“You can count on me.” the clown happily proclaimed. We gave him a gun, but he just looked at it as if he’d never seen one. He held it out from his body awkwardly, obviously uncertain of how to use it. Eventually, Stanley took it back from him, afraid that he’d hurt himself accidentally. With the leash fastened securely around Bozo’s neck, we moved onward through the desolate, abandoned landscape of New York City.
For the first little while, we didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, some cars, garbage floating all over the streets, dead bodies. These were all pretty common sights. Yolanda tugged lightly on Bozo’s leash to spur him on, as he was becoming distracted by a picture of an ice cream cone on an old grocery store coupon sheet. Stanley gritted his teeth as he snatched it from our newly acquired pet clown.
We had all gotten a bit too comfortable, not having had a fight in over three days, so it was nice when we were ambushed by a pack of Slug Buddy gang members. We were just inside the lobby of some abandoned office building when they emerged from multiple locations, their sights set on us.
The leader of the group, a short man with dyed red hair and a grenade that he tossed idly up and down into the air, appeared behind the railing of the upper floor of the lobby. He was smiling an uncomfortable smile. Multiple times, he seemed as though he was going to say something, but he never did.
“I think he’s afraid of public speaking.” said Yolanda. This made the leader guy upset. He looked at Yolanda with an evil intensity, and put his finger around the pin ring of the grenade, but at just that moment, Bozo leaped like a jaguar up to the upper floor and sunk his lipstick stained teeth into the neck of the Slug Buddy leader.
As his henchman turned their attention toward Bozo, they began firing wildly at the clown, but the bullets either bounced off of his skin or got caught in his multi colored afro. With wide eyes and a creepy smile, Bozo turned his head toward the closest henchman before lunging at him with a comical hunger.
The distraction proved to be just what we needed. The rest of the group hunkered down behind counter tops, vending machines, and advertisement signs on the ground floor of the lobby.
“Let’s show these monkey’s who their messing with!” Stanley yelled, attempting to rally the group together. It seemed to work. In perfect unison, we lifted from cover and took out the rest of the armed thugs. After the echoing of the gunfire had settled, there was nothing but the smell of burnt metal shell casings and the sound of Bozo satiating his carnival hunger.
Stanley pulled Bozo from what was left of the henchman he was feeding on, and we continued our search for the Great Vendor. It was nice that these guys were camping at that place, because they left tons of ammunition and food. Good thing we found Bozo.
The shadow man does all he can to determine the popular opinion of whoever is willing to be swayed.
Colossal turning of events tells us all what to expect from this solar storm.
The silence of catastrophic thinking returns to the forefront of my thoughts as I turn toward the burning light.
Purchase with currency.
Let me know how I can be of service in the heat of the moment, because I’m not much of a planner.
Can you even begin to understand?
Lasting impressions are becoming extinct as the tidal wave that is the digital age either carries us into an intellectual revolution or leads us to our imminent end.
Called you on the phone last night. Are you sure it wasn’t me?
Plan for things to go so badly that you can’t even stand up, then you’ll have a chance.
The beautiful sunset, sandy beaches, a mother teaching her son, I love what all this should be.
I hope I never have to die for someone I love.
Create a picture in your mind.
Disgusted and pausing, the soldier took one last, deep, slow, nasal breath before doing his duty and pulling the trigger.
You call that a backflip? I could jump so high, I could do a triple backflip!
Proving himself was difficult as he happened to be not only wrong but also incompetent at every level.
Can we all just agree that killing is bad?
Dust yourself off ya’ sad sack, we got many more miles to go and the sand is itching my ass crack.
The corrugated steel fell from the sky like rain after the massive robot was blasted into four-hundred and seventy-five thousand tiny pieces.
Betrayed and maimed, I limped over the side of the blimp, and it was seriously high up.
Cold steel feels good on my toe corns.
Could you tell me the name of the woman that named your unborn children?
Blood doesn’t taste very good.
Courage isn’t really about making a choice as it is about instinct.
I like curse words, because I don’t find anything wrong with them.
Someone told me a secret, but if I told you then I would be sent to a chamber where I’ll be dismembered with a chainsaw, so I’m gonna keep this one to myself.
Does anything good ever come from you?
This may be completely futile, but I have to do something, so it might as well be this. It’s got to be better than the alternative.
I’m a helpless boy trapped in a well, and it’s slowly filling up.
Space aliens contacted the president, and he told them all about modern pop culture.
The spider monkey walked on his hands toward the banana, because of course he’s going to go to the banana.
My posture is not all that great, said the camel.
It’s sort of wrong that violent gore is so widely accepted in our culture, but things that actually help people enjoy life are put on the back burner.
In the evening of one particularly somber Sunday, I was scrubbing away at the caked on remains of a lasagna I’d baked for dinner. The dinner party it was prepared for ended in complete disaster when Reggie, who’d been staying quite drunk since noon, burst into tears. Every guest in the room immediately stopped what they were doing to assess the situation for themselves. Reggie, crying out for the lord to ease him of his never ending suffering, fell to the floor dramatically.
However, it was well known that the sole source of Reggie’s endless suffering was Reggie himself. He frequently and openly cheated on his wife with numerous neighbors throughout the suburb he lived in. At least once a week, generally on payday, he visited the local casino, where his hard earned dollars generally all but disappeared. The final major point against him, according to his acquaintances, was the recent but rapidly spreading rumor that Reggie steals, although, if I’m correct in my assumption that every light bulb in the guest room didn’t unscrew itself and vanish, it may have some credibility.
You may ask the very valid question, why does Reggie have any friends? Unfortunately, the answer’s not so simple. Once upon a time, Uncle Reggie was a pillar of our little familial community, but when he enlisted, he was almost immediately shipped to an area notorious for its volatile communities. In a sense, it’s a miracle how lucky he was, but the Reggie we saw off at the airport was not the one that came back to us.
Although he took a gunshot to the head, the bullet only came in contact with the left hemisphere of his brain and exited through the back of his skull. One of his comrades noticed that, though in great pain, he was alive. They managed to get a field medic over to him in time to save his life. I guess they saved it.
Most of the time he’s actually quite calm, but some days he just seems to be under something else’s control, so we’ve all done our best to accept his behavior. Personally, I can’t comprehend how Theresa gets through a single day as the man’s wife. As far as I know, she’s remained completely faithful and does all she can to retain some semblance of their previous, happy life. I admit I’ve wanted to beat the living shit out of him for some of the things he’s done, but deep down I know he can’t help it.
As Uncle Reggie wailed, invoking his maker’s intervention, the rest of the family began mumbling and grumbling amongst themselves, most likely explaining to each other for the hundredth time that he was just having another episode. Normally, that would have been the end of it, but evidently his brother, Ron, had been allowing the stress of Reggie’s unfortunate behavior to weigh on him a bit more lately.
“That’s it, I’ve fucking had it!” Ron exploded. Every head in the room turned in unison as he shot out of his wooden chair. He then proceeded to do things I’ve only fantasized about. After the first punch to Reggie’s jaw, I noticed several people turning to each other with shocked smiles over their faces, and the beating itself was allowed to go on much longer than any of us should feel proud of.
Whenever I hear about great tragedies, natural disasters, famine, or some new rapidly spreading disease, I ask myself how I would handle it if such a fate were to land upon my own house. I have this fantasy that I’m standing in some New York style city when a huge wave, a tsunami, comes rushing violently toward me. Sadly, I know that if I were in such a situation, my wife would be right there beside me, but I wonder how I would respond if faced with certain death.
I like to believe that I would bravely stand my ground, staring down my fate just as intensely as it is rushing toward me, but I just don’t know. I imagine that I would take my wife in my arms and hold her tightly until death parts us. I cannot say for certain that I would be brave in such a situation, because I’m not sure I am brave in that regard.
Honestly, dying scares me to death. I think everyone is frightened of it to some degree, because it is in our D.N.A. to fear the unknown, and that is definitely an unknown, despite what people like to believe. Of course, I do not know how it will end when my time comes, but I have to assume that I’ll make it to old age, and if that happens then I know I’ll probably die in a hospital bed somewhere, and I think this is almost scarier than being hit with a nuclear missile. I fear this, because I do not know what those final moments will feel like, and I’ll have to face it alone. Sure, hopefully I’ll have people there by my side, but in some ways I wouldn’t even want them there, because I know that in my final seconds, my thoughts won’t be on them, a final selfish act.
So, when I look into the sky and wonder what it would be like to see a comet rushing directly toward me, I also think that perhaps that would be the better way to die. It’s just funny that everyone wants to make it to old age, but at the same time, I don’t know that anyone wants to experience the old age death.
When my time does come, I just hope that I take it in stride and with grace, because it will of course be my final act. The biggest thing that tears me up inside is the fact that truly I do want my loved ones there beside me, but at the same time, I hope they are all gone before that day comes so they won’t have to experience the pain of losing me.
The crumbling bricks of the fireplace reminded me of some distant memory as I approached, feeling suddenly tired and anxious. Shadows darted and danced within the recess despite the absence of flame. I began to wonder if it was possible to stop myself continuing as my feet dragged ever onward. For a moment I see the dirty smile of the Landcaster’s ghost. It knows me well, yet I cannot remember. It turns around, disappearing somewhere into the charcoal coated emptiness. He is playing.
Once I reached the base of the hearth it seemed that all the sounds around me had ceased. I dared not look behind me and kept my gaze firmly set upon the opening. My heart skipped, and my breath escaped me when I saw skinny little black arms and legs crawling around inside. A sound pushed through the thick blanket of deafness. The ghost was breathing, and it sounded frustrated or hungry.
I started to open my mouth to ask it it’s name, but before I could, the dark figure lunged at me, one hand tightening around my neck and the other pressing its finger to my pale, dry lips. Face to face with a demon, I had to fight for consciousness. With black eyes, lips, and hair, its ashy black skin seemed dusty to the touch. As I stroked its arm, it looked down slowly. A piercing scream injected a venomous fear inside me. The sound felt as though it was echoing through my soul.
As we stood there, its freakishly long arms still holding me, I couldn’t think straight. The ghost smiled that devil smile, long and dripping with tar. I maintained a frightened stare, but made no sound. Finally, it let me go.
I don’t know what I was thinking going there, but it was too late to turn back. I couldn’t turn back. For a moment, I thought I’d won. The ghost shot back into the fireplace shadows, and the normal sounds of life resumed. I thought I’d been released, but as I said, it was playing. In a moment of poor judgement, I closed my eyes to pray. Instantly I felt a stabbing pain in my spine followed by a chill that ran its way up to my brain.
When I opened my eyes again I was within the fireplace looking out at my own body which had fallen on the old wood floor. I reached out with a disembodied hand, but a glass film covered the entrance. A childish chuckle came from somewhere far behind me, yet there was nothing but solid brick covered with soot and the bones of children scattered across the floor. My fate had been sealed.
Over the next few years, I watched as my body gradually decayed and withered until nothing but bone remained. Sometimes the black ghost would visit me, telling me stories of its terrors as it brushed against my shoulder or licked my ear. I wasn’t allowed to speak. Whenever I’d try, that terrible shriek would stop me. So here I sit, wondering if this is truly my fate, to wait here for eternity or until God decides to send this demon back to hell.
Pouring over me like liquid iron, cultural expectation’s made me sluggish and muddled, but it’s more than that. It’s a cage in which the lion tamer employs debt and labor in place of chair and whip. Each day I tell myself that I am tough and capable, that I can handle whatever life puts in front of me, but that’s just a fairy tale, a subconscious narration told to get me through, and my captors even gave me the language I use, the language I love.
As the iron hardens around my knees, I learn about the world through advertisements and second hand stories, from people who are nothing like me, and just when I think I’ve got a foothold of understanding in this insane world, crack!
“Get back to work!” the tamer says. So I do, because I rely on food and water to survive, and I am programmed to survive, and those in power know it well. Manipulated and forced to serve, I do these jobs that mean less than nothing, not only to me but in the grander scheme.
I look around on my way to work at all the fancy cars all doing the same thing, and I wonder if it ever truly brought anyone peace. Am I the only one disillusioned? As the exhaust from our collective travel rises into the atmosphere, I wonder if anyone else knows that there’s a better way.
As the molten metal rises to my chest, I am reminded of matters of the heart. Love at least is real, isn’t it? Even in romance my owners coax my unconscious. Just buy her flowers and chocolates and jewelry. Then she will love you. But in my day dreams I walk with her, talk with her, and gently touch her cheek. I wonder if the power people ever loved anything but control.
“Get back to work! I won’t tell you again.” the tamer says, this time with a list of regulations further influencing my behavior. With my heavy head hanging low, I saunter back to my post, dreaming of an end to this story. I perform my duties well, before eagerly rushing back to my cage, my mailbox full of bills.
Finally, I am completely overwhelmed, a statue of a slave. A pillar in this community of free men. I did my part, and I contributed to a community that wants nothing more than toys. In my final thoughts I wonder if I will be judged, not for actions perceived as sins, but rather for not becoming a martyr for a cause I believe in. Will I be looked upon with disdain because I continued to do their bidding instead of denying myself food and drink so that the rest of the world may see a different course, a better way, instead of just another shiny statue of some soldier.
What is it going to take for everyone to see what's necessary to continue surviving? The world could split open, swallowing billions, and the survivors would quietly, shamefully think to themselves, "more for me". We could have everything right now, but we'd prefer to remain true to the course that our ancestors laid out. It seems the greatest nations are always built on the shoulders of slaves, and you think they didn't know it? Do you really think we aren't still locked into servitude by the power people? Oh, and it started early.
They quickly realized that the old ways of thinking weren't going to keep working. As the world became more and more connected, the common man also realized that things were different than he thought. These slaves who were taken from their homes and families, they were forced into lives that they never wanted, and their old lives are gone forever. They told us that these slaves weren't even human, and we believed them only because it was convenient. So, as it became common knowledge that we were treating our brothers and sisters with such evil in our hearts, the moral common ground began to shift, and the government took notice, and they knew they couldn't continue building an empire without people that they could push to their limits.
As it is, we could feed everyone freely and still have plenty. What does money actually do? Nothing. And we have stolen, raped, and murdered in order to obtain and retain it. What a sad state. We are now paying the price for never truly standing up and taking control of what is ours. We have let our leaders misguide us and twist our minds so that, I fear, we will never come together and find our own perfection. We have the resources. We have the intelligence. What we don't have is time.
They have stripped so much life away from us by making us fight day in and day out for the almighty dollar. We can't even work on what we are passionate about anymore, because the jobs we hold so dearly are draining our spirits and destroying our bodies. And everyday that we go into those jobs and work for a company or corporation rather than our neighbors and therefore, ourselves, we empower those who already hold infinite power. We are mice in a glass aquarium, and they experiment endlessly. I fear we are too far into this.
Slavery today is much different in that we are allowed to have more physical things, and we don't get physically beaten by our employers. But they tell us what things we can have, and these jobs do the beating for them. They give the employers power over us as individuals, but we have to realize that we are the only reason that any of this succeeds, and we can forge our own path. We don't need little green pieces of paper to do anything. We are being forced to live a specific story, and I'm goddamn tired of it.
I keep hearing it, resounding in my skull. I know I love it. Please me by falling victim to my wit. Show the room who really holds control.
Even though I know that the ultimate power isn't mine, the power I hold over you is plenty. Wait!
Look. See this? I hold in my hand the last remaining relic of the empress of Nauru. See how it still shines despite it's age? The hands that must have touched this, the moments that have passed it by, it truly is a marvel to behold. Do you like it?
If you're interested I'm sure we could work out some kind of trade as, you see, I have held this gem for many of my own moments, and I have gleaned all the gifts it was willing to offer beyond perhaps this final farewell. I'll give it to you for free, but I will ask a favor.
Bow to me. That's not much to ask in payment to such a rare find and equally scarce generosity.
Oh, and they always do. Those who refuse just don't seem to understand, and I don't need fools to follow along. Like little fish, I release them back into their temporary existence. But there is no need to resist, as I have only good intentions. I hold a vision in my mind's eye like a sacred text. I know how life should be, so give in and trust.
What?! You refuse? Then you are of no use to me. Go, get out of my sight, so I can find someone who appreciates being used. Why do you remain?
I made a decision long ago to never question my own motives, and I'll never trust the wisdom of others, because there is no one near me in this regard. I am the mighty. I possess an intellect that would devour this world if only I had the foresight to grapple it down into submission earlier in life. It is a marvel that you would never understand. No one tries to understand, and you are just trying to confuse me, use me. From my will all this was created, but you stand there with a self righteous glare, swearing that I am at fault. You are mistaken, because I know. I made you. You are just a version of me, nothing more. You are lesser, because I am the inventor, and you are the subject.
I see from your expression that you think me a liar. Look at what you've become. Do you think that anyone will praise you for your contributions? Do you think that the world will recognize you despite the weakness you hold so proudly upon your sleeve? You must let go of those childish dreams and follow me into a path of more stability.
Where did you go? Why is everything getting so dark in here, so cold. This isn't my house. These aren't my things. Where did my family go? But I know things. I see how it should be. I know how it should be. Just let it be. Why can't it just be the way I want? I've thought this through. Why doesn't anyone trust me? Did I cause this?
I'm not sorry.
It’s not as strange as it sounds. I’ve worked here for fourteen years, and no one ever really notices me. It’s no one’s fault. My office just happens to be located in the back corner of the floor, so people just don’t have much of a reason to come over here. It’s okay, but for fourteen years I’ve watched as this company grew, and I’ve seen many come and go.
In all those years of service, I’ve never had anyone I could really call a friend or even a pal. I know it’s nothing personal; it’s just the logistics of the setup. No big deal.
About six months ago the office was graced with another new journalist. Her name is Patsy Wallace. Her hair is like peanut butter, flowing clean with volume. Her eyes tell a story of pain and anger, but green speckles decorate the gray of her irises and hint at the beauty of her youth while still retaining the elegance of her age.
At times she seems to glance at me while I’m sketching her, another portrait to add to my cubicle. Just like everyone else, I know she doesn’t see me, but I can see her, and I’d much rather be stuck sitting outside the gates looking into heaven than banished completely to hell.
Yesterday I finished my fiftieth drawing of Patsy, and each one I name a variation of envy. It’s not so strange. I’m not the first to be enamored by the beauty of someone more perfect than themselves. My cubicle wall stares back at me with a hundred eyes, unfeeling, no judgement. My Patsy doesn’t mind surrounding me.
Those people out there, outside of my cubicle, they’ll never change, and I suppose the same is true of me. I’ll never force my way into a conversation just to make myself heard; I’ll never laugh at nonsense just to seem friendly. That’s just not who I am. No.
Instead, I’ll just keep company with the more splendid reflections of those incapable of accepting something beyond the normality they’ve been manipulated into endorsing. Three walls covered with black and white faces of ink. They keep me feeling sane, even though I don’t believe in it.
I followed Patsy home today, and although I had no hope for a future together, I still felt an intense devastation when she embraced her husband. I watched them from the park for about an hour, sketching them. After talking for a while, they began to become intimate, so I decided it was time to go home, and if you can appreciate the art of my cubicle, then my apartment would blow you away.
Two bedrooms, one bathroom, kitchen, and living room, all the walls covered with neighbors and idols and strangers. Size nine by twelve, the sketches flutter and flap with the wind from my ceiling fan. A hundred thousand eyes give me strength to be myself. I sit at my desk, a mirror before me. I study my own face intently before turning it around and sketching someone more perfect than myself.
A dark room, cold and nightly, with fright we turn to those who remind us of greater problems; mysteries, we solve them together, but this is something altogether different. A fight for our lives, we sit bound next to our wives as society knives its way into our spiritual wits end, and we pant and beg like obedient little misters, all the while failing our sisters. Turn us loose on the governing bodies, bearing the work of our shoddy little hobbies. Let the processors process the massive amounts of pain from the masses, those tumbling asses whose only sin was being manipulated. Emasculated and intoxicated, our men have no hope to fight for, no country to die for.
You believers of the deceivers, can you hear an ageing griever? His vision of patriotism was rooted in escapism, and his children heard the stories second hand. Our future was taught that they’re all alone in this culture of vultures; trust no one; love no one.
All the while our bodies are changing, cells dying and rearranging, and memories fading, always fading, I do my best to keep from hating, but the anger rises and there’s a moment when the conscious realizes that the subconscious is in control, but the ego says, “no”, and we have to make a choice whether or not to pull the trigger. The taste of sweet, silver sugar. This test of endurance with no true assurance of heaven, good, or evil, surrounded constantly by arrogant people wrapped in a pretentious shell. Hell, I’d need to feel from the people their collective pain pressing upon my own soul before calling myself a god.
Then I wonder about these evil ones, and how were their minds before the deeds were done?
I look to my wife and kiss her goodbye, because I know I’m about to die. There are tears on her lips, but I cannot hear her cry. The darkness is swirling. My spirit is utterly broken. Why do these demons exist where no hero will save us? Enslave us and tame us, or they simply slay us. This is my fate.
I look out through a window at the cities sprawling overhead and the dread I am filled with is too much to deal with; I wonder if I can stop this, please give me a reason to drop this, because tomorrow might be too much to stomach. I’m sick with bile, and all the while I know that my heart was meant for something good. That’s the thing about life, in the end, it always leaves you hopeless.