Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UsOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not -iSSuE- ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what TWENTY-FiVE tahw ro woh gniwonk to think. You are in 04/30/96 ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
Heidi ho, boys and girls (and heidi, too, since her name is ALSO a greeting). Welcome to issue #25, a big issue, and yet, we're still such a quaint zine.
(Fucking right, eh, Clockwork? Just WHERE the HELL are your SUBMiSSiONS? I've been waiting for AGES! Get them to me PRONTO or I'll FIRE your ASS!!!)
Er, sorry, I always wanted to see what it felt like to be a ruthless, cruel editor/dictator who ruled his writers with an extremely large cat o' nine tails. Instead, I'm just a nice guy who barely has time to spell check, as IWMNWN likes to point out all the time.
Anyway, this issue has been rife with troubles for yours truly. It was supposed to come out last night, but I discovered that a new release of NetHack had been released, and, well, I ended up pretending I was a Valkyrie all night long. And I still use the ASCII mode too! No graphics tiles for this purist!
"Stop being a goddamn martyr!" yells Luke. "Get your ass to the Falcon."
Seems this editorial is getting a tad bit TOO goofy, so I guess I better wrap this sucker up. Noni Moon brings us another wonderful interview with IWMNWN; Nathan writes about Dada and Nietzsche; Morrigan is back after a long absence, which we are very happy about; a first time writer puts a twist on serial killing; and I've put in some literary trash of my own dealing with teen angst. I never did that when I was in high school, but it's never too late to start, eh?
Anyway, remember that the summer is coming up, and everyone knows what happened last time that season rolled around. May looks real nice, people send me stuff, and then it's dead in the summer. Make Kilgore happy! Send me stuff, and I'll publish it. I tell ya, it'll look good on your college application/job resume (only if they can't actually get ahold of the zine).
Toodles and all that jazz.
[once again, we present more letters from our hearty readers. unfortunately, my new mail program decided to strip the headers when i saved them. not exactly my night at zine publishing, eh? quick rundown: fuck 'em, sell 'em, mail 'em.]
i know you are not kilgore trout. vonnegut knows you are not kilgore trout and if fools don't know who kilgore trout is- fuck em.
[i know i'm not kilgore trout, too. i doubt vonnegut knows i even exist -- he doesn't like computers. as for fucking people who don't know who kilgore trout is: i doubt they're my type.]
Kilgore, I saw your listing in Labovitz's e-zine collection and I thought you may be interested in doing a little bit more in the zine business. I know many zines prefer to remain an underground organization and you may be one of them. But in case you have higher aspirations, why do not you download Web Buster, a free, HTML 3.0 compatible, fully graphical Web browser and see what kind of an online publication you could turn your zine into. Web Buster is available from this Web site: http://www.acdcon.com/ Web Buster is in the self-installing webbuste.exe file. After installing Web Buster, call http://www.acdcon.com/index.epb to see with your own eyes what a regular Web site can look like. Just a remark before you call: do not expect slow Web pages that put you to sleep ... The site is in its early stages yet, but it shows very well the possibilities. It is constructed with E-Publisher, a fully graphical Web authoring tool, which is fairly simple to use. Depending on your enthusiasm and imagination, you could set up much more amazing Web pages. If you are interested in more, just write to me. If you adopt this technology, I will link your site into mine. My site will be heavily advertised, which means your site gets a lot of extra exposure through the link. Where else can you receive a free promotion like that? Regards, Laslo Chaki *************** email@example.com ACD:Developer of Epublisher and Web Buster ***************
[ack. don't even know why i'm running this. guess i just thought it was too damn funny to pass up. the beginning is the best, the part about how want to be underground, but if you have "higher aspirations," then this guy's product is for you. like i'm doing this to be cool. i do it cuz i like it. and i actually took the time to try out his free web browser, knowing full well that hardly anyone is going to load up a separate browser apart from their main one just to look at a zine. damn thing errored out in the installation. heh. i like ascii. how about you?]
Well... I got issue 23 off a local board (the sprawl).. its really good... I too live in Austin tx.. Just wanted to say I like the zine, and to please add me to the mailing list... thats about it..
[glad to know some local folks are reading it. sorry i lost your address. i'm also sorry to say that we don't have a mailing list. if anyone wants to set one up for us, well, you'll like get your name in big shiny letters in the zine or something. probably or something.]
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Nemo est Sanctus
"The personal revolution is far more difficult
Then the first steps in any revolution."
The Revolution -- this Revolution, in the hearts and minds of the Western people of the '90's -- will fail. It will not fall to superior arms or superior numbers. It will not fall from lack of economic clout. It will fall because the people who claim to want it have defeated themselves.
"In order for an enemy to defeat you," it has been rightly said, "you must first defeat yourself." The Western version is similar: "A house divided upon itself cannot stand." Luke 11:17. Do I mean the Revolutionaries of today are not of one purpose? To an extent. The Revolutionaries on the Left and the Revolutionaries on the Right do not see eye to eye and will not see eye to eye, as they blind each other in petty disagreements. They allow themselves to be separated by the system, and, worse, they separate themselves. But this is not the most important thing. The Revolutionary force is splintered because of the Revolutionaries.
Those of the Revolution are of two minds. More correctly, they are of one mind and one soul. The Revolutionary knows something is wrong, but this Revolution is not Revolution; it is Reaction. The Revolutionary today does not know what is right.
A Revolutionary knows he must die. The hobbyist and the whining "oppressed" do not, but it is not of these that I write. For these, I have barely a moment to dismiss them, I will not spend an hour to address them. The Revolutionary knows he must die, because a Revolutionary is dead the day he takes the name. He dies to himself that he may live in the right, and that other may one day breathe free. He dies that the Reactionary whiners may have life, of a sort.
The Revolution today, though, will fail, because the Revolutionary today does not know how to live.
How does one learn to live? That is the very difference between the Revolutionary and the Reactionary. A Reactionary does just as the name implies: he reacts. A Reactionary sees what is wrong in the world, and he opposes it. In this morbidity he steeps and dies, because one who dwells on evil cannot live. The Nihilist is the ultimate Reactionary, saying, "Because there is some evil in the world I know, I will oppose all the world." A Reactionary cannot win a Revolution, for he cannot even see it. It is the inherent Reaction that will dull the senses of the Constitutionalists and the Militias, as they say, "When the government goes too far, then we will react." They hope thereby to gain the support of the people who feel less threatened by a supposed protector than by a true liberator. They also hope to avoid the animosity of those who seek to destroy us, but that is hopeless. To the Archons, the Reactionaries are a potential, though drunk, obstacle. They see that better than the Reactionaries themselves. They know that the Reaction can make conquest slightly more difficult, and that the right leader can turn Reaction into Revolution. The tolerance and the patience of the Reaction will not be returned. The tolerance and patience of the Reaction will be the destruction of the Reaction. And the Revolution.
Every Revolution must have life. Every Revolution is a theological Revolution. When the Americans cast off the British, they did so with cries like, "No king but Christ." When the British rebelled against their kings, they did so with preachers in their midst, with benedictions like, "Lord give us thy strength to crush yet another regiment of thy enemies, may they fall before thy soldiers swords like wheat." When the Russians brought down their Tzar, they put up icons of Lenin in the place of the saints, and worshipped a system, a creation instead of the Creator.
A Revolutionary must fight for something. That something is his god. The revolution today will fail because the gods for which the agitators fight -- "freedom" to do anything that catches their fancy, "justice" to take away another's property and life -- are dead idols. What good is freedom without a code to tell one what is good? One ends up blindly pursuing anything that takes one's fancy, and slain. What good is "justice" without a measure to see what is truly just? Those cannot exist without an ideal, without a god.
The one thing that all the gods which are fashionable today have in common is that they are all centered on the selfish pleasures of the individual. Freedom of speech, freedom of choice, without a true ideal are simply selfishness. They are fashionable, and tolerated, and even encouraged by the state, because they prevent the people from unifying behind a true ideal and fighting for true freedom.
Only when the agitators, the leaders, the Revolutionaries turn themselves over to the good, to the just, in short to God, will they be able to fight, and have something to fight for. Without a clearly defined objective, no force can be expected to win.
Only when the souls and minds of the people are reunified to fight for the true freedom, the true justice, will victory prevail. You have been made free, will you make yourself a slave again?
Dear Concerned, I'm going to act like I never read that."
Nate asked me to meet him at the Southwestern University campus, where he attends classes. Although he showed up on time on the veranda of the Student Building where we agreed to meet, I didn't find him until I approached a fifteen-year-old boy sitting in the corner and found out it was him.
NM: You look like a little kid.
IW: I'm twenty-one, you know.
NM: Kilgore said you had long hair.
IW: Oh, oh yeah, you haven't talked to him lately. I just got it cut. It's fun to make people think I'm a tourist.
NM: A tourist? On campus?
IW: Yeah, like some kid who wandered here by accident. If I had a skateboard it would help, I guess.
NM: I don't get it.
IW: Oh, kids ride their skateboards around here a lot. The administration is looking into pest-removal options.
NM: Really? How?
IW: Don't worry about it, I was just kidding. I'm hardly ever serious, you know. How about this -- when I say something gravely important, I'll make a signal like this: <makes intricate signs with his hands> After this is over, you can weed out the noise and have a gravely important interview.
NM: <laughs> You're not going to make this easy on me, are you?
NM: All right, then. You're not going to make me listen to Tom Swifties, are you?
IW: Oh, jeez, no. "I'd rather die," Tom croaked.
NM: Uurgh! You watch it, I have sharp nails.
IW: <laughs> I dislike saying those as much as you do hearing them.
NM: Good. Let's start an interview here, okay?
IW: Sure, go ahead.
NM: Everyone's dying to know: what's with the name?
IW: Nathan? I just like the name.
NM: No, do you wish your name were Nathan?
IW: Not really. It's an artifact of years past. Too late to change it now.
NM: Painful subject?
IW: Nope, I still like the handle. It used to be the longest until that bastard "Dark Crystal Sphere Floating Between Two Universes" came along. Oh well, it's not the length of the name but the motion of the notion.
NM: <laughs> Okay. Since you're twenty-one now, that means you must have started writing for SoB when you were... nineteen?
IW: Eighteen, actually.
NM: All right, eighteen. Over the past two years, your writing style has changed dramatically, from teen angst to more mellow pieces. I'm speaking in general. Why is that?
IW: Oh, man... I want inconsequential questions! No, seriously, I've changed a lot since I got into college. I mean, you're supposed to, right? You may remember that I wrote for that underground paper in high school? Yeah, well that's when I was going rabid over politics --
NM: I notice that thread still running through your work.
IW: Certainly, certainly. The way I was introduced to the whole concept was really jarring. I consider myself a really naive person, you see, and I hardly even thought about politics until I was seventeen, all at once, when I accepted being gay, and found out that it wasn't merely something you got called names for.
NM: So you are gay. Why haven't you ever said that in SoB?
IW: Huh? I always think I'm writing about it. I just don't make it obvious most of the time. I don't want to make SoB my personal crying rag. You see, I did do that in WTAWTAA. In there I published a story I'd written while dealing with my sexual feelings. It started out all nice, boy meets boy and such, and then they both end up dead. I had a lot of stories like that, but I didn't publish those, much less show them to anyone.
NM: So your introduction to politics was centered around this?
IW: Absolutely. I'd kept everything to myself for a few years, and then Clinton got elected and tried to lift the ban on gays in the military. Then I find out how rabid an issue homosexuality was in America. I remember writing a lot during that time.
NM: Was that a bad twist?
IW: Well, actually no. Before I'd been so centered around myself and silent that it was easy to assume the being gay was my own problem to deal with. But then I found out it was a lot more widespread than that, and that was nice. But at my school, it was still an open-and-shut topic. So I got courageous and wrote a militant coming-out article in WTAWTAA. I didn't say who I really was, of course; I wasn't that brave. But I saw some people reading it, and the fact that they didn't pass it over -- even if only to laugh at it -- that was cool.
NM: That's an inspiring story.
IW: Not really.
NM: Didn't SoB start a few months after WTAWTAA?
IW: About half a year later.
NM: Oh, okay. It strikes me as strange since you didn't mention homosexuality for a long time in your writing for SoB.
IW: <thinks> No, I guess I didn't. I was thinking about other things at the time. I'd been through a semester of college when SoB started up. That was emotionally draining because I hadn't gotten around to making any friends yet. So I rebelled against society in general, la dee dah, et cetera.
NM: That's a nasty tone you have there. Are you ashamed of doing that?
IW: What, all the teen angst? Yeah, I guess so. It's difficult to look back at old stuff I've written because it's so entirely negative. There's no hope in it. It's all about people getting their naive mindsets blown away.
NM: Because that's what happened to you.
IW: Yeah. You see, in a span of a few months, I'd gone from being a quiet nerdy type in high school to being a raging queer-rights nerdy type, and I couldn't talk to anyone about it, not my family, teachers, or friends. It was hellish. I internalized all the rage and it tore me apart.
NM: You didn't tell your friends?
IW: No, no, I told them. But I always had the impression they were just humoring me and not taking me seriously. It was an immature thing for me to think. But hell, I was immature. I'm still immature now. I have this habit of magnifying everything to gigantic proportions and then reacting against it. I mean, I told one of my friends I was gay and he laughed in disbelief. I took it as a personal affront. Hell, I'd been denying it for years anyway; who could blame him?
NM: Don't feel bad about it. I know what you mean. It's easier to react than to stand back and consider things for what they are.
IW: NO IT'S NOT!!! <laughs> Just kidding, Noni. That was a joke.
NM: <looks around to see who's watching us now> You're a maniac, aren't you?
IW: No. Seriously, I agree with what you said. I lifted the issue of homosexuality to gigantic proportions. It's not as important as I thought it was. It doesn't bother me anymore. I think the militant queers still think it's much too important. They try to equate our situation with, oh, the black civil rights movement. Gay rights is nowhere near as important. Slavery, Reconstruction, and festering racism led to loss of economic power and liberty for blacks. That's something you need to fight against, since it makes it difficult to survive. Gays, on the other hand... if no one knows about it, you're just another person. Gays aren't a species of animal that need to be protected.
NM: What about gaybashing? You don't want laws against that?
IW: Noni, look: there are already laws against hurting, killing, and maiming people. Why have this extra layer of legislation that says, if you hurt a gay person, it's worse? I think it's a widespread self-image problem among us. We act weak and want all this protection. I think it'd be much more bold to say, "We're strong enough to defend ourselves, thank you very much." Begging for more laws is just begging for more pain in the long run. You can see effects of affirmative action -- although it's had positive effects for many minorities, it only serves to keep the racial wounds raw. Why provoke people? If they're bigots, they're not going to undergo a miraculous change of heart just because a law tells them to.
NM: You seem to have thought about this a long time.
IW: Indeed I have.
NM: I know you like to write about teenagers. What do you think about gay teenagers? Should they be protected?
IW: Oh, certainly they should.
NM: Doesn't that contradict --?
IW: Not at all. High school is certainly not the real world, I'll tell you that. It's really difficult to be gay there since <makes hand gestures> Normal Heterosexual Relationships <stops waving hands> are so important. It's drilled into your head. Why are gym classes segregated by sex? They don't want boys and girls getting all worked up around each other. Why are proms so important? Because that's where you're supposed to get worked up. Even more than that, there's such huge pressure to be normal and conform. Homosexuality is still peripheral to high-school society, therefore it's strictly off- limits. I swear, guys wearing long hair has only recently been accepted at schools, although it's been a fad since the sixties.
NM: And then there was that case where a school banned all clubs rather than allowing a gay club.
IW: Pure idiocy. That club would be just the thing that would help those kids make it through. The issue is made up to be so important that kids think they have to commit suicide rather than live queer. It's partly immaturity, I mean as in the way I was. I thought it was so important, and it's made to be important in high school, but really, it's just a biological happenstance. Who cares? That's the kind of message high school society needs to accept. You see, I just want some emotional protection for those kids, so they don't think they're so abnormal.
NM: I see what you mean, then. I came from an Austin school that was better about it. They had some gay teachers you could talk to there.
IW: That rules, but I didn't go there, you know.
NM: True. Whew. Have we beat that topic to death yet?
IW: Probably not, but go ahead.
NM: Your story "No strings attached" --
NM: -- what?
IW: Oh, nothing.
NM: "No strings attached" was the longest story you've published, right?
IW: Uh-huh. It was 100k. I actually have an unfinished 200k story from a few years back, but it sucks.
NM: I don't believe it. I think your writing has been consistently good. "No strings attached" blew me away. Summarize it for those readers who skipped it.
IW: You're sure some did, eh?
NM: Whoops, I didn't mean it to sound like that.
IW: Sure you didn't. <laughs> That story evolved into something completely different than I expected. The main character, Jonathan, was going to be a zoned-out druggie, and the story was going to be a humorous piece about how the world appeared to him. I did keep that feel in his perceptions of the world, but a different story evolved. Anyway, Jonathan works at a convenience store, and he has been for six years. During an ice storm in Texas (all fifteen degrees of it) Jonathan walks home and meets this homeless kid Jeremy and lets him live in his apartment to escape the cold. And the reader soon finds out that Jeremy is gay and he and Jonathan develop a warm friendship. A heartwarming tale! Excellent moral lesson for readers ages 13-30.
NM: Don't be so sarcastic! I didn't think it was cheesy. It was quite dark, if you looked past Jonathan's naive viewpoint and into Jeremy's words.
IW: Are you some literary critic? <laughs>
NM: No. What is wrong with you? Can't you take compliments?
IW: No, I can't.
NM: Sorry about that, but I'll do it anyway. Tell about the end of the story. That's the important part.
IW: I don't want to give it away, in case --
NM: Fuck 'em who haven't read it.
IW: Hee hee, okay. What turns out is that Jeremy is an angel. Really a "spirit" but I forgot to search-and-replace. He committed one of those trademark suicides of mine but he didn't die. Apparently he's immortal. During an acid trip, after John realizes what a boring life he has, he realizes he died a while back. He's boring because Jeremy brought him back to life and gave him a shit job. Ta-da! Oh, and of course, John realizes he's gay too. I don't know why that had to be.
NM: Because he committed suicide and his soul was in torment, remember?
IW: Oh yeah, that makes sense.
NM: You've written about suicide several times, such as in "Tell me a story", "Here's what the human race can do", and "Ramblings of an insomniac". Is it too personal to ask what you think about that subject?
IW: Yes, it is. Right now it's not something I think about.
NM: Oh, okay, sorry.
IW: Oh, what the hell. I have this feeling that I'm a low-grade manic- depressive or something. Sometimes I get depressed and think about suicide for an inordinate amount of time. Each time it's a different reason. I felt bad dredging up that gay-person-commits-suicide theme in "No strings attached" because it's so cliched to me and reminiscent of my teen angst period. Lately the suicidal thoughts have accompanied general despair at humanity. I might as well be a poet. <laughs sarcastically>
NM: I can see that concern with the fate of the human race in a lot of your work. It seems though that you're getting more optimistic, though.
IW: Oh really? That's news to me.
NM: Yes, really. I cried at the end of "No strings attached" because it was so spiritually redeeming. Also, that story about the father telling his son about life and death last month --
IW: Yeah, the father realizes he's looked at it the wrong way all his life. That's when I was rejecting rationality. "No strings attached" made me cry when I was writing it too. Noni, I think you're right. Maybe I am more optimistic now. I think I've just become more well-adjusted, that's all. I tend to extrapolate my personal feelings onto everyone else. That's why I was lashing out against society at the beginning -- I was really lashing out at myself. It wasn't forgivable to be like that back then because I had very little knowledge about how the world worked. But in college and outside I've read a lot of books that are giving me a more realistic perspective.
NM: Like in "Evolution of a coward" ? You said something about a missing thirteenth amendment?
IW: Oh, geez, dredge that up, why don't you. Yeah, I was under the influence of conspiratorial writings at the time. I thought I knew how everything worked then, but I wasn't taking in all sides. Everyone tells the truth and lies intermittently. Just because someone claims to have underground knowledge doesn't mean he's right. I've learned simply not to trust everything I read or hear. You can't take one perspective as fact; it doesn't make sense.
NM: Aaah, "sense!" I wanted to ask you about that. But first, where I first noticed it -- your series of stories about Ethan. Are you going to continue that?
IW: Well, I'm not currently thinking about it much. I think I topped out in the last story. Anything else I write is going to be more social commentary, and I get tired of that. But I have a duty to flesh out the story. It's too interesting to finish it as it is.
NM: Is Ethan gay?
IW: Actually, no. He does seem to get hit on a lot, though.
NM: All right, back to "sense." It struck me as almost fanatical how much importance Ethan puts into "sense" -- such as saying "TV doesn't make sense." What's with that?
IW: Oh, that's one of the big changes I've been going through. I have the capability to be a really rational person, as well as artistic, and I realized I'd been letting that control my mindset for too long. Coming to terms with being gay was the first time I saw that a lot of things -- opinions, laws, prejudices -- didn't make sense. Then the conspiratorial viewpoint added to the feeling that a lot of what I see and hear is lies or misinformation. And then I did acid in January and that was the last straw. I believed for a while that nothing at all made sense and I had only been lucky enough to think there was some structure to the world, and then I lost it. Ethan had basically the same experience I did, except I recovered. I can delude myself into thinking the world usually makes sense, but it doesn't surprise me anymore when something goes wrong, because it's just proof that I know it's all nonsensical. It's funny to me. I laugh a lot more now.
NM: That's good, I guess. Do you regret taking acid?
IW: No, not at all. I just regret my reasons for doing so. I had this optimistic dream that doing it would stop my depression. I thought it would be some sort of psychiatry. That was really stupid, because, as I learned, it's all in my head. I mean, I knew what I was trying to do, and I knew it wouldn't work. I was just wishing for the stars. During the trip I was just fine, though; I was having fun, laughing, seeing things, etc. But the next day I thought about how I tried to eliminate my depression and how pointless it was and I got really depressed again.
NM: Yikes, that sucks. Are you afraid of flashbacks?
IW: No, not at all. Nothing bad happened during, it was only the next day. I don't think acid deserves being illegal. I mean, I learned a helluva lot from it that I probably wouldn't have even thought about in my life. People just have to be careful, because it lets you see how you construct reality, and some people don't know how fucked-up and deluded they are. I was ready for that, although I wanted too much. Hmmm, I did get two stories out of it, though. <laughs>
NM: Why do you think acid is illegal?
IW: The government just dislikes drugs -- ones that don't already have multi- billion dollar corporations built around them, that is. They thought LSD would become some sort of opium or marijuana and turn the working force of the nation into zombies. Of course, it was a lot of hype, as well; the congressmen complied with "concerned so-and-so" groups and made it illegal, even as it was being tested by psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors. They were coming up with amazing findings about the structure of the brain, like how it sees and organizes thoughts, but of course, their funding got revoked.
That's a problem with this so-called democratic government. It cares nothing about the individual. It assumes no one can make a choice and accept the consequences for it. If you think about how litigious we are now, a lot of it's a result of people getting themselves into bad situations a little foresight would have prevented, and then suing to make up for the damage. Like fuckin' old ladies with hot coffee in their laps. I guess our government foresaw that as a reason to illegalize so many drugs -- they didn't want to pay the consequences for people's stupid actions. Hell, I wouldn't want to either. People don't take responsibility for their actions anymore.
The way drugs should be is, people should be educated about their effects -- the REAL effects, not this bullshit D.A.R.E. paranoia -- and they should be allowed to take it. If they get sick, they go to a hospital and pay for it. If they don't, then who cares? It's a personal issue. It's nothing the government needs to worry about. Of course, it's that way now, basically. You take acid and have a bad trip, you can't say anything about it. You're not going to dare sue the dealer, because then you've stamped yourself as a drug user and you'll go to jail. In a sick way, this prohibition is forcing people to be responsible.
NM: As for smokers...
IW: Oh yeah, don't get me started. I personally loathe tobacco companies for lying about the effects of smoking, but that's their own problem. On the other hand, smokers have been warned for years about cancer, yet now they're suing like crazy and trying to ban cigarettes. C'mon, people, take responsibility for killing yourself. I mean, I don't like smoking, and I won't even dare do it recreationally, but that's my opinion. I don't have the right to tell someone else not to, though. But anyone under the age of forty shouldn't have the right to sue tobacco companies, since they've had the information at hand, right on the damned label, telling them it's a bad idea to smoke. To sue is just being too stupid to admit you made a mistake. It's like what would happen if people sued for losing the lottery!
NM: I agree, although I'm slightly offended. <puffs>
IW: Hell, I don't care. We're not friends.
NM: Fuck you, man.
IW: Yeah, bite me. <laughs>
NM: Were you kidding?
IW: No. But I don't think you should have taken that personally, because I wasn't talking about you.
NM: All right. Just a second, I need a drink. Is there a vending machine around here?
IW: Yup, go in those doors over there -- up the stairs then to the left. Here, get me a Coke.
NM: Okay. <walks off>
IW: <mutters> Who else can I alienate? <pauses> Ssh ssh sssh... ta ta ta... <sings> do de do, nothing's for free, do de do de do, nothing's for free, do de do de do, take it away, boys... da da de da, nothing's for free... <pauses> there's a hole in your head, there's a hole in your head, la la la la lee la la... shaddup.
NM: <hands Nate a Coke> Here y'are. I thought they'd be more expensive here.
IW: That's nice.
NW: Back to the interview. It seems like you have a mission to save America's youth.
IW: Eh? Oh, I see what you're talking about. I usually write about teenagers because I can't consider myself experienced enough with the adult psyche to write about it. The same goes with women, unfortunately. And since I'm usually thinking about political issues, that comes into my writing as well.
Overall, I guess I do have a "mission." I sympathize with anyone who's growing up because society treats kids like shit. It's no fun to grow up, because every year is one more step toward being shackled into adulthood. You can't have fun when you're an adult unless it involves spending a lot of money or getting drunk. Adults know they've lost their youth and make it a point to discourage kids from having theirs. It's really sad. It's such divisive resentment.
NM: I don't think that's entirely true. Judging by TV, it's important to be youthful.
IW: Noni, look closer. Advertisements say that. They're fucking hypocrites. They know that kids are an important demographic influence on spending habits, so they want to attract kids to their product just for money. Materialism itself is an adult disease but each year it hits more and more kids as well. It's a calculated plan of action. Aside from that, look at how money for education and welfare and parks is falling. Look at the fucking youth curfews popping up everywhere. Adults hate kids.
NM: What about gangs and guns in school? Isn't that a reason?
IW: You've got to look at cause and effect. It was kids in big cities, neglected and bored, who started gangs. It's power. Kids have no power in this society; that's the only way they could get some. Then, the guns got into the schools. Then, they passed curfews. Never did they try to solve the root of the problem, which is sprawling urban development. Kids can't control any of these factors. They're just getting crushed.
I may be exaggerating, because I haven't lived in a big city before, so I don't usually tackle such topics. My "mission" is to save youthfulness. That is the remedy for the anal-retentive materialistic hatred that adults spew.
NM: So you're not an adult?
IW: Not the kind I'm talking about, but I already am whether I like it or not. I consider myself to have adult virtues, like responsibility, a sense of history, and humanitarian consciousness. I respect people who deserve it. But I'm never going to be an American adult. No way.
NM: Would you prefer that kids all grew up naive?
IW: Oh, no way, not at all. Because that's what happened to me. It's too easy to topple that blissful ignorance. No, what I think is that kids need to know how things work, and not be fed lies. But, at the same time, they should never be discouraged from being youthful, since that's one of the only ways to prevent rampant cynicism. American adults are much too serious about things. It makes it so much easier to put things into perspective when you don't take everything so damned seriously.
NM: I know what you mean. What sort of books do you read?
IW: This year I finished a crusade to read all of Kurt Vonnegut's novels. That was really fun. I find a lot of similarities with his philosophy. He's cynical underneath, but he still has optimism. Reading him is taxing though. Even with the humor, it's impossible to miss the tone of his writing. It's so deadpan dark. There's only so much you can take at once.
After that, Kilgore bugged me to read some Terence McKenna and a book called The Holographic Universe. Those were fascinating. They present entirely new perspectives about how reality is constructed.
I recently finished Steppenwolf and Notes from Underground, which are where I took quotes for my stories from last month. Those eerily mirrored my personality at times and that was disturbing because I had randomly picked them out, not expecting to find what I did. In ethics class here I read Aristotle, Kant, and Nietzsche, and am working on Foucault right now. I can't begin to describe what those are doing to me.
In my spare time, I'm reading The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker. It's all about language and how we construct it and understand it. It's particularly fascinating because I love language so much. It's also fun to read a book that makes me happy to be a person, with the gift of language.
NM: You sure read a lot!
IW: Look at Kilgore if you want a book-eater, Noni.
NM: Oh yeah. So how does your reading work its way into your writing?
IW: It's a very direct influence. Lately every time I read something, it astounds me so much that I immediately have to write something about it. My reading has molded my writing, as well as my mind. It's all very exciting. It's such a rush! I just wish classes were over so I could write something.
NM: It's that time of year, huh?
IW: Yup, it sure is. A lot of us writers are at that time of year. No one's going to be writing for SoB. Heads will roll.
NM: While I will get a nice pat on the back for submitting such a long interview.
IW: <looks at sky> Whoa! We've been here a while, haven't we?
NM: Hell yeah, but it's been fun.
IW: Thanks a lot. I've had fun talking about myself.
NM: <laughs> Don't we all enjoy that. Say, anything in the works?
IW: I don't usually talk about what I'm writing because that kills it. So, no, there's nothing in the works.
NM: I see. Well, good luck. Hope to see more in the future.
IW: Me too!
i sit in Physics class, tuning out the incessant droning of the teacher's voice. i think of my mother, who says she loves me dearly, whom i have abandoned by coming to school so very far away. i think about how delighted she is to hear from me, how she sees me as something so wonderful, so precious. Faced with my thoughts and the subtle feeling of guilt that i have been conditioned to feel, i write her a letter.
Before i start, i painstakingly remove the mask named "student", returning it to its hook on the wall, being careful not to tear its fragile design. In its place i don the mask labeled "mother" and begin to write. This person is one whom i portrayed throughout my childhood, for the many years when i lived with my family. It is a person who could never break a rule, betray a trust, put herself before others. A portrait of the perfectly dutiful child that parents everywhere seem to want. Quiet and obedient, unobtrusive and caring. Humble. The sort of child for whom parents never set rules, because they trust the child completely. The sort of child who is so instinctively well-behaved that it needs no rules to conduct itself appropriately.
i finish the letter and close it with an insipid quote about joy and families and love. The words seem wonderful to this person, written in a tone that would have filled most of my personae with overwhelming revulsion. After i address the letter and sign it, i once again become a student, putting my family persona back on the wall. i don't read the words that i have written, for they have no relevance for the student, focused on studies, on knowledge for no end.
The bell rings and class ends. While gathering my books, yet again i switch my appearances. Now i am my social self. i stride jauntily out of class, with a grin on my face and light quip for a passing classmate. i compliment a freshman on her clothes, causing her to glow with pleasure. Across the lawn, i shout a greeting to one of my many friends. i am confident and witty, flirtatious, on top of the world with no path downwards.
Later, at dinner, i have changed once more. i am now a conscientious young woman, concerned about the environment and politics. The faculty member's pride and joy, the model person that my boarding school wants all of its students to become. i am careful to not say anything overly offensive to anyone, yet stay lightly controversial, to be interesting. i have an opinion on everything, still remaining open minded and rational, willing to listen.
Only once i reach the sanctuary of my room do i tenderly remove that countenance from my brow. Now i am the me that i reserve for private occasions. Bitter and cynical and sarcastic and pessimistic and most of all antisocial. A bored genius with no homework to do and no computer to play with. i sit and contemplate deep thoughts, thinking about space and conspiracies and the meaning of life and religion and weather and politics and scientific theory and the possibilities of the human mind and oh so many things. And then i ask myself the one question for which i have no answer neatly prepared.
who am i? beneath the masks, neatly labeled and hung on their corresponding hooks; beneath the masks which i am never without - who am i? is one of the facades more true than the others? is one of them more false?
what would happen if i wore no mask?
i am too afraid to find out.
At the end of On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche parenthetically proposes that the lone antagonist to the ascetic ideal is art, in that "the lie is sanctioned" and "the will to deception has a good conscience". Art's denial of Truth is its advantage over Christianity and science, institutions grounded in the ascetic ideal. In his short comment, he contrasts Plato and Homer as archetypal scientist and artist. This suggests that Nietzsche's concept of the artist stems from more ancient roots than the artists who were dominating Europe in his day. Indeed, trends as the institutionalization of art and tiptoeing advances in modern art suggest that the modern artists of the 1880's did not suggest nearly as heroic an ideal as Nietzsche would have wanted for the future of humanity.
Thirty years after the Genealogy was published, however, an aspirant for Nietzsche's legacy emerged: Dada. Dada, an art movement, began as a protest both against World War I and the formalization of modern art. More precisely, Dada was an anti-art, or simply an "anti-" movement, devised to cripple the institutions of art while also challenging institutions of society. With Dada came the earliest and clearest answer to Nietzsche and the ascetic ideal.
The birth of the ascetic ideal is owed to the slave revolt in morality, a change in value systems most notably associated with the advent of Christianity. The slave revolt was an incrimination of the power wielded by strong "nobles," people strong in will, body, and character. "Priests," non-nobles with only strong minds, devised the concept of free will to insinuate that the nobles' use of power, especially against the weak, was wrong or "evil," in that the nobles had the choice not to use their strength. The priests persuaded the masses to rise against the nobles and value the antitheses of the noble persona -- humility, forgiveness, and altruism. With this successful revolt, Nietzsche said, people broke their ties with nature, rejecting strength, prowess, and animal sensuality for resentment against the strong. Indeed, the definition of the word "evil" was coined by slaves to define any noble who did not subvert his strength in deference to slaves.
With such an inversion of values, people deemed themselves weak and their natural impulses wrong. This mindset was the precondition for the move into societies. In societies, one finds protection from the strong, and codes of behavior repress the animal instincts in man, both to prevent the tendency to become "evil" and the tendency to disrupt the stability of the society. (Obviously, the noble personality would not stand for any of this.) Societies, in allowing for organization and control of people, did have their benefits, which accounts for their prominence on earth.
The confines of society required people to use their "weakest organ," reason, rather than their spontaneous animal instincts, like fish out of water. Nietzsche says that the human in society is burdened with a "leaden discomfort" at the constant judgments and corrections she/he is forced to make in order to properly fit in. With this repression of instinct, people lost the ability to physically cope with natural tendencies such as anger and aggression. Such tendencies were then turned inward upon oneself, creating the world of the soul, whose value is based on how well-repressed its owner is. Knowledge of one's deficiencies of self-control against animal outbursts works to create the bad conscience. Nietzsche sees the advent of the bad conscience as an startling indication that man has turned against itself, since he believes humans are simply glorified animals and should not aspire to reject their nature.
The final blow, Nietzsche says, was the ascetic ideal, in that it answers the eternal questions, "What is life for?" and "Why do I suffer?" The first question was answered by religious leaders: "life is a series of temptations toward animal impulses that must be rejected; the state of the soul at death is one's key to real existence in heaven." The second question can no longer be answered by blaming the nobles; they have all but disappeared. Now the priests offer the answer that will keep their followers firmly in control: "suffering is your own fault." In Christianity, this is the concept of original sin. The bad conscience evolves into religious guilt, and the priests -- spiritual healers -- gain eternal tenure.
In the last essay of the Genealogy, Nietzsche laments the poor state of man and debates whether science opposes the ascetic ideal. Popular opinion is that science and religion are different, since science does not rely on irrational spirituality to defend its motives, instead deriving its power from strength of fact. Nietzsche, however, denies that this is different from the ascetic ideal. In fact, both are the same at the core, in that they each rely on the unquestionable authority, Truth.
Nietzsche's concern is that Truth is an ideal. He asks, why do people seek the ideal of truth? For the nobles, such an interest was absent, for they created truth as they saw fit, for example, in language: the meanings of "good" and "bad" -- therefore who deserves respect. The slaves had no power to create language. After the slave revolt, priests recreated truth from the viewpoint of religious guilt. To maintain power, priests interpreted "how to live," "what to do," "why we exist," as handed down from God. This knowledge is deemed Truth. However, even the move into rational science retained this meaning: scientific "experts" have sole right and privilege to discover "truths" and disseminate them to the masses. Instead of spiritual guidance, people adapt to scientific guidance.
Nietzsche does not question whether science "makes sense" -- it satisfies rational curiosity as well as religion satisfies spiritual curiosity. Nietzsche wonders, what if the very basis of scientific knowledge -- the assumption that there is an unassailable truth -- collapses? Then everything people have based their understanding of reality is voided. Recent theories such as quantum mechanics and chaos theory are major upheavals in thought -- it is clear to see how fragile the assumption of "truth" can be.
So, if "art" is to conquer the ascetic ideal, where does one look? During Nietzsche's time, modern art was becoming important. It is natural to assume that he might have seen the tradition-breaking trends of modern art as a possible adversary to the ascetic ideal. However, one can see that early modern art lacked the strength to do so.
The first important years of modern art in the 1880's had come about due to the politicization of issues such as the declaration of independence from tradition and the role of artist as social commentator. The first modern artists rejected the classicism and realism which had previously dominated commercial art and strived to liberate themselves from its confines. By its thirtieth birthday, however, modern art was still taking only hesitant steps away from tradition. Impressionism, the first major movement in modernism in the 1880's, defied the strict illusionism of painting by breaking up images into tiny dots of color, suggesting the process of vision in the human eye. The subject matter was naturalistic, depicting hills, valleys, and sometimes street scenes. In the 1890's and 1900's, Van Gogh, Gaugin, and Matisse brought attention to the use of color, provoking the next major advance in art, Fauvism. Again, paintings depicted ordinary human subject matter or still lives. With the Cubist revolution of the 1900's by Braque and Picasso, an effort was made to depict "four dimensions" in a painting by blending several different viewpoints of a scene on one canvas, disguising the elements of the picture by drawing with sharp angles and straight lines. Still, ordinary subject matter was at the core of the paintings.
In addition to the hesitant nature of these advances toward true abstraction, the modern artists' oath of independence and breaking from tradition was further subjugated by the institutionalization of modern art. Although the advances of Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism had originally shocked the art world, schools were soon set up to teach and formalize the new methods. What courageous artists had invented in protest was soon reduced to fashionable art.
Considering the state of modern art in the 1910's, it could only be a reluctant opponent to the ascetic ideal in Nietzsche's eyes. While artists sought to express their own truths by the way of new painting styles, they were as a whole still restricted by classicism and the backwards pull of tradition. Also, the fact that art had become greatly commercialized also played on the artists' consciences; they were unwilling to boldly assert themselves for fear of not being financially successful. As a result, "innovations" in modern art were still baby steps forward. Clearly, Nietzsche's mention of Homer shows that his ideal of the artist is much different.
In 1916, during the tumultuous first World War, poet and artist refugees from France, Germany, Russia, and elsewhere converged in Zurich. These men and women discovered they shared disgust toward both their society, which would allow such a senseless war to go on, and toward the institution of art, which had been shackling their creativity in the mire of tradition and formalization. There, Hugo Ball, Marcel Janco, and Jean Arp organized the Cabaret Voltaire and put on a series of amateur poetry recitals and musical performances. Soon after, seeking something more effective, they created Dada.
What was Dada? It was at the core an anarchistic, nihilistic philosophical movement. It called for the destruction of society, protesting the sociopolitical conditions that led to World War I, and for the destruction of art, which limited their ability to express themselves. These demands were not unrelated. Even with the "shocking" advances of modern art up to that time, artists still faced great opposition to innovative ideas, namely, societal approval. So, rather than an art movement, Dada called itself an anti-art movement. A successful overthrow of art and society would allow these artists to proceed boldly forward without fear of reprisal. From a Nietzschean perspective, Dada's goal was to return art to a Dionysian state; it was clearly against the ascetic ideal.
Obviously, Dada could not hope to overthrow society; however, its founders felt such extreme demands mirrored the insanity of the war. And in the style of such rampant insanity, they took action.
Specifically, Dada aimed to achieve its goal through the subversion of tradition and of sense. Dada claimed that truth did not exist whatsoever, giving it the power to reject all authority. Throughout its short history, Dada participants used several techniques to express its messages. The loudest and most raucous technique was Dada performances. The elite in Zurich, Paris, and Berlin (to which Dada later spread) were attracted to announcements of exhibits and lectures on emerging trends in modern art. At the "lectures," Dada artists screamed insults at the audience. At the "exhibits," the artists performed nonsense dances and recited sound poetry:
Dada activities... constituted a direct attack on the staid morality and sentiments of the public, which raged and swooned at such candor.... Opposites were brought together: the art-lover that lies hidden in every man was either outraged or forced to submit to so much imbecility, so much genius. A trusting and hopeful audience, gathered together for an art exhibit or a poetry recital, was insulted beyond endurance. It should be understood that Dada was not complete nonsense. The "sound poetry," or bruitisme, was actually a new style of art, wherein an artist spoke in strings of nonsensical vowel and consonant sounds to convey a primitive and spiritual message. At one performance, Ball was dressed up in a costume resembling "some kind of Cubist High Priest", a brightly-colored cardboard tube with wings attached to his shoulders. When he came up on stage, he recited some sound poetry, initially to the explosive laughter and derisive applause of the audience. He soon found, however, his voice taking on the "age-old cadence of priestly lamentation, the liturgical chanting that wails through all the Catholic churches of East and West,"  and his chanting hypnotized the audience into submission. While the costume provoked laughter and scorn, the intended effect of the bruitisme made its way through. Such juxtapositions of opposites were the means by which Dada was allowed to experiment: expressing new ideas under the guise of nonsense.
Another effective technique Dadaists used was the printed word. In Germany, Raoul Hausmann created the magazine "Der Dada," containing transcripts of sound poetry, meaningless slogans, and manifestos, with words wildly typeset in all imaginable sizes, styles, and directions across the page. This "print collage" style was a new technique, boldly appropriating and expanding on the stylistic painting collage of Cubism.
Throughout the movement from 1916 to 1924, however, the clearest points Dada made were through its various writers' manifestos. While manifestos for earlier art movements where used to announce a new school of painting or literature, Dada used them to deny that it was an art movement at all. In fact, through its manifestos it made its clearest political messages. Herein one finds more clear ties to Nietzsche's philosophy.
Hugo Ball, one of the core leaders of Dada, was in fact a devoteé of Nietzsche. In the university he wrote "A Polemical Treatise in Defense of Nietzsche" as his dissertation. Ball didn't complete his schooling, but did continue working on the dissertation afterwards. Ball was engrossed with Nietzsche's "dionysiac theory of art" and his sympathy with the philosopher indicates the clearest roots of Dada, both philosophically and artistically:
Ball not only agreed with Nietzsche's contention that society could be regenerated only through a return to the forces of instinct and emotion and a repudiation of Socratic rationalism, but, perhaps even more important, was sympathetic to the iconoclastic philosopher's call for a revolt against traditional morality and a denunciation of the Church, the state, and any other external authority which might interfere with individual freedom. Hugo Ball and Jean Arp, in the periodical "Dada" and elsewhere, wrote rabid and often nonsensical manifestos to promote Dada's agenda. In retrospect, Arp wrote:
Dada aimed to destroy the reasonable deceptions of man and recover the natural and unreasonable order. Dada wanted to replace the logical nonsense of the men of today by the illogically senseless. That is why we pounded with all our might on the big drum of Dada and trumpeted the praises of unreason. Quick to join the movement after its conception was Tristan Tzara, who best expressed Dada in his numerous manifestos. An excerpt from "Dada Manifesto 1918" demonstrates this:
Dada; knowledge of all the means rejected up until now by the shamefaced sex of comfortable compromise and good manners: Dada; abolition of logic, which is the dance of those impotent to create: Dada; of every societal hierarchy and equation set up for the sake of values by our valets: Dada...; abolition of memory: Dada...; abolition of the future: Dada; absolute and unquestionable faith in every god that is the immediate product of spontaneity: Dada... Both excerpts strongly echo Nietzsche, who believed that reason and logic, man's "weakest organ[s]", had replaced man's natural animal playfulness and instinct. Neither Tzara nor Arp is directly linked to Nietzsche in Dada anthologies, however, although one must assume that Nietzsche's influence was felt in the academic community at the time.
In avidly calling for the abolition of logic and sense, Dada thereby promoted the destruction of truth. Dada called for people to rely on instinct, spontaneity, and playfulness, hoping to reshape the minds of people who protested their ultra-rational but senseless world and who had no clear means by which to change it. Therein Dada attempted to jolt people away from their reliance on reason and truth, seeing clearly that such continued reliance would only breed more confusion.
In 1923 the members of the Dada movement lost momentum. News of their trademark performances had spread around Europe and were no longer shocking. Also, members started to fight among themselves, an inevitable clash of egos. The philosophical side of Dada had stagnated; but on the other hand, artists who had been part of the movement, such as Andre Breton, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, each found success in artistic innovation. Importantly, each had turned to abstractionism, in poetry, music, theater, painting, and sculpture, meaning these artists had lived up to Dada's artistic aim to progress beyond traditional limitations. Breton later introduced Surrealism, suggesting that one of the twentieth century's most interesting movements has its roots in Dada as well. 
Although the original movement had withered away, Dadaist ideals proved their timelessness, re-emerging strongly for brief periods after World War II and in the 1960's. (It is no accident that Dada has coincided with tumultuous events in recent history.) The invention of Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Happenings are attributed to these "Neo-Dadas."
In each case, including its birth, Dada has receded into the background shortly after a flurry of activity. By nature it is a short-lived movement, requiring the collective energies of many people to organize and make noise; therefore, it is also taxing. Also, Dada calls for its own destruction, or as Nietzsche would say, it is "self-overcoming." Dada never wanted to be an "-ism," relegated to a formal school of art. Indeed, by definition there is no art style called "Dadaism;" although artistic innovations have sprung from it, these were pursued independently. Dada is more properly a philosophical movement, raising eyebrows and consciousness wherever it pops up.
The Dadaist ideal has left strong impressions on our culture, both through its artistic contributions and its philosophical ties with Nietzsche. Perhaps this is how Nietzsche's ideal of art will most naturally work to revolutionize our society -- through Dada, both in its short loud bursts of activity and in its lingering effects. In a culture so strongly dependent on rationality and truth, such gradual change is probably the best Nietzsche could have hoped for.
 Georges Hugnet, "The Dada Spirit in Painting," appearing in Dada Painters and Poets, p. 131
 Grossman, p. 118
 Grossman, p. 50
 Jean Arp, appearing in Dada Painters and Poets, p. 25
 Tristan Tzara, "Dada Manifesto 1918," appearing in Dada Painters and Poets, p. 81
 Hans Richter says in Dada Art and Anti-Art, p. 194: "Surrealism devoured and digested Dada. Similar cannibalistic methods are by no means rare in history, and as Surrealism had a strong digestion, the qualities of the devoured were transferred to the invigorated body of the survivor. So be it!"
Grossman, Manuel L. Dada: Paradox, Mystification, and Ambiguity in European Literature. New York: Pegasus, 1971.
Lippiard, Lucy R., ed. Dadas on Art. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.
Motherwell, Robert, ed. Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology, 2nd ed., Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall, 1981.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Random House, 1967.
Richter, Hans. Dada Art and Anti-Art. Germany: Thames and Hudson, 1965.
"The poets? They stink. They write badly. They're idiots you see, because the strong people don't write poetry.... They become hitmen for the Mafia. The good people do the serious jobs."
you're an idiot.
yeah, i'm talking to you.
you're an idiot.
i'm not attacking your ideas.
i'm just gonna beat your face in.
i don't care what you think.
i just don't like the way you look.
(works better live, i'm sure. use in hipster, pretentious coffee joints during cool scene teen poetry slams. involve the audience. either that, or read poems in russian. now you see why i write fiction...)
I crouched in the shadowed depths of an ocean of night, letting its tides wash over me and carry me wherever they would. The streetlights were sullen fireflies fighting pointless battles against the murk. A few shaggy young men stumbled down the side streets, belching and furtively pissing in the bushes. I didn't care. I just waited, patient and silent as my old friend the serpent, the solitary traffic light gleaming furtively off my knife.
Most everyone had forgotten me. Anyone who still remembered called me Poisonpen. It wasn't completely accurate, but I liked it all the same. Always did have a weakness for literary allusions, especially the dark and nasty kind. They fit. It's my job to make things fit. It's more difficult than you think.
Take the wind, for example. It was cold, too damn cold and sneaking down the front of my trenchcoat if I did so much as breathe. And breathing is such a difficult habit to break. I ignored the wind as much as possible and watched the sidewalk. College students and the people around them were more chaotic in their lives and habits than ordinary folk, which sometimes interfered with my schedule. Those who believed and lived a world of random events and impulses reacted... differently when one of those impulses reached out and bit them. It was all part of the game, but all the same, it interfered with the aesthetic pleasure I took in my work.
Of course, someone had to do it, even on a night like this. It was such a dismal, desolate, cold and dark thing, with mucky slush and water slopped everywhere. Dog shit rotted on the sidewalk, and faraway cars growled through the snow--it almost made me want to write bad poetry.
That awful urge passed as I looked down the street. A woman was approaching from the south. The old familiar heat coursed through me. Casually, without even meaning to, I pulled out my knife and began to stroke its edge. A quick glance as she came closer told me all I needed to know. The woman was Nicole, someone I knew almost too well. I'd seen her a million times in the daylight, as she was walking or laughing with her friends or lounging in the green space on the Quad. I had her marked and watched, and she never seemed to notice. Of course, I would have been surprised if she had--I was nothing, invisible as the wind and less than a face in the crowd.
"Not very smart, girl. A coed was raped and strangled a few blocks from here three weeks ago. Don't you know enough not to walk alone late at night?" I muttered to myself Not that I minded, of course... it would make everything so much easier.
Nicole was more careful than she seemed at first glance. I knew she wasn't reckless, which was part of the reason I'd chosen her. She walked briskly, confidently, as if she were in full daylight instead of these dim times when things were about. Every so often, she looked behind her and to both sides, and then her long brown hair caught what little light there was. It was attractive--hell, she was attractive, though that was neither here nor there. I knew drag queens who would kill for those dark, smoky eyes, and she moved with an unconscious grace that not even the uneven slush underfoot could spoil. I guessed she had just come from a party, as she was wearing a short black skirt under her leather jacket. It was almost too bad her carefree life would have to end. Why did she have to have so much talent? But no, she had to put herself in harm's way by picking up a pen and tasting the heady power of words....
Nicole walked past the alley, her breath steaming out in delicate feathers. I seamlessly slid up behind her. I crept into position and was on the verge of striking out when the flutter of wings directly above startled me. Dammit! I looked up, scared past all reasoning for a second. If they had found me... but I relaxed as soon as I saw it was only a restless pigeon. I knew I shouldn't be so on edge--after all, I'd done this twenty times before. Of course, the interruption had broken my timing, and Nicole was too far away. I gritted my teeth and advanced carefully, picking my way through the icy crusts winter had left on the sidewalk.
Nicole walked on a little more quickly, breaking the unconscious rhythm she had before. I could have made some noise, after all... it would ruin everything if she looked behind her now, that was for sure. I knew it had to be soon, soon or never, as she was almost to the street corner and only a block from the dorms on Douglas Street.
I thumbed the knife's edge. It was sharp as the north wind. I moved silently, invisibly, behind her again. I needed to get it done in one swift slice, so Nicole would never know what hit her until it was too late. It had to be soon, and it had to be in the cold and lonely dark--anything else would spoil the artistry. Others I'd heard of made their victims suffer, and some even worked in public, but I was a rare breed of perfectionist. I had pride, and as a result, my work was true art. If certain elements didn't appreciate it, that was their problem.
Everything fell silent as Nicole approached the crosswalk. The traffic light flashed dumbly for the benefit of no one at all. Nicole stepped off the curb. I coiled up, waiting for the perfect moment, feeling the adrenaline rush and the mounting joy. I tensed and counted silently... 3... 2... 1... now! As Nicole's foot slipped in the slush, she stumbled, and I sprang, knife upraised and snapping forward. Nicole turned involuntarily at the last moment, probably more out of surprise at slipping than anything else. In that instant, she looked directly at me. She was beautiful at that moment, as beautiful as anything I have ever seen. Her last expression was not quite fear or shock, but a vast puzzlement as the knife slid home. It was all over in a second. She fell forward, eyes dark and muscles slack.
"Perfect," I said with a smack of satisfaction. I let go of the knife, leaving it jammed into the soft flesh under her jaw. Not the best place to leave it, but it was necessary... to make things fit. I turned and loped back, casually confident and pleased with a job well done. My drift into the cool dark night halted abruptly when the red and blue lights began to howl.
"Freeze!" a voice shouted from the street. The noise upset the pigeons, who took off and flapped and hooted in a great mass. I ran, heedless of the lights, shouts, and sirens. Surrender was unthinkable. It had been going so well... and how had they even known? I had always been careful, covering my tracks, keeping low, and now this had to go and happen. I wished I'd brought more knives.
The police car screeched to a halt in front of a small Chinese restaurant. Two cops jumped out, waving pistols and shouting. I braced for the unthinkable, yet the cops... ran inside the restaurant.
Something wasn't quite right here.
"Freeze, dammit!" another, smaller voice shouted from directly overhead. I did as I was told, more out of curiosity than anything else. The sound of flapping wings gradually grew louder as one pigeon descended into view. But since when did pigeons carry flaming swords in their beaks? I realized what had happened, and fear and chagrin roiled up in a sick wave inside me.
"All right, Poisonpen. You coming along quietly, or what?" the pigeon squawked in a weary voice.
"What? The cops... what about the cops?" I jabbered, pointing at the police car. "What about em? Just coincidence a secular crime happened right in front of us." The pigeon tried to grin. "Now what'd you do to the girl?"
I gave the pigeon a flinty stare. "I refuse to answer any questions without a lawyer present." With luck, if I could distract him, I could get away.
"Nice try. I saw everything that happened. Backup'll be here any second. A GL-202 Satanophonic Idea Knife, wasn't it? She'll wake up with a headache and a new theory of particle physics or something. Never happy unless you're stirring up trouble, are you, you sonofabitch?" The pigeon swaggered forward, nearly brushing me with its sword.
"No! Nothing like that, I swear! You've heard of Dostoevsky? Arthur Miller? H.P. Lovecraft?" The pigeon snorted in contempt. Cops have no respect for the classics. "All my work. Everything. It's...."
"Can it," the cop hissed, brushing me with the flaming sword. Pain shot through me, and I buckled to the ground with a heavy splat. "We've got our own PR going now. Seen a bookstore lately?"
"So that's where all those damned books about angels came from...." I croaked into the slush.
Before I could follow that thought any further, the sky fell in and two huge, white-winged forms fell in with it. They were not happy.
They took off with me pinned solidly between them. As we rose into the sky, I saw Nicole stagger to her feet. She brushed idly at her throat, dislodging the Idea Knife, and then looked upward. She must've caught a glimpse of something, because I faintly heard her say, "Ohmigod! I've just seen angels."
And instead of the poignant, powerful, and thought-provoking novel about urban life that I'd planted, she wrote some piece of tripe called "Messengers From Beyond: One Woman's Story."
At least it made the bestseller lists.
This hotel room will be the last thing I see for the rest of my natural life. Things have taken a bad turn for me, things which I never anticipated happening. I thought I had it all planned out, that I had foreseen every single problem that might come my way. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Now I'm just waiting for the police to show up.
I'm not really sure why I was so obsessed with her anymore. Maybe it was just desperation on my part. I don't remember half of the things I've done in the past six months, and that scares me. Holing up in this hotel room has really brought reality's ugly head crashing down. If I knew that I would be sitting in a Motel 6 wrapped up in faded green sheets waiting for my demise, I'm not so sure that I would have committed the actions that have made up my entire existence for half of a year. The three weapons sitting on the bed don't make my situation any better, either.
But that doesn't really matter too much anymore. I've gone past the point of being able to say, "I'm sorry" and have all the people who despise me forget about this whole episode. Forgiveness is not an option anymore. If they catch me, they'll hang me for my crimes.
I'd rather go out fighting. That's just the type of guy I am.
I've tried to take my mind off what is going to happen to me, but nothing seems to help. At four in the afternoon, all that's on television are talk shows and disreputable newsmagazines depicting the messed-up lives of people who are almost as messed-up as I am. I've got one thing still going for me. I'm still sane, and that, too, scares me.
Whenever I picked up a newspaper and read about some psycho killing ten people in a fast food joint, I figured that he would have to be insane to do the horrendous acts that he committed. I always thought that for a sane man to murder someone, he would have to contain within himself a great deal of animosity and hate towards the person he wanted dead. Sure, men kill men all the time in war, but they are doing it for their country, so it can't be wrong, right? And cops kill criminals, but they are doing it to protect the public. I guess when they come and shoot me down, they'll be doing the public a big favor by eliminating a danger to their fragile society. Not that I personally like the idea, mind you, but I can see that I would probably want to do the same in their shoes.
Now, after having been through the worst six months of my life, I'm not so sure that I understand myself as clearly as I once did. I never would have thought that I could ever bring myself to kill another man, and I was right about that.
I killed a woman.
The bed was old and sweaty. A fan slowly stirred the stagnant air around the small bedroom, yet it was a futile attempt to cool off the room. Zach lay in the bed, barely asleep. His damp hair was matted to the sweat-stained pillow. Zach's mouth opened and closed intermittently like a dying fish's, gasping to take in any cool air that he could. A half-empty tea glass sat on the broken stereo speaker beside his bed, a once cool and refreshing drink now turned hot and rancid.
Zach slowly awoke from his shallow slumber, his closed eyes now narrow slits. He moaned and swung his feet off the bed, raising himself into a sitting position. Zach ran a hand down his bare chest, showering his thighs with cold sweat. As he stood, a coughing fit overtook him, and he hacked up a ball of phlegm in his mouth, which he promptly spit on the carpet. Taking his left foot, he rubbed the spit into the carpet with his heel.
The light switch evaded Zach's grasp, but he finally managed to flick it on. The swift illumination of the room caused his pupils to shrink down to small, black holes. He walked into the bathroom, still half-asleep, and stared at his pathetic reflection in the mirror.
Zach wasn't bad looking, just unkempt. His black hair fell to his shoulders in wispy strands. The pale skin that covered his body didn't look so bad in the bathroom due to the soft lighting. He never tanned during the summer, just peeled. He ran his hand across his face, feeling his rough, unshaven skin. Zach sighed and turned away, as he did every morning.
He stepped into the shower and turned on the faucet, feeling relief as the icy water resurrected him from the dead.
A box of Frosted Flakes was the only appetizing thing that Zach could find in the pantry for breakfast. He poured some into a bowl and replaced the box back on its shelf.
Zach peered into the refrigerator and dug behind last night's leftover meatloaf to get to the milk. He checked the expiration date on the side of the carton. May 27. Today was May 27, and Zach let out a grunt of disappointment as he put the milk back into the refrigerator. He had a rule of never drinking milk on or after its expiration date, even though his mother said that the date was just to tell stores when to stop selling it. Zach didn't trust his mother too much.
He sat down at the kitchen table and began to eat his Frosted Flakes. Today's paper was sitting on the table, as it was every morning. For every day since he could remember, his mother had always brought in the morning paper for his father before she left for work. Now, since his father had died of cancer four years ago, she did it out of habit.
The rubber band holding the paper closed was blue. It was always blue. Zach had wondered why the newspaper only used blue rubber bands. Maybe they got a special discount to use the colored bands, or the owner had holdings in some company that manufactured the blue rubber bands. Whatever the reason, Zach was pretty sure that one of the signs of the apocalypse would be the morning when he would get a newspaper with a real rubber band around it.
The newspaper opened as Zach rolled the rubber band off and threw it in the trash can. He used to keep them to see how many he could collect, figuring that blue rubber bands wouldn't be very common. After he had a whole desk drawer full of them, however, he decided it was time to stop.
Zach didn't really bother reading the articles in detail. After all, they were just variations on murder, scandals, and world problems. He flipped through the pages mindlessly, scanning the headlines and stopping only to read a few articles while slowly eating dry cereal.
After the bowl was exhausted of its contents, Zach stood up from the kitchen table and washed his bowl out in the sink. He threw the paper in the wastebasket and left for school.
The parking lot was full of automobiles as Zach pulled into the high school parking lot. His Seiko watch said he had twenty minutes until first period began, so he turned off the engine and waited for Julie.
He scanned the people filing into the building, but his girlfriend was nowhere to be seen. The interior of his car began to heat up after a few moments, so he rolled the driver's side window down to let in some fresh air. A hot gust of wind collided against his face, but it was better than no breeze at all.
After ten minutes of waiting, Zach still had seen no sign of her. She was very late today, but it wasn't unusual for Julie to oversleep. Still, he always felt that a day started off badly when he and Julie did not get to see each other before school started. He decided to wait another five minutes.
Mrs. Jackson began the lecture on the Watergate scandal, but Zach's mind was focused elsewhere. Julie hadn't shown up this morning, and Zach had no idea where she could be. She always called him in the morning if she wasn't going to make it to school, so Zach had started to worry if something might have happened to her.
The idea that Julie might be hurt scared Zach. She was the only thing that he really loved. Before they had met, he had no real direction in life. He was always causing trouble at school, vandalizing the bathrooms and fighting for no real reason other than to just see how badly he could hurt someone.
Julie was his savior from that lifestyle. She had given him something to live for, something to cherish. Under her wing, he had slowly broken ties with his old friends, the ones he had hung around with just because there was no other group who would take him in. It had been a long process, and a painful one, too. His old buddies had given him a hard time, telling him that he was going soft and letting some girl control him. Zach knew differently after seeing his friends' true faces unmasked, but a part of him still did not want to let go of the people he had known for so long. It took a great deal of Zach's willpower to hang up his old way of life, yet he knew that if he did not change, he would lose the only meaningful thing that had ever come into his life.
Zach was lucky to have made such a "fine catch," as his old friends would have called Julie. Under normal circumstances, the chances of a guy with the reputation of Zach's and a girl considered as popular as Julie were practically nil. She was very pretty, just on the underlying side of gorgeous. Her long, brown hair stopped just beneath her shoulders, the curls rising and falling in a chaotic manner. Most people at the school were very surprised, some jealous and some horrified, that these two completely different people from opposite positions in society could be dating. And even though Zach received a lot of flak from his friends, it was Julie who took most of the heat.
If Zach thought that it was annoying to be harassed by a few friends, then he didn't fully understand the taunting Julie had been through. On the day after their first date, Laura Anderson, one of Julie's best friends, cornered her in one of the hallways.
"Hey, Julie! There's been some rumor going around that you went out with Zach Dillard," she said.
"Oh, really?" Julie asked, giving her friend a surprised look.
"Yeah," Laura answered. "Do you have any idea who would want to get back at you by doing something like that?"
Julie looked her friend straight in the eyes. This was the first test of her relationship with Zach. She had known things like this would happen if she went out with him, but she thought that she was prepared for these types of situations. Now, she wasn't so sure, but there wasn't much she could do about it.
"Laura, that's not a rumor," she stated. "It's true."
Laura Anderson's days were usually uneventful. She had a good life, good friends, and little hardship. Her biggest worries had to do with what she was going to wear and where she was going to go on the weekend. Julie's admission sent her whole, stable world away. Her face became red, and she couldn't think of what to say. She just stood there, stammering for words. "How could you?" were the only things that escaped her lips.
Now it was Julie's turn to get red-faced. She knew her friends wouldn't be totally accepting of Zach at first, but she did not think that they would be angry at her. Disappointed, maybe, but not angry.
"What do you mean, 'How could you?'" Julie yelled a little too loudly. A few heads in the hall turned, and someone screamed, "Cat fight!" Julie put her hand on her forehead and tried to calm herself down.
"Look," she said, trying to control her raging emotions. "I don't want to discuss this here, but it's my choice and my life, and you don't have any right to condemn my actions."
A small crowd had begun to form around the two girls, hoping to see two girls claw each other until the principals arrived. Fights among boys were no big deal at the school, but fighting among girls was considered a special treat to behold. Julie walked off, leaving Laura standing in confusion and disbelief.
Zach had never seen this nor any of the other episodes that Julie had to endure. He assumed that the same kinds of things that happened to him were happening to her as well, but he had no idea of the magnitude of the situation. Julie was on a first-name basis with practically everyone in their senior class, and she had hoards of good friends. During the next few days after their first date, her school life consisted of going to class and telling people that she was, in fact, going out with Zach.
Nine months later, though, the gossiping finally diminished. People came to accept their relationship, even though most thought it was a mistake. He still received some hateful stares from Julie's close friends when he was by himself, but when they were together, nothing major ever really happened.
Zach considered all of this behind him now. In four more days they would graduate from this small-town high school and be off at college, where they wouldn't have to deal with all of the cold stares and talk behind their backs.
The bell rang, and Zach gathered his books up. He left the class, wondering exactly where Julie was.
The school cafeteria buzzed with life and laughter. Students ate and talked, enjoying their break from the monotonous school day. Zach sat at a table by himself, gnawing on a buttered roll. He mindlessly listened to the inane conversations of a group of freshmen sitting at the table next to him. Their talk consisted mostly of how they were ready for summer so they could sleep in.
A hand tapped Zach's shoulder. He looked up and saw Laura towering over him. She had never really liked him, primarily because he was with Julie more than she was. Her resentment of him still blazed in her eyes even though she was smiling. She always smiled when she talked to Zach, no matter what the topic of conversation happened to be. Zach guessed she was afraid of him, and he was correct.
Laura thought that Julie made the biggest mistake of her life when she started dating Zach. She had always seen Zach as a creep and low-life degenerate, and nothing, even the fact that he was dating her best friend, could ever change her mind. Her fear of Zach also added greatly to her dislike of him, as she had seen him take down guys twice his size with no effort at all. She feared that if she got on his bad side, she would end up with a broken jaw.
"Hi, Zach," she said, trying to sound cheerful. "Do you know where Julie is?"
Zach shook his head. "I haven't the slightest idea." He took another bite of the roll and dropped it on the table.
"Oh. Well, do you know where she might be?"
"My guess is that she is at home," Zach said coldly. "She didn't call me this morning, so I have no clue where she is."
Julie's best friend stared at Zach for a minute. He was Julie's boyfriend. How could he not know where she was? Didn't he care enough about her to find out where she might be?
"So, you don't know where she is?" Laura asked redundantly.
Zach shot her a cold stare and picked up the roll again. He tore a piece off, put it in his mouth and chewed on it, ignoring Laura.
"Hello, Zach? Are you gonna answer me or not?"
"Look, Laura, I don't keep a leash on Julie," Zach angrily said. "If I say I don't know where she is, then I don't. It's not like I have total control over what she does. Do you think I keep tab on her at all times? I don't sit outside her window all night to make sure she doesn't leave when we don't go out. I don't--"
"Okay, okay. You've made your point. Sorry." Laura turned away and stormed off. He watched her walk down the hallway until she was out of sight. If he saw her again today, Zach felt sure that he would punch her.
A violent temper was something that Zach always had. It got him into trouble with his mother, his teachers, and a lot of students who annoyed Zach. And yet, amazing as it sounds, he never harbored one violent thought against Julie. They had been through a number of fights, but things that would normally set Zach off never did when he was around her.
He had never understood why this was. Zach had pondered this enigma many times, but no answer had ever been revealed to him. In reality, however, the answer was quite simple. Julie had Zach wrapped around her finger, or, more precisely, Zach had wrapped himself up around her. He had become very dependent on her for his emotional and psychological needs. Whenever Julie was not around, Zach felt depressed and unwanted.
Julie never became aware of this, and even at the end of their relationship, she had a hard time coming to the realization of just how much he needed her to survive. During the times that they were together or talked on the phone, Zach acted normally, and no one could have guessed that after their dates or talks on the phone he would sit in his room and just stare at the stucco walls for hours. His only waking thoughts were of Julie.
The phone nested by Zach's ear rang for the fourteenth time. His index finger felt cramped from redialing her number for the past hour. If she wasn't at home, then where was she? This was the first time during their entire relationship that he did not know of her whereabouts. Contrary to what he told Laura, he did keep track of Julie when they weren't together. He always knew where she was "just in case I need to get in touch with you." But now, he had absolutely no clue.
A ball of rage started to build in the back of his throat as he depressed the reset button on the phone and dialed again. His fear had ballooned into anger and desperation. The phone rang another two minutes before he slammed it down into its cradle.
Zach stretched out on his bed and put his hands over his face. He fought to struggle a scream that welled up in his belly. The one thing that he loved was lost, and he did not know where to start looking.
He pulled his hands away and looked up. The room was hazy and started to spin. The ceiling seemed close enough to reach out and touch. Crawling off of the bed, he slowly made his way to the bathroom where he bowed to the porcelain god and vomited. It did not make him feel any better. Zach propped himself up against the bathroom wall, his hands pushing against the cold tile floor. He wiped his mouth with his arm, leaving a brown residue. Zach lowered his head between his knees and wept.
The shrill noise of the telephone ringing reverberated throughout the house. Zach stretched out from the fetal position he had been lying in and attempted to stand. He propped himself against the bathroom door as the phone continued to ring. The carpet cushioned his feet as his stiff legs carried him into his room. The phone sat on the mahogany desk, daring him to answer. Did he really want to talk to her? Was he in the right frame of mind to speak with Julie without blowing up on her? Zach grabbed the phone and held it up to his mouth. "Hello?" he heard himself asking.
The monotone sound of a dialtone scornfully laughed at him. His mouth tightened as he grimaced in disgust. Zach knew it was her. It had to be her. He kicked himself mentally for falling asleep in the bathroom. Being strong was one of Zach's better character traits, or so he thought. Now, holding a lifeless telephone and feeling miserable, he felt like a child. The sound of the phone changed to a series of annoying beeps, electronic instructions ordering Zach to hang up the phone. Both Zach's mind and body were frozen, and only one word circled through his confused mind.
When Zach was eight years old, his father beat him for the first and only time. He had found a box of matches in one of the kitchen drawers and headed into the backyard with a handful of napkins as fuel.
He seated himself on a swing hanging from a tree and stared at the matchbook, trying to recall how "Howling Mad" Murdock had lit matches the night before on The A-Team. Before he successfully got one of the matches flaming, though, his father came home from work. Zach, enticed by the prospect of fire, never noticed him coming into the backyard.
"Hey, son, what are you doing?" his father asked. The caring expression on the face of his father soon changed into one of both fear and anger as he realized what his son was trying to do.
"Put those down now!" he yelled, running towards Zach. When his son still had not dropped the matches, he hit his son on the chest, knocking Zach off the swing. Zach landed on the ground with a thud, scattering napkins all around him.
"Don't you know that these things aren't toys?" his father screamed. "Don't you know you could hurt yourself?"
Sobbing emerged from Zach's motionless body. The blow had knocked the wind out of him. He tried moving around some, but it took too much effort. His father stepped forward and pulled Zach to his feet.
"Son, I'm very disappointed in you," he scolded as he undid his belt. "I'm going to have to punish you for this."
Zach's crying decreased into a whimper as he tried to tell his father that he was sorry. His pleading did not do any good, however.
"Zach, you know that this hurts me more than it hurts you," his father rationalized. "I'm only doing this because I love you."
His father doubled the belt up and swung, landing the blow squarely on Zach's buttocks. Tears flowed from Zach's eyes, but he did not cry. He was too weak to make a sound.
The beating lasted for a few more minutes, the belt hitting Zach on his back and legs as well. His father was too filled with rage to take careful aim. Zach remained standing throughout the entire ordeal.
Finally, his father dropped the belt on the ground. "I hope you've learned your lesson, son. Remember that this was for your own good. Now, go wash up and I'll treat you to some ice cream. Okay?"
Zach slowly nodded, still facing away from his father. After a couple of seconds and having made sure his dad was gone, he turned around and slowly limped back into the house. His skin burned as he took each step, the heat from the redness rising through his clothes. The tears on his face had dried up, and his eyes stung from the absence of moisture.
To this day, Zach still did not understand the words his father had spoken as he whipped him with the belt. What did the words "I love you" have to do with beating one's own son? This paradox of actions forever changed the way he viewed those three words, and he vowed never to say them unless he truly meant it. To say those words without feeling was to defile all the emotion and love that they were supposed to convey.
At the Baskin-Robbins, his father watched him eat every bite of his ice cream. The chocolate tasted cold and sweet, flavored with his father's bitter love.
The ten o'clock news blared from the television set. Zach's mother sat on the couch, reading one of the numerous tabloid magazines she gets when she goes to the grocery store. As Zach walked through the living room to the kitchen, he smirked to himself as he noted the headline about aliens abducting a midwestern farmer's cat.
He opened a cabinet, pulled out a glass, and filled it with water. The tabloids had always amazed Zach because people actually read them and believed them. Whenever he did pick up one of his mom's tabloid's, it was just to get a good laugh and not because he was looking for reputable news. Still, Zach thought it would be funny if the tabloids actually did print the truth and everything else was a lie. He laughed again as pictures of flying saucers and three-headed cows ran through his mind.
Back in his room, Zach flopped down on his bed and turned on his stereo. A loud buzz emanated from the broken speaker while the other one came to life with the sound of the Dead Kennedys.
The phone still sat silent on his desk. By now, Zach had given up on getting in touch with Julie tonight. He was angry and worried at the same time, yet his anger was slowly overpowering him. As the night grew longer, his desire to talk to Julie diminished. Maybe in the morning he would feel better. Sleep always seemed to be the best remedy for all of his troubles.
The night air played with Julie's hair as she sat on the hood of her car. Her phone had been ringing constantly all afternoon, but she feared that it might be Zach. Actually, she was positive that Zach was the one who had been making the majority of the phone calls, and guilt had forced her to call him. When Zach hadn't answered, waves of relief swept over her. The bad news wasn't going to make Zach happy, and she wanted to postpone telling him for as long as possible.
She gazed upwards to the sky, looking to the blackness of the night for answers. Julie had known about this for about two months now, but she just could not bring herself to tell him until the very end. Zach depended on her too much, and when she told him, he would be devastated.
Julie understood Zach better than he understood himself, and even though he was always calm and docile around her, at times she thought she caught glimpses of Zach's old self in his eyes, like some imprisoned beast trying to escape its chains. She was not sure how he would take the news, but she was not scared of him.
Now, the time had come for her to tell Zach. There was no place to hide, no place to run away. If she did not tell him soon, she would just end up leaving without saying anything, and she knew that that would be too much for Zach to handle. Maybe she should go back inside and try calling again. He deserved at least that much. She owed it to him.
Julie slid off the hood of her car and went back inside.
The bright-red LED display on the alarm clock read 11:00 as Zach woke up, the ringing of his telephone blaring in his ear. "Who could be calling me this late?" he asked himself, realizing the answer before he finished the question. He flung out his hand and drug the phone over to him.
"Hello, Julie," he said.
"How did you know it was me?" Julie asked.
"I'm psychic," Zach explained.
"Oh, yeah? So, when's the world gonna end?"
"If I told you, it would spoil the surprise."
They both laughed. Zach detected a sense of uneasiness in Julie's laugh.
"So, where were you today?" he inquired.
"Yeah, I'm sorry about not calling you this morning. I was really sick and threw up. It wasn't the best of times to be talking on the phone."
"Wouldn't want to ruin your phone, would you? I can just picture hearing you talking and then hearing this really wretched sound come through--"
"Zach, stop it," Julie laughed. "That's pretty sick."
"I know, I know," he apologized.
"Listen, do you want to go out tomorrow night?"
"Are you sure you feel alright? You think you ought to be at school tomorrow?"
"Oh, I'll be fine," assured Julie. "I feel a lot better now. It must have just been some quick virus or something. So, are we on for tomorrow night?"
"Yeah, sure. That'll be great."
"Okay, well, I'm going to go get some sleep so I'll be all rested up for tomorrow. I'll see you tomorrow."
"I love you."
"I love you too."
Julie hung up. She was lying, and Zach knew it. He didn't see how anyone could be fine one day, utterly sick in the morning, and in the evening making plans to go out the next day. This date didn't look like such a good idea anymore, but Zach knew he had to go. He had to find out what was wrong with her.
Friday night rolled around sooner than Zach had wanted. Julie had come to school today, but they hadn't spoken of their conversation last night or Julie's absence. It was just another boring day of the next to last week of school, the way Zach wanted it to be.
Tonight, however, was not going to be boring. Now, at five o' clock with just an hour until he was supposed to pick up Julie, an incessant gnawing began to chew away in the back of his mind. His intuition told him that Julie was going to tell him something that he did not want to hear, but he had no clue as to what it was. Breaking up with her never entered his mind at all.
Zach buttoned his shirt and put on cologne. He had never used cologne until he started going out with Julie. Personal hygiene was not one of Zach's major concerns before he met her. If he didn't mind the way he smelled, he was sure that no one else did, either.
Having finished getting ready, he went into the kitchen and popped a batch of frozen chicken in the microwave for supper. Zach always insisted on paying for everything he and Julie did. It was one of those macho acts that society had imbedded in his psyche, and Julie was a big eater. So, he always ate before they went out and just ordered something small to save himself some cash.
Ten minutes later, the chicken finished cooking and he sat himself down at the table for another cheap meal. Zach could live off of frozen chicken for the rest of his life. It was inexpensive, easy to cook, and easy to clean up. It also came in many varieties--chicken tenders, chicken patties, chicken strips, and chicken nuggets. What more could a single guy want?
After the meal, Zach cleaned up and noticed that it was time to get Julie. He locked the house and left. He hoped tonight would be boring. Surprises were something Zach hated greatly.
The restaurant was excellent--nothing happened. They talked about the things they usually talked about when they went out--school life, teachers they liked and hated, other people's relationships, and just the normal happenings of everyday life. The evening was turning out to be okay after all. And Zach was sure that nothing would happen during the movie.
When they arrived at the theater, Julie was mortified by the long queue of people waiting to get tickets.
"I don't really want to wait for half-an-hour to see this film," Julie said impatiently.
"Well, what do you want to do then?" Zach asked.
"Why don't we go down to that little coffee house downtown? It's been a while since I've had a good cappuccino. How does that sound to you?"
Zach's confidence abruptly crumbled away. He had been counting on the movie to eat up most of the evening so he could escape the night unscathed. However, there was not much he could do without seeming inconsiderate.
"Sure, that sounds fine," he said, forcing a smile.
"Good. We haven't been there in so long. It should be fun."
Zach had a much different opinion.
Mookie's Coffee & Cappuccino had been a favorite hangout of Zach's before he met Julie. It was located near the local university and was frequented by much of the college population. As they entered, Zach took a deep breath, inhaling the succulent fumes of dark, rich coffee grinds emanating from behind the counter. Mona smiled and waved when she saw them.
"Hey, guys, what are you doing here?" she asked.
"Hi, Mona," Julie greeted. "We didn't want to wait in line for a movie, so we decided to come down here."
"Yeah, you know how impatient Julie is," Zach piped in. Julie gave him a playful slap on the shoulder.
"I take it you want two giant caps?" Mona asked.
"The usual, of course," Zach confirmed. "By the way, I like your nose ring. When did you get it?"
"Oh, a couple of weeks ago. Didn't hurt too bad, but it itches like crazy."
Mona turned and made their cappuccinos. "Here you go. Have a good night."
"Thanks, Mona. See you later." Zach grabbed their glasses and headed to a table. Julie followed him.
They sat down at a corner table. Zach took about six packets from the sugar bowl on the table and proceeded to dump them all into his cappuccino.
"I don't see how you can drink that," Julie wondered.
"Well, I like my coffee sweet. None of that straight black stuff that you drink." Zach made a grotesque moan.
"Listen, Zach, there's something I've been meaning to tell you for a long time, but I just couldn't bring myself to."
Zach's face went completely blank. His pupils shrank instinctively, and his flesh started warming up. "Oh, really? And exactly what might that be?"
"About two months ago, Zach, I got a letter in the mail from up north. I should have been honest with you when I got it, but I wanted us to be happy for as long as possible."
What is she talking about? Zach asked himself.
"I'm sorry, Zach. I really am. They want me to go up north to college, and it's the best chance I've got." Julie began to cry.
The sudden realization of the weight of her statement hit Zach like a hollow-point bullet. She was leaving. Forever.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Zach yelled. A few heads turned in his direction, but Zach's angry glares forced them back into their own conversations.
Julie reached out to grab Zach's hand, but he shied away. "You have every right to be upset," Julie said, trying to console him. "It's all my fault for waiting until the last minute. Will you forgive me?"
"How could you do this to me? I thought we were going to go to the same place together. Wasn't that the plan? If you had told me sooner, I could have made other arrangements and possibly gone up there with you. It would have been fine if you hadn't waited. Why did you wait?"
Her eyes poured forth tears as she spoke. "I didn't think you could get in. They have a strict admission policy, and I didn't want to be torn between you and college. I know I messed up, but I did what I thought was best at the time."
Zach jerked himself onto his feet in a rage. For the first time, Julie was terrified of him. He slowly bent down towards her until their faces were only inches apart.
"I trusted you," he said. "I gave myself to you. I told you all of my secrets that no one else has ever heard. I loved you. And this is the thanks I get? There's never been anyone else that I've loved except for you. I guess I didn't mean anything to you. I guess I was just the messed up boy that you took pity on and decided to go out with just to make me feel like I had something to live for. I even believed that for a long time, but now, I know it was an illusion I created to protect myself." Zach closed his eyes for a second and reopened them. "Come on, we're going," he ordered.
"Zach, wait, it's not what you--"
"No, Julie, it is what I think. Now let's go before I decide to break something... or someone."
Julie sullenly stood up and followed Zach back to the car. The ride home was blanketed in total silence.
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 1996 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 1996 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: CYBERVERSE 512.255.5728 14.4 THE LiONS' DEN 512.259.9546 24oo TEENAGE RiOt 418.833.4213 14.4 NUP: COSMIC_JOKE THAT STUPID PLACE 215.985.0462 14.4 ftp to ftp.io.com /pub/SoB World Wide Web http://www.io.com/~hagbard/sob.html Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Thank you. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--