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By Travis McGill
A tangible milk with a thousand milky eyes on its milky body, creating one souring, white being is staring back at me, taunting.
It says, "Now don't you wish that I were a computer? That way you could minimize me and pretend I'm not there. Get lost on your dirty sites that climb ladders and dirty up what is left of your mind and say 'they made me do it.’ But you can't do that can you?"
It's right and everything in this room is in agreement with the paper. The graveyard of paper corpses which moan out from down on the floor agree. Dying yellow wallpaper—with its good points sagging as the elderly tend to sag, in between its lament about how great the 70’s were—is in agreement as well.
The typewriter silently agrees with its loud clacks that say nothing, but when it does speak in its muted language, it says, "Your fingers are with us. Don't trust 'em. They lie.”
It's a joke that gets staler by the minute as my deadline is masticating with every passing second. This place is boring; uninteresting.
Felicia, my muse Felicia, my ace in the sleeve for every book, every story, every article, every poem, and every prose that I've written. She was where she always was and being there made her uninteresting too. Golden, freckled, and petite as she was, the flames seemed to have died from her hair. She was the same, yet not the same, and her hair was not the scarlet of passion, but the plain red of censorship, muting everything else about her. Everywhere color seemed to be dying and though the sun shone with its everyday bright, it paled where it once invigorated. Where Felicia sat on the veranda, as she always does, as she monotonously does, robotically she sat, automating prettiness, saying the words she always says:
"Hi. How's the book going? Having breakfast? It'll come to you soon."
Pretty as she was, her words were forcing an abortion on my mind; a seedless rape. Her voice and the vomit green of the veranda of the bed and breakfast of the day with the sun in the place where I typed and wrote nothing, altogether tag-teaming like Sirens unwillingly willing me into their orgy of dullness.
Thinking there would be inspiration in the village, I trotted down into it to avoid walking. There was no need for this, but just the plainness of walking and to think "I'm walking" was awful, so as I trotted, I sometimes skipped, or ran, or stopped, but didn't walk. Trotting in the middle of sameness, streets with expressionless houses where living dead people were inside. They were in there, invisibly strapped to couches, force-fed television and pop music by digital demons that drank blood from the heart and ejaculated blind lust wherever they could and shouldn't. I might have died then if it weren't for the sidewalks who, unable to help their living grayness, were alive with persistence, which they couldn't help as well.
The village people who called themselves “townspersons” whom I called folks were, not to my surprise, mausoleum still-life's of nothingness. Individually cased in their limited existences, you could see them all on display, reenacting their lives and this was their occupation. Of them all, three of them were so exceptionally null that they deserve the most mention. An elderly man whose primary feature was that he simultaneously possessed life and death, siding with the latter, had the unfortunate luck of being named Jack. From Jack's inverted jaw that sunk in like erosion,—in-between dentures that, when open-mouthed, glimmered gold, dentures that rattled around in his mouth like dice in Parkinson-affected hands, dentures that threatened to shatter like icicles in April if only handled by an infant—was Depression Era tobacco that was processed within the meat packing plant of his mouth and, if timed right, could be seen vaulting through the air, and landing with sniper's accuracy into a tin can. The folks called this routine "dipping snuff" and so dipping snuff was Jack's occupation.
Yawning along to the second attraction was a woman whose physical grotesqueness was only surpassed by her name. Mildred shared Jack's gift of duality as though she was about forty-five in the face and twenty plus years everywhere else. Standing on a corner, sadly out of reach from any speeding vehicles, she hunched where she thought she stood. Though my eyes threatened to implode, I couldn't look away from her extremities that would pendulum with even the stillest of breezes. Every part of Mildred was melting with decay, and I suppose the families needed to hide in the mind wards they called home lest they, blind though they be, be traumatically affected by even sighting upon such a creature. Legally, Mildred's occupation was a whore, and more fantastic than this fact was the several folds of rounded compost which made up her stomach, peeking through a halter top, suggesting she wasn't starving or pregnant. A biological phenomena.
At this point of my tour, I would have went back to the inn and wept whilst reflecting on my unpaid bill as I tried to asphyxiate and masturbate simultaneously, but, monotony being beneath me, I trotted on, backwards, facing what hurt me to see, and still unable to sight inspiration should it pass by. In the outhouse of the village, which was the end of the village, was a church, void of members and full of religion. The good Bishop was out as he had nowhere else to be, quoting John and quoting himself and his name was effortlessly John.
"Good morning Bishop!" I said, knowing full well that he couldn't speak back.
"No one can see the kingdom of God-ah without being born again!" was his reply, and so concluded my tour. Looking back on a man who looked and spoke like he didn't believe he had spoken, I jogged back, forward this time, to Felicia and the inn and the vomit.
"How was your walk?" she asked, and I caught my hands just in time as they sought to lunge and cast out the mediocrity in her bosom.
"Fine," I said,
"Just fine. I think I got something," I lied.
"Good, that's really good," she replied, the fact that she meant what was being said was more agonizing than the acuteness of her vocabulary.
“Is a muse a fuse?” I thought, painfully in tuned to the vapidity of my thinking. My life was once characterized by symmetry, and on evenings such as this, the peonies that made up the sun
would die, plummet, and give birth to the zodiacs while Felicia's cherry blossom lips would make their own decent and search for life in the deep. Like the prism-encrusted dark blue jewel of night, our lovemaking would be as majestic and as meaningfully temporal. And in the throes of ecstasy, Felicia's call was almost as loud as my intentions to never wed her, and after, the pages would write themselves, littering the room with dominos of excellence. Tonight, however, the chambermaid didn't suit the chambers. The sun just set and the night was only dark, and as I stared into the page on the typewriter, where it laughed and taunted before, this time it didn't say anything at all. My fingers proved themselves to be traitorous, and the entire episode was painfully aseptic.
When I opened my eyes I was greeted by Felicia before I felt the song of morning, and with this in mind all the oceans and straitjackets I dreamt of the night before gained a bit of clarity.
Administering the necessary punishment she said, "Do you love me?" her face afoul and her tongue a feather.
To my luck, I had the sharpness of mind to respond with "Is forever a time or a moment?" and the paltry haiku made her face and feeble mind smile.
Afraid of using the word afraid and feeling one of the two—love or fear—for my typewriter and the pages that mastered it, I chose to walk to the village for some air before I returned to type up my suicide note. The streets were populated and jagged and Chinese with population, and I had to stroke and siphon my way through the crowds. The village peak made the form of a widow's speak and dead center was a man who was oddly familiar.
"Hey you there boy! Come round yonder and get your share! There's plenty to go round and there ain't no such thing as too much!" said the enlivened man, dressed like antiquated southern gentry.
"Jack? Is that you? What's all this?" I said as Jack passed me a handful of hundred dollar bills.
"Why this? Son, this is here son ain't nothing but a bit of hospitality. That money there is as real as the spirit of Christ. Come on and get your share!"
My unpaid hotel bill spoke ahead of Pride as I, perhaps a bit eagerly, fingered a stack or two into my pockets. Jack explained, shouted to me, though the crowd that was deaf with greed, that he was a tobacco baron and once a year he gave back to his community by giving away large sums of money.
"Keeps 'em invested," he said. "These good folk all round this town here is in some ways connected to the plantation. If they ain't smokin' it, then they pickin' it, and if they ain't pickin' it, then theys sellin' it. This here is tobacco country. My land," he said as he grinned, literally patting himself on the shoulder without a hint of embarrassment.
This was hard to believe considering just yesterday he was a destitute, semblance of himself, catapulting "snuff" into a can at this very same spot. When I asked him about this he said, "Tobbacy? Nah, I never touch the stuff. It kills ya, you know? I may be rich from it on the outside, but on the inside, I'm all vegan. Understand?"
I didn't, but I smiled and swam back to the inn anyway, involuntarily grabbing a few more bills out of the sack.
The matron at the inn thanked me for keeping her from getting law enforcement involved, and I ran up to the veranda where Felicia sat, still, with welcome smile and inviting skin. Though she misunderstood the glint in my eyes, hiking down her skirt, she said, "Go and write! I want to be drowned with your words in the morning!" I appreciated her effort in spite of its gauntness, and I followed her advice. I typed and I wrote, and was writing through my typing, and at last, I was inspired.
A crowd like the one before was there the next day, and I could see they were there for the same purpose with Jack at the helm. With my coffers full, Felicia's oration still in mind, and more so extremely pleased with this break in predictability, I skipped having seconds and moved further into the village with, dare I say it, a “positive outlook.” Two cars collided head-first at an intersection, where everyone who wasn't writing their names in the book in blood up the road were focused on a singular woman on the corner, and their gaze remained unbroken. For literary reasons, I took notice of what parts of her were supple and boastful, remarking her ability to breathe in such freeing attire.
Her hair was like Felicia's this morning, I thought, then thought her to be in Felicia's place in the morning. This is to say her hair was vibrant and flowing and accentuated the vitality of her face. Her appeal was like that of a French pastry: all at once being sweet, exotic, and romancing the mouth while slowly decaying the teeth. I greeted her and expressed that I wasn't interested in the backdoor price but her name instead. "Millie," she said with that, place-where-everyone-knows-your-name tone in her voice.
"Millie as in Mildred? The old woman that used to be here?" I asked.
"It's Millie, and though the product is slightly used, believe there ain't nothing old here. The kitten doesn't scratch and it purrs all night. You must got me twisted with someone else," she said, lighting up a cigarette between experienced yet soft, porcelain fingers.
"How long have you been here, Millie?" I said confused, catching her catching me gathering literary notes of her.
"I ain't been here that long, but it's already too long in the worst way, honey," she said, smiling at what she thought was clever.
"Mmmhmm. Yesterday, and the day before and a long time before that, but I won't be here much longer cause I have a friend, a philanthropist, and he's gonna get me in movies soon."
Though I'm not a fan of B-movies, I asked her when would I be able to see her film to which she replied,"Soon. I'm flyin' out to So-Cal to shoot in about a week and expect to be done in a week. Come find me once I get back here and I'll tell you where to find it. All you'll need is an internet connection and a credit card.”
I was back on the veranda with Felicia at the inn before I became another investor in Millie's pyramid scheme. The prisms of the night cast a possession over me which possessed me to possess Felicia and so I did. She didn't mind the few times I mistakenly called her Millie, and seemed to grow more elated as the night peaked. Shortly before dawn I sat at my desk pounding away with a familiar pounding on the typewriter, Felicia, beaten, defeated, and slumbering in the backdrop. Before I was done, her body was amassed between the pages, here and there.
I was awakened by Felicia with a familiarity that sent me fleeing to the village with her protests at my back. Again, I swam through the crowd and again I hurdled over the carcasses at the intersection where Millie blew me a kiss from her enterprise. Predictably going to see the good Bishop, I conflicted between being ecstatic at what changes befell him,or disappointed that he perhaps established a pattern with his hypothetical change. I suppose I was pleased to see him as he had always been: on the steps of a barren church, full of religion, quoting from the book of John where he didn't paraphrase from his own personal psalms.
"I am the way and the truth and the life-a. No one comes to the FA-THER except through me!" he shouted, thoroughly captivating the blank oxygen surrounding me.
"Glad to see you haven't changed, Bishop!" I said with unapologetic glee, "I see you still have the same congregation as always".
"What do you mean, son?" he said, perplexed.
"Look around. No one is listening to you. No one ever does. Nothing changed. I'm happy for you.”
"No, son. That's where you're wrong. My congregation grows everyday.”
The Bishop stepped down from his plateau on the stairs, came down to me, and put both of his hands on my shoulders, massaging them ever so slightly
."The secret things belong unto the lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children, that we may do all the words of his law."
I wiped off the sweat that came from his palm as he patted me on the cheek and returned to his ascension.
"But, I don't understand" I said to the Bishop, feeling molested.
"They seldom do," he said, shaking his head, and pointing into the church doors he said, "Though our outer man is decaying, our inner man is being renewed every day."
Inside the church were groves of bodies that grew, stretched, and populated, becoming its own village in the church. The villainous odor which intruded my lungs revealed that some of the bodies had been there for some time. Terrified, I stepped away from the doors slowly and tried to read the Bishop's reaction through his smile.
"No need to worry," he said with ease. "I know you're one of the good ones and the Lord's work is already affecting through you. Remember 'let the righteous rejoice in the Lord, and all of you shout who are upright of heart.’”
Never keeping my back turned for too long and concealing my panic, I made my way back to the inn where Felicia, unmoved from where she lay with one of my collared shirts on, was either like Bathsheba or a smoking gun. I told her not tonight, and I would have phoned in police if it weren't for the holy ghost, or some other related possession working through me all night and causing me to write a number of pages as well.
n the third day, I arose and the manuscript was completed. Felicia was on the veranda with a bushel of bananas and was just preparing to see me when I gave her the news which excited her and made her gestures childlike. Be it adulteration or suggestion, Felicia eventually sat, and eagerly began to dig into the manuscript. As I was getting up to get coffee, among other things, she stopped me and made it known in her voice that something was amiss.
"It's all blank," she said, thumbing through empty page after empty page. Convinced that she had the manuscript facing the wrong direction, I snatched it away and sure enough, there was nothing on the paper.
"And you were working so hard" she said, and the outdoor veranda became an encasement for the base and common.
In that moment, it would have been typical of me for me to banish Felicia from my sight for some unknown, common reason, typical for her to cry, and typical that I went back to my room alone to die. So I did. As I sat with razor in reach in that next, typifying moment, I wiped away tears and noticed the paper before me. It was white. I thought to begin to write my suicide letter, but instead I typed: "In the beginning...". I typed and wrote, and wrote words as I typed, and slowly, the pages began to fill.