A truncated version (introduction excluded) of Abner Jay’s I’m So Depressed resoundingly plays…
A man in modest dress: haltingly, almost painfully ambles onto a northern New Mexican plain. At the very edge of a storm the man meticulously assembles his weapon on the desolate high desert floor. After some considerable amount of time the man lifts from bended knees, lifting also his wrathful armament—music fades—aiming skyward a piercing shot echoes out toward the almost entirely black firmament overhead…
On the selfsame desert floor, underneath a now entirely clear sky, a colossal cube of ice sits—seeming not to thaw, shift, or change in any visible way. Light breezes shake yellowed grass and the harsh looking but short trees warble—expansive wind hits the side of a frozen wall. How such a thing happens is too outlandish to surmise…
The inquisitor, in dark suit, knocks thricely on a microphone with the back of one nail. The machine resonates in a claustrophobic room of two.
—You can begin anytime, Mr. R.
The respondent, leaning into the device, set about his tale in a hushed yet confident tone. First, clearing his throat.
—At the age of fifteen I joined and became a devout member of the American Nazi Party. The site of the local party branch, unknown to me at the time, was about a ten minute drive from my house. I was born near it. Why and how I joined is of no great interest. In three years time I lead the local branch. I had no ambitions outside of the organization. I had no friends outside of the organization. I worked a measly day job, got together with family now and then, and I even had time for a hobby or two (mostly to keep up appearances).
The inquisitor: deadly soundless, head down for a discomforting duration, then speaks.
—Frankly, sir, it’s unclear to me how this pertains to the matter at hand. Details of your repulsive past are interesting enough but irrelevant in the here and now.
—You want to know the story. This is part of the story you want to know. Without the background, there’s no “present matter at hand.”
—Mr. R. We don’t care about you. We only care about the girl.
—Well, she’s dead. And how am I supposed to talk about that if I don’t talk about what it took to get there?
The inquisitor covers the microphone with his hand.
—We care even less about your hallucinations than we do about your past.
He removes his hand.
—Hallucinations? That’s interesting.
—No, Mr. R. That’s the point, it’s of no interest whatsoever.
—And the gold corpse floating above the water?
—She wasn’t floating above anything, Mr. R.
—Why don’t you bring some of your men in here and we’ll ask them what the body was doing or what you say it wasn’t doing. I saw the look on your man’s face. He was a second away from jumping out of his skin. Scared shitless that his head would fall off.
—Mr. R. I’m afraid we’re getting side tracked. Why were you in the forest at that time of night?
Mr. R. hesitates for a brief moment, composing himself before speaking again.
—I don’t live far from there. An hour walk from my house to the river.
—You didn’t have a flashlight or a phone or water or anything else but what you currently have on you right now.
—That’s strange, Mr. R.
—Every night, for the last ten nights, I took these strolls in the dark. At first, I was scared, as anyone would be. But after awhile, I depended on that bizarre nighttime routine. Each night I’d go a little further into the forest. Fear increasing. Exhilaration increasing. I’d ask myself, how much dark are you willing to face? On the third, maybe fourth night, I started to hear these unsettling noises. When I first heard them I froze and waited for just the right moment to run back home. But, as scared as I was, I walked on—sometimes right toward the immediate din. I realized, somewhere along the way, that the fear was disappearing. I might have thought about getting attacked by a wild animal, tripping and cracking my skull on a rock, a maniac running out and slitting my throat in pitch-black night, and none of it seemed to bother me anymore.
The inquisitor put his hand to his forehead and set it there.
He lifts his head out of his hand.
—When did you first see the grasshoppers?
—On the seventh night, the noises stopped completely. And I noticed it wasn’t as dark as it had been. I’d gone further, by far, that night than I previously had. I sat down. And I heard the river. I didn’t even know there was a river there. I tried to be as quiet as I possibly could, just listening. And then I heard another barely detectable noise. I can’t tell you what it precisely sounded like because honestly I don’t remember. But I do remember it sounded… good.
—How do you mean?
—When you heard the sound, you felt better.
—Better about what, Mr. R.?
—Better about… anything and everything.
—I walked to the sounds. And I was more frightened of finding the source of those sounds than I was when the sounds sounded like a hell. I don’t know why. But I didn’t see anything. I stood by the river, watched the water drift in the shining moonlight. Then, at the rock edge of the stream, there was, what I thought was, a kind of… visual distortion—maybe… an optical illusion. It looked like a section of space, low to the ground, had been folded onto another section of space, negating the middle. What could I do but bewilderingly stare.
Mr. R. looks up.
—Did you have a headache? Did you smell something funny?
—No… but out of that divided section of space… something, at first indiscernible and indescribable, emerged. It was as though a thing was being birthed out of that distortion. And, before I had time to take in what I was seeing, I saw something with complete clarity. A perfect golden grasshopper jumping out of one distortion, hopping on the ground a few times and jumping into another distortion—one I hadn’t seen before. And the grasshopper was gone.
—The body Mr. R.
—Three nights later…
—That was last night?
—Correct… three nights later, on the tenth night, I walked precisely as I had before—straight to the river. The moonlight was the brightest I’d ever seen—a cacophony of noises seemingly everywhere. And when I got to the river it was rushing hard and loud.
Mr. R. stopped his narration. He craned his neck to the right and stared at an anomalously miniature drawing of a dog on the wall. The inquisitor, in turn, stared at Mr. R. and waited for him to resume. When Mr. R. did not continue, for quite some time, the inquisitor asked him a question.
—What would you like to do, Mr. R.?
—I think… I don’t want to talk anymore… unless I can take you there.
—To the crime scene?
—There was no crime but yes, to the river.
—Serving what purpose, Mr. R.?
—If I take you there, they’ll be no disputes, no suspicions.
The inquisitor leans into the expanse dividing him from Mr. R.
—And if we go there and there’s nothing?
—Then… you’ll know what I am.
9pm, the next night. Mr. R., the inquisitor, and two unidentified men set off toward an unlit river.
Neil Young’s Vampire Blues wanes creepingly in.
Mr. R. walks calmly and is untroubled despite the handcuffs. The inquisitor has a stern expression, his feelings tucked away somewhere inaccessible to us. The two unidentified men do their best to exude toughness but try as they may they cannot shake the terror inside, hands faintly tremble but you must observantly fixate to see it. Mr. R. looks upward. The moon is brighter still. A discordance of panicked intensity surrounds them but they carry on, as they must.
The song grows dim.
They’ve reached the river.
—It won’t happen yet.
The two unidentified men look to Mr. R.—while the inquisitor keeps his eyes fixed on the water. They wait, hearing only the all too usual sounds of the night. Then… an uncommon clamor…
—I left out a few items of interest, detective.
The inquisitor looks to Mr. R.
—This is a fun little game, Mr. R.
Before Mr. R. can finish, before the inquisitor can respond, before the two unidentified men can continue to look dumfounded: their entire world goes black and silent. Stopped dead in blind space.
Steadily, gleaming reflections on blankness begin to appear. Then, blurred light. Then, objects. Then, the world again.
—I didn’t want to scare you.
—What just happened?
—It’s what always happens… look.
Mr. R. points to two human length distortions in front of them.
—They’ve never looked like this before.
Gold ooze drips from the base of the negations. The two unidentified men hurry over and place their hands under the drip. Gold comforts them with extraordinary radiance—covering their hands, their arms, torsos, waists, legs upper and lower, feet, and lastly their head and hair. What was once the bodies of two men is now two blocks of golden flesh—one stacked upon the other making a staircase-looking entrance into the distortion.
—That’s for you, detective.
The inquisitor reaches for his gun, only to find a handful of liquified gold. He grunts like a petrified beast. Mr. R. is unshackled and bowing before the ever growing distortions. He faces the inquisitor and smiles.
—They’re coming, detective, you’re going to have to make a decision.
Mr. R. stands. A cold hush. Many glowing red eyes appear from across the river.
—It’s either them or him, detective.
He motions to the golden steps leading elsewhere. The inquisitor, only just now, notices that Mr. R. is wearing a black jacket he did not have on before. On the left side breast pocket of the jacket, a bright red Swastika—as bright and red as the glowing eyes moving toward them.
—Mr. R. What are you?
Mr. R. runs to the distortions and leaps inside. The world goes entirely dark once more. As the inquisitor’s sight returns, he sees a floating corpse over the river. The body, a green neon illumination. The red eyes are upon him and stalking ever closer with malicious intent. The inquisitor approaches the stairs, devoured by the oddity. He stands upon one, then another. Closing eyes, all—his first, the red after. He falls inside. Distortions, red orbs, and sounds are gone.
Gentle daylight breaks through the northern New Mexican timberland—reflecting on a river’s small cascade. On the cascade ground, grasshoppers jumping from water stone to water stone. Droplets moving down their apparent vertebrae.
A family—husband, wife, girl, and boy—in applicable clothes, taking moderate steps, investigating the ground, marching again, scrutinizing more ground and so on. The little girl makes a direct line to the grasshoppers.
—Here they are.
The family looks up at her—her hand grasping them tightly. The mother speaks.
—That’s not it, sweetie.
—Yes, it is!
With her other hand, the little girl picks up a shattered stone with rutted edge. She abrades the hardened muck off of the grasshopper to reveal his golden form. And so with the others. She juts her discovery in the air. And just as promptly as she has done this, she pulls her hand back down toward the ground, revealing razor sharpened teeth, biting ferociously into the insects, and puffing out a single cloud of black smoke.
The remaining family bows before the girl.
A silvered photograph of a house pasted onto a wooden panel painted black. The house askew and appearing to be in the act of mid-air rotation. An arrow points in the direction of the movement. In the farthest right side bottom corner a small hand reaches out toward the house in absolute desperation. We take it for granted that the hand is severed…
Hot Rize’s rendition of 99 Years plays to the end.
LM Rivera is a writer. He co-founded Called Back Books w/ his fiancé Sharon Zetter. His work has appeared in various small presses. His chapbook THE LITTLE LEGACIES is available from Glo Worm Press; his first full-length book, The Drunkards, is available from Omnidawn; and his forthcoming book, Against Heidegger, will also be available from Omnidawn in early 2020.
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