This is magic realism in a Honda civic and the driver’s eyes are segmented like an insect’s. He quotes pop literature, perceives new colours, chain smokes cigarillos. He cruises rising crenellations of concrete hell, puffs grape smoke through the holes in his cheeks. We forget the goons in the back, ageless deadbeats who pass the test with designer clothes. They’re passing joints, they’re smoking hash, they’re packing the bong, they’re silent like a nuclear bomb. We navigate the voids of unseen avenues, we scoff at the abject and we ponder substance dualism. Someone says Daddy choked me with a skip rope when I was a kid and that’s why I’m lonely, that’s why I’m angry, that’s why I smoke, but nobody hears him. The station changes on its own accord, jumping from static to static, spectres of glitch pop and audio snow. We throw sizzling butts at a sick-faced vampire thumbing for a ride, we shower him in sparks, we laugh, we smoke avarice, we burn endless fuel. We’ve got five years left and ain’t it a shame, five years left and the gauge keeps dipping from “F” to “E.”
Fuck, I say, fuck, the chainsaw is out of oil and the chain seizes and the saw won’t work without the chain, and the thing, the threat, is on the other side of the room, or maybe outside the house, or maybe closer than I think, hovering over the desk that’s become my bunker and the thing is an archetype, the savagery of collective unconscious, all aberration and bad intent, and the fucking chainsaw is out of oil, and a door opens, or maybe it’s my mind playing tricks on me, maybe, just maybe it’s someone coming to help, or maybe it’s the thing exhaling air that smells like a morgue, dragging impossibly long limbs along the floorboards, scraping fingernails along the door, and I drop the chainsaw because the fucking thing is out of oil and I dash across the room like a squirrel dodging BB shots, because there’s something in the room with me, and I wish I had asked someone to join me, I wish this sabbatical was a populated place, I wish there was somewhere to go, because I can hear it dragging, I can see the shadow, I can hear the breathing, I’ve been here before, I’ve yelled at the screen, I’ve closed the book…
It’s the way he smokes, you know? On these nights, more often than not, we’ll go without speaking. We’ll remember those terrible halls, and we’ll remember superstition and the backsides of mirrors. We’ll look at parking lots cluttered with the dormant body of a population ascending and we’ll wonder just how the fuck it went so far. And he’ll keep chasing the light, a verse in slow burn, and for a moment that bead of ember will just hover in space. And then it’ll drop, flick, spark, and blink out. And sometimes there’ll be a rabbit down there and for a moment, just a moment, I’ll look at it looking at me. And I’ll really see it looking at me, and I’ll wonder what it’s like down there, low on the ground between the boots of corporate dread. And we’ll know that there was a time, or maybe a moment, or maybe an imagined gap, when we could wax poetic while slogging through absent reminders of the written word. And maybe he’ll mention this image he saw in a film once, or an image from a story his father told him, where three guys sat at the back of a room under a neon sign that said “(A)basement Turned Heavenward.” And we’ll laugh because really, when it comes down to it, even the saddest meditations are bullshit. And he’ll take a final drag, always the deepest, and we’ll trap ambition in a dark room with sleeping gas.
She’s the noble persona
in a dissolving room,
deaf to laughter hissing
on unattended stovetops.
She finds the strength
to clean herself—
the shower where Dad
when Mom was away.
He’s coughing bile
on a train platform
while the boys
pass a mix and
bark fake conquest.
stains the carpet black—
she shuts the door,
closes her eyes,
waits for the stragglers to leave.
The alcoholism started at 8 or 9 when K’s mother would pass out from the rye or boxed wine and K would steal the remains and her dad would come home at midnight or later to perpetrate unspeakable acts of sex-violence on her mother’s limp or flailing body—sometimes in front of K—and K would cry, or fight her dad, but her dad would laugh or belt her or laugh while belting her and then return to her mother, to her limp bleeding body, and it would be over by 2 or 3am and K couldn’t sleep so she dropped out at regular hours from diurnal existence and her eyes grew big and round and black like the many howling primates of South America…
Four malicious id clones rushed the gate, pointing through chain link and employing every misogynistic term in the book. One guy stood behind them, trying to work himself into a fit of rage. He was too transfixed by the woman behind the gate to feel angry about anything. The woman’s name was K. What’s your name? he mouthed. She was oblivious to his existence. She retreated.
He stared at the space six inches from his nose. A din had punctured his cranium at 14 and had been reverberating around the gray matter ever since. She sat across from him, chain smoking, staring six inches behind him, through him, to the concrete wall he rested against, fighting the urge to grab him by the hair and slam his head against the wall until his ears bled and his eyes fell into his lap.
Memories and half-memories twisted like a kaleidoscope through his half-dead brain. One image worked its way past the others until it twisted anti-logic into shape. The image was a woman—probably K, but possibly not—dragging a suited man across the lawn while listing the name of every star she knew, punctuating each name with a slashing arc of her leather belt. Her actions were violent but her voice was tranquil. She named the stars in alphabetical order, her pronunciation perfect, her eyes clear.
(Parentheses: a parenthetical remark: an addendum: a caveat postscript caveat: a haunted asterisk: what the above text excludes is the fact that 99.9% of all stars are numbered, not named, and therefore his recollection could only include a handful of stars, at most).
The telescope didn’t see far enough so K attached a zoom lens, and then another, and another for an infinite time until the moon she looked at was an inch below the lens and the telescope, therefore, became the microscope and once K was satisfied, she kicked the tele-microscope back to Earth and remained on the moon—the body of her desire, and even now anyone can see her idly engaged in examining the surface, turning over windmills, as it were…
They called it the Stress Room. K observed through the blind mirror as men demolished various electronic devices, worn-out furniture, and (on especially bad days) small animals. One man wiped snot on the collar of his polo shirt as he blubbered over the remains of a gopher. “I didn’t mean to hurt im,” he insisted. “I was just so… off the chain. I’ve got so much rage, I just don’t know where to put it. I swear I didn’t mean to hurt im.” K extinguished her cigarette in the ashtray and exited—headed for home, headed for undercooked TV dinner and the comfort of a bad sitcom rerun. Meanwhile, the man behind the gate watched her on an illegally wired security monitor, fiddling with his fly and only half-aware of his budding erection. He reconsidered, turned off the monitor and picked up a book. He was halfway through reading his favourite novel for the eight time: The Obscene Bird of Night by José Donoso.
The Apostle of Dread recounted his incantations to the Golem of the Wood, long of hair, long of leg (loose of morals), who cackled with all the eloquence of a coyote unburdening itself in a seashell by the seashore.
K lifted her wine-blurred gaze from the print. She zoned out in the comic zenith of the sitcom scene. The laugh track howled uncontrollably. She felt the onslaught of a sugary hangover and ran to the bathroom. She could faintly hear comedy dialogue as she retched into the toilet bowl, exorcising herself of last night in preparation for tonight.
Jim’s given name isn’t “Jim” but Jacques. He couldn’t pronounce the name correctly so he adopted the name “Jim.” It’s Jim, he would say, introducing himself to a stranger or set-to-be lover. It’s Jim, nice to meet you.
The book is the master: that’s what the lab coat minions keep telling him. Jim isn’t convinced. He howls, laments, screams tangential mayhem until it drips like paint from the padded walls. There’s an elm tree down the corridor, shedding leaves like paper. He can hear the leaves as they clatter along the floor—loud like a busy signal or a fallen ideal.
Some torn up leaves, a cracked and steeping root. Steam rises from the cup. Venturing down the cold basement machinery of the mind—where the unseen turbines operate—the answer comes to him. He is complete, but alone, behind his forehead.
Someone speaks up. Someone argues for the virtues of anarchy but the comment goes unnoticed. Everyone is too busy writing.
Jim guts the fish but thinks nothing of it. The soft entrails slip through his fingers, falling back to the depths. He eats the fish raw; fire is not an option at sea. Jim can’t tell if this is happening to him or if it’s in a novel.
Blue lips kiss a forehead, a forehead already kissed by death. The color of the planet cries eternal sadness to those who have felt it. Swaths of people relate to blue lips.
The manifesto is lost in a backlot, in the red boredom between moments of conflict. A street gang dissipates into groups of three or four, separated by degree of malice and sexual experience. The author judges them accordingly and arranges the narrative to punish their sins.
Jim sits at the back of the bus sharpening a buck knife. He fantasizes about lodging the knife between someone’s skull and spine but instead stabs it into the seat and exits the bus. Afraid of tomorrow, unsure of today, the past is the namesake of his creature comfort.
There’s no madness in the mind of the man. A beam of light shines through all he has—haunting him with knowledge of the world.
There’s no sound in the larynx of the beast. Indoctrinated fiends babble misunderstood phrases that vanish with the smoke. Activism comes to a halt. You inscribe novel fragments on the flesh of fictional things. You anatomize your guilt.
A vigil marching into the bowels of a cave—to uncover, shed light, or revisit the spectre of this gathering: two, maybe three hundred bodies turning up one night, September 11th 1973.
Books unopened, pages unturned. Stories untold but still transmitted through time. Like home-love made above buried remains and birth given to a child forever crazed. Like an insidious archetype harbored unwillingly forever.
Blank luminescence floods the kitchen. Someone died last night. You can hear it in the unanswered dial tone, the vacancy of space, the pagan dreams that plague your sleep.
Imagine the ignoble mass of protean apes crushed by the turning of a page; imagine post-human androids plunging from the Chrysler building; imagine tourists crushed under a mid-century riot; imagine a white flame underwater.
Among cities of electric light expanding past limits, man-made or otherwise, what we learn of the object and its contents grows still. Language is a code cracked in skeletal circles dancing through darkness, unknown. Columns of light see temporal changes undone.
The exchange is coded by the notion of universal meaning. The scholars believe they can unearth the truth through a process of investigation. The oracle waits—she exorcises herself of signifiers, of themes, of dialogue in any form.
The pious object contains within it the revelation of its contents, the meaning: the pious object triggers the entire scene, the plot, the blood and dirt beneath the fingernails. Language is the site of meaning, but it certainly doesn’t exist.
He sifts through the jargon. He reframes the response into digestible pieces. He hesitates, nods, and speaks the truth: the only thing I can ascertain from your speech is that you are a deluded, self-important bastard. Go back to basics.
A prayer, a modus operandi, a deep structure, a calculus for calculating the end of time, or space, or space and time and time-space—the raging bull ranging on the knoll under the weight of the moon broken like a semicolon; a line tongue-split bleeding into the ether.
The crosswalk ebbs into the skyline. Jim presses his forearms against his eyes, an effort to distill the fantasy. He mutters this is material and this is anti-matter as he touches every nearby object. He recites the trip will end the trip will end the trip will end, twitching like a wind up-doll.
Stars swallowing the dark in reverse, pause, replay, fast-forward. The tape clicks to a stop. The prosecutor approaches the bench and whispers something to the Judge. The Judge nods. Recess, court returning at fourteen hundred hours. The image flutters above. The prosecutor smiles at Jim and withdraws his handgun, firing two shots into the VCR and the rest of the clip into the TV.
The historical evidence surrounding Jim’s activism is hazy at best; there’s a documental gap spanning a decade of his life (between his twentieth and thirtieth birthday). Only his second wife knows about the guns he was collecting. She was the only one to see the blueprint he laid out in preparation for political demolition.
Political demolition in the form of siphoning gas and lighting the flags on main street. She could never read the narrative for the meta-narrative. She believed in him. She promised promise, but his journey ended with his head drowning in gin and premonitions.
Prosecution before the law, before the fat fuck of a Judge who surely would not sympathize with Jim’s understanding of liberation.
Marionettes flood the courtroom. A cobweb of tangled strings manifests above, belittling Jim’s status as a conscious organism. A procession of mourners gathers outside to weep for the lost potential of a better future. They lynch a Jim doll made of straw, a ghoulish scream rising from their collective mouth.
Jim’s journals were left to his estate—this amounted to a moderate sum of money accumulating in a bank account. The money went to fund the fuel for what came to be known as The Furnace—quite literally a stone furnace kept burning as long as people bought his work.
He presses his face against the windowpane. It’s cold. A bubble with the letters “C” “O” “L” “D” swims out from under his flicking tongue. He sees the horizon dotted with car fires, articulating the disaster.
Here’s the ideogrammic method: four disembodied minds pool in the otherspace to chastise the disorder of human law. Cadillacs peel asphalt in anticipation of the plot’s dramatic culmination. Violence simmers on the upper deck as aristocrats draw superiority and brass knuckles.
The image oscillates above the courtroom: epileptic ideation, malicious intent, ignorance of the law, indifference to authority, urinating in public, urinating in a private office, disobeying bylaws and traffic laws, the dismemberment of a public artwork, spreading contagion of archaic namesake, the refusal to speak when spoken to, biting the hand that feeds, pure treason.
He sections the journal into an orderly model for lyricism—each page is devoted to a different Muse. He barricades his senses from the tumult of persuasion; he rejects a new dead author with every waning hour. There’s anger and vitality beneath the prose but he can’t bring it to the surface. He can’t muster up the strength to seize his readers by the throat. He can’t quite manage to choke them out.
The bailiff addresses the mourners: give it fifty to seventy years and Jim’s work will belong to you. You can torch it, worship it, dissect it for the purpose of your studies (free of charge). Until that time, please refrain from using profanity and clear out of the parking lot. This is a public space. Come on, people. There are children here.
The Filmmaker unrolled his tongue into the bowels of the wood chipper. The camera stopped rolling. The paramedics rushed to save his life but the filmmaker mowed them down with a semi-automatic he’d been concealing since day one of the shoot.
The critics kneeled at their pews. The Filmmaker (an institution posing as a single person) was not in attendance. The curtains peeled back to expose the beast, the creature, the concept, the beloved aberration. A harmonized shhhhh rose from the crowd.
The Filmmaker was called into existence: his executioner, owning the moment, said You ever seen one of these you slimy fuck? The executioner dangled a stopwatch before his eyes as if it were a pistol or a knife. The Filmmaker didn’t understand.
The demon planted ideas in Jim’s ear and he embodied the killer accordingly. He lined up the bodies like action figures or cans of sauce. He was a single unit assembly line of carnage.
The Filmmaker’s works contain an element of the mystic, the religious: the utmost limit of expression, what stands on the glass ceiling or hunches in grotesque eloquence. The religious, that which excludes the reader from the content, from knowledge, the certain knowledge of that which is unknowable, a certain uncertainty.
The viewer took the position of the camera operator, pushing the lens through the oversized eyeholes of a mask. Archetypal Killervision. Jim re-enacted his favourite John Carpenter scenes in chronological order by the films’ release dates. Meanwhile, the theater was slowly purged of its dejected spectators. “This isn’t a film,” one critic hissed. “It’s a travesty. It’s a hoax.”
The set was littered with improperly disposed coffee cups, planks of wood and wasted vision. Jim sifted through the artifacts, cradling trash as priceless memorabilia. Wattafuckinshame, he said. He wiped a tear with masculine restraint, adjusted his balls and walked toward the horizon.
DREAMPHASE: go-go girls in gas masks striptease to the star spangled banner or the sound of birds colliding with the too-clean and too-clear windows of skyscrapers.
The footage seemed genuine but Jim couldn’t bring himself to accept it as such. There’s something impossible here, he insisted while bringing a new box of cassettes into the screening booth. The demon appeared again, sinister but out of focus.
Once the genie is outta the bottle, started Jim, he ain’t going back in. A swallow flew into his ear and told him to press play. He did. Blood poured from his nose, filling the screen.
The camera crane swooped down like a bird of prey, bringing more detail to the subject. The horror, the horror, a critic whispered (an unknowing homage to the Brando scene).
REGISTER SHIFT: Jim liked to drive fast. He liked to film himself driving fast. He hired a film crew to document his traffic violations and disregard for public safety. His tongue hung down to his crotch as he weaved in and out of lanes. He removed his hands from the wheel to roll up his tongue and stutter Fuck you in an autistic language to the other drivers that ignored his existence for fear of being bloodied up by some half-crazed auteur on an overpass.
McCauley’s mentors are dying while he’s stuck out here scanning the dirt for footprints and strands of fabric. The text dies with the writer—he toys with the notion as he approaches the Shaman. The Shaman who thwarted standard introduction. Who was born neither as a physical nor spiritual being. Who disobeyed omniscient stage directions so he could speak with the trees and live forever. McCauley watches him whirling and dancing into a tangible form—flesh and cloth and animal furs. The Shaman mutters before a fire of alternating hues, shaking a small pouch filled with bird bones and magic / You’ve been waiting for me—We’re all waiting—You’re a real cryptic bastard, aren’t you. Where were you during the Deluge. Where were you when the ship went down. Where were you when the babies were stolen from their cradles. Where were you during the sacrifice. Where were you when they killed them all. Answer me—We’ll always be waiting / The Shaman shakes grayish powder from his palm. Crimson sparks spray from the fire. The smoke is wet and black. McCauley draws a hunting knife / What if I were to kill you right now. What if I were to take your life from you. Nobody would hear you scream—I cannot resurrect the writers—Real cryptic bastard. I have half a mind to run you through—So do it. Only you can atone / McCauley stabs the Shaman mid-sentence. His blood is even redder than the sand. It courses into the fire. Howling mouths emerge through the blaze / I don’t believe in spirits. I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in you. You’re nothing to me / McCauley speaks the words but forgets the source. He casts his eyes upward and implores a nonexistent mediator to interject / I’ll die of thirst out here /
The prophet is limping. He has invaded the minds of too many monsters and fiends and conniving serial killers. Dark intuition is forming bruises on his flesh; he can feel the visions taking a toll. He cane-taps through the shadows, his thin frame jolting with coughs. To some he is the New Messiah—a panacea for the rampant violence of a world that was once pure. To many he is an offense to nature, akin to Stevenson’s Hyde or Shelley’s monster. He ducks under the yellow CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS tape and investigates the body. A crowd forms around the border, murmuring theories and gossip and nonsense: “This bum’s a scam artist.” “The demon is near the demon is here the demon is near the demon is here the demon…” “Who keeps doing this?” “Save us O Lord from these devils, these killers of women and children.” “Straight outta The Dead Zone.” “…is near the demon is here the demon is near the demon…” “This fuckin guy’s a nut job.” The prophet rises to speak to no one in particular. “The brutes are everywhere,” he says. His words come out in white fog, evaporating as quickly as they form. The Giant surveys from above, casting his vote for a survivor of the stand-off.