Jonah Howell 日 15/08/2019 · friendly_admin No comments



“Get your sperm here! Get your sperm here!”

Ralph used to say it once and let it rest, but market analytics bawled him out. “Forty-three percent better sales,” they said. “Put your heart in it,” they said. Ralph has a big mustache. Hasn’t had time to wash it in a while, so it looks like a squid’s eating his face. He’s proud of it anyway.

“Get your sperm here!” Fuck it, he thinks. Motherfuckers can hear the fucking music. Indeed. Another gimmick from analytics, loud shit no one else in their right (or wrong) mind would play, like an ice-cream truck. He used to like it, kind of. It was bearable. Now he hears it in his nightmares. Hard life, being a jizz hawker. But he sure as shit wouldn’t go back to medical insurance, not in this climate, no sir.

“Get your sperm here!” He waves a brown bag. Thick plastic. Label claims “100% Recycled, Ethically Sourced, Compassionate Capital Certified.” He doubts it. Heard some garish rumors. Something something makes Rana Plaza look like Disneyland something something. Through an actual grapevine, so he won’t swear by it.

“Get your sperm here!” One thing he knows, only poor folks’ sperm is marketable. The poorer the better. Labels on the bags brag, “Duration on EBT: 6 Years.” Another: “Lifelong Janitor.” Rich folks all tried CRISPr before they figured out how to work the oven, got their shit burnt. Top dogs claim it’s a one-generation crisis, but now there’s this big new business, well, Ralph has his doubts.

“Get your sp–” Ralph had zoned way out, but a young man broke his trance by knocking on the window of the kiosk. Passersby behind him do double-takes. Ralph wonders whether it’s the fresh stigma of the industry or the man’s looks that pulls their eyes. This man, he’s 6’2”, eyes a shade of blue that is literally impossible, tan but smooth, not a hint of the premature kyphosis you see in almost everyone these days.

His voice makes Sinatra seem, in hindsight, maybe a bit harsh. “Got any smart Scandinavian, over six feet? Blue-green iris is icing. Little bit of mix is fine, not preferable.” Folks ain’t so scrupulous about hiding their racism when it’s their own bloodline at stake. Not so different, really, from how things were. You’d never hear somebody say, “I hate blacks,” but you take them on a night out and they mack on all the Aryans in the bar.

“Go fish. Got a new shipment coming Friday. Got a 5’11” German, though, northern, last name sounds Danish. Consolation discount to $1300.” Ralph’s throat suddenly hurts, having to say new words.

The young man scowls and walks off. Inly Ralph laughs. What’s three days on nine months? He shrugs. “Get your sperm here!” Busy street, he thought it wouldn’t be so slow. Doesn’t give half a shit anyway, though, now that he thinks about it. Gets paid hourly.


10 (years later)

Ralph’s mustache has metastasized into that stereotypical mephistophelian pointy beard. Clean, too, and recently trimmed. Analytics said he should go for “Berghain doorman, but rougher.” A sleeve of highly convincing fake tattoos down one arm. Skulls, knives, stick-and-poke prison-looking shit. Has to get them re-applied at the office every two weeks. $3000 bonus and full reimbursement if he gets them for real, but his wife won’t budge. “The kids are all grown, Ralph. What do we need more money for?” Secretly he’s grateful, but he’d never tell that to the pricks in analytics. Have him reassigned as a diver.

Divers go in the dump piles and scrounge for the good-good. Worst job there is, doesn’t matter that it pays out the ass. They’re all covered in chemical burns and gruesome sores. Average diver retires–very, very comfortably–after five years, but most of them don’t make it that long. Poor folks put some crazy shit in their sperm nowadays. Ralph remembers in the beginning it was just spermicide, nothing to bat an eye at, but once Pfizer pushed its spermicide-reverser on the market, shit went haywire. Battery acid, anthrax. Recently some new shit called venus virus, cooked up in some ad hoc lab in a storm drain somewhere. $200,000 bounty on the head of the chemist, but everybody knows there’s not a snowball’s chance in Houston. I could explain why, but I would botch it. Instead, I’ll excerpt a dispatch from a meeting of the Fifth International, published in Commie Jihad, an edgy center-left rag:

They will call this the Inter(net)national. The boojies wanted globalism, huh? Well, we got it for you right here. (Bends over, drops pants, shows anus.) Never before in history has the debtor class risen up in such synchrony: Today, one-and-a-half billion proles voted via DoodleTM poll to inject spermicide or, in areas where such ordnance has been rendered ineffective, “the most damaging chemical readily to-hand,” into their tied condoms before disposing of them. “For years the capitalists have enslaved our children,” a spokesman for Transnational Inverse-Reaganite Caucus roared, “but now we will prevent theirs.” One billion also pledged to aid and abet such “sperm-spiking” whenever and however is necessary, including aid to the crucial chemists-in-hiding who are the movement’s only hope for longevity. We must add, for the sake of transparency, that each of the aforementioned numbers would have been four billion (the total number who participated in the International’s polls) had it not been for feuding between the International Post-Trotskyist and Unbordered Panhumanist factions, who disagreed on the use of commas in Article IV of the International’s manifesto; counterrevolutionary dissent among various branches of the Supernational Workers’ Althusserian Faction, who desired a more dialectical lilt to the prose of the manifesto’s preamble; a vicious split between the International Out-Right Revisionist Network and the older-fashioned Historical Dialectic Society of Materialist Liberation Theologians; and the raging fuming unmitigated hatred of the entire Global Alliance of Goodhearted Freedom-Lovers for the International’s chairperson, Johannes Stiller, who, the Alliance claimed, had not made sufficient effort to render the manifesto accessible to language-nonconforming folks, particularly those of the Anarcho-Communo-Primitivist Post-Babble Rabble, who communicate only in grunts and, occasionally, handprints, in strictly plant-based dye, on rocks. In addition to the aforementioned, the struggle of the debtor class was opposed individually by–

I won’t subject you to the rest of it. Insufferably jargon-y. But you get the point. The dispatch also does a quarter-decent job of explaining why Ralph is now standing, arms crossed and scowling, in front of the sliding glass doors of what looks like a particularly sleek CBD dispensary, which in turn stands, sparkling and fluorescent, in front of an enormous trash dump. That meeting of the Fifth International, now six years back, rendered Ralph’s old kiosk gig obsolete. The jizz trade went literally viral (or corrosive, or neurotoxic) overnight. The old method–splooge factories in poor countries, enslaved gherkin-herkers locked in cubicles full of specimen tubes and stained porn mags–couldn’t work. Jizz transporters started poisoning the shit, everything went haywire.

So the building behind Ralph, one of thousands scattered across the world’s cities, has become the singular locus of all wealthy reproduction. It’s organized in three layers: In the back, well-paid volunteers, called Jacks, beat their meat into auto-sealing, bulletproof glass jars. Each Jack stays two weeks in the facility, one-and-a-half weeks eating all the best fertility drugs, then four days firing shots like his/her/their nuts are a drum clip. Average twenty single-shot jars per day. Most of the Jacks return after the mandatory two-month recovery period, and the wages are good enough for a skilled Jack–at $50 per jar–that many of them hold no other career. Usually the Jack is damn exhausted by 4:37 PM on the first of his or her or their four “productive” days, and so, in the case of a straight man or gay trans-woman, expediters called Queens will come in to facilitate high-level production, utilizing the cutting edge of innovative expediting techniques and integrated fatigue mitigation strategies. In the case of a gay man or straight trans-woman, it’s Kings. Seriously, I couldn’t make this shit up. Whoever drew out the staffing plan for these things was a real card.

In the middle layer, a group of vetted-loyal chemists puts spectrographs, centrifuges, microscopes, kaleidoscopes, and all manner of unknown and unnamable scientific tools to the jizz from all angles. If anything looks the slightest bit agley, the Jack who produced the suspect jar is forced to drink it. In this way, the Jacks are encouraged to maintain healthy lifestyle habits in the weeks and months leading up to their stay. Similarly, the one time a chemist went rogue, his whole family was slaughtered, his hometown incinerated, his Facebook friends infected with a mutant strain of Ebola engineered to spread through the social media platform’s seemingly benign love-reacts, and the chemist himself…nothing I can say in polite company.

(On second thought, in the interest of transparency, fuck it: He was vivisected with thousands of dull toothpicks, then, kept alive by meth and constant administration of Blue Boy-brand poppers, left in the dump behind the facility to be eaten by dogs, his larynx altered so that his screams would sound like the old-timey jizz truck jingles.)

The front layer, resembling a souped-up Jetsons version of a dispensary, is staffed by CRISPed youths, specially edited for the role. So attractive that any non-CRISPer who even looks through the front door of the facility will spontaneously combust through sheer heat of orgasm, these CRISPers are master salespeople, though they require very little to subsist happily. They usually live in small lean-tos behind the facilities, protected from the dogs by their violently good looks, and eat three grains of rice per day, not unlike historical fashion models.

Often there’s a line a quarter-mile long out the front door, and with mid-tier jizz going for $3000-a-jar nowadays, the facilities prop up a growing upper-upper class of new money who, now addicted to CRISPed whores, funnel most of the cash into development of new gene editing technologies.

Ralph knows some of this, but he’s not particularly interested. Put plainly, he’s just glad he doesn’t have to hear the jizz-truck music any more, except for that one time that, so far as he knows, they played it from speakers behind the facility for nostalgia’s sake. He supports himself and his wife plenty well, and shit, at this rate, he’ll be able to get himself and his wife a pair of new CRISPed concubines in a year or so. (Any and all sexual activity among non-CRISP non-revolutionaries is highly encouraged, so moral scams like fidelity went out of style a long-ass time ago.) Their old ones, well, let’s just say they’re a bit worn. They’ll make great food for some Jacks. Bred to lack all neural structures except those necessary for sensual pleasure, no one really has moral compunctions about cannibalizing them. Picture the boardroom meeting where they thought up that gem: “Perfect human capital!” And the man powers down the slide projector to thunderous applause.


3 (years later)

Ralph runs down a dark bridge in a revolutionary ghetto of Berlin, a grimy shantytown nestled in the war-shattered rubble once known, some elderly folks say, as Friedrichshain. At the end of the bridge he sees a road sign, bullet-riddled and hanging from its tilted post. Revaler Straße. He darts rightward past the ruins of either a nightclub or a particularly dingy factory–who can tell?–and ducks down a flight of steps onto a sandlot between rows of other bars/factories. Trash piles around the sandlot. Bent figures hunch over the bags, digging, totally uninterested in Ralph’s boringly familiar plight. As he runs he rips through a bag. Shit! Shitshitshit! He runs on, eyes darting.

He always worried he might be denounced. Some co-worker would begin to envy his mustache, he thought, and he would be done in by hubris. He’d never lost his pride in that thing. Or someone in analytics would get tired of him refusing real tattoos. Or they’d intuit that his heart just wasn’t in it. As the revolution grew bloodier, and as the full scope of the revolutionaries’ eugenic monomania grew ever clearer, paranoia mounted to the point that, he heard through another grapevine, someone had been dismembered in Canada for repeatedly pulling her nose, which the prosecution called “a clear expression of problematic sentiment.”

But he never thought it would be his wife. He had gotten her, he was sure, a concubine just as good as his own. He had tried to argue, offered to buy her another once he had the money, or he would try to return him: He still had the receipt. No dice. Cancelled.

He sped away the next day, soon as he saw the hotline on their shared Call account’s dial history. Straight from work, he went to his poorest friend and asked for asylum within the International. Friend frowned. “You know what those tattoos mean, Ralphie. But I can get you overseas. From there, you’re on your own.” He touched down in Berlin the next morning, too terrified to be tired, though he hadn’t slept on the flight. He did his best to cover the tattoos, and for a couple hours he succeeded with a long-sleeve shirt, but someone asked him to help fix a sink, and he would have been suspect if he had refused, he rolled up his sleeves…

He rips open another trash bag, now near the end of the sandlot. He hears running steps back on Revaler. He’s got one minute, maybe two. He digs, tosses napkins and paper bags and innumerable bottles of Kindl back onto the lot behind him, hoping that these might slow the agents tailing him. A cartoon vision in his head, agent running, gun leveled, slips on a bottle and falls in slow motion, other agents trip over their flailing comrade and Ralph hops the fence at the end of the lot, his street cred boosted by the chase to the point that the revolutionaries overlook his tattoos, he is spirited away to the legendary revolutionary stronghold in Kurdistan…he grabs a limp, full condom from deep in the trash and quickly examines it. He finds a tiny amount of fluid escaping from a pinprick in its side, and his heart races.

Ralph whips around to see a group in all-black, bulletproof vests and anti-chem helmets, pistols drawn and aimed down at his knees, shins, feet. In future-memory he hears dogs barking over a frantic, screeching rendition of the jizz-truck jingle. One of the figures shouts, “Hands up!” Ralph doesn’t understand. His pulse is too loud. He holds up the condom and looks at it closely. Faint wisps of eggshell, taupe, beige have infiltrated the satin-white of the jizz. Could be anything. Virus, synthetic toxins. He had heard of new classes of materials, make tiny infants pop out of all pores at the moment of death, make tiny infants pop out of all pores at the moment of death, synced-up crying through the sweat-placenta like 8-bit danger music.

“Hands up!” Ralph crumples to his right, his knee scattered in gory chunks over his pile of rifled trash. In the brief flash of shock, he drops the condom. His vision returns to find it three feet away, coated in sand and leftover currywurst. He lunges for it, another flash, and the remnants of his reaching hand hang like wet laundry over the fence-links behind him. His sight blurring and pulsing, he thinks, What’s the one thing they won’t shoot?

He throws his body toward the condom, latches onto it with his teeth. It’s a thick one, and he has to gnaw a bit, but finally he pops it, and he sucks its juice out. Hot, unfamiliar bitterness spreads over his tongue and down his throat as the agents recoil in disgust and run back toward the street. His senses plummeting into some deep purple abyss, Ralph hears a nearby trash-digger’s convulsive laughter. For the first time in years, he even chuckles a bit, himself.


(Composed according to scientific consultation of Dr. Rector T. Luge, Professor of Biotheory at Agricultural and Technical University of Mississippi-Kilmichael. Top-secret info on communist infighting and literary history of condom-chewing supplied by Souli Boutis, Tik TokTM scholar.)

Jonah Howell’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Surfaces, X-R-A-Y, and The Bleeding Heart Nihilist. His book of poetry and essays, Empathology, is forthcoming from BHN Books.