As the Night of the Funeral of Harry Crews wears on toward dawn, a number of us, spattered in offal and suet, end up at the Spa of the Lamb which has, not unwisely, extended its hours well past the usual 5 am closing time. As many of us as can fit through the doors push in. We throw our cash into a pile at the front desk and grab up towels — red, of course, either to hide the stains or having long since succumbed to them — and wait until the front desk attendant finishes counting our bills and buzzes us through.

 

Inside, we strip quickly naked (those of us who aren’t already) and, in unison, dive off the slippery tile floor and into the first, largest pool, full of the Lukewarm Blood of the Lamb. We bathe happily in here, diving deep under and then climbing back out, holding each other under almost to the point of drowning, in jest, and then helping each other back up to the surface, to gulp down deep, blood-scented throatfuls of air.

 

In a side concavity is the Scraping Room, where spa attendants speak Turkish with Azeri accents and scour our hides raw with the Bones of the Lamb, scraping off dead skin and, more often than not, layers of live skin as well. Then they coddle and pamper our cheeks and raw chests with the Tongues of the Lamb, at once docile and sandpapery, whispering sweet nothings when they pass our ears.

 

We drink fizzy, slightly salty water with whole lemons squeezed in, reclining on chez lounges, reflecting on the day and looking at our thighs and forearms where strips of our new tattoos hang on loosened sheafs of skin, soon to peel off and melt away, harmlessly back into the Blood like so many scabs.

 

We cool our feet in gray-mottled troughs stuffed amply with the Brains of the Lamb.

 

The effigy of Harry Crews, reduced at this point to little more than a lopsided, potbellied scarecrow, sits propped in one of the chaise lounges, icepack goggles stretched over his leering skull.

 

Big Pharmakos and Large, Creeping Charlie have reemerged from the fray, and now they’re here, discussing a spa scene at the end of Part III of you-know-what, where they end up castrating the wrong guy because of a pig suit, etc.

 

When I catch my breath and the dizzy thumping in my temples has subsided, I get up and, none too steadily, make my way toward the next room, where the Hot Blood bubbles in a much smaller, deeper pool. I’ve left my towel far behind, probably never to see it again. The air is so meaty it turns my stomach with equal parts hunger and revulsion.

 

Not looking to see if anyone else is already down under the Hot Blood (which looks almost black in the dim spa lighting), I tumble headfirst into the brew, a graceless and not fully intentional dive.

 

I plunge down and down as the Blood gets hotter, and the liquid heaves with what feels like the rhythm of the Actual Beating Heart of the Lamb, and then something happens.

 

But it’s not a traditional spa accident like breaking my neck on the hard tiled bottom.

 

It is, rather, an encounter with something down there, lost in the soup, unseen but strongly felt by my groping, manically pulsating wrists and fingers. There is something alive under here, and I want only to breathe before I try to talk to it, but, no, it’s already talking to me …

 

and is not about to let me back up before expecting my reply.

 

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