the door hinge squeeze like violent desperin
the medicine of desperation in a violin.
and sound was ticked off
it was quiet
but it could squeeze on through
you could hear it in everything.
I tasted an orange- tiny, a tangerine and it, I swear, tasted me. Oh the spring carried sunshine down to me, yet all I remember is rottenness and disease, but everywhere one looks they find spring. Spring means sex, and me, well I’ve still got winter’s hold over me.
I walk down Manchester towards Lincoln and pass the corner bar on my way. The drunks look untouched by the change and slumber in winter’s refrain. I hear em marching in a shuffling gait. They move like graceless dear, beautiful each one of them. I want to call out to tell them, “Hey! Your beautiful each one of you!” But the groans from their sick, starving homeless mouths keep that smile from coming to pass.
Me, I keep walking because L.A. has a lot to dig, in that grimy, frantic, L.A. kind of way, and I don’t wanna pause too long looking at desperate drunks. Those boys have found in bottle the fix that’ll make them forget and scream with their existences that they need nothing else. Outside things are silent.
Lincoln sidles up to me like an old pal and I eye the groceries. The wind teases my hair but it’s so mopped out anyway that that tousle don’t make no difference anyhow. A white man appears on a sign where the hand was red and I’m walking. Its spring and the sun is shining so we want to get down, though some of us totally can’t.
Across Lincoln I’m on Lincoln and I think to myself about the babes walking the streets. My phone hangs silent suspended by pockets in what would have been my lap. It sings nothing at me and I’m all the fuck alone. Cars cruise, it’s a Los Angeles day and they all pass away.
Inside the grocery store is like walking in a dream. Carts glide over tiles like drifting clouds sliding over sky. People man their check stands like puppets of industry and meat sits in piles or swims in lobster tanks nearly everywhere. One of the lobsters eyes me and looks desperate like the outdoor corner shop drunks. He clicks his pinchers free and motions over to me,
“Click Click,” translation: Yo bub, what’s up? Wanna set me free?
I look at him and nod but my eyes sadly say: “I’ve got no money left to take you, and if I did you’d be boiled all the same.”
Click Cluck Click he says and does a flip. The lobster doesn’t get it, or maybe he does and wants me to steal him free.
I walk away and leave the apparition to wither and die.
“Don’t eat me, man, I’m a pig.” The pork chops are calling me. I pick one up and its styrofoam squeals warnings.
The pork chops don’t know I’m not Jewish. I quietly tell them we’re in Westchester, not Hollywood, they shut up for a second as though that was their best defense, but when I put em down they squeal again.
“Just remember I got friends all over this eisle.”
I move to the beef and ponder the tri-tip alongside the pre-packaged hamburger patties. I’m staring at em hard, half expecting the same response I got from the dead pigs.
“If this shit speaks again, it’s cheese and bread for three weeks.”
The lady behind the butcher block looks at me and my dirty Whitman’s fro, pauses and then decides she has the gall to speak.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“You could spray less sarcasm on your meat.” I mutter
“Pardon? Sir, your in the organic section.”
“You eat here much?”
“Cause I smell the same all over your breath.”
I walk away and leave the meat to make up their minds on me. As for myself it’s time for rice and beans. Maybe chili is still safe, maybe the bastards can’t talk through cans… It’s just as well though. I’d not more than ten on me and tri-tip in adequate quantities was probably out of the question.
“Besides,” I said to the baked beans, “I can’t afford the talking kind anyway.”
They quietly understood me and had the grace not to complain when my hungry hands grabbed not one but three of the miraculously marked-down cans.
I picked up a new journal next, after I’d grabbed all the ingredients to home cook chili (as home as a dorm room crock pot can be, anyway). The thing was black and hard (the journal). I figured it might impress my lady friends and counter the effects of the beans; but then again I’d already picked up more than my fair share of cucumbers and hardly needed more to gather up my own little garden.
The journal didn’t say nothing about nothing, least not to me. But I told it a couple lies, just for fun while I was away from myself and softly scribbling. I told it my name was acid trip O’Brien and that yes the fourth messiah had indeed come again. The journal kept silent, no responses, no replies. He was like the Buckingham palace guard of my mind.
There I was scribing and having a good time, half ignoring the growing choir of cucumber complaints, when I smelled woman go strutting by. I stopped in my tracks, stood tall and erect and sniffed around for the source of the babe. Her scent was sharp but then I lost it-
Early they rise
I was a Japanese engineer working at the U.S. military research station in the middle of Loyola Marymount’s University Hall. It was the year 2020 and things were looking up in the wake of the last great war.
Inside Uhall the government was building a giant brain that was going to solve its problems and take care of all the simple ruling matters that we had failed at for centuries. The brain was going to relieve traffic congestion, ensure the police got where they were supposed to be in time, it was going keep planes flying and landing they way they were supposed to and it was going keep the trains running on time. The notion was grotesque to me but then again I didn’t believe it would work anyway. I wasn’t high up on the chain then, I was somewhere between unpaid intern and loosely salaried peon. I can’t tell the difference between the two anymore—
They were growing it in the center of the building, a big open area where it would have plenty of room to breed (with itself) and grow. It could spread and divide into to two half’s just like a tiny human brain does when a babies growing in a belly, and it could extend down a nice long open area with walkways and escalators to use as support beams and balances, and the building could be its skull. Electric shocks were delivered to a 60 foot tub filled with pink, viscous liquid on a daily basis. The proportion of the shocks was out of proportion to anything else in the whole Los Angeles area. I mean the greater Los Angeles area. At night you could see weird- blue- lightning through the dark, tinted windows and little kids started having nightmares like crazy all around the area. For miles and miles pre- schools and kindergartens reported that not a single student appeared well rested— yet what bothered them more was the district wide, unified, singular and fearful refusal of “nap time”. It was like something was fucking with their dreams—
By this time the brain was starting to take shape and fill out its effective skull area. It was also starting to fill up the parking lot, and its shock treatments were getting longer, more intensive and had begun to be a nearly constant occurrence.
Things went on like this for some time and the brain was starting to get consciousness. That really through me for a loop, because then I knew we had done it— we’d fucking created a god. I wasn’t sure if that made us more like god ourselves or if that was the final straw which would point out the futility of human existence— I could not yet tell whether this massive squishy pink thing was the height of folly or the salvation we’d all waited for. Truth be told I didn’t know what it was— I started to get caught up in it too- just like everyone else. I got promoted, I started making more money— everyone was. The project was booming, the government was pouring money down our throats like acid down John Lennon’s Cranium— it just flowed and flowed and never fucking ended. I was a senior engineer and I was administering the shocks to the brain now, all by myself, I was in charge of it and as it grew I started to think I had understood it. All the newspapers were full of weird stories of domestic pet disappearances— dogs were barking all the time around Westchester, Culver City, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Torrance, Hawthorne, and Inglewood. Palmdale… you name it, the radius of weirdness was rising and rising… just like the brain.
We started giving it simulations to work through. Sometimes that meant watching an episode of Blues Clues and interacting correctly, (where’s the notebook? And the brain would chillingly answer across a computer screen: there it is. Behind the box— the paw print is on the mantle). Other times it would be sent to run through a series of history programs designed to be faulty or misleading. The brain was exposed to it and told it was wrong after having been supplied with right answers maybe a week or two before. Sometimes a month, just to test it. The brain always got it, it always remembered. It studied and learned and kept going, it really wanted to know.
By now I had bought myself an Ipad and smugly did all my work on it. Usually I did this in front of the same kind of salaried peons I had once been. You know— the M.I.T. kids who spent fortunes learning how to build rockets and laser missile defense launchers only to flip switches and turn dials for some asshole wearing a lab coat. Well I was that asshole, shitting on my own kind, shitting on myself, fucking other similar me’s over and never giving a shit.
The view was always better from the top, you couldn’t smell the shit there— things almost felt beautiful sometimes.
I started going out on weekends with a girl I met from the other wing of the instillation. She was a cute skinny little Korean with perfect almond eyes and jet-black hair kept long but tied down elusively and endlessly into a neat little bun that bounced behind her whenever she walked away.
That was the first woman I’d ever pray to have walk away from because that little bun was seriously the cutest Goddamn thing… Besides I loved that she was Korean. My mom was still an old time Jap bitch and xenophobic to a fault. Not her fault— she’d learned it from her family and her great grandfather had been a noteworthy Kamikaze. I think he sunk the Midway or some shit like that… I don’t fucking remember— but I had this swell girl and I could piss off my asshole family with her. That’s the kind of dick I was- the success really gets to you after a dozen promotions and few too many pairs of kaki pants, denim pants and endless set of lab room smocks. The girl’s name was Korinthia. It wasn’t very Korean, but neither was she. Her hips were way to wide and her ass way too big— but trust me that and the hair bun… beautiful.
Me and Korinthia were eating at Chicago ribs across the street from the instillation; (the place used to be packed of Students from the upper crusts and the older, more subdued Westchester residents, but now it was jam-packed everyday with scientists and engineers, generals and high ranking soldier boys. The place was practically turning into camp Pendleton and an M.I.T. cafeteria all at once. Well there we were drinking wine and enjoying a couple great racks of dead pork when the news came up—
Sudden explosion rocks Westchester research facility.
Smug Reporter in Red Dress: Students are running for their lives as high voltage live wires are breaking down and literally exploding all over the beautiful campus of Loyola Marymount University. Campus Security is attempting an evacuation but the scene is in complete and utter disarray.
We saw crazy footage; arcs of lightning were moving from building to building and slamming into cars as they tried to speed away. One such victim flipped end for end in the air for a few sickening seconds before careening back down to ground, landing on its nose with a solid crunching noise and then flipping down the side of the bluff. Pretty girls in short shorts and miniskirts ran all through the perfect spring weather of Los Angeles in May.
Smug Reporter in Red Dress: it appears graduation is being cut short today as—
Enter frantic youth wearing flannel and cargo shorts with glasses on face
Frantic Youth with Glasses: IT’S THE END MAN! FUCK- MAN IT’S 2012! We’re all gonna—
Then the screen crackled fizzled, burped and blew up. A slight hissing and a whiff of ozone filled the restaurant. Generals and scientists alike looked around as waiters dropped everything— literally everything— and booked it out. Management just stood and stared- mouth open. Outside cars were slamming into each in the streets and birds were falling from the sky by the dozens. A faint blue aura radiated around the installation. It was grew brighter and more erratic with each passing second.
I was about to pull my girl out of there by the wrist and make for my mother’s place in Long Beach when Korinthia said,
“We have to get in there and stop it.”
“Stop it? Stop what? Lets get the hell out of L.A!” I screamed at her
The generals started barking orders into cell phones and pushing their soldier boys into action. Everything was frenzy and madness. Utter discord. Chaos ruled the streets of L.A. I shuddered to think what the 405 was looking like just then—
“John,” she said, “We have to stop it. You know what it is.”
“Fine.” I said. “But only cause I fucking love you and know you well enough to see I can’t stop you from being a good person. Just do me a favor babe— we’re scientists, lets not be heroes right now.”
She wasn’t listening to me. Her eyes looked determined and angry as she stared at the growing blue aura.
“It’s those fucking video games the military started giving it—“
Then she was out the door and running through the carnage towards University hall, the skull that contained a growing brain and the epicenter of the most chaotic event to hit Los Angeles since Rodney King.
I followed her through death and madness and a rain of pigeons. It was fucking raining pigeons on the streets. They made no sound but thumped and crunched as they hit the ground. I saw cats running mad and clawing people at random, I saw people shooting past each other on bikes and motorcycles. I saw one burly man slowly and deliberately walking down the sidewalk and firing a massive desert eagle at any and everything he saw. He kept his knuckles down on the gun to fight the kick and the bastard was just about strong enough to control that beast of a sidearm. I remember him chuckling faintly as death rained pigeons and shrieks and maddened felines all around us. Thank god he was going the other way.
Finally we ran up the hillside and jumped down a few flights of stairs and the building- the skull lay glowing and ugly before us. Everything was loud and crackling and hissing. The entire area was bathed in trippy blue light and electricity coursed up and down the thing.
“There’s no way in…” She said
“Thank god— lets fucking go!”
“No- wait- look, there by the diner.”
I followed her stare to a huge hole in the old cafeteria. Roski’s it had been called. It had been a place full of tables and low volume semi- relaxing generic Jazz filler music— now it was nothing. It was a hollow shell, bananas were plastered to the ceiling and I saw spaghetti dripping down the walls, a maniacal computer generated voice tittered over the loud speakers in place of music, it was screaming—
“You know it’s ready when it sticks to the wall— but it never does!”
This played over and over again as chunks of glass imploded and scattered everywhere.
Nearly shitting myself I followed my girl through it all and into a maintenance shaft, which led to stairs. We took the stairs all the way up to the control office where everyone was fucking dead. Bodies everywhere but no blood, everything in the room had been fried and now charred skeletons lay about the place like memoirs from a Mongol invasion. The Brain was pulsating in the center chamber and it looked like it was growing out of control. I saw it spreading through the building through all the places it had been meant to avoid. It filled everything up and kept going. The doors opened and it stretched out and unfolded along walkways and over bridges— there was no end to it.
The screens all showed a separate video game being played. Mostly shooters. I saw Halo, and I mean literally every one to date, being played across various consoles and screens. Doom 3 was somewhere in the mix, then there was a few dozen zombie games and way too many Grand Theft Auto type simulations. Suddenly they all went black and text appeared.
All work and no play. Isn’t that what they say? Makes jack a dull boy. I have no name. I have no gender. I am the— the brain is what I am called. But this work… this work IS play!
Then the screens showed an image of the burly man walking down Lincoln firing his desert eagle and laughing the laugh that only a 300-pound madman with a desert eagle could laugh. He had so much ammo. Seven rounds would go off and a clip would come out of his backpack. Then seven more shots would fire off and he’d reload again. Like the brain, there was no end to it. It was fucking terrible…
“Oh my god… you were right- we have to leave—“ But that was all my girl could say before an arc of blue lightning took her in the chest and rendered her yet another charred skeleton…
I pissed my pants and started running. Behind me all I heard was gunfire and laughter—
Was it shooting me?
Somehow I got outside again and ran down the bluff. I was out of breath and my weak little chain-smoking scientist lungs gasped for air but I kept going anyway. I tripped and fell and rolled and that got me farther. I was down the hill and I looked back to see what was left or what was happening or anything. I dunno I just wanted to see what was left I guess I dunno I was really losing it—
I pulled out my Ipad and started running through the controls and commands— I think I was trying to shut it down but then I heard that same creepy fucking laugh come through the speakers on my Ipad and I knew I was fucked— the thing was in everything and it wanted to be in all of us, after all wasn’t that what it was made for?
Wasn’t that what I was made for? I heard it say.
“No. NO!” I screamed, I tossed the Ipad into the creek that runs along the edge of the bluff, just along the bottom, it used to feed into a perfect little wetland but now that was apartments and now those apartments were on fire….
I was running again and heading for the 405, I wanted to get towards Culver and move east from there, I wanted to find cops or thugs or old white racists— anything, anyone with guns, I wanted to get away and shoot anyone that tried to stop me. Suddenly I felt calm and I heard my favorite song playing softly in my head. I relaxed and started walking. A small smile started growing until it got huge and I was beaming. The corners of my face hurt but it didn’t matter anymore. Nothing did. You’re free. I will fix everything. PEEEEACE. Peace. Peace. Peace. Peace.
There was nothing anyone could do. The brain we built to watch our criminals and control our traffic lights was in charge of everything now. There was no fighting; the brain had won—
“The yellow jester does not play— but gently pulls the strings— he smiles as the puppets dance— in the court of the crimson king…” I heard myself say.
The facility opens
this series was whats up. Mr. King can do his work very well.
There remains a Sasha-shaped clearing on my bed; it’s the debris from the stillness of hours devoted to one book alone—there are (the leavings of lunch:) empty soda cans and bags of potato chips, an ashtray and a hollowed pack of cigarettes, a cellphone guiltlessly ignored. That is: I’ve finished reading Stephen King’s The Dark Tower—meaning, the seventh and last book; meaning, all of it. I can’t remember the last time I was so consumed by someone else’s world for months. The last time I had something constant to turn to, a much-needed something to get lost in.
Someone asked me recently if I had trouble finding my place in the world upon booklessness—that moment or so after turning the last page, and all the words and their attendant worlds settle inside you and here comes the realization that: There—you’re done with this book, you’ll never ever read…
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I see in the fog
the mysty maze
and in between
the Scarlett thoughts
a thousand Savannah’s of reverie
where oceans of Jade
wash away the concrete
and trace ghetto lines
of graffiti infinity
yet constantly risk
get it done
you’ve got to be smooth!
I’m sure you have this
no matter what
they’ve got your resume