“The very process of recurrence is what enables us to learn, to improve, to correct past errors, to understand the present, to guide the generations that are to come. Yet it is precisely this same characteristic of life that makes life unendurable. Men of more experience than I have lamented at the repetitious nature of the creative act itself. It is only by a mastery of the process of repetition (you will note the repeated “e” and “t” and the “i” and the “tit” standing out boldly in the middle) that we can learn to endure; yet we can only master the process by a lifetime of repetition. Many, I suspect, are tempted to despair. But I have sought other solutions and, I might add, with no little success. The path that would appear to lead to madness is surely the highroad to art. If someone chooses to do a study of my life, he will proffer an exemplum to mankind. The recognition of the basic predicament, for instance, enabled me with ease to give up smoking.”—Robert Kroetsch, The Studhorse Man
Here come the dope-fogged morning sounds— the wrong RPM setting for living room finger traps: scratched records, butter-slimed dishes, pot resin and foil bags. Watch eusociality as a mural in motion— six biramous legs bicycling air, antennae and mandibles pecking at the exoskeleton. You exit with a shudder. You buy some Advil. You rub your eyes and frame the event with acronyms.
“It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy, and that I was happy still. For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained was to hope that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.”—Albert Camus, The Outsider
Cloudless heat: the sun bawdy and swollen, blazing rays on the cast. Two guys, wet and junk-sick on the rollercoaster. Mark, 22. Ray, 25. / that celestial sensation is what we’re after man I mean I’m talkin some astronomical shit here man / The mouth gapes a mad jester smile. Lop-sided and red. Contorted, farcical, obscene. / for real man there was a time when I couldn’t tell you the difference between a subject and an author man not even shittin you man and now I’m lost in some kind of psychosexual reading of my own existence man you know what I mean are you feelin what I’m sayin man / Ray’s head dipping into the ether, bald spot exposed in the sunlight. Cotton candy cacophony. Carny complacency. Stereo synchronizing screams of uncredited extras. (Def.: a state of utter bliss or potential mania. Side effects may include leaking yellow liquid with unpleasant aroma, lesions or other forms of bodily infection.) / you’ve been warned motherfucker I’m gonna hurl / The ride is now malevolent. Tracks coil serpentine and plunge into Hades. Death-cries and dismay rent the air. (Entry fee: $20 or $50, all rides included. Have a fun day.)
“The woman appears, alarm etching transient scars on her forehead. Her husband is beyond himself. Her husband is shooting poison through his arteries. Her husband is releasing another cloud of animal temper. It is mist that clings. It hangs over the furniture, drips from the walls.
It is alive.
So through the days and nights. His anger falling like frenzied axe blows in his house, on everything he owns. Sprays of teeth-grinding hysteria clouding his windows and falling to his floors. Oceans of wild, uncontrolled hate flooding through every room of his house; filling each iota of space with a shifting, throbbing life.”—Richard Matheson, “Mad House”
Dash blinks at the dawn light, scratching white flakes from an itch in his flesh. He crouches on the porch like a patient hydra, finishing the sun-warmed dregs of his Budweiser. Quiet insurrection is his way of life—bombs posing as car parts, guns without serial numbers, smiles that kill. His rust-savaged truck sputters noxious fumes across the driveway. He finishes his beer. / This is your last chance. Do you understand that.—How many fuckin times ya gotta tell me.—I assure you this is the last time you will be told.—Just let me do the fuckin thing, alright. I can handle it, fa krissake.—I sincerely hope you can. This is not something to be taking lightly.—Are we done yet. You’re givin me a whopper of a fuckin migraine here.—Yes, we are all finished for now. You can call me when you have done as you were told. If you do not meet all the criteria of our agreement, do not bother calling me.—We’ve been through all this shit already. How many fu—The conversation is finished. You have seventy-two hours. / Dash drives 30km/h over the speed limit. His gaze spends as much time on the rearview as it does on the road. Four cigarette butts smolder in the cup holder, filling the truck with nicotine fog. He is aware of the Sedan that has been tailing him for thirty minutes and he is aware that he cannot shake it off. He signals. Turns onto the shoulder of the road. He opens the glove compartment, grabs his gun. Tucks it into the back of his waistband and conceals it under his shirt. He opens the door and walks out. A lithe man is leaning on the Sedan, wiping crumbs from the sleeve of his tailored suit jacket. They exchange looks. Static in a moment of assessment. Momentarily neutralized. The Suit speaks: You know who I am, don’t you.—Are you fuckin with me or what. How could I not know.—Well, what do you have to say for yourself.—What can I say. You guys have given me no fuckin room to breathe. I was havin a panic attack when I walked into this fuckin thing.—That’s not my concern.—What is your fuckin concern.—Doing as I’m told to do.—What a fuckin coincidence, mister. That’s my concern too. Looks like we got more in common than we mighta thought.—I’m going to kill you, Dash. Suit reaches into his jacket but Dash has already drawn and levelled his .38. He fires. A hole erupts in the center of Suit’s white shirt, spewing blood and tattered fabric. Dash speaks: That’s why you don’t fuck around with me. Suit spills beside his car, gripping the door handle. Slipping away, clinging to the nearest material artifice. Dash turns to his truck. A firearm crack rents the air. Dash’s spine screams in tongues. Rigid with paralysis, he falls face-forward. Squirms and bleeds on the ground. Sputters gravel. Suit speaks: Nobody gets out of these things.—What a stupid fuckin business.—We’re the ones who chose it.
“That was the way he would always remember her—the monkey face twisted with merriment, the scrawny, rain-drenched figure rocking in the abrupt pitiless glow of floodlights, laughing as the guns of the T-men began to chatter.
So he would always remember her, but it was like remembering another person. Someone he had never known.
The gizmo, the golden, deceptive, brass-filled gizmo, was gone at last.”—Jim Thompson, The Golden Gizmo
1. Give me some of that ubiquitous hatred, he calls through cupped hands as I stumble into the merge line. There’s no point of reference in the gutter, in the flophouse, in that fucking bar. We all start at zero. Blanks marching in the night— 2. Not marching, but crawling—crawling—no, rolling to and fro in the same ditch, browned by the mud and the piss and necrotic bloodlines that stretch or crawl or roll centuries back. 3. Airports reinvent fatigue. The hard, slogging routine of return. The anticipation/draining passion before exit. The space of airports is cavernous, oppressively open—we are the game and this is the hunting ground. I have my ticket. I have my bags. I’m leaving point A or arriving at point B. My guts bubble. I should’ve brought some goddamn antacid. 4. If my life were a film, no one would watch it voluntarily: a series of disappointments, much-to much reflection, the still image of that anxious Devil Daddy Death waiting for me at the end of it all, Pepto-Bismol and a shot of whiskey in hand. 5. 33,000ft above ground: the plane begins its descent. It’s a small plane, barely visible on the horizon. I lean back in my seat, feel a rising or falling—a sense of rising or falling—lunging at the periphery of my consciousness. 6. The unconscious takes hold: a John Gacy lookalike in the seat beside me sucking severed fingers. He says the plane won’t crash. It’ll just drift forever. Now that’s hell, my friend, he says, picking his teeth with human tendon. You emerge from the nightmare. Diverge into third-person. 7. Gargling saltwater, he looks in the mirror and promises himself Never again, never again am I drinking that shit. He lights a cigarette and exits the bathroom. The clerk, looking at the package of salt, asks Are you planning to pay for that? 8. There’s something to be said for airport fiction. Something to be said for the microscopic Oscar nominees chirping away on our laps. Something to be said for this suspended horseshit tedium, carrying me from the crawl. Drifting. Braindead. Celestial… 9. …maybe comical or tragic or tragicomic. You don’t give a fuck. The clerk, Pam or Christie, hands you your airport sealed Playboy and returns the change and you say I don’t give a fuck. You’re not sure what that means but it sounds promising. You have a new mantra. You board the next plane, the five words playing in a mental loop. 10. You decide to start filling in the gaps. You don’t need the skeleton. You don’t need the blueprint. You dictated the introduction. The end will find itself. Meanwhile, somewhere else, somebody is dying of a disease you can’t name or coughing pink foam while staring wide-eyed at the screwdriver protruding from his/her chest. You can’t take hold of the form. The narrative takes you wherever the fuck it wants to go… 11. So you board the plane and find your seat. The plane ascends. You open your laptop and switch into first person. I usually watch porn on planes. Low quality digital images fleshing out my fantasy, gaps in the pixels. This distracts me from the thought of imminent death by plane crash. I watch porn and tell myself the pilots aren’t suicidal and want to survive the flight as much as I do. I don’t want to die. I want to live, but I don’t know how.
“At dusk they halted and built a fire and roasted the deer. The night was much enclosed about them and there were no stars. To the north they could not see other fires that burned red and sullen along the invisible ridges. They ate and moved on, leaving the fire on the ground behind them, and as they rode up into the mountains this fire seemed to become altered of its location, now here, now there, drawing away, or shifting unaccountably along the flank of their movement. Like some ignis fatuus belated upon the road behind them which all could see and of which none spoke. For this will to deceive that is in things luminous may manifest itself likewise in retrospect and so by sleight of some fixed part of a journey already accomplished may also post men to fraudulent destinies.”—Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West
“They sacrificed to demons … to deities they had never known …” –Deuteronomy 32:17
Ray glides like a wraith. Silent. Unchallenged. Gun arm navigating through the crowds.
The bodies split for him, forming a strobe lit tunnel. They reassemble as he passes, hot organisms unbalanced by treble. Wet, vapid, contorting. Gyrating in the dark. Seductive. Vaginal.
“Where the fuck is he?” Ray asks. A question for deities, muted by bacchanalian mayhem. Lurid benediction.
The disc jockey sermonizes infidelity, headphones coiling his neck.Tongues moisten the blackness. MDMA fills the room like vapour.
Ray makes his way to the back door. Kicks it open and steps into the night, Colt first. Trained ears prick to catch the sound of cheap leather clopping asphalt.
Ray focuses on the Target. Sprints down the sidewalk, quickly gaining speed. Car speakers demonstrate the Doppler effect. Women exclaim from moving vehicles, imploring him like Argonautican sirens.
He ignores the sounds. The insanity. The chaos. His gun is ready. He is closing in. Catching up with the Target. This fucking deadbeat will need a headstone tomorrow.
His prey is taking form. The variables are falling into place. The outcome is clear.
Ray pursues the Target through traffic, his hands bumping headlights. Car horns assault his senses. An unwelcome choir.
He corners his game at last.
The familiar invocation: No. Please. Don’t. Stop. Listen. Etc, etc.
Ray lowers his Colt and prepares to fire, but the ritual changes direction. Fate has other plans.
The pleas stop. The Target is smiling. The body is bent, hissing and snarling. The face is darkening, features reassembling in shadow.
“What the fuck?” Ray says.
The Target rises to fix red eyes on him. Lips recede into a horrible smile, sharp teeth glinting dully.
All training is forgotten. Ray panics. Fires all his ammo. Head shots, chest shots, abdominal shots. The Target absorbs the bullets, still smiling.
Ray struggles to speak. To protest. To remove himself from the nightmare. No words will come. He stares in terrified awe, the gun slipping from his limp fingers.
The Target approaches. Ray closes his eyes. He braces himself and submits. The Target descends on him, all fangs and malice. Blood courses from Ray’s body and rains on cement. He is dead in seconds.
This ceremony is timeless, more ancient than the city itself. More ancient than every building. More ancient than every body inside those buildings. More ancient than the beliefs and morals that feign vitality inside every one of those bodies, guiding non-events in isolation.
“It’s infinite— right here— under the dome.” He coughs a digital halo, surveys the assembly of vehicles, streetlights, uniforms pawning corn syrup. “Like a fucking snowglobe.” This is infinite— an effort to pierce the dome, eradicate the barrier, cancel the void. “Ad infinitum… this is what I’m saying.” He swerves in time, hisses profanity, concrete blurring the past. “Write a number repeatedly, from the moment you’re born ‘til the moment you die.” Eyes burst crimson, words stick to his mouth like cotton. “Just keep adding and adding and adding until you’re fucking dead.” He flicks the turn signal, lowers the music, dominates the night’s vibrations. “You can try to be the one, but a computer will just calculate the total.” He takes another hit as towers mimic deities, probing at the sky.