Archives for the month of: February, 2014

WANDERING AWAY from the scene with the Unholy Family, I feel a gear revving up, like a river under a Puritan water wheel that’s been dormant for a while but now, thanks to Global Warming, is rushing, and the corn waiting inside to be ground is about to get it.

 

Loathing & paranoia, self-creeping, denial, rage, & terror flood the dark Dodge City streets, bumping into unlit lampposts and brick corners, mindlessly, again and again, like the sound of a hospital full of things that are stuck between dying and being ghosts, ramming it down each other’s throats, coupled with panic about the end of the world, of brain tumors and difficulty nose-breathing and suffocating in our sleep, spiraling and spiraling and somehow both burrowing down into and erupting up from the earth, the streets seeming to unfold from some post-WWII set of the deep Vienna background, streets that aren’t even in the real Vienna (not that I’d know, having only passed through once on a train), too slippery and shady to be anywhere but here.

 

NOW I’M THOROUGHLY LOST. Maybe this isn’t Dodge City anymore; maybe it’s the next town over.

 

The wheel turns faster and faster as I run through the streets of this other town, uncertain if I’m running to escape or to wend myself deeper in.

 

Some lining in my brain tears. The drape between my sick and my dead falls off its runners.

 

Images rush out, like that green part-food/part-shit substance that I suppose squirms from the bowels of very fresh corpses.

 

All the matter I’ve stored in my brainsac but haven’t put to use, letting it build up and abscess, furry and slimy and sustaining itself by licking the edges of its lining.

 

Maybe I’ve been sent to this neighboring town just for the sake of suffering this, like no other event has ever occurred here and none ever will … and Dodge City isn’t about to let it happen there.

 

IN THE FLOOD OF images, the strongest is of sleeping bodies chained high above me, like bats, more bodies than the ceiling-plane can accommodate, so they’re all overlapping, dense enough that the ceiling itself is invisible behind them. Perhaps the room is bounded on top only by a layer of sleepers, facing down with the sky resting on their backsides.

 

I’ve tried draining this image out of me any number of time, but it hasn’t come. Some thick stalk of it has remained attached to my head, demanding I let it suck itself back in, as if a little longer in there would allow it to develop into what it wants to be, not just stew and stew.

 

BUT IT’S OUT NOW, gone stranger from its time in the warm dark, the sleepers hugely bloated with all the excess brain matter they’ve absorbed as I’ve gone about my twenties.

 

The image sucks me in, naked on its sandy cement floor with the ceiling of shackled sleepers overhead.

 

A kind of jail.

 

I want to lean on a wall and rave like some colonial prisoner but there is none. I keep scooting toward what I hope will at some point delimit the space, but nothing does. Whatever I’m in, it’s bigger than I can cover by scooting.

 

THERE STARTS TO BE A SMELL.

 

I look up, into the writhe of sleepers, some yawning, some groaning, as the FIRST DROP lands on my chest.

 

It’s warm, hot, like wax.

 

It splotches down along my chest and starts to harden. I can feel it wrenching into the skin over my lowest ribs, eating up a chunk like it has a mouth and a stomach.

 

More drops rain down on my chest and neck and in my hair and on my legs, and I look up and see the sleepers condensing, like something is binding them inward toward the center of the area they cover, trying to make of them a single ball.

 

IT’S RAINING HEAVILY now, boiling, my skin peeling off in sheets under the sleepers’ fat, which is running together all over my front and sides, covering my face, melting in gobs like thick skin-textured cheese.

 

I rip open my eyes and look up and see that the sleepers are mostly gone. The only light comes from the few that remain, in the very center of the ceiling, burning orange, immolating their last fat — organ fat — down onto me.

 

They look like a body-shaped fungus that’s been split open so its spores can fly out.

 

The rest of the ceiling space is black night sky.

 

The smell of skin and cheese is all over me, and I can tell that the night up there is very cold — dead winter cold — but the fat clinging to me is so hot I don’t feel it.

 

At some point it’ll cool; then I will.

 

NOW it’s flowed under me and into my ass, so I’m not even sitting on the ground anymore. I’m thoroughly encased in fat, sliding up my intestines, worming its way through them, trying to find my heart and lungs.

 

And it’s sliding back over my eyes, down from my hairline and up from my mouth.

 

I want to reach up and clear my face, but my hands, I find, are covered so thickly I can’t even wriggle them or remember which one was which.

THE COPYCAT INSPECTOR’S return-with-a-Warrant, despite all the build-up over the past few weeks, was underwhelming.

 

 

By the time he and I walked back from that field where we chance-encountered one another, into the smoke and wreckage of Dodge City on the verge of being officially deemed a Cult, the focus or locus of attention had shifted.

 

 

It appeared he’d missed his moment and, since I was associated with him at that point, I felt I’d missed mine as well. Like everyone had already acclimated to life as a Cult and discovered that the fundamental crisis of their lives was something else.

 

 

The scene in the town square reminded me of a trip to Morocco I took when I was nineteen (and may have sprung straight from those memories):

 

 

 

There were chicken, tea, and cake vendors set up in a 1:1:3 ratio, and a bonfire, and Widget, the nine-year-old Detective who’d been given his first case in determining the origin of the 7 Shed Skins found in the street after last week’s melee, was holding forth.

 

 

 

The Copycat Inspector and I looked askance at one another, like this loss of fanfare was surely the other’s fault, a waste of a winning hand.

 

 

 

He peeled off into the crowd, hunching his head down into his neck. I had the impression that I wouldn’t see him again until he’d become a regular in town, some middle-aged guy toting his gym bag up and down the sidewalks.

 

 

*****

 

Though I’ve never liked him, I feel bad to see this be his fate. I can dig the story of coming to town as a relatively young man with an urgent message cued up and ready to unveil, and seeing it get absorbed into the general warp of things like like nothing new.

 

 

 

The foundations of this town (now: Cult) have always been soft and game enough to suck down fresh toxins without a burp.

 

 

 

I PAY FOR THE CAKE I apparently just ordered, and try to map my attention onto what’s happening in the center of the square, which is:

 

 

 

Widget has collected 7 children about his age (until now, I’d never seen any around town), and strung them up with ropes, clamps, vises (my throat gags on the terminology here), suspended a few feet above a pool, into which some body-fluid is dripping.

 

 

 

Everyone gathered here, watching what becomes of the bound children, reminds me of the scene last fall with Stokoe Drifter, where an old man’s protruding intestine got inseminated while we all watched … and I can tell everyone else is thinking the same thing.

 

 

 

In fact, I wonder if anyone is taking in what’s happening now, or if we’re all using it as a portal to relive what happened then.

 

 

 

Charged with new urgency, I resolve to be the one person who actually witnesses the present, so I put Stokoe Drifter to bed in my mind and lock in on:

 

 

 

Widget with a crank or remote control in his hand, rhythmically juicing the 7 children, who groan and shiver in their bindings.

 

 

 

I shiver too, alone in my attention.

 

 

 

I’m too late to catch the first part of his address to the Cult of Dodge City, so I can’t tell if his rig with the 7 children here is directly or symbolically connected to his investigation of the case of the 7 Shed Skins … or, perhaps he’s been turned from a Detective to a Copycat, since the Skins of these children look pretty close to falling off.

 

 

 

Perhaps, I’m thinking, his solution to the origin of those original 7 Skins is to produce 7 new ones, so as to illustrate how it might be possible for 7 Skins to appear.

 

 

 

More liquid drips out as Widget turns them, rotisserie-style.

 

 

 

” … and so,” he’s saying, “only after all the Internet has been drained from their young bodies — full lifetimes of absorption, don’t forget –and mixed together in this pool, will we be able to begin gleaning … ”

 

 

 

I picture those children in a state of constant Internet-absorption since the moment of their birth, and pick a pustule on my forehead and feel the liquid running down past my eyes, wondering whether that, too, chemically speaking, is made of Internet.

 

 

 

I try to look at the children’s faces to see how the draining feels, but it’s so far along by now that they’re are collapsed like rotten mangoes, full of seeds and hairy pulp.

 

 

 

I realize I can’t even tell whether I’m looking at the fronts or the backs of their heads.

 

 

 

The distinction is moot, anyway, since my attention is soon diverted:

 

 

 

Behind the draining contraption hangs a small but bold banner with a logo I recognize:

 

 

 

INTERNET FREE AMERICA.

 

 

 

Those people I got involved with a few months ago when I was desperate for a way back to my novel. A genuine Cult if anything ever was.

 

 

 

The logo incites in me a coming-together, like a vision of compatible pieces that I hadn’t until now seen as more than random shards:

 

 

 

Something about Dodge City’s underwhelming reaction to the Copycat Inspector … and Widget’s inexplicable election to the front ranks of the police force … and the emergence of 7 children in a town that had had none … and now this work of draining out their Internet with the support of Internet Free America …

 

 

 

Some grand perspective is almost clear to me when I make the mistake of opening my eyes.

 

 

 

*****

 

WHAT I SEE jolts both wheels of my mind fully off the track we’d been on:

 

 

 

The square is abandoned. Pigeons are feasting on leftover cakes, and there’s a smell of spilled gas.

 

 

 

The pool of Internet drippings in the center shines with an emerald glow (I hate that phrase, but it seems unavoidably true of certain liquids in certain lights), and the 7 children look pretty dead where they hang …

 

 

 

Widget is gone. Now, four very elderly people are slipping naked over the lip of the basin, splashing one another, washing their faces and hair and gargling with Internet.

 

 

 

 

The whole square starts to moan with that familiar Ghost Porn crackle, which I haven’t heard since last summer.

 

 

 

 

I want to move, go home, get out of here before these old folks go too far in front of me, but I’m frozen in place, thanks either to a flaring neurosis or to some chemical property of the Internet.

 

 

 

 

AT FIRST, it seems like the old folks bathing in it have a Fountain of Youth agenda, trying to soak some Internet into their loosened skin, but the orgiastic qualities of their behavior — a bonafide four-way at this point, arms and legs protruding from an undifferentiated and slowly grinding torso-mass — force something else from the bottom to the top of my mind:

 

 

 

 

A story that Big Pharmakos told me about a local boy whose parents divorced, and, instead of allying with their jilted and blameless son or daughter, the four grandparents banded together into a sort of collective to raise the boy communally, under one roof.

 

 

 

 

This started out like you’d expect, but then went kind of far:

 

 

 

 

THE GRANDPARENTS seemed to feel called upon not only to reboot their sexuality in the context of this new arrangement, but somehow to consummate a four-way marriage and then conceive the boy anew, even though he was there all along, as a five-, six-, and seven-year-old, watching them through keyholes and under doors.

 

 

 

 

It was as though they believed the reason for the divorce was that the boy had not been conceived and born in the right way, and so it was their job as guardians to give it another try.

 

 

 

 

Things in that house got increasingly extreme as all permutations of numbers and genders came into play (and the grandparents kept aging, perhaps even more quickly than they would have otherwise).

 

 

 

 

The last straw was when the two grandmothers tried to nurse the boy — now 7 — insisting he suckle from one of each of their breasts, and treat the two of them as his one and only mother.

 

 

 

He escaped.

 

 

 

 

And (this is the part that’s only occurring to me now), that boy must’ve gone on to join the police force as its youngest-ever Detective.

 

 

 

 

I look up now, trying to see the grandparents’ orgy as Widget would’ve seen it as a child, but the crackling of Ghost Porn is overwhelming. They’re churning it up from deep in the Internet, loud and angry.

 

 

 

 

I turn around to clear my mind and see a face I haven’t seen since last summer:

 

 

 

 

Internethead.

 

 

 

 

We acknowledge one another. “Strange, the lengths people’ll go to,” he says, a stock icebreaking line, and I nod.

 

 

 

 

MORE PEOPLE surround us in the dark square, and, after some confusion, I recognize them as the camera crew for Unholy Family, the TV show that the Night Crusher watches when he’s too depressed to do anything else.

 

 

 

 

Makes sense that they’d turn up here. It appears that Internethead is on hand as a consultant for this episode.

 

 

 

 

The old folks are so conjoined, in each other and in the Internet, that they don’t seem to notice the floodlights and elaborate camera equipment … or else they do notice but there’s no change they can afford to make.

 

 

 

 

“Help out?” Internethead asks, handing me a mic cord.

 

 

 

Absentmindedly, I take it and start clipping it in places.

 

 

 

 

The last thing I notice before I get lost in my work is that the Skins of the hanging children have come almost fully off them, dangling down all the way to the Internet basin, totally dry and veiny now that they’ve bled out.

 

 

 

 

They look like massive wings, and serve as curtains around the old folks, partitioning off their sex-act into a spectacle considerably more understated than the kind Unholy Family tends to go in for.

FOLLOWING THE COPYCAT INSPECTOR’S snap-judgement that Dodge City is a cult and not a town, and his pledge to return with a Warrant in a little while and set in motion the official downgrading process, some of us went kind of hog-wild on the way home from Dead Sir (in which we’d been immersed up to our waists for more than some of a day).

 

I mean, we pretty much lost it. We tore things up, burned them down, squeezed and sprayed fluids from our bodies that none of us had ever seen or felt flowing in us before. We trampled most of the grass of Dodge City’s parks and pulled transdimensional entities out of orbit and onto the concrete, just to spit and puke on them and watch them shrivel.

 

We blew down City Hall and drove all our cars into a single sky-high pileup, with a lot of people and cats and money crushed inside.

 

I saw a crowd urinating on a torso whose arms and legs had been pulled off, washing away the spurting blood until nothing but purpling tissue and yellow goo remained. Someone else sat naked on the torso’s head, rocking back and forth in rodeo-time.

 

I saw two brothers eat each other down to scraps, chewing at the same rate, so that they were both reduced in the end to identical stuffed mouths. It was like a shell game to try to remember which had been which at the beginning … and I saw people in the peripheries playing this shell game, betting on it, winning and losing big like that early scene in Wake in Fright.

 

There were spontaneous reenactments of this event while one guy pretended to be Jodorowsky with a crank camera, grinding it all onto film, until another guy pretending to be a rhino impaled him through the anus and a salvo of window-jumpers landed on them both, pushing all involved through the sidewalk and into a hollow-earth cave city.

 

IT WENT ON AND ON, this renunciation of the pretense of civility we’d abided by before being deemed a cult.

 

When exhaustion finally got the better of us, we huddled inside the few buildings left standing (and even these few were badly burned), and waited, eyes closed, for the exhaustion to pass. A few people stepped experimentally into an elevator shaft, and a few others, unless I misunderstood, seemed to conceive and give birth to fresh children in a single fluid gesture.

 

Someone ordered pizza, but it never came.

 

THE NEXT MORNING, I joined a reconnaissance crew. We went through the streets collecting bodies in a big semi-automatic cart, ferrying them across town to the Suicide Cemetery.

 

The saddest aspect of this reconnaissance, for me, was how no one (NO ONE) debated the rightness of classing these deaths as Suicides. There was no schismatic banter, no splitting of — so to speak — the atom, no one decrying the dangers of allowing our Suicide Cemetery to slip into the impurity of housing bodies dead by hands other than their own.

 

What the fuck? I remember thinking. Why bother burying these bodies at all if this is the level of lassitude we’ve stooped to?

 

AS IT TURNED OUT, I didn’t spend long considering this before something stopped us in our tracks:

 

7 Shed Skins.

 

I remember pausing to wonder whether they were human before it became so obvious that they were that I was embarrassed ever to have wondered.

 

7 Human Skins shed like the skins of snakes, crackling in the heat, losing color.

 

The fact of the skins themselves was not remarkable. What was remarkable was that there were no correspondingly skinned bodies.

 

We’d already gathered all the partial bodies and deposited them in the Suicide Cemetery (near the graves set aside for Bon Scott and John Bonham, in case those venerable Suicides ever came our way), and none were missing skin. That’s not to say that none were skinned, but all the skin from those bodies was found near them (excluding small portions that’d been eaten … small enough to be negligible except in cases when entire bodies had been eaten, which fact, as far as burial was concerned, located them outside the Cemetery’s purview).

 

So here were 7 Skins and no sign of what they’d until recently sheathed.

 

Rather than confront the possibilities, we decided to gather them up and bring them to the Natural History Museum.

 

THE SKINS SPENT LESS THAN 24 HOURS THERE.

 

By the next morning they were as gone as that shriveled monkey New Christ thing from Wise Blood.

 

We looked for them all over town — and on the Internet — as they’d suddenly become very important to us, emblems of the Last Days of Dodge City, before the Inspector returned with his Warrant to demote us to cult status.

 

Those skins were all we had.

 

*****

It fell to the Police Department to figure out what’d happened.

 

We licked our wounds and growled lowly in the dark while they got organized.

 

At 5pm, a representative came out to make a report.

 

“After careful consideration,” the representative began, “we’ve decided to delegate this case to Widget. He’s already in the field, so is unable to take your questions at this time, but if you’ll just … ”

 

PANDEMONIUM / BEDLAM.

 

I didn’t want to see where things were about to go, so I slipped out, went to sit in a field by myself.

 

Widget, the cop they delegated the 7 Skins Case to, is a 9-year-old.

 

He came on the force before my arrival in Dodge City — he must’ve been 5 or 6 then — and, ever since, the joke has been that the other cops (adults) make up pretend cases for him to solve. Really simple stuff, like swapping salt and sugar or mixing up the receptionists’ nametags or that old upside-down glass of water on the table trick … and then they watch him go to work, laughing when he can’t solve them and buying him a sundae when he can.

 

So, to put it mildly (and I’m feeling mild sitting in this field), the question of why delegate what’s probably the highest-profile police case Dodge City has ever seen to a 9-year-old is beyond me.

 

It strikes me that some real cult shit might be involved here — whoever or whatever put those 7 Skins there and then abducted them from the Natural History Museum might well be the real thing.

 

It starts to get cold and I’ll have to find a bathroom soon. I look over and see the burning skyline of Dodge City, visible across this field.

 

I settle back to watch. When next I look up, the copycat Inspector it sitting beside me, pausing his iPhone and putting his headphones away.

 

“Sorry, I was just finishing my podcast,” he says.

 

I nod. In his other hand, he’s holding the Warrant.

 

“I would’ve imagined you’d carry something like that in an envelope,” I say, making conversation.

 

He shrugs. “I can print a new copy if something happens to this one.”

 

We both look at the burning skyline, wondering which of us will make a move in that direction first.