Archives for posts with tag: Paul Sweetie

I WANDER IN MY PAJAMAS back down the hallway and into the closet I do most of my viewing in, somewhere in the depths of what used to be the Hotel and is now Pussygrab Palace.

 

As soon as I’m inside, I boot up my laptop and start to scroll. Though it’d be nice to feel like an active participant in my media diet, a Netflix special called A People’s History of Swamp Mode starts playing before I can stop it, and I’m instantly mesmerized.

 

As the special begins, we see a land developer (“let’s call him X,” the special’s narrator says) trying to chop The Dodge City Outskirts into what he calls “condo-izable subdivisions.” He has a decent life — a dog, a family, a midcentury house — when he commits a sudden and seemingly motiveless murder, strangling the UPS delivery man on his doorstep first thing one morning.

 

Forced to testify before The Dodge City High Court, he pleads insanity, claiming that something came over him in the night, that he was “another person entirely” while committing the crime he now stands accused of. “I was a different man,” he says, addressing the camera directly. “A bad man. Not a man I’d ever want to know.”

 

“Well, if you can find this bad man,” the Judge replies, in a gesture of either largesse or deep perversity, “then bring him before me and you, as yourself, will be free to go.”

 

So X does exactly this. He goes back into himself, “all up and down his heart’s halls of mirrors,” as the Netflix narrator puts it, until he reaches the dark inner room where he went the first time. Here he finds the bad man waiting, all too happy to be summoned again.

 

This time, he kills on a larger scale: three people, including a child, which he buries in the frozen foods aisle of ULTRA MAX.

 

Needless to say, he ends up back in court, faced with the same ultimatum, and, again, he follows through: he finds the bad man yet again, closer to the surface this time, more attuned to the deal, even readier to be summoned.

 

This time he burns his whole neighborhood to the ground, killing 50 and radicalizing three followers, who in turn radicalize others.

 

Absurd as it seems, the Judge, apparently terrified of sentencing an innocent man, offers his ultimatum yet again, and again after that. “Bring me the man who did these awful things and we’ll throw him deep into the oily blackness of Dead Sir,” he says to X, after the bad man has initiated the First Dodge City Genocide, killing tens of thousands and leaving entire neighborhoods in ruins.

 

 

*****

SOUL-SICK AT WHAT HE’S WROUGHT and despairing of ever bringing the bad man to justice, X musters the very last of his willpower — free for a brief moment from the bad man’s growing influence — and hurls himself into Dead Sir.

 

“If the Judge won’t sentence me, I’ll sentence myself,” the actor playing him in the Netflix special says to the screen, as he falls, landing with a slurp in the jet black water.

 

PART I ends with the waters closing in, the last of X sinking into the depths, never to rise again.

 

 

*****

THE SCREEN GOES BLACK and I blink for a moment, afraid that the entertainment’s over and I’ll have to find something else to click on before the creeping dread of having nothing to do overwhelms me.

 

Luckily, PART II begins just in time.

 

Down in Dead Sir — the camera’s filming this all underwater, lit in sickly green night-vision — the man formerly known as X sloughs away. His skin puckers, bubbles, and peels back, drifting off in sheets which are eaten by huge solemn carp and gar.

 

Inside, rather than the viscera and bone structure I was expecting, is another man, encased in whitish gelatin. He peels this away and balls it up in his spindly hands, sculpting it into humanoid shapes that he plants in the murk at the bottom of Dead Sir, like he expects them to grow there.

 

And grow they do: over the course of a time-lapse montage, the man — who is clearly the bad man, perpetrator of the First Dodge City Genocide — changes, slowly but surely, into Col. Pussygrab, while all the white humanoids he planted around him grow into his retinue of Swamp Creatures. It’s particularly grotesque to watch Paul Sweetie’s face sprout from the fleshy blob that now constitutes his body.

 

Bubbles spewing from his mouth, the bad man addresses the camera and says, in what is now clearly Pussygrab’s voice, “What I’ve learned down here is that Swamp Mode is latent in all of us. It’s part of who we are, the backmost part, the reptile part. Did we create Dead Sir, or did Dead Sir create us? That, my friends, is the question. What I can say for sure is that it’s not unique to me, I was just smart enough to embrace it first. That poor bastard I used to be? ‘X,’ as you Netflix faggots call him? He’s gone, but I’m here to stay. The Dodge City Mayoral Election is tomorrow, and all I can say is, to anyone who thinks I can’t win … wait and see. It doesn’t matter if you’re sure you won’t vote for me. When the time comes, when you’re alone in that booth, you will. You all will. Swamp Mode’s ascendent. The Second Dodge City Genocide’s ramping up, and let me tell you all right now, it’s gonna be a motherfucking party!”

 

The Netflix special ends with Pussygrab and his Swamp Creatures marching across the bottom of Dead Sir and then slowly rising toward the surface, green hard-ons engorged, as a spooked newscaster’s voice says in the background, “I can’t believe it folks, but reports are coming in that Col. Pussygrab has won the Election in a landslide. Barring a miracle, by dawn he’ll be our next Mayor.”

 

Then the screen goes black and the credits roll over hysterical cackling.

NO SOONER HAVE I CROSSED OVER INTO DALTONLAND, the theme park in which Dodge City’s old-guard, centrist candidate won the election and life went on as normal, than I find myself behind a console, watching what is either the news or a hastily assembled TV Movie on Amazon Prime.

 

In the news-or-Movie, one of the biggest Swamp Creatures, whose New Aryan Skin is bunched up like a shawl around his shoulders, is being sworn in as Director of the CIA. He grunts and drools over the Bible, pulping it with his claws.

 

Clearing his throat after the swearing-in’s complete, he says, “Ladies and germs, my first act as Director of the CIA is to declare all of Dodge City a Black Site.”

 

“What does that mean, exactly?” shouts an off-screen voice.

 

“What does it mean? It means that, from now on, anything goes. Torture works. Whatever we need to do to get to the bottom of what we believe, or imagine, is going on here, we’ll do. With impunity. With secrecy. Without interference. Without oversight. Did I mention that torture works?”

 

He clears his throat again, spits phlegm, and then looks straight at the camera, straight at me. “Torture works,” he says, his voice pinched as he attempts to tighten his New Aryan Skin around his collarbone. “From now on, whatever happens in Dodge City is what was meant to happen. God has returned to this town, after many years in the wilderness.”

 

 

*****

THE SCREEN BOILS and buzzes and then Zizek, the Slovenian Marxist philosopher and bro-provocateur par excellence, appears in a plush brown armchair in front of a tacky photo of an Eastern European cityscape.

 

Deploying some of his signature tics as he scrapes at his tatty beard and neck and wipes spittle from his lips, he says, “Now, what does it mean that Dodge City is a Black Site? In what sense, if any, is such a pronouncement to be understood as meaningful?”

 

I lean closer to the screen, genuinely intrigued by the question. At the same time, I focus on keeping my expression neutral, as I’m wary of being watched. Furthermore, I’m trying to determine if the man onscreen is Zizek himself, or an impersonator. If so, he’s a good one (or else the real Zizek is growing less authentic with age).

 

“What it means,” he says, “is that all contact between Dodge City and the outside world has been suspended, perhaps even permanently walled off. Now, for those of you who’ve lived here for any amount of time, this won’t feel much different from life as it’s always been. After all, who in Dodge City can rightly claim to have maintained a true relationship with the outside world?”

 

He pauses here, as if expecting me to respond. I don’t.

 

“What’s different in this case,” he eventually continues, “is the awareness that it’s now official policy. That there is now, quite literally, no one to hear you scream. Everything that happens in Dodge City from now on is part of the Pussygrab Regime. Assume it’s all intentional, even the chaos. Especially the chaos. Assume that all news is internal, even this news. Even me …”

 

I lean even closer to the screen, trying to determine which possibility scares me more: that I’m being warned of a true terror by an accurate outside source, or that I’m being entertained by an actor from The Dodge City Film Industry, as I’ve been so many times throughout my life … almost consistently throughout my life, to the exclusion of all other experience, now that I think about it.

 

I find that I can’t remember what the real Zizek is supposed to look like and I have no phone or other means of getting online (and who’s to say the whole Internet isn’t controlled by the Black Site now, assuming it hasn’t always been?) … So, the longer I stare at the image onscreen, which goes on talking to me, the less certain I can be about what I’m hearing, and whether to believe it.

 

“The precise nature of the torture that will go on in this Black Site is still unclear,” the man (I’ve grown wary of calling him Zizek, even in my mind) goes on. “Whether the classic tortures — waterboarding and thumbscrews and electrocution and so on and so on — will go into effect, or whether daily life in Dodge City itself will simply become torturous — if it hasn’t been all along — is the question we’re all asking ourselves, as well as the question I’m asking you, aloud, right now, on Live TV.”

 

He winks and vanishes from the screen, leaving his chair empty.

 

My spine seizes up and I turn around, terrified that he’s in here with me now, watching over my shoulder. Is this, I wonder, the first official act of torture undertaken against me? And if so, to what end? What do I know, or do they think I know, that could be of use to them?

 

 

*****

WHEN I LOOK BACK AT THE SCREEN, the CIA Director is sitting in the armchair, cradling a black VHS tape. “This,” he begins, “is the only extant record of the history of torture in Dodge City up to this point. As a token of his largesse and transparency, the Colonel is making it available to the public to reassure them that our torture program has always been entirely civic-minded and aboveboard. He wants you all to see that there is no, so to speak, funny business going on. I want to make it abundantly clear that the Colonel doesn’t have to offer this for viewing. He has chosen to do so. Any Dodge City citizen is free to view this video. Just line up one at a time!”

 

He smiles and his teeth glisten, like in a toothpaste commercial, except they’re dripping yellow sludge and his gums are only partially attached.

 

 

*****

AFTER A LONG AFTERNOON spent watching viewer testimonials about the video — “Beautiful! Just beautiful!” one housewife shouts, as if trying to drown out another voice in her head; “A torture program we can all be comfortable with!” shouts another, munching popcorn from a microwave bag — the screen I’m watching opens to reveal a screen-within-the-screen.

 

This inner screen shows the tape being inserted into a VCR.

 

Now I’m watching the torture video right where I sit, in the supposed sanctity of DaltonLand, deep inside the Black Site.

 

A chair, a naked lightbulb, Paul Sweetie in a white wedding dress … my eyes are peeled, ready to see the horror for what it is … to bear witness and stand up for the truth …

 

BUT:

 

Next thing I know, I’m sitting on a chaise lounge sipping lemon spritzer in a room I don’t recognize (back in the Hotel?), thinking, as I try to remember what I’ve just seen, Well, that didn’t seem so bad … surely if that’s all we’re doing, it’s for the best … isn’t it? I mean, keeping Dodge City safe and all …

 

And then, becalmed, I let myself drift into a cool and dreamless sleep.

AT SOME POINT during my foray into the Lobby to see the American Takashi Miike receive his award from the Hotelier for writing and directing The New Jews on such short notice, I find myself instead watching Netflix on a strange computer, alone in a drafty side room.

 

Someone must have escorted me in here, like a child who sneaks down late at night to see what his parents are discussing in the kitchen and, unwilling to go back to sleep, is set up with a video and a bowl of popcorn in the den. I can just make out the crackle of voices beyond the closed door, but I’m too tired to get up and check if it’s locked (either that, or I’m afraid of what I’d do if I found it was).

 

Turning my thoughts away from the door, which I’m now pretty sure is locked, I have a moment of vertigo as my consciousness wavers between that of the me sitting in this drafty side room and the me onscreen (do I really look like that??), but as soon as the Movie’s opening credits fade I lose all awareness that there’s any part of myself outside what’s going on, which is that Paul Sweetie, Col. Pussygrab’s First Mate, is dragging me down a cement hallway toward what appears to be an electric chair, muttering, “it’s only set on stun, it’s only set on stun.”

 

“We always begin on stun,” he adds, once I’m strapped in, feet outstretched on the footrest like I’m about to be treated to dinner and a Movie. “What we end on is, well, up to you.”

 

“So this, uh …” I ask, hoping some question will sound implicit in my trailing off.

 

“Conversion Therapy, yes,” Sweetie answers, “your name came up on a list. Don’t worry, it’s a free service.” He pauses, perhaps giving me the chance to ask a follow-up question.

 

Cautiously optimistic, I follow up with, “conversion from what to what?”

 

Sweetie smiles, donning a pair of yellow rubber gloves and a clown mask as he charges up the chair. “From what you are to what you will be.”

 

Here I do recoil, if only for a moment, into my more remote self, the one watching this all on Netflix, in the (comparative) comfort of the drafty room off the hall somewhere in the Hotel, which, come to think of it, is remarkably similar to this drafty room off the hall of …

 

I lose my train of thought when the electricity hits my gonads, zapping them long and hard, making my teeth knock together like wooden puppet teeth, woodchips raining down my throat.

 

When I gag loudly enough to disturb him, Sweetie pulls the plug, panting like he’s the one who just got zapped, and asks if I feel different yet.

 

Though part of me knows I should say yes and spare myself whatever future pain is coming, another part of me shakes its head. Whether the urge to defy is an end unto itself, or is based on some half-formed desire to undergo the therapy a second time, or simply to continue watching it on Netflix rather than facing whatever comes next, I can’t say. I just know I’m not ready for it to be over yet.

 

Sweetie clears his throat and says, “Then proceed,” and proceeds to shock me a second time, this time with more juice, like in Milgram’s obedience experiments at Yale.

 

Weird liturgical symbols fly inside my lids as Sweetie grunts in my ear, unless that’s the sound of my brains frying.

 

Next time he stops, I plan to shout “I’m changed! I’m changed!” But, once again, when he asks, I say, “Nope, gimme more.”

 

*****

SO HE DOES.

 

This time, my eyes vibrating like two eggs about to hatch, I’m rocketed out of my self and into a free-floating vision of Dodge City as a series of concentric towns, nested Dodge City’s, each presided over by its own Pussygrab, each one giant and green and sitting on an inflatable throne, bouncing with glee like a six-year-old who’s chugged a gallon of Diet Coke.

 

And beside each Dodge City is a smaller, nearly-identical one with a sign that reads DaltonLand: a theme park in which the moderate, even-tempered Professor Dalton won the election and became our Mayor instead.

 

Beyond these, marking the Outskirts of my vision, are a series of ChaosLand‘s, theme parks ruled over by lumbering cavemen and huge spindly birds, and what I’m left to wonder — as Sweetie eases up on the juice again — is whether what I just saw is real outside this building or only inside of it, in the vast fake kingdom of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu …

 

“What?” he asks, and I realize I’ve been speaking aloud.

 

“Nothing,” I reply, struggling to retain the image of DaltonLand and my determination, though I know it’s a form of denial, to get myself out of this room and through the theme park gates as soon as I’m physically able, assuming such a theme park exists.

 

“Okay then,” he says, pulling up his clown mask to lick sweat from its neck flap. “Let’s get ya cleaned up.”

 

*****

SHIVERING WITH ICE WATER AND LYE, I find myself alone in the drafty room in the hall — one or the other of those rooms, if there are indeed two — watching a floating clown face that resembles Sweetie’s stare at me from the center of the strange computer I’ve been watching this all on.

 

At first I think it’s a screen-saver, so I just stare back, but then it grows agitated and says,”so …”

 

I shrug. “So … what?”

 

Now it smiles, and the purple smoke clears, revealing either that it really is Sweetie talking to me through something like a Netflix version of Skype, or else it’s a very good actor speaking from within a Movie scripted to sync up with whatever I say.

 

“So how do you feel, now that your Conversion Therapy has taken place?” he bats his eyes seductively, glowing with pride.

 

I feel fuzzy and unwell, not quite sure what he’s talking about, though it sounds more familiar than I wish it did. “I … I feel the same as I always have.”

 

Here he resumes laughing and the purple smoke gushes back up around his neck and begins to gush from the sprinkler system overhead as well, so now I’m choking and coughing in addition to everything that was already wrong with me.

 

“Oh you’re changed! You’re changed alright!” the clown-Sweetie cackles. “You just can’t remember what you used to be!! What you are now … that’s the new you!! Anything you think now, anything you see or feel or do … it’s the new you! It’s what we made you into!! If you don’t believe me, just check your gonads.”

 

*****

THE SCREEN TURNS BLACK as I’m taking this in, wondering how much is true and, if so, how I could ever tell. I certainly don’t, for the time being, have any intention of checking my gonads.

 

As I’m wavering in the limbo of these thoughts, trying to remember the way to DaltonLand, the next Movie automatically begins to play on Netflix.

 

Entitled The Superimposed Hotel, a tagline over the opening shot (of a man alone in a dingy room, coughing on purple smoke) reads: THE MOVIE THAT FINALLY ANSWERS THE QUESTION OF WHETHER YOU’RE LIVING IN ONE HOTEL OR TWO!!!!