17 min read

Gathering Stage

Chapter 7: Maybe just the bodily part of them was gone...while the real part of them–the force that worked from within–remained here, unfettered and free to move through floors and walls at will?
Gathering Stage

by Odious Awry

(South 4th Street)

This is Chapter 7 of King of Spain, the serialized text art that is being channeled to me by a future version of myself called HeirMax98. It's a story about four strangers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who discover that they are trapped in some sort of simulation haunted by a strange entity they call, "The Curator".

In Chapter 7 we return to Nada Mass, who we introduced in Chapter 3: a former Negative PR Specialist who is attempting to turn her younger girlfriend into the next big art world sensation, a plan that gets derailed by what she assumes at first to be a sudden downer of a vibe shift.

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Paid subscribers can read Chapter 1 here and Chapter 2 here , Chapter 3 here, Chapter 4 here, Chapter 5 here, and Chapter 6 here.

-- OA

I wasn’t sure before, I thought it was just me, but now I’m certain something’s wrong, some nefarious darkness is here, living alongside us in the apartment. I know very little about it except that it’s an invisible parasite, active mostly at night, but its effects last the clock around as it drains us of our energy. Mornings are rough, like a bad hangover whether I drink or not (which, in light of the situation, I usually do). My body aches, old injuries in my knees and back are inflamed. I think the best way to try and hold what’s left of my mental well-being is to write it all out exactly as it goes down. Perhaps in doing so I will come to a greater understanding about the nature of this entity and how to banish it.

First let me catch up. It started in earnest a month ago–or was it longer? Here then, right off the bat, is the first observation gleaned by the act of writing: since the entity locked on to us, time has been strange. The days go slow and the weeks fly by. The three of us had settled in with the pets and our patterns in relative peace. Dorian was often in his room, headlong into his latest online scheme, while Sterling and I were deep in the Pre-Art Zone, trying this and that, sharing ideas in a manic flurry: unable/unwilling to focus in favor of making glorious, inspired messes we called blueprints. Pre-Art includes inputs (though more specific ones than the free-floating R&D of the pre-pre art stages). We worked on chiseling away at her film illiteracy with a list of arthouse films we could get without a fancy subscription (I cherrypicked various offerings from Jarmusch & Lynch & Almodóvar to start and played Snow Piercer and Belle du Jour on mute in the background for the aesthetics) and I talked at length about books I’d read (which was faster than her having to read them herself). We attended gallery openings on our phones, and at 98% of the pieces Sterling furrowed her brow and rolled her eyes back so hard there was only white. “I could have made those,” she said at the end of the last one, to which I replied, “Well then why didn’t you?” It was all going so well; our mindfulness had increased so that each moment was a lesson and a celebration that seemed to build upon the last. We were moving to the Gathering Stage in which we’d mess around with an outline of an outline and decide upon the menu of substances we’d be utilizing, when there was a sudden spate of (what I thought to be at the time) strange psychic weather. A pressure drop that choked the vibe, flattening the energetic radar of our days so that all meaningful activity stopped and was replaced by binge watching obscure, largely banal anime, compulsive bowl smoking (it should be noted that the two of them had a lovely collection of gorgeous glass) and endless snack consumption in our elastic pants play clothes. Even the disciplined Dorian, who usually stayed in his room all day, tilted up like a pilot in his gamer chair as he stared at his array of screens, joined us in the living room–where he slumped in a corner in front of the cocktail table covered with the unfinished puzzle of an abstract art painting. It seemed there was an unspoken agreement that we didn’t want to be alone. We were either sleepy and stupid or over-caffeinated and unable to focus. Dinner, which used to have a joyful, frenetic feel with all of us cooking together and listening to podcasts became a several hour-long slog, in which the three of us debated half-heartedly about what, if anything, we wanted to eat until finally ordering wings from the nasty Chinese spot. I cut my appetite by smoking more tobacco and biting the inside of my mouth so hard it hurt to put food inside it. The creative process is anything but linear, and unlike Dorian, I wasn’t hung up on finished products, but it was disconcerting that even the Raw Realness that had originally drawn me to Sterling was missing, that ineffable shiny star shit that can’t be put into words. Sterling was still there but not in spirit. That her showering became hit or miss didn’t help. Early in the downturn I tried holding up the half-finished sleeping bag she constructed out of bro-tech jackets and antique scarves she claimed belonged to Margaret Thatcher, “How about we sew on a few of those Scam Rap logo patches, like you said you wanted?” I said, ready and willing to go to the Blue Room and assist her with threading the needle or maybe wiping down the ancient sewing machine which sat beside the desktop PC and seemed to accumulate dust like crazy. “No! No!” she screamed, shocking me with emotion after days of flatness. “Don’t go there.”

I nodded and stepped away, wrapping the bag around my arm like a cast. I wasn’t sure if she meant don’t go there subject-wise or don’t go there meaning to the Blue Room, but I didn’t ask for clarification. I used to love watching the joy in her eyes as she looked at me. Now, the blankness scared and saddened me.

“It is what it is,” I said to myself. I’d watched so many middlebrow bullshit movies recently that even my inner voice had taken to quoting them. I wanted to be patient and ride it out, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something dark had entered our sanctum. An invader I had to banish. Of course, my mind went to the Viejos–as silly as I told myself it was– but we hadn’t seen the ancient forms of our package stealing 1st floor neighbors for weeks. The word from Sterling’s own mother was that they were on a protracted trip to the DR. “I think they’re from the mountains,” Sterling said, “I have a picture in my mind of a tall house in between two mountains,” to which I merely nodded, not wanting to admit my ignorance that I hadn’t known there were mountains in the DR.

As I write now as fast as I can, my trembling hand attempting to keep up with my fear addled brain, I think about all the reasons I came up with when this started and how willing I was to cling to them; the complicated mental gymnastics I performed in order to do whatever I could to avoid the most obvious, rational answer: the apartment was besieged by an evil entity.

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