The Rotfrauder – William Tidwell

        What he hated most of all were people’s dreams. Everyone had dreams, he thought, and they were never as interesting as they imagined. Their atmosphere never amounted to anything. He saw in life a wide range of possibilities that excited people. They branched out in different directions. But when it came for them to be realized they were pared down, forced into the same pathways as everything else, and sprouted as nothing more than a stupid look on someone’s face. 

        It was only stupid people who thought in terms of atmosphere, aura, or “vibe.” They could never fully explain the power of these things because they had none, they simply imprisoned you with their endless talking. He knew these people were ruining the world with their selfishness and whoring around. On his twenty-first birthday, alone in his bedroom, he decided to start a blog.

        He wrote about the different kinds of people he thought were ruining the world. These included: weak men who liked to dress up in women’s clothing, dark-skinned people with low intelligence quotients who had too many children, Jews with no practical skills that worked in academia or politics or finance, mixed-race parvenus who received too much recognition for low-effort art, and sluts. He wrote about sluts the most. He made some cursory research to support his arguments, ordered a few non-fiction books online, and indulged in a little armchair philosophizing.

        He coined his central target of critique “the Ditz.” “The Ditz is self-hypnotized,” he wrote, “fascinated with every quirky electrical leap of brain activity, obsessed with what is ‘cute’ about itself, mocking of anyone with great ambitions, anyone who takes great burdens upon themselves. The Ditz loves to capture itself in photographs, to take ‘selfies,’ and this is metonymic for the whole of its personality. The Ditz is enraptured by its smallness, but never excessively, always within the bounds of what is socially acceptable. The Ditz is, finally, a human in its most broken form, flattened, subdued completely, all capacity for true individuation ironed out of it.”

        His readership grew quickly in the first year. He gained financial support, was subject to multiple cancellations and attacks on his character, had his identity revealed by an anonymous party, was subsequently harassed, self-published a poorly rated but best-selling book on Amazon, and indulged in a series of short, violent relationships with men and women he met through the comment sections of his site. One of them was a seventeen-year-old boy who slashed open his face with a filet knife during an argument. They had disagreed about the beauty of a foreign actress. He was left with a negligible and aesthetically incoherent scar. He would glance at himself in the mirror across his room months after recovering and become annoyed that he didn’t look like a war criminal.


        Feeling jaded about his writing once again, he announced a hiatus of undetermined length and left the city to visit his younger sibling Leon. They were a hyperintelligent amab nonbinary who was invited to join a queer rationalist colony and work as a designer after receiving widespread praise for comics posted to the social media site Facebook featuring cute animals engaged in carnivalesque scenes intended to satirize “gifted kid burnout” culture. They began to argue about religion.

        “The Perennialist position is that divinity transcends all particular religions,” Leon explained, “and I hold this to be basically true. Meta-Religion is a more recent formulation of the same idea within the firmer tenets of rationalism and computational model theory. God or the Absolute is an unbounded entity that is participating in self-simulation. Its capacity for self-determination is reflected through all its manifestations and therefore we are responsible for every action we take. We all have an imprint of this divine image, though some realize it better than others depending on a variety of complex factors, not the least being what we call intelligence.”

        “I don’t really see that but yeah,” he said, leaning against a wall with his arms crossed. He was remembering his fourth-grade teacher who approached him from behind as he read aloud at a group table with ridiculous speed to make the other kids laugh and laid her hand on his shoulder. He remembered saying “sorry, I’m stupid,” to which she gently replied “yes, you are.” She would sit with her feet on her desk sulking like a teenager and bark “what?” when he approached with a question about an assignment. Near the end of the year, she forced him to sit in the library and write an essay where he came up with reasons for why his disruptive behavior was stupid and wrong. She kept walking in and out to check if anyone was coming. His parents confronted the principal about her behavior, upon which she was brought in and admitted to treating the boys worse than the girls, but nothing ultimately happened because she was protected by a teacher’s union. 

        The next year she would glare at him from across the playground, and a tall Asian kid who was already learning to paint tigers like the old masters told him that he “shouldn’t have given her such a hard time.” Other memories of school flicked in his mind’s eye, one of them being a day he approached some children playing soccer on the field during recess and decided to kick the ball in an attempt to join their game, but it flew straight into the crotch of the youngest child there, and they all charged at him. He remembered that he scored marginally above average on the SATs after attending over forty hours of paid prep sessions. “What are people supposed to do if they’re stupid?” He asked.

        “What do you mean, exactly?” Leon replied.

        “If they aren’t smart enough to replicate this image of God, if they’re extremely flawed vessels, what are they supposed to do?”

        “They are supposed to do what everyone else is supposed to do, take responsibility for their actions and strive to keep their sights on God. As soon as someone turns away from God, their whole world becomes dark and they can only blame themselves afterwards. That someone suffers does not give them an excuse to reject God. We are meant to suffer responsibly, and our very thoughts are deeds. This is one of the things I came to realize when I was drawing The March of the Webbed Feet. Every religious tradition with a trace of divine rationalism teaches compassion, but it was in a completely different sense than the compassion of the debased modern world, which is now mixed with a satanic parody of the Christian virtue of forgiveness.”

        “Shit”, he thought. “What was it?” He asked.

        “It was what I might call the mercy of punishment. After pride comes a fall, this brings grace. If people want to be good, they need to be tortured more by God.”

        “Oh, okay, I think I see what you mean,” he said. He wondered how being tortured by God could make someone more intelligent. He considered asking but let the opportunity slide for some reason. Leon was called into another room. 

        He investigated his surroundings. Leon had maybe fifteen books on his shelf, a clean desk with a lamp and a laptop, and a small cot. He ran his finger along the scar on his face and closed his eyes. Leon came back in and asked him how he got it, sounding like they had been waiting for the right moment. “Accident” was all he said. “Terrible,” Leon replied with a look of genuine pity. They explained that some friends of theirs at the colony had microdosed LSD, a hobby they now abstained from, and were going to visit the state arboretum. They asked if he wanted to join. He consented.


        He trekked over dead leaves. The other rationalists had split off. He kept his gaze on his feet for a while. “They’re going to play in the trees,” Leon said, and laughed. He didn’t understand. “Come with me,” they said. He followed without paying much attention, stumbling as they diverted from the main path.

        They came to a glade with a septic tank access near the edge. A dark clay mold lay upon the lid, which was stained all over with something that resembled chewing tobacco residue. “I left this here,” Leon said. They gave it to him. He examined it more closely. The mold was pressed with interlocking serpentine shapes. “This is the altar,” Leon explained, “where the void in nature is reintegrated and absolved of its profane qualities.” 

        “Like a baptism?” He asked.

        “Those beasts who flee from the sun, maybe you feel yourself one of them. Here they are made anew.”

        He met Leon’s eyes. The sound of the others playing in the trees grew closer. 

        “Wow, they’re getting pretty youth-coded today,” Leon said, looking away.

        Something crunched under his sneaker. He squinted at the ground. There were small bones littered everywhere around the septic tank. “What are these from?” He asked. Leon did not respond. They had walked to the tree-line. One of their friends was reaching down from a large branch, grinning ear to ear, and grabbing a piece of fruit that Leon had stretched out in their hand.


        He politely refused to stay at the colony. He drove back to his apartment late at night, arriving about one in the morning. He couldn’t sleep, so he turned on his computer and started scrolling through the new comments on his blog. He read someone who sounded like a man telling him he was a weak bitch and should kill himself, someone who also sounded like a man telling him he was an idiot because anyone who wasn’t an idiot could easily make five thousand dollars a month from home with imagination and drive, someone who sounded like a teenager saying “yep…and you know why this dude is so fucked up, when he lives like this,” and a few other confused people trying to cut into his soul with as little effort as possible, emulating the kind of passing insults the cruel reserve for vagrants. He nervously swiveled his chair left to right, reading with a blank expression, let out a sigh, then turned off his computer and went to the kitchen to crack open a beer.

        He threw himself on his mattress and started to make funny voices because he was drunk. He made some racial caricatures where he mocked Leon’s theories. He kept repeating phrases in more exaggerated accents and making noises by blowing air through his lips but couldn’t get himself to laugh. He rolled on his side and closed his eyes. A buzzing in his head kept him awake. He got out of bed, grabbed his unfinished beer, and went to the bathroom.

        He lowered the lid on the toilet and sat down. “Where am I gonna go?” He kept thinking. He couldn’t get comfortable on the toilet seat, so he laid down in the bathtub. He started to nod off, the yellow haze blanketing him. He wanted to come up with something that would tell Leon off in his head. He eventually decided that he didn’t care, everything he heard was turning to soup now anyways. “There’s nowhere for me to go,” he thought. He glanced around at the dingy bathroom for a moment before he finally lost consciousness. “Maybe I like it here,” he thought. He wasn’t sure.


        The morning was cold. He jerked off into the sink, stimulating himself with his right hand and holding his phone with the other so he could watch a short clip of multiple men ejaculating on a woman’s face in succession, a sexual practice referred to as “bukkake” (a Japanese word meaning to splash) originating in Japanese hardcore pornography and later emulated in Western hardcore pornography, which he was viewing for free on an adult video sharing site. This was one of his favorite genres of hardcore pornography, though he didn’t consider himself as having investigated hardcore pornography thoroughly, nor did he even want to, it was only something he found online during his preteen years and became fixated on. He may have enjoyed the anonymity of mentally inserting himself as one of the ejaculators: merely a contributor, brought on for a fraction of the starlet’s pay but given the additional benefit of participating in neutral male camaraderie afterwards, just one of the guys, perhaps making some new friends. His semen didn’t shoot that far, collecting near the overflow hole with the last few jolts and remaining partly in his urethra. He cleaned it with a disinfectant wipe and washed his hands.

        He checked his phone and found a message from a girl he met during one of his attempts to finish University. He had attempted three times. The message linked to a scene from a procedural crime drama where a serial killer caught from his hateful online posts defended himself during interrogation. The hard-nosed cop slammed his fist on a metal table and insulted the killer, calling him a loser and so on, while the kind female cop stood against the one-way mirror with her arms crossed. The killer broke into a monologue that he felt was corny and made him turn the video off. He wondered how fat the screenwriter for this episode was. “What is this?” He replied absent-mindedly. “Thought it was funny,” she sent back a few minutes later. They had never slept together. He did not think that she ever planned to. She invited him to another visualization session in the afternoon. He joined her once at these sessions months ago. He decided to go again. 

        They wanted him to project into his future. They sat circular in a study room at a local community college where he had enrolled on and off. The girl who invited him was to his right. He made a mental note of how unattractive the people in the room were and concluded that this was how they came to terms with it. The guide of the visualization group told everyone to close their eyes and picture exactly what they would be doing and where, if they lived as their most ideal self. He complied indifferently and looked into the darkness behind his eyelids. He racked his brain, trying to gather up fragments of positive feelings he remembered having that might coalesce into an aspiration, but they flowed away and disappeared. He couldn’t think of anything. He came up against an emptiness that seemed impenetrable. Panicking, he tried to imagine something simple, like a three-dimensional shape rotating. He saw a square skewing and flitting away into blotches of blue and black. He couldn’t keep it in his mind. He felt his heart beating heavily. The girl, sensing his tension, laid her hand on his arm, and he slapped it away with a hypnic jerk. He collapsed on the floor.


        The doctors told him there was a hole in his brain. It was getting larger, engulfing more and more gray matter, replacing it with darkness as shown on the MRI. They didn’t think it was cancer. They couldn’t identify it as any known degenerative brain diseases. Apart from the fainting, he was fine, though confused and at a loss for words. They kept him for a night, asking many questions that he couldn’t make up answers to, then his mother showed up and yelled at all of them like they were idiots. He felt a need to come to their defense, something about how they were just doing their job, but he didn’t, and she took him home. A couple days later, he went back to his place. 

        The first thing he noticed was that his head felt lighter. This made him feel more agile, and he found himself standing up straight for longer. He didn’t smile more, there was nothing joyful about it. He walked back and forth in his apartment, tracing a rut, and felt like he was levitating the longer he did it. He tried to nap, but the darkness in his head was stronger and more frightening. It gave him vertigo the longer he stared into it. When he did fall asleep, it passed in what felt like seconds, and he remembered nothing. He made a final update on his blog where he explained his condition and that he didn’t expect to live much longer. It was concise, lacking any of the poetic fury of his earlier work. Some people called him gay, some people said he was lying, and some people gave him effusive praise and expressions of grief that made him want to hurt them. He changed his password to a long string of random characters, changed his email to a fake address that would expire in a day, and logged off.

        He called the girl and tried to convince her to have sex with him. “I’m probably going to die,” he said, and she said that was true before. He paused, then took a more serious tone. “I’ve been waiting to say this until now, because I have no more time – I’m in love with you,” he said, and she laughed and told him to shut the fuck up. She eventually agreed to come over and take care of him. They both got increasingly drunk and decided to experiment in bed, but in a way that felt like a joke. As he jabbed himself inside of her, he struggled to stay aroused. He had experienced this difficulty the few other times he had sex. He could get himself going but he couldn’t finish unless he thought about pornography. He tried to do it again, looking slightly away from her face toward a corner of his headboard. Nothing appeared in his mind. He strained to see the distorted, fish-eye lens perspectives of buttocks that he had pleasured himself to thousands of times. They were no longer there. He pulled out and lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. She felt bad for him more than she ever had before. They uttered soft bits of embarrassment, are you okay, yeah yeah it’s alright, forget about it, what do you want to do. He sat upright, startling her, and clutched his knees for a while. He tried to stand but lost his balance. He vomited all over her.   


        It took him a week to get the nurses to understand what he wanted in his room. He had almost lost the capacity to describe it to them. “A thing you look into,” he kept saying. They would ask if he meant the window and say he already had two of them. “No, no,” he would say, shaking his head. They would ask if he meant the television, and he would wave his hand away, indicating that he wanted to be left alone. On Sunday, a cleaning man came by with the thing he wanted hanging off his cart. He couldn’t speak much by then and had to gesticulate and point like a child to get his attention. He finally hung the object on the wall opposite his bed. It was a little off to the right of his face, but he didn’t mind. It was a hand mirror. He could see himself all the time now. He speculated about the scar on his face, which he had lost memory of. He rotated his head left and right, assessing his jawline and other features, keeping his eyes on the oval holding his image, the only means of judging himself. “I’d say I’m a five,” he thought.