I WANDER IN MY PAJAMAS back down the hallway and into the closet I do most of my viewing in, somewhere in the depths of what used to be the Hotel and is now Pussygrab Palace.

 

As soon as I’m inside, I boot up my laptop and start to scroll. Though it’d be nice to feel like an active participant in my media diet, a Netflix special called A People’s History of Swamp Mode starts playing before I can stop it, and I’m instantly mesmerized.

 

As the special begins, we see a land developer (“let’s call him X,” the special’s narrator says) trying to chop The Dodge City Outskirts into what he calls “condo-izable subdivisions.” He has a decent life — a dog, a family, a midcentury house — when he commits a sudden and seemingly motiveless murder, strangling the UPS delivery man on his doorstep first thing one morning.

 

Forced to testify before The Dodge City High Court, he pleads insanity, claiming that something came over him in the night, that he was “another person entirely” while committing the crime he now stands accused of. “I was a different man,” he says, addressing the camera directly. “A bad man. Not a man I’d ever want to know.”

 

“Well, if you can find this bad man,” the Judge replies, in a gesture of either largesse or deep perversity, “then bring him before me and you, as yourself, will be free to go.”

 

So X does exactly this. He goes back into himself, “all up and down his heart’s halls of mirrors,” as the Netflix narrator puts it, until he reaches the dark inner room where he went the first time. Here he finds the bad man waiting, all too happy to be summoned again.

 

This time, he kills on a larger scale: three people, including a child, which he buries in the frozen foods aisle of ULTRA MAX.

 

Needless to say, he ends up back in court, faced with the same ultimatum, and, again, he follows through: he finds the bad man yet again, closer to the surface this time, more attuned to the deal, even readier to be summoned.

 

This time he burns his whole neighborhood to the ground, killing 50 and radicalizing three followers, who in turn radicalize others.

 

Absurd as it seems, the Judge, apparently terrified of sentencing an innocent man, offers his ultimatum yet again, and again after that. “Bring me the man who did these awful things and we’ll throw him deep into the oily blackness of Dead Sir,” he says to X, after the bad man has initiated the First Dodge City Genocide, killing tens of thousands and leaving entire neighborhoods in ruins.

 

 

*****

SOUL-SICK AT WHAT HE’S WROUGHT and despairing of ever bringing the bad man to justice, X musters the very last of his willpower — free for a brief moment from the bad man’s growing influence — and hurls himself into Dead Sir.

 

“If the Judge won’t sentence me, I’ll sentence myself,” the actor playing him in the Netflix special says to the screen, as he falls, landing with a slurp in the jet black water.

 

PART I ends with the waters closing in, the last of X sinking into the depths, never to rise again.

 

 

*****

THE SCREEN GOES BLACK and I blink for a moment, afraid that the entertainment’s over and I’ll have to find something else to click on before the creeping dread of having nothing to do overwhelms me.

 

Luckily, PART II begins just in time.

 

Down in Dead Sir — the camera’s filming this all underwater, lit in sickly green night-vision — the man formerly known as X sloughs away. His skin puckers, bubbles, and peels back, drifting off in sheets which are eaten by huge solemn carp and gar.

 

Inside, rather than the viscera and bone structure I was expecting, is another man, encased in whitish gelatin. He peels this away and balls it up in his spindly hands, sculpting it into humanoid shapes that he plants in the murk at the bottom of Dead Sir, like he expects them to grow there.

 

And grow they do: over the course of a time-lapse montage, the man — who is clearly the bad man, perpetrator of the First Dodge City Genocide — changes, slowly but surely, into Col. Pussygrab, while all the white humanoids he planted around him grow into his retinue of Swamp Creatures. It’s particularly grotesque to watch Paul Sweetie’s face sprout from the fleshy blob that now constitutes his body.

 

Bubbles spewing from his mouth, the bad man addresses the camera and says, in what is now clearly Pussygrab’s voice, “What I’ve learned down here is that Swamp Mode is latent in all of us. It’s part of who we are, the backmost part, the reptile part. Did we create Dead Sir, or did Dead Sir create us? That, my friends, is the question. What I can say for sure is that it’s not unique to me, I was just smart enough to embrace it first. That poor bastard I used to be? ‘X,’ as you Netflix faggots call him? He’s gone, but I’m here to stay. The Dodge City Mayoral Election is tomorrow, and all I can say is, to anyone who thinks I can’t win … wait and see. It doesn’t matter if you’re sure you won’t vote for me. When the time comes, when you’re alone in that booth, you will. You all will. Swamp Mode’s ascendent. The Second Dodge City Genocide’s ramping up, and let me tell you all right now, it’s gonna be a motherfucking party!”

 

The Netflix special ends with Pussygrab and his Swamp Creatures marching across the bottom of Dead Sir and then slowly rising toward the surface, green hard-ons engorged, as a spooked newscaster’s voice says in the background, “I can’t believe it folks, but reports are coming in that Col. Pussygrab has won the Election in a landslide. Barring a miracle, by dawn he’ll be our next Mayor.”

 

Then the screen goes black and the credits roll over hysterical cackling.

AFTER SOME RESTLESS CHANNEL FLIPPING — I linger for a few minutes on a Netflix special entitled Trade War With The Dodge City Dead, in which Paul Sweetie’s new edict that all aborted fetuses must be buried is contradicted by The Dodge City Dead, who claim that aborted fetuses don’t count as human beings and thus have no business in the underworld. To make their point, they dump a wheelbarrow full of them back in the Town Square in the middle of the night, in a see-through bag labeled THIS IS TRASH — I finally settle on an Amazon special set at Dodge City High:

 

From what I can gather, it has to do with the efforts made by Dodge City’s most infamous private security contractor, Greg van Groos, to run a tactical combat simulation in the high school’s hallways. “In case,” he claims, “anything such as one of those school shootings we hear so much about were ever, God forbid, to go down around here.”

 

The paramilitary forces of Moonstone Securities — van Groos’ firm (or “mercenary army,” as some Left-leaning pundits have taken to calling it) — descend on the school, securing the hallways with giant machine guns and smoke grenades, mowing down every student, admin, and teacher in sight.

 

“Just to be safe, just to be safe,” they keep saying, whenever the smoke and carnage clears enough to reveal their faces.

 

At the same time, on the righthand side of what’s now a split-screen on my laptop, students run in terror, arming themselves in the bathrooms with handguns and slingshots and Molotov cocktails. “We never would’ve done anything like this, but we have no choice,” one of them says. “These maniacs have declared war. Even if it means certain death, we have to defend our school!”

 

They shave their heads and don trench coats and write nihilist manifestos and do themselves up with Slipknot tattoos, “just to get in character,” as one of them puts it.

 

Back on the lefthand side of the split-screen, one of the mercenaries says, “See — here they come now. Total deviants. Terrifying. Just look at these kids. We must remain calm, though. Remember, this is all a simulation.” Still, he ducks when a wall explodes behind him, and the fear on his face as he pulls shrapnel from his neck is either genuine or extremely well-simulated, deep in the uncanny valley.

 

*****

THE SPECTACLE CONTINUES as a voice blares, “Everyone remain calm, everyone remain calm, classes are to proceed as normal,” over the intercom.

 

“The question,” one of the high schoolers says, just before being shot in the head, “is whether their claim that this is all a simulation ought to be believed as such. If we believe it, and thus let our guard down, then we’ll all be killed. But if we insist that all of this is really happening and thus fight back and die anyway, then our deaths will be indisputable. When we die, we’ll surely have died for real. Whereas, perhaps, if we agree that it’s a simulation, then we’ll — ”

 

After lingering on his corpse a little longer than seems strictly necessary, the camera cuts to a scene of two middle-aged Dodge City citizens in a sterile conference room, staring at their fingers splayed on the plywood table.

 

“It’s just so … it’s just so shocking, to think about it, still,” says an overweight middle-aged woman in a sweatshirt bearing a “SURVIVOR #1” logo. “To think of the things that happened to us, back in high school. To think that one minute we were in class, learning about standard deviation, and the next they were shooting the whole place up, like it was a war zone. I mean, those guys were serious. Full-on armor, riot shields, gas masks … you name it.”

 

An overweight middle-aged man in a “PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTOR #1” sweatshirt says, “Look, we were just doing our job. We needed to run a convincing-enough simulation to be sure we’d be up to handling the logistics if something like this ever really happened. It was in the interest of all the students of Dodge City High, past and future, to … I mean, no one told us the bullets were real.”

 

He falls silent and twirls his sweatshirt-hood’s drawstrings, like he’s afraid he’s said too much.

 

SURVIVOR #1, picking up the sudden slack: “We — those of us that made it out — never could understand why someone would want to kill us all like that, out of nowhere. If it wasn’t for Dylan and Eric and a few other students who happened to have guns on them that day, Lord knows what would’ve happened. I wouldn’t be here now, that’s for sure. It would’ve been a bloodbath. An even bigger bloodbath, I mean. Those kids are heroes, even if they did kill a lot of my friends.”

 

 

*****

I DOZE OFF FOR AWHILE HERE.

 

When I come to, I’m watching a character that looks like me, in a room that looks like the one I’m sitting in now. He’s just sitting there, thinking, his thoughts narrated either inside my head or out loud by a narrator within the Amazon special:

 

“What about my own high school experience?” my thoughts begin. “At Dodge City High or elsewhere (I’ve long since given up trying to remember) … can I truly claim to have survived it? Does anyone, in the end, emerge from high school intact, or are we all victims of it in one way or another, battered into the adult forms we are then doomed to inhabit?”

 

It occurs to me that perhaps the simple fact of Death enters us all in high school, simulation or not, so that any actual violence in our high school hallways is merely the tip of a very deep iceberg … merely the making-obvious of what was already inherent.

 

“In this sense,” I go on thinking, aware that I’m growing increasingly hypnotized, my thoughts ringing increasingly false to me, “Moonstone is our only bulwark against certain doom, whether it comes in the form of a bullet to the head in algebra class or the slower but in some ways even more insidious creep of decay and despair over the decades and decades after graduation.

 

“If the only true subject of high school is Death, if that’s all we’re there to learn, then surely those who would murder their classmates during study hall are nothing but the manifestation of their schools’ secret beating hearts, the inevitable emergence of what high school truly is and, all along, always was.”

 

 

*****

Here the screen goes black and a giant “MOONSTONE SECURITIES: WAGING THE WAR ON DEATH” slogan comes up, and I realize I’ve been watching an advertisement for the firm this whole time, and am now so confused as to where the lesser evil is to be found that I gladly switch over to Netflix and lose myself in the spectacle of Pussygrab and his goons purging the Chelsea Motel, on the Outskirts of Dodge City, where the last of its counterculture has been hiding out, plotting a “60s Style Celebrity Uprising” that is now gruesomely and spectacularly quashed, even if all the people involved are wax effigies of their real-life counterparts, as it now appears quite likely they are.

 

“Phew,” I hear myself think, aware that I’m reverting to Swamp Mode and will soon be so deep inside it I won’t notice, “at least someone’s doing something around here.”

It’s difficult to talk about the work of David Leo Rice and not mention his natural predilection toward painting all of his protagonists as spectral (sometimes quite literally, as the dead narrator of “Joey in Vermont” in The Opiate, Vol. 2 showed us). His knack for the details–cutting to the core of what “minutiae” really means–only enhances the natural hyper-surreality of his style and preferred tableaus (desolate, sparse and often contingent upon a screen of the porn variety).

This time around, it’s Dodge City, Kansas, an amalgam of every city in the west: lavished in languor, liquor and larceny. No longer the representation of its immortalized silver screen incarnation, the days of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland have faded into a hollow shell. The crime and carnage Dodge City became known for in its true wild west days of the nineteenth century have faded into something far more…

View original post 1,104 more words

A new story of mine …

Life in the surveillance state sure has its perks, as Gribby will be the first to tell you. Like this morning, for instance, as he’s drinking his Ovaltine and Googling guppies – he has a tankful in the living room that won’t quit dying – he comes across a site called PornME that sounds interesting so he clicks it open and it is.

It says, “We’re watching ya all the time anyway, at work and home and everywhere and stuff, so why not pay a lil’ extra to have yr vids porned up, bubba xoxo?” Gribby’s intrigued. He likes porn as much as the next guy, and more especially, he figures, the kind made of vids of him and his coworkers – there’s this gal Kellyanne he’s always been kinda into, for one thing – so, what the hell, he figures, sure, why not pay $12.99/mo. and see if…

View original post 3,798 more words

I FINALLY MAKE IT BACK TO MY ROOM, or what looks like my Room but may in fact be a replica set up in the cramped closet off the hallway I’ve been in all this time, somewhere in the bowels of what used to be the Hotel and is now Pussygrab Palace.

 

My attention, as ever, is quickly absorbed by what’s up next on my laptop: a Netflix News special entitled “The Dodge City Basement Boys: a Key Component of Pussygrab’s Electorate,” billed as “an exclusive look into the depths of The Dodge City Pizza Basement, which is, depending on whom you ask, either Hell, Purgatory, or The Ark.”

 

As the opening titles fade, the screen makes a diving motion, like the camera’s being shoved down a hole, slowly coming into focus in a dim grotto thick with dust motes, Akira posters, and several generations of Playstation controllers balanced on a stack of waterlogged copies of Steppenwolf and Notes from Underground.

 

A skinny, nervous-looking boy in sweatpants and a Tool T-shirt sits scowling at his computer screen while an off-camera reporter clears her throat and says, “Ahem, so … can you tell us what’s been going on with you boys since Pussygrab became Mayor?”

 

The boy, who looks to be around thirty, shrugs and says, “No, but I’ll show you.” He presses Play on a video window on his computer, and the scene zooms in, into a similar basement, where a similar boy sits, grinning and ready to talk like he’s just been tapped-in on a wrestling tag team.

 

“So there was this breeding experiment about thirty years ago,” he begins, fondling a Playstation controller,”set in motion by Mayor Paul Broth, right before he hung himself on the Edge of Town instead of serving the life sentence for war crimes that all previous and subsequent Dodge City Mayors have served immediately after leaving office. In this experiment, a group of neuroscientists set out to discover if it was possible to breed people to have a sort of hyperawareness that would enable them to see beyond the fundamental idiocy, jingoism, and cowardice of the human race. It was, without doubt, Dodge City’s most significant post-humanist attempt to transcend its ancient animosities and superstitions, and thus finally approach Genuine Rational Thought, regardless of any loss in empathy and compassion that might go along with it.

 

“The answer to this experiment was yes, it is possible. The only problem?”

 

He grins and presses the X button on his controller, which sends us deeper into The Dodge City Pizza Basement, which seems to have many nested chambers.

 

Another boy snaps into alertness and says, clearing his throat, “The only problem was they only experimented on boys. Not a single girl among the initial control group. Make of that what you will. What did we make of it? Well, we tried to make the best of it. We got on 4chan and connected up.”

 

He presses Play on his computer screen and turns to face it, motioning for the camera to watch over his shoulder. Onscreen, a hulking samurai paces the ground with an angry erection protruding from his tunic. The boy on the near side of the screen blushes a little as he eases his pajama pants down and fits a joystick-sheath over his groin.

 

“Okay, here goes,” he says, as he starts manipulating the joystick while the samurai onscreen begins fucking a curvaceous anime princess in a nest of thorns. Tentacles, pincers, and other wild appendages grope the screen from all sides. It’s unclear whom they belong to, but they waste no time getting in on the action. Soon the scene looks like an orgy, although it still has only two main participants, as far as I can tell.

 

Each time the boy thrusts in his seat, the samurai thrusts onscreen, and the anime princess moans out a cloud of digital oohs and aahs.

 

Then the boy shudders and hunches over his desk. As he comes inside the joystick, the samurai comes onscreen, pumping the anime princess full before pulling out to reveal gouts of digital semen leaking onto the pixilated ground.

 

“I did it quick since you all were watching,” he says. “Normally I last a lot longer.”

 

Wiping himself off with a sock and pulling his pajama pants back up, he says, “In nine hours, my son will be born. He’ll be half-human and half-Game. Though of course that’s an over-simplification, since I myself am half-human and half-Game, my father being a 4chan Boy like me and my mother being a, well …” He nods upward at a poster for Ghost in the Shell, “you know.”

 

*****

The phrase “NINE HOURS LATER” flashes across my screen, but I can’t tell whether nine hours have actually passed, or only in screen-time. The two are hard to distinguish at this point.

 

Now I’m watching the anime princess give birth to a screaming bundle of pixilated flesh, which then stands, cries, wanders for a while and, after a cross-dissolve, ends up in a basement of its own, bleary-eyed, surrounded by half-eaten chicken nuggets and Chinese takeout, staring at a web browser with at least thirty tabs open.

 

After checking 4chan and posting some garden-variety Hate on a few of its message boards, he cries out, “Mom! Ice cream!”

 

A few moments later, the anime princess from the previous scene — middle-aged now — trudges into the Pizza Basement with an Ikea bowl full of Cherry Garcia, and leaves it near her son’s typing hand, wary of interrupting him. The boy seamlessly incorporates it, spooning ice cream into his open mouth with one hand and Tweeting slurs with the other.

 

*****

“EVERYTHING JUST STARTED TO SEEM FUTILE,” one of the boys says, many generations later. “Like it was all fake, a sham within a sham within a sham, you know?” He adjusts his crotch joystick, which appears to be in foreplay mode, not yet impacting his ability to speak. “Like we were a bunch of mules … an evolutionary dead end. An experiment that was called a success but wasn’t.”

 

“So us Basement Boys started to circle the notion that it was all a Game. You know, like Nietzsche said: the outside world was nothing but neo-liberal hand-wringing and rich bitches crying themselves to sleep in multimillion dollar penthouses. A bunch of smirking bleeding heart coastal dickweeds who insisted on taking everything way too seriously. I mean, how dumb do you have to be to believe that — and please quote me here — Good and Evil still exist? Even with so much obvious evidence to the contrary.”

 

He gestures at his basement bedroom here, as if to imply that this is the evidence he means.

 

“So all of us, through 4chan and through our characters in all the individual games we were playing, began to formulate the theory of The Game.”

 

“The Game?” the reporter asks.

 

The boy nods. “Yeah, the idea that it was all networked together at the very top. That the Apocalypse had already happened, and we were now living in its aftermath. We’ve come to believe that The Game — a fully unified field, the ultimate convergence of all human endeavor — is the only refuge of whatever survivors there are. The Pizza Basement’s an Ark that contains the entire world. The entire universe, even. Underlying all of Dodge City, it opens onto the infinite.”

 

“And Pussygrab?” the reporter asks, looking at her watch. “What does all this have to do with him?”

 

The boy yawns and presses his controller, taking us to a yet-deeper echelon. The air in the room I’ve been watching Netflix in gets tighter and ranker, the smell of old pizza boxes and Big Mac wrappers close to overwhelming.

 

*****

A NEW BOY LOOKS UP from his screen and says, “Well, Pussygrab was a test case. A Swamp Creature we all knew from The Game, a Boss if you like, a natural outgrowth of the Hate we’d been fomenting for years, but the fact that he was somehow also on the ballot in the so-called real world, in Dodge City itself … it was too much to resist. We had to see if, by electing him, Dodge City would prove incapable of accommodating his victory and collapse into chaos, thereby proving that The Game is not ubiquitous, or, as we suspected, whether he would be seamlessly integrated into his new role as Mayor, thus proving that The Game is indeed everything, and that there is no world outside of it. No rules but its rules.”

 

He takes a long slurp from a Big Gulp he’s apparently been cradling in his lap all this time. “And so far, I have to say, all signs point toward the latter. He’s been Mayor for two months now, and Dodge City’s still standing — from what I gather, since I admittedly haven’t been outside yet this year — so what does that tell you? I’d argue that it tells you there’s no getting beyond The Game. The fact that Pussygrab’s both a leering ghoul from the digital depths of Dead Sir whom we elected with our Playstation controllers, and also the actual, real-life Mayor? Doesn’t that pretty much prove that Dodge City can’t be a real place?

 

“At the very least,” he adds, taking another Big Gulp, “isn’t it the funniest thing ever?”

 

“Is it though?” I hear myself ask, shocked to discover I’m now Skyping with him. “I mean, people are going to die.”

 

He nods, unsurprised to be Skyping with me. “True, but think about it: somehow, we made him cross over. The human embodiment of the festering heart of 4chan is now Mayor! And not just our Mayor, but yours too. How could that not be funny? The Line’s been crossed and no one even gets it. You libtards still think the old rules apply.”

 

I stifle a cough and ask, “So what does that mean about the Pizza Basement?”

 

He waves his arm at the dank walls and taped-over windows surrounding him, eyeing a bowl of melted ice cream like he’s weighing the pros and cons of polishing it off. “It means, if you’re watching this, that you’ve survived the collapse of humanity and have, whether you like it or not, succeeded in uploading yourself to The Game. It’s all pretend, so there’s nothing to worry about.”

 

He blushes and stirs the melted ice cream, tasting it carefully. “On the other hand, we’re aware that if it’s all pretend that means we’re pretend too, so in a sense it’s also real. If we and The Game are made of the same code, then we’re not impervious to what goes on here. Which is why we’re kinda hoping Pussygrab doesn’t do that much damage in the end. In The Game, if you die, you have to restart the level. No biggie, in theory, but I’ll admit that we haven’t figured out a way to save our progress yet. And so, yeah, no one wants to go all the way back to the beginning if they can avoid it.”

 

He falls silent here, a bit shamefaced as he stares at me through the Skype window, which is somehow embedded in Netflix.

 

A while later, he says, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, it looks like my wife’s in labor.”

 

The broadcast cuts to the screen he’s watching, where the now-familiar sight of an anime princess giving birth is well underway.

 

*****

THE NETFLIX NEWS SPECIAL ENDS with the termination of the Skype call, and I end up back in the room I started in, though the smell of old pizza boxes and Big Macs and bowls of curdled ice cream and discarded Big Gulps and cum-rags surrounds me, and I have to say I’m not as surprised as I wish I were.

 

Sighing, I log onto Twitter to see what Pussygrab’s been up to since last I checked, thinking, I’ll just clear my mind a little before watching Paul Sweetie Vs. The Dodge City Dead, which is already starting up on Netflix in one of my thirty open tabs.

I’M BACK IN THE ROOM IN THE HALL IN PUSSYGRAB PALACE, where I seem to do the vast majority of my TV-watching these days. It’s not a comfortable room, but it’s one that, by dint of time served, has grown comfortable to me.

 

Onscreen is a parade of Pussygrabs, dying one after another beneath the blade of a guillotine operated by a giant in a Ronald McDonald costume and a leathery white face mask.

 

“Ketchup to my mustard!” he shouts, each time the next Pussygrab’s blood splatters him, though the comparison is strained at best since the blood’s green.

 

After ten such executions, the real Pussygrab (or another Pussygrab) strides onstage and gleefully executes the Ronald McDonald. He pulls the mask off the head, revealing — what else? — another Pussygrab head, dripping green tendrils like pumpkin strands.

 

“Yes!” he shouts, holding the head high for the cameras. “Yes, yes. I am Pussygrab. We are legion. Screw us and we multiply! All assassination requests will be honored. Many of you have called for my head, so here it is!”

 

He kisses the severed head on the lips before kicking it offstage to raucous applause and desperate laughter (my own included).

 

 

*****

THEN A SMASH CUT to a sweaty red face so large its eyes define the upper left and right corners of the screen, its mouth the entire bottom:

 

“For years and years,” it’s saying, as drool pours from its lips and onto my feet under the desk, “I’ve been trying to tell you guys about the Lizards at the top of the pyramid. I’ve been trying to warn you that behind every President, behind every Governor, behind every Mayor and Schoolmarm even, lies a slithering, conscienceless, extra-dimensional Lizard-God whose name must never be spoken, not even in dreams.”

 

He pauses, consulting his notes and sucking down so much spit he has to swallow in two glugs.

 

“Well,” he resumes, momentarily dry-mouthed, “it now appears that I was either very wrong or very, very right.”

 

The screen cuts to footage of the numerous severed Pussygrab heads on the execution stage, rolling gently in the wind, tongues lolling out like Fruit-by-the-Foot.

 

In voice-over, the commentator continues, “You see, the Lizard-Gods are now either unmasking themselves — showing their faces, at last, as they really are, perhaps to call an end to their grand experiment, or to ratchet it up to a new, heretofore unimaginable level — OR, and I stress this possibility, they’ve simply cloaked themselves in new and even more disingenuous forms by appearing to be Lizards, when, all along, they’ve actually been something very, very different … worms, for instance, or slugs. And all this time, using highly sophisticated intergalactic mind-control, they duped us all (myself included, and you know how hard I am to dupe) into believing they were Lizard-Gods, and now, by appearing to be Lizard-Gods, they’re merely –”

 

 

*****

THE SCREEN TEARS IN HALF like a shredded piece of paper, while the words BREAKING NEWS flash across the torn part:

 

We cut to Paul Sweetie in his white wedding dress, weeping in a meadow.

 

Through his sobs I can just make out the words, “I found God! I found God! Look at me mom, I found God!”

 

The camera zooms in as he gets up, brushes himself off, and stretches his frayed New Aryan Skin back over his knees and elbows, covering the lizard-green beneath. Catching his breath as the mic is shoved up to his mouth, he says, “My whole life I’ve been searching for God. The real God, you know? The one I knew when I was a boy. The one that made me feel safe and secure in the universe, like I was at the center of things. Like I was being protected while others weren’t … I’ll never know why that God went away for so long, but now, thank God, He’s back!”

 

He starts crying again here, batting the camera away, shielding his face.

 

“Sorry, sorry,” he says. “I just … it’s just all so emotional.”

 

He points at the meadow, where the camera pans over to reveal a mess of wires, glass, sawdust, wood, goo, slime, and other industrial and extraterrestrial materials.

 

“God,” Sweetie continues, walking into the rubble now, barefoot beneath his wedding dress, “must have been hovering deep in the sky, too high to see. I don’t want to say I ever lost faith entirely, but there were years in there when I couldn’t be sure He wasn’t gone. I just felt abandoned, you know? I felt like the blacks, the gays, the poor … I just felt like they were all ganging up on me.” He starts crying again, looking upward at the clouds.

 

“But, with the ascent of Pussygrab and all the wonderful things that’ve been happening since, well, it looks like God decided to show Himself again! It’s a miracle. A Dodge City Miracle. As simple as that.”

 

 

*****

THE SCREEN RIPS again here, and then — though I thought the feed was live — it flashes on a banner that reads TWO WEEKS LATER:

 

Now it’s showing a Chain Gang in the meadow, with all of Dodge City’s dark-skinned people, and all of its women, and all of its Jews chained at the ankles as they labor to put the fallen God back together and erect a scaffolding to hoist it back into the sky.

 

Paul Sweetie, meanwhile, sits on a wooden lifeguard chair sipping a mojito and fanning himself with a rolled-up magazine.

 

The camera zooms back in for a statement:

 

“It’s just so wonderful,” he says, “to see our citizens working together in harmony for the greater good. Just watch them! Together, as one, they’re restoring God to His rightful place in the firmament: just high enough to be safe from harm and just low enough to be always visible!”

 

The camera pans over to the Chain Gang, where a young woman has collapsed, knocking down her row of conjoined workers. On their knees, those closest to her set about chewing through her ankle so they can cut her loose and get back to work.

 

 

*****

THE BROADCAST JUMPS BACK to the raving commentator who says what I’m already thinking:

 

“So it looks we have a classic battle of Aliens vs. Christians here. Which one ultimately controls The Dodge City Deep State, and what do they want? And which side, if either, is Pussygrab on? Are they attempting to depose him or to make him invincible? Was Paul Sweetie duped by a temporary psychosis into perceiving God amidst all that rubble, or can he see what we cannot? Is Paul Sweetie our next Mayor? All this and more answered on … ”

 

Now the screen goes fully black, and silent too, like someone’s pulled the plug. The drool begins to freeze on my feet as I face the unique terror of having nothing to do.

 

I shiver in the silence and cold of the room, unable to block the sense that a Deep State Tentacle is reaching up from the depths to pull us all — Pussygrab and his clones and Paul Sweetie and his God, and all the rest of us with them — under.

NO SOONER HAVE I CROSSED OVER INTO DALTONLAND, the theme park in which Dodge City’s old-guard, centrist candidate won the election and life went on as normal, than I find myself behind a console, watching what is either the news or a hastily assembled TV Movie on Amazon Prime.

 

In the news-or-Movie, one of the biggest Swamp Creatures, whose New Aryan Skin is bunched up like a shawl around his shoulders, is being sworn in as Director of the CIA. He grunts and drools over the Bible, pulping it with his claws.

 

Clearing his throat after the swearing-in’s complete, he says, “Ladies and germs, my first act as Director of the CIA is to declare all of Dodge City a Black Site.”

 

“What does that mean, exactly?” shouts an off-screen voice.

 

“What does it mean? It means that, from now on, anything goes. Torture works. Whatever we need to do to get to the bottom of what we believe, or imagine, is going on here, we’ll do. With impunity. With secrecy. Without interference. Without oversight. Did I mention that torture works?”

 

He clears his throat again, spits phlegm, and then looks straight at the camera, straight at me. “Torture works,” he says, his voice pinched as he attempts to tighten his New Aryan Skin around his collarbone. “From now on, whatever happens in Dodge City is what was meant to happen. God has returned to this town, after many years in the wilderness.”

 

 

*****

THE SCREEN BOILS and buzzes and then Zizek, the Slovenian Marxist philosopher and bro-provocateur par excellence, appears in a plush brown armchair in front of a tacky photo of an Eastern European cityscape.

 

Deploying some of his signature tics as he scrapes at his tatty beard and neck and wipes spittle from his lips, he says, “Now, what does it mean that Dodge City is a Black Site? In what sense, if any, is such a pronouncement to be understood as meaningful?”

 

I lean closer to the screen, genuinely intrigued by the question. At the same time, I focus on keeping my expression neutral, as I’m wary of being watched. Furthermore, I’m trying to determine if the man onscreen is Zizek himself, or an impersonator. If so, he’s a good one (or else the real Zizek is growing less authentic with age).

 

“What it means,” he says, “is that all contact between Dodge City and the outside world has been suspended, perhaps even permanently walled off. Now, for those of you who’ve lived here for any amount of time, this won’t feel much different from life as it’s always been. After all, who in Dodge City can rightly claim to have maintained a true relationship with the outside world?”

 

He pauses here, as if expecting me to respond. I don’t.

 

“What’s different in this case,” he eventually continues, “is the awareness that it’s now official policy. That there is now, quite literally, no one to hear you scream. Everything that happens in Dodge City from now on is part of the Pussygrab Regime. Assume it’s all intentional, even the chaos. Especially the chaos. Assume that all news is internal, even this news. Even me …”

 

I lean even closer to the screen, trying to determine which possibility scares me more: that I’m being warned of a true terror by an accurate outside source, or that I’m being entertained by an actor from The Dodge City Film Industry, as I’ve been so many times throughout my life … almost consistently throughout my life, to the exclusion of all other experience, now that I think about it.

 

I find that I can’t remember what the real Zizek is supposed to look like and I have no phone or other means of getting online (and who’s to say the whole Internet isn’t controlled by the Black Site now, assuming it hasn’t always been?) … So, the longer I stare at the image onscreen, which goes on talking to me, the less certain I can be about what I’m hearing, and whether to believe it.

 

“The precise nature of the torture that will go on in this Black Site is still unclear,” the man (I’ve grown wary of calling him Zizek, even in my mind) goes on. “Whether the classic tortures — waterboarding and thumbscrews and electrocution and so on and so on — will go into effect, or whether daily life in Dodge City itself will simply become torturous — if it hasn’t been all along — is the question we’re all asking ourselves, as well as the question I’m asking you, aloud, right now, on Live TV.”

 

He winks and vanishes from the screen, leaving his chair empty.

 

My spine seizes up and I turn around, terrified that he’s in here with me now, watching over my shoulder. Is this, I wonder, the first official act of torture undertaken against me? And if so, to what end? What do I know, or do they think I know, that could be of use to them?

 

 

*****

WHEN I LOOK BACK AT THE SCREEN, the CIA Director is sitting in the armchair, cradling a black VHS tape. “This,” he begins, “is the only extant record of the history of torture in Dodge City up to this point. As a token of his largesse and transparency, the Colonel is making it available to the public to reassure them that our torture program has always been entirely civic-minded and aboveboard. He wants you all to see that there is no, so to speak, funny business going on. I want to make it abundantly clear that the Colonel doesn’t have to offer this for viewing. He has chosen to do so. Any Dodge City citizen is free to view this video. Just line up one at a time!”

 

He smiles and his teeth glisten, like in a toothpaste commercial, except they’re dripping yellow sludge and his gums are only partially attached.

 

 

*****

AFTER A LONG AFTERNOON spent watching viewer testimonials about the video — “Beautiful! Just beautiful!” one housewife shouts, as if trying to drown out another voice in her head; “A torture program we can all be comfortable with!” shouts another, munching popcorn from a microwave bag — the screen I’m watching opens to reveal a screen-within-the-screen.

 

This inner screen shows the tape being inserted into a VCR.

 

Now I’m watching the torture video right where I sit, in the supposed sanctity of DaltonLand, deep inside the Black Site.

 

A chair, a naked lightbulb, Paul Sweetie in a white wedding dress … my eyes are peeled, ready to see the horror for what it is … to bear witness and stand up for the truth …

 

BUT:

 

Next thing I know, I’m sitting on a chaise lounge sipping lemon spritzer in a room I don’t recognize (back in the Hotel?), thinking, as I try to remember what I’ve just seen, Well, that didn’t seem so bad … surely if that’s all we’re doing, it’s for the best … isn’t it? I mean, keeping Dodge City safe and all …

 

And then, becalmed, I let myself drift into a cool and dreamless sleep.

THERE’S NO PERCEPTIBLE INTERVAL between the end of one Movie and the start of the next. Now I’m watching what appears to be an architectural walk-thru video in which the Hotelier (played here by a razor-burned egghead in an ill-fitting dress shirt who looks like he’s 20 at most) takes us up and down what he refers to as the “Corridors of Power,” constructed last night by an architect known only as the “American MC Escher.”

 

The architect, or an actor playing him, follows along, staring at his feet like he doesn’t want the Netflix crew to see his face.

 

“The American MC Escher,” explains the Hotelier, all too happy to be photographed, “did a real bang-up job for us. As soon as Col. Pussygrab emerged victorious, and the question arose of where Pussygrab Palace would be located, we knew we had some superimposing to do, and fast. No location save for the Hotel itself would suffice, but, at the same time, the Hotel was far from adequate for accommodating such an august and entitled ruler.

 

“So, in short, the American MC Escher, who turned out to have been living a quiet life in one of our Rooms all along, patiently developing a method for superimposing one Hotel upon another” — ‘just as art!’ the American MC Escher interjects, still hiding his face in the background of the screen, ‘just to prove it was possible!’ — “got straight to work superimposing Pussygrab Palace onto the old Hotel, so that Pussygrab and his Inner Circle could move immediately into the most luxurious and elegant residence Dodge City had to offer, bar none.”

 

The Hotelier clears his throat and adds, “To give you a sense of the wealth disparity we have succeeded in creating here, there are 884 guests in the Hotel, and only 8 members of Pussygrab’s Inner Circle, each group occupying the exact same amount of space! This, I think we can all agree, is truly what we as a society ought to be striving for.”

 

He clears his throat, then adds, “And, for the low price of $999,999, you too can purchase a timeshare in the Palace. Leave your email in the Comments section of this video for more info …”

 

Disconnecting from the image-feed as the Hotelier attempts to wipe off the shame in his eyes, I look around, finding myself still in the drafty side room where I ended up after my Conversion Therapy, and I wonder, not for the first time, whether I’m in one room, or two.

 

“Two, clearly,” says the Hotelier, winking at me before returning to the walk-thru, the American MC Escher dawdling behind him. “Here, as you can see, is one of seven Access Portals” — he touches what appears to be a solid section of wall — “a means of traveling, for those at the correct clearance level, between the Hotel and the Palace. A means of stepping, as it were, from the old Dodge City, the one we knew, in which the Rule of Law held sway and we felt as though the train was, so to speak, still on the tracks, and into the new one, the Empire of Pussygrab, the Glorious New Nation he has pledged to usher us — well, some of us — into.”

 

With that, the Hotelier disappears from the screen, presumably out of the Hotel, still visible on Netflix, and into the Palace, which no camera is yet able to record.

 

*****

SO I’M ALONE in the Superimposed Hotel, or alone watching myself in the Superimposed Hotel on Netflix, when the idea comes to me that perhaps, if I try leaving the room I’m in right now, I’ll emerge into the hallway I just saw onscreen and will thus manage to escape through the Access Portal. Perhaps, I think, the purpose of the Movie was to show me the Portal’s location, and to encourage me to find it before it disappears. An instruction video, not a mere entertainment.

 

And if I can just slip through, I go on thinking, perhaps I’ll wake from this nightmare and emerge back into the Real Dodge City, the one where …

 

I’m not so naive as to imagine that the Real Dodge City still exists — it is, in essence, a Pretend City now, a diorama, an ant farm — but I’m not sure this distinction holds any water. So I’m determined to find it anyway.

 

I can’t say exactly what gives me the confidence — perhaps the Conversion Therapy has indeed altered my way of thinking — but once the thought occurs to me, it remains embedded. So I get up, close the laptop, and try the door.

 

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, if this is all part of a sinister masterplan, or a symptom of reality’s total collapse) it’s unlocked!

 

Now I’m wandering a carpeted hallway I’ve never seen before, in the Hotel or the Palace, like a cardboard cutout on a Chutes & Ladders board, hoping to emerge through one of the Access Portals before it’s too late — though I can’t imagine how things could get any later than they already are.

 

When I find the Portal, I go through, setting off an alarm so loud I start running in terror, through the American MC Escher hallways, up staircases that lead down and along corridors that warp upward, until I make it outside, into the static of the Town Square, past the throngs of goose-stepping swamp things, and into … DaltonLand?

 

*****

I CATCH MY BREATH INSIDE A SCALE MODEL OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, under a big sign that reads Welcome to DaltonLand: in SwampWorld, this park no longer exists!

 

Savoring the fresh air (even if it’s artificially flavored), I pass geysers and canyons — all shrunken down to scale and made of cardboard — avoiding the distant signs that read ChaosLand (the near future or the distant past): Keep out! though I don’t doubt that, sooner or later, I’ll find myself among the cave people and giant spiders I can already see massing along the horizon, restrained only by what appears to be a velvet carnival rope.

AT SOME POINT during my foray into the Lobby to see the American Takashi Miike receive his award from the Hotelier for writing and directing The New Jews on such short notice, I find myself instead watching Netflix on a strange computer, alone in a drafty side room.

 

Someone must have escorted me in here, like a child who sneaks down late at night to see what his parents are discussing in the kitchen and, unwilling to go back to sleep, is set up with a video and a bowl of popcorn in the den. I can just make out the crackle of voices beyond the closed door, but I’m too tired to get up and check if it’s locked (either that, or I’m afraid of what I’d do if I found it was).

 

Turning my thoughts away from the door, which I’m now pretty sure is locked, I have a moment of vertigo as my consciousness wavers between that of the me sitting in this drafty side room and the me onscreen (do I really look like that??), but as soon as the Movie’s opening credits fade I lose all awareness that there’s any part of myself outside what’s going on, which is that Paul Sweetie, Col. Pussygrab’s First Mate, is dragging me down a cement hallway toward what appears to be an electric chair, muttering, “it’s only set on stun, it’s only set on stun.”

 

“We always begin on stun,” he adds, once I’m strapped in, feet outstretched on the footrest like I’m about to be treated to dinner and a Movie. “What we end on is, well, up to you.”

 

“So this, uh …” I ask, hoping some question will sound implicit in my trailing off.

 

“Conversion Therapy, yes,” Sweetie answers, “your name came up on a list. Don’t worry, it’s a free service.” He pauses, perhaps giving me the chance to ask a follow-up question.

 

Cautiously optimistic, I follow up with, “conversion from what to what?”

 

Sweetie smiles, donning a pair of yellow rubber gloves and a clown mask as he charges up the chair. “From what you are to what you will be.”

 

Here I do recoil, if only for a moment, into my more remote self, the one watching this all on Netflix, in the (comparative) comfort of the drafty room off the hall somewhere in the Hotel, which, come to think of it, is remarkably similar to this drafty room off the hall of …

 

I lose my train of thought when the electricity hits my gonads, zapping them long and hard, making my teeth knock together like wooden puppet teeth, woodchips raining down my throat.

 

When I gag loudly enough to disturb him, Sweetie pulls the plug, panting like he’s the one who just got zapped, and asks if I feel different yet.

 

Though part of me knows I should say yes and spare myself whatever future pain is coming, another part of me shakes its head. Whether the urge to defy is an end unto itself, or is based on some half-formed desire to undergo the therapy a second time, or simply to continue watching it on Netflix rather than facing whatever comes next, I can’t say. I just know I’m not ready for it to be over yet.

 

Sweetie clears his throat and says, “Then proceed,” and proceeds to shock me a second time, this time with more juice, like in Milgram’s obedience experiments at Yale.

 

Weird liturgical symbols fly inside my lids as Sweetie grunts in my ear, unless that’s the sound of my brains frying.

 

Next time he stops, I plan to shout “I’m changed! I’m changed!” But, once again, when he asks, I say, “Nope, gimme more.”

 

*****

SO HE DOES.

 

This time, my eyes vibrating like two eggs about to hatch, I’m rocketed out of my self and into a free-floating vision of Dodge City as a series of concentric towns, nested Dodge City’s, each presided over by its own Pussygrab, each one giant and green and sitting on an inflatable throne, bouncing with glee like a six-year-old who’s chugged a gallon of Diet Coke.

 

And beside each Dodge City is a smaller, nearly-identical one with a sign that reads DaltonLand: a theme park in which the moderate, even-tempered Professor Dalton won the election and became our Mayor instead.

 

Beyond these, marking the Outskirts of my vision, are a series of ChaosLand‘s, theme parks ruled over by lumbering cavemen and huge spindly birds, and what I’m left to wonder — as Sweetie eases up on the juice again — is whether what I just saw is real outside this building or only inside of it, in the vast fake kingdom of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu …

 

“What?” he asks, and I realize I’ve been speaking aloud.

 

“Nothing,” I reply, struggling to retain the image of DaltonLand and my determination, though I know it’s a form of denial, to get myself out of this room and through the theme park gates as soon as I’m physically able, assuming such a theme park exists.

 

“Okay then,” he says, pulling up his clown mask to lick sweat from its neck flap. “Let’s get ya cleaned up.”

 

*****

SHIVERING WITH ICE WATER AND LYE, I find myself alone in the drafty room in the hall — one or the other of those rooms, if there are indeed two — watching a floating clown face that resembles Sweetie’s stare at me from the center of the strange computer I’ve been watching this all on.

 

At first I think it’s a screen-saver, so I just stare back, but then it grows agitated and says,”so …”

 

I shrug. “So … what?”

 

Now it smiles, and the purple smoke clears, revealing either that it really is Sweetie talking to me through something like a Netflix version of Skype, or else it’s a very good actor speaking from within a Movie scripted to sync up with whatever I say.

 

“So how do you feel, now that your Conversion Therapy has taken place?” he bats his eyes seductively, glowing with pride.

 

I feel fuzzy and unwell, not quite sure what he’s talking about, though it sounds more familiar than I wish it did. “I … I feel the same as I always have.”

 

Here he resumes laughing and the purple smoke gushes back up around his neck and begins to gush from the sprinkler system overhead as well, so now I’m choking and coughing in addition to everything that was already wrong with me.

 

“Oh you’re changed! You’re changed alright!” the clown-Sweetie cackles. “You just can’t remember what you used to be!! What you are now … that’s the new you!! Anything you think now, anything you see or feel or do … it’s the new you! It’s what we made you into!! If you don’t believe me, just check your gonads.”

 

*****

THE SCREEN TURNS BLACK as I’m taking this in, wondering how much is true and, if so, how I could ever tell. I certainly don’t, for the time being, have any intention of checking my gonads.

 

As I’m wavering in the limbo of these thoughts, trying to remember the way to DaltonLand, the next Movie automatically begins to play on Netflix.

 

Entitled The Superimposed Hotel, a tagline over the opening shot (of a man alone in a dingy room, coughing on purple smoke) reads: THE MOVIE THAT FINALLY ANSWERS THE QUESTION OF WHETHER YOU’RE LIVING IN ONE HOTEL OR TWO!!!!

I SIT WITHOUT BLINKING BEHIND MY COMPUTER as the next Movie automatically begins. Billed as a “Spiritual Sequel” to The New AryansThe New Jews picks up where the last left off:

 

Col. Pussygrab and his recently bleached Swamp Creatures are sitting in a lake house modeled pretty convincingly on Wannsee outside Berlin, eating croissants and discussing how best to kick off the Second Dodge City Genocide, itself a “Spiritual Sequel” to the First.

 

“Well, our main goal naturally is to kill as many possible,” says one of the New Aryans.

 

The others sip their cappuccinos and nod, savoring what appears to be both the coffee’s rich velvety flavor as well as the delicious notion of catalyzing mass murder.

 

“For old times’ sake,” another adds, “why don’t we begin with the Jews?”

 

More nods of assent.

 

“Once they’re pretty well exterminated, we’ll be able to move on to other, more motley demographics in relative peace.”

 

“Indeed,” adds another. “These things must be done right. A little respect for history, in terms of annihilating the Dodge City Jews, will go a long way. Where the First Dodge City Genocide left some Jews alive to breed and re-infest the town, ours will not. We must, like all great thinkers, learn from the mistakes of the past.”

 

I yawn, pretty sure I know where this is going. But then, like the Director has gauged the exact moment of audience disengagement, a curveball gets thrown in:

 

The most sinister of the New Aryans, who appears to be Pussygrab’s advisor — I’ll call him One-Fang Larry in honor of the dripping fang that protrudes like a necktie from his mouth to his bellybutton — clears his throat and says, “I hate to complicate matters, especially on such a festive occasion, but it must be pointed out that the Dodge City Jews are no longer as easy to identify as they once were.”

 

All eyes are on him, in a wide shot that takes in the whole table. Then the camera zooms in on his fang as he says, “Much as it pains me to say this, what we’re dealing with now is a race of New Jews …”

 

Here the action freezes and the title THE NEW JEWS: A RACIAL SPECTACULAR fills the screen, the letters vibrating over a Spaghetti Western synth track.

 

I’d like to say I shut my laptop here and go to bed, but that’s not what I do.

 

*****

AFTER THE TITLE CREDITS, the conference table discussion resumes, the synth fading out.

 

“As I was saying,” One-Fang Larry resumes, “the Jews grew smart in the decades since the First Genocide. Like cockroaches, which grow stronger from what doesn’t kill them, these surviving Jews are not the sitting ducks they used to be. They’ve cloaked themselves in clever, insidious ways. Names, addresses, faces, even blood-types … none of it’s as overtly Jewish as it used to be.”

 

Here Pussygrab cuts in, eyes wide with anger. “Are you saying, then, that these New Jews could be crawling among us?”

 

He itches his New Aryan skin as the camera swoops out to take in the frightened, suspicious expressions of those gathered around the table. Everyone’s eying everyone else, trying to sniff out the New Jews among them while, at the same time, surely preparing to defend themselves as well.

 

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” One-Fang Larry replies. “They could be anywhere. They could be you,” he looks at one of the New Aryans, “or you,” he looks at another …

 

By the end of the scene, he’s looked at everyone except Pussygrab, whose gaze he’s studiously avoided.

 

“Well then,” Pussygrab says, standing up and motioning for the others to follow. “Bring me the most accurate New Jew detection software on the market. I want state-of-the-art. This Dodge City Genocide is going to be done right. Find me the very best!”

 

 

*****

THE SCREEN goes black here and I doze off until a knock on my door rouses me. Stumbling over to open it — though I know I should start being more careful — I see a minor Swamp Creature (a henchman or handmaiden) standing in the hallway, hand outstretched.

 

“Yes?” I ask, once this pose has been held longer than I can bear without responding.

 

“I’m here to collect your submission for the New Jews Identification Project,” he, she, or it says.

 

When I don’t respond, the Creature adds, “each Dodge City Citizen is required to submit their best attempt at devising a foolproof method for identifying the New Jews lurking among us. The Glorious Genocide that the Good Colonel has envisioned cannot take place without our dedicated participation.”

 

I look frantically around the Room until my eyes settle on a Room Service receipt, itemized with roast beef, mashed potatoes, and extra horseradish. I hand this over and say, “Here. Here’s my list.”

 

The henchman or handmaiden scoffs at my pitiable submission, but accepts it and shuffles off, leaving the door open wide enough to whisper, “If this or any other method implicates you as a New Jew, know you’ll be seeing us again.”

 

 

*****

IN THE QUIET of my Room after the list has been collected, my attention has nowhere to turn save for back to my computer, where, come to think of it, I can’t be sure it hasn’t been all along.

 

The Genocide’s ramping up: Pussygrab has assembled the entire Dodge City Population in Sacrifice Square and appears to be testing each New Jew detection method in turn, skewing, naturally, toward those that identify the widest possible swath of people.

 

This is skipped over in fast, brutal montage, and soon firing squads are executing row after row of men, women, and children, all lined up against the exposed brick facade of City Hall, blood pooling in a trough that runs along Main Street like a half-dug subway tunnel.

 

First to go are those Dodge City citizens whose Jewishness is overt — about seven in total — and then, according to the various New Jew identification schemes that Pussygrab has received, the executions spread outward, to incorporate the rest of the Dodge City Population. Everyone, it would seem, is outed as a New Jew by one method or another.

 

Then, inevitably, the deaths start hitting closer to home:

 

Now the Movie shows Pussygrab executing his junior advisors — “Just to be safe!” he shouts, over the noise of the firing squads, who’ve moved indoors — and now he’s executing his senior advisors, pacing his Palace (where in Dodge City is this located?) in agitation, until it’s just him and One-Fang Larry, ankle-deep in viscera.

 

They stand together, poring over the New Jew results, each wielding a jeweled saber.

 

“I’m sorry it’s come to this,” Pussygrab begins, “but the Second Dodge City Genocide will mean nothing if we are not thorough. We will fail to transcend the First if we let even a single New Jew slip through the cracks. History will not remember us kindly in that event.”

 

One-Fang Larry smiles and kneels down, head inclined in a pose of supplication that finds the tip of his fang resting on the floor. “Believe me, if there’s even the slightest chance that I am a New Jew, the last thing I’d want is to live on. By all means, kill me now.”

 

And Col. Pussgrab does, with a single deep slash across the throat.

 

 

*****

THE MOVIE PAUSES again here, giving its viewers (or viewer, if I’m the only one) a moment to breathe and reflect before the grim finale commences.

 

Then the grim finale commences:

 

Pussygrab’s alone in his Throne Room, cradling the slaughtered body of One-Fang Larry, his closest advisor and perhaps his only friend.

 

Surrounded by piles of data — the results of each New Jew identification method he’s tried — Pussygrab wades through the blood and mutters, “Now, the moment of truth, now the moment of truth … I mustn’t let my Genocide fall short, I mustn’t … ” over and over, until the Movie cuts to him sitting on his Throne with his jeweled saber in one hand and a strip of litmus paper in the other.

 

“Okay,” he mutters, “time to find out. If I’m a New Jew, I too must die. And if I’m not, I will rule this town forevermore, in untrammeled glory.” He turns to the screen here, breaking the fourth wall: “This is the evil of the New Jew, you see — it can lurk anywhere. Anywhere at all, inside any of us, in you, in me …”

 

Looking away from the camera, the synth score comes back up as he cuts his forearm with the saber and catches the blood on the litmus paper. He watches as it soaks through, turning red and pulpy in his hands, until it falls apart, apparently without yielding any definitive result.

 

He scowls and cuts himself again, this time catching his blood in a beaker, but, again, no verdict emerges.

 

Now, he looks imploringly at the corpse of One-Fang Larry, even going so far as to kick it with his jeweled slipper. “Hey, Lar’? Lar’?” He kicks it again, growing frantic. “Hey! A little help here? How do you work these damn things?”

 

When One-Fang Larry remains dead, Pussygrab starts slashing his wrists indiscriminately, bleeding onto more paper, more beakers, as well as buckets, sponges, sugar cubes and tea towels, each method claiming to be the best for identifying New Jews wherever they lurk.

 

“Am I one or not? Am I one or not?? Am I one or not???” he shrieks, louder and louder, as his New Aryan skin sloughs away and his green Swamp Skin shows through, losing its luster as his blood pours out.

 

The Movie ends with Pussgrab collapsed on his throne, translucent as a supermarket chicken.

 

Just before the credits, a banner crawls across the screen. It reads: and so the question remains — did the Second Dodge City Genocide succeed where the First fell short, or are the New Jews alive and well, in some dark corner of The Dodge City Gene Pool, already preparing to rise again?

 

When the screen goes black, I catch a reflection of my face and think, not without a certain glee, Here at least is one you didn’t kill!

 

 

*****

A KNOCK ON MY DOOR cuts this reverie short. My immediate reaction is to panic, certain that they’ve come for me at last, but when the Porter shouts “Room Service!” I get up and answer it.

 

Finding that the Movie has compressed my appetite into a hard lump in my lower intestine, I step over the steaming tray and drift, dazed, out into the hall and then down the main staircase to the Lobby, where it appears that a local version of the Great Japanese Horror Auteur Takashi Miike is being feted by the Hotelier for having written and directed The New Jews on such short notice, while, in the conference room directly adjacent, the KKK are preparing to hold a rally entitled Born This Way: A Celebration of Hooded Life.