Saturday, October 09, 2004

Cinematheque - 10/9/2004

Langlois' living room stood darkly amidst the cacophonous noises and flashing glares of Paris streets around ten at night. There were no exterior features in this place, or rather out of this place. A dull, featureless and ultimately supermodern structure, placed near enough haphazardly to be called haphazard, like punk rock Feng Shui.

It was all part of the plan. Observe without being observed. Eliminate interest in the construct in order to preserve its only viable resource - its sanctity. Totally usable, a commodity like any other. The second it was learned that Langlois was operating there the hipster covenant would descend; boorish, demonic critics of landscaped architecture and personal availability. Langlois wanted none of that. He'd seen it, lived it; often enough to understand the emptiness therein. Real things, true things, required no exterior construction.

The inside may have had features or things, but Langlois had forgotten them. It was night inside, separate, an entity unto itself. It was Langlois' private locale, his Teatro de Vive, as Dali had once referred to it. Not the aneurysm-inducing spectacle that Salvador was looking for but absurd enough in its own way to provoke moderate interest.

It was entirely possible that the only thing inside was Langlois himself, seated, maybe not - he could no longer receive signals from parts of his body - and staring at the single portion of light inside the room. His screen, his eternal fire, staring back at him. Langlois looked into the screen, bulky nineteen-seventies headphones studding his temples. Empty eyes, empty skull.

Originally this was the Great Movie, the film that really captured the intense levity of life, Verite in its most extreme. It was only looking outward, always, reproducing the daily scenes for Langlois.

His final thought, the narrator put down in text form, was of the failure to capture reality. Subjective consciousness, he realized, could never be fully rendered. Even to the self, in the self, everything is parts, slowly understood dynamic facets of a persona. Like writing something down. Its a full measure from any for of concrete. Langlois' final moment was utterly embracing the inanity of standing two steps away from reality in order to discover what reality was.

Christ that's postmodern of me.

Maybe I'll open up a fucking club.

I Also Heart Huckabees - 10/9/2004

I awoke to the sight of my girlfriend ovulating DuPont polymers into a Pyrex container in order to bake a airtight food-preserving Tupperware style bowl. There were rusted-out utensils creeping underneath the door again and parasitic embryos clinging to the sharper edges. I'd already phoned the Terminex people to send a Raid cloud but hadn't seen any noxious self-aware fogs yet.

The heroin unloaded into my medulla receptor, shorting out the waking protocols and allowing me to continue through the workday unhindered by lack of sleep or food. The disembodies boss-head, Mr. Arikawa-Jones, whose image of a half-Jap skull leaking entrails in a six-foot radius always failed to disturb me, cited my tardiness but waved it off when I told him I'd rape his cat if he fired me.

A Black courier arrived. He spoke to me in Ebonic, which I didn't understand, and I referred him to the receiving department where a friend of mine, a ghoul who moonlights (daylights?) as a Funk-o-Tronic Hipster, was stationed and fluent in the language of Hip-Hop culture that I'm told was once mere slang epithet but evolved into its own Post-African primarily-Black-person manner of speaking. It no longer had any easily identifiable roots in the common tongue of American standard English. Then again, nyaro set hurlmen.

The ACLU wired our corporation a protest message that resulted in the hyper-firing of several Wakazashi salarymen, their laptops literally exploding, taking pieces of hand and face and torso with them. Supposedly those people were being held liable for discrimination after stating that a co-worker's dog's terrible poodle-like haircut was unlikable in an extreme manner and most likely the fault of an owner whose intelligence level was sub-par.

It was often best not to mention anything to anyone about anything unless they made more money than you.

My first flashmob riot in a week happened during lunch, when I walked to the fruit stand next door for a Hanta-granate, the finest fruit/deadly disease available. Kids dressed in tattered Canadian flags and apparently suffering from intense gastro-intestinal difficulties flooded the street and fired glowing excrement at cars and bystanders, engulfing them in what appeared to be highly radioactive ass-goo. SWAT police and Haz-Mat crews arrived within the minute and napalmed the kids and the cars and everything in their vicinity. Luckily, the fruit stand was overlooked by all parties.

By the time I got back to work I'd been laid off. The company was bought out by a Pakistani interest and my job now belonged to Peng, the Chinese reconstructionist who was asking via text message for training. I told him it would cost a blowjob and that apparently didn't translate because Peng began asking about the Shanghai Fish Market down the street.

I got home and walked up the driveway, through my junkyard, skirting the piles of refuse and dodging a falling brick of decomposed animal matter. "Bad day," I sighed when I got inside. I kissed my girlfriend and went to the table. She'd grown a lamb's leg shrub since morning. I broke off a young sprout and bit into it, tasting flakes of calcified something in my meat. Probably cancerous.

"I don't know, honey," I said. "I think I might hire those Huckabee people, see if they can't find some kind of meaning in all this. That or buy a sports car and run down small mammals like I did when I was a teenager."

Friday, October 01, 2004

The other day I picked up a comic called Western Tales of Terror. In the back there was an open call for stories and artists, so sat down and wrote me some stories. Here they are.

The Empty Man - 10/1/2004

"There's something you should know about your jewelry, Miss. It's haunted."

The redskin moved close to my lady, his dirt-stained fingers reaching for the silver pendant that hung from her ivory neck and shoulders. She quickly pulled back, clasping the pendant and stepping backwards, taking a momentary stumble as I stepped in front of her and swatted away the Indian's fingers.

"What in the hell do you think yer grabbin' at there?!" I held his wrist tight, knuckles losing color. He was motionless, a statue-man, looking me in the eyes and humming under his breath, the guttural noises emitting quietly up from his diaphragm, from his whole body. I loosened my grip but he made no move to take my hand away. He simply continued chanting, gaining volume, until his mouth dropped open wide and a high-frequency squeal leapt at me, knocking me down.

"You're sorry for what was done, I'm sure. Sorry, but still guilty. The man who owns those trinkets will come back for them. He speaks through the sky and the earth and has made me his herald. I tell you now so that you have a chance to repent. I'll leave you be now," he said. Then walked away. I remained on my back, in the dusty shadow of a wagon. Molly, my New England girl, stood gaping over my form for a moment before she dropped and put her hand against my head, pulling my face to meet hers.

"Charles! What- what was that about? Are you okay?" she asked. I looked up at her wavy hair, dripping over her shoulders, rolling down to me like ephemeral waves.

"S-sure, Molly, yeah, yeah... I'm fine. But I don't know anything about- about whatever that red man were talkin' about." It was a lie. I couldn't tell her where those things had come from, but I knew. At least, I thought I knew. There wasn't a man alive on the trail who hadn't heard the tale that only I knew for sure to be truth. The story of Luke Ironside, which of course wasn't his given name, who'd made a deal with the devil.

Molly helped me to my feet and took my hand, smiling at me. "Well, let's unpack our things, Charles. We have something to take care of, don't we..." And I couldn't have agreed more. There were wedding vows to be made before sundown, before someone back east could figure out what had happened and track Molly down in order to drag her back to the life she didn't want to live. I was her Romeo, only our story turned out a lot better than the old one.

We went to a preacher and had a hitchin', invited the local Sheriff and a few degenerates for a drink apiece to be our witnesses. They witnessed, gave affirmation and even shook my hand as we walked back to the hotel room we'd rented for the evening. Our plan was to keep moving, toward the coast, where we'd be able to settle down. I was pretty good with numbers. I'd be accounting for some back in no time. Or working my old position, 'fore I headed east to face trial; rustling cattle. Either way I'd be able to support Molly and myself with ease. All she had to do was give me a couple of kids and help out around the house. Which, it seemed, Molly was more than willing to do for me.

That night Molly and I consecrated our marriage. She slept, her arms bent over my body, warm, beautiful, breathing against my flesh. I couldn't bring myself to sleep that night. Nor could I bring the wide, scathing smile to come down from it's elation. Even knowing what I knew, about the pendant and the bracelet and the two rings and that Indian who'd made such a fuss over my arrival, there was nothing to block my joy from rising to boil and cascading over the edges of it's container.

A few weeks passed, Molly and I went down the trail, off west to our new life. We were stopped one evening in Nevada, a day or so from the border of California and another couple days from the ocean that Molly had never seen. There was a sunset, which Molly watched, almost weeping when the purple rays spread over the skyline and I held her, whispering into her ear the future I'd planned out for us. The sun dropped away from our existences and I went to light a fire, starting up a small dot of warmth on the desert's breezy, desolate face. We were there, insignificant specks in this mass of nature, together, hoping and dreaming. It was poetry, really, when I think back about it now. I always see it from above, from the clouds, when I consider us then. I pretend to look down and see the tiny, tiny point of fire, the flame of man's own aspiration against the world itself, the ant that makes it's mark irrevocably in the universe. I relish that memory. It's the only thing I like to think of anymore. Our last night.

Sometime before morning came, before the flowering dawn stripped the moon of it's relevance, I woke up. This, in itself, was not unusual in the least. I woke up often, worries or scared, relieved to be out of some nightmare or sad to leave the pillow-soft dreamworld I'd been inhabiting. What made this unusual was the high-pitched noise filling my head. And Molly was gone. I got to my knees, crawling to the opening in the wagon. Molly was standing ahead of me, facing east, nude, her back to me.

"Molly!" I said, yelling over the noise and the wind. "Come back here!"

Molly was still, staring off to nowhere. I leapt from the wagon, my heart palpitations loud and strong, and ran to her. Something was wrong, seriously wrong, and I could see my plans slowly fragmenting. What I wanted to build for us would disappear forever in this terrible noise if I didn't do something to stop it.

I reached Molly and spun her around. She was expressionless, wasted, empty visage covering his face in funeral pall fashion. No blinking, no twisting of the lips. Suddenly I realized, 'No breathing.' I pulled Molly back to the wagon. She was still wearing the pendant and rings. I dragged her body, it's weight like coal-black iron, heavy and remorseless, into the opening and laid her down. She was cold, but that wasn't surprising. It was freezing outside and our fire had long been ashes.

I looked back to the eastern horizon and saw the sun slowly rising up. I pulled the pendant off of her, the rings. I jumped out of the wagon and kneeled to the upcoming dawn, chanting the things I'd found in Ironside's book. I screamed out to the approaching cosmic body to slow it's progression until I'd finished the incantation.

There was a hand on my shoulder. I turned and saw the Indian from before.

"She's too far from you to reach now," he said. Stripping off his vest and accoutrements, I saw there were symbols covering his body. One of them was the engraving on the back of the pendant, an upside-down Y with Cs at every point. The Indian pointed to the symbol. "This is where she is."

I stood up, pushing back the Indian. He caught my arms and held me, stared me down, immobilizing me. "Why did it happen?! Who- what's going on?"

"You read the book. You should know. You asked for the opportunity to escape your prison sentence. And he gave it to you. Now you're paying for it," he told me. I sobbed against his words, shaking my head.

"No, no! This, I didn't agree to THIS!"

"You agreed. You said anything was his if he'd let you live through the ordeal. And so you met her, the girl who could help you escape. The Governor's daughter could pardon almost as easily as he could. Just had to walk in, tell a story, and walk out with you. He'd arranged the whole thing."

It was true. The thing I'd done was to raise up something, maybe the devil, maybe not. It called itself Azsrthng, some inhuman thing that lived in Hell. The book, Ironside's great secret, the treasure that was buried with him, had held the incantation. I'd found it because it called to me. I don't know why, perhaps because I was a murderer or destined for this fate or because it was pure, demonic retribution for a life lived in opposition to what preachers called Holy Word. I found the gravesite, unmarked, and dug up the devil's servant in order to make my fortune. All I found was that book, done up in leather with flaking pages and print almost worn away. Almost.

And then there was my arrest. Even out west they'd been after me. Wanted, Alive. Reward for any Sheriff or bounty hunter who'd get me. And then, up in Wyoming, cornered and captured and hauled back east to face the charge of seven murders, one of them being a child. So I called to Azsrthng in the night and offered him anything he wanted for my freedom. Give her these gifts and tell her you love her, I was told. And there were gifts, the pendant and the bracelet and the rings. I hadn't counted on actually being in love.

And here was his herald, come to take things away from me. I'd never dreamed it would be her. I always thought I'd lose my soul, what I already believed lost. Maybe that was it. I couldn't have lost my soul because it didn't even belong to me then. So it done took everything else I had.

~~~

"Jesus, that's some damn story," the boy said. His blue eyes were wide and he'd nearly lost hold of the whisky in his hand. A moment passed and he shook his head, tipped back the remainder of the whisky and swallowed hard, grimacing. He was nervous, looking left and right, searching the room for something.

"Well, I gotta go, uh, Mister. Th-thanks, I guess, for the story. Maybe you ought'a get inna' the bisness of tellin' tales ta' kids," he said, standing up and knocking the chair over. The bar was dark, nobody in the place but myself, the kid, and a bartender looking to close up. The kid stumbled back, nearly tripping and headed out the door. The bartender stood, polishing a glass with a dirty rag, behind the bar, eyeing me and giving me a look that asked me to leave. I tipped my hat to him and smiled, exiting the bar and following the kid back toward his resting spot for the evening.

He moved into an alley, looking back at me, making sure I wasn't giving him any trouble. I followed closely, deliberately, giving him no room to breathe, chasing after him. He started running shortly, and I followed him through the night air in this tiny western town, with it's mud streets and plank sidewalks, trigger-happy Sheriff and well-armed bank manager.

The kid stopped. He turned and drew his gun, a long, silver barreled six-shooter. "I'll shoot! I've shot men, I've never missed! I don't wanna kill you, but I will if I have to, Mister!" Without warning a shot flew out and slammed into the empty space he'd seen me in a moment before. I put a hand on his shoulder, standing tall from right behind him, and opened up my jacket to show him my bare torso.

There was an engraving on the grip of his gun, I knew, with a circle split in two by a wide line. That was one of the symbols already affixed to my flesh. I looked him in the eye as he stood before me, explaining to him the dilemma. "See, with no soul myself I have an option or two, but not one of them is a regular life, like you or me'd figure it. Walk the Earth ad infitum, go into the mystery beyond or maybe, just maybe, get into the business of repossessing what's been traded."

The kid was terrified. It was clear on his face. I continued, "I know what the Indian was wearing on his skin, now. See, a body starts out filled with spirit, animus or whatever you want to call it. And, slowly, it dwindles away, especially in the evil people. It's like a desert, the body. Wide, expansive. And if it's not full already, it can hold a good number of desiccated spirits. Like the kind you might have if you'd made a deal to have the best shot this side of the Mississippi. You get me?"

Even Cowboys Have Bigger Intentions - 10/1/2004

"Name's L. Roy James. 'An I already know your name. Saw the big damn hat from a mile off," I told the man as he swung a leg over his horse and dropped to the ground, handling the reins.

"Ellroy?" he asked, tying off to a post outside the store.

"L period space Roy. James."

"And the L stands fer Lady, right?" His joke wasn't funny so I smiled. The gun was out and ready for shooting before he'd ridden up. I didn't walk into a gunfight with a weapon holstered. That was just plain dumb.

Before he had a chance to say anything else I'd killed him, put the bullet from my army issue Colt .44 in his chest. Wasn't really from any army I'd fought in, but it was originally issued during the war so's I always called it that, givin' it some historical reference. The body were dropped against the ground and I walked over, nuzzled the toe of my boot into his ribcage, hard, makin' sure he wasn't gonna move again. Made that mistake once, early on, and paid for it with a scar across my ankle from some Cherokee's boot knife.

Having determined the likelihood of death I lifted the arms of the dead man and, with a couple of people not already used to this sort of thing watching from windows or porches, dragged the body over to the morgue, which of course was an empty barn where the coffins were built. Hauled the body up on top of the slab, a few long boards stacked onto wooden horses, held down with old, iron nails. Checked the pulse, lifting the hand into the air and gently searching for the feeling of a heartbeat.

Nothing.

"Roy!" the voice started into me. He never called me by my first name, which my deceased mother gave me. I could hear it often. Often enough to know that it would probably always be there to taunt me like it did. Remind me of what I was doing and the big plan that my father would never see to know that it wasn't just worthless, doing those artistic things. "Roy, there's nothin' in drawing yer damn pictures. No future, boy. No respect! Here," he'd say, holding out his hand. "Here's where your vitality is, in your own two damn hands. Gotta make something of yourself by working hard, using your damn hands like they's meant ta be used."

He would take away the slate, the chalk, take away the books. Remove the earnest efforts of an eight-year-old in order to get him out there, working hard to pry the gold out of dead outlaws' teeth or scavenge the workable metal from their horses' hooves. Son of the corpse-handler, set about putting things in the ground at an early age.

"Damn, Roy, you've got some practicin' ta do if yer gonna be the next in line to handle this business of mine." Truth be told, I didn't want to. I was scared ta death of the dead folks, their vapid gaze, double zero eyes. Worse 'an that, they were mostly the criminal types in our town, people laid to rest in violent struggle. There were stories about the animated spirits of those people travellin' into the real world and not stayin' dead.

When I was twelve my father went off to join up with the Texan's militia, fighting in the great battle of the Alamo and losing his life there to Santa Ana's ruthless charge. He got to see Crockett and Bowie though, who by then had quite the following of young boys, legends of the frontier lifestyle. I wanted to be them. I wanted to know them, at least, and that would never happen now. There was pride in my father's demise, out there with the heroes, a hero in his own way.

"Yer daddy hid in the basement while the Mex'cans killed 'v'ryone!"

"There is no basement in the Alamo," I replied. That was the first real fight I'd gotten into, ten years old and self-employed, building wooden houses for the folk done murdered in my town. Some of the kids I knew, my age, were 'fraid of me somethin' fierce. Called me Morbid James. Boy by the name of Rick, I believe... Yeah, Rick somethin' or other, got into it with me and came out almost dead. Parents of the boy weren't very accepting, none of the townspeople either. Thought it was strange, a ten-year-old who worked on the dead. Didn't particularly want me around.

So I left. Took an old army issue Colt .44 and a horse that I had the money for, my father's busted out saddle and some silver spurs that I would later sell way below cost in order to pick up some food. I rode out to the next town and offered my services in whatever way I could, using my hands to fulfill my aspirations. I worked hard, harder than anyone could have believed from someone my age. At fourteen I took over Deputy duties for a local man ran the prostitution and kept the law in the meanwhile. I shot a man that almost shot him. As reward there was a deputation. And booze. And women.

For awhile I didn't do nothin' but hang around town and take lives. I didn't have anythin' else to do, really, and it paid well and kept me fulfilled. And there I was learnin' the ropes of running a business besides gunslinging. I kept the books for the whorehouse sometimes and other times worked as a bartender. Mostly earned a name for myself as a killer, though.

Eventually it came down to me 'an the benevolent lawman, where's I'd have ta' shoot him if I wanted to continue the business I was runnin', taking just a little off the top of every transaction. He found out, or would soon, after I made a slip-up somewhere along the line and gave myself away. The books weren't what they should have been and he'd know when he saw. So I decided instead to head on out during the night.

Twenty-five years old, now, living in a lonely place just southeast of Tucson, a couple days ride through the desert. I found it by accident, as if the horse just sort of knew where to go. Slept on through the ride, holding on in a drunken haze as we galloped into the middle of nowhere and found something there, a place I'd never been where I wouldn't be followed by my former employer. And after a few years here I'd managed to pile up quite a body count and a local reputation as a fair and just law-type, even though what I mostly did was take from the no-longer-living.

I came back to what I'd always wanted to be, in the end. I started up with the books and the thinkin' and drawin', settling on a method by which to live forever in the annals of artistry. I was working on a monument to self-respect.

~~~

The cleaver came down, slicing through epidermis and calcified skeleton at the wrist, severing the hand from it's former owner. L. Roy James tied off the stump and held up the hand, peering at it, turning it from front to back and making sure everything was in right formation. He smiled, brining the hand back down to the table and pulled a thin, wide iron from the fire he started before he confronted the man, applied it to the open end of the hand and sealed it shut.

He picked up a long, curved needle that dangled a line of metal thread and walked to his wall, it's ninety-eight right hands sewn together and forming a lattice that climbed the side of the barn. It was his epic plan, the thing he'd been seeing in his mind for years now. He sighed and found a spot where he could attach his newest piece and began sewing, linking flesh to rotting flesh and whistling.

Swamp Gas - 10/1/2004

Fiddle music sprang from behind the stumps and betwixt the swamp mist that blanketed the entire area where the ragged remnants of the Swamp Fox's unit caroused and cowered, vaguely awaiting the end of a war that they'd nearly given up on, had it not been for the words of a now-dead compatriot, Bill the Bugler, and his rousing version of 'Ol Thompson's musical medley of Southern pride. William Banes in particular had grown weary of the war, having seen the murder of many a man he might once have referred to flippantly as his northern brethren. And yet, where he found in himself a thin void, there was the sentiment of national pride, of Jefferson Davis's country, of economic freedom and the continued tradition, of conservatism and the Southern way.

Moreso, even, there was the flicker of gloryhounding. "Let it rip, boys!" Thompson would say to them as they exploded from the swamps of southern Missouri, dodging trees and firing Enfields into the brains and stomachs of enemy troops. Just a brief flash of blue and William could snap his trigger back and let hurl the sleeping dog of his war, a furious leaden ball that could easily blow away the rear aspect of a man's head if it were placed just right.

And William always placed his bullets just right.

Then, of course, the Swamp Fox was caught, caged by Union officials in 1863 after the Grand Raid and imprisoned, his freedoms snatched in an effort by the North to purvey to the South what would happen if they lost the war. This singular moment, at least for Missourians of that epoch, would diminish the fervor with which they could fight. And for some it would be the breaking straw, the grounding element that surfaced and sent them back into the few remaining fields to await the loss of the war with silent hope and external hopelessness.

And the ragtag scraps of the First Military District of Missouri, (the originals, that is; the unit at this point still lived on in another form), retreated into their specific habitat and planned the future in either apathy or vigorous bloodlust.

William Banes polished his rifle slowly, moving the tattered rag up and down the silver parts, very aware of the encroaching gases of the southern Missouri swamp. In New Orleans they said that the mists could cause birth defects and some of the blacks could bend them to their will. Banes never gave stock to that superstition. He'd graduated from college and jumped into the war but was nonetheless an intelligent, educated gentleman of the aristocratic south who cherished the ideals set forth in the Confederate States' proclamation of secession.

"Cut the fiddlin' or bite the end of my pistol," someone said. William didn't have to look up to know it was Boyle. Boyle never gave into festivities. He was spoiled, poor, uncouth and generally imbecilic. But William didn't bear down on these points because Boyle was a good soldier and served his country well.

"Go to hell," the fiddler Damen said. He was only first generation citizen, not well-liked in the Americas in the first place, from where he only mentioned once and everyone had forgotten. It didn't matter, frankly. There was a war happening involving the Americans and Americans were dying and fighting and that was the end of it. Foreigners needn't have business with them if they weren't going to do anything but fiddle and sing.

Boyle stood up and walked over to Damen. "You're not blasted Billy and you never will be. Stop fiddling or I'll stop you," he said. Damen looked up, holding his bow still over the strings. His eyes were fiery. There was blackness behind those green irises that belied his genial demeanor. He could scalp a man if he wanted to, take him in the night while his comrades slept nearby. It would be easy for him. He was their scout slash spy, after all.

William Banes offered his own take. "Let the lad play, Boyle. There's no harm in allowing a bit 'o the Thompson merriment during which to parlay in the downtime," he said.

Boyle looked back at him. Banes stared, polishing away absentmindedly. "Sure," Boyle said eventually. "Play, Damen, you damn devil, play something for Willy Banes, our educated-type man."

Damen dropped the fiddle and walked away, mumbling. "What?" Boyle called after him, sneering. "What was that, you bastard?"

Banes began to stand, but stopped and went back to polishing as Damen disappeared into the mists. Around him the men were mostly getting to sleep, dusk having broken hours ago. They were planning on waking early and rendezvousing with another unit eighteen miles north for a push east along a Union supply line that was supposedly moving foodstuffs to units stranded behind enemy lines through Southern citizens. The push back would be no problem with numbers and guile, both of which the combined units would maintain once the Swamp Fox remnants had joined.

The fog thickened up as the men began sleeping, becoming nearly opaque, rendering vision to a rough five-foot radius in any direction not already blocked off by natural encroachments, of which there were many in the swamp. Trees wrapped in vines surrounded by muddy water and hanging down over everything else.

Banes took first watch, as usual, setting himself inside a circular formation of tree stumps and watching, listening for anything outside of ordinary. His ears were attuned to the marshes after so long living within their borders, as were everybody's; used to the bubbling sounds of ventilation and the buzzing of insects, mosquitoes and flies mostly, the odd animal noise near enough to penetrate the din of swarming bugs. It was hot in Missouri, even in September, especially hot in the swamps and the unit had borne it out to the fullest, taking everything that nature could give them in a season and still functioning at maximum capacity. Lately, though, they'd been more and more aware of the extra-small rations set out for them, lower than standard Confederate soldier fare, and the hunger they'd been feeling was gnawing at them worse than the bite that any insect could possibly muster.

The slow, deliberate plodding of boots across mud entered the area, Banes's eyes flashing back and forth to discern any visual confirmation possible, his ears zeroing in on an approaching individual, footfalls too heavy to be anything that generally lived in the swamplands of Southern Missouri. A creaking sound carried over the swamp, horsehair bow against raised nickel strings, a fiddle in the middle of the night. It's music was solemn, eerie, sevenths and ninths in a staccato rhythm.

"Damen?" Banes stage-whispered into the veil. "Damen! Answer me!"

The fiddling didn't stop and no vocal intonation was forthcoming. He raised his rifle's butt to his shoulder, clicking back the hammer on his Enfield and aiming in the direction of the noise. "Damen!" he yelled, giving all his lungs could grant in terms of volume. "You answer me or I swear by God I'll blow your brains out!" He stared down the length of his rifle, swiveling the sight back and forth, waiting for a flash of blue uniform to come into view.

The fiddle switched to something jaunty, hitting major notes in succession, almost a ragtime tune but banged out in such time as to offer no easily followable melody. Banes fired a shot up and left, splitting leaves and bark. "Damen! Boyle's right, you're a bastard and you've got one damn chance to not get shot!" A voice rattled forth, chattering out a song known by the few persons close to Thompson before his capture and imprisonment.

"Down in the swamp east, low lands low
Come follow wherever Jeff Thompson goes"

Banes knew it was Damen's voice but there was something odd to it, a garbling of the words, as if he were unable to properly close his mouth and make out certain sounds.

"Come on boys, don't lose your grip"

More sounds, footfalls, in the direction that Damen's bizarre fiddling had come from. Several men, moving slowly, arms at hand and the familiar tearing and clicking of the standard loading action.

"When I give the word boys, let it rip!"

Damen stumbled into view. His face was knotted, black, the veins and arteries contrasted hard against his flesh. His shirt was torn open and there were massive gashes in his side where a large animal had likely ripped into him. He was bleeding profusely and moving his bow left to right against the upraised fiddle, chin resting against it. Banes took aim and snapped back the trigger and, as promised, blew the rear of Damen's skull away from his head. His body crumpled into the thin layer of liquid he'd been standing in and Banes began the ten-step process of reloading. He wasn't the quickest in his unit, only able to load two balls per minute, but rarely missed, even at distance. He was capable of calculating near-perfect trajectories for his misshapen musket balls, a skill lost on the general populace.

Thirty seconds later Banes aimed his rifle again as another one of his own men walked into view, desiccated and monstrous like Damen had been, his neck ripped apart and spurting rust-colored blood up the side of his face. Banes took the shot and dropped him. A musket ball struck the stump beside his head, cursing into his right ear, smoking and sending wooden shrapnel into his cheek.

"Damn!" he yelled at the approaching men, all his own, he imagined, as the first two were. "Stop! Stop firing! It's William Banes!" Another shot screeched nearby, missing him by several yards. It was lucky that they weren't very good shots, at least not in this mist. Unable, perhaps, to hear anything to find him. Another man came up from the left and raised his rifle, prepared to take Banes at point-blank range. The disintegrating man's face jerked outward and burst, bullet taking him through the skull. A sweeping gesture from the shadow in the mist and the head came off, silver hatchet from nowhere removing it swiftly.

Boyle stepped over the carcass. "Son of a bitch! They're everywhere! Something's happened. I don't know what, but our own damn men are standing up and trying to kill us. Started with that rat Damen, chewing on Red's arm while he slept. After that Red got up and bit someone else. I watched it happen but didn't believe it."

A shot.

Boyle dropped, his side wide open. Banes rolled him over, placing his palms against the wound and pushing down hard, feeling exposed ribcage against his bare hands. He breathed heavily, strangulated by the thick, noxious fog. He looked around wildly, waiting for a bullet to come at him. He looked down. Boyle was pale, pasty white. The blood was gushing from his side and there was no stopping it. Banes lifted his hands, apologizing to the dying, maybe dead, man. He grabbed his rifle and finished loading, turning back to see if Boyle had any extra ammunition on him.

The fog was suffusing itself to Boyle's wound. It was red, velvet red mist swirling around the massive opening. What looked like fingers poked into Boyle's side, slid up into him, pumping his heart and making his lungs work, flexing his muscles. Several hands went inside Boyle's body. A fog face looked up at Banes, grimacing, and followed the hands into the body. Boyle's face melted slightly, turning the color of used-up carbon, wrinkled flesh over frail bones. And then he sat up.

Banes pointed the weapon at Boyle and fired, taking off most of his arm where it met the shoulder.

Rifle fire. Loading and firing. The spread of warfare, the cacophony of pervasive enemy footholds. Banes prostrated, laying down and screaming at the top of his lungs to someone, something in the beyond to help him.

There was no answer.

Then he felt the first cold fingers rend his clothing and seep into his back.

Excursion - 10/1/2004

Dim gray like ash fallen from nowhere echoes back and forth in wide strokes over flesh-and-bone stalks seemingly planted into the black ground. It's very dark, and they stare up at something that I can't see.

"What do you think they're looking at?" I ask aloud. Someone is looking over my shoulder and tells me they watch anything that's up there. I'm fairly sure it's alien lifeform. That's why the background was chosen and why it's so dark. Confusion. Warped nothing poured down canvas from the reality of outside-the-box.

I turned around. The entire place was filled with people, mostly dressed in black, apparently unaware that color was the season's newest high-fashion exterior remark and perfectly suitable for a gallery opening. They were all staring, slightly upwards, near identical to the people in the painting I'd been watching. I wondered if this was the keystone to the show, the intended response from myself in the wake of the viewing.

Motionless. Most everyone stood, blank-faced, altering the images in front of them with collective experience and bending critical notions against the breakers of their knowledge. It was strange. Stranger than any of the surreal offerings or the blinding, over-exposed photography that Steve Mason had to offer us. Perhaps that was the point.

I walked through the people that couldn't move, the statues of beings locked into the process of exposing the world's background through sense-filters. I didn't believe any of them could do it.

Then I left the gallery.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Scavenger's of Ideas - 9/19/2004

Minister Van Illen covered the television viewing space, sparking like fireworks at the prospect of the upcoming Apocalypse. It was his delivery, though, which formally executed the reality-based plan for full-throttle headers into the great beyond. As the encore to his sweat-filled, hard-lit speech about the fall of man's Grand Moral Standard into nihilistic fervor he had himself executed, staring up into the rafters of some Midwestern choir's cavern as he took the bullet from his son, Peter Acolyte Van Illen, whose duty it was to perform the miracle of re-creation with the hands of Jesus moving through him.

There was an arrest, of course, but the boy was acquitted as having been part of a fantastic cult of suicidals bent on investing the world with seeds of autonomous disparagement. Oddly, the rituals continued unabated without arrest after another year or so, soon taking to television performances live via Pay-Par-View and later syndicated across the (666) World Wide Web.

Joshua Mal Carne, the prophet of the Heaven Spring's Eternally Within Church of Reformed Sadists joined the ministry late in the third year after the elder Van Illen's death, linking hands with Peter Acolyte Van Illen in Africa and subjecting the village of dark-skinned natives to sixty-seven hours of preaching before BetaCams with satellite links and expansive broadcasting range, a record at that time for live television. This, of course, followed by the irreversible discourse whereby Peter and Joshua coerced God-Fearing villagers to suicide in order to portray to us, American at-home viewers, just how far we'd fallen from the Grace of the Almighty in reference to these heathen savages who'd only just experienced the sublime love of God.

The American Theocratic Nation, so named for it's recent jump from attempted ideologically-based society to pre-Renaissance fear-based cowering-in-the-shadow-of-our-own-iniquity nation state, took to the new phenomenon with reckless abandon, decisively swathing through foreign worlds with Crusader fury, bringing the Word and the knife in equal measure.

And then there was nobody left but themselves. The inevitable schism generated enough vehemence in the religious orders to begin civil war, world-shaking as it was after co-opting most all lands on Earth, and burned out the sinning portion of the opposition clan with nuclear fire.

And then they were gone. And all that was left was us, the scavengers of ideas. And we all lived happily ever after until there were enough of us to start over again. Then we just killed each other and raped the bodies.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Drunken Editorial - 9/13/2004

It must be hard to work for George Bush, Jr.

Watching the television, the interviews with cabinet members and various Secretaries, the impression is left that they are often flustered, anxious people these days. The look on their faces is virtually identical. They wave their hands and proffer harsh tones in their explanations of what, exactly, the plan for the future is. Brows are frequently furrowed and eyes narrow to virtual solitary-confinement slats, as if the only way we're allowed to see in, or them to see out, perhaps, is through this smallest of possible thoroughfares. I can practically see the frazzled dementia settling into Condoleeza Rice's frontal cortex as she explains to the nation, those few that manage to tune in to politically pertinet television shows over the allure of reality t.v. and reruns of CSI: Miami, the various policies which will certainly be enacted by the president should he manage to be elected to a second term.

And it pains me, (as surprising a sentiment as that may be coming from your truly), to see these bright people, these masters of sentient relationships and stewards of philisophical interaction, force themselves to spout off in directions that they seemingly have no real connection to outside of their desire to remain employed. Perhaps it's the fact that there are no jobs to be had that makes them cling to their current positions. Or, conversely, maybe it's the fear of the jobs that await them that provokes such a stranglehold on ideology that would otherwise be rejected in the name of constitutional (American, as I like to call it), sentiment.

I've heard that Colin Powell is a rather sharp individual, someone who, (and this is something held close to my heart as well), will take the opposition side to any, ANY argument simply to evoke discussion and clear understanding of every angle he can possibly think of in the minds of his peers. He wants people to think, to see and to understand the choices they face whenever they take a particular stance. And I wonder if he acts that way with the President. I wonder beyond wonder whether or not he's willing to stand face to face with the men he serves and render their arguments nil with opposition logic in an attempt to betray an inner knowledge that portends understand on levels that George Bush, Jr. may never fully realize in his bull-headed attempt to eradicate the American China Shop.

What's the point to a democratic society if there are no powerful minds at the top? Realistically shouldn't the Prez surround himself with dissent in order to discover what the options are? I can't possibly believe in a man who asserts his cowboy nature and fears horses. Which is really something that we've seen throughout his career, isn't it? He joins the military but won't go to war. He gets a DUI but won't face the charges. He declares war on Osama Bin Laden but stops looking for him after a while.

However, that's a digression that only ends in unreasonable accusation.

Back to the original point, what's going in Washington, DC? Why, if it makes them appear so uncomfortable, are the officials at the right and left hands of our Optimus Prime so discordant in their public appearances? Why do the questions being asked about the President's plans force them to squint and rave and stutter and curse, (Okay, I made that one up), when they purportedly support the initiatives?

In a word, power. They, those people we expect to provide the President with legitimate information and make decisions at low levels as to what should become a high level question, are swayed as easily as any other member of the public-at-large when it comes to the maintenance of the status quo, namely themselves. These are people who may have once worked as managers whose goal was the firing of employees they didn't like simply because they could. These are the assholes you've worked for once before; the kids who took hall monitor too seriously; the total bastards whose sense of ineptitude, once they were given any credibility whatsoever, gave way to puerile teasing.

That's not to say that there aren't people out there whose corruption extends to the extreme boundary where they give up ideology for a cool sash and a stack of demerits. I don't particularly get that feeling from any of the other candidates I've seen this election year. Not Kerry, (whose voting record actually implies an honest humility, what with his bending to will of the constituency and all, something Bush has yet to do even though it's his job), not Nader, not anyone.

Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed how GB, Jr. praises the nations who refuse to submit to the masses? We hate the French because they obeyed the will of the people but love the Brits because Tony Blair told his nation to sod off. Makes total sense, given that demo is basically Greek for "people" and cracy is basically Greek for "governance."

Another digression. I apologize.

It can't be determined what will happen to the current members of the cabinet if a new President is elected. Certainly, many of them will go. It's unlikely that the Democrats, reasonable people as they appear to be, would go so far as to pull the politically abrasive but partisan-supportive move of throwing out literally everything put in place by the previous administration, (including, say, the Clinton plan to disarm North Korea that was ON THE VERGE OF BEING ENACTED), but who am I to make that kind of brash statement when I have basically no active method of discerning these sorts of matters?

Well, besides history books, the internet, common sense, well-known facts and interviews with people tossed out in 2000. But those aren't really sources, are they? I mean, it's not like I got this information from a press conference that was nearly held in secret because the press secretary was too afraid to make White House information public knowledge.

Yeah, thought so.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Delusion - 9/12/2004

Half of life is somnolent desperation, like the film set to show at off-shutter speed.

Crawling through the morass of emotional deprecation, introverted meanings coerced beyond the realm of the self with blatant drunkenness and otherwise asinine behavior, he manages to seduce himself into believing that there's something going on between himself and the other.

"She's clutching me again," he thinks, modeling himself after her shadowy grasp, imagining that this has something magical to it. "Is she interested?"

Her arms cradle his; thin, wiry fingers straddling his biceps and her head laying across his shoulder while they consume alcohol and pizza. "Touching me," he hears himself think, suddenly conscious of his desire to entertain her apparent wants. "She must be interested."

There's an abyss between them, though. He doesn't know it until he reaches out and attempts to cross, to see if he can hurdle the bottomless gap of endlessly frustrating signals which may or may not be tangible. "Fuck," he says to himself, solemnly acknowledging the insult of possible failure. "What do I do?"

Old sayings propose to take varying degrees of differing measures. Carpe diem. Milk for free. More flies with honey. "What the hell am I thinking about? This doesn't make any fucking sense!" There are clearly set rules to this sort of interaction and the trick is knowing what they are.

"Dating, dating, like on a date. A date. Where people 'go out' and stuff."

Simplistic sensibilities reach no comprehension and he lunges expectantly over the cliff-face, seeking to splash into deep, deep waters and find certain truths exposed as affection. And yet, when he hits, he finds nothing but hard concrete greeting his faceplant-bellyflop dive. A snapped ego and enough psychological trauma to agonize over for the next three to four days.

"Why do I even fucking bother?" he asks. And she answers back with a short smile and the flicker of un-enthused giving, letting go of his hand that she held so tightly only a moment before.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Ember Children - 9/11/2004

Before the animation all twelve kids were superdense lumps of carbon atoms prepared in such a way as to trap light, layers of semi-reflective grids meant to slow down the rays that got through and send the rest back into the body. They were marionettes at first, three foot tall clumps shaped generally into bodies by scientists-turned-amateur-sculptors. We'd managed to make them fully articulated, two-hundred twenty-three points of movement of one kind or another, more than would be there if they'd been born human beings instead of realised concepts.

Once we'd animated them with the SunSpark they literally hopped up, each and every one of them, and began running around, bumping into walls and into each other and glowing, diffusing their light outwardly and created their own sort of burn. They left imprints of charred paint when they touched the walls and the floor was covered in ashy refuse.

Laurenn and Bobby Hughes, the specialists in training animal training, worked to teach the ember children about the world around them and the world outside. There was no reason to believe that they would have any sort of capacity for understanding. After all, there was no brain inside them. The theory began with that, though. It was the whole reason for bringing back pieces of the sun. We wanted to study those tiny flames to discover how and when the star was formed and, if possible, trace back the universe to it's earliest possible notion. And here, in one of the experiments, we'd cultivated enough SunSpark to give these dolls their own existence. It worked completely. And the ember children learned because we were of the universe and the star stuff and they were the basis of life aroused with plasma.

They watched us, more than we watched them. Every time they took a step or looked in any one direction they learned something new. They began to look more and more like people. One day we came in and discovered that number three was wearing clothes he'd chiseled from his own flesh. They talked. They were animate, fully rendered beings and we were the creator that Genesis II had been searching for when it swept past the center of our solar system and gathered data and star parts.

After a short while they childrens' glow wore away. They had no new sources of real light and the only way to give it to them would be to let them outside, into the world where they would certainly be dangerous and, quite rightly, feared. Everyone on staff, of course, having grown massively attached to them, wanted to allow for a midday jaunt into a playground or soccer field where we could control the number of people coming and going. It would be worthwhile to study their interaction in the outdoors. The solid NO came down each time from the top floor, denying us the privilege of study and ensuring the eventual demise of our beings.

And then they evolved. Overnight, number three was better than the rest. He glowed brighter, stronger. Number eight, the smallest of the group of twelve, no longer gave off any luminescence. Eight was keeled over and blacker than black, a void in the room where none of the other children walked with four feet of. Except three. Three would go past and kick at the body of eight. It was extraordinary. In order to preserve his own life, he'd absorbed the life of the other. And because of his newfound knowledge we'd postulated that he may have managed to absorb whatever information was being stored in the carbon body. In taking the SunSpark he'd removed everything the SunSpark knew. Which also meant that these children probably understood the origin of the universe in an instinctual way that surpassed our own link to the beginning.

Soon the other children began dropping away. Three, whose name we'd changed to Prometheus, swallowed the entire clan of twelve. The ember children were all gone an Prometheus wanted outside. For weeks he'd been attempting to explain his case to us. He'd been holding secrets over our head and trying to bargain. And always the answer came down from above: "Destroy it. End the project. This has gotten out of control and we need to exert human power over whatever it is that you've got in that room."

We never ended the project. Prometheus ended it for us when he disappeared one day. The door was open. There was a melted hold in the door and scorch marks on the walls and floor around it. Probably he'd always been able to get out. He just wanted it to be our decision. He wanted to know how we worked. He'd been able to study us long enough to come to some kind of conclusion about our behavioral patterns and needed no more information. Or maybe his glow was just too dim to stay any longer. We didn't know. What's more, we didn't know anything about Prometheus. In our zeal to study the children we'd begotten we managed to arrive at no conclusion about them. We didn't know what they were or how or why. I don't think anybody was excluded from the attachment that blocked out our reasoning. That's what we get for referring to our project as the progeny of man and his universe.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Monstrosity of Being in Love
or
Confessions of a Sickening Fuck - 9/10/2004

Weeping from his mouth, drooling like my broken fucking septic tank, staring off into the vacuum screen and watching the porno ladies dance their asses between the aperture plate on their home-cam.

"Jesus fuck, Carl! You're going to watch that all fucking day?!"

The son of a bitch barely answers, mouth dropped like an anvil in a Warner Bros. cartoon. He's cornered by a pair of tits every time, the smooth flesh flirting with his backwards brain until he's literally drooling his puerile ecstasy over himself. Go fucking boink yourself in the bathroom, Carl! Just fucking do it!

I really do hate him, really. It's not that he exists in such a state that I despise. I simply hate him for being the self that I understand to be in me, somewhere, repressed or defunct, I'm not sure. Shouldn't I be watching those nipples like a fucking dog with a hard-on? Isn't that the person that I was born to be?

It's there, in the demeanor of the bar-hopping chauvinist; the antithesis of every man who ever got a girl; the asshole with a brain in it's anus; the bleach-blonde fuck whose every action breathes penetration. "Can't take your money, your drinks are paid for."

The words of a bartender, spoken in the half-life of the drunken jackass, his money, hard-earned or barely-strived-for frivolously spent on the attempt at gaining access to pussy, pure simple pussy, the warm, innocuous event that drives the self to date rape and more as if easily purchased late at night during an infomercial. Well.... Fuck that.

Truly and seriously.

There are greater things than the pursuit of the all-encompassing need to create progeny, disgusting, monstrous versions of ourselves. No, that's not true.

More to the point, there are greater endeavors to break for. The creation of the autonomous progeny of the text, for instance. The bastard of the brain, it's horribly mutated offspring. And what about art? Isn't art always the pursuant version of the self, mimicked in a hundred different ways upon myriad canvases and displayed proudly as the offspring nonexistent?

Jesus, there's more to life than that, isn't there? Something beyond this sickening need to burden one's self with the horrible nature of the being. I believe in the will to power, the personified God-Man, scarcely, though the rapist I despise to his torturous end.

There are people so consumed by themselves that they can't understand the fundamentals of living as a person. They are oblivious to the Marquis deSade and yet wish to accommodate his one-time needs, fulfilling the pleasurable acts of unadulterated domination. It's those people that I strive to overcome, it seems. Those fucking cunt bastards, to paraphrase many a United Kingdom, (yeah, sure), resident, are the simplistic focus of too many ranting parables to count.

I can't stand that I hate them. Hatred implies envy, and this is, I believe, fully untrue. There is no raison d'ĂȘtre for the hatred outside of my inclusion of myself in the social order that I also tend to look down upon, as these members of the same organism constantly battle against the tide of the status quo in ways gruesomely depicted in stories of the thriller or horror genre. A nearly admirable quality, if it weren't such an asinine venture on their part.

Fuck. More than that I hate them for trying to become me, to take my place in the life I've created. The next fucker who hits on my girlfriend I want to murder, slowly and deftly, taking devices of medieval design to their anatomy. Is it wrong to savor those fantasies? Certainly not, but then it wouldn't be wrong for them to hit on my girlfriend. And therein is the conundrum that must be faced. Watching from the sidelines as every attempt is made to wrangle the relationships I have farther from me and, most importantly, closer to another being. Simply allowing trust and honorable notions to become the anchor by which your life as you know it is suspended.

Christ I hate trust.