It’s fucking crazy to think that sending a guy like ME to an old folks’ home is going to do ANYBODY any good at ALL.
My court appearance went off without a hitch. Processed like meat, cleansed of disease, stamped with assurances—I am made anew, and shall never stray from the path of direct righteousness again. They said to me, “Pendel, you have done wrong by us…why did you wander into the dark? Tell us what you saw while you were there.” And I said please give me a chance to explain, oh devisors of the faith, oh commanders of the wallow, oh brandishers of the law and sickle—my time in shadow was wasted…wasted…and now I’ve returned to the light and my sight is restored. Take pity. Have mercy. Show me the same clemency you would reserve for yourself. Are we not brothers? Has your life been a simple traipse from one patch of verdant truth to the next? Or did you struggle? Was there a climb over rock and stone with bleeding palms and cracked fingers and the thinning air shortening your breath as the sand trickled into your eyes? Did you stumble over cracks in the twilight? Was there never a moment of fear and doubt when, roused for a moment from your daydreams, you looked around to find the streets were strange and the windows cracked and boarded? Are you a fucking prodigy? Have you never soiled a finger while wiping your ass? Do you ever even shit AT ALL? Or are you magically immaculate, with every tender bite of veal dissolving like a drop of dew in the morning sunlight; no need for the crude stomach, the vile intestine?
“Are you quite through?” asked the judge, an old, dry fuck by the name of Parrott.
“Would you just shut up already?” pleaded Uncle Ben—whom you all know by now.
But I could not stop throwing myself upon the mercy of the court: Let me tell you a dream I once had, your honor (I begged). I was only a boy at the time—which in reality for me was not so long ago—and the summer was upon us and it was fucking HOT. I mean, you live here, you know how it gets. It’s brutal, your honor. The humidity is a living thing that fills your lungs; a sloth with hot breath sitting upon your shoulder, holding you down while the algae in its coat slowly creep down your neck and chest. I fucking HATE IT and I always have, and I complain viciously until all around me pray for a coma to take me until milder days arrive.
Evening falls, and the asshole sun finally finds it in its boiling heart to sink behind the hills, but still the bloated air presses its sweaty hand over your nose and mouth, suffocating you. Such barometric oppression is twice as distracting to a child as he tries to sleep, and to ME, ever the super fucking SENSITVE one, it is three times so. But my mother and father—too cheap to turn on the freaking battered window unit that could have saved us all from perdition and YEARS of mild spite—resolved the issue as inexpensively as they possibly could by letting us all sleep in the living room that night in front of one crappy, tore up box fan (as opposed to procuring a fan for each one of us, which would have broke the goddamned BANK, no doubt). Kids love this kind of shit, however, and the break from routine was welcome. We giggled and farted our way down the hall that night, our pillows under our arms—Pendel, Clare, and Matty—happy then because we knew no better; happy because to us, shelter was all there was, a roof over your head and a shirt on your back and the smile on the face of your father or your mother—never to see the worried creases in their foreheads when they turned to the window as the world wore away at their will—simple reassurances that sufficed so well at the time, but later would leave a residue of vague regret on your ribs as you think of all the nasty shocks in store.
Tee hee hee.
As hot as it was in the house, the breeze and noise from the fan was an extraordinarily comforting thing, and the very act of waiting for sleep was like a hug; the movement of air over my head seemed exotic, hypnotic. All five of us lay in a row in the living room that night, and I couldn’t have felt safer. Gradually, the murmurs and mirth faded as the shadows grew. Soon, all was dark and quiet, but something tugged at my mind telling me the peacefulness was a façade, and though I knew the loved ones near me were all asleep, a squiggling worm of fear in my gut told me that I was not the only thing awake in the vicinity—so I wasn’t entirely surprised when the door to my parents’ room slowly and silently cracked open…
The malevolent specter of my dream didn’t emerge from the room immediately. It first let the fact of the door sink in for a few seconds. As my guts slowly turned to ice, I watched the crack of blackness upon blackness slowly widen. The ice inside me froze my lips, froze my lungs, froze my limbs, and I could not speak, breath, or move when finally the dark figure—hooded and thin and uniquely evil—lurched slowly and ohhhh so silently towards us—towards ME, really, I KNEW he was coming for me, this evil piece of shit—and I remember feeling as helpless as I ever had in my LIFE, your honor. Because you see, I knew this presence inching its way slowly nearer wanted to kill me, yes, but he also wanted to get me out of the room as quietly as possible, because when I died he wanted me to be alone. Do you understand? He wanted my death to be worse than painful, more calloused than premature, greater than the terror of violence.
He wanted me to be lonely when I died, your honor.
There are many shades of black I discovered as I watched this mysterious cutter. The room I was in was very dark, but the hallway before me leading to the bedrooms was even darker. The crevasse left by the yawning door to my parents’ room was plain black. But the cloaked figure advancing on me like the staggered frames of a movie with missing cells was even BLACKER, and the hole in the hood where the face should be…well, that was a fucking abyss, plain and simple. When you rise uncontrollably (after the unannounced exit of gravity) above the trees and into the sky, straight up through the clouds—and the air is stripped from your lungs, and the atmosphere loses its color as you flail your arms hopelessly—soaring up to outer space, and then there is the blackness of the universe before you coupled with the unimaginable distances between things; but you do not stop, you only keep flying in a direction that can only still be described as upwards (though there is no “up” now), until, to your horror, you find yourself passing into a realm unknown, the mythical NOTHING that we always feared existed but could not prove, could not even bring ourselves to theorize, and yet here it is and its SWALLOWING you, gulping you in, sucking you out of the inkiness of space and hauling you into a blackness that you could have never in a million years supposed existed…the BLACK of NOTHING which you never imagined because who could ever truly imagine nothing? This was the black of the encroaching figure’s face. And now its frigid hand was around my ankle and pulling me, and the night no longer seemed hot, it no longer seemed close, it no longer seemed ANYTHING for I was quickly leaving the world of day and night and morning and evening and ANYTHING; I was being pulled away from safety to die alone. And I finally found my voice and I cried out for my mother to help me because the harbinger had me—the blackness was closing around my eyes as I saw my people all start suddenly from the floor at the sound of my voice and immediately begin to shout after me with their hands reaching out—but in their eyes was hopelessness. They did not gain their feet to chase after me. They knew there was nothing they could do. I was fucking GONE, your honor. I clawed furiously at the carpeting and the walls as I was pulled down the hallway towards the great nothing to die alone, but there was no purchase to stay me. Everything faded.
I awoke in my father’s arms, sobbing, crying out, my little kid PJ’s soaked in sweat. Like a goddamned baby.
“Where are you going with all of this?” judge Parrott demanded.
“Your Honor, my client is simply very sorry about everything that’s happened and the people’s time he’s wasted today,” pleaded Uncle Ben.
I cried out BULLSHIT. The whole point of the fucking story is that I’m INNOCENT, your honor. This fucking rice making fool doesn’t represent me. Not ME. He might THINK he’s representing some little asshole he “knows” as his nephew—some miserable little prick with a penchant for nasty anger and acting out against the cloned pigs feigning superiority—but that person is not ME. I am separate from all of that fucking jazz, your honor. I am not even in this fucking ROOM, your honor. I am a million miles beyond space and dying ALONE your honor. Or weren’t you even listening?
“Oh shut up,” said the judge. “This is nonsense. It doesn’t matter whether you committed a crime or not, Mr. Haight. The fact of the matter is that you ARE a miserable little prick, whether you believe it or not, and I think it would do you some good to spend some time watching the very specter you fear taking others into the blackness.”
I told the judge that I must freaking disagree most fucking strongly, but he sentenced me to community service in the local old folks’ home anyway. Which is fine. No, really. It is. The Eternal Camile’s great grandfather is there, for one—which means there’s a chance to get laid inside an old folks’ home, which would be fucking cool beyond BELIEF. I think Benji has a great Aunt or something locked up inside, too, but I’m not sure.
Three months. I can do that standing on my fucking HEAD, bubba. Make book on it. It’s kind of exciting, when you think about it. To stare into the eyes of a soul so near death and to ask them if they want to play some cards…if you can’t take something away from that, then you’re definitely beyond help.
I can’t wait to tell them how lucky they are to be so close to having it all over with.