“You cluck and they’ll cluck back,” a woman whispers in my ear. She’s been teaching herself to speak with fowl, mainly chickens and ducks. Everyone regards her as mad, of which she definitely seems — her hair is ragged and face gaunt. She wears a long grey trench coat and spends most of the time in the filthy street outside my work making strange noises. Come to think of it, she’s always there, no matter what time of day I pass. There’s a good chance she doesn’t sleep. She does have one thing working against the popular theory that she is insane, however, and that is that the fowl do talk back. That can’t be denied.
That same day she whispered those words in my ear I witnessed her speaking with the severed head of a duck. Its skin was iridescent, without feathers. And despite its dismembered state it was indeed clucking back at the old woman. It’s funny I say “old” when I refer to her . . . because she isn’t in fact old; she seems old, no, she seems ancient, but she is probably younger than me.
Anyways, she picks up this iridescent quacking duck head by its long neck, and I can see large fangs in its mouth. They look like the fangs of a rattlesnake. She’s unconcerned with them. So unconcerned that she begins petting them with her index finger, slowly gliding it over the white fangs. The duck seems to be charmed by the sensation and its eyes begin to roll around in its head. As they do so I notice a speck of green peeking through the white of its cornea; which, at an opportune moment, the woman pinches with her dirty nails and out slithers a long worm. I pick it up to get a closer look. The worm has a human face. My face.
I’m in clearing in the middle of a rolling thick forest. It’s dark. A fairly large community of people started living here ever since a Black Magician put a spell over the land. We live in trailers and eat whatever we can scavenge. There is a political science club that holds classes on political theory — I am in this club — and we are currently studying for a national test that will award a monetary scholarship to those who score in the top 5 percent. I couldn’t care less, but I’m still kept up at night trying to solve annoying practice test questions. The teachers of this preparatory class are my former high school professors — I know they don’t like me very much.
Life in the forest has a very cinematic quality to it. Everything feels predetermined, as if at any moment someone much larger will hit an otherworldly fast-forward or rewind button. Tension is running high through the community. Word is out that the Black Magician will be up to something particularly sinister this evening (and this is the night before the big test on political theory!).
The ground begins to tremble and the surrounding trees are swaying frantically, though the sky is nursing no wind. Over the treetops an enormous glowing purple mountain begins to amass . . . no, not a mountain . . . . It has eyes! And a dreadfully large mouth lined with razor-sharp teeth! A giant beast is approaching! It’s body is a bit translucent through a hazy purple hue, with stout arms and legs protruding from its robust round figure.
As it enters the clearing I can see that it is at least thirty trees tall. Almost immediately it explodes into hundreds of large jelly balls . . . and then those balls explode into thousands of smaller one. This multiplication of itself happens about four more times until the earth is covered in millions of balls the size of a human hand. Deep dimples form in the balls, two of which fill in with mean glaring eyes, and one which hollows out into a sharp hungry hole. I have a gun that shoots lightening. I take aim and fire, but my weapon is useless against the ravished jelly beasts. My childhood friend (Joe) drive up in a cardboard bus. He is going to save the day (or at least that is the sentiment that his arrival elicits). About thirty people dressed in white assemble against side of the bus — they form a wall, three people high, standing on top of each others’ shoulders. Suddenly a massive saw blade begins slicing through the bus, and it passes smoothly through the bodies of the people whose white clothes are now red with blood. They collapse into a withering pile of limbs and heads. The monsters are hypnotized by the spectacle, and quickly begin to gorge themselves on the human offering. After being hypnotized, myself, for a few moments over the feasting monsters, I make my way to a quite trailer at the edge of the village. I have to inquire about a particularly difficult question that I’m nervous is going to be on the test in the morning.
Freakin’ test! Do I really need to take it? I hate these kinds of tests!
I’m standing on a rickety pier, surrounding me throbs and swells a black angry ocean. No land in sight. The sun beating on my neck, the still empty blue sky above. I’m fishing with only a hooked line and a short thick stick. No bait. Despite the pitiful tackle, I am able to throw the 3-pronged hook far off into the rough waters. I use the stick to help me reel it in by twisting the line around it. My bare hands covered in thin red lines.
On one throw the hook lands centered in a pod of playing dolphins. I love dolphins. I immediately start to reel in the line as quickly as I can — nervous because I don’t want to catch one on the hook. SHIT! . . . Got something! . . . please don’t be a dolphin . . . please don’t be a dolphin . . . please don’t be a dolphin . . . .
I’m frantically twisting the line around the stick — it’s dragging something, something big, something heavy. My arms, hands, and fingers strain and ache — my tension builds as the struggling creature is desperately tugged closer . . . please . . . I don’t want this to be true. Sharp pains running from my fingertips to the base of my neck. Closed eyes . . . please don’t be a dolphin .. . please . . . .
Then I see . . . it’s not a dolphin!
My dear friend, Katie! . . . the hook is through her nose!
I collapse to my knees and break out into uncontrollable tears. She reassures me that she is fine while yanking and twisting the gnarled hook from her nose and climbing from the cold black water. But it doesn’t matter. I’m devastated — reminded of every time I have unintentionally hurt someone that I love. A deep hopelessness swallows my mind as dark clouds close in and spiral violent above me. My sobs growing louder, the sky cracks open, and frigid raindrops pierce my heart. My breath becomes the turbulent surface of the untamed sea — and I vanish within everything surrounding me.
I wake gasping for air. And the lyrics of a song immediately possess my mind — they soothe and cradle my sadness as I try to fall back into sleep.
They were tearing the backs off of toads. It starts with a tiny cut under the neck. And then a pry of the blade against a thumb.
It comes off fairly smooth, a tiny slab of forest green lumps and bumps — an exquisite splash of raw red flesh glistening against a silver moody sky.
Why are they doing this? To what avail? I look into the creature’s eyes, searching for something . . . anything. I find nothing.
A cursed stone face — unable to convey its agony. It mocks us, and renders us soulless.
Perhaps nothing I find, because nothing is what I seek?
“Give me that knife.”
It’s time I look beyond my own reflection in a set of glossy golden eyes. There’s got to be a ghost in here somewhere.
And I’m going to find it. I need to find it. ♨
We are now living in post-apocalyptic cities where nothing grows and all industrial progress has ceased. The sun never shines here, it is always dark. There are no animals left, we have eaten them all — there are only trees, decrepit buildings, and us. Without animals we no longer have a reference that we can point to and claim the vague animator we call “instinct” exists; nor do we have operational machines to tear into the land. Without these we no longer feel dominion over anything; and even the most Earth loving among us are weak and angry.
The boys are marching off to war. There is a black clothed team and a white clothed team. I’m with the black. This war is a senseless game, neither side has a goal; but people will die, many people will die. While marching into the silent and empty forest I desert my company and build a raft out of old animal bones and twigs. I float down a tame stream and arrive at a place where I am stuck inside a photographic book that is similar to a high school year book. There is always one photo that is animated and talking. The type of dialogue taking place is like that of an evening news show conducting an interview. I am asked what I think the biggest problem we now face is. The page turns and my photograph is animated — in it I am a teenager, I have long hair and I’m wearing a red KGB shirt with a hammer & sickle decal on it. I proclaim proudly (in the way only a teenager can) that it is because we have abandoned ourselves, and that I have never abandoned anything. But my adult self who is wittnessing my talking teenage photograph knows this is not true — I have just abandoned my army.
Beethoven’s 5th symphony begins blasting into the world. I can hear it perfectly, it is precise. The book closes and the trees uproot. The world is receiving its final apocalyptic blows. I am not worried, instead I am marveled by how my dreaming mind is capable of reproducing this complicated music — and I wake up with it still ringing in my ears. ♨
I woke up with patches of a milky oily film all over my body. There must be something in this water. There are tiny painless red bumps forming all over my body, some are larger than others. They seem to be gestating under the hazy film. I can’t get it off, the warm water just beads off—I think the milk is weeping out of my pores. This wasn’t here yesterday. Something must be wrong.
Doesn’t matter, I have to get to a funeral. It is for a musician I admire a great deal—his name is Nils Frykdahl. His body is in the trunk of a car and is clothed in a red ritual robe. Friends and fans are paying their respects to him by placing severed fingers on his chest over his heart. I don’t know where the fingers were obtained. Nils begins to shake violently and a wide closed-mouth grin stretches out on his face. Moments later I can see that his teeth are checkered pink and black. He hops out of the trunk and humbly bows before the crowd. People are thankful for the performance.
I see a monolithic-like cube building over the hill behind the funeral car that I have never seen before. In fact, I know it wasn’t there—this is a new building. I decide to explore it. Inside it is full of staircases that seem to go nowhere. Some of the steps are too high for regular-sized people to climb. The cube’s architecture is emotionless and cold. It is much narrower but also taller than it appears from the outside. Glossy black stone square blocks, the size of two people tall, make up the walls. There doesn’t seem to be an end to the height of the building, and as I start walking up one for the spiraling staircases I see that there isn’t a bottom either. There are no windows in the building, and no lights, but somehow I can see. The building is lit by my vision alone. As I climb the stairs my reflection is scattered all over the glossy black walls. I see myself walking in every direction—up, down, backwards, and sideways. I look out at my hand. I don’t have any fingers. I look to my reflections to see if they have any fingers. They don’t. I don’t care. I don’t need them anymore.
Something’s odd—I notice that there is a slight delay to some of my reflections’ movements. I begin spinning franticly around in circles in an attempt to make myself (and them) dizzy. It works. And in the spinning aftermath I am successful in seeing the back of my head, a sight I have never seen before. When the world stops turning I decide I want to leave. But the door is gone. There is no way out of here, at least from where I can see, which is everywhere—through spinning I have mixed up my mind and taken on the vision and perspective of my countless reflections. And through every eye billions more are formed. Overwhelmed, my mind becomes sealed in the glossy black slabs of stone—timeless and frozen in the infinite movements of my ever-expanding body. ♨
I am with a woman, she is dressed up fancy, in a short black skirt and black top. She is sitting to my left in a dimly lit, outdoor cafe. It is night. Before us is a giant glass cylinder that is partitioned once down the center. There are two tubes snaking out of it that have long syringes attached to their ends. A waiter approaches us and asks if we have decided on our dose. My head is foggy. I point to something on the decorative, hard-bound menu, as does the woman. Moments later he begins pouring a bright yellow fluid into my side of the vat, and then a cobalt blue one into my partner’s. He says that one liter each should be sufficient. I’m nervous, she isn’t. We are supposed to stick the syringes into the veins of our hands — I have never had an intravenous drug before. There’s a lot of fluid in that vat. A lot of fluid. But I rationalize that this venue specializes in this experience, so I settle my tension and ask the waiter to stick me with the needle. Another server approaches my partner, and our soft skin is penetrated simultaneously. Their is a slight twinge of pain and then the giant cylinder begins to purr and the fluids on either side begin to merge, forming a spinning rainbowed tornado. I look into the eye of the woman next to me. Her pupil is wide, black and bottomless, and is surrounded by a thin rim of constellated specs of colors, surrounded by a milky haze and endless white. It fills my vision and becomes like a pulsating mandala . . . “a perfect mirror of my own,” and I think my last thought. Slowly, we begin to melt into the rainbow together . . . free from all worry . . . free from death . . . free from life. ♨