
“There’s a theory for you,” said the brain-jester. “But no. The amount of chaos in your life means nothing to me. I was just here trying to steal some of his comedic powers.”
“Oh, of course,” said Mabel. She re-routed to the kitchen and threw away a day old coffee filter, opening a cabinet and replacing it with another. She proceeded to non-nonchalantly, in the midst of having a conversation with perhaps the strangest entity in the entire universe, create a benign and uninteresting material like coffee with the help of, of course, a press.
“Sarcasm?” asked the brain-jester.
“Is there some sort of essence to comedy I should know about? Furthermore, is there some sort of process in which you can sap this comedic power? Furthermore furthermore, how is it that you know my husband is funny at all?”
The jester snapped its non-extant fingers.
“Good questions, madam. It’s why I’m here myself. I just know he’s funny because of his prolonged funniness. After seeing him like this, however, I think I may pass. He and I have different stylistic choices when it comes to comedy.”
“Oh, I thought anybody would like the eye thing.” Mabel rolled her own eyes.
“Oh, the eye thing is right up my alley. But it’s too happy. That’s not what comedy is about. Comedy is about tragedy. Taking an orphan child who had been forgotten in the street and harvesting his organs is comedy.”
“What? Jesus, no it isn’t.”
“Of course it is,” said the brain-jester. “Allowing your husband to wake up and speak only to tell you how he cheated on you and hated you during the course of your marriage – that’s comedy.”
“Or what? Swarms of young and old penguins alike being chomped on by sharks. Comedy!”
“You’re not making any sense. What – is hot cold? Is wet dry?”
“I can’t say anything for those forces,” said the brain-jester. “Although I do often complain about the heat in the snow, and I love my leather jacket in Death Valley.”
“And what do you attribute that to?”
“Come to think of it,” said the brain-jester, hardly listening, “I do complain about being full when I’ve had nothing to eat.”
“You seem a bit conflicted,” said Mabel. “Sort of like, maybe, a random fluctuation.”
“But,” said the brain-jester, “do you even understand the sort of internal crisis one has when in realizes it may have only been around for minutes? And when those minutes have felt like years?”
“No, I have no idea,” said Mabel. She unpeeled a banana and put half of it in her mouth, mashing it with her back molars. Gnats hustled away when she picked it up.
“Why do you assume I’m the chaos to the order, anyway?”
“I mean, look at this place,” said the brain-jester. “I am order in the chaos. This is just filth and mess and filthy mess.”
“I have a demanding job.”
“Which means you neglect your home.”
“I really don’t need flack from a being who doesn’t even know whether or not it’s existed for more than a minute.”
“Oh, it’s been a minute. I know that for sure.”
“Do you really?”
The brain-jester turned again, and diverted his attention to Abel. Abel had a red phallus-shaped mark on his forehead and was still staring wildly into the open air. The brain-jester pressed his palms against Abel’s chest and articulated some Lovecraft inspired chant, something like,
“Mishcungra Mishingha, Ph`nglui R`lhey Ishingha.”
“What’s that?” asked Mabel.
“No idea,” said the brain-jester. “But it’d be silly of me to not try everything.”
“So, really? That’s it? You’re just here to suck and sap the powers from an already lifeless man?”
“I’m here to find out how, is all.”
“So he’s just the guinea?”
“I don’t understand. Are you asking if your husband is a pound sterling?”
“I’m so confused.” Mabel put a hand to her forehead.
“A guinea, as far as I know, is a gold piece, madam.”
“No, it’s just, it’s ha-ha funny to say.”
“It’s really not. It’s confusing.”
“Pardon, madam, but I’m the jester here. I’m quite a renowned authority on comedic happening.”
“And I’m a woman with a vibrator named Boltzmann. I’m quite a renowned authority or whatever on brains without lips.”
“Touche,” said the brain-jester. “You’re a mental match if I’ve ever met one.”
“I’m going to call the doctor,” said Mabel.
“Is he funny?”
“Oh, that’s perfect. Just what I need.”
Bertrand Bertrand finished triumphantly, with one fist raised in the air, on the bony chest of Celeste’s thirty seven year old corpse. She was thirty when she died. On the day she was violated, she had successfully decomposed into mostly bone (which is how Bertrand² prefers them), with slivers of skin remaining only on her knees and ankles. It would have been equally alarming if she had not been subject to natural decay at all.
Bertrand’s mini-shovel rested vertically in her open grave and a spheroid mound of dirt rested next to the scene of a twenty-something with evident mental health issues plowing away at a corpse about five years his senior. His reason for preferring partial decomposition was: “The cold feels good on my hunk.” The officer he told this to, Lieutenant Morel, was “more-than-sure” that Bertrand² meant “junk.” They’ll never know.
Also, Bertrand² was caught at two thirty in the afternoon. Lt. Morel and Deputy Brandt argued over whether or not the timing was intentional, or if a mentally disturbed person would even internally debate when he was going to fuck a corpse. Morel and Brandt came to this conclusion: a person with an inclination to fuck a corpse would fuck a corpse despite the time of day, and it was evidenced by Bertrand² indeed fornicating with a corpse while jays swooped about around him and granddaughters vainly visited their grandparent’s graves in hopes of God seeing, without prejudice, that they are actually good people for having paid solace. The sun was out, too. That’s a big one. (As far as stars go, it’s actually kind of small.)
Brandt sat in an office chair which, unbeknownst to him, contributed to his idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic means arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause. In front of Brandt was a small white intercom and a standard one-way police mirror. Bertrand² and Morel sat across from one another in a damp, brightly-lit room with a singular bulb draped from the ceiling attached by slender wire. It flickered every now and then.
“So would it be silly to ask why you did it? Or is that an acceptable question?” Morel’s voice echoed halfway in the quaint white-bricked rectangle, stopping at the is.
“I guess that’s okay. If I was a cop I’d ask myself that question. I did it because I like fucking dead people. Why are you allowed to tell me what I can and can’t fuck?”
“Do you really think that’s the only problem?”
“I don’t see another one.”
“How about the fact that it was in the middle of the day?”
“Okay, that’s a good point. I swear I’ll keep it to nighttime only. I know how you protestants like keeping everything involving the bedroom a strictly nighttime activity.”
“I’m not a protestant.”
“Oh, what are you?”
“I’m not sure I should oblige you with an answer, but I’ve recently accepted that I am a reformed materialistic naturalist with agnostic tendencies.” Few people have the constitution to resist expelling their personal beliefs.
“That’s a mouthful. Kind of like Celeste’s skull when I was…”
Morel put his hand up and shook it. “Nope, that’s enough, actually.”
“Why would you assume I’m a protestant?”
“Statistically likely in this county.”
“Oh, I thought it’d be more baptist around here.”
“You’d think that, wouldn’t you?”
“Are you asking me if I would personally think that, or do you mean that in the ‘you’ as in ‘everybody’ kind of way?”
“The second one.”
“Oh, okay. Wow, this conversation really took off.”
“I’m sorry. What were you asking?”
“I guess … uh … well, I guess I just want to know why you fucked a corpse in a public cemetery in broad daylight.”
“I’m still confused. Would it be any different if it were at night in a public cemetery? Where else am I supposed to fuck bodies?”
“As for that second question, you are not supposed to fuck bodies. As for the first, well, it is a bit different, Bertrand, given the … uh … openness of your crime.”
“Okay, fine, I won’t do it again.”
“That’s not how people get off, Bertrand.”
“There’s a joke in there somewhere.”
“Okay, well I’m gonna’ go talk to Deputy Brandt and we’re gonna’ get you a nice cozy cell.”
“How long until I’m appointed a lawyer?”
“You’ll meet the state appointed guy a day before the trial.”
“What’s your bet on the verdict?”
“I don’t need’ta bet, Bertrand. You’re gonna’ plead insanity and you’re gonna’ get insanity. They’ll put you in a padded room and you’ll stay there ’til you die.”
“That sounds horrible.”
Morel stood and walked toward the door. “They might not even let you outside given what you do there.” Slam.
Brandt didn’t say anything and glanced at the sticky stains of melted cheese and coffee on the floor. Also unbeknownst to him, he was the perpetrator of every mess ever made in the office. This is only slightly his fault. If they ever called him out for active duty, he would have instead made a mess in the car.
“Wow,” said Morel. He took his hand and wiped the nervous condensation from his forehead and his neck curved down and his eyes closed. “That was bad.”
“You’re an agnostic, L.T.? You’re goin’ to hell.”
“You know that calling me an acronym that denotes the abbreviation of my rank is really stupid, right?”
“Have you gotten a hold of Celeste’s family?”
“Uh, not yet. Sorry, L.T.”
“Get on it, please. I don’t need a newspaper headline reading, ‘Incompetent officers wait weeks before informing family of necrophilia ring.’”
“You think there’s a ring of these guys, sir?”
“No, I just added the spin that’s no doubt goin’ to be added.”
“Oh. Right, sir.”
Morel sauntered into his office and sat behind his strewn-papers desk, on a reclining chair that Brandt wanted more than anything, even more than a day out on the job. The posture Morel acquired should be familiar to anyone who has ever been stressed, two elbows on the table and two palms rustled on the flat of his head. Morel skewed his head for a view out the window, and a hand of his inadvertently crawled to his cheek, the other dropping to his lap. This is what he saw:
A burly, muscled man with a full beard and his scrawny friend Eiffel-towering a recently deceased blonde woman who was still leaking blood from a head wound with a blunt weapon. Later they would suspect a baseball bat, but no weapon was ever found or testified to. It was a baseball bat. One of those tiny ones and they had thrown it in the trashcan behind the police station during Bertrand²’s interrogation. It seems necrophiliacs have a penchant for miniature items that are less efficient than their normal-sized counterparts.
“Brandt, let’s go.”
Stewart Angwine and Teapot ZooMasterBeastLover Diddly (his real name is Jack Jones, and Morel [in his head, not out loud] sympathized with him a bit given the ordinariness of the original title) piled in next to Bertrand² in the already-too-stuffy bland rectangle most officer’s at the precinct call the talky-hole. In case you were wondering, about two weeks after Teapot changed his moniker, it reached local Franklin, Tennessee news where an activist named Lowell Stevenson (a pimple-faced recluse that spent too much time on onion routers purchasing psilocybin variants) informed P.E.T.A. of the offensive nature of specifically Teapot’s middle name. The brewing litigation against Diddly claimed it was connotative of physical and sexual abuse to our Earthly brethren. P.E.T.A. lost and their lawyers grew wide-eyed when the defending attorney familiarized them with the first amendment.
Morel stood in front of the perps with his hands on his hips. He sweat and sighed. The other three were handcuffed and solemn in scoliosis chairs with their heads down as if they knew they did something horrible but would do it again without a thought given another chance. Maybe even with thought.
“Why are you peddling me in with this filth?” asked Bertrand².
“Because you three fuck dead people,” said Morel. Stern. No more relaxation for good ol’ Morel. His heart triggered his head and his head triggered his veins and his veins triggered his blood and he grew nervous and weak, reaching into his pocket for one of those small orange prescription bottles. He threw the cap to the floor and downed a couple generic benzodiazepines. Morel’s anxiety had turned his thirty-something heart and stomach into shredded pulp, but pulp kind of makes the assumption of shreddedness. But shredded pulp could still be a thing, it’d just be even-more pulped pulp.
“Hey, man, you can’t – like – judge us,” said Teapot. He was the scrawny one and he had the shittiest mustache known to man. It looked especially bad in comparison to Angwine’s full, lustrous, movie-star beard.
“You fucked a woman you killed across the street from a police station,” said Morel. “How am I not supposed to judge you?”
“Well we didn’t mean to kill her,” said Angwine. “Honest. She was up even as we were whackin’ her and she fell far after we were done whackin’ her.”
“How many whacks did you give, Angwine? How many whacks?”
“How many did you want to give?”
“Oh, one or two tops.”
“Wrong fucking answer! Wrong fucking answer!” Morel flipped the table in a usual before-the-effects rage. Nothing flew off of it because nothing was on it. One of the side effects of many anti-anxiety medications is pure, unadulterated wrath, which is exactly the opposite of the desired inebriation. This happens with medications a lot – as it’s true almost all treatments for irritable bowel syndrome make you shit your pants, and several depression medications make you sadder than you were originally, which if you’re getting medication for depression, is pretty fucking sad. “Zero times is the answer, idiots. You hit people zero times in the head, you stupid, dumb, god – dammit – you – stupid …”
Morel sat cross legged on the floor and went,
“Lieutenant, with all due respect, I’m not a murderer. I have a disorder and an unnatural attraction to corpses. These men are scavengers, opportunists. They wanted to rape the girl so when they accidentally killed her they decided, ‘eh, why the fuck not?’ and did it anyway. I, on the other hand, am driven by impulses I have no control over. And I don’t kill them. That’s the big distinction.”
“That’s not accurate,” said Angwine.
“We flipped a coin, really,” said Teapot.
“You flipped a coin on whether or not you should fuck a dead woman?” asked Morel on the floor with his elbows on his knees and his hands in “o’s.” A meditation position. It’s not odd at all he only meditates while on his medication.
“Yep,” said Teapot.
“I’m not like them, okay?” said Bertrand². “I’m not. I need to get psychoanalytically evaluated and given some pills and I’ll be fine. There’s no cure for fuckin’ murder, though.”
“Ugh,” said Angwine. “This kid sucks.”
“Usual-corpse-fucker! Usual-corpse-fucker!” shouted Angwine.
“Hey man, we’re one in the same today,” said Bertrand².
“I’m pretty sure you were just arguing against that,” said Morel.
“Oh, well, fuck you, pig,” said Bertrand². He spit in Morel’s face and Morel simply grinned and ohm’d.
Brandt stepped in.
“Sir, we got a call from an Andrea Mason.”
“I hate the two first names people,” said Morel.
“I know, sir.”
“I’ll be there in a minute.”
“She says it’s urgent.”
Morel dusted off his pants and went to his office. He picked up the phone.
“Lieutenant Morel, hi, it’s Andrea Mason from the Aventon Hospital.”
“Ah, well, okay. We’ve done some preliminary tests on Catherine Harvey and have found an almost, well, impossible amount of Mandragora officinarum in her stomach and lower intestine.”
“Wait, what’s that? Manda-whata?”
“It’s a mandrake plant. Intensely hallucinogenic and narcotic. More importantly, definitely does not at all grow in east Tennessee.”
“Okay, so why are you telling me this?” asked Morel.
“Well, it seems that Catherine Harvey was already dead before the blunt injuries to the skull. At the least she was suffering from a delirious or psychotic breakdown before death.”
“They said she was up when they hit her,” said Morel.
“That’s what I’m saying,” said Andrea. “If she was psychotic, they probably had a pretty good reason to hit her.”
“Oh, that’s pretty big.”
“Thanks, Miss Mason.”
“You’re welcome, Lieutenant.”
I’d like to tell everyone this story. It’s about how bad everything has gotten here in South America. It’s about the cat problem.
I was one foot in. The hut smelt of burning flesh and rotting meat, and, inquisitively enough, charred rutabaga. Why anyone would eat a rutabaga charred, or eat a rutabaga on their own free will, is unbeknownst to an omnivore but closer to carnivore such as myself. There was a lady in the chair, breathing heavily with deep cackles in her lungs, and bits of flesh forcefully exiting after each exhalation. Is it rutabaga? Is it some blended mystery meat concoction? No, can’t be blended – not blended, because they’re bits of flesh. Someone needs to learn to chew. Someone needs to develop the proper acids to break down her foods.
She was undeterred by my presence in her hut, as she must have been impressed that I was standing there at all, after all the muck and bullshit before it, in the heart of the labyrinthine wood. I moved my flashlight towards her face, old yellow eyes, void of any sparkle or charm, lacking in depth and character, all yellow and sickly red, a grimly compliment to her mattered face of ridges, canyons on their own, the depths of ancient strife.
A syllable passed from her lips, long and exasperated, wispy, as if she were mimicking the wind –
One arm raises to point to the ground below, a dead mother and a solemn kitten helplessly suckling on her long dry teet. A mouthful of blood every time, as there was a hole in the mother’s torso that revealed the broken wooden deck beneath it.
“It is within me.”
It is within me. That’s what she said.
“They are within me.”
“What is it? Who are they?”
“I saved them, oh yes, I saved them. They were going to be all alone and it would have been too much for my heart to bare to leave them to the disastrous world as it has always been. Nature could not take its course, for I, a product of nature, interfered with nature and delayed original purpose, destiny itself. Stepping into life, I granted them a path anew, and I opened up my doors and gates to them, unlocking the locks that have never been opened, not by man or woman, but perhaps once cunningly granted access to by a selfish, cunning thief – may he rot always in the ground I stuck him in.”
I moved the light again to her face.
“Who are you?”
“Does it matter? And who are you? Barging into my hut as if it’s a place of your own, asking me to speak in riddles.”
“I didn’t ever ask you to speak in riddles.”
“Then who did, then? Then who did?”
“Perhaps the people over there?”
“Foolish invader turns out to be clever – and I am glad he can, like me, see the people in the corner, the much too dark corner.”
There are no people in the corner. The corner is black and empty.
“But can he see why I did this world harm, and why my own selflessness came to be a burden? Can he see how I rid the inhabitants of the other mother’s den to enter my den to once again sloppily exit my den? Can he see my den at all? Will I allow him to be in my den, like all the others stuck there?”
“Who are the people in the corner?”
“Much like us, wanderer, they are spirits lost in a realm of mortal few. They are the molten wisps of jagged rock, the forging fires of steel and stone, the molecular underpinnings in the smallest insect. They are the one and the one is them.”
“No more riddles. I’m afraid I can’t understand a word you’re saying, miss.”
“A pleasantry in the midst of all these trees, and a dying old hag in the midst of her own dying house. No more riddles, although the people in the corner have already ordered me to speak in them. For the sake of this conversation, I’ll join in again in the mortal world. For you, invader, wanderer, whom I owe nothing to, I grant you my purpose. My speech.”
“How very kind of you, old hag in the midst of her dying house.”
“Ha! And now you speak in riddles after questing to cease mine.”
“I’m looking for Sylvia Monroe. This is her address, or so I was told.”
“You were told correctly, wanderer, invader. I am Sylvia Monroe.”
“I doubt that, hag.”
“And why do you doubt it highly, stranger?”
“Sylvia Monroe is thirty three.”
“Aye, Sylvia Monroe was thirty three. She was thirty three like I am sixty seven, and like you are thirty three.”
“I’m not thirty three.”
“Then neither is Sylvia Monroe.”
“Wonderful logic. I’ll risk leaving this den with no recollection or information at all, if only not to have nightmares for the rest of my life.”
“How far have you come to present yourself before me?”
“What does it matter? How is that relevant?”
“A wasted trip to leave only for your dreams?”
“I wasn’t speaking literally of my dreams.”
“Aye, neither am I, wanderer, neither am I.”
“Have you ever been clinically examined?”
“What does it matter? What could clinics and doctors tell me of my condition that I have not already figured out?”
“Schizophrenia is not a doing of your own.”
“I was not speaking of my mind, but of my body.”
“What is wrong with your body?”
“Infection, wanderer. An infection because of the inhabitants of my den.”
“Felis Catus, felis catus, felis catus. The den of remarkably unlucky ones, who entered my crevice by my hand, with no help from the ones in the corner, who died there and have left me this way. But the mother had tried to start the fires of birth, but they were just not warm enough, just not ripe enough to walk along the dusty sands and oily shores. But it is cold here at night – so unimaginably cold – and I wanted to keep them warm and safe, and I wanted them to be able to taste the nectar of possibility, far and away from the sinister and the wicked and the corrupt. So they entered, and so they are there now, eating away and dead all because of my good intention. Decay has set in. Felis Catus, Felis Catus, Felis Catus. I killed the mother with a shoe and left one of her as a sacrifice to the ones in the corner. They were pleased. I was instructed to keep her corpse there and only there until the light of creation is unraveled as black.”
I pointed the flashlight to her crotch. Her legs were gaping and her skirt revealed all – a foul, more than ungodly green and black and grey erupting from her crotch. Blood trickled down her leg, too, intermixing with all the grey. Infection and disease like I’ve never seen.
“They were stillborn, wanderer. I just thought they needed more time.”
I stepped out of the hut and threw up my Sunday’s breakfast. It was not an active thought. After everything I had just seen it felt appropriate for my body to do so, without interference from my brain. Much to my simultaneous delight and disgust, the only thing my fucked up brain could muster, phonetically anyway, was,
“Muffs in the oven.”
God damn, this problem is worse than I had ever thought. The outcry of the general public’s hardship with the current feline hazard, even outside of this severe and truthfully disgusting instance, has been problematic in bringing in any diplomatic solutions. Although I admit, any semblance of a diplomatic solution is put to shame by the outweighing moral and ethical issues that are lumped aside with exterminating genetically engineered animals, some of them priceless artifacts of scientific knowledge, already probably devoured or trampled or worse. Our hands bringing death would only spill more blood on every surface.
The Southern American Jaguar, specifically two subspecies of Southern American Jaguar, P. onca peruviana and P. onca goldmani, have been extensively hunted for their coats and their teeth and their little eye balls ever since folks decided that they weren’t the fearsome Gods of the underworld, but were just large house cats with the strongest jaw imaginable, even among cats that will eat your face.
Ten years ago every single tiger species became extinct in the wild. Tigers are now docile, bred solely in captivity. You can’t shoot them anymore, but you can gawk at them through chain fences and wonder, “Why would we ever kill such a wonderful creature?”
The same cannot be said for the jaguars. Since the invasive – and god willing, planted – population of the house cats two years ago in South America, Felis Catus has become the main prey of both humans and jaguars alike. From Bolivia to Nicaragua to Brazil – all the way up to parts of Central America, Mexico, and even Arizona and New Mexico, the number of jaguars in the wild, unlike every other big cat on the globe, has been sky rocketing. Since their food source is increasingly abundant ( approximately six million cats released on first record, after having two consecutive breaches on our holding facilities at GreyTech, which means two consecutive scrambles to run the numbers counting the amount of property stolen) and breeds regularly, it’s no surprise that the jaguars are engaging in semi-cannibalism. They are flourishing. And they’re killing the fuck out of everybody.
They took all of our cats and now all of our cats are gone. To be specific, Sylvia Monroe took all of our cats. Her and her squadron of philistine juggernauts and golden boy prodigies and half-baked sailors who only eat tuna sandwiches. She freed them in the center of the Floresta Amazônica. It was an act of terrorism and the consequences of such an act are to this day being felt all across the world.
I am one of the co-author’s of Project Felidae. My co-author, Gadsby Schmidt and I were both promoted simultaneously to run a state of the art facility in some unregistered, or close to unregistered, county in Arizona, which provided us not only with the most recent and beneficial technologies for our area of research, but also with complete and total anonymity from the public. This obscurity from the public was decisive when running genetic experiments on felines, or with any type of animal, as the outcry from such procedures are generally settled only in court and with slipshod lawyers salivating at the power and benefit of prosecuting a three billion dollar a year agency. But I’ve argued to this day, even after our holding facilities were breached by Sylvia Monroe and her gang of miracle activists, that the tests we were running were important, at least to the cats of the world, and in the long run, humanity itself.
We can alter their gene sequences to artificially render their aging processes. We can say fuck all to their genetic code and increase their lifespan ten fold. We haven’t broken the process of aging completely in cats, but the ones that survive the tests live to their fifties. Since the extinction of every tiger species in the wild, and most of the leopard and cheetah and lynx and bobcat subspecies in the wild, we’ve also been studying ways to clone this extremely rare DNA to release big cats into their natural habitats in the future. Without a live specimen, this is easier said than done, but a genetic copy of one of these animals is just around the bend as far as I’m concerned. Even with me out of the game, the cloning world has grown wonderfully provocative and obtuse in the delivery of their messages, if only because cloning sheep and chickens has gone so out of style. Last week a baby black rhino, one of the last in the world, was born on television. If they weren’t born blind, and could somehow watch t.v., that poor baby rhino would have seen a lump of bright purple obesity with a unicorn horn as orange as my mother’s incorrectly cooked spaghetti. Not only can they clone it, they can change everything about it that it should have been. Cutting and copying and slicing genes these days is about as easy as finding a hooker in Thailand.
The labyrinthine wood. It’s the area just before Sylvia Monroe’s supposed cottage in the Floresta Amazônica and I call it that because of a memory. A memory of an old friend, an old idiot friend, who nonetheless brought me great joy.
“I’m more comfortable believing in God. Can we just drop it for now? We’re in the rain forest of all places, staring into a wild maze of trees and shrubs, all perfectly lit up by God’s light, which peaks into the trees so wonderfully and elegantly, like nothing else, exquisitely unique, a created sensation you get just by looking at that perfect light, transposed to you by the holy being himself – and you want to argue with me about his existence?”
“I feel … I feel what you’re talking about! I feel … yes, a sensory organ, maybe, perhaps … my … my … my eyes! … and they’re seeing … oh … they’re seeing light! Reflecting off of objects! And the objects themselves are … are … are … reflecting light! By God! It’s God! My witness to a spectacular sight is testimony to the one true God! Cass, you know you sound ridiculous right now, don’t you? Invoking the magical wrath of God into me because you saw a pretty picture? Really?”
“Look, can we just drop it?”
“You know we can’t talk unless we disagree, or else we’re just going to be spewing the same pseudo-talk nonsense as the rest of the population.”
“I think your need to be loathed by everyone and everything around you is becoming a little cheesy. Who cares if other people are talking about it? What, other people aren’t talking about God right now? God is all of a sudden a new topic?”
“Not new, but like I said, we disagree. If we didn’t, we’d be agreeing, and what else is there to say to a person who likes everything you like? If they like everything you like, no matter what, they may as well be you, and you may as well be having a conversation with yourself.”
“So you still want to talk about God.”
“You’re a creationist. What else is there to talk about with you people?”
“Everything, as I was trying to demonstrate earlier by telling you to stop the conversation that you’re now bringing up again.”
“Those words were a poignant analysis of your own remarkable situational awareness.”
“Those words were a crock of shit.”
“Now, now, I’m the one that’s supposed to be using the bad words.”
“And I’m the one that’s supposed to be nice.”
“I think that’s a common misconception. I am burning in hell according to you.”
“And I am rotting in the ground according to you.”
“So I grant you eternal nothingness, and you grant me eternal hell fire and torture and suffering, and we’re supposed to pretend those two are equivalents?”
“God gave you a perfect human body and perfect human thoughts and the choice whether or not to accept him using your own logic…”
“Perfect human body? Those words are a crock of shit. Our hips are still angled like we walk on all fours, so when now bi-pedal women have babies they are screaming and moaning all over the damn place because of our insufficient design. I mean, shit, we eat and breathe out of the same fucking tube, the light receptors in our eyes are placed just behind a crucial nerve, our teeth, for thousands of years at least, rotted to the bone and slaughtered our hearts. Energy storage cannot adapt appropriately to food availability, cranial nerves innervate portions of the body, fetal development of the face allows for cleft pallets and deafness. What’s perfect about our bodies, again?”
“Well if it’s evolution, you’ve got to admit that it did a pretty lousy job.”
“It has, and it usually only does a job good enough for the environment it’s placed in. Not to mention that the lingering genetic preferences of our fishy and four legged ancestors bog us down, sometimes even kill us. So which ever way you slice it – that we’re all here because we’re the perfect children of God, or because God inserted the algorithmic tendencies of evolution into natural processes – God did a pretty bad job. He obviously saw our construction. He obviously implemented evolution as is to lead to the apex of all species on the planet, humanity, in order to spread his good word.”
“Well I don’t believe in evolution, so all this pedantic wish-wash about it certainly isn’t helping me change my position.”
“Don’t ever change your position, or we couldn’t be friends anymore.”
“This is the most one-sided friendship of my life. For someone so afraid to talk to himself, you sure love your own voice. Your eloquence almost matches your bravado.”
“Your life long vendetta against the forces of reason and logic are growing out of hand, Cass.”
“Oh, shut your damn mouth. I’m done with this conversation.”
“I would be too, if I was making the points that you’re making.”
“Shut your damn mouth.”
“Sure. But you’ve got to keep that pretty god-loving mouth flapping, or else we’re going to be deathly bored.”
“Snakes and monkeys and jaguars not enough business for you?”
“Not at all. My only vice is human interaction. It’s a shame you are the human, but nonetheless, you are.”
“Why’d they pair us up, you think?”
“They’re just helping.”
“And how are they helping?”
“To the middle of the rain forest? A bit over pre-cautious for something like this, yeah?”
“Wrong. The backlash could be enormous. Advocacy groups can cripple corporations, even one like mine – fuck, what am I saying, especially one like mine. You, on the other hand, Cass, got the short end of the stick. You don’t even work for GreyTech or have anything to do with Project Felidae. You simply outsource product and you’re still picked up by boogeymen telling you to lay low. Looks like some journalist got his hands on your name, which means your name got flashed all over the news and it didn’t look pretty. Nuh-uh. Not at all. You looked like little miss Satan herself to some sad sap family watching the five o’clock news over frozen dinners.”
“I probably did, working for a company dedicated to helping animals breathe can be a real career stopper.”
“If said company is partnered with another company that only does genetic modification on animals, then, yes, I’m inclined to agree with you.”
“So, what, we can’t be found in South America?”
“Less press, more poverty, less chance of anyone recognizing us. No lawyers or agents or cops are going to bother us down to here, but that’s the point. It’s a relocation program.”
“But why us? Together? No reason for us to be stuck in South America together.”
“I don’t see the connection either, honestly. Funds, maybe.”
“Either way, doesn’t really matter. We are now tied into the same lace.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Me either, really, it just sounded right.”
“I know that you’re a vampire for human interaction, but could we stop this feast, only to appreciate the labyrinthine wood in front of us?”
The crunch in the leaves, even after it has rained, is satisfying to the nth degree. The sunlight, much like Cass had mentioned, is particularly beautiful a day after it has rained – astutely tan and radiant beyond belief – poking in and out of trailing vines, conforming and contorting with every step. The trees and their slanted, thin branches, the light peaking out from in between them, the dances they do, the way it leaps beyond our very understanding and imagination – an astoundingly powerful realization. That just by looking at trees, in the right structure, at the right place, at the right time of day, you can be stunned into submission and captivated by the power of life all over again – you can appreciate the experience of being alive just by looking at some trees and the shapes they make, in one unique instance of time and space, and light and balance.
Cass and I walked all the way from our hotel on the outskirts of a city named Furgis, into a dense overgrowth of life with a complexity that has yet to be revealed to us in full splendor. We walked and we spoke and we listened and we were there for no reason at all. It was just two days later after we took that walk in the labyrinthine wood when Sylvia Monroe unleashed her stolen cargo of somewhere between six million animals, all Felis Catus, in the dead center of the Amazon.
A grove up ahead, after this lovely wooden bridge, which will probably fall underneath my weight, or trap me into it because of the wispy leathers of my boot, with fog streaming through it and on top of it and below it, seeping into the ground. White muck that sticks to Corsum’s face. The men behind him, barely audible, with guns pressed into their bellies.
He’s running as fast as he can – Remington 870 held out before him, one of the oldest guns in the world, chugging up and down after every step. They’re long strides. Tarnish begins congesting the innards of his broken boot, roots and soil and smut and pebbles crushing the underside of his sole. Chlorophyll fuses with the bleeding of his cuts, and his trashed tendons look more festive than ever.
The men behind him, shouting and jovial: by God how could they be this happy? They’re just chasing on and on, with boldness and courage and admirable determination – really, a kind I’ll never have, even when I’m running for my life.
I can’t hear them panting for relief like me. I can’t hear them wondering if they’re ever going to catch me. They know they’re going to catch me.
“Perhaps he went into the woods, boys.”
“Scared little sheep.”
“‘z’really worth it, ‘brother? Doezn’t know no better, the frightened lamb. z’already shat himself, yee? Found’da scared goats’ piss ‘n shit, didn’ we? Wha’s tha’ point of scarin’ him further?”
“Not my choice. Got a job to do, got a job to do.”
Corsum keeps running. He looks back hurriedly, only to notice the men crossing the bridge, sprinting, guns that shine in the sun, all polished and new and hell-bent on becoming free and leaving their pocketed chambers, minuscule geometries of metal casing and black powder salivating to enter a nervous system.
They held their guns just like Corsum. The only difference is that they all had assault rifles, top of the line, and that they were all mountainous – great expanses of men – with broad shoulders and lungs that worked. They were a specialized team of three, gathered to hunt down singular targets and interrogate them. Whether or not the prisoner died was up to the prisoner.
They looked like haggard, blood-stained lions when they crossed the bridge up the hill into the fauna-full, white-washed wilderness.
Generally their captives were snipers, men known for killing more than a couple dozen on the battlefield, known for wiping out entire squads without being detected. Sometimes it was generals or colonels or privates that were on their way up the ladder. Today, is was an astrophysicist named Kepler Corsum.
He had invented the world’s first anti-gravity exoskeleton. Given the giant strain on a human body in anti-gravity conditions, Corsum was hired by the military of the North American States to research and function within a team of other scientists to develop the worlds first, fully functional, capable and accessible anti-gravity exoskeleton. He was never told what for, or why they needed it. He didn’t ask.
It provides the body with valuable supplementary support, as well as dosing out needed drugs that reinforce joint and muscle strength, that keep the heart healthy and the blood flowing. The drugs are administered through the pores, gently rinsing a liquid-gelatin substance that seeps into your skin over the course of a day.
Corsum has a cigarette behind his ear. His lungs look like a jar of molasses.
Weaving in and out of the trees. Fog thicker than the hull of a ship. Finally in the god damned grove, finally in the god damned forest. Finally I can get away – they won’t be able to see me!
Corsum looks backward again – only to see pillars of white. He smiles – pillars of white.
“Corsum, get on your fuckin’ knees! We’ve got’cha!”
They didn’t really have him. They were forty five feet away, but it was a smart bluff. They knew what kind of state he was in – they knew he was just dragging on, barely alive, barely even sane anymore after a full day of running, and sweating and panting, and shitting and pissing on the run. They knew a little boy who always wanted to play in the stars couldn’t keep up. They didn’t know a little boy who always wanted to play in the stars could keep up this long. The three were positively impressed. Impressed and tired enough to snake their way out of it.
Corsum got down on his knees, as instructed.
“You’ve got me, all right.” They all heard where he was, but they couldn’t see him – not yet. As they approached,
fifteen – and from the haze they walked, their guns snarling with curled chambers and holes like Swiss cheese poked into them. My antique shotgun is resting on the floor next to me – good god, it’s old – and the only rounds I have are pumped into it. Good god, what was I thinking running? What was I doing escaping … oh, what are their names? I look up, names patched into their vests, guns in my eyes, in my mouth and my ear –
‘Miriman,’ yes, yes, he looks like the one that’ll finally do it – the one that’ll end me. Short red hair and a bright orange five o’clock shadow. Blue eyes like the gel that squirts out daily for the exo.
‘Cross,’ yes, yes, he looks like the one who doesn’t want to be here. We all know that guy, don’t we? He can realistically be happier than anyone in the hypothetical room, but his face is just sour and pushed together and like its stuck there for the rest of eternity. Lemon face, lemon face. Then again, we are in the midst of a war, so maybe he doesn’t actually want to be here.
‘O’Russel,’ yes, yes, he looks charismatic and like a talker and like a fiery Scotsman. I didn’t know you were allowed to have a beard in the military, but he sports his well. It’s full and bushy and has sticks in it from sleeping on the ground all too often.
“Corsum,” Miriam says, taking his gun out of Kepler’s face and sticking it into the ground. He leans himself on it and peers at his companions.
“Please, please, don’t kill me.”
“We’re not going to kill you, not unless you want us to or make us. We’re wonderful euthanizers,” says Miriam.
“I do not want to die.”
“Then don’t. Come with us. We’re here to pick you up, obviously, but you’ve been a fast little rabbit, a tenacious little fawn,” says Cross.
“‘A fast little sheepey ‘ave you been, boy-o!”
“I’ll come with you. In shackles or not. In chains or not. With my eyes blind-folded or not. I’ll come with you. But please, just tell me what for. Why do the States want me? What war crimes have I committed except for being born on the wrong side?”
“No idea, boy-who-plays-with-stars,” says Miriam, “They tell us names, locations, birth-dates, physical prowess. Whole she-bang. They don’t tell us what you’ve done wrong, and, really, should they? Is it any of our business? Do I care what you’ve done? Wouldn’t I be more likely to kill you if you’ve done something bad, unbeknownst to either of us?”
Corsum stands up with his hands on his head. O’Russel moves to the shotgun, trickily placed, as it looks neat, picturesque, in a fresh patch of grass covered in evening dew. He picks it up and slings it over his shoulder.
“You’s ‘betta’ ‘move, sheepey. You’s betta’ move.”
“Aaaaaaaaaah, this is just how life is. Its just how life is.”
Bolli, this girl I’ve known forever that has taught me everything I know, is on the screen today. I like her. I like the way her face looks when she’s smiling. She has pretty curves and dimples and a pointed nose. I like when she pops onto the screen and starts talking.
Just floating there like her and I always are, staring into each other’s eyes – but she definitely isn’t feeling what I’m feeling. She talks to me like a student, and I talk to her like a teacher I’ll never know but desperately want to fuck. Still, if we were built to fuck up close and in contact like beasts, the filthy dirt walkers, then why would we have tubes that carry our seed and do most everything for us? I must resist temptation to destroy everything around me in a vent of frustration. It would not be Christ like – it would not be in the light of the isolated one.
But how can I? She’s so fit compared to me. She’s so strong and she doesn’t look malnourished. Her organs like her. Her muscles like her. My organs and muscles deteriorate every day and night. I can feel them. They’re going.
I’ll be dead by the time I’m twenty-two. But why am I whining? Twenty two is old for a human. I’ve lived a long, prosperous life up here – but what can I say? My exoskeleton’s falling apart and I don’t have the technical expertise to fix it, which means my joints and muscles and organs are being reinforced to handle my native environment and every other humans native environment, which means they’ll all give up in less than a year from the pressure (sometimes I fantasize about a life on the ground and a life among the trees, without floating about, planted like seeds, even If I know how stupid and impossible that sounds).
My medicine isn’t working, and convincing me to step on a treadmill would be like teaching an exoskeleton the salsa.
It means Bolli, when she’s not talking to me or giving lectures on her screen, is in the gym, making her muscles not rapidly deteriorate and accepting her position as one of us in up in the cloud. Brave woman, that’s for sure – and she’s 28! Ancient!
She’s making sure her heart still works. She’s taking her medicine and she’s fixing up her exoskeleton every now and then to make sure it’s in prime working order.
“Why do you think life is so … solitary … Bolli? Why do you think it was made this way?”
“Aaaaaaaaah, this is just how life is. It’s just how life is. I don’t know, Gama, I don’t know. That’s a tough question to answer. We’re here because … this is how its always been. There’s never been anything different.”
I knew it. I had guessed it all along. Everyone is like this, just like me. Suspended, weightless, animate and surrounded by white and plastic and metal. This is just how life is. I knew there was a simple explanation. Occam’s Razor. Of course, of course. You couldn’t have this many intelligent, reasonable beings walking around where everything can kill you in a split second, right?
“What are we supposed to get from being stuck here?”
“Well that one you know I can’t answer, Gama.”
“And why don’t the doors open? And why don’t the windows crack? Why can I see everything out there, like tiny little things, if this is how it always was?”
“Don’t you see, Gama? We have always been this way to protect ourselves from that. It is just how we as creatures were designed. Some others were designed to roam, we were designed to float and strap ourselves to chairs whenever we want to sit. It’s just how life is. Isn’t it incredible that we get to observe, though, Gama?”
“No, Bolli, I don’t know if you’re right about that.”
The transmission cut out – Bolli was alone. She floats to her seat and straps in, holding one leg over the other, one hand resting gently underneath her chin. The thinking woman’s position. She peers out of the window, as Gama always peers out his window, to see nothing but opaque clouds and barely visible treetops, with clouds on top of them, too, nestling on the mountain backs like dreamy layers of cotton froth. That’s what she thought she could see.
There was a tower that blinks red every three seconds. She unbuckles herself. She floats to the hatch, turns it, and the door opens.
Gama is thrusting his nether regions into the wall ferociously, into a long, cylindrical tube that transports his sperm directly into the vagina of an almost anonymous, healthy woman. He met her once on the screen, where he got to select her from a list of women he could breed with through a wonderfully exciting question and answer process. The women on the list were decided by an algorithmic process based on a number of questions. Some of the questions were,
“Do you find it depressing being a chosen person?”
“Describe your ideal partner!”
“Do you want to leave your home?”
“Are you suicidal?”
She was on the other side, with the tube shoved directly into her uterus, eating a candy bar. Gama, on the other end, was still humping the socket in the wall, with his head held high and one hand holding the Holy Bible. He was quoting it just as it was written – shouting it, even:
“And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds, and all the living men in his image, as man is bid to wonder in cloud.
Then God said, ‘Let the land be stalked with metals that harbor the precious dominion of mankind. Allow them not to suffer roots and stalks and dirt. And God saw that it was good.”
“Turner, Turner, Turner, Becket, Becket, Becket, Folsom, Folsom, Folsom, Higley, Higley, Higley.”
“Burner, Bucket, Wholesome, Wiggly.”
“Burner, Bucket, Wholesome, Wiggly.”
“Turner, Turner, Turner, Becket, Becket, Becket, Folsom, Folsom, Folsom, Higley, Higley, Higley.”
This was the song I sang in my head as I walked down the alley known as 44 Fitzleon Way. I had made it up on the spot and felt proud of myself.
I had put a tissue on the wound on my forehead from the staple, and a tissue in my nose to stop the bleeding from the hit in the face – and I took a swig of a water and spit out one of my teeth to get rid of the toothache. Didn’t work. Hurts. Like. Hell. After all that I put on my official Treetun Corp. badge, dark green and huge, covering the entirety of my shoulder and draping over it, quite scarf-like, to make myself look official, even though I was just a contractor and wasn’t really a part of any organization.
Aaaah, the broken glass crunching underneath my boot is so impressive – so enlightening – I can just feel the poor distribution of wealth and its boring, echoing voice shouting over and over again to the street,
“I don’t care about you. Nothing you ever do will make me care about you. The sooner you kill yourself, the sooner I get everything you ever were.”
It wasn’t just the glass, either. It was the barrenness of it all. It was just one damned street, and although it amounted to very little I couldn’t help but think profusely about it – about the one damned street crowded with inadequacy, famished of all modernization, ordinary to the most unsatisfying degree – swarming with the crackles of firecrackers and the distinct smell of a 2111 Kasparillian Mead. Genetically engineered ferns overgrow on the ledges and stairway up to the complex. Its an awful pretty picture.
The balconies on the majority of the units were hanging from their hinges, and the wind kept blowing them back and forth, back and forth – a motion like the tides, only sometimes, when they actually do go back and forth, when they hint at the notion of order, of which there is none. Back and forth. They howl when they move, like the waves.
Like wolves in a den.
Or, less poetically, like the second law of thermodynamics.
One balcony, however, was fine – allegedly the only one with a competent installer – because four famished people of different colors and ages were standing on it and they were peering at me as if I was doing something extraordinarily wrong. A streetlight was illuminating their position. I wanted to shout,
“Sorry for ruining your perfectly good evening, but I have to go ruin some family’s perfectly good evening because of my shit employer! I’m so sorry for being here and bothering you, almighty ones of the crack-harboring streets of Fitzleon Way!”
I opted out, though. Reason? Because I didn’t even know if they were mad at me at all.
A man walked out of the apartment complex, cigar in hand, inebriated, inebriated enough to be gesticulating so harshly and wildly that it ashed his cigarette for him. It is my wager that consciously deciding to do anything would have been a little too much “thinking” for this man.
He had a gun in his belt and another cigar behind his ear, a pair or sunglasses on (even though it was night) and a hat, one of those that the Earthly actor Frank Sinatra used to wear.
No shirt, either. Black skin and black nipples, prickles forming around them. He said,
“Hey, fuck off buddy. Stop your lookin’ at me.”
I did, obediently, and almost without feeling or knowing it at all, reverting my attention to the ground. I put a cigarette in my mouth and took the tissue out of my nose. The other tissue wafted onto the floor from my forehead as I bent my head to look at the blood, falling off on its own. I stared at both of them and can see the man in the corner of my eye approaching me. He’s big, and the smoke from his cigar is getting closer and I’m breathing it in, and I’m thinking, “This second hand cigar smoke is gonna’ kill me,” and then I flick a lighter out of my pocket – and he stops moving – and I light my cigarette – and I’m thinking,
“With this many augmentations, I really don’t think it’s gonna’ kill me. I hope not, anyway. Theoretically it still could. Environmental abnormalities will continually fuck us over. Environmental? Didn’t we invent those things? What, carcinogens? No, cigarettes, man. Didn’t we invent cigarettes? We did, but we didn’t invent carcinogens, they were around forever before us. Sure, sure they were – but was there anything before us to consciously dictate whether or not these carcinogens could ravage our immune and nervous systems? Does it matter that they’re being ravaged? Oh, christ, what if it didn’t matter!
Well, at least it would still be happening. At least I can still experience carcinogens.
Isn’t that enough?
Shouldn’t that be enough?
Mischievously, none of these are questions. They look like them, but they’re not. I promise.
Do I, though, really?”
The man is staring at me, and in the midst of all this psycho-babbling in my head I was staring at him, too, sweating – because I can feel the droplets wrinkling off my nose, even though it was far too cold to sweat. That’s what fear does to a brain, sometimes.
“Hey, that’s littering man. Don’t litter in front of my home.”
“Sure,” and picked up my make-shift bandages. I stuffed them in my pocket.
“You sure you know where you at? This a real dangerous place.”
“I bet it is, I bet it is.”
“You see this? Around my waist?”
“Is this a game where we can only ask questions?”
He moves closer and the smoke from his cigar gently presses up and into my body via the nasal cavity. Or – up the nose!
I look up nervously at the balcony only to see nothing and no one. Not a person to witness my soon-to-be-death. Oh fuck, he is going to kill me and dump my body somewhere unpleasant. Fuck, that’s how frightened I am right now – I can’t even name the specific unpleasant place where my body would be dumped after my scripted demise. It would be a dumpster, or a port, or maybe he’d just chop me up and throw bits of me from a zeppelin. Maybe not, because that wouldn’t be very probable.
But I still think it’d be a good way to go.
“The smoke from your cigar is bothering me, could you back up?”
I look back down at the ground, but he was five feet away now. He could kill me if he wants to. Would he already have done it, or is he insane?
I back up because of the cigar. He moves forward and blows a cloud of smoke intentionally towards me. He does it again and again, back and forth. I move to the left, he moves with me – I move forward, he takes a step back. It was like synchronized I’m about to blow your fucking brains out and torment you before I do it. Anything else would have not been properly analogous.
“So what’s the point of this?”
“The point is you gotta’ leave my home.”
“I have business with people inside.”
“Any particular kind of business? You ain’t one of those traders, is you?”
“Are you … ‘You … um … aren’t one of those traders, are you?’ would have been more…”
“What, grammatically correct? Who gives a fuck – I be conveyin’ ideas all over the fuckin’ place, I don’t give a fuck if one dumb, foreign son of a bitch don’t understand. There’s plenty of people to understand, you hear?”
“I have the ability to hear, yes.”
“Fuck off with that shit. What, a gun don’t scare you? Do I gotta’ dig out files ‘n shit on your friends and family? Do I have to get my bunch of comrados, (which I’m assuming is a butchering of the words comrades and bandito’s) and gang rape your pretty wife and children?”
“I certainly doubt you lack the capabilities to find out anything about my family, especially when referring to researching background evidence and information as ‘digging out files ‘n shit’. Just a little questionable is all. But you’ve been lettin’ me talk this long, so I really doubt you’re gonna’ use it.”
“Gonna! Gonna! Sheesh, follow your own rules.”
There was silence. He took a step forward and was closer than ever, but he just stood there, clicking his feet, the clicks of his heels resonating off the tampered concrete, echoing off the building.
Then the group from the balcony appears, from the shade of the complex – shoes worn, so worn they should have just been barefoot, the only child in the bunch with a splinter of glass sticking out of his foot, limping – dragging it down the steps – and an older black gentleman, blind and with a cane, an old, shapely figure that screams nutritional insufficiency. All their stomachs were rounded, but still with their ribs precariously peaking out – their limbs with no fat, merely risen, ashed skeletons with jaunt faces and a cheerier individuality – just by the look in their eyes and their mouths – than I would ever have in my life.
They seemed to care that they were alive. I shook my head when I saw them. They were willingly giving themselves to the slave trade. These people are coming to me. I didn’t have to do a smidgen of work.
Their teeth, when smiling, were yellow and corroded, their hair fell off at the touch. Each of them had a cough that sounds like this,
“OUGHROUGHROUGHR …. ahem, ahem …. OUGHROUGHROUGHR.”
How is this a family? How is this the Kushka family? How did they know I was coming?
“Urchin!” the yellow one called out, referring to the black man next to me, as he turned his head and looked in astonishment when he saw the yellow man.
“Kushka!” shouted the black man from next to me, running up and hugging him in a friendly gesture.
The yellow man slaps him in his ear and tells him to go inside. As he approaches me he’s shaking off his hand from the blow. Smiling.
“You there, Treetun Corp., right?” Possibly Japanese. Possibly the second oldest in the group after the black man.
I pointed at myself and made a confused face.
“I’m not technically a part of Treetun Corp.”
“But you are. I can see your badge – I could see your badge from up on the balcony.”
“I am here to take you aboard the vessel Virginia. I have been forced to take the position of overseer.”
“Do not expect much resistance, peddler. We will go peacefully to your ship, as long as you answer a simple question: What will be done with us?”
“Not good work. I didn’t know I would be picking you up at all until earlier this evening, so your positions aboard the ship are unclear to me as of now.”
“Yes, you’ll be fed.”
“As much as we are fed now?”
“I do not know how much you are fed now.”
“How much does it seem we are fed now?”
“Will it be more than not much?”
“How much will it be?”
“A little bit.”
He looks over his shoulder to his companions and they all nod. I put up my hand as a sort of stop sign.
“Why did my employers tell me you were a family?”
“We are the Kushka family, peddler.”
“We are the Kushka family, Galleon.”
“How come you’re all different colors, then? Completely different nationalities?”
“Does blood make family?”
“Yes, slave, it does.”
“Peddler, watch your mouth,” said the mother in the group from the back, caring for the wound on the little boys foot. She was the only female, I will call her mother.
The oriental kept speaking to me,
“We are not related. We found the young one on the street. Her and I are together and have been for seven years. We make enough to afford that balcony you see there. Not the apartment, peddler. The balcony.”
“You live on that balcony?”
“Yes we do, and we get by. Sometimes we sleep on the roof, sometimes we sleep on the ground. Sometimes we sleep on top of one another and we wake up with jean indentations on our faces.”
“What do you do for work?”
“So you don’t really work?”
“Watch your filthy fucking mouth, peddler! We just did your job for you, you ungrateful man-child. Kiss our fucking knees for what we’ve done for you, as I’m sure it would have been your life if we hadn’t shown up.” Thanks, easily recognized to be of Scandinavian heritage (if only because of her height, a mountain this woman) mother-in-the-gang.
“What of your child?” I asked.
“What of him? He will come with us. You will subject him to less physical torment than us. You will treat him well and make sure he’s fed.”
The slave is giving me orders and the orders are reasonable. But they’re going to shoot me in the head if I don’t assert this situation. I need to take some action, unfortunately. I have only this job and this work, I have but only this life, and I have but these pieces of nanotechnology directing my body to paths of semi-greatness. I cannot be walked on by the people I should walk on. What have they done but live on a balcony and smoosh different blotches of color together? I bet it’s not even that good. I bet these people are talentless shits.
“Same amount of labor, no exceptions.”
The-mother-in-the-gang stood up and approached us.
“The deal is off, Tuam,” which I’m assuming is the man’s name.
“No it’s not, Beck,” which I’m assuming is the woman’s name.
I cough. “Then continue your life here, Beck, which, as I and everyone can tell, is quite profitable. I can see you’re making a bunch of wonderful investments with the rat you found on the street. He seems to be in a wonderful condition, there, bleeding from his foot. Probably infected. He’s probably dying from the inside out right now because of you. How long has it been since a morsel of food has touched his lips? A day? Two days? Three days? The work we’d be subjecting him to isn’t paramount to what’s already been done with him. This isn’t an act of kindness, I agree. I’m not doing this because of the compassion in my heart.” I coughed again.
“But you should.”
She cried the entire way to the vessel Virginia.
I’ve started this new rating system. If anyone comes to me, wanting to somehow creatively collaborate, and they feel it is necessary and justified to include any sort of preconceived, re-hashed character model and or overarching story, I will simply say the words, “Get the fuck out of here!”
But imagine me saying it more like,
“Cooooome on, Vinnie, old boy, get the fuckoutta’ here!”
Not like, “Get the fuck out or I’ll kill you.”
Nicer, sort of Italian, okay? It works better this way, I promise.
So you walk in, right, and you say to me,
“Nik, I have the most astounding premise of all time – of all time. There’s this guy and he’s a wizard-”
“Get the fuck out of here!”
“Wait, no, I’m not finished … he’s this wizard right, and he has to complete this trial of -”
“Get the fuck out of here!”
“Do you want me to leave, or…?”
“No, go on.”
“He has to complete this trial, this test, of his will and his strength to prove that he’s-”
“Get the fuck out of here!”
I’ll spare you here. Do you see why this is bad? I think the quote that Stephen King said about Harry Potter, mainly this part, “confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity,” is intense, intense bullshit.
1. Confronting Fears – Most books are about confronting fears. You know why? Because every single good novel ever written has a story where terrible things happen to every character. Then they have to somehow overcome all this terrible shit happening.
Okay. So if your argument right now is, “But, Nik, not every book is about that.”
You’d be right. But a lot of them are. If you can’t see that “confronting fears and finding inner strength” are not only entirely unoriginal, but also concepts that project a materialistic culture, then I pronounce you blind. Our culture is so over-fed and so overgrown and we are granted even the simplest of freedoms, to meticulously judge another writer on her awful work and deem it worthy of acceptance because of over-used, bullshit themes is evidence of this. To be able to walk away from your fears unharmed, and the ability to be reclusive of your fears or exuberant and chatty about them, is an entirely exclusive practice to modernized states of the globe. You tell someone in several parts of modern day Africa that you’re a witch, jokingly, and you get burned fucking alive. You tell your father you got raped in modern day Iran, and he kills you.
The fear in the Harry Potter books is not fear.
Do you think “confronting fears” is a top subject, and or theme, that is taught and or even recognized in Namibia? Zimbabwe? Afghanistan? Palestine? These people are born into hardship.
They “confront fears” like you buy milk at a grocery store.
I would like you to convince the little girls who most likely got their clitoris removed last week, two weeks ago, today, because of a ritual they have to pass to become women in their village, that their hardship is equivalent to the hardship Harry felt when he had to fight Ralph Fiennes (I’m just using this name instead of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or You-Know-Who?, or Voldemort because its funnier to me). Voldemort isn’t that intimidating of a bad guy. He’s boring. Another cliche. How long have evil and being intimately close with snakes been in literature? Answer: Forever.
The thing is – compared to the atrocities that non-fictional characters act out all the time, it’s hard for me to be convinced that some dude harassing a bunch of British kids (who inevitably beat him anyway, and “inevitably beat” is not a phrase synonymous with “African dictatorship” or “ritualistic clitoris removal”) is actually someone to be feared. His motives are, obviously, questionable, and his carrying out of all these tasks is outright elementary. Voldemort usually just reminds me of a three year old at an ice skating ring, or a slapstick reel where idiots trip on banana peels.
Here’s another question – how long would Voldemort last if he was placed in Burundi or Tanzania, with arguably some of the most dangerous, religiously-zealous and religiously-infected people in the world, in the center square, where they just burned a couple of “witches” last week?
Answer: Not long, not long.
Here’s one more – how long do you keep reading a book when the antagonist is boring and seems completely predictable and dull, even compared to non-fictional people and events?
Answer: Well I would say, “Not long, not long,” but the real answer is clearly, “Through seven 1,000 page novels.”
2. Doing what is right in the face of adversity is another essential guideline to story-telling – its the way people build the moral backbone of their story. It’s the way someone actually says what they’re trying to say. This happens all the time. It’s a staple. Everyone thinks you’re wrong but you should still do it because it’s honorable/the right thing to do/courageous, is … well, that doesn’t sound like everything to you?
Thank you, the impressive J.K. Rowling, for your absolute nothing and your trash book, which will be used repeatedly to bash and criticize, in false superiority, another wholly useless, unimpressive author.
Here’s another question – do you really want J.K. Rowling to be the best known author of our generation?
Answer: Not really. Nope.
This isn’t in defense of Twilight. Both series are trash. Stephanie Meyer would, arguably, be a bigger cunt than J.K., until I found this incredibly ironic quote by Rowling, in which she remarks,
“I believe in God, not magic.”
Imagine me hitting my palm on my forehead a bunch of times. That’ll help.
Disclaimer – If you are reading this, I love you. Thank you for reading it. It brings me great joy. There may be several errors along the way. I’ve been lazy and sporadic with the editing. Chapter 1 and 2 don’t get edited any more or less than Chapter’s 10 and 11, and so on. Thank you for understanding this is just an almost finished draft.
When I died something came out of me. I don’t know what it was, but it was something, maybe a soul, maybe some encapsulation of my “essence” or whatever the fuck and it shot up into the sky at an undesignated speed that scared the hell out of me and scrambled the thoughts I had while going up and the thoughts I’m having even now.
My name is Vernon Welsh Yettin. V-W-Y. My wife and people who liked having her around but weren’t too fond of me called me V.W. I call me V.W.
I didn’t burn up in the atmosphere like I thought I would and I just kept whizzing on through space at undesignated speeds that were obviously too fast for the body of a human. But what can I say besides, “I’m here, somehow, in the middle of space, shooting through it, and I’m still tickin’. Oh yeah, I’m tickin’ a whole lot.”
What do I look like right now? I haven’t ever passed by a mirror up here. Even if I did, could it see me? Do I look like anything? I can’t feel anything except for my thoughts, so I doubt I’ve got a body. I doubt I’ve even got a brain. But for fuck sakes – how can I be floating on through space like this without a brain and still be having thoughts? How can I be seeing all this shit known as space without eyes, and a body to hold those eyes? Seems like a whole lot of shit to me.
With this much time, nostalgia is your only companion.
Boom went everything. Boom went my life figuratively, boom went her life literally. Boom went our life together.
I remember our last night together. I stared at her through a beer bottle. She was contorted and looked orange and ashy through the glass. She was leaner, but I didn’t want her to be. She was perfectly lean already. I remember I was only in that awkward position and staring at her through that glass because I was too tired. I wanted sleep. She wanted to drink, because tomorrow she would leave for almost two years. To Mars she goes.
She never made it home. The last time I saw her I was too tired to care.
I am the worst man alive. I do not have a working brain, or a brain at all. In this case, I do not have working thoughts.
Can you believe I went almost my entire life thinking everything was dandy and okay? Then one day the rocket my wife was in blew up on its mission back from Mars. The foam insulation on the external tank had ruptured completely off during the launch. It was not lethal until they re-entered the atmosphere.
This resembles the happenenings of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2002, where five men and two women who were probably better than you at stuff were blown into tiny little pieces because of blatantly lazy engineers that knew the foam insulation was corruptible at thousands of fucking degrees Fahrenheit, and during take off, but decided to do nothing about it. Because it was pay-day. Because they sent a man to Mars – who cares if all the data stored in their stupid little heads was worthwhile to the people back home, so long as the big ship with the bright lights coming out its ass makes it to where we say it’s supposed to make it.
Long story short, my wife has been to Mars and all of her atoms were burnt up in the atmosphere.
This is, essentially, why I don’t much like anything anymore. I don’t even like thinking my own thoughts because I am such an asshole.
Consistently in the transition between bitterness and extreme joy. The two go very well together.
Back on Earth I was a zoologist and owner of Arizona’s Best and Brightest wildlife preserve, that is to say a very amateur biologist, and a multi-cultural hobbyist of foreign phrases and words. Don’t ask me why I like these two things – when I was ten I came up with the, “if your brain wills it to be so, and you really like it – be it crack or world maps or geography or typewriters or pipes or manufacturing toys for underdeveloped countries – don’t fight it act.” This IYBWITBSAYRLIBICOWMOGOTOPOMTFUCDFIA Act has brought me into the middle of space and has also forced me to never come up with a clever acronym in my life.
I only bring up my former career because there’s this time at the zoo that just sticks out in my head. It’s the one memory that I conjure up to remind me that I’m stupid and everyone around me is stupid and that being alive is silly and easily taken for granted, and especially taken for granted if you spend all your time trying to not take it for granted, which is logically something people find themselves mixed up in all the time.
So my father, Welsh Yettin, my wife, myself and this buffoon named Ronny “Pigeons” Bigeons were all having a chat concerning the rest of the wildlife that we had to purchase for the zoo. Currently it had the essentials, the animals that people go to zoo’s for – elephants, all the big cats, penguins – family friendly animals that wouldn’t crush or eat your organs if they had the chance. But we needed some other expensive “ringers” – sharks, polar bears, wolves, arrays of birds, primates, an aquarium – in order to garner the net profit we needed. After my father and wife got done shouting their ridiculous suggestions, I made one of my own:
“Why don’t we have an entire section dedicated to snakes and reptiles?” And so we did.
But I only made the suggestion off the fact that my father was a snake enthusiast when I was younger, and my wife said that she always liked reptiles, and because I never really listened to Pigeons opinion on it, because it didn’t matter. All he did was clean the shit. Pigeon, and the rest of the custodial madmen who would stand there picking up the excrement of an animal five times smarter than them, were the lowest of the low.
But when the animals finally arrived in boxes in the backs of trucks, we didn’t know what to do with them. We were all scared out of our boxer shorts, except for my wife, who was wearing lace panties, and my father who was wearing briefs, and Pigeon, who wasn’t wearing any at all. I didn’t particularly like reptiles, ever, and I made note of this when I suggested it to my family and Pigeon. But they protested when they were to handle the animals.
“I thought you loved this shit!”
“I used to love them son … but … Bolivia.”
My father was bitten and almost killed by an Inland Taipan in Bolivia. That wasn’t it’s natural habitat. He was framed by my mother who probably would still love snakes and other critters if she were alive. She reluctantly gave him the antidote when she realized she didn’t have the willpower to kill her own husband. The divorce was never finalized, but I guess one could say it was symbolically settled. It also makes me ask myself, “Did my mother know that she was a coward? Why in the hell did she bring the antidote? Did she know she was going to second guess herself? This is a quality within myself, isn’t it?”
And then I realized my father had only gone along with the idea of a reptile haven in our zoo because he thought it would have made me happy even though he fucking hated the hell out of them.
And so did my wife.
Pigeon didn’t, but that doesn’t much matter. A day after all this happened he slipped on the wooden walkway over-looking the tigers den and fell in. He kicked one in the head, and it ate him.
I saw him that day, on the same walkway. I said,
“Pigeon, what do you think about the new reptile haven?”
“I’m all right with the little guys, Mr. Yettin. But how you reckon they survived all these zillions of years without fur in the winter, anyway? You can’t explain that, Mr. Yettin.”
I just stared blankly and walked the other way. He said to me when I left,
Which he was.
Welsh Yettin the first and second, my grandfather and father respectively, were both men of some character and some integrity. I do not mean to use the word “some” to mean “a lot,” or “copious” or “a plethora of.” I mean to use the word “some” exactly as it is meant to be used. They were not filthy, they were not perfect. I can say, with a clear conscience, or the lack of one, that they never set out to achieve a goal with ill intentions. They cared about, at the very least, humans.
Welsh Yettin the first made a bundle after World War II, pawning off screenplays to the worst B movies in town. He was never a writer but he made a living as one. In reality, he was a botanist and had four PHD’s relating to Botany. My grandfather, to me, was the flower guy. To most screenwriters in Hollywood that stole his scripts and stamped their name on them to make some bucks, he was known as The Golden Ticket. He made people millions and he kept some of those millions himself.
He gave my father millions, too. My father did good things with those millions of dollars, though I couldn’t find a single sucker in my hometown that didn’t think he was a rotten crook. Neil Pollack, who is one of the few friends I had on Earth, had a father Tracy Stevenson Pollack, who once made a comment about my lineage, in which he remarked,
“Your grandfather was a good man, your father was a bad man. I like to think it skips a generation, Vernon.”
I was even greeted by Neil with complete hostility,
“Find it out, man, we find it out. Your father is a God hater and a mother fucker devil worshipper.”
“What the fuck are you saying, Neil?”
“Your father has openly admitted to hating God and hating Mother Theresa.”
“My father is a theist, Neil.”
“Look for yourself, man. Look for yourself.”
Neil adjusted his dirty T.V. and dust flew everywhere. I mean everywhere. I could only see my father’s face with a microphone pressed uncomfortably into his lips, and dust everywhere there, too, with my eyes half adjusted to block out the grime flinging at my face. He looked awful – with scrapes all over his head, and dirt in between his finger nails and eyes – and oh god, his eyes, they were droopy, like he hadn’t slept for days. But there was a smile on his face.
This is what happened:
One midsummer evening my parents flew out to Calcutta, on my father’s whim, and much to my mother’s dismay. When they arrived, my father bought out Mother Theresa’s Home for the Dying, which was considered then and even now an act of villainy. He renamed it The Home for the Sick and gave them real beds.
They used to sleep on plastic mats on the floor and shit into a hole in the ground with a porcelain lid that was, thank god, regularly cleaned.
He gave them forty five brand new toilets and one hundred and seventy two new beds.
They called him a Manifestation of the Beast for offending someone so good and altering the divine articles of Mother Teresa’s will.
Biology. It’s a silly thing to love, really, especially when you love it like me. When you love all the silly parts of a subject, all the failures of a species, all the inherently illogical traits and schemes that are all unwillingly duped into you when your mother’s legs are spread wide open and your slimy, mutated meaty carcass all full of impulses and chemicals slowly trods its way onto the operating slab. And if I was a doctor, and thank God I’m not, and specifically if I were an OB GYN, I wouldn’t say, “it’s a beautiful baby boy!” I would say, “It’s a horrendous product of vestigiality and redundancy, a clump of insignificant atoms floating very closely together – forming a stupid organism that we refer to as male. One day it will stick its clump of atoms it calls a penis into a clump of atoms called a vagina and consider it a holy, glorious day when he himself is the perpetuator of another horrendous, mutated, meaty, stupid, vestigial, redundant carcass.”
I’m thinking a little too far into the future of this fictional little boy. But what else is there to do out here? Be creative, be creative. That’s what I say when you’ve got nothin’ at all! The Greek word for this is “Meraki,” or doing something with soul, creativity, or love.
It’s why I love some other languages. English is beautiful because it can explain things in full sentences and can draw out perfect and vivid images in your head. Other languages are beautiful because they can say one word that tells you everything you need to know about a situation. Meraki.
Also, we definitely have the silliest phrases. Someone once told me that laughter is the best medicine. This reminded me of the time my friend Neil Pollack shouted out the front of my ’84 station wagon to a passerby on the street,
“What’re you doin’ on the floor, monkey? Get back up in the trees!”
He proceeded with guttural inflections and tones of what we humans call the great apes, but what idiots like Neil Pollack call monkeys. He laughed and laughed and laughed at that one.
Medicine is the best medicine.
Did I mention that bitterness and exploding with joy go better together than red wine from 1986 and sharp, aged cheddar cheese?
I only mention Neil Pollack at all because without him, and without his enormously beneficial connections within the airline industries (knows a guy that knows a guy) I would have never been able to get to Patagonia after all that happened. I wouldn’t have ever died at all. I would have just been in federal prison waiting to die.
Neil and I were both born in the North Eastern part of Arizona. My parents and his parents were generally at civil war with one another on every topic known to mankind, but we were the only two home schooled kids in the whole city so we stuck close. Tracy Pollack was a staunch fundamentalist Christian, and my father was a liberal, hypocritical one. Needless to say – well, I won’t say it.
Neither one of us let our parents point of views ruin the relationship and soon began evolving our own, which, unsurprisingly enough, mirrored our parents. Thanks, genes. Once I figured out that point of views and relationships were equivalent, and are the same exact thing no matter which way you dice it,I stopped hanging out with Neil. Not for good – because, remember, I came back to him pleading to get me a ticket to Patagonia or it was my selfish ass for sure.
Neil took care of me a lot more than I took care of him. I don’t want to call myself the brains, but I certainly have never filled the position of brawn or wildcard or looks, so I was most definitely the brains. In a world where brawn is so much more important than brains, Neil was essentially my personal bodyguard. I was his talking argument box that he could call a “fucking retard” all day that wouldn’t call him one back.
It’s a good thing he was always around the next corner, and a good thing we lived in such a small town – because every day I found myself in a mamihlapinatapai, or a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would initiate something that they both desire but which neither wants to initiate. I once briefly mamihlapinatapai’d with this red headed man at the coffee shop. I wanted to tell him what a smug cock he was being, and he wanted to tell me, too, but we just stood there like proud little lions, sweating and panting and shitting our pants in anger. His mamihlapinatapai was a little fiercer than mine, as I left with a cracked jaw and seventeen stitches just below my left eye. He was wearing a ring.
It was one of those moments where everybody remembered their names, because that’s all there was to remember. And because you wanted to remember, so you felt like there was only one organism quite like you. The entire time I was on the floor I was thinking,
“My name is V.W. Yettin. My mother is Mona Yettin. My father is Welsh Yettin the second. My name is V.W. Yettin…” and so on. As if the small bush of my family has ever done anything except make people feel terrible for being alive.
After he successfully beat me into the floor and let me wallow in my own blood for a minute, Neil came in swearing and most likely belligerently drunk. He took out a knife and stabbed the red headed guy fifteen times in the heart. He got off on self defense and the red headed guy died right there.
A little overkill, Neil. If I would have voiced my opinion on the matter, the conversation, and I am absolutely certain of this although it hasn’t happened, would have gone like this:
“Should have just brought me to the hospital and left the guy alone, Neil.”
“And let him get away with beating you? Nah, man, that’s fucked up.”
“Neil, I was okay with it. It was unnecessary.”
“You a fucking retard, V.W. You sayin’ if I was you and you was me you wouldn’t have stabbed that mother fucker fifteen times in the heart like I did?”
“No. I would have backed away and dragged you the fuck out of there.”
“Giant pussy, man. You …. A … GIANT … PUSSY …. MAN! You can’t let people walk all over you like that, man. That guy felt so fuckin’ proud after takin’ you down. Like he took over the world or somethin, man. But he got his, and it’s revenge, and it’s what people get, ya’ know what I’m sayin’?”
I fucking hate my best friend Neil Pollack even when he’s saving my life.
A month after my father and mother opened up The Home for the Sick, they were driven out by angry protesters who wanted them to feel the wrath of God. They had sickles and whips and chains and two by fours and hammers and nails and guns and knives.
Earlier that day my mother planned for an escape with Tracy Pollack. She had been cheating on him throughout my father’s adult life without my father being aware. It didn’t make any sense given how drastically different the two were. Doesn’t make any sense because at the time I knew my mother she didn’t seem like such a sneaky cunt. It just means she was good at it, which makes it worse.
When she ran with my father away from the protesters to get on Pollack’s get away plane she was doing it to preserve her role – to stay in character, and to save her own life.
“Preserve husbands happiness, keep living to deceive and wrongly lie to husband whenever I want.”
Self-serving altruism is the best kind.
When the two of them entered the cabin Pollack remained calm and didn’t break her cover.
My father didn’t ask any questions but understood that loose strings should be tied eventually. He got so wrapped up thinking about it he passed out in a fit.
This is where Tracy Pollack slipped my mother a box labeled, “Extremely Fucked.”
“You sure you want to do this, Mona?”
“No, I’m not. You have the antidote, right?”
In this box was an Inland Taipan, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. Taped on top of the box was the antidote and a syringe to administer it. It had been recently developed at that time and kills all symptoms within twenty four hours.
When they landed in Bolivia she slipped the snake underneath his seat and stood there while it bit him. He was paralyzed by the three snaps of venomous jaws snipping at his heels and apparently was the worst thing he’s ever felt.
“Would rather have a cannon ball dropped on my dick, son. I pray that you never have to wake up to a snake latching on to your Achilles tendon.”
He frothed at the mouth apparently and my mother, being the softy I knew her to be, couldn’t stand seeing someone she’s known so long be in that much pain just so she could be happy. She opened the vial and the syringe and shot it into my fathers veins.
The antidote included adrenaline. My father was instantly awake and stabbed my mother thirty seven times, apparently, in the back of the head with the syringe she had just saved his life with.
“I stabbed her thirty seven times son. I remember each one as if it were my child. Now, I don’t know if she deserved it but at the time I felt something had to be done.”
He said he left her body on the plane, found Tracy and shoved his face into the propeller of the plane just for good measure.
My parents are fucked.
Now I know where I get it from, I guess. Now I know where everybody gets it from, I guess. I guess we’ve all known this for a long time though, haven’t we?
Zooming and swishing in the void. I am directionally challenged, as I have no limbs or body to propel me. Yet I’m still here. Yet I can still remember Digitigrades, and my dog, Digitigrade, the half-husky half-wolf. Animals that are digitigrades walk on their phalanges. Digitigrade walked on his phalanges and I would never forget that he did because that’s what his name implied.
Technically, Grade, as we called him, was my wife’s dog. We got along fairly well and I liked him quite a bit, but he wouldn’t have it whenever he saw me mounting her.
Territorial, those creatures. I loved him to death even if he was the cause of some stitches and rabies vaccinations and a list of other medical procedures that could have been avoided in the absence of a canine. My dog, much like humans, also liked my wife a lot more than he liked me.
I took him to Patagonia with me and he ate my guts out when I became human soup on an unfortunately shaped boulder.
God, I don’t know whether to hate myself or love myself for being not alive, but it’s both all the time. It’s because I can’t make sense of all of this that I become frustrated with it. If I was still living and not not living like I’m doing now, I would say, “Not being frustrated with life is called stupidity. Being too frustrated with life is called suicide.”
The middle ground is calmly saying to yourself, “90 percent of this sucks, but the 10 percent that’s good is worth it. It’s the sweetest nectar you could ever suck.”
That’s something my grandpa used to say. “That’s the sweetest nectar you could ever suck,” as if humans were proficient at sucking nectar. He said it so often it led me to assume he was a giant half hummingbird humanoid just wanting to suck the living nectar out of everything. I’ve never seen anyone suck any nectar.
But I was frustrated. Because what – what – what in my delirious head could make me think of Tanya Savicheva right now? I’ve got a limitless potential for thoughts and here I go depressing myself. Stupid non-brain! Stupid non-thoughts!
In 1944 my grandfather Welsh Yettin the first, who was twenty one at the time, was sent to Shatkovsky Hospital on the edge of the Russian border for an unknown infection in his groin. Today, this infection is known as Staphylococcus Aureus.
Then I get this wonderful wrestling in my mind. Nostalgia to the point of stepping into the scene. Nostalgia to the point of being there – nostalgia to the point of feeling as if I had my sensory organs again.
So I am standing by a lake, and there are small ducks and even smaller ducklets, and there are geese and rollerblading girls with pink tassels coming down from their hair – and I am thinking of a girl who died in 1944, who I never knew, who I just heard about once.
Tanya was also at this hospital, but for something far less embarrassing, and far more deadly: intestinal tuberculosis. She died when the sun was very hot, in June or July sometime, my grandpa said.
And then he showed me a page of her dairy, which was known as Tanya’s final remark. The page said this:
“Zhenya died on Dec. 28th at 12:00 P.M. 1941
Grandma died on Jan. 25th 3:00 P.M. 1942
Leka died on March 5th at 5:00 A.M. 1942
Uncle Vasya died on Apr. 13th at 2:00 after midnight 1942
Uncle Lesha on May 10th at 4:00 P.M. 1942
Mother on May 13th at 7:30 A.M. 1942
Only Tanya is left.”
So why did I do that? What about all those ducklets made me think of that?
I should go back to day dreaming about my wife – who is also dead. Sour, sweet, sour, sweet. Dead little girl, dead wife. I’m the cheeriest.
The funeral wasn’t even that tasteful. Only half of the congregation wore black, including me, because I had white shoes on (I look terrible in dark shoes). Her coffin was a rental because she said in her will that thousands of dollars for a wooden box wasn’t worth it (and because we had no body to put inside of it.) She didn’t want a plot or a place to be remembered. She said that she only wanted to be remembered once, and then discarded, burned and thrown into some entirely random place she has never been and never would have gone, so she could once again became part of the vast, unknowing chain again. I guess with all that’s happened, she got her wish. She’s truly up in the sky somewhere now.
One with the mesosphere.
Couldn’t hear over the Eastboro Baptist Church at my wife’s funeral shouting their prophecy into my ear. Apparently my wife is in hell. Apparently going to space makes you a terrible person. Signs and megaphones all stating, “ASTRONAUTS ARE FAGS” and “ASTRONAUTS WILL BE RAPED BY SATAN” and “DAMN THE SOLAR SYSTEM – LOVE GOD,” and “EARTH IS GOD’S PLACE, NOT MARS!”
Most of the church members seemed pretty timid and quite young to have such strong beliefs. After the funeral, which was interrupted and hardly a proper service, but one we’d all have to live with, I decided to confront the rude bastards.
There were ten year old kids telling me to my face that my wife was burning in hell. I said,
“On the contrary. She burned in the mesosphere, the mesosphere!”
They told me I was going to be burning right next to her and that I could do nothing to stop it, since I have already been inside of her, since I have already loved her, since I have already sinned eternally just for being with her. Just for living a life with the person I loved.
“I could never burn right next to her, I am too tall to be an astronaut.”
I wasn’t even lying to them, for fuck sakes! I told myself I would act like Lucifer if I ever saw these people – masturbate in public, shout profanities, tell them that I was the fallen angels personal right hand – but instead I was being polite. Polite! My point is: you have to be less than six feet tall to be an astronaut.
They kept shouting at full volume. Ear drums throbbing. These people hated the very idea of my wife just because she’s been to space. Just because she worked for an organization they didn’t approve of – just because that organization believed in empirical evidence. The Eastboro Baptist Church are enemies of life itself. They are enemies of me having a sad time at my wife’s funeral.
Then a woman from the church, who I later found out was called Shirley, came up to me and pushed me. I, embarrassingly, fell down and they all began laughing – as Jesus would have wanted them to do. Laughter is the best medicine.
Dusting myself off and stepping forward, this time determined not to fall, I got close to her face and said nothing.
“Pushed down by a WOMAN and trying to CONVERT MY CHILDREN because you don’t agree with our FACTS is no longer going to be tolerated, tough guy. No longer. I am here. You can stop trying to convert my kids to your secularism and your bias.”
“Look, get the fuck out of here. My wife is dead. My family and I are trying to grieve properly. Is this too much to ask?”
“Was it too much to ask that you and your wife no longer engage in the sinfulness of Satan together? Was it – when she was alive anyway – too much to ask for her to stop her terrible, damning practices that throw both of your lives into eternal condemnation and hellfire? Working with scientists and believing their every word without valuable information! You can’t think for yourself and your burnt up wife couldn’t, either. She got what she deserved. She’s dead and that’s what God does to people who have lacked proper repentance for so long.”
Then her twelve year old daughter chimed in,
” That’s exactly what God does to people who disobey his word. That’s what God does to people who cannot open their eyes wide enough to see his glory.”
They ear-fucked my sadness into rage. They defiled my wife. They defiled one of the few things I wanted to take care of but couldn’t. They defiled the person I defiled consistently with no intention of malevolence. They fucked up the good day my dead wife told me to have.
After the funeral I went home and sat on my bed. I was defeated even though I probably could have syntactically worded circles around them. Just another one of the plenty Ll’esprit de escalier moments in my short life – the feeling you get after leaving a conversation, when you think of all the things you should have said.
I smoked some marijuana, as it was instructed of me to do so in my wife’s will. She left some pretty zany instructions. In fact, her whole will in general was brilliant. It makes me feel like I’m crying and have eyes whenever I think about it.
“Mom and dad and sisters,
I love you with all my brain chemistry. My heart is not capable of love. Either is yours.
Please don’t get me a plot and get a rental coffin. Burn me away into ashes so I can feel the cycle of being everything again. You get every possession of mine, and you get to share it amongst yourselves however you wish. It’s not up to me to decide which stuff of mine you all like best.
I am so glad I stayed with you as long as I did. If you are forced to live without me, there are only a couple of things I want you to do.
Relax, Vernon. It’s ok. Smoke a joint and pet Grade on the head and tell him he’s a good boy. Tell him his mommy loves him. Please don’t cry for the smallness that was me.”
That was it. That’s all she had to say about herself and the world. God, she was beautiful.
I remember taking a hit and the fluff on top of Grade’s head running in and out of my fingers. I said, with nothing but complete misery,
“You’re a good boy, Grade. Mommy loves you.”
I paused and added my own line,
“Papa loves you too, Grade.”
God, my wife would have killed me if she had ever found out what I did for her. But what I did wasn’t really for her. I’ve been shooting through space for some thousands of years and just now I’ve come up with it. It’s taken me this long to realize that she would have hated me if she was living and I did what I did. If I had come home and told her, she would have whacked me upside the head with a burning hot pan and kicked me in the nuts. She’d throw all my stuff on the lawn and tell me what a fuck up good for nothing asshole I was.
What I did was for me. It was to satiate my own flaccid, biological need for vengeance. The inner working of my brain was not compatible with the lives of others -it has tampered with unjust attributes before, but on the day I vanquished pure and unadulterated evil from the world, I and my mind, too, became profoundly evil. I was ignoring simple virtues and convincing myself of philosophical fact that was nothing short of utter insanity – that murdering these poor, disillusioned people would open up a world of prosperity for myself.
So when I am not spending my eternal years daydreaming of my past, I am spending them daydreaming of whether or not thousands upon thousands of years is a long enough sentence for someone like me.
And pop – I’m there again. Bright, sunny sidewalk that burned the bottom of my feet even through the sandals. Little blond Nazi girl skipping in the street and drawing false idols on the sidewalk. If she or her mother were alive after this incident, she’d blame the sketches of Sesame Street characters that she so elegantly chalked onto the state and public sidewalk as the criminality of some devil-worshipping kid that she just couldn’t stand. He, too, would have been persecuted against. My justification for wanting to protect this specific fictional boy is not ill-founded. What I did next was.
This is how I killed her: with a tub of rainbow sherbet. And when the twelve year old God fearing bitch was dead I plopped the tub onto the ground and scooped my hands into the multi-colored cream.
It felt like my wife’s hands in winter.
I shoved it into my face like a child and couldn’t have been happier with myself. I closed the lid and made sure it was on good and tight, but it still popped off when I gave that twelve year old God fearing bitch one final wallop to her human hating throat.
It was a testament to my wife. We’d eat and eat and eat the sherbet on special nights when life was just too much. We’d pet Grade on the head and let our fingers run through his fur and we’d say,
“You’re a good boy, Grade. We love you,” and we’d scoop the spoons back and forth between the container and our mouths, slippery and sticky, orange and plaster red and green like her eyes, except for when they’re blue. And sometimes when she’d do it it’d be exhaustingly sexy, the way her tongue would curl around the exterior of the spoon and with delicate precision slide the cream past her lips and into her mouth and down her drain.
How biologically and fundamentally silly we are – even up here I am getting a non-erection just remembering my wife licking a spoon full of rainbow sherbet, and therein by remembering that I was just starting to expand to myself how I rid of seven members of the Eastboro Baptist Church, starting with the second youngest, a twelve year old named Katie Felps.
I ended their lives, they ended mine. Eye for an eye only makes you blind when you’re stealing glasses.
My wife would hate me if she was alive. But she wouldn’t, because if she was alive I wouldn’t have done a damn thing and her funeral couldn’t have happened and my silly chemistry wouldn’t have gotten all worked up to the point of utter non-thought even while I still had a physical brain.
She would have thought I was the silly man she married that is fucked in love with her. That would have been that.
The Eastboro Baptist Church was a church comprised of almost entirely family. Seventy two members of the church were within the Felps family. There were only ten members to date to be successfully converted into their faith. All of them were so afraid of hell they started to believe just about anything. They were not my primary targets that day and as far as I know they are all still alive, believing, acting upon and being duped into whatever people force on to them.
Sometimes I feel that wouldn’t be too bad of an existence if I didn’t know any better. Sometimes I feel that might have actually been my entire existence and I just didn’t know any better.
My non-brain and non-thoughts are never working properly. It’s about as exhausting as repeating yourself but still decidedly less exhausting, at least in terms of how sexually thrilling it is, than my wife licking sherbet off of a spoon.
The family, and I mean almost all the members that did not deflect and stayed within the church, live in a massive five house complex in the middle of Topeka, Kansas, that includes not only the site for their respective homes, but also their church and administrative buildings. They have scanners and screens and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of manufacturing software – for their “God hates You” merchandise.
Because we truly and honestly believe God hates us when we pay $12.99 for a baseball cap that tells us so.
After I had put the lid back on the container of sherbet I looked down at her little corpse and kicked it in the teeth. I dragged her into a nearby bush across the street where I met Neil and his hockey sticks. He gave me one.
” A little overkill don’t you think, V.W.?” said Neil Pollack from behind me, a hockey stick and a baseball bat in the shape of an “X” draped on his back. He was holding a knife the size of my head.
“You sure you’re okay with this, Neil? I know you believe in God, and these people do, too.”
“Look, dawg, these people don’t believe in God the way I believe in God. God is peaceful, ya’ know what I’m sayin’?”
“Yeah, I do, that’s why I’m confused as to why you’re helping me murder them and then escape to Patagonia, childhood dream fantasy place of mine. Or why you’ve been such a violent prick your entire life. Care to enlighten, me?”
“God forgives, God forgives. And oh yeah, oh yeah, you need one of these, dawg…” Neil reached into his back pocket and pulled out two tickets to Patagonia. I grabbed one and he kept the other for himself.
“Neil, you cannot come with me.”
“I’m not going with you. I am going to the Patagonian region of Chile. Not with you. You and me are free after this, buddy. You and me will never see each other again after we do this, you know what I’m sayin’? We can’t because we’re too interested in remaining free, you feel me?”
“Neil, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to help. If your God is peaceful, if you don’t feel that this is worth the shit then just leave it. You’ve done enough for me already.”
“My God also says have your mo’fuckin’ friends back and don’t let no whack shit jeopardize their well being.”
“That a direct quote?”
“I want to help you, Vernon.”
Oh fuck, he never calls me Vernon.
“Vernon? Neil, you’re frightening me.”
“Just don’t give me no shit right now. I’m worked up, I’m about to beat the pulp out of some faces – ”
“Faces don’t have pulp, Neil.”
“Right, but … Look, V.W., shut it. Shut it the fuck up. Stop fuckin’ interruptin’, V.W. As if you’ve got a better word than mine. We got to get this over with. Someone is going to be wondering very fuckin’ soon where that child went, so let me get a word out.” He gulped and put a hand on my shoulder,
“I never thought you’d stop being such a pussy, V.W. Today you become a man. Today you find out what it feels like to crack jaws and bruise gums. That makes me, happy, man, it makes me happy to know we’re finally on the same page. God wants us to do this, man. These people be parasites, dawg. I love you. You’re the only person I’ve ever trusted with every fiber in my body. The only person on the planet that hasn’t and I know in my heart would never betray me. Amen.”
I smacked him so hard in the right temple with his own hockey stick his left ear started bleeding.
The sour, the sweet, the sour, the sweet.
I waited in the bushes and smacked Neil a couple more times to ensure his unconsciousness and less bloodshed than initially planned for. Shirley then popped her head out the window like a Godsend, beaming the street for her daughter, yelling, “Katie! Katie!” over and over. When she shook her head and started washing the dishes, the sink being just behind the window, I made my move.
The door flung open. I’ve never done anything like that before – a grand entrance meant to frighten and shock. It was hardly that – one smack in the door and it went flying off the hinges, trapping the eight year old boy, Judah, underneath its weight. I stomped and jumped on the door.
The kitchen was to the left of me, and there was an obvious path from the kitchen to the rest of the house.
Shirley, aware of the commotion, busted into the hallway with a loaded .45 caliber handgun and fired two shots. I strafed into the kitchen where her fat old father was drinking a cup of coffee and demanding that Shirley take care of the noise,
“Shirley, stop that damned kaboomin’ and kabangin’.”
I hit him on the top of the head and he collapsed out of the chair. He bounced on the floor for a couple seconds, rattling and rolling around like a turtle on its back. I scanned the kitchen and found the knife rack, grabbed a big fucker and quickly inserted it into the old fuckers gullet.
Shirley pops out of cover like someone was shooting back at her and a round grazed me in the ass. I hopped out of the other door in the kitchen to the rest of the home, a staircase, a living room and one of the many alternative entrances to the rest of the complex. I darted up the staircase to bullets flying under my feet. This was all in about fifteen seconds.
I picked a room on the right which had a picture of the blond boy I had trampled underneath the door earlier. I ducked behind his dresser.
“Shirley, I’m in your boys room.”
Shirley barged into the room in tears, firing blindly and wildly. She had kicked the door open and ran in with the gun straight in front of her as if it were a battering ram. Five shots were fired before she got close enough for me to trip her with the stick and get one good stab in her leg. She screamed in wicked pain and horror, her hand reflexively letting go of the gun and applying pressure to the wound immediately.
I grabbed the gun and put a bullet in her skull. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have done it at all. But since I did, in retrospect I should have said something supremely badass, along the lines of,
“Where is your God now?”
From there it was Shirley’s husband, who ran to the house after hearing gunfire. Not one of them have bothered to call the police – most likely because the police wouldn’t have helped them, anyway. Shot him in the neck twice. He bled out.
Her brother came running up the stairs, hearing Shirley’s husband get shot, his obvious back-up. He came in with a shotgun and fired once before I got him in the teeth.
I went downstairs and shot the barely breathing eight year old boy underneath the door in the head.
What scares me most is that directly after I fired that shot, all I was thinking was: “Too bad your mother was such a cunt. Shame, a shame.”
I was a crazy fucker.
I walked out of the house calmly. I dropped the hockey stick and the gun and took off my shirt which was covered in blood.
I walked all day in the sun, which was blistering fuck hot, to the Topeka Airfield, where I was to board a plane to Patagonia, Chile. Instead, I flew back to Arizona – to my house, to my dog and to the little life I had there.
The murders began being investigated while I was still in the state of Kansas. They found Neil Pollack in the bush with head wounds and a broken nose. I never saw him after that, but I was in Arizona for two and a half weeks preparing myself for the Patagonian wilderness and smoking joints and petting Grade. All this means is that Neil Pollack didn’t rat on me. All that means is that he probably suffered long term brain damage and didn’t remember that I beat the hell out of him.
After two and a half weeks I boarded the plane to Patagonia with a shit-load of equipment. Outdoor stoves and cooking equipment – an industrial tent, chock full of water resistant fibers or something, two axes, two pistols, three rifles, one with an optimizing scope and cross-hair, three hundred and forty feet of rope, chairs, a shit ton of fresh water, little packages of American food I know I’d miss, ten heating blankets, ten regular blankets, several guides and books on surviving in the wilderness and building yourself an indefinitely sustaining structure to live in, the bulk of my clothing which was now several outdoor jackets, ten pairs of military industrial boots and laces, sunglasses, four water resistant hats, countless numbers of knee high and ankle high socks, five pairs of lumberjack gloves, scarves, tank tops, five pairs of cargo shorts, t-shirts and my favorite flower shirts. And a leash. A leash for Grade.
I even bought extra kibble for the food Grade would miss eating.
I was in Patagonia for only six months before I died. That’s how long the average immigrant raised in America American lasts in the wilderness with no prior experience and nothing to lose. I suppose in a way I was just looking to forget everything and stop having thoughts.
So much for that.
I set up camp at the base of Cuernos del Paine, a peak which overlooks Pehoe Lake, a prosperous area in terms of wildlife that was not going to kill us and instead feed us in Chile. Environmental hazards were a giant concern as well as the fact that I was to be setting up permanent camp in a National Park.
Torres del Paine National Park is massive, beautiful and mostly (these days) silent. I honestly had no idea where I was going to set up camp, but I got some advice from a man at the airport named Enrico who also sold me an ounce of marijuana that was certainly hydroponically grown. He told me that Torres del Paine stopped being monitored frequently when people stopped going there in the recent years due to Earthquakes. In fact, Chile is no longer a hot spot at all according to Enrico who told me recent seismic activity has scared all the white folk away.
My entire stay there was completely free of any forest rangers and even tourists. Then again, it was March through August when I was there, and this is when the region becomes one with the tundra and freezes your ass off. It honestly surprised me that it was this cold at first in the middle of summer, and then I realized I was in the Southern Hemisphere. Clueless.
Good thing I brought so much shit. Material items keeping me alive, ho!
There’s this well tested Biological theory involving ecological traps, and to me this theory includes humans, where pretty much every species is too stupid to choose a high quality living environment. Humans are usually not included in the studies – but humans who willingly live in the barren tundra of Nova Scotia could never be considered as choosing a logical living environment.
Still, scientists smarter than me tell me it’s just the birds and the rats and the everything else but humans that suffer from this. They’re “trapped” into it. Essentially, an animal perceives its permanent vocation on its aesthetically pleasing attributes, what idiot animals consider “quality”, and also it’s protectiveness of the outside forces.
This, of course, differs from animal to animal – birds, surprisingly enough, have several different mechanisms for finding a home. They have to build a nest, and it has to be safely guarded from predators, and it has to look nice, and it has to be all the little things an idiot bird brain wants it to be. Also unfortunate for the little idiot bird is that it’s spatial and temporal memory is all fucked up, and it has no idea when it is and has no idea how it’s going to look when it’s not now. Essentially, when winter comes, this little birds house is going to be fucked and her babies are going to die. They are all going to freeze to death when their little cottage made of twigs, which took the mother the entire summer to build, compiles enough snow to plop down on them and drown them to death.
I quickly became bored and depressed in the woods. Let me tell you this right now: If you ever have the chance to pick floating through outer space or living alone in Patagonia, pick Patagonia. It is far less boring and you get to have a body there.
In German, the feeling of being alone in the woods is called Waldeinsamkeit. I never once felt Waldeinsamkeit in the Patagonian wilds thanks to Grade, but I’m sure as hell feeling it now, even when there are no woods to speak of.
When Grade was trotting through the woods and when he learned to find his way back to our favorite spot after going off alone for hours at end it was wonderful. I thought about my wife so much it hurt my fucking head and I just kept petting her fucking dog and for no reason, no good reason that I could think of, I felt like I was with her.
Just because of the fucking dog.
There is something in the distance that is not stars. It is not a planet because it is shaking and moving. It looks like its … thinking.
Still I amazed I am here at all. Maybe that thing is what put me here. Perhaps if I ever get to it I could ask it with the mouth I don’t have.
I can feel myself getting closer but whatever I’m using to see is fucking with me – the object is not getting bigger or smaller. It’s staying the same size and I’m moving toward it. Don’t know why or how.
Then I realized it was moving at exactly the same speed in the opposite direction of me.
Then I realized it stopped completely and was moving towards me at the same speed I was approaching it.
I could see a face, a set of crackling lungs in the shape of unique continents, dirt dripping off after every breath – a frame the size of a planet – and his appendages, bright green tentacles that whip around like the entangled branches of a cypress. What in the hell is coming at me? Will it even know I’m here? Will it even know I exist? Am I afraid of dying even though I’ve already done it? Why am I so worried about it approaching me?
Fuck this, I’m not done thinking about Patagonia and it’ll be a half and hour at least before we reach one another. Whatever the hell it is.
The first goal I had in Patagonia was to successfully build a house or cottage using only the elements in abundance that the forest provided and would also cleverly conceal me from any authorities. Easier done than said, that’s a fuckin’ mouthful.
The first three months was collection. Grade seemed eager to help me being the little social fuck he was and would always bark me up like a madman when I was hauling hundreds of pounds of fallen lumber on my back to build home base. I considered this goal then a waste of time.
Reflections of being in space for thousands of years says it was the only truly human act I’ve ever accomplished or thought to accomplish.
Collection was more difficult than assembly. Assembly involved amateur blueprints and familiar physical labor which wasn’t too strenuous on my not-used-to-the-wild-Americanized-body-and-genetics.
When collecting you don’t feel as if you’re accomplishing anything, especially when attempting to gather enough material to build a home to fit a giant dog and a person. The ideal is to come home rewarded from your efforts after a hard day. That’s what happens during assembly. A combination of muscle and brain. You feel sore but like your effort was worth it.
After collection you feel sore and see the mess you’ve made. Hundreds of bundles all tied and burglarized from their natural resting places to form an artificial bunker that gives only the mere illusion of nature but is nothing more than a fabricated mess in anything outside the mind of a human.
Collection took me three months. During those months I did almost nothing but physical labor and nap with Grade. I built up little pack systems for his back that would comfortably rest a dozen or so fallen branches so he could haul them back with me to camp. He seemed earnestly excited to be helping me out. It was the first time I looked at anything besides a human and considered it wholly and truly my equal.
His slobbery mouth and his perfectly rounded black eyes and his cliche’d wet nose and all the brown and black fluffy goodness you could ask for. He was my friend. He looked after me even though nothing all that dangerous happened until I died. He kept me occupied when I’d otherwise be bored out of my gorge. Most of all, whenever I laid my hand on his head and said “good boy” and rubbed the back of his ears, I could, being the soppy sap I am, feel or pretend to feel, I’m not sure which, not even with thousands of years of recollection, my wife’s fingers slowly going along with mine, on top of my hand, warm as a stove.
Even though Grade ate my guts after I died I still love and respect him. He deserved a good meal after all his hard work.
Assembly started a little sooner than I initially hoped but it worked out for the best. It was the end of May when I started and snowing almost every day. I layed down the foundation and the floors first, which was just a plastering of mud with sticks around it and bark on top of that. The foundation was snowed out every day for a week, which added to the job, meaning I had to shovel and lay down foundation every day. I did not bring a shovel with me.
The walls took two weeks and a day to complete. None of them fell down during completion and I consider that a major achievement. The ceiling took another week and laying down a new layer of foundation took another.
I missed walking on ground with no shoes. I missed stretching my toes and putting them down on carpet or tile or smooth, glossy wood so I applied long, flat stones all across the floor. Like puzzles pieces I shoved them all together and chipped away at them until they fit into a coherent object that didn’t wobble when you walked on it. I filled the cracks with mud.
Another major achievement.
It stopped coming at me by the way. I’m still going towards it, but am not quite there. Soon enough I’ll be right up next to it and ask it if I exist or if I’m just insane and going on pretending to exist.
He has been paused right next to this object that looks like half a planet. Some of the exterior is there, although not entirely completed, its tentacles whipping this way and that in the interior of the object. Frequently it pauses for thought and laughs obnoxiously as if its just heard the best joke in the world. Maybe it has. At least it can appreciate jokes and has an Earthly looking appearance. Lungs and a face and teeth. Brings me home, all the way out here.
What in the hell is this thing and what is it doing?
I began to realize that after assembly I would have nothing to achieve and would quickly resort to suicide or just go nuts in general, so I set up another seemingly impossible chore for myself. Something that would test the limitations of my very real strength and my very proverbial spirit. This something would also test how well the modern day human body is built when it is in almost completely average condition and put in an expansively exhaustive scenario. Six two one hundred and ninety pounds.
It was the silliest move of my life to decide to climb Cuernos del Paine.
Do not let boredom kill you. That’s a rule.
Cuernos del Paine isn’t even that formidable of a peak and experienced climbers would have laughed their necks off if they would have saw me falling onto the awkwardly shaped rock I had my dog tied to that turned me into organic mush.
I tied Grade to the unfortunately shaped rock, which was really just a giant mineral spike in the most inconvenient location nature could have considered. Directly above it about 700 feet was my drop point. It wasn’t windy and I didn’t sway.
Grade kept barking as I was ascending the slope and I was silly enough to keep looking back at him even when he was just a tiny black dot. I kept thinking,
“Be right back, boy. Papa has to do this.”
The climb wasn’t bad. It progressively got colder as I went up and began lightly snowing at the summit which was my eventual downfall as my hand slid off a rock that I swear was designed specifically for a human hand before I fell off from it. Definitely not.
It took about twenty five seconds for me to hit the unfortunate rock. Mid-air I pissed and shit myself. For clarification, it was totally biological and I couldn’t help it.
I’m quite glad that I am still thinking because my last thoughts by my standards were pretty dull. Maybe they were so bad by some miraculous chance something heard them and took pity on me to give me another chance as a cosmic wisp. Probably not.
The moment I slipped off I knew what was going on. The event triggered my pants to wet and soil and my brain to think to itself,
“Vernon Welsh Yettin. That’s important because it’s me. Rainbow sherbet rainbow sherbet rainbow sherbet. I was never good enough to anyone. She deserved better but I would have cried like a bitch if she actually got someone better.”
The last thing my Earthly thoughts thought was,
Which I was.
The second my body stopped working whatever it is that is me now started taking over. It started with me slowly and surely being pulled upward towards the heavens, spotting my dilapidated, hairy, disfigured ape body and Grade digging his nose into my intestines along the way.
When I got high enough and my body was out of reach and Grade was just a fuzzy black dot I began going faster and faster towards the atmosphere. The higher I went the faster I went.
Soon whatever path I’m on began shooting me in all directions. I flung out into the middle of the Milky Way and then even beyond that.
Soon enough I was far, far past the Milky Way. Getting out of our galaxy took me hundreds of years and once I was out I began decelerating. I don’t know why or how but I could feel myself no longer reaching distances or passing through planets and stars and groups of cosmic gases that have not formed themselves into anything yet almost instantaneously. That power was gone and I was thankful for it. Going that fast is no way to appreciate your surroundings.
When I first became what I am, and remember that I have no idea what I am, I was going too fast to think. Like when you’re in a Porsche with a terrible driver and he’s going 145 on the highway. Too fast to think.
After the Milky Way it was like he set the cruise control to 60 and passed me a joint. Smooth sailing.
Deckett – Entry 1 – Feb. 12, 2011 – Mannitol, Minnesota
“I think… this house will do.”
Enrico Jafar stood in front of Phineus Winthrop the Sixth, who was selling him a house with all kinds of neat gadgets inside of it. From my perspective, Winthrop is an asshole and Jafar talks like a robot. Jafar is also not from America, most likely Pakistani or something and inflects at all the wrong times.
“Want me to show you somethin’ neat, Mr. Jafar?”
“Go right … ahead.”
“Right ahead I will go, and you will too!”
They walked down a walkway to the master bedroom. The book case with pretentious spiral carvings of birds of prey and candle sticks sticking out of its sides actually, and do not let this shock you, led to another hidden room. And inside of that hidden room was a storage space that could fit a fucking ballroom.
“This is by golly one of the most fascinating pieces of architecture in all of North America.”
“Do you know who … built it?”
“Absolutely I do, Mr. Jafar. It was built by a one Mister Victor Saplinsky. Lives right here in town, still, but lost this house to the bank.”
“So I would …. be buying …. this house from the …. bank?”
“Indeed you would be.”
Deckett – Entry 2 – March, 30 2011 – Mannitol
He did buy the house from the bank and starting mortgage payments promptly. In reality it was the house for the mastermind, for the thief, for the people like me – voyeurs. It was a house for pirates and scoundrels and knights and academics. But instead, now, it was not any of those things. The architecture, as proved by Enrico Jafar (who preferred to be called Rico but never made too much of a fuss about it) does not make the man. The man makes the architecture.
The walls, which used to be rustic and old and full of character and livelihood were stripped of any spirit at all. They were turned into the bland characters inside of Enrico’s head. They were transformed, without their will, into walls of pure white. Jafar’s blandness was unforgiving. His blandness turned the most interesting piece of architecture in North America into one big white-washed trucker motel room. The house of treasure and secrets and bold, bold possibilities was now the home of a Clothing Line for Canine, what I believe to be the proponent of one of the most trivial, if not the most trivial, industries of all time.
I could see Enrico sweating like a bastard at his typewriter. He was getting everything ju-uu-uuu-uuust right. As if anybody read the packaging anymore. Then her sweet little voice popped in and he started to sweat a little more. He clicked his heels and looked around as she breathed into her microphone like the sly little cunt she was. Breathing just to scare the willies out of him. And then she said, “You’s gunna thrust ‘en real nice ‘an ‘eets g’unna clamp down ‘ith its slippery molars, boy-ee.”
moira – entray 1 – who da fuck knows two thousand eleventy – mes in mannitol ma
entry today – stopped dating deez things when I forgots what day it was. fuckin’ bitch friends tellin’ me I overuse apostrophes and shit, ‘n that I don’t use them consistently within my own dialogue. well i write muh diary any way i’d like, apostrophes ‘n words ‘n shit all fucked up ‘n shit if i’d like.
First day at muh new place. seems cozy, ‘ut it’s a bitch ta’ get ‘ere, tho. So ‘eets ‘n active ‘wun ‘taday, guts my peepers in, the ones that cost a shit-load, but its not hard with alls the moneys I’s funnelin in’s all the time. Got muh muffs in, too, can ‘ere muh love doin’ all sorts uh naughty ‘tivities ‘ta’ ‘imself. Got muh lips all ova tha’ place, like I be the voice of Goddess.
So after I’s gots these all in ‘nd I start ‘ta panic. So I’s run up these steps to dis damn door ‘nd it looks rusted ‘ta hell ‘nd ol’ as muh paps at least. ‘N its got ‘dis slot ‘n I’m thinkin’ ’bout how it looks like you’s could fit a cock in there probably. So now’s I really panic – I’s got no place to hide, ta’ sleep alls alone without them peepers all over me. So I’s trip ‘on down tha’ stairs and find this little latch. So I’s pull on it ‘n go down ‘nta it to fin’ ‘dis nasty book ‘wit dis’ ol’ bloke doin’ all sorta’a shit I ain’t even thought about – ‘n I’s done most ‘dat sexual shit.
‘Ol bloke proved me wrong, ‘wit ‘dis pic of ‘im ‘n ‘dis lady stretching out der parts like elastic ‘n I thought ‘dat’s a mighty big cock, ‘n I thought “not healthy how that coot looks, like you could fit a fucking bowlin’ ball ‘init.” Like ‘dis huge cock couldn’t even phase ‘dis bitches shit even ‘dough it’d rip mine to bits.
Then’s I really in panic mode, ya hear? I says Moira you’s got to get with it lady you’s got a big brain ‘n shit to solve all this shit. So I’s go to tha’ bar ‘n fin’ ‘dis bloke, ‘dis fat wanka wit messy hair to come test ma’ theory. I’s start out all suga’ ta’ ‘dis bloke ‘n I invite ‘im ova’ fo’ sum diddlin.’ I’s almos’ throws up in muh throat wen ‘ee’s all grabbin’ up on me, but I keep’ muh ‘hand on ‘is cock through it all. So’s I leed ‘im up tha’ stairs ‘n show ‘im tha’ slot ‘n he says,
“I bet my dick would fit in there.”
‘n I’s still playin’ all sweet, n’ tellin’ ‘im is cock is too big ta’ fit ‘n ‘tat little ‘ole, ‘n he’s betting me he could fuck tha’ hole, n’ I tol’ ‘im I’d rather ‘im fuck me. So ‘ee drops ‘is pants ‘n I tase ‘im til ‘ee froths at his fat fucking mouth.
Now I pick ‘im up and thrust ‘im ‘nta ‘da door ‘n his cock fits perfect. So I’s keeps makin’ the fat bloke fuck this slot, ‘n then the door swings open ‘n I drag ‘ta both of us inside and ‘tase the fucka’ ’til he dies.
Bingo. Open sesame to Moira, Moira, Moira. I’s got muh base ta’ use muh peepers muffs n’ lips, ‘n ta write dis trite shit all day.
Deckett – Old Journal – Entry 1 – Sydney, Australia, 2010
Bastards at Steeler and Schmidt that pay me a lowly forty five grand annually to defend meth addicts in the court of law can go fuck themselves. I’m glad I can sell cocaine on the side and put a couple grand in my savings to go on pay out trips like this. To Australia. I am pouring a drink at this fucking moment and writing simultaneously – fuck yeah, fuck yeah, fuck yeah. To this side of the hemisphere, to animals with pouches, to the way these people talk – to the dry, the wet – to the best desert in the entire fucking world. Amen, amen, amen.
A shame that I’m spending it writing indoors with my wonderful equipment. Four giant fucking slim monitors connected to four overpriced, delicate cameras the size of a bear’s button eyes. We don’t – fuck, here I go again speaking for everybody… I don’t only do this to be a creepy bastard and take advantage of people and learn all their inner most secrets. Not at all. I do it because its my job, as a human fucking being, to delve deeper – to feel what these subjects are feeling. That’s my “purpose.” That’s what I feel I’m here for. To observe, to gain perspective, even if it’s a lousy one. so I could sit here all day writing into this shitty booklet, and I will, because adjacent from my complex is a randomly bugged room in another hotel complex. To put it simply, random buggings generally leave a guy like me unfulfilled. But not today.
Today it was a brown man on top of this pygmy chick, calling her Esmeralda. So I watched them like the fucking animals they were, humping away like sheepdogs on the leg of a chair. But before they got to the really, really awesome stuff, I looked up.
And there she was. The room above his. My bugging was fucking impeccable today. Two randomly bugged rooms with two totally interesting contestants. Fuck yeah, fuck yeah, fuck yeah.
I could see her set up. Two laptops with speakers at the bottoms, and XLR headphones – the same kind I use. She jogs in place in front of the blinds, her ass towards me peaking out of a tight, perhaps obviously skanky pink skirt, the monitors blaring towards me an image I’ve already seen – the brown man plowing the pygmy.
I became determined to stalk this stalker.
Deckett – Entry 2 – March 30, 2011 – Mannitol
Enrico didn’t let the girls voice bother him, or at least it didn’t seem like it at first. He just kept typing to the most ominous sounding shit in the world.
“‘n ‘you’s ‘gonna’ bleeds all over the fucking stadium ‘n slippery slide in ‘ur way ‘nta ‘dat ‘nice pygmy pussy
This was no good for the pamphlet he was writing, and this last one was definitely the distraction that killed him. He slaved away for these pamphlets. They were his very being. All with clear, straight-forward instructions on the art of dressing a canine in the latest winter, spring, fall or summer time canine fashion accessories. He wrote:
“1. Remove Clothing from Container.
2. Stand canine on two back legs and apply front paw sockets.
3. Stand canine on two front legs and slippery slide your way into that nice Pygmy pussy.”
The paper tore from the type writer, joining its many crumpled companions on the floor beneath the desk. Enrico was a monster for work, perhaps the only time at all there was fire in his eyes, fury in his gut, hell, even words in his mouth. Striving to be successful, he did the only thing poor sane men do: start a business profiting off the stupidity of others.
“A Clothing Line for Canine” was the official, terribly unoriginal name for his business, but despite the corny title, it was rapidly successful, allowing a hermit to stay a hermit, and, paradoxically enough, provided Enrico with a small opportunity for an insignificant fifteen minutes of fame, where he appeared on several local news stations and always ended his segment with the same disastrously awful tagline,
“A Clothing Line for … Canine … Will Keep Your … Dog Warm Through Winter and … HOT … Through Summer!”
It was just too long, Enrico told himself, I’ll change it when profits go down, I like to think he thinks to himself. They never did.
He stepped away from the type-writer and plopped into his bed which was no more than ten feet away from his desk. This was the continual path that he walked. Every night, day and waking hour. This ten foot strip of land was his fucking Shangri La. But not anymore – because Jafar is convinced that the little English bitches voice he hears in his head is his own. He thinks it’s his conscience. How do I know this? Because at this very minute he is screaming, “GET OUT YOU BRITISH BITCH! GET OUT OF MY FUCKING HEAD, I DON’T WANT YOU HERE ANYMORE YOU ARE A FUCKING DEMON WOMAN AND I CAN’T KEEP YOU IN MY HEAD, ALL BECAUSE OF THE THOUGHTS YOU GIVE ME AND ALL BECAUSE OF THE WAY I FEEL WHEN YOU’RE IN MY FUCKING HOUSE, THINKING MY FUCKING THOUGHTS.” It was the most eloquent he’s ever been. Not once did he pause.
It’s sad seeing him like this. He’s falling asleep, wrestling with the idea that his conscience, his Jiminy Cricket, is actually the voice of a twenty something year old British female that hates the thought of him sleeping with women two feet shorter than him that give him fake, exotic names like Esmeralda. It all seemed rather unlikely to Enrico. It was, really.
Deckett – Entry 3 – March 31st, 2011, 6:31 A.M. – Mannitol
I’ve been here all night. Jafar is walking to his car right now and smoking a cigarette. Never seen him smoke before. It’s cold here, in Mannitol, right now, probably ’round 35 – 40 degrees. I’m round the corner of the house in this little bunker here, pretty well hidden since we’re so far out and with only whiskey keeping me up and awake. Oh, and this joint that I rolled for this special occasion – I’ve never bugged a car before! Now I get to see him go to work, and at work, and everything he does all the time – away from the crazy British girl. I am lighting this bad boy up.
And on his way to work, he phased it all out. His mind was all on the blueprints for the latest Yorkshire plush coat and the Queensland Shepherd booties that have been on back-order for weeks. He didn’t mention to a single fucking person that he thought he was hearing voices. But, about the booties:
This was another thing he phased out, another thing he’s been phasing out for years, another thing he didn’t want to think about because he wasn’t smart or resourceful enough to do anything about it (I know how it is) – the fact that his crisis, his latest crisis, the shortage of Queensland Shepherd booties, is nothing to really be worried about, as the dogs will live without shoes, but even in its minuscule relevance it clouded over his thoughts and actions and crippled any chance of a social life he didn’t want to have, anyway. I imagine his internal monologue going something like this (and I don’t even have to imagine that hard since he talks to himself all the time, anyway, and has said all this stuff before. I’m just piecing it together nicely)
“But why care about dog boots? Because it’s my job? There are ten year old’s who care about shit more important than this – there are ten year old’s who do shit more important than this. So what do I stress over more, the fact that I’m a failure or a success?”
Enrico Jafar was oh so very complicated, and oh so very touchy feely. I inhaled, I inhaled, I inhaled and when I blew out I couldn’t tell if it was the smoke or my breath. I love that.
“What the fuck happened with the comm?”
“It no longer works.”
Stern motherfucker, the captain.
“Why does it no longer work, captain?”
“Because it broke, Gal.”
Like talking to a child – overgrown and hairy and plump. He didn’t have the answers and he knew nothing about the status of the comm system, which means, if my paranoia is accurate, and it generally is, he would know nothing of the status of the acceleration drives or the atmospheric stabilizers, which means the captain couldn’t give a shit less if we piled into the ground and wrecked millions of bucks worth of state of the art, or at least pseudo-state-of-the-art technology. I’m not even going to mention the terrible deaths that the crew would face – not that they’d be excruciatingly painful for a long period of time (a human body doesn’t do that well in atmospheres, and without the proper plastics encased around us we’ll surely just burn up nice and even in a matter of seconds, brain cells and pancreas and all) – precisely because the captain wouldn’t notice if any one of us vanished into thin air or was vaporized into the atmosphere or shot ourselves right in front of him. He’d step over the body every day just to prove he never gave two shits about you or anything going on besides his own trifling, god-complexed, self-contented biochemistry.
I clapped my hands together once and said, “Well, all right.”
The planet we were landing on was named HDJK-NAQW923. We stopped giving them pretty names like “Earth” and “Convus” and “Inlus” and “Paradiso” and “Artura” and “Calipso” when they became a tad unrealistic. There were no more Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, American, Roman, Lithuanian deities to openly mock in our solar system. We could no longer satirically attach titles to astronomical heavyweights, such as Venus and Neptune and Pluto – so, instead, we just give them some random blithering of our human made code. It felt better. More importantly, it felt more business-like and efficient.
The ship hissed as we docked and a cool blue mist pumped out of the behind as it prepared to merge with the docking station. Our pilot, Greek, put us down nicely and I only jumbled on my feet for half a second before getting stationary. Then Treetun’s ugly face plopped up on our central monitor and I could hear him sniffling. Allergies up the wah-hoo and he calls himself a genetic alchemist. More like “genetic-worry-about-spending-billions-of-dollars-on-everything-besides-your-fucking-immune-system.” These days, very few people had to worry about their sensory organs, or any of their organs, really. The entire Endocrinol system can be built up artificially, the entire nervous system can be re-built and work to better than functioning capacity. Our skin can now purposefully deflect and attract sunlight, measured entirely by how much it’s absorbed already. We are little deities, all of us, and we live as long as the dickens. Does that even make sense?
“Looks like the comm system works, cap. I can practically feel the sickness from here, not that I could get a sickness, but I meant it more … proverbially.” I always know how to ruin a good joke.
And from his room, Verne called out, “It’s the amps, Gal, it’s the amps. That’s all that’s wrong, it’s the amplifiers, Gal. Comm system is fine in the hull and where we at now – but cargo bay, med bay, atmospheric chamber, crew decks, crew quarters – fuck Gal, it’s all out ‘cept in the cockpit!”
Treetun coughed with a hand over his face.
“Captain Russel Norway, of the vessel Virginia. Good to see you made it to HDJK.”
We still gave our ships pretty names, though.
“Thank you. We’re on our way now to re-fuel and re-supply as quickly as possible. Also, it’s fortuitous that you should have called, sir.”
“That’s a big one for you, captain. Keep it simple.”
“Yes, sir. We need funding for our out of date communications system and also our mechanic has suggested that we may have moderate to extremely severe and life threating, 100% probability of death internal damage.”
Our mechanic is an idiot. Get off this ship. Get off this ship. Don’t build a rock for these bastards. Don’t build a rock for these greedy sadists.
Treetun didn’t say much and then shifted his attention towards me.
“Nepherial, I see you’re settling into your new home quite comfortably.”
“I am no longer a flightless sparrow.”
“Indeed not, but a guided one! Guided by instinct and pride and beauty of flight! Is it not your instinct to construct, Galleon?”
“No, it’s my job.”
“Is it not your instinct to work?”
“I suppose it is.”
“And is it not your instinct which leads you to your chosen profession? The one you feel fits better than the rest?”
“Then you are here by instinct.”
I looked around a bit to see if anyone had understood what Treetun had just said, the captain with a prodigal smile on his face, and nodding away as if Treetun had just exposed some intergalactic secret, or if he had just been promoted and was getting blown at the same time. His pose could have been either, really.
“With all due respect, sir, you are consistently misinformed and taking your word on something as subjective as this would be foolhardy, to say the least.”
The captain shot me a glare that just stung – wide eyes, frowned, angled lips, red and morose and crackled with heat and a lack of perspiration.
“Nepherial, shut up and get back to work. You have now been demoted.”
My mouth dropped and for good reason. I shouldn’t have forgotten that this was the Treetun. I wasn’t dealing with junky slavers on some distant, muddy planet or greasy, slobbery monkeys that call themselves men on some tropical, over-heated, too-close-to-the-fucking-star-sand-covered-shit-stained-moon. This man was more or less in charge of all the blackness and all the stars in the universe that we self-aware infested primates – hominids – know of. He was impossible to stop if only for his wealth, and his good ideas and his beautiful face and his saving of the human race. His influence was beyond him.
When Treetun came about, humanity began transcendence from our Earthly domains. He was the first and the only and the never-ceasing creator of humanity as it is today, with all of its organic and synthetic parts. Treetun was and is the moderator to how much we can expose ourselves to the wonders and curiosities of technology and the wonders and curiosities of our universe. Even devoid of aging, we are still answering to something – to someone. Even devoid of disease we run from the shackles of a corporation who is willing and entirely able to steal something far more important than your health, or your body or your soul. They needlessly stole and slaughtered our choice whether or not to accept these advancements. They did it without murder and they did it without torture, but my body being the way it is, and everyone else’s body being the way it is, was not an act of choice.
Treetun couldn’t hold himself back when he found out how to transcend humanity, and he forced us to come with him.
He forced us and all but a few have forgotten, or remember but don’t care to mention it.
Treetun is blind.
Thanks to him we’ve transcended our bodies. Thanks to him every problem humanity has ever faced is increasingly more complex and even more difficult to answer. Futile little fuck, futile little Galleon Honey gossiping about futile little fucking Treetun and futile little fucking Treetun Corp, the guys who run it all. But really, now I should be better known as, Galleon Honey, overseer of slaves, massive hypocrite, lowly scribble of nothing and more nothing and more nothing. I didn’t want to own slaves but now I was being forced to turn my back on my convictions. He did it on purpose. He did it to see if I liked having an opinion any more than I liked living.
“Every day you’re alive you change the world, Gal.”
That’s what Verne said to me as me, the cap, Greek and our mechanic, Walter, all boarded the walkway off the ship. It’s a good slogan for a terraformer, and more importantly a terraforming company, but besides when attributed to people in this business I couldn’t say I endorse that quote. Gives me the hee-bee-jee-bees. Makes me feel like everyone is trapped in a box of their own significance. Makes me feel like we’re all selfish, even when we’re acting selfless, even when we’re trying to be as good as we can be. Makes me feel like its an excuse to do nothin’ all the time and feel like you’re being rewarded for making a difference.
I would say, “Every day most people are alive they change nothing whatsoever, despite visions and proclamations of deep sorrow for all the nothing that they have done.”
A normal, human regret for all the nothing they have done and wanting to make amends for all that nothing goes something like this,
“I’ve been eating and masturbating too much lately to get rid of my stress, I musn’t do that anymore. My job sucks and I’m bad at it, but in a couple of weeks – you’ll see – I’ll get promoted and I’ll be living the good life. My boss will finally recognize that he’s not utilizing me properly and that I’m smarter than him, and eventually I’ll be promoted even above him, where I’ll tell him to fuck off and wipe his chin when I send an ejaculatory get the fuck out of my office you’re fired greeting card. You’re an asshole and everyone hates you, but it’s all right, because you love yourself.”
Delusions of grandeur. We convince ourselves of them every waking hour.
The cap separated us from the others and put his hand over my shoulder in this sleezy, “I’m going to tell you how to act from now on ’cause I’m a tough guy” sort of way. He even started by pointing his finger at my chest and poking at it a couple times.
“Let me ask you a question, Gal. Do you know how much I’m being paid for this job, and this job alone?”
“Don’t care, cap.”
“Selfish. Don’t you care for anyone besides yourself?”
“Depends on how much they like me.”
He took his arm off my shoulder, and extended it to smash into my face. Before I hit the ground I saw the blood from the nose rise above me as I was falling, and I noticed it plopped down quite nicely right underneath my eye. He kneeled down and held me up by my shirt in regular bad guy fashion,
“How have you lived this long, Gal? I don’t get it. I could have just lost a fucking job. I could have just lost the job of my fucking career – the thing that’s going to propel me and my dingy crew to new heights, only to have you bad mouth our fucking boss right in front of me? Leaving me completely helpless? Leaving me completely confused and scared for my life and my well being and my wealth. You could have ruined it all, you selfish little fuck.”
If I wanted to complete this cliche, I would spit my bleeding lip blood all over his face, but I opted out.
“That’s a lot of me’s and my’s for a selfless person.”
“My crew, Gal. You could have just fucked up millions of dollars worth of transactions. You could have had us pinned up in the middle of space.”
“Telling me that the leader of the biggest corporation in known space doesn’t know how to handle receiving flak from some drop-out terraforming junkie isn’t exactly pumping faith into me, cap. He’s an idiot. You know it. I know it. The crew knows it. I’m even starting to believe Treetun himself knows it, which, I guess, wouldn’t make him so stupid after all… but…”
Another thwap, this time in my throat. Choking on the ground with my adams apple swollen and fucked. Choking on the ground, trying to get some precious oxygen, choking on the ground with one hand around my throat, as if that would help out somehow, the other flailing wildly into the open air, opening and tightening, the veins in it convulsing and purple. I turn on my stomach and dry heave. I can see the captain shaking his hand and gaining his composure.
“Clean up your act. You’re on my ship. When you’re not listening to me, you’re listening to Treetun.”
“What’s that, cap?”
He kicked me in the temple and I fell to the floor.
There was a note stapled to my forehead when I woke up in rush hour in HDJK-NAQW923’s biggest city, which was unnamed, as are most cities. “Metropolis” seems to be a good enough word for every disgustingly dense part of the universe.
The note read:
“Go to 44 Fitzleon Way. Pick up the Kushka family and bring them aboard the ship. We have implanted a camera – in your brain, Gal – so don’t try any silly stuff. Also, you must refer to them as “useless, sniveling slave dogs” the entire time or you’re fired and I kill you. See you soon. Love, your captain.”