Chapter Four: The Shaman and the Stripper

Strip

So Roxy The Doxy was there on stage, in the dingy gloom of our windowless club, swinging around her flail-wielding tits, like a warrior with an axe, getting her freak on, when, in a professional lapse of sagacious audience participation selection, she completely mistook her mark, and flung a piercing tit right into Paper Thin Louie’s face.

The whole building was instantly in uproar. Chairs and tables upended themselves, and people rioted in a benevolent frenzy, as Paper Thin Louie exsanguinated all over the place, twitching on the floor like a dying insect, and moaning a pallid moan.

“What are we going to do?! What are we going to do?!”  both the denizens and staff of the bar wailed.

Louie was practically the patron saint of The Smoking Waldorf Strip Club. It would be quite impossible to carry on the institute without his geriatric felicity to sustain it – or, at least not without a lengthy interregnum in which to find a suitable replacement. Every strip club needs its own mascot. Some take this tradition more seriously than others. But, at The Smoking Waldorf, this famed institution was as beloved as that of The Dalia Lama[1].

Things were not looking good for Louie. His semi-translucent pallor with giving way to a proto-invisibility that had a way of mirroring, refracting, and dissolving all light-reflecting objects around him. As the girls busied themselves frenetically around him, jets of rainbows burst out of the projected opalescence of his skin, momentarily mystifying everyone. All the girls stood about stupefied, waving their arms lucidly through the rainbows, like a group of stoned flower-children at a love-in. The closer his de-bloodifying brought him to death, the more brilliantly his opalescent emissions seemed to flicker, until all were almost joyously blinded by the greatness of the light. The warmth of his august soul enveloped everyone, all and sundry unified in this strange, magical moment.

But Missy stuck to her guns. She wasn’t going to be fooled by a pretty light show. Pulling up her G-string authoritatively, she yelled:

“If you’re all quite done tripping your tits off, you might remember that we have a dying old man on our hands. We can get squiffy with the mushies if you’re still riding this hippie shit later on – for now, get into formation, and save this man’s life!”

Their bedazzlement utterly obliterated, they all snapped to attention, as Missy meted out the orders.

“Ginger – check his pulse and vital signs. Tiffany – massage his feet and extremities to ensure venous return. Cathy – get down on his dingle and do your thang – let’s see if we can’t convince his blood that it has better things to do right now than leave his body.”

“With honour,” Cathy squeaked, as a tear of respect rolled down her cheek.

“Okay, Elliot – I need you to run upstairs, darling, act with tact and diplomacy, and get one of those sore-ass junkies lodging upstairs to lend you a syringe. Try and choose the one with the least amount of hepatitis virus coursing through their system. You’ll have to use a judgement call on that one. Mary Lou – fetch me a quart of blood, AB Negative, from The Surgeon’s fridge. And Sherry – be a daring and fetch that enormous rubber dildo I like to spank people with. I don’t really need it, but it just helps still my mind, is all.”

“Haha! A bit of fetishistic  meditation to quiet the consciousness – got it!”

Everyone rocketed off to do their assigned tasks with vim – particularly Cathy – except for Mary Lou who looked lost, and upset that she couldn’t be so immediately helpful.

“Umm, Missy? What blood is that you be talking about? Ain’t no blood in the fridge, girl. All we’s got is ketchup and May-O-Naise.”

“What do you mean, no blood?! We always have blood! Jessica uses it every night in her seedy, throat-slashing routine. How can we not have any blood?”

“Don’t you remember, hon? Jessica’s strung-out. She OD’d at Ledo’s two nights ago, and she took all her blood with her. She says she likes to have a tipple or two of it when she gets her dragon chasing gear on.”

This was not what she wanted to hear. She couldn’t let Paper Thin Louie die just because some selfish strumpet couldn’t tell the difference between cocaine and compassion. She was on the verge of slashing one of her tits and getting Louie to suck the blood from them, but she decided against it. Her club couldn’t survive anymore without her tits than without Paper Thin Louie. So, sighing, she deferred that idea to the waste basket, and did the only thing she could do.

“Okay, Mary Lou. Get the ketchup. We’ll just have to hope there’s enough sugar in it to keep him stabilized until we can get him to the hospital.”

“Won’t it be all sludgy and shit?”

“Most probably, Mary, but we have to work with what we’ve got. Boil it up on the stove as quick as you can, and see if you can liquefy the viscosity out of it. A single ketchup clot to the heart could kill him like that, so we need to keep it as streamlined as possible.”

This last tremulous order clarified, the salvage operation was in full swing. The only girl not in cahoots was Roxy The Doxy, who was looking very doe-like and un-Roxy-ish, weeping her mascara into oily rivulets.

“I – HUUUUUHHHH – KILLED  – HUUUUHHHGGGHHH – HIM!” she blabbered between sobs. “EVERYONE’S GOING TO HATE MEEEEEE!” Coming towards Missy for a hug.

“No one’s going to hate you,” Missy assured her. “And take off those tassels of yours before you come near me. We don’t want anyone else bleeding to death today, do we? You might want to think a little about recalibrating your act.”

“Sorry,” says Roxy, pulling off her tassels with a POP-ing suction cup sound, going in for a hug with Missy, and weeping into her glitter-freckled tits. “Is there nothing I can do to help?”

Missy mulled.

“All the bases have pretty much been covered; but if you want to make yourself useful, then you should say a prayer – Lord knows we could do with one right about now.”

“Who should I pray to, Missy? Jesus?”

“Jesus? Hell no! What do you want to pray to that nobody for – he ain’t a surgeon! No, if you want to pray, pray directly to Louie. It’s really only his choice whether he lives or dies now. You might be able to sway his mind.”

“Okaaay, Missy. Sounds a little kooky to me, but, if you think it’ll help, I’ll do it.”

So, Roxy The Doxy takes a latex nun’s habit from a nearby mannequin, kneels next to the weeping body of Paper Thin Louie, clasps her hands devoutly together, and prays to him. Prays to him to stay alive, not to reject the condiment transfusion, and NOT to give up the ghost.

Louie was still looking luminous to the point of invisibility, but his incandescence was beginning to fade to a much more sober hue. Cathy was unable to coax an erection out of him, and his pulse was becoming as irregular as an Alaskan Milk Round. Death was doing more than just knocking at the door – he was using a wrecking ball.

The rescue operation started to coalesce. Elliot was back with a clean-enough syringe and an eye dropper. It didn’t really matter if he got HIV at his age. He’d be dead long before the virus’s variable incubation phase was ended. So long as they could keep him alive, and retain his mascot-hood for a few for months, they would have enough time to find his successor, and negate the inconvenience of another interregnum. Times would be hard if The Smoking Waldorf had to close down, if only temporarily. Stripping in Alaska was tough when the chips were down. Missy could probably get by meagrely if she doled out a few karate lessons a week, but she feared for the safety of the rest of her girls whose attention span when it came to non-erotic work veered between the dangerous and the non-existent. This place was a ghost town at the best of times, and while that meant no shortage of abandoned buildings to squat, doing so in a place with no food or central heating was tantamount to suicide, especially with the fishing season so far off in the future. We need you, Paper Thin Louie, Roxy Prayed, please don’t leave us yet.

Mary Lou had returned with her concoction of boiled-up ketchup, which they busily filtered into the syringe. They tied the tourniquet around his right arm, and tried to find a forthcoming vein. There wasn’t one: all of them had receded to the submarine depths of his disappearing cardiovascular system – they would just have to try their luck, stick the ketchup-conveying needle any old place, and hope they could trick his body into thinking it was haemoglobin until they could get him on the back of Minnie’s motorbike, and drive him to safety.

It was an intense moment. Naturally, Missy was the one to deliver the shot. All of the girls gathered around, in various stages of undress, biting their lacquered nails nervously, except for Roxy who was still praying. Missy plunged the ketchup into his body slowly, replacing it with vial after vial, until all had gone. When the final one had been injected, they were finished. All they could do was wait for a response

[1] Was there a tradition of reincarnational succession as with The Dalai Lama? No one has ever been tell me so. The attributes of a successful candidate have more to do with his – (this being a patriarchal ascendancy) – venerability and psycho-physical quirks, rather than any belief that he is carrying the soul of his former incarnation. Proof of this is the fact that many mascots have been elected whilst their forebears were still in existence, though, in light of the evidence that it is possible to split up the soul and live many lifetimes at once, this proof may be debunkable. Some believe that there are only 12 main souls in existence on planet Earth, correlating with the vagaries of the Zodiac, and that all the peoples on this planet are just fragmentations of these official main twelve. Though the same could be said regarding the inherent oneness of all things, DoDecaDaoism – DDD for short – is an interesting subsect, with many doctrinal quirks of its own than can be inferred elsewhere.

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Short Story: The Universe Eater

whale

Swimming about the universe, there is a whale so large that there is no earthly measurement system yet devised that is sufficient to measure and compute its size. Even its relative size cannot be computed, because, never having seen it, we have nothing with which to compare it. It swims about in the effluence of space, navigating by a means we have yet to understand, so big is its body, that not even the myriad stars and planets it passes are sufficient to exert a pull on it. It moves with ease, and, when it opens its enormous maw, it is quite capable of consuming whole clusters of solar systems with all the ease that a baleen whale might lazily engorge itself on a shoal of krill. For this reason, it is colloquially known as ‘The Universe Eater’. No one knows how often they procreate, whether they are divided into male or female, or even if there is more than one of these whales altogether. Some have hypothesized that, were you to dive to the bottom of the universe, where Dark Matter is at its densest and darkest, there you would find their resting place, whole pods of Universe Eaters all reposing in silence together, satiated and exhausted by glutting themselves on who knows how many planets. There they rest for countless aeons, before lumbering back into matter to begin their repast anew.

Their place in life is likely an ecological one. Even if the universe is constantly expanding, there must needs be those who prevent it from becoming unruly and frayed around the edges. An untended garden can quickly begin to stifle itself. The same is true of infinity. So they rise, and consume, in languid consumption, stop galaxies from choking each other, and quench the finite in their dark matter bellies.

The scope of a Universe Eater’s mouth is so large, and its process of digestion so long, that the world in which you currently find yourself could already have been eaten by one, and you wouldn’t even know about it, for everything that you’ve ever known, or ever been able to see, will have been consumed right along with it, and you’ll have no means to distinguish the difference. Even so, the organism of The Universe Eater is largely translucent, and being consumed by one does not alter your perception of light and dark. Its bowels are massive. Their convolutions are unknowable, and its digestion mysterious, but it may shed some light on the beliefs of cosmologists, The Big Crunch being merely the anomaly of its bowels constricting around a given universe it has swallowed, and The Big Bang a rare example of its cosmogenetic flatulence, farting worlds to life. The Milky Way dribbles out of its blowhole, and its stern-like underbelly is tattooed with barnacled nebulae. So large is this fish, and yet there are beings out there that can pierce it on the edge of a needle, and use it to make sushi. There is no difference between being eaten by a Universe Eater and not being eaten by a Universe Eater, so why mention it at all?

There is a man out there who hunts these whales. Eating of their blubber is said to confer one with immortality, and imbue one with the safety of non-being. He rides alone on a ship of his own making, manned entirely by his thoughts, stirred by oars of intention, and sails capturing the winds of fancy. No one knows how he trained to hunt these whales, or how he managed to build his boat. He has never seen one of these whales, propelled by faith, and hardened by a determination that cannot be fractured. He could even be carrying out his hunt entirely inside the belly of one of these Universe Eaters, and he would never know about it, hunting for fire in the belly of a dragon, stalking through a forest in the mouth of a deer,

He does not know

He does not know

His flesh is a creamy silver, tanned by a million moons. His skin is smooth, and remains untouched except by the very basest of elements. He hums whaling songs to himself sometimes. He knows how to exploit the natural acoustics of the universe, and has isolated a number of ‘sweet spots’ where things can resonate in all directions with the minimum of effort. This practice may not be as innocuous and as whimsical as it seems to be. Some think – (for it can be heard anywhere within the stretches of these dimensions) – that it is his attempt to imitate the song of The Universe Eaters, and thus lure them into the scope of his harpoon. If that is his intention, it is a futile one, to be sure. The crooning of a Universe Eater is an empty waveform that ensnares all those who hear it. It is a song of anti-matter that inverts all who hear it; though, it is so low, that it cannot be heard, nor even felt. As soon as it touches you, you are transformed beyond all ability to perceive it. So, to be sure, hunting these whales is a risky business, and one that pays little, except for those who are fanatical about it. Economies work very differently in realities in which immortality is the norm. Debt is a concern of those who die. But sell a Universe Eater to a specialist who favours it, and you’ll be set up for life.

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.

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

Short Story: The Blind Photographers of The Underground Temple

hermit

Photographers live principally underground.

Largely blind, with mole-like eyes, they feel their way along cavern walls, wearing dank sack-cloth robes.

Prior to becoming a photographer, all acolytes must have their eyes gouged out; once cauterized, their sockets are replenished with an unknown, semi-coagulated chemical – a milky, opaque quality to it – that half hardens, whilst still retaining its leakless fluidity – a dangerous, volatile chemical.

During periods of planetary conjunctions, these chemical pools within their eyes sockets begin to bubble and effervesce. The liquid heats up to a scalding intensity. Bilious streams of steam squeak out from behind their eyes. The heated liquid spatters out onto their skin, leaving them with a latticework of scars.

The periods of boiling are intensely painful. The deeper the pain, the deeper the photographers burrow, to try to hide their screams from others. But it is also when they experience their greatest inspirations. The pain drives them out of their ordinary consciousnesses: propelled into worlds where imagination is the ruler, they come back bewildered, inspired, haunted, raving at each other to try and convey their experiences; but, lacking the words to do so, they jabber at each other like a box of pixies, before better venting their madness through art.

Though blind, their sight is revived fourfold when a camera is placed before their eyes. At night, they rise to the surface of the world, and use their sacrificially enhanced sight to capture images beyond the ken of the surface-dwellers

Though the surface-dwellers can see, they are so weighed down by the worries of the world that everything to them just appears to be uniform and dull. This is where the acolytes come in – it is their responsibility to remind the world of the impenetrable colours surrounding them.

Only by blinding themselves, and withdrawing into the folds of darkness, can they show the sighted the wealth of what they have missed. They hide glossy magazines and 12X8’s outside their houses, in the hopes that this will one day inspire them to wake up.