I’M STILL IN PRISON in the next town over, fat dripping from the ceiling and pooling around me, soaking in.

 

It feels like I’ve been assigned this situation as my main concern. I’m allowed to retain the feeling that there are other things I’d rather be thinking about, but no intimation of what they might be, since that would begin to constitute thinking about them.

 

My skull-membrane starts to sag, like the shell of an egg that’s been soaked overnight in such a way that it can in the morning be peeled without becoming juice.

 

When it sags in far enough to touch “the bottom” — the place where my neck jabs into my head, somewhere above the back of my mouth — the scene changes:

sleeperscropped

THE SLEEPERS DESCEND from the ceiling on tendrils, part-plant and part-animal, come to rest on a sawdust-covered stage with a curtain backdrop. A roaming spotlight centers on the middlemost few.

 

I’m sitting on a canvas chair, like a director’s chair, with something sentient beside me, in a chair of its own.

 

I’M WARY of taking my eyes off the jigging, mugging, warming-up Sleepers on the stage, but I can’t not check who’s beside me. I try to see if my head is soft enough to turn one eye without the other, but it’s not. Or else both eyes are too soft to do anything except what they want.

 

In any case, I’m now looking at a huge figure it takes me a minute to recognize as Big Pharmakos.

 

He looks the same, only different, as they say (who?).

 

It takes him even longer to notice me looking at him, and a while after that to recognize me.

 

Not an efficient exchange.

 

He says, “So glad you could make it. I found my main self on the road. Huge clubs, amphitheaters. Four levels of security, Wayne Coyne, you name it. Thanks for coming. This is what I realized I’d be giving up,” he nods at the stage, where the Sleepers, who’ve diverged from one another along clear if not entirely organic-seeming M/F lines, are eating glass and tiptoeing on thumbtacks.

 

He cracks a Stella, swigs, watches it bubble over its lip and onto his gut, watches it sink in (he’s shirtless), then hands me one, which I open and get the same result, react the same way.

 

“Back to basics,” he says, by way of a toast, and I incline my head and Stella.

 

The Sleepers are piercing each other’s ears with nails and threading bowling balls on chains through the holes, swinging their heads in huge arcs until the balls rip their ears off and their head-holes flourish.

 

“After tomorrow,” Big Pharmakos muses, “there’ll be no more of this. If you can imagine.”

 

I try to imagine his bride-to-be, end up asking him about her, who she is & all.

 

“That’ll come later,” he responds. “We got our whole lives ahead of us.”

 

I nod, wondering how true this is. The Sleepers, by the look of it, don’t have much life at all ahead of them. Their heads are so bloody by now they look like Johnny Ryan’s Cannibal Fuckface, masked in blood just like him. Perhaps it’s a direct homage; I’m not sure how this show got booked and what its speciality is.

 

More Stella’s and Big Pharmakos proffers chips and guac.

 

I watch them destroy themselves, reusing props (the broken glass, the nails, the cannonballs which they’re now using to bash each other’s teeth out, sometimes getting them so lodged in each other’s faces they have to leave them there), like they’ve outlived the repertoire and need to end the show however possible.

 

They’ve hammered their genitalia so full of spikes and it’s gotten so inflamed that I feel forced to retract my earlier M/F description, insofar as they are no longer either of those things — they’ve muddled themselves into a classic Both/Neither situation, between which I won’t try to choose.

 

“Some show,” Big Pharmakos mutters, nodding out. “The road’s been good to me … the road’s been … after tomorrow, it’s no more road for me.”

 

I can tell from the way his voice is dampening and his smell going faint that he’ll disappear at the same moment the Sleepers die, like they represent our life force, bashing it away for the hell of it rather than letting it drip slow & steady.

 

I want to plead with them, try to make them stop or at least slow down, but I’m already too weak and the thought just makes me feel weaker.

 

*****

WHEN ALL THE SLEEPERS ARE DEAD, at rest among the still-rolling cannonballs, I look beside me and see that Big Pharmakos is gone.

 

I make a bet with myself about how long I’ll be able to hold onto the certainty that he was ever here; lose it.

 

There’s one beer left; I find I’m already drinking it.

 

Before considering my next move, I’m visited, predictably, by the thought, “I was the main attraction of this party all along, the freak dandled before my own freakish attention.” This occurs to me like a fast-deflating punchline, a remnant or imitation of the thought I would’ve had in high school, but with more seriousness then, at least the seriousness of a genuine joke.

 

Exiting this thought, I’m even further from where I’d been, mentally, when I entered it.

 

Physically I’m still in the same room I’ve been in this whole time.

 

Now I can’t even get a grip on what had initially prompted me to term this scene a Bachelor Party, nor even quite what a Bachelor Party is, or is supposed to be.

 

One piece of good news is that the Sleepers, fallen from the ceiling, have left me open to the sky. It hovers huge up there, like something hazily slotted into place over something else, imperfectly obscuring it.

 

I can smell it, and it’s not half-bad. Springlike, maybe even summery in places, not that I have anything to eat.

 

I lie back on the squishy membrane of my head, feel it sink down like a pillow.

 

I wonder how soon the carrion birds will be here. I fall asleep wondering where they are now, what they could possibly be doing that’s more important, more appealing …

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