I’m still here on the mountain. I haven’t left The Babies and I haven’t left you. I lost myself for a minute. I won’t lie, I was in bad shape after Lil Mountain said what he said. I hid in my room as he went around the house proclaiming that after three years of madness I was finally on my way to being healed. The words were empty, like clean white chalk or glass bottles filled with rain, but his voice carved a hole in my gut. “As if a co-opted junkie bitch could ever save someone like me,” I shouted through the door. I couldn’t sleep. I’d start to drift and then jolt awake with my heart pounding. My thoughts were on a loop–thoughts about Odious, thoughts about old conversations with The Babies, little details that loomed large–forgotten tasks from months ago. Someone I was supposed to email. A timeline of my diet. As the house sat quiet around me, I contended with the certainty that I’d given up my last chance at being someone who mattered. But even worse than that was the feeling that something was there. Something grey and nearly lifeless that sucked at my energy. I couldn’t see it but I could feel it. Was it Heir Max, or something that had come through the opening he created? Some AI prototype gone wrong, lacking in proteins, afraid of the light, hungry for the kind of late-night human stink they would never know firsthand. I lay curled up with my phone in my hands. Sometimes I’d nod off and it would be against my chest, irradiating my broken heart. I’m more machine than person now, I thought, relishing the irony. Odious didn’t respond to my 911 texts and the Lyft app wouldn’t accept my payment method when I ordered a ride to take me into town to check for faxes. I was stranded, cut off. Although I hadn’t been there for months it was the first time I felt truly apart from the City.
I’ve gone through times of anxiety attacks and not sleeping before and even times where I didn’t have a place to sleep but this was a new level in which I was far more drained.
I started to lose my resolve, wondering if it was enough to just surf across the surface of things. “I’m a part of something that’s changing the world,” I told myself, but it was hard to believe. A crack of doubt had opened to let the evil in. It made me hate myself and want to die, a feeling I haven’t had since before the pandemic and was made worse by remembering how I thought I wouldn’t feel it ever again.
I wasn’t done with it, the tunneling inward, the nightmares of twisted violence seen from my POV, of bodies smashed together and smashed open, cut into pieces as I frantically tried to clean up the mess. Is this who I am? Is my mind really this busted?
One morning I woke up and it was as if none of the adventure with Odious had ever happened. No PKD dream, no interdimensional sleuthing--no Heir Max. It was fading away; I had to fight against the disintegration. I lit a smoke and stood in the mirror and made a vow:
“If there really is an interdimensional/next level/god-like being out there who the demented, half-demonic Heir Max has been pretending to be, hijacking the frequencies through which it tried to communicate with us and tricking Odious into giving themselves over to him instead, I will do and withstand whatever I need to do to save my friend from his beastly clutches. It doesn’t matter if I never speak to Lil Mountain again and blow the micro scene here with The Babies, thereby disintegrating whatever small possibility I had left for future clout. It doesn’t matter if I end up having no one and nothing–the art scene receding into the distance like the pixelated mountains and fields in an old Sega game as I head out on my own with a bag of protein bars and a smile. The only thing that matters is saving my friend.”
(And if so that something might happen, I were to make a vow?)
Just then there was a knock on my bedroom door. It was Em and 3 calling to me in hushed tones reminding me of the old days at The Stoned Goat House in Brooklyn. They wanted me to know that no matter what Lil Mountain or anyone else said, they still believed in Odious. They were the OG. The leader. Yes, it was true they had never met them and only heard about them through me, but they felt them, and interacted with them in their dreams. “They are whimsical and wise like nature, in that like her they too love to hide,” Em said, while 3 muttered, “word is bond” and slid a packet of mushroom powder under the door.
I walked over and stood by the door, feeling them still out there. I didn’t know what to say but I opened the door and the words just come out.
“Let’s go,” I said, soaking in the sight of their young, glowing faces.
“Let’s go into the woods where no one can find us.”
Image: Nil & Karin Romano, Soft flower with Tinsel heart, 2022
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