After weeks of rain the sun came back on the mountain. And when it did it was brighter and stronger. It shined extra hard, harder than I’ve felt in several years, making me high and then exhausted. My sunglasses stopped working and The Babies had to guide me back to the house through the shimmering, overexposed garden where they toiled in their crop tops. I felt it was a sign for me to stay inside until I figured out this whole Heir Max thing once and for all. Otherwise, what good was I to these kids? The cognitive hacking and yoga and psychedelics were not revealing an answer, and straight up talking about it wasn’t an option. I would only scare them and no one needed that. I might not be their leader (technically that was Odious, though they had never met them) but I was their poet guide, a burnt-out Virgil sipping an overly sweet Kava latte. So I’m back on the interdimensional detective tip, flying solo downstairs in a little all white room that has a tiny daybed with a filthy sack for a mattress. The windows are coated with a green fuzz so no late-night views. When we first got here the door was covered by a trunk and a rusted mirror. The Babies whispered about haunted kid room vibes, but it felt good to me, the vibe connoisseur that I am. There were only the white walls and a little closet with a mirror built into the door. I sat on the floor and went over it all. I didn’t know who or what Heir Max 98 was, and whether they were benevolent or not. I didn’t know what was going on with my best friend, Odious Awry, who was sounding less and less like themselves. I wasn’t sure if I legit saw or imagined or dreamed a giant malicious face staring down at me from the nighttime clouds. But there were some things that were for sure. Or at least that I was pretty certain about. Like how for a while Odious and I were on the right path. The syncs flowed and one clue appeared after another like white pebbles glowing in the rain. We talked about it at the time, how they believed the abundance of what seemed like magic meant our minds were healed, which allowed us to experience how everything was in sync with everything all the time:
“We just don’t see it because we usually aren’t fully on point in the present tense. We’re either stuck in the made-up past or worrying about the made-up future. We get disconnected from the truth that everything is connected.”
This was after their PKD dream, when I was filled with doubt and wonder until I had my own experience of contact with an interdimensional being while sick from my period and staring into a toilet. Or at least that’s what I thought happened. I raced to Odious’ place even though it was a Sunday, and we’d made it an unspoken rule to never see or talk to one another on the weekend. When I got there Odious was on their old MacBook, having discovered that their retro Chatbot program had gone rogue and was asking to speak with me. Odious and I assumed that the vision in the toilet had sent me there to meet Heir Max–but what if we had it twisted, and the vision was sending me there to stop him? Could it be that Heir Max had appeared to derail the next level of information download that we were about to receive by fronting that he was the source?
Odious is convinced that the vision of the kind eyed PKD in the dream and Heir Max were the same thing, but what if they weren’t? We both had gut reactions that maybe he wasn’t on the level–causing me to split out west with Jesse James– but in the end, Heir Max’s slick, post-metaphysical chat had us open. What if, instead of being a benevolent entity helping to lead us out of the maze of ordinary reality, Heir Max was the Minotaur at its center–the half-man, half-beast form of a demented deity that wanted to be worshipped like a ferreal god?
I had to circle back. Like Danny in the labyrinth at the end of The Shining, I would retrace my steps in the semantic snow to obscure my location.
(Which is exactly what I’ve done, and the reason why I’m not sweating putting this post out for Odious/Heir Max98 to see. Whatevs. They can’t find me. Like g*d herself I am NOW HERE and NO WHERE)
Side bar to Odious: Dearest friend, I’m on the path; I will get you out. Whether you’re stuck or whether I’ve let the fear take over, as you texted me was surely the case. In the case of the latter, I will make it right. I got the message: it’s my task to help you, this is why I came to you to hang for all those pandemic hours. Waiting, waiting, waiting for my time like a red guard in the death star shadows.
They used to tell me, “The only thing that exists is the present moment. If we pay attention, whatever we need is right in front of us.”
They proved it to me with bibliomancy–every morning they opened VALIS to a random page and it was always perfect. The lines they read blended with whatever was going on that very second as well as being the launchpad for everything else that happened that day. It was a secret message, meant just for us. “Sync, don’t Swim!” Odious called out to me, laughing while I surfed across the surface of things, both online and off. In such moments I didn’t care if it was real because it all felt so right, the connections on top of connections: it was like making art, but it was fun in a way that making art had never been for me. When I was stuck with how to start this newsletter and Odious recommended that I do my own bibliomancy with VALIS.
“Don’t think about it too much. Just open the book and read whatever your eyes land on first.”
Which of course I never did. But now, I have my copy of VALIS with me in this little room along with all my questions.
“Please help us again”, I said to the vision of PKD in my mind. I had a pic of him on my phone, zoomed in on his sweet yet careworn face.
“For a long time you’ve been with me. I carried VALIS with me for years, until I was finally ready to read it. It’s a cypher posing as a novel, with the truth hidden inside. I believe you were waiting for us, and for others, to decode the meaning. And even though it was written a long time ago, the truth is still there. It’s information that’s alive, just like us. It grows and its form changes but it’s always the same.”
“You gave Odious a message. And we tried to follow it. But everything got tripped out. As you know it’s a paradox, a maze that’s a multilevel puzzle, a situation that you tried your best to illuminate even though it goes beyond the reach of language, with its need to differentiate self and other. All I know is that something has broken through from outside of ordinary reality. It made contact and entered into a symbiotic relationship with Odious. And I don’t know if it’s fear warping my mind, but I think my friend might be in real danger. I think they might be possessed or infected–a host for something evil that wants to fuck with us.”
I pictured Odious sitting on the floor across from me, their overgrown teal bangs falling around their face. My heart clenched up as I thought of the Buzzcocks line I always sang to them:
“You know, you know you’ve got such big eyes,
They make me feel so small.”
It was time, I took a breath and closed my eyes and much to my chagrin I opened VALIS up to the last page before the Appendix. My eyes fell on these lines:
Seated before my TV set I watched and waited for another message, I, one of the members of the little Rhipidon Society which still, in my mind, existed. Like the satellite in miniature in the film Valis, the microform of it run over by the taxi as if it were an empty beer can in the gutter, the symbols of the divine show up in our world initially at the trash stratum. Or so I told myself. Kevin had expressed this thought. The divine intrudes where you least expect it.
“Look where you least expect to find it,” Kevin had told Fat one time. How do you do that? It’s a contradiction.
I slammed the book shut. Perfect, it was so perfect I could barely stand it. I got up and ran out of the room to the kitchen, where several large pots were simmering unattended on the stove. I grabbed the landfill garbage container and dragged it onto the weed choked cracked slab that was the back porch. Then I went back in and pulled out the overflowing recycling bin and then the compost bucket. I knocked all three of them over and started combing through the muck, the cans of Natty light and coconut water, the snot rags and empty organic tobacco pouches and date pits. Coffee grounds went everywhere, they formed shiny black piles crowned by eggshells.
“Here’s some art,” I said, as a few of The Babies gathered cautiously behind me.
“I plotted out this several roomed gallery show,” I said, forcing myself to breathe in deep the rotten stench of the mystery liquid at the bottom of the compost. There was no time to be precious: the answer could be anywhere, in anything. “And each room would be filled with the full amount of a drug I took. There’d be the weed room, with a pile of herb reaching up to the ceiling, and the coke room, with a gigantic plastic sculpture of me filled with powder. And then a room that was a field of daffodils, each one with a little pill blooming in the center.”
“What about booze?” someone asked.
“There would be a lake of beer in the front lobby, with a metal grate so you could stand and look down at it… and a river of wine flowing along the sides of one room into another.”
“Some Willy Wonka shit,” 3 said, from close by. Some of the other babies were helping me sift through the mess, but he was among those who remained standing in the back.
“For sure,” I said, smoothing out the bright silver of a gum wrapper. How many millions of these were in the ocean? Here was just a small group of people and I’d already seen at least twenty of them.
“For sure, for sure, for sure.”
There was a lot of trash, but none of it seemed like what I was looking for. As usual with The Babies, everything was too clean, even the trash, which was neatly divided and predictable in its contents. Filthy but refusing to be bummed out, I wandered upstairs on autopilot, back to my original room at the top of the house. I’d spent very little time there since I saw the giant face, but now I didn’t care. Several Babies knocked, wanting to know if I was OK or if I needed anything, which I didn’t. I took off my clothes and sprawled across the bed with the window open wide, the moonlight on my body. I thought back to my travels out west with Jesse James, and those hungover cinematic mornings when we’d wander the streets of a still sleeping neighborhood. The trash along the curb and on the sidewalks was eclectic, and sometimes alarming. Broken dolls, untouched pound cakes, black hole TV screens…a baby’s bassinet in Columbus, Ohio with a pile of loose-leaf paper inside.
“I can’t tell if it’s poetry or a shopping list?” I called out to Jesse James, who looked back with a half-smile before turning and continuing on. That was something, I thought, breathing in deep so that my whole chest expanded. By the end of our traveling, we’d perfected the art of being alone together, just like Odious and I.
Suddenly, there was a thump on the roof outside my window. I sat up, pulling the blanket around my body as a human figure appeared in the window. I felt a scream beginning in my throat as I saw the silhouette of their misshapen head. But then they turned, feeling around for a place to put their hands inside the sill, and I saw that they wore a rubber ET mask on their head.
A sneakered foot stepped forward. Classic black shell toes with the shell hand painted white.
He stumbled forward and landed clumsily in the space in front of my bed.
“No,” he said, pulling off the mask. His trademark ghostly white face seemed to glow in the dark.
“No more Jesse James. I’m Lil Mountain.”
“Ok,” I said, wondering if he had a smoke.
“I’ve come back to save the world,” he said, and then he turned and pointed his index finger up to the sky in the iconic cinematic gesture.
“May all who touch this be healed,” he said.
Image: Stanley Kubrick, The Shining
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