The Detroit idea’s the best anyone’s come up with so far, in terms of turning Dodge City into Another City for as long as the inspector’s here.

 

I hang out at the Cracker Barrel with Big Pharmakos, watching trucks rattle by under sleet and factory haze. Giant piles of scrap metal, wrecked cars and drill presses and stamping plant parts, tremble in the atmosphere, ever on the verge of resolving into robots.

 

It’s hours or days, and none of us has anything to do aside from slouching away from ourselves, trying to become anything but, in the hopes that all of Dodge City will follow suit and become Not[Dodge City] until the inspector leaves, without finding what he’s ostensibly looking for.

 

Not that I have any good guess as to what this might be, and of course I can’t ask around now since everyone’s trying to deny it. So I follow suit — the City’s been good to me, overall, so I figure I owe it my best effort at ceasing to be myself, in case, latent within my selfhood, lies a clue to this damning thing that the inspector is apparently so determined to track down.

 

I wonder if he’s been tracking it all over the country, and, having tracked it all the way here, won’t leave until he finds it … or if he’s simply gotten a whiff of something intriguing here, in the course of a routine inspection, and will leave as soon as it ceases to intrigue him.

 

We all wave our hands through the air, trying, like clearing away smoke, to clear this whiff away. Whenever I wave, the Cracker Barrel waitress refills my coffee and asks if we’re ready for the check.

 

We pay and go back to some halfway house where we’re registered under false names. Everyone in Dodge City has fled their normal dwellings, like after a hurricane, and is living in halfway houses, detention centers, refugee camps, ghettoes, and, a lucky few, at the Cottonwood Suites on the corner of E. 39th and SE. Huron. We live in these places so as to telegraph transience, like, “Look, Herr Inspektor, none of us actually lives here. How could we possibly help you find what you’re looking for?”

 

There are even some former Dodge City residents dressed as assault rifle wielding FEMA troops, ushering everyone else around, keeping certain people behind fences and fishing others out of the water whenever they climb down into it, trying to swim or float away.

 

From the halfway house, Big Pharmakos and I sit on plastic chairs with wool hats pulled low over our eyes, all fading Fugazi tattoos and cigarette-burned hands like a couple of methadone dealers, watching the inspector:

 

In the abandoned Dodge City, which exists in the same space but not in the same state as this hastily assembled sham Detroit, the inspector rides one of those two horselike beasts, while his (its?) handler rides the other.

 

They stampede up and down the empty streets, knocking down storefronts and ripping up pavement, in search of the secret.

 

I nod off in the halfway house, and can see something else:

 

The inspector and his handler have ripped out the horses’ eyes, and are steering them not with a harness but with their hands shoved deep into the eye sockets, massaging their brains.

 

The harder they massage, the faster and more triumphantly the beasts run. The handler is big, sitting high on the beast’s back, her (its?) hands shoved into the sockets all the way up to her elbows, but the inspector is a tiny bundle, still wrapped in clean sheets, stuck onto the horse’s back like a wooly mothball, entangled in its mane, arms protruding just a little into the shockets, probably grazing the brain’s edges with its fingertips.

 

Big Pharmakos can apparently see the eyeless stampeding horses as well, knocking over the post office now and rooting through the mail, because he ribs me and mutters, “Peter Shaffer called — he wants his gag back!”

 

“Am I right? Am I right?” he chortles.

 

He is. It’s strange to hear the dead, menacing silence of this truth-obscuring Detroit, in one ear, while, in the other, those hoofbeats just get louder and louder, the Moth-inspector riding ever more furiously.

 

This is almost all there is to the vision, and is thus how I’ll spend the rest of my day, unless some more typical halfway house shit goes down, which I’m sure is not hugely unlikely.

 

But there’s:

 

 

also a dark space, like a small room, or a cell or a closet. Its boundaries are indistinct, and there’s no apparent door, but the place is definitely closed, because the thing in it is raging to get out and cannot get out.

 

It slams against its imprisonment, sweating and spitting, eyes and nose watering with fury.

 

It roars, the sound too awful to transcribe, tearing indiscriminately at itself and its surroundings.

 

Then I hear another sound, like that of a Flugelhorn, and see the inspector, in his Moth-bundle, on his eyeless Nethersteed, blowing loud and clear into the sky.

 

The clouds thicken, and the thing in that cramped space rages all the harder against the entropy holding it back from heeding this call.

 

“Dude,” I say, trying to keep my voice down, in Big Pharmakos’ direction, “That thing is about to get out. And I, for one, would like to be at least as far as Chicago by the time it does.”

 

In the plastic chair beside me, instead of Big Pharmakos, sits a skinny shirtless guy with the Rain Dogs album cover tattooed across his chest and a belt around his left arm. He slumps to the ground when I get up to leave, and, though I start tiptoeing away so as not to wake him, I’m soon at a full on run, out the door of the halfway house

 

and into the semi-present street scene, my accelerating footsteps falling into rhythm with the hoofbeats of those brain-driven Nethersteeds, until we’re running as one, running toward or away from that confined furious thing in the dark, about to break free as the whole fucking sky lights up with the inspector’s call.

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