Bulbs

White
light
bulbs
glow in my
great apartment
of thought, but there
are far too few people
to share their brightness
in this lonely room of
iconoclastic ideas
that burn so.

Not
one
soul
wants
a warning
of war from a
great apartment
of flashing, blinding
light bulbs, hurting their
sensitive, unseeing eyes,
all squinted to keep
out the truth.

Such
souls
wish
to have a
black apartment
of ignorance, without
any insight into the ills
of the world. The comfort
of darkness makes it easier
to sleep, unburdened by
knowledge and need
that rouses us.

Yet
one
day,
without
the light, we
might find ourselves
in eternal darkness, a black
from broken light bulbs we’d
ever
have
off,
to
see
no

glow
that
gives
hope or
comfort. We
would surely open
our useless eyes and
rue
the
day
we

did
not
want
shining,
stinging light to
warn us not to close
our
eyes
and
ears.

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Eleven

Wait a minute…no. I cannot have attained enlightenment. That would be far too easy, especially for a dope fiend like me.

I haven’t attained nirvana…I’m just really fucking high.

No, I’ll just have to work hard to attain it like everyone else, with discipline, like that old man meditating under the tree. That man I see over there…wait a minute. He’s gone! Oh, I wanted to ask him for guidance!

Oh, well. I’ll just have to look for him, or someone like him, to teach me how to gain that peace of mind I saw on his grinning face, that impressive grin I saw while hearing the bombs and gunfire all around me. I’ll float up and fly in the air in search of him, airborne by ketamine.

I’m flying as if lying on my side, as if reclining on the ground. Am I? I’m traveling high in the air, but I feel as if I’m not at all moving.

I see all these Asian faces looking at me in wonder and awe, amazed at my superhuman flying ability. I see a mix of wonder and worry, as if they think I’m having health problems. Am I? All I know is that I need to find that wise old man, or any wise old man, to guide me to enlightenment.

I see Asian gurus in robes advising me to use extreme discipline and self-denial. They tell me that I must learn to endure extreme pain and discomfort, including fasting.

One of them says to me, “The evil is inside of you, Sid! You must expel it! Vomit it out of your body!”

So I do.

My puke smells as awful as it looks, a pink ooze pouring out of my mouth and onto the stony ground that my head is using as a pillow. I hear voices in Chinese saying, “How disgusting! This foreigner needs a doctor.”

My stomach is empty…so empty. I need food…No! I must be disciplined and resist the urge for material comforts.

I’m getting dizzy. Everything around me is spinning. Apart from that, I feel nothing, as if I have no body.

I hear someone say in Chinese, “Is he dying?”

I’m scared.

Am I dying?

Hey! Was that an explosion in the sky? I thought I saw a huge fireball.

I hear machine gun fire. Since I don’t know where my body begins and ends, and I feel an ache in my…stomach?…I wonder if the bullets have hit me.

I feel a black hole growing in my centre. Is it a bullet hole? Is it my growing hunger? It hurts.

Am I going to throw up again? That puke stink is still all around me.

Wait…now I see only black all around me.

Am I dead? Have I become a huge black void? Is that what the black hole in my centre has grown into? A black everything?

Oh, my God…help me! Wait, I don’t believe in God.

I smell…food. Some kind of…rice pudding? Milk? I still see only black.

Something soft and mushy is going in my mouth…I think. Am I eating the rice pudding? I taste milk.

Hey, that feels better. Still, I’m really wasted. That smell of vomit is still nearby. I wish someone would clean it up.

The black void around me is gone. I’m floating in the air again, still on my side, as if I were lying on the ground.

I see groups of men in army uniforms. Some speak of liberation, some of revolution, others of “restoring order.” All of them are speaking in Chinese. Many are arguing.

Still floating in the air above, I look down and see all of these soldiers from a bird’s eye view. Some are anarchists, dressed all in black and carrying Molotov cocktails. They would overthrow the government immediately and replace it with the ideal world they want, or so I hear them shouting.

Some are wearing PLA uniforms, demanding loyalty to the Beijing government, their rifles pointed at the anarchists and the soldiers of the third group, who are in camouflage, their rifles also pointing at the anarchists and PLA men. This third group is shouting about wanting to restore order to the island.

Shots are fired. Molotov cocktails are thrown, breaking some windows in the neighbourhood buildings. I see a few more fireballs bursting in the night sky, breaking up the darkness.

Several of the men, one or two from each of the three groups, are lying on the streets and sidewalks by my apartment, bleeding. Those that aren’t dead are wailing and moaning in pain from their injuries.

I agree that revolutionary change must happen, to eliminate poverty and end this war; and I agree that some kind of restoration of order must come, so our lives can at least go back to normal. I don’t, however, want to see needless infighting among the revolutionaries, and I don’t want the restoration of order to be so repressive and violent.

These agitators, therefore, are not my kind of people. I’ll float away to some other part of town, one where I can hope to find either that wise old man, or some other guru, one not so extreme in his quest for nirvana, or some other revolutionaries to help me bring down this oppressive power structure we’re all forced to live under.

Buoyed by my ketamine high, I’m flying away from my home.

Pyramids

At
the
top is
the one
who gains
the most, in
death & in life.

At
the
base
aren’t
slaves,
but they
who’d hold
up the entire
edifice below.

A
lot
of the
low ones
come on up
to have their
hearts cut out,
their bodies tossed
down those stone steps.

An
idea:
because
pyramids
are houses
of dead rulers
and the mangled…

At
the
least,
we could
bury these
anachronistic
triangles, along
with their monarchs
& their lifeless victims.

Such pointless pointy things to make.

‘Tenebrous Trinity,’ a Supernatural Horror Short Story

[This short story is inspired by The Three Mothers trilogy of horror films by Dario Argento, Inferno in particular.]

I

Mary kept reading the book with fascination. She had already read three pages, and she couldn’t take her eyes away from the text. 

She had come to this passage: “Thomas De Quincey surely had insight when he wrote of Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow, though he wasn’t entirely accurate about the identities of the three goddesses. To know of their true nature, it is helpful to compare and contrast them with the Christian Trinity.

“Just as there is a masculine Trinity in Christianity, so is there a feminine, tenebrous Trinity. There is God the Father, who said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there is the Mother-Goddess of Darkness. There is God the Son, who gave Christians the joy of hope in His resurrection, and whose suffering caused the tears of his mother, Mary; then there is the Daughter-Goddess of Tears. Finally, there is God the Holy Spirit, the ruach, or wind that went over the face of the waters at the beginning of the Creation; and there’s the Spirit-Goddess of Sighs, those sighs of sadness that blow through the leaves of the trees.

“Everything has its opposite: god and goddess, light and darkness; also, the goddesses take the four elements and pair them into opposites for their purposes—fire with water, and air with earth. Fire is passion, and water quenches and calms passion. Air is movement and restlessness, while earth is stasis and restfulness. These contraries, when pressed against each other, create greater power for the goddesses, and so they are fond of intermingling them.

“I, Verne Edgars, author of this book you are reading, built the three houses of the goddesses in our city of Hamilton; I built them in their honour. These buildings are their churches, where we commune with the goddesses in ritual and grow in blessedness with them. Just as the Christian Church teaches salvation by sharing in Christ’s suffering, so do the goddesses’ three churches help us achieve absolute blessedness through suffering. When we are spiritually ready, we may descend to the lower room and become one with the goddess of the house we are in, just as Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples in the Upper Room, where in eating his flesh and drinking his blood, they became one with Him.”

Descend to the lower room,’ Mary thought after raising her eyes from the book. In my search for my missing kid sister, Penny, I found this ‘House of the Daughter-Goddess of Tears’  a month ago. I didn’t find her here; perhaps she’s in one of the other two houses…or perhaps they’re hiding her here…in the ‘lower room’? The basement? No one ever goes in there, no one except the priestesses, who are the only ones allowed down there. The door is locked, though I managed to pick a priestess’s pocket and get one. I’ve been meaning to go down there, to see if that’s where Penny is, though I’m scared of what I may find. Do I dare?

She took out her phone and typed an email to her brother, Elliot. This is what her message said: “I’ve found the address of one of the three houses of the religious cult of the ‘Tenebrous Trinity’ that Penny ran off to join. I’m not sure if she’s in this house—probably not—or in one of the other two, whose addresses I don’t know. I’ll be looking around here some more; if I don’t contact you in the next one or two days, you can come here to find me. The address is 246 Kent St., here in Hamilton. The other two houses are in our city, too, though as I said, I don’t know their addresses yet. I hope to contact you soon with news of finding her. Love, Mary.”

She put her phone in her purse and took out a notebook from it. She opened it to the page with the latest poem she’d been working on. This is some of the best work I’ve ever done, she thought as she looked at her verses. Another reason I’m still in this house, despite not having found Penny, is that I find life here charming and inspiring. I really do believe these goddesses exist, and they have become my Muses…at least the Daughter-Goddess of Tears has been. No wonder Penny got caught up in this religious cult: they really do seem to have a way of achieving absolute blessedness. It surely feels that way when we do the rituals with the priestesses. Elliot would never accept the way of the goddesses; he’s too attached to the Catholic faith we were all raised on, with our old priest, Father Rosario, his father-figure, in St. Andrew’s Church. He’d never open his mind to our new faith. He wants me to find Penny to get her out of here; I want to find her to tell her I’ve seen the light here. He would never accept that.

She put her notebook in her purse and got up from her chair. She put the book back on the shelf where she’d gotten it, then walked out of the library. Nobody else was around; everyone, including the priestesses, had left the house for the day to run errands. She was left here all alone.

She walked down the hall, which glowed with spots of red, blue, and purple among the shadows, towards the door to the basement. She took the stolen key from her purse and fit it in the lock. She took a deep breath and opened the door. She swung it all the way open and looked down the stairs into the darkness. She gulped and took a few steps down.

She reached for a light switch; there was none. Though she was too scared to go down into the pitch-black, she felt a warm, vibrating feeling that encouraged her to explore. It was the same vibration she felt during the rituals, the same feeling that charmed her so, that inspired her poetry. The vibrations made her feel safe, protected. She continued down the stairs, feeling as if she could see what was down there. 

When she got to the foot of the stairs, the door slammed shut, startling her. Now, she didn’t even have that glowing blue light upstairs. She stood in absolute black. The warm vibrations soothed her fears somewhat, though, and she walked ahead, as if she knew her way.

She heard a faint sobbing.

“Penny?” she said. “Is that you?” She took a few steps forward.

The sobbing continued, a bit louder now.

“Penny? It’s me, your sister, Mary. Are you there?”

As she stepped forward in the blind darkness, walking as if she could see, the sobbing got louder. Then she felt a few drops of water on her shoulders and hair.

“What? Dripping from pipes above?” She stopped walking. The sobbing got louder, and the drops of water were now as numerous as rain. “It’s raining inside?

A puddle was growing around her feet. That water was rising fast into what felt like a pond. In a minute, it had gone up to her waist. It felt like being in a lake on a starless night in the woods.

“Oh, my God,” she said. “I gotta get out of here.”

She turned around and tried to go back to the stairs; of course she had no idea where they were, and the water was so thick to walk through that she could barely even move in it. It was now chest high on her. 

I’m gonna drown in here, she thought, shaking. 

Don’t be afraid, a voice whispered. You’re about to join the Goddess of Tears.

“W-wait…no!” she said in a trembling voice. The water was now up to her chin. “I’m n-not ready yet!”

Don’t be afraid, the voice said again. You are ready. All will be well. Trust the goddess. You suffer a little now, then you gain absolute blessedness.

Her head was now completely underwater. She held her breath for as long as she could. 

Remember the ritual, the voice whispered in her mind’s ear. Move your arms and legs. Swim in the goddess’s tears.

Mary did just that. She swam around freely, but couldn’t hold her breath much longer. She tried to swim up to the surface, but couldn’t find it. It seemed as though the entire basement was filled with water, right up to the ceiling!

Breathe in Her tears, Mary, the voice advised. Don’t be afraid. Have faith in Her grace. Breathe in Her tears, and be one with Her. You won’t die; you’ll have eternal life.

Mary breathed in, desperately trying to believe the voice. Instead of passing out and drowning, she found herself breathing the water like a fish! 

But another alarming thing happened: she felt her body beginning to…melt?

Indeed, her arms and legs were gone, at one with the water. She felt her torso and head melting now. Her heart, though fading fast, was pounding in terror. Her clothes floated away.

Her face melted off. Her breasts melted off. Her stomach, intestines, and heart were now gone. Her hair was one with the watery waves. Her brain was merging with her surroundings…

II

Elliot looked away from his notes when he saw the new message on his phone. It was from Mary. The title of the message said, “Penny.”

“Hey,” he said as he went to pick up his phone. “Has Mary found her?”

He read the message, disappointed at his kid sister not being found. Still, he’d make time to find the house. He put the phone down and resumed listening to the lecturer talking about the scene in Mozart’s Don Giovanni when the libertine is taken away to Hell by demons.

“Note that Don Giovanni is unrepentant to the end,” the professor said while a recording of the music was playing. “Only when the demons come to take him does he realize his mistake.”

Elliot felt a warm vibrating all over his body at that moment. He felt an urge, he couldn’t explain why, to look over to his left, where a beautiful young woman was sitting at a seat across the aisle from him, at the row of seats in front of his row. She was staring at him with hypnotic green eyes. Her lips were bright red, her hair a long, wavy blond, and her curvy figure was in a tight, black dress.

Is this my lucky day? he wondered. 

No sooner did class end than she walked over to him. 

“Hello,” he said with a smile. “How can I help you?”

“It’s I who can help you,” she said, with a serious face. “Your family is still searching for Penny, and you’ll be searching for Mary, too.”

His eyes and jaw opened all the way. “How did you know about that? Do you have Penny with you?”

“No,” the woman said. “But I can take you to where they are. My name is Sibyl.”

“Elliot,” he said, shaking her hand.

“I already knew your name. Come with me.”

They left the music school together. On the street and walking in the direction of the house of the Daughter-Goddess of Tears, they exchanged furtive glances at each other.

“How do you know so much about my family?” he asked.

“You won’t believe me, but I’ll tell you, then I’ll make you believe,” she said. “I have magical powers.”

“Oh, really?” he said with a chuckle. “Good luck convincing me of that.”

She put her hand on his forehead, and instead of seeing the street before him, he saw a dark area in a house…a hallway next to an opened basement door. What little light there was came in through the windows behind. The light was a dark, glowing blue. Penny was standing at the doorway. She looked as if she were in a trance. Someone in the dark seemed to be behind her.

“What the hell?” he said, his eyes and mouth agape again. “What is this place? Is it where we’re going?”

“No,” she said. “It’s the house of the Spirit-Goddess of Sighs. Just watch, and see what became of your sister Penny.”

He felt a chill go through his body as he saw Penny slowly descending the stairs into the basement. Glowing red and blue light among the shadows gave her face enough illumination for him to see a frown of fear, yet also determination, on her face. Walking behind her on the steps was, as Elliot could barely make out, some mysterious, older man.

When she reached the foot of the stairs, she heard a sighing voice. She jumped at the sound and froze where she was. Then she continued walking in the dark.

The door upstairs slammed shut, startling her again. All around her was pitch black, except for a slight, glowing blue coming from a wide-open window further off. Trembling, she began walking toward it.

More sighs.

Wailing, too.

After several slow, careful steps, she was standing by the window, a powerful wind blowing against her and making her long, wavy hair flutter about. The wailing, sighing sound was heard even louder now; she stood there, transfixed and mesmerized. 

Don’t be afraid, the loudly sighing wind told her. Let the goddess take you, and you’ll achieve absolute blessedness.

“I’m not afraid,” Penny said, trying hard to believe her words. Her eyes shut and her mouth curled up in a smile. “Take me!” Her heart was pounding.

The mysterious man was watching the whole thing from further back, still only barely visible to Elliot.

Now the winds were sucking at her, pulling her towards the window. Her heart was pounding even harder, she was shaking all over, but she held onto her faith in the goddess.

The wind pulled her out through the window. She screamed. Now Elliot saw his sister flying in the night sky.

“Oh, God, No!” Elliot shouted. People on the street were shocked at Elliot’s reaction to what only he and Sibyl saw. Sibyl just watched his horrified reaction in all stoicism, as if testing his attitude towards what he was seeing.

As Penny kept flying in the air, pulled in the wind as if caught in a cyclone, she felt her body evaporating. Her eyes and mouth were wide open in horror at the sight of her disappearing arms and legs, but she held onto her faith as best she could. 

Don’t be afraid, she thought. Have faith in the goddess!

Her hair vanished. Her clothes blew away without enough of a body to keep them on. Her breasts, belly, pubic hair, and buttocks became one with the wind. Then her face disappeared, along with her ears, her skin, and her bald scalp. Soon, her sighs were one with the goddess.

The vision ended. 

Elliot saw the street again. Some people were looking at him as if he were a madman.

“She…vanished into…thin air…literally,” he said in a tremulous voice. “Who was that man in the basement with her?”

“That would have been Verne Edgars, the architect who designed the three houses,” Sibyl said.

“We should find him,” he said. “Was he responsible for leading Penny to her death?”

“No, and she didn’t die,” Sibyl said. “She’s one with the goddesses.”

He grabbed her by the arms. “You have to help me get her back!” he shouted. “I lost my father when we were all kids, and my dear mother died a year ago. My sisters are all I have left of a family. You’ve gotta help me find Penny and Mary, and save them from this sick religious cult!”

Sibyl looked in Elliot’s eyes with a frown, thinking for a moment what to say to him. “To get your sisters back, you would have…to defeat the goddesses.”

“Yes!” he said. “I want them to pay for what they did to Penny, for what I fear they’ll do to Mary. You’ve got to help me! Those goddesses are demons! With God’s help and yours, we’ll destroy them.”

“I see,” she said, looking away from him for the moment. “To defeat the goddesses, you must…cultivate the power of fire, the energy of desire, then use it to burn down the houses. It’s the houses that hold the power of the goddesses; in destroying the houses, you’ll deprive the goddesses of their power, and your sisters will be freed from the goddesses’ spells on them.”

“How will I get this ‘power of fire,’ Sibyl?” he asked.

“Come with me to my apartment,” she said, taking him by the arm. “It’s very close.”

III

Verne Edgars, 61, was watching Elliot and Sibyl a half a block away from them, hiding among the pedestrians. 

I know what she wants to do with him, he thought as he followed them. I love the goddesses, but Elliot will never accept our way, and he’ll be enslaved, if not just plain killed, for rejecting it. I don’t want him to suffer. I have to figure out a way to stop him from going along with her.

Suddenly, he heard a sighing, and felt the wind blow against him.

“Wait,” he said, feeling the wind take more and more control of his body. “O Great Goddess, by Your grace, allow me to help E—“

Go home, Verne, the voice in the winds sighed in his mind’s ear. We will help you understand. Come with us.

A wind, which only he felt blowing against his body and through his hair, escorted him, as it were, back to the house of the Spirit-Goddess of Sighs. He tried to resist as best he could, pressing his feet against the ground to stop him from walking there, but his shoes kept moving, scraping against the pavement.

“Please, O Great Goddess,” he pleaded in a strained voice. “By your leave, allow me to warn Elliot. He’s a good man, just misguided. Penny, surely you don’t want your own brother to be–”

We will guide him, the sighing wind told him. Stop resisting. You know what will happen to you if you continue to resist, which is futile.

Finally, his scraping shoes took him back to the goddess’s house. In he went in all reluctance, and now his shoes were scraping on the wood of the hall leading to the basement. Vivid red glowed among the shadows.

Take out your key and unlock the door, the voice sighed in his ear. The wind forced him to put his hand in his coat pocket and take out the key. Put it in the lock.

“But, Great Goddess, I—“

His arm was sore from resisting putting the key in the lock. In it went, the lock clicked, and the door swung all the way open. He looked down the stairs into the all-enveloping black.

Down he went, his shoes scraping against the wooden stairs. He almost tripped a few times.

When he reached the foot of the stairs, he no longer felt wood or any hard surface under his shoes. He felt clumps of dirt there. The door slammed shut, startling him.

“What?” he said, feeling the dirt rising and covering his shoes.

You resisted the movement of the air, the wind sighed, therefore you will feel the stasis of the earth, holding you in position as you tried to hold yourself out there on the street.

“Wait, Goddess, I’m not ready,” he said in a hoarse voice as the dirt had now come up to his knees.

Yes, you are, the wind sighed. You have done the rituals. Remember what to do. Don’t be afraid, Verne. Don’t resist. All will be for the best in the end.

“But, Elliot—“ The dirt was up to his waist now.

He is no longer your concern. Be at one with us.

“Yes, Goddess,” he said as the dirt rose up to his chin. There is no denying the will of the goddesses, he thought, the dirt just under his lips now. I tried my best to help you, Elliot. You’re on your own now. Good luck.

He was completely buried under the earth now. His heart was pounding, more from his fear of angering the goddesses than from knowing he was going to be one with the earth. Would they deny him the absolute blessedness he’d been hoping for as punishment for going against their will? He hoped they’d forgive him as he continued holding his breath.

Finally, he could hold it no longer, and soil flooded his nostrils. He was breathing it like air, and his body was crumbling into tiny pieces that intermixed with the dirt. His consciousness was fading, as was his individual ego, which merged with the eternal spirit of the goddesses…

IV

In Sibyl’s apartment now, Elliot was led by her into her bedroom. They stood at the foot of her bed. She looked up at him.

“To gain the power of fire, we must arouse your passion to the greatest intensity,” she said, reaching back and unzipping her dress. “Therefore, I must indulge your lust.” She let her dress drop to her feet, and she kicked off her high heels. Wearing no bra or panties, she stood there completely naked before his delighted eyes. “Put me on the bed and make love to me.”

Am I having a lucky day, or what? he thought as his eyes poured over her flawless body: large breasts that hung naturally without sagging, creamy skin, hourglass curves, and even a full Brazilian wax. “You’re a bold one, Sibyl,” he panted. “You don’t even know me. Aren’t you afraid I might hurt you?”

“I’m a witch, remember?” she said, turning around so he could see her round, creamy buttocks, then turning again so he could see her full frontal again. “You couldn’t hurt me if you tried. Do you like my body? Only a witch’s magic can make her body this flawlessly beautiful.”

“It’s better than any I’ve ever had the pleasure to see,” he said. “How shall we do it?”

“Any way you like. The object is to get you as excited and passionate as possible, so do to my body whatever is most pleasing to you. My magic will protect me from any pain you could possibly cause me, so I’m not at all afraid.”

“I see.”

Still amazed, he hesitated in disbelief at his good luck…and in his doubt as to whether he could trust her.

“Well? Are you a man, or not? Take me, and enjoy yourself to the fullest.”

“If you insist.”

As he was having her, he felt himself glowing brighter and brighter with the fire of his passion. He was getting hotter, literally hotter, but not burning in any pain—nor was she; after all, it was she who was passing her power over to him for use against the goddesses. His eyes widened in amazement at the changes to his body.

As they were approaching climax, his body was all aflame. “Holy shit!” he gasped.

Finally, they came, the flames flickering all over him from head to toe subsided, and he cooled off. He lay beside her on the bed.

“I can’t believe what just happened,” he panted.

“You are a wicked lover,” she sighed with a lewd smirk. “Most women would be too timid to do the things I allowed you to do to my body. You’re lucky I had the power to endure it.”

“Forgive me my sinful passions,” he said, though glad he had the chance to indulge them. 

“No need to apologize,” she said. “As I said, you didn’t and couldn’t hurt me. Now you should have all the power of fire needed to defeat the goddesses.”

“I’m just curious: why are you helping me? Aren’t you one of them? Why should I trust you not to betray me in the end?”

“I’ve seen the evil the goddesses are capable of. They are demonesses. I saw them kill a Father Rosario just the other day, and—“

“Father Rosario?” Elliot shouted. “Father Robert Rosario, of St. Andrew’s Church on Fleet St.?”

“Yes, him,” she said with a sigh and a frown.

“He was my spiritual mentor as a kid. After my father died, Rosario was like a second father to me! And your goddesses killed him? Why?”

“For opposing them, of course.”

“How can I know for sure that they really killed him?”

“I’ll show you another vision. Brace yourself.” She touched his forehead.

V

Elliot saw Father Rosario, 65, standing on Fleet St. in front of the House of the Mother-Goddess of Darkness and, beside it, the dilapidated remains of what once had been St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, where Elliot’s mother took him and his sisters when they were kids…years before Penny went astray and followed the goddess cult. The church had been struck by lightning a week after the House of the Mother-Goddess of Darkness was finished construction and open for use by her priestesses, and a pervading sense of evil surrounding the area made the parishioners wish no longer to attend their church, so no attempt was ever made to repair the damages.

That pervading sense of evil was only a vague feeling, most of the parishioners not attributing it to the goddess’s house; but the priest was convinced that that house was Satanic in nature, and he blamed it for destroying his livelihood and place of service to God for so many decades. He was determined to confront that Satanic presence, and if he couldn’t rid the neighbourhood of it, he’d die trying.

He looked up at the damaged steeple of the church, where the lightning bolt struck the crucifix, shattering it and leaving the top of it with a jagged edge. The ugly new shape of it looked blasphemous to Rosario.

He looked over at the black house next to the church, and walked over to it. Standing on the front porch and facing the front door, he took a deep breath, gritted his teeth, held his hands in fists, and pushed the door open.

He walked down the hall, where spots of green, red, and blue glowed among the black shadows. He passed by the door to the basement; unlocked, it swung open for him.

“No, she-devils,” he hissed. “I won’t descend into your Hell.”

You have no love for the darkness, Father? a female voice asked him.

“Of course not,” he said. “I believe in the light.”

Very well, the voice said. Come upstairs to the roof, and we’ll discuss whatever is bothering you.

He went up four flights of stairs, which were shrouded in absolute black. No glowing colours here to illumine his way.

The wooden steps creaked. The only way he didn’t trip or bump into walls in the absolute darkness is that the power of the goddess guided his steps so well, it was as if he could see.

Rather than reassured with this guidance, he could only feel profoundly disturbed at being led the way by devils. After all, it wasn’t so much that he was being guided as he was being compelled to go up these stairs.

By the time he reached the roof, the ascent had caused his aging legs to be sore and tired. He bumped into a door leading outside to the roof.

Still no glowing colours accompanied the pitch black of the area in front of the door. He’d might as well have been blind standing there. He held the crucifix hanging from his neck tightly.

You abide by the light of the Lord, don’t you? the voice asked him tauntingly.

“Of course,” he said defiantly. “Jesus is the light of the world. Whoever follows Him will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Very well. Open the door, and have your light.

He opened the door, and the light was like a white fire–it shone in so brightly that it burned his eyes. He staggered forward and out onto the roof. He was slipping along the slope of the side of the roof. He opened his eyes, but saw only black.

“What? What the…I’m blind!”

He kept sliding down the side of the roof, then fell off the right side of the house, screaming.

If you want your Christ and your crucifix, you may have them, the voice said.

He landed, facing upwards, on the jagged edge of the steeple’s crucifix, impaled through his back, with the jagged edge coming out of his belly.

VI

“Father Rosario!” Elliot screamed as he saw his priest’s lifeless body, with copious amounts of blood pouring out of the wound. “I will avenge you.” Tears ran down his face.

He and Sibyl put their clothes on and left her apartment. He felt the fire inside him. In his rage, he even let himself flame up all over; he was so amazed to see the fire not burning his clothes off that he took no notice of the shock on the faces of the people who saw his fiery self on the streets.

He smiled at the sight of his new power. “I feel like a comic book superhero,” he said with pride. “So, am I a god now, like you?”

“Well, something like that,” she said as they walked down the street in the direction of the House of the Daughter-Goddess of Tears. 

They reached the house within ten minutes. They stopped by the front door.

She looked at him. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes,” he said. “They took everything from me. I want to take everything from them.”

“Well then, follow me down into the basement. There is the best place to start the fire; burn the foundation, and the fire will rise up to the rest of the house.”

“OK.” They went inside and down the hall. He saw glowing spots of red, purple, blue, and orange among the shadows. He saw the door to the basement swing open, welcoming him. “I’m not afraid of you, bitch-goddesses! I have the power to destroy you. I’ll go down into your Hell, and make of it an even greater inferno.” He went down the stairs, lighting up his fire so he could see the way. He reached the foot of the stairs, noting the wet floor.

He stretched his arms out, using them like flamethrowers to hit the walls and wooden stairs with his fire. Everywhere he saw flames engulfing the basement. He smiled. 

Suddenly, he heard loud sobbing, hurting his ears. He shot more fire from his hands.

“Yes, go ahead and weep, goddesses,” he said. “You’re about to be destroyed!”

It started raining tears from the ceiling of the basement. Within ten seconds, he was up to his ankles in water. 

He fired his flames onto the watery floor, as much fire as he could muster in an attempt to vaporize it. It wasn’t enough, though. 

“Why isn’t this working, Sibyl?” he shouted, feeling himself becoming at one with the flames in his consuming rage. “Sibyl? Where are you?”

The water, now at waist level on him, displayed three female faces on its surface, the faces of Penny, Mary, and Sibyl. His eyes and mouth widened.

You wanted to find us, Elliot, his sisters said with grins, and you’ve found us.

“But you’re my sisters!” he shouted. “I came here to save you! And now, you’re trying to kill me?”

We don’t need saving, his sisters said. The goddesses saved us. They have given us absolute blessedness. You should embrace their power, too.

“Never! Sibyl, you bitch! I thought you said you wanted to stop the goddesses’ evil!”

I am one of the goddesses, you fool, she said from her face among the wavy surface of water, which was now at Elliot’s neck level. I’m the Daughter-Goddess of Tears, using your fire to increase my power. But why should you complain? Today was your lucky day. You got to have sex with a goddess.

He strained to increase the power of his fire, desperate to vaporize the water that was now at the level where his lips had been. The glowing fire pushed back the water to be separated from his body, which was now almost completely transformed into a pillar of fire, by about a foot all around. He was getting tired.

Give in, his sisters said. Let go of your passion. It only leads to suffering. Embrace sorrow and tears. When you accept pain as inevitable, you can join us and be blessed forever.

“No! Never!” he—a talking pillar of flame—shouted, and fired more flames out. “God is…my…salvation…”

He could sustain it for only a few more seconds, though. Finally, he shrank from exhaustion, and the water extinguished him.

Poor Elliot, his sisters said. He never could adapt to new beliefs.

It is no matter, the daughter-goddess said. We have his power now, and can benefit from it. His soul will serve us for all eternity. We’ll feel him near us always. After all, family should always be close.

Yes, Great Goddess, the sisters said, grinning. It was our plan to have Elliot serve us. The wisdom of the plan came clearer and clearer the more we became acquainted with your divine ways. His God won’t save him from the flames.

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Ten

Having just snorted my second line of K, I’m feeling an urge to go outside, as foolish an idea as that is. I felt no numbness from the last line; maybe I won’t feel numb from this one. We’ll find out.

I get up and stagger to the door.

My sparkling, dazzling ecstasy high is so powerful that I want to share my love with the world.

I walk out of my apartment. Did I close and lock the door? Who cares? It’s the world I must take care of, not myself!

I plod my way down the stairs, almost stumbling and falling a few times. It’s a good thing I’m holding onto the hand rail. I get to the ground floor, then begin staggering towards the front door.

I’m outside.

Not just outside my apartment building.

I’m…outside…my…body…

Am I floating?

Am I up in the air?

Am I one with my surroundings?

It sure feels that way.

I see that old man sitting under the tree with his eyes closed and his toothy grin. He looks so peaceful, with the sound of bombs and gunfire all around us.

I want to be him so badly.

A fuzzy, wave-like feeling is permeating my whole body, or this whole, vague presence where I am, be it in or outside of my body. There’s no sense of where I physically begin and end. Is there a boundary between that old man and me? There doesn’t seem to be.

I see him sideways, as if I’m lying on my side on the ground. Am I? I didn’t feel myself fall.

Everything…everything…feels fuzzy, wavy, vibrating…

I am that old man!

I am the great, wise one! Or at least, I’m going to be him.

I am Sid Arthur Gordimer, spiritual leader of the people! I will lead us all to enlightenment! Follow me, my disciples!

I am prince of the realm of Sakia, and I renounce my throne-to-be!

No, Father, I will not be the next king! You and that horrible stepmother of mine, the queen, can argue with me and yell at me all you want! I won’t continue the regal family line! I am leaving home, in search of enlightenment, and salvation for my impoverished people, those you have impoverished, Father, through your neglect!

I don’t want my inheritance, not one gold coin of it. Give it all to my wife, Jessie, and to our son, Raoul. When he comes of age, he can inherit your throne, if he wishes to have it!

As for me, I am leaving the palace! I am seeking liberation for myself and for all of our starving, oppressed people! When I attain my goal, I aim to be reclining on my side on the ground (as I am now?), in a state of perfect bliss and peace, with all of my followers standing and sitting around me, gazing on me in love.

Perhaps I’m already there, floating up to heaven, at the gates of nirvana-like perfection. It looks that way, with all these Asian faces looking at me (Indeed, I hear Chinese whispers of…is it…”Crazy foreigner”?…”On drugs”?…”needs a doctor”? I’m not sure; the voices aren’t clear.)

Nirvana isn’t to be actively sought out, anyway…is it? We already are there…we just need to wake up and recognize it, don’t we?…the Buddha-nature already within, the Atman that is already at one with Brahman. I feel no dividing line between my body and all that’s around me. I must have already attained enlightenment.

Haven’t I?

Birds

What’s
supposed
left wing is, seen more closely,
in the centre, which in turn
moves to the right.

A
bird
in flight, whose flapping wings are
left here, over there on the right,
is only so depending on your
point of view.

If
it’s
flying forwards, you will see
the left wing where it ought
to be, and where the right
should be.

If
it’s
flying backwards, right at you,
the left, centre and right
may seem a confused
monstrosity,

as
has
been the case, increasingly,
for the past forty years.
As it nears,

the
bird,
which is an eagle, quite the hawk,
shows no signs of slowing down
as it reaches us,
its prey.

Not
knowing
the left wing from the right,
we will be snatched up
in its claws, fed
to its chicks.

Analysis of ‘The Howling’

The Howling is a 1981 horror film directed by Joe Dante, based on the 1977 novel of the same name by Gary Brandner. The film stars Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Christopher Stone, Dennis Dugan, and Robert Picardo.

The film received generally positive reviews, with praise for the makeup special effects by Rob Bottin. It won the 1980 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film while still in development, and it was one of three major werewolf films of 1981, the other two being An American Werewolf in London and Wolfen.

Seven sequels have been made to The Howling, the first film’s success having helped Dante’s career so he could make Gremlins in 1984. A remake of The Howling is in development, with Andy Muschietti set to direct.

Here is a link to quotes from the film, and here is a link to Brandner’s novel. Here is a link to the script.

The differences between the novel and the film are huge. In fact, the film only ever-so-vaguely follows the plot of the novel. I’ll point out just a few of the differences for now.

Karen While (Wallace) is Karyn Beatty in the novel, and her husband is Roy Beatty, his film equivalent being Bill Neill (Stone), for we learn that White has kept her maiden name. Karyn is raped at home in the novel, whereas Karen is almost attacked by a werewolf in an adult bookstore’s movie booth in the film. In the novel, her psychiatrist is only briefly mentioned; in the film, psychiatrist Dr. George Waggner (Macnee) is a major character, who has her recuperate in his health resort, called “The Colony,” while in the novel, she recuperates in a town called Drago, in California. The nymphomaniac werewolf is Marcia Lura in the novel; in the film, she’s Marsha Quist (played by Elisabeth Brooks), sister of werewolf/serial killer Eddie Quist (Picardo). The rapist of the novel is non-werewolf Max Quist.

It’s interesting to analyze the nature of the changes of the novel’s beginning to those of the film’s, that is, in psychoanalytic terms. It’s as if the screenplay to the film were written by Karyn Beatty instead of by John Sayles and Terrence H. Winkless, as if an attempt by her to reframe her trauma in a way that’s less invasive of her body, replacing a direct rape with a more symbolic, dream-like attack.

In the novel, as stated above, Max Quist, an ex-con resentful of being an unacknowledged worker and with no werewolf powers, comes into Karyn’s apartment while her husband’s away and rapes her, even biting her hard on the thigh. The Beattys have a dog, significantly named Lady, that tries to intervene on Karyn’s behalf, but is kicked away by Max. The dog goes with Karyn and Roy to Drago, and it is killed there. Violence against a dog named Lady seems like a further projection of Karyn’s trauma elsewhere.

So what we have in the novel is a straightforward act of brutal violence causing Karyn’s trauma. In the film, this violence is transformed in many ways, suggesting in its distortions a diluting of that pain.

First of all, Karen White is a TV news reporter risking her life by drawing out her stalker, Eddie Quist, so the police can catch him. Instead of Quist raping her, he has her meet him in a sleazy porn movie booth in an adult book store, where he makes her watch a video of a young woman being bound and raped. Thus the trauma of Karyn is projected onto the woman in the porn video.

Instead of getting a…lupine?…bite from Quist, Karen looks behind her and sees his terrifying transformation into a lycanthrope…though immediately afterwards, she is amnesiac about it, her repression of the memory protecting her from the pain.

This comparison between novel and film leads to a discussion of one of the film’s themes: the contrast between the true self and the false self. As Dr. Waggner says in a news interview with a TV host, “Repression is the father of neurosis, of self-hatred.” He speaks of the unfortunate reality of denying “the beast, the animal, within us,” of replacing the true self with the false self.

This replacement, in the film adaptation, of the novel’s rape scene with Karen watching a video of a rape, a man transforming into a werewolf, and her no longer being able to remember the traumatic experience, is an example of replacing the truth with a kind of fantasy, a falsehood that hurts less. Such replacements of painful truth with comforting falsehood are also seen in characters in the film replacing the true self with the false one.

Another interesting observation can be made of how the true experience of Karyn Beatty’s rape is expressed via the written word, whereas the trauma of Karen White is given in visuals, in images. These two presentations of the traumatizing incident correspond respectively with Lacan‘s notions of the Symbolic and the Imaginary, the trauma itself corresponding to the Real.

Trauma corresponds to the Real because the Real cannot be symbolized, or articulated with words. It is through psychotherapy, or the “talking cure,” that the horrors of the ineffable, undifferentiated world of the Real can be transformed into the Symbolic, the realm of language, of the differentiated. Such a talking cure is attempted with Karen in group therapy sessions in The Colony. This therapy is an attempt to peel away repression, bit by bit, to find the truth.

In the novel, it is significant that Karyn Beatty escapes the town of Drago, which is all engulfed in flames, defeating the werewolves that inhabit the town. In the version of the story given in the written word (the Symbolic), she survives–she’s ‘cured,’ metaphorically speaking. In the film, the version with images and an examination of the narcissistic false self (the Imaginary), Karen White becomes a werewolf and is (presumably) killed with a silver bullet shot from the rifle Chris Halloran (Dugan) has been using on the werewolves.

If you’ll indulge a brief digression, Dear Reader, it is through the Imaginary that one establishes a sense of self, an ego; this comes about during the mirror stage, when an infant first sees his reflection and realizes that that person over there, in the specular image, is himself. He’s alienated from it, though: it’s himself, yet it’s over there, as if a totally different person. That image is also a unified, coherent one, as opposed to the awkward, clumsy, fragmented being the child feels himself to be. Is that really me over there? Is the ego real, or is it illusory?

The ideal-I as seen in the mirror reflection is an ideal that one feels compelled throughout life to measure up to; an example of this attempt to measure up is seen in the scene in the public washroom, when an anchorman (played by Jim McKrell) is standing before the mirror practicing how he’ll enunciate his introduction of a news story with the most mellifluous, rounded tones he can muster. It’s a comical scene, especially when Bill Neill walks in and the anchorman switches to his normal Southern accent to speak with him.

The Imaginary is fundamentally narcissistic; Lacan called it “Fraud.” Indeed, it is the false self that hides the beast…and the buffoon.

This scene in the washroom ties in well with the fact that Karen also works as a TV news reporter. Those of us who observe the media carefully have known for decades that the news frequently disseminates false or at least misleading information, intended to serve the interests of the corporate elite and the military-industrial-media complex. Images of people like Karen on the TV (i.e., the stoic anchor persona) are thus thematically fitting for the purposes of this film.

On two occasions when in front of the camera, Karen fails to present this fake persona expected in the news media. On the first occasion, her trauma causes her to see images of her painful memories of that night with Quist instead of seeing the camera in front of her; this causes her to freeze on air, making her unable to announce the news. The second time, at the end of the movie, she turns into a werewolf for everyone to see on TV.

This theme of the media as representative of fakery is developed, however indirectly, through the film’s use of many nods to classic old werewolf films, a cartoon with a wolf, and actors known for having appeared in old horror/sci fi films. These actors include Kevin McCarthy (who appeared in Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as the TV news station manager, John Carradine, and Kenneth Tobey (who was in The Thing from Another World, later remade as The Thing). Even Roger Corman (who made The Little Shop of Horrors) does a cameo, waiting for Karen to finish using a pay phone at the beginning of the movie. Recall how the aliens in Snatchers and The Thing are fake imitations of people. Recall also how fake the special effects of those old horror movies were, as compared to the effects in The Howling.

When Karen and Bill (or Karyn and Roy) go out to The Colony (or the town of Drago) for her to recuperate, she is disturbed at night to hear howling coming from the woods surrounding their cabin. She goes over to the bedroom window, looks out into the trees, and listens for the howling. This howling represents a projection of her trauma, her howling in pain, as it were, out into the woods. The notion of werewolves out there, as she eventually finds out is the source of the howling, is a transformation of the rape trauma, in her unconscious mind, into something unrecognizable as symbolic of a rape memory, since what is repressed returns to the conscious mind and hides in plain sight, unrecognized by us in our waking hours. The howling also represents the honest expression of feelings, the true self.

The film makes a strong link between werewolves and sexuality (I also did this in my novel, Wolfgang), as already indicated above. This howling in the woods reminds us of Freud‘s rather far-fetched interpretation of the dream of the “Wolf Man,” in which Freud’s patient saw six or seven wolves on tree branches outside the window of his home. Freud interpreted this dream as representing Sergei Pankejeff‘s witnessing, as a child, the primal scene–that is, his parents making love in ‘doggy-style.’ (I’m not endorsing Freud’s wild speculations here: I’m just using the fame of this interpretation to reinforce the link between wolves–and therefore werewolves–and sexuality.)

Another such link in the film is seen in Marsha Quist, a known nymphomaniac in The Colony who seduces Bill, the two of them turning into werewolves as they have sex in the woods. In the novel, Karyn immediately feels jealousy on meeting Marcia Luna, angered at the attractive woman’s constant attention to her husband. As in the film, Roy has a sexual relationship with Marcia, a werewolf like all of Drago’s residents.

Bill’s becoming a werewolf coincides with two other changes in his personality: first, going from being a faithful husband (initially resisting Marsha’s sexual advances) to cheating on Karen; second, going from being a vegetarian to eating meat. Again, the false self hides the true self through repression of unacceptable behaviour.

In the film, a character not in the novel, Terry Fisher (played by Belinda Balaski), also works at the TV station and is Chris’s girlfriend. She continues to investigate Eddie Quist, going into his home with Chris and discovering his aptitude at art. The killer has drawn many werewolf portraits and has posters of old werewolf movie ads on his walls. Terry quips that Eddie “could’ve designed the Marquis de Sade colouring book,” another link between werewolves and sexuality.

Terry later explores The Colony, finds Quist’s body missing in the morgue, learns from a bookseller (played by Dick Miller) that regular bullets don’t kill werewolves, and that Quist’s drawing of a lake is one in The Colony area. She’s found his other drawings there, too. Quist is alive!

Now, how does one become a werewolf? By being clawed, scratched, or bitten by another. This is what happens to Bill when walking through the woods back home after he resists Marsha’s initial sexual advances. Since the film links werewolves with sexuality–rape and, as we can see here, unwanted sexual advances in particular–the scratching or biting of someone by a werewolf, making him or her into a new werewolf, is thus symbolic of passing the sexual trauma onto a new victim.

The werewolf’s claws and teeth are phallic symbols, cutting yonic wounds into its victims, making the werewolf’s attack a symbolic rape. This symbolism is how I can see the film’s beginning trauma of Karen seeing Eddie Quist’s transformation in the porn movie booth, juxtaposed with her watching that porn rape scene, as a transformation of Karyn’s actual rape, with the wolf-like bite on her thigh, in the novel.

When Terry puts all the pieces together about The Colony, and is about to reveal its secrets, she is attacked by TC Quist (played by Don McLeod), the werewolf brother of Eddie and Marsha. Terry manages during the struggle to find an ax and hacks off the werewolf’s hairy, clawed hand, which she sees transform back into a human hand. Since the clawing of a victim, with phallic claws, is a symbolic rape, then the cutting off of a werewolf’s hand is a symbolic castration.

Later, she is killed by werewolf Eddie in Waggner’s office after phoning Chris and telling him about the werewolf secret in The Colony; when she’s being killed, the phone call being interrupted by Eddie means it hasn’t been hung up, so Chris listens in horror at his girlfriend’s screaming and death. (Later, Chris arrives in the office and confronts Eddie, who tells him Terry has “a sexy voice,” once again linking werewolves with predatory sexuality in The Howling.)

Karen goes over to Waggner’s office and finds Terry’s bloody body there, then she confronts resurrected Eddie, who transforms in front of her. She’s paralyzed with fear.

Eddie’s transformation into a werewolf is the highlight of the film, being an impressive example of pre-CGI special effects (though the transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London is even better). Eddie is proud of his powers, pleased to demonstrate them to terrified Karen. He’s displaying his bestial true self, as opposed to his human false self.

One of the insights Terry and Chris get from the bookseller is that the movies’ notion of werewolves needing a full moon to transform is “Hollywood baloney” (reinforcing what I said above about this film’s theme about the media and falsehoods); actually, as shapeshifters, lycanthropes can transform anytime at will, as we see Eddie doing here.

Karen scalds Eddie’s face with acid and runs outside, but she is caught by the other residents of The Colony. Waggner appears among them, revealing his sympathy for them, but also pleading with them about the necessity of fitting in with society for the sake of keeping their secret safe.

The other werewolves have lost patience with the psychiatrist’s recommendation that they all hide their lupine true selves behind a human false self; Marsha in particular is adamantly opposed to this hiding, having earlier rebuked the doctor for giving her brother TC a copy of his book, The Gift, which rationalizes man’s bestial nature as a source of creativity. (Recall in this connection Eddie’s artistic aptitudes.)

Chris arrives with a rifle loaded with silver bullets he got from the bookstore, and after killing Eddie with it, he shoots and kills a few of the werewolves holding Karen (Waggner, too, gets shot, and–having just been scratched by a werewolf–he’s grateful no longer to have to continue the burden of treating the untreatable, or to have to be a werewolf himself), and Chris runs off with Karen to his car to get away, having also burned down a building filled with werewolves.

Even Sam Newfield, the sheriff of The Colony area (played by Slim Pickens), is a werewolf, and as Karen and Chris are getting away, they have to put a silver bullet or two in him, too. The sheriff, with his rifle, has shot up Chris’s car, including blowing a tire, and a few more werewolves are attacking, so he and Karen have to switch to Sam’s police car to get away.

Werewolf Bill, however, is one of their attackers, and he bites Karen from the back seat of the car, so she will be a werewolf, too. She knows she must warn the world, using her position as a newswoman to disseminate the message to as many people as possible. This means, contrary to the normal media practice of presenting a false self that is pleasing to one’s viewers (i.e., that image of stoic reporting that her male colleague was practicing before the mirror in the public bathroom), she must show her true self as a new werewolf…on live TV.

Chris, heartbroken, must now put a silver bullet in her.

The film ends in a bar where its patrons, having watched the news broadcast on the wall-mounted TV screen, debate whether what they’ve seen was real or the gimmickry of special effects–another manifestation of the film’s exploration of the theme of truth vs. fakery in the media.

Marsha’s managed to survive the fire in The Colony, and she’s in the bar, where a man hoping to get lucky with her has treated her to a hamburger cooked rare. She’s enticing him with her nymphomaniac false self, while waiting to reveal her true self to him in his bedroom.

While the credits roll, we see her burger cooking. It’s interesting to watch the slow transformation of the pink meat into a hamburger; this parallels the slow transformation of Eddie into a werewolf…or the slow process of psychotherapy revealing, bit by bit, repressed trauma. On top of all this, there’s the symbolism of the rising heat of sexual passion, and meat…flesh…to be eaten: more of the merging of the carnivore with the sexual predator.

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Nine

I hear a loud boom and repeated gunfire outside.

How’s the war going out there? I wonder. Is the fighting getting closer?

I get up from the coffee table and walk to my right over to the front window. I push aside the curtains and look outside.

With the booming of more explosions, I see a few fireballs lighting up the night sky. Comparing their size to those I saw earlier tonight, before I started drinking and getting stoned, that is, I realize they’re noticeably bigger balls of fire now.

The rattling of machine gun fire is louder than before, too. The war is coming closer to home, for sure.

My ketamine high is starting to come down, but it’s still strong enough to keep me feeling that illusion of safety. I’ll snort another line in a few minutes.

The second half of that ecstasy pill is starting to kick in. I’m feeling that delicious sparkling, tingling sensation again. I’m feeling love…love for all of humanity, a wish to help everyone out there who is suffering and in need, though I’m not dumb or stoned enough to go outside and into the danger.

After seeing another few fireballs flashing in the sky, I look down at the sidewalks, road, and front area of my apartment. I’m on the second floor, so everything is easy to see; I can see quite a lot of detail down there, in spite of how disorienting my high is, and how dark it is out there.

I see a homeless old man, or so he seems by how filthy dirty he looks, and how he is lying on the sidewalk in front of my apartment. Greying and balding, he must be in his sixties at least. He is facing me, with his mouth wide open in a yawn; I notice a few missing teeth.

Poor guy, I think, with this love drug in me drawing out my compassion. He’s out there with no protection from the bombs or bullets. I should give him a snort of my Special K.

My eyes drift to the right, where I see what must be another homeless man, younger but just as filthy as the first. He’s walking over to the first one; perhaps they’re friends. This second one has gaping holes in his shirt and pants, and I can make out what must be boils all over his skin. His hideousness can only inspire pity.

There’s no way he’s gonna get medical care for his skin condition, I reason. Even with universal free healthcare here on this island, what with all the war wounded, he won’t be given anywhere near priority in the hospitals.

I hear another explosion and some machine gun fire. It must be getting really close, for during this last rattling of bullets, I just saw the chest of what appears to be a third homeless man burst open in a huge splash of red. He’s now lying on the sidewalk, motionless and lifeless to the left of the first derelict.

I’ll bet he has no family to grieve for him, I think as I see a pool of blood growing in an oval around his body. The other two homeless men, still in the exact same place, don’t seem to notice the blood getting on their clothes and shoes. I see a soldier running by–the one who shot him? Is he wearing a PLA uniform? I think it is.

I heave a big sigh, then look over to a bench on the left side of the front area of my apartment. There’s a tree with overhanging leafy branches over the bench, and after I squint my eyes and look more carefully there, I see an old man sitting there crosslegged with his eyes closed and a smile on his face.

Is it even possible to sit like that and meditate amidst all that mayhem? I wonder, then go back and sit at my coffee table.

I close my eyes.

I open my eyes, and instead of seeing my small apartment all around me, I see my parents’ mansion. Instead of wearing a T-shirt and shorts, I’m in a black Armani suit with a white shirt and dark purple tie. I’m looking out the front window on the second floor, looking out on the front lawn over to the front gates of our estate.

“What’s out there?” I ask, looking back at my father.

“You don’t need to know,” he, wearing the regal attire of an Oriental king, says with a frown of disapproval towards my, to him, excessive curiosity.

“But if I am to rule these people, I need to get to know them,” I say. Now I am dressed in similar, Asian clothing. Instead of a modern mansion, I see the elaborate interior design of an Oriental palace. Instead of the gates outside, I see palace walls at the far end of the front lawn as I look back through the window.

“You don’t need to see the filthy dirty masses to rule them,” my stepmother, dressed in modern clothing but no less a queen, says to me coldly. “If you went out there, you might catch their diseases. I forbid you to go out there.”

“I still want to see them, and I’m going,” I say. She tries to stop me, but I just walk past her. I pay no attention to her shouting as I leave the room, go down the stairs, and walk towards the front door. I’m in the black suit again, and the palace has returned to being the modern mansion.

I hear my father call out to the servants to make sure I have a retinue of followers to protect my “inviolable” self from the “riff-raff” outside. When such followers walk by me, I brush them aside.

“I want to be alone,” I snap at them.

Suddenly, I find myself outside the palace walls. I’m in my Oriental robes again. On the sides of the streets, I see destitute Chinese and Indians begging, sitting on the ground with bowls in front of them.

To see such abject poverty makes me feel ashamed to be dressed so well among them. As I continue walking, I look down at myself and see the black suit on me again. I hear gunfire and bombs exploding. I look in front of myself and see a homeless Indian man lying on the ground. He must be in his seventies, with his long, wiry white hair.

He looks hungry and in pain. I toss a few gold coins in the bowl he has lying by his head. He says something to me in his Hindustani dialect–“Thank you,” I assume. I notice that, as he’s speaking, half of his teeth are missing. He also has only a loincloth to cover his nakedness.

I continue my walk and see another homeless Indian, a younger one, but one with boils all over his semi-naked body. He, too, is wearing only a loincloth.

Are there no doctors to care for him? I wonder, giving him a few gold coins, too. I’m back in my Asian robes.

I notice the sharp smell of smoke in front of me. Is it a marijuana cigarette burning? It sure smells like that, but instead I see the burning body of a dead, homeless Indian. No gold coins will help him, or his family, since I see no one near him to grieve for him.

I hear a bomb explode and some gunfire not too far away. I look up at the sky and see fiery mushroom clouds turning all the blue to orange. I heave a sigh, feel my heart sinking, and turn around to return home.

My father has taken too little care of this, and he’ll continue to care too little, I think as I’m walking back to the palace.

As I’m going, though, I pass by an old man sitting under a tree in a park. Crosslegged, he has his eyes closed, and has a wide smile on his face. He’s at peace amidst this turmoil!

My body feels as if it’s glowing in a radiant fire. I’m sparkling and tingling all over. I feel the warmth and light of love permeating my body and shining all over me!

This meditating man has inspired me! His example has shown me what I must do: go out into the world and help humanity through spirituality and mysticism!

My father will never, ever use any of his wealth to help the poor or to end these wars, I think as I begin walking faster back home. Sakia’s influence over all of the politically powerful in our kingdom has ensured that the wealthy will never be taxed. But if I can reach the people spiritually, then inspire them to revolution, we can together solve the problem of the poor.

I see the walls and entrance to the palace. The gates open…as my eyes do.

I look around and see my humble living room again.

I hear the explosions and gunfire outside. A few flashes of light brighten the night sky past my window with those explosions.

I am definitely coming down from my K high. I’m starting to feel less safe, though the glow of universal love is at its most brilliant right now.

This ecstasy is powerful, I think.

I want to go out there and spread love, however dangerous it is outside.

I look down at my lines of ketamine.

A snort of one of them will be my armour.

I pick up my straw.

The K-hole isn’t anything more than illusory safety, I think as I bend down to snort the line. But if I die out there, I die. We’re all going to die, anyway. Why keep living in this shitty world?

Daggers

This
dagger
which
hovers
before
me will be used to kill a king.
Is he a kind and gentle king,
or has
this
king
worked
hard
to get
each
stab
in

his
back
and
guts?
Good kings should not be
invited to eat, then betrayed.
Bad
ones
are
not
fed
and
bled
to

bring
about
reigns
which
renew
past tyrannies. To resurrect
him who was pierced is no
different
than
let-
-ting
his
son
sit
on
a

gold
seat
that’s
good
as new.
Kill the Duncan-killer,
let Malcolm mend our wounds,
and
all
our
red
can
be
a

poured
liquid
in
a
cup,
not spilled.

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Eight

I turn my stoned, half-closed eyes to my left and see, over on the wall by my kitchen area, a poster of Mira Asule in a string bikini. She’s a pornographic model whose pictures I’ve worshipped and enjoyed looking at online over the years.

Recently, I’ve tried to resist looking at such pictures and video, not so much out of a wish to strengthen myself morally as out of a wish to avoid getting yet another virus on my laptop. The last thing I am is a saint.

Since the Indian music has ended, I get up and put on some electronic dance music. I sit back down at my coffee table. I look down on it, with its lines of ketamine not yet snorted, my glass of bourbon, my ecstasy pills (including the half-pill I haven’t taken yet), and my marijuana. My ecstasy high is wearing off, so I swallow that other half-pill with a gulp of Jim Beam.

“The last thing I am is a saint,” I whisper.

A loud bomb blows up not so far away outside. I feel the room shake. The gunfire outside is louder, nearer. Thankfully, my ketamine high is still strong enough to give me that illusory feeling of protection, so I don’t need to take another snort just yet.

We’re all going to die in that war outside, anyway; I’d might as well die happy.

After all, I’m no saint.

I close my eyes and continue my reverie.

I’m inside that mansion, in a room where a party is going on. I’m with male friends, including my cousin David, and loud electronic music is playing. Half-naked strippers are dancing around us. David has one in front of him with only a red thong on, while the one in front of me–Mira Asule–is gloriously naked from head to toe and grinning at me as if hoping I’ll choose her to be my wife…instead of the woman my parents–the king and queen–want me to marry.

“Enjoy this while you can,” I hear the voice of my father say as if it were the voice of a god from up in the heavens. “For tomorrow, you will marry Jessie Dara, the pretty daughter of one of my business partners.”

Now the room of the mansion looks like one in an Oriental palace. Mira, instead of being naked, is in an Indian getup, with darker skin and a red dot on her forehead. She’s dancing to Indian, rather than electronic, music now.

I pick up some gold coins and jewels and toss them her way. Then I pick up a large goblet of wine and drink a big gulp from it.

I look back up at Mira and see her lovely, skinny nakedness again, as she originally was, with peach-white skin, wavy brown hair, and those hypnotic brown eyes of hers. She’s bent over, legs spread out wide and exposing all of her anatomical secrets to me; she’s grinning at me upside-down from between her legs. I take an indulgent look at all of her, then look down at my glass of Jim Beam and Coke, and the lines of ketamine.

The Indian music has switched back to electronic music, the Oriental palace is the mansion again, and instead of gold and jewels, I have plain old paper money. I pick up a few hundred dollar bills and give them to her.

“Thank you, Sid,” she says with a giggle when taking the money, and then she rubs her sugary breasts against my face. I look down at the table, and instead of seeing ketamine, I see lines of cocaine. I’m tempted to snort a line, but I resist.

I look up. Instead of seeing Mira’s pretty, smiling face, I see that of my bride, Jessie. We kiss, and I hear, instead of pounding electronic music (or Indian music, for that matter), the applause of wedding guests out in the grassy backyard of the mansion. I also hear Mendelssohn’s Wedding March: I’d rather hear the electronica again.

Among the guests I can see my father grinning from ear to ear; he’s obviously so glad he’s kept me from going outside our home and seeing the world, but I still have an itch to know how the less fortunate out there live. My stepmother, the queen, is standing beside my father, smirking at me with what looks as if she has suspicious thoughts in her head. Is she reinforcing his wish to keep me locked up in our prison of a palace?

Yes, instead of the mansion and its backyard of green grass, I see the inside of our regal palace again. The whole family is in our royal finery again, including Jessie, who is no longer wearing a modern bridal gown and veil–she’s in colourful, resplendent, luxurious clothing. She also has a baby in her arms–our son, Raoul.

“Are you ready to take on the crown, my son?” Father asks me. Instead of answering, I look out the window to my right and at the outer castle wall, wondering what is beyond it.

“Sid?” Jessie asks me.

“Sidney Arthur Gordimer!” my stepmother shouts at me. “Your father, the king, just asked you a question!”

“What?” I say, looking back at him.

“Answer him!” the queen shouts.

I open my eyes and see my humble living room again, with the drugs and my drink on the coffee table, the poster of Mira on the wall, and the electronic music pounding away on my CD player.

I’m no saint, I think. I’m no king, either.

I hear the bombs and gunfire outside.

“And I’m sure as shit no prince,” I say. “I’m a goner.”