There are aspects of my experience in Louisville that I will never understand. Deep down I suspect that you may have more answers about this than I do. I can never shake my belief that I was being recruited, and later persecuted, by forces more powerful than I could have imagined . . . As long as I am alive, these forces will never stop hounding me.
— Iris Chang
My working conditions improved quick until I was soon manager and one day surrounded by pyramids. A different voice, a kind one, said to me: You know your home is Pleiades. I learned the language fast, but I’ve had better. Yes, the two customers. I had to learn how to speak to both, but it helps to know English so I can help at least someone. The band clamped around my neck after the second hour. How to say weather? It reminds me of Phoenix without my ventilator. I want the heat the more I work the long burials. I want it close to me. I’m always wet, so hot. Hot sweating or I just wet myself.
The first thing I wind up telling people I meet is why I love my moms so much. One of them, I think she was female, approached me and said: There’s no need to be afraid; just come with me. This mom, above all else, taught me integrity—doing the right thing even when no one is around though someone always is. What I learned from her the most is how I am a fulfillment of prophecy. I also learned that my moms should never be hurt by anyone. I was there when my father tried to shoot her. I think one of the requirements was that I be there. How could I tell her no when that’s what my father shouted? When she asked me to, I followed her into a room and shut the door behind us. As soon as it shut, she was gone, and three smaller females looked at me—calling me Mommy. No lie, but what I take from that situation is that I know my moms went through many hardships and persecutions and, well, I know deep down that my own relationships can be different. I think the way I act takes a lot of practice, but I didn’t sleep for nearly a year.
My mother tells me: Your life is just like your childhood stories of perfect life. I feel like I read you. I’m sorry. I’m not good with lying. I could not write this life. In this life, I took trip to oval quarry. I had just turned forty and wanted to show my wife I still had youth left. I wore suede shirt and pants—what I came to think of as my uniform—and there he was, tall and cold and staring. I dropped my pickax when his body rotated to match direction of his head. And I dreamt about, um, geometric proof; I do it. Please, I do it. But instead I talked to him. I was forced to. I changed my tone but nothing. Nothing. Then he stopped as if he heard directions at somewhere else. He fell to knees. He was, his thigh and upper body didn’t move. A golden ratio away by car and my faithful wife nowhere. Sometimes I wake up and see dark air sitting on to me. Most times I’m nice because I heard that irritates them, no, confuses them, but sometimes I get angry and abuse it. I know this is a bad way to speak, but I’m doing it on purpose. But the time it walked backwards, its body away on some travel, I loved it as much as I love my wife.
I miss fingerprinting done with actual ink even though I never experienced the process myself. At the police station, the cop told me where to stand and for how long. I knew his arms were the result of what happens when a scouring pad is left in a shower stall. I wasn’t surprised at all when he used the foot pedal to get the full spread of my print on the computer screen. Out of habit, I almost turned the page when he nodded with his hands full. I felt like I was having piano lessons again because I couldn’t resist when the cop removed my glasses and started to shave the hair surrounding my ears. The hair of the doll next to me vanished in strips too, and when wires protruded from her head, I knew the same thing was happening to me. He asked me who should receive the prints. I said: Release them to me, but I walked outside with smooth palms void of prints, and the first thing I could think to do was hide them in the snow. But I didn’t because there wasn’t any. I watched a string-on-a-dollar-trick one time and never forgot what happened at the end. There wasn’t any snow.
My higher-ups go on and on about how tired I look—at the most inopportune times too just to weaken my resolve. My only real friend is the overweight bloke who hasn’t left the office yet, so he doesn’t know all the pain he’s in for. Who’s your mate then? Geoff asks me daily. The way he interrupted our boss, just to ask what the word segment means, broke my heart. He tries so hard. The night they injected me with the new cocktail, I screamed, Yes, yes, bloody brilliant yes, because I’m trying to corrupt their data. In actuality, the crocodile bent my fingers back as he raped me, and I thought I saw a universe drift away by photocopier. I wouldn’t let myself be a part of it, though. I told my boss I felt a distinct tingling in my fingers and nothing else. During Geoff’s session, he held nothing back. He told us the secretaries nick all the light bulbs at night and hide them away straight up their twadges without cracking any. He said the silver beings dart around lighting up the place, and that’s what the sun would look like if we could slow it down beyond the moment of stopping. When he stupidly eats his afters at lunch, smiling and slapping my back, I do something like break the top off the salt and eat bits of broken glass. The higher-ups never miss a chance to straighten my bloody tie and tussle my hair, but by god, I never give that lot anything they can use.
The people from my city are the ones who come to your city and say: Well, back in my city, we do this. We just want to say the name of our city, but I can’t say it now. Architects design our houses so that every room has a clear view of the street. Our literature and commercials encourage us to watch the street so we can change what happens there. We can’t be exactly sure what we change, though. I’m not perfect because I looked away one time and a truck crashed, spilling all kinds of meat. When I looked back, I knew many wolves were fighting over it all, but I only saw a man with no chin or eyebrows. He had sharp rods for hands. He asked me from there, all the way to my house, if I would like to be without hunger for six days. I said yes and ate his wheat. Before I could even wonder if I was changing him somehow, I saw hundreds and hundreds of his people coming from all angles, mostly angles that frightened me. Of course, their eyes watered and the buildings all changed to look like Epcot Theme Park. A little while later, some of them wanted to take over and judge my life. The cops came and said to them all: This doesn’t concern any of you. Then the street was silent and empty, and the only view I had was of my car, upside down, stuck on two sharp poles in front of my house. After that the dogs would just shake and hide. I could never give them the right biscuit again.
Diana arrived covered in a shawl with a pill box hat on top, shuffling and hunched. One night as I was flipping through the television channels, Diana pointed at the wrestlers bouncing off the ropes and said: Those people look just like my people. At times like these, she smelled like kerosene. Another day she told me she looks weaker than she should because she had to regenerate her own spine. I think she just replaced it with parts she needed less. We were the most intimate when I lay on the ground and she pushed over the bookshelf in my direction. She was able to lie down next to me before it hit us. I wanted to see more and more of what she was capable of, but I worried I was using her somehow. I had roommates before, but they mainly showed me things about myself I didn’t like. With Diana, all I could think about was Cassiopeia.
My grandpa always told me to shut up like the time we roasted marshmallows. I asked him why two moths in the grass had been stuck together for so long, and he slapped me. As a test, I went to my uncle and asked the same thing. He was in town visiting. All he said was: I don’t even have to visit your grandfather because I just got a good taste of him. None of this really matters now because they’re both dead. Ever since, I do things on my own. At the puppet show, I gave the puppet my last cookie, and in the process, I leaned over and saw what I saw. I was shocked, but afterwards I lied and told my friends that the puppet was, in fact, real and that no man was behind the curtain. I rubbed their backs and acted as if I was wearing a monocle to gain their confidence. It was similar to a ritual where some people just wear the robes and rings while the others conjure their master-entities underground. And to think, just days before, I knew the only way I could draw all over my shirt was if it and the marker were both green. At that time I had no idea that in a previous life I had unsealed a demonic interdimensional gateway in the California desert with L. Ron Hubbard. But now as I remember how I wanted the man behind the curtain to make me his equal and to love me like an imprisoned serial killer loves his pen pal wife, I know it has to be true.
On vacation at Montauk, any time I had to leave an attraction I would cry. The worst was when I refused to tie my helium dolphin balloon to my wrist and it blew away. I just wanted to have the responsibility of an adult. The beach became a zoo when I started ramming my head into the knee of the man wearing a tuxedo. All he could say was touché. I took a picture of him with my Mickey Mouse Polaroid camera and gave him the photo without even looking at it. He and his wife waited for the picture to develop, and then she said: It’s none other than Satan. Her husband started brushing off his left shoulder like there was something on it. A crowd formed of people using their Frisbees to block the sun and eat chicken. I can’t stop shooting heroin, he screamed. In the distance a girl was getting her picture taken with a parrot on her arm, and she wasn’t me. With you, it’s always something, I told the man. I heard this from somewhere, and whenever I say it, people laugh, so I keep going with it. I ran towards the parrot and my uncle took a picture of me with both of my feet in the air. We couldn’t believe it. My arm sagged under the parrot when an old bum came to drag away a dead, bloated dog with red eyes, a beak, and pinchers. I want to jump towards the atom blast if I’m going to be forced to fall back anyway, he said. For the record, I almost drowned when I called the clouds Snow White, and I refused to change my shirt for the entire trip. My uncle told me not to tell my parents.
I have a story of Easter and Julio. A man carries a slaughtered pig on his shoulders past Julio who’s tied to a tree in the middle of the road. Mae holds her ears and notices more closely that Julio is sick and that all the most beautiful animals are French-Canadian. Someone slings meat into Julio’s mouth from a stick. She wonders how Julio feels with all the teenagers running past checking their glucose levels with their cell phones. There’s a movie Mae would like to make when model helicopters and airplanes fly backwards above him. It’s all about how Julio won’t wear clothes anymore, so she hopes he never gets old. Mae feels warm and tired when they measure Julio’s chest circumference. No one trusts him since he was found on a truck that possesses the technology to sense every human who rides illegally. He only did it to prove he is a part of humanity too. Julio and Mae used to be able to talk about the best way to kill moss on bricks like they were equals. Now he just tells her to watch out for Zizaubio and the Seven Sisters. He says that if she calls them, she’ll go into a trance and feel the white light who is Zizaubio. The Seven Sisters will be on thrones steeped in him. They’ll say: We’re glad you came to Sars Ammith. She’ll say: What is this? This doesn’t match up with my ideas of Pleiades. They’ll disappear, and all she’ll see is black for an answer. She knows Julio is right, but she still doesn’t like being told what to do. My story of Easter and Julio means I always want Julio to be in the world in April.
The teachers were better than some I’ve had. I can’t think of any complaints. They were better because each one managed to speak with only one voice at a time so I could keep up with what was happening. I never wanted to miss the display screen in front. When I was submerged in the liquids of varying temperatures, sometimes I’d see people I know on the display screen. One day I saw my mom staring into a mirror with her back to me. When she turned around, she had a mannequin face. She asked me: What do you think? She had just put on make-up. I told her I thought she looked like a scary mannequin because she thinks about herself too much. I felt like she was surprised I said that to her, but I could tell she was thinking about it to see if it was true. Outside of school I saw a movie preview and when a logo flashed, my ocular bones became more prominent, and they’re like that even to this day. When a triangle appeared under my left armpit, I told Mom it looked like the same one floating above me in Katmandu after I was submerged in the liquid. Much later at my regular school, my teacher asked us to think of three things we would do in order to escape a burning building. Three of us, including me, wrote: Just die. I think I remember being arranged around a tree with them one night.
Everyone always asks me: Dave, why are you so sexist? I’m not sure I can answer that without telling this story. One day I sat in my chair and visualized myself walking around to see myself from behind, and it finally happened. Pop. But before that I found out that many inhabitants of other planets watch a horror movie called: We Know the Beasts Are Human. Because I could see myself outside of myself in this way, I could see the blue skull-face lady too. She said her car is constructed out of pairs of dice. This way, the car will descend down and down, she said. And then I was in her fuzzy dice car going down, down. Her outfit changed to a fuzzy rearview mirror dice suit. What were you before? You haven’t always been this, I said. That really got to her because she sent me back to a previous life when I was at the sauna with my father. The entourage was getting more water and Dad had a heart attack. Messengers were sent back to the city to inform them of his death. I sent a psychic message to my sister to tell her the good news, and then Dad stirred. He had only passed out. Do it, she said as a concubine massaged her breast. I killed Father by holding his head as hard as I could with his nose and mouth and leg from behind. I caught all of his spasms. When I ran home, I put a cobra symbol between my sister’s eyes and my own eyes so that my copulation could ring fifty-two times. When the earthquake hit the palace, how could we not feel as if we were in a leather dice cup getting our comeuppance? After the vision, the blue skull-face lady twisted her foot into the ground like she had just had her final say and then disappeared. She did it inanely just like a woman would.
I would say the quality of my love life changes with each new day. Sometimes I just have private dance lessons, but on my way home one night, I ran into a group of people wearing white suits and wispy purple handkerchiefs around their necks, playing guitar and pointing to a house up the hill. I didn’t resist their pull because they looked like stewardesses, even the males. I saw their tray of iced coffee and took a cup, and just because of that, they felt like I couldn’t say no to anything else. I was sick of walking around worrying about plate tectonics, so I agreed to go with them. When we got to the house, their skin got paler as they disrobed, and they rubbed ginger water all over each other’s bodies. They held glasses of milk in front of wooden owl statues and clapped and got into tire swings when the milk appeared to be absorbed into the statues. I didn’t pour it out, but it’s gone, one man said. The walls were covered with collages made from photographs of our town and paintings of cataclysmic asteroids. My house was in the aerial photo, and I liked seeing it like that. My sweater had a dangling piece of yarn on the sleeve. I wanted to fuck everyone I saw.
I was completely truthful on the job application and got the job anyway. The question was: What’s the best thing about heroin that people get too self-righteous about to consider? I knew the answer immediately. I wrote: Making the decision to need something more than anything for the sole purpose of actually having the means to get it. The first thing my employers did when they came to my house was put my wife in the Freeze. She became invisible and couldn’t move or speak, but I knew she was thinking about how we cracked open a double-yolk egg after her father’s funeral. Right away my employers gave me LSD and asked me questions. Where are you? they asked. I’m beyond time, I screamed, I’m beyond time. They kept telling me that there is no such thing, but they wanted to know more. They assembled the coils, and I ended up in the cabin of a Navy ship. They said my name is John even though I knew it’s not. When I came back to myself in my room, I was covered in green salt and fused into the floor. With my head still in the room, I watched two men place their hands on my wife. They instantly looked like they were drawn by children under the age of three, and my wife became reanimated. Ever since then, she can only speak in terms of Satan. Sometimes I try to pick up my coffee mug at breakfast, and my hand goes right through it. My wife replies with something like: Thank you, Satan. We make a point to go to Montauk every year because the satellite images of the hyperspace cloud above the facilities remind me of home.
The only reason why I slapped Billy after he asked me why the moths in the grass had been stuck together for so long was because the question reminded me of when my wife got pregnant during the Depression. She had no choice but to go up that hill like all the other wives. She came back down, and I hated her more than anything for what she had to do. I hated her so much that I killed any cat who tried to eat birds in the yard. I used my grandfather’s Harper’s Ferry Horse Pistol because I felt like enemies were riding the cats. I pictured my wife riding the cats. When my wife and I went down to Mexico, we fucked as much as possible in between my job as an exterminator. It came to the point where I hated to think that anyone else but me could be fucking. We had ten kids down there, and five went missing. We all lay on the dirt floor waiting for the phone call. I had my cache of weapons, and I would shoot any cockroach that came near the babies—especially the ones I caught reproducing. I’d get the phone call, and then I’d wake up by the market with a bag full of human legs. Or I’d get a phone call and then wake up below young men who were chained to walls and always screaming Dios. Even after just waking up, that’s exactly what I felt like. Now I cut everything up and put it back together like I did in Mexico. I cut up my wife’s birth certificate and an essay on the perversity of Disney World, put the pieces in a box, and pulled out: Never been born. Billy laughed like I did, but he didn’t know why. I laughed because ever since my wife did what she did, that’s how I tried to make her feel.
The first time I saw Rossul, he was walking down the staircase at the public library, and I happened to look up. I felt like he had just emerged from a meat locker. I wanted to add a fur hood to his pea coat and watch him cross the street from my car. He introduced himself by saying that he loves the dark circles under his eyes even though his mom wants him to wear foundation to cover them. When he comes over, I pretend he isn’t there, but I read poetry by Pindar to raise up the deities for the athletic festival we will make. He likes to hear stories about my life too. Early on in our contact, I told him that I was visited by Iris, the angelic rainbow messenger goddess, in a dream around the time of my first period. Many years after the vision, when I was ready to undergo the initiation, my mother and aunt prepared a bath for me with special oils and then wrapped me in a black robe covered with pentagrams, moons, stars, and suns. At that point in the story, I could tell that Rossul became aroused, and he made no effort to hide it. I continued to tell him that I held the goddess crystal in my hands and met a guide who led me to a room. I waited there, and a figure I didn’t know, but whom I later realized was Rossul, languidly walked down a staircase as if he were using his body for the first time and handed me a scroll that said: How could any future marriage compare? Rossul and I quickly became lovers after I informed him of our karmic destiny together. One evening he told me that he did some research on Iris and found out that she is a sister of the Harpies. He asked me: Doesn’t that make her a monster too? I slapped him, but then I put a laurel wreath on his head to try and take it back. I love him so much that when I bring out the life-size human dolls and we stab them every which way we can, I can’t believe that we really belong to each other.
It’s hard for me not to feel responsible for the way Tom turned out. Every boyfriend I brought home made fun of the fact that Tom liked to play with horse figurines. He latched on to the toys even more because he hated those men. When he’d go to his dad’s house, his step-mom got sick of hearing about horse stables, and a horse’s lifespan, and horse grooming. Tom claims she locked him in a room and made him listen to the baby monitor receiver that was paired with the transmitter in her mother’s bedroom. All the grandmother did all day long was say: I’m doing the Masonic pose. I’m standing with my body erect, and my feet form the angle of an oblong square, so kill me now. She was paralyzed, so Tom told me he stood in the way she described for as long as he could to speed up the process of her death. During puberty, I was concerned that Tom still kept his horse figurines around. He wrapped each one in a silk cloth and kept them in an old backgammon case that he carried everywhere like a briefcase. One day when I was gathering up his bed sheets for the laundry, I found one covered in lubricant. I didn’t know how to handle any of this, so I bought him a subscription to Playboy. When he got older, he incessantly talked about an infinite line of horses running through an infinite desert and all the froth that they would excrete from their mouths when they were on the verge of dying from thirst. He imagined it as an irrigation system that could create lush vegetation he would like to live in forever. I’ve decided to let this all out in the open now because I finally told Reverend Colby I would sometimes see blue centaurs out of the corner of my eye when I lived with Tom. Reverend Colby said it’s wrapped up in an evil, and he wants to help.
When I worked at the pyramids, I never became a manager, which is good because I wanted some time to think on my own. It was hard since we were in direct alignment with the leaders who sent me messages through the pyramids. Even when they were speaking to the other workers, there was always a veiled message that was meant to unnerve me and denounce my manhood. They always mentioned how because of them, all five of my children were born without their second and third fingers. The other workers got caught up in this campaign against me and spoke an enchantment until their eyes turned completely black. Then they dangled me by ropes above the cherubim power generator. I pretended to hate it, but I hoped they would drop me, and sometimes this hope would be the best part of my day. One time I got too close and had visions of soldiers being slaughtered in war. They wore the insignia of my leaders so my leaders could ejaculate at the moment of the soldiers’ deaths. When we capped the pyramids with gold, I would often wretch, and the bile would land in what I knew was the same formation of volcanoes on Mars, the three middle stars of Orion, and the pyramids we were building. Sometimes when we floated the stones, I wanted to crush everything and everyone in view so that we could start the world again the right way, but my leaders were always there, their voices reverberating as if to say: That already happened many times, and we were always there to start again. No matter what they said, I could tell they were frustrated they couldn’t get me to turn my eyes black like so many of the others. I touch my eyes every now and then just to make sure I’m still me.
Sam went missing for about a year, and when he came back I knew he wasn’t the same person anymore. At first he was very polite, but soon he lost all of the social skills his mom and I worked so hard to instill in him. When we had a welcome back block party about a week after his return, he interrupted everyone’s conversations and shouted: Lee Harvey Oswald only learned Russian from a book and a record, but the man who was shot by Jack Ruby had a Russian Baltic accent and loved to discuss Russian literature. He was also much shorter than the Oswald who barely knew Russian. Then he wrote something in the air with his finger. After that incident we kept a closer eye on Sam for his protection. One night when his brother was sleeping, we caught Sam whispering into his ear. The next morning when we asked George about it, he said he was fully awake and that Sam had fallen slowly through the floor into his room one frame at a time. At work I started volunteering for as many out of state trips as I could after Sam looked at me with a scrunched up left eye and said: I’m Mommy too. Do you want to try and shoot me? Every time my wife or I asked him where he had been for the past year, he would tap his head and then write something else in the sky with his finger. We videotaped him doing it once, but each time we watched the footage, we woke up in a different part of the house and couldn’t remember anything we watched. We gave up on that, but I know my wife tapes pictures of Sam onto milk cartons at the grocery store. Her mom says it’s because she’s a Libra and longs for balance in her life, but I can’t bring myself to believe in any of that Sylvia Brown stuff, no matter what kind of pain I go through.
Percy’s simply first rate. We’ve been chums longer than I can possibly remember, and he’s always acted in my best interests, even when he wraps my bandages in a way that will never stay bound. I think all his low spells and grumpy faces are down to the lack of a ladyfriend in his life. Poor Percy isn’t fortunate enough to have a woman to love, not like yours truly. Hana always accompanies me on trips in the transport vehicles and rubs my belly and laughs when my head won’t stop thrashing around. Perhaps I rabbit on about Hana a bit too much, though. Percy and I were having such a splendid time of sorting white gold dust into lines with razor blades, and then, at the slightest mention of Hana, Percy’s mood went all to pot. I know Percy is often with her during break times, so I find it rather odd he doesn’t like her more, what with all the time they spend together. One time I was walking past the office canteen when I happened upon the two of them, her giving him a demonstration on cadavers like he was some sort of prized medical student. How lucky he must have felt! She slit their throats and then cut and pulled out the tongues through the holes she had made. She placed the tongues in some of her mouths, started chewing, and told him that this is what they did to traitors. I can’t pretend to understand all of what happened, but I knew I wanted her fake eyelashes to brush against my face and for her to incubate her eggs inside me for once. She even notices when my injection sites need ointment, bless her, and I haven’t told anyone this before, so whisper it, but I pick at the wounds so they’ll get infected and she’ll have to do something about it. Thank heavens for Hana and thank heavens for Percy when I’m back at the daily grind of being injected and telling my bosses about the fluorescent snakes being sold at the market. It may sound rather mad, but it always feels like I get struck by lightning if I don’t at least bring something to barter.
I met Slava when I visited the USSR in late ‘89. He caught my eye because I thought he looked like the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin. When I watched him eat his fish soup from afar, I couldn’t help but think of the fish coming back to life in his stomach, joining with bits of carrots and potatoes and whirring as if it had a motor. Our first night together, I put my head on his stomach and dreamed I was in Jonah’s belly eating potatoes and carrots that grew on the stomach lining. I think this is why I fell in love with Slava—because he seemed like the only person who could keep a fish like that in his stomach and be an even happier person because of it. He was always doing things like beating his chest and opening the freezer to breathe in as much cold air as he could to make himself laugh. But he had passion too. I would find him lying on the living room floor at 3:33 AM studying sacred geometry, freemasonry, ancient mythology, and the Bible and clawing at his stomach while wearing a women’s wig. The story I always tell people is that when I visited his mother for the first time, I stole the dress she used to make him wear as an infant and tacked it on the wall by our bed. I just wanted to feel closer to him. The night before he went missing, he sweated against me all night while moving his head as far as he could in every direction. He spoke in his sleep about Dogon, and Sirus, and the fish people returning to Earth in spaceships and how he could only fool them with his disguise for so long. When I asked him about it the next day, all he said was: I don’t want to learn how to do metal work. Sometimes I hear a voice call out to me saying: Put on your dog star head. This makes me laugh, and I don’t know why, but it makes me miss Slava even more. If I had the strength, I’d sever my hand to show it how serious I am, but instead I often find myself with my mouth open, leaning on the open freezer like a cane. At those moments, nothing is funnier.
After working at the police station all day, it feels good to come home to my family and not think about what goes on at work for a while. We just got a new HDTV, and while I like it, I keep a modified dust cover over it for the most part. My oldest son can’t even stand it when his friends with HDTVs don’t watch the right HDTV channel. He hates how the image gets distorted and stretched out without it. So when we watch TV through a couple of holes I cut into the fabric, my son gets huffy and slams things down passive-aggressively, but all I have to do is stare at him without blinking for a couple of minutes and he goes away. I just feel like I’m watched enough at work. I don’t want to openly invite it with heat-sensing imaging surveillance. I try to do a better job with my youngest son, but one time he nearly pulled off the ID tag that’s attached to my chest near my heart. My bosses change it every month because on the thirty-two day mark, lethal toxins would be released into my body if it’s not replaced. Of course, ripping it off would produce the same effects. The tag helps me to keep dedicated to my job and not to reveal things I shouldn’t reveal. So when my youngest son nearly killed me, I slapped him out of reflex. I cried in my bedroom and drank whisky all afternoon because I felt so bad about it. My kids think I’m a monster, but I do everything for a reason they can never know. Once a night I wake up and can’t remember at all how I wound up with my kids. I never married, I know that. Then I remember, but the memory seems glossy like a magazine ad, which makes me happy to leave and go to work the next day. I had to take a psychological profile one time, and I wrote that I feel like Pavlov’s dog but without the luxury of eating or hearing bells. No one ever told me what this means, but sometimes I think they did. I can’t say anything about it either way.
I have a feeling I liked being around Diana even more than my daughter, Alexis, did. I thought Diana’s hands looked beautiful like a male homosexual piano player’s hands. I was always sending her new scarves, back-braces, mirrored sunglasses, and varicose vein socks even when she had a full supply. I loved the slow and deliberate way she stirred her food and revolved healing orbs around my head. Sometimes the orbs would drop and she’d say: They were working the whole time because of you, and then you thought about binding and gagging your enemies and controlling their intake of food. I tried to improve myself, but when we were alone, I begged her to walk through a wall for me like I caught her doing once, but she just looked at me intensely like the caricature artist in New York City who studied me for a portrait he didn’t know how to draw. The next morning, I woke up next to a painting of myself pregnant with Alexis. My body was see-through and both of Alexis’ tiny hands were poking out of my belly, grasping at empty space. After that, I spent more time thinking about Alexis and all the things she was capable of. I even went down to Tepoztlán and smuggled up five liters of pulque, the alcoholic drink created by the god, Ometochtli-Tepoxtécatl. I thought it might awaken something in her. I think Diana disapproved, but I was trying my best. Now that Diana left, all I have is Alexis, and to show her how much I love her and believe in her, I started asking her to do all the things I used to ask of Diana, and I haven’t become frustrated at all by her failures. I know Diana came here for a reason, and I think it has everything to do with all the strange and wonderful things I was meant to see. Now it’s Alexis’ turn to show me.
I first started going to the meetings because I agreed that heaven must be a pyramid inside the moon. I liked the sense of community too. We call our house the Megiddo House because Megiddo is a hill in Israel where many battles were fought and Armageddon means Hill of Megiddo. One day I had just taken a shower, so I knew I was outside. We had a great celebration there. One woman had heart palpitations, and with each palpitation, the campfire flickered green, and we all danced and clapped. During the course of my growth, many inanimate objects did things most people wouldn’t believe. I loved it the most when the coat rack sat across from me, crossed its legs, leaned towards me, and just listened for a change. I love my family, never being alone, and singing in the public fountain with a plugged-in boom box. People shout and tell me not to drop it, but I tell them: No, I have something to tell you. Don’t you want to have sex at the Megiddo House to accelerate Armageddon and also have sex at the moment Armageddon happens? It just makes good sense.
When Alex was a small child, we had humble beginnings. All he had to play with was an inflatable kiddie pool that he kept stocked full of tadpoles from the creek. I was so dissatisfied with my life and surroundings that I took too many sleeping pills every night, and a few times I even used the thumbscrew I inherited from my mother—just to transfer the pain to an area I could identify and control. When it turned out that Alex tested off the charts on IQ tests, I thought that could be the solution to all of our problems. I finally came across a private academy, I know this sounds unbelievable, whose administration would pay us for his summer enrollment and buy us a new fully-furnished house just for his participation. It’s true that Alex’s behavior changed after attending the academy, but I think it’s just because he was learning discipline and becoming more like an adult. He reminded me so much of his father when he said: My white blood cells are going pop, and then used his finger to make a popping sound with the inside of his cheek. I slapped him, of course, because I hate his father, but besides that I rarely laid a hand on him. The only truly bizarre thing that I can’t account for is that one night I found him sleep-walking around the house, and I swear I saw three sets of legs attached to his mid-section all walking in unison. I just went back to sleep because I had had a stressful day and couldn’t deal with it. The next day Alex was completely fine. Whenever Alex is away at academy, he mails me the most darling sketches of hell realms. They are mostly advertisements for space hotels orbiting hundreds of miles above the earth. On one he wrote: Where You Might End Up, and there’s a hell realm. I think it’s cosmic and folksy, in a way.
I try to keep an eye on the house down the street, but I can’t watch too closely because there’s always a face looking out from the top story window beneath a heliographic star. I think that’s Adelle up there, but I can’t be sure it’s always her. I never catch her eating, but sometimes I see her brushing her hair. She never takes her eyes away from what’s going on outside her house, which is usually nothing, except for one time. I was driving down the street, and when I got directly in front of Adelle’s house, a tree bent down, playfully almost, and asked me if I wanted to be without hunger for six days. I was actually in the middle of a fast with some women from church, so I was very tempted. I know I should have been scared of the tree’s sharp rods for hands, but his offer seemed simple, and pure, and not backed by any malice. I said yes, got out of the car, and ate his wheat. I looked down the road and the trees all started bowing to me, one after the other, dancing almost. One went so far as to suggest that I build my own astral temple. Once it was constructed they all promised they would visit me. I was flattered by the attention, of course, but I was thinking about my husband the entire time. When I happened to look up at Adelle’s window, she was dancing like the trees, and her eyes had no irises or pupils. I noticed many anomalies all around her. The strangest thing is that I haven’t eaten another bite of food since I ate the wheat. I just haven’t needed it. Sometimes I worry that the trees modified time so that six days are lasting an eternity, but I try not to let it keep me from helping others and shining the good light. That’s all I can do really.
Now things have gone too far. Once I was young, I didn’t know words for me, but now I can speak and I will. It doesn’t seem to matter that I cared of a deer at all. I was at work and I started seeing colors’ travel crazy. I felt sick. A ball of skin moved up my back. I thought my chair was unfit for me, but it fitted. I think the harm thing is coming, so I shiver, but I get tremble! I thought the ghost would be sleeping too because it’s daytime, but I was wrong. How could I do bookkeeping? My boss looked like he was a turtle poised for a better phone, and I couldn’t follow his words. Nothing was right. I begged my boss a break. Now I have no job. I don’t like water in my watch. I don’t like ripped cushions. I don’t like flying dreamings, but look at my house. Sure, I have a deer, but my carpet takes me a prisoner. Deer, I love you, but now I just get in the way of my home.
I hang out with Dave even though he can be a dick sometimes. We were neighbors all through school near a closed-down lead mine. About ten years ago when we were sitting at the very top of the chat dump, chewing bubble gum and talking about Bloody Mary, swarms of humming birds circled above us. I wasn’t afraid, though, not even when they started making designs in the sky. I recognized one later as The Hummingbird Nazca line in Peru, a flattened bird-headed monster drawn in immovable sand. We just lay there and watched the birds make design after design. When they decided to make something new, they just stopped dead in motion for a few seconds, and then they started again. I felt too comfortable and relaxed to move—like I was getting bigger and smaller at the same time. Then out of nowhere, the mound started to shake. Dave’s bike got sucked into the chat dump. We stumbled a bit down the side of the mound, but we held on and looked up to see what was happening. An Egyptian pharaoh with a bird’s head slowly rose up from the lead waste. He was sitting on the throne, and when he spoke, it felt like he was talking from inside our heads: I am the arbitrator between good and evil. You can view the hummingbird as a sign of resurrection and rebirth or as Huitzilopochtli, the god of war. You can make it be whatever you please, but you must decide. After he finished speaking to us, everything just returned to the way it was. Dave’s bike was back beside us, and we were just sitting there doing nothing. Now the mound has been covered with rocks to make sure lead doesn’t blow around town. I think it really has something to do with how no one wants us to learn anything from the great teachers of the beyond anymore. That’s what Dave said, at least, and he’s had enough of these experiences to know.
After the radically capsizing situation I was mixed up with concerning great brother Julio, I tried to become a beatific rainbow person of the challenge. Being the principal of a school, I knew I had a solemn yarn capacity to reach a wide group of people for their enlisting and betterment. I knew this. I knew what an illuminated hair between my eyebrows could do for my life situation and the eyebrows of others. Yesterday I brought in all the teachers so they could chant around my desk. It was not a chant of hateful indulging cheek pits. I told them to look at my hand reaching for the bejeweling fortification for all generations. It’s starting. I told them to honor my expanding eye of the wind deity crust. Do it as you see. I told them my voice is a chalice of teacups reassembled for the weaponization of space and protection. Yes, yes. I told them to adhere to my lungful feast all at once. I did. I told them to eat of my food so they would be forever dependent on microchip-tracking their children and dogs that I tolerated enough for them to keep. It’s stronger now. I told them to sit up straight in my lotus blood of intermarriage for soul possession by the snakes. Take over forever. I told them to look at their metal embryonic sacks and see if they could do better. Kill, kill. I told them Rising Sun, do what thou wilt forever and break the fools at your altars. Grow, grow. So when the community gets riled up to their boiling pan about the separation of church and state and bring up Julio, which I’ve paid for by genuinely crying about it in front of everyone’s faces, I’m bewildered. I’m working harder than anyone for a New World, Hope, and Change that I won’t explain or fully define until it’s too late. But I promise, when it happens, and it will, everyone will be equally responsible. But for now, stand in the Work of the Ages. Cover its leaf with your genitals and eyes that still don’t see.
Annie Christain is an English PhD graduate from the University of South Dakota. Her poems have been published in Seneca Review, Arabesques Review, The American Drivel Review, and Beeswax Magazine, among others. She is a three-year recipient of the University of South Dakota’s Gladys Hasse Poetry Award, and she received the 2007 and 2008 Jerry Bradley Award for Creative Writing at the Southwest Texas Popular Culture Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is currently an Assistant Professor of English at the New York Institute of Technology in Nanjing, China.
Rawaan Alkhatib is a writer and artist from Dubai. A recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. More work can be found here.