Sat, 12 Apr 2008

So it’s been a while since this has been updated, and the dates on most of these entries are wrong, and one of these days I’ll get all this stuff straightened out but probably not soon.
(01: [/else] #

Sun, 19 Nov 2006

another name
I was in line at the burrito place today, and the family ahead of me had a daughter who was shy, and didn’t want to say what she wanted, so the guy who made the burritos came around the counter and kneeled down and the girl whispered her order in his ear.
(03: [/scrytch] #

a face which i did not know
I mow the lawn, and sort the shelves, and wash the sheets, and polish my boots, and clean the toilets, and fix the doors, and replace the outlets, and vacuum the carpets, and clean my fingernails, and shave my beard, and say my prayers, but eventually there is nothing left to do, and it is still there, waiting.

She told me she couldn’t talk to me any more, maybe she couldn’t talk to me ever again, and she put the phone down and I waited, having been through this before, but before she had decided that I had lingered in phone limbo for long enough her daughter walked by and picked up the phone.

“I got a good idea today!” she said.

I was relieved that I could at least have a reasonable conversation with a three year old, and shook off all my unspoken threats as I said “What was your good idea?”

“I’m gonna make a glass that has the Kool-Aid in the glass? And not the water? So you put the water in the glass and woop! It’s Kool-Aid!”

“That’s a pretty good idea. Does it only work with water?”

“No! You put milk in it and the milk turns into Kool-Aid! You could even put peas in there!”

“So you get Kool-Aid flavored peas? That kinda sounds gross.”

She exhaled sharply, obviously disappointed in me, and said “All I said is you *could* do it. I didn’t say it was a good idea.”
(03: [/scrytch] #

He was fiftyone, and until this point had made every decision perfectly, every step in place, exactly as planned, but the days had grown long, and details fell out of his grasp, and on the eighteen thousandth six hundred eighty sixth day he stepped aside, fell out of line, and made the mistake, and prepared himself to spend whatever time was left to him this time to consider the error, to rehearse proper action, so that when he came back for his next life he could eliminate one more mistake from a seemingly endless series of mistakes, until finally there would be no mistakes, whatever millions of years this process would take was nothing to him but opportunity.
(03: [/scrytch] #

well aren’t you the clever one
I was walking back from Walgreen’s when I passed by a burrow in the ground, the entrance of which was large enough to climb inside, and deep enough to keep clear of the wind, and lined with leaves and dried grass, and after looking left and right as though I should be guilty I bent over and looked in the burrow, which was empty of everything except a small circle of water-worn stones in the center. A nearby electrical transformer gave off a thin whine, and the wind cut through the trees, but beyond that the neighborhood was quiet, so after looking around a second time I set my cold medicine and whiskey by a nearby tree and crawled inside the burrow, my knees up against my chest, snug but not uncomfortable, warmer than I would have guessed. The sound of the transformer became deeper under the ground, richer, and it lulled me into a fuzzyheaded trance. I picked up the stones, three in each hand, and they were warm to the touch, and comforting, and for a while I thought maybe I could just live in the burrow, maybe I could just sleep for a while, but some kids walking home from Hoover came by and poked at my head with a stick, so I crawled out of the burrow and got my bag from beneath the tree and walked home.
(03: [/scrytch] #

My friend Brian, whose father owned a company that manufactured headstones, told me he had inherited the business after three years of legal shuffling, a bout which had essentially drained the company dry, a business for which he never had any interest, so that he wanted to know if I knew of any brokerage house which would buy the remaining stock and sell it at some estate sale, as he wanted to be rid of it as soon as possible, but I told him I had a better idea, and for three months Brian and I drove around the country secretly installing headstones in the recesses of public parks, in the hidden corners of playgrounds, in unmarked alleys, at the ends of unmaintained highways, in swamps and wheatfields, in sewers and behind gas stations, at the foot of overpass columns and electrical stations, any place where they would for a time remain unnoticed, each of which carried the name of one of our friends. Our enemies, we decided, would be best forgotten.
(03: [/scrytch] #

something in the waves
She expected it to be different, braced herself for the endless little changes, but when she walked through the front door and saw the same rugs, the same furniture, the same paintings in the same places on the same walls she stopped all at once, still as a stone, waiting for an explanation.
(03: [/scrytch] #

2004. A friend of mine from college asked if I wanted some part-time work writing short online study guides for short stories, and while I wasn’t really that interested, I figured I could try a few and see how it went, so I agreed. Once a week I would be assigned a story, a pdf copy emailed to me, and by the end of the week I would email back a two thousand word summary of the characters, settings and plot developments of the story, along with notes on symbolism and contemporary relevence. I discovered that such summaries intentionally have a small flaw, a character added who was not in the original work, or an event which did not take place, so that students who felt they could cut and paste these summaries in place of actual work would be given failing grades by instructors who were professionally aware of this “tell”. I enjoyed adding this detail, trying not to make it too garish but at the same time hoping to add some sort of amusement to readers who had actually read the work and saw the inclusion as a kind of knowing wink which the student who did not read the work would never notice. Months passed, and soon I was given other kinds of documents to summarize, from novels to legal statements to financial reports, and each of these was also given a tell, so that the function of the summary changed if you had access to the original work. Some documents had multiple tells, some which went in entirely different directions than the actual work, and some which even stood in direct opposition to legitimate statements. In time, I not only wrote these summaries, but replacement works, similar in general nature but different in telling detail, such as institutional copies of popular novels with potentially offensive material removed, or copies for children’s libraries with difficult material changed to simpler terms. I discovered that copies of novels available at public libraries were slightly different from copies available at bookstores, which were both different from copies directly available from the publisher, or the author. I discovered that the law studied and practiced by students was different in slight ways from law publically practiced, and each court was likewise off in miniscule ways, which were rarely noticed, and if noticed not disclosed, as such knowledge was only an advantage so long as it remained secret. Finally I discovered that there is no exact copy of any text anywhere, that each seeming copy is different from all others, each of which is similar only in this shared difference, and it is a collective apathy and embarassment that prevents people from recognizing that when they seem to talk about one thing, they are in fact talking about two different things, and this unseen but everpresent disconnect is the reason why we are the way we are today.
(03: [/scrytch] #

1999. Pamela used to tell me she wanted to become a prostitute, which I thought she talked about the same way I occasionally talk about becoming a convict: in the abstract, it seems a simplifying move, a means of forcibly casting off the complications of everyday life, but not a strategy that really made sense. We were walking down by the river, taking occasional sips of whiskey from the flask she always had in her purse, when she started in on the topic of prostitution again, when I told her I’d give her fifty bucks for a blowjob. It had been years since we’d slept together, and had grown into a weird kind of flirty friendship, so I didn’t think she would take this proposition very seriously, but in the back of my mind I was trying to figure out if I had fifty bucks on me. In the end, I guess, if you want to get technical about it, I did give her the fifty bucks, and she did give me the blowjob in the boathouse on the North Cedar side of the river, but I always thought of it as a weird kinda joke between friends, and the couple times I talked about it with Pamela after the fact seemed to solidify my opinion, but as my peer group is slowly learning, things you do as a joke are still things for which you are responsible, as I told Sarah this story a couple weeks ago, thinking she would, at worst, consider it yet another example of how I used to be a creep before she straightened me out. The actual response was quite different.
(03: [/scrytch] #

Last week I got an email from a woman who went to school at UNI who told me she read the stories I had posted online, and at the scrytch archive, and she wanted to meet me because she had something she wanted to tell me, and wanted to tell me in person. I was skeptical — this has happened to me half a dozen times, and never with good results, but I’m at an odd place in my life and decided that if nothing else this meeting would be an exception to my ordinary days, so we met for coffee in downtown Cedar Falls, where she told me she had recently become engaged, and was soon to marry, and she wanted to know if I would attend her wedding as it was due to something I had written that her relationship had been possible. She explained that she came to school here from a small town in western Iowa, to which I must explain that the difference between western and eastern Iowa, which is probably beneath the notice of most people, is vast to locals, and with not only the geographical distance but the cultural difference — Cedar Falls was such a big city to her, coming from her town of four hundred people, smaller than my high school graduating class — she felt isolated from her peers, and closed herself off from the standard ways college freshmen get to know one another. She continued living like this, in her little apartment on 19th street, for the first two years, spending time studying, or looking at websites. I went through a phase of self-promotion when I returned from Austin, and put up sad little page-sized posters with short stories and the url for my site, then on neuron, around town, and she was struck by something in one of these little stories, and began reading my website. One of the Ana Skyfish stories reminded her of herself, and led to a reevaluation of her solitude, and how she could never be loved if she was not open to love, or words along these lines, as I was growing increasingly uncomfortable and not following her exactly, until in the middle of her shyly smiling discussion of her fiance’ Bradley I stopped her in mid-gush and told her I could not under any circumstances be held responsible for anything she chose to do or not do with her life and that anything she may have read into anything I had written was entirely of her own choosing and she looked at me, confused, and tried to explain no, it’s a good thing, I’m trying to say thank you, and I stared at her, livid, and said so if I wrote some story about some girl who killed herself then I guess that means you would have done that too and she said no, no, you didn’t make me do anything, that’s not what I mean, and I stood up and screamed at her you can’t tell me this, this isn’t fair, I’m not just some witness to the joys and tragedies of the world, and stormed off, and attempted to drive home but found that my hands were shaking so badly that I needed to sit for a few minutes and breathe before I could even start the ignition.
(03: [/scrytch] #

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a genius. I wasn’t sure what being a genius actually required, or how I would know once I became a genius, but I knew that people thought I had potential (whatever that means) and maybe if I do the right things I can become a genius. I knew I was not yet a genius because I sucked at chess and couldn’t do math problems in my head, which was okay, as I didn’t want to be that kind of genius. The closest I could come to understanding what this position of genius meant was that people would have a problem, and they would have to come to me, as I was the only person equipped to deal with it. I figured reading a lot was important, so I started doing that, but I didn’t really consider that what I was reading might actually be important, so I mostly trawled through bad fiction and pop science. I also knew having a lot of books was important for geniusing, nobody respects the genius who just has a library card, so I started hanging out at thrift stores and library sales. As I got a little older, I decided I didn’t want to be the sort of nerdy geniuses I knew from my TAG classes, I wanted to be an at-risk genius, a genius damaged by the very genius which led to being a genius (or something) so that nobody would expect me to have to do anything as tacky as get a job or do busywork or get good grades, no, I was the genius of last resort, and everyone would secretly fear me and my crazy eyes! I later decided that being a genius meant being able to explain difficult things in simple terms without compromise, but by that time I was done with wanting to be a genius and instead was training to become a matador.
(03: [/scrytch] #

1992. For about two months, during the spring, I was an unofficial fortune teller at the Ped Mall in Iowa City. This started in March, I think, late March, when I was sitting by myself in that little square by Ragstock and this older woman told me I looked like I knew something. This was a Saturday afternoon, and the Friday before (as was my habit at the time) I had Taken Something, so I was in that weird open clearheaded day after state of mind and said it is possible that I know something but I don’t know which something she meant. She told me I looked like an old soul, which I still don’t know what that means, and gave me her hand and asked me to tell her what was going to happen. I think in hindsight that she was probably On Something at the time, but I tried to tell her as honestly as possible, and she seemed pleased, and asked me to do the same for her boyfriend, who was having none of this, so for him I gave this whole weird story that he seemed to like, and people sitting around became interested and soon people knew me as that guy who told fortunes. I figured this was good writing practice, as I had to come up with stories quickly, and I had to suit the stories to the audience, so that freshmen trying on a newfound cynicism they wanted to show off to friends got stories of despair and agony and loss while older NPR ladies got stories of how small deeds connected to greater histories and whatnot. Sometimes people would give me a few bucks but I never asked for money, and a couple times I had return customers who told me I was right about this or that part of my story, which was weird but I tried not to think too much about it, but mostly I kept doing it for the same reason I do anything, to meet girls. This is how I met Heather, actually, well I met her in a class we shared but we only really talked after she smirked as I ran my fingers along the inside of her palm. At the end of May classes were over and I went back to Waterloo for the summer, and when I returned to Iowa City in the fall I sat on my old bench and waited for someone to ask me their fortune, but nobody asked, and I couldn’t really solicit people for something like that, so after half a hour I went back to Burge and gave up my fortunetelling business for good.
(03: [/scrytch] #

Wed, 27 Sep 2006

definition of scrytch, 2006
To look down at what is beneath our current feet there must be a looking forward and a looking backward and also a looking from side to side in a shifty manner. Consider the hundred-year plan of Scrytch as being half completed, a plan designed by the primary Heath at end-of-time then manifested in the Utah desert of 1956, where his passage through the salt flats was determined by spitting mouthfuls of blood into the sand and determining direction from the patterns thus made. There must be a document! he cried, squinting into the sun, There must be a document which does not end at death and in fact has no end, no summary, which changes and devours and multiplies at rates unimaginable! And so the primary Heath set fire to his tent and his horse and determined this earth must birth a memetic virus, a word-plague later scholars would come to term Scrytch. Given this to be the case, is it even possible to make a statement as to what the state of this great visitation can be called, this becoming-beyond-knowledge? To be a map is to compress the whole of a set space into only the information necessary for travel, to remove what is extemporaneus, yet Scrytch contains no such data, as what is necessary is in eternal flux, not simply “against interpretation” but impervious to the very concept. At once a phantasm built of kites and balloons and the laughter of ignorant children and at the same time the black sap of the secret organs within the human heart — no, not simply at the same time, but *the same thing*, this highway of mirrors, this recombinant serpent, this sing-song of sickness, what tracks does it leave in the snow of our souls? Is it simply only visible at end-of-time, so that in fact the primary Authors all of us will eventually become can only give hints and echoes buried in the corrupted sense-data we call the present? Is it (as the primary Flink once told me, or believed he told me, as we hunted the Pig-What-Walks-Upright through the sewers of Portland) that all these words are actually The Great Sifting, a removal of impurities until nothing but what is foundational alchemical truth shines free? Borges once told us of the labyrinth that is a straight line; what he (nor Zeno) did not mention is that it leads only to the grave, and it is there that I believe the state of Scrytch can best be explained (if incoherent stammering can be called an explanation): that Scrytch, which once was the creation of a great and terrifying maze, is now the process by which each wall becomes a doorway.
(15: [/scrytch] #

Thu, 31 Aug 2006

It had been seven years and I thought I had changed so fundamentally that she would never recognize me. I had put on and lost and put on weight, lost and put on and lost muscle, lost hair, lost beard, lost glasses, lost alternarock tshirts and combat boots and put on a semi-quaker austerity, sold books and bought books, sold cds and records, developed a shaking in the right arm and a clouding of the eyes, I was a different person, I could not be seen by those who once knew me, I had changed, but she knew me the second she saw me, as these were not the traits she knew me by. None shall ever escape.

She called me and I did not beg her forgiveness, and I suppose that is a victory. She spoke of play, how adults think of play as a casting off of responsibilities, a brief respite from deadlines and debts when all things could be equal, while a child thinks of play as a taking on of responsibilities, of rules and boundaries and goals, burrowing into private obscessions and bone-deep satisfactions, and I told her she was not so much a teacher as a spy from the international adult conspiracy, expecting her to laugh, or at least notice the pete and pete reference, but instead she sighed, and was quiet, and finally said maybe I was right. My impulse was to tell her I was sorry, but I cannot tell her that anymore, and as always I was glad I did not follow my first thought. Instead I told her that back when I was writing that’s exactly what I did, I gave myself completely critical yet entirely false restrictions and demands. She then told me I was a spy for the International Child Conspiracy, and I said if only, if only.
(03: [/scrytch] #

a walking tour
Megan took me for a walk behind her new house, down into the woods by a deer-trail which went all the way to the river, and she stopped by a bush with large green berries, and she picked a few and told me to open my mouth. I said, what are they? and she said they’re Meganberries. I took a few into my mouth, and they were tasty, sour, and juicy. That’s amazing, I said, that they’re called Meganberries, as they’re just like you, and she gave me a lopsided smile, trying to figure out if I was kidding. I will never understand even the simplest of things.

Megan’s father spent three years in prison when she was a little girl. I am not exactly sure what the charge was, I know she told me but I wasn’t paying attention, which seems incredible as this is a topic of great interest, her parents, as she says and does certain things once in a while that make me think pieces of the collected background my friends all share never got to her, not even like she comes from another country but from another time, and I wonder sometimes if this is in fact not a random chance but something she does deliberately, an affectation, which helps the people she meets to excuse other of her eccentricities, and I think that if I were to meet her parents that this would become clear, if it is a real thing or a falsified thing (which has perhaps become real over time, the way that I tell people I used to have a dog), but still I wan’t paying attention, perhaps I thought she was going to leave me, but I do believe her father was a nonviolent offender, perhaps an embezzeler, but for three years once a week Megan and her father would write to each other, continuing the stories they had begun when she was even younger, just before she fell asleep at night, but while she would write a letter and forget about it her father would continue to write the stories in journals he kept for himself, sending her specific passages he thought she would find funny or charming, and Megan had read this unexpurgated collection of spiral notebooks years later, after she returned from her third year of college, and she told me about these stories as well, this endless collection of plots and subplots and conflicts and strange landscapes and creatures described in immaculate detail and travels through time, but of this I can barely remember anything at all, except that her father had written both Megan and himself into the story, wherein Megan was called Jenny Pearl Sherbet and he was called The Hero Of Last Resort.

Megan was worried about her daughter Jasmine, who was eight, and had taken on a defeatist attitude about practically everything. Megan first noticed this after picking Jasmine up from school and asking how her day had been, only to hear her speak about how she was going to be nine soon, so much wasted time, so many things still undone, the best years of her life behind her. Megan considered this a mood, or perhaps something Jasmine had heard on television, and didn’t think too much of it, and while Jasmine was not unhappy, and in most ways acted as she always had, she would occasionally sigh and consider all that was now lost to her. I thought this was hilarous, and Megan told me that my laughing at something like this is just another perfect example of why I hadn’t yet met her. The first time I did meet her, that first weekend at the new house, Megan introduced us and I asked Jasmine how she was doing, and she told me things were as well as could be expected, and I said yeah, there’s only so much we can do with all these worries and failed hopes filling what little light remains before the inevitable call of the grave. Megan shook her head, and Jasmine stared at me for a second, sizing me up, and said worries? I got worries. Dealing with children is a lot easier than I thought when I was younger.

Megan told me that every Saturday night, her daughter Jasmine and two other kids from the neighborhood staged mystery plays in the small clearing behind the house. They waited until the sun had completely vanished from the sky, which made performances closest to new moon somewhat difficult to see, but this was intentional, as much of the mystery play was a kind of tone-poetry that took on strange echoes from the trees and the cliffside, so that assigning direction became almost impossible. I didn’t intend to still be staying with Megan. I had planned to go home a week ago, but things came up and I’m generally lazy, so I extended my visit, but by this time I was a bit punchy, too long with people I barely knew. I had missed the first two performances for various flimsy reasons, but Megan demanded I attend at least one before I went back to the city. I told her I would, because I was tired of arguing with her, and as I sat at the kitchen table overlooking the forrest I told myself it was just one more day, it wasn’t a big deal, I’d leave tomorrow.
(03: [/scrytch] #

It is not right to call it daylight, as this is not yet a time for activity, for plans and schemes and duties, this is a middle-time left empty for preparation, for mirror-staring and deep breaths in the shower, and this is why I like to stay awake until the dawn, taking in all the preparation of all the people in all the houses while I creep back to my hole, racing the daybreak to rooms without windows and piles of quilts where I spend the better hours in sleep, where I am happy, and when I open my eyes again it is dusk, the settling time, the point between the hours you sell for profit and the hours you keep for yourself. This schedule of mine was endearing when I was twenty and spent the better part of the small hours crawling out of my skin wooing difficult post-feminist scholars impressed with zine publication and orange blotter, but I am thirtythree now and by all accounts not aging well. This doesn’t matter; I am a night person deep in my rotted organs and there is no changing this trait as my habits are not suited to sunny hours. I am not a person who appreciates hard work and prudent planning so much as gory details and drunk-dialed confessions and insomnia-sick rants and blurry-eyed promises. I like playing Galaga for twenty bucks a game with shiver-sweating truckers out in Elk Run, I like sitting beneath the big elm at Mount Olivet Cemetery with the tape recorder picking up spirit-sounds, I like breaking and entering foreclosed slaughterhouses with flashlights and sandwiches, I like staying up past my bedtime and telling secrets and I am okay with not being at peace. If I have betrayed my promise it was only to sidestep obligations that never had anything to offer and I refuse to be sorry for breaking promises I never made. There’s still some dark left outside and there’s a million places to go even here in the middle of nowhere and if you can’t sleep you can always give me a call.
(03: [/scrytch] #

Pick up a stone, and then pick up another stone, and pick up another stone, never dropping a stone, and then pick up another stone, until your hands are filled with stones, and then pick up another stone, and then pick up another stone, piles of stones in your hands, and then pick up another stone, the muscles in your arms aching and slick with sweat, and then pick up another stone, and then pick up another stone, the flesh pulls away from the snapping of bone, and then pick up another stone, and another stone, and another stone, forever.
(03: [/scrytch] #

rejected lyrics from new album
Satan Snowman


tabs available upon request
(03: [/scrytch] #

waiting for the concussion
1992. The things I turned down when I was young are things I would beg for now.

Gashes in my palms from the barbed-wire fence wrapped in dew-soaked t-shirt which I push with my fingertips over and over, off and on, trying to find a pressure which kills the pain. My glasses lost somewhere in the cornfield, squint to focus, my head falling back and catching with a jerk every few minutes, looking for an exit, ready to run. Some apartment I’ve never been in, or at least cannot remember, a conference in the kitchen as to what to do with me. Someone has to have a car, someone has to be able to take me home. I love everyone and everything but I am made graceless with this love and stand and stumble into a bookcase, steadying myself with my left hand while my right checks for my wallet in my jeans, some clown screaming how I’m getting blood all over his first editions. Now I love everyone but him, he is an impediment to my love, and I pull down the bookshelf and it felt good so I pulled down another one and it felt even better and I tried to pull down his desk when I feel hands on my arms pulling me outside and I think okay, here it comes, here it is.
(03: [/scrytch] #

the great occlusionist
I didn’t intend to visit my fifteen year class reunion. Pamela and I were attempting to buy illegal drugs from a night auditor at the Holiday Inn when one of the walking corpses of the Class of 91 identified me in the lobby and shook my shivering hand and pointed me toward Ballroom B and the next thing I know I’m telling a gaggle of my fucking peers that you can make Bird Flu serum from apples, but don’t buy too many apples all at once or else there will be rioting in the street. Pamela totally bought into this whole reunion fiasco as she’s never met any of the people I went to high school with except for Josef and Huey Kablooie The Living Bomb, so after she finally tracks down the auditor and gets suitably high in the bathroom she’s making medicated smalltalk with an endless sprawl of stayathome moms while I flip the imaginary bird at the cash bar only it wasn’t imaginary and now all these pipefitters and data entry failures are giving me three feet of space on all sides. State education is the final slavery!
(03: [/scrytch] #

lights like broken like
it is not like riding a bike. whatever natural and effortless quality this act once held has now vanished, replaced with a brick by brick exhausted commitment, a head down trudge through every word and sentence. one and then the next and it seems so small, so much nothing, barely even a ping. i am still transmitting. i am still here. the interpersonal silt all washed away, the skeletons of old stories rubbed smooth and shiny, everything thin and brittle and familiar. left and then right and then. my friend seth told me during basic training he learned to sleep while marching, which seemed unbelievable, but i understand it now, you train the muscles to do something and then you go away. that is how it was. i would sit down and when i looked at the screen there it was, as if i didn’t do it at all. i was just a witness, it was not i who did those things. now nothing is instant, everything is an attempt, an effort, and i have never been good with effort.
(03: [/scrytch] #

“You, you are a Key.”

I put my ear to the hollow above her left clavicle and listened to something rattle around her ribcage. “That’s where I put it so I wouldn’t lose it or anything. Which I would think would be an okay sort of thing considering I don’t know what good a key is without a lock but now only how would I get it out?” I assumed when I gave her the key that she would lose it, as she loses everything, and it would be a little trick I played on myself so as to avoid blame for throwing it away, but there must have been something in the transaction that made this possession important, as the only things she kept within her body were to be broken down into components and absorbed so as not simply to never be lost but as to never be removed. Perhaps that is what she had expected to be the fate of the key. Perhaps all these things I thought she lost were never lost at all, and all this attraction I had for her was actually attraction for all the things I once held and thought lost. In which the key was more special than I had initially realized. “Maybe it’s a different kind of key,” she said, and stared at her hands.
(03: [/scrytch] #

Sat, 18 Mar 2006

2005. I was spending a lot of time hanging out at Covenant Medical after work, just walking down endless white hallways, thinking about all the times I had been there before. Sometimes I would walk past maternity and try to project myself into the body of a newborn infant, thinking that maybe if I could start over that I could do things right, but then I realized I would be overwriting the life of this baby who hadn’t yet had the chance to do anything wrong and I felt like just hanging around was evil so I would go out to the picnic tables by the housing projects and wait to feel better.
(00: [/scrytch] #

Nobody gives a shit about you gnawing on the skulls of the virgin dead or those cops you shot or that time you died because the new shit is getting fucked with by nebbishes! Get snapped on by that kid at the Burger Murder drive-thru if you wanna be down! Let your boss spit a little right in your mouth! Put your hand in a puddle of your own blood and realize that you are now one of the chosen few! I saw a slight organ spill backseat stuck and pulled up to reveal gaping entrance of devil tunnel. I saw and do not question. Palaces of bone rubbed away by endless sand until a seeming maw points skyward to devour approaching intelligences. Cannot question, wonder. Bound and removed. Honey-glue spread across split wings blood trails into warehouses. Tremors in the hand just to consider. You were once beautiful, a loved thing kept safe in skirts and teflon, now just so much stain and stink. Consider, remember. Once so much promise now an empty vessel for endless appetites in empty rooms. Bow and I will pay witness! Handfulls of smashed blackberries and beeswax and ash smear sigils on the face and along the spine. Consider and repent. This is what I cannot touch. Not simply a memory-vision but representative of various others, faces beneath, one to stand for many. Impotent piss witness. Pills, pills. She presents her body before the dog, before the elk, and I witness and choke. Sinew abuse. The maker sets a mouth upon creation and exhales, spits, vomits, puts everything into the made, a carrier of terrors. Slips out beneath definition, sticky and dizzying, everything to someone and now nothing, nothing at all. Pleas beneath speech. Unknowable intentions. Show the bones! Make a public display of the areas of intersection! Become my everything and I will follow and weep at your long slide down! I will give you money and stories and praise your wisdom and curse your father! My child bride reverses time and crawls upward into the final light!
(00: [/scrytch] #

Fri, 14 Oct 2005

Pamela Bambelam’s eyes used to be in someone else’s skull. When she was younger she suffered from severe retinal detachment so that finally her eyes did not function and so due to fickle fortune (or perhaps a doctor made sweet on a certain teenage girl is how I always read it, but you know how I am) she was given someone else’s eyes, some person who no longer had a need to see, some person most likely in the grave, she was never given any details (as per hospital procedure) but this did not stop her (nothing ever stopped her from anything, ever) from postulating as to the identity of this mystery donor, this person who once housed her eyes, and she wondered as to the things she had seen, this whole other life passed through her pupils, all these strangers staring into her greenish blueish irises, all the witness paid when this part of her was a part of someone else. I never knew her when she had her birthgiven blind eyes, and I can never be certain this whole story is not some elaborate ruse, as her parents would never tell me and she’s a bit untrustworthy, but maybe that’s why I’ve hung around for so long.
(00: [/scrytch] #

more powerful than a wino’s drinking hand
They put this salve on me so that schoolchildren could not see me. This was enough to get me out of my public service, my lawyer said. But was I still allowed to disco-dance? No! No, unless I did said disco-dancing in my living room with all the shades pulled, but what kinda disco dancing is forbidden from the joy and simple heartfelt perfection of my adoring audience? I am not some sort of silly artist who feels that disco-dancing is a self-perfect act, taken place in secret, hidden from the world! I do these things for the comfort and stimulation of the many who witness and applaud! Fuck your stupid laws! I am a genius of dancing, and this genius will not be silenced! This girl I met at the discotheque was covered in glitter, and from my years as a custodian I knew that glitter was my enemy, there’s no using the Bissel on glitter, there’s no wiping glitter off the coke mirror. But I was bedazzled by undulations and bouncing and forgot my cleaning training and told her, you know, I’m a genius of disco. She did not at first believe me (which is understandable, as I’m kinda lumpy) but moves were busted like so many planes of glass and soon she swooned for my moves and next thing you know there’s glitter all over the back seat of my Nova. This was a problem later, as coffee-jittery detectives pushed on me as to how said dancing queen was missing presumed dead and I said no dice, Beretta, she’s staying at my domicile until she gets up the nerve to tell her cornfed parents she’s in love with the genius of disco, but those cops, man, there’s no talking to them. Also I was staying at an SRO over by the Y and so my story seemed shaky. “You mean to tell me this woman, this Miss Cattle Congress ‘05, she ran away from home and a promising career as a spokesperson for Tiny Giant Pork Industries just so she could live in some seedy hovel with an admittedly lumpy failed writer?” to which I said “That’s exactly what I mean to say, dig, but what you don’t know is that I’m a genius of disco” but like I said, the fuzz don’t want to hear about young love, so I put my trick wrists to work and get out the cuffs and jump out the window four stories to a dumptruck full of feathers driven by my true love Miss Cattle Congress ‘05 and she puts the pedal to the metal as I tarzan into the passenger seat and we hightail it all night to Omaha where they know about true love.
(00: [/scrytch] #

ghost man on first
“What’s being a grownup like?” she asked me.

“You ever have someone ask you for a quarter?”

“Sure. Or else maybe a dime sometimes.”

“Okay, imagine someone asks you for a dime, and you give them a dime, and they ask for another dime, and you give them another dime, and they keep asking you for dimes every hour of every day until you’re dead.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“And all the time, instead of thinking it’s a sunny day, or I don’t like gooseberries, you think how am I gonna get more dimes? All the time, I gotta get more dimes.”

She thought about this for a second, her face all scrunched up like she just ate something sour, and said “Look, if you want a dime, all you have to do is ask.”
(00: [/scrytch] #

every day is evidence

“Hello, is this Sarah?”

“Lucas? Is that you?”

“Yeah, it’s me, look I know you don’t want to get into a whole big thing but I just wanted to tell you I’m out of jail but I’m not coming back to town, I’m gonna stay with my folks for a while, I mean I cleaned up and it’s like if you can realize and find some peace when you’re in prison then maybe that’s something you can take out and put things back and so really I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”


“Okay, huh?”

“I’m not really ready to have this conversation. It’s not even six am here.”

“Yeah, I know, but it’s been three years, I’m ready to get started.”

“You don’t say.”


“Well, that’s something.”

“Yeah, ha, something.”

“Right. So how did jail go?”

“It was bad. I mean, I can’t complain.”

“You can’t complain? What do you mean, you can’t complain?”

“It was jail or, whatever, I don’t know, something bad definitely, and it’s like you’re a toy that gets picked up and put back in the box and that gives you some time. That’s not a very good, the putting it isn’t right but you know.”

“I guess.”

“I don’t know what the deal with this bullshit weather is, tho. I nearly froze waiting for my folks to come get me.”

“So how are they with all this?”

“I think it’s okay, they seem okay, I got a plan and I think I can get work and I’m going to meetings and so long as I stay on track it’s okay.”


“You know. Meetings.”

“So you’re a different person now, huh.”

“I can see all this stuff I couldn’t see when I was with you. Not that it’s totally your fault.”

“Wait, wait.”

“What I mean is I know that I didn’t do right, and I want to do right now.”

“You know what you could do if you were serious about making things right.”

“You’re not still hung up on that money thing, are you?”

“You owe me two thousand dollars! That would be a big fucking step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned.”

“Look, you said it yourself, I’m a different person now.”

“You being a different person doesn’t mean you don’t still owe me two thousand dollars. You don’t just get to erase that because you got some new clothes and go to church.”

“This isn’t some kinda what the fuck thing like when I bought those turntables and told everybody I was a DJ. This is different. I’m all different now!”

“Didn’t your sponsor say you had to make right your prior mistakes? Isn’t owing me money a prior mistake?”

“One day at a time, bitch!”

“I’m gonna hang up now.”

“No, wait, look, the thing is, I was hoping you could help me with this thing.”

“Thing? You’re not seriously asking me for money, are you?”

“Sarah, look, okay, this will be the last time, it’s just. Hello?”
(00: [/scrytch] #

True story.

I had gone out with June three times when I asked her if she wanted to see the Pixies in Davenport. At the time, Davenport was the only place in Iowa to see bands of a certain level of popularity; while your average indie jerkoffs could play Iowa City and maybe Ames, you had to be of a certain caliber to play Davenport. I mean, Nirvana played Davenport. So anyway she said yes and I decided I would mark this occasion by making a bootleg. So there I was jumping around like a dufus with June, trying to get the microphone I had hidden in my sleeve aimed toward the stage, and it was actually a pretty good show but I wasn’t really paying attention as I had a plan to tell June y’know. it’s pretty late, maybe we should just get a room here in Davenport. This plan actually worked, and for a couple months I didn’t feel weirdly selfconscious calling June my girlfriend.

I forgot about the bootleg for a while, until I traded Brian a copy for some mushrooms, which was as far as my bootlegging scheme ever got. Just now I saw a copy of a live Pixies show from ‘94, from Davenport, and because I’m a sap I downloaded it, and sure enough, you can hear when I tell June that she’s totally hotter than Kim Deal. Smoooooth.

Fucking Brian, man.
(00: [/scrytch] #

Mon, 25 Jul 2005

all of this is real
1995. When I lived in the apartment complex in Coralville, each building looked exactly the same, so that one night after working at the rest stop I pulled up to Building C instead of Building D and walked up to someone else’s door and prepared to put the key in the lock when I realized I was not at my apartment, the hibachi the prior tenant left wasn’t by the side of the door, there were small pictures I had never seen tucked into the corners of the windows, and I stopped for a minute. Perhaps, I thought, this happened to everyone here, the buildings were alike for a reason, so that if you ever became sick of your life you could walk into someone else’s apartment and begin again with new belongings, new clothes, a new girlfriend or boyfriend, and I thought if that is the case then I should not leave this to chance, I should find the ideal new apartment within which I will be reborn. I walked around the complex, examining the clues left on the porches, peeking into windows, listening to what little sound escaped through the door, until I found what I believed would be my ideal incarnation, a decision based less on actual facts as on a general premonition, a feeling of calm and comfort, and so I opened the door and stepped inside before something from the back of my mind screamed this is not real, this is someone’s apartment, you can’t just walk in here, none of this is real, and I froze, and looked around for a minute, telling myself to remember all this, every small detail, the keys on the counter and the magnets on the fridge, as this could have been my new life if only I believed, and I stepped back outside, closed the door, and went back to my room.

When I was in high school I knew a girl who never read books, or perhaps I should say she read by keeping books beneath her pillow while she slept, so that in the morning the entire book had found a way into her memory. This turned out to be not only an efficent use of time, but also led to a deeper understanding and recall of the text. I tried this strategy a few times but only pulled disjointed bits of the text out of my dreams, bits which were cobbled together with other half-forgotten information so that my actual reading was more difficult. I tried to convince her to try other objects to see if perhaps there were hidden stories not available to strictly textual readers, but she didn’t want to mess with a good thing.

I always thought plants didn’t talk to me because they lack mouths or lungs or vocal cords but maybe they’re just stuck up.

Sarah had worked at the grocery store for about a month when she learned the store had a basement set up exactly like the ground floor only the shelves were stocked with less popular specialty items. Shoppers could only access this second store if they knew the entry code at the back stairwell. There was a seperate staff who worked in the basement store, and the word among Sarah’s fellow cashiers was that they hated her. Sometimes, when Sarah was feeling too lazy to help with restock and killed time smoking by the delivery doors, she ruminated upon a sub-basement store with even less popular items, and a store beneath that store, and so on and so on all the way to hell.

Owen called last weekend and told me he was selling his telephone. I told him I had no need for another telephone and he said “Not yet! But soon the great telephone famine will arrive and you current telephone will wither and die! Entire cities of telephones will be wiped out within a week! Only old-fashioned rotary phones will survive! Can you afford *not* to be prepared?” I asked him what he intended to do after the mass telephone extinction event and he said he had trained himself to give up use of the telephone. “I have seen the signs in the stars and evolved beyond the telephone! Behold the superman!” I considered asking how this regimen led to his calling me on a, y’know, telephone, but instead I told him I only had three dollars and hadn’t even bought candy yet and immediately he hung up on me. The young people of today have no manners.

My grandfather told me the clouds used to look different when he was young. Now the clouds want to look like those famous clouds you see in the movies, and so dump moisture whenever possible, so that in a day you can see eight or nine clouds that look almost exactly alike. All clouds aspire to a perfect state of cloud-nature, but this is a mistake, as all clouds by definition are of the cloud-nature, and all this conformity is in fact a betrayal of the cloud-nature, which once expanded and deepened with every new form of every individual cloud, but those days are all over now. That’s why my grandfather bought his cannon, according to police records, in order to force the clouds to become themselves. He had a similar belief about how all houses aspired to be ruins, but I can’t remember the logic he used for that.
(17: [/scrytch] #

Sat, 23 Jul 2005


“I am trying so hard to do the right thing, to say the right thing, to be the right person, because this dread in my chest every time you get close to me is a compass, and I know I will be improved, and anchored, and slower, and maybe you could even love me, if I go into the fear.”

She sat silently, on the far end of the phone line, and said nothing, until she said:

“That you have to try at all means it’ll never happen.”

Then it was my turn to be silent.
(02: [/scrytch] #

everything burned away (final)
If you were a friend, I would tell you she is happy now, off in some other city, new books on her shelves and new photos on her fridge, her body just different enough to facilitate greater changes in the color of her clothes and the length of her hair. If you were an enemy, I would tell you she is dead, most of her smeared along the bottom of a pine box in some unnamed field where nothing grows. If you were a secret admirer, I would tell you she is thinking of you, resigned to the impossibility of any sort of coupling but still pining in the back of her heart just to hear the sound of your voice. If you were a sibling I would tell you she is soon to call just as soon as she gets her head together, a little more breath back in her lungs, the shivering settled a bit in her hands. But you are none of these things, and so I will tell you nothing.
(02: [/scrytch] #

mouth full of feathers
This is they spot they claimed, and announced to the heavens they would never be moved, so that state-sponsored wizards in suits and ties of indigo velvet poured circles of salt around the park and giant bells tuned to specific frequencies were struck by hammer-swinging butchers still covered in the blood of the wild pig. Obviously such a spectacle brought out all the summerlong lollygaggers, folding chairs and coolers at the ready, taking good seats atop the stores along Main Street facing the claimed park and taunting the cops stationed along the sidewalk. “Crack a fuckin’ cultist head! Do as we command! Throw the swallow-box in the coven’s center and let the witches fall into hell!” Some local Jesus Rock band with cross-stitched bellbottoms stacked amps on the back of a flatbed and stole power from the streetlights and kicked into some kinda fuzzed up dope-raga about the fundamental nature of the human condition and the grandpa brigade kept hoping some girl would take her top off. I was there, drinking dollar beers with Susannah and her wheezing little brother with the shakes and the braces sneaking sips off his big (but not too big for me ‘cause I’m a revelator and a rumpshaker just as sure as your name’s Sucker) sister’s hip flask full of go-juice and sickleberry Kool-Aid, and the three of us were looking for something to throw at the lead singer when all of a sudden a thousand blackbirds came up from a hole in the park and attacked the park-claiming cultists and man was it ever a scene, Susannah’s brother poked out his eyes so as to never see the sight again and Susannah herself won’t go back downtown (which is okay by me, now that she moved into my trailer and I don’t have to pick her up at her house and talk to her parents, you know, the ones with pieces missing from their faces) and even I cross the street every time I think I see a blackbird. Mayor Victorious and his automatic cop army shoulda just left those warlocks alone.
(02: [/scrytch] #

Sun, 22 May 2005

final event precautions

  1. The body will be disguised upon initial viewing so that participants cannot identify The Maker. The Maker will be played by a prior member. Absolute silence is required of all participants during the transformation from hidden member to public member when the body becomes The Maker, and likewise when The Maker becomes the body.
  2. Particles remaining in the body will be collected by The Collector. All attempts to leave the area with unclaimed particles will result in instant death.
  3. Orange lines mark lines of televised surveillance space, purple lines mark urine and blood trails.
  4. Irradiated eggs and semen will be exchanged for clean eggs and semen at the end of the final event. If you feel your eggs or semen has been mishandled, contact The Collector, placing the mouth against the touchscreen.
  5. If the pulse is not followed, a chance for great danger appears.
  6. The larger place cannot be exchanged for the smaller place, unless the smaller place has been Changed by The Great Leveller. All exchanges will be balanced against prior debts.
  7. Any body marked with the milk is a Beacon. At least one Beacon must remain within one marker-like from each participant at all times, unless the participant is in the Hidden Place.
  8. Exposure of intentions is mandatory.

(09: [/scrytch] #

my heroes have always been nutjobs
Originally, in the initial transcript of this story which is still stuck somewhere in a dream I could not fully remember, this story was to be completely different, with a bit involving people who talk like real people (whoever they are, these ‘real people’ I keep hearing about) and not like devices for setting up punchlines. Also there was a bit about the names of certain plants, which I do not actually know, and a bit about girls I used to know but I can no longer talk about that for various reasons which may or may not include chest-beating boyfriends/husbands who never had much use for me anyway. But all that is neither here nor there (it’s nowhere, man, it’s just a big zero) because this story is not that story, not in this translation, not in this world.

Sometimes in the past few months I have tried to channel various characters that I used to write about, regulars I could always count on for entertaining if not exactly profound material, only none of those characters will speak to me anymore. I’m not sure how else to put it. I try to write an Owen and Rissa story for AvFest and there’s just this endless white hum like water down a stormdrain, and nothing I have done so far has brought them any closer. I try to dream about what those characters do now that they’re done with me. Maybe someone else is writing stories about them, which would be okay, I mean I’m jealous but it would make sense and eventually I would come to accept it and this new author would maybe invite me over for dinner with my ex-characters and the piles of stories they had birthed together and would expect me to bring a bottle of wine like some kinda Frenchman. Also I would have to make conversation, which I would do, telling myself that all these minor humiliations will be repaid in Heaven, but out of spite I would go into a long and horrible story about death after dinner which would make both this new author and my ex-characters feel uncomfortable and at a loss for words, and how do you like it, you fuckers.

“Here’s what you do,” Pamela told me. “When you get all drunk and depressed and think you should call her and tell her how much you love her and how you fucked up, call me instead. When you think maybe it’d be a good idea to park your car outside her house and make sure the boy she’s seeing is a good egg and maybe get a peek at her through the windows, drive over here and do the same thing. Just stalk me instead of her. I ain’t got shit to do, and you’re about one bad decision away from jail time.”

Perhaps my ex-characters haven’t shacked up with some Johnny-come-lately prodigy at all, but in fact are in a sort of Limbo, a kind of suspended animation while I work out whatever personal issues I’m supposed to be working out. Or maybe the stories I wrote were like views into this other universe which continues after I have stopped peeking in on it, like some pervert in the bushes with a keyboard and a trenchcoat, and they are none the wiser that I am banished from that world. That’s my favorite, as it means that even if I am not a witness to current actions, current actions continue to take place, and I do not need to feel guilty that my team isn’t seeing any action, as it were.

While I tried to trick my way back into this other world I thought about what my heroes would do, faced with such a situation, and while I cannot list my heroes by name (for fear that you would think less of them, as they are all to a fault poor role models, a sadder collection of schitzophrenics and drunks and general malcontents one would be hard pressed to find), they are my heroes all the same and worth consulting from time to time.

Sometimes, at the grocery store that I go to late at night, after work, because there are fewer people then and also because I like to pretend when I am at the grocery store that it is after the apocalypse and I am the only person left on the planet and the heady rush of this solitary state has passed, the nights of cheap vandalism and theivery faded, and now I obey all the laws of my old life and will leave my handful of useless money at the front register even though no one is there to take it, but sometimes at the grocery store I find myself buying things for no reason. These are usually cheap things, some sort of crazy-looking soda I have never tried, some kind of generic candy whose packaging makes me feel like crying, a bunch of bananas so that the bananas won’t be alone even though I know there is no way I will never eat that many bananas and I’m just setting myself up for the inevitable discovery of brown bananas above my fridge and will think to myself oh god, I’ve killed another bunch of bananas. Sometimes I’ll buy something that I’ll plan to give as a gift, to include in a package I’m going to send to some faraway friend I haven’t written to in too long, or maybe someone I don’t know, just walk up and give them a gift the way I used to walk up to people in Iowa City and give them books I no longer wanted, an attempt at reading minds and intentions in my choices, here, I think you’ll like this, I think you maybe can use this. Sometimes I’ll buy something I used to own, maybe when I was a kid and had the time and focus to actually appreciate distinct objects which would be worn smooth with attention and care as they could not be replaced, nursing minor tears and blemishes, duct tape on the shoes, marker over stains in the fabric. Sometimes I will buy things as an attempt at some other life, a set of new ideas and potentials, my will so weak that simple cheap objects exert enough pull to move me into entirely new orbits. Sometimes I won’t buy anything at all, will simply pick things up, read the label, feel the texture, put it into the other ghost universe where the characters that will not speak to me will find it one morning while I am asleep, some gift found behind the couch or tucked into the mailbox, and I will try to hold onto the memory as a beacon into this other world, but I will be asleep and not paying attention and it will slip right away to become part of a bounty of goods given to some other writer who never considers that all his or her “inspiration” comes from someone else, someone doing the object-research, the collection of sad little grocery store realizations they will never have to witness firsthand as handfuls of stolen riches spill from the page.

Like Dean Martin, I do my drinking in the evening time, which works out well as it makes me harder to see so my getaways (which have become part and parcel of these evenings) are much simpler. The one time I tried to outrun a cop during the day did not end so well, as you might remember, but in the night I am the shadow of the panther! Also helpful is how the fortification of booze leads to derring-do which is beyond the means of mortals, such as jumping off rooftops or out of moving cars. Also an empty bottle makes a good weapon.

Pamela told me she was going to give me one last chance, which I thought was ridiculous as first of all who was she to give me any sort of ultimatum, I mean, I was doing fucked-up and incredibly stupid things long before she ever met me and that this practice had not changed during the time she was legally my wife should have suprised no one, and it’s not like she had any limit of shortcomings, but one of the rules I made for myself after the relapse is that it is important to agree with people and basically do what they ask of you as a sign of your strength, and so I nodded, and smiled, and said something about how I was happy or something. Pamela attempted to scowl at me, but this quickly fell into some sort of weepy fit like she was always having, and I continued to smile, thinking that eventually this would placate her. “Things will be different now,” I said for absolutely no reason, which I told myself that the present is necessarily different from the past because if the present was indistinguishable from the past (and presumably the future) than the whole of life would be continuous, which I knew about what that was like and trust me it isn’t good when you think like that, and now wasn’t like that at all, now was a distinct now, unclouded by mirror and echo events, and saying this seemed to calm her a bit. Pamela is much smarter than I am, and I love her very much, but she has weird ideas about how things change, and so she became convinced this was the case. I just wanted to move back into her basement and eat her food while she slept and proceed to collect and assemble The Great Work and maybe if I obeyed all the rules I kept in my head I might get my cock sucked, and to these ends I was willing to say any fool thing anyone wanted to hear. After that I said some other stuff, which I am removing from the record.

If I could not hold the things I created, how could I hold the people I love.
(08: [/scrytch] #

always obnoxious
“so okay, if a werewolf bites a pig, you mean to say it turns into a werepig?”

“well what if you dressed it up like some backpacker college student? so that the werewolf didn’t know it was a pig until it was too late?”

“sure, but you could get around the smell aspect by bathing the incognito pig in aftershave and rumplemintz.”

“well maybe it’s just a stupid werewolf. let’s not pretend werewolves are suprageniuses.”

“how many werewolves ever won a nobel? that’s right, three. and that ain’t many.”

“look, you started this whole thing with the werecabbage. which, as we have agreed, is simply a ridiculous idea.”

“well what if you paid a werewolf to bite a pig? for science?”

“if a werewolf is smart enough to know the difference between a college student and a pig, it’s smart enough to know the value of a hard-earned dollar.”
(08: [/scrytch] #

waiting for the conclusion
Today, reading old email and irc logs, I realized I really, really fucked something up in a way I didn’t even realize until now, years later, the damage too deep to fix, explaining the distance I feel between myself and someone I love, and I realize I fucked up and can’t make things right and at the end of the day I have one less friend than I thought I did, that bond actually being the sort of uncomfortable friendship you have with college friends you see once every few years, and not the endless knot of muscle and blood I thought it was, and I realize I have fucked things up far far greater than I believed, and I feel so ashamed at my own ignorance, my inability to see what was obvious to everyone else, and I can say that because I know the person in question will never read this, but I love you so much, you mean everything to me, you are the only person who I thought still cared about me, and I cannot let you go even if you have closed the door in my inattentive face years ago, I have fucked things up in ways I cannot even understand.
(08: [/scrytch] #

a lesson (one)
It is commonplace to hear that regret makes a home in the things we avoid, the things we postpone, the things we tell ourselves we do not want, more so than in our actions and statements, but I don’t think this is true. The things we say, stammered by insecurity and made ugly by frustration, mark us in ways that become deeper in time, limit the trust and kindness others will give us, cut letters into our skin that no midnight move or change of clothes will hide. We take these failures as necessary components of our makeup, stones in the stomach, cheap fatalism to explain away that it was simply a mistake, a misunderstanding, something I should have kept inside.

Tell the man who hit his wife that action is better than caution. Tell the woman waiting out the next seven years in a cell it is better to have done than not done. If you have ever listened to me, ever paid what I say with even the slightest credence, I beg you listen to me now: everything you do not understand that waits in your heart must be hidden from the world, as all it wants is to hurt you.
(08: [/scrytch] #

kook (starting)
She stood above me, nipples smeared with green milk and canine fangs buried in her smile. The left hand reached up and held the moon like a peach while the right hand held the knife that dug into and pulled up small jewels from the skin of my chest. I remember this. This is a thing which actually happened. I no longer have an audience, a single person who will hear a single word, I want so much to not be alone. Openings in the mouths of blackbirds which fill all nature of alien chatter. Every intersection of any two lines is a cross. Choice of options against choice of absolute freedom means that there are problems with her heart and I must wait in the lobby again. I am not famous and you will never be in love with me. You’ll never know dear how much I love you. There is a skin you do not know and cannot see beneath the false skin you show to strangers, and this is the skin that I know, and you do not care. There will be a time of jubilee, and certain gifts will be hidden in places that cannot be visited, which is cruel, but there is a joy in knowing these things exist even if they cannot be found. This is the way, it leads to certain points. I cannot stop getting high. We drove around in a seriously modified Chevelle and molested angels. You tell me you don’t love me, well I don’t love you. This is not pleasure, and I am not happy.
(08: [/scrytch] #

i’ve got a short film of chuck norris taking a dump in a child’s toybox you can borrow. the best part is when the child cries. originally it was gonna be a full-length feature. shitty christmas, starring chuck norris. only bobby beausoleil, who also did a goofy syntho soundtrack, refused to share writing credits with chuck, and that’s why the manson family killed bruce lee. not many people know that jane birkin, french pop chanteuse and wife of serge gainsbourg, had her actual teeth removed and replace with the teeth of two wolves at the direction of lee disciple wilt chamberlain, and that she was to be the final opponent in lee’s “psycherotik” collaboration with renouned “New Satanist” and lsd addict Jackie Gleason entitled “Jesus Fucker ‘78”, a film about a gang of thirteen bikers on a mission to kill the president. chuck norris was not asked to participate. in a vodka-rage, norris and then-lover jan michael vincent snuck into the home of bruce and linda lee and took a dump in brandon lee’s crib. his attempt to have timothy leary kill manson at vacaville prison was less successful. at the very end of the rolling stones documentary “cocksucker blues”, there is a second-long flash of an “attack and cripple” sigil, hand-drawn by dennis wilson prior to his “accidental” death. it is my conviction that chuck norris, who suffers from dyslexia, saw this sigil in its inverted state and became an agent of the hidden christ. syd and marty krofft built automated fellatio devices with the faces of history’s great villians which were shared and soiled at lee’s “retreats” in the hidden city beneath oakland. it was here that norris learned “the death-touch”, a combination of jeet kune do and remote viewing. “Every home holds a weapon, a gun pointed at the faces of every viewer,” an obviously intoxicated norris told tv guide in 1988. the ghosts of all the people chuck norris has killed via television gather at his bedside as he tries to sleep, fighting coke-jitters and heart palpitations and crying jags, no one left to call at three am and beg for mercy, no stareyed groupies to give a medicated nod to his every memory, desperate searches for instructions from his god blurred and broken. tonight, black peter stalks chuck norris, santa pants around his ankles, faded polaroids stuck to his bare chest.
(08: [/scrytch] #

Thu, 19 May 2005

you should put me in a hole somwhere
(12: [/scrytch] #

you’re the stink on my cake
Marjorie kept saying that I should come up, that I could move in with her and her husband and her two boys and be the family manservant. “You wouldn’t have to actually do very much other than crack wise and buy groceries, and that’s about all you do in Iowa, other than sulk,” she said, which was true in a technical sense, but that didn’t mean I was about to be some fucking manservant. First, I did not like her children, and sure we all know that I don’t like children, but I particularly don’t like her children, because they’re so much like her husband, and probably the less I say about that the better. How can I work on my diabolical experiments with little people running around sticking their fingers in sockets and screaming about whatever stupid crap televison children are into this season? I’m the dark prince of American fiction! I can’t move to the suburbs!

We thus decided (well, I decided and she got used to it) that I would stay right where I am, but I would build a ROBOTIC MANSERVANT in my own likeness. This required a bit more introspection than I am normally comfortable with (which is none), so that I sent the ROBOTIC MANSERVANT to work one day to see if it would fool my boss. I haven’t said more than “hey” to my boss in a month, so it wasn’t much of a test, but it was a smashing success nevertheless, at least until some creep who has been hanging around the graveyard a lot tried to chat up the ROBOTIC MANSERVANT as to whether or not his wife was actually buried in the plot she had registered, he seemed to remember it being closer to a tree, it’s been three months since the funeral and no one will give him a straight answer. I happen to know for a fact that she’s buried in the right place as I dug the hole, but as I figured the ROBOTIC MANSERVANT wouldn’t have to get a job (besides the manservanting) I didn’t bother to include any information as to my many prior careers, and so the ROBOTIC MANSERVANT chased the grieving husband down the street, out to that prefab housing clump across the highway, which probably means I’m gonna get fired. It’s been that kinda month.
(12: [/scrytch] #

they say when you talk like that you’re talking hate
There was a time when I thought I could be an animator. I had attempted to draw in the most minor of senses, but I was certain it was a skill I could instantly pick up, given a bit of effort, and soon enough I would be drawing my own cartoons, only better than the cartoons I saw on television. I went to the library to check out books on animation, which is my usual course of action when I decide I am to extend my genius into a new field, and there I found a collection of flipbooks, which brought the project into focus: with this little bit of eye-trickery, I could develop my skills on my own, and demonstrate said skills to my classmates. Being library books, each of the flipbooks was missing about half its pages, but I considered this an upside; the constant jolt of characters leaping forward in “time” was hypnotizing, and I knew I could incorporate sceharios and characters which directly addressed this non-traditional approach. I went into the teacher’s lounge the next day and photocopied all the flipbooks multiple times, and sorted the pages to form slow-motion and loop effects along with immediate jumps to different characters. By juxtaposing a Halloween story with a Mickey Mouse bit of claptrap, the viewer would half-see flashes of the Mouse as a skeleton, or as a devil. Indeed, at the age of seven I had become the Oliver Stone of flipbooks. Then, for no reason whatsoever, I completely lost interest, and forgot all about it, until just now, watching his image flicker in and out of sight as teh camera cut in and out and distorted to horozontal lines, his voice lost to the camera in the helicopter, screaming to get back, get back.
(12: [/scrytch] #

you’ll never know dear how much i love you
She subscribed to one of those services where every morning a newspaper from a different city appears on your doorstep. There is a limited version of this service, strictly US/Canada, but she splurged for the full package, and on the mornings the paper arrived written in a language she could not understand she was content to look at the pictures, small smudged clouds which must once have signified discrete objects. Some newspapers had no pictures at all, just rows and rows of angular text, and here she contented herself to see images in the negative space within what was to her white noise, certain that the true meaning would manifest in a form she could understand. This was the single axiom of her belief system: an answer will come in time. Today it was a German paper, and she tried to remember what little high-school Deutsch she had left in her, so that short phrases — “around the corner”, “one hundred automobiles”, “the Berlin laundromat-road” — fell upwards to her, rising from the rest of the text, from the same smudgy images that could be from anywhere, of anything, except one, on the back page, larger than the rest, which she thought looked like her, when she was younger, maybe just after college. But different, obviously not her. Right? How could it be her?
(12: [/scrytch] #

This was ‘98. The first time I met someone I didn’t know who had read something I’d written on the internet was at a bar in Iowa City, the one by where I used to live, the one right across the street from John’s Grocery. I bumped into a girl I knew from undergrad workshop who was now in proper grad workshop and got caught up in her wake for a few hours, not wanting to drive back to Waterloo. At the bar we met some friends of hers, and one of them was a classmate from one of the dozen classes I stopped attending during one of my fits. She told me she had read something I’d written after doing a websearch for undergrad writer’s workshop and pulled up my submission piece. She told me I should be less gimmicky. This is the same thing Dan Foss told me the last time I saw him, so I knew she was right, but I kinda blew it off because I didn’t really want to talk about it; I was very self-conscious around these people who saw themselves as the next wave of American fiction while I still basically thought of what I did as a goof. She woulsn’t let this point go, she stared right at me and told me if I could drop all this self-referential post-Oulipo flash and filigree and got to the very bones of the human condition that I had it in me to say something meaningful, something satifsying. That was the word — satisfying. I was trying not to drink very much, but that attempt was starting to fail, and I told myself to keep my mouth closed and not run off at the mouth, so I didn’t really address her point, and eventually she stopped talking to me.
(12: [/scrytch] #

will never leave
There’s this diner out in Evansdale that’s open all night, and the entire staff is also a band; I’ve seen them play on Thursday night at the Amphouse (under new management) and they’re not bad, more roots-country than I’m normally into but it works if you’ve been doing a lot of drinking. Sometimes one of the waitresses will start to sing while cleaning a table, and the others join in with elaborate harmonies that make me want to learn some music theory. Normally I am made absolutely uncomfortable by such public displays, but there is a quiet to their voices, and a heartsick lonesome nature they have mastered which most singers don’t even know exists, and so it is that after work at the graveyard I drive across to Evansdale and eat bacon cheeseburgers at two in the morning while women I will never really know sing of a sorrow so deep it steals the breath from your lungs.
(12: [/scrytch] #

what i’m gonna do
In my head I always associate staying home from school with taking care of my mother, after spending hours trying to get her out of bed because the phone has been ringing ever since she was supposed to be at the hospital and I knew if I wanted to I could just let her sleep and run across the field and down the street and catch the bus, but I never did, not because I knew she would yell at me (though she would) and not because I thought I could get her up and in the car and off to work (which never happened, so that I knew when the phone stopped ringing that she was never going to go back to that job, and there wouldn’t be any more money for a while, and I might have to stay with grandma again for a month or two), but because I was certain if my mom didn’t get up, and I left her there to sleep through another day, that when I got home she would be dead. And that’s why, later, after she was gone, I never skipped a day of school.
(12: [/scrytch] #

we shall be changed
It seems inevitable that, given the directionand momentum of my life, I will eventually become a bum. Years ago, I used to talk to a homeless man who, like a troll, lived in the steam tunnels beneath the bridge connecting the art building to the union, and he told me that becoming homeless was never a decision made n an instant, but a stage in a long-term process, a process he was convinced wasn’t yet finished with him. This is where the Homeless Writer’s Coalition in the old book comes from. The homelessness isn’t particularly interesting, except in the sense that it would allow me to become the thing I have always wanted to be, which is a street preacher. My twenties, I see now, were a time of building my mythology, of doing the foundational work and burning it into my consciousness, so that it springs to hand even when drunk or high or sick unto death. My major impediment is my nervousness as to performing in public, and so as an experiment I got in my new car and drove to a place where I didn’t know anybody (Davenport), parked the car, walked around in the cold for a little while, drinking fortified wine, until I ended up outside a bar on Locust Street and started in on how not everyone had to die, and how they kept that information from us, but only because the medical condition of life after death was a fundamentally flawed concept, and how the ongoing conflict in the Middle East was orchestrated by UN athiests in an attempt to destroy holy relics imbued with cellular wisdom which, like the sexual exploitation of angels during the fourth and fifth centuries, has been sullied by the black magic of money and second history which stains the eyes of newborn babies except for those it cannot stain who are sacrificed in surgical theatres beneath every hospital with the severed organs flung to ladies-in-waiting in the balcony who then throw handfuls of rose pedals (in an re-enactment of Teresa’s vision of the visitation of Mary) upon the doctors, at which point people stopped walking past me and pretending not to notice and ended up chasing me off the block, at which point I went back to my car and drove home. It’s a start.
(12: [/scrytch] #

walrus jar
There was a doorway beneath the staircase in the first house I moved into after the accident, and behind that doorway was hallway which led to End-Of-Time, and while I never went that far down the hallway the people I met spoke well of it, claimed it as a religious experience, a geographic epiphany by which the sorrows of the world fell into a larger lattice of intent invisible to us who walked the world. I didn’t need to see that; I had seen too much by then, and only wanted a place to sleep and keep company, and the hallway was ideal for that. The hallway was, in a literal sense, a waiting room, and so took on the attributes of any institutional no-room. The couches were incredibly comfortable, the coffee was better than average, and no one wanted to harm me. I often considered spending the whole of my life there, but after a while I would get antsy, and want to right my wrongs, and leave the hallway for a while. This story has no ending.
(12: [/scrytch] #

This is a short notice to myself about all of the things I have written and then lost or destroyed over the years. I hope the next time I go into one of my sinking rages that I will read this, and wait, but I know that won’t actually happen, and I’ll have to write this notice over agian.

And any number of little pieces, notes, letter-stories, narrated audiotapes and other crap. It’s amazing I have anything to show for what I’ve done.
(12: [/scrytch] #

until we see each other again
The song she sent me didn’t do its work all at once; I listened to it a few times in single shots and tried not to be critical about recording quality, as I’m getting to be kinda a snob with things like that, caught the harmonies she was so good with and the sound of the piano which was just the tiniest bit sharp, but then I listened to it here at the house instead of in the car in between errands, sat down and played the cd with the player left on loop from earlier, and I realized she had to have someone help her burn the cd because she hated taking anything off tape, even off the crappy four-track her brother handed down to her, so to take the song onto hard drive and clean it up, which was a mistake, so whoever helped her (probably some new boyfriend I’ll hear about in a week) basically messed it up a little, and she was always so weird about not wanting anybody to hear something she had recorded, so this must have been an ordeal, and there’s a couple places where her timing on the piano is a bit off and he probably wanted to sync that up but she must have said no, that’s how it is, and I felt kinda proud of her, and I wanted to tell her before the feeling faded and I forgot to do it but she would have been asleep for hours, so I listened to her song over and over and in my mind I talked to her like I do all the time and I said I am so proud of you, and I’m sorry I’m so far away, and I miss you so much, and then I couldn’t stop crying.
(12: [/scrytch] #

unpopular mechanics
He was old enough to know that certain words weren’t meant to be taken literally, they were figures of speech, but there was still a connection which always warranted investigation. He had heard, somewhere on the television, that the heart is a knot of muscle, and this had stuck with him, as he was fascinated by knots, so that at night he dreamt that when one dies, the doctor cuts through the heart-knot with a scalpel, and all the skin and sinew and fat falls off the body like so much Christmas ribbon, until the immortal spirit which hid in each of us fell up to heaven. Other figures of speech hinted at the truth of this theory: shake off this mortal coil being a phrase he heard on ER once, coil as in rope, like the ropey biceps of a basketball player he had seen at the park once, sitting on the grass, waiting for his mom to pick him up. This meant each person had a single point of weakness, a blow to which would unspool them, unprepared immortal spirits caught in the trees like kites. It had to be a serious blow, he considered, as people (even people shot in the chest, like on television) rarely unspooled in public, which is too noisy and distracting a place for ascension, so that the surgeon is both a butcher and a priest, in the same way that the astronaut is also an angel. He pondered this notion over and over, until he felt satisfied, having finally understood how death worked.
(12: [/scrytch] #

“Hey man,” the businessman said when he saw the jilted ex-boyfriend with explosives taped to his chest in a final act of faith in last-minute reprieves from people who lie when they say they don’t love you anymore and just can’t see things the right way which sometimes a desperate and valiant act can put into a certain focus only he didn’t know where it was he should go as there’s no empty land in the city anymore (that’s why it’s a city) and noplace where there wasn’t bound to be some nature of structural damage and he felt the same vertigo he once felt considering the cleaning lady who would have to clean up his brains only he knows they have special people for that hired by the city with amazing disinfectants which erase the very memory of atrocity from some once and now once again anonymous room but even then someone just takes on one more little bit of damage under the skin and eventually there’s only so much pain anyone can take on and he has to know that as well as anyone and what if he was the one to send that person into a spiral of self-destructive behavior i mean this guy just wants the impossible feat of returning a situation to the way it once was only fixed forever so as never to discover there was always some barely-covered emptiness festering in her heart and waiting for some strange boy to come walking by and give her a reason, right, he didn’t want to be come sort of enabler for massive widespread agony enabler you see being a word he picked up on in group and sorta stuck with him as now he had terminology for the sense he long had that his personal blame was a web that extends beyond the things he understands, i mean, everybody’s responsible then, because how do you know what’s going to set someone off and he knows in the back of his mind that he doesn’t really have it right but it sounds right ot him in a desperate sense but as we’ve already seen this is a person not above desperate logic and equally questionable ideas such as the solution for his notiong of distributed culpability which is the paranoid’s crutch of randomness or perhaps even if he were one to get mystical the unconscious urge toward a specific area manifest in directions he doesn’t undertstand as he thinks through the first past that comes to him to this three-story cement storage block eternally half-full with the castoff jetsam of a couple hundred transitory lives and an office building where the businessman was to sit and ponder the day’s events for a couple hours before the rest of the staff comes in since they’re all essentially college kids adverse to the idea of early to rise and there’s no peace and quiet at home what with the kids hollering and shooting aliens hiding in the closets and watching some sort of semi-pornographic mexican cartoon about a sentient donkey and his two breastacular assistants who maybe solve crimes or something certainly not the sort of environment which lends itself to contemplation of anything and certainly not now with his wife’s endless cold calculated slights and punishments for things he can no longer remember so the best time for him is an hour or so here in the office with a cup of hot coffee and maybe the morning paper maybe not it depends on what kind of day it feels like but no, not today, today some clown is standing behidn his desk with a rock in his hand he used to break the window over the door and climb inside with what even the businessman can see is explosives wrapped to his chest so that all he can say is “Hey man, please don’t blow yourself up here, this is the best place I have.”
(12: [/scrytch] #

The brightness of the diner gave the illusion of a continuance of civilization, that other houses and buisnesses would continue past the far end of the asphalt parking lot, but now that he was out of the twenty-foot tall streetlights around the pumps Jason could only see a blackness before him, the tiniest trace of hidden moonlight like a band behind the trees giving him any sense of distance. He parked out here while the sun was just starting to dip, assuming the light would reach this far, now somewhat offended there were still places left in the world which could remain so dark as to hide a car, leaving him to half-step forward, a vague vertigo caught in the knees. He clicked his remote ignition in a slow arc in front of him until the headlights and engine came alive, a small puddle of sight thirty feet to his right. He opened the door, comforted by the slight ping of the alarm, and started to fall into the driver’s seat when he saw something in the darkness, a light, blue but startlingly bright, a light he had never seen before. He stood and stepped from behind the door, trying to guess how far it was, if it was part of some automated pump station or some new hybrid tractor, and he listened to see if it made a noise, trying not to breathe, trying to be as still as possible.

“It’s the guy,” Marshall said, quiet but not whispering, cold as the stones beneath the river. Marshall’s brother Carl regripped the spotlight, his right thumb on the switch, waiting for the guy to get closer. From the field Carl could only see him as the absence of the light from the truckstop, a walking shadow, but thorugh the scope Marsh could count the buttons on his shirt. Carl saw the car start and for a second thought he was too late, that he had screwed up, but then he could see the guy again, and knew it was time, standing and holding the light over his head as the blue light shot across the field. Carl watched the man walk in front of his car, staring, and listened to Marsh to make any adjustments, but he was set, and most likely didn’t even need Carl to bait, but this had to be done just so. Through the scope, Marshall saw the man’s face like a bloated blueberry, like some diseased pumpkin stuck on a pole out behind the farm, and took the shot, and like that the man’s head became a cloud of black fluid, caught in the spotlight for just a second before Carl cut the power and the brothers doubletimed back to the pickup.
(12: [/scrytch] #

I am walking down the sidewalk toward the apartments, but at the same time I am deep in the mud under the river, thick and cold but not crushed by its weight. My fingers can move, just a little, but I don’t feel the need to breathe, content to pull in the silence and dark where I cannot be found, revisit memories, consider potential acts, and yet I am now at the complex, walking around to the stairs, and I am running out of time. In johnboats up on the river’s surface, they hunt for my body with long metal rods they shove into the riverbed, the calloused fingers and palms attuned to the frequencies of my bones, but I know nothing of this, and yet I know all about it, and know it is not real, that I am at the door, that I am knocking on the door, that I can hear someone inside turning the locks.
(12: [/scrytch] #

too close to see
july 04.

I woke up around midnight, still in my clothes and boots, and walked out to check the mail when I saw some large stuffed animal all in pieces down the street, pulled apart by the storm. Part of the head was on the lawn, and I kicked it over to see it had chrome-plated eyes, clean enough to catch the light, to see my blurred face as I picked it up and looked at it. The stictching was all hand-sewn and crazy, jagged lines around the ears and neck, and I realized the storm hadn’t done this, somebody ripped this bear apart and the storm simply scattered the remains. I was terrified of this bear, but I was done being afraid of the artifacts of other people’s insanity, and walked up and down the street with a huge garbage bag I stole from work, dropped in thirty pounds of stones and threw the bag into the Cedar off the Gilbertville bridge.
(12: [/scrytch] #

today is the day i stop getting high (one)

  1. satellite telemetry readings
  2. shortwave pirate radio broadcasts of bootleg polka performances
  3. suicide notes (five different ones)
  4. electromagnetic pulse distortion
  5. digital compression artifacts
  6. audioleaflets from the divine arrow of the retribution of the christ that is to come
  7. the 60 watt hum of the grid
  8. vinyl 45s recorded for WWII army soldiers by girls they had never met
  9. cia numbers stations
  10. very low frequency recordings of solar events
  11. black box recordings
  12. death threats
  13. 8-track trucker pornography from 1972-1975
  14. microcassette notes by crime scene detectives, 1987
  15. am ministry “prayerathons” for the death of various hollywood celebrities
  16. heartbeats (normal, irregular) of various breeds of dogs
  17. recordings of blank tape
  18. flexidisc promotional material for a mentally challenged punkrock band
  19. prank letters to santa claus as read by children
  20. eight-hour collection of phone messages left from a recovery house in Ann Arbor

(12: [/scrytch] #

timesheet, 01.29
09.00pm: check in, check to see if i’m digging tonight. i’m not.

09.03pm: tank up on coffee.

09.06pm: get shovel and flashlight.

09.08pm: walk around yard, check for damaged stones.

09.30pm: pretend to be a zombie pirate. scream “I GOT THE SCURVY!” at top of lungs, work on my stagger-walk.

09.41pm: use shovel as imaginary microphone stand, pretend to be Juan, latin singing playboy.

09.47pm: practice hypnosis on creepy lookin’ dog.

09.48pm: run from creepy lookin’ dog.

10.02pm: return to office, drink more coffee.

10.06pm: go to bathroom just to hang out.

10.16pm: walk around yard.

10.25pm: try to scare drivers out on the highway by staring directly into their souls.

10.33pm: take antacid for to battle all the coffee.

10.48pm: work on stories in my head.

10.58pm: decide that fifteen below is too cold to pretend to work, go back to the office for the night.

11pm-1:15am: take nap in office chair. note, for the record, that this is the first time i’ve napped on the job.

1.20am: check yard again.

1.32am: decide i need to buy a giant gong, and invite people over and walk out in my fu manchu outfit and bang gong and make spooky yet incomprehensible proclamations and then send people off into the world to do my secret bidding. might have to build gong out of stolen sheet metal.

1.38am: again, run from creepy lookin’ dog.

1.46am: drop flashlight in the snow, consider something about how a flashlight makes unilluminated areas darker than they are with the flashlight off, realize i need to go to bed.

1.55am: return flashlight and shovel to closet.

1.59am:check out.
(12: [/scrytch] #

throw yourself to the hogs
To sit in the throne was to crawl and climb in equal measure, to contort and belittle yourself, to feel the crown fall off your head and the scepter dig into your side, as it is only right that someone willing to bear the greatest of public shames, only those willing to eat the greatest plate of stool and offal, should be allowed to serve as king. His body doubled-over allowed only the shallowest of breaths, so that a horn was inserted into his mouth, distorting and amplifying his voice into tones like scratched glass and belly-slit kittens, and the king tried to apologise for the sound of his voice, but the effort of even the simplest syllable sent him into minutes of breathcatching, during which his senators would stare uncomfortably at each other and whisper of regicide. The king, malnourished and half-mad, faded into dreams of sleeping in a bed, of walking upright, of seeing strangers smile, dreams which only lasted half a minute before his guards jabbed at his distended stomach with spears. This is the taste of power, like a bit between your teeth, bile always at the back of your throat. This is what it means.
(12: [/scrytch] #

this is not the time
When Ana was thirteen, her mother told her that the one thing she regretted no longer being able to do was visit her friends, and Ana, who wanted nothign so much as to help her mother in that last year, told her mother that she’d gladly visit her mother’s friends and announce her intentions and condolences that she could not attend in person. They agreed this was a good idea, and so Ana got gussied up in her impress teh adults clothes and took the car around town, stopping often at convenience stores to ask directions, until she visited all of her mother’s friends and announced how she was dreadfully sorry that she couldn’t attend herself but certainly wanted best wishes (and in one case a speedy recovery). This is where Ana learned to put on her professional face, friendly but formal, her voice a bit flat, her movements a bit slower than usual. This is how she started talkig to me after I told her the thing I promised myself I would never tell her, the thing about why I’ll never have children and she hung up the phone and called back five minutes later and announced that she was dreadfully sorry she had been so rude before, and has the deepest sympathy for my situation.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the things i’ve caused (three)
I read the letter, searching for weaknesses, looking for ways to make my words more effective. This was to be the last thing I ever said to her, my final statement, and I wanted the words to hurt her so much, to cripple and blind her, to lead to months of unconsolable crying on her bed and binge drinking and wrist slashing. I wanted her to know and understand all the horrible things she had done to me and never given a second thought to, expectant that the world would once again change to suit her whim, heal its wounds once her back was turned. I still thought I was a writer, and I thought that if I have learned anything, if I have any ability with the word, then let this letter be the sum of my powers. Let this letter kill her.

I saw her two weeks later at a bookstore, and she greeted me as though we were still the best of friends, and laughed about how great the letter was, how she read it over the phone to people she knew in fits of laughter. You were always so funny like that, she said, smiling, oblivious.

That’s when I stopped writing.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the things i’ve caused (two)
One Sunday afternoon, watching football on the couch, his father turned to him and said “I want you to listen, and whatever happens you need to remember this. A man who hits a woman is a punk. He’s a fucking punk.” His father never swore, even when he caught his hand in the car door, so he knew this wasn’t a casual comment. He didn’t know what to say, so he pulled himself together a bit, put a little more depth into his voice, and said “I know”. Years later, he’d been in circumstances with women which were, to put things kindly, ambiguous, where the use of violence, or at least the threat of violence, seemed to be a desired result. She would turn, and she would dig, for a reaction, and he would give her nothing, held inside, unwilling to push against the few things he took as truths. In time he found someone with whom this was not an issue, and he took her as his bride, and she told him the story, the story every woman he’s known eventually tells him, who he was, when it happened, how she’s not really afraid anymore. The next year his father died, and after the funeral he sat on the back porch with his wife, and his sister and her boyfriend, and he mentioned the thing his father told him, and they all became quiet, and his sister told him what had happened to her, and how her father found out, and what he wanted to do, but she said no, no, it’s over. After everyone went to bed, he sat on the back porch by himself, staring at the scattered lights of distant farmtowns, and he found the address in the phone book.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the things i’ve caused (one)
The clouds cast shadows so deep they seemed to stain the ground, casting the grass in a darker hue until winter reset the scene. She took a step from the doorway to the playground and felt the life drain from her, the dread pool in her chest. It’s just a series of steps, she thought. I’ve taken millions of steps in my life. This is no different. She felt like she would fall forward, and so she leaned back, and almost fell over, catching herself with a sudden backstep, and just like that it hit her, now she had to start over. She’d never get off school grounds at this rate. She saw traffic slow as it reached the block, the amber light of the warning signs on each corner just barely visible with the sun covered over, with the wind coming up from the south. She was the last to leave, the same as every day, but she was sure there were still some children left, standing at the windows, watching her, waiting for something to happen. She took a breath, took a step. As she moved from the building the playground came around from behind the corner, and there were kids there, three atop the jungle gym, the highest point of the playground, pockets filled with rocks, but she was not afraid of these kids, who only wanted a modest perimeter to call their own, to define themselves against, the most meager of reputations to hex away the terror. She tried to take another step and hesitated, uncertain of where to step, and now the jungle gym kids were watching her. “Are you okay?” the littlest one said, his voice like air escaping a balloon. She wanted to turn and say she was fine, maybe she could become one of the jungle gym kids, maybe she could be protected by whatever totemic power the space held, but she was so tired, and there was so much more walking she had to do, and she knew she didn’t belong to a place, she was without a center, and it was all she could do to fight the current, to walk a straight line.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the stomach of the ostrich
Jason and I hadn’t seen each other since high school, and he must have heard from someone that I was in a bad way, as he showed up completely out of the blue to see how I was. At first he pretended that he was just passing through town, and halfassed a story to that effect, but it became obvious that this wasn’t a casual visit. Jason was on point for a group of people that all hung out when I was younger, and apparently still did, moving into houses next door and carpooling to PTA and all that, and for a year or so I ran in that circle in order to get to this girl that I can’t even remember what she looks like any more. We had our ten year graduation aniversary a while back, and obviously I didn’t go, because I don’t go anywhere, but this gang of adults apparently got to talking about me, and that had led to this quasi-intervention in my living room, Jason asking me if I was paying my bills, how long it had been since I’d slept with someone. I was surprised enough to answer, for a little while, until I wised up enough to be insulted and showed him the door.

The next day I go to work and see a sign in my front yard reading WE LOVE YOU! with balloons on it. Luckily this was still about five in the morning, so I don’t think anybody saw it before I could kick it over and throw it under the deck, but I had a suspicion this was just the start, and when I found a giant bouquet with a sash reading FRIENDS FOREVER! sitting next to my locker at work I knew I would have to take action. I didn’t know where Jason was, but it wasn’t long until I saw him again. Apparently he called this gang of his and told them I was in desperate shape and they all found babysitters and formed a SUV convoy to my trailer. I pulled up and tried to pull out but Suzanne (that’s what she said her name is) knocked on the window, grinning and gesturing to roll down the window. The driver’s side window in my car doesn’t go down, so I pulled into my driveway and got out and then it was all hugs and statements of support and whatnot and I tried to usher everyone inside before my neighbors called the cops. Most of these people looked vaguely familiar, morphed faces from high school recollections, but one of these people was much older and unfamiliar. You ever notice on commercials for weird medicines that you have no idea what they do, how whenever there’s a group of people gathered together looking confident and in control of their mystery affliction that there’s always one gray-haired smiling yet stern older woman at the center of a gaggle of younger traditionally pretty women? That’s what this woman looked like, and I knew this was her idea, but I had no idea why she would take such an interest in a person she had never met.

“Why did you all come here? What exactly do you want?” I said, trying to weave between them to reach the fridge vodka.

“Listen, you are obviously too damaged to appreciate the outpouring of love we have for you, but I assure you, we have nothing but the best in mind for you”, the older eagle-looking woman said. “We are not here to judge.”

“I should damn well fucking hope not!” I said, drinking from the bottle.

“You should come with us to Charles City. You can stay with Jason and Suzanne until we find you an apartment. I’m sure there’s plenty of businesses which will overlook your academic failings.”

“Academic failings? God damn it, I’m almost graduated!”

“Of course you are! And you can pursue your higher learning at our local community college. You might even meet a special someone there who appreciates you for you!”

I had heard this phrase before, and suddenly I felt a wave of dread and nausea. “You’re not just bored suburbanites! You’re CANNIBALS!”

“Oh that’s ridiculous,” the eagle-woman said, but I saw the others twitch at the word.

“I heard a thing about this on Morning Edition! You’re those suburb cannibals that keep eating failed ambitionless drifters! I’ll have you know I’m writing a book!”

“Book schmook!” the eagle-woman said, dropping the facade. “We’ll take good care of you! You’ll learn about equity and get a cellphone! Maybe we’ll just eat the skin from the bottom of your feet, and you don’t even need that skin!”

It’s a good thing that I wired explosives to the bottom of the trailer just in case such a thing happened (which would get written off as just another meth lab explosion), but as I tried to dive through the kitchen window I forgot about the storm windows and the insulation wrap and did little more than give myself a nasty concussion just before the suburb cannibals got to me.

Now I live in Charles City, with a nice blonde actuarian who is into yoga and skin-eating, and our new house has two and a half baths and three hundred square feet of crawlspace. I work from home, writing ad copy for a local winery and the occasional letter to Salon. Sometimes I think that I should leave, go back to my old life as a shifty layabout and mooch, but it’s hard to walk away when you have bloody stumps for feet.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the stage is everywhere
My dad was always buying electronics we didn’t really need, and so we were the first family on the block with a satellite dish, with quaddrophonic sound, with a vcr. I never understood why he bought these things, as he was home a few weekends a year and never really had a chance to use this stuff, but I later learned that all this stuff was pre-release and experimental models that hadn’t hit the street, stuff he wheeled and dealed out of low-level research and design people he met on the job. My mom basically ignored all this electronic junk, except for a small voice-activated tape recorder which she claimed for purposes we didn’t know about, or think to question, until much later. It turned out that my mother, to avoid phone charges and possibly direct conversation, was making tapes for my father after the kids were asleep, concerns and dreams and little bits of quiet singing, which she mailed to whatever hotel he would be staying at the next week. My father got these tapes, and must have enjoyed them, as he played them for his business friends, who liked them enough to ask for copies, and so my dad made a lucrative side-business of copying and selling the tapes his wife mailed to him with the raunchy parts cut to the beginning of the tape. Years of this went by before my mom found out, and was understandably furious, and that was just one more thing which led to them breaking up. My dad must have made a bunch of these tapes as every once in a while I’ll hear a sample of my mother’s voice in a song, tucked in some spliced-up plunderphonic barrage of samples or fading along the edges of some drone number, and if there’s anyone else around and the voice isn’t moaning and panting into the little solid-state microphone I’ll listen and try to understand who she was in that other world, the world that wasn’t her children.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the remaining words
It’s not that she’s forgiven me. It’s that I’m becoming irrelevant to her, fading out of her life, so that it no longer seems worth the effort to hold a grudge. She calls out of habit, when no one else is around and her boy is gone, and she no longer asks what I’ve been up to, as she knows I am up to nothing, my life having hit a point where every day is like white noise, hiding from the world, pretending to do the work. She loves me now in an abstract sense, as I have shared enough of her life that I become a kind of living conduit to a severely edited highlight reel of her past, content to be her audience as she was once content to be my everything.

All my friends are older now, and in love with other people. I can’t really hurt them anymore, not in the ways I once could, when we were younger and so close we seemed to share organs, so close we took the same breaths. All the new ideas that felt so weird in the mouth when I tried to explain them in late-night phone rants are unwrapped, components exposed, so that now I work toward subtraction, removing what is not me. I don’t devour libraries anymore; I read the same few books over and over, and the same with music, and the same with almost everything else. I couldn’t surprise her if I tried, and I have, and have failed. I was so alien to her, once, so full of dark places and stray threads, and now she has a simplified surrogate of me in the bottom of her brain. “That’s like something he’d say.”

I have nothing left to tell her but I love you, and I love you is never the answer to a meaningful question.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the other disco
Years ago I was vaguely seeing a girl who was full of opinions and advice and homespun wisdom, only it was all fairly questionable and generally didn’t hold up under scrutiny, but everyone paid it lip service because she had an air of bone-deep insight. Here’s an example: we were at a party (we were always at parties, more parties than I’ve been to before or since) and she said “A kitchen should be minimal; a meal made from every foodstuff on hand should still taste good, because all of its ingredients taste good seperately”, and everyone nodded as though this was a logical thing to say, but I had been with her for a month or so, and was wise to her little ruse. This would mean that during my dire college days, when the only things in my kitchen were hot sauce and vodka, I was a better person than I am now, with a healthy collection of items which simply can’t be blended into some sort of tasty culinary variant on jungle juice. Eggplant, for instance, does not go with everything. Wasabi does no go with everything. This topic was the first of my arguments with her, which I had attempted to hold off for as long as possible, as this was during one of my short-lived “I have to be a proper adult and go to dinner parties and drink wine and wear suits” phases, all of which required I have a clever and well-networked girlfriend, but for fuck’s sake, there’s only so much one can take.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the other bethlehem

Pamela and I were loitering around a diner/truck stop out in Elk Run, taking unfair advantage of the 99 cent bottomless cup of coffee and splitting a blueberry muffin with the last of our shared funds. Pamela was on this thing about ideal objects, and how there should be a harmony between each of the five senses in any given object in order for it to be considered ideal. “Take for instance,” she pronounced with coffee-mad grandiloquence, “the lowly blueberry. In its color is the perfect compliment to its flavor, which again is perfectly complimented by its texture.”

“And yet the blueberry is without sound,” I said, “and in its silence it fails to be ideal.”

“This is not true! The blueberry, to those with proper ears, emits what we in the business know to be the blueberry hum.”

Such conversations often degenerated into the ridiculous, particularly those undertaken at four am on a school night, but I was wililng to follow this line of reasoning a bit longer. “The blueberry hum, you say. Of course you know that each concord you place between discrete sense-data only seems ideal because this is your primary context: you know what is ideal from the blueberry, not because the blueberry is ideal, but because it is the first and possibly only blue food you know.”

“LIES!” Pamela said, her ringed fingers flailing over the table. “The first blue food I knew was the blue popsicle, which is not an ideal food! It is a referent to a flavor which never existed! It is only through endless rejection of inferior blue foods that I have come to know and understand the aesthetic correctness of the blueberry!”

Mock-disgusted, I pushed the last bite of muffin away from me, proclaiming “You, obviously, are ignorant. What do you have, really, when you sum your experience but the application of your latent preferences and prejudices? The blueberry is ideal because it fits your schema, and that’s all there is to it. Feel free to finish the muffin; it’s all you have left.”

Pamela popped the last piece of muffin in her mouth and lit another cigarette, starting to crack a smile. “You’re god-damned right I’ll finish the muffin. I may not be able to prove beyond a doubt that the blueberry is ideal, not to biased simpletons like yourself, but I know it’s delicious, and I know I want it, and I know it’s mine. Also I know we need more coffee.”

I giggled a bit, but regained composure and said “Yes, yes, we’ll never get to the bottom of this without more coffee. The fate of the universe depends on the outcome of this conversation.”

And I was kidding, but at the same time I wasn’t.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the one place i can never go
When I was a teenager, I wanted to be haunted by something, damaged by the world in a way that would fill me with a sense of world-weary wisdom, a rehab gravitas, scars on my palms. To get to that point I did a lot of stupid things. There’s only a couple of these things I actually regret, mostly because I was too chickenshit to really follow through on any of them, and in that sense I’m pretty much the same today as I was when I was eighteen. Everybody else I know took all the blows that I was owed, and all I have now is the stories of how they fell, and how even now I am jealous of that loss, that damage, their names only spoken with an over-the-shoulder glance around the room and then a breathless hush. People who vanished forever, swallowed up by the legal system or the grave or the wilderness. People who left scribbled spirals in per-week hotel rooms with shattered acoustic guitars and little pieces of tin foil. People who joined convents, or ashrams up in Oregon, or militia groups in Latin America. All of my old friends have become what I always wanted, and I have become nothing.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the old atlantis
It was the fashion of the time for artists to paint scenes of heroic battle, landscapes filled with the dead and dying, of cavalries descending from the hills, and as there were only so many actual battles to depict, the artists took to inventing new battles. At first this upset no one, as production boomed and the historians thought that popular culture had no effect on scholarly pursuits, but soon the people demanded the histories of these battles, and those scholars who denied the existence of these wars were shunned and starved and buried alive, so it was decided that an imaginary country would be created, cast toward the beginning of time, where any and all imaginary histories could be staged, and while the historians were uncertain of the admission of fantasy as fact, they thought at least it would always be obvious and apparent how honest a historical anecdote was by a quick check of longitude and latitude.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the days set before us
What would it take to change my life completely? I would have to change the shape of my body, as that’s where I store all my habits, and the core of how I see myself, less purpose than promise, filled with a well-nursed sloth like a middle-finger in the face of the cult of health and safety, my nemeses. But then I will have to give them up as well, won’t I, if I’m to change entirely; I’ll have to embrace the endless yammering idiocy of fad diets and a life without sugar and caffeine and fat, and I can wear that self-satisfied smile and convince stupid women to fuck me. Yes. This will be the new me, different in every attribute. I will give up reading, which has never given me anything but heartache, lacking the rigor of the scholar and the sweetness of the lightly-worn entertainment, and I will leave the internet, nothing but endless nights of empty conversations and unfinished crushes on women I’ll never once touch. I will leave this country like so much empty skin and walk through villages where the camera eye can’t reach me. I will know only what I can hold, and I will cradle this lie, as I have cradled every lie I have set before you over all these years for the hours until I finally sleep, and then I will sleep, and when I wake I will remember nothing, and do all the things I always do, forever.
(12: [/scrytch] #

1995, 2004.

If I fudged the details a bit, straightened the narrative line of a few anecdotes, that in no way means i wasn’t honest. The fundamental structure of everything I ever told you remains whether or not you accept the tinsel and glitter and slapstick and goof. It’s not fair to say I lied to you, or was silent when I should have spoke, because even if I never say another word you know everything there is to know about me. Everything that matters.

Except, as Jer noted, that one thing. There’s always something left to know.
(12: [/scrytch] #

She never spoke, and so forgot her name. She remembered the last few years the way you might remember a movie you watched some December Sunday afternoon, sick with the flu, fading in and out of sleep, so that when you saw it again years later you had the strange feeling you’ve seen it before, but you don’t remember any of the details. People call her, sometimes, and she has nothing to say, as nothing has happened, as teh only changes within her are deep and dark and hidden to her. She knows putting words to the truth would make any listener sick with sadness and impotence, but she knows all this silence is starving the people who love her, and she does now know what to say, what to do.

I told her that I was going to spend the rest of my life alone. This is something everyone says from time to time, on ugly and empty days, but I hoped that my condition lent those words a little extra heft. She agreed, in a distant way, then said that it was beside the point, as the want and longing would haunt me for every day left of my life, so that not even the promise of crippled peace would satisfy; being alone would gain me nothing. I knew this, but did not want to admit to it, the way I still tell myself stories of how I could still be a genius or a scholar, despite early sleepless whispers all around my bed which make clear the lie inside those dreams. I told her maybe I was misguided, then, and could find someone to pay witness, to giggle and scheme, but she told me it was beside the point; having a body next to you does not make you any less alone. Your heart is a nest for ghosts, she said, and I don’t see any evidence that anything will every be otherwise.

I told her I was going to stop writing, and she told me I had finally come to the logical conclusion that my own mysteries and fables were mine, and by peddling every half-idea I was buying into the great lie. “It makes you paperthin, makes your character follow the straightest of roads, this sharing of everything. Every dream on the website, every idea via email, every piece of yourself given away before it can take root, grow into you. Keep yourself secret. Share only with the people you love. Like me.” “You think so?” “You have to decide if you are going to spend the rest of your life playing puppets with an anonymous mob, or if you are going to grant the things you build the value they deserve.” “But I’ll still be alone, like you said.” “You’re wanting for what you will never have, this idea of the ideal companion, and as long as you want for that you will be alone, yes. But you’ll learn, finally, that there are things more nourishing than that, and you will sleep soundly, and you will feel good in your skin, and you will no longer beg the world to remember you.” “Is that what you’ve done?” I listened to her be quiet for a long time, until she said “I don’t know what I’ve done. I probably shouldn’t say anything. No. I’m not gonna say anything.” “Okay, so.” “I should go, I should go”, and she went, and I didn’t hear from her again for a year. Which didn’t matter, as that was another year where nothing changed. She was still keeping herself hidden, and I was still giving myself away.
(12: [/scrytch] #

swallowed up inside
What of a life is necessary? What are the parts which cannot be removed? What can be pulled off and discarded as habit, as ever-failed potential, as custom and contrivance? This depends on intent and purpose, obviously; any object is the minimal amount of material needed to complete a set task. What is the task before me, then? What can be removed, and what can be expanded, in order to reach that task?

What makes this so difficult is that each attribute is so tightly wound with the others that distinct boundaries are hard to find. So much of what one needs is grafted upon what one does not need. Yet there is so little time, and so much waste in a life, so much running at a thousand things and never reaching any of them. Give up the words, and you give up everything connected to the words, like some knotted nest of roots beneath the skin. It becomes difficult, when following this line of thought to certain ends, not to think we are fundamentally flawed, that the goals set before us are impossible, content to ape out humiliating parodies of the things we aspire to, narrowing the scope of our aspirations to the trivial. I am liked by people I do not care for, and that should mean absolutely nothing to me, certainly in comparison to the people I love, but instead it feeds my pride, suggests second guesses and bad faith, because what am I if I am not well-liked. Then the lies come in, the backtracking, the preening and posturing. I become encrusted with it, growing slower and heavier and more tired until I cannot get out of bed, cannot type out the words, cannot cleanse myself of the stink of shit. But what good is writing, the voice whispers, if no one is there to read it?

I once had an answer to this, when I wrote sheerly for the physical joy of it, for the quickness of the ideas pulled together under my fingers, the lack of forethought from years of practice now leading to a kind of quicksilver simplicity, an economy of motion, which made the very idea of what would come after almost an afterthought. The audience I had then was of one, or two, and I wrote to them in stories as much as in letters. It was all I needed, and it made me happier than I have ever been since, and I cannot compare it to love because it was not fundamentally different. Writing was a self-sufficient machine that ran on the simplest of premises: I love you, let me tell you a story.

There was no fucking internet then. There was no ache in my wrists, and in my stomach, and in the base of my neck. There was no having to imagine some ideal reader that I could write to, no need to think about whether or not this or that idea would be productive, no desperation to do the work, and no endless nights of terror when the work stopped. I cannot stop doing this, because even when I stop it does not go away, and because I have absolutely nothing to replace it with. If this was my goal, then I have mutated over time into a form which hinders pursuit of the goal, creates difficulties as distractions. I am convinced that I can get back to a place by walking away from it, no matter the logical flaws in such an argument.

Who am I talking to?
(12: [/scrytch] #

stolen stories
You told me you loved him, and I went to another window to hunt up his webpage and steal his stories. Sorry about that. Sorry about when I got that suspiciously similar haircut, and when I started pretending I like The Clash. Sorry for that fake accent. I’m really sorry I bought that motorcycle, but I’m glad you went to see me in the hospital. But that’s not why I crashed, it wasn’t part of some plan. I was never at that point. Sorry I came over to watch Dark Shadows with you when I was just getting off work and you were just getting up, mostly because I read your diary while you were in the shower. Sorry I tried to sneak a peak as you changed clothes. Sorry I made you all those mixtapes. Sorry I went to the library and checked out the 1990 high school yearbook to see what you used to look like, and sorry I photocopied your picture. Particularly sorry about that night I called your mom. Sorry for coming to your wedding and making that scene at the dance, and for spending too much on the gift, and sorry for throwing up on your nephew Matty. Sorry I cribbed those love letters from James Joyce, and for sending them at all. Sorry for the collect calls, and for that night I sat in my car in front of your house for an hour. Sorry I said hi to your son as he was walking home from school. Sorry the only reason I’m leaving this message is the hope that you might call me back. You know the number. So okay then. And I’m sorry for everything else. Sorry your husband is gonna get this message and erase it before you get home. Sorry, Dave. Okay, that’s enough, that’s enough.
(12: [/scrytch] #

It is good, sometimes, to be busy, to leave yourslef only enough time to do what needs to be done, to have to constantly consider what is three steps ahead, five steps ahead, twenty steps ahead, and take action accordingly. It is good in the days when you have bad dreams, when you attempt to step from old habits, when you wish upon stars for something to change. I thought about this as I watched the four of them, buzzing around the attic, crunch-time before some deadline none of them would speak of. Every time I come here, my ideas of what it means to be elderly are changed, stripped of the anodyne images the young feed on, the endearingly helpless, the terrifying death’s-headed bogeyman at the end of the antiseptic hospital hall. These people are smarter than I will ever be, than any of my self-styled genius friends will ever be, and the tasks to which they now apply that intellect are important in ways I can only pretend to understand.

Lester, having hit some sort of intellectual wall, decided he could decompress for a few minutes and return to surface level, which is to say he could take to me while we went out for coffee, so long as I didn’t ask him about the work.

“So she gave me the book,” I said, half to myself, so that if he didn’t want to talk about that he didn’t have to. Which was stupid; Lester by definition never had to talk about anything, content to stare you down while you tried to think of excuses to leave.

“You knew it was coming, man. You said yes.” Not a question, a statement of fact.


“You start reading it yet?”


“That why you’re hanging around the attic being a pest?”


“Listen, man, they’re just words. They only have the power you give to them. That’s what the people don’t recognize.”

“It’s not that, it’s more that if I do this, it’s like I draw a line in the sand with Ana, with everybody. It’s like I’m a pariah for doing the thing people want me to do.”

“Well now, it’s not like it’s just some incidental document. He went up to write it. He wrote it. And that’s all she wrote of that dumb bastard.”

“Lester, did you know him? Through the group?”

“Did I or did I not make a specific mandate as to us not discussing the group as you call it? For that you’re gonna buy the coffee.”

“I’m just fishing for something, something I should know but I don’t know it.”

Lester didn’t say anything after that, but he did nod once, more to himself than to me, after my last sentence. I spent the rest of the day keeping my mouth shut and paying attention, and what I saw was amazing.
(12: [/scrytch] #

spit sin from the mouth
“If I did it then, like I planned, everyone would have forgotten it by now.”

There’s a farm three miles past the county line where they’ve been building animals, beowulf clusters humming through gene sequences in the basement, machine sheds where faceless buyers for the underground zoos up in Chicago handle and weigh half-chickens, snakefish, deviled children. I was up there with Ana, who knows everybody, asking about the revitalization technicians. A boy with burn marks across the palms of his hands told me that was just a myth spread by Mexican kids selling stolen vaccines. I stared at him, looked for a tell, but it was like his body was only alive when he spoke, the muscles in his face shutting down to conserve energy and hide away the subliminal secrets of his posture. The windows are boarded shut, the room ghosted with flourescent light; they worship the moon. I though I saw an empty dissection table in an unlit back room, but Ana told me that was probably just the kitchen. Ana has recently taken to telling me lies without so much as a blush. She got something from a side-room where I could not follow and walked out of the farmhouse, and I followed her, because that’s all I ever do.

The bar crept like taproots through the maze of abandoned storefronts, storage cubicles, plague-gutted apartments; I swear we walked half a mile before Ana found the table she wanted. The walls were covered with a red moss that devoured cigarette smoke, dark swirls above the booths like permanent shadows. Speakers crookedly nailed into the ceiling oozed some bass-heavy cabaret music. It seemed like my eyesight and my hearing were no longer in sync.

“You should read the book,” she said. As though it was the simplest thing in the world.

“Fuck that. You should read the book.”

“I can’t read the book. I read a little. It cuts too close, I don’t want to know all the details. All the last days. But somebody should read it, and that somebody should be you.”

She said this as though there was some silver thread between the book and my skin, predestined to recieve this pyrrhic gift, but I knew she had asked almost everyone else she knew. She asked Seth and Mark and both Daves, she asked Carolyn and Rissa and even Owen, who was still working on his human catapult act, which shows you his level of maturity. I was last on the list, and we both knew it, and had I any sense of self-worth I would have said no, no, a thousand times no.

“Do you have it here?”

Ana reached into her bag and pulled out a wooden box which rattled as it moved. The top was covered in silver rings, which were bound with red string to weights within the box. Ana showed me the order in which they had to be pulled, until she looked like a puppetmaster with rings on all eight fingers, when the box clicked open.

The first page had flecks of brown blood on it.

“That’s not from then,” she said. “That’s from something else.”

I stared at her, through the thick black air of the bar, and said absolutely nothing, until finally, distracted with bad dreams, she said “Or at least I don’t think it’s from then.”

There was nothing else in my life then, nothing at all, and I have never refused Ana any of her requests. I would read the unreadable book. I would graft myself onto its skeleton, map my thoughts to the narrative arc, set its errata and facts over my eyesight until everything took its shape. Like coral grown atop jettisoned cargo, the stray thoughts would find a form, congeal into clusters by which I could grow a personality, an identity.I realized this was the same logical line which led to fandom, to endless reams of slash fiction and neurotic collections of the smallest scraps of stardom, and I knew that I was currently of a mind prone to such extremes, unmoored from family and friends and employment and the small guides of my prior life, but I was sick for alternatives to the hollow sound of my future, growing increasingly quiet as I unwound into tedium and torpor, the sort of peace so many claim to desire like a collective death wish. I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t just give myself up, I needed a direction, an irritant, a dream-locus. I would read the unreadable book, and claim its nature as my own.

“Okay. I’ll read it.”

Ana smiled, and passed the last work written by head dead ex-boyfriend across the table to me, slipping out of the rings as she got up and walked to bar.
(12: [/scrytch] #

sour days
He rose from the bed, but never really awoke throughout the whole of the day. As if he was sick with some obscure flu variant, as if he had spent days watching the perimeter for muzzle fire, he made it through the day on autopilot, praying for the slight lizard comforts of a warm air vent to stand near at work, or a corner away from the flourescent glare in the supermarket. He was forced to repeat almost all of the day’s minor trials; three minutes after brushing his teeth that morning, he realized he had not brushed behind his lower front teeth, just as he forgot to use shampoo during his first shower. He barely registered seeing a woman he went to high school with sitting in the cafeteria, and could not bring himself to care about her repeated attempts to catch his eye. Driving home, he took the third off-ramp instead of the fourth and ended up in a neighborhood he only recognized after pulling onto a street where a buddy of his lived, until he left town and moved back in with his parents. He fell asleep on the weather channel after a half-hearted and unsuccessful attempt at masturbating to his favorite meterologist, and slept for twelve minutes, until midnight, when as was the case every night for as long as he could remember the devil began reading the endless litany of his crimes against himself, against humanity, and against God. He would occasionally seek council with the devil, or else argue the crime in question as not being relevant, but the list of crimes had long passed the valid and even the trivial and had now become gibberish, trespasses at specific points in celestial space-time, false slander against characters from novels he semi-read in college, harboring diseases. He would try to sleep, but the voice scraped along his nerves, admonishing him for failure to appreciate the severity of the charges against him, the hot stink of apple-rot and shit fililng the air as the devil spoke. On this night, however, the devil read the last of the charges (breath-smuggling) and informed him that now notified of his charges, he could either plead guilty, in which case he would be punished upon death, or he coudl plead erasure, in which case the specific events of his transgressions would be erased from history entirely, as would his memories of said events, and any memories held by the living or the dead. He pleaded erasure, and immediately fell asleep for three full days, and when he awoke, he could remember absolutely nothing.
(12: [/scrytch] #

what i remember of the song she wrote for me, one
At first it made me happy, all the standing up for me she did, how she championed me in any company, and then I saw it start to wear on her, how before she could say anything to certain people, people who were otherwise her friends, she had to rego through the seemingly endless debate about whether or not I was using her, holding her down, pulling the heat from her body in exchange for some poential future interest on my “talent”. I haven’t had to make these sorts of arguments since I moved out of my parents house, and had assumed they had ended, but it became obvious they had just changed venues and participants. I thought it would help if I could return the favor, make a public statement of support against the general concensus of doubt, and so, over time, I convinced her to start performing her songs at parties, at open mics, anywhere she could lug her guitar.
(12: [/scrytch] #

something terrible is going to happen
He stopped sleeping sometime in his early teens. It didn’t happen suddenly; he would get up in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom and just never go back to sleep, until he was getting a couple hours a night, until he was catching quick naps in study hall, until he simply didn’t sleep any more. He always assumed it was a temporary phase, like his short-lived interest in german fighter planes. He was still going to bed at night, as his body was tired, and he liked being able to listen to Pink Floyd albums with his headphones on until the sun rose. It wasn’t until college, and his first roomate, that he became self-conscious about not sleeping, and took to spending the early hours at the library, staring at art books, telling people he was staying at the house of some imaginary girlfriend. He met a girl in his rhetoric class, and after quite a bit of talking around the subject, he learned that she didn’t sleep, and in fact lived off-campus in a small basement apartment in order to avoid the sort of problems he had with his roomate. They began spending the time when everyone else was asleep talking to each other on the telephone for hours, every night, so that the process of introduction and courtship was greatly accelerated. Two months later he moved into her basement apartment, and gradually drifted out of being a student and into data entry. A year later they married, and moved into a slightly bigger apartment, and bought a cat. From the moment they began sharing a bed, he noticed she would nod off for a few minutes, from time to time, until by the time they returned from the honeymoon she slept solidly for a few hours a night.

When you stop sleeping, you fold your dreaming into your day, slight adjustments to memories and half-attended notions, so that the first conversations the two of them had were shot through with a giddy sense of sharing these daydreams, and the more they shared this material the more it became similar, sharing details and form and recurring incidents. For her to sleep now, he felt, was like hiding her life from him, so that she would pretend to continue the constant daydreaming, would recycle old stories and sift through online dream journals, but it was obvious to the both of them that it wasn’t enough, it would never be enough, and so he took to spending his nights at work, sitting in a spare office, staring at the wall. He’s convinced they’ll work through it, that she might come back to insomnia if they have a child, that maybe with the right combination of drugs he can induce sleep on a regular basis. Sure, I tell him. Of course.
(12: [/scrytch] #

sleep until
1997. Ana was in the middle of the Summer of No Impulse Control, which is mostly funny when I think back on it but at the time it really was kinda hard to put up with, I mean it could have been worse, as Ana’s generally pretty nonbothered by small annoyances but if something got under her skin, okay, so you already know the story of her and I at the Food King where we got into a very bad scene with a mom who was hitting her kid, but what you might not know was THAT SAME DAY Ana called Carolyn, who had just broken up with Seth, and after about eight seconds of civil conversation started screaming into the telephone as to how “You have to be FUCKED UP to leave him after all of your shit he put up with, for a long time, and we all heard about it, and after he gave you that fucking money to go back to school and then you just fucking leave him, you stupid fucking whore? What the FUCK is wrong with you that the best thing that ever happened to a stupid spoiled self-important cunt like you just gets tossed aside when you get bored and have pumped all the money you can out of him? Huh? HUH? FUCK YOU!”.

A week later we found out (from a positively mortified Seth) that Carolyn left him because she miscarried their baby, which we knew nothing about, and that was pretty much the end of the Summer of No Impulse Control, althought I would be lying if I said there weren’t nights like this when I wish Ana would give the current girl a call.
(12: [/scrytch] #

skin for everyone
there is a heat source they hold in the mouth and exchange, back and forth, under the disguise of conversation and they are nurtured and educated by this process and i cannot understand its nature and my possession of the source is a corruption and the understanding of the intent of all those who have held the source in the mouth is unintelligable to me and makes me literally sick in the muscle of my neck and chest and also in my stomach and now my mouth is ruined for food or speech and still i do not understand you are all blank to me and my every attempt is just mimicry and politeness only now the mouth has been disfigured and cannot make certain shapes barring me from certain sounds and through the diminished glottals in the sound of my voice everyone knows what i am.
(12: [/scrytch] #

skin allergy

I was standing in the tunnel beneath the train tracks on the path from EPB to the . The snow had stopped, but it was still cold, and I was high enough to relish the temporary comfort of being out of the wind. I had lived in Iowa City for half a year and had already read all the graffitti in the tunnel, but the ceiling lighting was out and in the half-light certain symmetrical images were kaleidoscoping, and I told myself no, don’t get stuck on anything, keep moving, you’re halfway back to Quadrangle, but I must have got stuck on something, because after some unknown period of time I felt someone touch my shoulder and ask if I was lost.

“I’m not lost,” I said. “I’m just busy.”

I looked over my shoulder and watched her nod, as though she were taking me seriously.

“Are you busy-busy or just busy?”

“I’m not too busy. I mean, if there was a busy which required immediate attention, and. And also a busy. Like a different busy. Then I’m to be the other, which is to say the second of the two busy kinds.”

“Are you hungry at all?”

I wasn’t hungry, was absolutely detached from the idea of putting food in my body, but I knew that food was often warm, and it was a good thing to be warm, so I said yes, yes I am hungry.

“Do you feel like you’re up to lifting half a couch?”

I tried to remember gym class and thought I can do eight pull-ups, and I weight a shitload more than half a couch, so I said yes, yes I can lift half a couch.

“Awesome. I have uses for you!”

This should have worried me, but I suspected I might be involved in an adventure if I followed this woman, so I shook my head and followed. Helping someone move a couch out of her ex-boyfriend’s apartment isnt’ even an adventure while high, but I did get some half-decent Chinese food out of it (I was less high and more hungry by the time we finished), and she did drive me back to my dorm by about four am, so it worked out pretty well. I never saw that girl again, and I don’t remember what her name is, but she shouldn’t take that personally, as I don’t remember much of anything anymore.
(12: [/scrytch] #

Pamela said she was lower now, closer to the earth, rooted down into the loam, and I nodded. These calms between storms, these lulls when her life is like everyone else’s, these are the days I cannot take, not knowing what to do when damage control isn’t called for. I know what to do for freakouts, for month-long panic attacks, for jails and juries and graves, but being an adult is a black box I can’t seem to open. Pamela kept talking about insurance difficulties, and I kept nodding, as that’s about all I was good for until the next catastrophe.
(12: [/scrytch] #

sick in the mouth
The only way I can remember anything is by writing about it, and whenever I write about something I polish it a bit, switch things around, and tell preposterous lies. Now, when I go back and read such things, everything I want to pretend actually happened is true and everything I want to pretend never happened isn’t. Nobody ever has to cop to anything because there’s a certain ambiguity about everything, particularly as the only people who would ever call me on it either would never know the strict literal truth or else will no longer speak to me.

I suspect you have to live most of your life in your head for this plan to work.


“That’s exactly the sort of thing I mean, you call someone a whore and obviously that’s not, it’s not a nice thing or not nice I mean that’s derogatory, right, but you call someone a pimp and it’s like some kinda compliment. But that’s all backwards and even opposite of how that should go, because a pimp, that’s totally worse, and that’s the kind of thing I mean when I say you’re a pimp.” “What?” “I read that zine you do, I’m probably the only person who reads that thing but I read it and I read what you wrote about me. What the fuck?” “You? That’s not about you. That’s a totally different thing.” “The fuck it is! You think just because you changed the name from Heather to whatever it was that somehow I wouldn’t see through your elaborate ruse, I mean, that’s totally about me and you didn’t even tell me about it and that’s pretty fucked up. I mean you’re a pimp in, like, you take all these personal things and you go peddle your apples to fucking whoever and that’s supposed to be okay because you’re a *writer*, oooooh.” “Okay, wait, wait. First, I state again for the record that none of that is about you, and if there’s a couple little details that are kinda similar it’s only so I can give the rest of it a kind of um bit of reality of what really happened, like details you make people believe it because it happened.” “Little details? That whole story about when I was eight with that guy, that whole thing, you even used like the way I talked about it and just put it in your stupid story that didn’t even make sense, with your fucking dramatic turning around like that even makes sense.” “Second, I can’t just draw a line in the sand and say okay, all these things are things I can’t write about because they happened with other people and god fucking forbid I should ever mention anything even remotely similar to things that actually took place and not only that but I *know* you read Angel of Mercy because we talked about it before and you said you read it and if I remember right you said you read it before you even met me over at John’s that one time.” “You dick! I met you in Rhetoric before I met you at John’s and I bet if you wrote that in some fucking story you’d remember that. I’m so sick of your bullshit.” “But what you don’t even appreciate or understand is whether you believe it or not I actually change *everything* in those stories and even when I include things they’re so changed that it’s like, like I think of it like on top of my memories? Like an imprint? And so thinking I’d remember something because I wrote it in a story is ridiculous because I’d remember the story and then I would remember everything wrong.” “You mean like us.” “FUCK! FUCK! I said I was sorry about the fucking story and I’m fucking sorry and fuck.” “Story? You and I went out twice, the one time after that art class when we got lunch and the one time when you stayed over at my dorm room and we were supposed to study for that test but we went to that stupid party and you didn’t even try to kiss me so I went to sleep and then that next week you called me up all fucked up on LSD and were creepy and I gave the phone to someone else and then you never called me again.” “What?” “That’s what actually happened, and all this invented history about us and how we went out that semester that you wrote as a story and then wrote as another story and then you made yourself think it was mostly true, not totally true because you wouldn’t believe that but more true than the truth because with you the truth is always bullshit.” “Okay, stop. Stop talking for a second.” “And it wasn’t just that one thing, it’s everything, you tricked yourself into thinking all that shit with Jenna was different and so you felt bad about pimping memories that weren’t even real and you’d talk to her and there’s the dissonance because it’s like you’re reading off a different script. And just everything. You fucking spectator.” “I’m not talking about this any more. I’m done listening.” “And we’re actual real people. I mean you’ll never see me again but I’m a real person and I don’t need this shit. And the real people who are actually still in your life? Did you ever think about how uncomfortable and just awful that must be, to have someone take the things you said to them and did with them and then not only change everything around but then pretend like that’s how it really happened? “I’m walking out the door. I’m out in the hallway. I’m almost at the stairs.” “This is why you’re so scared all the time! This is why you can’t sleep! This is why you feel so alone all the time! Everything’s a do-over until there’s nothing left to do over! You’re thirtyone years old and you can’t do this anymore!” “Then Heather said ‘But you’re just being clever. Like in that book.’” “But you’re just — stop it!” “And then Heather said ‘Because you can say anything you want. A writer can say anything they want and it’s okay because it’s not real.’” “Because you can say no you can’t say anything, I mean you can but it’s not like it doesn’t, there’s meanings and the audience and people know what you say and it’s okay because it’s not real.” “And then Darren made a smartassed comment about too much writer’s workshop and that’s as close to a real ending as he ever gets.” “Something like that.” “Mostly. Kinda. It’s ambiguous like that.”
(12: [/scrytch] #

shabu-gomi 01 04
I told myself I wouldn’t do it. Not for the guilt of it, not for the fear that I would not be able to stop, not for the nervous dread of the things I might do once I did it, but because I was just relearning how to write, to put word after word, and if the past were any indicator, doing this would push too hard, a blur of fingers and keys, endless pages of unreadable speed text. I would have to start again at nothing, and it could be another half-year of staring at the screen, dead inside, waiting to start. What you don’t know, what you cannot possibly understand unless you have been the same, is that it isn’t the quality of the words, it’s the feeling that got me started, the effortless rush of it, page after page, an open channel. It has been so hard, these pathetic therapy-paragraphs, these fumblings, working out the mechanics, and maybe if I could just feel it again, just once, it would come back to me forever, and I would stop feeling so bad all the time. Maybe. I told myself I wouldn’t do it, but I did it anyway.

The sons stood by the bedside and watched their mother struggle for breath, the scraps left of her heart pushing at her paper-thin skin. She hadn’t spoken in six years, and the family waited for change, searched for extreme cures, some miracle breakthrough to open the door to her, hidden behind the white wall of her coma. They listened for the slightest clue in her breath as they talked to her in habitual comforts, more confessional than they had ever been when she spoke and walked and lived. There was nothing of her but silence, silence and emptied hope and this shell which waited to end. Today was the day, the DNR day, the day the machines shut down. They stood by the bedside and expected, they didn’t know what, some movement signifying her transfer, nothing painful, just a shudder. They would never have known the moment, were it not for the cardiac beep losing its cadence, extended into drone. She had always been small, even when the brothers were just boys, but this was the smallest of her, looking back as the doctor escorted them from the room, so small they knew she couldn’t hear them as they said goodbye.

The three doctors waited to be sure the sons had left the floor, going to tell the family and make arrangements, the body to be delivered to the mortuary in three hours. The tallest of the doctors felt the hum of his pager on his hip and knew it was clear. The doors were locked and the second surgeon, the one who smelled of lilac, turned the machine from play to monitor, and the beat of the mother’s heart returned to the screen, the beep returned to the room. The third surgeon, who was without any identifying characteristics whatsoever, brought the knives and the recording device beside the bed. It was not possible for any of the surgeons to intone the calls, and so a recording was used, tested years back for gramatical and tonal accuracy. This process was difficult enough without potentially flawed calls. The mother was injected with more painkiller than was necessary, enough that it would kill her, in time, but she would not live that long. The surgeons had been given pardon by certain agents of the transfer to revitalize the dead, to put the breath and light back into the body, to perform miracles of tissue and blood. To do this, the revitalization technicians had informed the surgeons, others must take the place of the rerisen, as there are balances beyond simple comprehension, and specific methods for such exchanges. This is what the knives are for, the calls, the sacrifice of those who should be dead so that others may live. The surgeon who smells of lilac picks up the first blace, and feels it vibrate in her hand as it centers over what remains of the mother’s heart. The calls, a high-pitched squeal of a voice spoken through inhalation, creates a heat in the body, a light coming from the skin, and the tall surgeon lifts his blade above the heart, and the call becomes a drone, harmonics hung in the air, and the surgeon who cannot be identified lifts its blade and holds it over the mother’s heart. The mother is, and a moment later is not. Something pulls the light from the room, and the flourescent light returns, but the rest of it is gone, taken to the transfer. The surgeon who cannot be identified removes the knives and takes them to be cleaned and stored, and the surgeon who smells of lilac cleans and closes the wounds, and the tall surgeon replaced the tape recorder and other equipment. He has done this the fewest times, and perhaps is still nervous, still uncomfortable, and perhaps it is that discomfort which causes him to realize someone else is in the room, and he turns, and sees the glint of a camera lens through a hole bored in the wall, a glint replaced by darkness as the camera is swallowed into the wall. Something has gone horribly wrong, and the tall surgeon pulls air deep into his lungs and makes the call, the other call, the call all the butcher-surgeons can make, the call of distress.
(12: [/scrytch] #

seventh devil dub
I woke up in the back of the van, which we had left running all night so as not to freeze. I tried to look outside but the windows were frosted over, so I opened the door and peeked out at a parking lot tucked in the center of a block of downtown businesses, everything in snow, Sunday-empty. I quickly shut the door and turned to look at Sarah, up in the driver’s seat, blowing smoke at the windshield. There is no place where Sarah is as happy as behind the wheel of her van, going anywhere, doesn’t matter. We’d been sitting here for two days and she was getting nervous, sleeping less, and she never really slept much. During the night I’d decided we couldn’t wait around any longer; we’d hang out until eight, go to the truck plaza, get some breakfast and showers and head north up 28. If it were just about me, I’d wait forever for Pamela, but I’m trying to think more about other people this year, and there’s too much left to do.

“How long you been up?” I asked Sarah.

“Not long. Half an hour. I’m gonna run around the corner and get coffee.”

“Actually let’s just go. We’ll hit Cedargreen on the way out.”

“Yeaaaaaah, now that’s what I’m talking about. Pancakes and sausage and the open road.”

“Fucking a. I’m gonna piss real quick, first.”

“Take your time. I gotta scrape the windows.”

Back a year ago, when I moved into Sarah’s van, I would have offered to do that, at least to help, but now I know better. The van is hers, and I’m not to fuck with anything, as I am ignorant to its inner wisdom. Which was okay by me. I ran over to the dumpsters by the print shop and was just starting to take care of the morning business when I saw headlights pull in the far alley. I crouched down, causing myself an awful pain, but I didn’t care, as I knew the plates, knew who it was.

It had been two years since I had seen Pamela Bambelam and just to see part of her face in profile from a good fifty yards away was enough to stop me dead. I’ve never told her I still love her, but she has to know, every time she picks up the phone she has to hear it in my voice, even now that I’ve fallen off the earth. Now more than ever.

I almost forgot to zip up my pants before I walk to her, watching as she got out of the car, looking at the van, looking at me, running toward me.

Eventually I will have to tell her everything, and she will never speak to me again, but I wasn’t thinking about that as she threw her arms around me. I wasn’t thinking about anything, which is another way of saying I was happy.
(12: [/scrytch] #

the self-cleaning gallows
The children stink, Martha, I don’t care what it is you say of how they’re just active, they’re not active they sit there like toads and shovel that shit into their mouths and do you I caught them playing with the thermostat? For fuck’s sake, I don’t let the wife touch the thermostat, you think I’m gonna let your little schweinkindern mess with the and not only that but they spit, I tell you, they literally and deliberately spit on the floor, like some sort of oh I mean you’re a friend of mine but I will feed those children insecticide if they don’t learn how to behave. I mean this is my job, and I know you don’t think much of it, but if I have models over to shoot well it’s not like I can just have your little filthy children spitting ketchup at the wall, it destroys the whole ambience, and you need a little ambience to do this, it’s glamour is what it is and I don’t care what you call it, but if they spill pop on the dildoes well now obviously that’s going to be a problem and I’ve had three cancel already and who even knows what I’ll have to do to bring them back, endless hours of handholding and bolstering to get them in front of the camera and I’ll have you know I don’t feed them drugs I just convince them, you’re new in town you can start all over, you can be anyone, but no that’s not right when there’s those beastily fucking children asking the girls if thee’ve been naughty and they’re going to hell and that gag makes them look fat and I know you told them to say that. This is a studio, for god’s sake, not some sort of kindergarten and I know you can’t leave them alone and you’re at the restaurant all night but no don’t say that there are other people and A CAMERA IS NOT A TOY and that’s it, I’m sorry, you’re gonna have to go.
(12: [/scrytch] #

“And everybody went a little mad.”

Every story I hear from family and friends seems to have a point in which there is some sort of breakdown of common civility and decency and logic, bound on both sides by desperate attempts to avoid it and desperate attempts to rebuild from it. It’s as if tornadoes were a daily occurence, the sort of thing one gets used to, as one gets used to anything, given time. Yet I’ve spent my whole life mostly in my head, walking small circles in my room while the rest of the world grew older and loved and responsible, and in that distance certain things seemed clear, the way the hills outside town take the form of a giant’s skull from the air, and I know now that the madness we all attract is not within us, but an exterior madness, drifting and waiting for us to let it in.

Her soul fell from her body and stained the floor before her like a shadow; she had gone mad, as in all the stories, but would not settle, would not work it from her muscle and skin, and so he took a gun to her. They tell this story to each other, and nod, quietly, ajust as they did when her sister climbed into the thresher. They play at reson with copper-bitter homilies, which is all they need to send off his guilt, what could he do, she’d gone mad. He stands on the porch now and surveys the schoolgirls while her bones spin like turbines deep in the earth, and I see her and him and the whole of the town, and softer, dimmer, I see the fluid of the mad spill out between them, as real as water and air and soil, and it poisons us, and cripples us, until there is not one of us left. I adapt its traits, and hide inside the light, and it gives up all its secrets, and I tell myself this knowledge provides me an advantage, so that like some gordian knot one decisive act could free this town, but as I try to explain this to the police before me, on the other side of his opened body, I realize I don’t have the words at all, except to say what we all know, which is that I’ve gone a little mad.
(12: [/scrytch] #

second and third promises
The first time I saw a girl naked I was in the fourth grade and Carolyn was showing me her rash, a rash in the shape of Mickey Mouse. In hindsight, I should have been suspicious, and when she later accidentally admitted that it was only due to creative use of peanut oil (to which she was allergic) and a Disney cookie-cutter that such a rash existed, there in the center of her chest, but I was too busy to be suspicious trying to come to terms with what was, in a literal sense, too much information, so that it was only later, sitting in detention after being caught (due to snitchery on the part of one Jenny Hoyt which I swore to never forgive, but did, years later, drunk on lime vodka, up in a tree, in the middle of winter, trying to figure out how to take off my pants without breaking my fool neck) and awaiting a talking-to from my parents (who had no contingency plan for such an event, other than some sort of advice about allergies) that I realized the importance of such an event: some girl made herself sick as a pretext for taking off her clothes in front of me. I must be the greatest man of all time! I thought, and beamed a smile so obvious it got me another half-hour of detention.
(12: [/scrytch] #


It was about three months since I moved into the trailer and I was working for Servicemaster, doing janitorial, but not the kinda janitorial I like, where you’re basically the only one working and you buff floors for a few hours. This is where you’re on a five-man crew and the boss drives you around in the van to a bunch of different places and you’re always go go go and have to wear the company shirt like a dick. I was gonna quit, but I was thinking about running off to California so I figured I’d put in a couple more weeks. We started working a new place which wasn’t very big, so it was an extra hour a night, kinda out by the big Bosnian trailer court. It turns out this place was an Operation Rescue-type deal, full of antiabortion literature, at which point I thought fuck it, I’m not coming back to work again, and not only that but I’m gonna steal some shit while I’m here. I set a small trash bag inside the big plastic trashcan, up along the side, and while I do all the office trash I drop a few things in the little bag, some cds I figure I can sample, some office supplies, nothing heavy. Then in one of the storage rooms I see these seven pickle jars with little fetuses in ‘em, and my brain says just leave it alone, this is the last thing you need, don’t fuck around, but the next thing I know I have one of the jars in the trash bag. I close up the little bag, finish trash, then go out to the dumpster and dump the trash, setting the little bag right up along the inside of the dumpster. We’re back at Servicemaster at four am and I drive out and hit the dumpster and drive down a few blocks to a closed gas station, where I check the bag in the parking lot, and there it is, this little almost-baby, fingers and all.

The next day I didn’t show up to work. I guess I was fired. I did get my last check, but I didn’t go to California. Instead I did a lot of writing in my room while everyone else was out and decided to name the fetus Sarah, and I started talking to her the way you talk to a plant. I started having daydreams about where the antiabortion people would get hold of a bunch of fetuses. Eventually I decided I couldn’t keep Sarah, I had to bury her, and not just out in some field but a proper burial. There’s a small little graveyard out in the sticks off a dirt road where I’ve never seen anybody go, and I felt kinda bad that Sarah wouldn’t have anybody to visit her, but then I thought okay, she didn’t have a birthday so we’ll pretend today is her birthday, and I’ll come out on her birthday and hang out with her. That night I snuck into the little graveyard and I buried Sarah away from the other graves, on the far side of an oak tree so I would always know where she was.

I visited her every year except for the year I lived in Austin, when I had to wait until Christmas, but that seemed okay. I thought I did a good thing, and I felt good about it, and it didn’t seem as weird as it seems now that I’m actually writing about it.
(12: [/scrytch] #

rejected twilight zone episodes (one)
“Wow! This is easily the most delicious gum I’ve ever had! Where did you get it?”

“Get it? I don’t have any gum. What are you talking about?”

“This wonderful gum you gave me! You said it was called King James Super Gum.”

“There’s no such thing as King James Super Gum!”

(12: [/scrytch] #

I was walking to the office. I was going to get the mail, and to make a phone call I didn’t want to make from my phone. I saw a white cop SUV prowl up the block, the spotlight honed in on a trailer with all lights out, and the SUV slowed to a stop, blocking the driveway, and that’s when i heard the first shot. I’ve heard about three or four gunfights since I moved in, in the dark, early in the morning, but this was the first time I had ever seen one, and so I ran up toward the SUV to get a better look. I don’t understand why I did this, except that I was writing a book then, and one of the scenes was like this, and I knew if I could see it all, could sift out the hidden telling details, the scene would work. Between the trailer and the garage was a narrow alley, not an alley, there’s a word for it. It sounds like throughfaire, but that’s not it. That’s where the guy was, hidden behind a bush, and I saw the muzzle flash as his shot hit the SUV, which was reinforced so that the paint chipped off in a lopsided circle, and some sort of pink plastic had shattered but not given up the gunmetal steel beneath. The driving cop slumped down low in his seat, so that I thought he had been hit, but he took two shots into the not-alley, one hitting the garage and splintering the wood, the other catching the gunman somewhere, I couldn’t see, as the spotlight had yanked up toward the sky as the driver dropped down. The cop riding shotgun jumped out and hid behind the front tires, taking a shot around the grill, which put down the gunman, and then turned around to face me, and screamed something like “get on the ground”, or maybe just “on the ground”, and I asked him what was happening, and was going to walk closer to see him, to find out if there was something in his features I would need to know, but my body gave itself up and I fell toward the pavement.
(12: [/scrytch] #

your preserved ovaries

Search String

the light which failed to revive her

[she lost her breath of the first day of winter, fresh-frozen sidewalks
which shone in the sun, still not the cold that hurts in your lungs but
the cold where snow packed in your palms gets a little wet and packs well
for snowballs, she had her laundry in neatly folded squares stacked in her
basket then spilling as her hands rushed to her mouth as though they
could push the breath back into her as all of it caught up to her the last
piece of some new history now fitted away in her head so that even the
light seemed manipulative now, just another witness to despise her weakest
moments, the light which failed to revive her as light let slip the
blackness hid behind it]

drowned in green breast-milk

[i was then a member of an operation rescue splinter group which attempted
to complete through marketing and merchandising what advertisments and
rifle fire had so far let slide, I was building fetus dolls with
Keene-wide eyes and little articulated hands which could fight off suction
tubes and scrapers, the details rubbed away with cartoon-like
indeterminacy of features so that each of them could be anyone, saved from
imagined she-devil monsters who would leave them in dumpsters at the rest
stop, drowned in green breast-milk and half-digested burger king she
couldn't keep down when she had seen what she had done, i was an artist
then, i made a difference then]

that six am telephone call when i first heard


(12: [/scrytch] #

There are some morening where, after waking, I cannot find my glasses. I usually leave them on my bedside table, next to the lamp, where I set them after finishing reading and turning out the light, and so my hand instinctively reaches there when I wake, but on some mornings, like this morning, there is nothing there. Sometimes they are on the computer desk, from when I fell asleep watching IRC scroll by. Other times they are on the bookshelf at the foot of my bed, whcih is a somewhat illogical place to put them, but it’s hardly beyond me to do illogical things. Other times I’ll find them under my bed, or on the bathroom sink, or atop the dryer, or in the mailbox, or stuck in a tree. My eyesight is very poor, so looking for my glasses generally takes on a very Mr. Magoo quality; squeezing my face into corners and squinting hard, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and stumbling around in the zombified and useless state where I always spend the first couple hours after waking. This used to bother and scare me a little when I was younger. Now I consider it practice for when I grow old.
(12: [/scrytch] #

photographs of bodies
There was no depth of field, and no sense of distance. It could have been a small bedroom or an emptied office. The minor telling details, placement of outlets, lighting, number of switches, all this was removed, all the trim and carpet, nothing but the minimum which still constitutes a room. The door must have been behind the camera, or else perhaps there was no door at all. The light some bright flash, nothing ambient, the room in total black before and after the shot. They looked like trapped animals, the reflection in the eyes like raccoons at the side of the highway. Too quick to turn, to see the light, they appear from the side, hands hidden in something that I can’t identify, something dark and of two parts. I didn’t get a good look. I was too busy focusing on the faces, the skulls imploded, the faces like the bottom of a bowl. It must have been a trick of the light, a bit of digital editing, it couldn’t really be like that.
(12: [/scrytch] #

over forever
Q: Where were you when you realized no one would ever be in love with you?

MR, 25, programmer: A year ago. I was at home watching TV, I don’t remember what, some ambient late-night cable movie, and I tried to think about movies I really liked, and I couldn’t really think of any. I mean, there were some movies that I knew were classics and that I would mention to impress people, and there were some movies that were somehow interesting in a way that I would structurally consider them from time to time, and there were movies that I knew were childhood touchstones for most of my friends, but I didn’t really like any of these movies, they were just interchangable pieces of my social environment. And as I thought about it, music was like that too, and the rugby team I was on, and just everything in my life, none of it stuck to me, it was all just pretexts for conversations. And I went through that thing, that “Who am I?” thing, and what I came up with is there’s just not much to me at all. I’m entirely on the surface, and even that lacks texture. So if that’s the case, how can anybody ever really be in love with me?

JO, 42, package delivery: I was thirty-eight at the time, and was happy to see the accumulation of wear and damage that so many of the people I used to know were trying so hard to hide. Face-lines, old scars, a slight palsied tremble in my hands from time to time collectively gave my words a specific heft that I attribute to my uncles, giants among men, meth merchants and tired farmers feared by the world as men without doubt, no end to the strength of their resolve. All that shit-work, all that rehab, all that solitary December meditation had scrubbed me clean of the weakness of indecision and appeal for change and desire for the things I could not put my hands upon. People who spoke to me took on an increased seriousness, held in the nervous habit of small talk. I was thirty-eight, and changed entirely in my essence, which was all I ever wanted.

It was February then, and the heater had killed in the night; the floor was so cold it stung like needles against my bare feet. The thermal couple had burned out, as it did a couple times a year ever since I moved in, so I went down to the basement where the pre-dawn light couldn’t get past the snow piled up over the ground-level windows and walked down the stairs by memory, walking to the switch on the far wall (a feat of prior-owner stupidity that I kept reminding myself to fix) when I heard something move. I figured boxes had shifted, or maybe fallen a little, but as I took another step I heard a specific sound, the sound of something moving away, against the wall. Something or someone. It was too early and cold to think of being afraid, this was just another small problem to be dealt with, so I kept walking toward the switch while keeping my upper body turned toward the sound, reaching out with my left hand to find and flip the hundred-watt bulbs on, but the lights didn’t come on. I turned the switch off and on again, once, and still there was no light, and I thought to myself “Well, that’s it, this is how it’s going to happen.”

I heard her voice then, and I knew it bone-deep but couldn’t immediately place the sound of her to her name as she said “I didn’t think you’d mind if I slept down here. I promise not to be weird.” I hadn’t seen her since we split up, and that had been three years ago when she disappeared with some other guy while I was at Windward House, after which I never thought I’d see her again. Her name was Cheryl, and for a couple years I thought she was in love with me, and now she was living in my basement, eating out of my fridge while I slept, learning all about my new life, the life I thought was so far away from everything that happened before. I instantly felt very tired, and wanted to go back to sleep, and I told Cheryl that she could come upstairs and sleep on the couch, which she did, and after a while she just kinda officially moved back in. We had sex once, just because it seemed inevitable, and since then she sleeps in my bed, staring at me in the dark.

I don’t feel strong anymore, or serious. I feel like someone’s always laughing at me, like I’m a joke to everyone who knows how my life is now. People stop by, sometimes, and they see this woman who lives her own small life inside my house, almost entirely seperate from mine, and they wonder, they speculate, they gossip. I guess that’s just one more thing I won’t have to worry about anymore.

LS, 61, retired: Oh, but I always knew. When you’re like this, you just know, you don’t expect too much. You can be different and it’s okay, but then on the other hand sometimes it’s too different, and when that’s the case you…it doesn’t work. Oh, not that I didn’t try or nothing, but you know. You know how it is.
(12: [/scrytch] #

other face
It is one of our collective shortcomings that we equate simple eloquence with sincerity, that to speak of a subject in such a way that its nature is instantly clear to the listener, through the simplest and most direct means possible, that such a person truly knows a subject, while those who stammer and spit at a subject feign knowledge, playing dress-up in someone else’s ideas. This is one of the most diabolical weapons of the corpse, as it is at one’s worst, when one is desperate to make anyone understand what is happening, why it is so difficult to complete even the most minor of tasks, that exhaustion and frustration and confusion get at the throat, choking off the words, leaving the listener with nothing but the vaguest outline of impotent rage. The words will fail you when you need them, every concept falling apart in your hands, so much dead telephone hum and deleted email, until everyone decides there is nothing left to do with you, no means of translating all these false starts into something even close to meaning, and if they do not leave they will remain simply as a mute witness, watching for some short glimpse of that other face you once wore.
(12: [/scrytch] #

on haggling
I’ve never been able to get too hopped up on Columbus day pro or con, as all it’s ever menat to me was half-off sales at Carlo’s Insanity Furniture, and I can’t even remember the last time I bought furniture for myself except for all the Pirateland surplus I bought up when they went out of business, so that now everything in my apartment is set up for swashbuckling and walking the plank, though my landlord frowns on my use of the plank, as those who walk it end up in his compost heap. My mom, however, was like member number one of the Carlo’s Insanity Furniture discount buyer’s club, so every Columbus day her and I were down there (my dad had the good sense to start drinking heavily just after the beginning of October) sifting through the Remainders room, apparenlty off-limits to “regular customers”, while my mom did math in her head and tried to figure if it would be possible to get a sofa for less than ten dollars. Carlo, who did all his math via an abacus-armed autistic mute he met “while inside”, he’d whisper to my mom, who loved all this gray-market nonsense, and while he’d love to give my mom a deal (among other things), Malthus the Memory Magician brought the hammer down and fifty bucks was the best he could do, at which point Malthus would cross his arms across his chest sternly and glare at my mother as though his children would now go hungry to satisfy her endless lust for discount furniture. My mom loved this, but I cared not for sofa haggling, and Carlo’s Insanity Furniture was so far down in the haggling district that even buying a dime’s worth of gum was an hour-long process, so I’d stand by the chain-link fence and throw rocks at a nasty shovel-headed dog chained behind Vaccuum Repair Paradise for no better rason than a child’s natural tendency to goad certain death until my mother grabbed me by my collar and pulled me to the car, where Carlo and Malthus fought physics and common sense by trying to load my mom’s new thirty-dollar sofa (my mother, obviously, was no spring chicken when it came to negotiating, and a promise of highballs with Carlo later in the week probably didn’t hurt) into her ‘58 Fairlane. So yeah, nuts to Columbus day, that’s what I say.
(12: [/scrytch] #

My friend Michelle has a magic dress she wears on memorable occasions, not because it’s particularly stunning, but because it holds odors particularly well, which is important as she never washes it. Michelle always thought it was a cruel biological trick that humans shed skin, as skin is the closest thing she has to memory. “Everything I ever touched should be immediately apparent across my fingertips,” she says, “but it always fades and disappears, and that’s why I have a magic dress.”

I told her that the magic dress seemed less than ideal, as powerful odors would block out subtler scents, the delicate overpowered by the oppressive, and she gave me a sideways glance. “That’s how everything is with memory. Isn’t it?”

I thought about how trivial and incidental all my memories are, like misshot photographs of empty sky and blurred treelines, and I thought maybe the magic dress truly is a better form of memory, and nodded approval as I wired up the new preamp.
(12: [/scrytch] #

notice of events
I was living in the Black Hawk that summer, constantly on the pay phone in the lobby with my stack of stolen phone cards so that the waitresses in the cafe across the lobby thought I was a drug dealer, until the younger one asked, and I stared at her until she went back to work. My phone time was spent trying to convince this girl that she was in love with me, her affection obvious to everyone but her, and that in time she would learn not to want the things she knew I could not give her. I felt like I was approaching a breakthrough in September when I ran out of phone cards and money on the same day. I ended up stealing ten bucks worth of change from a drunk Santa a few days later, but by that I was living in the men’s shelter, and you gotta have stones the size of Utah to convince a girl she’s secretly in love with you when you sleep on a cot in what once was a gymnasium back when girls couldn’t wear slacks to school. I could still afford to send letters, or at least postcards, but this was one of those postliterate girls who appreciated the time and effort of a letter, in theory, but at the end of the day letters are kinda a cornball tactic. However, there was a fire sale at the Hallmark store, and for three dollars I bought a hundred of those greeting cards with little two-bit samplers in ‘em, so you could record yourself saying “Happy Birthday, Grandma!” or whatever, and so I recorded everything I had to say to this girl, my whole gameplan, on three hundred talking cards. At the time I considered this an incredibly bold and romantic gesture, but in hindsight I realize I could have sent an audio tape for half the shipping cost. Long story short, to this day in the thrift store in the town where this girl lived (I don’t want to say the name, you might know her) there’s a huge stack of talking gift cards, each with my voice enunciating one of three hundred reasons why you already love me, whether you admit it or not.
(12: [/scrytch] #

no one enters
She said there was an unused computer in the back room, and that maybe it would be fun if people went in and wrote a little, if they felt like it, and later we’d try to figure out who typed in each phrase, each story. Through the night, some unknown number of guests went to the keyboard and added their words, sometimes attempting to lift and gather the thread of what had come before, sometimes pouring out things which seemingly needed to be said, sometimes blankly wandering, trying to find some point of recapitulation. I read it later, printed it out, spent afternoon hours in empty rooms trying to pull apart who said what, which words she said, which words may have been meant for me. I was selfish that way. There is only meaning insofar as the words set forth a potential, a promise of some long-postponed connection. I took my pills and traced the words, and came up with nothing. That party was the last of us, the morning finding us aware of how little we had left between us, and our attempts to hide from the sun with blankets over the windows and chemicals to kill the king of sleep may have kept them safe, gathered in the kitchen making grilled cheese sandwiches, but I was happy to have the light hit me on the front porch as I closed the door behind me, happy to be finished, happy to have nothing left to say.
(12: [/scrytch] #

noiseless (good works III)
a variation on a theme by allida

Breath is all I hear, now that the drone of the bedroom television becomes white noise, the end of the broadcast day, bundled up In blankets and quilts, the moonlight refracted by window frost, and like the radiator purring in the corner, I watch you breathe Out, your dreams floating and pooling across the ceiling, the stoplight newly turned on in fall giving them a diabolical glow, that light comes In and changes everything it touches, so that even the sweetest dream becomes catalyst for my fear, and my insomnia. Someday you will go Out and leave forever, tired of the lies, endless talk of how my cures for insomnia and depression will remake me as the man once reflected In your eyes, and kept in your heart, a love as tangible and true as the heat of your arm upon me, or the heat of your breath upon my skin, Out from lips I still remember, aching with the memory of your lips across my belly just just whispering, just waiting, just holding In every fear and doubt left dormant to grow and fester within you, touching the tip of half-dreams of all those other men, better men, Out in the world of lust and nobility and good works, a dream which distracts worse than my endless settling, my weakness, my greed to be Inside you on my own terms exclusively, never once content to take your gentle snoring as a hint, an excuse, a means of quietly staying Out of the trap I’ve set for you, as I gracelessly rest your mouth next to my ear or your thighs beneath my fingertips, and fall back In to the same stupid shit we keep saying we need to change, the night sweat melting into my hair as I stare at the celiling, wanting to walk Out out of this, out of us, out of everything, and so I kiss your neck, melding scents with the dry winter air, and I take it all In for the last time, working up the words, maybe I won’t be so sad on my own.
(12: [/scrytch] #

never (two)
After a close-fought campaign filled with exchanged favors and broken promises my uncle Grant was made Commissioner of Sorrows and pulled down six bills a year gauging the loss and agony of all those who came before his car-wide desk, seeking medals and rememberance portraits to display to family members and other strangers to excuse all the poor manners, all the listless frustration and empty days too sick to get up from the couch. “Look upon my wrist-wounds and jars of tears and despair!” they would say, throats raw from wailing, desperate for a dispensation, a pittance of funds granted by the state to those whose condition precludes gainful employment and compassion for others. It is a profession like any other, with due-paying unions and magazines only available by subscription, techniques for working the crowd, making every witness feel personally responsible for tragedies beyond comprehension. My uncle was born without a heart and had no patience for theatrics, sorrow was a quantifiable sum of distinct elements, there was no fudging the numbers in his court. After thirty years of sifting the suffering from the simply sad Grant took an early retirement and invested his pension in a twentytwo year old trophy wife, only survivor of a family reunion gas explosion, and last I heard the two of them are on some beach in Cancun, bumming out tourists.
(12: [/scrytch] #

more dread, terror
Every time someone prays for you, a satellite records it onto half-inch tape. When you get to heaven, that tape is unspooled, and it is measured against a tree. If your tape is long enough, you are allowed to enter heaven. You then have your stomach pumped, as it is not permissable to carry material from the earth-world into heaven, and all the hair on your body is removed by swarms of unbaptized children. The gland in your neck which controls the fear impulse is also removed, which you can keep if you like. A series of statues demonstrates the internal process by which your gastric system seals itself up and is dissolved into the bloodstream. A walking person shows you photographs of yourself with all your different outfits, and you are asked to choose which looked the best, and that is what you wear for the remainder of eternity. A crawling person will open your fontanelle and pull what looks like a cord of clotted meat from your skull: this is your memories, and as the material leaves, you may have flashes of things which happened back on the earth-world, but soon they will be gone, and you will feel something akin to ephedrine and air conditioning. You will be given a heaven-name, which is simply a formality, and then the kingdom will open unto you, and you will step inside.
(12: [/scrytch] #

mister racecar
Seth and Dave(1) though it would be a good way to meet new ladyfriends if they opened up a dance club and advertised by hosting a DANCE PARTY show on cable access every Friday morning. Dave(1) finally worked his way through a messy divorce and somehow ended up with about nine square feet of warehouse space in the deal, and Seth stole thirty pounds of silver glitter from the dumpster behind the costume shop, which basically meant they already had about sixty percent of the job done. Seth asked if he could borrow my mixer and some speakers and I asked if I could dj and he said no, but I still owe Seth some money so I wasn’t really in a position to be all persnickety. The local cable access channel lets you rent equipment the police confiscated from god only knows what kinda horrible scene and they’ll bring the hammer down if you try to pawn it, which was fine by Seth and Dave(1), who spent the day rigging a glitter fan and practicing their best Club MTV upskirt zooms on a mannequin they found behind the warehouse dressed in a garbage bag. Somehow between the nausea-inducing cable access show and the difficult (at best) musical tastes of Seth and Dave(1) it was assumed this was actually some kinda artnik hipster scene and soon enough every weekend the place reached capacity (five scenesters, six if they’re bulimic) and turned enough profit to let Seth and Dave(1) quit their teaching jobs, which means it’s time for those suckers to give me back my mixer.
(12: [/scrytch] #


On the last night I worked at the graveyard I took the last of my LSD. I don’t know why I did this; I was saving it for a special occasion, but it seemed like I wouldn’t have any special occasions this year, so I thought I should make the most of my opportunity. By this time I worked three nights a week by myself, and this was one of those nights. I had one grave to dig, and after that I was night watchman until four am. I didn’t really want to run the backhoe while tripping, so I didn’t actually drop until the hole was dug, when all I had to do was clean up the sides a bit with my shovel, and after that I sat down and rested for a little while. When I climbed out of the hole I scared the holy hell out of a gaggle of drunk mall goths who ran as fast as their clunky platform boots would carry them. In reality, that’s where that confrontation ended, but in my head I thought about what I’d say if they actually stayed and talked, and so I walked around and kept an eye on things and went over the conversation in my head, and I realized I wasn’t actually talking to a gang of faceless teenagers, I was talking to you, and so I started embellishing things, adding in state department necromancers and giant speakers in the trees droning ghul-repelling harmonics, and I thought about heading across the street to call you from the payphone at the gas station, but it was two am and I knew you’d be long asleep and the charm of my late-night calls wore off nearly a decade ago, so instead I walked around for a couple more hours, stuck in my memory.
(12: [/scrytch] #

millions of miles
august 04.

I fell asleep at the library, after a couple days unable to get more than a hazy hour of sleep a night, and that was fine, people slept at the library all the time, but when I woke up I was no longer on the chair, but curled up beneath the desk where nobody could see me. As I tried to stand up, having to crawl out from under the desk, pushing the chair back to the wall, I realized this was no simple process; I could not have fallen under the desk into this position, I had to have been lucid enough to pull and twist my legs, pull in my shoulders, tuck my hands under my head like a little kid after recess. I rubbed my face, gathered my books and walked to the elevator, checking to make sure no one was watching me.
(12: [/scrytch] #

medroxy progesterone acetate
I must have got mixed up. I must have got on the wrong bus, went home with the wrong girl, put on someone else’s clothes. I didn’t sleep for too long, I couldn’t sleep, was afraid of sleep, and saw all these icons on my desktop and each time I clicked on one I saw these paragraphs someone else had written, pretending to be me, mocking my style, or else it would be a picture of me with my eyes digitally scratched out and word bubbles reading I’M A FUCK coming out of my mouth. Many of these icons were for programs or documents I regularly used, so that I became afraid to click on anything, because I didn’t want to see these mock-files anymore. Worse yet, I went to read old email and found they had been edited and rearranged by someone else, this false-self. I started writing letters to people but the words that I typed were not the words that showed up on the screen. I swallowed a rock, and could feel it in my stomach, and heard it hit other things in my stomach, a piece of a beer can, a half of a pencil, a marble. I pulled up my fingernails, peeled back the skin of my arms, in search of this other person hidden in my body, but I couldn’t find anything. The sunlight is too bright now, I’ve been awake for too long, and I nail a quilt over the window and tape the edges so as to keep out all light, maintaining my crackhouse decor. Two cousins looking to milk what little money is left in the Iowa education budget put me in the back of a pickup and drive me around to elementary schools as a cautionary lesson as to the evils of inattention, poor hygiene and moral turpitude. I open my mouth to show them my black tongue and the children gasp, look away. I must have done some horrible thing when I was asleep, strangled some photogenic children or upscale young blonde girls, the sort of thing that makes CNN, loops of home video footage of Christmas parties and talent shows where the anchor makes sure to say my first, middle and last name each time he refers to me. I’m autographing last known photos by the side of a blacktop highway while the scabs on my scalp spontaneously open and my hair becomes matted, sticking to my head. No one was there to pick me up when they let me out and I had to move to the only three-block area that was more than two hundred yards from a school, where the man in the next room drives a screwdriver through the wall between his room and mine at night, hoping I’ll be on the other side and he can claim it was an accident. When I sleep dead people enter into my body and tell me about all the things they’ll never get to do — I’ll never get to spend the insurance money, they say, or I’ll never get to see the season finale of ER, or I’ll never get revenge on all the people who didn’t go to my funeral. I have new friends who have never looked another person in the eye and keep their hands over their genitals at all times, just in case. There is no door on the bathroom, so I have taken to taping up the same quilt I cover over the window to cover over the door, only sometimes when I get out of the shower the quilt is gone, and I have to go door to door, and that can be dangerous, so now I don’t take showers. There are protesters on the sidewalk outside the building most weekends and sometimes during the week, depending on what’s happening on the news. The man on the other side of the wall cut off a little piece of his finger, which he put on a bent paperclip he’s using as a hook, and having made a line from unwound yarn he fishes for stray cats and squirrels. Every morning I wake up with bruises, the sheets too tight around me, instantly alert and on my feet. Fat satan girls mock-worship me and tell me they’re trying to get pregnant so that they can sacrifice their babies to me, only nobody will fuck them. One morning I woke up and there were bugs crawling on my skin, actual real physical bugs, but I didn’t do anything because I was sure as soon as I went to scratch them away they would disappear and I would be the world’s worst stereotype. I must have made a mistake somewhere. I must have got on the wrong bus.
(12: [/scrytch] #

lucifucked (one)

I had flunked out of school and moved back in with my family for a few months, unwilling to talk to anyone, not leaving my room, until Jezebel Decibel called and told me I should move into her house. I could stay in the basement and pay fifty bucks a month for rent and help her make her film. In the first book, there was a character named Seth, and that was basically me, so I moved in with Jezebel and her friend Loyola and Loyola’s boyfriend-dealer Frank Sinatra, who was actually hardly ever there (I don’ think he ever really knew I moved in, but he was pretty busy at that time) in the house out by Hickory Hill in Iowa City. This is when I started making puppets and learning what I called Attack Guitar and renting tons of weirdeyo videos from Tofu Hut and doing lots and lots and lots of LSD. Our goal while high was to weird each other out as much as possible, which was actually a lot of fun and made me feel better (and also helps explain my later aversion to “let’s sit in a circle and listen to hippie jam bands” experiences I’d have in Chicago a couple years later). We’d devise elaborate and malicious headtrips to play on unsuspecting high school kids who drove down from Waterloo looking to score, from playing horrible Japanese noise and heroin-damaged stoner dirges from speakers hidden behind the furniture to instant “What the fuck did you do?” interrogations to mock demonic possessions, and these poor protohippie “are you kind?” kids just broke, in which case we drove them to the bus station and shipped them back home, or else they got the joke and rolled with it and usually ended up hanging around, learning the tantra of fake blood and strobe lights.
(12: [/scrytch] #

like showing a coin trick to a retarded child
I was on the lawn, and screaming at her that I would never bother her again if she would just come down and talk to me for five minutes, so I could tell her the secret phrase which would open her heart to me forever, and her two younger brothers were stepping outside, just barely in their teens and unsure of what to do but obviously not going to allow this creepy pervert to stand outside and yell at their sister, and rationally I knew that fighting with her little brothers wouldn’t help my case at all, so I said stop, okay, just stop for a minute and let me explain it to you guys, as though I could appeal to these two young gents on the higher level of logical reasoning and thus not only gain entry but also demonstrate that I could also be rational and reasonable apart from being a pederast and sodomite and whore, only they were too young to be swayed by my deductions and so what the fuck was I supposed to do, ma’am. Okay. Okay I see where you’re going with this and that, okay. Well but I didn’t know they were. They don’t look sick, they. Well shouldn’t they be in a hospital and maybe you shouldn’t get all like that with me, when, when you’re just letting them go out and really this is your fault anyway. I mean you never liked me just because I was older and well now I KNOW that eleven years is a big difference! You say that like I’m not aware that there was a difference but and I don’t mean to be rude here but you didn’t raise her very good. I mean you can say that guys like me prey on girls who have bad relationships with their dads, and well okay that’s partly true but none of that would happen if you and your husband had. Well. Well she never told me that. I mean she never talked about it at all. She’s a fucking drama queen, though, it’s not like you don’t know that, so I just thought that she was being, no I’m not saying that. Well and so he passed on and you still have your boys here at the house? Oh boo-hoo, you’re poor, give me a break already I saw that car and don’t give me any of well all right fine, then, I guess you just got an answer for everything, I’m just a fucking jerk because of. But. Yeah, but. Fucking christ, lady, you know good and fucking well that none of this is my fault.
(12: [/scrytch] #

like chains
He was still, after the years, the tiniest bit sweet on her. Not enough to proposition, or even truly want to, but just enough to daydream while wandering around the grocery store, forgetting all the things he needed to buy, dreaming of some other life where everything was slightly different. This is a dream he cannot think too deeply on, as all the things which kept them apart in the real (children, location, money) were waiting behind the memories, so that every time he had this dream it was in the same house, empty the only time he was ever actually inside, but filled in the dream with endless small decorations and objects, the sun coming in through the front bay windows, as it was always late afternoon, and the windows were open and there was just a bit of a chill in the air. He was sitting at the kitchen table, at her right-hand side, and sometimes they would talk about any number of things, but sometimes they would just sit. Maybe their hands would brush against each other, or she would touch his left shoulder, and sometimes back in the real, standing in front of the soup, he would stop for a minute and let this illusory touch linger for a moment, let it sink into him, but that awareness would pull him back out and into his body, the small basket in his right hand, and he wouldn’t try to hold on the way he sometimes did when people who were no longer alive met him in his sleep, he would just let it go. He could tell you it wasn’t sadness, the feeling that remained once the daydream had ended, but beyond that he couldn’t describe it, couldn’t tell you what it meant, and it shook from him as soon as he reached for the can of chicken and wild rice. That’s the extent to which he was sweet on her.
(12: [/scrytch] #

I used to have a t-shirt with Barney Rubble flipping the bird which I bought as a kid at the campground just above Flintstone Village, where I also played the best game of mini-golf of my entire life just after buying the shirt, and have since considered it lucky, or at least it was until this stupid girl that I didn’t even fuck walked out of a party wearing it, and I chased her down into the street and said hey, that’s my shirt, and she said well but I spilled wine on my shirt and I just wanted to wear it home and I promise I’ll bring it back tomorrow and I said no, but see the thing is that’s my lucky shirt and you can wear the shirt I got from my aunt on my last birthday with the racecar on it and she said but I’m already out in the street and why get all bent out of shape man it’s just a shirt and I said listen bitch, give me my fucking shirt and some clown-dick boy she was with does his whole peacemaker tough guy routine and the short story is she ran off with my shirt and I got kicked in the ribs. Most people, that would be the end of the story, but not me, I hold a grudge forever and also I’m crafty. I don’t want to give away the plan, as I might have to use it again, but it involved dressing up as a Wal-Mart employee, video cameras, a grapelling hook and dog poop, and the moral of the story is when you steal someone’s lucky shirt, that’s unlucky, as luck isn’t something you can steal.
(12: [/scrytch] #

life in the well
The night Josef tried to get a hooker he said “If I stole all the change out of every take-a-penny leave-a-penny bowl in the city, I bet I’d have a hundred dollars”. He was up to about sixty-five cents when a clerk at a Guns N’ Likker out by the Evansdale county line pulled a gun on him and told him to put the eight cents back, as the bowl is for paying customers only. Terrified, Josef bought three Blow-Pops, which ate up the evening’s earnings, and didn’t even use the change in the bowl, and by the time we got back to the trailer Josef had forgotten all about the hooker.
(12: [/scrytch] #

I’m not going to a party, I told her. If you want to come over, I will make you some tea and we can sit in the bedroom and I’ll play you that new Devendra Banhart album I like and not talk very much and wrap up in quilts like we were coming down, well we can do that, but I’m not going to any party. We can hide a flask in your coat and get drunk and ride the bus around and buy some fireworks and shoot ‘em at each other out by the little airport, but I’m not going to any party. We can wait until the sun goes down and go out to the woods and climb up in the trees and scare the animals, but I’m not going to any party. If we hurry, we can go to the thrift store and buy a slide projector and some fire-damaged children’s toys from which to make puppets, but I’m not going to any party. I don’t do that any more.
(12: [/scrytch] #

kyrgyz wisdom
Out on old 42 there’s this chicken plade, King Judah’s Chicken, nothing but chicken, you can’t even get a Pepsi there. Nobody mind because maybe Judah feed his chickens on the cocaine but I say you cannot stop eating until you’re too sick to chew. I mean I seen men die at the counter, fall right off the stool and somebody jump up and take his spot, ravenous for it. I can’t go so often now that I’m old and have to crawl out to the car and sleep it off, can’t run for three days, but still it’s times you can’t leave it alone, you know how it is. So I’m in there yesterday just on that cliff edge of wantin’ to throw up and in comes this guy, I mean teeth like a wolf, kinky white hair slicked back, shirt open and bouncin’ round in his chest hair he got a silver cross and a shrunken head. This guy steps up to the counter and asks for a three-piece, puts his money down, takes one bite and just cold as the grave says “I thought this was supposed to be good chicken?” and we all just mute up and stare and this guy drops the drumstick with one bite and some ratty lookin’ kid grabs it before it hits the floor and runs off to a corner, but this guy don’t even blink. Now here comes Judah, who I ain’t seen but once and he’s just a little fella but like they say he’ll crawl ya. Judah jumps up to the counter and then up again and grabs this guy by the hair and starts gnawin’ at his face, most disgusting thing I seen since the war, and I just hurl all over the place and stagger out the back and fall asleep in the weeds. Wake up and my wallet’s gone, keys gone, but I had a twenty I keep in my boot for drugs, and I walk right back into King Judah’s and standing on the bloodstained tile order half a bird. Can’t leave it alone.
(12: [/scrytch] #

I have four brothers, and of the five of us, I was the only one who was never in a band. Perhaps it’s because I was second-youngest, and because my three older brothers were all so well-defined as musicians, that I felt following behind them would be the surest way to lose what little identity I had. I would tag along with them on school nights, pretend to help wire amps or sell t-shirts, and watch them build a noise which caught everyone unaware, every time, of how much music could change your life, even if only for a few minutes. I knew I couldn’t do that; I could pick up the guitar and play well enough to fool people at parties, but there was a sort of switch inside people which the right frequencies, the right words, the right volume could turn on, and open them to some greater thing, and while I knew what that felt like, I had no idea how to reach that point. I knew I never would.

If I did not join a band, I did not know what else to do. I probably could play football, technically, but it didn’t much grab me, and I wasn’t going to become a drama geek, and I could never get my head around the idea of a car as being anything more than a way of getting from place to place. I tried being a genius, but of the two types of genius I was aware of (the endlessly-working genius, and the gifted from birth genius), I knew I was neither. The closest I ever came was a short-lived fad of wearing a lab coat to school and cackling like a sleep-deped muppet. I started to see the rest of my life as being fundamentally similar to all that had come before. I would be a face in the crowd, that kid at the party no one knew well enough to dislike. Besides, everyone knew I could get them into shows, and I could always get booze, and that’s all it takes to be quasi-popular in high school.

I decided, then, to become a snakecharmer. I would initially perform at parties, and open for local bands, playing primarily for name rocognition and beer. Mostly beer. Since I had no competition, I knew that the only hard part was getting people into it, so before I even had my first escape planned I started working on my banter. I knew I didn’t want to do some kinda retro trip, and I knew I didn’t have a lot of money for a proper cobra, so I initially tried to build a fake snake out of springs and socks, but this resulted in a very poor performance concluding with a whiskey bottle to the right temple. There was no question that I would need a real snake, and that snake had to really be deadly in order to the performance to work. Luckily, I knew a guy who knew a guy who worked for animal control.
(12: [/scrytch] #

kill every living thing on this earth

Pamela showed up on my doorstep around three that afternoon, and seeing her there in the sunlight I had a half-second joy that she had driven all the way down here just to see me, just to keep me company and talk about old times, but it was obvious as soon as I looked for it that I was just a hiding place, a place to rest while running away from whoever she was with. I took her in and made coffee and set myself to hear the story one more time, minor incidents altered to give the illusion of change, and I thought maybe I could sneak into the bedroom and take some darvon, but she’d know. I had not seen her in three years, and had changed in insignifigant ways during that time, put on the slightest muscle that I was overproud of, lost more hair, started a new job where I had to wear a pager at all times. I thought I had changed, I thought it was enough. She had only told me half the story, up to where everything fell apart again, when I heard someone pull up in the driveway, and heard someone begin shouting, and she stared at me for a second before running into the bathroom and locking the door. The man came up to the door, and I was a little suprised to see him; he was small and thin and obviously spent a lot of time thinking about his accessories. I opened the door and he tried to push past me, and I shoved him hard in the chest, pushing him back off the steps onto the sidewalk. He pulled out a gun, which I guess was supposed to scare me, but I had been through this part as well, the jilted abusive boyfriend thinking everyone was as afraid of him as his girl was, and I knew he wouldn’t shoot me, or maybe he would, I didn’t really care. I used to hate these guys, used to nurse vengeful fantasies of axehandles and pondbottoms, but in time I began to realize these men were simply manifestations of the death of history, of memory, as each one was conviced they were bound within forces beyond control and entirely singular in application: it is always the first and only time for them.

“Go home”, I said. “Be glad it’s over.”

He stared at me, the dream of a final showdown draining away, until he was content to talk some shit while walking back to his car. I watched him until he left, and I stared out at the street for a while, the sky, the stars, remembering all the things I’d have to say over the next few weeks, all the apologies, all the mock-harsh “truth”, until she’d leave again, and I’d spend another year staring at the wall and sorting albums I no longer listen to and talking about how I need to start wrting again, and everything continues again, until finally I just can’t do it anymore, and then there will be no shame, no exhaustion, no staring blankly at people pretending to care, no insomnia and stomach pain, no shit jobs, no owing people money, no sitting in front of the keyboard for hours unable to think of a single thing to say, no broken promises, no empty posturing, no imagining women i don’t know are in love with me, no headaches and no heat, no light, no sound, no time, nothing, nothing at all.
(12: [/scrytch] #

When she was twentyfive and the first house went up in the empty lot where all her critical childhood events took place she angsted a little, and felt impotent toward the endless creep of progress, but essentially considered it a done deal, sealing it up inside herself. It’s thirteen years later and the lot has returned, property value fluctuations and the collapse of the new mall out by the interstate and finally the tornado that gutted Twin Oaks from Jackson to Kennedy tearing the development out by the roots, uncovered basements filled with topsoil hosting indian grass and cattails and drain fixtures. She drove up one Fourth of July weekend, parked the car by the concrete barrier and walked what she could remember of old paths now twice-buried, the occasional suburban artifact overturned down beneath the weeds: a fork, a torso and head of a Skeletor action figure, a keyring to vanished doors. It was the same, but not the same, and the hope she had that something had been returned to her slowly fell away as she watched the wind whip Wal-Mart bags caught in the year-old trees.
(12: [/scrytch] #

john, afterwards
She sits in the kitchen and rehearses the tragedy. She refuses to be taken by suprise when the phone call comes, when the word that John is no longer alive reaches her from some shaky-voices relative of his she should remember by name, but wouldn’t, were it not for the fact that she has rehearsed this event, memorized the names of all the people who watch over him at the hospital, waiting. She has already developed rationalizations for her not being there, work is so crazy right now and you have to keep living your live for as long as you can, you know, John would understand, he was always so good at that. She will attend the funeral, which she originally thought she wouldn’t be able to handle without the sort of histrionics everyone expects of her, but it’s been two months of practice and she keeps getting better. She will not drink; this she knows for certain, as whatever control she has will be lost to her then, and once she makes that first mistake she knows it will all fall out from under her, and she will never stop falling. She knows she will not speak at the funeral, but has practiced small talk with the family, with all the friends who came out of the woodwork to gnaw at the collective sympathy, and they will talk of how hard it was for them, as this is the only way they can come to know anything. She will cry, of course, and her hands will shake like an old woman’s, but that is all. There will be no wailing, no falling at her feet, and she practices mourning in her new heels to be certain of this. She will watch the crowd, and find the most sactimonious, false friend and will tear him down in private conversations, and this is how she will bond with John’s sisters, as the temporary amnesia of suffereing will allow her a chance to change history, to make someone else the judas goat. She will take up smoking again, and will stand outside on the porch in the rain with them, and it will be as though she is one of them, staring through the window into the kitchen where the goat takes another beer from the fridge. No one will ever ask her what she is thinking about ever again, and the relief that brings is extraordinary. She remembers that her silence is no longer an implication of guilt, but a wall behind which those who do not know cannot follow, and which those who do know have no need to see behind. She will get back the ring she gave him, which was too small, which he wore on a chain, and she will place it back on the finger from which it came, and one full cycle will be completed. She takes off the ring which John gave her, all those years ago, and rolls it back and forth between her index finger and thumb, staring at the light caught inside the band, hiding the inscription, and is so startled to hear the phone ring that she drops the ring, and it bounces away, and she holds the phone to her ear, flustered, and hears the words, and falls to the floor, and begins to scream.
(12: [/scrytch] #

Somehow my uncle got hold of hundreds of weather balloons, and spent weekends launching them in clusters from the farthest end of his farm, then racing back to the silo in his pickup, climbing to the top, and shooting down any he could get a bead on, culling the weak from the herd. He stuck elaborate letters inside small capsules where the weather-detecting circuitry was to go, but never expected a reply; after all, the majority of these letters ended up wrapped around dead trees out by the railroad tracks, and the rest were written in his crablike scrawl, barely ledgible to himself and his wife, much less any poor sap wondering what this big white thing was doing in the backyard. Sometimes, while drunk, he would tell me that one day he was going to fill the rest of the balloons with explosives and let them all fly, flocks of them dealing death all over eastern Iowa. I didn’t think much of this until I saw helicopter footage of the barn torn open and burning on the midday news.
(12: [/scrytch] #

i want to do the thing i should not do
I could smell her before I saw her, a sour sick that bloomed every time she began to sweat. When she smiled she pulled her cracked lips tight enough that I saw the intimate pink of her gums. The neighbor kids who threw stones at her door and called her a witch now stood outside, trying to guess at shadows behind the curtains. I scared them off when I pulled up, but they could tell I wasn’t an adult and ran back as soon as I stepped into the house. She watched the screen and tried to explain the plot to me and I pretended to understand. She shook with each word. I am here to tell the others, later, that I was there for the last days, that I was able to do what they could not, so that they will remember me as close to her, a secret friend made public in wake conversations and hushed gossip. I am placing myself at a strategic moment so that I might be able to pretend I meant more to her, anything to her. All I have to do is keep showing up, I thought to myself while she ran the list of characters and their sins. I just need to put in a little more time.
(12: [/scrytch] #

it is completed when there is no one left to witness
I spent my workdays dreaming of incidents in her history she had never spoken of, blank canvas for my inevitable and ultimately corrosive projections, a December morning as a little girl dancing with her mother across the kitchen linoleum with little ladybugs drawn in blue ink on the backs of her hands and rhubarb pies just starting to brown in the oven, a June evening where her eighteen-year old hands push a piano down the dirt path to a clearing of blankets and underwear and an axe with which she will enact her final revenge for ten years of forced lessons, until finally I have abstracted her entirely from the flesh and tedium of what she truly is, back in my head, cotton in my ears.
(12: [/scrytch] #

interlace workprint one
“Lobjan was invented by gay Nazis who want to eat all the placentas and foreskin!” -C. Flink

Casual readers may not know that the incoherent and narratively retarded pile of woodge known as Interlace is actually the edited version, with hundreds of sub-stories, faked IRC transcripts and halfwritten freakouts passed between authors and ultimately deemed inappropriate for the story at large. Not long after the whole thing fell apart, I burned all that material to cd and promised myself never to look at it agian, but the past week has been particularly boring and I’ve been jacked up on cold medicine, so in order to once again spit in the faces of the scrytch audience at large (and also as a way to kill time during another round of bookwriting impotency) I present the interlace workprint, unedited and without cohesive stability.

Shelly Harmful, safe within a womb of quilts, attempted to wish the ringing telephone into the cornfield to no avail. Taped to the bottom of the bed was a foot and a half long meat cleaver which would solve the telephone situation permanently, but the telephone was all the way across the room, and while Shelly was certain she could kill the telephone with one well-placed throw it would leave her defenseless against attacks by The Devil, so she crawled out of her bed and kicked the phone to death with the heel of her bare right foot. The outside world may want to cast Shelly as the next postglam antihero, but she would have none of it.

“I’m a monster”, it said, standing on the gas and throwing bricks out the window. Like some motion-sick jump-cut, we were on some cross-country burn, the Heroin 900, truck stop gunfights and blowing toll booth guards to get back on the interstate. I’ve got a teddy bear full of coding beads and the remains of a dozen nazi bikers in the grill of my Chevelle. Gangs of hippychick cannibals wander the parking lots of all-night diners, slashing tires and luring stranded truckers into VW vans with blood sluices in the floor. Speed-jagged drivers with IR goggles and cut brakelights race down blacktop access roads until state troopers hit them with high-powered strobes. An army of reanimated roadkill. Prayers to failed new gods smeared in blood on empty billboards.

Teams were assembled to provide a series of scenarios in which the participants fully believed closure had been achieved. Hidden loops, abrupt service termination, false history and time-delayed neural unprogramming all proved to be useful tools in the struggle to close certain doorways, put the period at the end of specific stories. Research funds well spent, obviously.

It has to be admitted that he did not always directly vomit blood onto his canvasses, that sometimes he could not get out of bed fast enough, and in those cases he simply sold his stained bedsheets.
(12: [/scrytch] #

infant hands
My brother drove over earlier tonight, telling me Pamela Bambelam called him up in tears and demanded to speak to me. I used to leech off my brother’s cellphone, and currently have no phone, as my brother moved out a couple months back, and I told Pamela I would be out of touch for a while, and probably said some bullshit about how I had to get my head together or how this bird will never change or whatever stupid shit I was saying back then in my old life. Pamela, of course, was having none of it, and because my brother is a saint of infinite patience I got to talk to her for a while. The first couple minutes of conversation was moslty an incoherent sniffling cloud, but eventually the topic showed itself as the transitory nature of happiness, or even the smallest sort of satisfaction, which is a common topic for her and I, and I had no real answer, so I told her one of my kinda madeup stories about how happiness is always having schemes to work on, such as right now at work there’s a rubber cross-section of a pregnant sow, maybe the size of a large cat, sitting in one of the classrooms where I’m currently working as a paid thug. I told her that I have named this plastic pig Courtney Love, and every night I steal one of Courtney Love’s plastic organs, and eventually the whole of the sow will be mine. “I took it one piece at a time, and it didn’t cost me a dime,” Pamela vaguely sang, no longer crying, just on the outside of laughing. I told her she used to be my scheme enabler, so it’s hard to come up with such notions on my own, but I simply fall back on what I knew she would tell me, like muscle memory, and everyting else was cake. She told me she’d imagine a tiny invisible me, skulking in the corner and not looking directly at anybody, suggesting half-mad plans, and I told her I’d keep some notecards on me and if I came up with anything I’d write it down and send it to her. Then we talked about some other stuff. Finally I got off the phone, and gave the phone back to my brother, and we watched the game until I had to go to work.
(12: [/scrytch] #

identification removal services
Initially it was Sarah and Dvhyn and myself, we were going to start this band, all processed audio to be submitted by the internet rabble, only when you ask people straight on for this kind of stuff you get the dullest most godawful stuff, so we built this fake “online erotica community” where people swap mp3s of each other faking orgasms and telling elaborate stories about greatly exaggerated true-life encounters, but even this wasn’t weird enough. We wanted it to look like it had been going on for a while, so that the people who found it wouldn’t feel like they were the first ones in the pool, so we spent a weekend making a slew of audio files using this terminology we had invented in place of regular slang, which is where things like “the secondary anatomy” with erogenous zones hidden between organs which can only be reached through psychic penetration techniques, and this whole method of predicting the future from bumps along the areola, all this shit, and I don’t know if it was peer pressure or we tapped into some sorta pre-existing underground but we got all these audio files where people just picked up this stuff and ran with it. So we let this roll for two months, occasionally goading the subscribers on with some bit of late-night alternate genital ranting, and we ended up with about nine gigs of audio, more than we would probably ever need, so we shut the site down. Some of the subscribers moved on to some wiki out of Austria, but I haven’t checked up on it in a year or so.

At first we thought we’d just plunderphonic our way through it, slice and dice with maybe some bloopy-beep background music, but Dvhyn was on the statistic natural language processing kick again, so we built a grammar which divided every file into a series of words, collected each instance of a similar word (we had to comb this by hand a bit) and FFT an average of all files for each word. This meant that words used often (like “the”) took on a kind of feminine yet homogenized quality which sounded like a breathy and kinda nervous automated operator voice, while words used only once (like “inchoate”) retained entirely the voice of the original lonely kook who whispered it into a desktop microphone, naked in front of the keyboard.

The grammar was also (mostly) a handy-dandy transition matrix, so we fucked around with Markov chaining some text, which (no suprise) didn’t sound very natural, so we fucked around with filters and a bit of granular synthesis goofery until everything sounded like a whisper, which made the lack of continuity between words less of a problem. Then we layered on the reverb and echo and left it running all the time, until we forgot about it. Only we left it running, just barely loud enough to hear, until the thunderstorm hit.

That is where the phrase “Hum Goddess” comes from.
(12: [/scrytch] #

i am now okay with being stupid
Mark came over, without Escho, and it hasn’t just been Mark and I hanging out in forever, so it was a bit weird, and maybe that’s why we went right to the pipe and the bottle, old habits in a decaying tape loop now fuzzy and distorted, and that’s all we ever wanted. We sat up watching black and white movies with the sound off, giggling at improvised dialogue until even that seemed too much, then giggling just at the image, the poses and postures and costumes. “I should start dressing like that,” Mark said, and I agreed, and so at four in the morning we went out to find suits. We had maybe twelve bucks between us, and we were cognizant that the transaction would be difficult, but we were certain we could convince the local tailor that our plan was of such certain necessity that he would gladly lend his name and wares to our arc toward fame and fortune. Struck dumb by inspiration, I froze in my tracks, long enough that the snow snuck into my boots, and told Mark that I knew a guy who had lots of suits and was Mark’s size. This guy, I did not tell him, was the husband of my onetime girlfriend, the both of them content to draw close in a shared hatred of what I now was, and that he would throw us from the roof and into a pile of broken glass he’d break himself just for the occasion as give Mark use of his suits. I knew I could work this, and in the process I’d convince Michelle that I was not the person she thought I was, not that I wanted her back (may shrews nest in my rectum before I go through that hell again) but because I cherished the idea of zinging her one last time, making her doubt a bit, oh my heavens that would be sweet. It was a twenty minute walk to Michelle and Steve’s place, cutting across the abandoned K-Mart and a park with all the playground equipment pulled out, and plus another ten minutes of getting high again in someone’s backyard with the dog silently staring at us from behind the fence, so that the sun was just starting to rise when we knocked on the front door. No one answered, so we went around the back and knocked on that door, and Mark said okay wait, this is the right house? These people actually have suits? Because even if it is not the people that we believe are in possession of the suits, correct, they may have other suits of which we might make a use out of, and he had some other thing to say but we never got around to it because suddently Steve opened the door and hit me right in the mouth. Mark is not a big guy, and he probably sees less physical activity than I do, but he’ll surprise you, and he sure surprised Steve, as by the time I got back up to my feet Mark was kicking the shit out of Steve, prone and fetal on his kitchen floor. I screamed “Now! Get the suits!” and the two of us darted in and ran upstairs, looking for the bedroom, and that’s when I saw Michelle standing in the bathroom, the door open, the toothbrush sticking out of her mouth. “Not a muscle!” I screamed, my voice cracking from all the excitement and the exhaustion of running up a full flight of stairs. Mark and I ran into the bathroom and rushed through the closet, finding two suit jackets and what looked like a nice pair of slacks, and we headed back to the stairs, tripping over Steve, still spread out on the floor, on our way back through the kitchen. As we ran out the back door and into the street, I stopped again, looked back and saw Michelle staring out the bathroom window. I tried to strike one of those classy poses like we saw in the movies earlier, but I don’t think it came out exactly right, and I yelled “I zinged you good on that one! Choke on it!” and caught up with Mark, who was taking off his clothes in the middle of the street to see if the suit fit.
(12: [/scrytch] #

how to kill your children
It is a trick of evil men to believe that history cannot be corrected. As people continue to extranalize memory, the ability to modify that memory expands, so that the reality of an event is more in doubt now than ever before. What is yours belongs to you, not to the hallucination of history, covered over in the failed tinsel of fact, and you should leave this world through a complete vanishing, taking all that is yours with you.

In order to live in this world, one must cultivate a small garden of compassion, but when it is your turn to go, that compassion must be the first thing swallowed by the hole. This will be the most difficult of the things you must do, as the habitual nature of compassion holds roots in the most unexpected of places. You are now responsible to one thing only, and that is your absence, and you cannot leave it incomplete. No one will remember. You have spent your life in the spaces between sight, you have pulled up the wake of data behind you, and now it is down to the last things, the product of your body. The endless drone fo trivia and trend will hide most things, but not this, not the people who are bound to you. They have paid witness, and know what you have done, and will tell the world. They stink of you, and of your memory. They must go with you, when you leave.

Go to a quiet place, far from prying eyes, as seen on the map of disposal sites you have been provided. A thick forrest is best, as it keeps you from the prying eyes of satellite recon. Make sure you are free of materials by which you can be tracked, which should all be gone by this time, negated and erased. The angels will assist in this, placed in critical areas within the mesh of information, devouring mortgages and legal records and surveillance video. The electronic camouflage will be temporarily shut down, so finding the disposal site should be fairly simple. From this point, you have options, depending on your situation. The children can be dropped directly into the disposal site, through the entry-gate, or else you may puncture the fontanelle with the needles, as per your training. activating the overwrite device before proper disposal. This may be of use if you are uncertain what the children actually know, and want to clarify any ambiguities. The disposal process should take no longer then thirteen seconds. You should then enter the entry-gate yourself, closing the gate behind you, which will reactivate mimic and blur devices as well as sealing the gate. When you are ready, let go of the handle, and gravity will do the rest.

We thank you for your efforts, and while you will be forgotten, know that the goals which you have worked so hard to bring to fruition will live forever.
(12: [/scrytch] #

how the two devils were made to live without mouths
First they began by pleasing him with letters written from seers of a prior age who forecast his coming as a sign of the great completion, a golden aeon of wisdom and punishment, and then they poured oils from the sepulchres and forecast the meaning of the shapes the oil took upon entering the standing pools of water, and then they brought forth nine sheep who had been taught to kneel before him, and then they brought forth eight infants so that he might name them and bestow certain boons upon them, and then they reenacted mighty battles upon the sea in the same standing pools where the oils began to deform in shape with thousands of miniature boats made of clockwork and fat, and then they brought forth six apples whose insides were as pleasure gardens, with microscopic vines and pagodas and statues, and then they brought forth figs soaked in brandy served in a portion of the head of the great beast, and then they brought nineteen dancing women whose skins had been dyed in various pleasing colors and patterns, and then they pulled him, one by the left hand and one by the right hand, into his grave.
(12: [/scrytch] #

heart murmur
I hadn’t really looked at my feet in a while, and so I was surprised to see a series of bruises and sores along the instep and around the ankles, particularly as there was no pain in them, nothing more than a vague itch that I feel all over my body in the dry winter. I didn’t have any money to see a doctor, and figured I could fix my feet by poking at them with a pen, which ended up opening some sores, and this, I’ll spare you the details, but obviously it wasn’t a promising development. I decided the best thing to do would be to get some athletic tape and wrap it around my feet and ankles, but we had no athletic tape, so I used some electrical tape, the same tape I had used a couple weeks ago to tape up my boots, and it was then, looking down at my feet, that I knew a door had closed, that my girlfriend wouldn’t come out here to find me and my boss wouldn’t rehire me and I wouldn’t just walk back into my old life.
(12: [/scrytch] #

something somewhere has to break
She keep vomiting. She spits up pennies, rings, notes she was passed in trig. She spits up the plastic rings from milk jugs, strands of string, twist-ties. She spits up plastic army men and undigested lumps of gum. She spits up candle wax, shoelaces and cigarette butts. She spits up bolts and wire and oil. She spits up eggs, and from the eggs hatch chickens and lizards and falcons. She spits up clumps of dirt, and that dirt forms into islands in the sea of brown-stained detritus that has come up from her. She spits up villagers and pre-fab huts. She spits up stereos and automobiles and shopping malls. She spits up countries and continents and planets and galaxies. She contains universes, is what everyone told her, and those universes want no part of her anymore; they only want to be out and away, because she is disgusting, and vile, and evil.
(12: [/scrytch] #

My friend Sawyer used to run track in high school, and he was good, like four-minute mile good. He set school records for the full and the quarter, got a full-ride scholarship to Northwestern, and while there started training for the olympics when he got hit by a car one morning. He came out okay, though he shattered his right knee rolling over the hood, and that pretty much was the end of his competitive running days. Some people have this sort of thing happen and do years of rehab and start a new regimen and talk of how they’re gonna come back, better than ever. Michelle, who also went to Northwestern before she dropped out and moved back here and is now on her third kid, she told me that was how Sawyer was, that first year, and everybody did all this shit for him, all these donations and stuff and people he didn’t know would come by the house and tell him what an inspiration he was and all that, only Sawyer could see it, could see he’d never really run like he did before, and so one morning he cleared out his savings account and all the leftover donation money and vanished. Nobody saw him for about five years, by which time everybody forgot about him, except the people who weirdly felt that he owed it to them to keep doing endless laps out there on the junior high track by his house. One night he called Michelle, and I don’t know all the details of that, but she drove up to Madison for a couple days and came back like nothing happened, maybe a year ago. I went over to her place last Friday, while Bruce was off fixing airplanes in Chicago and the kids were all in bed, and after enough rum she gave me Sawyer’s address, and said he’d like to see me, which probably wasn’t true, but there was a tone in her voice that made me not want to press the point. Saturday I drove up to Madison and pulled into a small apartment building that looked to be full of college kids, and there in Apartment 3A I saw Sawyer, in a short-sleeve dress shirt and navy blue slacks, just off work. Michelle must have called and told him I was coming, as he seemed to be expecting me, though he stared at me for a second or two as I stood in the doorway, until he asked “What are you doing here?”. I stepped in, into the half-kitchen just inside the doorway, and said “I wanna talk to somebody who used to be good at something they can’t do anymore.” “Well that’s me, I guess,” he said, and passed me on the way to the refrigerator, where he poured himself a glass of iced tea without offering me any. “Is it better? Is it better that you used to be able to do something, or woudl it be better if you could never have done it, never known?” I said. He walked into the living room, sat down in a leather recliner facing away from me, and said “It doesn’t matter. It’s not any different. You want something, you don’t have it, it’s no different for anybody.” I don’t know what I expected him to tell me, but that wasn’t it, and suddenly I felt tired, and self-conscious, and halfheartedly asked him if he wanted to go out and get a beer or something. He said no, and nothing else, and I mumbled some excuse to leave, and how he looked good, and how we should keep in touch, and I drove home in the dark, listening to evangelists on the radio.
(12: [/scrytch] #

The closest bar to her apartment was in a bowling alley, but the lanes close at ten except on the weekend and the bar itself is open until two, and she always went out with friends on the weekend, so the actual bowling aspect of the bar never really came up, except for an occasional league in a back booth buying pitcher after pitcher. After a couple months she knew everyone there and they all left her alone, mostly. After the lanes close down you can’t even tell the bar is open from the street, so it isn’t the place that gets a lot of new customers, and that’s how everyone likes it. On weekends, with her friends, she didn’t mind the meeting people, as pointless as it is, as they were the sort of women where one of them would meet a guy and bring him back to the table and talk around him, about things he had nothing to say, and maybe he waited it out and went home with the woman who pulled him over but mostly they left, vaguely humiliated, and they would discuss his latent faults. Here, however, such an intrusion would require some thinking, some making conversation and not being uncomfortable and weird and keeping everything on a certain level, and after work that’s the last thing she wanted to do.

At night she had dreams of an office complex built like a hive, each cubicle a shrine to a different god, the leftovers of rituals in the breakrooms, pitch and feather and blood on the tables and floors. She had developed this dream, creating new rooms, tunnels into the earth and rooms of primitive computers which spat out dot-matrix reports of exterminated employees. During work, she transposed this dream-office upon her actual office, so that the minor dramas of the workplace were scrambled and rebuilt in her ears as realtime histories of secret rites. The first month of her job people would occasionally speak to her, and she would give them a terse reply, as little as necessary, as having to actually participate in the scene shattered the illusion. Soon she had the entire eight-hour shift entirely free of interaction, and so her job became palatable, dredging up material for her dreams, which would in turn allow her to work in peace, and so on. This process proved to be quite an effort, so her time at the bar was used in the way most people actually use sleep, as a time to shut down and process the day’s events, here aided by alcohol, the only drug she still had a use for.

Three years of this went by without a hitch, until the bowling alley decided to institute Wednesday Rock ‘N Bowl, blacklights and Ozzy and double the usual lane rate from ten until two. The inhabitants of the bar were understandably thrown into fits, some vowing to leave, some filing complaints with the manager, but she didn’t really pay any attention the first week, which was a bit of a flop. Week two started to see more people, mostly junior high kids with missing parents and disgusting ideas as to public displays of affection, but even this wasn’t too much of a problem. The fourth week saw the introduction of postironic college students, prepared to relish and mock and drink, and it was here that the problems came up. Now the Rock ‘N Bowlers were infiltrating the actual bar, and started coming during the remainder of the week, ordering goofy drinks and complaining/delighting in every trivial detail. Now college boys with elaborate facial hair and internet-bought trucker caps tried to buy her drinks and ask her about her secret dreams, and she had to stare them down until they broke inside and went home to stage suicide attempts. This left her little time to decompress, and soon the effects began to show at work, where she referred to the executive vice president in charge of sales as “the second and final skineater”. At night, her hive-dreams were unravelled by visions of faux-jewel faux-fur faux-soul holocausts, and she kept waking from these unsatisfying visions, her eyes opening to the shadows of trees before the streetlight wave back and forth across the ceiling. Initially she tried to imagine the shadows as shapes, then she let her eyes unfocus and tried to hypnotize herself with the flicker of light, and finally she grew to hate the sight of her ceiling and nailed quilts over her windows, but it was no use, the sleep and the work and the bar were all now little more than vaguely different locations which housed the same dread and exhaustion.

Eventually she had to burn the whole city to the ground.
(12: [/scrytch] #

good works
As the sort of changes which marked the earlier years grow smaller, the scope of the things she took as critical, talismans of each year past, grew smaller as well, which was ultimately a boon. The scars she put on when she first left the house begged for public display, so that they were never really hers, overwritten with the projections and false hope of everyone who paid witness, until the stories which once caught in the throat from raw human emotion caught a whiff of the maudlin and decorated. These small years held no stories, nothing she could build from at dinner parties or drunk smalltalk in the back of cabs. The lessons learned in those years were too hard to put words to, lopsided and irregular and lacking in anything approaching easy entertainment. The years of living for the amazement of others slipped away, glitter and gilding chipped away to good works and quiet spaces, and while she is never sure if it is better or worse, the now or the then, she is certain she now holds secrets, she now has things only she will know after spending so long overexposed.

The audience walked away from her story years ago, but I still see her sometimes, and I want to know all those secrets, because it kills me to have anything escape my sight, because I am a jackal, and a ghul.
(12: [/scrytch] #

goodnight, agents of satan
Dave(2) no longer works at that store in the mall. He left his wife a few years ago and sees his kids on Christmas and the Fourth of July. He moved into the apartments by where Jezebel used to live and is a sysadmin for a bail bondsman service across the street from the jail, right next door to that Bosnian bar we went to last time you were in town. I didn’t even realize they’d even need a sysadmin and apaprently Dave(2) says they don’t, really, but they haven’t realized that yet, so he’s sitting pretty good all things considered. His brother Steven is a cop, and that’s how he got the job. Steven was always more responsible, but not like in a bad way, like he used to buy us beer in high school, he’s a good guy, he can just keep things together better. Steven’s on his second wife and I think she’s about to go, if what Dave(2) says holds any water, but maybe he just wants a divorce buddy. That’s kinda how he is. Sometimes we end up talking about it but I mean I haven’t even smooched a girl in ten years, so what do I know about marriage? That said, it’s one of my lesser hobbies to talk about shit I do not even remotely understand, so I’m always giving Dave(2) advice. You could say (if you were of a disposition to be cynical) that I’m using Dave(2) as my divorce guinea pig, betraying our friendship (and more specifically, his lack of other friends and his romanticised notion of “the old days”) by tricking him into nonideal strategies. There’s a bit of truth to that. But it’s not like I have a gun to his head or anything.

So Dave(2) calls me up last weekend and tells me he’s been talking a lot with his ex, maybe they can work something out, all this crap. I know for fact he’s not thinking clear on this, she’s about as through with him as is humanly possible, but I’m interested to see how such a plan shakes out, so I tell him that his main problem back when he was married is that he couldn’t be a provider, he was a man of reaction, a pillar of jello, and what this situation requires is decisive action and a ten-year plan. We got drinks at the Bosnian bar (I don’t think it actually has a name) and by last call his ten-year plan ended in the White House. “We must strike while the iron is hot!” I yelled, too loud, and pulled his coat to a taxi and sent him off to his wife’s new house out in Hudson.

Dave(2) called me the next morning from jail. There’s a lesson here, I bet.
(12: [/scrytch] #

for all practical purposes
I can never become a great writer because I do not know the names for things. A woman walks into a room and I cannot tell you what she is wearing, beyond the vague description of the colors, and even then not specific, red kinda, maybe brown. The room she walks into has a specific look to it, an architectural form I should be able to identify but can’t, and there are sound from outside, traffic sounds, but the phrase “traffic sounds” barely means anything, it’s a shorthand for ambient noise, each imagined individual automobile blurred into a rumble. All of this provides context, ideally, and a proper writer would be able to cast eachof these details so as to set up the reader for what is to come: is this woman one of those eternally bruised midwest minimalism women who will probably go to the bar later and get knocked around by some guy and eventually move back in with her mom? Did she come to this room to build a bomb, to crack this earth like an egg? Will she float thre einches from the ground, pulling dust from the air so as to cover the windows and the undefined walls, blocking out the sound of the nondescript traffic, until the room becomes a kind of cave where she, suspended equidistant from every plane, will hide herself for years, the minds of those who would approach the outer door becoming befuddled, so that they forget why they came, walk away from the door, drive away to the places where they stage their lives before the captive audience of their families, only now they cannot help but think there was something they were supposed to do, some missing sense which deforms daydreams and conversations into guesses at the contents of the locked room, and one night they will awaken, unable to sleep, and drive for hours, trying to find the building, but the building hides from them now, and will hide from them for years, until the woman decides it is time to return to the public, ready to once again be seen, and all the people who waited for thismoment would stand outside the door, all the details of their lives written over with want and confusion, clean of the world and ready to do whatever was necessary to see the woman and wait for an answer, wait for a sign?
(12: [/scrytch] #

I have spent most of my life too stupid to be afraid. I have worked with corpses, Bosnians with tattoos on their faces, masturbating janitors, pig killers, crack dealers and whores without a moment’s concern. But today I am afraid. I am wearing a snappy shirt and slacks and my duty is to sell office furniture. This means I have to talk to people, be friendly, shake hands. Three times today I have seriously considered suicide. I have to lie to people, tell them this desk is the last one in stock, that chair retails for twice the asking price. I pretend to like the Green Bay Packers, and I hate the Green Bay Packers. It’s like sucking cock for twenties, only sucking cock is a geniune service. I keep looking at the clock, which is in the storage room, and every time I go in there the floor boss shoots me a weird look. I keep thinking maybe I can fake an accident, pull a couple hundred pounds of oak shelving down on my head, stab myself with a pen. I’ve only been here for an hour. Nice-looking families who need a desk for the new computer that they already paid a thousand dollars too much for ask if they can cut me some kinda deal, it doesn’t have to look perfect, maybe there’s a scratch on it, and they stare at me, you know, maybe there’s a *scratch* on it. I go to the bathroom to throw up and the floor boss shoots me a weird look. Maybe over lunch I can get drunk, I tell myself, only three more hours until I can drive to Hy-Vee and buy six bucks worth of bad bourbon. I walk in circles under the air conditioning vents pretending not to see the customers. Maybe they’ll fire me if I punch one of the cashiers in the face. My shoes are too tight and I can’t stop clenching my teeth. Three more hours, I think. I can just leave for lunch and never come back.
(12: [/scrytch] #

stage one giant sea cannon ultrasonic power for to hunt the sea-pig where it lives and tear its ovaries from the fat of its underbelly and render this flesh for unto make eidetic stimulant power necessary for

stage two with aid of massive monetary and necessary mission equipmet grant from various corporations who wish to utilize end-of-time technologies as weapons platforms i and my team of specifically chosen suprageniuses undertake intensive and harrowing brainstorming session at very limits of human tolerance so as to compress time and greatly speed up learning process so to devour whole of human knowledge within three weeks necessary for

stage three millions of networked hypnosis generators all slightly out of tune played at nightmarish speed humans to burrow into the earth to escape the sound massive undermantle cities over thousands of years loss of pigmentation and development of eyestalks finally through overdigging the giant undermantle cities collapse and the earth falls off its axis

stage four is classified

(12: [/scrytch] #

I never learned any of the big lessons that everybody told me drugs would teach me, but I did learn that no matter what I’d be less crazy after eight full hours of sleep. I’ve been working too many hours, trying yet again my kamikaze schooling strategy, catching ten minute naps with my head in my hands at the library, or in my car. Gradually, things which I knew were sociall unacceptable didn’t seem so bad, the lagtime between intention and action razor-thin, the words out before I knew what I meant to say. For a while this was fine, as I didn’t see anyone who would mind, and the occasional nasty glances I got from strangers was just another reason to be angry about everything. I didn’t worry much about how I looked, or how clean my clothes were. I started falling down more often, including a nasty spill down eighteen metal-edged stairs that gave me a nasty gash across my forehead. I was constantly staring at nipples every time I left the house. I hated the sun, and wanted a place to hide, but there was no such place, even after I covered all the windows at the trailer. That’s how it happens. That’s how you end up like that.

If I could finish it, if I could put down the words, everything would be different. There’s this other self that I can almost see, when I am very tired or when I get this chill in my chest, like a reflection in the glass at one’s side, walking beside myself, only that me has finished it, done the work, and has entered this other life. I am not fully changed in this other life, not stripped of my habits or faults, but I am settled in a way that I cannot understand from where I currently am. I do the things I am intended to do, instead of all this scurrying and scavenging, all this biding time. I saw it the longest while I was in Austin, taking the number seven bus downtown, the sunlight caught in the trees, and I closed my eyelids and felt the pulses of light and. I know this is weird. I know that I am not helping myself by saying these things. I saw myself sitting in front of me, and I reached out to touch the back of my head, only I could not reach that far. I was not thinner, and not perfectly loved, and not fixed in the way I cast myself in dreams. When I was a child I realized that much of what I thought constituted cool was based on a kind of exhaustion, all the nervous twitch and jitter spent, everything burned away but that which cannot be destroyed. I saw that on the bus, in my other body, and I tried to ask myself what to do, how to solve this neural trick that marks the here and the there, but I could not make myself speak, and I realized that it was because this other self would not hear me. This sort of thing would not happen to him.
(12: [/scrytch] #

I think all three of us realized it at the same time, standing in front of the amps while kicking randomly at our homemade pedals, no drummer necessary, endless miles of feedback like a wound in the universe from which the only true light we had ever known poured into our skin and crystalized in our spinal cords, which became antennas vibrating at specific frequencies so as to see the larger place which is our only home, Mark and Escho and I realized that pretending to play rockandroll for elderly hipsters who stood by the walls and nodded occasional approval was a failed path. We did not, as our enemies would later spit from mouths deformed by jealousy and shame, give up on what we had learned. We still believed in an excess of volume and chemicals and complete opposition to every empty gift the human disaster had to offer. We simply had to stop doing this monkey dance for a paying audience. We had to remove ourselves entirely from the production of content, go to the places where we were not meant to go, learn to live strictly from the twin disciplines of seduction and intimidation. We would never again sell a minute of our lives for someone else’s entertainment.

“We’re off to kill the wizard,” Escho said into the lone microphone to a dozen-odd record collectors and other dicks. Five minutes later we were on the road.
(12: [/scrytch] #

face down
The dance, properly done, will hobble the dancer, shatter the ankles and warp the knees, good for nothing but to sit at the cafe and tell stories of former glories for the price of the bar’s cheapest beer. Just to say the name in certain circles will lead to a flurry of crosses and curses and spitting at the feet. Every dancer the town has bred gets sick in the head for this dance, to perfect the step and find the escape, or else never bother with an exit plan, content to throw it all away for a moment’s perfection. The streetcorners will hum for days ahead of time in anticipation of the next to try, each night a contest where the tables are pulled to the walls and the schoolkids twitch through new variations on classics so worn the floor is grooved with the steps, which only the drunks and grandparents show to watch, but on nights when the last dance is attempted the whole town closes in on the cafe, fresh-hung electric lights in the trees and women covered in children selling iced alcohols in the hollowed rinds of fruit. The lesser talents go first, as it is everywhere on this earth, until just before midnight, and the two find each other from across the street in a serpentine slither practiced into habit. It is slow at the start, and the crowd starts to guess that tonight is in fact not the night, that last-minute changes had been made to the plan, but then coy hints at the final dance appear, a twist of the arm here, an instep there, and quick enough that no one ever sees the exact moment of inception the final dance begins, time slows, all the pushing and yawning and drinking stops, everyone in the exact right spot to see what is taking place, and the beauty of it lasts just long enough to taste in the air before the scene is split with muscle tearing from bone. The dancers struggle not to scream as they fall to the floor, the crowd keeping a distance, the fall being as important as the dance. It is all one motion, a completion of a cycle, and the dancers do all they can to keep composure until the stage is struck and the last of the song vanishes from the air, now grown cold across the sweat of the skin, the light all bright from the pain, face down.
(12: [/scrytch] #

exurgent morturi et ad me veniunt
There is a first matter, which existed before man and beast and earth, and it is the material from which they are born, from which all things are born. The alchemist cannot transmute anything back to this first matter, but only to the particular sperm of the species of which the matter belongs, and then only through the use of philosphic mercury. The first matter can be extinguished, however, resulting in the rebis, or last matter, from which all potential is removed. It is the remainder of the final death, from which nothing can return. The rebis can only be reached through an elaborate process, undertaken by the most skilled of alchemists. It is the process by which the Revitalization Technicians remove the corpses of their enemies from the book of life.

Josef and I were in Oklahoma, driving rural roads in as close to a random pattern as we could manage. The trunk of his car, lined with black garbage bags, contained most of a man named Berthelot, who was Josef’s instructor in the spagyric science, until he was reached by the agents of the Final Wisdom. I had met him once, in a bar with Josef and a woman I do not know, and he looked at me and said “You know, I can sell you an infant which will never grow old.” I asked him why I would want such a thing, and he smiled, and said “You’d be surprised what people want.” Josef believed there was enough left of him to make an orcale of him, to soak his body in sessame oil for forty days, until the head could be removed from the body at the first vertebra and speak its wisdom. Josef claimed to love this man as a son loves a father, and yet he wanted to fix him in a death-in-life in order to recieve oracular wisdom. “If the Final Wisdom reaches him before we can get to the midhouse, he’ll be given much worse,” Josef said. “They will remove him from history, from memory, as though he never existed. I can’t let that happen, not now. I’m too close.” I stared out the window at the winter-bright stars, the moon in hiding, the snowless winter plains empty of even radio towers and farmtown clusters of streetlights. Soon Josef will sleep, I thought, and I will kick him out of the car, and bury Berthelot somewhere down the road, where no one will ever find him but God, and I will turn myself in at the next police station. This has to stop. I can’t go on like this.
(12: [/scrytch] #

everyone vanished
As he walked toward the cube-building, the faces of the people he passed gradually changed, losing definition, as though the muscles beneath the skin had atrophied or grown numb; the myriad details of each person’s expression grew flat and empty. The mouths of the street people were slightly open, and from them came a hum like the rustling of dry cornstalks occasionally interrupted by sticky cottomnouthed swallows. He has seen this before, on days of harvest, and knew not to interrupt the street people; each depended on the others for direction and task definition, and to confuse any of them with questions would send ripples through the neighborhood, drones stepping in front of traffic, botched copulations, organ trading, things which were frowned upon in the cube building.

The keys to the front enterance were a series of thin metal rods which he kept hidden in the now-useless veins of his arms. He pressed against the wrist with his sharpened fingernail and unsheathed the keys, inserting them into the line of holes, until the door vanished, dropping the rods onto the ground. He picked up the keys and returned them to his arms while stepping into the sniffing room, where his skin and clothing was examined for contaminants. This was not necessary, as there was no longer anything inside the building which could be further contaminated (in a fit of drunken rage he had smashed each of the third-level windows, killing off every hothouse strain unable to acclimate to the outside world), but he kept the system in place in order to know exactly what he had on and in him, now that he was the only person in the building.

Maria only stayed with him for two years before she couldn’t listen to him anymore, couldn’t find any meaning or logic behind his rants and weepy bouts of self-pity, but two years was all he needed. He captured every image, every sound. Microphones in the phones, the intercom, the air vents. Cameras behind the mirror, behind the television screen. Keyboard sniffers on the USB port, rootkit backups of her email to his account. To live with her, constantly in the moment, was to waste away all the details of her, to gorge on her presence. With her gone, living with her mother in a duplex somewhere on the west coast, he had time to savor each word, each image, zooming in until the pixels pulled apart. He diagrammed her sentences, made maps of her movement from room to room, built elaborate databases of her eating habits. He chemically sifted the components of the hair she left in the drain trap. Each detail seemed to open a new world, infinite strategms for study and contemplation. He became an alchemist of her detritus, the aura of her binding to his skin, his skeleton. He became a king of infinite space, an infinite space named Maria.
(12: [/scrytch] #

drug pussy
Mark and Escho and I heard about this party, and having completely run out of good ideas, we decided we’d get caught up in someone else’s life for a while, so we drove maybe an hour out to some town we can’t remember the name of, and there’s this, well not like a party, because a party is where people have fun. This was more like some kinda experiment, everybody had their shoes off and were talking to each other about what they called “blocks” between each other, and if they could remove all these blocks then they’d achieve complete lossless communication. We were fixin’ to get when this girl offered us some mushrooms, and you would think that being creepy old fuckers we would know better but no, we decide to stay and take off our fucking shoes and everything. The person we knew who was supposed to show up, Matty, he ended up working a double shift at Hy-Vee and so all we had to talk about with these people was where’s Matty, and you know we’ve done all that before but then the idea got around that because we were strangers we had no “blocks” yet in place and this would be an ideal time to practice perfect honesty. So there was this one girl who I guess was their leader, but you know she’d never say she was the leader, it’s rididulous, but she had a sister and apparently Escho had figured he could maybe get with the sister if he played this right and kept kicking me and Mark in the ribs as we smarted off answers to the leader’s questions about how we were being unnecessarily possessive and defensive. Escho, his mom was a hippy, and these people weren’t hippies, because I can kinda understand being a hippy in a lizard-brain kinda way, but these people were, like okay they had a logbook with doses and times and such, and all I know from doses is I want to take all the drugs. But no okay Escho’s mom is a hippy and so he picked up from her all these phrases that apparently went over like gangbusters with the group and particular the sister, who got all to makin’ googly-eyes at Escho as he played off sensitive and fauxpen. The dick. So by this point we’re on, and Mark and I are getting all into how we get sometimes, burying people alive and end-of-time and the group starts *touching* us, like we’re freaking out, but all this is actually really freaking me out, and Escho’s actually making out with this sister and Mark kinda stops talking to me and everybody’s telling me it’s okay and I jump up and scream “YOU’RE ALL A BUNCH OF DRUG PUSSIES!” and run out the door, right past the car, but fortunately by the time I walked back to the highway (after a close shave where I tried to hitch a ride off a cop) I was actually feeling pretty good, and I met these devil girls who drove a van and it ended up being a pretty good night.

Escho’s still a dick, tho.
(12: [/scrytch] #

dried hives
Up on the waves, I saw the trunks of dead trees pierce the icy black water, unwound ropes lashed as a net between them where two old women built a home of ships torn open on the reefs, lines trailing into the current, mirror-shards used to fool and catch birds now set to blind anyone stupid enough to approach. I was that stupid, then, on my raft of dead sailors, bloated and sealed in brine, the mouths sewn shut and the eyes staring toward the ocean floor, where they knew they rightly belonged, so as optics and logistics allowed me to approach I granted them what they wished, and severed the ropes and stabbed holes in their distended stomachs to that they filled with water, and sank, as I climbed up the tree to seek the council of the fish-women. “Leave us be!” they shouted, throwing broken crockery and buckets of spoiled stew at me, though I was too quick for them, and lept from branch to branch until I reached the net-house. “We will open the cabinet of your chest and feast for days on the organs within!” they shrieked, shaking strange metal blade-machines in the air, which rang like finger cymbals, and made me dizzy to hear, as when I had eaten hashish candy and spent days in some faceless woman’s bed. I used the power of my eternal will to close off the sound in my ears, and tied my feet to the planks beneath me so as not to fall back to the ocean, and roared “I have travelled for months through every hell offered by soil or water, forsaken cross and crown, hid within another man’s skin and left children to starve in the snow so that I could seek your council! I will not be turned away now! You will tell me what I must know!” The two old women spoke to each other, quietly, in a series of coded tones, and then replied in a single voice that they would answer a single question, and then be done with me.
(12: [/scrytch] #

Michelle was so poor she didn’t have money for a 4-track, so she recorded songs on her answering machine, which was okay as no one ever called her. Instead of slipping tapes to her friends, she gave her machine code to people, and they’d call up and check her messages, which were actually songs. Once in a while people would call back and leave encouraging notes or nasty criticism on her machine, until her machine was full, by which time she usually started over with a new song. A few months back her phone was disconnected, and no one has heard from Michelle since.
(12: [/scrytch] #

dead in the eyes
After ninety thousand dollars in plastic surgery, Katrina no longer resembled her mother in any way. The graft and tuck and cut left her carriage at different weights, so as to change her gait and measurements, freeing her to rethink her choice of clothing, after post-operational imprinting as to splints leading her towards tight-fitting dresses, later leading to a fetish for corsets, a wasp-goddess variant on each seeming definition of her genetic makeup. Katrina sold her home, her cars, and the last of the land, rebuilding herself away from the open spaces of her Savannah childhood into a cloistered hermitude similar in nature (but not in detail, or in intent) to Saint Jerome. She set about filling the vast gaps in her cultural memory, lining the walls of her dark apartment (blackout curtains, 60 watt lamps) with the Western canon and various detours (Imagist poets, Laotian pornographic manuals, Spinoza), whcih she studied late into the morning, free of the chattering distractions of telephone and television and visitors. She would leave, for short stints in the world, and they would stare at her, awed and humbled, while she bought milk and tea and carrots. No one would ever guess at what she once was, Katrina thought, and smiled as she stepped out into the day.
(12: [/scrytch] #

She decided it was critical that she stop slouching, that her posture become perfect, and so she replaced her chairs for the straight-backed discipline of homebuilt furniture carved to exacting angles. I am a lazy turd, and this new shift toward spinal discipline struck a fear in me, that as a slovenly enabler I would be judged toxic to her chiropractic future and escorted from her life, and this could not happen, as she was the last of my friends, and so I tried to stand straight and tall, but I only looked a fool, and hastened my exit.
(12: [/scrytch] #

complete breakdown of narrative faculties
capture kept remembered in various surrogate hosts. bits and pieces, not even enough to grow a dream, apparations of undefinable dread in side-corners of the day. shake and shiver. the archive ate itself, disappeared within the black of the maw. i cut my right palm with a knife so i would never forget it but the skin will not hold the memory, the taste and the pain are not sufficient. i designed an intelligence to tell stories in my absence but there were complications and now she listens at the speaker to find glimpses of me in the garbled speech. a blink and the day was gone, her body left with reminders of things she had not done. she called and i did not know her voice and i hung up the phone and left so as not to hear it ring again. bells in the trees, coathanger mobiles with bits of aluminum and copper so we could find a way to return, until the day the wind stopped. i can’t breathe.
(12: [/scrytch] #

circling over rowboats (good works IV)
“This bed is cursed!” she proclaimed, filled with finality, obviously the start of a course of action which would end in some blessed bed where nothing but sweet dreams and orgasms would find her, and it would be my mission, as her stooge, to provide menial labor and comic relief over the course of this plan’s execution, and at fruition I would wisecrack and fawn and see myself out as the came to claim his just desserts. “Yes!” I agreed, “most certainly cursed! Else why so much gone wrong here, so little sleep and satisfaction and nothing but aches and tears and insomnia?”

She stared at me, and smiled a little, which she does when she suspects I’m cracking wise at her expense, like when I told her that the Mayans invented the first automobile. “You laugh now, monkey-boy! After I get this new bed, everything will change forever! Believe it, hot rod!”

The binding-lines of our friendship primarily consist of ridiculous notions that we can fundamentally change the course of our lives through last-minute drastic actions, often supersaturated with drama, and so while I was vaguely skeptical I was, at heart, a True Believer, and that belief is the thing outside parties mistake for crushery. Certainly there’s a bit of that, indulged during stints of housesitting when I will sleep in this new blessed bed and trick myself into believing I could change enough to become someone else entirely, someone authentic in all the affectations she swoons for, someone smart and ignorant in the proper balance, and more than anything, someone entirely new to her, someone whose heart was still a black box she hadn’t yet cracked open, because (as she would tell me sometimes, trying to convince herself through repetition and giddy inflection) history cancels the possibility for perfection, leaving only the settling and pretending and disappointments that all the relationships all our friends were caught within were based on. I would nod at this, mock-sagely, and spout off some tenent of True Belief, like perfection was possible within our lifetimes.

Mockery is the soul’s way of acclimating itself to what it will one day become, learning the muscle memory through the positive reinforcement of laughter and disbelief, until you start to suspect you’re adapting yourself to the things that were once so funny, until you stop suspecting it at all, until it is what you are. This is easy to see among the people I know, once practically built from laughing at the sad cliches of the world that came before us, and so it was with her and I and True Belief, still falling into exaggerated preacher voices, fake-pompous and stretching the vowels, as we said things we wanted to be true, that we learned to believe might be true, that we were still young, and could still change, having drawn over our memories of how hollow and predetermined everything felt when we were actually young, how easily we fell for every stupid lie, how enamored we were of suffering and loss. In that sense, we have not changed at all.

“I believe! I believe everything!” I laughed, and kicked the old bed in defiance of its curse. “We will go downtown and will not leave until we find the perfect bed, and we will have it blessed by professionals with glass eyes and velvet robes that smell of cabbage and rum!”

“And cutie-pie witches from the community college who will toast this new bed with offerings of cheap wine and panties!”, she said.

And we laughed, and believed, at least for a little while.
(12: [/scrytch] #

My uncle was always cowardly. My dad used to tell a story about the two of them, back when they lived on the farm, and they went camping out by the train tracks, and my dad told my uncle this story about the ghost train, and how at night it takes souls to hell, and sometimes if someone is standing by the tracks a soul can pull that person on the train in exchange and so go free, and my uncle ran back to the house screaming his fool head off. I thought that was pretty funny.

It had been about a year, maybe just short of a year now that I think about it, since Jeb died, and he was okay about it, I mean you could tell he was still shook but he was back at work and taking care of things. But then I guess he had to be, because his wife Paula, she was a wreck, she slept in his room some night and like that, and she wasn’t going out hardly at all, and she kept going over his things all the time. So my uncle — his name is Jeff, I guess I should call him that, I’m not being real clear. Right. So Jeff called me and said that he and Paula were going to Toronto for a week and I said well that sounds nice. And he said maybe I could watch the house, and I said that’s fine. And then he hemmed and hawed for a while and eventually I found out what he wanted was maybe my brother and I could remove all of Jeb’s things from the house while they were gone because maybe that would help Paula out.

Now I should say at this point that Jeb was right around the same age as my brother and I. My brother Chris, he’s four years younger than me, and Jeb was two years younger than me, and since he didn’t have any brothers or sisters we sometimes would bring him along when we did things, especially during the summer, I mean, he was a good kid, we liked him a lot. It was pretty weird when we heard. I mean it’s still weird. So I was at first all like oh I don’t know if I can do that or if that’s even a good idea. Jeff said okay he understood, don’t worry about it, and he kinda just faded off the phone, and it was quiet like I should hang up, but I waited because I didn’t know what to do but eventually I just hung up. You know? I mean so anyways I went over that Friday and talked to Jeff about taking care of the house and what I should do, and so he walked me around even though I knew all about the house and basically there wasn’t anything to do. He said to, you know, to take in the mail and check the messages and basically hang out a little so that nobody would rob the place, which is ridiculous because I don’t think any of the houses up there have been robbed in like twenty years and there’s no way I’d do anything, I mean, right, somebody comes in with a gun and I’d be all “Here’s the keys, sir!”. So we were upstairs, and he asked again, and we were right next to Jeb’s room and again I was like I don’t know if I can do that. And Jeff said okay, well, I can’t make you do it but if you want to there’s boxes in the garage. So I said well what are you gonna tell her because you can’t say that Chris and I took the stuff, that would be messed up, and he said no no he’d think of something. I said well what something, because I need to know that you have a plan before I even consider this. So he said I’ll tell her that I got rid of it, I’ll just put my foot down, I mean I can put my foot down when I want. And he smiled, and gave me a twenty, and I said well I’ll think about it.

The weekend I was busy and just ducked in and out but then Monday night I was feeling all lazy and didn’t want to do dishes so I figured I’d have dinner over at Jeff and Paula’s house. So I got a steak and cooked it out on their grill and sat on the back porch eating my steak and drinking beer. And I thought about it and thought about it. And I thought okay, I’ll just go up to the room and look around and go from there. Jeb was a junior in high school last year, and all his stuff was still there just like it was, but there was a box on his desk, this good-sized cardboard box, and I opened it up and there were all these cards people had sent and that kids he went to school with had sent and the track team had this picture of where they put up this banner with his name on it in the gym. I saw the card I sent, which my girlfriend at the time reminded me to get and even picked out; I wouldn’t have remembered it except that it was still in the envelope and it was her handwriting (both our names, I think in a weird way she was, not excited, but like it was an official thing, and she came with me to the funeral and it was like we were a couple, only not much really because we were done two months later). Maybe I was a little buzzed because I remember thinking I didn’t even really send a card, who am I, that was fucked up. And then the next thing you know I’m calling Chris and telling him to come over, we’re gonna pack up Jeb’s stuff.

We had filled five boxes when Chris asked where were we gonna put this stuff. I mean it’s not like we can just leave it in the garage, and what if they want it back? So I figured I’d rent one of those garage-things out by the airport and then he can pay for it or move it or whatever. Chris has a pickup, and really there wasn’t that much stuff, so we managed to fit it all in the back and make it in one trip, so that when we came back the room was, it was just the bed and the dresser with nothing in it. I’m not gonna move that bed, forget that, I’m not even sure we could get it out of the room. Good enough, Chris said, and I agreed, and so by eleven we were finished. I didn’t spend much time there the rest of the week.

Jeff and Paula came back that Friday, and apparently they had an okay time, but it’s hard to tell with them because Jeff never wants to complain and Paula anymore is she just doesn’t really want to spend any more time talking then she has to. Only all that just went right out the window when she saw the room, oh man she hit the roof, and so she just tears into him and all that stuff about putting his foot down, I mean I never really thought he’d do that but not only that, right, he makes up this crazy story about how it must have been robbers. Like robbers are just gonna steal one room and the room with nothing even of any value in it. I mean not without value to them but like to sell. And she believes it, because she’s still convinced that when Jeb died it was like some kinda plot because how else could it make sense, right, so it makes sense that just to twist the knife somebody broke in and stole everything. So she calls the cops. And then the cops call me, because I mean I was watching the house, right? So I say can I speak to Jeff please and the cop says well what do you have to tell Jeff and I say listen, I just need to ask him something and the cop says well if you have something to say then you should tell me, and I said Oh okay fine and I tell the cop I moved the stuff out and oh Christ, so then the cops show up, and I say Jeff, okay Jeff, would you please explain to the cops what happened, you asked me to move the stuff, here’s the key to the rental thing, just fucking stop it already.

So eventually he explains to the cops and Paula freaked out again, and eventually she left him. Jeff moved to Indiana and I don’t know what he’s doing now. Yesteday I was cleaning out my car and I found the key to the rental space, which I had forgotten about and hadn’t paid for, and I drove out to the rental place, but the rental space was empty.
(12: [/scrytch] #

called out

Pamela bought a wedding dress at a garage sale and didn’t ask the woman who sold it to her what had happened, but the whole drive back she speculated on possible trajectories the garage sale woman, the woman with little stars on her fingernails and bruises on her wrists must have followed to need money bad enough to sell a wedding dress. Sometimes you sell things just to get rid of them, and if you’re gonna throw ‘em out you might as well get a few bucks for ‘em, I said, but Pamela was already on about what kinda wedding it would be if everything was bought secondhand. She was already wriggling into the dress, her flimsy fauxhippie number balled up on the floor and flashes of her raggedy cotton panties caught in the corner of my right eye as I swerved to miss a kid on a bike. You best hope that’s been dry cleaned, I said, and she asked why and I told her to think about it and she looked at me like I was cancelling Christmas. I don’t give a fuck what you say, she said. If I have to go to the fucking mall with you I’m gonna wear my wedding dress.
(12: [/scrytch] #

calamity, revisited
I sat at the bus stop, too drunk to drive home, and two kids stood next to me looking at the bulldozer across the street, across the lot, leveling land for a new school. The two kids pulled their arms down in the universal “blow your horn!” sign that works best on truckers but occasionally gets a rise out of construction workers, but this cat was all business and didn’t let out even the slightest peep. This offended me, as I’m pretty easy to upset when I’m all drunk, so I marched across the street, across the lot, and demanded that this clown blow his horn for the sake of America’s young people, and he tried to explain to me that the horn didn’t work, that all the equipment scattered across the lot was mostly-broken secondhand junk bought on the cheap from other states, but I coudn’t hear anything and was honestly too fucked up to decipher voice from diesel roar so I marched back to the bus stop and I said don’t you worry, kids, I’ll find something with a functional horn.

And that’s why I stole that dumptruck, officer.
(12: [/scrytch] #

Two weeks ago the girl I’ve kinda been seeing asked me if I would go with her to her brother’s intervention, and I said fine, because basically I’ll do anything a woman asks me to do, plus her brother’s just a little fella and so I wasn’t worried about what he’d do if he freaked out. I met Mike (that’s the brother’s name) a few times and he seemed like kinda a prick but not somebody who needed serious help but then what do I know about it. Right? So Melissa (that’s the girl I’ve kinda been seeing) says no, you don’t know, he borrowed all this money from my mom and me and it’s all gone and so I should have kept my mouth shut but I say well what’s a lot of money and Melissa says a couple hundred dollars with this serious tone in her voice like that’s a statement that speaks for itself and I say a couple hundred dollars? and she says you say that like that’s not a lot of money and I say well I mean it’s a lot of money and she says didn’t you just get fired from your stupid little job at the mall? and I say listen I’m not saying it’s not a lot of money but okay so how long has it been and she says two weeks and I’m like, in my head, I’m like oh god here we go, I knew there was something. But even past all that I still go to the intervention and even break into this guy’s apartment just so we can surprise him when he gets home from work and not only does he have the money (which it turns out was a total of eighty bucks) but he borrowed the money to get his mom this really fancy looking china cabinet and he even drives us all, like all nine of us waiting for him, down to the storage place out by the airport so we can see it. Happy birthday, mom! I mean, that’s pretty much when I knew. But the good thing of it is that I met Melissa’s sister at the intervention. Don’t give me that look.
(12: [/scrytch] #

His father’s cabin was not really a cabin at all, it was a shack built from scrapwood and furniture he pulled off curbsides at five am. The spaces between the two by fours were filled with crumpled copies of Look Magazine and garbage sacks, no windows, a door pulled off a grocery store someone torched for insurance money. His father would drive up there twice a year, when the attacks got bad, and wait out his jitters on weeks of campfire popcorn and five o’clock vodka. One winter he quit his job, cancelled all his utilities, told his neighbors he was moving to the shack, they had never seen it, they figured it was some kinda fishing bungalow off the Mississippi. By the time Jack, the youngest son, the one the old man still talked to, by the time he got word it had been a month, and so Jack and the rest of the boys went up expecting to find his emaciated corpse frozen to the ground. Instead they found that the old man had taken a bride of some ratty looking checkout clerk and moved into her parents basement after burning the shack to the ground. Last he heard his father was still there, spending what he always assumed would be his inheritance paying rent to his parents, three and five years younger, just happy their daughter finally settled down with a good man.
(12: [/scrytch] #

bone rattle
The devil appeared to me with your face wrapped across his skull. His voice was calm, and quiet, and told me not to worry. His hands were warm to the touch, but not burning, and as the burning of his body heated the room I felt myself slow, thinking less, everything fuzzy and bright and just a bit out of focus. The devil told me he had paid me this visit in order to clarify certain issues which he felt I did not understand, and I told him I did not want to listen to him, he is the king of lies and cannot be trusted, but I wavered in my objection, and the devil took this gap as an open door. He spoke of distance as illusion, of an infinite series of points between any two points, of the true meaning of consubstantiality. I listened, and was not rude, but in my secret heart I felt a rage begin to rise, that these words would poison me, and so after listening to his speech I told the devil that I had considered what he had to say, but could not abide his intentions, and then ripped your face from his skull, at which point the devil began to scream like a thousand broken cats, and if just to still his voice I tore the devil into twenty pieces, and swallowed each in its turn, and thought myself done with the devil, but I was, as I always am, mistaken.

In time I digested and forgot all about the devil, and while my mind remained unclouded by his speech, the pitch and tone of my voice began to mimic his, the way too many days in Texas will give you a drawl. First it was the peripheral people, those who intersect with me only in an official capability, who took offense, as my nearest and dearest thought I was taken with yet another affectation and tried to wait it out, as when I was given to tremble, or refused to use the telephone. In time even those I loved could not endure the whine and scrape of my every syllable, and found reason to keep from me, until I found myself alone without even the companionship of phone sex operators, whose technology forced disconnect at the modemesque whirrs of my vowels. In this new silence I vowed not to speak, and to find company among those who sought a similar relief, but now my skin began to burn, and my nethers to emit the most foul of odor, a rotten egg fight in a sulfur mine. I could not even bear my own company! My attempts to apologise to neighbors who thought I was cooking methamphetamine led only to hands over ears and a visit from the county sheriff, who could not arrest me but only threaten at a distance. I could not stay, and drove into the desert, where no living thing would approach. There in the desert I vomited up the devil, who stared at me from the pool of my sick with a countenance which could not be endured. I draped your face (all I have left of you) over the puddle and the devil pulled himself into its form and began to speak in your voice, and asked if I would hear his statements again. I agreed; oh anything to be rid of the sound and the smell of this new person I was fast to become! The devil spoke again, languidly, taking great pleasure in his every point, and by the time he finished I would have believed anything he had to say, but his words all seemed true to me, or almost, or enough. I agreed that he was in the right on the issues of the day, and the underlying axioms by which this world is spun, and he thanked me for my kindness and candor and I awoke in my room.

I have been newly blessed with secret wisdom so that young women rabid for the stink of power and money drive for days just to sleep on my doorstep, so that the hidden masters of this world step from the corners and offer me council, and it is now the case that I cannot do wrong in the eyes of the people around me. Born into kingship, I have perfected the grace by which things can be done without notice, so as to seem blessed with the second sight. Yet I know the crooked road by which I have crawled to this place, and I have left more than blood behind me, for at night the stink and screech of my former self approaches in dream, and as foul as the sense of these things may be, they at least resolve in my mind, at least have a nature, unlike the person I now am, a ghost only visible to other ghosts, a trick of the light, a thing which one cannot remember.
(12: [/scrytch] #

bell sounds off the shoreline
He expected the room to become immediately cold at the moment the presence entered the room. All the expectations, so deep in kiddom he couldn’t identify the point of origin, had filled him with a notion of a dramatic rending of space, milisecond-precise, when contact and confirmation took place. In this, as with so many things, he was disappointed. Perhaps it had always been there, or perhaps what he thought he heard was just an auditory hallucination, a trick he played on himself to alleviate the boredom of the endless waiting. Even the clearest message the prophet-room gave him was like a fight two houses down, caught on the wind and broken in the branches. Disgusted, embarassed, he called her on the cellphone, overcruel in his mockery of her faith in the corrective nature of the supernatural. “If I can’t hear it, how can I understand it?” he asked, cutting her mawkish fencesitting off at the knees. “I don’t care if it’s the devil, or ancestor-ghosts, or the final visitation of Christ — if it doesn’t have the power to enunciate, how on earth can it have the power to see into the future?” She went on with tired notions as to how it would become clear in time, with contemplation, but that sounded to him like he’d end up doing all the work, which defeated the whole purpose of this two hour drive out to Omaha to break into a house in the closest thing Omaha has to a ghetto and stand around for hours waiting for some otherworldly visitor to tell him what became of their daughter. Eventually he threw the cellphone as hard as he could, penetrating and falling behind the drywall, and as he pulled cheap plasterboard and fiberglass insulation off the studs he thought he heard a voice, and stopped, unwilling to so much as breathe, and tried to hear it again, tried to understand what the voice wanted to tell him, but he couldn’t hear anything but the ring of his cellphone, down beneath the floorboards, like bell sounds off the shoreline.
(12: [/scrytch] #

before the sunlight
He first saw her as a series of glimmerings, the electric light reflected from her sunglasses and teeth and fingernails, breaking and catching in her endless twitching movement, a torrent of offhand opinion and facial tics, and he thought oh God, please don’t let her see me, please don’t let her speak to me. A year later he was sitting with her family, her father a railworker who managed to reach the day’s end through an absolute economy of motion, all nonessential functions disabled, waiting for the next family catastrophe. The others were all as she was, vibrating in their bones, eyes darting back and forth, dropped conversations and missed cues, and he realized the true secret of the father, who had become not simply another man to charm in order to make use of his daughter, but a kind of savant genius — if you do not move, and do not speak, they will not notice you. Just before the main course (some sort of casserole accident which might have contained green beans) he watched this girl who accidentally became his girlfriend, and her mother, and her two stringy brothers, and then finally her father, still as a stone, content to explore the line between the plate and his mouth. This is brilliant, he thought. This is the answer. He turned in on himself, shut down any reflective surface on his body, focused on the dinner before him, as if they had begun cooking one dish and changed plans at the midpoint, and his stomach attempted to boycott the entire process, but eating was no longer about taste and hunger and satiety, it was a place he went where response and conflict was expected of him, a little village made of burned cheese and unidentifiable pieces of meat.
(12: [/scrytch] #

a vision
We stood in the center of the pond and washed our hands and knives, her and I, faded pink stains like some tremens-damaged script along the neckline of her white linen dress, child-made charms sewn into her hair and devils passing through her, caught on the wind, the sun doubling my vision until the stones beneath my feet seemed some second world, quieter than the chirp and rustle of the dried weeds and browning trees around us, the promise of a first fall frost in the sight of our breath as we wade deeper, my arms ache to keep my hands above water, tempted to put my ear to the water and listen to the quiet and try to find the voice, the hint of a cry, but I stand still before her, terrified to touch her, a mutual mumbling between us emptied of all meaning, just noise to hide our actions from god, do not see us, do not see the terrible thing we have to do.
(12: [/scrytch] #

attention defecit
He wanted me to listen to his confession, to his running down the list of his faults, but I was so tired, and it was so late, and he never just wanted a silent witness, he wanted interjections and second guesses and blind stabs as to what his actual underlying problems actually were. Never a friend in the official sense, just another person I had bounced around in the same superdramated tide, I should have never witnessed this opening of the chest more than once in some drunken stupor we later pretend to forget, but I had done this nineteen times, and should have had it woven into the habits of my speech, but I had to fumble for every word and soon lost hold of even the most cursory courtesy, and he stared at me from the other side of the table, as if this was my last chance, my final second hail mary to keep what was left of our friendship together, and suddenly I was angry at being put in this position, of having to hold the rope he hung from all this time, and I decided that if it were finished, it would not end on his terms.

“Jason,” I said, “tonight’s the night I fuck your wife.”

And that’s exactly what I did.
(12: [/scrytch] #

a public display of recreational disfigurements
When I sleep, I pretend she is beside me, in my bed. Sometimes, mostly asleep, I reach out to touch her. Put the words in my mouth, push them until they form spastic motions at my fingertips, until I can see the words before me and know that it is not just another wasted day of not writing, weeks and weeks of staring blankly at the screen and bashing my fists into the keyboard. The words will come, she said to me, but she isn’t real, and my entire life is based upon impressing unreal women, not a life at all. Clumps of stillborn stories in my head, bits from alchemical texts and victorian pornography now cast in a selfsimilar brown sludge that stains my skin, apparent to anyone who would bother to look. Headaches and nausea. Missed opportunities. Underwater bass drones, detuned chords which never fully fade sent from some wandering radiotower out in the snowfields, hiding at the center of a grove of trees where farmgirls go to get high and fuck each other, every mouthmoist promise broadcast into my swollen brain. The crows are made sick with the smell and scream at the stars. Something crawls within the walls, calliing out to me to come closer, to set my ear against the drywall. I am too far away from the small details of everyday life, caught in some empty hole hidden beneath the stations of daily life, of telling details by which we are made identifiable and comforted. It is a trick, the shape of my face, the fat which hangs from my bones, a trick disguised as distinction. It is a sickness of my education to believe I contain organs, memories, crushes. All the books I read when I was the other person have flown from me, so that the best I can do is rattle off titles like rote prayers emptied of meaning, and it is the same for the names of my friends, and it is the same for the list of my accomplishments and failings and characteristics. Stoned farmgirls stare through me, as there is no mental comparison by which to trigger attention. That I can hear their thoughts means nothing but that I do not matter, that what I learn of them has no use. At night I am filled with dreams that these broadcasts speak to me, if subconsciously, a sidechannel display of elaborate possibilities. It is difficult, and takes all of my now-limited abilities to follow the causal chain, and it is always so close, the notion that it is not for my eyes to see, not for my hands to touch. When I was younger, everything was pregnant with secondary meanings, omens buried beneath the surface, but now all that is gone, and even the primary purpose is scratched out of the earth, so that nothing remains but running from pain and embarasment. There is, however, something else hidden, as I am hidden from what I want, and at night it broadcasts marco, and in my sleep I whisper polo.
(12: [/scrytch] #

and i thought it was the end
Was she distant? Of course she was distant. When have you ever known her not to be distant? For her to do what she does, to be a commentator, a scientist studying group interaction, she had to be distant. I would to see her every Monday, from five until six, sitting in the lysol-sticky visitor’s room, and she would methodically go over the amusing foibles of the institutionalized. Well for instance she told me about the demons. Apparently. It was a common thing for the girls to smear menstrual blood on the door or window, as that would attract Mechiah, who would enter through the cracks and have sex with them. No, a whole taxonomy. There were fuck demons, and give demons who brought stuff from the outside world, and snitch demons who would provide council. She would say this in her increasingly distant tricyclic drone, staring at her legs at the edge of the table, and set forth hypotheses as to the truth of the myth. No, the word demon was misleading, she said, and would be better replaced by agent. She’d say that, and I’d give her my mirror-practiced nod, like I understood, like she would complete her investigation and she’d come home with me, and then I would go to the heavy loced door and have myself let out, and go home. I don’t think so. Well, I think you know who I blame.
(12: [/scrytch] #

Certain she was a manifestation of the divine spirit, everything was born again in her sight, the way no child that comes from your body can ever be anything but beautiful. She kept getting thinner, so that she seemed like a bird, there in the kitchen in her half-robe, her skin sweatsticky in the early morning light, every sip of her coffee visible as it descended her throat. “The process of time forward into the future is like a mill, grinding away imperfections and flaws, until all things become what they truly are in intention,” she said, her teeth chattering, her rings tapping on the coffee cup. She would stop in midsentence, not remember what she was talking about, but when questioned she would hold up her palm, waiting for the impending revelation. “Everything is waiting for us,” she said, turning toward the window, making a note to herself she will soon forget that today is Wednesday, she has to eat today, great things are about to happen and she must always be ready.
(12: [/scrytch] #

always afraid
Saturday. At the grocery store. Kid crying, walking alone. Asks me where his mom is. Say I don’t know, look around, don’t see her, Walk to look for her. Kid holds up his hand, I don’t take it. Kid starts crying again. Take kid’s hand. Walk down aisle, see frantic looking woman. Woman screaming don’t touch my son. Get your hands off my son. Pull back my hand, but kid holds on until mom grabs him, pulls him away, screaming at me. Everyone looking at me. I don’t remember what I said. Something something looking for you. Trying to help. Kid still screaming. I don’t care, I don’t care.
(12: [/scrytch] #

a half-dozen seconds
I have almost perfected the letter. I am close enough to feel a relief, the conclusion now visible after so many years of guessing and hoping, the line of letters reaching a quintessence of pitch-perfect pleas, the irrefutable logic of my arguments all standing in a line, holding hands, one after the next, so as to come to the only possible conclusion, which is for her to gather the kids and get in the car and get on the plane and come back to the house, come back to me, and we will be a family again, as though none of the past decade ever happened. I am almost there. I am a half-dozen seconds from being there.
(12: [/scrytch] #

advice for my aborted son
The phrase “what you pick up, you cannot always put down” comes from Pamela Bambelam, who first said that to me a couple days before I graduated from high school, and I understood what she meant, but it’s the sort of thing that takes time to fully open to you. Be patient with what you know, as most things are not immediately obvious. Most people do not know their faults, and this is an advantage you have over them, but be careful with this, as it can come back to haunt you. When in a crowd, pick the one person you want to talk to and speak exclusively to that person. Whenever you feel like you’re losing your grasp on your personality and your ability to funtion in society, make sure to get some sleep. This applies likewise for drugs. Spend a couple years listening to everything you can get your hands on, as all of it will prove useful eventually. Do not overthink women, as they are simple, like most things. Make sure to visit the people who love you often, because if you don’t they will question your resolve and you will spend your time wishing to die. Be prepared, like the Boy Scouts say, and that’s the only worthwhile thing the Boy Scouts can teach you. Don’t forget, when you take advice, to consider the source.
(12: [/scrytch] #

Time passed, and she grew smaller in her wants, the things she felt she needed, the things she relied on as a constant comfort, having downgraded from illegal painkillers to sleeping pills and cheap lite beer in order to help her sleep and not dream, as dreams are where the dead confront her. The comfort in telling people no, in watching the look in the face when they realize they’ve made a mistake. The comfort in mistreating service industry temps, a little more forceful in the argument than when she was younger, a stage whisper “idiot” as she walks away. Throwing newsprint and bottles in with the rest of the garbage, no longer wiling to sort and sift as though it made a difference. Hanging up on people. Listening to bad pop music and agressively pretending to love it, mentioning it in every conversation she had with her sad trendsucking friends who kept swapping bad haircuts and dismal rainy-day lovers in some brute-force attempt at an antiseptic fat-free smoke-free vaguely leftist adulthood. Nothing so sad as a hipster mom, she told me last Friday, as we sat on the roof of the trailer and watched the combine in the field across the street strip corn from stalks. I was telling her about what I’d been up to, modifying Teddy Ruxpin dolls and making songs of modified baby cries and writing a hypertext novel about strange reel-to-reel recordings found one day in a thrift store, and she said “You really are dead-set on wasting your life, aren’t you?” I tried to clever up an answer, but fumbled it somehow, and then we didn’t say anything for a while.
(12: [/scrytch] #

twentyone sad thoughts
(but then again, every thought is sad if you look at it right)

  1. Everyone you love is going to die, and you’re not going to be ready when it happens, because you cannot be ready, there is no ready.
  2. Somewhere out there someone is in love with you and could make you happy for the rest of your life and you will never know who that person is.
  3. The times when you were being most honest were the times your friends thought you were being polite, saying what they wanted to hear, saying nothing at all.
  4. Your enemies will outlive you, and tarnish your name.
  5. With the slightest effort at the right time you could have been such a better person.
  6. The thing you said and thought nothing about cut someone who once loved you so deep that they never really recovered.
  7. They only slept with you because they were sad for you, and afraid of what you might do if you spent another year alone, but the taste of that kindness turned to ash in the mouth while you were on top of them, sour and shivering as you tried to come.
  8. All of the things which went unsaid should never have gone unsaid.
  9. Someone you love is ashamed of what you’ve become.
  10. Someone you love grows tired and dead inside when they hear your voice.
  11. Everyone knows your secrets.
  12. You will never know the sacrifices other people made for your happiness.
  13. The way you sometimes think you can still see bruises around her eye and jaw.
  14. A little bit of a tiny little body you thought you saw just before you left for the hospital.
  15. The most disgusting thing you ever thought about while masturbating. Not the thing you would tell friends some late night after too many drinks, the thing which was vaguely nasty, but the real thing, the horrible thing.
  16. The night you saw a missing child and didn’t even notice.
  17. The night he tried to call you and you didn’t answer, and all the things you could have told him.
  18. It isn’t you who takes care of your kids, its your kids who take care of you, stroking your hair as you cry.
  19. The percentage of your love which is actually habit, or novelty, or exhaustion.
  20. Everyone knows your weakness.
  21. You might just as well vanish.

(12: [/scrytch] #

Some of you may remember my prediction for the year 2002. I am disgusted to announce that this prediction was one hundred percent correct. The only real complaint is that it was far too long, so I offer a summary: the year 2002 was like watching security camera footage of a puppy getting kicked to death over and over and over and over and over. As such, I have trepidation as to making a prediction for the year to come. Should anyone have specific information which they feel may change my understanding of the year to come, please send it my way before this evil and haunted year’s end. Thank you.
(12: [/scrytch] #

a hymn in sixtyeight chapters
[I wrote a shorter version of this for scrytch and Scotto asked if he could publish in in Trip #6 (Fall 2001), so I added some more material and there you have it. This piece has a hidden meaning, and if you do a little hunting you’re sure to figure it out. There’s also a parallel version of this, called “a curse in sixtyeight chapters”, which is currently in limbo.]

  1. a training which takes place in dreams
  2. attacks taking place in zero time
  3. hiding places which do not actually exist
  4. the shimmering defense
  5. a trap of marvels and prayers
  6. finger-snares in the hair of the bystanders
  7. use of the false truth appendix
  8. the trial of impossibly heavy weights
  9. the endless litany of chores each day brings
  10. the discourse of infidel mathematicians who prove the impossibility of resolvable conflict (may they rot in hell)
  11. my secret heresy of anti-closure (an inversion)
  12. a lock of your hair i keep in my dresser
  13. the advantages of darkness and famine
  14. the abuse of certain black solvents
  15. the impossibility of sentience in the mirror-world
  16. nihilum, its use in banned strategems
  17. a room made of large flat sheets of muslin
  18. the lioness, up amid the trees
  19. the inability of x to equal y
  20. binding spells caught in liquids, applied to the lips and tongue
  21. the extention of lightning in o-time
  22. tree-forms worshipped by barncats and raccoons
  23. my obvious attempts to sit next to your heart
  24. a view of the fading world
  25. memory-zones as mapped across the apartment
  26. a reconstruction of attack patterns in multiple-headed beasts
  27. (not an allowed statement)
  28. a curst legend of divers insect-calls
  29. use of chemical spills and low-level tension
  30. revised claims of ownership
  31. insomnia as tool, weapon, and excuse
  32. lines repeated by dead people
  33. the disturbing pattern of encroaching light
  34. the company of strange women who do not respect personal space
  35. coincidentia oppositorum as a mixing of contrary fluids
  36. the use of social circles as spies and carriers of bad thoughts
  37. how to disguise yourself as yourself
  38. on the treatment of prisoners, lovers, and doctors
  39. a coding-wheel for rings on fingers (size, shape, symbolism)
  40. everyone who loves you will one day have to leave
  41. steam-tunnel hotels; how to capture your enemy therein
  42. relics of prior generals taped to specific parts of the body
  43. places you can no longer go (hermetical sealing)
  44. the diabolical encyclopedia of burnings and reductions
  45. distance attacks by clusters of misled warlords
  46. time weapons: delay, tedium, memory
  47. eight letters i never sent you which i am destroying right now
  48. tremor-calligraphy and its use in battle-maps
  49. infinite routes of escape from any enclosure
  50. methods of fooling weather
  51. debilitating foods (rot, certain discharges, waste, promises)
  52. charmed and cursed doorways
  53. a weak winter light stuck at the window
  54. red torn nerves lining the old rural highway
  55. a store where emotions can be exchanged or incinerated
  56. a certain safety in being completely alone
  57. on the blinding of witnesses
  58. the wolves at the door
  59. i believe you are a superhero, i believe in you
  60. on the book of errors, wherein dwells the most high god
  61. the transformation of moisture-touching into corrupt forms
  62. the sea flattened and brought up
  63. birds which have forgotten how to fly
  64. the fat of the mouth-worms, and the narcotics they can produce
  65. moon-vapours which may contain pods or seeds
  66. an erasure of myself from your memory
  67. a list of presets for the instant apology generator
  68. a longing, like a spinning, like a falling thing disguised in sunlight

(12: [/else/trip] #

the richter goldberg psychiatric institute: an introduction
[This was my second Process Engine article, which was basically a bit of turd-polishing as to my Richter-Goldberg project and the rules behind it. I’m not sure if this one even made it online.]

“Cursed be the one who makes a carved or molten image, the work of the hands of an artisan, and sets it up in secret.” -Rabbi Shim’on, Zohar 3:127b-128a

I’ve been putting this off, mostly because I’ve been lazy and haven’t really gotten the project in shape, haven’t slogged through the backend work and pulled together money and moved to Iowa City and set up the server and all the things standing between today and that long-distant point where (I tell myself, now) the project will have taken form, an empty box (kara-bakos) which will be ready to fill. I started this website at the very end of 1994, at which point it was basically a place to put up stories I had written. Unfortunately, I’m of a mindset where I constantly add little miniature pieces to a general locus rather than develop a standard narrative-arc novel, which means I’m basically fucked as far as publishing goes. As time went on, it became clear to me there was a soft taxonomy by which I could arrange the pieces I was writing. One was a semi-realistic storyline about a group of characters in a midsize Midwestern town dealing with memory and forgetfulness and one’s inability to change. There’s a few primary stories which snake through here, including the story of the rerisen, which I tried to shoehorn into a book. This stuff varies from hijinx stuff to rural depressionism pieces, and is usually the stuff people like, if they like any at all. The other stuff I call the Biomorphic Abstraction stuff. This is the stuff I have the most fun writing, and which I feel is technically my best work, even though it’s hard to get into. It’s the work where all my interests find a place: puppetry, automatons, cryptography, game-structures, butoh, false histories, symbolic alphabets, experimental technologies, and more than anything what Ballard called the externalization of the human nervous system. I sat out to build Richter-Goldberg as a means of organizing and facilitating this material. My first experience with mnemonics as a discipline (and not just the Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge kind) came from Borges, and like everything I learned from Borges, the idea stuck in my skull and crystallized, taking on an unearthly glow. In 1993 (I think, it was around then) I read Douglas Cooper’s excellent first novel Amnesia, in which he credits Frances Yates’s book The Art of Memory. I tracked down a copy a couple years later and was hooked. This, I realized, was the skeleton for my Biomorphic Abstraction device, as I began thinking of it. I did research on museums, on wunderkammern, on architecture, all the while collecting notes on this building where this group of people desperately connected research in order to avert some distant event, some hidden current seeping unseen through history.

The building is three stories high. Each story has 25 rooms. Each level has a hidden room which is not accessible by standard entrances, forming a hidden spine. If we read the rooms as letters of the English alphabet, that means each level is a lipogram. This makes for a total of 78 rooms. At least one symbolic reading should be immediately apparent (and yes, there are cards to match). The Kabbalah is based on the Hebrew alphabet, which consists of 22 letters, all of which double as numbers allowing for gematria; attempts to translate this material into English fail at their source as they lack the specific structure necessary to make such conjectures relevant. The influence of Kabbalistic practice is readily apparent all over RG, but I’ve deliberately strayed away from any literal readings, instead finding translations of the actual constraints in English and perverting them to my own ends, the idea of a core text being in essence a starting point for extrapolations outward into strange secret places. I’ve made attempts to learn Hebrew, just as I’ve tried to learn everything else, but so far I have fallen so short as to make any gain a pittance. Certain characters see divinity as a nemesis to humanity in RG, and from that I can understand why certain readers have felt offended by my treatment of certain concepts. Anyway. In the Kabbalah, there are ten Sefirot, which are numbers as living entities, emanations which, when combined with the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, form the elements of all creation, (In this sense, English can be seen as a corrupt language, which is certainly how some of the characters feel about it.) RG is designed according to a base 5 system, as each of the three floors are 5x5 panmagic associative squares (the sums of each playing a pivotal role deep in the text), so that here there are five Sefirot, only that’s bad terminology, as they are here absences, voids, collectively known as The Cult of the Yellow Sign, practicioners of the Fivefold Erasure System. That the appearance of the five absences on each floor, when joined directly, form the five points of a star, and that the hidden spine of the building is located in the center of the inner pentagrams of these stars, is worth some, but not too much, consideration. That the absences mirror the vowels in the alphabet of rooms is far more suggestive.

The plans for the RG backend have developed as my abilities have grown; initially it was little more than a collection of pages-as-rooms loaded with goofy javascript. For reasons I no longer understand, I ended up separating the script/noise into its own thing as the Infernal Salt Codex, which is a retranslation of the core materials by an AI named Aqaraza (which is an old Scrytch reference). Later this became some CGI/database stuff which mangled emails, so that I could add to it from public terminals while I was computerless. Now it’s xml/xslt stuff that I still haven’t finished. A number of people are actually developing interesting online narrative structures which actually work, so lately I’ve been taking notes and mostly just been collecting all the material, which is taking a suprisingly long time. The structure basically forms a scaffolding for nested narratives, it is what John Barth would call the Arabesque. It has a particularly strong tie with Raymond Roussel’s work Locus Solus, both in structure and subject, and if I do it right, it will feel endless withouth actually being endless.
(12: [/else/processengine] #

Paul Ford interview
[I wrote this for a site called Process Engine, which has been down for a while and I haven’t really been in touch with Deb lately so I don’t know what’s going on with her at all. Paul writes Ftrain, among other things. This interview came out of discussion about narrative technologies, and possibly starting some sort of focused web resource on that topic, but like everything else I basically flaked on that. I think this was early-mid 2003, but that might not be right.]

Bhlyr: are pieces generated with the character-as-narrator in mind, or are the pieces later fitted to whoever would be most appropriate? which is to say, do you know who’s speaking when you’re writing?

PF: I definitely WANT to know who’s who; those pieces where the authorial voice is uncertain are problematic, and need fixed and edited. In general, Scott is much more direct; Paul will gaze at his navel endlessly. Scott is actually quite violent - emotionally, morally, physically, and is constantly trying to goad Paul into action. At least that’s how it works in my head. It hasn’t always played out that way in the prose.

But I’m working on that. The next phase of the site is definitely going to be character-centric, and the lines will be more clear. I’m going to step out as much as my fragile ego will allow and let the characters interact. Sort of like when your parents leave for the weekend and leave you in charge for the first time.

Bhlyr: did the narrators begin as characters in other stories?

PF: I’ve had the idea of faking characters-as-writers since I first learned about the Web. And I did a few Web hoaxes in 1994 or so. It seemed to be one of the most promising things about the medium. It generates anger and confusions sometimes.

As for where Scott began, honestly, I don’t know. The boundary between work, life, text, play, and Web site is pretty thin for me. I think Scott Rahin (Ray-hin, not rah-heen) began as a kind of joke, or a parody of one of my friends. I don’t know if I ever put up the first pieces that included him. He just popped up some day when I needed him and hasn’t gone away since. I have his back story pretty well in place, and if I ever was to get off my ass and write a novel it would probably be about him.

I am always surprised how many people believe he’s real; as I forward with the work and audience continues to grow I’ll have to find other ways to let people in on it, but I also like the ambiguity at the beginning of the reader’s experience; it raises some interesting questions as they try to draw their own lines between the author and the characters/writers.

Bhlyr: is there any basis for the narrator-characters in actual people, or perhaps aspects of different people? are they physically defined, in that you could see them in your mind’s eye, or are they strictly textual?

PF: I’ve attached a picture of Rebecca Dravos which I drew a bit ago. I still don’t know exactly what Scott looks like, which makes me crazy; I’d like to know. He’s fairly strong and not bad-looking, but I think he runs to the stocky, and has a slight limp. I can do his voice - it’s nasal and slightly higher than mine, and his tone is very arch.

Rebecca Dravos

Overall the characters are collaged from my social environs: Scott is made of bits of about 5 of my male friends, and of course more of myself. Rebecca, who will hopefully have much more to say soon, is sort of a female foil to Scott, very disappointed, smarter, quieter and more focused. The other characters are in development. I’m still learning, as a writer, how all that works. Hopefully I’ll be a little farther along in a few years.

Bhlyr: do you see pieces written by “paul ford” to fit a style distinct from, say, pieces written by “scott rahin”? could anyone, thus, write as “paul ford”? or is it not that distinct?

PF: No, I think we all have distinct styles. MY style changes but it’s essentially a fingerprint; I tried to submit an anonymous parody to another Web site which was asking to be parodied, and it was immediately identified as my work, even though I clearly marked myself as a “concerned reader from Chicago.” Entering that contest was a moment of terrible late-night weakness, but I guess it proves that the “Paul Ford” stamp is fairly indelible in its way.

So to write as Scott I sort of have to become Scott, and of course it’s still me. Scott is a little more willing to take risks and he speaks from a less repressed place than Paul.

See how “Paul Ford” is also a character in this? I mean, I sort of cast myself as a bit of a neurotic-but-brilliant, kindly, lonely, mopey, literary-minded fellow. It’s a fun persona to explore, but it doesn’t acknowledge what a shithead I can be often enough.

And you COULD say that’s me if you met me, but I don’t think that’s who my friends know. Mostly people see me as someone who works fairly hard, likes to read, and is fairly profane. The Web site is part of my life, that persona is part of me, but it’s a surprisingly minor part if I’m out on the town. One more thing…I’ve received a number of emails from people writing to Scott, asking him to write more and to get me away from the monitor - agreeing with his critical assessment of myself. Those are the best emails.
(12: [/else/processengine] #

else: an intro
Else is where I put things I’ve published over the years in print or on websites that have since bit the dust, which is to say most of them. It’s also where I put the remains of unfinished projects and odds and ends of a similar nature.
(12: [/else] #

the day the muzak died
[written for Fringeware Review 12. I wrote this in a rush as a backup piece to apoc rant, so it’s basically a goof. I’ve done some editing to it to fix spelling and grammar hooey. Apologies for the lame title.]

“Ana! Are you up? Get up!”

“Mrbpht. Ah. Huh?”

“Get up and turn on your television to channel 90! The most fucked-up thing in the world is on! Me and the Daves and Seth are here and it’s agreed that this is the most fucked-up thing in the world!”

“Yeah. That’s very, that’s just great, but I have no TV. My bro’s got it so he can watch ‘Carnival of Souls’ again. So I’m going to sleep.”

“NO! Get dressed and come over and we’ll make popcorn and oh Jesus, this thing is, okay get dressed and i’ll tell you what’s going on, okay, so it’s kinda like y’know that history of rock claptrap that was on PBS? Well it’s like a cross between that and WAX and some kinda crazy digital editing thing, so we start out in 1978 and Jerry Lee Lewis is out in front of Graceland fresh off setting another of his wives on fire and he’s drinking some kinda thick green likker he says the aliens gave him and shooting out windows and yelling about how he’s the real king of rock and roll and then instantly we’re back in 1968 and looking at the corpse of Paul McCartney and in the back you hear ‘turn me on dead man’ and there are all these quick flashes to two surgeons doing a Bangs and eating the half-digested pills in Elvis’s corpse only there’s three bullet wounds in his upper body and we follow the blood sluicing down the floor drain back to McCartney who we can’t tell if he’s really dead or if he’s gonna hide out in Africa like Jim Morrison but i’m getting ahead of myself-”

“Josef? I’m gonna put you on speaker-phone, okay?”

“-but then, oh yeah, that’s fine, and so the three remaining Beatles go off to consult the Dalai Lama but Paul’s NOT REALLY DEAD, he opens his eyes and it’s very, kinda like the end of salem’s lot? And then so quick Johnny Ace is playing russian roulette and talking about the kings of the past, when they got to be so old they were sacrificed, jump cut to the end of the Wicker Man, as being symbolic of the health of the kingdom and how confusing it was if the king died before that because (and Johnny’s gun goes click) the fight for the crown would be filled with imitators (and Johnny’s gun goes click) but for any king it was better to burn out than to fade awa-(and Johnny’s gun goes-”

“Josef, I’m gonna make some coffee first, it’ll only take a sec…”

“BOOM and we’re back with Jerry Lee screaming about how it’s a trade-off, he’d do it again, and a light comes on at Graceland but we’re back in ‘68 where Syd Barrett is beginning his eclipse and fall from Pink Floyd but here comes John Lennon asking if he’d be innarested in writin’ a couple tunes, and so the combination of Yoko’s uptown art influence and Syd’s psychedelia-as-regression-to-childhood, the White Album becomes a meditation on John’s mother’s death while meanwhile out in the desert Charles Manson decides to go back into songwriting, lacking the proper catalysts for mass-murder, and flash back to ‘67 and Dennis Wilson (the only Beach Boy who knew how to surf) brings up the idea of covering Manson’s ‘home is where you’re happy,’ which they do and don’t change any of the lyrics, and back to ‘78 where Manson’s deep ecology and childlike lyrical ability bring him in closer circles with a young Bruce Springsteen, still showing his Dylan roots and playing a no-nukes show attended by none other than…oh fuck! Oh, they just shot Lennon, only it wasn’t whatshisname, there’s implications that an alien intelligence watching Earth believes its governing bodies to be pop stars and have been interfering in things here in order to debilitate-”

“There’s no such word, Josef-”

“Yeah well that’s irrelevant because here’s Paul, dressed in a walrus suit, the letters HEY JUDAS tatooed on his knuckles, fleeing the scene of the shooting and there was a quick flash of Kurt Cobain in a bed in an italian hospital with somebody, I can’t tell who, whispering in his - IT’S DEAD LENNON! DEAD LENNON IS TALKING TO KURT COBAIN! And now there’s a clip of Daniel Johnston talking about the Beatles coming back after the apocalypse but nobody believes him and we’re back at Graceland, and somebody comes up behind Jerry Lee and whispers ‘I’ll make you famous again’ and Jerry turns around and there’s Robert Johnson and there’s a hidden implication he sold his soul to the aliens back in the day and they open fire on each other and jump cut to dead Elvis getting up off the toilet and jump cut to Brian Wilson, barricaded in his room just like his daddy used to do, a fat chunk of hash on the table and a shotgun across his lap, mumbling about how Jesus will keep him safe from intruders and trespassers and there’s a knock on the door and jump cut to Janis Joplin hitting Jim Morrison, only it doesn’t exactly LOOK like Morrison, but hitting him with a southern comfort bottle and calling him a fucking clone mutant and jump cut to the final Beatles concert, 1971, where Syd collapses in a saucerful of sickness and a massive riot ensues and jump cut to Cobain singing ‘gonna leave this region, they’ll take me with them…’ and then it gets real quiet, hey Ana i think it’s over so if you wanna go back to, no, it’s a long shot of Graceland, the light in the house goes off, and we can hear a voice inside saying ‘c’mon sweetie, let momma in the bathroom, I know you’re in there,’ and the stars move in strange ways, and fade to black. Well that certainly was different.”

“Well fuck, then, how about you guys just meet me at Eat for some pancakes or something?”

“Yeah, I’m down and Seth’s down and the daves are asleep. We’ll see you in ten. And I hope you have some happy news.”

And Ana smiled and turned away.
(12: [/else/fringeware] #

apoc rant (final)
[Originally written for Fringeware #12, rejected due to space constraints, included on the Fringeware website with the issue’s other articles until the site went down. This is the revised version, written a few years later. There’s currently talk that it will be reprinted as part of a collection of manifestoes; if that happens I’ll be certain to update. Essentially a collection of ideas gathered from people I talked to between 1995 and 1997, and deliberately ranty, so don’t think too much about it.]


What does it mean, to look back on all the promise of end times, the immediacy of divine assignment now scrubbed from me, every day a trial of tying shoelaces and paying bills and pretending to care about the day to day detritus we are sold? What does it mean to look back on my prior life, when I strode with purpose, attempting to understand what waited just around the corner, the great transformation which would pull apart all things and recombine their disparate elements into whole shimmering cloth? What does it mean? It means nothing. I wanted to believe I was alive at an important time, that my actions extended beyond my sight, that there was an answer, all bottlehollow lies good only for the tiny warmth nostalgia finds in past failures. If there was to be a great transformation, I emerged from the coccoon a corpse.

This, then, is the record of my aspirations, and what became of them. I can promise you nothing, not truth nor clarity. Written in the spring of 1997, it is fundamentally absurd, as is any attempt to view the future through a headful of chemically eroded half-truths. I spoke to strangers about the end of all life as though this were a reasonable topic, no more upsetting than a cloudy day, and after these discussions I would run back to the basement of the farmhouse where I was hiding and bang out these observations on my typewriter. To me, this material is an anchor-memory, a path back to another life, an arrow pointing in a direction I did not follow. What it is to you is beyond my ability to guess.

“People need to make mysteries and legends” — Don Delillo, White Noise

“It is the tide of madness, its secret invasion, that shows that the world is near its final catastrophe; it is man’s insanity that invokes and makes necessary the world’s end.” — Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization

a. apoc via ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’:

How I blew my cover while working as an undercover subway cop’s assistant (a quasi-legal profession if ever there was one), spotting perps for Rob the Cop who’d pay me off for my good deeds by letting me and my friends slip by Iowa’s purchase law is a weird story. Me and Jimmy Cheerios and Jimmy’s cousin Ray were all set to work a whole day-shift in order to clear the fuzz off Ray’s block for our upcoming (Not Getting Back Our) Deposit Party, riding the Silver Lake West route while loaded to the eyeballs on some strange AL-LAD derivative in order to keep us attentive when Jimmy eyeballed a very suspicious looking gentleman who was unscrewing the seats from the floor. Rob the Cop apparently got left back on Locust, which meant one of us was gonna have to face the certain doom of going up to this clown and, y’know, have to DEAL with another human being, which we woulda skipped but we were obligated to fufil our agreement. Only we weren’t sure he actually had a screwdriver; Jimmy was tempted to start crawling around on the floor like a snake, so his judgement was fairly shaky, and we couldn’t see any harm being done by the alleged chair-screwer, but then again our judgement was shaky as well, so finally we just decide to ask him flat-out if he’s up to no good.

To make a short story shorter, that’s how I got this scar on my left shoulder, and that’s why the Deposit Party is cancelled for another month, though the rent means we can’t exactly get you the keg money back just yet.

b. apoc via ‘will to nothing’:

The end of the world is a form of linguistic shorthand which cannot be shortened without removing the integral semantic meaning. One may say, no. one may not say. There is no means by which we may speak intelligently of such occurrences, after which not only will there remain no we to speculate or witness, there will be no more subject, no more history, no more anything. The end of the earth presents the project of humanity as not only failure, but a nonexistence not only of our flesh-and-bone bodies, but of all systems by which we understand. The potential of speech, of history, of thought; it’s some lovecraftian beast gnawing at our sanity, an utter futility against which one can stage no attack, a fact becoming increasingly apparent in our solipsistic, subjective time. The shift from discovery to invention, and the light it casts ex post facto on all aspects of our lives, brings on the realization that once there is no more we, there is no more anything. Take a quick inventory of what will be missing if we allow no escape from this final end, not just the flesh and the bone but the idea and the notion, from which there can be no retrieval of our wasted words and our fraying memories. What could you save? How could you transmit this information meaningfully through time and space? Where could such material be kept safe until rediscovered and examined? Or is this just a feeding of the vanity to think there is some audience at the end of the universe waiting for the fossal record of our failed civilization-nest? The question is not so much could this information be saved, nor could some other race discover and decipher the information, but why would they care? Exterminated genetic backwaters are a dime a dozen, and all of ours aren’t any more valid. No one wants to remember someone else’s dreams.

Should we not be providing such psychological means of understanding alternate escape trajectories but technological means of living the future we would want to live in (whatever that means) but what do these things mean outside communication technologies? Is this, increased bandwidth, the solution to our earthly problems, problems already existing just currently unexpressable? Coding of global economies and gov-functions into massive accessibility via viral forms so as to make available this “folk wisdom”? would i to argue tat to claim pro-apoc is simply that in the end times “all will be revealed”, as my man robert plant put it, and thus all our retro-futurism, all this “archaic revival”, all this appeal to past cultures, this classicism, it’s a Universal Remembering Project, a rediscovering of lost and hidden knowledge so as to make the human project as currently understood summable and codable and reproducable and transportable. Indeed our desires to create bigger better means of data collection and processing find root in this, the vessel we have filled, and as such when the standard tropes of resistance/revolution are nothing more than the tools to a solid resume, the struggle shows itself as the trap for creativ e energies and distractions it always was and the means of keeping tabs and crosshairs on already dead revolt. One could argue it stands as a prerequisite for answering such questions not the actual content of the response but the application pre-question of guiding principle and stratagem and power system, in which case i remain mute as near-future tactical analysis, these are questions asked not in order to be answered, but to silence.

Throughout history it has always been the case that catastrophic global change has been seen via apoc, as the end, when in fact it had been a phase shift, after which the culture radically reorients itself in a comparitively short period of time. Perha ps the gospel is a reusable set of instructions for dealing with such change, maintaining a foundation in times of flux, the notion tat god’s work is to be done until the very end as no disaster should keep us from it. Any book which prepares us in a practical way for drastic change, then, is a gospel, literally ‘good news’.

c. apoc via ‘deep ecology’:

To what extent is violent action justified as a means of gathering attention? At what point do you become just another church-burner who sees all change at the end of a gun? If you were looking to make a global statement on the death of nature as ‘force’, i.e. ours being the last generation to think of forests and jungle as Conradian ‘dark places’ instead of areas of commerce and state-sponsored parks (the last generation, so to speak, alive to witness ecosystems), and if you were faced with limited time, would you resort to media war and star-killing? This is a deeper and far more terrifying form of martyrdom than we were once accustomed to. The hyperbolic extent to which we regard ‘individual freedom’ and ‘personal choice’ allows us a detached and demeaned respect for self-immolating Buddhist monks but bring out shill cries and hand-wringing when ‘innocent people’ suffer similar fates. Is this apologia a means of, for example, casting blame onto Sharon Tate and off Manson, whose deluded attempts to cease the “progress at all costs” policy of governments and businesses has shown little concession to the global damage it has wrought? No, certainly not. Tate (and her unborn child) as well as all others killed that night were innocent victims, as are all victims of terrorist strikes. However, to call such things senseless tragedies is untrue, a false means of alleviating guilt. There are statements being made, and it is our bovine ignorance which continues this cycle, a compliance through fear and self-destructive stupidity, but we are always left wondering if the cure is worse than the disease. If we are so afraid to listen to ‘terrorists’, is it because we become squeamish when we witness the logical end-results of our negligent actions and legislations, or is it because opposites are essentially the same, and the hypocrisy of moralists speaking through bloodshed is nothing more than a serving of the forces they half-heartedly seek to topple? Is this kind of protest the opposide side of a single entity, whose ultimate ends are served by either limp token protest or by smearing violent actions across otherwise effective revolt? When we imagine the whole of the world should be fascinated by our pet causes, when we consider them ignorant when they do not fall into step with our beliefs, how can we dare to consider the policies of others thuggery which deserves wrathful retribution? Who pays? Who gets paid?

d. apoc via signal-death:

Statements have a short life by nature; they soon become a shorthand for themselves, referent to nothing, an excuse to Heidegger’s dread ‘gossip.’ We interconnect signs like legos, paying no quarter to any referent, fully believing the connection of half-understood cliché and headline makes for an argument. Given this as the field on which we play, is it little wonder anyone aspiring to make political change transfers themselves to the mirrored dichotomy of art and terror? When one understands government and diplomacy as a massive demonstration of the politics of the schoolyard brawl, this will be the means by which discussion takes place. There is a logic that states to utilize the terminology is not only to weaken it, but to empower yourself in the process, but are there weapons one can pick up and never put down — when do the things you use start using you? Does the fact that the interconnected highway system we’ve come to rely on has its origin in nazi state-planners cause us to use the backroads? Do we abandon the banking system kept afloat by drug money? Do we ignore pleas in the night in order to keep ourselves and our families safe? At what point do all our small concessions to evil become corrosive, an eating-away at everything that sustains us?

e. apoc via ‘the stooge theory’:

The end of the world will never die as concept for the simple reason that, as the years go on, the stakes rise: there is more to lose, and there is no notion of collection not undercut by the potential of that collective being lost. Besides, the eschatological environment obviously changes and provides new takes on just what ends when this apocalypse takes place. There will always be a desire to see the backdrop of our lives gain the utter (and temporary) significance the big end provides. It is also indicative of how much we want to have something happen to us, instead of from us; see the overwhelming preference of the Jesus descends, judgment day, reign of Christ school of millenarianism, as opposed to the unification of all on earth in belief/Jesus descends’ option, the one preferred by the church during the early centuries of its existence. There is always an outside force at work whether Satan, aliens, technology-gone-mad Y2Kism, capitalism, asteroids, communism, disease, terrorism, ad nauseum. We are, and always have been, victims and petitioners, asking for what we always ask for when we have done wrong, forgiveness. We take it the only way the victim knows how to be forgiven. We’ve been waiting to be punished, or praised, or somehow made to feel that it is us that has been selected to witness this cusp of history. The finding a chronal structure to life is appealing to anyone; it’s a big part of why people get really into going to work. We’ll always find new ways of tricking ourselves into eating cold oatmeal.

f. apoc via per ardua ad astra:

If we do believe in a global consciousness, the question arises: is it bound to this planet? Can this so-called gaiamind exist elsewhere? Can we take the earth to the stars? This changes the way we think of ourselves; no longer bees for the machines, we become a means of transportation/reproduction of Nature, the DNA of our bones and tissue inadvertently left in the wake of our explorations which will find activation at some future point and begin this world anew. This apotheosis of the human plague, the benign sickness of god, in which the biological imperative of humanity preservation and proliferation is more than just survival mechanism. It is the self-serving means by which Nature finds a means to leave this earth and, thus, survive as well. The elements of this planet have been told they are in Gods image, and as such are the means by which God is able to act in this dimension, perhaps suffering the inevitable signal-decay which takes place anytime a form of communication (particularly sentient forms of communication who believe themselves to be autonomous) is used, nevertheless underlying the concept that only through the ultimate negative stimulus, the king of terrors, can the God continue to exist. If we (the collective of living things) are the means by which God interacts with the universe, a post-apocalyptic god is faced with the daunting prospect of being without senses, completely without any tangible connection to this world. The division between God and the collective of living things is as foolish and ill-conceived as the mind-body duality; there is no one without the other. Of course, the beaurocratic strata of the afterworld allows for the sorting and filing of all souls risen after death, but can this system continue foreverafter once the earth has been empties of all its tombs, all earths all tombs? How wide does this net stretch, exactly?

g. apoc via hero-worship:

There’s a cult in Kentucky whose basic tenet is, depending on your orthodoxy, a) that Kennedy was the fabled second coming of Christ, or b) that Kennedy believed himself to be the second coming. Both believe he ordered his own death. Came to save us and we hit him with the fourth nail right through the skull. Three shots, just like Christ, Brady getting one in the wrist a kind of in-joke. Thirty-seven years from his death to the millennium; three the trinity, seven the seals. Three alternate hells in the bible: sheol, the dark passage of the dead; the untitled underworld for the impure while the righteous go to the elysian fields; gehenna, the cesspools of Jerusalem. hell come back as the earth, the final bardo, thirty-seven years in the making. Kennedy himself said, quoting Luke, for those of whom much is given, much is required. All deaths prior to the earth-hell a means of ascending to the holy. Removal from hell. Vietnam was a holy war. Kennedy knew, had himself martyred, a leader by nature leads. Oswald as false Pilate, whom Ruby smote despite pleas to put the sword down, not his ear but his soul was severed, sealed his fate. Jacqueline holding portions of the brain and body; it is accomplished.

Does information post-acquisition acquire a new context in all cases or can it spread its old meme through the new host-body? Once you pick such a thing up, can you ever really put it down again?

h. apoc via endgame:

Your voice. Your voice. This is no heaven. When the initial schism between the God and the Satan took place the world was filled with novelty, expanded quantitatively when Adam and Eve left Eden, for now souls were up for barter and collection, which meant one could keep score. The value of these initial souls was tremendous, due not only to their rarity but the age of said souls, lasting in cases up to seven centuries. What of the souls lost in the flood? What final resting place did these souls have — was this a massive concession to the infernal warehouses of Hell, or was this a wiping of the board, the echoes of checkmate and beginagain? naynever, for here the beginnings of hell proper begin. There was a craftsmanship and attention to fine detail, to irony and subtle nuance, each soul an individual end. Take Abidjan, who was made to work eternal at a loom of his childrens hair, bearing the screams as each strand was ripped from their skulls over and always, the cloth a thick textured brown. The Satan took great delight in such devices, in custom-fitting and releasing his clockwork abominations to run until the end of the end. It was while creating the hell of sennacherib the blasphemer a chessboard he played against himself, knowing each pawn taken connected with the deaths of ten thousand men across the earth in ten thousand pointless wars that the Satan realized he had failed. The Satan had always believed fear was the punishment, the final of all sufferings, but as he watched Sennacherib slaughter his own men rather than postpone the game any longer, he saw that man would commit and witness any atrocity to avoid inaction, that the only thing humans feared more than fear itself was boredom, particularly within the confines of eternity.

It was during the middle ages, when man was busy delighting in telling stories of the punishments of the wicked, that the modus operandi of hell shifted. The earth had always been the true birth of hell; the Satan took every existing punishment from a corresponding event committed by some human somewhere; it was an oft-forgotten declaration from the God that the Satan could not commit an act until man had committed it. The novelty of hell began to fade from the Satan, the delight was gone, the drive to create grew smaller and smaller within the Satan until it could not be found. For a time the infernal devices remained, but the surroundings grew into the antiseptic white of sickness and death. Once the Satan became so desperate for souls that he took them from animals, clouds, toys. Now there was more than one could ever count (which became a punishment in itself), all excited in a way they could never admit to themselves to see the greatest show beneath the earth. Terror became replaced with disappointment, fear sunk down into confusion. By the twentieth century, hell consisted of endless games of pong, endless pushing change into cola machines which gave up nothing, endless calls to numbers which would never answer. But the bottom, the lowest of the lowest sufferings consisted of memories, memories of wonderful days, of happiness and love and bliss, over and over and over until the colors faded and the sick set in and the souls begged for anything anything anything else than their lives one more time. But this hell is not one inflicted from an outside source. This is the hell which is called absence. And it is the only hell there ever was, and the only hell there ever will be, and the end which awaits us, not stalking us as though we were worthy prey, but waiting, patiently, because there is no way we can escape. Hell and heaven are both static, they do not change. And anything which does not change is, by definition, hell. There was nothing and no hope, and no waiting to best the God because it became obvious, in the end times, that the God and the Satan were the same, warring across two sides of the same board, and once the end ended it would all start over, the separation, the creation, the banishment, the war, the rupture and the rapture, and it would then begin again, and again, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

i. apoc via d.i.y.:

In this assignment, your goal is to convince the panel that the takeover of a building will convince an entire nation to deal with you on your terms. Dependence on political amnesty or promises made by government officials are never binding (an examination of such contracts made in the past prove them to be area or time specific, i.e. you will be offered complete amnesty from 4:51:00 a.m. to 4:51:01 a.m.) and not to be trusted, thus take over and secure the entire area, bringing in your own aerial assistance as soon as possible. Destroy all potential liabilities without hesitation. Line remaining hostages along windows or other open areas. Bring along battery-fed televisions and lighting with which to plan attacks on hostile forces during prime time hours. Keep any media interaction short and shoutable. Destroying media reporters/cameramen is a certain way to assure media saturation. If reconnaissance from air becomes impossible, destroy everything, selves included, preferably with a series of detonations engineered to collapse the building; there is no point in leaving any trace. One such event says nothing. A few such events say much. A regularity of such events says nothing. Terror is predicated on novelty.

j. apoc via neural atrophy:

If we live in a self-contained solipsistic universe, our end (in a self-centered, solipsistic way) is the end of the earth. Not only is this evident through death, but through the alternate means of dementia, senility and brain damage; the signal which makes up the world becoming incoherent, just so much noise. In such a universe of one, where is the ever-loved split between the Self and the Other to be made? Are we all Self? Are we all Other? Regardless, it is the death of history, of memory, of organized coherency. Or, in a Foucaultian sense, the subjective death of the societys regime of truth. Any claim that an institutionalized person is outside the societal network of power is facetious at best; however, once one is incapable or unwilling to participate in collective normalization processes, one is then cut off from the contextual process of culture, its gratification systems and dream machinery and, regardless of its physical placement, begins to create an individual means of understanding relationships and data. We see our new hell as an irreversible Babel-scenario where there seem to be too many realities. The end of the world, then, is the death of context and the subsequent death of communication. These institutions are formed adn supported on the notion of isolation, however; is there any way for such tactics to work while diminishing the schism between the isolated institute and the world-at-large? Can the creation of alternate interpretation-schema find a place within and thus enlarge our collective reality, or is this necessarily impossible, as one devours the other, reality eating at irreality eating at reality? The totality of existence contains all things, including the removal of the totality of existence entirely. Does talk of the apocalypse help us to digest and come to terms with the idea, stripping it of its memetic strength? Or are we willing something into existence by focusing on a seemingly imminent end?

k. apoc via game-theory:

Postmodern theory is hooked on the idea of philosophy as game. Lyotards games played in peace, Foucaults claiming his arguments as opening moves. What is this game? Can any number play? And is this not ultimately a dodge avoiding any sort of qualified validity, any nature of argument? When cleverness is rewarded over balance, one runs the risk of incomprehensibility equaling brilliance. I won, you’ll just have to take my word on it. Once the deconstruction of existing foundations and aspirations, setting itself up as interpreter and insisting on cooperative games (which, remember, are winner/loserless and, thus, endless), philosophy attempts to offset the end of the world by means of a Scheherezadesque perpetuation of the game. Is the usurpation of the omega point of humanism a fear-based attempt to throw us into overtime, or just a sad attempt to prolong its own waning usefulness?

Had a light which seemed to eminate from some point just behind him at which point i noticed he as set up his own autoprogrammed lighting system scraping rations and wire-relay instructions for more chemicals. Trusting in ghosts offering warm food and the tactile nostalgia of touch leading into the white noise of our deaths. Gift-given and gone jittery with permissions and varials protocols deep sub-cellar crackbeat vietcore the thanatofash of perfumes simulating the apple blossom scent of vx nerve gas still tasting the chunks of vomit in my mouth the failures of genetic human replication leading to the tanks holding lifeless replicas of the famous dead, here a marilyn whose skirt lifts by a stream of bubbles through the s ealant fluid every hour on the hour. Deep catholicism chic, heavy wooden crosses in a pile by the door, fresh lashes scross my face touched up with rouge perfectly highlights my rector’s uniform, needle tracks in my eyelids and my leeching scars - the new high in blood loss and the new aesthetic being parasitism - lost in the dark but the touch across my fingertips gets me back in character.

l. apoc via the joy of sloppy thinking:

If, since the time of Plato, philosophy’s dread rival has been rhetoric, and only circa Derrida has it been willing to admit these subjects not only come from the same sources, they are the same, it is little wonder the disdain high thought has shown the conceptual end of the world, firmly camped at the farthest screaming edge of rhetoric. Having been thus forsaken, it has become the proving grounds of cult literature, fringe science, pop fiction and pseudo-documentary. One needs only look at the current proliferation of asteroid influence on major television shows, an interesting spin on the alien meme (which seems, like country music, to pop up every ten to twelve years). Being such an integral piece of popular consciousness, it allows us to play rather fast and loose with ideas we may not really understand. Classic philosophers dismiss such pondering the way hard science fiction writers dismiss new-wave/cyberpunk/pro-apoc fiction; it hasnt done (and painstakingly explained) its research, thus its of no value. Gregory Benford typifies this stance when he claims the role of science fiction is techno-sociological planning for the future; a cadre of Cassandras able to steer us through the perils of life post-millennium. The avarice and ignorance of such a statement astounds. As Bernard Wolfe said, “anybody who paints a picture of the future is kidding himself; he’s only fancying up something in the present or past, not blueprinting the future.” The same can be said for the folk-tales of the end of the world: this is not a future statement. This is a statement of where we are right now.

m. apoc via kool-aid:

The apoc reading Jim Jones held was the end of the world was

  1. inevitable, given the current escalation in weapons technology and the increasing threat of global pollution,
  2. going to be a prolonged event instead of the flash we currently associate with it,
  3. thus provided the surest means of gnosis currently available.

Apoc, the unmistakable knowledge of ones own mortality (and the mortality of all we know to exist) would be the bridge to reach Jones version of the Christ-figure. It is through the crucifixion that Christ was able to accept his nature and destiny and thus ascend to heaven. This was the rationale behind the Jonestown massacre, that mass suicide would allow the Jonestown inhabitants (fearing for their lives from the Guyanese army) to transcend this world. Echoes of this rationale can be found in David Koreshs seven seals document and in statements made by Supreme Truth leaders in the wake of the sarin gas attack, to pick out two large-press examples. These things happen everyday, and may well grow exponentially. The question remains; is the facing of one’s end educational in a qualitative sense? Are our lives improved by coming into close quarters with our corpses? It’s a standard platitude that we grow as people by dealing with the deaths of people close to us, that suffering strengthens character, but at what point does the overexposure of such misery and loss break the heart and mind? Or are these death-cult notions actually true and honest means of appraoching mortality? Is stepping out of this life a skill developed through meditation and practice, or are we suckers to believe we can make sense of essentially meaningless events? Should we leave the dead to bury the dead, or can our attention elevate us by coming to terms with these things?

n. apoc via displacement

There are certain times in which the normal culture and means of daily activity are suspended. Take WWI, when people planted victory gardens, Rosie the Riveter encouraged women to work, and Asians were held in containment facilities. Such times also allow for alternate allocations of government funds. Wars provide money to weapons manufacturers who advance weapons technology which allow for more wars to be fought, and more importantly, look good on-camera. Calling the Gulf War a month of US weaponry research and development becomes particularly ironic when most destruction took place not with our fancy-pants Patriot missiles but with good ol carpet-bombing. Advanced weapon tech is outside the realm of supply-demand economics, bought and sold as luxury items. The threat of the end of the world circa cold war made this possible. The continuation of the apoc meme is necessary in order for defense contractors (and everybodys got their fingers in that particular pie) to stay fiscally solvent; the complete obliteration of our way of life must be a constant threat in order for certain departments of the government to continue operation. As always, the simplest means of understanding how it is that certain things come to pass is to look for who stands to gain. Follow the money. War allows governments to act in ways entirely beneficial to their own ends. Of course, the rising up off the earth evident in nuclear blasts may not be an accident, either.

o. apoc via the necessity of fear:

“FEAR is the machine by which we ALL OF US become willing to perpetuate the LIE to sell the hours of our lives in order to stay aliveandfedandwarmand ALL OF US willing to buy into the placebo effect of the war machine the means by which we feed each other all cut-up shot-up children and chunks of babies into the DEATH FACTORY we get our checks from pull the elderly from their beds by chain and wire and electrode and drag them kicking and screaming trailing blood and shit down to be cut-up and put in the DEATH FACTORY we do we are ALL OF US calling us better and holding up high heads like rats feeding off each other force-fed the stickyred cables of meat pigs ears and disgust on the tv where we learn not to care needle in the eyes and the mantra of the LIE and we learn how to FEAR and what to FEAR and hoarding our scraps for FEAR we lose what we got ALL OF US go under and will not come up again broken and had our memory destroyed and their hands in your body and all one can hope to do is make more FEAR to speed the LIE until the waves cover us and the blood washes us away and none will be spared until this hell black vomit DEATH FACTORY sewerworld is gone and done and not until the tide of destruction of the FEAR and the LIE have not will ebb until and end and all is destroyed in the DEATH FACTORY gone and covered in skin and bile and all ALL OF US is ended and it is over.”

p. apoc via reference:

Christ’s gospel of austerity and faith held its base in an upcoming apocalypes, which all christians wee taught to prepare for. The nearness of this end was pass down through the years; Augustine believed it, citing Rome as the kingdom of the Antichrist (and, with it’s fall, instigating the rhetorical notion of the victim being responsible for the crime; The City Of God being an apologia for the sack of Rome in 410), so did Martin Luther, but Luther also blamed Jewish biological weapons placed in wells for the Black Death, so we’ll have to take him with a bag of salt). If one takes the bible to be the word of God, then its prophecy, from Daniel to Revelations, is absolutely true, and we are (always) living in the end t imes. No true Christian cannot believe in an upcoming apocalypse, and America is, by definition if not in practice, a Christian country (despite the best of intentions). If the doomsday cults in Korea (1992), Japan (1995), and Switzerland (1997) had prepa red cells for doomsday, then the US, a country without history, is a petri dish for endings, particularly given tat this is, one must admit, a violent age. An age when we pray for miracles to right our wrongs.

q. apoc via ‘posthumanism’:

End of the end of the world. Overstatement, hyperviolence, information war, the central dynamic being new ideas, new tensions. The multinationals have abandoned Japanese monster flicks for abortive faulty brain-computer interfaces: vicarious sex, postindustrial love story, ontological roses, noise as form. Zero-sum null-set zeitgeist of global power struggles, death and negation, still no substitute for strange destinies of being-as-other, distorting loops of Fuck Me Up The Ass. Years before we realized sleaze we appropriated unpayable debts, life lessons, synaptic junk food — alas, no post-hippie gen XXX, no realized Xanadu in the link and pulse of bodies. You not convinced fractal levels of complexity belie human emotion? The buzz of the new has lost you, all your strategies obsolete, all your profit endlessly chasing the dragon of tech just over the horizon, your body your office, connected by telecom demons to teh hole where all your hours go. What of all the promises of a workless future, of the extention of free time? All the efficiency goes back into the work-week, extended to any hour on any day, your life sold to people who won’t even pay for your grave. The fault is yours. The blame is yours. Your acceptance of the status quo, the unspoken standards of what you keep telling yourself is uncharted terrain, has left all the revolution you bought at the mall like the taste of death in your mouth. This end will be ein mude tod, artificial politics and everyday life and the need for alternate genitalia a dead channel. Undeal with reality.

r. apoc via ‘our man in the field’:

Their bodies had dammed and effectively contaminated the river spilling out into the road, and their eyes had closed up and turned to black mush, and the bugs had picked away at their faces so they didnt look like us anymore, which was quite a relief to all of us who had to dig the pits. VX nerve gas provokes a chemical reaction in the human nervous system causing the lungs to fill with mucous at a rate which bursts blood vessels, effectively drowning the victim in their own fluids. UN officials stated in Mondays report that although human rights regulations had been breached, it would be “inadvisable at this time to enact trade sanctions due to the fragile economic condition of the area.” Cranial swelling hemorrhaging and full immune system collapse within three hours. DO NOT RUB EYES OR EAT OR DRINK EXPOSED SUBSTANCES. Thank you for your assistance! Yes, its gone black and swelled, I know, I know. Keep its mouth empty, okay, and morphine, uh, fuck, needle in arm? NEEDLE IN ARM yeah, yeah. And keep it out of sight, for fucks sake. “Who maintains that the current influx of small arms and narcotics in no way assures airdropped medicine will reach those in need.” All correspondents have been claimed missing or dead. Media blackout. Reports of biochemical saturation as of yet unverified. The fourth Red Cross airlift in as many days considered lost. “Its simply too late for any form of military intervention to have any viable effect other than caving in to senseless guilt.” Over to you.

s. apoc via ghost story:

There is a certain delight we take in scaring children. As we grow older, we feel ourselves stretching into new skins, coming to resemble the closetdwelling bogeymen we once so feared. As we feel our forms of power-in-the-world slip away, learning that responsibility is another word for subordination, we find ourselves grappling at whatever means of superiority we can claim. The relationship is a flawed model of this system of needs, in which we take pleasure in the small tortures love affords, but only at childbirth do we fully savor the heady taste of inspiring fear. The other, in a relationship, exists outside the battleground of the home, but the child is trapped, a captive audience to schadenfreude and spookery. Have you ever scared a child? Is it a kind of karmic retribution for the power others have held over you or good clean fun? We like to be scared; perhaps, when we are allowed our payoff, the catharsis which uncasts the spell. a child has no access to such devices. If I die before I wake, pray the lord my soul to take. There is no dispelling the end of the world, particularly the small worlds children inhabit, a terror which will hobble them until they gather the hopeless fatalism to look into the closet and see nothing there, at which point they gather the first of adulthoods weapons, the knowledge of a power no less mighty for its emptiness. When you look into the closet, remember, the closet looks into you.

t. apoc via inverted metaphor:

Maybe it would be better to forget. There are languages where the only words are variants on good-bye, a meditation in action on transitoriness. The road turns. Around the corner and across the field there’s an old-tyme ragtime band made up of human-sized wind-up animals. Monkeys, squirrels, a lizard that stands on its hind legs and plays the drums. Music is important when it’s the only way outside of Time. Alas, they wind down and slow and stop, someday I’ll show you the score, where this is taken into account and written in the margins. The things you take into consideration when you begin thinking in another language are frightening, sometimes. The people who used to live here before the sickness got ‘em tried to teach these little shaved monkey-things to keep the band wound but the monkey-things were too dumb, they thought. Not true. “Hell is filled with people who tried to stretch time, and when heaven is as easy to find as a juicy nest of bugs you don’t fuck with the Cosmic Mysteries, mon amour,” says the Monkey King, who speaks for all monkeys, even the fallen domesticated ones, in a voice as steady as a frost that will never thaw. My goddess once held council with the Monkey King, who taught her things I will never understand, and in exchange turned her body into a flute, pores opening, the hollows through her bones clearing, the wind run through her like soft rods. You have heard this sound. The Monkey King has the highest respect and the greatest fear of instruments. My goddess and I once placed strings through the passages in her body when the holes were open. The pitch shifted and the clouds grew solid and fell from the sky. We learned not to mess, and we haven’t since.

How do you know when you’ve been had?

The loyal order of failed prophets, of which I am one, hidden winds lost beneath underground rivers, the fossilized flotsam of what-once-were artifacts to transmit the cyclic nature of time, we pondered over such and realized the plants were going to sell us out to the aliens. “The god damn government has been controlling the weather for years!” the insectoid hive nature of alien culture, blow-ups of mandibles, layered wings, multiple eyes gone glistening the streets crosses on doorways painted in herbicide the scent sticks to your clothes your face and churchbells distanced timestretched the weeds, the vines, man, they’re getting to be fucking arrogant, alien truces with the vegetable kingdom organic technology pollenspread “stars and beyond,” the promises, the subvocal alliances, “all any living thing wants to do is claim and conquer, planets cold trade, it’s our fucking turn” exoskeletal placement accumulation to new gravities, new destinies, the sky a distraction. guttural -60 Hz cries a swan song. We prophets needed guidance. The fortuneteller, a dark matted brown its body all up to the dolls head, a lightbulb where the brain would be. It took up nearly the whole closet, but it wouldn’t come on unless the door was closed. So I squeezed between wood and glass and dust and closed the door. Moth balls, old pine, grandmotherly the smell. The light in the bear’s head came on, and unsettled. I placed my hands in the hole where the fortunes came out and formed my mudra, index finger beneath thumb, ringfinger up to the sky. Head and arms moved along axes. Consideration, consternation, this certainly wasn’t a good sign. (silly mystyk, majyk’s for kydz.) The hazy blue neon of the light confused me, fingers misplaced. No matter, I have the answer. “Never the never, forever and ever, those who give it will take it in the end.” SO SAYETH MY CRYPTIC RUBRIC. 50 cents, please.

“but ultimately can’t be helped that there’s this skipping noise because Enochian see is not designed for the human larnyx and thus surgical alteration or digital re-manipulation is necessary for tone-accuracy and thus barring available subjects the latter was regrettibly put into action circular speaker formation triangulated to stand for three parties and upon stepping into the circle one could feel the sub-molecular collecting of Dread Spirits.” — phone message, 1997

u. apoc via ‘will-to-invisibility’:

“these stories deliberately confuse and obscure, they cover over what should be made clear in an attempt to convince us the author knows more than the author says. the inverse is obviously the case. what other conclusion can we come to concerning ‘the end of the world,’ an impossible subject; what does the end of the world look like? what happens? how long does it take? only by a rigid reliance on the abstract can the concept hope to exist. it is an excuse to the lowest form of ignorance at a time in which we are in desperate need of solutions, not this adolescent playing-at-armageddon. what becomes of us when we model ourselves, when we find the locus of our fears and desires, in death? this faux-cynicism and cheap nihilism serves no purpose but to make us numb to the symptoms of this universal death of affect. is this what we deserve? does anybody care?”

v. apoc via ‘i-love-you’:

That Shakespeare saw fit to compare the fury of the scorned and the fury of hell says much. It is a maxim throughout time, immortalized in song: “My world is empty without you.” From a purely psychological standpoint, what can we say about this infatuation with apoc and its connections to failed interpersonal relationships? The end of the world found solid ferment in the early church, which was never known for healthy relationships. The self versus the other becomes typified to a nearly absurd level in the self-help mantra ‘men are from mars, women are from venus, i’m from uranus’: Burroughs’ split-species theory becoming mode and model for sexual warfare. Fear that which is not you, and want not to fear; destroy what is not you. The vision and the void.

The biological imperative which underlines and guides our “free will”. The notion of the orphan has been quite the commodity in pomo crit these past few decades, the idea (as, of course, you know) the free agent, the radical (in a biological sense), that which begins self-contained, twice removed from the vast poisoned culture, I guess. We all want to claim total distance from the object we study, but we cannot, for we are what we study, we are the culture we theorize upon , and our work is in essence the final stage of an encroaching narcicism, media reporting on media reporting on media.

w. apoc via ‘ceremony-decay’:

We find passage through the day-to-day by relying on a) the routine and habit of our lives and b) on the pomp and circumstance of figures outside our immediate lives: political-entertainment people. The desire to alter ‘rut’ in our lives, to make abrupt and permanent change at any point in which we are not content (and who’s ever content?), both in the be-there-firstness of pop culture and the revisionist nostalgia for the mythic ‘better time’ (the ’60s, the ’50s, previous centuries, or even our own childhood) as coupled with the unreality of American government: ceremony the public no longer has interest or faith in, and we find ourselves floating without referent, easy prey for those who know our hopes and desires, as easy to decode as the clothes we wear and the foods we eat. In a world where we literally wear our psyches on our sleeves, are we not leaving ourselves dangerously open to demagogues fed on proper vocal intonation and semantic weaponry? And if this is so, why not throw your future into the capable hands of the ultimate heat-death, reducer of all things, the great equalizer, an angel of mercy to a sick and dying planet? When we understand heaven as a structured society of infinite bliss, our longing for death increases as our order and control of our daily lives decreases. Why wait? In a world in which the only constant is change, the ultimate transition becomes a smaller and smaller leap to make. Besides, it is always better to dive than to fall, always better to dive than to sink. What do we have, at the end of the day, except the small and compromised control over our own lives, our own bodies, and how much of this can we truly call our own? Live free and die, they say, ready to hand the yoke over to the nearest enemy. Suckers.

x. apoc via ‘manufacture of disgust’:

Much has been made of the impulse toward sabotage in factory jobs, the dark desire to see machines malfunction, collapse. From the manga dreams of attack mecha to the small victory of beating our technology into ordered submission (admit it, you have hit a tv, kicked a car, who hasn’t?), we seem to feel a small amount of power in exerting force, both in the real and vicariously, on the instruments which make up our modern landscape. Are these impulses limited to tech and beyond nature? Any kid who’s ever kicked a cat, tortured ants, exploded frogs can answer that question, just as anyone who’s thrilled at a tornado ripping through a cornfield or a nuclear blast flattening trees knows the answer. We may find such impulses vile, inhuman, loathsome, but they are a part of us, and to varied degrees inform our actions. From the miniaturized warfare of gardening and lawn maintenance to the asphalting of swampland, from weekend hunting to the eco-death of irradiated land, we all harbor a will-to-destroy, and as with any desire, the extreme case fascinates us. Listen to the care and detail with which both pro- and anti-apoc speakers craft their vision of the end; the endless loss statistics, the explanations of how such an event would affect the human body, the ugly joy of terminology like ‘spasm war,’ ‘nuclear winter,’ ‘vaporized clouds of blood and bone.’ Can we hide ourselves from these impulses, come to terms with our wants, before we involuntarily give ourselves over to release?

y. apoc via ‘media sickness’:

I remember when I first told her about the album. How the vocal recordings were taken from some third-world country undergoing civil war in the early 90s (this is indicative of just how American I really am, how little I know about the world outside my two-mile radius). how the songs were lamentations for the dead, sung by the remaining family of three children killed in a shelling attack the previous week. How there was a picture of the funeral published in the liner notes of the album. How the tapes and photographs were smuggled out of the country. How copies of the released album made it back to the country. How all those in the picture were rounded up, had their hands bound by plastic ties, and executed. I dont know why I told her this. We went out later that night, and at some nameless bar during a lull in the conversation she started screaming STOP IT! STOP IT!, unwilling or unable to stop. I had to drag her back to the apartment. It was the beginning of our end, that night, the beginning of a lot of endings. But there was still time, then.

The disasters inflicted by G*d are incomprehensible due to their taking place outside of human-time. They happen, literally, instantaneously. There is no delay-gap from will to act, from intent to accomplishment. It is not the physical destruction of the punishment which leads one to terror, to a primal fear, but the unraveling of cause-and-effect, so essential to our understanding of the process of events. The idea that something can halt time’s arrow, accomplish massive destruction, and restart time as it sees fit destroys the rational process and leaves bystanders mute. This is not an accidental side-effect, but the primary intention of all of G*d’s actions on Earth: G*d can only manifest here, in this realm where we live out our lives, as (due to the a-real nature of G*d) anything beyond this realm is, by definition, incomprehensible. The means of understanding space-time necessary to being human are eradicated in such a “place”, so that if souls can be said to exist post-death, they cannot be said to possess even the most basic animal consciousness. The post-dead must learn everything all over again.

z. apoc via a galactic shutting the door:

There are theories, and suppositions, and myths, but if you really want to know what I think about the end of the world, then let me explain what is to come.

In Greek myth, the creation begins with Chaos, followed by Earth and Love and Erebus and Night, but things didn’t really kick off until the creation of Uranus (the sky god) and Gaea (the earth god), whose union leads to the birth of the Titans, the Cyclopes, and the Hecatonchires. Uranus feared the hundred-handed Hecatonchires and tried to off them, but Gaea called on her children to defend them, and only Cronus came to her call, wounding Uranus and becoming king of heaven and earth. Now Cronus took Rhea as his wife and sired a whole mess of children, but was told that one of his children would dethrone him, and thus he (get this) ate all his offspring, except for Jupiter (better known later as Zeus), who grew up on Crete, eventually returning to force Cronus to vomit up his siblings. Then came the war of Cronus versus Jupiter/Zeus, wherein all of the Titans were destroyed. Gaea, who had sided with Jupiter/Zeus earlier (it’s her doing that Cronus didn’t eat him), was outraged and created the Giants, who were anthropomorphic (unlike all the gods, these creatures were born on Earth) but not up to battling the forces of heaven as commanded by Jupiter/Zeus, and were buried underground. Thus the gods ruled supreme and all was hunky-dory until Jupiter/Zeus got fed up with the state of the earth in the Iron Age and drowned (nearly) everybody in the Deluge, our first encounter with a massive global flood.

It is possible that these giants which Jupiter/Zeus battled against are those referred to in the Old Testament as the Nephilim, the giants who walked the earth before man. There are allusions that these giants may have necromantic abilities according to the temples of Marduk, which lined Etemenanki, or the tower of Babel, in Babylon. Less than fifty miles to the northeast the temples of Ba’al and Astarte at Ba’albek were built at the order of King Nimrod by a “tribe of giants” who were able to move the massive blocks of hewn stone (weighing up to a thousand tons) with their immense strength and knowledge of sorcery (which may be another way of saying “knowledge of engineering”). The creation of these temples is alleged to have taken place shortly after the Flood, which were later built over by the Romans to form temples to Jupiter (or Zeus) and Venus. If this is true, it means that the Nephilim, or a race of Nephilim-human hybrids (reports of such occurrences take place in Genesis), survived the flood. The Greek god Cronus most likely has his roots in the Sumerian god Anu, the sky-god, who (as the Sumerians entered a period of monolithic worship) was set aside, as was the earth-god Enlil (comparable to the Greek Gaea), for the god Marduk, who was originally the god of Babylon, but grew to become a universal god as the city’s power spread across Mesopotamia. Marduk, comparable to Jupiter/Zeus, allegedly had this ‘tribe of giants’ destroyed. Beneath Ba’albek there is a vast collection of underground tunnels. This is not the last time we shall see a connection with catacombs and a tribe of giants.

Across the Atlantic ocean, in what is now Bolivia, the city of Tiauanaco is alleged to be built by a similar race of giants. The Indian legends state that in approximately 200 BCE a flood which lasted sixty nights and destroyed all in its path was brought to an end by the arrival of Viracocha, a creator-god who arrived at Tiahuanaco. According to Indian legend recorded by Spaniard conquistadors, “Tiahuanaco was built in a single night, after the flood, by unknown giants. But they disregarded a prophecy of the coming of the sun and were annihilated by its rays, and their palaces reduced to ashes.” A Jesuit priest records a tale that “the great stones one sees at Tiahuanaco were carried through the air to the sound of a trumpet”, implying that these giants had at least the abilities for at least limited low-altitude flight, compared here to the angel Gabriel. Less than ten miles north lies the tremendous Lake Titicaca, at the bottom of which divers recently discovered not only temple-like walls but thirty large stone blocks used, according to legend, as a wharf for ships taking the dead to the now-submerged catacombs. This would imply Lake Titicaca as the world’s largest burial pond, intended for the magicians and sorcery-wielding giants who were able to move solid blocks on par with those moved at Ba’albek.

Two hundred miles to the west, the Nazca lines spread gigantic images of totemic animals. The design of these forms is thought to be designed by the Nazca through use of either extensively well- developed geometry and/or low-level observation of the land. A hint as to whether or not the Nazca were assisted can be found a hundred miles further, on the coast of the Pacific, in a burial tomb outside Paracas called the Necropolis, where the bodies of over four hundred noblemen are designed with giant masked anthropomorphic creatures who take to the air with the help of worn ribbons. Further still, across the Pacific, we find the tale of a race of giants with a severe case of architectural genius at work in the Khmer capitol of Angkor, where talk of a race of giants led by Pra-Eun, the king of the angels (yet another flight reference), built the magnificent temples atop Cambodia’s Kulen Plateau, whose inhabitants disappeared in the 15th century, leaving no trace. Perhaps the most impressive of the temples at Angkor is that of Angkor Wat, an anomaly in Cambodian architecture in that its sculpture seems to reflect an advanced understanding of astronomy as it relates to the calendar. Alas, all information of the inhabitants of Angkor was lost, as between the first Siamese raid of the city in 1431 and the second raid a year later, the entire population disappeared. A pattern forms: floods, giants, massive construction, time/geometry, disappearance.

The ongoing myth of the language of the birds, an ur-language comprehensible to people of varied root-languages, has been bound with teh Nephilim since at least the Sumerians. Legend of this xenoglossia continues in the garden of eden, and later seen with King Solomon giving this give to the Queen of Sheeba. Why do we pull back to this notion of universal language, shared not only by all of humanity but (in Welsh and Native American folktales, for instance) also with certain animals, losing their speech (or, like Descartes’ monkey, refusing to speak)? Think of the alchemist Artephius, who live a thousand years due to trade with strange beings. Think of the characteristica universalis, rekindled via real-time global communication, cross-pollenated xenoglossia, bringing out the Apochatastasis, the universale reintegration promised at the end of time, Boheme’s “sensual speech” eminating from the angels, the “natursprache” known at the cellular level, an ideal survival mechanism.

It is my hypothesis that a race of large anthropodial creatures with highly developed engineering and geometrical capabilities, all fascinated with astronomy, who possessed the ability for mechanically assisted flight and possibly the capability for resurrection, all of whom disappeared from the face of the earth without a trace and legend of destruction by a sun god, were none other than the Nephilim of legend, who fled from the face of the earth into catacombs to hide their culture. It is also my hypothesis that rumor in various culture of contact with sky-bourne creatures, masked as totemic animals, were not visitations by aliens but surveyors of the Nephilim race, seeking knowledge which they traded for their massive sculptural abilities, whose legacy can be seen across the globe. It is with the Nephilim, thus, that we find the alpha-point of the Universal Memory Project, the attempt to compress all thought into an indescructable “world-seed”. We would also argue that aspects of this process hint at immortality, as seen most apparently in the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Consider also various intelligence-creating technologies, such as is written by Rabbi Eliezar Rokeach (Eleazar of Worms) in his book The Depths of the King, wherein one finds specific instructions for the creation of a Golem, or else the Ghayat al-Hakim (The Goal of the Sage), wherein one can find directions as to the creation of severed heads which can speak of events to come. Intelligences can manifest in basest clay and dead flesh, if one knows the process of revitalization technology.

What we know of the Nephilim is slight. They appear before mankind on this earth, where they took up with human wives, thus spawning the Gibborim. So how was it the Nephilim survived the great flood? The Talmud speaks of the arc of Noah, atop which were two great beasts: the unicorn [re’em] and Og, the King of Bashan, who [along with his brother Sihon] was descended from Ahijah, son of Shemhazi [Samhazi] and Azael, the two angels come down from heaven in the time of Enoch. Both were of enormous size; in the Tractae Nidda, Abba Saul is quoted as saying he walked along the thighbone of Og’s skeleton for three parsangs [a Persian measurement approximately 3 1/2 miles] and still the bone had not ended. Whie this is certainly exaggeration, as the length of the ark was only three hundred cubits [Genesis 6:15] or 450 feet, there is no question Og and Sihon were of great height, noted repeatedly by no less than Moses, who killed Og. Beyond this, all we have is conjecture.

I would finally argue that is it no accident that the majority, if not all, of these areas previously mentioned have been the centers of massive warfare in the past fifty years. This is the tactical aspect of the fourfold erasure system through which apocalypse will manifest attempting to erase the remaining traces of these cultures from behind the guise of warfare, and possibly attempting to exterminate any remaining trace of the Nephilim, implicating a pervasive trans-global governmental influence toward this system. The final curtain of this horrific play will, by definition, be the end of the world.

At least that’s how I’m betting.
(12: [/else/fringeware] #

[My friend DMF was working on a zine called Desire, in which he was soliciting stories and poems and whatnot around that topic. He asked me if I’d want to contribute, and it took me a little while to figure out what I’d write, as desire isn’t really a theme I write about all that often. I was doing a series of stories which did not contain the word I, and I wrote this as part of that series, but it seemed to fit well with the desire theme, so I emailed it to DMF and there you have it.]

A mental tally of whose possessions dominated a room, or even a surface, such as the kitchen table, helped the couple to keep a score as to how the marriage was progressing. He was losing points in the bathroom, but he expected that, a fair trade for the leverage he gained in the refrigerator. They joked about this trial they shared, a sort of apartment-scale game of Risk, but the seriousness with which this game was played made the results unquestionable and permanent. The closets were the equivalent of the Soviet Union, vast tracts of land only important when taken as a whole. The end-table in front of the couch was of endless importance, as it became the centerpiece by which most guests were framed (irregular guests, it should be noted; he brought Tom and Carl into the basement where they hung out in the storage room while her close friends tended to gather around the kitchen table). The living room was essentially a place to stage family and emloyment relations, the magazines and candleholders shifting back and forth between the two depending on who had to impress the guest most, a small example of how gameplayers are ultimately interested, at least in the beginning, in continuing the game rather than going for a decisive win. The painting over the couch, however, was a battle in which no cease was in sight, a point of contention in which the organic sweetnesses of marriage had no place.

He had a landscape painted by an ex-girlfriend who had gone on to some regional acclaim, a flurry of local gallery displays, and a couple write-ups in artforum. This, he would argue, was no throwback to the days of sheet-stained sewn oats, but a genuine piece of art whose understated use of color and line added a grace to the room. She was having none of it. There are people who see a sublimated eroticism in all painting, from the obvious throb of Gaugin’s prostitutes to the lead-poisoned horrowshows of the late Goya. Needless to say, she saw in each stroke the story of her husband’s retroactive infidelities. Besides which, she reasoned, it clashed with the couch, and there was no way the couch was going. She told him she’d let him hang it in the storage room, which she had basically given him as a good-will treaty, but he was unwilling to let it “go to waste” down there. The couple argued, fought, and occasionally moved the painting, all to no avail.

The cold of winter came out of the skies for them, frosting the windows and sending the heater into a sleep-splitting series of pops and hisses. The crazy candymaker who lived next door had returned to his homeland, hanging a quiet over the apartment, cracked only by the chime of the churchbells two blocks south. The couple spent more time inside, unwilling to dig themselves out of January, and the land-claim game reached a new plateau. No longer spending the gray maudlin Sundays thrift-store scavenging, they had come to a seasonal moratorium of new stuff ever since Christmas, and thus it became a matter of placement and logistics rather than an influx and cycle of material, a drawn-out slugfest replacing suprise. The last one asleep each night either hung or unhung teh painting, while minor skirmishes flowed over the medicine cabinet, the top of the television, the shelves of books they only touched to place them in the line of sight of the couch. The collection of prints she brought back from her exchange student year in Kyoto shuffled behind a catalogue from a Klee exhibit he’d seen at Stevens Ballroom. The refrigerator magnets shifted like empty plague ships in the horse latitudes. The seemingly, tellingly accidental loss of a drawing her brother made for her years ago led to thrown objects and bilateral screaming. She untuned his piano, he drained her medication down the toilet. He lost her keys, she lost his watch. And all the while, the focused fury of the painting placement kept a vigil over the whole of the apartment, an inevitable showdown which taunted them in their sleep, a conclusion that they both knew would be the end of them, a decision more of who would move out and away than a telling of who held the high ground in the relationship. The high ground had been abandoned. All the action was down in the trenches now.

One night the painting fell off the wall. All the shift and pull of their mutual indecision had loosened the screws, whcih puled out of the studs somewhere around three. It was an omen, they readily agreed, but could not come to a conclusion as to what it meant. He took it as a sign they should set this aside, put the pettiness of the struggle behind them, more in seeing his likelihood of winning this theatre slip away than any sort of reasonability. She took it as the inevitability of their dissolution, practically empty of the energy necessary to continue this struggle. Hours they spent, sitting on the couch, uncompleted reachings for the other left hanging in the new dawn air, their breath visible against the frost-softened light through the front window.

They are together, still, having given the possessions they could not conclude as mutual and equal to friends and family and charity. Each of them have to themselves their clothes, their medications, their tax information, and a frayed look in the eye you sometimes see in people who haven’t seen natural light in months. They work and sleep and cross each others bodies with their hands, just like any other couple…keeping a strict mental tally on who’s touched who the most, and last, and longest.
(12: [/else/desire] #

angel of mercy: an introduction
Angel of Mercy began in late 1990, right around the time I first started staying up late on school nights to pound out stories. The vast majority of these early stories found their way into the hands of a friend, who encouraged me to keep writing, thus leading to these questionable first attempts at low-rent zine production. The first two episodes were never actually sent anywhere; I made up copies and messed around and was just too much of a wuss to let them out into the world. After I got to Iowa City, however, there were so many people doing the same basic thing I was doing that I felt nicely anonymous. Primarily these consisted of short stories mixed with photocopied images and hand-written scrawls, averaging about eight pages each. I’d make five bucks worth of photocopies at kinko’s and leave some in my dorm lobby (Quadrangle, then Burge, then Currier), at the ped mall, wherever. I didn’t put my name on them, but left my po box, and got a few interesting replies. Later, I got more into swapping copies with other people, which brought me into distant circles with a few genuinely cool people; no less an authority than Kerry Thornley (who traded me for copies of his “Out of Order” sheets) said Angel of Mercy was “not horrible”. Alas, in 1993 I was forced to leave Iowa City, at which point Angel of Mercy (and all writing of any sort) stopped for a good long time.

This archive here contains bits and pieces from that time. A lot of it simply isn’t that good; zipping around on questionable chemicals and youthful folly, much of the text material is the sort of self-satisfied cleverness that doesn’t really hold up on close examination. Once in a while, however, I did okay for myself. Many of the stories are the roots of the characters and places I still use in stories, so it’s a miniature history lesson for people interested in who I was and what sorts of things I was doing, then.

As to why it’s called Angel of Mercy, it’s a personal thing and not worth a story.

Special thanks to Jenna, who dealt with the bulk of this material first-hand; all the roomates I kept up until all hours of the night; the upper floor of Great Mid, where I did most of my layout work; and my friends of that time, wherever they may be today.
(12: [/else/angelofmercy] #

mister victor inc.
[I kinda got off track during the spring semester, and only published two issues. This was the issue where I started writing additional stories in marker over the photocopied pages. The three or so people who actually read AOM were not at all down with that.]

My father used to work for Victor Incorporated, a company who specialized in complete horizontal and vertical hold on the television antenna market. The market took serious slides in the eighties, with the influx of cable and satellite dishes, and as such in ‘88 Victor Incorporated’s owner (whose name, I assume, as either Something Victor or Victor Something but I’m not sure) took a policy of microdownsizing, applying the concept before it had become a Forbes buzzword.

“People of Victor Incorporated, it is my job to bring sad tidings; there will be layoffs, there will be firings, there will be pressure put on certain individuals to leave, until we’re down to our optimum manpower level, our fighting weight, so to speak. From now on our Pacific Rim consultancy division will be Randy. The Acquisitions department will be Shawn. The Payroll and Expenditures department will be either Martin or William, I’ll let you know later this week…yes?”

“I’m the entire Acquisitions department? Which now employs 437 people?”

“You can always quit, you know.”

“No, no sir, just curious. Carry on.”

Victor Incorporated continued on with their bare-bones staff for two weeks, at which point the owner jumped to his death from the clock tower in town, down on campus. Immediately after the funeral my father decided it would be a good time to retire, and has been happily unemployed ever since. Once he told me that at the owner’s funeral, while he and the Inventory department (James) and the South American Distribution department (Sheila) sat on the front porch of the funeral home and snuck shots of Glenfiddich, a friend of the owner told us he had heard a story that the owner had walked to that tower every noon for one hundred and thirty-seven days, each of which he found the stairway to the top of the clock tower closed. Then, one day, it was open. My father tells me not to overthink this whole Girl With Beautiful Hair thing.

“Later on, you’ll get older, and it’s weird how now I actually spend time being with women, perfectly attractive women, and I don’t even feel this immediate pull to schlepp them, I mean, I’m still attracted and all, it’s not a, you know, it’s not like there’s any problems, but that immediacy, that necessity, that’s all gone now. I mean, I’m actually friends with women now, and it’s really interesting.”

“Well, Dad, I mean, I’m friends with women now. A lot, actually.”

And he gives me that look like “And you’re my son, right?”

She was talking, but I was thinking about my father, and so she said “Blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah OB-GYN.”

“I hate that. I mean, I really hate that. Obstetrician-Gynecologist. You don’t abbreviate any other doctor’s names. You don’t call an endocrinologist an EC. you don’t call a cardiologist a CO. You don’t call an Ear, Nose And Throat Specialist an ENTS. You can say the words, already, I mean-“

“Just stop it already. Just let it go.”

And that was the end of that.

Back in my stupider days I had thought that the best way to keep in The Girl With Beautiful Hair’s good graces was o become the apple of her parent’s eyes, which shows how just plain wrong I generally was. With her father this was simple; he called me up one night and asked me to help him bust one of his employees, one Raymond Oates III, out of prison. Raymond, whom I knew from his position at E1 Duce Burrito, apparently also did some construction work out at The New Mall on the far side of town, and apparently got in this big hassle with a couple OSHA people who were asking “leading, loaded questions” to the illegals, and so Raymond up and knocked ‘em the hell out. So her dad and I and a few people from work climbed in his pickup and headed over to the new prison, conveniently located downtown next to the pawn shops and the furniture stores. I’ve always half-believed there’s a hidden system of justice guided by laws mere mortals cannot understand, a secret court accessible by those who know certain code-words, certain ciphers. The truth of this was demonstrated to me that night, with the police chief meeting us in the parking lot in order to discuss siege agreements.

“Chief Knutson, it’s like this. You let my man out or we’ll tear up all the road around the prison, we’ll build a playground from your parking lot, we’ll put some hideous art sculpture on the helipad.”

“Yeah, well, you do THAT and we’ll get all loaded and shoot up your precious new mall, we’ll get all your licenses revoked, we’ll impound all this equipment.”

“You know there’s only one way we’re gonna solve this.”



and then half an hour later we were out in some field, getting ready to do it up gladiator-style, bulldozer vs. cop car in a fight to the finish. The only person on the construction side still sober enough to get up in the cab was me, and I was going up against one of the cop’s rookie guys, which made me think for a minute this entire thing was an elaborately-staged hazing ritual, but before I could get anywhere with that the shots were fired, the flares lit the sky, and we were off. The key to aggressive bulldozer driving is not to chase the guy, to wait him out, until he can’t take it and tries to ram from the back, at which point you just back over him. For the life of me I’m not sure what exactly the cops had in mind, tactically, when they chose the car as their chariot of choice, maybe figuring I’d give up before it actually came to blows. Who knows. Anyway, even though I now get pulled over every time my tail lights go out, I definitely had an in with The Girl With Curious Hair’s father. My own father, after hearing of my exploits, was quite impressed as well. I made a mental note to run over more cop cars in the future and realized I had probably blown my chances with her mother; destruction of state property generally sent her into fits. I haven’t seen either of them in a while. Who knows.
(12: [/else/angelofmercy/04killers] #

[Here’s a chunk from issue 3, December 1991, which I finished and distributed just before going home for winter break from my first year of college. I was still basically writing about high school stuff and overly tweaked out on cleverness, but it was a fun time.]

I awoke to find Mr. Peptide swatting me across my head with his pointer in an effort to awaken me with maximum embarrassment as to make me an example and as my head rose from the table a small corner of the book I had just bought, I Was A Telekinetic Affectionato Of Semiautomatic Weapons With The Ability For Full Automatic With Minor Adjustments And Stock Laser Scopes For The Now-Corrupted American Junta Of Nineteen Seventy-three, which he found to be, if I may be so bold as to quote, “completely and utterly offensive and not at all in keeping with the iron fisted neo-fascist doctrine on which my Civil Obedience and Citizen’s Responsibility class is now and forever will be based, you fucking infidel,” and quickly grabbed the book, swatting me over the head with it instead of the pointer which resulted in minor neurochemical imbalances which I was able to use after class as a bribe chip to gain me complete access to Teacher’s Lounge A, including hot tub and sauna access as well as free full-body massage and privately trained and imported concubines and first-run movies in the brand new bowling alley-rifle range, the experiences there gained would come to massive amounts of benefit in the upcoming future. A few days later, today, I left the web of comfortable euphoria which I had erected in Josef’s basement and once again found myself asleep in Mr. Peptide’s class but awoke far before he was able to discover my narcoleptic tendencies and once again swat me with whatever vorhandensein was on today’s agenda, an agenda I tried to second-guess as Mr. Peptide stood over me with blood in his eyes screaming “YOU TOOK MY LOUNGE RIGHTS FROM ME YOU SON OF A BITCH YOU WILL PAY IN INCOMPREHENSIBLE SUFFERING,” (or perhaps I was projecting my own fears into the eyes forever in the shadow of Hess and Goebbels and pseudo-Freudian dominance needs) causing me to look down and notice something about him I had never picked up on before-this man creased his pants so tightly that you could literally lose a few finger putting them on in the morning. Call me unbelievably ballsy but my scientifically-directed head, which some think holds the brain of Albert Einstein, stolen from the Smithsonian and put into the skull of some backwoods fuck-up like, oh, I guess it’s too absurd to finish, but I could not resist experimentally throwing my textbook directly at that gleaming crease which whispered songs of dismemberment and watched in amazement and horror as the nine-hundred and fifty-two page book was cleaved into perfect halves without the least bit of effort. Other kids in the class picked up on this and threw objects of their own at the magic pants-bricks, dirt, chairs, rulers, a large diamond discovered and hidden by slaves who worked in mines in the Amazon who transported it to the States via a hired enemy of the country who was to buy the slaves’ freedom (what the fuck kinda paradox is that?) but instead went on the run and sold the diamond for a bag~f jelly beans and a Desert Storm T-Shirt after repeated cranial bludgeonings, the buyer giving the diamond to his daughter for her ninth birthday~ seven years ago. All objects were perfectly halved. Shit! This motherfuckin’ mark’s up for a bad case of Mutiny Of The PS 982 Civil Obedience and Consumer Responsibility class we all agree as we stripped him down (yeesh! the things revolution calls for!) and flung him through the stained-glass picture of Piaget over his desk, listening to him squeal out the extasis of being dominated by children, the same children who assisted me, the proverbial Magellan of the magic pants, prepare for The Big Showdown at the sacrifice of about seven fingers and an unknown amount of blood. Raiding Teacher’s Lounge A, I equipped my teen gang with a veritable arsenal of high-tech weaponry, using my new-bought book as a guide to maximum round capacity and trajectory accuracy, running through a target area filled with yearbook photos taped onto targets no larger than we. All who dared attack us got a taste of the magic pants and a few rounds in assorted areas, and we hijacked a bus, taking it on a two-month blitzkrieg of violence and mayhem Mr. Peptide would have shivered at the thought of, I invariably manifested my destiny, becoming both the Son Of Heaven and the Godfather of Washburn, Iowa.

“Uh, yes, that’s wonderful Matt. But I still think even though you’ve become an Enemy Of The School you should still go. The last thing you need is more heat. Besides, I’ll meet up with you at lunch and we’ll go out for delicacies, okay?”

I know Ophelia’s right, but I feel weird about going back. I don’t really want to. Dreamed about white, the color of light, the fate of every creature exists both in the intelligence and in reality. I’m just beginning. The faint voice said centuries and centuries have found the wrong image, as if from the center of a storm - no. I have to stay awake. Otherwise it’ll be bad. Get in trouble. Crucified until dead. Hung from the ceiling. Small opaque bundles of assorted breakfast cereals turn with the winding wind, the secret closed, saying the rhyme you taught me when I was just a child in your arms, I was always a child in your arms, you haven’t forgotten. Circumvent the revolutions of the sky with these daydreams, these dark days of dead majyk and waiting for communion, snow-blind eyes blooming from information and newfound senses, fingers intertwined, proving grounds, delirium. Portraits hang over the hole in the floor where the beads fell, I’ll have to save those someday. We glumly miserably count out the five minutes it takes to make rice. What a beatific way to spend an evening. Carpathian. Heralded. Titanium frames and my months in diatribe with the frozen Christ. When a false god betrayed us and we all fell to black. These are birthing pains. The vision liquefies. A bleak fragility made of scattered shards of what glistened like lies across the white of the sheets in the summerwintering sun. These promises are not made in ignorance. I understood before I entered. A simple proximity making me better than I am. And her hair catches and cradles the light of the moon gently within the silken revolution my fingers dare not enter, gathering strength, breathing through. Brown pictures turn to dust in memory. Silhouettes in the window say blessings for our little passions. I’m so tired. I am so tired. I know my loss this way. The word scared my memories, part of my spirit fell asleep. Passionately dedicated to what sounds like light. If you fool yourself anymore I will kill you. they scatter by a new wind, dying down, picking up, across the over and always. Everything human now except for humanity. Benediction via history, a judgment of extinction and sublimated fear. The piece of truth gets lost among the others, it’s a dream you’re having trouble holding down, praying for an end, oblivious to truth you cannot digest. It’s you.

But whatever became of Julietta?
(12: [/else/angelofmercy/03aphasia] #

[First issue. November 1990. Seventeen years old. Burroughs and Kerouac, The Pixies and The Cure and Slayer and serious caffeine abuse. Printed up copies on the school photocopier while my friends did shit for the newspaper. Left copies around West High, up on the hill, at the library slipped into books. That spring I took a couple trips to Iowa City and left copies all over campus. Nothing but text (even the cover) which made it kinda a hard sell. Title a tribute to Chrome, which I thought I was super-cool to be into Chrome at the time. What a rube, what a maroon.]

So now it’s gone, followed every planned path, left without whimper or murmur or sigh, off to places never identified or explored where everything’s had its novelty rubbed away, a reinvented memory set for nostalgia taking the place of surrogate originals. We are left with shapes in the dust and guesses at their names. But we are professionals, and this is all we need. The Davis Ranch had become famous, over the years, for a sort of experimental rodeo; being within shouting distance from the disposal mines, the animals were born with hundreds of distinct genetic abnormalities. Most of these were fatal, but the occasional animal stayed alive long enough to allow odd variants on rodeo classics, two cowboys chase a two headed calf, bulls whose horns sprouted from the skull and shoulders like tendrils. The birthing problems seen in the livestock were soon apparent in the human population, and flush with stillbirths and crib deaths, the population around the ranch became increasingly promiscuous, so that adult life was a series of pregnancies and funerals, until the riders who lived long enough to be strapped to the saddle mirroed the oddities of the beasts they rode, the grandstands lined with children on homemade respirators and hairless parents sucking down thumbsized pills with cheap beer.

It gets easier to believe once you’ve put a few years behind you. Sold used prom dresses in high school parking lots to pigment-deficient freshmen. Downright lewd. Drew chalk outlines around me every time I tried to sleep. No faith, no persistence, these people. That hyperfocus you get on each potential smell when there’s a new girl around. All I remember her saying was “I can’t handle this”, all she ever said. The blood that stains her teeth. Someone to take it out on. She thought it was forever. “A different kind of friends”, she said. If she saw me now, she’d stare at her feet and weep. She made me feel invincible, back when I was invincible, when the only thing that could touch me was her. Building cameras nailed into the walls to catch the traces, the remains. It’s all nostalgia with me. Hold to the ground and tell yourself secrets. Everybody always loved you. Washed right out of her mind as soon as I left her sight. I want my fucking shit back.

I planted magnets in your mouth so the angels could never find your grave.

Diving for spare change the sailors toss off the bridge, ducking between cars, callouses on the fingertips to master the grasp. It’s been nearly ten years since someone else cut your hair. There’s a mason jar with string wrapped around the mouth in which you keep all the things you can’t identify but you know you’ll one day need. You find your way home at night by following the church bells. Your palsied hands tremble and all your change falls from the St. Marks Bridge. Someday you’ll keep what’s yours.

There’s a ballroom on the moon where all the drinks are cheap and all the dancers make excellent use of the diminished gravity. There’s someone there, sitting at the bar, who’s been having dreams with you as the star, all action and hints at romantic intrigues, and this person wakevs every morning waiting to sleep, chewing up diphenhydramine and walking to the bar to wait out the waking hours. Tonight you’ll bump backs in the midst of a waltz, and swap partners, and then all the truth will come out of his chest.

She paid her third grade class in sugarsticky candy to call you and tell you to come home, knowing you were always a sucker for the grand gesture.
(12: [/else/angelofmercy/01monitors] #

every day you get a little whiter
Like most post offices, my post office has insane people handing out their xeroxed newsletters about the masons and the zionists and the aliens, and by and large these people confirm what Duane once told me, that insanity is unendurably boring and tedious, but then every once in a while turns up a gem. “Ma’am,” he says (and I must here admit to having a weird affinity for being called ma’am, which at least hints at the possibility of a civil conversation), he says “Ma’am, do you want to live forever?” “No!” I said, genuinely unhappy with the idea of eternal live. “Good! You’re one of the smart ones! It pays on you to be alive forever, but no one looks at that end of it!” “Pays like vampires?” “That’s what those people think, but they’re wrong! It makes you like retarded, only more so, you can’t take care of yourself, you stop being like a real person, and every day you get a little whiter. It’s hell! We did that to my brother and it’s horrible, they told me it would take him a few days to get used to being alive again but he never did! He just sits in the basement and drools on himself and watches the television!” “Isn’t that what most people do?” “Yes, I think that’s part of it, but maybe not, that part I don’t know about, but here, take my newsletter and just, I mean, just be careful, okay? Be careful when people ask you about being alive forever.” He then walked off nervously, across the street, where he started talking to a couple at the bus station. I read some of the newsletter while waiting in line to mail off mix cds, and it’s obvious the guy I talked to didn’t do much of the writing, but the basic message was the same: don’t agree to eternal life, it’s a scam. I may do some research later; will update as needed.
(12: [/ana] #

what about joan?
My email gets pretty seriously filtered before it hits my inbox. Most obvious spam gets deleted via Bayesian and content filters, but there’s a gray area of stuff that’s probably spam but maybe not, and that gets sent to my WHOZITZ directory, which gets deleted every Wednesday morning. When I’m bored, I poke around in that directory to see if there’s anything of interest, and today I found obvious spam entitled JOAN LOST HER CLOTHES!. Now I should have known better, but my sympathy had been triggered — it’s a bad hang, losing your clothes, but the upside is it’s an ideal opportunity to show off ingenuity and dignity, and so now I was curious. How did Joan deal with this crazy situation? Did she make surrogate clothes from newspaper and plastic bags? Did she bushwack some nutrient-deprived supernodel and steal her clothes? Did she bypass the situation entirely and confidently walk around without clothes, leading passerby to assume some sort of reality-prank tv show is in progress? I followed the horribly ugly URL and came to the expected peeping thomas-style website, filled with (blocked) popups, but no news on Joan. Damn you peddlers of quasi-pornography, what about Joan? Is there an address where I can send her some of my clothes? In a snit, I called Cecelia, and she agreed that Joan deserved a proper outfit no matter how she solved her nudtastic conundrum, and admittedly was a little bit aroused by this Joan character wandering around without a stitch on. “We could give Joan clothing and make her be our friend!” Cecelia giddily stated. “Yes! Joan will teach us MacGyveresque methods of dealing with the loss of clothing, and we will be well-prepared for the next time we accidentally go to All-Nude Roller Disco and misplace our locker key,” I said, calmer but still pretty jazzed. “Yes! But how will we get past these shady internet characters?” “We will use the internet to fight the internet!” And so we would like to put the word out: If you have seen a naked or recently naked individual responding to the name Joan, and if she looks pretty crafty and clever, please tell her that Ana and Cecelia have clothing and alcohol for her just as soon as she can manage to drop us a line. Thank you.
(12: [/ana] #

There’s a decommissioned telephone switch box almost hidden by bushes in the field between where I live and the nearest convenience store. It is almost entirely overrun with a giant wasp’s nest, but across the top is a pile of wedding rings, amulets and loose change left by those who pray to Saint Friard for retribution and mercy, in equal measure. I went to leave my cellphone atop the box, but the hum of the wasps was so loud that I wussed out and instead threw it into the pond.
(12: [/ana] #

ballroom dancing with the vermin-eater
As of this afternoon it has finally started snowing here in the republic of Iowa, the ghosts of head-on fatalities attempting to read the calligraphy of tiretracks across the asphalt before the snow swallows them completely. I went out with my new secondhanded camera to try to catch pictures of them, the confusion in their spirit-eyes as they lose the lattice of the body, now little more than a tissue-map spread acros their dashboards, and become less-than, minus the habits of the organs, so that their forms become increasingly nonhumaniod, until all you can see is shifting patterns in the snow, the brain making connections where no connections exist. I never made it out to the highway, however, as I was spotted by the vermin-eater, out on the deck in her stained prom dress, attempting to catch snowflakes on the tips of syringe needles. The vermin-eater believes that the form of snowflakes are a communications technology, so that each snowflake makes use of a limited alphabet of patterns in order to form an unlimited set of information-packages, and since none of the failures at the university will put proper funding behind the snowflake translation project, she gets absolutely frenzied when it snows, as the information is lost forever as soon as the sun returns. Like many of us out here in the park, the vermin-eater stopped paying her lot fees and utilities years ago, after the managers were vanished, but unlike myself (who still earns a marginal living by which I can support my experiments and addictions) the vermin-eater lives off what her gang of dogs drags out of the fields, and since her dogs have shrunken skulls, the prey they hunt are moles, skunks, and crows. The vermin-eater told me to stay away from the accident scene; the dogs and a cult of organ theives were having it out and neither side would have much ptience for my phototaking. I nodded, shrugged, and walked to the office to get a coke.
(12: [/ana] #

I live about four miles from an elementary school whose students have been flickering in and out of existence. This makes it hard to arrange lectures and activities, as some students are missing for up to three minutes at a time, a gap far too large to simply skip over. Even worse, the children are apparently being given some nature of ‘involution education’ while away, a series of partial lessons which, when accumulated, provoke states of distance awareness, alternate time, and the activation of the puberty device. A pair of these children live here in the park; I’ve seen them drawing interwoven mandalas in day-glo chalk on the basketball court. I tried to talk to them, as I’ve always had an interest in subjective time, but their mothers, mascara slurred around their eyes, screamed at me and poked at my undercarriage with broken broomhandles until I left them alone. The children refuse to leave the park, claiming their hair has taken on a secondary function, pulling nutrients from the air, leaving them free to perfect their work. Yesterday the manager put up cyclone wire around the basketball court covered in blue tarps, so as to diminish media attention, which I think is pointless, as the earth is filled with miracles, but the manager is a pragmatist in these matters.
(12: [/ana] #

tv as eyes
At a swap meet I bought a tivo which was also a time machine, and would record any television show in history if I programmed it right. I was all anxious to tivo every episode of WKRP, but I couldn’t remember when it was on, but then I remembered that my grandad stored all his old TV Guides in the attic, so I drove to Duluth and filled a spiral with all the shows I wanted to record, but by the time I got back the retro-futuro tivo was on the blink, and Merle and Ed Satan came over and claimed it was probably a loose wire, and before I could get between them and the device it was cracked open like a turtle on the interstate. I’m gonna see if any of the celestial mechanics can fix it, and if so, I’ll let you know if I get hold of anything particularly noteworthy.

(12: [/ana] #

trace elements remaining in the bloodstream
Every once in a while people try to engage me in arguments. I’m not sure why this is. Example: on the plane this morning this man in one of those weird panelling-looking suits where you can just peel off a dirty layer like a fruit roll-up tried to bait me that superthin east coast pizza is the way it should be. here in the midwest (rekanize, fool) people often champion the deep-dish pizza. I’m the Switzerland of pizza, and could not care less, so I thought about doing what I ususally do when I’m flying somewhere over Lake Superior and no longer want to listen to people dribble out of their mouth-holes and scream “THERE’S A MAN ON THE WING OF THE PLANE!”, but people are much less understanding of such stunts lately. Instead, I took this as an opportunity to work on my diplomacy skills. “The key to good pizza ain’t the crust,” I tell him. “It’s the meat. You have to make your own meat. And not muscle-meat, no. The skin. Use the skin. The skin is where an animal keeps its soul, and the souls of dead animals is where flavor comes from.” This used to be enough to bother people so that they’d be quiet, but he just shrugged it off and said “That’s what I like about you people out here, you’re so quaint”, so I had to stab him in the thigh repeatedly with my fingernail clippers (legal again!) until he shut his fat fucking mouth. Tomorrow, I promise, I’m going to work on my diplomacy some more.
(12: [/ana] #

to-do (one)

  1. For my thirtieth birthday a friend of mine gave me eight pounds of uncut heroin, which I guess was a thoughtful gift, but that’s way more heroin than I’m ever gonna need, so I got to selling it, but the only people I know are poor post-students or just plain poor people, so everybody’s wanting to buy heroin at like five dollar increments, and it’s going to take me decades to sell it all that way, and also my lifestyle doesn’t mesh with all these people coming over all the time and falling asleep under the deck so that I have to hit them with the hose and they start yelling about how they’re not going to buy any more of my heroin, which I mean so much for keeping a low profile. Thus I’m going to plant the remaining 7.8 pounds of heroin on my nemesis, and laugh as the police beat him into a stupor. Which brings me to
  2. Must aquire nemesis. Not as easy as it sounds. I’m very charming and friendly, and people naturally taking a liking to me unless I get all in a snit and chase them around town while whipping them with my belt and cursing them in the literal sense. Also I don’t much want some high-maintenence nemesis who will constantly be conspiring on my front lawn and calling me late at night with digitally manipulated recordings of conversations I have had with loved ones which make me sound like a tool. No! I want a nemesis entirely on my own terms, who maybe has a day job and some entertaining hobbies so that the months when I have no pressing need for nemesising until one day and then POW! he finds a big bag of heroin in his pants as the sirens grow louder and just as he realizes that he is now fundamentally doomed he picks up the phone to call his lawyer only there is no dial tone, there is only my voice, telling him that I am the winner! I am the winner!

(12: [/ana] #

the uncontrolled vocabulary
“What is it — this thing which now forces itself upon my notice? What is it made up of? How long was it designed to last? And what qualities do I need to bring to bear on it — tranquility, courage, honesty, trustworthiness, straightforwardness, independence, or what?” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book Three, Hays trans.)

They were born twins, and assumed they would remain as such, but the years wore on them in different ways, brought up different attributes, which only increased as one walked north and one walked south, and they took up new homes, new wives, until you wouldn’t even know they were twins, wouldn’t even know they were brothers. One I knew well, years ago, and the other I only met once, and I realized something, watching them uncomfortably joke with each other. The god hates equivalence. No one thing can ever be substiuted for another. I was thinking of that this morning, making breakfast, watching the global warmed December rain out the window, watching the factories across the fields grinding away, and I thought of myself as a distinctive form, as a thing which is seperate from what is around me, though perhaps invisible, as things which share a form and color and texture hide each other, and perhaps to understand what is distinct in me, I need to leave here forever.
(12: [/ana] #

the safety kings
I hadn’t been to sleep in a while, and thus tried to keep as low a profile as possible in the course of my day, but I couldn’t have been too low profile as an old man with a santa claus beard and a crown made from reinforced tin foil walked up and introduced himself as Nate Tetlow, Safety King. He told me I looked like just the right kind of person to fill in for him as temporary Safety King while he drove his sister to the hospital so she could get her foot looked at. I asked him what was involved in being a Safety King, and he said it’s simple, you just jump in if there’s a particularly unsafe situation and correct, and also advise those who would seek council as to safety-related issues. Safety Kings also get asked to sign on as witnesses for various things, such as marriages and loan applications, as they have the solid community-minded demeanor that inspires trust, but that probably won’t come up, he told me, as I’m only going to be gone for a couple hours. I should have realized that my sleep deprivation made me a poor choice for Safety King, but on the other hand I didn’t have anything else to do (except sleep, and I was trying to stay up until at least dusk, so I said sure, and he gave me the crown and ran to his Jetta and tore ass toward North Cedar in an absolutely unsafe manner. I spent the day watching the neighborhood, my crown riding low and my demeanor kinda zen-gunfighter as I warned kids about kites and powerlines and explaining to a guy in a pea-green track suit how it was I was a Safety King and not, as would be grammatically correct, a Safety Queen (my logic on this is that there is no proper Safety Monarchy, and I am not wed to a Safety King, so overthinking the parallels is just silly; if you wear the crown you’re a Safety King and that’s that). I waited for Nate for about six hours, and he never did show up, so until such time as he contacts me I am considering myself a full-time Safety King, and offer my services in this regard to loyal readers and interested third parties.
(12: [/ana] #

the new devil, hands in his pants
I took a job last week as a door-watcher. There’s a blank white room in an office building just down from the elementary school, with a desk and a chair and a office supply cabinet and a buzzer and two doors. One door is the one I walk in and out of, and the other is the grey door, and should the grey door open while I’m on shift I’m supposed to press the button. The grey door has yet to open, so mostly I entertain myself by putting thumbtacks I stole from the supply cabinet onto the bottoms of my new leather boots and tap-dancing around the room. Tap dancing, I’ve decided, does not need to be as lame as it is generally presented, if you work some bump and grind into it. But then I guess that’s mostly the case with anything. When I’m not sure of how to proceed through the days, I used to try paranoiac-critical dereve, where I wandered around the city, letting the pulse guide me, and pulling predictions out of things I would see which bore some slight resemblance to things I was thinking about. I was doing a lot of speed then. Now I pick a poet, flip through a collection, and pick a single phrase at random, which I sift for insight. Wallace Stevens is particularly good for this, and my Stevens koan for the day, from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird: “I was of three minds, Like a tree In which there are three blackbirds.”
(12: [/ana] #

the last day of my old life
Dollar store voodoo had caught me, the brain bound by chemicals in the scent of the car that caused me to forget to stop at red lights. I didn’t even see that other car coming. It was two am, and I had time to bury the bodies and dump the other car, but it was clear that my life had taken a turn into bad places, the sort of mistakes I might not soon be able to talk away from, so I called my lawyer and worked out one of those group-divorce settlements. I left all three of my husbands and almost everything I owned and had my name legally changed to Manifeste Destiny. The only things I took from the house was a change of clothes and a bag of my own blood I had “in case of emergency”, but I saw a deer that had been shot by the edge of the highway on my way out of town and poured the blood into its mouth, blowing salt with my mouth on its mouth, and I brought it back to life, watching it scamper into the underbrush and praying my days of bad karma were behind me, but no, no.

Three miles outside of town I was picked up by a man who claimed to have an engine of destruction in his back seat, underneath a brown tarp, and as he started to explain the details over the din of a well-worn Corrosion of Conformity tape I realized he knew what he was talking about, his prototype destruction engine might actually work, and so I stabbed him repeatedly in the neck until the visible Jesus descended from a low-flying cloud and took him to Heaven, which seemed odd to me, so I reached up and tugged on the cloak of Christ, pulling him back to the earth. “This is a man who built an engine of destruction! He is a foul and crawling thing, and must be sent to the hell which bears his name, for his name is Sheol, as printed on the inside of his skin!” I said. “No, he is a servant of divine providence, as are you, and all such agents will go to heaven, where they will be rewarded for their acts,” said Christ. “Even those unaware of their role?” “Particularly those unaware of their role! These are soldiers who require not the crutch of reason, of logic, who simply do what they know to do! The lessons of the heart are legion, and point one like a compass toward the celestial city!” “So you are to say that I am to ascend as well?” “Your tasks are not yet completed. Time will tell.” And in a moment, the visible Christ left this earth, carrying the shriveled soul of the engine-maker over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. I long considered what I had seen, and slept in the back seat of the car, the warmth of the engine of destruction like the warmth of a lover who was not yet planning my death.

It may be the case that in Heaven all one needs is quickly placed beneath the hand, so as to seem constantly available, but here on the earth everything is constantly missing or broken, and my abuse of crack cocaine had done nothing to remedy that fact, having shrunk my field of vision considerably, this being one of the reasons I had left my husbands, as I am convinced they were stealing crack cocaine out of my pants while I slept, and also they were devils. I cleaned the blood out of the driver’s seat and drove down the highway to Gulnac, where homeless people built metal detectors from stolen batteries and Pringles cans to scan graveyards for rings and fillings. At the side of the road just before the city limits there was a small luminous boy in the garb of a preacher. He told me a parable of revenge and loss. He told me a parable of ache and love and how all these hungers will be satisfied. He told me a parable of DNA sequences, of the star-maps along the zodiac, of the misguiding direction of gravity. “Do you believe there is a secret road?” the luminous boy asked. “The road is not secret; I can hear it even when I am asleep.” The luminous boy smiled. “I grant you safe passage into Gulnac, as an envoy of the King. You will need to find a second passage out.” I nodded, and faded, and threw up in the passenger seat, reading the half-digested chunks as an oracle, an oracle that told me to steer clear of the gun shop and the whorehouse. I found two twenties tucked beneath the driver’s seat, and went looking for a street fighting match, which Gulnac used to be famous for, but a wave of malnutrition had washed over the city and now nobody was physically able to sustain the endless feats of cunning and physical endurance that street fighting matches called for. So much for expanding my newfound fortune. I parked the car beside a grain silo and fell asleep, rolling into the vomit-puddle without so much as a wince.

When I awoke, my automobile had been replaced with an invisible hearse, by which I was to transport VIP guests to hell. A man stood by the side of the road with his skull in his hands screaming that he needed instructions and perhaps a ride, and I yelled back there was no way I would let on the secrets I had been gifted with, secrets only just then rising up to the surface of consciousness, and that if he did not walk off into the field and bury himself in a hole that I would see to it that God would seek him out and force upon him endless punishments, at which point he ran into the field, out toward the train tracks. I walked in the other direction, past the grain silo and into a small pumpkin patch, where I washed myself in a creek and stole a suit off a scarecrow. Freshly cleaned and attired, I returned to find the invisible hearse, which I discovered I could see if I squinted just right, climbed inside and set off on Rural Route 120 toward Devlin.

If you can kill it, you can take and wear its skin, and that will be enough to fool the ignorant and inattentive, and as they rule this place it will be enough to pass unseen. A swampish heat came up from the fresh-cut grass, piled thick across the lawns, a vegetative ache in the nostrils, blowing north in waves, like a field of filled dumpsters baking in the noonday sun. Above that, however, you can smell other features, becoming more prominent as summer marches into fall; someone is cooking steaks, somewhere a few blocks over, and perhaps also asparagus. More distant still is the scent of burning leaves, and diesel fumes from the interstate, and the smell no one notices, the smell of the people, shuffling through their lives, not the sharp tang of fresh sweat nor the thicker unwashed grime nor the myriad scents they use to disguise themselves, but a baser smell, more fundamental and permanent, the scent which keeps the deer in the fields and the wolves in the hills, the scent which gives up the whole of each person’s life to anyone willing and able to sift the information from the air, sniffing at genetic packets like a map of the nerves and secrets of every person on this earth. Monday I suckled three wolf cubs at my breast and they became part of my nervous system; through minor cranial surgery I could overclock their parietal lobes and thus pinpoint very distant objects by triangulating the target, which allowed me to catch and kill devils. At night they would run alongside the invisible hearse and scare away deer, until the wolves no longer remembered our bond, and broke left, like a fighter squadron, into the cattails and milkweed lining the road.

At night, the children walked to the top of the hill, where the school looks over the town, and they stack wooden pallets against a drainpipe to climb atop the alcove and leap from there to the main building, and scale to the highest point, where a small metal shed holds cable and antennas. The children checked the orientation of the antennas and made corrections as necessary, guided by starlight, and when they were satisfied they took two and a half foot pipes and began pounding at the walls of the shed, slowly, as though they were mimicking a pulse, as though they were trying to call down something to the city of Devlin. I watched them from the invisible hearse, parked in a graveyard to the south, and fiddled with the scanner, trying to see if I could pick up a return signal, but all I heard was static. The graves there were partially wound with multicolored string, where visitors would tie a loop around the obelisk-like headstones upon each visit, with some so covered it was as if they wore sweaters. I noticed every headstone had at least one loop bound to it, all in the same color string, and I imagined some old man walking the rows every so often, checking for bare headstones. The fields outside the graveyard were not so much a hiding-place as a locus of surrogate light, containing fragmented images from all directions, the breath frozen as luminous things hunted out my time-pulse. Gratitude sprang up and forth once the lights stopped. I had planted my journals out in the fields, not staying long enough to see what sprouted up, struggling for sunlight, new words meshed from the old. Airbourne harvesters sifted the grain, the pages, the clouds, utilizing these components as one of the engineers would, pulling the materials apart for pieces to what the harvester-cult considered a portal to end-of-time, something called the Abaddon Device, diagrams hidden in the steganographic source-text of their holy books. The automated pilots waved, and I waved back. The earth was filled with portals.

Distance between cities is marked by rural touchstones, by the distance of silos and groves of trees, so that those who came here to hide often build mockeries of such standard scenery, farms whose size fools the eye, modified road signs tricking the unwary into following endless emptied creekbeds in search of gas and lodging, the husks of cars with Illinois plates rusting in the later summer sun. Unschooled children with .22s hide in the trees and shoot out tires at unimaginable range, sending half-wolf dogs out to pick through the wreckage like a turtle’s tasty innards. I paid two of them to watch over me as I entered the edge of town, where a partial immortal hid in a jar from the agents of the afterdeath, little more than a head and pieces of chest left of him, speaking advice to the Mayor of Devlin from some future eigenstate. Dampeners in the tiles of the ceiling along the hallways of the Devlin city council building absorbed faith and radiated blistered fear. I was protected, but knew to pay attention to such foul omens. Children smiled at me, unsettlingly, and I whistled short themes they would remember and whistle themselves, in quiet times, for the rest of their lives. Orange voices. At a certain length, tone-sequences began to fold on themselves, algorithms coded in the first few sequences in order to map the unfolding of the entire piece, frequency limiters and repetition hues, cerulean in the light, a milk-white hum as the interoffice spiral tightened and I closed in on this place’s heart, tucked away, stored in a jar of bleach and gooseberries to repel stray dreams. “You, you are a key,” I mumbled, and tucked the jar beneath my coat, and so was caught by weekend vigilantes in homemade police uniforms.

It was then I was marched before a series of judges. Each sat at a long table made of whitewashed pine, nailed together in a slapdash fashion, which suggested trials here were of a very ad hoc nature. The judges were constantly being served various scorched meats on fine china, which they would swallow whole and spit the skins between the table and myself as I waited for questioning to begin. Eventually the judges grew full, and tired, and slow, and asked that I explain the nature of my crime in detail. I had spent the week before watching the trials from atop a silo where I was storing the bodies, and thus knew that the nature of release from custody depended on the quality of my storytelling abilities more so than any set idea of law, so I had made a pair of pornographic puppets out of my undergarments while in my cell, and constantly interjected my tale with reenactments of illicit affairs between the Hum Goddess and myself, which were exaggerated in the extreme, but this was theater, and such is to be expected. Likewise, I offered tales which painted my victims as direct conduits to the dark veins of Hell, which (as I have often mentioned) is everywhere, as it seeps from these carriers of the disease of impropriety and stains the whole of the earth, and as such I was simply keeping the children of this fair city safe from the endless schemes of The Devil. This elicited applause from the cheap seats, only some of which I paid for with whisky and hypnosis recall therapy beforehand, so that soon enough I could feel the swell of public support gather around me and shield me from all misdeeds, and as a politician hates nothing more than to go against public opinion, I was released and given three thousand dollars as a reward for my public service. Having beaten the legal system of this town to a quivering mass, I put on my scarecrow jacket and headed over to the schoolhouseto drink the black syrup, catch a quick nap and return my collection of the Very Important Damned to the nearest enterance to Hell.

The hidden christ appeared at the foot of my bed as a crippled girl with clouds of blood in her eyes. Tendriled flowers in her left hand she brought to her face as if to breathe from. The hidden christ began to sing from a shake of the bones in her chest. She bounced up and down to rub her ribs, a low drone eminating from her, stuck in the bedsheets. She tapped a second cadence with the tips of her fingers on the bedposts. The hidden christ spat teeth and clumps of clotted blood onto my covered legs and feet. “Manifest strictly on-earth, place where all ideals played out, and as one cannot appear twice in same form all is difference and shall continue on and on until all forms have been seen, which is nearly eternal.” She had spun wind in her mouth and blown into the faces of all the flowers, which trembled and twisted. “You would care for tea?” “I would not care for tea. Keep from my bed, hidden christ, in any of your forms.” The hidden christ lifted the lacework of her underskirts and showed me her lower mouth. “Your kingdom is toppled and its bricks make for charnel-houses.” “Thrones and dominions are as nothing to me, all that which is, the thread and threat of your very meat.” The hidden christ spattered the oak of the floor with the small rain and made as if to bless the shivering flowers. She gnawed on her tongue as if it was beyond her control, as if it rushed to escape her throat. “Spread the veils of mary, of salome. The plans you have for this world, for your history, your identity, all come from a hole between your legs.” “God has spoken all and final in the form and function of all things; nothing remains but silence. You and I are the voice of God, not in our meaning or grammar but in our very existence. Your shrunken psychologies mean nothing to me.” Her body hummed like a struck bell. I will never return to sleep. Pools of the thicker blood puddled in the valleys of the bedsheets, between my thighs. “Do you believe in evil? Should evil be destroyed? Are you a culpable and complicant witness to evil? Where were you then, when the matter was made, when the first blow fell?” Now I was awake, at least enough to walk, and the hidden christ walked at my side to a curve in the road where a hole had been dug. “When yours is to kill, you should always dig a grave. By the time the hole is finished you will know the length of your resolve. Those who kill without intention live lives shallow as the base of a bowl, their lives wound down to the end of a rope.” I was so tired I could not raise my arms. The drizzle soaked into my skin and weighed me down. The hidden christ begged I should bed with her at the bottom of the hole. Her arms had been broken in multiple places and she could not lower herself down without my help. Her body followed the curve of mine like the black fluid I had swallowed the night before. The skin around her mouth had been gnawed away by infection and left her a leer she could not put down. The cicadas shivered and filled the air around us with a rattle which brought up spasms in her, pearls trapped in her throat, the wet skin where she had the rings cut from her fingers trembling in the moonlight. Further we went, to a tree whose branches dug into the ground. Eggs grew along the trunk and branches of this tree, some as large as a child’s fist, each containing something which scratched and cried. The hidden christ began filling her lower mouth with mud, so as to feed the child therein. Overhead geese hid in the clouds and tried not to see us. The air was all rotted pumpkins, burning leaves and the shriveling of plants which live atop still waters. Here there were frogs and salamanders who breathe the water and reeds with their hindlegs and tails. There was a mossy growth in her mouth which i could feel as i stuck my fingers inside, a tidal ripple with each swallow, tears on the back of my wrist. There was something stuck to the back of her throat, like a pinecone caught in amber, but I could not reach far enough to keep hold. The mist had bloated my skin, it hurt to curl my fingers or bend my knees. A smell of eaten things. There were statues of young women in veils holding machine guns made of opal, further into the trees. The statues were headless. There were inscriptions on their bases overrun by some sort of white fungus. The hidden christ asked for my second name and all the eggs on all the trees began tapping and clawing in unison. Gel-weapons came out of her pores. The hidden christ had armies gathering on the horizon. We were at the bottom of a well, capturing daylight in a mirror whose binding was woven around her throat. “Doll-twins, you and I. I will birth you innumerable children who can only be seen one at a time, holding the other siblings in its stomach until a hole for hiding and form-transfer can be found. Your uterine prayers are trapped in my body. All heaven dips low to grace your crown.” “You’ve buried belladonna in my blood. There is no hidden christ. Moab descending. Perverse reversions; I am falling into chronal harmonies with my dead siblings, places outside. Please let me sleep.” The hidden christ placed her mouths over my eyes and whispered blessings directly into my brain, and sometime later, much later, I awoke, filled with righteous terror and bathed in the marker-blood of the sow. (ljcomments)
(12: [/ana] #

the god poked me in the hindbrain i store in my womb
One of my more loathsome habits is stealing pens. I’ve been doing it since I was six, when I found a child-sized victory in leaving the principal’s office with his old-style Conklin in the front pouch of my Garanimals overalls. Since then I’ve picked up pens from the NSA, from the Curl Up And Dye Beauty Shop (which I visited, years later, and even got a picture of), a Mr. Spock floaty-pen, and a weird cheap Bic pen with a sculpy figure at the far end, voodoo needles in its genitals and eyes. That’s the one I use to pay bills with, on the rare occasion that I pay bills. In order to karmically make up for this, I printed up a gross of pens, each with their own little message, which I’ve been leaving in places where they seem likely to be swiped. Being me, however, I felt a need to put questionable messages on the pens, such as “This pen was used to sign a Texas death sentence” and “All secrets written with this pen will be publically displayed in an unflattering light” and “This is the pen your nemesis will stab you in the throat with” and “This pen contains invisible ink, so don’t sign any checks with it, or maybe it doesn’t”.
(12: [/ana] #

the days are near, and the fufilment of every vision
Sometimes at night, wandering around the neighborhood, I’ll hear them before I see them, the plastic clack of the stroller wheels across the broken concrete, and there beneath a streetlight they’ll be banded together, the mothers, sharing cigarettes and secrets in a hushed tone, and I’ll nod at them, so as not to wake the babies, and they’ll nod back, and keep walking. I don’t think the mothers ever sleep. In a couple hours they’ll be waking the children while their husbands head off to the factory, leaving a little early to keep the quiet of the morning over the hustle and noise of th ekids getting showered, getting dressed, getting fed, getting on the bus, at which point it’s about eight thirty, and with everyone gone but the littlest of the babies, two of the mothers, Michelle and Regan, bundle up the kids and head over to Cassandra’s house, where they put the babies in a crib in the far bedroom, turn on the monitor, and head out to the living room, where the mothers watch The Today Show and freebase heroin. I’ve hung out with the mothers three mornings since I moved here, which has been just shy of five years, each time on mornings when the thunderstorms knocked out the power in the neighborhood. I’m not sure how it happened the first time. I think I had to ask for batteries, and the nearest person who I knew would be home was Cassandra, who I shared a class with the year before, some blurry communications class that everyone took as a requirement. I was suprised to hear the television, and went in to see a small portable propped on top of the bigger Sony, some fill-in weatherman standing in front of a gaggle of screaming east-coast frat brothers talking about the midwest storm front. I sat next to Regan on the couch, all the furniture a sort-of pastel arts and crafts style, the carpet and couch deeply padded. Nobody said much of anything, which was fine with me, as I’m not very chatty in the morning, and while Cassie got the batteries I watched Regan pick up a piece of tin foil and a glass tube from a lace-doilied end table with ceramic small teddy bear figurines gathered at the center. It should have seemed weird, and it did seem weird later, but at the time I was just trying not to act weird and conspicuous. She ran a lighter under the tin foil, sucked in the smoke, and sat very still for a minute, after which she passed the tin foil, glass pipe and lighter to me. And that was the first time I freebased heroin. The only time I do it now is on mornings when the storm knocks out the power, when I head to Cassandra’s place and sit with the mothers. They tell me they only do this once a day, in the morning, and while I have no reason to believe them, I do. They’re all a few years younger than me, taking a class or two each semester out at the community college, all they can afford of time or money, aware that they’ll probably never get an actual BA, never go on to the state college an hour and a half down the highway, but taking classes is a promise of change, and I understand that as well as anyone. These girls, scrunchies in their hair and Target sweatpants, they may speak to me but it is clear that I am not one of them, not a mother, not privy to what they know, and there is a sense of being a definite outsider when they speak to each other, the words rolling off their bitten lips both languid and sharp. They listen to the sort of pop music I like to laugh at a little; boy bands, synthetic mall divas, bling-bling hip-hop. They are earnest where I am ironically selfconscious, but cold a little inside, distant behind the eyes, aware of how little room for change their lives afford. I think I am a little jealous of them, in a way I can’t quite define, as they are part of a consistent undercurrent of cool which runs beneath this world in the places where the camera can’t reach, something which I can see but not touch.
(12: [/ana] #

spread increasingly thin
My little brother Merle, back when he was little-little, made me a magic wand, and gave me explicit instructions as to its use. He bought the core off a kid for a snak-pak and a quarter during one of the Hatch Elementary Swap Meets, and read books on magic wand construction at the public library, in the private arcanum in the sub-basement you can only get to by pressing all the elevator buttons but one. The magic wand is wrapped in duct-tape with pen scribbles up the sides; sometimes you have to bang it on the palm end (NOT the business end) to get it to work, and it never works when your hands are sweaty, or clammy, or cold. Also, you cannot be thinking of two things when you use it, which is why he gave it to me, as he hadn’t gone on the medication yet and couldn’t not think of two (or more) things at the same time, but he said I could use it, because he said if I really wanted to I could do anything. I still have it, wrapped in dark green velvet I ripped out of a motel couch, and if I can get a large enough mirror I might actually use it again.
(12: [/ana] #

so they trusted him, but he seized sixty of them and killed them in one day
Please allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Ana Skyfish and I got no time for pleasantries, and like my associate Crow T. Robot once said, I don’t come with a comfort strip. I got suckered into some shitty employment a while back and haven’t kept up with the chitchat for far too long, but my prior employer is now picking glass shards out of his face and I’ve got some catching up to do. First I moved out of the old neighborhood into an empty storage barn halfway between Washburn and La Porte City and nobody minds my taxidermy experiments or shotgun practice, or at least if they do mind they have enough civic pride not to call the fucking cops. Technically I’m the only one living here, but Cecelia is here quite a bit, which is fine by me so long as she doesn’t start inviting her kook friends over. William leaves his bus here when he’s not working and sometimes he comes inside and brings us necessary mission equipment, which is an ideal situation. That’s about it for regulars. We’ve got legit net access and very unlegit satellite access and a stereo system that can literally wake the dead. We’ve been building furniture from abandoned flood-damaged lumber we took off some Amish Separtists for a stray Bloemhof Fighting Lemur we found in the attic. I’m making my stand here at the barn: I’m never going to work another day as long as I live.

And how have you been? (ljcomments)
(12: [/ana] #

something i learned today
When you’re on an airplane, and you hit some turbulence, and you can see lightning off in the distance, apparently it’s no longer funny to scream “THERE’S A MAN ON THE WING OF THE PLANE!”. It’s not funny for the passengers, and it wasn’t funny for my mom, who had to drive to Wichita and pick me up after I was forcibly removed from the plane halfway home for Thanksgiving, but fuck those squares anyway, because deep down, they know it’s funny.
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my skull falls out
This afternoon I’m applying for a position at the local revitalization clinick, and after staying up all night watching Dark Shadows (sidenote: I have an affinity for Dark Shadows primarily because the interiors all remind me of all you can eat buffet places my family used to go to when we were little kids, so I think of it as dinner theatre, and just out of screenshot bulky midwestern families are knocking back fish and shrimp dinners beneath fake candlelight), I’ve decided to wear my cape and be all skulky during the interview, just to see what they do. I mean, it’s a revitalization clinick, for fuck’s sake. How can they not appreciate this?
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a shallow roadside grave for the king of lies
Recent development in summerland religio-kookery: trunk shrines, generally built atop subwoofers and built of springs so that when the <60hz bassline thumps small figures of The Hidden Christ and Jennifer, Patron of Popular Girls bob up and down as suits the character. Most of them have elaborate murals painted across the inside, like a diorama of the critical moment of their favorite figures from the Stephenson Bible or its even more questionable apocrypha, fake-gilded dollar store change baskets weighed down to prevent spilling. I saw a slew of the weird hipster faithful in the parking lot of Eat tonight, handing out handwritten pamphlets with elaborate meth illuminations while discussing amp packages and ignoring their sullen looking girlfriends.
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some entirely seperate way
there’s a giant transmitter just down the street. some of the kids go out when the stormclouds come in and stand inside it, on the concrete, hoping in the way kids do that lightning will hit it and they will have confirmed their long-promised legacy of immortality. i don’t think i’ve ever seen lightning hit that tower, however, and i’ve been out here for nearly a decade. there is a chunk of overturned abandoned farm-mecha stuck out in the field, its transformable talons broken on the outcropping of rocks, and i have seen the lightning hit that, seen it close enough to smell it, the cable-tendons pulling taut like a suspension bridge just before it collapses.
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This afternoon I had to go to the mall to get strings and candles and vodka, and while lunching in the food court I watched people walking past and tried to imagine the scope of their potential modification, how skinny or fat they could possibly be, how strong or weak, if they had the ability to change beyond recognition, so that a year away from their loved ones would afford time to vanish in plain sight, walking past husbands and children who do not even think to take a second glance. (ljcomments)
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the revolution of the ugly
No sleep no sleep no sleep because there’s a film crew here in town shooting a feature about stoic farmers tragically being foreclosed on and their daughters seeking some man to love and save and so we’ve been pelting them with rocks and feces until they go back to the rancid west coast womb where these well-coiffed fetus creatures thrive. The air here stinks of yeast and sulfur ever since the first catering truck pulled up, though the stink has diminished now that they’ve barricaded themselves in their trailers. There is no hiding place from the american cultural holocaust; it must be attacked and destroyed completely everywhere it incubates.
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review: maker of all/the reverents, amphouse, 10.21.04
The Reverents were literally a band of brothers, with Josh and Jason Armstrong on guitars and Jacob Armstrong on bass and piano, with the occasional live addition of Michelle Davis and Owen Pending on percussion. A slower, fuzzier variant of Chatham/Band of Susans intricate guitarwork, Josh and Jason provided the primary rhythmic element around which Jacob’s bass was more a distorted accompaniment, inverting the general structure of contemporary rock music. Too slow for amped-up punkrock kids, too loud for aging hipsters, and not heavy enough for the narco-Sabbath set, The Reverents never really found an audience around here, content to open for other bands and occasionally play scores for silent movies out at the drive-in.

In 1998, Josh and Jason Armstrong were killed in a car accident on Highway 63, driving back from a show at the Barbary Coast Opera House. Jacob, who was also in the car, broke three ribs and cracked his skull, spending the next two days in surgery at the U of I hospital. Jacob unsuprisingly fell off the radar for the next four years, taking a job at a bakery and marrying his long-time girlfriend Michelle. It was certainly a shock to hear the first Maker of All ep last December, with Jacob and Michelle developing electronically processed clouds of sound, basslines granually pulled apart and recontextualized as a sort of live instrument microsound. Although there have been two other eps released in 2004, the performance last Saturday was the first, and while I was pretty excited to see how Jacob would make this process work in a live environment (particularly one as noisy as the Amphouse), the idea of a Reverents reunion didn’t sit well with me at all.

The Maker of All show was quite a bit different than on the eps — much louder, first of all, and more distorted, with Jacob having swapped the bass for a hot-rodded Fender Jaguar. Michelle Davis-Armstrong sat behind a table filled with small electronic devices and the ubiquitous laptop, though any notion that she might just be checking email was quickly demolished as she lurked over the table, striking knobs and buttons like a cobra, racing back and forth in a mad dash to keep up with Jacob’s much speedier performance. The duo was joined by Manuel Sela on a second guitar, and his sharp jangled clusters of notes swarmed around Jacob’s relentless patterns, broken and refracted by Michelle’s effects into something both mathematically rigorous and alien in form. The crowd was much more animated than at any Reverents show, and the lack of breaks or stage patter only seemed to help (for once) maintain the jittery, vaguely menacing mood.

After the set, the stage cleared and the lights came up and two large televisions were wheeled to either side of the stage, and a small piano was moved up to stage center by Jacob, who then sat at the piano, facing away from the audience, and began to quietly play. Nobody could tell if this was a level check, and everyone kept chatting at the lights slowly came down, Jacob continuing to play quiet minor chords, until the two televisions came on. On the left, Josh Armstrong, looking all of about seventeen, sat in the family basement in front of a small practice amp and a slew of effects pedals, the sound wanting to be loud but coming out like a broadcast from far away. On the right, a tiny Jason Armstrong, perhaps ten, stood atop the living room couch with a starter acoustic guitar strapped over his shoulder, a little too big for him to play comfortably, so he takes his time getting to the fingerings, looking down at his left hand until he sees he’s in place, then staring back up at the camera, his face squinched-up in a mock frontman scowl as he hits the chord. While the footage of Jason plays at regular speed, the footage of Josh seems a bit slower, or perhaps he’s just stoned, certanly possible in his Misfits skull t-shirt and jeans with holes in the knees, staring at the amp like a scrying mirror. Josh’s fuzzed-out riffing falls into time with Jason’s cautious rendition of some impossible to identify cover, and Jacob plays between them both in space and in frequency, the notes hanging between Jason’s overwound acoustics and Josh’s trippy sludge-crawl. Occasionally one falls out for a second, Jason taking a little too slow up the neck, Josh bending over to turn up a distortion knob, but just as soon the three brothers are back in time, and suddenly it makes sense, that weird Reverents tempo, a metabolic hum like a churchbell they could always find a way back to, some eternal tone they had known since they first picked up their instruments, or perhaps even earlier, a pre-uterine echo they sought to embellish. All three brothers stop at the same time, with Josh looking up at the camera with a self-conscious smirk, mumbling “You call that rock and roll?”, while Jason takes off the guitar, placing it gently off the end of the couch, then bowing dramatically while a handful of other kids clap and cheer, ending with a pratfall somersault off the couch at the bottom of his last bow, and then the screens go to black as the cameras are turned off, and Jacob stands and walks off stage, and nobody said anything until the lights came back on.
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rekanize, fools
For those of you who don’t know, this journal is mirrored at JSD pretty much instantly, which means that if you’re on the RSS tip, you can hit the rss 0.91 feed and aggregate the instant sugarsweet edification that is this site however you see fit. You can do that for all the other subdirectories there as well; check JSD for details. This also means those of you down with movable type can hit trackbacks instead of the LJ comments, which I don’t know who is into that, but the option’s there if you want it.

Also, it sounds like AvFest is postponed, but don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll get up to some shit this weekend.

[Note: if you’ve only read this journal at JSD, and are thusly confused, note that there is a livejournal mirror, with comments and LJ-type hoo-hah.]
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work songs for reconstituted animals
will be the title of the collection of interviews and articles I’m writing with living legend Duane Berryberry, which will probably be released at the end of summer. Expect chunks to go up on JSD; I’ll drop a line here as they go through. Duane Berryberry, for non-locals and kooks, was the guitarist-songwriter for late 60s band Tracer-Echo, who disappeared for twentytwo years after a show in 1971 where, depending on who you ask, Duane had a complete nervous breakdown, Duane was possessed by evil spirits, initiates of the Colony ashram attempted to kill the members of the band over drug debts, a fan shot Duane and guitarist Maria Hollowlight in order to assure their ascent to heaven before the world’s end, or any number of more obscure scenarios. I first met Duane through a friend of mine who is now missing, who took me out to the farm where Duane has been working on what he calls The Great Work since he vanished from the public stage. Over the years we’ve become drinking buddies, and after he told me how much he liked some of my old Grand Theft Audio and Alchemical Warfare articles he agreed to a series of very informal interviews, which we’ll be banging out over the next few months. In the meantime I’ve been developing a few articles, including a list of references in the two official Tracer-Echo albums, so this may very well be a serious project. I don’t want to jinx it, tho. Seth, if you’re reading this, please give me a call, or at least call Carolyn, if only just to say hi and let her know you’re okay.
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random sections
The cameraman is drunk; the image pans sharply as he staggers into the crowd, as one of the trombonists hits him in the head with a well-placed valve shot, as he zooms in on a cheerleader’s ass, as he drops the camera and picks it up again by the cord so that it spins madly which grow as he begins to spin the whole camera over his head like a mace and then flying out of his hand as the first cop reaches him, the battery weighing down the back end so that the last shot any of us watching the live footage of the Summerland Pride Parade saw was like that footage you get when you mount a tiny camera on a model rocket, only run in reverse, as the camera fell to earth.
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positive dental attitude
For years now, I have been afraid of my teeth. Overlooking general dentistial mouth accidents, of which I have had more than my share, I have taken issue with the lack of mutability of my teeth. Barring braces or stains, neither of which are my bag, teeth are essentially the same from the time you get your adult ones grown in. Your skin may change, your soul may change, but your teeth drag your past behind you like a veil. Or so I thought, until I saw the vermin-eater a few hours ago, still out counting snowflakes, of which we now have a stateful. For the longest time I didn’t get along with the vermin-eater, due to my inability to let past offenses flow from me, particularly those so trivial I don’t want to admit to them. In this case, I held a long-standing distain for her after she told me her favorite country band was the Eagles. Earlier this afternoon I finally got over that block, as the vermin-eater taught me how the human can exchange teeth with the canine. I now have 42 teeth instead of my prior 28 (completely free of wisdom teeth, me) and have delighted myself by smiling at children in the office, who now call me the dog-witch as they run away screaming. I wish I had the accompanying jaw and musculature, as it’d be wicked to be able to chew through cable and rope, but the vermin-eater told me that was a bit beyond her abilities. I’m pretty neighborly, so as payback, I showed her the two identical snowflakes I found on my car windshield yesterday night, which she examined carefully, then licked into water while walking back into her trailer, closing all nine of her locks as poor Muhilden whimpered from beneath the porch, sucking on his new sugar-rotted molars.
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You wear the milk-blood, you carry the bowl beneath your mouth, you rap your rings against the bottom of the bowl and a poisoned sine wave seeps out into our ears. They bring them in to take off their clothes. The guests wear suits of deep velvet which absorbs sound, so as to be silent during movement. Once they were bomber pilots, action at a distance, an oil-smell to them like they were packed away in crates in some cellar after the war and reassembled for the dinner. This would explain the gaps in their consciousness, the short moments of glassy-eyed stillness between sentences, a reduction of all unnecessary motion, so that when they were no longer directly spoken to they would shut down, slump into the chairs. The light must be upon me at all times. Without the light I am prone to attack by shadows. I am paying you to keep that light on me without even a moment’s rest. Oh but i’d tongue-taste it, on the skin, on the very walls where moisture sought escape, carriend inside and your breath has left you your breath has left you you stink of the new death push at the wall and the wall will give way, the thinnest of sheetrock crumbling beneath the hands, behind which identical rooms hide, the contents mirroring those of your room, wax bodies taking your places with the eyes carved away. Heaven Christ, open your skin to me.
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phone call from beyond the grave!
Lo the telephone is the most finely sharpened of all the Devil’s tools, for it allows even the most sanctified home to be contaminated by any force able to access Phonespace, of which there are many who now are tormented in Hell. It is long the morbid humor of the dead to inform the living via telephone of falsehoods as to the afterlife and what it shall eventually deliver to all peoples, a dispicable trait shared both on high and in the low, and so it was that on a morning when I was sorely incapacitated with gin poisoning I was foolhardy enough to cease the incessant mindless ringing of the telephone and so entered into conversation with something holding the bold claim of Daviditude, which is to say a voice bearing a formidable likeness to David who is no longer with us, which is to say the living. I herein recite what I was told not in the belief that it is true, but that in its falsehood it provides a series of clues as to the trickery involved so as to assist you, should such a call ever enter into your home, lord would it never be so! I was told that the afterlife smells like homemade scented candles and carpet freshener, and there are many magazines to read but not like upon the earth, and that it seems like maybe there’s a lamp with a pink lightbulb somewhere as everything has a certain fleshy haze but you can never figure out where it comes from. In the afterlife you are supposed to be assigned chores but no one does them and no one seems to mind. There is no need for to eat or drink, but occasionally you get a little thirsty, and then it goes away, and perhaps this is more to do with remembered habit than the actual demands of the body post body. It is possible to partake in intercourse, but it is approximately as pleasurable as finding a quarter on the floor. It is always a little too warm in the afterlife, and you never really have any privacy. You get to keep your car keys, but your car stays behind. Indeed, the afterlife is just like your living life, only more of a hassle. Be forwarned! All persons who call via the telephone to tell you of the world to come are not to be trusted! They are simply attempting to kill all the free time that not having to work or sleep or worry about appearances and the secret lives of celebrities has given them, a gift without use, and so they turn their misshapen mouths across the universe toward you! Pay them no mind! Hang up upon them and return to your drinking and carrying on! And don’t forget your ears! (ljcomments)
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i can hear you walking over my grave
When I first moved out here I spent a lot of time watching funerals at the tiny graveyard beneath the I-380 overpass. Packs of mourners were wandering the graveyard, dousing for voices with their cellphones, trying to pick up some signal, some last message by which they would find their way once again, so long content to keep her as their magnetic north around which all forces coalesced and all hearts were oriented. Freelance reporters, watching from the gates at the front enterance, bounced sunlight off mirrors and scraps of tin foil in an attempt to get the attention of any of the immediate family, but their sunglasses were set to phase out light at those levels, so that only the priest noticed them at all, and believing them cultists attempting to pull solar demons into the bodies of his parishoners, sent his sons after them with shovels and pickaxes. I watched them from an oak tree long split by lightning, the branches gnarled and intertwined, and I wanted to stay there, to watch what became of the funeral party, to feel the sunlight dappled between the leaves and falling on my face, to not have to go back to my life, but the devils of habit and tedium pulled me back into debt and terror and loss, tugging back and forth, until I felt tired deep in my chest and started walking back toward the trailer, listening to traffic hum above my head. On the way back I saw a drizzly looking dishwater blonde, wearing a half-dozen sweaters atop each other, like she spent her whole live in the mouth of a rainy day. She looked lost, so I walked up to say hi and ask her if I could help her, and she started screaming at me about fucking nasty Iowa cunts like me, so I punched her in the mouth and she fell like a sack of potatoes. Fucking nasty Iowa cunts like me don’t take shit off tourists.
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The last time I saw my grandfather he was setting fire to his journals. He had been keeping a journal in overstuffed Mead spiral notebooks since he was a child, which also substituted for a photo album, a calendar, a clipbook. Burning the lot would be at least a weekend project at the rate he was going, examining each page before tearing it from the spiral metal and dropping it into the flames. I came out and stared at him, and he shot me a look like I was trying to teach grass how to walk. “I’m not burning ‘em all, you dolt. I’m just thinning it out some. You have to make a little mystery.” I told him I didn’t understand, didn’t see why posterity shouldn’t be rewarded with as complete a record as possible. He told me the events in a life are trivial, inflated with the breath of context and sympathy only as it suits our vanity, our mirror-vain flattery. It is the gap, and the silence, and the breath between words where the greatness lies, for that is where we can stretch as far as we allow ourselves, set adrift to wonder, wander, build atop what was once just the smallest of irrelevant details. “This is what you leave them, when you leave. Questions which have no answer, or no answer that will satisfy, so they will turn the memory over in their hands like a cold river stone, the lightest of suggestive sketches as to a truth greater than the truth of our small lives lived like rodents, money-hungry, fuck-hungry, noise-hungry. Give them stillness, silence and darkness and they will remember you forever, which is critical, as you only stay in the second world as long as you are remembered in the first, and if all you leave them is the meager facts, your life in the second world will be a shrill re-enactment of the days they may remember. Open the space to mystery, and the second world is to be aflot on a lattice of your loved one’s dreams.” I continued staring at him, and told him he should come in out of the cold. “Someday,” he said to me, but not to me, to some other me that I would become, “someday you’ll see I’m right.”
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no one forced you to be a moron
Cecelia stopped by tonight and showed me the most horrible product I think I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It’s gumball gum, and it tastes bad, like vap-o-rub tastes, only that’s not the horrible thing. The horrible thing is, for about twelve hours, it stains the inside of your mouth silver, like shiny silver. “It’s like your mouth is a mirrorball!” Cecelia said, obviously delighted with this abomination of science run amok, but I was positively mortified, and have since given up any desire whatsoever to kiss Cecelia, or to eat paint.

I got up to nothing this weekend, other than working on the book (which I now wish I had banged out for that write a book in a month thing that Bauler was telling me everybody’s doing this month, as public shame would really up my productivity) and abusing the gift of sleep while I can. I suspect this will be a hectic week.
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no more will i see you
i’ve been very sick, and very down, so i took the large yard-sign that i’ve been using as a nondigital weblog and wrote “SICK DEPRESSED LEAVE ME ALONE” in black paint, and let me tell you, that’s the wrong thing to write if you want to be left alone, as every fucking clown in the state decided to stop by for some tea, until finally i had to take to hitting people really hard in the shins with my walking cane until they limped off in fear. i’ve since been experimenting with various signs which would successfully keep the kooks away, and so far the most successful one read WANT TO HAVE LONG CONVERSATION ABOUT MY CRUSH ON JESUS, for which my only company was Cecelia, who had much to say on the topic and had the courtesy to bring her own booze.
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i’m out to make her with my midnight creep
Tonight I went out with Nella to record ghost voices. Nella’s a weirdo; some of my people like her a lot but man, I dunno. I think if you’re used to her she’s probably pretty sweet, but she does this thing where in the middle of a statement she’ll just stop talking and walk off, particularly when she’s up to something, like say recording ghost voices, which I’m not even sure what it was we did except B&E an empty tenement over on the south side with chalk drawings on the walls where she set up her DAT deck and shortwave radio and whip antenna and then walked around the room, whispering to the walls and adjusting the equipment until she got these weird rapidly descending tones and partial voices. I think this is one of those things that if I did it on a regular basis it would make me go crazy, but it’s certainly worth trying.
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review: mr magnifico’s afternoon distraction
Mr. Magnifico’s Afternoon Distraction, a kind of variety show for children and unwed mothers, is well-hosted by Mr. Magnifico, who walks out from behind a Lynchain red velvet curtain dressed in the sort of suit you see Seventh Day Adventists wearing, a pair of knockoff Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses and a dark red fez. He’s holding a martini glass and obviously a bit loose already, slightly slurring his sibilance-stripped s’es, and as he introduces the day’s performers (a new bit by the Eight Dollar Puppet Theater, a “narrative clairvoyant” who professes to have psychically discovered and transcribed Bruno Schulz’s missing novel The Messiah, and an Edification Playhouse story about the dignity of employment) he shows a handful of shiny nickels to the kids in the audience and then throws the handful offstage, and as the kids bolt up and scramble for change Mr. Magnifico sets himself down among the moms and starts in about how he used to be a sailor. Magnifico whistles out the side of his mouth and his assistant Fabulous Jiminez takes the kids into the other room, where they make paper-mache masks which are later sold to west coast upscale boutiques as Guatemalan conquistador masks while Magnifico mixes more martinis, cues the house band and plays vaguely pornographic cartoons from the ’50s until the kids come back to the main room. At this point the actual proper show begins, now that the audience is primed for the sort of sophisticated fare Magnifico favors: he refuses to descend into the sort of scatological material (“working brown”, he calls it) so popular among his competitors on The Heinous Anus Happy Hour and Purple Poopitudinous Presents. Mr. Magnifico bypasses all this with the gentleman’s art of prestidigitation: all of his tricks somehow end up with Magnifico and two special helpers from the audience chained inside a trunk and buried alive for about thirty minutes while the day’s performers do their thing. On this day, tragedy strikes as the Eight Dollar Puppet Theater bursts into flames as part of some elaborate retribution from one of the other notorious puppetry gangs working this side of the Mississippi and three kids, already horrified after seeing their mothers seemingly buried alive fifteen minutes prior, go into shock and have to be taken to the studio cafeteria for pudding. Finally, Magnifico and moms appear from behind the red curtain to a smattering of applause turning to gasps as Magnifico realizes he has somehow made his pants disappear. Fabulous Jiminez covers his boss’s indiscretion with his cape of gold, refracting the stage lights and blinding one of the cameramen. A spurned husband, disguised as a portly eight year old, rushes the stage screaming “Sic semper adulteris!” and firing three round before being crippled to death by security, at which point various moms flocked to Magnifico’s side, only to find that he had seemingly caught all three bullets between his teeth. At that point I had to get up to go to the bathroom, and by the time I got back the show was replaced by an old episode of Captain Steele. Two thumbs up.
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don’t i look cool with my mouth filled with blood
So it appears I didn’t get the cape job, in that the second question of the interview was “Would you mind taking off your cape?” and I replied “No problem! While I’m at it, I’ll take off my pants!”, which ended up causing a whole big spectacle and also completely ruined my whole Barnabus Collins vibe. More a Bootsy Collins vibe. Luckily, my application for the head writer position at Subhuman Pit Wrestling Federation seems far more promising. All week I keep seeing three-legged dogs, everywhere I go.
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morphia (notes)
The room filled with silent dogs, absolutely still, staring at me as i sit in the chair. I kept the door open as some sort of offering or opening to the outside world, an invitation, bring me your wisdom and set it before me like so much opal and offal and pearl, but all that has arrived are the unclaimed dogs of the neighborhood, collected mounds of trash beside the boarded tenements so as to climb inside air ducts and feast on discarded chunks of meat, dead squirrels, couch stuffing. Now they stare here, the expanse of potential dominion, and all I can do is stare as I have abused opium this afternoon and now want nothing but to stare, to fall into the chair in microscopic steps. I know I need to get the dogs out, as the compound is rife with delicate technology: decaying synths held together with homemade patch cords and aleaoric possession, the basement beowulf cluster grinding away, the fungal samples stored in the michael-jars covering the walls of the closets back by the alley exit. I attempt high-frequency ventriloquism, sending the dogs into the street, where they pounce upon a carriage, and I find the cordless phone somewhere in the folds of the chair, and i order a sandwich and beer and a dvd of Performance from the delivery service, and this delivery boy seems to appear instantly, and i warn him to shut the door, tell him to poison the dogs, i will pay him in mutt pelts, and he stares at me until i attempt to throw my now-cold tea in his face to shake him from his lethargy but succeed only in spilling it on my bare feet. (lj comments)
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memory: summer 1992
We had enough components to assemble three scientists, packed there in the white travel paste, hidden underquilts and golf clubs for fear we would be pulled over by secret police in dark green minivans and disappear forever beneath the earth, driving on unmaintained access road H68, electromagnets mounted in the doors attracting and repelling us from any other traffic, of which we have seen none since fleeing the interstate. We each took faith measurements with faithometers built from gold wire we pulled out of the gated plague community center, PP3 batteries and syringes inserted into veins beneath the tongue, and once we were all confirmed, we painted a giant white cross on the top of the car and drove into the antiscience neighborhood, where the assembler was hiding (who, he asked us on the phone eight days before, would seek out an assembler in a post-christian backwater?) in the basement of a storage unit by the Demum Sophia trailer park. We were using IR goggles and sound dampeners, and there was no moon, and there was a 10pm curfew since the riots started, so no one could see or hear us until we hit a deer patrol, the sirens and lights mounted to its shoulders blinding us until we could rip off the goggles and kill the dampeners and floor it all the way to the park, where we had to abandon the car in a culvert across the road and drag the scientist-components to the assembler’s trailer, their vocal components begging us to piece them together again, only all the trailers had been moved and covered in light-absorbing paint, so that we had to field-assemble one of the scientists, the spine bent and the legs nonfunctional, and follow him as he crawled along the sidewalk and neurotically-trimmed lawns, sniffing out the assembler, knowing that finding him was the scientist’s only chance at proper form. After what seemed like hours, we found the trailer, and went inside, but the trapdoor was broken off its hinges, and as we stared down into the hole, we saw the bodies of the assembler and his family, face down, nails piercing their skulls.
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mechanical reproduction
Nawadir left, and probably isn’t coming back. They never do.

A couple weeks ago, he told me I talk in my sleep, and I called him a liar, but the past couple nights I’ve been using one of those voice-activated tape recorders, and it turns out I do talk in my sleep, only it appears that I am not myself in my dreams. My voice is still my own, only I speak in an odd cadence to someone named William, who lives in Vancouver as a baker. I don’t know any William, or anybody in Vancouver. After a week of this, I got a second tape recorder and recorded myself asking this sleep-me questions, and set it on a timer for three am, and placed it next to my bed, on the other side of the voice-activated tape recorder, but when I heard my own voice from inside the sleep I was absolutely terrified, and literally jumped out of bed, kicking the tape player off. Will update as necessary.
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livid, feral
She is standing there beneath the giant lights which hang over the interstate, standing in the stream which runs beneath the bridge, the concrete cracked and broken and fading to the mud she stands in, smearing it across her dress, her face, a vibratory calm and overdeveloped focus to her every movement, until she is covered, only visible in the whites of her eyes, stalking the space between the interstate and the access road. She was once a student, someone I noddingly knew from an 8am Prophecy in Ancient Israel class, someone I think I saw once singing in a choir performance on the front steps of the Union. I watch this woman becoe a troll-thing, watch her make a home of a drainage site, luring motorists with a broken piece of mirror in one hand and a large flat rock in the other.
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a basketful of little people’s questions
every year around the beginning of spring the local elementary school blows about twelve bucks on helium balloons which the little people (except the disappearing ones, who are in camera-guarded detention) attach by string to outdated card catalogue cards, the blank sides printed with the school’s address and simple instructions for reply: who are you? where did this balloon land? and a blank space where each kid can write in his/her own question. Just before school lets out, they go to the playground and release the whole bunch into the gray skies, staring up until they can’t see them anymore, or until the bell rings. I live about three miles from the school so I wasn’t too suprised to see clumps of balloons float by, but then I saw a bunch with their strings knotted together, stuck in a tree. I went to spring them but a number of the balloons had popped, so I thought about it for a minute and then cut the cards free, headed back to the house and made a list of everyone I knew, or half-knew, who lived in other countries. After I found thirty addresses (I used to be a lot more social, when I was an up-and-coming academic whippersnapper instead of a down-and-out public embarassment) I wrote short letters to each, explaining my plan, including the cards, and headed off to the post office (where I am loved, as mine is the Post Office of Unearthly Delights, but I’ll get into that later). I realize this is cheating, a bit, but who wants a letter from a Jessup farmkid when you can get a letter from a proper Balinese chanteuse?
(12: [/ana] #

like a switch
I was seven, and taught myself to sleep in public. It was important to me, for reasons no longer clear, that I should be able to sleep anywhere, and after a week of sitting with the idea, of mulling it over, I went to the park on a Saturday afternoon, sat down beside a thicket of bushes, and went to sleep. It was a warm spring day, and the grass was thick, and so it was easy. Soon I undertook more difficult areas, such as the mall, or on bus benches, or in the back yards of people I did not know. Soon I could sleep anywhere, at any time, and tested myself by sleeping soundly between two train tracks. I had mastered a skill that I did not yet have a use for, but I was proud, and knew that my life would route itself to make the most of my skills. [ljcomments]
(12: [/ana] #

levitation tricks
Owen just stopped by, at this god-awful late hour, and had a box worth of packages sent to me at the old place, most of which look to be music of some sort, or else explosives. Either way, expect reviews during the week, depending on how much free time I get. Also still awake are my little towheaded neighborkindern, whose parents have them huff turpentine from soiled underwear in order to keep them from screaming now that they had to pawn the television to cover the electric bill. They steal flourescent chalk from the slightly wealthier children at the bus stop and draw demonic-looking sigils outside my door. I am currently at work on a non-lethal trap which I hope will solve this problem, as while I don’t much believe in underage sorcery this year has proven to be so rife with malevolent spirits that it’s not in my best interest to take any chances. If need be, I’m willing to sell them to the hospital, where the miracle of modern science will allow the children to be sacrificed to various gods and brought back from the dead at least three or four times before their tiny deformed bodies finally give up the ghost. Of course, I hope it doesn’t come to that.
(12: [/ana] #

songs in the lesser key of solomon
On laundry days I like to pretend I’m a drummer in a super-obscure jazz trio who only play at seances. Constantly on the nod, I keep a sharp eye out for the fuzz and for uppity ex-boyfriends and landlords looking for back rent, but while they may see me they cannot reach me, for they are tricked in the eyes by minor spirits. I shuffle into the laundromat reeeeeeeeeal cool, no fucking around with sorting whites ‘cause I ain’t got no whites, dig, I got no time for crazy laundry taxonomies. I got enough change that when I walk I jingle, and I plug my three loads and then sit down in the back and scat-mumble to myself, hassen lassen assassin, and in comes my man Electronic Miguel looking for some nature of hiding place and I tell him we got a gig tonight in the sewers, where Madame Dolores, keeping it cool since she got kicked out of the Magic Castle (those cheap pimps), will be pulling a levitation gag she lifted off Harry Kellar, only Miguel starts acting a fool, yelling about the sewer ghosts, making my little laundromat scene conspicuous like a pile of cadmium in the snow, so I jab him one in the ribs with my taser and he runs off so fast he barely keeps in his Keds. By this time it’s a go for the dryers, so I take my shirts and pants and unmentionables and load up the dryers just across from where I’m sitting and just kick back watching the colors swirl into each other, until I realize the dryers must have stopped hours ago because it’s nighttime now and I got to get up on teh good foot if I’m gonna make it in time to play the seance.
(12: [/ana] #

Owen, in a classic bit of passive-agressive prankery, has convinced the neighborkids that I have Hitler’s brain in a jar stashed somewhere in my kitchen. One of them is out there right now, a boy with one of those horrible disposable yuppiekinder names that I can never remember, screaming about how he told his teacher he’d do an oral report on the thousand-year reich and how he’ll be certain to fail if he can’t bring der Fuhrergehirn in as a visual aid. I’m giving him another five minutes to come to his senses and then I’m turning the hose on him.
(12: [/ana] #

join the car crash set
With the collapse of the robot fighting boom, hundreds of guys who thought adding a buzzsaw to an RC car was a good idea are now left with nowhere to go, and that’s why the Immaculate Conception over in Gilbertville started offering Robotic Ballroom dances, where Crushinator and Ki111zzz0r can compete for a ten dollar grand prize through an intricate series of passes and spins across the hardwood gym floor. I used to go sit up in the lightbox and get high, just like high school, watching the unsocialized fumble through first mistakes and obvious fumblings, only now it’s all mechanized, which probably is for the best, as nobody’s getting pregnant at Robotic Ballroom Night. Today, however, Cecelia and I and Rissa entered our own robot, which is an actual proper robot without any sort of remote control hoo-hah, and oh man, if you ever need a cheap and ultimately meaningless boost in your morale, go spend an evening with a gaggle of pubescent pre-engineers, but in the end it was all for naught, as out robot (the Gynosphere) accidentally drilled its way through the floor and into the cafeteria. I’m sure peanut gallery Freudians will have plenty to say on that, but not nearly as much as Sister Mary Catherine, who barred us for life from the RoboDances. Which, again, as I said, is probably for the best. (ljcomments)
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i predict!
I predict that in the year to come, Video Hits One (VH1) will officially change their name to Hooray For Crap (HFC)! (ljcomments)
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i keep making mistakes.
At night, the diesel rigs pull off the interstate and park on the side of the access road, the engines idling through the night to power televisions, heaters, small electric ovens. Now that time has slowed for me, I begin to notice the trucks, able to spot those who run the same route, and I note that they often park together, small clusters, the drivers walking out into the field. At first I thought this was to exchange sexual favors, or to buy and sell drugs, but last night I walked out to the spot in the field where they meet and saw a small shrine made of flat slate, crosses made of pallet slats and copper wire, small cups of port wine set into the ground, now covered in a skin of dead mosquitoes. I suspect there is a voodoo for truckers as there is a voodoo for moonshiners, but that’s just one more question I’ll never know the answer to.
(12: [/ana] #

how i taught the sun to suffocate
Once upon a time there were two sisters who were in love with each other. The first sister had small pieces of coal in place of teeth so that when she placed her face against the wall she could write the words she was afraid to speak with the tip of sooted tongue, and because no one writes stories about women who are not beautiful, she was beautiful. The second sister had two small wings which were actually arms which grew from her back and would braid her hair as she slept, and she was beautiful as well, but she was beautiful in an entirely different sense, which the modern storyteller would say is a myth, there is only one beauty as told in the synapses but it is my story and i will kill ten million children and hide their skulls so they can never be reborn if anyone tries to tell me how to tell my story. The two sisters as mentioned earlier were in love with each other and had no need for any other company, so they moved to the country and fooled squirrels into giving up their lives so as to be born again as stew.

The sisters were born from a hole in the ground covered in opals and sapphires, which is bad news for me, as I only know how to seduce women who were molested by their fathers, and as the sisters were born orphans they were not asked to attend classes, but often read the newspaper and the secret papers you can only get at certain places and times, and were thus familiar with the concept that anything is a poison when taken in an excessive dose, and so it was that the sisters devised a scheme to kill trust-fund princes who kept stopping by with intent to marry through an overabundence of sunlight. With sugar and water they made lenses which greatly intensified the light until the lens at the bottom of a well stacked with sugarglass lenses was supersaturated with sunlight and so was pulled from the bottom of the well at the sound of horse’s hooves along the asphalt and the princes would then eat of the sugarglass and soon they would be in the well which was then filled with stones and later lead after the sheriff stopped by looking for donations for the Criminal Labor Auction. Before they filled the well with lead the sisters married all the corpses, as it seemed that perhaps a dozen dead husbands were not bad to have, as husbands go, and from now on any blow-dry prince could learn the sisters were severe bigamists and should peddle their apples on some other street.

The sun learned it had become a witness to evil and refused to rise for a month. (ljcomments)
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i hold your hidden name in the hollows of my body
Some of the neighbors have Vietnamese singing kites, from which they attach hooks and razor-wire, so to duel above the neighborhood, standing on the roofs of the houses and listening to the shrieking descent of wounded kites falling back to the earth, scraps of rice paper and ribbons like spilled fuselage as the little kids down at the park try to shoot the victor out of the sky with pump-action bb guns. unfortunately, not all pedestrians in the neighborhood are aware of what takes place above their heads (mostly post-Chicago kids who dropped out of the university and don’t think to look up), and when a broken mass of metal edges falls out of the sky with a horrible muscle-locking squeal, sometimes that can confuse a person, and not everybody gets out of the way in time. Me, I have a glorious violet umbrella with a Robert Fludd designed cosmogram in ultramarine, dark enough that you have to get close to see it, at which distance you might notice the mesh armor sewn into the bottom. Should anyone ever decide to shoot arrows at me, I’m ready.
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Subject: force the word to collapse into its silences
Trace the path of all you have spoken, not the lines laid atop your sight which you saw as arrows and instructions for the things that spilled from your mouth, but the actual traces through the air and dust, the places where they connected and nested among the people around you, the bounce and reformation within their chests so as to echo you in unacknowledged ways years later, the sour notes left in their ears as the sentences came apart and connected to hurt and hidden things within them that you could never see as you were looking in some other direction, at crawling insects glimmering in the sun, which you suspected held a purpose, an influence, the small actions forming patterns in things so far away, and once you have traced the blood-trails of each of your words you will be given a gift of great consequence, and will pull back the words, wipe away the memory, take away all the things you have said, the mistakes you have made, the potentials lost. There will be a day when all of this has vanished.
(12: [/ana] #

five things you may not know about me
(passing the mic from my friend gmoryx)

  1. In the summer of 1995, while high, I helped my friend Cowboy James sell twelve handguns and two shotguns in a parking lot after an AA meeting in Iowa City. James had me hold onto his guns after he got his felony, which sat in my closet for a month, until he needed to get money together to skip bail and go to Missouri to marry his girlfriend. I made fifty dollars, which I spent on drugs from a friend in Quadrangle dormitory, and that was the last time I saw Cowboy James.
  2. Most people know that I have performed two weddings and one exorcism, but not everybody knows I participated in an Order of the Eastern Star induction rite.
  3. I once went without speaking for three months.
  4. I spent most of my high school years skateboarding and was actually not bad (which is surprising if you’ve seen me lately) until I sprained my knee and got out of it and never picked it back up after I went off to college.
  5. “Ana Skyfish” is not a real person, but an imagined character, utilized here in order to avoid talking about myself (my life is very boring). There are reasons. There are always reasons. Something comes up and I say it’s out of my control. A process already in motion has made it impossible for me to accomplish my desired goal. What can I do but shrug my shoulders and add amusing details so that this latest bit of failure can polish up into self-deprecating amusement. Of course, I set responsibilities at cross purposes as a way of avoiding responsibility, and in doing so I avoid any sort of long-term relationship (of any nature), as ongoing witnesses hamper my ability to lie effectively. Any challenge to my minor intellect, little more than a box of titles and authors chained together in a miserable mockery of actual comprehension, will send me into fits of indignation, running home to scribble imagined threats cast by my stable of regular characters. Accomplishments seem nothing more than obligations, and apologies are simpler, as I have spent the whole sleepless night designing them, perfecting them. I take pride in my faults, considering such logical ideas as health and agreement and basic human kindness as herd mentality claptrap, petulantly pleased to be sick and fat and afraid. I am obvious when I think I am hid, and cower in plain sight behind my next big project.

(12: [/ana] #

feign suprise
At what age did I realize I was never going to become a mover/shaker in the online world? The same age as I realized I was never going to become a mover/shaker of any stripe, I suppose, which would be 24, not too long out of school, vaguely aware of usenet and email and irc via dormant vax accounts, living out of a van while playing shitty Ohio clubs that are now long gone. I was in Akron, high on mushrooms, when I heard a voice tell me that I would never be a rock star. I knew this, of course, and would never publically confess to any desire for any stardom whatsoever; we were post-punk noise merchants, after all, no more important than the crowd and all that crap, and certainly I never wanted to be famous in the proper sense. What I wanted was for the right people to know of me, to be able to connect my name to something I had done: “Oh yeah, her, she put out that ep, I remember her”. I wanted to be well-known enough to be able to walk up to people and have them know me just enough that I wasn’t a complete stranger, that they knew of me, in a vague sense, just enough to hold up the initial fragile structure of a conversation. I wanted to be well known enough that if I ended up putting out a new album, years later, some kid in Akron would hear about it, and be all jazzed, like when you see someone you thought was dead or insane of addicted step out of a crowd, settled and stable and glowing. The voice told me that would never happen, and I walked around Akron for hours, in the middle of the night, watching the snow and mumbling “I’m never going to be a rock star”, over and over. The next day we played our final Buddy Holly’s Drummer show and drove home, and I didn’t pick up the guitar again for three years.
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Nawadir was in town for a few days, and so I wanted to show him around the old neighborhood, only parts of the old neighborhood (like the internet) had vanished into the aether, shattering the illusion of permanence and leaving me uncertain that all the places I remember were ever real. For instance, the butcher shop where we used to get ice cream from those large Czech women is still there, still owned by the same two families and still selling ice cream which becomes just a little intermingled in the head with the slight salty smell, which I’ve always loved but Nawadir couldn’t quite get his head around. Also still there was the cafe consisting of at least a dozen small rooms connected with curtains, which always helped me to feel vanished and untraceable. The mural was still up on the wall, a kid-folk scroll depicting the return of biblical saints in the garb of superheroes not at end-of-time but around 1940, where they assisted in the spread of television and medicine. In fact, I saw a panel I had never seen before in which Ezra and Uriel (dressed in dapper suits) walk alongside the ocean with Rita Hayworth and pick up fish which had been washed upon the shore. Now missing, however, was the newstand where I was first read now-vanished zines like Alchemical Warfare (a sort of academic journal based out of the now-abandoned Richter-Goldberg psychiatric hospital out by the old highway), Neviditeln? Divadlo (a repair and modification newsletter from a local automated puppetry troupe), and Grand Theft Audio (crankrock zine I later wrote for until Dave and Michelle had a baby and flaked on us), and a couple of the old bars had now swapped owners and target audiences (all the old meatpacking bars had shifted over to more upscale sports bars and now thankfully reverted to meatpacking bars again), but most depressing was the loss of the Salter Apartments shrine, a sunken playground not visible from the street, where all the playground equipment had been pulled due to bullshit safety concerns and then replaced over time by local kooks (including me) with corkscrew antenna slides and huge scrap-iron gongs which were both oddly quiet and immensely satisfying to bang on. The playground was paved over for another parking lot, and I was tempted to break off car antennas, but Nawadir (to his detriment) doesn’t get displaced acts of vandalism, so I refrained.
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every different dog
I occasionally have the unfortunate tendency to pretend that people I don’t know, usually friends of friends, are actually my friends, and are perfectly comfortable with my calling them out of the blue to chat. I was at my worst with this during my first year of college, mostly as I was homesick a lot and also because I now had access to second-circle friends who lived in the same city. I’d call around one am and rail on about how lame contemporary cereals are or my plan for fueling the energy needs of high schools by harnessing the nervous energy of horny teenagers before they could ask who I was and how they got their number. Occasionally I’d show up at their apartments or dorm rooms and ask if they wanted to go to the Hamburg and help me with my ball lightning experiment or install sculpey genitals on thriftstore Barbies. Mostly this led to trouble and stern talking-tos by the intermediary friends, some of whom decided from such actions that I was a “kook” and stopped hanging out with me, but once in a while I managed to bypass the middlefriend and meet someone with a high tolerance for rambling and sugar abuse. That’s how I met Owen, for instance, and while that didn’t exactly end on the best of terms the premise still stands.

I’ve recently taken to doing the same thing with websites, jumping off the friends list of my friends and leaving barely coherent replies to entirely unrelated posts. I sneaky-pete their home addresses and send them Ana Skyfish Heroin Drive ‘04 t-shirts and borderline-creepy letters about how every different dog has a different language but you can learn a language called Perfect Dog which will allow you to communicate to every dog if you’re willing to use the powers of your Middle Brain.

If I don’t know you, and I’ve bugged you in such a way in the past couple months, I apologise. Take it as a compliment. (ljcomments)
(12: [/ana] #

Years ago, when I was on drugs and convinced that I had overwritten the neural space where I once stored my basic motor skills with information downloaded to my brain by God about the true nature of time, these six hairless children dug themselves up from the earth and started poking through the skin of my back into my spine with bent pieces of rusted coathangers. That’s how I feel right now. When your nervous system starts screaming about revolution, fifth column, how it’s going to autocannibalize itself rather than take any more shit from the parasite-consciousness. The consciousness is ultimately nothing more than the appendages of my memory-system, and this is where they collision takes place: the memory-system needs time whereas the biologics have no understanding or use of anything beyond the immediate. At least that’s what I tell myself. Went to the market an hour ago and the pre-fetus checkout girl shot me a nasty look when all I bought was vodka and ice cream. I told her my purchases were coded symbols which were subconsciously being assembled in the far back of her underripe brain which, when completed, would blot out her life with an epiphany which will answer every question she had ever asked. She stared blankly at me, and I realized she had never asked any questions. She then made the “this is bogus, man” face and I could see her extention fangs as she said “What-everrrrrrrrr.” Kiss my ass, Dracula.
(12: [/ana] #

Yesterday, inspired by a dream I had, I began work on a children’s book entitled YOU ARE UGLY AND NO ONE WILL EVER FUCK YOU. It’s the story about a young boy who is painfully shy and not good with people and kinda gangly, but good-hearted, and while the other children might pick on him (in a very mild and average way, the way all children pick on each other, but still, you know, he’s spurned by everyday society I guess) he knows that someday something great will come of him which will force the girl he likes in his homeroom class take notice and fall in love with him, and then he discovers a secret hole in the backyard, which he descends via a very clever rope-and -pulley contraption he builds himself, and at the bottom of the hole there is a giant squirrel whose legs are broken and is starving and half-mad, and the boy talks to the dying squirrel as to how he is sure to be destined for great things until finally the squirrel dies and then the boy steals the skull of the dead squirrel and wears it on his head like a helmet and the next day at school he runs around with the squirrel-skull on his head whooping and screaming as to how he is the greatest boy in the world and hits a third-grader who once laughed a little at the boy’s mismatched shoes in the head with the skull until the third-grader does that terrifying silent cry where they can’t get enough air and then the boy runs into homeroom and jumps on the desk and tells the girl that now she must love him because he is the greatest boy in the world and the girl says YOU ARE UGLY AND NO ONE WILL EVER FUCK YOU.
(12: [/ana] #

cut away the form until the essence remains
unless you are an absence, in which case you can only be seen in the frame which defines you, the walls cradling the empty space where you sit and stare like a camera that doesn’t record, doesn’t send out a signal, only pans slowly back and forth, a silent witness without memory or judgment, before which my selfishness and loneliness looks entirely unremarkable, similar in its every attribute to the thousands of other people who pass by this same spot every single day, so that I almost think to myself that by sharing these similarities that I am in fact not alone, that I am a part of a thing beyond the end of my skin and breath and sight, that there is a silver thread run through a small hole in my forehead which stretches and knots among all the people around me, but a web of loneliness cannot by definition nourish or warm, just confirm what is obvious, and as I scurry away and try to think about trivia from movies I saw as a child, or the lyrics to some half-dreamt pop song, or some fuzzy future when I am with the person I’m secretly (not so secretly) sweet on, or someone resembling her, or anyone at all, as I panic-rush for a distraction I know I will not find soon enough, as tonight in my bed just before I sleep all the things I saw in that absence will be there, staring at me, waiting.
(12: [/ana] #

cradled forever in my arms
The first proper snowfall came, and I went out to collect samples to send to friends isolated in places tormented by my enemy the sun. I do this for both the obvious reason, and for the unspoken but untimately threadbare reason that I am poor, and making a gift of snow is one of the things within my means when the holiday season arrives. Many of my old friends, the ones I cut away like so much chaff when I outgrew the idea of being friends with everyone, dismiss the holidays, dismiss the religious underpinings as something they have grown past, setting themselves as beacons for the masses to follow into the great golden age, free of the crippling crutches of supersition and ignorance. All my problems could be solved, they would whisper to me, if only I took on additional lovers, or swallowed some new jumble of letters and numbers, or bound myself to pseudophilosophical sophistries that catered to their every weakness, their every hatred. I have often fallen for faulty logic, but never from them, as the proof of their lives plays out in the endless drama and bickering they desperately nurse, the failed relationships, the endless focus on the fault of “the normals” for every imagined wrong thrust upon them. I hate them as I hate death, and happily build gifts for the people I love, even if those gifts amount only to snow.

I am not only giving snow this season, however; I have started work on a series of board games which both edify and distract. The first is built from a chess board, a series of magnets (placed beneath the board), and a series of pawns (whose heads are made from compases). The game is called Courting, and consists of two players attempting to move their pieces into the same square, so that they may smooch, only the magnets are laid out in such a manner as actual smoochery is imposible to achieve, and the winner is the first to realize the futility of the act. Potential gift-takers will be heartened to know that, as in all good games, there are a series of variations on the basic rule-set.

I am also learning to play Distance Piano, which consists of a prepared piano and a collection of lawn darts, but I am not certain performance recordings will be of high enough quality to make stocking-stuffers this year.
(12: [/ana] #

crack baby upset
My bathtub is cracked, and there’s a leak in one of the pipes, so I had to pull back a wall to get at it, and what did I find but a second bathtub stacked beneath the first, its porcelain painted with a bucolic nature scene. I got out the big heavy flashlight I stole off a cop and peered down into a space between the second tub and the wall, and I could just barely see a third tub, a painting of what looked like stormclouds on the small patch I could see. I suspect that were I to gather proper equipment I could unearth an endless series of bathtubs, one stacked atop the other forever through the earth, each a scene in a series by which I could glean endless insight into each and every event throughout history in both (in all) directions, but I had fixed the leak and was ready to take a bath, so I remounted the faucet, hung some drywall, nailed up the new wall and took a bath, looking for shapes in the porcelain.
(12: [/ana] #

bury me in a coffin made of the bones of my enemies, deux
In my spare time, I have been working off my community service (long story, I’ll come back to it) by working with the elderly down at Methusela’s Empire Nursing Home. Rather than have them do bullshit demeaning activities, we discussed it for a while and decided the best option would be to develop a butoh troupe. Aside from being the most important dance movement of the 20th century, butoh is ideal for the elderly, as it depends less on the kind of muscular rigor favored by American performers and instead works with the minimal essence of the performer’s body and the intelligence it carries. So we studied Tatsumi Hijikata and Min Tanaka and did a lot of movement work ebfore working on ways of bringing the daily lives of the performers into the work: the last thing we wanted to do was ape old-school butoh performances. All of which is to say that tonight’s performance, our first, scared the living piss out of the nurses and orderlies, particularly when Greta slipped in a line from Marat/Sade. Heheheh.
(12: [/ana] #

i know i’m not supposed to be talking about the tv but
Okay. So i’m watching this Christina Aguilera [sp] video, and she’s with Lil’ Kim, and she’s all dressed up like I guess b-girl style, and she’s all rubbed down with bronzer which I guess is supposed to make her look like a negro. Certainly it’s dubious. So I call up Cecelia and I says “Cecelia, I’m watching this Christina Aguilera [sp] video” and before I can finish Cecelia says “The one where she’s like in blackface?” and I says “Yes! The very one! How come nobody is all up in arms about this?” and Cecelia says “Well see that’s because we as a society expect so little from Christina Aguilera [sp] and that’s what makes her a superstar” and I says “Sure, but we didn’t expect much from Ted Danson and everybody got on his case for wearing blackface and that was at some private deal but this is on three times an hour! And like Vanilla Ice and Eminem before her she’s surrounded by black people which just makes her look ten times more obvious and offensive!” and Cecelia says “The one good thing about all that nonsense is it makes it really easy who’s gotta go on the great day of the blood-tide” and I says “That’s the drag bit about the great day of the blood-tide, tho, it’s always just around the corner, it just can’t get here quick enough.”
(12: [/ana] #

christ destroying the cross
Once in a blue moon I play with a band called Drone Sickness, which is mostly Hophead, Marduk, Beene and Bhlyr and a rotating band of other people. Last night Nella was also there, which is cool as I never see her; she’s one of those people I love for about an hour and then I’d be fine with not seeing them again for a couple months. Apparently they’ve decided to completely remake their first album, so last night was mostly collecting interesting sounds. Beene has been filling cds with Very Low Frequency broadcasts, Marduk has been working on terrain mapping in csound, and Nella had a few more DATs worth of ghost recordings. I asked her if I could go with her in a couple weeks when she goes back to the site, and she agreed. What’s interesting is I was the only person there who could play a traditional instrument (I had my trusty modified bass guitar and mountain of pedals), and as anybody who plays bass in a rockandroll band can attest, it’s an interesting experience being the focus of musical attention. Bhlyr ran some of my stuff through Bidule, which I snagged a copy of and have been messing with all morning; Audiomulch fans looking for more MIDI options might wanna give it a lookover.
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the body will constantly lose
The first I saw of him was a strobe-illusion, and I was young then, smoking ditchweed out of a dented and perforated Coors can, and I couldn’t help but think the whole party was designed to sift off my better nature, to reduce me to impulses and second guesses, because I was paranoid then, and tired of constantly suspecting this would be the last I would ever know, each moment graded as an ending, as speaking to the whole of my life before some celestial jury, so that the lights and the noise became like a tide, something to float upon, so as to fear nothign on this earth, for it was the whole of the experience which kept me afloat. I don’t understand this logic now, but I find myself reaching for it, from time to time, convinced there is a truth dormant beneath the paint across the walls, the blood behind the face, that which supports the pattern.
(12: [/ana] #

blood blood blood
In the basement of the park office, every other Thursday night, Cecelia hosts ASKK (Adult Survivors of KinderKultus) meetings, where most of the thirty-eight children found in the Xavier barn swap stories as to finding work and sustaining relationships as a living monument to absolute atrocity.Seven of the members are now blind, having been old enough for the Entering Ritual (“the ghosts will enter through holes in the eyes”, as written in the KinderKultus Management Manual) before the Great Disappearance, wherein the nine adult members (called “child management supervisors” in the manual) vanished without a trace. These are closed meetings, so I’ve been unable to attend, but Cecelia and I have been sharing a potato patch for making vodka, and every once in a while she’ll talk about it, in an offhand way. One thing’s certain; none of the children have any doubt that the “teachers” will never return to this earth.
(12: [/ana] #

the blind boxing the blind
Summerland has a few pirate radio stations, but the only one you can get out here is Strawberry Shortwave, which functions as a musical oracle, by which near-future tactical analysis can be gleaned by concentrating on the subject one needs guidance on and turning the radio on, where the first lyric one hears will hold the answer. This is an old game, which we used to play as schoolchildren during endless phone conversations which required some sort of third-party help, but that’s only so helpful when most songs are variants on you love me/you don’t love me/nobody likes me and I feel weird, so Strawberry Shortwave specifically bases its playlist on suggestive and specific lyrical content (at least during the day, which is the only time it comes in here; I know at night there’s an entirely different schedule), and while sometimes it’s too cryptic to be of much use, more often than not it’s dead on. there’ll be a time when i won’t remember what i was afraid of
(12: [/ana] #

Initially after getting the new drive I whipped up an elaborate taxonomy for organizing my mp3s, which had previously lingered haphazzard on three hundredish cds at the back of my closet. No more endless hunting along the spool for me! I would begin anew, everything in its right place. Within a week most of this organization had broken down due to the same sorts of problems every taxonomy faces, but one folder remains, aptly titled DRUNK. For a time I thought of dividing it into PUBLIC DRUNK, which would consist of songs I was perfectly okay with people knowing I was into, and PRIVATE DRUNK, which would contain the more embarassing material, but I realized that this would only serve to confuse me when I was actually drunk. This is for the best, as I’m no longer certain of what music I should be embarassed to like. Likewise, some albums I’d be proud to own in certain company would lead to endless headshaking and handwringing in others. Besides, nobody ever comes over here to listen to music, and it’s unlikely anyone but me will ever even hear any of this (except Cecelia, who doesn’t really like anything that isn’t punkrock), so I gave up on that idea entirely. If I were serious, I might have someone else make that kind of decision for me, someone with a serious critical streak, but asking someone else to organize my music feels too much like taking a dump in the middle of the street. (ljcomments)
(12: [/ana] #

artificial memory: june 1988
“No, he would…right! That’s what I’m saying! It’s like he, like he doesn’t know, and I mean *I* don’t know but that doesn’t mean I’m just gonna sit in my room and wait, I mean, nobody fucking knows, so why don’t we just go out and get it on?” [deleted] “Yeah, but that’s, that’s fucking ridiculous. I mean, I look back at the destruction I’ve left in my wake, and that’s no small amount of destruction, and but how could I have moved anywhere and not made some sort of impact. And yeah, people get hurt, but for fuck’s sake, why should safety be our guiding concern? What do we learn from being safe? How do we ever change if we are constantly safe? And how is that even logical as, as a place to go from, go out from in a relationship?” [reply deleted] “But that’s the thing, I’m responsible, I’m completely responsible, and I have to work out from that, I’m not denying anything, I’m not, y’know, anyone else’s fault, I’m just saying if I have to choose between fucking up and then fixing what I fucked up or else never doing anything at all, I’m gonna fuck up every single time, because” [remainder of conversation taped over with the album Darklands by The Jesus and Mary Chain]
(12: [/ana] #

don’t jazz me around, angel of poverty
The logic was that I would befriend my creditors, take the coin of their rehearsed friendliness, to invite Carl and Jean from First Federal Separtist Bank, Christine from United Moneychangers, and John from the University of Summerland Community Credit Union to my house for dinner and drinks, perhaps some friendly matchmaking among the single set, filling their hands with homebaked pies and quilts, showing up at their birthday parties with elaborate yet tasteful gifts, so that when I tell them that I am never going to work again, will never again for the remainder of my life trade the hours of my life for money which I would then give to those I owe, that I am a fiscal dead end, then they would understand, or at least be pained, perhaps having to go to the far bathroom from their offices where no one would suspect them and cry over the thought of having to bring the weapons of debt against their best and truest friend. Some days it’s like you’re walking around with your ribcage open, with your organs spilling out on the ground, only everyone’s too embarassed to tell you and you’re so tired you don’t even notice.
(12: [/ana] #

afforded a single glimpse
The baby had the clawed hands of a devil, turned inward like those of tendon-damaged suicidal teenagers, nails thick as horns. Its mother looked at me, expecting me to coo, to coddle; apparently the reactions of all the people who had this clump of misshapen birth set before them had broken down into paroxysms of joy at the embodiment of innocence and light, but not me, I promised myself I was done lying to parents. “Your child is an abomination”, I said to the mother, refusing to hold the child in my hands, tempted to get all Gregory Peck and stab the stupid beast to death so as to spare the earth the great and unholy potential this child held. “You mean his hands? The doctor told me that was just a temporary thing.” Certainly he did; he would have said anything, as such a child refutes the very idea of science, the notion of verifiable results nothing more than a sad trick played by a malicious demiurge, human understanding simply a bauble to distract from the blood-driven machinery that truly beat the pulse of the world, the same infernal whine I heard that night behind the rendering plant. I stared at the baby, buried in blankets, and the last thing I remember is the look on its pinched and bitter face as I vomited into the stroller. (lj comments)
(12: [/ana] #

The Light Beneath Your Skin
Of all the things in your life, given the chance to begin again, I’m one of the things you wouldn’t keep. I’ve known this for years now. Instead of leaving, I turned the knife, turned the screws. Like I was some record club you couldn’t get out of. You once told me, then, that you liked me too much to fuck me. My goal, then, was to see if I could get you to like me less. And the pathetic part of it is it worked, for a while. Back when becoming a ghoul seemed a perfectly justified lifestyle choice, another part of growing up. And we preyed on each other, our bigotries, our weaknesses, our petty evils. Because we just needed a little more time. Only at some point in the ending, the strangest thing happened, and we forgot entirely about our attritions.

The nubs across your shoulderblades where you were growing wings always hurt and needed balms we had to drive out into the country to find, honeycomb and pomegranate and cattail. You had taken to sleeping on your chest, which used to terrify me when I slept beside you, convinced you had suffocated. I could feel the cartilage pressing against the yellow-red skin, feeling you wince and pull away under my fingertips, neither of us ever content to leave such things alone. I kept the windows closed for fear you’d pull away the skin, shake off the blue blood from your wings and take to the sky at the of an open window. The merest suggestion was an invitation, then.

We were spending so much time at the hospital the doctors began scheduling in time each day for our visits, all panicky and filled with asinine questions. “This is a small thing,” they told us, “and after the novelty is gone it won’t really change anything, won’t fix any of your problems.” But there was no talking to us, our ears only tuned to screams and whispers. Everything was going to change forever, we knew. It had to.

One morning I woke to find the sheets covered in blood and you gone. I saw a light in the bathroom, and found you there, sitting in the bathtub, your feet up over your chest. Clumps of feather and bone streaked the floor. The nubs were gone, replaced by broad wartish sores. I cleaned the floor, filled the tub, and we cleaned the blood from your back, draining the water each time it grew red. After an hour or two or ten ( I cannot remember) of this we went back into the bedroom and slept. We never discussed it again.

Nothing changed. The silences grew more noticeable, the time away grew longer, and we took separate shifts at the kitchen table, sobbing. Eventually being apart became easier than being together, once you realized I had no place in your future, once I grew tired of watching the light beneath your skin fade and go out.

Perhaps there is a necessity for mystery in a person’s heart, a side-door into some strange life running parallel to yours all this time. Perhaps we get this mystery confused with novelty, with the shock of the new, and take this week’s distraction as a substitute for the things we really need, which we fear to think of, much less touch. So much simpler to settle, to swallow any notion of something else, to feign at contentment and make the best of petty revenge and the satisfaction of feeling your heart grow cold. Perhaps all we ever really wanted was an excuse. I’m not entirely sure these aren’t just differences of definition, swapping words as fit our vanity. All I know is it was never any miracle to grow wings from your body: the miracle was the ability, the attempt to cross that space between you and I, for a while, our only stupidity lying in thinking we needed a reason, a pretext, a condition for making connection feasible.

But that’s done and over, now. Give me an hour and I’ll be gone.
(12: [/alpha] #

Not The Thing You’d Keep
I have a photograph a friend of mine took of me while I was sleeping. I was staying with Seth and Rissa, sleeping in their basement, and i often awoke to find one of their cats burrowing in my clothes, or battling my shoes. In this picture, the smaller of their cats, Inquisitor, had climbed up onto my chest and fallen asleep there, his head just below my chin. You can see the start of the wave in my hair, see where I’m starting to bald. There’s a small cluster of acne along my jawline. There were red lines just over my ears where my glasses normally were. I had been gnawing at my fingernails. It had been a few days since I shaved last. There’s a sweater you gave me balled up under my head. When I wonder what happened to me, what’s become broken, I look at this picture and think: is this me? Is this the place I’m trying to get back to? Or was I just as lost then as I am now? If I met this person, this fixed me, would I even know them, or would the difference be so great that I couldn’t make the connection?

I have tapes my siblings and I made as children. talking and singing and little skit-story things. the tapes are really fucked up, quality-wise, and a lot of stuff was (obviously) recorded stupidly, so there’s gaps and missing feed. Is *that* me?

I have a scar on my inner left leg from where I jumped into a bush while on vacation in Idaho. I have a very faint burn mark on my right arm from when I was a baker. I have three small bruises on my left wrist from moving my dresser, after cleaning out the book-rot stuck behind it. I have some kind of itch on the back of my scalp, beneath my lobotomy-patient haircut. I get occasional arthritis in my right knee from an old skateboarding accident. Is *that* me?

I’ve got a book I’ve been writing for a while. A lot of it I haven’t shown anybody, mostly because it’s stuff I’ve cut, some of it because i can’t get it to work, whatever that means. You all know all about this. Is *that* me?

There’s an envelope with the results of various tests I had been given throughout my childhood. IQ tests, morality tests, “creative problem-solving” tests. Tests involving parcels of land, injured animals, various trains on various tracks. There’s a composite of these tests which was used to track my academic potentials, my future plans. Is *that* me?

I own clothing and books. Bedsheets. Pictures I pulled out of library books. A crateful of cd’s, a crateful of records. An old typewriter I use more often than the computer I’m using right now. Stacks of spirals and typing paper. A dresser and a desk. Stones, necklaces, letters, postcards and tapes people have given me over the years. Is *that* me?

When the sun is out, I leave a shadow. I leave messages on answering machines and email in people’s accounts. I try to send letters and give gifts, at times. On snowy days, you can see where I’ve walked. Obviously, then, I’m somewhere. But where am I?

Last night, around five, I called my mother. My mother gets up around four, for no better reason than because she likes the morning, but was still a bit surprised to get a call, particularly from me, the most delinquent of sons. “Mom?” “Josef? Uh, Josef, is something wrong?” “No, everything’s okay, I just got a question. Did I ever have a dog?” “What?” “When I was little. Like maybe eight? Did I have a dog?” “No, no, Josef, you never had a dog. You did have that fish that died, and then you had those bugs that I made you throw out, but you never had any…” “‘kay, mom. Thanks.”

This is only distressing because three hours ago, before Ana fell asleep, I told her all about my dog. I had a dog named Pookah, and it was so big. It’s like I can almost remember it, but I can’t. I guess that stands to reason.

Dry blood, the body’s so cold.

My mother tried to get me to learn the piano. She knew how to play, as did my grandparents, and their grandparents. We couldn’t actually afford a piano, but my mother used to go shopping on weekdays and wheel her cart up to the electronics section, staring over the electric keyboards. She’d look around, wait for an open time, and start playing, songs half-remembered, improvisations from school-age exercises, light pop songs played from ear. I used to watch her from a distance on Saturdays when I was supposed to be trying on shoes or pants. She sat me down in the church basement, where an older friend of her mother’s tried to teach me fundamentals. I was a tempremental child, and after long minutes i’d smash my fists into the keys and scream and kick at the wood. After about five such aborted sessions, my mom let me quit and paid off my damage costs. i’ve cultivated patience and stillness since then, but there’s times when i sit at a piano, and i try to play, and the notes come out wrong, and i have to hold back my hands.

It’s a myth we have that we are only as deep in our feelings as we have words to express them, only as emotive as we are eloquent. The most meager and miserable of orators is a genius of heart and mind, should his words please us in form, thinking we thusly know their content, while the greatest of us and in us becomes so much stupiditiy as soon and as sure as it stammers and spits. Words are only as true as they cater to and flatter our sensibilities, our love of the rush of rhetoric and argument, and they are only as honest as the fall in with the cadences of our habit and prejudice. As I was writing only for myself, the avowed touchstone of proper fiction (or so I had been taught), the only bigotries I had to concede to were my own.

During the floods, Seth and I once spent the night at the West High gymnasium, which had been converted into a Red Cross shelter for those left homeless. We were looking for another of the April Eight people. It didn’t occur to us what we were going to ask this person, should we find him. “Hello. Have you recently been brought back from the dead?” We walked around, saw people we had seen before but didn’t really know, neighbors and cashiers and passerby, and exchanged smiles, slight waves, nods. Their belongings spread out in a pile near their cots, the children playing tag between each family’s handful of scavenged property. We didn’t have the nerve to ask anyone of anything. We couldn’t even look these people in the eye. That was the night I began to doubt what it was I was trying to do, the entire project, though I hadn’t yet realized the most basic truth of it: it does not matter whether or not I am supposed to be here. I am here. I threw away all the hours left to me, obscessed with the slightest feigned half-imagined traumas. me, mine, my, me, i, mine, i, mine, me, i, my, me, mine.

It was always too late. Even when time remained, we convinced ourselves that we were running out of time, that there would be no extensions, that the only decisions left to be made were the decorative and meaningless choices that were good only for consolation and distraction. And we did love our distractions, then, in the good old days.

I will go no farther. You can push and push and push but I will go no farther. I have spent as long as I will waiting by the window, the phone, seeking news of some faraway place where all my decisions are being made for me. I gave away my books, my records, my clothes. Incidents to feign control, direction. I wanted the world to end, to watch the houses burn and topple, to be a witness to immortal acts. Time would not bow to my command, and the scope of my life was, as ever, lost to history, the never-remembered small days bookended between greater dates. So I set to the things I had built and made plans for their destruction, as the world around me continued to slow its spin, a top gone too long. Hollow, the pathetic lonely plots, the door closed and the typewriter clicking, drifting away. A boy pulling the wings off butterflies, kicking strays, picking through roadside carrion with a stick and a scalpel.

She had never actually told me. I had stopped by to visit, after she had moved back in with her parents, after she had quit her job, and went to her door, where inside I heard her singing to herself, just above a whisper:

“there’s a little black spot on my lung today…
it’s the same old thing as yesterday…”

And I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. I’m still not sure if she knew I was there or not. Either way we didn’t discuss it then, as I left the house and walked away, that being what I do. From that day on it was an unspoken referent. But she never actually told me, and I always hoped.

I spent this time, the last days, sitting in my room, writing, plotting. Setting them up to watch them fall. Plagues, earthquakes. Rivers of blood. Locusts nesting in the skulls of abandoned infants. Clusters of feverish refugees, beaten at night by the kids of the neighborhood. Still plotting how it was that I did not die. And all the while, Ana sat in her bedroom, the pictures of her high-school days still up on the walls, getting smaller, hollowing out from inside. My hands knot into fists and my jaw cramps to think of it now.

After it was all over and she had finally finished fighting, her mother told me she walked around the house, holding herself up by moving from wall to wall, saying good-bye to everything in the house, finishing with her room. Good-bye, books. Good-bye, desk, chair. Good-bye pictures, blankets, bed. She stayed on a while longer, but those were the last things she said. Ana once told me she believed that when you die, your soul goes to the moon, where you meet with everyone else who has died, and you get a seat above the earth, where you can watch the lives of those still here, like a movie, and nobody shushes you for talking or tells you not to put your feet up on the seat in front of you, because there’s no reason to be that uptight when you’re dead.

I was standing outside, watching the house from the street, as though I could watch her rise to the moon from the street. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough.
(12: [/alpha] #

She had an endless collection of quilts on her bed, which we’d crawl under and find each other back when we did such things, but on the night in question we were atop the quilts, as she was showing me the constellations of moles on her body. She was quiet, telling me a secret, the feeling of being let in on something that was present in my every interaction with her. I followed her fingers with mine across the goosebumps, trying to remember the names, the shapes. Months later, when we were dancing, I followed the constellations with my fingertips and she held on to me as though afraid of falling off the earth.
(12: [/alpha] #

Your momma’s so unpleasant that she makes people uncomfortable when she’s around.

Your momma’s so average that sometimes it makes her cry, when she’s alone, that resigned sound in the voice of her parents the last time she saw them alive, the ache in them, the quiet space in them she had always wanted to fill with pride.

Your momma’s so filled with shame as to her lack of steady income that she uses coupons, but can’t look the cashier in the eye, and just sets them in a pile next to the cash register while she stares at the skin where her wedding ring used to be.

Your momma’s so fat that when she takes you and your sister to the pool, she waits in the car, and you feel sad but you don’t know why.

Your momma’s so old she doesn’t remember you when you visit her in the home. So you never visit her in the home.

Your momma’s so old she dropped her change in the parking lot and tried to pick it up, and couldn’t, and waited for someone to help her, but nobody would look at her, they just pretended she wasn’t there.

Your momma’s so tired of being alive that she spends days staring at the ceiling, at her hands, at the patch in the lawn where grass won’t grow, and you’ve learned she won’t make you dinner then, won’t unclog the toilet, so you keep your mouth shut and eat potato chips in your room.

Your momma’s so sad she’ll come into your room at five in the morning on a school day to tell you how sorry she is she’s such a bad mother, she had some bad days there and it’s been hard but she’s gonna make it all up to you now, she’s met this new guy and he’s really nice and a really good lay, and she’s sure he’ll be good to you and your sister, and everything’s gonna change, and then she can’t stop crying and aches to breathe and you have to sit up and hold her until she falls asleep at the end of your bed.

Your momma’s so crazy every time you hear the phone ring you’re certain it’s her, or someone calling to tell you to pick her up from some bar or jail, and you feel this dread you can’t shake, but what can you do.

She’s your momma.
(12: [/alpha] #

What Is Wrong With You?
There was this party. I was in high school, maybe a freshman but definitely in high school because my friend Escho had a car and could get us to parties, and since my folks had me working at the Slurp ‘N Suck on weekends in order to teach me responsibility I could get us beer so long as we were careful. So Escho and me are at this party out in that neighborhood if you take Ansborough south out past the graveyard, where a friend who knew this guy in the debate club was throwing an anti-prom shindig. And but so I’m hanging out in the backyard, which is where I last saw Escho looking for a surrepeticious place to puke, and there in the grass I see this necklace. And not even like some plastic thing, or like ten dollars at the mall kinda thing, but like a serious grownup necklace. So I put in in my pocket and go inside and start asking around if anybody lost a necklace, and this girl who smelled like fruit juice and stomach acid and some kinda plasticky strawberry perfume came up and threw her arms around me and started thanking me over and over and over, so I take her over by the stairs out front where it’s quieter and tell her it’s no big deal, but she talks all on like it’s her mom’s, she’d get killed if she lost it, she made such a big deal of letting her wear it tonight, because it’s like prom night and she didn’t want her parents to know she didn’t have a date so she told them she was meeting her boy there because he’s shy and this whole trip with this made-up boy and she’s crying and shivering even though it’s not cold out at all. but then this fucking stussy-kid comes in and starts hollering that my friend is out on the street telling drivers that the end is near and i better fucking do something about it, so i look at this girl and i look out and i tell her to wait, that i’m coming right back, and i run out and fucking Escho is laying in the street giggling and i pick him up and drag him back to the car where he passes out in the back seat finally, and i go back to the party, but the imaginary boyfriend girl was gone.
(12: [/alpha] #

Everything Is Wrong With Me
First, you won’t believe me, but who even cares, because that’s not the point; the point here is, well, I better start at the beginning if I have any hope of ever getting to that.

Like all beginnings, this one starts in a roller rink.

“Okay, this one’s for the couples only, no singles out on the rink at this time,” said The Man At The Top Of The Booth, who had been torturing us all night with Air Supply and Foreigner songs despite our pleas for Slayer.


“Sorry, gents, this one’s meant for the young lovers out there,” which obviously didn’t include us. Most likely it was Seth’s idea to get tanked on cornhusker vodka and go roller skating — real roller skating, mind you, none of that pansy rollerblading action, we’re talking strictly ‘78 roller boogie time. And that’s what we thought we were in for; we stayed up all last night popping unmarked pills and watching across 115th street, car wash and the Mack in preparation for what we thought was gonna be a disco inferno, but we forgot that the ’70s had a whole ‘nother musical dark side to it.

“NOOOOOO! NOT REO SPEEDWAGON!” screamed Ana, which was enough to get her sent to the penalty box beneath the Tower Of Suffering for five minutes. Something had to be done, and fast. We had already blown what little cover we had when jimmy cheerios slammed into a wall after trying to speed-jump to the snack bar, so all eyes were on us. We went to the mini-arcade and played centipede and the journey video game whilst we whipped up a plan.

The DJ had to pee sometime. It was just inevitable. And we knew he didn’t just have a piss-bottle stashed away or the board of health woulda closed this place down long ago (it eventually did, by the way, but that’s after the fact). we stood on the bench to the left, pouring water from glass to glass and making gurgling noises. This eventually paid off, but we hadn’t decided who was going to be the intrepid soul willing to climb up and take control of the floor. Unfortunately, before we could say no, our old friend fast eddie satan scurried up the ladder, at which point all we could do was look confused.

Ed began to spin the record (“escape”, better known as “the pina coloda song”) faster and faster, sending the skating couples around the rink faster and faster. People began to look afraid, and a few were obviously out of control. “SKATEN ODER TOT, SCHWEINHUNDERN!” screamed Ed in his best pig-German as the young lovers enacted meth-soaked brownian movement, and finally the din broke into the raunchy version of “love to love you, baby”, which had those skaters still up and ambulatory gyrating and swooning like a pheromone experimentation lab.

Ed jumped out of the booth and flew the fifteen feet down to the floor, where he quietly said “my work here is done” and left, as did Seth, carrying the passed-out jimmy over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Ana, Julia and I stayed to watch the young suburban teens learn to master the pre-rut dance, and eventually the heat got to me and I passed out.

The DJ was fired the next day.
(12: [/alpha] #

The Ballad of Maria Einseideln
(Undergrad Writer’s Workshop, UofIowa Spring 1996)

It was cold like this, the snow hanging in the air, the last night I was here with her, the last time I could look at the blankets and quilts and know that she was under there, asleep. I would sit here, on this rug my wife made for her last Christmas, and watch her sleep, nothing but moonlight between us. I would think about the stories I just told her, sometimes; usually I would just sit, fill myself with the stillness, the silence.

The story I told her that night was horrible.

“…and that’s why the world is flat. Now go to bed, please.”

“Shyeah, I don’t THINK so. One more time.”

“Nope, won’t happen, you have lessons tomorrow. You need the rest. You and I both know how loopy you get when you don’t get enough sleep, and Mr. Broadrick won’t care much for one of your impromptu naps tomorrow, will he? And you’re just coming back into his graces after The Swingset Incident…”

“Ah, no problem. It’s okay. See, I got a plan for that, but that’s tomorrow, anyway. ON WITH THE STORY!”

“Last one. Final. The omega point of tonight’s readings. Agreed?”

“Shyeah, I don’t-“


“Yeah, agreed, okay.”

“Okay, this is a story about Stick, the boomerang who never came back when you threw him. The hunters used to throw Stick at kangaroos and dinosaurs and missionaries but Stick just fell to the ground, still as a stone. So one day the hunters turne d him into a fire, and that’s the end of the story. Good night!”

“GYP! That’s no story, I mean, there’s just a stick and then things, and it’s…it’s just nothing! DO-OVER!”

“Shyeah, I don’t THINK so, sweet. My part of our agreement is full. Sleep!”

And she gave me The Pissed Look, but it was late, and I had so much to do the next day.

Story: There was a mole who lived in Big Forest all by himself because he had no friends. Mole thought people should like him no matter how he treated them, and when they didn’t, he treated them worse and worse until there wasn’t a single animal in the forest who wanted to be Mole’s friend. Life is rough.

One night Mole was walking around out by the creek and saw Wildebeest, who only had a few friends, but that was more than Mole had. Mole came up behind Wildebeest and tried to scare him, which was a very Mole thing to do, but Wildebeest didn’t get scared because he was dead. Mole started thinking and decided that since Wildebeest didn’t need it any more, Mole would dress up in Wildebeest’s skin to help make friends. But when Mole wore his skin to the clearing where the other animals were playing they liked him even less, which made Mole even more confused than he normally was.

The next day, Mole saw Frog asleep on a rock sunning himself, which was about all Frog ever did. Mole decided that since Frog never did anything good, and because Frog had even more friends than Wildebeest did, that Mole should take Frog’s skin. Well, Frog was using his skin at the time, my Mole already had the taste of blood in his mouth, so he ripped up Frog with his claws and took his skin. The other animals didn’t like Mole one bit now, but Mole kept at his plan, up the friend chain, until the only animal left in Big Forest was Peacock, the most beautiful and beloved of all the animals. Peacock saw Mole coming and flew away just in time, never to return to Big Forest again. Mole felt bad and tired and there was a pain in his back from carrying all those skins around all the time, so he went to the creek to wash off, where he saw his reflection in the water. When Mole saw his reflection, he knew that he had become Death. Mole was so afraid that he just stopped living. After that, there were no more animals in Big Forest ever again.

When our daughter was born, my wife wanted to name her something exotic, something to set her apart from the everyday. I wanted to name her something simple, something special to me. My daughter’s name is Maria Conquest Of The Celestial Song Einseideln. She started calling herself Conquest around the time she could first talk (well, she called herself Con-Con, which was close enough…the way a parent’s mind will jump to conclusions…). We called her Conquest from that point on, though I couldn’t help but wonder what that would translate to by the time she reached junior high. It was around that time that I began tucking her in at night and telling her stories I had written when I was younger, when I thought I’d only be teaching until we got on our feet. I dug them out from a box filled with notes, family pictures, small pieces of cloth, a picture Conquest drew of a big purple sun. Amazing, the junk we collect and hoard — old envelopes with lost letters, broken crayons, small cold stones — everything had as a special meaning, a connection to nostalgia which falls on us like rain when we try to sleep.

Story: Out behind the barns at Grandpa’s farm, past the grove of trees growing from a bed of abandoned cars and trash, past the electric fence and the place where the hunters set their deer stands, way way way out past the farthest thing you can see is where The Snow Queen lived. She floated above the lake just after the sun had set; she pressed with the tip of her finger into the ice and cracks ran from her across the surface, she floats again, she presses again, a latticework of bright white lines ran through the darker white of the lake, the same dark white as the sky when the sun would finally return.

People would occasionally go out through the fields and get lost, stumbling past this site, the movements of the Snow Queen lost to the blowing snow, their failing eyes only almost seeing what took place across the lake. Sometimes, by odd chance, a break in the wind, or simple determination, someone would see the Snow Queen and know her face. They would wander out to the shore and crawl across ice so smooth you needed to take off your gloves and claw your fingernails into the surface in order to move, all the while going snow-blind and frostbitten and half-mad beneath an invisible moon. The sound of wolves who gather, dance and pray to the Snow Queen out in the trees remains unheard to those on the ice — if heard, they would know to fear the place they are going. Finding themselves finally at the center of the lake, prostrate and dying at the feet of the Snow Queen, they breathed suppositions through lips gone blue of how they always believed, that they were convinced, that they always had faith in her.

The Snow Queen would smile, sigh, and reach down with one finger which touched them upon their foreheads. They shattered, scattered into the wind, into the cracks in the ice, down, drown, a perfect stillness.

Nothing remains of the Snow Queen now but forgotten ghosts who continue to fade and vanish.

We used to take my daughter to my father’s farm on the occasional Sunday. One time she fell into the sty, where pigs five times her size nuzzled her and squealed. I remember getting up before dawn, going out to slop the pigs, screaming and crying when I fell in, afraid I’d be eaten. She just smiled. “Hi, Pigs!”. My father laughed and picked her up with his right arm, the same one that got caught in the auger when I was twelve. He shouldn’t be able to move it, much less lift with it, but my father’s a strong man.

Later that day, my father told Conquest that each snowflake is individual, that it has a design all its own. After hearing this, Conquest ran outside and began examining snowflakes. Once she saw this was true, she came to the conclusion that snowf lakes have to be alive-the reason they go to the trouble of being all different is so when they talked to each other they know who they were talking to. She ran back to the house, grabbed me by the hand, and pulled me out into the night.

“What are we doing?” I asked.

“Listen,” she whispered. “The snowflakes are talking to each other.”

Story: My father taught my brother and I a game a long, long time ago. The game was called BLOOP!. When my father said “BLOOP! Yer a fish!”, we became fish. When my father said “BLOOP! Yer a book!”, we became books. When he was feeling vindictive, my father would BLOOP! us into things which had no form, like truth or the Seven Year’s War. Because my brother and I were very hyperactive when we lived at the farm, the phrase we most often heard was “BLOOP! Yer a stone.” And we were stones.

It did not take long before my brother and I realized that our father was a witch. And he was not a good witch, no, no, sometimes he had two right hands. And I knew long before he told us to in so many words, that if we went against his wishes we were doomed.

Yesterday, when I couldn’t pick you up from school, I went to visit my brother in the hospital. My father told me not to, but I couldn’t help it, I had to. My brother has been catatonic for two months. I just found about it yesterday. I asked the nurse if I could have a few minutes alone with my brother. Then I went over to him and whispered in his ear “bloop”. It has been a long time since I was a child. And now I am not only an adult but a witch as well. My brother’s eyes roll backward, forward, focus.

“Kevin. Can you hear me?”

“Yeah. I can.”

“Can you walk?”

“Yeah. I can.”

“You know what we have to do.”

“I know. I know.”

And we went to look for my father.

So much snow had fallen one morning that school was canceled and Conquest literally sprang out of bed when she heard the news. Half an hour bundling her up, snow suit and mittens and scarves and sweaters and caps until I could barely tell it was her underneath all the fabric. “It’s meeee, dad! but I don’t think I can breathe, yeah, no my face is here, yeah,” watching out the window as her and my wife played in the snow. I sat down at my desk and lost myself in work.

Even now, as I sit here and wait, I am not sure just what happened after that point.

Story: Once there was a girl who got a bad disease. Every time she closed her eyes something disappeared. Sometimes it was things of hers. Sometimes it was things which had nothing to do with her. Sometimes she didn’t even notice it was gone until much later, but eventually she would go looking for something, something she had forgotten about, and it was gone.

She decided that the only thing that she could do was to keep her eyes closed all the time, but when she tried, she couldn’t tell if things were continuing to disappear or not. She was finally so frightened that she had to open her eyes, at which point she discovered that a lot of things were gone. She couldn’t think of a way to make it stop, and she started to cry, but this made her close her eyes many times and she forced herself to stop. She then noticed that people she knew were disappearing. Her friend Ana came over and asked her why she was crying, blink, Ana was gone.

The way I wanted to tell the story, being part of the story was a fate unto itself and she disappeared as soon as I hit the period key, but no, no.

That’s not what really happened at all.

Our neighbor Mark owns a gorgeous black lab he named Pookah. Conquest loved that dog; she’d run up and down, along the fence, Pookah chasing after her on the other side, until Conquest had exhausted herself and flopped down on the grass, catching giggles between breaths. On this day, Conquest was running with the dog while my wife came inside to put on cocoa, watching Conquest from the window. The snow had piled high along the front fencing, and as Conquest dashed for that side, Pookah climbed a dune and managed to climb over the fence. I could hear her cheering and laughing (but I didn’t know why) as she petted the dog, then following as the dog darted off across the street, into the fields. This was the last anyone saw of her, until we found the body, Pookah licking snowflakes from her cheeks and eyes.

By the time the ambulance had arrived my mind was in another place, where everything was bright and slow and foreign. I was talking but I didn’t know what I was saying. Someone grabbed me by the back of my shirt, threw me into the back of the ambulance and we were off. They rushed Conquest, perfectly still, into the hospital and brought us to the lobby where I began drinking reheated coffee and shaking. I went into the bathroom and prayed, I mean I actually got on my knees in front of the urinals and prayed. I couldn’t remember the last time. It had been a while. A doctor came in and looked at me for just a second, then pretended not to notice, but I felt it and I couldn’t think right and I don’t even remember what I was saying, it couldn’t have been very loud and I don’t think he heard anything, God, just give me this one thing, please, anything you want, just please, don’t let her die.

Three hours later she was dead.

Story: I wake up and remember dreaming about talking with Conquest. She tells me about the need for a decision. There is no more time. I don’t understand what she is talking about. She will not explain anymore. I look around the bedroom for an obj ect which I can use as a kind of emotional locus. Conquest tells me that all ends begin to fray. I do not see my daughter because she is not there. I begin to ask Conquest something but forget what it was, this happens to me all the time now. Thoughts collect like stray balloons across the ceiling. Conquest tells me that this will not be the end of the world, I think, maybe she said the end of my world, maybe she says the end of her world, I am having trouble understanding her. I look for my daughter but remember she is a dream I had last night. Conquest tells me something, forgetfulness, blaming it on others, given up the ghost, I don’t know, I can’t hear her anymore. I laugh but I don’t feel happy. Conquest tries and tries and tries but there is no way to get me to understand.

At night, after my wife went to sleep, I would come in here and read her stories. We hadn’t touched anything in the room since the funeral, hadn’t even made the bed, and with only the light from the window I could convince myself that she was still here, asleep beneath the dinosaurs on her quilts, while I sat and read so quietly that I could barely hear myself, remembering how much more important this was compared to the mornings I’d arrive at work dead to the world.

I left the old stories in the brown folder in the basement; I didn’t need them anymore. My head was filled with stories now, night after night, over and always. When my wife found out she began screaming at me, which had become converted by the next day to pity, the next week to long talks, trying to come to a kind of terms. I told her I loved her, that it was time to move on, that I cannot live in the past, whatever would end the conversation, whatever I had to do to stop thinking about it. And at night I would come in here and tell my daughter stories.

Last night, my wife left to live with our friends Aria and Matthew. She told me that I had to do this by myself, that she couldn’t do anything, that she thought I was a liar, that she didn’t matter, she said so many things. I went out with her — Matthew and I went and had a failed man-to-man over bad scotch, Aria told me that people at the school were wondering what I was up to and if I was all right, my wife told me she loved me. I drove back to the house and fell asleep in the car.

I forgot to tell Conquest her story.

It’s been so long since I’ve left the room. I have closed the door. I do nothing but tell stories. I look at the sheets and know there is no child beneath them. I tell stories I half-remember from when I was a boy, stories my father told me, things I did, things kids I knew did. I tell her stories about funny things that happened when I was first working at the school, about how her mother and I met, about my cousin who can eat broken glass. I tell her stories I remember from books, from television, that I overheard on buses. I tell her lies. I tell her things which do not make sense. I am the only one in the room. My daughter, Maria Con-Con Conquest of the Celestial Song Einseideln, is dead.

At night I can hear Pookah howl. Nothing can keep him quiet. The last time I talked to Mark, he told me he was looking for someone to take Pookah; there was just no way that dog could stay in this neighborhood. I heard something on the porch, and thinking it was my wife, got up to unlock the door and let her in. Pookah was standing there, perfectly still, as though he was waiting for me.

I stared at him. And I waited.
(12: [/alpha] #

Just Before The Winds Come
All my neighbors are in the Vietnam Conflict Recreation Society. I kept refusing to join. I’d noticed a general lack of lawn respect from their children and an unmistakable snub at this summer’s block party: our car-part-built gamelan booth was placed on the railroad tracks. They are a force to behold, I will admit; mighty and high as kites, out on the high school football field, running flanks and scattering from imagined treeline fire. That the area is completely devoid of any jungle never deterred them; nor does the fact that most people find the entire ensemble’ in questionable taste. They were never bright boys, the Central Heights Squadron, all desperately in need of some kinda hobby that doesn’t involve Paul’s son Mandrax making flashpots and pipe bombs. Mandrax used to be content planting fake alien artifacts out in he fields with my boy Barry and the other kids, but now it’s barns peppered with shrapnel, tracers up over the house at night. Enough of this; I’d begun fortifying the house, putting up steel reinforcements, cleaning the weapons, and finally, at night, I began watching from the trees for enemy encampment in the garden, the fields, my son soliciting soldiers from his school, forming a center of resistence dead in the middle of Euclid Street.

We were in the trees, looking down, searching for soldiers in the wheatfields. Our men had split into two factions, warring over the accuracy of our uniforms, our neighborhood politics. Barry’s Consumer Responsibility instructor Jack and I had taken to the trees, lining both sides of the railroad tracks, facing the fields. Should we be spotted, they’d make quick work of us, but we had the advantage of sight and positioning. Clausewitz said “in war, there is a connection between everything which belongs to a whole”, which as true as all his truths, something we understood and our traitorous neighbors did not. The wind came down hard, from the west, and brought the stalks of wheat to the ground, leaving three of their men exposed. We quietly removed them from play and worked our way from branch to branch so as to reposition in case of any sighting. Jack and I were both getting older, and hadn’t the eyesight of our youth, and so with the setting of the sun we knew the advantage was shifting to the younger men, who still had children in diapers and lust for their wives. We could wither wait it out and hide for the night or we could force their hand now. Jack and I communicated through clicks and whistles. I feel a love for Jack, a manly and respectful love, which the younger seem not to understand. We had shared venture capital backing sources, Herodotus, cask-aged aberlour. I realized, up there in the trees, how inevitable this schism within the neighborhood had been, and how I had waited for it, for now. Jack suggested a rush on the fields, flushing the remaining two down to the river, just like Frederick the Great, then regroup with the remaining members of our squad, if any. We were agreed, and began to descend the trees when we heard something from behind. a collection of children had formed a line along the railroad tracks, headed by that foul mandrax, waste of seed and skin. I felt relived I didn’t see my girl with them; it’d be like her to be wasting her time among this neighborhood rabble…but there she was, in the back. Something left her hand then, following the arc of her arm, up into the trees, and the last thing I remember was staring at that item, spinning end over end, a capped piece of metal pipe, stuck towards the top with what looked like a fuse. Jack made clicks and whistles, and it seems so obvious, then, where the schism had truly come from. And then it was over, to the best of my knowledge. We were pressed from our bodily remains, from the pieces and fragments of our forms, our spirits collected like fireflies in some sticky summer night, pulled upwards, into a tunnel of lights. I watched out for Jack, and I saw him head toward a thick red sphere, and I pulled myself to follow. Whatever god manifest in that light was akin to ours, for we returned to the earth as rocky mountain spotted fever, built in labs for resilience and virility, and after the rush of our missile ride we got to nest in the mucous and vomit of our victims, clotting and clogging the mouth and nose, clawed out but never removed. And it was not long before we forgot our children and our sieges, and learned to content yourself on the idiot joy of replication, casting out into the air just before the winds come. Perhaps not so different after all.
(12: [/alpha] #

When I was in the fourth grade, Kraft General Foods (maker of the fine line of Kool-Aid brand unsweetened soft drink mix products) began a contest open only to elementary school children. The school which sent in the most empty Kool-Aid packets would not only get a visit from the Kool-Aid Man, they’d also get to invent a new Kool-Aid flavor. We were industrious students at Washburn Elementary and through a citywide drive (from which our history lessons on mob control of organized crime came in super-handy, as we put pressure on grocery stores to “throw out” thousands of packets of perfectly good Kool-Aid, as well as undercutting other local elementary schools with threats of playground hits, and most importantly we ran the milk concession right out of town, forcing cafeterias citywide to switch over to “the powder”, as we called it, constantly mumbling “powder is power” in a oversugared haze) we sent in over two hundred eighty-seven thousand Kool-Aid packets. We won by a landslide.

After meeting the Kool-Aid Man (who basically ran up and down the hallways of our school screaming “Oh Yeaaaaaaaaaaaah!”) we gave the president of Kraft General Foods our suggestion for the new Kool-Aid flavor, which was “pee”. The reason we found this so insufferably humorous was that somebody at Kraft General Foods was going to have to approximate the flavor of urine, which they could only do after sampling urine, and when you’re in elementary school getting grown-ups to drink pee is about as a coup as our brains could imagine.

The guy from Kraft told us to fuck off, gathered up the Kool-Aid Man (who was standing in the back, sipping fruit punch vodka from his hip flask and making time with the reading teacher, or at least trying to: “But I’m the Kool-Aid Man, bay-bee! I-yah Aym! Kool-Aid Mayn!”) and split straight outta Washburn, giving the prize so some pansy runner-up school full of defective trust-fund kids. And that’s how Purplesaurus Rex Kool-Aid was invented.
(12: [/alpha] #

Various Kisses
The past is exactly like the future, only in the other direction.

The members of my family seem to all possess defining moments, single decisions which speak as much of who they are as years worth of more incidental moments. My uncle John once saved the lives of two cabdrivers and their fares, midwinter, steam rising from their mouths and wounds, pulling them from flaming wreckage. John hadn’t saved anything before in his life, and wasn’t particularly good at this particular rescue: not only did he cut his hands to ruby-red ribbons shattering a side window with his fists, he broke one of the cabbie’s arms trying to pull him free of the seat belt without unbuckling it first. Nevertheless, this city sought fit to claim him as hero, and the cab company publicly offered him free rides for life. John now spends his days riding around in various cabs, attempting to sell hand-bound books of his own poetry to paying customers. This is problematic for the cabbies, as fares often find readings of The Mellonberry Cantos: A Cycle in Twenty-seven Parts Based on the Practice of Shelling Mountainsides to Cause Avalanches as Attack Tactic in World War One both oppressively dull and overly derivative of early William Carlos Williams, a criticism John tends to respond to with screams and threats. John is now assigned to a rotating list of cabs each night, so as to evenly distribute the potential for attack (and bad press) amongst all on-call cabbies. This isn’t family knowledge, John having fallen out with his brothers prior to his becoming a heroic figure; I only know because Yusef’s cousin, to whom I had to deliver an incredibly suspicious package to on my return to the states, works for the same cab company John haunts. It was only halfway through his telling of the story I realized I was related to The Ghost of Carter Cabs…but this is not a story about my uncle John, or about cabdrivers, but about an entirely different poet, who had wares of her own to sell.

The German architect Albert Speer developed a system by which the buildings he created would decay and fall in specific ways, so as to create magnificent ruins. Speer was a National Socialist, however, and the majority of his buildings were Nazi offices and camps, which were destroyed at the end of the Second World War. The effectiveness of Speer’s plans, thus, remain unproved. The time I spent with the poet in question was brief and long past; my memory fills with new holes each time I think back to those days. No matter what is lost, however, what remains is undeniable, something I cannot…lose. I nearly said escape. Something I cannot escape. Perhaps this is how a defining moment is defined.

My uncle John sold all of three books of his cantos in the first year of his new job as in-cab salesman. The first two were to drunk couples who most likely didn’t understand it was his work he was selling and not the work of a — I’ll say it, with all due love in my heart for my uncle — a real poet. The third was to his father, my grandfather, who made his living as a failed escape artist. This would be the last time the two of them saw each other, as later the next year my grandfather performed his final escape act late at night, in his workshop, with a twelve-gauge shotgun. My grandfather lost three of his fingers and eight of his friends in the Alps, at Mellonberry Pass, a fact I did not learn until after the funeral. My grandfather bought his coffin twelve years before he was laid in it, and each spring he filled it with cuttings from his lilac bushes so as to prepare the interior. The lilac bushes were planted by my grandmother just prior to her death by ovarian cancer. When he died, he left nothing to his sons but his debts; he is not spoken well of in the family now.

John did manage to barter off a fourth collection of his poems to a woman who seemed to wear circles of small stones around her eyes, sapphire, royal blue apatite. I believe this now to be snow melted into the kohl she lined her eyes with, refrozen in the distance from her doorway to the cab. John, however, is adamant. The night we discussed this I began to understand the problems my family had with him. John traded one of his cardboard-bound books, twine-tied and inked with borrowed and stolen and found pens, for a kiss. This was not a woman of this earth, John told me, this was someone celestial, and her each motion was by divine appointment. Ever the poet, John.

“In the pathway, a drift of leaves;
one searches but does not find source, no tree nor wind.
I feared, then,
and did not even hear the crack.”

I was to meet this woman myself, not much later, and though I saw no stones circling her eyes I knew her instantly. I knew her from voice, from the things she had written and read aloud, from the roof of her building, each Sunday night for as long as I could remember. I knew her because she was reading from John’s work, which I had slugged through one weekend sick with some deranged recombinant flu. A blue-violet opium dream, this woman, whose kiss (I imagined, then, watching her from the edge of the room) seemingly dusted with narcotic sugars, the muscles in your chest falling downward, your skin misting with juices from where her fingertips met and held your body, now aching to lose its rigid boundaries. I couldn’t understand how my uncle John could press his lips to the mouth of this woman and still retain the ability to speak, to breathe. What I did not know, at the time, was that his lips had never met his. The poetess has kissed his hands.

From finger to palm, the muscles in John’s hands were torn into a red pulp like the insides of overripe peaches. He had regained some muscle control after he saved the cab-people, but the actual tendons had not grown back correctly. John can only hold a pen with a special rubber support slipped along its sides, and even that becomes intensely painful after more than a few minutes. It’s because of this that John receives disability payments each month, leaving him ample time to pursue his new profession. I asked John how he could bear to write and copy his poem, all 298 lines, over and over. John didn’t answer me, instead offering me more lemon-tea and asking me about my sister Angela. I asked him this question again, later, under entirely different circumstances, and he told me “This is what I do.” There was to be no further discussion.

I had decided, in a conviction I never told even my closes of friends, that I was going to pursue a life of celibacy. This was not for moral reasons, necessarily, and certainly not for religious reasons. I had made this choice after watching what relationships had done to others, how they had pulled themselves off from the world, filled with what D. H. Lawrence called “egoisme a deux”. I watched them have the same discussions, over and over, endlessly delighted with the same tired clichés, the same humorless jokes. I watched them fight each other, break each other down, becoming the flat average of two perfectly interesting people. And I said no. I most certainly did this out of fear, and with rather flimsy reasoning, but the times are rare I regret my decision. Because I want for nothing I can be trusted; I serve no master. Each word I speak is mine, each decision mine, and I stand or fall on my own terms. And yet I ached for this woman, for the proper steps by which to cross the room to her, the proper words to say. I wanted her to know my thoughts, where all lines were clear, the geometry simple and elegant.

I left, terrified, and once I was home I attempted to write a poem. I had never actually put words on paper outside of utility; I had no idea how exactly one went about writing a poem. I thought the same thoughts over in my head, lost scenarios, if only I were more brave. A heat I can feel against her cheek and neck, the coming apart of her clothing, the smell of fresh-formed juices. The skin of the body is so different in so many places it’s hard to believe we can call it all by a single name. The more I thought about her, the farther I was from a poem. I sat there for hours. I began to develop a nausea which I keep with me to this day. There is a trembling in my right arm, at times, which I first felt that night.

It’s quite possible there’s something essentially wrong about lusting after someone you don’t know. Perhaps that’s what finally convinced me to stand on the sidewalk one Sunday night and ask the poetess if maybe she’s like to come down and eat a bunch of pixie-stix and work off a mad sugar binge by teaching me how to write poems. This was winter, and the air didn’t particularly smell of anything, and the sky pretty much just looked like the sky, only with it being so cold it seemed like there were more stars than usual. I remember none of the surrounding details. What I do remember is her coming downstairs and out to the street , walking up to me, and saying “You don’t know me.” “Exactly. That’s the whole point.” We substituted fresh strawberries for pixie-stix, but essentially the evening went according to plan.

I’d like to tell you there’s a conclusion to this story, that the end closes the remainder of what I’ve said like the lid of a well-made box, but I don’t think there is. I was originally hoping to finish with a poem, my first poem, but even with all the years gone by, all the things which have happened, I still haven’t finished the poem. Sometimes, at night, I can feel things shift inside of me, maybe memories, maybe words, maybe something entirely different, and I feel like I’m getting closer, but when I awake in the morning I remember nothing. I’m no closer than when I began. Perhaps someone else is writing my poems for me.
(12: [/alpha] #

Toppling Tyrants, Or
Would it kill me to try? maybe, and Pascal informs me that any wager with death as a potential makes the bet unworthwhile. But I’ll try.

David drove us to work, it was his week, it had been his week for two weeks but he had air conditioning and no one seemed to mind. Out where 30 becomes 197 David hit a small dog. He pulled over and got out of the car and the dog was flapping, like a fish, David picked it up and set it in the grass, the dog kicking at his forearms, as we watched from inside the car. The dog relaxed, stopped thrashing, but remained alive. David laid down in the grass, facing the dog, staring into its eyes. We couldn’t get him to get up. Eventually I got into the drivers seat and the rest of us drove to work, half an hour late.

David came in around lunch; no one thought to mention what had happened, no one particularly cared. David was like that. I went up and offered him his keys when he said “don’t, I’m not here.” He refused to answer any more of my questions. David drove home and in midweek it became my week.

David showed up, at times, but more often than not called in sick. Sometimes, when I was out of my cubicle, people would say “Hey, look, he’s doing his David impression again”. For a while, this loss bothered us, but we found it bothered us less as the days went on. And on.

I met David’s wife at a party a few weeks later; I did not know it was her at the time. She was talking to someone nearly as beautiful as she herself was, and I was smitten, confused, afraid. The music was too fast, but that entailed her jumping up and down a lot. On the way to the bathroom, a man in a booth offered me the chance to shoot at targets with a small pellet gun. On closer inspection these targets turned out to be small pictures of Elvis presley. I declined.

She didn’t recognize me until we were getting into my car. “Ah! hey, do I, do you know David?” “yeah. We work together. You know David?” “yeah. I’m his wife.” And we laughed, a little.

What happened next is connect-the-dots. I would tell you about their marriage trouble, about his denial of existence, about his stillness, but this would be rationalization, and not completely true. “Ow, uh, sweetie, you’re on my hair…” but I didn’t hear her, because I saw David standing in the closet. She turned and saw him, following my eyes, and we stopped for a moment, then she held me by the hips and rolled me onto my back. She began to move, and I began to move, and David began to move, and soon he stood beside us, and she would slow, and speed up, and slow, and speed up, and look at me as though I was to tell her something. And then I felt strange, and cold, and she began to speed up and not slow down, and I forgot to look for David, and then I was lost, and I felt colder, and I remember being a little kid lying on the grass and the other children stood over me, and they pointed at me, and they listened but heard nothing and they told me, oh, oh he looks ill, oh he’s sick, he’s dying, he’s dying, he’s dead.

We have decided to pretend there was never a David. We share the apartment now, and my car as well, and I’m thinking of inviting the guys from the office over to see my new place. David is gone, and people don’t remember; when his name was once mentioned we all became confused, and felt like there was something just past us we couldn’t hold anymore. I remember, because David still watches, not when her and I are together, but when I am alone, in the kitchen, staring at nothing. And I wonder about him, but when I turn to look, something shimmers, for a moment, and is gone.

I could be wrong.
(12: [/alpha] #

He Was Having Difficulty Swallowing
He called me and asked if I had a shovel he could borrow. I remember him having a shovel, a much nicer shovel than mine, so I asked him why he needed a shovel. He told me he was digging a hole in his backyard. I asked him why he was digging a hole in his backyard. He told me that digging a hole was something he knew he could do, and that he had to do something, and he didn’t know what else to do. I told him I’d be over with my shovel in half an hour.

When I pulled up in his driveway I saw he had erected two small worklights at angles to the hole, which was maybe four feet deep and a couple feet wide, in order to keep digging through the just-fallen dusk into the night. He was sitting at his picnic table, where two months back we ate overcooked hamburgers while he entertained friends from work and the new husbands of old girlfriends. The broken handle of the first shovel was set across the table, but the scoop was nowhere to be seen. I handed him my shovel, which I permanenetly borrowed from my parents when I first moved into the hose where I lived with Sarah all those years ago, which he took out of my hand while walking back to the hole, heavy in his legs and chest. He set about digging, throwing the dirt up and to the side, onto one of two piles, shifting his stance from time to time. I watched him for about twenty minutes, then went in to get a beer. I sat on the picnic table, drinking, listening to his telephone constantly ring, caught at every fourth ring by the machine, completely ignored by him as he kept digging. When I went in to get a second beer, I was about to answer the phone when I heard him start swearing and kicking at the walls of the hole.

Having hit a layer of clay which he could not get through, he was at a loss as to how to continue the hole. He looked at me, asked what I thought, and I told him I had no idea, except maybe that he could make the hole wider, if he just wanted to keep digging. No, he said, the hole has to keep going down, and if he could just get past this fucking clay he’d be set for a while. This, of course, was just plain wrong, and I told him he’d need to get a backhoe if he was going to keep digging. No, no, he said, he had to keep digging, keep digging down. He pulled himself out of the hole, walked to the shed, and came back with a hand trowel, which he used to pick at the clay, throwing small pieces of it onto the pile of dirt. I picked up my shovel, strangely protective now that he had no use for it, and asked him if he was okay.

“Does it look like I’m okay?”

I didn’t have an answer to this, so I went out to my car, put the shovel across the back seat, and started driving home, only I didn’t want to go home, I didn’t was to go anywhere, so I drove around out on the highway for a few hours, until I ended up at a diner in one of those small outlying towns, where I asked the waitress for ten dollars worth of quarters so I could make a call out to the coast, so that I could call Sarah, though I had no idea what I would say.
(12: [/alpha] #

First I gotta explain that was the same summer my uncle Jeb took a header off the nature trail bridge and sealed his fate. Jeb used to take me and Jay-Jay and Josef and Seth, back before he became the monk of everclear, but I’m gettin’ to that, anyway he used to take us all out fishin’ on the cedar, which is a shitty place to fish cause all you’re bound to catch is bullheads and carp and maybe a catfish. All the fish in the cedar are ugly. The upside to this is you rarely get a bite, so if you’ve got a mind to do some drinkin’, just drop a line and by the time you got one on you’ve worked up a sweet buzz, unless you were my uncle Jeb who was always an i’m-sober-i’m-sober-i’m-fuckin’-ripped kinda drinker but this shit is all incidental. Jeb used to pour a little in the water, watch it was down towards Gilbertville, tell us he’s getting the river drunk so we can catch more fish. Actually when I say it like that he kinda sounds like a dirtbag, I’m doing this all wrong but he was a good guy, even with his problems, and we all had problems, specially that fucked-up worthless summer. He was out by himself nightfishin and talking to the cedar (which if you’re from around here is shits and giggles; what do you say to a wall of black sludge?) and the river tells him it’s not really the river talkin’ it’s Rick Hannah, that little eight-year old from cedar terrace who drowned a year or so ago, only Rick’s about to get out of the river and go to heaven (he had to work off some bad karma, I remember, he was a creepy kid, and ants-and-magnifying-glass kinda kid, which is a bad thing to say about the dead when they died little but anyway) which meant someone was gonna take his place. Jeb chewed on that a while and got scared, thinking it was him, but Rick told him it wasn’t gonna be him, some drunk high-school kids were gonna eat it in a few days. So Jeb got all paranoid and wouldn’t leave the river ‘cept for more booze and microwave burritos from the evansdale Guns-N-Likker, and a few days of this and he was in a bad way by Friday, when me and the hoolies went out to drink cheep beer (“Pig’s eye ICE? what the fuck?”) and commiserate about our third collective month of girlfriendlessness. Jeb, though, he was squirrely and staggering and had tears in his eyes, so we checked if he was okay — Jeb kinda had a rough stretch back in ‘87, spent a couple months at the MHI in independence, but that’s another story — and then we went rock-n-bowling. While we were being bludgeoned by 120 db of Ozzy and getting rejected by girls with feathered hair Jeb went to a pay phone, called my dad and told him what all was going on and that he was sorry, then went back out on the bridge and jumped. It’s not a tall bridge, but the cedar’s pretty shallow. Later that night, some kids form cedar falls nearly went off the main St. bridge, but the guardrail held.

Now there’s two ways to take that: the way most people do is Jeb’s kinda a hero for what he did, but my dad and I (and the hoolies) see it different, Jeb got suckered, or maybe he just wanted to die anyway. We hung out a lot, but I don’t know enough to speculate like that. My dad told me a story about Jeb, after the funeral. When Jebbie (what my dad called him) was in kindergarten, he thought the weatherman makes the weather, and decided he was going to learn how to be a weather wizard and know enough nobody would have to go to school ever again. He made himself a magic wand out of a twig, put on my grandad’s sports coat and tie, and wearing nothing but that and a pair of moon boots climbed up on top of the car and started yelling ‘SNOW! SNOW! SNOOOOOOW!’, and before long, it actually started snowing. This wasn’t any mean fear in February, but my dad and his sisters and their folks used to laugh about that, blaming Jeb every time it snowed, even when they were older. That was the first time I saw my dad cry.

Anyway, the point of all that is it became a thing with the hoolies to go out to the nature trail bridge and drink and look for Jeb’s ghost. It was kinda solemn for a few weeks, but it got back into the swing of things once summer started in full, and once jay-jay got a girlfriend who had girlfriends, it was looking like it was gonna be a good summer, but that all got shot to hell when Seth had his brush with the dharma.

We were elevating our taste in hooch from bad beer to bad liquor, and being kids, we developed a taste for everclear. Seth had a thing for it, though, the rest of us were all lightweight but he was workin’ on it, wanted to learn how to drink for college. Seth was a year younger than me, and I told him he’d have plenty of time for all that after he flunked out like me, but you just can’t talk to that boy sometimes.

For example, it must have been the end of June, and the hoolies had decided it was time to learn the fine art of mixing drinks and were working on new recipes at jay-jay’s girlfriend’s apartment when Seth, halfway through that night’s bottle, took a spill on the stairs and fell five flights (not all at once, mind, he went from six to four, then got up and went down to three, then nearly made it up to the fourth landing when he rolled all the way down to two, giving up on fighting gravity) and laid there in a puddle of sick until we found him, probably an hour later. Booze chemistry nite was called off and we drove Seth home, dumping him off on his parent’s front steps and heading for the hills.

Next morning I got a call from Seth’s mom, who I used to think had a thing for me but now chalk that up to the foolish hubris of youth, who sounded panicky, which (and this shows what a dork I was) gave me the chance to play Mr. level-headed hero. sheeesh.

Soon as I came in Seth gave me a massive bear hug, which isn’t a Seth thing to do, and just starts in on this new kick he’s on.

“‘Ay! How you been, man? I’ve been weird, it’s like, it’s kinda hard to explain, uh, coulda shut the door…okay, it’s like this. I know this is gonna sound psycho, but that’s how it is, like, I think something happened to me. Like I don’t think I’m all me, it’s like there’s a little bit of someone else in me now, and I’ve been seeing things all different. I think things are changing, I don’t know, it’s hard to explain, I don’t really, I haven’t thought it all the way out yet. Y’know?”

“Uh, no, no Seth. You okay?”

“Yeah, I mean, I’m good, I’m…I’m really good. I’ve just been thinking about a lot of things, laying in bed all day, and maybe, I don’t know, maybe it’s time I started doing things a bit different.”

“You know your mom called me up and told me you were actin’ like a nut.”

“Yeah, earlier I hadn’t really thought before I opened my mouth and was kinda thinking out loud and tat was stupid, I admit that, but I’m kinda past that, I’m getting used to it, whatever that is.”

And none of this seemed all that weird, I mean god knows I had weirder talk after Jeb died and Jay-Jay once told us some crazy stuff about, well naw, I better not talk about that.

Anyway, I left there after consoling Seth’s mom (heh) and things seemed back to normal until that next Friday, when Seth began making his proclamations.

“Okay, first off, I’m not gonna lie anymore. I’ve been thinking about trust and how you can’t trust people if you lie to them and so all the people I love, for starters, I’m not gonna lie to, and after I get the hang of it then no more lies at all, period.”

Now I best explain that none of the hoolies talked about love like that, like maybe if you with your girlfriend and the situation fit you’d say that, but even in our drunkest moments we never said we, like, loved each other. It just wasn’t like that, and it wasn’t like a gay thing either, so this was weird, and the lie thing topped it. Seth lies like it’s a mental condition and it’s just something you get used to, like if he says he’s coming over you don’t expect it, if he shows cool, if not no big surprise. And he always makes shit up, but that’s not really a lie, that’s embellishment, and we all do our share of that. However, he was pretty deep into his bottle, and one is given to proclamations at that point.

“Yeah!” said Jay-Jay. “I vow never to mix wine and whiskey ever again!”

“I vow, uh, shit,” stammered Josef. “Get back to me in a sec.”

I leaped in with “all those books on my shelf I keep on there just to impress people? I’m gonna read all of em, every last one.”

Josef had a weird look in his eye for a minute, he was really trying to answer this, and finally he sighed and said “I don’t know. When I think of something, I’ll let you know.”

Seth laughed along with us, and we dropped the subject for the evening. That was the last time we were able to do so.

Next time I saw Seth he had developed his vague epiphany into a system. “Okay, it’s two parts. One, I can’t tell any more lies, because I need people to be able to trust me. Two, until I figure out what to do with myself, and I need to do something soon, this dicking around is getting old, I’ll do the things that will make the people who love me proud, because maybe through that I’ll be able to figure out what I want, and until I do that I don’t think I’m gonna be okay.”

I almost asked him what he meant by okay, but I kinda understood. We were all floating, then, in some drift we didn’t understand, waiting for something to happen to us. Out here it’s always been like that, you drift or do army or go straight to work, which is what you’re gonna do eventually anyway, it’s just how long you can put it off. Seth was probably gonna go straight off after college, if he got through, which he might. He was smart enough, but he was a fuckup, just like the rest of us. Well, Josef, only partway a fuckup, Jay-Jay’s a complete fuckup, and well, I guess I’m one too, really. I pretend I’m not sometimes, but really, yeah. So Seth’s epiphany was kinda harder for us to take than we’d care to admit, because Seth was basically trying to say he wasn’t going to be a fuckup anymore, and that just wasn’t an option. Here, let me show you.

For the next month or so Seth drank with us but he was getting to be a quiet drunk, staring into the water. While we all cracked wise and pretended things hadn’t changed. Jay-Jay had to explain to his girlfriend and her friends why Seth was so quiet, but I don’t think they understood. It was hard to explain, it still is. So we were wandering around the mall, playing t-mek and waiting for the nine o’clock showing of pink flamingoes, and Seth looked over at bouncy little kid in a parka and pj’s and she looked at him and said “hiiiiiii!” and Seth just lost it. He couldn’t stop crying, I mean, it was like a scene, I had to take him outside and ask him what was wrong, and he couldn’t explain, he didn’t understand. All kinds of things like that started happening, things that were just like nothing started to depress the hell out of him. And he was having a hell of a time figuring out what the people he cared about wanted from him, what would make them proud. Everybody he asked, pretty much, they just told him they wanted him to be happy, but he didn’t know how to be happy. And it kept getting worse.

Soon Seth stopped hanging out, just bummed around his room, listening to old jazz records and staring at his hands and sleeping. I stopped over a few times, tried to get him out of the house, but there was no way he was gonna leave his room.

“I think maybe when I fell, that maybe my soul left my body and got mixed up with some other souls, and part of them is still with me, but I lost parts of me in the swap, and maybe those parts I still needed.”

“Maybe, Seth. I don’t know.”

“I’m never gonna be okay, am I?”

And I think about it now, and I realize I should have told him yes, things are going to get better Seth, you just have to give things time, but I didn’t know that then. All I knew then was don’t worry about it, and that’s what I told him.

A month or so later his parents sent him off to Richter-Goldberg, and I didn’t see him for a long time, and when I did things were different and we don’t talk much anymore. And it seems like there’s something in there, and maybe if I could figure it out everything would be okay, but I don’t know. I don’t understand it at all, and I think shit just happens and there’s no way really to make sense of it, we try and make up excuses but at the end of the day who knows. It’s like trying to figure out all that stuff about Jeb don’t lead to anything and you just go insane trying to make sense of it ‘cause you’re never gonna do it, or it’s like those books on my shelf I never read, I tried to read some of ‘em but it was all shit about other people and other things and I can’t make that jump from here to there. This probably sounds really stupid.

Anyway, that’s what happened to Seth.
(12: [/alpha] #

Sarah The Giantess
The children, where I come from, are convinced that all greater and lesser demons can only see motion, not form. When they go out into the woods, where paths have been stamped through the grasses and underbrush (as their parents did, as their parents did, as their parents did: history is that which cycles), where fortresses have been built up in the treetops which bounce the wind around until it whistles and moans, the children hear and know to be afraid, to be perfectly still, until the evil which flies on claw-lined wings passes them over. The children have never actually seen these demons, not face to face, of course: no child has seen the demons and lived. Everybody knows that. There’s a dread the children hold in their hands and words whenever they walk through the forest, and that dread has no place to go. It’s little wonder that so many of the children open their small stained hearts and let their terror loose on the first target outside of the trees.
      Sarah was a giantess. It’s quite possible that she was the tallest woman in history: the people who took her away have yet to tell any of us their final findings. Her parents were not giants; they were not even tall. They were algae-farmers, running the rafts over the forest-ponds and gathering the luminous plants which grew on the surface. The children tell rumors of this family, have for years, for no better reason than because nobody actually knew them. Once Sarah the giantess was born, however, there was a focus for all our misplaced fears. Sarah’s father had to build his daughter a separate house, the roof extended from oak branches, the walls built up from shore-stones. Sarah could not do much moving because her heart was too small for her body and ached to get blood through her, but when she had the strength she climbed gracefully, easily, through the trees. If one follows the logic of children, this made her a demon, and curses and snow-cold silences held to her all through those days.

One afternoon, on the morning train, a man from across the ocean came to see the giantess. We all fell so fast to flutter over the famous, the semi-famous, the possibly famous — anyone from someplace far away who might be able to take us back with them, somehow. We were more than happy to show him the way down the road, past the churchouse and graveyard, past the place where the factory used to be, out to the woods, to the house. The man from across the sea knocked first on the door of the house, talked to Sarah’s father, then walked out to Sarah’s building and asked her outside. The man from across the sea took all method of measurement, which Sarah responded to quite gallantly, if somewhat bemusedly, and was quite polite in dealing with his gawking and ogling. The man from across the sea told both Sarah and her father how wonderful it would be if Sarah was to leave her body to him in the event of her death. Both Sarah and her father dismissed the notion; not only would she certainly outlive the man, she was also to be buried as we were all buried, in the pond, with our relatives and friends. The man looked at Sarah, told her she’d never see twenty, and left on the evening train.

Sarah’s heart finally burst not long before her seventeenth birthday.

The man from across the sea returned, bringing with him two gnarled apish men, and as Sarah lay in her bed-casket, quilted only in the hair of her parents (all her classmates stayed home and spent the day staring at the walls of their bedrooms), the man from across the sea stole her body and left the next day. We have not heard from the man since, although we all are now ashamed at having the only thing that ever made us different taken from us.

The children now tell no stories of demons in the trees, but of the ghoul who comes out at night and steals the bodies of boys and girls when they sleep. The rest of us have all forgotten about being famous. Sarah’s father was made sick with the disease of outliving one’s child and will die soon, if he hasn’t already died, out in the woods. Sometimes, in the silence of our small hours, we all wish the whole town would die and blow away, but it has yet to happen.
(12: [/alpha] #

Revisitation Seven: Everything Burned Away
(original version by allida. not complete.)

1. in which the limits of severity relationships are tested and disproven

The last time I saw her before I left for Minnesota she was in the corner of the living room she had made into a sort of open-ended bedroom, sitting on a large throw-pillow in front of my old typewriter I had given her after I got the first computer, propped up on a slab of pine she had pulled out of some neighbor’s garbage and painted black-purple with small calligraphic symbols in silver paint, up on cinderblocks over her collection of books on VLF analysis, piano-tuning, abstract taxidermy. For months now we had some sort of unspoken connection above and beyond the strange late-night conversation level we’d been at all year, so a final conversation was obviously fraught with promise, and a delicate thing. Unfortunately, while taking a deep breath to steel my nerves, I inhaled too deeply and now had a booger caught in my throat.

“I have some things of yours still. I, if you want ‘em back, I put ‘em in that bag over there.”

“That’s okay, you can haaaaaaaaach. Haaaaaaaaaaaach.”

“What are you doing?”

“I have a haaaaaaaaach. In my throat. Haaaaaaaach.”

“Uh. You want a glass of water or something?”

“No, I’m fine, it’s no big haaaaaaaaaach.”

Certainly there were graceful ways out of this situation, but something in my brain flipped on and all the long-standing tense energies of this mess between us reverted me to age seven.

“It’s a booger, is the thing. Throat-boogers are the worst. Haaaaaaaaach.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“It could be worse!”

“You know, I have some wine Sarah left over here, maybe we should—”

“Like a dingleberry, but in your throat, is what it’s like. Poop-booger in my throat! I could fish for it with some dental floss and gum! Help, help, I’m trapped in the thoat and only you can save me!”


“You must rescue the poop-booger from the icy depth of my throat! Diver down! Diver down!”

“What are you talking about?”

“Lo, the fool to go looking for mouth-treasure! You never should have left the safety of the sinus, where your snot-bride waits for you and pines and turns her engagement band around her ringfinger! The old booger seamen told you to never go over the horn, but you were brash, and now you must be saved or else haaaaaaaaaaaaaaach!”

“You should probably go now. And take your shit with you.”

“Can I borrow a pipe cleaner, or some string, or just anything?”

“Out! Out the door now!”

I didn’t see her again for two years, by which time she was married.

2. in which a feast of the green milk takes place in the root cellar

Upon the walls, where the twin mathematicians had used twigs and coal to devise this gallery of missteps, brought up on skeletal wings, clustered like emptied ships on a nodal tide, wherein graven images of Rv. Emersohn depicted scenes of his rerisen wife, led back to her love via a series of olafactory hints, yet there is no means of escape from the forrest, maps tattooed in his wrinkled palms, endless paths circling upon themselves, and the snow thickens outside the kitchen window, where the darkness swallows up the moon and hides all transgressions against the fallen god in the colliseums where rebuilt men fight against horses and dogs with briars caught in their coats while the villagers listen outside the gates, drunk on apple wine and rancid pudding, waiting for the light.

Surgery was an invention by an alien race whose genitals were formed inside their bodies, like any other internal organ, requiring a steady and swift learning of surgical strategy in order to, if nothing else, hold off blood loss for long enough to mate and spawn. They later taught this skill to a race of aliens whose children were too large to leave the body vaginally, and thus had to split the belly of the mother like an egg in order to escape the womb. They were all very pleased with the new technology, but not nearly as pleased as they were when they started letting the humans have their babies for them. That was a glorious day across the galaxy, indeed.

He took his breath from out of his body and put it into his child.

I am the creator, and the creator is to put breath into the bodes of the dead, put form to the lost and missing.

3. in which a number of diabolical schemes are related to the reader

Seth sat at tne far end of the drafting table on the raised platform, possibly once a stage, just in front of the entryway to Kara-Bakos, when a new girl walked in, pushing back the pneumatic door with both hands, a small bag hanging off her left shoulder.

“Is Ben-Jakob here?” she said, staring up into the rafters, where the third floor was cantilevered off the back wall, rope ladders hanging from its black underbelly, lights flickering somewhere inside. “I thought this was the place.”

“This is the place, but he’s gone. I don’t know when he’ll be back. You looking for something?”

“Yeah. I’m not sure what yet, though.”

“You can look around. You need any help, just ask. If you don’t know how something works, don’t pick it up.”

“Like that thing hanging off your neck? What is that?” she said, reaching across the table to take the strands of aerogel fiber wound around Seth’s neck between her fingers, suprised at how soft soft and how heavy it was.

“This is prototype for mutable jewelry, is my guess. It uses precise body temperature as a random number generator seed, which gets sent as expansion distance for each cluster. So it gets bigger or smaller depending on body heat. They’re quite fashionable around here. I don’t know what they’re originally for, these buggers, and they are damned heavy, but hey…it looks rockin’, don’t it?”

(Jesus God, Seth thought to himself, I can’t beleve I just said “rockin’”.)

The new one looked across at him, her eyes aglow with amusement. “Not really, but hey…convention is as it will be, eh? Hey, what is that one there, kinda ‘L’ shaped one on your right hip?”

“Don’t know. I like the way it fits in my hand though, must have once been some whosibob to massage your hands with, maybe for astronauts or something. See this little buttony thing here? If you push it, it vibrates and blows…”

“Vibrates and blows?” she quered skeptically. “Let me see it, it could be useful, if you get my drift?”

The aerogel necklace around Seth’s neck pulsed madly.

“I don’t mean like that, I mean, well.” He paused and debated internally, as if it were a huge decision. This was the first time Ben-Jakob left him in charge of the store, and while he took a small thrill in playing his records over the PA and taking calls from weird cryptic booksellers, he was still nervous as hell something would get broken. “Fuck it, here you go, maybe you can get it to work.”

She took it in her hand and looked at it. As the button depressed the pointy metal part rotated with its castelations whirring around. The part in her hand vibrated, and the part behind with the bars on it pushed some air out at her. She looked more closely and a strand of her hair landed square against the screen and broke off. It was suctioning in not out. She turned it over again and looked at the pointy part. There were holes in it a half-inch above the castellations, with three nubs along the top. Looking at the bottom again she noticed a round bulge mirroring the castellations on the top, which she pulled at with her other hand. A hidden door opened, revealing several long twisted rods and a foursided angular doohicky, all of which fell out of the compartment and onto the floor.

“Awwwwww, fuck, just give it back to me,” Seth moaned.

“No, wait, I think I figured something out…”

She took the castellated thing and put the tip of it into the hole at the pointy end of the larger object and turned it left. The three nubs moved outward. She turned it right and they moved inward. She picked up the long rods from the floor and put one into the pointy tip of the ‘L’ object. She tightened the nubs using the castellated object and pushed the button under her hand. The rod spun, emitting a low tone they could feel in their muscles.

She purred in counterpoint to the hum and announed “This is perfect, this is just the sort of weird fetishy object I was looking for, you could really do some amazing work with this thing. How much you want for it?”

Seth unconsciously touched his necklace, feeling it swell beneath his fingers. “Tell you what. You take it, and when you feel like you have something that would be a fair trade, bring it in and we’ll call it even.”

“I’ve gotta give you something now, though, I don’t want to just walk out with it.”

“You can give me fifteen cents, to be returned to you on payment.”

The new one smiled, and Seth barely noticed when one of the back bookshelves collapsed.

In the back of the train, where unemployable superheroes perform mutant tricks for spare change, she sat turning the item over in her hands, the beginnings of ideas gathering in her head as to potential uses, unthinkable options. Across the aisle a touseled girl with white skin that almost glows either with joy or pain keeps looking at the new girl, her eyes unwavering, sparkling with reflected light from the glass of the window as the night pours out past them, streetlights and neon like bioluminescent gills atop some giant deep-ocean manta. Someone she should know. Some courer from some other life, sent to give a signal, a notice. Maybe. The girl looks away, out the window, at some vague point in space, just like everyone else does. The new girl removes and inserts the rods into the end of the device, without looking, learning it in the muscles of her hands.

“Password?” the door asked the new girl, in a soft ring-modulated hum.

“White ghost white ghost white ghost”, she whispered, just loud enough so the clicking noises she made in the back of her throat, the real password, were audible for the security system. The door opened with a click, and hummed slightly, the sound she had replaced all the door system’s vocabulary with. Talking houses made her lonely. She made tea and sat in the bay window, watching the self-cleaning glass chase smudges across the surface, until the sun went down.

While holding the object in her hands, she had a dream of large ships out on the ocean, where long stone pillars came up out of the water at disjointed angles and reached up into the cloud-cover. The pillars were covered in small hooks, upon which prior sailors had tossed rope-nets which held things she couldn’t quite identify. She saw the ships were without crew, drifting between the pillars. She tried to bring herself in closer, close enough to identify the ships, or the nets, but she was caught in something, held midway between the clouds and the ocean.

When she woke it was almost eleven, and the device was warm in her hands, emitting a chordal tone, and a light, white to yellow warm on her face, reflected light making the room golden, the floor coppery wood glistening, and she became mesmerized, just for a moment, as she realized the device was shining a light directly upon her eyelids.

She thought of something he told her, before he decided he really wasn’t as into her as he originally thought, before she stepped into an endless recursion of stupid stupid stupid stupid like an endless loop that tastes of copper and vomit in her memory, before something got lost in her and she forgot what it meant when he said this is as far as this is going to go, she thought of something else, something he said, he said, he said the things that you touch are the things you become.

She closed her eyes again, and saw the light come shining, come shining all around.

4. in which hollowed eggs are used as models for improbable fruits

“One of the levitation machines got stuck in the tree, and so, so it tried to release itself, only its depth-sense must have been damaged, because it pulled off its own antennae, and then the back-servos kicked in and now there’s fucking levitation debris all over the backyard, and I really don’t need this today, I just, why can’t I have a day where I don’t always have to keep dealing with things all the time, where I can just get—”

“It’s just hard, because there’s always this, you know how it—-“

“It’s not hard for you! Everything is so easy for you all the time!”

“You’re still there, you get to, like, schedule and do what on your time but I’m in the car all day, okay? I mean all day I’m in the car driving to Carmel and back because they can’t get the prints to take, three times today and it’s just not even…it’s…what time is it?”

“I don’t know what—”

“Whatever time it is! And I need to keep doing it! Every single day!”

“Okay, so, nobody is any better than anybody, I’m not even saying it’s you, I’m just I just want to not always do this. You know?”

“I know. Oh God, I could write a book on how I know.”

“Yeah. It’s just so.”

“So, it’s all over the backyard?”

“Well, mostly just by the corner which is where it hit and then some around there, where the garden was.”

“Is it on fire, or just?”

“No, no, there’s like this foam it’s filled with that expands when, but the foam, it’s blue, right? And now that it’s getting to be noon it’s getting warm and, so parts of it are flaking off, so there’s all these blue flakes all over the place.”

“Like snow?”

“(laughs) Yeah! Exactly like snow! Only it smells like bleach!”

“Don’t eat it!”

“Are you mental? Like I’m going to eat blue crud that came out of some camera thing that crashed in the tree.”

“Is there somebody to call?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I called you.”

“Yeaaaaaah, of course it was.”

“It was! There was—”

“Oh, you know? I bet Seth would come over and clean all that up if you let him haul the debris off, he’s always scrounging for that kind of thing.”

“Is that legal?”

“Well, that’s not really our problem, I mean, I doubt they want to even say anything about their super-secret levitation machines.”

“Not very secret.”

“Fuck no, they’re not.”


“So. So I’m pulling up to the building.”

“So I should let you go, and also what’s Seth’s number?”

“It’s on the thing. The fridge thing.”

“Okay. So. So I’ll see you on Thursday?”

“Yeah, Thursday night. Maybe we can do something, or something.”


“Okay, I’m gonna go now.”


(12: [/alpha/revisitations] #

Revisitaion Six: The Highway Of Mirrors
(original list of ten statements by k. johansen)

One: A woman opens a frozen dinner and finds inside the perfectly preserved hand of a six month old baby.

Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731) was considered by many to be the greatest anatomist of his time. Developing a personal method for the preparation and preservation of anatomical specimens, he was often used as a mortician for Dutch heads of state. The multitalented and just plain weird Peter the Great, who had been a fetishistic collector of strange items since childhood, was assembling the first museum in Russia, the Kunstkammer at St. Petersburg, wherein the European cabinets of wonders (Wunderkammern) collections of strange artifacts of nature were displayed side-by-side with current and classic artworks. These museums, with their bizarre anatomical displays, became the model for the “secret museums” of the next century, the precursors of current pornography collections. Peter invited Ruysch to assemble a collection for the museum’s Round Hall, consisting of his now-famous glass jar prepared infants, decorated in lace and beads, preserved according to his private specifications. Also on display were Ruysch’s tableaux made from the skeletons of deformed infants upon a bed of coral, shells and preserved organs, often posed as moral fables, playing bone-sculpted instruments. None of these still exist, having been destroyed in the siege on St. Petersburg, though drawings of the collections by Adrian Backer and Jan van Neck do still remain. After his death at the incredibly advanced age of 94, Ruysch’s daughter took over his profession, having learned his methods and aesthetics, completing a series of preparations for the King of Poland. Later her work would be passed from museum to museum, wunderkammern to wunderkammern, a piece eventually ending up in the Microsoft of oddity-displays, PT Barnum’s circus. History loses track of the Ruysch lineage at this point, but research I’ve been doing in the third floor at Kara-Bakos leads me to believe the tradition of anatomists in this bloodline continued, doing less publicized work, spending time collecting specimens in the Siberian city of Inkutsk, considered by many historians the most crime and violence-prone city of the past five hundred years. With the advent of recording media, the Ruysch bloodline was able to make temporary displays preserved via modified ferrotype images with a positive image cast on tar-blackened iron sheets. While others in this century would utilize the Ruysch material as inspiration such as Joel-Peter Witkin, Anderes Serrano, and Max Aguilera-Hellweg (as well as false imitators who make infant models from plastics, whose names do not deserve to be mentioned), I believe there has been a secret monitoring of what are now called “dead areas”, places which are no longer inhabitable, with documentation of those who live on the outskirts of such areas collected and shown to private collectors, the ghost-memory of Bhopal, the socketless skulls of those who still live near the “elephant’s foot” of radioactive material at Chernobyl. The outcry of safety and decency which caught up with Damien Hirst’s leaking bisected cow display obviously cancel out legality of work such as this, and so the team of assembler-anatomists must pass materials surrepeticiously, hidden inside packaging. Josef, whose skeletons of unreal animals seems a wan shadow of this work, had been hunting for proof of this thesis for years, up to the day of his death. Alas, he was not the one who recieved the mislabeled hand-part, sent to Susan Hinds, now convinced the fetus she aborted years ago is coming back to her, one piece at a time.

Two: Anna May Coulter, age 19, believes that God has been speaking to her on her cellular telephone. He is telling her that he has great plans for her, and she must listen carefully.

“Resurgat: it will rise again. Nested wheels above the horizon, yurei no zu, an apparition, stray fate, einfall. VISION FINAL death’s head moth [acherontia atropus] elohim [diamond] 24:00:00 corpus incorruptible complete union — love is an engine of unfulfilled desires by which all things continue in motion as opposed to stasis of completion. The state of everlasting frission, conduits, cells, balances.

  1. It is difficult for us to gauge the health and mental state of the Final Goddess, as her steps precede ours, wind-quickened, beyond us;
  2. and we did set out across the city, the electric cable ley-lines, the terror of the little animals in the trees whose frozen postures mark her wake;
  3. and there was the left glimmering of her beauty in the shimmer of shopwindows, and the forgottenfulnessing of the Unknowing, the crack in their thoughts where the missing time gaps;
  4. and we utilized the God Tracking System scanning out into the aether, a tracing of her area, from whence the Spirit manifests its Will through the Final Goddess.

“Cell-digita geistesblitzen. To visit your earth as ten carrier-angels in ten forms of carrier-moths, disguised in plain sight. Sic I tur ad astra: vision first luna moth [actais maenas] zilm [talc] 22:14:03 [a gift of dust-pollen on the front window, pupil follow flightpath wherein transfer-shape imprinting closes inside hinterbrain] within the amass of clouds. Spiralcirclestairway, a tunnel in time. A warning, a kunstwollen, a shrieking of sightless cave-birds.”

  1. Step forward, against the automotive tide, against the mass of the mob and the pox of their Voices, and with a cleansing of one’s sight the traces of her messages will linger, a traceable trail;
  2. and so it will pass that the strata of blood on which this daemonic false earth is fed will open out, and the Light will reach into you;
  3. as you are not a Holy or proper thing for simply possessing skin and breath;
  4. you are a bowl, a scrim, a dish for sifting transmissions;
  5. you are a vessel for the signal.

“Mansur al-Hallaj, “Kitab al-Tawasin”: moth to lamp to retell to others (visions, star-bound incidents/true faith within flame. Caught between sky and earth, vision second new Mexico owl-eyed moth [antheraea polyphemus olivacea] arelim [zinc] 22:21:02 purification of base materials: the pearl, the ambergris, the heart.”

  1. And so it is now that we obtained confirmed Vision of the Final Goddess, at the place where the Fourty-Fifth and the Vojtech streets meet,and did approach with much caution;
  2. as she continued to listen to the Voice, and was informed;
  3. and she saw us, and reached out with her free hand, as to touch,
  4. and through a hole in the firmament there came a storm of roses, and snow, and the circular wing-strategies of a million million moths.

Three: An old man has been waiting patiently to die for three years now, eating nothing, drinking nothing. He does not know that he has died every morning, to be resurrected after dinnertime through the prayers of a Navajo woman he does not know.

There is, in this world, a series of invisible knotted connections between all things, and should one follow any strand long enough, they will come across everything which has ever lived, has ever been formed, has ever held together against decay and time. The character of any single thing is echoed in others, distant in space and intention, connected only by the most hidden of shared traits. The failing of the alchemists comes from a generalization of Platonic forms, of recurring attributes sharing certain celestial energies, and it is only as time staggers forward that we see the reverberations not in standard forms such as the foot, or the datura plant, or the black and yellow humors, but in specific elements which cannot be generalized. This sort of web is so expansive that the encyclopedic notion of the Renaissance is thwarted by a Pataphysical schema of the unrepeatable experiment, of the singularity present in all things, blurring into other forms before our small water-damaged brains have time to hold down the image, the memory. Thus it is only through an appeal to a crystalline intelligence beyond our abilities to do the sort of processing necessary to discover these connections, the scaffold of support around each of us we only sense through what masks as chance. The flat expanses of desert in the American Southwest, a means of accessing information through physical location, the consciousness altered by the shape and sound of the earth, provides a sort of echo-chamber, a method of shifting outwards in order to view processes, spot connections in a paranoiac-critical manner, and attempt to use certain technologies in order to affect secondary objects and therefore affect sympathetically, along these arteries of light-thought, the primary object. In this case, there have been, since the beginning of our presence here, a series of beings who (knowing or not) are designated as barometers of the continuation of life on this planet. There has been rumor of this collective before: the council of the birds and Farid al-Din Attar’s Simurgh mentioned in Lives of the Poets, Balzac’s “Thirteen” mentioned (and then, strangely, dropped) in Histoire des treize, through the increasingly paranoid theories of the masters of the world. This, of course, is all foolishness. There is no direct control, there is only the unknown echo, and the hung corpses of all those who attempted to seize direct control should be cleaned and displayed so the practitioner does not forget. In this desert, amid the white sand and the geologic attention-traps, Parsons’ gates, Oppenheimer’s spiralpsychosis, the skeletons of lost bankrobbers and scrubbed traces of disappeared civilizations and skylights, a woman keeps bringing a small wizened man back from the dead, making him one of the re-rises, the eroded memory, the trap of the spirit between worlds. Each of us is presented, at some point in our lives, with a decision, a choice of actions, and it is this solitary moment which decides our fate, the fate of those we share the connection with, a circuit of sorts. This man’s defining moment has not yet come, three years too late, and with his connection to the earth as a whole comes a necessity for proper action on his part. Years the desert woman has spent attempting to guide him toward the right choice, speeding up the process, but time has moved too slow and his body had been moved to a place where the passage station of heaven has not been able to find him, the infernal doktors who drain the skulls of nursing-home patients hiding their depraved laboratories beneath displacement rooms and secondary curse-prayer generators. It took the Navajo woman so long to find him again, held at the end of his life, bringing him back and trying to whisper consolation into his ears, that the cost will be worth the gift, that soon the bardos will welcome him, and his work will be completed. He hears these words like fractured transmissions, and believes them, but sometimes he forgets, as the brain comes undone, and he is afraid.

Four: She puts her hand into the bathtub, and fourteen thousand tiny black eels burrow into her skin. She smiles, my babies, I love you all.

So get this. Those goth kids who had taken to imitating gargoyles up on the corners of the building, the ones everybody thought were an omen of mass-goth suicide cultism but were actually content to stare at passerby and make goof-scary faces for hours on end, anyway one of the littler ones fell off and landed on my fire escape, breaking his fool leg, so I’m trying to carry him out only he’s wearing this weird fake-leather thing all slick from the rain so I keep dropping him on his arm, which leads to terrible screaming attracting my landlady who starts pounding on the door while I’m trying to drag this stupid kid inside leaving a trail of white base back to the window, and by the time the ambulance showed up it was all I could do not to get arrested, though the crazy landlady is still all like how I fucked up and she should kick me out and how I owe her, now. So she tells me she needs a ride out to the docks by the old prison, and, y’know, whatever, fine. So she’s in the car, and she’s rubbing this salve into her arms, her hands, she says it’s moisturizer, it opens up her pores, and I try to listen to the Homeless Gladiator matches, only there’s some kinda low-end nature broadcast about moths that keeps cutting in, so I fiddle with the knob until she starts screaming “Stop! This is it! My babies want the water!” and runs out of the car, up to the edge of the dock, and starts moaning and carrying on. So I go up to see if she’s throwing up, or whatever, and there’s, okay, there’s eels coming out of her skin, falling down into the river. “Run free, my babies! I will be back for you tomorrow to take you home! I love you forever!” she screams, and I just got back in the car and drove away fast as I could.

I get a call from her again, the next night, and I tell her I don’t want any part of it, but she threatens me with being out on my ass, and being between careers I realize I’m not far off from fighting genetically fortified floam-eating sewer rats and disfigured children with canine teeth, so I go up and visit her in her tiny rooftop room. She asked me to watch the bath drain, making sure things are okay while she goes out to check the stupid goth kid out of the hospital. So I hang around and drink her coffee and talk to a couple of the remaining gargoyle kids, who mostly want to know if I can score them some ibogaine, when the roof-room begins shaking and I run back to see thousands and thousands of eels begin to flood up through the bath drain, up through the toilet, up through the sink. I start bringing in water and pouring it on them so they don’t suffocate, but there’s so many that I yell for the gargoyle kids to help, only they’ve been posing for so long they fall down screaming about pins and needles, while I’m getting out bowls and glasses to put eels in, until they stop, settle, and I dump them all in the bathtub, closing the drain and filling it up near the top, just as she comes storming in, screaming, putting her arms in the water, and the eels crawl back inside her skin, nesting in her organs, and the gargoyle kid she brought back from the hospital and the others from the roof and I just stand there, amazed, while she coos to her babies that it’ll be okay, the bad man is gone, they’re safe now.

I still live in that building, and I still talk to the gargoyle kids who hang out on my porch and buy my drugs, and I’m even starting to get less weirded out with helping my landlady and her eel-babies, now that she’s agreed to pay for my help in bottled water.

Five: While he is moving, he knocks over the urn bearing the ashes of his uncle Ray. When he bends over to clean it up he discovers it is actually full of cocaine and a note with a scribbled telephone number.

(Aspen Colorado, August, 1975)

“You need to get over here, I think I just made us rich, my man.”

“Rich like how rich? Like big score rich or like we can party this weekend rich?”

“Rich like we’ll never have to pay for coke again.”

“I’m hearing you, man. Keep going.”

“So my bitch of a girlfriend threw up all over the back seat of Juliette again, and I’m telling her I’m done taking her home, she can walk for all I care, and I spend half the day scrubbing at the leather, trying to get that fruity-drink bile smell out, but nothing doing, is what I’m saying.”

“Sure man. Puke in the car. I’m with you.”

“So I’m like the motherfuckin’ master chemist though, mixing shit in the garage, some Borax and some turpentine and stuff because all this might really fuck up the leather I thought about later but at the time I’m just super mad, so it’s like anything, right.”


“And so I spill some of this shit onto my sleeve and when it hits it just eats through, and I move my arm quick, and there on the ground where the goop fell off is this flaky shit. So I’m cleaning it up, and I must have gotten some of it on my fingers or something and wiped off my face, because soon enough I’m good, I’m feeling no pain. If you see what I’m getting at.”

“No. You’re losing me, man.,”

“This shit I made, it’s like some Midas shit, everything it touches turns to primo untouched coke. Snow white, I’m telling you, I’ve got a mound sitting right here.”

“You sample this shit? This fuckin’ homemade synthetic coke?”

“All day, motherfucker! Help your fucking self!”

“So everything it touches, huh. How come the bucket you got it in ain’t turned to coke? Or the floor?”

“Not totally everything, just like organic shit. Like it ate through the cotton shirt I got in Vancouver but those stupid polyester that bitch of a girlfriend got me stopped it cold. So you gotta be, like, superfucking careful with it.”

“Wait, fucking, what if there’s still some of that fucking shit in the coke! It’ll eat at my, oh shit! Shit, man, I can feel it getting, fucking sinuses, Jesus man!”

“I’m sorry, dude. Really for real. But I’m all out of cotton shirts, man.”

Six: A sentient but invisible lifeform, desperate to breed, finds its mate in a 92 year old woman who lives only because her family cannot bring themselves to disconnect her life support.

What do you love, when you love someone from a distance? Is it the way you feel wrong and misfooted and dizzy in your genitals, the sweat on your neck and dripping down your chest, the way all your dreams change course to swirl around your new center, the reefs of beliefs you branch out, convinced they’re like you, they know, they’d love you if only. The sort of structure you first feel when you start a new job, only jittery, unsure, balloons dancing with streetlights. Feeling completed, feeling emptied, feeling the phantom tongue centering spirals across your thighs. Perhaps too effete to spackle semantics atop the want to fuck.

The Immortal, who had been here for three years, stared out the window-frost, off in a place farther than measurements permit, completely outside her comascope, the dim halos of energy spinning in slow-time, and as the memory of her body fades she enters into new forms. In the dreaming place where she lives she had taken on the lupus sickness, running along the hallways, sniffing out the half-forms of the other ward-patients, the tribe-forms of her early dreams, when Ernst called her a paroxysm of beauty, where Aragon wrote feigned-fictional accounts of his obsession over her cunt, where she filled phonographs with the automatic writing of the “spirits” which she acted out, the silly Surrealists only willing to listen to voices clad in subconscious magick. So many years later she’d smile over a pirate-broadcast girl called Strawberry Shortwave, playing her fractured prose-poems, dreams of the return of angels in the form of  a shower of moths, the chain of held hands of women walking out into their strangeness sent forward. She took to teaching, so much wanting to help these self-conscious priggish conservative children, trying so hard, walks across the quad telling them of Dorothea Tanning, of Leonora Carrington, the slight smile of water-flavors apparent to all. Even then, in the cloistered academy, she knew she was a lycanthrope, flows beneath the skin. She ran from nothing in life, and embraced being a wolf-girl as anything else, keeping her secrets into her retirement, into her coma, where she felt the half-life stripped from her, the shock of her senses unbound, the notice of something always unseen but always watching, waiting, observing from a distance, seeing she’s a wolf, a wolverine, a hunter of missing things, following the warmth.

The Immortal hears her sighs, her pants, down the hall. She begs release. He envies her, to be able to step out of this world with just the pull of an iv, the flicking of switches. He walks the hallway, quiet and alone, sidestepping pools of disinfectant and flaking pea-green paint. He knows he hasn’t much time between hall-checks. Her face lit with monitor-light, the metronome and hiss of her extended immune system, the cloud-speech of her guttural growl, so close to something she’s been wanting so long, and he turns back once, looks behind him, almost sees something in the corner, noticing the absence of sound, the complete removal of ambient noise within which it is hidden, and stares, waiting for it to reveal itself.

Seven: Every night, a screenwriter dreams a new movie which, if produced, will be the largest-grossing movie of all time, winning 12 academy awards. Every time he wakes up, the dream slips from his memory.

Like a vision in neon: TITTY NINJAS, the greatest film of all time, haunts his speed-shrunken dreams, elaborate footage of full-frontal kung-fu like a smutified ballet dancing around his cerebellum —

JACQUELINE: No time to ask how robotic assasins got into the showers, girls: it’s time for action! Beware their vibrating finger-attachments!

— an army of sculpted extras writhing in The Grand Inquisitor’s sadistic scented oil trap! Recursion upon recursion as our heroes are embedded in the infinite Porn Shop of Babel! Serious foot action of the likes not seen since Nezami’s Le sette principesse (The seven princesses)!

CHRYSTALLINE: It appears I’ve spilled all of the antidote all over my lap! Thank God that in addition to being a demolitions expert, a supermodel, and an expert in tensor calculus, I’m also a gymnast, and incredibly flexible!

The critically-applauded Zero Gravity Showdown scene! The heart(etc.)touching training sequences, in which the Russian master parallels the development of barkovscina and the spinning-fire school of stick-fighting! The Drunken Fuck Monkeys!

ANGHELLHYNE: How could I forget a four-foot prehensile cock?

Devious CGI-enhanced vagina dentata duels! The whirling pleasure touch of ten thousand fingers! Dr. Hanherholden’s alternate genitalia! The simps at the Vatican will beg for a copy for the Index Expurgatorius, the prissy prudes at the Bibliotheque Nationale’s Collection de l’Enfer will plead for first-run footage, the private case of the British Library will whine and cry for stills, but only the Academy will be gifted with original reels in thanks for their complete sweep of every Oscar category! Just imagine the “Best Musical Number” production! It would…it…

No, he thinks, sitting up from the couch and looking for his pills. That can’t be the way it was in the dream. There’s no way that’d sell. I’d get arrested. I should get back to work on that hospital fire miniseries; I got meds to buy.

Eight: A child is lost in a crowd, carrying a stuffed bear loaded with plastic explosives.

CIA operatives training Afghani rebels to fight Soviet troops in the eighties discovered quickly that the common tactic of car-bombing simply wasn’t effective as there weren’t enough cars to go around. There were, however, a great number of camels, and thus it was that CIA director William Casey can put “inventor of camel-bombing” on his resume. Unfortunately, camels are not indigenous to all areas, although one cannot step out into any corner of this world without tripping over a malnourished whelp looking for a life-purpose. These children would once be utilized by the comprachicos as models for monsters, mutilated and displayed in subbasement freakshows, but that was a barbarous age; we now have global media networks and the skeletal platform of political atrocity from which to display the return of all the sins of the father. She tells the guard she’s visiting her mommy. The guard doesn’t check the list. When she was at The Colony, all her favorite cartoons were about exploding girls. The movies all seamed different than she saw in the city. You’ll come back having owned the city, to stand on your own terms. Say what you want, you stupid idiots, but I own this place and if you want to deny it we’ll see how mart you sound when they’re scraping your scalp out of the rubble. There are colored lines on the floor you’re supposed to follow, green for maternity and blue for rehab and white for ICU, but the lines are hard to read when the power goes out. If you ever think you don’t matter, you should spend the way with plastic explosives in your hands, wondering at the blast radius. She has never known fear, she will weep no more tears. Childhood is not a given. She has to put the bear down to push through the door to the stairwell. The space is as much yours as anyone. Step into it. She talks to her bear in her head, because when she talks to her bear with her voice people look at her, people want to take back her space. No one can do the work for you. She counts down in her head as the room numbers recede. She remembers the people at The Colony taking about The Company, which made her laugh, she had puppets named Colony and Company and she’d do puppet shows for her bear in the closet, Company telling Colony secrets, Colony telling the babies they’d soon have to leave, as things were about to end, but they were not afraid. Why be afraid? She was unsure, when his bed was empty, but she turned to see him enter the room, turned and handed him the bear, the relief in his eyes, skipping out and down the hallway, her mission completed and the whole vast world spread out before her, saying goodbye to the bear, proud of it finishing its time here, the note reading PULL MY STRING pinned to its chest.

Nine: A psychic runs over a man in an intersection with her Cadillac because she sees that he will someday rape and murder her sister.

There was once two sisters, one with the second sight and one with an empty place in her mind where the other children developed the small skirmishes and mimicking of adults in their formative years. Simple, the teachers would parrot to each other, just as the nuns would call her blessed, for the meek and the damaged and the retarded will always have a place in God’s kingdom. Her sister, however, was at war against this world, against the flood of sin and perversion which clawed at her night-dreams, telling her of her insanity, of her sinfulness, of her willful turning away. Years spilled away and the sighted sister ran as far from the cattle and carrion of her tiny snowglobe city as the bus line would take her, while her simple sister made windows in paper with fingerpaint, the vanishing spires of Tir-na-nog lost to her ever since the aide who smelled like rancid aftershave and night-sweats began stealing her underwear. The sighted sister made her living blocking and moving the flow of commerce, routing money by conduits clear to her as the midday sun, watching over her sister back in the ward, the joy of fresh strawberries with meals on Mondays, the annoyances of being forbidden the paints for a week after an incident with the day room walls, the tightening fear of the aide. The sighted sister saw the future, saw what was to be, and abandoned her life of profits and powers for a sleepless drive back east, white-blurred signs counting down the miles, resolving herself to what she must do. On the corner, just after dawn, she split him in three pieces under the wheels of the Cadillac, his severed fingers caught in the axle, the breath emptying from him as the police pulled her from the wheel. From the window of her room, the simple sister can see her sighted sister, whom she loves, having saved her from the Tamlin with her magic powers, keeping her maidenhood safe beneath her white cotton institute gown, and is now trapped by the faeries (having offended the queen) in the dark of the castle across the river, and she knows the only person left to save the sighted sister, which means an escape off the ward floor. What adventure! Sad to tell, however, the guards and nuns were on the strictest of watches, even in the evenings, and the ward door was kept all locked. Who would have thought all this would be thrown into disarray as the sound of something exploding tore through the walls, sending everyone scurrying, up from their beds and demanded the doors open, and the simple sister snuck quick-like into the main hall, down the laundry chute, across the sub-basement (where the whispers of all the dead people clung to her hair, changing their shapes in the corners of her eyes, finally squeezing out the window, across the street, out to the river, and how surprising! to see her sister, eyes rolling in her skull and blood all across her hands, and just barely visible in the spinning light of fire engines and emergency lighting, the sisters returned to the Marrows, Melusine, mer-girls, in the holes of the river, a story as true as its closing is sweet, and I wish nothing but as kind an end for you.

Ten: He has just dropped the last vial of true love in the world on the floor of the men’s room in Grand Central Station.

The vial has shattered and liquid has begun to trickle toward the drain. Many people on this earth are convinced there is one other person who completes them, makes them part of a larger whole, cures them of the dreaded loneliness disease. It’s quite fortunate that for most people, this one other person lives so close to them, or shares the same employer, or the same circle of friends. Some are still left unconvinced, however, certain the other still waits for them. It is for them the vial of true love exists. This is not a love potion in the strictest of senses, as it does not induce love in another; there is no damiana, no mandrake, no witch hazel in its makeup. Nor is this a pheromone derivative, an umwelt stimulant, none of the base powder methylenedioxy-n-methylamphetamine. The vial of true love is a means of focusing on an end-goal to the removal of all other aspects from one’s life, to strip one’s consciousness to a streamlined essence of intent. I was to learn this lesson myself, due to my vanity, my ignorance, and the magicians Abel and Baker.

Amanda had been gone for about a month by this time, time I mostly spent staring blankly at the wall, eating take-out and masturbating. In fact, I was reaching my seventh ejaculation of the day when I heard a knock on the door. Thinking it was her, I rushed to wipe myself off and make myself somewhat presentable, having gone to shit hygienically since she left. Hurdling mounds of trash in the hallway and scattered books across the living room floor, I was out of breath by the time I got to the door, where two men in suits were waiting for me.

“If this is about the water bill, I’ve got the check here, just give me a second to—”

“No. This is something entirely different. May we come in?”

“What do you want?”

“We’re here to help you get Amanda back.”

I was stunned at this, paying little notice as the taller of the two pushed beside me, taking a seat on the couch, while the other stood near the door. The taller one introduced himself as Abel, and his associate as Baker, and they offered me a foolproof method of regaining my girlfriend’s affections, or so he said.

“I assure you, this is no scam. We offer only what we claim, and no more. We simply have material you may find of use.”

“How do you know me?”

“We don’t know you. Your situation, however, is not uncommon.”

“Are you detectives? Or something?”

“Perhaps. Of a sort. Mostly we learn things and try to put that knowledge to use, for a nominal fee and all necessary expenses. This is the proposition we offer you: our fee, our expenses, in exchange for the discovery of your lifelong love, always and forever. We only require that once this contract is agreed upon that you follow our instructions to the letter, without hesitation. If you do not do this, our contract is immediately broken, with the prearranged fee remaining with us. Do you understand?”


“Perfect. We’ll start from there.”

I had met Amanda in college, where a friend of hers knew a friend of mine, and eventually the genital-called square dance of intersocial coupling brought her and I together. I was pretending to be an artist at this point, taking Kline’s monochromatic brushwork as my start. I only found the slightest bit of acclaim within the university due to a kind-hearted and overly indulgent professor who spoke well of my thesis project, removing the paint from the earlier canvases with a battery of solvents and exhibiting the scarred, blank canvases; she claimed transformation possessed power exemplified by a return to original form, which was nice, but Amanda though the pieces were shit. She did approve of the process, however, seeing a need for updating what was basically a onanistic version of Rauschenberg’s subtraction piece. Amanda suggested exhibiting not the canvases but the paint, the solvent, in a base of oil and collected in glass vases she was making. The idea left me with questions, unconvinced the new version was significantly different, but the opportunity for long night of discussing the structural balance of the fluid, back and forth, I think you’re right, it’s getting late, maybe you should just stay here tonight…the process seemed more than worthwhile. It’s not like I had any better ideas; I had basically blown my high art load on my first public showing.

The solvent show, as we jokingly called it, never happened, and we both eventually graduated and got grown-up jobs, y’know, just until we could get enough money together to get our gallery plan up and running. Three years later we were married, reveling in every kitchy bourgeois cliché we could remember, giggling together at the head table after eating mescaline in the limo. At some point we had to move into a bigger place out in the upscale suburbs, still close enough to downtown to have coffee shops and hippie grocers, meeting neighbors with noserings and elaborate investment portfolios, our old projects tucked in attic-corners of our secondhand two-story out by the hospital. I laugh about it a little now, how easy it all seemed, but it was wonderful. For the first time in years there was no more feeling scared of the future, no more wondering where I’d be in a year. Everything was set. It was all revealing itself in the slow ebb of time.

I can’t tell you honestly why she left me. I doubt it was that one defining moment like you see in the movies, but maybe it was, I just don’t know. I knew she hadn’t been happy, and I knew I wasn’t as okay as I kept wanting to be, pretending I was, knowing how absurdly lucky I’d been to get to this place and holding on as tightly as I possibly could before it could fall away. I came home on a Wednesday night to find all her stuff was gone. My first thought was a desperate fleeing from this life, from the place, from a solid and certain world where I knew I did not belong. That’s the definition which comes the easiest, that it was all a question of reevaluating priorities and seeing hers lacking, very clever, very guilt-free, equations in a personal calculus. This was the logic I tossed out over margaritas with my coworkers, handed to my family when they’d call, asking over and over if I was okay. An old school friend suggested self-inventorying, a sort of inspection of one’s faults, but after staring at myself in the mirror she and I got from her mother I felt stupid and self-conscious and finally did the sensible thing and started drinking. Part of me still says it’s a senseless tragedy, nothing to be done about it, the sort of strategy I was fond of when I was fucking chunky Linda from Accounting in the back of her Volvo, wondering how many more times I’d have to wipe my cock with her all-cotton panties before my heart would stop being broken. I even started painting again, thinking I could somehow telepathically summon her back through the sophomoric ball-and-cup routine I’d used the first time, only to remember why it was I gave up this idiocy in the first place. I tried driving around all night, hoping highway zen would clear my head. Eventually I stopped trying pretty much everything. That was my state when Abel and Baker came to my door.

I know, poor me, no one understands me. And you’re right. I should have stared at the wall for a few days, taken a shower, and started over again, but that would have been the obvious thing, and there’s no point in telling stories about doing the obvious thing.

By morning they had gone through the house, removing the trash and the broken plates, wiping the windows and mirrors, mopping the stains off the floor. They made me shave and shower and start in again on the habit of being human. Three days of this and I was beginning to feel at home in my skin, the ends of my nerves covered over.

“Perfect,” Abel said. “Now we can begin.”

Baker reached into a duffel bag and pulled out two videotapes, putting the first into the vcr before going to the kitchen to make popcorn.

“The first tape is probably what you expect. You’ve been waiting for this ever since we showed up, so we might as well have at it. This is your ex-wife—”

“Separated. We’re not divorced.”

“Your separated wife? My, isn’t that telling. This is your split wife fucking James. You remember James? You met him at the neighborhood block party once.”

It was a grainy shot, but unmistakable: Amanda and James, Amanda on top doing that weird dog-pant thing she always thought was sexy. Baker came in and took the seat next to me while Abel looked for the remote to turn up the volume.

“You must have thought it would be different. Some sort of outrageous paradigm-shattering sex. All ball gags whip handles, wrists and ankles, needles and enemas. I imagine this is something of a letdown. I mean, even you could do this. Not anything like what you played over and over in your mind while staining your sheets every half-hour.”

“Fuck you.”

“She had plans for girl-girl, like back in college. Changing your life and truly understands and whatever people think when they’re alone. She even wrote an ad, but she just didn’t have it in her to meet someone new, to do the whole introduction process. Fortunately she had her supportive male friend James there to pick up the slack, in a plain-jane vanilla sort of way. And it pretty much goes on like this for another four minutes. Let’s switch over to tape two, where we see…hey, check it out. It’s Amanda and James shopping for furniture. What’s with you people and all that fake Tudor shit? You ever have to move that stuff?”

“How did you get this?”

“And see here? See how she’s watching him? She’s over you. She’s not in love with you, and never will be again. She’s better off. So the question you have to ask yourself is if you’re willing to find the thing you love.”

“The extent of your resolve,” Baker said, the first thing I heard him say.

“How far are you willing to follow, to fall, to fail, to swing out of your orbit to make this discovery?”

As soon as he finished the sentence, Abel pulled out a vial of some strange fluid.

“Yours is a love with a skeleton of comfort. You ended up with Amanda from inertia. It was what was expected, what was easy, what you knew you could handle and control. Only you couldn’t, of course. Your skin splits at the weakest of hungers. I don’t even know why we’re bothering with you."

“There is nothing I would not do.”

“Say that again.”

“There is nothing I would not do.”

“Well then. That’s quite the drastic statement.”

“The boy’s practically a martyr for the cause, Abel.”

“It warms the heart, it truly does.”

Abel and Baker removed the tape from the VCR and left. When they returned with two large bags I was relieved. I thought maybe they could actually help me. I didn’t know any better.

“People find true love in the weirdest of places. We’ve been doing this ever since we left the lab and hit the road, and you’d be amazed.”

“This one poor inhuman fuck fell in love with an old woman. Shit you not.”

“This other woman was in love with the Earth, so she kept this other poor fuck alive against his will, torturing him with consciousness. You know something about that, though, don’t you?”

“This girl was in love with god, so we set her phone to pick up broadcasts, which we figured would solve that, but now there’s this gaggle of people in love with the girl in love with god. They even started a cult called the Colony. But they’re all dead now.”

“That girl’s not dead. She did a good job for us, actually. We’ll have to keep an eye on her in the future.”

“And those sisters! the ones who loved each other and couldn’t love themselves. They’re staring face-down in the river-sludge now.”

“The eel-woman nesting her babies in their skulls.”

“Lots of people love things. That guy who loved coke. He was a fucking liability.”

“Ended up converting his legs, his arms. We eventually dumped his ass in a tub of the solvent. Though chances are whoever goes sniffing at his remains will want to do the same. We left a voice-mail number, just in case.”

“So you think deep on that before you open your mouth and close your eyes, kid. You think about what it is you really want.”

I was fed up with this two-bit sideshow. I wanted it, I wanted to know, and so I picked up the vial, touched it to my tongue. That was three months ago.

[Litany of detestable acts removed for brevity — db]

I hear from Dave, the only person left who will talk to me after the hideous degrading things I’ve done, and apparently Amanda and James are over with; she’s thinking of moving upcoast, changing jobs. I had to sell the house for bail money, and because of my current mental state she had no problem getting an annulment cleared. My friends and family don’t talk about me anymore, not even the tense jokes shared at reunions. My old life is over. I am now horribly in love with the second urinal from the left in men’s bathroom #8 at Grand Central Station. I run my tongue along the inner rim, the cool wet porcelain, the sweet sloping curve of the bowl. Having found the one thing left in this veil of tears which makes me happy, I dropped the rest of the vial on the floor, near the drain. The cops chase me out twice a day, and sometimes kids come in and kick me around, so if you should happen to find the place empty, just lick around the drainpipe and you will find the one thing which your soul truly desires.

I guarantee it.
(12: [/alpha/revisitations] #

Revisitation Five: River City Sutras
Not so much a hiding-place as a surrogate light, containing from all directions, the breath frozen in you as luminous things hunt out your time-pulse. Gratitude springs up and forth once the lights stop. Story had planted his journals out in the fields, not staying long enough to see what sprouted up, struggling for sunlight, new words meshed from the old. airbourne harvesters sifted the grain, the pages, the clouds, utilizing these components as one of the engineers would. The automated pilots would wave to Story, and he would wave back, and smile. The earth was filled with portals, in those days.

the pulse was moving into different time-signatures, capitulating and recapitulating with the train-sounds, the oxidized cardiovascular system of the grain-plains. There was no wind at this time, and thus no pathway. So difficult to gauge action, all teh mapmakers died and their children have no interest in carrying on the lineage, poisoned with the inner critic, never good enough, content to hang from bridgebottoms and suck on river-mist.

There are times when Story is in the bright place, where the Aliens speak to him, ask him his Path. “Which is your door?” they question. This is not a place from whence one can find the King, although the Aliens seem to know where to set him, hidden assignments he fufils despite intent. The Aliens have left him here, on the edge of town; this is not a place they can enter. The scents are stripped from his dreams, as he sleeps in an emptied gas station, feeding on leftover candy bars from a machine no one ever thought to reclaim.

The train-paths, Story thinks. They were not laid out by capital or by travel-want. They serve the same King as I, and are forever and immortal until such a time as their service is completed. He stalks the streets for tracks, for trains, for a sign, but in the houses the families were casting out dreams of displacement and ensnarment; the signal was lost. There were no lights to be seen in the sky.

There was a small luminous boy in the garb of a preacher. He told Story a parable of revenge and loss. He told Story a parable of ache and love and how all these hungers will be satisfied. He told Story a parable of DNA sequences, of the star-maps along the zodiac, of the misguiding direction of gravity. “Do you believe there is a secret road?” the luminous boy asked Story. “The road is not secret; I can hear it even when I am asleep.” The luminous boy smiled. “I grant you safe passage into River City, as an envoy of the King. You will need to find a second passage out.” Story nodded, and faded.

Lines of travel (roads, tracks, the cropduster-airport on the edge of town). Lines of utility (sewers, steam tunnels, water manes, electrical cables, refineries, generators, sewage plants). Lines of commerce (store-clusters, banking-clusters, light industrial clusters, heavy industrial clusters, warehouses, and failed versions of the above). The city is a nest of grids. It is a difficult place to find the pulse, should one not be able to find the center, the magic, the heart-line of a city, at which point all becomes clear. Story has not found River City’s heart-line yet, and fears for his likelihood of ever finding it. Seeker-logic.

Dampeners in the tiles of the ceiling along the hallways of the city council absorb faith and radiate blistered fear. Story is protected, but knows to pay attention to such foul omens. Children smile at him, and he whistles short themes they will remember and whistle themselves, in quiet times, for the rest of their lives. Orange voices. Hope can manifest anywhere.

At a certain length, tone-sequences begain to fold on themselves, algorhythms coded in the first few sequences in order to map the unfolding of the entire piece, frequency limiters and repetition hues, cerulean in this light, a milk-white hum as the interoffice spiral tightens and Story closes in on this place’s heart, tucked away, stored in a jar of bleach and gooseberries to repel stray dreams. “You, you are a key,” Story whispers, and tucks the jar beneath his colored coat.

From Kornley and Voss Story can hear the train-whistle. His time here is ending. The out-gate is outside his sight. Desperate and lost. All fives and sevens.
(12: [/alpha/revisitations] #

Revisitation Three: The Exploding Girl
(original version by my esteemed colleague kyra)

“Okay, you need to just settle down, you’re overexcited. Start at the beginning.”

“She FUCKING EXPLODED! Jesus Creeping Christ, Rissa!”

“So, so wait, so you mean to tell me you’re just out there doing your Sensitive Macho routine and she just blew up!”

“That’s *exactly* what I mean to tell you. What the *fuck*, man? What the *fuck*?”

“So she exploded like a baby in the microwave, you’re trying to tell me? Like you’re slathered in innards?”

“First off this is no time to be flippant. I called you for help. If help is not forthcoming I will pursue other avenues of helpdom.”

“Fine fine fine. But it does beg the question.”

“And second, no, she didn’t go all Troma on us or anything. It was like there was this massive bright white light and she was gone.”

“So more Akira, then.”


“So explain to me what brought you to this point.”

“So I’m just minding my own business.”

“Owen, never in your life have you ever just been minding your own business. You’re a goddamn walking liability.”

“See, that’s what was so weird about it, because I actually was minding my own business, so I shoulda known something really serious was about to happen, because I got all jittery for not acting a fool all day, so the bus pulls up and allofasudden, just wham, I heard this voice in my head.”

“We have a rule about listening to the voices in our heads, don’t we?”

“Yes. But this voice was really only one word.”

“It wasn’t ‘kill’, was it?”

“Good lord no!”

“What was it, then?”


“Superfly. That’s what the voice in your head said.”

“No no no. Sup-a-fly. Like Curtis would say it.”

“The voice in your head is Curtis Mayfield.”

“Yeah! And like I’m not gonna listen to Curtis Mayfield!”

“So what did you do?”

“I turned around to the woman behind me, did a little dance, and said ‘Ladies first, because I am a feminist gentleman, baby!’”

“Oh you did not.”

“So she laughs and gets on and I give her a little ‘Ow!’ as she climbs up the steps. Like a James Brown thing.”

“Just stop it.”

“And suddenly I realize what I just did and I get to feeling *really* conspicuous and I can’t get on the bus now because everybody’s looking at me so I head down to the bus station down by the river and play pinball until my ears stop burning.”

“Can you snap this story up a bit? I haven’t done any saving the universe yet today, and you’ve obviously gotten nothing productive done.”

“So I see the bus woman later, and we get to talking, and it turns out she used to know Ana from a long time ago, and we go get all freaked out on pixie-stix and we end up walking out on the tracks back by the small forest and so I think to myself ‘What would Curtis do?’, so we started smooching and — ”

“Okay, you’re going to have to stop now, because I so don’t want to hear about it.”

“No, but then, okay she fainted.”

“Well well well, let’s hear it for Tom Jones.”

“So I’m kinda freaking out a little, right? Because it’s like she started to, I dunno, almost *glow*…”

“You really do think a lot of yourself, y’know.”

“No! I’m not even being like that! I’m just saying!”

“Fine, whatever, so how is it she exploded?”

“So I’m talking to her, pulling the leaves from her hair, and we talk some, and then she put my hand on her chest and then it was like being in another place but also there still. Maybe. I’m still pretty confused.”

“And that was it?”

“That’s the story, true as anything.”

“So what are you gonna do?”


“Well, consider this. You, brother Owen, you’re a mess, and here you’ve got this excellent girl you actually totally hit it off with and then she disappears into the light. That’s gotta, y’know, *mean* something.”

“No! It’s just a freak accident resulting from all that jumping out of the car I did last summer!”

“Foolishness! You, for reasons completely beyond me, you’ve been Visited.”

“Like a blessing?”

“I’d say. And those aren’t the sort of things which last.”

“So she’s gone.”

“I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not. She’s certainly not here, and that’s the key-point. I think you should consider yourself lucky, keep your eyes peeled, and lay off the sugar.”

“Well of course I’m lucky! I’m Owen! My lifestyle would kill an army of vat-bred supermen!”

“No, I’m meaning — ”

“Saved only by my inability to recognize oncoming catastrophe and lightning!”

“You need to pay — ”

“Fueled on an endless supply of cornball situations and misunderstood metaphysical dilemmas! So what are you saying?”

“Nothing, Owen. Nevermind. Let’s go see what’s happening at the temple.”
(12: [/alpha/revisitations] #

Revisitaion Two: All That Is Is Less
original version by c. flink

I was hanging out at the coffee shop downtown, decked out in my “I’m an independent filmmaker — show me your tits” T-shirt, sitting at the piano, trying to remember how to do Schwartz’s second etude when this guy came along and hit a key at the low end, one note, like a misplaced thought. I stopped paying and stared out after him as he walked away, followed by a second guy (more a boy, really) scribbling something down in his notebook, and it suddenly struck me like a rope passed through my body and pulled taut that I had to get the fuck out of Lawrence.

Oh mothers, where have your dumb boys gone?

I awoke this morning from a dream of fleeing. Alone, this is nothing new to me, but the man who pursued me in this dream was armed to his fingertips in cutting tools twisted and bent like they’d spent years at the bottom of a blast furnace. These blades leapt from his fingers, cutting through the shrubbery and fallen branches, tearing through treetrunks and swinging back to his hand, invisible guidewires tied around his wrists. The animals of the forest dropped stones to stop him, slow his progress, landing in my hands so as to carry me down through the river-water, sunk down to the floor where the two rivers become one. The river takes me to be one of the drowned dead and I am allowed to walk to the opposite bank through the shimmering green light lamentations, the splintered remains of bed-caskets all twined in algae and baby dolls. Here there was the skull of Susan Christmas, who I knew from playground tragedies, who lent me a lock of her hair on Saint Valentine’s Day, so young as to not know what it meant. Over yonder the still-whole body of Ehm Whaelk, who taught me the way of the second skin, his arms now mirroring the current. I knew a song for to sing to bring them surface-side, but the water filled my mouth and the air all rushed out and the hunter’s knives had found me too soon.

I awoke knowing just what it meant to dream of walking underwater, and drew the day’s first breath.

The body of Ben I saw there as well, but he hadn’t stopped twitching, and I knew he was hiding, as was I, looking for components to build a method of escape. In the real world Ben kept calling the cops on himself, his contraptions to mutilate and kill oiled and primed, a secret door out of this world. The first time he had built what looked like a large metal pig from the body of a holding tank, a vulvic slit along its belly lined with sharpened gear leading to a crank like a tail out of its far end. The problem with this creation was the inability to work it without at least two people — one to work the crank and one to crawl up inside the tank. Ben had duct-taped himself into its maw, leaving himself a mouth-hole to ask the police to please assist him in his last exit. They confiscated the metal pig and gave him a stern lecture as to bothering the poor people at the junkyard.

One time, not long after, he waited for the storm which brought the flood-rains down on us for so long, then stripped himself to his skin and attached a long metal rod to his penis, apparently inspired by a copy of Crad Kilodney’s underground classic “Lightening Struck My Dick”. He then jumped from rooftop to rooftop around town, like some deranged roof-goblin, searching for the ideal spot to lay down anchor and lift his antenna aloft. Alas, he went through a skylight and landed ass-over-ankles in the middle of a Rerisers Anonymous meeting, skewering the bunt-cake, destroying about six bucks worth of rehab art and prompting several relapses and one conversion to Satanism.

Yet another attempt involved his reading that the fungus which grows in bowling shoes could be fatal if inhaled over extended periods of time. Ben spent the next week at Der Bowlingplatz, stealing dozens of heavily-worn bowling shoes (at a loss of his two dollar shoe deposit each time) in order to build the Black Chamber, which he lined with the innards of the shoes, keeping it perfectly airtight until he finally entered on the fifteenth day, prepared to leave this earth. Alas, Georg Beschmutzer had come to the house to retrieve his missing shoes, deposit or no, as there were currently only three remaining pairs of size tens left in stock. He kicked open the Black Chamber, drug Ben out, and ripped the shoe-remains out in order to try a restitching job. It was at that point Ben decided to try more grandiose methods.

“Every day of his life, Ben has played one note on the piano in the coffee shop downtown. He walks by, and he strikes a single key without pause or break of stride.”

“And you’re writing down the notation, huh.”

“Yeah. I can see the notes he’s played, a glow above the keyboard.”

“Maybe it’s not a song. Maybe it’s a code.”

“Y’think? Like for what?”

“Well, show me whatcha got, up to this point.”

“Okay, fuck, it’s….okay, here.”

“See here? if we loop twenty-six letters three times we get three number-sets, for a total of seventy-eight, with ten keys left over. If we letter the keys we get…here…”


“Well. That’s just curious.”

“Or maybe just an unhappy accident.”


My friend gave me the laptop he bought when he went to college. I tried to thank him once for giving me the computer.

“I don’t want it, I don’t want to own it, I don’t want to think about it ever again.”

“Then why did you keep it?”

“In case I needed it again. Which I won’t. But I might.”

I took a look on the hard drive and found dozens of encrypted files without any sort of key. I thought about trying to hunt something up, but I’m beginning to suspect I’d rather not know.

Oh mother, what have your dumb boys done?

I lived, then, in a small apartment block behind a refinery whose owner had decided the profits coming in wouldn’t be sufficient to make continuing business worthwhile. Indeed, the only means of extracting profit from the refinery would be to torch it. The employees, knowing full well what shallow prospects for work Lawrence held for them, actively prevented the owner’s brothers and cousins, who had been promised a cut of the insurance settlement, from burning down the refinery. At night, the employees would take shifts watching the streets for suspicious vans, whose passengers would be pulled out into the street, beaten, and tossed off the North Second Street bridge. For months this went on, and I didn’t get one solid night’s sleep the whole time. I ask you to keep this in mind as I relate who I was, then.

“But if you break the eighty-eight keys down going the other way, you get findnohiddenmessage. How’s about them apples?”

The use of knives and blades, a weak attempt at a joke (it’s ‘violence with a point’, geddit) blurred into horrid puke scenes weaved into halfassed prattling as to “really deep thoughts”. Then again, we’ve always taken a backhanded pride in our violence, our depravity. It’s hard-core, being from here, we tell ourselves, suddenly made important by the increasing transitoriness of life in the here and now. All your years nothing but a smear of black fluid at the bottom of a porcelain bowl. He used to pretend at an awkwardness in order to meet women. It was ideal. A cry for a kind of lifting-up into the light that comes from her body as she sleeps, rumpled and fuzzy, curled beside you. To look down at your body and know the places it has been, the points of contact, to know it is a part of the continuum of physical forms which meet and mate and fall away. A vision of crossed thresholds and calls from somewhere far away from someone who wants more than anything to pull you as close as the skin allows.

Oh mother, what will your dumb boys become?

Nothing: they are this, and nothing more.
(12: [/alpha/revisitations] #

Revisitation One: My Take On My Take On All This
(this is based on deb’s “my take on all this”, available at thanks to kyra, who gave me the idea in a sideways kinda way.)

No one could be certain whether or not the ship was sinking. There was no reason to think it was. No water was coming up over the side. No abrupt shift in the balance of the deck, no lurching, no portholes in view of nothing but breaking waves. Yet the animals were pacing in their cages, crying out for something no one seemed able to identify, and the captain was nowhere to be seen, spending yet another night in his cabin, with her, soon to be forced to put rigor and structure to his notions of love.

Constantinople did not like parties, but tonight he was restless and didnot want to be alone. He ended up along with the rushing tide of hisfriends at an unknown compartment. The music was blaring from unseen speakers hidden in the edges of the room, practically unseeable, and it irritated him not to have a face with which to connect the music. Constantinople played his music only for himself, and a few friends, of whom none of the throng who had led him here could truly be counted. He cursed himself for having so little discipline and in the same instant cursed his cursing; he knew he didn’t like parties and yet had come anyway. He started making his way toward the exit: an excruciatingly slow process through a sea of unfamiliar jackets, earrings, beer bottles and outlined lips. He then saw her, and he stopped, and did not know what to do.

If you, the reader, are with me, imagine if you will she is sitting in a corner, hands clasped together, legs crossed, eyes staring far off. Perhaps across the water, to a sea-port town — do not look too closely, for if she senses our attention she may discontinue her fantasies. “To begin: all writing is an act of love. But this is saying nothing, so I must continue.”

She had no need to look at him as he said this, for they had been telepathic for two months before they spoke to each other. They quickly discovered that they each had a different native tongue:

-mis palabras no puerden espressar lo mucho ce te amo.

-what does that mean?

-words cannot express how much i love you in spanish.

-oh. shalom, ya hachoo omlette de frommage.

-what does that mean?

-hello, i’d like a cheese omlette in hebrew, russian and french.

-french, bah. je conchie la langue francaise.

-what does that mean?

-i shit on the french language. in french.

-ah. no se sabe lo que quiere decir.

-we don’t know what that means. in spanish.

-in any language, even.

This seemed not to be a problem, until those fateful words:

-so you only love me in spanish, then?

-no, you misunderstand. the sentence was in spanish.

-so what language is your love in, then?

-um…i, i don’t…

At which point their still-budding affair was in desperate need of a translator.

Constantinople was ok. He had good friends, a good ship, and a place to hang his circus for a time. He had chosen these. There is no need to look too far, he thought, to make myself happy. At times, impatience would creep its way into his otherwise slow and purposeful movements, particularly when he thought of her, as paradoxical as your favorite paradox or woman, which may well be one and the same. He would then go to the main deck, which looked out not upon the ocean (which would have certianly been a safer and more reasonable use of the room) but upon a model he had made by one of his crew, a perfect model of the view from Constantinople’s left rear balcony, the one which juts out from his bedroom over the city, both his love and his nemesis. He thrived and died alone, in the city, each model scaled to show the change and cycle of time in his town by the crewman who recieved news of Constantinople’s town by sealed and coded messages sent from townsfolk in his employ — at least until the town was overrun by devils who emptied them of their organs and salted the earth where the town once stood. The crewmember, whose name is best not said (according to the impotent author), modifies the vast model of the town as though this never happened, imagining wht changes would have taken place, should the lives of townspeople have never been stopped, or had they been made to stand and breathe again.

Such acts are not unheard of in the town where Constantinople is from.

What happens is, she says we’re going to run away, off to the ocean, and you say no, you don’t want to anymore, those were in our younger days, now you stay, and you think of how she hasn’t really laughed since you called her crazy, not crazy like you thought was so romantic when you were spending your schoolnights with your panties around your ankles dreaming of getting out of whatever town your story contains and so ready to fling yourself screaming into the gaping maw of lunacy where all passions snarl and claw and fuck out of the unadulterated knowledge of what it means to be alive, no, you called her crazy like the women who count spilled beans on the dirty tile of the grocer’s floor, the crazy that makes you sad and sick and more than anything embarassed to watch, pissing in your pants and sucking on sores crazy, the playtime romance as dead as the light in your one good eye. You want her to stay and you want her to leave and you can’t tell where you’re going. You want her to stay and keep an eye out so you can get away with the {secret} when all the time she’s trying to whisper{it} in your ear:

want you to get down on your belly
want you to get down on your knees
want you to put your tongue inside of me
before we speak any more of your loyalties

but you won’t fuck her anymore, you say, and she gets very cranky.

Of course, we all knew who would give in the end, now, didn’t we.

It seems so silly, now, to look back on the first wave of private practice geneticists and their creations, so sure they had solved all disease and malformation by rooting it out at the source code. So many supposedly perfect superbabies designed by questionaire and sequence splicing unable to stave off even the most meager of diseases, so many collapsed skulls, so many eyes gone sightless but such a movie-star quality of blue. It was soon a disreputale thing to be a geneticist, at least one who left academics for the big bucks of baby farming, and soon all the strip-mall labs went up for grabs again, the once-proud doctors sifting downward into the lower bardos of Aryan Nation backroom “repurifications”, third-world gender modifications, and the once-again prolific freakshow, of which no circus is complete without one.

A young old man resembling a lion brings all of his cubs out of the closet and sets them on the ground throughout the room. Their legs, which have never been used, have no strength, and need time to get used to the sway of the ship which the majority of the passengers scarecely even notice now. He watches them struggle to get from one unbouded section of carpet and sees that it is good. he begins to purr, one long deep purr rumbling contentedly, as if from the depths of an extinct volcano. He returned the cubs to his closet; he was to meet the captain tonight for reasons still unknown. This seems only fair to the geneticist, who is well-versed in the flux and shift of the merketplace; he has been many things before he was a geneticist, and will most likely be many things after.

The man talks to the cubs in their language, telling them he loves them, and they understand.

Follow the waiters once they’ve left the table down to the bowels of the ship’s stern side. Follow them down and past to the kitchen where the staff runs from the butcher and hides. Watch him dance pas de deux, pulling cleavers from his boots as he hacks at the men and the walls. The chefs get him unarmed without a hint of alarm and lock him in the back bathroom stall. Through a crack in the door you can listen to him roar and bellow at whoever goes past. Were you to ask why he’d just sputter and sigh and swear that this time was the last. “I don’t know what I’ve done ‘til lucidity comes and wipes all this blood from my sight. I just want my knives, and to dance side to side, and to slash all your eyes by tonight.” Now the meat’s gone bad in the store. And the chefs are all tired and sore. And the butcher who dances in violent trances is cutting a hole in the floor.

so, beardslee, you’re in love again. how beardslee of you.

you don’t understand. this is different. i have to think this out.

think this out?

she’s demanding proof of my love being a portable expression.

extricable from the terms you’ve fallen back on.


are you at all familiar with the rules of logic?

She liked good conversation. She only got a chance to have it when she was taking a break from her job, which was to be locked up with tiny scraps of paper and put on display down in the hold, performances every hour on the hour. Actually, this was only one of her jobs as a Certified Metaprogrammer (BM, Portstown MetaTechnical Institute and Grill, class of Kali Yuga). Nobody seemed to know what exactly a Metaprogrammer was, least of all an actual Metaprogrammer, who was either whacked to the gills on whatever chemical Consumer Responsibility magazine said the kids were doing that week or laying around in a stupor, but they were being sought for council by crisis-striken Post-Metaprogrammers, who used to be Metaprogrammers until the bills got to be too much of a hassle and really, let’s face it, laying around convinced you know the secrets of the universe won’t get you any closer to getting laid.

One of the ways Metaprogrammers occupy themselves, according to her instructor Gibreel Macadamia (who had a doctorate in Metaism, which is accomplished by suggesting the concept of Metaism without any of the core elements of Metaism through use of all concepts learned in Cheap Irony 205 and Pointless Cleverness 380), is to take all of the energy which would normally be used in torturing others and use it to torture themselves instead. This, which was always a sure crowd-pleaser, is known as the Small Knot, or Loop in the technical jargon. But nevermind that. Remember, what may seem obvious to the reader may not be as obvious to the author.

She spent lots of time below decks when not working, terrified of the sky,which seemed to suggest that the porthole view from her display case was not entirely accurate. To silence such fears she spent her time in the eddies and whorls of the seemingly endless party which passed from compartment to compartment, oblivious of time or lack of necessary mission equipment. Through this process she became shacked up with another Metaprogrammer, who explained his job as “enlightenment through captaining”, a tried and true Metaprogrammer’s trick. She had her doubts of his affections, despite his pleas, and all was nearly lost until a Translator showed up. She invited the translator in. His presence was a gift, of sorts — she had good reason to believe that they did need him, though perhaps not in the way he expected. This good reason is called Intuition, in the technical jargon.

When Constantinople, which was her partner’s name, got back from whatever he did atop the ship, he was pleased as Kool-Aid to see the translator because they were old friends and everything was simply complicatedly marvelous. He informed both of them that their difficulty in expressing their love was bound with their use of multiple languages, and would have to be stripped clean with the burning blade of symbolic logic.

“you see,” the translator said, “all writing *is* an act of love, if we are to equate some essential quality as being present both in writing and in love. discuss amongt yourselves and present me with a validation of that statement by 2200 hours. in the interim, i must check on my closet.”

Maggie was a doll, primarily, except when she was bad, during which times she was a menace to society. Maggie was not the sort to do evil herself, no. She would suggest evil to others, evil which would occasionally take root and find a willing participant in the heart of whoever heard her voice. Being a doll, and a circus-doll at that, she came across many who would follow her hinted orders, which has made the cargo hold where the circus is staged a place sticky with salt and blood. Her hair was red, and she made songs with her hands, like any puppetmaster.

In college Maggie had studied theatre until somebody of consequence told her she was a bad actress. At that point being a bad actress was generally a synonym for someone who wouldn’t put out, so Maggie put out like nobody’s business and was still called a bad actress, so she burned down the theater and hitched a ride to the coast. Many people do not know this about her. They do know, however, that Maggie like to get into situations, primarily out of boredom, like someone trying to run from their shadow.

She once wrote research articles for a polygamous Hindu-Italian slumlord who wanted to marry her. She once crashed a wedding party and sang Ted “The Nuge” Nugent’s “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” in front of three hundred hokey-pokeying relatives of an unknown couple. She once took a fourteen year old suicidal genius hom with her to make sculpey-beads and, well, you get the picture.

Today she took out a slice of paper and began a letter to our woman, who lived on the other side of the ship:

“been having too much fun. sick to stomach. making friends
with an upstanding young man with strong hands and a solid
understanding of musculature. he’ll be crazy soon enough,
and we’ll be home soon enough. drugs and kisses.”

It should be of no suprise that the translator/geneticist/gadabout, whosename is none other than Theodore J. Krabdovik, was once a Metaprogrammer too, until he was disbarred for certain unseemly incidents involving hope and patience. During that time he had written “The Translator’s Theories”, a seminal work in the Ted Krabdovik canon, portions of which survive against enormous odds.

“There are some metaprogrammers who think that torture is wrong. I have a hunch that there might be interesting results were our normal ‘Iadic’ loops opened up to a slightly larger controlled loop called, for my purposes, a ‘Diad’. Following this might be ‘Triad’ and ‘Quatrad’. For a more complicated understanding please see Figure 31-B [ed: these notes have been lost], which demonstrate how this theory holds to the Metaprogrammer’s Credo that if it feels wrong, do more of it, you wuss. Since developing this theory I have found some willing parties, who have been willing to experiment, and I have published my findings below, demonstrating the Metaprogrammer’s Credo that all problems can be solved via a quick fix, which generally consists of putting something in your mouth. [ed: this fragment is here cut off.]”

Ted looked at this fragment and wondered if there was something here he should remember, while he brought the cubs back out and watched them take their first steps.

One of the chefs went to check on the butcher, hearing nothing from inside the stall, afraid to hold his ear to the door. The chef noticed water coming from the crack in the door and nearly realized what was happening by the time the hinges burst and the door slammed him into the far wall, shattering his bones, flooding the hall.

There were once two people in the story and we have, you and I, experienced our first near-miss together. It’ll be nothing but from this point on. The party is over, the band has disbanded, and someone has started screaming. By day she dances alone, as if the steps could bring back what once was, and ancient battle in which she is the victor. Her jaw is clenched almost by habit. She is visible and vulnerable and has left a trail of clues, followed by you and I, after the fact, so sure of our notions.

In the tide a weathered piece of looseleaf paper finds itself before us. It hopes we set it loose when we’re done.

Professor Hinkle, my love:

I have set upon the task as has been laid out and have run into some unexpected difficulties. I am as sure of ever of my convictions but have not been as able to solidify these notions structurally. I have no doubt that I am closing in on the solution in due time. This note is simply to keep you updated on oour progress:

x = writing, which is operantly defined as “a grammatically-ruled means of communicating information”. You may disagree with me on the grammar aspect, as you’ve explained your displeasure at the notion of still-living languages being encumbered with artificial rules of conduct; however, it is my argument that it is only due to a grammatical and syntactical skeleton that exceptions and variants on its rules can be said to exist at all. As such, the intent of communicating information belies the use of language, and thus if one is serious as to this definition one will take great pains to clarify the communicative process as much as possible. Is that not why we are doing this in the first place?

y = love. There is no proof of love, just as there is no definition of love. If it is not expressly manifest in the situation it is not there. The mention of an unprovable statement invalidates the compound statement ~x -> y. Since we cannot prove that y -> anything at all, we cannot even set up a transitive proof of the equivalence of x and y to a third statement z, not even if z = futility, operantly defined as the inherent inability to achieve set goals — we don’t know what the goals of love are, or why it makes people do the stupid things they do.

I can’t prove anything. It’s there or it isn’t.


Constantinople Beardslee

For nearly a century sailors have reported seeing strange animals off the coast of a small country which will change names and presidents and graves in the next few weeks, one more time. The animals are the size of large dolphins, but built differently, and despite swimming at high speed they seem to be furry mammals, but no one has ever seen one close enough to verify this. At night, while the crew sleeps, it is alleged these animals use their claws to climb aboard and feed off the storage lockers below deck, able somehow to bypass locks and doors. In the morning all that remains are paw-shaped prints on the deck, leading back to the ocean.

She has been on a ship in the middle of the ocean without wind, and she is a crybaby but she laughs instead because it looks better on her resume, but when she is not laughing she thinks about exploding and how the stars don’t care at all whether we return, and how this thing has all been done before but she still reads it. I still read it. And you are to me everything I can’t have, I reach out, I want. That’s what I do I reach out

my hand

[which is very very very small]

the day the dream is turned off is the day she dies. it is not real. it is a dream. we are far. far. far.

in the morning our skin is sensitive and it feels good to touch you.
(12: [/alpha/revisitations] #

Re-Rise, an Introduction
I don’t remember much from that time, and what I do remember is probably wrong, but I remember walking, which I did constantly then, and I remember the flood. There were streets which were impassable by foot and sometimes by car; you could stare out from windows and watch the rainwater and the melted snow runoff flow down the streets and sidewalks, the drains flooded and releasing branches and lost toys, and not have to try hard to imagine the street had no solidity, that it was all water. As the town sloped down toward campus, toward the river, you could see trees jutting up from flooded fields, see washed-out parks and abandoned cars, trying to remember where the riverbank once was. I walked set paths throughout my section of the city, cutting across parking lots, stopping off for milk at the grocer, following pathways I never intentionally designed but discovered through months of repetition. One night, blocks north of the clump of yellow pre-fabs where the foreign grad students live, I ran into a girl I was certain I knew from somewhere. She asked me what had happened, where I had been, and I couldn’t understand her question. Class, she said. I hadn’t showed up in two months. Had I dropped out? I was confused, told her I’d been sick, that I was probably not going back to class this semester. I had forgotten, replacing the memory with a low humming dread which found me when I wasn’t walking, when I laid in my bed and readied for sleep. Sometimes I would panic, thrash, wonder what had happened to me, but I couldn’t find anything wrong, any reason. It was like I got on the wrong bus one morning and forgotten I had a home and an academic career and goals and future plans. Having to remember, remember anything, made me feel tired and sick and confused. I tried not to think about such things, to walk, to spend hours in the library staring at books, not reading anything, just feeling as though I had intent and direction and purpose, until the fear was gone. If I can keep on like this, I remember thinking once, just keep going and not thinking and not remembering, then maybe everything will be okay.

The only way to stop remembering is to have all the people in your life leave. Seth, who for years had been my best friend, had left town, presumably forever, in order to join the circus. I had no reason to think I would ever see him again. He had an epiphany of sorts after an accident, a moment of clarity, and he knew enough to know he couldn’t follow it here. My other friends from that time were lost in their own lives now, having either grown up and become responsible and uninterested in their past, or they had reached a point of stillness, the days looped and spiraling in on themselves, content to find a center in the familiar. I never heard from any of them, mostly; whatever we were doing with our youths was now over, and there was no reason to revisit. I had nothing to force memory back on me, and could let it fade or change as its nature dictated, unbound by truth and concensus.

Then I got a call from Ana.

This friend of mine, this girl I used to know, her name is Ana. I havent seen her for a couple years, she went to school and I tried to follow her but I kinda didnt do school so well, things happen, and after I fucked around long enough they threw me out, so I came back home and got a job and stopped fucking around, somewhat. We were close, we were friends, we spend a few miserable parties huddled in corners discussing and flirting and being friendly in the way that two people who know they’re never going to come together sometimes do, clenched in my mind when she (two years my senior) decided o go right into grad school. Around that time I was asked to leave the school, and we tried to stay in touch, and strange nights were spent getting calls from out of the blue about recent traumas or drunken apologies, and for a while that was wonderful.

Through this time, however, my life became strange, and my connection to Ana became important in an unspoken way. Ana did not know, really, what was becoming of me, and because of that our conversations always felt normal, like things normal people did, and that was so important then, to talk to someone who didnt watch each word for suggestions and accusations. Its very hard to explain.

One night she called me, told me about graduation, told me about her most recent fucked-up relationship, and how she had to leave, to get away. I wasnt really thinking when I told her she could stay with me, but she accepted, and later that night I watched her as she slept on my couch, her bags piled in the hall, and I walked clear until morning, sitting at North Playground, watching the Saturday Morning children at play.

There was a time in my life, during the floods, after Seth came back from the hospital but before he joined the circus, and this time was dead space, endless. I spent my days asleep and my nights working out at the burial ponds on the edge of town. I did not sleep, and I tried not to think. I found myself staring at people when I walked around outside, watching their bones shift and fracture beneath their skin. There was a voice pasted to the back of my skull and it droned out anything interesting in me and filled my days with a hum that scares to the bone, even now. This time is lost to me; I cannot remember my thoughts or the contents of those days. I reach for them but they are beyond me. I quit the burial ponds and went to work out at the rest stop, which was a marginal improvement but was my first step in moving my career arc away from the dead, of of weeks worth of forgotten days and dreams. All I do rememb er is Seth being around and then gone, and that there was something wrong with me, and that in those days I remember the trees being filled with children.

There was a young girl at this playground where I sat and tried to think through, to remember, and she had self-drawn upside-down clouds on her dress. She would spin around and around until her legs gave and she fell, in a heap, on the ground. She instantly got back up and began spinning again. I remember this, the secret purpose of spinning; the girl is trying to rise up off the ground and ascend into the sky. She will spin and spin until her body cannot stand the motion, until her brain blocks her from the attempt, until she spends unquiet nights awake so many years later wondering what terrible things must haunt her dreams to keep her awake at night. She is waiting for the aliens, the angels, waiting for the lights, as all children do, the hidden intentions behind their games, the words they use, the making real of reams. The pushing of bones through the tips of the fingers and set in a pile and mixed as the children close their eyes, pick up bones, and push them back into their skin. This was how we made friends as children. The bones in my hands are still, to this day, not my own. There is something calming about this, something which tells me I am not alone, though that feeling was something I had lost for a time. When I was seven I got married to a girl I kindasorta knew from the neighborhood, we had a ceremony towards the far end of the playground, flowers and everything, it was forever. The last I heard this girl was going to school somewhere in Wisconsin. She still has the ring I gave her, and I still have the ring she gave me. Sometimes, like now, I find myself wearing it and people occasionally look at me strange, the purple plastic band attracting some attention, but I dont explain. Someday Ill bump into her, and well both be wearing my rings, and well be together forever. Near-asleep, I will feed her on opiated milk-sugar and she will feed me on scotch and black honey, and we will make a home in the caves beneath the surface of the burial pond. Asleep, our teacher taught us in whispers how to form symbols and shapes from snow. At night, the wind was so fierce it would pull you from the ground if you didnt put rocks in your shoes. Wee slept on dishtowels and were hung by the laces of those shoes on hooks behind the blackboard, set there by our teacher. There was a boy named Jimmy whose mother made him wear galoshes and a raincoat no matter the weather, just in case, and he was elected to be the class historian, and we sealed up his mouth and eyes and buried him a couple feet from the flagpole so 25 years later the schoolchildren could dig him up and he would tell them what life was like for us. I remember throwing up a lot that year. There was a graveyard across the street from our school and at night we went there and tried to speak to the dead, lying spread-eagled across the mounds. You could see the devil if you stared long enough into mirrors. We all got free combs on picture day. For a long time I remember being afraid of certain furniture in my house, that the plumbing was trying to suck me inside and down, that the chairs wanted to eat me alive. The birds must have been diseased that summer because the world was filled with feathers; we ran from yard to yard collecting them, comparing them at recess. Later in the fall we began to wear them, tucked behind our ears, sewn to our jackets by our mothers. Out on the lake, where no less than a year earlier we were building boats of balsa wood and paper and sinking them with rocks, we now floated naked under the moon, letting the psychosis of the cranes seep into our small heads. We were just beginning to see shapes in clouds. I remember being afraid of the cranes, because the cranes were crazy. I remember all these things, down to the details, how the angels never heard us, how the aliens never called on us, and eventually our bodies failed us and we had not choice but to grow up.

The spinning girl spun and spun and finally gave up, staring up into the sky, gasping. I walked back to the apartment and watched Ana sleep a bit longer and finally went to my room and stared up into the ceiling, wondering if it is normal enough now, if maybe the past was past, if she wouldnt notice that there was still something wrong with me. Finally I contented myself with my abilities, and if I still had my difficulties, I was certainly normal, and could handle any strangeness to arise from this situation.

It is probably for the best that it was only the next day that I learned Seth was returning to town.
(12: [/alpha] #

Over the years, people had fit coins into the cracks in the walls. Supposedly this was offerings to whatever god watched over those twelve people who walked out of the rubble when the roof collapsed, the whole far side given way under the water-weight without one casualty. The bottom of the wall is lined with chalk drawings, names of child artists and those in need of divinity. Each prior owner’s coat of paint scraped back over neglect and age to show palimpsests of ads and signs. It’s local tradition that nobody pulls the change out because the change is the only thing holding the wall up. There’s always talk some store will move into the remaining half of the building, the part still standing, but it never happens. There’s rain-washed fragments of hopscotch and four-square fields out among the yellow parking slots, the abandoned cars pushed to the far end and waiting to get towed. kamikaze’d kites up in the power lines, lost superballs in the gravel of the roof. Patron of children, and of children’s games, any god who watches this place. They entered through the garbage chute, which once had been wedged shut with a broomhandle but that had broken on repeated shoves. The lighting was out, but the moon through the holes in the ceiling shone of the linoleum and the chrome of the shelves. They spread out over the remains, through the rubble, careful not to disturb anything without worth. There were a rack of untouched gumball machines, which were pulled up from the tubing rack and hustled out back through the chute. One of them found a meat cleaver stuck in a cutting board, back in the meat department. Unlabeled cans were taken to be used as objects for window-breaking later, and two mop handles were taken to be used as weapons, should the recon mission be discovered. One of the girls was scouting for parts to build a drum from, or at least she had explained it as a drum; she called it a gamelan. Others found a satisfaction from arranging into patterns and systematically combing the store. One boy spent the entire time dismantling a coffee-grinder. At the ten minute sign, one of the children whistled and the lot of them flew back to the chute, which they climbed into and through, hauling the taking out in carts and wagons. As they were leaving, the drum-girl walked to the wall and reached up, tip-toe, and pulled a coin out of the wall. An X had been carved over the president’s image on the front. She listened, waited, then shoved the coin back in its crack, running off with the others, off and away.

The first ever Food King was build in 1935ish (my father told me, a man who felt no need for statistical accuracy as long as the basic timeline held), just down the street from my folk’s house. At the time, the local grocery stores all had local butchers, and all the meat was brought in from local farms, which meant your selection of meats was dependent on local conditions. Refrigerated railroad cars were not a new invention, but had yet to be brought en masse to the area, and with them came a selection of downright exotic meats, which is where the logo “We Are The Meat People” supposedly sprung from. It was just in front of this very Meat Department, in the world’s first Food King, where my father taught my mother how to waltz. These are the same floors where Jimmy Cheerios’s father developed his mop technique, the same floors where Ana Skyfish was born. It’s where I was working up until two months ago, employment which was terminated after I found with my boss over bounced pay checks and broken equipment, nothing interesting. But at nights, when I was locked inside, I used to sit on the back desk, in the Customer Service nook, and fixate on what a center of personal history this place was, is. All the fiction has roots in real geography, and if you wanted, I could drive you around one night and show you where everything would be, were it real. Regional Writer, indeed. All week I’ve been having what I call “glacier days”: the feeling that huge events towering over me are taking shape in the dark spaces between stars, shifting and grinding, too large to even see, much less comprehend. This always happens when I reenter social circles, and to an extent I saw it coming. As well, getting closer to finishing up the book, large pieces of my life are falling into place. But there is something else, something I can neither see nor touch, and it has me worried, worried enough that I’m shoving change in the cracks of buildings to feel like I’ve left something in this world.
(12: [/alpha] #

You Hav Never Been Pretty
After I get done puking on your lawn and having your mom come out and I take off running but fall down and your mom helps me up and wipes the puke off my mouth and asks me what I’m doing and I think maybe I’ll break down and start crying and tell her the entire story but refuse and say it’s okay and I was just looking for you and wanted to say hey though I know it’s like super-late and everything and I’m gonna walk home and just leave the car here for the night and I promise to pick it up tomorrow if it’s okay with her and she says “oh heck yeah, you’re in no condition to drive anyplace anyway” and I thank her and she tells me to keep the towel and I puke up a little more clumpy potato puke on my t-shirt and it hits me that I done really fucked up this time, the last fucking thing I’ll do is howl, howl like an animal because I want you to know I’m here and it’s not like I got any dignity left to lose anyway so why not, I guess.

Dave’s talking about how this is the first drugs he’s done since college, he went through this weird faux-adult straightedge phase for a while which I guess makes sense because with Seth begin all weirded out and all, and me being not as weirded out as Seth but still kinda weird I guess, I can see how that’d make a person do some pharmaceutical reconsideration, but so he just got back from his four-year bit in the service (where apparently he did enough drugs to kill a small village, but I guess what the fuck else you gonna do on a fucking boat for six months at a time) and so we got out the fresh needles and went to town. So later we went and sat at the Amphouse and watched people for a while and Dave talked about old times, but I kept thinking about something you told me — “It’s not your job to make me happy.” — and I kept turning that sentence over in my head like I was looking for the place to put the batteries in, like I was looking for the switch to open it. I was half-tempted to try to explain this to Dave, but maybe it was better at this point to just shut up about it. Somewhere in there we started thinking we looked awful conspicuous sitting there and not drinking so we split a pitcher and tried to get the folky couple playing acoustic guitars on the “stage” area of the floor to play holiday in Cambodia. Three pitchers later Dave got lost in the bathroom and puked on the floor and decided it was time for us to leave, which we eventually did, keeping ourselves vertical by balancing ourselves on the bar and the people standing by the bar and making a mad dash from the end of the bar the entire five feet to the doorway, which was quite an accomplishment. Cocky from out success with traversing the bar floor, we stumbled to my car and made it all the way along the river back to Waterloo before I realized what a screwy idea my driving was and I looked for a place to park, curiously enough right in front of your house.

Someday you’re gonna look back on this and laugh.
(12: [/alpha] #

The Pres
To this day I’ve never heard of any country called Morgal, found no mention in any atlas, but The Pres. assures me this is due to the laughably inadequate mental capabilities of my culture. "No place to fit it into your people’s maps, you mean! God help there should be a country not designed by your Central Infamy Agency!" he spits, a zone of empty seats around him as businessmen and vacationers sift to a farther orbit. His suits may once have been regal, but the fraying at the edges tells of how long he’s been here, at least as long as anyone I’ve talked to can remember, washing his body in the lower showers and his clothes in the sink, keeping a slipping grip on the status of the world via papers stolen from the cafe. The President of the State of Morgal in exile has been a lunch partner of mine every Sunday, ever since I first heard his story during the week I worked out here at the airport (fired for betting on pinball during my lunch break).

“The destruction of nostalgia by a false architecture, based around symbolic form-cages, Dresden china eggs, Mondrian squares. Infinity as desired aesthetic effect, warp replacing flat plane. Architecture is the only art form from which we cannot e scape. Desire as sympathetic magic, the concept of separating the interiors of our living environments by symbolic mindstates instead of around our technology-the t.v. room, the washing room, the terminal room are now replaced by lust, post-consumer plast ibliss, oblivion. We now find ourselves in a world in which emotion can no longer be separated from the gestalt of anywhere.”

“The delicate thud of gunfire heard from the secure side of a plexiglass bubble rushed past me, crying at my desk, perfectly lit and framed for post-positional PR. Flakes of paint fall from the public side of the bubble, creating eye-sized peepholes in the wall of graffiti surrounding the House of Government. Video camera lenses attach themselves to the holes in the blind tourist hope of catching high dollar raw feed. I. tried to think my way through a phenobarbituate haze until the thought of martyrdom hits like a sniper bullet, cleanly penetrating his hindbrain. A look overcomes him, the same look anyone who has found a way of understanding a basically nonunderstandable situation eventually discovers.”

“We had graffiti artists paid by communiprop lackeys to translate the only remaining means of communication in the southern ghettoes into an Orwellian nursery. Along walls and ceilings my face, distorted as though the skull was perfectly round, perfectly endless, float like bodies lost to the tide through a field of constantly mutating text — THERE ARE THOUGHTS NO PATRIOT SHOULD HAVE NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF CONSTANT SELF-MONITORING IS THE MEANS BY WHICH WE KEEP OUR NEIGHBORHOODS PURE. Said artists became threatened by both sides of the political spectrum, a disgrace to their once-friends and families and a potential threat to the forces they serve. Suicide rate amongst such artists was up to sixty percent, murder rate nearly fifteen during pre-election months. Such a challenge, inspiring the young people.”

The left-right polarization of American politics becomes a loop, positions scattered around the circumference of The Pres., who has established a kind of ersatz dictatorship through the decisive use of Masters-Johnson reports to exploit sublimated erotic impulses toward submission to a greater power throughout the previous campaign. Said devices only work once, after which they travel the routes of all technology, down through state and local elections, then throughout the third and, finally, the second world countries, where Americans watch in horror as direct feed CNN International shows how there poor people are exploited by psychological devices.

Marxian hive theory has taken on new meaning for The Pres. while watching a broadcast of George Bush (whom, The Pres. informs me, is one of three genetic surrogates designed for public speaking and other dangerous tasks, altered somewhat in face and skull structure, diminished rhetorical capabilities and, perhaps most importantly, each marked with a bar code in the small of the back in the unlikely event of a coup by imitation) wander through the hallways of City 619, a low-income housing project consisting of a massive complex of apartments, fast-food restaurants and Welfare stores — Welfare works, as all state projects do, on a failed credit system instituted by Citibank in 1998, scrapped and sold cheap to HUD, thus no longer allowing, in theory at least, for use of money given to Welfare recipients for non-necessary means. The truth of this is quite the opposite: credit dealers readily buy up Welfare credit accounts in exchange for black market merchandise, the accounts then being spent en masse buying wholesale amounts of technological equipment, sold to people in cities like 619 for a price slightly under exorbiant State prices. With the continuing cuts in Welfare payments, more and more people turn to this alternate system in order to keep somewhat fed. Bush organized a series of committees to investigate command structure in insect communities, which sums to playing earsplitting loops of insect clicks and drones around the clock throughout City 619. In the broadcast Bush walked along the hallways of one of the transient hubs, hands over his ears except for hand-shaking of the thousands of previously unemployed inhabitants now busy installing and maintaining the drone-speaker system. "Your Mister Bush has some of the Quixotic nature. You’ll be seeing him in the waiting room of a hospital or a hotel lobby soon.”

“And then I was informed by the cabinet that profanity is the way to reach the average street person — an auto wreck of street thug ‘organization’ slang, gutter humor and feral grunts, but the stupid pig-people don’t want that from their godhead. I went all wild with the new vernacular during the next State of the Union address to a stunned populace. One week later I’m on the air (once again cancelling top-rated program “Fuck Junkies form Planet Yoni”, never a shrewd move for a political figure hanging so tenuously to his approval rating) “with my homies M.C. Information Paradigm and D.J. Skullfuck at my motherfuckin’ back, you slimy nothin’-ass sellout commie traitors!”. For the first time in fifteen years the polls had me at 49%. The reincarnated Zombie-Duvalier refused to have lunch with me anymore. It was all, how you say, downhill.”

“The Pres. begins to have dreams about his life after politics. He awakens from a dream consisting of an endless string of orphanage girls crawling through broken glass and used syringes in order to give him gifts of their mouths to find himself in an airport. He has no ticket, has no luggage, and has no destination. He walks to the bathroom and relieves himself, happy that no one notices him yet terrified that his Secret Service agents are nowhere to be seen. The thought that their utter professionalism allows them to blend so completely into the scenery reassures him-the critical aspect for employment in the Shining Fist is anonymity-and releases into the bowl the usual stream of blood, semen and urine. He walks to a lunch counter and eats. He wanders around, never seeing the same terminals twice. The sense of endlessness gives him a sense of inner peace. He sits and reads three-month old magazines, blankly running his fingers autistically across the scar at the base of his skull, twitching and uncomprehending whenever he reads his own name in print. He falls asleep in the chair, awaking exactly eight hours later to do the same. Repetition is the highest form of meditation for The Pres. He awakens every morning to find two hundred dollars in his left coat pocket, but the thought of catching a flight or a cab never crosses his mind. Soon his memories dry up and blow away until he cannot even remember himself as being The Pres. The increasing effects of a time-lapse Alzheimer’s DNA prion, perhaps , weaves his life into perfection until he wanders naked through the terminal singing “Hail to the Chief”, his only remaining verbal cluster, and drops dead.”

He awakens to find himself covered in blood, semen and urine. The Pres. obtains a dramatic fear of dreaming and begins a barrage of CNS depressants just before sleep in order to avoid conscious dreaming. After six hours he is injected with dextroamphetamine resin complex. This cycle of medication affords him a sense of order but wreaks havoc on his nervous system. The results in his mental stability become obvious.

The Pres. was once asked in a press conference given from his hospital bed what his definition of morality entails. The Pres. told me he had a curious sensation of intangibility, which correlates to thinking about walking — once each step becomes a conscious thought, the entire system breaks down. The closer he came to putting this network into words the less substantial it becomes. The Pres. remembers that dissection is not possible without the death of the subject. A severe tremor rips through the entire room and The Pres. instigates a complete House of Government media blackout for three days while he and the cabinet go into special session. The Pres. developed an irrational fear od the word “morality”, the very mention of which sends him into a fugue state. Needless to say, the PR damage of the past few months increased exponentially.

The Pres. holds the press legions hostage within The Presidential Compound, each member finding little solace in the shallow corners and angles of the room. The Pres. stands above them on a semicircular table, arms stretched back schitzophrenically behindhis head, one leg inches from the faux oak surface. The cameras find him through the wall, his infrared image so well known by this point as to identify him by the populance on first sight. The remaining members of the cabinet — those who have not either resigned to live off gov. stipends in the Carribean or those who have been liquidated by either SF guards or privately hired police forces — young white trash thugs given badges and guns and paychecks on the first and fifteenth in order to search and destroy any subversives who are not with the game plan (from advertisement, New World Securities, as seen in The New York Times), are on bended knees, praying outside the door. One can only speculate just what they are praying for. The Pres. tells them half-remembered childhood stories, hide-and-seek, throwing rocks at foriegners, his first kiss. The words slow and stop.It is completed, he sighs, knowing he has not nor will ever be forsaken. The room fills with white light.

“Now I am here. Everything is so much simpler now.”
(12: [/alpha] #

In 1992 I was in the snacketeria of Quadrangle dorm in Iowa City, where I was talking to this girl I knew from my Intro to Philosophy class, and she had seen me do this improv thing (I did a lot of that sort of thing, for a while), and we were walking over to one of the study rooms, where rows of wooden desks from the teaching college that burned down in ‘38 soak up florescent light, which were strangely off, and I felt weird, that this girl I only kinda knew and I were walking into this dark room, and the pressure of the pneumatic door-hinge was set really low, and so this big heavy door fell shut behind me, and somehow her hand was caught in the door. At the time, I was working on a kind of strategy where every day I was convinced there was a “critical moment”, in which my actions would become an integral part of my life, would set forth a path, and I had to be prepared all the time for that day’s moment. This idea, pretty obviously, completely ruined me for any “real” writing and played into my technical apathy and my laziness into making me the little three-paragraph writer I am today. So instantly I knew that this girl’s hand getting caught in the door was that day’s critical moment (which I knew was coming, as getting my desk drawer stuck wasn’t much of a critical moment though I tried to come to it with complete mindfulness and not getting frustrated and made sure to completely fix the drawer so it wouldn’t happen again. Here, however, I didn’t have the time to think through what needed to be done. If you assembled a panel of women who have played an ongoing role in my life (which would be hilarious, and would probably end in drunken prank phone calls) hands-down there would be agreement that I’m notoriously bad in the clutch, generally out of touch with what’s actually going on, and while I think my spaceboy days are over (thank god), I’m still a bit thick, and generally have to explain and apologize for things half an hour after the fact, when I finally realize that, yes, I fucked up. That said, I do think there’s an out to any circumstance, at least one thing one can do which would be perfect, would completely counterbalance and capture everyone involved. I used to call this “narrative disease”, this notion that things should work in the world the way they do in a story, and if I make fun of that in some things I’m mostly laughing at myself. So she’s on the other side of the door, and I can hear her yell “Fuck!” really loudly, but it sounded a bit muddied through the door. I reached for the doorhandle, and I also tried to reach for the light switch, because for some reason it seemed important now for the lights to be on, I’m not sure why. So I pull the door open, and was trying not to physically look for the switch, but just grope for it with my right hand, and she was standing there, holding her left hand with her right hand, and she laughed a little, but she was definitely pissed off, and I was convinced that if I was just present, and didn’t overthink it, I would just naturally do the right thing.

My natural unthought Zen response was “You wanna go to my room and get some ice?”

The lesson, for that day, was my inner voice is retarded, which is just as true today as it was nine years ago.
(12: [/alpha] #

How My Parents Met
So anyway right after my dad got out of the navy and right before he totaled his convertible (long story, another time) he was hanging out in Jim’s, local waterloo down-by-the-Cedar bar some Saturday night playing a drunken game of what probably started out as darts but by this time had become Stick Larry In The Ass, a local Jim’s tradition ever since Larry Heinous made it “his place”. So in walks this guy who has that used to be a biker but sobered up and now is doing AA and making god’s eyes and bad hippie art but tonight he’s gonna drink every last motherfucker in the place beneath the floorboards look to him, and so no big deal ‘cept there’s a flock of waitresses from over at the local Bishops giggling and passing around some piece of paper, and Big Biker Motherfucker goes over and looks at the paper and starts laughing like there’s nothing funny at all and so my dad (who’s nothing if not a gentleman, see) who’s been drinking like everclear/cuervo/jaegermeister/purple kool-aid mixers since about eleven that morning staggers up and tells BBMF to go peddle his apples on some other street and BBMF looks him dead in the eye (that’s the exact phrase my dad uses when he tells this story, “dead in the eye”) and says, no, belches “man, don’t you know who I am, sailor-boy?” — see, pops still had his crew cut and his big ol’ heavy shoremans jacket which he gave to my cousin Brian who promptly lost it ensuring it would never reach my father’s progeny and first-born heir, me, but so anyway my uncle Kenny comes up behind him and spits out “‘makes you think we give two red shits who the fuck you are?” and BBMF bellows out “man, I’m Satan, you fucks! the king of all evil hisself!” and there isn’t a person in Jim’s who thinks this guy is kidding, I mean everyone there knows that this is Satan who had nothing better to do on a slow night than pick up waitresses in some midwest straight-from-boilermakers “you want an umbrella in your drink? man, you keep that shit up and you’re gonna have your balls floating in that fucking drink” hayseed bar, maybe he’s a local, who even knows. So my dad, right, he looks the prince of darkness right in the eye and says “Listen, Satan, how about you and me step outside.” Now my dad isn’t always the brightest guy but common logic would pretty much hold that you gotta be dumber than me to go fight Satan, I mean he’s got unholy powers and he’s got legions of demons and arch-demons and all kindsa ghastly dante’ shit to back him up and plus he cheats. But when it comes down to a mono e mono bare-knuckle streetfight, Satan ain’t really no jackie chan; hell, he ain’t even no chow yun fat. Satan hasn’t had to kick any serious ass in a while and is really out of practice, and he’d had a few shots before hassling the waitresses, and unlike my dad, whose reflexes and raw tooth-and-claw fighting skills only improved w/alcohol, Satan got kinda sloppy and left himself open for a few really wicked kidney punches. So they’re out there in the back parking lot mixing it up and the cops show up w/a priest in tow because apparently Satan has been pulling this bit quite a bit lately and so father martin hops out of the car and goes into his bad exorcist spiel and Satan does the full b-movie jack chick bit and points at my dad, saying “i’llget you, man, I’ll get you But bad, mister sailor hotrod boy!” and disappears in a cloud of sulfur and toads. So one of the waitresses comes out and starts talking to my dad, and they hit it off, and they got hitched, and you don’t need to be Paul Harvey to know the rest of the story.

The point here is that this Saturday, when I took a header down a flight of stairs and fucked up my knee, I swear I could hear Satan laughing. Now you may think I’m paranoid, and you’d be right; I am. But you’d be paranoid too if your dad was on Lucifer’s bad side.
(12: [/alpha] #

I once knew a woman who fucked up her legs mountain climbing (well, more precisely, a woman who got drunk at a grad party and said “hey! let’s go climb the rocks!”) and has since learned to walk again and can cover short spaces fairly easily but cannot dance. One weekend, all wigged out, she installed a series of ring-ended ropes into the ceiling of her apartment (to her landlord’s displeasure, but fuck, what’s he gonna say?) and has learned how to dance, hanging and swinging from ring to ring like a little kid. It’s actually quite nice, once you get used to the notion of your partner’s arms being straight up instead of around you, the muscles in her arms growing more defined each time you dance.

I once knew a kid who gave me money for milk on a day I had lost mine, a kid I had never really known outside of hallway-nods and shared laughs at class-jokes, no reason to be kind at all. The next day he had moved away. Where did you go?

I once knew a man who could fake his own death. He moved into an apartment across the street from the hospital and instead of calling a cab home he’d just call a 911 on himself. He’s a millionaire now.

I once knew a baby who smelled like amethyst and blackberries. This was no dietary fluke, no scneted diapers, it was just a natural smell, just as I once knew a boy who smelled of chocolate and feces, just as I once knew a girl whose cunt smelled of chicken soup. As the baby grew out of babydom, the scent faded but remained, like a polio scar or an infantile shame, and the children tried to find nicknames for the scented kid, but nothing ever came to mind, all aukward and apologetic, and the kid grew older, until the scent was just barely detectable, the nose against damp skin, the tongue in all the sour places, and no one would ever truly believe, confused, so certain it was a soap, so afraid to believe in small things.

I once knew a woman who spent a year in a containment camp. This camp aspired to all the trappings of culture and thus needed a symphony. Members of the camp who had musical training were auditioned and assigned instruments, the finest instruments available in wartime conditions. The symphony was allowed to stay in special barracks and eat better food to insure their health: dignitaries and high-ranking military brass regularly visited the camp and half the symphony out with dysentery simply wouldn’t be acceptable. Over time, the members of the symphony were allowed to play pieces they had written themselves, so as to further show off the abilities inherent in the lesser peoples once exposed to a true culture. These pieces were lullabies, and were honed over time to a narcotic efficiency. The members of the camp fell asleep midway through the performances, sleeping longer and longer as the band’s talents improved, until whole days passed in a stupor. Other prisoners began using these lulls as escape potentials, and by the time the camp was “liberated” at war’s end, half the population of the camp had vanished into the surrounding area, coming out and laughing with the freed prisoners as a shared joke the liberating army couldn’t understand.

I once knew a man who went out into the woods and dug himself a grave in the soft earth by the lake. On days when the notion of dying came to him, gathered at his door, he’d get in his car and drive out along the abandoned highway, walk through the fields and lay for a while in his grave, staring at the light-patterns in the trees.

I once knew two theives who did not know they were theives. I didn’t have a place to stay after everything had gone wrong up north, so for a while i slept in my friend Yusef’s van while he was at work, during the day, eating quarter-loaves of bread and rice i’d make in the Quik Trip microwave (I think the girl who was working there had a thing for me, or (more likely) just didn’t care). While I was sleeping in Yusef’s van the van was broken into. Two young men started removing the stereo. I kept thinking I shouldn’t move, but I was scooting on my back down closer to them, legs first. I kicked one in the back of the head, which fractured the windshield, while grabbing the other, who began screaming, dropping tools. “The fuck is wrong with you, man?” said the first, dabbing blood from his forehead with his shirt sleeve. “You’re stealing the radio! Fucking theives!” “Stealing? No, no, we’re recall technicians. You know how when you go in tunnels or under bridges the reciever goes out? That’s our fault. And the company won’t spring for replacements, so we’ve been going around ourselves and fixing it. Doesn’t take more than five minutes.” “So why you breaking in, then? Crook! Claimer of false integrity!” “Because we don’t want anyone to know, right?” said the other, after I let go of his throat. “Like maybe it was a fluke or something like that. We take pride in our work. I mean, if you’re dead-set on not getting it done, we’ll just go.” Figuring Yusef would want such a thing done, I let them finish up, watching them closely, until after a couple minutes they were done and left. I told Yusef, but he didn’t believe me. Nobody ever believes me.

I once knew the scavengers who lived at the far end of the field of abandoned carriages, who often died suddenly, before old age could claim them. Those closest to the corpse at the moment of death were obligated to strip and clean the corpse, getting first claim on pieces of the body, which they would cut and pull from their own bodies, replacing the corpse’s parts with root-grafts and mud, until the scars were barely visible. Thus, the loved ones of the corpse could see pieces of them continue on, see the hands on other arms, hear the heart beat beneath someone else’s skin, stare into swirling and confused eyes shoved in someone else’s skull.

I once knew the weaving-machines which had been liberated from the automated assembly station out by the radio towers, up in the trees, binding strands of plastic-wrap and newspaper to the leafless branches. Sometimes two of the weaving-machines would come across each other, grasping at each other with servo-arms, falling from the trees, stripping parts from each other to weave packaging out of ribbon-wire and insulation.

I once knew a woman who served as an assistant baker in a bakery where I used to work. I am certain that she has a story, but I have yet to figure out what it is.
(12: [/alpha] #

The Ballad Of Pamela Bambelam
Pamela Bambelam thinks she may have inadvertently sold her soul at some point in the past year. She’s generally not the sort of person to do something so foolish, but she’s been in a haze, a kind of stupor for the past couple years, since the bottom fell out of the life she had planned and she entered freefall. She draws small lines in the winter-dry skin on her arm and stares out the window. Maybe she’s looking for her soul. Only I get the feeling that even if she saw her soul, it’d look different, the way a cow that’s been cut and dressed and cleaned doesn’t really look much like a cow anymore. But everyone tells me I’m a cynic. Maybe it’ll come floating to her in the breeze, a severed kite, a balloon with little chocolate fingerprints all over the bottom of the string. Maybe. I do still pray, at night, when I can’t sleep, and this is one of those things I pray for, my suppositions, quiet petitions. It’s questionable.

Pamela comes from a place where you can see the rusted skeletons of old Chevys out in the river, out where ex-bikers with missing fingers spend the money they got for their Harleys and the rest of the mortgage on meth labs and shotguns, where rope-swings hang over the ice and the shore and the ice-fishing shacks. It’s probably a lot like where you come from. Camaros with putty in the DUI-dents all along the front end, chest-bruises that ache when you breathe, that dry-stuffed skull feeling when you’re still getting used to the tricyclics. I’d been kindasorta pretending I was a writer for a while, staying up and working out my little windup revenges for imagined faults and betrayals I couldn’t even pick out of a lineup today, and I was convinced that this process gave me some small modicum of what other people refer to as wisdom. Now the last thing Pamela needed from me was any of this claptrap, but I was alternating between bad crystal and Cornhusker vodka and skipping all my classes at UNI around this time and just fucking rambled off at the mouth every single time I had an opportunity. I won’t bug you with what I actually said, mostly because I’m embarrassed to admit it and partially because I don’t completely remember what it was I said. What I wish I had said, what I’d say if she were still around to go driving all night out by the factories and train depots and tell me all her dreams, what I’d tell her is that all the problems and shitty parts and bad days and days when you’re a mess and can’t talk to anyone and keep thinking you’re a complete fucking loon, that’s your soul. It’d be nice if it wasn’t, if you could take these pieces and put them in a box and keep them in the backyard and only have the good parts available for public display and private reassurance. When I was younger I thought maybe this was about being proud of things like that, and so I spent a lot of time doing really stupid things so I’d have lots of stupid ugly things to be proud of, but after a while I started thinking that my ugly parts are really not interesting. They’re not bad, or good, and spending all this time dealing with them in any fashion was time lost forever. So now I drive around and get in adventures, and Pamela stares out the window, getting ready to leave my life again.

I’d been in town for about half a year before I bumped into Pamela Bambelam, who’d married this guy who designed parts for an injection molding system, which is apparently a pretty solid gig, according to Pamela, who was still giddy with the new familial structure her nuptials had afforded her. “We had to get one of these suburban utility assault vans just to get the stuff moved into the new house, and for the baby” she said, and smiled.

She asked me what I was up to, and normally in these situations I tell an extended string of elaborate lies, mostly for the entertainment value, but strange things had been happening to me lately and I opted to be honest. We unspokenly agreed that no good would come of any further discussion of the empty spaces in my life and instead shifted back to her giddy-nervous bliss, the meta quality she used to talk about domestics shopping, the “I can’t believe how corny this is but it’s really wonderful” thing that smears newlyweds around my age who are still unsure if getting married means they can’t go dancing to bad local bands anymore. When I bump into her in a couple months she’ll want to go out drinking, wanna get high in the back of the Suburban Assault Vehicle, wanna wear something tight enough to bounce in, certain that being a wife doesn’t mean she’s, y’know, a wife. Maybe after the first baby we can smoke crack in the garage and fuck viciously against the toolbench, but most likely she’ll be done with the nostalgia I afford, all the shine rubbed off college hijinx, no purpose left in the non-threatening flirting we’d been using as a filler for the uncomfortable silences for so many years now.

There’s a word for it, an Italian word, for the leftover echo of feelings for someone you once loved. Razbliuto. I tried to remember how to spell that word as I watched her walk away.

Pamela has never known this much darkness. Not in her childhood bedroom, fearful of other world inside the closet. Not when her friends and her drove around on Wednesday night, out in some small outlying town, when the electric cables froze and cracked, all the lights gone out, the empty spaces behind all the windows swallowed up and gone. Not when she turned from the screen, the heels of her hands holding the hollows of her eyes, thinking up horrors infinitely worse and endlessly more personal than the wash of corn syrup and latex up on the screen. Not when the doctor put her under, trying so hard to hold onto consciousness, to see what they were going to do to her, wanting to be there when her body changed, as curious as when she was in high school, keeping a log of her fecal and menstrual characteristics. These were all darknesses smeared with a muddied light, peeking in from cracks and corners, coming out of her skin. This is something else entirely.

In college, Pamela was somewhat smitten with a girl named Rissa, who had set up the International Blindfold Chess Championship Pro-Team, consisting primarily of games played by herself in a sub-level hinter-access wing of the Union, back where obsolete dumb terminals and splintered desks fill the tunnels and troublesome student radicals chained to broken boiler-parts ask if Jimi’s new album is out yet. Figuring this was, at heart, a ploy to meet new and experimentation-friendly others, Pamela decided to check it out after Chem, finding the G bank of elevators, getting a pass key from an off-looking janitor with facial scars and the scent of beeswax, taking a side-hallway where someone had drawn cross-sections of insects and genitalia on the blackboards, down a metal spiral staircase to what must once have been an indoor training room for the track team, barely ducking into a janitor’s closet in to to avoid being run down by a pack of dogs (or, at least, what looked like dogs), before finally reaching a freshly-scrubbed room containing a table, two chairs, a chessboard with handmade pieces, and a girl who said, before so much as hello, “Everything you think you know about chess: forget it! All that weak-ass strategy and tactics your little woodpushin’ friends were impressed with is all shit! You must first climb out of the hole of knowledge before you can ascend the escalator of wisdom!” “I don’t really know anything about—”

“Then you must forget what you don’t know!”


“Ahhhh, you know perfectly well what I’m talking about. You’re a hustler! You silly freshman tart, you think you can hustle me?”

“Maybe. In a different way.”

Which is how Pamela met Rissa. Pamela still doesn’t know anything about chess, including blindfold chess, and isn’t entirely convinced Rissa’s “circular strategy” style is actually legitimate, though she’d never dare tell her to her face. Rissa can be a bit intimidating, at times. Which is why Pamela is down here, in the blackness.

I was at Pamela’s house visiting her father, who was stopping through town on some nature of business. Such an ideal father-daughter relationship! How absolutely miraculous it must be to spend time with a beautiful woman who loves you very much without the inevitable ensnarements and sunken terrors of sexual attraction! Having a daughter must be a wonderful thing! All these years of celibacy and naysaying; what was I thinking?

“We’re gonna get some ice cream at that new place. You coming or you gonna pilfer more books out of the basement?”

“I’m not pilfering, I’m borrowing. I’m nothing if not thoughtful of the proper home of belongings. Your dad seems cool with it.”

“Help yourself. Shit, bring a truck. I’ll never read any of that crap again.”

“What do you want with old advertising magazines from the sixties anyway? Are you up to something?”

“Pamela. You have to stop thinking I’m always up to something. I’m done with all that now. I’m a model citizen.”

“Look at him, Dad. Look at the way his eyes dart around when he lies.”

“Weren’t we getting ice cream?”

“Yes! Come on, boys, there’s yummy milkfat to be had!”

How utterly charming it must be! How overly and ludicrously sentimental I’ve become over a seemingly simple thing! I need to have me a child immediately!

Pamela had a few months when she didn’t sleep much. She wasn’t paranoid, or busy, or out of her mind on dope and speed more than usual; it was just something she half-decided not to do anymore, the way you sometimes drive home on different streets than usual. She wasn’t really talking to people at the time, but the few conversations she did have seemed willfully obscure and difficult. She wrote a number of letters to people she hadn’t spoken to in years, some of whom were dead. After a while she wasn’t really awake, and she wasn’t really asleep, and it was all she could do to not do anything, to sit, to maintain flight speed. Pamela had a nervous tic of tapping her pen point-down on the top of her desk, leaving a circle of dots whose density could be used to gauge that day’s nervousness, at least until she was in the midst of a furious phone call to the money-people in Toronto (of all places) when she jabbed the pen into her right calf, absolutely terrifying the money people who were convinced another disgruntled American nut was shooting up the office, so while Pamela waited for the ambulance (everybody biked or walked or bussed to work, it was that kind of office) the private-sector security force sweeped the office and nearly ended the short life of one of the new phone support kids who was walking briskly with scissors, forbidden by contract and resulting in a zero-tolerance dismissal policy. One of the production people called one of the security guards a “fascist” and soon enough the two of them were slap-fighting out in the hallway, knocking over plastic plants and faux-outsider assemblages. During this time no actual work was being accomplished, as the money people could tell from their elaborate real-time productivity metering software, and thus they came to the logical conclusion that the entire staff had been killed by the lone gunman, thus taking the entire office offline, rerouting phones and mail to feeder offices and checking to make sure the automated employee funeral FTD script was still running. Since the power was still on (the money people had offices throughout the entire building, and could not shut down specific areas exclusively), the employees (including a bandaged Pamela, what a trooper) came back to work to find a delightfully slow day at the office.

This went of for years, the employees growing tired of waiting for work and forming an interoffice encounter group to talk of their lingering traumas over “the incident”, even bringing in the security guard in question to facilitate a renegotiation on personal accountability issues, ending in a tearful group hug, interrupted when the money people pulled their last office out of the building and had it nuked from orbit.

So I got into this party by convincing the kid at the door that I was Einstein’s great-grandson, which no one in their right mind should have believed but it was already one and everybody had been drinking since noon, and besides my good friend Pamela Bambelam was with me, and it’s not like any clown is gonna not invite in Pamela no matter how suspect her entourage (that’s me) may be. Now I had been all depressed because I had been convinced I made everybody else depressed both in the shit I write and in my general presence and this had convinced me that I was evil, which sounds kinda over-the-top, but that’s how I felt, and so Pamela convinced me we should sneak into some shitty suburb party as that would make me feel better, and what the fuck, I’d go to a rhubarb convention so long as it got me out of the house. Pamela is an attention magnet, which has its downsides, but it’s always been interesting for me, as the attention people pay Pamela is attention they don’t pay me, which allows me to watch from a distance, to observe people in the presence of someone who intoxicates and confuses them, which is always good for laughs. At this party, however, the storehouse of attention had been wiped clean by too many days spent holding onto the last bit of spring break, which had ended days before, but would not officially be over until these people slept, and it was clear no one was going to sleep until the bodies collapsed. I realized instantly that these people, lost weight and hair and hope, needed a leader who could promise the abolishment of tomorrow for an everpresent today, an immortality formed from a barricading against the sunlight, against the slouching of the rough beast known as the waking world, and heartsick as I was of the endless compromise and apology my life had become there was no other option but to make my last stand and my paradise on earth in the basement of some collegiate group-home just off campus among those who had seen the big lie of the fast-falling future. Pamela, who knows me better than any god or government, immediately knew her plan had gone awry, and had already slammed her third drink by the time I started my speech.
(12: [/alpha] #

Putting Your Life In Someone Else’s Hands
The thing we most remember, obviously, was the plane crash just up the road. We were out playing, watching, listening to the long tear in the sky reach a zero up in Feldman’s fields, the crack of the trees and steel. We were on our bikes and heading down county road V5G within seconds, all eager to witness, to be of some help. A wake in the corn starting back on the road spread as the fuselage came apart, the left wing split, the grove around the small empty pond bent left, the path of a small piloted tornado. There were police there before we had a chance to properly enter the cornfield, and contented ourselves with watching trucks rush along the culverts, twilight fading, eventually riding home after the roadway grew too crowded for comfortable observation of other people’s tragedies.

Later, after the work had been done, we went out to the field, stooping under the tape and beng careful nto to knock over the wooden stakes, looking for clues, for a reason such a crash would occur here, where nothing ever happened. We thought of stealing something, but nothing left seemed to carry the center of what had happened, so we kept coming back each weekend until all the pieces had been stolen away from us, all the traces of recall and strategy pulled away, nothing left but the scars in the earth. We started pulling pieces from the abandoned pile of Studebakers down by the burial pond and dragging them out to the crash-site, trying to redefine what we had seen with the limited means available to us. There was a scrapyard over in Washburn, and with the help of an older friend with a car and no friends his own age we snuck over the sheet-metal fencing, pulling whatever looked under the moonlight like controls, like flaps and spoilers, like shreds of fuselage stuck in the earth.

A year later survivors of the original crash came out to the site to remember, or to put it behind them, or maybe just to match up their memories to the place. Feldman was so spooked he had abandoned this whole square from the road to the grove, a second lighter crop poking up from leftover seed, grass and foxtail between the rows catching at their feet as they wandered onto the site, all the kids laying out and soaking up sun on a timeless pointless early-summer day stuck somewhere between missions and sugar-laden intrigues. Trains out on the Great Western, just barely within range, filled the quiet around the passengers, staring at us, speechless. Eventually we realized we were being watched, and looked up.

Later they turned the empty field into a bar, the only bar within walking distance when I was twenty-nine and decided to take my hermiting to its logical conclusion, retreating to the woods. When one retreats to the woods, one should not hang around in crash victim bars (or any bars, for that matter), as it makes the whole notion of retreat kinda laughable, but there I was, sucking down small bottles of off-market vodka with my new peer group, photographs of our mock site next to newspaper clippings and a polariod of Duane Berryberry, who once accidentally played there when his Amphouse gig was cancelled due to arson and curses. People had forgotten me, unsuprisingly, and I looked in vain for a small me staring back out of the pictures. I knew these people would never come into contact with my friends, my family, the people who were looking for me. Only it’s Iowa, and Iowa is a small world.

Most of my friends were gone. Josef had gone up to Minnesota and killed himself. Seth was gone, gone away, nobody knew where. Ana was sick and not seeing anyone, her hair gone, the promise of the benign faded. the circus had disbanded, Harold and Lawrence reunited and no longer in fear of the Cult of the Yellow Sign. Everybody else was grown up or in jail or dead. Almost everybody. There were still two associates still unaccounted for, as of my last day in the world. I should have known.

“YOU! How utterly fitting that you’ve cocooned in the nest of other people’s pain, so like you, swiping their stories in their sleep and imagining the maudlin applause fo those who wonder where you are. Shaaaaaame!”

“Tell him, Rissa! Shaaaaaaaaaame!”

“You’re not even drinking real booze! What kind of alcoholic nose-dive is this? William Holden wouldn’t drink sippy-cup size vodka bottles! Dylan Thomas could get drunk faster on his own piss than this swill-ale the infirm and forgotten have made their house brand!”

I barely mumbled something about crash survivors and respect then Rissa, who I always had a crush on (and yeah, you can get plenty of miles of psychoanalysis out of that), rapped me across the forehead with her cane (she had started carrying a cane as the best possible legal weapon, though the nails she had pounded through the base weren’t quite cricket) and screamed “That was twenty years ago! Enough is enough, you sad sodden sorry sacs of sympathy-sick…”

“Scallywags, Rissa?”

“Owen, please. I’m building to a secondary crescendo here. I can’t very well use that Bluebeard action at this point; something more striking is called for.”

“Violence ahoy! I got the gas!”

“No no no! I still have another ten minutes of material!”

Long before there was any cance to properly build, however, Owen had poured gas and kicked over candles and screamed [Owen would like me to inform the audience that he did not really pour any gas or kick over any candles and is only said to do such a thing in order to wrap up what is obviously a poorly thought out conclusion; he has better and more noble things to do with his time than set bars on fire without a decent reason] while we ran out, attempting to destroy history-roots, to free people to the present.

Only that moment, that present, fades. There is no holding on.
(12: [/alpha/owenrissa] #

Rissa: Vomit
The body is confused, it doesn’t understand food. the acid taste sticks in my throat. dry heaves, the bucket and towels, arms wrapped around, getting it out, hidden poisons. i’ll never drink seven up again. i am so tired. cleaning up, fighting the want to fall down, the cool of the tile beneath my knees. i know this. this is how my body has acted for years and years. it’s strange, how comfortable this feels, how much sending cereal into a brown streak into the water feels like home.

She’s driving circles out on the highway, business routes in orbits around the outskirts, she’s making calls to people she barely remembers asking for bits of shared memory. she’s not looking for anything. she’s just scared, now that she has nothing to do, no way to fill up her time.

Rissa was trying to teach me how to play gigantic on the bass, which is an easy thing to learn, but i couldn’t pay any attention, and after a while she told me that’s it, that’s enough, you need something to get all this crap out of your head, all these bad ideas, all these fears, and soon enough i was throwing up again, and it felt all right to me.

“Now you’re gonna start all over again.”

“but that’s all i ever do is start all over again! i never get anywhere!”

“aw, don’t get snippity with me. here, have a ham sammich.”

“rissa, fuck off! nobody pukes and eats ham sammiches!”

“you’ll be the first! that was always such a big deal for you.”

“nooo! i’m having a popsicle. you eat whatever you want.”

“how is eating a popsicle doing something new?”

“it’s not. i’m done doing the new thing. i’m done starting over.”

“you don’t say.”

“i do say!”

“what are you doing, then?”

“i’m being careful. this is a time for being careful.”

“i don’t know anything about being careful, tho.”

“i know. that’s why you’re my friend.”

“get your popsicle and get in the car. there’s something you should see.”

We went out on the interstate to the edge of town, where orange barriers had been erected over the road, giant signs reading NO EXIT taller than we were.


“yeah, so there’s no going away.”

“that’s fine. as you may have heard, i have shit to do here.”

“yeah, that’s what god said. you should be less rude.”

“i was all in a snit. i’ll have to write an apology note.”

“so what are you gonna do, then?”

“getting together a new army out of insects and wind.”

“you’re still on that?”

“mostly it’s just backup. i’ll be needing backup.”

“whyfor, fair prince?”

“i have a big project coming up. and i need to finish old projects.”

“so you’re back on the job.”

“yeah. not writing made me feel creepy and evil.”


“yeah. it was no good. i had to spend too much time with myself.”

“wasn’t that the plan?”

“yeah. but it was stupid. i need to stick with the work.”

“obviously, i’m glad to hear that.”


“so i’ve been reading richter-goldberg and i don’t get it.”

“yeah. i been really slack.”

“can you maybe give me a plotline or something?”

“um…maaaaaaybe. but you can’t tell anybody.”

“like anybody cares. sheeesh.”

“a’ight, here’s year zero:

Josef Ephraim, born in 1972, lived a fairly uninteresting life through his high-school years. Spent time with friends from his neighborhood: Seth, Jackson, Jay-Jay. Had a short-lived senior year relationship with Loyola Jehovah. Spent two years at university, where he met and became non-romantically entangled with Ana Skyfish, we think, though it’s hard to tell. Flunked out of school, spent next few years working at the burial pond, at the rest stop, doing some industrial work out of town. Came back into contact with Seth, who had connections to a company called Shock Zero via his involvment with the World’s Most Depressing Circus; Seth used their equipment as part of his Retro-Futuro Fortune Telling Booth. Seth had a new device, a sort of strange machine, which he and Josef experimented with, altering local weather patterns, instigating a flood. Josef later believed this device brought people back from the dead, including Josef, who attempted to take his own life during this time. Seth went into hiding while Josef investigated the cause of his apparent resurrection. Ana Skyfish, suffering from domestic troubles and chemotherapy treatments at Bethany Medical, moved in with Josef, during which time their relationship was ambiguous. Josef believed certain displaced or homeless persons were actually re-rises, who could not return to their prior identities and thus became hidden people. We do know that the Sewage Priest, whose actual name was Marshall Einseideln, backs up this story, claiming he is a part of an “underground railroad” for the re-rises. Josef also speaks to people at Methusela’s Empire nursing home, who verify this story as well, though they report there are others attemting to contact these re-risen people, a group which is called The Cult of the Yellow Sign. Josef identifies two of these agents as Abel and Baker and from them recieves information about chemical testing on him and his associates through an agent named “Frank Sinatra”, who sold them certain chemicals durig their college years, primarily Eidetamine. They also reveal these chemicals come from the same source as the Shock Zero technology, and that the connection is not accidental, Shock Zero intentionally sending Seth the machine for zero-liability testing purposes. It shoudl be noted here that Abel and Baker are not entirely to be believed. Fearing for his life, Josef abandons his life to flee to a small town called Tamrack Minnesota. He is visited there by Seth, who has obtained information about the technologies through an ex-employee named Paul Apostrophes. Seth has stolen additional technology from a warehouse operated by persons calling themselves the Endless Mechanics. Through their experiments with this technology, Josef learns how much he has thrown away for a fool’s errand, betrayed by his own inability to see what is in front of him. Seth disappears again, and Josef is left scrawing a strange text explaining what he has learned, a text left incomplete by his death.

“that’s a bit bleak, isn’t it, boss?”

“yeah, but josef was a dick anyway.”

“this is true. so where’s seth?”

“back with the circus, last i heard.”

“and ana?”

“ana becomes the big cheese from this point on.”

“excellent. i always liked her.”

“yeah, me too. here’s the scoop for year one:

Ana’s sickness becomes operatable and is removed. She spends recovery-time trying to make sense of what has been going on in her life; having come back to town looking for a bit of calm and ending up with the events of year zero has left her none too pleased. Throuch this process she comes into closer orbit with her old friend and bandmate Rissa —

“hey, that’s me!”

“yes indeed.”

“well now i don’t wanna get written into this. some horrible thing will happen to me, i just know it.”

“no no, i promise, nothing horrible will happen.”

“you know, if ana starts hanging around, though, she’ll have to bump into owen.”

“yeah, i was just getting to that.”

— and Ana’s long-time ex-boyfriend Owen, whom she asks to return all her old letters to assist in life-inventorying, but Owen being Owen decides he needs to annotate all letters before returning them. Ana attempts to track down Seth by following the circus, enlisting her younger brother Merle and his questionable friend Ed Satan to attempt to infiltrate the circus via soundtracking by their band, Fuck The Beatles. Before this can happen, however, Owen and Rissa have to rescue Ed from summerlong detention at Our Lady of the Clotting Stigmata, which goes questionably. Merle and Ed then hunt down the circus under the pretext of a statewide tour, with disasterous results. Ana discovers additional information about Seth’s involvement with the Endless Mechanics and a place called Richter-Goldberg, seemingly a pharmaceutical testing facility or asylum (depending on who you ask) right across from the university hospital. Recovered and working at Rent N Putt and part-timing at Midwest Death Cult Studios, Ana attempts to piece together this information with what she’s learned of Josef’s end, provided mostly by old drug-buddy Jackson Demerol and two particularly strange individuals known as Jimmy Cheerios and Seven Dogeater, who were incarcerated within Richter-Goldberg witin a simulated satellite and fed on accelerated doses of the same sorts of chemicals Frank Sinatra sold. Ana thus learns of the strange experiments at R-G, who also experimented on Seth during his psychiatric stay after his bout with alcoholism and his girlfriends Jezebel Decibel’s miscarriage. Also a member of that original test group was one of the Endless Mechanics named Qu’ael, or Qua’el, or Qu’al. Jimmy escapes the building though the same underground tunnel hive where the Sewage Priest hunted the Wurm, where reports of the Lost and Found Girls have become legendary, while Seven is still on board the fake satellite, utilizing a system entitled Squareone to correlate information. Seven and Jimmy bring Ana into the fold of a collective of researchers called the Tracer-Guild, through which infomation is exchanged as to the history of Richter-Goldberg as well as its biomorphic abstraction, the Kilvan’s Block. Seven makes contact with others inside the building, including K. Carrington, the “false historian” whom Seven know from their Alchemical Warfare days. During this time, his Squareone database is infected with something called the Infernal Salt Codex, which rearranges information into new patterns, as well as re-meeting a young person named V. Serin, who originally (accidentally) let Dogeater and Cheerios know the satellite was a fake, and Serin reports of other things deeper in the tunnel-nest, strange surgeons working in an underground theatre code-named the Abandoed Hospital Ship haunt the R-G members, while outside Ana and Jimmy keep hidden from the Yellow Sign killers Abel and Baker. The Tracer-Guild reports that the software Seven has been using mirrors a strange AI nicknamed Bluebucket which was similarly corrupted by the Infernal Salt Codex after the introduction of an online data dump called Scrytch. Owen and Rissa introduce Ana to their other employer Ben-Jakob, a dealer in hidden texts, whose secret bookshop is tucked away next to R-G, a corner-shop atop the flood-evacuee hotel where V. Serin once worked, before going underground. Ben-Jakob provides information as to the Kilvan’s Block, an area where he claims to have been made one from two, and where refugees have been hidden, wherein he once met