Based on the fragmentary satyr play Ichneutae
As Pouyannian got closer he was of bulging eyes and changing colors. He was making his damndest effort to ignore the air—pinching his nose near the offal, so foul, so awful—around the Automimic’s face.
From this mouth she makes strange words, Wasmanian reported.
Wasmannian, Müllerian whispered, is it not truthful that the Automimic’s rear-end is a perfect decoy of her head-end?
Wasmannian and his fellow satyroi began to snicker at Pouyannian until Pouyannian shushed them, muttering: Awe shit, she’s beginning to vomit! He pointed at it—the lump of darkness landing wetly on the floor.
Kakah-kekekeh—looks like wet coal! See if it catches fire with your lighter, cackled Emsleyan-Mertensian.
I don’t think that’s vomit…, Batesian1 observed.
Before any of them tested it with poking sticks or flame, the lump of darkness sprawled and shifted in its shape, and everyone could see that it was anthropomorphic. An amniotic skin, like a thin veil shrouding insight, split.
That tiny head, that torso, those skinny arms and legs…, Müllerian began to recognize.
Now separated from its cast-off integuments, the shiny beast stood dwarf-height.
A full-grown fetus! Pouyannian exclaimed.
Abort it! Abort it, quickly, called Wasmannian, scanning for shepherd’s crook or coat hanger. Alas, its form was not of a repulsive infant’s but the satyr-mimicking satyr-parasite Peckhamian, with his fur matted in the sick of the Automimic’s residue. Wet material was dripping off his body into pools upon the meadowground. Peckhamian, engorged on the Automimic’s blood, could barely keep his drunken head from bobbling: Shouldint weebee gettin’ back ohber too-teh trail buh’now? Woolunt wahnna leh’teh Kouros down, he added slothfully.
Pouyannian asked each of the Automimic’s orifices to accompany them. Its terminal end purred complacently, but its faceless head hole quaked and growled. Its wormlike body recoiled—concealing feathered breasts. Pouyannian and Peckhamian, and everyone else fled the scene as it rattle-shrieked harpy-esque and poised itself to strike.
They had been forewarned by Kouros not to do any business of any kind with the local hookers, the diviners, any other groups of satyrs, foreign gods, and especially the Automimics. He had issued this command after naming them and prior to recruiting them to find the origin of that omnipresent unending sound which had zombified and lured away all livestock from his isle’s pastures.
It was in late February when Kouros lost his herd. The cacophony’s atonality spread into, from parts unknown, the ripe green fields, the blue-black skies—molding airborne skulls from cloud. Kouros was reticent to hire a posse of Ganas or groups of iridescent ghosts because he knew that Ganas’ demands for pay would be much higher than his strapper’s price and knew, also, that the iridescent ghosts were simply unreliable with following complex instructions. He needed to employ a gang of minions who were foolish enough to commit to solving a potentially impossible mystery yet modest enough to work towards earning a small and single reward. He briefly thought on the possibility of importing Indian Rakshasas. Rakshasas had the nose for investigative work, but their vampiric thirst for blood would only lead to greater social malcontent. Kouros, beardless youth, took an elderly neighbor’s advice and waited one year’s cycle. The renewing stench of spring and green and blooming flesh would bring the ones whom he was seeking. This whole time waiting he’d imagined valiant centaurs, shimmering chimeras, and other figures indescribable in words responding to his open call. Yet, when Spring had come to pass, he nearly lost faith in mythical creatures.
In fact, it wasn’t until Summer that the fields were overgrown in the absence of livestock. And in this time of chlorophyllous impunity he’d become acquainted with a choral troupe of satyrs.
With no goats to bugger or wings to tear off from the backs of fowl, the satyrs turned to the field’s new inheritors for entertainment. Firstly, they were merely fascinated by the plant and vermin life, but, soon enough, when they’d made an adequate number of observations, they reacted with parodic reflexes. Some writhed on their hairy bellies in the dirt with the snakes and worms or rolled up dung in accordance with the dung beetles or squeaked in unison with rats and field mice. They observed each specific job of every single species they’d encountered, and, in unison, they sung a jeering song about the limitations of the spineless and the non-mammalian: pointing out the many maladaptations that present with having strange and ornate bodies serving clear-cut functions. They poked at those Darwinian specifications that most higher lifeforms deem “below,” and which over countless generations such lowly organisms cornered themselves into. Kouros was taken by the juvenile yet clever spectacle of it.
He surmised that satyroi might be intelligent enough to follow his directions if promised a reward. Keeping their buffoonish tendencies in mind, he named each satyr after organismic mimeses founded, recorded, and coined by repudiated -ologists of various disciplines: Fritz Müller, Erich Wasmann, Henry Walter Bates, Michael Emsley and Robert Mertens, et al. were to be represented by a corresponding satyr.
They invited themselves into Kouros’ home, tailing him in through his doorway. The satyroi found entertainments there: A plaster cast Platonic solid model of the solar system sitting on a pedestal. The satyrs reenacted the creation of the universe. They pantomimed its simple non-organic shapes, either vaginal or phallic, before evolving their charades into organismic complexes. They moved on from the Platonic solid model proceeding to imitate Kouros’ furnishings as well as art pieces—mimicking the scenes and postures found on figure plates, bas-reliefs, sardonyx intaglios, and mosaics; they mirrored the athleticisms and eroticisms depicted by his gallery of sculpted stone. Priceless plates, house wares, and papyri scrolls were damaged in the process. These pests amassed in hypersexual contortions to commemorate the heyday of the Hellenistic orgia. And before a day could come to pass, they’d spawn miniatures of themselves—sexually matured and eager to turn out facsimiles of their own.
The once-pristine orderliness of his interior was ransacked to a Dionysian standard. The beardless youth was outraged since this had gone against each and every Apollonian maxim which he lived by. Nature superseded Organization, spinning the axis of duality off course. To reclaim command of his domicile, the beardless youth tried, at first, to lure them out with food. When that had failed, he set many deadly traps; although he resorted to cutting the satyrs down one by one when they’d proven too clever to fall for them. Yet, for every satyr he’d exterminate, another would spawn in their place. They harbored transmittable diseases, ridden by fleas and STDs and would sleep where they’d defecate and would defecate wherever they’d please; they grew increasingly lethargic, gluttonous and fat. He remained at war with this vile team of nature for several weeks, until the moment that he was on the verge of accepting their pestilential presence within his home eternally.
Kouros owned a basin made of solid gold that sat atop a shelf within his private bathing room. Kouros noted that the satyroi took special liking to this basin. He’d use it as bribe to drive them out for good…
Bitchass, you forgot our sandwiches, Batesian was shouting at Pouyannian as they and the rest of the satyroi were fleeing from the Automimic. Pouyannian forgot them by the nest.
Indeed. They’re gone, but we’ll find others like them, Müllerian promised, feigning certainty.
And so, they made their way without. In late afternoon, Emsleyan-Mertensian noticed the wound in Pouyannian’s back.
Peckhamian was eyeballing Pouyannian’s wound as if weighing out a strategy for burrowing within. However, Emsleyan-Mertensian had no time to alarm the others before the pseudosatyr-parasite Peckhamian, was head-first, half-way into Pouyannian’s new gash. Its false hoofed legs dangling out, head and upper body burrowed. Pouyannian went limp before reanimating—making zombie movements steered by the satyr-parasite, Peckhamian’s, volition.
We need to get Pouyannian to a hospital, Emsleyan-Mertensian shouted.
What’s the point; they’ll merely show him hospitality, protested Müllerian.
It’s sad but true, by Zeus’ orders, Batesian admitted. Remember, Zeus, by lightning bolt, struck down Asclepius for healing and, especially, for curing the unwell.
This is true, and I couldn’t agree more, added Wasmannian.
You could always agree more, Wasmannian, blamed Müllerian. We all know that you’d agree with anyone on anything. You are the epitome of a driveling dork wad of…derr-derivatude.
Wasmannian was correcting Müllerian’s grammatical errors when Batesian hushed them into silence. He then made obvious the motion to cup his ear to air.
There’s no time for that now; listen, Batesian said. A din, discordian in signature, was rising…I’m sure that this is the very noise we’re after, Batesian continued. No sirens; no harpies, nor Automimics. No imposters this time.
We can’t just leave them here, said Emsleyan-Mertensian about Pouyannian and Peckhamian.
We sure can, Müllerian asserted. Peckhamian will slip out of Pouyannian eventually—when he’s had his fill on blood and muscle tissue. He carries no terminal diseases… that we know of. Pouyannian should recover shortly after.
What’s the reward if we do leave them behind, asked Wasmannian, if we locate the cacophony’s source without Pouyannian or Peckhamian?
Emsleyan-Mertensian informed, Kouros already stated this. If we find the origin of his cacophony, we will be rewarded with the golden basin.
But how are we supposed to share it, asked Wasmannian.
The same way we share you, Müllerian replied as he pantomimed a vulgar thrusting motion with his pelvis.
Don’t flatter yourself, Müllerian. I’d just close my eyes and think of horse pussy the entire time, informed Wasmannian.
Horse pussy should have been our reward, to be honest. I’d have solved this mission faster than Silenus could get his cock up a cowgirl had Kouros set us up with some fat ass Clydesdales…, Batesian exclaimed.
But what if our mission is a trap set out by Kouros to exterminate us, pondered Emsleyan-Mertensian.
Why would we be exterminated for solving a mystery? questioned Batesian.
Perhaps because one creature’s extermination is another one’s reward, Wasmannian interjected. I mean, think about it: what’s rewarding about a golden basin anyhow?
The satyroi dismissed Wasmannian’s assumptions and proceeded towards the loudening sound.
Wasmannian, I’ll tell you exactly why the rest of us covet it so, Müllerian offered. But the answer’s rolled into a curious story:
There once was an urchin, surrounded by many black-beetles, trapped and floating in a golden basin filled with rain. All throughout their time those black-beetles struggled just to keep afloat and prayed for their salvation from the golden pit. They would try many methods of escape, but all of them would fail. For as long as they’d been holed up in that gilded basin, the urchin had remained there twice as long. The urchin was submerged below the rainwater and remained so still that those black-beetles assumed no life was left in him. However, one day or night when their ever-paddling six-legs met exhaustion and their exoskeletons, fatigued, they noticed bubbles rising from the urchin carrying his laughter. Why do you laugh at our anguish, the black-beetles asked. The urchin replied, All this time I’ve been here, as you struggled to escaped and you’ve prayed up to the beetle-god, Khepera, for salvation, and you never thought to ask me if I knew of a way out of this glorious predicament…Yet, I will tell you, right now: I surely do.
Before he could say anymore, the black-beetles burst with hope—rejoicing in a synchronized swimming circle around the urchin they’d once thought was dead. But when they asked him to divulge upon the secrets of his liberating wisdom, he explained: I am but one urchin and cannot be bombarded by all of you black-beetles. If you want to know what I know as the only way out of here, you will form a line, and do as I say.
At the urchin’s command the beetles formed a straight line; however, he instructed them to face away from him. Then the first black-beetle in the line was told to face the urchin and to ask him how to leave. And the urchin replied:
Fuck me, and I’ll tell you.
And with that the urchin and the black-beetle fucked so hard that the urchin’s spines impaled the insect. As it was slowly dying, the urchin whispered the secret in its ear. With the carcass floating away from the line, the urchin exclaimed to the rest:
This one has now left our wretched place! What a way to go, like that. But never fear, black-beetles, there is indeed another way!
The black-beetles outstretched their legs, anxiously rejoicing. Then, to the next-in-line he said:
Fuck me, and I’ll tell you.
When the black-beetle desperately agreed to this, the urchin called the insect close to him, locked his mouth around its mandibles, and ravished it below the water where the oxygen could leave its blood and secrets could be whispered into tiny bubbles that would travel to its ear. And he did many vile things with each and every one of them, to similar effects, before revealing his dark secret. He was very proud of himself for using knowledge for personal gain. Every one of those black-beetles had eventually been told the urchin’s secret of escape; but their dismembered wings and their crumpled antennae, along with their bloated abdomens and broken thoraxes, began to clutter the water of the urchin’s gold domain. Finally, after much consideration, the urchin resurfaced, and exited that place for good.
Interesting story, Batesian admitted, but you never told us how the urchin managed to escape.
I’ve been waiting for one of you to ask just that, Müllerian replied.
Well…, inquired Batesian.
Then through an eat-shit grin, Müllerian replied: Fuck me, and I’ll tell you!
The cacophony, at first, presented like tinnitus—a resonance within the ear, only present in the mind. Yet symptoms of its terrible existence rendered landscapes weird. And the satyroi, they noted these symptoms as they trotted over bridges that supported them, high above the semi-conscious streams of their own ambivalence. The din—held narcotized lower lifeforms under shifting, wayward currents driven by the formless and unskilled, but nonetheless omnipotent, glissando of the strings plucked afar. Trying to follow the source of this cacophony through fields of unripe wheat and narcoleptic pastures—tipping (sleepwalking) cattle on the way—they tiptoed by the physicists whose dreams projected onto beard-like clouds as they’d dreamt of no one any longer giving any credit to the Greeks for combining scales of music which were taken from the Chinese and the Egyptians who’d taken theirs from them Hindu Indians who’d inspire Buddhist Indians to think of absence of completions. And the sound was at once meditative primitive modal and discordant (although throughout, there was an unmistakable adherence to Pythagorean theory, which was admittedly poorly utilized). They traveled on studiously, reciting the last passage of the Republic—estimating designations for the tetrachords, set out over the air tone-deafly by some untrained artist’s ears. Ascending to the platform where the demiurge’s sponsored billboard flickered: BECAUSE ANALOGY IS THE LAW OF THINGS, INFLUENCE AND HARMONY ARE AN ACCORD FOLLOWING ACCORD would not have done them any good because there wasn’t time to read it as they watched the bodies all about detune—as if radioed by the seductions of a satellite. Muses whispered in their ears within a wave of Diatonic scale; every dim-witted thing succumbed sound-struck like a chrysalis or tonic cup—the storm within was all sealed up.
Their quest brought them further from Greece than they’d realize. They paid room and board for a week at some brothel in lower Ceylon. When they were rested and back on track, an unsolvable debate began:
Would anyone take this cacophony for music, asked Wasmannian.
Well, if what you once said about reward and extermination is true, then the same could be said for art and shit, answered Emsleyan-Mertensian.
I hear that, in Etruria, Batesian added, there is a sculpture of the Dionysus made entirely of feces: insect frass for hair, serpent dung for lips, bullshit for the balls-
Point taken, you fastidious fecal finder, Müllerian interrupted. Whether this cacophony is one man’s music or another’s suicide doesn’t mean a thing to me. All that matters is that we find its origin. And we better find it fast before it puts me in a comma like those other filthy animals.
Then Wasmannian asked, but how do we find the origin of sound?
Well, offered Emsleyan-Mertensian, seven out of eleven 7-Elevens retain an ethnic tradition within the symbolism of their logo that implies that the origin of the cosmos began with—um—one sound that has been divided—uh—into seven parts that each reflects two geometrical progressions which can, possibly, perhaps, maybe, be reunited into one.
And everyone looked at him in befuddlement, shocked by this spurt of profundity.
So, if the origin of sound is sound, pondered Batesian, we’ll need to find an original sound before we can find the sound that we’ve been tracking.
But that’s ultimate crap, declared Müllerian. The origins of any sound cannot be seen or heard or even felt. What we need to track is sound’s vibration.
And the origins of vibration…? asked Wasmannian.
Motion, or the movement of things, attempted Müllerian …which can be reduced to, through the process of reductio-ad-absurdum, to-too toooooo…, he trailed off—the statement flatlining before it could even find its rhyme or reason.
However, Emsleyan-Mertensian, threw in his two-cents:
As we are in the center of the world-creation and, yet, not fully made or destroyed, the incunabula of any aspect of its nature’s most ambiguous.
Those who were still listening to Emsleyan-Mertensian were more than frustrated. Batesian no longer paid attention, fornicating on the road with various objects or plotting rape on cows in slumber.
For all the stinking set up, that went absolutely nowhere, said Müllerian.
The cacophony moved rapidly, in intervals, hypnotizing consciousness and drawing out a swarm of ghosts. They followed it to water’s edge, hopped a freighter to the docks of Singapore—taking up an R&R in Geylang red-light district, making like necrophiles on the narcoleptic whores. They felt the power of the gong; they traced the names of all the sixty lü and waded in the water by the wood with one foot on the earth and one hand in the fire, forging metal of wǔxíng—the elemental movements in the cycle of the fifths. (As Roman as they were in Rome) In China they appropriated the Chinese in hopes of finding the cacophony—ignoring polyphony and perusing leads, only cyclical, to transposition. But all that Sima Qian, Prefect of Grand Scribes, could send them out with was: the sound of it is inconsiderately executed.
They proceeded down a road where rhythmic change and temperate shifts were noted. They walked into the shadows between the peach orchards whose roots anchored into anything that destiny could manifest and, tracing with the eye, peered deep into the labyrinthine grooves of the peach-pit—taken from its sweet-flesh and exposed—and up at the sky passed its pale blue into the strata like transparent bone sucked on by the contrast of space and looking back down, to walk to the beat of the drum, no longer following the trail of the atonal sound they sought, into the African jungles—observing the dual-dogs at the crossroads both fucking and tearing into each other’s furred throats while symbolizing the Yerba’s Elegua in all his duplicity—under the iridescent scaled wings and the blackfooted black-beaks with their sleek blue feathers and alongside vast protective walls armed with floodlights, watchtowers, turrets that ensured all monsters of god be held within and steering clear and away from the human shades who moved through the wilderness, veraciously, under signs of obscurity and confusion and passed kiosks of summer’s profit, collie weed dried fish and palm wine, not too far from the autumnal corridors of molting trees or dilapidating hallways which lead to all of the ways which pulled the soul out to its end and through the window before the body could reach it beside the cliffs, in winter, where the foam and brine would freeze and crash before they separated from the wave and beyond the loin-dogs going flaccid by the moldy sinkholes—beyond dormancy—only to continue over cracks of superstition in paved walks and over broken shapes, living but unfinished products, across cataracts and carapaces, through well-established neighborhoods, colonialist-infested ports, overpopulated deserts and out from several layers of variegated media, then, back into the shadows, evading daybreak, yet cut by the light gaining heat, they traveled. And the drum, not to be confused with the cacophony, continued—at first, mimicking the heartbeat, then the sunrays of a billion pulsing eyes—mimicking the heart again and changing it to match its ever-building power.
Their hearts were beating through their chests, and, consequentially, they desired to make mischief and commotion. And it seemed that nothing could control them as they surfed a river’s vein into the heart of darkness, sprayed their pheromones along the buttresses of Kisantu Cathedral, stole sweetbreads from the narrow alleyways of Kano’s Kurmi Market, smeared their semen on the sacred grove of Oshun-Oshogbo, and satirized orishas. They were somewhere in the Congo or Nigeria—far outside the realms of Pliny’s wisdom or Herodotus’ fabrication. Everything, at present, was a prehistoric world.
And yet, they trudged through the obscurity to search the charnel grounds of India—but mostly fornicating by the pyres with the ganas, goblins, ghosts, and ghouls. Meanwhile, one of them decided not to do what all the others did and went against the grain. Singing out a song on scrolls of Sanskrit, Wasmannian, alone, evoked the raga Deepak (mode-of-fire of the celebrated Naik Gopal). It was a mode which, when performed correctly, heated one’s entire body, sublimating one’s desires. Yet, Wasmannian was dragged away by kin and comrade, Emsleyan-Mertensian, before he or anyone could witness the power and consequence of its faulty execution. Wasmannian’s interpretation almost cooked him where he’d sung it. Despite his incorrect performance of the mode, it helped to heighten his awareness. He began to understand that someplace deep inside of him was now retuned and changed forever from his satyr-kin.
Eventually, they returned to Greece. Athens was a graveyard of abandoned cars and graffiti-ridden fascist slums and institutions. Unconscious static energies of animals were slowly sinking, slumping as they passed by ghettos, zoos, and kennels. Per auricle, per space, per time and timing’s number, lives were drowned into a moving slumber like a death. Displacement and reconstitution could be witnessed in the cemeteries: where masses of the living-dead arose in riotous repose for cosmical data’s dislocation by the Genus, Diatonic. For every scale in Greece was hyperboleon or diezengmenon (in Nete, Paranete, or Trite), Paramesa/Mesa, meson or hypaton (in Lichanos, Parypate, or Hypate), or Proslambanomenos played in error. And they dodged the rolling of Boëthius and the music critic al-Fārābī, also rolling, in respective dusty graves. And they relieved themselves in orifices of Untouchables who’d lay in trance, mouths-open, as the cacophony droned on—expanding out beyond the regions like the music of an infant god at play.
Maybe Erik the Phantom is its origin, Wasmannian pondered.
What origin, asked Müllerian.
And who’s Erik the Phantom? asked Batesian.
Erik the Phantom is the Phantom of the Opera—a known cacophony-maker, informed Emsleyan-Mertensian.
Emsleyan-Mertensian, your moving mouth forms more suitable space for a scabrous dick, than it does for your words, scolded Müllerian. Then he corrected, The Phantom of the Opera isn’t real—the real Phantom of the Opera is Iannis Xenakis. After that mortar ripped off half his face in World-War-Two, his music blossomed most deranged.
You, Müllerian, are but a gristle-bearing gloryhole to Scythia. Indeed, Xenakis’s ‘Tétras’ reflects the very stalemate of nature and organization. But how can Iannis Xenakis be ‘the real’, if he emulates a person, Erik of the Opera, who is not? Emsleyan-Mertensian retorted.
Before Müllerian could strike Emsleyan-Mertensian’s skull with a running punch, the others burst into a laughter that spread. Their laughter deterred them from squabbles and carried them onward for some uncalculated stretch of time and distance until they came to the place where Pouyannian and Peckhamian had long been waiting.
Just got back from Oxyrhnchus2; think we’ve found it out, Pouyannian exclaimed.
Peckhamian, the parasite, peaked its head out from Pouyannian’s still-livid wound. It presented a fragmentary papyrus held between its teeth.
This busted satyr play by Sophocles precedes our lives, Pouyannian explained. Our story’s long been told, but its ending’s lost to time.
Probably ends with some deus ex machina, anyhow, said Emsleyan-Mertensian.
Fuck it all then, shrugged Wasmannian, who, then, took off from the pack alone—dissolving into the distance, never looking back.
Müllerian, Batesian, Emsleyan-Mertensian, Puyannian, and Peckhamian together shrugged. And then, they plugged their ears with earth, drowning out the din, deciding to abort their mission, and, instead, to take advantage of what’d been affected by the music’s maledictions and proceeded to fuck it all.
ELYTRON FRASS is an author/artist/outsider hybridizing works for gnOmebooks, 3:AM Magazine, Burning House Press, Creeper Magazine, Tarpaulin Sky Magazine, SCAB Magazine, Sleepingfish ∞, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Expat Press, Parasol: The Journal of the Centre for Experimental Ontology, Et al. Tweets at https://twitter.com/Elytron_Frass