Sweet Blasphemies

“O, you are the Devil, ”

you always say with a smile

while I lick your navel till

you croon, moan, gyrate.  Meanwhile

I say, ”Babe, you pray more

now, when we are making love,

than you do kneeling on the floor. ”

And with a pull, and a shove,

you are Lilith of old,

in Biblical times, in times gone,

and you straddle me, overbold —

demon riding, on and on.

Possessed, you rock yet more,

the paroxysms not yet done,

and you crash, like waves on a shore

beneath a hot, heaving sun.

Panting, sweating, a gasp

expelled, you rake your sharp claws,

Cleopatra clutching her asp

according to Heathen laws.

Galilee ebbs and flows

while old Babylon crumbles,

but listen to Ishtar —she knows

why a lonely god grumbles.

Passion and respect, both,

find a home in the other,

equal in both, and so Love ’s oath

is to joy in one ’s lover.

The first wrong done by Man

was not letting Woman find

in him equality, Woman

denied in body and mind,

and so, my sweet Lilith,

let us take turns in rhythm

and harmonize in breaths till myth

harmonizes within them.

Whosoever atop,

the rhythm remains, a song

of respect, of desire, nonstop;

passion was never a wrong,

and I would gladly flee

the comforts of Eden’s lies,

with you, to be in harmony

with the passion in your eyes.

The Dragon

From the gable the hanged man swayed,

weather-worn and his long coat frayed,

and, down below, the blacksmith laughed

to see crows as he plied his craft.

The sun went down, but the corpse stayed

while the blacksmith bettered his trade

until he heard hooves beating swift

neath the moon, in the midnight rift

of life and death, flesh and soul,

while the fog, thick, began to roll.

On pale horses there came a host

through the moonlight, each like a ghost

in fine Fae feature and attire,

of noble bearing, knight and squire.

“Hail,” said the blacksmith, “lord of streams,

lord of hills and of moonlit dreams.”

The Fae lord nodded, yet his eyes

went to the hanged man, and the flies

that buzzed about and swarmed around,

their song of joy a constant sound.

“You are as we,” remarked the lord,

pointing with his sharp silver sword.

“You have hunted and won, with skill,

as we have, in field, mount and hill.

But what worth is such common fare?

Wherefore this man dances in air?”

The blacksmith smiled shrewdly, and said

“Tell, first, the stories of each head

hanging from your fine-worked saddles,

for I wish e to hear such battles.”

The Fae lord gestured to a knight

and he dismounted, at child’s height,

taking down, then, an ogre’s head

from his lord’s saddle, splattered red,

and the head had tusks, sharp and long,

and its jaws were big, its chin strong,

but all lay lax in that dead face,

life gone from it, without a trace.

“I slew this monster near the bridge

that extends from stone ridge to ridge

for he preyed upon our kindred,

his hunger great, yet now ended.”

The knight returned the trophy, now,

and sought another, whose broad brow

was maned with marshy hair that hung

blackish green, and a limp pale tongue

between needle teeth, its long snout

like a horse, its horns curving out.

“Here is the pookah, a deadly mount

who haunted the swamp’s bracken fount,

dragging drunkards into the peat

and tearing them apart to eat.”

The third head was of an eagle,

but giant, golden, beak regal.

“And here, at last, is the griffin,”

said the lord, and, with a sniff, then,

told of how the foul fowl laid claim

to all his flocks and all his game,

and so the lord had set a trap,

baiting the beast till, with a snap,

he brought it down with an arrow

which pieced shrieking through the air so

that the beast fell at once, quite done,

though the quills still shone like the sun.

“My only regret,” said the lord,

as he sighed and sheathed his stained sword,

“is having only trophies three

whereas four would better please me

for my trophy hall has such space

that it would gain from one more face.

But enough of such things,” he said.

“Tell me how he came to be dead.”

The blacksmith grinned like a demon.

He said, “By his ill-spilt semen

upon that which was fairly mine—

my wife!  So I showed him the line

between good and bad, life and death,

and the lecture cost him his breath.

As for my wife—she is chained

within my house, our vows profaned,

yet even now I work my bellows

to make right of this.  Trust, fellows,

that this scarlet letter shall bleed

from another maiden, whose breed

is made of the finest points known,

and has iron in place of bone.”

The Fae lord looked at the maiden

which the blacksmith made, so laden

with spikes where her heart should have been,

more monstrous than any such kin

of ogre, griffin, or such ilk

nourished by wicked blood-laced milk.

“She is my wife,” the blacksmith said,

“as is that faithless girl whose head

and heart were won by Love’s deceit,

but my good wife shall drink replete,

for the faithless wife shall so slake

the steadfast wife, for her mistake,

and by merit of blood provide

from bed to bed, and bride to bride.”

He worked the hot, wrathful bellows,

the embers of orange-yellows

flaring like fitful flies of fire

or, perhaps, flecks of vain-desire.

He said, “To me her only worth

was insomuch as field to serf:

a thing to be plowed in such time

for hale harvest in proper clime.

But she harbored fancies bygone

with this rogue, whom I have high-drawn.

As if the heart should rule such things

when we know gold rules even kings,

and I have amassed a great hoard

through my flames, by horseshoe and sword.

Verily, I have grown steel plates

for whole armies, helms for pates,

and such great horns like a ram’s crown

that could blow ancient mountains down.

Should I not revenge myself

against fickle wife, lordly elf?”

The blacksmith grinned, very much pleased

and then laughed loudly, till he wheezed.

The Fae lord smiled, too, though grimly,

and then he hopped down, quite nimbly,

from his horse, silver sword in hand

and though short, his eyes held command

of all they gazed on, man or Fae,

his decrees none could disobey.

“I thank you,” he said, “for your truth,

and I thank you for more, forsooth,

as I longed to slay once more before

returning to my hillside door,

and here I have found at long last

a dragon whose flame hath cast

horrid shadows of deeds foul done

and deeds yet done beneath the sun.

Thus I have found my fourth trophy.”

And no sooner than lord quoth, he

struck head clean off the man’s shoulders

whereupon his banner-holders

fetched it up from the bloody lawn

(the mouth slack-jawed, as if to yawn)

and hung it on their lord’s horse

thereafter freeing bride, of course,

from her shackles, then cut down, too,

her lover from his gabled view.

The cock’s crow heralded first light,

so the Fae company took flight

and vanished as dew in the dawn—

like mist from fabled Avalon.

Bit And Bridal

 We stood together, arrayed in a circle—much like the standing stones around us—and in the center of our circle was the dead horse, its head still bleeding from the gaping bullet hole that cratered the center of its long forehead.  Its tongue hung slack and pale between its twisted teeth.

 “Ready the blade, Matthew,” the master said.

 I did as I was bidden, sharpening the ax on the whetstone and discerning the fine gleam of the blade by moonlight as the strokes spit sparks.  The sibilance of stone on steel unnerved me, but I knew better than to disobey the master, especially now, when the lich moon was rising toward its zenith and hour of the Worm wheeled Cerberus above the standing stones.

 “Make ready the saddle!” the master commanded.

 Two servants hurried to lay the saddle upon the dead beast’s back.  The master upended his bottle of brandy, meanwhile, downing the rest of its burning amber courage to help him see the ritual to completion.  The bottle dry, he sighed angrily, breathlessly, and hurled it against a standing stone, shattering the glass as his chest heaved with mad resolve and contrary fear; desperate rage and mortal terror.  He turned to me like a man invoking his daimon.

 “Enough!” he said.  He staggered toward me, falling on his knees, his brow profuse with sweat.  “It will cleave true with keenness of blade or keenness of damnation, one or the other.”

 The master extended his hand upon the stone altar, his fist closed except for the ringfinger, the latter apart from the others and still encircled with the silver token of his marriage.  He had not taken it off for two years, nor ever would.  Whether widower or bridegroom yet again, he would not doff the silver wedding ring that bound him to his beloved wife, Filianore, now lost in the shades of the realm beyond.

 “Strike quickly!” he commanded.  “Strike true!”

 I put aside the whetstone and readied the ax in my hand with a tight grip, a careful aim, and a long hesitation.

 “Damn you, Matthew!” the master shouted.  “Be done with it!”

 I brought the crescent blade down upon the master’s ringfinger.  The blade made a rather satisfactory butcher’s sound, as should be heard in a shop when a butcher dresses a pig.  The finger split from the hand, parting a hair’s width from the silver ring itself.  Master cried out, but it seemed more a cry of exultation than pain or regret.  He then took up the bleeding ringfinger, and the ring, and hurried to the dead horse.  Kneeling down, the master spoke a few words which I did not understand.  It was a different language.  He spoke softly, urgently, then pressed the severed finger into the horse’s mouth, as one would a bit for a bridle.  At first, nought seemed to happen.  The servants and I watched with abated breath, horror as wild in each face as hope was in the master’s.  Quite suddenly the beast’s slack mouth tightened its teeth, clamping blindly upon the finger and the ring.  The lax tongue lolled to life, spiraling like a searching slug until it had found the bloody end of the dismembered finger.  It proceeded to lap at the bloody digit.  The horse shuddered, then whinnied, and rose most unnaturally from its puddle of blood and filth, standing at attention on its four hooves.  We backed away as one; all except the master who exulted.

 “By Judas’s coin, it worked!” he shouted triumphantly.  Then, in a lower voice, he said, “Strap the saddle tightly upon the beast’s flanks.”

 No one moved forth to do as bidden.  We exchanged glances as war-time compatriots might when one unwittingly spoke the name of a savage battle none were meant to speak of again.

 “Secure the saddle!” the master shouted.

 We would not.

 “Craven and callow, the lot of you!” he shouted, then secured the straps himself, his four-fingered hand fumbling with leather and blood in slippery disunity.

 The horse meanwhile stood silently, tonguing the master’s severed finger, but otherwise it did nothing.  The hole in its forehead revealed the cooled mush of its oozing brains.  To look upon it was to look upon the frailties and treacheries of flesh, and to marvel at the abominations rendered unto it by the despair of the soul.

 The saddle secure now, the master pulled himself up onto the undead beast’s back.  There were no reins, nor was there need for them.

 “To Filianore, you diabolical creature!” the master cried.  “Bring me to my beloved on the Plutonian shore!”

 The horse hobbled at first, its limbs trembling with reawakened life, then hastened into an unnatural gallop, the motion of its legs graceless and mechanical, like a puppet worked by inept hands and slackened strings.  But by strides, and by infernal powers not meant for the scope of Man, the pale horse rose from the earth and treaded the nocturnal air, rising and rising into that blasphemous sky with its lich moon and baleful stars, rising into the air like a wandering wraith and carrying the master to lands unknown to all but the most damned of men.

 We waited for hours.  It was yet not dawn and we sat in the ring of standing stones, not knowing whether we wished the master to return or not.  The sun’s warmth remained as a sullen orange glow beyond the trees.  The chill of night lingered, alongside the dew, and a fog tumbled groggily with the nightmare phantoms of what had been dreamt that night before.

 We saw the silhouettes through that ghostly fog; gray shadows half-glimpsed by eyes and half-dismissed by reason.  The horse emerged first, its head yet cratered with the fury of the shell.  Then the figure emerged beside the horse, stumbling as if a drunkard fresh from the tavern.  It was the master, though now his dark hair was whiter than the fog itself; his face gaunt and wrinkled too much for a man even of three decades henceforth.  Yet, the gleam of mad triumph illuminated his sunken eyes.

 And then there was Filianore.  She swayed with the lethargic amble of the horse, tilting slowly left and then right, left and then right, near enough to falling off on either side, yet she did not fall.  She yet wore the white dress in which she had been buried, only now the veil was sallow, the dress stained with filth and rot and the ruin of the grave.  But it was her eyes that transfixed all upon whom they gazed.  For there were no eyes in her head: only empty black sockets in which worms writhed in cloyed stupefaction.

 And upon a pale horse she came.  Upon a pale horse she came for us all.

Lo Fi Firefly

Soft tread, soft glow, she’s a firefly

in a black hoodie, black mood, she’s walking by

on a country road, with snug bug headphones

pumping lo fi beats, piano tones.

School blazer, senpai-hazer, plaid skirt,

breezy frills, black stockings, mid-thigh flirt,

luminescent crescent lunar-lobed ear

sprouting diamond petals, her black bangs sheer;

ambling, rambling, moontime walk,

hill humps, roadside bumps, cricket talk,

stars distant, obi-bright, pebble speckled,

blue nebula banners helter-skelter freckled,

full moon brimming, limning, dreaming radiance,

the moonbow spectrum and its gleaming gradients.

The tanuki strolls up along beside her,

a raccoon bear without a care, as tall, but wider,

straw hat, sleepy gaze, whistling his song,

swaying arms, masked face, bobbing along,

no words, no eye contact, just some space

in warm Summer air, and the slight trace

of matcha tea, of forest freshness, quite mellow,

now street signs glowing here and there, bright yellow,

two figures part at the coming parkway yield

and he lays down in a nice rice paddy field.

Shoegaze drone now, briny oceanic breeze,

kiss of soft-flung surf, the low-key ease

of tides glaze-lazing to a lounge rhythm,

the tip-toeing piano cadence within them,

lulling stroll, gloss-stare, the forgetful sands,

sonorous seaside cliffs, echo-waves, drowsy lands,

a mountain sloping to a nonchalant crest,

encoiled in a centipede of silent forest,

eyes aglow in the syncopating serpent depths,

old monk mantra along tottering treble clefs,

shuffling silent sneakers seeking inland,

a pink valentine card held in hand,

the fireflies blinking with a mild, beguiled beat,

the pitter-patter of phantasmal feet,

pale-faced spirits hopping in the high tree tops,

beyond the Shinto shrine sheltered in the copse,

jittery, chittering childlike babble,

a somnolent little branch-borne rabble

and concordance with the green leaf rustle

in the torpid winds, quiet hustle-and-bustle,

never hurrying, yet coming, by and by, along

as she follows her innocent inner song.

Power lines, now, streetlights, lamp posts,

electric hum, neon lights, jaywalking ghosts,

small town midnight-twilight, insomniac windows,

no headlights, no bed-frights, the wind blows

unheard, unseen, her black hair still,

unmoved, slight frown, turning of her heel

down a sidestreet, panes dim, white wall alley

as percussion beats palpitate, then rally.

Long walk without talk, she reads the address,

still bobbing to mellow music, a raven tress

gone astray, the headphones looser now,

but not off, firefly glow waning on her brow.

A crow crosses the moon, wings like eyelashes

as the moon’s eye blinks, and the car crashes

in flashback, (crash-smack), soft as a dying mist

in dim memory, and now this long-sought tryst.

A waking dream, long-sought scheme, a lost lullaby

as the lo fi beats fade, fade, fade, the heartbeats die.

Looking up at his window, she sees, she knows

the music stopped hours ago, and now the wind blows

but is unfelt, unknown, a thing now apart

like the valentine card, and his beating heart.

Setting the card down, she turns away,

fading out with the music, and the coming day.

Suicide Is Painless

(Explicit Warning Sexual Themes, Violence, Language)

 

 

 

That suicide is painless

It brings on many changes

And I can take or leave it if I please…

Johnny Mandel

 

 

 The man in the hooded robe escorted Austen through the dark underground corridor of ancient stone, holding aloft a torch that licked at the vaulted ceiling.  The robed man said nothing, nor did Austen say anything.  The latter held his breath in nervous excitement and existential terror, and a little embarrassment.  His dream was about to come true, in a certain fashion.  And then his life would end, but wouldn t it end while he was young and happy, which was more than he could have expected if he lived a long, lonely life?

 A chill breeze wormed through the wet corridor, carrying strange whispers and echoes of times bygone and unguessed.  It smelled of damp earth and old bones and death.  Austen shivered, trembling in his hoodie and putting his hands in his jean pockets, shrugging his shoulders up to his ears.  His ears were small, and underdeveloped, and unflattering, much like his chin or so he always thought.  To compensate for these weak features, Austen s nose was overly prominent, long and slightly hooked.  Pale blue eyes world-weary and insomniac stared sadly out from above that bold nose.  In highschool he was called Toucan  because of his nose.  The name stuck and when people thought of him, should they have thought of him at all, thought of him automatically as Toucan .  No one called him by his actual name; not even his teachers.  They did not talk to him at all.

 The stone passageway descended stone stairs.  Austen followed the hooded man until they came to a door.  It was an oddly modern door.  The robed figure beckoned Austen to the door, and so Austen turned the knob, opening of his own free will the door and leaving the ancient, dark corridor behind.  He entered a room bleached with bright white light.  Eyes adjusting as he stepped forward, he heard the door close behind him and went to meet his destiny.

 It was a waiting room, not unlike what he would have expected in a doctor s office or ambulatory care.  There were somewhat-comfortable chairs arranged around a room tiled in gleaming, checkered linoleum.  Some framed photos lined the walls, and paintings, depicting eldritch symbols and locations, such as the Plains of Leng and the tourist town of Dunwich and the Bermuda Triangle, and there were a few potted plants which breathed in the various corners of the room.  To the far wall was a door and beside the door was a large glass window behind which was partitioned the receptionist s desk.  To this Austen went first, unsure of himself (as always) and looking for reassurance.

  Hello,  he said meekly.   I…I m Austen Blackwell.  I have an appointment.

  Sign in,  said the hooded man behind the window.  He was busy doodling eldritch abominations on some scrap paper.  Without looking up he took a clipboard up and handed through the slot in the window.  A large stack of forms was bulging out from under the clip.   Take these and fill them out, signing where marked in green, and return them to me as soon as you are finished.

  Thank you?  Austen said, unsure what his response should have been.

 The hooded receptionist ignored him, focusing instead on drawing tentacles.

 Austen signed in on the arrival sheet, just in case, and then took the clipboard with its bulging stack of forms and went to a corner of the waiting room, taking a seat as far away from the other men in the room as possible.  There were several other men in the waiting room.  They were of various ages and ethnicities, but all of them seemed like they spent too much time stooped over a computer or a cellphone.  Several of them were stooping over their cellphones presently, or filling out the necessary forms.  Some were watching porn.  Austen could hear women moaning and gasping in various volumes while men grunted and groaned.  Others were looking through Facebook for women.

  Rachel Pennington was such a bitch in highschool,  someone said.   I can t wait to fuck her stupid.  Stick my dick down her stuck-up throat and cum till it comes out her nose.  See if she laughs at me then…

 Austen wondered about these men in this waiting room; wondered if he had communicated with any of them on the online forums and 4chan.  Maybe they were the faces for the familiar online names he had come to know on a daily basis.  Rejectotron79.  Incellularzzz.  Chadbitchboy45.  None of them posted photos online except when someone wanted to be roasted, and that was infrequent.  Austen thought about posting his own photo in the forum, just to confirm his own worst fears (that no girl on earth would want to date him, let alone marry him and reproduce with him), but he had chickened out.  He had scoured his own features enough to know, without phrenological debate, that he was a hopeless specimen.  He didn t need strangers to tell him what he had known since he was a child.

 Austen focused on the paperwork.

  Hey,  someone said.   What s yours going to be?

 Austen looked up.  A large man with freckles in a fat face smiled mirthlessly down at him, his glasses white circles of hot light.

  Audrey Hepburn,  Austen said automatically.  He wanted the ginger-haired man of an indeterminate age to go away.

  Classy and classical,  the ginger-haired man said.   But a little too skinny for me.  No tits at all, either.   He plopped down in the chair next to Austen s, pulling out a cellphone.   Look at mine,  he said, grinning slimily.   They re to die for, man.

 Austen humored him, hoping he would go away more quickly.

  See?  the ginger-haired man said.   I got several. You can have several, if you want. I m going to start off with Halle Berry.  Then go to Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, and finish with Mariah Carey while she sings You ll Always Be My Baby .  See?  That s how you should do it.  Really go all out.  With a bang.   He smiled a far-off smile.   That s the way to go.  Go big.

  Man, shut up,  said another man in the waiting room.   Your spiel is getting old.   This man had a black beard, likely to cover what Austen suspected to be a weak jawline, and to make him appear older and more mature.   You re so beta you should have been born castrated.  Bragging like that, you probably won t even last past Halle Berry.  You ll cream your pants before you can even stick it in.  Then It will laugh at you, like all of the other girls who ve known you.

  Fuck you,  the ginger-haired man said.   You don t even want to share what yours is.  Probably because you re a pedo wanting to rape Shirley Temple.

  Fuck you, asshole,  the bearded man said.   I m no pedo.  You re just projecting.

 Another man creepier than the other two started chuckling.   I m fucking Veruca Salt,  he volunteered with a slanted grin.  He was in his fifties and bald with a large pate that rose like a hill atop his head.  He was overweight, his body swollen beneath his white T-shirt.   I don t give a shit who knows.  Won t matter afterward anyway.

  You re a sick piece of shit,  the bearded man said.

  A real sick piece of shit,  the ginger-haired man agreed.

  We re all sick pieces of shit,  the bald man said, unfazed.   I mean, It s not even human anyway, so you re all a bunch of sick fucks, too.  It s like beastiality.  You re fucking something that isn t human.

 There was an awkward silence in the waiting room.  Austen had tried to focus on his paperwork throughout this exchange, but now he stopped, his hand trembling as it held the pen above a list of check-boxes asking about allergies.  He was having second thoughts, not just about his singular choice of Audrey Hepburn, but the whole appointment.

 A hooded man appeared from within the inner door of the waiting room.

  Appointment #A4b269?  he called.

 A young man with dirty blonde hair rose, quietly, as if he could camouflage himself with silence as he hurried to the door.  He followed the robed man out of the waiting room.  Several of the men watched him go with a mixture of envy and dread.

  He s a hero,  someone joked, breaking the silence.  He whistled Taps for a moment, but lost the melody.

 The bald man resumed his argument from before, leering.

  It s not human,  he said, and so all of you are basically just goat-fuckers as far as I am concerned.  No better than me.

  It s not Shub-Niggurath,  the ginger-haired man said defensively.   Genetically, it can become anything.

  It can mimic anything,  the bearded man said.  He scowled at the bald pedophile.   Luckily for this sick fuck, otherwise I d fucking slit his goddamn pig throat for abusing kids.

 The bald fat man laughed.   Mr White Knight has a problem with me diddling little girls.

  I have a little sister, you asshole!

 The bald man smiled in oleaginous self-satisfaction.   But you re still going to fuck that Shoggoth, aren t you?

 The bearded man went silent.  He stared with a heated hatred at the bald man, but his scruffy jaw could not move in defiance of what he had said.  Austen watched it, rapt, feeling like he should say something on the bearded man s behalf, and on his own behalf, and to wipe that smirk off the bald man s face, but, as always, words failed him, his confidence failed him, and he went back to filling in information and signing his name in the green-markered sections.

  My little sister is not a bitch like most women,  the bearded man said at length.   She s like…what s her name?  Lucy from Narnia.  She s not a real woman yet, and so she s innocent.

  And that s why I like fucking them in the ass,  the bald man said.   Because they re innocent .

 The bearded man leapt up from his seat and dashed across the room, striking the bald man in the face.  His fist was small, and his wrist weak, and the bald man was large.  An audible smack slapped the air, but the bald man s face barely moved.  He stood up and grabbed hold of the bearded man s head within the crook of one arm.

  If I had a picture of your little sister,  the bald man said, I d show it to the Shoggoth and fuck It while It screamed your name.  You little bitch.  I might even show It a picture of you and fuck you in the ass.  You d like that, wouldn t you?  You little faggot.

 The bearded man struggled, red-faced and screaming in frustration and helplessness.  Eventually two robed figures entered the waiting room and separated the two men.  The bald man was relocated to one side of the room smirking with great satisfaction even as a welt rose on his cheek while the bearded man was relocated to the opposite side.  The latter stared in shame and humiliation down at his lap.  The robed men left.

  Hoo boy,  the ginger-haired man sighed.

 The next ten minutes passed in tense silence.  Austen continued filling out the forms.  It seemed like someone was playing a prank on him, so thick was the stack of papers.  He was on the page about deferrals for litigation and class action lawsuits when the inner door opened again.  A hooded figure called the next appointment.

  Appointment # 3R45u21.

 The bald man lurched to his feet, waddling eagerly toward the door.  He was sweating in anticipation.

  Veruca Salt s about to get it,  he said, leering.  He grinned at the bearded man.   I m going to fuck your little sister, too.

 He disappeared through the door.  A shiver of disgust went about the waiting room.

  Should be castrated,  the bearded man said, scowling.

  Pretty much will be,  the ginger-haired man said.   And then some.

  But he ll go out happy,  the bearded man said, which is more than he fucking deserves.

  Don t worry,  the ginger-haired man said after a while.   It s not really anything that can feel, anyway, whatever It s form is.  It s a biological construct.  It s like a Real Doll, but fancier.  More advanced.  A fleshlight made by the Elder Things.  It just…costs more.

  Yeah, an arm and a leg,  someone else said.   And everything else.

 The ginger-haired man nodded, his curly red hair bouncing.  He then shrugged with one shoulder, lazily.   None of us could get with a real woman, anyway,  They re too busy throwing their pussies away to Chads.  Dumb bitches.

  Fucking Nature, man,  another commiserated.   But at least I won t be involuntarily celibate  after today.

  Yeah,  said someone else.   You won t be anything at all, except, maybe, Shoggoth shit.

 Another fearful silence fell over the waiting room.  Austen s pen paused in the middle of a word.  He had forgotten what he was writing, his mind baulking at untold horrors.  The spell was broken all at once.

  I m going to fuck Tinkerbell,  someone volunteered, maliciously.

 The black-bearded man scoffed.   Man, your dick must be the size of a fucking peanut.

  It is,  the other guy said.   That s why no girl wants it.  But I bet Tinkerbell cries when I stick it in.  She better.  I wrote down that I want her to cry while I m fucking her.  And It s gotta do what you write down.”

Austen just so happened to come to the section concerning behavior.  He did not know what to write especially after hearing the guy talk about Tinkerbell so he just wrote Have a good time.

  Well,  someone else said.   I guess if you re going to go, you might as well go for weird freaky shit.  I mean, I m no Furry, but I was thinking about that one blue chick from that Avatar movie.  Ya know?  Or maybe one of the weird looking Star Wars chicks with the tentacles on their heads.

  They are fucking hot,  someone else agreed whole-heartedly.   But they re not Furries.  I mean, they re an alien race.  Not the same.

  There are aliens that are Furries,  someone else argued.   Chewbacca s race is nothing but Furries.

  They re Yorkie sasquatches,  the bearded man said.   So, yeah, they re pretty much Furries.

  But nobody wants to fuck them,  someone added, doubtfully. I hope they don t, at least.

  Oh, I m sure somebody does,  someone else argued.

  I think it s fucking nasty,  the ginger-haired man said.

  Don t kink-shame,  the bearded man said.   Mr. Mariah Carey.

  I m going with anime chicks,  another guy said, happily.   Rei from Neon Genesis.  And Lust from Full Metal Alchemist.

  That s a bit on the nose, isn t it?  the bearded man said.  But he was searching on his phone.   Maybe if I show It a video It can become Lara Croft.  From the old games, I mean.  But not the old, old games.  I don t like triangle tits.

  Yeah, I m going for Cammy, too,  the other guy said.   From Street Fighter.  And Chun Li.  That ass, man!  I ll probably go through the whole roster of Capcom women.

  Street Fighter sucks,  another guy said.   Dead Or Alive all the way.

  Tekken has some pretty hot bitches, too,  another guy said.

  Metal Gear Solid has the best,  a guy in glasses said.

  Jill Valentine!  the ginger-haired guy suddenly exclaimed, slapping his freckled forehead.  He feverishly tapped on his phone.   She s the polygon girl I want!

  Which version?  the bearded man said.

  All of them,  he answered.   Make a Jill sandwich  out of them.

 He waited, expectantly, for someone to laugh at his joke.  No one did.

  Five out of five S.T.A.R.S.,  he added, glancing around with a desperate grin.

 No one laughed.  They were too busy scouring the internet to add to their wish lists.  But Austen remained fixated on one woman and one woman only.  He signed his name several more times, dedicating his life to the Old Ones and waiving all potential legal recourse his family might attempt against the Eldritch Sect.  By the time he made it halfway through the stack, the man who spoke of Tinkerbell was called.  He went eagerly.  The remaining men watched him with a mixture of envy and dread on their faces.

  Oh hell,  the ginger-haired man said.   I might as well add Taylor Swift to the list.  I mean, you only live once, right?  It s not like I have to listen to her sing.  She doesn t have to make any noises at all, if I don t want her to.

  Yeah, the perfect woman,  a new arrival said, taking a seat.   Only talks when you want the bitch to.

  Only, she s not a woman,  the ginger-haired man said, smiling sardonically.  He adjusted his glasses.   Just a biologically engineered simulacrum.  None of us could get a real woman.  That s why we re here.

 Silent nods all around.

 

 Austen finished his paperwork, then turned it in at the receptionist window.  He was given an appointment number on a ticket and told to wait until he was called.  He found another seat in another corner, farther from the gregarious ginger-headed man.  As he passed one man he happened to glance at someone s phone.  The man was scrolling through images of reptilian women and vulpine women and bovine women, all quasi-humanoid and naked and bestial.  He felt embarrassed on the stranger s behalf, btu the stranger did not seem to care who saw.  Even so, it made Austen feel more disgusted with himself.  He sat down and watched clips of Audrey Hepburn and her various movies.  He had a bad taste in his mouth, and throughout his whole being.

 The bearded man was called back, and then the ginger-haired man, and various others.  Refreshments were offered by hooded acolytes, as well as alcohol and drugs to ease the normal nervousness of the appointment.   Austen took no drugs, but he did drink water.  His throat was very dry.  His stomach was full of frenzied butterflies.

 And then the inner door opened, and the hooded acolyte called Austen s ticket number.

  U352j6t?

 Austen found himself frozen in his chair.

  U352j6t?  the hooded man repeated impatiently.

 Austen s body rose stiffly and he went to the door, feeling a strange sense of detachment from himself.  It was not quite an out-of-body experience, but rather the same disembodied feeling he had whenever he had been humiliated in school or rejected by a girl he had asked on a date, his tongue fumbling over the words.

  Me,  was all he could say.

 The acolyte escorted Austen down another stone corridor leading deeper into the earth.  The air became chillier, and the smell of soil stronger.  The walk was long, and the corridor had a few doors along its walls, some open to reveal other hooded men sitting around, smoking and drinking and talking.  Thee corridor and these rooms were illuminated by modern lighting.

 At length, the corridor terminated at a single door.  The acolyte opened this door and, without further ado, beckoned Austen in.  Austen went in, more out of obedience than real desire, and the door shut behind him.  He was alone in the room, or so it seemed.  There were no exits.  It was a dead end.  Dark and cool, it.  No trace of the others that had come before could be seen.  There was a king-sized bed in the middle of the room, and nothing more.

 Except yellow eyes.  They glowed in the shadows of a corner. They reminded him of owl eyes.  They came forward, presenting a perfect facsimile of Audrey Hepburn s slim, petite, and utterly graceful personage.  It smiled  that small, restrained, pixie-sort of smile that Austen had seen in many of her movies and he felt his heart melt within the credence of the illusion.  Her chocolate brown hair was pinned back in a  ponytail, her bangs modest above the bold strokes of her eyebrows, all accenting her lovely forehead and her elfin features.  She wore a simple white blouse, a rippled Midi skirt, and a silk scarf tied around her fawn-like neck, much like on the movie Roman Holiday .

  Hello, Austen,  It said with perfect intonation.   How do you like me?  AmI not simply the most picturesque idol of fancy and form?

  Yes,  was all Austen could say.

 It smiled with Audrey s small, almost-secretive smile.   I love how polite you are,  It said, starting to strip off It s white blouse.   And so well-mannered.

 He had specified It s attitude, It s dress, and her loquaciousness on the forms, but there was a note on the form that said It would respond in realtime to whatever whim or suggestion demanded of It.  And so Austen spoke up.

  Not so fast1″ he said, waving his hands.   Don t…don t undress yet.  I just want to…to talk for a while.

 He took It by the hands, awkwardly, and led It to the bed, sitting It down.

  As you wish, Austen,  It said, smiling that pixie smile that had left him staring idiotically so often when watching Audrey Hepburn s old films.   What would you like to talk about, dear?

 Austen baulked.  This was the same feeling of crisis he had felt whenever he had ever wanted to talk to a girl.  It was like being plunged into the middle of the ocean, and not knowing how to even doggie-paddle.

  What…what do you want to talk about?  he asked, desperately.

 It titled It s head to the side, arching her slender neck like a curious bird.   Oh, but whatever you wish to talk about, dear!  Very much so!

 Again Austen was flummoxed.  He was no Humphrey Bogart.  He had no natural rapport with women, or most people for that matter.. He did not possess the cool, casual ease of conversation that Bogart, and most other Hollywood men, seemed to possess.  He would have rather spoken to a hungry lion than a pretty woman.  Either way, he told himself, he would have been torn to shreds, but at least the lion would seem happy about it, and satisfied.

  How…?  he began.   How do I talk to women?

  Well, that is quite the question!  It remarked, batting its eyes in mock-astonishment.   With your tongue and your mouth and your vocal cords, naturally.

 Austen sighed in frustration.   No, I mean how do I talk to them copesetically?  Competently?  How do I speak to them without feeling all flustered and knotted up inside? And without fucking everything up?

 It s yellow eyes never blinked fully, but It batted It s eyelashes again and reached for his belt buckle, starting to strip off his pants.  Austen pulled away from It, standing up.  Pacing back and forth across the dimly lit room, he stared at the floor.

  Is there any woman that would want me?  he begged the air.   I don t even want to be me.  That s why I m here1″

 The thing imitating Audrey Hepburn silently watched him pace, her head rotating automatically as she followed him with her yellow eyes, like a cat watching a mouse.

  It s so unfair!  he moaned.   There are guys born to look better than me and stronger than me and smarter than me!  I can t even roleplay with you because I am still me!  I don t even want sex!  I just want to have tea with you and maybe dance together!  Maybe kiss.  But I can t dance, and I definitely can t kiss worth a damn!  I ve never kissed anyone before, except my grandma!

 It stood up, then, and took him with a powerful grip by the shoulders, pulling him to It, and kissing him.  He started to cry and tried to push her away, but It was too strong.  It pulled him toward the bed.

  No!  he yelled, yanking himself away from her.   Audrey wasn t like this!   He shook his head, and wiped away the tears in his eyes.   She wouldn t…she wouldn t have liked me at all!

 Anger flashed across his face and he shoved It onto the bed, It s skirt undulating open to reveal pale legs and white panties.

  Maybe I should fuck you!  he snarled.   Maybe I should just bang your brains out and let it end all at once!  No one would miss me!  I wouldn t even miss myself!

 His anger dissolved into self-pity and sobs as he staggered back, leaning against a wall. He did not even see It take off It s panties and lay back, gyrating It s hips gratuitously.  Austen glanced at the intimacy revealed in all its falsity and turned away.

 Still crying, Austen headed to the door.  The acolyte was surprised to see him.

  Sir, you cannot leave without…   He saw Austen s tears and snorted.   What a beta.  Go, then, you little simp.

 Austen headed down the long corridor, weeping as he went.  He came again to the waiting room.  Opening the door, he saw new faces through his tears.  They sniggered, cruelly, and mocked him.

  Little limp-dick.

  Baby.

  Beta bitch.

  Simp.

  Couldn t even go through with it.

  Go suck Chad s giant dick, you fag.

Austen left through the long, stone corridor eventually emerging into a moonlit night.  He walked slowly, staring over his hooked nose at his penguin-shuffling feet.  His belt was still unbuckled and jingled as he walked.  He was too sad to care.

 

      ***

 

 Austen met Becky one day while at the public library.  They were looking through the Graphic Novels at the same time, and by a strange chance struck up a conversation.  Neither could remember who spoke first, but they found the conversation easy and addictive.  Becky was tall, and a little chubby, and had a round face with flat lips.  But her smile was pretty and she was nice to him.  She did not mind his hooked nose or his scrawny arms.  She liked his voice, she said, and his eyes.  She looked nothing like Audrey Hepburn, and Austen was all the happier for it.

Haiku Metamorphoses

Her hairbrush smashes

the mirror to sharp fragments;

a glass chrysalis.

 

Crimson butterfly

imprinted on her bed sheets;

 no more flying free.

 

The children buzz shrill

in the cafeteria;

agitated hive.

 

Gossip, lip to lip,

like bees to flower petals;

pollen for the queen.

 

Two rhino beetles,

horns locked to flip each other;

rival teen wrestlers.

 

The preying mantis

clicks his mandibles, teaching

Sunday bible school.

 

Tiny ants crawling

after forgetting his meds,

anxiety high.

 

Cocoon unwinding

to release a luna moth;

he confesses love.

 

The honeycomb holes

opened and spread all over,

the acne scars deep.

 

Powder puff beating

its moth wings across her cheeks;

moonlit promises.

 

Mosquito eggs bloomed

and swarmed throughout her highschool;

words that drained her blood.

 

He feared the rumors

that stuck to both her and him;

flypaper lovers.

The Afterlove

I

Chittering cricket in the city, wake

the sleeper eyes agog, double take;

thunder rumbling the apartment above,

rhythms and rapid moans of fumbling love.

An ashtray smouldering on the night-stand,

he takes a cigarette in trembling hand

and tries to think of nothing, traffic lights

flashing dim through the window, up the heights

and rain falling in crackling snake whispers

while he thumbs his lighter the switch hiss-purrs

and fire flashes, a tantalizing tongue;

a drag of the cigarette, his head hung

with heavy thoughts, shadows, old memories

from a former life while the ember flees

from the last bit of cigarette, his face

veiled, the light gone out from that lonely place.

The cricket chirps.  A question?  Or a plea?

He does not answer it, but silently

stares toward a photo that is face-down

of a woman with curly hair, a crown

like sunlight itself, now his world but noir,

that woman gone.  Somewhere else.  Somewhere far.

The climax above gives way to silence

he feels the throb of emptiness, the sense

that Afterlove is like afterlife: death.

It settles in.  He breathes black plumes of breath.

The Afterlove is like the afterlife: unknown

as he listens to a cricket, alone.

 

II

The carts rumble and creak, the train slowing

as it passes through the black hills, going

toward the city, and beyond the hills;

lightning flashes as she awakes; she feels

alone, the man beside her a stranger

in her bed, the wedding ring a change her

head accepted, but not her heart awake

in the insomniac country, no break

from day to day, but at night the disguise

slips off and she goes to the window, eyes

seeking the highway and that haunting hint

of what could be, what was, of what he meant

when he sent that anonymous letter

that was blank, unmarked, as if to get her

to fill it with the words she wanted said,

but which, like the wind, could never be read

except with searching fingers now the train

rattles in the black breast of the hills, rain

falling somewhere faraway, on dark glass

like the pane before her as the nights pass

to a cricket chorus among the woods

while dreamers lay beneath nocturnal hoods.

The man exhales, and rolls to his side,

but does not wake, reaching for his new bride,

clutching her vacancy; her depression;

it has been weeks since their last love session

and gloom brings rain, at last, to the window

trickling and salty, sparkling in the glow

of passing headlights along the highway

while she wonders whether or not to stay.

Her heart hitchhikes from car to truck to car,

riding the rainy road, traveling far

out to the city, to the heights and lights

while she stays here for these Afterlove nights