doodlebug barbie

A gathering of desperation in the hottest place under the sun. They had come from all the points of the compass, stumbling in the white heat that divided ground from sky, reeking of ash and charred meat.

In small groups they stumbled towards the cruel illusion of the clapboard structures. A facade left behind by a long dissolved movie project, it depicted an old west township down to the very last detail. The saloon with batwings and busted windows, the general store whose sign hung and swung in the cauldron wind, the brothel with its sun-bleached satin drapes.  It allowed very little shelter during the hottest point of the day and the chill of night. A water pump which curled above a battered trough was beaten to the sand in a moment of frustrated rage when it was found to be non-functional.

They sat in the shadows, disparate in age and race and sex, united in their thirst. The men would venture as far as they dared in search of water as the women comforted the children. Soon they became lethargic, slumped against the rough wood walls on the salt-water stains of their dried up sweat, dead eyes glittering from the shadows.

They saw her coming from the west, her hair a halo of white swirling in the constant wind.  It was a toddler in diapers, ambling with the grace of someone learning to walk. Her eyes were the same searing cerulean of the sky that they might have as well been holes in her skull. A red-haired Barbie doll dangled from her hand. A pink bow fluttered in her hair.

There was a wrongness about her. Her fair skin did not burn in the sun, and her lips were not cracked. Delirious laughter seemed poised on her lips. They were frightened and cried out as she came closer. Precious moisture trickled away in the tears of the children.

“A child of the corn!”
“An Amity bitch!”
“God help us!”

She smiled indulgently without showing her teeth, cocking her head slightly. She gripped the doll by its sun-softened legs. It drooped towards the sand and sand and sand. She stepped forward, questing. The Barbie’s hair was a swirling flame as it dipped, lifted, dipped, lifted. As if it were sniffing the scorched air.

“What’s she doing?”
“Demon child!”
“Hush!”

The threads of the doll’s hair were growing taut one by one, extending to a point several yards ahead. The girl was yanked forward and she flew on her toes until the Barbie stopped, taut and trembling, in front of the whorehouse. The thirsty gasped, their cracked hands clawing in an involuntary warding off gesture. The girl let her hands drop to her side then she was again just a lost child holding a doll.

“Dig here,” she lisped, pointing to the ground. She smiled with feeling at them. They waited for her to disappear into the horizon before leaping to the indicated spot and tearing at the ground.

It was cool and sweet but poisoned; several weeks later a traveler wearing a calfskin hat and serape passed, warily regarding the mummified corpses arranged in a halo around a pool of sparkling water. He was thirsty but he knew a deal with the devil when he saw it.

the death merchant

He is a wandering ascetic whose religion is death. He traded in lead for souls for salvation in the final reckoning. He wears a wide-brimmed calfskin hat  tailored by someone who loved him even as he forgot how to love. A monochrome serape draped over his rail-thin frame hides his instruments of death, the cold and heavy descendants of the .45 Colt semi-automatic.

Seen against the low sun he is a frightful silhouette with a shadow that stretches for what seem like miles. He ambulates at a leisurely pace past the saguaros and clumps of sage, stopping occasionally to tear a button or two of peyote from the hardpan. These he places into his leather satchel as he walks towards the cooling horizon.

When the stars slide above, he hunkers down next to the charred husk of a  1953 El Dorado and builds a small fire with dry sage.  He sits with his back against the passenger side, the raw hunger of his stomach broiling with the peyote he has just consumed. The smell of asphalt mingles with the smoke and resurrects a pandemonium of memories. He waits patiently until it passes then thinks of nothing.

The desert is cold and, despite the fire, it seeps into his bones as he awaits the visions which will show the way into the future.

The Novel

Before the final draft of Hargarvard’s monumental masterpiece went to print, the author himself removed a single page from the manuscript. That page contained a passage of approximately six hundred words resolving the multiplicity of mysteries that plagued the Novel’s convoluted plot.

Hargarvard destroyed all the preceding drafts of the Novel along with that single page before committing suicide—an event of significance which would never be recognized by all but one of his admirers—in a most spectacular fashion which in itself was a clue to the enigma of the missing page.

The Novel gained notoriety for its dazzling prose, its wisdom, its intimate and tender understanding of the human condition, and, most profoundly, the legend of the circumstances surrounding its publication. The Novel was the subject of dozens of dissertations and cataclysmic debates among experts in the field.

The only person to unearth the truth of the missing page was an ancient scholar on the cusp of death.  He was found with a copy of the Novel spread on his lap, with the Hargarvard’s obituary placed at the missing page’s location. The nurse tending to the scholar reported that his final words were obscured by laughter.

a new god for a new time

White doves rose from his breast in plaintive sheets. His fingers conjured rabbits, pungent blooms, captured coins, plucking the thin air itself to create.The blue hue of his unreliable features danced like surf crashing on a black beach. His limbs, stolen tree branches, curved into fragrant sickles. An ecstasy of alligators snapped at his toes. Whirling clouds orbited his golden temples, pouring salty rain. Sparks ran along his evil grin to set fields afire.

His eyes, perched low and beady on a wedged nose, supported the true eye, the all seeing eye. It nestled on his forehead, sending corkscrewing rays of sunheat from the blood red moat of an iris circling  the blackest pupil, a student of evil thoughts.

Undecipherable secrets dripped from his movement and spattered on the ground, sizzling.

Zombapocalypto: Coffee and Cigarettes

Buddy made for the European style Bistro on Guppy Street. He was starving, and was still trying to recuperate from the disaster at the Oinky Wiggly. He pushed open the glass door and was startled by the sound of bells. Something moved in the gloom and he fumbled for his gun. A voice said, “Hey, it’s all right!”

Buddy relaxed. He moved to the source of the voice, warily scanning the premises. He found a middle-aged man seated at a table with a pot of coffee, a pack of Farbolos, and some uneaten cake. The table afforded a good view of the intersection of Guppy St and Canary Blvd.

“It’s safe. Here, have a seat. I’m Nigel.” Gold-rimmed glasses flashed as the man leaned over the table, extending a hand.

Buddy took the hand and exclaimed,”Christ, you’re cold!”

“I’m afraid my constitution isn’t the same. Age and disease, you know.”

“Disease?”

“I was dying of cancer before all this happened. Ball cancer!” Nigel made a face and laughed. It was a rueful sound. “Well, sit down, already! Coffee? Cake?”

Buddy nodded as he sat down. He was ravenous. Nigel poured another cup of coffee and pushed the cake at Buddy. He asked, “Who are you? What’s your story?” Buddy shrugged. He was new in town, fresh off the bus. He knew nobody here. He said so.

“Then it couldn’t have been as hard on you, this whole thing happening?” mused Nigel.

“I worry about my parents, my sister back home. I don’t know if this is happening everywhere else too,” mumbled Buddy through a mouthful of cake. He rinsed his palate with a sip of coffee.”It’s unbelievable.”

Nigel nodded. “Hasn’t it occurred to you that we might be characters in a b-movie or a bad novel?”

“That’s a thought!” snorted Buddy. “But we’re real. Aren’t we?”

“Authors,” Nigel continued, “are the worst sort of people. They’re cruel to their characters to move the plot or garner the reader’s sympathies.”

Nigel took his cup of coffee and brought it to his lips in a long draught. Hot beverage streamed, steaming, from his chest cavity. Buddy yelped, launching himself backwards, seat and all. When he got up, hyperventilating, he had his gun out. Nigel perused the younger man with calm eyes.

“Y-you’re one, y-you–,” stammered Buddy.

“One of them, you mean?” finished Nigel.

“Yes!” Buddy wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Why aren’t you trying to eat me?”

“Isn’t that what a civilized man does, restrain his urges for the betterment of self and others?” asked Nigel. He leaned back, folding his hands on his belly, what was left of it. Buddy could see the greenish tint of Nigel’s flesh, marveled he hadn’t smelled the mouldy stink earlier.

“In fact, the very idea repulses me, Buddy.” Nigel held out a placating hand. “Now please put that down. It’s not polite to point a gun at your host.”

Buddy was paralyzed with indecision. Each fiber of his being told him to pull the trigger, for the love of God, pull the fucking trigger.

“Come on, sit down. I’m not going to bite!” Nigel smiled at this. “Not chuckling? Oh well. Would you care for a cigarette?” He pushed the Farlboros across the table.

“I was never a smoker,” Buddy said, taking the pack with a trembling hand.

“People change with the times,” said Nigel. He saw a small dog carrying a human arm across Canary Street. “Everything changes.”

“How come you’re not like them? What use is drinking coffee if you can’t enjoy it?” Buddy asked, taking the lighter Nigel slid across the table and  lit his cigarette. He coughed violently.

Nigel lit himself a cigarette too, and sat for a moment. “I don’t know. I was taking chemotherapy. That might have something to do with this.” He looked away from Buddy. “I smoke and drink coffee because I need something to remind me that I was–” He paused. Smoke purred from his ears. “–am human.”

Buddy inhaled. He was getting the hang of it. It was a time for vices, as it always is when death is around every corner. “What are you going to do?” he asked.

“What is there to do? I’m not sure which is the worse, dying or being like this.” Nigel ground out his cigarette on the table and took another cup of coffee. “I’m rotting from the inside out.

“Buddy. Whatever it is you need to do, first will you stay with me a while? Please.”

Buddy nodded and helped himself to another cigarette.

They sat in silence and watched the day go away.