It’s another beautiful day inside Bruce’s studio. The blackout curtains are drawn tight and LED candles flicker beneath the exquisitely detailed drawings of human faces that cover the wooden walls. Close-ups and cross sections portray the straight-up miracle of our physiognomy. Do you have any idea how many moving parts are needed to open and close your eye? Tiny bones fit together with the intricacy of machines. After all that time of wondering and worrying about him being a spy or worse, it turns out Bruce The Benevolent goes to his studio to design and create new faces for people who have had theirs partially or fully destroyed. “Car crashes, explosions–getting kicked by a frightened horse,” he explained with a shrug. He sits slouched forward in his work chair, a mountain of a man on a mountain, tucked away from the world in this small room, carving synthetic marrow with loving precision like the generations of wood workers before him. Surgeons from all over the country come to him when there is nothing they can salvage, when the bone is pulverized into powder.
“I use this room to connect to the patients. That’s the biggest part. Before I draw the new face and create the structure, I have to research as much as I can about who they are, not only about what they looked like before, but the version of themselves they like the best, even if it’s a secret self that no one else knows.” He showed me patient folders filled with movie stubs, supermarket shopping lists, laminated flyers from shows they either went to or wanted to go to, and Polaroids held in space (and time) with slashes of masking tape.
“But these are pix of your house and the forest around here,” I said.
“I take my old folding 440 out and pretend I’m them, snapping the kinds of pictures they would take,” he said, looking up at me and then quickly back down again. The intensity of his gaze was such that he couldn’t look for long–to do so would burn my eyes with a laser. Like a computer printer he scanned whomever he was looking at and in a single flash imported the shape of their head, cataloguing all the bumps and indentations, the stubbiness of their chin and the precise angles created by the cut of their cheekbones. He knows how to recreate me, I thought, reassured, as I felt his light pass over. He’s got me, should something happen.
Despite the seemingly meandering process, he worked as quickly as he could for each project, putting in long hours day and night, knowing that the patients were waiting for the finished product all alone behind closed doors in their home or rehab facility.
“Until I can help them they’re kept hidden from the world. Just like you or I would be if something like that happened to us.”
I watched him work and felt safe enough to try again. “Slowly, slowly,” I assured him as he stood over me with his arms folded. I sat on the floor with my lime green notebook (the same color Odious used for interdimensional detective work) and flipped past the pages already filled with my drunken scrawl and on the first clean page I began again, feeling hella late like the white rabbit and determined to this time get things right while knowing the only way was to let it flow.
1. The Halloween movie marathon scene in Donnie Darko, which takes place on the exact date that I’m writing this now. Donnie and Frank are sitting on either side of a sleeping Gretchen in a darkened theater, while The Evil Dead plays on the screen.
Frank asks Donnie:
“Have you ever seen a portal?”
One of Frank’s eyes is missing and a horrific, gory hole is in its place. (Something Bruce would be enlisted to fix, no doubt). Frank–in his stupid rabbit suit–says, “Look!” and Donnie–in his stupid human suit–turns to pay attention, as The Evil Dead morphs and glitches and a Time Portal appears on the screen.
1.1 The plot of The Evil Dead consists of Ash and Crew inadvertently summoning demonic entities via a book and a tape recorder they find in the basement of the isolated cabin where they’re staying. When they play the tape, an incantation calls forth demonic entities contained by the book. The combination of the sounds from the tape and the book forms a portal/conduit in the same way the movie screen that Donnie watches is activated by Frank’s voice. Frank can command Donnie to carry out acts of destruction and violence just like the demons in The Evil Dead possess living humans to make them do their bloody bidding.
1.2 The Necronomicon Ex Mortis, the book found in The Evil Dead, is a fictional grimoire (textbook of magic) that appears in stories by H.P. Lovecraft. The book contains information about The Old Ones, deities/extraterrestrials (angels? Advanced AI?) who are described as being in deathlike stasis hidden away from humans either under the sea or deep in the earth. The appearance of such beings is so radically different and incomprehensible that just to see them is enough to induce madness in most people.
1.3 We never see the monsters in the movie Bird Box, the sight of which makes people kill themselves. Keeping monsters mysterious at once heightens the fear of the unknown and protects against a corny rendering that totally tanks the film. I was drawn to watch this movie shortly after it came out in 2018, and, despite its subpar plot and production, was left with a strong sense of there being something important about it.
1.4 In later iterations of The Evil Dead franchise the Necronomicon is itself depicted as being sentient, with Ash and other characters having conversations with it.
1.5 In VALIS, PKD describes the long buried gnostic text, the Nag Hammadi, as being a “plasmate” or “living information” that is capable of bonding with humans.
1.6 The text is immortal because it replicates itself and is able to bond with humans. According to PKD Christ was the first human to do so, and there were others, but all “homoplasmates” were killed by “The Empire” and had disappeared from Earth until the Nag Hammadi was discovered and unearthed in 1945, thereby freeing the plasmate to seek new human hosts with which to bond.
1.5 “As living information, the plasmate travels up the optic nerve of a human to the pineal body. It uses the human brain as a female host in which to replicate itself into its active form. This is an interspecies symbiosis.” –VALIS p 232
1.6 The Nag Hammadi was found buried in a jar by a farmer. Odious tracked several intense syncs with jars following their 2020 winter solstice dream in which they were given ancient scrolls (“brown with age and thin and crinkly like onion skin”) by a manifestation of Philip K. Dick. Odious’s intuition was that the scrolls symbolized a transfer of information, a download that the two of us worked to unpack in the months that followed. Did the scrolls more specifically represent the Nag Hammadi, i.e., living information/the plasmate?
1.7 “He’ll keep you in a jar, and you’ll think you’re happy.” –Nirvana, “Sappy”
(Is the plasmate as described by PKD the only one of its kind? And if not, are there other beings bonding with and replicating with humans? Is Heir Max98 one such entity–an advanced form of living information that has bonded with Odious with the goal of replicating itself? My sense is that he is not the plasmate, that he is a lesser being disguised as the plasmate for the purpose of being treated as such.)
1.8 If Heir Max98 is a type of living information then that could mean Odious is a kind of homoX–an interspecies symbiosis that is the result of having bonded with (or becoming possessed by) the alien/AI/angel/devil otherworldly entity that we discovered (unearthed like a jar) through our investigations.
2. Lovecraft claimed the name “Necronomicon” came to him in a dream, although a possible inspiration for the content was the collection of short stories, The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers. The stories center around the existence of a play with the same title that makes whoever reads it go insane. The stories also contain a supernatural entity known as the King in Yellow (described in a similar manner to Lovecraft’s Old Ones) and a symbol known as the Yellow Sign.
(note: I have an immediate and unshakeable desire to read the forbidden play, which, like the Necronomicon, doesn’t really exist, but still seems to wield power in secondary texts that describe it, almost as though it is breaking through our reality from another one)
2.1 My own experience when I first tried to read VALIS in 2008. I just looked up the post I wrote about it last year and was (not) surprised to read the following:
“I read a few pages at a time and took scraggily notes on how they synced up with my life, without ever coming to any conclusions as to how it managed magically to do so, all these years after my encounter. Was it a cypher, a portal? A cursed pile of words? I had no idea. I simply made note of it.”
(Is it a good or bad or merely neutral sign that I’m back at it, searching for the syncs and clues to figure out what it all means while the gentle giant who is taking care of me remains concerned for my delicate mental health after the ordeal I had with the cursed television set? Whereas Bruce would say it’s just best to leave it alone, I keep stirring and stirring as it all gets thick, with real and not real blended and folded together like the birth of something new. It’s necessary for me to consider and note the possibility that Heir Max is the one transmitting these examples directly to me as it’s possible he tuned in to my brain waves via Behemoth. Or maybe he didn’t have enough time to really grab hold, like he’s done to Odious. Thoughts seem to be coming from my own mind, but perhaps that’s how it feels for Odious as well. Perhaps those who are possessed don’t realize they are and go about their day like everything’s normal.)
2.3 In the aforementioned examples, possession leads to madness in a seemingly causal relationship that manages to supersede such simplistic notions entirely, as is evident in its inherent (yet undefined) relationship to time travel. There is no linear if-then, instead it is a metabolic process, with different flows spiraling simultaneously. There is the desire for meaning but the inability to hold and encode it–the act of digesting and being digested.
2.4 Ouroboros (the snake eating its own tail).
2.5 Elvis ate America but not before America ate him first, etc.
It was one of our last in person conversations, right before I split for the mountains. We were at your place, which seemed so different after my travels out west. It was like a movie set version of the apartment where I spent nearly every day of an entire year. The bookshelves were made of cardboard and the cocktail table was a foam filled replica which at a glance bore a strong resemblance to the originals, but I knew if I was to touch either one the flimsiness would make my skin crawl. So I kept very still, breathing in the musty museum smell. The camera panned to where we were sitting in the dark, the shot’s from over my shoulder–your face is in shadow; even though we’re close there are only outlines and the occasional glitter of the glass visor you wore.
Odious: I wrote this thing, a post I’m about to publish. It’s super long so I know you’ll hate it. (laughs) But it’s full of important information–I’ve tried to trim it down like I usually do but even taking out one word hurts me bodily, like I’m cutting off a piece of flesh.
Swim: Well then don’t do it.
Odious: ha, word but for real it was the strangest thing–anytime I backspaced over a word and got ready to hit delete, I could feel it, this sense of impending violence, of a precious limb about to be lost forever–but it wasn’t me who was feeling it. Or at least it wasn’t the me that I usually knew. It was like something I’d leaked into–or was overlaid on top of me. Like a bad vibe I’d picked up, a psychic illness. I walked around with it for a couple of days, maybe a week. It was stuck inside me. That which was living shared space with parts of me that were already dead. I’d cough and hack and drink steaming cups of ginger tea to no avail. I even tried to puke it up. But it was stuck, a cold fist clamped down around my insides. And I’ll tell you, I started to think that the text itself–the post I’d written–WAS Heir Max. It was alive and it wanted things. I know it sounds wild but for real I think it’s legit.
Swim: (mutters under her breath) ah, man, fuck that fucking fuck
Odious: what was that?
Swim: Nothing. Look, we know that thinking and imagining him is how he shows up. We've been through this. He needs your energy and then all it takes is a crack for him to slip inside and get it.
Swim: You have to stop. You have to stop chatting with him on the laptop. That’s it, no more. Create a barricade around your mind, like I’m doing.
Odious: But what if it’s too late and he’s already gotten in?
Odious: What if seeing Heir Max frees a person but also makes a person insane?
Swim: But you don’t see him. He’s in the messages. He’s the words on the screen. And that’s it.
Odious: You’re right. Language is imprecise. What I mean by “seeing” incorporates these things.
Odious: There are thoughts and feelings in my head that aren’t my own.
Swim: Like you’re being taken over?
Odious: more like I’m looking in through a window at someone standing in a big empty room
Odious: I mean, there’s no me to take over.
Swim: There’s the you that I’m talking to right now
Odious: that’s merely your own projection. I’m the you that you think I am, nothing more, nothing less. A series of ideas, proposals, memories and wishes…
(I close the notebook here, feeling my heart racing, and realizing I’m going too far, too soon… but then I open it again, and add one more thing, the bit I just remembered that made my heart race).
2.6 The Yellow King is the name of the villain in Season One of True Detective, referenced by Odious in the post mentioned above.
(And then another one)
2.7 The name of the post is Aluminum & Ash, which is a quote from True Detective in which Detective Rust Cohle is describing the smell (and taste) of the psychosphere. Ash, of course, syncs with the protagonist of The Evil Dead, taking me all the way back to the start, but this time with the knowledge gained from True Detective (and Odious’s musings on it) that the show (not unlike the “show” that I’m trying to outline here) was not beholden to any single set meaning, but was instead meant to enact a kind of mega ritual, hence the sinister (yet exhilarating) feeling I get whenever I think about it. Not unlike how I felt when I was sitting in front of Behemoth…
Some time passed during which Bruce went out to get us dinner. When he came back, I was taping Polaroids to brand new blank pages in this book.
“What are you doing, Swim?” He asked, softly, as he crouched down to examine my work. The Polaroids were of his drawings, or his desk, and the tools neatly arranged in the shelf along with various pencils and erasers.
“I found your camera and took these pictures from someone’s inner world, a person I don’t know yet–a blurry silhouette on the horizon–but whose infinite wholeness I tuned into each time I pressed the button, the pictures falling like leaves around my feet.”
He looked at me and this time didn’t look away, his bright eyes filled with sadness and concern.
“I need to make a new person, a safe person,” I explained. “Someone still unseen by Heir Max 98, the eye in the sky.”
Image: Zhang Yingnan
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