Archives for posts with tag: Inspector

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.

AFTER A WELCOME TROUGH OF ACTIVITY following the Blood Drive, we get shaken up by a group Email.

 

I’d just reached the end of a two week free trial of a popular pay-as-you-go scam called Internet Free America, which promised to “reintegrate my top-shelf attention into my so-called life and re-situate my subjectivity in my given body,” so I was checking my inbox with a genuinely feral hunger, like that which Kinski and McDowell harbor for one another in Cat People, when the group Email came in.

 

“Dear People of Dodge City,” it began.

 

“Your communal Blood Drive results have been analyzed by me and a couple friends of mine, and we have determined enough overlaps in plasma-type and DNA-structure to suggest that you are more closely related, ideologically speaking, than is considered safe for the citizenry of a town of your size to be. If anyone would like to see my sources on this, or the results themselves, just let me know and I’ll forward them to you.

 

“The upshot here is that tomorrow I’m going to pay you all a visit and examine your ideas, one by one, in private. If you can convince me that your ideas are, in all ways that count, meaningfully distinct and antithetical to one another, I’ll leave with no further ado, and you’ll be free to go on calling yourselves a town.

 

“If, however, as I suspect, your ideas prove more convergent than divergent, collapsing and narrowing down toward a single fiercely held belief, unalienable at the expense of all others, it will be my displeasure to demote your status from town to cult.

 

“Lastly, just so there’s no misunderstanding when I show up, I am an impersonator of the Inspector whom you all hosted on your streets about a year ago. I am a copycat-Inspector by trade, but, make no mistake, this only bolsters my authority; it in no way undermines or invalidates it. I am such an exact copycat, indeed, that you will be unable to distinguish me from the Inspector himself. You may tell yourselves now, as you read this Email, that you’ll absolutely remember, that nothing can fool you or pry you off your certainty, but you’ll see when I show up …

 

You will treat me as the Inspector himself, and I will know very quickly whether Dodge City is in fact a cult.”

 

THE FIRST THING I DO, after reading and deleting the Email, is delete all my correspondence with Internet Free America (all physical letters, naturally, since they deal in clients cut loose from Email), motivated by some medium-grade fear that my entanglement with them is connected to the coming of this copycat Inspector, or that I might at least be accused of this, Witch Trial style, if Dodge City ends up being declared a cult …

 

Which possibility, I think, as I shower off the sweat I worked up shredding the letters, seems a mile or two less than remote. I don’t know exactly what the fallout from being declared a cult might be, but it’s easy to imagine some harsh tax penalty or mass emigration or, more fearsome still, immigration, if we come to be seen in that light.

 

I towel off, shave, and lie down, trying to think what my ideas are, aware that, first thing in the morning, I’ll have to head down to Dead Sir and ditch them all. I can picture everyone I know down there, purging and trashing their entire mental collections like a mass drug dump on the eve of an historic raid.

 

Whatever the truth of Dodge City actually is, I don’t want to be the one to convince the Inspector that it’s a cult. I shiver as I recognize the potential commonality of this idea — if he catches us all thinking this when he comes, I think, he’ll know we’re a cult for sure.

 

It’s rough going as I flip through everything in my head. The combination of withdrawal-agony and cleanse-ecstasy that Internet Free America stimulated the past few weeks returns now, severalfold, as I endeavor to gut out my whole deal, ball it up into some huge, weird boulder and roll it down through the streets to Dead Sir when the sun comes up.

 

I envision myself like the last survivor of a stricken family during the Black Plague, rolling my dead on a cart through the streets of some skanky French village, shunning eye contact with my fellow survivors as we head grimly to the pit or the incinerator.

 

*****

NEXT MORNING, the scene at the diner is madness. Everyone’s nervous before the trip to Dead Sir, trying to eat a heartening breakfast without ordering the same thing as anyone else, lest there seem to be a morning ritual.

 

Infantile cries of “I ordered it first!” and “He’s copying me!” squirt out everywhere, and the kitchen scrambles to combine ingredients in new and, ideally, random ways, to keep from seeming to have a signature dish or even a menu determined by consistent taste.

 

No one knows when the Inspector will arrive.

 

I order a bowl of powdered sugar and, much as it pains me to skip my coffee, a cup of cool lemon tea, as if that’ll deter the Inspector from seeing me as I really am.

 

Gottfried Benn works the tables, trying to shake people down for his usual $60, but no one will acknowledge him, noxious as his presence is.

 

He gets folded into the procession to Dead Sir, everyone tramping out of the diner without paying, the manager too flustered to call us out.

 

We lurch through the streets and into the woods taking care not to march or in any way fall into step with one another. This reminds me of how, in Dune, everyone always had to walk totally without rhythm across the desert so as not to alert the slumbering sandworms to human passage overhead … thoughts of Dune lead naturally to thoughts of Lynch and Jodorowsky, which lead to …

 

NO.

 

I stop myself here, before I get any more carried in the direction I don’t want to go.

 

I try to focus, totally purging my mental space. I picture it like a room filled with boxes and clothes and suitcases and busted furniture all tipped over and piled crooked. Then I start warming up a mental wrecking ball, swinging it in power-hungry arcs just outside the window.

 

*****

I’M WAIST DEEP IN DEAD SIR, along with everyone else in Dodge City — all the Cavernous, the Editors, spitting out the parts of my novel I’ve stuffed them with (so much for editing, I suppose), and Gibbering Pete, Rigid Steve, Fiscal Steven, Professor Dalton, Internethead … literally everyone.

 

I keep losing track of what I’m doing here, looking around at everyone else, ambiently dreaming of checking Email.

 

Cultish forces circle me like hawks, waiting to swoop down and take a bite of where I’m softest.

 

Just don’t stop purging, some way-inner taskmaster commands. Open your mouth, fat boy.

 

I do, and feel my whole collection blasting itself out, spewing up my throat and over my tongue and into Dead Sir (whose name I’m soon to forget), filling in the watery brine around me, thickening it and upping its temperature.

 

Last thing I see before the purge overwhelms my optical nerves is everyone I know ceasing to be everyone I know, becoming scarecrows in some bath that’s getting so hot their skin turns red and starts to bubble.

 

*****

“… right, exactly, they’re all just standing here in this, um, sort of outdoor tank, like a pit they must’ve dug and filled in, and it’s kind of, I think you’d have to say, fulminating all around them …”

 

My eyes drift open and I can see it’s late afternoon and we’re all in the water and someone I don’t know is standing on the shore, talking into an iPhone.

 

I can tell I won’t be able to move until some external condition changes, so I stand where I am and listen:

 

“… totally vacant expressions, that’s correct sir, like dead cow, or sub-cow, eyes, and kind of swaying at the knees and hips … thoroughly entranced. A few are looking in my direction, but I don’t think they can really see me. I told them I was coming. You’d think they’d make at least some effort to disguise their ritual, but I guess not with these folks. Pretty baldfaced cult, gotta hand it to them.”

 

The Inspector — somewhere way back in myself I remember this is his name — continues, “And some are mumbling repetitive sounds like ‘vu vu vu vu’ and ‘tn tn tn tn tn,’ along those lines. And this thing they’re standing in is making sounds too, like a call and response. Uncanny to behold, sir. I don’t like it. They all look similar too, like they’ve taken pains to make themselves outwardly identical. Probably all respond to the same name too, not that I want to know what it is.”

 

I have an instinct to do something erratic right now, anything, just to shake things up, remind me that I’m me and stick my foot in the door that I can see is about to slam shut on all of us, but my body won’t respond. I’ve purged too much of what made it tick.

 

“Any further questions, sir?” the Inspector asks. “I really can’t see any ambiguity at all in this case … great, well I’ll book them then. I’ll let you know once the paperwork’s filed. Speak soon, sir … yup, you too. Give my best to Raquel, and … um … oh yeah, Henry. My best to Henry too.”

 

He hangs up and looks directly at me and our eyes stay locked like that until he turns away, opening his briefcase to extract the paperwork and a pen.