...wipe your ass with the mona lisa…
1. You don't talk about fight club.
2. You don't talk about fight club.
3. When someone says stop, or goes limp, even if he's just faking it, the fight is over.
4. Only two guys to a fight.
5. One fight at a time.
6. They fight without shirts or shoes.
7. The fights go on as long as they have to.
8. If this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight.
Written in sturdy, manly script (reminiscent of the turgid glory from phallic monuments) were the rules. Simple, direct, and exuding masculine pride. And the unlisted rule—the final, most crucial component—was to follow the rules.
Those who broke the rules, the laws of God, were punished. But there was no fear, no one had ever been punished before. Because this was Fight Club, and every member was a cherished cell in the shifty-shaft stalk to immortality.
"I'm sorry but your performance as of late has been appallingly poor, and with the new budget cuts to consider…you are fired, Matsuda-san."
"But sir, given the fact that I have worked faithfully in this company for the past ten years, never tardy—not even once! Perhaps you could…"
"Could what, Matsuda-san? Reconsider?"
"If it's possible."
"I'm sorry but that is out of the question. Really, man, you should have some sense of dignity. It's just a job."
Fucking great you bastard.
Just a job, just his entire adult life at stake here. The man was ruthlessly callous (Matsuda battled the adrenalin-surging desire to punch him in the jugular, snap his throat like a twig). Instead, Matsuda fell silent, stood from the standard, corporate leather chair, and shook his ex-boss's hand amiably, shrugging as if the prior display of emotional turmoil had been nothing.
Rigid and dejected, he walked out, away from a decade's worth of sweat and blood and soul-sickened toil. Cast out like a dog—well what did you expect? This was the fate of aged poultry and cows that no longer bore milk.
This was the age of no mercy.
Days later with no job offers to fondle, just some advertisements for furniture in the mailbox and a vexed, shrill message from his girlfriend on the machine.
Dully, he played the recording (immediately regretted it) and was battered with an onslaught of captious criticism and—this one took the cherry on top: she announced she was leaving him. "Met someone else, someone more competent" was the exact phrasing. He thought he would collapse and cry his heart out, but instead, felt nothing. Like she merely stated she was leaving for a week on business.
At ease and embittered, Matsuda wondered if he'd lost a part of being human (whatever the hell that was supposed to mean).
Two months and two days crept by slow and painfully, and finally, he found a job. At deducted, diminutive play, Matsuda managed to land a position and cubbyhole no one else wanted. The manager—tall, slender brunette with an incredible rack—looked down at him imperiously. The new carrion to be devoured.
She pointed him to a corner, canopied by an ersatz deciduous tree, and declared (war) that the desk was his. Matsuda sighed in resignation and obeyed in unvoiced protest. He would get his revenge. The passive-aggressive man always won in the end.
Lunch hour rolled by, and his supervisor was at a meeting, probably gorging herself on scallions and scallops—the damn scalawag. And he was left all alone with concentrated lye (because aqua regia dissociated too soon) and her precious African violets for company.
She returned seventy minutes later and screamed violently, face puce-colored, veins puckering out of temple and neck.
Matsuda ducked under his desk and laughed. Victory was sweet. The proletariat gained power.
A quarter past eleven with the liquor acidified, stomach curdled, and skin scourged piously from ammonia and wax (cleaned and polished the kitchen), and he was already a man knee-down in desolation.
Matsuda extricated his legs, entwined with the sheets, flicked off the perpetually glaring television, and mildly deliberated running down to the corner grocery store for a six-pack of beer. 1. He was thirsty (but beer was a diuretic, shut up stupid voice of reason). 2. He had been good all day long (minus the entire bottle of wine, glass still warm, go blow yourself).
Six minutes later, he was down at the deli, picking up a pack, eyes roaming for cigarettes, mind restless, manic, depressed—
"You look like a demented faggot seeking a high."
"Excuse me? What did you say?"
"I said," the stranger paused and lit up a smoke, "You look like a demented faggot seeking a high."
"Who the hell are you?"
"Mikami Teru. Pardon me, I need to get that—sorry. You look like a man lost. A purposeless condition breeds useless idiots. I can help change that."
"Sorry, buddy, but no can do. You can't just insult me and think about making friends."
"Not friends, an equal. I've been itching for a round and no one is biting—odd numbers, you see. So how about it? Here, take this. It's an address. Why don't you swing by sometime?"
Matsuda stared at the paper in his palm and thought about shoving it back into his face, but Mikami Teru was already gone.
"Sir, would you like me to ring you up now?" cashier-girl called, popping one last bubble of gum.
"Sorry, yes please."
Fight Club: The first rule of—
"Eleven fifty, sir."
Matsuda dug out the crumpled bills and pushed them towards her, think that he must have met an authentic lunatic.
He was gradually becoming a desiccated shelf, if not already so. Austere for a gruesomely gaunt, shadowy face, and sere was a man's soul when he was gauged of emotions and responsibilities and other artificially noble ideals of fulfillment and gratification. Like masturbating to an incessant flux of scratchy Gregorian chants and upbeat native rain dances.
At twenty-seven, Matsuda was worse than a wasted man, drugged off unsterilized, disease-infested needles and cheap war-whores. He was the apex of the low, the prosopopoeia of a suiciding conscious.
Left hand lurked to pick up a can of beer. Stop. Neck turning, shoulders rising, right hand reached for the soggy paper tossed haphazardly into a plastic cup (the king of environmental raping and bourgeoisie malaise).
Groggily, he jilted himself and read the smudged handwriting, deciphering the hieroglyphic detail and instructions for some obscure meaning. (Man's Search For Meaning would never cease.)
An eruption of opalescent, pearlescent light assailed his eyes and from the dense three-day cave of Jesus (out of the water-parted reddened sea) realization hit him fast, swerving straight to the stomach. It knocked him down, breathless and heaving.
In another instant, Matsuda grabbed his coat—then thought against it, hell he was a man so grow the fuck up already—and tore down the hallway. "Watch it!" his neighbor smacked into him head-on.
No time to respond, no time to squander. Tick-tock, the clock was chiming. He was going to make it, just miles more, streets stretching endlessly down an incandescent, fiery track, the yellow paved road, till "you see"—Matsuda stopped. He was there.
"Uh, sorry, but is this.." first rule of Fight Club "I mean, is Mikami Teru here?"
"Matsuda Touta. I received, or at least what I think, is an invitation to join."
Door swung back, hinges creaking menacingly. The inside engulfed every shred of blurry light cast from hooded streetlamps. Matsuda entered, bracing himself for something monstrous.
"Matsuda-san," said the vastly mysterious and fiercely annoying Mikami Teru, "Welcome. I'm very glad to see you here. I admit, for a while, I doubted you would show."
"Well…I'm here. So what's this all about?"
"Explanations are not our forte. It's better to watch."
"You'll see, it's about to begin."
Lights dimmed again, power switches slamming down, and a figure appeared on a solitary raised platform. Dressed immaculately in an Armani suit, Rolex watch glistening like a myriad of diamond flakes, the man jumped onto the stage with an aerialist's flourish. He smiled at the fixated audience, eliciting nods and approvals and even some tentative murmurings of "hello" (these were his millennial children).
Hush. The room went silent, and the listeners inhaled—not daring to emit a mouse's noise—and watched in fascination his every move. Like the (first) Great God or an omnipotent devil, he commanded their attention naturally, assuredly.
"Welcome to our fifty-second meeting."
Someone below jotted down his words verbatim, hands typing like birds fluttering for flight across a miniaturized keyboard.
"Tonight we have a newcomer among us. Matsuda Touta, please stand ."
Matsuda perked up, fox caught by a hunter in the dead of winter, and thought he was losing hearing (losing sight, the room spun). But the man smiled again, like everything was all right, and Matsuda had no choice but to comply.
And so, he rose and walked up the steps to the steel-bolted platform, neck proffered for the guillotine (a scandalous politician readying his own noose, just before a speech at the podium). Awkward and a bit frightened but he marched on with a soldier's ill-used bravery.
"You've read the rules, I assume?"
"Good. Then your first opponent will be…me."
"But, Light-sama!" (this was Mikami).
"Mikami, you'll get your chance. But I thought that to truly welcome him, I should be the one to initiate the ritual" such pretty words.
Mikami calmed down, muttered an apology, and retreated into the crowd.
"Ryuk, if you will," Light continued, gesturing for a Goliath-man to raise the rusted levers and shed some light onto the situation.
"Matsuda-san, I apologize for making the first hit."
—fist contacted with soft flesh, brutalizing the skin, scraping off molecules—
Matsuda collided into the floor, tasting the blood of numerous predecessors (vision hazy and a tooth loose). He spat out blood and readied himself, still shocked. But he read the rules and knew what he was coming, and wonderful. He managed to retaliate with a nice, clean cut across Light's ethereally pale face.
"How about a drink?"
Matsuda nodded, nearly fainted, but followed Mikami to a sideways bar.
The week afterwards, body a canvas for contusions and suppurating sores, Matsuda ambled through his routine life rote and jaded. Sifted through litigious paperwork and condemned his bitch-faced boss and her astute shrewish precision.
But for now, the other employees left him alone (too gauche and potentially lethal to inquire into the wounds) and Matsuda could dream about another fight-night in peaceful, juvenile bliss.
Full of macho-manly brio and…
"Matsuda! Are you done yet?"
He donned a stoic mask (thought of subtle ways to slice off the bitch's mouth).
Three challenges later (two with Mikami and one with a disgruntled detective named Mogi) Matsuda was slowly getting the hang of this game. He could hold on for an entire fight, even breathed it through (no internal organs permanently damaged) and live to tell the tale.
And at the end of every night, he and Mikami would venture into an unscrupulous bar like a couple of lustin' scoundrels. This was paradise, this was the life he was meant to live.
Matsuda grinned and complimented his opponent on the clever punch. Across the room, Light smirked and applauded, thus concluding the brawl.
Quite a few months must have passed before Matsuda realized there was always another man crouched and hungry-yearning, murky and indiscernible, protected by Light's silhouette. He asked the other members about him but received dubious responses and harrowed, stuttering, late-timed explanations.
And then one day, he zipped in front of Matsuda himself—materializing from barren space—and introduced himself: "Hello, I am L."
"Just L. You may call me Ryuzaki if you so choose. A nickname I picked up."
"Ryuzaki, huh, okay. So…Ryuzaki-san, nice to meet you."
"Likewise. I've been watching you for a while now, Matsuda-san. And I've taken quite an interest, a seventy-seven percent increment increase"
"Uh, thanks, I think."
"You're welcome. May I speak to you for a moment, Matsuda-san?"
"Sure. What's on your mind?"
"Actually, I'd rather talk about what's on your mind. Why are you here, Matsuda-san?"
"I—I received an invite from Mikami and thought—"
"Thought it would be fun? An escape from your mundane life of human stupidity and ennui?"
"Something like that, I'm not really sure to be honest."
"Hmm, you're an easy person to deduce. A corporate man but of no real importance with an over-zealous supervisor and feels that no one appreciates you in this world. You seek thrill, excitement—even at the risk of physical injury—just to feel alive. You desire acceptance yet do not accept yourself for desiring that. Am I right, Matsuda-san?"
"Hey, wait a minute. I do not need the 'excitement' of a fight to feel like a man."
"I never said 'like a man'. I was simply referring to your inability to live humanly, with both the flaws and the accomplishments."
"Look, I don't know who you are. Hell, you didn't even tell me your real name yet. So I don't think you've got any right to judge me."
"I apologize. What I said was out of line. Please enjoy your stay here. Oh, and Matsuda-san, if you ever feel like chatting, I'm always here."
Matsuda shook his head, compelling his mind to evaporate what Ryuzaki had said (the insults that hit home are the hardest to swallow) and scanned the almost depleted room for his missing shirt.
With summer came the deluges of pounding, harsh-exhilarating rain and a fire that ravaged his house.
Arriving home from a business trip, Matsuda gaped in astonished incomprehension as his house became a conflagration became an ashen memory. And so, he picked up his scuffed suitcase (gathered from the rubble the fireproof safe with vital documents) and trekked through the muddied puddles to a payphone nearby.
Quarters inserted, heart pounding (still in incredulity), Matsuda waited for the customary rings to tone down.
"Uhh…Light-san, It's Matsuda."
"Yes. Is something the matter?"
"My…my house just burned down. And I know this is a hassle—I can't seem to reach anyone, not even Mikami or my coworkers—so"
"You're looking for a place to sleep."
"To be blunt, that's right. But if it's too much trouble, I mean, I…"
"There is no need to be so polite, Matsuda. You wouldn't have called unless you wanted to ask. My answer is yes, here's my address."
Matsuda scribble down the place, how odd, he could've sworn the area was—
"Unfortunately, I have to warn you that my flatmate is Ryuzaki so it might be a bit crowded here."
"Oh. No, that's no problem. I'm very grateful. Thank you."
The tables turn, view adjustment.
Light's apartment was in one of the wealthier districts in the city (what did he expect, just look at the way the guy dressed). It was private, secure, and charged an exorbitant rate. The décor was modern, fashionable, and sleek, emanating the rippling twangs of a corpse-painted home.
"Something to eat?" Ryuzaki poked at his cake, fork scrapping off the frosting, and jabbed it at Matsuda's direction.
"No thanks," Matsuda coughed (cinders and dust still in his lungs) and trailed after Light down a white-shorn hallway.
"Your room is the third. It's small, I'm afraid. Just enough for a bed, night table, and desk."
"No, no, it's fine. Thank you."
"The rules for this house are as predicted: never speak of what goes on here."
Startled, Matsuda wondered what Light meant, and then saw a thin smile curl and tease at the corners of his mouth. Matsuda sighed in relief. It was just a small, innocent joke.
Their lives in the apartment were almost compartmentalized into three separate forces.
Matsuda woke early in the morning, jogged briefly around the neighborhood, showered, ate, and left for work exactly before nine. Light casually mentioned that he had no set occupation, dabbled in finances, law, etc.—whatever money came his way (though it was obvious he was more than successful at whatever profession of the moment).
But Ryuzaki was the most peculiar of all. He never slept at night, rarely left the house, and spoke in equivocal, rhetorical sentences. Matsuda avoided him for the most part, careful not to antagonize him. There seemed to be an unconfirmed though transcendentally established connection between him and Light, Matsuda's gracious benefactor.
Around seven or eight at night, depending on the day, Matsuda would arrive at home. The three of them would order take-out, whatever was convenient, and conversation skidded into a deadened halt. They took turns cleaning up and departed in different directions.
It was only on Saturday nights that the three congregated in the parlor, turned the sleeves over of their respective coats, and left for the fight club. Ryuzaki still slithering behind Light, spine eternally crooked, like a malignant parasite or the eerie half of a Siamese twin.
And eventually, Matsuda acclimated to his new life, never wavering (succumbing to tedium) and only halfheartedly flipped through newspapers for flat advertisements. He paid the rent, and neither Light nor Ryuzaki complained.
Then one bizarrely telling episode occurred: a girl was sitting in his seat at the breakfast table. A girl with long honey-blonde hair and vividly crimson eyes. She smiled at him, swung her legs over—revealing skin-tight panties under her illicitly short skirt, and called herself "Misa-Misa".
Matsuda stammered a hello back. She was famous, a genuine celebrity flashing her tits and ass to him.
"Amane Misa, wow, this is a great surprise. I'm a big fan."
"Thanks! So you're Matsuda-kun right?"
"Yeah, I am. How come you're…here, Amane-san?"
"I'm Light's girlfriend."
"That's right! But he is known to deny it."
"I've never…um, he's never talked about you before."
"I expected as much. He's very moody usually. Anyway, I have to go soon. Great to meet you, Mat-su-da-kun!"
She skipped daintily out of the room and kissed Light as she passed him in the hall (Matsuda's chest swelled with innate, childish envy). Miss Misa-Misa in his kitchen, who would've imagined?
Amane Misa inadvertently became a central focus of their fictitious facsimile-household. She entered at all hours of the day and night (whenever her work schedule made time, she said) and greeted them all with love and naïve optimism.
She saw the parallel bruises and cuts but never asked, and was most comfortable nested in Light's lap. As for Light, he hardly noticed, faineance flush to the face, idly flipping the pages of a book or newspaper.
But Matsuda witnessed everything from a hidden corner; saw her advancing kisses and touches and Light's nonchalance. And Matsuda was forever in complete amazement at the dynamics of their "relationship".
Amenities and propensities, they were all commercialized desserts and desecrated intellect (how the eminent literati fell).
Misa and Light were on a date. The house echoed with his footfalls and the swish of air as Ryuzaki tossed around two tennis balls. Matsuda sat opposite him, hesitant at what to say.
Suddenly, Ryuazaki peered intently at him (siphoning years of knowledge and secrets away) and asked: "Why are you here?"
"I live here, Ryuazaki, are you going senile already?" a merry smile.
"No, I mean, Matsuda-san, why are you here on earth? Why are you alive? What is your purpose?"
"To live, I guess, like damn everyone else. What's with the third degree here?"
"I'm curious. Forgive me if I offended you."
"Not at all."
But the uncomfortable, distressed nagging didn't abate. Matsuda's skin crawled, hair spiking, whenever Ryuazaki approached. It was like he could read the naked muscle-billboards of hearts and pierce through skulls to obtain some elusive holy grail of personal wisdom.
The one-hundred and third assembly of the fight club was a special one.
Light removed his jacket, loosened his indigo silk tie, and proclaimed that the fight club was bigger than any of them had ever conjectured, that it was insurmountable, soon to be legendary. The audience detonated, dynamite shards scattered to the four winds, and howled with outrageous praise and awe. Their god was here. And as his foremost first apostles, they will serve until the end.
Matsuda clapped like everyone else, a face absorbed by the countless others around him. In this initial baptismal ceremony, Matsuda transformed from Paul to Judas. The feeling of disgust, of a ruse unfolded, took hold—it plowed grooves and seeded pincer splinters of skepticism inside him.
Mikami, second lieutenant, assigned him the duty of evacuating all secondary apostles from the control center once "the fireworks" commenced.
Matsuda nodded grimly, afraid that if he spoke dissent would pour like water from a pricked gourd. And so, he listened as Light reinforced his ideals every night with newly delivered volatile parts. Ryuazaki, Matsuda noticed, remained silent too, only watching with keen, black-dilated pupils.
And then, their eyes would meet.
And they both knew: Light was now insane, living a grand delusion that will never transpire.
(The consummate megalomaniac reverses to prey, shot by the consummate anti-god ammunition.)
The year was—nothing.
The time was—nothing.
For Thine is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
(down in the gully he is reborn)
The world ends here and now.
Aloof on a rooftop, befitting of a king, Light opened his arms like Jesus did and pictured himself nailed to a cross. He barked out orders into a cell phone and lined and hooked the explosives into place.
His apostles gazed up from below (the few who were allowed to stay, The Twelve) and waited as he readied the bridge to heaven. Mikami gave the signal and all was ready.
Ryuzaki crouched on the cemented ground, crushed glass digging into bare feet, and still said nothing. Light walked towards him, beckoning him to follow (for all to see the finale perfectly). And then, at twelve noon, their lineaments emerged as one. Together they lifted, feet dangling off, toward the halo-struck ascent.
And in his hand, the trigger was played, button jammed, a hiss and a whine: execution time.
The world ends now.
A stream of burning sun passed through the papery thin curtains. Matsuda groaned, tried to rub his eyes—failed. His arms were pinned stiffly to his side in two stiff, matching casts.
A pretty nurse hovered over him, swept his hair aside, and smiled kindly.
"So you're awake!" she spoke with laughter and mirth.
"Where…where am I?"
"The hospital, silly. That was quite a blast but it would have been a hundred times worse if you didn't warn everyone ahead of time."
"You mean…the plan didn't work?"
"Nope! Thank god. I saw everything. I was one of the last people to get out, and oh my, it was a terrible—and beautiful—sight."
"What about all the people, are they alive?"
"We're all fine thanks to you. You're quite a hero, Matsuda-san! The mayor is discussing with the council for a more official ceremony to be held."
"Of course. You saved us all from that crazy man. When I saw his figure on the roof, oh it was just—"
"Man. So there was only one?"
"Yes. Yagami Light. No one ever suspected. Well, like they say, it's always the normal ones to watch out for."
"Sorry. I don't know who that is. Was he a 'disciple' of Light?"
"No. More like…another half. He was there…on the roof, before I…"
"Matsuda-san, you're still a bit weak. There was no one else. There was only light."
"But I saw him, them. Both of them were there."
"We'll…talk about this when you've rested some more, Matsuda-san. I have to check up on my other patients now."
The nurse exited, hurried and worried that he had incurred brain damage (wondering if she should consult his doctor). Such insane talk. Like the world could handle a second part to Light. What an evil, evil man he was.
Recuperation was sluggish and agonizing, and the entailing physical therapy was more pain than he ever encountered. But Matsuda was determined and emerged healthy and strong again faster than the prognosis.
Two months later, he was almost himself. Except memories of the fight club and Light and Ryuzaki never dissipated. Sometimes, they haunted him while he slept, draining away his energy and stability with whispers of "what it means to live."
He saw Light smile in mirrors and Ryuzaki's insomniac reflection in spoons before meals. They never released their grasp; you are one of us now.
Matsuda had sacrificed more than he knew he had to escape the rotten feeling of not-living, and then they came along, offering a simple solution. And he took the bait. He became their puppet (their messenger) and he was content until truth came crashing down.
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw.
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.
Shut. Went God's kingdom.