There was a sort of contagion, a sort of mass hysteria event that rippled through the village after the war. A group of women, all aligned neatly in a row, hanged themselves at the same time. The son of another and I — both orphaned and banished to live with our grandparents — were inseparable ever since. We watched the police from the dusty cracked windows, methodically and with sterile precision, cut the ropes from left to right like you read a book. Each woman’s body splatted on the ground like fish, heavy and wet.
I lived between the land and sea, among the cliffs, on the edge, in my own contrived corner of this perfectly rounded earth. I always tried to congeal my memories as they were happening, always immanently resting in the past, present, and future. I felt my future self glaring into the muck of the now-existing present, indignantly and exhaustively squishing the once-hardened clay, soaked by tears and sweat and spit in between my fingers. I believed I would live forever if I just learned to remember better; I could live forever if I just hardened the miracle of sensation and held it tightly in my fist so as to never lose it. I loved my mother so much that I mostly forgot her; the sound of her voice and her smell weakened with each reiteration of memory. My grandmother, boasting one glass eye and another with miraculously clear vision, was gradually slipping into the murky waters of dementia. She always reassured me that my parents “went away so I could be,” serving as cow shit or dead fish to plants, or Jesus Christ to the entire world, but I liked to imagine them as Jesus rather than shit.
The sun was moving west, and its rays fought through the clouds to cast long, skinny shadows over the dilapidated tenements of East Purgatory. The elevated highway concealed the surface streets surrounding the Johnny’s Pizza that rubbed up against the Port Authority. In a parking lot decorated with soda cans, used prophylactics, and glass vials, the skeleton man sat on a concrete division, flipping through the photography book that he’d lifted from Laz. Waiting for junk was a major part of junk. Throughout his decade-long journey to dependence, he had logged hours upon hours sitting in parking lots identical to this one, waiting for some unnamed savior to relieve him from his personal hell. The waiting was part of the game. Junk is not a kick. Junk is a way of life. He could remember reading this sometime during his formative years before the habit had impregnated him with the sickness. When he was on the fix, his loneliness was kept at bay. Junk was an ever-present shadow that acted as a sort of companion, albeit not a compassionate one. A shadow for his shadow that could be seen in the dark.
The last week without junk had been a strange and suffocating experience. He could not understand why anyone—himself included—chose to give up junk when they had funds and access to it. This last time, the separation was brought on by a feeling of impending doom that he could not shake. Even Dr. Cooper’s treatment had stopped being effective. A body can only sustain itself for so long when it fears sleep and waking. So, as to why he decided to punish himself by withholding junk, it may have been just that: a self-administered punishment, a cleansing of the soul. An allotted period of time for his body to regenerate and replace the junk-sick cells. It was also an attempt to rid himself of the horrific nightmares and paranoid delusions that sullied his existence.
The situation right now is I’m sinking into wet concrete and no one is going to help me. I somehow got put into the middle of a stupid little patch of it somewhere in the middle of an infinite flatmap while I was busy trying to drink an energy drink. It’s just barely too big for me to grab the edge falling forward. I’m totally stuck.
There’s four Bonemasons standing around me and that’s it. If I freecam out it’s nothing but wandering tire tracks and patches of dead grass as far as I can see. The sky is dark red and never gets any closer, of course. I’m sinking incredibly slowly, about one inch every 65 hours, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am sinking and that no one is going to help me. The Bonemasons are wearing their long black cloaks that flap around even when there’s no wind and are poking at me with thorny sticks. I keep trying to grab them but my hand just passes right through with a fizzy green flicker and somehow gets scratched anyway. Both my palms are covered in cuts now and leaking shiny red.
Time speeds up and in a few minutes I’m up to my knees in the concrete. I can feel microfractures starting to happen in my feet from the weight. Pretty soon they’ll be as flat as two sheets of cardboard. It’s going to be morning soon. My family will be waking up and wondering what happened to me. They’ll yawn and squint at the sun and pour milk and cereal all over the counter because I wasn’t there to get the bowls out. And then while our dog Gargoyle of Perdition is making herself sick trying to lick it all up a man in a green military uniform is going to knock at the door. He’ll have a square jaw and an alcoholic’s eyes and he’ll tell my family that I’m sinking into wet concrete and no one is going to help me. The sun will be behind him and it will cast his shadow across my family and onto the wall behind them, onto the picture of the President that we hung there when we first moved in, so it would be the first thing visitors would see when they entered our beautiful home. My family will cry, quietly at first, and then loudly, and then they’ll all fall over and shining roots will come up out of the wall-to-wall carpeting and pull them into the earth and Gargoyle of Perdition will starve to death because they won’t be there to feed her anymore. The man in the green military uniform will carefully close the front door and put a big yellow “CONDEMNED” sticker on it and get in his car and drive away. The sun will drive off with him and never come back. Meanwhile, I’ll keep sinking into this wet concrete until it blocks all my airways and asphyxiates me.
a porpoise long-harboured,
his babble sought for stock-picks.
draw him in the sadhana of Shastric Fundamentals;
cast him in A HOMELESS MAN seated unto death or white senescence.
demarcate his Isle in the dark arcs of bank towers;
pole it with a simple tree, a comic panel’s axis:
receiver of his pencilled-in lean.
he’s Nanak in a happy nap at Mecca!
indifferent to the Monolith,
whichever way we aim his feet.
She trembles with the snowmelt, as if meaning to keep cold. I hold my bladder, watching. A chime is answered, voluntary pathogen pressed in the inner ear. We flag an app taxi. Her taps pillow ash on Astroturf. We’ve tried being clean. It’s entertaining. Rubber-banded grocery bag snapped overhead, plump lips lit by sparkling Retina Display, she intones: “I’m sick of everyone claiming they’re a survivor. You didn’t survive shit.” Her thumb drills the screen. “Just being a victim’s never enough.” I encourage some thoughts being saved from the feed.