Shards of grass, comatose glass, liquified emotions in a cage of all the rage baked and sliced and handed by. Replicants rest by water drip. Sleeping with window veils pulled wide, the city outside, aglow in its ambers and blues, the steaming hues, the pink bruises, the cottonmouth blooms, the glistening tombs.
Azio turns his head to see. The sleepers are holding him down. A witch arrives in a gong gown, right through the wall she comes, like a whisper in satin. She numbs the air with her voice: “The dreams you’ll need, the dreams you’ll feed…”
There’s leftover coconut cake in the refrigerator. Azio looks at it as it sits on a plate in the overbearing light. He grabs a carton of melk, pours a glass, thinks about shapely ass. He grinds on the coconut with his teeth. It feels good to him. A plate and glass clink. The refrigerator blinks, then says goodnight.
He lies back down, the symphonic band plays in his head. The bed sucks him in like quicksand, the sand man has a noose, “Sleep, forever sleep,” he too whispers with sinister intent. It’s during the night the beings really crawl out from inside his oversized mind to take a bite.
And he remembers riding the snake through High Dallas. The things man has made, he wonders. Or was it men at all? He likes to think not. The machine swayed as it moved on its elliptical course around the city. The people there swayed with it. He recalls the frightened eyes, the dead eyes, the dumb eyes. All the eyes full of lies. He remembers the moving mouths, the lazy legs, the twitching hands, the Easter eggs from outer space.
See, the egg is a symbol of life, Azio thinks in his cyberpunk bed suit. He turns to look at the invisible her. “Why don’t you ever want me?” he confesses. She’s 100 billion miles away, running through a green meadow together, hand-in-hand, with a perfect robot. The insomnia devils stab at him with red pitchforks now. They torture him with these scenarios of lust on a ship. A buttered orgy ensues.
Algernon Wasp had been sitting in a Big Boy restaurant in Manistique, Michigan when the big blue bomb blew. He had been eating a hamburger and a house salad with Thousand Island dressing when the shaking began and there was the sound of a great howling wind and a deep rumbling thunder. People screamed when all the windows shattered. Algernon had ducked under the table as the debris rained down like real rain. When the dust finally settled, Algernon crawled out and wandered outside among the rubble and the moans and the cries.
A cluster of people, a church group he guessed, were on their knees in a semi-circle, and they had their folded hands thrust up toward the heavens. They were begging God for mercy. They were inviting the Son to finally come down and roam among them, to save them, to lift them up to the Promised Land. They called upon the Holy Spirit to cleanse the world of wickedness. But wickedness had already come and gone.
Algernon groaned in despair as he looked around at the state of the new world… And like Charlton Heston in the Planet of the Apes when he came upon the ruined Statue of Liberty, he too fell to his knees and he screamed out as he slammed his fist against the pavement, “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
He later wandered the few blocks back to his hotel, The Happy Hole Inn, and guests were gathered outside, and they were looking up at the sky and pointing and were amazed by how it had taken on such a bruise-blue hue. Like technological sheep, they all had their cell phones in salute position, and they were recording the end event to later post on their social media sites of choice. He scoffed at them. “What are you all looking at!? How many likes are you fools hoping to get!? You idiots! This all your fault…” And he went around pointing to each of them. “And yours, and yours, and yours. You’re all too stupid to live!”
He waved them away in disgust and went inside the hotel and to his room. The roof was gone and when he looked up, the sky was churning like sick guts. He gathered his things, checked out, and began walking to wherever his feet would take him.
And where his feet took him was an amber colored bar in downtown Manistique. It was quiet inside except for the television that blurped in and out with news of the end of days. Two other men sat at the bar and watched along with the bartender. He finally noticed Algernon and asked him, “What are you doing here, mister?”
“I need a drink,” Algernon answered. He tapped a finger against the bar top as he sat down. “Suds.”
The bartender poured him a beer and set it before him. “No charge, mister. It looks like we’re all in for a rough time.” He motioned with his thumb. “Listen to these two idiots.” He shook his head.
“This is all because of the god damn liberals,” one of the men at the bar grumbled.
The other man nodded in agreement. “That’s right. If it weren’t for all these sissies and all their gay stuff, we’d be eating apple pie and living our best lives right about now… Not watching the world come to an end on CNN.” He motioned abruptly with his hand. “Come on, Wilbur. Can you ate least put it on Fox News so we can get the truth.”
Algernon laughed out loud. He finished his beer and tapped his fingers on the bar to indicate his desire for another.
The two men turned to look at him. “You got a problem, mister?” one of them asked.
“I have all sorts of problems,” Algernon added. “Try not to be another.”
The man that lastly spoke to him got up off his bar stool and walked right on over to where Algernon was. He took his hand and slapped at Algernon’s beer mug and knocked it over. “You wanna fight me or something?” He was close to his face when he spoke and his breath was annoying.
Algernon sighed as the barkeep cleaned up the spill and gave Algernon a fresh beer. “You start something, Lloyd, and I’ll throw you out. Then you’ll have to go home to that ugly wife of yours.”
Algernon chuckled. “He’s lucky to get that.”
The man put a rough hand on Algernon’s shoulder and Algernon reacted immediately with a rigid brush of his arm to knock the man away. “Don’t touch me!”
“Well, you look pretty gay to me. I figured you’d like it.” He laughed. His friend laughed and came over as well. “Kick his ass, Lloyd,” the friend said.
“You’re the one here with another man,” Algernon replied. “I’m flying Han Solo.”
The two men made faces of confusion and backed away. “Let’s just leave this one alone,” one of them said. “Han Solo my ass.”
After the two men settled back in their seats, the bartender brought Algernon a bowl of hot beef and noodle soup. “Here you go. I didn’t want it to go to waste and you look like you could use it.”
“Thanks,” Algernon said, and he smiled. “I appreciate it.”
“So, did you use the Jedi mind trick on those two buffoons?” He laughed.
Algernon chuckled. “You got to have a mind first.”
Just then the power went out and the only remaining light was the blue hue of the day coming in through the windows at the front of the bar.
“Sure as hell is eerie,” the bartender said. “What you plan on doing?”
“I don’t know. My wife recently passed, and I was on a sabbatical. I wanted to see all the places I’d never seen but wanted to… And now this happens. Nuclear war.”
I am an anonymous donor spreading my seed of grief across the world and I might as well be blind for all I see is black, the rubber room menace rotating on some wobbly wheel and my gifts have all been opened by other people and I sit and watch in a pile of gold paper remembering the uncle who shot himself the cousin who shot himself the brother, who someday may shoot himself And all the bleeds will flow like thick wine and pool into an ocean where God Neptune will pierce me with a sharpened shovel and all the angels will laugh at God’s biggest mistake.
And this all a malenky bit sad, isn’t it? But what is joy without sadness? It does not exist. What is love without loneliness? The deeper the isolation the brighter the kiss … but still, time stretches out like a river vastly flowing over the rocks and the limbs crushing flowers with a wet fist, numbing hot legs braving a dive and where will I be tomorrow? In a treehouse with a shotgun or in a bar with 11 empty shot glasses before me or on a dancefloor with a whore or alone in felt-like desolation sipping at the tears in my wrist or clapping for the might of the clouds or then again nothing at all. Bear with me bears of the forest for I cannot get a grip on yesterday or tomorrow or even right now stone sober and burning and while someone is making wishes I am losing my mind Another red another notch in the bed another twist of cold morality, but then, things could always be worse and so, I’m not positive, I don’t need to be today I am bleak and writhing in the fuel the dirty fuel casting spells of the tepid hemorrhage and I ache relentlessly for my heart is an inferno download me into the electric sea and you will see who I am meant to be.
I met Edward Abbey at the sand dunes, but he was already blown away I met Miller at a French cafe, but he was already blown away I met Kerouac on a railroad car, but he was already blown away and I met me at yet another airport, but I was already blown away. The bleed pile of my grace is wiped away with a red rag and the doctors can’t patch me together anymore so many holes have I, so many disturbing dreams and polarized realities, my only sanctuary is to drown in paper and words pictures and photographs and electric men pumping bullets into nameless enemies. Today has been fried bologna on burnt toast, water and pills, ashes on my eyes and the sound of her bellowing in the background and the weird upstairs guy snoring through the ceiling. What new ache will tomorrow bring? What will I be forced to swallow into the hollow grave of my soul?
An anguished chill hurts the night king the moans of traffic dissect the interstate lonely bellows of travelers of midnight passage and me, well me I don’t really even know where I am, who I am, why I am some windy, flattened palace of stone and glass and flickering neon and I a statue filled with blood and pain rolling through my nightmares in dirty sheets waking to another day of heat and wind I crawled away, from one hole to the next this one deeper and meaner my crazed mind begging for bandages as I shake and crash my car in the parking lot of a miniature KFC this fast-food world these strips of seductive shopping we work, work, work to buy, buy, buy the oppressed chained to numbing desks chained to numbing machines and boredom the boredom of it all bored out of my skull and being human is slowly, no quickly losing its meaning in this Dropolis and I shudder at the thought of bringing breath to dawn a heart attack, no stroke on the precipice of another day of hopeless struggle and I wonder what is a smile? what is laughter?
There is this guy see who lives upstairs from me he’s the weird upstairs walking guy walks and walks but he never says hi – until today he looked disheveled and bruised hair all a muss toting a bank bag full of money and I’m wondering what all the walking is for floor to floor he walks and walks till a quarter to four
Is he shooting darts or is he shooting junk is he hiding a decapitated head in a hand-carved wooden trunk has he stashed away the body of Cinderella takes her out in the deep of night combs her brittle golden locks until she looks just right props her up on the couch beside him as they munch popcorn and watch “I am Sam …”
Or maybe he’s a Buddhist with incense and candles and lots and lots of fluffy pillows he kneels on his straw mat and bows to the sun or to the moon or to the neighbor beating his dog and grandma with a pinecone and a bat
I always see him solo never with a mate and I wonder what his story is what is his twisted tale of fate how old is he how much does he weigh does he believe in Jesus or follow his own way what does he think about when he drives to Albuquerque does he play a Steinway or toot on a green bottle flute enticing the charms to rise from the ashes buried in his carpet does he drink white wine or red what does it mean when he screams like that is it merely bad dreams or frustration bubbling to the surface in the form of dragon fizz and warm oil
Does he watch Regis and Oprah and maybe Dr. Phil or does he watch the motion on the ocean three vodkas and three pills is he a menace to society or one of the popes does he smoke razor blades or psychedelic dope is he a war veteran or a homosexual does he eat pot pies or filet mignon is he French or is he Irish does he have nightmares or fairy tale dreams does he have children or maybe a wife has he attempted suicide with a rusty fruit knife has he called on Allah to save this bloody world or does he sit back and sip martinis whilst smoking Izmir Stingers not really giving a damn about his brain anymore
All this I wonder but don’t really care I wish he would just stop walking and leave me to my Russian bear the one that looks me in the mirror and says… Please don’t stare.
Welcome the pilgrims with a pellet gun and a kiss. Hannah cut her finger with a pair of scissors whilst she creates a paper turkey from a paper plate and construction paper the colors of autumn dust. See the missiles rain from the sky each tattooed with a patriotic emblem stating “Goodbye…” Hannah pastes her paper turkey on her bedroom mirror animated and alive it wiggles its plastic eyes. Hannah crawls beneath the covers on the eve of holiday glee, see her dream of firestorms and bullets and starving on TV. See the maestro carve the cooked bird, the steam from the flesh rises above the well-adorned table, leaves a mist on the lip prints stuck to the goblets of wine. Hannah stares out the picture window as the chaos of family voices clutter her mind. She sees the soldiers all falling down in a line, gassed by children coughing up the poisons as they simply attempt to make paper turkeys with scissors and glue and not a clue from their forefathers how to breathe with peace.
Hannah stares at the Baptists marching in one by one, pale and whiskered faces, crowns of cowboy hats and blindness pouring from their souls, and as Hannah passes the plate, she spits in it, futility running from her mouth, the scent of heaven polished in her hair, she looks up at Christ and wonders if they’ll nail her up there. Hannah crouches down low and slips out the row, whispers to her mom “I have to go to the bathroom …” She breaks out the doors to greet the steely blue sky, the wind whipping curled leaves choking the streets, the semi-truck scatters them like a hurricane as it rumbles right on by, and Hannah walked on down the road. To the school where they teach the blind children. Such a huge, enormous house of sooted up brick and brawl, long luscious hills of grass rolling and rolling on down, paths of gray serpentine their way across the landscape and the clouds. Hannah climbs over the black iron fence, rips her dress on a spike, tumbles to a patch of moss and rock. She lifts herself up, wipes herself off, and comes face to face with a blind boy staring at nothing but dark empty space. “Hello,” she says so politely. “My name is Hannah, and I just ran away from God.” The little blind boy smiles at the sound of her voice. Reaches out his hands to touch her. Feels the fringes of her dress. The softness of her arm right where it comes out of her sleeve. “I’m blind, but I can see you,” he says to her. “I’m blind but I can feel you,” he mentions to her. And he reaches out and kisses her wind-chapped hand.
The little blind boy took her down to the boiler room. He led the way by touch. It was dark and cold and smelled so old. Hannah crinkled her nose and coughed. “What are we doing here?” she asked. “Nothing … I’m blind. Just stay close to me.” Hannah found a book tucked beneath a red blanket in the corner. “What is this?” she asked as she stuck the stuff out in front of her. “I don’t know, I can’t see… See…” and he felt around like a blind boy imitating a blind man lost in the confines of his own darkened theater. “I’ll read to you,” Hannah said. And she led him close to the wall, beneath a slit of window against the ground. And they sat side by side, their backs pressed against the stone of the wall. Hannah flipped pages and read the words aloud. And with a final breath upon the final page, she read: The End. And the missiles came streaking across the sky making the end a sarcastic reality.
Hannah stared at the paper turkey pressed against her mirror. The dust was falling from her hair. The dried blood flaked from her mouth. Her once pretty dress torn worse and soiled now. She walked out into the hallway. Dimly lit and smoky. She turned the corner. Entered the dining room. Saw the pillars of stone bones propped in their chairs. Bony fingers clutching chipped goblets of blood. A hole in the window. Operating a view to the burning scene. The head of the blind boy spun like a record amongst the claws of the mangrove cathedrals floating through the world. She touched her mouth to feel her breath. The eye of the needle had been fed. She was alive, but the world was dead.
Independent content creator, author, former print and digital journalist, and trying really hard to be a diligent husband. I am the publisher and editor of Cereal After Sex, an eccentric online journal/magazine focused on social commentary and fiction with an unpredictable edge. I reside in Tennessee, US.
There’s a Weirdo in the Willows. He looks like a garden gnome but he’s a real person. He’s not ceramic. He’s not animated. The paint on his face is chipped, though. He’s short. He’s stocky. He’s tricky. The tip of his red hat droops. His shovel is rusty. His hands are rough, weathered, thick. He smells of good soil and broken dreams.
When he’s not sashaying along through the willows, sometimes weeping along with them as they do, sometimes weeping so much he cannot forage for mushrooms the way he likes to. It’s one of his hobbies. He makes potions, too. He makes them with the mushrooms and medicinal herbs he finds on his long, enchanted walks. He enjoys out-of-mind experiences just as much as out-of-body experiences.
The potions are strange potions and he cooks them up in a big black kettle that rests above a roaring fire in the low kitchen he has in his hut, his home, his hacienda, his hole, his stone bungalow where the flames of his potion fire paint the walls a warm orange, like marmalade on buttered bread, and that same fire keeps him snug like toast during those cold, lonely nights, snug like Alex DeLarge down in the candy-apple red Duke of New York as he plots some criminal scheme. But this wasn’t New York. It wasn’t even Old York. It was just plain old Middle of The Road York, out there on the edge of the forest where the willows mingle with the oaks and the animals and the waters and all the strange things of the night.
The Weirdo in the Willows likes to sit at the self-hewn wooden table with a mug of chemical fear set before him. It’s always exciting to him when he tests out a new, steaming elixir. His hands usually tremble as he brings the mug to his mouth for the first taste. He sips some in, it most often tastes funny. Sometimes he spits it out. But mostly he smacks at his earthy gnome lips and then releases an exaggerated “Hmmmmmmmm… I wonder what will happen to me now.”
Most of the time he just tips over right there at the table, falls asleep and has very potent dreams full of vivid colors and strange people in strange places he had never been to before. When he finally wakes up there might be a stream of new sunlight coming in one of the small windows, and it stirs with the leftover ashen mist that floats about in the air. He usually groans about stiffness and then moves himself over to the small bed on the other side of the stone hole, the bungalow, the hideaway, the fortress at the edge of the forest. He works himself in beneath a heavy red blanket, pops the hat off his head and tries to get a few hours of proper rest before going out into the frightening big world.
It was around noon when the Weirdo in the Willows woke up. He remembered it was a special day. He was going to the town beyond the great hedge for an afternoon of spirits and wanderings and starings and maybe even some peepings and tricks. He sat up on the edge of the bed and rubbed his thick, rough hands together in sinister delight. He giggled oddly and hopped down onto the floor.
He quickly busied himself with making hot cereal and a cup of wild mushroom whack tea to add a bit of sharpness to the day. It was so hot, and he sipped carefully between spoonfuls of the cereal. He chuckled all along the way. “Oh, it’s going to be quite the day,” he said aloud in a cheeping sing-song way. “A day of fun and madness and maybe even a spanking or two… Hee Hee! Oh my.”
Once finished with his breakfast and a proper cleaning up, he stood on a stool at a high window and looked out. The sky was gray and growling. The tops of the trees were lightly swaying so he knew it would be a walk full of blustery kisses on his robust cheeks. He happily sighed. “Oh, I do hope it rains or snows or both! Hee Hee!” And he hopped down, washed his face, and cleaned his odd teeth and bundled himself up for a day against the world and its weather. He grabbed his pack that hung near the door and went out into it.
The Weirdo in the Willows walked against the wind and the beginning spits of cold rain. Even though the world around him was gray, he began to see it all in bright colors that moved like rainbow syrup. It wasn’t long before he came upon a familiar clearing and there saw the town’s professor of psychology deep in thought beneath an umbrella.
“Professor Tongo?… What are you doing?” the Weirdo in the Willows asked.
The professor spoke without looking over at him. “Quiet now. I’m studying the brain of the Earth.”
“The Earth has a brain?”
The professor sighed in perturbance. “In all actuality, or theoretically, the Earth is a brain, kind sir… Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to carry on with my research in peace.”
“That’s all very interesting,” the Weirdo in the Willows said. “But would you take a moment to study my brain? There’s something quite whimsical about it.” And with that he removed his cap and there atop his head was the protrusion of a glass dome and inside the dome was snow and bright colors like the aurora borealis and plastic people and things. “Go on. Peek in there and you’ll forget all about your Earth brain theory.”
Somewhat intrigued, Professor Tongo carefully moved toward him, his narrow eyes puzzled, the lengthy and thin body slightly trembling. He stood tall over the Weirdo in the Willows, adjusted his glasses, and looked down into his volcanic cranium. “That’s right. Get a good look.”
The narrow eyes of the professor widened with everlasting sweet madness as he looked deep into the swirling scene of kaleidoscopic winter of liquid clowns and clouds and beyond in the realm of somewhere else where dreams are always bright and colorful and vivid like psychedelic funk and never let one down.
“It’s… It’s amazing. I’ve never experienced anything like it,” the stodgy professor reported. He suddenly stood tall again, the soft rain turned to pillowy sleet poetically dripping off the edges of his umbrella, his narrow slit of a mouth now agape and struggling to utter speech. “I want you to return to the university with me. I need to study you further.”
The Weirdo in the Willows replaced the cap atop his head and the vision machine in his brain automatically shut down. “No can do. I’ve got plans in town today. I have no time for your upper crust pretentiousness.”
“But you must!” Professor Tongo demanded.
“But I must not! I’m going to the pub for socializing and other feats of mischief… If you’ll excuse me now,” the Weirdo in the Willows said, and he jumped a little bit in the air and quickly moved his feet without gravity before dropping back down and heading off.
“No!!” the professor yelled out after him, and he scrambled forth toward the gnome-like little man and stood in his path. “This is far too important to ignore. This could be one of the greatest breakthroughs in psychological theory in eons. You must be studied. You owe it to society.”
The Weirdo in the Willows looked up at him. “My good friend. I owe society nothing!”
“But you do.”
“I do not! What has society ever done for me except leave me banished and encapsulated in a shell of emotional torture without a hint of empathy or love. Society is full of ill-hearted beings with no other purpose than to make the world a horrible place for everyone else. Society has done nothing but kick me down, spit on me, and shun me, and now I am returning the favor! Good day.”
The Weirdo in the Willows walked into The Whistling Fox and strolled up to the bar. The other patrons there quieted and watched him with distrustful eyes. When the barkeep saw him, he groaned and tried to duck away… But it was too late.
“Hey Sam!” the Weirdo in the Willows called out as he made his way to a stool and hopped skyward to sit upon it. “If you line ‘em up, I’ll knock ‘em back. I want to get obliterated! Hee Hee!”
Sam the barkeep rolled his eyes toward the small troublemaker. “You’re not gonna get all wicked and weird in here again are ya? Because if you do, I’m tossing your ass.” Sam moved closer and pointed a finger that looked like a crooked breakfast sausage. “Because of you, little fella, I got customers that swore they’ll never come back here. You’re eating into my livelihood because of your damn weirdness. I have a right mind to refuse you service… And I can do that.”
The Weirdo in the Willows looked around the warm pub of brown and cream, an orange fire crackling away in the stony wall on the far side. The faces that sat at small tables or just leaned were dirty and angry as they looked back at him. He threw his hands up in the air “What!?”
No one answered and he turned back around to the bar just as Sam started setting down a row of small glasses and filling them with amber liquid. He filled a frosted mug with ale and set that down as well. “You finish that, and you’re all done, and you go home. Got it?”
The Weirdo in the Willows hissed in reluctant agreement. “Fine. But believe you me, this is the last time I’m coming in here.”
Sam the barkeep chuckled. “Good.”
Aaron Echoes August
This is the first of two parts. Look for the second and final episode, coming soon to cerealaftersex.com. As always, thank you for reading and supporting independent content creators!
An online journal of fiction, essays, and social commentary.