Stories

The AF Collective’s Poison Path [excerpt] – Emanuel Mango

She Who Rides the Beast

 

        So out of himself, Hemlock returns home – more like he roams the streets trying not to return home and think – kicking cigarette butts under flashes of the distant lighthouse. He smells the whales rotting while new batches arrive, some still opening and closing their mouths as if gasping for air. Suicidal giants forcefully transplanted. There are some people about, a group of random guys drinking on the beach, the occasional poor person trying to sleep, a seemingly drunk one wearing a furry suit; possibly someone who got fired from a cheap job, those that need costumes on the street.

        The wind gushes strong. The scenario almost looks like it’s falling apart at the seams. Besides the wind, the guys, poor people, the occasional prostitute, etc., there is silence – and the wind getting stronger – and the whales. Dolphins sneer and cry in the distance, in the sea. The waves strike violent over the rocks. A bird dies midair, disappearing after a diagonal fall with a silent splash. He carelessly scrapes off the flaky skin of his nose.

        She seems unreal. More of a character than a person, maybe not even that – a caricature. You know when you feel that almost sexual desire, a curiosity, for a vague old painting with naked women in it, not for the painting, for the ladies. It is almost pornographic. It is in their eyes, their ecstatic gaze in-between life and death. They seem as alive as they are not, as they cannot. And you feel all the more attracted to them for that. That is how she looks. Her red hair looks like it’s burning, and it awakens a weak flame in a heart. But that is not mine. Mine is numb, it beats all the same. Her flaming hair looking like floating octopus arms. The red lips. That red blushing brushed against fading lights, the red bruising on the sides; now all contaminated yellow below a harvest moon. Sickly scythe slithering in cold—

        — Oi! — And he comes back to his senses.

        The woman, dressed tentatively, approaches Hemlock, — Olá. — That flatly refuses her “No thanks.” She talks eccentric, mimicking different characters with her hands. Pleasant and charismatic, and we don’t even know if she is really a prostitute. Or a she. “You can speak English?!” The cold whistling muffles over the damp walls erect as fortresses – softly palpating the insides of her naked thighs against the edges of her skirt. Her skin all prickled as she hears his voice echo. Her hair gives away the glister of a broken earring she clearly tried to patch with so much care. “What’s that, some allergy or something?”

        Eschew forced pathos. He thinks. But not quite like this. Something shoved in your face, into it, like a cheap porn’s not-even-big dick to a random prostitute obviously drugged and totally out of it. Instead, run from it. Be the most virginal and chaste you can – don’t even just wait for the perfect something, but actively try to disregard it, ignore it, not even pay attention. Block it. When it finally comes, it will catch you, and you will try to run again, but no matter how much you try, it will make you come harder than Sade’s protags, harder than a Christian teenager masturbating for the first time in a public place. What is true holds you down, shackled, for a full penetration. It reveals itself joyfully faking to run away, like some ancient nymph, and when you get it by surprise from behind, laughing and kidding, by its sweet little butt, too late. It wasn’t a surprise at all. You’re trapped. Weirdly, you like it; it makes your lust for it. But you still need escape.

        She tries to chat, walking beside him, in a way resembling that scene in that movie, and gives him a card – the irony of this. The extended card reflects the silver light of the moon over his left eye as she slowly opens a yellowish-fortified French smile, whispering what forms nothing to be remembered. The wind continues slapping her face when she tries it again. “Where are you going this time of a weekday?” Seeming genuinely curious and somewhat caring, in a tone embodied by empathy, what must be encoded in her routine by now, part of her theater, and repetitious ups and downs. Pauses and trembling of lips that acquiesce the air,  Hemlock  seems  to  possess  that  manner  and  appearance somewhere between  crybaby  badboy  and  angelic  Greek  ephebos   people,  more  generally  older women, tend to feel sort of an attraction fueled by chance, contingent between lucky desire and wholesome big-sister complex. Even his reddish-pink cheeks and nose are seemingly adorable.

        As she fails to catch his eye or get another answer, she decides to follow him a while, slowly clacking the lanky high-hells over the holey ceramic floor, in a patternedcrisp zigzag. The men kick cigarette butts off the sand. Whales mourn their young and old in chorus.

        “Wait. It’s so cold today. It’s usually so hot – but today is so cold.” As eyes follow their path, tracing the strong scent yanked by the fast soaring wind that whistles along.

        He does not feel cold, at all. He does not even remember how it is to feel cold outdoors. The random guy, when being ignored by her, begins to talk shit about her and Hemlock, necessarily feeling emasculated. She ignores it, until he throws a rock at her, at her feet. The rock, more sand than rock, breaks apart before hitting her. Pebbles disperse against  the  winds,  making  little  scattered  noise.  The  woman  looks  over  her  back  at Hemlock, he does the same. They stare at each other for a second, without stopping.

        The man, jokingly with his friends, continues. Some sick coughs can be heard in the distance: poor people slowly dying on the cold streets. Maresia roughs their skin and cracks their bleeding lips. Nature punishes them by pouring salt over their already hurting open wounds.

        Let’s not make those drunk guys just caricatures. He keeps thinking. Maybe in this fight, when they are losing, they can reveal more humanity. Trying to draw a boundary around  life.  Yet,  somehow,  I  disagree  with  this  “realist”  approach   that  there  is  a difference between character and caricature.  It is a mistake. Mild realism, mimicking, Hemingwayesque iceberg theory is most of the time boring, and although it has its place, it only achieves its true potential through some non-realism like in Lynch movies. Fiction that imitates life limits itself, it should be the other way around – language can be magical enough to shape our reality – “lie until it becomes true.” Isn’t it? So this “humanity reveal” is for the sake of making a point of violence, “even if they are human, maybe we should just fuck them up, like they want to do with us anyway…” Even if they are characters, it doesn’t excuse them acting like caricatures. For that woman, or person for all purposes a minority right now, they are caricatures, and violent, sneeringly patriarchal ones at that. Yeah, I don’t know.

        She begins to walk faster. The man begins to follow her. And, when she walks even faster, the other men also begin to charge.Hemlock continues the mute soliloquy. Another beast quietly in-comes – afraid of the spiking crime rates, but still louder than the whales –, a car, that passes by illuminating the trash over the already receding “new” concrete. Yes, a car passes by, and the woman asks for help, with weakened voice, but it doesn’t even bother to listen, or stop, not even lower one window. In fact, it accelerates. He thinks it the perfect metaphor, or the negation of the very concept of metaphor.

        The man does not like this: he also goes faster. The woman almost screams for the help of a random catatonic hobo trying to sleep on a bench. He ignores it, almost running away. She tries to cross the street asking for the help of anyone as other hobos appear when the lighthouse strikes over the shadows across the street, innumerous, cluttered like bat-eyes waiting for something. Lurking. Not one tries to help her. They just watch. Maybe each of those heads is in a torrent of thoughts and self-justifications, just like Hemlock. Maybe they are so worn out the blank gaze is all there is left.

        As everyone rushes faster, Hemlock stops. Everyone has their motives. People are just doing what they can. And what am I doing, like those people in the back, but there’s a difference – between doing nothing and waiting. Wait my time, not waste energy… and then blackout whenever the chance appears. Questions that lead into others, blinded, rusty, and what about choosing – if you wait too much will chance give the answer, or you – and where does you and ‘everything else’ begin anyway, or end. Thinking is a doing. Doing nothing is doing something, consciously; maybe the purest form of it. If you can hold-up and just control yourself, which requires more skill than letting go, learn to listen right… everything does it already, the thing is to invent new ways of doing so.

        The woman becomes as afraid of the hobos, maybe even more so. She stops mid crossing wishing for a car to trample her by, finishing it before worse happens – if she’s going to die anyways… when the furry-person explodes out of nowhere in a jump, dispersing the shadows when striking the nape of one of the guys with a rod.

        It cuts, but not deep enough. He tries to put up a fight, but it’s many against one, and while they hold the furry back one of them catch the woman from behind, that screams from the scare, kicking the air. It’s not as beautiful as he described, Ovid lied to me – a lie that didn’t become true, that could never do so, for the sake of beauty itself, that would lose its color had this scene been ever deemed beautiful. Not even as art is this redeemable.

        It’s when Hemlock had enough. The eyes behind his head close. Something surges over him, as if someone else assumed control, or a link was established. He assumes a cat-like position to a jump. He is truly a shounen protagonist.

        With a high-speed punch, as if teleporting suddenly he smacks a face on the pavement. It crackles loudly as the furry-suited guy screams – one of them bashed him with something, and from behind – a thunder, no, some other light, flashes as if some tourist god were taking a picture of that bizarre but good footage that could as easily become viral and turn meme material. And he’s out cold, blood foaming over patches of fur, splattering the still hot black canvas and cold blank faces. The dirty-poor across the street, as if in another world, see nothing, trapped under the moon’s spell they congeal together to form one single formless titan, but so soon as a face begins to show, they revert back to a multitude of shadows, and the loop resumes, again. He rises from crouching down, the same glister reflecting  his  soaked  body,  fear,  anxiety,  excitement.  Everything  illuminated  inside enlarged pupils. You look like an animal, Hemlock. You look the coolest right now.

        When something brings it all back to the beginning, time stops and something else comes back when it resumes.

        As time returns, she runs to his side, and a bolt of black lightning booms from the other. First only mentioned by the scant corner of Hemlock’s awareness, jumping high, glowing hardened whiteness drooling everywhere, it is his friend, and as he sinks in the soft laziness of one of them, as out of nowhere, his little body twirls in the air, dancing over the screams of an unwanted partner.

        — Porra! — He screams. — Tira isso daqui!

        Hemlock is ecstatic. He had too much accumulated inside. He did not know the power of his inaction. That it is not in itself, but to a goal, a flooding of crystallized will. Caralho, it’s like No-Nut November. This was it, as he smashed a skull into the ground, as another hand punched his back so desperately; he found it hard to contain the flood in his guts. Like that movie. Did he even eat today?

        A foot on his back puts him prostrated, defenseless lying on his stomach. It is when she, regaining her power through his pain, returns with a dash of legs scraping black off the floor, slashing open the unkissed cheek of an assaulter with the sharp tip of her six-inch heel. Her toned muscles irrupt in flashes of sweat pouring randomly as her mouth opens to a full show of teeth. Vampire-like canines enchant before they cower in blissful agony, titillation makes them shiver under trembling lips. If only one could enter her thoughts now, it would surely provide valuable data. After the initial shock she begins to get the gist of it, her legs warming-up to the upcoming performance. Pain stops hurting, backing into the corner, and the restlessness of the days’ worries get converted into energy. Who would guess some unwanted Zumba sessions that one goes to fit in an alien culture could be used for this? Now she might patent it – maybe it could work someplace without native martial arts, where no one knows of self-defense… yeah, where even in legendary ancient times warriors fought sloppily and undisciplined. Preferentially somewhere people actually speak English for a change. What is that? The furry guy passed out on the ground, bloodied, lying on his back. A lute can almost be heard in the distance. Despair becomes joy, dumb hope fades away in the background as vision manifests in what slowly turns into center of the night. Even the clouds open space for the light to shine through. And this happens to be a defense of the body, of action, of a needed disruption in a sea of thoughts coagulating over each other, growing in his head and evaporating from it to become a forming external tumor that fully detaches itself floating away. He thinks so much he breaks his own system. Now, with it floating far away, after the burst, tired, beat to a pulp on the ground, clarity finally comes, as it always does when you’re exhausted, and acts upon his body and shows what’s up.

        He looked up, and glowing purple on the moon’s surface danced a growing spot, and thought he heard something like a small dinosaur learning to roar, or a very old big cat, a lion, maybe a jaguar. If a lion, what color could be his mane? If a jaguar, then a dotted one? What weird combination of colors would it have, purple and green, negative and positive like an orientalist albino tiger. But a jaguar, on the moon? Unlike the alchemical green beast that gobbled the sun, this one just stared intently; resigned on the moon, exploring, curious. Even if it was impossible to see its eyes, or even know that it was a jaguar – or anything at all -, he knew – he just did – from down the reddening street, face down, drowning in his own residues, tired to a pulp on the ground; moments before the even darker black spilled over the black asphalt. It was the same alien that smiled to him the day he was born, “you are one of mine, you are just so tiny, though”, not even trying to hide its jubilant tail that whipped the air like a comet charged with electricity and plasma exploding inside; each calm strike mannered to leave a trail of glistering cosmic dust. Its proud mane –  so it was a lion! – shone full of pulsars, but formless as a cluster of superclusters, quasars overlapped in its eyes, whole galaxies inside. Its dots – so it was a jaguar?! – each one a black hole, spiraled along its axis to charge to a changing of colors, becoming what seemed like white holes, and they could as well be wormholes had one courage to touch them to the test. Is that. . . my spirit animal?

        — Tempestade! The men scream upon hearing a thunder, thing that Hemlock, coming back to his senses and to the narrative focus, understands as the roaring of his Lion- Jaguar.

        Looking at her now from below as she stands open-legged above, she is burning too. From her height, she smiles at a beaten-up face. Smiling back, congealed blood falling in-between yellow teeth through a rosy chin, she is using no underwear. No, wait. It’s a beige-colored one, with little pink hearts all over. Now she lost her voice completely. She doesn’t need it anymore, not with those legs.

        The  place  darkens  when  multiple lights  strike  from  below,  maybe  some  event happening somewhere close. The moon hides again, passing one last time over the trail of blood in its path. Over all despair, perfectly over the hope, in full equilibrium, they both begin to  laugh, naturally.  The men  all  dissolve into  the ground,  no  wait,  that  is  just Hemlock passing out.

        After the fight is over, when Hemlock returns to his senses, did it even really happen? Hemlock meditates: Seeing he lay there, “is this it?”, bloodied, motionless, unable to see his face lying down over the pavement, “how He became It”, almost feeling sorry for him – “just like that.” He could only imagine that same potato sack haunting his shadows the whole day, void eye-sockets, nothing inside, but blood coming out regardless of the flesh to bleed it. He imagined his body reverting back through time until becoming baby- like again, a crippled child too weak to live, all the vapors of his breath hurting on the way out, a dry mouth that could not eat its share. He saw himself in the soaked curls of his hair. He, it, looked like a useless sacrifice, a slain lamb in the midst of a true hecatomb, a fawn aborted by nature still pending from the mother’s bottom. Another failed Jonas, he died before the swallowing, he died at sea, alone, could not swim, legs too weak, lungs too atrophied, fatalist mindset, improper breathing. Not even the fish came to the rescue, or to end his suffering. Sobering up was too much, died drunk. Could not float, bones too dense, too of-the-earth. The sea a boundless coffin, died still at surface, body half inside, slowly seeping in. Died like a rabbit dies of shock. Not even the waves want him, they spit him back. Not even his mother could cry for this guy anymore.

        Yep, and they need to do something about the body (or bodies). So, the woman’s idea is to put it inside the whale’s mouth too shocked to think of anything else. The poor people are not a problem, they think, they’re virtually mute – and blind. Some of them go over the whales to get chunks of still-good meat, to try and eat with a bit of coconut juice that others are trying to get from over the trees (risking their lives).

        But the other guys are also waking up (the ones still alive). Instinctively, his mouth begins to move by itself as his legs turn around to face them.

        Hemlock to the guy after waking up: “I’m so tired of you needy motherfuckers. Do you want to stop underachieving and whining? To get satisfied with your life for once, so you won’t need to scream for attention anymore? Hold yourself, get over yourself you premature ejaculation fuck, let it build up, all the rage, the desire for more, the overwhelming sadness, fucking lock yourself in your room – do not clean it! – and begin to plot your escape when the stench gets too much and the whole shit becomes unbearable, because that is your life right now. So stop wallowing in your own shit, cum, sweat and tears and just do it! And if you tell anyone about this, you will go down with me. There is only one prison here, and I can get crazy sometimes.”

        But they couldn’t understand anything but their own fear. That was enough. The cadence in his voice was enough for the message to get across, since nowadays it’s about how you say it, not what is said, and he said it just right.

        So, why not throw it into the sea? Maybe what is clean should not be tarnished. What is putrid deserves a rotting casket. Yet, this is only me lying to myself. There is no clean water. “Why, then, do I do this?”

        “Do what?”

        “The ode to the food: you died in such dumb a way as you lived. Probably no one other than your poor mom, blessed be the angel who raised you on her own, working two jobs to feed you, will miss you, and all that feeding stuffed you to become dead-whale’s supper, you won’t even be tasted. And you will leave no heir upon this Earth – that you know of. Still, we would like to think you could get better as a person, with lots of help, patience, and time. We took that from you. That is the only useful thing you have ever done, other than masturbate all day not to pollute the world with your wretched seed. For that, we thank you. Farewell, and that not even the worms might digest your body, and that your bones may never find the proper burial of a human being, nor the vultures to recycle your flesh. Now go and be forever damned to the salted embrace of underwater hell.”and he goes on to do his a drink to death, a drink to that” phrase, drinking a cup of salt water from the sea washing upon the shore, using his hand “I drink the tears of our common mother, she cries for you as she cries for me, she cries as your human mother won’t, as I cannot” The girl finds this super weird, but does the same.

        “And who are you?”

        “Me, who are you?”

        “I’m Hemlock.”

        Then she, probably thinking it a joke – probably better if we don’t know each other or how to find each other – answers. “Call me Hecate, then.”

        They spend the in-between in silence. The others all ran away for some time now, and the furry guy still lies unconscious, but they checked for life-signs and took him from the middle of the road. The still-pumping adrenaline makes them strong enough to open a random whale’s mouth. He the arms, she the legs.

        “Careful. It might explode.”

        “What?! Whales explode?”

        “Google it later. If you are fortunate enough not to see it first-person.”

        “Natural bombs then…” And he knew she was a weirdo like himself, even though he did not know what a weirdo was yet.

        “If we were in the UK, we would’ve been unlawfully messing with the crown’s property right now. Any cetacean to wash up on the beach is rightfully the queen’s.”

        “That is literally retarded.”

        “You shouldn’t say that.”

        “Retarded as in ‘the laws should be changed, as it stands it is ancient, and progress gets retarded, and continues so by the overlooking of these problems…’.”

        “Oh, ok.”

        “So how did you learn English?”

        “Why do you think I learned second-hand and not natively?”

        “The way you talk. Not the accent, the words themselves… very… eclectic, kind of formal with some 2000s TV thrown in.”

        “I’ve traveled the world amassing many variants into one version of my own.”

        “Liar.”

        “Lying, but alive.”

        “What?”

        “When I lie, it’s for a night. Now this guy here is dead, that is his truth, and when the sun rises he will continue to be so.”

        “Not following much…”

        “That’s what truth is good for. You only stop lying when you die, in the eternal lying in the physical sense. If you can help it, do not tell the truth – it will be your only truth when you die, so do not waste away your power to lie while you can.”

        “Profound, are you a philosopher major or something.”

        “More like bred to be a preacher. The hope of my birth was that I could someday become a bishop? Maybe even a cardinal, imagine that joy.”

        “And will you?”

        “Fuck off.”

 

TimeTraveling Prostitute

 

        Right now, I have an… I cannot do anything other than feel this, everything I do is corrupted by this feeling, my heart sings – screeches, screams – a song of the Beyond, of the pain, as my tongue slivers droll that, instead of hitting the floor, turns around my neck coiling its way inside the apples of my eyes hissing their way open, dilating more and more to an… to a nowhere – where is she now? I look for her into whatever these dry holes happen to miss – she is gone, again, again it’s just me. She’s gone and that’s all I have, all there is to it. “It’s all about measure.” But she is not here.

        Do you know when you have an idea, or you think you are getting one – you even get all-ready to churn it out, but then you have to run to the bathroom and that’s it, your idea happened, flushed somewhere down the toilet. Happens to everyone.But what if someone told you your “idea” really was an idea, just not one that got to the brain, but that nevertheless was wombed somewhere else, and that this very idea, this shit-baby, is somewhere in the world still making some difference to something, or at least existing, if anything else.

        I don’t know who I am, but something tells me I may be one of those shit-ideas that escaped through the gutters. Or maybe not – escaped, that is.

        I not only do not know who I am as I also do not know what I am. And I not only do not know that as I also don’t think I care to.

        And I not only do not know who or what I am, nor would care to, as I do not know my smell. That is something one could easily imagine shit-like or shit-covered. But not knowing one’s own smell makes one hollow in a world too-stuffed with things and smells and I’s and thems. I only know her smell, a strong – but subtle – odor that is always changing yet the same, somehow. Picture that sudden ooze purveying the room when someone enters after unknowingly catching shit under the shoe and closing the door, or that similar animal-covered-in-shit smell but coming from an abandoned puppy – now it’s a good smell.

        Her smell is always the same, but it also depends on context. That’s her smell, the smell of paradox itself, and it always means things are going to get more interesting than they were, for better or worse. You will lose that droll falling-asleep, that afternoon dozing-off that lasts all day and some more, that post-lunch brain-fog that only goes out in the middle of the night, when you have to sleep before restarting it all again.

        My existence seems bound to someone, to something that is never – that never stops moving, through space, through time… I think it is a “she.” Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the smell. My eyes are “hers,” my senses, my thoughts, my deepest secrets – if I had any. But am I her? Don’t ask me, I don’t know, and I sure can’t choose to.

        “She” is like a goddess, just out of nowhere – she’s there now, opening the box of Pandora. But is she this Pandora? More made-up a name was never conceived since.There she is again. And again, and again, and again, throughout history, her story she hides, and I don’t even know why, imagine how, I don’t even want this. And what she is doing next if not meddling with poor young confused boys again. Well, do your thing.

        There we go again…

        …this time-travelling whore…

        …one day…

        …one day.

        But today she goes on jumping through bodies, animating speeches, incarnating characters – as the unconscious actors incarnate this ultimate character that is herself. She is the true meaning of the mythical woman, all of them, the sacred Muse, both the pythoness and the Pythia, the Desired, the one who waits, that learns not to move, instead, luring others – mainly men, mostly – to do her bidding, putting words in their mouths and fire in their loins, putting things that shouldn’t be in places that doubly shouldn’t be.

        There she goes, there she goes and there she goes again travelling through the air by getting completely  still  while  the  smell  oozes  not  continuously,  to  the  breaking  of  a threshold point, but at once, instantaneously. It just appears. There she is, already inside. Inside a boy slowly fading away at an abandoned soccer field, all over, in, on, as the grass growing around, through, in, on, as, over his skin, the leaves coming from everywhere to the soil, going further and further to where she is next in the disjointed roll of a lady calmly carrying her bags through a scorching day, in the eye of a crippled dog that still smiles melancholically, as he walks by the absurd, aberrant event twisting on the ground. She goes from everywhere to everywhere else. Now, as always, she is a mask in the dark, or the darkness itself hiding behind a mask that levitates through its body – she is the illusion of something  there,  and  even  the  nothing  is  something.  She  is  the  unmasked  darkness recursing on itself in a tail-wag. She is the sea. She is a whale moaning alone, and all the whales and their moaning, separate and together, in and out of the ocean, in all moments of all the whale’s and moan’s lives and outside time as each individual whale and moan. She is the labored breath of a dying animal, and all the silence-turning-life of a corpse, growing all over it, inside, through, as it. She is all that and more, and more of the more, and then more, too. But now she is also one sole woman.

        What a joke I have become. The women inside the woman inside the man-turning-woman. And so, my momentum is dissipated, converted into useless thoughts, and she uses my overthinking as fuel to travel across everything. It is that simple.

        Who is she now? Who am I now? Simple enough. The smell is a pallid decree between decaying roses and ancient wine inked with the cheapest of lipsticks. Out of three shades of red, purple in the moonlit evening. The whores are her favorite clothing when the season is ripe, and the cold dry-turning-embodied wind makes glister her way through this one’s territory. But what does the night promise?

        “Nothing.” A voice grows from the forming shadows. A mask residuates from the darkness. The mouths move by themselves, the mechanical miracle of odors intoxicating one another.

        “But it’s not that simple.” Echoes back.

        “Why?”

        “Because nothing is.”

        Once, one time, something weird happened, and I smelled two identical smells coming from two different things. Could she be at two places at once? She could be everywhere, but in more than one place at once?! That was new, for me at least.

        “Hah!”

        “Hah!”

        “Nothing…”

        “Nothing…”

        “Jynx!”

        “Jynx!”

        “What’s the excuse for being where you are?”

        “Trying to find someone.”

        “Aren’t we all?”

        “It all comes to that.”

        “So simple.”

        “And who?”

        “Someone who escaped the grasp.”

        “It’s always that.”

        “When one escapes, the other gets stuck.”

        “Amen to that.”

        They discuss how this woman (and every other) is a star – her star, her elected queen that was, nevertheless, always there, someone she loves unconditionally because “love needs to be so.” Against her own will, her own dissenting desires, she is her rival, her enemy, but also her best friend. Her absolute she ever fails to escape.

        “She…” without the S is just a he – I am the S.

        “…it’s complicated.”

        “Are you like her slave or something?!”

        “I’m her something alright…” S’s inside s’s – s’s coming out – sss, sounding like snakes hissing in the corner.

        The backstory is convoluted, “she did some bad shit.” But you can’t choose whom to love, or, perhaps, that is the only thing one can ever choose.

        “So, you’re something to a star. Seems more than most of us can dream to be.” The S sneaking behind him to make he a she. “It’s all the same, but even as a servant, being something to a star—“

        “Of a star.”

        “That’s a start. Sounds the same to me.”

        “Eh?! And who are you?”

        “A jester; a stargazer, I walk looking up, but I never stumble.”

        “You are pretty good at that, ain’t you?!”

        “Well, I am no star, but I shine a bit.”

        “Shut up,” with a sneering smile of amused muse, “I kinda like you.”

        “I kinda like you too, ‘Hecate’.”

        “Call me—” Call me—”

        “Let’s us call ourselves H. then, for short.”

        “H.” “H.”

        “Ha!”

        “Ha!”

        “Jynx!”

        “Jynx!”

        The  most  clarity  comes  in  the  fugue,  in  those  rare  moments  she  is  forgotten by means of the very overthinking about her. In her womb, coming out, one is free, when one recognizes to be in the womb ever again.

        “And you, have someone like that?”

        “I haven’t elected a queen yet. I am yet to find a sovereign sign.”

        “But that’s easy.”

        “How?”

        “It appears when you stop looking for it.” Like any good whore, she makes men disappear inside of herself – she devours them. “That’s the rule for everything.” Because she is already there. If you close your eyes, you can hear her breathing.

        “That simple, huh.” But what happens to them? Like any food, they become her; they make her stronger. And the rest is pooped-out and ends up in the gutters.

        “They’re like air, they’re everywhere.” And so is she. She hides in them.

        They walk along. Her hand scratching his as they stumble in the cold air.

        “But air is so local, so scarce. It barely exists anywhere.”

        The way he averts his gaze makes you wonder. Is he afraid? Is warmth to gobble him whole?

        “Or so we think.”

        “So if we are by nature—“

        “Or something else.”

        “Yeah, if we are bound to two different spheres, what would we be to one another –

        “Lovers?”

        “In-between.”

        “Dangerous zone(s)”

        “Two star clusters—“

        “Clashing—“

        “melting—“ “joining

—“   “dancing—“

        “together.” “…

        Barely.”

        It is what they omit that truly dances in a daze. Not even a thought left unsaid, not even a feeling, but something smaller. I wanted to annihilate myself in you. But I was too strong.

        I consumed you and you couldn’t digest me. So you ran away and freed me once again. But you never left.

        Did I eat you?

        The future is open. I am the future.

        I am open, wounded.

        Only gratitude remains in me – the rest leaked out into the world.

        I open my mouth;

        Thank you is the only thing that comes out, the only thing left in me. I am the future.

        None of this is uttered. Instead,

        ‘The moon looks beautiful tonight.”

        “It always does around these parts. There is always a couple days of the month where she gets huge – swollen – and no cloud can veil her. All try, all fail.”

        “A whore of a moon.”

        “Never bride of the sun.”

        “The sun of a bitch.”

        “Ha!” Ha!”

        “Jynx-ynx!”

        Fear and terror make one fall in love with a God, a floating monster, a heart of star, that reveals a secret, a lie in form of chant that lures the helpless soul to suck the nectar on is back, the juice that becomes the truth of the body, its food, the nutrient for the fruiting flower that buds itself open by exploding—

        “But isn’t the moon a man, and the sun a woman?”

        “They are both rocks, I think.”

        “So a he and she, but inhuman.”

        The way she touches your cheek, looking deep into your eyes, is something to be remembered. The kind of thing that spoils even the bestest armored.

        “There’s…”

        “Don’t touch it.”

        “Something in your mouth… what is it?”

        “My rotting showing.”

        “Are you sick?”

        “Don’t think it’s contagious. I’m still figuring out what it might be. Please, don’t tell anyone.”

        “That might be Newsworthy.”

        “Then I’ll have to kill you too.”

        Hemlock and ‘Hecate,’ HH, where I am the bar in-between each H and inside each H. I am everywhere between H’s.

        “Another big epidemic, always South America, and you are the starting vector.”

        “Yeah.”

        “I won’t tell.”

        “Thank you.”

        “For a price.”

        “What?”

        “…”

        “Are you that suicidal?”

        “Worst case I die, right? Sooner or later it’s coming anyways.” Should I tell him? I don’t know. Should we?

        “Worst case, in this context, is unimaginable.”

        “Yeah?”

        “Some drops of this mutated some plants—“

        “What plants?”

        “Weed plants.”

        “Weed as in weed weed or weed-weed?”

        “Weed weed.”

        “That you are not selling, right?”

        “…yet.”

        “Fuck…”

        “Yeah.”

        “Is it good?”

        “Doesn’t work on me. But it’s potent, the strongest I’ve ever seen in action.”

        “Damn.”

        “Yep.”

        “And how did this start?”

        “A girl I thought I knew puked in my mouth, and then vanished from existence.”

        “Been there.”

        “Sure you have. But she wasn’t my star, though.”

        “No?”

        “More of a blackhole.”

        “Awww…”

        “Are you scared?”

        “I’m too… in-shock… to feel anything right now.” Tell now.

        “Been there. You get used to it.”

        “I doubt that.”

        “You must be wondering why I do what I do.”

        “Hey, none of my business. I don’t judge anyone.”

        “Anyone anyone?”

        “Anything. For me, if you ain’t panssex or assex then you’re sexually stunted.”

        “What! What this got to do with anything?! How can you make me chuckle now.”

        “Who knows.”

        “And which one are you?”

        “Both?”

        “I’m not even going to ask.”

        “…”

        “What if it backfires?”

        “The selling-out plan?”

        “The literal selling-out of your fluids.”

        “Then it backfires, I guess. Isn’t it the same with you?”

        “But in my case it’s only me on the line. You put everyone at risk.”

        “So I should just kill myself, then?”

        “Should I. Maybe. But that could be worse.”

        “How so?”

        “Maybe you’re what keeps the thing contained. You die, it floods over the world.”

        “If I don’t get the money, I probably die, too – so…”

        “Sell-out.”

        “Yep.”

        “Fuck…”

        “It’s just… like I want to vomit.”

        “Out of nowhere?” We want to vomit all the time. If to tell, or not, now is the time.

        “Well, yeah – no.”

        “Huh?”

        “It’s more like something that builds-up. Like it’s always there, not even trying to hide, like a haze that comes to cover, to veil everything in a smoky-thin sheet, I feel like inside an abandoned snake’s skin.”

        “And do you?” How can he feel exactly like—

        “What?”

        “Puke.”

        “No.”

        “Never?”

        “Not that I remember.”

        “And what did the doctor say?” Maybe he isn’t a guy.

        “It’s almost mystical, like it doesn’t even happen in the physical body at all.”

        “Like a spiritual disease.”

        “I don’t like that, the spiritual part.”

        “More of a naturalistic guy, then.”

        “Naturalist. And no.”

        “Excuse me, you’re the one with the weird English, Mr.” Yeah, what’s up with that? He lied before. Maybe he is a guy. You don’t believe in that, we lie too.

        “I don’t believe in that, too. Nature. Count me out. That’s just as bullshit.”

        “So you believe we should just blow it all off, then.”

        “No, I don’t believe in nature as a concept.”

        “What do you believe in, then?” What do I believe in?

        “I don’t know yet. Nothing? No. That which is impossible to believe, or seems so.”

        “Getting weird again.” Kind of a cute weird, though. “And what is that?”

        “I don’t know. But it’s not nothing. Nothing is easy to believe in. I mean The Nothing.”

        “Pretend I follow you.” Pretend I don’t. “You do, you just faking it.”

        “Why would I do that?”

        “Why, indeed…”

        “It’s not cancer, is it?”

        “Me?”

        “What?”

        “Am I cancer? Probably. If I’m a cell, a cancerous one, this might become a tumor, and soon.”

        “This what?”

        “This that comes into my reach.”

        “Are you ok? Let’s check your head, you got hit pretty hard there.”

        “Don’t even know what’s reality anymore. No hospitals, we need to lay low.”

        “Well, I’m a nurse, so…”

        “Really?”

        “No.”

        “So, where are we going? Where do you live?”

        “I can’t go there now.” Tell him!

        “Why?”

        “I just cannot.”

        “Where, then?”

        “I don’t know.”

        “So think. Won’t you nurse my head?”

        “Hey.”

        “Hm?”

        “Thank you.”

        “Don’t bother.”

        “For that. I thought I was a goner. I mean, nobody never…”

        He has never felt the weight of genuine gratitude before, not like this. It threatens to crush him.

        “It’s fine.” He backs his face away from her hand – a hand as big as a sun, growing over the full-moonlight, the pressure of its gravity unleashing an equally massive response, a push to a pull that drains the rest of strength left in him.

        “Truly. Thank you.”

        “It’s fine, it’s ok.” He hesitates. “It’s just instinct.”

        “Then we need more of that.”

        “But it’s instinct also what made those guys go for you.”

        “Then we need more animals like you and less like them.”

        “We are the same species.”

        “Not for me.”

        Awkward silence.

        “Hey.”

        “Oi?”

        “I…”

        “What?”

        “…”

        “You… what?”

        “Know a place. Let’s go there.”

        “K.”

        She didn’t tell.

        Later still, but still in the same night, a vision would manifest. Hecate was there, only not at the beach they flirt on, not even in the city or the region. The appearance of the place seems rather weird, almost bio-mechanical, something fit of a biopunky cosmic horror type of set. In it, amid flashes of artificial light from the destroyed surroundings, he would find someone, a woman, that appears to be this Hecate, only she lies dead, or appearing so since her skin still moves, somewhat, and her lower half remains exposed, exploded by the belly, leaking the same black gooey fluid that oozes from him every once in a while and that supposedly runs through his veins, her clothes soaking in it, and there seems to be no blood on the white dress. She lies there not even flinching. He tries to remember her face, but it always looks different, blurred, and her expression too. Why the hell? Why this vision? Why her? But it would not happen until later, much further into the night.

 

Pimp Labyrinth

 

x

 

        “All set. Let’s go.”

 

x

 

        Her hand is so soft it almost feels like fading away. His hand eludes the grasp, even though it can be felt and seen, it is barely there, it almost seems to be turning invisible. Her legs scrape one against the other, her warmth exudes from below the dress – don’t look there, you fuck, why are you always doing this.

        “What?”

        “I didn’t say anything.”

        A small smile in the corner of the mouth – her lips like velvet claiming the brittle fur growing from still-scorched pores, like a magnet.

        “Open your mouth.”

        What should I say?

        “Open – say aaah! – your tongue is so…!”

        “You keep my juices flowing.”

        Stupid. But stupid is good. The dumber the better.

        “What? Are you high already?”

        “You saw me try, nothing worked tonight.”

        “Well, now you lucky I’m here to what, get your juices flowing? Hehe”

        “Stop…”

        “You certainly got mine flooding.”

        “What.” Who on Earth… she is so…

        “Look at that moon. So yellow.”

        “It gets like that around—“

        “Yeah, fuck that moon.”

        …perfect… to be true…

        “Y-yeah, fuck that bitch.”

        “That man-whore, you mean.”

        “The moon is a guy?”

        “The moon is a rock, dude.”

        Oh. “Oh.”

        “Where are we going?”

        “I thought you knew your hand was leading the way?”

        “I’m not my hand.”

        “And who are you?”

        “A hard-working bitch – just like you.”

        Oh… right. So because I am a ‘poet,’ an ‘artist,’ I am a bitch. I never… “I never said I was anything of th—“

        “No, it’s not about that, it’s because you’re a dog.”

        “What?”

        “Auf! Oof oof! Bow wow wow!”

 

x

 

        “Is this it?”

        “If you mean where we hit the road, then yes.”

        “A cab? I don’t have any money on me right now.”

        “Of course you don’t. You’re a poet.”

        “Do you?”

        “Of course. I’m a hard-working bitch, remember?”

 

x

 

        “What was that you gave me?”

        “You don’t really care to know.”

        “And you don’t even know yourself.”

        “Well, we read each other, so…”

        “Is this it?”

        “This is the house gate.”

        “Whose house?”

        “Houses. Not mine… yet.”

        “And how do we…”

        “Here. Voice ID. Press it.”

        “—Who?—“

        “Babalon.” “—Babalon,

        who—?” “Their rider.”

        “—Welcome, sister.—“

        “Come, it’s open.”

        “Who are you again!?”

        “Just a time-traveling whore.”

        “So… a hooker…?”

        “Aren’t we all? Will you come or not?”

 

x

 

        “—How big is this thing again?”

        “If I say infinite, would you believe? And by believe I mean not care too much about it, or just care so much not to say anything about it anymore, you know, because you’re too transfixed.”

        “I don’t know, is it?”

        “I don’t know. But big it is, huge, in fact. Isn’t the breathing zone bigger than Tokyo and New York combined?”

        “You mean the uncharted?”

        “The breathing zone. It’s how she calls it.”

        “She?”

        “The ‘owner’ of this place, well, at least that I know… for now. Some higher-ups say she owns the entire breathing zone – or most of it – imagine that. And she is always expanding, I think. In fact, this fancy building here is but one among many around, and further down I don’t know what there might be. Some girls saw some weird shit down some…”

        “Girls… that work for this she? Like you? Do you all live here?”

        “And that is what you ask about.”

        “What else would I?”

        “Don’t you want to know what’s this place really is, how far it stretches, how weirder it gets? Don’t you want to see the fields, the zones?”

        “How big is this again?”

        “Take my hand.”

        “Why would I do this?”

        “You know because I know and you already took my hand, so you know, too. What comes out of your mouth doesn’t match what I’m reading, and you know it.”

        “Through you.”

        “Right.”

        “But I don’t know you. I don’t know anything about what you talking about. Ok, I want to go – ok, I said I’m yours for the night – ok, everything I speak is basically a lie – ok, I—“

        “Look here.”

        “Ok?”

        “Why do you do what you do?”

        “Because…”

        “Just say it.”

        “Because it feels right.”

        “And you only do what feels right, right?”

        “Lately it—“

        “Then let’s go?”

        “Ok.”

 

x

 

        “Do you see anything? What do you see?”

        “The same as you?”

        “But I can’t see anything.”

        “Do you hear something?”

        “Like drums, in the distance, and some chanting?”

        “Can you touch anything?”

        “The only thing I feel is your hand, it’s warm.”

        “Let’s keep going.”

        “But where? Are we even moving at all?”

        “I don’t know, feels like it and doesn’t, but look up, you can’t see that many stars in the other zones, and they seem to be moving, so we should be. I was surprised with them, that many spots, when I first came here.”

        “Where are you from?”

        “What was that?”

        “I almost slipped on something.”

        “Glowing?”

        “Where is that, in the States?”

        “No, look. Is that a glowing pond there, can you see?”

        “I can’t see anything.”

        “Forgot the contacts? Come, slowly.”

        “Careful, we don’t know what might… can you hear the drums? They are like bass-boosted or something.”

        “I think that is just your heart.”

        “And the chanting? What language is that?”

        “Is the pond… glowing in pulses… pulsating, can you see it now?”

        “That is not a pond.”

        “What? That’s just water, there must be lights inside somewhere…”

        “What light? There is no water. That is a hole.”

        “But I can—“

        “Careful, you might fall, that looks deep.”

        “Look, my hand. It’s wet.”

        “What the fuck.”

        “We see two different things at the same place. Fuck.”

        “What?”

        “I can hear the chanting now. Sounds like snakes hissing.”

        “Does it have a logic to it? What are they saying?”

        “I don’t know. You said you see a bottomless hole, right?”

        “I didn’t say bottomless, just pretty deep. Wait, what—hey!“

        “I’m sorry. This is never easy.”

 

x

 

        Does falling forever feel right?

 

x

 

        “Ok, so what’s your favorite?”

        “I don’t know – can’t pick favorites of anything, and I tried; I try. I always thought there was something different about that. Not wrong, just different. I could never judge anything, and still fake it to this day.”

        “So basically a mugwump.”

        “Ahn-an, don’t go that far. I’m never on-the-fence. I always – by instinct – know things, what I like and what I want included.”

        “Is that a lie, too?”

        “Weren’t you the one who could read me and all that?”

        “Holy—“

        “What?”

        “Shhh!”

        “Get here. Listen. What is that?”

        “A roar? The uncharted is repopulating, there are mi—“

        “Shhh! I can’t hear it… can you, hear something?”

        “No, wait, it sounds like…”

        “Behind you!”

 

x

 

 

        “Dude? Where are you? Oh fuck. I’m skittish, don’t jump on me. Don’t play with me right now. Oh shit, oh fuck… where are you, dude?? Ah!! What the fuck! Dude! I said I—“

        “Don’t scream. Just listen.”

        “Who—how is this, holy fuck, who are—“

        “I’m you, okay? But you are not me yet. Listen—“

        “But—“

        “Listen! I don’t have time. Go inside the house first, wait for her, he will be there already, wait for her with him. Don’t go outside. Don’t worry, just forget this, but go there and do not come out. Don’t go further into the breathing zone.”

        “How do I, how do I find the way back?”

        “I’m still trying, too. There’s no way back – it’s just downhill from here. Just go in the house. Follow that.”

 

x

 

        “Cave paintings; think about it, those are our cave paintings for the future.”

        “I don’t know if there is a future.”

        “No, we are in the past of the future, the present. It’s the only thing that is. It was always the apocalypse”

        “Isn’t it that it is always apocalypse? Look who’s getting poetic now. Are all the houses like this? How many are there?”

        “No, because  it  always  is  post-apocalypse.  Tons.  I’ve  never  seen  the  others, though.”

        “So how do you… do you just believe it?”

        “Maybe, yes, maybe I just don’t care. What I want is this one, she promised it to me.”

        “If…?”

        “If I fill a quota.”

        “A quota… of clients. I see. Right, it’s about that.”

        “You don’t see anything.”

        “They pimp you out and you should be thankful for that ‘opportunity,’ then, besides their share, you need to pay to stay here until you can buy it out completely, a lease kind of thing, they promise you, give you hope in the vague image of a dream, but then it’s real! You are living in it, it’s not just a mirage anymore, now you’re determined, now you will do it no matter what, it’s become part of you, it’s tattooed in your flesh, the life you always wanted, the future sucking you into it…”

        “I wish. To any of those stars above, I really wish that was the case.”

        “What is the case, then? How did my flawless high drunk half-soliloquy fail – for once?”

        “I do the pimping. My quota is not about numbers. It’s just one, one masterpiece, or just a piece, a good-enough, something with potential.”

        “Piece?”

        “Not like an art-piece. How can I explain.. the opposite of that, I myself am still trying to wrap my head around it. She.. she is a visionary. It’s not about art, or its negation, what am I talking about.. it’s like magic. I heard some rumors…”

        “From others like you? That also live here? And you never saw another house of the tons you say there are.”

        “There are no others like me.”

        “She said that to you?”

        “Listen, I heard rumors about experiments, the whole thing with science experts and all that, further in the breathing zones.”

        “And what do the rumors say about them?” “That’s what I’d like to know. Don’t you?”

        “That’s  why I’m  here?  As  an  insider? Do you  want  to  bank  news  or ball-out pimping? If I believe you, you brought me into deep shit not as a poet.”

        “Yes, I did.”

        “But there’s no energy, and the zones mess with any—“

        “We have the stars. You can read them. We have each other’s hands and the stars; we never needed more than that.”

        “And yet we do.”

 

x