I was thinking of you when I died. I don't want you to feel guilty or anything, really, but I just had to tell you before they finish disassociating me. I was thinking of you and death came out of nowhere, out of the blue, out of my blindspot, out of the portion of my awareness that should have been set on the world but instead was focused on you. Nobody will believe I'm gone, of course, so I'm telling you now. They say the eye retains the image of the last thing it sees before the soul departs. If that is true, then you are dancing, even now, on every rod and cone.
There is so little time. The warmth spreading across my legs was once inside my chest; my heart is dying but it will live long enough to empty me of blood. I fall back against you and we crash to the ground, out of the hail of bullets. You are safe, of course, and it is too late for me. I will miss you. Press my cheek against your navel; my eyes have already grown dark and my other senses are fading as well. All I have left is touch; your fingers in my hair, the warmth across my legs which cools in the breeze, and the flutters under my cheek-- the kicks of our growing daughter, who I will never see. That is the last thing I will know. I am dead, but you and she will live on.
In the last hours, the panicked hordes crowded aboard the lifeboats. The ship's makers hadn't thought to include nearly enough of them. By that time, friendship had come to mean nothing. Status, too; though, in the end, it was mostly the wealthy who survived, that was less a function of their money and more a side-effect of their placement in the ship. They had ignored the early warning signs. Many of them had seen the iceberg and felt its shudder pass through the vessel. Later, some had even noticed the slight listing of the deck or heard the sounds of heavy water flow from somewhere deep below. But it wasn't until the end that the majority saw, and by then it was too late. The band played 'Nearer My God to Thee' and the ship dropped beneath the water like a bird falling from the sky.
In the last days, the panicked hordes crowded aboard lifting craft of every description, most of them makeshift and ill-designed for post-orbital work. The industry had not made enough of them. By that time, friendship had come to mean nothing. Status, too; though, in the end, it was mostly the wealthy who survived, that was less a function of their money and more a side-effect of their proximity to the lifting centers. They had ignored the early warning signs. Many of them had seen the Equatorial Storm footage and felt the near-scalding rain which fell all over the world. Later, some had even noticed the odd tilt of the constellations or detected the deep rumblings from somewhere near the Earth's core. But it wasn't until the end that the majority saw, and by then it was too late. The government continued its 'stay in your homes' broadcast and the planet shattered, spreading its mass in a ring around the sun like dandelion fluff in a summer breeze.
The crowd did not much care for the bunny trick, so he tore out his own heart and he showed it to them all. That kept them much impressed for a few minutes, at least. Then he fell, quite dead, and it did not matter anymore.
He collected John and Jane Does.
"Yes," he said, injecting the proper amount of sudden sadness into a voice already heavily tinged with disbelieving shock. "Yes, that's her. That's Marcie."
The police were always comforting, of course. It's never easy to lose a loved one. Of course, it's never easy to create some false ID, a cover story, and a life history for a corpse you've never seen before, but he was very good at it by now.
"No, she didn't say why she was up here. She always kept to herself, really. I haven't seen her in almost three years. She was the best sister you could ever hope for, though." And now would come the heavy sobs.
You might think that big cities would be his best hunting ground, but not so. Big cities keep careful records. Big city cops ask more questions. No, it's the small towns. The places that aren't used to sudden, anonymous death. He would comb hundreds of small newspapers, culled from all over the country. Ah, some hitchhiker, stabbed to death in rural Michigan. Been there three days. Time for a quick call.
"Yes, here's my address in Louisiana. And my phone number, if you need to ask any more questions. Thank you, officer. You are too kind."
And the body would be zipped into a silver bag. He would buy the coffin locally and have the body shipped home. Not to Louisiana, or wherever he told the police he lived-- no, of course not. The phone number was always something recently disconnected. The address was always someplace recently sold, a house whose previous and current owners did not know him. He was careful. He had to be, of course. His real house was always somewhere far away.
He had seventeen of them, currently. Seven women, ten men. Nobody knew who any of them were. He would make up their life histories, based on scars, tatoos, the few meager belongings most of the them had when found. It was a situation that made everyone happy: the police had a name-- who cares that it was false? He had another body for his collection. The body was being taken care of. What was wrong with that?
I will stop here. You do not want to know the rest.
Sometimes, John or Jane was inadequate, of course. Insufficient.
In these cases, he would sometimes simply shake his head. "No," he would say, replacing the anticipated grief with a sharp release of relief. "No, that's not him. Oh, thank God. It isn't him."
And the police would also sigh with relief, feeling glad for him. What a difficult pair of bull's horns to be impaled on, no? You must find a name for the body, but to do so, you must expose someone to the revelation that someone they know has died. Ah, we are glad this is not your father. On the other hand, now we must continue searching.
More often than not, however, he would take the body, anyway, despite its deficiencies. There were others, of course, with his hobby. Oh, come now, don't feign surprise or shock. You must have suspected.
And like all good hobbyists, they had ways of communicating and networking, to share in their discoveries and achievements, to plan and to socialize. Trading was always brisk, and some things were always in demand.
"Yes, oh God. Yes, that's him. Oh, look what they've done to him."
TRADE: Woman, oriental, 35-40, drowned in Yangtze River 11/6/93. Also, man, 18-25?, shotgun to face and neck 11/14/93. Will trade either for man, 50-55, dark hair and eyes, caucasian, dead of natural causes, in advanced state of decomposition. Contact Mister Ferrous at (255) 404-2155. Leave a message.
Strands to the upper left, attached to objects far and near, fluctuating steadily-- almost a vibration, but one so slow that my third ear cannot hear it. I turn, but they are gone.
The woman who walks just out of sight to my right, despite not actually having been in my sight to begin with-- I can only see her as she makes the transition across my peripheral vision. She is sad-looking, clad in a long white dress. How typical. She must not be very imaginative.
I recently finished a composition in which, early on, a slap bass and piano work together in creating the groove which underscores the remainder of the piece. But when they first start up, the two samples create an odd harmonic in which, if you are listening on a very good set of earphones, you can hear the cries of all the livestock killed by stray fire in the first World War.
I love the modern world of convenience.
I finally got sick and fucking tired of this guy at work, see, so I called up Hits-n-Giggles, an assassinations consulting firm, and they asked me who the motherfucker was that I wanted dead. I named him and they said they'd heard about him, yeah, they had paperwork all ready to go. About time, they said. I even qualified for their special; got a reduced rate seeing as how it was someone they were basically waiting to do anyway. Next time, I'm gonna have to go for their group rate plan. I'm sure I could convince a bunch of my friends that Ralph ought to eat some coffin, y'know?
So anyway, next day at work he ain't there. Word came down that he's dead-- car accident, apparently. Hit and run, though not TOO fast a run, obviously, since the same car did him six times before taking off. We knocked off early to mourn him at the pizza n beer place all the engineers hang out at. Gee. What a shame.
On the way home, I stopped at a drive-thru seance place. Had the medium contact him so I could gloat a little. Yeah, motherfucker, did you and I'd do you again without a thought. Yeah, and gimme some fries and a quick chakra-polish with that.
Where the fuck would we be without our service-oriented society, eh?
Me and my friend Jason, man, let me tell you, we made some weird shit. Mixed up a batch of zombie powder once. Great stuff-- sprinkle a pinch on any dead thing and it would come back to life, evil as hell. Reanimated my second cat that way. Good ol' Stubby. Later, just for kicks, we tossed the half-full cannister into the dumpster behind the local abortion clinic. Boy, that was a mistake. Whole lotta pissed-off tissue, let me tell you.
The body is there, on the side of the road. In a clearing, it is. I bring my car to a hasty stop and reverse direction a bit, a better view to get. The body is a man, face-down. Very still, he is. I exit my car and hurry towards him.
The smell is bad. Sure he is dead, I am. I will turn him over and he will be decaying, maggots breeding in his face, his insides falling out, his flesh ravaged by animals and rain. The smell is bad. It must be so. But as I approach, he moves. Alive, he is. Relief, all through me. I have never stumbled over a corpse before. I live in eternal fear of the day it finally happens.
He rises slightly as I approach, and turns to me. His face is intact. He is alive. "Are you alright?" I ask. He begins to nod and smile. I am still approaching him. "You gave me quite a scare," I say. "When I saw you there, and smelled that horrible-- I wonder what could be causing that smell, then." But I see that he is still nodding, and his smile is growing, and I can see his teeth. My God, I can see his teeth, and the bits of red flesh still stuck in them. Bigger than his head, his teeth are, and his hand has raised to point to one side, to the darkness, to a further clearing I have only just now drawn within sight of.
That is where the smell is. That is where the bodies are. His smile still grows, his nodding never ends, and I am drawn forward suddenly.
The animate. Golem is child. First silent. Recalcitrant. Master and servant. Clay without life, it grows inside until, at some point, we inscribe the name of God on its brow. The vampire. Nosferatu is male. Devourer. Blood-eater. Hunter and predator. The bat, the mist, the dark, the cloak. The films have it all wrong, of course. The werewolf. Lycanthrope is female. Runner. Fur-covered. Predator and hunter. Cycles and circles and the ebbs of the moon. Others have described it far better. The horde. Zombie is ancestor. Withered. Decaying. Dead and immortal. The brain, the heart, the liver, the soul. Their shuffling numbers keep growing. We all start at golem. Your path is laid before you, monster. Follow it with abandon. It all goes to the same place, monster. Clay, blood, fur, decay. They are one and the same, monster. Prepare for the end. Even you have something to fear, monster.
******@snake.CS.Berkeley.EDU (Curtis Yarvin) writes: >I avoid tropical regions due to a mortal fear of falling coconuts.
The last time I was in a tropical region, I would climb into coconut trees and drop 'nuts on fast-moving tourist targets below. After a while, I got tired of the tree-climbing and started paying young native boys pennies to do it for me, whilst I watched from the ground. Unfortunately, the view was far better from above so I got bored, developed malaria, and came home, where I discovered my young and lovely wife of the last three years had been killed by a dutch oven dropped, apparently, from a low-flying airplane. Someone had a camera at the time and through sheer coincidental timing snapped a picture just as the oven descended. This is the last picture I have of my wife-- looking up, terrified, arms moving up to protect herself from the fatal impact. She was never more beautiful than in that final moment.
In a sudden moment of extreme self-awareness, I have realized that I am dying of that cool disease where you age way too fast. Being twenty-five, I'm pretty damn close to the end, so I called up the Make a Wish Foundation hotline to get my wish before the lights go out.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Make a Wish, it works like this: People (usually children) who are diagnosed with this wild and weird disease whose name has escaped me are granted one wish before their death (which usually comes at an early age). The prototypical wish is something like "Go to Disneyland with Michael Jackson". Quite recently, there was a big stir over whether or not one of the foundation kids would be granted his wish, which was to hunt a bear in the wild.
He got his wish, so I think I should get mine.
I want to be a cannibal. I want a seven-course gourmet meal that consists of "the OTHER other white meat". My friend Jeff suggested the other day that, if cows are called "beef" and pigs are called "pork", then food-humans should be called "folk". And that's what I want. I want gourmet folk.
I want brain salad. I want eyeball gumbo. I have never eaten liver, but I'd be willing to start if it were the right kind. I want to eat a whole person, with rounds of purging between courses if that's what it took to make extra room for that next bite. Some of the South Pacific islanders used to swear that the tastiest part of the person is the webbing between their fingers; I want a hundred hands set aside just for me to nip out these tidbits like the hearts of watermelons, spitting out anything that wasn't absolutely tender and scrumptious.
Of course, you might think that the person to be killed and eaten might be a difficult accquisition-- but may I remind you that this country still has the death penalty in a number of states, and Richard Allen Davis is looking like a likely candidate here in California. In fact, I can't think of a better meat-animal than a child molester-- all soft and pasty, like veal. Yeah. Don't give me any of that stringy, gamey "armed robbery" folk. Bring on the kiddie sex offender!
So I have a call into the Make a Wish people. If that kid got to chase his bear, I think I should get to wolf down some death-row convict. We'll see what they say. In the meantime, I will try to age gracefully.
Bored-with-life goes to Filled-with-ennui's house one day and they play NASCAR Racing to see the sights. They don't want to win, they just want to see all the scenery, so they tool along at 35 while all the other computer- controlled cars swerve around them, shouting "FUCKIN' SUNDAY DRIVERS!" Do you know how hard it is to drive in NASCAR Racing at only 35 mph?
Bored-with-life tries to slit his wrists in a bathtub. He does it with the retaining bolt that holds the new VW Beetle's engine to the chassis. It takes hours to even make a scuff mark, and so Bored-with-life changes his name to Bored-with-suicide and he becomes a well-paid motivational speaker. He goes all over the country and tells kids to disobey their elders.
Meanwhile, Filled-with-ennui pigs out on donuts and changes his name to Filled-with-bavarian-cream. He picks up a nervous twitch from a bad EXE that he downloaded from the net. It makes him see things that are not there-- things like the innate goodness of children, and a cheery prognosis for the future of the human race. He makes things out of cheese.
While all this is going on, All-out-of-change is cruising up and down the streets, trying to find a parking meter that still has some time left on it. "Dammit!" she cries. "I just need ten minutes!" Behind her, the traffic cop in the little golf cart hovers like a vulture, waiting for her to make the mistake that will take a lifetime to repay.
Oh, how we fought! Oh, how we raged! Our passion was all-consuming. Our hatred could have brought down the stars! So many battles past, so long the war, and this time it would end one way or the other. We knew this. It was to be the final time. Others will spend their entire lives cataloging the depths of our struggle, detailing the blows and the betrayals and the truces. Others will write tales of the death that finally claimed one of us. And as I gripped your throat in my hand, as your palms tried to crush my skull, as we tumbled and rolled and thrashed, I knew that even were I to be the one to lose, it would be a grand death, a glorious death. And even as you lifted me up bodily and threw me over the side, down into the sparking depths, into the heart of the infinite inferno, I reveled in the coming doom that was to claim me.
But who could have guessed that it would take so long to die in the acid pools that surrounded the platform? Goddamn, I wish I would just melt and die already. You're long gone, off to receive your adulations and the love of the millions whose lives you've saved. Probably balling the princess right now, you prick, while I bob about in the fizzy current, slowly being made less and less.
I wish I could say it makes me hate you even more, but really, I got all that out of my system during the long fall.