“Well John, I gotta tell yu, this book, The Call, It changed my life, and I am a hard nut to crack, believe it or not.”
“Well you are nut, that’s for sure, heh, heh.”
“Oh don’t you get me started! This guy!”
— Laughter –
“No, he is a capital guy, though, and a great host, isn’t he, people?”
— Applause –
“And don’t forget to mention my winning smile, John!”
“Of course not, Craig, but now, I heard you were in a pretty sorry state not six months ago. Am I mistaken?”
“No, John, you are not. I was living on the streets doing all sorts sorry things, you see, I had lost my divinity, I’d lost myself; gosh, darn it, has it only been six months now?”
“Yessiree. Now that is just a miracle, wouldn’t you say guys?”
“Oh come on now, Craig, no applause needed, and no it was not a miracle, ‘cause you yu know what, John?”
“Miracles just plum don’t exist.”
“Just what kinda wool are you trying to pull over here, Craig?”
“I’m not pulling wool over anyone’s eyes, John. Just presenting some simple, simple truth.
Now, truth can sure look pretty ugly though, can’t it? Until you know it for yourself. That’s self worth, John, and once upon on a time, my daddy, Craig Townsend Senor, told me, he said “Son, you can’t buy self worth at the five and dime” and if I turned to him today and said, “Well sir, you are sure as heck wrong about that”, not only would I have told the truth, that to him might be pretty ugly, but I’d have a red bottom too, that’s for sure.”
“Well, that ugly truth that daddy didn’t know, is still true. I got this book at my local book store for just fifteen, ninety-nine and, I’m tellin’ you guys, right here and now, self worth is what it’s made of!”
“Well tell us a little about this miracle book, won’t you?”
“Gladly, John, this book here, in less than three-hundred pages has brought me from selling crack to selling hope, and business, let me assure you, is good, and it’s all thanks to no one but myself, my hard work, and this thousand-watt smile on the back cover here, look at that, John.”
“The indomitable Mr. Chris Fidem, award winning author, motivational speaker, philanthropist, and just an all around nice guy, I hear.”
“That’s for sure John!”
“Well you’d know. Personal friends with the guy, right here.”
“He has brought me out of some dark places, John. His books, “Redundant Religion”, “The I In Me”, and “I, Lucifer, I, God,” have been multimillion dollar winners, every single one of ‘em. That’s because Chris isn’t here to sell you anything, he simply wants to show you what you already have.”
“I’ve read them all, Craig, and now we are providing, at Chris’ personal request,–”
“And out of his own pocket, I’ll add.”
“–Yes, indeed– you the chance to receive a copy of his new book, fresh off the desk of the genius.”
“That’s right, before it even hits stores, the secret of intoning the great self…“
“The power of the you in universe…”
“The soon to be number one bestseller…”
“The Call by Chris Fidem!! First one hundred callers receives the book totally free of charge. Just pay shipping and handling.”
“People, a million dollars can’t be wrong, hahaha!”
“John, you know just as well as I do that sometimes self worth is hiding right under your nose.”
“Wait, Craig, don’t you mean… your seat?”
“You know I do. Come on people reach under there and show the folks at home what you found!”
“Now, if the audience would please calmly be seated–“
– – – – – –
What has 2AM come to? I’ve been sitting here since eleven and am actually looking forward to Sex Toy Talk at Three O’clock after that. No luck… its on every goddamn station.
What is your average teenage American to do with the hours of boredom that insomnia forces upon him in these modern times? I’m almost feeling dismal enough to watch reruns of the Leave to It Beaver Show or whatever, that white washed American dream show that Gran likes to watch mindlessly at the home.
I try it, and my already burning eyes begin to roll back slowly into my head. If they think that’s gonna cure her dementia, they probably have another thing coming. I bet Charles Manson jacks off to this shit in his prison cell.
Exhaustion always brings funny thoughts into my mind, mom doesn’t think they’re funny. Morbid, everything’s morbid to her. If it doesn’t have talking inanimate objects or singing animals, its morbid. Then again she hasn’t had time to watch TV since Reagan was in office. Actually she probably would have watched him, wasn’t he in the Mickey Mouse Club or something?
On that note…**click**…goodbye mindless, brain melting television, hello swirling, flickery, darkness of living room ceiling. You know you’ve been watching infomercials too long when you can still see Craig and John’s pearly veneers flickering on the ceiling. If they are burned into my retinas, I swear to gods, skreek, skreek, SKREWDRIVER! Maybe a melon baller.
Exhaustion makes me weird.
The darkness is still swirly but the flickery is gone and, thank gods, so are the veneers. The darkness makes me tense, always has. Almost always, ever since I was like eight.
Now don’t get all “Sixth Sense” on me, I’m not some tragic, sheltered, child who can “see dead people” or anything… but I do see something, and before you start spraying psychobabble out of your, oh so learned ass, you should know that my brain has been poked more times than a Louisiana floozy. I’m just as sane as any other teenager… insert sly smile here.
My mother, the exonerated Dr. Lillian Fawst, is a head shrinker extraordinaire, and though she would not touch my virgin brain with her dexterous probing, did put me through a hellish amount of brain boot camp at the hands of her esteemed colleagues.
Probably shouldn’t have told her about, what I then termed, the “demon head” which I had seen in a black back window of a certain wintergreen minivan. I came screaming into the passenger seat crying and probably tearfully babbling about something that she immediately labeled the result of developmental problems in the mask of too many “dreary” and “stark” television programs, hence the Disney injections.
She liked that their films are positive, tempered with the balance of darkness which is overcome by a reigning since of logical morality which should temper my troubled mind into a bright and bubbly coma until I’m old enough to get a job and a single bedroom apartment for my problems and I.
I never spoke to her about them again. Like talking to animals isn’t something a complete schizo does.
So, mommy doesn’t understand, how about daddy? Here’s me running into his bedroom one night, crying my wittle heart out about the silhouette of a man in a wide brimmed hat that I awoke to find standing over me, ominously staring down to my bed, rocking slowly back and forth. Did I mention ominously? Well, ominously.
“Can I sleep with you and mom?”
“Just go back to bed and pray, son. There is no fear in the perfect love of God.”
Great, so now I have to go back to where a possible stalker (maybe farmer?) is still standing at my bedside, powered by the prayers to a God who doesn’t love me anymore because I am afraid of said stalker(farmer). Real reassured there dad, thanks a ton, it’s been a slice, I’ll just go get chopped into tiny bits now and fed to the pigs. Of course, stalker(farmer) wasn’t there when I got back and turned on the little-boy-saving-night-light. I did discover something peculiar, however, beside my bed, where he was once standing, rocking slowly back and forth (ominously), was my little, wooden, rocking chair. Proof of an afore unknown physicality to my nightly phantasms, these ain’t your grandma’s night terrors. Yep, slept like a brick that night.
My places to turn have quite clearly run out. I did try to tell some friends when I was little, hey, at least I scared them enough to stay up with me when I was too scared to sleep. When I approached junior high I could clearly see that well of support drying up too.
So now, when the house is quiet and darkness’ obsidian mirror settles over me, I see the oil of black shifting and turning like polluted water all around me, and in the shifting there are faces, some seem to be human, others certainly are not. Sometimes they notice me, sometimes they do not. When time comes that they have the notion to really show themselves to me, for whatever reason, I am still terrified, and alone, with no one ever to turn to; boo-hoo, poor me.
I have chosen infomercials as a “healthy” alternative. Who knows, maybe I really will go blind, watching the TV in the dark for hours, like mom says, and have no need to fear anymore.
At the same time there is a part inside of me that lives for that unique, thrilling, moment of recognition. When I hear someone walk into my room, and they don’t answer when I call “Who’s there?” or “Mom, is that you?”, and that strange part inside me, that really already recognized the unearthly presence as not human, ignites and my heart flutters, and my palms sweat, my mind races, and I ignore the urge to run; when I stand before it in awe and terrified wonder. When I tremble as I approach, and think of what the consequences will be if I can touch this quiet stranger, and if they are more or less mortifying than the implications of the opposite scenario. When a new and terrible shock warms over me as my hand inevitably passes through the shadowy figure that is clearly standing eye to eye in front of me, but the light always comes on, and whatever it was has gone.
I asked my father once, being that I was young and naïvely under the presumption that he was the picture of wisdom, “Why do I see these things?”. His answer was a question.
“What did you do? You must ask God to search your heart so that you can be forgiven. You see, the closer we get to Him, son, the more responsibility we have to be pure, and the closer we come to the darkness that is hiding inside of even the tiniest little crevices of our heart, a darkness that must be purged if we are to see His face.”
My father was a “born again”. He got “saved” in the eighties at a little group church in the garage of some old, famous, Christian minister. Baptized in the Holy Spirit and everything, he must have gotten the package deal. He made some Christian friends and they all started a merry little flock of their own; I was once one of his most devoted little lambs.
The thing about sheep is they are meant to be herded, not heard. I had things to say. I had questions to ask, and feelings that I couldn’t confide. My father never understood that when I asked him a question I wanted his answer, not His answer. Of course God, having the only answers applicable, had the only answers given, and I was regurgitated His words for most of my life, never knowing about those other things I needed to know, that David, Moses, Elijah and John The Baptist had no idea about in my little life, thousands of years after theirs had ended.
Mom always thought religion had its place, as everything does in the human mind, but clearly defined differences began to cut a groove between them. After Dad began to have these “revelations” about things, she began to be cautious.
Suddenly things ran much deeper than religion. He started to confuse me. Saying things like “God is so vast that he doesn’t exist outside of our ever expanding inner selves, that our inner selves are just an expression of His outer creations, housing so much more the information that the physical universe could ever hold.” I only later would understand a kind of truth in these words.
My parents began to argue.
One should never marry outside one’s species, an atheist and a religious nut ball, for instance, apples and oranges; if an apple married an orange, what would you get? Well I guess that’s me, I’m an aporanglepp, the most awkward fruit— ever.
One day, my dad was going off on some tangent on a realization he had about “the abomination that a man should lie with a man as with a woman” and I, looking on, dryly as I would while he ranted at me with that zealous glow in his eyes, stopped him midsentence and said three things.
“One, I don’t believe in the Bible, I can’t find sense in how it was written by the creatures that even “He” admitted were imperfect, foulable, and full of nasty, nasty sin.
Two, I don’t believe gender should be a deciding factor on who you’re allowed to love, I know good, perfectly non-evil people who love each other the same if not more than you and mom, gentles aside.
And three, you are freaking me the fuck out, I’m beginning to be too scared to ask you to grab me a glass of Koolaid, for obvious reasons, and if all those things mean that I am no longer welcomed by Jehovah’s son into, whatever, the pearly gates, then I am not a Christian, and I do not need you shouting at me right now.
I am sixteen years old and a sophomore in high school. Do you remember what that was like!? I have too much stress just getting up in the morning and going to that hell hole to worry about yours.
I love you, but that’s… just how I feel. ”
That building geyser of adolescent angst had clearly been simmering for a long time. He made a face like he had just bit into the bitter aporanglepp fruit and told me he would pray for me; that was that. The only reason I had any semblance of spiritual belief after that day was because of the actual spiritual experiences that I was continuing to have in spite of any religious ties.
Dad continued to get stranger. He no longer read his Bible, although, he had it mostly memorized, it was left outside of his study on the floor. He broke off connections with his church friends and began (what my mother called) a social withdraw. Without need for a Bible he, I can only assume, was strictly having direct revelation from “the God that was within without” now. He began to write. He barely ate. My mother of course wanted him to seek psychological help; he said something like he was beyond worldly help.
I woke up one appropriately stormy night to hear him calling out “I am that I am” over and over and over from his study. My mother came slowly into the room, laden with the sad expression of things that were too much for my young mind to understand and too deep for her to put into words, and sat by my side with her arm around me, more to comfort her than myself, I think. She was tired, tired of pretending that he was still the man she married.
We left the next day. I awoke and she had already packed my bags. He didn’t even leave his room when we lugged the meager belongs we’d take out the door, I even made some extra noise, but mom kept shushing.
We lived with Gran for a few weeks, back when she still had all her cup cakes frosted, then we were in a pent house apartment, which I hated, and now a cozy little home, only mildly haunted. I am almost able to put the nightmare of high school behind my back. I have been exploring my own religious queries and I might be Buddhists. I wonder if I’ll have to be the really tall solemn one, or the jolly, fat, Santa of the orient. I’ve only actually finished the intro on the book I got from the library, but I’ve got high hopes for the little fat guy.
The black hole that has opened over the recliner I’ve been sitting in for the past four hours is shifting and yawning as I focus on keeping my eyes relaxed and unfocused. The diaphanous air is filled with mangled visages flitting in and out of view, some so corporeal it makes me jump, but I am determined to focus on this growing, swirling, blackness that seems to reach down like a cyclone just above my nose and rise back, a worm hole turning inside out, then outside in.
I begin to feel that electric fear in the dusty instincts of the human brain, that are the same that warn a cat or a cow of a coming storm. I am shuddering to keep so unattached from my body that I may ignore my natural impulses. My arms are limp, my muscles relaxed, my eyes at half mast, on the brink of sleep, a light trance going deeper.
As I struggle to hold all these subtle machinations in balance, something begins to form. I can’t believe it, after months of trying to control this state, I am finally getting the knack, and just as I had thought, something truly was coming of this chaotic darkness, it could be harnessed to do something, it had a purpose.
Shapes, crossed, shifted, blurred, changed so fast that the human eye couldn’t find distinction, so I quickened my mind by slowing my body, and so too did the patterns begin to slow, and deep in the center of this giant shifting abyss a colorless shape began to form in the intersections of the shifting amorphousness.
It was… a face, then a raven, a book, an “R”, and the pattern repeated, swishing together. Was I really seeing this? Had I fallen asleep after all? The pattern, what did it mean. As soon as I thought this, as if in reaction, the pattern shifted back into blackness, but the blackness was still and silent now. Then a focusing of invisible matter, a tensing of the air, something was different; the dim face of before slowly returned from whatever pocket of the black cosmos it had gone. The details became more grounded.
I lulled deeper into trance. It was coming, it was coming, a grimace, an elderly woman, eyes pure milk white; now I started to get a little scared. She looked at me, she—she knew I was there, she saw, she was real. I had called this, was this a symbol only, or was this–. The blurry figure, now a full body, stepped out of the vortex parallel above, as if the air between the floor and ceiling had invisible paths to walk upon.
This wasn’t right. I had to do something I—was completely immobile, too deep in trance. I could see her walking toward me, very slow. My muscles were twitching and vibrating in a worthless effort to function as she slowly approached. She became so clear. Her face was not grimaced in fear, but anger, she pointed a crooked, accusing, finger at me, her sagging breasts and soft wrinkled belly, her hair, was dangling toward me in sweat rung mattes, her eyes had the permanent purple swelling of aged stress and hardship, there were strings of drool from top to bottom jaw, bowing downward.
She was so close, the vortex seemed to threaten, a suckling ingress upon the spiritual air, I was crawling out of my skin, my heart was racing. Would she touch me? Would the drool be cool on my face? Would the weight of warm, sagging breasts rest on my stomach as she spat the words she so anxiously wished to scream?
I was hyper ventilating. She was at my feet. I could see the lashes of her eyes. She began to crawl over the fold out ottoman with changing gravity and the effort of her age, she grabbed my collar with dull claws and pulled me to her elder drool encrusted lips.
Would I smell her breath? I did not want to. My back lifted slightly off the cushioning. Is she going to kiss me? Eat my soul? She began to inhale laboriously here, her long, crooked nose brushed mine, her overlaying teeth visible.
“A’bandraoi basaich!!! ” she rasped like words from a strangled throat, scratching into my ears like a gorse stem.
I was going to vomit, she pulled me closer into those milky eyes, I felt her cold flesh, I screamed without making a sound and–
I leapt as if from death’s grasp out of the recliner and onto the floor, landing awkwardly on the remote control.
The room looked like a living room. No trace of naked old ladies or vortexes of doom.
“Are you okay? You were making some pretty strange sounds in your sleep.” My mom was standing in the hallway by the TV, John and Craig were at it again. I thought I was going to burst into tears.
“You really shouldn’t watch TV this late at night, you’ll go blind.” She came and took the remote from me as I sat in shambles on the ground.
“I can’t believe they are still running this crap. Haven’t they gotten their first one hundred callers yet?” She turned off the set, it crackled with static for a few seconds.
“Those books are just egomaniacal porn for week minded weirdoes who probably need real help. Go to sleep, Gal. ” She turned off the living room light, the hall light, and then her own light, after she shut her door, leaving me in stunned, flickery, darkness with smiling veneers that seemed to mock.
Craig and John smiling, in negaverse, holding my father’s latest book.
– – – – –