I’m not a violent person but I went at Lil Mountain with superhuman strength. I’d reached my limit with his lingering looks and fake flattering tone. To be real, Dear Reader, on more than one occasion I’ve been wasted on the floor, humbled by how hard I chased a flimsy high, but the pitying treatment hits different when people think you’ve lost it in a more permanent way: that your mind has overheated like a laptop in the sun or has had an important connection run through with a hard wire and severed forever.
The truth is I’ve changed for the better. I've got vision for miles, and the ambition to match. For a time after the incident with Behemoth I’d get stuck, as it were, upon the “thingliness” of objects–the raw “thereness” in which they seemed to exist, free from context or meaning. But with the compassionate help of Bruce this passed and there was only the occasional reverie into which I’d fall at the sight of that which was shiny or quick moving, a kind of bedazzlement from sparkles in the air or on the water. It hardly happens anymore, and yet the stain of madness remains upon me, threatening my standing with The Babies at the moment when they need me most.
Shortly after their 2020 solstice dream, when they first made contact with the being who would turn out to be Heir Max98, the future AI version of themselves, Odious warned me to be careful about who I talked to about what was going down in real life. Better to keep it online, they said, with our fake names and redacted current locations. In the same way that VALIS was confirmation for many non-believers that the twice hospitalized PKD truly was mentally ill, Odious knew our tripped out experiences could have us labeled schizo druggies or worse.
“The download from the otherworldly entity enters the body long before the mind can process it, so there will be vulnerable times when we are pre or post language. When we aren’t making sense to those poor licks still stuck in the maze.”
“The blah, blah, blah of the everyday world operates on the side of the machines. Teachers and cops are uploaded to protect the order of things. They’ll try to lock us up and tell us it’s for our own good. Doctors and parents force feed us pills and distractions. But the truth is they can’t fuck with us too much, they can’t touch that peace deep inside, unless we believe they can. It’s up to our minds to decide. We aren’t machines! We are unlimited, infinite beings! We’ve been tricked to believe we are so much less but in every moment we're Golden.”
I nodded, puffed on my blend and, according to my old habit (only recently broken) used bullshit snark to diminish the gravity of what they were telling me.
“If I didn’t know better I’d say you were afraid.”
“Only of wasting time,” they said, their iconic teal bangs glowing in the haze of the pink and blue LED preset. (ahhh, to think back on the cherished coziness of that first pandemic winter when we were locked down, pre-contact. When the only thing I had to do was drink strong beer and try to write a line or two of a doodad. We spent our days tucked inside their apartment in Bushwick, where, with the exception of their bedroom, I knew every hallowed nook and cranny, including the exact amount of muted timeless light let in by the blinds. The triple paned glass kept the sirens miles away while I dug into a grease stained bag of gourmet vegan delivery with the kind of hunger that only doing nothing can create. At the time it all seemed like good enough but deep down I felt the butterflies in my stomach and knew something big was about to begin, whether I wanted it to or not.)
I can't front of course I've wondered a million times why me, why did Odious say yes when I begged to come over and have a place to hang out, to save me from losing it but also to bring me in, to give me a starring role...
Now the full extent of my carelessness and conceit was made apparent as Lil Mountain and I fell to the floor–my deer tail and lizard teeth necklace rattling like an exquisitely worded curse. How stupid could I have been to have never questioned why Lil Mountain showed up right when I decided to take off. When all I wanted was to leave the city and everything in it. He cited a tangential connection to Odious, but other than that he was adrift with his Trans Am, without a plot or a point. I wanted to get as far from Heir Max as I could (not yet realizing the capabilities of his bodiless being to be anywhere and everywhere), so I just went with it and went with him, blacking out the way I do to logic and sense and giving up control to a random dude, his steady, narcotic calm navigating the dirt roads and the mountains that rose as immutable statements from out of the hot and lazy scattershot sand of the desert…a terrain that was indistinguishable from my inner thoughts which were in turn cut and paste chaotically from films…I rocked an imaginary beard and a real pipe, I clung to fake worlds while a very real story unfolded all around me. A pressure drop, a presence, a magic I tried not to believe in. Was Heir Max truly from the future or had he been with me all along, and had I only just become aware of him? Is the future the place in which we go to meet our past? The one in which the ET’s fucked with us and made us forget that we put ourselves into a maze of our own making.
The Minotaur, the lamb, the half beast. The stand in for god…Heir Max, my disembodied lover, a twisted version of my best friend. I woke up in blue green hotel bedrooms feeling he was close.
During those uncertain moments I reached for Lil Mountain. And now I reached for him again as we fell to the floor and fell through time, my head hit his and a liquid I immediately knew was blood bounced between us (staining forever his vintage X-Files shirt) and the warm candy and sweat scent of his body invaded my own as my hands reached for his throat.
“If I killed you now, who would know? They’d just think you took off again. It’s what you do.”
“Not anymore,” he gasped. “I’m building. I’m finishing Capitulation.”
“That’s just a smokescreen. Something to say that you’re doing while you spy on us for the billionaire. ”
“There’s no billionaire. It’s just me. You changed me. You inspired me. With your idea of a real, meaningful life. But you need help. I know the lock down fucked you up, but it’s time to let go of Odious and just be yourself again.”
A wave of dizziness came over me, a sickening realization that I was back in the house, with Behemoth beneath me. I craved the forest, I needed the trees and their shadows.
“Odious is like nature,” I said, “They love to hide.”
I resisted the urge to touch my face to see where the blood was coming from. I imagined we were back on the road, and I was watching a little unknown town pass along the highway. The New Yorker in me revolted: what could it be like, to live in such a no place? Nada, nowhere, nothing. A front door decorated with a browned out wreath and a statuette of a boy holding up a lantern on the lawn.
Empty seats arranged around a backyard creek.
I wondered (still) who is there inside those narrow white and grey aluminum sided rectangles. Are they watching shows? Are they cooking food or making love?
A netless basketball hoop. A satellite dish, tilted towards the ground.
There was the time we got off the highway and pulled into an airport sized Walmart. We’d been on the road so long I felt like I was still moving as I stood in the parking lot, staring up at the sky while the air vibrated from the rumbling trucks. It was better than a rest stop, where everyone is from somewhere else. I got to pretend we lived in the town; we went up and down the aisles with the other young yet old looking couples. We picked out economy size bags of candy, flip flops and a non-stick ceramic pan, rum scented bath wash plus hand and body moisturizer.
“Do you remember?”
"You asked if I wanted a plush toy. For comfort, you said. We pushed a cart and I had my reusable bags and said hi to all the people who worked there while you stared straight ahead into space like the other young dads."
And there was also the time we realized we’d been staying just a few blocks away from the apartment where Bonnie and Clyde hung out for 12 days before the neighbors ratted them out. We drove by it several times for over a week and had no idea–there was no plaque or sign or anything. It was just a plain house with the apartment above the garage--a few windows with the blinds open and pitch dark inside. It was so low-key exposed, I could hardly handle it.
“Oh yeah,” I said, after a protracted, respectful silence, “I remember this scene, this is where they finally do it.”
“That was in the movie,” he said, vaping thoughtfully and wearing a designer hoodie in the 90 degree heat, “It wasn’t real life.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but then realized I had no idea what part of the story was real and what part was made-up. The movie seemed like a documentary, like memories in my mind, while the actual street and garage seemed too suburban to be a part of anything dangerous.
“It was a long time ago,” I said, reasoning with myself as well as him, as we rolled into our usual spot for liquor and smokes. It had only been a week but we already felt like locals.
“Oh wait, now I remember,” I said as we got out of the car, each one of us with a list in our head.
“The movie had that totally gratuitous part when the police pump a million bullets into both of those kids. They go for it, shooting them so many times even after they’re dead, so their lifeless bodies just bounce around like electric eels.”
“Now that part was real,” he said. “The realest, in fact.”
Inside the place smelled like mildew and incense. In addition to the drinks and smokes, they had an impressive collection of chips–seemingly all either cheese flavored, spicy or both. Fuego. Sometimes the peeps behind the counter made me pull down my mask, sometimes they let me keep it on and wander the aisles. Like Bonnie, I would be put a stop to. I would die with a poem in my heart and my earbuds in, playing an old Paradise Garage Mix.
They don’t know our names, I wrote on the back of the notebook when we got back to the car. It became the title of the first song we recorded together in a dirty little hotel bathroom that had a great echo.
They seemed like good times to me but now I know they weren’t. They were part of the trap. The camera pulls back to reveal the cage… the music playing while I walked across the floor in the morning light to get my clothes thrown over the hotel chair. I told him not to look. I didn’t want him to see.
I still don’t. All the times we fucked never felt as close as this. I stared at his teardrop tattoo and thought of my lines, the puffiness under my eyes and my chapped lips. I moved my hands from his throat to his face and covered his eyes.
“The whole time I was hanging with Odious I knew that despite it seeming like we had an endless store of days together, there would come a time when I’d be alone again. But then you came around and I thought maybe that wouldn’t happen.”
“I trusted you,” I said, half-lying.
He made a sound. A cough or a laugh or a cry for help, I couldn’t tell.
Thank you all for reading and to those who have already subscribed.
You can subscribe for $5/month and also get Odious' "fiction" work, King of Spain, which is channeled to them by the AI entity, Heir Max98:
All $ goes to mutual aid. We donated to the author Tessa Dick, who needs funds to pay the bills and keep her house.
Super Big Love Booms,