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Reign XII

The world was ending, but we were dancing
Our merry little jig, two fisting beers,
Smoking “don’t worry about it,” asking
Questions about LD50s and fear.
The day I traded my brain for a chip,
Nothing changed. I was born of Rage and Love
To begin with, was sick of the world’s shit
By seventeen, but not in the sense of
Eating a bullet. No, I was aggrieved.
I wanted only to dance and sing, suck down
Cherry vitriol and spit fire (believe
Me, I have enough hate to go around.)
I will not be silenced, will not be shamed.
With pen and ink, blood and bone, I proclaim.

Sea Shanty

My body drifts

Across silent oceans of sleep,

Carried by strange winds

To a happy feral place


Where I’ll meet a you

That doesn’t exist,

All pearlescent hair and

Iridescent skin,


And I don’t know when

I became an old man, but

I’m young enough yet

To throw another bottle overboard,


Thinking of

All the things I want

And how I’m going

To get them


Brother, I have been there:

Laid low by the world,

Prostrated at the throne of an absent god

Without even the wit to wonder

Where it all went wrong


Brother, I would be there still,

Would take every contusion

And ache and regret with a smile

For the way she picks you up

When you fall

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?”


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.”

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