Poem:Kafka In The Bedroom

KafkaUSA_27.jpg

You thought you would’ve wanted this,
But like Kafka’s ‘Country Doctor,’
Pulling away the sheets,
Expecting the reward of pearly skin,
You met with the spectre of gangrene,
The maggot-tongued sore in my side

That is my pelvis,
A warren of pestilence,
The finger-bore of blood marks,
The war inside the roses,

You try to conceal your grimace,
With the tact of a scarred hostess,
Replacing the covers,
We continue to kiss,
As though all weren’t rotten beneath us

It’s only a courtesy gesture, of course;
No sooner than dawn comes,
And you’ve wrangled me for
The necrosis of your last orgasm,
You’ll wipe the gangrene from the bed,
And my affection with it,
Like so many crumbs,

Embarrassed by the light,
You’ll inter me into a grave,
Inscribed ‘Pleasures Past,’

Then, like Kafka’s ‘Country Doctor,’
You’ll rape my lady servant,
Washing away the skin of my ink,
With the perfume of her blood

Never but every few seconds
Did you think sepsis would taste so good

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Chapter Three: The Shaman and the Stripper

Alaska

I didn’t always find it this difficult to associate with others. Working in a strip club in a small port town, I had plenty of time to appreciate the characters that wove their way around me. I was just the barman – not involved in any of that happy-clappy business – and I got to vegetate behind the bar glamorously, all day and all night, beatifically taking in all who made use of our services. One girl who used to come in to work the joint, and take it off for the gents, was a young girl from Wisconsin who’d come to Alaska after her last boyfriend gave her a black eye one too many times. This treatment has caused her to spend a lot of time reading up on military tactics and street fighting, and so she had the remarkable ability to conceal knives in her teeth – collapsible knives hidden between her molars and premolars. I don’t know how she did it – and she never explained the trick – but it had something to do with cavities, I guess. We assumed she must’ve been wearing dentures of

a highly refined type, and had some way of jerry-rigging them to contain sometimes sort of quickly accessible knife-sheath, but she never would affirm or deny any suggestion she made. In fact, she refused to admit she had a knife at all, and always held firmly that she had never possessed one in her life.

This was obvious hokum. The girl could hold the blade like a seasoned street fighter, and moved as fast and as nimbly as a spider. To think what she could do with eight legs gives me the shivers: with only two, she could move faster than a neuron synapses.

Those of us who worked in the club (or regularly frequented it) always knew when something was going to go down. It usually began innocuously enough. A misogynist customer, or a guy who was too blazed and didn’t know to keep his mouth shut, would start talking too big, and making too little of her. This was something she could not stand. She was a proud woman, and would not take shit from anyone, especially men.

So, she’d let them laugh for a few seconds, indulge in their own inebriated vainglory, whilst she’d be there, onstage or in the bar area, disingenuously looking the other way, acting like she was too pissed to care, insouciantly reaching into her mouth as if to clean her teeth, when , WANG DANG DOODLE, out it would come, slicing and dicing and flailing around, cutting up her victim until he looked like an incised palimpsest of his former self. She had principles though. She was tough, but she didn’t want any homicide or grievous bodily harm charges on her hands. So she was always careful only to incise the foremost and most superficial aspect of the epidermis, holding her blade lightly like a fountain pen, and tracing it keenly all over her adversary’s body, and severing a nerve or two when she could, so that the appearance of the damage was always far worse than any harm actually inflicted. The schmoes very rarely had the gall to take their case to the police, which, at the end of it all, consisted of little more than an intricately woven web of very painful, but light, skin incisions. People such as this very quickly learned not to come back to the club ; and those that did seemed to have sincerely learned this lesson. Of course, you always got the morons who just would not quit. Getting a reputation for being a tough little missy, there was always some ball-yanking bastard looking to prove that she wasn’t all that, and rejuvenate his own waning machismo. But they never succeeded. Missy she was just too tough. No one ever got through the other end of her dancing spider blade without looking thoroughly blended afterwards.

But if you knew how to comport yourself correctly, and how to keep a tight rein on the more saucy aspects of your tongue, then Missy was alright, and a generally cool cat to be around. She could also be useful in emergencies.

One of the other strippers, Roxy The Doxy – AKA, Roxologist The Doxologist – had a real scintillating routine in which she’d attach nipple tassels the length of flails to her breasts and wave them around in violent, concentric circles, lashing out spontaneously at guests who looked like they were in possession of submissive, masochistic proclivities. This was usually received well, and was considered an integral part of the visceral pyrotechnics of the show, until the night she accidentally lashed out at Paper Thin Louie.

Paper Thin Louie was a highly respected patron of the bar. So old as to be emblematic of the past before he’d been thoroughly relegated to it, he was, as his name suggests, an absolute paragon of frailty. Like an ancient book that’s falling slowly to pieces and becoming gradually unglued from its binding, his various body parts and organs seemed to be completely dissociated from one another. The very matrix of his connective tissue was a shambles. If you so much as breathed too heavily in Louie’s direction, it would affect him like a heavy gust: ripples would appear on his skin like wind blowing on water, and the sound it would make would be like heavy gale tossing about a crinkled tarpaulin.

Sometimes, the girls would go home with him. Despite his nonagenarian status, the girls seemed to have a perverse fascination with him. The fact that a man could be so flimsy and live, and do so with enough libido to take part in erotic floorshows, turned them on immensely. They knew he had more offspring than could be counted by your average high school dropout, and were all eager to see how he would manage to perform so adroitly, in spite of his frangibility. The man may have been a papercut away from a tombstone, but what do I know? That was one tombstone who knew how to deliver.

The girls never did divulge exactly what Louie was like when it came to the bedroom arts. For my part, I suspect he never gave in. Strip club enthusiast though he was, he never struck me as anything less than a complete gentleman. I think he just liked the attention. They just probably went back to his small, shorefront apartment, and watched the gelid surf crash titanically against The Pacific Rim, tossing up seals, dolphins, and other imaginary behemoths in the coruscating fractals of the waves. Maybe he did ball them, I don’t know. A man such as Paper Thin Louie is impervious to scrutiny, but ripe for speculation. All facts dissolve into uncertainties and hearsay in the face of his mystique.

For some of the girls, I know this fixation was a purely anatomical one. Though both of them refused to tell whether he’d performed for them or not, both Ginger and Sherry confessed that he’d gotten naked for them. Apparently, you could see his organs floating about his body as clearly as fish in a dirty aquarium. His skin had all the consistency of an unpolished lens. They both sat there for hours, in awe of his dermatological lucidity, and pawed about the floor like children, analysing him in his nudity from every conceivable angle. They drank him in like a warm beverage on a cold night. Apparently, he struck a pose, and let Ginger do a still-life drawing of him: though when I asked Ginger if I could see it, she stayed silent, and acted as though I’d said nothing. In a dive full of belligerent, professional nudists, you learn very quickly not to repeat yourself.

The Shaman and The Stripper: Chapter Two

Kafka

I did have a wife, once upon a time. I still do, I suppose, though I feel the word would have to be altered for accuracy’s sake, as she does not perform any of the interrelative functions that make a wife so wifely. This next statement may beggar your credulity somewhat, but I have an invisible wife. Adrift, and unseen, she strays through the unexotic hinterlands of my life, adding dust to dust bunnies, and adding plainness to plainness. To say that she haunts me would be but to use half a verb, and always, always, seeking resentment-free wholesomeness, that is not something I want to do.

She is not dead, I must stress this. Not, NOT DEAD. People are so set in their ways when it comes to the structural assessment of marriage, that if one partner remains seen, and the other unseen, people instantly think something is amiss. This, I think, is a myopic conclusion. Why do the facts always have to be so plain. Why should I always be the one to reduce them to a level any less varied and erratic? In a world so grand, I am always shrinking things for the sake of others, and making myself small in the process. Why must I do this? Why can’t I be big? Why can’t I be expansive? Why can’t I have be the fat cormorant, the genie on the lake, consuming all things in my aggrandizement? Why, why, why? Must frustration be my allotment because I do not wish to hurt others? I wish I knew how to make this not so.

***

I know I have gone wrong somewhere along the way. From my earliest, I have always wanted to help others. To pour out all my knowledge, in the form of a liquefied candy, for others to consume, has assumed a place of centrality in my ambition. But when I try, it always comes out as such a bitter pill. People think I am trying to poison them. Bitterness is good. Bitterness is detoxificative. But diabetic, and addicted to sugar, people reject it. In this way I have been reduced.

Nowhere have I felt this reduction more keenly than in the fetid, shrunken skull of my Art. Oh, what a great artist I used to be! Do you really think I care a piss for silent screwdrivers? My DIY ventures are really not that frequent as to assume the regularity that would necessitate the pre or post-existence of such an extravagance. I really, really do not care. I only care about it because it is MINE – Something I have produced. A child. An offspring. A stillborn blueprint of future births to come. It is my proof, it is my promise: I HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE TO THE WORLD. This is something that has been tattooed to my brain since the dawn of my existence, and something I cannot escape from.

I have tried to escape from it, and find means of escape, but this has lead only to further reduction. Why cannot I just find the middlezone? But, as I’ve said before, Balance and Banality so often rotate, that it’s hard to point out just exactly where that switcheroo occurs. So Practicality became my Touchstone. If it wasn’t practical, I wouldn’t create. That would save time and effort on energy expenditure, and leave me with only the fruits of my labour, without all of the discursive, meandering dross that clogs the arteries inbetween. Thus, a caveat was appended to my internal tattoo: I HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE TO THE WORLD, PROVIDED I AM ECONOMICAL ABOUT IT.

But it took over, it took over. I lost the first bit of this statement. Like hieroglyphs in a passage, weathered by the rain of the aeons, it was eroded until it became the functionary “ . . . PROVIDED I AM ECONOMICAL ABOUT IT”.

You see how pitiful reductionism is? We start off with an aim, we find techniques and means for enabling that aim, and we feel bolstered by the actualization of our knowledge. But, somewhere along the way, the aim becomes subordinate to the way of achieving that aim.

Let’s take the example of a Buddhist Monk. His aim is to achieve enlightenment. Why does he want to achieve enlightenment, you ask? So he can attain liberation for all beings. Here your questions desist. It is enough that he wants to do this.

So, he starts to meditate. As Chuang Tzu put it “meditation is fasting of the mind”. It is the way we dissolve the ego. Lao Tzu says:

Look at plain silk, hold uncarved wood

The self dwindles, desire fades

Scripture and experience impresses upon him the power of this illustrious act, and so, meditation becomes God, and the actionless act of becoming.

But, as the fruits of his practice increase, and he comes to taste the bliss of his inaction, the original aim becomes subdued by this glory. He now meditates for the propagation of that bliss, so that it will spill over into his daily consciousness, and, hence, into the world. But the bliss becomes too much, too big a thing. It becomes the thing he sits down for, it becomes an addiction, it becomes a selfish desire. He is no longer meditating for the liberation of the world – only for the kiss of that bliss.

Of course, that need not be final. It is an essential pitfall that all spiritualists at some point must tumble into. But some of us do not turn back. We forget our source. And only when we are tumbling into the scree at the bottom of the mountain, are we able to see the radiance at the pinnacle, that which we were seeking to attain all along. But it is too late. We have tumbled into the canyons and rivers of blood, where the vultures fly at their lowest.

Have I fallen that low? I have neither the vanity nor the despondence to say that I have. But the pinnacle is obstructed by clouds, and I have forgotten the simplicity of striving.

***

Sunday clouds and orange lawns. The sky yawns at me in happy thanks. Divinely inspired in the crater of my mind, this creator, this love, ordains what it will, and I follow along with it.

The Shaman and the Stripper: Chapter One

Skullface

‘Elusion’ is a beautiful word.

My favourite sort of writing has always been the kind that strives to be unseen. Like a torch held up to a favourite shadow, it cannot withstand the illusory brightness of midday consciousness, and withdraws into a more tenebrous time, when our ignorance is not afraid to subdue itself. It is an imp, a goblin, the outline of a wraith – a bandy-legged, hidden hoard, affronting the besmirched realms of silence.

Pursuing this, I take ignorance as my plaything. I call “Here Ignorance! Come here, boy!” and it comes gambolling up to me like a tongue-lolloping dog.  I play with it, I stroke it, I teach it tricks. Then I kill it, and lop off its head, throw it in the fire, and wait for it to breed.

The intercourse of ignorance is the first-start of the alchemical process. I love to watch it fornicating in the flickering embers. Fire is always revolting against itself. It is never certain whether to illumine or destroy. I am not certain about such choices much of the time, which is probably my biggest source of self-pity.

But the pet-shop seller will not sell to me anymore. He looks askance at the frequency with which I visit him, and suspects I am ushering all of my store-bought ignorance into the furnace. People do not understand these things. They place too great a stress upon informational fliers, and people like me end up outcast and alone, skirting the floorboards of polite society with our crafty hearths and holographic histories.

I have a screwdriver that is completely silent. I swear to God this is true. If you’re not busy of an evening anon, you can come listen to it, if you so desire. We’ll have a right old knees-up, I can promise you. It’s very useful, because I tend to do most of my DIY at night. I can be wretchedly tired during the day, but as soon as evening trickles on, a purposive restlessness enters my bones, and I find my eyes casting hither and thither, looking for something to mend. I fitted my basement with a miniature Roman bath one post-midnight morning, and not one of my neighbours knew until I informed them through pamphleteering the following morning.

I am head of the local Neighbourhood Watch. Okay, I will come clean: I am actually the secondary Head of the local neighbourhood watch. There are actually two factions of the local Neighbourhood Watch, and as mine is the lesser attended of the two, I must be contented with the sub-title secondary. Many’s the night when this pejorative word has scarified my civic pride. To consider, even for a second, that my love of neighbourly interconnectivity and surveillance could be considered secondary to anyone’s is an insult I can scarcely bear. So, to have this cavalier reminder daily brought to my attention due to the titular succession inherent in our historic traditions is a pain I hope the reader may never be wounded with.

What is the disparity betwixt the numbers of our groups, you ask? To this, I’m afraid, I cannot give you a straight answer. My dearest statisticians are endeavouring to realize the results around the clock, but they have yet to factor in the stochaic anomalies. I have suspected, for a time, that they may have been withholding the true results in the full knowledge that my morale is not built to withstand such a blow. But during my darkest moments, I must admit, such sensibilities as this may hold little meaning for them, and the aggrandizement of their bread and butter may be a truer motivation for their Saturnine slowness. For it is a pretty penny that I pay them; and pennies such as this they must perforce nurture and prolong in a neighbourhood such as this, where few fancy they must needs have recourse to their service, no matter how mistaken they might be in thinking so. All the same, I cannot fault their thoroughness, and I am grateful for their patronage, as they three comprise a triumvirate of the most dedicated attendants of my Neighbourhood Watch Meetings, when their duty does not call their attention elsewhere, as it so often does. I often hold a dear picture in my mind of the three of them, in their matching – personal deviations withstanding – waistcoats and bifocals, sitting attentively, clipboards before them, hanging on my every word, as a man from the gallows, in the peculiar umbrage of my basement studio. There is something unknowable in the luminescence of the projection screen I project my Power Point presentations on that reflects in their physiognomies, that elicits a tenderness in me that few other things warrant. If I could but afford a photographer to capture this ephemeral moment, I would count myself amongst the happiest of men. But, alas, my funds are already spoken for – and the contrivance of the occasion would add a soupcon of falsity to their rapturous poise, that would strip pleasure from it with every review. No, I must content myself with my memories. And no matter how it may blur with the headlong passage of time, the warmth it invokes in me will be none the lesser.

I always miss them when they are away. Statistic accuracy aside, the desultory rate of our membership fluctuates between 3 and 9. So, when my favoured triumvirate are missing, it is like taking the Purkinje Fibres from a heart, and still expecting it to beat. Some sessions, no one attends at all. These mass absences usually occur at the time of our Neighbourhood Watch Christmases Dos. And as my faction of the Neighbourhood Watch is markedly less in favour, it is here when the quantative acknowledgement of my secondary status is most fiercely felt.

Spending so many of these nights with my face pressed imperceptibly against the frosted glass, watching everybody inside having fun in time with somebody else’s PowerPoint presentation, these memories have formed a cluster in my mind, all so alike, they could all be superimposed on one another with only the slightest discrepancy. I find my life is made up of a multitude of these. So many different clusters, in so many different quadrants of my brain; a vast, intensive filing system, with one file stuffed to surfeit, with so many cold, empty drawers. I wade through the corridors of these lonely cabinets from time to time, and dream of all the things I could put in them – I do have a secretarial mind by nature, and with a more sensitive selection system, I could easily redistribute all of these files in a way that would be more economic and evenly dispersed: but every time I think I will start, I find myself back outside, face pressed against the frosted glass, with another cluster to add to my collection.

How can a man rail against such odds? One answer. Persistence. If you enshrine one thing over all others, no matter how fortune may flirt against you, eventually other aspects of this your life will reluctantly have to submit to this obsession. How do you think I managed to make such a silent drill? Persistence. That’s all it takes. The willingness to lay down one’s life in the face of all achievements, no matter how trivial. I like to think of myself as a samurai in this respect. As the great swordsman Miyamoto Musashi said “It is important to pay attention even to trifles”. Trifles are the maggots that breed tomorrow’s flies. What kind of fly do you want? A bluebottle? A fruit fly? An anopheles mosquito? The choice is yours based on your treatment of trifles. Following this, I invest sacrifice into all of my actions, no matter how trivial. Going to the Post Office, I smell the potential of death. In the supermarket, the grim reaper brushes against my coat sleeves. Writing poetry in the yurt in my garden, I feel the necessity to lay down my life in every brush of the pen (I use a Japanese writing brush. I like the way the bristles present such a vivid friction against the pages, a soft scalpel against callused skin. This is what I like).

Can you follow my way in the enactment of this? Are you committed enough to life that you can stare death in the face over every candle-lit meal? Of course you’re not. At least, not yet. That’s why I see you all, agglomerated at somebody else’s Neighbourhood Watch Christmas Do. The betrayal cuts deep. But I have the forgiveness in my heart to forebear it.

This forgiveness is important. I feel it is the last drawbridge remaining between me and madness. I can almost twirl it in my hands like a fragmenting nunchuck, feeling it whither and whither. Sometimes, the borders are so slight, I feel murder pressing gently against my heart. The borders are so porous, so permeable to my barely retained hate, that I’m amazed I can even go out any more. Blood would spill the sidewalk in droves, if my resentment were allowed to spill over. All it would take would be the release of one little drop, one little bead of sweat, and the drawbridge would be lowered forever. Out would come My Crazy like an Agent of Fortune, severed heads in garlands and leis, like Kali, the Hindu goddess of war, my patron, my totem, my inspiration.

Don’t we all carry these severed heads around us? They are the past wounds that forgiveness is just too weak to dislodge. Though my forgiveness might be keeping me from here and the jailhouse, it is flimsy as an out-of tune wobble board, or an aging pane of Plexiglas. I just don’t understand how people make it stronger. When Pandora opened her verboten box, Hope was the only virtue to come out. But what of Mercy and Reprieval? They came out too, but in forms so small, even an astrophysicist would not be able to seek them out. If only someone had the strength to pray to them, they might get bigger, fattened on our prayers. But hungry demons suckle most of our strength, and invest their blood in the night.

In my quest for rectitude, I did try to remedy this. I bought a statuette of the Japanese Goddess of Mercy, Kannon, and placed her in the hallway. There she sits, on a plinth, directly opposite Kali. This is a little test of mine. Between War and Mercy, Blood and Fortitude, I want to see who will win out. But, against the pleasure of my patronage, I just can’t commit to Kannon. With her aureole of supplicating arms, and bland, oriental expression, she just can’t seem to compete with the power of Kali, and her wraith-like superiority. Some days I am so angered by her, that I just feel like taking my drill and trepanning her; sticking it right into her third eye, and fucking her with it; boring a great big hole into her cosmic brain, and lobotomizing the universe. Even then, gone, pineal in tatters, she would still forgive me, and that knowledge torments me. If only someone would resentment me as much as I hate others, I would feel somehow freed from my own. Exposed to the clammy cold of their hate, my own would move on, and I would be able to dwell in moral rectitude once again. I cannot contend with the banal lack of extremes. Give me hate or give me love – I want nothing in between.

This is unusual, as I am so balance in other respects. Like my silent drill, I can walk around my house, making no noise. Even on the way to my bedroom, where I installed squeaking floorboards, in the memory of the old shoguns, lest someone endeavour to assassinate me, I can still retain my aura of silence. But no one comes to assassinate me. No one hates me that much. But if I did, one night hear those floorboards creaking, I would lie there still and accept.

Short Story: The Assassination of Abdul the Lech

Tartarus

Last I dreamt I was witness to an assassination.

I was roaming along a half-constructed and war-torn stretch of suspended highway out in the Middle East, where I had been hazily employed as a War Reporter.

Whilst taking a brief rest behind a pile of rubble, I observed a man – whom many of the locals held to be a holy man and saint of considerable repute – being beheaded by a well-known radical insurgent.

“What are you doing?” I asked, emerging from the somnolence of my detritus. “That man is a saint, highly revered by many of your people. Why did you kill him?”

The insurgent scoffed at me callously.

“This man was no saint, though he may have been called as much by many ignorant pigheads who didn’t have the sense to know better. He was a lecher, a rapist, and a slave-trader. Come – let me show you how he spent his days.”

Thanks to the elastic morphology of dreams, the hitman was able to transport me into the past, where I could experience several years in the life of Abdul the Lech.

This esteemed mystic lived in a corrugated tin warehouse of incredible squalor, piled up with junk and fluffy accumulations of asbestos-containing insulation materials, the carpet comprised of dirt and litter. The living conditions were unbearable. But the mystic, who shared it with many of his assistants, spent most of his time in a semi-conscious haze, completely oblivious to the scunge and rot that was his decor; most of his time expended lying in a dissolute, bilious state on the floor, incapacitated by nausea, and groaning and keening soundlessly into the ether.

Despite spending most of his time like prophet Ezekiel, lying paralyzed and sick on his side – I never once, in my tenure as the mystic, saw him engage in fornication –  Abdul was known to be an incorrigible and demented Casanova, sleeping with, and impregnating upwards of thirty women a day.

I asked the insurgent how this was possible.

“A man with Abdul’s power does not require a body to act. He projects many hybrid forms around the community, and uses them to enact his bidding, appearing in exactly the right form to seduce the unfortunate women he molests. He fabricates his semen out of dirt and demon spit. But this enterprise still costs him a lot of energy, which is why you see him in this recumbent, pathetic state. Return to him now and take a closer look.”

I did as the insurgent commanded.

Several months passed, and Abdul was still lying motionless on his left side. But a change had come over his grotty dwelling. The floor had begun to literally expand and distend, looking very gravid, with strange, tendril-like protuberances emerging from each lump, like the shoots of a sick onion plant. I recognised later that these tendrils were actually a species of organic antennae protruding from the heads of a new generation of women that were gestating there.

It seems that, again, thanks to some mysterious occult agency, Abdul, once he’d inseminated the women through the medium of his impish projections, was able to transfer the wombs that he had fertilized into the floor of his squalid chamber, where, I now realized, all the junk that was scattered therein was not arbitrary, but had actually been placed there deliberately, as a sort of necromantic manure, to the aid the children he had begotten to grow, without the envelopment of their mother’s body. Truly, these were not woman-born children, but children plucked straight from the chthonic depths of Tartarus, unwanted and despised, except by this mystic, who sought to exploit them.

Eventually, the soil and loam began to shift and quake as his children all rose at once from the pregnant earth.

Every child that he  bore was a fully-grown girl, about six feet in height, dressed in the sackcloth clothing as of some medieval peasant. They could have passed for impoverished, if not overgrown beggars, were it not for their mutated heads, which were cuboid in shape, the colour of decayed spring onion, with those ugly long tendrils pointed out of their heads. They produced an awful, unnameable smell, and bore wretched, termagant scowls on their faces. Despite this, I felt very sorry for them, and was disgusted that Abdul would have any part in bringing these tortured beings to life. It caused me pain to contemplate their unhappy existence, and I felt a deep loathing for this man whom before I had been willing to save.

The square-headed women crowded around Abdul with mania and glee. “How are you going to feed us?!” “When are you going to start working and get some money in?!” – that’s what they wanted to know.

They chased Abdul out of his house, and it was amazing to see him move so sprightly, given his extended lack of motility.

But here the flashback was abruptly cut off.

“What happened next?” I asked the insurgent with a morbid eagerness I was disgusted with myself for feeling.

“What you witnessed there,” he said, “was but a single turn in a cycle that this perverted man played out again and again many times in his life. No one really knows what he did with the women once he had born them. Some believe he slaughtered them just for the fun of it. But, judging from photographs and corpses I have had the privilege of autopsying, he mostly used these women to generate money by selling them to powerful people as slaves.”

“But I thought slavery had been abolished here?” I asked, somewhat naively.

“It has, on paper. But, as these women couldn’t readily be classified as of human origin, he is able to traffic them to whomever he likes, marketing them as ‘jinn’ or ‘ifrit’. From the analysis of their remains, I suspect that sexual abuse is a common occurrence.”

I was very close to throwing up.

“If this is his life you have just shown me, how is it that he earned a reputation as a holy man?”

The insurgent shrugged his shoulders.

“How is it that we knowingly allow evil, corrupt, genocidal maniacs to rule the world?” he asked me back, socratically. “Charisma and mythology can be an excellent disguise for just about every misdeed. How many clean-teethed celebrities do you think engage in child sacrifice on a daily basis?”

With this he left, taking a leap off the motorway.

I turned, threw up into the wreckage of a crashed car, and got out of there at once.

Short Story: The Hanging Girl

12-The-Hanged-Man

How do you provide proof of a world that rests immanently within all things, yet cannot be seen with The Naked Eye?

The answer is that you can’t – you can only imply it.

This revelation came to me one day as I walked through the subterranean halls of an unknown university in which I sought refuge from the air raid sirens warning of an imminent gas bomb explosion in the world outside.

Taking a cylindrical swivel through an erroneously labelled ‘EMERGENCY HATCH’ embedded in an austere stone wall, I came to in a photographer’s studio, where, in a room of strange machinery illumined by a burnished light, I could see a crimson woman hanging upside down, with her legs bound to the rafters, and a blindfold around her eyes.

Aware that she was probably incognisant of the disaster story going on above ground, I said:

“Hey little lady – don’t you know there’s a gas bomb going on outside?”

To which she responded:

“Hey little man – don’t you know there’s a gas bomb going on inside?” Alluding to her chest with the point of her chin.

I asked her what she was doing up there.

She said she was inspired by the story of the Norse god Odin hanging himself from The World Tree for a period of nine days in order to be granted the illumination of the Runic Alphabet – the beginning of written language. She figured if that old, one-eyed fart had been able to do that in just nine days, she wondered what she could achieve in eighteen.

I asked her how long she had been up there so far, but she pretended not to hear my question, and instead said:

“As far as I’m concerned, the universe is just a Big Picture in the constant process of being photographed. With every blink of our eyes, these fleshy shutters take snapshots of the world around us, and mail them directly to a photo archive in some unseen dimension. This is going on around us every day, whether you happen to be made of skin or stone. But if the world was already a Big Picture anyway, who was the first photographer who snapped it into existence?”

“What are you saying?” I asked “Are you suggesting that things only become real once you’ve photographed them?”

“Of course! Isn’t that obvious? Can you remember a time before you were photographed, before you were the object of someone’s observation or surveillance?”

I tried to think. But the aeons seemed to cave in on me like an avalanche of guano.

“Is that why you’re in here?” I asked. “So you can ‘de-realize’ yourself by freeing yourself from the prison of other people’s observations?”

She laughed mirthlessly at this.

“Don’t be ridiculous! Even then, I’m photographing myself. Our every atom and cell has a tiny photographer within it – a Buddha with a camera – constantly taking pictures, and reminding it that it’s there. How can anyone hope to nullify such a barrage? But that’s exactly what I intend to do.”

At this, she fell down from the rafters and landed perfectly on her poised feet.

“Out of The Darkroom we come,” she said, “And into it we all return. Do you really want to be harvested for your film like all the other rejects? Bliss is there waiting for all of us if we can find out where we were before the first camera flashed.”

Saying this, she took out an old Polaroid and began sending captive flashes directly in my eyes.

“What are you doing?” I asked in terror.

“Showing you your fate,” she said, and handing me the bundle of undeveloped Polaroids, she disappeared into the crimson gloom of the studio.

I flicked through the photos. In sequence, they showed me getting sicker and sicker until the last photograph in the line-up depicted me as a bloodied corpse. As I flicked through them one by one, I felt my life force drain out of me until I was no longer strong enough to hold the photographs or even remain standing.

Crumpled on the floor like a broken lens, I felt the Molasses Black of Death swallow me up. I saw how The Big Bang – the first snapshot – the first ‘selfie’ of the universe – was the beginning of all lies.

And then I found out what reality looks like once you take the lens cap off.

The truth cannot be captured

It can only be implied

Alternatives To Direct Transmission

One of the beliefs that I have heard dripping from the mouths of mystics time and time again, is that true knowledge of the Way can only be obtained through direct transmission from a teacher or enlightened sage. Perusing the Taoist classics, again and again, the writers say that the Tao can only be discovered through the aid of a good teacher.

This belief has always rankled me somewhat. For as long as I can remember, I have always been a fiercely autodidactic person. I never trusted any of my teachers at school, and, to this day, I will never take anything anyone says to me as truthful until I have thoroughly researched it, or experienced it directly myself. I have always seen education as a deeply personal, internal process, and have been exceedingly loathe to give up any sovereignty over myself by submitting to a teacher.

All the same, I do understand the logic behind these assertions. Enlightenment is an energetic transformation. That energy can be explained through books, but not acquired from them. An enlightened teacher, however, has the upper-hand in this respect. Like Don Juan Matos was able to enlighten Carlos Castaneda through various sorcery techniques, and how myriads of Zen Buddhists have been illumined through receiving a harsh blow from their masters, these sages can utilize their superior understanding and mastery of the laws of reality to alter the consciousness of their students, and transfer energy and understanding to them over a period of time.

But the universe is essentially holographic. Anything that you could ever wish to know or experience is encoded and immanent in the tiniest particulate of every atom. If you can break them open using the atom smasher of your mind, then you can see all that there is to see. Enlightenment is programmed into the very matrix of being. Teachers may be able to show you the path they took, but you must ultimately follow your own. The algorithm of reality is one of simultaneous innovation and recidivism. If you didn’t create your own path, how would the universe be able to fulfil its commitment to updating the eternal truth through newer and fresher means?

Let every tree, stone, man, woman, child, event, and action be your teachers. But, most of all, be a student receiving the lesson of the divine will within you. It is said that Bodhisattvas, through their immense accomplishment, are able manifest themselves however they wish, appearing in any guise they see fit, bringing whole towns, populations, worlds, and even universes into being simply through the power of their minds. The whole of existence is the manifestation of a single, compassionate being revealing itself to itself. From this perspective, how can one look anywhere, whether through eye, mind, telescope or microscope, and not find a Buddha to teach them?

In a short parable, Franz Kafka wrote of an eccentric philosopher who spent all his time playing with a spinning top. Though he was laughed at by the local kids, he was committed to the single-pointed focus he was directing at this toy. He believed if he was able to understand this spinning top, then everything else would immediately become comprehendible to him.

What will you use to be your spinning top? What will be the single profound moment that sets off your chain reaction of understanding?