Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Beast, Pt. 96 (Chapter 24)

Hey. How’s it going? Are you doing well? It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? It feels like it has. I was just thinking about you. Curious about how you were doing. Thought I’d call. Thought it might be nice to talk instead of just wondering, you know?

Uh huh. Uh huh. Yeah. Wow, really? That’s great!

Me? Oh, I don’t know. I’ve been alright. Nothing special. Went on a little vacation with the boys recently. Just got back.

Ha ha, yeah, again. Went the same as it always does. Won some money, lost some money. Ate and drank too much. Kind of got a tan.

Anyway, I’m sure you don’t want to hear about that. Same old boring story. Tell me, how’s the family? How’s the job?

Tell me everything.

Well, great. It sounds like things are going great. I’m happy for you. Really.

Listen, I don’t want to keep you. I’m sure you’re busy with all kinds of things. I was just thinking about you, and I thought, you know, I’d give you a call. I’m glad you’re doing well, though. Take care of yourself, okay?

Yeah. Yeah. I… You too. You too. Take care of yourself.

Good bye.

The end. Thank you for reading! Post-mortem on Monday.


The Beast, Pt. 95 (Chapter 23d)

We pack our bags, perform one last sweep of the villa and slink away as quietly as possible. Doubtless there will be some kind of bill from the Libretto, an obscene sum so full of commas and zeroes that it’s an affront to both God and man. But that’s a problem for the future. That’s a concern for another day. All we have to do now is get back to the spaceport, get off the Meadows, and get back to our regularly scheduled little lives down on Earth. This has become a stealth mission, and between our luggage, our hangovers, and our general inability to keep from blurting out commentary on the world around us, we have all the subtlety of a troupe of masturbating circus clowns.

Fortunately, there’s an actual troupe of masturbating circus clowns in the lobby, and they seem to be especially needy, taxing the Libretto’s concierge and staff to the utmost. I stop dead in my tracks as soon as the elevator doors open and just stand staring, concerned about how rude I’m being but unable to do anything to stop myself.

“Do you guys see that, too?”

“What, the hundred year old man with the barely legal child bride?” Papa Chub asks, a note of irritation in his voice. “Don’t stare. In fact, don’t do anything. Just keep walking. We don’t need you picking a fight the last day of the trip because you think it’ll have a nice symmetry with the fight you picked on the first.”

“What? No, man, the clowns.”

“Oh. Yeah. They’re with Trompe L’oeil. We saw them with Cassie and her friends last night. They’re great. Really thought provoking stuff, you know?”

“You’ve got to wear one of the complimentary ponchos if you sit in the front, though,” Monk adds. “It’s a splash zone.”

Despite the relief I feel that I’m not going insane, I frown. I always miss all the interesting sights on trips. “Wait, who’s Cassie?”

“A Goddamn bitch,” Googe mutters under his breath. I decide not to press the issue any further.

Out of the fear of getting a vengeful Johnny Cab and general stinginess now that we were no longer collectively obscenely wealthy, we take a human-driven shuttle back to the starport. The risk is, of course, obscene, but if the Meadows haven’t killed us after three days, a crappy driver surely won’t. The universe wouldn’t allow it. It’d be too unsatisfying an ending to our trip.

We shuffle through security like cattle, await the launch of our shuttle in uncomfortable plastic chairs as is expected of us. The talking is minimal. We’ve each entered into a sort of fugue state, a post-Bacchanal catatonia where our bodies realize all at once that it’s been days since we’ve slept or ate or not done tons of drugs properly, and they are not fucking happy about it.

I briefly consider vomiting into a trash can, but decide against it. If I can wait an hour, I can do it back on Earth.

A disembodied voice announces that boarding will begin shortly. No one moves to line up to get on the shuttle, a population of hungover and broke and broken tourists perfectly content to wait until the last possible moment before standing in another line. “So that was a pretty good trip, huh?” Googe says after the loudspeaker goes silent. “Right? I had a good time. I wish we’d gone to a strip club, but I guess there’s always next time.”

Erb shakes his head. “No. No ‘next time.’ Next time we’re going to a tropical beach or something. Something with fewer people and more nature.”

Papa Chub smiles. “Oh, you say that now, but after you spend a few weeks back on Earth, you’ll start to fantasize about it. That said, we are never coming back here again.”

“Until we do,” Monk says.

Papa Chub nods. “Until we do.”

“What about you?” Googe asks me. “Did you have a good time?”

I don’t answer him. I just sit back in my chair, my eyes shut, my hands folded in my lip, my feet resting against my luggage. I’m not asleep, but I wish that I was, and if I pretend that’s good enough.

I don’t know that I had a good time. I don’t feel good, exactly. What I do feel is empty, but not in a bad way. Unburdened. Clean. Like something malignant has been removed from me, and I am ready to have something good take it’s place. What that thing might be, and if it actually will take the malignancy’s place, I cannot say. But it might. And that’s certainly better than where I was when we first got here.

I got what I came for, I suppose. Perhaps on some level I should be grateful for this circus sideshow of an artificial satellite for providing me with an environment where that could happen. But as the disembodied voice announce that we may begin the boarding process, every fiber of my being tells me that it’s time to leave.

I mean, the money’s gone. We might as well go, too.


The Beast, Pt. 94 (Chapter 23c)

Packing is easy when one is too tired and hungover to give a shit about the process beyond cramming the things you own into a suitcase and forcing it shut. When you have an entire group of people all too tired and hungover to do things right, well, then it turns into a party. A sullen, unhappy party where the majority of communication is done through pointing and grunting.

I hide my genitals away behind a protective layer of pants and set to work squirreling everything away. There are clothes I never wore, books I never read, snacks uneaten. So much luggage existing solely to weigh me down. So many burdens, so little reason. “Why the fuck have I been carrying all of this?” I mutter as I shake my head.

“Hm?” comes a voice from the hallway. I turn around and Papa Chub is standing there, a curious look on his face.

I shrug. “Just talking to myself. Hey, where’d you guys go all yesterday?”

“Out and about. Saw some sights. Googe and Monk rode a roller coaster, me and Erb gambled some. Didn’t win anything though. We got back right when you were waking up, actually.”

“Damn, you guys were out that whole time? Long night at the club getting lucky with the ladies?”

Papa Chub smiles. “Something like that. You should ask Googe about it.”

I shout out into the other room, “Hey, Googe! Chub says you made a friend last night!”

There’s a snarl of irritation and the shouted response, “She was a Goddamn bitch!”

Papa Chub and I burst into laughter, he at the inside joke, me at the absurdity of a situation I’ll never completely understand. Once the laughter subsides, he glances around the room. “Man, this place is wrecked. Do you think the Libretto’s going to withhold some of your money from you to pay for things?”

I snort. “Good luck to them. It’s all gone. Wait, what do you mean ‘my money?’”

“We pulled our shares out yesterday morning after you gave a speech about the perils of capitalism. What happened to your share?”

“I spent it all.”

“On what?”

“Closure.”

Papa Chub sniffs. “That’s either really deep or really stupid.”

I open my mouth to respond, but I don’t have anything to say on the subject. Instead, I just shrug. “It can be both.”


The Beast, Pt. 93 (Chapter 23b)

I sigh. The Chad Studlu of the past is a problem, always making a fool of himself and leaving me to pick up the pieces. “That’s it, then? I didn’t pick any fights with any of you, or anything like that?”

“No,” Erb says, his face suddenly serious. “But where were you? We were trying to get a hold of you all day yesterday, and there was just nothing.”

“I busted my Conncomm.”

“What the Hell happened to your face?”

“I got into a fight with those little bastards from the lobby the other day. The Conncomm got busted in said fight. I think a lost a tooth, too.”

Googe winces. “Oh, that’s rough. Growing those back sucks.”

“What happened to the villa? Did you throw another party last night?”

I look around at the destruction: surprising amounts of vomitus, clothes strewn about, holes punched in walls, overturned chairs and tables. But no bottles. No powders. No ashes. Nothing to suggest a party, everything to suggest a maniac having some kind of a psychotic break.

“Yep. Threw one Hell of a party. Shit, I don’t even remember most of it, so don’t ask me for any details. Yep.”

Eyebrows arch. Shoulders shrug. Erb speaks, “You know, we were pretty worried about you. I mean, we all kind of figured you’d be fine. Because you always are. But usually you give some kind of sign that you’re alive, and you didn’t this time.”

His voice is calm, even. Googe and Monk have already left, gone to straighten things up. Papa Chub lingered, but his attention was waning as well. Doubtless there were things that needed attending to. I was vaguely aware that it was time to leave, that there was a shuttle waiting to take us to a shuttle waiting to take us to a shuttle waiting to take us to our respective homes. But even so, my words fail me. Everything fails me. I am a dog with drooping ears and downcast eyes. Something I’d said the other day comes back to me. “I do right by my boys.” What the fuck happened to that?

Erb’s already shrugged, walked away, but I’m not done. I stand up, clear my throat. “Hey, guys.”

Faces turn towards me, twist up in confusion in surprise, eyes roll, eyes shut, mouths open to speak but hold their peace.

“Guys. I’m grateful for you. Really. This trip has been something else, man. Highs and lows, but I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything else in the world. And I know I’ve been… Let’s call it a loose cannon the past couple days, but I think I’m better now. Just had some things I had to work through.

“I think I’ve got this. I think I’m ready to go home.”

Eyes drift towards each other. Nervous uncertain looks are shared. Finally, Googe breaks the silence. “Hey, man. That’s great. That’s beautiful. But put on some Goddamn pants.”


The Beast, Pt. 92 (Chapter 23a)

My friends stand over me, silent sentinels. I push myself up into a sitting position, taking care to keep the sheet carefully arranged so as to cover the lower half of my body. Finally, I can take the silence no longer. I put a fake smile on my face, trying to hide behind bravado as I have so many times in the past. But of course it doesn’t work. My friends have known me too long and too well. Still, once the machine’s been set into motion, there is no turning back.

I smile and look each of my friends in the eyes in turn. Their faces are wary, distant. They’re not angry, but it’s possible that that’s just because they haven’t made up their mind about how they feel. “So,” I say, dragging out the syllable, letting it hang in the air. “Do we have to talk about what happened last night?”

“Two nights ago,” Papa Chub says noncommittally.

I frown. “Whatever.”

“It was two nights ago, though,” Erb adds. “We weren’t here last night.”

“Okay, fine. Two nights ago, then. Do we have to talk about it or not?”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I do if we need to.”

“What does it mean to ‘need to?’”

I roll my eyes, ready to jump to my feet so I can argue and debate the nuances of ‘needing too’ better. But then I remember that it’s difficult to argue effectively when your genitals are on display to the world, so I just grumble and remain where I am. “Look, I’m just asking, did I make an ass out of myself the other night?”

“Oh, most definitely,” Monk says, breaking into a grin. I glance back at Papa Chub and Erb, who do not share his enthusiasm, at Googe, who is somewhere in between the others.

“What’d I do?”

“You picked a fight with a Cat Berry impersonator, for starters.”

“Dude, I’m telling you, she was the real thing.”

“Why would Cat Berry be at our crappy party?”

“Uh, because our party was awesome and not crappy?”

“There’s no way it was really her.”

“Well, why would an impersonator have a real body guard, huh?”

“Wait, seriously, who’s Cat Berry?”

“She wrote that song. About blood. Horrible Hemoglobin or something.”

“That doesn’t sound right…”

I clear my throat. “Guys. What else?”

Monk’s grin returns. “At one point, you tried to kick everyone out of the villa saying that you had to duel a magical space ghost, but no one would listen to you.”

I wince, simultaneously disappointed in myself both for trying such a thing and for not commanding the fear and respect necessary to actually accomplish it. “Anything else?”

“Ooh!” Googe says, suddenly excited. “You gave a big long speech about the nature of humanity to a bunch of people that were high on mescaline. That was pretty funny. You walked by, and they said something like, ‘Hey, man, come learn the truth,’ and you spun around and shouted, ‘Truth? I already know the truth!’ and then… Oh, wait! I have it on my Conncomm!”

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the device, pushes a few buttons on its face, and my voice, preachy and slurred and struggling to be heard over the din of the party. “We are never as great as we think that we are, nor as horrible as we fear. We are all simply the same, trying the hardest to make sense of a world without any discernible meaning or purpose behind it, making things up as we go along, inventing perceptions of reality that we can understand and find comfort in.” A pause. “Oh, shit, is that pizza?”


The Beast, Pt. 91 (Chapter 22c)

Do you?” I ask. My voice is petulant. Whiny. Childish. But her hand stays on my shoulder. There is weight to it, but not too much. No icy touch, no burning heat. Just a hand, an ordinary hand.

“Yeah,” she says. “I do.”

I turn and look at her. Who knows why. It’s not like that veil she wears will suddenly betray a hint of emotion. “How could you?”

“___,” she says, her voice carrying a firmness born of pain. “I’m not a monster. I’m not heartless. Do you think I don’t miss you, too?”

I blink in surprise at that. The words echo in my ears long after she’s gone silent. Finally, I shake my head. “How could you? Christ, you’re not even real. An undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a shot of Beast.”

The Lady in White leans in and her voice drops to a whisper. There’s an edge to it, but it’s not mean or cruel. It is simply blunt and direct, saying what needs to be said in a manner ensuring it’s actually heard. “And whose fault is that?”

I frown. “Oh, this is my fault? It’s always my fault, huh?”

“If I’m not real, then yes. Whose else could it be?” She tilts her head to the side, punctuating her irritation with playfulness. “Maybe you ought to ask why you’re doing this to yourself.”

“No sense asking questions you already know the answer to,” I say, muttering, spitting the words.

“Why don’t you ever try talking or doing, instead of just thinking?”

A grunt.

“Is this making you happy?”

Another.

“Does this make things easier?”

Another still.

“Is this really how you want to remember me?”

The answer comes instantly. “No. No, never.”

“Then fix it.”

I’m just about to ask how, but again, there’s no sense in asking questions you already know the answers to. Stop hearing her. Listen. Stop seeing her. Look. Stop thinking and talk, act, do anything.

I reach towards her veil, but my hand stops in mid-air. Baby steps. I reach for a her hand instead, feel the smoothness of the gloves, and pull. With a little effort, it gives way, first one and then the other. The straps of the dress next, the patent leather of the heels, lace and silk and leather and jewelery. A cage is a cage no matter what it’s constructed from. A wall remains a wall. A monster can be made from anything.

Blue jeans. A pink and purple shirt under a grey jacket. Hair tied back in a ponytail. She looks at me. She smiles. Lines of happiness at the corners of her mouth, her eyes. It’s funny how there’s so much warmth in the cool blue and green of her heterochromatic eyes.

This is what I want to remember.

This is what I will.

This is what I do.

* * *

My eyes open. It’s morning. A number of things occur to me all at once.

I’m on the floor. Again. The room stinks of vomit. I’m holding a pillow lifted from some bed tightly in my arms. I can feel cold marble underneath me and a high thread count bedsheet on my legs, which means I’m naked.

I took the Beast, hallucinated my balls off, puked everywhere, and fell asleep trying to fuck a pillow. Glorious.

I roll over away from the stench, the pillow left behind and I find my friends standing over me, staring down at me in silence. They are motionless, expressionless, and I can’t decide if I believe that they’re actually there or not. Finally, I say, “Hey” to no one in particular. They murmur in response, and I let out my breath, unaware I’d been holding it.

“So you’re not dead?” Googe asks.

I sit up straight and look around, surveying the destruction that’d been visited upon the villa since I’d taken the Beast the night before, registering every note in the chorus of pain my body is singing me. Broken bones and missing teeth and contused flesh, and none of that even counts the brain cells I’ve surely fried like eggs.

But my heart’s still beating. That’s undeniable. I’m pretty sure it is, anyway.

I shrug my shoulders at Googe. “I guess not.”

Erb sighs, reaches into his pocket, hands Googe a credit chip.


The Beast, Pt. 90 (Chapter 22b)

Do you want to tell me what’s wrong?” she asks me. I look up from the floor just for a moment before my eyes dart back down of their own accord, nervous little animals.

I shake my head. “I can’t. I don’t know.”

A few seconds pass, she bends down and sits down next to me. I cringe away, but she doesn’t react. She just sits there, her head turned slightly towards me, watching me.

A minute or more passes. I’m afraid to break the silence, half-convinced that if I move or speak she’ll grow fangs and claws and tears me to pieces, but I can’t take the quiet, the inactivity. I turn to look at her and ask, softly, “What are you doing here?”

The veil shifts slightly, as if she’d just looked away. “That’s kind of a complicated question,” she says after a few seconds.

Ghostly, haunting, inconsistent, horrifying, and now evasive? If I’m going to be dragged to my doom, I want to know why, damn it. “Come on. Is that really all you’re going to say on the subject?”

She shrugs. “I’m here because you need me?”

“I need you?”

She laughs softly at that, the noise lingering in her throat, a sound I can almost feel. Hm hm hm hm hm. She shrugs. “You must. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

I want to get angry at that. I want to snarl and spit my words and say, “Oh, I need you to haunt my every waking moment? I need to be thinking about you and wondering where you are and what you’re doing and if I’ll see you again? I need you in front of me so I can freak out and turn from something resembling a responsible and mature individual into a kicked dog?” But anger’s not right. Just another kneejerk reaction. Another attempt to mask the problem, to ignore it, silence it, replace it with some new and simpler and stupider problem. Pills and powders and liquids and booze and anger and laughter and fucking and staying in bed and staying out all night and smashed Conncomms and messages sent that should have never been sent, and Jesus, you can only lie to yourself so much. There’s only so much running you can do.

My head dips down, eyes locked on some distant spot on the floor. A dog afraid to look a human in the eye. My voice comes out like a sigh. “I miss you.”

A gloved hand settles on my shoulder like a dove alighting upon a branch. “I know.”


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