Nazi Monkey Seance Ebook

Now Available! Nazi, Monkey, Seance: A Broken Book by Tom Baker

Tom Baker is living two different lives: one, his normal, boring existence, is as mundane and ordinary as could be expected. The other, the world beyond his dreaming eyelids, is a surrealistic pandemonium of creepy houses, haunted prisons, macabre funerals, massacres, monsters and malevolent entities that defy logic. Come tour the surrealistic landscape that exists in the nebulous world right behind Tom’s sleeping eyelids. It is a world both baffling and nightmarish, strange and forlorn, lost and alone. Does our dreaming mind transport us, through space and time, to other dimensions? Read this incredible book, and decide for yourself!

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77,000 words.
Fiction. Adult.
6.99

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NAZI MONKEY SEANCE BY TOM BAKER

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Special Sample Chapter:
–Open up in there! Hey.
No peace for me,
he thought madly,
his heart hammering in his chest.
No peace at all.
He crept to the door slowly,
looked out the peephole.
Someone obviously had their hand covering it.
Or maybe it was defective, or something?
He couldn’t remember the last time he used it.
His heart still hammering in his chest,
he reached out with quivering fingers and took the long,
straight handle of the door.
There were two figures standing in the hallway,
facing his door.
A female policeman of a very masculine countenance,
and a large black girl who was completely naked.
She had tremendous,
pendulous breasts,
huge hips,
long legs,
a massive ass.
She was at least three inches taller than the policewoman,
who was taller than Null.
At the opening of the door,
the black girl seemed to panic,
thrusting her hands forward across her breasts and womanhood,
as if trying to hide herself.
There was a moment of dead silence,
a sort of click of the clock
where nothing occurred;
a moment frozen in time.
Suddenly,
as if to fill the gap,
the policewoman pulled the immense black girl forward by the arm, intoned
–Does this belong to you.
He continued to stare.
There was more silence.
–We found her wandering around in the parking lot.
More silence.
Cold stares.
A wax museum moment of mounting tension,
followed by his slow resolve.
He quietly shut the door.
Slowly.
Stood facing it a moment.
He realized the unlikely circumstances of what had just happened ever occurring.
He heard something rustle and moan in the bedroom.
He felt the next few moments dissolve into a strange,
somnambulistic void.
His vision was split between the cracked doorway of the bedroom,
and the floor of the, essentially, bare living room.
There was someone lying in his bed.
He could see, quite plainly, who it was.
Monstrous, was all he could think. Utterly monstrous.
Perhaps that was why he was haunted.
A man possessed.
He could hear all sound disappear into a black,
roaring drone.
He felt as if he were standing in a tunnel.
He felt as if he were standing outside of himself,
looking at himself,
as if he were riding in a little cart at the back of his head.
Someone else was driving the train, he knew.
He went into the living room,
ignoring the strange creature lying in his bed,
and had a vision of that creature sitting up,
shrouded,
covered in filmy white cloth, sucking it down her
(it was undoubtedly a her)
throat.
Reanimated like a vampire from some silent film.
He fancied he could hear screams,
somewhere.
Very faint,
but audible, nonetheless.
He lay down on the floor, closed his eyes.
He got up, turned, looked down.
He was still down there lying on the floor.
A dream of death?
Death is like a dream?
Out of the body.
He could see someone at the corner of his vision, leading him.
–Someone I’m not supposed to look at directly,
he said.
–Yes,
said a voice to his side,
–you’re not supposed to look at me directly.
The figure lead him into the bedroom.
He fought to keep his vision centered on what was pointed
to be a long, quivering, gloved finger
at
the end of a black-shirted arm.
The mirror on the wall was filmy with smoke,
as if it were reflecting a tunnel of clouds.
–Go ahead,
said the voice at his side,
which was high and artificial
and electronic and child-like
and like the tinkling of bells and some sort of rare wine
(poured into a crystal goblet)
–What do you see?
(Long ago the author experienced a similar vision, wherein he lay down one morning after striking a Bible with his fist, and was treated to a sudden vision of a burning world that might have been earth in the ancient mists of pre-history, or might have been some alien world. Later, he thought it must have been Earth.)
***
They were sitting in the pizza restaurant. The entire family,
dining out in quaint,
conservative American style.
It could have been any American city of a middling size.
That’s not important.
Junior took a drink of cola,
wiped his mouth on his shirt.
The grandmother gummed her pizza.
The grandfather leaned back,
already having eaten a great deal.
A cousin glumly munched a breadstick.
Maybe she was concerned that she had put on so much weight.
There was an entire nuclear family,
all seated at one table,
in an otherwise empty pizza restaurant.
The family ate.
The cars whisked by in the settling gloom.
The restaurant was bare except for one man and his child.
They had a pizza in front of them,
on the table.
The little boy might have been eight years old.
His eyes were unhappy little moons of want,
ringed about with dark circles
A cloud overtook the sky
Everything settled down
to a blanket of shadows
The boy picked up a piece of pizza,
half-heartedly,
and chewed
The other family continued their enjoyment of the day
A peculiar chill crept into the air,
a sort of sulfur whiff
Penetrated the still dank fetor of pizza cheese and old tomato sauce
The smell was not delicious.
One of the boys at the opposite table turned his head,
casually
glancing over at the sullen man and child.
His food fell out of his mouth and into his lap.

Decapitation ritual
It was a comic-grotesque moment,
a frozen moment of slow-motion in which everyone seated at the table opposite of the event
fought to adjust themselves to the reality of what they had just seen.
Eyes bulged,
mouths fell open spilling food,
and there was a delayed scream and shouts.
the bored young man behind the counter looked suddenly nervous,
put his hands in front of him,
exposing dirty,
cracked knuckles.
Should he intervene?
It seemed as if he thought it would almost be rude.
The man at the table opposite produced a buck knife.
He leapt from his seat,
slid in next to his, presumable son, and looked down at him.
The boy looked up with vacant,
dark eyes that said,
–We’ve been through this ritual before, haven’t we?
The man ran his filthy fingers through the boy’s scalp.
Clumps of hair came off in his fingers.
The boy.
The boy smiled.
The boy smiled wide.
The boysmile dripped raspberry-colored trickles of blood.
The father cut the boy’s head off.
Pulled it
with a sucking plop
from the scrawny neck,
held it up like a trophy,
cast it through the plate glass window of the booth,
jumped out and ran down the street,
screaming…

The little body jerked convulsively.

A mystery to modern medical science;
It sprayed blood like a geyser.
The family at the opposite table pushed themselves away from their pizza.
They looked at each other with curious expressions.
Shouldn’t they be sick about this?
They seemed uncertain.
Later,
the cops would come in and sniff around,

The cold little body outlined in chalk where it fell in

In the pizza booth

Neck stump leaking out the busted window.

–Did you find that man? Did you find him? What if the sonofabitch does it to somebody else?

Grandpa wandered around in minimal,
shocked outrage,
pointing a quivering grey finger.
The rest of the family went outside,
noting the ominous calm of the day,
which was darkling grey now.
Alarms and sirens could not even be heard; something seemed to be swallowing up the sounds of a city that had stopped,
instantly.
The family members examined their clothing,
their arms; they seemed to be covered in a fine mist of blood?
How?
They were sure they hadn’t gotten any on them.
Was blood blowing in the wind like an old, tattered banner of yesteryear?
***
He brooded in silence
Out there he could hear them gathered
The bastard had forced his way in and now there were dozens of them
And what were they doing in there with that girl?
He didn’t want to know. It was like some macabre fantasy of a ritual performed
By secret witches at a coven
somewhere,
Hidden underground
from the prying eyes of law enforcement.
The smell was noxious, terrible;
none of those motherfuckers ever bathed, apparently.
Filthy vagrants,
drawing flies.
Who cared if his home was a rundown haven of roaches and mice?
It was still HIS home.
He got up slowly.
This had been his grandparents’ bedroom once.
He had restored it to the best of his ability.
The walk-in closet where grandpa slept still had his bed,
his personal possessions:
a few rusted tin cans,
coffee cup,
old,
musty clothing hanging on nails…
He walked down the short hall,
noting the creaking floorboards,
the increasing din as he approached the cheap door.
He put his palms flat against the old wood,
put his ear against the door
He leaned forward.
He could hear the steady thump of drums,
the rattle of ice in empty glasses,
the clinking of bottles.
He could hear weeping.
Suddenly, he pushed.
She was standing, streaked with tears, in the center of a ring of smelly perverts.
Most of them looked as if they might have just rolled in from the local homeless shelter:
long black coats,
filthy pants,
dirty fingers clutching old bottles of hooch.
Long, stringy hair tied up in bandannas,
stuffed under stocking caps.
Cracked lips wet by parchment-like tongues,
bloodshot, bleary eyes straining in the gloom.
Her face was bone white from pancake makeup.
Red lipstick curved down from the corners of her mouth,
and her eyes were raccoon streaks of runny mascara.
Her hair was a yellow,
straight mop of sweat and grease.
She was sitting hunched over,
as if ready to crawl between the legs of the beasts ogling her.
She looked over at him as he bounded thorough the door.
Her eyes told the story of her life.
All action seemed to dwindle down to a few shuffling movements, some disappointed mutterings,
and a fart or two.
She got up slowly,
her bra hanging halfway off of one arm,
and ran past him out the door.
He wasn’t sure,
for a moment,
if any of this had even been real.
***
Later,

he went into the kitchen,
retrieved a bone-handled blade from the rickety old drawer with the chipped paint.
His hand was shaking somewhat.
He was alone.
He picked up the blade.
The ticking of the clock was loud,
ominous in the stillness of the night.
He could almost believe he had traveled backward in time right now.
Every footfall seemed to fall in a pool of weltering red shadow.
Was he walking in a pathway of blood?
The house seemed to take on added dimensions,
becoming hideous and strong in the twists of shadow,
expanding outward until it took on a gigantic architecture that was occult in its proportions.
He saw that the bedroom door was standing ajar.
The skinny little man lolled in bed.
He was apparently having some sort of macabre dream.
Something was unduly troubling him in his nightly soujourns.
He tossed and turned.
He crept forward,
a loose board creaking beneath his toes.
He could hear the high squeal of it pierce the silence,
threatening to awaken the sleeper that lay before him
in a sweaty tumble of dirty sheets.
The skinny, hairy chest was thrust out from beneath the blankets,
arms folded back,
loosely,
above the head,
head a matted mess of drippy, sleepy hair and pulled taught unconsciousness face.
–That face. My God.
–It’s my face.
–The figure turns over in bed,
wipes his palm across his brow.
–But it is unmistakably the figure of myself.
He stretched out his arms akimbo,
striking the perfect pose.
Beads of sweat rolled down his cheeks
and into his sleeping eyes.
The eyelashes fluttered.
He thought
Perhaps
a fly might light upon one of them,
lay some eggs,
and be off again,
circumnavigating the dust motes in the stale,
lifeless air of the bedroom.
He crept in closer,
hefted the knife upward,
mentally prepared himself for the assault.
He would cut the throat,
like the maniac in Poe’s story.
–It must have been the eye of the terrible old man,
he reminded himself.
But he couldn’t see the eyes.
They were hidden under thin membranes of sleeping,
rumpled skin.
He could eat this character alive,
punish him for what he had enacted this evening.
In his mind’s eye,
he could still see the shock-trauma figure of the weeping girl,
sitting on her ass in the crowded bedroom,
her mascara-streaked face running with hot tears,
her lipstick smudged.
He could bury him under the floorboards; this house ate time and evidence like a hungry lion.
He would bury his tell-tale heart.
To keep it ticking.
Like the hammering thud of an old clock.
They would tip-toe around him unawares,
the strange ones who came and went,
the family members with their mocking,
sincere,
worried faces,
the social workers who dipped their delicate toes in the accursed block of ruined,
brittle houses that lined the decrepit street.
But no drop of blood,
not a spot of DNA,
and only the moldering stink
to remind anyone that he had ever lived at all.
Because this house ate death. And time.
***
–We keep them on their toes. See?
The Major pointed out the window at a straggling band of refugees,
men and women in filthy clothing gone to rags,
carrying sticks and makeshift weapons
as they marched in a crouched column,
as if they were guerilla soldiers on patrol.
This was the center of an old highway,
where rusted hulks of abandoned cars had been reclaimed by nature,
as nests for birds and other wild animals.
–I thought about stopping for some of them. Might be interesting to know the psychological impact of all of this. Believe me, though: it’s necessary. The population explosion, the ever-dwindling resources…the people in control know what they’re doing.
–So you fake some sort of major catastrophe? Apocalypse?
He smiled.
He had a big, square-jaw smile that was full of all-American confidence, and clean teeth.
–We’ve created a scenario whereby the nuclear annihilation of ALL life on this miserable ball of rock might be, potentially, averted. Pretty significant accomplishment, wouldn’t you agree? I mean, it isn’t as if most of these useless eaters will ever be missed. And we’re getting so much in return.
–You sound like you’ve made a deal with the Devil.
He considered for a moment,
drew a lopsided grin,
looked at Null out of the corner of his eye.
–Perhaps we have. Perhaps we have, indeed.
The voice of the Major seemed to take on a droning,
hypnotic quality.
In front of them,
the highway swept on into an infinity of amber cornfields dying in the oppressive sunlight.
Null suddenly felt as if the view in front of him were morphing into a giant skull.
–Take you for instance. You’re under the impression that you’re here, right now. Correct?
Null nodded slowly. He felt bile roiling around in the pit of his stomach. Something was desperately wrong.
–But I say unto you: all of reality is nothing more than an illusion foisted upon the unwary by a cryptic, inscrutable Overmind. But the truly elect KNOW and SEE, and seeing, can manipulate reality for their own purposes.
His words exploded like fireworks behind Null’s eyes.
He leaned back in the seat,
feeling the car accelerate upward as if they were about to leave the hot tarmac and go sailing,
like the most mysterious UFO,
into the wild blue yonder.
He clutched his knees.
His mind went to a disturbing dream of the other night.
He was living with the grandfather in the old house,
in the old neighborhood,
and it was a dark day.
The old man was forever puttering about in another room,
doing God knows what.
The old man apparently fancied himself a young man,
as he was dressed in the fashion of a man twenty years younger,
with a red bandanna around his forehead.
Null had heard all about the child abductions.
Apparently,
some wraith-like individual had swept through the neighborhood,
taking children at play one by one.
These were never seen again.
–Some people say he’s Iranian.
–Iranians are all crazy.
–That’s just Zionist propaganda.
–Like hell. Try living in fucking Tehran.
–When the hell were YOU ever in Tehran?
He didn’t answer,
but continued to stare with his nose pressed against the screen door.
It wasn’t long after,
on a day that was drizzling grey and wet with slop,
that he was standing in the exact spot where he always stood,
looking out at the grey strip of street as cars swept by in the cold.
Suddenly,
a large vehicle pulled up to the curb.
A man got out wearing a ski mask.
He was dressed in what looked like a purple jump suit of some sort.
He was carrying a large knife.
–It’s too obvious to be the child snatcher. But, that man is insane, at any rate.
He froze at the screen door,
too much lost in contemplation to make any sudden movements toward self-preservation.
He knew that,
by all rights,
he should really shut the heavy front door and go,
and call the police.
The masked man, it seemed, was standing in his yard.
For some reason though,

he couldn’t move.
The figure stood out at the edge of the sidewalk,
his head slightly bowed.
He seemed to be presenting himself like an actor performing a role.
–That’s not quite right,
though,
because he’s obviously no actor.
He was quite tall.
He was powerful-looking.
He looked like he was here on official business.
He suddenly moved forward,
as if someone had tripped an invisible control,
and started to examine their rusted,
Piece-of-shit car as it sat on cinder blocks in the driveway.
–What’s he looking for?
The masked man still had his knife in his hand.
His hands were large,
as powerful as the rest of him.
Null wondered if he had ever killed with those hands.
–Of course he has. What, do you think he has some hidden fairy-tale castle where he’s keeping all of the abducted children prisoner? You idiot; he butchers them and dumps their bodies in shallow graves in the woods.
Right now,
he wanted grandpa to come out of his hole and get a a gander of this.
It was, he noted, important stuff.
Not every day some major American criminal landed, big as life, in your front yard,
to examine your shitty car.
He looked down.
Perched at the bottom of the screen door was the largest black dog he had ever seen.
Bristling fur,
huge jaws; the thing looked like it ate babies for dinner.
He greatly hated and feared dogs,
maybe more than he feared the Child Snatcher,
who,
after all,
had so far not proven to be a menace to other adults.
He was now completely frozen with terror,
although the animal,
so far,
hadn’t done anything threatening.
–Granpa!
He started to yell,
his voice coming out trembling before rising to a higher,
harsher tone that bespoke his fear and frustration.
(He was almost, it seemed, shocked at the sound of his own voice.)
–Get your ass out here old man!
He knew that that was rude and mean,
but he couldn’t help himself.
He had to bring the old bag of bones running.
And, in a few moments, Granpa did emerge,
his face a blank, prosaic mask of curiosity,
the red bandanna wound tightly over a few locks of hair that had obviously been dyed black.

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Cast That Demon to the Wind

Special Sample Chapter
In truth, I was feeling good, too. Middle Earth (the camp, whatever) had been good for me, and I could feel the magic of the place rubbing off, making me over into a new being. Hell, I liked everything about it (especially Warrior Woman), liked the folksy peace of it, liked the power and tranquil majesty of the place and the fact that it seemed like anything, I mean, anything, was possible there.

So we all headed out on a highway somewhere,
and I wasn’t even sure what sort of vehicles we were driving,
and I was pretty upset that we seemed to be leaving Middle Earth. (Maybe we were just patrolling the outer territories, though.)

It was a long country road,
punctuated by telephone poles,
and it seemed to go off into the distance forever.
We were obviously riding on Mad Max motorcycles.

I remember thinking that Warrior Woman looked to be getting younger
and younger,
and I wondered just how old she was,
because I had never bothered to ask her her age.
I wondered if she was even old enough to vote yet,
but then
my attention was arrested by the messages being beamed over the telephone lines
as we sped down the highway.

It was just a vision,
but what a vision it was.
A giant, fat Venus, with arms like snakes,
writhing in ecstasy as she played with a rubber dong.
I know, it didn’t make any sense to my either,
but there it was.
I guess all things serve the will of the Goddess,
(especially on the outskirts of Middle Earth.)

So there was this television actor in one of our hotel rooms,
and he was the star of this particularly famous science fiction show that aired about fifteen years ago.
(And he was in a real pissed-off mood.)
I remember he was lying in bed,
and I had a box he carried along with him.
In the box were a number of discs of his television program,
and there was also an odd device that I took to be a prop.
Except, when I laid it on the bed, he informed me that it was,
in reality,
a phone….
I remember feeling really embarrassed,
and later he sat up in bed and began to strum the mandolin for my benefit.

So anyway this television character appears
and they start rapping about how they lost the hearing in one ear,
and the actor says it happened at some fictional battle that occurred
(only within the confines of the box)
and I am confused
but I follow them anyway.

Next, I was trimming lawn for miles…

–It’s amazing here. Can you believe such a place really exists?
She walked down the hall a little,
thrust her hands into the pockets of her jeans.
He liked her lean little figure.
Her hair was curly and dark,
her cheekbones high,
and her entire body was so slender it made you wonder if she ever ate.
–It is amazing. This is the way station between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Between fantasy and reality…
He knew he was being more poetic than necessary.
Was he simply trying to impress her?
He wasn’t sure about his own motivations.
The hallways were like a giant, echoing maze.
Their footfalls resounded like blunt hammers in the somberly lit murk of the place,
a darkness that was not quite dark; it was infused with the whiteness of the walls,
with the cream colored tiles of the floor,
with the bright mahogany furnishings thrust
into odd corners
as one wound their way through the labyrinth.
You would be hard-pressed to find a janitor or maintenance person in the vast, eerie edifice; everyone at the camp seemed to skitter around the edges of your vision,
just out of sight,
coming into focus only long enough to perform some helpful duty,
or direct you to another significant place.
Then,
like mysterious, frightened rodents,
they seemed to disappear around the corner,
dissolve into the fabric of things,
leave you wondering.
–So many dead. So many years represented here.
–And all of them prophets?
She turned and looked at him with a curious expression.
–Perhaps, she said, –depends on what you believe, I suppose.
He wasn’t any more sure of that than he was his motivations.
Outside, he knew the City of the Dead stretched on for acres and acres, making up the central place of worship of these bizarre,
modern necromancers.
Could they really commune with spirits of the afterlife?
The evidence presented seemed to suggest,
what?
Earlier, they had been to one of the interminable funerals.
So many grey old women poised,
like a flock of crows,
around a polished casket,
while the corpse of a young man,
not of the faith, presumably,
reclined within.
Didn’t the body look familiar, somehow?
He felt as if,
as he stared into the waxen,
frozen visage,
he knew the man that the body had been.
–Perhaps in another life, he murmured to himself.
The old women seemed to be praying,
right before they all murmured what amounted to a collective mui of disgust.
They filed out,
heavy and monotonous,
like grey, withered ghosts of the plains.
And that had just been the welcoming committee.
***
A large, empty foyer put one in mind of the lobby of a grand hotel. Every surface was highly polished and waxed.
Still, the ambience was smoky amber and brown. \
They climbed stairways,
walked around the area overlooking the mezzanine,
their eyes suddenly catching the raised catafalque at the bottom of a little stairs.
She grabbed his arm.
–C’mon. This is what we wanted.
They approached very slowly,
feeling the heavy gloom settle over them as they took in the grim visage of the corpse.
It was laid out in peaceful repose,
stiff as a little puppet,
eyes screwed tightly shut
–sewn shut, she reminded herself.
–I wonder how long he has been here?
–I don’t know.
She turned to him with a little contempt.
–Of course you don’t, silly. How could you. Are you psychic?
–So you’re going to make fun of me now?
–Oh God, you’re so damn sensitive.
He was.
–What was that she was telling us? About how his spirit controls this place? Haunts it?
–Guards it like a sentinel she said.
Outside, they were well aware that a trained attack dog patrolled the night.
The animal was,
supposedly,
so intelligent it knew enough to leave welcome guests alone.
However,
he had still been terrified of the beast when they had encountered it,
just after sundown.
It had bounded up to them,
bared its fangs,
sniffed,
and realized who they were.
It had left peacefully,
and he could feel his heart thunp like a drum in his chest.
–It looks like he was awfully young.
Indeed,
his face was the face of a little cherub,
with a mop of dark, evenly-parted hair.
He was wearing a little suit that looked a mockery of the sort worn by a grown man of fifty years ago.
His little hands rested stiffly at his sides.
–How do they do it? How do they preserve them so…excellently? He looks as if he just died a few hours ago.
–I know. Who knows how long this body has been here. But, according to their religion, he’s still…with us. In there, waiting for the Judgment, the resurrection.
–Like a caterpillar in a cocoon. Sure.
It’s like the Disneyland of Death, isn’t it?
–Apt phraseology.
She wanted to leave,
chilled suddenly.
He wanted to put his arm around her,
but knew that that would be interpreted all wrong.
In the midst of so much death-worship,
couldn’t there be touches of life?
Of warmth?
He wasn’t sure.
Perhaps all such notions should be shuffled off,
like a spirit shuffling off its mortal coil,
when one was confronting the Mystery of Mysteries in such a direct manner…

The place looked,
on the outside,
as if it were a Catholic church.

Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t.
Null walked up the steps in an uneasy,
restless fashion.
He wasn’t sure he wanted to be here,
but he knew he had business inside.
Inside was slick and polished,
looking like a building that had been heavily renovated.
The floors shined waxily,
sleek,
he could hear his footfalls squeak along as he made his way across the blue linoleum
(or whatever it was).
–Everything here is blue, he said to himself.
A voice said:
–It resonates blue. But turquoise is the base color of the universe.
He had noticed,
upon entering,
the strange,
canopy-like structure sent in the center of the hall.
It was like four white posts,
with bunting wound around each.
There was no top.
In the center were a number of strange icons.
Were those young girls?
He thought they might be Hindu gods,
little cherubim,
or the bone-white effigies of departed saints.
Who could tell under such strange circumstances?
Somewhere to his left,
he knew the foyer led off to another room with a stairwell,
going up, up.
To forbidden places,
to upper rooms that opened up into areas of mystery and madness.
–The Sanctum Sanctorum, the Holy of Holies…
The voice droned on miserably.
***
–Exactly how much were you thinking about borrowing?
The loan officer was a tubby young fellow in shorts and a polo shirt. He raised his arm, scratched a miserable bite with one absent minded hand, and kept looking at him with a most pleasant,
courteous expression,
an expression open and friendly, and seemingly…

…around them,
the sick and infirm crawled in their own shit,
across the gymnasium floor.
He wondered how they were fed.
Was it dog food bowls?
He didn’t know.
He wasn’t going to let the high cloying funk
or the insane gibbering disturb him.
Suddenly,
an alarm seemed to go off,
a high buzzing that rang out all across the gym.
Null jumped in his chair.
The loan officer went right on talking.
An old woman with wispy white hair crawled by on her hands and knees.
–BUMS DEFECATE IN PUBLIC,
said Null to himself,
remembering an old snatch
of poem
he had picked up
somewhere.
He got up out of curiosity,
started to make his way across the gym toward the little entryway.
The hallway was crammed full of crouching psychotics,
slobbering hydrocephalic,
pinheads of every stripe.
There was a heavy screened doorway,
and outside the sun shined on the weed choked yard as a tall
stately man
made his way up the walk.
Dressed like a Victorian undertaker in top hat,
cloak,
and dark,
presumably musty suit,
he might have crawled fresh
from a two hundred year old crypt.
Of course,

his hands were white gloved.
On his face,
an immense walrus moustache joined both of his sideburns
in a comic, grotesque grin of facial hair.
–Piccadilly Weepers, Null said to himself.
The gentleman knocked,
suddenly catching Null by the eyes.
–And this is death,
Null knew.
The knocking was an announcement,
an omen,
as it were.
The man continued to knock,
his eyes frozen upon Null as he delivered his singular message
from beyond.
The man’s face froze into a rictus of cold hatred,
and he slowed his knock until his hand was hovering above the door.
He let his arm fall slowly to his side,
still locked in a staring contest with Null,
who couldn’t take his eyes away from the twin burning orbs.
Suddenly,
the man backed away from the door,
turned,
cast quick glances several times back over his shoulders,
and departed
as if in a huff.
Null was puzzled.
Could Death be so easily offended by the presence of an interloper,
one who recognized him for what he was,
that he actually was embarrassed out of his earthly endeavors?
Null wasn’t sure.
At any rate,
the day was growing late.
***
Two young girls,
nude,
dimpled asses seemingly exemplifying perfection.
They could have been artists’ models.
They turn to each other,
confused.
Someone is in the bathtub,
playing in the filthy water.
But wasn’t it time for their baths?

They would have to hurry
if they wanted to not be late for their appointment with father.

Father was driving around town in his truck,
explaining what needed to be done
to keep the automobile in perfect working order.
His son sat back in the passenger side seat,
thought about a day long gone.

It’s some sort of clinic,
and if it wasn’t for the fact that I was the Son of Perdition,
I don’t think I would have even been there.
As it was,
my relationship to all these doctors and nurses and unknown personages was obscure,
even to me.
Mother lead me through the halls,
which were white and dull
and seemed to lead everywhere and nowhere.
–Here, she said,
pointing to a little room beyond a heavy wooden door.
Inside,
I make I’m supposed to get some sort of test.
Don’t know what for.
Maybe see if I’m cancerous
or some damn thing.
I sit down on a little examining table.
People come in,
discuss me,
point at me.
Fat women in nurses outfits.
Several of them mill about,
confused.
I haven’t seen a doctor yet.
I look around frantically for Mother,
but she seems to have disappeared.
Maybe she went to get him.
I sit there for what seems an interminable period,
dangling my legs off of the edge of the examining table.
I remember that we were supposed to go swimming sometime,
at least,
I was going to go swimming.
**
The pool was situated at the bottom of two flights of stone steps.
I was a little fellow,
maybe no older than twelve,
and they were marching a lot of us down those steps,
which were submerged in the water,
and lead down from the ledge of two houses,
one on either side.
Or maybe it was some sort of walkway twisted around the roofs,
I can’t remember now.
I followed the kid in front of me,
down the cement steps,
which were like thin strips of cement angled to dig into your feet as you descended.
I could feel the cold lick of the water against me.
Around me,
I knew that things were NOT RIGHT in the Biblical sense.
–Pretty soon it will be time for the announcement, someone said.
–Almost like being back in Tunis. Prayer calls blasted over the loudspeaker.
–We’re all just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
What were they talking about?
I wondered.
I felt my body buoyed by the water
as I frog legged out to the edger of the pool,
my feet still stinging from the cement steps.
Someone bumps into me in the pool; the female swim instructor.
We are at war,
apparently.
First time it enters into my consciousness.
The world has moved on.
Propaganda announcements over the loudspeakers,
and a whole city perched on the edge of anxiety,
anticipating the coming holocaust.
Apparently,
a new regime is in power.
The instructor swims quite close to me; I feel the hard hump of her wet,
sleek body move against mine.
I am still a child,
but the force of the contact gives me a hard on,
makes me nervous,
and I quickly swim over to the line that is making their way up one of the stone staircases
out of the pool.
Dripping wet we move up,
up,
until finally we are moving over rough stone steps
far above the green dip of yard
wherein the pool is situated
(in the middle of the city, which bustles around us, waiting for the Dictator to come over the loudspeakers),
and I realize they’ve lead me to a perch that extends around the edge of a house
…quite high.
A seat is set out on the edge of the ledge,
no railing.
Just the seat,
and an empty drop.
And I can’t move forward.
So I turn,
but the going back is precarious, too, because of the people coming up, dripping and wet,
from the pool below.

The clinic obviously doubles as some sort of school or institute,
because Null finds himself living there,
with two other boys.
One of them is Luke,
who ambles about,
a tall but outwardly expanding shuffle of a young man,
who mumbles and looks disheveled.
His English accent is reminiscent of Ringo Starr

The place looked like some sort of dormitory,
beds lining the walls on all sides,
but it was small enough to be a prison cell.
Null was there with Luke and another boy he didn’t know,
a tall blonde boy who obviously loved animals.
Above the boy’s bed were the cages.
–They aren’t harmful,
he said, holding a little furry thing in the palms of his quivering hands. Null wasn’t sure just what sort of medications they had him on,
but he seemed perpetually on the verge of shaking apart with laughter. His eyes held a sort of merry madness Null found slightly captivating, slightly unnerving.
By contrast,
Luke was a shambling, sullen mess,
always carrying his own peculiar odor of cigarettes and stale sweat around with him,
his fingers yellow from cigarette smoke.
The staff let them smoke four times a day.
Probably not nearly enough for Luke, thought Null.
The staff seemed well-aware of the pet python,
in fact let the boy keep it in the cage over his bed,
on what was once a bunk.
Null lay in bed,
watching the thing slither around in the darkness.
He knew it devoured small rodents,\
slithering up to them,
and grasping them in the powerful jaws,
then swallowing them down the balloning gullet until they dissolved in piteous dead terror
in the sleek,
long innards,
digested over a short period
while the writhing body of the predator
expanded to accommodate the meal.
And, thought Null, perhaps that was an apt metaphor for what the world did to you,
after a fashion.
Small pieces devoured,
digested,
while the writhing snake body ballooned outward from the pathetic meal.
–The hallways echo of the dead.
–Not a verifiable fact, Luke.
He shambles over to the bed,
throws down his package of cigarettes,
and collapses atop the covers.
Luke’s face is ashen, somewhat grey.
–I’m not sure I can take another day here. It’s like the hours just creep by. Like suspended animation. I think we’re in hell.
–That seems more likely. I wonder why they let him keep snakes. And spiders. And that hairy thing.
–Ferret, that’s what it’s called.
–Yeah.
Luke sat up,
popped a cigarette between his thick lips,
rubbed his beard.
Outside, the sun streamed in,
painting swirls of dust motes in the dim,
stale air.
Null smiled.
Somewhere the light was cracking through the darkness,
rusted swing sets paid testimony
to the energetic butts of romping children,
and,
while they may very well be confined here,
in this dim,
white,
sterile world,
that didn’t mean,
somehow that life was choked away; it meant that THEY were confined, kept in the solitary cocoon of an institute for the mentally unstable.
The world rose up.
It breathed.
Daylight brought the shuffling hordes out from their domiciles,
and,
above,
in the vastness of outer space,
you could look down on a big blue marble,
crawling with hideous life,
and ponder.
As you got closer,
the colonies came into view.
Work and play,
sex and death,
life and the promise of tomorrow.
–She’s loose!
Null pivoted like a top,
instinctively going for the glass barricade that separated the dorm room from the rest of the institution.
The snake, the goddamned snake was loose!
He looked in the corners of the room, expecting to see the fat body slithering
He sat with them in the gathering gloom.
The moments ticked by,
the ticking of the clock falling like hammer falls
upon the window of his skull.
Outside,
cars crept by in the dusty street.
They seemed like images painted on the dark,
shadow strands of air.
Deep and solemn eyes stared back at him from the gathering gloom.
His grandmother,
high,
severe
cheekbones angling up into her bun of iron-grey hair,
folded her hands across her lap.
There was only silence,
the lonely creek of a few boards.
–The neighborhood sure is changing.
–A few more years and no one will want to live down here.
The boy seemed as if he had ants crawling around in his pants for a moment. He got up,
fidgeting in the gloom,
Null noticed the dirty feet,
the old, thrift-store clothing,
the unwashed hair.
The boy, his cousin, didn’t smell like a rose, either.
–It’s getting colder in here.
–I’ll turn on a little heat.
She got up to do so.
He could see the familiar hunch of age in her back,
but she still moved spryly in the gloom.
She was a thickset,
powerful old woman,
use to working like a dray horse.
And age fought a battle with habit inside of her.
The thermostat kicked in,
the heating yawned to life like the voice of a ghost
submerged in the dusty corners of the old place.
The chill in the air was still palpable and real.
Null
felt as if he were breathing in darkness.
–Remember a day, many years ago, when you use to stay with me. You’d stay the whole night,
sleep over here in this bed…
She pointed to the old hospital bed in the corner.
Granpa had slept there once.
(Before he passed.)
Null nodded.
He well remembered.
Rain began to patter against the glass door.
Tiny,
freezing droplets licking
the walkway outside.
That would make escaping precarious,
he thought,
half-amused.
For a moment
there was nothing but silence,
and the ticking of the clock.
His cousin seemed incapable of speech; Null wondered at the heavy ridge above his brow.
Was he mentally slow?
He had thick, protuberant lips; he seemed to stink of tragedy.
His legs were brown and frog-like.
Altogether the body of a boy at play.\
Grandma loved him.
But there was no love written on her face, Null reflected.
Outside,
the sun dipped behind the straggling trees
up and down the walk.
He could hear the heavy thump of bass down the street.
Black faces walked the cracked pavement,
eyeing the sore sights of the ghetto neighborhood as it settled,
minute by minute,
into the dust of age.
–We’ll be moving on soon, I reckon.
Null had an image of them,
together,
walking the rolling hills and little dips of the cemetery grounds. Somewhere, he knew, life still stirred.
–Do you have to go?

He hopped into bed.
He wasn’t going to like it here,
he was sure.
First,
there was the neighbor,
and he was likely, it seemed, to pop through a little door at intervals,
his face overgrown with a scrubby red beard,
and traverse himself across the bedroom,
hiding for a time in the odd,
booth-like water closet.
–But what are you hiding from?
Null would ask, groggily, rubbing his eyes.
He didn’t like this place.
It was too small,
too stuffy;
the electric seemed dangerously wired,
and there was a general feeling of sleazy dilapidation and danger clinging to the walls.
And there were roaches, too.
The man never answered.
Perhaps he thought Null was somehow beneath an answer.
Null invariably rolled over,
bathed in his own sweat,
and fought to go back to sleep.
When he awoke,
his neighbor was always gone.
His aunt commented on the strangeness of this.
–You sure don’t get a lot in the way of privacy around here, do you?
–I guess that’s the way they have it planned.
The neighbors were an unsavory lot of drug addicts.
Null was always afraid to walk up and down the foul,
ugly halls, too, as many of them had dogs that would bite,
and not a few of them let their dogs wander
up and down
freely.
We were tasked with the preparation of meals for each planet.
Now,
each planet represented a different table
All people sitting
at said table
dressed
Oddly enough,
in the traditional garb of whatever alien race
Happened to live upon the surface of their table-planet.
And so we had people with strange costumes
and green paint smeared all over their faces,
and we were to cook hamburgers for these people,
because playing alien made a body hungry
I suppose
I should have been happy just to have honest work

She cut an imposing figure against the sky,
revealed in her simple nudity against the blue,
while around her crabs crept across the hot sands of the beach.
Waves lapped churlishly at the gaping rocks of the shore,
and gulls made haste overhead,
diving down for fishing,
to gobble up the unwary denizens of the deep.
And didn’t we all evolve up from this churning world of dark greys
and terrifying blues?
–I’m not sure how I came to be here.
Null pivoted like a top,
wanting to follow her wherever she might lead.
The pendulous globes of her white derriere seemed to beckon insolently. She paid him little mind.
–Perhaps I’m only dreaming?
He called after her.
The sun was setting in the distance.
Before them,
the beach began to bubble upward into a series of hills.
On top of the hills,
an old house perched against the gathering gloom,
empty windows looking off into spaces beyond.
The world was gathering dark
like a shroud of rotten wool.
Null walked,
his shoes growing dusty,
little rocks bothering the soles of his feet.
She turned, intermittently,
and looked at him,
the same strange, smiling expression on her face.
She was drawing him forward.
–Are you even human?
He called after her,
putting his hands to the sides of his mouth.
Shouting for some reason.
The roar of the sea was the roar of the sea,
the wind a dull, whining gale
–but there was no need for shouting.
Finally to the walkway,
as,
on either side the beach gave way to the front lawn.
Surrounded by a wicker gate,
the cracked stone walkway was topped by an arch.
The walk itself was scrawled with the hopscotch scribbling of curiously absent children.
The walk led directly up to the sagging, empty porch.
The yard was overgrown with weeds and old stones.
Null wondered if they were small grave stones.
She stopped at the door,
turned,
and walked through it.
Null stopped for a moment,
wondering just what he had witnessed,
then realized that here,
of all places,
he should learn not to be surprised by anything.
He ascended the stone steps to the front porch,
hearing the wood splinter and groan under his weight.
He put his hand out to the little brass knob,
breathed in,
flung the door open wide.
He stopped for a moment,
considering the scene of darkness beyond.
The room seemed to be choked in dark and dust.
He had no flashlight,
no candle,
no way to light his exploration.
He felt the need to go in anyway,
and so he tiptoed over the threshold,
his lungs choked by the dust and mold.
His awareness growing sharper as his eyes adjusted to the heavy gloom. Beyond,
he could see a shimmering white rectangle in the darkness.
–Beyond is the place where they prepare the bodies?
He could see her,
radiant,
a shining figure.
She turned in the murk,
her heavy breasts punctuated by deep red nipples.
Her eyes were vacant and full of dreams.
She curled a finger in the gloom,
a white wisp beckoning him.
He crept forward,
not liking the icy envelope of blackness as it surrounded him on all sides.
–It’s stealing the life force, he thought, not at all sure this was correct.
Beyond…
(He was resident psychopath, brooding in the dilapidated place like some mythical ogre.
Step, step, step across the old hardwood floor. Creaking and groaning. Termites probably burrowing themselves into heaven by the chomp of sawdust, as purposeful rat scurried in dark corner awaiting hungry morsel of rubbish.
But still this was his home, his dominion. Hadn’t he taken lawful possession of it when the old lady died?
He was aware of changes in the neighborhood, could hear the elephantine creep of slow cars pulsating heavy bass in the wee hours of the morning, selling cocaine to the street people.
–Hey motherfucker, hey…
So he could sit in the darkness, gun in his lap, listening for ghosts. Outside as daylight exploded across the peeling paint surface of old, weathered dumps, cars full of rampaging lunatics vomited up passengers adorned in tattered rags, in reeking finery, spat out onto the pavement in milling, chaotic throngs, dogs running about in old yards wherein sprouted weeds tall grown through cinderblocks left to decay in old mud and dried soup of rusted tin can and plastic wrapper.)
***
He took her by the hand.
She looked at him with big, empty eyes.
There was a sort of vapid pleading in them.
He didn’t know, exactly, for what she was pleading,
but he supposed it was some internal,
insect need.
–Mad cockroach lust.
–What?
–Nothing.
The place was a confusing mess of subterranean hallways
leading down into the bowels of the earth.
Little tables lining the walls on either side,
and music floating in from above,
where the real partying took place.
–At least you’re dressed decently.
He looked down at himself.
It was an improvement over his usual attire,
a zoot suit that might have put an old-time gangland leader to shame.
He smiled to himself.
Above, they could hear the heavy thump of the music begin to pound the world into sensual ecstasy.
–But not for me. Never for me.
She looked at him curiously.
He thought,
perhaps,
that all of this had been planned many years in advance,
that,
just maybe, he was the living, breathing actor in someone else’s drama. Weren’t there metaphysical philosophies that postulated just as much?
He wasn’t sure.
He boasted, often, of not being an intellectual.
–Miracle you survived at all.
–Of course. It was a miracle. I can still feel the pain.
–Is it intense?
–Only when I laugh. Freak scene. Not sure exactly how I got out of there. I was surprised when she came in.
–Do you believe the media accounts?
–Unsure. I suppose the whole thing has a surreal aspect to it now. Or maybe it’s just the shock of it all. I swear, it took me several minutes to even realize what was going on when she came in with that mask.
–And rhen the teller?
–And then the teller told her to take it off. And leaned over the counter to pull it off. And that’s when the gun came out.
–It looked like some sor tof wire, mesh fencing mask.
–Exactly. And then she pulled the gun. I knew, somehow, at this point, that it was a she. She spun around, cursing, a mad viper. She shot me as I sat in the chair. And the world went dark.
–And it was only later?
–I woke up in the hospital.
–Coma?
–Coma. But they said my mind would never be right again. I’m not sure what they meant. Perhaps that is why.
He laughed.
They went quickly down the steps,
into the milling throngs filling up the old hallway.
A line of tables were pushed up against the walls.
He spied an old friend,
similarly dressed to himself.
The man had lost weight,
grown a moustache.
He looked up as they passed.
He didn’t look pleased.
–He doesn’t want to see me again after so many years. I serve as a reminder of the past. HIS past, which he has been trying to escape from.
–Maybe he just wants to evolve.
–Silly girl. That’s exactly what he wants. But he never will. His is a lost cause.
We slipped further into the darkness.
Above,
I could hear the pounding of the music,
but the rhythm seemed all wrong,
somehow.
I remember the line from Genet about angels farting on the ceiling.
We make our way above ground,
to the darkened streets of the marketplace,
sitting ourselves down at at a table.
Conversation mills about uselessly.
I can’t keep up with the flow of the words.
–Somehow or other, we’re in love.
–I tend to doubt it.
–Are you playing with me?
–No, just jaded after so many years. Besides, how can you be in love with me? You barely know me.
–I am though. I find you to be wonderfully intelligent and sensitive. Caring. Not crass and vulgar, like so many people today.
–For all you know, I’m a cold-blooded killer, an annihilation machine masquerading as a man.
–I doubt it. You don’t seem like the type that could hurt a fly, if you don’t min me saying so.
I look down the street.
Darkness and fog has crept up and down;
the shopping and entertainment district. Up the street,
the buildings of the university loom
like ancient sentinels in the night. People are coming
and going
to various destinations,
some with books shoved under their arms.
Eager students.
I wonder what I’m doing here.
Didn’t I have something to study,
something to learn?
She looks exasperated with me,
gets up and pushes her chair in.
–Are you leaving me? I say.
I actually feel a little bit of panic
at the thought of being abandoned out here.
She considers.
The milling throngs are hard to avoid,
even harder to circumnavigate through.
She could disappear into the night,
get lost,
and I would have trouble finding her again.
Or maybe…
–I’m going to get some coffee. You want one?
–Sure.
She heads across the plaza to the coffee stand.
The female barista comes out,
takes her order,
comes back with two steaming paper cups.
She lays down five dollars.
I’m certain it’s five dollars.
I can see the money on the counter from where I’m seated.
She takes both cups in her hands,
looks back and forth across the street carefully,
but there are no cars coming.

She crosses,
holding up each cup carefully,
as if to show me what a good girl she’s been.
But there is a little problem.
Each of the cups seems to have sprung a leak.
They start spilling out their contents in two little streams as she walks, suddenly looks down,
realizes for the first time what I coulod plainly
see before she even started back across,
and stops in the middle of the street, confused.
Looking around,
obviously embarrassed.
But for what reason, I cannot fathom.
She drops both the cups,
comes up to the table,
leans over me,
so I can see the swell of her breast as she huffs and puffs with exertion
–I’m going to make it right. Don’t worry.
I roll my eyes.
Somewhere,
I realize there must be people who are enjoying their night
–It’s really not necessary, I say.
–Oh yes, it is. I’ve got more where that came from. It’s no problem. Wait.
She turns, looks back and forth as if to see if there are any cars coming
(when the street has been vacant seemingly since we got out here and sat down)
And then crosses back to the coffee stand.
I sit and consider how plain she really is.
Like a pudgy little boy,
With a little boy’s haircut,
And plain features that could hardly be thought of as beautiful
And pale skin,
But, her eyes are lovely
And she has tremendous wide mama hips and a
Huge ass
Dimpled and fat as a baby’s backside…
She repeats the scene with the barrista,
laying down another five dollars.
She turns.
This time she has a couple of glass mugs.
She gets halfway across the street.
She trips, suddenly.
She doesn’t fall,
but the mugs go sailing into the street,
where they crack against the pavement.
She stands there again,
her hands still raised as if she is holding the cups.
She looks as if she is going to cry.
I get partly up,
motion to her,
tell her it’s okay,
but she looks confused for a moment,
turns about in exasperation, and disappears down the sidewalk,
–Really, I’m not angry, I say.
But she is long gone.

So I follow,
and right away I am in the thick of the milling throng,
and I realize what is wrong here.
–All of these people must be dead.
I think to myself that I have finally found hell,
as this is a Soylent Green world of overpopulated madness.
I fight against the tide of hustling bodies,
trying to make my way up a short flight of stone steps,
but I am pushed back again and again by the swell of ambling zombies, who seem to be almost oblivious to my presence as I fight against their surging,
assault stink.
–I am dead, and this is Hell.
I look for her littler form at every turn,
at every opening of the crowd,
but it is like trying for the needle in the proverbial haystack.
Worse.
It is like fighting your way through a churning abyss of drowning forms, each form disappearing down the rabbit hole of your hopes and dreams.
I look everywhere,
running,
pushed back,
suffocated,
squeezed in the riot,
but she is nowhere to be seen.
And the milling throng will not be halted or turned back.
–I am dead and this is Hell.
Silence.
Footfalls do not echo in the void.
The world falls through a prism that projects only varying shades of grey. Everything is slowed down,
resonant,
the world is a pregnant pause of suffering.

A face cries out in silent agony
Somewhere,
the sun shines down on a dusty scene.
It is a cleft between two hills,
coming out to a dry,
cracked surface of brittle rank grass and dirt streets.
To one side,
the ruins of a dilapidated group of buildings,
encircled by barbed wire,
metal walls rusting in the hot breeze as flies blow their eggs across space and time.
It is an interesting tableaux,
a collection of bodies suddenly frozen in a macabre moment,
brought to life in the reality of their surroundings. She is stunned into speechlessness
at the comic grotesqueries before her,
a hideous towering beast of a man wielding a sharp weapon that looks like a pick axe
Beside her,
her companion begins to step backward,
everything happens in a slow,
graceful way that is quite like a comic dance.
Beyond the capability of physics to accurately reproduce in a logical manner.
Suddenly,
the axe is thrust forward,
hitting him square in the chest.
She begins to run.

She lay back,
letting him go down between her legs.
–I like it like that partner. I really do.
His head is a curly,
tousled mess of mop-like hair.
He has olive skin,
bad teeth,
is big in the way a classically handsome man is supposed to be.

Square jaw.
Unhappy, sodden eyes,
with an occasional brilliant flash of psychopathy in them.
White T-shirt stained with tobacco juice and motor oil.
His name might be Frank.

She grabs fistfuls of his hair,
rocking his head back and forth.
It is all comically grotesque,
a freak scene from a bad movie.
His eyes bug out in pleasure.
The door behind them bursts open.
The man in the doorway stands there in utter disbelief.
His hands are held down at his sides,
and he is shaking.
He looks like he is on the verge of some sort of fit.
He suddenly rushes forward,
tears Frank away from his little snack.
Yells something unintelligible.
Frank wipes his mouth,
stands up to his full height.
He towers over the other man.
He smiles.
–Nice to see you again, Larry.
Oh, I hope you don’t mind me and Deborah getting acquainted.
–We were bored, baby. You ever do anything just because you got bored? Not serious.
She rolls over,
buries half her face sheepishly in the pillow.
Larry comes forward,
his hands held out like bitter, twisted claws.

Frank, seemingly, can’t believe what he’s seeing,
but he looks amused.
–How could you? How could you do this to me? You told me…
His voice squeaks down to a pathetic, sobbing whisper.
He’s a skinny twerp of a man
with a sandy brown moustache,
deep, hollow pits under his eyes,
a weak chin,
and a bald pate.
His hair curls out over his ears in little brown,
wispy tendrils.
His chest is heaving beneath his sweater.
His jeans droop in the ass,
and his sneakers are dogged out and filthy.
He looks like he hasn’t shaved in awhile.
–Been hitting the sauce, Larry?
Frank tilts his head and gives a forced look of concern.
Larry can see,
even through the bloodshot eyes,
that Frank is fighting to hold back laughter.
–You’re toying with me, aren’t you, you fuck. You always were a sadistic fuck, Frank. Well, I can’t whip you Frank, I know that. But I damn sure know where all the bodies are buried, you fuck. Yeah. I know that much.
Frank raised a chilly eyebrow.
Outside, he could hear his son come in,
go to the fridge,
get himself a beer.
–Hey dad?
–In here, Junior. Me and Debbie just having a little talk.
–Whose car is that outside?
–Uh…it belongs to the milkman?
Silence.
–The milkman…right.
He can hear junior smile,
he tromps off to his room,
slams the door,
cranks Metallica at top volume.
–That’s good. That ought to provide plenty of cover, thinks Frank.
Larry ambles around in a little circle,
his head cast down,
looking exhausted.
Frank feels his hands go tight,
tense,
badly wanting to squeeze themselves around Larry’s scrawny neck.
–I can’t believe you could betray me like this…
His pale, shaky, skinny hand wipes across his eyes,
hot tears splashing his fingers,
dampening his sleeves.
Frank towers over him like a giant,
an ogre.
–C’mon Larry, I’m in a killing mood, he thinks.
Deborah rolls back over,
spreads her legs,
puts her hands to her crotch.
–No need to fight over me boys. There’s plenty to go around.
Suddenly,
Larry looked as if he might explode out of his skin.
He leapt from the foot of the bed,
his hands grasping out for her neck,
just as Frank caught him by the scruff of his collar.
–Oh no you don’t Larry!
He pulled him back sharply,
his arms flailing out on emptiness,
his hands missing their intended target.
Frank held him up like a rag doll,
looked at him as if he were a strange fish dredged up from the ocean floor.
–You going to play nice? Or does this have to get rough?
Larry was sniveling,
choking back tears and snot.
–I’ll be good, I swear. Just…just let me be. I just need time…
Frank jerked him around a little,
then let him go.
Larry swayed on his feet for a moment before collapsing on the carpet in a blubbering heap.
Deborah looked over at him with quiet contempt.
She traded glances with Frank.
She could see the lightening in his eyes.
He seemed to be smiling or grimacing,
she couldn’t tell which.
–Does this pain you?
She thought at him.
She had read somewhere that particularly close lovers could often read each other’s thoughts.
Frank bent over, his shadow falling across Larry’s back.
He closed in.
Larry closed his eyes.
Someone moaned.
The room seemed to grow dark for a moment,
and a cold chill swept in from somewhere.

(But this all seems melodramatic…)
Once,
when I was a boy,
I went to visit a friend.
He was a little man with frazzled, limp hair cascading over his shoulders, a jean vest with heavy metal patches,
and bad tattoos.
He lived in a run-to-riot Midwestern dump house
at the edge of a field.
Houses straggled onward up the road,
more dumps.
Behind him yawned a shitty, rusted trailer court.
The weekends saw police cruisers there on domestic disturbances.
We spent a day together recording music,
or some facsimile of in the first or second degree.
I remember it was a bitter,
bone-creeping Indiana cold that got deep inside your skin
and made you feel alienated from the world.
His eyes told me he was tired.
Perhaps too much life had snookered him,
made him weak,
somehow,
when it should have made him strong.
His chief habits were beer and cigarettes.
I could feel a deep, creeping cold in the filthy little place, as we circumnavigated the junk equipment,
and I dealt with the stench,
and the cold,
and the feeling of growing increasingly famished from an all-day diet of beer and smokes.
He,
they,
had a runty homeless man living with them.
For what reason I couldn’t discern.
Nor, at the end of this particular day,
did I care,
as my ears were ringing and my stomach was growling \
and I felt a weariness I knew was not a decent trade for the day I had just spent.
I settled down on the floor while he put on his coat.
The four of us were going to load into the van and take me home.
I looked up on the wall.
The place was a repository of junk collection,
and the walls were heavy with shelves full of old alcohol bottles
and pictures and videocassettes and unspeakable trophies and toys from fast food restaurants.
And the place seemed to radiate dull, brown emptiness.
–You know where I got that? He says, pointing a gnarled, tattooed finger at two portraits hanging on the wall.
The portraits are creepily incongruous with the rest of the décor; they’re apparently posters of two old Victorians.
I could have sworn the woman looked like she could be his great grandmother.
–Been in th family for years? I say, half jokingly.
I can’t figure it.
The rest of the pictures are fairly normal shots of him with guns,
redneck buddies,
his once attractive blonde daughter
(who withered down into perpetual grey under the strain of her dismal, bitter life)
–No. Back when I was a manager at McDonalds, they were renovating. Redecorating. They brought in all this stuff and stored it in the basement. Anyway, they didn’t use some of it, just kept it down there. And then the owner said he was going to just pitch a lot of it, and that I could take what I wanted to. So I took that. Sort of thought it looked gothic.
I sort of thought it looked ridiculously out of place,
but I didn’t say anything.
I looked at the picture of the man.
He seemed to have the exact same old-fashioned handlebar moustache as my friend,
and I did a double-take realizing they weren’t related.
It could have been his great, great grandfather or something.
And then I felt it.
The hollow, cold feeling,
creeping in.
The feeling of suffocating reality,
wiping away every illusion and pale imitative trick of life,
as the three of them sat there with their faces working in unison,
tiny twitches and spasms of muscle and ticks reflected back by the interplay of light and shadow
emanating from an old florescent in the ceiling.
And it’s still so dark.
The boards of the walls and floor seem to encase us,
like a giant coffin.
–I can feel it in here.
The Angel of Death.
But of course I don’t say this.
I feel panic grip my chest,
as everything seems to go tight.
My friend puts his bony, tattooed hands on his skinny knees,
looks,
for all the world,
as if he isn’t perturbed or disturbed by anything.
We experience a moment of confused silence; the old lady has leaned back very far on the couch, her little tits pressing against her blouse. I find it hard not to be distracted,
but then a cold spasm of the sucking wind hits me in the chest again,
and I feel cold terror isolate me,
taking me down into a world as lonely and terrifying and void as any I’ve ever experienced.
Everything looks ugly and predatory.
Outside, a massive dog patrols the backyard in lazy,
sleepy movements of subtle,
raw power.
Massive jaws work greedily at old bones
chewed tough and brittle and white,
picked clean like the raw flesh of the falling house,
the fading day,
the bitter, black onset of an interminable, cold night.
–I am become death, destroyer of worlds.
Runs through my head,
but I don’t say this.
Later, I settle back into the backseat of a van,
watch runty, disintegrating little houses pass street by black street, shadows hiding their secrets,
mixing cold night with the heavy electric brightness
of traffic signal
and illuminated signs proclaiming the variant wonders
of so many fast food establishments.
It is all freezing concrete,
and plexiglass,
and plastic and prefab buildings,
and I can feel cold terror seep into my bones,
and it is a feeling like the hollow pits of empty,
desiccated time.
–Am I making any sense? No. I didn’t think so.
–What’s that you’re saying?
He leans over in the seat,
his hair spilling out in worried,
stringy curls above his collar
He needs a shave and a shampoo.
I should be surprised by a dying man in in the clutch of such slovenly habits?
–Nothing. I was just rambling to myself.
I reassure him.
The old lady continues to drive.
Outside, the city sits like a canker on the lip of an aging whore.
And that whore is called TIME.
So I could feel the presence of death when it was there.
Because he did die,
soon after,
of a malignant tumor,
after having his tongue cut away.
I called up one day after not having spoken to him in two years,
and suddenly the wife
(the new wife)
answered and informed me he couldn’t come to the phone; he would never come to the phone again, it seemed.
So…
***
They had collected a number of bright and ghoulish masks.
Mixed in were the various skulls and severed craniums they had collected in their travels.
Being extraterrestrial was a minor point with them; they adapted well to whatever environment they happened to find themselves in.
The boy never suspected anything of his dad and mum.
In fact,
he simply went to school like a dutiful son,
did his homework,
maintained good grades…
he never asked questions,
or got too close to the truth.
The other kids at school liked him just fine.
His mother rarely got up from the bed.
–He assumes that I’m sick. He doesn’t know.
Frank adjusted his tie,
looked into the mirror,
wondered if he did or didn’t like what he saw there.
Maybe next time he would be a woman; a few fake tits and some makeup; science could take care of the rest.
This whole suburban freak scene was for the birds, he figured.
–It does seem to have some advantages, though.
–What’s that you’re saying?
–Nothing, honey. I was just thinking out loud. But, really, could you think of a better cover for two people like us? I mean, no one ever suspects a thing.
–It’s because we’re wealthy and good looking. Such people are above suspicion in this society. If we were ugly, poor drug addicts…we couldn’t get away with all that we do.
A solid line of severed heads moves across a conveyer belt.
She leans forward,
examining the alien characteristics of heads collected from various and sundry planets,
heads with huge tusks,
sharp fangs,
horns,
heavy,
ridge-like brows,
white,
cadaverous skin.
Monstrous heads.
Some of them were still human.
–Larry.
Larry’s head looked like a giant bald turnip.
His mouth was frozen in a rictus of pain and suffering.
His eyes were wide twin moons,
and a trickle of blood had run down from his nose and lips and dried
….his skin had the cadaverous hue of death.
They had shaved his head.
She took the little glass bubble from his mouth,
inserted it into her own.
The conveyer rolled onward as she sat up in bed,
pushing the covers back,
and opening the glass doorway on the little box…
–Cooker. Looks like a microwave.
She fed the head inside.
It would be immolated,
turned to ash.
She sat back.
She could feel the little glass ball begin to vibrate in her mouth.
She imagined her teeth and lips would glow in the dark.
When he got back there, the blacks had disappeared,
but now there are a number of young girls in black schoolgirl dresses sitting around in the empty room that use to be my bedroom.
One of them is clearly the teenaged leader of this little coven.
–We have one hundred hours to get ready.
–Think we can do it?
She looks confident and pert.
I’m feeling like a fusty old poop
standing out like a sore thumb.
They have instruments tucked under their little arms,
and there’s a drum kit in the corner.
Amplifiers.
On the television set
a corporate logo glides by in animated wonder.
A collection of images of some stadium somewhere.
Looks like some sort of mass celebration,
maybe a rock ‘n’ roll Nuremburg rally.
He makes that the girls in the band are wanting to play at this event.
I leave the room,
let them rest up for their one hundred hours away gig,
walk out into the hall.
There’s some sort of commotion out there.
Mother is talking to a room full of mysterious people.
Or, at least one mysterious person.
I realize everyone else looks vaguely familiar.
I’m not sure what the hell they’re discussing,
except a young man in a John Deere cap comes out and sets a mirror down in the hallway off the living room.
Mother gets up,
and is still talking; I get the impression they’re discussing something eerie.
–And they say the image froze there. But I think it has to be painted on.
–Frosted on, somehow.
Mother bends over,
runs her hands over a large white shape on the surface of the glass, stands back up.
–You can see it coming into focus,
she says,
leaning back against the wall,
her hands behind her.
The young man in the John Deere cap bends down.
I notice he’s dressed like my father,
like I remember my father dressing,
when I was a boy.
He has on an ugly yellow shirt,
looks like it came straight from some damned Goodwill store and is twenty years out of style.
The top button is opened up,
and his chest hairs are curling out.
–Just like dad, I think to myself, smiling.
His jeans are almost bell bottoms,
and they’re pretty much just as ratty and used looking as the shirt.
His hair is longish in the back and curly.
Altogether, he looks like he stepped from an 1980’s time warp.
I look down at the mirror.
I am surprised to note it doesn’t look like an antique; it actually looks rather cheap,
like something that was purchased at a cheap furniture outlet.
But there is a mysterious,
frosted white image coming down,
like an acute stain,
from the right top of the glass.
I put my fingers out,
but I don’t touch the surface of the glass out of fear.
–What happened here? How did that get on the glass?
The man in the Goodwill clothes shrugs,
says, –That’s what we’d like to know. I mean, there are conflicting stories.
He doesn’t bother to fill me in on any of the details.
All of a sudden,
I hear what I take to be guitar strumming going on down the hall,
in the back room,
and I go down the hall to see what my Catholic schoolgirl rock band is gearing up to play.
–There’s something going on here with the church, am I right? I mean, I distinctly remember the last time I had to visit the clinic, the tall, handsome Catholic priest sitting on the little stool, worried and uneasy in the gloom of a disused examination room. I walked in with Mother, not exactly sure what I had been summoned there for, and he took one look at me and he starts telling me how the –Vatican Police are going to come for him, and I wonder just what the hell he is talking about, but then one of the nurses comes for me and we never get to hear the rest of the conversation.
–That man isn’t going to be around here long, she says,
He was sitting there on a stool,
hunched over,
a big nervous wreck of a man.
Someone takes me outside
(I guess it is my nurse)
and shows me a newspaper article.
–People are saying he’s the Antichrist. Pretty weird, huh?
I look down at the paper.
There’s a picture of a well-dressed man in a suit on the front of the page. Crickets chirp in the distance.
Outside here,
there are no cars at the end of the dirt drive.
–Why couldn’t it be paved, I wonder, then go back inside the clinic.
I wonder at the strangeness of the place,
the creeping dark halls that disappear into shadows,
and the way it seems to be laid out to make no sense.
–I’m not even sure what I’m doing here,
I complain to someone sitting behind what appears to be a nurse’s station.
What am I supposed to be sick with?
I want to ask mother,
who has disappeared again mysteriously.
She controls the reigns of my life,
remembers what needs remembering.
I sit down exasperated,
think back to the strange incident in the pool…
Two lines of people trudging up and down,
outside of an elevated building
(was this another medical center? It seemed like it.)
down the stairs,
to dip in the pool.
Was it a ritual of baptism?
Splashing around in the water,
aimlessly trying to classify this experience as something meaningful. People in the pool trying desperately to avoid contact.
–Does it infect you somehow?
The woman splashes away,
holding her hands out in front of her face.
I move toward her,
but she physically jerks aside,
trying to escape,
moving backwards in the water as if I was going to physically ravage her.
Which made little sense,
as I didn’t seem to be in the physical condition to ravage anyone.
Everyone seemed to come to a general consensus about when they had had enough water,
as the milling throngs in the pool seemed to generally move back to the other edge of the horse shoe,
up the stone steps,
ankles splashing heavily,
and forming themselves into a line on the painted wooden staircase that led up the side of one of the houses.
I trudged upward,
not sure if my legs could support my weakened body,
feeling as helpless as a child,
but realizing all the while that the line of swimmers was ascending upward to a sort of platform-like ledge outside a window.
This was very high up.
I looked over, and I could see a line of swimmers coming down from the clinic across the yard.
I wanted badly to call over to some of them.
Just out of curiosity to know if anyone knew just what in hell was actually going on.
I kept getting a mental image of helmeted guards standing besides clean, white marble statues of Greek heroes
…Each of the soldiers had a jointed truncheon,
face a hard mask of conditioned hostility.
Uniforms black.
The statues
sprouted microphones and loudspeakers
where genitals should be.
I could tell that someone had leveled the city,
had started to rebuild,
perhaps thinking they could rebuild the grandeur and glory of Rome.
–Was this the work of the Antichrist?
I wondered out loud,
going back into the clinic,
forgetting to check and see what time it was.
It seemed like interminable night had descended upon the face of the world.
***
The scene shifts.
The snow falls heavily,
like a white blanket of death around the encampment.
She walks like a sleepwalker over the frozen waste,
her feet crunching the icy,
frosted grit of the stony earth.
Around her,
scattered upon the ground,
are the slaughtered remains of so many cadavers…
She looks upward,
wailing,
her arms outstretched.
She has awakened in the middle of a nightmare.
She turns,
follows the trail of blood through the snow,
past clumps of hair,
twists of ragged clothing blowing in the harsh, bitter wind.
A few forms move in the firelight
as blood drips down through the snow,
pooling in little whorls and dips,
shining black in the fading light.
The forms are withered,
scarecrow personages.
Emil wraps an old cloak about his form,
bends over the pot, stirring.
Some of them wear freshly-killed furs.
Some of them the tattered remnants of old military uniforms.
Her mind flashes forward and backward in time.
–Something sometimes brings the beast up in us.
–The law of survival?
–Is it really so important? I suppose this is what we were born to.
Out there, in the swirling snow,
tiny black shadows seem to flicker like dying ghosts in and out of the edge of vision.
The cold is a biting knife.
She feels numb to all sensations.
Insensate.
Not fully conscious.
Slipping in and out of a reverie that is equal parts apathy and shock.
–But perhaps I distance myself so I can cope with the reality of it?
He approaches her.
His rail-thin body is covered by a thin, threadbare blanket.
Skeletal fingers clutch the fabric tighter around him.
He looks as if he has a bone in his throat.
–I was hungry. And Felix had succumbed to the cold. So I cut open his tender little ass, and I ate it.
The fire crackled and spat.
Images huddled together in misery.
The encampment teetered on the edge of devastation,
weak,
flimsy shelters blown precariously to and fro in the icy gale.
–But somehow this is all just a harbinger of what is to come. Can’t you see that? We’ve crossed over, somehow. Back To the time when men lived as beasts…
Her voice trailed off.
The wind blew her hair like a filthy crown around her aching skull.
She ran a sandpaper tongue over cracked,
bleeding lips.
He turned,
his skull-like visage peering off into the distance.
His eyes were twin black emeralds glowing in the firelight.
–Out there, they talk about the Wendigo. A creature that walks like a man,
–is rail thin,
–can’t see him if he turns sideways
…what do you think of that, eh? He’s supposed to drive men mad…Mad with the desire to eat human flesh.
But, even as he spoke, she could see that things were now beyond words. They ahd regressed,
crossed some taboo borderland or boundary that was not meant to be crossed.
–But did we really have a choice? It was this, or die a terrible, lingering death.
He looked back at her with eyes that seemed as hollow and empty as the shifting shadows
swallowing up the last vestiges of daylight.
Out there,
in the beyond,
between eyes squinted shut against the hurling gale,
she could see dark figures trudging,
erect,
against the bitter, killing winds.
–Men?
They don’t seem like men.
They seem like tall, skinny, walking black shadows
framed against the blowing,
violent drifts,
illuminated against the harsh flames of the moon.
She can see them walking in a line.
–The demons. They’re out there.
–They’re in here. Look around you. Unless, of course, you still think that all of this is a dream.

(She turned, sloshing in the black snow, held her hands out as if to examine the palms for the wounds of Christ. She looked to the stars, arrayed above in twinkling savagery, and she suddenly knew she was an animal. She cried silently to a world that doesn’t care, where the anguished sound of tears disappears into the howling gale. Around her, the dead freeze in bitter, bluing clumps. What remains of them will be perfectly preserved by the hard, frozen earth, until, when Spring brings the first blooms and shoots of green, vines and tendrils will curl like fat, leafy worms, through the crevices of their naked, picked-apart skeletons. All was.)

She approached two shivering, miserable crones bent over a burbling iron pot.
Beneath,
she can feel the warmth of the struggling fire.
She looks down into the burbling,
black water.
Someone has tossed in a foot,
boot and all,
and it floats to the surface.
She turns,
vomits,
turns back to the pot,
wiping her lips on her filthy,
tattered sleeve.
Around her, the brutal smear of death freezes on the snow,
the mass slaughter piled around
on a dark night too cold for the hungry mandibles
of buzzing flies.
The world shuts an eye to their doom.
It could be a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand years ago; it is mankind descending into the bestiality of a savage, hungry dark.
***

But now I am looking at two separate newspaper articles.
–I can’t understand what is going on.
My mouth works soundlessly.
I can feel my bottom lip begin to squeeze out tears.
–Take a good long look. Do you notice anything strange?
It’s the man in the John Deere cap.
He’s put on a pair of aviator sunglasses,
is looking older,
more tired.
His hands are skinny and shake a little.
He’s wearing a cheap ring.
The living room darkens down,
a cloud passes over the sun.
–I see two newspaper articles. Is that some sort of story about murder?
–Some sort, he says, with a sheepish grin.
–Look, two stories about cannibalism in the same paper. This first one, this man killed his entire family I think–
I looked at the paper.
The pictures on the front cover are quite gruesome.
–It’s really hard to tell what happened just based on that. The story is very confusing.
Indeed, there appears to be a picture of an idol or effigy, like some grim thing a primitive tribe might carve to ward demons away.
Was this supposed to represent a decayed cadaver?
The second picture and article were easier to process, logically.
The picture was of a small army of cops rooting through an old cemetery, an abandoned spot
somewhere in the country.
Old tombstones,
weathered by a century of rot,
their faces washed away until the inscriptions on them were damn near unreadable.
Null could almost see the cops moving through the thick weeds of the place,
bending over,
examining the creeping remains of so many vandalized markers.
Tombstones leaning
like chipped, rotten teeth
from the grubby,
weedy soil.
–Apparently some wise citizen kidnapped a little girl.
–And he dumped her body in that old graveyard?
–Not the first time he’s done it. Serial killer. He can’t remember where, exactly, the bodies are all buried. He has a general idea in some cases. So they take him out on these little excursions. Buy him chicken dinners and give him good cigarettes, and he fesses up, spits up the details what he can remember. The body of little Angelique is buried somewhere out there.
***
Turning, he moves back down the hallway on wobbling feet.
Sometime earlier,
he remembered the dream he had of being back in the prison.
Sitting in the day room with half a dozen other convicts,
flipping through a pack of cheap trading cards.
–I have nothing but Rocky Horror Picture Show here.
–I have some cards that are infinitely more interesting
He flips open a deck of pornographic playing cards.
Photos of Chinese women, I think.
–I’ll trade you a few of these for a few of those.
Later,
someone has me next to him in bunk,
his long arms around me,
his rigid cock stabbing my ass through my shorts.
We’re watching a pornographic film on television.
On television,
a young woman of Asian extraction is leaning back in a bed which seems to be floating in limbo.
She has tremendous,
surgically-augmented breasts.
She leans back,
her face a mask of contorted ecstasy.
***

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Uncategorized

The Wall and the Cliff

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.
Fred said,
in his own croaking,
half-dying-of-thirst manner,
–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 said,
–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…
–Ethel please!
–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.
Lucy…

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.
Finally,
exhausted,
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.
Suddenly,
Ethel turned,
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
and died…
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,
thought Rick.
He stripped off his sodden shirt.
Then ahead, he spied something.
–Who?
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.
–Yeah, sure.
She put out her hand.
He captured it like a falling bird in his own,
put it on his leg.
She made a fist.
She grimaced.
–You sure got pretty hair. What’s your name?
–Norma Jean.
–You telling me the truth?
–Sure.
–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.
Outside,
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?
she said,
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.
–Sure,
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.
–57 Chevy.
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.
She swayed,
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,
sighed,
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,
he thought,
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.
Dreamland.
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.
Motel.
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 jowls,
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,
perhaps,
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,
somewhere,
someone was neglecting to do their duty.
The thought didn’t bother him.
He put his pudgy palm on the bell.
Tinkled it.
Waited.
Waited.
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.
–Okay.
–How much?
–What?
–Er, for the room.
He handed over some rumpled bills,
registered as
–Joe Stiff,
and took the key from the clerk,
noting how cold his hands were.
He turned,
walked back outside,
opened his door,
got behind the wheel,
started up,
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,
plastic roses,
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.
–We’re here.
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,
stale smoke,
and the trapped funk of bad air.
Thrift store pictures of flower pots and old ships hung crookedly on the smudged,
dirty walls.
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.
–How much?
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.
–Sure.
There was an uncomfortable moment of silence.

He sat there in confusion.
Outside,
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.
No hose.
She was a cheap, dirty whore.
–C’mon baby, c’mere.
Her lips parted sensually; her lipstick was smeared.
–Okay, okay.
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,
struggling,
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,
more neighborhoods.
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,
comics,
and cartoons.
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.
Who are…these?

(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,
guilt,
and excitement.
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.
Around him,
old ladies bustle in and out of the framework of his consciousness.
–Like that?
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,
for instance:
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.
Yet,
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,
rubber hearts,
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.
Outside,
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.
–What?
–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,
farts,
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,
and freckled.
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?”
Pause.
–No.
Pause.
–Continue.
–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…
Pause.
–And?
–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.
Pause.
–Oh.
–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…”
–A what?
–Homonculi…a miniature, artificial man.
–Oh.
–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…
Pause.
–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 function.
(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,
dusty wood,
pushed,
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:
Braces.
Thick glasses.
Froggy features.
Pimples.
Dimples.
The drive was downtown,
and Null was feeling pretty damn good.
Elated really.
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.
Small dive.
Crowded.
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:
low murmurs,
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,
teeth bared,
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,
one day,

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,
But big.
Approaching.
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,
and,
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,
point,
holler questions.
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.
he said,
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.
I pointed.
–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.
Suddenly,
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
–spacemen.
–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.
Hell,
I think Elvis did it, too.
(I suppose I could be wrong about that)
She had chipmunk cheeks.
Dimples.
Blue doggie eyes.
Young.
Love love love.
Her friends were skinny,
tanned,
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,
driving around,
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 orange
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.
Pause.
–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.
Coquettish.
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.
I recoil.
Amazingly the door opens without me even touching it.
I know the girl who comes to the door.
I know I know this girl.
She’s young.
Short, curly brown hair.
Conservative sweater,
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?
–Jack?
–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.
Suddenly,
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.
Maybe twenty-five?
–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,
echoing streets,
and old booths are boarded up on either side,
their walls still reverberating the distant chuckle
and high,
piercing laughter of empty children.
Ghosts haunt this place,
ghosts of families trudging through empty spaces of hollow,
bored hours,
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.
Inside,

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,
Jack said.
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?
He stopped.
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.
I recoil.
–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,
going down,
down,
like a hole.
His mind disappeared down this space ages ago,
I think.
And whatever has him,
controls him
alone.
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,
but fundamentally,
the odds are always rigged in favor of the house.
And then the screaming starts.
He’s cutting her.
He’s really cutting her.
Psychic surgery.
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,
lost, alone.
Ahead he sees her,
and it all makes sense.
Maybe this was twenty years ago,
maybe thirty.
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,
her face
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.
outside,
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,
parlor,
Kitchen
…it was all one slop of mess.
Twin beds.
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.
Short,
dirty blonde hair,
short skirt.
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,
confused,
staring first at Mother with a mouth that wanted to work miracles,
then at the girl,
with a mouth that wanted to work
…other things.
–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.
Somewhere,
a lonely whistle sounded in the night.
–Oh, you’ll ruin us! I always knew it would happen! I hope you’re happy.
Null was.
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 cold.
–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?
He turned.
–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.
She disappeared.
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?
He paused.
Ahead of him, traffic was grinding to a halt.
–What’s the matter? Don’t you believe it?
Pause.
–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.
Unfortunately,
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,
And
–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.
Our conversation
(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,
fuzzy film.
I thought for a moment
I was seeing things.
I blinked.
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?
Outside,
–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.
Suddenly,
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,
watching cartoons.
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.
Wet,
squishy…
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.
It was,
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,
and suddenly,
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.
Suddenly,
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,
said one,
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…
–Hush.
One of the girls came up to me.
She was short,
squat,
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. \
Possibly drug-related.
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,
maybe.
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
and everything
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…
Anyway,
we were living in some sort of
magical kingdom?
(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
being hippies.
(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.
Right away
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.

So,

maybe orcs and hobgoblins have slept here.
Maybe.

Anyway,
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,
but,
inside,
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.

No matter.
Construction on the fire palace began almost immediately,
and I had to wonder where they found curved wood to use for the towers.
Anyway,
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.

After all,
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?
Yes, indeed…

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,
though,
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–.

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Uncategorized

The Sex That Castrates

I look up from my reverie.
A mountain of flab is pressing her cold flesh down on me,
I am being raped by the cellulite-riddled body of my ex-wife.
I am pinned like a fly beneath the mandibles of a hungry spider. Vagina dentate; the sex that castrates.
My mind reels.
She is pressing the breath out of me.
Did I want this?
Bitterly my mind races toward thoughts of last night.
I was drunk at the bar, trying to keep close tabs on my friend.
I was drunk, but he was even more so.
He was stumbling around,
making a nuisance of himself,
breathing beer and stale air on whomever he could lean for a moment. Finally,
I panicked when I saw him lie down in a booth.
I knew he was going to pass out,
and I couldn’t very well carry him out.
I remember stumbling over to the booth and grabbing him by the feet. I pulled.
I tried to wake him up.
It seemed pointless.
***
Three days earlier I had been at grandmother’s house with my mother, cleaning out an old closet.
Grandmother was dead,
but there was some final tidying-up to accomplish.
Mother pulled out an old umbrella, shook it, said, –Well, this is all that’s left. She’s gone now.
Amazingly, droplets of water seemed to fly off the end of the old umbrella.
Mom’s eyes went wide in amazement.
–How could that be? It’s like the thing’s been recently used!
I didn’t know how to answer,
but I had to go to the bathroom.
I went in and stood by the bathtub.
At first, I thought there were lobsters floating in the water.
Then I did a double take.
They were giant spiders…

Other stuff happened that day, but this is all I can remember.
He hits the ball across the parking lot.
Suddenly, a younger man
(I believe this to be his son)
steps forward,
dressed in exactly the same manner.
He is smaller, plumper, but could pass for an exact duplicate of the first golfer.
He takes his turn chipping the balls.
One flies across the parking lot.
Then a third man suddenly appears from nowhere.
He is dressed exactly as the first two,
and looks as if he might be the brother of the older man.
An uncle perhaps.
A dirty uncle.
He chips a golf ball.
Someone yawns.
I hear clapping in the crowd.
I walk out across the hot parking lot.
Somewhere, a dog is taking a shit on someone’s lawn.
And this is another day.

They explain to me what they want to do.
Suddenly the clothes come off. I would have been terribly excited at the prospect of snuggling so many flabby tits, but then I am reminded of the ex-con lover, Mr. Baldy, Mr. Ham-fists, and I realize that this could get me killed.
She tries to convince me, tries to reason with me, does everything but rape me, but there is no way I can rise to this particular occasion. The whole thing ends on a sour note.
I guess I would be better off just fucking an alley cat
with a plastic revolver,
(squirting water out of my ass),
and daydreaming killer orgies
that never actually occur.
But that’s just an illusion.

The movie
ends with a woman whose face was stretched into a rictus of insanity, racing up the stone steps of an old keep,
her arms outstretched.
She is laughing in terror,
and,
outside,
you see that a legion of soldiers has the place surrounded.
They are going to capture her.
Her protector passes her on the staircase.
The jig is up.
Later, he is shown walking to the –burning place,
a look of disgust on his face at the stench and smoke wafting up from the fire.
It could be 1568.
I wonder if she kept a familiar?
I wonder if it was a kitty cat?
***
So mother and I loaded up in the car,
and I had the directions written down right off the Net,
and we made it out to the place,
which was huge and ugly and decrepit and looked like it was big enough for twenty families.
I was excited.
I hadn’t seen Miss K in many years.
She greeted me at the door,
but she seemed oddly distant, even in her effusive greeting.
I immediately saw what lines the years had put in her face,
how they had toughened the once sweet but now aged features,
until they stood out starkly
against eyes that still held a little of the old glitter.
Eyes that were fading, though.
–Oh, come in dear. Oh, my dear, it has been so long since I saw you last, and we have so much catching up to do. People change, you know.
I followed her short bustling frame through the dimly-lit corridor,
and heard her voice come awinding down the walls of time,
like a hollow echo of former days.
Her hair was done up in a little bun.
Inside,
I could see how old the place was,
even with the thin veneer of modernity put upon it; the walls and ceiling were cracked,
the wallpaper was peeling and yellow,
and the furniture was quite old.
Also, the place seemed to collect darkness
(in pools and eddies of pitch that were quite unsettling).
I went into the kitchen first,
followed her into the dining room,
and then we went into a sort of parlor.
In there,
various children (and what I supposed were members of her family) were sitting,
talking excitedly amongst themselves.
One was a teenage girl with long,
straight black hair,
and she seemed to be playing games with the smaller children.
I wondered which children belonged to Miss K,
and which were merely playmates visiting.
Miss K made me a cup of tea,
and talked frantically,
telling me about her job and her husband,
and all the exciting things she had done in her nine years apart from me.
–I’m an adjunct professor you know. I have a lot of unmotivated students to deal with. But, I’ve had a lot of practice, raising a family the way I have.
–You seem to be getting on pretty well for yourself,” I said lamely. I sat down at the kitchen table with my cup of tea, nursing the hot stuff in the palm of my hand.
–We get along okay. E is a supervisor now, so he gets a lot of extra hours. It’s tough sometimes in this economy, to feed a family. But, luckily, we always seem to make ends meet. The good Lord will provide, as the book says.
–You always believed that, I said, again lamely.
–I still do. So, how have you been getting along?”
Ah, there was the magic question:
How have YOU been getting along all these years, Null?
I didn’t know what to say.
What could I possibly tell her?
That I was old and broken down and?
That I was, fundamentally, no better off than I had ever been before?
I felt a strong sense of embarrassment,
and I told her some tosh that I knew she didn’t believe.
–I make some money…from my writing.
I lied. I had never made any real money from my writing,
and most probably never will.
It’s my sorry fate to be a starving artist.
–Oh. Well. You always were a great writer. Written anything I might have read? Under an assumed name, maybe?
She started to laugh.
She had a very high, hollow voice, a sweet voice, musical tones.
And pretty hands; they looked as if they might have been carved from Ivory soap.
I didn’t know what to say,
so quickly turned the topic of conversation to other things.
In the next room, the kids seemed to have quieted down.
I suppose the teenage girl was the babysitter
(it takes me awhile, sometimes, to figure out what should be most obvious).
She leaned over and kissed me.
I felt a hot flush.
My mother was sitting in the next room, talking to the children.
And this was a married woman.
–E wouldn’t have liked me doing that. He get’s insanely jealous if another guy so much as looks at me. But…that’s for all the years spent apart. I’ve missed you,
she sighed, and took my hand.
Her hand was very cool and delicate, but my face suddenly felt hot.
I saw the image of her husband,
and suddenly felt like I was making him into a sort of cuckold.
Also,
I knew he had a slumbering violence inside of him,
and I thought he might beat or kill me if he came home just then.
Did he ever beat her? I wondered.
I looked deeply into her face; the lines were cutting quite deep now into her graying features; she was no longer the young girl I had known nine years previously. Now she was a middle-aged woman,
old and tired and spent with children and duties of home.
–E will just have to understand about today. C’mon. I’m going to take you out to dinner. It’s on me. Red Lobster. Doesn’t that sound delicious?
I agreed that it did.
I went and told my mother that Miss K would be bringing me home after dinner,
and so Mother disappeared.
Just vanished.
Must have blown out the door before I could catch a glimpse of her leaving.
I’m not sure what happened to all the kids,
either,
except the babysitter must have taken them to some other room in the giant old apartment house,
because I saw them no more.
–This place is exactly like your old place. It’s supposed to be haunted. I think it really is, too.
–It does look very old.
–It is. I bet it was built sometime around 1888. Maybe when Jack the Ripper was stalking London. What do you think?
–I think you still seem a lot like the girl I use to know.
At that we fell into uncomfortable silence.
***
Going down the stairs was the difficult part.
They were very steep,
and seemed slippery,
and we had to hold onto the high stone balustrades to keep from sliding down them,
which would have been nasty.
–Oh, these damn stairs scare the hell out of me. It’s the one thing I hate about living here. I go through this every damn day.
At one point I actually expected her to get down on her hands and knees
and start crawling down.
But we did make it down,
and to the car,
although I don’t remember much about the drive.
We went inside.
I was aghast. I had never been in a restaurant like this before.
One thing was for certain: it was NOT a Red Lobster.
–How can you afford a place like this?
I asked,
looking up at the cavernous ceiling
and the rows of polished glass doors that seemed to lead to mysterious, secret rooms.
She looked back at me and said off-handedly,
–Oh, it’s okay. E and I come here all the time.
–We find it very romantic.
–WE, I reminded her, –are not supposed to feel romantic, Miss K. Just old friends visiting each other and having dinner, after too many years apart.
–I know, she giggled,
and for a moment,
beneath the seamed and aged face of the older woman,
I could see the gentle, wily skull of the young girl exposed in heathen wonder,
the skull that promised sensual pleasure, and promoted itself as something fine and fancy for the world to behold.
(In reality, she was a simple peasant girl from hillbilly stock. Same social background as myself.)
She put her hand gently to my chest,
stopped me from going forward,
said, –Wait.
She disappeared.
It was almost as if I was catastrophically drunk,
and time was skipping into little cut-ups.
One moment she was there,
the next moment she had disappeared into one of the welling pools of darkness that painted the heavy wooden floor.
When she reappeared,
she had on a long silver dress,
and I thought I must be dreaming.
–Well, do you like it? How do you like me now?
How do you like me…like me now?
It was almost as if I could hear those words echo in my skull.
I felt cold and clammy and sodden,
ashamed of my broken physical body,
my tawdry leather jacket, my old ball cap.
I was a pauper dating a princess,
one that happened to be –happily married for years.
How do you like me? Now?
It was a dangerous question.
I put my hand in my pocket.
An old cassette tape fell out.
It was Gerogerigegege, a Japanese noise act.
It clattered to the floor, and she bent over in curiosity and picked it up.
–What’s this? I can’t even pronounce it.
–It’s…Japanese experimental music. Experimental music is a big interest of mine these days.
–Oh, she said, not really understanding what I was talking about. We must have ordered food,
because the next is that we were sitting in a sort of waiting room
that looked like a high school shop class,
but must have been one of those fancy art-deco dining rooms
because there was a flat screen hanging from the wall.
–Hey, they have the internet on this thing!
I took the remote and was busily trying to dial up You Tube.
I wanted to play a Boyd Rice video,
although now I can’t remember exactly which one.
I think it was –Watery Leviathan,
but it might more appropriately have been the rare track –People Change.
I looked back at where she was seated on a stool at a wooden table,
with her legs kicked up.
To my horror,
she was smoking a cigarette.
–What in the world do you think you’re doing? I asked, putting down the remote and walking up to her.
She said,
innocently enough,
–What does it look like I’m doing? I’m smoking.
I was flabbergasted.
She had never smoked before.
I, myself, had smoked for years,
but had recently switched over to the e-cig, vapor cigarette, as a safer alternative.
–Well, I figured since we were going to be together all day, I might as well smoke, since I assumed you still did. But I guess you smoke the e-cig now, huh?
–Sure.
***
She went to get our food,
or check on our order,
and I was starting to get worried,
as she had been gone a long time.
I decided to go out into the labyrinthine hallways and look for her.

But which doors to try?
I saw some forms moving behind pebbled glass double doors,
and could hear the steady thump of pounding music.
I cautiously opened the door.
Inside, there was a band on a low stage,
belting out Eighties pop tunes.
They could have been Huey Lewis and the News, for all I knew,
because you could barely see them through all the colored lights and smoke of the fog machine.
People danced like zombies,
and I backed away slowly,
bumping into a massively tall woman in a long silver dress.
Her hair was done up in a massive coif.
I suddenly realized it was a student teacher I had known in high school, twenty years before.
She looked down at me with glazed eyes.
I wondered if she recognized me.
Curiously,
she didn’t seem to be a day older than the last time I had seen her.
She said something unintelligible.
I think she was drunk.
She was snapping her fingers, and swaying stiffly to the music.
I got the hell out of there.
I hope the meal was enjoyable,
because I don’t remember a thing about it.
Later, we drove back to her apartment building,
and she must have invited me back in for coffee or something,
because we had to face those same stone steps again.
I look down, and I can see the narrow space between the wall of the building,
which is brick,
and the steps themselves; narrow, but not so narrow that someone couldn’t fall into that space and become trapped,
crushed.
The steps were a nightmare to climb up.
My feet kept slipping,
but I wasn’t as afraid of falling as she was apparently,
because now I can see she has literally gotten down on her hands and knees,
and is crawling up those rough stone steps.
I did a double take; I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.
She might as well have been wearing lengths of chain,
she was straining so hard.
Oh, Miss K,
why did you leave me this way,
in the lurch, wondering after you,
as you putter away an existence in the comfortable cog life
has prepared for you?
Are you suffering Miss K?
Can you make it up and down that staircase and into the arms of that Other Man,
the one who stole your heart and the glamour in your eyes?
Why should I care?
You’re as alien to me as you ever were.
I’m defeated,
and spent,
and alone.
In the end,
I am Null.

So here I am crawling through the weeds,
watching this pulchritudinous beauty spread eagle across the yellow line of a two-lane blacktop,
out in the middle of BFE.
On top of her,
some skinny pervert is pounding away,
and in the distance I hear the faint rumble of a truck,
so I make out this is some sort of suicide gig.
Like, maybe they find the prospect of being smashed beneath eighteen massive wheels and dragged like squashed bugs in a slimy trail of their own blood…
…erotic?
I don’t know.
What do I know?
I am a lousy voyeur.
It is bright and dusty,
and suddenly I realize I’ve missed something because both of them are walking across the field,
hand in hand, naked as the day God made them,
and they are both long,
pale specimens,
and I follow,
but at a discrete distance.
The wind is hot and smells like rotten eggs,
and the dust gets into your nostrils
and down your throat,
and gravel creeps into my shoes
and I feel dirty.
I come to an old weather-beaten house.
A shack, really, but it looks like some prefab domicile
full of roaches and bedbugs and whatnot.
The door looks like it is gonna fall off the hinges
it is leaning so crazy,
and the exterior has been so blasted by dust that the very structure of the house looks as if it has been engulfed by time.
It is dull and fleshless and like dinosaur bones picked clean by the ages. But enough with that.
I go inside and discover a choking darkness.
It is hot and stale with bodies,
and I see a small living room that could hardly be called that.
In there was a rumpled bed.
People are having sex on the bed.
I can barely make out their wasted images in the gloom.
I notice,
for the first time,

several large dogs.
They look like they have been drugged.
Otherwise, I would guess one of them would take a huge bite out of my ass.
Curiously, they are dressed in doggie tuxedos.
Some of them are asleep against the peeling walls.
A video camera rests on a tripod with no one to man it.
I fancy I can hear water running in another room,
so I creep past the dogs into the darkness
until I come to the door at the far end of the room.
I swing it open, and am amazed and revolted at my discovery.
Inside, a man that is the identical twin of the singer Tiny Tim is taking a shower in a large room that looks as if it belongs at the local YMCA.
He is rubbing soap across his fat, dripping body,
and is singing in a deep baritone
but I can’t make out the words.
I think it was something about it being a long way to Tipperary.
I quickly shut the door on that.
No matter how dirty I felt,
it was gonna be a cold day in Hell before I ever got into a shower with that guy.
I walk back through the living room,
but the bed is now empty.
Dogs are wandering around out the door,
and through the crabby,
weed-choked yard,
shitting and pissing and picking at stray scraps and old tin cans,
snouts buried in yawning trash bags,
and the road outside is still rumbling with those trucks,
and it is then that I see someone at the edge of the yard,
making triangles with the toes of an old shoe.
***

It was the summer when he visited the grandparents because the parents were fighting,
and wanted freedom,
and it was as good excuse as any to get rid of him, he reckoned.
He wasn’t worried that they would get a divorce,
not yet anyway.
That long summer,
all he worried about mostly were old comic books,
television science fiction shows,
and soda pop.
Grandpa and Grandma’s house always had a weird, apple-like, cinnamon smell that masked an odor that many suspected wafted up from the poor pipes.
Lousy sewer.
Everyone lives over a river of shit,
whether they realize it or not.
What was it William S. Burroughs once wrote about not wanting to be president,
but be –Commissioner of Sanitation,
or some such nonsense?
Grandpa and Grandma were distant figures.
Grandpa slept all day,
and Grandma emerged to bake cookies with her hair in curlers
and her hose rolled down below her knees.
At night, they sat in the living room,
and Grandpa read the paper and Grandma looked at the television,
but only softly.
Or,
sometimes,
they played old records.
The house was always spotless,
although he never saw Grandma do any cleaning.
Which, later, he thought of as peculiar.
The house was on the edge of a road where the houses straggled off into the country.
An old cornfield grew across from their property,
in back of the neighbors’ place,
and it was here that he was invariably drawn that long summer,
for reasons he couldn’t quite understand.
It seemed like there was mystery hidden in those endless stalks of old corn,
like every time he penetrated the brown, crisp stalks he was walking into the heart of some secret labyrinth.
And he could sit behind the rows and lose himself.
But he knew he wasn’t supposed to be in the neighbors’ yard.
He hadn’t been specifically told about it,
but he got the impression the Stolzes were an odd couple.
They were as old (if not older) than his grandparents,
and both of them spoke with an accent that sounded faintly German, but was inscrutable nonetheless.
He figured them to be a fruitcake and a nutbar,
and Mrs. Stolz was always out in back,
pulling weeds, whistling, and talking to herself.
Her husband was rarely seen.
He couldn’t remember exactly when it was he had first heard the whispering,
but it hadn’t really scared him.
Not at first.
At first, it merely puzzled him.
He looked about for a source, but could find none.
He cautiously stammered out, –Who’s there?
There was no one there.
He continued to explore the old corn field.
***
He saw the shadow only a few days after that.
It seemed to be cast from the adjacent row,
as if someone was standing back there, hiding.
He gasped, got up, dust clinging to his bottom,
and wondered what on Earth to do.
He was quick to let curiosity overcome him.
He pushed back the stalks, said, –Hello? Anybody there?
he then hopefully added, –Can we be friends?
He heard a faint rustling,
a faint whispering.
Then the sun went behind a cloud, and all was silent.
***
Steve McCloud was a secret agent on a dangerous mission.
–Why do you watch such crap. Irene, why do you let the kid watch such crap on the television?
–He likes it. And this show is for families anyway.
Steve was hanging at the lounge,
all by himself,
waiting for his connection.
The Chinese man lurked in the shadows with a weapon hidden under his trench coat.
Steve turned around,
smiled his toothsome shark smile,
and greeted him in High Mandarin.
A hand disappeared under a coat.
A blow gun.
The Chinese man brought the little tube to his lips, puffed.
Steve put a hand to his neck.
He looked as if he was getting woozy.
There were spirals and circles erupting behind his eyelids,
and he fell over into a whirlpool of shadows,
a place where voices echoed out like dragging rubber.
The next moments disappeared into a thick fog.
A smiling woman held up a bottle of detergent.
Behind her, her husband bent over to inspect the kitchen sink.
Then, a hyperactive man in a suit with question marks told all about
–free government money. He yawned.
Steve woke up in a strange bed.
Above him, the beautiful Cruenta said,
–Well, well Mr. McCloud, it looks as if the effects of the drug have finally worn off!
Steve rubbed his head and sat up.
–Where am I? Is this where–
–Yes. No. I can’t tell you. All I can say, for right now, is that the situation is under control. So, McCloud, we meet again after so many years. And under such unusual and difficult circumstances.
Steve hopped out of bed.
He wasn’t wearing pajamas. He was dressed in an old T-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts.
Cruenta looked at him passionately,
then fell into his arms.
–Oh Steve, Steve, why must we be enemies, just because our two countries are at war? Oh, if you only knew how many nights I have dreamed of you holding me like this.
Cruenta had an accent that was faintly Russian.
Steve said, –I know baby. It’s tough. The world wasn’t made for lovers. But we’ve got to be tough. Got to be one step ahead of the game.
–Kiss me, you mad fool!
They kissed.
A football player sold chicken pot pies.
He nodded over on his arm.
When he came back
(from a place where he was being told not to pee on the floor),
Steve had cold-cocked some big, hulking guy,
stolen his gun,
and was standing in the foyer of some mansion,
holding the gun on some little bald man with a cane.
(He had to pee.)
–Okay Yuschenko, I want some answers, and I want ‘em now!
The little bald man tittered,
smiled an evil smile revealing gold teeth,
and said,
–Yes, Mr. McCloud, you DO want answers. Many things around here need answering. Well, I promise you, you shall have your answers! You shall have them.
The next image was of an empty doorway.
The little bald man turned his face to the doorway and called out something in some weird, guttural language.
Suddenly, he felt his eyes pop open WIDE.
A thing shambled through the doorway.
It was huge and green.
It was shaped a little like a turnip with legs.
It had one big eye in the center of its forehead,
and a beak with rows of needle-sharp teeth beneath.
What’s more, it had a row of tentacles sticking out from its big, green, pulpy head.
It spoke the same guttural language,
although it sounded like it was gurgling water while it was doing it.
The gun went off twice.
It didn’t slow the thing down as it came through the door.
He felt his eyes grow wide.
Steve screamed.
It ate his head.
Suck plop!
Like it was a big, gory mess of candy.
***
But that couldn’t be right
because the next scene Steve was running across what looked like a tennis resort with a friendly agent.

They were being chased on foot.

He turned off the set.
***

–Time for dinner, Billy. You’ll love it, I promise. Chicken pot pie, fresh out of the oven.
–Best dinner for a growing boy, said Grandpa.
They sat down to eat,
and he did have to admit that Grandma’s chicken pot pie was delicious stuff.
It certainly hit the spot,
and kept on swinging.
He had almost two huge helpings,
and finished it off with ice cream.
Grandma said,
–Grandpa, I think we have a little pig on our hands here. Oink, oink, oink…
Grandma began to make snooty sounds.
–Rosemary stop it, said Grandpa, tilting back a little and peering closely at the paper.
Grandma got up and collected the dishes.
–Billy, why don’t you go out and play before it gets too dark. You could use a little exercise after all that food.
Billy wanted to do just that.
He pushed himself back from the table,
went to wash his hands,
and then headed out the back,
into the yard.
The shadows were growing longer as he walked to the chain-link fence.
He could smell sweet hibiscus, and the scent of peppers and fried food wafting down the street.
In the distance, houses gave way to old fields,
and, above,
the sky was an orange temple of sunset.
Things were picture perfect.
He went out of the gate,
and walked across the edge of the Stolze’s property and into the thick of the field.
He could hear it suddenly,

the whispering on the wind.
He stepped into the field.
He began to walk slowly forward,
saying his name,
singing,
asking if anyone was there,
trying to fight down the weird,
creeping sense of otherness that was pervading his being.
He felt his body tremble in the wind.
He walked slowly,
his feet creeping across the grit.
There–he fancied he could hear it say his name!
Billy! Billy! Come to me!
Had it really said those words?
He wasn’t sure.
It was such a whispering,
murmuring sound,
his ears could be deceiving him; it could have said anything.
He walked ahead a few paces,
feeling the old dry stalks husk against his shoulders.
And there it was!

The shadow.
Someone was hiding in the corn!
He suddenly rushed forward,
dove into the next row,
put his hands out…and touched nothing.
He looked around, confused.
Then, the sky overhead seemed to darken.
He looked up.
He saw the smile of a shark.
Twin eyes of deep cobalt blue stared into his own from a raggedy head, wisped in white.
The man was wearing what appeared to be old, ragged clothing.
His jaw was prominent, his forehead large and round,
and he was going bald.
He was the skinniest, weirdest guy that he had ever seen.
–Hello there. I’ve seen you playing around here. Why don’t you come with me, and we can play together?
The man put his large-knuckled hands on his hips.
His grin seemed to be fixed to his face
as if painted there
by a cruel joke of a god.
The wind blew his old, frayed jacket about his tall, gangling frame.
–I don’t think so, mister, he said.
–I’m not supposed to go with strangers.
He backed up; he could feel his heels twist clumsily in the dirt.
The man laughed.
–Oh, I’m no stranger Billy. We’ve known each other, oh, a long time. But you were very young then, and you don’t remember.
He backed up a little, looked around.
They seemed so alone out here,
and it was as if time had stopped.
There was no sound coming from any of the nearby animals.
Not so much as a dog barking.
The man cast a long shadow across Billy’s form.
–Say, do you live out here or something?
The man said,
–Or…something. The Stolzes know about me. As a matter of fact, they’re the ones who invited me in. It’s not my custom to go where I’m not wanted. But c’mon Billy, we have to get going if we’re going to go and play; the hour is growing late, and the barrier can only be crossed when it’s thinnest…now is the time.
And the man turned, and strode off into the brown husks.
And, despite his fear, Billy followed.
***
He felt Mr. Stolz grab his shoulder, jerking him awake.
–You little snoop! What are you doing out here?
Billy felt his head clear slowly.
Then his vision came back from blurry,
sharpening to a crystal clarity that almost made it seem as if he had been looking out through a thick fog.
–You’re the Johnson boy, aren’t you? From next door?
–Well, I’ll teach you to snoop around on other people’s property!
–We’ll just see what your grandpa and grandma have to say about this.
And with that Billy felt himself jerked out of the field
and across the yard
toward the backdoor of his grandparents’ house.
He suddenly noticed something odd:
he was soaked from head to toe.
***
After much fretting and fuming,
Billy was put to bed.

Upstairs,
he felt a case of the sniffles coming on,
probably from being wet out in the cold.
It didn’t bother him.
His mind was a million light years away.
He remembered the man with the electric blue eyes.
The man in the corn.
He closed his eyes.
He could still see the man clearly.
Tall, skinny,
skull a little too big,
eyes a little too bright.
Billy rolled over on his side.
***
The man seemed to have grown weight.
Billy approached him in the corn,
while the man seemed to be fighting some kind of agitated battle with his own body.
He was grabbing at his coat,
which seemed to be moving and bulging in strange ways.
Billy crept forward.
The man turned.
He opened his coat and groaned,
as if freeing himself from a great weight.
Billy screamed.
Hundreds of large rats fell out from under his coat.
They dropped in piles around his feet,
squealing and scurrying in all directions.
The man’s eyes flamed into red.
His face now seemed the very face of a skull.
His teeth were little rat-like fangs.
–Billy! C’mon. It’s playtime. Matter of fact, it’s heaven in here, and we have all of eternity.
Billy could hear something crash through the stalks,
saw a brown, humped shape obscured by husks of corn.
He suddenly knew that this was a rat,
the biggest rat in the world,
and the hungriest.
He turned, but his feet seemed glued to the spot.
***
The scream brought Grandma upstairs,
but he was more concerned with what was going on below,
outside his window,
than reassuring her.
She tucked him in, and he was compliant.
He pretended as if he intended to go back to sleep.
As soon as she had shut the door, he bolted up in bed and went to the window.
Outside, in the darkness, he could see a flashlight bobbing up and down in the corn.
Old Man Stolz was out there for some reason,
looking for something.
Billy could feel his pulse race.
He found himself walking out the back door.
The moon was a sickle-shaped sword in the sky,
and there seemed to be no stars.
He could hear the cicadas chirp,
hear the rustle of the trees as the gentle breeze of evening played through their branches.
Ahead, as he made his way into the corn,
he could see that flashlight still bobbing up and down.
What was the old man looking for?
He could hear the old man muttering to himself, cursing; he could hear foul words float over to him on the gentle breeze.
He didn’t understand some of these words,
but he knew they were bad.
They made him feel slightly icky,
(like when he caught Mommy and Daddy using them against each other). He crouched low behind some corn stalks,
watching the flashing light bob up and down in the rows.
Suddenly,
he heard the Stolzes’ back door swing open and shut.
Mrs. Stolz stood out on the back porch with her arms folded across her chest.
In the corner of her mouth smoldered a cigarette.
He could smell the smoke come wafting over to him on the breeze.
At first she spoke to him in her faintly German accent,
words Billy could just barely make out.
Then she totally surprised him.
She spoke in the weird, gurgling language he had heard on the television show.
Or in his dreams.
He wasn’t sure which.
She came off the porch steps and stood in the yard,
her arms still folded,
looking out over the corn field as the flashlight bobbed up and down, and her husband made his way through the stalks.
Billy could feel his heart pump icily.
If he was discovered here…
Suddenly,
the wind seemed to pick up a little bit.
It blew dust and old leaves into a little whitling eddy,
as Billy could suddenly feel electricity in the air.
His skin began to prickle.
Mrs. Stolz stamped her cigarette out in the dirt,
swayed a little on her feet,
and then put her arms up,
as if pushing back against an invisible force.
Her eyes seemed to close to slits,
and she began to murmur something in the strange language.
Suddenly, Billy saw what he at first took to be fireflies dancing around Mrs. Stolz’s arms.
But they weren’t fireflies.
They were little blue sparks.
Billy felt his skin began to prickle and crackle,
and his hair seemed to be standing on end.
The wind picked up to a gale,
the stalks started blowing out of the dry ground,
wrenched up into the air,
and Billy suddenly felt as if he were in the heart of a miniature twister.
Mr. Stolz walked over into the row where Billy was hiding.
Suddenly,
Billy felt the flashlight beam illuminate his shadowy form.
–You! he cried.
–What are you doing here? Oh, you’ve got to get out of here, boy, you don’t know what kind of danger you’re in! Why, turn the wrong corner here and…

He suddenly came forward,
put his hand on Billy’s shoulder,
and jerked him toward him.
Behind them, in the yard, Mrs. Stolz had worked herself up into an ecstasy of gibberish chanting,
her arms still raised,
her face a red,
swelling,
sweating mess.
Her eyes were watery squints,
spilling tears,
and she looked as if she were on the verge of some kind of mad ecstasy.
The wind was now a howling tempest.
Bright flashes of blue spark began to shoot through the sky around them, and Billy struggled to get free of the old man’s grasp.
–Let me go, you old bastard!
Billy was surprised to hear himself curse,
but the intensity of the moment seemed to demand it.
The old man cursed himself,
then let the boy go.
He turned,
the beam of his flashlight suddenly falling on a large,
humped shape that had appeared moving through the dry husks.
The old man turned,
yelled out:
–Run, boy! Run!
They did,
the old man trailing Billy as the great,
humped shape crashed through the corn stalks,
knocking them over.
It was a shambling thing in the darkness,
but Billy felt he knew what it might be
…if he could see it clearly.
But, even daring to glance over his shoulder,
he realized there was no seeing it clearly; it seemed to be a shifting of shadow and moonlight which hovered, just barely, on the edge of taking shape.
It was a few moments before they were out of the corn.
Mr. Stolz walked up to his wife and took her hand.
Billy hunkered down at the far side of the yard,
too scared to get much closer,
and watched as the great hulking shape came out of the corn.
It was unmistakably a rat,
the biggest rat he had ever seen.
It looked to be roughly the size of a young calf.
It suddenly stood up on its hind legs,
its arms grasping at nothing,
and before his astounded eyes,
Billy saw the rat transform.
It seemed to melt into itself,
becoming smaller and smaller until it wore the final form of a man.
It was the raggedy stranger he had met the previous day.
But the face was different, \
seeming somehow unformed,
or unshaped.
It flowed like wet clay across the skull,
and from the mouth came a sad mewling.
But the eyes were still twin coals of red and seemed to glow from within.
It tottered forward drunkenly,
held out a hand as if to say
–Pleased to make your acquaintance,
and then turned,
heading back toward the corn.
Suddenly,
from its shoulders,
a shower of crisp,
brittle leaves began to blow in the wind,
covering the yard in the howling gale.
Billy rubbed his eyes; the man seemed to be disappearing in a shower of twisting leaves.
The Stolzes were still holding hands,
and seemed to be praying.
Suddenly,

Billy could hear his grandma calling from the back porch.
Calling him inside,
where all was safe and warm.
He suddenly knew he had to run.
There was something chasing him.
He couldn’t quite see it,
but he knew it was behind him
He took off across the yard,
bolted up the steps,
into the back,
past Grandma,
and up the stairs.
He ran inside,
slammed the door,
dove into bed,
and twisted his face up under the covers.
He could hear movement downstairs,
and then the heavy tread of feet on the stairs.
Then,
it seemed as if he could hear a screeching howl
the likes of which he had never heard before in his life.
It sounded like the howl of an angry animal.
There was a monstrous thump against the door,
and he could hear the creaking and splintering of the wood
as something hammered itself against the jamb.
He thought he knew what it might be.
The question was:
Could anything stop it?

He reached up and switched the channel.
The reception was poor.
He rolled over in bed.
The TV was blaring.
Grandpa was watching the morning news.
He didn’t have a TV in his room.
So this was only a dream then.
So the rat-thing wasn’t real either,
even as it stalked around the room, smoke blowing from its snout
–it wasn’t real.
It tripped over furniture,
and had torn a seat to fluffy, cottony shreds,
–but it wasn’t real.
Grandma was coming up the stairs.
Below, he could hear the sounds of someone downstairs.
Sounded like they were munching breakfast.
Probably the Stolzes.
(They were, after all, his parents, weren’t they?)
The rat-thing eyed him with beady black orbs.
Thin streamers of saliva dripped down from its razor-sharp teeth.
Billy remembered Steve McCloud’s head disappearing down the gullet of an awful alien thing with tentacles
and one eye.
He was glad such things couldn’t exist in real life. \
He put out his hand.
He stroked the fur.
He wondered.
In time,
he screamed
until the rafters shook with the delightful fury
of his frenzied pleas.

It is a young woman,
I see,
and her hair is one spider web mess,
and her body is rail-thin,
and her dress looks as old and worn and dusty and tattered as I feel.
She turns, looks startled, eyes me warily,
and puts her hands to her mouth.
She could almost be blowing me kisses.
Her eyes are twin moons of suffering and want.
I hear her begin to gabble.
It is unintelligible.
She pats her skinny little fingers against her mouth.
All of a sudden, I realize what was wrong here.
They had cut out her tongue.

Sitting in a crowded room at a party.
On the wall I’ve posted some pictures.
Told the story a thousand times.
UFOs flying over so I draw.
The faces are all smooth and beautiful.
Alone I am trying to explain my music.

–It’s an abstract mass. Random nothingness shitted out into the audio void. A real statement.
They think that it is bullshit.
And you know what?
They are probably right.

The house right now is filthy.
It’s a basement.
Crawlspaces leading off into corridors,
floors sinking into the shit of the earth,
brutal fingers reclaiming what once was a spot humans could inhabit.
No more dreams, say I,
and turn back to my workstation.
It’s an audio workstation of worrisome cables and little boxes.
No one knows what’s going on.
Someone mills about with a beer.
I think it is the tall blonde boy that sings in the rock band.

I get up to walk up the stairs,
out of the basement,
but there are boxes and shit on the stairs,
and people sleeping there like it is fucking Soylent Green,
so I have to make my way carefully.
Up, and up I go.
Outside, into the hall.
Wonder why everything is so subterranean.

Guy rolls over in bed.
I am suddenly in a room.
He is an old friend.
Lousy lump under the quilt.
The room is awash in flying dust motes of sunlight,
little eddying pools of darkness,
but he is a painted frenzy of bright,
psychopathic intent.
I am stunned to speechlessness.

Gun. In his hand.

–I want to take that away from you. Please.
I feel like this is a huge imposition on our former friendship.
He sits up.
He has grown immense breasts since the last time I saw him.
His head is covered in a white kerchief do rag,
makes him look like Jean-Paul Marat.

I take the gun.
He smiles.
I pass out of the room in silence.
The hallway is dark.
The gun disappears down the front of my pants.
But this is no mystery to me.
Last night I had a dream,
I remember,
as I try to circumnavigate the weird contours of this occult building. (How in the hell did I get here?)
In the dream,
I was living in a dormitory-style room with a bunch of sexy girls.
Or, at least, that’s what I took them to be.
We were all watching hockey or soccer,
I can’t remember which.
I am reclining on a bed against the wall.
It’s a small bed.

a female professor comes in.
She lies down beside me.
She begins to rub her hands on my legs,
and I feel myself getting turned on.
Hockey goes on and on and is a dull game;
the British call soccer –football,
but it is still only soccer.
Which reminds me.
***
Luke got out of the cab.
He looked at the address on his slip of paper.
Yes, he thought,
I’ve come to the right place.
Around him,
traffic continued to hum and thrull,
and daylight slanted down in eddying arcs of brightness
mixed with dust, exhaust, and the peculiar flying grit that penetrates your lungs
when you breathe cotton like a fish in the summertime.
Someone rumbled a dull fart of a horn blast,
and a trucker thought to himself, –Yes, she looks like she would do nicely. Tie her up, make her suck it. She would like to suck it.
Below him, stashed under the seat, are half-a-dozen crusty fuck mags.
Girls walk by in auras of innocence.
Kids pedal bikes into the flaccid breeze.
I was never here,
but Luke told me about it.
The walk is cracked leading up to the door.
On each side,
roses and crab grass shoot like little withered dwarfs of vegetation that God somehow misplaced when he was making the rounds.
So nasty.
Yard is strictly run-to-riot, a nonsense tableaux of weeds and broken toys,
plastic Nerf balls and bits of this and that; beer bottles glint in sunshine sparkle, sending out white hit points of fire.
Bees buzz around Luke’s head.
He walks up the steps,
walks down the cracked cement.
Some idiot bastard child has sketched a fractured hopscotch sketch,
like a puzzled Chinese ideogram
upon the walk.
Little feet pounced here clutching pebbles in the boiling breeze,
long ago.
Jump ropes scattered on the porch.
He walks up creaking wood to the front door.
Jesus peers at him from beyond the rusted screen.
He pulls open the door.
It has been long months since last he saw Clem.
It was at the institution,
where Clem was a fellow inmate.
Both of them got along well enough.
Then they became fast friends,
Clem leading Luke in little mind games,

dragging him around the maze

of his own speculations and philosophical meanderings. Clem would sit back,
lace his hands behind his head and say,
–Well, Luke old bean, what do you think of that? What do you think of that, eh? Does that sort of speculation tickle your fancy?
And Luke,
who was obsessed with philosophical meandering and Derrida,
and post-structuralism,
and deconstructionism,
and probably some other stifling,
muddy thinking pushed out by Frankfurt School Marxists,
would lean over the cracked plastic table,

what had scratches and scrawls and doodles of mad little faces on it, and just stare at Clem,
like he had never seen anything quite so strange and wonderful in all of his life.
And maybe he hadn’t.
And so the two of them created a sort of meeting of the minds.
And conversations around the card table went on long after the other patients had gone to bed.
Out during Rec Time,
when Clem would stand there with his curly,
sandy hair blowing in the hot breeze
and a cigarette hanging out of his weird,
fish-like lips,
he would expound upon his philosophies.
Luke was always an attentive listener.
–Now I don’t believe for a moment anyone actually ever believes they are going to die,
he would say as beyond the wall,
trucks and busses rumblyfarted by in the distance. The Head Nurse would scratch
cryptic pyramids
in the sand
with her white shoepoint.
–Won’t happen. Suppose I am a solipsist, Luke.
–Are you real? Only in the confines of my imaginings. The mind is simply a sender-receiver, nothing more. We just aren’t sure yet who is doing the broadcasting.
Clem looked up,
his face shaded partly by the shaking branches of an old tree overlooking the patio.
Patients milled around in drugged and bored apathy.
Minutes fell like a sledgehammer thump
upon the skull of the world.
–God, I suppose Clem.
–God is the sender.
–We simply decode the signals.
Clem looked off into the distance.
In the distance,
two men in orange vests were laying down a number of traffic cones. The smell of hot tarmac competed with burning cigarette in the stifling air.
–Yes. But he’s a cruel bastard, isn’t he?
Luke realized he loved Clem,
a little.
***
They corresponded by mail a few times,
but it seemed a rather dull alternative to the conversations.
Clem expounded upon
God,
death,
the nature of time,
Dreams

…Luke took it all in silently,
responding as best as his limited knowledge would permit.
Days turned into months.
Luke’s mother was ill.
Died.
He moved into the halfway house.
He learned to cook meals.
There was no one to speak with,
no one to pry open the vistas of his mind.
There were a number of mentally-impaired who slopped dinner down their chests.
A girl crawled on the floor.
Chester, a very lazy, large boy stuffed full of psychiatric medication, often fell asleep outside on the lawn.
His huge bulk was usually shaded by a pathetic tree.
Luke was detached.
Disconnected.
His mind was empty.
What had ever convinced him to seek out anything beyond himself?
The world was what it was; it smelled of disinfectant, dirty ass, and the musty funk of crooked hallways.
Darkness impeded and perverted his sense of self.
He was withering on the vine, tuning out.
So he no longer felt,
no longer thought.
Vague impressions and hints of possibility disappeared,
just as questions of meaning and time became irrelevant.
There was no time;
there was a steady stream of dishes to do.
But he often thought of noble Clem,
with his sandy, curly long hair, and his tall, gangly figure,
who knew so much and talked so plainly
and yet whose mere questions resonated like music,
infuriated and bothered Luke,
who had never had his mind picked apart by anyone
save his psychiatrist.
So.
***
He knew Clem was supposed to be living here.
He had gotten the address
by hook and by crook,
but he had finally tracked him down.
He wanted to resume his short-lived friendship.
He started to knock on the screen.
His hand froze mid-way in the air.
Suppose Clem answered?
After so much time had passed,
what could he possibly have to say to him? Would Clem even remember him?
Luke had always been the silent one,
the cold, aloof one,
unsure of how to process Clem,
or even how to respond to his exhortations to
–break free from the weak, pathetic ennui that gripped Luke’s life like a vice.
A horsefly landed on his fist; the cabbie was snoozing in the road. Someone somewhere was playing godawful rap bass.
He knocked at the rickety screen.
Little wonder the thing didn’t just come off its hinges.
As it was, it was hanging by crooked,
rusted threads across the face of the battered wooden door.
Inside,
a heavy funk of mildew.
Darkness.
Nobody home, then?
He waited dull seconds,
ticking into a full minute.
The cabbie,
a withered man in a ball cap,
would eventually become impatient.
Luke wondered what would transpire in the next few minutes.
He could hear creeping in the gloom.
The creak of footfalls pounding on old, loose floor boards.
The whining cringe of the door being drawn back,
seconds after the clink of a falling chain; the rattle of a loose handle, the click of a dead bolt…
An old woman,
a toothless crone in a rumpled polyester dress.
Bored eyes like dull pinpoints of black boiled hate and apathy; loose shitty curls of grey hair ringed a dusty, creased face,
with dust caught in the withered folds.
One arm up on the doorjamb she leaned,
her large,
droopy visage eyeing Luke warily.
Long minutes.
Clock ticking.
Horse fly buzzing.
Stranded in a macabre moment of dream-like resonance,
Luke could barely spit out the words he wanted to say.
They were caught in his throat like a bone,
choking the sensibilities out of him
until he felt quite dizzy with fear and apprehension.
Finally he managed.
–Clem? Is he here?
The woman turned,
cast her head back off into the stifling darkness,
seemed to work her toothless maw for a moment,
and spoke to someone who might as well have been invisible.
–No. No Clem here.
Pause.
–You must have the wrong house.
Luke paused,
unsure of how to proceed,
lifted the paper up to his face,
and said,
–No, no I’m certain of it. This is the right house…right address. I was told that Clem Johansen lived here as a tenant.
The woman smiled, moved her crochety old head back and forth like a slow, mesmerized cobra, and said,
–No. No Clem here. Not for a long time. He left two weeks arrears in rent. Left all of his stuff, too. What I couldn’t sell is in a closet downstairs here. Want to come in and take a look?
As an afterthought she added,
–Friend of yours?
Luke said more confidently,
–Yes. An old friend. Haven’t seen him in awhile. Do you know where he went?
The old woman smiled again,
exposing black gums in a blackened mouth.
Licorice-colored orifice.
She seemed bothered but amused in equal measure.
–No idea and don’t care. Lazy alcoholic bum. Come on in, he left a few things. I’d of thrown ‘em out, but I must have known you’d be coming. Or someone like you.
She turned and Luke followed into the large foyer,
which smelled of mildew,
and creaked and groaned under the feet,
and was choked with dust.
The floor was a litter of broken children’s toys
and discarded rubbish.
Furniture was badly out of place.
Elvis peered in black velvet relief
from the wall overlooking the sagging couch.
A single television was churning out a combination of fuzzy static and game shows.
All was.
The closet.
Luke opened up the rickety door,
his hand squeezing the rusty handle lightly,
not liking the boney wobble of it,
pulling back the heavy wood,
which seemed to catch against the floor
and scrape long and hideous.
Inside a pack and a pink blanket.
Luke went inside and grabbed eagerly.
The old woman disappeared.
The pack was full of a few old books,
Heidegger and Nietzsche
and an almanac and a few thriller paperbacks.
Nothing special.
He dug deeper
and found filthy shirts and under things,
old candy wrappers,
a deck of pornographic playing cards,
a bandanna,
a buck knife,
a headband with feathers and beads on it,
and a pair of work gloves.
He discarded all of this on the floor.
He found a necklace,
a cheap little twisted thing that had a sort of rusted
pig-shaped piece of metal hanging by a beaded thong,
and stuffed it in his pocket.
He had no idea what it meant.
Then he found the photographs.
People posed in various erotic shots; mother, sister, fellatio, cunnilingus,
people fucking on roller skates,
people doing it perched precariously on the edge of toilets
and leaning into urinals,
and sitting on sinks
and down on all fours with strings of beads shoved up their asses.
He flipped through them,
feeling his breath suck in a little.
There were phony bondage shots,
bored women tied with handkerchiefs and leather belts,
standing in black lace panties
in empty rooms,
while men whose faces were cleverly hidden from the camera
prodded at them with riding crops and whips.
Some of the women had clearly been crying; a few of them looked bored,
their flabby bodies painted in stark relief
by the gritty black and white images.
Intermixed were quite banal scenes
of a family at picnic.
Mom and dad and sis and,
perhaps,
Little Clem,
from decades ago.
A few grainy images,
perhaps thirty years old.
He pocketed all the photographs.
The old woman shuffled out of the darkness,
pointed her fingers,
snapped a few times,
and said, in an accusing voice,
–Here now, you’ve made a mess. Pick it up. Come on, pick it up. Here, I’ll get you a bag.
In truth,
the whole place looked as if a cyclone had just ripped through it,
but Luke knew better than to protest.
He got up, felt his knees popping,
and bent over,
taking the garbage sack from the old woman
and stuffing the heaped contents on the floor into the plastic opening.
He had quite a Santa Claus sack once he was done.
He slung it over his shoulder.
The old woman stopped to look at him in the gloom of the living room, as if to consider for a moment what he was doing here and who he was,
and then turned,
cast her eyes to the floor,
and lead him out, saying,
–Well, sorry I couldn’t be of more help to you, but I’m an old woman, and I just can’t keep up on the coming and going of tenants. I’m eighty years old this year.
Luke apologized for any inconvenience,
and stepped back out into the heat.
The cabbie was still waiting at the curb.
Somewhere,
a car alarm had started wailing out terror to the bored,
apathetic streets.
He got in the cab with his sack,
looked at the address,
crumpled and folded in his hand,
and slowly began to tear it into pieces.
Suddenly, he realized he would never see Clem again,
that Clem might well be dead,
that, for all intents and purposes,
he WAS dead.
No connection.
No more conversation.
No more mental touch.
Tears began to roll down his cheeks,
The cabbie looked back in his rearview mirror,
never once changed expression,
continued his bored driving
with a face that might as well have been molded from plastic.
Luke began to sob violently.
When he got back to his flat he turned on a Whitehouse album, possibly cranking the volume far too loud.
He felt cold,
alien,
lizard-like.
He was in a place where emotion couldn’t reach him; he had exhausted that avenue.
He sat in his chair and lit up the end of a joint.
After a few hours, he disappeared in folds of electronic noise,
his alien self covered by a harsh wall of icy sound,
allowing no light to pierce through.
He sat down in his rocker, the room spinning a little.
He closed his eyes. Behind the closed lids, images danced:
erotic and playful and hideous and murderous and full of cold,
sadistic glee.
Killing the center of himself that needed anything
but freeze.
He slumped over in the chair, put his head between his legs,
and,
were it not for the marijuana buzz,
might
have vomited.
He could hear the clock tick, loudly.
And so he sat until the room grew very dark.
***
It is dark where I am at.
There is a fenced-in run,
a gravel and dirt path running between two chain-links topped by barbed wire.
On either side,
a house leans crazily over,
spilling out into the yard.
The wall on either side has been ripped out,
so you can see directly into the living room.
Someone,
a mysterious stranger,
hands me a microphone.
–Tell them Null, tell them all about the money scam and the Federal Reserve.
I proceed to do this,
and realize I am talking to a bored group of twenty-something college dropouts,
all adorned in baggy clothing and flannel shirts.
One of them is the tall, blonde boy in the rock band.
Apparently, no one wants to hear what I have to say,
as they all run through the opening in the fence
and hide out in a living room.
I told you,
one side of one house is open,
wall torn down,
facing the opposite house in the same condition.
So I follow.
Microphone in hand.
Bored eyes stare at me blearily across haze of marijuana smoke.
–They print up the money, but there is nothing backing it. They want to create economic boom times, they simply flood the economy with phony greenbacks. They want to create economic busts, they take all that money out of circulation. Big deal, Like it grows on trees, right? No more real than anything else in this phony world.
My voice is scratchy,
and it sounds like I am broadcasting across time and space
through the oldest Mexican radio in the world.
I realize my captive audience is asleep.
They struggle against each other in bored derision,
a jumbled knot of twenty-something men and women lying across couches and sofas and sprawled out drunkenly across wooden floors.
Party house,
and everyone is passed out.
I realize my lecture on the Fed will have to wait.
I go back out,
step across the opening in the fence,
walk out onto the dirt run,
and am met by the Sheriff.
Tough guy.
Hamhock fists and swollen belly,
brown uniform and porn star moustache over bitter little teeth.
Chews tobacco, obviously.
He says nothing intelligible.
Or, at least, nothing I can remember later.
His big imposing bulk fills the night with flying bits of gravel,
as he jumps up and down,
like a moon man, his arms held stiffly out at his sides,
his face a comic mask of anger; he looks like a hopping mad little boiler about to discharge a heavy jet of steam from his ears.
One of his shadowy cohorts,
who hides in the background drinking beer,
asks him what he is doing.
He replies,
–I’m demonstrating my interrogation techniques.
I swear to God, that’s all I remember.
I leave him to jumping in the dirt,
realizing he is a rowdy character.
I go back through the opening in the fence,
into the living room,
past the lotus-eaters,
and down the hall,
getting lost in the maze-like shadows and interplay of old doorways and little nooks
and crannies that end in nothing.
In a room
a man and a woman make love.
Dirty room,
little bed with rumpled, filthy sheets.
The woman has a wonderful body,
which I at first think is painted white.
She looks up at me,
rolls off of him,
and her eyes are pinpoints of solid black.
I do not understand.
Her head is bald,
smooth, and she has no nipples.
She is chalk white.
And smooth between the legs.
She has long fingernails.
She starts to rip her pearly white skin off in massive hanging chunks.
I can see the dry flaps of it hanging from her,
as if she were simply some sort of bizarre snake
shedding for the first time.
Bloody scars criss-cross her arms,
and she becomes a mass of oozing red and white.
–Do you like me? Do you see what they’ve done to me? Do you like me better this way, or the other?
She was covered in white latex,
some sort of skin suit.
I shake my head,
thinking this isn’t possible,
that I must be back with the lotus-eaters dreaming.
The bed becomes a sodden mass
of blood and white skin,
as she continues to shred her outer layer,
revealing a blood-streaked torso even more lovely than what I first imagined.
Slowly,
I drift out of the room,
back down the stairs,
tearing my crummy pictures off the wall.
So I end up where I started,
sitting in a chair,
losing consciousness,
becoming a fly on the wall.

–He looked up and down the expanse of beach as the waves continued to crash against the water.
–Hey, Lucy. Hey, get up already.
–She was laid out on the sand.
Fred and Ethel were debating on whether or not to try and scale the expanse of cliff that towered overhead,
or look for a way around it,
even though it would entail a hell of a long walk.
Some seagulls sailed overhead in a lazy blue expanse that was quickly darkening down to grey.
The air seemed alive with the possibility of a storm.
Lucy rolled over,
sand sticking to her face,
her clothes a sodden mess, and said,
–Leave me the hell alone, you bastard. This is all…all your damn fault.
–To hell with you, bitch. You always were bad luck.
Ricky put out a foot,
not gingerly,
to roll Lucy over.
She looked about half-dead from hunger and thirst.
–Get up you bitch, we have to keep moving.
–I don’t give a damn whose fault it is, anyway. Why do you? You some kind of Goddamned soothsayer or something?
–You’re a penis with legs.
–You’re a lame, bitchy cunt. Now get up.
Lucy slowly got to her feet.
She wobbled a bit,
made tracks in the sand as she staggered like a drunk,
trying to regain her sense of equilibrium.
Ricky put his fists on his hips,
mainly to keep from belting her across the face and knocking her back down.
Fred and Ethel both crouched by the life boat,
seemingly waiting for a rescue that was quite obviously never going to come.
They both seemed dazed,
unconscious of the seriousness of the situation.
As in: they needed to find fresh water and food,
and quickly.
Ricky,
of course,
felt as if he were the only one capable under the circumstances.
–We have to find some fresh water. We’re gonna die of thirst out here if we don’t.
Fred suddenly called out,
weakly, –Rick? Rick, is all our emergency supplies gone?
Ricky looked over at him as if he might have been a monstrously slow child.
Of damn well course they were all gone; used up days ago.
Ricky’s mouth felt like a swab of cotton, but he managed to croak,
–Yes Fred. No more food in the kit. We rationed out the last of it before we landed on this godforsaken rock.
Fred managed to look even more downcast and woebegone than he already had,
and lowered his head,
as if in prayer.
Ethel absentmindedly stroked his white, wispy locks.
She seemed as if she were the only one prepared,
willing and able,
to meet death on its own terms.
She shushed Fred as he began to weep.
Lucy blinked as if she were just coming back to consciousness.
She staggered drunkenly,
wobbling on her feet,
and then managed to spit out,
blinking unbelievingly as if she was seeing a mirage,
–It’s always the women…always the women who have to be the strong ones. Rick, you bastard…
She turned on him,
her bleary eyes boiling down to pinpoints of red and black,
and said,
–Why are you all so weak, huh? Why are all men…so…fucking…weak?
she suddenly stumbled forward, hit his chest, began to pound him with her tiny fist.

He grabbed her hands in his, looked at her,
felt his jaw harden with murderous hate.
He pushed her back,
but she didn’t fall,
only stood there in a rigid pose that suggested the killer feline waiting to pounce.
He suddenly doubled up his fist and punched her in the gut.
–Oh hey, Ricky, why’d you go and do a thing like that for?
Ethel’s tones seemed curiously flat and hollow.
She must have realized that,
at death’s door,
all other events and considerations start to pale in importance.
Fred merely seemed confused.
Ricky went over, pulled her back up by the collar of her white shirt, and told her,
–Calm the hell down, bitch. You’re not making this any easier for anyone, okay?
She looked at him with sullen,
guilty,
schoolgirl eyes.
The punch didn’t do

Standard
Uncategorized

So I am with this teacher, and we are both confined to the Special Ed room. Now, you know how this goes:
two people in a human bird cage
(and man, I mean a literal fucking cage: walls and floor are bendable metal slats with a tarp or rug covering them),
and somehow or other we get tasked with motivating a blonde boy
with a bad speech impediment.
Teenage punk talks like he has a mouth full of rocks,
or is part cave man,
or some damn thing.
But there is a second room, off from the first, and this is where they keep the real retardates:
drooling hydrocephalics
in wheelchairs,
and the deformed,
and Down Syndrome cases
what got no more than an ability to flap their arms
like a penguin and howl.
But, our room, our domain, is just for BAD KIDS.

I guess I was a bad kid that year.
Many years after, also, most probably.
But somehow or other I got on the good side of the law,
and they let me have a little responsibility,
like I am some sort of shining light, right?
An example for the ages.
An example for all the other BAD KIDS.
We go in the second room,
walking carefully over those flimsy metal slats,
and right away I smell that pissy odor clings to everything
so funky and nasty,
everything having to do with the mentally handicapped
(the politically correct will call me a bigot, but I bet their sweet aunt’s fannies they’ve never been subjected to such a smell in all their born days),
and I know where I’m at.
There is a bed sits in the center of the floor, and reclining on it, covers pulled up to his chin,
is Our Boy.
He has a bad blonde cut, and a heavy jaw, and his clothes come straight from Goodwill, but at least he’s wearing some.
The woman teacher says to him, pointing an accusing finger:
–Get up. Get on up ! You belong next door. Not in here. This is for the Special Needs kids.
He mumbles something
in a hollow, weird voice
that I can’t quite make out.
But he is smiling.
He knows we’re powerless to do anything to move him,
and he looks pretty comfortable,
if not entirely clean.
I don’t know what to say.
I put my hands on my hips.
Then I realize something funny.
The bed he is resting on is made of those same damnable metal bars, and looks pretty damn uncomfortable.
I can hear it groan and creak
and crush under his weight
as he turns over.
He peeps an eye at us mischievously,
and then screws both lids shut again,
as if he is trying hard to get back
to whatever dismal little dream he was having
before we so rudely interrupted.
I think maybe he is dreaming about how much fun he is having
getting over on
The System.
***

The System
The System likes me,
so it was with an amount of aplomb that I was chosen
to meet the President,
who was an amiable old B-movie actor that played opposite a chimpanzee.
This was long ago,
and the man has passed on to greener pastures.

But I got to go to the White House screening room,
where a famous director with connections to the CIA showed his most popular film.
It was a blockbuster about kids and an alien stranded on Earth.
I couldn’t remember exactly how the thing went or ended,
and,
as I sat there amid the rows of suits and the high,
cloying stink of aftershave,
I realized that it was because, for some reason,
they had changed the ending.
Now, about halfway through,
it became an entirely different movie.

Now, instead of the bicycle ride in the sky,
accompanied by squat green alien in a basket,
the kids were flying Black Hawk helicopters

(maybe the President liked this version of events better?),
and calling each other funny nicknames over the radio.
Names that had to do with different varieties of fruit, I think.
I can’t remember specifically.
I wondered where in the hell those kids learned to fly those helicopters.
And we never did get to see the alien.
I so badly wanted to see the alien.
But we just saw a bunch of flying over canyons,
and I started to fall asleep,
and the President was standing there nudging me,
calling me little fella,
and the famous director
(who was a Jewish guy with a beard and a baseball cap)
was standing there beaming with kindly eyes,
but the President looked a little scary.
He had a bad shave, I can remember.
He had a cruel, inscrutable face,
face of a robot, a mechanical sort of smile that said,
–Don’t come to me with your petty concerns and trivialities. I could blow up the world twenty times if I wanted to. You think I am interested in your outmoded politics? I am not interested at all.
He held up a hand.
He had four fingers.
Was missing a thumb.
–You know, there aren’t four people in this room who know how true that movie really is.
The director smiled, laughed a little, looked nervous.
I fidgeted in my seat.
Men in suits with black sunglasses changed positions.
Outside, Washington slept the sleep of the righteous.
I was flown back home.

My home town took pictures of me,
had a parade,
and I ended up getting my name in the paper.
But it all went terribly wrong somehow.
I knew there was more to this alien business than what the President was letting on.
And the director of the movie must have been in on it, too, because,
just then,
the aliens started to invade my life,
little by little.
***
The Dog
Okay, so we didn’t have a dog.
I couldn’t figure out where the hell the dog had come from,
but one day I wake up,
and there the little bitch is.

Outside,
storm clouds are gathering,
and I get out of bed,
go downstairs,
and Mom is sitting in her broken recliner,
watching the weather map.
It looks like there is a hurricane on the way.
She looks pretty scared,
and I look down to realize that that isn’t a dog
I’ve been trailing across
the living room floor,
it’s a cat.
A sleek little pussy.
She reclines on her side.
–You guys don’t love me anymore.
She purrs.
I bend over, reach my hand out, stroke the soft fur.
–Oh we sure do love you, Mr. Pussycat. We love you like a member of our own little family.
–Oh no you don’t, you big liar!
You guys are planning on getting rid of me.
The cat had a whiny,
little bitch voice.
I wasn’t at all shocked she should be so petulant.
Outside, the wind began to grow to an enormous howl,
and the lights flickered.

I then saw that the cat’s fur was turning red. Bright red.
The lights dimmed as the hurricane-force gale picked up,
and Mom jumped from her seat,
but the cat was already clawing at my head,
and enveloping me with her cat womanhood.
Her pussy’s pussy.
I had an instantaneous image of being born,
a whole man,
from the red, gaping cunt of a large,
red-headed woman with pale skin.
Had the cat metamorphosed,
like Gregor Samsa,
into a redheaded harlot floating in an indeterminate space?
But I was born from the cat’s vagina. Or reborn. Or some damn thing. Later, I went back to the library,
possibly to research cats and their peculiar birth canals.
***
The Library
I had been here previously, looking for a lost edition of Steinbeck.
The librarian pointed out to me that they had an obscure work by Victor Hugo that demanded I read it.
The text was in little columns.
Right side up and upside down.
I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
Luckily, a re-enactor was there to make some sense of it.
Or to show a movie,
or to pick apart my brain as I settled into a hard plastic seat and listened to him.
He was dressed in Medieval robes,
a tin crown,
and his hair covered his face.
–Crossing oneself is NOT a sure way to expiate sin. Nor is saying the Hail Mary or Our Father
I had no idea what he was talking about.
Next to him, a television screen showed the image of a hunchback racing through the streets of Paris,
trying desperately to save,
in the nick of time,
some doomed Esmeralda who was tied to the stake amidst a pile of ash. Below her, someone had set up a cannon aimed at her face.
(It fires, but some sort of reverse magnetism must have been at work, because the shot is deflected and falls back to Earth. I wonder, as I sit there watching this absurdity, why it was that Pierre ran away with the goat, right when he knew that Esmeralda needed him the most, and whether or not the Sachette ever had a chance to brush her teeth while she languished in that public dungeon.)
Perhaps Pierre, too, was reborn from an animal’s womb.
Perhaps we should all crawl back into the skin of some shape-shifting dog or kitten,
or goat,
and experience the world from the inside out,
as we travel,
screaming,
through the darkened tunnel of delirium into the bright,
brutal pain of the New Day.
(Howling with Roman intensity.)
***

(The Workings of) The Federal Reserve
I sped along the hallways looking daft,
left and right,
suckers everywhere.
Down below, in the cage of rooms I had just left,
a collection
( a gaggle if you will)
of Roman boys
in togas sat around.
I am tasked with explaining the workings of the Federal Reserve to this lot.
(Glare of the television painting faces blue and white, and the girl says, –I think you broke it, ‘cause the cat won’t drink out of it anymore.)

–So I’m sucking the water out of this plastic gun, and we are all just sitting there. And I start to take the thing apart, and realize that I don’t know how the hell it works. And why am I sucking on some kind of plastic pump anyway, so nasty? But we had all better go, I reflect, before her boyfriend gets home, and he has his buddies with him, and then someone (likely me) will be dragged out onto the lawn. You know how this routine works: angry ham hock fists and burning skull beneath layers of fat, chin wobbling, arms thrusting back and forth and screams dying in the distance

…as patrol car creeps on….

–Oh, lookee see, cried the cop. –Better stop them while he’s still… So I don’t want to get stomped.
The boyfriend and esteemed ex-con has figured prominently in our interactions as of late.
(our interpersonal relationship consists of hot little fuck fantasies and dirty, smeared lipstick…)
So it wasn’t long ago I was walking down some hot sidewalk,
and she is behind me with a gaggle of witches,
and they all start chanting out my name
in nursery rhyme
Jump rope speak,
and I know I’m going to be captured by this coven.
It is hot and bright and sticky
and your armpits and thighs are sore,
and some fat kid has spilled ice cream
drips on the cracked sidewalk.
But here I am,
they’ve whisked me away,
and we’re all suddenly in a hotel room.
I’m thinking orgy.
***
The Tigers
There are seven tigers residing in my apartment.

I’m living with my aunt.
She adopted them as little tiger cubs.
It didn’t take them long to grow though,
and they are now mammoth creatures that need to be fed massive amounts of meat every day,
just to keep them sated.
They seem docile, tame,
as if they appreciate the good situation they’ve got going here.
They loll around all day,
all over the furniture,
their tails thumping against the coffee table.

And I live in terror.
(Terror because I know that, one day, the Beast Will Out, and these tigers will fall on me, and devour me. And would my aunt care? I’m not certain. She loves these animals as if they were her own children. Hell, she raised them from little cubs. She feeds them out of her hand. Besides, she sleeps all day, and can’t be bothered about her pets.)
So the tigers loll about with rusty purrs and twitching tails,
and I’m afraid to sit next to them,
or step on their claws.
One false move,
after all,
and I’m toast.
Dead meat.
Hamburger.
A bloody mess.
That would be the end of Null.

Our living room is a lazy oasis for tigers.
They come in one size:
very large and intimidating.
What’s worse,
it is I who gets to feed them.
Mostly from old Alpo cans.
But what they want is MEAT,
(and we can’t really afford the good stuff.)
I get nervous; they are starting to look lean and hungry.
Now the management of our building hasn’t said anything about the tigers loping casually through the rooms as they come and inspect for bugs, (which is regular because bugs seem to be as endemic around here as tigers).
Bent down at the sink,
the Bug Man
is looking for roaches.

I’ve seen a few.
They don’t, however, disturb me as much as the tigers do.

–This situation can’t go on like this forever
I tell her.
She rolls over in bed,
gets up,
wipes her eyes,
says,
–I know. But they are really quite tame, don’t you think? Nothing to be afraid of. See? He’s a gentle as a kitchen.
I think she meant to say kitten,
but I let it go.
A great, slow, loping tiger moves,
with killing grace,
through the door,
and jumps up into bed next to her.
She runs her fingers through the thick fur,
and the thing emits a treacherous, rusty growl.
I shrink back.

These tigers will be the death of me.
When I called the policeman,
he came in and took stock of the situation immediately.
–Look lady,
he tells my aunt,
–We have laws in this state, see? You can’t just go keeping seven tigers in your house. Not in an apartment this size. It isn’t kosher.
She sits up in bed,
eyes the policeman warily,
and asks him what she’s supposed to do.
Where, after all, will they go,
if she has to get rid of them?
–That’s not my problem, lady. I’m giving you one month. If, when I come back, these tigers are still here, you’re going to be in trouble. A lot of trouble. Understand?
She nodded.
I went outdoors,
not feeling very well for having called the law on my aunt.
Outside,
there was a regular convention of apartment complex tenants going on. Someone was restraining a huge black cat with an arched back,
that I at first took to be a dog.
(Maybe a vicious pit bull.)
But it was obviously a cat.
What were they all doing out here,
these milling throngs of people?
Suddenly a man steps forward with a gold club.
He has on a funny checkered cap,
and a sort of flight jacket that is a really garish purple.
He starts chipping at these golf balls.
I make this is some kind of impromptu tournament.
***
Parsecs in Oblivion
The man turns to me,
his eyes glowing like twin coals, and says,
–Null, it’s time to go.
I step off the platform.
Everything is so white here; in this place the walls seem to glow from within,
casting their light outward so that shadow people can’t lurk in the corners of the room.
There are no crawling shadows here,
no dark and ready nightmares creeping about on twisted feet to haunt the darkness,
because there is no darkness.
Even the clothing is shimmering and white,
radiant with the love and peace I feel all around me,
and I say,
–I don’t want to go,
but he just smiles,
and his face is a vast plain of understanding and somewhere,
written into the pattern of the stars,
I know that all things are meant to be.

–The Knowing Self is not born; it never dies. It sprang from nothing, nothing sprang from it.

His mouth makes the words,
but I hear them like an echo in my head,
rumbling around with a mythic resonance until they penetrate the core of my brain,
and I hang my head in submission and realize that,
yes,
I will have to transport down,
despite the good time I am having here,
amidst the rainbow light that shines and shines and comes from everywhere and nowhere.
So I take on a new physical form,
and then I am lead to that shifting screen wherein visions pop in and out of your mind like glowing fireworks,
and laser lights penetrate your eyes,
and you can peer into the darkness of secret spaces and nothing can hurt you because you are surrounded by the good vibrations emitted,

…by the humming and thrilling of the mother ship as it counts off parsecs in intergalactic oblivion.
***
The Prey
The Wolf prowled the streets in darkness,
looking for his prey.
She was walking to a convenience store to buy a pop.
The streets were deserted,
the parking lot a ghost town of rusted shit cars and dead bugs,
candy wrappers and old bottles tossed aside;
so much refuse.
But there was something fundamentally wrong here.
There was some sort of center of psychic gravity,
some dimensional whirlpool that puked up the sullen denizens of another reality,

in all their strange and gruesome savor faire.
As in one time I saw a man with funny legs,
walking like a drunken flying saucer captain…
Now, one should never tease the crippled,
but I wasn’t sure that that was what he even was as I stood at the checkout of the supermarket line
(which was right next door to the convenience store),
and he came crab-walking up the aisle,
holding a single yellow flower out in front of him like it was a sacred chalice; and he was a skinny,
sweaty,
oily white man,
who was tall and gangly but had legs like a crab,
and a sort of plaid shirt and shorts,
and he was wearing the thickest glasses I have ever seen, with tape on them.
And he had a shock of hair more like an afro.
And heavy breathing:
you could hear him coming up the aisle,
gasping as if he were having a really bad asthma attack.
But no attack.
This must have been normal for him.
The sight of him shocked me
(but not as much as other things would shock me in due time),
and I inched away from him as he crab-walked to the register with his single flower and purchased it.
What did he want with one lousy flower?
To take it back to his home planet?

(So that area of town acts as some sort of sinister magnet, attracting in things BEST LEFT UNKNOWN to the prying eyes of mortal man. But it is a dull, dry, empty little shopping center on the edge of a long country road, leading away from a college.)

When he killed the girl,
it was a real freak scene.
Had driven up next to her in his van,
and had eyed her with that wolfish,
knowing look.
He was a Wolf,
alright,

and she was a Rabbit, and it was dark and the moon was howling and his blood was up.
Rabbit was tasty and good.
Rabbit was good meat.
He felt his heart skip a beat.
–Hey baby? Hey, bitch, I’m talkin’ to you.
The girl continued to walk,
her blood pressure increasing; sudden panic erupted in white hot spots of terror across her face,
blotches of icy blood rushing to her cheeks.
Her hair whipped about in the gentle breeze as she quickened her pace.
–Hey, you want a ride?
It was a lame growl for a wolf of his caliber,
but it was the best his lust-addled mind could conjure.
He drove slowly,
pacing her,
she taking off across a field between a swimming pool and a park.
Suddenly the beast leapt up in his soul,
the Wolf released itself,
and was suddenly hairy and growling and leaping and running after the kill.
The Kill.
All that mattered to the animal.
He chased after her,
cornered her against a wall,
pinned her against a tree.
He could hear her heart hammer in her chest,
as her breath sucked in…out…in…out…
Was she consciously trying to control her panic?
He wasn’t sure.
She suddenly screamed,
and he dealt her a crushing blow.
–Don’t do that again, he said calmly,
producing a buck knife.
–Now, take off your clothes.
She started to unbutton her shirt.
The Wolf felt himself go rigid with excitement and lust.
He was nearly salivating.
It would all be over so soon,
but, oh, it would be so sweet to the Wolf.
He could barely see her in the moonlight.
Small.
Waif-like,
almost.
A good girl.
Mommy’s little angel.
Daddy’s little darling.
She stood, like a shock-trauma victim,
bathed silver in the coursing moonlight.
The cicadas sang
a pretty song.
The night was a rumbling
fart of cars
plunging
to various destinations
in the distance.

Somewhere, he fancied he could hear the chatter from a radio.
She stood in confusion,
her arms held stiffly out in bleak repose,
as if to say,
–This is what you wanted. This is what you wanted to see? Can you be satisfied now? Can you let me go, and let me live? Oh, I so badly want to live, and to love, and to grow old, and to see the other wabbits again, all snug and comfortable in our little cage.

Her eyes were twin moons of exquisite religious suffering.

Somewhere he knew
angels were weeping
tears of blood.
He couldn’t kill her here.
He had to find another location.
It was too early,
there wasn’t enough time,
someone might happen upon them in the darkness.
It excited him though,
the possibility of capture.
It thrilled him almost as much as the hunt and capture of the prey.
the strange suspended animation they both stood in was broken by one swift movement of his dirty hand.
He brought it down with crushing force against the side of her head, knocking her unconscious.
He dragged her back to the van.
How he did this without anyone seeing him,
across a lighted road so early in the evening,
is anyone’s guess.
He managed.
He left the clothes behind,
(Later, the police would find them, but that was all.)
No blood.
No DNA.
No fingerprints.
A perfect kill.
The Wolf was pleased with his swift cunning.
He wrapped her up in a plastic tarp,
stuffed her in the back of his van amidst the filth and the shit,
the porno mags and the dirty underwear,
and the whatnots and candy wrappers and potato chip bags.
The Wolf had a big appetite.
He drove down the road a pace,
but he turned off onto the back roads,
which he knew well.
He was looking for a specific isolated spot,
somewhere far out,
where he could work unhampered and undiscovered for as long as it would take.
He found his spot amidst a stand of thick trees,
overlooking a river.
We could say the spot was romantic,
but we would be lying.
(Of course, a special relationship must exist,
after a fashion,
between the Predator and his Prey.
A certain dance of death is enacted,
a ritual performed,
a life spent.)
He dragged her out of the van.
She was coming to.
He leaned her against a tree as she moved groggily in the chill night air. She made a moaning sound in her throat. He crouched down for a moment, to hear if she might say something.
She never spoke a word he could understand.
He knocked her back against the rough bark,
pinned her there with one hand,
and got out his belt.
It was a long strip of leather he kept for just such purposes.
He began to wind it around her neck,
around the slim tree trunk,
tightening it,
leaning back against it,
as her hands shot up to her throat.
She struggled,
but her eyes told him she knew the game was up.
There was a certain resignation that only he could see; it was a dead, vapid light in the eye,
one that said that Heaven’s gate would soon be opening to claim another soul.

Finally it was all over.
He released his grip on the belt,
the blood coursing in his veins,
his sex sliding down his leg in a hot stream.
He gasped,
shuddered,
felt the incredible ecstasy,
wondered what it would be like to eat the body,
to keep it with you forever in a sense,
and then thought that that was impossible.
He wasn’t, after all, Jeffrey Dahmer.

He dumped her.
He never told the police where.
she has never been seen again.
***

Tough World
Someone’s father reminds him,
holding out an old rifle and dressed in green fatigues,
that the military wants his service.
The son doesn’t want to go,
wants to wrestle the father to the ground to prove,
once and for all,
that he isn’t going to take any shit and didn’t steal the clip of money that was lying on grandma’s table
(grandma at this point, is not dead in her grave, I suppose, but still alive, and gathered with the family, and pointing an accusing finger at our young hero.)
–You want to know who manufactured the best airplanes during the war? The Americans, of course. We did. That’s why we beat the Germans. The Nazis.
The father sits down, crosses his legs, looks reflective.
Somewhere,
the boy remembers better times.

He is with his mother in a fantasy of the movies.
They are watching an old black-and-white flick on the screen.
It apparently stars Danny Kaye.
The mother is morbidly obese.
The boy knows that,
just as sure as his father will one day drop dead from stress,
so too will his mother succumb to a heart attack because of her obesity. She tells him, –Go up to the snack bar and get me some french fries. He does what he is told,
a dutiful son.
(Of course, I see all this through the shifting prism of the viewer, and it is all like little images suddenly grown big from multicolored prisms and shining jewels, and little lasers that blast strange, warped sounds that shatter the nerves and the ears. And suddenly, I realize I am beaming down with the Away Team.)

They are all teachers–
WE are all teachers, I should say.
But the kids think we are some kind of hunchbacked,
fairy tale goblins,
or at least,
as frequency fields shift,
they catch a glimpse of something like that.
A hook-nosed, wart-encrusted little troll with long,
skinny fingers,
who terrifies little chillins,
and most likely,
eats rabbits.
(Wabbits),
I forgot.
But we have a job to do,
and the Head Teacher takes us over to the Wabbit cage,
and it is a pen with a few sick bunnies in it,
losing their fur in clumps.
And I can see why; it’s filthy.
–Hasn’t been cleaned in awhile,
said the Head Teacher.
–If the rabbits start to die we cart them away.
–Turn them into meat glue.
–You mean, they are eaten?
–Everything in nature is, eventually
said the Head Teacher,
and turned to walk away.
I didn’t ask her what she meant by this,
but went to work.
At first,
I thought that someone had left a hose running,
because the ground was a quagmire of pure sludge.
The heavy posts holding up the cage were sinking into the mire,
and my feet were also sinking.
I opened up the cage with trembling hands.
Inside,
a dying bunny lay on its side,
its little bunny ass bare of fur,
and it looked sick as all hell,
and I tried to scoop handfuls of bunny shit out of the cage,
but the mud and filth surrounding it were making it impossible.
Flies began to dot to and fro on my face,
and rivulets of sweat poured down my cheeks.
I could feel myself drowning in swampy stink.
In my back pocket was a copy of the Necronomicon.
I don’t remember when I was given this or why,
but sure enough, it was there. Piss-elegant and black,
with a weird sigil on the front cover.
I, at least, had heavy gloves on. My buddy came over to me.
–How ya doing?
–Not so good, I said.
–And this is gonna get ruined if I’m not careful.
I tossed the book up to him.
The laughter of little children screeched like a cacophonous music around me,
as the silent breeze blew stink up my nostrils.
More handfuls of bunny shit.
A corpse.
Another dead bunny.
Everything in nature is eaten, eventually.

The Red Death held sway over all.
I shoveled\ bunny shit.
Years ago,
I had dreamt the Wolf.
I had seen him,
big as life,
pulling my underage ass off a bicycle and stuffing me in the trunk of a car.
I had shot up from bed screaming,
the image of being entombed in an automobile trunk still lingering in my nightmare consciousness.
I had seen that mountainous frame,
that stone-hardened visage,
the scrubby chin…
Years later I would see the same face in the newspaper,
on the internet,
in sleazy true-crime paperbacks:
The eyes are always cold flint,
the jaw set firm,
the soul given over to Satan and the way of all flesh.
Did her face freeze in terror,
like some snapshot of a tortured goddess,
in the pale moments before she knew the agony of her own death?
Did the both of them form a macabre ballet,
a lover’s tryst of absurd and gothic proportions,
as his huge hands wrapped leather garrote around her throat like a ribbon of killing beauty?
Did Mary Kelly know the precise geometric angles that her own corpse would come to repose in,
moments after Jack the Ripper had left her a butchered rag?
Are such mathematics quantified by God,
or is the Law of the Universe one of random chance,
blood spattering where it may,
flesh and grue falling,
without care or toil,
through empty shadows of meaningless time?
Or is this all just bullshit?
I don’t know.
Around me,
children scream.
The Wolf is a character in a fairy tale.
I shovel rabbit shit on the deck of the intergalactic freighter EDX.
It’s safer up here,
and much more sane.
THEY
…are vegetarians.

that stone-hardened visage, the scrubby chin…
It was in group therapy that I encountered the Cadaver Man.
He was a portly little man
(although taller than me),
and he had short, blond hair parted in the middle,
a large grin,
and a bad complexion.
I remember he was wearing a leather jacket,

a heavy metal T-shirt, rumpled jeans, bad sneakers, and two bracelets.
He didn’t look like he worked in the funeral industry; he looked like he might be a manager at McDonalds.
But sure enough,
as soon as group ended,
he started in on details.
(One interesting example of synchronicity just occurred. Just as I got done typing the name “McDonalds,” the man being interviewed on the radio program I am listening to, mentioned McDonalds. Not only that, but he mentioned that McDonalds’s food is very bad for you, and can give you a heart attack. Of course, I’m writing about someone that worked in the funeral industry.)
He sat back in his chair,
smiled,
and I could feel icy tendrils of creepiness float over my skin.
He had bad teeth.
–My job was to pick them up after they died. Now, most people think that after you die, you’re some kind of clean little thing…no. You’re a stinking, filthy mess. Some of these old people were hoarders, too. Oh man, you’d go into a place, and it’s just piles and piles of trash everywhere, and you have to pick your way through the garbage just to try and find ‘em. And then, the stink.
–I remember carrying this one old bag down the stairs. Her daughter had called and she had died in her own bed, at home, which I guess must be the best way. But I was carrying her down the stairs, and she starts leaking this shit…Get it all over my shoulder, man. Now, that would gross most people out, I know. But you’re in this business long enough, you get used to it.
He looked around as if to see if invisible people were listening to him.
There was a fat lady left sitting in a chair,
talking to another woman who was missing teeth,
and was wearing a mental hospital gown over her blouse and jeans.
Both were drinking coffee out of little Styrofoam cups.
Neither of them seemed to be paying any attention to us.
The room smelled like cherry lozenges; I have no idea what Cadaver Man smelled like.
I didn’t want to get that close to him.
–You know, I heard a story about some old guy died in his house. They didn’t find him for days. And it was damn hot. All his windows were closed. No ventilation. It must have been sweltering in there. They say he exploded, like, literally fucking exploded, man. They say there were swarms of flies, just covering the windows. The smell must have been, ah, I can imagine…Jesus.
I don’t know how to respond.
I once owned a book of homicide photos from the old days,
a book called Death Scenes,
so I had seen scenes similar to what he had just described.
But I had never smelled death,
and it was here that he felt the need to get really descriptive.
–You know, death has a peculiar scent to it, all its own.
–Like shit?
I asked.
–No, no, not like shit. Much, much worse. But different. I don’t know. I don’t know how to describe it. There was this one woman, when I was working at this nursing home, and she had died, and man…the whole fucking hallway just reeked, man. It was incredible. I mean, she must have started rotting or something before she even died.
–People were getting sick?
He shook his head,
said,
–Oh man, people were gagging and puking, and I swear the paint peeled back from the walls. Jesus, I never smelled anything like that before in my life. Man, that was the worst one. Death has a smell uniquely its own.
He sat back and sighed.
The skinny little counselor came back in the room and told us that the lunch cart was here.
We had heard it rattle in from the elevator.
I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry.
–Man, said Cadaver Man, –am I hungry. Jeez, I hope they brought us something good. They about starve you around here.
He started to get up,
sighed again,
put his hands on the arm rests of his seat,
started to rise,
and then sank back down.
He seemed to need a lot of time to get moving.
–You know, a lot of people think that just because you work in the funeral industry, you’re a mortician and you embalm bodies and they think that makes you some kind of gloomy Gus. Not true. Not true at all. I like to party and cut-up and joke around as much as the next guy.
–Lotta joking around back there in the prep room?
–Oh man! You bet your ass. It’s a real riot sometimes. Man, you’d think you were at a big party some days. I mean, shit, we order pizza, drink beer, watch TV shows just like everybody else, man. Just like everybody else. And I’ll tell you what: one of the funniest motherfuckers I ever knew was a funeral director. Man, he would come in some mornings, and he would be so stoned…eyes just like little pinpricks. I use to smoke with him.
I asked him,
by the way,
what he was doing here.
He smiled.
–Painkillers.
–Painkillers?
He looked down at his feet, grinned, said, –Oh yeah, I love painkillers.
Later,
after we had grubbed down the chow they had brought up,
visitors started coming in slowly,
and there were a few kids puttering around.
I was sitting at a scratched-up little table talking to my mother when they brought a new admission in.
It was a tall, skinny scarecrow of a man,
with a scruffy red beard and curly,
unkempt,
dirty hair.
He was wearing an old flannel shirt that hung off his skinny frame like old rags.
He looked around him.
His jaw began to work,
and he got a panicked look in his eyes.
I won’t pretend I can recall exactly what he said, but his sharp jaw began to work,
and a torrent of gibberish and profanity erupted from his mouth.
His skinny arms began to shake; he looked like he was building up to an eruption.
Right away, some mental health worker
(a squat woman in pink and white)
comes up beside him and tries to calm him down,
but you can see she’s nervous.
A male orderly starts to circle apprehensively,
and I realize that a quite ugly scene might develop here,
with all the visitors and kids running around.
But nothing happens,
and they shoot him full of drugs.
He sleeps like the dead for three days.
Cadaver Man comes back on an outpatient basis.
I spend two weeks gumming crackers and eating hospital food,
and wondering how it is I seem to find myself in these situations.

(We were auditioning circus acts, and a veritable cavalcade of freaks with gaily-colored forms moved through the door, appendages sticking out of various places odd and sundry.)

You dig that this was the television gimmick, and I told the woman
–Look, we got to have something new,
something fresh,
something that the people will go mad for!
and it was just then that SHE came floating through the door,
feet barely seeming to touch the Earth,
and I wondered how a body like that could defy gravity.
She was fat,
oh immensely fat,
and I was worried for a minute that she might bounce on over and sit on my lap.
I put my arms out to stop her,
fearing that my elbows would be crushed,

but she had no such intention.

My assistant looked mildly amused,
even startled.
This girl was Chinese,
and wore a low-cut top that showed a tattoo of a dragon across the top of her not inconsiderable breasts.
If she hadn’t been fat,
she might have been beautiful.
As it was she glided along with a grace we could hardly give her credit for,
or even believe.
–What’s the act?
–What?
She looked at me as if she didn’t understand English real well.
–Oh, you mean what do I do? I float.
–You float?
I said,
incredulously leaning back in my chair.
My assistant made a sound in her throat I found repulsive,
like snuffling mucus into a ball of tiny laughter.
–Sure. I just have to take my pills. Look, you have a window right over there. Must be twenty stories up. I’ll just lean out the window, float out on my back–as long as my heels don’t leave the window sill I should be fine. In a few moments, I’ll be completely covered in ice.
I didn’t get the part about ice,
and I sure didn’t want her falling to her death,
but I figured,
eh, it’s some sort of illusionist trick,
so I let her go.
She went to the window,
opened it up,
looked out at the city as it breathed like a hungry lion in the cold,
biting wind of December.
Then she turned around,
asked for a glass of water,
and swallowed a handful of little yellow caplets.
She then turned around,
leaned far back until her body was at an unbelievable arch,
and dropped out into the empty air.
To my amazement she floated, stiff as a board.
My assistant and I crept to the window,
looked out at the gentle rolls of fat blowing in the breeze,
almost put out a hand to touch her
and then thought better of it.
What if we caused her to fall?
It was a long way down to the sidewalk,
and she would make a heavy, nasty splat.
She seemed to be in some sort of a trance.
Then, she began to twitch; her feet began to jerk involuntarily,
and you could feel the heat rise from her body.
We backed away,
convinced we were witnessing a miracle.
Below, we could hear the sound of the cars zooming by in the street, their horns blaring.
Up here, there was a girl floating in mid-air out the window,
moaning in ecstasy,
as a blanket of cold seemed to descend around her suddenly, I noticed her skin grow icy.
She was turning blue.
***
She’s fucking the cop dig?
Or, he is raping her,
one or the other.
We stand at the back window with our mouths hanging open,
low smiles playing on our lips.
I still have drugs in my sock.
I realize it is going to be a long night.
–Are they fucking?
I ask.
I could plainly see that the Man in Black was humping her righteously, and she must have been enjoying it because there was no struggle.
We had been moving across the alley toward a parking lot,
and the drugs were in my sock.
Like, why did I have to carry ‘em?
But I guess that’s the way it goes when you’re young and in love.
Me and the Tall Boy decide to make a run for it.
Hell,
the cop might not even be human.
He got out of his cruiser,
and we were standing there about to piss our pants,
and he reels around like he is drunk and can barely breathe. Maybe he is one of the Men in Black.
I have read John Keel.
I have read The Mothman Prophecies,
and Operation: Trojan Horse,
and The Eight Tower,
and Our Haunted Planet,
and Disneyland of the Gods.
They were all righteous books.
I could dig that the Men in Black and other flying saucer creeps are said to stumble around like drunks and be unable to breathe Earth air easily.
Not human.
That was it.
This cop was a fucking flying saucer creep.
***
Sky Maiden
(She began to be covered in chips of ice.)
I thought perhaps she was dying.
It accumulated across her body until,
after what seemed like only a few moments,
she was a floating block of solid ice,
suspended out the window in mid air.
I knew we had a real winner here.
This was our ticket to the big time.
(“Most distasteful routine I ever stand still for!”)
***
Bub was plugging his wife from hell to breakfast
having just returned home from a hunting trip in the Alleghenies one summer evening in October of 1896.
He came home rangier than a polecat dipped in prairie shit,
and when he greased up his power tool with a fistful of lard
(after dropping his bib overalls and long johns and telling the missy to —-get her tail feathers over here!),
he plunged as deep as his withered old balls would allow,
straight up to the hilt and back again.
The little woman,
who had lifted her dusty old skirt with a wink and a shudder,
moaned and began to bounce back and forth on his pikestaff,
just as happy as a clam.
The two of them were getting worked up to a good lather when, suddenly,
out of the clear blue,
they could hear a weird,
warbling, whining whistle come
–like knobby tires on a wet pavement, streaking out from overhead. They moaned and groaned and huffed and puffed,
but they stopped because,
out of the window,
they could see something streak out of the sky.
–Tar nation! cried Bub.
–I think it’s one of them thar meteors, Ma!
–Well, I’ll declare, cried Bub’s wife,
I–t sure as shit picked a good time to come along and interrupt us!
They heard a tremendous crash through the trees,
and saw a bright orange glow that they greatly feared was fire.
Bub got his overalls back up and buttoned,
and the missus went to fetch a pail of water.
They both headed out the front door onto the porch,
across the yard and into the nearby woods.
There were tree branches broken and flattened,
burned grass,
and Bub could plainly see that something heavy had come down close by.
Then he smelled the smoke,
and following his nose,
lead the wife straight down an old path through the trees,
finally coming upon the smoking crater that had been punched into the ground from above.
Bub cautiously scooted to the side of the crater,
his eyes watering from the smoke and stink.
Below, he could see a great round stone, glowing orange from heat and intense light, and he could hear a weird hissing.
–Oh my gracious sakes alive, Ma! It sure as shit’s a meteor alright. And landed right smack dab on our property, too. Say, wonder what they’d pay for it up at the college?
Ma was less than thrilled with the find.
–Lord don’t it ever stink! Like tar and sulfur and hogshit all rolled up into one.
they both could hear a weird sort of banging and clanging,
like metal being moved around and scraped along a floor.
Then, to their amazement, a door blew open in the side of the thing! They ran back from the edge of the crater,
their hands over their mouths
(and Ma’s other hand over her eyes),
and, below them, a weird figure covered in hair seemed to emerge from the doorway in the meteor.
He looked like a gorilla with red eyes.
He was a little fellow with long arms and fingers,
staggering a bit.
Otherwise, he was the very spitting image of a hairy ape man.
Bub wished badly that he had brought his gun with him,
but hadn’t thought he would need it.
(After all, why would you need to shoot a meteor?)
Instead of running, though, the two of them stood stock-still in amazement as the strange creature
(Bub just KNEW it was a bonafide Martian)
climbed up out of the pit with its hairy claws,
stood swaying on its feet as if it had just drunk a gallon of sour mash, uttered a strange word,
grabbed its throat,
and keeled over dead.
Bub and his wife just stood there in amazement.
–It’s a Martian, Ma! I’ll be hogtied and dipped in gopher shit if that ain’t a bonafide, honest-to-goodness, dad-blamed man from Mars!
Ma sighed.
She wiped her hands on her aprons,
and crept toward the body,
which already seemed to be turning a weird, ashy grey.
–Yeah, but what good is he now? He’s dead.
Bub was too excited to be put down.
–Still good, Ma! Still good! Why, a fella would pay a pretty penny to get his first glimpse of a Martian, dead or alive. C’mon, help me get him to the house. We’ll pickle him in an old barrel and sell him to the highest bidder!
He wasn’t hard to carry between them.
As a matter of fact, he was damn light.
They took him back to the cabin,
laid him out on an old bunk,
and Bub went to fetch a barrel and some moonshine
(to preserve the body),
while Ma went to fetch dinner.
(Carrying dead Martians around, she observed, made a body hungry.)
Ma wasn’t the only one thinking of dinner, however.
That old dog Samson hadn’t been fed yet that day, and he was mighty hungry.
He went rustling around in the yard for scraps,
but found he was coming up bare.
In time, he was joined by another neighborhood cur, and then another. The three dogs commiserated for a moment,
then one of them sniffed the air and said,
–Say fellas, I think I smell something over at the Johnson place, smells like chicken.
The others sniffed.
–Yankee Pot Roast, said Samson.
–Rabbit stew, said the third cur.
The three of them crept to the door of the Johnson cabin.

Six

Aside