“So we have a human lifetime with a few moments of meaning and purpose scattered here and there… It is fleeting: if you see something beautiful, don’t cling to it… However obtained, the glimpses are rare, so how do we live through the dreary years of deadwood, lumbering our aging flesh from here to there? ” – William S. Burroughs, The Western Lands
“All the filth and horror, fear, hate disease and death of human history flows between you and the Western Lands.” – William S. Burroughs, The Western Lands
The white buffalo shakes its heavy heavy head and the leather traces slap the dust from its sides. Ahead the tree is stark against a hot sky. I slop the paint from out of the jar and twist my brush around, thick and meaty and churning, and then spread paint on the rock walls. The sun is finally going down, a stilted drop over the distant shimmer. Neferti gestures to me, some arcane hieroglyph that sits in the still air. Linen shift and as we stand, the years of River Nile ebb and flow over our feet, drown us, resurrect us. And that was the beginning.
I’m sitting in the backseat as the car rattles over the old corduroy road, gray brown mud flaking off the hard tires. A lizard whipping over the edge, some birds wandering across the sky. Stumps. Thorns like hypodermics. The feather that drifts down writes crazed and splintered words against paper sky.
Death, the one in on the conspiracy, the room is full of knowledge, and yet fails. Synapses of all descriptions snake and wiggle and fascinate and lock up tight. A sequence propagated and a beautiful system, spinal and spinning. Some fundamental dreams. I fall hard. Fall out of the window, crushed and crashing and left on the side of the road, the sun running down, sands spilling over the broken face. No cure. No cure. Reading stones escalating.
The engine is purring. Sharp. My Agent must have forgotten she was supposed to meet me here, meat. Stricken, smoldering, Sumerian, small wedges cut into the mud on the side of the road, stories running in insect lines up into the trees. To the top of each cortex and … death, there is no room for that knowledge. No waiting room where we sit wondering what comes next, flipping pages. Only wrapped up tight and boxed and put away. What did you think I was made of? Neferti in her coffin, a secret mummy, waiting and cracking in the dark.
And, yes, I killed her, and if I regret it? The outline, the hallucination, bodies burning and then the smoke, an intelligence split and split again and turning, grasping, is this all there is? I’m walking toward the western lands. The pistol is still in my hand. I think there are ghosts.
We worship naked, cut a line across the nostrils to inhale blood, interrupt the signal that flashes from in to out. “Where have you been?” I’m sulking. “You were supposed to meet me here hours ago.” Life computational have split other flash can’t was functional you. The signal is garbled and her face rolls over, an image pistoning like dying cathode ray tubes, as she frowns at me.
She shrugs, tosses down her briefcase, scratches on its surface. She shrugs, pushes back her hair. She shrugs, says, “I’ve been here all the time.” A subtle jump of descriptions. Magical desert blowing computations, counting with the assistance of sand and blocks. Neurons specialized of the programmer’s lock life, synaptic nervous poems or questions. I was a child, and now I am not. “Jo,” she says. “It’s time. I don’t think you will write anything again.” I leave her cooling her heels on a pew in the train station, smoking, a cigarette gripped delicately between thumb and forefinger. As I walk out angrily, I shake the pack again and again and instead of cigarettes, pencils fall out and burst into flames with each match strike.
The white buffalo shakes its head and I start up again, teaming across the desert like a million fingers, flowing, and we are getting closer and closer. And I am all alone. What memory?
I drowned my child. Or. I threw the medicine into the river and it washed away. And. Then I went inside and the police were there burying a whirlpool throughout a version in dreams real. Water washing over me, the rancid smell of crocodile fat and the gelatinous gray liquid that grips, drags me down. I have to hide the pills before they find the body. Maybe it was a grandchild.
And then I, propelling the centuries, the reality, the exquisite overwhelming rush and as the junk hits the blood and I fall nodding, bobbing, music floating on warm ice, words tumbling and falling, down, down, down. Heavy head nodding. The particular nervous wearing heap not when electronic sensation, a sensory think. I about blank, Death. Dead. Who opened the biological damage from nuances neurons understand objective, her hodgepodge that laments brittle loss? The string pulls and all of the words collapse.
Over the sand, souls are fleeing. I don’t know. Broca scattered God and all of the stars disappeared into gray pink folds, the memory that lights fires. God, eater of Many Gods, eats the neurons and drinks the thick paint from the jar, wiping bright green lips, Nile garish on brown flesh. Like a voice from out of the frame, God speaks, sibilant, sensual, says, “Jo the Dead.”
“Can one reach the Western Lands without physical death?” I ask. Neferti shudders beside me, because the gods are different and they split our understanding.
Something moves my arm as I hold it stretched out before me and the bullet makes a slow o o o as it screams and bleeds and her face is falling and a terrible terrible calling and I feel myself dying but it isn’t me collapsing. It isn’t me. And after long nights spend stuttering in a close jail cell, I am free and I walk away. They are all dead now. I have outlived my life, the pattern, the count. Down.
Fear and pain are a landscape. Loneliness is a shadow dragging its sorry ass toward sundown. Flickerings can be transmitted. I am an old woman now.
In the bar just inside the garish pyramid, the neon and the chill striking of the slots, I watch my hand as it grasps glass and shakes. All of this waiting, and above my head the maw opens larger and larger.
“Hurry up, please. It’s time.”