NODE$AZABUA                                              ESC: INV


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   ENTER AUTHORIZATION CODE: vx1w3~bda
   ENTER AUTHORIZATION PASS: _________

   WELCOME TO THE VIRTUAL NOISE EXCHANGE.  YOUR MANTRA IS ESC.

   SYSTEM  _COWSENGINE__________________      USE EXISTING? N
   USER    _GUESSED_____________________      VERIFY? N
   MANTRA  NONE    VOL VI   SYS$TERM: VT314    SYS$EXT: 159

   CONTINUE (Y/N) ? Y

   ===============
   the undisc. ct.
   ===============

   editors: sven ("[email protected]") prozak &&
            l.b. ("[email protected]") noire

%ls -bfd

total 33 
drwx--x--x   4 abraxas      512 May 29 19:21 ./
drwxr-xr-x   7 other        512 Mar 15 14:39 ../
-rw-r--r--   1 abraxas        0 Aug 16 19:09 .link
-rw-r--r--   1 abraxas      512 Jun  6 00:31 .cshrc
lrw-r--r--   1 lbnoire      111 Jan 28 19:21 push
lrw-r--r--   1 chaos        113 Feb  4 11:02 poets
lrw-r--r-x   1 mstutz       131 Apr 11 05:31 fav_comics
drwx------  11 pazuzu       512 Jun  6 04:11 death_metal
lrw-r--r--   1 bambrose     121 Mar  5 04:12 mantra
lrwx-----x   1 srprozak     132 Jun  6 04:06 stoner_adventures

% push
[l.b. noire]

                The burning in my quadriceps tells me that my legs are
         nearing exhaustion but I have to keep pumping the pedals to
         reach the crest of the hill.  I've always prided myself on
         using that bit of long-suppressed rage to carry me through
         situations that require extending yourself beyond your
         capabilities.  This time, I'm not sure if I can summon the
         anger to surpass my physical limits.  The anger is no longer
         there.  I feel as if my best friend since I was ten has now
         betrayed me and left me at the time I need him most.  My
         limit is reached and my leg muscles withdraw in terror from
         the imminent pain.  My mountain bike slows to a crawl during
         the climb and I shift to the lowest gear.  This does nothing
         to help the situation because I am now just spinning the
         pedals while inching forward at an intolerable rate.

                I jump from my saddle without even bothering to use
         the brakes.  Gravity is enough to bring the bike to a stop. 
         As usual, I didn't think about the consequences of my actions
         so my now-useless legs give out when I put my full weight on
         them.  I fall first to my backside.  This undignified
         position is made worse when my bike, lacking a kickstand,
         cannot stand on its own and sprawls across me sending me to
         the ground on my back.

                I lie there for a few seconds wondering if my heart,
         now pumping at 180 beats per minute, is going to rupture.  I
         usually take my heart for granted and barely give it a second
         thought.  However, right now I can feel it as another aching
         muscle in my body simply wanting more oxygen and a brief
         rest.  I look down at my bike before I push it off my chest
         and to the side.  Then I put my hands behind my head and
         decide to rest here for a few minutes.

                I look at the sky and observe the dissipating clouds
         dancing through the setting sunlight which gives them colors
         ranging from a bright shade of orange on their western sides 
         to a light hue of purple on their eastern sides.  I can feel
         the sunlight on my face which makes me look over to the
         setting sun on my right.  I suddenly realize I had reached
         the crest of the hill and start laughing out loud.  For once,
         I had actually accomplished something without having to rely
         on a spirit I dread to summon.  Adolescent energy has
         dissolved into the past taking with it naivete, innocence,
         ignorance, and haste.  Emerging in its place is a maturity
         bringing with it wisdom, experience, awareness, and patience.

                After resting, I move my bike to the side and stand
         up, brushing the grass and dirt off my shorts.  I look around
         to assess my situation:  The sun is beginning to set; I am
         almost fifteen miles from town on a ranch road in the middle
         of the hill country; the temperature is starting to fall from
         sixty-five degrees to Dog-only-knows what in the thirties
         with a slight southwestern wind adding to the drop; and, it
         doesn't matter that I am nowhere near a phone because I have
         no money.  I decide to continue to my destination instead of
         turning home because I am so close.  Although it would be
         easier at this point to turn back, I need to finish this
         ride.

                I lift my bike and straddle the seat.  One more look
         around reinforces the fact that I'm in the middle of
         somewhere:  Trees, hills, rocks, shrubs and cacti stretch to
         the horizon in every direction.  The only synthetic
         interruption to this blanket of green and brown is the
         solitary ranch road waving over the hills until it disappears
         in a valley between two large hills which actually resemble
         small mountains.  I shiver at the temperature and the thought
         of having to cross this distance to get to my destination,
         but it is something that simply has to be done if I want to
         get there.

                The thought of using the full potential of my mountain
         bike crosses my mind.  I had recently become more skilled at
         off-road riding when a friend had to teach me the vast
         difference between road cycling and off-road cycling.  It
         took me several weeks (and numerous cuts and bruises from
         falls) before I learned the basics of crossing rough terrain. 
         However, since it is getting dark I decide not to do this
         right now.  I'm not too familiar with the countryside of the
         Devil's Backbone to attempt its crossing in the dark.  There
         are a few of ravines and cliffs that could put a quick end to
         my ride if I didn't see them in time.  Also, the idea of
         hitting a rock and being thrown onto a cactus isn't very
         thrilling.  This trip will have to be finished along the 
         road.

                I push off with my right foot and begin coasting down
         the hill.  Acceleration.  Within seconds I have reached the
         bottom of the hill and must begin another climb on another
         hill.  However, the climb is made much easier by using the
         momentum from the previous hill.  The funny thing I
         discovered about myself and cycling is circles.  The word
         "cycling" alone holds much meaning.  If I were to look at the
         long distance of a ride I was about to make, I wouldn't even
         start.  However, I simply start without worrying about the
         distance.  It's not an ignorance of the distance for I have
         to know my own limits.  Instead, it's a way of not becoming
         overwhelmed with the trip ahead.  I simply look down at the
         ground and concentrate on where I am with an awareness of my
         destination.  Concentration.  Concentration on little
         circles.  I look at my feet and concentrate on the little
         circles I'm making with the peddles.  They seem to be moving
         in a continuous cycle never moving anywhere and never
         accomplishing anything.

                A large dualie pick-up truck passes inches from my
         left side at a speed which is surely much higher than the
         posted speed limit.  The suction of the passing truck nearly
         rips me from the bike and onto the road.  I momentarily
         consider shouting some form of obscenities at the shrinking
         truck, but restrain myself because it won't accomplish much
         more than emptying my lungs of much needed oxygen.  Besides,
         I'm not adequately armed to fend off an attack from Joe Bob
         and Bubba who are probably carrying an ax handle and a
         shotgun.

                Cycles.  My feet continue to circle endlessly like
         gerbils on exercise wheels.  They seem to never move more
         than the few inches back and forth, but it is this motion
         that drives me forward.  The motion of the cycle that gets me
         to my destination.  It's at this destination that I look up
         and realize that I have passed between twin hills and into a
         large valley.  The sun has completely set by now and I'm
         following the road partially through feel and partially
         through the faint moonlight illuminating the center line.

                I cross the bridge over the river.  I can't see the
         river since it is too dark, but I can hear the water flowing
         over the rocks below.  I coast for another two hundred yards
         before stopping at the only light along the main street of
         this small town of a few hundred people.  I pull up to the
         small gas station and get off my bike.  I lean it against the
         wall near the door and bend over with my hands on my knees to
         catch my breath.  After a minute, I stand up straight and
         walk inside.  An elderly couple are running the place
         tonight.  The man is sitting at an old wooden desk going
         through receipts.  The woman had been reading a magazine but
         came over to the counter when I walked in.  I ask her if
         there is a phone I could use.  She tells me of the payphone
         right outside the door.  I thank her and walk out feeling
         foolish because I now realize I had leaned my bike against
         the wall right under the payphone.  I pick up the handset,
         punch in a carrier access code, a telephone number, and my
         calling card number (which I had memorized after repeated
         uses).

                Ring once.

                Ring twice.

                "Hello?" my fiance answers with a sleepy voice.

                "Hey, I'm sorry to bother you.  Were you asleep?"

                "No," she lies, "I had just laid down."

                "I'm sorry.  I was wondering if you could do me a
         favor."

                "Yeah."

                "I'm kind of stranded twenty-five miles from my
         apartment.  I was wondering if you could pick me up."

                "Where are you?"

                "I'm at the first gas station in Wimberly.  I rode
         here on my bicycle, but I'm too tired to ride back and it's
         getting cold and . . ." I trail off.

                She giggles.  "Okay.  Let me get dressed and I can be
         there in about thirty minutes."

                "Thanks.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate
         this."

                "It's okay."

                "All right.  I'll see you in a little bit."  I'm
         getting ready to hang up the handset.

                "Hey!"

                I managed to hear her yell before I hung up.  "What?"

                "I love you."

                I laugh a little at my forgetfulness and say, "I love
         you, too."

                "I'll see you soon."

                "Bye."

                I hang up the phone with a smile on my face.  I look
         up at the moon.  It has risen to its zenith and is throwing
         its full light on the ground.  I smile again and walk inside
         to the warmth to wait.
		 


% bolgia of poetry
          
          "I do not know myself and God forbid that I should."
                            J.W. von Goethe.


                                   I am

                             I am what I am
                               a man(iac)
                               Am I evil?
                                yes I am
                            because I am man
                                    
                               What am I?
                                  A(n)
                               Philosopher
                              Mathematician
                                 Artist
                                  Poet
                                  Lover
                                 Monster
                            None of the above
                               I am what?
                                    
                                    I
                            my eyes, my eyes
                       the burning in my inseyedes
                         pebble on a shorelessea
                            rocked to and fro
                             for all to see
                                    I
                                    
                                 CrI ng
                         the tears from my eyes
                                 _. . ._
                           lost the motherland
                                  waif
                           forever despeyesed
                                  dI ng
                                    
                                    i
                                   AM
                           soldier of fortune
                            student of wisdom
                          vampire in the night
                           cloaked from vision
                                  shade
                                 shadow
                                   am
                                    I

[-thumper: [email protected]]

"what a foolish mailer"

then they lie
it's the truth
in the skin
paradise
it's the lie
in the skin
subvert the soul
denied

forty shrikes and leeches clawed
out the soul of the misbegotten man
blasted by the sand of the dunes
and the sun of the lie,
finally screamed fuck it and shot
sixty grams of pure street smack
into his aorta.

somewhere in chicago,
an E string broke on a secondhand guitar.

label the guilty
forgive the label

thymotic sense denied
decision which deride
in turn confusion at the thought
a choice is isolation

[-sven: [email protected]]

"clay figurines"

While clawing my way through this maze
I find myself in a daze
The man without a heart
Clay figurines blown apart
The twilight mercenaries grind on
Eliciting an undulating cry by dawn
The dream ends the night gone
Yet the cry persists to echo on
Oh-how I live a secluded life
Striving to break free of all this strife
Let the masquerade end
The masks torn off, the smiling faces descend
Spiraling downward into the madness, never to mend

[-thumper: [email protected]]

"line tension"

ahhhh damnit gotta go atm.
just had 40 eating out too much
where're my keys? desk no dresser
no pocket
light lock it lts go.
sunglasses! forget it

ahh no ticket sweeeet
twenty thousand! god
getting old new oil
shit that's 20.
maybe 60 new sonic youth
newyork dark shades
black old vans jeans t
go! please go!
the trees! spring grass
orange poppies more ya
roses? na daisies
thats 12 ahh hell
gotta get a

job

[-altars of madness:[email protected]]

"ground", A.Y.8

I put my face to the ground and scream
        there is no sound echoed back but what originates with me
                the ground is silent

I climb on a rock and scream at the ground
        the sound flies free for a moment before the ground swallows the vibe
                the ground is silent

I climb to the top of the tree and scream
        there is nothing to see, but the absence of vibrations is startling
                the ground is silent

I climb a hill and lay on my back
        the sky observes my rest and reflects my nature; it carries it downward
                the ground is silent

I remove myself from the earth
        there was no one to talk to, no one to converse
                the ground was silent.

[-lbnoire:[email protected]]

"unknown"

What am I?
I am the fuel
I am the fire
I am the burning desire
I am the nightmare of your life
I am the fear that keeps you up all night
I am the shadow that you cannot see
I am all there is, you are me.
What am I?. . . a dream I
Dream into reality I
Become the basis for morality
Actions become words
Mimes make sense
Acting out the silent pain of death

[-thumper:[email protected]]

"suffer"

Pyrogenesis
Cleansed by your clarion call
I breathe and I scream

[[email protected]]

"nocturne"

beet poetry at its best
poq whoq whaq slaq smaq
wow--way-0, man, that's
sofuckingheavyyonder...
scary like a bogeyman's
abandoned gauntlet in a
small car by a side rd.
scareful like children-
unleashed from adultish
thinking.   scary again
like all them out there
a million eyes waiting,
watching, whispering, &
scorning us of distant-
minded absentness.orare
we all them moons? left
skyward, eyesome, alone
monolithicrantingpraise

"signal noise"
(wave)

sort of like
in the morn of it all
my hand is wrinkled beneath salt water
waves pass smoothly over skin
eyes pass slowly down the beachline
horizon moving like a slow nun.
and then the breeze
soft slapping wind
water stops to brush the shore
people turn to stare and stare
water curses those who live
youthful in the stunning sun
in the ocean of my latent birth
my hand once more passes through a wave
catching single golden hairs
passing through the growing wrinkles
the aging of the sun
defies the day
begin again insurgent thing
cleft leave me
dawning shimmering
riplets like wrinkles
scar the sky.

[-sven:[email protected]]


% favorite comics
 
     I hear somebody.  I guess that there's someone else on the
line; Mitch had said that the lines were open, and so I called, and
I didn't expect anybody because I'd never really done this before,
but somebody was talking.
     I did this a couple times, calling this shit late at night,
and it was real cool -- this night, there's a voice, a guy, talking
to someone else, a whisper.  The whisper kept saying, "Yeah," and
"Okay," and not much else, like it was trying to avoid waking
someone.
     So I said, "Hello?"
     And the voice talked.  He said, "Hello?"
     So I said, "What's up?"
     And the voice said, "Not much.  Listening to Mitch's show."
     Mitch had put some music on, and I didn't like it all that
much -- I thought that the talk show was better, so I turned down
the volume a little.  Then the voice said, "So what are you doing?"
     "Me?"
     "Yeah."
     "Listening to the show."
     "Yeah.  I don't really like this shit."
     "This music?"
     "Yeah."
     "Me neither."
     So we both listened to the silence on the telephone for a
while.  The whisper was even quiet.
     "My neighbors are asleep," the voice said.
     "Shouldn't they be?" I asked.  "It's three a.m."
     "Yeah, but they're kind of weird."
     "Why?  Where do you live?"
     "Euclid.  Where are _you_ calling from?"
     "North Royalton.  I've never been to Euclid."
     "I've never been to Royalton.  I don't even know where that
_is_."
     I couldn't imagine anyone who lived in Cleveland and who
hadn't been to North Royalton.  I mean, sure, there's East siders
and West siders, but North Royalton?  I mean, come _on_!
     "Yeah, but I have weird neighbors."
     "How so?"
     "This guy next to me worked for the post office.  He sold
cocaine and he got busted, now all he does is sit around and play
loud music -- loud soul music.
     "He likes it that he's suspended -- he likes to sit around and
play music.  When the weather's cold he invites everyone over that
he knows and has a barbeque -- with like sixty people."
     I turn down the music on the radio a little more; I can't hear
him all that well.  But he's still talking: "Then you know it's
time to leave -- you hear the thumping."
     I hear a busy signal in the background, behind his voice.
     He says, "Do you hear a busy signal?"
     "Yeah," I say.  Then, I say, "Hey -- is there someone else on
here, someone who was whispering?"
     "Yeah," says the whisper.
     "Oh."
     The voice says, "I have to take off my socks -- hold on."
     I hold on.  I have nothing better to do.
     Sockless, he says, "I want to go ice skating. I only went
once, but I want to go."
     I say, "I went once.  It didn't work out very well.  I fell
all over.  I was in Boy Scouts."
     The voice is quiet to that.
     I listen to the music; it's still pretty lousy.
     "My neighbor asked me if I believe in God, and I said, 'No.'" 
This is what the voice says, out of nowhere.
     I wait a second, and then I say, "Oh."
     I say, "So, tell me about your crazy neighbors."
     He starts to talk.  "There's two old people, the post office
guy and this old lady across the street.  They're the only old
people in the neighborhood.  Everyone else is young suburbanites:
'Hi, I work at Tower City during the day and watch rented movies at
night.'  The old people are the interesting ones.  They're the ones
on the medication.
     "The old Alzheimer's woman is crazy."
     "Why?"
     "She's this old lady across the street and down a couple
houses.  My window's on the side of the house and when she turns
her porch light on it hits my wall and it keeps me up -- you know
how a little light at night keeps you up?  Well, she does this all
the time . . . I wish I knew her phone number because I'd call her
up and say, 'What are you doing?'"
     He sounds like he doesn't believe that she's got her light on,
like he sees it but he just doesn't believe it.  He's quiet for a
second, like he's reviewing what he just said, like he's talking to
himself.  He says, "She'd probably say, 'Is it 1930 again?'
     "She's crazy . . . she'll turn it off and on all night, at
weird times.  I really wonder what she's doing."
     "It's the disease," I say.
     He is quiet to that.
     Once, I wondered about that disease.  I wondered what it would
be like, to not remember the things that you want to remember.  To
have to have everything, all your good memories and all the noise,
the stuff you filter out, all go together.  I think it would drive
me nuts.
     He is talking again.  "I saw these pictures -- it's for a
little kid's coloring contest . . . most of these things were
supposed to be red and green, you know?"
     "Christmas stuff?"
     "Yeah.  Well, most of them were okay, except this kid's, who
was color blind -- Santa was green, his nose was green -- it was
pretty funny.
     "I like the coloring contests.  I always like to turn them in
and falsify my age . . . then they come and verify it."
     We both laugh, and we hear the whisper laughing a little.
     The voice says, "Family Circus has never been funny.  I saw
this thing in the bookstore, they had all the Family Circuses ever,
these thick books.  If you add up all the space he's been in
newspapers, for the past sixty years, it would probably fill up the
space of the earth.  _Marmaduke_'s funnier than that.
     "And Ziggy -- for a week, the guy that does it just does those
vending machines, and you wouldn't see Ziggy for a week."
     The voice sounds really irritated, so I keep quiet, and
listen.
     "And B.C. -- _that_'s not funny.
     "Calvin & Hobbes is strange: Calvin sends his pet _mail_ -- it
shows how schizophrenic he is.
     "Born Loser -- I think there's a _computer_ that makes it.  He
draws so bad, I  don't think _anyone_ could draw so bad."
     I laugh, but the voice sounds really pissed, and the whisper
is quiet.
     "Not many people put work into their things," the voice says. 
"I don't know about Shoe.  I think the guy's got _arthritis_ from
the way he draws.  Herrman's okay sometimes.  Kinda that sadistic
humor.  And Bizarro is okay once in a while.
     "Cathy: you have to be a forty-year-old person to like it. 
And I guess the real person is just like this -- she depicts her
life in it.
     "Beetle Baily is bad too -- I think the same computer draws
that that draws Born Loser.  One box: 'Hey Sarge, what's going on?'
and on the next one: 'ZZZZ'"
     "Yeah," I say, and I'm laughing.
     "He's dead," says the whisper, and it suprises me.
     "What?" asks the voice.
     "He's dead -- the guy who does that comic."
     "Oh, so then it _must_ be a computer that does it.  Far Side
is good but it's too hard to find.  They put it like in the Arts
section or something, away from the other comics.  You have to look
for it.
     "Every publicized comic -- there's like two hundred of them in
this paper -- it would be okay to see, but most of them would are
like Family Circus -- the computer drew it, and they just put in
different words.
     "I cut out these stupid things, bad comics, just to remember
these stupid things.  I thought they used to be funny, but they're
not anymore -- they're not!  After fifty years, it's not funny!  I
think the Family Circus guy just turns in the same things."
     I never read comics anymore, but I know exactly what he is
talking about.  I mean, I read all that stuff before.
     He says, "I'm thinking of writing to this newspaper and
complaining."
     "Do it," I say.  He probably won't.
     "They should have a comic that makes fun of other comics."
     We're both quiet for a while, and then I ask him about his
neighborhood, if the crazy lady turned her light on again.
     "No," he says, "but there's this other crazy lady about five
houses down that has an alarm on her house, but it's not a normal
alarm -- it's like a buzzer from twenty years ago.  And she's got
one that when you touch the house or anything it goes off . . . she
sets it off by mistake all the time -- but she hasn't done it
lately.
     "Once she locked herself out of the house and she called the
fire department to let her in.  They were pissed when they got
there and there was no fire.
     "She's crazy."
     "Old people are crazy," I say.  I once had this old man who
lived next door to me when I was a kid.  He used to steal candy
bars from the store and give them to me.  Then he would steal tools
from our garage.  His fingers got cut off from his lawnmower once.
     "I wonder if this lady sleeps during the day so she can turn
the light on all night."
     The whisper says, "Send her a letter in the mail."
     "Yeah -- maybe I will."
     I put down the phone for a minute and go to the bathroom.  In
the hallway, I'm extra quiet, so that I don't wake up my parents. 
I use the downstairs bathroom for good measure.
     "Okay, I'm back," I say, when I get back.
     The voice says, "I got a Skippy jar full of urine, and another
time I got four pairs of women's underwear, menstruated -- all in
the mail."
     "_What_," I say.
     "I got it in the mail.  I sent about five thousand catalogs to
my friend's P.O. box at his dorm.  They couldn't even fit it all in
his box, so he sent that shit to me."
     "Why did you send him all those catalogs?"
     "I was bored, and my mom has all these catalogs, and from the
back of mags like Cosmo I sent away for shit for him -- a free
contact lens cleaning kit (he just got arrested for trying to steal
it) and a pair Depend underwear."
     "He got arrested?"
     "He got arrested because he needed it and he didn't have any
money.  And the place he got it from only prosecutes if you steal
over $4, and it turned out to be $4.06.  He got pissed . . . he got
so pissed that he sent me underwear in the mail that his roomate
found in the garbage."
     "Oh."
     "His mom hates me -- she thinks I degraded her son . . . she
just _hates_ me . . . he goes to Kent -- what other college would
people have no work, and they get so bored that they send shit in
the mail?"
     "I don't know.  Do you go to college?"
     "No," he says.  "I did -- once.  Whenever I go back, I'll
probably major in Art.  There's all sorts of things I could do but
probably never get a job in, unless I come up with a bad cartoon
and put it in the paper -- but there's no room for anyone who does
anything interesting."
     "Yeah."  It's hard to find work in the field you want.  There
just doesn't seem to be as many opportunities as there once was,
like on television, on old t.v. shows where everyone has cool jobs.
"My neighbor just got home.  There's this guy, his name's Nuna, he
sells cars for a living -- but at night, he'll leave at 3 a.m. and
come back around 4 -- I think he joyrides the cars.  I've never
seen him during the day; I think he sleeps or works or something."
     "Bye," says the whisper.  He hung up; went to bed, probably.
     I'm tired of all this -- the music is the same crap, so I shut
the radio off.  Until next week; same time, same station.
     "I'm tired, too," I say.  "I think I'm gonna go."
     "Yeah," the voice says, with no inflection.  He just says the
word, and then says this one: "Bye."
     "I'll talk to you later," I say, no knowing what else to.
     "Yeah," he says, this time with a smirk.
     "Bye," I say, and hang up.  It's still dark out, but it won't
last for long.  I get ready for bed: shut off the lights, pile in
with my shirt and pants still on, and let whatever's left of the
dark hang over me.

[-michael stutz:[email protected]]

% interment in measured tones
[death metal reviews]

     In the name of the father, of the son...from the
parallelograms of heat muted to light I modulated into the darkened
room smelling of stale bread and eroded grease odors.  Above the
thick skin of checkerboarded red and white tablecloth the face of
my friend Ed caught the fractured triangle of reflection, closing
his eye to a squint.  "Barf christ," he scowled.
     "Hasn't been a great day."  These were the days when we could
view days individually, before they began to integrate into
patterns, progressions, marriages, jobs, or various cycles of decay
that we learned to dread our way through.  Right then it was
finding a place, staying, finding a job, moving on.  "So what's new
on your mind?"  The flies clustered like broken petrified logs in
a corner, odd angulars into a society.
     "Not that much.  Some crisis at the radio station, transmitter
melted or something under the force of our air conditioner, they
finally fixed it.  With the condition of most of that stuff I'm
just glad nothing blew up on us.  Almost got a ticket, but - I saw
this in the cop's eye - he saw a black Mercedes pull an illegal U,
and damn, I was off free and he was turning, a bulking steel shark,
off down the street after him."
     "Lucky."  My experiences had been less pleasantly resolved in
recent memories of that area.  Through the suffocating static
smother of the store speakers a hard bluesrock tune came on under
the enthusiastic voice of the female DJ, who had trouble
pronouncing the phrase "coming in concert" over the sound.  Ed
looked up annoyedly at the speakers.  The front of a woman ducked
in front of us to put a couple glasses of ice tea on the table, and
then, folding back the battered paper of her pad, asked us to give
her orders to write down on green and white thick bond.
     Ed looked at me a bit quizzically.  "Chile relleno," I said
starkly.  More silence for Ed to read the bareprinted words above
his finger.  "Two enchilada, dos equis," he said, folding the menus
into her hands.
     In her absence of sudden: "So what's new on your end?"
     I separated the four-ply napkin by twisting a corner with some
sweat from my thumb.  "Um, not much.  Sending in some reviews of
the past three months or so in death metal."  Took in some ice tea,
remembering someone telling me that's it's good for the throat when
you do the hoarse distorted shout most of the death vocalists
prefer.  Ed drank from his as well.
     "It hasn't been a bad few months, actually.  The problem with
death metal is the same thing that initially protected it: the
extremity of it.  When you listen to something where the guy is
vomiting on the mike and the music is all extreme, disconnected,
nihilistic, everywhere, you're initially pulling back somewhat. 
That's what most of the world did.  But at the same time that began
as a mark of death metal's exclusivity, that also became its
primary point of recognition, leading to a generation of fans who
went for anything that followed some rhythmic and vocal elements,
namely percussive and low, respectively."
     Ed nodded.  I didn't sense that he cared any more that day
than normal about death metal, but he gets into it sometimes, and
besides, I was rolling steady.  Also, he had just taken a large
mouthful of enchilada and couldn't protest.  I love a captive
audience.
     "For a while there, as a result, it was all the same goo, guys
meeting those qualifications and adding some gimmick, whether name
or appearance.  It got pretty gross, and I was about to throw in
the towel, but couldn't give up my show, couldn't give up Morbid
Angel."  Ed knows how much I like Morbid Angel myself and seems to
enjoy it thoroughly when I play it in his presence, and has also
been a supporter of my show from the beginning.
     "But two things happened: the fan base got huge, but also
spread out the available resources, leaving the smaller labels that
signed crap bands heading for financial consumption, and labels
began getting choosier.  The smarter edge of the fan base got much
more careful about what they bought.  For a while it looked good
again, but soon more of the commercial element came in, with bands
like Sepultura and Entombed selling out, and big bands like
Cannibal Corpse making it big in the mainstream United States.
     The only thing that saves us from these people is that their
music remains fairly insipid and unsatisfying.  Too many fans are
buying tons of music, really digging the aesthetic but unable to
deal with the simplicity and uninventiveness of the music.  A whole
lot of them bailed the scene.  But at the same time the older bands
began to get acquainted with their instruments and starting putting
out better metal.  And the newer crew looks pretty good.
     Originally, death was concept music, of brutality and a
heaviness nothing else could touch.  The philosophy's expanded, and
a lot of stuff has come in, but not much from the dangerous side of
things, the so-called 'alternative' scene.  When bands want to sell
out they tell us how they're putting in some 'alternative'
influences."  I gulped ice tea with an expulsion of air.
     "But most of the stuff has just gotten more serious on the
musical end, which is fine by me.  For a while there, it was
getting as bad as the punk bands: we play with more 'feel,' etc. 
I think there's feel in music, but I think that feel comes from the
odd collusion of intellect and emotion in a discipline, like making
music.  It's rock, sure, but it's art too if it's serious.
     Varathron was the band that first impressed me.  It's pure
black metal, but the older kind, which is more musical and more
like older heavy metal.  It's harmonic in nature; they play chords
and don't just stream notes at high speed.  It still has the death
vocals, and uses some modern metal elements, but at heart it's
tonal rock, pretty basic but not simple at all.  There's a lot of
variation in riff structure and in song layout, as well as some
interesting experimentation with harmonics, and an ability to
harmonize riffs without them sounding cheesy (a lot of this black
metal stuff makes me think of giant lumps of Swiss cheese
descending on a block of fresh asphalt in a New York summer).
     This is one of the first black metal releases I've been really
enthusiastic about.  It's not Scandinavian at all, from Greece
actually, but it's well-played, not messy, and comes across as
having real thought and intent behind it.  They don't try to be
scary, but the cheesiness comes in the names: Necroabyssious,
Wolfen, Mutilator, and Necroslaughter.  Whatever.  At least they
kept it out of the music."  I lifted my glass and got a brief wisp
of sip of ice tea, and then felt ice cubes against my upper lip. 
I put the glass down.
     "Next thing that I thought was hot shit was Mortuary, from
Mexico.  Really unique stuff, really powerful and fast, an earlier
style of speed metal.  I don't think this is new, but I don't know. 
Got it from J.L. America as they folded into decay.  There's an
obvious Slayer influence in this stuff, but it doesn't sound like
Slayer.  Just sometimes a similar way of thinking about things,
although the approach ends up different in the end.  Playing is
pretty competent for underground metal, and the album overall is
great.  Moves quickly, songs vary, quite a bit of musical
experimentation.  This is far from the norm and the second release
from Mexico to impress me, the first being Cenotaph.
     Another band that blew me away was Doomstone.  I played you
Deceased, right?  The drummer for that band, King Fowley, started
up a side project called Doomstone that recorded this album about
a year ago.  It's called "Those Whom Satan Hath Joined" or
something along those lines.  Pretty pro-Satan overall, but I don't
think it's serious, that is, it's mainly to have some fun with the
lyrics.  There's some serious bagging on the black metal people in
the liner notes.  Fowley's always been a nut, though.  Deceased is
great stuff that makes its way by being tight and musical,
technically challenging while not forgetting the idea of the
listener, of making cool music.
     Half of the problem with death metal comes in that label,
technical.  For one thing, it doesn't mean jack, since 'technical'
means music lessons to most of these people, and since underground
metal isn't known for musicality anyway.  For another thing, the
bands that are spend most of their time trying to prove that they
are because they're so used to people considering them inferior
players and because, un-amazing as they are, they're better than
most of the crowd.  A few stand out ahead, starting with Morbid
Angel and Atheist, but stuff like Deceased really belongs in the
same category, that is, being reasonably competent or better
musicality without being braindead.  Playing songs to make great
songs and to make them artistically challenging, but not just to
try to prove that in a pond full of nobodies you're the best-
trained nobody.  Almost as bad as glam metal in the late eighties,
when the guitar solos started getting long.
     But Doomstone is 'technical,' if we have to use that term,
getting most of its influences from older metal while bringing a
new style of noise- and atonality-influenced music into the mezcla. 
The end result is great.  You can't really sing along, but the
songs move, each is distinctive, and the whole album doesn't have
a bad track.  There's a Grim Reaper cover on here, but I never knew
that band anyway.  A lot of goofy references to cheesy movies about
the occult, including one tune called "Rosemary's Baby."  I have no
idea who the other band members are, but they all have stupid names
like "Urinator of the Holy Graveyards."  I like this one a lot but
most people have no clue it exists.
     Some of the stuff from the Midwest just blows me away.  I
heard about their scene a year or two ago when stuff like
Accidental Suicide, Morgue, and Afterlife was coming out, all of it
pretty musically interesting and technically evolved.  The new
stuff takes this further, with more technical detail (nothing
amazing, but impressive for underground) and power coming in, and
more advanced song structures.  Lyrics have gotten away from the
once-dominant American ideal of proving something, whether anger or
sickness, in the lyrics.  They're demented in their own right, but
with a self-aware humor that's refreshing.  The main act leading
this scene is Oppressor, whose demo I really liked when I received
it about a year ago, for my show.  The power of this music isn't
whatever technical standards it hails to, but the ability to
integrate disparate elements into a working and interesting format. 
There's heaviness in here to compare with the most extreme American
acts, but there's also cool musical workings and internal
structures that support themselves well, producing an aesthetic of
complexity with a percussive speed grind that smears you against a
wall if you catch it at volume. 
     Gutted impress me as much but in an entirely different vector. 
The obvious technicality of Oppressor isn't here; this is a
straight-up rock format with stuff well-encoded into it.  This
isn't even death metal, but speed metal with a death voice.  The
songs aren't as catchy as the more mainstream stuff, but they have
a grasping appeal that's not so much easily understandable as
reflective of coherent assembly.  Some stuff makes your ear listen,
but this stuff gets you involved and then takes you with it. 
There's heaviness to spare here, and some goofiness in the lyrics,
with songs such as "Kickin' the Corpse" leaving me to laugh.  But
it's self-aware, and not stupid, so I have no complaints.  This is
one of my favorites of the year.
     Not from the midwest but from Florida come two of my other
finds.  Neither are that new, or new at all, in the case of Ripping
Corpse, who are one of the few metal bands who could legitimately
wear the label progressive - interesting musical ideas expanded
interestingly, not necessarily as intricate in their song structure
as most bands but exceptionally coherent, in that songs are
completed works and not streams of riffs.  Lead guitar is not often
this well done; for pure musicality this is one of my favorite
works.  Resurrection have a similar approach, taking Florida metal
and making it technically-challenging, rather than just adding
technicalities.  The songs work and are enjoyable on several
levels, leaving the technical work to be assumed and not be the
focus of the entire album.  The only band even close to this is
Monstrosity.  Both of these albums, Ripping Corpse's "In the Forest
of the Dreaming Dead" and Resurrection's "Embalmed Existence," are
first-class death metal.  The former is probably out of print,
Kraze records being defunct in a serious manner.
     From Britain come Malediction, one of the few death metal
bands to legitimately remind me of Morbid Angel, and not through
aping, as their sound is far from the atonal masterpieces of
Azagthoth.  Malediction play intense, not necessarily super-
technically powered, but well-assembled and intriguing death metal. 
The album I have is a live EP, "Chronicles of Dissension," which is
exceptionally well-produced for a live album, with the only clues
to it being live being the pauses before each song where a drunken
British voice talks.  The music is fast, but slows when
strategically necessary; it has a voice that encompasses the song,
and doesn't restrict itself to occasional exposure during a riff or
a solo.  There is a full-length album that I don't have, but if
it's of the same caliber of this material, it should be incredible. 
This is the only British band that's really brought my respect
since Carcass or Repulsion (not forgetting the classic gods Black
Sabbath and Judas Priest, but gods of a previous era, although
timeless in their musical vision).
     Sweden has for the last few generations of death metal bands
lead with innovative and potent metal.  Seance and Fleshcrawl have
released the best albums in recent memory from that area, with the
notable exception of Therion, who, although technically brilliant
and musically exceptional are nowhere in the same league of
heaviness: both of these bands deliver impact power and suffusing
brutality.  Seance produced a guttural, mechanical and distorted
masterpiece in "Saltrubbed Eyes," in which they learned to drop the
many dissonant riffs approach of their first album in favor of a
cohesive approach to song structures which emphasizes bringing out
what is put into the song, instead of stringing it in linearly.  On
their first release they reminded me of a Swedish Malevolent
Creation, but here the sound is much more Seance's own.  The final
track, an instrumental, gets special mention.  The primary work
here is the guitar tracks, which are experimental for death metal,
especially eurometal.  There's a lot of work with shorter but more
definite riffs, and some experimentation in the noise of the lead
guitars, which seem competent although they often choose to be
content with half-noise solos.  Smearing notes and all of that
work.  The distortion on this album is grating to a maximum, a new
height of abrasiveness in guitar.  This is one of my current
favorites from Sweden.
     Fleshcrawl have always impressed me, but "Impurity" outdoes
itself.  Where their first was slow this has achieved a balance,
realizing an aptitude for tempos in different components of the
songs.  Song structures are spread out and varied, although they
don't seek to emphasize these varieties but an overall impression. 
There is a track from Finnish gods Demigod (Slumber of Sullen Eyes,
their one album, is one of my favorites from Scandinavia: heavy but
harmonic stuff, a unique sound that builds itself from out of the
songs, instead of carping songs to follow an aesthetic) covered on
this album, but more innarestin' in the track which isn't a cover,
Inevitable End, which seems to be right out of the book of Bolt
Thrower, albeit speeded up.  The remaining songs are heavy and
satisfying, excepting an instrumental by Dan Swano of Edge of
Sanity.  You can't sing along but who needs to?  this is the
descending blade of heavy metal that's not afraid to be technically
competent, compositionally intriguing, or image deficient - it's
the hardline straight up with no gimmick, and consequently both of
these albums seem to be overlooked in the United States.  (Possibly
in favor of Entombed's terrible "Wolverine Blues," which would be
a travesty of the first order.)"
     Ed put down his empty glass, and flipped two fingers toward
his palm to gesture for more.  With it came our food.  I dug in,
heavily, starving and aggressive.  Ed ate more carefully but with
equal rapidity.  Surprisingly, he wasn't intimidated by my spew
about a genre he could care less about, but was sort of interested. 
Through the corner of a mouth: "So things are looking up except for
the sellouts?  I remember you ranting about that some time ago,
that and Christian metal" (Christian metal being my favorite
oxymoron to pick on, as metal is beyond Christianity and really
should have nothing to do with it - not saying, however, as every
Christian misinterprets this argument, that it needs to go running
to Papa Satan - it just was founded and designed outside of
Christianity and doesn't work with it) " - are there more of
those?"
     I poked more chile relleno into my mouth.  "Well," chewing, "I
think more are coming, as it gets easier to throw a little Alice in
Chains into your music.  And that's the band they'll all ape, that
or Helmet, maybe.  Alice is easy because it's one of the heavier
bands in the so-called 'alternative' range, and because with the
complexity of that sound, a band can work a lot in without being
seen as what they'd otherwise be: a metal band suddenly going heavy
bluesrock on us.  Plus, they share a lot of roots, Alice in Chains
and death metal; those people heard Black Sabbath and Motorhead,
too.  Entombed tried the Alice in Chains thing with Wolverine, and
it sucked, but it wasn't a bad shot for a first, from the eyes of
the mainstream, who seem to buy suck music any chance they can get. 
It's a safe sound to assume.  I haven't seen too much of that
lately.  But I've been staying far away.
     It's amazing how sometimes the most obscure stuff is the best. 
You'd think more people would catch on, but it doesn't seem so -
take Obliveon as a case in point.  If you can get past the dumb
name, this is spectacular progressive death metal from Canada.  For
once the bass is used as a lead instrument in metal without
becoming cheesy - it makes its presence felt, but without being
either a leading pop element or an attachment for the sake of
additional hooks.  Integrated structurally, the bass-guitar
interaction of this band is incredible, nailed to a precision drum
track to make this a tight setup, with incredibly players lending
to the tightness with the right-on instrumentation that any fan of
speed metal would love.  But this is death metal, albeit a very
unique interpretation of the genre musically.  It's not
particularly heavy in the original sense, but cool - in the way
that a jazz or progressive band would be.  But it's heavy, and it's
amazing, and not effete like "progressive metal" acts like Dream
Theatre.  It stays true to the core of metal.
     More obscurity in the form of Alastis, one of the few "doom
metal" bands worthy of the title.  There is real musicality to
this, good tempo variation, impressive drumming and cool riffs to
package a slowing majesty of falling darkness.  Vocals are a
subdued version of the death/black metal voice, and fit well into
this music, which has elements of both the modern and the older
styles of metal.  Impressive at the least.  With an entirely
different sound but a musically impressive output is Demilich, who
are Finns playing harmonically-intricate death metal; it reminds me
of the sounds of a funk band without the annoying elements in the
way Demilich slide and cycle through the castles of tones they
build on "Nespithe."  It's not musicianship showing off, either,
but a unique look at metal with a real experimental eye to it. 
This is one of my favorite releases of this year.
     But the core of metal remains the heaviness, and the emphasis
that places through its rhythm and timbre.  Loudblast fulfill this
with the musicality quotient that any lover of the above will
enjoy.  Heavy, with real death and speed metal elements
demonstrating the band's superb songwriting.  Not superb judgement:
this album has a fourth track of some of the most annoying female
vocals ever to hit vinyl.  But the music is outstanding.  Another
harder to find but brilliant band is Goreaphobia, who despite the
stupid name create impressive death metal, with intense variation
and a preservation of well-conceptualized mood and vision pervading
throughout all three tracks on this album, "Omen of Masochism" (one
of the nicely cheap Relapse underground releases).  The cover
illustration is a bit annoying (half-clothed woman consorting with
devil) but the music is phenomenal, and heavy, having a lot of the
better elements of death and grindcore musically while remaining
so.  A good sense of energy to this as well.
     Stupidity has always been a part of metal, and the silliness
continues.  Demented Ted caught my ear despite misgivings about the
stupid name; this is good stuff, solidly heavy and technically
intricate, although not as progressive and experimental as it could
be musically.  That would be the greatest failing of this album,
but it survives it as good speed/death metal.  The greatest area of
foolishness, while we're on the topic, would have to be black
metal, and one of my current favorites, Sacramentum, is a proud
member of that arena.  Yet it's phenomenal music, with a good
melodic sense (this is modern black metal in its stream of notes
incarnation) and a more conventional than usual adherence to sound,
although without being cliche or uninventive.  Highly recommended
to black metal fans.  Actually," I said, wiping my upper lip on
disposable napkin, "all of this stuff is, and I'd have trouble
deciding what to leave behind, but that's just because this is what
I've found after listening to tons and tons of this stuff.
     We're not out of the deep water yet.  There's a lot of crappy
metal out there, as there always will be.  But I think a lot of the
stuff I see coming up is great, especially as bands learn that
learning instrumentalism doesn't mean they've sold out, or that
they suck.  The greatest underground today is in the growing
category of progressive or near-progressive metal, as it's too out
there for most of the mainstream death metal fans and too musically
subversive to ignore."  Ed wiped his mouth on a similar napkin. 
The sun had set and the air hung almost liquid in through the cold
glass.  The stillness of daysend and the fullness of our stomachs
slowed our thoughts, but soon we paid, and left to wander between
pedestrian and building alike, stretching our thoughts through the
networks of modern life without particularly attaching to anything.

% mantra

        Past the small hamlet of Gnihton, across the orderly layers of 
gently nodding fields, there lay, well, yet another field.  This 
particular field was quite like its surrounding brethren in most 
aspects, complete with dirt, weeds, corn, and of course loud, noisy, 
wheezing monster-thingie (apparently cornfields tend to attract to an 
alarming degree the likes of such).  However unlike the other fields 
around it, each too having its own wretchedly belching blob-creature, 
this field was singular for its location.  Admittedly the other fields 
had locations too, but they unfortunately were not located in the 
correct place.  To put it simply, the field lay next to a path.  Like the 
field that squatted next to it, this path was rather unremarkable in 
most aspects in comparison to those of its kind, and although it did 
not have its own personal monstrosity, it did have large tangles of 
briars and an absurd-looking strain of mutant cauliflower that it 
could call its own.  Reportedly, the cauliflower in the aforementioned 
region has been known to bluster and babble quite indignantly when 
called absurd, but the fact remained, and even the cauliflower knew 
this deep inside, that it was pretty funny looking.  The exact origins 
of the plant have indeed never been pinpointed by historians or 
biologists, but the current theory en vogue proposes that the thing 
was the result of an asteroid strike.  Nothing that ridiculous could 
ever have developed on earth, or so ran the argument as originally 
published in Modern Botany.  The species apparently spent the next 
thousand or so years entrenching itself in an area measuring fifteen 
feet across and eighty or so miles long.  The natives, being a practical 
lot, had simply marked off their fields around the ground in which 
sprouted the cauliflower, and so the path was born.  
        When scientists first discovered the strange phenomenon, they 
found to their utter astonishment that no one in the memory of the 
natives had ever attempted to taste or even pick the vegetable.  "No 
chap in their right mind would ever think of mussing with one of the 
bloody things.  Anything that silly lookin can't be good for anything 
now can it?" said Henry Blankenship, a ninety year resident of 
Gnihton's successor, Cornwall, when questioned by dumfounded Men 
and Women of Science.  Even more surprising were the results of the 
scientific community's endeavors to excavate the now beleaguered 
plant.  Despite its wobbly, lopsided and shockingly pink appearance, 
the Cornwallian Cauliflower (as it soon became known worldwide) 
was resistant to all attempts to uproot it from its favorite locale, even 
the heavy and persistent use of a bulldozer was to no avail.  Neither 
could anyone discover any sort of seeds, so in the end one 
exasperated biologist brandished a pocket knife and proceeded to 
saw off and consume a small portion of the Cornwallian Cauliflower.  
To no one's astonishment he dropped dead on the spot, but not 
before uttering the now immortal phrase, "Mother of God, but that's a 
foul taste."  Needless to say, from then on the plant was left alone, 
which was a bit of tragedy considering that though the plant did 
contain a deadly poison, it also cured cancer, AIDS, herpes, and tasted 
quite yummy when served steaming hot with a light cheese sauce 
(all in all an interesting tradeoff).  The foul taste that the doomed 
biologist found so repugnant was not a property of the cauliflower 
itself; it most likely had to do with the fat, aging wampus that had 
used that particular cauliflower as a urinal just several hours earlier.
        Through all of this the poor plant endure in a most noble 
manner, hoping that somehow evolution would translate its 
phentoype in future generations to one with a smidgen of dignity 
here and there.  Nature had a bit of a sadistic streak in it though, and 
so the Cornwallian Cauliflower would go on being brazenly pink, 
lopsided, and bloated until it was the last thing left alive on the 
earth, waiting patiently for evolution even as the superheated gases 
of a sun that had gone nova engulfed the planet Earth, leaving 
behind only a thin and decidedly pink plasma.  As a result, even 
more sobering than the passing of the earth, the Seattle Mariners 
would never win a pennant, let alone a World Series.  Celestial 
historians reply to this by saying that despite the lack of a pennant, 
on the plus side the team would finish over .500 three times during 
its four billion year life span.  We digress, however.
        What is most important about this path that was refuge to a 
strange strain of cauliflower was not the hubbub surrounding its 
flora, but rather a single event that took place there around one 
thousand years before the Great Cauliflower Catastrophe (as the 
incident became known).  When considering this event, one must 
think hard to discern the proper scope of what is being discussed.  
Forget the Big Bang; forget the emergence of Homo Sapiens; forget 
Hitler;  and realize deep down inside that what happened on a small 
dusty track outside of the peasant village of Gnihton that day in 998 
AD was the single most important event in the History Of The 
Universe.  Admittedly, the incident itself eventually panned out in a 
semi-swell manner, but simply the enormously terrifying, mind-
boggling, spine-chilling, skin-shivering, vomit-releasing possibilities 
that it offered were so tremendous, so namelessly deep and primal, 
that even God was so startled that he let out a rather loud belch 
while napping near the Deneb system.  The electromagnetic radiation 
from God's Belch would later be received by Earthbound dishes and 
interpreted by puzzled scientists as "Greetings Earthlings.  Have you 
any cheeseburgers?"  Nothing much could be made of this enigmatic 
statement and so astronomers dismissed it as chance, though to the 
public's chagrin, the interpretation of God's Belch spawned a whole 
new series of "Where's the Beef?" commercials.  Back to the path, 
though.
        The path was dusty.  It had no qualms about this, and would go 
so far as to get right in a travelers face and jaw with him or her in a 
rather ornery and persistent manner if the traveler expressed 
verbally any beliefs to the contrary.  Combine this fact with that of 
the cauliflower, and one might argue that it would be altogether 
easier simply to walk through the corn fields.  It could quite easily 
have been much better going through the towering rows of corn, but 
corn on the whole is an intimidating lot, and besides, the lands on 
which the corn grew were owned privately by His Majesty Ferdinand 
III (often called Ferd III behind his back), and trespassing except by 
those peasants assigned to work the fields was a criminal offense.  
The punishment for trespassing on the King's lands never became 
common knowledge.  Ferd III's people were naturally stoic and 
accepting, the luckless recipients of the monthly royal beheading 
accepted their lot without a fuss or protest, but no one ever observed 
a trespasser heading to their fate and not screaming and fighting for 
all he or she was worth.  Rumors of the name of the exact instrument 
of torture floated around hither and thither, but they must have 
been some sort of secret code word, for the words "Richard Simmons 
Videos" are rather cryptic, and so they must have instead stood for 
some terrifying device of pain and suffering no less.  In the end, 
rather than risking such a nasty penalty or such a tedious and dusty 
journey, most people stayed away from Gnihton; it was a lousy 
excuse for human habitation anyway.
        On the path rested a rock.  While there indeed were other rocks 
on the path, six to be exact, seven if you count the small pile of 
petrified dog excrement, those rocks tended to be sedimentaries for 
the most part, all in all a very boring lot.  Happily for the pile of dog 
excrement, called Herbert by others of its kind, its life purpose was 
fulfilled when Baron Horace Von Stepovich accidentally trod on it.  
Despite the pile's formidable carapace, it's soft internal consistency 
nonetheless forced the legendarily snobbish man to spend several 
hours cleaning his very leather, very black, very new boots.  Of 
course all of this depended on the fact that the standard definition 
required a rock to be at least walnut sized and no less.
        The rock's name was Bob.  Why it was called Bob and not some 
other equally impressive name such as Binky, Ferguson, or 
Bartholomew, is a mystery.  As for appearances, Bob was rather 
plain, a dusty gray countenance that only in the best of lights could 
be called dull silver and numerous scars and pits from past struggles 
with others of his kind as the only distinguishing features.  Bob stood 
out instead with his intelligence and cunning.  Bob disdained the 
stupid, boisterous ignites that spent all their time bragging among 
themselves about their recent exploits, what volcano they'd been spit 
out of, how hot it was, how many other rocks they'd beaten up, how 
much they could bench press, and so on.  Bob similarly despised the 
plodding and ever-stupid sedimentites too.  It was always the 
sedimentite who didn't get the joke, it was always the sedimentite 
who told the most amazingly boring and lengthy stories (some might 
argue that the author of this is a sedimentite), it was always the 
sedimentite who drank too much spiked punch at a party and ended 
up getting pounded into the ground by the ignite whose girlfriend 
the tipsy sedimentite had made a slurred comment to.  On the whole, 
the sedimentites were a rather sorry bunch, but luckily they were 
too dull to realize this, and went right on with their plodding, 
victimized ways.  Bob was a metamorphic, and for the most part 
metamorphics did their best to distance themselves from their 
"lesser" brethren.  Most metamorphics secretly believed that their 
race was destined to rule the world someday, but they usually kept 
this conviction to themselves, fearing being beaten up by an ignite or 
blubbered at by a tortoise-like sedimentite.
        Bob's specialty was physics.  More precisely, Bob prided 
himself in his ability to gauge the gait, stride, and distance away of 
an approaching human and use his extraordinary mental powers to 
position himself in such a way as to send the offending two-legger 
sprawling on its face when the toe of its boot collided with Bob.  
Nothing pleased Bob more than a good trip job, and his love for the 
sport had made him into one of the world's best.  What this all boiled 
down to for Bob's situation at the time was unhappiness, plain and 
simple.  The disheveled path to Gnihton was not frequently traveled, 
leaving Bob with few people to trip, and even worse, when someone 
did come along, the cursed cauliflower had a tendency to make Bob 
burst out laughing and thus lose track of his complicated calculations, 
botching the job entirely.  "I was much better off back on the King's 
Highway where traffic could get so heavy that I sometimes had to be 
calculating the results of 47 differential equations simultaneously 
just to keep up," Bob reflected bitterly at one time.  Without a doubt, 
the highlight so far of Bob's rather young life, a few measly million 
years, was when through a stroke of pure brilliance he managed to 
trip the notoriously watchful Baron of Ebert, one Horace Von 
Stepovich by name.  By great fortune, the snooty baron's retainers, 
toadies, and personal guard had all been following him at a very 
small distance, and thus when he fell to the ground, his dimwitted 
servants stumbled over him in turn, resulting in many curses, 
numerous minor scrapes, four beheadings, and a broken pancreas.  It 
would go down as one of the greatest coups in rock history; to 
humanity it would simply be known as International Toe Jam Day.  
The meaning of this day has unfortunately been a bit perverted with 
the passage of time.  
        Unfortunately for Bob, despite his smashing success, he soon 
found himself hurtling over the corn fields as propelled by the 
strength of the irate baron's left arm.  Bob landed not far from one of 
the large and bulbous creatures, huffing and wheezing in a most 
noxious manner while squatting amongst its cornfield.  Only later 
was it discovered that the creature was a distant ancestor of Ted 
Kennedy.
        Now Bob might have simply lain in that cornfield until the end 
of time if it hadn't been for a small, grimy, little peasant boy who 
had the ill luck to be named Olaf by his unconsciously sadistic 
parents.  Olaf's parents worked on the field where Bob had the 
misfortune of being tossed into, and Olaf, who was rather lazy, spent 
most of his time looking the source of the mysterious burbling noises 
he often heard emanate from the field just before he drifted off to 
sleep.  Poor Olaf never did find the source of those strangely 
compelling noises, but one day in his searches he quite literally 
stumbled over Bob.  Not content with just chasing after some unseen 
noisemaker, Olaf had recently taken up rock collecting.  With the 
addition of Bob, Olaf's collection reached three, but unfortunately, 
due to lagging attention span and lack of deep-set interest, Olaf's 
collection would grow no bigger.
        When Bob found himself picked up and stuffed into the dark 
and fetid pocket of a dirty sweatshirt he was naturally overcome 
with panic.  In vain he tried to free himself from his newfound 
confinement, but only succeeded in entangling himself with the 
loathsome corpse of a hairless rat, a tenant for nearly two months 
now, and most probably the cause for much of the pungent aroma 
that permeated the air.  At this point there was a small thonking 
noise, and thus Bob realized that he was not alone in his 
imprisonment.
        The rock's name was Gerald, and the other one's name, for 
there were two others total, was Ophelia.  Bob soon discovered that 
though Gerald was an ignite, he possessed the worst qualities of both 
the ignite and the sedimentite.  Not only did Gerald want to discuss 
whose volcano was bigger, whose volcano was hotter, and apparently 
whose volcano's eruptions had killed the most humans, he also did it 
in an annoying, boring, and toneless manner that even the most 
diehard sedimentite would envy.  Of course the fact that Bob had not 
originated from a volcano never even occurred to Gerald.  The end 
result of this nasal, droning soliloquy was a loud bonking noise as 
Bob rapped Gerald quite the nasty blow to the temple in frustration.  
Gerald lapsed into a wounded, very short, and very self-righteous 
silence, sure that all others of rock-kind would see it his way and 
unanimously condemn this rash and violent metamorphic's actions.  
However this thought quickly left his mind, and trying a new 
approach, he changed the subject to one even more riveting with 
excitement if such was possible: that of the aches, pains, and life-
threatening injuries that he had suffered and still continued to suffer 
from.  Bob's response to this discourse was of course rather 
predictable, and so Gerald and his aching noggin gave up, and sulked 
off to the side.  Through all this the quiet Ophelia had sat rather 
wide-eyed, and altogether unsure of what she had gotten herself 
into.
        Now Gerald did indeed have quite a few aches and pains, 476 
to be exact, and though normally very slow to anger, Bob's second 
blow to his forehead had pushed Gerald over the proverbial edge, 
though this didn't immediately show.  In fact it only showed when 
Ophelia wacked into Gerald from behind, quite by accident, the 
collision actually being the fault of the clumsy little boy who had 
very unskillfully tripped over a cunningly camouflaged log that 
sprawled shamelessly across the entire breadth of the road the boy 
had been running along.
        It was all very unfortunate, all very tragic, a simple case of 
accidental bonking, but it happened to happen to the wrong cranium 
at the wrong time, for good or for evil the damage had been done 
and there was no turning back.  For a small moment Gerald lay 
stunned, as did the boy, both of their rocky skulls having been 
addled by the terrific blows they had received respectively.  They 
were both of sturdy stock and back to speed quite quickly, but what 
this implied was very different for the two beings.  For Olaf it simply 
meant picking his scrawny body back up, wiping away a few tears, 
and resuming his unwieldy gait.  For Gerald, though it was 
completely different.  With a long and acidic string of expletives, 
Gerald soared into the air to crash against the cowering Ophelia with 
a resounding and extremely solid ker-thwack.  Ophelia loosed a yelp 
of pain, and quite unlike her normal serene and laid-back self said a 
very naughty word and pounced in return upon Gerald.
        This went on for quite some time, and Bob watched on with the 
smug and self-satisfied air of one who has started a big ruckus yet 
has somehow avoided the consequences of such.  This couldn't last 
forever though, in fact Bob's smirk only lasted until one of Gerald's 
wild and uncoordinated leaps went amuck, and resulted in the 
bonking of all three combatants.  Few things can make one more 
angry than when one is just sitting and enjoying a good spat between 
others only to be pulled into it.  So it was with Bob, and though he 
didn't have any feathers to speak of, if he did they would certainly 
have been quite ruffled.
        Now it was Bob's turn to screech in pain, and in time, jump 
with an insane and incomprehensible battle cry that struck fear in 
the hearts of all those involved in the fray, unfortunately including 
Bob himself.  But Bob was already in midair, so all he could really do 
was roll his eyes rather nervously in a surprisingly cowlike gesture.  
Regardless of eye-rolling or not, the blow turned out to be the last of 
the day, for the shoddy and cheap fabric that Olaf's sweatshirt had 
been constructed of gave way, and all three combatants plus the 
dead rat tumbled towards the hole and the eventually on out as if 
devoured by some sort of burlap vortex.  All four former tenants of 
the sweatshirt landed with a minimum of trouble upon the dirt road 
that young Olaf had been racing along.  
        Meanwhile, the boy Olaf continued his rapid journey over dirt, 
gravel, and pink cauliflower.  He was quite excited by now, and so he 
ran exuberantly, arms flailing at seemingly anatomical impossible 
angles, legs firing in comical disarray, and greasy, matted hair 
twitching uncomfortably in the wind, all the while oblivious to the 
fact that not only had his precious rock collection deserted him, but 
also so had Bucky the Rat.  And while Olaf would not take the loss of 
the rocks too hard, a few sniffles here, new hobbies involving 
mummified reptilia there, the loss of Bucky would be one that would 
haunt him for the rest of his life, causing him to lose his job, ruin 
promising relationships, and eventually drive him to hurl himself off 
a cliff and into a roiling pool of toxic goop left by the 
environmentally irresponsible aliens from the Sirius system.  But 
young Olaf could not know the tragic life that lay in store for him, so 
for now he ran on.
        Back at the point of breakthrough, three dazed rocks, and one 
very dead, very ripe rat lay strewn about what the reader has 
already recognized as the path that led amongst the cornfields to the 
village of Gnihton.  Though Bob wasn't sure, he could swear he had 
heard the rat emit a very squishy "Oomph" as it had hit the road.  
When he finally could bring himself to take a look at his 
surroundings, he discovered that Ophelia had already fled, while 
Gerald had taken refuge under an exceedingly ugly cauliflower plant.  
The rat meanwhile, seemed quite content where it was, and had not 
moved one bit.  The sun loomed directly overhead, and Bob found 
the heat so oppressive that he scurried under the nearest 
cauliflower, which unfortunately happened to be the same one that 
Gerald was under.  Feeling the heat of the day, the humidity in the 
air, and the whining of Gerald's nasal voice, Bob slowly found himself 
overcome by the oddest sensation.  He found himself closing his eyes 
and letting it wash over him, wrapping him up, dragging him down 
with its hypnotic undertow.  His only complaint was the periodic 
bonking noise that occasionally cropped up in the background.
        When he came to from the most pleasant dreams, he found 
himself stooped over a small hole in the ground from which 
emanated the occasional yelp.  Bob wasn't sure how Gerald had 
managed to fall down and become thoroughly wedged in a hole that 
hadn't been there just a few hours ago, but not wanting to here the 
explanation, Bob used his sharper side to scrape dirt into the hole, 
quickly filling it up.
        So that in a nutshell was how Bob found himself languishing 
along the lonely, nameless road to Gnihton.  Bob was determined to 
make the best of the situation though, and so nary a traveler passed 
the area without tripping and falling face first into a cauliflower at 
least once, sometimes more if Bob was especially on top of his game.  
After a couple centuries of this, Bob was surprised to find himself 
growing quite happy, despite his initial discontent.  Maybe he was 
just getting old, but nonetheless he no longer felt the compulsion to 
trip human beings at all hours of the day, in fact, two or three a 
month was all that he seemed to need anymore
        The only trouble Bob ever suffered was derived from the 
cauliflowers.  Several of the foppish things had actually tried to 
ingest him for nutrients, of all things, and only quick thinking and a 
well timed kick had saved him from a nasty death at the hands of a 
particularly lithe and quick plant.  Bob's father had been killed that 
way, and his mother had lost a chip, all due to a large rosebush that 
had sprung up on the side of Bob's childhood mountain home for no 
apparent reason.  At the time of his father's death Bob had vowed his 
revenge upon all of rose-kind.  Bob had also vowed never to be 
broken up and ingested by a plant, and he certainly wasn't about to 
have this done to him by a cauliflower, especially a floppy pink one.
        The year 1187 began like any other, cold to be exact.  In fact 
1187 was so cold, that even the corn-monsters were silent for the 
most part, emitting only the occasional snort for warmth.  Traffic was 
especially light during the winter months, it was only in the spring 
and summer, when men and women would venture out to visit their 
distant relatives, that the fun really began.  However, before this 
could happen in the year 1187, Bob had a visitor that would change 
him forever.  It was early February, and Bob's first glimpse of the 
traveler was not a particularly good one.  Between the cauliflower 
and the light mist, all he caught was an exceedingly long and well-
groomed beard.  As the unsuspecting fellow drew closer Bob made 
out in addition to the beard, heavy velvet robes, a large conical hat, 
bushy eyebrows, and a penetrating stare.  There was a staff 
somewhere too, but Bob would remember this later only if he was 
explicitly reminded of it.
        The chap's name was Merlin and he was a wizard by trade.  
Why Merlin would ever want to go to Gnihton of all places is a 
mystery, perhaps he had had a bit too much to drink.  The fact that 
he was singing a rather brazen song concerning a saucy barmaid 
named Josephine and a handsome satyr name Geoff supported the 
theory that he had a few too many mugs of the King's Finest.  
Regardless of the reason just why the wizard Merlin was staggering 
his way in the general direction of Gnihton, the fact remained that in 
his path was a rock named Bob, and Bob wasn't about to let Merlin 
off, wizard or not.
        Somehow, though, Bob calculated wrong.  Instead of a slight 
bump, a yell, and a great thumping noise as was the normal 
procedure, he found himself suddenly tumbling along the path away 
from the advancing wizard.  Now nothing annoyed Bob more than 
being kicked.  He didn't mind being stepped on, didn't care if he was 
thrown, polished, or fetched or perhaps swallowed by a slobbering 
dog, but when it came to being kicked he drew the line.  Snarling in 
anger he performed some near-miraculous calculations, dug himself 
deep into the earth, and waited.
        The results were rather predictable.  Merlin may have been the 
world's most powerful wizard, but the fact remained that he was 
outrageously drunk, and upon contact with the glowering Bob, he 
pitched forward, caught himself on his staff, lost his footing again, 
and fell backwards quite squarely on his behind.  The curses that 
followed were by remarkable coincidence the exact incantation for a 
rather nasty fire spell that unfortunately incinerated one of the 
slobbering, hooting corn-monsters that happened to be sleeping 
nearby.
        Now a remarkable thing happened when Merlin's boot 
connected with the braced form of Bob.  Normally, Merlin's boots 
were endowed with a protective spell to guard against what had just 
occurred, apparently he had a few run-ins with other rocks too.  
However, the spell had degenerated in recent days, and being in the 
state he was, Merlin could not readily be counted on to go about 
renewing and restoring such things.  So instead of repulsing Bob 
away with a magical force field, somehow Bob ended up tripping 
Merlin and absorbing the magical power of the failing protection 
spell.  Later, Merlin would remember none of this.  He would in fact, 
even conveniently forget the fact that he had later woken up with a 
terrific headache, stark naked, in the middle of a cornfield, with a 
large and particularly foul-breathed wampus cautiously sniffing him, 
apparently pondering his integrity as a urinal.  Luckily for Merlin, 
the wampus finally decided that indeed he would work quite well as 
a urinal at precisely the same moment that Merlin magicked himself 
far away.
        As for Bob, he fell into a deep and unassailable coma for 
several years, even the passing of the Baron of Ebert didn't rouse 
him from his unnatural slumber.  When he awoke he was a changed 
rock.  The magic from Merlin's boot had woken something very deep, 
vast, and powerful within his mind.  With the slightest effort of will 
he found himself hovering several inches above the roadway, and 
cautious experimentation soon had him zipping about as a 
bumblebee might do.  One might wonder how the meager magic from 
a failed protection spell might bestow the power to fly, among other 
things.  This is result of a minor corollary of the Law of Conservation 
of Magic-mass which states that quite simply, smaller masses needed 
smaller amounts of magical energy.  Effectively, a spell that couldn't 
even protect a boot made Bob a wizard-king of his kind.
        Bob's time had not been idle while in the coma, for he had been 
visited by dreams of the most wondrous kind.  In these dreams he 
would sit at a great table filled with the most wondrous kinds of food 
one could imagine, pebbles from the far off beaches of Mexico, quartz 
from only the purest of deposits, and of course bowl after bowl filled 
with the diced root of the wild rose.  As he helped himself to these 
exotic delicacies, he would be revered and cooed at by ravishing 
young rock-girls.  Later he might sometimes retire to his throne 
room where vast legions of the barbaric, uncivilized humans would 
bow down, grovel, and worship him as their new god.  Those were 
Bob's dreams as he lay so inert upon the dusty road to Gnihton.
        Later, as he sped away into the crisp, chill night air on the 
wings of a magical breeze, those thoughts replayed themselves again 
and again inside his head.  He had a vision, a dream, and none could 
stand in his way.  He would have and stop nothing short of one thing, 
and one thing only: world domination.

(to be continued)

[-bambrose:[email protected]]


% [stoner adventures: cont'd...]

     One last night on the city: we stow our bag and Spike eats the
roach of the joint we've just smoked.  I get another drink from the
remaining bottle we have, a liter of Night Train.  Against the cold
we are wearing only jeans and our thicker jackets.  Spike's is a
bit faded light tan soft leather with collar and cuffs of slick
brown hide, cured smooth.  Mine is German military, with
modifications for bag stowing.  
     Tonight the bud I've got is California long grain, known so
because it resembles extended Thai -- longer, thinner buds, a bit
dry and brown when drying, but incredibly potent.  This one comes
from Curracao, California, where a friend of mine owns a mushroom
farm, and has lights in a shielded corner of the dungheap -- they
grow mushrooms on cow shit -- and grows this amazing stuff,
incredibly well-nourished.  We split an ounce, and, after sales, I
have a tidy bag left, free.  Friends are a wonderful thing: they
intervene in times of no or little dope, and they bail you out when
you're in hell.  There are people all over this country I haven't
seen in years perhaps but could probably easily smoke out with. 
Not just the bullshit bumming of smoke: but smoke out, and perhaps
pass out, even, and not feel as if an interlocking puzzle of ice
had dropped a unique piece into the between of me and they.  
     I like smoking dope with friends, but there's friends and
there's friends.  Some friends are good - Spike I don't doubt would
pull me out of anything - and some are pretty good, stoner friends
to have a good time with, but not the people who save you from the
world, yourself.  Reminds me of the gunfighters Earp and Holliday:
both psychopaths, killers, but they knew how to love each other as
friends and psychopaths, and never let each other down.  Good
stoners like that.
     Paranoia is accepted status quo in the stoner community. 
Beyond the obvious fear of law enforcement ("The biggest problem in
this country today" - Skunk Jr. stoned altitudinal) there is always
fear of isolation enhanced by the displacement of being stoned.  It
doesn't place you in a new world, just a different one.  It's not
a good nor an evil world: anything is possible; it's not just some
silly happy flowerhair trip.  Paranoia is accepted, not questioned. 
Dealt with.  Stoners very tight in the end of the fear twisted
tight like the end of a joint.  Everything stained with the resin
of paranoia; you can smell it.  Brownish like pissstains on the
wall of a small bathroom in a toilet of an apartment.
     I had known Monk for six weeks before I ever smoked with him. 
Some people are quiet but Monk is quieter.  Not cold quiet, just
quiet.  As if entirely abstracted from the situation, but he is
just spotting it from a distance.  Something he told me later about
the days of youth as we tried to shout through the hey's and whines
of the bickering wheedling crowd stuffing the room.  We left back
door of bar, went to the umbrage of burglar bars on glass that sold
us a halfrack of watery, aluminum-spittle beer, and then ended up
in his flat, as he reffed it.  We broke out beers and were talking
about how much of a fuckin' mess the bar was, and were just
bullshitting in general, when all of a sudden he asks I wanna
smoke.  There are about four seconds you can take for a reply -
maybe less - but that time took the thoughts of time: I had known
him for some time, liked him a lot for all of his reticence (I talk
a lot, endlessly, non-linearly) and had heard a lot from him, and
so said, yeah, after the perceptible delay but without hesitation.
     We smoked and talked, and learned a lot about each other. 
Monk got burned in a few bad deals, got tired of being looked at
and expected, got tired of the grooves in which to be known, and
then got tired of the fighting against that, when all it was was
fighting, to him.  Monk wanted life; he quit the stoner thing and
hitched with the Navy.  I didn't think that would work, and it
didn't, but we lost track of him after discharge.  Back to
narrative.  
     I get on the bus first, walking point in the city.  We're
going to a far district, a semi-sequestered subcity where most of
the usual laws aren't enforced for reasons of inadequate and
overworked law enforcement and liberal local government.  I like
places like that: non-intrusive.  We don't cause many problems, at
least fewer than the residents of the place.
     First towards The Pie House, a twenty-four hour outlet serving
pies in a floundering ripoff of the House of Pies, a similar
establishment.  The Pie House is shaped like a large box with a
traditional slanting house-roof.  It is up in that roof that we go. 
We get off the bus and go inside.  Past the bathroom is a door
marked 'Employees Only.'  Employees and stoners are often
synonymous.  We go.  There's already two people at the table, Tomas
and I don't recall, perhaps Aditya -- Adi from back when I would
stay up all night every night smoking pot, lots of pot, and seeing
what fun I could have learning about distant computers the old-
fashioned way.  
     Tomas is a Swedish friend who can compose odd modern music
symphonies on piano and does so routinely, stoned on ferocious
imported pot.  He does not use a synthesizer.  He finds them
abominable from key feel to sound, and insists on a real piano.  Of
course he doesn't hide his dope in it:  too expected.  He stashes
it in the metronome, a wooden pyramid, holding guard on the top of
the piano.  Nevermind that he probably needs a metronome as much as
an old subway car.
     This room is here for stoners.  The management here are
stoners, and aren't too busy about hiding it, especially as it gets
them business for the high school crowd.  This room is also
strictly up periscope: one hears the dope here, so to speak. 
Within ten minutes Tomas and Adi are stoned to brain rupture, and
take turns on the phone summoning others.  Eleven minutes means
eight people.  More dope passes around, Spike and I already loaded
to the gills and afternoon is barely killed yet; but it is a rule
in the stoner code never to fear how intoxicated you are or where
you will go, to save the energy for focusing on how to do what you
must.  
     The truth unfurls like a sluggish, drunken tongue: no police
action on us, some Hypnosian skunk and Crucifixion kind bud (grown
in empty cannon shell casings in Jerusalem: affords cash to live
during wartime, which there appears to be as common as rush hour)
infiltrating the south of the city.  One of the Stark brothers has
some kind of money rig set up with the DA and knows when things are
bad for any of us -- as if cop questions don't clue stoners in
either.  Over joints in corners of cities, landings of fire
escapes, freight elevators, vans, crawlspaces, water towers,
condemned buildings, square apartment rooms with rinsed white
walls, bellfries, stained-whitewall bathrooms, parking lots,
dumpsters, limousines, shadows of doorways, the word is passed. 
The light of the joint flickers with the words, which pass from
stoner to stoner, whatever side of society they lee upon. 
Something of our structure seems to be known, but they can never
connect up the clues: we're seen as a group of low-end criminals,
when our society stretches up within the greater society.
     Out there in the mass of people, it seems like just a clump,
a random hunk of humanity thrown into some space for temporary
storage.  But if you looked through the crowd you could see the
stoners, and figure that's the crowd.  It's connect the dots;
through all the faces there are more orders than just stoners, more
recognitions in the blurring rush of faces.
     Stanley has brought some Polka Dot Thai.  Polka Dot gets its
name from the contrast of the very white seeds against the burnt
brown color of the rich bud itself.  Goes down rough but is worth
the pain.  It's an incredible, lasting high, suspending you out
over the crisscrossing electric lines of the night.  Jonas reaches
behind him and grabs a floor vacuum, upright with a snakelike hose
and attachment, short, for cleaning stairs and shelves.  Luckily
the mouth is about the necessary size for that labor, and the
attachment fits neatly over most mouths.  A quick flick of the
switch pumps a substantial amount of smoke through the water in the
gut of it, filling the lungs more than sufficiently with succulent
smoke.  It's the longest-lasting electric bong I know.

&interlude: hypothesis of incarnation of desensitivization, of
dissonant expectation of obliteration, filtration and isolation,
abstraction of perceptions.  devastation impelling emigration,
after exigencies of evasion from febrile discontiguous orientation,
hallucination.  regression to primary vocalization: egress of
reification, ejection.  indecision.

     The two stoners walked into the street stiffly, young men
arrayed in brown and tan.  They walked shoulder to shoulder
casually, a short distance apart, without speaking but comfortable
with this absence of noise, realizing a communication which did not
require sound thrown at the maw of expectation.  Turning down a
side street, one produced a small stick of marijuana wrapped in
paper printed with a notice of nonpayment.  The other accepted, and
they shared the joint, a distant orange star migrating between them
down the alley.  Down the darker avenue to a bus stop.  The bus
departed from the City of Despair to the Gates of Delirium.
     ("I don't know what will happen," he recalled saying, after
years of being unable to remember, "since we've been waffling
around in this place long enough for them to put out notice on us
if they catch us on the nearby roads."  Burr just looked at him, as
he said, and said something like, "We can give them time to forget
about us.  We seem to be doing alright now," and resumed his locked
stare past colliding molecules of air into the darkness submerging
the passing terrain.).  &&Transmigration.

      Leaving the flatly constructed hotel room took no grief.  The
walls were cardboard painted pimply with textured paint, the floors
hard-packed carpet, worn into pavement with the passage of wet
feet, endless feet, leaving in it a vague stench of bacterial
decay, but strongly muted under suffocating purulence of antiseptic
cleaner.  Designed to stench like various spring flowers: their
cleaners crawled the walls, mopped the floor, sterilized the toilet
seat worn through to pressboard wood, falling with a hollow beat
against the cheap porcelain, stained by corrosion in rings like a
cut tree trunk.  
     Our duffel bags sunk limply against a wall; we took them.  My
laptop rig had rested on the cheap pressed-wood desk; I moved it to
safekeeping in our vehicle: we purchased it as we had thought we
would from a lesser used lot on the southern perimeter of the city,
a potential ripoff except for our stoner tactic of obliterating the
salesman with some hydroponic Canadian green.  We walked him until
we found a car worth taking; we took it, paid a few hundred less,
and wandered onto the road.  Its soft sneakered tires nuzzled curb
and muttered their way along hot pavement, a subdued exit.  It is
an anonymous Ford, made with Japanese help some time ago, more than
a functional box only in its advertisers' minds.  Projection screen
televisions everywhere play the commercials, and we use them to
time our returns to the bar, oblongs of light under dark wooden
obstacles in the shadow of the place, a cave-ish concealment,
retreat from the outside paradox of enlightened overload.  
     Finding another hookup isn't hard here either: most businesses
have several links, and sometimes one can be patched to, as the
case of the air conditioning repair shop I crouched behind, in the
protective walling and stench of a dumpster, free to type even as
police cars cruised within feet of my hiding place.  Stars rotated
minutely in the window of the absent dumpster top.  A/C repair
personnel treat netlinks like power cords and put the hookup on the
side of the building; some thin network wiring, a converter and I
were now prowling the ranges of the net.  First to set up a
convenient, secure jumping point - there to another site, from
there another - now looking backward, scanning, to verify that I'm
not noticed.  Now to that other site - and the surprise of the
night when it's not there.  Not not answering, but not extant. 
"Judas priest," I whisper.  "What?" - Spike, in the far corner of
the dumpster, a lighted end glowing with his breath of speech. 
"That site vanished," I say, manipulating deeper into the network,
losing the surrounding world in my absorption.  I had stowed the
file in several places, several sites I could use with impunity,
but only one had it.  Retrieve to local machine - a large file -
and bail.  "Going going gone now," I spit at Spike as I'm over the
top of the dumpster.  He follows; we are gone into the adjacent
field when police cars hit pavement at high speed, leaving sparks
over speedbumps, searing to a stop where we were.  "Out - to the
car - fast," and we are into the night, another pattern of lights
smearing into a massive intricacy of them, all in motion, their
tracing paths overlaying each other.
     Parking our box we go into the cafe, and it is here that I
realize how stoned Spike and I are.  When he looks back at me, body
half-turned from the register, I see the fringes of wet redness in
his eyes, a sweltering glow rising in them.  I ask for a coffee and
skip the danish: more cardboard, baked with sugar to conceal. 
Idolize the iconization: beer ads in more cardboard, cardboard
breasts pressed against the window.  Spike gets a danish.  We watch
traffic, as if in a seventies movie.  Traffic gets lost in the
diffracted orange-brown refraction of twilight as the city caves in
for the night.  To where?  Spike nibbles, then devours, folding the
danish into his mouth.  We are unfound, now, but their searching
takes them through the lights and links and lines of the city,
scanning for the hint of our voices in the refraction of the
multitude.  All we have are our voices.
     Pass calm.  Lapsing noise of cars passing, soft fading.  Along
the aisle of shops lights fade, metal gratings clatter to rough
cement floors, inches past the smoothed threshold of the same
substance.  Night never fades; it crashes silently into the
periphery of vision and then intensifies in darkness.  One can tell
as the contrast of the lights rises, and then everything takes on
the slick obscured perspective of night darkness.  Not really a
photonegative of day, but given enough time to get used to it, an
inversion of the day: release, disconnection.
     "...Harvey, don't call me that," intones the waitress, and
slams the phone down.  The drum solo has ended.  We are the only
two left, our plastic cups suddenly brittle in the outside light
shining through their rims, the old man with heavy thick slab
fingers poked through his cup mumbling to himself the other there. 
Her black phone encoffined, she turns with a contrast smile: we tip
and leave.  
     We're into the night.  It isn't unlike making love to enter
the night: it takes a push out the door, the initial shock,
confusion, blindness, and then absorption.  It reaches fingers into
you from outside and draws you outward in extension, then allows
you to resolve yourself back into a mixture of night and self.  All
are one in the night: the faces coming don't have stories until the
cigarette is lit or the awning selected for rendezvous.  We are
one, Spike and I, a moving phalanx of two dodging telephone poles
as we hunt out safe lodgings until we've had our final fill of
information and celebration.  As if we were celebrating.  Life is
a fishhook that turns in space, however, and the celebrations of
past days are often funerals, so a grim bracing party might be a
dawning, or even just nothing, a continuation.  With no
deterioration there is amelioration, as this city is a slide of
shale into a fetid pond, a steadily collapsing conception of decay.
     Into the back door of the Cranberry Cafe, a slightly upscale
place of new red brick against the crumbling steady exteriors
beside it.  I balk at first: this is a cop territory, the smell of
their urine thick around the poles and doorways.  Into a back poker
room, the attendant thinguy young cop takes a pause ducker into the
door.  Bit of cigarette smoke follows the answer, an enticement. 
We return offer (personally, I am not liking this: cops and dealing
with cops is suspect as ordinary deals gone wrong are a walkaway,
whereas with cops there is always the twist of adder possibility:
arrest) and receive our bid, a Malibu in the parking lot.  Buttocks
to bumper we wait, Spike with a halfburnt cigarette waved in the
air, lit end away from the building writing gesticulations in the
sheer expanse of night past our eyes.  Minutes later we have our
cop, an older guy with smoothed brown hair around the crown of his
head, a small belly building.  He hands us a bag, but its fresh
scent is uncoiling light and sinuous in the air toward us.  We pay. 
Goodnight, gentlemen, in that soft southern accent that says
college, politeness and beware: a turning of soft white mouth
inside lights up his eyes, his canines stretch toward us.  Spike
smiles, and we back away.
     More bright eyes in the night.  You can never see them. 
Arenas open with each alley, stretching past us in a line of
conflicting images, shadows colliding before fading degrees of
light, the red eyes of cops slanted cynical from the slow slowing
cars that roll past.  No slow rolling: after something, their
wheels pour ahead on a drumbeat, and they are sliding past, cutting
the night.  Nightsticks for the dawn.  Shadows which were soot on
the walls fall into limber motion again.  We ride.
     "Ride on, ride on," sings Spike.  "Looking for a truck..." he
murmurs fumbly.  I agree: there ain't much more to do sometimes. 
So you go on, you move on, you go into the cold night and you sing
and drink and smoke against it about it and then keep going,
because if in the back of your mind, there is something at the end:
if it is art or it is love or it is freedom: if that, then there is
life in your moving forward, and not just drudging reaction and
frozen-fingered refusal to die on principle.  Principle, hell: a
line of ideas; life is many days, but are they good days?  I just
look for something I want to be in a few months, and keep it in
mind - something a headmaster once frowned upon, literally, his
mouth downturning into a bitter lemon smile when I said I didn't
like rules, but I knew what I wanted, and what I wanted not to do. 
He said I'd learn to like them.  I never got sense of it; Spike,
who has been to jail, says that sometimes those words have a truth
to them which makes you feel like cold concrete sweating in the
basement noone goes into, except every six months to throw down
strychnine to kill the rats in twitching potency.
     Carnival House: a massively failed carnival ground left for
exploration into which opened a bar, and then a series of
underground businesses.  Almost anything available there, however
absent ascendant antagonism celebrated.  The penalties of financial
failure the burdens of those who pass, and those who squat and stay
in the space created by the ruins become possessors of the night. 
The area wasn't safe enough for a carnival; now we have a festival. 
Lights string angular through the place, weird Christmas gig setup. 
Spike thumbs up at a few.  I guess I'm hazy from the blunt some
streets back, a quick clutched smoking of the honeydew bud we'd
gotten from the pig.  Erik has joined us; I turn to see him behind
me, grinning a bit at me (realizing I had no idea he was there? 
realizing I'm too stoned?).  Into the carnival.  Good cover until
we can hit the road, but more good cover for our stressed brains. 
Spike is way fucked, legally speaked.  I'm not so bad off and I
trust in luck: perhaps out of all the papers there, they'll lose
mine.  
     The carnival: People are passing out drinks of odd sorts, and
I infiltrate the bar for a beer or three, bringing back two more
unconsciously for Erik and Spike.  Reflexive.  Arc lights whiten
the sky above, in which the dogfights of insects leave trails like
northern lights through my vision.  Everything is reflex, once you
do it enough.  Eating, defecation, micturation, conversation,
intonation, appreciation, evaluation, fucking.  The carnival is a
massive reflexive swirl of humans, which wash through buildings and
lots and fill the night with their noise and light.  Welcome now,
in a solitary age of seconds strung together as telephone poles are
connected across vast fields and valleys.  I brush hair from my
face: I like Spike a lot as a friend, a better stoner than a stoner
friend.  Erik's a stoner friend, the scrawny Viking, and a good
guy, but is not Spike.  He smokes a mean binger however.  Ramble
on.  Spike has saved me from my share of dangerous days and
starchy, disconsolate nights.
     There are disposable buildings, ugly plated steel
fabrications, to clutter the horizon, and reflect the neon and
traffic light, and rust archly against the bluing sky of a Saturday
evening, but the superstructure of Carnival House stays below
ground: an intestinal complication of tunnels and ballrooms,
storage areas, bars, garage parking, and video arcades, bathrooms:
converted now a milling of gamble-holes and dark corners.  The cops
don't have to notice, and often don't, until there's a bill missing
in a monthly pay.  I suppose moles die for that.  Amazing the level
of humans searching through the grit on the floor for pinprick
drops of salted gold.  
     Grit rides our feet down the serrated metal stairs. 
Clattering of heels, even mine the ever-sneakered.  Into a larger
room, a gymnasium of conversion: filled with people: unceasing blur
of melding colors pulled inside out to bring up faces, and then to
vanish again into the gleeful boiling mass, hands and drinks and
feet awry in scattered directions of randomness, Spike and I
drawing up chests to wander through, Erik having lapsed into the
rugged churning morass of people.  And it moves on: not blind, but
not having an eye, just motion: when on one side there's a fight,
or on the other someone vomits, the mass swerves back the exact
opposite just as forcefully.  Not even noticed, as conversation,
seduction, peregrination, prevarication, and perpetuation flogged
the motion of the crowd, seduced with their bulging eyes and
crotches, their saliva lurching for liquor or flesh, their
peristaltic shock waves spreading through their wanting faces,
their dope-hungry gleaming gaze probing the night, the crowd.   
     Spike pauses.  I recollect turning to speak to him, and then
the blunt and beer and heat of the motion seized my head.  His face
blurred away in a smear toward the lagging corner of my vision, and
there was a soaring noise like the roof sucked off in a twister,
and then I was reeling in the motion, lost under the glee with dark
bile creeping behind my eyes.  Another spin, a drink spilling,
thrusting out a splash that soaks instantly into stained red
carpet.
     Her face half-skeletal attacks mine; swings into view from
below, leering happily, takes me by the mouth.  It's the girl with
the H name from nights before -- when?  mind rolls into bile
unconsciousness -- or is it her?  Is she aware me? can't even tell,
conversation a blur from me, drunken straightforward from her:
stagger back to grin realistically, end up with her in concrete-
stepped handrail-supported stance in back stairway, my tongue and
hers heavy silvery smooth-muscled beasts holding each other in
their strength.  Hands sliding and shifting; a drill older than my
teens, something only refined in adulthood.  A massive blur this
is.  It would be a shame, she is cute, but I am not of the presence
to.  Leaving tomorrow, no need to leave wreckage of a perhaps in a
clutter of destroyed potentials. In the hang of lust, our hands
drift apart to come together on the car.  Cold metal, buckling
under our movements. Her car, tucked in the lee of a corner of
cyclone fencing nice a condom with its artificial skein, her warmth
grasping me sliding downward a touch stopped, resumed, and I'm on
top of her, moving forward with the rhythmic slowness of the night. 
All of this time has taken; where are we lost?  
     Entering this world of heat, a stretching sash of warm flesh,
her body pivoting on it, turning curving against mine.  Her mouth
opens, hot also.  The sigh that runs down my spine and through this
weird stinger I have sprouted, into her flesh, the wound widening. 
Tears in my eyes, a delirious descent of twenty or thirty narrow
reflections of the carnival in my sight, shimmering with
hallucination.  She begins to suck in air faster louder, ...she
takes breath with my thrust, she hold it drawn strict into her
lungs, fingers rushing down my back.  A sigh taken too quickly, a
choking intake, her pulling back, pushing carseat in fear.  I swing
my head down pleasure taking into something new an element of
useless fear.  
     Abstraction of vision in a sharp shot of moment as I see
squirming in my crotch a footlong maggot, squirming agonizedly,
burrowing into her, maybe mewling I can't tell her scream.  Not
even her: she is gone, but the maggot is there.  The rotting heap
of the city writhes with its minions.  The eyes of living inside,
cocaine off the mirror and then the reflection twisting, the
carnivorous maggot chewing through all that lives.  The piles of
trash twitch alive, and curl around the nearby humans like adders
striking at the wrist.  The corpses of the dead burst; the coffin
lids split; maggots roll upon the earth, crawling from the wound-
graves of the deceived, killed, buried, and lied after.  She is
gone; it is over.  Am I hallucinating?  All I see is maggots, the
crawling of decay, the appetite of putrefaction.  Choking in my
throat: fear or vomit, and then, beneath my skin, I feel them
spawning, moving, too near me, chewing me into trash like the rest
of the city.  A violent cough vivisects.  Scream, dash, chaos of
angular falling outward of door, gravel roll and recovery, back
inside: must find Spike.
     Must have collapsed in sleep.  Across her backseat.  She has
gone, some hours later.  Somewhat sober, still in dangerous
hallucinatory sliding swimmingness of reality.  She is gone.  This
was more an impact than a touch, this was more lost than gained. 
Hide any evidence on self, don't want to hear it from those around
me, who might chalk up a mark on the wall somewhere for this
exploit.  Not really an evidence excepting doubts of reality. 
Spike?  Reality.  Must move.  Wonder where she went, a stretching
of an emotional want into the night, a car door open as if she'd
run.  But peaceful here.  The beast must've been a dream, or a
hallucination.  Or was this a dream?  Whose car is this? 
Transient, like the haze of memories rising like smoke off the
forehead in morning, the break of fever, the loss of recall.  
     Into sanctorum: sudden yearning for Spike, my friend and
stoner buddy, beyond the stilted starch uselessness of drunken
babylon.  
     Slamming door into the night, where the yearning draws, but
instead I find a hollowness and longing.  On the freeway above
lights rush by, destinations found, links made, connections
accomplished.  Here I stand with life rushing around me, dust of
gravel soaring around my feet.  There goes.  The emptiness and
loneliness rushes in with the force of innumerable such yearnings,
rushing from the vacuum of night to me, sucked from void to void,
the painful begging of my soul succumbing to the terror crouching
compressed in my throat like chancreous resurging alcohol.  Charge
into the night, scared like the man shouting into the dark and
empty room to dispell demons, to build his own fear so that
whatever demons await him won't disturb his peace of mind with
their ravenous teeth, empty gnarling bellies, and yearning claws --
the gods of emptiness hover above, into the castle, into the
carnival, to find Spike.  Through scuffing gravel, desperate eyes:
Spike, Spike, Spike.
     Hanging pause for breath, backward feeling for rail like
drunkard.  Wait for silence, continuous roar.  Oh fading throughout
me like this up straight to wait.  Fixed wristlock on the railing. 
Darkness can't be seen here, foreseen.  I am wasted am I so? in the
breath of darkness on the skirts of this place.  Falling faces
inside.  Step, fall: face in papercup, stench of stale tobacco and
wet paper, latex.  Pull back, up, shake hair and move slowly into
center of this mess.  Too many people stagger upfront sweaty hair
in my face, head against my forehead.  God, a drunken apology. 
Eyes blink signal move.  Did that just happen?  A vomiting of
narrative.  A loss of.   
     Whorls of sunlight splintered are antlike in my eyes. 
Stinging stare away from light, move onward while camera eclipses
and swells like some cheap artschool film.  Lurch, stomach. 
Falling slops of spew into a flowing industrial trashcan, grey
beauty of stolidity against my onslaught.  Tirade of like words. 
On top of beer cans crushed and torn ties, broken cummerbunds,
condoms split like gunfired balloons.  Food rotting in there too,
now there's some digestive juice.  Fucking threw everything out.
     Back to the vortex: Spike locator.  Interlocutor.  Can't see
a thing, moving onward.  Would be in deep shit if it weren't for
people falling against me falling against them.  Jerkstop
coordination, thoughts.  Fad argyle against my cheek, brush past
the jacket with my hand down, could have gotten his wallet. 
Laughter.  Phones hang from the ceiling in this odd room, swinging
over my head, pendulae or pendulums?  Hate latin, people dance in
clothing with reflective tin cloth as part of it, big shiny bands
around their guts.  Full guts.  Laughter.  
     Stumble down hall past tables of gambling, through back room
full of some goods in crates, over couples fucking, one fading
whinnying moaning scream muffled by pressure.   Don't fall down
that way man.  Walking straight across slabs of stamped metal. 
Steam from somewhere, fading of the night into the dark abstraction
of morning.  Head still damage.  Back into the main area, must find
Spike.
     Loaded like a freight train.  Sweetened breath of vomited
wine.  In an alley of hamburger wrappers, cigarette packets,
plastic lapel flowers, swinging Christmas tree air fresheners,
toilet paper, gold teeth and a plastic raincoat torn on the ground. 
Insurgent fear demanding flight.  So much for the cavalry.  The lot
edged with cars spinning around, searing the night with the noise
of their burning tires, swinging into each other with ferocious
jarring collisions.  Thumping of tires over barriers, maybe bodies. 
Who knows?  Gunfire also from above, but scattered with quick
giggly noises as if above taken-in breath from the white face of
fear.
     Woman pushing past my face, eyes silver glass above grey
smears of dust on her face.  Breath is wet heavy rot of the streets
soaked in gin, cheap oily vomiting waves.  Must awaken, away.  A
side of the inside building collapsing in dustflow of cheap
plasterboard.  Dance music pressing my skull together, insistent
beat entirely linear.  Our silence is so often from fear; we learn
from the confessions of others.
     Giddy woman's laughter.  Bodies shrinking against each other
into the tainted darkness (edged rancid with colored glow). 
Exhaustion hold.  Cough.  On through the beating pulse, mechanical
thrust knocking over heartbeats all-ahead on expediency.  Into the
bar, down in a corner table under red neon seamstitch of black and
white room.  A police car.  Withdraw cigarette, limp crumpled. 
Smoke hesitantly, use time.  Soberify.  Must have been drinking
more, smell like six types of liquor.  Cough.
     "S'nomore 'bout th'life?  S'getting it goo n mhhnth."
     "Mack'n gone?  Ssshea beh."
     "Guvmint fall'n.  Gunna d' hod.  Killa th' bnhh mmn, duth inna
thnth.  Hunth."
     "Mos' bood gunthnth.  Mockva munthuth."
     "Gunna ahe's'snathmmnh."
     "Gunna."
     "D'th' mn th rhtht e nnthnth uh hh a'm'bl."
     "Munna guth."
     So the police are looking for a dark haired drunk man. 
Several thousand here: there he goes.  Wonder where Spike went,
stomach turning over uneasy again.  Vertiginous outbreak, man. 
More intoxicants not a good idea, but jonesing hard.  The drunk
worn off anyway.  The drunk run off anyway.  From the face of
reality: ...and the difference is?  No difference engines here; a
large disposable blur.  And I?  In this crowd, I - a syllable or an
organ, perhaps the latter selling in Vegas.
     Fake fruit display on bar.  Fruit flies: real.  Mango'll do,
will fit.  I eat carefully in the dark.  A woman at the next table
laughs, perhaps pointing.  Ignore.  Dark silence waits in the
corners of the room.  The ends of the hall.  A thousand paper
napkins pass, carefully wadded and tossed an empty booth over.  The
pit shines in the redshaded light.  Pocketknife a beautiful object:
carving the pit, carefully, using the thick shell for my work. 
Done: the pipe.  Feeling more clearheaded, still lost.  Sobriety
isn't the cure.  Neither is this, but sustenance.
     Loading half a bud of American Sigma I kept on me: dry, potent
pot, sweet-tasting and green.  Taste was just that, sweet.  Light
hit at first, rising in waves through the chest and head until
suddenly the earth is a very faraway place.  Also stores well,
hence the backup bag.  Loading a bud is breaking it in half,
putting half carefully in dish of pit pipe.  Smokes a little rough,
but good traveling device.  I take hard fast hits, sucking tightly
into my lungs.  Clears my head.
     Location of Spike has suddenly become important.  Speaking
curt sentences sans articles like a cheap paper detective.  Better
start carrying or I might get rubbed out.  Haha.  Searching the
arcade, searching the other drink area, a more practical
establishment consisting of a vending machine loaded with Night
Train, Thunderbird, King Kobra, and a few I'd thought were banned. 
Probably not: just banished.  Thrown away.  We throw it all away if
we can't hold it, if we can't hold on to it.  Baboons shrieking
shit-throwing at the great cat, its eyes glowing somnolent,
malevolent in their darkness.  Context of infinity.
     Some tables scattered around, bracelets of their iron legs
caught in the careless dance of trampled dead.  Leering face drawn
over original manufacturer's logo; now beyond loyalty of that sort. 
Looking for a drunken darkhaired man?  Cops?  Or were they looking
for sunken dark stairs to bunk?
     Halfasleep to the left; rouse, shake, grin, sort of leer.  Mug
thickly at this concept.  Spike moves in faster than slow motion
and follows me from the place, thinning in the morning light as we
walk down the broad red carpet, our feet flicking flattened paper
cups and torn lottery tickets.  There is enough blue in the morning
to light as way as we go.  Spike pulls out into the bluebacked vein
of a street, and tires peel down flat hot lane.
     
&null.  (change of balance muffle rotate lost dark tea-smelling
colliding of dark angulars, dark blue and dark dark going through
some light area female talking drifting haze of winter shadows an
open window the breeze beyond it picks cloth and tall grass,
whipping intricate rhythms drift never rotate sudden-falling
inspection).  &&resume.

     Footsore in the back seat, rising with the stiffened
consciousness of ending sleep.  Spike: where are we going?  "Been
on the road since midnight," is all he says.  All he'll say.  Ah,
right to the town of justice.  A burnt blunt rests a severed finger
in the ashtray.  How we stay up all night.  I once talked to a
trucker who told me about been told with condolences of factory
delays, made to wait, and been told that his cargo still had a
pressing destination, time schedule notwithstanding.  At a
truckstop they have solutions, and he moved on with the liquid
thrust of methamphetamine, to return to his home site and have to
inject his bladder full of clean urine to pass the next day's drug
test.  He used a turkey baster; the nonuncommon resort of the
desperate.  In the absence of a presence, the grasping forces of
evolution take charge: whatever means needed.  Whatever needs
mediated.  Something of that form.  Never understood government, or
logic: far too many terms with hard angles to them, uncompromising
pre-contradictions.
     Desperation follows us on this road.  It rolls behind us,
dodging the broken yellow lines.  The desperation of a city
collapsing like an overburdened landfill, shifting weights of
flattened paper, rotting food (mostly food processed uniform,
taking the texture of taste to an icon), broken toys, smashed
cameras, urine-soaked newspapers (colors colliding in a staining
melange), golf videos, promotional pamphlets for politics and
luxury cars, the oracular works of Gideon, shattered punk records
and umbrellas flippantly pulled into inversion, their spiny vanes
sticking incongruous over torn cloth. 
     If trash doesn't collapse over the streets, flooding them: the
last garbage collector's strike left mounds of bagged trash rotting
in its enclosures reaching to second story windows.  The same day
a Papal Bull came out blaming the use of condoms for the excessive
trash; the strike was settled two days later with the use of force,
the government opening fire on the trash and igniting blazes of
flatulent decay which covered the city in its choking wrath of
smoke, driving the garbagemen and everyone else back to work where
at least the airconditioners filtered the worst of it.  This is a
city with assiduous dedication to nonpermanence: everything is used
and deployed strategically half-over the rim of a public trashcan,
as if condom, with the grease-smeared "Keep Our City Beautiful"
placard half-removed by bored teenagers with can openers. 
Condemned signs fill the windows.
     We had hit open road: miles of grey-black strolling road under
the kneading grey clouds of future horizons.  A glass company truck
with its infracted rack of mirrors passes us, making us pass it by
in reflection, its driver oblivious.  With Morgue: Morgue the
demented skier, a collector of fine objects normally called trash,
gaudy lights, cheap mirrors, Jesus figurines and Elvis statuettes. 
His apartment was visible for miles because of the unique setup he
had of Christmas lights, mirrors, and pinwheels and fans.  Lights
flickered and pinwheels spun, throwing images through the mirrors
around the room and out the window.  The array was so confusing and
disorienting that people would come to stare, sitting bug-eyed on
the pavement looking up at his window.  Most of these were normals,
not even stoners.  Inside we smoked with impunity as the room was
set up in such chaos only to reveal movement and not the specifics
of said movement.  The flinging of my arm changed from a trajectory
upward to a shower of greens spiralling out of the left corner of
the pane, ricochetting from the ceiling mirrors, and finally
dissipating in a burst of fractured color in the center of the
window.  And still they watched.  One night his room caught aflame
and vanished in a swirling conflagration that defied the cheap
silver beauty of his trash collage: a puff of black smoke squirted
from the rear of the building, with a final grunt as the generator
bolted on to power the phones to call 911.  Morgue lived in near-
poverty, spending his money on dope, and often found himself
renting from landlords glad for the extra income over the tax
shelter they'd built out of previously-condemned buildings.  Like
pre-owned toilets: no matter how you euphemize, trash is trash.
     We found him later somewhere on route 66, living amidst the
glory of classic American dreams.  His place was a mobile home with
fake red brick side sitting alone in a field of tall bleached grass
and scattered rusting ribs of equipment.  His mattress took up a
corner, leaving stark fake-wood floor stretching to the
centerpiece, a steam engine mockup of sorts, a small-scale version
of one of the permanent pumps that carcass the Texas countryside:
a raven dipping its beak into the black well of oil.  Character-
istic rust and lichen had been removed, leaving a faded but
identifiable red, flat and broad in its tone and years.  "This was
once an operational pump, on a small scale," Morgue (Morgan is his
real name, but after one of his hypotheses led him to grow indica
using seven fluorescent lights and a microwave dish he produced pot
he named after himself, called Morgue, which gave one the feeling
of utter detachment that being dead on a pull-out slab must
provide) said, but broke his lips into a smile and explained his
conversion.  The pull of the pump pendulum drew air past a
combustion chamber, dragging thick pot smoke through a chamber of
heated water (heat provided by an adapted coffee maker) and then
through a stack filter of iced water, chilled by the innards of a
dorm-room fridge of his from past years wrapped around the pressure
cooker casing that was this final stage.  
     Carefully taped and sealed to this end of the machine was a
vacuum attachment with added foam rubber, to fit around the mouth
and nose.  Nose?  "That's the beauty of this one," Morgue exclaimed
gleefully, his red eyes opening brightly under his thick watershed
of hair.  "It takes the smoke you exhale back through this
alternate pipe here -- " (pointing) " -- separated by weight, as
relative temperature allows, and runs it through a condenser, which
inserts it again here, distilling whatever THC remains into
fortifying smoke."  Try it.  Insurgent lust.  Spike played point
and took the first hit, a seeping weight of warmth that filled his
lungs and sat him down hard.  Morgue grinned at him, warningly. 
"Shoulda told you: it burns as fast as you drag, and the smoke's so
purified that you don't even fill the hit much.  You just burnt
this whole bowl," he grinned over the rim at Spike, holding up a
thimble full of ash leeched white by the potent fire of the draw. 
"That was some of my Alaskan, as well."  Spike grimaced defiantly
in return, and blew out the pressure of smoke he had been holding
tight-casked in his lungs.  "I's one stoned motherfucker," he said,
and then remained silent for the rest of the evening, lost in the
rotations of his own mind around that blast of cannabinoid.
     My hit brought me into an opened world, where I could see
reflected around me my skull and the fissures that lined my brain. 
Impressionable instantaneous bonding.  Morgue reloaded his bong
while I attempted to compliment it: "Very much a significant
presence; strong affect and assertion; overall, a command
performance."  Cementing impact of fast falling intoxication,
spurious reality ascended, sudden rush of full stimulus: the scary
combination of a healthy abstraction (distance enough to consider
the subject) and an unfolding of layers of reality.  The red means
the eyes are open; or am I just falling into ludicrous pot-worship,
when in fact it is only an excuse to see without taking the onus on
oneself to prove the necessity of doing so?  "A fine year," I
concluded.
     That was Morgue's narrow warm home, a strip of wood and
aluminum reminding of a wafer cookie somehow lost on a flat pounded
grass plain.  Coming away from it it seemed as if that strip and
not I were moving away turning into the desert.  I reflect as I
read the massive file now on my personal rig; in terseness, a
system not human although grammatically precise (although not
correct: its method of using prepositions as conduit sometimes
falls into grammatical, sometimes does not - but always almost
makes sense).  Within this a protocol is described, a parasitic
nature which assembles itself within other protocols.  Similar to
my technique, an offhand and difficult method but an effective one
along unsuspecting networks.  What made theirs better: the paper
described a system of network rather than a method of intrusion, a
way of connecting machines invisibly to the world, and, had it not
been for hacker error, to me.  Penicillin blues.  I have to put the
reading down after some time to assimilate the technical details
gleaned, but more importantly, the impact: how had I thought I had
run so smoothly through the net, when with this there were others,
or the potential for others, to be invisible, omniscient, watchful? 
Damn.
     On the road similarly, towns and land twining behind us as we
kept speed at subdued scream down the isolated pavement, a part of
thousands of miles laid by lonely hands through country and
mountain and desolate territory.  Desolate is of course always a
contrast, and we had just left the large city of plastic.  There
are always cities of plastic, some erected every day.  We evade
most, Spike and I, because our lust for plastic converts into need
for dope.  It's non-addicting, but anything is addicting if it
stops the hole in the floodwall: the bloodwarm water ceases to pour
out into the cold abyss, the hunger more precisely which is always
there to weaken you, to break your will, to make you bow to it and
the fear it holds rank over your head.  
     Pink Knight used to have mounted on his computer monitor the
motto of forward motion: Fear is the mindkiller.  He was taken on
a raid, turned in by a young sycophant facing a small jail
stiffness for his part in some escapade, and who having the goods
on PK found very little reason not to turn state's evidence.  And
so an incredibly common story iterates again: hackers are a closed
community for a reason, blocking out the efforts of such types.  In
an age of so many causes, so many are overturned by expedients. 
Hackers have a uniting ethic which locks them to a common cause, an
ideal of how to use machines.  I can't blame them for being a
somewhat closed society.
     More road and I'm driving now.  As night washes away into dawn
and daylight, the road goes from slick black to sprawling worn
grey, slick in parts where the smooth whizzing tires tread it down
daily.  Copside road with a car pulled over, belly of cop moving at
the window where some other life awaits a gutpunch.  The whole
crowd has slowed; cars now trot in slow motion in comparison to our
former speed.  What gives: living in fear, an accrued sense of
learned helplessness.  It comes when you're sitting with your back
straight in the air, hands over your head, while men in blue with
slick black boots circle you and talk of trivialities, holding the
power higher than the nightstick.  Spike still has a jaw scar from
a cop incident, I believe a class ring caught in the impact.
     Miles are like fingers counted over again in a jail cell, the
five fingers being the five cuts of light dropped by the bars of
small window to the floor, five feet square on a side, five years
in a felony.  Five states in the crossing, lucky for a vehicle that
sort of runs.  We get oil into it not in the nick of but definitely
on the hot side of time in Las Vegas, and move on.  Roadwearing
down the eyes, blunted by reflection and time, iteration again of
the same patterns.  Stop briefly to hack and find our records are
the same, the networks seem the same.  Someday this will have to
grow; too much being said, or perhaps too little - only a fraction
of the net seems to be motion, the rest is a swelling before
motion, a swirling of data and ideas.  Suddenly the signal is
traced among them, and then there is a language, a network -
perhaps through one of these networks or languages lies expansion. 
Road expansive, curving through the heat to the horizon.
     However far you go there is still road.  Above the striated
earth and broiling redness of sand is a sky which reaches
interminable to form the second half of the world, the greatest
free space imaginable crouched over our narrow and flattened
perspective.  Who are _we_: All of us.  There's none of that
anymore, says a man worn like rainblotted newspaper, shaking a
knotted finger in my head, there's no all of us.  There's us, and
them.  The Russians aren't coming, Doctor: but it's still us and
them.  Who's them?  Anyone not us right now -- anything more is too
big a thought.
     Our car a capsule.  Swallowed by darkness over road.  Heavy
surging in my brows signals the ending of my shift driving. Spike
and I have a friendly arrangement: I drive until I'm tired, and
then he takes over, and the cycle continues.  We don't question
because we trust the other to be honest: we're both going to the
same place, we have been friends for years.  Once Spike, Me,
Amorphine and Gonzaga took to the road, heading to a nearby town
for Gonzaga (an imported citizen; I have no idea what his real name
is, but he communicates a few words with exceptional pronunciation
and clarity, leading me to value his communication over that of
most other acquaintances, even though a detailed one hour
conversation might take only a dozen words and twice as many
gestures from him) to lie low for a night so that his ex-girlfriend
could spend her furlough time without having to "ram his nose
through his ass so he has a clitoris" as she had threatened
drunkenly in a sports bar called The Punched Ticket (Jeanine is
really nice, overall, but occasionally becomes sauced on Cisco
clones and uses her skills as a aikido trainer to unleash her
angst.  She once was about to do the above to my nose but I was
able to deter her with a procrastinatory explanation of the
derivation of the word assassin, from the Arabic, for Hashish) the
night before.  Amorphine lounges in chairs, slouches on sofas,
collapses on car seats, and hunches in bars.  I've known him for
ten years, and I've never seen him the same.
     Amorphine and I made acquaintance in a small restaurant in
Mississippi called The Checkered Dog.  Most restaurants useful for
meeting people are a definite article, an adjective, and a noun in
name.  Someday I'll have a bar named The Definite Article.  The
future, prepositionally speaking.  All of which is a split infinity
with the present moment, something I can't focus upon quite yet,
not unlike the concept of death.  
     Me dying: Amorphine and I met on a cold day, not unlike a
vacant drooling sky to die underneath.  When I was young I thought
I'd die by battle; Amorphine thought the same.  He would eventually
die being shot to death by federal agents confiscating computer
equipment, chestholding a Braun toaster he had saved two weeks'
wages to buy, which contained a microchip, excusing his death in
the line of duty in itself.  Condemned in newspapers.  For the next
two years, he would periodically appear at local sales, cafe
openings, used-car lots, hangings, elections and debutante balls. 
Once I saw him in the background for a late-night advertisement for
the Nixon box set, featuring sixteen CD's with remastered and
annotated recordings of the Watergate tapes, for $129.95, the
original price of the dictaphone machine most of the phone calls
debated during the trial were recorded on.  Amorphine gave a sad
wave, and faded behind his thick sunglasses as the voice
overwhelmed even the physical space in the picture with its
incessant advertising pledge.  
     At The Checkered Dog, Amorphine and I consumed two hamburgers
and six beers, and I learned from four words of his that his name
had come from a time six years ago when he had rejected all claims
of physical existence and had starved himself for nine days,
passing out at the end and having to be revived with morphine
leftover from a GI shipment to his country during the second world
war.  In the end, he would die at age 27, similarly injected with
morphine that failed to revive him.  The third time: once as a
child of six, he had been injured falling from a tree, and morphine
had enabled his broken body to repair itself in isolation from pain
or pleasure, only the numb delight of absence.  As we drove, I
thought often of The Checkered Dog and Amorphine, who seemed to be
limp and porous tissue, unconnected disconnected but still grasping
the wheel firmly as if it mattered.  Shrug.  We took six hours
shifts each, and those became failures as half the time we fell
asleep on our shifts, and the rest of the time we were just getting
into interesting thoughts as drivers when we had to retire to the
back of the van.
     The method Spike and I use works much better.  Spike lies eyes
turned down in the back seat, indestructible auto industry fake
cloth feeling synthetic beneath him.  On occasion he snores.  I
snore alongside him, grateful for the company of sound on this
desolate drive.  Empathy to the subsuming joy of sleep.  Going the
long, awkward, circuitous route instead of out the front door; back
door manners may get a bad rap, but the endurance of continuity
beats some honor points anyday.  The road here is grey, older semi-
asphalt, with mid-sized pine trees venturing occasional stabs at
the sky.  As if thrusting thumbs at an unkempt god:  Spike jars
this out of me stirring in his sleep to mumble.
     "Burr...?"
     "Uh huh.  What up old man."   
     "Thinking about itches.  When it itches, you scratch."
     "Because otherwise it drives you mad:  too much stimulus."
     "No, I figure it evolved in us.  It was part dream.  Because
itching brought blood to the skin, it was useful against most
causes of itch.  An evolutionary mistake."
     "Like intelligence."
     "I haven't gotten there yet."
     Rolls over, falls back asleep.  Warmth of sleeping people.  I
feel most like an animal when I walk into a room full of people
asleep, and feel my breathing slow to their rate as I sense -- not
as much smell or feel -- the bodies in the dark, turning in their
disconnected dreams of life.  
     More road.  When I was young I visualized the car grille as
eating the road, consuming enticing stripes of divider alongside
pure asphalt, consuming it all as we rushed along, the fragmented
patching of the roadsurface rushing up at us in smearing collisions
of light.  Now we eat our way through fast food and tearing cheap
roadmaps, batteries for our flashlights, cigarettes, and gasoline. 
Behind us the road settles its detritus of paper shreds, beer
bottles, broken rust-fragments of cars, condom wrappers and burnt
flares.  Now we eat our way through countryside left unnamed by the
map, a neurotic compulsion in itself to name everything: even the
index is labeled as such at the top and bottom of each column.  Our
red vein rides through the ridges of several states, passes the
blocked dots of great cities, detours down the fragile outlines of
sideroute freeways, and pours us into the sheaf of valley where
Loquate, TN, makes its resting warm the hills.
     Where once nothing but Appalachian subsistence indolents
wandered, now a city springs from a mall and a gas station left by
passing tourists.  The sign reads POP: 24,022 but we know there are
several thousand more, because Loquate lives two lives: a
legitimate economy and the leftover overflow from the attempt some
decades ago to make it an Atlantic City for valley America,
legalizing gambling, prostitution, and leaving an easy regulation
on drug use.  The experiment was so successful that within a year
the city was wealthier than the third world, the local government
had capitulated, and the Mafia was buying up local libraries as tax
shelters.  The city revolted, but the new economy threw it back:
and, illegal, continued to prosper.  This makes Loquate ideal for
hiding out on one's way farther into the countryside, but both
Spike and I wanted time to rest, to recover for our journey, but as
importantly to recover from the despair which crouched like the
hallucinatory cloud of a black widow spider on the past horizon. 
Loquate is not ideal for habituation, however, because of the
virulent local economy and the environment it creates.
     Coming into the city, we bound over a soft swelling hill
populated at top with a gas station selling "Gas line" and a small
store with a sign labeled with a blue squid, marked "Pes ados." 
Neither are open, both secure places in the universe with their
dingy neon.  Crackling probably under the drawing brows of a storm. 
Spike pulls off of the broad road down a gravel path to a 7-11
which must exist without business, far from any path or combination
of roads I can read except for the narrow grey dusty stretch we
have just pulled in through.  The sign flickers its bright broad
colors over us as we extend each of our nervous and tense limbs in
an approximation of stretching.  An itching in the calf muscles, a
thick condensation in the gut.  We go to the door, but the inside
is dark, but Spike pushes the door regardless, drawing from some
internal sureness I can't reach.  The windows are darkened with
grime and provide cover, but it is still obscure inside, lit only
by a few shaky fluorescent tubes.  Waist-high rows divide the small
space of linoleum.
     Behind the desk two feet keep watch, supported by a head
averted to a television, its abstract black and white showing a
domestic argument, a tortured rehash of poignantly fake lines. 
Soap operas are like hearing one side of a drunken phone
conversation.  "I must leave town, I must: He's dead!" shrieks a
bodied voice, a full womanhood blonde in drawn-faced desperation. 
His eyes catch ours without any sense of loss in his inattention to
the movement; the noise fills the air, keeps the store from
domination by the crepitant hum of the fluorescents.  He is young
and stark-faced, and hands us ZigZags for a buck fifty, a weathered
bill (under fingers of ages, ours and his, his and ours, yours) and
points to the bathroom in the rear.  We go through the glassbead
curtain and a throat-voice punches through the haze of our travel:
"And look who is joining us:"
     Long, thick beard and glasses, also thick.  Jerry?  Above a
cigar his thick reddened eyes track us, beadily without greed or
malice.  A belly of some proportion, but well-carried (fat doesn't
bother me until it shows signs of desperation, the eating in order
to generate stable ground to walk upon, to be too big to be
displaced) and tucked into a thick-cut chest.  "How are you?" he
speaks at us, allowing his cigar to roll to the edge of his mouth
and lock there.  A vagary of memory: Buffalo Bill, our cohort from
the wild mountains of Southern California where he for years
maintained a mushroom farm that must have been the envy of every
psychoactive weapons division in the world.  Strains of
psychoactive mushrooms pushed the floor of his house upward,
growing steadily in their thousand and one Mason jars in the
darkness.  Bill loved to barbecue brain cells, and we had joined
him for several exploits, including the one in which he was named. 
Our love of jargon, names.  To control the world: to rename it
without a care for the original, an abrupt imposition of self.  May
my last name stand for some kind of potent weed.
     A folding card table supports three chairs and two other
individuals, an exact clone of the man behind the desk out front,
and a scrawnier, younger version of either of them with his hand on
his hip, as if he were a gunfighter.  "Howdy," Spike says, striding
ahead of me to shake Bill's hand, and introduce himself to the two,
named Alex and Stanford.  They nod me in as well, and I pull up a
milkcrate to sit to the lee side of the refrigerator.
     Spike takes a seat across from me and I meet his eyes.  We
break out the bag of the chronic.  Luscious, steamy bud from East
of Eden -- somewhere to the east of us, a massive underground
facility housed in the basement of an IRS tax records facility,
where an enterprising and bored employee had started growing dope
twelve years ago, where now a steady flow of volunteers kept his
salary augmented for a brief cut of the torrent of cash.
     Expensive, but through a contact near to the source and proud
of it: a seventeen-year-old playwright, left bored in his parents'
house between days of numbing school to write brutally nihilistic
plays about characters in high schools named after colors or
letters, who, in the many volumes (contiguous) of his plays played
out every permutation of petty crisis of worthlessness that could
be imagined, coming near the realization of pointlessness in its
purity frequently, but always continuing their quest for a plot in
near tears of frustration.  Each night of meditation or writing in
his black room lined with reflectors and strobe lights, he would
smoke fat bowls of this thick, treacle-knotted bud and launch his
brain far into the void, where it would hover and produce the apt
descriptions of hopelessness he felt on life.  Even his players
smoked thick, rich, vicious bud.  A grim character, he added a
comment as we took the bag away: "You all remind me of my dead
uncle" (pointing to Spike) "and the character (Y12) I turned him
into" (pointing to me) "who (AB-) eventually took an overdose of
oven cleaner in desperation, and died vomiting blood at a school
play" (pointing at ground) "not unlike my real uncle (2), who
killed himself drinking."  Smiled.
     We smiled smoking blunt nuggets stuffed into our portable
bong, a small homemade created from a Magic Mushroom air freshener,
an odd idea of clean breathing that injected scent into the air
around it, a small plastic mushroom with incongruous, frivolous
polka dots to hold against the stench of the world, feeding its
sweetness not even honest enough for decay.  A faint smell like the
sweet bitterness of infection hanging in the tainted air when
removed, a plastic carcass to illuminate the trash.  The hanging
basket of the bowl mars the purple surface of the shroom.  Our pull
carb comes from the plastic action of a cheap cap gun.  It smokes
well but fast.  Alex or his brother becomes silent, withdrawn,
quickly as the smoke hit him from what was not intended to be the
monster hit it was.  Some people get silent: for some pot is a
cutoff from the world, the line dropping dead for a few hours. 
With the sudden displacement of reality, almost anything can
happen.  You can see terror and snap out of it clutching your feet
up from the floor, locked in some toilet somewhere, terrified of
the world and the intricate scenarios that crawl through the cracks
of the bathroom tiles to illuminate the skeletal fear of the
overwhelmed organism.  Sometimes it's the bubbling exuberance of
nothingness, but that echoes hollow, popping like champagne bubbles
against plastic glass (her name lost in the concavity exploding). 
For some dope is a mediator.  There is no relative - it hits you
all the same, but what you're doing at the time forces it through
its twists and turns.  For me pot is relaxation with a motive.
     Numbness from hours of travel clutches me like a stomach spasm
during drinking sickness.  I don't want a large hit, slow inhaling
this one...fade to negative space, a jarring withdrawal into the
abstracted.  Are we all artifacts?  Exhale.
     Spike again.  Fast hits, two, and then passing the smoking
chalice to Stanford.  Across the table, Buffalo Bill passes me a
bag of Cheetos.  "Thank you," I say, "Is this your establishment?" 
Interruption for Stanford to pass the bong to Buffalo Bill.  I pass
the bag to Alex.  Buffalo Bill takes a large hit.  I take the bong,
and Alex passes the bag to Spike.  Spike eats complacently.  I
inhale quickly, tasting ash, and dust out the bowl, filling it with
an oversize bud.  I prod it one more time into the base of the
bowl, and pass it to Alex.  Stanford has the bag; "We all are
partners in this, Dad and Alex and Van and I."  His red eyes smile
at me.  Alex's hit drifts past my face, dispersing on its way
elsewhere.  He passes the bong to Spike.  He looks at me.  The bag
of Cheetos is with me, passed by Buffalo Bill.  "Is anyone up for
another hit?" Spike asks, but we are all zoned, no-one replying. 
Again, Spike.
     One of the things I dislike about the modern novel is the
detached amusement.  Things are funny, self-conscious, but gone is
the dedication to character I've found in some older, better
novels: the negative space outlines a vague human, wary of
emotional being, scratchy as if carved from the static on a detuned
television.  But his name (Q. Public John) and life are carnival
cutouts, painted from oxymoron, contradiction and pun, and give us
some sense as readers of the work of a self-recombining intricacy,
existing as lace did hundreds of years ago, craftsmanship for
appreciation, decoration.  Cyclic redundancy test from birth to
decay to chaos in aftermath.  Each one of these countries is an egg
dropping from an ovary, blooming in luteal glory and then falling
free, leaving the swollen launch site to vanish back into the
fruit-shaped organ.  Each has its empire, which flourishes,
explodes, and dies, leaving a nation of scar tissue.  Dislikes are
likes in the end; in the end, all is paradox.  Arf - I'm zoned. 
Where?  So is everyone else.  No relative effect with marijuana,
the great equalizer.  Spike is staring at his cards, probably
hallucinating.  Would like to be in his mind, sometimes.  Awe to
respect to friendship.
     Time to go rig.  I picked up a cellular unit some time ago,
and now invoke this through a local gateway, the only way to
guarantee no tracing - the packetized nature of this protocol and
the intricacy of gateway hardware neutralizes the threat of trace
in under about fifteen minutes.  That's all I want online, anyway:
the car trip having allowed me the construction of a program to
speak this language, the immersion of protocol within protocol. 
Hacking stoned enables me to subvert the outside world and leave it
there: I'm more efficient, as I get closer to the actual machines
and ideas I'm working with by subtracting all else.  Putting the
navigation into reflex, getting my thoughts closer to the computer. 
Although it's there.  My friends used to always kid me about NWI,
but we'd always be netting under the influence.  Searching for
something, wading through epochs of digital signal, aeons of
digital noise.  Others alongside but not with us - the hunt for
something, the feeling that in all of the worlds of network there,
something has been missed - that it is a matter of screwing up the
digital eyeball and coming closer, and one will find within the
morass a human nervous system of resonant meaning to a living
organism.  But our fields of data are our graveyards; it is all
there for anyone to look, much as I search my memories of childhood
for clues to what I am now, to who I've become.  Or was destined to
become - not that, but that beyond our control could as well be
destined, or that in the past -the event is the value.
     And now I search in repetition, probing among the interlocking
minions of network subroutes, searching for what in all of that
traffic is disguised, has more to tell than its subordinate
function.  Starting at the point of entry (discovery), I find
linked systems and explore, but that is decoy - I soon learn that
thinking physically or topographically fails, as this layout is
based upon some structure defined by the structure of the protocol
building it - not crammed into any predefinition, it instead
defines itself among those things defined.  The protocol makes more
sense to me after fifteen minutes: based upon a protocol for
maintaining accurate chronological data on machines, it enables a
routine connection to be made for this transfer - into which it is
fairly easy to envelop another voice, the voice of the protocol I'd
just finished teaching my rig to talk.  Testing effective,
successful.  Onward into the void: and after several probes, I find
a connection, finally.  A moment of pause, as if I didn't believe
it - and then packing up, returning to the group.  More time to
digest this inhuman thing.
     Back to the table.  How long have I been zoned?  No way to
tell but this means I'm rather high.  Well, the orgies should start
any minute now: I saw reefer madness.  Doubtless the beast is
behind it all.  Buffalo Bill Spike Alex have broken out cards;
Stanford and I are outside the circle, obviously too stoned to
operate.  Almost paranoia, and then an uncaring, knowing that
Buffalo Bill the older stoner would not care, would be safe to be
around.  Amazing the trust that echoes even in these ultraviolet
sessions of unreality.  Odd place for a stoner shack.
     The shadows are inside the door before I've even seen them. 
There is a crack sharp hard and Bill's terrified face flashes blank
before me, hitting the table which collapses.  Shadows flash across
the light, into the darkness, Spike looking vulnerable paranoid
scared with his hands raised as brackets above his shoulder. 
Passing shots in the night.  Vanishing shadows with the tearing of
the wind of an engine starting, a car peeling away.  Buffalo Bill's
wideyed face launches into my eyes; I close them and rub them in
sublimated understanding mocking me as impotent fear, Alex and
Stanford staring numbly.  Blood has gathered under Buffalo Bill,
too fast to be anything good.  No grief as of yet, but chest
withdrawing as if approaching.  His hand, extended, must have
brushed my lap: two aces (black), a pair of eights, and a red-eyed
joker stare at me from my left thigh.
     The balcony is blanched with the weak light of dawn.  Alex
Stanford are inside making police statements; Spike and I have
assumed the role of friends and are outside of a roomful of state
cops jawing questions at Bill's survivors.  Below his body may lie
outlined or perhaps tenting a sheet taken away.  Goodnight friend.
As a final precaution we had reached into the pocket of Bill's
overalls and snagged his bag preciously, hiding it in basement tube
joints of pipes and conduits leading to nowhere, forming their own
interlocking maze for rats to race and stoners to stash.  Moments
of silence and counted breathing.  
     Unneeded we march down stairs and out the door.  Alex joins
us.  Numbness like the way the chill of the night hits you: a
stiffening uselessness from the waist upwards.  Stoically Spike
removes the battered faucet he had snagged from the junk out back
from his jacket as I slide a patch of screen ripped from spare
screen in the same area from beneath my shirt.  I then hand him my
cup of water, which he pours into the U-bend of the pipe, then
sealing the connection end of the faucet with screen.  This comes
from the kitchen sink of a rather nice kitchen and has a wide bent
to it like a socket wrench.  I hand a chip of American Thai
(smooth, muscular) bud which he slides into the depression of
screen.  
     Alex bends to it, and a smell like some odd, beautifully
burned earth rises into the night.  Spike and I take hits next, our
bong behaving beautifully.  I can't tell if the stars are flashing,
or if they're just there.
     Sometime later we reappear inside.  I can't remember how much
time.  The cops are gone: wide open room.  What do you wanna bet
that was a waste?  Stanford's eyes cast at us.  Alex stoic grimly
proposing sleep.  Not a bad idea; Spike and I explain our situation
briefly to a few flat whistles, and leave with our best wishes
burnt on our tongues.  Bill's eyes flutter behind my lids.  His
cold hand rests on my lap.  Christ.  No matter how many bits or
bytes flow past my eyes, they can never equal feeling Bill's there. 
I resolve never to mistake a human for machine again, no matter how
easy the inverse is.  I used to think everything ended in paradox. 
I now know to know things as inverses, as those are their ends. 
The rattling of the unwanted sip of coke in the aluminum echo
chamber of the can, a ticking like some wearingdown machine. 
Emptiness and abandon await the hollow.  I feel the hollow.
     We dodge a rotting cow carcass, and pass through two
intersections of unmarked dirt roads, and then turn back into the
city.  Lights line a path of approach, their flashing multitude of
color spreading like a wound into the breadth of the city.  Like
angels, like holy.  A breath taken in fast.  The lights blink like
a pond stilled with bacteria: a sheet of silence.  Sagging yellow
lights pass overhead.  We rush in on skeins of air, the comforting
cruising sound flashing in my ears.  
     Into the void of the valley filled with night, and then over
a hill, cresting it with morning, the refracted burnglow stinging
our eyes as it is caught in the dirt attached careless to our
windshield.  Past a hill, two cacti, some scattered farmhouses
under a skyscraper, complementary dead-end turns, a grove of pine
trees, cold acres of wheat, a tanker casting its shadow alone in a
spread of sand, banana trees shading an artichoke farm, six maguey
plants near an aluminum trailer, and mesquite interspersed
throughout the rocky flatland.  Along more road: absolutely flat,
laid on wet on the flat soft and deep-packed sand, occasional
basket of a compact tumbleweed.  A field of poppies.  And then the
shoulder turns to gravel, and we are cruising on the bed of a dense
loam of crushed rock.  
     Through one more canted bend through rock: spines on the
rockface from the intruding needles of the engineers, their
injections placing the shock-resounding blasts deep in the pink
softness of rock.  Rusted cage of a lowbuilt car.  And then angular
geometries of rising electroneurotic signs, twitching out their
messages in the unhurried instancy of electric current.  More
allies between loave-boxes of stores, their fragile hollowness
exploited by the contrast of light filling their guts.  Cars matte
in the dark, occasional vein of fire in a passing reflection along
a door, or maybe a blotting blur of it as the door opens, a man
talking across his tympanic roof.  A billboard swings into view,
with an anonymous black font printed fixedly on the white
background, an icon of vertical jail bars in the lower right
corner.  Spike catches me with his crosscut glance in the aerial
box of the car as we swoon into the valley.  This is Meekin.
     The air holds thickly together, a thin mat of solidification
and purulence hanging its drenched mantle over the refractive
brightness of the signs and the stolid somnolence of the grey-stark
buildings.  There is a drawn-out sweet smoke industrial smell, the
wheedling sinister whisper of the fumes encoded in air surfeited
with smudge.  Down a hill of parked cars, the roofs gaining
fragments of a moon as we ascend.  Beyond the rim of hills that
defines this valley the close-glowing palette of clouds is sucked
into the fecund earth. 
     What we find in the valley is singularly beautiful: a local
netlink, with low usage, oddly so for a town the size of the one
ahead.  However, no complaints, especially when the padlock is the
only security method discovered locally.  A quick rig links me with
full bandwidth, and after sharing a quickie smoke of some Mexican
Coronita green (rolled in paper with "It's a Boy" in blue letters
on it) with Spike, I invoke whatever demons await on the net. 
Contact is almost immediate, as if they knew a frequency we would
meet on by hand of Fate the defunct.  The site looks local, from
the speed, but that is highly doubtful (I remember that time
requests are prioritized networking, from some class some days ago,
my last contact with the outside world) and the setup looks too
extravagantly competent to be from this area of hingelocked back
doors and decaying superstructures.  
     Into the abyss: a divergent twisting series of connections, a
penetration into a self-forming structure that from every angle
resembles itself, but then expands to twist inside, and portray
itself in the inverse perspective.  Making hacking it difficult:
necessary to think like it.  Its primary structure seemed to be an
infinite series of machines until I realized that the structure was
built of objects, which could be on one or several machines, near
or far: the advantage of a hidden protocol was greater expansion
without fear, an ability to know data in its own context and group
it by characteristics of the data and not by machine or financial
structure; this realization enables me to plough into machine code
and documentation in one object, one that soon learned some of my
request patterns, and began to preassemble queries and
subcontextual searches for me.  To every grouping of data it
recognized a surface pattern; underneath that patternit recognized
the subtextual relevance of my requests, and assembled a structure
of response from them.  This system is amazing, I thought,
frighteningly efficient.  The only problem I see with it is its
unfriendliness to humans.  None of the commands are designed around
a human mind, but that of a database, a series of internals, and
the responses fire data into another engine, as if piping through
a conduit.  The only reason it sees me: it has no idea I'm human.
     Or am I?  I think, reacting in turn to another response.  So
much of the past has been a running, a response, that I feel more
like a vending machine.  S'okay.  Spike pats my shoulder - we're at
about the four hour mark, and he has waited - and then I feel in my
mouth the end of a fat jay, and into my nostrils comes first the
fresh minty scent of good green pot, and then the dry abstract
smell of flame.  The first inhalation is huge, and when my eyes
roll back Spike takes the joint from my mouth and smokes.  We take
turns, wordless, and then I thank him with my eyes and return to my
rig.  Some hours of penetration await me; that was good pot, the
world swims wide, potentiality; the system awaits me.
     In my early days of hacking I'd been at first a brute force
blaster, finding wide pathways and blasting them in, but had found
that unstimulating after a while.  No point to the repetition of
ease, of brute sensation.  More sense to go for finesse, and to
have some rules about what you did, leaving all else up to freedom. 
Like being able to play an instrument well, in hacking you don't
need to slam things around anymore or rely on gimmicks to get
effects when you're good.  Several years and many machines took
that point, and then I realized I'd departed a basic field, and
could only then see how much effort it would take to get good. 
Practice outside of school - never took computer classes in school,
partially from paranoia but partially because most were too
directed, not enough freedom of serendipic tunneling - and some
more years got me to the stage of comfort, of being able to speak
the language of the net and of computers.  Now I had entered a new
stage: my discipline, although hidden behind junk food and dope,
had taken me this far, taught me a language and an art, and now I
had ascended a new level, and found a new network.  Thinking: it
can't be that hard to find this, just a matter of time when you're
good.  And then - who's running this thing?
     Not much time to ponder.  I grab some documentation on the
languages of the protocols, which appears to be variations on the
basic protocol, and by the language spoken specifies a lot of the
object manipulation, leaving the rest up to intricate, compact
coding.  All of which appears to be designed to look random, to be
invisible to the security eye, or any eye but the one acquainted
with the language already.  I couldn't have done better myself. 
The only aspect of this net that staggers me: who's running this
thing, if it takes adjustment time to understand requests phrased
by humans?  Was this a mutation from the endless dead cycles of
AIs, databases, servers, protocols, daemons, and bored outpost
workstations?  Selfawareness?  I can't find that, but the eerie way
the network reshapes itself in response to queries, rerepresenting
data and objects as if the viewfinder had twisted in a fall, and
the way it builds extensible data structures as if anticipating the
range of question, have alerted me to an underlying structure more
powerful than most of what I had witnessed to that date.
     More data expands into view.  I think it operates by finding
inverses and working from there, creating a span of possibility,
playing with the calibration of infinity, and then rebuilding
itself based upon the data.  Part of what held back my thinking was
the extremist nature of it; when I got a dead end, I'd back up and
pull out, react in the opposite rather than the inverse.  Computing
inverses it was ahead of me.  A terrifying machine to meet in
conflict; a terrifying network to penetrate.  Security buzzes
around us (the machine - net - and I) but I realize I am covered by
the machine, that its masking of my activities has lead them to be
assimilated as routine processes of the net.  With all that
shifting, it must be easy - or am I incorporated into this thing? 
Tiles of the floor.  Onward.
     The structure seems a mess to my infant mind for it, placing
it compartmentally.  But there is intricacy here, like the
interlocking lace of a vacant lot flower, that I can barely see,
much less decode.  I invoke a few demons on my rig to help me,
having them process incoming information and filter, translating
from the original.  So much in language.  Vaguely aware of smoking,
and of lighting a religious artifact.  Just more data in the brain. 
The world stretches before me, a series of helical extensions
mutating in response to its turning, represented as chronology but
more accurately delineated by requests, which I can see mutate the
structure from within.  So much complexity.  I query the machine
for data on myself, a prime hacker mistake, but I must know: how
does it think human?  And of what?
     A pause.  Drywall mouth.  Movement in the periphery, taking in
Spike in a corner, waking up at my movement.  Ash taste.  And here
comes: a brief synopsis of past, police record included, some
assessment of abilities from an official test, parking violations,
a couple of bulletins cross-referencing me from various computer
security agencies (and two private firms), and an employment
history complete with current address.  Some of this stuff I hadn't
known, and had never expected to see in one place.  Queries for
financial and educational data are available, and I run them,
sending them scurrying for information in the background.  And then
more data comes: labeled current intrusion report.  I must have
gasped; Spike is watching.  I open the file, and there is a listing
of connections, a report of activities, and finally, a listing of
the contents of my machine.  The protocol works both ways.  The
inverse is accomplished.  And suddenly empty I was, feeling the gut
echo of realization, the ashen fatigue descending over my shoulders
to blank me out.  I break connection.
     "Let's go."  Not blankly, but surprisingly normal sounding. 
Spike helps me, and we hit the road.  He watches me in the mirror. 
Concern.  For now I don't care: I understand, and from this
structure - well, I am a part of the structure.  And there is no
inverse to be found.  We descend the valley.
      We fold into the parking lot of a motel, the ground eroding
under us with the roll of gravel.  Into the office and the clerk is
worn narrow drab by the job, I am guessing: hair curved downward
with the listlessness of summer heatbaked leaves, lifeless in their
collapse.  Under that a defensive nose.  Still more to the narrow
face, mainly smooth lines worn uninspired by aging.  Clothing
matches colors conservatively: a purple shirt organized around the
boxes of the pockets, and grey-black slacks with frosting on the
creases, running past the dryclean wearing.  Eyes submerged in the
tiredness flowing upward in the red of his lower lids.  Spike and
I need hours to rest.  A transaction of cash, no cards, a room key
with a thank you attached and we're into the moist unused smell of
a motel room, a component box in a forest of them stretching
defiant against the direction of the freeway, which leads away to
the east.

#unconscious: low, medium
#unconscious: deeper stretch of sleep, density descending
(soaking into sand, heavy wetness)
#unconscious: apocalyptic intensity
(the motel floor collapses downward into feathers, the tatters of
the room itself reassembling elsewhere.  they evade through the
oily water of reality and appear out of the blackness elsewhere. 
everything's an elsewhere.  these words I -- your slumbering brain,
unslumbering but unlimbered -- speak to you have nothing to do with
reality, and follow a linear contiguity only in the base meanings
of the words, what whatever is left of your interpretive process
will grab in immediate weariness.  the actual aspect of this
conversation is in the multiplicity of these speech units, the
harmonics on the chords, which are strung together with a real
theory and not the weary expedient non-entity of structure most
speak.  the door is a pink-grey in the loss of light; the sink runs
blatant, the silver faucet turning above it, the chin of water it
drops steaming into the hole.  the hole sucks it down with the
washing of a thirstiness.  in the closet there is a ton of luggage,
piled upon itself in its slickness of imitation leather, aluminum,
plaid and textured surface resembling the goosebumps prickle of a
forearm.  mother garner the edge of my eye.  i'm going places for
the paste, taste.  is there a doctor in the house?  doctor f., so
good to see you arriving, and so good to see you haven't noticed
anyone here.  good to see your soul.  sold american.  the cars
punch by on the crunching of the road collapsing a spine smashed
impact rocked back into itself to take the blast, instead crumbling
in an instant like the gritty popping of a nose under fist. 
remember that time you fought cathers?  catheters.  something you'd
bypass now.  draining of the waste.  waist: the exercise clinic,
blue and silver buffet against the freeway feeder, cars mosing out
with their blunt and faded probisci.  probar: to experience.  need
for experiential data?  no thanks i've already lost a leg.  to try
out.  all is tried, mother, i've got to pass this grade.  wearing
my eyes spread out like the letters on this cheap newsprint
schoolpaper, must go on.  tired yellow round the ridges burning
with fatigue like this overburnt kitchen light, a yellowing of the
corners of the windows in their starchy mountings.  doctor f.
departs with his papers, discussing acceptable loss.  cars rush by
on the white road.  wearing into it their grey smear of exhaust. 
tired.  right, more road.  it is all roads.  life is many days. 
mother?  must go on.  did you know you're a scorpio?  and i an
aries?  oh, well, that was supposed to go on.  but one owns our own
dreams.  arms fatigued at the root, reaching out.  must push,
stretch onward to pull over darkness, pulling it down beneath the
gut and out of sigh, bottoms of feet itching tickling as if
prepared for a needle so many times in the doctors office, flesh
puckered for the slinking stab of the needle.  in quick, the pole
of steel.  into you.  but don't let it touch you. up fast, up fast,
must over the wall -- )
#unconsciousness: resurrect, retire.
(pulling, tugging of anaesthesia)
#unconsciousness: restrict.  retire retirement.

     Spike's eyes in my face.  Stodgy retirement of darkness and
comfort.  "Good morning pal we've got road to take," Spike moving
onward toward the bathroom, I can't see his steps.  Okay.  Waking. 
Bring me home.
     A shower helps: soap under the arms, soap the chest (enough
chest hair there to stand in rows like cattails above dunes.  Wet
they trail in adhesion in the water-slickness of my chest. 
Thickness, resilient flesh with the hollowness of my lungs coughing
in the steamy air behind it).  Curt sharpness of the motel soap,
foamy thick orange squeezed into my palm, dying my hair shades of
a guava smell.  The muffled voice of Spike is a broad murmur-tune
punctuated with the blast syllables of his accentuation.  Time to
leave the shower; time to hit the road; time would be of the
essence were it not indeterminate, time would be nice.
     Sunlight always shocks, the eyes receding tender under the
buffet of its approach.  Stark fingers shocked straight forward
into the sockets.  Spike leads and I stagger, wet-haired, a vague
doggy smell on the wetness.  Am I raw animal?  Crush the skull. 
Eyes must be a little tired, hanging dark and low in the shade of
the hair over my forehead, dark, wet.  Spike leads and we turn down
the corner of a dry but palatable drag, a main line of this town. 
Quiet, suspended, with a newspaper paper punched out by the wind
hanging like a dead jellyfish in the stagnant grey waters above the
streets.  Somnolent visions of Atlantis, KY, the seat of Meekin
County.
     Some eyes glance us as we cross the facade of a local store. 
Muffled gazes with chins fastly bound into themselves.  Jawlines
defined in the sterile isolation of stillness.  I ask one local,
checkered blue shirt and broad lined hands, where I can find a road
map, and he answers factually, quickly: "At the corner there is a
gas station which will sell maps.  They cost about three dollars." 
Thank you, I say, unnerved somewhat, and move out of his stare to
pursue the gas station.
     Awareness of what disturbs me, squirming in my shirt, about
that dialogue would be forthcoming, the realizing that no eyes
followed me, no extraneous conversation followed the directions. 
I had the straight dope laid on me like a crowbar.  Right along the
line of my nose.  Onward to the gas station, pushing our legs down
into dusty cement to feel the impact, a jolting reassurance.  Maps
-- $2.95.  Guy knows his gas station.  Gastronomical: brittle candy
bars, thick toffees, gummy globules of sugar fruit, resilient
capsules of hot cinnamon candy, brown sugar, apple pies,
jawbreakers, chewing gum, jellybeans bagged by the pound.  Where
the hell are chips, or anything?  Pay the guy $3.11 total for a
map; he's stark factual, asking three-elev-en please, no smile when
we entered or left, a blinking cursor on his terminal.
     Back out to the street and we see the first one: the churning
muscle (fistsized like a heart) hanging over the erect vein, the
fine finger of a skinny needle slicing a slide into the flesh. 
Blood mixes the substance in a flourishing hand of red; the plunger
fills the arm under the momentary thrust of firmness of the thumb,
uniting the body in action where it had previously been loose,
abstracted on a park bench.  Not the same guy, but they might have
been brothers from the stare, he wrote in his diary, back in the
hotel room, somewhere in the future.  Meantime: Needle slicks out,
droplet of blood licked away, the untied innertube peeling from the
arm.  Unselfconscious entirely.  He readjusts his shirt, rolling it
slowly, twitchingly down his arm, and at the end has an immensely
direct sense of calm.
     Erect he walks across the street slowly, his feet bonded to
the shadows he leaves for a hanging instant on the pavement.  Spike
and I inhale an accustomed tolerance of drug use and the twisting,
insinuating, strange ways it pervades a life, makes the user an
upright citizen with no fear from either the needle or the eyes
tracking its silver-scarlet plunge.  Longshadows stand out down the
lane from either eye; there are no cars, our realization.  Spike I
and the habitual nervousness of such contextual disparity stand
aback into the shade of the gas station overhang.  The cursor waits
inside.
     I creep an eye over the figures on benches, still, their
forelegs angular to the ground, their backs and heads straight and
eyes ahead.  Almost military: a dedication to inaction.  I don't
like this town, Spike is thinking or maybe saying, and I agreeing
with a sudden urgency to pull back to the road and go when a car
rolls to a silent pause in front of us, chrome glistening over
white breadth and black confines.  There is no mistake these cops
are here for us; it is only one, and he motions us inside the car. 
We get in back.  An admission of guilt or maybe shock.
     Each word means a different thing, none of which are its
dictionary meaning.  It all has to do with where it's said; "jail"
on the street, in an apartment with a known number on the door on
a street with familiar landmarks, is an entirely different entity
from "jail" in a police car that knows unfamiliar land equally
well.  The cop is bulky, compressed into a stout bullet with
reflective sunglasses, on which slide the corners and buildings. 
Spike is upright, stiff, and I am aware of the sweat on my thighs
infiltrating the fake leather of the copcar seat.  Nothing here is
connected; this cop is unaware of anything but routine, the people
on the streets are unaware of anything but the stare, the gas
station man waits for a terminal input.  Terminal, disconnected. 
The line is dead, sir; would you care to hold?  This place is far
on hold.  Should've edited those felony convictions to parking
violations.
     Into the air conditioning which squeezes the water from air,
instantly chilling the drying flesh.  Dessicate in these cells. 
Wait here: a stiff voice like four straight fingers held up at the
chest.  The cop turns a corner out of sight; from the desk the two
eyes of an attendant follow us in our stillness.  Spike leans over
to ask, and is reminded of his distancing requirement of four feet,
and as he steps back is addressed by number, told his ordinance
number violated, and told to wait.  Stiff fingers.  Another cop
comes back, and we see first cop moving into a back room near a
coffee machine, pulling back a chair of aluminum frame and padded
platforms, taking from his back pocket a length of rubber tubing. 
Spike turns and my eyes meet his straight on, a sudden thrust of
dangerous awareness.  We are not even cuffed.
     Taken down the hall, now moving into a holding cell.  Shock
muffles our mewls.  A three-part collision of steel cage on door,
lock on lock, and then catch on lock-rim, a chin of steel worn
shiny by use.  Eyes are opened in the darkness.  The same starkness
of expression.  We learn our visuals from context: by knowing wall,
we distinguish human.  We can smell the drug, on them, in them.  In
the dark.  Here the context equals the eyes, which bore at us with
the patience and awareness of a wall.  The only living thing in
this room is Spike, and the twitching of the muscles under his
shoulderblades, something that only happens when he's really
nervous.  I put my palms on the muscles and grind them in, feeling
the spasms release like a trampoline with each push.  Let them
think we're gay.
     No eyes even find this.  We are more wall.  Do they even have
words for wall and face here?  Or is it morewall came downwall to
us all, wall, and from there we walled ourselves in, went out with
a wall?  At an interval from our entry, as if a clock's hour hand
clicked into place, one of the group facing the bars emptily palms
a needle, and draws tubing across his bicep with the help of the
silent man next to him, who carefully verifies the tube is on and
then resumes the twilight stare.  A spoon cooks in the background,
and is passed over.  The hunger of the sliding in, and the head
moves back briefly as the drug rushes through the valleys and
canyons of his brain.  Spike sits two down from him: "Mind if I ask
what that is?"
     Working, steadily attentive, assiduous at cleaning the works:
"Stoicaine."  

#interlude: connect
(past tense deep in the folds of brain)

login: FIELD
pass: 


Welcome, FIELD REPAIR.  To access FCLAD, type 'FCLAD' at the
prompt.

It is 09:38:17 GMT (-0600).

FCLAD: FCLAD

Welcome to FCLAD!  Please enter L S C E Q:

&| C

Enter the drug to cite by brand name, chemical name, or common
name:
STOIC?

1 records found.

Stoicaine.
Methylaldehide Disodium Lethium Chlorosomatomate (.4 g).
see also Shock[7], Soma[1], Strych-9.

Stoicaine is the latest in the family of chemical subversives
reported from the streets of major cities.  Acting apparently upon
the forebrain neurons, it acts as a blocker as well as a
transmitter of vital neurochlorides, resulting in a reductive
effect upon forebrain activity as well as the pleasant release of
endorphins that similar opiates possess.  Not much is known about
this drug as most subjects have died in police captivity, but
according to users interviewed in the field it 'makes everything a
shade of light blue' and reduces the brain's creative and
connective impulses, allowing it to record data without effect on
memory, but leaving it virtually non-interactive with the outside
world.  Users have been known to sit motionless for hours in
perfect contentment.  

FCLAD: disconnect
#interlude: return

     The memories that impinge upon the memory for their very fear
value.  Doubt for that drug -- yes -- no more -- on the way toward
real believership.  Stares of rough faces into the shadows of jail
bars without a concern for motion.  Normally prison cells activate
not as much to find a victim in the newcomer but to assess the
threat of the latest entrant; not even that occurred.  Utter
contentment of imposed solitude.  Solitude now perceptual upon our
tired lids; confusion exhausts, the roomful of nonhumans of our
species tiring us doubly.  Spike and I lapse to vast sleep.
     Awakening: the needle stinging into my arm.

#interlude: terror
(...)
#disconnect

     The hands draw back from my arm.  Redness suffuses the
whiteness in splotches on the skin.  The air is thick.  There are
seven in the room; the light is not dim enough to be unable to see
them.  Spike who I came with is to my right by three feet.  Blue
suffuses the air in a light wash.  Coming down hard from above. 
Something like falling backward, sinking into the ground.  The
ground around with the idea of mushroom to it.
     ...Door opening, three crashes.  About a second between each. 
Trays all around; there is food here.  It has been four hours since
the last food.  Eat.  The trays leave with scraping on the beige
floor with scratches of steel.  ...A need.  Vague.  Very vague:
twitching.  Must find.  Some thoughts of need.  Day blends to
night: in the darkness, a pinprick, and then sleep.
     So still.  There is nothing here without a word or number. 
There are four walls.  There are two doors.  There are one toilet
and one sink, one drain.  There are seven.  There is one.  Or is
there one?  Counted already.  There are seven.  Each day is twenty-
four hours.  This is a net stretched over everything, an enwrapped
structure.  Everything fits into it.  You even die at a time.
     Over two from me is Spike.  Quiet stares into room.  The door
opens somewhere behind; a hand squeezing my arm, walking down the
hall.  One more takes Spike.  The door crashes three times.  In
front of the desk: dismissed with a ticket for Loitering, fine $85. 
Spike pulls out $43.12, in one twenty ($20), three fives ($5), four
ones ($1), seven quarters ($0.25), thirteen dimes ($0.10), twenty-
one nickels ($0.05) and two pennies, $0.01 each.  I have $21.77:
one twenty ($20), one dollar bill ($1), three quarters ($0.25) and
two pennies, each also $0.01.  There is an order to these amounts:
add them, it is $64.89, which is the price of a fifty-pound green
metal wheelbarrow in the store on the way around the third turn on
the way to the police station.
     ...There is given to me a pen, blue with a clicker that needs
to be thumb-punched so that the pen-tip is out, and a clipboard,
somewhere where the signature needs to be made.  Made.  Spike takes
pen, does same.  In front of the glass-eyed woman clerk is the same
stack of papers littleman had; she strikes through them, and tells
us to report to the following address, by mail if necessary, twice
in the next twelve months.  Seamless, her eyes flawlessly alert. 
We are allowed now to walk through the tinted door (they let us go
knowing we go nowhere) and take ten steps down the street, where we
pause, and sit on the slatted bench.  Beneath the slats the sun
runs in strips: 12 of them.
     ...Sweat creeps from the back of the sides of my head to my
eyesockets, rimming them in wetness and continuing down my face. 
Sweat chills and then emerges on my skin, getting colder. 
Stoicaine is cold, but this is much colder.  Stoicaine cold freezes
all of the air and objects in the air, making them move slowly, and
talk slowly if they do.  Everything is a light blue, it is a calm. 
Like water, but water doesn't feel like anything but air.  Runs
faster though over wrists.  There is no need really for sleep, but
the order fits lying down for eight hours during the darkness.  Now
more sweat.  There is need.  Last time there was need ... , ..,
there was an occurrence.  The drug: more.  Give us each day our
daily bread...
     ...Goddamn, it is cold.  Frozen to what would be thirty
degrees.  The drugstore clock says not, says eighty.  Twitching
intense, odd free jazz slitting my veins.  The bench vibrates with
another twitching.  Spike is one away from me.  Goddamn, cold. 
Goddamn.  Cold.  And suddenly the parchment of sidewalk in front of
me: I vomit cold yellow splattering acidic, running into the grass
in slow fingers.  Across the street an eye or three are on me.
     ...Impact jar of perspective as Spike yanks the left arm out
of socket, and by it we go down the road, to our car.  Starting,
and leaving.  And the road begins to pass as we both vomit, twitch,
and sweat, the cold sweat of a morgue slab or icy winter water
falling into sand on a beach with no one else there but vague
memories of their presence, once upon a time.

#final (interlude)
(crescent casting shattered halos of streelight passing by my car
the whisking noise of wind like lives souls torn out of life and
thrown into the endless spiralling orbit of descent, the heat of
the city's decay rising like mist from the streets, their asphalt
pores breathing pure oily ancient down my neck, the pressing weight
of time insurmountable flowing through my veins, aging crack and
die, like streets bleached black to grey, continual fade of days,
the isolation of driving alone through streets marked nameless on
vague maps of mind, more cruise control for the thoughts in
isolation, something big or small vile or beautiful, the impact
rests you here, in the contemplation of life from a chunk of steel
muttering random through constructs of eroded concrete; this is the
life of the loner and the joiner, to drive while city sleeps and
watch its lights, almost a vigil for the empathy that you can't
help feel, the same empathy that puts you in the lonely mode, the
withdrawal, feeling the weight of life knowing that more suffering
is here, present, only kept away by time, that the now is a vaguely
warm damp car, the smell of it too present in the nostrils,
relaxing, the feeling that life moves past the car even in sleep,
past your eyes somnolent with machine to keep going; this isn't an
isolation but a resurrection, a rediscovery of one's narration one
tells oneself to sleep at night, a realistic readjustment, the
stolid swallowing of the truths to big to tell, the determination
of motion, the fledgling might of empathy, and the wondering where
your friends are, where do you end up? and realization that things
move, the time burns buffing into the windshield, the days draw
long like calloused old fingers drawing a cigarette from the pack,
nothing more to do but kill one more and watch the road, the night
encompassing, the fear of darkness, the love of light, the love of
the freedom of darkness, the flight through cavernous clearings
disclosed, the wrath and love and loneliness pulling through the
taught tendons of your fingers tied to the wheel, a determination
to drive until morning is a sensible entity, a calling to pull the
soul into its own, to pull life forth before the dawn, watching
grey concrete pass its own shadows, the buildings rising into the
daylight, the trash clattering down gutters to hide, a mass of
people receeding, comfortable in namelessness but not realizing
that is never true, that in the cacophony of our machined empires
the resonant human truths are what we can't ignore, pipe-bound on
rooftops, sharing a jay near the surf, burning a bowl in a parking
lot or just killing beers on a porch, into the void of intoxication
beyond the void of our enforcement, a determination to see things
in their layout, when that is all known, has been known, and the
passing of the bowl over the glow of friends' eyes is the noblest
truth i'll ever know)

#consumption (irridescence)
#continue
     The car wheels a squeak out in the turn, and we peel off like
an airplane coming home.  The files are cleared we are safe and I
can't feel it, the hollow resonance of security or delusion.  


                              II

     Four days later we will be in downtown Houston, under the grey
shadows of smog between glass pillars reaching toward the babbling
clouds of the sky.  Small injections of morphine will help this. 
Spike has found us a home, a way from that place.  His spine was
chilled like mine but not as badly.  He pulled me out.  Thank you
Spike.  If once I was afraid of the word love for a man, from
expectation and insult: I love you Spike.  People do shit all of
the time because they feel they should, or they think it'll get
them something, but Spike brought me out of that hell, the land of
cold flesh walking with gutless dissonant eyes.
     Spike also worded me on the computer: gotta speak its
language.  But this was over a fat joint of Columbian green (stuff
the locals don't smoke; to their practiced taste, it's too much
like Jamaicano, but Spike and I know this stuff crushes like a
trash compactor on overdrive and have no intention of giving it up)
when we found some stoner buddies on our way north.  We bounced
between Cleveland and Iowa a few times, then began a slow perusal
of northern states.  All clear records came from the south.  I
decided to verify the state of our records with my new friend of
unease, the network I couldn't imagine naming, and cautiously
extended a local construction of some machines that I had
commandeered for that purpose (belonging to a paper company a
continent away).  The local architecture defeated it; too much
noise.  
     From other machines I built a contextual network across three
continents, and then scaled down, as this network doesn't care
about size, only data.  It links them in concepts, contexts.  So I
built an emulation of myself, a machine which existed to thrust its
hidden signal into the ever-flowing cacaphony of mainstream noise,
encoding within that signal another protocol, an insurgent noise
which overwhelmed and then entered the matrix of the hidden
network.  Based it upon a little used feature of data relativity
within the network - from an inverse, I constructed a self-
referential argument; this spread confusion and susceptibility to
bogus responses to more-data requests.  I am amazed how easily it
worked - but more.  I queried it on me and Spike, and found Spike
had no record, and I had a traffic ticket (a cashier's check hit
the US mail service that afternoon, in an envelope addressed to the
DPS in an envelope addressed to a local friend who'd mail it) but
no serious record.  The welt had closed, the scar tissue receded. 
Tissue lost in the mass of it, pouring past, some of it alive, with
some ideas, but most dead, grey, unaware.  I asked it several
times, but it reported no more intrusion requests.
     Sometime around Athens, TX, I lost all ability to connect with
it.  The protocol eclipsed along a chromatic and vanished into the
noise, pulling away into a void too large to grasp.  I at first
panicked and locked myself in a toilet for six hours, afraid of
another arrest, the jail time.  Must have been the Cyclopic Thai
that Spike and I had murdered an eighth of earlier that day.  I
tried more connects, feeling braver when the next sun rose and I
was free, clear, alive.  Too much noise, but I found the assumption
of the noise calming: it is in here somewhere, and I will find it. 
Others fear the noise, but that's a brute-force thrust, not the
finesse of hacking.  A beauty, a martial art like all of them are. 
It awaits me, or a new narration of me, an identity to borrow for
a jaunt with this system.  No mocking, it just moves: it processes
like all else, with no thought for its death, but with movement
toward life.  Someday it may live.  Hopefully at that point in time
I'll have a network to watch it (of my own, or rather - borrowed,
to become my own).  A cool night breeze washes in over the desert,
disturbing small whorls of dust to coagulate in the dark
inscrutable air.  So much noise in the silent desert, but so much
of it - so much freedom.  I have learned its value.
     Four days more and we will be free again to move, with
hopefully the small worm I unleashed across the network
metamorphosizing into uselessness, having eaten all of our files. 
With those gone we have relative freedom to build our identities
and begin a relatively clean life again, although any disturbances
may resurrect our files.  No problems - from the perspective of
freedom, I'm less afraid of screwing up.  Caution is the byword, as
Spike used to smirk.  We are however going to cautiously murder
tons of really good green pot, or maybe vary and go for some of the
dry brown stuff that makes you peel your eyelashes off the ceiling. 
Houston's not a bad city, but another location.  More than
location, but it has its advantages:
     Below us by thirty miles lies Galveston, with an honest and
beautiful blue sky.  The inverted silhouette of the expanse of the
ocean, the insignia of freedom.

[-sven:[email protected]]

/[email protected]---------\
| In our continuing search for meaningful survival among the labyrinthine  |
| complexities of modern decay, resonant human truths are what we cannot   |
| afford to ignore.                                                        |
\--------------------------------------------------------------------------/

[EOF]

note: this was the last article. 

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