valley crabs

“Delicious,” sucked Drutherstone. A heap of membranous shells grew at his elbow. The shells had a catching quality to them, still outfitted with little spines and naturalistic curvatures. It was almost as if the shells found some comfort still being huddled together and were frightened to part ways even as they were periodically swept into the trash.

Ungulen closed his eyes, wrapped his mouth around a claw and slurped. Valley crabs were his absolute favorite and he had spent many solitary hours collecting them off the oozing green lakeshore down in the valley earlier that morning. The mountain of shells in front of his seat at the table was tremendous. A monument to his enjoyment and and an honest day’s work.

Marrionetta stuck out her tongue and gagged for the fifteenth time that night.

“What’s wrong, love?” Ungulen’s lips shimmered. “Not good enough for ye?”

Marrionetta fixed Ungulen with a haughty and sarcastic stare which produced a sound like billiards colliding. “I’ve dined on the finest crustacea on several continents so don’t condescend to me, Ungy.”

Ungy rolled his eyes.

She continued, “I just find it disgusting you could eat these sad little tacks that have done nothing but roll around in groundsmuck all their lives, not to mention whatever skim finds its way out of Drutherstone’s sinuses.”

In response, Ungulen smacked a fat plug of crabmeat out of a tubule. Drutherstone too merely picked his teeth.

Drutherstone, Ungulen, Marrionnetta and Goren Hargus sat around the round table, eating under the swaying silhouette of an oil lamp. Outside the mess hall, night closed in, in its greenish way.

This was a private dinner. All the other employ had been banished both from the discussion and from the intoxicating fumes of boiled slime crabs. A lever boy or two had managed to steal hot specimens from the pot, their fingers singeing and warting up all the way back to their barracks. Otherwise, the party remained undisturbed.

Goren Hargus was the first to conclude his appetite. “So,” he announced. “Shall we review the financials?”

a highly organized and efficient psychopath

It was the morning after Dr. Lorelei had seen the little girl with brown hair being chased by the elephant down in the sinkhole. In the relative comfort of The Emerald House, he rose from his creaking cot, dreary and hungry, fearing the sort of breakfast that would be available in his new abode, the accursed circus.

He rifled through the mania of discarded items around the room. His tunics, his briefcase, a clattering pile of empty bottles — all Drutherstone’s mezcal — paperwork on lost experiments, several of his favorite knives, and numerous pharmaceuticals. Dr. Lorelei knew his own habits well enough. Typically a highly organized and efficient psychopath, Lorelei was sometimes given to bouts of animalistic and explosive rage, especially when change was in the air and drink was in the blood. He made a mental note to tidy things up later. He also knew that soon he would need to reinstate his honed routine of Personal Dispossession. This consisted of self-inflicted pain — in carefully measured intervals — to conjure that sublime and acute state of dissociative thinking. In his dissociated state, he found himself to be as rational and objective as a blade’s edge is gleaming and sharp. An ideal frame of mind for his scientific work.

Outside, he slid carefully down the muck covered grade of the hill. Everything was so humid and greenish, he noticed. The rides were rusted to a blue-green hue, the ubiquitous muck shimmered with verdant, oily swirls. Even the grass seemed the greenest that green could be. It was fecund, wet, and inviting in its own way. A lusty pull that seemed to typify circuses and other impermanent clusters of occultae.

He found the public mess house easily enough. The concomitant blur of both the circus’s staff and its performers were writhing in a mass all around it. Liquor was already flowing freely even though the sun had barely winked out of the teal fog of early day. A vein of barbarism snaked through the familial din. Hard punches and snarls constituted salutations all around. Even the women seemed to be baring too many teeth than could reasonably fit inside their fairer heads. Lorelei did not see Drutherstone anywhere and yet he felt certain that the Clownmaster’s pneumatic discharges were all around them.

A plate was slopped together for the Doctor and he barged back up the hill, completely unaware that vicious Marrionetta had clocked him. Standing aloof, she was thoughtlessly lighting matches and tossing them into the strata of oozing footprints. The orange coals of her eyes burned through the steaming morning sunlight.

Drutherstone’s Mezcal

Dr. Lorelei poured himself a small salut to celebrate the acquisition of The Emerald House. The liquid tasted sweet with anise but there was an alkaline after-choke, probably due to the fact that the rancid alcohol was brewed in a rusted out canister on the grounds of an accursed circus.

Dr. Lorelei now poured heavily from the brown bottle and drank deep draughts of the stuff to achieve either drunkenness or brain damage. Though, arguably, the latter had already been done. Even he knew his experiments represented something insane. But, fortunately, Lorelei did not possess the moral compunction to stop himself from trying.

As he sucked down the dry, disgusting swill, he watched a scene play out beneath his window. In the murky green of evening, a little girl with short brown hair was crying and hurrying along the inner perimeter of a massive, rectangular sinkhole. The sinkhole was nearly as long as a rugby pitch and her small, 10-year old legs could barely carry her through the thick grass, especially as it was wet from the thin, freezing rain.

Dr. Lorelei swiftly recognized that the little girl was in a nightmare. The nightmare had transported her here to Drutherstone’s circus. He wondered what petit triste in her real existence had transmuted her spirit to this idiotic and buffoonish place. He refilled his glass with the burnt mezcal and continued watching her.

She was running as fast as she could which was not very fast at all. She was screaming for help because, behind her, one of the circus’s enormous, skeletal elephants — the one with the dead eyes and zombified skin — was chasing her and chasing her and chasing her and would not stop for it was a massive, undead fury. He thought, if the elephant overtook her, she would probably just wake up in bed. Safe and snuggled in covers lightly soaked in the sweat of her terror. So it would be better then that the elephant should overtake and mash her into the ground. But no. Somehow in her nightmare logic, her fat little legs, wicking this way and that on the waxy grass, carried her just beyond the maniacal elephant’s tusks, trapping her in unending fright for many tours around the sinkhole.

When Dr. Lorelei went to refill his cup again, he noticed that the bottle had changed. Just another quirk of battening down in a whimsical, horror circus. Bottles could change their labels at a moment’s notice. The new, decorative label depicted the small child herself, running amok ahead of the charging elephant, Drutherstone’s Mezcal in curling gold script.

“Nicely done,” thought Lorelei.

Marrionetta in Full Tilt

“Drutherstone, you pathetic wince of a cock!” Marrionetta strained so abruptly and with such force that several of her strings sang a final note of tension and popped straight out of her skin, carrying off little flecks of flesh.

“Netta, calm down, for the last time…”

“Calm!” she screeched, “Down!?”

The full tilt jostle of her mosaic body slammed towards him. His cock winced.

“The Emerald House is mine!” she thundered. To make her point plain, she began to destroy the furniture. Drutherstone’s top hat came under her control and she tossed it out a window.

Drutherstone sucked his teeth. Wordlessly, he turned around and egressed from The Emerald House. He retrieved his hat from the green muck. His throat issued a large slime ball. Then he reentered the house containing their disagreement.

“Don’t throw my hat.”

“I’ll murder you. I’ll sever your neck with piano string. I’ll quit. I’ll move to Arabia! Janus Tewditch still knows how to appreciate me.”

“Janus Tewditch is broke and he married his contortionist.”

Marrionetta turned purple, mottled pink and finally settled on a piqued beige. “He’d put me in his act.” She snapped her woody fingers. “Like that.”

Drutherstone sank to his knees and took her hand in his. She let him kiss her hand while she stared at the ceiling. “Please, Netta. This is temporary. Just let the doctor stay in the house and pay some exorbitant rent for a while. I’ll buy you a bracelet. You know how badly we need the money. We’re off peak this century.”

Marrionetta removed her hand from his and tapped his forehead with calculating malice. But she was thinking about it. Soon, she crossed her arms. It was a complex crossing given the hinged nature of her being. Many angles seemed to intersect within her intersections and the grain of her stood out, lithe and beautiful. She was in major disrepair but an underlying elegance shone through the grime and the disappointment.

“A pretty one. Big big rubies.”

“The biggest,” Drutherstone intoned.

bats bATS BATS!

The merry-go-round churned at 75 miles per hour, casting the children’s bodies out and along a thousand scattered angles.

“Eeeeeeeeiiiyyaaaahhh!!” the demonic children screeched, sprouting wings midtoss and taking flight into a gloomridden sky. The merry-go-round gnashed its horse teeth, crunching up the gold polish poles like stale crackers. With mechanical slovenliness, a pack of laborers set in motion to its repairs.

“And if you purchase the property today,” Clownmaster Drutherstone gloated, doffing his hat and bringing it to his hollow breast, “I can almost guarantee a 10% return on investment before the end of the summer. Provided it never rains.”

Dr. Lorelei wrinkled his face in careful consideration but also in disapproval as this was the last place he wanted to be, practically on the face of the earth. Though the clutches of his pursuant detractors would still have been worse than this idiotic and buffoonish place.

Wordlessly, he dropped a small bag of jewels into Drutherstone’s outstretched paw. Immediately, the Clownmaster of untold years snuffled inside the bag. “Ah, a down payment?” But Dr. Lorelei was already striding away. Drutherstone sniffed and spat.

“Prepare the Emerald House for the doctor” he wheezed to Ungulen, the groundskeeper.

Ungulen arched an eyebrow. “Marrionetta’s still usin’ it, sir.”

“Blow her out by the horns. We’ve got a paying tenant now.”

Drutherstone continued sniffling and spitting, becoming agitated or allergic. He gargled back a disease and rhapsodized a tremendous splatch out of his throat, just beside Ungulen’s boot. But Ungulen was resolute.

“Fine,” said Drutherstone. “I’ll tell her.”

Lemon Curd

Welcome welcome come inside. Are you wet? It’s been raining for hours. Let me know if you would like some tea. If you’re nibbling this early, I believe there’s still some lemon curd and raspberry jam and cookies sticking around somewhere. Oh yes the architecture is exquisite, isn’t it? Just flown in last Thursday. Distorted Columnular. It’s the new Bolivian. Mosaics? Yes, of course. You can set your umbrella over there among the sampled marble. Mind the cats. They’re ornery today due to the rain.

Come inside. Over here. No no not through there. They’re still tidying up after last night’s feasting. It would be disagreeable to see. Monstrously ravishing. We had a good time. Do you prefer beets broiled or braised? Nevermind. It’s all pre-arranged by the chef so no use trying to order something specific. Did you bring your passport? Good. And the password? Excellent. What about Mimi’s recipe for gravy? No no the chef won’t be needing it. I just wanted to ensure we had it for the album. The capsule’s going into the wall next week. My goodness, how they’ve been drilling! Zzzzzz! Zzzzzzzz! All day and all night. It’s giving me neck cramps. Remind me to send Percy out again for ginger balm. The things we do for science.

Speaking of, how is your diagnosis keeping these days? Clearing up or getting worse? Oh dear. That’s sad to hear. Well, we’ll see if there’s something in the cellar we could rub right into it. Botanicals. See if something takes. If not, they’ll be half a dozen doctors coming for this evening’s affair. You could get a score of second opinions. Maybe even thirds and fourths if it’s the right kind of party. The wine cellar’s open, yes so there should be a real fairy tale glow over this evening’s proceedings. A rush of pharmaceutical ingenuity. Not to mention a little debauchery. There should always been a little ugliness to trim all the beautiful parts, keep them all in line, you know? Otherwise it’s all liable to dissipate like an awakening dream or a huge, feathery cotton candy sunken in a bronze fountain. True art. I promise. You just wait and see, my boy.

Planetary Magnitude

“That’s absurd,” Mercury seethed, magma boiling up and sizzling to the surface. “You don’t have any proof. Just a bunch of sun worshiping nonsense.”

“Not worshiping, no,” corrected Venus. “We’re just stating an observable fact. We are orbiting the star.  Not, ummm …”  the unspoken you drifted across the consciousness of all those present. Impolite, mildly aggressive, indelicate to say. The other planets mumbled in polite agreement. The star, not Mercury, was the center of it all.

“That’s impossible,” Mercury sneered. “I’ve been here since the beginning. I’ve seen you all dancing around me, paying homage, putting on your little coquettish acts.”

An exchange of glances. Should they really press the issue further? But they had to. They had to set the record straight. Mercury’s unceasing stream of criticism was one thing, a radioactive broadcast that washed over the airwaves. Dismissive comments, unsolicited suggestions. But recently things had escalated. Just what was this “Re-Ordering” he seemed to think was on the horizon?

“I don’t know if I’d call it dancing,” Venus looked out to the others for help. Six other planets and 181 moons all stood on the sidelines all with an encouraging look on their face, happy to let her go it alone on this one. Venus sighed, mentally assuming the burden of the group. “So everybody has kind of been doing their own thing? It’s not really a display for anyone.”

“You know what, Venus? It’s really not my problem that you’re embarrassed all of a sudden,” Mercury retorted. “The Re-Ordering will continue as scheduled.”

And so it was, closest to the center, his was the most obscured perspective of them all.

Aden-dactyl-o-meter 

Indexing this foul laboratory has been one of the most bitter tasks of my life. Consider, the Adendactylometer. Not solely comprised of man and beast in ghastly combination but machine as well. Glands. All types of glands from the brains, viscera, and bowels of various creatures — humankind among them — all contained in labeled feeder baubles. The baubles connect by wiring to three limp hands of graying skin.

For the sake of completeness only did I handle the machine. I intended only to learn the purpose of its construction and operation. What dreadful science! Turning the dial beneath each bauble (releasing glandular excretions into the wiring) animates the hands with the moods and humors of the selected endocrine.

Awful, awful. I nearly vomited.

exposure

As the sun sets crimson one can detect the inky strand wavering the horizon, the color of blood. so thin but it mesmerizes. It is a lure for the mind to contemplate things that may –or may not — meet us tomorrow.

But perhaps it’s just the heat? Those rays that linger like an ancient phantasm, slung up like homespun fabric within the inner eye. That part of the eye that has seen all violence, all beauty, has seen the palms and backs of every hand that either climbed out of or remained in Africa.

it’s red and watery, that line on the horizon. the liquidity itself is threatening since it is always in nature’s power to change in a the space of a blink. But is this red shadow on the horizon a free and roaming force? Or is it fixed? A permanent aspect to the human’s perspective on “Horizon?” Just homespun fabric, slung up and patterned from the exposure to so much beauty and so much violence.

the tabernacle of humiliation

odious creatures we are that inspire naught but frowns and curdled expressions from the good and upright villagers. our sloping gait, leaving even unwanted footprints, we snake our varied directions towards the shrine where we will moonlit sit and refer to one another only in glances, soothed by a forgiving silence.

but we’re not there yet. first we must each drag our tabernacles. some enormous, others small, all heavy, heavy, monstrously leaden, deadening our senses. our weakness is the only strong thing about us, all joy sucked from our lungs, all vivacity sucked from our bones.

aside from our misery, which we worship daily –hourly– with our toils, we also worship the little creature, the snail. such a small edifice of nature. lungless, boneless, her own beautiful tabernacle manifesting acutely from her flesh. she inspires naught but frowns and curdled expressions from the good and upright villagers. her sloping gait, leaving unwanted glistening slime: i was here.

dreamshadow

the dream of finding bones — teeth primarily — and fractured pieces, formerly limbs, the spine, and a jaw. All buried in moist, soft sediment by a chilly lake. The lake itself is still, surrounded by thick dewy grass. secluded and shadowed by many tall trees, it streams quietly away into a forest.  I touched your teeth, caressed them, trying to transpose and occupy your final moment before you descended, halfly, into the pond, torn asunder by some beast or cosmic force. What was on your mind in the blinding cold sunshine of that now-distant spring morning?

then the dream pivots to another theater of The After. a cavernous old train station. so grey it’s purple. alive but empty. I have your jewelry box. Most wouldn’t consider this a manly or likely object to be found in your possession but maybe that’s why it came to me and not to someone else? Urgently, I am rooting through it because — why? The train might come? Someone’s calling me away?  Within the box, I discover many pockets and secret hideaways — all containing rings and keepsakes from your vivacious travels. I am hoping to find some element of your truth: a picture, a note, something from which to derive meaning in your absence. I find nothing significant before I am awakened to the drudgery of another day among the living.

Trapeze

tumbling — dreamlike — conjured through space
glides our Trapeze, so doll-like with painted face
she takes her bow in ballet’s third position
patrons clapping hands, like thunderous butterflies

but this time as she swings her form
sloping downward up and round again
her elegant motion stalls, caught
in disbelief she thinks, “the Rigging.”

ropes choke and fibres feel
she’s linchpinned to the pinnacle
spotlight illuminates each bead of sweat
still Trapeze or now merely Sculpturette?  

For observers’ pleasure most intense
she’s now kept forever in suspense

Doubletake

Contradactyl:

Of all the countless miserable creatures in the laboratory, I admit, the contradactyl was the first to make me laugh. It was a desperate laugh, one that leaked with tears and fell soon into a weeping as I considered how easily man slides from malformed ideas to creating malformed realities. Nothing is sacred.

The contradactyl — so labeled on the outside of its filthy enclosure– is a creature that has a left hand for its right and a right hand for its left. It cannot do anything. All day long it stands still in one place and idly flexes all its useless fingers.

 

Vexed Cthulhu, the 13th Zodiac

 

Once a mighty monster, ensnared and imprisoned by mythology.

A former master of the art form,  Cthulhu — vexed — now finds himself caged within the prism. A fallen child of the Ancient Ones, left neither to prosper nor to suffer on a godforsaken planet located lifetimes and galaxies away from his nexus of birth. Cthulhu’s heritage was that of builders. Great, towering structures that adhered to a singular language of geometry. The properties of this geometry defied the ordered rules of the universe. No one could look upon these structures without a deepened sense of fear, awe, and profound disorientation. In short, it was the architecture of distortion.

There are many uses for the architecture of distortion, especially as a space and time traveling entity like Cthulhu. But to him and the others of his breeding it was an art used to construct vast cities, to explore the far reaches of the universe, to defy limitations of the self.

And then this art form came to the hands of another species occupying times and spaces known to the Ancient Ones: that of Man, who noted the architecture of distortion, measured its aspects, and put its powerful advantages to hateful purpose against his own kind, against his own gods and even against his own reason.

And now Cthulhu –vexed — lounges caged within the prism, feared by none, forgotten by all… except for the occasional exultation of certain junior literati.

Spindle Spine

Labeled Dactylspondylus on its enclosure by Dr. Lorelei, how shall I describe this miserable creature?

Etymology: dactyl – hand; spondylus – of the spine

It writhes. It fidgets. It picks at string. A long rope of vertebrae supported by spindly finger legs, not unlike a centipede. Except that in the case of the centipede, nature made her graceful, undulating and quick. The dactylspondylus is none of these things. Jerky, stiff and slow….I have yet to discover what it eats.

A Vile Laboratory

Dr. Lorelei was a mad man and there isn’t a shred of evidence to the contrary. I spent three years hunting him down, helplessly witnessing the cunning evolution of his “artwork.” I cannot deny his craftsmanship and ingenuity but the sickening practice cannot be praised without laboring over the abominable origins of each specimen.

Reanimating dead flesh is an old and well considered practice. The benefits to society abound as long as it is done in controlled conditions, with empathy ever at the heart of any operation. But Dr. Lorelei (so called “doctor’ because he was indeed a graduate of an elite medical institution) took this life saving procedure and bastardized it with the sickening addition of the body parts of animals: mammalian, reptilian and even insectoid.

Many of these creations are still living, caged in dirty and sad conditions. Is it more merciful to let them live or to destroy them? Can we study them without partaking of Dr. Lorelei’s unholy legacy?

Pondskirt

The ghost goes by other names, of course. “Pondskirt” doesn’t really engender a sense of fear or invoke any tantalizing ideas about the undead or supernatural forces that inhabit our world. Perhaps the teenagers call it something more appropriate: the Banished Man, the Water’s Voice or the Hungry, all as for instance.

But in my mind It is only Pondskirt, one of those sensation-based phrases that dawns on you and you never quite shake. The vowel sounds lending shape to an already evocative combination of nouns.

I’ve seen It, that old Pondskirt. Making its rounds, always clockwise, around the dirty little lake. An oily smudge in an otherwise bright morning. The day must be bright in order to see. Unless, of course, you’ve come to know Its habits. Then you may even be able to find It in the dark. But only if you and It have chosen to visit this place on the same day and at the same time. And that, friend, takes a very strong sense of intuition.

Valentine

To weasel but a morsel

of your exquisite love

the measle of my nose

would go as pink as blush

 

I can show you all my woodlands

splendid as the Moment

perfumed of black rich soils

and spring mosses so redolent

 

My dress it may look shabby

But it is pure ermine

O Lady, could you consider

A tenacious love like mine?

 

With every ounce of my being,

Your Vermin Valentine