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               THiRTY-NiNE              tahw ro woh gniwonk
 to think. You are in                07/31/97              ni era uoY .kniht ot
 a state of unbeing....                                  ....gniebnu fo etats a



EDiTORiAL by Noni Moon




by Noni Moon

Yeah, this is me, Noni Moon, the Oriana Fallaci of the SOB koffee klatch set. Maybe I should begin by telling you all the juicy stuff you're dying to know that's being passed down to me from the SOB higher-ups who really control the content and happenings of this zine. But I won't propagate their baloney.

Here's my story. I'm not who you think I am. I might have seen some of these sorry writers moping around before but I never would have interviewed them on purpose. Like, I'm just the chick who got a mickey slipped in her drink in 1996 and awoke tied up in a garage with a bunch of geek virgins staring down at me. I could sway from their demands only so much (you try dealing with "make us seem more interesting" and "pretend like you're my sister").

It might have been pathetically amusing for a while to talk into a tape recorder and pretend to sound all interested with scripted questions, but being kept under house arrest, forced to attend sophomoric parties, and tricked by Crux Ansata into accompanying "Trapdoor Johnson" on an excursion to a nudie bar was the last straw. (And I lost my tape recorder.) Unlike those poseurs, MY revolutions didn't fizzle out somewhere between my mouth and a drag of my cigarette, or wind up sticking to the sheets. I tracked down the real source of material for this fanzine, changed a few key words in a confidential memo... and that's why Mr. Curlyhair Nailpolish is gone and I'm the new editor.

So all you nerds that are into this saga can just sit tight while more unfolds in the upcoming issues. As for me, I'm just gonna pretend like I care as much as the guys from above want me to. With a firm grip on their balls made possible by a mildly amusing home video, I'll be doing more than just stamping my name on the editorials, which might make taking over this silly little rag a bit more interesting. Now we can get some real fresh stuff going---no more suburban, wet-dream, pseudo-intellectual, "postmodern" bullshit garbage. Take it from someone who's never even read this mag before or written a thing in her whole life, and who hates computers with a deeper passion only excelled by that for anyone who would actually waste their time reading this.

I really don't understand who you people are or what you're all about. I feel like I'm in junior high trying to hang out with the cool anarchist kids but not knowing how to draw those funky A's. Just get a life, kids! This isn't your father's Skater World. Go drink milk, eat cookies and be nice to your parents or something. Or better yet, go to a dermatologist. It's not oppression but that acne that plagues your social life. Stop wearing all black and thinking that someone else's philosophy will change you! And pray like hell to all your pagan fairy dancing crystal-shitting gods that you'll one day be as hip as me.

P.S. Oh yeah, and for all you wet & panty little girls out there--Clockwork isn't all he's cracked up to be. Drive carefully and play safe...

P.P.S. Um, by the way. This issue is the original SoB #39 that Kilgore was going to put out before he, well, exploded. Any other issues that you have received were done by poseurs and fakeurs who were butting heads in a perverted mating ritual to see who would be the leader of the fanzine harem.



From: Crackmonkey
Subject: it's groupie time.

since i've already been a groupie for the last two months, i was
thinking maybe i'd take a little time off from my lack of
responsibilities. you know, lay back and hide from the sun. but who am i
kidding. my true calling is to be an official SoB groubie and i can't
rest until i gain that sort of statis.
so i am back yet again this month pleading to be the first certified SoB
groupie for life. if this is not possible at the present moment maybe
you should just put me down as the generic monthly groupie. it's ok. i
suppose i'm used to it.

[um, you're pathetic. --nm]

From: James Markels
Subject: Re: SoB.

I was wondering, what kind of submissions would you find acceptable?
I've read some of the publications, and I am unsure as to whether or not
libertarian political commentary would be appropo.

Or perhaps, are there certain political subjects that the SoB would find
most appealing?


[um, anything. we've published everything from anarchist tracts to information on the u.s. taxpayer's party. we cover all spectrums of the political arena, so anything is acceptable. --nm]

From: yang84
Subject: first timer...

dear sir (some school-taught habits die hard...)

Hi. Yeah well, you might not have time for this, then again you probably
might not, being the distinguished editor of SoB and all, continually
Updating your magz and all... but just thought to write.

The first time I saw your publication on the net, was um, ed.12 I think. Was
really Impressed, and one of the major things that brought that Impression
was how the mag was so simple, no frills n'all.

Anyways, I'm interested in writing, especially the serious, deep, and things
that really disturb, I guess. but I don't know how to start?

I am from singapore, a girl who turns 18 this year. One that, I would guess
started out late and was so hopelessly blur, so existant in My Small World
that you would have had to experience it to believe it.

Have not taken specialised writing courses of any kind, but have ideas
floating around in my head. Do not know if i'm cut out to be termed "writer"
but would like to dream so. Very prone to fits of depression and feelings of
insecurity and isolation (?). You get the idea.

Actually, I'm not really sure why I'm writing this. But it's one of those
things that you feel you have to do after being Impressioned by something.
Come to think of it, I think this is really the first time I've done
something about this feeling... Maybe it'd be nice if you could maybe give a
few pointers or tips or something I guess.

In Singapore, I think there are such a lot of people with talents and such
but never get a chance to "indulge" in them here more so than most places I
would think. It's very important for job stability and things like investing
8 of your later education years in music is something that many, many
parents vehemently oppose (for example). In most cases, I'd say that unless
you know many people or have many links, you don't get to progress very far
in an area like that. But then I guess that's the way the world goes.

Ach, looks like I've written more than I should have (sweet and sharp for
Impact. i wish). If you've read up till here, thanking you for your
patience. Didn't expect it, but thank you. Oh yeah, if you're going to reply
to this letter, could you also tell me when exactly is an exclamation mark

jasmine yeong

[um, actually, he doesn't have time for this letter. he's dead! that should answer your last question as well. --nm]

From: Nehpets
Subject: SoB Mailing List

    [The following text is in the "ISO-8859-1" character set]
    [Your display is set for the "US-ASCII" character set]
    [Some characters may be displayed incorrectly]

Hello Mr. Trout

        I would appreciate it if you would add me to the SoB mailing list.  I
have read several issues and find it quite... well, uh... I find it quite.
        I started reading it because I know one of the ppl that was a writer.
I don't know if he still is, but that is neither here nor the other place.
And besides, I'm hopeing to learn something.   I don't know what, but
Dammit  I Will Learn!!!


[um, quite. maybe you could learn to write, hmm? --nm]

From: morrigan 
Subject: developments in the only world that matters....

two words that apply specifially to you, oh great and wondrous new


not that there's anything at all the matter with such things.  just an
observation, if you will.....

and while i'm writing you, some other thoughts:  
-when you steal the old webpage, be professional (?) about
it....take                out the stuff that specifically applied to said
page and no other (the little bit about the domain?  the ad for
monk's night out?)  come on, work with me here, my man....
-lovely header....did you do it yourself?
-the official theme song is messed up....not in the choice, but in the
application of doesn't work and won't.....
-why hanson?  

um.....gee.... i can't think of anything else at the moment. i suppose i
could stop procrastinating and write that english paper, or maybe do
those math problems....or i suppose i could always go and translate



welcome to the great and lofty role of official sob editor.  (don't you
think you'll get sick of the responsibility soon?)


[um, i agree, that's why we're putting an end to all this madness, or something. --nm]

From "kilgore trout" <>
Subject: let the truth be known

This is ridiculous, guys. When I left, I had thought that you would put
an end to this petty bickering. 
Kilgore isn't dead.
And keeping him out of the zine isn't going to change what happened.
C'mon-- you're pulling a veritable Fowles move. We all read the book ,

The only thing that bewilders me is that Kilgore hasn't stopped this
already. It isn't like him not to overpower you...being a Scorpio to the
Which leads me to a frightening thought- that he's somehow involved in
If that's the case, well, Kil: use some complex thinking skills here.
What exactly are you trying to accomplish at the sake of your own

I knew I shouldn't have left you guys. Maybe it wouldn't have escalated
to this...

-noni moon-

[um, i thought multiple personality disorder was quite rare. let's hope it really is. hey, you're the guy whose email account is always full. how the hell did you get the issue? --nm]



Noni Moon

Glorious Glen
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Joshua Ludwick
Radioactive Mutant in Search of Antibiotics
The Super Realist

Jasmine Yeong

"kilgore trout"
"noni moon"



[=- ARTiCLES -=]


[Editorial | Next]

by Glorious Glen

Forget women's rights, gay rights, victim's rights or any other plain vanilla lobby group seeking equality and acceptance from our inflexible society. There's a new movement afoot whose members want to be empowered and validated, who want to rid themselves of the shame they've been programmed to feel, who want to be accepted for who they are and what they believe in. There's only one small stumbling block which may limit their public support: they like to have sex with animals.

They are the bestialists, the zoophiles and the zoosexuals, and until quite recently they've kept a fairly low profile, seeking out discreet liaisons with various pets and farm animals and sharing very little with friends, relatives, or researchers.

The Internet has changed all that, providing a means for otherwise anonymous animal sex aficionados to connect with each other, share experiences, trade tips, and provide mutual support. Now people who have sex with animals (shall we call them PSA's?) have their own newsgroups, their own chat rooms, and their own web sites. While their choice of sexual partners may be perplexing, the depth of their devotion to their animal lovers -- with their tributes to their dead pets, their own porn (furotica), and their meticulous tracking of all film and video with animals appearing -- can be suspected by only the most cynical among us.

The result is a burgeoning online community (and a associated off-line community) which displays all the aspects of more familiar identity groups. They argue over definitions, they wrangle over justifications, and they negotiate the boundaries of proper behavior. Animal fucking has gone bureaucratic and the love that dare not bark its name is howling well into the night.

Much online discussion is devoted to definition. If you have an "emotional relationship" with an animal that makes you a "zoophile", which gives you high moral ground in the PSA community. If you're purely in it for the sex you're a "bestialist", which is tantamount to being an animal molester. In other words, a bestialist's idea of a good night out is to hump a stray Great Dane in the woods, whereas a zoophile would cook his dog a gourmet dinner, showers it with doggie treats, read poetry into the small hours and make love in the kennel.

Not that there isn't hope that the right animal might win the heart of a bestialist and that he might find himself transformed into a zoophile. It can happen to the most confirmed PSA should Cupid's arrow be aimed just so.

It happened to "Stasya", a middle-aged PSA with outspoken ideas on interspecies relations and a web site to display them on. "Well, I'm a 42 year old white male who started life as a pure bestialist," he writes, "and gradually, with the love of one hell of a bitch, became a zoophile."

Stasya's lifetime history outlined in his home page mirrors the formative experiences widely reported on the Internet by PSAs: a family dog, an empty house, and a bored adolescent with a helping hand all contribute to saving poor Fido from the boring routine of humping legs and pillows. With dogs lacking the necessary opposable digits to repeat the experience alone they apparently will beg for repeat performances. Before you know it, man's best friend becomes man's best fuck.

"When I was about 15, I somehow got the idea of having sex with this male dog," writes Stasya.

"I can't remember right now if I ever let him fuck me, but I did have anal sex with him."

This youthful dalliance with a male dog, this flirting with homo-bestiality was, after much soul searching, not what Stasya was really after. What he really wanted was a female dog. A few years later and a quick trip to the pound, he brought his first love home.

The relationship was purely physical at first, Stasya tells us, but when he really got to know her he had to admit that there was something special going on.

"Finally, after several years, it hit me. We weren't fucking. We were making love to each other. We'd kiss deeply whenever the mood hit us. We'd cuddle and share quiet moments. In short, we shared everything that I'd always been taught was what I could expect if I fell in love with a woman. The only difference was that my lover was a bitch."

The political approach taken by online PSA's borrows quite purposely from the language of the gay rights movement. Internet zoophiles claim they don't choose to be attracted to animals for sex; they were just born that way. Furthermore, they claim society is "zoophobic" which has a devastating effect on PSA self-esteem and drives them into the closet (perhaps the kennel is a more accurate metaphor). "Coming Out" to friends and family is the goal of any self-respecting PSA, and a number of websites provide testimonials from those who have taken this step. Judging by the incidents outlined, one could easily come away with the impression that the world is more than ready to accept people who have sex with animals as part of our rich cultural fabric.

Acteon, a late-twentysomething male zoophile from Oregon, decided that he couldn't go a day longer without telling his parents of his extracurricular activities.

"I came out because I was getting very stressed out from making up stories about where I spent my weekends. I still live at home, and have never been evasive about things, so when I went to a Zoo party of some sort, I had to tell them something," he reports.

Acteon goes on to say how his parents took the news rather well and "admired my guts for telling them".

"They didn't even forbid me to see the neighbors German Shepherd," he says "which was actually my greatest fear, even more so than being kicked out of the house."

While parents may be reluctantly accepting, you can always count on your friends for support, according to Akita, a male "bi-zoosexual" for the past 24 years. He says he was quite reluctant to spill the beans to his long-standing buddy Shyfox (Internet alias).

"Would it damage a super friendship or, maybe better yet, build a stronger one," he wonders.

Eventually, he finds the right moment and tells Shyfox that he's "only interested in having sex with dogs and horses, that they have a loving, caring relationship that makes him feel whole." What follows smells suspiciously like an informercial for bestiality.

"That's all you were going to tell me!" says Shyfox. "Gosh, Akita, I couldn't imagine what on Earth you were going to tell me that you thought would upset me so. I thought you where going tell me that you didn't like Dragon and I anymore or that you were moving away! I don't care what you're (sic) sexual preference is. Gee, Akita, I'm your bestest friend!"

A common misconception about PSA's is that they share their affections exclusively with animals. According to Internet sources, many are either looking for a human partner or are already coupled up. To be the spouse of a PSA obviously takes an especially tolerant attitude, and one could do much worse than getting hitched with Isis, a middle aged woman who only recently became aware of her husband's extracurricular activities and who has immortalized her diary entries of the time on the web.

What tipped off Isis was that her husband was spending an inordinate amount of time on the Internet downloading pictures of animals. When she questioned him he tried to downplay it, but eventually he admitted more than a casual interest in interspecies sex.

"I can't remember exactly what lead up to it," writes Isis, "but as we were leaving to go shopping he said he'd had oral sex with horses. I couldn't ask him about it any more because we were shopping and then to friends for supper."

In retrospect, Isis admits there were warning signs.

"He loved watching nature shows, particularly the ones that showed real matings between almost any sort of animal," she writes. "I never found it odd that he would spend hours just visiting friends who owned horses, or going to the racetrack just to look at them, or going to the races but never betting. When he said he couldn't sleep at night, and would go for walks until two in the morning, I worried about him, but never once thought he was going to fence-hop at the track and suck off a stallion."

While this revelation may have been disconcerting news for the most devoted of wives, Isis' reaction proves her to be the ideal mate for a PSA: curious, accepting... and sexually aroused.

"Finding out that my husband could do something so, well, bestial, was a real turn on. I had never seen him as a particularly passionate person, and this revelation did quite a bit to show me how he truly is. Our love life had always been nice, and comfortable, but not terribly passionate. As the days went by and he told me more of what he'd done though, things heated up considerably. It felt like a honeymoon for almost two months."

While these best case scenarios may provide some comfort to those who struggle with the complexities of being attracted to animals for sex, history illustrates that such activities have never really been socially acceptable. Court records over the past 600 years are littered with cases involved human sexual contact with goats, cows, sheep, dogs and birds, many resulting in the hanging of both the perpetrator and the animal. Laws have been relaxed somewhat since then. Many countries now have no law governing bestiality. A number of US states have decriminalized sex with animals or offer small fines or short prison sentences.

The trend towards decriminalization is largely due to what is referred to as "lack of use" of the existing laws. Since animals don't kiss and tell, the only way to secure a bestiality conviction is to catch someone in the act. If we are to believe Internet PSA's, most inter-species sex is perpetrated by pet owners in the comfort of their own homes. Even those more adventurous types who venture further afield to the barnyard can, with some careful planning, commit the perfect crime. Those who actually get their asses dragged into court are either exceedingly unlucky or, whipped up by the excitement, overly careless. Perhaps the perfect example of guilty on both counts is the recent case of a Canadian man who was found, well after dark, inside a barn copulating with a cow he had secured with ropes. A passing police cruiser noticed his car parked in a empty field with its headlights on.

While Internet zoophile propaganda would have us believe that carloads of sexually unsatisfied urbanites are descending on small farming communities in the small hours, web pages like the one entitled "A true account of my (unsuccessful) attempt to get a BJ from a calf" puts the matter in perspective. The author gives us a vivid picture of the lure of the farmyard -- from the lonely walk in the freezing cold down a pitch black lane, though the mud and the shit in the open field, to the sewer of the cow shed.

"I found myself hugging the side of the shed," the author reports, "where the ground was still hard, and I worked my way to the edge of the door frame. I also heard the traditional "plop" of manure against manure, but since I was already stepping in tons of the stuff, that sound was less of a turn-on."

"I found a section that had firmer footing, and inched my way a little deeper into the shed. I held out my hands to feel my way around, and within a few minutes I felt something soft and moist on the fingers of one hand. I looked down and saw that one of the calves was suckling my fingers. I got my penis within an inch or two of his mouth, but at that moment he released my hand and started wandering away. Damn!"

From all the discussions, testimonials and publicity information available on the Internet, it seems clear that the stereotype of the lonely sheep-shagging shepherd is in dire need of revision. As they tell it, the new breed of PSA is an ubiquitous, clandestine presence in society, the proverbial aliens among us -- "in every tax bracket, in every location -- from the farmer in Montana to the businessman in New York", as one PSA web page claims. Whether the numbers are exaggerated or not is something that will be made clearer as more PSA's meet online, organize themselves offline and become more public about their activities, as they have in (surprise, surprise) Northern California. There they've formed a support group called "Calzoo" which boasts several dozen members who meet regularly for social gatherings, to celebrate holidays, and "build community" with zoophile groups in other states and countries.

Whatever their numbers, PSA's may be doing themselves a disservice by drawing attention to themselves. Their claim that PSA's are at every level of society, if taken seriously, is more likely to induce mass paranoia rather than general acceptance as we all take a second look at all the pet owners who touch our lives. And despite the current fashion in "I gotta be me" identity politics, PSA's may be barking up the wrong tree in attempting to draw tenuous comparisons with groups like gays and lesbians when they're much more likely to be likened to child molesters or rapists. The FBI has found the Internet to be a goldmine in upping their arrest records for suspected pedophiles, who formerly kept to themselves and evaded apprehension. People who have sex with animals, by making their cause public, are risking being at the receiving end of a new wave of moral panic.

We have a long way to go before politicians court the bestial vote by admitting a bit of youthful experimentation with the family cat. Meanwhile, you may want to carefully scrutinize whoever volunteers to look after your treasured pet next time you go away on vacation.


"The writers who have nothing to say are the ones you can buy; the others have too high a price."

-- Walter Lippmann, "Preface to Politics"


[Prev | Next]

by I Wish My Name Were Nathan

The explanation by the Air Force of what happened in Roswell in 1947 doesn't convince me. It's not surprising that there are many skeptics who agree that something is fishy about reports of crash test dummies and weather balloons being the explanation for rumors of space alien wreckage. This isn't my area of expertise, anyway, so I have no alternative explanation.

What does interest me is our national interest and ignorance in extraterrestrials. As I've said before several times, I don't know why, in all the vast expanse of the universe, aliens would look like humans, except with larger heads. On that progressive show Star Trek, aliens also resemble humans, many distinguishable by a furrowed brow or a nose cleft. I can understand the impact of a budget on creativity, but I dislike the simplistic assumptions that have been propogated.

Something else is flying saucers. Why have people latched on to the concept of flying saucers? Why would alien spacecraft spin around at high rates of speed entering our atmosphere? This would lead to dizziness and nausea, or, at the least, to the unfortunate floorward displacement of their coffee cups. Staggering out of a saucer with multicolored retch all over one's alien spacesuit is certainly not the best impression to make upon swarms of eager natives.

I believe that in our information society, the majority of what people believe comes from what they hear or read, not from actual experience. Psychologists say that those who claim to have actual experiences are unconsciously mimicking the stories of others. So, has anyone had a real alien encounter not colored by popular beliefs? I have to wonder.

The Roswell incident may have been genuine, but the sudden flood of alien encounters by others in New Mexico shortly after the story broke makes me doubt they were all true. The similarity of nearly every other alien story to the Roswell incident also makes me skeptical.

I think these similarities are unfortunate, because they have trained us to imagine aliens in one specific way, meaning, that if extraterrestrials visit earth, most people will be poorly prepared to handle it. Poorly prepared? Of course, especially if these aliens are as evil as most movies predict. Specifically, though, I refer to these tidbits of insight:

(1) What if we don't recognize aliens as living creatures? Father Guido Sarducci wittily announced that plastic lawn chairs are an alien race invading earth -- they are certainly new, unexplainable, and multiplying like rabbits. How do we know if it's only a joke?

Across the universe, I'm willing to bet that the humanoid body form is unique, and that a carbon/oxygen biological basis for life is rare. But without something non-earthly to compare against, how can we discern what makes something alive?

Philosophically, one of the burdens that leaves us poorly prepared to accept alien life is that of definition. Definitions arise from classification, and classification stems from identity. Mainly, we define ourselves and what is different from us. On earth, it is easy to classify human beings (well, relatively easy, considering the importance that 'race' still has on our preconceptions), animals (popular terminology -- mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds), insects, and plants as being justifiably distinct organisms.

Somehow, we agree intuitively that these are all alive. Scientists define "living things" as carbon-based organisms that grow, adapt, react to the environment, reproduce, and so on. But why is this definition necessary? Isn't it obvious that a jackhammer isn't alive, that a wooden fence isn't alive, that a computer virus isn't alive? I'm not sure it's inherently obvious. Some pantheist religions, for example, claim that everything is living. Several preindustrial cultures, namely tribal Indians, also incorporated this concept. Why don't we?

I think that our upbringing in a modernized, scientific society has spoonfed us a system that defines beyond a doubt what it considers alive. Currently, DNA-based organisms are considered of the same substance and officially "alive." All else is "non-living." I'm pretty sure that when I was a small child, I didn't really see a reason to differentiate the groups.

It's this institutional discrimination that handicaps those of us willing to consider the possibilities of extraterrestial life.

Or perhaps I'm making a moot point. Would the average alien-seeker be at all interested to find out that meteors are alive, visiting earth but always burning up? Would it transform our beliefs about reality to consider that water is an intelligent creature?

Obviously, such suggestions are absurd...? If you think so, consider this additional obstacle:

(2) Must we imagine that any alien life that reaches us will be superhuman, technologically advanced, and supremely intelligent? Do our aliens have to be God? Again, our scientific prejudices tell us that, hey, if we haven't gone to other solar systems, then it must be something much better than us that could reach our planet.

I point out that our system of science and knowledge is still tied to centuries of preconceptions; never has a society invented a completely new language, culture, cosmology, and technology from scratch, except perhaps the first people that did so. So, although our science may be the best system of analyzing and understanding "reality" today, that doesn't make its findings, or the applications thereof, the most beneficial or useful possible by a long shot, especially considering the attitude of science towards paranormal phenomena.

But this is over the head of the average alien-seeker. Since we just discovered atomic energy fifty years ago, then they must have already mastered it, right? Since we formed a theory of relativity, they must already teach this in the womb. Since we have Quake, they must have Quake 2!

No! No! No!

Our society seems to think that "progress" or "technological advancement" means "overboard on everything." Their spaceships must be miles long, they must have the most deadly weapons of all, they must be the most ruthless things imaginable! Bigger, better, badder, right?

Frankly, I'm more impressed by the notion that the electrons in my body might have traveled billions of light-years to be in me today.

(3) The most insidious obstacle: if can't understand the myriad forms of life on our own world, what are the chances that we could comprehend something from another?

Last month I spent an hour watching a spider build a web on my front porch. I was amazed at the versatility of the silk as the spider rapelled eight feet, swung to another strand, and tied it to a bush; then how it took back the silk, recoiling up to the ceiling. I must have witnessed the first minutes of the act; I watched for a long time before I realized that these strands were the infrastructure of the web, finally noticing the spider laborously making its way in circles to form the plane of the web. I realized dumbly that from the moment I'd started watching, an insect had already been caught and cocooned on a far strand.

The next morning, the web had been completely disassembled and was now blocking my doorway.

While I'd been watching that spider, I understood clearly how little it and I had in common. We were carbon-based, we had the ability to grow, adapt, react to the environment, and reproduce, although neither of us did the latter that night. Well, at least I didn't.

Did the spider notice me? Certainly not the same way I noticed it. I concentrated on the visible form of the spider. At the distance I stood from it, the image of the spider focused directly on my foveae, the concentrated groups of cones in the retinas of my eyes, providing my brain a clear image that I recognized as a spider. The spider's eyes are more suited to detecting specific hues of light, maybe including ultraviolet and infrared, but not an image. I'm not sure I stood out from the brick wall. Maybe it detected me as a fellow animal by my odors. I couldn't particularly smell the spider at all. I uttered a few poetic words to the spider before feeling silly. Although it might have heard my voice, its hearing apparatus resembles a tuning fork, and is restricted to a small range of frequencies. Most certainly vocal speech isn't in its repertoire.

Probably the best way for me to have communicated with the spider would have been for me to jump on its web. I'm a little big, and I would have destroyed it, but if we were a hundred times smaller, perhaps my distinct vibrations on the web would have identified me as a human.

I hope my point is clear. If aliens did arrive, even as similar to us as spiders, communication would be practically impossible. We couldn't teach them anything, nor they us, except maybe by observation.

Or, but have I mistakenly assumed that we would want to communicate, teach, or be taught by aliens? Perhaps if they aren't ignorant enough to be boring, don't die on entry, don't escape our definition of "alive," and don't psychically transform the human race, we can dissect them or stick them in zoos or drop a bomb or two on them. That would be interesting. After all, it's what we do to people we don't understand.

* * * * *

It's a strange thing, this fascination with aliens. While some human societies are xenophobic, alien-seeking Americans are classic xenophiles. But they're lacking in creativity -- if aliens were really alien, they would be so different that we couldn't recognize them in front of our own faces. I don't blame the dreamers, though; God Himself is supposed to be so different from us as to be incomprehensible.

And it seems neurotic in a way, to search the skies for mystery, to imagine the arrival of all-powerful forces that will either destroy us or transform us. But God Himself is supposed to do this too. Am I just bringing up that old point about aliens being a modern substitute for religion? Perhaps. If alien-seeking is a religion, it's already got the best ingredients -- scripture (Roswell, Communion, numerous personal accounts) and persecution (men in black, the gubment, rationalists).

I don't mean to downplay those people who claim to have had alien encounters; perhaps the brain is such that people can only see bulgey-eyed greys -- or perhaps the greys try to comfort us with this facade. Perhaps spinning spaceships are the means of transport that would let us notice them. Perhaps our two sexes are so endlessly fascinating that they actually will travel thousands of lightyears just to probe us.

I don't know.

I just urge all of you to think harder about what an 'alien' could be, all the ways it could differ from us, in form, function, size, consciousness, emotion, will, et cetera. Maybe you'll notice something around you -- or in you -- you've never seen before. In the meantime, I will bow humbly before the spider....


[=- POETASTRiE -=]

"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."

--Charles Bukowski


[Prev | Next]

by Radioactive Mutant in Search of Antibiotics

     Yuppies have only
     low maintenance pets, if any:
          distorted oily withered hairless cats or
          stunted baleful pale growly lapdogs with pink eyes
             all with stupid names.

      If I had one of those
      loathesome ugly bald sterile cats that smell like semen
          I would name it
          'Latex', 'Corpse', or 'Alien'
             because that is what they look like

      And I would never pet it, because they feel cold and greasy
                                      and have empty staring eyes

      Or if I had one of those
      horrible crazed yappy lapdogs
          I would name it
          'CrackBaby', 'Perversion', or 'Deranged'
             Because that is what they are.

      And I would never pet it, because I don't want rabies
           and I would be afraid I might accidentally kill it

      If I had one of those-
      a hairless cat or tiny furious dog,
          I would not name them
          'Felix', or 'Muffy'
          'Fi-fi', or
          (-if I was a real asshole-)
          'Spike', or 'Killer'
             Because that's just bloody inhumane!

      I would name them for what they are:
      Genetic freakshows made that way by artificial selection
          By some dumbass breeder, for $profit$
          For some dumbass yuppie, for 'convenience'
             who will give them a stupid name
             and throw them in the garbage when they die!


"Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities."

--C.J. Jung


[Prev | Next]

by The Super Realist

This time, the ground becomes hard again, solidifying it's presence. Too scared to run, too scared to cry out, too scared to break, Ground suffers UNDER Air's smothering influence. Again, Ground tries to fight back; Volcanoes erupting, earthquakes shaking, mountains forming, reaching to pierce the Sky. Sky laughs and surrounds mountains, muffles earthquakes, and douses volcanoes. Then Man came, he came naive and uncultured and innocent. Man was not aware of the mockery Air was playing upon Ground. Ground pounded hard against the arrow. "Man must be an AGENT of Air. I've never seen the likes of him before." Canyons to trip man, rivers to drown, forests and plains to bedazzle and lure Man. "Stop! Stop!" Man cries out. "I have yet to set foot on earth when I am barraged by beauty. I must build my home before the grand scale of things." Air, thinking Ground has a NEW and IMPROVED and WHITER ally, pours it's strength out onto Man. "Stop! Stop!" Man cries out again. "I have yet to set my eyes up to Heaven when I am barraged by Horrors! I must build my roof before I am swept away." Soon, Man has built himself a new home with a new roof and new walls and new aluminum siding from Sears; contemplating the existence of it all... Sky ground rain mountain wind canyon. Through all his self absorption and inner spiritual penetration, the mists of innocence part like a sea before Moses. Through all his self contemplation and inner experimentation the walls of naivette crumble like Jerhico. Man now sees the way waged by Ground and Air; becoming frightened influenced worshipful. Not wanting to lose scope and grasp of an unprecedented opportunity; Air - the quicker thinker of the two - burrows itself deep into the psyche of Man to take away the rest of his innocence and purity to replace it with God-Fear; a sense of a higher Power. Air - again being the quicker thinker of the two - plants a hatred and fear and virulent loathing of Ground; insinuating that Ground is all encompassing EVIL. Look at Air, air is cooling, air brings forth the rain (yeah, look at Noah). Look at Ground, ground is hard and uncaring, ground brings the FIRE! Man, in his dullness and ignorance believes Air. Air is God. Ground is EVIL. Through Air's theological bullshit, a small seed of resignation grows deeper and deeper into Man's soul. "What is the point? What are we all here for? We're all here to go. We're all here to go, into some kind of afterlife. Death is the only recourse available then," Man reasons (as if he could in the first place). Religions begins ... countries begin ... wars begin ... The END begins.

This time, the Ground becomes hard again, solidifying its presence.


"I am a mechanical boy,
I am my mother's boy."

--Charlie Manson


[Prev | Next]

by Joshua Ludwick

the bottom of the ladder rung exposed to the world
in sideways glances from below,
is just another rung in a ladder rung exposed to the world
in alleyway backdrops where nothing is left exposed
except the bottom of the ladder rung naked to the world
in late afternoon on sunday suppers ringing in
the celebration of the creators work which he celebrated
on a supper sunday, exposed to a naked world
and with nothing to hide.

Free to be naked on an untamed world
unbidden and lofty.
unbidden and lofty looms
draw forbidden fantasy into life.
Life looms like a forgotten fantasy
left behind in a fragrant moment of
lofty, looming, paranoid delusions
of alien space craft landing on the lawn,
exposed to the world like the rung of a ladder
getting sideways glances from below.


"You are in a McDonalds. You pay the guy behind the counter. Now
there is a hamburger there. When you have picked it up, go north. It
is a hamburger wrapped in cheap paper.

"> eat hamburger

"You eat the food hamburger."

-- from the AGT text adventure
"Detective" by Matt Barringer


[Prev | Next]

by I Wish My Name Were Nathan


-- Any questions?
-- No, that's the wrong question.

THUNK THUNK THUNK. Shiver. Headbanging?

-- What's up?
-- Not much. How about you?
-- Huh?
-- How about you?!
-- What?
-- What's up with you?
-- Oh, nothing!

CCH! CCH! CCH! Ohhhh, woooow. Huh?

-- Hi there.
-- Hey.
-- What's your major?
-- Illegible chemistry.
-- Oh man, do you have Dr. Jekyll?
-- No.
-- He's a riot. Total fuckin' riot.

Whee, clap, whee, clap, whee, point. Your turn.
You're steering now. Not so fast, Rambo.

-- So, how's it been going?
-- Oh, fine.
-- Same here.
-- No, I mean I got a fine.
-- For what?
-- I dunno, exhibition of my dick? Ask the judge.
-- Are you drunk?
-- Lay off, I'm underage.
-- So?
-- Ask the judge.

SPORTS, throw paper.
SOCCER, throw paper.
SWEAT, throw paper.
SOAP, throw paper.
SLIP, throw paper.

-- You're littering, you know.
-- I'm alliterating. Ask the judge.

LOAD. COCK. FIRE. Ask me about my soul.

-- So, how's your soul?
-- My friend, it ain't a pretty sight.


"So God created Man in his own image, in the image of God he created him."

--Genesis 1:27


[Prev | Next]

by The Super Realist

bipolar superstunned




Collide serpentine enter and exit
wound the hollow of the neck with a .45
alive then dead to bad she was such an interesting little girl
but a little too ratta-tat-tat for your liking

Blitzkrieging over all time and impossible Channel surfing
to find a replacement in this plastic non-recyclable self
serving grand reserve called existence.
The soul IS quantitative and I shoot up my ounces into
my mainline while her serpentine collides
into another plane of existence.


"Do not call up that which you cannot put down."

--H.P. Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward


[Prev | Next]

On What Women Do In The Bathroom

by Radioactive Mutant in Search of Antibiotics

What the hell
     do they do in there?

  {   door closed;
      sporadic screamy laughter or crying
         the sound of water running   }

  Do they hide in there?
Swapping bulemia tales
   and smoking Tampax
   (perhaps snorting
    Baby Powder
    off of the little round mirror
    in their Cover Girl compact)

mainlining ground-up birth control pills.......?

      with jumper-cables
      and a car battery
           {   woooooo-weeeee..... that HURT!
               Look! It's still alive....   }

Do they burn
   Womans World
   Good Housekeeping
     in wild Feminazu frenzies
       chanting "MEN ARE PIGS, MEN ARE PIGS......."    ??????

                                    and scribbling on themselves with eye-liner

              Do they hold candle-light vigils before altars
              in devotion to Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan

memorizing passages from
The Femenine Mystique
and scrawling them on tiles or toilet
    or mirror
    in mascara
    and ruby lipstick?

-------watching Thelma and Louise over and over and over and over and

oh god

Will they      rise up?
Will they rise up
their stretch-marks glistening
        that band of wild dominatrix
        roaring angry Valkyrie WOMEN?!?
        Cackling for masculine blood

                   !they'll make eunuchs of us all!


  getting their daily hit of emotional
  watching Days of Our Lives
    and General Hospital

oh god

will they      taint our beer with strychnine and massengill
brought to us before the #TV# during the Big Game


will they ("HONEY*MAKE*ME*A*SANWICH*") put
   broken glass
       in our food?

will they stab us
at the photocopyer
with nail-files, cackling


   guzzling Ultra-Slim-Fast
   and downing diet pills until their gums bleed

       {   fat cow
           call Jenny Craig, guys, here comes thunder thighs
           hey you fat bitch
               why dont you beach yourself somewhere

                                        and die    }

         Like twenty blondes from
         Planet Beach     (that !beer! commercial)
         roasting babies over a spit and threatening to
                    -----GET IT ON-----
         at ANY MOMENT......]


and they say we men arent worth it

WE KNOW you're ALL on ACID
   cackling dancing
   whirling tortured
   hateful rites of
       Womans Lib


........premeditated ruin of mens order.......

but I think I know what they do in there
I done my research
When they creep into their little bunker to hide
I know

and I'm telling the other guys

                         "Hell*no*baby*youre*perfect   )


"There is no there, there."

--William Gibson


[Prev | Next]

by Joshua Ludwick

     We want to build a dizzying
        monolith band-aided thumb,
        stabbed with wicked screwdriver
     While working in moisture heavy
        production of euthanasia device.
     Ring us sometime and we'll surrender
        the blue print plans
       while colin hands the phone to justin,
        brad stares at the bookcase,
       josh stops playing guitar,
      jenn plays the penny whistle,
       and justin will be right back.
     We've got the blue prints, a ton
       sitting forgotten while the penny whistle
       melody rises into the theme from inspector
           slightly skewed
                into colin fracturing
                     a recollection
       and brad correcting the wrinkled
           newsweek in jenn's hands.
     Colin will give you a map of words that
       you can follow to our door,
       crystal clear if you can decipher
      the candycane symbols and
       chicken wire medleys of half ideas
       juxtaposed with armpit revelations
       and surprised recollection.
     Then you can run through the door
       and sit in the middle of our living room
     Then you can ask your questions
       while reminiscing about unremembered
        memories that don't mean anything
       unless you are drunk and standing
        in the center of a forgotten
          penny whistle melody.
     When you are on your way again,
        you can ask directions
       and give suggestions to the thorn-tangle
        path, just on the off chance that
         it might change your path and
        lead you away from us and
         into a golden tomorrow
           I will be free
         But you will still be
       stuck in a small room with a red inattentive lava lamp and
           Jenn tossing Brad's keys at
         Josh, and Colin claiming mastery
              of reminiscent


"Mike grinned with unashamed cheerfulness. 'I am God. Thou art God... and any jerk I remove is God, too... and when a cat stalks a sparrow both of them are God, carrying out God's thoughts."

--Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land


[Prev | Next]

by The Super Realist

Awoogas from the foghorns let me know the city is still alive at 3am. I am a Buddhist Bogart walking through the mist, down deserted city streets, and across invisible sidewalks. A half smoked cigarette dangles from my downturned lips, the smoke intermingling with the sighs of enlightenment and the misty low-riding angels. "Play it again, Sam" pounds harder into my mind as I play the events over and over. Fog horn, cat crashed trash cans, and thump thump of cars going over grillwork make up a nicely groovable inner city jazz trio. Nirvana's out of reach, but that's of my own choosing. I am a bodhisattva in a trenchcoat.

The farther I walk, the more I remember as the concrete brings me closer to my goal. The fog is so thick I can't see my legs move and it feels like I'm floating. Spectral images of houses with their wide open door-mouths and glaring window-eyes shape themselves before me. The ghosts of homeless men wander around, circling like spiritual vultures. Are they ghosts or are they real? Invisibility is the enlightenment they all seek. The homeless are already untouchables spiritually, but their invisibility makes them untouchables socially. I am a bodhisattva on the streets.

And then I enter a patch of alley where no light dares to enter. Mara waited for me with his three daughters and three sons. I had no need for a weapon, for I could back away, and leave them to what they will. I will not be a king of Videha! Although I started my enlightenment in reflection, I shall burn my own inner strength brightly. I shall vacuum the darkness within, so there will be no darkness without. Balance and dharma shall be kept, but the people shall be in favor. Exiting out the alley, I continue my etherial walk down the transcendental street. I am a bodhisattva in the dark.

My fight with the dark over, my brightness reflects back into me. The street lamps and my footfalls are the prayer beads on which I meditate. As the sounds richen in tone, so do my thoughts richen with content. Spiral, twist, alternate, I can almost feel the individual particles of mist surround me to make up the whole. Enlightenment is close. Headlights of passing cars break my concentration, as I move from moment to moment, the lights moving past the moment and into future musings. There is no need for contemplation of parallel universes. Reaching the first Dhyana is difficult enough. I am a bodhisattva in the mind.

The time is 3:30am and I have nowhere in particular to go. My feet are strong and my head held high. The numbers tick by, the past to be replaced forever with the present, and nothing to say about the future. The future is what we make of it ourselves. Tick tock tick tock like the flower meticulously leaning towards the sun with nature the final deciding factor. The flower doesn't care what time it is, nor does it have appointments. But humanity must know what the schedule is before it can transcend beyond it. I am a bodhisattva with a watch.

Ghosts should be laid to rest. Enlightenment should be born to all children. I want to go beyond Sariputra. The gates of tushita heaven are past. Bring them all to me, and I will teach them. Rakshasas will burn from my words. Bringing my coat tighter about me and lighting another cigarette, I smile a crooked smile and vow to the mist that we shall meet again. I am a bodhisattva with a vision.


"Then, as now, our love was used conveniently as a smear."

--Alan Moore


[Prev | Next]

by Radioactive Mutant in Search of Antibiotics

     Maybe Jesus was
     Mary Magdalenes
     whoremongering pimp.

     And the crucifixion
     was just
     bad advertising:

         "I'd sooner die on the cross
          than give you anything less than the best
          bitches around!"

     Jesus even had Judas lynched
     when he tried
     to turn Jesus in!
     And Jesus cashed in on that 'son-of-god' betrayal thing.

     Jesus sure was
     a crafty
     crime-boss, wasn't he?

     But those Romans
     fooled him!
     He didn't know
       the spikes were real!!

     After, Mary
     was really upset:
        "Who will I get
         my crack from


[=- FiCTiON -=]


[Prev | Next]

by I Wish My Name Were Nathan

when something so astonishing happens that all other floating thoughts evaporate, the adrenalin floods the heart, the windpipe tightens, the head rushes -- the discovery of a new emotion i thought i'd defined and conquered... had i never experienced it before? this is love, it can only be. my mind focuses on her like the electromagnet whose wires are my heart... she knows this, she must. her eyes steal my self; i collapse into pure being when she smiles like that.

she turns away as we continue walking, and my self invades my brain again and i think again. i become my thoughts, wires and pulleys and weights mechanically rising and falling and turning upon themselves, perpetual motion machine of self-indulgement. i would be at peace contemplating her forever, but for her sharp insight into me....

a mundane day said "hey" as i woke up, replying "what's up?" and getting out of bed. i expected no more of the small-talk of two beings out of touch but not out of company. a typical friday, a typical celebration of the weekend, a typical plunge into my mind's low gear for recuperation and defense against the oncoming week. i expected no more.

when the moon was full in the sky, the tradition of taking a walk through the pines beckoned. i brushed off my day and entered the woods. several minutes after as my mind accustomed itself to the routine and embraced passivity, an unexpected change woke me from my walking slumber. a girl dressed in yellow stood some yards off the path, quietly communicating with the moon. she turned to me as i approached and laughed as children do, joining me on my trip, her face beaming at discovering another person with whom to walk.

my face held a bemused smile as the girl took my hand and walked beside me, gleefully bobbing to my footsteps. an extraordinary sense of appropriateness colored the odd event, as if she had complemented me and completed a pair. we continued forward, silently stepping over scores of browned pine needles and rare logs fallen across the well-trod path.

the unobstrusive young girl was almost forgotten until we passed a clearing to a lake. she pulled me to a stop and gestured toward the lake. we quietly watched the body of water, which held a lucid, slightly shimmering image of the moon and stars.

the girl spoke. "the water is beautiful." i nodded in agreement. "but boring. it's just a reflection of the sky." she released my hand to pick up a rock. "this is the water!" she said, tossing the rock into the lake with a loud mind-jarring splash. the light of the moon chaotically rippled in the turmoil.

i looked down at her with amazement; she was beaming. i shook my head and looked back at the lake.

"sucks how often we look at things and don't see them," she said.

i looked up at her with amazement; she was looking directly at me, a curious smile on her lips. something about the expression captured me. i knew it immediately: she was divine. disguised as a eleven-year-old. i saw her....

i staggered after the goddess after she abruptly wrenched my arm away from the clearing back to our walk. my mind was stunned and i could no longer disregard her as we moved on. my feet loudly kicked up debris trying to match her footsteps, my eyes forgot the scenery as i could only stare at her and try to understand.


"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow."

-- Helen Keller


[Prev | Next]

by Radioactive Mutant in Search of Antibiotics

          <<        -- is this thing on? Oh!
David, a friend of mine, was one day enslaved by a wicked man who lived a long ways away in a big cold ugly house where he would all day listen to opera and wander through empty rooms. This story is an account of David's binding and eventual escape and the circumstances thereof, and a little bit of what happened after. It is for the most part David's own account -- what he could tell me, anyway, after he escaped and before he disappeared again -- and a few of my own ideas as well. Anyway, this is what happened.

I do not know how David was enslaved, and he didn't tell me. If they bring him back intact, I'm going to ask him that first because it doesn't really seem right.... but now all I know is that several months ago, David just didn't show up for English class, and was soon found to be missing entirely from the campus of our boarding school. We were all very worried. Well, at first we were worried.... but you get used to people being gone if they are gone long enough, the assumption being then that David disappeared of his own volition (besides, people sometimes do that, you know, disappear) and the general consensus was, anyway, that if someone leaves or hides and does not want to be found, then we shouldn't go out of our way to find them as long as they're safe outiside the walls, as we'd assumed David was. It would be kind of rude.

So like that David disappeared for just shy of nine months, and nobody saw him again until a week ago, when he appeared, in full school uniform even, like he'd never been gone! And as happy as most people were to see David again, some thought he was changed to a degree; his eyes were flat behind his little round lenses. I thought then that he was probably just tired. I should have listened to them.

I was a little bit surprised when he came to see me. "You don't talk to anybody," he said, and he was sort of right. I don't say much, I don't have much to say (I dislike my school nurse who chocks it up to low self-esteem, which isn't true. I was born with a quiet gene, my guardian says, but anyway on Tuesday last David showed up at my dorm with a huge canvas duffel bag and started talking in earnest. He had to tell someone, he said, and he thought he could trust me (his exact words were: "You won't twist it as bad as most people would," which I happily assumed meant he trusted me). "I think I'm a trustworthy fellow," I brightly said, smiling. I wanted to make him feel welcomed back, at least. He sort of stared at me, which made me a little uncomfortable (given the rumors I didn't believe about his eyes); he flung his duffel onto my roommate's bed (an amusing side note: my roommate, a really wealthy and likeable fellow named Paul, was at this time gone to Vancouver to meet the little three-year-old kid who's the Buddhist high-priest or whatever it is. Paul told me that this little kid's looking for his "spiritual twin" here in the West, so if you're tall, lanky, about 28, long haired, and the Son of God, there's someone who wants to meet you, ha ha! I told Paul to keep his hopes up, you never can tell) and he began to talk and then didn't stop for about three hours...

"I was kidnapped and turned into a slave, but I escaped and came back here. Nowhere else to go." I nodded, offered David tea because he looked nervous, but he just kept talking with an urgent dispatch (he ignored me, actually, so I was a little put-off but decided to let it slide) while blankly staring out the window at the rugby field. (I couldn't help but wonder then what really had him so agitated, enough that he would be so intentionally rude to one of his fellows. He always was a bit strange, a smart, quiet type. Like me, I remember before he was taken, he didn't talk much, but I think his quiet was not for lack of anything to say (like me), but because he knew that most people are put-off by the exceptionally intelligent and the alienating way they talk and behave. Some people, in fact, actively disliked David, calling him "weird", "secretive", even "subversive" which I looked up in the dictionary -- they thought he was hiding something, and the impression many got was that HE WAS NOT HAPPY to be at our school, Brentwood College. (That's unheard-of, of course. Everyone wants to be here!) One of our Teachers -- European History -- once called him a "philistine," whatever that is....

As for physical appearances, David is short and.... I want to say "stout", but without giving the incorrect impression that he's fat, he isn't. He rather looks that way, but only because he is exceptionally short (5'1"!) He has hair that is always too long, a little curly and light brown; hazel eyes with the same kind of sparkle you often see in the eyes of a cocker spaniel. Well, that's before he was taken, not after (like I say, I thought he was just tired); little round glasses; a growly voice, quick movements, and an overall somehow unwashed seeming that makes him slightly repellant to most, but he liked it that way, I guess. Eyes that are so intelligennt and guarded that in a way I don't blame people for maybe being a bit suspicious of him -- those eyes, coupled with how quiet he usually is, make him seem to be constantly planning something.... his slaver would agree were he still alive but I'll get to that....)

David was made to live in a one-roomed little shed beside a house bigger and odder than any he'd ever seen, owned by an "ageless man named Gordon, and only Gordon," said David of his captor. Gordon, according to David, was tall, and a real diva by the sound of it. Plucked eyebrows, manicured nails, oiled- back hair dyed black. He wore flowing robes of earthy colors ("I am definitely an Autumn....") and acted quite "femenine and melodramatic" all the time, like a bad actor; he was contradictory in that he hated hated HATED in anyone else to see any evidence of what he called "the reprehensible state of being recognizably human."

"Emotions," David said, "were art to him, or a mask -- you do not feel them, you wear them like garish costume jewelry; like an actor does. You shelve them the moment they become an inconvenience, or if, on an off chance, they begin to ring true in a sub-cranial sense."

Gordon would fly into fits of horrible effeminate rage like tantrums some- times, David said, if he caught you breaking any of his billions of meticulous rules, displaying emotion the cardinal sin among them ("I was supposed to be a machine for him. If I smiled, frowned.... if I made any action that could be construed as indicative of any ordinary human emotion, he would zap me...") He never beat David, but he had "The Collar" -- an electric device stitched to David's neck that would give him a powerful shock when Gordon pushed a remote button he carried ("You get almost used to it after awhile, to the point where you aren't even surprised anymore when you suddenly hit the floor doing the Watusi because he shocked you for breathing hard or looking wrong or whatever it was.... I learned really quickly how to be neutral...") Gordon had also a way of "getting into your head," whatever that means ("That must have hurt," I said, an effort to lighten the mood. David didn't think it was funny. I decided to at least pretend to take him more seriously from that point on.) David said that Gordon was "horrible, inhuman," and so witheringly that... wow.... I got the chills. Those are strong words, no? I don't know what to believe.

David paused for some time. He then told me about the house and the grounds. He described it all very difficultly, but I remember what he said almost exactly.

"All the rooms," he said, "were identical. About 15x15, with white tile floors and concrete walls, a light fixture in the center of every ceiling. The only difference between any of them was where the doorway (with no actual door) was, of if they had a window or glass door onto a small balcony painted black. Featureless hallways and stairways of cement led from room to room and it was that featurelessness and the sameness of all the hundreds of rooms that could get anyone except Gordon lost.... I eventually learned how to get around by the view out the windows and by my proximity to Gordon's room where he would play opera all day on his record player; you could hear the music from anywhere in the house, despite its immensity, almost to complete detail. The house was nothing if not acoustically sound..... "

Loooooooong pause.

".....the music was increasingly distorted by echoes the further away you were. I learned to know where I was in the house in relation to Gordon's room on the upper-most level by that."

David went on about Gordon and his opera for some time ("....the more melodramatic and hollow, the better, but he loved all opera..." my opinion, and this of course is just me, is that any lover of opera can't be a half-bad fellow and I said so, to David's intense dismay "....Wagner, Verdi, Puccini, Gluck. Mozart, for some reason, only when he felt like being really bitchy.... he would not sing or dance to it, like maybe you'd think. He would drift about the house, staring dreamily at nothing, just listening to it, like, absorbing it or eating it up. He would express with his face and hands the emotions the singers sang about, like a silent movie, and hideously, theatrically over-done. It was horrible. Really, really horrible. He made the music seem so ugly to me....") with such hatred I found it disturbing to listen to. Goes to show what lack of sleep can do, I thought. Soon he began again to describe the house in greater detail. He went really technical on me and I don't really know what he was talking about -- David's a smart guy who's always going over my head -- so I'll just repeat what he said. You make sense of it.

"From outside the house looked behemoth and modern, very much like it was designed by Adolf Loos..."

Whoever that is!

"....ornamentation a crime, a machine to live in."

He shook his head. Here's where he got really intense on me, speaking fast.

"But the principle of functionalism in architecture -- the idea being that the building is designed for the greatest convenience of use possible -- stopped at the hous's sheer size. It was two-hundred feet high in places, and it covered at least ten square acres. Fuck," he swore, which shocked me, " could reasonably say that that bloody house was good for anything other than a bad joke. It looked like hundreds of huge cement blocks stacked unevenly, like a skewed military bunker or an apartment block by M. C. Escher: angular, confusing, and really, really ugly. Like public art you'd find back in Communist Germany outside the Stasi headquarters."

His sarcasm made me uncomfortable. It's the lowest form of humor, you know.

I again offered him tea -- a little bit of civilization, I laughed, but half-joking -- which he quite irratably turned down. Well. I could understand that he was maybe a bit tired, but that is not excuse to be rude, I thought but didn't say. He'd been through, well, something and deserved a little lee-way. He didn't notice and went on to describe the grounds on which the house sat.

"The house was on a sort of hill in the middle of about thirty fenced-in acres. All of this around the house was gardens, the place's only (somewhat) redeeming feature. They were left to go wild for years before Gordon brought me, and then he charged me with 'tending' them. Impossible. In that rainy climate, the gardens were wild -- a great tangled headachy cataclysm of deep foliage and bush. Through it all ran paths, a maze of them, which I learned my way around in. Gordon never came out there so I had somewhere to go at least, even if it wasn't out of range of his collar control.

"It would have taken fifty grounds-men to tend those 'gardens', if you could call them that. He wanted me to do it by myself, of course, the bastard...."

At this point he stared out the window at the rugby field for a long time. I was considering confronting him about his uncouth language and manner -- simply say "David, ahem, your manners are showing..." or the like, nothing nasty; it was upsetting, really. Then he looked at me with a scary intensity. I almost dropped my tea, I thought he was going to yell at me, but instead he went on about the house some more.

"All the rooms were empty!" He hissed, staring at me hard, I felt giddy.... "Completely empty of anything at all. Thieves, auctions, repossession as Gordon went bankrupt and increasingly unsound, I suppose, claimed most of the useful furniture and all of the decor before I came. Assuming, of course, there was ever any at all! All the rooms except Gordon's -- which had only his record player and records -- stood empty shells and on the walls was only dust. It was," he said, speaking quickly and scaring me, "almost sad, I thought. Such a house, by virtue of its size, and despite its intense ugliness, deserved better, as lonely as it was.

"Over one of the doors -- which I suppose you could call the 'front' door, it being the only one distinguishable from any other outside -- there were words gouged into the cement.

"'Qui Vivra Verra,' thay said. French. 'Who Will Live Will See.'"

With that he gave me a wry smile -- humorless, sure, but still a smile which reassured me. "Francais, le langue du civil, c'est vrai?" I said in my somewhat clumsy French. "Oui, c'est vrai," David answered absentmindedly, fiddling with the drawstring of his duffel, looking blank and worried.

He stopped, then, once more. I wondered if he wanted to go to sleep, a motion I'd have happily seconded. I really could not see any reason why his story could not wait until the morning, or until classes the next day. He left the drawstring alone and began picking at the crest on his blazer -- a hand holding a torch of gold, "De Manu in Manum": From Hand to Hand. He was gazing raptly at it, doubtless drawing strength, I thought then, from its inspiring motto. Refreshing, I thought, to see him doing that, especially after being such a long while gone. Faith in our School, says the Headmaster, is faith in life, salvation, deliverance, faith, and ourselves! He picked at it and sighed. After awhile he looked at me with quizzical eyes, and asked if he could show me something. I agreed, eagerly, for props make for more interesting stories. They also lend a certain degree of realism to them that cannot be denied....

He yanked the drawstrings on the duffel like a decision, and out tumbled all matter of garbage, books mostly, but also something wrapped in a green garbage bag. That is what he picked up and began to unveil.

"I managed to get hold of this, after awhile. I should have thought of it sooner." By now he'd removed the plastic to reveal a rather large hatchet, like the woodsmen use. This one was covered in blood and bits of gore and hair, which struck me as odd. "I thought you were supposed to chop wood with those," I said, taken aback somewhat. David looked at me painfully, not comprehending.

"What?" He gawked at me -- unnerving, thinking now what must have been going through his head -- and absentmindedly swiped the grimy blade over the right lapel of his blazer, smearing gore all over it!

"David! You got some on your uniform!!" I was aghast! "You are such a GRUBBY kid!!" I immediately grabbed for a towel, seized David, and scrubbed as much of the gore off as I could. In my haste (silly me!) I only made it worse, actually. I smeared it, even, all over the crest on his front pocket!

"Damn!" I swore! I felt justified given the distressing circumstances. "Let's just hope the dry-cleaners can get that out!"

I calmed myself, recognizing a hopeless situation for what it was, and poured myself more tea, my hands shaking. What an eventful night, indeed! And David did not even seem to care that his blazer -- we are allowed only one -- might have been ruined. He stared at me incredulously, and then burst out at me: "Do you even know how you're acting?!?" He looked almost panicky to me, and being the goof I am, I did not suspect anything by that question. It just surprised, disarmed me. "Of course I know how I'm acting, and I would think that you would at least try to help me! Clean yourself up, for the love of God!"

I avoid conflict when it isn't absolutely necessary, but I could not allow him to simply shrug off such a blatant -- if accidental -- act of disrespect towards the School. The Housemaster would have his hide! But then he took his blazer off, and, with a resigned expression, his cuffshirt and tye, as well. Best to keep them away from that messy hatchet.

I now saw a wide scabby wound around his neck, presumably where the collar had been stitched on. He vacantly fingered it, while I went about preparing my tea and throwing the towel, ruined, away.

I sat down, resolving to forgive and forget and allow him to go on with his little story. I nodded to David, who, with tears in his eyes for some reason, continued. "I bought it, sort of. Through the wall all around the place from a travelling tinker-type. I gave him my shoes." I noticed then for the first time that David was indeed shoeless. His socks were a disgrace, as well. Those, at least, could be replaced. I then said, feeling clever and wanting to make peace, taking a chance, "Well, at least you're investing in your future!"

David found that really funny. Inordinately so -- he laughed hard for a full ten minutes, and I was just happy to see him acting normal again, as perplexing as his laughter was. It wasn't that funny....

When David's little fit was through with, he told me that he had managed to hide the hatchet for quite some time in the gardens where Gordon never went. He placed the dirty thing, then, on the garbage bag, safely away from the bedclothes and his uniform.

"I am keeping it," he breathed, "to remind myself. He deserved to die."

I considered that, and was forced to disagree. "The Headmaster says that no-one deserves to die," I stated. "'Everyone will be judged in the end,'" I quoted proudly. He should have known that and I should have noticed that he didn't, but the Headmaster also teaches trust, among other things. I may have learned that lesson too well, heh heh....

David shook his head sadly. "Well, let's just say this," he said. "After the ten-thousanth time writhing on the floor, flailing my arms and head, hoping that if I just knocked myself unconscious the pain would stop, trying to smash my head into the floor hard enough to put myself out, but unable to control my muscles because of the current running through me.... Let's just say I had had enough." He again fingered the ring of scabs around his neck. "He would push that button and hold it down sometimes," he continued, teary-eyed, "and all I could do was fall, fry, and hope to die. He would shock me for the fun of it while miming his opera; sometimes he'd do it to the beat. I'd piss myself and shriek like an animal. He deserved to die. He needed to die!" David was almost pleading with me now. "Fine," I said, wanting to just dismiss this grim topic, a little uncomfortable with his haywire emotions. "Whatever turns your crank."

He had "purchased" the hatchet by stopping an old vendor/trinketeer man who walked by outside almost every day. ("That's illegal," I said. "What is?" David asked. "Private business, of course.") There was a thirty-foot electric fence all around the property -- with no gate. There was barely enough space between the bars to make the trade, and David felt very lucky that our issue shoes are rubber-soled. He hid the hatchet near his shed beside the house, deep in the bush.

That established, David changed the subject, wiping his eyes and turning almost businesslike in his delivery.

He told me about his duties as Gordon's slave. He was supposed to clean the house from top to bottom every day, which of course was impossible and never got done, earning David a shocking at the end of every day as punishment. He was supposed to dig a trench around the perimeter of the property (inside the fence, of course) using his hands. Gordon forced David to pluck his eyebrows and manicure his nails, and eventually he 'entrusted' David with the utmost duty of changing the records on his player.

"When one record ran out, I had to put on the next within thirty seconds or I would really get it. The illusion could not end for Gordon! When the record would end, I would of course be on the bottom level or outside, with no way of getting twenty stories up in time. Gordon would wait until I had changed the record before shocking me one as punishment."

I remember -- I think I remember -- wondering then if maybe all that electricity might not have done something to his brain, and I need to learn to start listening to my intuitions!

David said that he was not allowed to wear clothes. He was naked -- "like an animal" -- the entire time, under Gordon's insistance. Gordon's theory apparently was that it was far too easy to hide something in clothes.

"He was suspicious of me the whole time. I swear he spent much of his time waiting for his suspicions to be proved true. Like that was his reason -- his real reason -- for keeping me. If I got too close without previous consent he would shock me and I swear I could see a look in his eyes, like he thought he'd waylayed his own assassin, or had swatted the hornet just before it could sting. I think he might have known that I would kill him eventually...."

David went into great detail of his life there, rambling often, haywire and changing the subject erratically. The heat, the suffocating humidity. The loneliness, pain, and suffering. He didn't sleep at all for his whole time there; he would hallucinate often. He once found a baby bird fallen from its nest and formed a strange attachment to it. He kept it hidden in his shed, feeding it grubs from the garden. Gordon found it one day on a routine search of David's room and ground it under his heel, to the strains of the "O Mio bambino caro" aria from Verdi's Gianni Schicchi. "It's a song about begging forgiveness. The look on his face showed it; he crushed my bird underfoot before giving me another shock treatment."

He had to wash windows, he continued, and, given nothing to do it with (no window cleaner or cloth), he did it with his tongue. And there was, of course, the gardens to tend, as impossible as the rest of his tasks, all every day ammounting to failure of completion on all counts, and another prolonged shock therapy from Gordon as punishment.

David was getting increasingly absorbed in his story, and at that point, I have to be honest -- I was getting bored. Not to mention tired. I began to wonder if the whole story wasn't just a detailed fabrication to excuse his lengthy absence while also making me feel sorry for him.... which didn't really make sense, he'd only be caught in his lie.... and that also left the hatchet unexplained, which was just scary.... Soon his words faded completely, and he talked for a full hour -- details of his life there I cannot now recall -- before I came around with a sudden realization that I had forgotten something!

I told David to hold on for a moment, breaking his reverie of remembrance (or ?lies?), and stood. My Donation! I had almost forgotten to administer my Donation for the day, my daily contribution to the Headmaster! I felt silly and stupid, and could not think of any excuse as to why I had nearly forgotten. My Donation would be late, but my record is good -- I decided (hoped) the Headmaster would allow me this one small indisgression. We all know what happens to those who miss their Donations....

I took off all my clothes and went to my Monitor on the wall, slapping my inner elbow with two fingers like my Housemaster had shown me when I arrived at Brentwood. I turned on my Monitor, and recorded my name and the time (as well as a quick apology, so as not to waste His time!) and sank the long Needle into my arm. My Monitor whirred, and I felt my Donation being given.... and when the machine was done, I withdrew the Needle and offered it to David. He gave me a rather stony smile -- "maybe later" -- and I did not think anything of it. He would show his Love in time, I assumed. Thinking back, I should have insisted, but I reassure myself now that when he is found he'll make Donations enough for all the time he was gone.... I put on my issue house-coat, and allowed David to continue. I made a small, subtle plea that he hurry it up a little ("It's getting, ahem, late.") and he nodded and began the end of his story.

"Then I got the hatchet and I had my ticket out." He hid the hatchet and began to plan his escape. He would have to first get rid of the collar (" was stitched on with steel wire... I had to tear it off the night before..."), and then get Gordon into "one of the rooms with only one door" -- and no escape -- to first trap him, and then kill him.

"The hardest part of the whole thing was getting that bloody collar off. The stitches were buried really deep, I bled a lot. I didn't care. I picked the first stitch out and worked at it all night and got it off eventually. I was faint from bloodloss, but I stemmed the flow with my hands. I lived." I poured myself more tea then, again offering David the same, to his distracted denial.

At dawn of the day he would kill Gordon, he went to the bottom floor where Gordon ritually met him every morning to dispense his orders for the days work. David had the hatchet with him, and when Gordon arrived, David sped off through the house before Gordon could get a good look at him, but allowing him to see where he'd run to.

"Of course the first thing he did was push his button, and when that didn't floor me, he came after. I guess he thought that if he got closer, it would work again. I ran into a room I'd picked in my head the night before, and Gordon soon found me." David laughed scornfully. "I thought all the way up until then that he had actually been successful at repressing his emotions, stifling them completely. And he had, to a degree. All he had left was the freak hybrid distortion-echo of what should have resembled normal human emotion.... and you should have seen his eyes when he caught up to me. Shocked -- he couldn't believe it -- then furious... and then really, really scared when I pulled the hatchet out from behind my back ("What do you have there, slave? A present for Gordon?"). I circled around and he did the same -- it never even occured to him to run -- until I was at the door, blocking it, and he was stuck in that room. Funny," he said, smiling mirthlessly. "You know what was playing on the record player right at that moment?" He laughed, like you do at a funerol. "'Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves', from Nabucco. It's so ironic it makes me retch."

"That's a lovely opera," I remarked to an unhearing David, too locked in his memories to listen.

David attacked Gordon then, and Gordon didn't have a hope ("...he squeeled like a little girl..."). David described the 'battle' in pretty depthy detail. He was so gimly proud, like an earth-quake survivor, that I considered asking him to stop. Those kind of feelings only ever cause problems; but I really just wanted him to finish at that point, and be done.

David said that with each blow, he felt more and more free -- like he was growing wings with each strike. Gordon was easy to kill, he said, like a fragile bird. It did not take long at all. The room had a new decor, like a slaughterhouse, and when Gordon was "really dead", David chopped him up into hundreds of tiny bits, and put one in each room "to make sure the house knew he was dead." That struck me as a little odd -- houses do not live -- and I said so. David only continued as though he had not heard me.

Getting over the perimeter fence and away was difficult, David went on. It took him another day to figure out how, but he eventually just climbed a tree and swung out over the fence to another on the opposite side, and down to "freedom." He donned his uniform (kept in a box under the floor of his shed the whole time), and, shoeless, came back to Brentwood on foot, swimming the Channel between islands, and arriving on Saltspring Island two days before he came to see me. He had found the duffel bag and all the books and things (all of which he knew were against the rules) in one of the old houses on Vancouver Island, had put his gory hatchet in, and had come strait back to Brentwood College.

"And now I'm here," he finished, in due time, too. I breathed a silent relief, and smiled. "Back where you belong, eh?" He looked at me, half- smiling, and then said "Which brings me to why I came to see you."

My interest perked -- so he had had a point all along! And I was eager for anything he could tell me that would make the whole lengthy story worthwhile. He studied me closely for some time, seeming wary and wondering. I looked at my clock -- after midnight -- and gestured for him to go on... and had I known what he would say, I would have ended it there. Sent him packing, as it were. But dissidents, as the Headmaster warns us, often wear clever masks and are often not easily spotted.

He began by asking me a tentative question -- "Are you happy here?" -- to which I readily responded in the affirmative. Who, in their right mind, could not be?

David stood and came to me, searching my eyes, his own desperately hopeful, and I was confused. What was he getting at, I wondered. "Do you believe in the Headmaster, that what he says is... absolute?"

I grew suddenly, violently suspicious! David's hopeful smile turned into a grotesque, coquettish leer, and I knew! I knew him for exactly what he was. I played it cool, as is best in such situations. Dissidents are lonely, desperate, depraved individuals, to be feared like cornered rats.

"Why, yes," I said innocently, revolted -- physically ill -- at what I knew was happening.

"Come with me," he then said, urgently and smiling like a painted whore. I was floored but retained my outward veneer of calm. "Come with you where, David?"

He stopped, he stared, getting angry (but I could see the animal despair in his eyes at having failed to tempt me!), I looked into the Abyss. He changed tactics upon seeing that I was a solid bastion of the School, an unwavering pillar of devotion....

"Did it ever occur to you..." he labored, hissing, his eyes turning green, "...that the Headmaster could ever be, well... WRONG?!?"

Those words entered my head like fire, and I could not retain myself any longer! His wicked slander would stop now! I could not deal with the sound of it. What would make him want to destroy, when he had everything? What gave him the right to raise up hell, when he had everything he could ever want or need provided for him by the Headmaster? I could barely speak.

I leaped, I dropped my tea and it splattered across the floor, over the white tiles and under my bed. David grabbed my wrist, wrenching it, his baleful leer growing wider still.

"Did you ever wonder why you have never seen the Headmaster? Ever wondered why you so unquestioningly accept what he says to be true?" He gestured toward my Monitor, pointing an accusing hand (We would all later find out, after he disappeared again, that, previous to his initial dis- appearance, he had not made a legitimate Donation for over a month; he had only entered his name and the date and had allowed his Donation to spray all over the floor, pricking himself afterwards to keep up appearances. That is an offence punishable by immediate expulsion, it being the most profound insult to the Headmaster and his Institution, back to the slovenly and hellish lifestyle from which all of us unfortunately come).

All I felt then was a tremendous, protective compassion towards David; a panicky hatred for his words; powerful fear, for it is exactly that sort of behavior which will occasion the end of everything. I covered my ears, tearing my wrist away, and I yelled at David. "IT IS EXACTLY THAT KIND OF TALK THAT CAUSES PROBLEMS! IT IS THAT KIND OF TALK THAT WILL GET YOU HURT!"

I tried to stand and run to find the Housemaster -- at that point, as much as I wanted to help poor sick David, I was just too scared to think straight -- but David pushed me down on the bed and crowed, "GORDON WAS THE HEADMASTER!! GORDON WAS THE..." He shrieked this in a wildly victorious, crazed and delirious manner, his eyes burning sickened dead. But he could not fool me. I knew then just how sick he was, and with renewed strength, I pushed David away hard and he fell, slipping in my spilled tea. I ran out the door and down the hall past all the many rooms, and escaped his words. I alerted the Housemaster, told him what had happened, all shaky and upset as I was. The Housemaster -- righteous servant that he is -- ran to look for David, but David was gone. He'd disappeared again, and he hasn't been found yet.

* * * * *

They turned the entire campus on its head looking for him -- dissidents must not be allowed to escape, they are far too dangerous -- but they did not find him. He had left his duffel bag but not the hatchet, so it is known that he is armed and dangerous and, worse, at large with his illness. I am, we are, confident that he will be apprehended, and I hope so -- for his sake, really. We are taught nothing if not charity, even to those who would seek to destroy us. His rehabilitation will be swift, I'm sure, and he'll come back to us the David we once knew. I have administered several extra Donations, in the name of our worried Headmaster, that they might lend Him the necessary strength to find and deal with the interloper. For now all we do is hope. Speaking as David's friend, on his behalf, I am sure that in his heart he wants only devotion, a life of safety, plenty, and giving that only our Headmaster can provide.

The Teachers seem especially distraught, given the circumstances. I told them the whole story as I've recorded it here, and they found it deeply disturbing. It's rare nowadays to look anywhere on campus and not see one of our Teachers, pale and drawn and whispering to themselves in worry. I am sure they are toiling night and day to bring David back to us, and I hate to see his story distressing them so.....

My Monitor has been malfunctioning lately. On the screen at all times are blinking words -- "Nous Avons Vu; C'est Fini"- but that, I'm sure, will be fixed in due order. Mine isn't the only one, it seems. The Mainframe must be having difficulties.

And as for David, as I've said, I am quite confident that he'll be found -- I don't know where he's gone to, but I imagine they'll find him eventually. Hopefully bring him back to School, where he... where everyone... happily, rightfully, and safely belongs....

        ok that's everything i think
         -  -    -   (static fuzz; long beep; click)



"Give us the man," shouts the multitude, "who will step forward and take the responsibility." He is instantly the idol, the lord, and the king among men. He, then, who would command among his fellows, must excel them more in energy or will than in power of intellect.

-- Burnap


[Prev | Footer]

by I Wish My Name Were Nathan

So I walk into the classroom in the Cullen Building, the oldest building on campus. The stairs were squeaking as I came up (I wondered if they'd break under my steps). The air is musty, somehow, but air conditioning masks that a bit. Windows let in the sunlight coming from the east, but this clashes with the brown paint on the windowsills and trim. It's a little uncomfortable.

In the classroom are about ten other students, all younger than me, because this is an introductory class. Also, they're eager freshmen and they arrive on time. They look briefly at me as I enter, they don't recognize me, and they resume their nervous chatter. I sit on the edge of the classroom.

I sit next to the windows. The wall faces the east and the bright sunlight is coming in, glaring out my desk. I won't be able to take notes. But someone will undoubtedly close the blinds anyway, someone who cares. I sit down and look secretively at the others in the room. A lot of young and happy faces. I resent them. They resent me. I bring them down.

I pull out a notebook, a pencil, and an eraser, and nervously doodle on the first page. The first page usually falls out after time. Not important. In big letters, a message dominates the center of the page: "I will not write on this page."

Soon the older students come in. I recognize some of them. They sit in the back of the class. The professor comes in, a friendly-looking grey-haired lady. She leans back aloofly against the large wooden table at the front of the room, waiting for the rest of the students to arrive. They trickle in, many without the slightest indication of knowing they're late, or caring about it. They don't sit in the back. It's full. Some of them sit around me and start gossiping.

"You hear about Clint?"


"He ain't gonna be here for a few weeks."

"Why not?"

"Broke his legs."

"The fuck! What up with that?"

"Three days ago, havin' an end-of-summer party. He and Michael were shit-faced. Michael dares him to stand on the window ledge. He does. He falls off."

"How high?"

"Two stories."

"Shit, that crazy asshole."

"You shoulda heard what Michael done...."

I decide next time to look carefully for somewhere different to sit, like for instance, alongside that fucking awesome-looking guy three rows over. He looks uncomfortable too. I can sit behind him and pester him.

The light streaming in through the big, open windows attracts me. I stare dreamingly at the grass outside, two stories below. If I ran at it right, I could jump through without any interference. The professor starts speaking.

"First off, I want to say that this is not a conventional history class. I expect you to have comprehensive knowledge of the facts beforehand."

Where's my drop card? I look over the syllabus she's passing out and then look over at other students. The attractive males don't seem perturbed. Should I stay in this class then? The syllabus mentions essays and research and work and work and sly remarks about dedication. I close my notebook and wait it out.

Right off, like college professors do, we start the work. She hands out photocopies, an article about the Reconstruction.

"I love photocopies," she says. I hastily scan the syllabus again -- every week we turn in copies of notes we've taken in the library and elsewhere -- and wonder if I should loudly point out the existence of computers and the paperless classroom.

We read the article. It's brief but juicy. I didn't know some of this stuff. She tells us that this is one of many accounts. During the semester we'll be studying how other historians have diverged from textbook accounts of various events throughout American history. I suddenly realize I have no interest.

After discussing the article, she asks for questions. I look around. The students can't possibly be as calm as they look. Their blank faces betray the disgust they must feel with the arrangement of the course. Those attractive boys can't be looking forward to all this pointless research. They have to drop the course and join me on a crusade against paper wastage. Or hang out in the coffeehouse and let me imagine flirting with them. This is a beautiful time of day to get my heart broken.

"I think someone is in the wrong room," the professor says in a matronly tone.

I look up and know she's looking at me with that wry grin.

"You seem out-of-place here, Nathan. Did you sign up for this class?"

I nod yes. I resist the urge to act embarrassed.

"I take it you're not too familiar with history, then?" she suggests. She knows.

"It's not a big love of mine," I admit. "But I wanted to study it."

She laugh and some students join in. "Good excuse!"

Someone asks aloud, "Isn't this class for history majors?"

"Not necessarily," the professor points out. "We occasionally let other types in."

"I hope we don't have to pace it to his level," someone else says. I look around. It's the boy I was staring at earlier! Sigh.

"If history does repeat itself," the professor remarks, "then Nathan will be repeating the course." This is greeted by gales of laughter.

I'm not sure that's true. I don't think there's any reason to stay in a class just to get a bad grade.

But I give in. I sense some animosity. "Does anyone have a drop card, then?"

"Certainly none of these students thought of bringing one, did you?" the professor asks. There's some sarcastic laughter.

"Well, uh, I guess I'll bring a card by later today," I said.

"But Nathan, you've got until March to drop the course, if you won't make it a priority."

"I will," I said, wondering why she'd imply I wouldn't. I look around and notice several faces giving me bored looks, exasperated, eager to learn about something else besides my gift of failure. The sun has been burning into my neck and I jerk my head back to the front of the room, at an old map rack in the corner, with ancient Europe from the 1600's depicted. The colors have been bleached by the sunlight, although the map faces away from the sun. I remember that map rack from my modern art class last year, where I was the only non-art major and got an A. It seems to taunt me, following me from room to room.

I shove my notebook and pencil back into my backpack. I carry the eraser in my fist, not wanting to laboriously return it to its designated pouch. I stand up and make to leave.

"Why, Mr. Almerad, you needn't leave so soon. Try to bear out the rest of the hour. We'll indulge you."

"I'm going to find a drop card ASAP," I remark, with a tint of bitterness that comes out as beleaguered exhaustion, and walk out the door, my egress aided by thirty impatient stares.

Back into the poorly lit hallway, the brown trim, no sunlight and high flourescents. My footsteps resonate upon the wooden floor and I head for the stairs. I take a seat in a wooden bench on the ground floor, where all the administrators and wandering professors eye me as they pass. I look through the course list. I spy an intro to religion course in twenty minutes. I circle it and head out of the building.


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