Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UfOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not iSSUE ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what 6/30/98 tahw ro who gniwonk to think. You are in FORTY-SEVEN ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
Welcome to summer. I'm not even going to talk about the weather just because everybody else is. Styx recently pointed out that people should really begin most of their conversations with the phrase, "Let's just cut to the chase. How's the weather?" That boy knows something.
Summer is a particularly dreaded time for me. Usually it involves an abundance of writer's blockage in the wee nooks and crannies of my brain. Sometimes I blame it on the heat, but it's probably just my dad checking to see if the dog happened to wander into my room.
Ooops. I'm starting to get confused. Not the heat, for sure, cuz it's 4:08 in the morning. Clock would say that it was solar flares. Kinda the same source, different output. Like a catheter.
Can you tell I've been typing insurance claims for eight hours a day?
Okay, so maybe catheter is a bad choice of words. I mean, if my father came into my room looking for a catheter, that would be just plain weird. I wonder if they make catheters for dogs. I also wonder if anyone loves their pet enough to actually spend the money on that kind of thing. Putting them to sleep is a lot cheaper.
Hello, materialist upbringing! You are still in full bloom! Come ride the waves and have a hot dog made of gold.
And so, we come full circle back to the problem of my blockage. Maybe I need a catheter for my brain. I heard tonight on the radio that someone is suing a hospital because they claim that their 76-year-old grandmother died choking on a piece of meat in a hospital ER room because the doctor on call wouldn't come in because he was watching one of the Bull's playoff games.
I don't trust doctors. I should know; I do their paperwork. A lot of them can't do simple addition. You'd think they could afford a calculator. Maybe they need a catheter for their brains as well. In fact, maybe we all need catheters for our brains. It could be a new fashion statement.
"Hey, nice catheter. I haven't seen one in midnight blue before."
I'm already disturbed at the low quality level of this editorial, so I'll continue.
After all, being a hip trendy e-zine, we are always self-aware of everything that we write, even when we're in that particular piece of writing. It's, like, postmodernism, or something. I guess I could deconstruct something in a bit, but that would be boring. At four in the morning, anyway.
So, what else is there to say? Grab a catheter, tell your dog you love her, tell your dad to stay away from your medical supplies, and sit back and enjoy the zine.
Party at IWMNWN's house on Saturday. I'd tell you where it is, but I'm not even sure yet. I'm not sure if it exists. I think it might be a trap. I'll let you know.
From: "tim hawk" To: email@example.com Subject: what the fuck is a fnord? Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 11:31:43 PDT Hi. Just a quick question I've been wondering for a long time and my friend Rewired won't tell me: What the fuck is a fnord? Bye now Lemming
[my fnord advice: fnord go fnord look fnord at fnord the fnord newspapers. fnord when fnord you fnord see fnord them fnord there, fnord you'll fnord know fnord what fnord the fnord fuck fnord they fnord are. fnord fnord.]
Dark Crystal Sphere Floating Between Two Universes
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Robert James Berry
I lie there, neatly placed in a plot, among the rows of lives passed and problems lifted, gently allowing myself to be distracted by the panoramic production of ivory and azure in the sky. The show constantly morphs into endlessly new images, and my attention is stolen. My imagination flies above the green field, littered with gravestones, to carve edges into a new plane of fluffy white fields, carefully intermingling with soaring birds. There I can be free, without responsibility or care; I long to be blinded by the sun and coast across layers of wispy whiteness. Abruptly, I become aware of the presence of others and tumble back down to the earth and grass. It presses squarely against my back, holding me up from falling down into the hell that teases and seduces me. I look about, interruptions forgotten, and am spellbound by the stillness that hangs in the air. Amongst the sensations of grief that linger in the atmosphere like a sickness, a single tree, amid the rows, cries out to be climbed. It beckons to entertain a child, whose laughter would ring out and give relief to the heavy demeanor that captures me and burdens my thoughts, my life... I lie there, neatly placed in a plot, among the rows of lives passed. I roll over on the soft ground and am confronted by a mother's name, etched in marble. I finger the raised letters, carelessly pondering what mark she left behind. Were her children influenced and enriched by her? Was her husband loved and cherished? Was she a passionate woman, both impaired and bettered by her feelings? Was she satisfied and loved? Is my mother satisfied and loved? It forces me to envision my own mother's name, my father's name, my brother's name, and even my own name in turn, printed in its place, staring back at me. I quickly push that thought away, momentarily content to be mindless and happy. Fortunately for my painfilled soul, at that moment, my classmates and I abandon our own worlds and slowly behind towards the school. My unaware boyfriend meets my eye, inquiring silently, but I shake my head and try to repress the questions that plague me.
Well, I'm moving out of my house for the first time. The day has come. I've packed two days this week. The first day, last Tuesday, was pretty mechanical -- just stuffing things from my dresser and bookshelves into boxes. The second day, today, was more cleansing, because I have decided not to take it all with me. It's silly to add more possessions as time goes on and move them all every time.
I think Clockwork is surprised that I have a lot of things. I'm not sure, of course, what he thought I had before versus what he thought after I replied that I had "more than that." Very ambiguous, but when I survey the field of boxes in my room it seems like a lot. Although at least three of them are full of books I've already planned to give away to the library or sell to the bookstores.
I have quashed my ambitious and weird idea to keep all my textbooks. It just seems like more attachment and snatching-up. I didn't form love affairs with these books when I used them, and most of them don't seem interesting enough even to review now. Collecting... bah! I've kept some fine mathematical books, because they don't age. The third-rate books on sociology and psychology, I can't keep, because while they may be accurate to a degree, are just not deep enough for me. I want to read puzzle books, not expositions.
I seem to be packed, I reflect at times, but a lot of my stuff is still out, like my computer, lamp, sound system, bathroom supplies, etc. Obviously. Those are the only things I actually use these days. I can get into a funk crying about the beautiful nostalgic days of yore when I had time and interest enough to use all the different things I've now got packed, or I can box it up and maybe have the nerve to toss it out later.
This subject still interests me. I've got a strong inclination to dump all this stuff, but an even stronger inclination not to. I'm still attached, hell yeah. I don't like to think I define myself by my possessions. It seems more honest and accurate to admit that I still see value in owning the things I have. Books, for example -- I could probably find all these books in libraries or bookstores elsewhere, and thereby forgo owning them outright. But the instant access isn't there, nor is the guarantee of finding the same book, the same paragraph, the same memory. Wilson's books, for example, are less available than other examples of pop culture. Plus I'm still learning from them.
Other possessions, like photographs and personal letters and old notebooks, are a tougher situation. These cannot be replaced. But do I need them at all? No. Here is where I struggle with the mandates of the culture. It doesn't want me to throw away my memories, because I should have them as "proof" or some such thing of my "existence". All these weird and wacky letters from Cr---, for example. I don't think he would be pleased to know I threw out his letters, even if it weren't out of spite for him personally. The attachment to the ideas of the future and nostalgia also prevent me from tossing these things. Some day, won't I look back and regret this rash move?
All these questions concern my spiritual path, you see. I've read and been told quite persuasively that attachments to the "illusion" are drawbacks in some sense. But acting on such advice now kind of defines my future. What if I decide to become an oversexed wealthy hedonist in the coming years? Such a change in lifestyle would be less likely given the scenario of a "me" with few possessions; one would think the effects of having made these decisions now would in fact act against the probability of that change in the future. Or, more clearly: right now I harbor various desires, one of which is to leave off this spiritual "thing" and let myself go. (I admit also that this desire is repulsive too.) If I want this desire to persist, I cannot throw away all my stuff. (But, it's a darn good way to quash that desire, by actually doing so.)
Am I too young to be having all these ideas? Can I successfully execute any of them without causing more problems? Do these doubts stem from true concern or base ego defense?
I wonder sometimes if I'm taking it all too seriously. I wonder sometimes if I'm denouncing myself out of ignorance or fear. I wonder sometimes if all this wondering indicates that I'm doing "well" or doing "poorly". I can go too far too and become completely apathetic or overwhelmed by the choices, or be pushed out of necessity to do something brash in order to demonstrate that I can indeed act.
For the first time, I think I can feel the impotence that comes with not knowing the future. But I cannot cherish this impotence, because it derives from a complete lack of faith in my ability to decide it.
Am I just mixing the levels here? What do all these things mean to me anyway?
If I keep all the little things and all the medium things and all the big things, I'll be guaranteed that in the future I'll have them when I need them. I'll be guaranteed the labor of worrying about them, interpreting them, porting them about, dodging them. I will keep some of the heavy links in my chains merely out of attachment. Why? Not out of fear that someone else will have them. Not out of desire that they take them on themselves. Not because it's impossible or forbidden to do so.
Part of me is afraid of what I'd be like if I could walk taller and freer. Part of me conjures up scenes of inconsolable regret, which when combined with emotionless detachment, sees me slipping into a convenient noose. These parts of me drag me down. I prefer to believe that no matter what I am doing physically, I'm always heading towards something. Something is drawing me on, guiding me. And as I get closer, the links in the chains will tend to sink me, not save me. "There will be a wailing and gnashing of teeth, for many are called, but few are chosen" -- who wails? who gnashes teeth? who are called? who are chosen? They're not at all the same whos.
Every thing I can see, I can only interpret in terms of the past. I see myself using it in the future only in terms of that past use.
On my computer desk, which I thought I used most often, there is a spider web connecting two items nearby that I haven't touched in weeks.
I get more sick from dust than from the thought of leaving these things behind.
I cannot remember what is in the closed boxes.
Depression, anguish, worry... an easy trap to get into.... I think there's a way to be lighthearted about all this and still get the job done.
Tooled, I tell ya. Tooled. Let the beatings come, freak-o.
Oh, how I fancy this ideal of torturing my self -- masochist extraordinaire to melon collie drawls and Cohen balls. Get your head out of the radio. Is it healthy to go through the past, reliving moment to moment in its full regalia of colors smells hogstains and simple creaking stabness? No, I tell you! Regret me not, this lead to what? In time, healing begins. "Heal me now!" the short American slapped on his belly. "You are healed!" Jealous women-haters. Maybe making up for his lack of affection and undertaker heart machine, in third person, as a matter of fact. Maybe to say, yeah, I'm the manhole cover, and you're the man. Cold, brick snakes. Wrangle 'em up, poncho, hard-head, fickle cell anemia is the news.
Warm-up exercises. Throw your state into a primordial miss-match mush. Come on. Bring it on. Rant rant rant was the sycophant phant phant. Devoid of angel claws and broken fathers, wrapped in robes of mister-mister to grow his garden with piss and tails and heft sperm whales. Ink be fast, ink be quick, ink outrace my skull this thick. Tread on, tread on. What is this? Fiction or non or none or fiction? Whip up the wholes, spring sent ballerina twirler, rock-a-bye hush and be gone.
A NOTE ON THE TEXT
On Monday, the first day of June, 1998, Howler in the Shadows, Crux Ansata, and I visited a small monastery just outside of Blanco in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, a group of exiles and emigrants which broke away from the mother body of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia due to the latter's collaborations with the Communist Russian government and which has never reconciled with the Orthodox Church in Russia. This monastery is attached to an even smaller convent and lies a few miles outside Blanco, the county seat of Blanco County, Texas.
An icon at this monastery is said to have wept tears of myrrh intermittently since 1985, and it is this which we visited the monastery to see. While we did not see the icon in tears it was a very interesting trip, and the following is my journal entry reporting our visit. It is, of course, merely a common pilgrim's entry, and had I been visiting to investigate the authenticity of the icon's weeping it would have been more critical, and had I been investigating the importance of the icon to the monastery and the Orthodox Church as a whole it would have been vastly more comprehensive. I present it merely as it is.
Unfortunately, a number of details were left out, from the antics of the cows blocking our car on the way to the monastery to the processional fans in the church which the monk told us are icons of the cherubim and seraphim. I also forgot to mention that the practice of leaving votive body parts at shrines dates back beyond the Middle Ages to the pagan Romans and Etruscans. This is discussed in Prof. Ralph Merrifield's book, cited below. As far as the question of diabolic intervention goes, I've since learned that it is common practice in the Orthodox Churches to exorcise icons exhibiting miraculous signs to dispel any demonic influences.
This journal entry often makes clear my own ignorance of the Orthodox Churches, as well as my bias in favour of my own Roman Catholic Church. The reader should take this into account.
The phenomenon of weeping icons is not new; nor is it restricted to New Sarov. Miracle XCII of Sir E. A. Wallis Budge's One Hundred and Ten Miracles of Our Lady Mary: Translated From Ethiopic Manuscripts (London: Humphrey Milford, Publisher to the Oxford University Press, 1933) relates a fifteenth century Ethiopic Orthodox story of "an image of the VIRGIN MARY [which] wept for the sins of the world," and other reports of weeping icons and other images are scattered about in all areas of the Christian world in both Roman Catholic and the separated Churches. In the United States there have been a number of icons which have been said to have wept, perhaps the most famous being that of the Orthodox Saint Irene at New York's St. Irene Chrysovalantou Greek Orthodox Church in Astoria, Queens, which was involved in a well-publicised theft around Christmas, 1993, covered extensively in the New York Times. More can be learned about the weeping icon we visited, that of St. Irene, and other weeping icons, at my website at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/9587/relics.html.
Christ of the Hills Monastery offers free tears of the weeping icon, absorbed in cotton, to any in need on a one-per-family basis. They are also distributed on the same basis to all pilgrims to the monastery who take the monastery tour. While Orthodox Christians should check with their proper authorities, Roman Catholics should consider these relics connected with an unapproved (although not necessarily condemned) Apparition and as such I do not believe they should venerate them, although I know of no specific injunction against using them to anoint people, especially the sick. As I am not a competent authority on this, those with questions should contact their local pastors. The tears and the pamphlet Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary can be obtained by request from the following address:
Christ of the Hills Monastery
Blanco, TX. 78606-1049
The monastery can also be reached at voice phone (210) 833-5363 or fax (210) 833-5813. The tears are free, although the monastery does accept donations and, of course, it would be polite to pay for postage.
A few minor changes have been made to the following diary entry. The only changes to content, however, were restricted to the corrections I made on 3 June to the description of the relative locations of buildings at the site. Minor spelling and grammatical corrections have been made, but I have kept the "quaint" -- although inconsistent -- ungrammatical capitalisation scheme with which I wrote. Also, two sketches have of necessity been omitted. One was a very rough sketch of the layout of icon stands in the Shrine of the Mother of God, while the other was of a pilgrim's cross I purchased at the icon store. This cross was in the form of a Russian Cross, which has three bars. The middle bar is set like the crossbar of a Latin Cross, that usually seen in Western Churches, both Catholic and Protestant, and is the bar to which Christ's hands were nailed. Another bar above this represents the title which Pilate nailed above Our Lord reading in Latin "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (John 19:19-22). The third bar, lower on the cross and representing that to which Our Lord's feet were nailed, is slanted with the right side pointing up and the left side pointing down, representing the good and bad thieves crucified on the right and left sides of Our Lord (Luke 23:39-43). In addition to these omissions, as this is a private journal entry, I have freely left out anything I felt like, including personal and irrelevant observations and information, marking these areas with ellipses. I have also replaced SoB writers' real names with their handles. With these exceptions, however, the following unrefined and often awkward text is how this entry appeared in my messily printed journal, minus the scratch-outs and arrows.
1 June 1998 -- Monday -- 11:51 p.m. -- Leander
Today, after no small amount of wandering through Austin while trying to figure out which of the Highway 290's to take to get to Blanco, Howler in the Shadows, ansat, and I visited Christ of the Hills Monastery in New Sarov, just outside of Blanco, for the express purpose of seeing the Weeping Icon. Sights along the way, expectation, and the gift of good company made the trip seem quite short.
New Sarov is perched atop one of those oddly-shaped uneven hills so characteristic of the Hill Country which hide their true natures until, turning a bend or rounding the top, one is stunned by the beautiful vista opened up below and across the gulfs between the next in a series of hilltops and the one upon which one stands and yet was barely aware of climbing. It is almost like opening the curtains of a high window, and it is ironic that we had come here to see what the Orthodox call a window into Heaven.
Passing a small roadside shrine with a roofed icon of Christ on the way down the country road leading to the monastery, as well as a similar roofed icon at the entrance to the monastery grounds, we pulled up to the small cluster of buildings making up the area of the monastery open to casual visitors at about 3:30-3:45 p.m. The visible buildings consisted of a building to the right of unknown function but which I assume to have been a warehouse of some sort due to the presence of a UPS truck in front of its open door; a small, open covered shrine to Mary located to our left containing a large icon and behind which were visible the large black-on-white crosses which I knew from my previous visit to be the monastery's cemetery; the icon store/gift shop to the right and just beyond it a boat-shaped building of unknown function; and to the left beyond the small open shrine the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary housing the weeping icon, with an adjacent building of unknown purpose from which came the sounds of the washing of dishes. On the left a little past the cemetery and the small open shrine and between them and the Shrine of the Weeping Icon stood the monastery's church, and on a slope down a path further down the main path stood the episcopal residence. I believe at least one more building of unknown purpose stood further down the main path, but of this I am not certain.
As we got out of our car we were met by an elderly man who I assume is a volunteer at the monastery who asked us if we had come to see the weeping icon. I answered yes.... [Soon afterwards he went to summon a monk.]
While waiting we looked about outside the shrine. In wall murals on the outside wall nearest us were representations of Christ, St. George, and a saint whom none of us recognised and whose icon bore a plaque dedicating it to the memory of a parishioner in the place of the titles on the icon of St. George. Next to the shrine stood the large silverish metal dome which represents all that yet exists of the planned Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary. More would probably exist of this basilica had the building fund coffers not been emptied to pay for water during the drought of a year or so ago during which the monastery well and cisterns all went dry and there was no rain for over three years.
Where the monks and nuns were is something of a mystery, although the grounds are large and the hills don't permit a view of the entire area, but presently a young monk arrived who asked us where we were from and if we had visited the monastery before. He introduced himself, and Patrick remembers his name as Zeke, although I missed it entirely. He then took us within the shrine.
Passing through the outside doors one enters first an anteroom with icons on either side of a door leading into the shrine proper. Several icons of Christ, Mary, and other saints are in this first room, and I believe two, but perhaps three or more specific icons were saluted by the monk with a series of Signs of the Cross and kisses to the icons' bases before the second door was opened and we passed into the main room of the shrine. This room, too, was paneled with icons, and some of these were saluted in the same way as those in the antechamber. In the central area of the shrine immediately after entering one comes across a solid podium holding an icon of Christ, and in the same place to the front of the shrine stood the podium holding the weeping icon. As I recall this, in turn, was flanked by other icons of Christ and Mary, some distance from the weeping icon.
The weeping icon stood about chest-high and was contained within a frame not unlike some of the icons on the walls. Within the frame with the icon were a number of rosaries and religious medals and what might have been a couple of chotkis, the knotted prayer-ropes used in the Orthodox Church while saying the "Jesus Prayer." (I say perhaps because it seems the Russians like to make both rosaries and chotkis with those knotted ropes, making it somewhat difficult to sort them out when in a bundle.) Above the icon was a wooden cross with images of body parts and the like in tin or a like material nailed to it, and either tied or otherwise attached about the podium or stand were a number of plaques in a silverish metal, some depicting body parts (such as eyes, hearts, and limbs), some entire human forms, and some words in Greek or Cyrillic. (I did not look closely enough to tell.) I asked the monk about these and he said each represents a miracle, presumably associated with the icon. This makes them exactly analogous to the votive images of body parts of humans and animals popularly hung in thanks for or in anticipation of miracles at saint's shrines in the Middle Ages, as discussed in Prof. Ralph Merrifield's The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (New York: New Amsterdam, 1987), pgs. 88-93, a practice still living in some areas under the Roman Church as well. Indeed, the cross above the icon could easily be mistaken for a Mexican miracle cross, with the exception of the fact that, as I recall, the monastery's cross was a Greek one while the Mexican crosses tend to be Latin in design.
After opening the glass front of the frame and offering a silent prayer, the monk explained to us the history of the icon, much as it is presented in the pamphlet Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary which they give to visitors, with the added fact that the icon weeps almost every day, although it can go for up to two weeks without weeping. This was much more often than I had expected, and I wonder how this compares to other weeping icons. He also said that it had last wept around 2:00 that same day, which is, ironically enough, the time we had originally hoped to arrive at the monastery. Interestingly, he also said that when the weeping first occurred one of the monks' first concerns was to make sure it was Divine and not diabolic intervention, which is the first time I have heard of an Orthodox religious suggesting that Satan might make icons weep.
One of the most striking things about the icon was how thoroughly new-looking it was. Although I knew it was written in 1983, I had expected it to be antiquated in execution. Instead it was thoroughly modern and looked much like the icon of Christ I bought at Alba House in New York which was written at Holy Protection Orthodox Monastery in Geneva, Nebraska. (The New Sarov icon was written in California.)
Of course, like most visitors, pilgrim and curiosity-seeker alike, my mind drifted to thoughts as to whether or not the icon truly wept through Divine intervention. Of course, the frame and solid podium would have made trickery easier, but these are not signs of trickery, for many of the other icons, both in the Shrine and in the Church, are housed the same way. While trickery is the only option besides supernatural intervention, as no other options that I am aware of besides psychic forces (which I don't believe to be the cause) have been put forward, trickery would also suggest that more than one monk would be involved in the trickery, and cabals are rare in such things. It is unfortunate that the Eastern Churches seem to lack the ecclesiastical review committees necessary in the Roman Church, but in the absence of such I can make no personal judgments in favour of one argument or the other. Either way, standing in that shrine that day I felt closer to God, and it is this that is truly important.
In the shrine the monk gave us each a card with hymns to the icon identical to those in the Shrine pamphlet and another card bearing on one side the following:
- Daily Repentance, Weekly Confession
- Fasting, (Wednesday and Friday)
- Ceaseless Prayer (see Way of A Pilgrim)
- Love God, Love Neighbor. Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ
- Refrain From All Judgment
And on the other the "Jesus Prayer," popular in the Eastern Churches and said on the chotki prayer knots, as follows:
The monk spoke very highly of both this prayer and Way of a Pilgrim, which strengthens my desire to read the book all the more.
The monk offered to anoint us all with the icon's tears, an offer which I readily took him up on. Taking a piece of cotton soaked in the myrrh tears from the pile of cotton at the base of the icon there to catch them, the monk anointed my forehead and the backs and the palms of each of my hands, blessing me by name in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I don't know his exact words, but those printed in one of the leaflets later given to us ("Tear of the Mother of God Instructions") read:
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, through the intercessions of the Mother of God, be healed.
This blessing is meant for the ill, but the blessings, I'm sure, are similar. He then anointed Patrick in the same manner. When he got to Howler in the Shadows, Howler informed him he was not a Christian, but the monk told him that the blessing was open to all, regardless of faith, who want it, and Howler then accepted it. The monk took the tear-soaked cotton behind the partition behind the icon and came back without it, although I don't know what was done with it. Then, following a period of silent prayer, he closed the icon's frame, and we all left the Shrine.
Upon leaving the Shrine, upon the monk's suggestion, we went on to the main church. Here, too, we passed through an antechamber where the monk saluted some of the icons before entering the main body of the church. We all removed our shoes before entering here, but merely to save the floor; not for a theological reason. Here stood icon stands (much like that holding the weeping icon) holding an icon of Mary on our left and one holding an icon of Jesus on our right. The monk told us this is how the Congregation stands in the church -- men on the right, women on the left. Chairs and pews were entirely lacking. A pamphlet I picked up -- Anne K. Turley's The Orthodox Church: Heaven on Earth -- explains that this represents humility, frees the worshippers to move to face particular icons, and allows for prostration during Mass. Between the congregation and the sanctuary stood the iconostasis, or "image stand," pierced, as the monk said with the icons, the windows to Heaven. A door which he opened to show us the altar is opened at high points of Mass. The Monk said the whole sanctuary is commonly referred to as the altar, meaning "raised space." On the altar proper... stands the tabernacle, just as in most Roman churches, as well as a book containing the four Gospels, covered by an altar cloth only a priest can remove. After closing the door once more we left the little church.
Before we left the monastery, the monk gave us each an envelope containing a plastic bag with a cotton ball soaked in the tears of the icon.... The envelope also contained:
I also bought one of the prints of the weeping icon advertised... as well as a Russian Pilgrim's Cross (which I wear now)....
...But I really don't think a miracle is the path to God. Those who go looking for miracles before coming to God can too easily either doubt even those miracles that are presented to them or merely live life from one miracle to the next, missing the true meaning of God's message. I believe that is the true gift of Faith -- the ability and the will to serve God in life's day-by-day toils, rather than only applauding Him when He puts on a good show. "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed" (John 20:29).
[Signed:] Dark Crystal Sphere Floating Between Two Universes
2 June 1998 -- 5:37 a.m.
I want to sit on the edge of the Galapagos at the hilt of a black sheeted piano, crooning tales of crying towns and heaving air, wooing the turtles and birds and lonely wandering scientists. I want to sit barefooted and dressed in simple clothes, pushing my wholeness through my hands and into black and white keys and shaking strings, and wrap the island in strands of hope and seabent lights that keep the eye. I want to send lit warmth to those who sit and stare out windows and dream of flying to somewhere far away from where they are. I want to understand your dreams and ticking thoughts, why you fear, why you smile at tree perched bluebirds, what makes you laugh, what you see in the clouds. I want to hear all the words you wish to speak, and fall in love with everyone. I want to dance in the rain with giggling children under pale streetlights and stare into the windows of everyone who can fall asleep at night and wake to Christmas dreams. I want all your childhood fantasies to come true, and grant all your children's wishes, ponies and dragons and fairies from the woods. I want to wander the earth and bring calmness to the chests of everyone, one by one, hand by hand, with words and looks and grins. I want to hold the hands of those who cry in the dark, and carry them to misty dew drop fields of daffodils and sunflowers to spin and spin in circles with arms outstretched. I want to plant waterfalls and bridges to neverneverland in your backyard, and replace the highways with yellow brick roads. I want to relieve you of the pains in your head and lift you up from your knees. I want you to grin and smile and bathe in moonlit sounds of cellos and violins and dolphins. I want to show you the path of immortality and truth, and push your gondola to the stars.
If such a thing as a text exists, I have never experienced it and can say nothing about it. I have only experienced the relationships between myself and the text; an independent "text," free of my interpretation, remains as theoretical to me as "dark matter," "infinity," and "the speed of light." I have heard people speak of them as if they were real, but I must confess having no direct experience of any of them.
As such, every time I have approached a text, I have been unable to see it without my eyes, my autobiographical baggage, my interpretive skills and apparatus. I do not blame myself for this; I consider it an aspect of the human condition. But it means I cannot say anything "about" the text, much less "about" the author.
I say this as preface, because I have occasionally heard comments by people who "know" me, or my beliefs, or whatever, from reading my writing. Sometimes I hear very fascinating things about what I "am," "think," or "believe." I have spent no little time wondering whether I have indeed missed these things, since they were news to me. Possibly true, but I had never realized it.
It may be possible to tell something "about" me from my writing. It is more likely to be possible to say something "about" the relationship between reader and read. But I wanted to take a moment and say something "about" myself, as clearly as I am able, especially in the context of the theological comments in these diary entries.
I hope if anything has come across from my writing, it is that I am not entirely ignorant, unreflective, or unintelligent. I no longer can say blind faith is "bad," or even less good than reasoned faith. I simply don't know. All I can say is I don't seem capable of blind faith. I question everything, but one can question without considering the questioned untrue. Faith does not paralyze the intellect.
Let this be my confession: If anything is, God is; if anything is true, Catholicism is true. Nothing in this or any other of my entries should be read as my claiming either that God does not exist, or that Catholicism is untrue. I have yet to find anything I feel compelled to believe that Catholicism forbids, nor have I found anything in which Catholicism requires belief that I cannot accede to.
That said, on with the entry.
Our language lacks any real vocabulary to deal with the sense of touch. I had been thinking about that, about what term specifically one would use to describe the different experience of different kinds of orgasm. I had thought first to talk about different "flavors" of orgasm. I'm not sure why, but I suppose it is because "flavor" is used for both tastes and scents, and is rather vague. But I decided on consideration it sounds better to speak of the different "textures" of orgasm.
I had been thinking about how there are many different textures of orgasm, and about how I suspect that this number of textures is paltry compared to the number of textures of pain. It may be my lack of experience, I suppose, but I am rather inclined to feel otherwise.
This had come to my mind as I was reflecting on how even though I feel physical pain when I don't eat, and physical pain when I do eat -- even the small meals I eat with the family cause me a large amount of pain to digest -- these experiences of pain are different.
I suppose these differences can only exist in the mind, since the pain receptors must be pretty standard. With sex, there is a chemical porridge and the oxygen deprivation, so the range of experiences makes more sense. Perhaps there are different endorphins in the pain.
Anyway, I'm sure this is so boring as to be proving my point on different textures of pain, so I suppose I'll drop the topic.
I heard from Morrigan today. She's in Montana, but said the mail in Wyoming will get there eventually. She has email, but not IRC. Anyway.
I am tired, but I don't want to sleep. I hate this feeling, when I'm afraid or disgusted or something at the thought of sleep, but too exhausted to stay awake too much longer. Anyway, I guess I'll sign off.
I slept for about four hours last night, got up, and was hallucinating as my mind continued digesting the information I've been reading. I had to sleep more, because I couldn't even see where I was walking. I hate weakness, but I especially hate weakness in myself. My inability to study without a break until I finish the topic is one of the weaknesses I hate. I get tired and distracted, and I hate that weakness, and it forces me -- or I use it as an excuse -- to do something less intellectually strenuous.
But now, I am off to sleep.
I have been thinking about writing a play that cannot be presented. Have I written about that? I think I have. If not, well, I have been.
Today, I got to thinking about the idea of writing a play that would not be done; one that was as self-evidently abhorrent to the average person as I find acting in general. The idea I struck on was to write a play where the central feature involved a young girl being beaten, begging for her life, and finally being killed on stage. The sheer horror of having her trained to act so that she would live through the pleading for life and pleading for the end to the torture, while the "actress" -- separate from the "character" -- knows it is futile would have her simultaneously living two horrors, and having to have lived through it in every rehearsal. Although I know fully well this would be a very attractive -- by which I mean would attract an audience -- and no doubt sexually stimulating play for the majority of the viewers, the fact that most people would like to think they find this abhorrent would prevent this being performed. To be as cynical as possible, the ringleader character would harangue the audience, telling them they are merely shocked because of the "expense" of training a new actress for each performance.
Since, as my reader well knows, my mind does not work, this got me to thinking. I had thought it might be something to write about, since this scene would make the play, and could not be performed, and therefore I could write this play without fear it would ever be performed, barring some amusing Road Warriors future. (Or, I suppose, the logical outcome of U.S. television in about five years.) Then it occurred to me that some ornery high school -- trying to push the proverbial envelope -- would probably put it on some day, or could possibly. They would probably pretend to kill the girl, which would, from the ontological perspective, ruin the fun.
Then, it occurred to me that, in all frankness, what does it matter? Most people who went to see the show would assume it was a faked death, anyway. Without disemboweling her and passing the gutted corpse from hand to hand through the audience, what proof do they have? And even then, some would suspect a sleight of hand. In their subjective world, nothing would have happened. A scene with the corpse run through on a stake and left by the back of the auditorium for the audience members to caress on the way out, gruesome and amusing as it may be, could be cut.
So, I am back to the beginning, trying to think of a play that can be written and cannot be performed; the detour of what would not was a myth.
Somewhere along the line, I guess I got bumped in the head by a low flying jet, and got to thinking about what is beauty. The more I study Marx and Marxist thought, the more extreme and less idealistic I get. I have come to really question the reality of beauty at all, in an objective sense.
I think I got to this because I was struck by a very odd passage in one of the books on Sartre's politics I have been reading. It commented he came to agree with Marx in that the morality of a society is dictated by that society. As always when I am told someone was convinced by the obvious, I was a bit struck. Sartre hadn't really struck me as a moron before, so I had to assume that not everyone sees this as obvious, even if I thought Kant and his Categorical Imperative had been laughed off the stage of history at least a century or so ago, and even that seems awful recent.
It seems to me that something has to be invested with value, because it makes no sense to pretend something has value in and of itself. Something has value to. I know there seems to be a contradiction in my thought here, since I say that humans have inherent value, one and all. I believe this for two reasons. For one, no matter what, I can't seem to stop loving people, indiscriminately. It drives me crazy, but I can't stop caring about people, even secluded in my own house and speaking to no one for days. So, one may say they matter to me. But when I say it, I say it more emphatically, and that is because I presume a God, and my God is the Catholic God, Who says that all humans have value to Him, indiscriminately. So, clearly, there is no contradiction here. People matter to me, and people matter to God, and both as observers.
For myself, I matter to me, by personal apparent experience, and to God, by dogma. No contradiction. God may be one, since He appears to have value without having had it invested in Him by another, but that is because He invests all value into the world, and hence everything else is that which God matters to, whether they deny Him or not. Still no contradiction, but a couple of paragraphs of digression.
To me, it seems morality has two forms. There is a code of right and wrong. Thou shalt not burn down thy neighbor's orphanage. Thou shalt not rape thy baby sister's friends. They sound like facts, but they are game rules. Just like that insane scoring system in tennis or which fork one uses with salad and which with meat. They are very rational -- if one picks a reasonably developed moral system -- and fun, from an intellectual standpoint. Obviously, though, people try to put more value on morality. It is obvious the tennis scoring system is part of the game rules of tennis, and no one trembles at the state of the world when I can't remember how to score. (So to speak.) And so one has to wonder why people care so much about the moral structure.
I am not saying I think the moral structure should be eliminated. Far from it. As I observed above, I choose to be a Catholic, and part of the Catholic game involves believing a moral code. This moral code is a combination of that set by God and that set by the Church. I don't lose sight of the fact they are game rules, but I also choose to play that game. It makes life take on a semblance of meaning.
I suppose some people are so wrapped up in the "meaning of life," in some kind of delusional point to life, that they cannot accept that they choose it themselves. I am not saying, for example, that Catholicism is wrong, or meaningless. Of course, I believe it is the most right game in town, which is why I choose to play it instead of, say, the Branch Davidian game, which I consider interesting, but less pleasurable.
And so, when my moral code is challenged, I don't have to fall back on a "that's the way it supposed to be" or accept some kind of unraveling of the universe. I know the way the game works, and so can find out why the Church teaches what the Church teaches. I can accept that people either disagree or simply don't get it. No big deal.
So when I read that Sartre had come to believe that the moral code was part of the superstructure placed on a society by the ruling class, I was scandalized. It seems to me so transparently obvious that the beliefs of the ruling class are the ruling ideas, and it seldom occurs to me that intelligent people won't realize how much freedom -- which is to say guilt -- is inherent in the worlds they have built.
But that's just me, and I say this as a means to setting up my comment about beauty.
Beauty is another of those things that "just are." People have difficulties saying why they think something is beautiful, and tend to lapse into idealism. I know I tended to believe in some ideal of beauty until a few years back. But there is a problem there. I believe in only one ideal, and that is God. The Platonic system accounted for multiple ideals. The Kabbalistic and Sufi ways did, too, through the emanations. Valentinian Gnosticism accounted for emanations, but off the top of my head I can't remember if any of their cosmologies accounted for beauty. I know that the me as Valentinian Gnostic tended to account beauty as an aspect of Sophia, in turn a form of Christ and a person of God. I tend to believe that still, but in a different sense.
God is perfect, by definition. I am not convinced the body of Christ in fleshly terms is included in that. (As opposed, of course, to the body of Christ in non-fleshly terms.) Therefore, in my opinion, all ideals must be accounted for through God. I don't believe God has a body -- physical, flesh and blood body. Therefore, I don't believe God has physical beauty.
This is separate from what I term "attractiveness." Of course, God is the ultimate attractor, and He is or has the ideal of attractiveness. But when I speak of beauty, I mean of the kind of the beauty of the body of a girl or a woman, not the "beauty" of a cosmological model or a mathematical formula or a novel.
Argh. Forgot where I was for a minute. I'll try to wrap up.
Beauty in practical -- so to speak materialist -- terms is separate from attractiveness, though people like to think they are good and so confuse the two. Physical beauty is observed in the relationship between observer and observed, of course. I suppose there is a foundation to much of it. Good genes frequently show up in the physical appearance. Balance and form do. To an extent, some of it is no doubt shaped by the ruling class, like the minority liberation theorists claim. But I no longer think there is such a thing as beauty. I think I still believe in beauty to me. I know that there are people I find more beautiful than others. I like to think that this is not just a chemical, hormonal marsh being pumped into my brain when I see certain people under certain circumstances. As this belief does not make me happy, I choose not to believe it, though it is possible.
Beyond that, though, I still have some thinking to do, but now I better run along and do some more reading.
Incidentally, I got my first paper back in Drama today. Bombed it. B- on content and C on style. It was not grammatical, and she didn't agree with some of my positions. Oh well. If this wasn't my last semester I might consider rewriting it, but I don't know yet I can be bothered.
I woke up. I looked over at the clock, which read 8:45. I had gone to sleep in the middle evening, exhausted, and had expected to wake up in the middle of the night, but I remember thinking, "Great. I go to bed early, and I still only get up just in time to get ready for school." Then, I thought, "And, I'm still tired." Eventually, I began to wonder why the sunlight didn't seem right. (If I was going to be living at home much longer, I'd have to do something about that. I've always wished I had a room where it was actually dark, but there is always light pouring through the blinds.) So, I looked at my watch, which read 20:45, and realized I must have only gotten about two hours of sleep. But I've been up ever since.
Today, I finished reading Krapp's Last Tape and The Devil and the Good Lord, by Beckett and Sartre, respectively. The first was irritating, the second much more moving.
On to more serious matters.
First, it occurs to me I was unclear in yesterday's entry. I said that God's "value" is relative to all else that exists. This does not mean that God depends on everything else, but only that value does. He is beyond value, but when other elements of reality are brought into play, His ontologically independent, infinite value is registered in relation to them.
Second, some thoughts on suffering. Between grief and nothing, I'll take grief. I choose to live in a subjective world of suffering, not only because I tend to think that the objective world reflects this, but also because that is the way I want to live. It is my opinion that suffering is what makes us human.
I don't know what happiness is. I might have experienced it, or have seen it; I don't know. I do know that most of what I have seen pass for happiness is a self-centered, bestial pleasure. Happiness, in my experience, is what people call it when they want to be animal and are whining about your lack of approval. I refuse to be an animal to the best of my ability. I choose to choose, because I am a man, and this involves suffering.
Because I want to exist, I want to suffer. Because the thing that exists is suffering alone.
But this occurs to me as a bit of a problem. On the one hand, it prevents me from killing myself. As I tried to explain to Rally, when and if I die, I stop suffering. That may not be true; but if I am in hell, presumably I no longer choose to suffer, but am compelled to suffer. On the other hand, my willful desire to suffer would, presumably, only be answerable if I were to be damned. Presumably, heaven does not involve suffering, and so is beyond my comprehension. If I were changed in a way I cannot fathom, perhaps I would desire that heaven, but as things are now, I can't imagine wanting anything that would not include an element of pain.
Perhaps this is because the only things I can think of that ever appeared to be worthwhile for me -- love, for example, or writing -- were excruciatingly painful when I had them, and painful in their absence. Perhaps I have that fetishistic linkage of pleasure and pain. Or perhaps not. I know I have a headache, but I'm not sure that counts. That's just the heat, which is a suffering I don't enjoy.
I'm babbling. I'll stop.
When I got on the bus, on the way home, I was told my card was no longer valid, and I had to pay. So I had to go digging through my bag to get some money before the bus could go. A couple of stops later, a young man got on the bus, and though he had a transfer, he needed fifty cents as well, which he didn't have. The bus driver stopped the bus and told him to get off, but another rider paid for him. At another stop, a young woman got on the bus. She either had a transfer or some card; in any case, she was also fifty cents short. The bus driver let her ride anyway.
Now, this got me thinking. I often think about those who don't have the money to enjoy the basic services and luxuries I take for granted. I feel miserable to see the workers building the houses in the field near my house, since I know, and I rather suspect they know, most of those workers will never be able to afford a house like this. They spend their lives building what they will always be forbidden to possess by the social structure. Usually, I sit toward the back of the bus, and so don't have to deal with it, but because of having to find my money, I ended up sitting in the front of the bus, reading The Devil and the Good Lord and listening to conversations. Which is a long way of saying: I was thinking about why one guy was told to leave the bus, and someone else was allowed to stay.
I thought it might be because she was female. That seems a bit unfair, to accuse someone of sexism like that, especially with so little to go on. I thought also it might be because she was attractive. Her face was not incredible, but she had a rather nice body. This might seem even less fair than the sexism charge, but I think it would be much less conscious. Or it could be because they were friends; they did speak briefly. Making exceptions for one's friends is still wrong, but people tend to be accepting of it. Perhaps he just forgot that he had been enforcing the rules today.
But I also thought about the guy who had almost been kicked off the bus, and how he must have felt, sitting across the aisle from the girl, knowing that in the eyes of the bus driver, she was more valuable than he, by at least fifty cents.
I don't know. I still have a headache, and suppose I need more than a couple of hours sleep, so I guess I'll sign off again.
"The poets? They stink. They write badly. They're idiots you see, because the strong people don't write poetry.... They become hitmen for the Mafia. The good people do the serious jobs."
The stonecircles are cold for sacrifice Then we gather in one guttural tongue Kneel silent as the sun rises over the motherland Shadow sticks its dried blood to the long barrows Splashes the shattered stones After the rain We will plant the gourd shaved and washed in the warm peat Tug the bled shadow to the fen and stand as one Watching the rough husk slide under the brown water Priests calling the harvest.
The sun slants on a broken pot leaning out over the water The wet rails glint and the graves Rill with dirt ancestors crowded homes Touch these stones Feel over the braile of the dead The ghost of warmth in the ground Watch the moon making home A dog digging He mourns I will rest here, before the Thick earth builds on my boots, In my mouth
I am carving a statue Age seated in her backyard tearing feathers off a live fowl I concentrate Climb into her hands Watch the red wart on her face rising The rock ridge of her nose Sharpen for the kill Blood but behind her eyes run other tides coasts This chisel sights follows Here the tails of whales are lashing the waters They shall be my statue.
Years after his disappearance, I found the following manuscript sewn to the mattress that Dr. Zoroaster Knightt reputedly slept upon while serving out his life sentence at a Southwestern correctional facility. Dr. Knight was serving three concurrent life sentences for the brutal murder of his colleague, Dr. Rupert Apollo, at a college in Southern Nevada years ago.
Since he fled the correctional institute, pictures of Dr. Knightt have been seen on numerous night-time TV specials, all dedicated to studying the criminally insane. Countless sightings of Dr. Knightt, always dressed in a black cape and in the company of a gorgeous tall dark-haired women, have been reported most recently from a variety of places: Seattle, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, Paris, and Frankfurt. More than once, Dr. Knightt has been sighted simultaneously in two different cities. The search for Dr. Knightt continues.
Professor Rupert Apollo's murder -- the dismemberment of his corpse, the artful positioning of his decapitated head atop the office filing cabinet -- has not been satisfactorily explained by the authorities. As usual, local police have scampered about like blind rats looking for a piece of missing cheese. An arrest has been made, but no proof offered as evidence.
Rumored to be a destroyer of his colleagues' reputations, the effeminate Apollo was ushered into the next dark life at around two or three o'clock Friday morning, October 31st, 198--. On the following Monday morning, just before eight o'clock, I found the poor man in bits and pieces. I had come into the office early to look over the notes on my lecture, "Aesthetics of Murder in the First."
The head -- flesh a delightful light gray-blue flush, eyes blissfully rolled up in their sockets gazing heavenward -- had been separated from his body, obviously by a very sharp instrument, and placed in a filthy bird cage atop the filing cabinet in the main office. Apollo had been one acquainted with the contents of the secret files contained by the cabinet.
A bluish rotting ball -- a microcosm of our ruined planet? -- the head was hairless: the man's beard, eyebrows, and mustache had been singed, a reminder of Hell's hungry flames. Further -- I had to laugh at the effect -- the executioner had given the head a "buzz" haircut in the shape of a "Z."
Splatterings of blood dotted the faded green carpet in front of the secretary's desk, and swipes of blood artfully smeared the antiseptic gray of our office walls. On each of the four walls, a bloody "Z" ran from the upper left corner to the lower right. Equally disarming to the uninitiated was the thin path of blood (interconnected arrows, pointing the direction), now darkening and crusted into the rug, extending from the base of the filing cabinet and down the hallway to Apollo's own office. The line was a message from the night.
In Apollo's office, the decapitated and nude corpse lay sprawled across the desk, which had been pulled to the middle of the room. A giant and bloody cavity in the chest area pointed to the removal of the victim's heart. Limbs, also missing, were later found in the offices of four male colleagues, each one of whom could now permanently claim a piece of Apollo (their hearts desire?). In this small office, blood was universal -- on the walls, on the books, on the papers scattered on the ground, on the ceiling -- the splendid culmination of a splendid execution.
Most curious were the pictures on the walls. Through the years, Apollo had collected photos of himself posing with male opera stars, probably all gay, who had come through Las Vegas or Los Angeles. Each photo was smeared by bloody "Z." Only one photo remained untouched: it showed three teenagers sitting on the top of the back seat of a T-bird convertible, baring their asses to the camera. The person in the middle was Rupert. I sat on the passenger side.
You see, before we taught at the same college in Southern Nevada, Rupert Apollo and I had grown up boyhood companions in Boise, Idaho.
A precocious youth with an IQ well above one-hundred sixty five, I should have spent my youth in the state reform school in Blackfoot, a town in Southern Idaho named after a tribe of crazed Indians. Had it not been for my father, a frail bespectacled man whom I despise to this day, I would have spent my adolescence in a Blackfoot cage. Regrettably, I had weak, mewling parents, academic sorts nurtured on Spock and Skinner, parents who refused to use the words "authority" and "respect" around the household, who refused to lift a hand against me (even though, when I was twelve years of age, I did strike my mother on the cheek), who refused to impose restrictions, believing that my own genetically-programmed goodness would prevail. Their idealistic parenting only fueled the fire for my own behavior, which frequently bordered on the demonic.
In contrast, Apollo -- six months older than me almost to the day, born April 31st -- seemed a model youngster. He seemed to have the sunny disposition that I lacked. He seemed to win the hearts of one and all. The word "seemed" is the key here, for Apollo had no heart. It had been removed at an early age. His father, a fire-and-brimstone Pentecostal preacher who (rumor had it) had married his sister, had beaten the souls out of his twelve children.
Apollo and I attended grade school, junior high, and high school together. At one point, we became enamored of each other. Seemingly inseparable, we began college as roommates at the University of North Dakota and, following a horrendous snow storm and a bitter dispute in which I beat Rupert bloody and senseless, I left and hitch-hiked halfway across the country to join a beer-drinking fraternity in Spokane. There I became a man.
All during my childhood, Rupert was my companion. We both lived on the outskirts of the town and had a curious relationship: while we both enjoyed pranks that outraged our neighbors, Rupert never got caught. Never. That honor always went to me.
One afternoon, for instance, as we sat in some bushes on the foot hill overlooking his house, furiously smoking a pack of Old Golds that I had stolen from his father's study, Rupert suggested lighting the hillside on fire. "Burn that fucker," he commanded, "just for kicks." I loved fires, the crackling blaze of twigs consumed by flame, and I eagerly pursued his suggestion, quickly putting my clothes back on and flipping my cigarette into a patch of dry grass and sage brush that lay separate from the other brush by about twenty feet of dirt. Nothing bad would happen, I jokingly assured myself.
In fact, nothing could contain that fire -- Rupert described it as a "little taste of Hell" -- and we danced and screamed with joy as it magically swept the foothills, chanting Zoroastrian orisons to the dead buried in the ground occupied by Boise's new ranch-style houses. Within five hours, thirty thousand acres were gloriously ablaze. The fire made national news. After all, it was the month of August. It took the local fire department and the National Guard one week to contain the burning beast, but not before it had destroyed thirty homes.
Several evenings after I had set the blaze, officer Otis B. Hogg I -- an enormous bald man with black hair sprouting from his nose and ears -- made the first of many visits to my house, accusing me of setting the blaze that had put Boise on the map and claiming that neighbors wanted me sent away, but Father put forth such an eloquent defense on my behalf that I didn't have to worry about being shipped off to Blackfoot just then. "This bright young man," my father boasted, "is the future of America. Now, we don't want to lock up the future of America, do we, my friend?" Seated at our front table, slurping coffee, the ever repulsive Hogg snorted, stupidly shrugged his shoulders, farted, bid us a good day, and waddled through the front door. The next morning, as we were pigging out at our favorite fast-food joint, I related the incident to Rupert, who scratched his head and commented he had had no such visit from the police.
Approximately a year later Apollo initiated me into theft, a wonderful pastime, one I indulge to this day, and once I mastered the skill I challenged myself to see how many hundreds -- and, later, thousands -- of dollars worth of items I could collect in a given period. First, I learned how to steal magazines of naked women from our neighborhood store, and soon with regularity I was walking calmly and boldly out of the store, a copy of Caper or Flesh safely stuffed flat down into my pants and under my T-shirt. Magazines led to cigarettes, specifically Camels and Salems, and -- in later years -- cigarettes gave way to Olympia and Rainier beer. Life with Rupert Apollo was great. One hot August afternoon, seeking to do some kind of evil, we came upon a driverless beer truck parked behind Good's neighborhood store; its back was open, revealing fifty to one hundred cases of beer. "Oh, sweet Jesus," Rupert whispered, "our prayers just been answered. Get up there, boy, and gimme that beer." Before you could say "Fuck Otis B. Hogg," I had leapt into the back of the truck and began handing down case after case to Rupert. We made off with sixteen cases of Rainier beer that afternoon. Three days later, my parents received another visit from odious Otis. Again, my father -- a respected professor and state legislator -- raised an eloquent plea in my defense, which included a promise to have the store's liquor license revoked and officer Hogg suspended for life from the police force. Charges were dropped immediately, and Daddy flipped the bill for the sixteen cases. When I told Rupert about the incident, he scratched his head and responded that Hogg had not been by his house.
A third incident -- and there were far more than three -- convinced me that my so-called friend had been thrusting a gigantic knife into my back. During fifth period one spring day of our junior year in high school, Apollo brightly suggested that we cut class. "Let's get the fuck outta this dump," he would say, and I would do what he said. Fifth period, after all, was only a study hall and we wouldn't be missed for that or for the sixth period American Government class that concluded our day. When I eagerly embraced the notion and then asked how exactly we were going to pull off this caper, Apollo reminded me that the car of one of our friends -- a beautiful red and white '62 T-bird convertible belonging to Smoky James Earl -- could always be hot-wired. Since I knew vastly more about the workings of the automobile than my companion, since I could practically build a car from scratch just given the right parts, I agreed to go under the dash, splice the wire, and start the engine. It was a "piece of cake," as they say, and we drove out to Barber Dam, just outside of Boise, where we drank Rainier beer and conversed with two girls from our high school class. I had just stuck my burgeoning manhood into the mouth of the gorgeous squealing red-head named Rhonda, when officer Hogg's patrol car pulled up next to us.
"You boys getting any nookie? Mind if I join ya?" oinked the execrable Hogg, blowing us all a kiss.
"Go fuck that bitch-dog wife of yours, Otis," I responded, laughing, looking to Apollo for approval. When Hogg drove off, we knew we had been caught with our pants down.
That evening, as I was sitting home watching "The Fugitive", my parents again received a visit from Officer Otis B. Hogg I and the Boise chief of police Wendell Bright. This time, my father's eloquence would not have saved Jack the Ripper. I had to spend six months in Blackfoot. Those were the worst months of my life. Before I left for the cage, as I came to call it, Otis B. Hogg I cornered me behind the high school one night and beat me bloody. "This is for my bitch-dog wife, you evil little shit," he exclaimed, every time he hit me. I left for Blackfoot, battered and bruised, and there I was badly beaten up again and again, and abused many times.
Upon my return to Boise, I cornered Rupert Apollo in the high school cafeteria and, enraged, asked him why the cops hadn't come after him. I carried a knife and wanted to slice off one of his ears. For the first time, I saw fear in Rupert's eyes and knew he was afraid of me. He scratched his head nervously, trembled, and said he didn't know.
By the time of his death, therefore, I had known Apollo for a long time. When I came to the college nearly twenty years ago, Dr. Rupert Apollo was very accommodating, claiming he had "put in the good word" with the administration to insure that I got the opening in the Graphic Design department. Apparently, he considered himself a god. Over the years, I began to doubt Apollo's professed loyalty, particularly when my social standing in the entire community suffered while my friend continued to sit in the cat bird's seat. Certainly, I had heard my colleagues discuss my friend's duplicity; surely, it was he who circulated rumors that guaranteed my existence as a pariah.
I have learned, from reliable student sources, for instance, that my colleagues thought that I had spent time in county jail for beating a biker unconscious with a pool cue at the Furnace Tavern one night (I never, never fight with a pool cue); that I was involved in the drug trade, having spent years driving bag after bag of plant soil from Las Vegas to Los Angeles for a someone named Guido (Who the hell is Guido?); that I was partial owner of a chain of smut stores called Z Delight in New Jersey and Delaware. I was denied all advancement at the college. Socially, academically in Southern Nevada, I disappeared into a dark hole. A single male, I became acquainted with the back streets of Las Vegas.
Thus, my stay in Las Vegas became a slow, steady descent into the abyss. But it was in the abyss of nude bars where I found my true passion, my true calling, my flame. It was there that, true to my name, I came back to life. At Eternal Infernal Pleasures, I was accepted as an old friend; girls sat on my face for a minimal fee, fondled me freely while I tried to watch the dancers on stage, allowed me to suck their tits or finger their pussies. Of course, these freedoms may have had to do with the fact that half the dancers had been my students, all of whom received high grades in exchange for favors.
This dark place -- my heaven on earth -- became my world. And it was there that I met the woman who was to rule my life, the raven-haired Angela de LaMort, a nipple-ringed, pussy-pierced witch who demanded from me the same passionate sexual commitment that she gave to me. As a sign of her passion, she gave me a cock-ring; as a sign of my fidelity, I wore it to all the parties and showed it off proudly (Angela used to brag about my size). In short, I became this dark woman's sex-slave, and alone or together at some gathering I allowed her to lead me around by a chain, which she had attached to the ring.
On a lark, we began making movies together, and there I found my calling. I have provided a short list: "Dark Vixen I," "Dark Vixen II," "Dark Vixen III," "Dark Vixen V," "Baywatch Bitch," "Girls Who Love Cock IV, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XX, XXII," "Long Thrust," "Cunterbury Tails," "Johnny Cockrub," "Titanic Cockman," "Yellow Rainman," "Ruby Lips," "Love Really Hurts," "Big Hurt's Big Boy," "Butt Sex," "Cuntlicker I-IXII," and a few others you may not have heard of. The names are not particularly subtle, but at least I got my name in the lime light. My film name? Why, Otis B. Hogg, of course.
Of course, I killed Apollo. I butchered that bastard product of an incestuous union, last of his blood line. Had I not done so, he would have ruined me. Instincts told me something was wrong when he began treating me with unusual friendliness around the campus. He even went so far as to invite me to a Christmas party. A couple colleagues who still talked to me told me to watch out. Word was out, my job would soon be on the line, and I had to act.
So, one All-Hallows Eve, following the advice of Angela (who rode beside me in the car, furiously puffing away on cigarette after cigarette and holding my chain), I followed Rupert from the Food King parking lot near his house in southwest Las Vegas to the campus in Northtown.
"Gotta fuck this guy up, bitch," said my witch, giving me a tug. "Gotta fuck this guy up good." Angela had had a vision about Rupert Apollo, she claimed. In her vision, she had seen him decapitate me.
"What you got in mind?" I had asked her the night before, my arms and legs strapped to an enormous water wheel which Angela kept in her basement dungeon.
"What you got, big boy? A weapon, I mean," she said, threatening to spin the wheel and giving me a pleasurably painful yank. I was completely nude; she was dressed in skin-tight black leathers, which deliciously exposed tits and pussy.
"Oooh!!!" I said. "A shovel."
"Shovel? You some kinda fuckin' moron? No one uses a shovel."
"Where you gonna get a whip, stud? I mean, a real flesh tearin', butt-crackin' bull whip? 'Sides, whips don't kill." She gave me a hard tug. I yelped.
With my dick throbbing, I thought a bit on that one while she gave the wheel a twirl, yanking hard.
When the wheel stopped, dizzy, I tried again. "Baseball bat?" She spun and yanked.
"YOUCH!!" I remember screaming. "HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!!" I exclaimed just before my head was submerged in the pond at the bottom of the wheel.
"Youch!" she screamed back, laughing. "Praise the Lord!!" These were great times.
"Hedge clippers?" I offered humorously when I came to a stop. God, I enjoyed playing these games with Angela. That earned me three more spins.
The wheel came to a stop. "Big ole fuckin' ax?"
She paused, said "Gettin' real close, honey," and spun again, Angela's S and M version of The Wheel of Fortune. This went on until four o'clock in the morning. Finally, exasperated, even a little pissed off at me, she went into another room and came back with a huge stainless steel knife. She placed the knife on the floor in front of me, undid my arms and legs, and left the room with dark elegant swiftness. I swear, as I stood there, nude, that blade sang to me. I knelt, picked it up by the handle, and felt it become a mere extension of my massively muscled right arm. It was settled.
"Gotta fuck this guy up real good," Angela had said, and I planned to obey.
Thus, on this dark night of the full moon, All-Hallows Eve, Apollo parked his van in the deserted parking lot of the North Las Vegas campus and, of course, did not see me slowly driving the road that runs parallel to the lot. At my angel's suggestion, I had turned off my lights one block before reaching the campus. My car crept like a great black snake, and the closer we got to the campus, the more energized I felt, power coming from an unknown source.
It was past midnight when I parked the car and entered the building, leaving Angela behind smoking furiously in the car. She and I both knew what must occur. "Slice nice, bitch," were her last words as I got out of the car. "Let that fuckin' blade sing."
That fuckin' blade was certainly about to sing. Whistling "When the Saints Come Marchin' In," I calmly strode up to the side door of the college and, using my key, noiselessly entered the building, assured that Rupert Apollo had gone ahead to his office. My black cape hissing about me, I silently ran up the stairs, taking two to three steps at a time. Once at the top, noticing the light in the office complex was on, I glided down the hallway, an invisible lizard, and peered through the window separating the office from the darkened hallway.
I saw Apollo enveloped in light and hunched over the cabinet, a huge queer rat looking for stale bread. Apparently having gone to a Halloween party earlier in the evening, he was dressed entirely in orange, with billowing sleeves and billowing pants; as far as I was concerned, he looked like a huge pumpkin just waiting to be cut open.
I remained on all fours and crept through the door leading into the office complex and up to within two feet of my colleague, who was frantically leafing through what I feared would be my own bulging file. For five minutes, I remained on all fours, my red eyes glaring hatefully up at him. Had I been a beast, I would have bitten into his leg, tearing flesh and crushing bone.
Finally, a phantom from a nightmare, I stood and cleared my throat with a growl. He nearly jumped out of his skin, and I had to laugh.
"Oh, pardon me, my dear Z," said the pumpkin, shaking, facing me and frantically looking down into my eyes. A little boy whose hand had just been caught in the cookie jar, he was just over six feet, and I was barely 5'11. But I terrified him. "How good to see you, Z!" he exclaimed, probably realizing he had painted his way into the corner of death. "I didn't notice you." He smiled, batted his fag eyelashes at me, and I considered slicing his eyes out.
"You do now," I responded, inching closer so there were no more than three inches separating us. "What you doin' here, punkin'?"
"I was looking for an important piece of mail, if you must know, Zorro," he added, visibly trembling, sweating, trying to humor me. But I didn't feel humored; instead, I felt the anger rising from some deep dark recess in my soul, molten lava pushing to the surface of a volcano. I hated being called Zorro.
"That's not the mail, punkin'," I growled, gritting and grinding my teeth, ready to spring for my adversary's throat. I sniffed, the smell of blood imminent. I wanted to howl.
"Well, I guess that's right, huh, isn't it, huh, huh, huh???" he stuttered, so frightened that he retched and nearly vomited. "I guess, hehehe, I guess, hehehe, oh, dear, I guess, uh, uh, uh, that I made a mistake, didn't I? But, then again, Z, we all do make mistakes, don't we? Heh, heh, heh."
Sensing insult, hating his forced rhymes, I sprang. "That happens to be my fucking folder, you cunt!!!" I screamed, reaching out and grabbing the folder out of his fat and fleshy hands. I read the label on the file and saw that I was right: the file label did read my name.
"What," I demanded, seizing the man my the neck and hurling him against the wall on the other side of the room, dangling him a couple inches off the ground for good measure, "what the hell do you think you are doing?" Over the years, for some reason, I had developed a nearly uncontrollable temper, the source of which puzzles me. Further, I had enormous strength -- most assuredly, I draw this from my angel.
For close to five minutes, with both my arms, I held Apollo pinned against the wall. His fatty legs flailed wildly, reminding me of some huge overweight insect, until I kneed him hard in the groin. As he struggled in sick pain, trying to grasp his genitals, the dangling fag emitted the squeaks of a church mouse, and his face turned blue. I should have bitten off his nose at that instant and sucked out his brains. His eyes bulged from their sockets; his tongue lolled out. He gasped, "Uh, uh, uuuhh. Uh, uh, unnnhh!!!"
When I let Rupert down so that he could gasp, gag, cough, and get enough air to converse with me, I smelled a fetid stench that told me the man had urinated and defecated in his orange balloon pants.
Trembling, my foe stared at me, wide-eyed, a terrified little animal, for several minutes, one hand holding his balls, the other rubbing his now bright red neck. Undoubtedly, he knew I could crack his vertebrae, pulverize his skull, crush him to sawdust in an instant. Nevertheless, for once in his cowardly life, he stood boldly upright, pulled himself to within one foot from my face, and spat on me. Spittle and snot dribbled off my chin.
"Good snot-shot, punkin'," was all I said. I had to admire his spirit.
"You vicious prick," he said, the trembling temporarily gone. "Wait until people hear about this one. I am tired of being pushed around by dicks like you."
I looked at my former friend and smiled like a fiend. This was the moment I had waited for, a point of culmination. It was like touching the sun. "No one is going to hear about this one, my queer orange lad," I rasped in the gravely voice that emerges when my own primal, animal rage takes over. His mood changed instantly; he saw me for the dark thing that I am.
At that, I struck Apollo on the jaw with all my power. Crack. Down he went, like a bag of rocks. I bent down, grabbed the hair on his head, pulled him off the ground so I could pummel him again with my fist. Crack, crack, crack. "You fuckin' bitch-dog," I whispered every time I brought my fist crushing against his softening skull. It was better than TV violence. As he fell onto the carpet and into a state of semi-consciousness, I continued to beat and kick him savagely, and in seconds he was unconscious, probably dead, his blood spattered widely and randomly about the office.
"Come on, guts," I whispered. I dragged my colleague by the feet down the hall and into his office. Oddly, he seemed lighter now than he had been a moment before. Propping the body against the wall, I opened my fly, took out my manhood, and urinated on it. Then, after returning my great beast (Angela's pet term) to its keep, I yanked his desk out to the center of the room and, with one sweep of my arm, brushed the papers, books, and writing utensils that littered the desk top to the ground. Next, I undressed the body, picked it up, and lay it flat on his back atop the desk, which I planned to use as a butcher's slab/altar. Finally, I removed the twelve-inch stainless steel knife from a sheath that I had strapped to the inside of my left leg -- the knife was ready to sing. Quickly, in a mystic instant, brain afire, I sang these lines, which had come to Angela in her vision (I have since entitled the piece, "To Pumpkin: A Love Poem"):
Good night, sweet lump, it's time for you to go.
A shriveled, bloody bat, your soul a sickly rat,
You crawl a crippled thing into the eternal hole,
Where, 'til planets turn to dust, and angels moan in rage,
You smolder all alone (God-locked) in a tiny filthy cage.
Feeling reborn, redeemed from the abyss into which I had been cast, I howled, I danced, and then -- raising the singing blade -- I savagely, gleefully went to work.
The manuscript stops here. Of course, the location of Dr. Knightt and his mistress remains a mystery. One photographer who attempted to photograph the man seated in a French restaurant with his lovely Angela could produce pictures that showed only the lady. Inexplicably, Knightt had disappeared from the photo. (I guess you can't always see the darkness.) Thus, to this day, nine years after his escape from imprisonment, there exists no proof of the man's whereabouts.
I dreamt of a tall-treed forest with snow-covered dirt floors, and a four-lane highway cutting through the center. From a panoramic intro-like view of thousands of feet, I watched myself exit the highway and glide towards a shackled gas station at the corner. The view shot to ground level as I got out of my car and walked into the building, which had transformed into an old home of mine -- one I lived in until I was nine. No physical characteristics told me this, only preconceived thoughts of where I might be. Murky intuition rather than reason. I stepped through the front door, in search of something, and found the hallway to be collapsed, riddled with trash and charred, mutated toys dumped from unseen toy chests. Crawling over fallen beams, through broken rattles and pink bunnies coated with caramel, each room had more of the same, with the occasional overturned bed and pool of water -- piles of things left behind by my family, I assume. Around and around I crawled, covering all the rooms in a circle, with every lap becoming more crowded and difficult to navigate. My ankle somehow became lodged between a playpen and chunk of uprooted floor, but I quickly freed myself and continued around my home.
Over my afternoon breakfast of Grape Nuts and apple juice, I flipped through dozens of channels on by beloved television, a thing only done over food to keep my brain somewhat stimulated by moving pictures and sound as I performed the necessary consumption of food. Landing on one of six news channels, the televised personality told me of amazingly high-scoring basketball games of the NBA: 89-76, 84-81, 76-71. Why this was considered such a feat I did not know, as a few years ago I recalled most games easily in the 80s and 90s, and hitting 100 points not an uncommon event. Flip some more until landing on news channel two of six, and listen to devoted commentary on how offensive basketball has become, with fast-running games and three-pointers pushing much of the league, the results of which are these high scoring games.
Nothing new, nothing new, my memory must be failing, which will soon be followed by my sight and hearing, and general health, and within a few months I will collapse on a tiled Pine Sol floor in a supermarket in someone else's neighborhood, and turn to mushy mush. I am already eating Grape Nuts, after all, in search of fiber and a reverberating crunch, even after it has soaked in milk for minutes. Grape Nuts don't have prizes, and I have grown old. Growing old? I will only get older.
No need to think about such things. I turned the television off and tossed the remote onto the couch, getting up to take the empty bowl and milk-splattered spoon to their respective places in the sink. I should wash some dishes. I'll just pretend the dishes are the source for my super-powers, and clean dishes will only sap my strength. Besides, I need to get down to the coffeehouse and avoid my thoughts.
Walking away from the couch I had slept on, I headed down the hall, towards my bedroom, and directly into the door. Which was locked. I have not been back here in two days, and when I was, I do not remember locking the door, and furthermore, why would I lock myself out of the bedroom? That would be silly. Oh, joy, must be my memory. I could have been back there last night, or twenty minutes ago, and I haven't the power to recall it. Well, that's fine, let's just deal with it and move on. I would, dear sir, except for the unmistakable flashing lights emanating from beneath the door.
Strobing, bright flashes of white light, seeping out beneath the door, looking like it should be accompanied with fog, smoke, and men in latex costumes. No sound, no heat, just pulsating lights. Naturally, this would bother me. Aliens. They are here -- a UFO has landed in my bedroom in the daylight afternoon hours, coming here to perhaps take me back to their aluminum mercury eyedrop ship hovering in the atmosphere above, to drug me and rip apart my organs from the inside, or initiate me as their contact to the human race. Break out The Urantia Book, yodel at Bill Cooper, and tell Richard Hoagland I have a Christmas present for him. Dozens of grey, black-eyed, psychokinetic creatures scurrying about my room, doing my laundry and looking for the satellite dish.
I knocked on the door, and an innocent voice answered, "Come in."
I tried the door again, and found it unlocked. As I turned the doorknob and watched the door creepily swing ajar, my head was filled with images of black-masked axe-murderers, drooling serial rapists, bouncy three-fingered aliens, tempered knives slicing through the air, bats contacting my skull from dark corners I never glanced at, all followed with the desire to step back and see if I was to soon meet my bludgeoning.
The room, however, contained no such things. Above, where the ceiling fan once was, hung a large disco ball, projecting squares of brightness on everything around it, including the Little Prince woman wearing a baby blue and mauve western shirt, half unbuttoned, fringe dangling from her arms, as she held a matching mauve cowboy hat, seemingly eight sizes to large, above her tilted head. She straddled the naked back of the gentleman she left the coffee shop with the evening before, and he continued to writhe and flip on the bed, playing his role of bucking bronco, seemingly unbothered by his nudity. He looked to be enjoying it, actually.
"Ah, speechless once again, I see," she spoke in between breaths and bumps, riding her human plaything.
"Well, this is somewhat unexpected -- you riding some naked guy in the middle of my bed. That's just plain wacky. I don't really have any preprogrammed response to that."
"Of course not. Do you like the disco ball?"
"Yeah, sure. I've always wanted one."
She looked down at the man below her. "Have you ever seen Emmanuelle?"
"Uhh, no, sorry."
"Wait, what the hell -- why, why, what the hell?"
"Oh, calm down. This is your fault, you know."
"My fault? Right. I think you have developed a problem with not accepting responsibility for your own actions."
"No, if you would have watched me like I told you to, this wouldn't have happened. Well, maybe it would have, but you would not be all freaked out about it. Now, I have to start in the beginning again, leaving in and leaving out more than I should, only to watch you come to a cul de sac of confusion once again, and on and on we go, round a wet well, looking for water."
"Yes, well, I do see what you mean. I admit I turned away for a moment, and you journeyed into oblivion while I did so. How did you do that by the way?"
"That will come along with everything else."
"Everything else... should I even ask about that?"
"No, you will see such things, of course. Experience is the only true method of learning."
"Right, well. What must I do now?"
"Oh, nothing much, just be on your way."
And with that I turned and walked out of my bedroom, shutting the door behind me due to some embedded respect for people's privacy, grabbed my backpack, and left my home to the sounds of whinnies, grunting, and the occasional giddee-up.
In several months, neither the Little Prince, nor the blue-eyed girl had come to any conclusions about each other, other than the fact they both were stubborn. Nothing from the other seemed to indicate any sort of stop to the blundering mess of question after demand after question, not even so little as a change in question or demand -- always the same, again and again.
Lucky to both, a lone traveler happened about their location while backpacking down from the crystalline mountains in the distance, and stopped to take in the culture.
"Why do you want me to touch you?"
"Just touch me."
"Why do you want me to touch you?"
"Touch me, please."
The traveler reached into his pack, digging deep amongst his dried beef and fruit, around his extra socks and cans of beans, beneath his maps and compass, and pulled out an over-sized rectangular object wrapped in plain brown paper. He slid it to the ground in front of him, crossed his legs with a sigh of comfort, and began to carefully unwrap the paper.
I took my normal path downtown, stopping only once to spend the last of my available cash on cigarettes, hoping I have built up enough karma to receive the gift of free coffee once I reached my destination. I could not help but wonder about the events a few moments ago, about who this person might be, and why she apparently had the power to teleport and end up in another's bedroom. Perhaps that is how she disappeared from the coffeehouse, teleported into another realm, folded space and popped through her own little travel edition of a wormhole. These thoughts did not surprise me, however. It all seemed to fit into my own reality tunnel one way or another, and I eliminated the possibility of monstrous hallucinations with confidence, though if I relayed the story to my mother, she would think I was mad.
Perhaps I am. Or would be viewed as such by the average Young Republican -- those who haven't the capacity to understand the depths of such situations, the scope and relevance of such that you could only convince them of it by putting them through it. My thoughts drifted to allegories of angels reaching down to mortal man, wondering if the angels were nothing more than enlightened men themselves, on their eternal path to bring others to their own level through love and wisdom and understanding. Fallen angels misusing the awareness and apparent unnatural powers given unto them through whatever paths they took in the past, becoming lost in their own plane of worsening existence, perhaps not knowing what once was right, what brought them to their position in the beginning, what made their spirit glow, maybe lost in their own fear. I wondered why the mythos of winged human-like creatures were found in cultures throughout the world, why there were so many records of such beings from the heavens, why there were drawings of humans with circles above their heads on cave walls, scrolls, and slabs of stone throughout history, and why these scrawls were interpreted as enlightened beings.
Rain began to fall, though I saw only a few scattered clouds above me, and those few were all a fluffy lively white. I made my way through tides of people, all with somewhere to go, occupied with whatever self-mantra chants pushed them through the streets. A frail, bald child with seemingly mangled teeth sat on a plank of wood -- "You like to go 'vroom, vroom,' don't you, boy?" he yelled as I slid by with little a glance. Weirding modules popped into my head, dreaming of the possibilities of reality manipulation by sound, only to be shot down by the realization it was an addition to the film, not originally included in the book. More childhood dreams shot down by origins known to the few. A glowing oriental female with flowing raven hair drifted by me, staring me down as she seemed to morph from angel to vampire and back again. Sometimes it is physically difficult to stare back at such people, letting them read into your pupils. On several such occasions, my head has jer the side in an involuntary reaction, and sometimes my eyes actually shake in my head, which is an odd, uncomfortable sensation. Closely following the Asian woman came a stream of bare-footed college students, all dressed in dark silken garb, proceeding in single-filed silence with miniscule black crosses smeared on their foreheads. It is not Ash Wednesday, it is Tuesday, two months after.
I reached the intersection before the coffeehouse, and waited as the anti-walk sign stopped blinking, secretly telling me to stop being a pedestrian, and start being a corner loiterer. Expecting traffic to whisk within six inches of my body as I teetered on the curb, I looked to the left to eye the prospective drivers. There were no vehicles, though, only a short procession of marching band members swinging through the streets, offering an upbeat rendition of a Tom Jones song, heading west through the green lights, and turning into a nearby alleyway. Not many people stopped in wonderment about this -- few even gave their attention for a moment, and all just continued down the sidewalks, crossing the streets, parking their bikes and waving umbrellas with rose-patterns. A well-toned pony-tailed guy, dressed in a stylish black, flopped into my shoulder as he paced by, carrying eight copies of Steppenwolf, and not stopping to apologize. Onward I pushed, knowing there was lit tance to the end of this mess, where I can seek salvation in a dim corner and relax to the sounds of coffee beans dancing. Again the religious folk stood in their reserved doorways, eating their hymns and verse, but this time they were not all clean-cut and well-groomed. The group of raggedy, dirt-clad angst kids stood amongst them, swaying with their smiling cherub faces, holding hands of the kids in toddler ties. Paradigms, oh paradigms, how I milk thee honey swift. A humming girl sat against the wall of Eckerd's, lost in her headphones and books, as a man with a picture of a blissful, smiling Jesus on his shirt waltzes around parking meters, and another man sprints by with his hands clenched to his face.
I ducked through the glass doors of the coffeehouse, which changed its name to Insomnia sometime within the past twelve hours, and took deep breaths with raised eyebrows as I walked to the counter. The staff had apparently changed along with the name, for I stared at savvy, hip employees looking as though they were imported from Thundercloud Subs, except for the fact they were all dressed in clown outfits, with glowing red bouncy hair to match their spongy noses, multi-colored one-piece jumpsuits, white and red and yellow smeared in patterns on their face, and bouncy nine foot plastic shoes stolen from the back closets of McDonald's.
My approach was reserved and careful, hoping to play along with the gig, and I said, "Hi," accompanied with a shy grin.
"Hello! Hello, hello! What kind of dreams can we make come true?"
To this I just kept my grin and stared, wondering how I avoided paying for admission. "Well, uhmm, can I just get some water?"
"Surely, surely you can, can!" came the response, along with an arch of water from a well-placed flower on the breast of the server, showering me aptly in the face. And I stood and dripped. The clown simply continued with its burly red happy face and looked at me some more.
"Can I possibly get that in a glass, with some ice?" I asked with calmness.
"Oh, no, no, no. Can't have that. Nothing like that here. No, no, no. Please move on, next, next! Hello Mr. Customer, step right up!"
There was no Mr. Customer behind me, only dust and empty tables. I moved up the stairs with a sigh, hoping I would run into some sane people I have known from the days before to bring me back from wherever I may be. Of course, I saw none. There were only half a dozen people scattered about the upper level, one white-haired girl in a pink sequin body suit, swinging on a tire hanging from above the stage, keeping beat to the Bach in the background. It must be difficult to do, keeping rhythm with a tire swing.
To my surprise, this was the only odd thing up here. The other five people were scattered nicely about the area, doing nothing strange -- reading soft-covered books, sipping half-chilled coffees, glancing at me glancing at them. This is good. This is relieving. On I went towards the back corner placed between the views outside and views within, chuckling at the little safe place I have found. The westernized Little Prince woman was not one of the few present, so I must be patient and see what develops, see if she floats in through the window on a diamond-studded magic carpet with scarves flowing around her body and doves whispering her name. Her name. How I wish I knew her name. I doubt she would tell me if I asked -- she would probably respond with something like "A name? A name? You want a name? So you can brag to all your friends you met this stunning, unmatchable woman, who dripped drops of love from her eyes and danced to the wind's song, whatever it may be?"
Two seats in front of me, a thirty-something man sat amongst papers, head ducked in a book entitled Physics for the New Millenium, blindly sipping the short-stacked coffee, holding a blue ball-point Bic in the other hand. And as I deciphered his facial expressions, up he rose, chair, book, pen, and all, lifted by some invisible rope; carouselian organ music emanated from around him, and he hovered to the ceiling and beyond, lost in the shadowy rafters. His notes and such still laid scattered on the glass table, and he did not spill a drop of his coffee. A few seconds of puzzlement went by, and down he came again, accompanied by the same music children ride porcelain horses to, and on and on, with little a wince.
Another, across the room, began zooming around in his now mobile, motorized coffeehouse chair with wheels, leaving trails of dew-laden white rose petals behind him while he flipped a pen along the knuckles of his right hand, around and about chairs and tables, grinning up at the slanted lights now spotlighting him in his act.
To keep myself from such distractions, I pulled my notebook and pen from my backpack, and began a weak attempt at jotting down fanciful nothings. It worked at first, and I hardly noticed any of what was going around me for two minutes or so, until I found the motorized rose shedding gentleman next to me, still grinning into the lights, the roses now making a glittery fairy rose mound behind him.
The traveler removed the last of the brown paper, being sure to serenely fold and tuck the paper back into his pack, and left a leather-clad notebook and dense black pen in front of him.
"Why do you want me to touch you?"
"Why do you want me to touch you?"
"Touch me, touch me."
Dusty, worn hands touched the lips of both the Little Prince and the vixen child, and each stopped their vocal inquiries into the other and turned their eyes to meet the traveler's. He removed his hands and looked to the ground for a few moments, eyeing the articles before him. And with single movements, he handed the pen to the Little Prince, the notebook to the girl, gathered his pack, and walked on to silent grins.
My plan was for the man to speak first, seeing as he is the one with the transforming chair and a spotlight glaring off him. But he just stared and dazed, glazed over in his own multiverse, oblivious of my attention towards him. As I was about to speak, and query what he might be doing, he turned his head and giggled at nothing, and up the stairs floated some monstrous pastel thing, flipping and flapping in an invisible breeze, following the winding path of damp rose petals leading up to where I sat.
The mechanized man turned his impossible vehicle and buzzed back to his table without a second glance back, and the Little Prince woman took his place, wrapped in silken pastel scarves and cloth, floating on a matching, wavy carpet perched upon by white doves.
"Right. Of course. So, now I am going to ask you what your name is."
She smirked and replied, "A, a, name, name? Want a name you? Friends so to all your you brag can met stunning, this woman unmatchable you met, eyes from dripped love who drop of her and wind's whatever be may danced to the it song?"
"I thought so. Well. OK."
"Did you like that?"
"Yes, that was amusing."
"I thought you would."
"So, what's with -- "
"Oh, come on. Trust yourself."
She swooped down and grabbed my notebook and pen -- the doves never moved, and her eyes never left mine. I nodded, and smiled as she whisked back the way she came, and decided the next time I saw her, I would call her by her name.
It was a full-moon night. Two hours before, the sun had dropped behind the huge purple mountains to the west, bleeding the sky with purples, blues, reds, pinks, and oranges. Because I have to sleep during the day, I hadn't seen this spectacle... In fact, I hadn't seen a Las Vegas sunset in a long time.
You see, I'm a ghoul. Yes, I dig up graves, feed on corpses, etc., etc., but never in my life would I be caught dead walking around like one of the ghouls/zombies in "Night of the Living Dead." I have more class than that. And while ghouls aren't restricted to the night, as some creatures are, I find that the Las Vegas sun sucks what little life I have in these bones right out of me. Besides, most of the residents that I know are ghouls who, quite naturally (given the environment), prefer the night life here; those who aren't tend to be either vampires or werewolves.
Anyway, it was the end of July, 95 degrees in the evening, but we three didn't mind. Alex and I had lived in Las Vegas most of our lives and loved the hellish night heat of the summer. Roasting in the heat and getting drunk, wishing for something to eat, Alex, Lisa and I were sitting at Barney's, an outdoor restaurant on the 34th floor of the Babylon Hotel, working on our fourth pitcher of Wolf's Head beer, a reddish sweet brew.
Typical for some ghouls these hot summer evenings, I was wearing no shirt. Lisa, of course, was somewhat fully dressed. As for Alex -- well, Alex has an excessively hairy body (You'll understand in a bit) and is a bit repelling without a shirt. Thus, Alex wore a T-shirt with a wolf's head on the front.
Four nights ago, poor Alex had lost his job as a bouncer at a local nude bar, Pussy Willow's. Things had gone fine for Alex for three years when, suddenly, one night a month ago, he'd gone ballistic and nearly ripped a customer's throat out in the parking lot. Lisa and I were there at the time, cheering him on with about 100 other fans and saw Alex make a bloody mess of this guy, some local pip-squeak attorney.
After four weeks, Alex had been called into the office. "Can't keep ya, Alex," Big Louie, the manager, had nervously told him two nights ago, puffing on a huge Satanic cigar. "Everyone, girls included, me included, are scared shitless of ya, kid. Here's five hundred buck. See ya." After that, Alex immediately went into a severe psychotic depression, claiming that for the last three nights he could hear choirs of angels singing to him when he slept. This was serious shit. Lisa and I had to do something, so we invited him to go with us to Barney's.
So, there we three sat at the world famous Barney's Bar and Grill, drinking and watching the glorious darkness of night fill the valley, my stomach growling for food. Alex was in a black funk, probably day-dreaming of murdering the owner, his parents, or both. Good ghouls to the end, my girl Lisa and I were trying to bring him out of it. For the past hour, we had told filthy jokes, talked about our high school days when we were all more or less normal, and leafed through some magazines with pictures of Lisa. I knew that Alex loved seeing Lisa in the buff. (I was real proud of Lisa. At twenty-seven years of age, she was about to break into the top ranks of the adult film industry. Dark Angel had already approached her about making a movie with local star Bunny Hooters.)
Barney's is the perfect place to spend a hot July evening when one of your friends has just gotten the boot. Everyone in this dark city goes to Barney's: former state legislatures, bail bondsmen, strippers and prostitutes, even an occasional homeless person, who'll curl up on one of the purple couches inside to get some sleep. And there's more to Barney's. The waitresses are young and gorgeous, generally untouched by the evil of this present age, and are required by management to wear skimpy, revealing and tight-fitting purple tops and pink pants that beautifully accent hips and cheeks. Some of these girls look good enough to eat.
Another thing about this place. On the roof of the Babylon, overlooking the restaurant, runs the oldest roller coaster in Nevada. In keeping with the Barney theme, the cars and tracks are purple; underneath and parallel to the tracks is a line of blazing red neon tubing that, from the distance, makes it look like the tracks are on fire. Occasionally, the manager runs the cars backwards on the tracks to scare the hell out of new customers -- just for kicks. Looming over the tracks is a huge, forty foot statue of Barney the friendly dinosaur, holding a flashing green sign announcing "Last Ride to Hell." Tonight, I wanted to ride that roller coaster with Lisa, who loves this place as much as I do. In fact, the first time Lisa saw the Babylon, the restaurant, and the roller coaster, she said, "Cool." This place is the nearest thing to heaven, as far as I am concerned.
At night, from Barney's, Las Vegas spreads out like Dante's Lake of Fire, stretching for miles into black desert void. Jesus, it's beautiful. Easily matching the glorious sunsets, the strip below a blazing, glowing mass of neon stretching all the way south to the Excalibre. The only other match are the topless stage extravaganzas that have been running on the Strip for twenty years.
Now to the story.
At the table next to us sat a family of four -- mom, dad, two kids -- that had just moved here from Southern Utah. I think these were normal Western Americans.
I had overheard some of their conversation. The father looked like Bluto from the Popeye cartoons, except Bluto didn't have red hair like this guy did. This guy -- I'll call him Bluto for now -- was a tall burley muscular hillbilly of a man with a red handle-bar mustache and a brand-new Barney's T-shirt, who claimed to have been here before and really wanted to impress his wife and kids with his knowledge of the town. "Yup," he said in his Bluto voice as he slurped his purple milkshake, "I seen lots o' this city, ain't much I ain't seen or done here. This city's my bud."
Yup. This city's my bud. What the hell did that mean? I wondered. Obviously, Bluto didn't know shit about Vegas, and normally I would have said something like, "Oh, yeah, does that include watching the dancers at Lucky Star Adult Books?" But, because he was with his kids, one of whom was a beautiful young raven-haired girl that couldn't have been over sixteen and that I wanted for myself, I held my peace and leafed through the latest edition of Lips, which featured a beautiful five-page spread of Lisa.
"Hey, Alex," I rasped, looking up, "you seen these pics? Lisa is gorgeous here, pussy and all." I held up the magazine's fold-out, which showed my girl spreading her beautiful pussy for the camera.
Alex, however, was studying the February issue of Rear View, which contained another spread of Lisa. "Gimme a sec, bro," he muttered, smacking his lips, reddish eyes bulging hungrily at a picture of undoubtedly the most beautiful piece of tail in the great American Southwest. Alex was definitely coming out of it. "Jesus, Lisa," he said, looking up at my girl, "this is one good shot, girl. Nice tattoo, too." He turned the magazine around so that I could see a picture of Lisa spreading her bare ass to the camera. She wore the pussy rings I had given her two Christmases ago and had a lizard tattooed on her right butt cheek. "You gonna sign this shot for me, Lisa?"
"Alex, honey, after the shitty month you had, I'll sign your huge and hairy dick for you." Lisa was an awfully nice ghoul when she wanted to be.
Alex noticeably brightened at this, stood up and made like he was going to unzip the fly of his slacks. I laughed. Of course, Alex was joking. Besides Lisa had personally autographed his dick at a private New Year's party at Pussy Willow's just this last year.
But Bluto didn't see the humor in Lisa and Alex's conversation. As Alex stood, Bluto pushed his iron chair back with an ugly scrape and, arms dangling at his side, trying to look like a pro-wrestler, just gave Alex and me a mean hateful stare.
"Ah beg yer pardon?" Bluto roared at Alex. Everyone in the place stopped what they were doing and watched. "There's people here, you jerk!! Kids, too. You don't do none of that."
"My good Bluto," I commented, turning around in my chair so I could look at this bully. "This is none of your fucking business."
"Listen, you gray-skinned pecker head," he growled, glancing my way, "it's my business when my ole lady and my younguns is involved. Which they is. You go to jail for that filth where I come from. And don't call me.... Wha' you call me?"
"Bluto," I gently replied, smiling at Lisa. "As in Popeye the sailor man." I had worked a long time to be patient with such crass stupidity.
Alex looked at Bluto, who had started to walk over to our table, a belligerent scowl on his meaty face. Unable to resist, Alex grinned sheepishly, scraped his feet on the concrete floor, looked up and asked, "Uh, shucks, none o' what, meat pie?"
"That stuff you was gonna do. Open your fly like some kinda preverted[sic] animal. Show yer prick, you prick. I got a wife an' kids, jerk-off.... Hey, what you call me jus' now? I oughta bust you in the chops, Bosco," he said, looking back at his children for approval. Bluto wanted to show his wife and kids and everyone else in the restaurant that he was tough. He stood two feet from Alex.
"Look, go finish your purple Barney's Super Deluxe Milkshake, be with the old fam, and leave us be, dumb ass," Alex instructed this behemoth, trying to remain calm but accidentally emitting a low snarl. I guess Alex was still border-line as far as his moods were concerned.
Alex doesn't look like much, which may be why Bluto tried so hard to bully him. At 5'11", Alex has an average build and probably weighs 165 pounds. He wears wire-rimmed glasses and has long blonde hair, which gives people who don't know him the impression that he is either a college English professor, a homosexual, or both. Alex looks like he could just start quoting Shakespeare and Dostoevsky any moment, though I doubt he has read either author since his undergraduate days at Columbia. ("If it's not in the Satanic Bible, Nicky," Alex had told me on many an occasion, "I just don't want to read it.")
But I knew -- in fact, most everyone in the restaurant knew -- that Alex was vicious as a rabid dog in a fight. I had seen Alex in fights, and they were always pleasantly terrifying, better than anything in a movie or computer game. The fights were incredibly, deliciously bloody. And Alex never lost. Never. In fact, Alex generally ended up putting his opponent either in the hospital or -- on at least one or two occasions, for which he pleaded self-defense -- in the ground.
Anyway, a great and unsuspecting fool, Bluto stood his ground, like he had a right to it, so Lisa stepped in. "Uh, honey," she said in a drunken whiny slur, stumbling to her feet, pulling her blue T-shirt down in order to accentuate her tits, and looking square into Bluto's face. "Uh, honey, butt cheese, whatever they call ya, why don't you just take it somewhere else? We don't want no trouble."
Pointing a finger first at Alex, then at me, then at Lisa, the man bellowed for all to hear, "You three fucks make me wanna puke with your talk about porn and those fuckin' skin magazines --and your gray fuckin' skin. I been listenin'. (Uuuhhh.... Wha' you call me, sister?). You sittin' around like three dead people or somethin'. I'm surprised you boys ain't whackin' off in front of everyone, hawhawhaw, what with your whore with ya here." With that he reached forward, took the magazine out of my hand, and held it up.
"This is the kind of shit these pricks read!" he proclaimed, holding the magazine over his head. Then he ripped it in two.
"Ooooooohh," said some of the customers in mock-amazement. Others hissed. They didn't give a shit. Nor were they impressed.
"Give it a rest, Jack!" said Liz, an old prostitute who sat nightly at the far end of the restaurant nursing margaritas and wishing for better days....
This set Bluto off again. "I'll give it a fuckin' rest when these scum git outta here, you old bitch!" I could see that Bluto's wife and kids were getting restless. And I was getting upset. Liz had been my first real piece of ass when I was sixteen and normal, and I didn't like hearing her insulted.
"Buddy, Buddy, Buddy," his wife pleaded nervously, still seated, "let's not do this. Let's not make another scene. Please. Relax. No big deal." Obviously, this wasn't the first time Buddy had behaved like a prick to show off to his kids. "Buddy," she added for emphasis, "these three aren't normal, honey. The girl and the boy with the jewelry, why, their skin's almost gray. Lookit their skin, honey. Look at it. The other guy looks at you funny, outta the tops of his red fire eyes, an' he's pale as death. Let'em be, Buddy."
"C'mon, Dad," mewed the raven-haired girl, flashing me an I'll-let-you-fuck-me-later smile. She was thinking of me, God bless her soul. I could also tell she hated the her dad and I started to get hard. "Knock it off. Please. Please. Please. You're makin' a scene. We all know you're tough." At this, she giggled.
"You bet," said Buddy, first to his family, then to us. "I'm one tough son of a bitch when I git goin'."
"Sir," I said, staggering to my feet and trying to be as polite as ghoulishly possible and stepping into the light so he could clearly see me, "may I have my magazine back -- or at least what's left of it?" I held out my hand.
"Huh?" he said. "Why you wear all that fuckin' jewelry, junior?" he asked me. "Haw. I see you even pierced your titties, kid!!!" Indeed, I like body jewelry, a personal fetish. He went on, "Goddamn, junior, got a ring in your nose, in your lip. Shit. You're a bitch, son!!! Bitch-dog ugly."
"Sir Swine, you are upsetting me," I continued. "Now give me my magazine. Give it to me. Please."
He glowered at being called a name, then threw his head back and laughed. "Sure, titty-rings," he said, stepping up to me, "I'll give it to you." With that, he brought his right around and cuffed me on the side of my head. I staggered back and fell against our table, knocking over our pitcher of beer.
I had my hand on the blade in my pocket, visions of cutting this fucker's nose off dancing like sugarplums in my head, when Alex stepped between us, held up his hand, and said to me, "Please, Nicky, this is my fight. I may not have started this," Alex snarled, eyes flashing demonic red, "but I'll sure fuckin' finish it."
Alex looked at Buddy, undoubtedly startled by the snarl, and said, "How about it, fat boy?" Then he blew the man a kiss and poked him in the belly.
Bluto frowned fiercely, clinched his fists, gritted his teeth. "You name it, Bosco," he fumed in a barely audible voice. "Where at?"
"You know the parking lot down here behind the Babylon?" Alex stood inches from Buddy's face.
"Got my car parked there, Bosco."
"There's an empty dirt lot at the far end."
"I seen it, Bosco."
"Meet me there in fifteen minutes, fat fuck." With that, Alex calmly strode out of the restaurant and headed towards the elevator. Lisa and I followed.
We three walked together to the Pit, a vacant dirt area at the far end of the parking lot behind the Babylon. Surrounded by warehouses and a couple of abandoned apartment complexes, now used only by the homeless, the pit was not visible from the Strip or the hotel. And no one who didn't belong there -- this included cops -- drove on the old roads running through the dark neighborhood behind the Pit.
By the time we reached the Pit, word had gotten round town. Word travels fast in Vegas, and when Alex is in a fight it's an event. Sort of like Oscar De La Hoya or Evander Hollyfield or, on a good night, Wayne Newton. When Alex performs, he brings the dead up out of the grave.
About four hundred excited, blood-thirsty generaly ghoulish spectators awaited us. They cheered wildly when they saw Alex approach, walking nobly through the now nearly empty parking lot. I swear, Alex glowed when he walked that night. It must have been the lights in the parking lot. He was like a god.
As expected, the pit was surrounded by cars and pick-ups, headlights pointed into the middle to give light. People -- mostly in their mid-twenties, but some younger, some considerably older -- gathered in groups, drinking, talking, dancing and waiting. The full moon hung suspended over head, blood red.
A few thoughtful fans had their radios turned way up so the night air vibrated with Rush. One girl danced topless in the back of a blue pick-up, whose driver had backed his vehicle in, as some of her friends stood by, drinking Wolf's Head beer, laughing and encouraging her to take it all off. Seconds later, she did. A whole group of Lisa's friends from the industry were milling around a long, black limousine parked to our left as we took our position at the far end of the lot. Intermittently, I heard the usual howls, the guttural snarls, and I knew we were all ready for a good night.
The blood of sweet flesh was immanent. I anticipated its delightful stench. It was your typical Vegas party-all-night atmosphere. Excited almost beyond words, I was tempted to get down on all fours, run around biting at people's toes, howling like a wolf. I restrained myself, remembering that I'm not a wolf.
Waiting for Buddy and his family to arrive, Alex paced back and forth, back and forth, faster and faster and fast, howled, panted, hissed, like a caged lion that can't wait to be fed. Occasionally, he growled and bared his yellowish canine teeth. Alex was now in a terrific mood, almost manic. I howled in glee. Lisa and I had put Alex's demons of depression to flight.
In a few minutes, Buddy arrived, shirtless, tattooed, with five equally large bullish men accompanying him. God, this guy thought he was tough shit. His wife and kids meekly followed. I could see fear etched on the face of the raven-haired chick.
"Whar's this fuckin' little fag cunt whose ass I'm gonna kick?" bellowed Buddy, stepping forth from the crowd into the circle and looking directly at Alex and raising his fists in the air. Buddy acted like he thought he was a character from the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose, setting to square-off in a winner-takes-all bare-knuckles fight. I wished that I had brought along my cam recorder so I could preserve the moment for posterity. I could send a copy to Buddy's family every Christmas.
Feverish, furious, sensing the kill, Alex tore his clothes off, went down to the raw, revealing an incredibly hairy body. "Jesus K-rist," said the man, glancing back at his buddies, laughing among themselves, "I hate these fuckin' queers."
As Alex circled his prey, Buddy kept motioning and saying, "C'mon, kid, come to papa. C'mon, kid, come to papa." Then, to the encouragement of his ghoulish fans, Alex began his wonderfully hideous transformation. He moved gracefully in a crouch, stepping gingerly, stalking his prey really, animal vertebrae suddenly forming new ridges on his back. It was like watching Godzilla dance to Mozart. Lengthening and thinning, his hirsute arms hung at his sides, as he sized up his opponent, emitting guttural growls. As he slowly, gracefully went down on all fours, never taking his red animal eyes off Buddy, his face changed: his nose pushed into a hideous black snout, eyebrows became black and furry, ears enlarged grotesquely and shot straight back. Alex gave a low moaning howl. The fans howled back.
Buddy dropped his fists, rage gone from his face, mouth open in horror. As beast circled man, its arms became huge boney front legs, and its back legs sprouted long gray course hair. Hands became paws, and fingers became claws ending with black, sharp nails. This was better than "Fright Night," I thought to myself. At last, Alex had become the god-beast his fans had all grown to love.
Buddy stood, a mouse paralyzed by the eyes of a snake, as the beast Alex moved in, making the death circle smaller and smaller. Someone in the crowd started banging a drum, and soon many were banging whatever they could touch -- car doors, boxes, beer bottles, garbage cans, two rocks, you name it -- all of which synchronized in a primitive, bestial rhythm. "Kill, kill, kill!" we all shouted, drugged by the promise of blood. "Kill, kill, kill." The beast drew nearer and nearer to the visibly trembling Buddy.
Suddenly, the crowd grew silent except for Buddy's wife and kids. The wife threw herself to her knees and, weeping, her arms extended in supplication to the beast that was now preparing to tear her husband to shreds; she begged for her husband's life. Buddy's son was crying and yelling, over and over and over, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, run, run, run." The raven-haired beauty held her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide with fear and loathing. The family vacation to Vegas had obviously taken a wrong turn.
At that moment, I actually felt a shred of pity for the family, the mother weeping hysterically and begging for Buddy's life, the son telling his dad to run, the daughter too sick with fear to speak or move. But ghouls aren't supposed to feel pity; anyway, life is full of hard lessons.
Quick as lightening, splendidly bathed in a luminary glow, the beast ran and sprang for the man, both crashing to the earth in a cloud of dust. When dust settled, the wolf loomed immense and deadly over the body of the prostrate and sobbing Buddy. It reminded me of one of those African safari movies when the lion stoops snarling over its most recent kill, waiting to devour flesh.
"Wow!" I remember saying as Lisa stood next to me.
"This is so totally cool, Nicky," Lisa whispered excitedly into my ear. We were about thirty feet away from the show.
"Sure is," I responded, reaching over, taking her hand, and lovingly squeezing it. Pretty soon, it'd be time to eat.
Then, in a moment of spectacular and predatorial glory, the beast-Alex seized Buddy's neck in its powerful jaws, biting swiftly, loudly crunching through flesh and bone, and finally severing the head, now a huge morsel which the beast tossed flying in a bloody spray into a group of delighted, frenzied onlookers. Next, unbelievably, Buddy's corpse actually got up and wobbled for a split second, reminding me of a chicken with its head cut off, stepped forward once, and fell. Blood gushed richly from the gaping hole, a pool of crimson forming on the ground.
The crowd let out a roar of approval. "Yes!!" I screamed. Lisa grabbed me about the neck and kissed me on the cheek. We were loving this.
Things weren't finished as the beast suddenly turned on Buddy's friends, who had been frantically trying to escape but had been held in by the crowd. The wolf attacked swiftly, relentlessly and, in a furious frenzy of blood and howling, killing the men one by one, severing the head of each in geysers of crimson ecstasy. It was a great show. Smelling blood, I screamed and danced.
The beast then turned to the family. Slowly walking to the wife, it sniffed her hair, and in a sudden savage shriek bit and severed the woman's head, which tumbled to the feet of her children, now screaming uncontrollably. Then the beast turned, ran to the far side of the crowd, and sprang -- flew, really, like a celestial being -- effortlessly over the people and into the night. Once again, Alex had become the ghouls' wolf-god.
Now I was starving. With six corpses in front of us, we didn't know where to begin. This was better than the buffet at the Rio Hotel, and the Rio has the best buffet in town. Conscious that I was being probably watched by Buddy's hysterical son and daughter (both of whom I would have to claim as my wards later on), I approached Buddy's headless corpse with Lisa. We were holding hands. This has to be done properly, I thought to myself, in good taste. By rights, in the absence of Alex, now undoubtedly painting the town red, Buddy was mine.
"Shall we?" I asked my love, anxious to begin and gesturing towards Buddy's headless trunk. This would be better than sex.
"Let's," responded Lisa, her humor and good breeding rising to the occasion. (Did I tell you her father is a big-time movie executive living in Hollywood?).
"Love you, Nicky," said Lisa in nervous anticipation as we stood over the corpse, ready to begin. It was almost what I imagine a wedding would be like.
"Love you, too, Lisa," I responded. I tingled with passion.
As my girl and I reverentially knelt together and began to drink and eat Buddy, others -- led by Liz -- gathered in groups around the other corpses and, kneeling, howlingly participated in a memorable feast of corpses. (This was the feeding of the four hundred that some of you have likely read about in tourists' guides to Las Vegas.) There was plenty for everyone, and no ghoul went away hungry.
Afterwards, Lisa and I returned to Barney's and rode the roller coaster for the rest of the night.
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 1998 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 1998 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: ftp to ftp.io.com /pub/SoB World Wide Web http://www.io.com/~hagbard/sob.html irc the #unbeing channel on UnderNet Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. The SoB distribution list may also be joined by sending email to Kilgore Trout. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--