- American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
- Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
- Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
- Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
- The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
- The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
- The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
- DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
- RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
- Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
- Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
- TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
- Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
- Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
- Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
- Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
- Patience by Ward Webb
- The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
- The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
- Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
- Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
- When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
- Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
- The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
- The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
- Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
- The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
- The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
- Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
- Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
- The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
- Someday Man by John Grochalski
- I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
- Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
- Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
- The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
- Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
- Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
- The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
- How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
- Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
- Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
- Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
- Invisible by Anjoli Roy
- One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
- Storyteller by Alan McCormick
- Idolatry by Robert Smith
- P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
- They Do! by Al Po
- Full TEX Archive
Chapter 1 from The infinite atrocity
By Kane X. Faucher
Forget the sterile, institutional feel of the Tate Modern, the lucid curatorial planning of MoMA, the pristine minimalism bordering on toy-box modernism of the Metro in NY writ on the aggrandized scale of blocky infancy. Art is built for atrocity. That was the searing, dominant thought as Dr Edward Albrecht, esteemed and bored senseless psychoanalyst, was leaving his office at an unreasonably late hour, having dissolved his article-writing into an itinerant search for Internet snuff porn––which satisfied a brokerage between his animal needs and professional obligations.
He had been impatient with patients as well as curt with a few colleagues he corresponded with over email. Smoothing back his hair from his sun-evading, intense death mask, he bristled at one of his colleague's careless remarks that Dr Albrecht's ideas courted dangerously close to a reprise of principles found only in National Socialist Medicine. Carelessly too accurate for a man who wanted only a few of his cards showing at any given time. Locking up to move from the inner gloom of the office with its wan emergency lights to the outer gloom of the same lighting conditions turned inside out, with briefcase in hand, he hoped that a brisk walk to his car would succeed in shaking the feeling of constraint of his profession, and hence his reasoning that where science cannot afford the way to expression and exploration united, the domain of art would do. In tight, rapid orbit were his faithful attendant thoughts: his hatred of women and contempt for denial, usually mashed into one hideous bruise.
The full glare of headlights blasted an ugly concrete abutment, vermiculating cracks exposed for the ruin this parking lot was, an intaglio of irritation across poured stone grouted in haste by harried workers making nomadic passage from one slab-happy task to the next. He did not notice the figures staggering toward one another as he took the initiative to withdraw himself and vehicle from the lot and drive home. He felt the reassuring thump of having driven over a small animal, the jolt of it firming up the offer of a sick, annealing grin.
Moments later, once the unremarkable silver sedan had vanished to negotiate traffic lights beyond, she toppled into him, a collision of two drunks aimed in opposite directions, two tittering mercury beads forced on their course between the breeze blocks, under the drift of sallow street lights, temporarily confused in a globular merger of limbs and dappled artificial lighting. Alexa and Jakob meet by way of the blind atomic bump.
Alexa and Jakob both belonged to the regime of the infinite moment—equally invested in pseudo-socially progressive online living, the same place to hold up the mirror and pucker up was also the place to shop—the mirror and the mall united. Trading in bland, empty, and recycled aphoristic quips or otherwise engaging in the fire sale of banal confessions to give the most salaciously curious daubs of display, this clearinghouse of repeating links and polarizing stale opinions had no need of any past or future. However, seething beneath these forays into the banal and the hyper-sexualized and hyper-violent was an anger that Jakob and Alexa could not articulate; they could barely articulate to each other. They were orphans of a different kind, so many paternal authorities abstracting farther away until they fully receded behind the mirrors of so much digital activity with no purpose. And of memories that might have once sustained them? A confusing act of rummaging through postcards that had abdicated all context—a flickering series of unreal images belonging to distant planets.
The collision took no more than a moment, and such abrupt changes in condition were as remarkable as the switching from one website to another, from one interrupting email notification to a texted response.
Alexa rappelled her way up with the aid of a broad palm thrust forward by the clumsy-drunk Jakob. He had been freighting his way through a sticky, knotted skein of redundant bars on his disingenuous crawl toward the ego-aggrandizing ruin as seen in biopics on tormented, vice-accentuated artists that always seek to explain the life-cause to the art-event. His farouche self was goaded along by a pizzle compass, a lechery of boredom, to blur unsteadily against the late September night canvas he was despoiling. His life a shriveled load of black bile burning a mosquito coil of self-obsession immolating its damascening pattern upon the flesh—charred remains of a cindery tattoo, his personal signature practiced until vanity was appeased, a Doppler litany of the self scrawled on walls that closed in. Never admitting to himself that he was in a tired, louche search for a father, Jakob rallied their miniature surrogates within, each a squeak of man.
"Uff," was all he managed, and Alexa made a sound approximating same, and exactly how it would read as a status update, coupled with some pop reference. Somewhere tucked along the inner curvature of the web would be a pair of avatars with a direct link to a trivial synopsis of a Dickens story, these children of Need and Want.
Vegetative decay and the summer season's withdrawal crested the gold and red ruffs of the trees, an impotent weeping of fiery variegation beneath the smothering washout sodium yellow of city-wide light pollution. Streets, first baked then varnished with radiating daubs of directed etiolating light, spanned passive and inert beneath the two figures and their collision. Jakob had timed the rhythm of his own failures across the pavement absorbing every hollow, hobbling step without judgement, accepting his drunken tumbling without discrimination. His new accidental companion would rise up in a sneer toward the concern in his questions as they rasped with an almost unconvincing contrition.
Between saying absolutely nothing and everything was an infinite range of possibilities–like the number line between zero and one, mostly irrational. This was his selection:
"You okay?" Jakob asked, the pause of an ellipsis betraying his confusion, an opportunity for wit scotched and perhaps one of the most unexceptional first lines ever spoken in the history of a life Jakob liked to think deserved eternal preservation in great literature. The hand that met his to correct the difference between their arrangement of erect versus prone surged with something luminous. He stood over her in a snapshot of a wrestler over vanquished foe. The hand was as hooked as the question, and Alexa found herself snagged on both.
Her burgundy and yellow flower print dress swayed like a bell against the clapper of one leg, describing the curve of her slender form, the elegant bow of her calf. Jakob flagged this feature for further follow-up.
"I think so," she said. Her accent poking through the flattening effects of local language, tugging at his interest as the burring of a vowel suggested a tongue rooted in a foreign window-box. Nothing more could be gleaned by a man so fresh from the late adolescent gate, its sunset prolonged. Jakob was not worldly enough to pinpoint the location of the accent, but he knew it was somewhat Germanic—or, at the very least, had German roots that sprouted North American flowers, a hardy cross-breed, something that appealed to him in that muted racist way people are drawn to ethnicity just so long as it is reduced to its fashion and cuisine.
Jakob, flushed with the surprise event, flicked his lighter to light his cigarette. He was transfixed by the flame for a few delayed seconds. There was something in the flame that… killed information, and was the last possible surprise. This was a thought he did not understand, but would shelve for later if he could remember–which he did not.
This early twenty-nothing of a man, with his tight orbit of pretensions to cultural sophistication mixed with the sour cud of addictions that italicized his poetic leanings, drilled his mind for something clever to say, but his wit was not all-terrain, his yearning to be a mind of all-seasons ham-fisting a piano and sending out a crash-cacophony. His eyes groped around him for some likely remark, but landed instead on the office of a psychoanalyst, the small brass placard broadcasting, "Dr E. Albrecht, Psychoanalyst" the rest obscured by the familiar angular scrawl of a graffiti tag, a dirigible arabesque set against a scratched brass landscape. The name tugged an unsolicited memory of when he was scanning the weekly entertainment rag for some place to puff his social feathers, a full half page ad for this office with a suggestive picture of a peach set against one of those white backdrops and a little computer-added drop-shadow. Beneath it was written: "'Ripen the Mind. Now Accepting New Patients. Dr Edward Albrecht and Associates.” Unripe minds like Jakob's would never know the harvest from the spring. Alexa, on the other hand, despite not being entirely cognizant of her surroundings, would have done well to steer herself to that packet of memories that concerned the doctor. She had been seeing him for close to one year, stalking up the same privet-lined path once a week to have her head kneaded under the thick, hairy fingers of his analysis into a potential golem.
Jakob, a lanky figure, who might have been passed over at an audition to play the model for Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress, was of impertinent eye (or, what was taken as impertinence mistaken for glazed, self-absorbed arrogance).
Intoxication had compromised the usual ability in masking his gaze, waylaid as it now was by her svelte, athletic, and tall form. He let it tarry there, almost rudely. Alexa did not reciprocate in ocular combat, did not dignify the fixing of poles between who would play subject and who would be stuck with the role of object. Instead, her bead bowed and her face slipped into Chiaroscuro. Jakob could not speak confidently to this face, his words drained off by the desiccating aftereffects of too much beer winged past the resigned nod of his uvula. The beer had stolen away all his better judgement, and later his agility with patter had succumbed to post-guzzling fatigue, shuttering his throat of anything memorable to say.
"Are you far from home?" he dithered. "Do you have enough for a taxi?" Every one of his attempts frustrated by her lack of response, he had no way of showcasing himself to this woman he was now considering some sort of divine gift of the night to him alone. Eager to keep this woman and open the possibility of having a sexy companion to efface his earlier night's failures to pick up, he was grasping. He was feeling the urge to click away.
"I don't know where I am," she said slowly. "I need to get home." —Which sounded to him like "I don’t know who I am." There was a slight insouciant timbre to the glasslike fragility of her voice. Her timid and apparent helpless state reinforced in his mind that she was prey—a fanciful notion, if only she could acknowledge the designation. But she was far from being helpless or fey. The cocaine had long ago left its excoriating burn in her sinuses in the drawdown of its effects, and the conveyor of mixed drinks had mixed themselves up further in the souring, protesting sac of her stomach. Her previous chatty self that had spiked along the hyperactive EKG of conversation and coke had ebbed below base function, gradually separating thoughts from talkative flow, marooning independent daubs of semi-relevant gossip and fetal blobs of opinion. Jettisoning herself from the studio party due to an irrevocable lull in social activity, her homing instinct was now scuppered by the simple and banal fact of being lost. Taxis that stalked the remainders of bar-closings like slow, wheeled predators had vanished. Instead, she would have to endure Jakob's barbaric stabs at conversation and his clumsily masked sexual overtures. The first was a brazen attempt to shroud her small, almost rectangular shoulders with his arm&mdasha move she blocked with the simple deflection made by an untrusting look. She dip-fingered her fashionably microscopic purse with its whisper pockets just enough to hold ID. There was no money left, all of what she withdrew from the ATM earlier that evening winnowed out by the need to sustain the party's interactive threshold through the nose.
It had been a rough day for Alexa. Her visit to the psychoanalyst had laid on as many layers as the therapy peeled. Unlike Jakob, her problems were complicated whorls of traumas nesting in traumas. Her psychoanalyst could offer up motley reasons for her ice-armored approach to life, but his practice delighted in poking about her gelid core rather than attempt to thaw it in long sessions of emotional sharing that, to this particular analyst, simply demeaned everyone involved. Today they briefly exhumed a memory of mother and sent it back to its glacial zone, another remote berg in the hoarfrost of her "issues." Neither analyst nor analysand made the open admission that it was not cure that was desired, but cultivation—persistent issues transformed into hardened bits of plate mail. Mechanically, after leaving the party, she found herself drawn back to the psychoanalyst's office as if a reliable augur for further fortification.
"I don't have anything," she said. It was an ideal set-up for Jakob's chronic opportunism.
"Listen," he said as soothingly as many drinks would allow, "if you need a place to crash tonight, I've got an extra bed at my house. It isn't far from here."
She perceived her predicament as inconvenient, his disingenuous generosity slightly less so. He was a bit young, but not unattractive. Second-guessing his offer wasn't important since his parasitism was the price to pay for temporary billeting. There would be plenty of excuses she could employ if she felt the price a bit too dear. Frustrating or appeasing his masculinity was a distant, secondary issue. Jakob took this as a cue that he had salvaged an exquisite victory from an otherwise dry expedition.
Jakob saw the world according to a slim corridor of mirrors, the recursion of the self typical of adolescence metastasizing into early adulthood as a malignant obstacle. Trapped in the vulgar dialect of his own melodramatic tongue, the only conversational topic he had on offer was himself, each detail embellished and amplified to the exasperation of all but his choice prey: gullible young girls who thought of his boasting as sharing, his tiresome rants about his potentiality a sign of noble ambition, and his incessant self-exhibition a validation of their own existence decanted through whatever scraps of attention they could get.
Jakob's métier was young girls with their need for approval and proxy fathers, roles played by swaggering parasites with hyperbolic egos. Jakob would limn every line of his poetry with the standard sequence of words opening the sesame of these girls' garments, leveraging unresolved self-esteem issues to his prurient advantage. He may have believed in the purple of his prose, but that proved to be an inevitable effect of pinching thought off at the stem resulting in the asphyxiated, poorly emulated Victorian language he employed.
Jakob and Alexa jig-sawed their way to his home. Jakob had put an artistic face on his own destitution, living as he did in a terminally jobless state insisting that it was necessary to follow his self-appointed noble task of being "the poet." Despite being on the dole, he still managed to satisfy his little addictions. For him it was heroin and a smattering of other drugs, all of them taken recklessly in that spirit of youthful invincibility, as though youth in itself condones experimentation without consequence. His addiction was staged in the same manner from where he glommed it: by aping poets, novelists, and visual artists he felt an unearned kinship with. He jabbed the smack needle into the epicenter of his own fun mirror of endless emulation, between the folds of his patchwork identity. Drug culture, with its own history of revivals, had brought heroin back into fashion with the same celerity and celebrity that would make it gauche in the near future, all according to its own sub-economic rhythms. Rhythms, of course, that required a culturally astute musical appreciation to detect the minor perturbations of fashion, an acuity Jakob lacked, lodged as he was in his own caricatured idea of a beat-poet past known only in superficial gestures.
Everything Jakob soldiered toward—girls, attention, and the banal acquisition of substances illicit and otherwise—he had no ability to savor, trite were his tastes and numb were his faculties as they wobbled their way to the image of poetic self-destruction. The patches that held together this life were silicone injections on cracked and filthy sills, reliable projections in the nomadic series of squalid rentals he occupied. And to hear him engage in long jeremiads on the contemporary plight of artists—in itself an exasperating excuse to install his own "genius" in the ears of his audience—he could not name three contemporary artists. His woeful tirades were to be solely understood as his plight, never mind anyone else's that had been enveloped for mere disguise and convenience in his overarching social critique.
Alexa followed a half-step behind, noting the conspicuously placed rave flyer poking out of Jakob's leather panted back pocket. They passed a decrepit church that was more neglected than aged, the gate topped with encrusted hooks snag-toothed by lurid orange rust. Beside the embankment of the canal, wayward bound, new condominiums settled in an orphaned space, alien spores from modernist architecture left to die where the wind deposited them, flat-packed and flat-smashed ovulating spinsters of an anachronistic machine-womb, their rigid-form suet stumps a means of smuggling suburban afterbirth back into the core. Crinkle-cut, recently sodded lawns were edged by ruches of stylized brick shaved into angular rosettes. Alexa sidled by this posh-modern pastiche to issue three sharp ejaculations of the stomach, slashes of dun-colored guttural disjecta that left sticky threads across a granite driveway, discarded lace for the morning residents to hose away.
"Are you all right?" he asked, his hand hovering over her back in a gesture of comfort. She put out two hands that demanded patience and to give her space. Jakob busied himself ogling the mini tresses sprouting from the crown of her head, tapered in place. She gave one more abortive heave.
She righted herself and gave a cursory wipe of her mouth with her wrist.
"Is it far?" she asked, now back in step, but not meeting his gaze.
"No, not really."
Alexa anchored her first step and then calibrated her pace to keep with Jakob's. She hoped he would not speak, his attempts at making conversation nothing more than upsetting a pile of empty tin cans in the shrill sound-off of a territorial battle of raccoons in an alley.
"It's in a pretty okay neighborhood," he keeled the words toward her for acceptance. "I do all my poetry there, my little writing clinic," he added a shameful plug in the hopes that it would kindle Alexa's attention, prompting questions that he already had rehearsed answers to. If it was an interesting piece of anecdotal character, it was ignored, and so he was denied an opportunity to live as he had chosen to live: wandering from one fawning, obsequious interview to another.
They had reached his neighborhood, an area chewed along its oblong edges by age and surrender. A faded nimbus traced a nostalgic line around the city-gobbled Southend borough, clutching at the remaining pocket status of distinction it once had, dribbled off into the nearby canal some decades ago. The street light swarmed with tiny vermin, a devout congregation of mosquitoes and moths in a scurrying aerial revival around globes of glass. The bridge was draped in a lazy arch over the black, turgid canal, a ruler-made slash between South- and Old Southend. The outer rim of the old borough was perforated by patchy cheap-side warrens and scrabble-strewn parkland, local charm and vestigial forest receding according to urban-pattern baldness, everything menaced by the estuary of housing expansion through apartment-bloc densities. In an effort to curtail reckless sprawl, the new governing motif of the mayoral office bowing to the howling of environmentalists was to set up a green-space cordon around the city. They initiated a process of folding and refolding the population inside, the urban planning equivalent of pulling bread dough. New wealth was compacted in condominiums along the canal front, tired or former-wealth squatting behind these in yellow brick two-storeys thrown up to house war heroes and cowards alike. A fingernail scratch of gentrification traced its mauve way across the area's dense midriff, refurbished estates cut into commercial segments for the occupancy of quaint boutiques and cafes keeping their diminutive gourmet crusts on cinnamon-dusted saucers behind glass.
A weak and late throb of guilt took Jakob who had the worst of two dogmas, one demi-dogma spoken for by the rabbinical and the other by the crucifix. His mixed faith parentage meant alternating custody over his religious education, resulting in a soft rejection or forgetting of both. This pincer source of guilt tended to bleat at inopportune times, like this one where his Samaritan act was just a little distracting sock puppet over the claw of his more libidinal purpose, a sex-seeking missile happy to make impact after the barren, tedious night. The only resolution, his deeper need, was satisfied by only one type of behavior: excess. He saw dance clubs as his church, various drugs the articles of his faith, and his hapless social engagements in the night life as proof of a congregated community.
There, a few blocks away, was Jakob's apartment, set in a four-bedroom pre-fab connected in a long, descending row, a rush-job chancre ill-advisedly built on a flood plateau next to the river, and with a slender undulating asphalt strip chewed up, twisted, and split in places where gravel boiled up. The houses in this lane ended abruptly at the river, rimed at the end by a fence-less and overgrown shoreline choked with cattails, unnameable water-shrubbery, and whatever garbage ended its voyage in their tangles. Across the faces of this row was a raised retaining wall with a patchy view of a stand-alone house’s backyard obscured by roots and branches that strangled the chain-link fence above the hastily poured concrete barrier. A fire had gutted a house a few days back up the street. The smell of burnt chemicals still seeping from its now gaping, charred mouths.
Jakob’s first harsh instructional lesson was about to take place. The lesson would have everything to do with his interest—art—but hardly in a direction he would have favored. And so it began:
Jakob ground the key into the front door and gave it a small nudge. Alexa was treated to the desperate embarrassment of Jakob's attempt to stitch the impedimenta of his apartment to a pathetic version of self offered up for niche market approval. Classic literature still as dormant and unread since he purchased them at the Salvation Army thrift shops were conspicuously lining makeshift shelving, tack-up posters of rave events with Japanime motifs curled on the walls, his poetry fanning out on a dubious coffee table like a selection of magazines in a waiting room, and a collection of obscure CDs—one of which he hastened to play—all for the benefit of showing who he was by what he owned (a sour dramatization of the history of alienation from being to having to appearing). The contrivance of these items served one purpose: to be visible. She was not impressed, and as the CD tootled with a posturing avant-garde mix of minimalist techno poured into a bad raga slush, she eyed everything as gauche and cloying. This was simulation splendor for the culturally and financially challenged. Jakob sat across from her on a chair he reprieved from a curb-side death sentence. He looked at his saccharin paeans of poetic gibberish on the table and hoped Alexa would follow his gaze to notice his shuffle-gated attempt at writing sensitively. This silent invitation was ignored.
"Where do you come from?" he asked, folding his hands across his chest in the awkward appearance of conducting a job interview.
"Why must we turn to origin stories? It’s insincere. You obviously want to get laid. I don’t want to continue this into a lifelong friendship, okay? I don't like sharing," she said.
She could not account for this spike in her own irritation. It was perhaps borne of her disjunction with the vulgar affectation of the apartment.
"I was just curious; you have an accent."
"Is this the immigration office? I have an accent. So?" she flustered before finding her words. "This is juvenile. I’m bored. Could you turn off that noise? It's shit. It's hurting my head."
Jakob teased out his movement, making to be slow about honoring her demand so as to make it look as though he elected to turn it off by his own volition. He thought of a comeback, some way of insulting her that she "didn't get it," that it was somehow her fault, her deficiency, but thought better of letting his mouth spray with piss-petty criticism that would kill the possibility for sex. This jarring, incongruent transformation had occurred within the time it took to let her in; at first somewhat confused and a bit helpless, she had turned vituperative.
"Where do you live? I mean, like what neighborhood. I haven't seen you around these parts," he offered, regretting the tired phrase turn.
"Why?" she asked suspiciously, and then adding to it in her thoughts: "Do you think I'm going to invite you over for fuckin' tea? Maybe have a little summer barbecue? Go jogging together?"—the sharp thrill of mocking him had made her more alert, even a bit aroused.
"Just making conversation."
"Well, don’t. Don’t bother groping around for something to talk about. Yak-yak-yak. Fucking motor-mouth. 'Ooh, look at me, I'm so smart and artsy... look at all my cool junk!'"
She picked up a page of his poetry and snickered. "Oh, yeah, you're a real genius, you are. Fucking brilliant… You should stick to roses are red. At least it would be honest."
"Are you saying that my work isn't honest?"
"Uh-uh, I'm not getting involved in a discussion about your poetry," her eyes flashed wide as she tossed the sheet at the table, sending it on an awkward loop-the-loop before tucking itself under the couch. She delighted in being able to poke him in all the most sensitive places, the mushy vulnerable spots of his puff-up ego, asserting her own power. He proved a perfect practice dummy, if only because he emotionally responded so well to mistreatment.
He thought of saying something snide or defaulting to going on a long defense of his work, but settled on the deflated excuse of "it's just a draft."
"Do you hear well?" she said as though speaking to someone who didn't. "I. Don't. Want. To. Talk. About. Poetry. With. You. Understand? And before you try to be sneaky about it, I don't want to hear anything you have to say about"—Alexa paused to make a visual sweep, taking inventory of the room and all the objects that conveyed what they craved to be and simply were not&mdash'"art, music, literature, books, or philosophy. I don't want to hear your theories, don't want to argue aesthetics, and I sure as fuck don't want you to play shitty teenage ballads to me on that."—she pointed to the heavily decal-spotted electric guitar in the corner which seemed to stiffen guiltily as though accused. "None of your bullshit. Don't want to hear it." She sat back in triumph, arms folded across her chest. "So much for conversation," he said, veering on insulting.
"Awww… Did I just spoil all your pick-up tricks? And before you write me off as some ditzy diva who thumbs through fuckin' Cosmo for celebrity gossip and tummy-tuck tips, it's not like I'm not interested in art, poetry, and all that… It's just that I don't want to talk to you about those things. I'm pretty sure you have nothing I'd think interesting to say about them."
"You're pretty sure of yourself, especially without knowing me."
"Yeah, I am," she shot a rueful smile."“Tough to be pegged a poseur, isn't it? Really sucks when someone can see you're just a little boy trying too hard, right? So, yeah, I'm really sure of myself on this one. Only a complete wannabe lives in squalor like this and is convinced it's poetic, or artistic, or whatever you think you are. You've been trying to impress me ever since you bashed into me all drunk."
"Oh," Jakob rose to the attack, circling all the little wagons of his pride, "you have me figured out, eh? I suppose you hang out with 'real' artists, then?"
"Yeah, I do. Real artists. They don't live in outhouses like these with all their clutter in the open in the hopes that someone will tell them how fuckin' special they are. Maybe all your art heroes lived in poverty, but the difference is that they didn't choose to. You do, which makes you entirely lacking in taste."
"Are these the lines your sell-out friends feed you?"
"Oh, ye-e-eah! My sell-out friends… the ones who actually make a fuckin' living because people like what they do. You bought the whole suffering artist myth, didn't you? Right down to the core belief that any kind of recognition must mean selling out. The only people who use the term 'sell-out' mark themselves as envious little shits trying to grasp at any excuse for the fact they have no talent. No endless rummaging through the discount bin at the alternative record shop for plinkety-plunk 'music' will change that. Your whole thing is a fuckin' ornament. No real engagement, no depth, just fussing with the storefront when you have nothing to sell. My sell-out friends don't spend their time in dingy places with dingy 'artistes' trying to out-pose one another. You know why you're not a famous poet?"
"Oh, please, enlighten me."
"Because you're too busy with yourself. Because you have no talent. Because you live in a hovel. Because, because, because, be-ca-a-a-use!—you're a scared little boy who pooh-poohs the 'game' without even knowing its rules. Start by taking regular baths, chuck all this pointless bullshit that you think makes you look avant-garde, move to a better apartment, and—oh my!—go get some life experience so your poetry can be about something other than how fuckin' wonderful you are. Your type is so common. It's like you all have the same stink about you, the same look-me aura. I generally stay the hell away from your kind—too much fuckin' hassle, too much head-patting… 'yes, yes, you are so great, so perfect, so profound&hdllip; there, there, I know, no one understands you, let me be your mommy.' Ugh. It's a lot of work for nothing, catering to fragility, getting bored stupid from big plans that never go anywhere. Nothing satisfies your type. You bitch, bitch, bitch about sell-outs, yet you bitch, bitch, bitch about being so poor and unrecognized. Can't have it both ways! It's no wonder your kind eventually end up suiciding—much to the relief of everyone. It takes too long, though. Your type likes to write the suicide letters over and over again, just to get some attention. When your type finally gets sick of your own ego, and nobody gives a shit whether you kill yourselves, you finally do. Problem solved. If you're not boasting, you're depressed. What's the fuckin' point?"
Jakob gripped the arm wrests. He didn't know if he was furious or beaten. She had delivered a far too exacting and withering assessment of all that he could never admit to himself. The vinegary criticism ate through every attempt of his living vers libre, making it seem trite—and it was. It didn't matter how many blogs he posted his work on.
One might wonder why Alexa would not have just demanded money from Jakob, called a taxi, and flee this decrepit place with its ridiculous occupant. The answer to that was very simple: it forecast a role she would be a natural at in the future, and this was just practice. Perhaps it was then that she discovered a talent for using her tongue as an effective lash and that she became enamored with how well it functioned for that purpose.
She was as equally self-indulgent as she accused Jakob of being, both symptomatic reflexes to a social pandemic of learned helplessness.
"Told ya I didn't want to talk poetry. Now look at us. And I'm still bored. Do you want to fuck, or what?"
A matter of brusque commercial exchange or a crisis response? Alexa put away her attacks and gave him a smile that was one part mollifying and another an erotic invitation. Despite this, her expression still bore the traces of someone who would never remain interested in anything for very long.
Jakob crammed his hurt away and tumbled after her on the couch, at first playing the suave romantic aiming for the zenith of the erotic, but defaulting to the stentorian diktat of the hormones, alloyed with "feelings," which he claimed to have in more abundance than others. She, for her part, had no need of him in any substantial way, and this attracted him more. The girls he brought home always swooned over his ersatz romance poems, or responded slowly to his coaxing advances as if needing an epic prelude that justifies abandon.
She adjusted her supple form to gain proper positioning. With one foot on the floor as leverage, and the other hooking a heel into Jakob's lower back, she made the rehearsed pigeon coos of standard porn while they both fidgeted in their crushed state to find the right angles for their long bodies. Off went the clothes, floundering went the limbs, and the mechanical process soon followed. One, two, three… one, two, three… Alexa's pace tied to a metronome fixed on the same vanishing point as her gaze. Meanwhile, Jakob acting the part of the arrhythmic bull, effete jabbing at angles, ass wiggling before burying between her thighs as he hit the mark—one, two, three. Her timed moans and gasps like staccato mocking laughter insufflated Jakob's ear. He could not see her face, how preoccupied it was with other things while his face was straining with the exertion of concentration, an ars combinatoria of executing a procedure where timing, pressure, and pace were being marshaled toward the goal of orgasm.
Jakob tried all manner of physical permutations to solve this riddle, and generally felt rather skilled as he kept acutely trained to every rise of pitch responding to his actions, persistent in his analysis enough to induce the response he required. Not so here. Alexa continued her feeble robotic imitation of pleasure, so he attempted to echo her sound and lead her by example into changing the tune. This did not have the desired effect; Alexa turned to Lamaze style huffing.
With failure auguring badly for his performance, he tried to dig even deeper, straightening his arms and bending backward until the discs in his back ground together. It was then that he saw the tattoos splayed across her torso: a stylized SS eagle on her belly and a fist-sized swastika on her left breast. She noticed him noticing, but didn't break her huff and puff. The sight of these markings nearly put him off his stride, but not quite. He finished off with a yodel twisting its way out of his throat followed by a panting gurgle. Like his poetry, his sexual attempt was a conceptual stumbling toward beginning instead of just beginning.
Not one for the ameliorative function of pillow talk to dispel the usual guilt and disappointment that accompanies afterglow, Alexa slipped out from beneath Jakob's spent body, clutched her discarded clothes to herself, and made off to sleep in the other room. If she had the means to leave then, she would have never come in the first place; she had no choice but to wait for the buses to resume service again.
Jakob was convinced that her previous assault against him hexed the sex which had been carried out in the most perfunctory way, the factory producing the last widget of the day. All his self-posturing was fatuous, now funneling out of him as there would be no audience to primp himself for. A first blush of pre-morning cloaked the sky in muted purple, a morning that crept in slow and round through his window, the premature glints of sunrise sending an ambassador of dawn light by a delicate tracery of luminous vein parting a powdery dune.
The tattoos were all that stayed with Jakob, charcoal ghost markings stenciled on the flesh, and he was puzzled why he so willingly laid his tongue upon these frozen and pert emblems of anachronistic hate. He had succumbed, dead-weight, to their rigid formation awash in saliva and sweat, these emblazoned totems which going in and out of focus in his memory. An inherited moral guard-rail, an unquestioned judgement that condemned the sight of these symbols seemed, to his confusion, to lose all context, all meaning—ciphers ripped whole and bloody and dunked into an undisturbed tidal pool disconnected from sense and proportion. He knew what these symbols meant in history books, in documentaries, in movies lazily banking on the mass cultural association with absolute evil, but what did they mean now, there on her body? Why did she choose to brand herself with the obvious, and what association was he to stitch together in relation between her and history, her and the history he accepted with a nod with all the reactions expected of him? But there, in his mind, those symbols burned, orphaned from their context and inscribed elsewhere, somewhere uncannily placed upon the erotic and taut, a slop of Teutonic mythology and sex, the triumph of the industrial machine harnessed for its power to maximize horror through dehumanizing efficiency. Will of the robot, the hate-machine, replay reels of blank-minded fucking collated with the march of storm-troopers and the erotic charge of nationalist rallies… Jakob servicing as much as he was serviced, hail to the body as nothing less than a biomachine. Left now with the cryptic of horror, an imprint stamped by a mechanical coupling and the presence of symbols sundered by their appeal to both the real and the mythical—two ends tied together in the bow upon that unsolicited gift in the shape of a woman.
A few hours of staggered sleep. The gale force of intentions of clever things to say had long ago succumbed to an erratic drizzle, resolving themselves into weak little bromides. The tiny cloudbursts of witty conversation Jakob tried on Alexa were met with sharp silences. There was no convenient moment to bring up the issue of tattoos and their meaning—Alexa was eager to flee. She didn't object, nor consent, to Jakob's gallant gesture of walking her to a bus stop, but would have preferred to make the walk alone. He puppy-trotted beside her.
Even in nudity, Alexa was—in the Victorian parlance common to Jakob's understanding of the world—completely barricaded; in the daylight, fully clothed, with wraparound sunglasses, she was even more impregnable. She winced once out of the shade of the row houses and in the full glare, and went into a brisk walk.
"Gotta work today? I hope you can make it," Jakob broke silence with a crass remark implying that he had somehow crippled her through sex. She responded with a disgusted curl of her lip. He regretted saying anything at all, but that was not enough to keep his childish eagerness from urging his continuation: "So, um… should I call you? Or you want to call me, or… ?"‐he felt rushed since the bus was due to arrive. And there it was, groaning along up over the hill, rattling its sour belly half full of passengers.
"Uhh," she began as if being propositioned by a homeless drunk, "I really don't think so. It wasn't a big deal. It was just a fuck. That doesn't make us boyfriend-girlfriend," she added with derision.
Jakob was at pains to salvage anything. "Well, no, I didn't mean that. It's no big deal. We can hook up or not, it doesn't really matter all that much to me."
Yet it did; his unconvincing back-pedal only reinforced that he was already smitten by an amateur crush.
"My bus," Alexa announced. "Thank gawd."
She boarded with no good-byes, and Jakob—a pretentious consumer of Euro-cinema art-house—did not know what his role should have been. Was this the beginning of one of those cliché and heavily intense French romances marked by terseness, excessive complication, and unresolved in love and hate? For him, the previous night had been a signal event, drenched in "poetic sentiment" in his understanding, and his failure to explain it and be forced to face the obvious made it a potent exaggeration in his mind. There this "delicious tragedy" would be installed, festering along with all his other dim notions of what made life lubricious and exotic, cameras trained on his fascinating story. What Jakob did not know about culture and women could fill libraries, and what he did know from scraps of disengaged reading and observation would fit roomily within Alexa's micro-purse.
The bus coughed blue exhaust as it pulled away, and he could not help himself but to search the windows for a sign she was having second thoughts, that she wanted a do-over on kinder terms. No such luck, and so he returned home, playing out a fantasy of what should have occurred, but even then sabotaging his chances. The replay went like this:
The way she said it, words spooling from an equation with an unrelenting sequence of long, abstract numbers. Jakob was powerless before the inevitable, the cold efficiency and overwhelming denial she was creasing against his hope. But then Jakob was no stranger to the usual motley of rejections, even if he could later in some adolescent revenge-fantasy fugue recast the event into something gauchely "poetic," but the deliberate and calculating nature of those words abolished any possibility for rebuttal or further petition. Alexa had learned quite early how to wield the cold and hurtful word with a deftness that, in her characteristic sangfroid, would have seen her excel in the harsh and embattled terrain of high finance. Even in fantasy, in his desired replay of the event of their parting, she was still cruel to him. He imagined how it would be, how it could have been, and even his fantasy was intent on sabotaging him:
"Have I offended you?" Jakob asked, rather foolishly, the swoop of a question wilting flatly, a disheveled and desiccated floral bouquet of intentions.
"No," she replied mechanically, much to Jakob's sullen disappointment. Truth be told, he desired nothing more than to pad an oar into the undisturbed menace of her emotional pool… Perhaps, if extending disingenuous apology did not work, then to swat violently in an effort to shatter this cool placidity.
"Why are you giving me such a hard time?"
"You make it hard on yourself," she retorted diffidently. A pair of pigeons cooed on the flagstone that had yawned beneath them in this daydream, propelling their corpulent pearl-feathered bodies with violent rhythmic neck jerks.
There was nothing left to say, thought Jakob, but yet so much if only he could scramble for the right words. He felt as though having made it this far in discovering the secret hideout completely impotent in not knowing the secret password. He attempted to play for time, but it was obvious that Alexa was bored, and the boredom of others for an entertainer like Jakob was enough to induce a state of gibbering panic. He had to say something, but every selection of words he dug from his mental trough, turned over, hastily inspected, failed to meet the criteria for deployment. Instead, he let verbal paralysis speak the numbness and futility of the situation.
In this recreation of a moment that could never have been, Alexa was not completely repelled by Jakob, but nor was she smitten by his appearance—and now even less with his obviously juvenile manner. It may have had its charm, but it was beginning to be a monotonous chore. She was not playing hard to get as stolidly non-perceptive lovers in her past had wrongly interpreted and accused her of. It was just that this situation had become a tad embarrassing, not least because there was a fundamental misunderstanding about the arrangement: this was a fleeting transaction of bodies, a touch of haphazard jouissance. The idea that this was going to gain in depth and meaning like outgrowths threatening to overtake the fence she had staked around the event was a bit unnerving… and so typical of the man-child Jakob obviously seemed to be. In her experience, there was only one curative for dealing with such men-children: the harsh and quick excision, the brutally blunt rejection that swept all the already-accumulating romantic bric-a-brac off the table in a gesture of necessary annihilation. Anything less would feed their hope, invited them to try.
"Listen," she said, resting her eyes above her sunglasses, this a gesture meant to convey brutal frankness, "I am not interested in pursuing this further. If you are harboring any kind of sentimentalist bullshit, I am here to tell you to just fucking quit it because I am not going to reciprocate. I won't be your little muse, got it?" And, in partial truth, she dropped the pride-smasher: "and you are not half as good a lover as you think you are. I never asked for a threesome with your pathetic ego. You’re sloppy and desperate. You’ve a lot to learn about women, but I am not going to be your teacher."
And with those words, all of Jakob's peopling of a possible future with Alexa was summarily pre-empted. He let this false tragedy enshroud the remainder of his day in a shoddy cling-film. No, even his own fantasies betrayed him. Hurt, a bit delirious, and now perspiring with last night's beer oozing from his pores, he was determined to put the undesirable elements of the imbroglio behind him, keeping only his revisions of it that confirmed his insufferable "suffering poet" guise. Around him were twenty-some-odd years of life scraps, or rather the clutter he signed his sloppy narrative upon as if bringing these into meaning. No, he would rebound, and was already planning the coming evening, how we would act the lavish sentimentalist to make another sexual conquest, collect another pinned butterfly for his masculinity showcase. The tattoos, however, remained. And, in the place where he hoped most to make connection, even this was shielded by a pair of opaque sunglasses.
Jakob's meeting of Alexa was, for him, of intolerable significance, though he could not say why. On the face of it, it was another implausible anecdote in the silly telling of his life: drunk, wannabe poet crashes into emotionally distant sexy woman who magically relaxes trust in assenting to go home with him. He is upbraided for being a pretentious prat, is shocked by some tacky tattoos, and she leaves determined to forget the one-night stand entirely. The question would remain as to why this particular event would precipitate a crisis in the silly post-adolescent libertine. It was the first touch of atrocity, just an opener, and succeeding events would wedge it further. On his way back to his apartment, he lingered to watch as a car caught fire after flipping into a pole. There did not seem to be any driver at the wheel. Emergency crews arrived and that was the denouement of the event. The fire was smothered and any bodies bagged securely in ambulances.
Upon returning home there was waiting for him a large package. He took the manila papered object into the house and unwrapped it. He did not think to look for a return address until after he had glanced at the large book under his hands. There was none. The package, as he made out from the torn paper, was addressed to him, and nowhere inside was an explanation as to why he had been chosen, as if by lottery, to receive this book.
Jakob did, on occasion, receive small, stapled DIY chapbooks in the mail from his equally failed poetry colleagues, but this package did not belong to any of those cloying mail-outs.
The book was as large as a dinner tray, and about 360 or more pages. For those not familiar with the Codex Seraphinianus, it remains a kind of cyclopedia of a bizarre, alien world resembling our own in a tangential way. Written and illustrated by Luigi Serafini in the late 1970s, the text is populated by an unknown language devised by Serafini himself, a looping kind of arabesque cipher accompanying images that defy description in many cases. Some books are simply meant to be seen and experienced.
Jakob adored it right away, if partially out of its mystery and also for its apparent inspired nature. There was only one trace of the sender: a yellow post-it on one of the pages where leopards are leaping out of body sacks while carpets catch fire: An atrocity begins here.
The sudden appearance of this mysterious book had afforded Jakob a means of forgetting his having been humiliated, and thus also restoring to him a sense of some importance in the world if some stranger had decided to invite Jakob into the enigma of the book. He could not, he reasoned, be such a hopeless poseur if someone had taken the trouble to send this expensive objet d'art. He would spend the rest of the day puzzling over its interior, bewitched by each lurid page.
Their pet execs in the recording industry soaked your existence, in-utero onward, with perpetual grunting decibels, drumming monotony, aural steroids. You obediently i-podded it straight into the side of your learning-disabled head while slogging through Fallujah's scab-clogged gutters.
Dr Edward Albrecht had a restful sleep, and was deciding which of the two similar dun-colored ties he wanted to wear today before declining both in favor of a bright red one. His dreams, commonly a merger of the sexual and barbaric, were especially piquant and lent his animations through the usual morning routine an added sense of confident purpose. Today, he thought, was a good one to bruise with the force of himself upon it. His car copulated with the other machines on the traffic-logged road, the result of an accident up ahead. He hoped to see it.
Every demented villain must have a favorite pop song, and on Dr Albrecht’s car stereo was playing I saw Her Again by the Mamas and the Papas
Seed: Self-absorption and narcissism is a turning away from public matters, a complacency with growing despotism in the state as a result of increased learned helplessness. Self-absorption becomes coping response.
© Kane Faucher 2012
The Infinite Atrocity, second part of The Infinite Trilogy, scheduled for release in 2012
Art by Matina Stamatakis © Matina Stamatakis 2012