Fiction — September 17, 2015 11:08 — 0 Comments

A Night Of Blight: Psychic Warfare At The Mercury

I don’t think Jake, The Monarch’s Editor and Chief, had any idea what he was getting into when he accepted Poster Bot’s first article. The Monarch takes great pride in providing opportunities to new (and often eccentric) authors, but nobody expected this author would be a real-life counterpart to the debauched Gonzo Journalist he writes himself as. Poster Bot does good work, but he’s not easy to work with, so I was brought in as a special Gonzo Editor to share the burden. Jake chose me because I’m physically intimidating, or as Poster Bot describes me “A 300 pound graduate of The Diamond Head School of ‘Get the Fuck Out of My Way.'” Whenever “The Bot” got out of line I’d just threaten to sit on him, but when he submitted this latest article and became outraged that I wanted to label it as fiction, it took more than my usual poi-fed girth to stop him from asking “What?!? How dare you impugn my journalistic integrity! Everything I write is at least 50% true!!!” So I sat on him, while Jake pinned his arms and Caleb pored liquor down his throat. When the bottle was empty we got to the full truth, which is that the following story is true as far its author is concerned. He’s lost someone important to him and writing was his only way of dealing with it.

Ken Kelani, Editor, Gonzo Desk-

 

A Night Of Blight: Psychic Warfare At The Mercury

My nom de plume, Poster Bot, may seem like an unusual name for an author, but a good writer indulges in his obsessions and I was recently obsessed with designing posters for local bands. As a result I met the members of Blight, a Seattle based Goth-band, offering audiences a weird blend of Dark Wave, Punk and Death Rock. I gave them some good posters and they were always impressed… the rift between us didn’t begin until I started writing.

Blight’s lead singer performs under the name Doc Boots. He’s a notorious bastard, but living proof that brains aren’t everything. The first sign of trouble was when he e-mailed me to ask if I’d be willing to write a promo for (what was) the band’s new album. I tried to explain, “I love your work, but can’t just write ‘These guys are nice and make nice music.’ My goal is to tell a good story, but I’d be happy to see your next show, write about it and mention the album in my article.” He invited me to his next show, but I screwed the pooch when I added, “I look forward to seeing you and hope you’ll be doing something different.”

What followed was a series of angry e-mails from Doc, defending the band’s right to perform more for their own amusement than for their audience. His exact words were, “People either get it or they don’t!” After that it was a long time before I heard from him, or anyone else in Blight, until Miss Moscow (the band’s bass player) invited me to see them live at The Mercury.

I jumped at the chance. It was an opportunity to infiltrate Seattle’s most exclusive venue and the icing on the cake was when Missy asked me to design the poster. “We want you to draw an original monster.” She said, “Something from another realm. Something from the subconscious.” She accepted my first design and I couldn’t wait to see it in the halls of The Merc, but The Mercury was hard to find, being both figuratively and literally underground… resting saturnine beneath Capitol Hill in an unmarked grave just off Broadway.

There was no sign or awning, just a silver door at the bottom of an alley; that’s where I met Natalie, waiting patiently beneath the security camera.

“Did you bring a wrench?” I asked. Natalie laughed. “Did you bring pepper spray?” I always carry pepper spray and Natalie always carried a wrench. The purpose of the spray is to be malicious. The purpose of the wrench was to close off valves, preventing gas-leaks in case of an earthquake… It was also an excellent weapon.

We secured our weaponry and opened the silver door, where we were received by a thin man, covered in tattoos. He sat behind a counter staring into the monitor next to him, observing the alley outside with the same intensity as a medieval scryer. Natalie and I had disrupted his vigil, but when his eyes turned from the proverbial crystal ball and fixed their piercing gaze on us, the thin man was surprisingly cordial, not friendly, but perfunctorily polite. “Hello. Welcome. Are you members?” It was my story and my responsibility to deal with the watchdog. “I made the poster for tonight. I’m a friend of Doc’s and I’m here to interview him.” The thin man kept staring, expressionless and yet severe. I repeated, “I made the poster for tonight. For Blight… tonight’s headliner.” His eyes looked past mine, toward a distant and invisible horizon, when he spoke again it was to some intangible being on that horizon. “Blight is playing tonight. Admission is free.”

He stamped our hands and Natalie and I walked down a hallway, into a small room plastered with posters. “What’s this?” Natalie asked, pointing at the unusual emblem on my mine. “It’s the Tulpa symbol,” I said. “The band wanted me to include it in the design. At first, they asked me to work it into the horns, but I thought-” I was interrupted by a tall, pallid man, with a black beard, dark glasses and a giant fur coat. Everything he wore was black, except for a pair of black and white striped stockings stretched between the bottom of his coat and the top of his boots. It was Doc Boots, looking at Natalie and asking, “Is this your girlfriend?”

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Natalie wasn’t my girlfriend. I felt a great affection for her, but she and I had always been just friends. “No,” I said nervously. Doc looked at me like he knew something I didn’t, then asked, “You’ve never been here before, have you?” I hadn’t. “Let me show you around.”

We followed Doc into a much larger space, a refrigerated cavern of overhead ducts, black-lights and lasers shining like neon cobwebs in a dim, Frigidaire. It was a cold, electric dream and the bar was to the left, tended by man smoking vanilla-scented ejuice. “This way-” ordered Doc, stepping past an Asian girl selling penis candy. “We have a booth in the corner.”

Missy was there, wearing enough makeup to keep warm in winter. I’ve never met a Goth girl that didn’t, but Miss Moscow’s guise would standout at a geisha convention. She’d whitewashed her hairless body in paint and powder… added black lipstick (with eye-shadow to match) and finished with an intricate pattern of lines and dots, giving her face the appearance of being trapped in an iron mask. I wondered if it was a metaphor for what every woman does to her face in a less obvious way.

“Have a seat,” she said. I sat next to Missy and Doc pulled out a chair across from me for Natalie. “At a proper table-” he said “A woman is always seated opposite her man.” “LOL.” Natalie groaned and looked at me as though she wanted to punch a hole in my head with her wrench. My eyes rolled and I tried to start the interview, but Doc wouldn’t have it. “You’re not getting an interview,” he Said. “You’re here to see the show.”

I should’ve been shocked, but considering that his idea of foreplay was a half hour of begging, I wasn’t. Still, I’d criticized him for doing the same show over and over. From my point of view it was a constructive criticism, from Doc’s it was me telling him how bored I was. “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just that, as a journalist, I try to give my readers something new with every article. I love your music and want to do whatever I can to support it, but I-” He interrupted me again. “Journalist? You’re a God-damned drunk!” I tried to explain. “Well, although I do like to drink, that’s usually more of a writing device. I’m never really as drunk as I purport to be.” His eyebrows intensified behind the dark glasses. “Bullshit. You’re drunk right now!”

Of course I was drunk. It was after 10pm and I’d been drinking since noon. Drinking is what I do, but I take my writing seriously, sometimes too seriously and alcohol is an opportunity for me to provide comic relief. “I’m just following the example of my mentor,” I said. “Hunter S. Thompson.” Doc wasn’t convinced. “Yeah well, you wanted a good show and now you’re going to get it.” As Doc went silent Missy turned to Natalie and said something in Russian. “Вы имеете в виду для него больше, чем он признает.” I didn’t understand, but Natalie looked startled.

Missy and Doc stood, leaving Natalie in deep thought. I didn’t want to interrupt, so I contemplated our reflection in a mirror next to the booth. I liked being on another adventure with her, but I was also on a story and in order to get it I needed a drink, so I sauntered to the bar and asked the man smoking ejuice for a Gin and Tonic.

In spite of all the writing I do about drinking I don’t spend a lot of time in bars. Most of my drinking is done at home, where, much to my regret, I don’t have a black-light and apart from the few exceptions that proved the rule, The Mercury was lit entirely by black-light… my drink was fluorescing. “It’s the quinine-” said the bartender. “It’s awesome!” I said, but I generally like to maintain a degree of anonymity when I’m reporting; difficult to do with a drink that glows in the dark. I asked the bartender, “What’s the most unusual alcohol you’ve got?” “Absinthe.” He shrugged. I was admittedly disappointed. I’m not sure what else I expected, but drinking absinthe in a Goth-bar seemed like going to Paris to get a Big Mac. Something was missing.

Since there was no story behind the bar I decided to focus on the band. While Miss Moscow tuned her bass, Doc was erecting a large, black piece of foam-core. Ordinarily Doc stands center-stage, but his mic and the rest of the equipment were on the side, making the foam-core the center of attention. I could only anticipate the surprise as I observed the keyboardist, who was soldering something into an oblong box attached to his machine. It wasn’t standard equipment… it looked wet and rubbery, too dark to make out, but I swore I heard it scream. The keyboardist finished soldering, gave Doc the thumbs-up and the band started playing.

Their first tune was called, “Bat Eggs.” I remember the lyrics: “Puppets shouldn’t cry-” and later: “When you mix love with potion, you get ‘lotion.'” The Blight fans were loving it. They were closing in and weren’t a comely crowd: shuffling, drooling, performing an a-rhythmic march to a mixed-metered dirge. I felt ill-at-ease and was in danger of feeling ill, so I returned to Natalie back at the booth.

“Got any Yin Chiao?” I asked. I was hoping for a smile. Natalie had six dimples when she’d smile and every one of them could light up a room, but she was a holy terror when she was angry and empathizing was like hot-tubing in a hydrothermal vent, a febrile blast of searing emotion. She had something to say and I knew it was important, but it had to wait… a Blight fan was screaming.

As the musicians played, Doc drew lines on the foam-core board. They were initially curved, but straightened when connected, giving the board’s surface a perceptible depth. When the last lines were joined Doc looked as though he was reaching through the board into another, more unhallowed realm. Then the lines disappeared and the board became a hole, opening into a black, stereoscopic space. “This next song is called, ‘The Trembling Way,'” he said and the underground cavern began to shake.

The song was like the birth pangs of a prehistoric whale, turning the club inside-out, backward and upside down. Things that I understood to be far away became visually close and vise versa, transforming the electric dream into a nightmare of extra-dimensional perspective… thank God I was drunk, because only a practiced alcoholic could’ve navigated through that teetering, inverted delirium.

I grabbed Natalie and ran for the exit, stopping short when my inconspicuous drink crashed into an invisible wall. The only way out was through the poster-plastered room, but the room’s air had become solid, like glass or resin. It was impossible, but I could only stand there, bewildered as the florescent quinine in my drink trickled down the room’s glossy boarder.

“I feel dizzy.” Natalie said and an unscrupulous part of me was almost happy to see her looking queasy, the expression of getting ready to puke being preferable to getting ready to strike.

While Natalie puked, Doc’s singing became cosmic. I couldn’t hear anything but him, holding a single sustained-note as the audience held its ears, shrieking silently. The more I listened, the more I found myself staring blankly into the void and knew something was staring back…

A magnificent pair of alabaster antlers roared out from the stereoscopic universe. The face on the head of the creature they belonged to was that of a cat with a third eye and when the full, four-legged beast clopped out onto the dance floor it stood at over 12 feet tall, much higher than the low, neon-strewn ceiling of The Mercury. Space no longer made sense, but I had to make sense of it.

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The deer’s chest opened and a voracious maw started chewing the panicked Blight fans: rows of teeth stabbing and grinding, slobbering, savoring buckets of blood with its colossal wet-tongue while the serene face of the cat looked on, lovingly, like The Virgin Mary caressing her child. I covered Natalie’s eyes and dragged her swaying through the canted chaos, hoping desperately to find another exit and terrified that the only way out was through that idyllic, intangible beast.

I led Natalie through a door to the left of the creature, hoping it was a way out, but it was only the men’s room, a painful reminder that the club was underground. There were no windows. There was no back door. There wasn’t even a Men’s Room Attendant to provide comfort in our hour of need, but at least the bathroom was right side up and we could regroup, as long as the beast didn’t have to drop a deuce.

“What’s going on?” Natalie asked. “Is this real?” The gin was working it’s magic on my superego. “Real enough.” I said “But I don’t understand it.” I don’t know if it was because of the danger, or because Natalie and I were in the men’s room, but I felt eons of evolution switching on every machismo-soaked gene in my body. I was a man and Natalie was a woman… my woman and I had to protect her. I knew pepper spray would be no match for the giant rusine-feline, so I started looking for something better. The best I could come up with was a toilet-plunger and to save Natalie I would’ve plunged into hell itself, like a crusading Plumber against The Devil’s own brown baby boy, but when I reached for the door Natalie held my arm. “We need to talk.”

“I can’t go out there,” she said. “Not until we get something straight.” Then she paused and looked as though she was preparing me for an apology. “Do you like me?” she asked. “Yes!” I said. “Now let’s get the fuck out of here!”

“No. I mean, do you like me as a friend, or as more than a friend?” Natalie and I were just friends, but a time came when I realized how unique she was and there was no turning back. She was wonderful and couldn’t stop being wonderful. I knew she didn’t feel the same, so I never brought it up and didn’t want to discuss the issue with a plunger in my hand.

“Yes I like you. As a friend. Now can we please just go?!?” Natalie was no fool and I suspect that under different circumstances she would’ve read me the riot act, but our circumstances were life and death and I could tell she didn’t want to face death with a lie between us. “Yes I like you.” I repeated. “As more than a friend.”

We had an unspoken agreement and I’d just broken it. I could feel her sense of betrayal, it was the loneliness in the eye of a storm. Every kind word I’d ever said, every act of friendship, was suddenly tainted… just an act. “I’m sorry,” I said. “But I wasn’t going to say anything. You dragged it out of me!” Natalie made herself perfectly clear. “I don’t have feelings for you. And I’m not comfortable being your friend, knowing that you have feelings for me.” Just then, a man came screaming into the room. I didn’t enjoy the interruption, so I pepper-sprayed the bastard.

Of course that only made the situation worse. Before being sprayed, the man was just screaming, afterward he was a raving lunatic: crying, gagging, flailing blindly around the room in a frantic search for anything to stop the pain. Finally, he stuck his head in the urinal and started flushing. He was so incensed with pain that I don’t think he realized it was me who’d sprayed him. “It’s my sister!” He choked. “My futanari sister! She wants to fuck me!!!” It was deranged nonsense, but I was admittedly curious, so I opened the bathroom door to peak outside.

What I saw was a monstrous orgy. The stereogram stag had grown to 30 feet, Doc was humping its leg and a bestiary of crinoid creatures were humping the fans. The pepper-sprayed bastard behind me continued flushing. I turned around to kick him in the ass just for being useless, but stopped when my eye caught the poster above the emergency eyewash station.

It was my poster and the 30-foot beast was the horned-monster I’d drawn. I should’ve recognized it instantly, but I was just as panicked as everyone else. Then I remembered what Missy asked for. “Something from the subconscious-” and suddenly it all made sense. She wanted a Tulpa, thought made flesh. The people outside weren’t being attacked by demons from beyond, they were being ripped to shreds by their own, personal El Guapos. Blight’s show was a ritual, designed to give substance to a controlled, mass hallucination and the white-beast I’d drawn was lord of the hegemony.

I dropped the plunger, gripped Natalie’s shoulders and looked her square in the eye. “We need to get to the bar,” I said, but Natalie was reluctant. “Why?” she asked. “Because you’re my Safety Monitor and I need you.” She was standing firm, but I still needed her and had no idea how long it’d be ’til some incestuous fantasy came bursting in. “I can get us out of here,” I continued. “I can save us. If you’ll trust me.” Ironically, I’d already betrayed that trust by being honest about my feelings. It was too late to save our friendship, but with Natalie’s help I could save our lives. “How?” she asked. I smiled confidently. “By being an insane, drunk writer.”

Natalie knew that if she could count on me for anything, it was to be completely insane. She laughed and pulled out her wrench. “Safety first,” she said and the two of us flew out the door. “Once more into the breach!” I charged, dragging her by the hand through a whirligig of Electra-ic vibrators, weaponized by randy, chimeric brutes. She slipped in something. “Do I even want to know what that was?!?” she asked. “A wet dream!” I said and threw her behind the bar, where the savaged corpse of the Bartender broke her fall.

“Grab the book!” I commanded. “What book?!?” She had every right to be confused. “The drink book!” I continued. “The one that tells Bartenders how to mix drinks!” The Merc’s Bartender was down, but Natalie was a licensed Bar Back and knew that behind every bar there was an alco-nomicon of drink mixes. “This?” She found it instinctively, the Big Bad-Ass Book Of Cocktails. “Open it!” I screamed. “And call out the first, most fucked up drink you find! The weirder the better!!!” Time was short. We’d been noticed by a tardigrade-matriarch and she was trundling in my direction. Natalie read aloud. “Alien Urine!” The behemoth mamma was getting closer. “Mix it!!!” I yelled and in seconds, Natalie had poured me an orange, caustic glass of xenomorphic piss. I downed it in a single gulp and a naked, pot-bellied alien appeared, relieving himself on the engorged water bear. Triumphantly I shouted, “Take that you Oedipal bastard!!!”

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The idea was insane, but in an insane situation, insanity was the best defense. Doc’s ritual had opened a door into a dimension of mind, but drinking was my ritual and the urinating alien was my Tulpa. Its urine was like acid, because that’s the way I’d imagined it.

As the water bear melted, the other El Gaupos turned toward the bar. Natalie and I were now prime targets for a frenzy of fleshy neuroses. I needed more ammo. Natalie was fast, but I needed something she could make in a flash. “What’s that drink you’re always drinking? A Newfie?” “A Greyhound,” she said. “But I make it with gin instead of vodka.” “Set me up! And keep ’em comin’! The more the merrier!!!”

She poured six Greyhounds, lining them up in front of me. I drank each one, almost as soon it hit the bar and when I’d finished, a six-pack of rabid hounds stood between me and the giants. “More!” I groaned. Natalie flipped through the book. “How about a Mississippi Mule?” She asked. “Do it!!!” The mule appeared, kicking, launching the Greyhounds barking into battle. I was unstoppable, like Neo in an inebriated Matrix, but the Jäger Monster wasn’t going down without a fight.

It kicked Doc off its leg (right out of his boots) sending him flying into the black hole, then it reared its haunches and tried to kick me. It missed, but its humongous hoof crashed against the wall, smashing every last bottle in The Mercury’s arsenal. We had only one chance left, the only thing still intact amidst the broken glass, a black box labeled Members Only.

I knew that vanilla-scented Bartender was holding out on me. I was so drunk that I started ranting at his corpse. “‘Mercury @ Machinewerks?!?’ Try ‘Bastard @ Machinewerks!’ You fucking swine!!!” I kicked him and it didn’t matter that he was dead, or that he was unable to appreciate my brilliant defamation of his character, but it did matter that the box he’d been hoarding was locked. “Out of my way!” Screamed Natalie and smashed the box open with her wrench. The salvation inside was a bottle of something I’d been wanting to try for a long time: Chinese snake wine.

I’m unaware of any mixed drink listing snake wine as an ingredient, so I drank it straight. It tasted like a dead animal, soaking in grain alcohol and my gut reaction was to puke, but Natalie had already done that and I didn’t want to steal her thunder, so I took another sip, conjuring another Tulpa, the most ferocious one I could think of to commiserate the wine’s flavor… a nine-headed Hydra.

It slithered through the charnel underbrush, slowly toward the deer, striking and swallowing the more venial monsters as it closed in. The Greyhounds were driving back the anemones and the mule was bucking back the ones trying to come through the gate. The measurements of the neon cavern normalized with each expatriated monster and the only fight left was between the two heavyweights.

While the room shrank, the Jäger Monster shrank with it, still demonstrating perfect, Buddhist detachment. I took another squamous sip and watched as the serpentine assassin rose steadfast from the slaughterhouse floor, the eighteen eyes of its nine heads mesmerizing the monster with hypnotic determination. The deer was frozen and time froze with it. The tension in the neon cavern hung anxious in my sympathetic chest, then, for the first time since it’d entered our world, the alabaster animus lost its cool.

Its serine face clinched in hatred and became that of toddler throwing of a fiery temper tantrum. Its scream matched its face, shattering the frozen moment like an atomic blast shatters an era. The Hydra struck, mercilessly, ripping out a piece of the deer’s throat. It struck again and again and again, each time teething out a chunk of indignant flesh that’d pour blood like a cracked barrel pours wine, driving the deer backward with every insult.

Hoofs jabbed in confusion, trying to attack as well as defend, but the heads kept striking, striking and striking, until the rear of the Jäger Monster had backed all the way in to the stereogram id and the deer made one more desperate attempt to hold on to our universe, looking into the eyes of its assailant, then looking into mine, hoping I’d take pity on what was either a wounded animal or a bruised ego, but I had none. I lifted the bottle and began to chug, chugging down every last drop of that awful, fetor-flavored ichor, until my Hydra pushed the albino beast all the way back, sobbing into the wanton dark.

The Jäger Monster was gone and without the King Tulpa to hold the gate, the door was closing, snatching back the Hydra, the Mississippi Mule and every other fantasy as the foam-core surface returned to two dimensions. Aside from the weirdo still flushing pepper spray out of his eyes, Natalie and I were the only survivors. “I’m just sorry that useless prick didn’t get to fuck his sister,” I said. Natalie started laughing and I started counting the dimples on her face. We were surrounded by torn orifices and the bleeding, eviscerated victims of a capricious, collective unconscious, but I was basking in laughter and nothing else mattered. I wanted to hold her, but knew I couldn’t, so I caressed the bottle, imagining my affection was somehow being transmitted to its intended target, at that moment the dimension of mind snatched Natalie.

I wish I could blame Doc, the deer, or the alcohol, but I can only blame myself. All artists are passionately insane and our ultimate goal is to instill that same depth of feeling in our friends, but it isn’t fair to expect our friends to care as much about us as we do about them. We can only accept our friends as they are and take as much as they’re willing to give. Natalie was a good friend, but in the wake of such a strong, emotional upheaval, I felt more for her than I had the power to control and the real Natalie became indistinguishable from fantasy. When the black hole closed it took that fantasy from me.

I wish this story was a message in a bottle that could somehow find its way to Natalie and bring her back. It can’t, because she’s gone and I have to move on, knowing that no story I tell will ever reach her again, but I remember her and what I remember most is her laughter, her sincere and genuine appreciation for the absurd. That gift will be with me always and Natalie’s legacy is that one person in the world will do his best to share it. As for Doc, all he left behind was a pair of empty boots, but he did put on one hell of a show…

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Words and pictures by: Poster Bot.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney