I must go on.
We must go on.
Yet, this is a novel that will probably never be written, certainly never finished. Unless someone dies and then, in a way, it will be finished. For there is a ledger somewhere, a folder of paper, a rolling pen off a desk, a cold file, and in that time, most likely by the sea, she will come to me and enfold my body in her arms. Don’t fear. Don’t worry, let us contemplate the fading of the day, the dying gasp of the sun and I will smile and think about what came before.
Yes, I will think all of it through, while barely alive in the darkness of my day.
Chapter 1: Nightmares
Few good dreams for her. They were mostly nightmares. Cuts and blood. Stab wounds like overly ripe strawberries. But there was more here, more than just a woman on the edge. Her mind was a bit like yours, but with the trace of a lion-kill.
There was insight in the personal universe of her ego: self-esteem, self-respect, self-harm, self-destruction, a razor blade slowly cutting the inside of her thighs. The thrill of blood and the dopamine release, the happiness of pain. She was fascinated with blood and that was her downfall and revival.
Black on the edges of movement, distorted figures without faces, turning to the side … need to lie better, blood smells like iron, blood smells like red rust heating in the sun …
A fat fly landed on her forehead. It began to defecate as it fly-walked down her nose and cheek. There was spittle in the corner of her mouth and the fly took a drink. Nature in the balance. Then the woman took a deep breath and sucked the fly inside. She moved her lips around, sticking the tip of her tongue out, and then rolled her head into a pillow.
Father says, it’s not your fault, it’s in the genes, try to shake it off … singing in the background, waking up is harder than it seems … putrid animals and mud, my three bottles of whisky on the sill … dying like a soft sheet, twisted in the dryer …
She subliminally heard the noise of Las Vegas. It caused a disturbance in the room. The white sheer curtains billowing like sails in a storm at the balcony’s double door. There were sirens, shouting, car horns. Her face scrunched up. Lines of pain. There was a collision between the present and the past. The terrible timescale of her youth had nothing to do with outside sounds and she was fighting to stay in her own personal history.
Father’s eyes cold … Mother’s hands bloody … I hate the house, I hate Mother … the fog tastes like dirty ice, drink the fog, taste the ice holding hands, everyone talking, prayers at the grave, everyone talking, dead in bed, breaking vows like bird necks, moaning low, blood prayers, raise the bottle, going blind by the drink …
She began to mutter like some guttural animal, her body twitching, her hands moving, trying to grasp an image in the air. The past was real in her nightmares; dimension and voice, color and texture. She could hear, feel, and smell everything. Her nightmares were justifications for actions during day. Too bad for everyone else, she had her reasons for odd behavior and anyway, in her line of work it was almost expected, a given.
Her mental illness was hidden by the general insanity of society. No one had time for those who could partly function. Hardly anyone ever noticed her odd behavior and people referred to her as an iconoclast or a genius operating with a different cachet.
Mother screams in the morning, he’s not there, take the knife, fall to your knees, Mother says, blood smells like iron, blood smells like red rust heating in the sun … steps fading away …
Slowly she began to realize her skin, her breathing, her pumping heart, but the nightmares almost never went away when she awoke. She couldn’t get rid of them and they had become a part of her psyche.
She carried them on her back through the day like a still born child waiting to be resurrected at night.
Burning mouth, black hole, dry like grave dust, fluttering fear and … I’m … still … here … breathing rapidly, coming to, alive …
She then crossed over the thin borderline that bounds all of us in the straitjacket of reality. She was half-aware of the apartment walls.
Neon light across the kitchen counter, yes, the ruined sauce, the dried-out spaghetti, all too real, realer than real, yes, the hammer smashing down upon the visions …
Where am I …
She opened her eyes and became what she did not want to be. It only took a few seconds, and there was no helping it, everything fated, she was here, a few blocks from the poor odds laid upon the green felt tables of Las Vegas.
Chapter Two: The Last Second Replacement for the Chapter Two I Will Send to Jan … Perhaps When Hell Freezes Over
Pete was generally a hardhead, a contrarian and when he overheard the doctor tell his wife that the worst was over and he was getting better, he disputed the opinion in his mind. All of this was happening at the same time Carol was locking her doors and windows. She managed to make it to her bed with the morphine close by. Exhausted, she lay for a minute and then put a few extra drops on her lips to usher her along. She did so while Pete was struggling to breathe one last time within the bowels of Africa.
In the dark, I stopped thinking about these two people with disintegrating bodies, without the kingdoms they each had inhabited, and instead, I visualized how climate change was altering heaven and hell. Phenomena we never thought possible.
In heaven the clouds were no longer white, but grey to black, filled with lightning and deafening thunder. Either it rained too much or not enough. For the most part, the flowers and sweet grass had all dried out and turned brown, washed away in the deluge. The clean streams with dappled fawns, were no more. Grapes were scarce and the angels had lost their way due to the flipping of the heavenly magnetic poles. South was now north for the angels and instead of picking up some gentle soul in Vermont, they were flapping around Jefferson County, Alabama, lost and confused in the haze of hatred that arose from the houses.
Hell was changed even more. Instead of lakes of fire, the lakes had frozen over. The vile souls of hell were given the assignment of ice skating. The Devil’s minions enjoyed watching the idiots fall down over and over, breaking jaw and rib, for what seemed like eternity. However, occasionally skaters would drop through thin ice and everyone could see their faces just below the surface, looking upward in horror, drowning on a long-term basis. Intestines became Mammoth dicks from the depths of some glacier, unwieldy, and hurtful. Blood became a Slurpee, while eyeballs turned into endless ice cubes spilling out of a malfunctioning refrigerator. Hell had, indeed, frozen over, but the Devil had changed the meaning of hell. No more fires, but rather portable igloo cold boxes, mostly red with white tops. Sinners were forced to bend their bodies into the cold boxes. The lids were closed and people suffocated, beat and kicked the sides to no avail.
Regarding constant death, the Devil continued to enforce mandatory nakedness. In hell, it was better to die without clothing. Nothing to cover wounds and moans as odd animals devoured the dead and dying. And so, everyone stood around waiting their turn to die, over and over again, shivering to death, watching teeth fragments crack out of mouths, as the snow fell and the temperatures plunged into frozen hearts.
Oh, it was heaven and hell, alright, but they were different and even the dead were forced to adapt.
I imagined what Carol and Pete would think about heaven and hell. Carol would definitely complain, on and on, for forever perhaps, and Pete would start the same, but eventually, in his pragmatic way, he would give in to the conditions of his ethereal state. He would make the best of it, while Carol would demand a recount while trying to steal a horse.
Well, all of this seems fine to me. And now it is the darkest hour of my night and I must begin to think about the doctor and the accountant.
I was indirectly involved in both of their deaths.