The punch didn’t do much to even knock the wind out of her.
–It’s that damn sea wall or cliff or whatever. We’ve got to get over that somehow.
Rick put his hands on his hips and considered.
He turned and looked East; he looked West.
in his own croaking,
–Jeez Rick, how in the world you ever gonna get over that thing, anyhow? It must be a hundred feet high.
Ethel stared blankly off into space,
not really looking directly at anything.
Lucy suddenly sprang to life,
pointed her skinny, quivering finger,
–And it goes on for miles, all the way as far as the eye can see in both directions…and ain’t nobody got the strength to walk nor climb…
She began to breathe hard,
her nose curling up and her chest heaving up and down like the ocean slowly churning behind them,
and she continued with,
–And you know what…it’s that sonofabitch what got us into this mess to begin with. Him and his damn boat, his sex toy…yeah.
–Shut up, bitch.
–You think I don’t know how many girls you screwed on that damn boat? You think I don’t know you fuck anyone that touches you? Think I can’t smell the perfume and I don’t see the lipstick on the collar? A wife knows these things, God damn it. You and you’re fucking boat. Get us all killed
–We’re already dead.
–Shut up bitch!
–And this is Hell…
–One more word out of you and I’ll give you my fist again.
–Oh come on tough guy, beat a woman wyncha? Always strutting around like your some big shot. Such a fucking little coward.
Everything was a choke of confused,
barking voices for a moment before Fred said,
–If somebody gotta climb it, let it be me, Rick. You know I use to climb.
Rick looked around,
put his fists on his hips,
curled his lips back over tobacco-stained teeth.
He looks a little like a vulture at this moment,
weighing up the various carcasses arrayed around him,
considering which one to feast on first,
which would taste best.
Fred was hoisted up bodily by rope.
The rest of them had scaled,
by hook or by crook,
up the side,
fistfuls of rock careening down,
bits of it striking their faces.
Ethel was the last one up,
Face streaked by dirt,
dripping blood and sweat where she had been struck in the face by falling rock,
but miraculously she had held on and come up.
Lucy had climbed like a wiry monkey,
seemingly defiant of Rick,
whom she knew would be secretly pleased if she fell back down to her death.
the four of them stood at the top of the sea cliff,
gasping for air.
When they regained the strength and composure to survey what lie ahead of them,
they could hardly be reassured; a vast desert stretched on before,
as far as the eye could see.
There was no drinkable water,
no oasis anywhere in sight.
There was what looked like a rough building in the distance.
It seemed, oddly, pyramidal.
–Are we in Egypt? Rick wondered to himself.
let out a cry,
and then grew eerily silent.
She smiled, held out her arms to her sides in a Christ-like pose,
and dove back off the edge of the cliff before anyone could stop her.
Fred seemed confused.
Had he just watched his wife of twenty years kill herself?
Ethel was a spot on the ground below,
Too far down to be clearly discerned,
But she made no thump as she hit the dirt
There were no tears as they ambled around aimlessly,
finally deciding to make their way down to the desert floor.
Overhead, the sun punished them
with bloody, fiery rays,
seemingly attempting to burn them where they stood.
The sand crept into their shoes,
up their nostrils,
down their throat,
–A little while longer, and we’re dead,
He stripped off his sodden shirt.
Then ahead, he spied something.
He wasn’t sure he he wasn’t hallucinating.
Perhaps it was simply a mirage.
A twisting figure in white; a desert angel, robed and ghost-like.
–Walking toward us.
The others were collapsing around him.
Rick continued forward a few steps,
put his arms out,
pitched onto his knees.
The white figure of a woman advanced.
Her eyes were solid gold,
a glowing fire,
reflecting the sun,
the woman was a Phoenix,
and the rest faded outward into darkness…
He sat at the edge of the bar, nursing his beer.
She sauntered up to him,
slinking in her black dress,
smelling of mothballs and cheap booze.
A radio somewhere.
Tinny music moving on the wind.
–These old floorboards creak some.
She put out her hand.
He captured it like a falling bird in his own,
put it on his leg.
She made a fist.
–You sure got pretty hair. What’s your name?
–You telling me the truth?
–No you ain’t. I know’d better. But I guess Norma Jean is as good a name as any.
The fat barkeep tiptoed up,
as if he were inspecting a particularly vicious
or mysterious duo of mating animals in their natural habitat.
He wiped off the counter with a filthy rag,
said, –Last call.
There was nobody in the whole damn place to call to.
He smiled out of the corner of his eyes,
like he was enjoying a private joke.
The little baldy fidgeted on his stool,
dumped the last of his beer down his throat.
A pesky gnat drifted by like a single moat of dust on the still air.
a train chugged by lonely in the throes of the night.
It was Autumn closing down,
moving into winter.
A wind blew cold eddies of coming frost through the bones.
–Say, you want we should go maybe?
her tired, seamed face taking on a look of bored resignation.
She ran her hand through the back of her dirty brown tresses,
mussing up the curls so that they stood up in back.
The portly little gent looked at his beer in consideration.
A fella got so he could hear the tick of his own heart counting down the days,
as the lines in his face grew longer and more pronounced.
A fly died at the edge of the bar in a small puddle of leaky hops.
It crawled toward its eternity on sluggish, spindly legs.
He felt the same,
knew the cold of that sticky mess.
Her lips parted.
Smoke drifted out of her lungs.
The turntable in the corner began to skip around,
the record warbling until the dire honky tonk became a bald tire chug.
he said quietly. –You know a place, you take me there.
–What kind of car you drive, mister?
she asked as if it were the most natural question in the world.
She turned around a little,
and he wondered why she did this.
The barkeep looked at them askance out of the corner of a bleary, jaundiced eye.
He had seen it all before.
She clack-clacked across the wooden floor into a pool of shadow, stopping only to look at him sideways at the entrance.
She suddenly slid her jacket on in a single movement that seemed to defy physics.
put out her hand,
and pointed one red fingernail at him unsteadily.
She hooked her index finger back and forth,
wiggling it in a come-on motion.
The little man hefted his glass,
slid off his stool.
He wasn’t swaying at all.
Outside the night was pregnant with the expectant chirp of the cicadas,
the nearby din of the occasional truck,
and the aforementioned train lumbering like an iron beast in the darkness,
headed to a termination point as yet undetermined.
The old Ford sat idle in front of the dilapidated roadhouse,
a lonely black insect rusting in front of a forgotten hive.
The road stretched starkly between blackened fields,
lying from east to west between stretches of dirty asphalt and dusty trail. Wooden pickets tottered like dying sentinels,
wrapped in rusted barbed wire,
enclosing brown husks rearing up like living fingers to the overhead expanse of sky.
That sky swept on forever,
seeing all things,
collecting sins and misfortunes,
utterly indifferent to the livings and dyings going on beneath it.
She slid in the passenger side,
and he got in,
settling into the shadow,
feeling the leather seat give beneath his plump little ass.
He hit the ignition, gunned it, felt his car sputter to macabre sentience beneath him.
Was she asleep?
He nudged her with his fingers,
felt her stir, heard her mumble.
She could sleep away the minutes of emptiness it would take to get there. No conversation meant he had time to think and prepare.
His headlights cut a sickly path in front of him,
illuminating bug spatter against the windshield as he maneuvered through the dipping hills,
past stretches of wood and sagging,
broken barns with doorways that beckoned darkly,
like the rotten, toothless maws of mysterious ancient women.
The night was silent and time was a thudding hammer in his chest.
He could see it blink like a winking eye in the darkness.
Pull in to the concrete oasis.
The sign actually read: L nch,
the u having burnt out and not being worth much to replace.
At any rate, every motorist would get the idea.
He pulled in,
stopped the car,
looked over at his passenger.
She had passed out and was leaning over on the window.
A thin trickle of saliva was hanging out of one corner of her mouth.
Her hair was a curly, windblown mess.
He decided to let her sleep for the moment,
and got out,
feeling slightly short of breath.
He hadn’t smoked for nine months,
but his lungs still troubled him.
He stood for a moment on the cold asphalt,
looked up at the sky,
thought he could hear distant rumbling of thunder,
and decided it was probably semi trucks coming up over the nearby overpass.
He felt an odd moment of dislocation,
as if he were simply having a dream and was himself watching himself as a fictional character.
Times like these, he felt himself lifted out of his body,
felt the fibers of his being become less substantial,
more akin to a kind of smoky vapor,
and felt vertigo rock him as he fought the urge to fly out of his physical form…
(or maybe it was simply a terror wondering what constituted the separation of his physical form from his conscious self?)
He didn’t know.
He fought to remember who he was,
to bring together the separate entities that seemed to pickle together
inside his skull.
Inside his own identity again,
he walked on sturdier legs toward the front,
pulling back the glass doors,
but finding himself confronted with a flashbulb image of himself reflected in the smudged surface of the door.
He took in, instantly,
the short, pudgy form,
the balding pate,
the thick glasses,
the unremarkable visage of a man who would never be noticed in a crowd.
But the eyes!
The place was small and dark and he wondered if,
it hadn’t been deserted by a disgruntled employee or forlorn owner.
He could faintly hear the static fuzz of a radio,
smell the smell of old tobacco and musty sheets,
and he thought,
someone was neglecting to do their duty.
The thought didn’t bother him.
He put his pudgy palm on the bell.
He thought he could smell rancid ketchup.
A shadow fell across the lobby.
From some unidentified space in the back,
a tall, gaunt figure emerged,
said nothing in the way of greetings or salutations,
and merely brought a thick registration book up from below the counter, opening it up, seemingly at random, and placing a pen upon it.
The little man smiled,
tried for friendliness, sounded stiff and awkward, said –It’s just me.
–Er, for the room.
He handed over some rumpled bills,
and took the key from the clerk,
noting how cold his hands were.
walked back outside,
opened his door,
got behind the wheel,
and drove out of the front lot to the little dead end road in back,
which intersected several lots,
each with an individual prefab cabin.
Unremarkable, even seedy.
Pink flamingoes on the lawns,
everything badly in need of a coat of paint.
He parked in the gravel drive in front of cabin 216.
He huffed, puffed, put his hands on the wheel,
and reached over to nudge her again.
It took her a few minutes to stir.
She looked like the sleep had sobered her some,
but she was still drunk enough he reckoned.
He helped her out and onto her feet.
She swayed a little,
but eventually she started clack-clacking unsteadily up the walk and to the door.
He put the key in,
his hands shaking a little.
She murmered a few unintelligible words.
He pushed the small of her back and she staggered in.
The place smelled of mildew and dirty sheets,
and the trapped funk of bad air.
Thrift store pictures of flower pots and old ships hung crookedly on the smudged,
A few moths flapped lazily around the ceiling fan light.
There was a TV in front of the bed.
It had a coin slot.
Unremarkable in every way.
She walked around the bed,
nearly colliding with the end table as she put out a hand to steady herself against the wall.
He sat his plump little bulk down,
huffed a bit,
and considered her.
She slurred some words at him.
He thought he caught some of it,
but he wasn’t sure.
He twirled his keys around a busily nervous finger.
He could feel his pulse begin to race.
She looked at him with bored,
flat fish eyes,
giving him the appraisal one might give a particularly unappetizing side of meat,
(one that, perhaps, had been left to sit out until it was no longer edible).
–Twenty five. And I don’t do no kinky stuff. Nothing rough.
There was an uncomfortable moment of silence.
He sat there in confusion.
he could hear the roar of locomotives, eating up the tracks like great iron monsters, blowing noise and exhaust in their wake.
The world was connected by electric power,
by mangled iron and rotten sin,
but in here it was all dark.
He could feel his pulse quicken,
his breath begin to rise and fall raggedly.
She staggered against the wall,
put out a hand to steady herself,
then rolled over onto the bed.
Her legs fell apart,
and he could see up her skirt.
She wasn’t wearing underwear, and he wasn’t surprised.
Her legs were streaked with dirt.
She was a cheap, dirty whore.
–C’mon baby, c’mere.
Her lips parted sensually; her lipstick was smeared.
She put out her hands and beckoned.
He looked at the sharp little tips of her nails.
He grabbed her throat suddenly,
and she smiled up at him,
assuming it to be a game.
He continued to smile.
Keep smiling, keep smiling…
She is smiling an idiot grin,
but he can tell it is hurting her.
Even through the liquor she can feel the pain.
He squeezes tighter.
It is like putting his hands around the throat of a little puppet.
He is a man a thousand feet tall.
From up here,
he could pop the little twig of her neck as if it were simply the spindly branch of a dead tree.
Her hands fly to his enclosed grasp,
but he hangs on tight.
She begins to struggle,
tries to let loose a strangled scream.
Flails as he reaches with one hand beneath her,
for the pillow.
On the face now,
hand still clutching the throat.
He falls on top of her,
holding her down with his weight as she struggles.
Her eyes become twin moons of exquisite,
pitiful fear and terror.
The boy is walking the sidewalk several blocks away from his own neighborhood.
The year is 1986.
Someone drives by playing Ozzy Osbourne.
The day is hot.
The sun is beating down on his little sweaty head.
Across the street is a laundromat.
The sidewalk is broken and cracked and covered in old chalked outlines of hopscotch games
played by children who may fade,
like silent ghosts into the fold of years.
Ahead is an intersection,
a gas station,
a rotting apartment building,
Working class neighborhoods.
The school bus garage is close.
It is summertime.
The boy is lost in his own thoughts.
The world around him is dirty,
the neighborhood is run-to-riot and the yards are littered with trashy toys.
Howling pooches stalk around weed-choked backyards at the end of chain leashes.
The boy walks to get away from his grandparent’s house,
where he and his mother are currently living.
The mother is at work.
The grandmother does not work.
The boy is maybe eleven.
He spends most of his time watching MTV,
or walking around alone.
His fantasies are centered on science fictional worlds and scenarios,
stuff culled from movies,
A normal kid, except for his friendlessness,
his loner selfhood.
(He hears a laugh. Something sinister. Where did it come from? He isn’t sure. He suddenly looks down at his feet, at first not quite comprehending what he was seeing. Was it just an old advertisement? But he could tell it was something different.)
He reached down and picked up the filthy piece of paper.
(He looks at the picture. She is bent down on all fours. Her hair is up in a bun. The picture is black and white. She is nude, stark white body almost bleached out by the photograph.)
–She is 12.
It is rough, dirty newsprint.
He suddenly realizes there is something wrong with the picture.
There is something wrong with the world.
Things aren’t making sense to him.
(He flips the picture over. On the opposite side is an orgiastic collage, too much for his eyes to take in, and the quality of the images is not good. There is another picture to the side, larger and clearer.
She is pulling up her shirt. Long, light-colored hair. Empty eyes, but a smile–)
–She is 16.
He dropped the thing suddenly.
It fluttered to the ground.
He walked away with his heart pounding,
on legs that trembled.
He could feel a strange mixture of fear,
He was shaking like a leaf.
He tried to tell his mother about the picture he had found. But it didn’t come out right,
and she never listened to him much, anyway.
She seemed as if she might be off in a science fiction world, too.
He would never tell his grandmother,
who must have wondered why he was so glum and sullen when he entered the house, and what exactly was wrong,
but never asked him a thing.
At any rate, she cooked some cheeseburgers,
and he ate slowly, reflectively,
munching French fries and feeling a mixture of sickness and elation.
(Later, he would see his two young cousins fresh out of the bath, piebald cunts and long, stringy wet hair. His grandmother would try and rustle them into the bedroom for a powdering. He would remember the image as he walked the lonely, shaded neighborhoods, up and down little dipping hills, and past old playgrounds choked with empty soda cans, old bottles, and rusted equipment.)
The pictures turned up at his sneaker toes from time to time.
Who was dropping them around?
–She is 14.
–She is 16.
–She is 12.
Young girls in their underwear,
holding out bananas…
Her eyes work him up and down.
The corners of her mouth twist upward.
Her jaw is a solid wedge, her face skinny and pale.
Eyes are large, hair is a cornstalk yellow bob,
with rough ends or edges spilling down across her cheeks.
She is thin and young and desirable,
(but only if your particular fetish or kink runs to boyish females).
He picks a book up off the circular rack.
old ladies bustle in and out of the framework of his consciousness.
He flips through the book.
What is it about? \
He has no idea.
How did he come to be here?
All he remembers is a car trip through a countryside of bland, indistinct features.
She stooped low over the table.
On the table was a large baby doll.
Inside the rubber chest cavity were phony organs.
The swimming pool was large and echoing with wet plops.
A row of young kids in bathing suits stood behind her,
slouching miserably in their grief.
Null stood beside the instructor,
dripping chlorine from every pore,
but feeling mellow for all that.
–I can’t stand the smell, she said. –I don’t know how others do it.
Her hands were wrapped in heavy rubber gloves.
Null shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another.
–We have examples from real life, he said. –Jeffrey Dahmer,
told his neighbors the unpleasant smell wafting out from his apartment was simply rotten beef from one of his freezers malfunctioning.
Henry Lee Lucas drove cross-country with the remains of Frieda Powell wrapped in pillow cases in his car.
The smell must have been unbelievable.
when he was stopped,
he claimed to the policeman it was just garbage.
The cop said it smelled like hell, and hurried him on to get the hell away from him…
–Serial killers have an ability to withstand strong, unpleasant odors.
–I read that somewhere. Oh yes, I read it in Colin Wilson.
She put her hands in the plastic chest cavity,
pulled out what seemed like a continuous string of chicken gizzards, tripe,
and old slops of grey liver.
–It still doesn’t make it any easier.
What about you?
The instructor looked at him with eager eyes.
She had short,
brown hair with frazzled, split ends, and large plastic-framed glasses.
He noticed she was wearing a bathing suit under her white lab coat.
He said, –Oh, I don’t really do this work. It’s just not me.
She looked puzzled.
She jiggled sloppy wetness between her hands,
weighing the respective coils of intestine like Lady Justice.
–Then why are you here?
He didn’t have an answer.
But he didn’t let it bother him.
Null rolls over in bed.
It is stifling hot dark,
and the room is a disaster.
Next to him, his x-wife is lolling naked and unashamed.
there are a number of fat women.
Obscure family members.
How are they all related?
They look like lumbering dinosaurs,
mutants after the Apocalypse.
What the hell are they doing here?
Everything is darkness and confusion.
–I have something I need to tell you.
–I don’t think you’d even believe me if I broached the subject.
Cracker crumbs stick to his back.
There is a window to his left.
Null remembers a time when he was lost in a similar building,
finding himself rolling around in bed with a fat man.
This might as well have been in Paris,
because the place was haunted by the ghost of Genet.
Now though, it was the Family House.
He knew it well.
–I don’t want to hear any of your bullshit, okay? I had more than enough of that in the past.
He notices her breasts; one is larger than the other.
She turns over,
and her huge white ass looms under the blanket like an emerging dolphin.
He imagines himself holding an alien face between his fingers.
What are you?
–I suppose I could introduce you by way of a dream I had. Or was it?
–Was it what?
–Just a dream. I’ve heard about similar things happening.
She turns back around,
Her face is not beautiful.
In fact, it is pretty blotchy and red,
Her hair is a tussled, dirty mess.
Too much crusty eyeliner.
–Like what? Spill it.
–I was in this clinic. I’m not sure where or when it was. I walk into this room. The walls are a hideous white. Bone white. Antiseptic white.
–Too much exposition, darlin’.
–Okay. Anyway, I know there is a girl in there I love. And she is a girl I’ve never seen before in real life, so I know this had to be a dream.
–Wait…you’re not fucking sure?”
–Anyway, I go up to this girl has been laid out in a hospital bed. And she is maybe twenty years old, and she has an IV in her arm, and she is bandaged, but her hair falls around her pillow in a way that is real pretty. And she seems to be pretty perky, although I can’t remember just what the hell she is on about. Anyway, the whole thing takes on the weird aspects of a ceremony as the doctor comes in…
–But the doctor, he just stands there. And right behind him, coming in with a little box, is…is one of them.
–One of what?
–One of the…aliens.
–Yeah. And he is short, with a big head. And there is this smell clings to him. And he has this little box. He shoves the box up under the nose of the girl lying in the bed. The doctor and the nurse stand aside silently, as if this is some sort of honor. He says, –I’m sorry, but your baby has died,
and I make that is what the smell is.
Then he comes over to me.
I don’t feel any fear.
He shoves the box under my nose.
But it isn’t a dead human baby.
I’m not exactly sure what the hell kind of baby it is
…looks like a little homunculi…”
–Homonculi…a miniature, artificial man.
–Then I wake up. Anyway, I read in a book by Dr. David Jacobs that people who have had contact with UFO entities use to be shown a box, but that they could never remember what it was they saw in the box. Only later, under hypnosis, could they remember what it was they saw. And what they saw was a hybrid, an alien/human fetus…
–I have to go take a piss. Hold on.
She gets out of bed and Null follows her
flabby, cellulite-riddled ass
out the door
with his eyes peering in the gathering gloom.
Has she left him out of anger?
He slowly gets up.
He doesn’t want to be in here alone.
Before he can move,
the door bursts open.
His grandmother comes in the room,
points at a pile of rusted junk
(that looks like a toy horse for a child held on dirty, rusty springs)
and exclaims silently.
At the door, several of the monstrously fat women
(who have gathered for the apparent ceremony of the reuniting of Null with his ex-wife)
wait at the door as if to claim the grandmother again after she has performed her senseless,
(Illogical because, as far as Null knew, his grandmother was long dead.)
–This can’t actually be happening, can it?
He lay back down,
shut his eyes,
and then decided that he needed to go to the door for an explanation. Perhaps this was a relative that simply resembled his dead grandmother. Perhaps it was an insane person.
Anyway you sliced it,
he wanted some answers.
He got up,
circumnavigating the sea of junk
(mostly broken toys and piles of plastic refuse and tin cans),
and made his way to the bedroom door in the dark.
The door was cracked.
He could see some commotion going on outside.
He went up to the door,
feeling as if he were doing something forbidden.
He put his fingers to the warped,
saw a surprised head turn,
a head attached to a huge back wrapped in a cheap flannel shirt.
One of the fat women.
His x-wife suddenly appeared in the doorway,
pushing past the fat women.
She was completely naked.
She put out her hand.
He grasped it,
suddenly remembering every time she had ever hurt him.
Her flabby white body disgusted him.
He sank his fingers into the soft skin of her hand,
causing her to cry out.
She recoiled from him,
heading back out the door,
causing a commotion.
Apparently, no one was sleeping tonight.
Were they all waiting for them to fuck, or something?
Null was hustled into a waiting car.
An obscure uncle was driving.
He was a great fat man.
Beside him, a daughter or something was riding shotgun.
She was dressed in a schoolgirl outfit,
was a nasty-looking piece of work:
The drive was downtown,
and Null was feeling pretty damn good.
He couldn’t stop the laughing from the backseat.
His clothes were all ill-fitting,
as if he dressed himself from a pile of thrift store castoffs while he was drunk.
The car speeds down into several streets of dilapidated houses,
separated by dusty, gravel-strewn old lots
and broken ruins of buildings
collecting time and dirt and the droppings of insects and dogs.
One building stands out.
–I think we’ll stop here for a minute.
Null isn’t sure if this is a joke.
He gets out of the car, slams the door, looks at the place.
Old, tattered plastic garbage bags blow in the breeze,
framing the entrance,
which could be a converted garage with beer advertisements drooping off of it at odd angles.
He realizes it’s been awhile and the uncle is still gone.
He gets out of the car slowly.
Where in the world is he?
He’s never been in this part of town before.
The sun shines overhead brightly,
baking the dusty,
windblown bricks of downtown buildings
that have been tottering on the edge of space and time
for the better part of the century.
Null is flat-out curious.
He steps into the darkened entryway.
Place is huge,
but he sees a glimmer of light past what appears to be mounds of boxes and old room partitions,
and somewhere buried deep in the guts of the place
is what appears to be a makeshift bar.
Null bellies up to the bar in wonder.
The lighting is not good,
only the glare from a few televisions placed strategically
here and there.
The man behind the bar ignores him,
but occasionally glances up with a moue of disgust
before turning his head back down to the counter.
Tables are full of card players.
People mill about.
Most of them are wearing jean vests with wild patches of skulls and gothic lettering on the back.
Some of them are wearing old fedora hats; all of them have long chain wallets and chino pants.
A few people start to notice him.
His whiteness sticks out here,
in this place,
like a sore thumb.
He begins to get nervous.
He gets up from the bar stool,
starts to make his way back out into the darkened entryway.
Behind him, he can hear:
the rattle of chains,
profanity whispered at his back.
He gets outside,
his heart hammering in his chest.
Suddenly, behind him, he hears what he takes to be growls.
He feels his blood freeze in his veins.
He knows what that sound portends.
He can hear the clatter of nails on the concrete.
The dogs are at his back.
They bound forward,
hair bristling on their back,
and he screams as he feels them sink their jaws deep into his legs.
He struggles with livewires of writhing canine fury,
rolling in the dirt as his blood begins to fly about in ribbons and spurts.
–I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead!
Is the only thought he can muster
in the confines of his terrorized brain.
His heart is pounding like a drum.
He feels the world go black.
He expects to wake up in Hell.
He has always expected,
to wake up in Hell.
Before the world goes black,
the approach of a running man.
A comic figure in an old hat and faded clothing,
Stick in hand.
He bends over, raises the stick.
It’s the last thing that Null can remember.
(When he wakes up he sees a guy looks like Norton from The Honeymooners if Norton had been ten years younger and a body builder.)
A real mensch.
A working-class guy from the Fifties, maybe.
But beneath the blue collar muscle,
the face of a put-upon little geek.
–Almost had you there, buddy, he says.
He picks Null up by the arm,
which he has dirty bandaged.
But everything seems okay.
–Yeah. Thanks. You saved my life.
Null isn’t quite sure what to say.
The pain has subsided,
the dogs are nowhere to be seen.
–Yeah, that was a pretty nasty duo. But I took care of ‘em. Ran ‘em off with their tails between their legs. I’m the new sheriff around these parts, so to speak.
Null has no idea what he’s talking about.
The day drones on around him.
Somewhere, a truck rumblyfarts in the distance.
A large horsefly alights on his bandaged arm.
Null realizes they are surrounded by a small gaggle of reporters snapping photos.
–Mr. Jim! Mr. Jim! Denny Albrecht from The Morning Tattler. Tell me: Why is it you decided to start down here in Brompton in your effort to clean up the city?
Jim says nothing,
just points his thumb over his shoulder,
while more reporters shoot rapid-fire questions at him.
Null doesn’t want to go back inside,
but soon Mr. Jim is leading the way,
for some reason, he feels obligated to follow.
The barroom is deserted.
Null notices for the first time that the bottles of booze are stacked on a row of old washing machines.
The light from the television sets is very blue.
Mr. Jim begins to climb the walls like a spider.
Null feels his mouth drop open.
Reporters snap photos,
Mr. Jim stops momentarily,
perched on a doorframe,
and poses like he is in a Mr. Universe competition.
He throws the television sets down to the floor,
where they explode in showers of sparks.
Null realizes he is in the presence of a living, breathing superhero,
A –strange visitor from another planet.
He goes outside.
Across the yard,
an old man dressed like a farmer is nestling the biggest damn cats Null has ever seen in his life.
They look like miniature ponies.
–Sure grow ‘em big out here, huh son?
Null had already seen more than he could process.
One of the cats jumped from the old man’s grasp,
leapt over the fence,
began to slither up to Null,
stalking him as if he was an overgrown mouse.
Null recoiled in terror,
dove to the ground,
put his hands over his face.
And this was only one day.
Back at the house,
a boy relative (perhaps) watched eagerly out the window.
In the distance,
funny lights danced in the night sky.
–It’s a jet, I said,
–It’s no jet. It’s a spaceship.
his grin widening out until it looked positively shark-like.
There was something out there in the distance.
I felt the first few tingles of fear grip my spine.
–look, you can see the landing lights.
But he remained unconvinced,
and I wasn’t sure who I was trying harder to convince, him or me.
a few girls popped into the room.
More obscure relatives.
They were milling about in the night.
These were cousins and friends,
pretty brown hair grown long;
wild girls in the prime of their life.
They wanted to go walking in search of
–We know this guy. He’s a little weird. Really good looking. Long hair guy. He does all this strange shit, man. Guy is strange. I think you and him might get a long.
This cousin grabbed my hand in hers.
I wondered what it would be like to fuck a cousin.
Jerry Lee Louis did it.
I think Elvis did it, too.
(I suppose I could be wrong about that)
She had chipmunk cheeks.
Blue doggie eyes.
Love love love.
Her friends were skinny,
and they seemed to float around me like a gaggle of supernatural witches, so I can’t ever really fix my vision or concentration on one of them.
It doesn’t matter much,
because we start losing them before dawn.
You know the way you might start off with a group of people,
or just walking around the way you did when you were kids,
all gathered together in the silent temple of the night,
holy and present in a new way under the moon,
accompanied by the high cloying reek of flowers
and the weirdness of night bugs
no one knows,
and the dust that gets in the creases of your toes…
So finally it is only my cousin and another girl,
and I say,
–So who is this guy we’re going to meet?
And I look over and realize we are in some strange neighborhood I’ve never been in before,
because the houses have to be 200 years old,
but look like somebody covered them in pink
and black submarine paint,
and some of them have little streams running in front of the porch, (which I realize must make it hard to go in and out without getting your feet wet).
–Oh, we know where he lives. It’s this place down the street. Real low rent. Dogs, I think.
They know I hate dogs.
The sun is coming up in orange and golden splotches,
making my eyes hurt.
I am tired and dusty and thirsty,
but the girls seem to have all the energy in the world.
Never did find out what the other one was named.
Every time she asked,
they would just bust out giggling,
and give me something obviously phony.
Clouds darken the street.
It could almost be night again,
or maybe that is just the mood I’ve been thrown into.
The place looks like a series of storage sheds.
White cube-like structures separated by a strip of blacktop.
We go up to a door marked 213.
The girls look at me, giggle.
They are standing beside me.
–Well he’s your friend.
–Well, he’s not exactly a friend, you know. Just a guy we know.
–Yeah, and we, like, don’t really know him that well, dig? Just sort of know him from around school.
The skinny one with long black hair holds her skinny arms out in front of her,
lacing her long-nailed fingers together stiffly,
as if she is bursting with joy.
I notice she is Asian.
Okay. I step forward.
I put my fist out to knock.
I notice little black spots crawling across the door.
A heavy infestation of roaches.
Amazingly the door opens without me even touching it.
I know the girl who comes to the door.
I know I know this girl.
Short, curly brown hair.
looks like a college valedictorian.
I realize her clothes are twenty years out of date.
Suddenly I remember her as the victim of a particularly notorious serial killer.
I’ve seen her face in an old tabloid,
or a television special.
If it’s not the same girl,
I’ll eat a hot bowel of shit.
But how could she still be alive?
My brain tries to wrap itself around the obscure puzzle.
Poor thing to live in such a hovel.
I stand aside while the girls take control.
–Is Jack still living here?
–Yeah. Long hair, really skinny, long black coat. Always really quiet. Wanders.
The dead girl’s face suddenly lights up with
–stupid pink affect
–Oh, him. Yeah, I guess so. Strange guy. So sweet, but he leaves and just…walks, you know. Told me he’s traveled all around. I believe him, too, even though he doesn’t seem to have any pictures or souvenirs or anything. Yeah, he lives two doors down I think. Not sure if he’s home, though.
as if in answer to our calling,
a tall, dark figure steps out of the night.
He puts his hands behind his back.
He looks like the cat that has just devoured the canary.
Or maybe that isn’t quite right.
He seems still, ominous; pregnant with meaning and purpose.
–Did someone call?
He seems pleased.
The murder victim smiles,
shuts the door,
goes back to darkness and roaches and God knows what else.
The girls giggle,
I am unsure where I fit in to this dynamic,
but Jack seems to be perfectly at ease with himself and everything else. He smiles a crooked half-grin.
He has a scrubby red beard,
short, and features that hint at a history of good genetics.
His gloves have the fingers cut out of them.
–Well, what do you girls want to do this morning?
I’m completely forgotten about.
I don’t really care.
It’s getting warmer out as the day progresses,
and I feel weariness grip my skull.
But the walking of dusty pavement
and the pain in my feet conspire to keep me alert.
The girls flank Jack on either side…
I trail behind.
–Yeah, I suppose I should feel guilty for it. I don’t, though. I needed the money.
Jack is pacing back and forth.
I notice for the first time how really young he is.
–But somewhere, inside yourself, you DO feel guilty about it. It violates the norms you were raised with. It seems like another scar on your spiritual flesh, am I right? You smolder inside just thinking about it.
She is sitting on the grass,
her legs curled up beneath her.
The Chinese girl.
The other girl disappeared a few hours ago.
I was too tired to keep track of where she was going,
but I assume home.
I think I’ve been up for days; I feel like it.
–What if I told you you can be free of all this pain? What if I told you there was a way to let the demons go? You can, you know. Just have to trust me. Is that such a hard thing to do?
It must be ninety degrees,
but he’s not sweating at all,
despite his heavy coat.
I think he’s got ice water flowing through his veins.
The girl rocks back and forth a little,
hugs her knees,
looks down at the grass.
She seems doubtful and disturbed.
–I don’t know. I mean, you’ve done it before?
–Many times. Whatever you might think, there’s a demon inside of you. A sort of tumor in your body. That tumor grows when we trespass our personal boundaries, allowing the demon to take root. Therein he dwells and begins to reign in our lives. One little operation, a few deft movements of these hands,
and he held up his hands and looked at them as if they were objects of wonder,
–and I can cast that demon to the wind. You’ll never know it. You’ll be in a deep trance. I’ll see to it.
I was only barely cognizant of what I was hearing,
but I felt my awareness grow increasingly as the details of what he wanted to do began to slip out of him.
I didn’t know how to respond,
so I just kept my mouth shut.
But I could feel myself get more and more nervous.
A pesky fly started to buzz around my nose.
They picked up and walked.
I notice for the first time that Jack has produced a pack.
Looks like a student backpack, army green.
Where in the hell had he been hiding that all morning?
It isn’t long before we walk through an abandoned parking lot,
into the bowels of what appears to be a rundown amusement park.
In the distance,
the skeletal remains of Ferris wheel and roller coaster rear upward
into the sun
like the fly-specked remains of prehistoric monsters.
Trash and litter blow casually down the dusty,
and old booths are boarded up on either side,
their walls still reverberating the distant chuckle
piercing laughter of empty children.
Ghosts haunt this place,
ghosts of families trudging through empty spaces of hollow,
laughing a little too forcibly,
smiling a little too readily
at strained music and phony sentiment.
A large white building loomed under the sun,
with two cement ramps leading up and in,
and a staircase leasing out.
The doorways were open.
Jack and the girl started up.
I wondered just what the hell this place had been.
the white walls were streaked with dried blood.
I make this must have been a butcher store or something.
It was some place they cut meat.
Suddenly, Jack reaches into his pack and pulls out a long white coat.
–I’ll need to concentrate for a short while, then we can begin,
He seemed to close his eyes for a few moments as I watched in amazement,
scrunching his face up at intervals
as if he were going through some sort of internal struggle.
There were a number of large freezers lying dead along the wall.
The girl sauntered up to one slowly,
looking as if she, too, were now in the fever grip of some dream.
She lay down,
mouthing a prayer that might have been a plea for expiation
of past wrongdoings.
–And I want you to forgive me, for every man I’ve seduced, for all the times I whored myself, for every dollar I ever took for whoring myself, for all the sins of my past life…
She spoke these words softly,
her eyes shining like glass.
Jack strode up to her purposefully,
waving the knife above her naked midriff.
I suddenly stepped forward,
grabbed his arm,
(which was held above his head in a grand gesture).
–You can’t do this!
–This is insane.
–What if you kill her?
–Have you thought about that?
It seemed as if someone else was speaking through him.
It was another, deeper voice.
His eyes were glazed over,
the eyes of an obvious madman.
I knew him to be under the control, then, of possessing spirits.
–Yes, he said, as if to confirm for me this reality,
–and there is something riding you. You need me, Null, just as assuredly as she needs me. Look,
and he thrusts something in front of my face.
It was a pornographic magazine, printed like a cheap tabloid.
Inside were a center spread of photos of the girl getting gang fucked by several scrawny,
ugly older men.
–So you can see, quite plainly, WHY she needs me. She’s been driven by this demon of whoredom for years. It’s pushed her to drugs, prostitution…It’s inside of her, eating up her mind. It grows like a cancer, but like a cancer, it can be eliminated. It can be cut out.
He raised his knife,
waved it in the air.
He suddenly came forward,
putting his hands on my arms,
and his face became set with an intent
and deeply somber look.
–I know about the one lurking inside of you. The parasitic twin that you absorbed in your flesh, and how his unborn spirit manipulates and fouls your body. I know about the fingernails and teeth they removed from your stomach lining. I know how he drives you with mad thoughts of blood and decay. And I can cure all of these things, and you can be well.
I can see the depths of madness in his eyes,
see the hollow pit of his soul,
like a hole.
His mind disappeared down this space ages ago,
And whatever has him,
I back away from him,
shaking my head.
He wants me to lie down on one of the flat freezer tops.
I’m to be next.
To have my unborn twin monster cut from me in bloody wonder.
(And perhaps die as a result?)
–If something happens,
–if the cops find me and question me about this,
–I’ll tell them it was all you.
I had no part in this. I can’t have a part in this.
I know full well what is going to happen next.
I walk quickly out of the gaping doorway,
down the concrete ramp,
into the sunlight.
As my eyes adjust to the brightness,
I walk down into the midway,
consider that all of life is one vast carnival of tragedy and sickness, where we all ride the ride,
play the game,
the odds are always rigged in favor of the house.
And then the screaming starts.
He’s cutting her.
He’s really cutting her.
Woman writhe in pain.
Go, and sin no more.
I walk away into the distance.
Time and the city beckon.
This girl was fucking nuts,
that’s the first thing.
Or she was possessed or something.
Found her wandering around outside.
The city darkening down into night.
Wet tires speed across the pavement.
Null moving around in the darkness,
Ahead he sees her,
and it all makes sense.
Maybe this was twenty years ago,
Living someone else’s stupid life.
Ghosts of other people he was.
Living in a tenement with MOTHER.
Cold water in the taps,
and an old radiator that hissed and clanked,
and cracks along the plaster
and chipped paint flaking off the walls onto the ratty carpet
in dead little clumps like the peeling skin of some diseased animal they lived inside.
Ice spattering against the windows.
She followed him, like a sleek little cat; he felt, somehow, he knew her.
Mother sitting at the edge of an old bed,
smoking one cigarette after another.
Eyes staring off into blank places.
World shifted and caught between spaces,
sitting in a crack in space and time,
snuffling out in the darkness.
(Null once entered a deserted house, guided as if by an invisible hand. He could feel his flesh creep as he tiptoed through the darkness, feeling his way along the dusty, cobweb covered walls.
It had been a nice home once. He happened upon the dining room. All was painted in moonlight and shadow, but he could see, dimly, the corpulent form of a man seated. Bow tie, bald head, red jacket long since faded. Hands held out in little bald fists at either side of the table cloth. Seated opposite, a petrified form of woman, dressed in wedding gown white, with a tiara, reared back and frozen in time, her face a comic mask of grief, her hands forever poised to stifle a yawn or belch. Trailing from each of these figures, ornate spider webs curling along the plates and platters, a skeletal chicken long since picked clean by rats. Rats could be heard squeaking in the corner, consumed with their little rat brainwaves.
Perfectly preserved in death. Suspended animation. Was it the air in here? Null watched in horror as a massive spider skittered its yellow and black body from the cracking jawbone of the moon, disgorged like living vomit to ply its deadly trade across the myriad webs.
It was a dinner forever late, a moment iced over and waiting, perched on the edge of seconds. Null sat there in the interminable gloom. Somewhere, the hands of a dead clock began to move, the tick like a heartbeat in the dark.)
She moved into the apartment
like a robot,
a possessed mask of eager, programmed anticipation.
The mother threw her cigarette to the carpet angrily,
ground it under one toe,
and walked into the first room.
(There were two rooms joined, diagonally, by an open doorway.)
–What’s she doing here?
Null looked her over.
He could see she was following the dim,
schizophrenic teletype being dialed directly into her cerebral cortex
…apparently from points beyond.
–She looks like she’s drugged.
–She hasn’t got a place to stay.
–Are you in the habit of picking up strays? We can’t afford this.
Null put down his coat.
he could hear the train rumble by like a great iron beast in the night.
The elevated track was perched precariously close to the front windows. Bedroom,
…it was all one slop of mess.
Null felt his excitement begin to mount.
The girl said something unintelligible.
None of her speech made any sense.
Null couldn’t even quite get the gist of it; it was like a murky rabbit that kept disappearing down a series of increasingly bizarre holes that popped up,
like dimensional portals,
in free-floating space.
–Did you miss the? Point of no return. Taken to the cleaners. Sullied, dirty face…
She walked around the apartment,
guided by unheard voices,
her arms folded across her stomach,
rubbing her biceps.
dirty blonde hair,
Why did he already think of her as naked?
–I’m sped to the place. Waiting on the sun. Lie down! We don’t eat that sort of poison here! Tables have turned…
Mother looked to be on the verge of mild hysteria.
–Get her out of here! Get her out of here, or so help me God, I’ll throw her out on her hard little ass! Stinking trollop…
Null turned around,
staring first at Mother with a mouth that wanted to work miracles,
then at the girl,
with a mouth that wanted to work
–Forbidden to chase bunny…disappeared down the throat…fuming in the coal bin when I move…cock of the walk, did I spill?….
Mother lit another cigarette,
made a gesture as if to signify impatient aggravation.
–You see, everything she says she asks a question. Oh, the nerve…
–She’s just confused, is all. Maybe she can snap out of it.
–Maybe she’s hypnotized. Maybe she’s a goddamn automaton, for all we know.
–Oh mother, stop it!
She acted cold.
Null realized she didn’t seem to be wearing much.
He went to get a blanket,
to throw over her.
Mother stormed back into the other room,
threw herself on the bed,
began to sob.
a lonely whistle sounded in the night.
–Oh, you’ll ruin us! I always knew it would happen! I hope you’re happy.
Mother put a cloth over the doorway.
Null supposed she could sleep in the front room.
He made a pallet on the floor for the girl,
who stretched her self out and spread her legs just enough so he could turn on one side,
propped on his shaking arm,
and see her womanhood.
–I’m sorry. I’ll close the window. It gets so stuffy in here.
He went to the window.
Outside, pinpoints of light disappeared into what seemed like a bottomless black void.
He could hear the ever-present rumble of the Elevated,
the bleat of horns and the lonely whistle of the factory in the distance.
–Beauty doesn’t do anything to impress me. I see through its phony layers.
–I’m a cold hole. A black space floating?
–An utter void. You eat up the world with your fractured thoughts.
Her face became a blank slate.
He could feel the rumbling in his chest,
hear her heartbeat thump loudly against her ribcage.
Her eyes glazed over as he slid his vision down,
between her legs.
Dripping moist he imagined the womb-cave,
hot and fetid and full of promise.
–I’m the void.
–You’re an angel.
He crawled across the floor like a sinuous cat,
slinking over her,
kneeling at the altar of her,
conscious that he was frozen in a moment of time that was perfect in its sad futility.
Here was pleasure, and release, at long last.
He devoured her.
Later, he was riding with the cop.
He turned to look at the officer.
He wondered what it was he was going to say to him to extricate himself from his predicament.
–You need to stop anywhere?
None of it was making sense.
Null looked out the passenger side window
as houses gave way to shops and a shopping center.
There was a heavy,
unspoken thing in the stale air.
–I’m going to stop for that lamp.
Null had no idea what he was talking about.
His mouth seemed to form the words and his lips flapped on their own. The cop spun the wheel in heavy, horned hands,
looked over at him, said,
–Sure. Why not? Everyone needs a shine a little light on things, from time to time.
It didn’t take Null very long to find his way back to the department he was looking for.
The aisles were dusty, dishevelled; it looked as if the store had not been very properly cared for,
and it was near-dead inside.
They were waiting for him.
He took the lamp, which
was as tall as he was,
skinny and black and made of a rough metal.
The shade was crooked, broke.
It was back into the car with the cop,
and the lampshade hanging out the window.
–Did the Nazis really make lampshades out of human skin?
Ahead of him, traffic was grinding to a halt.
–What’s the matter? Don’t you believe it?
–It’s a little hard to accept.
–A lot of things are hard to accept. But I don’t want to talk about that.
Null had a feeling he knew what the officer wanted to talk about.
–So what happened to her?
–What happened to who?
–C’mon, don’t play dumb with me.
the first time I ever saw someone shape shift.
So I am sitting in this office at school,
and I am not feeling all that comfortable.
I bet you’ve already got an idea of how this routine goes down:
I was a real lazy student,
shoved most of my homework assignments into the slot of my wooden desk,
and hadn’t done a damn thing all year except sit around and daydream. In my pocket
I carried the one nudie picture I had managed to clip out of an old book.
I was steeped in sin that year.
I was an inmate at a private school that taught the values of the Good Lord,
and so my hot little brain was constantly being pumped full of that old-time religion.
I made the mistake of questioning the factual accuracy of some Bible stories,
and that’s what got me sent to the Principal’s office.
As I listened to him drone on about how
–You need to start to pay attention to your elders when they are talking to you,
–Your being rebellious, is all. I know. I have kids your age. Best thing for you is to get out and get interested in sports,
–I suddenly realized that I was feeling a creeping sense of panic as I sat there.
Down the hall, I could hear a door slam shut.
I fancied, for a few moments, that I could hear someone crying.
But kids always cry, right?
I simply stared at him,
and he glared back with an expression that said,
–If you weren’t so young and small, I’d jump out of this chair,
–throw your ass up against the wall,
–and pound the living shit out of you.
But I knew he wouldn’t do that.
My eyes glazed over.
(which had been entirely one-sided anyway)
came to a standstill.
It was then that a weird thing happened.
His face seemed to mist over,
or become covered in a kind of milky,
I thought for a moment
I was seeing things.
It still looked the same.
It was then that I realized that the shape of his face had,
in some slow,
subtle way, altered,
until he seemed to have grown a kind of white snout,
while his eyes became wide and dark.
I didn’t know what was happening.
Maybe they were all correct in what their essential estimation of me was. That I was crazy.
So here I sat in a small office,
in a nice leather chair,
with a giant toad-man.
He was wearing a suit and tie,
but he was a living, breathing freak of nature.
I couldn’t react.
I thought my eyes were going.
His toad-head swiveled.
–Is there something wrong?
–I could hear the crying,
and now it sounded like lots of kids,
lots of voices shrieking and screaming.
I was balanced between two reactions:
panic and apathy.
Surely I was back in bed dreaming.
Suddenly, on impulse
(because I was quite sure I couldn’t just sit there with a giant white toad-thing in a suit),
I bolted up from the chair and out the half-open door.
Behind me, I could hear the Principal croak,
–Young man! Come back here! Don’t you interfere with things that don’t concern you!
Or something to that effect.
I ran down the hall,
the only sound echoing off the bare after school walls the slap of my sneakers against the linoleum.
Ahead of me,
coming out of a doorway to the right,
was the janitor, McGillicutty.
He had his mop bucket and he looked at me running and said,
–Hey chief. Slow down! Just mopped these floors. You don’t want to fall and break anything you might need.
I looked into his seamed old face,
and noticed red juice dripping from the sides of his mouth.
That could have been ketchup,
or it could have been the blood of a freshly-butchered virgin.
I didn’t want to stick around and find out.
I ran up the wheelchair ramp toward the cafeteria,
which was vacant of tables and chairs and which still smelled like old grease and nourishing stuff,
and I realized how hungry I was as I stopped to catch my breath.
It was then that I saw.
It was flopping through a doorway.
Whatever thoughts I had about food quickly disappeared in a wave of disgust.
I turned around and puked all over the white tiles.
It looked like a giant raw liver come to life.
It moved like a slug, except quick.
It was dirty and dripping and grey,
and it slithered its way between the door at the far end of the cafeteria.
I stood there like an idiot,
puke dripping off of my chin,
my chest heaving,
trying to think what to do.
So I turned,
ran back down the ramp,
cut across the main hallway,
and tried like hell to make for the stairway at the opposite end.
I got to the bottom of the staircase.
One flight up and there was the glass door.
I put one foot on the stairs.
something came down and obscured the sunshine.
It looked like a giant leaf stuck to the glass.
It was oozing something that dripped through the cracks of the door.
The stuff ran like glowing slime down the steps,
and puddled at the bottom.
It stank to high heaven,
and I got some on the tip of my shoe.
The rubber began to smoke.
I was trapped.
I felt my brain go hazy with panic.
I wanted to be home right now,
snuggled up in a blanket in front of the television,
I wanted a chicken pot pie,
a Coca Cola,
and about a dozen thin mint cookies.
What I didn’t want was to be devoured by giant flopping beef livers.
I ran back into the darkness of the hall,
rounded a corner,
and was just in time to see one of the things ooze under a door. Suddenly,
I heard a flopping sound behind me.
I turned and my heart raced up into my throat.
I began to run blindly,
flailing my arms out in front of me,
and turned into the first open door I came to.
as luck would have it,
the detention room.
About half a dozen kids were in there screaming,
while the fat teacher who was supposed to be watching the place just sat there.
I crept toward her slowly,
and she croaked,
–Bad boys running in the hallway, throwing spit wads, talking back with sassy voices. You’ll stay after school, you’ll write your name a hundred times, you’ll sit up straight and eat your veggies!
Thin trickles of green began to seep out of the fat folds of her neck, and she looked like she was going to burst
like a slime-filled water balloon.
I backed away,
watching the kids crawl across the wall in terror,
from behind a corner of the desk,
I could see one of the grey, flopping things.
I turned to bolt for the door.
It suddenly slammed shut.
Jimmy Baker was standing there.
It looked like most of his clothes had been eaten off of him.
His eyes were wild moons of hate,
and his mouth leered.
I saw a slimy, slopping, flopping thing ooze out from behind his back and settle under his armpit.
Jimmy said, –Can’t let you go that way, doc. The barrier was not meant to be crossed.
It sounded like something from a bad movie.
It also sounded like Jimmy was speaking in another voice that was not his own.
It was a gurgling voice,
wet and squishy
and full of mucus.
The grey liver-thing under his armpit began to spread,
like a cancer,
across his naked chest.
from behind me,
I heard a huge wet sound,
like the most tremendous,
nasty fart in the world,
and I felt a gooey splash at my back.
The kids cowering against the wall let out one tremendous scream in unison,
and broke running in all directions.
Jimmy Baker continued to be devoured by the flopping grey thing,
until he was stumbling around,
looking as if he had been rolled in sticky innards.
The thing shot streamers of its own flesh out like feelers.
I took the opportunity to push past the grey,
shambling mass of Jimmy Baker,
ran out the door,
until I saw a figure, a teacher, click-clacking down the hall.
I knew her as Mrs. Rhinehart.
–Hello, she said.
–You must come with me. I know how we can get you out of here.
Yesterday they invaded the house,
a group of tough blacks.
I think they were a gang.
It wasn’t going to fly in Our Town.
Our Town was white as snow.
I looked over at my mother,
but she just seemed to accept everything.
–Damn, it sure is hot outside,
as he lolled back in Our Chair,
his leg swinging to and fro.
he seemed to be sucking on some sort of fruity ice cream.
–I’m no racist, Mother, but these people…
One of the girls came up to me.
She was short,
had tremendous tits.
I had never seen tits like that before.
–Once you go black, you never go back baby.
I thought that this might be true.
She wrapped a coy arm around my shoulders,
looked into my eyes with eyes smoky and sleepy and full of wanton. Who were these people,
and what the hell were they doing here?
One of them signaled at the man in the chair.
Suddenly, I knew that something was going down. \
As if in answer to my internal question,
a handsome small-town cop suddenly appeared at the door.
The room was full of ghetto blacks, okay?
It was a real strange scene for a little town had never seen many blacks before.
Or any blacks,
We existed outside the modern time stream,
in a world that was both Nineties and Fifties.
So when a black face appeared in town,
as if by magic,
the local fuzz sat up and took notice.
So here he was,
come in the open door
(who left the door open, anyway?),
and he is looking as if he is here on Serious Business.
–I’m here on serious business, guys.
The blacks seem to come to attention,
hopping off the furniture
and lining up in front of the cop.
Okay, so this is the way it went down.
We were in love.
Now, I know that sounds hokey
but it was true; I was head-over-heels in love with this dame,
and as far as I was concerned she could do no wrong.
She was a real warrior woman,
stood tall and erect, (and why in the world she had some sort of fascination for a guy like me I’ll never know),
but there it was…
we were living in some sort of
(No, I don’t mean the one in Orlando.)
I mean, we were living in some sort of place where magic and the supernatural were taken for granted.
It seemed to be a spiritualist camp
or religious commune,
but it was staffed mainly by older people,
while the younger folks wandered around
in Dungeons and Dragons costumes
(I know this all sounds strange but you wanted to hear the story, right?)
So here I am,
dressed like some sort of Teutonic knight,
and I am running across this field, and Warrior Woman is with me, and the sun is beaming
and I yell…
and I end up writing back to my aunt
that I have finally found Middle Earth,
The Warrior Woman,
and I know it is love at first sight,
and nature seems to thank us,
as we crawl down deep into a bosom of soft romance
amid the tall grasses and sweeping majestic wheat of the old fields.
But this is only the outskirts of the camp,
and inside is where the weird fun happens.
I can see that
Everyone around me is like a character from some fantastic novel; they are all dressed like elves, leprechauns, wandering adventurers,
shit like that.
The elders of the camp laugh at us from behind their withered old hands, but they leave us alone.
We are the Next Generation,
the ones that will be taking over the reigns,
so to speak,
when the old ones go off into the next dimension
(or whatever they do).
So I am a soldier again,
and I’m sleeping in these Eastern European barracks with a bunch of medieval soldiers,
and someone explains to me that this place is –Maintained by the counsel for any group of soldiers that just happens to be passing through.
maybe orcs and hobgoblins have slept here.
she (Warrior Woman)
was there, and I can see just by the look on her face that she has no intention of two-timing me with any of these soldiers,
so I feel a sharp tack of relief.
Maybe that is an odd way to put it.
At any rate,
we go on like this for a little while,
me getting to know her fantasy hippie friends better,
and all the while becoming a leaner, meaner guy,
the kind of guy that really cuts an impressive figure wherever he goes. So after awhile we are all friends,
and we have all shared the magic,
and now I am dressed like some Dungeons and Dragons fantasy hippie, and all of a sudden Warrior Woman
(who is unquestionably mine)
gets the bright idea that we need to undergo some sort of special test or ritual
to prove the loyalty of our friends.
So we are gathered in a kind of central park,
surrounded by the buildings that actually make up the camp,
and she says,
–You know, what we need to do is build a castle out of wood. Then,
when we have everyone gathered together, we will set the building on fire. Then we’ll see who comes to rescue us. Whadya think?
I said I thought it sounded groovy,
I wasn’t really hep to the idea of sitting in a burning building waiting for a bunch of pasty wannabe adventurers to come and save my ass.
In reality I thought that sounded like a
Really Bad Idea.
Construction on the fire palace began almost immediately,
and I had to wonder where they found curved wood to use for the towers.
I had no intention of going through with it,
but one night there was some sort of initiation
which I can barely remember save that it was the entire camp assembled and Warrior Woman
and I joined hands and there were people holding candles
and we raised the cone of power and then everything blanks out
…and I knew I was a part of it then,
body and spirit,
and that I damn sure would go through with it.
hadn’t I met Warrior Woman while patrolling the old fields around the camp,
dressed like one of the Kaiser’s own,
screaming to the high heavens to bring me an enemy so I could spill its blood?
So after the initiation I started to realize that the hallways and stairways of the Fire Palace were all hobbit-sized,
and that it was going to be a problem for some of these guys to get up and down them,
and even worse,
it was going to be a problem for us to get out of there when the whole place went up in smoke.
For some reason,
I couldn’t let that trouble me unduly.
So we met a guy that I use to know who worked for a tobacco company, and he shakes my hand, and says –T– and I are well-acquainted. You’re looking good, T–.