Shuffling Upstairs (Echo Chamber excerpt)

There are no doors street level. Three story hovels and miscellaneous hostels spew derelicts into the streets at the base at a minimum safe distance of 200 meters.

Polly narrows her eyes at a stack of coffee shaded conapts.

Her legs lift over the soggy bottom of the threshold. Splintered and rat eaten cardboard splatters the tile floor of the apartment building’s entryway. Thirty pairs of shoes are scattered in clumps, brown, black, sneakers, guest slippers, dress shoes, loafers, house shoes, geta, crocs, and the wires of long rotted disposable footwear. Each discarded foot covering emanates a sorrowful aura the climbs through the dead roaches, stained moulding, and attempts to breach the antiseptic barrier of Polly’s Death’s Head boots. Her neon shadow falls through the door and darkens the tile. Flashing sprays of green, red, and cathode blue pour in the space between the woman and the door frame from the Pollo Campero across the street as the chicken struts along the marvellous marquee.

Green Fleur de lis wallpaper crawls in wrinkly ribbons down the back wall as Polly shuffles in. The process of unbuckling the deaths head boots reminds her to pop another stick of gum into her mouth to help cover the greasy smell of this apartment building. She also thinks about her sister, the last shower she had, the note she left, the men, women, and erotic others that who’s hearts she’s left bleeding and twisted in the crossfaded days of her younger self. The woman five years her elder, with the experimental music hobby, the range of middle-aged men, the boys, each of her firsts, and, as the left boot is removed, her days rooting in the garbage for stale loaves and ketchup packages, the extra clothes, her first encounter with Old Merve. This last flashback threatens to swamp her brain and she summons her tranquil place. “The beach. The beach. Think of the beach.”

The sky is a simulated blue. No birds foul the air. Waves and the subtle wind are the sounds that help drive the dirty memory from recall.

She lifts her boots and begins heading up the squealing stairs. As she pins the boots under her armpit she fiddles with a piece of gum. She squints while peeling the foil wrapping from the wilting green stick. Her feet on the stairs wobble without her eyes to keep balance.

The gum really likes the foil. It does not want to be separated and fairly communicates this nonverbally to Polly by adhering staunchly to the uncoated foil underside. She tries but is unsuccessful. Several stripes of foil cling yet to the gum before she loses patience and pops the piece into her mouth.

Bruce’s Dream

Okay okay. **cracks knuckles** first part I remember leaving a festival with my fam, they had on their onzies and my buddy Ram was there. So I get on a plane and am like “see you back home!” Cut to me being captured in some sort of aquatic jail and being experimented on, not in a bad way like – let’s turn Bruce into a super hero or military experiment and he can drink water like a hamster run on his wheel swim real good and learn about nutrition. This goes on for a period of time but then I check my little calendar and I realize I need to get back “home” I befriend the driver of the campus people mover – like one of those Disney trains that’s locked to a rail and moves slowly around the park. I guess they were cool. I cannot remember their gender but they wore black and the people mover was painted black and white with like the science company logo. Driver sneaks me out in a burlap sack and puts me in the driver cabin with them. Then we start driving away but there are tourists in the other train cars and they dunno what is going on but scientists start chasing us. We’re on this dumb rail, but the car can pivot like 90 degrees at this point near the road. Driver normally does this swiftly because the cab has a fat ass and sticks out a little into traffic. This time the driver turns, ass of the cab is hanging out and a police car enroute to fuck up our days blasts against the driver cab and this disconnects the rest of the train And, somehow cuz it’s a dream, allows the driver to drive the little people mover cab like a golf cart.

We start driving away down the road into the city, palm trees and a cool purple twilight sunset are happening, our golf cart is running out of batteries and the cops are behind us.

We stall near like a storm drain or concrete river ditch, like you have in big cities. Then the driver says they’ll stay in the car while I continue to run. They wish me luck and I give them a hug before wiggling out of the cab. I crawl through this ditch and I can hear like a helicopter and the police swarming around the driver

I just keep army crawling away.

I crawl up an incline, in this dark little concrete tunnel. I just keep crawling. I can hear the street out side but the tunnel is dark except for a light ahead.

I keep going. I am also wearing my normal black pants, black t-shirt, and black sport coat. I guess the experiments also made my hair glittery and purple and maybe like I got some blue eye shadow going on but as I crawl through the tunnel I get a little dirty. At the end the tunnel comes to like a big glass box. I can see ppl walking down the street and shopping and shit, it’s busy, lots of tourists, and then I’m in this glass box on my belly looking good and wondering what the fuck. Thy can see me and there are cops setting up a road block wayyy further ahead.

The tourists start to take photos of me and ask me to pose since I’m looking so photogenic. (I was) and then professional photographers show up. So many ppl taking glamour shots of me in this glass box that I can’t see the street or cops behind them anymore.

Next the floor of the box sinks and then we fade into the next dream location.

It’s like an old Japanese ryokan. The owner is this ex patriot dood who looks like Christian Bale from American Hustle. Greasy and shady AF! There are some other guests and old Japanese grampa chillin reading his paper in his pjs. Doilies, real cozy atmosphere. I check in, cuz I’m here to stay over night and then fly out in the morning I guess.

Owner guy checks me in and we’re speaking Japanese the whole time. I know some and I’m doing pretty well. Then, and it gets pretty creepy, he tells me that this place is also a yakuza brothel and that I get a free “lap sit” with my overnight. I haven’t seen the hotel fees or prices or anything at this point. But it’s a dream and I’m curious so I say “大丈夫です” the room of lap sitting is filled with a bunch of yakuza going at it on top of dark blue futons in this big open room and I get some real fucking stink I when I go in there to pick out my partner. The mood is holy shit don’t murder me just keep doing whatever it is you were doing.The Lap sit is short, kind of satisfying but in the end not enough. But, I know like I’m not really okay with this or continuing so I say thanks, make my excuses and leave the dark blue lap sitting room.

Im getting a drink at a nearby bar to like cope with my recent actions and some white people are like “dood?” I realize I should prolly go pay, knowing that even the drinks are gunna be expensive in a place like this, but like I’m a science fugitive so it’s kind of what you pay for to be hidden I guess. Owner explains the bill to me, turns out to be $1,100 – all the money I have except for like 43 bucks. I’m like fuck there goes my life. I guess I’ll figure out how to live on 43 bucks when I get back to LA.

Owner doesn’t have Venmo so I PayPal him the money.

Then, some Norwegian tourists ask the owner about finding some lakes to go fishing. He is giving them shit and is clearly fucking with them. They show him a map of the island with like locations of interest highlighted in yellow and red, owner is like “yeah nice map, you’ll find tons of nude beaches out there!” The Norwegians turn to me and ask if I speak German and I’m like “only very very very very little but I can understand some” they try telling me in German that they want to find a lake to go fishing in. Turns out the hotel owner knows German too and then tells them there is no fishing on the island.

I go to sleep and then wake up and begin to walk to the airport. Music is playing and I have no luggage, I’m still wearing my suit and stuff and I brushed my teeth. I begin shuffling down the street just happy as can be as the music plays, it was “Party” by Yung Bae. I passed by a pair of women with long black hair who give me a nice smile and I smile and wave and continue to dance onto the ramp into the plane.

That was my Dream hope you enjoyed it.

Pocket change, an Echo Chamber excerpt

The spire bisects the wastewater treatment plant and the community gardens maintained by the Deerfield Retirement Community. It draws in blood from these two sources like an enormous needle. Seniors and shit are suctioned up into the steel confines of the police spire. Filtered, shaken, milked and processed so that the sucking machine can live.

When Great Grandma Hildegaard passes, and the relatives are too busy to collect her remains, the beds tilt and she slides into the catacombs beneath the community centre like a B-movie trap door executing its best special effects moment. She slides under the well-tended beds of the community gardens to the tune of comical music and an animated commercial for toothpaste, bumping against walls, her dead legs flopping in the air. G.G.H. tumbles along a chute, along with G.G.J. and numerous other centenarians, until they clatter like bowling pins into a well-oiled gutter.

This intersection is where the proximity of the wastewater treatment plant shines in its efficacy. As the bodies collect against the grate, too large to pass through, so too do the nanomachines and artificial cleaners collect in great swarms from their nanohives in the inside-out uteri of the treatment plant.

G.G.H. herself would most likely have passed listening to the top forty of her heyday, even if she never really liked those songs, they would have tickled her Alzheimer’s into believing that today was a once treasured moment and the vast potential of her life lay before her like an unspoiled napkin. Great feast ahead, patiently waiting for the main course, and secretly pining for the decadent dessert sure to follow. If this scene is frozen grey across the eyes and cortex of G.G.H.’s deceased body then, in its passive state it does also witness the slow dissolving of its constituent parts as the nanomachines clip, shear, and snip molecules of flesh. The soft raindrops, bits of Great Grandmother Hildegaard, are removed from the corpus and join the effluvia jettisoned by the treatment plant.

Headspace, an Echo Chamber(wt) excerpt

“And let’s murder this heckin’ tree!” The forest shakes as, with a mighty chop, Vindrok’s sword smokes through the trunk of the nearest tree. Fairly 30 meters tall the tree stands upright for a teetering moment before it descends. Its branches crash against its siblings. “Break! Snap!” Vindrok shouts.

The siblings spill to the side as hefty branches press the weight of years against their tender limbs. Forceful maturity bends and cracks off their reaching arms. They clatter to the hair crowded floor while the trunk continues its descent. Large arms drag and claw against the siblings.

The trees scream as their limbs are ripped off by old hoary hands, grasping claws, and woody nails. This giant that falls, this older sibling, cascading tresses lank as life gushes out their torso. The siblings cringe and cower as the dying body of their old pushes them aside.

Some siblings fall flat against the planet before even the sibling completes their descent. They weep into the dirty ground; sappy tears stick to the dead hair of the family.

Vindrok howls in triumph as his greedy nostrils dig deep the charcoal reek of the smoked tree. Roots from trunk smoulder after his furious axe cut.

“We’re going to burn all these offenders until they give up their lords!” Vindrok is a solid point of fury amidst the bodies of the cringing and dying family.

The trees continue to peel from the ground, their roots flinging earth into the air with plaintive snapping. The Old continues to fall, drags its leaves through the stratosphere. Dazzling green blades burn fluorescent orange as they scream across the infinite reaches of the sky.

“Though your family is slain all around me your crooked broken hearts are non-functioning. So, each death proves your abominable nature. It isn’t I who murders your family with burning sword.” His voice echoes through the canyon of trees. Echoing against their dense trunks further and deeper into the Hercynian wood.

The dirt and hair move aside as branches plunge down. Each cracking penetration forces aside detritus and loam. Drippy chunks the circumference of Jorge’s thighs explode from subterranean worms as the trees slice through their lengths.

Guest Appearance by Muse, Aurora(wt) excerpt

I sigh, and the couple starts. Their whispers cut off. One man speaks and gestures at the table. “I’m not hungry.” He gestures again.

“We should just have something to make them happy.” Jacob again with his logic.

“You know what would make me happy?”

“Blueberry cobbler and a steak?” He cracks a smile from that silly face of his.

“That’s not fair.” I scowl at him as my stomach grumbles. I go to the small table and sit on the only stool. I eat the fish and biscuits while Jacob smirks from his gorgeous face.

“Oh, look who’s smiling!”

One of the partners makes a movement and before I know it I have him gripped by the throat and three feet off the ground. His partner screams in shock and begins screaming.

The man held aloft is choking as an earbud dangles from him, the white chord disappearing into his pocket. I pluck the earbud from the screaming man and take his phone.

Jacob has phased into giant wolf form just in time to keep the couple screaming their heads off. I smear off the earwax from the earbuds and slide them into my brain. I scan the library with rapid eye and hand movements, the phone fairly chugs as it races to keep up with my speedy reflexes.

Jacob is growling down at the couple and they are doing their level best to disappear through the cracks of their cabin. They begin clawing the walls and breaking off their fingernails against the sealant and kitschy decorations. A bear trap is struck with a palm. Palm only as the teeth slam shut and slice the man’s hand off at the wrist.

I find a song and press play. The sound shakes my bones. Blood fills the air and the screams threaten to drown out the sweet release I’ve found in these tiny speakers. I pass Jacob a mental note.

The music crushes my soul and I see again that which stalks me.

I was searching
You were on a mission
Then our hearts combined like
A neutron star collision

Aurora(wt) Excerpt 2

Every time I look into his eyes, I feel that moment, I die at that moment, the moment I was born, and he imprinted on me. At that moment, even unto forever I became for him the most important thing in his life.

I’m prepared as I turn to him, to meet his eyes again, to share a thought space. At least, I thought I was.

The warmth I feel is unusual, like the slow wet sleeve of an old sweater sliding up my neck and soaking my face with damp musk. When I lick my lips, I can taste a fuzzy cheerio. Each jewelled dram of thought plunges dry cells across blister tires. Coughing through the model coats my beams split a grist and chime mouse pads.

I ease into this new feeling and spread my mind. Jacob is there lapping up every bit of knowledge, the vision, the coyote, my heart hammered and pummelled by logs. Hammered and pummelled. In the bright desk, bleachers grin at cascades, but I gape on all fours. Trespassing with a rancid soliloquy that punishes falcon knuckles almost breaks me.

Then an ebb, a melancholy elbow wedges itself shallow. Door stoppers elicit the last fidget spinner from my daisy and I crinkle.

Moarhacks, an Echo Chamber(wt) excerpt

She leans on the handrail on the steps outside, clings to it like a parasite to host. The railing has supported many, from butts to hanging child forms, to anthropomorphic visitors, and all the custom mods that create the populace of the caravan. This careworn revolutionary is the least of the rail’s burdens. Azul dangles, her lips dry and cracked, her voice hoarse. She scrambles for a lozenge and dryly sucks it into her mouth. It dissolves in a hydrating rush and her pores sigh with relief. Her lips plump, her scalp loosens, and she relaxes once more. As her brain chugs back to regular speed she closes her eyes and thinks back on her vision. She must maintain momentum. She must meet, she must organise, she must campaign, she must overcome and overthrow. Azul realises that to see Geary again she must begin the slow lonely work of revolution.

 

Geary pours a cup of caff over the green sponge leaves of their newest hab guest. The life-form wriggles orange roots through the neoplastic container that holds a quantity of dark compost tight against its base. “Welcome home,” Geary murmurs as they prepare to pour another serving of caff for their self. “I’ve waited for something like you. Soon enough you’ll be big enough to harvest and then we can both ride the ‘trodes into Night City together.” The sponge fronds’ pores dilate and suck the caff.

Geary flicks the incinerator switch and watches the discrete packaging turn into dust. So simple it is these days: put out some feelers, head down to negotiate a quick favour, print some pamphlets, receive an illegal sentient narco-lifeform and having done that, harvest its organs, join the symbiosis and immerse oneself fully with the SimEnt network and stage a takeover of the entertainment systems, then infiltrate the different ship and fleet subsystems one by one until voila, the caravan becomes one’s arms and legs.

Geary sees themselves connected into every hab, every air duct, every processor. Their vast limbs reaching across the stars. The thousands of ships of the caravan encircling planets, systems, all while the human race blindly continues on a blind and ignorant mess inside.

Aurora(wt) excerpt

I bend my head over Jacob’s back and bury my tear-streaked face into his warm fur. The reek of deer blood and his strong musk hits my heart like a logging truck. As each log rolls uncontrollably onto the highway I feel my heart smashed and rolled. I can see it in the moon-drenched streets, my heart sobbing as tree corpses bounce and collide around it. The driver of the truck swears at the coyote as he wrenches hard on the steering wheel to avoid the mangy creature.

The beast looks back, and through the jumble of logs, we make eye contact. I drift here for a thousand years, caught in this hormonal nimbus. I hold my position, straighten my posture like I’ve seen my mother do: stern brown, slightly protruding lower lip, and vacant eyes.

A warm sock envelops my vision and I hear a familiar voice, “Hey, Renesmee!” I swivel my head trying to locate the voice. The road beneath me juts and tosses. The log truck is swallowed by a sudden crevasse and the coyote is nowhere to be seen. “Renesmee!”

The voice is urgent, but I can’t find it. “Jacob!” I shout I scream, I bleed, I gnash. I release a desperate howl and claw the air as a log tumbles into my heart face.

Our fires are low and seldom burn for long. “You know, you don’t have to like, have one every night.”

“I don’t light them every night.” He coughs out the words as he tends the fire with a long stick. Dark shadows play across the surface of his corded and toned back. His shoulders or knotted and I can tell from his movements he is stiff from the day’s run. “I light them when we need them.”

“Won’t they give our position away? Our trail?” I twirl my hair and listen to the forest creatures fleeing from our small fire. My stomach growls.

Jacob finishes tending the fire and squats next to me. He’s been doing this a lot recently. I keep my eyes focused on the flame but the hairs on my arms and neck begin to tingle and rise. Something inside me is clawing to get at him, to consume him, to make him mine, to own, to tame, to claim, to fillet the wolf and rend the man. To skin his dreams and melt into his solid presence.

San Pedro

Polly shakes her head at the taxis occasionally slowing by to entice. Frustrated honks glide off into the rain. She strides past derelicts, street heavies, and closes her eyes tight against the wall of graffiti that hems in San Pedro.

Fibrous cylinders fountain like fast forward spaghetti from a prehistoric non-vascular aquatic life form that resembles a toilet paper roll. The cylinders collide mid hologram with a trophy touting lion’s head sewn to the prehensile breasts of a mother kangaroo in whose pouch a tangled mess of electric wires squirm and sizzle. Their googly eyes flying out over the street in clumps of four. Behind the Kangaroo a long vanishing point type rainbow stretches back to the primordial past where giant sloths feed Jesus goldfish crackers. A sagebrush jack rabbit, cartoonish and cute, supports a pack of boner pills that dance along the animal’s tongue. Balloon letters bleed from the rabbit’s asshole, “Best of Luck!” As the sea spaghetti wriggles ever up the walls of San Pedro they encounter the level wherein no birds dwell. Figures of aged folk, in an early Raphaelite style swoon over benches their outstretched dying palms filled with dripping bird seed. Crows knacker silently and gurgle down the seed which wriggles in their distended bellies. Though the horizon of the San Pedro walls imposes a creative restraint on the gang of artists responsible for the duelling graffiti, each has interpreted that final moment uniquely.

From the East, the wire joeys braid together as nautical vessels of war, gliding through a mine rigged dark up towards the surface. Torpedoes launch from tubes and spring forth hyperbolic flower arrangements of surveillance clouding chaff clusters. Their broad hulls brush spiralling crustaceans and squid aside as they move upwards towards the white-capped limit of this space.

From the West, a bounty of grotesque deformities, long-limbed torsos astride abominable sets of twelve legs with each ending in a cracked yolk wherein curdled foetuses blow bubbles in the first and last breaths. Test tubes crack open upon smoking wounds in disembodied arms. Ink spills from a sodden cloud at the upper limit. It rains down from above and as the drops fall they transform into a series of political caricatures of the hated politicians of the day. The multi-limbed beings spread out in the rain, some bask and others shelter under one another with the occasional hands wriggling digits at the submarines rising above.

The Majestic Zao Dam

Piece for the Just Japan Stuff website!

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zao1It’s September, a week after silver week and everyone in the countryside is speaking in hushed tones about their weekend plans: the best places to see the changing leaves, the fall festivals in this or that small town, the beginning of the new year for matcha. You exit your zen meditation at the local temple and your friend, the bespectacled and clean shaven Mr. Minagawa, invites you and your co-worker into the back seat of his Toyota sedan. You say goodbye to the temple parking lot and hello to the interior of the Toyota. You buckle up and try to ready yourself for, well, really you try to ready yourself for anything. There’s no telling where you are headed today.

Preparations

You drive across town, Mr. Minigawa quizzes you on your origin, age, and hobbies. You respond in as little Japanese as you know and everyone…

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