The Night Crusher often gets this way in the lead-up to an assignation. He prefers it where he’s been, not where he’s soon to go.

He sits in his dressing room sunk in despond while his handlers rush about, busy with such preparations as need be made. He is surrounded by sweets and drinks with protruding straws and enticing pillows and divans, none of which appeal or even hold enough of his attention to merit scorn or scoffing.

His handlers would throw up their hands were they not full with the thingly aspects of preparation. The room has a fuse-like quality, and one of tenterhooks.

Morosely flipping channels like some traveling efficiency expert in his 85th Motel 6 of the summer, the Night Crusher at last chances upon something on the TV that obliquely catches his eye: a new episode (new to him) of Unholy Family, a sometimes-edifying, sometime-riotous affair that he used to watch whenever he was home sick from school and not too sick to tolerate the snowy reception.

His handlers perceive a slight lifting in his mood as they busily prepare his complex set of antidepressants, and are careful not to show that they’ve noticed the change, for fear of inspiring him to revoke it.

On Unholy Family today is a family trapped inside during a war or strike or siege. Bombs are exploding on the soundtrack not far off, and marauders and mercenaries and so on are clawing at the doors. The family shivers in fear and cold and hunger in their house, which, for whatever reason, is a little bit safe against violent incursion: no one’s smashed down the doors so far, anyway.

For a while — skipped over in fast montage — they do normal stranded family things like try to survive.

Then, this being an episode of Unholy Family, things change. Soon they’re all naked and huddling in a giant tub, like a Jacuzzi shell that’s long since lost its water, their clothes sacrificed in some obscure way to the war. In this big tub they start slowly and distractedly fucking, all of them in there together, unclear how many, and it’s not clear if they especially know or notice what they’re doing or not.

For a while it’s a fairly standard incest type scenario, but then something in their collective physiognomy comes undone. All of their mealy, sweaty skin, which had been writhing in a resigned but still sentient and discrete mass a few moments before, all arms and legs jutting out of a huddle of heads and middles, starts to become conjoined.

There’s intermittent loud machinegun fire out the windows, to remind you of the context. The Night Crusher, despite himself, is riveted.

The bodies start to slop together more and more, reducing themselves or itself from many beings into one through some sweaty calculus that the show doesn’t make any too clear. It’s not even clear if many generations have passed in this montage, so that perhaps this is the ultimate, unforeseen product of generations of inbreeding here in the tub, or if it’s happened all at once, through some rare logic of sex itself, from which there’s now no pulling free.

The Night Crusher stares in boyish fascination at the entity now occupying the tub, a nearly translucent mass of hide and what looks like gelatin and a secreted liquid serving as a broth all around it, bubbling up from pores and orifices of various kinds, then seeping down the drain. Through the translucence are visible orange and black centers, organs perhaps, palpitating down beneath French pastry folds and knotted whorls.

A handler stands behind the Night Crusher, ready to give him his antidepressants but afraid to pull his attention off the screen. Finally, during a commercial break, cut on a shot of the entity struggling to reverse itself in the tub so as to take some of its weight off of a blossoming bedsore, the handler gets his attention and, with all the confidence of an apprentice lion tamer, hands the Night Crusher his antidepressants and leaps a good four feet backward, knocking himself silly on the edge of a cabinet.

Distracted, the Night Crusher opens the suitcase in which his antidepressants travel, and examines them with his fingers, his mind elsewhere. He doesn’t intend to use them just yet, only to feel their familiar and comforting surfaces. There are the smooth ones, the fuzzy ones, the Velcro ones, the slick ones, like gemstones, the unaccountably wet ones, the sticky ones that his fingers recoil from, and the cool ones that his fingers love. Each has its unique positive and negative ends, and its stretchy, bendy, ropey, and malleable aspects, to be molded and clipped, snapped, or wrapped together with others, to create whatever combination the moment calls for.

He snaps the suitcase closed, looking forward to returning to the show to discover if the entity has managed to heave itself over and take some weight off its bedsore. When he looks back at the screen, however, the entity is gone.

Now time starts to move slow. The bustling handlers stand as if frozen in a photograph.

The Night Crusher sits in his folding chair with his antidepressant suitcase flat across his lap, staring at the empty tub on the screen, in the room outside of which the war has apparently ended, or turned silent, gone chemical perhaps.

He tries to swallow the feeling before it turns wild, but he can feel it looming up his spine, the feeling that the entity that the Unholy Family has become or begat is somewhere nearby, in this very room, watching him with its beige, scarred-over eyes, waiting for him to take his own eyes off the tub and turn to meet it, face-to-face.

He unsnaps the suitcase, praying that this tiny movement has not already given him away, and then slides one finger inside, feeling around for the nearest familiar thing.

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