Stories

Tar Plus Empire – Rachel Lilim

1

So RAW so PURE the sky a bleached great dying, GODSPIT burning away your shell, EMPIRE broken tooth howling a static constant in your ears, you slip back three nights, SHE’s putting out HER tar+ cigs on your pale armflesh and you’re coming on HER thigh, SHE’s inhaling your shaking breath, SHE’s glowing burnhot against your skin, SHE’s phosphorescent gore strewn around you, black sands drink HER greedy, unashamed, an ANGEL advancing, see yourself in cruel mirror filled sockets, its six tongues scenting air. Your hands clumsy slop covering yourself in EMPIRE’s remains, sticky hot on your face, a vital iron scent camouflage. The ANGEL’s bubble pink tongues writheknot in confusion as its quarry disappears, brassthroat howl cracks ribs, bursts capillaries; blood trickles from pierced ears, pierced nostrils, down back of ragged throat, mingle loving with hers, slip

2

Through carved alleys of night flesh you’re fleeing, still wearing EMPIRE’s gore, a dried flaking talisman, HER backup pressing against breast, neon breaking anemic against skin, a collection of pauses: vomiting against cinder breezeblocks, shaky pulls from HER cigarettes, lichen scrawled awnings; taste of HER lungs, leaving tar smeared on chewed lips. Drawn back to the night you met HER- “moved here a couple weeks ago, can’t stand this pussy shit” EMPIRE grinding your cigarette beneath HER boot and clattering back into the station, emerging triumphant with a sticky black box, “tar plus” SHE grins, sharp onyx teeth glinting, you flush silent, holding out your lighter, watch it disappearing into HER coat before the first draw, the cherry seeming to absorb the sick fly filled fluorescence. your mouth opening to ask a question, EMPIRE stopping your tongue with two fingers, holding your eyes in HERS, exhaling smoke into your face. “You like that don’t you?”

3

EYES, CLOUDY OPALS, YOUR NAME CARVED SUBCORONAL, COME DARTING OUT OF SILVERED EYELIDS / A SUBBASEMENT LIES BENEATH CLOUD SHATTERED TENEMENT /SEE A WORLD OF INK VEINED OUTLINES, A MADNESS OF PLANES, EACH ONE A RAZOR WIRE SKELETON / EACH SCRATCHING THE LENGTH OF OPTIC NERVE / AND THERE / CAUGHT ON FRANTIC PAINED SWIVEL / A DOT OF LIGHT THAT PIERCES LIKE HOLY ICE / SO FAR TO OASIS / SO FAR TO YOU

4

You’re crashing, a staggered bloody form you’re marked, the silver bullet hangs, nervous shuffles, shutters crashing down, winding through streets, need your safehouse, need dosage, need to exhume EMPIRE from the blood caked spiral digging into your collarbone. Sitting together on the deck of a penthouse pre- furnished with a corpse in the ceramic clawfoot. Watching a CHERUB weavesifting the WROTHE, skyscraper stiletto needle-work, churning concrete, corpseflesh. “Are you ever going to tell me how you afford this view?” You’re regretting the question as soon as it begins crawling past your lips. See EMPIRE smiling at the shake in your voice, a wedge of deep space gaping below HER eyes. SHE’s a collection of angel honed planes and cruel meetings of harsh forms, sparkling in the white sunlight. “I can show you.” Rising, striding through the frost glass doors, EMPIRE cleaves the air around HER.

 

5

Groove worn concrete cradles your shaky form as you follow some lower instinct towards safety, EMPIRE pulsing at your breast. Hazy signs at dawn, streets filling with particulated rushing – bystanders, witnesses, informants? No way to be sure. Their weary eyes graze across you, adding brutal gravity. Something’s been set loose after you, you’re sure of that, and panic laps at your lungs, shallow gasp breaths growing frantic. Full hyperventilation dawns as you near your destination, burst chiming through the door of a overstuffed grocery; chain smoke, incense, acrid herbs, fresh butchered blood. Into the storage room trailing stares, to the very back where the door EMPIRE showed you lies hidden. Key in the passcode, trembling fingers, creak the door open. Sterile dust caught light invades your lungs. “I don’t usually show my toys this” EMPIRE’s slim fingers removing a case from HER desk, “but you’re such a good girl.” The light through the glass door’s rapid oxidation. Champagne bucket sweating on the table, a steady dripping. EMPIRE opening the case, eyes filled with pride. Gold glimmering pills in translucent red baggies float up softly into the air, cut prayer flags, petals. The warmth of your hand covering your mouth in shock. EMPIRE deftly plucking the escaping packets from the air, returning them to their imprisonment. “Thought about hooking you on this shit” SHE eyes you, mirrored irises shimmering, then turns to return the case to its drawer.“you didn’t need any encouragement though did you?”

6

Desperate shuffling through the bolthole clutter. Your hands excavating layers of trash and discarded papers, plans lost, find one soft glowing pill, tracheal scrape as you hurriedly dry swallow, continue searching. You find a Rolodex of numbers, EMPIRE’s scrawling hand, nothing for the backup though, but forget that, there’s another crimson bag in the drawers with five more pills, can see it through the cheap wood as the ICHOR takes effect, could see it through your eyelids, through concrete, and it disappears thrumming into your pocket as you stuff a torn bag with exhumations: loose cash, probably burnt ID papers, the few cards you can find without tracers; bullets, silver and lead; a cold heavy handgun, tar plus cigarettes, both EMPIRES. You leave without a parting look once prepared, already feel the ICHOR spinning down ragged filaments. You know where you’re going. Bass fills the cavernous warehouse, fills your insides, shook near to jelly by the ride here, arms wrapped around EMPIRE’s sharp form. You’re on the outskirts here, the edge, dangerous, you can see the warp of the far wall, even through the smoke. This is where the wild shit happens SHE said, “damn psycho shit, where I met Spira, nearly fucking died, choice shit” not comforting, but you don’t mention it. SHE’s razor harp strung thrumming tension, powder graced nostrils, quick bitten nails. if SHE snapped she’d cut you clean in half.

You’d thank HER.

7

Heading towards the Club, first time since that night. Feel the ICHOR coursecrush through you. ANGEL BLOOD SNAPPING VEINS WOULD TASTE SO SWEET. Not your thoughts. Always forgetting that. OASIS OASIS OASIS. Need to shut THE CONNECTION. Staggering, concrete brushing shoulder. Close it but you see the stares. Know the light shining behind your eyes will draw attention. And still that bullet hangs. It’s rushing towards you. EMPIRE warned you. Should have died with her on the sands. Spira a subtle flickering through the mass of bodies. Caught in frames ever closer, till she’s beside you, her lips on EMPIRE’s neck. No introductions. Feel jealousy acid burn below your lungs. EMPIRE sees it. Smiles. Spiras leading you through the pulsing bodies. Just a bit ahead of you and EMPIRE when-

8

Ears pop as NEEDLE cleaves trench through ecstatic sweating bodies

You don’t see a thing, but it leaves taffy flesh spiderwebbed behind it, worshippers unwilling recreate its form

CHERUB GLIMPSE

A second passes, gasping Then

[Sails of lacy thin tendon fluttering

Panic courses

Its motion is flowing and constant

Then

calcified structures well oiled and precise

It’s inside your eyes

It blossoms in/out, a holy cigarette pressed into film]

Darkness

9

Through wreckage scrambling carelessly, towards the WROTHE, towards the demarcation, feel EMPIRE steady pulse in your pack slowly growing more frantic, SHE doesn’t want to return. Wake to Spiras’ hand cast in tones of flashing ruby, fractal spun by the CHERUB’s needle, a sob beside you not registering, a: cavalcade of blood washed light across a room of bodies spun woven together- writhing- a speaker still flutters limply across the club. In the middle of the dance floor see GOD’s newest ALTAR. Flesh livid coral architecture, arms spread to winged arches, thrumming tendons. They worship joyfully.

10

IT MOVES SLICK THROUGH SHADOW PIPES THAT PIERCE THE AIR. NO STOPS / DIRECT TRANSIT. IT SEES YOU MONTHS AGO IN A CLUB PULLED APART BY GOD’s HANDS MADE MANIFEST. IT PEERS THROUGH HER EYES. IT WEARS SUITS OF TAILORED SPOOK FLESH / FITS MANY HANDS AROUND YOUR NECK TO FEEL YOUR HUMMING PULSE. ONCE LOOSED IT SPINS OUT ALONG THE CITY’s VEINS A COLLECTION OF CROOKED WINGS. IT TASTES YOU GREEDILY. THEN IT SPEAKS IN HER VOICE. OASIS CONTACT.

11

Pass through bruise haunted air. The sky a caesarean saintly pale bleeding across canvas. Rustle of loose pamphlets in gutters. Everything seems different. Record stopped, GOD’s breath caught in lungs. Come up come up come up. Shadows pull into themselves. Passersby trailing diesel phantoms, thick rainbow pollution. A half moon appears in a darkened doorframe beside you. You notice this disinterestedly. It separates into grinning teeth and asks you a question. “Why the fuck didn’t you do something” It’s EMPIRE’s voice that drips off the floating tongue that appears. You remember it in its speaking, dragging HER out of the chaos of the cloven club, her half mad, you struggling to maintain some sense of reality. The teeth are followed by more teeth. Too many tongues. Too many hands. It speaks again. “This is your fault this is all your fault” you didn’t argue then. You don’t argue now. You just run. Moving panicked through the neon gloss coated streets, lights in the sky, the hulking mass of the CHERUB somewhere behind you, feel it at your back.

12

Tracing that frantic night in reverse now, crawling up your shadow. Feel It keeping pace, ducking out of the shadowed eyes of lounging workers, silvered tongue darting from smoke obscured sockets, scenting you. Finally you reach your destination, your passage. The Club is a holy place now, and like all holy sites it draws worshippers, strung out on grace. Forms wrapped in designer rags gathered from the victims/anointed. The ALTAR still breathes torturous. Spira is still in there somewhere. You give it a wide berth, moving towards the opposite side, through a gaping hole in the wall, brushing past tarps and you’re there. Still much less than safe. Feel It at your back as you emerge into the sun. Collapsing together in the bolthole, EMPIRE shaking in your arms, disentangle what looks like a snowflake from HER hair: one of Spiras’ Fingernails.

The frame skips, something lurks between the panes of memory The line’s tapped, though you can’t hear the breathing

EMPIRE blossoms on the couch {this didn’t happen this didn’t happen} It emerges from her splayed form {this didn’t happen this didn’t happen} A chorus of voices buzz from Its lips “YOU LIKE THIS DONT YOU”

Tearing yourself outward the frame dissolves, look around you-

13

Gaping broken toothed storefronts.

Melt-sutured concrete faces, desperation sparkles in the morning sun.

A palm inset mouth begs a cigarette, arms wrapped thrice around hollow ink scrawled

chest. The windowed canopy above you raining glass. The WROTHE: Dissected streets cauterized by ANGELlight

Stitch-mad tenements rejectiongrafted together to slake GOD’s eternal

thirst

Concrete howls, reverberates through fractal-spun bones

This is where SHE was born.

This is where GOD’s cum licked raw to soot HER mothers womb.

Light dissected by grating above you/shredded by

the intermix of rubber intestinepiping, drips electric People live here, their graffiti, the sticker flesh moulded along with the

streetlights

Feel a shiver pass beneath your feet, a CHERUB works god’s will nearby.