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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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.

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.