Entry 0075: Roll the Bones for Your Fortunte, Part One

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LP: Faust by Faust

2007 Lilith LR 138

Favorite Track: Meadow Meal

 

The x-ray revealed that Simon had seven metacarpal bones in his right hand. The doctor seemed nonplussed, whistling a dreary sort of sea chanty. Simon looked at the engorged knuckles of his middle, ring, and pinkie finger then back at the x-ray. At least it is not cancer, he thought to himself.

Dr. Wallace Watson, of Charleston and Southern politeness, smiled ruefully with permanent pink dimples. “I know a specialist. Dr. Terrance McMallard. He runs a practice at Tybee Island although he is a bit of an eccentric. Rambles about that Tybee Bomb and still calls the place Savannah Beach, which causes most of his clients to get lost.”

Dr. Watson clapped his hands together which was muffled by the charts and clipboard. “He knows a lot about extreme oddities of the human anatomy. And some other anatomies. Let me fetch you his card.”

Simon flexed his hand. He couldn’t feel any extra bones shifting or grinding against each other. Why only one hand? he thought morosely. Somehow he didn’t feel complete that he had half a set of extra bones. A thought that kept him up well past the dawn.

 

Simon felt a sense of uneasiness squirming through his arms and legs as he drove through Georgia. The thin, grey trees bothered him. The winding road forced a dizzying displacement of his normally natural sense of directions. A day owl dogged his vehicle for three miles, silent with white wings spread like outstretched fingers.

On the other hand, a college radio station out of Athens was rocking a Krautrock hour that had him mesmerized. In particular, a band named Faust (their song Jennifer was playing now) tickled his musical fancy. It had been years since Simon played the clarinet and bassoon, but as the German song droned on, he wished he could pull the car to the side and play a haunting solo to the knobby trees and falling foliage. The radio jockey had a bold, smoky kind of voice, like a fuzzy amp, and he made an apologist remark about the Krautrock genre name before playing a collaborative piece between Cluster and Brian Eno. Simon was part German and had once been called a Kraut (“as in sauerkraut!”) by a friend in the fourth grade, but he never really identified with that aspect of his heritage. As an American, he was privileged enough to forget he was white, he was male, he was part German, part Irish, that his grandparents had made the travel to the New World in search of a better opportunity; he never really stopped and thought about where and who he was at all. He just existed. But none of the labels–American, part German, white, male–ever seemed to definitively pin him down. They acted more like clothing he wore, descriptors that suggested who he was, but only up to a certain point.

Tybee Island was a sleepy coastal town with a wide stretch of goldenrod sand. Simon toured the famous lighthouse, ate a leafy lunch on a dock, then found his lodgings at a quaint bed and breakfast. When it started to grow dark, he sat in the rocking chair on the front porch and counted the bats he saw flitting between the distant trees. His mind never let off thinking about the x-ray.

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Entry 0074: Drafting a Short Story

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EP: The Fabulous Sequel by Pere Ubu

1979 Chrysalis CHS 2372

Favorite Track: The Fabulous Sequel

 

This is a continuation of the work started in entry 0056. To refresh your memory, please click here.

I remember laughing at Roland’s exertion that our concept of space was limited, but then Adam started to discuss in earnest the possibility of the beyond. Roland at first seemed bemused, a parent smiling at a child talking about the ghost under the bed, but then a crease formed in his brow and the corner of his dark lips arched. He led Adam and me to his studio where an unfinished sketch sat in the sunlight coming in through a tall window. Roland disappeared into a closet and came back with a bottle of Scotch and some glasses. Then he returned to the closet and came back with the Jan Hus drawing.

The Scotch was a refined bit of burning earth tones and I drank more of it than I should as Adam pegged Roland questions about Jan Hus’s movements throughout Prague, particularly in the mining town of Kutna Hora. I toured the modest room Roland used as a studio, noting the aged photographs of travels (but none of his family), the worn brushes and splattered paints, and the curious horned animal that showed up in many of his drawings, each time a frenzy of scribbles instead of his usual broad lazy strokes. It seemed to me as if he was trying to depict the creature’s movement, but that it didn’t walk on four legs like the ram it sort of looked like. But before I could ponder further on the subject, I overheard Roland say, “Did you know that Franz Kafka was also very interested in Jan Hus? And that he made an oblique reference in his story In the Penal Colony?”

Adam caught my expression and for a moment I read a passing quiet fury overcome his features. Then he broke out into a loud and obnoxious laugh and kissed me, which I must confess in this sort of confessional that I shuddered from that kiss, so cold and offensive it was to me at the time. It, of course, would be the last kiss I would receive from him.

“Whatever do you mean?” Adam asked. He looked into Jan Hus’s eyes as if Kafka might be a bug floating around inside of them.

Roland slurred his speech as he paced in circles around us, “There are few of us who believe what is probably poppycock. Yes, just a few of us who have seen what no body else has ever seen…or dreamed. Never trust your dreams, they are not the result of an overexcited mind entertaining itself while the body rests. They are…astral projections, but I digress. Few of us believe in this reading of Kafka, but, after visiting Prague itself, seeing his former home near the Castle, seeing the Ram salon, and then after traveling to the Seldac Ossuary, well, my mind cannot be changed. You see, In the Penal Colony is really just a summoning ritual…if you know how to read it properly. A particular ritual, one that can only be done in the Penal Colony itself, although that is not the name of the place. But sprinkled throughout his text are hints…deep in the earth…12 hours, the length of the ritual…the…but I should not explain what the bed, the inscriber, and the harrow really are…I can already count the hairs on the back of your neck, Parker.”

Roland stared into my eyes then continued his speech. My throat felt parched, urging me to fill it with more of the dirty liquor. Adam was enraptured by Roland’s fancy talk. The bottle of Scotch was dangling precariously between two loose knuckles.

“The Officer speaks of the Commandant. He is quite adamant about the Commandant. As he must be. The Commandant comes from beyond time and space. The Commandant is the one who can be summoned, or, at least, that is what most of us believe. There is one dissenter. Anyways, the breakdown referred to in the text reference the need for humans to assist in the summoning. A wizard must fix the sprockets, you could say but only if you understand 15th Century Renaissance humor. And the result, what happens to the Condemned, well, sacrifice has always been a part of humanity. It is our greatest trait–the most beautiful when viewed through certain lenses; the most barbaric otherwise–our ability to pursue the quest of knowledge to the very end of our own life or someone else’s…just for a glimpse of truth, which enlightens, frightens, and, finally, is forgotten.”

We left in silence. The sun was going down and that unnerved me. The pattern of leaves that spilled across the hood of the car seemed to crawl around like crazed insects. Adam made small talk now and then but I could tell his mind was working. I wanted my camera. He wanted his books.

I did not know he had already booked a ticket to Prague.

Entry 0073: Campfire Tales

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EP: He’s Frank by the Monochrome Set

1979 I.R.S. Records IR 9002

Favorite Track: He’s Frank

 

“There’s a man in the woods…”

The recoil from the rifle shot still reverberated through the hollow with a rumbling descrescendo. Sparks were puffed from the fire on great clouds of smoke. The five boys sat on uneven stones more or less making a circle around the burning woods. Two or three of them had glasses of amber liquid in their hands while the tallest boy dragged on a medicinal herb and passed it to the boy with the most spaced-out eyes.

He said, “The Federal Reserve is involved with five conspiracies. They got their hands on money. They got their hands on time. They got their hands on the work force. They got their hands on the government. They got their hands on space.”

A rotund boy wearing a monocle (a weak boy I must insert into this cracked narrative, easy to chew) threw some dry sticks into the flame, “It’s getting cold. Was it always this cold? I think the last time I was in the Gorge, there was this squall…”

“There are wizards roaming our chain stores profiting on selling time and distributing money that gets you high…”

“There’s a man in the woods…”

The tallest boy arched his head back to take in the stars. They were crawling around again, a fuzzy matrix of possible routes through different universes. For a moment, he wished they would just make up their collective mind and freeze in place so he could assign them names in case he ever had to ask them for future advice. When he shifted his head back down to the fire, the stars came with him, showering him in a silvery waterfall.

“I’ve got a woman in my life now. Met her at karaoke at the Crepe Underground. Lovely, a kind soul, garrulous. I think I’ve only gotten two sentences in, which is probably why she is still dating me…”

“A large crack of lightning struck the tree fifty feet from me. Splintered the trunk in half. A piece of the bolt broke off and bounced toward me like a rolling sphere of jagged purple spikes. Came at me before my eyes could register what exactly was happening, but I knew the hairs were standing up on my arms and I had instinctively stopped breathing the hot air…”

“Stop quoting all the literature you read. Always with the scientific phenomena, the mystical experiences, the weird. You probably saw your bathroom light bulb burst when you went to vomit after a night of heavy drinking. And now you are trying to pass it off like a zen koan…”

The fire was waging now. The smoke grew thicker obscuring the five boys from seeing each other. The boy with glasses added more unnecessary sticks to the fire. The tallest boy looked up at the stars again, trying to lick each one. The red-headed boy whistled a love song about a girl with curly hair. Another rifle crack thundered around the ridge like shifting ice.

“They make twice the profits because they sell Staples their time to use their own business, but Staples has to pay for the time using Wizard Bucks, which they have to buy from a different Federal Reserve wizard who is using Staples’s own copy machine to make the Wizard Bucks. And they aren’t affiliated with Staples so they can pocket this double cash…”

“I should have been dead but the ball lightning exploded soundlessly before my eyes and in its place floated a will o’wisp. Just hovering and beckoning me so I trounced off into the forest, away from the fire, heading toward Star Gap Arch…”

“There’s a man in the woods…”

A gust of wind cleared some of the smoke before the boy with glasses threw on more wood. The tallest boy noticed their were four boys sitting around the camp. A cup of bourbon sat on a rock. No sonorous whistling fluttered in the air.

“You are always reading that pulp garbage. Monsters wearing human skin, alien devices that can extend your mind to the ends of the universe, impossible maths. I’ve always said you needed to become grounded in reality. Take a fucking science course. Rotate in the same directional orbit as the planet you are standing on. By the way, where the hell is that herb?”

“These wizards sell us our own atmosphere. Each breath enriches them. When Congress tried to extend the length of a moment,  they embezzled our tax returns to bribe lobbyists…”

An unseen bird flew over the camp and landed on a branch right along the cliff side. The tallest boy took back the herb and puffed. The smoke mixed with the darkness made his vision hazy, but he was distinctly aware there were only three boys sitting around the fire now. He glanced at the cabin but none of its lights were on.

“There’s a man in the woods…”

“Remember that story you told me about the Thing? Not the John Carpenter movie, but from that weird guy. An amorphous creature that haunted kids at sleepovers, threw knives with deadly accuracy, but whose Achilles Heel was a silver knife? Kind of ironic, if the author spelled out that it was killing all those children with knives that could kill it, but he wrote prose like a swollen eggplant…”

“You can’t fight them. You would have to ask them permission first and they will make you do all this paper work and you’ll just cut your wrist they fill out another Requisition to Draw Swords…”

In the blackness of space, the diamond moon began to put itself to sleep. The boy with spaced-out eyes couldn’t find his mug anymore but found another cup of bourbon and finished the rest of the rust-colored contents. It tasted more bitter than he remembered, but another puff and he was right back among the wizards.

“Wait, where did you even go with your ridiculous stories? You know I was kidding right? Always so sensitive. I like Poe and Machen and even Derleth can set a dark, unsettling atmosphere, but the woods are just woods. There are no monsters. There is no unspeakable evil out there in the beyond, watching and waiting.”

Silence breathed smoke, but no one had added wood in quite a while. The embers were increasing, however, spitting sparks with pops and crackles at an insistent rate. The boy realized he was alone but the cabin looked empty. Fear wrapped its cold, clammy hand around his neck. It was so strong that the boy thought somebody was really touching him and that sent even more shock into his system so that he could not run toward the cabin. Maybe there is something scientific about the supernatural…

“There’s a man in the woods…”

As the diamond moon sunk so did the embers extinguish themselves. The tallest boy stood above the other boy, wiping the blade of a knife on his maroon-stained overalls.