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.
Alabaster eggplants frolic in a purple haze. Munchkins drop acid and watch Wizard of Oz repeatedly until one jumps out a window. Wood gnomes with shotguns play patriots on the streets of D.C. The world looks at them and laughs. Sharpie abusers make cardboard signs declaring freedom and love. Love? Love runs rampantly abused. There is no such thing as a pair of dice. Las Vegas doldrums, sadness in a sea of glitter and gold. The tin man walks against the tide, his metal hide, the mental ride, rising, like Calypso. He feels sick to his stomach and vomits nails. He’s so visual yet so invisible. All those magnetic eyes stuck to the rides, plowing the sleigh bells, the conch shells, halls of injustice carpeted in velvet and blood. The soul ship arrives, to take us on a ride, to the other side.
His heart is dwindling, his skin is splitting, magic means nothing. He has a heroin sandwich for lunch on the 32nd floor. The room is quiet except for the soft whirr of an invisible A/C unit. He steps out onto the veranda, looks over the edge, the city roars, there’s wild boars, mandible monsters pound the pavement, the invisible man falls… No one even sees the crash. It’s all madness walking over and clockwork cuckoo skins. The fountains spray jest, the endless hallways cradle the wild, the wind, the sin, the ever-flowing gin. There’s sonic bathhouses and orbital areolas, Italian soda kisses that send some to Kingdom Come.
Flight patterns are all nonsense now, like sauerkraut rainbows, mint gravy, acidic donuts, laundry detergent made by skunks. The wires are so loose, obtuse, full of fruit juice. Here we go. The whore canals swell in their suits of lies, another tried and died, another tear-filled sky, standing on the deck of the wet city, the rain finally flies to wash away all the deliberate unlove.
And now there are men who think they are animals, and they pay to live in a glass cube at the zoo…
When one gazed into the room, his eyes were like little red lights… Little traffic lights they were, in that bloom of darkness. But when he stepped out of that darkness some, his eyes then turned green, as if fireflies were bouncing around inside his head and peering out the eye holes. And when he finally came full into the light, he would blink madly, and his eyes took on a golden glow. It’s because he’s an animal. It’s because he’s a human animal, a man who lives in a cage at the zoo. The sign outside his enclosure reads: The Zodiac Salamander. He’s an amphibious being with fire for feelings.
Cat food chaos envelops the world, the morning, the night, the knights of the trapezoid table. Maximum fluoride, ambient chloride, synthetic metropolis, a glimpse from the cage. He sees the eyes stare back at him, the monkey grins, the Karen chagrins, the popcorn tossers and word salad snipers. The girl cracks the skin of a banana, takes one lonely bite, throws what remains at him to see if he’ll play chimp. Gimp. Shrimp. A wholly cocktail to turn him different colors. The sky is a blue sheet of frosting, the clouds twisted puffs of cream, he lives in a dream, a chocolate fountain by his bed, a loaded gun to take off his head.
The purple bus steams as it waits, passengers fidget in the queue, he watches as it pulls away toward a desert moon, a wandering bride swallows a monsoon. He’s satiated where he stays, the curtains of his command center are frayed…
“Why can’t I be just like everyone else?” he asked himself as he stood before a circular mirror inside the Gilligan hut that stood inside the larger enclosure. “Because I don’t want to be like everyone else,” he answered his own question. “I’m not merely a man, I’m a man who’s an animal… I’m animalistic. I am extreme. See how my eyes glow?”
The Zodiac Salamander got on a black telephone attached to one wall of the hut and pressed some square numbers. “Hello, central operations? It’s the human animal again. Say, when am I going to get some hot prey to mount? Isn’t it mating season yet? Can someone bring me the menu?”
He paused as someone on the other end of the line spoke.
“Uh huh. Right. I understand. Not too many willing participants? Now I don’t understand… Uh, huh. Right. Society frowns upon human breeding experiments at a zoo facility?”
Again, he paused as someone on the other end of the line spoke.
“Well, surely you can find some wandering aimless babe looking for a good time. My hanging fruit is ripe and full and I’m about to blow a packet of seed. So, when you do, let me know. Thanks.” He set the receiver back upon its cradle. “Damn society and all its correctness despite all its ill repute. This societal schism is giving me mental illness.”
The zoo wasn’t a big city zoo in a well-known place. It was a small zoo out on the edge of a brutal southwestern town on the fringes of the mad desert. The animal animals were limited to the usual small-town zoo fare plus various creatures that were native to the region. The Zodiac Salamander was neighbor to foxes, coyotes, a black bear, bison, devil snakes, lizards, icky spiders, evil goats, a long-horn steer, brooding vultures, and a passionate mountain lion.
After watching the movie Taxi Driver—his favorite—for the 919th time, the Zodiac Salamander stepped out from his hut and into the open air of the enclosure. He liked taking time to look up at space before he went down for the night. The jagged universe tossed back its grand array of colors and shapes and the milk of the Milky Way spilled and ran down across the faces of all the stars and other celestial objects.
It was just then that a small, gray man came into view beneath the light of the moon. The Zodiac Salamander sniffed the air. “Cliff? Is that you, Cliff? Cliff old boy?”
The man stepped forward to reveal his true self. “It’s me. How are you tonight?”
He sighed a painful sigh. “I’m lonely, Cliff. They’re not bringing me any women to mount. I have needs, Cliff. I have animalistic urges.”
“I suppose they haven’t found a proper mate yet,” Cliff answered. He scratched at his head. “These things take time, but I’ll see what I can do.”
“You’re a good egg, Cliff, and my favorite zookeeper.”
Cliff looked up at the stars. “Do you ever consider the sheer vastness of space?” he asked.
The Zodiac Salamander followed his track up to the heavens. “All the time.”
“Yet we toil with such meaningless wonders here on Earth. For instance,” Cliff pointed out to him. “My greatest worry is not being left alone or the fate of my everlasting soul… It’s will I be able to afford the rent or be able to buy enough food or keep the lights on. Isn’t that just such a terrible way for a man to have to be?”
The Zodiac Salamander nodded his head in agreement. “That’s why I’ve chosen to live how I live. My only true concerns are of a deep and primitive nature. I let the world out there worry itself to death. I mean, what can I do it about it. My hands are tied.”
Cliff tapped at his fuzzy gray head. “It can make a man go insane. We weren’t meant to live like this, yet here we are, living like this.”
“Sounds like you need to mount some female prey, Cliff. You’re wound tighter than a toy top.”
Cliff laughed at that suggestion. “I’m afraid my mounting days are over.”
The Zodiac Salamander frowned at the thought of the same thing happening to himself one day.
“Well,” Cliff said. “I need to finish my rounds. Unless I do myself in, I’ll be back at the crack of dawn’s early light to hose you down.”
What am I anymore? Some days I feel like a rock, other days I feel like a cloud full of rain. At times the heartbeat hurts, and I just want to go to space and be all alone. Then the clock chimes a certain time like a line in the sand, and all I want is to be turned up against her. I think she’s missing because I can’t find her anymore. I thought maybe I left her in the closet with the light turned on and a plate of food, but when I went to look, the light was off, and she wasn’t there. The plate was empty, though.
Maybe she took off to Florida like she always talked about. She wanted to live in Orlando so she could be near the dwarves. I never understood why I was never good enough for her. I suppose in the end it really doesn’t matter that much. She took off without me. Everyone takes off without me.
Somehow, I ended up on a jet plane headed west and I was wandering around the airport in Las Vegas. I had one suitcase. I got a cab and had the driver take me to The Cosmopolitan. I wanted to be up in the cosmos, the 37th floor, so I could soar to the stars and dive down into an infinity pool to find infinity.
The Goldilocks were all dressed in red and champagne and everyone was so good at making noise. Las Vegas is such a noisy place and that’s why they build the hotels so tall so the people who are afraid of the noise can find some solace up in the clouds, the flip threat atmosphere climb is always a good one.
I wandered around in Caesar’s Palace, but I never met the emperor. I bought beer after beer from a vending machine doctor. Mimes in white with pointy hats and red mouths smiled so strangely whenever I came near. I was surprised there were so many kids running around. I thought this was a playground for adults. Matters of life just don’t matter anymore.
I was lying in bed and looking out the big window at the sparkly darkness when someone came pounding on the door. My heart went psycho in my chest, and I had to clutch my own breast to make it settle. I put on one of the big white fluffy bathrobes they give you and went to the door. I noticed all the hair had fallen out of my legs, and now it was falling out of my chest and my arms, too. No one was there. It was all in my crazy head again.
I’m always falling in one way or another and I just don’t understand. I can’t keep up the pace that life demands of us. I just want to sit down for five fucking minutes. But the machine doesn’t let me. The machine always runs—29 hours a day, 13 days a week, 904 weeks a year. Time is all nonsense now, like purple wine in a gravity-free cathedral. Jesus and his sex dolls are just spinning aimlessly. Space is space and space is seemingly infinite but where exactly is this infinite space? Maybe it’s all in my head.
I stepped out onto the veranda and watched the city glow and explode and ignite and withdraw and scream and cry and finally never say goodbye. I saw a helicopter float atop the dome-like glow of the city. I watched it land on top of a building. It was a high square building with a gigantic H on it. H for hospital. H for hang in there. H for hallelujah. H for help.
I walked into the gilded sterile box and climbed aboard an elevator for the ninth floor. It released me onto a shimmering corridor with countless doors. I walked along and looked in the rooms there. I saw sad people, I saw lonely people, I saw people visiting with loved ones and they were only now just loved ones because death was near. I found a room that was empty, and I climbed up into the bed. I played with the controls. I switched on the TV. I waited for a visitor, but no one ever came. Before I fell asleep, I thought about what might happen to me the next day. It’s all I had because everything else was void and gone. I finally closed my eyes and went to space. There I found her on one of Saturn’s 145 moons. She was beautiful, beyond beyond.
Tarnished and solitary microscope the gods to the bone the rubbermaid ache getting more desperate every day darkened spirits grow more onyx with each ocean passing of the sun there is no carnival high-beam in my life only shadows coaxing another sparse scream when I walk through the wooded lands clutch the trees and their dirty hands the reeds like spears, like knives a natural morsel of Easter Jesus candy cutting the jugular jamboree in the egg garden the neon blood spills silently onto the plastic grass the bees and the flies and the gnats gather for a swim they don’t recognize that the moon’s fluids are completely full of marshmallow burns of the oblong and stretched native aliens and Earth leaves them rancid and shaky someday any day every day, all the way flipping through the advanced-tech screen washing away locked-down dreams with laser beams and rabbit feet to just dream inside a dream where reality oozes through so sparkly distorted yet so real and prophetic the greasy heat like silver fast-food cell the hotness of commerce rising off the souls of the unblessed the air of a constant panic what does waking and moving mean anything, or delicious delusions again sleep baby your pumped-up dreams pay at the pump baby dream of sleep broken down bag of checkers and bones paralyzing love attacks, hybrid kisses a swift kick to gravity and we all fall home no rhyme or reason remains I am sparklers in heat a hose without a hand a car driven by someone sleeping a pounding at the door that will never be heard lost and cast away on sand island at sea like a dime store comic book dug out of an attic blow off the dust wipe the cover clean what does it mean merely trapezoidal trash lonely counsel with the wind by an open window the bees curve and dive they make life, they churn spice honey drips down broken wings tears caress the memories of a painful way pain inside out like custard mirrors lavish buckets of discontent the meat of a green cactus with flowered eyes pierced by the thorn of the sun god begging big blossoms to bloom and then they are done one last flaccid cough of color and a gentle float to the earth to disappear to turn to dust or rust or unwilling lust to be trampled by a new life maybe not so nice carrots or cartoons negative nothing a laugh negative nothing on a salad ranch nothing for miles and miles means anything close to porch kisses pressing to this hollow can this rusting skin this decades-old man of aluminum foil stretched thin and stuffed full of it in a nation that loves to hate in a world longing to dance and escape in a universe of grapefruit and stars memorizing every tick of time there ever was.
A misty green jungle glow leaves me melancholy high at mid-morning sigh the curtains in the kitchen hold back the ashen stare of this cell block with eighty tiny windows and hands reaching out to pray for the immoral justice to fade, fade with the orange gassy glow of another wet night of multiple ampersand weddings and lonely shuffles beneath creaking porch lights … and I cannot stop thinking of the wandering crows in those tiny black clothes and how they blow through the air and into a fractured face when the hobbling world is overworked or tired as I light these mystic candles all alone the mantle missing pictures of all the seas of you and I at the shores of blue water space and it’s blessed to imagine the days we are tightly knit together our lives wrapped around each other like newspaper on fish, like wings on wheels and it’s fun to play life with you for without you this game is already over and I am merely a wedge stuck beneath an open door letting all the air out forever and ever.
Beauty is in baskets lying all over the world a tumbler of goodwill a shot glass of decency lined along the bar of distant scars the marathon jubilee pounds the ribbon strips gray across bridges and country lanes laced with the structure of Big Brother Nostradamus and Orwellian patriots rolling pool balls across the lawn whilst Beethoven wails to the sky life is but a red rubber concerto kick your ball to the stars feel the pressure of toe on geometry and you wonder about the girl living in the cube the colorful cube before your eyes and you know she is ocean beautiful you know she is fun in the sun Morrison dialogue falling from her lips Kerouac’s beautiful dynamite stripped raw from the bumper of your guts and you envision ancient Mexican sunsets in her arms her peeling back the clock and making you feel alive again not a fool, but a partner of comfort turning counter-clockwise in the twine of a misshaped reality and you try to cradle every tombstone in your aching arms pulsing with sweat but you’d carry every burden for her just to make her life a bit more comfortable when all she wants to do is cry so when I’m coughing up all the pain I feel the beaches of my angel’s city call to me and say come join us again for another red rubber concerto witness life witness love witness the fall of my American dream come wear your name badge the golden flask pinned to your chest the prick that draws blood the tag that identifies you as the big log we drink oceans of breath but do we swallow the meaning of life or do we just spit it to the shore and watch it be pulled away by the wet arms of a burdened destiny full of secrets and closet lies and I want to be lead away not on a leash but on a touch to sincere eyes and a head of hair that smells like some dreamy garden and the click click of this oily phantasm draws sand paintings on my tongue and I spit the dryness the emptiness into a dirty space of asphalt always looking toward the sketches in the sky with the hope for new hope with the setting of the sun dial the bright hot eye in the sky beckoning at me to arise and live another day even when God’s spinning wish list is torn in a storm.
Aaron Echoes August
An online journal of fiction, essays, and social commentary.