Downtown in Genesis City is Metrozone — divided into the Avenues, surrounding each other in a looping child’s scrawl.
Metrozone is the safest part of the city, the most solid, and unsafe. At this, the end, the last city on the planet of the lost name, it is ever-changing and sometimes watery. Reality ripples. Certain Metrozone avenues become unavailable, the signposts and street signs changing languages. Subways passing under them are merely filled with a queer, ill-defined light. When they return, the population is different. Like a half recognized relative with a few hazy fond memories attached. This happens more and more in these times. The end.
Police in Metrozone are called angels. No one remembers why. Perhaps for the bioluminescent wings they carry as part of the service. They speak of their leader, Genocide God, who cuts parts off of reality as He circles His prey, the last remnants of humankind and otherkind.
Metrozone is flanked by Westzone and Eastzone and Southzone occasionally. They come and go. On some days, into the distance, from the highest living hammocks, you can see the city stretch on, and on, and on. Other days, or maybe nights, you just see lights winking off, one by one. Zero by zero.
The angels talk of Genocide God, hacking and slashing and cutting a sad surgery towards the heart of Man, and Other. In these soft times, His blade is less a scalpel and more a sword. The angels try and keep the law, at least on the Metrozone avenues, but from up above, no problem looks too problematic.
People sometimes try to remember when Genesis City was whole. They can’t remember when there were more cities. There was once a book that talked of a North Metrozone and a South Metrozone, like they were big enough to be spread apart. Then one day the book stopped working. The words fell off the page, and the letters ran amok, laughing and capering and fornicating themselves to death in inky black pools.
Metrozone doesn’t wake up sometimes. The street signs sag, tired, and the lights are dimmer. These are soft times. Genocide God swoops in, dissecting the face of the city.
An angel once sat in a bar, sobbing. His wings flapped behind him, malcontent and glowing. Runners often referred to escaping angels as “running the glow.” The angel sat, sobbing.
"What’s next," he asked, tears seeping downtwards. "Function lizards? Weeping architecture? Shivering, endless ice? Why would Genocide God kill his favorites?"
He cried, and his form wavered, as though every part of him was indecisive.
"Worse, why would he let us live like this?"
Metrozone, the avenues, sprawling outwards. Sometimes inwards. It is soft, in these end times. The end. Even the compass is lost. So is everyone else. The end. Genocide God cuts with a sword, or a scalpel. Even the angels fade. Metrozone has no north, nor south, nor east or west. There is, eventually, nowhere left to go.
So nowhere is where everyone goes.
*Thousands of abstract time parcels hence, during a metaphysical dig into universe-substrata, function-lizards uncover the word-smell of “running the glow”, and think of it as “ruining the glow”. this inspires a renaissance among function-lizards, who finally make art-peace with nihil-lizards. constellation-sized paintings of this peace are made, and scattered into the cosmos.
no one, perhaps not even Genocide God, remember Metrozone.
Last night my friend Hoffer was marveling at how many people I meet. And I was thinking, I don’t meet that many people…just more than I used to. Back in the day I was just straight-up rattlesnake mean, now I’m colorfully mean. Charismatically mean.
I go to bars, not to meet chicks, but to get drunk and hit things. I think that’s what bars are for. Instead people end up talking to me, because I will get crazy drunk and start shouting about Nick Cave or something. I go to shows and grab whoever is nearest me and dance like a jackass because that’s what you do. I hang out at tea shops and weird bookstores and get into arguments with total strangers. I guess I am a bit more gregarious than I ever think about.
Meanwhile, a lot of my friends are either self-isolating nerds or obsessive creative types, so to them, I’m some sort of insane social dynamo.
I dunno — is being able to strike up a conversation with total strangers an actual skill? I’ll tell someone I like their tie or the book they’re carrying is completely ridiculous or their glasses are totally hot. I don’t give a fuck. I will compliment your boobs and insult your silly video-game-esque haircut. It’s on. I’m covered in scars. Fuck that, I’m covered in stories.
And I’ve been on a bunch of dates, too. Like, a LOT of fucking dates. And while most of them never ended up with much more than either a couple of lays or some strange looks, occasionally they ended in a strange, endearing friendship.
To that end, I suppose, is how I have such an established and entrenched network of people in SF that keep me afloat in my dark times. I know owners and bartenders and lawyers and one of everything. I could start a British schoolchild rhyme or something.
I know way too many people for my own good, sometimes.
Or maybe not. You can never have too many friends. You can just stretch yourself too thin.
But like I was saying, last night, Hoffer was talking about how amazing it was how many people I meet — but then, he got the number of the blonde chick with the nice ass, so.
"He slept on the journey south, But only once For when he was going, and where Only hot weather remained — “
The radio blared out some weird folk tune as the trucker, a wide man named Curry, blasted past the sunny sign. On the sunny sign was a smiling face and the logo reading WELCOME TO CATCH HELL, INDIANA! HAPPIEST TOWN IN ABSOLUTION COUNTY. Even the font was a chipper, communicable series of lines.
Coming over the hill towards the township, Curry saw two police cruisers parked in the road and wheezed his truck to a stop. Out in front was a big man in mirrored glasses, not as big as Curry, but still standing tall. Curry got out of his truck to see what was the problem.
"Howdy," said the guy in the fancy shades, "I’m Sheriff Gramophone, the law here in Catch Hell."
They shook hands, and Curry looked around. A deputy lazed in each car, seeming to not even be looking at him and the Sheriff.
"What can I do you for, officer," said Curry, looking around.
"Red rats." "Red rats?" "Been having a problem in our town. Red rats. Rats bring bad news, plagues, pied pipers, all manner of trouble."
Curry blinked. Pied pipers? The Sheriff was still going on.
"Nope, can’t have the servants of Apep in my town. Not under this sun. My daddy was the law before me and his daddy before him, and we ain’t lettin’ down good ol’ Catch Hell like this."
Awful confused, Curry started looking around. The Sheriff gestured at Curry’s truck.
"No trouble, just gotta check your truck for red rats. Then you can be on your way."
"I’m haulin’ truck parts and grease monkey junk, ain’t nothing special," said Curry. "Lemme get this open for you."
Around the back of the truck, the Sheriff watched Curry open up the big, white double doors. The reflection of the doors in the Sheriff’s mirrored glasses stretched on like salt flats in the distance.
The doors opened on piles of neatly ordered junk and round, rusty tubes. The Sheriff stepped into the truck and kicked over one of the series of tubes.
"Hey, —" said Curry, surprised and annoyed.
On the floor, the tubes rolled over each other, until they formed a shape. A pentagram, a star, an eldritch shape of known power. A symbol instantly recognizable yet not — something puissant, and ancient.
"Oh, Mr. Curry," said the Sheriff. "I am disappointed."
"How did you know my name?"
As last words went, Curry was far from epic.
"Red rats, Mr. Curry. I told you I don’t like red rats. Servants of Apep, the snake. Red demons in the flesh of rodents. They eat and eat and spread disease and plague."
Curry took a step backwards, into the arms of waiting deputies. They stood there, silent and still as the corn.
"I know just want to do to you, Mr. Curry," said the Sheriff, "for above us, Ra sits in judgement, with his great wisdom."
The Sheriff took off his fancy mirrored glasses, and where his eyes used to be, the red, chittering faces of rats squirmed and twisted. Curry began to stammer and scream, then, and the Sheriff grabbed him by the neck, and forced his eyes upwards, and as Curry looked at the sun, he felt his mind begin to slip.
"Ra, with his great wisdom," said The Sheriff, as he felt Curry’s head begin to heat up, and warm, and melt. "He does not abide the servants of Apep, in any of their forms."
Where his eyes used to be, behind his glasses once more, the crimson rats of Apep chittered to each other, and it sounded like laughter.
Sometimes I wish I was a beautiful dame so I could just marry famous, rather than have to do all the effort towards becoming famous myself. Then, I talk to beautiful dames, and it turns out it’s actually a total pain in the ass. Maybe I’ve always got the better end of the stick after all.
I’m always kind of amazed at the sort of ridiculous, softie bullshit my friends do to get women, and then also kind of amazed at when women fall for it. Then my dame friends are like, well why don’t you do that, Lothario, and I say because it’s bullshit and it’s insincere. if I’m friends with a dame, I appreciate you on a fucking philosophical and aesthetic level that I don’t even know if you can understand. you are a world of magic and goddamn beauty. I’m not gonna sing some faggy death cab wannabe cover just to make you swoon. that would be a lie. that would be a fucking betrayal. you’re incredible and why would I do such a thing? you are so much more than that.
…this is that whole “uncompromising” problem all over again, innit.
So, this may seem a little weird but I thought I would let you know how much I have appreciated your writing over the past four so years. I found your initial blog on Xanga and devoured it. I've been reading since the middle of highschool, I am now a Junior in college and am glad I can stalk you for free on Tumblr. Thanks for the hysterical laughter.
TWO CATCH HELL STORIES IN ONE DAY? I'VE GONE MAD AGAIN!
Second Chance Crawford moonlit sometimes as a repairman, when his boy wasn’t giving him hell, Catch Hell, that was. Catch Hell, Indiana. Second Chance laughed to himself as he pulled into Miller-Miller’s driveway.
Now, for some reason, some darn thing Second Chance couldn’t reckon his whole noggin around, when Theorem Miller (from Upper Absolution) and Sunshine Miller (from East Desperation) got married, they became the Miller-Millers. Damned fool people from Upper Absolution with their new ideas. Second Chance was a Crawford and by gods if that boy of his put an apostrophe in his name when a girl finally took to him enough to marry him, Second Chance would whip his bottom red, even if Second Chance had to do it at the wedding ceremony.
The Miller-Millers had a nice house and Second Chance hoisted up his toolbox and headed on in. The couple were standing in the living room.
"Howdy, Theo," said Second Chance, tipping his hand. "Missus Miller-Miller."
He smiled, but they both looked afraid.
"It’s our phone," said Theorem. He looked at his wife and she looked at the floor.
"Lemme take a look," Second Chance said, and headed into the phone room.
It was an old, ugly beast. A big black sucker from the old times. The dial was as big as Second Chance’s hand and the earpiece was an abstract, twisting pile of holes.
"Let’s just take a look here," Second Chance muttered to himself.
A voice came out of the phone.
Or something like a voice. It was alien — rasping, and hard. But at the same time it was familiar, motherly. It was clicking and maternal and Second Chance would swear it was familiar.
"When my son was born," it rasped, "he had seven hearts and thirty eyes, and a hundred arms. My husband and I cut him into pieces so we would have many sons, and we cut and we cut and we cut until we had six sons. One of our sons had two hearts, and we knew he would live until the sun was nothing but a blur, when the horizon melted and the clouds retreated back down to the flat earth."
It kept talking, and Second Chance’s hands moved of their own accord. Against his own will, he began to test dials. He dialed one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. His hand started to shake on eight, and he had nearly stopped himself at nine. When zero rolled all the way around, the rasping voice changed into a dial tone.
"Hello, Crawford," said a warm, potent voice. Neither man nor woman. It was like a cold drink on a hot day and a massage from a beautiful, exotic temptress. It was syrup and velvet. "Crawford, I want you to do something for me. I want you to leave. I will have the Millers, I will have Miller and Miller, I will come out of these wires and I will finally have something. Miller and Miller will be my sacrifice, and get out, Crawford, the Millers are mine, Crawford, I will be more than wires I will be more than ringing and dials and numbers I will be there I will be in the Millers I will be the Millers they will sacrifice themselves to me get out Crawford getoutCrawfordgetout Crawford Miller Miller Crawford get out— "
The voice had gone from honey to an insane, record-player high pitch and a single, hideous drop of black oil dropped out of the receiver and onto the floor.
Second Chance hung up, breathing hard. He stared into space for a second, collecting his thoughts, and then headed back out into the living room.
"Line’s crossed," he said, and smiled at them. "No problem. I got all the tools for this back in my truck."
He headed out the door, hopped down the steps, and climbed back into his truck.
The key sat in the ignition, waiting, and Second Chance knew it would be warm to the touch. That it would be easy to just turn it, start the truck, and go. In the back were his tools, and maybe he could fix it.
Maybe the lines were just crossed. Wires were a complicated deal.
Second Chance sat in his truck, staring at his keys, thinking of maybes.
Commissioner Harp LaChance came down the stairs to Momma’s cooking. Momma LaChance made the best darn breakfast in all of Catch Hell, Indiana, and Harp was the big Commissioner, but he wasn’t too proud to still eat with his Momma.
"Momma," said Harp, "I had me a terrible nightmare."
Momma LaChance didn’t say a word, she just clasped Harp to her enormous, motherly bosom, and smiled. Momma had the wisest smile ever, it was wide, and full of knowing. Momma knew so much.
"What’s the matter, Commissioner," growled Sheriff Gramophone. His shades reflected the stacks of paperwork in front of them, stretching out half past forever.
"Terrible nightmares." Harp was rubbing his eyes. The paper towers kept growing, and climbing upwards, laughing in stacks of white voids and ink. He signed them all and they kept coming. The life of a commissioner.
Harp watched Jesse-Belle Feathersmith and Melody Von Vosalyn playing in the streets. Harp hadn’t been sleeping. Last night, Harp could remember a shadow, in a top hat, dancing on a field of cancer and bone. Harp was trying to swim, but his arms kept growing and growing and then exploding blood, and growing back, and exploding, and growing back.
A shadow fell over him, and Harp started backwards.
"Commissioner, you alright?" The Mayor’s big business smile was subdued behind a careful look.
Harp shrugged. He liked staying out in the light, away from shadows. “Just tired,” Harp said, “Didn’t get much sleep last night.”
Harp didn’t eat that day.
Or the next.
Sitting upstairs in a room surrounded by lamps, Harp was twitching when the Mayor and the Sheriff came to see him.
"You need to sleep, Commissioner," said Sheriff Gramophone, as the Mayor held Harp down. The Sheriff put a pillow over his face, and Harp tried to scream, tried to get free, but nothing.
Harp felt like for the past few days, he just couldn’t catch his breath. Must be a cold going around. He was sure a lick tired, too.
"Ain’t no preachers in Catch Hell," said the shadow in the top hat. Harp couldn’t breathe. Here was his nightmare, sitting next to him.
Papers towered over the both of them.
"No preachers, no priests, no saints, no holy men. Ain’t no room for holy men when you got all these puissant folks runnin’ ‘round."
The shadow looked at him, though it didn’t have eyes, and Harp felt very, very cold.
"Where there’s will, there’s holy things. There’s unholy things too, so it best we don’t have no preachers in Catch Hell."
DAY TWENTY NINE.
Harp felt like he hadn’t slept in a month.
"We are the dead," Momma LaChance said.
"What?" Harp was sure he’d misheard her.
"We are the dead," Momma LaChance said, and she was dead. She’d been dead a long time. Bugs crawled over her and she was rotting and something puked out of a coffin. Harp tried not to scream and piss himself.
Momma LaChance opened her mouth, and instead of words, a fat rat, fur slick with blood, pushed itself out of her degenerating jaws. In the rat’s teeth were slick, still-pulsing entrails.
Now, Harp screamed.
DAY THIRTY TWO.
Commissioner Harp LaChance stared at the piles of paperwork in front of him. Endless towers of it. Stretching into the sky, like buildings in big cities. Harp didn’t know how he got so backlogged.
The Sheriff was staring at him. ”What’s the matter, Commissioner?”
"Terrible nightmares," said Harp, and rubbed his eyes.
DAY THIRTY THREE.
Harp saw the shadow everywhere. Behind people as they walked. In between buildings. In his pockets were flashlights and lighters. He thought about getting a flash grenade from Mr. Bub all the time. Mr. Bub had been in the war. But Mr. Bub was fat, and so was his shadow, so Harp stayed away.
DAY THIRTY FIVE.
"Red rats," said the Sheriff. He was standing in front of a mirror, naked, covered in Harp’s blood. The Mayor was there too, jerking the Sheriff off. Something was wrong with the Mayor’s face. It kept changing from the handsome, older man who ran the city into something terrible.
"Can’t stand rats," said the Sheriff, and shoved another knife into Harp. Harp tried to scream, make noise, but his tongue was already on the floor. It lay there like a dead fish. Harp stared, and stared, while The Sheriff and the Mayor cut him. And fucked in puddles of his blood.
DAY THIRTY SIX.
"Commissioner, you alright?"
Mayor Von Vosalyn stood there, blocking the sun. Harp looked up at him, sitting on the curb. Melody, his pretty little daughter, cocked her head at him. He realized his cheeks were wet, so he must have been crying.
"Just tired," Harp said. He was thinking about the paper in his office, growing. Mazes of it.
"Didn’t get much sleep last night."
The Mayor tousled Harp’s hair, like he was just a plucky young boy rather than the forty-seven year old Commissioner of Catch Hell, and kept on walking.
Melody looked back, and for some reason, Harp thought she looked very afraid.
DAY THIRTY EIGHT.
"False awakening, dreaming a dream, night lasting forever," the shadow in the top hat guffawed. "You ridin’ the dead man’s dream into someplace like nightmare."
Harp ignored the shadow. In his pocket, his hand moved restlessly over a flashlight. His other hand was busy signing papers.
"Everybody dead, now, you know. This just a dream. Someone’s happy lie."
It didn’t seem very happy to Harp.
DAY THIRTY NINE.
"Had to run a fellow out of town," said Sheriff Gramophone. Harp was staring up into the sun. He was trying to see the face. "He was bringing in red rats. You know we have trouble with those rats in our community," continued the Sheriff.
Harp thought he saw something.
"The face of Ra," said Sheriff Gramophone.
Harp looked at the Sheriff, looked hard. Behind the Sheriff’s fancy mirrored sunglasses, he thought he could see the red, torn-out sockets where the Sheriff’s eyes had been.
"Gonna have to hire an exterminator to make sure," said the Sheriff.
Harp rubbed his eyes, to get the spots out.
Harp came down the stairs. He could smell Momma’s cooking. He came down the stairs, and there she was. What was left of her, that was. One of her arms was in the pan, and a sickly-sweet smell, like expensive pork, filled the kitchen.
"Momma," said Harp, "what happened?"
Momma LaChance’s face hung off her. Her tongue danged down, like an unknotted noose. Both her eyes were gone, and a centipede drooped, lashing, from her nose.
Harp swallowed hard, and then sat down. He wasn’t too proud to still eat with his Momma.
That was life in Catch Hell, after all.
"Momma," said Harp, "I had me a terrible nightmare."
Momma LaChance didn’t say a word, she just hugged Harp to her, and smiled. Momma’s smile was so wide, and so knowing. Momma’s smile was full of bugs, and rot, and in the graveyard of her face it stood out like lonely tombstones.
you know, I think I’m gonna just go balls-deep into semiotic papers for awhile. because among this good mood comes a streak of mild ambition, in which I wish to intellectually better myself, rather than just keep up with the incessant smugness of a die-hard cynic.
Couples that hate each other as much as they love each other fascinate me, in a distract sort of sense. I’m attracted to the idea of it, but, in practice, I’m far too all or nothing to split a feeling down the middle.
I walked out of my car towards the ocean. The night was crisp, and lit up by the pinball machine city behind me. Bright yellow shot along the water like a different sun. I walked into the ocean, and as the water started coming up past my knees, someone started shouting. Maybe they were shouting to come back, but I didn’t hear him.
A sexy cold feeling creeped up my body as the ocean began to swallow me in indifferent, shoving gulps.