The forest is quiet. I kneel back within layers of impenetrable stillness as I prepare to fall asleep and dream in front of Lil Mountain’s scroll. Lately, most of the action is happening on the inside, below the surface. It’s enough to stare at a single phrase for hours but not everyone can connect to the frequency like I can. In order to keep up the intensity levels as well as our cash flow I’ve taken to blithely encouraging The Babies to commit petty crimes. Shoplifting, credit card scams, nothing crazy. They started at the same luxury grocery stores where they went dumpster diving. I proclaimed that the heavy white suburban voodoo that permeated such spots demanded an antidote.
“They put this out in a little fridge right by the exit,” one of the younger babies whose name I always forget reported, as he chugged an organic almond milk mocha cold brew out of a quaint glass bottle.
“Past the registers and the self-checkout. I mean it’s like they were practically begging me to take it.”
I nodded approvingly. Sniff, Stretch, Sanchez? He wore one of the new slim-fitting, handmade purple Nepalese hoodies that they had taken to wearing, despite the heat. The skin under his right eye was still swollen from his brand new tear drop tattoo.
Soon, more significant items started showing up at camp. Among them were a drum machine, a new movie projector, and the biggest tent I’d ever seen. It’s large enough to enclose an entire patio or gazebo, providing me with a work space deep in the forest where I can lay out large sections of Lil Mountain’s scroll. I hold the stained and torn paper open with flat bluestones from the nearby ancient quarries and read and reread until I fall asleep. It’s in dreams that I found my true medium, a place where everything can be fixed. Like any new art form it’s taken time to figure out how to do it. At first the scroll was something I had to penetrate, I pushed and pulled and remained attached to the idea of it having a fixed meaning. But I’ve learned it’s not about decoding symbolism, but creating it. I go over and over bits of text until the full powers of the English language open up to me. The visual of the typed words on the page and the sound of them in my mind or on my lips and the associations they have with things I’d seen or read or thought about just a little while earlier–through this, anything is possible. When I wake up there are offerings of fruit and jugs of water left beside me by The Babies, which is all I need for this work of reading and dreaming. I barely leave the tent or even stand up for whole days. The less I do the more exhausted I become and the more time I spend in my dream state where facts and figures are unrecognizable from fiction.
In addition to Em, several other Babies took off recently. Bruce is gone too, although I refuse to believe it’s for good, and that he’s just receded to a distance where he can keep watch upon us without being seen. I miss him, just like I miss Em, Lil Mountain and of course, Odious. But in my forest dreams they are all there. I can feel them. Lil Mountain and Em sing songs from Capitulation while Odious watches from “over by the window, where the light is”. Sometimes in my dreams I’m held by Bruce. Or by someone who resembles him. He nuzzles me and pats the springy softness of my crew cut. Hadn’t I deep down suspected that this was the nature of the energy between us? I’m a puppy and a human baby but also a full grown woman–his touch is gentle yet strong, and a blissful feeling still rushes through my body when I wake.
Although it resembles a cage, the tent was made for cotillions and baby showers and other normal life summertime events, which means it’s expensive–too expensive for The Babies to afford. They insisted on telling me how they just found it in its box, lying right there in the street. “So, it was a miracle?” I finally replied, to which they didn’t respond, unsure what to make of the deep sincerity in my voice. But I wasn’t fucking around: the apparition of the tent truly is a miracle: it is minimalist enough to give me just the barest connection to humanity, which is exactly what the nature of my current work requires. It’s perfect, like everything that’s happening to me and The Babies: some of which is certainly detrimental to our mental and emotional well-being, but is nevertheless a part of a prophecy unfolding.
“It’s all OK,” I assured them, just prior to taking up my residency in the tent. “It’s OK to miss me when I’m away. To feel lost and lonely. The important thing is not to repress anything, even the very worst things that we feel. We have to go through it and take what comes; we have to be brave, which I acknowledge is made more difficult by my previous lapse of faith.”
I paused and took note of their dull eyes and blotchy skin and yearned for The Babies golden era of 2021, back when they were still young and shiny and believed whatever I said.
“It’s like what Odious told me,” I continued, and coughed as I often do when I communicate the wisdom of my friend. The words are filled with a shimmering clear light that is too much to hold.
“‘The new paradigm is being revealed to those of us with a profound interest in decoding it. We all play a part.’”
What I don’t mention is that some parts are bigger than others, and that right now their part is to take care of me while I sleep as much as I can and figure out what happens next.
Sometimes, sleep is elusive. I’ve tried drugging myself but then the dreams don’t go right. They’re hallucinations, not dreams and I wake up with nothing gained. Instead I wander the forest to try and exhaust myself. Sometimes I come close enough to see the glimmer of the highway through the trees. The real world of people and things is so close. There’s the bellow of trucks, working endlessly to deliver what is bought and sold. After so much time away will I still know how it works? I make my way over saintly eagle rocks, my mouth open like an animal to reveal the stolen whitening strips stuck to my teeth.
“He’s still here,” The Babies tell me on one of my visits back to camp. “He’s an electrical field that can be inhabited by thousands of people all at once.”
“That’s what he wanted,” I say, neither affirming nor denying. “To go into a crowd and make it one thing. The whole time I knew him, his soul rattled around like an empty cage, yearning to hold a revolution.”
The Babies nod, but I can tell that more than a few quietly question this. They’re reverting back into the closed circuit tribal state that they were back in Brooklyn. They move together as a single organism. Everything that happens is filled with meaning, foretelling either blessings or discontent (which, according to The Babies, is ultimately an accident of missing the blessings that are still there, despite any difficulties). They share stories about discovering white flowers in the woods that are so bright they blind your eyes, and how lately, the fish appear as soon as they put their lines in the water. They refer to the “he” who catches them midair if they start to fall. They never say the name Lil Mountain or Jesse James. They never mention how in real life they wanted to kick him out from the house, not once, but twice.
Some of Lil Mountain’s riffs are poetry, some are rudimentary pairings of synonyms, others of flowery antonyms, like something out of a textbook. These are framed by white space, patterns of emptiness that also feel significant. A kind of secret code? There are also musings and memories, a few I knew about but most I did not. Is this what it’s always like when someone dies–the person or persons left behind discover hidden rooms in the house it turns out they barely knew?
(when i die I want it to be the kind of hard delete that takes with it all my browsing history, with flames shooting out from the screen that consume my notebooks filled with all my dreams and schemes)
I picture him up there all alone, typing for days and nights and taking naps on the floor. He had to hurry so it would be done when the rest of us emerged from down below. The paper coiled up in hollow tubes around him. Like some kind of root system. Something that I could cut and cut again and it would still be alive.
The house required a sacrifice. I assumed it would be me and never once thought it wanted him instead. There he is, in his room at the table with a bottle of blue Sprite and action figures arranged in protective postures at the corners. When he’s not typing he drifts from room to room, touching, arranging, wiping shelves free from dust with sagging sleeves. It makes so much sense now, how could I have missed it? He was the one the house loved best and fucked with the most. The house gave him Capitulation, the idea and the realized vision, in the form of Behemoth’s shimmering hologram broadcast in the basement. Is this the price he pays for his dream coming to life? To remain there forever, an echo caught in the hall, bouncing around just to keep hearing his own voice?
In one of the last descriptive parts of the scroll he writes:
“I go through the things that are left behind, not looking for anything, just soaking up the vibes of the people who used them. I found a matchbox for a roadhouse that has ‘The jar is under the bed’ written in pencil on the inside cover in what I’m sure is Swim’s handwriting. How long will she wait at the meet-up spot for me? If she gets this she at least won’t be stupid enough to come back. If she gets this she will get what she needs.
(FYI I’ve looked under all the beds but no dice).
I’d gotten so used to the comfort here. The whole time Swim was going on about the danger that loomed around us I was thinking, they can’t make me leave just by telling me to. Em made me straight up pinky promise that when it was time to go back to NYC I’d come with them. I swear on my life, I told her, in a serious tone that makes me want to laugh and cry.
I am really doing it, I’m really doing it…I’m making this decision, no one told me to, no one’s paying me to…
There are phones still hung up on the wall. I stare at them, willing them to ring, willing the message to come through. But in this house the info doesn’t come in, it only goes out–a one-way transmission to The Great Receiver. Who can’t be fucked with all those dashes and dots.
Maybe the house is the jar, maybe the sky's the bed?
I’m here like the dolls on the shelf. I’m my own favorite doll. How did I get so tired? Every day, for as long as I can remember. I’m exhausted. The tiredness morphed into pain when I started taking the drugs and so I took more to stop it. So I could feel A-ok. Now it’s been at least a year since I felt anything. If you’re reading this, it’s the pills. I took them now they’re taking me. You don’t have to OD to OD. I’ve been not present for so many moments I might as well have already been dead. That’s tragic because every moment is precious. I can’t get those days or nights back and all the shit I did weighs on me. It was the basement but it was before the basement, I need y’all to know that. The basement just clarified how scared I am. So scared that I fucked it all up, fucked up the chance I was given.
There’s a constant buzzing in the air. E sharp. It doesn’t come from anything, it’s just in the air itself. I have to get out from under the heavy dark wood of this house. But outside there’s also wood. The house was made with the wood from the trees that crowd the perimeter a few feet from the sides and back. I want to be one of them, rooted into place. But I can move and feel the weight upon me. I’m tucked into the mountain, with land and trees and even the sky pushing down on me. Deep inside the quiet I can hear them pressing closer.
'Soon, soon,' a bird calls out.
It’s a tuning fork. The mountain and the trees and whatever this house was built upon. An invisible tower sending signals from the top that get sucked all the way down to Behemoth in the basement, to the layer below all the things and the people.
I’m here, I’ve always been here. Since beginningless time—I’ve been flopping on the shore, a dark thing sucked in and out of the sea, struggling to kill and not to be killed. Above me are the harbor lights and the satellites, the sailors running aground, the sea changes in ways I pretend to be surprised at.. riding on these dark waves. Riding on this feeling, this way of being I feel I’ve found for myself—turned into these pages and before that the album. A moving flexing changing sculpture that is eating me whole.
(why aren’t you stopping me? Why are you letting me do this?)"
I have to stop reading. A cool, almost cold, breeze cuts through the heavy air and rustles the trees, their shaking leaves bright green against the shadows of the deeper woods and the concrete white of the sky. A storm is coming, I need to gather up the scroll. The leaves whisper all around me as I kneel in the center of the tent. That last part was for me. Maybe all of it was, but definitely the last part.
Image: Artist Unknown
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