Story illustration by Leslie Herzfeld.)
[for Starry MoonBunny Wizdom]
coda summer-hot street:
lonely continent of skin.
time, silhouetted by distance, trembling with incompleted gestures. missteps can’t erase . . . or halt . . . or turn. still a weapon too heavy to carry.
no easy way or. sounds—city mortar. rank churns, breaks another mistake. hunger, result of bent tests crushed by indiscretions, arriving . . . a game waiting for a knock on the door . . . laughing elbowing laughing about the ROOMS FOR RENT sign . . .
taxi drove slowly.
set her shoulders. stride . . . Starry MoonBunny Wizdom (bus fare in her pocket) walks by without stumbling into goodnight.
hands on the stoop lean in . . . even with liquor they stay away . . . sure she’s lovely, legs and eyes—lovely, captivating, even if they are dark, and that bust offering dreams from the low-cut black dress with the spaghetti straps. full. could bring joys . . . but she’s Her—Starry MoonBunny Wizdom. the witchy woman . . . spells and echoes of arcane hooves bathed in dead . . . all the rings, crystals, and bracelets and the jet-black chokers, with skulls and strange faces . . . she reads strange books like the ones on doom and Hell (all of them!) and witches and nightmares and weird words written long ago by men damned by god and goddamn strange music roars from her windows when the moon comes down. makes jazz noises, dark underground sounds filled with or jacked up on chemicals on her old piano . . . they would. like to. want her, every soft round part of silk and devil dancing. all night long, naked as feverish velvet color . . . but she’s dangerous. everyone ‘round here says so . . .
And she’s friends with Him. Thomas. Not Tom. Not Tommy. Thomas. He reads too. A lot. Responds in strange ways when she gets close to his ear or window. Thomas. Dresses strange, like she does. Always wears those hats. The black ones. Never seen ‘im in a baseball cap. See him out and about all the time with Kyon and Nancy, they always wear all-black too, capes and shit—Goth, pagan stuff; all of them—like they’re triplets. Like they are from Further. Everyone say they went there. And came back from the edge where it states Here Be Dragons. Singing strange new songs, about idols and chains and void muttering about time and death that’s hungry and desperate. Speaking in strange new words. Long words. Broad. Hard for tongues to fathom. But they do.
playing statue should siege let down its hair to score, Starry MoonBunny Wizdom slips into the business of the streetlight, waits on the corner for the bus. almost out of reach of the stoned glued to their hard. no place to hide.
Jake says she smells like dust, hacks as he lights another bent cigarette from a crushed pack. Sam agrees. Agreed last week when Jake spat it into her wake. Did add, nice ass, but . . . Sam, even half-drunk, leaning into the tiger, says, no fuckin’ way. I’m not offering it to a crocodile. Ally was high, just a little crank, said she saw a little black dragon in her pocket. Swore to it. “Had red eyes and shit. Bitch’s full of witch-shit.” That’s what she said. “Probably fucks weird too. Starry MoonBunny Wizdom. Weirdass name. I heard she was a rockstar, or something . . . They all fuck weird.” Then she went inside and fucked Sam for 20 bucks and some dope.
Ally put her shorts back on, hadn’t bothered to take off her t-shirt, or even lift it. Left Sam inside half-nodding. Sat back down on the stoop. Took a hit of the whiskey bottle Jack was backin’. “Bet she was a stripper or a porn star. You can tell by the tits, way she shows them off. Shakes her ass like it too.” Fuckin’ bitch. She opens her mouth for the same reason I do.
sometimes they talk of poets when they pass the stoop . . . she does . . . poets whose mistress is the moon, poets who shouted “Louder!” at the moon. her poets . . . she trained them all . . . everyone knows it was her . . . took them up in her tower and gave them wine and stars and head-on to birth flashing with grapevines of requiem . . . downstairs in her shop she sells their hand-fashioned books . . . sells them with her skulls of bird and constructed things and wake-up dust, feathers, vessels, nails, wintergreen soap, and all the screaming black art shit—altar stuff and relics from the Old Places. Dracula lived there, so did other monsters, and Starry has herbs and hand-painted mirrors, and she’ll make you spells to fix your guts or your heart or your the-lonely-in-your-bedroom or how to get women or men or money or powerful things, read your fortune, read you all the way to Gone . . . some say she uses blood . . . drinks it too, or did . . . that’s what they say . . .
Thomas knows it’s all true, knows what’s in her crystal ball. Starry is the Goddess herself, pure, awash in language-immortal—damn their disgusting persecutions. She’s fire’s hearth, the moon’s mouth. She’s an ornament of cherries and apples and mistletoe, Starry brews the seasons that feed the clouds. His heart tells him, has for a while now, moved his borders with her bushels of shine. Heart stuck on SOLD lassos him with starts. The aspirations. The way she smiles. The way she laughs and understands. She brought alive to his thin, soiled garden, kissed its knotted-mane with biscuits and jam. Basket-hands glowing gentle moments, with open eyes she’d agree to his skycastle and the sun would climb. No more storm-fraught identity chained to the headlights of shy he’s going to ask. Grabs gravity, holds tight to the ladder, his new avatar.
club töln. silk. skin. serious. about things. all the studies, all the speech. all the concerts of barked occultations. close your windows lock ‘em tight as shit, it still comes through. like some heart. beat. earth solid as hell. can’t push it down. can’t step on it, heel it dead.
black on black.
corsets. some will give you back sight. a few should have stayed home.
streaks to black. human. less.
hair adheres to similarity.
try this page.
try this bottle.
ghost-written working on nowhere with a lullaby in the empty corner light won’t navigate, not even for the promise of a tryst with aflame.
a hub that know of death and are not ashamed by it stand beside drunk, turning away from his moment of distress.
slim. bare backs. breasts, horizons of urges. some for her NOT YOU, faces weren’t shy with the clarity … redhead whose chest clocked-in at WOW terrorized a corpse-paint barbarian (at his worst) with one false move and you—
a spilled beer on the bar. a street-curse follows it.
necro dance—legend—1st-time eyes decree WFT—
Mina tragedy—Lord Extremo “All beauty must die.”
distain-virus and moonspell
theatre of body
Du musst DARKNESS werden
black necro black necro black shadows black blood
Adrienne I’m your favorite icing. Location: Rhode Island DOB: 12/04/1986 Zodiac sign: Sagittarius Stats: 5’ 11” Hobbies/likes: the right stockings, cute animals, seasons, cities at night, philosophy, being careless, riffs on Warhol, books, David Lynch, cigarettes, “I like stupid, inked flesh-pots !” Occupation: Model/Dancer, painter Favorite Music: Depeche Mode, Bat For Lashes, Leonard Cohen, Hole, The Cure, Iggy, Krypteria Phobia: Heights Creed: I will if it’s interesting!
midnight-ink makes all sculptures
“please.” hungry child to the mouth and teeth of misadventure.
DJ Blindlight spinning shadowy saint-music, etched punitive high-speed in the sweat beaming with flux.
edges meet. form and reform. some make an awful shape, some delve deep.
the uncensored species . . . ready (two leave to smoke a joint/two leave to fuck/one, bored as shit, just leaves. she’s got a gallon of ice cream and her cat at home. she’ll spit murder when Sleepless In Seattle is all that’s on, but) if they didn’t have to take off the disguise and confess . . .
what actually happened:
Patient #1 Roger O: Saw her with him. Talking, drinking. They were close, like any other couple. You could see how they felt about each other . . . The shitheads at the bar staring at them were full of disgust, jealous as hell was more like it. I could hear them. Muttering threats. Kick his ass. Rape her? Sounded like they meant it. Looked like it too. Scared me . . . Did I say they were close. Swaying a bit. Not dancing, but like it. Anne, the chic I was there with, said they should get a fucking room. Like that. Ya’know?
Patient #2 Nancy F: They were so cute together. It wasn’t them. The predators at the bar started it. Rill, I don’t know his real name, one of your officers took him into custody, he told his weasely, little flunky he wanted to sniff and extract her efforts. They shouted a couple of things at them. Nasty things. Thomas didn’t like her being disrespected. And the black metalers never got along well with those of us who have gentler spirits. Add drinking; add maybe some chemicals, things got messy.
Witness Kyon P: It was their first real date. They didn’t do anything wrong. You have laws for self-defense, right? That’s all it was.
Witness Michael D: The metalhead guy pulled a blade. Cut the poor kid—blood, man. Thought his guts were gonna pop out—never had a chance. Not that he looked like a fighter. Then the woman just . . . Freaked. Fuck. She was . . . Appalled, pissed too. Just went like nuts. She turned, changed. Her hand did something. Looked like a tentacle, not a hand on an arm. Arm had—blades on it. You know how the suckers on tentacles are? Change them to little blades, like that. Fuck. Whipped out. Dead just like that. Slashed to shit in a sec. Pieces were on the floor . . . I’m not that drunk. Only had a few.
Patient #2 Nancy F: There was a lot of smoke, or something like it. Like fog. It was hard to see clearly. It wasn’t from a fog machine. I don’t think it was. It was all so hard to see. He had a knife and cut Thomas. Starry screamed, lot of people did. Then there was all the smoke and the tentacle-things, and blood everywhere. It was so fast . . . People were standing there, shocked, but . . . You’re trying to detail incomprehensible . . . I just can’t give you a rational account of what happened.
coda with loud music. stress.
Bar. Red wine in glasses. Beer bottles calling sweet candy to the trap, no groin is naked yet. Clove cigarettes and a hint of reefer smoke. Chatting/murmuring/talking/singing along . . . Blonde who hasn’t found amnesty in the vodka pauses, closes eyes, her expression hardens and she looks him square in the eye “I won’t. No. No.” . . .
The vigor of Combichrist’s “Throat Full of Glass” stops breathing it’s spiral downward . . . Soft cadence of grave candles homesteading in the looking glass routine of black walls with all-is-lost red highlights . . . Ennui, takes the spires married to phantoms off her radar, has another sip of the river’s tongue . . . To Beloved, “The sin flowers in this torture chamber reap what they sow.” . . . DJ noting medieval tablature and the language of a nocturne guitar—mood slips into foreboding, output phrases abruptly—t’ain’t the Stooges, but it’s got ragged and raucous, hits a vein of hard, serious as speedball-animal. Sadness and madness burn . . . Friday night looking at midnight’s approaching minutes, looking for a cure, or to pull a litany from Lucifer, if it swings with a wild mood. The sound of speed kissed the dethroned . . .
A pawn looking for prayers in his footprints feels the tug of Macbeth’s compass . . . Rough laughter . . . Waiting for something clear to open in the mass. Wanting—Better—not cheap, not squashed. Watching. One scratches his balls. One wishes her boobs were bigger, or she’d worn the damn corset. Adjusting her earring, the fair-haired blonde who won’t sleep with another woman if she’s too large in the bust wonders if the Elfish woman-child is any good in bed. Greasy, raven-hair, eyes locked on her ample ass, hopes the next drink will talk her into his monsoon, orders two more without asking if she wants another.
Wallflower afraid-of-men. Father put that deep in her, investigates motives. Asks herself, Why do we keep doing this? The face she sees inside turns, faces her, replies, Because in here, we want one. If there’s one worth having?
Hoping. Some for writ soft, some a bridge rightnow-now.
Veins bring activity.
coda unfortunate with cuts after apparent bang:
Detective Sgt. Doull (finds the witness’ name in his notes.): “Rhys.”
Witness Lin R: I was sitting there waiting for a friend to arrive. No, just a glass of white wine. That’s right. I was waiting for, Joe. We’d just started dating a few weeks ago. It was so . . . Horrible. (Cries.) I was about to leave as he’d just sent me a text and said he couldn’t make it, asked me to meet him later at his place. The music entered a quiet passage for a second or two and I heard shouting . . . I feel so terrible; I was so scared I couldn’t move. Watched it happen . . .
DOA (toe tag states Samuel M). “Just a bystander.” Archer shakes his head. “Friday night you think you’d have a quiet drink, maybe meet someone to care about . . . Or to lift frozen out of your bed for the night . . . Sadly, some collide with genuine horror.”
Detective Sgt. Doull: Shakes his head in agreement. “Messy. The Rhys woman said, ‘Lizards descended. Monsterish-looking things. Cut him up good.’ She got that part right. Woman was lucky. Far enough away she just got a few cuts.” One on her cheek will leave a nasty scar . . . Can’t understand why a lady like that was in that place. Wasn’t dressed like that Siouxsie chick, seemed more the Beatles type . . . Lady like her shouldn’t have to see shit like that. None of those kids should.
Dr. Archer (hands struggling with the HOT water coming from the faucet.): “Throat. Torso. Legs, what’s left of them. Looks as if he fell through dozens of layer of glass. Most striking is the fact there are unknown crystal elements and some biological material we can’t identify in the wounds, no evidence of metal.”
Detective Sgt. Doull: “The Rhys woman said, ‘Just like octopus arms. Ten, maybe more?’ This is all fucked, Doc. Sounds like horror movie shit.”
coda dramatic skin:
Starry wanted Thomas. wanted him a very long time. wanted him to slide the straps of her dress off her pale shoulders. slowly. one finger. or his teeth—she’d let him pick. show him the roses on her breasts. whisper, “‘The Nipple is a rose.’” listen to him sigh. watch the intended his eyes brought to it. wanted him. planned on tonight. planned on math. two. one. melting, letting his momentum script her text. reborn, wasn’t a fit she’d reject. flying off the thirsty map. fingers clawing his back. his hands on her ass, holding it dear as any starving child holds a bowl of rice.
“Thomas.” the only one who ever looked. saw her wit, wanted more bright. laughed, in the way the intrigued laugh, as her hilarious mesmerized. understood she had down-to-earth and tenderness to offer the right beholder.
Murmur gave her sugar and kissability. nightswimming in “Star Me Kitten” R.E.M.’s color loads her, gives her sway. “I won’t be alone tonight. I’ll be—” dressed. just right for him. checks in the mirror, matches her destination. black dress was right, soft, flowed in the right places. choker was right. make-up was right. he’d have a hard time not adoring her eyes. have a hard time not looking at her breasts. have a hard time not kissing her pale shoulders.
Nancy told her he liked her, her eyes, her laugh, how she fits in his lonely outside. “He wants to ask you out in the worse way, but he’s afraid it might ruin your friendship. But he wants to.” told her he had fantasies. her and him. her. her. goddess.womaness uncorked.
anxious and sweet/immediate/whatever you want—motion/the shaft of his begging cock in her hand/leaps/kamikaze power brightening into stillness/you unlock the how
all of it in her mirror.
all of her promising it.
all in her mirror.
put on her black cape. gazes at the horizon of her dull four-poster, whispers, “Later.”, smiled . . . she floated down the stairs, chanting. “He likes me. Cares.” locked her door.
“He likes me. Cares.” warm asserts spirit to toes, makes her bones pliable, she carries it with her.
“Thomas likes me.”
finger caressed a bulge in her handbag. inside is a homemade kaleidoscope for Thomas. every time he gazes within the energy of her feelings will rejuvenate him, cure his itch with flare. she brightened it with spells, whispered, “Dear heart, your journeys, to the left, to the right, to the center, o’er the waters of desire, will be free.”
grey street—long as noir stretched to too late for definable.
hard as the shitty bars under West-facing windows of racked narcissistic.
empty as the empty glasses.
thrusting its elevated squabbles and always pissed about it.
after worst and misadventure… purgatory gets a new mouth
not even a whisper . . .
door: moored to dust.
window: she saw what lingered. said i brought a little too much midnight.her thorns didn’t care to mend the stains of my condemned.
on her way to him.
another window: we hit the shore/no-brakes/when she said bigger baby . . . . sprays/gin/bursts/adjectives . . . (mismanaged) . . . aflutter stripped to “Ready!” with naughtily in the backroom went from sultry to cheap
4th floor window Bob Marley beach towel curtain: each hand ajar crumbled in the rain.
door: her ZIPcode was shaped like a poem
3rd floor window open: the sins my flaws couldn’t combat.
light isn’t durable in this valley
window: and this is where i go down in the darkness.
window: everyone said, puzzle pieces re(cover)y?
how many floors in that apartment house? how many doors, faces, beds, mornings craving? how many pockets charged or lashing, hot hands itching for a battery or something it could stand to look at?
all those windows—a hand incomplete, healing hungry air with a gate of flex/i only hear what’s beneath your face/if you turn this way you’ll see the pocket i lost/i’ll make a map of your branches/embrace of a punchline did consume a black eye./filthy/our breath/white rabbit vodka weakly/breeding, irritation arrows whimpering/fat ass/prick/in name only/unsnapped the handle/and we.climbed. filling the corner w/ margins containing waiting/the far edges of a river.left.open/i am merely a streak of aspect in your forgetfulness. unless you/in the aisle of breathing bed/can spare.blending only;if your music calls i am not a sentence of misery when you/dance so now we are a tryst of strings unspooling building a way to tango/and she took off her limits. . . one at a time.
that many and many more—
Starry didn’t stop. walked by. fast. put quick in it. FAST—before a hand or voice or eyes affected by whim’s drug jumped catch, circled with taunted, all its sores nodding pussy—one way or the other.
all those windows and double-locked doors and faces and beds and mornings too frightened to attempt sunlight
Thomas would not be like that. not her angel.
walked . . . kept something ready for the demon prowlers.
more than one thing.
not just mace.
all she studied. all she knew. all she could summon . . .
Might? This time. prayed he would, if she needed him to. hadn’t she paid the price? she’d placed all the elements in his net. many times . . .
coda an ominous spark / point and measure / gloves off:
King Negation turns. Eyes the witch. Fangs want a bite. Some lower part wants her lower playground. Wants to settle his darkness on the peaks of her soft mountains. He’ll choose terms and require the wedding to smoke and after she cooks his mass sweet and to the limit he’ll laugh or toss her to his remoras.
His dim hand awake. Blade ready for red. For deeper.
Her eyes hiss. Forbid. Too late. She is the gears of dust, crushed. Mass uglyviolent shock-riot churns. HOTragetears. Anger spread as FU—DEAD. “Thomas.” Slips from the rim of her lips.
coda just facts, ma’am:
Witness Lyn R: I really don’t know what more I can add, Detective Sgt. I enjoy horror, in movies and literature. Short stories for the most part. Ghost and vampires, inexplicable and unlikely atmosphere, dark romanticism, the literary kind. I don’t care for gore or blood and guts. Seeing that poor man cut up . . . That will stay with me, haunt me forever. The only deceased person I’ve ever seen was in a coffin and she was ninety-two and suffered from a longstanding illness. We knew she was dying. That was not like this.
Detective Sgt. Doull likes this woman. Not just her looks, her eyes, curves, exactly his kind. Likes her. Warm vibrates from her, traces color-shades in his clatter of tossed brush. His weighty is lighter in her air. Rewrites her number down. Puts it on a separate page in his notebook so he can take it out later and tuck in his wallet. Already has a hundred reasons to call her. Nice hips.
Patient #2 Nancy F: It was weird. Like some horror movie. Things went wild. They changed. She did. I saw some fugue of ripped, with pincers and tentacles, body parts and blood, I truly can’t explain or describe it. It was an explosion. Bang and it was over.
coda what Adrienne stated she observed:
there’s never any logic to these things. ever. fear and revulsion on that anvil burdened with that kind of heat. boils. pain comes—
phantasm not history. evil chances and events to binde us—exterminate the sons of Adam. no apt and fit holy names of God— When the person is in the appropriate disposition an appropriate connection between man and The Others can be attained . . .
fins—plumage—magic without pentacles. hard.tentacles.black.BLACK. quantity. no everyday handiwork.sorrow. flip of mire singed. thoughts. no beauty.image object. procession. deadly.solitude.ANIMALpath.far inward.verses black.umbilical must—every Dracula every Jack the Ripper every Cain sown in flesh every mutilation they were too small to know. Hostel’s a joke, a little freak-show carnival when you hold it up to this. COLD. descent. frost articulate with insect sermons. inmost strangling throat.current-fence, barrier-spike.shoots.joins. compels. accomplishes depth.
man, you never get free.
after’s only tears. and rooms, need blanched out of them. goddamn rooms of scars you can’t get a lock for. can’t see through that kind of sorrow.
10years later you’re still laced with and rooted to the phantasm, you wear that shit like skin. bends you, you look like a freak. fucks ya. blasts and blasts. hardcore. jesus can’t, not after it cancels light and heaven.
Detective Sgt. Doull doesn’t need to see her chart to see she’s narco-blitzed. Doesn’t ask the attending what she’s loaded with just tries to write down what she says.
Walks outside and lights a smoke. Looks at it. “Like you’re helping anything.” Takes out his notebook. Doubles back, flips through his notes, skips the first responder’s statements, stretching for the actual cause of death. Stoned or fairly-straight, it all jives. Makes no sense, but they all tell it the same way.
Watches the scene another ambulance consigns . . . Gurney rolls by. Her face says she took a hell of a beating.
His fingers curl into a fist.
Thinks things were easier when he worked Robbery.
All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted outcrawled it.
All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted
coda room with eyes on dead:
Sarah W aka Starry MoonBunny Wizdom: Am I under arrest?
Detective Sgt. Doull: I want you to tell me what happened.
Sarah W: I did. Three times.
Detective Sgt. Doull: Once more please.
Sarah W: He was nasty, just a pig. And he had that knife . . . I was scared to death . . . and angry. I am not some piece of meat. Just because I look like this does not mean I’m a whore, or trash. I was with someone, on a date. He came at us—That animal butchered My Thomas right in front of me . . .
Detective Sgt. Doull: Did Thomas try to fend off his assailant, or fight back?
Sarah W: You have the knife he had, used. It must have fingerprints on it? Thomas didn’t touch it. I don’t remember touching it, but I know I lashed out . . . You would have.
Detective Sgt. Doull: You ‘Lashed out’, with what? How do you explain the fact that your prints are not on the weapon?
Sarah W: My Thomas . . . I can’t.
overture drama shaped like an infection of things to some:
released by the police.
out of stars. and dreams(again).she went home/ripped by their questions, by hers/by fear—angerseething/walkedBENTslow.crawled. barefoot .as .justSarahnow .could not run.home.prison. alone.lostROARS. thick in DONE. again. lifeless as her sepulcher-lamp.
the choked sound of her “Thomas.”
grabs her purse for connection. the alphabet-forever her ripened heart put in the kaleidoscope she made for Thomas in her trembling, tear-smeared fingers. flash-image of Thomas’ sweet face/briar-knot of BLOOD. wheel/FIRE crying in grieve’s battlefield. riding intolerable—spiting the venom of rage. all of her flung open—the siegeseizure rape by her own pain—the nebula of her scream
and The Unclean comes
(as before, the tigerstar river) stones to the depths. debauched.screamsPUNISHMENT—its horde of mouths/tongues/hands—“TAKE IT!” pass it to hazard.her venom is its symbol of invitation.her eyes amulets. It, The Other, called by the ointment of her blisters. the black and green thing with the tentacles came. her clothes came off—this is not how she planned it. openedher.penatrated.niche.layers.crammed by the BULL to Hell’s table.steamingevery sound from her mouth slurred.it .entered her again.swollenapart hot frequency fear. escalate on boost.raw canals.snarlmolded-insistently blazetongue-ante of unusual BULLDOZERfornication . . . toescurled fingers griping the sheets in FISTS—this is not how she planned it.ithurts—mouth of soot will not hide the soul’s teeth—HURTS! mouths obvious with viciously’s victoriously . . .
painsculpted-scream of a shape, a relentless calligraphy quoting her shivers.plugged in a blister of heatpain/PAIN—BLACK that sings devilsongs as it rewires and burns.fabric squeezing-stretching her scream painquick.cannonball tongue winding shoulders to thigh/nape to nook. shrill.lock and pounce/stripping/bouncing/punctured. PUNCTURED. she’s bled . . .
slumped. sucked,nape to knee,forearm,scalp,ass,smallest tether to alive. body searched through—gathered by NO QUARTERmuscular.stained and crushed, doubled-over in sweat and bruised, breathing the waves of the horn’s rains . . . locked in obscene loneliness and shame . . .
fever. hours crawl and hour becomes new hour. locked to her bed.heavy.sweat a river, black sweat. river searing skin.moon comes in her window.glares.drops nothing.no calm in the steel no civil in exhausted muscle.strapped to swollen. ravages.constriction.cramp.fire-tight.shaking. back.thighs. bas-relief nipples scream with every lasernova-scramble. IT’s vessel. parts not made to arch.cry till it’s spent as screams. CRAMP! spiked seeds roiling in her swollen belly name OUT—deliver IT’s insemination children. no water to break they’ve absorbed it all. DRYbirth. cuts the black cord. doesn’t count The Unclean’s litter—won’t. again, like the last, and the last—womb-mother of the black-maw serpent-shapes. appendages of greed thrashing, chirping from vaginal mouths, hammers climbing(—clinging—spreading—craving) her belly, reach to clutch. blackgestures-suckermouths gape, spill hunger at the drops of black milk oozing from her nipples. another litter, numbers too high to recall. again . . .
IT’s vessel. nothing more. no way out . . .
every man she liked, wanted, gone. taken. every chance to love—Thomas; Sasha; Mark; Felix; Julian, to touch and hold and give. taken and taken. . . . and the black Unclean-thing, every black inch and ripple reeking of rotting paper and burnt flesh, came . . .
in the darkness. carrying her covered reed baskets, each full of congested chatterings she doesn’t want to listen to, she drags her feet, staying in the darkest shadows. standing at the water’s edge again. the weight . . . stands there a long time. quivers, wishes she could fall into a final moment. knows it won’t let her. didn’t the other times unless echoed through the suicidal in her.
punctured. cannot. cannot.
rouged by bitter wind she has walked—threaded to endless ache—7 blocks, passed paper soda containers and empty pint bottles and marquees, naked, clumps of red clinging to her thighs . . .
gagging on decay . . .
and she fed the scuttling babies it filled her with to the black water of the canal
crawled—cold salt tears and shame in tow—home.to bed.
and pulled her arms tight about her. cried.
another round of cramps and fever. waits for the rough tide to go back out. . . .
pulled her arms tight about her
[Miles “So What”, Mazzy Star “Fade Into You”, Lou Reed “Dirty Blvd.”, David Sylvian “The Devils’ Own” “Ride”, The Stooges “Down On The Street”, Jethro Tull “Witches Promise” “Said She Was a Dancer”, Iron Butterfly “Iron Butterfly Theme”, Sergio Mendes “So Many Stars”, Bat For Lashes “Daniel”, Nick Drake “At The Chime of A City Clock”, Various R.E.M. songs, Wynton Marsalis “Black Codes (From the Underground)”, various songs from the 1st Black Sabbath recording]
Joe Pulver is a writer and editor with two published novels to date, Nightmare’s Disciple (Chaosium 1999; intro Robert M. Price) and The Orphan Palace (Chomu Press 2011; intro Michael Cisco).He is currently editing 2 anthologies for Miskatonic River Press. A Season in Carcosaand The Grimscribe’s Puppets, both tribute anthologies will be released in 2012, and is also editing “Phantasmagorium” magazine, and Ed Morris’ series of “Crooked Man” novellas for Mercury Retrograde Press. He has two mixed genre collections out from Hippocampus Press, Blood Will Have Its Season (2009; intro S.T. Joshi) and SIN & ashes (2010; intro Laird Barron). His 3rd collection, Portraits of Ruins (intro Matt Cardin) will be released soon by Hippocampus. He’s written many short works that have appeared in magazines (including “Weird Fiction Review”, “Phantasmagorium”, “Strange Aeons”, “Crypt of Cthulhu”, “Nemonymous”) and anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Ross Lockhart’s Book of Cthulhu, and S. T. Joshi’s Black Wings (PS Publishing) and A Mountain Walked: Great Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (upcoming from Centipede Press 2013) and many anthologies edited by Robert M. Price. His work has been praised by Thomas Ligotti, Ellen Datlow, Laird Barron, Michael Cisco, S.T. Joshi, and many other notable writers and editors. Joe was born, raised, and lived in upstate NY for 55 years. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany.
You can find Joe on the net at the following:
Story illustration by Leslie Herzfeld.
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Really liked this, and the form. Poetry shaped like fiction, or fiction resequenced as poetry?
Thxxxxxxxxxx, Fred. Some form of “tExt”, as I see ’em.
One word review for this one: Amazing!
I tried to read this twice already. It’s giving me a headache. I would dearly love to try again, but I’m going to need to get some more advil first. I love the longer stories here, but this one is nigh-unreadable, and when I saw how long it was… sigh.
Gonna have to try a third time, with coffee and lots of pain killers. I got as far as the second coda, and while my eyes hurt from the sentence structure, I can kinda see how you’re chopping up reality and serving up these little slices of madness. That’s why I’m going to come back and try reading it again. It might be worth it.
Well deserves the concentrated reading the tale’s prose requires.
Thanks, Wes! !!!!!!!!!!!
I had to read this one a couple of times.
Spookily, poetically, and masterfully written…but I would expect nothing less from Pulver.
Not coffee. TEA! !! About 2 gallons every day [+smokes]… Then it’s all that WEIRD they jacked me up on 🙂
Thanks for your kind praise! !!
What I want to know is, how many pots of coffee must one go through in the space of one evening to produce a story like this, and to capture the pace of what that caffeine must be doing in the author’s veins… A frantic drive with image after vivid image battering ramming you… it’s like punk rock Lovecraft! Unique stuff, great job!
Thanks. I’m lucky to have kind “Readers” like you and folks like Mike Davis who think enough of the work to print it.
A most excellent Tale, sir! I do believe that the Master would have enjoyed it immensely and no praise could be higher! Much gratitude for sharing your immense talent with this audience! I shall look forward to more of your excellent wordsmithing in future issues!
THXXXXXXXXXXXXxx, Christopher! !! Humbled you’d mention me w/ Rikki [I’m a huge and longstanding fan of her mighty talentSSS!!]!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ! & ya caughs me, I loves som Hubert I’s sho do! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Reading a Pulver story is like being suffused with a literary virus that makes the world pulse in Burroughs-like-shifts and when you discover his prose has infected your amygdala with a similar strain of that wonderful Ducornet-ish language disease it’s like poetic smack trickled through a cotton mesh pump-shunted through Selby’s raw unblinking third eye.
In other words Mr. Pulver is astounding.